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Editorial Roundup - Aug. 15, 2014

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Compiled by The Associated Press

Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, on Robin Williams (Aug. 12):
If early reports are correct, on Monday comedian/actor/motormouth genius Robin Williams became one of the roughly 39,000 Americans who die by suicide each year — roughly someone every 13 minutes. Mr. Williams’ media representative said he had been battling depression, a serious mental illness that affects about 25 million people every year (only half receive treatment for it), and stories also noted that he recently had checked himself back into rehab over concerns about his sobriety.
The news of his passing at age 63, and under such tragic circumstances, stunned a nation that loved to laugh with him in his TV appearances, his movies and his stand-up comedy routines. The bottom line to one ledger says his movies earned more than $3 billion in the U.S. But there was more to him, and his career, than that: He won an Academy Award for “Good Will Hunting,” and he won our hearts with “Dead Poets Society,” ‘’Mrs. Doubtfire,” ‘’Aladdin” and other performances.
Clearly, there are lessons in his bountiful life, and in his sad death.
His comedy was not lazy, and it more than hinted at a life of the mind. Accounts of his caring and steadfastness to friends, strangers and causes testify to a kindness that rained blessings on recipients. His willingness to share major struggles in his life, especially those involving substance abuse, indicates an even deeper generosity of spirit.
But being smart, being kind and being honest ultimately didn’t help with whatever led him to take his own life — and maybe the realization that it was too big for this seemingly successful person will drive home the realization that it’s too big for too many of the rest of us, too.

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The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on driving slow in school zones (Aug. 3):
Although summer doesn’t officially end until Sept. 22, the thousands of Louisiana children returning to school this month already know the jig is up. Vacation season has passed, and another academic year has begun.
That should mean extra vigilance, we hope, for area motorists traveling in school zones. Kids are especially distracted in their first days of school, underscoring the need for drivers to pay attention when passing local campuses.
A new state law that took effect Aug. 1 bans the use of cellphones while driving in school zones. We can’t predict how well the new law will be enforced, but driving while phoning is never a good idea, and we hope drivers will be particularly careful around schools.
Slower speed zones around area schools also go into effect with the start of every school year. It’s time, once again, to put on the brakes when approaching neighborhood campuses. We hope that children have a safe and happy school year.

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The Gainesville (Florida) Sun on water warnings (Aug. 12):
We have been warned — and warned and warned. It goes like this: If Floridians don’t quit pumping and polluting their water to excess, there will be real consequences that will be difficult to overcome and could endanger the state’s economic future.
If the threat sounds exaggerated, just take a look at two major national events that have been in the news, both involving water.
Most recently, the people of Toledo, Ohio, had their water supply shut off for two days because of a massive algae bloom in Lake Erie, which the city depends on for its drinking water. The bloom was not only huge but, because it was so concentrated, it was toxic as well and made the drinking water unsafe.
The principal culprit, according to scientists evaluating the mess, is runoff from farms. Household fertilizer and municipal stormwater runoff also contributed.
What’s happening on Lake Erie happens all over Florida, just not on that big of a scale. When nitrates continue to flow into surface waters in large volumes, they will produce algae — lots of algae. We only need to look at our once-glistening springs to see the effects of nitrates on waterways.
The other story regarding water supply that is relevant locally — anywhere, actually — is the study done of the Colorado River Basin by NASA and the University of California-Irvine. After 14 years of drought, researchers used NASA satellites to measure all the water within the basin, which supplies water to 40 million people in seven states.
What the researchers found was that between 2004 and 2013, the basin lost about 53 million acre feet of water — twice as much as the nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead at Hoover Dam.
The obvious lesson is that when scientists tell us we are over-pumping and are nearing the aquifer’s sustainable pumping capacity, we should listen and begin making lifestyle, business and policy changes.
It is not hard to imagine either the Lake Erie disaster or the Colorado River Basin crisis occurring here in our own state, in our own community.
Unless our state and local governments begin implementing serious water protection policies — fertilizer restrictions, water permit limits and mandatory conservation measures, for starters — it is possible, even likely, Florida could become both Lake Erie and the Colorado River Basin.

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The Times Union of Albany on U.S. military intervention in Iraq (Aug. 12):
President Barack Obama faces the unenviable task of persuading a war-weary public that taking even limited military action against militants in Iraq is the right thing to do. Even more: It’s the necessary thing to do.
Even if we could put aside the specter of violent sectarian persecution and slaughter that the group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria represents, the threat that it could take over a strategic and, yes, oil-rich nation is simply impossible to ignore.
At the same time, Mr. Obama’s early assessment that the solution to Iraq’s problems ultimately cannot be military is quite correct. American involvement needs to focus on encouraging unity governance and steer Iraq away from the sectarian policies that have alienated minority Sunnis and helped fuel militancy.
But selling all this to an American public — and to Congress, as Mr. Obama must and should do under the 1973 War Powers Resolution — will be no easy task. After President George W. Bush’s misguided war in Iraq, Americans are understandably leery of a return to that battlefront.
Multiple polls this year show most Americans — more than 70 percent in some surveys — don’t think that war was worth the price, a prevailing sentiment since 2006, according to Gallup. And in a Pew Research Center poll in July, 55 percent of respondents said they don’t feel the United States has a responsibility to do anything about the problems in Iraq — even if most people also say the problems today stem from the U.S. invasion and our subsequent withdrawal of troops. An overwhelming majority — 75 percent — feel that the main causes are religious and ethnic rivalries, problems the Iraqis must solve themselves.
Americans’ conflicted views are shown by a Quinnipiac poll in June. On the one hand, the poll found, most Americans don’t see the turmoil in Iraq as a matter of national interest, nor feel the U.S. should help the Iraqi government deal with militants. Yet 72 percent said that if Islamic militants take over Iraq, it’s likely that they will launch a terrorist attack on this country. That poll and others show modest support for airstrikes, drone attacks, or both.
Try basing a coherent foreign policy on all that.
Complicating all this is that crushing these militants many not be a desirable outcome either; it could strengthen Syria’s brutal president, Bashar al-Assad, who is dealing with that group in his own civil war.
What’s needed here is not large military intervention, much as hawks like Sen. John McCain recklessly urge, but a measured approach that diminishes the Islamic State’s threat while continuing to put pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom Iraqi President Fouad Massoum moved Monday to replace, to step aside and allow an inclusive government to form.
In other words, take military action without fighting a war. Encourage change without engaging in nation building. Indeed, an unenviable, and delicate, task.