A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers.
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The Anniston Star – A reasoned opinion from Moore
In Roy Moore’s estimation, Lee Carroll Brooker shouldn’t be serving a life-without-parole sentence in Alabama’s prison system.
Carroll, 76, was found guilty of drug trafficking in Houston County following his arrest in 2013. Previous robbery convictions in Florida stained his record. Under Alabama law, Brooker’s record and drug-related sentence kicked in a sentencing guideline the chief justice of the state Supreme Court would like altered. On Friday, Moore called for that change.
“A trial court should have the discretion to impose a less severe sentence than life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Moore wrote in a statement. “I urge the Legislature to revisit that statutory sentencing scheme to determine whether it serves an appropriate purpose.”
In Moore’s opinion, “grave flaws” exist within Alabama’s sentencing system, especially in cases involving non-violent crimes. On this, we agree with the chief justice. The profound overcrowding of the state’s prisons is made worse when overly harsh guidelines leave judges and juries no choice but to imprison the guilty for many years, or longer.
The Birmingham News – Alabama scholar weighs in on wisdom of Iran nuclear deal
As an Alabamian and scholar of international relations in the Middle East, I felt compelled to address the Iran nuclear deal. My Masters thesis concerned nuclear weapons in the Middle East, and my senators are some of the leading voices against the agreement.
In short, this is objectively a “good deal,” a historic example of diplomacy, and a boon to our national security and that of our allies. I’m gravely concerned and honestly perplexed by opposition to the deal.
I can’t predict all objections (though I’m available to any legislator who wants to discuss them), but I will attempt to anticipate a few of them. First, however, I’d like to outline some key details I think indicate what a success this deal is for America.
Uranium enrichment capped at 3.67 percent is another extraordinary concession, well below the level to assemble even a rudimentary ‘dirty bomb,’ much less a modern nuclear weapon. Iran is agreeing to this stipulation, despite the fact the cap is far below that granted by Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
No stockpiling nuclear material. Quoting the agreement, “all spent fuel for all future and present power and research nuclear reactors” must be shipped out of the country.
Iran will mothball tens of thousands of centrifuges used for enrichment and use older model (IR-1) centrifuges. This dramatically decreases enriched uranium production and increases the ease of monitoring enrichment. Again, this concedes a right granted in Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran is rebuilding the heavy-water reactor to preclude plutonium production. This reactor at Arak was built at great cost over a long period of time, and represents a serious concession. In 1981, Israel destroyed the Osirak reactor in Iraq with a risky, covert airstrike; we are accomplishing a similar feat today with diplomacy.
The Decatur Daily – Another View: Around The State
Benefits of breast-feeding babies have been much publicized lately, partly thanks to high-profile advocates such as actress Alyssa Milano (“Charmed,” ‘’Mistresses”).
Tuesday, a ribbon-cutting took place in Birmingham for the Mother’s Milk Bank of Alabama, which collects breast milk from mothers, sterilizes it, then sends it to local hospitals for pre-term babies or those in neonatal intensive care units.
The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama and its leadership are serving in an advisory capacity and have helped secure grants. Before that, donated breast milk was sent to Texas for pasteurization and distribution through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. MMBAL is a member of the organization, but donations made here will stay here.
Why does any of this matter?
Alabama has made steady strides in reducing infant mortality rates. In 2013, the most recent year for which information is available, the rate was 8.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. For perspective, it was 36.4 deaths per 1,000 in 1950.
Many factors have contributed to the improvements. Banking is merely one more tool to allow health care providers and parents a way to provide the unique antibodies and nutrients found only in breast milk.
Breast-feeding is a hot-button issue right now, but its benefits have been confirmed by science again and again. Banking milk is akin to banking blood and blood products.
Dothan Eagle – Food for thought on 9/11 anniversary
On a clear Tuesday morning 14 years ago, a group of militant Islamic terrorists executed an intricate plan to attack the United States by hijacking passenger airliners and crashing them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.
Three of the hijacked aircraft hit their targets at the World Trade Center towers and at the Pentagon. The fourth, United Flight 73, bound for the Capitol, crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers attempted to overpower the hijackers.
The terrorists killed 2,977 people, injured untold others and left legions of responders and family members with emotional scars that aren’t likely to heal. For 14 years, we’ve seen rapid changes in our world, in our own country, in our own sense of security. We’ve seen our freedoms eroded in the name of fighting terrorism, we’ve seen local police forces transform into military units through the largesse of the federal Department of Homeland Security, and we’ve seen constant warfare against a changing cast of evildoers from Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda to ISIS.
Meanwhile, we’ve failed to identify the enemy that’s killing us at home. Since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been between 25 and 30 “mass shooting” incidents, depending on who’s counting, with an average of about 10 deaths per event.
For 2013 alone, the Centers for Disease Control tallies 16,121 homicides in the United States, with 11,208 committed with a firearm.
The Enterprise Ledger – Childhood memories of Bates Stadium
No telling what a grade-school boy raised here in an air-conditioned house, with cable and a flat-screen TV, DVD player, and video games in his bedroom, YouTube, cell phone, microwave to thaw and cook meals, seldom used 10-speed bikes, and pizza whenever he wants it, thinks when he arrives inside Wildcat Stadium (est. 2010) to watch Enterprise tangle with archrivals Dothan and Northview and three other 2015 opponents.
But here are some indelible memories from the time your scribe and other members of the Enterprise High School class of 1968 regularly started going to games when R.L. Bates Memorial Stadium (est. 1956), was about the same age as Wildcat Stadium.
One vivid memory is the aroma of peanuts parched by ag students under Mr. J.W. Reeder’s guidance that didn’t wait for us to get inside the gates to engulf us.
Just inside Bates’ gates, men wearing aprons hawked 25-cent, Coca-Cola programs, with classic football artwork on the cover (see west wall in the House of Adams’ Grotto, for example), both teams’ rosters in the middle pages, and individual, mostly action photos of that year’s Cats arrayed among ads from local stores and the occasional “Friend” and/or “Anonymous.”
Other men, representing some outfit called the Enterprise Quarterback Club, offered thick cushions for rent for another quarter.
It’s not uncommon the tailgaters on Spirit Hill have a lot to look forward to.
University of North Alabama football has a habit of spoiling us with great teams. Some fans of more well-known teams around the state probably don’t appreciate the fact that the Lions have a better winning percentage over the past 25 years than either Alabama or Auburn.
But more than that, UNA’s season opener against Mississippi College today at Braly Stadium represents a snapshot of a time that is especially promising for the school, the city and the Shoals in general.
The stadium will bustle all day as 750 high school band members will participate in a band extravaganza starting at 9 a.m., and then perform with the UNA band during the game’s halftime.
Kickoff is 6 p.m., and the Lions project to be strong contenders to win another Gulf South Conference championship, which they shared last year with Delta State.
Forget all the bickering on TV over social ills and political differences. Put aside the worries about work and the latest family feud. It’s football season.
Admittedly, some get a little too carried away on Saturdays this time of year, but for most of us, it’s simply a retreat into passions that promise good times and good feelings.
The Gadsden Times – Why so many juco presidential searches?
Gadsden State Community College might finally get a president after more than two years.
The position was posted in August, and application packets will be accepted through Sept. 23.
Interim president Martha Lavender would not say if she intends to vie — again — for the permanent position. We understand her reticence in commenting on her plans. She has been in the interim position for about a year, taking over for Helen McAlpine, who stayed two months.
Alabama Community College Chancellor Mark Heinrich brought McAlpine here from her post as president at J.F. Drake State Technical College in Huntsville, to which she returned — in two months, in case that was not made clear.
That head-scratching move came after Heinrich opted not to hire any of the five candidates interviewed in May 2014 after a nationwide search.
And all of this was predicated on the departure in 2013 of Ray Staats, who resigned after an overwhelming no-confidence vote by faculty and staff.
The Huntsville Times – Documents revealed: No wonder Mike Hubbard wanted them sealed
It is obvious now why Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard wanted motions and documents in his ongoing corruption case sealed.
They are embarrassing.
Or they ought to be.
Hubbard, who has publicly praised ethics reforms Republicans used to usher themselves to power – including those that prevented public officials from lobbying — asked Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob A. Walker III to dismiss charges against him on a claim that the much ballyhooed ethics law is unconstitutional, and that he, even as a public official, has a constitutional right to lobby for money.
Even from his powerful position in the Legislature. Even as an elected representative of the people of Alabama.
Hubbard lawyer J. Mark White argues under the heading: “Hubbard’s right to lobby on behalf of his or his business’ clients is a fundamental right constitutionally protected by the First Amendment,” that the law Hubbard is charged with breaking presents a host of constitutional issues.
“Lobbying – the right of the people to inform their representatives in government of their desires with respect to the passage or enforcement of laws – is ‘core’ political speech, prototypical of the kind of speech protected by the First Amendment,” White argued.
Of course Hubbard wanted it sealed. It is contrary to what he has made a career of saying, contrary to the very essence of ethics reform.
Let’s just lay it all out there.
No. 1: Alabama has been named one of the most corrupt states in America by researchers at Harvard University.
No. 2: Alabama’s speaker of the house is currently under indictment for 23 felony violations of the ethics law, including illegally lobbying for a fee.
No 3: The Alabama Legislature is now considering a bill that would strike out the language in the law banning public officials from lobbying at all – which some say guts ethics reform and in essence makes it ok for politicians to sell their influence to the highest bidder.
No. 4: That bill – by Rep. Jack Williams, a Republican from Vestavia Hills — also would proclaim that contributions to politicians’ legal defense funds are not “things of value” under the ethics law, allowing them to solicit money directly from those who would attempt to influence them.
No. 5: The idea of ethics in Alabama may not be dead, but it is gasping for air.
Montgomery Advertiser – Impact of Pike Road School no surprise
Pike Road School did not magically appear overnight. It wasn’t a secret; it’s been in the works for years. Yet to judge from the hand-wringing remarks of Superintendent Margaret Allen, its impact on Montgomery Public Schools was not altogether expected.
“We got a catastrophic hit from the Pike Road School opening,” Allen said during a preliminary budget hearing Wednesday. “We have got to look at the whole picture to find ways to cut back.”
The budget hit – an estimated $16.7 million – is certainly a concern. The question is why Allen and the Board of Education had not long since planned – extensively – for something that was so obviously coming. Of course Pike Road School was going to draw students previously enrolled in MPS. Of course the funding that follows each student was going to follow them to Pike Road.
“Dollars in the state budget proposal are allocated based on attendance,” Pike Road Mayor Gordon Stone said. “If a student goes to Pike Road, dollars will follow that student. Wherever the student decides to go is where the money goes.”
That’s the way it works in Alabama. It’s nothing new. It was going to happen. Even if Allen and MPS could not know exactly how many students would be involved, it was obvious long ago that a significant impact was looming.
Opelika-Auburn News – Increase respect, decrease bloodshed
When he was shot and killed in Fox Lake, Ill., on Tuesday, Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz became the eighth law enforcement officer shot and killed in the U.S. in the last month, the fourth in 10 days, and the 26th in 2015, according to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
That number is alarming, but it’s a 13 percent decrease from the same period last year, and a considerable improvement over the worst half-year period over the past five decades. In 1973, 84 officers were shot and killed in the first six months alone. Through the early 2000s, the six-month average fell to 29.
Meanwhile, at least 385 people have been shot and killed by police nationwide during the first five months of this year, more than two a day, according to a Washington Post analysis. At the rate of 2.6 deaths per day, the Post analysis said, police will have shot and killed nearly 1,000 people by the end of the year.
No one set of circumstances fits each of these situations, and no one portion of society is completely to blame for the bloodshed. Police have been ambushed by deranged people; unarmed civilians have been shot while posing no apparent threat; police have been forced into situations where they have to shoot an armed person threatening police or other civilians.
The Second Amendment gives American citizens the right to keep and bear arms, but certainly this much bloodshed between civilians and police was not what the Framers had in mind.
We long for a day that never really existed, when the townspeople of Mayberry respected Barney Fife’s authority even though they knew his bullet was in his pocket and not his gun, when Barney and Sheriff Taylor showed respect for the townspeople and solved all of Mayberry’s problems in time for a plate of Aunt Bea’s fried chicken.
Some new gun laws took effect in Alabama this week. One will prohibit gun possession by those convicted of committing or attempting to commit a crime of violence; those convicted on a misdemeanor domestic violence offense; anyone with an order of protection against them; or anyone of unsound mind. Another requires judges to report those involuntarily committed for mental illness and those found not guilty due to mental disease or defect.
Perhaps these laws will make Alabama safer for civilians and police alike. We certainly hope so.
The Tuscaloosa News – Bentley should make divorce records public
The shock has begun to wear off from the news that first lady Dianne Bentley has filed for a divorce from husband, Gov. Robert Bentley. It might not have taken some Montgomery insiders by surprise — what under the sun ever does — but the rest of us out in the hinterlands weren’t exactly expecting a soap opera from the Bentleys.
Since a Tuscaloosa County circuit judge ruled that the divorce records would be sealed, we imagine the governor and Mrs. Bentley are hoping that the proceedings can hum along anonymously as would be fitting for a retired physician and his wife of 50 years. The problem is that the Bentleys are no longer just an ordinary couple.
We certainly regret that for Mrs. Bentley. She has been a gracious lady during her time in the Governor’s Mansion. It is an unfortunate fact that the families of public officials are dragged into the limelight along with their ambitious spouses and parents.
George and Laura Bush’s daughters probably wished they could have had fun like any other college girls so that their foibles weren’t fodder for the broadcast and print media. And Michelle Obama would love to take a vacation without prying and judgmental eyes on her.
But the fact is that they are part of families whose normally private lives are made very public. And the same is true for Mrs. Bentley.
Thus, we are compelled to call on the governor to make their divorce records public. If there is some way to do that while still respecting Mrs. Bentley’s privacy as much as possible, we respect that. However, the accusations and facts that pertain to Gov. Bentley, even those that relate to his personal life, are the public’s business.