Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

The Canton Repository, Feb. 12

Each year, lawmakers in Washington make it increasingly more difficult to file a federal income tax return with any confidence it has been done accurately and without leaving your money in Uncle Sam's hands.

Fortunately, a free, local service open to many Stark County residents can help.

The United Way of Greater Stark County's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program offers filing assistance to anyone who meets certain income guidelines. Preparers are IRS trained and certified. In-person and drop-off services are available.

In the first few weeks of the program, VITA already has helped hundreds of Stark County residents claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in refunds. A 24-hour "Tax-A-Thon" over two days earlier this month featured a friendly competition among volunteer filers from Walsh, Malone and Mount Union universities. Walsh "won," but the real winners were the 355 local taxpayers who will receive almost $400,000 in refunds — money that will come back into circulation in our community.

"We're really excited about the number of tax filers who are taking advantage of the free VITA services," VITA Site Coordinator Tami Stephens said in a written statement.

The VITA program is open to individuals who earned $65,000 or less last year. According to census data, approximately 90,000 households in Stark County would meet that qualification.

An area of the tax code that can be particularly confusing and often overlooked receives extra attention from the tax volunteers: the Earned Income Tax Credit. Many households in Stark County don't receive full refunds allowed under the tax code because they fail to claim this entry on their returns. ...

Maybe you don't need this service, but it's likely you know someone who would benefit from it. Tell them about it. ...

Online: http://bit.ly/2HaBszk

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The (Youngstown) Vindicator, Feb. 9

It has long been a truism that Olympian sports imitate world politics. Ever since their modern incarnation began in 1896, the Winter and Summer Games often have symbolized the best and worst of geopolitical relations across the globe.

At that first modern-era Olympics in Athens, Greece, lingering animosities from the Franco-Prussian War between France and Germany nearly prevented teams from those nations participating. Over the years, social activism and political tensions have creeped into the Games, sparking boycotts, sideline turmoil and even acts of terrorism at Olympian venues.

That not-so-fine tradition endures as the opening ceremonies for the XXIII PyeongChang Winter Games Olympiad roll out amid grand pomp and pageantry today in South Korea for the competitions that continue through Feb. 25.

On the one hand, the union of 2,800 athletes from 95 nations around the world in spirited but friendly competition represents the best in the Olympian values of global unity and cooperation.

On the other hand, the messy politics and hard-line tensions that define the rigidly divided Korean Peninsula and its interactions with the rest of the world likely will rise as a subtext over the joyous international celebration.

To the credit of North and South Korea and in a bow to international unity and solidarity, some bright signs emerge. For one, athletes from the Communist North and Democratic South are scheduled to march together under one unified Korean flag at today's opening ceremonies.

In the best-case scenario, the Pyeongchang Olympics could serve as a precursor to greater rapprochement between the North and South and as a catalyst toward defusing nuclear tensions between the North and the United States.

More realistically, the next two weeks of talented sportsmanship could play out as a committed short-term truce among those rivals.

That latter scenario would enable the Winter Games to nobly carry on the long-standing core values of all Olympics competitions: friendship, respect and excellence.

According to the Olympic Museum, those values form the very foundation upon which the Games unite sport, culture and education for the betterment of world harmony. Advancing those goals should not represent any insurmountable hurdle.

As for friendship, the host nation has spent an estimated $10 billion to roll out an inviting welcome mat of state-of-the-art competitive facilities. In them, athletes of all political stripes will carry on the tradition of friendly and talented competition.

As for respect, South Korea, like other host nations before it, has placed a premium on inclusiveness and tolerance for this month's Games. Players from all nations - including hard-core political enemies - will put aside differences to respect the talent and athleticism of all athletes.

As for excellence, the XXIII Winter Games promise the singularly exciting Olympian spectacle of sporting events on the ice, in the snow and inside the hockey arenas.

From our perspective, all eyes will be focused on the robust American team of 224 athletes.

Many true-blue Olympian aficionados will be watching closely some of this nation's best bets for bringing home the gold. They include Alpine skiiers Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, figure skater Nathan Chen, snowboarder Chloe Kim and the dynamic U.S. women's hockey team.

The International Olympic Committee estimates 5 billion people around the world will have their eyes glued to at least a portion of this year's Winter Games. ...

... As the Games play out over the next two weeks, we're hoping that the focus of the world sharpens clearly on the strong athleticism, shared international experience and healthy competitive spirit on display there. With political animosities placed on the back burner, the Olympian values of friendship, respect and excellence can thrive.

Online: http://bit.ly/2EzPqMr

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The Blade, Feb. 12

When Toledo city officials called a news conference to introduce a new neighborhood-centric strategy for rooting out violent crime in the city, they explained that the effort focused on gang and drug activity because those issues were at the root of many of the city's homicides and other violence.

"By and large, drugs are the cause of this," Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said.

But that assertion did not sit well with Arthur Jones Jr., a former city councilman who lives in South Toledo.

Mr. Jones took the new mayor and other city officials to task for not applying the same all-out prevention strategy to domestic violence, which was a factor in 11 of the city's 36 homicides in 2016.

Mr. Jones, whose daughter was killed in a domestic-violence incident and who serves on the Lucas County Domestic Violence Task Force board, wondered why that type of crime did not deserve similar attention.

Mr. Jones noted that after a spike in homicides early this year, the city is authorizing more police overtime, shifting some detectives into roles that focus on gangs and the drug trade, expanding the block-watch program, and launching a neighborhood-by-neighborhood campaign to encourage residents to push back against violent crime.

But, two years ago, when the common denominator in a spike of violent crimes was domestic violence, where was the focus on preventing that?

"Go back to 2016 when 11 women lost their lives to domestic violence . and we have done nothing!"

And Mr. Jones came prepared to ask Mr. Kapszukiewicz for something specific.

The domestic violence task force joined the national "No More" public awareness campaign to end domestic violence last year. The focus of that effort was supposed to be a series of public-service announcements and advertisements aimed at destigmatizing domestic violence and encouraging residents not to turn away or ignore domestic violence when they see or suspect it.

Mr. Jones complained that while local officials were quick to praise the effort, the city and county had offered only a few hundred dollars each toward an advertising budget.

The mayor offered, on the spot, to contribute a personal donation. But the mayor, city council, Lucas County commissioners, and other public entities ought to do better than that. They ought to ante up for a decent advertising budget to support the domestic violence task force's efforts.

The violent crime that claims lives in Toledo does not have just one root cause. And the strategies to stamp it out cannot be aimed in just one direction.

Online: http://bit.ly/2EErmIB

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Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 9

On what level does it make sense for the United States to stage a military parade in our nation's capital? None that we know of.

It might have made sense in 1991 when President George H.W. Bush presided over a parade of troops and hardware to mark the Desert Storm victory in the Persian Gulf. But even reports of that so-called National Victory Celebration note mixed views on whether it was proper.

For starters, we question spending the money it would cost to throw this little party. Early estimates put the price tag in the millions of dollars. That may be hard to believe, but the '91 parade costs were reported at being between $8 million and $12 million.

President Donald Trump reportedly became enamored with the notion of trotting out troops, tanks and weapons after witnessing France's Bastille Day celebration in July - an event dating back to 1880 but hardly a global example of fighting power.

So where else in the world is this kind of extravagant display of military might regularly practiced? Interestingly enough, such parades are a thing in a trio of nations that Trump alternately provokes or defends from criticism by others - China, North Korea and Russia.

In fact North Korea's latest such exhibition occurred Thursday, with troops and missiles parading ceremoniously past Kim Jong Un for his approval and also to remind Americans of the unstable threat lurking in the backyard of the Winter Olympics.

Certainly there is a voice of reason somewhere in Congress or the Pentagon willing to name the president's parade envy for what it is -another absurd juvenile taunt of whose button is bigger.

If the Pentagon has millions of dollars to spare, there must be better ways to spend it. We suggest health care or job training for veterans as two infinitely more worthy ways to honor our military.

Online: http://bit.ly/2H6IGnM

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