Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Dothan Eagle on a U.S. congressman from Alabama accused of inciting the mob who attacked the U.S. Capitol:
One of the most effective components of our government is that accountability of elected officials begins at the ballot box. Those in leadership positions in government serve at the pleasure of the people, and if the people aren’t pleased, those officials are sent packing and someone else is elected to that position.
However, some behavior is so egregious that greater measures are in order.
Alabama voters should have buyer’s remorse over the election of Barry Moore to the Second Congressional District and Tommy Tuberville to Alabama’s junior Senate seat. Before these men learned their way around Washington, they were aligning themselves with those who refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the November General Election. They were joined by all Alabama congressional officials except Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat, and Sen. Richard Shelby, who had better sense. Their accountability will take place in the next election cycle, but they won’t likely see a negative effect.
However, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks should face greater repercussions for his role in inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Brooks made inflammatory remarks to a crowd outside the capitol that morning, wearing a cap that read Fire Pelosi. He exhibited the same behavior that led to a speedy second impeachment of President Trump, and he joins Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz, whose political futures are in jeopardy.
Brooks embarrassed himself and his constituents, and his actions, like those of several of his colleagues, could be considered traitorous. He deserves censure at least and perhaps expulsion — either by his House cohorts or, eventually, the extreme north Alabama voters of the Fifth District.
The Cullman Times on National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month:
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, designed to raise awareness of the fastest growing criminal industry in our nation.
We encourage everyone to learn the warning signs of human trafficking and report any suspicious behavior to law enforcement. We must also create an environment where it is more difficult for these predators to carry out their criminal enterprises.
Modern day slavery is big business. The selling of individuals for sex or labor is a $32 billion industry in the United States and second only to drugs and arms trafficking. The average age of victims is between 12-14 year old.
Organizations like Shared Hope International and the Polaris Project, along with many government task forces, have done a lot to educate the public about the issue and share warning signs.
But myths about human trafficking remain, many scripted by Hollywood blockbusters.
Take, for example, the movie “Taken,” where a beautiful, young woman and her friend are kidnapped by traffickers in a foreign country and one of the girls’ father’s, a man with “a very particular set of skills,” rescues the girls from their captors.
The reality is that people are more likely to become victims through psychological means, by manipulation, tricks or threats. Victims are runaways, children without stable home lives, individuals with substance abuse or mental health concerns. Predators exploit the vulnerable.
According to the Polaris Project, the top five sex trafficking recruitment tactics criminals use are: Intimate partner/marriage proposition; familial; job offer/advertisement; posing as a benefactor; and false promises. So instead of a father with a set of skills that will save his daughter, picture instead a father with a drug addiction who will sell his daughter to get his fix. That is the sad, sickening reality of sex trafficking.
Statistics show that Interstate highways play a large role in the trafficking business - I-20, for example, is known as the “sex trafficking super highway” - but it’s also happening in our neighborhoods and subdivisions. As one child advocacy center noted, “With the growth of technology and the use of social media, the buying and selling of human beings has become as easy as a simple ‘click’ on a keyboard.”
Alabama has come a long way in fighting this scourge. According to Shared Hope International, the state has gone from a “D” to an A from 2011 to 2019 by passing laws making it easier to prosecute sex traffickers, provide additional resources for survivors and by raising awareness of the issue.
Thanks to that raised awareness and state laws across the nation requiring certain businesses to post of the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (1-888-373-7888 or text “BeFree” to 233733), more victims are seeking help. There was a 19 percent increase in calls to the hotline in 2019, which resulted in the rescue of more than 22,300 survivors and arrest of more than 4,300 perpetrators. There are now also more resources for human trafficking survivors, including, the ability to sue hotels and internet sites that have profited off of the trafficking business.
It is encouraging to see progress being made. There is more to do; for example, Shared Hope International recommends Alabama add human trafficking as a racketeering crime, giving prosecutors one more arrow in their quiver to fight traffickers. And we must extend our awareness of this crime to ever month of the year, keeping an eye on the vulnerable in our communities and watchful of those who would prey upon them.
The Decatur Daily on vaccinations for COVID-19 in Alabama:
There is good news and bad news on the front lines of Alabama’s fight against COVID-19.
The good news is there is high demand for the coronavirus vaccine, which means a lot of people are taking the effort to try to protect themselves. The more people who do so, and the more quickly they do it, the sooner we can reach herd immunity. That is the point at which enough people are inoculated against the virus that causes COVID-19 that it cannot transmit and reproduce itself effectively. That is where we want to be.
The bad news is Alabama is getting a late start, and the hotline set up for people to schedule vaccinations has been overwhelmed.
On Monday, health departments began administering vaccinations to people age 75 and older. Appointments can be scheduled at all health departments through the Alabama Department of Public Health hotline at 1-855-566-5333.
As the state plays catch-up, it should look for outside expertise. Vaccinating enough people to reach herd immunity in the midst of a yearlong pandemic is not just a medical issue. It’s a distribution and logistics issue.
Some people have joked that distribution should be turned over to Amazon or even Chick-fil-A. Maybe it started as a joke, but there is some wisdom there.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has turned to one of his state’s most recognizable corporations to help with vaccine distribution there.
Starbucks has assigned 11 employees “with expertise in labor and deployment, operations, and research and development” to help the state reach its goal of 45,000 vaccinations a day, NBC News reported. Inslee is also counting on 2,000 Washington pharmacies to set up drive-thru vaccination sites.
“The Starbucks employees assigned to work on vaccine distribution will use the company’s computer simulation modeling system to find ways to expedite inoculations, according to the state and the company,” NBC reported. “Starbucks and Washington hope the partnership will create an improved vaccine distribution network across the state’s 39 counties and 29 tribal nations.”
Alabama should be gearing up to do something similar, and more. In fact, getting input from Chick-fil-A or similar franchises that have drastically revamped their restaurant drive-thrus to deal with increased traffic while the coronavirus has people unable or afraid to venture inside isn’t a joke at all: It’s a good idea.
Where possible, the state should also look to small businesses for expertise and infrastructure. That is especially important when partnering with pharmacies, where independently owned pharmacies are major players in addition to the national chains.
West Virginia has vaccinated more of its residents per capita than any other state, and it has done so by relying on small business.
“West Virginia has emerged as an unlikely success in the nation’s otherwise chaotic vaccine rollout, largely because of the state’s decision to reject a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens and instead enlist mom-and-pop pharmacies to vaccinate residents against the virus that has killed over 395,000 Americans,” reported The Associated Press.
The key seems to be to avoid the bureaucratic tangle, which means first looking beyond government and second looking beyond huge corporations that have their own bureaucratic issues. In a fast-moving situation, with a rapidly mutating disease and deaths mounting, the response must be fast, and it must be nimble.