California Editorial Rdp

Sept. 11

The Los Angeles Times on college athletes getting paid:

College athletes are required by their schools and leagues to be amateurs, which makes them the only ones not earning money off the vast number of hours they put into honing their craft. In fact, a multi-billion-dollar industry has grown up around collegiate athletics in the United States, thanks to a vast marketing and monetization apparatus that turns the games and their players into lucrative sources of revenue.

Making matters worse, student athletes are forced to make a sacrifice no other celebrated Californian has to make: They must give up their right to strike licensing deals for the commercial use of their name, image or likeness. While their schools are free to sign highly profitable endorsements with the makers of athletic gear and sports drinks and video games, some of which rely on their students' images and likenesses, the athletes who give their schools cachet and marketability are not.

It's one thing to bar schools from paying athletes so as to preserve at least some pretense of amateurism; it's another to say that schools can exploit their students' names and images, but their students can't.

That limitation strikes California lawmakers from both parties as fundamentally unfair, and they've voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill (Senate Bill 206) by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) to end it. The measure picks a fight with colleges, the Pac-10 Conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, all of which bar students from striking endorsement deals. But it's a fight worth starting.

Skinner's proposal would require four-year colleges and universities to let students in California sell the rights to their names, images or likenesses. It would also forbid intercollegiate sports organizations to penalize students or the colleges they attend if they struck such deals or hired an agent or lawyer to help them negotiate — a prohibition that would almost certainly be tested in court by collegiate athletic organizations whose members are spread over multiple states.

The measure would inevitably eat away at the distinction between professional and college sports. Celebrated collegians could make money not only by endorsing sneakers and sports drinks, but also by autographing jerseys, pitching workout videos and putting their name on baseball bats and hockey sticks. In short, they could profit from the fame that their work as an athlete brings.

Yet an important distinction would remain: Students would not be paid by universities to play. They could receive scholarships that cover the cost of their education, but couldn't draw any share of the profits generated when their team fills the Rose Bowl with 90,000 fans. They would still be toiling largely for someone else's benefit.

It's worth remembering that the vast majority of student athletes gain no renown and won't turn pro after they leave school. Many of them are in sports that don't even have that option. Their teams may cost their colleges more to operate than they produce in revenue.

Skinner's bill isn't aimed at them. Its main effect will be on athletes in the high-profile college sports who serve as cogs in the profit-generating machine. The demands on those athletes are enormous; being a member of a major college team can require as many hours of practice, preparation, travel and performance as a full-time job. And not only is the prospect of a pro contract uncertain, these athletes run the risk of career-ending injuries with no workers-compensation safety net.

The UC system and other intercollegiate groups have pushed back hard against the bill. They warn that their teams and students could lose eligibility to participate in championship games and tournaments for violating the NCAA's clear rules against endorsement deals, and that the colleges themselves could lose the sponsorship revenue they use to support teams and pursuits that don't make money. Even though Skinner's bill wouldn't go into effect until 2023, it would have implications immediately for recruiting. Perversely, it could discourage talented athletes from going to school in California for fear of their team losing eligibility to compete in tournaments.

Those are legitimate concerns, but they don't justify maintaining a system that's exploitative. An NCAA committee is exploring what to do about athletes' names, images and likenesses, in light of court rulings about videogame licensing that have opened the door to greater student compensation. Ideally, other states would follow California's lead, if for no other reason than to level the playing field and give their student athletes the same benefits California wants to give ours. In the meantime, though, California should move ahead and give student athletes the same rights every other Californian enjoys.


Sept. 10

The Santa Maria Times on remembering September 11 attacks in New York:

Americans of a certain age can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when the twin towers succumbed to terrorism.

The Sept. 1, 2001, attacks began at 8:46 a.m. east coast time, when American Airlines Flight 11's journey from Boston to Los Angeles was interrupted as terrorists hijacked the airliner and flew it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower a few minutes later.

Both towers collapsed in less than two hours. The official death toll was 2,977 — a minor miracle considering there were more than 15,000 people in those buildings. The onsite toll included 343 firefighters, and 60 police officers from various departments.

Americans watched the horror unfold on live TV. When the first plane hit, many thought it was a small general-aviation aircraft, because the jetliner buried itself so deep into the North Tower's side.

But then, the live feed of the second jetliner slammed into the other tower. It was clear America was suffering another Pearl Harbor.

In between those attacks on the WTC, American Airlines Flight 77's trip from Virginia to the West Coast ended abruptly as it smashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A few minutes after that, United Flight 93, on its way to San Francisco, slammed into a vacant field in Pennsylvania after passengers rose up against the hijackers, an act of heroism showing extremists they weren't the only ones willing to die for a cause. Documents later suggest Flight 93 might have been aimed at the White House.

The 19 men who hijacked the jetliners were associated with al-Qaedal, whose leader, Osama bin Laden, claimed responsibility for the attacks as part of bin Laden and al-Qaeda's so-called holy war against the United States and its citizens.

Bin Laden was tracked down a decade later by U.S. intelligence agencies, and shot to death by a Navy Seal team in May 2011, as America's political leaders looked on via a live video feed from bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan, thus removing the head of the al-Qaeda snake in dramatic fashion.

Earlier, we compared the 911 attack with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Actually, the al-Qaeda attack was deadlier in terms of American lives lost at the point of attack. The toll in Pearl Harbor was 2,403 American lives lost. But it's what came in the years that immediately followed Pearl Harbor that demonstrates the true cost of such violent events.

Yes, we remember watching the 911 attacks on TV. It was the worst kind of horror imaginable, and once others watching the events unfold fully understood what was taking place, entire rooms fell silent.

Some viewers were crying, others were just angry. You could feel and see the blood lust rising to the surface as TV announcers made it clear that foreign terrorists were behind the hijackings and attacks, just as Americans reacted when radio announcers described the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. They understood war was coming.

It has been 18 years since the 911 tragedies, and the images are just as soul-wrenching and indelible today as they were then, and for some maybe even more so as the fallout from that day continues to take American lives.

Writing about this, and remembering that day makes it easy to understand why so many Americans, of every political inclination, consider inviting terrorists to a meeting in this country a dreadful idea.


Sept. 8

The East Bay Times on increase of lung disease and connection to vaping:

Tobacco ads have been banned from TV for about 50 years. But not e-cigarette products, which can still be marketed as a "safe tobacco alternative."

The surge in cases of vaping-related lung illness demands that the ban should be extended to e-cigarettes. California and the nation should also follow the lead of Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo counties and ban flavored e-cigarettes and consider outlawing vaping altogether.

The Centers for Disease Control said Friday it is investigating 450 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses in 33 states, including at least three deaths. The doctor who is leading the CDC's investigation, Dr. Dana Meaney-Delman, told the New York Times, "While this investigation is ongoing, people should consider not using e-cigarette products."

No kidding.

Federal officials remain perplexed by what is causing the illnesses, although Meaney-Delman said the CDC believes that a chemical of some kind is involved. E-cigarettes emit as many as 10 toxins.

Doctors are dismayed that the median age of patients afflicted with vaping-related lung diseases in Illinois and Wisconsin is 19. The Illinois Department of Public Health noted that a majority of those cases involve users who had vaped a product containing THC, the primary ingredient of marijuana.

E-cigarette firms continue to claim that they do not market their products to minors. We would be more inclined to believe them if some didn't continue to offer fruity and sweet-flavored products in stores. The bottom line is young children and teenagers are picking up the habit in increasing numbers.

The Surgeon General reports that across the nation, 1 in every 5 high school students and 1 in every 20 middle-school students use e-cigarettes. The California Public Health Department notes that 84% of high school students using tobacco do so by smoking flavored tobacco products.

A recent study of Santa Clara County teens found that nearly 1 in 3 — 31.6% — say that they have used an e-cigarette at least once. It's especially notable that more than 2 in 5 teens — 45.4% — reported purchasing their own e-cigarettes, with over a quarter of this group saying they buy them directly from a local store.

The survey said that among those who purchased e-cigarettes in a local store, 62.5% purchased them at a vape shop. That's illegal in California. The state prohibited the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in 2010.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, introduced a bill in the Legislature earlier this year that would have outlawed the sale of flavored tobacco products in California stores and vending machines. But intense lobbying by the tobacco industry forced Hill to withdraw his bill rather than accept amendments that would have made the legislation ineffective.

More than 20 countries, including Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, the Philippines and Indonesia, already ban vaping. Australia, Japan and India all have some form of restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes. The recent outbreak of lung diseases related to vaping demands that state and federal officials restrict advertising of e-cigarette products and consider a total ban of their sale.

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