In our view: Cheers & Jeers

End of gas weapons calms local nerves; bad-driving season is upon us

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Cheers: To the safe incineration of the last gas weapons stored at the Umatilla Chemical Depot. The depot, near the Columbia River in Eastern Oregon, was home to an aging supply of some of the world’s most horrific weapons such as nerve gas. This week, the final canister of blister agent HD, identical to the deadly mustard gas used in World War I, was safely incinerated, bringing an end to a program that saw the destruction of 7.4 million pounds of Cold War-era chemicals, according to The Oregonian. Now that the danger is over, the sirens that were installed to warn more than 40,000 residents throughout a wide area of Washington and Oregon of a dangerous accident will be dismantled. They’ll be relocated to the coast and used for tsunami warnings.

Jeers: To the guy who, on the first day snow falls, drives up behind you at or over the speed limit, hangs on your bumper, doesn’t own any snow tires or chains, and has a dead cellphone. He’ll soon be wheels-up in the ditch with no way to call for help. Though there isn’t much you can do about other motorists like these — who seem to think their four-wheel drive trumps physics — the Washington State Patrol and Department of Transportation took time this week to remind us not to be that guy. A bonus jeer to the expectation that this winter may bring more cold weather and snow than usual.

Cheers: To Jie Xu, assistant professor in the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Washington State University Vancouver. Xu is one of 39 scientists from across the United States to win the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award, for academics in their first five years on the job. Xu’s research into sensing sound frequencies has implications in treating hearing loss in humans and also in creating artificial hearing in the field of robotics. The award includes approximately $300,000 to further Xu’s research.

Jeers: To the practice of “cramming” in the telecommunications industry. State Attorney General Rob McKenna and 16 of his colleagues are calling on the federal government to prohibit the practice of adding unauthorized third-party charges onto phone bills. According to McKenna, the practice costs consumers $2 billion per year. It occurs when those other than your phone service provided add charges for e-mail, website hosting, discount buying programs or voice-mail services.

Cheers: To Make a Difference Day. The most recent event, last Saturday, resulted in 15 pounds of cigarette butts being collected from Esther Short, Leverich and David Douglas parks, and 4,300 trees and shrubs planted along the Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway. More than 50 people helped.

Jeers: To the rising costs of the “Occupy” demonstrations where illegal camping is involved. The Oregonian reported this week that Occupy Portland has resulted in $186,400 in overtime through Oct. 23, and the costs and problems are mounting in other cities where there has been illegal camping. In contrast, Occupy Vancouver’s Oct. 15 one-day rally cost the city only about $3,700. The Occupy Vancouver people plan to be back in Esther Short Park again today — but not tonight — and are also planning a food drive.

Cheers: To Washington apples and the folks at Friendly Haven Rise Farm who sponsored last Sunday’s apple tasting at the old Venersborg school outside of Battle Ground. More than 220 apple varieties were on display and available for tasting, including many heirloom apples that are rarely grown. Some of these living antiques — Adams, for example — proved they have been nearly forgotten for a good reason. But it’s great that the fruit industry is remembered.