- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


July 8

The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on the audit count:

The wheels of justice turn slowly. Sometimes that is absolutely necessary to ensure that the rights of the accused are respected and protected.

But when investigative processes or an understaffed state crime lab is causing the slowdown, justice delayed sometimes becomes justice denied for weary victims dealing with the trauma of rape and other sexual offenses.

Kentucky State Police officials estimate as many as 2,000 to 5,000 untested sexual-assault kits sit on shelves in police stations and prosecutors’ offices across Kentucky. The kits contain biological evidence collected from assault victims during investigations and might contain DNA from assailants who can be identified by comparisons with the national DNA database.

Many have pointed to delays in receiving results from the state crime lab as a problem. But the issues go much deeper.

Edelen has said his office will focus on how kits are logged, tracked and stored, how decisions to test kits are made, whether victims are notified of the status of the process and whether law enforcement have sufficient policies, procedures and training to handle kits and deal with victims.

That’s a tall order.

Compelled by Senate Joint Resolution 20 to count the untested sexual-assault evidence kits in the possession of law enforcement, Edelen is going further. He also is conducting a series of 14 meetings to collect input on the process.

As he did recently in Elizabethtown, Edelen is asking law-enforcement officers, prosecutors, survivors, victims’ advocates and other stakeholders about problems and seeking input on possible reforms to the system.

Some politically minded people may see Edelen’s publicized series of meetings as an addition to the Senate request and say it is designed to keep his name in the spotlight and to win political points by advocating on behalf of assault victims.

Edelen, who is said to aspire to the governor’s office one day, is a Democrat seeking a second term as auditor. He is opposed in the general election by Republican Mike Harmon of Danville, a member of the state House of Representatives.

But the Elizabethtown meeting had no hint of politics. In fact, it indicates the great value available by having a state official investing time with people doing the work.

Nikki Ellis, executive director of Silverleaf Sexual Trauma Recovery Services, deals with traumatized women who become frustrated by delays and become victims of the system.

“The longer (the process) takes, you’re going to lose victims,” she said.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Teresa Logsdon said she consistently must request continuances of court cases because analysis of critical DNA evidence has not been processed by the state crime lab.

“I have to say, ‘Sorry, judge. I have a problem,’” she said.

With that type of insight, the auditor and his staff can put the issue in perspective while developing recommendations for the General Assembly’s consideration about reforming how evidence in sexual violence cases is handled.

Beyond politics, the greater concern here is justice. Are victims of sexual assault receiving appropriate care? Are their attackers being aggressively and effectively sought after? And what improvements can be made in the administrative, investigative and judicial processes?

These questions are too important to ignore or to delay. They should not be swept aside or trivialized by talk of upcoming elections or political ambitions. They should be and are being addressed now. And that may not be soon enough for victims awaiting justice.




July 5

Herald-Leader, Lexington, Kentucky, on clean air worth the costs:

In response to last week’s decision by the Supreme Court to delay new limits on power plant pollution for more consideration of costs, a leading coal industry strategist, Mike Duncan of Inez, applauded and said, “Elitist ideas usually carry lofty price tags.”

The coal industry may consider clean air unaffordable. But everyone breathes, so wanting clean air for everyone is the opposite of “elitist.”

Consider: The 7 million American children who suffer from asthma are disproportionately poor. Black children, not usually thought of as elites, suffer from asthma at about twice the rate of white children.

Or how about Kentuckians who would like to feed the fish they pull from the state’s waterways to their families without fear? Is that an elitist impulse?

Mercury, one of the toxins that have been spewed by the ton from power plants, has fallen into the food chain. Every lake and stream in Kentucky is under a mercury advisory for children and pregnant women.

Contrary to the impression created by Monday’s 5-4 ruling, the Environmental Protection Agency did calculate the costs of imposing new limits on how much mercury, arsenic and cadmium power plants could release into the air.

The EPA just didn’t make the calculation early enough in the rule-making process to suit all of the justices.

The analysis found that every $1 spent to reduce toxic power plant emissions would produce $3 to $9 in health benefits.

Those benefits include avoiding 4,200 to 11,000 premature deaths, 2,800 cases of chronic bronchitis, 4,700 heart attacks, 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits and 130,000 asthma attacks each year.

One reason the benefits are so significant: technology for removing toxins also removes fine particles that lodge in lungs and the bloodstream and cause heart and lung disease.

More than 1 in 10 Kentuckians suffer from asthma. We’re No. 1 in lung cancer, have the nation’s highest death rate from lower respiratory disease and rank sixth nationally in fatal heart disease. Kentucky has much to gain from cleaner air.

Nonetheless, the setback for cleaner air and asthmatic children was hailed as a victory by coal industry loyalists from both parties, including Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic candidate for governor Jack Conway. Attorney General Conway made Kentucky a party to the lawsuit challenging the power plant rule.

Duncan, president and CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity based in Washington, said the EPA “will finally have to listen” to concerns about cost.

Fortunately, for all of us breathers, the ruling’s practical effects appear limited.

The new rule has been in the works since 1990, set in motion by Congress and the first Bush administration. In 2008, the federal courts threw out a rule put forth by the second Bush administration as too weak.

Utilities, which must plan long range, are well on their way to compliance in Kentucky.

On Monday, LG&E; and KU will cut the ribbon on a new natural gas plant in Louisville that will allow decommissioning three older, much dirtier coal-fired plants, including Tyrone in Woodford County.

KU touts its four-year-old Trimble County unit as one of the cleanest coal-fired plants in the country.

KU customers will be charged an average $9 more a month to help pay for the cleaner generation but will also be reaping the health rewards.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative has spent $2.7 million upgrading pollution controls at Spurlock in Maysville and is in the process of installing $15 million in new controls at its 50-year-old Cooper plant near Burnside.

Rather than try to upgrade coal-burning units, the oldest of which is 60 years-plus, on the Kentucky River in Clark County, EKPC is decommissioning the Dale power plant and, thankfully, removing the coal ash stored in a riverside waste pond at the site.

Everyone can breathe a deep sigh of relief about that because wanting clean water is no more elitist than wanting clean air.




July 7

The Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, on children’s vaccinations:

All Kentucky children should be vaccinated before the new school year.

Not only is it a good idea to help protect kids from illness, it also is state law.

For years, controversy swirled nationally around vaccinations, with some parents thinking the injections were the cause of such things as autism.

But views have apparently shifted after a virulent outbreak of measles earlier this year that resulted from an infected traveler to Disneyland, who impacted mostly unvaccinated people.

So far this year, nearly 200 people have contracted measles. In 2014, there were more than 600 cases, a sharp increase from the less than 200 the year before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A University of Michigan poll released this month shows 34 percent of parents think vaccines have more benefit than they did one year ago; 25 percent of parents believe vaccines are safer than they were a year ago; and 35 percent of parents report more support for day care and school vaccine requirements than a year ago.

So with schools about to start in a month, we encourage parents in Bowling Green and surrounding counties to get their kids vaccinated.

Before kindergarten, kids need immunizations, a school physical, a vision exam and a dental exam. Children entering kindergarten receive the DtaP for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; a measles-mumps-ruebella vaccine; and a chicken pox vaccine. Children entering sixth grade receive a Tdap booster vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis; a meningitis vaccine and a second chicken pox vaccine.

It also is a good idea to have children’s height and weight checked and for them to have a physical exam.

There are several places in town parents can take kids to have them vaccinated and where they can get get physicals.

Parents can get their kids vaccinated at their pediatrician or family physician or they can take kids to one of the health departments in Bowling Green and surrounding counties. People here can take their kids to the Warren County Health Department at 1109 State St. July 22. This will not be the only day shots and physicals will be provided, but those affiliated with the clinic urge parents to bring their kids in well before school starts and not wait until the last minute to get kids vaccinated.

That is sound advice, whether they are going to the health department or to their family doctor.

Obviously, this isn’t something kids look forward to doing. Who can blame them?

But it’s something that must be done for them to begin school.

All parents want their kids to be healthy, and while that will not always be the case, getting children vaccinated before the school year is a step in adding extra insurance that their children won’t get sick nearly as often.

The beginning of school will be here before you know it, so please take your kids and get the necessary vaccinations they need for their own well being and for the well being of their classmates.



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