- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Dec. 13

Johnson City Press on bullying:

A viral video of a tearful Knoxville middle schooler telling his mother how he was being bullied by classmates has struck a nerve nationwide. Kimberly Jones made the Facebook video while she was picking up her 11-year-old son, Keaton, from school on Friday.

He told his mother that fellow students had taunted him so much that he was afraid to go to lunch.

“Just out of curiosity, why do they bully?” Keaton said. “What’s the point of it? Why do they find joy in taking innocent people and find a way to be mean to them? It’s not OK.”

No, it’s not OK.

A number of high-profile athletes, musicians and actors have responded to Keaton’s comments with words of support and encouragement. The Associated Press reports Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker took to Twitter to invite the Jones family to an upcoming game, and University of Tennessee wide receiver Tyler Byrd said he and some of his teammates plan to visit Keaton at his school.

Kimberly Jones’ decision to go public about her son’s plight was a brave thing to do. Too many children and their parents are content to keep such acts of bullying quiet. Others incorrectly believe bullying is simply a rite of passage. It is not.

A report released last year found zero-tolerance policies are ineffective in combating bullying. As a result, officials with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine say bullying should no longer be dismissed as simply kids being kids.

Researchers are urging school officials to end zero-tolerance policies that automatically suspend students for bullying and take a more comprehensive approach to deal with the root causes of the problem. This should include family counseling.

That’s an important step because experts say bullying is often a behavior children learn from their parents and siblings.

Online: http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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Dec. 10

Johnson City Press on flu season:

If you haven’t gotten a flu shot this year, now is the time to do so. Health officials recommend a flu vaccination for everyone over 6 months old, especially pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

Flu season usually begins in October and ends in late March. Mountain States Health Alliance hospitals have already seen 80 positive flu cases this season.

Getting a flu shot is an important part of preventative medicine. Between 5 percent and 20 percent of the population is stricken with influenza annually.

There are ways to reduce your risk of getting or spreading the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you cover your mouth when you cough, cover your nose when you sneeze and don’t forget to wash your hands when you do either.

The primary way flu and colds are spread is from person to person in the form of respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. This happens when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air and are deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby.

Also keep in mind the CDC says some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs and desks.

Always cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away.

If a tissue is not available, sneeze into your elbow so the germs will not transmit to the next thing you touch. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

The CDC recommends that you wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used.

Online: http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/

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Dec. 9

The Greeneville Sun on public trust of a chemical plant and county government:

US Nitrogen has been controversial since the project’s announcement in 2011. But events surrounding the chemical plant in the last week have further eroded many members of the public’s trust of the company and county government.

Restoring that trust will take efforts from three parties: US Nitrogen itself, county government and the general public.

As we reported Dec. 8, a meeting of the Greene County Health and Safety Committee - a subset of the Greene County Commission - ended abruptly after shouting and cursing from a well-known citizen. Committee members - who are also elected county commissioners - were discussing their reactions after taking an unpublicized tour of US Nitrogen.

The tour came on the heels of a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation report that detailed numerous violations of state and federal permits at US Nitrogen. Also on-hand for the inspection tour were officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

US Nitrogen should be commended for stepping up to the plate and providing a warning siren meant to alert anyone within a 2-mile radius of a spill, chemical release or other catastrophe at the plant - much like the one on April 19 of this year when nitric acid vapors spewed into the air.

But so far the company’s track record for safety, properly recording and reporting violations and openly communicating with the general public - especially after operational accidents - leaves much to be desired.

As we also reported that Friday, TDEC detailed numerous violations in a report on Nov. 30. Most of the report’s findings highlight problems with record-keeping and documentation…

TDEC ordered US Nitrogen to have an action plan submitted by Jan. 10 for addressing the findings of the Nov. 30 report. US Nitrogen should make correcting these deficiencies its No. 1 mission, and regulators should continue to hold the company accountable with meaningful penalties for failure to abide by permit requirements.

Public outcry about US Nitrogen has ratcheted up in the months since the April nitric acid vapor release. Citizens routinely show up at Greene County Commission meetings to protest the company.

After the commission decided not to set up another committee to keep an eye on US Nitrogen, the county commission’s Health and Safety Committee decided to take up the cause of monitoring US Nitrogen…

We also want to make this clear: While state allows for such on-site inspections being executed outside of the public eye, it does not allow for any deliberation or decision-making during those inspections. Since we weren’t at the tour ourselves, we can’t know if that section of the law was violated. But we implore our elected officials also to take that part of the law very seriously.

The US Nitrogen tour seems to be a function of the committee taking its role seriously, which should be applauded…

Finally, if levels of trust and accountability between private companies, local governments and the general public are to be restored, private citizens also have an important part to play.

There should be no place in public meetings for outbursts like the one that happened Dec. 7.

Online: https://www.greenevillesun.com/


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