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Georgia editorial roundup

August 22, 2018

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Aug. 19

Dalton Daily Citizen on the Tasering of an 87-year-old woman in Georgia:

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CNN.

The Washington Post.

And more.

The list of media outlets that have covered the Chatsworth Police Department officer’s Tasering of an 87-year-old woman collecting dandelions with a knife on someone else’s property seems to grow every day. Since the Daily Citizen-News broke the story on Monday, the usual sleepy town of Chatsworth has been in the national — and global — headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The biggest news of the year in Chatsworth often is the annual Wagon Train or a football game between rivals Murray County and North Murray high schools. But now it’s whether the police officer made the right decision to Taser the woman.

Friday, Aug. 10, was a normal day for Martha Al-Bishara. The Chatsworth resident, who is Syrian and speaks limited English, was harvesting dandelions with a knife for a meal. She wandered onto the property of the adjacent Boys & Girls Club. An employee spotted her with a knife and asked her to leave. When she didn’t, the employee called 911. The caller told the operator the woman was ”... old so she can’t get around too well ...”, adding there were no children anywhere near her.

The caller also said ”... She didn’t try to attack anybody or anything. We haven’t closed in our fence in the back yet and she walked through there ...”

When officers, including Chief Josh Etheridge, arrived at the scene they approached Al-Bishara, who still had the knife in her hand. Etheridge drew his gun and pointed it at Al-Bishara. Officer Steven Marshall drew his Taser.

In body cam footage from a third officer, officers are heard ordering Al-Bishara to “Put the knife down! Put the knife down!” and “Stop!” Etheridge refused to release the body cam video but allowed a Daily Citizen-News reporter to view it in the chief’s office.

She did not put down the knife. Marshall eventually Tasered the woman from about five yards away. Al-Bishara was handcuffed, processed at the county jail and charged with criminal trespass and obstruction of an officer, both misdemeanors

Etheridge wholeheartedly defended his officer’s action.

“There was no anger, there was no malice in this,” Etheridge said. “In my opinion, it was the lowest use of force we could have used to simply stop that threat at the time. And I know everyone is going to say, ‘An 87-year-old woman? How big a threat can she be?’ She still had a knife.”

Family members disagreed, maintaining that Al-Bishara, who stands about 5 feet tall, was never a threat.

“You don’t Tase an 87-year-old woman,” said great-nephew Solomon Douhne, a former Dalton Police Department officer. “She was not a threat. If anything, she was confused and didn’t know what was going on. It was a ridiculous turn of events. If three police officers couldn’t handle an 87-year-old woman, you might want to reconsider hanging up your badge.”

Opinions have run high on both sides: to Taser or not to Taser?

We don’t pretend to fully comprehend what it means to serve in law enforcement. Few of us have been in the stressful, high-intensity situations our officers face in the field. Many times the people these officers encounter are erratic, and could harm the officers, themselves or others.

We believe the situation in Chatsworth could have come to a non-violent conclusion. Yes, Al-Bishara was holding a knife. However, she was not a threat to herself, the three officers or anyone else. From the information we’ve gathered, Al-Bishara is a peaceful person who has never ran afoul of the law.

Officers should have allowed the situation to play out longer. They should have used force only as a last resort.

Second guessing is easy. But ask yourself this: in the same situation, would you be fine with police Tasering your 87-year-old grandmother?

Online: http://www.dailycitizen.news/

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Aug. 18

Savannah Morning News says Catholics must demand an end to the culture of secrecy:

Every Catholic understands the seal of confession.

Basically, what’s said in the confessional, stays in the confessional. The man hearing the confession, a priest, is duty-bound never to repeat what is disclosed. Part of church canon, the seal dates to the 12th century.

Keeping secrets is essential to the church’s existence. However, the unintended consequence of this code of silence is the creation of a culture of secrecy and loyalty to an establishment that goes well beyond the confessional.

That must end once and for all. And immediately.

Put bluntly, protecting and enabling pedophiles within the organizational hierarchy is unconscionable. Covering up criminal activity in any form but particularly crimes against children is illegal. Putting abusers in position to commit these heinous acts again is barbarous.

Recent reports that a bishop and other leaders in several Pennsylvania dioceses covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a 70-year period pierce the soul. That the revelation comes some 16 years after disgustingly similar disclosures in Boston hardens the heart.

The Boston scandal ripped away the veil. Long-silent victims came forward. The church implemented programs to raise awareness and educate followers.

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Yet obviously, some in influential church positions were going through the ritual while ignoring the meaning behind it, like a disengaged parishioner attending Mass out of obligation. They never truly repented.

The culture of secrecy and loyalty to the church remains. Hence, a grand jury probe is required to bring the deplorable wrongdoing to light.

Since church leadership refuses to show contrition through action, it falls to those who are part of the faith to lead change. After all, the church is about the people facing the altar, not those standing upon it. Priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and the pope may be ordained by God, but the parishioners are God’s children.

If those leaders won’t do right by every single Catholic, members must stand up for each other.

The Boston scandal and the fallout around the country left the church population in crisis, dividing the community into three groups: practicing Catholics who unequivocally denounced the church’s actions; Catholics who left church; and church apologists.

Far too many of the apologists spoke out following the Boston scandal. They felt the church was being treated much more harshly than other organizations stained by child sexual abuse scandals.

As if the apostles of Jesus shouldn’t be held to the highest of high standards.

Those who left the church did so reluctantly. Faith is a precious treasure. To many, a relationship with God is as essential to their health as eating well and getting enough sleep. Attending Mass and participating in the sacrament of the Eucharist - taking communion - are part of who they are.

Leaving, many say, caused tremendous pain. Real, physical pain. Some switched denominations. Others left for a time only to come back. Still others continue to drift.

Now, the faithful again face troubled consciences. We hope many will resist turning their backs on the church this time and instead demand accountability.

Savannah is a town with a significant Catholic population. If not here, then where? If not us - one of the editorial board members is a practicing Catholic - then who?

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Online: http://www.savannahnow.com/

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Aug. 19

The Augusta Chronicle on food deserts:

In the land of milk and honey and pizza delivery and all-you-can-eat buffets, it’s odd and intolerable and, frankly, a sin that “food deserts” are even possible.

It’s the term for instances where urban and suburban people live more than a mile from a supermarket and rural residents more than 10 miles.

Nor are weight problems among our poor any sort of disproof of the deserts; the truth is, corpulence can even be a perverse confirmation of them: In the absence of a grocery store’s plentiful, affordable, readily-available fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods, a person, a family, and a neighborhood can be beguiled by fat-laden calorie-rich fast food — oases of which seem to pop up where grocers fear to tread.

It’s not just hunger, “food insecurity” or even obesity from unhealthy foods that flow from food deserts. Citing a study on the effects of them, the organization Feeding Northeast Florida writes that “communities who lack access to fresh, healthy foods will likely exhibit increased premature death and chronic health conditions.”

In other words, it’s costing society in health care dollars and deaths.

Georgia, with its many rolling rural areas without grocery stores and poor families without transportation to them, is ninth in the nation for “food hardship” rates, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center.

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Rather than rural isolation, food deserts in the middle of bustling population centers are caused by poverty — which, in turn, is caused largely by the lack of jobs and intact two-parent families. The United Way of the CSRA found in a community needs assessment that the No. 1 social service crisis in Augusta is the challenge presented to single female-headed households.

The crime that is often the stepchild of such conditions no doubt helps ward off the grocers.

It’s a complicated problem that cries out for comprehensive solutions, from healing the family to nurturing education to work training and more. City officials and area activists are also working to find solutions, such as urban gardens and recruitment of grocers to affected areas.

Grocery stores, like any other business, must be free to locate where the customers, infrastructure and safety are. They need prominent intersections with solid traffic count, as well as certain numbers of mouths living within a certain area.

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Online: http://www.augustachronicle.com/

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