Jean Marbella: Nuns fight against Obamacare is a big waste of time

It's a war that seemingly ended a long time ago, being fought in the most unlikely of places: contraception, at homes for the elderly run by an order of Roman Catholic nuns. The Little Sisters of the Poor, with a house in Catonsvlle, are fighting the provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring employee health insurance plans to provide birth control coverage. The sisters won a last-minute injunction to keep from getting fined for refusing to comply with the law when it took effect on New Year's Day. Never mind that the sisters can easily exempt themselves from paying a single penny for anyone's birth control, which they say violates their church's teachings. And never mind that their insurance plan can just as easily not offer the coverage because it too has an out as a religious group. The sisters want their day in the Supreme Court nonetheless. (Balt. Sun)

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Jim Lee: Address issues, vision for Carroll County

Our five county commissioners will be giving their State of the County address in a little over a week and, if history is any indication, the allotted time will most likely be filled with thinly veiled campaign speeches and self-congratulatory pats on the backs for themselves, while the real issues facing the county are ignored. This is especially true in election years, but the entire concept of the State of the County address has devolved through the past several boards, a natural byproduct of division and individual beliefs that increasingly take center stage while the visions for residents, for businesses and for our county’s future take a back seat. (Carr. Co. Times)

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Ed Hartman II: Annapolis City Dock master plan

The City Dock Master Plan, amended and adopted October 2013, must be revised if it is to contribute beneficially to the historic City Dock and downtown. The current master plan is a precarious tug-of-war between the former Cohen administration and the public outcry that coalesced into “Save Annapolis.” (Capital)

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Shifting view on rights

It should be no surprise that our board of county commissioners decided last week that it did not want to regulate electronic signs, but the vote on the issue was interesting because it did not fall along the lines that residents might expect and, perhaps, the fact that it is an election year played in to the final decision for some on the board. A majority clamoring about property rights has dominated many of the board’s decisions in their three years in office, but in this case support and opposition came from different areas. (Carr. Co. Times)

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Jan. 3 // Find common ground on ways to protect the Chesapeake

What is the state of Chesapeake Bay? As with many things, it can be in the eye of the beholder. If you like bay oysters, you’re pleased their number has grown in recent years. If you believe water quality is paramount, you might want faster progress in restoring it. Or, if you are a Delmarva poultry farmer, you might think you’re being unfairly blamed for pollution. (Daily Times)

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Blair Lee: Funny money

Money is the mother’s milk of politics: having it doesn’t guarantee victory, but not having it almost always guarantees defeat. Campaign money also has become a battleground in this year’s governor’s race. In November, Democratic candidate Doug Gansler invited his chief rival, Anthony Brown, to reject so-called “dark money” spending during the primary election. Banning such “outside spending” by PACs, unions and anyone except the candidate’s own campaigns was a self-serving Gansler ploy masquerading as good government. (Gazette)

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Obamacare mandate doesn't violate nuns' rights

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a reasonable decision when, on New Year's Eve, she temporarily blocked implementation of the Affordable Care Act's contraception coverage mandate in a case brought by a religious order of nuns that operates homes for the poor and elderly in Catonsville and elsewhere. It certainly doesn't hurt to wait a few days and hear the government's argument for immediate implementation. But the 11th hour drama doesn't change the fact that the contraceptive coverage requirement is good policy, and the mechanism for groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor to avoid violating their religious tenets is reasonable. (Balt. Sun)

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Jay Bernstein: UMBC response to Israel boycott is inadequate

Over 200 years ago, political theorist and philosopher Edmund Burke memorably remarked: "The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing." This truism comes to mind when assessing the reaction of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to the recent vote by the American Studies Association (ASA) in favor of an academic boycott of Israel. The ASA, of which UMBC is an institutional member, is the nation's oldest and largest association dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of American history and culture. The boycott bars the ASA from entering into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions; with scholars who represent those institutions, such as deans, rectors, presidents and others; and with scholars who serve as representatives of the Israeli government. (Balt. Sun)

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