- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:



The opening arguments have been made. Now it’s time for the General Election to begin for real.

And, for the first time since 2008, Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania voters will be at the center of it. In the fight between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a battleground state has reclaimed its battleground status.

Here in Philadelphia this week, and during last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, delegates were told again and again how important Pennsylvania is their respective party’s electoral fortunes this fall.

That is particularly true for Republicans. With Democrats boasting an edge in voter registration, the Keystone State has not gone GOP red since the election of President George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In Cleveland, such prominent politicians as U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin; Donald Trump Jr., and vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence of Indiana, underscored Pennsylvania’s importance.

“You could win this whole thing, Pennsylvania,” Ryan told state Republicans on the convention’s opening day on July 18.

Speaking to Pennsylvania Democrats on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar told the state’s Democratic delegates that “you’re in the big time now,” thanks to a high-profile Senate race between former Wolf administration aide Katie McGinty and Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey.

Others, including U.S. Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. and Cory Booker of New Jersey, along with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, delivered similar messages.

Despite a Suffolk University poll released Thursday showing Clinton with a 50-41 percent lead over Trump in a hypothetical, head-to-head contest, the fight for Pennsylvania will go precinct-by-precinct, block by block.

Because of that, Republicans like their chances:

“This is a state, that if you look at the registration, should go blue, but has a propensity to vote statewide for Republicans when they’re given a good reason to do so,” former Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley said in Cleveland last week. “Looking at the polling, the state and national party feel like Pennsylvania is up for grabs.”

That’s the politicians’ eye-view.

Now that they have hosted a convention, Pennsylvanians, who live in the place where American democracy was birthed, and who take justifiable pride in the legacy of William Penn’s “holy experiment” have but two responsibilities.

But they are towering - particularly at a time when our attention is pulled in so many places at once.

Educate yourself on the issues.


In 2016, in a historical year, with the first woman on the presidential ballot, and two very different visions for America competing with each other, honoring those responsibilities is more important than ever.

It doesn’t matter which candidate you support or to which political philosophy you subscribe.

Democrat, Republican, Green or Libertarian, the game’s afoot.

Play your part.

- PennLive.com



Charles Kinsey has told reporters of the North Miami, Florida, the police officer who shot him admitted he did not know why he pulled the trigger. Viewers of a video recorded by a bystander may be at a loss for an answer, too.

Kinsey, 47, is a therapist who was trying to calm an autistic 27-year-old patient back into a facility he had left last week. Police arrived in response to a call, possibly unrelated, of a man threatening to shoot himself.

As officers approached, Kinsey laid down on the sidewalk, put his hands in the air, and assured police his patient had nothing but a toy truck in his hands. He also urged the man, who was sitting in the street, to lie down.

One policeman fired his gun three times, hitting Kinsey once in the leg.

Kinsey, who is black, later asked the officer why he fired. He said the response was, “I don’t know.”

Obviously, both state and federal officials should investigate the shooting, especially because of the current tension involving black men shot by police officers.

But in this case - as in others, perhaps - race may have had little or nothing to do with the shooting. It may have been an accident.

That does not make it right, of course. People lying on the ground with their hands up as they assure police officers they are no threat should not be shot.

There needs to be more than just race to the discussion of how to avoid unnecessary shootings by law enforcement personnel. It is not enough to ensure racism never enters the minds of officers and deputies.

Those who serve and protect also must, to the best extent possible, be able to handle the stress of confrontations such as that involving Kinsey. They need to be men and women who will know why they fired their guns and will have good reasons for doing so.

Racism is a character flaw. It is not the only flaw that may result in unnecessary violence, however - and that needs to be recognized and addressed by law enforcement agencies.

- The (Lewistown) Sentinel



The families of victims murdered by teens serving life sentences hope the state parole board remains fair when rendering decisions to release offenders on parole.

They also hope that the board considers the brutality of the crimes committed against their loved ones in its evaluation for a change in their sentences.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January retroactively banned life prison terms for minors - offenders under 18 who were tried and convicted as adults, giving them the right to re-sentencing with the possibility of parole.

The state of Pennsylvania this week granted parole to four of the first five such offenders. The state parole board chairman was optimistic that, decades later, the four showed positive outlooks with the hope of release. The board said it weighs a petitioner’s educational, behavioral and work records in prison. It also assesses his or her potential risk to the community, along with statements from the victims’ families.

To the families of the convicted offenders, this ruling may come as a joyous relief, as they see their loved ones go free with the hope of living semi-normal lives, having their own families and holding jobs while still under the state’s watch.

But this ruling carries sorrow and reopens wounds for the families of the victims, including the New Castle family of Kimmie Jo Dotts, who at age 15 was brutally hanged and bludgeoned in the woods in Clearfield County on Mother’s Day in 2008. The leader of the group of teens who killed her was a 16-year-old girl. The girl at 17 was sentenced in 1998 to life without parole. Now, 16 years later, she conceivably could go free if she successfully seeks re-sentencing and the parole board deems she’s no longer is a threat to society.

Law enforcement in Lawrence County frequently sees state parole agents in town re-arresting felonious offenders who are on parole but who nevertheless commit new crimes that at times are violent felonies. The chance is likely, without the proper rehabilitative programs, that convicted criminals could commit new offenses, and there is no guarantee a convicted killer can be rehabilitated to where he or she no longer poses a safety risk. So in a sense, releasing convicted killers to parole status is a roll of the dice.

While the Dotts family has not heard yet about a possible reversal of status for their daughter’s killer, the state parole board needs to look hard at such offenders who seek re-sentencing, and weigh the heinousness of the crimes they’ve committed, together with the person’s past and present mental status and history before granting them parole. They also should ensure that intense psychological evaluations are applied. Otherwise, the outcomes could pose a serious threat to the safety of others.

The state has a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its citizens, above all. The state parole board is encouraged to keep that in mind as it continues to weigh the hundreds of cases that will likely come before it.

- New Castle News



House Republicans passed a bill before they flew away for the summer that would preclude Boeing from selling airliners to Iran. It is a foolish exercise that should be grounded.

Sanctions barring aircraft sales to Iran were lifted by the United States and the European Union following the completion of the Iran nuclear disarmament agreement and subsequent confirmation of compliance.

Iran quickly ordered $25 billion worth of aircraft from Boeing and a similar amount from Boeing’s principal rival, Airbus.

House Republicans claimed that Iran has used civilian aircraft in the past to transport troops, which is a common practice for most countries, including the United States.

That should not be disqualifying. The military studies Iran’s capabilities and plans accordingly; the addition of civilian aircraft is not a game-changer in terms of relative power.

It is not difficult to predict what would happen if the House bill were to become law. Iran simply would shift all of the order to Airbus, since no cancellation fervor has arisen in the European Union.

Aircraft are an economic engine for the United States and a leading export. There is scant justification to penalize skilled and well-paid Boeing workers to score political points.

-The (Scranton) Times-Tribune



After World War II, when cheese and butter were still prized commodities and men would pawn their Sunday suits after wearing them to church, there was at least one commodity in Britain that was available cheaply and abundantly - cigarettes.

Breathing in some nicotine surely helped the British overcome the deprivations of daily life, and by 1949, 81 percent of men and 39 percent of women smoked. Within a couple of decades, those smokers surely put a strain on the National Health Service that was inaugurated just after the war’s end as they dealt with cancer and heart disease caused by their habit.

The number of smokers never climbed quite as high in the United States in those days, but cigarettes were equally as abundant and could be had for a quarter per pack.

Anyone still part of the dwindling cohort of smokers knows those days are long gone. The estimated 20 percent of men and 15 percent of women in America who can’t shake their addiction have been paying considerably more to light up as a result of taxes that have been piled onto cigarettes in recent years. In Pennsylvania, smokers will have to pay even more as a result of an additional $1 tax on cigarettes that went into effect Monday. Lawmakers agreed to the extra $1 tax as a way to balance the commonwealth’s $31.5 billion budget. It’s expected to yield $430 million, and make a pack of cigarettes cost somewhere north of $7 in Pennsylvania, though one assumes a certain percentage of determined smokers will venture over state lines to buy cigarettes in West Virginia, Ohio or any bordering state where they are cheaper.

It goes without saying lawmakers shouldn’t count on the same amount of money flowing into Harrisburg’s coffers year after year. Cigarette smoking cuts lives short, and those departed puffers are not being replaced by new customers. But, also, if a tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products is to be considered successful, the amount of revenue it brings should go down because more and more smokers decide they are paying too much and decide to quit.

And no one except tobacco companies would deny that’s a good thing.

In a story that appeared in Monday’s Observer-Reporter, some local smokers said the $1 increase on a pack of cigarettes will be enough for them to kick the habit once and for all. Don “Cowboy” Johnson told our Natalie Reid Miller he was tired of hacking when he gets up in the morning after 35 years of smoking and “that extra dollar is just more incentive. There are a number of people spending more on cigarettes than food. It’s like a drug addiction. It is a drug addiction.”

Indeed, several studies highlight the fact that increasing taxes on cigarettes reduces the number of smokers. When the federal tax was increased 62 cents in 2009, the number of teenage smokers tumbled quickly from 13 percent to 10 percent, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago. And while some, including state Rep. Rick Saccone, a Republican from Elizabeth Township, have argued that a cigarette tax hits low-income residents the hardest, it helps all of us in the long run thanks to lower health care costs and fewer nonsmokers suffering the effects of secondhand smoke.

The 2016-17 state budget leaves a lot of long-festering issues unresolved, such as reforming pensions and bringing the state liquor store system into the 21st century. However, if the increased tax on cigarettes reduces the number of smokers, lawmakers should be commended for putting it in place.

- (Washington) Observer-Reporter


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