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Originally published Wednesday, July 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Hands-free won't solve problem Editor, The Times: By now the phone companies should have conned all the cellphone addicts into buying a...

Cellphone ban

Hands-free won't solve problem

Editor, The Times:

By now the phone companies should have conned all the cellphone addicts into buying a second, "hands-free" phone to comply with the nearly worthless law making it almost illegal to use a handheld phone while driving ["Cellphone ban takes effect today," Local News, July 1].

Surely, I'm not the only person in the state who realizes the real issue: The problem with phoning while driving isn't having a hand involved in something other than driving, but having a brain involved in something other than driving, and should be banned outright except in emergencies. As agonizing as it was, we somehow managed before the invention of portable phones.

I suppose I'd have to raise a whole bunch of money to get the Legislature to cave in to my wishes, like they did to the phone industry. Perhaps a good start would be to set a death target, whereby phoning while driving would become illegal when more than "X" number of people regularly die per week as a result of it.

— Gary McGavran, Bellevue

Obama vs. McCain

GOP candidate lacked patriotism on Fourth

Skimming the Politics section of seattletimes.com, I read a few articles online about what Barack Obama did in celebration of the birth of our nation. July Fourth is typically a busy day for politicians, with the many parades to attend, babies to kiss and hands to shake.

The articles about Obama had details about what he said and did for the Fourth, making him sound like a nice, solid, patriotic guy.

At the bottom of the screen, under the heading "The Democrats," it said: "Barack Obama attended Independence Day celebrations in Butte, Mont."

In the next section headed "The Republicans," it said: "John McCain had no public events."

Are you kidding me? The man who claims to be the most patriotic candidate didn't share his love of country with the public, with the voters who might put him into office? I was stunned.

I like John McCain and agree with many of the votes he has cast as a senator, especially for campaign reform and limiting pork-spending addenda on bills. I respect his military service and I sincerely thank him for it. I also recognize he suffered more than others as a prisoner of war, and I thank him for that, too. When he was running against President Bush in past primaries, I supported him. He seemed more centrist than most Republicans and a much more attractive candidate than George W. Bush.

With all the hoopla about Obama not wearing a flag pin and how horribly unpatriotic that was, I am stunned by McCain's "no public events" on the most important public holiday in the year. I just hope those liberal journalists on Fox News Channel don't jump all over him like they did Obama. Oh, wait, I forgot! They won't criticize a Republican for something as trivial as this.

— Jeff Wedgwood, Issaquah

Family connections saved Navy veteran

As a young Navy pilot in 1944, I crashed into Pensacola Bay and went before a U.S.N. Accident Review Board. I was informed that any other such incident would result in grounding and loss of pilot status.

Obviously, McCain's family connections saved him from loosing his wings after not one but three crashes on his record. In fact, one might wonder how the 874th-ranked midshipman even got a chance to go to the highly competitive flight-training program at Pensacola.

— Jackson D. Willis, Bellingham

Starbucks closings

Suggestions for the coffee company

Oh, no! Starbucks feeling the economic crunch! 600 stores closing! Is this the end? Well, no, actually. If they wish to boost profits, they need to regroup and rethink their target demographic ["Starbucks to close 600 stores," Times, Business, July 2].

First thing is the coffee. Joe and Jill Average can go to McDonald's practically anywhere and grab an espresso drink, at a discount. To them, a latte is a latte is a latte. What's more, Starbucks has lost its "snob" cachet for the same reason.

My suggestion for drawing upscale customers back? Sell beans and concoct coffee creations from fair-trade, shade-grown providers like they do in many progressive shops. Oh, and retain your tradition of crafting cool car-companion mugs. They're cool, they're utilitarian and they sell.

I'm confident Starbucks can regain its stature by putting these ideas into practice.

— Aaron Hunt Warner, Federal Way

Fourth fireworks

Police should enforce laws

"The police aren't trying to crack down on people's fun," said police spokesman Mark Jamieson ["Seattle residents asked not to call 911 about fireworks," Times, Local News, July 3]. Fun? You think that living an evening of hell with everyone around you setting off bombs that would compete with the peak of the Iraq War — having to close our windows to the resulting stink and finding our streets and yard strewed with debris — fun? Jamieson has a strange sense of a good time.

Our pets are terrorized, we are miserable and the perpetrators are given a wink and a nod by the police. Who are the police representing: the lawful citizens or the law breakers?

Every year we hope it will be different and tell ourselves we should just go to Canada for the weekend, but we never do. Our jobs keep us in town when it's a weekday, and traffic is prohibitive when it isn't.

Personal fireworks are illegal in Kenmore, but it is not enforced. We live at the border of Kenmore and unincorporated King County, and the police tell us there is nothing they can do.

Is it against the law or not? Why don't the police have to enforce all the laws?

As for using 911, who decided that the police could only be contacted via 911? Now we are told that we cannot contact them for laws they choose not to enforce because they are too busy?

When did the world stop making any sense? It seems everything is a contradiction these days.

— Deb Wingert, Kenmore

Hostage rescue

Colombia's unions need help

While the Colombian government should be commended for its recent hostage rescue, such an accomplishment should not be used as a pretext for dismissing charges of state-sanctioned human-rights violations against Colombian labor unions ["Hostages freed by America's friend," Times, editorial, July 6].

If such claims are "overblown political rhetoric in the United States," as you refer to them, why does the International Labor Organization in a June 2008 report call on Colombia to take further steps "to ensure that the trade union movement might finally develop and flourish in a culture free from violence"?

Yes, Colombia's Uribe government has dedicated time and resources toward improving the safety of Colombian union members. Nonetheless, judicial impunity concerning violence against union leaders remains largely in place — a March 2008 ILO report found that since 2001 only 73 out of 1,262 high-profile murders of Colombian union members have resulted in any convictions.

Additionally, based on the Colombian government's own statistics, 22 union members have been killed through April of this year, a more than 50 percent increase since this same time last year.

Friend or foe, we owe it to ourselves and the Colombian people to accurately report on the events affecting their lives.

— Sean Power, Seattle

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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