Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

April 24

Boston Herald on politics:

President Barack Obama and his team don’t have to worry about commercial flight delays. Maybe that helped secure the decision to begin furloughing air traffic controllers this week, leading to delays at the nation’s airports and the Democrats’ finger of blame pointed at tax-averse Republicans.

The administration claims that, because of the sequester-related budget cuts, it has no choice but to furlough all 47,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees, ordering them each to stay home one of every 10 days between now and September. That is, we are told, the only way the agency can achieve the required $500 million in cuts.

It’s nonsense, of course.

The agency has refused to consider reducing its workforce to help achieve the savings, in areas that would not directly affect air safety. Nope, not a single deputy-assistant to the deputy-assistant can be spared. Not an ounce of fat in the personnel budget.

As for sparing the 15,000 air traffic controllers the furloughs, instead imposing them solely on non-safety-related jobs, well, they’ve said no to that, too.

Meanwhile Democrats in the Senate have refused to consider legislation that would allow the administration more flexibility in imposing the sequester-related cuts. Offered an escape hatch, they’ve chosen to wallow in the inconvenience.

Because, of course, it’s all about the inconvenience. The inconvenience is what furthers the cause — another major tax increase.

Forget the impact on the economy when business travel is stalled, airline schedules up-ended, shipments of inventory delayed or canceled, or when a family heading on a summer trip decides to avoid the hassle and stay home.

According to House Republicans, the FAA’s $10 billion operating budget has increased 110 percent since 1996, and includes $2.7 billion in non-personnel costs. By no means should these cuts cripple the commercial aviation system, but in the interest of scoring political points, they might.




April 23

Los Angeles Times on Boston, bombs and Miranda:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen suspected of planting bombs at the Boston Marathon, was charged Monday with using a “weapon of mass destruction” against people and property, and he faces an aggressive prosecution and the possibility of the death penalty.

But that’s not good enough for Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Because Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, “were not common criminals . but terrorists trying to injure, maim and kill innocent Americans,” the two senators would rather see Tsarnaev plucked from the judicial system, classified as an enemy combatant, deprived of a lawyer and placed in military detention.

To its credit, the Obama administration rejected the senators’ counsel. …

The U.S. attorney in Boston said the Justice Department was invoking a “public safety exception” to the Miranda rule that in most cases requires police to advise suspects in custody of their right to remain silent and their right to an attorney. Under the exception, announced in a 1984 Supreme Court decision, police may forgo reading a suspect his rights in the interests of public safety — and if the suspect then makes an incriminating statement, it can be used at trial.

In that case, police asked a suspected rapist who had entered a supermarket where his gun was, and the suspect said it was “over there.” The court allowed the use of that statement even though the suspect hadn’t been advised of his rights because police were motivated by a desire to protect shoppers and employees from being harmed by the weapon.

It would have been a legitimate use of the public safety exception in the Boston case if law enforcement officials had refrained from reading Tsarnaev his rights only for as long as it took to establish whether other bombs had been planted. …

On Monday, a federal magistrate finally informed Tsarnaev of his rights. We hope that, in the days and hours before that intervention, his interrogators didn’t exploit his ignorance to build their case. A public safety exception so broad that it swallows the Miranda rule would be bad for the constitutional rights of all Americans.




April 23

Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Miss., on militant Islam a world danger:

The world may never know for sure whether the Tsarnaev brothers acted alone in the Boston Marathon bombings.

It seems likely, judging from what’s been disclosed so far in the investigation, that they probably did — if you don’t count the advice they may have gotten on the Internet on how to construct the bombs or the encouragement they may have received from radicals in their religion.

Whether this was part of a broader conspiracy or not, there’s a common thread that runs through almost all of these terrorist attacks over the past two decades: Militant Islam.

That’s difficult for some in politics, including President Obama, and the media to acknowledge. Politically correct speech forbids blaming religions for the actions of a few who radicalize the beliefs of the group.

After interrogating Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Monday, U.S. officials believe the brothers were motivated by their faith, apparently an anti-American, radical version of Islam. Another official called them aspiring jihadists.

It is true that there are many peaceful Muslims in this country. It’s also true that there have been and are so-called Christians who distort the message of the Bible and commit violent acts.

But a major difference in Islam and Christianity is that Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, preached non-violence, and the New Testament clearly points that out.

The Koran, as interpreted by large groups, is not so clear on that. Rather there are too many who interpret it as encouraging holy war.




April 22

The Miami Herald on human rights abuses in Cuba:

The State Department’s latest report on human-rights practices effectively puts the lie to the idea that the piecemeal and illusory changes in Cuba under Gen. Raúl Castro represent a genuine political opening toward greater freedom.

If anything, things are getting worse. The report, which covers 2012, says the independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconciliation counted 6,602 short-term detentions during the year, compared with 4,123 in 2011. In March 2012, the same commission recorded a 30-year record high of 1,158 short-term detentions in a single month just before the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

Among the many abuses cited by the 2012 report are the prison sentences handed out to members of the Unión Patriotica de Cuba, the estimated 3,000 citizens held under the charge of “potential dangerousness,” state-orchestrated assaults against the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), the suspicious death of dissident Oswaldo Payá and so on.

As in any dictatorship, telling the truth is a crime: Independent journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, the first to report on the cholera outbreak in Cuba, was jailed in September for the crime of desacato (insulting speech) and remained there until last week.

The regime is willing to undertake some meek economic reforms to keep people employed. It has even dared to relax its travel requirements to allow more Cubans to leave the country if they can get a passport.

Both of these are short-term survival measures, designed as escape valves for growing internal pressure. But when it comes to free speech, political activity and freedom of association — the building blocks of a free society — the report is a depressing chronicle of human-rights abuses and a valuable reminder that repression is the Castro regime’s only response to those who demand a genuinely free Cuba. Fundamental reform? Not a chance.




April 20

Kansas City (Mo.) Star on Earth Day challenges China and the rest of the world to do better:

Earth Day will be celebrated Monday around the globe. That’s as it should be, as scientists find more ways that pollution, energy production, climate change and other issues such as recycling are interconnected.

Which brings us to China and its oversized impact on the state of the world. Earth Day there will be a cause for plenty of concern — and not just for the Chinese.

The country of 1.35 billion people is plagued by horrendous pollution problems. …

Despite official government statements that praise the country’s modern ways, especially its fuel-efficient automobiles and production of solar panels, China is by some estimates headed toward having even worse pollution problems. Many are tied to its use of dirty coal.

Coal consumption soared 33 percent between 2008 and 2011, up by 1 billion tons a year. That figure equals the total use in the United States on an annual basis, and China now burns about four times as much coal as we do.

That figure is likely to grow even more quickly as the Chinese economy expands. The result of this increased use of fossil fuels — as an overwhelming number of scientists agree — could be more dramatic changes in the global climate.

So how might China, and the rest of the world, avoid these environmental problems?

The expanding Chinese economy is creating a middle class that could pressure the government to improve pollution controls and emphasize the use of cleaner-burning coal and other fuels.

China also might replicate some of America’s environmental success stories. …

In our interconnected world, some attention in this and future years must continue to focus on how well China deals with its myriad environmental troubles.




April 23

New York Times on Japan’s unnecessary nationalism:

Since taking over as Japan’s prime minister in December, Shinzo Abe and his conservative Liberal Democratic Party have been juggling a packed agenda of complicated issues, including reviving the country’s economy, coping with the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and managing prickly relations with neighbors like North Korea. Stirring up extraneous controversy is counterproductive, but that’s exactly what he and his nationalist allies in Parliament have done.

On Tuesday, a group of 168 mostly low-ranking conservative lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo, which honors Japan’s war dead, including several who were executed as war criminals after World War II. It was the largest mass visit by Parliament in recent memory. The Japanese news media said that Abe didn’t visit the shrine, instead sending a ritual offering, but his deputy prime minister and two other ministers made a pilgrimage there over the weekend. He has a record of defending Japan’s conduct during World War II.

Abe and his allies know well what a deeply sensitive issue this is for China and South Korea, which suffered under Japan’s 20th-century empire-building and militarism, and the reaction was predictable. On Monday, South Korea canceled a visit to Japan by its foreign minister and China publicly chastised Japan. On Tuesday, tensions were further fueled when Chinese and Japanese boats converged on disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Japan and China both need to work on a peaceful solution to their territorial issues. But it seems especially foolhardy for Japan to inflame hostilities with China and South Korea when all countries need to be working cooperatively to resolve the problems with North Korea and its nuclear program.

Instead of exacerbating historical wounds, Abe should focus on writing Japan’s future, with an emphasis on improving its long-stagnant economy and enhancing its role as a leading democracy in Asia and beyond.




April 23

The Oklahoman on overreach by President Barack Obama doomed gun control bill:

Washington might have a gun control bill now were it not for President Barack Obama’s overreach. The Great Divider has again lived up to the moniker by refusing to embrace a compromise position and refusing to embrace compromise in general.

After all, compromise is in the realm of governing. Obama stays in the realm of politics, the perpetual campaigner who will try to win back the U.S. House by demonizing the gun lobby and Republicans for dishonoring victims of the Newtown massacre.

The U.S. Senate’s rebuff of gun legislation came on the week when Boston grieved its dead, police moved swiftly to find and arrest the marathon bombing perpetrators and Oklahoma City remembered the victims of its own massacre. These were reminders that evil and demented people are among who will kill by whatever means, be it “assault” weapons or “assault” pressure cookers.

Obama and pro-gun control Democrats had opportunities to reach a compromise, most notably in the area of background checks. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, suggested one such compromise. The Democrats weren’t interested. Other Democrats joined Republicans in refusing to embrace the overreach, which was predicated on the belief that Newtown justified any means to an end.

Was the gun lobby dishonest about the bill restricting weapons transfers to relatives? You bet. Were any mistruths the reason for its defeat? No way. Americans want sensible, fair and constitutional gun restrictions debated with reason and restraint. Obama consistently refuses to back legislation that has a chance to win bipartisan support before a vote is taken. Sometimes he gets his way, as with Obamacare. Often he doesn’t, but The Great Divider still notches a victory in defeat because it becomes part of his campaign strategy going forward.

We’re still waiting for him to have a governing strategy. It’s pretty shameful that he seems less interested in running the country than in running a campaign.




April 24

The Star, Toronto, on Muslim community deserves credit for thwarting Toronto terror plot:

As the shock of Canada’s brush with an alleged Al Qaeda-directed terror plot recedes, it’s comforting to learn that a prominent Toronto Muslim cleric played a key role in foiling the attack. More than a year ago he alerted the authorities to someone he felt was an extremist who was radicalizing young people.

That speaks to something very Canadian: The sense that we can count on each other to do the right thing for the wider community, that we are all in this together. The VIA Rail passenger trains that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police say the alleged plotters had in their sights might just as easily have been carrying innocent Muslim passengers as anyone else. The imam who spoke up was motivated by a sense of civic duty and a concern for human life — values the vast majority of Canada’s 650,000 Muslims share with their neighbours, but for which they are not always given credit.

Recently, much attention has focused on radicalism among Muslim youth, following reports that the RCMP is investigating Canadians at the forefront of terror attacks in Algeria and Somalia that left scores dead. And the “Toronto 18″ also planned carnage here. The problem is undeniably a real one. But it’s far from being the entire story.

“Since 9/11 the Muslim community has been working very closely with government agencies, including the RCMP and police forces,” says Yusuf Badat, an imam and director of religious affairs for the Islamic Foundation of Toronto. …

Or as another Toronto Muslim leader, Muhammad Robert Heft, put it, Canada is “our country . our tribe. We want safety for all Canadians regardless of their religion.”

Despite this good faith, some feared an angry backlash and demonization of the community after reports that Raed Jaser of Toronto and Chiheb Esseghaier of Montreal had been caught plotting to derail a VIA Rail train between Toronto and New York. …

In announcing the arrests, the RCMP rightly briefed Muslim leaders, thanked them for their help and publicly credited them with bringing a suspect to their attention.

Tough laws, good policing and vigilant courts all have their role in thwarting jihadist violence. But as the VIA Rail case reminds us, an alert Muslim community and raised voices are the key. If the police have it right, a Toronto cleric’s concern saved the day.




April 19

The Japan Times, Tokyo, on better response to bird flu:

Anew strain of bird flu has surfaced in China and it has health officials alarmed. While the death toll has reached double digits, the real cause of concern is the fact that it was previously not known to affect humans. Health officials in China and elsewhere are closely monitoring hospitals and clinics, as well as the close contacts of confirmed cases.

Surveillance is critical, not only of people, but also of poultry to trace the source of the outbreak and identify its vectors, as well as isolate the strain and prepare a vaccine.

The new flu comes from the H7N9 virus, a variant that has long been in pigeons but has never been found in humans. …

Several had visited poultry markets before they got sick, but the actual source of the infection remains uncertain. Chinese experts believe that the virus originated in migratory birds that mixed with domestic fowl in China’s heavily populated Yangtze River delta.

As a result, many bird markets in eastern China have been shut down and culls are under way. Shanghai has banned the sale of all live poultry. It was reported Tuesday that the virus was detected in a wild pigeon caught in Nanjing.

Officials are also monitoring the close contacts of confirmed patients to ensure that they are not carrying the disease. …

Many questions still swirl around the outbreak, not least of which is its extent. China seems to be responding quickly to the appearance of the disease, with health officials stepping up surveillance and sharing results with international counterparts. Four of the viruses have been sequenced and posted on websites for international scrutiny.

People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, has called on officials to publicize information to avoid panic. In Shanghai a microblog is providing real-time updates. Daily email updates are also being sent. …

China should be applauded for its about-face in responding to this outbreak, but the test is not over. The challenges will intensify if the disease spreads. China should be encouraged to maintain its transparency and its neighbors, along with relevant international institutions, should be vigilant and prepared to cooperate to contain, control and ultimately defeat this disease.




April 24

The Australian, Sydney, on choosing priorities in health:

Our politicians are only forestalling the inevitable by refusing to face up to the historic challenges in health funding

Shaping up on ABC1′s Q&A on Monday, federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and her opposition counterpart Peter Dutton were quickly bogged down in the minutiae of political diagnoses and second opinions.

Sure, the blame game between state and federal governments over health has not ended, and sure, it is difficult to determine where sensible support for private health insurance ends and middle-class welfare begins. And undoubtedly efficiencies can be found among myriad bureaucratic agencies and processes. But politicians could go from the humidity crib to the palliative care bed trying to outbid each other while avoiding the main issue.

This week’s Grattan Institute report about the budget pressures on Australian governments pointed out that 19 percent of public expenditure was spent on health. …

Access to expensive technology kicks in even before conception through IVF, and may improve our lives through laser surgery and subsidized medicines, before new procedures and drugs extend our twilight years and smooth our passing. Potential health expenses from cradle to grave are almost limitless. At some stage, politicians will have to grapple with the tough choices about what should be standard care and what is not. Glib lines about everyone having access to the world’s best care may sound like social justice but the promise, in reality, is not deliverable.

The world’s best changes daily. Increasingly the critical questions will be about the universal standard governments are prepared to offer public patients, whether co-payments may play a role for some treatments, and how private insurance can constrain the burden on the public system. Until then, a bidding war will easily consume every dollar available.




April 22

The Jerusalem Post on Mavi Marmara:

Just minutes before U.S. President Barack Obama – wrapping up a three-day visit in Israel – boarded Air Force One for Jordan, he gave Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a ring. After a few formalities, Obama handed the phone to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who proceeded to apologize for the “tragic results” of clashes between IDF soldiers and pro-Hamas Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara in May 2010.

“Israel expresses regret over the injuries and loss of life,” Netanyahu told Erdogan. …

Erdogan’s open hostility toward Israel is a common tactic used by Muslim leaders to boost popularity at home and throughout the region. Turkey under Islamist leadership sides with Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state, because of the AKP’s ideological affinity with Hamas and because the Gaza-based regime is part of a broader Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated resurgence taking place in Egypt and Tunisia and perhaps will spread to Libya, Jordan and post-Assad Syria.

Turkey’s repeated attempts to obstruct efforts by Israel to improve ties with NATO are another aspect of this openly anti-Israel approach. Under the circumstances, Netanyahu’s apology had little chance of reversing the direction of social undercurrents driving Istanbul’s foreign policy.

In the aftermath of the apology there has been no significant change in Turkey’s attitude toward Israel.

Despite expectations to the contrary, Erdogan has avoided committing to a resumption of full diplomatic relations with Israel. And in a diplomatic slap in the face to both Israel and the US, the Turkish prime minister has made public his intention to visit Hamas-ruled Gaza in May. …

National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror, who is presently in Turkey to discuss compensation for the flotilla victims, is also negotiating with the Turkish government to use an airbase in Ankara as a launching pad for an attack on Iran, according to the Sunday Times.

Starting in 1996, Israel was permitted to use the Akinci airbase northwest of Ankara. But in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara raid, Turkey terminated the agreement.

Using the Turkish airbase could mean the difference between Israeli success and failure, an IDF source told the Sunday Times. From a Realpolitik perspective, Israeli and Turkish interests might dovetail vis-a-vis the Iranian threat. If Netanyahu’s apology facilitated this strategic achievement, it was worth it.



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