WTMS

From the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal — Originally published Thursday, July 30

Officials at the Hawaii Department of Health have checked again: Yes, Barack Obama is a natural-born American citizen. They have the valid birth certificate. It corresponds with the birth announcement in the newspaper at the time. The U.S. Supreme Court weighed all of this last year, and cast aside the legal challenge.

These and other facts haven't been enough for the ''birthers,'' still fanning the idea that there is something illegitimate about Obama's presidency. Perhaps they will listen to Ann Coulter who recently called them ''cranks.'' Or Bill O'Reilly, who made a telling point: The birthers don't want to know the truth.

For too long, several Republicans such as Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma have encouraged the nonsense. U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Florida has proposed legislation requiring that presidential candidates produce their original birth certificate. It hasn't helped that Lou Dobbs of CNN seems to view the Obama birth as fitting into his fury against illegal immigration.

Forget, evidently, that beyond the paperwork, electronic and otherwise, Obama won a vote of the people. More, analysts stress in response to birther distortion: Obama's mother was a natural born American citizen, and thus, whether she gave birth in Hamburg or Harare or Honolulu, her son is one, too.
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From The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel — Originally published Thursday, July 30

With Congress' annual August recess looming, neither the Senate nor the House will be meeting President Barack Obama's deadline for votes on health-care reform before they leave town. And that's just as well.

It's better for Congress to move deliberately in reconfiguring a system that accounts for one-sixth of the U.S. economy and affects every American.

... The latest plans for reform ... have only been taking shape over the past few weeks. They are enormously complex, and still undergoing revisions. If lawmakers acted on a plan before going home, few would have more than a rough idea what they were voting on.

... The damage done by spiraling health-care costs ... make[s] it imperative for reform to rein in costs even as it expands coverage to the uninsured. Yet the head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office testified this month that the leading plan in the House would not contain costs. That's reason enough for lawmakers to take more time to get reform right.

... Even though Democrats have commanding majorities in both chambers of Congress, it's better for such a sweeping undertaking to be bipartisan. That's more likely if Democrats and Republicans alike are willing to give a fair hearing to a variety of ideas ...
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From the Portland Oregonian — Originally published Wednesday, July 29

... A new study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, one of the nation's leading auto safety research organizations, answers once and for all the question of whether texting while driving is unduly dangerous.

Of course it is.

... Four Democratic U.S. senators announced Wednesday that they are co-sponsoring a bill that would require states to ban driving while texting or face the loss of 25 percent of their federal highway funds. It's the same hammer that has required states to adopt a blood-alcohol level of 0.8 percent to combat drunken driving. Under the law, the transportation secretary would be required to issue guidelines within six months of the measure being signed into law, and states would then have two years to approve the bans on texting and driving.

With the growing evidence about the dangers of texting and driving, no state ought to wait two years to pass a prohibition. ...
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From The Dallas Morning News — Originally published Thursday, July 23

Race is a complex American albatross. Racial perceptions can distort common sense and even justice, sometimes perverting simple truth into horrible misjudgment.

These were the demons that greeted Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a literary scholar who happens to be African-American, last week. He found himself locked out of his home in an upscale Cambridge neighborhood — and then under arrest by a white police officer for disorderly conduct after he had broken into the house.

... Officers have a thankless job that sometimes is made more difficult by the reactions of the people they question. ... Gates was not [calm], according to police reports, and shouted that he was targeted because "I'm a black man in America."

Still, it is impossible to excuse [the] incident or to separate [it] from the veil of racial perceptions that cloud judgment. To a neighbor, Gates and his taxi driver prying on the door of the house looked suspicious ... But then the subtle element of race injected another layer of suspicion into the interactions ...

The Cambridge arresting officer, James Crowley, now faces national scrutiny and an uncertain future. ...

Police officers everywhere are taught to resist verbal provocations and to de-escalate potentially explosive situations, not fuel them. While easier said than done, this is a prime responsibility of any law enforcement officer. ...
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From the Boston Herald — Originally published Thursday, July 23

Like other states Massachusetts is rolling in federal stimulus money but plans for oversight of that spending remain largely on the drawing board. That is one of the conclusions of a Government Accountability Office report released this month.

As the State House News Service reported this week, neither the state auditor nor the inspector general has finalized plans for oversight of state Recovery Act funds, more than $1 billion of which is already committed.

... Now, in fairness, the feds are asking the states to spend money they don’t have. Wouldn’t it be nice if the $787 billion stimulus bill had included a few crumbs for oversight, given that it represents a bailout for cash-strapped states — the largest of which is presently issuing IOUs for state services.

... [A]t the very least the GAO, which is monitoring Massachusetts and 15 other states over the life of the stimulus act, has provided a gentle reminder to taxpayers that they deserve a full, honest and transparent accounting of how their money is being spent — and that watchdogs need sharp teeth.
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From the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press — Originally published Tuesday, July 21

It's been known for several years that the Bush administration willfully ignored and broke laws requiring oversight from Congressional leaders ... What's now becoming clear ... is that the justification for such programs ... often was trumped up, while the programs' usefulness was misrepresented and minimal, at best.

The report earlier this month by the inspectors general of five key federal agencies — the CIA, National Security Agency, Justice Department, Defense Department and the Office of National Intelligence ... found ... that the approximately 200 key federal and private officials questioned about the broad-scale warrantless wiretapping of Americans' phone and e-mail communications "had difficulty citing specific instances" in which the information gained actually proved valuable, much less saved American lives.

That particular finding contradicted the defense offered by President Bush and Vice President Cheney when the illegal wiretapping was exposed. ...

Though Republicans hounded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] earlier this summer when she claimed that the CIA had often failed to provide legally mandated briefings to the ... the Democratic and Republican leaders of both chambers of Congress and the leaders of their intelligence committees, it now seems undeniable that her claim has merit. That is broadly troubling. If Congress' oversight is not observed, a rogue White House ... could trample the law and evade and erode the boundaries that keep the nation's government accountable and on track.

That's reason enough for Congress to pressure its own reluctant members, and the Obama administration, to investigate the Bush administration's suspected abuses of intelligence powers and legal guidelines.
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From The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune — Originally published Thursday, July 16

When President Obama and Congress created the federal stimulus package, they promised to target "shovel-ready" projects to speed up its economic impact. Yet hurricane housing recovery work that was ready to go was not eligible for stimulus money ...

So it's welcome news that U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials have reinterpreted the rules to allow the rebuilding of Gulf Coast housing to vie for a share of $2 billion in housing aid.

... The housing stimulus money had been earmarked to help homeowners keep their homes, and the initial batch of cash was distributed using a formula based on each state's rate of foreclosures. But Louisiana's low rate of foreclosures meant much of the housing stimulus was bypassing our state.

What Louisiana and other coastal states recovering from storms still need is help to rebuild damaged housing. That help can come now that the Obama administration will make stimulus money available for redeveloping or demolishing vacant properties.

... These are important recovery efforts for our region. Plus, investing in these projects would fuel the local economy and provide jobs. That's exactly what the stimulus was supposed to do.
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From The Miami Herald — Originally published Thursday, July 16

... The House of Representatives, by a 415-3 vote, approved critical funding last week for U.S. troops, as well as more assistance for veterans and their families. Congress should continue to improve those services, which have grown substantially since 2007.

... One challenge: Many of those returning from the war on terror are dealing with emotional scars that threaten their ability to successfully re-integrate into society, raise a family and hold down a good job.

... American troops, veterans and their families deserve this nation's gratitude for their sacrifice.

More than parades and memorials, though, they deserve the services they were promised for risking their lives to defend this country.
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From the Providence (R.I.) Journal — Originally published Thursday, July 16

The sometimes intriguing, sometimes bathetic sex lives of politicians are ... alluring to most people as a form of popular entertainment. But the main thing to ask is how their ... sexual activities affect their performance and ethics as public officials.

Thus the most troubling things about South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford [R] in his affair ... were that he had spent public funds on a trip to Buenos Aires that included meetings with his (former?) mistress and that he disappeared without telling anybody else in state government where he could be reached. ...

Then there’s another family-values promoter, Nevada Sen. John Ensign. Sen. Ensign, like Mr. Sanford, was mentioned as a member of the GOP farm team of 2012 presidential candidates. He had an affair with his campaign treasurer. To have an affair with a subordinate is ... in some enterprises, a firing offense. (At many places of employment, it’s expected in such cases that one of the two lovers would quit his/her job.)

Then there’s the fact that the lady and her husband, who also worked for Mr. Ensign, were fired, but then ... received payments from Mr. Ensign’s rich parents. Further, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (then chaired by John Ensign) miraculously gave the son of the mistress a job. The phrase “hush money” trips easily off the tongue here.

So did Sen. Ensign violate Senate rules and federal election laws? More investigation is needed. ...
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From The Salt Lake Tribune — Originally published Wednesday, July 15

The House Intelligence Committee plans as early as next week to begin investigating a secret CIA program to use specially trained hit teams to kill or capture top al-Qaida leaders. ... [M]embers of the committee are rightfully upset that the Bush administration kept Congress in the dark for seven years, allegedly under orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney.

... This and other recent revelations have intensified the clamor for President Barack Obama to appoint an independent "truth commission" to fully investigate the intelligence policies of the Bush White House ...

Obama has resisted, maintaining that Congress and the Justice Department are suited to the task and that it is in the country's best interest to look ahead ...

We do not agree. The president must set aside political considerations and do what he should already have done. We understand his desire for bipartisan support for his ambitious economic, health and energy reforms. But it is up to the president to act if the two political parties cannot come together over an issue as critical and fundamental as the rule of law.

It is a given that the United States at some point will again be the target of terrorism. To fail to expose the hard lessons of post-9/11 intelligence policy and apply them to the future would be a dangerous disservice to this and future generations of Americans.
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