Rogue nation ...

The United Nations released a report Monday on North Korean human rights abuses which isn't surprising.

A year-long study has concluded that the reclusive communist country -- a true relic of the Cold War -- is guilty of "crimes against humanity." It compares some of these crimes to those perpetrated by Nazi Germany.

North Korea, of course, denies all the accusations, saying it is a plot "aimed at sabotaging the socialist system."

The UN panel will recommend that the UN Security Council refer the matter to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands to investigate crimes that are believed to have occurred over several decades.

The comparison to Nazi atrocities speaks for itself, although for the past few decades it already has been well known that the government of North Korea -- ruled since the early Cold War years by one family -- is one of the worst, if not the worst, abusers of human rights in the world. It is no wonder, then, that the UN's findings have not caused widespread reaction.

Unfortunately, with North Korea having a nuclear capability, its regime may be as secure as ever. But hopefully the country's communist leadership will some day fall, the nation can be welcomed as a peaceful participant in international relations and its people will be given the chance to taste freedom and opportunity.

Drilling tax

Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in state government are pretty much in sync on taxes in general: the lower, the better. But they have different visions when it comes to a severance tax on oil and natural gas drilling, and that's to the benefit of eastern Ohio.

Kasich wants a higher tax on drilling activity than many Republicans in the Legislature do. Advocates of a lower tax stress their fear that the 4 percent tax Kasich originally proposed would scare the industry away. For his part, the governor is giving other interests their due, as well.

Speaking to reporters at a recent Associated Press meeting, Kasich said: "We don't want to do something that doesn't mean the taxpayers of this state get some fair value for their resources that are being depleted. On the other hand, we don't want to have a severance tax that drives people out, because this industry is critical to the state. So it's kind of like porridge. It can't be too cold and it can't be too hot. It's got to be just right."

As for what isn't "just right," Kasich has made it clear that he'll know it when he sees it.

Also, Kasich, never shy, can afford to be bolder in defense of his own tax plan, now that he has no challengers in the May GOP primary. All this bodes well for the eastern Ohio counties where the most drilling is occurring.

The Repository

Canton, Ohio

Heroin problem

If you haven't noticed, the world has changed in a dangerous way.

The price of heroin has followed all the rules of basic economics of supply and demand. The supply has increased to meet an unfortunate spike in demand, and the price has made this dangerous narcotic "affordable."

Affordable, that is, in price per hit, but not when one considers the price in human suffering, societal damage and lost potential.

Affordable until one considers how pervasive the drug has become, when a symbol of American childhood, a fast-food child's meal with a toy, can become a vehicle for the drug trade.

High-profile deaths such as talented actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman's call the drug into sharp focus.

Anyone is vulnerable. From Cleveland to New York to Pittsburgh to the streets of our local communities, the drug is available and doing its damage. It's not just the "gritty industrial heartland" that's vulnerable, either. Seemingly idyllic Vermont has been declared so badgered by heroin that the governor there dedicated much of his state of the state address this year to the heroin epidemic.

There is a cost in illnesses, overdoses, deaths, accidents and lost time for employers. There is a cost in thefts, broken families and relationships and violence. And there is a cost in treatment and redemption for those who try to fight the habit.

The reasons for heroin's rise are many, but it's as much a result of the ongoing prescription painkiller problem as it is from a people living without hope, or without caring for themselves or others enough to avoid the needle.

The solution remains, unfortunately, in trying to curtail the market and treat the addicted.


Steubenville, Ohio

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