Editorials

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Charting the future ...

Defiance's Riverside Cemetery is without question a revered landmark that is at the top of the list of community assets.

For those with relatives buried there, the cemetery holds a special, solemn place in their hearts. Perhaps for them and many others it's also one of the most peaceful venues in Defiance, one where no one need be personally attached to enjoy its serenity.

That said, Tuesday's Defiance City Council finance committee meeting -- where Riverside's future will be the topic -- is of special significance. The committee and Mayor Bob Armstrong's administration will convene at 6:30 p.m. in the city service building, 631 Perry St., to discuss the cemetery's long-term care, given that its available space is dwindling and may be used up within two decades.

There is also the corollary question of what the city will do about cemetery services in general after Riverside closes. Will the city open a new cemetery? And if so, where and at what cost?

These are some complicated questions which won't get answered in an hour-long meeting. But our hope is that Tuesday's session -- which the public is invited and encouraged to attend -- will be a good start.

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Public info access

Mr. President, you have a public information problem. Again. Several months ago, journalism organizations complained about a lack of access for news photographers to pertinent presidential events.

This week, 38 journalism and open-government organizations called on Barack Obama to call off his department-level "minders" who slow, squelch and otherwise hinder access to public information.

Too frequently, efforts to gather information critical to the public are shipped through "public information officers," meaning answers from those who are on the front lines of agencies are muzzled until permission comes from the press contact.

These barriers are making it difficult to quickly and accurately hold government accountable to the public.

"The president pledged to be the most transparent in history," reminded Society of Professional Journalists president David Cuillier. "He can start by ending these practices now."

Specifically, the protest letter cites delays in answering questions past deadlines, blocking requests to speak to certain experts, conveying information "on background" about what should be public information and blackballing reporters who write critically of some agencies.

Holding the press and public at bay doesn't lessen negative coverage. If anything, it breeds cynicism.

The fix is simple. The president should encourage agencies to take calls in a timely fashion, speak on the record about the public's business, and make public records easily accessible.

He should embrace a free-flow of information to help create an informed citizenry.

Choke-holds on pertinent sources harm society and the presidency.

The Kansas City Star

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Land mines

For 15 years, the United States has not signed the Ottawa Treaty banning antipersonnel land mines.

Although President Barack Obama has been studying the issue for five years, his conclusion last month was not very decisive. The United States will no longer produce antipersonnel mines or replace expired mines and will move toward signing the treaty at some unspecified future date.

Though the policy means that America's stockpile of 10 million mines will gradually diminish, it is only a half-step toward eliminating weapons that disproportionately maim and kill civilians. Every year, land mines kill or injure 4,000 people, half of them children.

That's an unconscionable number, but far lower than the 26,000 land-mine injuries in 1999, the year the Mine Ban Treaty took effect. Being party to the treaty would require the United States to destroy its stockpiles within four years and clear the areas it has mined in 10.

The Pentagon says land mines are needed for deterrence in areas such as the Korean Demilitarized Zone, although the treaty does not affect anti-vehicular or command-detonated mines. They could remain and mitigate invasion threats alongside sensors, surveillance and air strikes.

Although countries such as China, Russia, Iran, Israel and Egypt have not embraced the treaty, Obama should pressure them to join him in signing, then seek Senate ratification. Land mines that kill civilians are a blight on the world -- the sooner they can be replaced with other troop deterrents, the better.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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