South Carolina editorial roundup

The Associated PressJuly 15, 2014 

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

July 12

The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on Israel's heightened peril:

President Barack Obama has offered to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, a standard U.S. response to the periodic outbreak of violence from Gaza. But the current rocket fire from Gaza into Israel is different from past episodes, and the usual cease-fire may not answer Israel's new peril.

Hamas took credit for trying to destroy Israel's nuclear reactor at Dimona. Three rockets were fired at the installation. Two fell short and one was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Had the attacks succeeded - and more are expected - widespread exposure to nuclear radiation could have resulted. At the least, Hamas' terror campaign would have achieved a new level.

Around the same time, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri declared, "All Israelis have become legitimate targets." He claimed that the deaths of seven civilians in an Israeli air raid on Khan Yunis, a Gaza settlement, justified this blood claim.

Israel's reply to Hamas rocket attacks has indeed been far more deadly than the provocation. But that is due to three things: the ineptness of most Hamas attacks, the roughly 90 percent success of Israel's Iron Dome system in destroying the missiles most likely to do damage, and the practice of Hamas to put its missiles, command posts and other military targets in the midst of dense civilian populations.

The heightened threat level may lead to an Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israel also has to worry about the threat from Hezbollah in Lebanon, with as many as 30,000 missiles, including some that have GPS guidance systems. Hezbollah also gets its weapons from Iran, with the help of the Assad government of Syria. It can be expected to unleash an attack if Iran thinks it is desirable. With Iran's help Assad seems to be winning the civil war in Syria, but it is not over yet. Indeed, it has spread to Iraq and now threatens Jordan.

Hamas' aggression against Israel - the murders, the missiles, the rhetoric - threatens to drag Israel into the wider Middle East conflict. A cease-fire may put a temporary stop to the pressure from Iran's proxies.

But Israel's heightened peril will remain.

And that intensifies the need for the international community, including the United States, to help resolve not only the latest violence, but finally the intransigent Israeli-Palestinian conflict.



July 13

The Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina, on polluted seawater:

Permanent signs warning of potential pollution of seawater along South Carolina beaches are a good idea. But they should be backed up with media advisories and other warnings when pollution rises to dangerous levels.

South Carolina has a big problem with the quality of the water along its beaches. Overall, the state's beaches ranked seventh worst in the nation for water quality, according to the National Resources Defense Council's 24th annual study published June 27.

Much of the problem is concentrated along the Grand Stand, which features a large number of ocean-flowing tidal inlets and seaside drainage pipes that channel bacteria-laden storm runoff water directly into the ocean. Data collected by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control show that bacteria levels exceeded the federal safe swimming standard along Myrtle Beach on 45 days from March through October, when swimmers are more likely to be in the ocean.

Swimming in polluted seawater can be hazardous. Those who duck their heads in the bacteria-laced water can develop skin rashes, sore throats, earaches and gastrointestinal illnesses.

Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach are working to remove the drainage pipes, but the process is expensive and time-consuming.

Until the sources of pollution are drastically reduced or eliminated, state regulators charged with protecting public health should be vigilant in warning swimmers about pollution hazards.

Instead, DHEC is doing less, limiting its warnings largely to permanent signs near drainage pipes and listings on the agency's website. While DHEC used to notify newspapers, television and other media, it has issued few special media advisories about surf pollution in recent years.

Contrast that approach with the policy in North Carolina, which issues warnings to the media any time bacteria levels exceed federal standards at major beaches. Warning signs also are posted immediately for high pollution levels.

In addition to traditional media, such as newspapers and TV, people also can be contacted via social media, such as Twitter. We suspect that families planning a vacation along the South Carolina coast would like to know if the water near where they are staying is fit for swimming.

The danger to tourism isn't warnings from DHEC or the NRDC, it's dirty water.



July 15

Aiken (South Carolina) Standard on highway trust fund:

The Highway Trust Fund is running on fumes and that won't change unless there's Congressional action.

The dwindling fund, which is seen by some as vital to the nation's transportation network, is projected to soon exceed its dedicated revenues and become insolvent.

Previously, there's always been agreement in Washington, D.C., when it comes to financing the fund. But now, that consensus is crumbling as the fund is increasingly seen as "pork spending" and just another example of the federal government's gluttony. Thankfully, there has been some movement on finding a solution. Last week, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee passed a measure that might be a fix.

The fund should not be given a blank check to stay sustainable, and a number of solutions have previously been proposed to find cuts elsewhere to allow the highway fund to continue at its current pace.

While the issue hasn't gained much attention in recent weeks, this is a problem that should be of concern for anyone who wants a pothole fixed or drives over a bridge and expects it not to collapse.

This week, the U.S. House is expected to vote on a bill that would provide funding until May using a rather complicated combination of budgetary moves known as "pension smoothing" and tapping another trust fund geared toward leaking, underground storage tanks. Is this the best solution? No. Could the fund, which disbursed $50 billion to states in 2013, be reformed? Likely so. But having our roads and bridges in good condition is also imperative.

Budget transfers seem to be the short-term solution. That's OK for now, but a more straightforward solution - one that more effectively prioritizes funding and makes the fund solvent - should be a must for Congress moving forward.


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