- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

May 29

The Times, Gainesville, Georgia, on obesity:

What’s one of the greatest dangers facing America today? Is it the Islamic State? Is it our government’s deficit? Is it climate change or religious freedom bills or gay marriage? It’s an issue researchers at the National Center for Weight & Wellness at George Washington University said costs the country $305.1 billion annually. And according to the Fiscal Times in an analysis by NerdWallet, this threat cost states — on average — $2.9 billion last year. What could it be?

Look down at your midsection and more likely than not you’ll see the culprit: Obesity. According to Gallup, Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the country at 35.2 percent. West Virginia comes in second at 34.3 percent. (See the top 10 highest and lowest at gallup.com). Rounding out the top 10 are: Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri (all have obesity rates over 30 percent). Before we all shout “Thank God for Mississippi,” let’s not gloat. As a nation we are growing — and not in a good way. Our national obesity rate is higher than ever before at 27.7 percent. We are doing somewhat better in Georgia. In 2012, the state was ranked 37. In 2013, 33. In 2014, the ranking was 21 among the 50 states. Still, our obesity rate is north of 25 percent.

Why is all of this important? Carrying too much weight leads to a multitude of health complications, from diabetes to high blood pressure to increased incidents of strokes and heart attacks. Gallup’s “Well-Being Index” links rates of low obesity with higher rates of well being. Hawaii, has the lowest obesity rate (19), followed by Colorado with only 20.3 percent.

What do we have to do to lower our obesity numbers? Easier said than done. Adjust our diets, eat less and exercise more. We will feel better and live longer — and according to a UC Davis study, reduce our public health cost by $92,000 a person over our lifetimes. Such a deal.




June 2

Morning News, Savannah, Georgia, on Patriot Act:

The following editorial appeared in The Seattle Times on Thursday, May 28:

The Patriot Act’s troublesome Section 215 finally expired Monday unless its dwindling supporters in Congress engineer a miraculous, last-minute recovery.

It’s time to say goodbye and good riddance to government collection of Americans’ electronic communications data.

There is now ample evidence that Section 215 gave government spies a too-long leash and that oversight measures within the act failed to keep them in check, compromising Americans’ liberty and privacy.

Adding insult to injury, the bulk gathering of communications data under the authority of the act had little to no benefit in preventing terrorist plots.

The National Security Agency went too far and illegally rounded up details of electronic communications regardless of whether they were part of an investigation.

This wholesale data grab never made a concrete difference in any counterrorism investigation or contributed to the discovery of any previously unknown terrorism plot, according to the bipartisan, federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

Political maneuvering last week by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., appropriately highlighted concerns about the act and its significant trade-offs.

The importance of this debate was called out by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York, which ruled May 7 that the NSA overstepped its Section 215 authorization with its mass collection and storage of details about phone communications.

Congress should let the deadline for renewing Section 215 pass so lawmakers can continue discussing, under less pressure, how to proceed and balance the demands of national security with the protection of privacy and civil liberties.

But don’t let Section 215 completely fade away. Its misuse should continue to remind Americans of the importance of standing firm on principles even in uncertain times.




June 2

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on new clean water rules:

To help you remember the bodies of water that will be subject to the Obama administration’s new Clean Water Act rules, here’s a mnemonic: EPA - Every Puddle in America.

Not every puddle would fall under new Environmental Protection Agency regulations. But that’s not far off.

Tens of millions of acres of private land would be subject to the new “Waters of the United States” rule jointly announced last week by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This monstrous federal overreach will infringe on property owners’ rights, undermine state and local government authority and strangle the economy in bureaucratic red tape.

The 1972 Clean Water Act limited federal regulation to the country’s “navigable waters.” That authority was expanded in the 1980s to include adjacent wetlands and tributaries. Now, the EPA wants to extend control to any body of water with a “significant nexus” to a navigable waterway, including unnavigable creeks, ponds and even tributaries that don’t flow year-round.

Even the Midwest’s “prairie potholes” would be included.

The new rules will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

One way or another, by legislation or by power of the purse, Congress must ensure these rules are dead in the water.

For one, the rules don’t reflect the will of the American people. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified before the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee in March that “87.1 percent” of public comments supported the rules. However, she neglected to tell lawmakers her agency engaged in an unethical - and possibly illegal - grassroots advocacy campaign that employed environmental groups and social media to flood the EPA with supportive comments.

Indeed, the EPA gamed the public-comment period by sponsoring social media campaigns with the Sierra Club.

Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., called it “an unprecedented grassroots lobbying campaign, which may violate federal law.”

McCarthy also failed to mention the vast majority of favorable comments were form letters and mass e-mails, unlike the comments submitted by opposition groups representing local governments and various industries, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, whose concerns she derided as “ludicrous.”

“The message to the public is don’t even bother expressing criticism because we will either mock it or ignore it,” the Heritage Foundation’s Daren Bakst wrote.

This is what happens when unelected bureaucrats make laws instead of Congress.

The only way to fix this rule-making process marred by closed-door meetings and taxpayer-funded environmental lobbying is to start over. And that’s just what would happen under the House-approved Regulatory Integrity Protection Act that now awaits action in the Senate.

The measure would require the EPA to withdraw the rules and create new ones under a more transparent process that, “should have been done in the first place,” bill co-sponsor U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., said.

We suggest it’s also a good opportunity to thoroughly examine the Corps of Engineers’ civilian operation, which spends more than $10 billion a year doing things that should be turned over to states and the private sector.

The liberal media reflexively trumpeted the Obama administration’s assertion that the new rules are a “historic step” in protecting the drinking water of “117 million Americans.”

As if such water was at risk.

In reality, the proposed rules are nothing short of the federal government’s attempt to work around recent Supreme Court rulings to exert more control over how local governments and private citizens use their land.

Of all the things the Obama administration’s command-and-control minions have done to put Americans under the thumb of government, the new EPA rules represent a high-water mark.



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