- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

UA, faculty need to find solutions quickly

Akron Beacon Journal

Aug. 22

Gary Miller stepped up the warnings. The president of the University of Akron argued that if the faculty did not approve a proposed labor contract, “we will unfortunately exhaust our precious reserves as we take many, many months, time we do not have, to fight legal battles.” He added that rejecting the contract would “cause many more faculty to lose their jobs.”

In the end, the faculty voted against ratification, and now both sides wait as the arbitration process unfolds. Yet there is something they could do that would serve well the university and the community. They could keep talking, working harder to find the compromises necessary to generate sufficient savings.

Recall that the faculty defeated the contract by a relatively narrow margin, 184 opposed to the deal and 159 giving their approval. That suggests room for adjustments, leading to a majority ultimately saying yes.

More, the pieces are there with which to work, including pay cuts and employees picking up a larger share of their health care coverage. If both sides have overreached in attempting to send messages, Miller in his threats, the Faculty Senate in calling for the UA trustees to resign, they also share an understanding: The university must take the difficult steps to shore up its troubled finances, made far worse by the fallout from the novel coronavirus.

True, the university contributed to its problem through the cost of constructing a more campus-like setting. The oversized football stadium was a glaring error. Yet much of the building made sense at the time as the university sought to become more appealing to potential students. What’s especially made things tough is the steady decline in state support for higher education, plus changing demographics, fewer young people now of college age.

Those explanations aren’t an invitation to take a pass. UA, crucial to the future of the city and region, must deal with its shortfall. Already, the matter of how it does so has received national attention, other universities knowing they may face something similar.

Why not, then, show leadership worth emulating by sitting down to work through the impasse? The arbitration centers on whether the contract allows the university in this moment to cite extraordinary circumstances as permitting layoffs without regard to tenure or ranking. Yet the way to an agreement involves those provisions covering pay, benefits and conditions. Again, such items are available for the two sides to discuss.

Perhaps it is naïve to think the parties can put hard feelings aside, as each looks to prevail with the arbitrator. Yet whatever way the ruling falls, the two still must contend with each other for the long term. That is the hard reality, and an additional argument for talking now.

Worth noting is that something else looms. Remember Eric Fingerhut, the man in charge of higher education under then Gov. Ted Strickland? He brought an important measure of coherence to the university system in Ohio. He also floated the concept of a University of Northeast Ohio, that is, Kent State, UA and Cleveland State operating essentially as one.

Not surprisingly, the idea met resistance and faded from the scene. Of late, similar speculation has started to surface. Might UA merge with Kent State? Or become part of Ohio State, as in Ohio State at Akron?

What group of UA trustees wants to see such an outcome during its tenure, becoming the answer to the question of who lost the university? That may seem far-fetched. Yet the problems at the university are serious enough that UA trustees and officials have reason to see the speculation as an incentive to take the lead and get back to negotiation.

Online: https://bit.ly/3jbh7vK


It’s time for GOP to stop making voting harder

Columbus Dispatch

Aug. 25

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose tends to dispel the idea that Republicans want to discourage easy voting, but his partisan colleagues in the Statehouse and elsewhere seem determined to reinforce it.

In June, Republican lawmakers flirted with significantly cutting voting access via a bill that would have eliminated the final weekend of early in-person voting before the Nov. 3 election and would have barred LaRose from sending absentee ballot applications to registered voters. LaRose didn’t favor either of those cutbacks.

The Dispatch long has contended that both the voter fraud claimed by some Republicans and the voter suppression claimed by some Democrats are virtually nonexistent, but it’s getting harder to avoid the conclusion that some Republicans flat-out want to make voting harder.

Why else reduce early-voting days - the most popular ones, in fact - in the middle of a public-health emergency, and why forbid mailing absentee ballot applications when your Republican secretary of state wants to do it and has federal funds for it and such mailings have become common practice in even-year elections in Ohio?

Ohio is fortunate that those provisions were beaten back, but neither opposition Democrats nor LaRose has been able to move lawmakers toward other changes needed to ensure an inclusive election in this chaotic year.

The fact that the secretary of state’s office will be mailing every registered voter an absentee ballot request is great, but many voters would like to get one sooner - with COVID-19 concerns seemingly changing daily and President Donald Trump and his allies actively undermining the U.S. Postal Service, you can’t be too careful.

But getting an absentee ballot in Ohio requires voters to snail-mail an application to the secretary of state’s office and wait for the office to snail-mail the ballot back. There is no reason voters shouldn’t be able to apply for a ballot online, and LaRose has urged lawmakers to approve it, but Republicans have refused.

Voting advocates clash with LaRose on this one; they say the law doesn’t prohibit an online application and he should simply create one, but he insists he needs a law change. The same goes for allowing more than one drop box per county for people who want to deliver their absentee ballots in person. LaRose has ordered every county board of elections to have a drop box at its office, but maintains he can’t allow more than one without legislative action.

Illustrating the political divide, Franklin County’s all-Democratic Board of Commissioners last week called on LaRose to allow more secure drop boxes while their Delaware County counterparts, all Republicans, urged the opposite.

LaRose has come up with a good response for critics on the drop box issue: He’s asking the state Controlling Board to allow him to spend $3 million, available in his own budget, to prepay the postage for returning absentee ballots - another obvious convenience blocked by Statehouse Republicans. If the Controlling Board takes the high road and approves use of the funds, then LaRose says every blue U.S. mailbox in the state will, in effect, be a free ballot drop box.

Whether the Trump administration will make good on its promise to stop removing mailboxes and otherwise sabotaging the Postal Service is another question.

However imperfect in the view of Democrats, LaRose’s voting-access efforts are commendable. And the consistent obstruction by other Republicans tends toward voter suppression.

Online: https://bit.ly/34z9zz2


Seeking emergency medical help and routine care are as critical as ever, even during COVID-19

Clevland Plain Dealer

Aug. 23

Did your kids get their well-child checkups and shots this spring and summer, before school starts? Have you and members of your immediate family visited the dentist or gotten your eyes checked since the pandemic started?

When you felt that sharp pain in your chest or arm, or had a spell of debilitating shortness of breath or dizziness or unusual fatigue, did you head right to the emergency room?

Or, did you hesitate?

If you answered in the negative to any of these questions, you need to rethink your decisions. Keeping Jim and Janey current on their childhood vaccinations is critical. Preserving dental and eye health is important for everyone. And no one should think twice about going to the emergency room with signs of heart trouble or possible stroke — it can mean the difference between life and death.

And when the flu season hits, as it soon will, getting a flu shot will also be important, to help fend off the non-COVID-19 fever and chills for which, at least, we have the ability to get a shot.

Yet the evidence suggests many people have hesitated to see the doctor for needed care during this pandemic. The falloff in both routine care and emergency-room visits has greatly alarmed pediatricians, heart doctors and others.

In April, cardiac specialists from all three of Cleveland’s major hospitals wrote in a cleveland.com op-ed that they were seeing double-digit drops in the procedures used to treat two kinds of serious heart attacks — not what they might expect in such a high-stress time. They suggested that COVID-19 fears or confusion about symptoms could be deterring emergency-room visits, and leading to unnecessary deaths.

In late June, a doctor from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus reported during one of Gov. Mike DeWine’s regular coronavirus briefings that, statewide, childhood vaccinations were off by about 45%. As some schools reopen for in-person classes, if parents still haven’t caught their children up on needed shots, this gap could have serious consequences should herd immunity be affected, and children suddenly exposed to serious and potentially fatal childhood diseases like measles for which we have ample and effective vaccines.

During the closure of nonessential businesses, dental and eye clinics largely closed — but many if not most have reopened. Don’t let that cataract go undetected, or your cavities grow. If you have safety concerns, talk to the medical professionals in these offices and let them explain to you the precautions they are taking. Chances are, you will be reassured.

The return to normalcy which we all crave means keeping ourselves as healthy and fit as we can until then. Seeing to both routine and emergency health care needs is just as important as taking proper coronavirus precautions when we go out, shop or work.

It is our health, and our futures, that we will be preserving.

Online: https://bit.ly/32shGuf


Russia exploits our divisions

Toledo Blade

Aug. 24

Russia did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election by hacking into vote-counting machines or manipulating lists of eligible voters. Instead, it used social media to exacerbate social divisions where they already existed, exploiting the Black Lives Matter Movement, gun rights, abortion rights, and religion by inflaming activists on both sides of the issues.

Fractiousness in the United States is in Russia’s best interest. The more fissures Russia can exploit in American society - and the more turmoil it can generate anywhere in the world outside of Russia - the freer the hand it believes it has on the global stage. As author Robert Kagan put it, “The greatness Putin and many Russians seek cannot be achieved in a world that is secure and stable, in which the liberal order remains coherent and cohesive.”

Having already demonstrated that they are highly capable of dividing and confusing the American public, the Russians are once again using propaganda and misinformation to undermine public confidence in our system.

As confirmed earlier this month by the director of National Counterintelligence, William Evanina, Russia is actively engaged in efforts to denigrate former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.

This is Moscow’s revenge on Mr. Biden for the Obama Administration’s pro-Ukraine policies and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia. The Kremlin’s 2020 influence campaign consists of spreading claims about Mr. Biden corruption, while boosting President Trump’s presidency on social media.

The “mischiefs of faction” that James Madison warned us of do not have to be homegrown. Russian intelligence uses the freedoms that America offers - privacy, civil liberties, and free speech - to poison the discourse further in the very large echo chamber of social media where the majority of Americans receive their news.

While there are no statistical models that show a causal connection between a tweet and a changed vote, social-media users engage with misinformation the most, and once impressions are shared and reinforced, they become very hard to disabuse.

One way to disarm Russia is to stop treating our political opponents as domestic enemies. On social media, where Americans are vicious to one another, Russian trolls are simply following suit, simultaneously arming both sides of our culture war, further pitting Americans against one another.

In the age of Internet-based communications, we will never be able to completely eradicate bad actors from spreading mischief during our elections; however, the relentless stream of unfiltered information on social media - most of it nonsense - creates a distracted public that is easier to divide and manipulate.

Americans can measurably improve the public conversation, and weaken Russia’s influence on our democracy, by looking away from their screens and by looking at each other instead.

Online: https://bit.ly/34vmYbe


Parents in scandal lack moral compass

The Warren Tribune Chronicle

Aug. 25

Virtually all of the rich and powerful parents caught in the federal probe last year of cheating schemes meant to get their children into prestigious colleges and universities have insisted their hearts were in the right place. They just wanted to help their children. What mom or dad cannot understand that?

But there is more to it, as the case involving entertainer Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli demonstrates. Last week, they joined about 30 others who have pleaded guilty to federal charges in the college admissions scandal.

Working with an admissions consultant Rick Singer, the two concocted a lie intended to get their daughters into the University of Southern California. It revolved around getting them admitted as members of the USC crew team, though the two had never participated in the sport.

Elaborate lies including staged pictures of one daughter looking “like a real athlete” and fake sports profiles were used.

Perhaps most disturbing, the daughters appear to have known something nefarious was afoot. Prosecutors say the girls were “complicit in crime.”

When their high school counselor questioned the daughters’ faked credentials as crew athletes, Giannulli confronted him angrily.

Bottom line: Both Loughlin and Giannulli - and perhaps their daughters - knew very well that what they were doing was wrong and illegal.

Last week, an angry federal judge sentenced Loughlin to two months in prison and Giannulli to five months. Community service work was required, as was a total of $400,000 in fines.

It doesn’t seem adequate. Loughlin and Giannulli not only tried to use their wealth and power to get what they wanted - they also corrupted their two daughters.

Like so many others caught in the scandal, however, Giannulli and Loughlin maintain they were blinded to right and wrong by their desire to help their children.

Baloney. The vast majority of parents, we think, understand one of the best gifts they can give children is a solid moral compass. Clearly, those in the cheating scandal had no such thing to pass on.

Online: https://bit.ly/2YyI3xv


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