Roundup: An Iowan for Veep? Ro Khanna Gets ‘Heaping Helpings of Head-Nodding,’ Says Publisher

In news from around the web, the Daily Yonder looks at the War on Terror’s impact on opioid addiction, debate whether cost or “relevance” limits broadband subscriptions, and a recommendation on Democratic vice presidential nominee.

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Doug Burns, the publisher of a string of newspapers in west-central Iowa, has an interesting suggestion for the Democratic Party vice presidential nominee: a Silicon Valley congressman, the son of Indian parents, who has an affinity for rural America.

His name is Ro Khanna, and “if you raise the Khanna-on-the-presidential-ticket possibility in west-central Iowa these days,” Burns writes, “you get heaping helpings of head-nodding — from Democrats, as well as a lot of Trump voters.”

First as an official in the administration of Barack Obama and later as an advocate of high-tech business in rural areas, Khanna has won the trust of Iowans. He was recently back in the state for the opening of Accenture’s computer software office in the town of Jefferson.

“The only way to defeat Trumpism — not just to defeat Trump, but to defeat Trumpism — is to say, ‘No, the future is going to be better, the future is going to mean more choice, more possibility, more opportunity for your families and your communities,’ ” Khanna said at a recent rural forum in Mason City. “And the reality is, we have not made that case — not just rhetorically; we haven’t made it substantively. There are just too many communities that have been excluded from that future, and I think that is the fundamental challenge for our country.”

Khanna is one of the national chairs of Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign. But Burns says that in his part of Iowa, the congressman is known simply as a guy who isn’t afraid to show up and get things done.

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How much of the rapid rise in the number of opioid-related deaths can be attributed to the War on Terror?

A group of researchers has just published a paper on the question of whether the U.S. military’s interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq helped “ignite an opioid epidemic.”

It’s not a crazy question. “U.S. military veterans, many of whom suffer from chronic pain as a result of their service, account for a disproportionately high number of opioid-related deaths,” the Council on Foreign Relations reported in 2018. “Veterans are twice as likely as the general population to die from an opioid overdose.”

The researchers found that opioid mortality among vets rose from 14.47 people per 100,000 in 2000 to 21.08 per 100,000 in 2016. The opioid abuse rate among vets is now more than seven times that of civilians.

These increases followed major combat operations that began in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2016, 68,000 vets were treated for opioid addiction.

Veterans as a whole are disproportionately located in rural communities. But that doesn’t hold for vets who would have served in the War on Terror.

Wherever they live, however, this study tells us that vets are more likely to be in pain than civilians (45 percent suffer from chronic pain) and opioid prescription rates are 15 points higher for vets. A third of post-9/11 vets have been prescribed opioids.

Moreover, the post 9/11 conflicts have been located in places where opium is grown. Some soldiers could have started with heroin bought while they were deployed.

The researchers write that their “results provide consistent evidence that combat assignment substantially increases the risks of prescription painkiller abuse and illicit heroin use.”

The health care costs alone of treating opioid abuse among veterans is estimated to be at least $1.5 billion a year.

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Cost, not lack of “relevance,” is the reason many poor, elderly, and less educated Americans don’t subscribe to broadband at home, say Bibi Reisdorf and Colin Rhinesmith in the Benton Foundation’s blog “Digital Beat.”

Reisdorf and Rhinesmith take on a Washington Post op/ed by Obama-era broadband planner Blair Levine and analyst Larry Downes. That op/ed says we need to “educate” people about the relevance of internet access, not just build more broadband infrastructure, to solve the digital divide.

Levine and Downes use survey data to support their argument, and that’s a mistake, say Reisdorf and Rhinesmith. Their experience says a different set of factors interfere with residents’ ability to get broadband, even using affordable $10 a month plans:

First, many people we spoke with feel it is too complicated to sign up for these kinds of services [low-cost internet programs]. … [T]he sign-up process is perceived as complex and requiring documentation that isn’t readily available. In addition, some low-income residents are not “poor enough” to qualify for these low-cost options or there is no provider with low-cost options in their community.

Second, home internet access is not useful if residents are lacking the necessary devices such as laptops, tablets, or desktop computers. … [L]ow-income residents do not just struggle with affording home access, but also with affording the purchase and upkeep of devices to make use of such access.

Third, Levin and Downes underestimate the financial hardship that large parts of urban low-income communities are dealing with. …  Given other, more important, bills and purchases that need to be paid — such as water, electricity, cell phones, rent, and groceries — those $10 per month options can make a big difference, especially if we add to this the upkeep of devices. Some low-income participants in our research also told us that even at $10 month, it can be a choice for them between paying for internet or food.

We’d add one more thing about the Washington Post op/ed. Levine and Downes say there’s more people in urban areas who lack broadband than in rural areas  “because those without home Internet service are predominantly poorer, older, and less educated Americans — demographics more prevalent in cities.”

Wrong. There are more people without internet in urban areas because there are more people in urban areas — period.

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