- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

Oct. 27

Morning News, Savannah, Georgia, on Tybee Island’s proposed ban on plastic bags:

Tybee Island officials are wise to take their time on a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags.

It’s not that the proposal is terrible idea. In fact, California has imposed such a ban. At least 11 other states are considering similar restrictions.

Instead, it’s important that the Tybee Island City Council hear from the island’s business community before going forward. It also should see whether better enforcement of anti-littering ordinances would have an impact, as opposed to adding new regulations.

Recently, Tybee resident Ashley Workman presented a model ordinance that would create a ban on single-use plastic bags at restaurants and retail outlets on the island. Supporters at the City Hall meeting, which drew an audience of about 100, repeatedly applauded the pro-ban sentiment, said Tybee council member Paul Wolff.

Several ban supporters also spoke at the meeting, including Buddy Brinkley who works with Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tours.

Brinkley recounted how earlier this month he saw an adolescent dolphin with a plastic bag wrapped around its flipper. Even more troubling, he said, is the accumulation of plastic bags he’s seen under water while diving on nearby reefs.

There’s no question that plastics of all types - bags, bottles, wrappers and six-pack toppers - contribute to a major pollution problem in the world’s oceans. It takes hundreds of years for plastics to degrade. According to Brita, a company that makes water filters, Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year. Not all of them wind up in recycling bins. The same thing is true about many plastic shopping bags.

Of course, some bags get repurposed by people who clean up after their dogs.

The plastic bag industry points out that these bags cost less energy to produce than other forms of shopping bags. And there are health concerns as well.

A paper published by Jonathan Klick, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Joshua D. Wright, of George Mason University, found that food-borne illnesses in San Francisco County increased 46 percent after the city’s plastic bag ban went into effect in 2007. At the same time, there was no similar spike in neighboring Bay Area counties.

At the same time, there’s no doubt that some people are lazy slobs. Instead of depositing their plastic bags in the trash or recycling them, they toss them on the street. Or, at Tybee, on or near the beach. It’s no surprise that some of them wind up on Flipper’s flipper.

Still, Mike Hosti of the Tybee Market IGA fears a plastic bag ban would drive customers away from Tybee businesses. That’s a concern the council must address. And to his credit, that’s what Mr. Wolff hopes to do. “We want business owners involved in the process,” he said.

Wolff also expects the ordinance to be discussed at a town hall meeting before it comes back for a vote at council. That’s as it should be.

This proposal has some good selling points. But it’s not in the bag just yet.




Nov. 5

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on local authorities mishandling the post-shooting reaction in Ferguson, Missouri:

The passage of time has made two things evident in Ferguson, Missouri.

One, the actions of Darren Wilson - the white police officer who fatally shot black teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9 - may have been justified.

Two, the post-shooting reaction by local authorities is a textbook example of what not to do. The latest example? Police sought a federal no-fly zone over Ferguson specifically to keep news helicopters grounded.

Outrage over the latter is growing, while outrage over the former has been excessive and misguided.

Contrary to the media-promoted narrative of Brown being shot at a distance while surrendering with hands up, forensic and eyewitness evidence supports the officer’s contention that he shot the 6-foot-4-inch, 300-pound teen after a struggle in his police car and again when Brown lunged at him.

The recently released autopsy report said the 18-year-old’s close-range wounds to his hand and arm suggest he was not in the hands-up position. And the angle of the fatal wound to Brown’s forehead indicates he likely lunged at the cop.

Investigators found Brown’s blood inside the police car and gunpowder residue on his hands, indications of a close-up shooting. Also, several witnesses reportedly have given testimony that mostly mirrors the officer’s account of events.

These facts - and the inconvenient truth about the teen’s convenience-store robbery just minutes before the shooting - obliterate the progressive fantasy of the innocent, college-bound “gentle giant” callously gunned down by a racist white cop in broad daylight.

But the facts don’t matter to some. Many in Ferguson’s black community and elsewhere - enabled by race-baiting politicians and hucksters such as the Rev. Al Sharpton - still are calling for an indictment.

Commentator David Horowitz had it right when he called the group a modern-day lynch mob that’s operating in a world where “white people are guilty before the fact” and “black people are innocent even after the facts show they are not.”

The chants of “no justice, no peace” are an explicit assurance violence will occur unless Wilson is charged. A grand jury decision is expected sometime this month.

Of course, it’s difficult for authorities in Ferguson to win widespread public trust or media sympathy given their heavy-handed response to the civil unrest that occurred in the days after the shooting.

Riot-gear-clad officers agitated peaceful demonstrators by pointing machine guns and scope-mounted rifles from atop their military-style armored vehicles. They sprayed protesters and reporters with tear gas and even arrested members of the media in the crackdown.

But the most egregious abuse of power was revealed this week when recordings obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act showed the Federal Aviation Administration agreed to a police request to restrict 37 square miles of airspace around Ferguson to keep news helicopters from covering the violent street protests.

Police claimed the 12-day temporary flight restriction in August was needed because a police helicopter had been shot at, but there is no proof such a shooting occurred. Plus, an FAA manager is heard on the recordings saying the police “didn’t care” if other air traffic flew through the zone “all day long” because police only “didn’t want media in there.”

Apparently, local authorities determined ground-level footage was all Americans needed to see, and an agency of the federal government agreed.

Is this not the sort of thing that happened in Soviet-bloc countries 50 years ago?

It surely is, and it’s a blatant assault on the First Amendment. Flight restrictions are strictly for safety reasons - not to hide government actions from the public. All parties involved must be held to account.

Unrest and violence in Ferguson is likely to erupt again if Wilson is exonerated in the shooting. But that alone is no reason to indict him, nor is it grounds to restrict the media’s access to cover the story from above.



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