Mississippi editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Greenwood Commonwealth on another U.S. opioid epidemic during the 19th century’s second half:
In recent days, the Clarion Ledger and its partners in the USA Today network of newspapers have published a comprehensive look at the nation’s opioid epidemic.
America’s addiction to painkillers — both legal and illicit — has created a crisis that has attracted the attention of policymakers from the White House to the statehouse.
One of the more interesting pieces in the series explained that the current epidemic is not the first time this country has struggled with opium and all of its natural and synthetic derivatives. A century and a half ago, the nation went through a similar scenario and addressed it in much the same way as is being proposed today.
According to the article, which quoted the research of drug historians, from the 1840s to the 1890s, the United States saw opiate usage rise by more than 500 percent. Addiction rates went from 0.72 addicts per 1,000 persons before 1842 to a high of 4.59 per 1,000 by the 1890s.
Although the use of opium to treat a wide range of diseases dates back 5,000 years, there was an explosion in U.S. narcotic consumption during the second half of the 19th century, partly because of the injuries spawned during the Civil War and partly because disease was such a common occurrence prior to the development of modern sanitation systems. At the same time, drugmakers, led by German chemists, were developing all kinds of new drugs to deal with pain and illness. In 1898, Bayer, best known today for its aspirin, began to market an alternative to morphine that it called heroin, which it produced until 1913, by which time it became well-established that the addictive downside of the drug greatly overshadowed any medicinal benefit.
At the turn of the 20th century, the medical community responded. Doctors already in practice cut down on prescribing opiates, and those in training in medical school were warned about the dangers.
All this sounds terribly familiar. In the late 20th century, pharmaceutical companies developed “wonder drugs,” semi-synthetic versions of opium such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and marketed them heavily to doctors and consumers, while all the while downplaying the highly addictive nature of the drugs. Drugs that were intended for traumatic injury or end-of-life palliative care were increasingly being used to treat chronic pain.
With an estimated 100 Americans dying every day from drug overdoses, the backlash has set in. Mississippi and other states are pursuing regulations to curb the prescription of painkillers and encourage non-opioid methods to treat chronic pain.
If history is any guide, that approach should work, but it sadly may be too late for many of those already addicted. In the early 20th century, the rate of addiction retreated not only because changes in medical practice created fewer addicts but also because those who were already addicted didn’t live very long.
Enterprise-Journal of McComb on raising college tuition:
Here’s an interesting item for any parent who recently put their kids through college, or who is wondering how to pay for the rising cost of education in the future: Purdue University has not raised its tuition since 2012.
Purdue, located in Indiana, is a member of the Big 10 conference but may not be too well known in Mississippi. Down here, its biggest claim to fame probably is that it’s the place where former Gov. Kirk Fordice earned an engineering degree.
Its ability to hold the line on costs stands out at a time when, across the country, state support for higher education has been reduced. Universities in Mississippi and in practically every other state have raised tuition repeatedly, and often by 5 percent or more per year.
Over time, this has greatly increased the cost of a college degree — to the point that more people are asking whether the price is worth it. That was one of Mitch Daniels’ motivations when he decided to freeze tuition upon becoming Purdue’s president in 2013.
Daniels, a former Indiana governor who also served as President George W. Bush’s budget director, said Purdue admissions officials told him that freezing tuition would send a signal that the school had lost confidence in its product. In other words, a college education should be like a cell phone or a video game: The cost should always go up because the higher price makes people think they’re getting more.
To his credit, Daniels responded that the continually rising price of education was unsustainable. He was right. More importantly for the university, students, parents and alumni responded positively. The results have been so impressive that Purdue’s admissions office now acknowledges that the tuition freeze gives the school an advantage in the competition for students.
Bloomberg Businessweek reported in its Dec. 25 “Good Business Issue” that since the tuition freeze, Purdue’s undergraduate applications and enrollment have hit record levels. Alumni donations are up, as are graduation rates. Purdue has added 75 tenure-track academic positions in engineering, and the number of students earning STEM degrees (in science, technology, engineering and math programs) is up 24 percent.
Purdue and Daniels are experimenting with offers of interest-free financial aid in exchange for a percentage of a student’s future earnings. It’s also trying out a three-year degree in a few liberal arts programs.
The one thing other university administrators should learn from Purdue’s experience is that Daniels did what managers in virtually every other business have done over the past decade: Pay more attention to costs. When the tuition freeze started, he got the university’s budget down by $8 million.
It is heartening to see a little fiscal sanity in higher education. But it’s sad that no other large schools have followed Purdue’s lead. With student debt at record levels, why not?
The Oxford Eagle on a child pornography video shared on Facebook:
Parents and social media users beware, there is a child pornography video targeting inboxes of users in the region.
We had heard that Facebook many users in the Mid-South were receiving a video in their inbox that showed a young girl and an adult male involved in an act that constitutes child pornography. Late last week, we received the video in our EAGLE Facebook messages.
We contacted local authorities and learned that they were quite aware of the video, as well as law enforcement agencies throughout the region. The video, unfortunately, is making the rounds.
Reports suggest the video may have originated in Alabama and multiple agencies are investigating. We bring it up to warn parents who may have children on Facebook and social media users in general so they can be vigilant.
The image is disturbing, to say the least and a reminder that child pornography lives on the Internet along with trolls willing to share the most despicable material. That this video is being sent to unaware social media users is also disturbing.
We hope that no children have accidentally seen the video but reports of its distribution are so widespread that we fear otherwise.
Such risk is just one of the perils that come with a free social media service.