What they're saying

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Missouri newspapers:

April 7

St. Joseph News-Press on the bill to protect farmers:

State Rep. Jim Guest is back this legislative session pushing a bill designed to protect farmers from shutterbugs -- innocent or not -- and other more serious threats.

The bill would make taking images from an area of an animal facility that isn't legally accessible by the public a felony without written permission from the facility's owners. The King City Republican argues the new law is needed to protect private property rights and help prevent a terrorist attack on the food supply.

As in the past, the proposed legislation quickly drew fire from critics who warn that it flies in the face of the freedom of the press and that its language is so broad that it could limit legitimate investigation into possible animal cruelty. Unlike the past, Mr. Guest's proposal has become the target of St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial writers with a sense of humor.

The newspaper's editorial predicted (recently) the following scenario: "Terrorist No. 1: I'm going to run out to King City and take pictures of those cows so we can attack the U.S. food supply.

"Terrorist No. 2: Wait. The Missouri Legislature made that illegal.

"Terrorist No. 1: Whew! Thanks for warning me. Wouldn't want to do anything illegal." Humor is an effective weapon. And we certainly agree with the Post-Dispatch that this bill's return visit to the General Assembly without any major improvement makes it an apt candidate for a humorous attack. The true target of this proposal remains animal-rights activists, a natural byproduct of a free and open society.

We also do believe that Mr. Guest is on target with a separate section of the bill that makes it illegal to introduce a pathogen or disease at an animal facility. So does the Post and the Missouri Department of Agriculture. He should focus energy on that effort.

April 10

Jefferson City News tribune on the Pope's passing:

Friday's funeral for Pope John Paul II marked the end of an extraordinary week in history.

World leaders -- including President George W. Bush and former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton -- traveled to Rome to pay their respects to the pope, who died April 2.

Pope John Paul II for 26 years led the Roman Catholic Church, the oldest Christian religion with about 1 billion followers.

Catholicism is a worldwide religion and, in an effort to reach out personally to fellow Catholics, the pope was a world traveler.

People who had an opportunity to see him -- either face to face or as part of thousands in a stadium crowd -- say his spirit and strength were radiant.

That spirit and strength sustained him in his later years, when the effects of an assassination attempt and Parkinson's disease took an increasing toll on his health.

The pope will be remembered not only for his leadership of the Catholic Church, but also for his vital role in shaping modern history.

A native of Poland, he supported the Solidarity movement in his homeland that lit the fuse for the gradual crumbling of communism in Eastern Europe.

By any measure, Pope John Paul II was revered and admired, and not only by Catholics.

We mourn his death.

But we celebrate his life, his contributions and his eternal comfort in the presence of God.

April 11

Columbia Daily Tribune on divine intervention:

The death toll from the horrendous tsunami wave in Southeast Asia and India exceeds an estimated 250,000 with no end in sight. Where is the hand of God in all of this? Horrible natural disasters, and even individual acts of mayhem, set minds churning and tongues wagging. Those who proclaim the all-knowing, all-pervasive force of God scramble to explain his role in such disasters.

These wonderments and arguments have no conclusive destination, ensuring a veritable tsunami of befuddlement. Allegations range all the way from God did it to punish sinners, to God had nothing to do with it but that need not diminish belief in the power of God, to everything imaginable in between.

Imagine the waste of human brainpower trying to answer such questions. ... The concept of God has effect insofar as his "truths" mean this and that to various believers, depending on the preacher they happen to follow. But as the architect of what happens in nature, no way.

Are we to believe God causes tsunamis and raging forest fires and floods and hurricanes and earthquakes or could prohibit them if he wanted? If so, God is a busy and perverse presence and certainly not believable as the promoter of love and charity.

We know better. Why are so few people willing to pooh-pooh such nonsensical notions of what God is? Keeping God in perspective is good for both God and man. We should not build an impossible job description for God lest he surely fail. We should not shift responsibility and explanation so easily to God for things we should handle or suffer as happenstance to be dealt with ourselves.

Most of our conceptions of God are, if not downright dangerous, at least frivolous. How come fundamentalist sects continue to thrive, offering as many definitions of God's will and power as there are sects. God is a mysterious guy, or gal, or spirit or presence, giving we mortals plenty of latitude to proclaim the absolute truths of our unprovable, irrational beliefs.

And so it has ever been.


April 12

The (Independence) Examiner on stem-cell research:

It appears legislation to ban embryonic stem-cell research in Missouri won't go any further this year.

Senate leaders say the bill won't be brought up for further discussion until supporters and opponents can find a compromise. That's unlikely. The two sides are far apart, and because the issues involve such fundamental questions as what constitutes life itself, there's not a lot of room for give and take.

State Sen. Matt Bartle, a Republican from Lee's Summit, has doggedly led the effort to ban this type of research. While the effort to ban human cloning is commendable -- and just about everyone agrees that shouldn't be allowed -- Bartle's bill goes too far in banning a type of embryonic stem-cell research, somatic cell nuclear transfer.

The biggest point is that this research has the potential to develop procedures to greatly reduce suffering from a range of diseases and afflictions. It's needed so people can heal and live better lives.

Secondarily, Missouri has a big stake in this. State leaders have talked for years about the importance of biotechnology to the future of our economy. Kansas City's Stowers Institute for Medical Research plans a major expansion but won't follow through if the state bans SCNT. State leaders will face more of these issues in the future, and we shouldn't let financial interest determine what's right and wrong, but this type of research is valuable and falls within boundaries marked by a respect for human life.

For now, Senate leaders have solved the political problem this bill creates. Gov. Blunt opposes human cloning but specifically does not want to ban somatic cell nuclear transfer, and Republican leaders in the General Assembly are keen on avoiding the ticklish situation of a Republican governor having to veto a bill passed by a Republican legislature.

The bigger question is whether Stowers and other organizations will feel free to proceed as long as this is hanging over their heads. It would be best to have a straight up-or-down vote and get this resolved.

April 12

The Joplin Globe on childhood obesity:

What is most important to curbing the epidemic of childhood obesity: (1) government controls over how the food industry markets its products to youngsters or (2) more parental involvement in what children eat and in getting them more active? If you answered No. 2, well, you could be off to a good start in ensuring that your overweight child has a good chance of not only dropping off pounds but controlling his or her weight in the years ahead. In short, Mom and Dad can ingrain eating patterns that can remain with a youngster all of his or her life.

Here are a few observations:

* Parents must understand that obesity among children is neither cute nor a passing phase. Obesity can increase the onset of type 2 diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol and hypertension among youngsters, and those extra pounds also could contribute to orthopedic problems.

* Food should be discouraged as a reward. Too many parents offer an extra slice of pie or an ice cream cone to get their youngsters to study, to clean their rooms or to do whatever. ...

* Keep track of what your children eat. A steady stream of high-sugar, heavy-on-the-cholesterol foods is not good for youngsters or adults. ...

* If possible, make meals a family activity. It may be difficult, but parents should try to have children eat at the table with them. ...

* Make certain that children aren't sitting for hours at a time every day in front of a TV or computer and that they get exercise. ...

There are no easy, guaranteed solutions. Like parenting, getting young people to eat right will require patience, responsibility and determination. If moms and dads are in need of encouragement, consider that an estimated 70 percent of obese or overweight children will grow up to become overweight or obese adults, with all of the health risks that involves.