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POLL SUGGESTS A FUTURE FOR COMMON SENSE GUN CONTROLS, Aug. 16

Ninety percent. That’s how many young American adults support both background checks for all gun sales and sterner penalties for breaking gun laws already on the books.

Ninety percent. That’s the number that leaps from a recent poll of nearly 2,000 Americans age 18-30.

Ninety percent. That’s staggering, and suggests the current legislative logjam against any sort of commonsense, tighter controls_ even against guns for suspected terrorists on no-fly lists _someday may break.

LaShun Roy, a rural Texas college student and no shrinking violet where firearms are concerned, is just one young adult whose middle-ground mindset offers such hope. Roy is hardly anti-gun; she used them while serving in the National Guard.

“I think it’s important to make sure the government isn’t going door to door saying, `Let me see your guns and ammo,’ “ the 21-year-old Roy told The Associated Press.” But I think it’s really important to have background checks and make sure a felon can’t get a gun.”

Fifty-four percent of those in the GenForward poll agreed with Roy that gun owners’ rights and increased safeguards are not mutually exclusive. That’s a departure from the intractable argument of gun advocates, congressional conservatives and the National Rifle Association, which have consistently blocked even modest new restrictions.

And it’s a signal that, just maybe, as younger Americans mature into the men and women who run our country, they might successfully find a sensible middle ground that thus far has eluded our current leadership.

The Second Amendment does not preclude a ban on private purchases of rapid-fire, military-style weapons. Fifty-seven percent of young Americans in the poll agree, backing a ban on semi-automatic firearms.

“So many people are dying here (in Chicago) because there is no control of the weapons out on our streets,” Keionna Cottrell, 24, of Chicago told the AP. “Young men have real military guns and they’re not scared to use them.”

We all know that all too well. Lest we’d forgotten, this summer’s senseless slaughter of officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the gunman used an assault rifle, served again to remind us.

Perhaps, though nothing in the poll addresses this, younger adults are more open to commonsense controls because they have grown up in a culture in which mass shootings are commonplace. More than 1,600 Americans have died in such massacres since just the start of 2013; nearly 5,000 more have been wounded.

Young American adults also have experienced gun violence on a personal level more than their predecessors. Among the poll’s scarier numbers: Thirty-seven percent of African-Americans and almost 25 percent of Latinos know someone who has been the victim of gun violence_ just in the past year.

Their familiarity with the mounting shootings, and those shootings’ victims, may be why more than half of Americans age 18-30 say it’s more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun rights.

Commonsense gun control is among our country’s most divisive subjects. But this poll suggests that, in another decade or so, it may not be.

_ The Reading Eagle

 

GITMO GETS SMALLER: GUANTANAMO WON’T GO AWAY, NOR WILL ITS STAIN, Aug. 17

President Barack Obama has authorized the transfer of 15 of the prisoners still held at the U.S. Naval Station prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United Arab Emirates. It’s a far cry from his 2008 election pledge to close the Guantanamo military prison, but the removal of the 15 reduces the number still held there to 61.

The peak number of prisoners was 780. Some of them have been at Guantanamo since 2002, without trial, in contradiction of the due process of American law. Obama has been blocked by Congress in his intention either to close the Guantanamo facility, or to transfer some or all of the prisoners to detention facilities on U.S. soil for trial. For two years of his term, Congress was under Democratic control; since then it has been divided or under Republican control.

It costs the American taxpayer at least $445 million a year to hold the prisoners at Guantanamo.

Twelve of those going to the UAE are Yemenis; three are Afghans.

The argument that Guantanamo prisoners should not be released, transferred to other countries or brought to the United States, is based on concern that they hold bitter views toward the United States and might return to combat against U.S. forces or against Americans at home. Given that some of them were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or that they have been held at Guantanamo outside of even American justice for many years, it would not be surprising if that were the case.

At the same time, the UAE runs a fairly tight ship in terms of oversight of terrorism suspects. It is also held accountable by the United States, a guarantor of the UAE’s own security, if the transferred prisoners return to the activities that put them on Guantanamo in the first place.

It is unlikely that Obama will be able to get rid of the remaining 61 Guantanamo prisoners in the five months remaining in his term, although he may well try. The U.S. military prison in Cuba remains a persistent stain on America’s reputation for principled respect for the rule of law.

_ The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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KANE’S DOWNFALL IS NOW COMPLETE, Aug. 16

After almost four years of fumbles, stumbles, missteps and misdeeds, Kathleen Kane did the right thing Tuesday.

She resigned, which will be effective at the close of business that day.

“I have been honored to serve the people of Pennsylvania and I wish them health and safety in all their days,” Kane said in a statement that had the sound of a farewell, as well it should_ she was convicted Monday on nine criminal counts, including perjury and criminal conspiracy, after she orchestrated the leak of grand jury information to the Philadelphia Daily News in order to embarrass prosecutor Frank Fina. Fina previously worked in the attorney general’s office, and Kane believed he was the source for a Philadelphia Inquirer story that she closed the books on an investigation of Philadelphia-area lawmakers who were later convicted on charges ranging from bribery to conflict of interest (a third lawmaker is still awaiting trial).

According to testimony, Kane took considerable pains to cover her tracks. She conspired with political consultant Joshua Morrow to pin the leak on a former associate who had fallen out with her_ one of many who did so during her stormy tenure. Before Morrow met Kane to plot the tale each would tell a grand jury investigating the leak, Kane’s security detail searched Morrow with a security wand to be certain he was not wearing a hidden recording device and took away his wallet, keys and cellphone. Prosecutors played a recording of a call Morrow made to a friend at the time, where he expressed doubts about the wisdom of leaking material to the newspaper, and characterized Kane as “unhinged.”

That’s an opinion other people came to share over the last couple of years, as more stories surfaced about Kane’s paranoia, the high turnover among her staff_ she went through eight press secretaries since 2013, with the most recent departing after what he called “an unfolding series of crises that were just never-ending” _and her constant insistence her troubles were all the result of an old-boys network in Harrisburg she was seeking to smash. She might well have had her share of opponents, but it appears Kane sorely lacked the thick skin necessary to do battle in the state Capitol.

Considering Kane was once considered a supernova in Pennsylvania politics, her apparent inability to absorb blows and slough off brickbats would have only deepened had she reached one of the offices many observers thought she was heading toward. Had she not become mired in scandal and demonstrated a degree of competence as the state’s top law-enforcement official, she could have been the candidate challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey in this election cycle and not Katie McGinty. Maybe she could have followed in the footsteps of Tom Corbett and be promoted from attorney general to governor. As the first female elected to the office since it became an elected post in 1980, and the first elected Democrat ever, Kane’s horizons seemed limitless.

But now her horizons are desperately limited. Her time in the months ahead will be consumed with appeals. If they fail, she could well be heading to jail.

William Shakespeare had an unerring ability to dig deep into human nature and uncover the foibles of the ambitious and powerful, whether it was Richard III’s murderous drive for power, Hamlet’s indecision or Othello’s insecurity and jealousy.

The Bard would have had a field day with Kathleen Kane.

_ The (Washington) Observer-Reporter

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USERS’ QUEST FOR EXTREMES ATTRACTS MORE POTENT DRUGS, Aug. 16

It’s human nature to take things to the extreme.

German shepherds and Dobermans used to be the standard for tough dog breeds, but no more. Pit bulls and cane corsos are the ultimate bad dogs.

Tabasco? Jalapeño? Nope. Not hot enough. We need to scorch our taste buds with ghost peppers and sriracha sauce.

Scuba diving? That’s so tame. Let’s dive with sharks. At night. Inside rusty old shipwrecks.

And boxing is just Johnny-come-lately. Give us cage fighting instead.

It’s all so extreme these days.

Even drug addicts, no longer satisfied with straight heroin. The drive for added risk must be what’s behind the moronic practice of fortifying street heroin with synthetic super-opioids.

Those who traffic illegal heroin take pains to set their brand apart, stamping their little cellophane bags with distinctive names and symbols. Remember the “Theraflu” stamp bags of fentanyl-laced heroin that killed dozens of area addicts in 2014? Drug agents said sales appeared to spike after reports emerged of the many overdoses. News reports of the danger only seemed to boost demand_ as if the deaths confirmed the drug’s potency.

The stamp on the bag’s outside tells the user what the seller might have included inside_ most frequently it’s fentanyl, which is about 50 times as strong as pure heroin. Of course there’s no list of ingredients, no regulatory controls and no guarantees. Marketing is by word-of-mouth reputation only. It could contain rat poison, for all the buyer knows.

Heroin with fentanyl is a risky mix. Of the 47 drug-related deaths in Butler County in 2015, 30 were attributed to heroin, nine to fentanyl. It’s the potency that attracts the hardened user.

Enter carfentanil, the big brother of fentanyl and 100 times stronger. It’s the world’s most potent commercial opioid. Veterinarians use it to sedate elephants.

Law enforcement says it’s only a matter of time before carfentanil shows up in the heroin supply around Butler County. The city of Akron, Ohio, only 110 miles west of Butler, reported 91 overdoses_ eight of them fatal _from the drug over a 48-hour period in July.

A similar new designer opioid, W-18, is reportedly responsible for a wave of overdoses in Eastern Pennsylvania. Both appear to be entering this country from China.

There’s an additional twist: Carfentanil is so lethal that it can injure or kill first responders trying to save an overdose victim. Authorities say as little as 20 micrograms of carfentanil_ a speck about the size of a grain of salt _can be fatal, and it can be absorbed through the skin. Veterinarians put on protective suits and rubber gloves before handling it.

Health officials also worry that naloxone, the opioid antidote better known as Narcan, might not be very effective against at carfentanil overdose.

And in 2002, when Russian military gassed Chechen rebels in a Moscow theater during a hostage situation, it’s widely believed that carfentanil was one of the two substances contained in the gas they deployed, killing 125 people_ rebels and hostages combined.

This isn’t a drug. It’s a weapon.

_ The Butler Eagle

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WE RELIGIOUSLY DEFEND FREEDOM, Aug. 12

The State Department’s annual report on religious oppression abroad is a useful diplomatic tool. But it also casts into sharp relief the broad scope of religious freedom enjoyed by Americans.

In many other countries, governments use state-endorsed religion as elements of their own control_ as in widespread blasphemy and apostasy laws in many Muslim countries. The report cited particularly harsh practices in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

Many other countries, the report found, use the power of the state to inhibit religious practice, citing Angola, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Myanmar, Russia and Vietnam.

The report also cited the most obvious atrocities, including religious genocide against Christian and minority Muslim sects by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and Boko Haram in West Africa.

Also, it documented anti-Christian persecution in China, anti-Sunni Muslim persecution in Iran and growing anti-Semitism in Europe.

Contrast that to the United States, where according to the nonpartisan, nonprofit Pew Center on Religion and Public Life, we practice more than 330 religions, from Catholicism to Taoism, and from mainline Protestantism to Buddhism, while a growing share of the population adheres to no organized religion.

All of that, by constitutional design, is done without interference from the government. The United States remains the global gold standard for religious tolerance and diversity precisely because the government is religion-neutral, and it should stay that way.

_ The (Hazleton) Standard-Speaker

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