Recent Missouri Editorials

Recent Missouri Editorials

Jefferson City News-Tribune, Nov. 23

We support Gov. Mike Parson’s statewide campaign to inform youth of the dangers of vaping.

The state has said that as of Nov. 15, there have been 35 cases of vaping-related lung injuries in Missouri, including two deaths. Most of the cases involve people between the ages of 15-24.

There still is much research needed on vaping, and many questions that need to be answered.

We’re concerned about potential health issues of vaping. But, in lieu of more information, we’re concerned of the increasing castigation of an entire industry offered as a healthier alternative to smoking.

There’s no question that nicotine is addictive. But so is caffeine.

How bad is nicotine?

It can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, flow of blood to the heart and a narrowing of the arteries. It can affect the heart, hormones and gastrointestinal system.

But what nicotine doesn’t do might be overlooked: It doesn’t cause cancer. In addition, some studies suggest nicotine may improve memory and concentration.

Nicotine is particularly bad for the human body when combined with carbon monoxide. But vaping eliminates that combination that exists for smokers.

So far, the biggest problem we see in vaping is from people who are misusing their vaping devices.

Most of the deaths and health problems associated with vaping are from people who have used e-cigarette/vaping products with THC, which uses vitamin E acetate as a thickening additive. The CDC has identified vitamin E acetate as a “chemical of concern” regarding vaping lung injuries, though “evidence is not yet sufficient to rule out contribution of other chemicals of concern” to the vaping-associated lung injuries.

Properly vaping with flavored nicotine, at least for the most part, doesn’t seem to be what’s causing these acute health problems/deaths. Yet that distinction seems to be lost by a blanket condemnation of the industry.

But like we said, nicotine itself isn’t healthy, and it isn’t appropriate for minors. The state’s push to keep these products out of the hands of children is a good thing.


Kansas City Star, Nov. 25

When the Mid-Continent Public Library scheduled a program called “Trans 101,” the aim was to educate, provide information about transgender issues and answer questions from community members.

Sadly, and somewhat predictably, the effort to launch an honest, inclusive conversation aimed at an adult audience prompted hostile, misinformed complaints — including some from members of Mid-Continent’s board of trustees who questioned whether libraries should be leading such a discussion.

Libraries serve everyone, regardless of their origin, age, background, views or gender identity. As central gathering places open to everyone in the community, they are precisely the right location for these types of conversations.

Riley Long, a transgender man, has presented the “Trans 101” forums at library branches in Lee’s Summit, Buckner and Blue Springs, fielding questions and discussing issues facing members of the LGBTQ community.

“We’re all people,” Long said. “We’re everywhere in the world. We just want to be treated like everyone else.”

Library staff scheduled the events after learning that young transgender people were being ostracized in eastern Jackson County.

“The program was developed in response to requests from community members who felt the information would be helpful for themselves and their families, especially in light of challenges faced by the local LGBTQ community,” Library Director and CEO Steve Potter wrote in an update on Mid-Continent’s website.

But Long’s appearances have sparked opposition — and offensive comments — from two library trustees and some others in the community. Potter noted in his post that much of the response has come from those who did not actually attend the program.

In a recent letter to the Platte County Landmark newspaper, trustee Rita Wiese argued that the library is no place for transgender programming, even suggesting that such conversations lead to the sexual exploitation of children.

“A once safe community setting known as the public library has become a space that, in the guise of intellectual freedom, wants to change thinking on voyeurism and gender confusion, while promoting materials and programs that lead children toward being sexually exploited,” Wiese wrote.

She did not reply to messages from The Star seeking comment. But Wiese’s wrong-headed, inflammatory words speak for themselves. And they are in conflict with the library’s stated mission of inclusiveness.

At last week’s board of trustees meeting, about a dozen people spoke out both in favor of and against transgender-focused initiatives at the library.

LGBTQ advocate Inoru Wade of Gladstone and other witnesses said that trustee Yummy Pandolfi asked the board: What else are we going to provide? How to be a criminal? How to make a bomb?

Pandolfi said her words were taken out of context and that she did not ask those questions in succession.

“I was asking what are the criteria for choosing library content,” she said. “Is it simply based on a majority … or are there other criteria? I used the above examples to illustrate that these decisions are not solely based on majority opinion.”

It should go without saying that there’s no acceptable context for comparing “Trans 101” to “How to be a criminal.”

Wiese expressed concerns that small children were being perverted by programs such as “Trans 101,” Wade said. And she asked if the board would allow a program on de-transitioning, the reversal of a transgender identification.

Pandolfi and Wiese are just two of the library’s 12 trustees. The county commissions in Clay and Platte counties and the Jackson County Executive appoint four members each on an annual basis. Pandolfi and Wiese represent Platte County.

Trustees Steve Roling of Jackson County and Ronald Thiewes of Clay County spoke in favor of diverse programming, Wade said.

Michelle Wycoff, president of the board of trustees, said Pandolfi and Wiese do not speak for the board.

“The library is a place that is welcoming to everyone,” she said.

It should be. And discriminatory, exclusionary rhetoric from two trustees violates the library’s own standards.

Mid-Continent Public Library is a partner of the National Safe Place initiative, an outreach program for young people in need of immediate help and safety. Library facilities are considered safe locations for the public.

Offering inclusive and equitable programming is part of Mid-Continent’s mission. If trustees can’t support that objective, they should reconsider their service on the library board.

“The commentary from board members … is extremely alarming and harmful,” said Crayola Bolger, a Mid-Continent librarian. She spoke at the meeting as a private citizen. “It is hostile and unwelcoming. It is, in fact, the opposite of everything a library should be: welcoming, safe, open to all, and above all, providing access to all information, not just what gatekeepers deem tasteful.”

Those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning their own sexuality still face bullying, harassment, violence and discrimination with alarming frequency. The library, which has long been a leading convener in the community, has an important opportunity to help foster understanding and promote inclusion.

It’s a shame that some members of the Mid-Continent Public Library’s board of trustees appear to have made it their mission to divide and exclude.


Joplin Globe, Nov. 24

Our long history with mining and its consequences should have wised us up.

Reckless, cavalier, indifferent treatment of the environment always comes back on us, and the price is severe — incalculable environmental wreckage, inestimable human misery.

It’s worth keeping in mind as we talk about the latest environmental threat.

More than 170 years after mining first got underway in the Tri-State Mining District, more than a half-century since the last of it ended, we’re still cleaning up.

We’re at $700 million and counting so far, and if you take a casual Sunday drive around the region you can see how far we have yet to go.

Known expenses and financial commitments going forward are pushing another $250 million.

It’s a good bet we’ll still be cleaning up the Tri-State Mining District when we’re 200 years out from the discovery of lead in the region.

In terms of time, money and human health, it is an expensive lesson to ignore.

Which is why we can’t afford to be reckless, cavalier or indifferent about the latest study from the federal Government Accountability Office. The GAO examined links between climate change and Superfund sites — such as those that were handed down to us within the Tri-State Mining District — and concluded that worsening storms as a result of climate change are threatening environmental and human health by spreading pollution from these sites to our air, water and soil.

Two years ago, Hurricane Harvey flooded more than a dozen Superfund sites in the Houston area, with breaches reported at two. East of Houston along the San Jacinto River, record rains as part of Harvey washed away a temporary cap on a 40-acre Superfund site, exposing contaminated material. Testing afterward found dioxin at more than 2,000 times the maximum recommended level.

In effect, one generation of pollution — greenhouse gases causing climate change — stir up, aggravate and disseminate an earlier generation of pollutants.

The GAO report concluded that at least 60% of U.S. Superfund sites are in areas vulnerable to worsening weather disasters — hurricanes, wildfires and flooding.

The latter is putting sites in the Midwest at risk. Scientists aren’t as confident about the link between climate change and tornadoes, so they didn’t include that risk — but it wouldn’t take much to convince us.

Thirty years ago, in some of the Globe’s first interviews with climate scientists developing models for what to expect in our corner of the world, we were warned what would happen. They told us then that our weather would swing toward extremes — that whatever kind of weather we get normally, we would get in spades.

They were right.

We didn’t take the environment seriously when it came to mining. We’re failing to act aggressively now.



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