- Associated Press - Saturday, August 1, 2015

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New England newspapers:

The Providence Journal (R.I.), July 31, 2015

The Olympic Games are the best known and most celebrated sporting event in the world. Athletes from dozens of countries gather to show their competitive spirit and go for the gold in a grand display of pageantry and skill.

So it was disappointing to learn that Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics had collapsed under the weight of public indifference and concern about a possible hit to Boston taxpayers.

Had the plan become a reality, the region would have been on the front line for the world’s premier sporting event. And Greater Boston and points nearby - such as Rhode Island - would have seen a boost in tourism and economic activity.

Instead, we’ll be watching on TV as the 2024 Games happen somewhere else.

Still, it is understandable that many people in Boston and the surrounding area had reservations, for it was not clear whether Boston taxpayers would have been on the hook for some of the costs. A report that is supposed to shed light the financial risks is due in August. To ask such questions are only natural, and people from the Boston area are hardly alone in asking them. As the Associated Press reported this week, officials in other cities around the world are more likely nowadays to weigh the costs and benefits of hosting the Olympics, and in some cases, the costs are “scaring off” cities, as they question the long-term value of the infrastructure to be built.

In Boston’s case, the lack of answers left Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker unwilling to embrace the proposal. The United States Olympic Committee, meanwhile, was pressing for a commitment, even as it reportedly was talking with officials in Los Angeles about their interest in hosting the 2024 games.

With that in mind, we hope that Los Angeles or another American city steps forward with a strong proposal. The 2024 games could still be a showcase for the United States, which last hosted the Summer Games in 1996, in Atlanta. It would be a shame if the Olympics were increasingly confined to totalitarian regimes where dictators are not concerned about public opposition and can exploit the event for propaganda purposes.

As for Boston’s bid, we’ll close by saying that we think officials from Boston and Massachusetts should have had a little more time to make an informed decision. At the very least, it seems unfair to demand a commitment when local officials are still trying to determine the price tag.




Portland Press Herald (Maine), July 29, 2015

The Boy Scouts of America made a historic step forward Monday, lifting its blanket prohibition on openly gay leaders. But the new policy - which has an exemption for troops affiliated with religious groups - doesn’t go far enough. True inclusiveness will be achieved only when faith isn’t used as an excuse to perpetuate discrimination and keep out people who have a lot to give.

The BSA justified its decades-old ban on gay leaders (and, until 2013, gay scouts) by citing the underlying principles of Scouting. “Homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed,” the group declared in 2004.

At the core of the policy, though, was the utterly wrongheaded belief that gay adults are potential child molesters. It can’t be stated often enough and firmly enough: Young people are as safe with gay authority figures - coaches, teachers, ministers and the like - as they are with straight ones.

Sexual abuse is carried out by a predator seeking to exploit their power over a vulnerable child. It’s not the act of a mentally healthy person - straight or gay.

What’s more, the ban has hurt the organization. It hasn’t protected boys, as shown by revelations in recent years of multiple allegations of abuse of scouts dating from the 1960s.

And as the country has embraced full equality for gay and lesbian Americans, a policy that excludes gays as adult volunteers has kept some families away from Scouting. Maine Scouting officials have been way ahead of the national organization on this issue, adopting a nondiscrimination policy for adult leaders in 2012.

But the BSA’s national shift on gay leaders doesn’t justify the loophole for local troops chartered to faith-based organizations. There will be a tipping point - just as there was on racial discrimination.

Though the BSA didn’t explicitly endorse either segregation or bias, local councils and troops were allowed to set their own policies on race, enabling them to bar black scouts altogether or to ban black boys from wearing the scout uniform.

This local-level approach lasted until 1974, when the NAACP sued the Boy Scouts after a 12-year-old boy was denied a leadership post in a Mormon troop because he was black. (The suit was dropped after the Church of Latter-day Saints changed its policy.)

The BSA has a choice. It can wait until its hand is forced on anti-gay bias - just as it did with race-based bias - or it can do the right thing and require all councils and troops to open their doors to qualified adults, regardless of sexual orientation. The Boy Scouts deserve a lot of credit for making this change, but there’s still more work to do.




The Valley News (N.H.), July 28, 2015

When it came to this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame inductions in Cooperstown, the attention of New England was understandably riveted on Pedro Martinez, the most dominant and entertaining pitcher to perform for the Boston Red Sox in many a long year - maybe ever. And by all accounts, Martinez’s speech on Sunday delivered everything fans were yearning for.

We hope, though, that parents of young baseball players - and, in fact, of all participants in youth sports - paid close attention to the remarks of John Smoltz, the great Atlanta Braves pitcher who was inducted along with Martinez, Craig Biggio and Randy Johnson.

Smoltz now has the distinction of being the only member of the Hall of Fame who underwent ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery on his pitching elbow. It is more commonly known as Tommy John surgery, after the first player to undergo it, in 1974. Smoltz had the surgery in 2000, at age 34, and, after recovery, continued his stellar career undiminished.

Since then, severe elbow injuries have become epidemic in baseball. Since 2000, 276 players have undergone Tommy John surgery, including 13 this year, according to USA Today. Of the 31 surgeries performed last year, 11 players were undergoing their second one within three years of the first. Just 67 percent of those who have had Tommy John surgery return to pitch even another 10 games in their career. Even more alarming is a study reported on by Forbes indicating that the majority of Tommy John surgeries are done on 15-to-19-year-old patients.

There are many theories on why this is taking place, but we think Smoltz, who is now an accomplished broadcaster, got very close to the truth. Taking the opportunity that the Hall of Fame stage provided, he implored parents to limit their children’s participation in organized baseball at a young age: “I want to encourage the families and the parents that are out there that this is not normal, to have a surgery at 14 and 15 years old. That you have time, that baseball is not a year-round sport. That you have an opportunity to be athletic and play other sports. Don’t let the institutions that are out there running before you guaranteeing scholarship dollars and signing bonuses (convince you) that this is the way.”

Indeed, there is every reason to believe that by specializing in baseball too early and throwing too many pitches in competition at too young an age, young pitchers are virtually guaranteeing a breakdown later on.

Of course, baseball is not a year-round game in New England. But the larger point is well taken: Young people are too often encouraged (or indulged) by their families to pick a single sport and concentrate on it to the exclusion of others, in the hope - even the expectation - that the youngster will eventually participate at the college level or even beyond, with all the financial advantages that implies.

That these hopes are most of the time illusory is almost beside the point. Far too often, the world of travel teams, endless practice and distant tournaments every weekend shrinks rather than expands a child’s horizons. Single-minded concentration on a particular sport can script young lives in a way that precludes the development of other interests, athletic and non-athletic.

When kept in the proper perspective, sports can contribute greatly to the development of young people into well-rounded individuals who have learned some important life lessons on the diamond or on the ice or on the court. It is a shame when total immersion in a single sport stunts that kind of personal growth.




The Bristol Press (Conn.), July 30, 2015

On the same day that Medicare turned 50 - AARP-eligible - we brought you a new report which forecasts that the American people will need the half-century-old program now more than ever.

The Office of the Actuary in the Health and Human Services Department predicts that health care costs will rise in the next few years as a result of expanded insurance coverage, rising demand and an aging population. Those Baby Boomers again!

The good news is, Congress willing, Medicare will be there for them - and for the rest of us. That wasn’t always the case.

When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law on July 30, 1965, roughly half of Americans 65 and older had no health insurance. Fifty years later, virtually all seniors have coverage, a far higher rate than for younger people. And these seniors are being covered for a longer period of time. In 1965, life expectancy at age 65 was 13.5 years for men, and 18 years for women. In 2015, life expectancy at age 65 has risen to 19.3 years for men and 21.6 years for women.

Of course, over the years, medical science has changed and, with it, so has Medicare.

One significant improvement can be credited to New Britain’s own former congresswoman, Nancy Johnson, who led the fight to add coverage for prescription drugs, a recognition of the growing role that such medications play in health care. That provision took effective in 2006 under President George W. Bush. It became even stronger when, under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare gradually eliminated a payment gap known as the “doughnut hole.”

Now, about those rising costs. According to the Associated Press, the forecast “does not foresee a return to pre-recession days of torrid health care inflation,” though it does note “the bill will continue to grow faster than the economy, which is what pays the bill.”

Speaking of paying the bill, we need to be reminded that now that we have the benefits of these programs, it’s time to start figuring out how to pay for those additional years of health care.

One obvious answer is to continue the effort to reduce fee-for-service billing, which offers an incentive for health care providers to order more treatments because payment is dependent on the quantity of care, rather than quality of care. And tort reform, which would cut some of the reasons for unneeded tests to protect caregivers from lawsuits, is another part of the solution.

While some of the task of administering Medicare is now in private hands, through programs like Medicare Advantage, we’d guess that traditional Medicare, like the Veterans Administration’s medical system, could use the services of a top efficiency expert - on an ongoing basis. Both federal systems are as enormous as they are essential, and we owe it to those who use them, as well as those who pay for them, to make them as effective as possible - not just for boomers but to ensure that these programs are there for their children and grandchildren as well.




Caledonian Record (Vt.), July 31, 2015

Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation on July 22 to raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour.

According to a Seven Days article this week by Terri Hallenbeck, meanwhile, Sanders is paying full and part-time campaign workers $10.10 an hour. It’s the minimum amount Sanders can pay and remain in compliance with an Obama Executive Order on contracted federal employees.

Sanders’ Senate interns are pulling in $12/hour.

Now … it would be easy enough to call Sanders on the rank hypocrisy of his “do as I say, not as I do” approach to the issue. Or we might insist that he spare us his moral outrage schtick when he refuses to practice what he preaches. At the very least we could point out what a destructive and self-defeating public policy Sanders has proposed.

Instead we congratulate the Comrade for his sudden understanding that: some jobs are actually worth $10.10 an hour; some free-willed people are happy to work for that amount; and (as an employer) he has little choice but to operate within some reasonable budget constraints and fiscal realities.




The Berkshire Eagle (Mass.), July 29, 2015

Planned Parenthood is under renewed attack from its long-time foes following the release of a pair of hidden-camera videos. Putting the furor aside, there is little new here, including the campaign of misinformation against the organization.

The videos purport to show Planned Parenthood officials talking in crude fashion about the collection of fetal tissue and the plotting of its illegal sale. The full video, as opposed to the excerpts released by the Center for Medical Progress, a group associated with the anti-abortion movement, tells a different story, according to The New York Times. Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, is seen explaining that the organization does not profit from tissue donation and the modest amount collected from its sale covers the cost of collecting and transporting the tissue. End of manufactured controversy.

The collection of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood and other organizations, such as university clinics, is legal and of significant scientific value. It is used for research into treating diseases and conditions like HIV, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The showboating Republican politicians demanding once again that Planned Parenthood be defunded are arguing for the gutting of an organization that provides cancer screening and other medical programs for women. The politicians’ opposition to the providing of free contraception only increases the likelihood of the abortions they oppose.

These congressional hypocrites, who consistently oppose funding early education and child nutrition programs, should show a little of the concern they have for the unborn to the recently born in the U.S.




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