Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on the Dragon Lady:
The U-2 "Dragon Lady" spy plane, a product of the famed Lockheed "Skunk Works," first flew in 1955. It was one of the most successful aircraft ever built, and it is still flying.
The U-2's designated successor, the SR-71 Blackbird, was retired in 1988. Now the same fate threatens the 32 remaining U-2s even though they continue to provide valuable intelligence, especially from remote and secretive areas like North Korea, where they peer down from the relatively safe altitude of 70,000 feet.
Unfortunately, the U-2 is best remembered for an incident when that altitude proved not quite so safe. On May 1, 1960, on an overflight of the Soviet Union, an SA-2 anti-aircraft missile exploded close enough to a U-2 on a spy mission to cripple the plane, causing it to crash and the American pilot, Francis Gary Powers, to bail out safely.
The incident wrecked a planned peace summit in Paris, ending hopes that it would mark the start of a period of "peaceful coexistence" between the U.S. and the USSR.
Relations between the two countries eventually reverted to a chilly standoff while the U-2 continued peering into the doings of our foes, likely foes and those whose mysterious activities — among them, the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba — aroused our curiosity.
Although the military has $598 million in the 2015 budget to keep the U-2 flying, the Air Force is proposing to begin a phaseout of the U-2 in favor of unmanned drones like the Global Hawk. But while drones have more than proved their worth, there is still no substitute for on-the-spot human judgment.
The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on solar panels:
President Barack Obama is announcing a bundle of plans for boosting solar power and promoting energy efficiency.
That may be about all he can do on his own authority without support from Congress, but it's still half a loaf.
One of the steps he was touting was completion of solar panel installation on the White House roof. Well, whoopee.
Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the roof of the executive residence, but Ronald Reagan had them removed. That made the panels a political football rather than a modest efficiency tool.
The panels will be more effective as a symbol of presidential policy than as a real contribution to the nation's energy efficiency.
America needs a broader, more inclusive energy policy, but it's never going to get one as long as political leaders hold to hard-line policy.
"The president can't claim an 'all of the above' strategy while he's blocking the Keystone pipeline, slow-rolling the approval of new energy exploration and proposing job-killing regulations that will destroy the American coal industry," said a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, the ultra-Republican from Ohio.
Filter out the partisan rhetoric, and the man has a point. Solar panels do not a policy make. Power-saving green steps alone can't meet our energy needs.
The energy efficiency guys and the we-need-more-power bunch need to bury the hatchet. The issue is too important to the national well-being to be a focus for political games.
The Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee, on unfounded vaccine:
The anti-vaccination movement is doing more harm than perhaps its leaders intend. Since its leaders clearly are set on pitting their knowledge against that of the medical community, perhaps they should adopt the Hippocratic Oath, just as physicians do — the one that says, "First, do no harm."
When TV personality Jenny McCarthy and other anti-vaccine leaders cite anecdotal "evidence" or outdated and discredited studies, or simply misapply research findings, they appear, by making the most noise, to be on an equal footing with actual medical experts, which simply is untrue.
Of course, the media bear some responsibility for this, especially 24-hour television news, which rewards the loudest voices in the room with disproportionate air time. But this issue, unlike other debates that are made to appear equally balanced between pro and con, carries deadly consequences.
Childhood diseases once thought to have been eradicated in the United States are clawing back. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites recent outbreaks of measles in New York, California and Texas. Whooping cough, especially fatal for young children, also is making a comeback. The culprits appear to be people who opted out of required childhood vaccinations, who then came into contact with infected people traveling into the U.S. and spread it further within their communities.
The number of cases nationally is expected to triple this year from fewer than 200 five years ago, USA Today has reported. When you consider that measles kills 1 in every 1,000 cases and is one of the most contagious viruses known, there is ample cause for alarm.
Death is not the only threat, either: Since February, doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have diagnosed seven infants with a bleeding disorder resulting from parents' refusal to allow their newborns to get vitamin K injections.
Those refusing to get shots unfortunately have the law on their side.
In Tennessee and 47 other states, anti-vaccination groups have managed to bring about opt-out laws from what were formerly mandatory school vaccinations. The state Health Department says that currently, about 2 percent of Tennessee children do not receive shots for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); whooping cough; and other diseases.
Last week, Tennessee officials reported this state's first documented case of measles in three years.
For those who simply view vaccinations as a government plot, we have no sympathy at all. As parents and guardians, they owe it to their children not to put them or other children at risk on the basis of fallacious rumor.