Editorial voices from elsewhere

August 29, 2014

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States as compiled by the Associated Press:

Chicago Sun-Times

Gov. Pat Quinn signed a couple of bills last week to make it easier for voters to get rid of unnecessary and wasteful units of government.

This is nice because Illinois is the king of boutique governments, tiny tax-soaking entities that often handle a single job, such as street lighting or storm drainage. Illinois has 6,968 units of government in all, 42 percent more than the distant runner-up, Pennsylvania.

But the bills Quinn signed are fly swatters at a garbage dump. They won’t help much.

While the Legislature and Quinn deserve credit for passing and signing the bills, the whole business mostly serves to remind us of what a mess we’ve made of grass-roots democracy in this state. Voters can’t possibly have a clue about all these obscure little governments.

The League of Women Voters got nowhere trying to eliminate redundant township governments in the 1970s, and collar-county referendums failed to do the same thing in the 1990s. Efforts in Springfield in more recent years to give the state power to ax local governments and consolidate school districts met the same fate.

Merging units of government requires strong local support because it is complicated. Decisions have to be made about what the new tax rates and levels of service will be and what will happen to contracts signed by the governmental entity that will be no more.

Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.

The horrifying murder of American journalist James Foley by Islamic extremists has shocked the world and provided chilling evidence of the brutality of the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS.

But it also is a grim reminder of the immense danger journalists face in a war zone or any regime which values its political interests over press freedom.

The international Committee to Protect Journalists reports on its website that prior to Foley’s death this week, 39 journalists around the world were killed in 2014, largely for just trying to do their jobs.

Many more are imprisoned – 211, according to the committee’s most recent count – a figure that has been escalating since governments around the world expanded anti-terrorism and security laws in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

Few events rival the sheer horror of Foley’s execution.

Yet, the public should remember that somewhere in world, nearly every day, a journalist is risking incarceration or death by simply trying to report the news.

The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun

With legalization initiatives spreading, voters need accurate information on the health effects of marijuana. But cannabis research is thin, thanks to onerous federal restrictions.

That must change. A scientifically rigorous understanding of marijuana’s impacts and potential is necessary in order to set clear and wise public policies. This is a substance, after all, that has major implications for society, from medicine to criminal justice.

Government should be encouraging such research, not stifling it. But, as a recent New York Times article explained, scientists face numerous hurdles when they attempt to conduct studies on marijuana.

It is officially classified as a Schedule I drug, the category reserved for substances considered to have a high potential for abuse and no demonstrated medical value.

Scientists who want to legally do research on marijuana must undergo a three-layer permitting process involving multiple federal agencies.

The marijuana must come exclusively from the University of Mississippi’s farm – the sole source allowed to grow it.

These time-consuming restrictions discourage the very thing that is needed: diverse, accurate, objective science on a subject of great public interest.



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