Editorial: Murray left behind a proud legacy for all of Delmarva

Date Published: 
July 21, 2017

When word began to filter through our newsroom on Tuesday that longtime News Journal environmental reporter Molly Murray had died, one would have thought that we had lost a co-worker of our own.

Murray diligently covered the environment and agriculture world of Sussex County for decades, and had bumped into just about every working journalist in Delmarva through that time. She was known as a top-notch writer who saw the protections of our waterways and farmlands as vital to the very way of life we enjoy here, and she was usually out in front of everybody else in providing that coverage.

She was fair and accurate in her reporting, as we all aspire to be, and she won numerous awards for her work. But she was more than that. She was a thoughtful, giving person who didn’t mind sharing a few of her “tricks of the trade” with young journalists from other publications, and always stopped “to smell the roses” with her sources and competition, through pleasantries and conversation.

In short, Murray was, and will continue to be, a legend in this area as a journalist, and will be remembered through generations of reporters as a professional who always did what she considered to be the right thing.

In reality, all of us, in all walks of life in Delmarva, owe Murray deep appreciation and thanks. Her watchdog reporting directly kept the things happening to our environment under scrutiny, and she didn’t fall into the trap of only reporting on negatives happening to the world around us — she also championed what a beautiful world we have around us.

We offer our sympathies to Murray’s family, friends and co-workers, and our thanks for having known her. Rest in peace, Molly.

Robots serve a purpose, but let’s keep control

Date Published: 
July 21, 2017

Remember Rosie?

No, not Rosey Grier, the former star defensive lineman for the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams. And, no, not Rosie O’Donnell, frequent foe of our president and fictional baseball player in “A League of Their Own.” Nor am I talking about Rosie Perez, the fast-talking actress of “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Do the Right Thing.”

I’m talking about Rosie — the robotic maid of the “The Jetsons.” You know, that shiny housekeeper with the frilly apron who used to refer to George as “Mr. J.” and quite often came off as the only reasonable-thinking character on the show? Yeah, that’s her.

Rosie was awesome. She was quite often the glue of the Jetson family, and, unlike her counterpart Alice on “The Brady Bunch,” Rosie didn’t have any silly human emotions vying for her attention — a la Sam the butcher. I never trusted Sam. He always seemed a little too eager to...

But I digress.

Rosie was but my first love in the world of robotics. My infatuation only grew when the show “Knight Rider” came on the air, and the lead character was assisted on his ludicrous missions by KITT, a talking Firebird that offered Michael Knight advice and a dose of maturity, along with autonomous driving and body armor.

Pop culture has fallen in love with robots from Star Wars, Terminator, Short Circuit, Robots, Wall-E, Futurama, RoboCop, Transformers and Lost in Space — not to mention that oddball little robotic figure in the Rocky movie that both served drinks and illustrated how wealthy athletes can lose all their money so quickly.

We have watched as robots have both streamlined manufacturing, and made many workers obsolete. Robots are being tested as Uber drivers, serving as drones dropping death from above and clearing dangerous situations by disposing of bombs or giving police or military personnel an extra set of eyes during high-stress events.

Robots have indeed become a significant part of today’s society, and all trends seem to point toward them playing an even larger role in the future. There is significant talk of robot chefs that can prepare meals the exact same way every time, robot switchboards at major companies and robot editors who do twice the work for a fraction of the money and never...

You know, let’s just forget I even brought up that last one.

The reason I embarked on this robots-in-society journey is because of an article I came across on the other day, regarding a discussion during a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on Tuesday, July 18. The central characters in the meeting were discussing a Department of Defense (DoD) directive that “requires a human operator to be kept in the decision-making process when it comes to taking of human life by autonomous weapons systems.”

That restriction was “due to expire later this year,” according to Sen. Gary Peters, and the committee was apparently debating if that should be extended or not.

Gen. Paul Selva, America’s second-highest ranking military officer, said he was in favor of the directive, for “keeping the ethical rules of war in place lest we unleash on humanity a set of robots that we don’t know how to control.”

This... well, this is interesting, isn’t it?

There’s an old saying that every war ends, but war never does. The premise is that every war reaches an inevitable conclusion, but that the next one is always right around the corner. We’ve seen that in our own nation’s history, and have clear evidence that this has been the case across this spinning rock since Uga the cavemen first scrawled battle plans on a wall with a sharpened bone from a dinosaur jaw.

Wars happen, and they will continue to do so as long as people have anything to say about it.

So, with that as an incredibly-depressing backdrop, wouldn’t it make sense to build an army of super-robots to take the place of our flesh-and-blood sons and daughters, neighbors and friends? Autonomous devices that can make split-second decisions, brave any elements before them and seek and destroy our enemies?

Well, sure. But, like Selva said, we’d still want to have the ability to control them, even remotely.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to put robots in charge of whether or not we take a human life,” said Selva. He continued later that “we take our values to war.”

This is a strong point, and one that should get more attention. When Peters made the very-accurate argument that other nations may not share our restraint on this matter, Selva said he agreed, and that though he didn’t want our military to practice indiscriminate robot-killing, that “doesn’t mean that we don’t have to address the development of those kinds of technologies and potentially find their vulnerabilities and exploit those vulnerabilities.”

He’s right.

Other countries or armies might torture. They might behead prisoners, bomb without conscience or send off an army of robot soldiers to kill without hesitation or thought. None of that means we must do the same.

I’m excited about where the world is going with robots, and think they can be astonishing tools that save first-responders, improve safety in workplaces and make Firebirds really cool.

But let’s keep the ethical decisions in our hands, and try to keep the “human” part of humanity in our minds.

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor — July 21, 2017

Date Published: 
July 21, 2017

Reader wants Planned Parenthood funded


This bill is the worst bill for women in a generation. In addition to “defunding” Planned Parenthood and slashing Medicaid, it guts essential health benefit protections, including maternity coverage and prescription drugs. Thirteen million women could lose coverage to maternity care under this bill — and over a million patients will instantly lose access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers if this bill were to become law.

Mark Haimowitz


Previous opinion piece gets response


I read the Guest Column by Kitty Holtz, “Rescinding WOTUS rule is a step in the right direction,” [July 14, 2017] and was deeply troubled by its inaccuracies. It is true that the rule proposed to be withdrawn has not yet gone into effect, and thus its withdrawal alone will not harm water quality. However, little else was accurate.

The rule was developed over many years with an extensive process involving scientists and input from many sectors. It was developed because the Supreme Court had issued a very divided and confused decision on the definition of “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act, in which it criticized the Agencies (the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers) for having failed to issue clarifying regulations subsequent to a previous Supreme Court decision.

This rule was an attempt to implement and clarify the non-specific and confusing Supreme Court decisions. The rule was designed to reflect both the environmental reality of the interconnectedness of many water systems, and the need for administrative clarity and certainty. The litigation by all sides reflects that in some ways the definition might expand, but in others it may restrict, the waters regulated under the Clean Water Act. That is, no special interests were totally happy with the rule, because no one side “won.”

Most ongoing farming activities are already exempt from the Clean Water Act. The rule would not change that. The rule would not establish jurisdiction over “low spots on the landscape” that aren’t filled with water at least part of the year. The fact that a waterbody is not wet all the time does not mean it does not significantly impact water quality or serve other vital functions. The wetlands behind my house, on the Rehoboth Bay, are often dry, but with high tides or storms they look like the Bay and not land.

Further, the purpose of withdrawing the rule is to replace it with a much narrower interpretation. It will be difficult to implement that interpretation without causing serious harm to water quality. It is important to note that this regulation defines waters of the United States for all purposes of the Clean Water Act, including discharges from industries. By de-regulating some of those discharges, toxics or other harmful materials can wind up in our water bodies, including our local bays and ocean waters.

Given how dependent the economy of coastal Delaware is on the health of our waters and wetlands, I find it disturbing that the Coastal Point would print this one-sided column without a rebuttal or analysis of its accuracy. The people of coastal Delaware deserve to hear the whole story about this important rule.

Suzanne Schwartz