- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

April 22

The Telegraph, Macon, Georgia, on Earth Day:

When the first Earth Day appeared 45 years ago, no one was driving a hybrid or electric car. No one was too worried about greenhouse gases or the coal stored at plant Arkwright. If you asked 10 people on the street if CO was good or bad, you would get a very different answer than today.

Two years later the Clean Water Act passed. While the Clean Air Act has been with us in some from since 1955, each progression responds to new ways to pollute.

We know that this planet is the only one we’ve got and we must take care of it. If we want to see of an example of a country that basically has no environmental controls, all you have to do is look at China. The country threw caution to the wind chasing industrial production but it has cost them dearly, and now the country with the world’s largest population is trying to scale it back, but it will take decades. According to Reuters, China emits “6,018 million tons of greenhouse gases per year.”

Believe it or not, the United states is not far behind, emitting 5,903 tons of greenhouse gases. We love our cars. And we love to drive alone. Russia, India and Japan are next biggest polluters. So we’ll celebrate Earth Day today and the many accomplishments over the past 4.5 decades. We are moving in the right direction. Solar is becoming viable energy mix and more people are looking at hybrid and electric cars who wouldn’t have considered them in the past. Performance is up and the price is down. The car companies, foreign and domestic were given a challenge and they have met that challenge. There will be at least three hybrids in this year’s Indy 500. Same thing for the Daytona 500.

So when they say, “Gentlemen start your engines” it’s going to be hard to tell in some of the cockpits.




April 21

Albany (Georgia) Herald on protesters desecrating the American flag:

The protest last weekend at Valdosta State University did exactly what the protesters wanted - it stirred up controversy.

By desecrating the American flag, trampling it underfoot, the protesters showed that whatever position they have, they were unable to construct the argument for their position in any other way than eliciting raw emotion. When a position is weak and untenable, that is always the preferred method. If you can’t argue in a reasoned way, make someone angry.

And few things get Americans angrier than seeing the symbol of our nation, the Stars and Stripes, trampled.

Longtime baseball fans will recall what some consider the greatest play ever on the field of professional baseball, one that didn’t involve the game itself. Protesters got onto the field in Los Angeles on April 25, 1976, and attempted to set a U.S. flag on fire in the outfield. Rick Monday, playing center field for the visiting Chicago Cubs, ran over and scooped up the flag, taking it to safety before the demonstrators could ignite it.

A similar occurrence took place in Valdosta when a military veteran and former Playboy model, Michelle Manhart, took the flag Friday from the demonstrators at VSU and was detained by law enforcement, then banned from the campus. Manhart, by the way, has her own history of misusing the U.S. flag, which she draped over her nude body for a PETA advertisement. While she has defended her photo shoot, including noting that the flag that she allowed to touch the ground was properly disposed of, that photo shoot also was a desecration of the U.S. flag, pure and simple.

The difference in the incidents at VSU last week and the one nearly 40 years ago in LA are last week’s demonstrators were - regardless of whether we like it - acting within the law, while the 1976 incident involved people who were trespassing. But there is a stark similarity in the results: Whatever message the protesters hoped to get out to the public has been swamped by the outpouring of revolt for their demonstration and a show of support for the flag. Nobody remembers was the bungling flag burners were protesting, they remember Monday’s rescue. Few know what the VSU demonstrators were protesting, but they know about Manhart’s reaction and the ensuing pro-American flag reaction.

And that is the way to protest this type of misuse of the American flag, not by making a form of free speech that is reprehensible illegal, but by countering that offensive speech by demonstrating support in an even more visible and more vocal way that also protected by the First Amendment - holding the American flag up high and rallying around it.

People are free to point out what they see as deficiencies in America, even in unpopular ways, and people are just as free to defend America. This is what separates American freedom from that of most other nations. And despite the occasional outrage free speech can generate, it’s a freedom brave American men and women have died to guarantee and one that we, as Americans, should be vigilant to preserve of our own future generations.




April 22

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on aggressive airport security pat-downs:

Anyone subjected to the Transportation Security Administration’s “enhanced” pat-down may have wondered at some point if the employee conducting the screening seemed too thorough.

If you were an “attractive” male who was frisked after setting off a full-body scanner in Denver in recent months, there’s a chance the pat-down was too thorough. Criminal, in fact.

Recently the TSA fired two employees, a man and a woman, at Denver International Airport for supposedly manipulating scanners so the male agent could fondle the genitals of male travelers.

Their stomach-turning system apparently involved the female employee misidentifying men as women on full-body scanners, causing the machine to flag men’s groins, which would initiate pat-downs from her handsy male accomplice.

The TSA reportedly became aware of this sick routine in November but did nothing until a supervisor saw the scheme in action in February. The employees lost their jobs. Real justice would be bringing the duo up on sexual assault and conspiracy charges.

Sadly, the Denver District Attorney’s Office has said it wouldn’t pursue sex charges against the employees, because of the difficulty in identifying victims. Other criminal charges, though, are possible.

The bigger issue is whether the fondling by federal employees really protects the flying public from terrorist acts - the reason the $8 billion a year agency was created. The number of actual terrorists snared by a pat-down - or any other TSA measure - is zero, so the issue is ripe for debate.

But the aggressive pat-downs and virtual strip-search machines (the scanners the TSA refers to as “advanced imaging technology”) likely aren’t to go away anytime soon. So a prudent thing Americans can do is educate themselves to ensure any taxpayer-funded intrusion is a legitimate pre-flight search and not a degrading grope.

Learn what constitutes a pat-down and how it should be performed by going to the TSA website at tsa.gov/traveler-information/pat-downs. Pat-downs must be conducted by an employee of the same gender as you (though, as the Denver incident shows, that’s no safeguard against impropriety).

Recognize if an employee is not following proper procedure, such as not donning gloves or properly explaining the procedure in progress. TSA employees do not have law enforcement authority. They can’t order you to do anything. If you feel something is amiss, demand - politely - that the employee stop the pat-down and request a supervisor or a police officer.

And just because you’re trying to board a plane doesn’t make you property of the state. You have the right to be patted down in private and be observed by the witness of your choice, provided that person is allowed to be in the screening area (i.e., traveling with you). Those rights apply whether the screeners are TSA employees or private contractors, such as those used at airports that have chosen not to use the TSA, including San Francisco and Kansas City.

A better way to keep the government’s paws off your private parts is to ensure that you don’t encounter TSA agents anywhere outside the airport.

But if the TSA’s unionized workforce of more than 48,000 screeners has its way, that will be a common occurrence in the future. Since 2007 the agency has been deploying its Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) squads to run “security” checkpoints at subways, bus stations, train stations, ports, trolleys and public festivals. The division’s budget has more than tripled since 2009, reflecting the agency’s overall “mission creep” outside aviation security.

Contact your federal representatives and tell them the TSA needs to be reined in.



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