A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers

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A round-up of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:

The Anniston StarShrugging over more senseless gun deaths

Come January 2017, someone else will have the awful chore of acting as mourner-in-chief. With the past as our guide, every so often he or she will wearily stand before the assembled press corps in a small room in the White House and tell the world of yet another mass shooting in the United States.

Reacting to Thursday’s shooting in Roseburg, Ore., that left 10 dead and seven injured, President Barack Obama suggested the nation has “become numb to this.” Obama, who was visibly angry standing at the White House podium, laid out the steps that usually follow a U.S. mass shooting.

A gunman, often a very disturbed young man, uses a firearm to shoot up a school or a church or a movie theater or some other place where the public is gathered.

Americans are rightly shocked by this violence. We see lives cut short. Our hearts ache as we watch grieving loved ones. We offer sincere prayers for the suffering.

We ask ourselves: How could such an unstable person so easily acquire high-powered weaponry?

Then there’s a turning. We become distracted by so much else. The national news media turn to the next big story.

The Birmingham News – America’s faith leaders should learn from a political Pope

When’s the last time you saw your pastor stand in front of the state capitol and rail against political corruption? Has your minister ever provided biblical insight into the proper balance between respect for our laws and care for the immigrant in our midst? Maybe they’ve weighed in on the issue of how we treat God’s creation?

If none of those ring a bell, why not?

The modern church has become so weak that its limited voice rarely intersects with civic and political life. These days it’s a brave pastor who’s even willing to stake out a definitive claim on issues of marriage, sexuality, and abortion. 

We live in a society where we face myriad challenges. They’re not limited to a handful of social issues. If the impact of faith on our daily lives and political decisions is so finite, what’s the point?

The Pope’s recent visit offered a stark contrast to the largely-disengaged church in America. During his time in the United States, the Pope refused to shy away from controversial political issues. From immigration and climate change to abortion and capitalism, the Pope addressed one politically charged topic after another. 

Politicians hated it.

The Decatur Daily – Immigration picture gets focus

The Pew Research Center on Monday released a “statistical portrait” of the United States’ foreign-born population that turns out to be a rather different picture than the one most Americans envision, and far different from the one most of our presidential candidates paint on the campaign trail.

According to Pew, even as unauthorized immigration has become a litmus-test issue for many voters, it has been on the decline.

The U.S. unauthorized immigrant population peaked at 12.2 million in 2007, then rapidly declined to about 11.3 million, where it has remained since 2009. Unauthorized immigration may be a problem, but it is not currently a growing one.

Another common assumption is most immigrants are poor and poorly educated with few skills, which leads to them becoming a drain on social services.

Yet this, too, is increasingly not the case. Since 1990, the percentage of immigrants age 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree has risen from about 10 percent to 16.4 percent. Nearly 12 percent of immigrants have a post-graduate degree.

Then there is the matter of who is coming to America. Increasingly, it’s not people from Latin America.

Since 2005, new arrivals from Latin America — and especially Mexico — have been on the decline. During the same period, new arrivals from Asia have been on the rise. Since 2008, new arrivals from Asia have outnumbered those from Latin America. If current trends continue, Asian immigrants will outnumber Latin American immigrants in the U.S. by 2055.

Presidential candidates who speak of immigrants as invaders and talk about building walls along the U.S./Mexico border to keep them out are not only misguided, they’re behind the times. Perhaps next they will suggest building a wall along the West Coast?

Dothan Eagle – A bold idea has taken root

Several years ago, a group of enthusiastic visionaries made the rounds in Dothan and the surrounding area talking up a bold idea they’d been nurturing. They planned to make Dothan the home of a new medical school that would train physicians in osteopathy and, they hoped, help fill an impending void in availability of rural healthcare.

There were naysayers; there always are. Some were skeptical that the area could support such an endeavor, that there would not be enough students to make the venture successful.

That hasn’t been the case. The Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine has steadily drawn more applicants than it has spaces and, with its association with Southeast Alabama Medical Center, those students have a ready facility for training outside of the classroom.

Earlier this week, ACOM held its third white coat ceremony, awarding the traditional doctors’ garb to another 160 first-year medical students.

During the ceremony, ACOM Class of 2018 President Shawn Hamm listed some of the accomplishments of the school in its three years of operation, including recent record-breaking performance by students on a Level I licensing exam and the high number of students ACOM has participating in national public service projects and study abroad programs.

The Enterprise Ledger – If only the right questions were asked

I am always getting suggestions on how a reporter should ask someone this or that, and on occasion, sometimes they actually have an idea that wouldn’t get the average reporter fired.

Rather than ask President Obama the details of the nuclear deal with Iran, why not ask why he made a trade for a traitor in Beau Bergdahl while letting a former Marine and a journalist sit in an Iranian prison? Then, please ask why he is leaving Israel completely out of his concerns.

Rather than asking Joe Biden what his solutions will be to certain issues, demand that he give more thorough answers than “I’ll make this country greater than it’s ever been.”

Rather than asking Hillary Clinton if she has lied about emails, Benghazi, etc., etc., why not just ask when the last time was that she told the truth?

Rather than ask John Kerry or Joe Biden anything, why bother? They don’t know what’s going on anyway.

Rather than asking Pope Francis his views of the world today, why not ask him if he is following the Bible’s wishes when making a stand? I’d also like to discuss this gun/non-Christian comment he made. Surely, he was misunderstood. Right?

TimesDaily – We’re ‘happy’ this copyright has exceeded its limits

You can now sing “Happy Birthday” without having to worry anyone will try to charge you for doing so.

Yes, “Happy Birthday to You” now is officially in the public domain, according to a ruling last week by federal District Judge George H. King, of the Central District of California. No longer will restaurant wait staff have to sing ridiculous knock-offs when they encircle a table for the purpose of wishing red-faced and unsuspecting diners good will on the anniversary of their nativity.

True, people have been singing “Happy Birthday” royalty free at private parties for decades. Every child knows it by heart. But the song’s alleged rights holders (currently Warner/Chappell, the publishing arm of Warner Music Group, formerly a subsidiary of Warner Bros.) routinely have gone after anyone who performed “Happy Birthday” as part of any public, profit-making endeavor, insisting upon their cut of the cake.

The copyright storm whirling around “Happy Birthday” is enough to make even the most hardened intellectual property attorney reach for his galoshes. The tune was written by two sisters in 1893 and, as everyone agrees, is long out of copyright. The lyrics, however, are another matter. No one really knows who came up with them, but they’ve been around at least 80 years.

Owing to the all the confusion, the judge held that Warner/Chappell never purchased the rights to “Happy Birthday” in the first place — just one particular arrangement of it — so it couldn’t charge people for performing it.

Now, at long last, people can sing “Happy Birthday” without receiving a bill.

One might wonder how an 80-year-old song, whose composers are long dead and unknown, could even possibly still be under copyright protection.

Many popular characters and stories, as well as songs, would have fallen into the public domain years ago had not their corporate owners repeatedly taken their argument to Congress and convinced lawmakers to extend copyright protection for ever-longer periods of time. That’s why Disney still has a monopoly on Mickey Mouse, and Warner Bros. retains sole ownership of Bugs Bunny and Batman.

The individuals who created those characters, however, are long dead. No profit incentive in the world can wring more work out of them.

The Gadsden Times – Spread out pain of cuts

We always took Gov. Robert Bentley at his word that services would be cut if the Legislature didn’t appropriate sufficient money to the General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2016.

That budget is $82 million shorter than last year’s, and the promised cuts have materialized — as has more controversy.

Five state parks, six National Guard Armories and 15 ABC beverage stores will be shut down, but the biggest stir was created by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s decision to pull driver’s license examiners out of 31 part-time satellite offices. That means people needing to take a driving exam to get a license will have to travel to another, full-service office.

ALEA officials say it will involve no more than a 50-mile trip from any spot in the state. They note that the satellite offices service only 5 percent of Alabama drivers, and stress that people can renew licenses at county courthouses, self-service kiosks or online.

That all may be true, but as often happens, the devil’s in the details.

Most of the counties losing their examiners are rural and poor, including 12 that traditionally are part of Alabama’s Black Belt Region. A 50-mile trip for residents there isn’t necessarily an easy thing, and we imagine the percentage of folks with smartphones or even home computers there isn’t huge.

This also isn’t just about driving cars. Alabama requires a photo ID — most commonly a driver’s license — to vote. AL.com reported that driver’s license offices are being closed in every county in which African-Americans make up more than 75 percent of the population, and eight of the 10 counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters.

The Huntsville Times – If Alabama runs like a business, it is closing time

They keep saying “Run Alabama Like a Business.”

Like Rep. Elaine Beech, a Democrat from Chatom, said on the House floor last month when she learned that some state parks in Alabama don’t actually make a profit:

“Well you might ought to sell them,” she said.

Because there’s nothing in Alabama worth keeping if it doesn’t turn a profit.

So Alabama runs like a business. Like a business being run right into the ground.

The fire sale has begun for real now. Five state parks will close this month. They don’t make money and they won’t. Unless you want to make “a business decision” to put a strip club at the closing Grist State Park, or casinos at the doomed Chickasaw State Park in Marengo County.

Driver license offices will close in 31 counties – hitting the poor, rural Black Belt the hardest. They don’t pull their own weight either. Unless you want to start charging a cover for walking in the door.

The Alabama National Guard, which is already closing down 15 armories, will excise another six. They don’t make money.”

Shoot. As Gov. Robert Bentley told Sen. Harri Anne Smith on a recorded message to try to soothe her after her district in the Wiregrass was especially hard hit by armory closings, their elimination  wasn’t even about the budget cuts. It was “a business decision.” 

“They were going to be closed anyway” because of downsizing, the governor said.

Because we’ve been running them like we run our business for too long. Like a business that is running itself into the ground.

Press-Register –Ten Sixty Five: ‘Bayfestivus for the rest of us’

Lawrence Specker is a mild-mannered genius who is much too modest to speak of himself in the third person. So I’ll do it for him. Lawrence Specker is a genius.

And a generous one at that. He’s letting me borrow his idea for what should be his post.

Lawrence, of course, has been busy writing about the phenomenon of Ten Sixty Five, the free music mini-festival that has suddenly risen from the ashes of Bayfest in downtown Mobile.

The other day in the newsroom he referred to this grass roots alternative concert event as “Bayfestivus for the rest of us.”

Festivus, of course, was made famous by a Seinfeld episode, and is best described as a parody, non-commercial alternative to Christmas. Instead of a Christmas tree, there’s an unadorned aluminum pole. The holiday is celebrated with odd family traditions such as “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength.”

Can’t wait to watch the “Air Guitaring of Grievances.”

Ten Sixty Five is a free concert. How non-commercially Festivus-like is that? I think the reference is awesome. And I thought Lawrence already used it in a story. But he hadn’t.

With his blessing, I’m throwing it out there with his name on it.

Montgomery Advertiser – Drivers license office closings a call to action

On Sept. 30, my Black Belt constituents were dealt yet another devastating blow when it was announced by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency that it would close 31 drivers license offices. The decision left 8 out of the 14 counties in my district without a DMV that will issue driver’s licenses. Many of the residents affected by this decision will have to travel miles outside of their communities to take a driver’s tests and obtain state-issued identification. This fact means many of my constituents who have limited modes of transportation will be denied an equal opportunity to obtain a means to vote.

In a state that has adopted one of the country’s harshest voter ID laws, this decision also threatens the civil and human rights that so many daughters and sons of the Black Belt fought, bled and died to protect.  And while the law requires state-issued identification to cast ballots at the poll, an estimated 250,000 Alabamians do not have an acceptable form of identification to make their voices heard. The closure of these offices diminishes the chances of improving that number. 50 years after the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we continue to witness renewed assaults on the sacred right to vote. This shameful decision by the Alabama State Legislature is yet another form of voter suppression that undermines the premise that every vote and every voice matters. How can we legitimately increase requirements to vote without also increasing the available options to meet these requirements?

Despite the rationale, we cannot ignore the fact that the consequence of this decision will have a negative impact on the most vulnerable communities in the State of Alabama. There is no denying that the populations in the 8 counties in my district that will lose driver’s license offices are majority African American and overwhelmingly low income. It is unacceptable that Alabama officials seek to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, the elderly, the disabled and black communities.

Opelika-Auburn News – Get your flu shot

“I just got over the flu, and I can’t wait to get it again,” said no one ever.

In simpler times there were only four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. But nowadays the calendar is fragmented into so many more seasons – there’s allergy season, swimsuit season, football season and the holiday season, just to name a few. Just around the corner is flu season, and that makes right now flu shot season.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, flu deaths from 1996 through 2007 ranged from a low of 3,000 per year to a high of 49,000. Flu season in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May, CDC says on its website.

During recent flu seasons, between 80 percent and 90 percent of flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older, but CDC recommends flu shots for everyone age 6 months or older with rare exceptions. The vaccination is particularly important for those at high risk for serious complications from influenza, including children younger than 5, but especially those younger than 2; adults 65 and older; pregnant women; people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes; and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

CDC points out that the flu shot cannot give you the flu, though it can have side effects including soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given, as well as low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches.

One day of feeling yucky after getting the shot is a small price to pay to avoid getting the full-blown flu, with its attendant fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, headaches, intense body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

The Tuscaloosa News – Try something different; this isn’t working

President Barack Obama has admitted that the Islamic State isn’t going away anytime soon. The group that he once referred to as the “junior varsity” has a firm foothold in Syria and Iraq and is taking steps toward establishing a permanent presence in the region.

The Islamic State is there because it stepped in to fill a void left when U.S. troops departed Iraq in 2011. Obama was warned that Iraq was not ready to stand on its own, but he had said he would withdraw American troops from Iraq and he did so regardless of the consequences. Now Americans trickle back in ever so slowly.

Much of Syria that isn’t governed by the

Islamic State is now governed by dictator Bashar al-Assad. Obama said Assad’s ouster was a must when civil war broke out during the Arab Spring of 2010. He said if Assad used chemical weapons on rebels, the Syrian president would be crossing a red line that the United States wouldn’t tolerate.

Assad’s ouster has never materialized. He tap danced all over Obama’s red line and went on past it, using chemical weapons on his own people. He hasn’t left and what’s more, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he not leaving. Putin has upped the ante by sending weapons and troops to bolster the dictator’s prospects. And Putin says he will initiate Russian air strikes against the Islamic state.

Over in Afghanistan, where Obama said, as in Iraq, that he would withdraw American troops regardless of consequences, the Taliban has just retaken the major city of Kunduz. It was the Taliban’s first triumph in an urban area in many years.

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