Mississippi editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Dec. 6

The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss., on the Anderson truck death case:

There is no upside to what happened to James Craig Anderson, who was run over with a truck and killed for no other reason than he was black.

So far, five Rankin County young men have pleaded guilty to racially motivated attacks, and four of those young men admit their guilt in the case dealing with Anderson. While the wheels of justice are grinding along slowly in this case — Anderson was killed June 26, 2011 — they seem to be turning determinedly.

We know that at least seven people were together in the early morning hours of that fateful Sunday when the murder took place. Two of those are believed to be female.

Nonetheless, this is a long time for Anderson's family and loved ones to wait for justice, especially when you consider that the first suspect, Deryl Dedmond, was arrested just hours after the incident occurred. A second suspect, John Rice, was arrested three days later. The FBI has said that law enforcement has conducted more than 200 interviews regarding this case. And four plea bargains regarding Anderson's murder have been accepted.

After all of that, we can only hope that the identities of the other three suspects are known, and we can only wonder why they have not been charged.

If our hope of their identities being known is false, then we would severely question the agreement by the government to accept a plea bargain from a single one of the five men now in custody, despite doing so in exchange for guilty pleas.

But what is most confounding is the thick cloud of secrecy behind which this entire investigation and prosecution has taken place. Motions by the prosecution for extension on sentencing hearings have been sealed. The notice of a plea hearing recently did not specify the case or the kind of hearing, as is custom, but instead only read, "There will be a hearing in a significant case at 1:30 p.m. today in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in the United States Courthouse in Jackson."

We understand the need for sensitive investigations to remain under wraps, but this is one of the oddest we have ever seen. ...

We wonder what it says about those who know the ones involved, the ones who have yet to be named, and the decision of these people who remain silent. It should make us all question what kind of culture has to exist among what surely is more than 10 teenagers for them to make repeated trips to Jackson, terrorizing black citizens and then return home to joke about it with friends. ...

Time may be on the side of the prosecution in this case, and we certainly hope it is, but we fear that time is not on the side of society. ...

Online:

http://www.clarionledger.com

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Dec. 10

Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Miss., on automobile "black boxes":

You've heard of those "black boxes" on airplanes that record data used to determine the cause of a crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected within the next few days to propose regulations requiring automobile manufacturers to install similar equipment on all new cars and light trucks.

What most motorists don't know is that automakers on their own have been quietly installing data-recording devices in some vehicles for years. The devices can record the actions of drivers and the responses of their cars and pickup trucks.

According to an Associated Press article, when a car equipped with such devices "is involved in a crash or when its airbags deploy, inputs from the vehicle's sensors during the five to 10 seconds before impact are automatically preserved. That's usually enough to record things like how fast the car was traveling and whether the driver applied the brake, was steering erratically or had a seat belt on."

Sounds like a good thing — especially when it comes to lawsuits involving both drivers and manufacturers. Such equipment can be useful in placing blame where it belongs.

Also, the recorders can help identify defects in automobiles, showing manufacturers things they need to correct.

But such devices are not without controversy. Already privacy advocates are insisting on rules and limits on how much information can be gathered and how it can be used.

Perhaps they'll make a valid argument for some limits, but we doubt it.

In our view, the benefits of using reliable data to produce safer vehicles, as well as helping establish accurate blame for crashes, outweigh privacy concerns.

Online:

http://www.enterprise-journal.com

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Dec. 9

The Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth on sex education:

There are two schools of thought on the best way to discourage teenagers from getting pregnant.

One advocates teaching (and preaching) "abstinence only" — that is, telling teens that there are economic, physical, emotional and moral imperatives to refrain from having sex until they are married, no exceptions allowed. It says that saying anything else just condones pre-marital sex and contributes to it.

The other side says that the abstinence-only approach is unrealistic. Since a majority of young people are already engaging in sexual relations, the argument goes, they need more than lectures that are out of touch with their experience. Sure, talk about the advantages of abstinence, they say, but youngsters who aren't going to opt for abstinence need honest, factual information about contraception.

Those two schools of thought — in an apparently unplanned coincidence — were on display in the same building recently in Jackson. The Women's Fund in Mississippi presented a conference on abstinence-plus early in the day at the Jackson Convention Complex, and Gov. Phil Bryant's office sponsored one on abstinence-only later.

The juxtaposition invariably led to comparisons in the style and effectiveness of the two approaches. Mississippi's public schools are closely divided over which is best. Required for the first time to provide students with sex education, 81 school districts have opted for the abstinence-only approach, 68 for abstinence-plus. Three are using a mixture of the two, depending on the age of the student.

In our opinion, abstinence-plus is the more effective approach. It better addresses what is really going on with today's young people than what we wished was going on.

Neither approach, though, will be all that successful in reducing the state's chronically high rates of teen pregnancy, premature births and sexually transmitted disease if responsible sex education only happens at school.

Young people are bombarded with erotic messages these days from the film, TV and music industries. They also receive from their peers a lot of bad information as well as pressure to become sexually active early.

Countering that combination of popular culture and peer pressure requires many adults — not just classroom teachers but parents, church leaders, coaches, neighbors. Not only do they have a role in imparting good values to young people. They also are critical in keeping tabs on what young people are watching, saying and doing.

As with a lot of risky behavior, sexual promiscuity among teenagers occurs when they are unsupervised or when the adults in their lives are sexually irresponsible themselves. Schools — no matter what approach they adopt — can't overcome that.

Online:

http://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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