- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Kansas City Star, Sept. 25

The University of Missouri’s shameful decision to revoke a doctor’s hospital referral privileges in response to political pressure harms women and is a blow to academic independence.

The university announced Thursday it was eliminating a category of physician privilege called “refer and follow,” which essentially enables doctors to refer patients to the University of Missouri Health Care hospital and access the patient’s records.

Only two doctors hold the low-level status. One is Colleen McNicholas, who requested and obtained refer and follow privileges so that Planned Parenthood could resume nonsurgical abortions at its Columbia clinic in the summer. Under state law, a doctor must have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles in order to perform abortions.

Barring a successful appeal, the university’s revocation of the status means Planned Parenthood must cease offering abortions in mid-Missouri on Dec. 1. Women will have to travel to the Kansas City or St. Louis areas, adding to stress and trauma for many.

The university had been under intense pressure from Republican senators on a special committee convened to harass Planned Parenthood.

Kurt Schaefer, who represents Columbia and is the Senate’s appropriations chairman, barraged the university with requests for documents and harshly interrogated the chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, during hearings. Schaefer has also hinted that cuts to university funding might result from the granting of privileges to McNicholas.

That’s an alarming abuse of power that the university has now rewarded with its acquiescence. Abortion is a legal medical procedure. Politicians choose to ignore that reality, but a public university should not.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sept. 29

For the 22nd time in his seven years as Missouri’s governor, Jay Nixon is being asked to spare the life of a condemned man. Only once has Mr. Nixon done so, and he didn’t explain his reasoning that time.

Very few of the 20 men executed on Mr. Nixon’s watch were sympathetic characters. Despite mitigating circumstances in their backgrounds and sometimes in the way their trials were conducted, and despite the state’s secrecy about the source of execution drugs, their guilt was clear. That is not so with Kimber Edwards, 51, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection next Tuesday evening at the state prison in Bonne Terre.

Edwards, a former St. Louis city corrections department jailer, was sentenced to death in 2002. A St. Louis County jury found him guilty of murder for hire in the August 2000 shooting death of Kimberly Cantrell of University City, his ex-wife. The supposed motive was back child support. Police and prosecutors say Edwards confessed to the crime.

The triggerman in the killing was Orthell Wilson, now 54. He worked as a handyman on rental properties owned by Edwards. He cut a deal with St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch’s office to testify that Mr. Edwards had hired him to kill Ms. Cantrell. In return for his testimony and guilty plea, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty against him. Wilson is serving life without possibility of parole.

But after he went to prison, Wilson’s story changed. He said Edwards did not hire him, that he’d rolled over on him to escape the death penalty.

Edwards’ original execution date was in May. In April, as that date approached, he told the Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Kohler, “It was my doing. It was my choice and I did that, and that was wrong, simple as that.”

He said he’d gone to Ms. Cantrell’s apartment to rob her. “I had habits, you understand what I’m saying?” he told Mr. Kohler.

This doesn’t explain why Edwards confessed to the crime. His lawyers say it’s because he has Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder on the autism spectrum. Dennis Debbaudt, an expert on interactions between police and those with Asperger’s, has said that under intense questioning, someone with Asperger’s could easily be confused.

Edwards, an African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury. His attorneys say county prosecutors disqualified potential black jurors. One black candidate was struck because he was divorced, even as a divorced white juror was seated.

Except for pushing the execution date from May 12 to Oct. 6, Edwards’ appeals have been rejected by the Missouri Supreme Court, which so far has declined a defense request to appoint a special master to review the case. Unless the state or federal courts intervene, it will fall to Mr. Nixon to act.

Edwards’ case is similar, but even starker, than that of Richard Glossip, who faces lethal injection Wednesday afternoon in Oklahoma. Two weeks ago the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals halted his execution to allow his lawyers more time to present hearsay evidence that the man he supposedly hired to kill his boss had changed his story. This week the court said the execution should proceed

In Edwards’ case, there is a direct, first-hand recantation, not a second-hand one. There is the Asperger’s issue. And there is yet another black man sentenced to death by an all-white jury in St. Louis County.

This editorial page opposes capital punishment in any and all situations. It cannot be administered fairly and serves no purpose but vengeance, which is not worthy of a civilized people. That said, some cases are more troubling than others, and this is one of them.

Where there is legitimate doubt of an inmate’s guilt, the governor owes it to justice not to compound an already terrible crime.


Joplin Globe, Sept. 24

Want to offend someone?

Just head down to your community library and check out “Tom Sawyer,” ”The Catcher in the Rye,” a book of Maya Angelou’s poetry or even “Alice in Wonderland.” They are all on the growing list of books that at some time or another have been banned or challenged.

If you find all of those along with “To Kill a Mockingbird” or the children’s book “And Tango Makes Three,” then thank your local librarian for being a watchdog against those who would threaten your freedom to choose or the freedom to express an opinion, even if it is unorthodox or unpopular.

Books make available those views to all who wish to read them.

A story in Tuesday’s edition of the Globe highlighted activities at area libraries that are going on in preparation for Banned Books Week, which begins on Sunday and continues through Oct. 3. Pittsburg State University’s Axe Library is inviting students and faculty to read short passages from banned or challenged books. Neosho, Joplin and Spiva Library at Missouri Southern State University are creating displays of books that have faced censorship.

Danya Walker, adult program coordinator, says it well: “I always enjoy it (Banned Books Week) because I love the fact that libraries lead the fight against ignorance and censorship, which go hand in hand. A good library is going to have something that will offend everyone.”

Amen. Oh, yes, the Bible is on that banned books list as well. In fact, it has had more challenges than any other book.

Our thanks to those librarians who do their job, keep books on the shelves and make sure we can still read books like “Gulliver’s Travels” and “Fahrenheit 451.”

They surely are defenders of our freedoms.


(Cape Girardeau) Southeast Missourian, Sept. 27

Last week a handful of major business stories demonstrated that capitalism requires morality and responsibility.

In one case, three executives from a peanut butter company were sentenced to serious jail time, after the business knowingly shipped out food that was tainted with salmonella, a decision that ultimately took the lives of nine people and sickened 714 others in several states. A federal judge handed Stewart Parnell a 28-year prison sentence, the toughest penalty ever for a corporate executive in a poisoning outbreak. Two other executives were given jail time as well.

In another news story last week, Volkswagen was outed as having cheated, when regulators found the company had secretly installed devices in about 500,000 vehicles, allowing the cars to emit lower levels of harmful emissions during tests than they do on the roads. VW was caught cheating, with its cars emitting pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the U.S. The company will pay a hefty price. Volkswagen has set aside more than $7 billion to cover the cost of recalls, and some have estimated the company may face fines of up to $18 billion. Shares plunged, and a company faces a bleak financial future. Let the lawsuits begin.

In Missouri, Attorney General Chris Koster announced that he filed a motion to hold Walgreens drugstore chain in contempt for committing more than 1,000 violations of its 2014 settlement. This move came a year after the chain reached a deal with Koster to close the state’s investigation into allegations of overcharging and deceptive advertising. Koster said the filing comes after a one-week investigation in July that revealed 49 stores continued to display expired sales tags, misrepresenting the cost charged to customers.

While the three stories vary in severity, they all gave the business community a bad name. Business executives and management teams are counterproductive if they have no moral or ethical compass.

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