- Associated Press - Saturday, July 23, 2016

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New England newspapers:

The Day (New London, Conn.), July 20, 2016

The Stamford-based World Wrestling Association Inc. usually dictates the script that determines which wrestler goes down for the count, but the new lawsuit it faces is far less predictable and could land the company on the mat.

More than 50 former wrestlers who performed under contract with WWE are claiming in the federal complaint that WWE is responsible for the long-term brain damage many former professional wrestlers suffer from.

Connecticut is well familiar with the WWE, not only because of its success, but because Linda McMahon - who with husband and WWE Chairman Vincent McMahon built the company - twice ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate.

WWE dismissed the litigation as a “ridiculous attempt” to extract damages from the highly successful company. There was no hint of empathy for the former wrestlers.

Former football players suffering the ill effects in later life from the repeated concussions they suffered while playing likewise sued the National Football League. The NFL settled for $1 billion and agreed to numerous changes to reduce concussions and treat head injuries more seriously when they happen.

Former players are also suing the National Hockey League in connection with the head injuries resulting from that sport.

The difference (and perhaps not a good one for the WWE) is that in those sports the head injuries are a byproduct of the game. As play unfolds, random collisions cause blows to the head and injuries, despite equipment intended to prevent them.

In wrestling, however, WWE scripts and choreographs specific moves for the wrestlers, who wear no head protection as they leap from the top of the ropes or are slammed to the mat. This makes the WWE more directly responsible for the resulting permanent injuries, argues the attorney for the plaintiffs.

That sounds like a strong argument, even if it doesn’t comply with the WWE script.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/29RF0Vo

Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine), July 22, 2016

When an infectious disease is spreading through a community, the public needs to know. So the fact that the state wants to put a lid on the release of that information is both puzzling and troubling.

At issue is a rule change that would give the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention greater discretion to refuse to name the locations of outbreaks of diseases like measles, chicken pox and whooping cough.

The proposal comes a year after the Portland Press Herald sued over the state’s refusal to identify the site of four chicken pox outbreaks during the 2014-‘15 school year - the highest number since the chicken pox vaccine became mandatory for school attendance in 2003. (Eighty-four students at three schools and a day care center were affected; the newspaper published the facilities’ names after settling with the state last fall.)

Though schools send notices home to parents during outbreaks, public notification could make it easier to publicly identify specific patients, the CDC argued when denying the newspaper’s request last year.

How that could happen is unclear. What’s more, this rationale apparently didn’t apply in 2006, when the agency identified the Brunswick school where over 30 cases of chicken pox had broken out. The state also named the locations of a 2004 whooping cough outbreak and a 2008 spate of hepatitis cases.

And that was the right thing for the state to do. Without a public announcement, people who don’t have school-age children wouldn’t know about an outbreak. Contagious diseases can make unvaccinated adults seriously ill. The same is true for the elderly, women who are pregnant, babies too young to be immunized and people with weakened immune systems, like those with cancer and AIDS. Public notification gives these vulnerable people a heads up on the need to avoid certain settings and time, if possible, to stave off illness by getting the vaccine.

Making the public aware of outbreak sites also spotlights areas where parents are forgoing recommended vaccinations for their children and serves as another check on how the state’s public health policies are working to protect residents from contagion.

The proposed CDC rule change is just one in a series of events that point to the LePage administration’s disregard for the benefits of transparency. Those who truly want to protect the health of the Maine public will speak up early and often for disclosure and against obfuscation.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2afpmr0

The Republican (Springfield, Mass.), July 21, 2016

Will he, or won’t he? Leading up to Ted Cruz’s Wednesday night address to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, that was the question on many people’s minds. Would the firebrand first-term senator from Texas endorse Donald Trump, the outsider nominee whose adherence to conservative principles - to any principles, really - has been spotty at best?

Cruz’s emphatic answer, revealed in prime time: No!

In his address, Cruz staked out a position - the same position he’d occupied during his campaign for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination - as a true conservative. And he said, by clear implication, that the GOP nominee is decidedly not in that camp.

Said Cruz: “(S)tand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the constitution.”

Ouch.

In the end, when it became clear that Cruz would not be endorsing reality TV star Trump, many in the hall, led by delegates from New York State, began to jeer. Said Cruz, sarcastically, “I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation.”

Later, another Trump relative, son Eric, spoke, as did The Donald’s running mate, earnest Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Each was on message. In between, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endeavored to clean up the mess that Cruz had left behind. But that would not be easily done.

Cruz stole the show. Boy, howdy, did he steal the show.

Heard the one about modern political conventions being uninteresting, tightly scripted events without even a moment’s intrigue? Well, not so much.

Even if you can’t stand Cruz’s politics and happen to find his manner not a little off-putting, you’ve got to admit that what the man did was bold. And then some. If Trump should manage to win in November, Cruz won’t only be on the outside looking in, he’ll be on the outside and far, far away from everything.

His speech was a huge gamble. He put all his chips on one number, figuring that the roulette wheel won’t stop spinning for some time.

Could his play pay off? Maybe. If Trump should lose, the Republican Party will be looking to remake itself. Cruz would like to believe that he’d be at the forefront of that effort.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/29Rx3zL

Foster’s Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.), July 19, 2016

Bruce French just wanted to take his dog for a swim at the Milton Dam earlier this month. His discovery of a suspicious substance in a plastic bag, and his heroic effort to be a good citizen, almost got him arrested.

What transpired is an example of inflexible policies regarding illegal drugs. The opioid addiction epidemic that has gripped our region needs more creative solutions if we are going to solve it.

Readers may recall the details of the incident.

French and his dog were on the Lebanon, Maine, side of the Milton Dam when his dog began sniffing around a bag on the ground containing a brown substance. French thought it looked suspiciously like heroin and decided it was best given to police.

Although he was in Maine, he thought the Milton, N.H., Police would be closer and called them. But they told him they cannot cross state lines unless asked and to call Maine law enforcement.

Lebanon does not have its own police force, so French called the Maine State Police. But they said they were tied up at an accident with injuries and power lines down and he’d have to wait for them.

Not wanting to wait for an unknown amount of time, he called Milton Police back, but got the same response about them crossing state lines. That’s when he thought they may be hampered by legal restrictions, but he wasn’t. So, he carried the bag across the bridge and again called Milton to tell them he was now in New Hampshire and they could come get the suspect bag.

He was transferred to the police chief, who told him he might have just committed a crime and could be subject to arrest. We can suppose the charge would be crossing state lines in an effort to protect the public.

Anyway, French was getting understandably frustrated as he once again crossed the bridge back into Maine with the suspect bag. He was by then worried that if the bag did indeed contain drugs, the owner might come looking for it. So he stashed it up high on a sign post while he waited for Maine authorities. An hour and a half later, a state trooper arrived to take possession of the bag, and French and his dog went on their way.

It is a sad commentary on law enforcement when a citizen trying to protect the public has such a hard time. It would be difficult to find many other residents who would take as much time and effort to do the right thing as French did. The reasons for the delay in Maine State Police getting there are understandable; the inflexibility of Milton Police seems a bit much.

No one disputes that the drug problem in our area has gotten out of hand. Many have come to the realization that tackling the problem successfully requires creativity. Witness what’s happened in Farmington, where the number of fatal overdoses from opiates is down dramatically.

The community has changed the way it is approaching the problem such as providing recovery information for those involved in overdose cases, instead of automatically charging them with a crime.

We don’t want to oversimplify this. Milton Police were going by the book.

Still, it seems that something could have been done to help make it easier for French to get the suspected material into law enforcement hands. Threatening him with a crime certainly did not help.

It will take a community- and region-wide effort to slowly stem the tide of addiction. Making it easy to get rid of suspected or known drugs wherever they are should be a part of that effort.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2afuQ52

The Providence Journal (R.I.), July 19, 2016

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 422 to 2 this month to pass a bill that overhauls our approach to mental illness. It was encouraging to see both parties come together for the good of the country.

The bill could empower family members, who are on the front lines of the efforts to deal with mental health issues but have been hamstrung in their efforts to get information. If the bill passes the Senate and is signed by President Obama, it could give families access to critical medical information about the treatment of adult family members struggling with mental illness: What’s the treatment plan? When’s the next appointment? What support does he (or she) need?

That kind of information is currently withheld because of patient privacy laws. But the House, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, has recognized the need to provide support to the people who may not be capable of helping themselves, as well as to their family members. As chief sponsor Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., put it, “compassion demands it.”

Mr. Murphy, a practicing clinical psychologist when he was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 18th district, was given the challenging task of crafting legislation following Sandy Hook. He wisely detached mental health from the polarizing issue of gun control and built a coalition of supporters.

Among them is Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds, a Democrat.

Mr. Deeds, you may recall, was stabbed nearly to death by his bipolar son, Gus, who then committed suicide. Mr. Deeds had tried to encourage his adult son to help himself, but he had no access to his son’s medical records, and most of his son’s doctors wouldn’t discuss the case with him.

Mr. Deeds became a powerful advocate for Representative Murphy’s mental health bill. To critics who assailed the Murphy bill’s incursion into the privacy of adults with mental illness because it curtailed their choices, Mr. Deeds told CNN, “Your choice is not to die. Your choice is not to watch your children die or watch your family members die.”

While the House showed overwhelming support for the bill - which also would allocate money to fight serious mental illnesses, alter Medicare reimbursements for some mental health patients and reorganize a federal agency to focus attention on mental health issues - its fate in the Senate is uncertain, partly because of the Senate calendar and partly because a similar bill has been languished in committee.

The Senate should not miss its moment. It should seize on the rare unity demonstrated by the House and pass its own mental health bill.

Families struggling to care for loved ones who are mentally ill deserve no less.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2afwp2U

Caledonian Record (Vt.), July 21, 2016

The New Hampshire Attorney General yesterday filed misdemeanor charges of simple assault, by a police officer, against Massachusetts State Trooper Joseph Flynn and NH State Trooper Andrew Monaco. In May the troopers were recorded beating a Massachusetts man who led police in both states on an hour-long, high-speed interstate chase.

The video shows the perpetrator, Richard Simone Jr., exiting his truck and surrendering after the dangerous chase. Simone was surrounded by nine police officers, showing his hands, and offering no resistance when Trooper Monaco started hitting him. Flynn joined in and the pair punched and knee-struck Simone for approximately 20 seconds while he lay helplessly on the ground.

According to the affidavit, Simone received three stitches to his left ear, experienced pain to his ribs and back, had a lump on his head and was diagnosed with possible post-concussive syndrome.

The charges against the troopers carry enhanced penalties and would likely result in some jail time. Monaco and Flynn have been suspended without pay and will probably never again enjoy the sacred privilege to protect and serve.

We’re sorry for the heavy toll these troopers are going to pay but think the Attorney General is right to hold them to account. Simone may have deserved a beat-down, for risking thousands of innocent lives, but the troopers’ job was to deliver him for judgment, not to exact justice themselves.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/29RsjtR

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