- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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July 29

Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on Turkish involvement in fight against the Islamic State in Syria:

Turkey has at last allowed U.S. combat planes to operate from its soil - and has even put its own air power into the fight against the Islamic State in Syria with strikes over the weekend. That is indeed a welcome development. But it leaves unanswered important questions about Turkey’s ultimate aims and those of the Obama administration regarding Syria and its president, Bashar al-Assad.

In another positive move, Turkey has entered talks with the U.S. on establishing an ISIS-free and Syrian government-free zone on Syrian soil in a border area near the embattled rebel city of Aleppo. It would shelter Syrian refugees, protecting them from ISIS and from the chemical and “barrel-bomb” shrapnel attacks of the Syrian government.

It would also provide a base for anti-Assad rebels, another positive development.

Turkey had demanded that the U.S. create a “no-fly zone” over Syria before it would allow American aircraft to operate from the NATO base at Incirlik. The “safe zone” would be a much smaller space, but it could be expanded if Turkey and the Obama administration choose to do so.

In a sign that Turkey is mainly pursuing its own objectives in turning to the use of force, Turkish aircraft also struck Kurdish targets in Iraq, saying they were camps of the militant Turkish PKK party that waged a long war for Kurdish independence from Turkey in the 1990s.

What makes this Turkish thrust worrisome is that two other Kurdish groups, the “peshmerga” militias of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq and the Syrian Kurdish Peoples Protection Units or YPG, have been the most effective ground-force partners of the U.S. campaign against Islamic State. Turkey claims it has nothing against the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds and denied reports that it had shelled YPG units. But the Kurdish situation is volatile.

The Obama administration did not object to the Turkish attacks on the PKK, but the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government did.

This outbreak of violence between the PKK and the Turkish government after a long cease-fire must be tamped down quickly. Any escalation could undermine the coalition effort to defeat Islamic State.

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned in a statement that a conflict between Turkey and the Kurds would only benefit the Islamic State and President Assad and plunge the region into “chaos.”

And Turkey and the Obama administration appear to still differ on Syria. The Obama administration persists in arguing that the Syrian civil war can only be ended by a negotiation acceptable to Iran and Russia, while Turkey insists that Iran’s ally Assad must go.

However, now that Turkey is engaged in the fight - if initially only against ISIS - it has the military capacity to help Syrian rebels decisively defeat Mr. Assad’s weakened forces.

The United States should welcome this possibility and work with Turkey and its other Arab friends in the region to deal a blow against ISIS - and the brutal Syrian regime.

Online:

https://www.postandcourier.com

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July 29

Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, South Carolina, on Medicaid expansion:

Democrats are saying they will push hard for expansion of the Medicaid program in South Carolina in 2016, using the name of slain Sen. Clementa Pinckney to call for an end to Republican rejection of a key Affordable Care Act provision.

The Democratic senator who was among nine people killed by a gunman at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June championed expansion of the Medicaid program that would bring health care coverage to an estimated 200,000 poor South Carolinians presently doing without. The hope is that a spirit of reconciliation and unity following the Charleston church massacre will make this the right time for the state to change its stand on Medicaid and the ACE as whole.

Led by Gov. Nikki Haley, Republican leadership has resisted expansion of the program to provide care to the low-income citizens. The opponents contend South Carolina will not be able to afford the expanded program as federal dollars to pay for it grow less over time.

Thirty states have expanded Medicaid, or plan to do so, to include all adults with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, currently $16,243 for an individual. More than a dozen have seen enrollments surge way beyond projections, causing some lawmakers concern the added costs will strain their budgets when federal aid begins to scale back in two years.

In states that accepted the program, the federal government is paying 100 percent of the expansion costs through 2016. After that, each state is responsible for 5 percent in 2017, 6 percent in 2018, 7 percent in 2019 and 10 percent from 2020 on.

South Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that if all those eligible signed up under an expanded Medicaid program, the cost to the state would exceed $1 billion over the next half-decade. Already the state has seen Medicaid rolls grow as people previously eligible signed up amid awareness born of the ACA.

But failure to expand the program, which is also based in state GOP leaders’ steadfast opposition to the ACA as a whole, has cost the state.

In 2014, not being part of the program meant the state rejected more than $1 billion in federal funding that is going to other states. And S.C. hospitals, among them the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg, lost an estimated $250 million that would have come their way for treating Medicaid patients.

Whether acting in Pinckney’s name or simply acting to do the right thing for a lot of South Carolinians, leaders should revisit the issue of Medicaid expansion and bring the state into compliance with the ACA, which is now the law of the land for health care. Doing so would be both a sign of caring and compassion for the state’s poorest citizens and a smart economic investment in the health and well-being of the state and its people as a whole.

As 6th District Congressman James Clyburn states: “The time has come to cease the massive resistance to affordable health care . It is time to honor our nation’s motto E Pluribus Unum (Out of many one). It is time to work together to ensure that South Carolinians breathe more hopefully and all Americans participate more fully in our pursuit of a more perfect Union.”

Online:

https://www.heraldonline.com

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July 29

Aiken (South Carolina) Standard on police body camera legislation:

Tim Scott’s push in the U.S. Senate to provide states with $100 million in funding for body cameras is a sensible, straightforward step.

Wiring police officers throughout the country with body cameras would certainly be advantageous, but it won’t come without challenges, particularly for smaller police forces strapped for money.

The bill moved forward by Scott will ease those hurdles by streaming $100 million each year for the next five years into a fund for agencies that need help purchasing cameras.

The cost of such equipment ranges between $800 and $1,000 per camera, a cost that could easily dent the budgets of agencies across the country.

The push for cameras has certainly gained traction in South Carolina in the aftermath of the death of Walter Scott at the hands of an officer in North Charleston, as well as a local case involving the death of Ernest Satterwhite at the hands of a former North Augusta Public Safety officer.

While a body camera bill was approved in the South Carolina General Assembly this past session, it’s positive to see federal lawmakers also considering the issue. Scott, and his colleague in the U.S. Senate, Lindsey Graham, have thankfully been particularly vocal about the issue.

Both took part in a Senate subcommittee hearing in May involving the need for body cameras and the technology’s impact on law enforcement.

This is also part of a larger effort to find a rare bipartisan support in an increasingly polarized Congress to reform policing practices and sentencing laws. This could include a full-scale revamp of the criminal justice system, a welcome change in a time of growing tension between police and the public.

Obviously, these changes, including body cameras, will not be a fix-all. For instance, body cameras may not provide a full view of a situation, and police department and lawmakers are still working out whether footage should be considered part of the public record.

It’s clear policies must be put into place so that any footage taken is used in a responsible way. Lawmakers and law enforcement agencies must ensure videos, especially when capturing sensitive situations, aren’t edited or uploaded online for wrong or inappropriate purposes.

Body cameras, in general, though, should be viewed as a valuable source of evidence to help protect both the officers and the public. The public, consequently, should have appropriate access to that information if it’s intended to truly protect them.

This is particularly important when there has been a use of force by a police department. Along the same lines, it’s imperative that police agencies and individuals have a clear understanding of the rules and regulations associated with the use of body cameras.

Efforts by Scott and others should be applauded as communities, the state and the nation look for more effective ways to police and find pragmatic changes toward law enforcement policies.

Online:

https://www.aikenstandard.com


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