Bookworms help feed community

Thumbs up to the Mid-Columbia Libraries for allowing delinquent patrons to pay off overdue book fines with food for the hungry.

The library district's seasonal Food for Fines program runs through Dec. 31. Library patrons pay overdue fines using nonperishable food items. Each food item counts as $1 toward overdue fines, up to $10 per account.

Last year's Food for Fines drive collected more than 7,700 pounds of food.

Donations will go to Second Harvest Tri-Cities, Basin City Help Services, Benton City Food Bank, Othello Food Bank, Connell Food Bank, Kahlotus Food Bank, and Jubilee Ministries Prosser Food Bank.

It's a great program. Even if you don't owe any fines, bring a couple of cans of food with you next time you visit a branch of the Mid-Columbia Libraries.

Can you hear me now?

Thumbs down to the Federal Communications Commission for considering allowing airline passengers to gab away on their cellphones during commercial flights.

The proposed rule change drew immediate protest from flight attendants and airline officials, who worry that a plane full of chattering passengers could lead to arguments and undermine safety.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that modern technologies can deliver mobile services in the air safely and reliably. That might be true, except that it will be modern people using this latest technology if the rules are changed.

Nothing we've observed about modern people -- too many of whom are perfectly willing to sit in the booth next to us during dinner and loudly discuss details of their bout with dysentery -- suggests any outcome that doesn't involve frequent mid-air assaults.

"Passengers overwhelmingly reject cellphone use in the aircraft cabin. The FCC should not proceed with this proposal," the Association of Flight Attendants said in a statement.

"In far too many operational scenarios, passengers making phone calls could extend beyond a mere nuisance, creating negative effects on aviation safety and security that are great and far too risky."

Let's not wait for the first doltish airline passenger to be battered with his own cellphone before we abandon this terrible idea.

No accounting for this

Thumbs down to Pentagon officials for trying to cover up the haphazard handling of tens of billions of dollars in annual spending.

They like to boast of a decade of clean audits by outside firms hired to check the books, but a McClatchy investigation has found troubling signs that the system set up to strengthen accountability for Pentagon spending is broken.

Among the signs of dysfunction, according to interviews with key players, internal emails, memos and other documents obtained by McClatchy, are:

-- Outside audits by a certified public accounting firm of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service's books turned out to be shoddy, according to the Pentagon's own accountants, although that same CPA firm had endorsed the agency's previous fiscal records for years.

-- In reaction to the skeptical evaluations, Pentagon officials pressured their accountants to suppress their findings, then backdated documents in what appears to have been an effort to conceal the critiques.

-- The Defense Department's Office of the Inspector General, which was brought in to watchdog the audit, not only helped squelch the critical work but also allowed the outside firm to be paid despite the serious questions about the quality of its work.

And these guys are on our side.