- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:

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THE POPE’S MESSAGE: IN AFRICA, FRANCIS PREACHED LESSONS FOR ALL NATIONS, Dec. 1

Pope Francis’ first official visit to Africa, with stops in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, gave him a chance to address three of the continent’s chief problems: corruption, chaos and presidents-for-life.

Kenya’s main problem, even if one asks Kenyans, is considered to be widespread corruption, starting within government. The latest revelation was that the Kenyan army, in principle combating the al-Shabab Islamic extremist movement in Somalia and in Kenya itself with substantial U.S. support, was also engaged in a profitable smuggling relationship with the Somali group involving sugar and charcoal.



Uganda is hurt by the fact that President Yoweri Museveni is one of those African leaders who seems to be incapable of leaving office. He has been president since 1986, for 29 years- not much less than President Robert G. Mugabe’s 35 years in Zimbabwe. Uganda is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state of 39 million with reasonable economic prospects, but it has not benefited from the insistence of its leader’s self-imagined indispensability.

The Central African Republic is perhaps the saddest of the three. It is a war zone, with 14,000 French and United Nations troops there to prevent recurrent mayhem between the Christian majority and Muslim minority. Pope Francis risked his life to go there, but once in Bangui, the capital, he circulated freely, with light security, visiting a mosque as well as churches and meeting with imams and other Muslims as well as with Christians and their clergy.

In Kenya, Pope Francis preached honesty. In Uganda, he preached tolerance, addressing the country’s occasional tendency to act against gays. In the Central African Republic, he urged peace between Christians and Muslims, who have been fighting for years.

His consistent message was that Christians and Muslims are brothers, should put down their arms and love one another. It is important for the other people of the world not to dismiss his plea, but to ask whether his message isn’t applicable to their countries, too.

- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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OFFICER WHO DIED IN ATTACK ON COLORADO PLANNED PARENTHOOD PUT DUTY FIRST, INSPIRING US ALL, Dec. 1

Whatever your thoughts are about Planned Parenthood, about abortion, everyone should be able to agree on this: The police officer who lost his life trying to halt the attack on the Colorado Springs clinic was a hero who embodied the best and bravest of law enforcement officers in our country.

Garrett Swasey was summoned from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, where he served as a campus police officer, to respond to the active shooter report at Planned Parenthood.

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, Swasey, 44, was a former U.S. junior ice dance champion- he used to practice in his native Massachusetts with his friend Nancy Kerrigan.

He also was an elder at Hope Chapel, an evangelical church in northeast Colorado Springs, where he served as a co-pastor for years.

Scott Dontanville, a co-pastor at the church, told The New York Times that Swasey would have disagreed “with the abortion industry.”

But that didn’t keep him from risking- and ultimately losing -his life to protect people at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

“He was there to save lives. That’s the kind of guy he is,” Dontanville said.

What a remarkable man he seems to have been.

His wife, Rachel, said in a statement that he was a “devoted father” and “wonderful husband,” and a man for whom helping others brought “deep satisfaction.” ”In the end,” she noted, “his last act was for the safety and well-being of others and was a tribute to his life.”

Swasey wasn’t alone in his courage and selflessness Friday. Five other police officers were wounded by gunfire as they sought to end Robert Lewis Dear’s horrific rampage.

“All of the firefighters and police at the scene are heroes,” said Colorado Springs Fire Chief Chris Riley, according to the Gazette. “They laid their lives on the line today to prevent this disaster from getting worse.”

The word “hero” is bandied about these days, sometimes ironically, but it certainly applies in this case.

Police officers routinely venture into dangerous and uncertain situations because duty calls them to respond. Their dedication shouldn’t be diminished by the few who are unfit to wear a badge.

We know police officers take chances on their community’s behalf, and we’re deeply grateful to them. (It’s because we believe that most police officers have nothing to hide that we think a state bill that would hinder transparency in use of force cases unnecessarily damages public trust.)

On Thanksgiving Day, when a 35-year-old Conestoga man was wounded at a shooting range near Columbia, his life was saved by the police and paramedics who rushed to the scene.

Responding to a 911 call, West Hempfield Township police Officer James Gardill scrambled to Columbia Fish & Game Range; there, he applied direct pressure to the gunshot wound on the man’s inner thigh, the operations manager for Susquehanna Valley EMS told LNP.

That wasn’t an active shooter situation. But the first moments after any shooting are confusing. Police officers and other emergency responders can’t wait for clarity. They often need to head right into the chaos.

They don’t ask if the potential victims hold political or religious beliefs that might clash with their own.

Garrett Swasey certainly didn’t. As Pastor Dontanville told The New York Times, that wouldn’t even have been on his mind.

His example, we hope, inspires us all to see the humanity in those with whom we disagree. It also should remind us of the sacrifices police officers are asked to make to keep the rest of us safe.

- LNP

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HOSTAGE NEGOTIATIONS, Nov. 30

Last week, local government officials across the state decided they had had it with the long budget impasse in Harrisburg.

The statewide organization of county commissioners said it was considering filing a law suit against the state for withholding needed state funding for local programs, especially for social services.

Better yet, we like what the county commissioners in Bucks did.

Rather than wait for a lawsuit to make its way through the courts, they decided to withhold local payments from taxes and fees due to the state and use them to pay for services to the poor, homeless, elderly, and those with mental and physical disabilities.

In Bucks County, government collects between $4 million and $5 million a month meant for the state, including its share of the real estate transfer tax and fines and fees collected by the county courts.

The next day Delaware County officials stepped forward and said they were considering taking the same action. As County Councilman David White said: “How can the state keep our state parks open and our liquor stores open and not fund services to our young victims of abuse the neglect?”

It’s an excellent question.

As this month proceeds, more and more counties and school districts will have to sharply curtail or shut down programs unless a new state budget is agreed to. Many, including the Philadelphia School District, have already borrowed money and incurred interest costs to keep running so far.

A court ruling of a few years ago declared that essential state services should keep operating without a budget- that’s why all legislators and state employees are being paid. But, the billions the state distributes are being withheld because the state lacks the statutory authority- in the form of a new budget -to spend it. (Seventy-two cents of every tax dollar sent to Harrisburg is returned to local governments and school districts in the form of subsidizes.)

While we have no objection to the county commissioners’ organization suing the state in court, we vastly prefer the actions taken by the two suburban counties. Rather than sue the state, make the state sue them to collect the money due.

Counties should be holding onto that money and using it for local programs usually subsidized by the state. They can settle up later, after a state budget is passed.

At the county level, elected officials are frustrated because they have a job to do. They haven’t got the luxury of engaging in the politics of paralysis.

The root of this problem is in the legislature- specifically, among Republicans in the Senate, who would rather see the government shut down than compromise in any way, shape or form.

Last week, they came close to blowing up the tentative budget deal worked out by Gov. Wolf and legislators by pushing a radically different plan that would raise the sales tax and the income tax in order to eliminate local property taxes.

That measure came close to passing the state Senate. It failed by a narrow margin.

Having failed in that gambit, the question is: Will these legislative bomb throwers still try to wreck any bipartisan attempt to resolve the budget stalemate?

Like the county commissioners, the citizens of Pennsylvania- of all parties, in all regions -should send a message to Harrisburg: Enough is enough.

- The Philadelphia Daily News

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VATICAN MUST FREE AUTHORS, Dec. 1

Iran’s imprisonment of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian for espionage is a farce, the sort of thing that the West has come to expect from Tehran in the corrupt theocracy’s perpetual quest for leverage.

But, unfortunately, persecution of journalists is not confined to the Middle East.

The Vatican has decided to prosecute two Italian journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, for their books on mismanagement of Vatican finances, internal resistance to Pope Francis’s reforms and other disclosures.

Since the reporters are Italian and the Vatican is a separate state within Italy, the reporters easily could have evaded arrest simply by staying outside the Vatican’s territory. They responded to the arrest summons to further expose Vatican corruption, even though each could face up to eight years in prison. The Vaticans’ conduct has been condemned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Also facing trial are a Spanish monsignor and two Vatican staffers who allegedly leaked information to reporters. The case was supposed to begin Monday but was delayed to Dec. 7.

At Pope Francis’ insistence, the Vatican updated its penal code in 2013 to outlaw and punish sex crimes against children. But the process created the ability to prosecute journalists who reveal information about the Vatican.

The pope, who has advocated greater openness and accountability, should intervene personally if he must to preclude the further embarrassment of the church that will result from the prosecution of journalists.

- The (Scranton) Times-Tribune

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WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE DONALD?, Dec. 2

We would like to ask our readers for help. We seek enlightenment as to why businessman Donald Trump, the say-anything, insult-everyone candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, continues to attract so many enthusiastic followers and remains the poll front-runner among a dozen or so GOP hopefuls.

It is true beyond the shadow of any doubt that Trump is far removed from the typical Washington insider politician with whom so many Americans have rightfully become disillusioned. Is that the source of his appeal? Our own random, highly unscientific polling suggests people are drawn to The Donald because he says what he thinks and doesn’t care who might be offended.

Such “honesty” can be refreshing. The trouble with Trump is that so much of his outrageous rhetoric is like a giant facade, impressive maybe at first glance but lacking any depth, any substance, and built on nothing more than raw emotion, fear and anger. Trump goes out of his way to inflame his audiences, because that’s all he has. That’s all there is to Donald Trump. That’s his shtick. And people seem to love him for it. The question is, why?

Trump talks about deporting 11 million people who are in the country illegally and the crowd goes wild. Never mind that such an idea is ludicrous. He calls for walling America’s southern border and is met with enthusiastic applause. So what if the suggestion is pure fantasy. He insults Sen. John McCain, a war hero, and his poll numbers spike.

More recently, he claimed on two separate occasions that he witnessed on television thousands of people in New Jersey- “where you have large Arab populations” -celebrating the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He must have dreamed the scenario, or made it all up, because no evidence has been found to back up his statement. Journalists don’t remember such celebration ever taking place. Gov. Chris Christie said it never happened. New Jersey’s former attorney general said it never happened. The Washington Post Fact Checker, which is rather good at separating fact from fiction, gave Trump’s remarks a dubious honor: its maximum four Pinocchios, based on how far The Donald strayed from the truth.

Yet, Trump’s followers apparently aren’t looking for truth. They apparently aren’t interested in realistic solutions to real problems. They love that he insults his opponents, great segments of the population and his critics, especially those in the media.

This is what the Trumpsters believe America needs? This is the kind of man they want as president?

We’re baffled by it all. We see a great deal of sizzle, but the steak is missing. That’s why we need someone to explain the Trump phenomenon to us.

Intelligently and without redneck blather.

- The (Doylestown) Intelligencer

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