- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

Akron Beacon Journal, Dec. 18

Two years after Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, the United States broke ties and imposed an embargo on the island country. Cold War tensions were high, the new communist regime just 90 miles from the Florida coast. The thinking was that Washington would apply its considerable economic muscle. That was 1961, and for decades, the result has been clear: The policy is a failure, the Castros remaining in power.

At last, an American president has acknowledged as much and taken substantial steps to chart a new direction. … The United States will restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, including the opening of an embassy in Havana. The new course also involves such steps as expanded opportunities for travel and investment linked to communications and construction.

The president took care to stress that normalizing relations hardly amounts to looking the other way, or putting aside differences stemming from freedoms denied by the Cuban regime. The case for human rights and democratic reform can be pressed directly, as Washington has done with China and other countries. …

An opening exists to test the effectiveness of engagement, betting that expanded access to the Internet, a deeper foreign presence and economic connections will erode barriers and lead to a higher quality of life. …

Congress must act to remove the embargo, which lawmakers should do, complementing the renewal of diplomatic relations. …

Online:

http://bit.ly/1zO9ek5

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The Cincinnati Enquirer, Dec. 20

We applaud Republicans and Democrats in Ohio’s General Assembly for setting aside partisan politics to change the broken system of how state House and Senate districts are created.

Superficially, Republicans may have benefited from the current system - which has resulted in a super-majority for them in both chambers - but voters and democracy have lost.

Still, amid the back-patting, we must note that the General Assembly only addressed half the problem. After U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said he didn’t see an issue with the current redistricting system, state lawmakers backed off efforts to also change how congressional districts are drawn. …

(D)espite Ohio’s status as a presidential swing state, redistricting has created a U.S. House map in which not a single one of Ohio’s 16 seats was competitive in the November election.

Progressives and conservatives alike are rushing to support the plan overwhelmingly passed by the General Assembly in the past week - a plan that still must be approved by voters next November. …

The plan would give the responsibility for drawing state House and Senate lines to a seven-member commission made up of the governor, secretary of state, auditor and four legislative appointees. …

We’re glad lawmakers addressed half of this very important issue, but we’re feeling bold enough to ask them to finish the job next year.

Online:

http://cin.ci/1wBJ5W2

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Warren Tribune Chronicle, Dec. 18

The Common Core State Standards - a set of K-12 education goals for reading and math adopted by Ohio and more than 40 other states and the District of Columbia - should not be repealed by the Ohio General Assembly.

Learning Standards/Common Core are educational goals for reading and math, the two foundations of knowledge. They emphasize basic skills, critical thinking and problem solving, and depth of knowledge more than Ohio’s previous standards, which focused more heavily on memorization.

Common Core is a good plan that makes sense. …

The standards enable teachers to better prepare Ohio’s students for higher education and the workplace. They provide colleges with an apples-to-apples comparison of Ohio’s students to their peers nationwide.

The standards also provide consistent performance baselines to evaluate year-to-year progress in Ohio’s public schools.

The program is working to better prepare our kids for college and to meet the demands of the Ohio job market, 79 percent of which require post-secondary training or education.

Consistency among Ohio’s students and those nationwide is important, and Common Core establishes that. …

The Common Core sets the bar high, and we are confident that with the right resources, Ohio’s students will meet those goals and excel.

Online:

http://bit.ly/1JISD6W

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The (Findlay) Courier, Dec. 17

Ohio’s well-publicized heroin and opiate problems have not gone away, and may get worse before they get better. Yet, much has been done to try to break the cycle. …

About half of 13 separate bills that were introduced to address some aspect of the epidemic have moved forward.

Unfortunately, the one bill that could have done more than many to reduce the number of overdose deaths never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee. That’s a shame. …

The bill encourages calling 911 to seek medical assistance for yourself or someone experiencing an overdose by providing criminal immunity for both the person in need and the person who sought help. The immunity provided is generally limited to low-level drug crimes, and does not provide protection from more serious offenses such as manufacturing, trafficking, or distribution of controlled substances. …

The bill’s sponsor, House Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, said … he will reintroduce it next year with revised language that would better differentiate between those who are addicts and those who are dealing the drugs that can kill. …

Separating addicts from traffickers is never going to be easy and is best left to investigators, but prosecutions should never be more important than saving a life. …

Online:

http://bit.ly/1weoX72

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