South Carolina editorial roundup

September 26, 2018

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


Sept. 25

The Post and Courier of Charleston on wiping out mosquitoes:

Mosquitoes are one of a few irritations we put up with in order to enjoy the many perks of life in the Lowcountry. And fortunately, the consequences of venturing out in the summer without bug spray are usually little more than itchy bumps.

But that’s not the case elsewhere around the world, where mosquitoes are responsible for hundreds of millions of cases of illness and millions of deaths each year. They’re easily the world’s deadliest animal, even more so than humans.

Malaria is a particularly devastating mosquito-borne illness. About half of the world’s population lives in areas at risk of malaria, which sickens millions and kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, most of them in Africa.

One group of species — Anopheles gambiae — out of the roughly 3,500 types of mosquitoes on earth is responsible for most of that epidemic. And researchers recently announced that they successfully tested a gene modification technique that could cause entire populations of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes to self-destruct.

There’s just one small catch. We don’t really have any idea what would happen without mosquitoes. They’re food for other animals, they help pollinate plants, they compete with other nasty animals.

Getting rid of them could be a disaster, or it might not make much of a difference at all.

According to a report published Monday, scientists have figured out how to genetically engineer mosquitoes that pass along sterility when they mate. An entire population can be wiped out in a few generations, which for mosquitoes would take just a few months.

Humans have experimented with lower-tech methods of mosquito eradication for decades. In fact, the United States struggled with malaria until the 1950s, when aggressive pesticide spraying and other anti-mosquito efforts effectively eradicated the disease here.

Lots of counties still routinely spray for mosquitoes, although not without some controversy. And yet, the biting pests remain very much with us.

In remote places with minimal infrastructure and year-round mosquito breeding seasons, the challenge is even tougher. So scientists have been trying to come up with a more effective solution than pesticides.

What little research has been conducted on the importance of the Anopheles gambiae mosquito suggests that eradicating it might not have much of an impact. They certainly wouldn’t be missed by humans.

But far more study will be required before releasing genetically engineered, self-destructing insects into the wild.

Of course, research on genetically altered mosquitoes raises broader ethical and ecological questions as well. Harmful artificial genetic traits that can rapidly spread through a population could be used as a powerful biological weapon, for example.

Billions of species have come and gone in the long history of our planet. More than a few of them owe their demise to humans. Life on earth is still soldiering on, at least for now.

Any chance to wipe out malaria and other massively destructive diseases merits investigation. But if we’re going to intentionally eradicate a species, we’d better make sure we fully understand the consequences.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com


Sept. 24

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on cars damaged in flooding:

Scenes of submerged vehicles are again filling the news. A year ago it was Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Now it’s the devastating flooding from Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas.

Harvey and its flooding ruined up to 700,000 vehicles along the Texas Gulf Coast, destroying up to 500,000 vehicles owned by individuals.

As flooding continues in the Carolinas, experts say high water will damage thousands of vehicles.

Kelley Blue Book Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke told The Associated Press the estimate is 20,000 to 40,000 vehicles will be total losses due to Florence, while Anil Goyal, executive vice president of operations at Black Book, which tracks used sales and values, predicts 20,000 damaged or destroyed, maybe less.

The catch in this is that “destroyed” may not mean the vehicles are headed for the junkyard.

In most instances, insurers will turn cars over to auctions or salvage yards. Undamaged parts will be salvaged and many vehicles will be scrapped. Some will go to salvage auctions, says Black Book’s Goyal. Everything that’s ruled a total loss by an insurance company should get a salvage title.

But consumers should be careful. A vehicle considered a total loss in one state might not require a salvage title in another state.

In other words, “destroyed” may not mean destroyed.

Unfortunately, there are people willing to get these vehicles, do what it takes to get them operating, take them to other states and sell them without the purchaser knowing the story of the “good deal.”

Cars damaged by flooding may be cleaned up and moved around the county with no notation of flood damage, even though dealers must disclose in writing if a vehicle has been branded. A brand is a descriptive label assigned to a vehicle that appears on that vehicle’s title. This identifies the vehicle’s current or prior condition, such as junk, salvage or flood.

So, can you spot a flood-damaged car?

According to a 2017 report by Scripps Media, flood damage affects the mechanical, electrical and safety systems of the vehicle. Carfax says telltale signs of a flood vehicle include:

. Upholstery does not match carpet.

. Rust on door hinges.

. Seat belts or inside bolts damaged.

. Musty odor.

. Water lines in engine or trunk.

Carfax provides a free flood check report — but there is the real possibility many of the cars from Florence, as with Harvey, will not be branded as flooded. In that case, a buyer is on his own.

Which leads to the conclusion that applies whether the car is potentially flood damaged or not: Have an expert check out a used vehicle before you buy.

As the Scripps report states: “An inspection could mean the difference between winding up with hunk of junk and a dependable used car.”

Online: https://thetandd.com


Sept. 25

Index-Journal of Greenwood on the aftermath of Hurricane Florence:

Three months from Tuesday will be Christmas Day.

But for many communities in both Carolinas, Christmas will be dismal. In fact, many will either be somewhere other than their current address or still busily cleaning up and trying to turn their house back into a home.

Hurricane Florence is long gone, but the storm’s aftermath has devastated coastal communities and those along rivers. The stories continue to be found and told, including those shared by the Index-Journal’s staff writer Adam Benson, who joined a Greenwood team that set out to do what it could to at least feed responders, volunteers and victims alike, wherever they might be needed.

Their trip took them to the coastal area around Conway. Roads that led into a community have become part of the Waccamaw River, which reached more than double its normal flood stage.

The team Benson was following, Steve Cribbs and James Long, shipped off for Maxton, North Carolina, a Robeson County town not only devastated by Florence and the rising waters of the Lumber River, but also by sheer poverty. Maxton’s poverty rate is more than three times the national average. The story of Maxton is shared by its southern neighbor, Nichols, South Carolina.

Sadly, many of these stories go largely unnoticed. The plight of the few can often be overshadowed by the plight of those living in more densely populated cities and towns.

If anything remotely good can come from such a disaster as that delivered by this storm it would be that more can be done to shore up these communities for when — not if — the next one strikes. Nothing can completely protect these communities and ensure they are unscathed when another storm comes ashore, but measures can be taken to better protect the areas from flooding.

It is easy for those who do not live in these towns to suggest the townspeople simply move somewhere else. Close down the town. Think about that a moment, though. When Greenwood was largely devastated by a tornado in April 1944, did the city close down? No. It rebuilt. Why? Because this was their home.

Online: http://www.indexjournal.com