- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Aug. 16

The Johnson City Press on Elvis and prescription drug abuse:

Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. The King of Rock and Roll was pronounced dead on arrival at a Memphis hospital after collapsing on the floor of a bathroom in his Graceland mansion.

Elvis’ death was tragic. He was a talented entertainer and a cultural icon. His death shocked and saddened many Americans, much like the passing of Michael Jackson and Prince (under eerily similar circumstances) would some three decades later.

Unfortunately, Elvis was one of the first to put a famous face on a tragic drug problem that kills many and ruins lives daily. Abuse of opioids is a scourge that has law enforcement official, lawmakers and medical providers looking for answers.

When Elvis Presley died in 1977 at the age 42, the cause of his death was officially listed as a “fatal heart arrhythmia.” Blood tests would later show traces of 14 different drugs in Elvis’ body at the time of his death.

He obtained most of these drugs from his physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos, who wrote thousands of prescriptions for Elvis for uppers, downers and assorted narcotics. Dr. Nick, as Nichopoulos was known in Memphis, told a British newspaper that he prescribed the drugs because he truly “cared” for Elvis.

“Elvis’ problem,” Nichopoulos told The Observer in 2002, “was that he didn’t see the wrong in it (prescription drugs). He felt that by getting it from a doctor, he wasn’t the common everyday junkie getting something off the street. He was a person who thought that as far as medications and drugs went, there was something for everything.”

Elvis may not have been able to see what was wrong with taking all the drugs that he did, but Dr. Nick should have. If he truly cared for Elvis as he claimed, the physician would have better counseled and treated his patient.

A prescription drug to cure everything. That is a trap too many Americans fall into. And you don’t have to be a pop icon or movie star to become a victim of opioid abuse.

A state law makes it illegal for TennCare recipients to go “doctor shopping,” a practice that finds a patient going to a number of different physicians faking illness and pain to obtain prescription narcotics.

Tennessee also must get tougher on doctors who overprescribe narcotics and other dangerous and habit-forming drugs. Dr. Nick continued to practice medicine in Tennessee for years after Elvis’ death.

Following a number of complaints, the Tennessee Medical Board finally charged him with overprescribing drugs. The board stripped Nichopoulos of his medical license in 1995. Elvis fans might argue that discipline was more than 18 years too late.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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Aug. 13

The Daily Times of Maryville evaluates Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ commitment to public education:

This is what we get when we talk past each other, when people have preconceived agendas to push. Platitudes in place of truths.

Current case in point is the interview Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had with The Associated Press Wednesday in her office. Don’t bother reading the transcript to find insightful discussion on how to improve education in the U.S. The opening gambit was about President Trump’s talk of undoing President Obama’s legacy and applying it to education.

Not a topic designed to elicit a thoughtful response about educating our youth - not when talking to a seasoned education debater. DeVos was in her element, responding with “laboratories of democracy” and claiming “we are in the middle of moving to implement the ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which dissolves power back to the states.”

Let’s pause right there. Tennesseans probably know as much as most folks about federal overreach in education. Maryville’s own Sen. Lamar Alexander, as chair of the Senate education committee, was prime mover of the effort to replace No Child Left Behind, the regulatory spider web that entangled local education practice with Washington education theories.

Probably no state is more dedicated to implementing creative education policies. Gov. Bill Haslam has been insistent about coupling education to competence with a deliverable target in mind - arming young Tennesseans with skills employers want.

A reminder, here. When DeVos appeared before the Senate seeking conformation as a cabinet secretary, it was Alexander who guided her through those shoals - despite her lack of experience in public education and her affinity for for-profit schools.

Today there is reason to be skeptical of her claims of support for public education and knowledge of ESSA. Her acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education sent a letter to Delaware to let it know the state had not been “ambitious” enough in setting long-range goals for student achievement. Education Weekly characterized the letter as “sparking wonky outrage inside the Beltway and beyond.”

According to the Education Department staffer, since ESSA did not explicitly define “ambitious” regarding student achievement goals, it is up to the secretary of education to determine the definition for the states.

That quip caught Alexander’s attention. Understandably, since it’s reasonable to expect he understands the law he helped create, even if those delegated to administer it disagree.

The senator is quoted: “Not only did we not authorize the Department of Education to define the word ambition, we specifically prohibited it.” He went on to say, “That’s what to law says, in plain terms.”

As a former education secretary, himself, his criticism presumably carries some weight. On Tuesday, Education Week reported sources say the ambitious acting assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education might have a new job soon.

If so, chalk that up to “ambition” as defined by any dictionary of politics. You might call it a public education.

Online: https://www.thedailytimes.com/

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Aug. 14

The Commercial Appeal on the evil of white supremacy:

Imagine a large group of African-American men assembling in a Virginia park in broad daylight wearing camouflage, carrying assault rifles and shouting “blood and soil.”

Imagine a large group of armed Muslim men carrying torches and shouting, “Christians will not replace us,” surrounding a Virginia church that was hosting a prayer service.

Imagine how local, state and federal law enforcement officers would respond, especially if the black men or Muslim men had incited violence that hurt or killed white college students or churchgoers.

Imagine the aftermath if one of the black leaders or Muslim leaders had responded by saying, “It was a huge moral victory in terms of the show of force.”

Then imagine how you would feel if a president, say Barack Obama, had blamed the hatred, bigotry and violence “on many sides.”

Many sides?

That was the phrase President Donald Trump used Saturday in his initial response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said.

There are only two sides to the violence, death, injury and terror that resulted during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last weekend.

The side represented by large groups of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other domestic terrorists marching behind Confederate battle flags, swastikas and armed civilians casting themselves as militia.

And the side represented by patriotic Americans.

“White supremacists aren’t patriots, they’re traitors,” Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, former presidential candidate and POW, tweeted Saturday. “Americans must unite against hatred & bigotry.”

McCain wasn’t the only Republican elected official to speak out immediately against the armed white nationalists who surrounded a church, attacked peaceful protesters and drove a car into a crowd.

“Mr. President - we must call evil by its name,” Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, tweeted Saturday. “These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”

“We should call evil by its name,” Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said Saturday. “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”

For two days, those anti-American ideas went unchallenged by the man in the White House.

Finally, Monday afternoon, President Trump called evil by three of its many names.

“Racism is evil,” the president said. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

All Americans needed to hear that from President Trump.

A president who was duly elected to office by a national surge of white working-class anxiety and resentment.

A president whose advisers include alt-right white nationalists such as Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller.

A president who leads a predominantly white political party and who has denounced in the strongest terms in speeches and tweets ethnic, racial and religious minorities.

President Trump’s equivocation after Charlottesville only enabled the white nationalists who were emboldened by his campaign rhetoric, his election and his previous words and actions as president.

“It was a huge moral victory in terms of the show of force,” said Richard B. Spencer, an alt-right leader who helped organize the “Unite the Right” rally.

“We achieved all of our objectives,” Matthew Heimbach, a founder of a neo-Nazi group that was part of the rally, told the media after Saturday’s unrest. “We asserted ourselves as the voice of white America.”

They tried and failed. No doubt they will try again.

President Trump must continue to renounce white supremacy in all of its evil forms and names.

Online: https://www.commercialappeal.com/

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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