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Alabama editorial roundup

June 10, 2014

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

June 9

The Decatur (Alabama) Daily on a cleaner valley:

President Barack Obama, in an attempt to deal with climate change, wants to reduce carbon emissions in the United States 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. His plan, expected to be finalized next year, presents challenges to industry and automobile makers that instead of being insurmountable should be an opportunity for innovation.

Here at home, the Tennessee Valley Authority is quietly going about reducing emissions at its fossil fuel plants, and appears to be well ahead of the president’s timetable.

Officials with the seven-state utility say emissions have been cut 30 percent from 2005 levels, and are projected to be 40 percent below the 2005 level by 2020.

Much of the reduction has been accomplished by closing older fossil plants and by adding natural gas to its power generation profile.

TVA’s plant closures have caused some heartburn in several communities, where jobs have been lost. Officials decided it would be more cost efficient to rely on natural gas generators than to install more expensive scrubbers.

The challenge — and opportunity — that lies ahead is creating reliable green energy to replace more of the fossil fuel-generated energy that is responsible for carbon dioxide emissions, which is blamed for global warming.

The evidence of warming is becoming alarmingly clear with ice melting at the polar caps and temperatures steadily rising.

Not only will green energy provide us with a cleaner, healthier environment, it will open new avenues of economic development and research to meet the demand for clean energy. Some governmental encouragement in the form of research grants and tax incentives would quicken the pace of development.

While TVA can be a frustrating bureaucracy at times, it is commendable the agency has taken the initiative to clean up its act and create a cleaner Valley in which to live.

Online:

http://www.decaturdaily.com

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June 8

The Daily Home, Talladega, Alabama, on Bergdahl:

For the next few weeks — at least until something else shiny distracts the nation — the case of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will serve as a national Rorschach test.

One set of Americans will look at the details surrounding the soldier, who until last weekend had been held captive by the Taliban since 2009, and see a man worthy of scorn and perhaps military court martial.

Other Americans will examine how the Obama administration went about freeing Bergdahl and see a president who gave too much to the United States’ enemies in exchange for a soldier who may have deserted his unit.

Other Americans will despair at the larger picture in Afghanistan, one that captures a U.S. invasion and 13-year occupation that places huge strains on U.S. soldiers and their families.

Still others will defend the president for doing what he can to fulfill the promise to never leave a man behind.

At this early stage, the facts are few amid the rumors, innuendo and political grandstanding.

The New York Times reported Thursday that a military report alleged Bergdahl “had wandered away from assigned areas before — both at a training range in California and at his remote outpost in Afghanistan — and then returned, according to people briefed on it.”

In order to gain Bergdahl’s freedom, the United States released five members of the Taliban from the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

We’d like to think there are other Americans who will hold their judgment on Bergdahl and this episode until more is known.

Until more facts are established, we hope they will keep in mind the words of Mark Twain, who once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

Online:

http://www.dothaneagle.com

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June 6

Anniston (Alabama) Star on state’s prison problem:

By almost any measure, Alabama’s prisons are among America’s worst.

They are under-funded, a historical cancer caused by a long list of legislators and governors who didn’t tackle the problem when it was manageable.

Overcrowding is rampant. They’re currently at 192 percent capacity, the worst rate in the nation.

The prison system and the state Legislature’s prison oversight committee say they’ve made improvements at Julia Tutwiler Prison, but that facility, which houses female inmates, carries a dark and damaged reputation following repeated reports of abuse and sexual harassment over the last decade. Alabamians shouldn’t be shocked that the Department of Justice is investigating the state’s prisons, which face the real danger of being taken over by the federal government unless substantive changes are made.

Earlier this week, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas told reporters that those who say nothing has been done about the problems at the state’s prisons, particularly Tutwiler, are being “shortsighted” with their views. “It’s not a thorough review of our history,” Thomas said.

We’ll leave that debate for a later date.

But give the commissioner credit — he also placed much of the blame squarely on the shoulders of Montgomery lawmakers who refuse to do what’s necessary to stem this tide of prison dysfunction.

“I’ve told the Legislature the past two years that just getting by is not good enough,” Thomas said. “We’ve treaded this water as long as we possibly can. We do it cheaper than almost anywhere in the country and that’s not something I’m proud of.”

It is, at its heart, typical fare for the Alabama Legislature.

Montgomery’s miserliness has hampered Thomas and his predecessors for years. Prison reform and facility upgrades aren’t cheap. And the state’s efforts to reduce the prison population through alternative-sentencing programs haven’t made a significant difference considering how overcrowded the facilities are in the first place.

All this is made worse by the Republicans’ small-government, cut-cut-cut mentality under the leadership of Gov. Robert Bentley. What Alabama’s prisons need are politicians willing to consider new revenue streams to help pay the debt that comes with such an appalling need for reform. The drips and drabs of small budget increases aren’t the solution.

Alabama’s lawmakers have created this problem. If they don’t fix it, Washington will. And it won’t be pretty.

Online:

http://www.annistonstar.com

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