Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
Anniston (Alabama) Star on Iraq dilemma:
Republicans and Democrats in Washington are hopelessly divided on matters of policy, so expecting them adopt more agreeable stances on the United States' re-entry into Iraq is a waste of time.
Proof arrived Sunday, when teams of Republicans and Democrats appeared on the morning news programs and quickly assumed their positions: The GOP on one side, Democrats on another. Overlap didn't exist. But predictability did.
Republicans, such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona, played the role of war hawks well, calling for more and stronger U.S. involvement in Iraq as well as Syria to tamp down the violence being caused by the radical Muslim group ISIS.
"We need to go on the offense," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on CBS' "Face the Nation." ''There is no force within the Mideast that can neutralize or contain or destroy ISIS without at least American air power."
Democrats disagreed, as if on cue, sticking to the script outlined thus far by President Barack Obama, whose decision to send humanitarian aid as well as limited airstrikes to the region last week reignited Americans' fears about beginning yet another foreign war — even with Obama's reassurances that ground troops won't be used.
"Neither the American people nor Congress are in the business of wanting to escalate this conflict beyond where it is today," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on NBC's "Meet the Press." ''Only Iraq can save Iraq. There is so much that we can do to help the Iraqis help themselves, but ultimately, they have to save their own country."
So soon after America's long war in Iraq ended, Congress is again divided over how best to use the U.S. military in a nation in which, one way or another, we've been in for more than two decades. Isolationism, aid or military involvement: what's right for the United States? That argument has been a cornerstone of Capitol Hill as long as it's existed.
The Gadsden (Alabama) Times on saying no to free lunches:
Alabama's public schools are doing better financially thanks to an improving economy and a prudent budgeting system for the Educational Trust Fund, but they aren't awash in cash. Many still watch every nickel and are leery of making any commitments they aren't absolutely sure they can handle.
That's why there hasn't been an overwhelming response to a federal initiative that could, conceivably, mean free meals for all school students, regardless of their families' income levels.
The Community Eligibility Provision is part of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. If 40 percent of the students in a school system, or an individual school within a district, are eligible for free meals, the system or school can serve free breakfasts and lunches to all students.
The idea is to remove the stigma that students who receive free or reduced-price meals might feel among their peers, while eliminating what the coordinator of Alabama's Child Nutrition Program called "food deserts," in which children don't have access to food.
Only 28 state school systems (there are 133 in Alabama; not all are eligible) have signed up as the Aug. 31 deadline approaches.
Gadsden City Schools is eligible as a system, and Etowah County Schools' West End Elementary is eligible individually, but neither is participating in the CEP.
The concerns cited range from start-up costs, to concerns about losing local control of meal programs, to reimbursement rates, to the prospect of the systems' general funds having to make up shortfalls or pay money back should they not meet certain standards during a school year.
According to a presentation on the CEP at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website, schools who take part will be reimbursed 1.6 times the Identified Student Percentage, or the number of students who qualify for free meals.
The remaining percent of total meals served will be reimbursed at the usual rate for students who don't get free or reduced-price meals, and systems will be responsible for any costs above the total federal reimbursement.
School officials know better than we do what those numbers mean, and whether it's a risk for them to get involved with this program.
As far as maintaining eligibility, the CEP would operate on four-year cycles. A system or school's status wouldn't be in question until the end of the cycle (with the possibility of a grace year). And there's nothing in the USDA presentation about having to pay money back should a school or system no longer qualify.
If that message isn't getting across or is being misunderstood, there's a problem in how it's being delivered.
No one's against feeding hungry kids, and the CEP may be a good way to accomplish that.
If the feds are serious about making it happen, they need to be proactive in answering the questions, and easing the fears and skepticism, of local school officials — the only people who can say "yes" or "no" to this.
Decatur (Alabama) Daily on dangers of racing:
Tony Stewart may have more enemies than friends among NASCAR fans in Alabama, but folks here and elsewhere should be careful before they judge him in Saturday's fatal collision on a racetrack in New York.
That said, we encourage law enforcement authorities to thoroughly investigate Stewart's role in the death of race-car driver Kevin Ward Jr.
Here is what we know at this point.
Both drivers were competing Saturday night in a sprint car race on a muddy dirt track in Canandaigua, New York. Ward's car spun twice before it plopped backward on the track, according to an AP article.
Ward unbuckled his safety harnesses, walked onto the track and gestured at Stewart, who had triggered the crash.
Another car almost hit Ward, who was dressed in black. Then, Ward pointed his right arm at Stewart.
Stewart's car seemed to fishtail and then strike Ward, running over him and then throwing him through the air. Ward landed on his back, and was killed.
Speculation about Stewart's intent is running rampant among race fans. Was the three-time NASCAR champion sending the little-known Ward a message of his own? Or did he even see Ward on the track? The facts, much less motivation, are far from clear at this point.
Ward took a risk by walking onto the dimly lit track in a black fire suit and helmet, as evidenced by the other driver who almost struck him. But that risk is not exactly unprecedented.
Racing is full of confrontations between drivers. Fans love it and racing officials frequently look the other way because of the popularity of such conflicts. Even Stewart, who has a reputation as a hothead nicknamed "Smoke," once tossed his helmet at another NASCAR driver's windshield.
Stewart is one of those drivers whom some race fans love to hate. He once drew the wrath of NASCAR fans in Alabama for making disparaging remarks about Talladega.
But that doesn't make him guilty of any crime.
Investigators have a responsibility to gather all available facts in Ward's death, record statements from witnesses and make a determination about whether they believe a crime was committed. But even then, only Stewart knows what he was thinking and doing inside his car.
Some race fans will forever blame him for Ward's death. Others will defend him and point to Ward's negligence.
In a wiser world, Ward's death would temper the enthusiasm among fans and race officials for confrontations between drivers.
Sadly, the adrenaline-driven world of racing is more likely to shrug it off in anticipation of the next dangerous showdown.