- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Oct. 5

The Knoxville News Sentinel on funding to fight drug abuse:

The price Tennesseans are paying for drug abuse is rising. Drugged driving has surpassed drunk driving as a factor in fatal traffic deaths in Tennessee, with the number of crashes involving drivers under the influence of drugs rising a startling 89 percent from 2010 to 2015.

Experts attribute the surge to increasing abuse of prescription painkillers, though fatal crashes attributed to drug use are caused by a wide range of substances.

According to a USA TODAY Network analysis of Tennessee Highway Patrol data, 174 people died last year in crashes in which a driver either tested positive for drugs or an officer determined drugs contributed to the crash. One hundred thirty-six died in wrecks involving alcohol. The numbers should compel officials to redouble efforts to stem the tide of drug abuse in Tennessee.

The traffic fatality analysis and a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association show overdoses are not the only danger associated with drug abuse.

The study of more than 45,000 Medicaid patients in Tennessee, The Associated Press reported, indicates prescription drug use may contribute to heart-related deaths and other fatalities. The patients using opioids had a 64 percent higher risk of dying within six months of starting treatment compared to patients taking other prescription pain medicine.

New federal guidelines recommend physicians use non-narcotic pain treatments before prescribing opioids. In Tennessee, a state with 6.5 million residents, health care practitioners wrote more than 7.8 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers last year.

Though the state has begun addressing opioid abuse, more resources and programs are needed. Dr. Keith Anderson, president of the Tennessee Medical Association, told the News Sentinel that more money should be put toward addiction treatment, especially in rural areas. Tennessee now has a database to track prescriptions, but it is not coordinated with other states’ databases. That is a particular concern in Memphis, he said, where people can quickly dash to pharmacies in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.

Pinpointing drugs as the cause of a crash is not easy. There is no blood concentration level for drugs as there is for alcohol, and the tide of drug tests has swamped TBI crime labs, which take about six months to complete the tests. Through its Drug Recognition Expert Program, the Tennessee Highway Safety Office has certified about 115 officers to identify drug-impaired drivers and serve as expert witnesses in court.

Jack Arnold, an assistant district attorney for the counties northwest of Nashville, said he expects Tennessee lawmakers soon will take a shot at setting standards for drug levels. If legislators take this tack, they should base any standards on science that takes into account drug levels in people with legitimate prescriptions for medical conditions.

Gov. Bill Haslam and the Legislature need to find ways to fund more treatment programs, expand TBI lab capacity, coordinate prescription tracking efforts with other states and provide more training for law enforcement officers. The cost in dollars would be outweighed by the savings in lives.

Online:

http://www.knoxnews.com

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Oct. 5

The Elizabethton Star on the importance of newspapers in the community:

This week, Oct. 2-8, is National Newspaper Week, a time to celebrate and reflect on the role newspapers have played in their community through the ages.

Over the years, the way the world has gotten its news has changed. From the time of the town criers shouting the news in the courthouse square all the way through to the digital age where many community members find their news online or through their smartphones one thing has not changed_the public’s desire and need to be informed.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”

Jefferson looked to newspapers to bridge the gap between citizens and their government and to keep the citizens informed of what their government was doing. He believed a nation that practices self-government is dependent on an enlightened and educated citizenry and therefore, a press that is free to investigate and criticize the government was absolutely essential.

Since the founding of our country, many laws have been enacted that not only protect the freedom of the press but also dictating how government is to conduct its business so that citizens may remain informed.

With the passing of the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of the press through the First Amendment.

In addition to federal protections, many states have also enacted constitutional protections and laws related to a free press and the conducting of government business.

Here in Tennessee, the state legislature also saw the need and benefit in such protections. The Tennessee Code Annotated, in Title 8, Chapter 44, Part 1 states the following: “The general assembly hereby declares it to be the policy of this state that the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.”

Those words are the opening statement to the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, more commonly known as the “Sunshine Law.” The act underscores the idea that Tennesseans have a legal presumption of open government in their Constitution and separate laws related to open meetings and public records.

While state law provides that meetings shall be open, public business shall be conducted in a public forum, and public records shall remain available to the public for inspection, that is not always the case. Some violations of the Sunshine Law are inadvertent, made by public officials who do not fully understand the law and its requirements. Others are deliberate and are designed to keep the public in the dark about an issue. Whatever the case, the burden of enforcing the letter, intent, and spirit of all three often falls onto the shoulders of the press and the public.

Over the years, the Elizabethton Star has worked hard to ensure our community is informed about the actions and business of local government. We have called into question decisions that have been made and filed complaints with the state when we felt open meetings and records laws have been violated. We take our job of keeping you informed very seriously and we are dedicated to our community.

Online:

http://www.elizabethton.com

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Oct. 5

The (Maryville) Daily Times on Nobel-prize winning scientists:

On a day when Gov. Bill Haslam was in Blount County to tout the importance of manufacturing in Tennessee , three British-born scientists were learning they shared the Nobel prize in physics for work that could help lead to more powerful computers and improved materials for electronics.

On Tuesday while officials representing the Blount Partnership, DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, ALCOA’s Tennessee Operations and Pellissippi State Community College were lauding cooperative efforts to meld education strategies with the needs of high-tech manufacturers, the world was speculating about the practical applications of mind-bending new materials.

The Associated Press headlined it, “Weird science: 3 win Nobel for unusual states of matter.”

The trio of scientists - David Thouless of the University of Washington, Duncan Haldane of Princeton University and Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University - have been investigating strange states of matter like superconductivity, the ability of a material to conduct electricity without resistance.

Ground-breaking research was sparked by outside-the-box thinking. Or maybe more accurately in this case, outside-the-cup thinking. By asking how a doughnut is like a coffee cup, the scientists discovered a tool that astounded the experts.

Their work called on an abstract mathematical field called topology, which presents a particular way to describe some properties of matter. As AP put it, in this realm a doughnut and a coffee cup are basically the same thing because each contains precisely one hole. Topology describes properties that can only change in full steps; you can’t have half a hole.

Haldane said the award-winning research is just starting to have practical applications. He said the big hope is for these new materials - possibly like super thin materials that only have two dimensions instead of three - to lead to the development of quantum computers.

His co-winner Kosterlitz was a bit less sanguine about that prospect. “At the risk of making a bad mistake, I would say that this quantum computation stuff is a long way from being practical.”

It will up to the next generation of scientists to make that leap. And up to students who are educated in advanced manufacturing to utilize these new materials in practical ways - amazing ways - the next generation will take for granted.

Online:

http://www.thedailytimes.com

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