- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

July 29

Fayetteville (North Carolina) Observer on VA woes:

Congress appears ready to embrace a $17 billion bipartisan measure to shore up the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats and represented them in negotiations, say the bill would look different if either had written it alone. When members of Congress don’t agree, recent example has them doing nothing. But this issue was urgent enough that both sides knew a workable deal was more important than ideology.

“We have a VA that’s in crisis today,” Miller explained. “The VA is not sacred; the veteran is.”

With that principle in mind, the measure isn’t going to save the troubled VA. But it should provide a temporary tool to improve veterans’ health care. About $10 billion will go toward letting patients with excessive wait times or long drives get care from outside the VA system. Another $5 billion will provide more doctors and other staff at VA facilities.

The bill also gives the VA secretary the authority to fire employees who have it coming.

If passed, the measure will be a good step. But fixing the VA entirely will be a long process.




July 29

Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal on sterilization compensation process:

A state bureaucracy making big decisions about vulnerable North Carolinians without letting them, or the public at large, knows much about its work.

That’s the way we’ve often described the Eugenics Board of North Carolina, which forcibly sterilized more than 7,600 men, woman and children from 1929 through 1974.

And that lack of transparency is almost the way we could describe the N.C. Industrial Commission, which is now processing the claims of many of those victims. We’re sure the commission means well and is taking seriously its crucial job, well knowing that reporters from across the nation are watching as our state becomes the first in the nation to compensate victims of a forced sterilization program. The commission is doing the basic correspondence with victims who’ve applied for compensation.

But several victims our editorial board has been talking to for years want more details about how the commission is conducting the claims process.

“I would like to know,” 80-year-old Willis Lynch of Warren County, sterilized at 14, told us last week. “They could be throwing me off, not thinking of what’s right for me. There must be some way for them to show me they are being truthful with the numbers. It should be some way or the other for them to prove to me that the numbers are right.”

For example, last week, state officials told Journal reporter Meghann Evans that the commission had made “initial determinations” on 465 of the 500 compensation claims as of July 17. But, with many more claims to go, a spokesman for the commission declined to give a breakdown of those initial determinations.

The commission should do that. The victims, and the public at large, have a right to know.

Living victims whose claims are approved by the commission will share in that pool, each getting an equal share when payments go out by June 30, 2015. (If a state House measure survives the budget process, they’d get partial payments by the end of October.) A figure of $50,000 per victim has long been touted. But if the commission approves more than 200 claims, as it well could, that figure will quickly drop.

Victims like Lynch who’ve been courageously speaking out for compensation for years rightly want to know more from the commission. Nobody wants to know the names of applicants who choose to exercise their legal right to remain private. But the basic facts, including the breakdown of the initial determinations, should be provided to the victims and the public at large.

This nascent compensation process must have more transparency now, and it must retain it until the last payment goes out.




July 28

News and Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina, on Ebola:

To be a missionary or a health care worker who tends to the poor has always required an admirable level of compassion, but now in West Africa it also requires remarkable courage.

An outbreak of the terrifying Ebola virus in several West African nations is putting those who care for its victims at great risk. Some, such as Liberia’s top health official, Dr. Samuel Brisbane, have already paid with their lives.

Others have contracted the disease and are struggling to survive. Two are Americans affiliated with the Boone-based missionary group Samaritan’s Purse.

One of them is Nancy Writebol of Charlotte. Writebol and her husband, David, had been working in Liberia and chose to stay on despite the Ebola threat.

Nancy Writebol, a hygienist, decontaminated those entering and leaving the Ebola care area at the hospital. She is now gravely ill and being treated in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. She is being kept in isolation, and her husband cannot directly comfort her.

Also infected is Dr. Kent Brantly, a 33-year-old medical director for the Ebola care center on the outskirts of Monrovia run by Samaritan’s Purse. Brantly of Fort Worth, Texas, is in serious condition but recognized his symptoms early and has a better chance of surviving. The highly contagious virus has killed nearly 700 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone since the outbreak surfaced earlier this year.

In a painful contrast to the compassion and courage showed by Writebol and Brantly, fear of Ebola has panicked some local residents who blame health workers for the spread of the disease. Health workers have been threatened and blocked from entering some villages where infected people are.

Despite the threats of disease, Writebol and Brantly stayed to help. May their good deeds be matched by the good fortune of recovery.





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