- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


Dec. 1

The Macon Telegraph on the firing of University of Georgia football coach firing:

It’s almost akin to the breakup of a 15-year-old marriage, that of University of Georgia football fans and its now former head coach Mark Richt. The cause of the breakup on the divorce decree wasn’t unfaithfulness. No, Richt was faithful to the red and black to the end. He was Dawg to the core. Did he win? Like no other coach before him with a .740 average. So why the divorce?

A football is shaped like an inflated pig’s bladder. It’s hard to predict which way it will bounce. The only thing more unpredictable is fans of the prolate spheroid. When a team is winning, everybody’s happy, its players and its coaches are gods on the gridiron. Fans go around shaking fists and giving chest bumps to each other, but when they lose, the pride flows out like air from a punctured balloon. If that happens too often to too many of the wrong teams divorce is inevitable.

Richt is a winner, yes, but in the Southeastern Conference, the one conference in the nation that’s supposed to be the biggest, baddest football conference in the nation, winning isn’t everything. UGA hasn’t won a national title in 35 years. And they’ve only been close once back in 2012 when Alabama took them out 32-28 in the SEC championship game, but even that game would have only given them a spot in the BCS process. But give Richt credit, he did win two SEC championships during his tenure, but the last one was a decade ago.

This year it seemed as though the handwriting was on the wall. For the second year in a row, the Dawgs top running back, Nick Chubb, goes down with a season ending injury. Not much good to say after that. Though UGA athletics director Greg McGarity waited until after the Georgia Tech game, won by UGA 13-7, the divorce papers were really signed and sealed in Jacksonville during the Georgia-Florida game. A bad Florida team beat Georgia 27-3.

Even though UGA would win its last four games after the Florida debacle (it took overtime for the Dawgs to beat Georgia Southern 23-17), it was pretty clear this marriage was done.

Irreconcilable differences. Unlike marriages, where some period of time passes before actively courting again, the university, at least, will immediately try to woo a suitable mate. Hope springs eternal.




Nov. 24

Savannah Morning News on the life sentence given to convicted child sex trafficker Jeremy Grant:

Life without parole in a federal penitentiary sounds like tough punishment for a man who’s only 26 years old, and can be expected to live about another half-century.

But if you’re Jeremy Grant, who was convicted for his role in the conspiracy in the sex trafficking of minors, you’re getting off easy.

Grant was sentenced last Friday by Chief United States District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to life in prison, said First Assistant United States Attorney James Durham. Grant’s life sentence means that he will spend the remainder of his life in prison without chance of parole, Durham said. Let’s also hope those are hard years, given what he did.

During the guilty plea and sentencing hearings, the evidence showed that between at least June 2014 and January 2015, Grant recruited vulnerable and financially destitute minors by offering them food and shelter. He then forced the minors to engage in sex acts for money, which he kept.

This sick, depraved adult took pictures of the minors, used online social media sites to advertise them, and transported the minors to various hotels to engage in commercial sex acts, Durham said. The evidence further showed that Grant physically abused some of the minors, raped them and threatened to kill their families if they did not engage in prostitution.

There’s a special place in Hell for such creeps, and Grant has a standing reservation there after he dies in prison.

“This defendant stole the childhood and innocence from his victims and made their lives a living hell,” said United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver. “He turned our most vulnerable and precious citizens into sex slaves and sold them for money, over and over again. Let me be absolutely clear: anyone who abuses children for their depraved sexual and financial enjoyment will be brought to justice and can expect to spend the rest of their life in prison.”

That’s as it should be. But don’t forget - it takes at least two people to create a market for slaves: A buyer and a seller.

While criminals like Jeremy Grant must be pursued to the end of the world, investigators must be just as dogged in pursuing those lowlifes who make these child prostitution rings possible: the customers who troll the dark corners of the internet looking to exploit children. They deserve a long stretch in a prison cell, just like Grant.

The investigation of this case was conducted by the FBI, Pooler police and Savannah-Chatham police. They deserve credit for their hard work on this despicable crime. So do Assistant United States Attorneys Tania D. Groover and Carlton R. Bourne for prosecuting the case

While sentencing Grant to life in prison, Judge Wood said that Grant’s conduct was “soul sapping” and that Grant committed “almost unfathomable actions towards human beings.” The judge got that part wrong. His crimes were unfathomable. There was no “almost” about it.

It’s impossible to fathom how anyone could do what Grant did. Neither money nor sickness can explain it. The only words that come close are pure evil. In the hierarchy of prison inmates, inmates convicted of child sex crimes are considered the lowest of the low. But the suffering Grant will endure is nothing compared to the pain and suffering that the victims of his crime endured. The only way the punishment might fit the crime is to turn Grant over to the parents of the children who were victimized. Then justice might be truly served.

Meanwhile, society must double its efforts to stop child sexual exploitation. Anyone who suspects instances of child sexual exploitation should call 1-800-843-5678, which is operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in partnership with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.




Nov. 18

The Marietta Daily Journal on Gov. Nathan Deal’s approach to Syrian refugees:

Gov. Nathan Deal reflects this nation’s heightened concern over terrorism with his executive order halting the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia until new screening processes are in place to prevent infiltration by terrorists. He is calling on President Obama to impose a moratorium on accepting more Syrian refugees until proper vetting is assured.

More than two dozen other governors from New Hampshire to Wisconsin have taken a similar stance in the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead, the work of the jihadist Islamic State (ISIS), according to authorities. Deal and his fellow governors are justifiably concerned about the Obama administration’s pledge to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next 12 months and spread them across the country.

Deal’s executive order, announced Nov. 16, directed all state agencies to stop accepting Syrian refugees until the U.S. State Department “has re-examined the security concerns and established new processes for accepting refugees from Syria” and until Congress “has approved of the new processes for accepting refugees from Syria.” The governor also ordered the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to confirm that the 59 Syrian refugees who have resettled in Georgia do not pose a public safety risk.

In a letter to President Obama, Deal said the Paris attacks “raise a need for additional scrutiny of those claiming refugee status.” The governor cited reports indicating “at least one of the suicide bombers . made his way to Europe from Syria under claim of political refugee status.” Deal called on the Obama administration to work with GEMA to check the backgrounds of the Syrian refugees living in Georgia.

Deal joined several other Republican governors in requesting the president to impose a moratorium on Syrian refugee resettlement until - in Deal’s words - “the screening process can be thoroughly re-evaluated, re-examined and supported by Congress.” Gov. Paul LePage of Maine put it bluntly, saying it is “irresponsible” to allow Syrian refugees into this country now.

Even Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, is calling for more intensive vetting of refugees. He told a reporter, “In the U.S., we are going to have to double our stance in vetting individuals that come into the U.S. in a way we have not before.”

Similarly, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, a proponent of strong military action against ISIS, has called for a rigorous screening process. He said, “We cannot allow an increase to the number of refugees coming into our country until this administration puts forth a strong strategy for ensuring that radical jihadists are kept out of the United States.” In the U.S. House, Republican leaders prepared legislation suspending the Obama plan to bring in more Syrian refugees. As Speaker Paul Ryan aptly explained, “This is a moment where it is better to be safe than sorry.”

Arguing in favor of refugee resettlement here, the nonprofit New American Pathways said in a statement that refugees undergo more than seven security checks “by intelligence agencies, including biometric tests, medical screenings and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security officials.” However, the fact that at least one of the Paris attackers slipped through security raises doubts about how effective our own processes are. Thus, it seems that Gov. Deal and his fellow governors are on solid ground in moving to keep Syrian refugees out of their states.

As to the question of whether the governors have the authority to do so, Deal gave this answer: “I think we do. We have simply instructed all of our state agencies not to process any paperwork or anything relating to that.” At the least, the action by the governors could put the issue in play for a possible judicial review of their authority.

The refusal by states to accept Syrian refugees seems to be the best option under the circumstances. Prudence suggests that a moratorium is in order until, as Gov. Deal says, “the screening process can be thoroughly re-evaluated, re-examined and supported by Congress.” With so much at stake, it is better to err on the side of caution.



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