- Associated Press - Saturday, June 18, 2016

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New England newspapers:

The Hartford Courant (Conn.), June 14, 2016

A question being asked in the heart-wrenching aftermath of the Orlando, Fla., mass murder is: Could a civilian with a gun inside the nightclub have stopped the tragedy before dozens were killed?

It’s a question worth discussing, especially because Connecticut has experienced a number of nightclub shootings and it helps illuminate a gray area in the national debate over guns: In whom should we put our trust? In police? Security guards? Or the public?

Florida’s gun laws - described by the Wall Street Journal as “some of the friendliest laws for gun owners in the nation” - allow concealed-carry permits but restrict the places where people may carry guns. Those include nightclubs, or any establishment that serves alcohol, as well as schools and courts.

Orlando has had a number of nightclub shootings in recent months, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In February, two people were killed and 10 injured in a nightclub shooting sparked by a gang feud.

On Monday morning, the “Connecticut Carry” advocacy group distributed a statement arguing that laws that restrict people from carrying guns in certain public places essentially turn those places into soft targets for people bent on destruction. “Disarming people only enables this kind of bloodshed,” its statement reads.

It’s a point worth considering.

But how often do armed civilians stop shootings from happening or halt those in progress?

Law Professor Eugene Volokh, writing in the Washington Post last fall, cited a lack of a centralized national database cataloging such incidents but still comes up with 10 since 1997 in which a civilian with a gun seems to have made a difference. Recent examples include an Uber driver in Chicago who shot a man who had “opened fire on a crowd of people” and a man in a Philadelphia barber shop with a concealed carry permit who shot a man who had “opened fire on customers and barbers.”

Of the 160 “active shooter” incidents identified by the FBI from 2000 to 2013, “at least 107 (66.9 ended before police arrived and could engage the shooter, either because a citizen intervened, the shooter fled, or the shooter committed suicide or was killed by someone at the scene.”

In only five of those incidents, however, did the shooting end “after armed individuals who were not law enforcement personnel exchanged gunfire with the shooters.” In 21 incidents, unarmed citizens “safely and successfully restrained the shooter.”

So there are situations where armed civilians have kept bad situations from getting worse, but very few, especially considering the many shootings every year in a nation awash with guns. The New York Times estimates that there is one shooting a day in the U.S. that leaves four or more people wounded or dead.

There are also many incidents where the presence of good guys with guns did not stop the carnage, detailed in part in a 2015 Politico story.

Connecticut has seen a number of nightclub shootings since 2013 that wounded at least 11 people and killed at least three. There have been no reports of armed Good Samaritans stopping the assailants. In a Stamford shooting in which five people were injured, the shooter had a gun permit.

Even so, Connecticut Carry believes the presence of armed civilians in nightclubs is an asset. In its statement Monday, the group noted its resistance to a new law passed this year that lowers the legal blood-alcohol limit for carrying a loaded firearm from 0.1 percent to 0.08 percent.

“That is a rather significant encroachment for anyone that wants to go out and have a good time, enjoying alcohol, but also wants to be able to defend themselves,” according to the group’s statement.

Mixing alcohol and guns is obviously a dangerous proposition in any scenario. But in nightclubs, it seems a recipe for spilling blood rather than saving lives.

The evidence seems to show that armed civilians - especially those who have been drinking - are not always reliable defenders of the peace.




The Portland Press Herald (Maine), June 16, 2016

A child’s brain undergoes a staggering amount of development in the first five years of life, affecting future success in ways we are only beginning to understand. This newfound knowledge has led to the proliferation of preschool programs aimed at making sure children are ready - socially, emotionally and cognitively - for kindergarten, regardless of where they live or who their parents are.

That’s a positive development for everyone concerned with the well-being of the nation’s next generation, or with the challenges of building a 21st-century workforce.

But if we are to truly reap the dividends of early childhood education, it must be valued and supported in a way that is now rare.

Nationwide, early learning teachers and caregivers - even those with a bachelor’s degree or higher - earn only slightly more than half as much as kindergarten teachers. In every state, the median pay for child-care workers would qualify for food stamps with a family of three, and in 32 states the median income would put the worker in poverty.

(Maine falls somewhere in middle of the 50 states, paying child-care workers and preschool teachers on average slightly more than the national median.)

That’s hardly a winning plan to recruit the best teachers, and while there is still much to learn about creating effective preschool programs, this much is clear - they work best when overseen by dedicated, engaged and creative instructors.

That’s hard to maintain when the best instructors are opting to teach higher grades instead, or are dealing with the disruptive influences of poverty in their own lives.

Indeed, according to an analysis by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California at Berkeley, programs with higher wages and less turnover spend more time engaged in the kind of positive and developmentally appropriate activities that give kids the skills and knowledge they need to do well once in school.

The stakes are high. Throughout the country, children from low-income families are falling behind their peers, almost from birth.

Children build a vocabulary based on interactions with their parents and other adults, and by the age of 3, because of parental involvement and education level, higher-income kids have heard some 30 million more words than their lower-income counterparts.

What’s more, vocabulary at age 3 has been shown to predict third-grade reading achievement, itself a major predictor of future success.

The long-term impact is remarkable. According to the Maine Early Learning Investment Group, a full-time early education program from birth to kindergarten would help low-income students begin school on par with their peers, and could raise high school graduation rates for low-income students by 18 percentage points.

With a quarter of Maine children under 5 living in poverty, and the achievement gap between them and their peers widening, those results cannot be ignored.

To make sure they apply in Maine, we have to fund early childhood education at a level that matches its importance. It is not simply babysitting. Children under 5 are sponges. What they see, hear and feel during those formative years changes their brain, for better or worse, and determines how they will learn, interact and deal with adversity throughout their lives.

Those influences should be beneficial, and when a young child is away from his parents, they should be provided by well-trained, effective educators.




The (Worcester) Telegram & Gazette (Mass.), June 14, 2016

Once again, the nation is horror-struck at the specter of terrorism on our shores, perpetrated this time in Orlando, Fla., by another home-grown extremist targeting a minority group in a brutal act reminiscent of the shootings in Charleston. While never technically charged as terrorism there, the U.S. attorney general eventually did brand the South Carolina church killings an act of domestic terror.

Once again communities and a nation - New York in 2001, Boston three years ago, Charleston last year, and San Bernardino six months ago - come together in solidarity and support, this time for members of the LGBT community struck down in Orlando while partying at a gay nightclub. At least 49 people were killed, and more than 50 were wounded in the early Sunday morning attack. Our hearts go out to the victims, and already, the words Orlando Strong have begun to echo the Boston Strong solidarity of 2013.

It was an attack on America and what we stand for, including our pluralistic values. This attack against all of us also emerged as a Rorschach test involving our nation’s most consequential concerns and deepest fears. Our search for answers combines a war on terror that refuses to go away, a gun control debate reemerging with each mass shooting, the rights of the LGBT community that continue to reverberate across the country, and mental health issues that are always with us.

As much as President Obama may have sought to minimize it in the past, we are engaged in a war against a virulent strain of radical Islamic terrorists who have perverted Islam’s core value into a nihilistic death cult that for now has supplanted al-Qaida as our nation’s and the world’s most dangerous enemy. The Bush administration opened this Pandora’s Box in invading Iraq. The Obama administration allowed ISIS to take root in the vacuum created by the administration’s eagerness to declare the mission over and leave Iraq to its inept leadership, and then again with its reluctance to intervene in the chaos of Syria. ISIS has combined traditional warfare taken to brutal extremes with sophisticated social media strategies to recruit adherents and inspire attacks across the globe. In a twisted form of Islam, gay people are thrown from the tops of buildings, women are enslaved, girls are killed for the crime of attending school. ISIS tortures and heinously kills anyone - mostly other Muslims in the Mideast, actually - for not practicing their particular sect.

Omar Mateen, the Orlando terrorist who was born and bred in America, was interviewed by the FBI twice and even made it onto a terrorist watch list for a time. He swore fealty to ISIS in a 911 call just before the attack. But according to Professor Feyzi R. Bagirov, founding director of data science at Becker College, who has tracked how social media is used by ISIS, the killer has also expressed sympathies for Hezbollah. ISIS and Hezbollah are at war with each other, an indication of a confused and likely self-made terrorist.

Also caught up in the Orlando fallout is the gun control debate, and a killer with at least some security concerns and an apparent history of mental instability, according to Mr. Bagirov. The killer had worked as a security guard and also legally acquired his weapons.

The LGBT victims tragically targeted at the crowded gay nightclub are the subject of the nation’s sympathies and sorrow. Their rights in marriage were only recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court a year ago this month. Transgender rights are still being fought state-to-state, infamously in North Carolina, and most recently in Massachusetts, where transgender rights in public accommodations have yet to be formally codified - the recently approved state House and Senate versions are being reconciled before going to Gov. Charles D. Baker Jr. The killer’s father reportedly said his son had become upset when he saw two men kissing, although reports are emerging of a potentially more personal involvement.

Mental health issues also play a role. The killer’s former wife, who reportedly was rescued from her marriage by her parents, had said that he was bipolar and could explode in a rage and beat her with no provocation except whatever grievance was playing in his head.

Debates, particularly in a presidential election year unlike any other, have already begun. We need to keep in mind this was an attack against all of us, our freedoms and the pluralism at the core of our identity in which we are not defined by ethnicity, or national origin, or religion. Cool heads and a willingness to work together will be our greatest challenge and surest path to resolution.




The (Lebanon) Valley News (N.H.), June 13, 2016

It now appears all but certain that Hillary Clinton is one election away from attaining the glittering prize that eluded her eight years ago. It is a signal moment for her and in the life of the nation: For the first time, a woman is on the verge of capturing the presidential nomination of a major political party.

As staff writer Rob Wolfe reported last week, after Clinton had secured sufficient delegates to become the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, her achievement resonated deeply with women in public life in the Twin States, especially those of her generation. “This has been a long transition, a long journey, to get to where we are,” said state Rep. Sharon Nordgren of Hanover. “… . Here we are. We’ve arrived.”

In making the journey to the brink of nomination, Clinton fended off a determined and inspired challenge from the left in the person of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. In doing so, she displayed the persistence and discipline that are the signature attributes of her public life, as well as displaying a mastery of policy and process that President Obama alluded to in endorsing her last Thursday. “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” said the president, whom Clinton served as secretary of state.

Clinton has struck a blow for equality of opportunity, but it’s now up to her to make the most of that opportunity. Should she fail to defeat Donald Trump, probably the least qualified candidate ever to become a major party nominee, the milestone, while noteworthy, will become a mere historical footnote. Obama’s pledge to campaign enthusiastically for her is one important step toward ensuring victory.

Nothing in our experience over 25 years leads us to think that Sanders himself would allow any personal resentment to get in the way of defeating Trump, who is almost the perfect plutocratic foil for his democratic populism. But getting his supporters - younger and more independent-minded than party regulars - on board is going to require more than just respectful treatment by Clinton. She will need to make concessions both on policy matters and the presidential nominating process to channel the energy of Sanderistas into her campaign.

The other key to victory will be to avoid making the election a personal referendum on her and Trump. Tempting as it will be to expose him as the charlatan he is, Trump excels at that kind of mud wrestling, and Clinton carries sufficient baggage of her own to render reliance on such a strategy extremely risky. In a year when popular sentiment seems to favor overthrowing the established order, Clinton’s task is to stamp her brand of incremental progressivism on the broader electorate. It is who she is, and what her life’s work has been about.




The Providence Journal (R.I.), June 17, 2016

In November, barring unexpected developments, Donald Trump’s supporters will ask voters to elect the former real-estate mogul and reality TV star president of the United States. One of their key arguments is that he is an experienced dealmaker, accustomed to triumphing in high-risk, high-reward transactions.

But the record says otherwise.

Mr. Trump’s foray into the casino and hotel business in Atlantic City, perhaps the most high-profile of his business ventures, was a disaster for nearly everyone - except, as it turned out, for Mr. Trump. Creditors were stiffed, shareholders lost value, businesses were shut down, people were embittered: There is simply no way to regard them as successful deals.

It is clear from the record, as The New York Times described in excruciating detail in a June 11 story (“How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions”), that Mr. Trump overpaid for properties, misjudged the value of his assets, assumed crippling levels of debt, shifted risks (and losses) to investors, took what was determined to be an illegal loan from his father to make an installment payment, sought protection in bankruptcy court four times and enriched himself by pulling money out of his operations, even as his casinos under-performed against their competition and failed to turn in even one profitable year.

Steven Perskie, New Jersey’s former top casino regulator, told the Times that Trump’s failure to pay his bills put contractors and suppliers out of business. “So when he left Atlantic City, it wasn’t, ‘Sorry to see you go.’ It was, ‘How fast can you get the hell out of here?’”

And Mr. Trump’s take?

“Atlantic City is a disaster, and I did great in Atlantic City,” Mr. Trump declared during one of the Republican debates. And in an interview later, he added, “The money I took out of there was incredible.”

I did great. That says it all about Mr. Trump.

He and some portion of his wealth survived the bankruptcy filings, the lawsuits and the public condemnations. In fact, he more than survived: He parlayed the wreckage of his bets on the casino business into a continuing if undeserved reputation as a shrewd businessman. And enough Republican primary voters - a record number, in fact - bought it to make him the presumptive nominee for the presidency.

It has become nearly impossible to reconcile the failures of Mr. Trump the businessman with the startling successes of Mr. Trump, the politician. It is an unbalanced equation that cries out for a great reckoning.

It is past time for some innocent to declare, as in the fable: “But he’s not wearing any clothes at all.”

It is up to voters in the general election - if not delegates to the Republican convention - to recognize that is true.




The Bennington Banner (Vt.), June 15, 2016

Let us, for one moment, put aside the pro- and anti-gun arguments that proliferate on social media, around the water cooler and on barstools across the country following mass shootings, and instead try to look a little deeper than interpreting symptoms as causes.

First and foremost, we are fortunate to live in a region of the country where gay and lesbian couples have been afforded the same protections and advantages given to same-sex couples. In most of the Northeast, many LGBTQ people can walk down the street, holding hands or expressing their own unique gender identity without fear of attack, whether that be verbal or physical. Granted, this is not always true in every community, but the Northeast has been leading the way when it comes to accepting people who were for too long forced into the shadows.

Unfortunately, this is not always true in other parts of the country, as witnessed in Florida this past weekend. And by labeling it Islamic terrorism, many people who have been hostile towards the LGBTQ community are attempting to disconnect this savagery from the treatment of LGBTQ people in the United States as a whole, treatment for which they have often advocated. That is disingenuous at best, and hypocritical in truth.

“He targeted the gay community because of the views that exist in the radical Islamic community about the gay community,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, who left out some very pertinent information - that he has opposed public-accommodations protections for LGBT Americans.

As Mark Joseph Stern, writing for Slate, noted, “As a party, after all, the GOP has spent decades attempting to degrade sexual minorities and even drive them out of public life.” Stern noted that not a single congressional Republican who tweeted about the shooting mentioned LGBTQ people.

Chad Griffin, the head of the Human Rights Coalition, argued “The maniac who did this was somehow conditioned to believe that LGBT people deserve to be massacred. And he wasn’t just hearing these messages from ISIL. He was hearing it from politicians and radical anti-LGBT extremists here in our own country. Every time we see legislation that puts a target on the back of LGBT people; every time a preacher spews hate from the pulpit; every time a county clerk says that acknowledging our relationships violates her ‘religious beliefs’ it sends a signal that LGBT people should be treated differently, and worse.”

Mara Keisling, the head of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said this kind of rhetoric creates a culture of fear. “People are calling us predators. It is not surprising that some unstable people are going to think something of that.”

According to the FBI, crimes based on race accounted for 46 percent of hate crimes committed in 2014. The second-most common reason was sexual orientation and religion, tied at 18.6 percent.

The attack on the nightclub is just one of many that have occurred at spaces deigned to be safe for the LGBTQ community, though admittedly, not as deadly. “And it’s a reminder of the animus against LGBT people that still exists, and the ever present danger with which we still live,” wrote Michelangelo Signorile, for the Huffington Post.

Since this horrific act, there has been evidence offered that the killer was actually gay himself, but it’s not surprising that he might have been a self-loathing homosexual, given the nature of the homophobic environment he was raised in, both at home and in the community at large. He was a product of toxic masculinity, noted Slate’s Amanda Marcotte, which “aspires to toughness but is, in fact, an ideology of living in fear: The fear of ever seeming soft, tender, weak, or somehow less than manly.”

And if there is anything we have learned over the years, it’s that toxic masculinity is prevalent in many societies - not just Islamic, such as in Afghanistan, but right here at home.

“There’s a lot of pressure in our society for males to conform to a masculine ideal,” wrote an anonymous gay man on a social media site. “Gay men especially feel this pressure. As kids we are told to man up, stop being a sissy. We feel immense pressure to conform, to pass as straight. It translates to cruelty that we perpetuate on our own community. On dating apps, we see the same profiles, clearly indicating that anything else is lesser.”

To blame the killer’s religion, or to classify it as “Islamic terrorism,” leaves out a vital component: Islam is not the only religion that condemns homosexuality as deviant behavior worthy of death, and Islamic societies are not the only ones contaminated by toxic masculinity. Our nation’s own history with mass shootings, domestic violence and gang warfare should be proof enough. So rather than blame the availability of guns and the distortions of religion (which do play a role in this violence), let’s examine the true roots - how men are expected to think, act, feel and behave and what happens when some of those men can’t attain the supposed ideal.




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