- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

April 24

Aiken (S.C.) Standard on offshore drilling:

A recent federal government decision to endorse testing for oil and natural gas along the Atlantic Ocean means the door could once again be opening for drilling off South Carolina’s coast.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of the Interior recommended seismic testing along the Carolinas, as well as Virginia and potentially down to Florida. Each state, including the Palmetto State, faces a dilemma after the agency’s decision. While drilling offshore could mean a boom in jobs, it also presents potentially dire environmental consequences.

Even the seismic testing endorsed by the federal government has stirred concerns since it requires loud air-gun blasts that, according to environmentalists, can disrupts the sea’s ecosystem. While protecting marine life is important, it’s also vital to collect modern data before we do even greater environmental harm that could result from drilling mishaps. The Gulf Coast spill in 2010 should still loom large in our collective memory.

During a S.C. House Natural Resources Committee meeting earlier this year, Dr. James Knapp, a professor of earth and ocean sciences at the University of South Carolina, told legislators that he did not believe such seismic testing hurts fish and other sea life. He also rightly noted that present data about our oil reserves off the coast are largely outdated. Relevant research is decades old since the entire East Coast has been off limits from all drilling-related activity since 1981.

Drilling proponents say lower energy prices and greater energy independence could be the result of exploring the Atlantic Coast, but our lawmakers shouldn’t minimize those very real environmental concerns.

Our state’s natural resources, particularly our beautiful beaches, are largely considered our greatest economic driver through tourism dollars. Let’s not lose sight of protecting that priceless asset merely for short-lived economic benefits.




April 25

Morning News, Florence, S.C., on religion and football:

Not to get too territorial, but when a person or group from a far-flung land comes down from his or her perch and casts aspersions on our home turf, we generally shrug it off.

Such is the case with Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation levying several charges against Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney. The group’s claims are based on public records detailing Bible Days, FCA breakfasts and other religious-inspired activities that FFRF officials say is unconstitutional.

Swinney has never shied away from his Bible-thumping ways. He proudly wears it on his tiger-striped sleeves. Most of his recruits, if they aren’t Christians themselves, know what type of environment they are about to enter.

None of Clemson’s current or past players has come forward with stories of discrimination or grievances based on their or the coach’s religious beliefs.

That would be an issue. Short of that, though, we see no reason why Swinney should be disciplined for simply being overzealous.

Swinney seems to be singled out here, because Clemson certainly is not the only school to have a highly devout Christian as its head coach. Even the ones who aren’t as brazen about their faith probably put some religious stamps on their respective programs. Many teams across the nation have team chaplains and player-organized FCA meetings.

Of course, when it comes to religion and state-supported education, there are many gray lines. There are plenty of black and white ones, too.

As the highest-paid employee at one of the state’s two flagship public schools, Swinney needs to know what those lines are, and he needs to respect them. He is in a position of leadership at a public school, and that leadership must be handled responsibly and ethically.




April 29

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on containing deadly diseases:

Add camels and fruit bats to the list of animals - ducks, geese, chickens and pigs, for starters - that transmit deadly diseases to humans. And to avian flu and swine flu, add Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Ebola virus. Both are creating public health havoc - the camel-borne MERS in the Persian Gulf area and the fruit-bat-transmitted Ebola in West Africa. And quarantine may be the only prevention against a wider spread.

Both are deadly. There is no vaccine against either. And both are only a plane flight away from infecting other parts of the world.

The World Health Organization said last week it has confirmed 261 cases of MERS since 2012, most of them in Saudi Arabia, with 93 deaths, about 46 percent. Cases have been reported in Europe, and the current outbreak in Saudi Arabia includes 15 confirmed cases and three deaths. MERS is a coronavirus, similar in some respects from the one that caused a major outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China in 2003. Transmission between persons is by contact, but hospitals in Saudi Arabia are also disinfecting areas where patients have been treated. No known cases have reached the United States, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says it is keeping a watchful eye out.

Ebola is an altogether nastier virus, with a death rate on average of 67 percent, and in the case of current victims in West Africa, closer to 80 percent. The World Health Organization reports that from the first outbreak in central Africa in 1976, which happened near the River Ebola - hence the name - through 2012, this virus had infected 2,387 people, of whom 1,590 died.

In the last six weeks an unprecedented new outbreak has occurred in urban centers with greater air access to the outer world. Those include cities in Guinea, with 218 suspected or confirmed cases and 141 deaths as of a week ago; Liberia, with 35 suspected or confirmed cases and at least 6 deaths; and Sierra Leone, with three suspected cases.

The virus causes external and often fatal internal bleeding. About the only effective treatment is intravenous transfusions to replace lost body fluids.

Transmission is by close contact with the infected person, placing family members and health care workers at greatest risk.

The easy availability of air travel, the severity of these two communicable diseases and the potential for exponential infection are a frightening combination. It is vital that the diseases be contained. And it is more important than ever for world health groups to be vigilant and make sure they stay that way.





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