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Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

By The Associated PressSeptember 4, 2019

Rapid City Journal, Aug. 30

Central States Fair continues to do us proud

The lop-eared rabbits have returned to familiar cages. The fattened pygmy goats that competed to lick toddlers’ palms have too. The German tent settled onto crushed grass after the last tuba notes and laughter faded.

Over its two-weekend run, the Central States Fair spun teens, flung fur, kicked dirt, and gathered western farm folk from near and yonder. City dwellers reconnected to agricultural roots while nibbling corn dogs and funnel cakes amid earthy smells.

The fair appeals to every real or wannabe country kid who ever jumped from the back of a pickup, detasseled corn, did chores or modeled cowboy hats. It helps keep alive the skills and values that mattered here a century ago. Many people coming to the fair can still saddle a stallion, steady a nervous steer or muck out a stall.

For 10 days the grandstands served as the center of the western South Dakota agricultural universe. Rodeo reigned. Crews, including volunteers, reset the grand stage daily, making it ready for motocross, then demolition derby, then concerts, then the big rodeo.

The cream puffs were a big hit again, as were kids vying for state champion mutton buster.

A variety of 4-H talents, wares and livestock made proud debuts. People learned how to become better gardeners, spin yarns — real and figurative — and can pickles. Quarters and rings flew before carnies. Dollars dropped into tills. Smiles spread. The midway remains the surest way to burn a $50 bill.

It doesn’t just happen. A party for 120,000-plus visitors takes a dedicated team to plan and problem solve. Buildings and grounds must be maintained and improved throughout the year. The county, Central States Fair Inc. and the Central States Fair Foundation all do their parts. Fair General Manager Ron Jeffries deserves the lion’s share of credit.

Agriculture is South Dakota’s leading industry, with a $17 billion dollar impact on the state’s economy. The Central States Fair by extension has a big impact on the local economy. Rural folk fill hotels and restaurants. They buy bridles and appliances.

More than just another economic stimulant, however, the fair is a rural end-of-summer tradition. Kids, parents and grandparents stroll the dirt together, stepping over snaking power conduits, just as earlier generations did. Lessons in responsibility arrive even as youthful independence extends.

The nighttime blur of green and purple lights on the towering Ferris wheel also signals a pending return to school for kids. For farmers it’s the last big party before harvest.

The Central States Fair remains a strong part of this community. Over the years it has come to engender a good mix of ag and entertainment. Its competitive venues range from those offering top prize money to simple bragging rights.

We tip our hats to all of the competitors, winners all. We tip our hats to all who came and enjoyed. We had ourselves a fair. It was a grand old time.

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Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Sept. 4

It’s vital to get a handle on vaping

There’s something nervous, mysterious and quite possibly unhealthy in the air.

The popularity of electronic cigarettes — known as e-cigarettes, in a practice referred to as vaping — has grown dramatically in recent years across all age groups, including teenagers. Seen by many as a substitute for smoking tobacco, vaping has become a genuine craze.

But the safety of vaping remains a huge unknown.

A story in Saturday’s Press & Dakotan explored both the rise in the usage of e-cigarettes as well as the growing concerns about health issues.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported last week that an outbreak of critical lung disease among teens and young adults “is forcing federal agencies to grapple with a vast, nearly unregulated market of nicotine- and marijuana-based vaping products.” The number of cases, which rose over the weekend, stands at more than 215 in 25 states, including one confirmed death. And physicians say they aren’t really sure what they are dealing with, other than that the common denominator seems to be the use of e-cigarettes.

Currently, these products aren’t even subject to “truth in advertising” regulations until next year, which makes whatever claims are made about their contents and safety potentially suspect.

As a result, despite the spike in lung cases there have been no recalls issued, nor has there been official federal information released about what elements in e-cigarettes might be causing the illnesses.

Vaping’s popularity is skyrocketing, especially among younger users. According to a survey from the National Institutes of Health, the number of U.S. high school seniors who say they have vaped nicotine in the last 30 days has nearly doubled (11% to 21 since 2017, which is “the largest increase ever recorded for any substance in the survey’s 43-year history,” according to the Vox news website. The number of high school seniors who vaped in general during the previous 30 days had reached an even higher rate (27%).

One reason vaping is popular is the problematic fact that it’s easy to disguise the e-cigarettes themselves, which can be passed off as thumb drives or other small, seemingly innocent electronic devices. As a result, e-cigarettes can be used in schools under a cloak of deception.

Also, the product has been increasingly marketed to younger users with the expansion of sweet and fruity flavors.

On Sunday, The New York Times ran a story on the mysterious illnesses, quoting one doctor who referred to the situation as an “epidemic.” The article noted, “Patients, mostly otherwise healthy and in their late teens and 20s, are showing up with severe shortness of breath, often after suffering for several days with vomiting, fever and fatigue. Some have wound up in the intensive care unit or on a ventilator for weeks.”

It has also been reported that many of the respiratory cases have involved e-cigarette products containing THC, which is found in marijuana.

Warnings are also circulating about bootleg vaping products, which can be altered in unknown ways and/or with unknown elements.

Because of the popularity of e-cigarettes, it’s important for agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to become more vigorously involved with these products.

The CDC, at least, appears to be taking some action. Over the holiday weekend, the agency issued a health alert headlined “Severe Pulmonary Disease Associated with Using E-Cigarette Products,” in which it warned that e-cigarettes contain several harmful products, including heavy metals (such as lead), nicotine, organic compounds and cancer-causing chemicals.

The issues of better understanding and oversight must be tackled by federal agencies sooner rather than later. The soaring popularity of these products — as well as their promotion as being a safe, healthy smoking “alternative” — makes it imperative to determine the risks and to determine guidelines. This must be a public health priority.

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Madison Daily Leader, Sept. 3

An unknown man helped define Sioux Falls

A man who helped create the modern-day Sioux Falls died last week. And you may not have heard his name before.

Jeff Hazard was a principal at Koch Hazard , one of the leading architecture firms in South Dakota. His commitment to design and architecture left an extraordinary stamp on Sioux Falls, the state and, yes, Madison.

Consider the projects he’s been involved with in the last three decades: the Washington Pavilion, the Denny Sanford Premier Center, Cherapa Place, the Performing Arts Center at South Dakota State University, the Museum of Visual Materials, the renovation of the Sioux Falls airport and many more.

No architect works alone, of course, and Hazard had a deep and talented staff at Koch Hazard. Many other people worked on all the projects listed above and below. But almost everyone in that industry credits him with the vision, integrity and humanity to make those projects what they are today.

Koch Hazard also put an imprint on Madison. At Dakota State University, the renovation of the Tunheim Classroom Building, the upgrade of Beadle Hall, a master plan for the campus and the construction of the Karl E. Mundt Library were all Koch Hazard projects. (The Mundt library was designed and built before Jeff Hazard joined the firm, but his father Bob was involved, along with Ralph Koch.)

The Heartland Consumers Power District headquarters in Madison was a Koch Hazard project, as was the Trinity Lutheran Church expansion, as well as the Maroney Rural Learning Center in Howard.

We don’t often think about the architects behind great buildings; perhaps we think of the occupants of the building or the contractor or the people who paid for it. But we recognize the role good design plays in all of these, making it work for the tenant, contractor and those who financed it.

We appreciate the contribution Jeff Hazard made to our part of South Dakota.

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