Recent editorials published in Nebraska newspapers

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 18, 2014 at 9:01 am •  Published: August 18, 2014
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McCook Daily Gazette. Aug. 12, 2014.

Combination of causes for a tragic death

Few deaths have been felt more deeply by more people than that of Robin Williams, who spent his life making other people happy only to fall victim to his own misery.

Comedy often sprouts from pain, and if Williams' brilliance as a performer is any indication, the pain must have been very deep indeed.

One of the world's most beloved celebrities, Williams spoke of feeling alone as he battled depression and substance abuse.

He truly wasn't alone, at least in facing those problems.

In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control reported, more people died from suicide than from car accidents.

Economic worry and widespread use of prescription painkillers have had made suicide danger to baby boomers like Williams, although wealth was no issue.

From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans age 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 13.7. Men are far more likely to take their own lives than women, 27.3 deaths per 100,000 for men compared to 8.1 for women.

"Robin was as sweet a man as he was funny," comedian Jimmy Kimmel tweeted Monday. "If you're sad, please tell someone."

But don't wait for friends or loved ones to tell you they are in despair.

Take action if someone begins talking about suicide in an ambivalent way.

Or, if someone who has been sober begins abusing substances again.

— Expresses hopelessness, the opinion that their problems are insurmountable or that people would be better off without them.

— Exhibits signs of depression such as fatigue, insomnia, apathy toward daily activities, sudden weight changes, loss of attention span or uncontrollable anger or sadness.

— Suddenly becomes calm after having contemplated suicide before, which can mean they've made a decision to do so.

— Begins setting affairs in order, such as straightening out finances or writing a new will.

Suicide, if that's what Williams' death is confirmed to have been, rarely stems from a single cause; most commonly it's from mental illness and substance abuse, both treatable diseases, if only help would have been sought, one more time.

In the end, that's the most tragic part of the story.

___

Omaha World-Herald. Aug. 17, 2014.

Feds should listen to concerns of ag

The country needs to protect the environment. It also needs a vibrant agricultural economy.

It should be possible to have both.

But farm and ranching organizations are voicing concerns about 371 pages of proposed federal water rules. The changes would require regulation of some types of small streams and ponds, roadside ditches, low-lying farm ground that floods at times and spots where water pools when it rains.

If the feds don't get this right, the result could be big complications for agricultural production and needless expense and delays for individual producers. The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the proposal could impose new costs on other industries as well.

Regulators say the proposals exempt an array of "normal farming activities." Ag groups disagree, saying that because of looseness in the proposed language, permits could be required in some instances before farmers and ranchers could put in or change drainage ditches; put in small dams and terracing; apply fertilizer, pesticides and manure; and use stock ponds for watering animals.

Regulators say they intend no restraint on land use. The American Farm Bureau Federation counters: "If a farmer cannot redirect a ditch to improve drainage on his soybean farm, then that is regulating land use."

Business groups express concern, saying that businesses might need a federal permit before building in areas containing what the feds' proposal deems "ephemeral streams." Such requirements "can take longer than 12 months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says. The same concerns apply to road building by state and local governments.

Reaching a workable solution will be possible only if regulators listen closely to the legitimate concerns being voiced by the private sector. Then the feds should nail down the regulatory language as tightly as possible to address specific problems.

The controversy began in March, when the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a sprawling package of regulations called "Waters of the United States."

Regulatory authority over these bodies of water has long been unclear. In 2001 and 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court chided federal agencies for failing to provide clear boundaries for their authority. In 2006, the court said the EPA could regulate small bodies of water that are part of a "significant nexus" connecting them to navigable waters.

The EPA's newest proposal aims at identifying those smaller bodies of water. The problem is defining which ones are part of that "nexus." It's more than semantics; there are real-world consequences for agriculture and industry if this issue is not handled responsibly.

Farm and ranching organizations say a host of activities would, for the first time, require federal permits that bring lengthy delays and added costs. Those critics note that even if regulators don't require permits, loosely written rules could lead to lawsuits against farmers and ranchers.

John Winkler, top administrator for the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, says there is "unanimous concern" among Nebraska's 23 NRDs over the EPA plan. "I believe it would affect terracing, all soil and erosion programs, all small dams," requiring them to receive federal permits for the first time, he said.

That's a major concern, Winkler said, because it normally takes three to five years to get a federal permit under water regulations.

Then there is the regulators' one-size-fits-all approach. "There's no flexibility on anything they do," he says, something Omahans know from the EPA's refusal to provide any leeway on the city's $2 billion sewer separation project.

EPA officials say they respect ag concerns and will address them. An EPA water administrator wrote: "The proposed Waters of the U.S. rule does not regulate new types of ditches, does not regulate activities on land. ... The proposal does not change the permitting exemption for stock ponds, does not require permits for normal farming activities like moving cattle and does not regulate puddles."

The EPA needs to live up to those reassurances by listening to critics and narrowing the new rules to reasonable, practical parameters.

Responsible environmental projection is sensible. Bureaucratic overreach and costly complications for agriculture and industry are not.

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