Excerpts of editorials from Illinois newspapers

September 16, 2013

The (Freeport) Journal-Standard

This simple test can save your life

Men are thickheaded, stubborn and unreasonable, to say the least, when you suggest a visit to the doctor’s office.

They believe they can “shake it off,” or they’ll be all better if they “rub some dirt on it” — pick your favorite macho sentiment. That kind of attitude can be deadly when it comes to a man’s health.

Perhaps it’s because of masculine attitudes that Prostate Cancer Awareness Month passes as barely a blip on the public radar while Breast Cancer Awareness Month has almost everyone in the pink.

The numbers are all too similar. There will be 238,590 new cases of prostate cancer in the United States this year, according to estimates compiled by the American Cancer Society, and 29,730 will die. Those are all men.

Prostate cancer strikes black men at higher rates than it does white men, and black men are twice as likely to die of the disease.

There will be 232,340 new cases of breast cancer among women and 2,240 cases among men — yes, breast cancer strikes men, too — and 39,620 women and 410 men will die.

A further similarity between the cancers is that early detection is key. The five-year survival rate for prostate cancer is 100 percent unless the disease has spread to other areas of the body. For breast cancer, it’s 98 percent. The odds that you’ll live longer have increased as new medications and procedures become available.

Besides getting much more attention, breast cancer research receives twice the money that prostate cancer research does. In fiscal 2009, breast cancer research received $872 million from the federal government; prostate cancer got $390 million.

But more research spending won’t do any good if men don’t go to the doctor. Men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, but we don’t expect to see professional athletes sporting extra blue attire during games. Perhaps the NFL can mix some public service announcements in with the beer commercials to get the guys’ attention. If that doesn’t work, ladies, tell the man you love to go to the doctor.

He’ll be around a lot longer if he does.

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September 16, 2013

The (Alton) Telegraph

Meth still problem despite progress

Although methamphetamine lab seizures and arrests declined nationwide in 2012, it’s far too early to consider the problem solved.

Last week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration provided statistics to The Associated Press that showed 12,694 meth lab incidents were reported around the country last year, down 5.5 percent from the 13,390 reported in 2011. It marked the second straight year that the numbers had declined, as the nation recorded 15,196 meth lab incidents in 2010. However, analysts warn that two consecutive years of declining numbers do not necessarily constitute a trend. It’s too early to declare that the meth problem is going away.

Illinois has more reason that most states to maintain its vigilance against this scourge. Our state had the fifth-highest number of meth lab incidents among all states last year with 799.

While it’s true that the number of “traditional” meth labs being uncovered has been in decline around the country, it’s also true that more meth manufacturers are turning to low-tech methods of “cooking” the drug, such as the so-called “one-pot” or “shake and bake” technique that allows them to make meth in a soda bottle. As dangerous as the traditional meth labs are to occupants of the houses where they are located, particularly children, and neighbors, the portable meth labs have the potential to spread contamination and injury almost anywhere a vehicle or person can go.

It’s also worth noting that the DEA says some states already are reporting increases in meth lab seizures and arrests so far in 2013.

Illinois has tried to crack down on the meth problem by passing laws that make it more difficult for someone to buy pseudoephedrine, one of the main ingredients in its manufacture, but authorities say the meth makers continue to find ways around such laws, often by using fake IDs.

Still, we have little choice but to continue enforcement efforts, as well as programs to treat meth addicts. We need to get meth labs off the streets and out of the small towns, but we won’t be able to incarcerate our way out of this problem. Education, intervention and treatment programs must be improved. The lower numbers of seizures are good news, but it’s far too early to let our guard down.

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September 15, 2013

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register

America needs meaningful immigration reform

This fall, members of Congress have a rare opportunity to reform and modernize the country’s failing immigration system – action that, if done properly, could change Illinois agriculture, education, business and job growth for the better.

The U.S. immigration system hasn’t undergone major reform since 1986 under President Ronald Reagan. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act provided a pathway to citizenship for 2.7 million undocumented immigrants. It also demanded more accountability from employers who knowingly hired workers without legal documentation.

Some decried the act as a failure; others considered it a success. An estimated 2.7 million people embarked on a path to citizenship after the law, but it didn’t completely stop illegal immigration.

In the 1970s there were an estimated 1 million undocumented immigrants in the country; today there are an estimated 11 million.

The U.S. Senate earlier this year approved, in a 68-32 vote, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. It’s now in the hands of the Republican-controlled House, which has only moved pieces of reform out of committees but has not addressed a comprehensive bill, despite pressure to do so by business and labor groups, reform organizations and citizens.

The bill would change the country’s border security at Mexico, nearly doubling the number of border agents from 21,000 to 40,000 and adding 700 miles of new fence. It also would establish a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented citizens living here – a process that would take 13 years to complete. Someone who starts the process when they are 20 years old wouldn’t become a citizen until they are 33.

Presumably, those 11 million new residents will begin paying more taxes and contributing in other ways to the American economy.

Closer to home, a recent study by the American Action Network, a conservative pro-reform group, shows immigration reform would create an estimated 14,000 jobs in each of central Illinois’ congressional districts, including Republican Rep. Rodney Davis’s 13th District and Republican Rep. Aaron Schock’s 18th District. The group relied on data from a Regional Economic Models, Inc., study of economic data and new worker visas, as well as a Congressional Budget Office report on the Senate bill’s effects to come up with the job estimates.

After 27 years, it’s time to overhaul the country’s immigration system to keep pace with the changing face and needs of America. As this page has stated before, security has to be part of any solution to the problem, but so does a pathway to citizenship. There are more reasons than not to give those who want to be here a chance to better themselves and the United States in the process.

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September 13, 2013

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Glimmers of light for Metra

A summer of uncertainty for the Metra board of directors seems to be approaching an end, no doubt to the relief of those involved as well as to train riders and taxpayers.

In recent weeks, three Metra directors have been appointed, bringing the board back from the brink of the paralysis that would have occurred had the number on the board dipped below six.

Several other recent moves bring hope of restoring some stability and credibility to the 11-member board, which has been reeling ever since former CEO Alex Clifford departed with a severance package of up to $718,000 and a flurry of public allegations that former board Chairman Brad O’Halloran and Director Larry Huggins condoned patronage hiring and attempted to steer contracts to political allies. O’Halloran and Huggins denied the accusation but were among five directors who resigned in the fallout.

Several more Metra appointments will be coming up, but those need not be as hurried as those in recent weeks. That’s because in several cases current Metra directors sensibly are staying on while replacements are picked.

Former Arlington Heights Village President Arlene Mulder and former state Sen. Jack Schaffer of Cary both say they will depart when their terms expire in June. Evanston attorney William Widmer — the director whose spot is being filled by Suffredin’s open application process — says he’ll stay on until a replacement is named, though his term has expired.

We’re grateful that they’ve taken that approach. A wholesale, immediate replacement of the entire Metra board, called for by some, seems a shortsighted route to the kind of strong, independent leadership that’s so badly needed.

Schaffer, in particular, represented that kind of independence when he cast the sole vote against Clifford’s golden parachute. Both he and Mulder have represented suburban interests well and, in delaying their departures, continue to do so.

Now, those appointing their replacements need to take as much care.

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