- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


Dec. 1

The Lexington Herald-Leader on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the climate talks in Paris:

As the eyes of the world turn hopefully to the climate talks in Paris, Kentuckians can only hang their heads.

Our senior senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is trying to obstruct an international agreement. He is doing this by undermining confidence that President Barack Obama can deliver on promises he makes to other nations during the two-week conference.

McConnell has morphed from ranting about a “war on coal” to accusing Obama of waging an “attack on the middle class,” who McConnell says cannot afford a transition to clean energy. In a column in the Washington Post on Sunday, McConnell warned other nations to “proceed with caution” because the Republican Congress opposes the president’s domestic plan for controlling heat-trapping emissions and the next president could kill the plan altogether.

Kentuckians overwhelmingly re-elected McConnell to a sixth term last year. But it’s not as if voters had much choice on the climate issue. McConnell’s Democratic opponent, like most politicians of both parties in Kentucky, was a captive to coal.

It’s encouraging that the U.S. public sees through the political bluster and well-funded efforts to mislead on the science. Two-thirds of Americans, a solid majority, say the U.S. should join an international treaty to limit the impact of global warming, according to a new New York Times/CBS News poll. Three in four say global warming is already having a serious environmental impact or will in the future.

As leaders from around the world work over the next two weeks to develop a plan to avert climate catastrophe, Kentucky will again be on the sidelines.

It’s one thing to stand up for your state’s carbon-intensive industries and look out for its economic interests. It’s something else when myopic self-interest pushes you to the wrong side of history, where McConnell has firmly planted himself. We can only hope he doesn’t bring Kentucky down with him.




Dec. 1

The Daily News of Bowling Green on two proposed bills for the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly:

Two proposed bills for the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly, we believe, would be supported by most Kentuckians and deserve passage.

A bill filed by state Rep. Larry Clark, D-Louisville, would require cemeteries to maintain a database of the precise locations of each grave space, ensure that every grave holding remains has some kind of marker and to separate plots from one another by at least 6 inches.

These sound like reasonable requirements.

One case illustrating the need for this bill involves Louisville resident Bill Dudley. Dudley brought the near-absence of cemetery regulations to Clark’s attention shortly after Dudley’s mother’s plot, which was beside the plot of his father in Evergreen Cemetery, was revealed to contain the forgotten body of an 8-year-old girl who died in the 1950s. This news came the day after Mother’s Day and 13 months after another body was discovered in a niece’s plot. Dudley moved his mother and father elsewhere in the cemetery at no cost so they could be buried together.

If cemeteries had better databases, unfortunate instances such as this likely wouldn’t have happened. We understand that technology has come a long way since the 1950s and cemeteries are better equipped now to keep databases of precise locations of each grave space.

Incidents such as Dudley’s still could happen at other cemeteries throughout the state, especially in older cemeteries that contain family plots.

No one should have to go through believing their parents or other loved ones will be buried next to one another, only to find out that a body already is contained in the space. That is why this is such an important bill.

Kevin Kirby of J.C. Kirby & Son Funeral Chapels and Crematory and Bowling Green Gardens cemetery also made a good case for the passage of the bill by saying the 6-inch minimum would lessen the chance of damaging a casket while digging a neighboring grave. “That needs to be the standard,” Kirby said.

Currently, there is no law regarding space between graves. That needs to change.

For this and the reasons we have mentioned, we believe this should be a piece of common-sense legislation that all lawmakers would get behind next year and pass in a timely manner.

Another piece of legislation we are backing is from state Rep. Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester, that would expand the Kentucky Safe Infants Act to add staffed churches to the safe haven list that now includes hospitals, police and fire stations where infants can legally be abandoned. Mayfield’s bill would also protect emergency medical providers, police officers, firefighters or church staff members with immunity from civil or criminal liability while acting in an infant’s best interest, such as taking the infant to an emergency room.

This, too, is common-sense legislation. There are some mothers who bring children into this world and, for an array of reasons, don’t feel like they can take care of them. So they abandon them at places such as hospitals or police stations.

Allowing mothers to abandon infants at churches provides them another legal option, and provides a chance to abandon their child where staff members can take the baby to a hospital, where the baby can be cared for and eventually be adopted by another family.

Stephen Harmon, spokesman for the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, supports the bill and makes a good argument for it.

Harmon says it would provide mothers another option to relinquish their infants without being intimidated by walking into a police station. He says if the mother feels there are no other options, this bill would provide another option for the child.

This, too, seems to be common-sense legislation that our General Assembly should get behind when legislators convene in January.




Dec. 1

The Kentucky New Era on the decision to cover a controversial mural at the University of Kentucky:

One of the largest fresco paintings of its kind is covered with cloth at the University of Kentucky’s iconic Memorial Hall after UK President Eli Capilouto met with several black students to talk about the portrayal of African-American slaves in the artwork.

Kentuckian Ann Rice O’Hanlon, who earned a bachelor’s degree at UK in 1932, painted the fresco on commission for the Works Progress Administration in 1934. The mural is 45 feet by 8 feet and depicts an interpretation of Kentucky history from the time of pioneer settlers to the early 19th century.

One scene portrays slaves bent at the waist in a tobacco field with a train imposed directly over them. The imagery acknowledges Kentucky, at least in part, was built on the backs of slave labor. That recognition by a young white woman in a Southern state during the Depression had to have been a bold and brave statement.

Critics of the fresco have said it glosses over the reality of slavery, does not account for the racist Jim Crow era of O’Hanlon’s time and is insulting to black students today when they attend lectures and events at Memorial Hall.

Capilouto can be commended for giving thoughtful consideration to the students who met with him recently to talk about the fresco. And perhaps he made a politically wise decision to cover the fresco while an appropriate response is determined.

In a university blog posting, Capilouto wrote, “In spite of the artist’s admirable, finely honed skill that gave life to the (mural), we cannot allow it to stand alone, unanswered by and unaccountable to the evolutionary trajectory of our human understanding and our human spirit.”

If Capilouto is leaning toward a solution that adds context and understanding to the O’Hanlon fresco, then the university will be fulfilling its mission to teach and enlighten our state. But if anyone believes the solution is to remove or erase the art and its message, the university will have failed.

Removing the fresco would not change the fact that many black students at the University of Kentucky are descended from slaves and that many white students are descended from slave owners. That is our history, and we still have a long way to go in healing from the institution of slavery.

This week in the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper, acclaimed Kentucky author Wendell Berry criticized UK for trying to censor O’Hanlon’s art. Berry is an American intellectual, and he’s known for standing on the side of issues that many Kentuckians would consider quite liberal. Berry also has the advantage of having known O’Hanlon, who died in 1998. He is her nephew by marriage.

“Ann was a liberal, if anybody ever was - too liberal, in fact, to approve entirely of me. I never heard her utter one racist word. Ann painted the Memorial Hall fresco in 1934, when it took some courage to declare so boldly that slaves had worked in Kentucky fields,” Berry wrote in his op-ed.

“Nobody would have objected if she had left them out. The uniform clothing and posture of the workers denotes an oppressive regimentation. The railroad, its cars filled with white passengers, seems to be borne upon the slaves’ bent backs - exactly as the railroad near Walden Pond, according to Henry David Thoreau, was built upon the backs of Irish laborers.”

It’s hard to imagine that removing the O’Hanlon fresco would improve race relations or add to anyone’s understanding of the awful legacy of slavery in Kentucky.

Memorial Hall was built in 1929, when UK had no black students or professors. It appears in countless photographs and promotional materials because of the beautiful clock tower that dominates the structure.

There’s a lot of history - some of it painful, some of it pleasing - in Memorial Hall. The building’s main auditorium was named in 2004 for Hopkinsville native Edward T. “Ned” Breathitt, who was Kentucky’s governor when our state became the first in the South to approve civil rights legislation.

Perhaps there is room in Memorial Hall to expand on the story of Breathitt and other civil rights leaders. That would give context to the images of slaves painted by a 1930s white artist who was surely ahead of her time.



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