Colorado Editorial Roundup

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A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:

The Daily Sentinel, June 6, on judgment of the Bergdahl prisoner swap:

America's obligation not to leave men and women in uniform behind is apparently not so sacred after all.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release from Taliban captors in exchange for five Afghan detainees held by the U.S. has prompted waves of criticism from both veterans and members of Congress, for two reasons.

First, Bergdahl walked away from his unit, unarmed, in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Second, members of Congress say President Barack Obama ignored their objections to the transfer of high-level Guantanamo detainees to Qatar as part of the deal to free Bergdahl.

One would be hard pressed to find anyone outside of Bergdahl's family who doesn't have qualms about the terms and conditions that secured his release.

Bergdahl — the only prisoner of war in Afghanistan — has become a divisive figure. But, we think it's too soon to be passing judgment on the deal. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel summed it up best when he said, "It's not in the interests of anyone, and certainly I think a bit unfair to Sgt. Bergdahl's family ... to presume anything. We don't do that in the United States. We rely on facts."

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., are both demanding answers, with Tipton accusing the president of breaking the law by arranging the exchange without notifying Congress.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., wants to know more about the arrangements the administration made to keep the prisoners exchanged for Bergdahl from waging war.

The answers will come. For now it seems the president leaned on the old adage that it's easier to ask forgiveness than seek permission to do something controversial. He apparently felt strongly enough about the country's "sacred" obligation to free U.S. soldiers in captivity that he took matters largely into his own hands. Under what circumstances would negotiating with terrorists be viewed as acceptable?

For the sake of argument, let's say Bergdahl was captured during a firefight. If he was perceived as a hero, would the five-for-one prisoner exchange be more palatable? If so, it raises an interesting question about the obligation Obama cited in his decision. Is the U.S. military's contract with its soldiers contingent on merit or need?

The bottom line is that Bergdahl is back where he belongs — either to face the music for abandoning his post or to enjoy an American way of life that he helped to protect.


The Loveland Reporter-Herald, June 8, on a proposed fracking moratorium:


For Loveland Question No. 1, the word is key to the argument of whether residents should support a two-year moratorium on the process of hydraulic fracturing for the development of oil and gas resources in Loveland city limits.

The question demands a two-year moratorium "to fully study the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on property values and human health."

When asked about their definition of the word, proponents responded they will know "fully" when they see it. But will they?

The process has been improved upon in recent years, which has allowed those same companies to return to areas once thought played out to unlock more of the mineral resources under our feet. Northern Colorado is one of those areas. Before many of today's residents moved here, this state was a top producer of oil and gas in the nation. The "Carbon Valley" area in Weld County received its name because of its deposits of coal and other energy resources.

The area's energy history comes as a surprise to those new arrivals, and they were thus astonished as they built their homes atop identified oil and gas reserves in which the mineral rights were already sold for development.

Loveland city officials also watched as the redevelopment of oil and gas resources spread from southwest Weld County northward, and they imposed a moratorium to allow the city to work with the industry to craft enhanced standards for any drilling in city limits, using the best available information from the studies already conducted.

That council-imposed moratorium has expired.

That was not enough for some, however. Using their rights as residents of this community, they gathered signatures from registered voters to enact a two-year moratorium to "fully study" the process. City leaders should have shown more respect for that process and deserved criticism.

However, the proposal Protect Our Loveland placed on the ballot is too deeply flawed to merit approval.

From the comments of the organizers, it's evident proponents are not neutral in their inquisitiveness. They don't know who will perform the study, who will fund it, when it will occur and where the parameters would be. Loveland city limits? The county, state or country?

Proponents dismiss property rights of those who own mineral leases as being inconsequential because those owners already have "enough" money.

In their campaign literature, proponents show situations which they know would not be allowed under Loveland's local rules, which have been agreed to by the company with drilling rights in the city limits, Anadarko.

The question at hand is whether a moratorium is warranted in Loveland "to fully study" a process that has been studied and will continue to be studied. However, for some, it will never be "fully" enough.

That's what makes Question 1 such bad policy. It should be rejected.


The Gazette, June 6, on a renaissance at CU:

As the University of Colorado grows by leaps and bounds in Colorado Springs, an entrepreneurial renaissance in Boulder may revolutionize education.

It hasn't always been this good.

Longtime Coloradans remember when the Springs branch was tiny and the Boulder campus served as a disgrace.

A sociology professor, arrested on charges of selling cocaine, complained of rampant heroin abuse among colleagues. A radical professor gained national notoriety by sympathizing with 9/11 terrorists and demonizing victims.

Booze riots had students lighting bonfires in the streets on national TV. ESPN fixated on an athletic department facing "allegations of rapes, strip-club visits and alcohol-fueled sex parties for recruits."

Those days are gone, along with the 4-20 pot party — shut down by tireless efforts of Chancellor Phil DiStefano.

Today, CU-Boulder has emerged as the model to emulate. The Gazette's editorial board discussed the school's new image this week with DiStefano.

Credit for the makeover begins with the Board of Regents, which had the sense to appoint former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown as president of the system in 2005. By noon on his first day, the respected conservative fired 11 administrators and initiated reforms that changed the university's trajectory.

Regents appointed conservative oilman Bruce Benson as Brown's successor in 2008, and he wisely named DiStefano as permanent chancellor.

Today, CU is known for leading the unmanned MAVEN Mission to Mars in partnership with NASA. It works with private industry to improve agricultural practices with data gathered by drones.

The university's partnerships with government and industry, too numerous to list here, have contributed to Forbes ranking a degree from Boulder among the top 25 for earning.

The growing entrepreneurial culture helped professor Marvin Caruthers parlay biotechnology research into new pharmaceuticals and research instruments he personally forged into the market. They were so successful the professor donated $20 million to his employer in late 2007.

Though a state university, the campus receives a paltry 5 percent of its funding from the state government. Taxpayer funding is likely to go down as a result of the Colorado Constitution's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which restricts government spending, revenues and debt. Once seen as an albatross to higher education, more than a few academicians concede the law has given CU deeper roots. Because it cannot count on much passive state income, the university must produce wealth by improving the common good.

Boulder's culture of innovation is spreading throughout the CU system. In Colorado Springs, Chancellor Pamela Schockley-Zalabak leads what may be the country's fastest-growing campus. A new branch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Springs campus will partner with a state-of-the-art sports medicine facility.


The Denver Post, June 9, on data brokers' holdings on Americans:

The amount of information that so-called data brokers collect about ordinary Americans is astonishing.

By vacuuming up information from social media postings, combing through online consumer transactions and adding public records to the mix, these aggregators create powerful and detailed profiles.

The practice has gained steam in recent years, and it is becoming clear that individuals should have the ability to see what data brokers have collected about them, and have some control over information gathered that is not public record.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released a report that provided an in-depth look at how nine of the nation's data brokers conduct what is essentially commercial surveillance.

The FTC said consumers should be able to see the information collected about them, and have meaningful ways of managing the use of that information.

There is a substantial lack of transparency in how these businesses conduct themselves, the FTC found.

However, it's only fair to note the commission did not find any evidence of illegal use of data. That's important because it suggests data brokers recognize they are treading in sensitive territory when it comes to privacy.

Nevertheless, categorizing people as " diabetes interest" or "expectant parent," to cite two examples the FTC found, and using or selling this information poses legitimate questions about whether the brokers have gone too far.

What if you'd prefer to keep a health condition a private matter, or haven't yet told anyone that a child is on the way?

Data mining is an important part of commerce, and individuals have a responsibility to be mindful of the information they share online. Yet, there ought to be a simple way of limiting the dissemination of information about yourself that is not in the public domain without giving up on the Internet or shopper loyalty cards altogether.


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