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Saturday, June 22, 2013
A continuing scourge
Last year, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia wrote a commentary for these pages declaring, “The abuse of illegal and prescription drugs has reached epidemic levels in Southwest Virginia.”
But “the public health crisis” that Timothy Heaphy described has plagued the region for a long time.
In March, Virginia’s Department of Health Professions announced that the state’s prescription monitoring database was expected to receive 1 million requests from health care providers seeking to identify possible “doctor shoppers,” drug abusers who go from doctor to doctor asking for a pain reliever, so as to amass a stash of drugs. The database is in its 10th year.
So news this week of the arrest of Marion’s police chief, Michael Dean “Fireball” Roberts, on a federal charge of illegal distribution of a controlled substance was particularly dismaying. The drug the now former chief is accused of distributing: Lortab, a name-brand painkiller containing the Schedule III narcotic hydrocodone. A familiar foe in Virginia’s far Southwest.
Supremely camera shy
Reserved to the U.S. Supreme Court is the final word on the law of the land, but few Americans will ever be privileged to hear justice delivered directly from the bench. No matter how important the case — and there are three big decisions expected next week, each impacting millions of lives — the doors to the court remain barred to all but the select few.
Not only have the justices forbidden broadcasting of oral arguments, they have barred even audio transmissions in announcing their opinions — unless one holds membership in the court’s privileged club and can gain entry to a private listening room.
All other Americans interested in real-time governance must find a live blog like scotusblog.com, or wait for a descriptive narrative like those often offered by NPR’s Nina Totenberg.
Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, think it’s time the court became more open, accessible and transparent. They introduced legislation last week that would require the court to broadcast its proceedings. Whether Congress has the power to do this undoubtedly will be subject to the court’s final word — delivered, most likely, from behind closed doors.
Ditch the dithering over debates
Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli finally have agreed to ground rules for the Virginia Bar Association’s July 20 gubernatorial debate at the Homestead. McAuliffe’s campaign this week dropped its objections to a segment that allows the candidates to ask questions of each other, paving the way for the debate to go on as planned.
Was that so hard?
The whole debate over debates has descended into depths of silliness unbecoming of candidates for Virginia’s highest office. Now that McAuliffe and Cuccinelli have agreed to the format for their first debate, let’s hope they make the most of it by having a substantive and dignified exchange.
“We think this format will ensure that the first meeting of both candidates offers Virginians a meaningful, issues-focused debate,” said VBA President Tom Bagby of Roanoke when the debate agreement was finalized.
Voters should expect nothing less. The debates could be an opportunity to change the trajectory of a campaign that, so far, has all the makings of a race for the low road.
Weather JournalNew batch of moisture for PM