- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

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

The Providence Journal (R.I.), May 13, 2016

Recent reports of toddlers involved in accidental shootings have prompted a renewed focus on gun-safety laws. In one of the more dramatic cases, a Milwaukee toddler fatally shot his mother last month, apparently after finding a loaded gun in the back seat of the car she was driving. A Washington Post report noted six other cases that occurred within the same nine-day stretch. Among them were two 3-year-old boys, one in Louisiana and one in Georgia, who accidentally shot and killed themselves.

Unfortunately, such incidents happen far more often than many Americans suppose. Last year, according to the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, at least 265 children under the age of 18 accidentally shot either themselves or someone else. In 83 of those cases, the result was death. A Washington Post analysis found that toddlers were behind accidental shootings at a rate of about one per week. The Huffington Post noted that these children were involved in more shootings and shooting deaths in the United States last year than terrorists.

If anything, shootings involving children are underreported. In 2013, a New York Times investigation revealed that children accidentally killed with firearms were vastly undercounted. One reason was idiosyncrasies in how official records were kept. In addition, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped collecting relevant data- for instance, on whether guns are present in the home. Since 2004, Congress has forbidden research that could be interpreted as favoring gun control.

Sadly, many of these accidents are preventable. Everytown found that as many as 70 percent of shooting deaths of children could have been avoided through proper gun storage.

Laws holding firearms owners accountable can help encourage a more responsible gun culture. Rhode Island is among 27 states that have so-called child access prevention (CAP) laws. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, anyone who leaves a loaded firearm accessible to a person under 16 in Rhode Island can be charged with a crime if that person uses the weapon to injure someone. The state does not require gun owners to lock their weapons, however. (Massachusetts is alone in requiring that guns be stored in a locked place.)

Sometimes parents, siblings or friends are the tragic victims of young children who play with guns. But the cases in which the children themselves die have left a particular trail of devastation. Collecting unbiased and accurate data on these shootings is an obvious step toward improving prevention. Congress should face down the gun lobby, and end its restrictions on gun-related research.




The Valley News (N.H.), May 9, 2016

In a time when new means of communication demand brevity- Moby Dick was not written for tiny screens -the discovery of a great American literary figure’s treatise on “Manly Health and Training” reminds us that it wasn’t always so.

Walt Whitman is the surprising source of a fitness regimen, the reading of which is more of a marathon than a sprint. His nearly 47,000-word series was published in 1858 in The New York Atlas, a relatively obscure newspaper, and then lost to history. But it was rediscovered last summer by Zachary Turpin, a University of Houston graduate student who spends spare hours browsing digital databases of 19th-century newspapers, entering pen names Whitman used in writing for the press. For The Atlas, he employed one of his favorites, Mose Velsor. Eureka!

The New York Times noted that much of his advice wouldn’t seem out of place today- Whitman leaned toward the Paleo diet and favored long bouts of moderate exercise such as walking or rowing. But some of it hasn’t aged as well: He advocated bare knuckle fighting to, in contemporary terms, Make America Great Again. He wanted America to be “a hardy, robust and combative nation . imbued with the love of fight.” His thoughts on race and eugenics would be judged politically incorrect by today’s standards.

But such deficiencies are bowled over by the passion of Whitman’s call for “a perfect body, perfect blood- no morbid humors, no weakness, no impotency or deficiency or bad stuff … all running over with animation and ardor, all marked by herculean strength, suppleness, a clear complexion . a laughing voice, a merry song morn and night, a sparkling eye, and a ever-happy soul!” The scope is breathtaking, even when the exercise is not.

In recent wellness columns, The Times has been reporting on a contemporary fitness development: short bursts of high-intensity training that provide many of the health benefits of longer sessions. A recent article looked at the effects of three 20-second bursts.

We are all for efficiency, but that approach lacks the vision of Whitman, who would barely be warmed up in a minute. In his words:

“Give our advice a thorough trial- not for a few days or weeks, but for months. Early rising, early to bed, exercise, plain food, thorough and persevering continuance in gently-commenced training, the cultivation with resolute will of a cheerful temper, the society of friends and a certain number of hours spent every day in regular employment- these, we say, simple as they are, are enough to revolutionize life, and change it from a scene of gloom, feebleness, and irresolution, into life indeed, as becomes such a universe as this, full of all the essential means of happiness, full of well-intentioned and affectionate men and women, with the beneficent processes of nature always at work, the sun shining, the flowers blooming, the crops growing, the waters running, with all else that is wanted, only that man should be rightly toned to partake of the universal strength and joy. This he must do through reason, knowledge and exercise- in short, through training; for that is the sum of all.”

Whew. If you are inspired by Whitman’s exuberant epiphany, one modern piece of fitness advice applies- stay hydrated.




The Berkshire Eagle (Mass.), May 13, 2016

Someday, Americans will look back at the transgender rights debate, as they are doing now with gay rights, and wonder what the fuss was all about. Beacon Hill is beginning to help bring that day closer.

Thursday, the state Senate voted 33-4 in favor of legislation that would protect transgender people- who don’t identify with their birth gender -against discrimination in public places. It should pass the House, ideally this session, and go to Governor Baker, who while not enthusiastic about the bill is expected to sign it.

The shorthand name for this kind of legislation is “bathroom bill” in states like North Carolina, which passed a discriminatory law to prevent communities from passing their own bills similar to the one that the Massachusetts Senate approved. Hysteria over transgender rights legislation is based in large part on the spreading of the myth that sexual predators claim to be transgender in accessing women’s restrooms.

North Carolina doesn’t have a patent on folly, however. State Senator Donald F. Humason Jr., a Westfield Republican, told The Boston Globe the law is “almost unenforceable, because it’s based simply on how someone feels on that particular day.” No, transgender people don’t flip-flop daily on their gender identities. That decision is often arrived at after years of difficult struggle.

There are not many transgender people, but statistically they endure a high percentage of abuse and discriminatory behavior. The Obama administration helped the cause Friday by directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. Legislation guaranteeing these rights are necessary in our fearful, suspicious nation. That will change someday, but we aren’t there yet.




The Bennington Banner (Vt.), May 12, 2016

Hillary Clinton took a beating in West Virginia, losing the state to Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary held there May 10.

Her chances to win that coal-producing and economically depressed state were compromised after a parsed quote about coal’s future in the United States was circulated by the media. At an Ohio town hall in March, Clinton said the country would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business …”

That quote created quite a stir in the coal-producing regions of the country, but, as is common these days, Clinton’s statement was taken out of context. The complete statement: “I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right? And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories. Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.

If elected, Clinton has promised $30 billion to help workers and companies transition away from earning a living by mining coal.

Republicans jumped all over Clinton and her parsed quote. America Rising, a super-PAC that produces opposition research on Democratic Party members, said her comments exhibited her “brazen disregard for the men and women who help power America.”

Despite how you might feel about Hillary Clinton, this manufactured outrage is only meant to obfuscate the real threat global climate change presents to the habitat that supports human live. For too long, the fear of job losses and the economic impacts of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels has kept the carbon-producing electric turbines spinning. Meanwhile, megatons of pollutants have been accumulating in the atmosphere and in our oceans and most rational human beings with a conscience and without an agenda are beginning to acknowledge cheap electricity from fossil fuels was no bargain at all. We and many generations following have a mess on our hands and it will require a “moon shot” initiative to solve.

Mounting hyperbolic attacks against candidates is a time-proven tactic; its efficacy evidenced by the repetition of smear tactics that have been utilized in campaigns immemorial. Those tactics are meant to rile up emotions, bypassing logic and reasoned debate. In this case, those opposed to Clinton’s nomination are using the very real anxieties and despair of the laborers in a dying industry to their own advantage. Rather than proposing solutions to their plight- as Clinton has done -they see misery as something to exploit to further their agenda.

All of the sound and fury leveled at Clinton over her remarks obscures one true fact: The coal industry is already gutted.

The fact is, as CNNMoney’s Patrick Gillespie notes, “The number of coal workers in the United States- 57,700 -is at a record low since data was tracked. Coal employment declined in every single month last year and it’s down dramatically from the mid-1980s when there were over 175,000 coal jobs.”

But while the number of solar jobs nationwide has doubled in five years to around 209,000, most of those jobs haven’t been in coal-producing regions. This is not an unusual trend in any modern nation. Industries and careers in those industries are subject to forces outside of their control, whether they be market demands, global competition, outsourcing, innovation or regulations designed to limit their effect on the environment.

Over the past 200 years, jobs have come and gone, and they include steel workers, lamplighters, lectors, switchboard operators, reporters, ice cutters, street sweepers (before automobiles, someone had to clean up all that horse manure), bucket makers, loom operators, etc., ad nauseum.

It is sad, we do not deny it, and the financial burdens of losing a job have crushed many families, but well-paying jobs have come and gone. Eventually the devastation to the environment wreaked by fossil fuels and their extraction will be more of a concern than the jobs that were lost. That’s just a cold, hard fact. It’s about time we faced up to it and admitted these communities, and the world, have more to fear from global climate change than from lost jobs.




(Meriden) Record-Journal (Conn.), May 13, 2016

Major college basketball programs- all of them -passed on Stephen Curry.

That’s hard to imagine now, of course, but logging in at a modest 6-foot-2, 160 pounds at the time, powerhouse schools can be forgiven for saying “no thanks” to the wiry guard with a baby face. Certainly some recruiters wondered if he was too soft to play with the big boys.

Undeterred, Curry- the son of NBA great Dell Curry -wound up bringing his deft shooting touch and uncanny ball handling skills to Davidson College in North Carolina, a mid-major school with one of the smallest student bodies in the NCAA Division I field.

At Davidson, Curry blossomed into one of the best college players in the country. His 28.6 points-per-game in 2009, his junior season, was tops among Division I players, and that year he was the seventh selection in the NBA draft, taken by the Golden State Warriors.

These days, Curry- the guy big time college hoops programs took a pass on -is the face of the league, and widely regarded as the best shooter of all time.

Tuesday, Curry, 28, became the first ever unanimous NBA Most Valuable Player pick, earning the award for the second straight season. The soft-spoken league MVP made a record 402 3-pointers during the regular season, and averaged an NBA-best 30.1 points per game to go with 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds.

Not surprisingly, Golden State is a powerhouse.

The 2015-16 Warriors, the defending NBA champs, finished with 73 regular-season wins, a league record, and now look poised to claim another world title.

The night before collecting his second MVP trophy, Curry led the Warriors to an overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers in a Western Conference semifinals duel.

Back in action after missing four games with a knee injury, Curry scorched the Blazers for 40 points, 17 of those coming in the five-minute extra session.

That’s the most points an NBA player has ever scored in a single OT.


Curry is a basketball maestro in his prime.

This “little” guy dominating the sport of giants brings to mind the Mark Twain quote: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Young athletes would be wise to ponder that.




The Boston Globe (Mass.), May 12, 2016

Planning the menu for a state dinner is never a picnic, but the White House could make an easy call on Friday when President Obama welcomes the leaders of Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue- serve lobster. Simple, too: Just bring water to a rolling boil, cook, and serve with melted butter.

As the black-tied dignitaries strap on their White House-monogrammed bibs, they could also dig into what should be a key issue for the US-Nordic Leaders Summit: Sweden’s effort to ban the importation of live lobsters to the 28 European Union nations under new invasive species regulations. An EU panel will consider the issue next month and the dispute could eventually go to the World Trade Organization.

The Swedes see an environmental imperative. Government scientists contend that Homarus americanus is an invasive alien species that endangers their indigenous lobster, Homarus gammarus. Dozens have been found in British and Scandinavian waters over the past few decades, apparently released either intentionally, by distributors (many still wore rubber bands) or animal rights activists (the Lobster Liberation Front, for instance), or accidentally.

In the ocean, natural cross-breeding is possible, though there’s not much hard evidence it occurs. Meanwhile, evidence of fatal interspecies disease transmission outside a tank is as thin as a newly molted shell. Nevertheless, neighboring Norway (not an EU member) banned live imports in January.

There’s important historical precedent. North American crayfish, intentionally introduced in the 1960s, devastated the Scandinavian crayfish, a critter with Swedish cultural resonance comparable to the American lobster bake.

Scientists in the US and Canada say the danger is as hypothetical as it is exaggerated. Pols and lobstermen go further, branding the Swedish research as, simply, cooked: “protectionism masquerading as science,” several lawmakers say. Secretary of State John Kerry was asked to formally protest. Talk about bringing things to a rolling boil.

But before curbing the kudzu-like proliferation of IKEA products or circumscribing the movement of free-range Volvos, let us consider the lobster trade: The EU imports about $200 million worth of the crustacean per year from the US and Canada, about 13,000 metric tons. All told, the EU imports one-fifth of all exported US lobsters.

On the Swedish side of the gunwale, lobstering just isn’t big business- so it is difficult to see this as simply a masquerade. Lobstering there is mostly a recreational exercise, according to the Swedish government, with a commercial haul of 23 metric tons last year.

Invasive species cost the US and the EU billions in economic losses and can upset delicate environments. And once they get their claws in, it can be impossible to oust them. New EU regulations on invasive species are important, but they should also be flexible, scientifically sound, and regionally appropriate.

For lobsters, the science on the hazard is inconclusive. But say, for the sake of argument, that Homarus americanus does prove invasive. Should Italians or Greeks along the warm waters of the Mediterranean be barred from importing live North American lobsters because they pose a threat to Swedish waters? EU regulations provide for regional measures, short of an outright ban to all member states, so it should never come to that.

Meanwhile, any existing rules against the release of live Homarus americanus into European waters- for whatever reason -should be enforced. Public awareness campaigns would also be an appropriate step before elevating the issue to the point of a global trade dispute.

The issue of invasive species requires not just constant management and dialogue, but also a mutual respect for others’ honest concerns. Independent scientific review should be the arbitrator, and adaptive solutions the alternative to drastic dictates.




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