NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 3, 2014

A look at what others are saying


Newburyport Daily News

---- — The following are excerpts from papers across New England:

As airline mergers continue, and as the Department Of Justice shrugs its shoulders and does nothing to stop them, guess what? In spite of all the vaunted efficiencies the airlines say result from the mergers, airfares continue to rise.

According to the Airlines Reporting Corp., a leading processor of airline tickets, airfares have increased more than 12 percent since 2009. This does not include other charges that have cost consumers $3.4 billion a year for suitcase checking fees, reservation change fees, cancellation fees and whatever other fees they can imagine.

One would hope that as these charges skyrocket, airline travel would at least be more comfortable. Hardly. Flights are jammed, seats are smaller, and a flight meal now consists of a bag of peanuts — if you are lucky. Cancellations have increased and late arrivals have mushroomed.

All of this while the Federal Aviation Administration sits back and does nothing.

Proponents of airline deregulation, who were led by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, may not be so proud of their accomplishment in diminishing government control of the airlines. Free competition does not truly exist when mergers and acquisitions diminish it to create a virtual oligopoly. That is what is happening within the airline industry.

— The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, Conn.

When folk music burst upon the scene in the 1960s, it seemed a great novelty to young Americans, even though little of it was new. From its earliest days, the United States has had a rich musical tradition, much of it developed in the context of daily working life in the settling of a huge continent, often the product of unknown composers.

Pete Seeger, who died Jan. 27 at 94, traveled the country in the 1950s, collecting ballads, chanteys, spirituals and cowboy songs. He also met many of the people who kept regional musical traditions alive and he worked to popularize their music.

One of the foremost venues for this new/old music was the Newport Folk Festival, which Seeger helped organize in the redoubt of the super-rich and the socialites. From the hollows of Tennessee and from mining towns in the West came humble men and women with dulcimers and banjos to play for people who sat on the grass. They would often begin their sets with harrowing tales of their long drives to Rhode Island.

Seeger was also a prominent activist for civil rights and was brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955. He was absurdly charged with contempt of Congress for his answers. His conviction was later overturned on appeal. Seeger later renounced his admiration for Josef Stalin, recognizing his evil.

A resident of the riverside town of Beacon, N.Y., he was a tireless campaigner for the cleanup of the Hudson River, which was heavily polluted in the 1960s. He built a replica of a 19th-century Hudson River sloop, the Clearwater, from which he advocated the river’s restoration. The huge stream is now habitat for many species of fish and animals that had abandoned it, including humans who can fish and swim in it again.

— The Providence (R.I.) Journal

Potatoes get a bum rap. Like any food that’s fried in oil, french fries and potato chips should be eaten in moderation, but that does not mean that eating potatoes is unhealthy. They are a source of dietary fiber, potassium and vitamin C, among other benefits. They are also an inexpensive vegetable that’s easy to cook and should be a part of a balanced diet.

So we were disappointed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, acting on the advice of a scientific panel, excluded white potatoes from the list of groceries subsidized by the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. But that doesn’t mean we support the industry’s efforts to lobby furiously to get its product back on the list, or the championing of the cause by members of Maine’s congressional delegation.

The potato industry admits that it’s less worried about the business it would lose than the bad publicity it would get from being left off the WIC list of healthy foods. But using the political muscle of the congressional delegations of the potato-producing states is not the right solution. There is a better way.

There is an opportunity for potato growers to promote their product by educating the public about tasty and nutritious ways to prepare it. Money spent lobbying for access to the WIC program could be better used encouraging people to eat potatoes at home in ways and in quantities that promote good health.

— The Portland, Maine, Press Herald