Alabama editorial roundup
The Associated Press
Jul. 12, 2018
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Cullman Times cautions paying attention to hot temperatures:
The hot, humid days of summer are creating a sweltering oven outdoors, which is typical for north Alabama.
What shouldn't be typical is leaving children or pets unattended in an automobile for any amount of time. Sadly, that happens, from Alabama to untold points across the country.
An example of such cruel, thoughtless behavior was tragically illustrated this month when an Alabama woman who police say left a dog in a hot car for as long as seven hours was charged with felony animal cruelty. Rescuers broke the window out of the car, which was in a Walmart parking lot while the woman shopped. Their efforts were too late and the dog died.
A case in Texas recently was reported when a child was left in a car by its mother and died. Again, felony charges were made in the case.
As the weather heats up, each year reports surface of children and animals being left in cars with temperatures climbing rapidly above 100 degrees. For the victims, the situation is akin to being in an oven resulting in death or long-term injury.
To put the matter into perspective, Car Pro provides the following facts on the rise of temperatures inside a car on just an 80-degree day:
10 minutes equals 19 degree increase
20 minutes equals 29 degree increase
30 minutes equals 34 degree increase
1 hour equals 43 degree increase
More than 1 hour equals 45 to 55 degree increase
In only 30 minutes, the inside temperature of a car will reach 114 degrees when the outside temperature is 80. Parking in shade does little to alter the heat buildup. And a body core temperature of 107 degrees is typically fatal, which means leaving a person or pet inside a car is a deadly act.
Children and pets typically cannot escape a vehicle. Intending to run inside a store for a few minutes is a deadly mistake and irresponsible.
Summer, particularly in the South, is just plain hot. Much of the nation has experienced an extended heatwave over the past week and that trend will not let up across north Alabama for a few months.
Vehicle deaths of this nature causes outrage and keeps us asking how can they happen? And the excuse we often hear that "I forgot they were in the vehicle" is ridiculous.
As summer rolls along, be vigilant. Not only should we always be aware of children and pets left unattended in vehicles, but we also need to check on elderly neighbors who have limited resources to stay cool. Assistance is often available.
And, one more reminder, summer outdoor activities are plentiful, but monitor yourself, stay hydrated with plenty of water or sports drinks and enjoy the sun and heat in moderation - do not become a summertime statistic.
The Gadsden Times on what should be done with students who are accused of making terrorist threats:
How big a hammer should be brought down when a person who hasn't fully matured does something utterly stupid and completely disruptive — but ultimately harmless?
That topic is percolating in Alabama right now after a rash of "terrorist threats" made by students, most of them under 18, following the Valentine's Day shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
We put that term in quotation marks to emphasize that we're using Title 13A, Section 10-15 of the Alabama Criminal Code to specifically define it. The whole thing can be found at https://bit.ly/2MYVlLO. Summary version: Someone who threatens a crime of violence and damage of property by intentionally or recklessly terrorizing a person, disrupts a school or causes a public building to be evacuated, with the intent to retaliate against someone who's a witness in a judicial proceeding or has provided information on criminal activities to law enforcement or legal authorities, commits the Class C felony of making a "terrorist threat."
AL.com recently reported that 46 students have faced discipline, most likely in the juvenile court system, for threats that have been labeled as "terrorist" since the Parkland massacre, in which 17 students and staff members were killed and the same number injured.
No way are we advocating ignoring such threats. That can't happen, period.
No way are we advocating leniency for those blockheads. Yes, we're using an insult against those kids; they more than earned the label.
It's not like violators are being tossed into dungeons or taken to Death Row. Juvenile judges generally — and wisely — look at things case by case in these situations and consider whether it was a momentary lapse in reason or part of a pattern of misbehavior. Violators could get probation and a stern lecture, or a trip to juvenile detention or a boot camp.
However, some attorneys insist the definition of "terrorist threat" in the Alabama Code is vague, broad and possibly even unconstitutional. Similar laws are being challenged in other states, in some instances at the federal level where constitutional issues come into play and precedents could spread.
In particular, those attorneys say schools, law enforcement and the legal community are focusing on the line about "disruption of school activities," and ignoring the part after "with the intent to ..." that to us would seem to dismiss phone pranks against schools from falling under that part of the code.
On the other side are attorneys — and we imagine school administrators, proactive law enforcement and frightened parents — who counter that times are different and more dangerous today, that there is too much potential and too much risk for pranks to become reality, and that such threats cannot be ignored or fixed by a trip to the office or a parent-teacher conference. We think that's a powerful argument, too. Times actually have changed, like it or not.
So what's to be done?
Well, the report of Gov. Kay Ivey's Securing Facilities of Education Council calls for better identification and assessment of threats, in hopes of preventing violent events from materializing. We're good with that, but what about the pranksters who just want to get their jollies by making people squirm and panic? How should they be charged and how should their cases be disposed of?
There absolutely should be consequences for such idiocy, even for first-time offenders, but does it need to be a felony and should it carry the "terrorist" label?
Perhaps there should be a different label with a specific, narrow focus that fits the crime. That's not being soft on or coddling lawbreakers (or silly kids). It's being fair.
The Dothan Eagle says stigmatization will curb texting while driving:
Not long after the development of the automobile came a complication that our society still hasn't managed to rein in. The advent of motorized transport brought a new wrinkle to public intoxication when some who'd had too much to drink fired up their tin lizzies and went for a spin. It must have been a particularly vexing problem in New Jersey, because that state passed what is considered the nation's first intoxicated driving statute in 1906.
More than a century and countless murdered and maimed travelers later, society continues to struggle with the effort to keep the roadways free of intoxicated drivers. There are specific initiatives employed by law enforcement, state-of-the-art detection methods, and stiff penalties for offenders, yet far too many people still get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol.
However, it's likely that many people who are disdainful of intoxicated drivers don't give a thought to a practice that's at least as dangerous to themselves and others, but lacks the stigma that accompanies drunk driving.
Here's an interesting proposal. The next time you're a passenger in a vehicle, take a notepad and pencil along, and note how many drivers have their smart phones in their hands. Count the cars you check, and compare the total against the number of phone offenders. You'll likely be jarred by the results. And you'll surely be alarmed by the number of drivers who spend a good bit of time studying the tiny screen instead of watching where their heavy steel projectile is heading with great velocity.
If anecdotal evidence observed on the roadways is anywhere close to accurate, the odds of being injured or killed by a driver distracted by their phone may be far greater than the possibility of falling victim to a drunk driver.
Although there are laws prohibiting texting, e-mailing and other operations of a handheld device while operating a vehicle, it won't be the threat of fines and/or license suspension — or even jail, injury, or death - that makes drivers put down their phones. It will be stigmatization from society's displeasure with the behavior that curbs the texting-at-the-wheel habit. Just ask the tobacco industry.