Opinion The Salina Journal Sunday, January 5,1986 Page 4 •Tl Mfci^-i T 1 1 he Journal Founded in 1871 HARRIS RAYL, Editor and Publisher KAY BERENSON, Executive Editor SCOTT SEIRER, News Editor LARRY MATHEWS, Assistant News Editor LORI BRACK, Weekend Editor JIM HAAG, Night Editor MARY JO PROCHAZKA, Associate Editor Better policing needed In one corner of the ring sits a doctor who says he can't afford to practice medicine because his premiums for malpractice insurance are too costly. In another corner sits a child who was brain-damaged at birth by what a jury agreed was medical malpractice. Some middle ground obviously is needed to protect patients while allowing competent doctors to practice medicine. A solution proposed by an interim committee of the Kansas Legislature would help. If passed by the 1986 Legislature, it would limit awards for medical malpractice to $1 million, in hopes of adequately compensating victims while keeping malpractice insurance premiums low enough that doctors could afford to practice medicine. But lawmakers returning to Topeka this month should focus on preventing malpractice as well as dealing with its financial aspects. Prevention efforts must include action to toughen the State Board of Healing Arts, which is supposed to police Kansas doctors but has not lived up to that task. Twelve of the board's 13 members are doctors. The board's makeup makes it easy to upset the balance of priorities between protecting doctors' reputations from unfair allegations and protecting the public from incompetent medical practitioners. The board simply hasn't kept up with the numbers of complaints filed against doctors. The Wichita Eagle- Beacon recently reported that nine of 10 complaints never even make it before the full board. A study by the Legislative Post Audit Division showed the board was a sloppy record-keeper, with missing files, incomplete files and no statistics on the number of complaints filed because not all complaints are recorded. The board has been up against difficulties. It often hasn't received timely information about allegations against doctors. It hasn't had full cooperation from doctors, who are to report negligent peers. The state Insurance Department, which runs a fund tc pay malpractice awards and settlements exceeding $200,000, refuses to disclose the names of doctors who've had to pay or the amounts paid. The problems with the board result in doctors being allowed to keep practicing after they've been banned from hospitals, sued repeatedly or convicted of felony crimes. Changes are needed. Some suggestions: • The board should be as concerned about protecting patients as about protecting doctors and should act in much less secrecy. A patient should be able to learn if complaints have been filed against a doctor, how many, and the nature and status of complaints. • The board should revoke the licenses of doctors who are convicted of crimes related to their medical work, such as supplying drugs to dealers. • The board should crack down on doctors and hospital personnel who fail to report negligent doctors, as required by law. Doctors and hospitals should report such doctors and be immune from liability for doing so. By not doing so, all doctors are paying higher insurance rates to protect a few incompetent peers. • The board should notify original complainants when hearings are scheduled to consider reinstating doctors' licenses. Unity needed against Khadafy Paris — Prime Minister Shimon Peres of Israel has said, "The time has come to organize an international effort" against terrorism. Certainly it has. Israelis don't see why they alone should be "the world's anti-terrorism mercenary," The New York Times's Thomas Friedman reports from Jerusalem, and they point out that they are by no means the only target of Middle East-sponsored terrorists. Further, it is an illusion to think it possible to sort out different kinds of terrorism — Palestinian, Sikh, Basque, Irish, Belgian, whatever — and consider them in separate compartments. Not only are there indications that many groups are linked, even without specific ties, the dramatic actions of one fire the imagination of others. The sense of frustration in dealing with terrorists is heightened in an overarmed world where countries bristle with heavy weapons and atomic bombs but do not seem to have the power to put down these organized murderers. It helps little for the U.N. to denounce the idea, and for its member states to turn a blind eye when they are not directly victims of attack. Retaliation is a difficult issue. States have a right and duty to protect their citizens, but there is nothing to cheer about when governments descend to the level of assassins and particularly when "reprisals," not the same as punishment, hit yet more people not involved in any crimes. The issue is even more complicated by the increasing trends to suicide missions. It is impossible to kill a dead terrorist. The rage to kill, at the risk or even the certainty of losing one's own life, seems to have become a dominant motive. The perpetrators no longer seem to have demands that could conceivably be achieved by force, except to call attention to themselves and to claim martyrdom. Secretary of State George Shultz was right to pound the table in Belgrade when he was asked to consider the "cause" that led Abu Abbas to mastermind the Achille Lauro hijacking. More worthy of consideration is the "cause" that led Italy and then Yugoslavia to let him go. That is the heart of the matter, and in the first instance it raises the question of Libya, though also of any country or organization that harbors or comforts terrorists. There is nothing new in Col. Moammar Khadafy's congratulating the teams that wreaked carnage at the Rome and Vienna airports for .their "heroic operations," and then feigning to deplore acts of terrorism. He has been saying one and the other for years, depending on the day. NEW YORK TIMES EXCHWG Kansas differences go back to state's formation If you sliced Kansas through the middle like a giant cheesecake and then looked at it right to left, east to west, you would find that this great slab of sod rises nearly 3,000 feet in 400 miles. The change is gradual, from the rich and deep loam of the east through the sandy soil of the west. But the slant is there, starting low and ascending a foot at a time westward to Mt. Sunflower in West Wallace County (elev. 4,039 ft.) and into the foothills and rough country of the Rockies. All else came later, after the glacial boulders of the Rockies were ground down in the waters of an ancient inland sea, and by the great rushing rivers. It helps to remember the basics, starting with the chief difference between the east and west of ad astra — 3,000 feet of sand and loam — whenever those who represent so many parts of it get the itch to convene another legislature. Kansas was born bleeding, a farm state. Winter wheat in the west, corn in the east, with both and some cattle in between. After that came railroads, oil, industry and development, in a melting pot of cultures, races and religions. This led inevitably to differences. John Marshall HARRIS NEWS SERVICE Many remain today. Geography and genealogy have as much to do with government in Kansas as any computer printout, interim study or fleeting bases of power through polls. When it comes to the basics, we are as we were—clannish. As it was in farming, it is in politics. The style in the east was a little farm with a garden, some chickens, calves and pigs, a diversified crop. At the other end it was large farms and one- crop country. On the dry, high plains, bigness was the only path to profit. Western Kansas became a wheat bin. The differences in geology and geography meant different economic interests and different people; our east was settled largely by descendants of the New England Puritans — thrifty, cautious, diligent. Most of the strains settling in the western parts wore not of New England but Germans who had lived a century in Russia, or immigrants from Scandinavia or the Slavic regions of Europe. They were gamblers, persistent, ever on the razor's edge, chin-first against the elements and imponderables. The big differences have always been there. The problems of taxes, of education, of transportation have never been the same in the rolling prairie country, the county tiers along Missouri as they have been in the flat; plains country butting Colorado. The differences, from Marais des Cygnes to Mt. Sunflower, have been ever the same for more than a dozen decades. What is a lottery or a sales tax in the face of such solid heritage and history! It is our nature to be different and argue about it. The state was made to be different— 3,000 feet of different. The people who came here, too. We are inclined to settle our differences in time, so long as we don't take too much of it. It is our nature to debate our disparities, sometimes at a fever pitch. Let's be careful not to enact them. Imagine peering into the edge of the universe Now, presumably in hopes of warding off a counterattack on the well-heeled base he offers terrorists, he has gone on to make the ultimate terrorist threat: "We hope the United States and Israel will make the mistake of attacking us because that will bring a war which will set fire to the Middle East, the Mediterranean and probably the whole world." Nothing different is to be expected from Khadafy. If anything is surprising, it is that countries that have been subjected to his cruel wiles still imagine they can get on with him, do business with him, appease him. In the last year he has met with the prime minister of Spain and then the president of France, a meeting arranged by the prime minister of Greece that took place on Crete after Khadafy broke his pledge to President Mitterrand to withdraw Libyan troops from Chad. He has been to Vienna several times and has ostensibly good relations with Rome. No wonder he acts with impunity. The U.S. has broken relations and banned imports of Libyan oil, but there are still several thousand American citizens in Libya helping to produce the oil. Khadafy may be called a pariah, but he has not been treated as one. Still, the threat of war is not to be brushed aside lightly. Libya is a bursting warehouse of Soviet arms, including the recently delivered SAM-5 advanced anti-aircraft missile. Worse, tensions are building between Israel and Syria again. It must be presumed that the purpose of the latest terrorist attacks was to prevent possible peace negotiations between Israel and Jordan, and that purpose should not be served. The need is for the countries of Europe to join America in banning Khadafy from the international community, and then to cooperate against other terrorist bans. If the Soviet Union, whose citizens were also victimized in Lebanon, f wants to improve its image in the West, it can stop arming Khad- afy and warn him of the consequences of his violence. The victim countries aren't powerless, they just don't want to use their real power — which isn't arms but their political $nd economic weight. BALTIMORE — From near the edge of the universe and the beginning of time, a dazzling stream of data will soon flow to the Johns Hopkins campus. It will transform astronomy and, perhaps, mankind's view of itself. This August, a space telescope will be put in orbit. It weighs 12 tons, is the size of a bus and is more precise than the finest watch. Its optical mirror is eight feet in diameter and the average deviation of its surface from a perfect curve is less than 11 nanometers (biUionths of a meter). It will be a "clean window" on the universe, astronomy un- f iltered by Earth's atmosphere. Just to use the space telescope — to aim it — will require astronomy never done before. In a room insulated from vibration, shockproof machines make 7,000 passes up and down photographic plates —1,500 of them — mapping the universe. That is complicated, because our galaxy is composed of bodies in motion, the galaxy is in motion and the universe, which has uncounted galaxies, is expanding. Earth-based telescopes can observe entities eight billion light years away. The space telescope will see at least 12 billion light years away. It is a time machine for studying light (the evidence of processes) perhaps 85 percent of the way to the "edge" (whatever that might mean) of the universe — light from events 85 percent of the way back to the Big Bang, the beginning of time 15 billion or so years ago. George Will WASHINGTON POST Astronomy has exerted a powerful pull on mankind's imagination, and hence on philosophy and theology. For centuries, and until recently, science was considered a sub- verter of religion. But if a sense of awe about the mysteries and astonishingness of life is the wellspring of the religious impulse, con temporary astronomy could nourish that impulse. Galileo's discovery, 375 years ago, of satellites orbiting Jupiter was dispiriting to people who thought: If things orbit things other than Earth, then Earth probably is not the center of the universe and mankind, too, may be a somehow marginal phenomenon. But consider what we are about to see. The space telescope will peer into space that is dustier and more violent than mankind has thought when speaking of the clear and peaceful heavens. Yet a strange serenity can come from contemplating it. Early in this century, analysis of light revealed that many galaxies are racing away from us. This fact, and the 1965 discovery that the universe is bathed in radiation, suggested that the universe is still expanding from an explosion — the Big Bang — that created it. And there is a wonderful — literally, a cause for wonder — balance in the aftermath of the explosion, a balance illustrated by the timely arrival of Halley's comet. Perhaps the space telescope, by focusing on the most distant (fastest moving) galaxies, can determine whether the universe's expansion is slowing. If it is, this question is posed: Might expansion stop, and there be a collapse? Had the Big Bang been smaller, and the expansion less vigorous, it might have collapsed back upon itself in a few minutes or in a few million years. (Were this mass to re-explode, it would confirm the Oscillating Theory of the universe. The Steady State Theory holds that the universe constantly creates matter as fast as it consumes it, and is eternal.) Had the Bang been more violent, it might have dispersed the dust of Creation so chaotically that there could have been no organization of matter conducive to life. (Think how closely calibrated Earth's orbit around the sun must be; how Earth's atmosphere must shield some rays and admit others.) The continuing consequences of the Big Bang are theologically suggestive because the consequences are staggeringly improbable. Contemporary astronomy strengthens the impulse to believe that, say, Dante's idea of God is at least slightly more plausible than the idea that an accidental explosion caused the dust of Creation to evolve into Dante. Dear Congress: Here's a 1986 political wish list WASHINGTON - At the start of this new year, when we are making resolutions to reform and refine our individual lives, there are three areas of our common life — politics — that are ripe for improvement. In aU three, important preliminary steps were taken in 1985, but the critical follow-through must occur this year for the reforms to be in place by the time of the 1988 election. • Campaign finance: After years of avoiding the issue, Congress late in 1985 finally took a hard look at where its members get the money for their campaigns and the scandal that threatens the institution as a result of fund-raising practices. The basic problem is the increasing dependence on contributions from interest- group political-action committees or PACs and the decreasing role of small individual contributions and political-party financing. With PACs tripling their contributions to Senate and House candidates between the 1978 and 1984 elections and individual contributors declining, the once theoretical question of who "owns" Congress is becoming altogether too real. The outlines of a solution are beginning to emerge. The House, as part of the tax-reform bill it sent to the Senate, approved an amendment to provide a 100 percent tax credit for contributions up to $100 to federal candidates from residents of the same state. A bit earlier the Senate debated and refused to kill a proposal to lower the limit on PAC contributions and to set a maximum on all PAC money a House or Senate candidate can David Broder WASHINGTON POST receive. That proposal is due for further debate this year. • Presidential debates: A strikingly sensible report on the presidential-election process was issued last November by a blue- ribbon commission headed by veteran politicians Melvin R. Laird and Robert S. Strauss. One key recommendation: That the two parties take responsibility for the televised presidential and vice presidential debates and guarantee that their nominees will participate. The current party chairmen, Republican Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. and Democrat Paul G. Kirk Jr., both commission members, signed a letter pledging to try to bring that about in 1988. The only loud objection has come from the League of Women Voters, which sponsored the debates in 1976,1980 and 1984 and wants to retain the franchise. The League has done yeoman service and might well be asked to handle the logistics and arrangements for future debates. But our elections are fought between the party nominees, and only the parties can impose the duty of debate on those nominees. What is needed in 1986 is for the two national committees to write the agreement into formal "calls" to their 1988 conventions. That way, those who seek nomination will understand their obligation to participate in debates. • Election projections: In 1980 and 1984, voters in the West justifiably complained that network election projections, using, actual returns and exit-poll results, told them who had been elected president before they had a chance to cast their votes. Under pressure, the networks agreed early in 1985 to tighten their policies about projecting or characterizing results in a state before polls close in that state. But as long as poll- closing times vary across the nation, the West will continue to be bombarded with those premature Eastern "results." Late last year, Reps. Al Swift (D-Wash.) and William M. Thomas (R-Calif.) won committee approval of a bill to set a uniform poll-closing time across the nation. It is not complex. The closing time would be 9 p.m. in the East, 8 p.m. in the Central time zone and 7 p.m. in the Mountain zone. Daylight-saving time would be extended two weeks in the Pacific time zone, so that its polls could also close at 7 p.m. and still be simultaneous with the rest of the country. That would generally lengthen the voting day in the East and Midwest and require six or seven Western states to open polls earlier in the morning to maintain the current length of their voting day. But it would allow a national election to be a national election.
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