Summary of recent Tennessee newspaper editorials


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Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

Sept. 3

Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee, on DCS:

Over the past two days, we've heard explanations for the massive breakout of juvenile offenders at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center, from which six teenagers were still at large at the time of this writing.

The explanations have not been sufficient.

Teens broke out of their dorms, and then crawled under a weak spot in the chain-link fence around the youth center's perimeter. Thirty-two were able to leave the grounds; at this writing, 26 of those have been rounded up by Metro police or brought back by family members.

With just 16 adults to keep watch over 78 youths in 12 dormitories, the staff was "overwhelmed," said Department of Children's Services spokesman Rob Johnson. Attorney Everette Parrish, who represents civil rights of the youths at the facility, said the guards are not adequately staffed or adequately trained.

Common sense appears to be in short supply, as well. The staff did not notify police until nearly two hours after signs of trouble began Monday night. Whether that was because, as staff has said, they were unaware that teens had begun to slip out of the dorms amid the confusion, or because they didn't follow procedures, the extent of the problem is just as great.

DCS has struggled for a long time with its inability to take care of the kids. Now, that ineptitude is putting the general public at risk, not to mention local law enforcement officers, who must try to apprehend them. The six escapees who remain at large include teens with felony convictions for aggravated robbery and handgun violations. Yes, they are kids, but they also are a danger to others.

DCS has no excuse for this happening.

If Children's Services has the personnel to beef up staffing at Woodland Hills and has not chosen to do so, that is an administrative failure. If the agency lacks the resources to hire them, then Gov. Bill Haslam should share responsibility for this. DCS along with other state agencies has seen cutbacks over the past few years, but you cannot protect the public with a shoestring budget and a chain-link fence.

After the near-breakout at Woodland Hills in May and the two teen suicides at DCS' Mountain View Youth Development Center in East Tennessee this summer, the agency needs to act immediately to fix the mess at its youth development centers.



Sept. 9

The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on official birds:

What if the only Orioles in Baltimore were wearing baseball uniforms?

Most if not all of the states of the union have named an official state bird — Tennessee's is the mockingbird — to help identify what's characteristic of each state.

So it's ironic to learn that some bird species named as official may disappear from the states that named them. The culprit, says the Audubon Society, is climate change.

The mockingbird is not threatened in Tennessee, the society said, but experts calculate that if current climate trends continue, these "official" birds soon may be rare or nonexistent in their states:

— Mountain bluebird, Idaho and Nevada

— Brown pelican, Louisiana

— Baltimore oriole, Maryland

— Common loon, Minnesota

— Purple finch, New Hampshire

— Ruffed grouse, Pennsylvania

— California gull, Utah

— Hermit thrush, Vermont

— Wood thrush, District of Columbia.

The Audubon Society said climate warming affects bird populations as breeding seasons shift northward. The bald eagle may find its habitat decreased by 75 percent by the year 2080, the study estimates.

The society studied the climate sensitivity of 588 species, about three fourths of the number of known species. Of those 588, it found 314 that are either endangered or threatened in some way, enough to lose more than half their known geographic range by the end of the century.

These birds are like the caged canaries in a coal mine: Small warning signs that significant changes are taking place right under our noses.


Sept. 8

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on World Health Organization hurting:

Were it not for horribly misguided Islamic religious fanatics in northern Nigeria and tribal Pakistan, the World Health Organization might have been able to eradicate polio this year. And in fact the organization and its health care allies have succeeded in eliminating rinderpest, a disease affecting cattle that is deadly serious if you live in rural parts of the world where your existence depends on cattle.

Thus, in a world grown comfortable with the World Health Organization's track record of containing infectious diseases, the widespread assumption was that it would quickly be on top of the spreading Ebola outbreak. But because of severe budget cuts, First World complacency and Third World inability to implement World Health Organization guidelines, the Ebola outbreak in Africa has spread out of control and reached epidemic status.

The New York Times, in a story on a diminished organization's inability to cope, asked, "If WHO, the main United Nations health agency, could not quickly muster an army of experts and health workers to combat an outbreak overtaking some of the world's poorest countries, then what entity in the world would do it?"

The immediate answer is that there is none, the heroic efforts of aid organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the Carter Center notwithstanding. The World Health Organization has been so hollowed out that its director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, told the Times it was a fantasy to think of her agency as a first responder ready to lead the fight against deadly outbreaks around the world.

Cruelly, the most effective way of combating an unexpected epidemic is to have it occur in a relatively prosperous country. Once the Chinese government owned up to the existence of the deadly pneumonia known as SARS, the disease was contained within a year thanks to hundreds of millions donated by wealthy individuals concerned about the welfare of their workforces. But as Dr. Jim Yong Kim, head of the World Bank and former head of the World Health Organization, told the Times, as soon as SARS burned out, "Those guys disappeared, and we forgot very quickly."

Ebola is a reminder of why "those guys" and the rest of us should not forget. Having created a strong, effective health agency doing vital and humane work, we have a moral obligation to keep it that way.


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