- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

Jan. 6

Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail on the flu season:

The flu season is upon us. In our region, the outbreaks are fairly widespread, but in line with previous years.

But nationally, there have been 15 deaths, and this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the flu season an epidemic after the number of states with a high amount of “influenza-like” activity increased from 13 to 22.

The nearby state of Tennessee is one of the hardest hit areas, and the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has seen 442 children with the flu this month, and state officials have attributed six deaths to the flu. Kentucky and Ohio also have outbreaks that are considered widespread. Adding to the problem is that the most prevalent strain of the flu is different from the strain this year’s flu vaccine was designed to prevent. That means some people who have gotten their flu shot are still getting the flu.

“The whole issue here is that our vaccine is chosen a year in advance, and it is an educated guess, to put it bluntly,” said Dr. Thomas Rushton, director of infectious diseases and chairman of infection prevention at St. Mary’s Medical Center.

Low vaccination rates also are a factor. Nationally, less than half of the population got a flu shot last year. West Virginia was a little higher with 52 percent coverage, but Ohio and Kentucky were about 45 percent.

Even if this year’s flu vaccine is not right on target, it is still recommended.

Physicians believe that even with different strains the vaccination can help reduce the severity of a case of influenza, perhaps keeping people out of the hospital or avoiding a fatality. Shots are still available, and it is not too late to get one.

But it is also important to minimize your family’s exposure and avoid spreading the flu, if someone in your household has it.

Doctors recommend keeping surfaces clean, including counters, telephones, railings and doorknobs, and washing hands frequently with soap and water. Those with the flu should be careful to cough into a tissue or their elbow.

Influenza and pneumonia were responsible for more than 50,000 deaths last year, so it makes sense to take precautions.




Jan. 6

The Register-Herald, Bleckley, West Virginia, on the new DNR director:

Robert “Bob” Fala, recently appointed director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, spoke to The Register-Herald on New Year’s Day about some of his priorities for an agency about which every West Virginia outdoorsman or outdoorswoman has an opinion, usually a strong one.

Fala is a widely read outdoor writer through his newspaper columns. And while that alone is enough to endear him to us, he also happens to be a first-rate field biologist.

The new DNR chief, appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, told us the 37,000 bucks taken by hunters in 2014 was a 34 percent decline over the previous year. Fala hopes that with proper deer herd management we can start rivaling the 102,000 bucks taken in 1997.

That sounds good to us. But we also know that even the best-managed wildlife populations fluctuate, often dramatically from year to year, and Mother Nature has a lot to say about that.

Two of the priorities he discussed were the restoration of elk in West Virginia, and simplifying the ever-more-complex rules for hunting white-tailed deer in the state.

Bringing elk back to West Virginia might be the easier task.

The regulations governing the harvest of white-tailed deer have grown more detailed from one year to the next. We think, like Fala, that they are too complex.

In fact, we suspect that even among DNR employees not everybody is in agreement on just how to interpret specific deer-hunting regulations, or can explain them to a hunter who wants to abide by the law.

Like all bureaucracies - and the DNR is no different - we expect that what happened was that each year some official or biologist or scientist wanted to add a little bit here, or a little bit there, for the purposes of clarifying or explaining some portion of the rules.

Granted, attempting to write statewide regulations for what amounts to thousands of local deer populations that can differ wildly is no easy job.

Yet before we knew it, we ended up with a list of dos and don’ts and maybes that was so massive it threatens to take some of the fun out of deer hunting.

A lot of the bureaucratic bloat when it comes to deer hunting regulations was no doubt created with the best of intentions.

As deer management has become more scientific over the past few decades, regulations were being written by state biologists and scientists who have a more complex view of what’s best for the state deer herd and the state’s hunters.

Problem is, along the way down this trail, it’s gotten to the point where the average hunter has to be a scientist to figure out what the laws say when it comes to deer hunting.

“It needs to be written so that the average hunter can understand it and simpler so officers can enforce it,” Fala told The Register-Herald.

It’s our hope that Fala can turn his straight talk to West Virginia hunters into straight language written to simplify the state’s deer-hunting regulations.

We look forward to spending less time studying, and more time hunting.




Jan. 6

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia on body cameras:

Police departments across the country, including at least two in the Huntington area, are either starting to use or exploring the use of cameras mounted on their police officers.

For many departments, the consideration of using the cameras has come in response to cases related to police officers’ use of force, as in the incident in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black teenager was shot to death by a city police officer. Other agencies, such as the Kenova police department, have been experimenting with the technology for some time and are still considering the pros and cons.

But from what’s known about the cameras’ use at this point, deploying the technology could have several benefits, for both police agencies and the public.

Showing interest locally have been both the Kenova and Huntington police departments. Kenova’s police chief, Ray Mossman, said his department recently sought the public’s opinion on the cameras’ use through a Facebook post, and he said the response was mostly positive, with most of the remaining feedback having to do with questions about how the cameras work and why they are being considered. The Huntington department’s office of professional standards recently completed its research on the use of cameras and will give its report to Mayor Steve Williams in coming days, according to Chief Joe Ciccarelli.

In interviews with The Herald-Dispatch last week, both chiefs recounted the perceived benefits of using the cameras. One, of course, is in line with the national discussion on police use of force, and that has to do with holding the police more accountable. Video capturing what happened in an incident when force is used will provide evidence to show whether the police action was justified. That accountability is important, but video evidence also can be useful in protecting police from unjustified complaints of police abuse.

The chiefs also talked about how the cameras would be beneficial in collecting evidence of crimes. Additionally, just the mere presence of cameras could prompt police officers and the public to behave more responsibly.

Already, there is some research showing that use of cameras may make a difference. The Journal of Quantitative Criminology recently published a study by the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology based on a 12-month trial in Rialto, California. According to an account in Newsweek, the study found that body-worn cameras reduced police use of force by roughly 50 percent and complaints against police fell 90 percent, compared with the previous year. The lead researcher concluded that body cameras are a “promising tool for police officers.”

There are other issues involved that would need to be sorted out. One has to do with privacy, and how video footage is stored and shared by police agencies. There also is the issue of cost. For example, the cameras being considered by Kenova would cost about $1,000 each.

But the investment could well be worth the returns. Police agencies should give the use of body cameras on officers a serious look.



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