West Virginia editorial roundup

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

Dec. 27

News and Sentinel, Parkersburg, W.Va., on making sure help gets to veterans:

West Virginians and Ohioans revere veterans of military service and direct a considerable amount of our giving to organizations that help them. During the past few weeks we have been reminded of the necessity of cynicism in that regard.

Here in West Virginia, a recent report showed a group called West Virginia Vietnam Veterans Foundation is a terrible steward of the funds it receives. Nearly all of its money goes to pay professional fees or back into fundraising.

According to the report, of every dollar spent by the foundation, slightly more than one cent went to veteran-related activities. Charity Navigator, a watchdog organization, maintains fundraising and administrative costs combined should account for no more than 25 percent of total expenses.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, a man is set to spend 28 years in prison for stealing $100 million from the organization he ran out of Florida, the United States Navy Veterans Association. It was a nationwide scam, but Ohio took the lead in prosecuting him for the campaign of fraud.

Now, “Everyone’s afraid to give,” said Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Gall of Cleveland, where the case was handled.

While donors should not be afraid, they should be cautious. Poor financial management – and even downright dishonesty – exist at organizations of all sizes, in all regions. And there is more to the problem than simply mishandling of funds. Not all organizations spend their money effectively, even if they are spending it on something other than their own administration.

If this season has inspired you to do good in the world, and you believe a financial donation is the best way to do so – or if you are simply looking for an end-of-year tax adjustment – do your homework. Take advantage of tools and research available to inform your decision, and to ensure your hard-earned dollars do not end up in the hands of those who are using hot-button issues to tug at the heartstrings and pocketbooks of good people they intend to cheat.




Dec. 29

The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W.Va., on more work needed to prevent pre-term births in U.S.:

There is no greater blessing than a healthy baby.

But in the United States, about one in nine babies is born too soon, putting them at higher risk for a range of health problems.

With our world-class health care system, you might presume the United States would have low premature birth rates, but we ranked 131st among nations in a global study done last year by the March of Dimes Foundation.

Almost all European nations, Russia, China and most of South America, had less than 10 pre-term births (before 37 weeks) per 100 births. The rate in the United States last year was 11.5 per 100 live births, and it is slightly higher in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. Kentucky’s rate of 12.7 percent is about the same as Cameroon and Angola, according to the study.

In fact, the U.S. premature birth rate was on the rise for many years, peaking at 12.6 percent in 2006.

Outreach efforts have helped bring it down nationally and in our region as well, but it is still too high and the cost to families and society is great.

Many organ systems, including the brain, lungs, and liver need the final weeks of pregnancy to develop fully, according to the Center for Disease Control. Pre-term factors have accounted for about 35 percent of all infant deaths in recent years, and it also is the leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children.

The estimated cost of pre-term births to the U.S. health care system is about $26 billion a year.

So, it is in everyone’s interest for our states to continue to work on improving access to prenatal care as well as outreach and education. There are many factors and unknowns that contribute to early births, but some factors are very preventable.

Take smoking, for example. West Virginia and Kentucky lead the nation in the percentage of women who smoke and those who smoke during some portion of their pregnancy. Unfortunately, the rate of women age 18-44 who smoke is more than 30 percent in both states and went up last year. Our states also have high rates of drug and alcohol use during pregnancy and high rates of teen pregnancies.

Getting that message out is a key initiative for several organizations in the state, including the March of Dimes. Help is available, and it is critical for women in our region to seek out the consistent prenatal care that they need.




Dec. 25

Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on after the coal is gone:

At Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s Energy Summit, keynote speaker Bob Murray, president of Murray Energy, blamed the decline of Appalachian coal mostly on pollution controls by President Barack Obama “as he appeases his radical environmentalist, unionist, liberal elitist, Hollywood character and other constituencies that got him elected.”

But most experts don’t blame federal pollution limits alone for the relentless slippage of coal in West Virginia’s economy. Instead, they say that depletion of profitable coal seams and competition from low-cost natural gas undercut the mining industry in the Southern Appalachian basin.

“Life After Coal,” a documentary earlier this year by Tom Hansell and Patricia Beaver, scholars at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, compares Appalachia with Wales, where coal mining nearly ended a quarter-century ago.

“What happens when fossil fuels run out?” they write. “In the Appalachian mountains, where coal mining is projected to decline dramatically this decade, some people are looking to Wales for answers.”

They said both regions are “tragically similar,” adding:

“The Welsh coalfields were mostly shut down in the 1980s, with a loss of more than 85,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the Appalachian coalfields lost over 70,000 mining jobs between 1980 and 2000, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A June 2012 EIA report projects that Appalachian production will be cut in half this decade.”

The researchers say Wales had 230,000 coal miners in 485 pits in 1914, but unstoppable decline reduced the industry to near zero by the 1980s. However, thanks to a recent reopening of a few mines, Wales now has about 1,000 miners.

To replace the lost industry, the British government launched massive cleanup and restoration efforts that spawned tourism and recreation in Wales. But most of today’s jobs are low-wage service work, compared to the mining heyday of yesteryear.

Will Southern West Virginia’s coalfields follow the pattern of Wales? This state’s leaders should stop blaming federal pollution limits and begin intelligent planning for the different future that is developing, right before everyone’s eyes.

Kentucky’s progressive Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, and Republican congressman Hal Rogers are doing just that. They spearheaded SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region), a massive attempt to find alternatives after the rapid retreat of coal mining in eastern Kentucky, which has lost 6,000 miners in the past two years.

The Lexington Herald-Leader said too many Kentucky politicians still are “pounding the ‘war on coal’ drum,” but SOAR offers a chance “to take the lead in shaping a future for the region as the coal industry sank deeper into decline.”

West Virginia leaders should strive to do as well here.



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