- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


April 27

Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader on NSA spying bill:

Back in January, when this Congress was brand new and Mitch McConnell was taking the reins as majority leader of the Senate, he pledged “to get committees working again.”

It’s surprising, then, that, in late April, McConnell moved to bypass the committee process to fast-track a five-year extension of the government’s authority to conduct mass surveillance of U.S. citizens’ phone calls.

McConnell’s move, which seems to violate his pledge to pass bills through committee, also is a blow to a bipartisan effort in both chambers to enact some curbs on the collection of phone records.

June 1 is the expiration date for three provisions of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, which the National Security Agency uses to sweep up records of millions of calls made by people who are under suspicion of nothing.

Last November, when McConnell was still minority leader, he engineered a filibuster that killed a bipartisan reform bill, the U.S.A. Freedom Act.

It had garnered a remarkable cross-section of support for ending bulk collection of phone data and requiring court approval to obtain records from phone companies as needed, while allowing other post-9/11 spying activities to continue.

With the June 1 deadline looming, McConnell’s political calculus is unclear. He has yet to release any statements explaining why he and Senate Intelligence chairman Richard Burr dropped a bill last week to extend the expiring Patriot Act provisions through 2020.

Their move will meet opposition from those who want to reform the Patriot Act and those who want to repeal it altogether, a group that includes McConnell’s fellow Kentucky Republicans Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie.

In filing the bill with Burr, McConnell invoked a rule allowing it to bypass committee and go straight to the floor for a vote.

Until Edward Snowden’s revelations almost two years ago, the phone surveillance was secret. Also, until Snowden’s revelations, there was a move within the NSA to end it.

As CBS reported last month, “The internal critics pointed out that the already high costs of vacuuming up and storing the ‘to and from’ information from nearly every domestic landline call were rising, the system was not capturing most cellphone calls, and the program was not central to unraveling terrorist plots … They worried about public outrage if the program ever was revealed.”

Given the widespread doubts, the public is owed a full and open debate - free of procedural shortcuts - on whether the purported gains in security justify the loss of privacy and the threat to civil liberties.




April 28

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, on climate change and the church:

The Roman Catholic Church hasn’t always been on the right side of science.

It’s yet to live down the 1633 condemnation of the Italian astronomer Galileo for correctly arguing that the sun, not the Earth, is the center of solar system - a colossal miscalculation the Vatican spent the ensuing centuries trying to put right.

But a new development in Rome puts the Catholic Church squarely at the forefront of the latest science on climate change and global warming.

The church is teaming up with the United Nations to alert the world to the growing crisis of climate change, a partnership on display Tuesday at the opening of a Vatican conference on the environment.

Climate change deniers are about to encounter a powerful new obstacle: Pope Francis.

The mild-mannered, bespectacled pontiff likely will rock the world later this year through the release of an encyclical, a sort of papal position paper, in which he is expected to state that global warming is real, is caused by human activity and - his chief concern - will have the most severe impact on the poor, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Pope Francis, like many politicians - some from Kentucky - is not a scientist. That’s the common dodge politicians use to avoid acknowledging the harmful environmental impact of hugely profitable fuels such as coal and oil.

But unlike those politicians, the pope apparently knows how to listen to some of the world’s top scientists who agree that climate change is real and caused largely by human activity such as burning fossil fuels.

And Pope Francis is sure to lend a powerful voice to the debate in advance of an international conference on the subject in Paris in December.

But before that, he’s scheduled to speak to Congress in September, at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, a Cincinnati Republican and Catholic who also opposes the environmental policies of President Barack Obama, firm believer in the science of climate change.

We don’t know exactly what Pope Francis will say to Congress.

But it’s a safe bet he won’t be arguing the sun revolves around the Earth.




April 29

The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on museum access a priority:

Since it opened in 1996, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., has served as an awe-inspiring means to remember and honor the service and sacrifice of Americans sent to Southeast Asia. More than a tribute, it has become a place of healing for thousands of families and former servicemen and women.

The traveling replica wall has proven to stir similar emotions. A version was placed at the Elizabethtown Nature Park last Memorial Day and it will be the centerpiece of a second celebratory site for Hooray for Heroes next month. In addition to the adjoining parking lots of Walmart and Stithton Baptist Church in Radcliff, Hooray for Heroes is deploying the traveling wall May 14-17 at Radcliff Square Shopping Center off East Lincoln Trail Boulevard.

Recently, Radcliff Mayor Mike Weaver suggested the replica could find a permanent home in the community. Weaver has served on the board of the General George Patton Museum and Center of Leadership at Fort Knox and was the driving force behind restoring a World War II barracks on the museum grounds.

He has suggested a private fundraising drive to acquire one of the traveling walls with the idea of installing it permanently on the museum grounds.

“We would be adding another tourism attraction here that we hadn’t even dreamed of,” Weaver said.

It’s estimated that roughly $400,000 would be needed to purchase and install the wall, which is built to 80 percent scale of the original.

That’s a lot of money and it certainly could interest tourists. With its military hardware hauled off to storage at Fort Benning, the Patton Museum clearly could benefit from this idea.

But a more pressing issue for the museum is a wall of another sort. It needs to be walled off from the remainder of the military installation.

For security reasons, Fort Knox has sealed the direct access from U.S. 31W into the museum’s parking lot.

While the parking is secured by fences, a person on foot could access all of the post from the museum grounds and therefore the tourist access portal has been closed.

Eventually, that will choke the remaining life out of the museum.

A few years ago, the Patton Museum was listed as one of Kentucky’s most visited tourism attractions. Changes in the Fort Knox mission have eliminated Armor trainee graduations, which greatly influenced that tourism head count.

Since access from U.S. 31W to Chaffee Avenue was closed, it’s actually much easier to leave the museum than to find it.

Requiring guests who want to visit the museum to ignore its presence on one of the nation’s most traveled north-south corridors is problematic. Instead, they must travel extra miles through a security checkpoint and meander through an unfamiliar road network, including driving through a park, to find the museum.

Before the community raises money for a Vietnam Wall replica, perhaps finding money to fence off all of the museum grounds is a greater priority. Otherwise, most tourists only will see the wall from the highway much as visitors are kept away from the U.S. Bullion Depository.

In the Army’s current fiscal environment, money for a security fence isn’t likely to come from Fort Knox. If it is beyond the reach of the museum foundation, then it would have to be added to the replica wall fundraising objectives. Regardless of who is paying for it, a fence still would require approval from Fort Knox officials.

Raising cash for chain link seems unlikely. So perhaps the Patton Museum idea could be scrapped in favor of another site for the replica wall.

The Kentucky Veterans Cemetery-Central, which houses the state’s foremost memorial to the 9/11 attacks, is becoming a home for remarkable tributes. Another viable alternative is the Elizabethtown Nature Park, which is home to the extraordinary Hardin County Veterans Tribute.

Don’t toss this idea out because of its price tag. But don’t get caught up with an idea that would place this tribute out of reach from visitors who don’t have the patience or knowledge to find the museum. It would be another cruel disservice to the memory of our Vietnam veterans.



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