- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

Victoria Advocate. Feb. 18, 2018.

It’s bad enough when national politicians toss around the term “fake news” like a hand grenade with the pin pulled.

Everyone ducks for cover, even though this device is a big, fat dud. Such explosive language does nothing to further communication or understanding.

What’s even worse is when this ridiculous rhetoric seeps into local discourse. Sadly, the Victoria Sheriff’s Office chose this line of attack recently about a Victoria Advocate news story.

Newspapers and other media certainly are fair game for criticism, but it’s meaningless to do so using propaganda tactics. A basic step propagandists take is to confuse people by abusing the English language.

“Fake news” is today’s weapon of choice. Politicians toss it around about every news story that they don’t like or that casts them in an unfavorable light. However, that is not at all the correct definition of fake news.

Rather, fake news is fabricated content that intentionally masquerades as news coverage of actual events. This is done for political gain, for amusement or for profit.

What is it not then? Fake news is not created by legitimate news organizations. It is not done by reporters who adhere to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.

It definitely is not done by your locally-and family-owned newspaper, which has built its reputation for credible and trusted journalism across 172 years of serving this community. We’re not perfect, by any means, but we’re from here and for here, as our slogan goes. You can walk into our offices in downtown Victoria to talk to a real person about any concerns you have. You can’t do that with fake news posted on bogus sites linked to on Facebook.

If you think an Advocate news story is incorrect or unfair, we will listen. We will publish a correction if we did make a mistake. We will publish letters to the editor and guest columns from those who disagree.

All legitimate news organizations behave in this manner. More than ever, news consumers need to understand this key difference from what they see on social media.

On your Facebook “news” feed, fake news flourishes. It could be as seemingly harmless as your crazy uncle sharing his latest conspiracy theory from nutsrus.com, or as sinister as an anonymous lie posted to damage a political opponent on the eve of the election.

In the good old days - before Facebook addled everyone’s brains - people agreed on what fabricated content was and what it wasn’t. People could have conversations based on a shared understanding of the facts.

These days, people hide in their dark echo chambers, coming out only to shout at others equally misinformed from the other side. The only winners in this war are incivility and ignorance.

That’s sad and troubling at the national level. It’s downright absurd in our hometown, where we should be able to talk with our neighbors and work out any differences.

The Advocate story in question was about the sheriff’s office media consultant, who has been paid almost $50,000 a year without any contract or job description. The sheriff’s office was given ample time to comment for the story but chose not to do so. Instead, two days after the story published, the sheriff’s office used its Facebook page for a rambling post that didn’t challenge the validity of any of the facts in the story. Above this straw-man post blared four big red words: “Fake news strikes again.”

None of this is necessary. None of this advances the public’s understanding. Public officials might not like the news coverage they receive, but that doesn’t make it fake news.

We all live, work and play here. We ought to be able to rise above the poor example set by national politicians.

If we don’t, we may wake up one day and find we have lost our grip on our values, our way of life and our democracy. Shouting fake news about journalism shakes the foundation of our Constitution.


Houston Chronicle. Feb. 18, 2018.

In the wake of this nation’s most recent mass shooting - as of this writing, we hasten to add - it’s easy to identify with the anguish and frustration of a former FBI senior intelligence adviser named Phil Mudd. A CNN counterterrorism analyst these days, Mudd broke down on the air Feb. 14 as he and CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer discussed the massacre that had occurred moments earlier at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“A child of God is dead,” Mudd reminded Blitzer. “Cannot we acknowledge in this country that we cannot accept this?” he asked, choking back tears.

“I can’t do it, Wolf,” he added, breaking down. “I’m sorry. I can’t do it.”

For Mudd, for many Americans, what happened last week, yet again, was literally unspeakable. At least 17 children of God - high-school kids, a beloved assistant football coach, a 35-year-old geography teacher - lost their lives in an instant, their fragile bodies torn and riddled by high-velocity bullets emerging at supersonic speed from a military-style assault rifle wielded by a fearsomely troubled teenager who had no trouble acquiring guns. Who wouldn’t be reduced to tears and stunned silence by what happened, by what continues to happen week after week, month after month across America?

The silence is understandable, yes - but also unacceptable, as Mudd would doubtless acknowledge. We must speak the unspeakable, listen to those among us who summon the strength to rage against the insanity we have come to tolerate.

Listen to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, whose triplets graduated from the Parkland school, speaking at a candlelight vigil: “If you’re an elected official, and you want to keep things the way they are, and not do things differently, if you want to keep the gun laws as they are now, you will not get re-elected in Broward County.”

Israel also appeared on MSNBC and urged politicians to do “what is in the best interest of our children.”

Listen, and watch - if you can bear it - as Lori Ahaldeff screams into a CNN microphone and with tears streaming down her face begs President Trump to act. Her 14-year-old daughter, her smiling, dark-haired Alyssa, was one of the 17 who no longer exists on this earth.

“President Trump, please do something! Do something,” Alhadeff shouted. “Action! We need it now! These kids need safety now!”

With that, an anguished mother went off to bury her child.

Listen to the children - not only those who gathered at vigils in Florida and chanted “No more guns!” but also to young people around the country who simply cannot fathom a deadly and uniquely American absurdity that their elders, for whatever dark reasons, will not address.

According to a recent survey, 78 percent of millennials believe it is too easy to purchase a gun; 59 percent believe that gun violence would decrease if regulations were strengthened. Someday - and it can’t come too soon - those large majorities will prevail.

Americans young and not so young know what needs to be done. In fact, a large majority of Americans support sensible gun-regulation measures. They include banning the sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as prohibiting bump stocks - remember bump stocks? - and other modifications that produce faster rates of fire. They include instituting universal background checks for gun and ammunition buyers, barring gun sales to all violent criminals and those deemed dangerous by mental-health professionals. They also include creating a centralized record of gun purchases and requiring all gun owners to be licensed just as all drivers are.

The National Rifle Association would like Americans to believe otherwise, but the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that the Second Amendment, while guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms, is not absolute. It was that screaming liberal, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who held in District of Columbia v. Heller that regulation of gun ownership was compatible with the Second Amendment.

As Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson notes, “We don’t allow private citizens to own surface-to-air missiles capable of downing an airliner, so why do we let them allow own assault rifles designed not to shoot targets or game but to kill human beings in large numbers?”

A child of God is dead. More will die unless we the American people act.

If you’re a Texan, and your governor runs a campaign image of a revolver (a machine designed to kill) nestled against a Bible, vote him out; there’s no place in this state for such an obscenity. If you’re a Floridian, and you have a governor and U.S. senator so craven that they can’t even mention the phrase “gun control” in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, vote them out; they’re in thrall to the NRA, not to the people they purport to represent. If you’re an American, and you have a president who, in his public utterance about last week’s school massacre, relies on tired nostrums about mental health and never mentions guns, vote him out. (He’s the same president, by the way, who signed a bill last year revoking an Obama-era initiative that made it harder for people with a mental illness to acquire a gun.)

In the face of the unspeakable, it’s time to speak out. Time to vote. Time to shake off the stranglehold of the NRA and its lackeys who purport to represent us. All God’s children are watching, waiting.


Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Feb. 20, 2018.

We’re encouraged that District Attorney Mark Gonzalez has declared domestic violence a priority. The overwhelming response to our stories about the death of Leann Torres shows that it’s the communitywide priority it deserves to be.

Now we’d like to see the police and sheriff’s departments join Gonzalez; District Judge Inna Klein, who volunteered to take on domestic violence cases as a specialty after studying the issue extensively; victims’ advocates; and the community at large in an overt effort to address domestic violence.

We urge Sheriff Jim Kaelin, Police Chief Mike Markle and their staffs to engage the community in ways similar to what we saw earlier this week from Gonzalez and First Assistant DA Matt Manning, when they reached out to Del Mar College cosmetology students.

Those students can make a real difference because of the career they have chosen. Cosmetologists see what’s under the makeup.

Enlisting cosmetologists against domestic violence is an innovative program, known as Cut it Out, begun by previous DA Mark Skurka. Gonzalez expanded it to reach students in addition to practicing cosmetologists. When those students become cosmetologists, looking for signs of abuse and offering help to the customer will be part of their routine rather than something new to add to a to-do list.

It was perceptive of Gonzalez and his staff to recognize that this ounce of outreach will be worth a pound of prosecuting.

What the cosmetology students learned and will incorporate as practicing cosmetologists will make a difference. It’s just a tragedy that it won’t make a difference for 24-year-old Torres, whose sister says she loved makeup.

Torres died Feb. 1 from what the medical examiner determined to be strangulation. Her boyfriend, Steven Urias, has been arrested on suspicion of murder. He has admitted to hitting and choking her four days before her death. It was part of an established pattern of abuse. Urias was convicted in 2016 of misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury for running over Torres’ arm with a car.

Torres was in and out of Dallas-area hospitals with a variety of abuse-related injuries before moving to Corpus Christi with her two children, ages 7 and 2. She made that move without Urias, whose pretext for rejoining her was his desire to spend time with his children.

This is where we stop to say, emphatically, how inappropriate it is to ask “Why didn’t she just leave?” - and not only because Torres did leave.

Asking why a victim doesn’t leave her abuser isn’t a prelude for helping. More often than not it’s a rhetorical question, and it actually helps perpetuate the problem. The most dangerous time for a victim who leaves is when she leaves. That should be a universally known fact by now - so well known that it begs the question: Why ask why she didn’t just leave?

There are myriad reasons victims don’t just leave, starting and ending with fear - fear of violence; fear for one’s children; fear of economic destitution, leading to a gradual loss of self-esteem and control over one’s life.

“Why doesn’t she leave?” is a judgmental prelude to washing one’s hands of a problem that is all of ours, everywhere, because it crosses all social strata and affects people of all education and income levels. Victims don’t hear “Why don’t you just leave?” as a question. It’s a signal to them that the person asking isn’t there to help. It drives them further into their abusers’ arms.

The new crop of cosmetologists will know, when they see what’s under the makeup, that leaving likely isn’t easy for the customer in the chair. The best thing about Cut it Out is that it shows how this is not just a police and prosecutors’ responsibility. Nor is it just the responsibility of cosmetologists.


Denton Record-Chronicle. Feb. 20, 2018.

The gun-rights crowd and their antagonists, the gun-control crowd, have staked out their positions during the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

One side argues that we need to ban assault-style firearms like the one Nikolas Cruz used to kill 17 high school students in Parkland. The other side asserts that banning a firearm will do no good and would violate America’s commitment to freedom.

Let’s set that debate aside for the time being and focus on what it means to be miserable and how misery produces ferocity.

Cruz is an oddball, a loser and a loner. Before he was expelled from high school, he suffered bullying, ostracism and ridicule at the hands of fellow students.

“This kid got bullied a lot,” said one student who knew Cruz at school. “I definitely regret not saying anything.”

Psychotic violence became the offspring of Cruz’s inner turmoil.

We’ve all known kids who get bullied at school, or we’ve been one of those kids who suffered silently while being bullied.

Middle school and high school principals and teachers know the students who are victimized by bullies on their campuses. It’s too easy for busy educators to dismiss bullying as a rite of passage that will always be with us.

Whoever coined the advice, “See something, say something,” deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. The antithesis is the devil-may-care, “This, too, shall pass.”

While the National Rifle Association and its opponents debate gun laws, the myriad professional associations dedicated to public school improvement should be planning a nationwide, or statewide, blue-ribbon conference on school shootings.

But the conference must focus on prevention and not just on how to respond to an active shooter on campus. We have to get better at identifying and tracking the Nik Cruz’s in the world before they start shooting.

There is no single solution to preventing tragedy. The number of variables that come into play is mind-boggling, and everyone has a favorite to explain things - violent video games, bullying, lax gun laws, rejection of church and God and rampant divorce.

For teachers and principals, the key to progress is finding out who on campus is miserable and intervene in their lives before misery turns into ferocity.


The Dallas Morning News. Feb. 20, 2018.

If you viewed voting as simply putting numbers on a scoreboard - for your team or against the other guy’s - this might not matter much to you. But you seek a higher standard. That’s why you’re here.

And that’s why political candidates - especially those asking you to return them to office - owe you the courtesy, if nothing else, of giving your questions and concerns thoughtful consideration and response.

The Dallas Morning News, along with other publications across the state and nation, takes its role in this process seriously. That’s why we provide a forum for candidates seeking office to step into the spotlight and submit to questions we are asking on behalf of you, the voter.

The newspaper isn’t the only place for candidates to give voters a good look at them; politicians can also make themselves available for public examination at events such as town halls and news conferences.

But often, editorial board interviews are the best venue because they provide both an open and fair setting as well as tough questions that push politicians beyond talking points. And in some races, newspapers are the only avenue of information.

This public disclosure is a critical wheel in democracy’s inner workings, with learning that goes both ways in the interviews. As we considered about 200 candidates in 75 races on the March 6 primary ballot, we certainly gained a lot of knowledge. We hope you, the reader, did too.

The vast majority of those vying for office sat down with us, including many whom we’ve long criticized. Among those who chose not to attend this year were U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Attendance at these meetings is just one of many factors that make up our decisions. For instance, although Gov. Greg Abbott also did not meet with our board, we nonetheless recommended him in his GOP primary.

As the first round of voting begins in this jam-packed election year, we pledge to continue to put that bright spotlight on candidates. There are many things voters want to know from the men and women seeking office. You have questions; you deserve answers.

When politicians refuse to field those questions, they are telling you that they don’t care what you want to know. Oh, they still want your vote, but they are less interested in earning it.

Candidates will have more interview opportunities in 2018, as runoffs and the general election ensue. All of them would be wise to remember the “invisible” voters of 2016 - angry and frustrated with government because they felt ignored and unrepresented.

Politicians can rebuild that public trust by going the extra mile when it comes to public scrutiny. Engaging in interviews designed to spotlight their positions is one key way to show the voters of North Texas that candidates understand who holds the power in a democracy.

Early voting is underway and runs through March 2. Election Day is March 6.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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