Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


Sept. 10

The Johnson City Press on encrypted radio signals:

The Johnson City Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff's Office are now encrypting all of their radio communications. That means bad guys with police scanners can no longer hear if the good guys with badges are near.

It also means concerned citizens, hobby scanner enthusiasts and we in the news business can no longer hear transmissions of breaking news. Other law enforcement agencies across the nation (including all of those protecting residents in Sullivan County) have adopted similar policies regarding encrypted radio transmissions.

Officer safety is one of the most mentioned reasons for going silent. We certainly appreciate that concern, but we are also troubled by what such tactics say about open government.

Encrypting all radio signals damages the transparency citizens have traditionally used to hold local law enforcement agencies accountable for their actions.

The Press has long relied on law enforcement radio transmissions to follow auto accidents, active shootings, chemical spills and other issues dealing with public safety.

Now that those transmissions are encrypted, we must rely on eyewitnesses or law enforcement agencies themselves to alert us to these situations. And many times these are dangerous situations that the public has a right to be informed of as quickly as possible.



Sept. 10

The Daily Times of Marysville on the Equifax data breach:

Here we go again. The Gucci-shoed boys are moon-walking to their money vaults while the rest of us are left struggling to tie our laces after being tripped up by another financial drive-by.

The company officially is called Equifax. It might acquire nicknames.

You probably know the gist of the story, as reported by The Associated Press recently: Credit monitoring company Equifax has been hit by a high-tech heist that exposed Social Security numbers and other sensitive information of about 143 million Americans. Now the unwitting victims have to worry about the threat of having their identities stolen.

One of three major U.S. credit bureaus, Equifax said Thursday that "criminals" exploited a U.S. website application to access files between mid-May and July of this year.

The theft obtained consumers' names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver's license numbers. The purloined data can be enough for crooks to hijack the identities of people whose credentials were stolen through no fault of their own, potentially wreaking havoc on their lives.

Laughing through your tears yet? Get this, words straight from the mouthpiece of the chief "victim" after being vetting by company lawyers and PR folks, Chief Executive Officer Richard Smith: "This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes."

Notice the compassion, the sincerity dripping from the words so cleverly crafted. Maybe too clever by half.

How about this for a timeline. The credit-reporting service claims it discovered the security breach July 29. It was over a month later that Equifax reported the breach to consumers. It took three days for — well you decide ...

Regulatory filings show that on Aug. 1, Chief Financial Officer John Gamble sold shares worth $946,374 and Joseph Loughran, president of U.S. information solutions, exercised options to dispose of stock worth $584,099. Rodolfo Ploder, president of workforce solutions, sold $250,458 of stock on Aug. 2. None of the filings lists the transactions as being part of 10b5-1 scheduled trading plans.

That's a rule established by the Securities Exchange Commission to allow insiders of publicly traded corporations to set up a trading plan for selling stocks they own. Why? For one thing to establish an orderly and disciplined trading program designed to provide an affirmative defense against allegations of trading while aware of inside information about a company or its stock.

What say Messrs. Gucci shoes? See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. They knew nothing.

Keep your shoes tied and your eyes open on this one. Come to think of it, maybe these guys don't wear Gucci loafers after all. Seems more like their favored footwear are skates — the ones they plan on wearing as they skate right under the noses of federal regulators guarding the rink . err, make that the "public interest."

Yea, that's the ticket. Gucci skates, the fastest footwear on Washington ice.



Sept. 11

The Commercial Appeal of Memphis on care for veterans:

Tennessee, the Volunteer State, is home to half a million veterans and three of the nation's most troubled Veterans Administration hospitals.

Of 10 facilities that received one out of five stars in the VA's own internal quality-of-care ranking, three are in Tennessee — Memphis, Nashville and Murfreesboro.

The VA Medical Center in Memphis is one four in the country required to send weekly briefings to the VA's top health official in Washington.

Reports of threats to patient safety in Memphis soared to more than 1,000 in 2016, up from 700 the year before, according to VA documents obtained by the USA Today Network.

In one case, a veteran with diabetes and poor circulation had to have a leg amputated after physicians found 10 inches of plastic packaging that VA providers had mistakenly embedded in an artery three weeks earlier.

"I'm disappointed and outraged by the many failures at the Memphis VA medical center, particularly the allegations regarding patient safety," said U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. "This is unacceptable, plain and simple."

Unacceptable is one word for it. Others are disgraceful, dishonorable and predictable.

Roe's committee has been investigating the Memphis VA since January. But the outrage he expressed last week, seconded by local U.S. Reps. Steve Cohen and David Kustoff, has become a common refrain in Washington.

The VA medical system, already struggling with aging Vietnam veterans, has been overwhelmed for more than a decade by veterans returning from one or more tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The VA's more than $160 billion annual budget — the second largest in the federal government — has more than doubled since 2007. Meanwhile, demand for VA care has increased more than 200 percent.

The military estimates as many as one in five of the more than 2.6 million soldiers sent to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003 is suffering from PTSI or some other form of blast-induced brain trauma.

Those veterans "are at a higher risk for lifelong medical problems, such as seizures, decline in neurocognitive functioning, dementia, and chronic diseases," according to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Survivors return with higher rates of depression, addiction, mental illness, traumatic brain injuries and suicidal tendencies, not to mention limb amputations and other critical injuries.

A decade ago, the GAO warned Congress that the VA wasn't prepared. Congress poured more money into the system,

In 2014, in response to news media reports inspired by whistle blowers, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs found that thousands of VA patients were being put on fake waiting lists that resulted in the deaths of dozens of veterans.

That same year, a White House investigation found "significant and chronic systematic failures" in VA hospitals across the country, and concluded the VA system "needs to be restructured and reformed."

In response, Congress passed the Veterans Choice Act, which allows veterans to receive private medical care at government expense. Last month, President Trump signed an emergency spending bill injecting $2 billion into the program.

But last year, the Commission on Care, appointed by the President and Congress, found the Choice system deeply flawed by congressional restrictions, bureaucratic dysfunction and inadequate funding.

"The long-term viability of VHA care is threatened by problems with staffing, facilities, capital needs, information systems, health care disparities and procurement," the commission declared. "Fixing these problems requires fundamental changes in governance and leadership of VHA."

Changes are being made in Memphis under new director David Dunning, who started in May. In recent weeks, the chiefs of surgery, anesthesiology, and research have all been removed, according to internal documents.

As we've seen for a decade, short-term fixes aren't enough. We call on Chairman Roe — a physician who served in the Army Medical Corps — and all of Congress to make systemic changes that will provide all veterans with prompt and quality medical care.

We sent men and women to Europe and the Pacific, to Korea and Vietnam, to the Persian Gulf and Iraq and Afghanistan. They went. We sent them to take care of us. They deserve the best care from us.