- Associated Press - Saturday, July 2, 2016

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New England newspapers:

The (Waterbury) Republican-American (Conn.), July 2, 2016

To hear both sides of the debate over the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of Texas’ tough standards for abortion clinics and doctors, you would think the issue at the heart of the conflict was the preservation of a constitutional right. It isn’t.

The high court ruled 5-3 this week that House Bill 2 was unconstitutional. The measure, enacted by Texas lawmakers in 2013, required that abortion clinics maintain the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. It also required doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics, so that girls and women suffering complications during or after abortions could be hospitalized under the care of the doctors with the most detailed knowledge of their conditions and medical histories. Some of the requirements were quite technical; for instance, hallways had to be big enough to accommodate gurneys.

It is absolutely true that such medical mandates greatly increase the cost of operating a facility. So what? Mandates for safety features in automobiles increase their sticker prices; mandates for protecting nuclear power plants from the effects of earthquakes, tsunamis or terrorist attacks increase the cost of the electricity they produce. Local, state and federal laws inflate the cost of building homes, businesses and factories.

The difference, concluded the high court’s majority, is that the Texas law placed an “undue burden” on women who might desire to exercise their constitutional right to kill their unborn babies. That could be the case - if state law required abortion clinics to adhere to standards that cannot be met in the real world. In fact, every ambulatory surgical center in the country, of which there are more than 5,500, is required to meet those standards.

The court’s majority - which includes at least four members whose belief in the essential goodness of abortion is so intense as to require that they be judged pro-abortion, rather than merely pro-choice - undoubtedly took note of the fact the number of legal abortion clinics in Texas dropped from 25 to 8 in a matter of months in 2014. All eight met ambulatory surgical center standards, and tended to be in urban areas. This inconvenienced rural girls and women who wanted abortions, but did not deny them access: Texas is well served by highways, railways, airlines and buses.

Yes, H.B. 2 created a burden, but an undue burden? No.

Rather than hiring lawyers to fight this case all the way to the Supreme Court, the abortion industry could have provided subsidies to keep the clinics open. Planned Parenthood alone receives more than half a billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies and has $1.4 billion in assets, according to the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. Subsidies would have been a win-win for the abortion industry: The clinics would have stayed open, and the women seeking abortions would have been served in safer, cleaner conditions.

But it was not to be. In 21st century America, winning in the courtroom seems to matter more than solving a problem which, as Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s victims could attest, is addressed better by laws like H.B. 2 than by any judge.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/29eNpU9

The Portland Press Herald (Maine), June 27, 2016

Finally, members of the U.S. House and Senate are showing some resolve to do something about gun violence. But is this the best they can do?

On Wednesday, Democratic members of the House of Representatives sat on the floor of the House chamber, determined not to allow any business to be conducted until there was a debate and vote on several gun control measures, including a version of “No fly, no buy” that would require that anyone prohibited from buying an airline ticket because their name is on a government terrorist watch list to be also prohibited from buying a firearm.

The demonstration was led by civil rights-era hero Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and joined by Maine’s 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree, who said, “If you were to walk outside the House right now and stop someone on the street and ask the simple question, ‘Should terrorists be allowed to buy guns?’ You would get a simple answer. They would say, ‘No, of course terrorists should not be allowed to buy guns.’ But they can, and Republicans here in the House won’t even let us have a debate and vote on it.”

Meanwhile in the Senate, Maine Republican Susan Collins was working hard to draft a bipartisan version of “no fly, no buy,” which was able to withstand a procedural vote. Her colleague, Maine Sen. Angus King, called it “good ol’ Maine common sense.”

But is it, really? All it takes to get on a watch list is a government agent’s unsubstantiated suspicion. Collins’ amendment refers only to the most restrictive terror lists that require a higher standard of proof, but still do not call for judicial oversight. If there were real, credible evidence of terrorist activity, criminal charges would be more appropriate than denying the suspect access to air travel or gun buying.

In the absence of evidence of a criminal act, letting the government take action against citizens doesn’t sound like common sense.

And only a small subset of gun homicides involve terrorists, at least in the way that terrorism is thought of in the post-9/11 world. Of the approximately 11,000 U.S. gun homicides in 2015, only 22 meet the common definition of terrorism (six in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and 16 in San Bernadino, California). The other 10,988 or so could not have been affected by the use of a terrorist watch list.

Gang violence is not considered terrorism, even though gangs use violence to intimidate. Domestic violence is not considered terrorism, even though abusers use violence to control.

When we say terrorism, we are almost always talking about violence perpetrated by political/religious groups connected with outside-the-mainstream sects of Islam based in the Mideast and southern Asia.

So names on the watch list are bound to overrepresent people from certain national and religious backgrounds. People likely to commit crimes with guns do not fall into such neat categories.

Terrorists strike where they find a weakness, and America’s tolerance of gun violence has proven to be a public safety weak point, as evidenced by the San Bernardino and Orlando attacks.

But attempting to reduce terrorist shootings would do almost nothing to limit gun violence and probably very little to prevent terrorism, because terrorists have shown a willingness to use whatever means are available to them.

Pingree, Collins and King deserve credit for trying to do something about gun violence in the wake of the Orlando massacre, but they should work harder to do something more meaningful. “No fly, no buy” might be a step in the right direction, but it’s a very small step.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/299OQSs

The (Worcester) Telegram & Gazette (Mass.), June 26, 2016

The shock of Britain’s decision to exit the European Union shows just how out of touch the so-called “elites” and “experts” really are - not just those heading up the EU, but in Britain itself, in the failure of their dire warnings to prevent the vote to leave the union. And while imperfect comparisons are being made to the populist uprising here - the younger vote in Britain was strongly in favor of the status quo, a sentiment that Hillary Clinton only wishes she could have - it’s clear that on both sides of the Atlantic a more traditional electorate is angry over economic stagnation and the sense of a rigged system unresponsive to their needs.

The experts and elites, used to calling the shots, had the rug pulled out from under them in Thursday’s vote. In the uncertainty that gripped the global economy, stock markets around the world took a dive. It gave them a taste of the uncertainty and even fear experienced in the heartland, in the rust belts and among the economically squeezed who feel left behind by the promises of a globalized economy and shells of vanished industries. Younger generations trained in new technologies and just starting out may navigate their way through to the future, but the days of a high school diploma and a willingness to work hard, which once landed a good-paying career in a local plant, are long passed.

The fear of the unknown that roiled markets is likely to settle, as columnist Anne Applebaum in London pointed out on this page Saturday. The time it takes for this divorce to proceed will allow markets to adjust to a new normal - perhaps analogous to how we’ve all become inured to the previously unimaginable process of lining up in airports and taking off our shoes. Ms. Applebaum presciently wrote just prior to the election in Britain that pro-exit supporters didn’t seem to care about predictions of slower growth or financial chaos; they seemed willing to live with the consequence in pursuit of national identity and sense of control.

And that’s where comparisons to the populist uprisings in our presidential election cycle appear to match. The Brexit vote, after all, was foolishly initiated by the soon-to-be-former Prime Minister David Cameron, sure of a “Remain” majority, as a way to quell a division in his party. In the U.S, elites, so used to getting their way that dynastic families vie for leadership, lost control this year on the Republican side and nearly lost control on the Democratic side. The fallout will play out for years. Britain’s insurgent voters, 52 percent to 48 percent, brought fresh appraisals of Donald Trump’s candidacy just as his campaign seemed mired in problems. Once again, the sudden “What does this mean?” discussion reveals how out of touch the so-called experts are this year. The Brexit vote hasn’t changed what’s happened here except bring increased attention to Mr. Trump, who naturally sees a connection to his own presumptive nomination.

Mr. Trump, as usual, showed up in all the right places at the right times, saying all the necessary things in fueling media coverage. Bizarrely, or perhaps not, he left the campaign trail to fly to his reopened Trump Turnberry Resort in Scotland, where he gave a press conference from the 9th tee, lifting his political gamesmanship to an international level. Wearing his trademark “Make America Great Again” hat (“Made Turnberry Great Again” hats were also in evidence) and against a backdrop of bagpipers, tartans, heather and ocean, he laid into President Obama for daring to set foot on British soil to encourage the Brits to remain in the E.U. “People want to see borders,” Mr. Trump said. “They don’t necessarily want people pouring into their country that they don’t know who they are and where they come from.”

Which in a not-so-round-about way brings at least part of the Brexit issue back to the U.S. role in the Middle East mess. Created by the Bush administration’s misbegotten invasion of Iraq, exacerbated by the vacuum created by the Obama administration’s anxiousness get out and then the refusal to act decisively in Syria, U.S. action and inaction helped unleash the flood of migrants that flooded Europe. A butterfly effect, if you will, that helped fuel a humanitarian catastrophe and stressed the EU.

The Obama administration, which comfortably plays in the globalized economy - see the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opposed by Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump - lost sight of the fact that war and terror and its impact are globalized as well. The repercussions will redound with Britain, the EU, around the globe and in the presidential run.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/29cCdsJ

Concord Monitor (N.H.), June 30, 2016

Pat Summitt, the legendary coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols who died Tuesday, made it clear when she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s that there wasn’t going to be any “pity party.” Summitt, who won more games than any coach, male or female in Division I college basketball, was going to fight. She founded the Pat Summitt Foundation, dedicated to research, education and support of Alzheimer’s patients, families and caregivers. The Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic is scheduled to open in December at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Her legacy wasn’t just about winning basketball games. She hoped to be remembered “for making a difference in this disease.”

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month - purple T-shirts, walks for the cure, requests for donations. This year, it was the Pat Summitt story that brought the impact of this devastating disease home, again. The fight against Alzheimer’s has been too slow, for Pat Summitt, who was 64 when she died, for all its victims, and their caregivers. It’s time to declare war.

Today, 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease; 200,000 of them are younger than 65 and have “early-onset” like Summitt, who was diagnosed when she was 59.

Without a medical breakthrough, that overall number could hit 14 million by 2050. In New Hampshire, 23,000 people ages 65 and older have Alzheimer’s; by 2025, that number will in increase by 39 percent, to 32,000 people. Nationwide, 15.9 million family and friends - two-thirds of them women - provided 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care to victims of Alzheimer’s in 2015.

This year, the cost for care and treatment will hit $236 billion - half of it paid by Medicare; by 2050, one of every three Medicare dollars will be spent on people with the disease. It has been called a “neglected epidemic,” and it needs to be stopped.

Alzheimer’s is the only disease, among the top 10 killers, that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed down, according to the Association. Yet the disease has lagged far behind in the competition for federal research dollars. In 2011, the latest comparison available, the National Institutes of Health spent over $6 billion a year on cancer research; $4 billion on heart disease; and $3 billion on HIV/AIDS research, but just $480 million on Alzheimer’s. But there has been progress.

Congress added $350 million for Alzheimer’s research last year and this month, Senate budget writers approved another $400 million, for a total of $1.2 billion. That is below the $2 billion mark that scientists said they need if anything can be accomplished before 2025 and the arrival of aged baby boomers, who dread this disease more than any other. Supporters are optimistic the new appropriation will survive - at least it will show Congress can agree on something.

In New Hampshire, the focus is on those who live with Alzheimer’s. With bipartisan support, Gov. Maggie Hassan this month signed the “Missing Vulnerable Adult Alert Program,” known as the “Silver Alert,” which triggers specific, immediate action by law enforcement when a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is reported lost. A permanent subcommittee on Alzheimer’s has established training for police cadets in handling situations involving Alzheimer’s and dementia.

It’s tough to build a public health movement anywhere when your constituents are elderly and unable to speak for themselves and when there are no treatment success stories - no one survives Alzheimer’s. We salute the passionate advocates here and in Washington. Their campaign has found its champion in the words and example of the hard-nosed coach from the University of Tennessee.

“We back Pat,” was the rally cry from her fans and supporters throughout her ordeal with Alzheimer’s. We do too. Pat Summitt was always there to win. And still is.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/29oxm7k

The Providence Journal (R.I.), June 30, 2016

We’ve long argued that when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton elected to disregard established protocol and conduct official business using a private email account housed on a personal server located in her New York home, she subjected the country to an unacceptable risk. Foreign hackers surely tried to break into Ms. Clinton’s email server, which did not enjoy the kind of rigorous safeguards that official government email accounts have. And if the secretary of state discussed sensitive matters related to national security over email - say, drone strikes in Pakistan, or North Korea’s nuclear program - that could be a serious problem.

But a report by the Associated Press last week indicates the problem of email security was even worse than anyone knew. Secretary Clinton’s email practices didn’t subject only her own missives to hackers - all State Department employees were put at risk as well.

Here’s how: In late 2010, emails sent from Ms. Clinton’s server started having trouble getting through to people using official State Department email accounts. It appeared that the State Department’s own security features were blocking Ms. Clinton’s emails (and those of others on the private server, such as her aide Huma Abedin).

There was an obvious solution to this problem: Ms. Clinton could have elected to move her email activity over to an official State Department account.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, the AP reports, State Department officials elected to “to temporarily disable security features on the government’s own systems.” In other words, in order to cater to Ms. Clinton’s unorthodox email habits, all State Department employees had their email security relaxed.

That seems a shockingly irresponsible solution to a problem that was of Ms. Clinton’s own making. While it’s unclear how personally involved the former secretary of state was in this particular decision, she is responsible for the decisions that were taken by her underlings to protect her. And this particular choice was made as a direct result of Ms. Clinton’s decision to use a private email server, apparently to avoid later public scrutiny.

It remains clear that Ms. Clinton would be vastly preferable to Donald Trump in the White House. But that does not mean we applaud her very bad decision regarding the use of a private server for her highly sensitive emails.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/29dyj3O

The Brattleboro Reformer (Vt.), June 26, 2016

After several days of talk but no action on guns following the Orlando massacre, a lingering, and familiar, question remains. What is it about democracy that threatens congressional Republicans?

The purpose of last week’s sit-in by House Democrats was to draw attention to the intransigence of House Republicans, who won’t even allow votes on reasonable and much-needed gun control laws. Voting is fundamental to a democracy, but congressional Republicans will go to great lengths to avoid doing it.

First District U.S. Representative Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat who took part in the sit-in, requested votes on requiring mental health background checks on all gun buyers and banning people on the FBI no-fly list from buying firearms (Eagle, June 24). These reasonable regulations, Mr. Neal observed, “represent no threat to the hunter, the sportsman, or the gun collector.” They do, however, threaten the National Rifle Association, a special interest group that will accept no compromise by the Republican officials it has bought off and/or bullied into submission.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said there was no point in having any votes because the proposed measures wouldn’t pass, which translates to Mr. Ryan calling his Republican colleagues a collection of sheep. If Republicans believe that potential terrorists should not be inconvenienced with background checks or prevented from buying weapons of mass murder they should go on the record as such with a vote. That, however, is something Mr. Ryan doesn’t want to happen in an election year with polls indicating that Americans strongly support gun control measures.

Republicans’ “no vote” policy extends to what will be the longest U.S. Supreme Court vacancy in history. Their motivation is an irrational hatred of President Obama, as it can be assumed that if this vacancy had emerged when a Republican was in the White House, congressional Republicans would have hastened to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to hold hearings and vote on a Supreme Court nominee. Republican opposition to voting is seasoned with a heavy dose of hypocrisy.

While congressional Republicans refuse to do their jobs, Republicans in statehouses across the country will work to extend their “no vote” policy to the polls. Needlessly tough ID requirements, shorter voting hours and reduced polling places in urban neighborhoods have all been done or proposed in the name of stopping non-existent “voter fraud” by Republican governors and legislatures over the last two election cycles. The real intent is to prevent likely Democratic voters, specifically minorities, from getting to the polls.

Those efforts will be made again this fall. As long as Republicans are in the congressional majority no one can make them vote, but Americans must at least stand up for their constitutional right to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/29oyqbd

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