- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Dec. 7

The Dothan Eagle on the 75th anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor:

What most Americans know of war, they know from stories told by relatives who served in armed conflict, or they’ve gleaned some idea of the harrowing hell-on-earth of combat from increasingly vivid movies such as Saving Private Ryan and a current release, Hacksaw Ridge.

Today, 75 years since the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan, there are precious few left who served there and survived the bombings that killed 2,300 U.S. military personnel.

Pearl Harbor delivered a difficult lesson for the U.S. about preparation. The Japanese Zeros and bombers arrived early on a Sunday in two waves, decimating the Pacific Fleet. Military personnel at the Hawaii installation had a day off; many of the anti-aircraft guns were unmanned. We simply didn’t predict the attack.

The events of that day became a crucible in which was forged a stronger, more determined U.S. military force that, with allies, went on to defeat Japan and Germany in World War II.

Seventy five years later, societies around the globe still turn to violence to settle disputes. The U.S. has spent more than a decade embroiled in various conflicts stemming from an unprovoked terrorist attack on U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2011, the first major breach since Pearl Harbor.

We didn’t predict that one, either. When terrorists loyal to Osama bin Laden hijacked airliners and carried out part of their plans, the world watched in stunned disbelief.

As we recall the events of Dec. 7, 1941, and the valiant sacrifice of those who perished at Pearl Harbor, our nation must hew to a collective vow to not be taken by surprise again.

Online:

https://www.dothaneagle.com

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Dec. 1

The Gadsden Times on the deadly Gatlinburg, Tennessee wildfire:

You probably could go to the Gadsden Mall or any populated local venue on a given day, flick a paper clip and have a very good chance of striking someone who’s been to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge.

Those two burghs in the Great Smoky Mountains are popular tourist destinations for folks in Northeast Alabama. They’re relatively close, can be done on the cheap (or extravagantly if you have the inclination and cash) and don’t really have an off-season.

You can romantically snuggle in the winter, try to keep up with rambunctious kids begging for souvenirs when school’s out and enjoy four wonderfully contrasting seasons of natural scenery.

That connection is why there has been such a strong local reaction to the wildfire that ravaged Gatlinburg on Monday.

The blaze broke out earlier that day on Chimney Tops in the Smokies. Fueled by the drought-parched landscape and whipped by hurricane-force winds, it spread across the mountains and into downtown Gatlinburg.

At least 10 people have been killed and more than 70 injured, according to the latest reports, and others remain missing.

Officials are certain someone started the fire. That person has bloody hands and needs to face consequences.

No one has been allowed back into Gatlinburg; 14,000 tourists (including some from Etowah County) and residents were evacuated Monday. It wasn’t an easy task, as demonstrated by a video shared repeatedly online of two stepbrothers and their dog trying to escape through conditions that conjure up memories of the firebombing of Tokyo in World War II.

More than 17,000 acres of the Smokies have burned (even after rainfall, crews continue to fight spots that are burning), and photos from Gatlinburg that have circulated on traditional and social media must be heartrending to those with memories of fun times in East Tennessee. More than 700 buildings in Sevier County were destroyed, 300 of them in Gatlinburg (again, Etowah County residents suffered losses).

The loss is magnified by the fact that the holiday tourism season is in sight, and spoiled. Pigeon Forge was pretty much unscathed, but we imagine disruptive recovery and rebuilding efforts will be going on for a while in the area.

We trust they’ll be successful, but that doesn’t fix the immediate pain.

There probably will be opportunities to help, financially and otherwise, and we hope local residents will do so. Those who have gained so much pleasure from and made so many memories in those mountains need to give back.

Alabamians need to take heed of the plight of our neighbors.

Etowah County got some needed rain this week, but nowhere near enough to ease the drought conditions of the last few months, or prompt the lifting of the “no-burn” order that’s in effect. Still, there have been numerous reports of people burning trash.

We offer a one-word response: Don’t.

We understand people are inconvenienced, but things still are too dry and the risk is too great.

A wildfire Monday night in Ball Play almost got out of hand. A repeat performance might get there.

Online:

https://www.gadsdentimes.com

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Dec. 5

The Decatur Daily on improving diplomatic relations with Cuba following Fidel Castro’s death:

The tiny island nation of Cuba, 90 miles off the United States’ southern coast, has a deserved reputation as a thorn in this country’s side, thanks to the 50-year reign of Fidel Castro.

For 50 years, the bearded, cigar-smoking communist revolutionary loomed like a mischievous shadow over the world’s largest and most powerful democracy. His presence became heightened worldwide when the former Soviet Union stationed missiles on the island in 1962 capable of reaching deep into the heart of the United States. Tense diplomatic talks averted a crisis and the missiles were removed.

Since that time, Castro missed few opportunities to poke his finger in the eye of his big neighbor, oppressing his own people while backing communist insurgent groups around the world.

But some changes have occurred that, as Castro aged, softened relations between the two countries. His brother, Raul, took over governance of Cuba some years ago, and President Barack Obama recently re-established diplomatic relations with the Cubans.

Now, tourism is beginning to take hold and new markets will emerge for American goods.

Trade and normalized relations with Cuba will yield a more stable Caribbean region, and likely will lead to improved living conditions for Cubans, who have felt the effects of both failed communist policies and a decades-old U.S. embargo.

President-elect Donald Trump recently sounded off on the still fragile diplomatic relations between the two countries, saying he would scrap the “deal” if Raul Castro doesn’t make big changes in the way he governs. Bluster is not the right approach to the still-evolving relations.

Change of any sort - short of a revolution - comes slowly.

The Cuban government cannot be expected to shift to a democratic republic just because the United States would prefer it. Any real changes in Cuban government will come from within, and the United States can play a quiet, encouraging support role along the way.

Trade and cultural exchanges will do more to improve the lives of ordinary Cubans than threats from Washington. Diplomacy also will improve the bottom lines of American businesses and farmers when trade is normalized.

Staying the course of good relations begun by President Obama will, in time, benefit everyone.

Online:

https://www.decaturdaily.com

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