- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

April 4

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, on Fort Hood shootings:

It is too early to know what drove an attacker in uniform who ended and shattered lives at Fort Hood, Texas, for the second time in five years. On Thursday, a soldier identified as Spc. Ivan Lopez wounded 16 people on the post and killed three before placing his gun to his head and ending his own life. In 2009, Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan killed 13 and wounded 30 at the same Army post.

Speculation is cheap. Lives are not. And the issues potentially involved in this latest, violent mass killing are too important to too many people to engage in that before more is confirmed about the suspect.

However, a public that is at least troubled by the latest Fort Hood tragedy should pay attention to three studies released last month that indicate mental illness issues in the military could be more challenging than previously thought.

The grim statistic of 22 veteran suicides a day has been with us for a while. So have news stories about the armed forces’ attempts to identify and address the myriad contributors to this self-inflicted killing field, and to save the lives and careers of those in anguish.

But the recent findings published in JAMA Psychiatry suggest the military needs to be more discerning on the front end of a soldier’s career. The fact that the services depend on recruits to disclose their histories - and that suicidal behavior can be a deal-breaker for enlisting -makes that more difficult.

As reported in numerous news outlets, the studies showed about 1 in 5 U.S. soldiers have pre-enlistment mental disorders - a higher rate than their similar, civilian counterparts - and more than half of soldier suicide attempts can be traced to those.

An example:

As the Los Angeles Times reported, intermittent explosive disorder, which is what it sounds like, was the most common in the study at a rate six times that of the civilian rate. And as Harvard University found, this disorder is predictive of suicide attempts following suicidal thoughts.

These are complicated issues that demand serious and sustained attention by the military hierarchy, by Congress and by the American people.

The armed forces have worked to create a culture that is more accepting of active-duty soldiers who are open about needing help with mental illness.

These latest studies indicate similar openness, and paths to treatment, should be happening at the earliest possible occasions.




April 8

Lexington Herald-Leader on coal miners:

Just as Kentucky’s legislature is gutting the state’s mine safety program, coal operators from Eastern Kentucky are urging Congress to hamstring federal enforcement of mine safety laws because “we have a complete secondary layer of inspection at the state level” and “states do things the right way.”

The quotations are from Charles J. Baird, chairman of the Pikeville-based Coal Operators and Associates in testimony March 25 before a subcommittee of U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers’ House Appropriations Committee. The panel recommends funding for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, which is responsible for enforcing mine-safety laws.

Baird’s testimony is such a masterpiece of straight-faced disinformation that it should be enshrined in the George Orwell hall of shame.

But these efforts to roll back mine safety enforcement - the legislature reduced required state inspections of underground mines from six to four a year - should raise alarms at a time of transition and upheaval in the coal industry.

Large, publicly-traded companies are responding to the steep decline in demand and production by selling their Eastern Kentucky coal operations to less capitalized locally owned companies. History tells us that these cash-strapped operations will try to drive up production and increase profits by taking shortcuts on safety.

With no union mines in Eastern Kentucky, miners have only federal and state inspectors to guard their safety.

In his testimony, Baird criticized the Obama administration and yearned for the days when regulators and the regulated worked together. Now, he said, MSHA has become such a punitive stickler for the rules that the once friendly relationship has been ruined by what he calls an adversarial culture. …

For those whose memories of the era of “cooperation and working together” have dimmed, here are a few statistics:

- In 2006, at what many would say was the height of the chumminess between coal operators and federal regulators, there were fewer coal miners (122,975) than in 2012 (137,650), but the fatal injury rate was more than double.

- Forty-seven miners died on the job in 2006, including five in an explosion at the Darby mine in Harlan County, compared with 20 in 2012 under the current repressive anti-miner regime.

- In 2006, during the time Baird wants to bring back, the rate of injuries was 4.46 per 200,000 hours worked compared with 3.16 per 200,000 hours worked in 2012, the last year for which figures are available. MSHA inspectors spent many more hours in mines in 2012 than in 2006 and assessed almost three times as much in fines for safety violations.

MSHA has a history of abetting industry abuses that killed and disabled miners. The agency should wear Baird’s criticism as a badge of honor.

Miners and their families can only hope that federal inspectors stay on the job after the damage this legislature is doing to the state enforcement praised by Baird and his Eastern Kentucky operators.

Gov. Steve Beshear recommended a funding cut in mine safety programs; the House adopted an even deeper cut. But it was the Republican Senate that took an ax to mine safety, cutting it by a third from what Beshear recommended.

The Office of Mine Safety and Licensing has plenty of duties besides inspections, including drug testing, miner training and certification, accident investigations and rescuing trapped miners. The Democrats in the House went along with the Republican cuts, nonetheless. The final budget cuts the agency by $4.3 million in the first year and reduces required state inspections of underground mines from six to four a year.

The justification - that the production decline necessitates fewer inspections - is flawed logic. Just because there are fewer mines does not mean each individual mine needs fewer inspections. If anything, more vigilance will be required as smaller operators take over.

We can only hope the legislature’s flawed logic does not prove fatal for Kentucky miners.




April 8

The Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky., on fundraising:

Having a statewide drive to raise money for charity is a great concept and could significantly increase the amount of money raised.

Several local nonprofits have joined with hundreds of others across the state to raise money Wednesday during Kentucky Gives Day, a statewide day of online giving at kygives.org.

The Kentucky Nonprofit Network, an association of charities, is spearheading the online effort and hopes to repeat the success of the first Kentucky Gives Day last year, when it raised $330,000 for 300 charities in 24 hours.

These numbers show the program’s effectiveness and value.

More than 400 organizations across the state are set to participate in this year’s event, which begins at 11 p.m. today and continues until 10:59 p.m. Wednesday.

Local nonprofits from Bowling Green set to participate include: Court Appointed Special Advocates of South Central Kentucky, HOTEL INC., Junior Achievement of South Central Kentucky, Community Education, the International Center for Kentucky and the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society.

These organizations all serve important purposes and rely on contributions to continue their work.

For example, money raised for this event by HOTEL INC. will go toward the transitional housing program. Junior Achievement of South Central Kentucky will use all money donated to support the organization’s programs in five counties, programs which are offered to students in kindergarten through high school and focus on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and workforce readiness.

What is taking place is a prime example of charities across the state coming together for the common good of helping others.

The event also provides statewide exposure for some of these local agencies.

We sincerely hope people in Bowling Green and throughout the state will donate.

Their actions will make a difference in many people’s lives.





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