- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:


Dec. 20

The Florida Times-Union on addiction problems in the state:

With more than 20 million Americans in the grip of substance abuse, the U.S. Surgeon General has called on the public and government to take substantive steps in tackling this monster in our midst.

That call came in the form of a first-of-its-kind report - the Surgeon General’s “Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health” - that relies on current research to give clarity to how America can solve its addiction problem.

And a problem it is.

Some 8 percent of Americans - adults and adolescents - engage in an addiction that significantly impacts their lives.

The most common is alcohol addiction, which affects 16.6 million Americans.

In the area of illegal drugs, heroin dependence is at an all-time high. Since 2000, the number of overdose deaths in the United States attributed to opioids has increased by 200 percent.

Some 78 people die each day in the United States from an opioid overdose.

In fact, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has said this country is facing a “crisis of addiction,” noting that the addicted population equals the number of Americans battling diabetes. Yet only one in 10 addicted Americans will ever receive treatment.

He placed part of the blame squarely on a false understanding of addiction that has persisted for generations - that people become addicted because of some sort of moral failing, character flaw or sin.

That kind of thinking about alcohol and drug addiction has created barriers for people who, due to the shame attached to the stigma, may refuse to either acknowledge their addiction or to seek treatment.

But there is hope.

The surgeon general’s report noted many advances have been made in the treatment of addiction over the past decades.

For example, there is plenty of scientific evidence to support treatment of addictions using medications such as methadone and buprenorphine. Evidence-based behavioral interventions can be effective as well.

And there is also evidence to support recovery programs such as Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous that help patients after treatment, although the report emphasized that they “are not the same as treatment.”

On the other hand, the report noted that unscientific approaches to drug and alcohol addiction are still being relied upon.

In particular, the surgeon general questioned the effectiveness of abstinence-only treatments for substance abuse as well as TV-style interventions that focus on aggressively confronting people with their addictions. Neither are evidence-based.

Now the challenge for the country is to make sure those evidence-based treatments are readily accessible and affordable. For the well-being of the country, addiction costs must be covered by health insurance, the surgeon general stressed.

However in the new presidential era, that’s far from guaranteed. The Affordable Care Act, which extended health coverage to millions and established addiction treatment as an essential benefit, may not survive the transition.

The bottom line is that it is unacceptable today that only one out of every 10 people addicted to alcohol or drugs gets treatment.

If only one out of every 10 cancer patients received treatment, there would be a huge outcry.

If only one out of every 10 people living with diabetes were treated, we would be outraged.

Yet we stay silent when nine out of every 10 people addicted to alcohol or drugs are left untreated despite the fact that scientifically supported treatments are available.

Why? Ironically, perhaps it’s because the scientific advances that have been made in treating addictions have outpaced the public’s acceptance of the biological causes of addiction.

Consider, for example, a 2006 study that showed 65 percent of people responded that alcoholism was due to “bad character” while only 47 percent said it was due to brain chemistry or genetics.

That belief regarding bad character is untrue and it is unhealthy, the surgeon general informs us.

Addiction services can’t be separated from health services. They are the same.

Addiction is a disease.

It can be treated.




Dec. 17

The Ledger of Lakeland on Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran:

There is a new sheriff in town, the town being Tallahassee. And Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has put people on notice: it will be business as unusual while he runs the House.

The Land O’ Lakes Republican, for example, last month announced sweeping - and overdue - ethics reforms regarding lobbying and increased transparency in budgeting. Then, earlier this month, Corcoran put the state judicial system, particularly the Florida Supreme Court, on notice that he did not believe a judgeship is necessarily a lifetime appointment. After judicial approval of a 14.5 percent hike in worker’s compensation insurance, Corcoran urged the state’s main business lobby, Associated Industries of Florida, to take an interest in who sits on the benches, while recalling a campaign he engineered in 2012 to try to have three justices defeated in retention elections. He also has expressed support for a 12-year term for Supreme Court justices.

Corcoran also has tangled with Gov. Rick Scott over corporate economic incentives. Scott keeps pestering lawmakers to fund his economic development incentive program - dubbed corporate welfare in some circles - and his pleas are largely ignored. Two months ago, Corcoran told a gathering in Texas that this form of “socialism” for the 1-percenters has been an “abject failure” in Florida.

This week, Corcoran showed that he is not willing to sit mildly and idly by when frustrated by bureaucratic stalling.

Corcoran, like many, was stumped by the reluctance of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism agency, to reveal details of a contract with the Miami-based rapper Pitbull. Visit Florida had hired “Mr. 305” to pump up outsiders’ excitement for the state, but would not tell anyone how much it paid him to do so. It was, the group said, a “trade secret.”

Earlier this week, on behalf of the Florida House, Corcoran sued Visit Florida, which receives $80 million a year in public funding, to force the contract into the open. In response on Thursday, Pitbull himself revealed on Twitter the details of his deal. Taxpayers, according to the Miami Herald, paid him $1 million: $250,000 in July 2015 for a “talent fee” and use of his name and likeness; another $250,000 after he completed a music video, called “Sexy Beaches,” that included footage of Florida beaches, as well as attractive, bikini-clad women, and use of a social media hashtag promoting Florida; $100,000 for filming a 10- to 15-second introduction as part of a “Conquering Florida” video series Visit Florida uses to promote the state; another $100,000 for six “Florida Pit Package” sweepstakes that would include travel packages to Florida; and $300,000 to promote Florida on social media platforms at least twice a month with the hashtag #loveFL.

Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe asserted Pitbull’s package was a great deal, generating $9 in spending from Pitbull’s fans for each $1 the state had paid him. Still, amid the criticism, he pledged to not do another deal like that again. On Friday, Gov. Scott assured that would happen, asking Seccombe to resign. Scott, the Tampa Bay Times reported, praised Seccombe for his work in helping draw record numbers of tourists to Florida, and said he appreciated Pitbull’s effort to promote his home state. Yet Scott also called it “ridiculous” that Visit Florida wouldn’t release details of the publicly funded deal. Yes, it was.

Corcoran, as exemplified by the Pitbull lawsuit and the subsequent fallout, has already left a major imprint on the capital, and things have barely started under his rein. Who knows what might come next. The new speaker has demonstrated he is not just a man of words. As with Pitbull and the campaign he launched four years ago to tame the Supreme Court, Corcoran is unafraid to exercise the power bestowed on him in an effort to protect taxpayers. He’s off to a good start. So let’s hope as he continues to wage these battles that he keeps at the forefront of his agenda that such power should be exercised to improve the lot of everyday Floridians.




Dec. 17

The Miami Herald on Major League Soccer possibly expanding to Miami:

It’s nearing fish-or-cut-bait time for David Beckman’s Major League Soccer hopes for a Miami team. Yes, it’s still kicking around, almost three years after the celebrity soccer star arrived in Miami with much fanfare to announce he would privately build a new stadium for the brand new team.

The announcement made worldwide news back in February 2014. However, where to build the stadium has been a continuing series of disappointments, not to mention stops and starts.

First, Mr. Beckman desperately wanted a waterfront stadium on Biscayne Bay. Unfortunately, the downtown Miami site he coveted was adjacent to the Royal Caribbean Cruises’ headquarters. The cruise line balked, and Mr. Beckman and his investors were shooed away from their dream spot.

Since then, the project has bounced around the county like a nomad.

Last week, the head of Major League Soccer gently, but firmly, gave the Beckham team of investors an ultimatum: Seal the deal, or move on.

As painful as that might be, it’s wise advice.

“Everybody needs to understand, including David and his partners, that we’ve worked hard, and it’s time for us to reach a conclusion,” Don Garber said of the proposed Miami team during a conference call with reporters to discuss the 20-team league’s future expansion.

Many in Miami-Dade, including private-sector parties, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade and School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, at different times have stepped up to try to find a suitable home for Mr. Beckham’s stadium.

It’s obvious the league really wants a Miami franchise. With our large Latin American and Caribbean population, it rightly sees the team as a gateway to drawing hardcore international fans.

Mr. Beckham also wants the team in Miami. He is a wonderful fan of the area and has made it clear he’s not interested in other cities.

But time is no longer on Mr. Beckham’s side.

He and his partners appear to be taking a long time in coming up with what they believe is the perfect group of investors for the $150 million stadium, and they are still negotiating for that final piece of county-owned land.

Earlier this year, Mr. Beckham’s ownership group paid $19 million for six acres of private land in Overtown, the bulk of what’s needed for a 25,000-seat stadium.

But the group, Miami Beckham United, still needs three acres of adjoining land owned by Miami-Dade County.

The county is ready to sell, but Mr. Beckham’s representatives have delayed negotiations over what they say is a need for more investors in the MLS deal.

After waiting more than 30 months, it’s hard to say the league has not bent over backwards, but at some point in the not-too-distant future, it will move on without Miami if a deal can’t get done. That would be a shame.

Mr. Beckham should impose a deadline on his own project. And here’s why: When projects like this go on too long without culmination, they acquire a sense of desperation, a bad karma, one that could tarnish the very cool component Mr. Beckham’s participation brought to the project.

A deadline should be set and, if not met, maybe we sadly say goodbye to our MLS expansion team - and the charming Mr. Beckham.

We hope, however, it won’t come to that.



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