AP NEWS

Recent Missouri Editorials

November 5, 2019

Washington Missourian, Oct. 31

For those who believe Missouri is mired in the quicksand of mediocrity, a blue ribbon panel has just issued a report that has the answer to kickstart the Show-Me State out of its doldrums — a hyperloop.

That’s right, a hyperloop, the futuristic high-speed tube transportation system conceived by Tesla’s Elon Musk that could whisk passengers and freight from St. Louis to Kansas City in under 30 minutes.

People would travel in pods, propelled by a custom electric motor, that would float above a track using magnetic levitation at speeds up to 700 mph.

The report argues Missouri has the chance to become “the global epicenter for the research, development, and commercialization” of tubed transport technology.

Why? Because Missouri has momentum.

We have a “first-mover advantage” because our state has already produced a feasibility study, as well as broad public and private sector engagement across the state, according to the report.

How do we capitalize on our momentum? The next logical and necessary step, the report posits, is to build a 15-mile certification test track for somewhere between $300 and $500 million. That’s a small investment compared to the $10.4 billion it is estimated it would cost to build the loop between St. Louis and Kansas City.

All of this may seem a bit far-fetched, indeed the 176-page report doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the risks — including that it might not work.

But before you dismiss a hyperloop outright, consider that some serious people are on the blue ribbon panel that wrote the report. They are genuinely trying to think outside the box and summon some of the same Missouri innovation that launched the Pony Express, and the interstate highway system.

Let’s face it, our state could benefit from some bold strokes. We would prefer to see a bold, innovative plan to fix our state’s existing transportation infrastructure before we invest in technology that may never prove to be viable.

But as long as a hyperloop doesn’t siphon tax dollars that would typically be used for road and bridge repairs, and the report suggests it won’t, then we don’t care if our state wants to be a pioneer in hyperloop transportation. We wouldn’t put money on its implementation, but then again, Lewis and Clark, who also used Missouri as their launching pad, had their skeptics.

We just find it ironic that the state is pushing an inaugural hyperloop route along Interstate 70 that is estimated to cost billions of dollars to construct, when the same corridor requires billions in improvements right now.

_____

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 3

A medical marijuana trade association is calling for Missouri to strictly regulate vaping additives to address black-market products — including those that use cannabis — as the state prepares for next year’s legalization of medical marijuana. The proposal is a self-serving one for the legalized industry, but it’s also valid policy.

Nationally, health officials are still trying to pin down the cause of hundreds of illnesses across the U.S. and almost a dozen deaths apparently linked to vaping. In addition to investigating legal vaping products, officials are focusing on black-market vaping products that contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, or fillers meant to deceive buyers into believing they contain THC.

With Missouri soon to begin licensing medical marijuana facilities around the state, the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association is asking state medical officials to address that black market with strict rules on vaping additives, testing and labeling.

As the Post-Dispatch’s Jack Suntrup reported, the association sent a letter last week to the state Department of Health and Senior Services arguing that it is “incumbent that we continue to work together to safeguard public health — and diminish the black market.”

Safeguarding public health is always a worthy goal, but trade groups don’t lobby for policy changes unless they see them as advantageous to their industries. This situation is no different.

Although cannabis-related vaping is generally a recreational activity, and only medical marijuana has been legalized in Missouri, it’s not outlandish to think some people who might be helped by legal medical marijuana would be tempted to self-medicate with a cheaper black-market version — including, possibly, a vaping version. Obviously, the legalized medical marijuana industry would rather their products not face that kind of clandestine competition. So, yes, there is, as always in politics, self-interest involved.

But that doesn’t make the trade group’s proposed crackdown wrong. Again, it’s become increasingly apparent that vaping in general is dangerous, and there are indications that black-market, cannabis-related vaping products might pose special dangers.

One issue under investigation nationally is whether fillers like vitamin E acetate oil — which is sometimes added to or completely swapped out for more expensive THC oil to fool black-market vaping-product buyers — is more dangerous than the real thing. Among the Missouri trade group’s recommendations is an outright ban on vitamin E acetate and other additives in vaping products.

Those kinds of dangers are what happen when products with health implications are sold without any regulatory oversight; it’s why they’re called black markets. Gov. Mike Parson already has launched a public awareness campaign to highlight the possible dangers of vaping, and that’s a good start. But the call for specific rules, disclosures and prohibitions on vaping additives — whatever the motivations of that call — is the right one.

_____

Kansas City Star, Nov. 1

The image of former Kansas City Chiefs star Derrick Johnson banging the war drum at Arrowhead Stadium provided a stark reminder of the home team’s offensive and outdated tradition.

While Johnson led the prelude to last Sunday’s nationally-televised contest between the Chiefs and Green Bay, fans waved their arms back and forth in unison, banding together for the Tomahawk Chop.

It was a bad look for Kansas City — and an affront to Native Americans.

For years, the Chiefs organization has worked with Native American groups to address concerns about the negative stereotypes that have been on display at our home games. The team no longer promotes face paint or headdresses that disrespect the heritage or customs of Native Americans.

And Native Americans have blessed the use of the Chiefs’ war drum in accordance with their customs and rituals.

But the ever-present “Arrowhead Chop” at home games, along with Chiefs officials’ unwillingness to disavow the cheer, are evidence that the team still has more work to do.

“The Arrowhead Chop is part of the game-day experience that is really important to our fans,” said team President Mark Donovan.

But why? Arrowhead Stadium is one of the loudest places to play in the NFL, and there’s no doubt that Chiefs fans will bring the noise — with or without the chop.

The divisive chant is racially insensitive and entirely unnecessary.

“The chop itself is the most disgusting thing you can do in sports,” said Amanda Blackhorse of Arizona to Rally Against Native Mascots, a national group opposed to the use of Native American images in sports.

The continued use of Native American mascots, nicknames and themes in sports dehumanizes Native Americans, Blackhorse said.

“I disagree with so much of what they are doing,” she said of the Chiefs organization’s continued encouragement of the chop. “At this point, they are ignoring the opposition. Shame on them for allowing racism to happen in that stadium.”

Elizabeth Glynn, the CEO of Travois, which helps create affordable housing and economic development opportunities for American Indians, has spoken to leaders of tribal nations and said most are against the use of any imagery that depicts Native Americans in a bad light. Travois works with more than 100 tribes in 22 states.

“No one wants to take away the enjoyment for fans,” Glynn said. “There are a lot of ways to have fun at games. You can do that without labeling and stereotyping an entire group of people.”

Of course, the Chiefs aren’t the only organization that has clung to this offensive celebration. The Tomahawk Chop came under fire earlier this month during the Major League Baseball playoff series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves.

St. Louis pitcher Ryan Helsley of the Cherokee Nation was asked for his thoughts about the Braves’ game-day tradition. Helsley didn’t mince words, and the Atlanta organization immediately halted its foam tomahawks giveaway.

“I’m trying to use my voice to get awareness out there and try to help people in that way, to help people see another side, help people see our side,” Helsley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

While sports teams have paid lip service to racial sensitivity, the Washington Redskins have shown no inclination to change their distasteful and inappropriate nickname. Cleveland’s baseball team was painfully slow to phase out its mascot, which belittled Native Americans, Chief Wahoo.

The Chiefs have taken steps in the right direction, but their unwavering commitment to the Arrowhead Chop is confounding and disappointing. What purpose does it serve? And why continue the chant if it offends even a single Native American?

Chiefs fans are among the most loyal and enthusiastic in the NFL. And there’s no doubt they would fill any void left by the absence of the chop with a high-decibel celebration of our team.

November is National Native American Heritage Month. The Chiefs plan to celebrate the culture during a game against Oakland on Dec. 1. But the organization could do far more good if it used this month to reevaluate a practice that perpetuates stereotypes and dehumanizes an entire group.

It’s time for a new Chiefs tradition.