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Editorial Roundup - Feb. 28, 2014

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Compiled by The Associated Press
Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on agencies issuing mining permits (Feb. 25):
No matter how many peer-reviewed studies link living near surface mining to higher rates of disease, death and birth defects, it’s of no consequence to the agencies issuing the permits.
That astounding gap in a process that’s supposed to protect the public came to light during arguments this month before a federal appeals court.
The three judges are considering a challenge to a James River Coal subsidiary’s plan to blast and strip the hills next to the communities of Vicco and Sassafras in Knott and Perry counties for a 756-acre surface mine.
The plaintiffs say the Army Corps of Engineers, one of three agencies that must approve surface-mining plans, was required by federal law and its own regulations to consider risks to public health.
But a U.S. Justice Department attorney, representing the Corps, argued that any such responsibility falls within the jurisdiction of Kentucky’s environmental agency.
The Corps is responsible only for considering the effects of filling streams with dirt and rock dislodged by surfacing mining, the attorney said, not for considering the effects of the mining overall — a distinction without a difference, if ever there was one.
Apparently nothing precludes Kentucky from considering public health when ruling on mining permits. But Kentucky, which has been delegated authority to enforce the U.S. Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, chooses not to make public health a consideration.
One of the three judges hearing the appeal, Eugene Siler Jr., a former Whitley County attorney, twice asked whether considering public health effects would not stop all surface mining.
No, he was assured by the plaintiffs’ lawyers, but it would result in conditions being imposed on mining permits to protect public health.
No one mentioned that the blasting, bulldozing, air and water pollution would be right on top of the 700 people who live in Vicco and Sassafras, along with the fears for their and their family’s health.
Those who insist that surface mining is overregulated in Eastern Kentucky should get to live next door to it.

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The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Ky., on blood supply shortage (Feb. 21):
Each winter, the medical community braces itself for flu to reduce blood donations. This winter, flu season and treacherous weather have dealt the U.S. blood supply a one-two punch.
Bad weather canceled hundreds of blood drives. In all, 1,500 drives in 34 states were canceled between Jan. 2 and Feb. 17, said Lindsay English, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross.
That translates to 50,000 uncollected donations; the equivalent of the entire Red Cross organization shutting down for three days, England said.
Locally, American Red Cross recruiters have reached out to past donors, asking them if they are eligible and willing to donate. The Red Cross also is shoring up its mobile blood drive schedule.
The need is great.
It’s a fairly simple process, as outlined on the American Red Cross website. You register. Someone takes your medical history and provides a mini physical. You make the actual donation — approximately one pint of blood. And then, you get a snack.
Plus, it’s easy to find out about when and where you can give blood as all drives are listed and searchable by ZIP code, at www.redcrossblood.org.
You also can call 1-800-RED-CROSS.
Visiting one of these drives is a profoundly generous thing to do. Four types of transfusable products can be taken from blood: red cells, platelets, plasma and cryoprecipitate. According to the American Red Cross, a pint of whole blood usually provides two or three of these products. So each donation has the potential to save three lives.
The two most common reasons people cite for not giving blood are they haven’t thought about it and they don’t like needles. The needle simply can’t be avoided, but for the others, we ask you to think about it.
It’s a gift that really does save lives.

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San Antonio Express-News. on Congress (Feb. 21):
Congress’ dirty little secret on immigration reform: It’s likely that a majority of House members want it because they know it’s needed. But reform is dead this year and, possibly, the next.
Cynicism has replaced the art of the possible in Congress. Here’s the calculation at work:
First, much of the GOP House caucus doesn’t want immigration reform. But, combine those Republicans who do with nearly all of the Democratic caucus and you likely reach the majority needed to pass the legislation. This won’t happen because of a rule that dictates that no legislation be allowed on the floor unless a majority of the GOP caucus wants it.
Got that? Majority votes are supposed to rule in Congress — unless the majority party makes sure that a majority vote never occurs. Another way of putting it is that a majority of the representatives of the American people want immigration reform, but they are being blocked by a majority of Republicans, who comprise a minority of the House.
The Senate minority party’s version of this is using procedural maneuvers to prevent a majority vote, though tellingly not with immigration. The Senate has passed comprehensive reform that even many House Democrats would vote for.
Second, many GOP House members don’t want a vote on immigration reform because they live in fear of a vocal, active base of voters who dominate their party’s primary elections. Translated: Keeping what is likely a minority — but voting — portion of even their own party happy is key to re-election. And re-election is what these House members value most.
That’s the dynamic at work on immigration reform. “Good” for some House members. Bad for the country. Cynical all around.

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Evansville Courier & Press. on Indiana’s new slogan (Feb. 24):
As we remember it, once before Indiana leaders paid professionals to come up with a slogan they hoped would attract visitors to the Hoosiers state.
The slogan was “Restart Your Engines,” although we believed it was a non-starter.
It was a takeoff on the Indianapolis 500 race and the famous instruction to “Start your engines.” At the time, we envisioned jumper cables and dead batteries, and wondered how that image might be received.
Anyway, we learned last week that Indiana now has another tourism slogan, this one designed to promote the state’s warm soul. It’s called a “consumer brand” and is titled “Honest to Goodness Indiana.”
According to The Associated Press, the new campaign comes as Indiana prepares for its statehood bicentennial in 2016, and is intended to emphasize that the people and experiences in Indiana are genuine.
Although we don’t expect this slogan to draw visitors who don’t already know about Indiana’s quiet nature, the slogan is kind of pleasant.
And the image it calls up is certainly more pleasant than a dead battery and jumper cables.