- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

Dec. 23

Morning News, Savannah, Georgia, on police standoff in Sydney, Australia:

When state lawmakers convene in Atlanta after the holidays, they’ll find at least two huge issues that require attention:

- Finding money to pay for needed transportation improvements

- Overhauling public education, a campaign promise of Gov. Nathan Deal.

Both will require every ounce of their creativity, perseverance, courage and compromise. What lawmakers don’t need is a potentially divisive, inflammatory and time-wasting battle over so-called “religious liberty” legislation, something they’ve largely avoided in the past.

Let’s hope that continues in 2015.

State Rep. Sam Teasley, a Republican lawmaker from Marietta, has indicated he plans to pre-file legislation by the end of this year that he has said will safeguard the religious freedom of private citizens from government intrusion. Critics, however, fear such a measure would allow business owners and others to cite their religious beliefs to discriminate and deny people services.

Religious freedom is a precious liberty. Americans are free to practice - or not - a faith of their own choosing. It’s not that complicated.

What’s hard to figure, however, is why Teasley is pushing something that isn’t needed. When it comes to religious liberty, there’s nothing broken that requires fixing.

Instead, this bill looks more like a shameless political ploy to play on the worst of people’s emotions, rather than defending library.

The legislature needs that battle like a bad toothache.

State lawmakers shouldn’t waste their limited time in Atlanta on grandstanding when they face more consequential issues. They must devote themselves to measures that help build a better future for all Georgians. Teasley’s bill isn’t one of them.




Dec. 19

The Telegraph, Macon, Georgia, on medical marijuana:

There were all sorts of goodies hidden in the spending bill Congress approved last week. Lawmakers are being chided for adding provisions that have nothing to do with keeping the government running — rather they use such occasions to pay debts to constituents — the people who give them megabucks for their election campaigns. The system is flawed, lawmakers can add these little tidbits without much notice. Even the lawmakers didn’t know all of the sweeteners that helped the CROmnibus bill to pass, but it is what it is.

One such measure tossed into the mix was a provision that ended the federal government’s prohibition of medical marijuana. It takes the feds out of the game and gives the authority to regulate medicinal marijuana to the states, of which 32 and the District of Columbia have already approved. Hopefully, Georgia will be taking the step to legalize medicinal cannabis with the provisions included in Rep. Allen Peake’s bill, HB 1, in the next session. The federal clause may require some rewriting, but it is a positive step for those who want to help people suffering debilitating seizures, particularly children.

Last year’s efforts were derailed by politics and that factor has not disappeared, but this time the challenge may be from those who believe the state’s marijuana laws should be scrapped. We are not willing to go that far. States that have given the OK for unfettered use of the drug are still works in progress. Lawmakers should not let the issue get confused with other efforts and maintain the narrow provisions included in HB 1 and call it a day.




Dec. 18

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on Putin’s plunge:

The world up and changed on Vladimir Putin.

The Cold War warrior was still following his yellowed old playbook when he decided to take his massive country on a Soviet-style misadventure in Crimea and Ukraine. And he seemed to think he held all the energy cards with which to rake in all of Europe’s chips.

Oops. Today, sinking world oil prices and Ukraine-inspired sanctions - and Putin’s own autocratic, Jurassic-era leadership style - have Russia in crisis. The ruble is plummeting in value and Russians are restive and fearful.

The ruble was such a hot potato this week that one man featured by ABC News stopped off impulsively on the way home from work to buy a new Porsche - just to get something of value for his incredible shrinking ruble.

“I’m only here because I need to find a safe place for my money,” he said.

Reports ABC:

“‘I don’t need this car,’ he said with a shrug. He already owns two Porsches and a Land Rover. But he figured the prices will soon go up and the ruble will probably go down. ‘We are headed for a crisis,’ he said.”

The man blamed Putin for the crisis, but Putin has remained stubbornly popular with a tough-guy, no-shirt, bear-rasslin’ image and his nationalistic blame-the-West rhetoric.

Let’s hope when the current buying frenzy is over that the Russians also quit buying Putin’s poppycock. He’s plunging the former superpower into darkness with a xenophobia that approaches a state religion. He responded to the Obama administration’s repeated amicable diplomatic overtures - symbolized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “re-set” button for the U.S.-Russian relationship - with a Siberian cold front that has it feeling like a whole new Cold War.

The plunge in oil prices has exposed Putin for what he is, at least for those who didn’t already know.

“Russia never so much had an economy as an oil-exporting business that subsidized everything else,” writes Matt O’Brien at washingtonpost.com.

Observers familiar with Putin’s lack of scruples worry openly about what he might do as a wounded, cornered animal. We’ll see, but we’re certainly not hopeful for a sudden attack of humility on his part. His record indicates more of a likelihood for lashing out even more than he already has.

Regardless, he’s increasingly cornered:

The world has changed. Vladimir Putin can no longer impose his will on it; rather, the world - through the laws of economics, and a rare bit of unity - seems to be imposing its will on Vladimir Putin.



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