Editorials

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Searching for closure ...

The Malaysian government's announcement about where the country's missing airline flight (370) likely was last located before disappearing, may not bring closure to the families who lost loved ones, but may be a step in that direction. The government based its announcement on satellite information indicating that the plane's last location was "in the middle of the Indian Ocean," west of Perth, Australia.

International cooperation has been laudable in the attempt to find out what happened to the plane and its 239 crew and passengers, who hailed from 15 different countries. The United States, Australia, China, New Zealand, Japan and the United Kingdom are among the nations participating in the search. Two-thirds of the passengers, alone, are from China.

Perhaps one reason for such a massive search is that modern technology allows it. Not that long ago such an effort would have been a far more daunting endeavor, or at least one that most people understood would not be concluded soon or successfully.

Unfortunately, modern technology also creates expectations and assumptions that answers can be ascertained quickly, when that may not be the case. But hopefully the searching nations will succeed in providing closure to this sad, human tragedy that has united the affected nations.

Jail regulations

New regulations for local jails in Ohio are an improvement over the old rules in some respects. State officials should stand ready to refine some vague terminology, however -- and to ensure jails operate by the book.

A committee of state legislators approved the new rules (last) week. The last update was more than 10 years ago.

Some amendments in requirements for jails were in reaction to local officials complaints the old standards were unrealistic and unnecessarily expensive. For example, the updated rules allow jails to serve prisoners just two meals a day on weekends, rather than the three mandated on weekdays. Inmates now must be allowed to take showers just once every 48 hours.

Medical treatment specifications also have been improved, in part because of suggestions by mental health organizations.

Most important for state officials is ensuring the rules are followed. There are just two state-level inspectors for the 349 jails in Ohio -- far below the number needed.

So inadequate is the state's compliance machinery that, in 2011, it was suggested jail operators should evaluate themselves. That system collapsed after about six months.

More inspectors should be hired, and local jails should be put on a regular schedule of compliance checks. Of course, surprise inspections also should be utilized.

That will cost the state a few hundred thousand dollars -- but that is preferable to localities having to pay out millions if they lose "cruel and unusual punishment" lawsuits.

The Marietta (Ohio) Times

Cigarette taxes

Gov. John Kasich's legislative action plan includes a reduction in the state income tax, dropping it to less than 5 percent for top-bracket taxpayers and netting Ohioans $174 million over the next three years.

Kasich would finance the reduction in the income tax, in part, by selectively raising taxes. His proposals include a new tax on oil drillers, a 15 percent hike in the Commercial Activity Tax and a significant boost in the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes.

Hiking the cigarette tax would have the most direct impact on individual Ohioans, with smokers seeing the state tax on a pack of cigarettes rising from $1.25 to $1.85.

That is estimated to generate about $850 million over three years, which would help offset the revenue lost because of the cut in the income tax. It also could result in a healthier Ohio in the long run if the rising cost of cigarettes persuades smokers to kick the habit.

The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association support Kasich's proposal. The tobacco industry and representatives of retailers oppose it as a regressive move singling out a specific class of Ohioans.

Smoking is a choice, and an unhealthy one. Making it more costly in Ohio could, indeed, help provide the revenues Governor Kasich is seeking to cover an income tax cut. Better yet, it could end up saving lives.

Record Courier

Kent, Ohio

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