Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:
Lexington Herald-Leader on the federal government halting a study into health effects of surface coal mining in Appalachia:
It was a ruse. Just as many suspected, the Trump administration offered a bogus excuse for halting a study into the health effects of surface coal mining in Appalachia.
Budget concerns were the avowed reason for halting the study that’s long been awaited by mountain residents. They want to know if the cancer, birth defects, respiratory problems and early deaths afflicting their families and neighbors are linked to the blasting, dust, diesel exhaust and polluted air and water that are part of living near strip mines.
In an Aug. 18 letter to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, the Office of Surface Mining said that it was halting the $1 million study as part of the Interior Department’s “agency-wide review of its grants and cooperative agreements in excess of $100,000, largely as a result of our changing budget situation.” The Trump administration has recommended substantial cuts in the next budget.
One would logically conclude from that letter that Interior had halted other studies costing more than $100,000.
But not so, reports Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia.
The Appalachian health study is the only one of eight current Interior-funded National Academies projects that has been put on even temporary hold. The other seven with $100,000-plus price tags are proceeding. Interior also is continuing to fund research into cleaning up oil spills and a review of U.S. Geological Survey laboratories.
Besides, the funding for the health study was set aside by OSM in 2016 and so can’t help solve future budget crunches. As former OSM head Joe Pizarchik told CNHI’s Washington bureau, any money saved from canceling the study would revert to the federal treasury not reduce Interior Department expenses.
Pizarchik, who ordered the health study last year, said the Trump administration’s explanation “doesn’t hold water.”
No, it doesn’t.
Reporters have tried to get the truth from the Interior Department, to no avail.
But it’s an old familiar story: Protecting coal industry profits almost always gets top priority among the government agencies that are supposed to protect the public from the effects of mining. President Donald Trump, who is filling his administration with people from the industries they’re supposed to regulate, has promised to put miners back to work by cutting regulations. It’s a dubious promise in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia where depleted coal seams are making mining unprofitable.
But, whether or not Trump can breathe new life into a declining industry, coal will still being mined and people will still be living in the mountains. They’ll be having babies, raising families, breathing the air and drinking the water. The effects of surface mining do not end when active mining stops.
People will always be living near the toxins-laced rubble unearthed by surface mining and spread in massive engineered fills across headwater streams. Millions of people downstream depend on the waters that rise in the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia.
It’s not a forgone conclusion that the 11 highly qualified scientists who were analyzing what we know and don’t know will validate links between surface mining and health problems in people who live nearby.
If links were confirmed by this study or future studies triggered by this study, it would be incumbent on the coal industry and the government to mitigate the harm. And that might cost the industry some money. And that is why the study has been halted. Once again, coal industry profits triumph over the people who are left behind when the mining ends.
Daily News of Bowling Green on the death of Western Kentucky University basketball-great Jim McDaniels:
Western Kentucky University lost a towering presence Wednesday.
Jim McDaniels, whose brilliant basketball career culminated in the Hilltoppers’ only appearance in the NCAA Final Four in 1971, died Wednesday at age 69. His legacy at WKU went far beyond his spectacular play - McDaniels served for decades as a tireless supporter and representative of the school he once lifted to dizzying heights as a basketball player.
A constant presence at E.A. Diddle Arena and around campus in the years since he moved back to the region where he grew up, the Scottsville native provided a shining example for WKU’s men’s basketball program - past, present and future.
A slender 7-footer with a deadly shooting touch, McDaniels was a star the minute he stepped on campus in Bowling Green. Due to NCAA rules of the time, McDaniels didn’t get to suit up for the varsity team as a freshman. By the time his sophomore year rolled around, McDaniels was primed to make an impact. He was the unquestioned star on that 1968-69 WKU squad that finished 16-10 and third in the Ohio Valley Conference. He averaged a double-double with 24.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.
But McDaniels was just getting started for the Hilltoppers. As a junior, he won OVC Player of the Year honors after averaging another double-double with 28.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game, leading coach John Oldham’s squad to the OVC regular-season title with a perfect 14-0 mark and a spot in the NCAA Tournament as the Hilltoppers went 22-3 overall.
As a senior in 1970-71, McDaniels managed to increase his output yet again as he averaged 29.3 points and 15.1 rebounds per game, winning another OVC Player of the Year honor leading the Tops back to the NCAA Tournament as conference champions.
McDaniels proved nearly unstoppable in the NCAA tournament, leading the Tops to a thrilling 74-72 win over Artis Gilmore-led Jacksonville in the opening round before helping demolish Kentucky 107-83 in the second round. After battling to an 81-78 overtime win over Ohio State to reach the Final Four, the Hilltoppers faltered when McDaniels fouled out late in a 92-89 overtime loss to Villanova. WKU regrouped to beat Kansas 77-75 in the NCAA third-place game.
Those NCAA wins were later vacated after an investigation ruled McDaniels had signed a pro contract before the tournament, a mistake McDaniels always regretted afterward.
After finishing his career with 2,238 points - still tied for first all-time in program history with current NBA guard Courtney Lee, although McDaniels played one less season - and still WKU’s leader in career field goals (935), career scoring average (27.6 points per game) and double-doubles (74), McDaniels embarked on a professional career in the ABA and NBA that lasted until 1978.
When he was ready to settle down and raise a family, McDaniels came home. In the years that followed, his support of the program he once raised to almost the pinnacle of college basketball never wavered. “Big Mac” was a Hilltopper, through and through.
Lexington Herald-Leader on Gov. Matt Bevin seeking to outlaw abortion in Kentucky:
In case there were any lingering doubts, a trial in federal court in Louisville last week made this much clear: Gov. Matt Bevin is seeking to effectively outlaw abortion in Kentucky - something the U.S. Supreme Court has long ruled states cannot do.
The three days of testimony also made clear that Bevin’s administration has used underhanded tactics to accomplish its unconstitutional goal.
U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers heard evidence of how a Louisville hospital was threatened with loss of funding unless it canceled a transfer agreement with Planned Parenthood, which needed the document to be licensed to perform abortions in Louisville.
Courts would never have upheld the withholding of Medicaid funding. But the University of Louisville Hospital, then managed by KentuckyOne, canceled anyway. Few hospitals would risk clashing with Bevin, who often displays a vindictive streak.
The judge also heard how the administration in June enacted emergency regulations also intended to make it more difficult if not impossible to comply with the 1998 law mandating that abortion providers have transfer agreements with a hospital and ambulance service. Why did rules based on a 19-year-old law suddenly need tightening? Only to justify harassment of abortion providers.
Bevin is using the regulation to try to shut down EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, currently the state’s only abortion clinic.
Transfer agreements have no medical value. Even a witness for the administration testified that there is no research or medical evidence that the agreements protect patients. Abortion is extremely safe, on par with oral surgery. Hospitals are required by federal law to treat all emergencies; ambulances come when you dial 911, no previous agreement required.
The legislature enacted the law at the behest of the anti-abortion lobby, but not until Bevin became governor was it wielded in ways that clearly run afoul of a Supreme Court ruling issued in 2016. In that case, the court struck down a Texas law that imposed medically unnecessary restrictions that closed more than half of the state’s abortion providers.
Laws and rules that result in “fewer doctors, longer waiting times, and increased crowding” at clinics, or force patients to drive “more than 150 miles” create an “undue burden” not allowed by the Constitution, the court ruled.
Bevin’s lawyer, Steve Pitt, argued that forcing Kentuckians to travel to other states to end a pregnancy is not an undue burden and that the administration is seeking only to protect patients - an argument that is as flimsy as Bevin’s real motives are clear.
The administration, which also shut down a clinic that provided first trimester abortions in Lexington, has yet to produce evidence of harm to a single patient of an abortion provider.
Like many Kentuckians, Bevin staunchly opposes abortion. That’s his right, but Kentucky has too many needs to keep wasting state money and resources on unconstitutional attacks on women’s rights.
Judge Stivers, who had blocked the state from closing Kentucky’s last abortion clinic, gave the lawyers 60 days to file final briefs, before he makes what should be an easy ruling.
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