- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

May 6

Natchez (Miss.) Democrat on no debate not the best move for U.S. senator:

Like it or not, our nation’s political process is a blood sport.

Campaign strategies often take on the air of a full-scale war. People get hurt in the process and, well, it’s not a business for the weak hearted.

By the time Election Day comes, the candidates are often war-weary after months of battling.

In a perfect world, each candidate would run on his or her heart, intelligence and character. Unfortunately, more often than not nice guys don’t win races - good fighters do.

That’s why U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s refusal to debate challenger state Rep. Chris McDaniel is so puzzling.

The matter has received quite a bit of attention in Mississippi and beyond.

As much as McDaniel is a candidate simply riding a populist conservative wave by attacking his opponent on every front, Cochran is wrong not to face him.

A U.S. senator should fear no one, particularly not someone of McDaniel’s ilk.

McDaniel is a legitimate challenger, and Cochran, as the man on top of the proverbial hill, needs to face him.

Cochran recently told a reporter that he didn’t see the need to debate.

“I don’t know what there is to debate,” he said. “He obviously is going to criticize my record of service.”

Cochran is correct, but that should come as no surprise and is part of the political process.

McDaniel is, in fact, being critical of Cochran publicly already. By not standing up and facing McDaniel, Cochran comes across as weak.

We know Cochran is not, but he must stand up and fight.




May 5

Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth on death penalty:

Last week’s botched execution in Oklahoma has again focused the nation’s attention on the death penalty.

Although support for capital punishment remains high in Mississippi, it is eroding steadily around the nation. According to the Pew Research Center, support for the death penalty last year had dipped to 55 percent, continuing a two-decade drop from 78 percent approval in 1996.

Support is probably even less today in light of the problematic execution of Clayton Lockett, in which the lethal injection went off so badly that Oklahoma prison officials closed the curtains to keep observers from watching the whole ordeal.

Prison officials blamed Lockett’s visibly painful end on a ruptured vein, although questions have also been raised about the untested nature of the drug cocktail administered to him and whether the prison used too little of the sedative designed to knock him out before the heart-stopping drugs were administered.

Prisons around the country have been forced to resort to new drug combinations and suppliers after several pharmaceutical companies - primarily in Europe - refused to allow their products to be used for executions.

With enough practice, the nation’s death rows should eventually get the drug protocol right, but that won’t resolve the main concerns about capital punishment: Is it necessary, effective and moral?

From a practical standpoint, the death penalty is of dubious value. Executing an inmate does not really save the taxpayers any money, given the costs of the years of appeals before a death sentence is carried out. By the time it does occur, whatever psychological deterrent it might provide to other violent crimes has been lost.

Also, as the list of proven wrongful convictions grows, including several on death row, so too do questions about the risks of taking the life of an innocent person. A study out last month claims that more than 4 percent of all current death row inmates are probably innocent.

More than anything else, though, the death penalty tends to diminish a society that countenances it when there are other reasonable alternatives, such as life imprisonment, that can punish a murderous offender while protecting society from him.

So far 18 states have banned the death penalty. A third of these have done so since 2007. Another seven states, although they still have the death penalty on the books, have issued moratoriums on executions or otherwise put them on hold.




May 5

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Miss., on FEMA office

Over the weekend as volunteers streamed into Tupelo, they were asked to register at the volunteer coordination center manned by the United Way at the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau.

A chief reason was to make sure that volunteers got into areas where they were most needed and that some areas weren’t overlooked. But there was also a lot riding on tracking volunteers for local governments, namely money. Volunteer work hours will affect how much in reimbursements the city and county get when federal disaster aid kicks in.

There’s no more sure sign that a major disaster has struck than the opening of a Federal Emergency Management Agency office in your town. Sunday, FEMA opened an office at the Tupelo Water and Light Collections office, 399 Court St., in downtown Tupelo. It will be open every day from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

This and the accompanying federal disaster declaration signed last week by President Barack Obama for Lee, Itawamba and several other Mississippi counties are milestones in the recovery process.

Federal disaster relief, in addition to reimbursing local governments for many storm-related expenses, may be critical in the recovery for homeowners, renters and business owners. FEMA will determine eligibility for grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration, storm-related medical and dental expenses and other disaster-related assistance.

Individuals and business owners can register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or via smartphone at m.fema.gov. Applicants may also call 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585. For those using Video Relay Services, call (800) 621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. Lee County and Tupelo residents are encouraged to register online or by phone. Long lines are anticipated at the local site.

Lee County and Tupelo residents should register with FEMA even if they have insurance. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, but under-insured applicants may receive help after their insurance claims have been settled.

Registering with FEMA is required for federal aid, even if a person has registered with another disaster relief organization. FEMA registrants must use the name that appears on their Social Security card.

FEMA will need the registrant’s Social Security number, address of the damaged home or apartment, description of the damage, information about insurance coverage, a telephone number, a mailing address, and a bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit.

Dealing with a government bureaucracy is never fun. But in this case, a little patience could ensure many people’s ongoing financial stability in the wake of last week’s storm.



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