The NFL and dementia
If you join tens of millions of other Americans by turning on a football game, think for a moment about Mike Webster, the tough-guy center who anchored the great Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970s.
Think of Iron Mike especially if you're the parents of kids who aspire to emulate their heroes.
Webster is one focus of "League of Denial," a PBS-Frontline documentary that aired last week about head injury and dementia among retired football players. Webster died in 2002, broken at age 50, in Pittsburgh.
Pathologist Bennet I. Omalu, then working in the Allegheny County Coroner's Office, discovered why Webster in his final days could no longer remember his way to the grocery store and slept in his car: chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head.
Too often, the National Football League has failed to acknowledge the connection between head trauma suffered by some gladiators who play the game that American so loves and dementia later in their lives.
Frontline based its documentary on reporting by brothers Steve Fainaru, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his Iraq coverage while working for The Washington Post, and Mark Fainaru-Wada, who helped break the BALCO steroid scandal. Their book on the topic is "League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth."
The NFL, a master at public relations, has tried to spin its way out of the problem. The league ought to devote at least as much energy to solving the problem of repetitive head trauma as it does trying to persuade its fans that there is no story here.
— The Sacramento Bee
War in Afghanistan lingers
America's war in Afghanistan entered its 12th year last week, and chances are few Americans noticed — no more than most Americans have taken much notice of the war for many years.
It's easy to understand why: Americans are weary to the bone of fighting seemingly fruitless wars in far-distant lands populated mainly by people of radically different cultures who don't much like the West.
What started out as an effort to punish those responsible for 9/11 has turned into an interminable and exhausting slog, even though it finally did bring justice to Osama bin Laden, the architect of the atrocity that started it all.
The loss of more than 2,100 American lives in Afghanistan and the mind-numbing waste of American treasure — lost to corruption, incompetence and bottomless chaos — is overwhelming.
But here's the thing no one should forget about Afghanistan: American soldiers are still there — 54,000 of them.
Some Americans are in a better position than others to influence the nation's policy in Afghanistan and elsewhere. But every American can and should honor, thank and support the men and women still serving.
— The Columbus Dispatch
Congress and the new Farm Bill
Among the casualties of the government shutdown are this nation's farmers. By extension, that includes all Americans. One of the first orders of business once Washington untangles itself is to approve a new Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill expired Sept. 30 and is the government's primary agricultural and food policy tool. While a large portion of the funding is for nutrition assistance programs, such as food stamps, it also provides a safety net for farmers while allowing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to control milk supplies and keep prices stable for consumers. Lack of a policy — and the safety net — creates uncertainty for farmers, and, some say, could drive milk prices to outrageous levels — $6 to $8 per gallon.
While that would be disastrous for consumers, it would be even worse for America's farmers. Farming operations already involve too many guessing games. Lack of a farm policy affects how farmers run their farms, says Steve Ammerman of the New York state Farm Bureau.
Rep. Richard Hanna, R-Barneveld, says a new Farm Bill would provide the stability New York farmers need instead of just extending the current program, which he calls outdated and in some instances wasteful and harmful.
Hanna's right. Our farms are the backbone of our nation and they must be a priority — in our vast rural areas where they can thrive — and most certainly in Washington, D.C.
— The Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.