CNHI News Service

Opinion

December 27, 2012

EDITORIALS: America's future; Shooting tragedies; First Amendment; A dangerous job

The following are excerpts of editorials from CNHI newspapers:

The future is what we make it

(Mankato, Minn., Free Press)

As the calendar passes from 2012 to 2013, we should remind ourselves that the American Dream is still within reach, but as a country we cannot ignore global economic or political forces. America can still make decisions that largely determine its future, even as our opportunities are more dependent on the rest of the world than ever before.

The National Intelligence Council recently said as much when it gave America its best forecast on what to expect in the coming years. Its "Global Trends 2030" report warns that the United States' superpower status could erode as Asian economies surpass the combined economies of North America and Europe. Rising populations in poor countries may lead to increasing conflicts over water and food. Forecasters say instability could even contribute to global economic collapse, which could be more likely due to rapid climate change.

On a positive note, the United States will become energy independent, helped by our  storehouse of natural gas. Acts of terrorism will wane (though cyber-terrorism will increase). Technology could resolve many of the world’s problems.

But let’s take a deep breath. Predicting the future is not easy, and trends can change. Asian economies are rising now but could stall. Increased cooperation between China and the United States may happen, or a wary friendship could become more strained.

The bottom line is that the future is what we make it. Reports like those released by the National Intelligence Council urge us to be forward-thinking, which is good. Our government tends to move slowly when faced with large issues. To grab hold of a successful future, we need to be ready to act before it’s too late.

Empires rise and empires fall. They grow tired. There are signs already that America is tiring of its role as a world leader. We risk less. We spend less on our military defense to balance the budget. Our manufacturing base stagnates and is replaced by a non-wealth increasing information base. We think more of luxury and comfort. Our gap between rich and poor accelerates, lessening our shared experiences.

We risk becoming an observer of global events. Our history has been to make things happen. It's a theme we need to continue.

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Shootings can happen anywhere

(The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.)

We were outraged by the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. We were frightened when a gunman started firing at a shopping mall in suburban Portland, Ore. We wept at the most senseless tragedy of them all, when a troubled young man targeted innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Last week, the effects of mass shootings hit nearer to home when a gunman in Blair County, Pa., killed three people before being fatally shot by state troopers, erasing any doubt we might have had about whether such a tragedy could happen here.

We pray that it doesn’t, but the truth is such a shooting can happen anywhere at any time. It's a frightening reality but we must come to terms with it. We must also try to change it.

There already is a renewed effort to tighten gun laws. We say enforce the ones on the books.

There is also a much-needed push to do a better job of recognizing and treating mental illness. Maybe that can help stem what seem to be weekly reports of these slayings.

We don’t know the answer. No one does. But we all need to work together to find a way to make America safer so that we don’t live in fear. Our future and way of life depend upon it.

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Give thanks for the First Amendment

(Goshen, Ind., News)

Each year we look back at events in our community and see a commonality with years past — a vigorous and sincere dialogue on issues. Our readers have had something to say about local developments in politics, crime, social issues, fish fry fundraisers and the environment. As of today, we have published 356 letters to the editor on about as many topics. Of course, the elections drew a lot of written comments from readers, as well.

The United States has a unique tolerance for public opinion expressed freely by its citizens. The Founding Fathers wisely drafted and approved the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Unfortunately, many around the world do not have such basic protections for their thoughts and words. Governments often come down hard on anyone who questions why things are the way they are.

This obstruction of liberty is especially noticeable when it comes to journalists. Earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that 232 journalists have been jailed in 2012 for practicing their craft. Turkey has the horrible distinction of imprisoning the most journalists (49). Simply attending a pro-Kurdistan rally there and asking people about their beliefs can lead to imprisonment. It seems Turkish authorities don’t appreciate people asking questions about the treatment of Kurds.

There is a close relationship between the freedoms that a country gives journalists and the freedoms it gives citizens. We are fortunate the Founding Fathers embraced the liberty of personal and collective expression. Without it, the United States would be a much darker place to live.

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Fishing's harshest reality

(Gloucester, Mass., Daily Times)

Fishermen and government officials are sparring over catch limits that threaten the very future of the industry. Television viewers are getting a "reality" taste of the fishing world from shows like “Deadliest Catch” and National Geographic’s “Wicked Tuna."

But fishing’s harshest reality was felt again last week in Gloucester, America’s oldest seaport, and in Deer Isle, Maine. The Coast Guard made the grim but understandable decision to end the search for the scalloping boat Foxy Lady II, four days after it went missing Dec. 15.

Presumed lost are Capt. Wallace “Chubby” Gray Jr., 25, and his 50-year-old crewmate, Wayne Young. Both were from Deer Isle but both fished out of Gloucester. Their names now will be added to a roll of more than 5,000 Gloucestermen lost at sea and memorialized on plaques surrounding Gloucester’s iconic “Man at the Wheel" statue. The statue is inscribed with a phrase from Psalm 107: “They that go down to the sea in ships.”

It’s easy to get caught up in talk about commercial fishing, from the debate over regulation to the industry’s fight for survival in the face of a declared economic disaster to the exploits of the “Wicked Tuna” crews. But no one should forget that, statistically, commercial fishing remains America’s most dangerous industry.

Death at sea is constantly on the minds of fishermen and their families, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of Gray and Young. Our respect goes to their colleagues, who press on with the courage they and their predecessors have shown for centuries. And we hope their loss serves as a reminder to government officials to grant all fishermen the respect they deserve.

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