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July 12, 2014

Readers’ Forum: July 13, 2014

Telling the truth about smoking

On July 7, the Tips From Former Smokers campaign from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began again across the country. The campaign profiles real people — not actors — who live with serious long-term health effects from smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

The new campaign features some gut-wrenching personal stories that are painful to watch. I urge you not to turn the dial when you see or hear these messages, but instead to put yourself in the shoes of these brave individuals.

Close your eyes and imagine learning you have gum disease that requires most of your teeth to be pulled, including 16 in one sitting, like Brett. Imagine finding out your cough and laryngitis are actually lung cancer, like Shawn. Try to envision that you are pregnant, like Amanda, and your baby is born two months early at only three pounds, forcing her to spend her first weeks of life in an incubator.

These are the true and devastating stories of tobacco use.

This campaign is saving lives and money by giving people the facts about smoking — and we are listening. An estimated 1.64 million Americans tried to quit smoking as a result of the 2012 Tips campaign and at least 100,000 are expected to quit smoking for good. When the ads ran last fall, calls to the Indiana Tobacco Quitline nearly doubled.

Here in Indiana, fewer Hoosiers are smoking than ever before. Our smoking rate has dropped from 25.6 percent in 2011 to 21.9 percent in 2013. That’s a huge gain, but we have a long way to go. Smoking kills approximately 9,700 Hoosiers and 480,000 Americans each year.

For every smoking-related death, at least 30 Americans live with smoking-related illnesses.

We all know someone who smokes — a neighbor, a friend, ourselves. Free help to quit is available to all Hoosiers by calling 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669). Let’s help those we love gain their independence from tobacco and the harsh realities it causes.

— William VanNess, M.D., Indiana State Health Commissioner, Indianapolis

Larger energy bills on the way, thanks to EPA

If there is one monthly bill you can count on, it’s your electricity bill. I think Hoosiers across the state can agree, electricity is something we can’t do without. And there is only so much we can save by using less. Every additional dollar spent on electricity is a dollar unavailable for a family to invest in improving its lot in life, or a business to invest in operations that could bring more jobs to the community.

So it isn’t surprising that reports of anticipated increases in electricity prices are causing concern and, among some, alarm. A recent Harris Poll found roughly 76 percent of Americans worry that high electricity prices are on the way. And their worries are substantiated.

Indiana’s middle class households may be America’s Biggest Losers from steeper monthly electricity bills, but they won’t be the only losers. Most vulnerable will be low-income and fixed-income households. They need heat and air conditioning just as much as more affluent households, but have less discretionary income to pay for it. And the Harris Poll found that that is the greatest worry (88 percent) among retirees and seniors living on fixed incomes.

Also hurt will be manufacturers, which tend to prosper in Indiana where coal-fired electricity is reliable and affordable. Energy is a primary cost that often determines whether factories can compete globally or must re-locate abroad where power costs are lower.

At the heart of these concerns, is the reality of fuel switching — in which Indiana, to be fully compliant with the EPA’s greenhouse-gas regulations, would likely have to convert many coal-fired power plants to another fuel source. Indiana has adequate coal within our state to provide for electrical generation for decades to come. To replace this homegrown resource, other fuels will have to be obtained from well beyond our borders. That’s an astronomically costly endeavor, and there currently is not sufficient infrastructure available across the state to support that fuel switch.

Therefore, the EPA’s greenhouse-gas regulations are anticipated to shut down scores of power plants that generate more than 40 percent of the nation’s electricity — and 83 percent of Indiana’s power. Previous federal regulations have already forced 20 percent of coal-plant capacity to soon be retired. These new EPA greenhouse-gas regulations are projected to close even more plants as electricity companies find compliance simply uneconomic.

As the EPA replaces coal with costlier sources, the agency claims the benefits will be worth it. You decide — knowing the impact on global climate change will be immeasurable and certainly unnoticeable, per the testimony of former EPA chiefs.

Over the next 120 days, it’s going to be absolutely critical for Hoosiers to understand the implications of these proposed standards — which have not been sanctioned by Congress, and are opposed by many on both sides of the aisle.

Unless a more common-sense approach emerges, the EPA’s green agenda will show no concern for what’s in your wallet — or for the future of Indiana.

— Bruce Stevens, president Indiana Coal Council

Embrace the compassion, not self-righteousness

Thank you, Ms. Carlisle, for you well-reasoned and enlightening message to the Tribune-Star July 6 edition. We live in a period of history (233 years following the ratification of the Constitution) when it can be expected and debated that cultural evolution will confound the conservative, antiquated and polarized individuals who formulate opinion based on perceived fear, paranoid avoidance and superstitious belief.

This country is not falling to waste and ruin as the recent letters from Greene County pastors suggest. Their independent and collective view is based in conservative Christian interpretation of writings from proven sources, but unproven authenticity. America was not founded as a Christian nation but as a nation accepting the free individual and collective beliefs in the existence or non-existence of a deity, and the right to worship same.

Religion is supplementary to society’s ethics. Marriage between two consenting adults of age is a reflection of society’s ethics, and these ethics always have and always will “trump” religious perceptions and disagreements. Religion belongs in the minds and conduct of individuals, not hyper-proselytized by self-ordained or Christian-educated individuals who are selfish enough to believe they know what is right for all.

Just maintain your “flocks,” take care of your house, and the remainder of the country will be fine. After all, you likely embrace the slightly paranoid belief that your brand of interpretation has been solely responsible for establishing and maintaining our great nation. It will never happen, but the conservative Christians could maintain their belief, faith and road-to-salvation journey, and still open the windows of their building and their minds in a more accepting and less demoralizing and fearful reality. Don’t worry about me or this nation. It is not your calling or your responsibility to have answers for all, only for your narrow group.

One pastor went down the slippery slope of uncritical thinking as he lamented a future of bisexual promiscuity and beastiality. Really, is he that limited in rational capability that he must use fear and ignorance to speculate about our nation’s future? If marriage was based on the intent to reproduce and re-populate, then same-sex marriage does not fit the unnecessary definition. But neither do contraceptive practices, safety-first practices, post-menopause marital loving, and privacy-of-one’s-home preferences.

Even the U.S. government and the military recognize no difference of sexual preferences. As a reality lesson to the pastors, it has not been proven that a gay or lesbian person “chooses.” Perhaps you can logically consider the following: Why would any sane person choose to be bullied, persecuted, denied entrance, denied employment, terminated, socially ostracized or otherwise tortured and humiliated by the wonderful “believers” in this nation?

How can a deity allow straight women to conceive and nurture the homosexual sons and daughters in America? When does common sense, compassion, mercy and acceptance end, and persecution, prosecution and bigotry ensue?

We live in a difficult time, made so by cultural and societal evolution. But that does not mean that medieval fears and superstitions must persist. It requires that all Americans consider the “moral rights and obligations” owed all people and stand for them or against them with reasoned compassion, and an absence of self-righteous indignation and egotistical superiority.

— Jim Camp, Terre Haute

Wondering about country’s leaders

I am amazed about what one of our supposed higher-up leaders, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, said last week about the influx of illegal children, and other illegal entrants coming from Mexico, and Guatemala.

She remarked that in her opinion it was not a problem, but an opportunity last week. What an idiotic statement.

Don’t we already have more than enough illegal entrants in our country that we Americans are supporting through free health care, welfare and food stamps?

But Americans, I have come up with what I feel is the most advantageous, and less expensive, solution to the problem.

Send all those coming across our border from Mexico and other countries straight on up to Nancy Pelosi’s multimillion dollar home in California. She can then use and pay them and maintain their medical care.

When she runs out of space in California, send them to her home in Washington, and she can put them to work for her there, paying their wages and for their medical care, housing and food.

Wouldn’t Washington love to see all those illegals running around in their city getting everything free, while us taxpayers are made to pay for it out of our taxes.

Think about it, Americans, be you Republican, Democrat, Independent or tea party. Isn’t it time for a sweeping change in Washington, D.C.

Make our voices heard next election.

— Charles E. Gossman, Terre Haute

New amendments have hurt country

Our U.S. Constitution has contributed to the advancement of political thought and government. But through the years since the formation of the U.S. Constitution, there has been both positive and negative additions (i.e. amendments) added to it. Unfortunately and in a very negative vein and hurtful to the proper governing balance between the federal and state governments, the 17th Amendment was ratified and enacted.

The existence and influence of this added structure (i.e. the 17th Amendment) to the U.S. Constitution disarranged the political dynamics for both the federal government and each individual state government. The popular election of U.S. senators to the federal government through the enactment of the 17th Amendment, instead of them being elected by state legislatures as originally designed into the U.S. Constitution weakened the position and authority of the state governments against an ever-growing federal government.

The weakened position of each state’s authority against the federal government does not make people living in states safer from the federal government nor are citizens rights more protected from federal government abuses. Not every added amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been a benefit to our country or to the citizens of this country. So, if the tea party or the Republican Party or the Democrat Party ever wanted to protect states’ rights and abuses against citizens of every state by the federal government and/or abuses to each state by the federal government, it is the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution they should fight to repeal.

— Charles Bean, Terre Haute

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