- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

May 3

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, on U.S. military’s eyes on the Asian Pacific:

Slowly and gingerly, the United States is rebuilding its military presence in the Asian Pacific, and in two cases doing so at the invitation - though cloaked in diplomatic double talk - of the Philippines and Vietnam.

In 2012, the Philippines reopened to the U.S. Navy Subic Bay, a onetime major American naval base dating to the end of the Spanish-American War. That same year Vietnam reopened the huge and largely abandoned naval base at Cam Ranh Bay with the caveat that it was to be used by U.S. noncombat vessels.

The Navy pulled out of Cam Ranh Bay at the end of the Vietnam War and was more or less forced out of Subic Bay by the Philippine government in 1991.

Meanwhile, Japan, undoubtedly with tacit U.S. approval, is abandoning a ban that has stood since the end of World War II on the export of weapons and military materiel.

The related events are, as The Associated Press put it, part of an Obama administration policy of “reasserting the U.S. role as a Pacific power after a decade of war elsewhere.” It is also a clear and growing reaction to the Chinese military buildup and China’s growing aggressiveness in asserting jurisdiction over disputed islands in the South China Sea.

The islands are largely uninhabited, but they give the possessor a claim on fishing rights and what are believed to be extensive oil and gas deposits. They are claimed not only by China but variously by Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia.

Speaking Monday in Manila, where he signed a 10-year agreement providing U.S. access to Philippine military bases, President Barack Obama said, “Our goal is not to counter China. … Our goal is to make sure international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of international disputes.”

Even so, if building up an arc of military treaties and basing-rights agreements around the South China Sea has the presumably unintended consequence of countering China, no one in Washington, Tokyo, Manila, Hanoi or Seoul will be the slightest bit dismayed.




May 6

The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tenn., on state has tightened its annexation rules:

A new state law, almost overlooked in the reviews which followed the legislature’s adjournment, changes how Tennessee’s city governments can annex new territory.

No longer can city governments expand their borders simply by adopting an ordinance. Tennessee Farm Bureau points out that the new law prescribes two and only two paths to annexation:

One way is by referendum, which gives those who might be annexed a voice in the decision. The other path is for property owners to ask to be taken into the municipality.

The new law also declares an important exception: Farmland can only be annexed with the consent of the owner. That means that even if a referendum vote favors annexation, or even if neighbors ask to be annexed, the owner of agricultural land can veto the proposal.

This obviously will make annexation considerably more difficult, and city fathers may chafe at that. Expansion of borders is a major growth tool for municipal governments, especially for fast-growing cities. It allows for orderly extension of municipal services to areas where the population is increasing.

A lot of property owners, naturally, like to live just outside city limits. There they can receive some of the benefits of city government without paying city taxes.

The new annexation law recognizes another part of the growth-and-services picture. In many areas, city growth has swallowed up farmland. Now Tennessee has recognized the value of agricultural property.

Will the new law strangle the growth of cities? We’ll just have to see, but the initial impression is that justice has been served. The state has given long-needed recognition to its farmers.




May 2

Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel on bombing:

More than a half century and two generations later, it is difficult to believe the level of violence that once was used to prevent average Americans from exercising their everyday rights - not merely to vote or hold public office but also simply to live and go about their business.

Fifty-one years ago in September, an explosion rocked the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., killing four young girls and injuring others on a Sunday morning. The children were waiting to hear a sermon, “The Love That Forgives.”

Their names are Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, all of whom were 14 years old. Denise McNair was 11. We should remember their names. They were victims in an ugly period of the nation’s history that some would have us overlook even today.

Yet, Americans cannot and should not forget this era in which triumph overcame tragedy. While the civil rights movement brought out the worst in some citizens, it brought out the best in many others.

Two men who represent the best of the era and its aftermath were in Knoxville recently as part of the city’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act provided equal access to public accommodations (restaurants, theaters and libraries, for example) for all races.

Bill Baxley, a former Alabama attorney general, and Doug Jones, a U.S. attorney, took a case that others in their positions refused to touch and carried it to satisfy the ends of justice.

Baxley was a University of Alabama law student at the time of the bombing and said he made a vow to do something about it. Baxley said the bombing - in a city where such bombings had become all too common - was the final straw for the reputable white community.

“It made good people who had been unwilling to get involved, get involved,” he said.

While information from the FBI pointed to the Ku Klux Klan, no charges were filed following the initial investigation. In fact, local and state authorities spent a good deal of time chasing leads that blacks had bombed their church to get sympathy for their cause, Baxley said.

As attorney general, Baxley reopened the case in 1971, and with the help of a Los Angeles Times reporter, got access to those early FBI files. That led to the conviction of Robert “Dynamite Bob” Chambliss in 1977. Chambliss died in prison eight years later.

Jones, who became U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama the year Chambliss was convicted, completed Baxley’s quest for justice by making it his own. He obtained convictions for Thomas Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry.

Jones said the convictions showed that it is never too late to seek justice.




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