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 StarTrump’s repugnant comment about Muslims

Donald Trump’s propensity for jaw-dropping comments is so strong that it’s more noteworthy when he reins it in.

Unless, of course, the Republican presidential candidate goes as far as he did Thursday evening.

While attending a rally in Newton, Iowa, Trump said he would “absolutely” force Muslims in the United States to register with the federal government should he become president. After the rally, a reporter pushed Trump on the issue. Would Muslims really be forced to register?

“They have to be,” Trump said.

Next question: How and where would Muslims register with the federal government?

“Different places,” Trump said. “You sign up at different places. But it’s all about management. Our country has no management.’’

That was Thursday. By midday Friday, Trump faced a barrage of condemnations — from Democrats and some Republicans — over his comments. “This is shocking rhetoric. It should be denounced by all seeking to lead this country,” Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted. In New Hampshire, a key early primary state, the chairwoman of that state’s Republican Party, Jennifer Horn, told The New York Times that “(T)he idea of a national database that tracks people just because of their religion is beyond ludicrous.” She later called the idea “un-American.”

The Birmingham News – Medicaid expansion and Bentley’s $3 billion blunder

On Wednesday a task force appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley recommended that the state “move forward at the earliest opportunity to close Alabama’s health coverage gap with an Alabama-driven solution.”

The task force couldn’t bring itself to say it explicitly, and some of its members danced around what that contortionism really means, but there’s only one clear way right now to “close Alabama’s health coverage gap” as they say. To do that, the state must expand Medicaid.

The reasons to do so are straightforward and abundant.

In state rankings, Alabama ranks near the bottom of most indicators of public health.

We’re 49th in infant mortality.

We’re 48th in life expectancy.

We have the fifth worst rate of obesity in the country.

We have the second worst rate of diabetes.

If you’re a woman, we’re the third worst in heart disease, and second if you’re a man.

You get the picture.

The Decatur Daily – Avoiding wasteful incentives

An odd thing happened in Limestone County this week. The Limestone County Commission declined to give a tax abatement for a business expansion, but the expansion is happening anyway.

It is a sign of how automatic tax abatements have become that it is almost impossible to find evidence, one way or the other, of whether abatements and other incentives are actually effective in generating economic development.

The looming but unanswerable question is whether businesses and industries really are making their business decisions based on abatements and incentives that usually are a tiny fraction of a company’s planned investment. While the incentives typically are minor relative to the cost of the project, they often are major relative to the tax revenue of municipal and county governments. If development would come without the incentives, then taxpayers are suffering with no corresponding gain.

The project in Limestone County is an expansion of LawLers Barbecue, a fine company that is carefully expanding its footprint. To support its various restaurants, LawLers proposed a $2.5 million investment in an industrial park. The completed facility would serve as a meat production and distribution facility for the company’s restaurants.

In addition to the capital investment, the project would employ 20 people.

It was not a major project for Limestone County, but still attractive. And as incentives go, the $115,000 abatement LawLers requested was tiny.

Dothan Eagle – Closing a chapter on Saints Apartments

The buildings that comprised Saints Apartments on East Powell Street just off North Oates Street were undoubtedly an eyesore, and plans to raze the structures for parking surely seemed a more agreeable alternative. However, the Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority’s plans sowed seeds of disagreement, and pushback materialized from both a prospective developer who expressed interest in the buildings, and a historical committee that took issue with the plan.

Eventually a fire heavily damaged the structures, and they were torn down, raising questions about the disposal of asbestos in the structures.

Saints Apartments became the nightmare that appeared to have no end.

Until this week, when the DDRA announced it had reached an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency last month, bringing this chapter to a close.

The DDRA agreed to pay a $540 fine without admission of wrongdoing.

That’s a small price to pay to put this debacle behind our city, and allow the positive changes at the site to flourish. Where the buildings once were a park is now taking shape, named in honor of Peggy James, longtime executive of the Human Resource Development Corporation located nearby.

It’s not quite the plan the DDRA had in mind from the start, but the result is arguably better than a parking lot. An eyesore is gone, replaced by a green space honoring a community leader.

The Enterprise Ledger – Heaven help us all when Putin looks good

A setback is when Nick Saban loses Kenyan Drake for a few weeks with an injury. A setback is when ALDOT decides paving a particular street must be pushed back another six months. A setback is when you spill a cup of coffee on your dress shirt and you have to be late for work as you return home to change. A setback is when your girlfriend says she just wants to be friends.

A setback is not 129 people being murdered and hundreds more injured in the recent terror spree in Paris, which is precisely what our fearful leader called the fight against ISIS.

For a country – France – that has long been the butt of jokes regarding its perceived weakness, we had better be prepared to take it as well as we’ve dished it out because no one is perceived weaker than the U.S. at the moment.  As I said weeks ago in this space, when Russian leader/crazy man Vladimir Putin gets kudos for deciding to take it to ISIS by bombing those wayward souls from here to the deepest core of the earth, we know our leadership has betrayed us. We’re praising Putin for Heaven’s sake!

John Kerry is about as effective as a Secretary of State during this crisis as fighting a mad mama Grizzly with a BB gun. Of course, when his boss refuses to lay blame where it is obvious to all the world, I guess Kerry’s hands are tied.

The most amazing thing is that the Clinton National Network, better known as CNN, is even beginning to question how Obama could be so passive while people are being killed by this radical Islamic faction, yet he decides to allow 10,000 Syrian refuges into our country. Meanwhile, we have homeless veterans that fought for this country as well as homeless children lining our city streets in many areas. Nevertheless, Obama has decided to allow 10,000 more people with no room or shelter and more likely than not carrying anti-American sentiments to freely come into our country without blinking an eye.

TimesDaily – Debate over refugees should focus on facts, not fearmongering

The debate will rage over whether and how to integrate refugees from war in the Middle East. If we as a nation can debate it intelligently — a challenge all its own — maybe our leaders can come up with a plan that is both safe and worthy of our humanitarian duty as Americans.

What we should not do is give in to preconceptions, such as the widespread belief that President Barack Obama’s administration is disinterested in safeguarding the borders.

While Obama has made it plain that he believes in creating a passage for refugees, he has been in Turkey this week making it equally clear that he believes the global Muslim leadership has a key duty in rebuking terrorism made in the name of its religion.

He told a largely Muslim crowd that while it is wrong to stereotype Muslims over this extremism, the Islamic community must stand on the front line.

“The most vicious terrorist organizations at the moment are ones that claim to be speaking on behalf of true Muslims,” Obama said. “And I do think that Muslims around the world — religious leaders, political leaders, ordinary people — have to ask very serious questions about how did these extremist ideologies take root, even if it’s only affecting a very small fraction of the population. It is real and it is dangerous. And it has built up over time, and with social media it has now accelerated.”

These are words that many in America said they have wanted to hear from our president, yet refuse to acknowledge when he said them. That is part and parcel of a GOP presidential race.

But let’s stay on track: Obama went on to say the Muslim community must “think about how we make sure that children are not being infected with this twisted notion that somehow they can kill innocent people, and that that is justified by religion. And to some degree, that is something that has to come from within the Muslim community itself. And I think there have been times where there has not been enough pushback against extremism. There’s been pushback — there are some who say, ‘We don’t believe in violence,’ but are not as willing to challenge some of the extremist thoughts or rationales for why Muslims feel oppressed. And I think those ideas have to be challenged.”

The Gadsden Times – Alabama will be a player inquest for 2016 presidential nominations

We imagine some folks from Gadsden and Etowah County will be heading down Interstate 59 Saturday for Donald Trump’s campaign rally at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.

The football schedule isn’t that attractive (although the message Nick Saban sent to his team through his press conference outburst about overlooking Charleston Southern was valid, and there’s a Marching Southerners reunion at top-ranked Jacksonville State’s game), and shoppers will be looking ahead to Black Friday. The crowd probably will include people who would never consider voting for Trump either to be the Republican nominee or president, who just want to experience the history (or surreality) and hear what comes out of The Donald’s mouth.

However, the fact that Trump is making his second visit to Alabama — he held a rally Aug. 21 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile; the attendance estimates have varied, but he drew a big crowd — is another sign that the state will, for a change, carry importance in the 2016 presidential nomination process.

We add that qualifier because it’s the safest bet on the planet that Alabama’s 9 electoral votes will go to the Republican candidate next November. This state isn’t just red, it’s fluorescently red.

What’s significant is that Alabama has moved its presidential primary up a couple of weeks to March 1 — Super Tuesday, when a total of 12 primaries or caucuses will take place. That date has a new nickname, “the SEC primary,” because Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas also are having primaries that day.

The Huntsville Times – Meet the refugees that Alabama would turn away

On Sunday, Governor Bentley declared that Alabama would not accept any Syrian refugees.  Let’s put aside the governor’s uncertain legal authority in this matter and focus instead on the public support he received for this shameful act.  Many Alabamians applauded the attempt to close Alabama’s borders, with some calling Syrians “a Trojan horse” of terrorism.  Governor Bentley implied that evil surely lurks among these vulnerable refugees, and shutting them out will make Alabama safer. 

This isn’t the Alabama I know.

The backlash against Syrian refugees is confounding.  Since 9/11, the United States has welcomed 785,000 refugees, all vetted and screened.  Of this group, twelve people later posed a security concern and were arrested or deported, demonstrating that we have capable systems in place.  Moreover, many of the Syrian refugees selected for resettlement in the U.S. are widows, disabled, or elderly, and more than half are children.  Conflating the need to combat ISIL with an outright rejection of refugees is both wrong and dangerous.  The anti-refugee rhetoric and exclusionary sentiments don’t make us safer; they exacerbate race and integration issues and lend credibility to the violent extremists’ propaganda.

On a more personal level, the xenophobic sentiments I’ve seen these past few days are devastating because they come from people who I know are typically generous and compassionate.  They’re the kind of people who foster orphans, feed the homeless, and love their neighbors because they’re called to but also because it’s just the right thing to do.  The Alabamians I know and love welcome strangers and show kindness to the persecuted because the Bible, and southern hospitality, demands nothing less. 

Sadly, that compassion has been lost in the vitriol directed toward Syrian refugees this week.  Several thousand Syrian refugees have been referred for resettlement in the U.S., and so far fewer than 2,000 have completed the stringent process of vetting.  The process can take up to two years and involves multiple background checks, medical exams, mounds of paperwork, and countless interviews where applicants recount the (usually traumatic) circumstances that led to their decision to flee home and country.   Through my job at the State Department, I’ve gotten to know some of these refugees, and I can’t help but think the good people of Alabama would react differently if they knew whom they were shutting out. 

Press-Register –America’s schizophrenic Syrian policy not helping refugees

We’re pretty focused on Syrian refugees these days. They’re running away from ISIS, right? We’ll just admit a few refugees (or not), stop ISIS and then they can go home.

Well…it’s not quite that simple. Far too many discussions over what to do with Syrian refugees ignore or mistakenly identify why they’re refugees in the first place.

Millions of Syrians are fleeing a civil war between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces. There are enough factions, alliances and proxies to make your head spin.

American foreign policy in Syria has been just about as volatile as the country itself. The adage that the enemy of our enemy is our friend doesn’t seem to hold true when it comes to the Syrian Civil War. America has managed to find enemies on both sides and precious few allies.  

While diplomatic challenges with Syria aren’t a new development for the United States, the 2011 uprising of pro-democracy rebels against the Assad regime marked a serious new development.

America’s first response was hoping the conflict would dissipate with a civil resolution.

In an interview with Bob Schieffer of CBS, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that United States intervention in the Syrian conflict wasn’t immediately necessary. “There’s a different leader in Syria now,” said Clinton. “Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he is a reformer.”

Montgomery Advertiser – No honor among ISIS killers

It takes an out-and-out coward to kill unarmed and unwarned people. There is no honor in what the ISIS terrorists did last week in Paris.

They call themselves martyrs; I call them animals. In fact, their display of utter barbarism brought forth in me emotions that have been dormant for some time. Is it wrong for me to hate these people? My religion tells me not to hate, yet, unlike the terrorists who slaughter so many innocents in the name of their religion, I am only human. What ISIS has done and will continue to do can be explained as nothing less than evil incarnate. What is more difficult to rationalize, and yet concerns me almost as much, is the lack of leadership and inaction by our own government.

Alas, I found my emotions of unease turning to other things:

I am uneasy that our leaders and media tell us to accept as a “new normal” the ongoing threat of ISIS. How weak and inept we must appear to our enemies. They must delight at our timidity and lack of resolve. It was not so long ago, when we were still strong, we would impose a “new normal” on ISIS by increasing our bombing, conducting raids to kill or capture their leaders, and by providing greatly needed material that would buttress our friends in their fight against this scourge.

I am uneasy that our country appears weak on the global stage and in the struggle against this evil. The French president has joined the Jordanian president in declaring war on ISIS. The Russians, moved to action after their plane was downed over Egypt by an ISIS bomb, are joining forces with the French. Yet, our president sees the Paris massacre as a “set-back.” Mr. President, Paris was not a set-back; it was the opening volley of the next phase of this war. These sad circumstances, if taken seriously, provide you a window of opportunity to build a real coalition. PRESIDENT OBAMA-IT IS TIME TO LEAD.

I am uneasy that our country is in a vulnerable security position. Our borders are porous and our president cannot be dissuaded from executing his plan to bring thousands of Syrian “refugees” into our country. If not stopped, this is a formula for disaster that needlessly risks the lives of Americans. The Federal government’s first enumerated responsibility is to protect the American people. It is time for our leaders to do their job, step down or be replaced.

Opelika-Auburn News –Now’s your time to shine

If you’ve been waiting for just the right moment to support the Beat Bama Food Drive, head out to the grocery store now. Your moment has arrived.

Today is the last day of the annual campaign which pits Auburn Tigers fans against their University of Alabama counterparts in a friendly competition to stock the shelves of the Food Bank of East Alabama here and the West Alabama Food Bank in Tuscaloosa.

Though there is a competitive aspect to the food drive, there are no losers here. The donations will help food-insecure families in Alabama for months to come.

We’ve all been moved by pictures of children in third-world countries, their bellies swollen from malnutrition. Because we don’t see children like that in Lee and surrounding counties, some of us may assume hunger is not a problem here.

Hunger is a problem here.

Food bank donations help not only the garden-variety poor family, but also the senior adult who has to choose between food or medication or the utility bill, and the mother who has to decide whether she will eat tonight or her children will eat tomorrow.

Food bank volunteers will be picking up collection barrels all day today, so the earlier you can make your donation, the better.

If you can’t give a lot of food, give a little. As Food Bank of East Alabama Executive Director Martha Henk points out, “Every meal counts.”

The Tuscaloosa News –Race, gender don’t define qualifications

Some students at the University of Missouri are demanding that the university’s faculty have a racial makeup that mirrors the racial makeup of the student body. The student body is about 10 percent black while the faculty is only about 5 percent black.

Missouri isn’t alone. The Associated Press found that state flagship universities across the country had similar differences between student body racial makeup and faculty racial makeup. That does raise some questions about discrimination in hiring.

Universities, like all other businesses and institutions, are prohibited from discriminating in hiring based on race. Most universities pay careful attention to their hiring practices to ensure that doesn’t happen. Of course, it still could occur.

However, simple percentages aren’t necessarily evidence of discrimination. And hiring people just to boost the percentage of a particular ethnicity becomes a form of racial preference, too. While many might disagree, we believe race has no place in hiring preference.

Learning is the search for truth. Truth is not relative. Truth does not vary with the color of the speaker.

Universities owe their students the best educations they can offer. Faculty should be hired based on the merits of their achievements in academics and research, not on their race.

Wednesday, University of Alabama President Stuart Bell announced that he directed UA’s Strategic Planning Committee to appoint a central diversity officer and to develop a new diversity plan. But how will they define diversity?

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