A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
The Anniston Star – It’s just $400,000, anyway, to the Alabama Legislature
By the editorial board of The Anniston Star
The Alabama Legislature, divided to the core, couldn’t pass a General Fund budget this spring that Gov. Robert Bentley would support. Bentley hated the one they did pass and threw it back at them, saying, in essence, it wasn’t worth the paper on which it was printed.
The result: added expenses of as much as $400,000 — the cost of this summer’s special session, according to The Star’s Tim Lockette. It’s technically not overtime costs, but that’s what it feels like.
If Montgomery had done its job a few months ago, Alabama wouldn’t be on the hook right now for an additional six-figure expense.
Funny it was this week to hear lawmakers tell The Star about “evergreen appropriations” — House and Senate requests for more cash — and that a $400,000 bill isn’t that big of a deal in the big picture of Alabama state finances. Well, legislators no longer have the luxury of evergreen appropriations (they banned them this spring) and $400,000 is still $400,000.
The Birmingham News – See inside Alabama’s oldest hardware store
The plan was 31 towns, and 31 stories.
But every town has so many more stories to tell. It is so often so hard to choose.
While in Huntsville this week to speak to Ruth Gräfin von Saurma — a countess who worked for Wernher von Braun and has lived a remarkable life — I was wowed by the Harrison Brother’s Hardware store on the square (next door to all my good Huntsville pals at AL.com).
It was a traditional old hardware store, a place opened in 1879 by the Harrison family and passed along from generation to generation. John Harrison’s death in 1983 appeared to doom the store, until the Historic Huntsville Foundation, a non-profit that tries to preserve the architectural and historical resources of Huntsville and Madison County, bought the place and saved it.
Volunteers man it. People contribute remarkable old tools and trinkets, architectural remnants and more. The foundation sells art and Alabama products, but tries to keep it as original as possible.
It draws you in because it is cool. And it teaches you a little history without making you think about it.
The guiding principle, Historic Huntsville Foundation Executive Director Donna Castellano says, is “preservation before profit.”
I’ll buy that.
The Decatur Daily – Sure, blame it on the South again
In the eyes of many, we are responsible for the vast majority of what’s wrong with America. A recent story by Politico magazine contends the South drags down U.S. rankings in the world because of poverty, violence, social mobility and racism.
It says if not for the South, the U.S. would be much more like Canada, Great Britain, Australia or New Zealand.
It uses statistics to back up the conclusion, and at some level, yes, we get the point. But too often, the difference is only by degree.
Yes, the South is poor. Yes, we are rural, conservative and sometimes stubborn to the point we ignore science in favor of tradition.
But to the accusation we are the cause of U.S. overall shortcomings, we’d like to issue a rebuke.
Politico defines the South as 16 states carving a line that separates Texas and Oklahoma from New Mexico and Kansas; and Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia and Delaware away from Midwestern and Northeastern states to the north.
Time magazine, the Huffington Post and the Atlantic during the past decade have blamed us for U.S. obesity, poverty and “general stupidity,” according to a blog by The Washington Post’s Thomas J. Sugrue.
The problem in taking these statistics at face value is they simply quantify what we’ve known since Reconstruction: The South has a disproportionate share of poor, and that alone leads to a number of other statistics one can lump together to create a portrayal of fault for any number of social ills.
What drives poor health? Obesity. What drives obesity? Ignorance. What drives ignorance? Lack of education. What drives lack of education? Money. It’s not the other way around, and there’s no escaping this one ill creates an endless supply of symptoms.
Dothan Eagle – Redneck? We don’t think so
Dothan received a dubious distinction this week when it topped the list of the 10 Most Redneck Places in Alabamacompiled by a website featuring what many would call “click bait” – links designed to drive web traffic to a particular site.
Those of us who live here and love it may take offense. After all, “redneck” – despite its humble origin to describe hard-working, salt-of-the-earth folks whose sun-scorched necks signified long days in the sun – has become something of a pejorative, calling to mind oafish hayseeds who don’t know how to behave.
However, it gives residents an opportunity to think of the things that make our city such a great place to live. It has elements of a larger city, but has a small-town feel. The schools have a good reputation. There are significant efforts to attract new jobs, and construction is booming. The city opened two new libraries last year at a time when many communities are seeing library services reduced. Our medical facilities rival those in much larger cities, and we have a medical school that’s drawing more applicants than it can serve. We’re moving into high-tech, with the possibility of more growth driven by a recent upgrade to become a 100-gig city, which is quite a draw for tech companies. And, hey – we’re getting a Zoe’s Kitchen.
So those who would poke fun at Dothan can make all the jokes they want. They’ll only look foolish in the end. After all, our schools have outstanding graduation rates, and the majority of folks who come here want to find a reason to stay.
If that’s redneck, then “Yeee-haw!”
The Enterprise Ledger – With such leaders, maybe we should all go off grid
If I was from, say Denmark or Bolivia, and I was asked to write an essay about leaders in the United States, I would review who the current leaders were of the country. Then, I would politely ask my professor, ‘Define leader.’
I’ve reviewed a few of our so-called leaders. I’m thinking I should load up on new fishing gear, a rifle or two and a shotgun, build a cabin in the middle of nowhere with ample of game and vegetation around, and just live off the land.
I mean, take a look at our choices…
Barack Obama: the guy who continues to either make unwise decisions, whether it’s in what he does (see his almost daily knee-jerk reactions to events without finding out actual facts), or what he does not do (refusing to lower White House flag to half-staff in honor of the Chattanooga shooting victims until he was heavily pressured, or not calling the San Francisco shooting victim’s family).
Hillary Clinton: the woman who is simply amazing… in that she somehow is making her husband look like an honest guy compared to her vast array of “misspoken” recollections.
Donald Trump: the guy that often says what many are thinking but others don’t dare say it out loud… to a throng of people… in front of a microphone… while running for president of the United States. His threats would curtail some of our enemies’ advancements against such what has become such a soft government, but he would likely incite some to go to even further extremes by not being more diplomatic. Would we really want a president who would give out someone’s cell phone number?
Perhaps I could look outside of the political realm.
Few states can match Alabama in its zeal to protect the unborn. Our lawmakers happily flout U.S. Supreme Court decisions in their efforts to close down abortion clinics. Every year, bills appear at the Statehouse that would prohibit abortions closer and closer to the date of conception.
Such efforts to limit abortions are, of course, easy for lawmakers. Regulating clinics out of existence has no effect on the state budget, and the effort to do so generally receives public approval.
The sincerity of the state’s concern for the unborn does not stand up to scrutiny.
The annual March of Dimes report card on premature births came out recently, and Alabama was one of three states to receive an F.
Compared to an 11.4 percent rate of premature births nationally, Alabama’s rate is 15.1 percent. Louisiana had the same rate as Alabama, and only Mississippi — at 16.6 percent — was worse. Failing to meet the national rate is an embarrassment, as 130 countries have a lower percentage of premature births than the United States. America has about the same rate of premature births as Somalia and Turkey.
And while the national rate has been creeping down, Alabama’s rate is rising.
To put Alabama’s 15.1-percent rate into more global context: Only 11 countries have a rate over 15 percent. All but two are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Does the state’s high rate of preterm births matter? Absolutely. Premature births are the No. 1 killer of children under the age of 5. Alabama has 10,000 premature births a year, contributing to 520 annual deaths of children less than one year old.
Does the state have the ability to reduce preterm births? Again, absolutely.
The Gadsden Times – Common sense sorely lacking in U.S. right now
I have always thought I possessed a little common sense and good judgment.
For example, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist’s intellect to determine that the killing of four Marines and one naval officer was the work of a new type of terrorist known as a lone wolf. This terrorist’s actions convince me it is a new norm for the United States.
Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez killed five members of the American military and wounded others. He targeted the military, pure and simple, and what I don’t need is a bevy of apologists for President Barack Obama telling me he was depressed and psychotic. Abdulazeez — whether demonized by ISIS, radicalized by some terrorist organization or following some Muslim mullah’s edict — was a terrorist by name and definition. His intention was to paralyze and terrorize the U.S. by filling its people with a sense of fear. Abdulazeez has done just that by giving Americans a preview of what we can expect to occur here, only with more frequency.
Common sense tells me members of the American military had better arm themselves because with no means of protection, they are prime soft targets for terrorists who already are in our country.
I was not aware that our military cannot arm themselves domestically, and I am sure the terrorists were not aware of this information. But terrorists watch television and read newspapers, and they now know of the compromised position under which our military operates. The U.S. military is defenseless against an armed terrorist.
The Huntsville Times – Alabama shouldn’t raid education to pay off debts: week in review
As the 2016 political season ramps up, more and more guest columnists are voicing their opinions on who should emerge from the expanding GOP field. Meanwhile, back home, our featured voices have keen insight on education, the Gulf Coast and the looming presence of unions.
Alabama is in the middle of a budget crisis and some politicians are suggesting that we borrow money from the Education Trust Fund to dig our way out of our deficit. However, Dr. Dee Fowler, superintendent of Madison City Schools and immediate past president of the School Superintendents of Alabama, argues that education spending is the best investment to save “millions in prisons and welfare costs.” Borrowing money from education prevents us from providing our students with the future that they need, hurting our state’s long term future, says Dr. Fowler.
If politicians are concerned about the economic wellbeing of Alabamians then why are they lining up to support payday lenders and big banks? That’s the question that Shay Farley, legal director of Alabama Appleseed, asks of Sen. Richard Shelby. Ms. Farley writes that Sen. Shelby is undermining efforts to protect consumers from fraud and predatory lending practices.
The first GOP primary debate is just around the corner and, already, more at least 16 candidates have announced their intent. But who has the best odds of emerging from the fray? John Meredith, president and CEO of Meredith Advocacy Group in Huntsville, handicapped, suggesting that Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Senator Marco Rubio have the best odds.
As a follow up, Scottsboro resident Allen Keller says that if Republicans want to defeat Secretary Hillary Clinton in 2016, they should be scared of The Donald. Keller suggests that Mr. Trump “bold and confrontational style” is the “most dangerous thing to happen to the GOP since Ross Perot.”
Charleston. Chattanooga. Lafayette.
Two months. Three mass shootings.
Shootings that resulted in the deaths of 17 people. Nine in a church. Five in a military building. And three in a movie theater.
Since the horrific attack on Sandy Hook elementary school in December 2012, there have been more than 75 mass shootings. In 2015 alone, more than 180 people have been killed in mass shootings.
It’s hard not to become numb to it. Every shooting starts to feel the same – a rush to find a killer; rush to find a motive; Facebook statuses written as prayers or eulogies; statements from civil justice groups; conflicting statements from the NRA; statements from the mayor, the governor, and the president; accusations that we’re “politicizing a tragedy;” flags at half-staff; calls for increased gun control; calls for decreased gun control; calls for concealed carry permits; calls for action, and, ultimately, a lack of action.
“Guns aren’t the issue, mental illness is.”
Get used to this phrase. You’re going to be reading it and hearing it a lot over the next few weeks. It’s a loaded statement, because it’s both true and disingenuous.
However, if that’s the issue that you want to talk about, let’s talk about mental illness.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that from “2009 to 2012, states had cut mental health budgets by a collective $4.35 billion and cut more than 3,222 psychiatric beds.” In the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook, 37 states moderately increased funding to mental health, but those increases quickly plateaued and are nowhere near the levels that they were pre-2009 and, more broadly, before massive cuts to mental health programs in the 1980s.
Alabama currently ranks 49th in access to mental health care, according to Mental Health America.
Montgomery Advertiser – Alabama’s prisons can’t sustain budget cuts
Imagine that you had to supervise almost 200 prison inmates. Just you.
That’s not the plot line in some bad movie script. As the Advertiser’s Brian Lyman reported, that’s a real-world workday for corrections officers in Alabama, and it underscores one reason the Legislature has to put together a responsible General Fund budget. Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed prisons have to be better funded for the safety of the public, corrections personnel and the inmates themselves.
The state has adopted some prison reforms with great potential for easing the problems in the system, but the reforms require funding to implement. Budget cuts simply are not a realistic option; indeed, they would sharply raise the likelihood of federal intervention in the prison system.
Consider the situation at Elmore Correctional Facility, the workplace of Victorrus Felder, the corrections officer profiled in Lyman’s July 23 story. The facility was built in 1981 and designed for 600 inmates. Last week, it held 1,176, almost twice that many.
Elmore is authorized for 169 corrections officers. It has 87, barely half that number.
Put simply, the facility has twice as many inmates as it was designed to house and half the corrections officers it needs, which is a recipe for trouble.
This is not an isolated situation. Conditions aren’t much different throughout the system. The average is 185 percent of capacity.
The cuts contained in the General Fund budget vetoed – and rightly so – by Gov. Robert Bentley would have made this bad situation worse. Prison Commissioner Jeff Dunn, who earlier this year took what is probably the toughest job in state government, said the budget cuts would mean closing two prisons and shifting 5,300 inmates to remaining facilities.
Opelika-Auburn News – Nutrition On The Plains: The dog days of summer and extra virgin olive oil
Even though it’s hot this time of the year on the Plains, it’s a wonderful time of the year to enjoy extra virgin olive oil. Although truth be told, extra virgin olive oil is wonderful anytime of the year. What makes extra virgin olive oil so special this time of the year is that it is excellent for pairing with fresh vegetables and summer salads such as pasta salads. It pairs sublimely with lemon in vinaigrettes that can be used in all types of salads. Extra virgin olive oil with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella is a match that can’t be beat this time of year.
Why our emphasis on extra virgin olive oil and not just olive oil? First, there is no difference in the types of fats between extra virgin olive oil and any olive oil not labeled as extra virgin. But extra virgin olive oil is not refined, so it contains phytochemical compounds called polyphenols and tocopherols, which act as powerful antioxidants. If you purchase olive oils labeled as “olive oil,” “light olive oil,” or “pomace olive oil,” you are getting refined oils that contain little or no phytochemical compounds. Polyphenols and tocopherols are an important part of a healthy diet and as such have been shown to play a role in the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.
To maximize the amount of polyphenols and tocopherols you consume from extra virgin olive oil always choose: 1) fresh oil (look for the “Best by date”); 2) oil packaged in dark bottles or tins (never clear bottles); 3) oil stored in a dark cool place; and 4) oil that has a spicy or grassy taste.
We are always surprised when we read recipes in newspapers and magazines published in the South in which seed based oils are recommended when extra virgin olive oil could be used. Seed based oils, such as Canola oil (its name derived from “Canadian oil, low acid”) which is derived from the rapeseed plant, is often used in the recipes and is touted as “heart healthy” because it contains a high percentage of monounsaturated fat. Canola oil also contains a small amount of plant based omega-3 fat which is essential for the human diet. However, the plant based omega-3 fat is not processed well by the human body to the more beneficial omega-3s that are found in marine fish. The most important point about seed based oils is that they are highly refined and as such, do not contain phytochemical compounds. Extra virgin olive oil, on the other hand, contains the “heart healthy” high percentage of monounsaturated fat in addition to the polyphenols and tocopherols. Another key difference between seed based oils and olive oil is that olive oil is made from fruit (i.e. the olive).
The Tuscaloosa News – Clinical terms don’t whitewash abortion
A few years ago, we were treated to Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell cracking jokes about one of the babies he was aborting being big enough to walk down to the bus stop. He was convicted of murder for operating a clinic that not only performed late-term abortions that violated Pennsylvania law, but blatantly disregarded the health and safety of the women who sought his services.
Now, we have Dr. Deborah Nucatola, a Planned Parenthood abortion doctor, sipping delicately on wine and dining on salad during an oh-so-civilized luncheon while discussing ways to destroy an unborn baby and still preserve vital organs.
“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part. I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact,” she said.
Planned Parenthood has apologized for Nucatola’s “tone.” But its officials immediately lashed out at the anti-abortion organization that secretly filmed their doctor. And any of Planned Parenthood’s defenders who do the same should apologize personally to Mitt Romney if they delighted in his infamous, but secretly filmed, “47 percent” remarks.
Nucatola’s casual callousness is shocking even though it probably shouldn’t be any longer. The small step from performing abortions to selling the leftover body parts — whether as blatant profiteering as the group that secretly filmed Nucatola claims or merely to recoup disposal costs as Planned Parenthood counters — was inevitable.
Abortion rights activists seem willing to cheerfully support any and all abortions. It doesn’t seem to matter how late in term, how well-developed the unborn child or cruel the procedure, all attempts to limit abortion are treated as attacks on women’s rights.