- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

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Jan. 21

The Lexington Herald-Leader on an encounter between Native American marchers and Kentucky high school students:

It’s worth thinking about the rush to harshly condemn a Kentucky high school student on the basis of some cellphone images and his red MAGA hat.



The episode, which has produced threats of violence, is both a sign - and a cause - of our country’s powder keg of political division.

Even the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which exists to protect the Bill of Rights, quickly tweeted out its disapproval. The ACLU assumed the students from Covington Catholic High School had committed “racial intimidation.” Yet, as the ACLU well knows, displaying political slogans (including those of our noxious president) and “taunting” are forms of expression protected by the First Amendment (if, indeed, taunting occurred).

The teen who came in for the most vilification was savaged for smiling - quickly labeled a “smirk” - at a Native American activist who was drumming and singing.

Our goal here is not to assign blame but to suggest that perhaps no one who joined the cacophony of voices at the Lincoln Memorial on Friday had malign motives. Maybe none of them deserve the virtual tar and feathers.

We’re all for holding the powerful accountable, especially the cowering politicians riding the coattails of President Donald Trump’s demagoguery and race-baiting. But can’t we stand up for what we believe without tearing each other apart? Surely, we can grant kids (even kids wearing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats) some slack.

The snap judgments were based on a provocative image. But as more video became public and news reporters had time to work, a fuller picture emerged that made the harsh condemnations look premature, simplistic and a massage for preexisting beliefs and biases.

The Native American activist, Nathan Phillips, 64, … said that he walked into the crowd of students, while earlier accounts on social media suggested the students, waiting for a bus to take them home, had mobbed Phillips.

Somehow social media strips any benefit of the doubt. People shared vile conclusions, even before hearing the students’ accounts. Compassionate people who in person would probably engage a young Trump supporter in a spirited respectful conversation were happy on social media to throw the kids like chum to sharks, inflaming the kind of people who threaten schools.

The Diocese of Covington, which sent teenage boys to march against the rights of adult women as part of an annual anti-abortion rally, quickly condemned its own students - including for making the anti-abortion march look bad.

That all this unfolded on the long weekend when we celebrate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. should remind us that King, a warrior for human rights, also extended the hand of peace to his enemies. …

Online: https://www.kentucky.com/

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Jan. 16

The Daily News of Bowling Green on the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources:

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources does a lot of good for those who love to hunt and fish.

On a yearly basis, it teaches youths about conservation and how to handle a firearm safely. It teaches them how to fish and an array of other worthwhile things, and the department and its staff should be commended for doing so. Additionally, game wardens who work for the department perform a very important and sometimes dangerous job while out in the field. They ensure that hunters and fishermen have licenses and proper registration and insurance for boating. They also cite or arrest the bad guys who fail to abide by our state laws, whether it be baiting a dove field, killing over their bag limit or keeping too many fish or undersized fish.

We admire the job these game wardens do on a daily basis.

But last month, a scathing audit came out of state Auditor Mike Harmon’s office in which he questioned funds spent on alcohol, meals, prepaid debit cards and outside contracts that were poorly monitored. Earlier last year, a state ethics panel charged two supervisors at Fish and Wildlife with interfering with an investigation of a member of the Fish and Wildlife Commission, who himself was charged with obstructing legal duck hunting near his property in Franklin County by dumping corn along a creek. In his December audit, Harmon said Fish and Wildlife officials promoted their agency as receiving no tax dollars from the state’s General Fund. However, it still should be held accountable because it receives about $70 million a year in public funds, Harmon said, including state hunting and fishing fees and federal grants that come from taxes on outdoor activities.

This audit by Harmon seems to be very thorough and precise and shows that real change is needed at the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission.

We hoped for change on the commission after Harmon’s scathing report, but it appears there will be no change, unfortunately. Here’s why: They hired within the department a member of the wildlife commission. It’s been announced that Rick Storm is the new commissioner of the wildlife commission. Here’s the problem: He was the insider who interviewed the job applicants for the position he now holds.

Some Kentucky sportsmen are publicly protesting Storm’s hiring from within, saying that Harmon’s critical audit - only the latest in a series of problems at Fish and Wildlife - is clear evidence that changes are needed at the agency.

Retired Army Col. Michael Abell said that he was one of three finalists for the commissioner’s job. When he was informed by email Dec. 21 that he had not been chosen, Abell said, he assumed one of the other finalists was hired, and since they both were qualified, he did not think much more of it.

But when he learned Storm, who interviewed him for the job, had been picked, that offended him.

“They just got this audit calling for a change,” Abell said. “Mr. Storm has been a part of leadership over there. So how do you have a change in culture when you’re putting him in charge?”

We couldn’t have said it any better than Abell. Putting someone in charge of the wildlife commission such as Storm will just be more of the same.

This really is a public relations nightmare for the wildlife commission. There is no transparency in the current culture of the wildlife commission and this hiring simply makes it look worse. They need to strongly reconsider the hiring of Storm and hire someone who is unaffiliated with the commission and who will actually turn things around, not keep things the same.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Jan. 19

The Daily Independent of Ashland on prescriptions for opioid medications:

We think part of the problem with combatting the opioid epidemic these days is that a lot of people have what we would describe as opioid news story fatigue. Every time you turn around there is a new story about how prolific and devastating the opioid problem is. Every story is warranted - no doubt about it. All one has to do is look around in the Tri-State and one quickly realizes this.

A recently story published, however, caught our attention more than others. The story from HealthDay reporter E.J. Mundell documented how opioid prescriptions are much more likely in rural America than urban America. Wow. That seems hard to believe but, according to the report, it is, in fact, correct.

The story was anchored on a study by Athenahealth, which is a data management firm for doctors and hospitals. Highlights from Mundell’s reporting indicate:

- Prescriptions for opioid medications have been declining.

- The decline hasn’t been the same everywhere, according to researchers led by CDC investigator Macarena Garcia. Her team reports that patients in “the most rural counties had an 87 percent higher chance of receiving an opioid prescription compared with persons in large central metropolitan counties during the study period.”

- Just 5 percent of patients living in the most urban counties had received an opioid prescription over the past year, compared to 9 percent of those in the most rural counties.

The HealthDay report went on to say the findings should serve as an alert regarding prescribing habits in rural areas. We certainly agree - however, we also believe that there has already been a significant decline in prescriptions given the overwhelming evidence of how harmful these pharmaceuticals have been to our society.

The irony of all this is that the problem, in our view, has shifted. There is so much attention being paid to medical prescriptions of opioids, etc., but the problem has morphed into a problem of illegal street narcotics like heroin, fentanyl and, once again, methamphetamine. Local law enforcement has told us as much - that while the national debate continues as to pharmaceuticals, it is now the illegal narcotics that are crushing people, overwhelming our criminal justice system and jails.

This is certainly important information to be had. As the problem morphs so must our public policy. We also know from history that every effort to eliminate the dissemination of illegal, hardcore narcotics has been made, yet their presence persists. Our belief is the long-term solution is found in treatment for those who are committed to surviving this scourge, and over the long-term, prolific education campaigns for our youth about the devastating impacts of substance abuse. Education, again, is the true key to combatting opioids. If we can document for young people what using heroin truly does to people in a short period of time, instead of just talking about it, very few would ever have any desire to do it.

Online: http://www.dailyindependent.com

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