Editorials from around Pennsylvania

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 27, 2014 at 11:26 am •  Published: August 27, 2014
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Montgomery County prosecutors have not yet decided whether to take this case before the state Supreme Court.

They should. Some, including Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman, see this as a matter of public safety.

Coupled with the fact that three Superior Court judges believe the majority overstepped is reason enough to request a review before the state's highest court.

— (Lancaster) Intelligencer Journal.

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PATIENTS BECOME ADDICTS

The gateway to heroin isn't necessarily on some darkened street corner or alley — for many, it's in their doctors' offices.

These people turn to the illicit drug after becoming hooked on prescription opioids like Oxycodone, according to those on the front lines of America's heroin epidemic.

When it becomes harder or more expensive to get pharmaceuticals, abusers switch to the cheaper, more readily available street drug for their fixes.

Experts say that partly explains the explosion in heroin use and overdose deaths around the country.

According to The Partnership at Drugfree.org, the number of Americans who reported past-year use climbed from 373,000 in 2007 to 620,000 in 2011.

Pennsylvania now ranks third for heroin abuse.

Roughly corresponding to this trend is a sharp spike in the number of heroin-related deaths — 45 percent from 2006 to 2010, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy reports.

Here in York County, the coroner has recorded 28 confirmed and four suspected heroin or opioid deaths so far this year, a shocking increase over the 17 for all of 2013.

Unfortunately, that number almost surely will rise in the final four months of 2014.

The local community has responded with a heroin task force made up of representatives from law enforcement, the courts and the coroner's office, while private citizens have organized anti-heroin rallies and information sessions.

Educating friends and family about spotting heroin users and getting them help, as well as cracking down on dealers and suppliers, are helpful tools.

But tackling addiction before it begins is an absolutely crucial part of combating the problem.

The federal government last week announced it will finally add new restrictions on hundreds of medicines that contain the highly addictive hydrocodone — more than a decade after the Drug Enforcement Administration first made the recommendation.

In about a month, patients will find it harder to acquire drugs like Vicodin and Lortab. They'll be limited to a 90-day supply and will have to see a health care professional in person to get a refill.

The federal effort comes on the heels of new state guidelines, announced this summer, that urge Pennsylvania doctors to use restraint and caution in prescribing opioids to patients.

The recommendations are similar to those already in place at WellSpan Interventional Pain Management, according to Dr. To-Nhu Vu, medical director of the York Township practice.

"This is something that, within our system, we have been meeting and talking about for the past five years ... Truly, we're in the middle of an epidemic," she said.

It's time we all acknowledge that and join the effort to deal addiction — wherever it's found.

— The York Dispatch.

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LIBRARIES STILL VALUABLE TO COMMUNITIES:

Columnist Tim Worstall, a British contributor to the Forbes website, made a controversial suggestion last month that provoked a good bit of tongue-wagging and online chatter in response.

Worstall proposed we not merely cut funding to our libraries, but do away with them entirely and issue Amazon Kindles to every citizen instead, each with an unlimited subscription.

"For it's well known that only a small fraction of the population actually reads books at all," Worstall blithely explained, adding libraries became state enterprises because of "the specific attributes of books as physical objects in limited supply in any one location" and that, hence, "perhaps the habit of having these physical libraries with physical books also no longer needs to exist?"

Let's set aside for a minute the wide-eyed technological and free-market utopianism inherent in Worstall's argument, along with the limitations on what you could read even with an "unlimited" Kindle subscription that brings you only 600,000 titles and the fact a large number of people still prefer to read things printed on good, old-fashioned paper (and research has shown readers absorb fewer details and retain less information when they read from a Kindle rather than paper).

Stories that appeared in the Observer-Reporter on Sunday and Monday outlined how libraries in our community, and elsewhere, still are valuable assets and are evolving into institutions that offer a great deal more than dusty volumes that are hastily thumbed at term-paper time.

In fact, one has to wonder if Worstall has even visited a library lately.

On Sunday, Staff writer Karen Mansfield detailed how, along with books, libraries are becoming all-purpose media centers where patrons can download an assortment of material, including books and magazines. For people still wedded to consuming their movies and music from artifacts, there are DVDs and compact discs. By teaming up with other libraries, patrons are no longer restricted to what the library down the block has on its shelves.

Libraries are also places where people and community organizations can meet and individuals can freely access computers and the Internet. As Mansfield's story noted, in the overwhelming majority of the communities in which they are located, libraries are the only place where the public can use computers and get on the Internet at no cost.

According to Peggy Sang, the librarian at Canonsburg's Frank Sarris Public Library, "People still check out a lot of books; our circulation is higher than ever, especially in the children's department. But we are so much more than books."

Following Mansfield's story, on Monday, a front-page story by Joelle Smith explored how young people are discovering the basics of computer programming at the Peters Township Public Library through robots developed at Carnegie Mellon University.

It goes without saying the tremendous advances in our technology over the last couple of decades changed the way we work and the way we spend our off-hours.

Not many of us have pen pals anymore, few have record stores within an easy drive and no one has to go searching for change at a phone booth. But libraries shouldn't join this list of things that are either extinct or teetering on the edge of being so. They've lately experienced funding difficulties, but libraries shouldn't be allowed to vanish from the landscape.

Kristin Frazier, the librarian at Burgettstown's library, eloquently summed it up: "We need libraries. Where else can you preserve a wealth of information in a location that's accessible to everyone? I worry that people won't realize how important we are until we're not around."

— The (Washington) Observer-Reporter.

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DUMPING DUTIES: A FISHY AND PYRRHIC VICTORY

We can expect U.S. Steel to announce any day now that it will reverse course and keep open steel tubing plants in McKeesport and Bellville, Texas, saving the jobs of 280 workers, right?

After all, the International Trade Commission has cleared the way for tariffs on pipe used in oil and natural gas extraction, manufactured by six foreign nations and, supposedly, dumped in the United States at below-market prices thanks to subsidies by their respective governments.

Don't count on it. For in this particular case, "dumping" is a red herring.

As The Wall Street Journal dissected the matter in July, "the better explanation is that America's energy revolution is raising demand for steel piping, casing and other oil-country tubular goods. Low prices aren't a surprise given the worldwide glut caused by slowing growth in China and excess mill investment in China and the United States."

And the tariffs could hurt more in the long run, The Journal reminds, because they raise "prices on the many to benefit the protected few. The injured in this case will include untold workers, shareholders and customers of U.S. companies that use steel — especially domestic manufacturers that everyone professes to love. U.S. firms will have greater incentive to expand overseas where the tariffs don't apply, and household energy costs will be higher because of the added expense to drillers."

As anti-dumping "victories" go, this one is as fishy as it is Pyrrhic.

— Pittsburgh Tribune-Review