- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

The Alpena News. Dec. 30.

Hagel hinted that $10B will improve US missile force

Nuclear weapons proliferation may mean that, if anything, the United States needs a strong, flexible deterrent force. Air Force officials finally are admitting there are questions whether their missile system measures up.

One of the keys to the U.S. nuclear arsenal is the network of underground missile silos in five states. They hold about 450 rockets that, theoretically, can be fired quickly and accurately at any enemy.

But during the past couple of years there have been serious concerns about whether all personnel manning the silos are up to the job. For example, one big scandal disclosed widespread cheating on tests the missile operators must take periodically.

As you might expect from the federal government, the initial reaction was to throw money at the problem. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said as much as $10 billion will be spent during the next six years to improve the missile force. Fortunately, Hagel also included dozens of other changes, some including personnel, in his response to the challenge.

But Hagel is about to depart as defense secretary. It remains to be seen whether his successor will consider the missile force a top priority.

It must be just that. Again, the missiles are vital to national security.

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The Detroit News. Dec. 30.

Humane Society expansion should ease animal suffering

The Michigan Humane Society is raising money to expand its animal rescue and care services in Detroit’s north end. That’s good news for the 15,000 animals the Detroit facility handles every year, and for the thousands more strays that roam Detroit’s streets.

Reports vary, but a Michigan State University study from February shows there are an estimated 7,500 dogs and 18,000 cats loose in the city.

Detroit, with chronically understaffed public services and just four animal control officers, has had a problem controlling the animal population and properly caring for it.

These creatures don’t deserve to be neglected. As Detroit gets back on its feet, a new, improved and larger animal facility is a welcome development.

It’s a challenge for Detroiters, many of whom struggle to meet their own daily needs, to properly care for and raise pets.

The city should also look to partner with nonprofits that do the important work of identifying and caring for animals in need, as well as educating owners on how to properly treat them.

There are limited pet supply stores in the city. Low-income residents often can’t afford to properly feed and tend their pets. Many animals end up abandoned or abused, and dogs are organized for fighting or left tethered outside, where they can freeze to death.

Several nonprofits in Detroit work to educate animal owners on proper ways to treat and raise their pets, and they deserve credit for their work.

Education can include avoiding chaining dogs to fences, teaching owners why it’s important to spay or neuter their pet, how often their pet should be fed, and even where to buy pet supplies.

The Humane Society is looking for $15.5 million to help build the new 34,000-square-foot facility.

The organization says improvements will include better housing for animals, an expansion of its veterinary services and a community dog park. It will also house the organization’s Cruelty Investigation and Rescue Department.

As Detroit continues to restructure city services and improve the quality of life for residents, animals should not be left out.

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Daily Press (Escanaba) Dec. 30.

Fresh leadership needed at Secret Service

Unless the Secret Service is shaken up at the very top, the agency charged with protecting the president and other top officials will not correct problems that threaten its mission, an investigation has concluded.

After scandal after scandal - including lapses in which the president was put at risk - a group of former government officials was asked to examine the Secret Service and propose solutions. Last week, their report was released.

Reform will not occur unless a new director from outside the agency is placed in charge of the Secret Service, those who studied it emphasize. They referred to the agency as “insular.”

In other words, the Secret Service is a bureaucracy where inefficiency has become acceptable.

The outside director proposal certainly touches on the problem of insiders unwilling to rock the boat. But it does not go far enough.

Much of the federal bureaucracy has problems similar to those plaguing the Secret Service. Sending someone from another agency there may merely replace someone knowledgeable about it with someone else who is not - but who has the same sort of - insular mindset.

Far better would be a new director from the private sector with no allegiance to the live-and-let-live philosophy of the government bureaucracy.

Members of Congress and President Barack Obama should consider that approach.

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Midland Daily News. Dec. 28.

Michigan still has work to do

The latest U.S. Census information offers more good news for Michigan. For the third straight year, the state’s population has grown.

But the pace of growth certainly could improve.

Michigan’s population increased 0.1 percent to 9.91 million in 2014, the third straight increase. The state’s population was up 11,684 between July 2013 and July 2014. And since 2011, Michigan has seen an increase of 34,141 - about a third of a percent.

That is a great improvement over what occurred in what has become known as Michigan’s “lost decade” between 2000 and 2010. During those years, Michigan was the only state in the nation to actually lose population.

But evidence that more work needs to be done in Michigan can also be found in the U.S. Census numbers. Even though Michigan saw a population increase, the state’s numbers are growing at a much slower rate than a number of other states. For example, North Carolina’s population rose by 95,057, and it became the ninth most populated state in the nation, bumping Michigan to No. 10.

Texas, meanwhile, was the leader in the nation in terms of population growth, adding an estimated 451,321 people.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who won re-election to a second term in office in November, recognizes the state can do better. He said a well-trained workforce is the key to future growth.

“We know we can be a national leader in creating opportunities for students and adults to gain in-demand skills that can fill the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Snyder said. “Our goal is to see that the gains we are acknowledging today extend long into the future.”

With the tax changes the state has made in the past four years, most recently the elimination of the burdensome personal property tax on businesses, Michigan very well could be poised for more significant growth in the near future. Perhaps the state can even someday reclaim the No. 9 spot from North Carolina

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