- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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Dec. 24

The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on honoring veterans:

For as long as Donna Betson can remember, the military has been a big part of her life.

It started with her late father serving, then her husband and son. In all, she can count about 60 years of military service in her immediate family.

That’s why her passion for the annual local program, Wreaths Across America, runs so deep within her.

Laying a wreath may seem like a simple task each December, but it goes much deeper than that, and it means so much more than that, to her and to the families who have loved ones buried.

As the backbone of the local program, Betson coordinates the mammoth undertaking each year of making sure there is wreath on each grave marker for everyone buried at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-Central in Radcliff.

This year, there was about 3,700 wreaths needed. Next year, she expects that total to soar to more than 4,000 wreaths to honor and remember those who served.

While the second Saturday in December marks the wreath laying ceremony each year and it’s been held locally for six years now, it is a year-long adventure to secure funding. The wreaths cost $15 apiece and for every two purchased a third is provided free by the supplier out of Maine.

Betson, who also serves as a member of Vine Grove City Council, has managed to have solid support from civic organizations and private donors, for example, to meet the annual demands. As always it seems, our community always comes up big. But it will get tougher and tougher as more wreaths are needed each year.

It is an undertaking that is dear to Betson’s heart, but it’s an undertaking for all those who hold freedom dear to our hearts, should appreciate and become involved in in some way.

Online:

http://www.thenewsenterprise.com

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Dec. 20

Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Cuban prisoner release:

Recently released Cuban prisoner Alan Gross had given hope up he would live.

The American subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development was arrested in Cuba on Dec. 3, 2009, and sent to prison.

Gross, 65, was working to improve communications on the island, where Internet use is heavily restricted by the communist government. Gross, who was bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to the Jewish community on the island, was arrested, charged with “destabilizing” and “subverting” the government and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Since being sentenced and imprisoned, Gross tried a hunger strike to bring attention to his cause. He’s lost some of his teeth, 100 pounds and had even stopped accepting visits from his wife and daughters.

He had given up all hope. His own lawyers said they saw no indication from the Cuban government that he would be released.

On Wednesday, Gross got his wish, which was his freedom. Gross was on a plane from Havana bound for the U.S. and is now thankfully back on U.S. soil.

Cuban officials say Gross was released on humanitarian grounds at the request of the Obama administration. As part of the secret negotiations to secure his release, the U.S. released three Cubans jailed in Florida for spying. Obama administration officials considered Gross’ imprisonment an impediment to improving relations with Cuba.

We certainly agree with their assessment.

Another aspect that resulted from this release is that President Barack Obama has said America and Cuba will start talks on normalizing full diplomatic relations, including normalized banking and trade and possibly opening an embassy in Havana.

Some aren’t happy about the United States trying to normalize ties with Cuba. We understand their concerns and agree that there needs to be much discussion and debate over this issue before it is finalized.

But that is for another day.

Today, we celebrate the release of a man who was wrongfully imprisoned and is now a free man at home with his wife and kids for the Christmas holidays.

We applaud the Obama administration for the steps necessary to secure Gross’ release. It took them a long time to do so, but at the end of the day, they negotiated his release and should be proud for doing so.

Welcome home, Mr. Gross.

Online:

http://www.bgdailynews.com

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Dec. 22

Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader on redistricting:

If all children in Lexington attended the public schools nearest their homes, Wellington Elementary would have 1,163 students and Russell Cave Elementary would have 42.

Reassigning students to three new schools scheduled to open in 2016 and 2017 will be part of the upcoming redistricting plan.

But there’s no way around also moving students among existing schools, as illustrated by the imbalance between Wellington, which serves an area in southern Lexington where a lot of new housing has been built, and Russell Cave in farm country north of town.

The state recommends an enrollment of 650 for elementary schools. The Fayette district accommodates the overflow at some schools by renting portable classrooms, while other schools are under capacity, which is like paying for a storage unit when there’s space in your closets and attic.

New schools will have to be built if the district keeps growing at its current pace; still, it’s disrespectful to ask taxpayers for new buildings when old ones have space available.

Granted, there are other considerations, such as the costs - in money and time - of transporting students. Also significant are the benefits of being educated in a diverse community of classmates.

A 29-member committee, chaired by businessman Alan Stein, has been weighing these and other considerations.

The committee will develop and recommend a redistricting plan to the elected board of education. Thanks to Stein and the other community members for shouldering this difficult but necessary task.

Nothing stirs parents like concerns for their children’s education. Lexington is especially passionate about education, which is one of the city’s greatest assets.

People also get worked up about property values and home sales, which are influenced by school assignments but should not drive district decisions or education policy.

As the committee and school board keep hearing passionate pleas, here’s something for everyone to remember: The reason for this process is not to grease squeaky wheels. The point of redistricting is to make the whole machine work as efficiently and beneficially as possible for all concerned.

Online:

http://www.kentucky.com

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