Editorials from around Pennsylvania

November 7, 2018

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:



Paranoia. Tooth decay. Facial scratches and lesions. Weight loss and frailty. Convulsions.

These are some of the physical signs and symptoms that might indicate that a family member or friend is suffering from an addiction to methamphetamine.

These are potential warning signs that, unfortunately, all of us need to keep a closer watch for now, with the rise in meth use being cited by local law enforcement.

Methamphetamine comes in many names, according to The Canyon at Peace Park, an addiction treatment center and resource. You might hear “terms like Hanyak, Hironpon, Hiropon, Hot Ice, Cristy, Batu, Kaksonjae, LA Glass, LA Ice, Quartz, and Super Ice.” Or perhaps Soap Dope, Lemon Drop or Christmas Tree Meth. Sweet names for an addictive drug that can do devastating damage.

Lancaster County’s other drug-addiction crises are not going away, though. Meth is just an unwelcome new addition (or return) to the battlefront. The vital battle against heroin and other opioids continues, Stedman told LNP.

On all of these fronts, the stakes are high. Drug overdoses led to more deaths in the United States last year than any previous year, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration report that was released Friday. The report contains the newest preliminary figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It states that more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017. That’s about 200 per day, across the nation, and it’s more than four times the number of drug-abuse deaths that the U.S. saw in 1999 (16,849).

The Lancaster County Drug Task Force believes the increase in meth use locally could be the result of drug dealers and addicts switching gears because of the “targeted enforcement of heroin dealers and awareness of the fatality of opioid overdoses,” Blest and Stauffer reported, adding that “meth use doesn’t carry the immediate risk of death by overdose that opioids do, but nonetheless is a deadly threat, according to health experts.”

Indeed, meth is “highly addictive and really hard on the body,” Dr. Michael J. Reihart, emergency services medical director at Lancaster General Health, told LNP. Usage can lead to heart damage, brain damage, violent outbursts and increased risk of stroke, among other issues.

An addict’s appearance can change drastically, too, as outlined above. “You’ll see people have skin lesions where they scratch their faces thinking they have insects on them,” Reihart told LNP, noting that meth users often look liked they “aged 100 years in six months.”

And meth-related fatal overdoses are becoming more prominent locally, with meth present in 15 overdoses this year.

The local increase in meth abuse has been identified. That’s a necessary step in deploying, shifting or increasing resources to tackle a problem that affects so many individuals and families, either directly or tangentially.

On the law-enforcement side, we are fortunate to have local and state police and especially the Lancaster County Drug Task Force, which targets middle- and upper-level drug dealers. According to its website, it “works closely with local law enforcement as well as the Pennsylvania State Police, the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement agencies.” The task force’s funding comes from voluntary per-capita contributions from municipalities, the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General and forfeited “assets of drug dealers that the courts determine were acquired through unlawful activity.” We hope solutions can be found to boost the task force’s funding, if it’s needed to fight the ongoing crisis.

Additionally, we are grateful for the Lancaster County Joining Forces coalition, which describes itself as “a collection of organizations and individuals who want to save lives and help our neighbors who are struggling with addiction.” Its website is filled with useful resources, and we recommend that you check it. Even if you don’t think drug addiction is affecting someone in your life right now, there’s much there to educate you on the issue.

So, use of methamphetamine is on the rise here but, as we’ve noted, it’s hardly the only front in the ongoing struggle taking place in Lancaster County’s homes, streets, hospitals, recovery centers and elsewhere.

One of our readers wisely noted the following with a comment on last week’s LNP article: “It’s important that we start referring to ‘the addiction epidemic’ as opposed to labeling the epidemic as characterized by individual drugs of abuse as they come and go (and overlap). LNP, our country and county has a problem with addiction.”

We agree. The addiction epidemic is multifaceted and ongoing. Meth is just one more daunting facet.


Online: https://bit.ly/2SRVwfv



We know what we Americans, together, are capable of.

We see the unity, selflessness and compassion after every natural disaster — volunteers texting donations to displaced strangers; laborers jumping in trucks to ferry supplies to those in need, regardless of tribe.

We’ve witnessed it in historic sacrifices made when our nation or trusted allies have come under attack. The greatness also flows in response to deplorable acts of violence and hate — most recently the massacre of Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Eleven people were fatally shot and six others, including four police officers, were injured by a man authorities said wanted “all Jews to die.”

Pittsburgh, a tough, tolerant, storied American city, rallied with interfaith remembrances. Muslims and Christians prayed, consoled and launched fundraising efforts that garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars for those affected. City and state leaders, legendary sports franchises, media outlets and other community pillars presented a unified front.

There were tears and sadness, but also deadly serious, uncompromising expressions of the core values that make our great American experiment possible. That is, the right to be free to be who we are, in thought, word and deed, because regardless of our many and deep differences, we share something essential — humanity.

As Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman of Erie’s Brith Sholom said in preparation for an interfaith observance here on Friday, “an attack on one American is an attack on all of us. That’s the best our country is.”

We must find a way to abide in that mindset without being forced there by tragedy.

The poisonous spirit animating our politics degrades and dishonors the ties that bind this wildly diverse union — bonds we forged through great insight, will and also, bloodshed.

Political strategies that fan hate, division and fear have been deployed to great effect. We have seen it on the national stage and filtered down into local hearts and minds, exemplified in fevered letters to the editor that depict political opponents as murderers or traitors.

As we move forward from these midterms, we urge greater care, civility and respect from citizens and leaders alike. Seek out differing viewpoints from outlets across the spectrum. If you hear something that seems tailor-made to inspire outrage, chances are it was. Fact-check it.

Appeals for unity sometimes come off as namby-pamby. Political differences — at their core struggles over power and principle — sometimes require real struggle. But embracing dehumanization, not persuasion or compromise, as a path to triumph carries too high a price. It sullies our national character, corrodes relationships and, at its worst, legitimates violence against neighbors we are called on, as one sign displayed in Pittsburgh reminded us, to love without exception.

__Erie Times

Online: https://bit.ly/2RFJ2Gn



Pennsylvania has done its part to help Democrats retake control of the U.S. House, with vote counts here likely reflecting a confluence of factors: dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump, good campaigns by female candidates and a shifting of congressional district boundaries ordered by the state Supreme Court.

Democrats ended Tuesday’s election with a net gain of three seats in the 18-member congressional delegation — thanks to a series of victories by female candidates in the Philadelphia area. Democrats also held on to the 17th District seat that takes in parts of Allegheny, Beaver and Butler counties.

In that race, the only one in the nation between incumbents, Conor Lamb, D-Mt. Lebanon, defeated Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley. Mr. Rothfus is serving his third term in the 12th District, while Mr. Lamb in the spring won a special election in the 18th District, capturing a seat previously held by Republican Tim Murphy.

It all means the Pennsylvania congressional delegation to be seated next year will comprise nine Republicans and nine Democrats, compared to the 13 Republicans and five Democrats elected two years ago.

Was there a blue wave in Pennsylvania? There is dissatisfaction with Mr. Trump in some districts, to be sure, but other factors also must be taken into consideration.

The state Supreme Court set the stage for more Democrats in the congressional delegation when it threw out the old map drawn by the Legislature, arguing it was gerrymandered to favor Republicans, and drew new boundaries.

Three of the Democratic women who won their races — Mary Gay Scanlon in the 5th District, Chrissy Houlahan in the 6th District and Susan Wild in the 7th District — ran in districts better favoring Democrats under the new map. Another important consideration: None of the three had to run against an incumbent bringing a war chest, political network, name recognition and other advantages to the race.

While Pennsylvania contributed to the Democratic surge in U.S. House races, the results can’t simply be explained with the words “blue wave.” It’s important to remember the old adage that all politics is local, meaning races are heavily influenced by local issues and the dynamics of individual campaigns. With the new congressional map firmly in place, the 2020 election will bring a clearer picture of the state’s political leanings.

__Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Online: https://bit.ly/2PQzDyI



And another Westmoreland County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with a crime.

This time it’s not a summary after a shoving match.

It’s not harassment or failing to obey a traffic control device.

It’s not campaign issues.

No, this time state police have charged Bobby Neiderhiser, who resigned Friday, in texting with a teenage girl, offering her and another minor alcohol in exchange for sex acts.

At what point does the county demand more of this department?

Neiderhiser is now the fourth member or former member charged with a crime just this year, and the allegations are escalating in seriousness.

What started with the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office charging Sheriff Jonathan Held with using his employees to work on his campaign while on the county clock has devolved into his second in command being charged with harassment after an altercation with a union representative.

Patricia Fritz has since been fired as chief deputy.

Then the third highest officer, Captain Travis Day, has been charged repeatedly. There was the incident in February where he was charged with driving in a posted, restricted area behind a state police barracks. Then there were the harassment charges pressed, and then dropped and replaced with stalking charges stemming from a summer training program at Penn State required for the job.

Day remains on unpaid leave.

And that doesn’t count the multiple discrimination lawsuits the county has settled and legal fees paid for those cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars racked up for a department that Held claims can’t hire enough people to fill its positions .

The Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Department has a disease that is rapidly proving not just serious but spreading, and that is dangerous.

There is the intrinsic danger of someone in a position of authority, someone with a gun and a badge, potentially exerting authority over someone more vulnerable.

“If found guilty, the charge (against Neiderhiser) is certainly very disturbing,” Held said. “As sworn law enforcement officers we’re here to serve and protect, not commit crimes and victimize people.”

And that is the more intrinsic danger.

What do we do when we can’t trust the sheriff’s department?

What do we do when the people who are supposed to be the authority you turn to in a time of crisis have been accused of not playing by the rules?

What do we do when the people empowered to stand between you and crime are being found guilty?

What do we do about it when they won’t do anything about it themselves?

Held is awaiting trial in his case and maintains his innocence. He has declined to resign his position.

But in 2013, during his first term as sheriff, when a deputy was arrested on drug charges, Held called the incident “a black eye on the office.”

The office’s eyes are now swollen shut. Something has to be done.


Online: https://bit.ly/2PJc1vO



In a far-reaching special report on Sunday, journalists from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Boston Globe found that the leaders of the U.S. Catholic Church are far better at covering up child sexual abuse than stopping it.

For almost two decades, both cities have been epicenters of investigations into a sickening litany of abuse that has mushroomed across the country. The church’s pattern of protecting itself over parishioners only made the scandal worse.

Following the Globe’s 2002 groundbreaking report on sexual abuse in Boston, the church impaneled eight bishops to investigate the abuse and root it out. But six of those bishops were, themselves, targets of criticism for ignoring or concealing abuse in their dioceses.

They were hardly the men who should have been in charge of a new policy. And, they proved it when they exempted themselves from oversight even though it was their failure to respond to the crisis which has perpetuated it. Indeed, reporters found that 130, or a third, of the nation’s bishops have been accused of failing to stop abuse. At least 15 have, themselves, been accused of actual abuse.

With this deeply troubling behavior at the very top of the hierarchy, how can anyone trust the church to change? There was a chance when so-called reforms were drafted during a 2002 bishops meeting, but bishops kept themselves from being held accountable. Next week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will meet in Baltimore — but it’s hard to imagine any real progress will be made.

Because the church seems incapable of policing itself, it should turn over its secret archives to the professionals — prosecutors who understand the law and know how to adjudicate crimes.

Those records were the basis of a sweeping Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report. Without detailed accounts backed up by gut-wrenching testimony, Attorney General Josh Shapiro never would have been able to show that 301 priests abused more than 1,000 victims. Since the report’s release, the attorney general has received 1,300 more complaints of clergy abuse, and Pennsylvania’s investigation has sparked similar probes in more than a dozen states.

But as comprehensive as Shapiro’s investigation was, only two priests were found guilty of sexually abusing children. That’s because many of the incidents occurred so long ago, that the statutes of limitations have expired.

Legislators should remove the caps on statutes of limitations, and let prosecutors do their jobs. If the civil cap is removed, more information can be learned through the discovery process about how the church covered up abuse, argues child advocate Marci Hamilton, head of the Philadelphia-based Child USA. That would give a truer picture of how widespread the abuse is.

Pennsylvania was on the cusp of these important reforms until last month when Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) killed the legislation. The House had already passed a bill in September, and Gov. Wolf promised to sign it. Church leaders’ widespread cover-up of terrible acts are unforgivable. State lawmakers who remain standing in the way of justice for victims are just as culpable.′

__Philadelphia Inquirer

Online: https://bit.ly/2quwaYe


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