- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

Oct. 31

The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on sea power:

While Uncle Sam’s attention is being diverted by crises in the Middle East, Asian nations are ramping up their naval forces to face the growing colossus of the seas: China.

The entire region, a major portion of the earth’s surface, is involved.

Vietnam has nearly doubled its naval spending, Japan is preparing for the largest defense budget in its history and the Phillippines is trying to create a respectable naval force, The Associated Press reports.

India has become the biggest arms importer in the world. South Korea is quickly modernizing.

China wants to become the dominant power of the Pacific, the AP said, replacing the United States.

Over the past decade, it has quadrupled its annual military budget, much of which goes to its navy.

It has a long way to go. America’s $665 billion a year in military spending is three times that of China and more than the next eight countries combined. But China is spending nearly as much as all 24 other nations in East and South Asia put together.

Much of China’s naval spending goes for submarines, a fleet that is expected to match U.S. numbers by 2020.

“Submarines are seen as a potential for an underdog to cope with a large adversary,” one military researcher explained. “They can move silently and deny aerial or maritime control.”

A Chinese diplomat said the country’s growing military effort is “transparent” and “serves national defense exclusively.”

Can all this armament lead to a stalemate, proving once again the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction? We can hope so, even as we recognize that guns are designed to be shot.




Nov. 3

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on school reform:

The state report card released last week should be the tipping point that springs Shelby County from its lethargy to create the public education system that this community so desperately needs.

There have been plenty of discouraging report cards before, but the data released last week should make even the most apathetic observer wonder why we’re doing so poorly, especially in the predominantly African-American and predominantly poor city schools.

Some of this data is almost unbelievable. Only 14 percent of the class of 2013 in what used to be Memphis City Schools qualified for a state lottery-funded scholarship that requires a score of 21 or better on the ACT college entry exam (980 SAT), and an overall weighted minimum 3.0 grade-point average.

There are schools in the city where the average graduation rate is 60 percent or lower. There are schools where the average ACT score barely exceeds 14.

Of course, graduation rates and entrance exam scores are impressive at some schools, especially at schools where the student body comes largely from more affluent and better educated households. There are some notable exceptions to that rule, demonstrating that where effective management and instruction are in place children from all socio-economic levels can succeed.

But for the Shelby County Schools board of education to meet a key goal by the year 2025 - to prepare at least 80 percent of high school seniors to succeed in either college or the workplace - there would have to be a 69 percent increase in the current number of seniors who meet those criteria.

There is no perfect single solution for this appalling situation, of course. An array of education reform measures is in place.

State and local administrators, board members, consultants and advisers are attempting to weed out ineffective teachers, retain those who have proved to be effective and lure more promising educators to the task.

Districts in the county are engaged in efforts to strengthen parental involvement, obtain better technology, lobby funding sources, reduce truancy and the like.

But too many students are still being left behind, these data show, especially in schools where student bodies are predominantly African-American and predominantly poor.

And that does not bode well, either for those students or the community as a whole.




Nov. 5

News Sentinel, Knoxville, Tennessee, on cremains thieves:

In recent weeks funeral professionals have uncovered the macabre and shocking thefts of at least 49 cremated remains from three East Tennessee cemeteries.

So far, those responsible for the thefts have eluded capture for their despicable acts, leaving families devastated and police baffled. They must be brought to justice.

The first incidents were discovered last month in Knoxville at cemeteries owned by Berry Funeral Homes. In all, the cremains of 40 people were stolen from Berry Highland Memorial and Berry Highland West cemeteries. Last week officials found that the cremains of nine people had been stolen from Oak Ridge Memorial Park.

Police have not said that the Knoxville and Oak Ridge incidents are connected, but the similarities are striking.

Some of the cremated remains were contained in urns, while others were stored in boxes. All had been sealed inside monuments, mausoleums and memorial benches. The thieves knew what they were doing - the vaults had been opened, the contents removed and the vaults re-sealed with no evidence of tampering.

State and local authorities said nothing of this magnitude has ever been reported in Tennessee. There have been occasional reports of stolen cremains across the country over the past few years, but typically the thieves steal an urn or box containing the cremains along with other items from a residence. The grave robbers of yore usually were looking for jewelry or gold teeth. In the most famous grave robbery of the 20th century, two men stole entertainer Charlie Chaplin’s body from its grave in Switzerland in 1978 and held it for ransom. Swiss authorities arrested them and recovered Chaplin’s remains.

The Knoxville and Oak Ridge thieves must have some other motive because there is no apparent value in cremains, which consist of ground fragments of the bones left in the combustion chamber after cremation. The Knoxville and Oak Ridge thieves stole the cremains regardless of whether they were in an urn, which could have some value as scrap depending on its materials, or a simple cardboard box.

Whatever the motive, the crimes are an affront to the families of the deceased and should be prosecuted to the limit.



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