Bush must justify need for warrantless spying, wiretaps

Fighting a war against an amorphous band of terrorists, spread throughout all corners of the world, not identifiable by a single uniform and speaking any number of languages, is a difficult, dangerous and dirty business. Defending the United States from al-Qaida and other terrorist groups intent on assassinating Americans does require special powers.

Congress gave the government those powers a week after the Sept. 11 attacks when it approved the Authorization to Use Military Force. But members of Congress now insist – and they may be right – that those powers did not include the ability to permit unlimited wiretaps and eavesdropping on potentially thousands of Americans' international phone calls and e-mails.

Court ruling in cigarette case was the only sensible outcome

The Illinois Supreme Court last week took another sensible step to rein in abusive lawsuits when it threw out a $10 billion-plus judgment against cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris.

A judge in Madison County, a notorious legal venue where plaintiffs' lawyers run amok with the permission, if not the active encouragement, of the local judiciary, had issued the judgment after he ruled that Philip Morris' sales of so-called "light" cigarettes violated consumer protection laws by fooling Illinois consumers into thinking they were safer than regular cigarettes. But in a 4-2 decision written by Justice Rita Garman, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the judgment because federal regulators years ago gave their permission for the marketing of light cigarettes. In a separate concurring opinion, Justices Lloyd Karmeier and Thomas Fitzgerald concluded that the plaintiffs never demonstrated any economic harm from their consumption of light cigarettes manufactured by Philip Morris, let alone damages in the billions of dollars.

Administrators must get tougher in teacher evaluations

Does anyone really believe that only two tenured teachers in Illinois, on the average, deserve to be fired each year? After all, there are 95,500 tenured teachers in the state. Any private employer that retained all but two of its 95,500 veteran employees each year would be in trouble, if not with its customers then with all the other employees who had to cover for the lazy, the incompetent or the unpleasant workers.

But a report by the Small Newspaper Group found that only two teachers, on the average, are let go annually for poor performance. Another five or so are fired for criminal activity.

Cities should enact park land set-aside ordinances

After years of discussion but no action, it appears the city of Champaign and the Champaign Park District may be about to enact an ordinance that would require subdivision developers to donate land or cash for park land.

The park land set-aside has been the law in some Chicago suburbs for three decades, and has moved downstate to DeKalb, Belvidere, Edwardsville, Charleston, Peoria and other communities. More than 100 of Illinois' 340 park districts have mandatory land dedication policies, according to Champaign Park District planner Terri Gibble.

Area residents open their hearts and pocketbooks

The Empty Tomb asked and the Empty Tomb received, again leaving no doubt about the generosity of the people of Champaign County.

The Champaign-based Christian charity, which provides food, clothing, furniture, home repairs and financial assistance for needy families, found itself in a financial bind last summer and fall. Two months ago, the Empty Tomb had a deficit of more than $20,000 and was having trouble paying its employees.

High oil prices will drive need for conservation, other fuels

While oil prices are projected to continue to increase – driven mainly by increased global energy consumption – not all of the news in a recent Energy Department forecast was gloomy.

The mighty U.S. consumer market, the report concluded, will force a greater shift to alternative fuels and to more energy conservation.

Solon House donation will be a benefit to entire community

There aren't many buildings, or even institutions, in Champaign that are older than the Solon House on South State Street. That's why it's good news that relatives of John Solon, who died in 1995 and was the home's last occupant, have decided to donate the elegant structure, built between 1865 and 1869, to the Preservation and Conservation Association.

It's really a gift to the entire community.

All Kids a bad idea in Illinois and nationwide as well

How appropriate that on the same day the Treasury Department reported the greatest budget imbalance for the month of November – $138.8 billion in revenue last month versus $221.9 billion in spending – Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich went to Washington for another federal handout. And he urged Congress to expand his multimillion-dollar All Kids health insurance plan nationwide.

Let's hope the Republican Congress, which hasn't been financially prudent enough in recent years, casts a more skeptical eye at the expected cost of All Kids than the Illinois Legislature did. Lawmakers in Springfield passed All Kids in a matter of days, simply accepting the Blagojevich administration's bogus financials about the cost of a program that would give government-subsidized health care to hundreds of thousands of Illinois children, even those who may already have it.

Despite hardships, most Iraqis are confident about their future

In one big respect, Iraqis and Americans are on the same wavelength: a new poll shows they want us out of Iraq and polls in the United States show that we want our troops to return home soon.

Support for the war in Iraq is waning in both countries. U.S. Rep. Timothy Johnson of Urbana, who has backed the U.S. efforts to depose Saddam Hussein and help rebuild a democratic government in Iraq, admitted that Americans now are anxious to see a withdrawal begin, and that he shares that concern. It is understandable.

Coke and Pepsi just right for lawyers with taste for a fight

First, it was the tobacco companies and then the fast-food restaurants. Now trial lawyers have targeted soft-drink manufacturers like Pepsi and Coke for lawsuits that allege the businesses are harming those who consume their products.

Lawyers hit the jackpot targeting tobacco firms, but struck out in pursuit of riches from fast food. How they'll do pursuing soft-drink manufacturers remains to be seen. But The New York Times reports that a conglomeration of lawyers, including veterans of the tobacco wars, will soon file a lawsuit in Massachusetts that targets the businesses for selling their wares in public high schools and alleges they are responsible for the rise in youthful obesity.