- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

Oct. 14

The Post-Intelligencer, Paris, Tennessee, on Promise program:

The Tennessee Promise program, offering free community college education to the state’s high school students, is sometimes dismissed as a pipe dream.

It’ll never work, critics say.

Tell that to the throng of youngsters who are signing up for two years of tuition-free technical or community college studies.

There are 35,016 of them so far, The Tennessean in Nashville reports. The deadline to enroll is Nov. 1.

The plan, which calls for using state lottery funds to meet the costs, is unique to Tennessee, but several other states are taking interest.

One part of the project is to enroll volunteer “mentors” to help enrollees with some of the details like signing up for classes and completing financial aid forms.

The state’s goal for mentors is 6,000, and so far 4,800 have stepped forward. Nov. 1 also is the deadline for finding those volunteers.

Mentors will receive training and serve for one hour a month. A “Drive to 55” alliance, formed to secure mentors, is named for Tennessee’s goal of increasing the number of college graduates in this state to 55 percent of the adult population by 2025.

High schoolers who participate are required to complete a federal student aid application, attend training sessions in winter and spring, and perform eight hours of community service.

Mentors and wannabe college students can sign up on-line at tnpromise.gov. Sounds like a great idea.




Oct. 11

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on NATO needing strong Germany:

Germany, with a population of 80.5 million, is the largest and most economically powerful nation in Western Europe. When Chancellor Angela Merkel talks, her neighbors listen - carefully. It is also heir to an accomplished and innovative military tradition, admittedly one that has not always been put to good use.

But Germany, in the interests of saving money and perhaps because of the lingering trauma of Nazism, has allowed its military to fall into disrepair, calling into question the key role it is expected to play in NATO.

Published accounts say that Germany’s military readiness is such that it would at best be capable of only short-term assistance in the event of an attack on the alliance. Tales of the country’s military unpreparedness have become a staple of the German press.

A German navy ship dispatched to the Horn of Africa for anti-piracy operations was without its essential Sea Lynx helicopters because the aircraft were back in Germany for repairs.

German army instructors en route to Iraq were stranded in Bulgaria when their plane broke down. Similarly, two aging military aircraft carrying Ebola aid to West Africa were grounded in the Canary Islands while they awaited repairs.

A parliamentary report leaked to the press last week said just seven of the navy’s 43 helicopters were flight worthy, only one of the nation’s four submarines was operational and only 70 of its Boxer armored vehicles were fit for deployment.

Germany has been judicious to the point of reluctance about deploying its military outside its border. German troops contributed to the war in Kosovo, but only after Serbia had built up a record of “ethnic cleansing.” And Germany had a large military presence in Afghanistan, although its troops were subject to restrictive rules of engagement. It has declined to join with its allies in the airstrikes against the genocidal Islamic State.

NATO has asked its members to devote 2 percent of their GDP to military readiness. Germany, the nation that can most afford it, holds to a level of 1.3 percent.

It seems to be one of history’s little jokes that the nations that from the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century feared German militarism now fret that Germany is not militaristic enough. Europe and the United States are not worried that Germany will re-arm; they are worried that it won’t.




Oct. 12

News Sentinel, Knoxville, Tennessee, on right to vote:

As early voting starts in Tennessee this week on Wednesday, our very ability to participate in the process is in the news. Did you think that all the fuss over voter photo IDs a few years ago was much ado about nothing?

Two percent to 3 percent fewer Tennesseans casting votes since the tougher restrictions took effect in 2012 is not nothing.

As The Associated Press reported last week, a Government Accountability Office analysis of voter ID laws in 33 states has found that Tennessee’s law is the apparent reason for the decrease in voter turnout. Two percent to 3 percent of the registered voters in Tennessee who voted in the August 2014 election would be roughly 22,000 to 33,000 people. The GAO, Congress’s investigative arm, compared turnout in Tennessee and Kansas, both of which tightened voter ID requirements between the 2008 and 2012 elections, to turnout in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware and Maine, states that didn’t change their requirements during that time.

Kansas lost about 2 percent of voter turnout, while the other four were little changed.

Critics of the swarm of voter ID laws passed have always held that the laws are attempts at partisan voter suppression, rather than a necessary step toward vote fraud, and the GAO findings lend weight to critics’ concerns.

In Tennessee and Kansas, reduced turnout was sharper among people ages 18 to 23, and among blacks. Young people and blacks generally tend to support Democratic candidates.

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett disputed the nonpartisan agency’s report, claiming that it used biased information from a “progressive data firm.”

But you don’t have to rely on the GAO’s findings to realize how much harder it is to exercise your voting right today than it was in 2008. Simply look at the Tennessee’s voter ID requirements - that is, if you have Internet access, which many low-income and disproportionately minority Tennesseans lack.

Every time that you think to yourself that you are unhappy with the slate of candidates or the negative campaigning, or the general state of government, remind yourself of this: There are certain interests in this state and this nation who do not want you to vote. Vote early, or on Nov. 4, but do not give them that satisfaction.



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