, Salem, MA

April 14, 2014

A look at what others are saying

The Salem News

---- — Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers across the region:

When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos dazzled “60 Minutes” interviewer Charlie Rose a while back with his supposed plan to deliver products with drone aircraft, he glossed over the obstacles that stand in his way.

“There’s no reason they can’t be used as delivery vehicles,” he said at the time. Then, he acknowledged that it won’t happen before 2015 because that’s the earliest the Federal Aviation Administration will set the rules. And that, he added, may be a little optimistic.

Amazon isn’t the only commercial company that’s eager to put drone aircraft to work. So would other cargo carriers such as UPS and FedEx, but so also would any business that currently sends people to check on pipelines, cell towers and other infrastructure.

The fact is, the United States lags the rest of the world when it comes to letting unmanned aircraft deploy in the service of commercial business. Only now is the FAA setting up test ranges where operators can fly drones in commercial airspace. At this pace, it will be years before business owners can add them to their management toolkits.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The government can accelerate the pace of commercial deployments, while continuing to protect public safety, as it does with commercial aviation.

A group of pilotless aircraft companies and advocates called for expedited rule-making on commercial drone flights by the FAA. “The current regulatory void has left American entrepreneurs and others either sitting on the sidelines or operating in the absence of appropriate safety guidelines,” they said in a letter to the agency.

The FAA’s plan to roll out test ranges had to be imposed upon it by Congress, which ordered the agency to produce a set of rules governing the use of drones by September 2015.

Another wrinkle: A National Transportation Safety Board arbitrator has called into question whether the FAA even has the authority to regulate commercial drones. The FAA has appealed his ruling, which threatens to throw open the doors to unfettered commercial use. That would probably be too much, too soon.

There are a multitude of issues that must be resolved or at least framed before drones fly freely in urban areas. When drones are deployed by law enforcement agencies, for example, the public should be informed of where they are and how they are used. It would be entirely appropriate to set rules limiting their ability to observe and collect data on law-abiding citizens.

This is a time when the technology is available and the customers are ready to use it. There’s more to be gained than lost by moving more quickly to let it happen. The FAA should drive the regulatory process, rather than be driven by it.

The Providence (R.I.) Journal

Lower meat prices could come at a high price of human suffering if sensible antibiotic-use policies are not adopted.

Legislation intended to protect the public from the growing threat of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria remains stalled in Congress. The powerful agricultural and pharmaceuticals lobbies oppose the legislation because, while it may be good for health, it would not be good for their businesses.

Nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics are sold annually for use in farm animals, about four times the amount used by humans. Rather than treating sick animals, industrial farms use most of these drugs to prevent disease and reduce the chances of any illnesses that do emerge from spreading in crowded conditions.

While this allows the raising of more animals at lower costs, it creates a health threat. Bacteria, persistently exposed to these antibiotics, evolve. The strongest and most resistant survive and reproduce resistant strains. When the same or similar pathogens infect humans, antibiotics prescribed by doctors can prove useless.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing health threat. About 2 million people will fall ill from antibiotic-resistant infections this year, and about 23,000 will die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Preventing Antibiotic Resistant Act, introduced in the Senate, and companion legislation in the House, would direct the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit the use of antibiotics in ways that accelerate resistance. The prohibition would be limited to antibiotics that are critical to human health. Antibiotics exclusive to treating animal pathogens would be left untouched by the legislation. Farms could still use antibiotics to treat sick animals.

Antibiotics have made the treatment of once deadly infections routine. It is foolish and dangerous to continue practices that could render these wonder drugs useless.

The Day of New London, Conn.