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Guest View: What can be done to curb illegal drugs in Twin Falls?

The United States is home to sixty-eight million children. However, many of these young children are at an increased risk for being exposed to and partaking in the use and sale of illegal drugs. In fact, 90 percent of Americans with a substance abuse problem starting smoking, drinking, or using drugs before age 18. Substance abuse in teens can lead to long term social and health problems, along with injury and death. It can also affect growth and development. Because of this, it is more critical than ever to invest government funding into after school programs, mentor programs, skill building and job training programs, and summer job programs to prevent the use of drugs among children and teens.

Investing in after-school and other youth programs is the most effective way to prevent drug use among teens. The recent trend has been to invest government funds into anti-drug media campaigns. However, these have been found ineffective. Federal research has shown that anti-drug media campaigns do not serve their purpose. In fact, a report done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that, “Nearly 80 percent of youths who used illicit drugs and more than three-fourths of youths who were drunk on 51 or more days in the past year reported being exposed to prevention messages outside school.” In addition, a recently completed study of 1,798 students on the effects of the DARE program done by Dennis Rosenbaum showed that DARE does not prevent drug use at the stage in adolescent development when drugs are becoming available. While these prevention programs may prove beneficial in some high school settings, they are not creating a significant improvement on America’s children.

However, there are programs that have been shown to create a significant difference in the lives of teens that are at a risk for drug abuse. According to “Common Sense for Drug Policy” which is a national coalition for effective drug policies, a federal report by the U.S. Center on Substance Abuse Prevention stated, “alternative programming appears to be most effective among those youth at greatest risk for substance abuse and related problems.” There is also research to back up these claims. A study conducted at Cornell University on 6,000 students in New York found that the odds of drinking, smoking and using marijuana were 40 percent lower among students who participated in a programs that promoted healthy lifestyles and smart choices as compared to those students who did not. It is shown that the smartest way to prevent the use and sale of illegal drugs is to fund programs that deter these activities.

These alternative programs that deter youth from drug use can be defined as anything that provides targeted populations with activities that are free of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. In the local Twin Falls area, there are several programs that all youth can get involved in that deter them from drug use. Within school systems, those who are involved in sports or clubs where they have a sense of responsibility are seen to have a significantly lower level of drug use. This is also true for out of school activities. Activities such as 4-H have also been shown to have an incredibly positive influence on youth. Making connections with individuals who do not use illegal substances, along with the fact that children and teens who spend their time engaged in these activities have less time to be involved in drug use shows the positive benefits of investing in youth programs and therefore, deterring the use of illegal substances.

While these programs are often incorporated nation-wide, they can have a significan timpact on Twin Falls County. In Twin Falls County alone, there are several ways that children and teens can spend their time. Programs such as sports clubs, the National FFA Organization, 4-H, the Business Professionals of America, National Honor Society, student council, and many others are made available to students within Twin Falls county that help prevent drug use. It is worth the time and effort of government officials and government funds to be invested in these programs and to create additional programs and resources that spark interest in youth. While there are many sports clubs available to teens, it would prove beneficial to allocate fund to creating other clubs and organizations that reach out to a larger population of young people. However, all programs and organizations prove helpful in protecting and ensuring a better future for every child and teen.

It is more critical than ever to invest government funding into after school programs, mentor programs, skill building and job training programs, and summer job programs to prevent the use of drugs among children and teens. Children and teens are at a critical age for development and it is in the best interest of Twin Falls County and the entire United States to reserve efforts towards these programs. Not only do these programs help individuals while they are teens, they prevent those individuals from even considering the use of illegal substances when they are older. It makes more sense for citizens to be proactive with the problem and invest in youth, rather than spend millions of dollars dealing with those drug issues later on in life.

Today’s youth is tomorrow’s leaders and it is worth everyone’s time and money to invest in programs that deter youth from engaging in the use and sale of illegal substances.

Letter: Living with Lyme

Lyme disease is an ailment that a small amount of people understand, and an equally large amount are battling. A little known fact, there is no cure for Lyme disease. A person dealing with Lyme can go years without proper diagnosis. Sadly, the majority of the mainstream medical community know very little about this disease and that is why it can go undetected for so long. Two in 5 people dealing with Lyme will even get a positive test result back on the first try.

The accepted form of treatment is a course of antibiotics which, if anything, makes the problem worse. There are natural remedies that have proven quite effective but are not covered by insurance companies because they are “only natural.”

So why should you be worried about Lyme disease? I mean, we do live in Idaho and there aren’t many ticks in the desert, right? Wrong. Ticks can flourish in almost any climate as long as there are hosts to feed on. Lyme specialists are finding that you do not need to be bitten by a tick to contract Lyme, and because of the major globalization we have seen in the last couple decades, all sorts of bugs are being stirred around and found in unlikely places. What can you do to help? You can donate for research or grants for children who are battling Lyme at this link You can also sign this petition to President Trump, asking for reform of how Lyme is handled Educate yourself and others on Lyme. If you or someone you care about has strange, or unexplainable symptoms that don’t seem to go away, it could be Lyme.

Shiloh Mercedes, Lyme carrier for five years


Idaho View: Time for leadership, new path through INL nuke research stalemate

This appeared in the Idaho Statesman:

The deadlock between Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and the Department of Energy over allowing spent nuclear fuel into Idaho for research has gone on too long. With new players in Washington, it’s time for Idaho leaders to set aside the bad blood and build a new relationship that will benefit Idaho.

There is reason for optimism. There are new faces all around this issue: a new presidential administration; a new secretary of energy; a relatively new nuclear cleanup contractor, with a new plan; and a fairly new director of the research lab. There is too much riding on long-term success for Idaho, the Idaho National Laboratory, our national security and U.S. energy policy to let this opportunity slip away.

In 1995, DOE agreed with Idaho to clean up waste at INL. DOE has made good on some efforts and failed to honor other aspects of that agreement. It wants to bring new radioactive material in to INL for research purposes. But to hold DOE to its cleanup promises, Wasden feels compelled to block these shipments.

This is not simple stubbornness. The federal government has failed to begin processing 900,000 gallons of radioactive liquid waste. Wasden often remarks that the containers holding this dangerous material in this liquid state “are 60 years closer to leaking” and possibly contaminating our critical Snake River Aquifer. An Integrated Waste Treatment Unit the DOE thought would be operational several years ago is still not doing the job.

At the other end of the argument is Mark Peters, the new INL research director, who said his lab already is being negatively affected. The government’s lead nuclear research lab is unable to do its research without the spent fuel. By saying no to accepting spent nuclear fuel shipments, Idaho and INL are missing out on potentially $200 million in economic impact.

Wasden and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter have equal authorities under the 1995 agreement. Otter was rebuffed by Wasden two years ago when the governor wanted to give the green light for 200 pounds of spent nuclear fuel to enter the state for research. That shipment was rerouted to a lab in Tennessee. The fate of another shipment is up in the air.

But we are hopeful.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is the former governor of Texas. Otter knows him from their work together in the Western Governors’ Association. That connection led to a meeting between Otter and Perry last month in Washington. “When he came in and sat down, the lab is the first thing he wanted to talk about ... how the lab is so important to the United States and to the Department of Energy, and to the future of nuclear power,” Otter told the Statesman recently.

A new cleanup contractor, Fluor, has taken a fresh look at the technical obstacles plaguing the IWTU facility — which is designed to turn that liquid waste into a stable solid. It has completed its assessment stage and now is in a demonstration phase with some design fixes. Managers there have learned not to predict when the IWTU will be up and running, but Fluor is about to complete the first year of a five-year, $1.4 billion contract. Its leadership is confident it has the strategy and expertise to get the job done soon.

Wasden issued a statement this week, noting that discussions about getting the waste issue resolved are held up pending getting DOE senior officials appointed and confirmed. “I’m optimistic that once senior managers are in place, we can work with DOE to address the compliance issues,” Wasden said.

Though many in Idaho’s Legislature and congressional delegation have encouraged Wasden to separate INL’s missions of cleanup and research and let the research waste in, Wasden has been unwilling to let go of the leverage he and Idaho have.

The other side of that coin is worth considering: Refusing to allow the spent fuel into the state over the past several years has not made the nasty liquid waste any safer — and it could harm INL’s status as the DOE’s top nuclear research facility.

The new leaders and the elected officials in place have a duty to come together, set a goal of serving both missions and negotiate a path forward. Gov. Otter can leverage his connections with Perry, and Rep. Mike Simpson his role as chairman of the House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee that funds INL, to get all the parties to the table.