Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

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

August 26

The Paris (Tenn.) Post-Intelligencer on not using cruise missiles in Syria:

Please, not again. Yet there it was in a news report: Finding of strong evidence that the regime in Syria used chemical weapons against its own people raises chances of “a U.S. military strike.”

It would not be a major incursion, administration officials said. Just a little war, a few cruise missiles aimed at strategic targets to send a message.

Do we never learn? Violence begets only more violence. Warlike acts lead to real wars, and we have enough of those on our hands already in that part of the world.

There is recognition of that in Washington. …

It’s not a matter of backing the right side in the conflict there. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that after two years of fighting, no single rebel group is yet capable of taking over with American help.

The situation in Syria is all too familiar, an oppressive military regime on one side and radical Muslims on the other.

President Barack Obama has declared use of chemical weapons to be a red line that, if crossed, would trigger U.S. action.

Yet surely there must be some alternative to a military strike. Surely.




August 25

The Times, Gainesville, Ga., on nation’s racial progress:

Fifty years ago this week, a seminal moment in history was off many Americans’ radar.

This was the era before cable news and the Internet, so the only view most had of the event was on the evening news and in the daily newspaper the next day.

Even then, Martin Luther King Jr.’s address before the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington was relegated to many back pages, including in this newspaper. Had he spoken of his dream for a more just society before a quarter-million people today, his speech would be broadcast live on every news network, streaming online video and seen by anyone with a TV, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

That half-century span in how news was covered is only one aspect of how different our society was then and now. That African-Americans felt the need to gather in the nation’s capital to affirm their civil rights showed it was a time when such rights were not assumed.

The nation as a whole, and the South in particular, were just beginning the slow move past segregated schools and the “back of the bus” public mentality that had prevailed for so long. …

King’s speech certainly laid the groundwork for this vision: A nation where children would join hands across all racial, national and religious barriers and “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

To some extent, we have reached this plateau; our nation’s youth now grow up in a more integrated society than their parents and grandparents, a giant step in the right direction.

It’s clear the United States of 1963 and of 2013 are not the same. …

Two hundred years of slavery, followed by a hundred years of Jim Crow laws, then 50 years of sporadic progress have produced a distinct cultural divide. Though our racial tapestries have intertwined in many ways —in pop culture, food, language —there’s no denying that the experiences of white and black Americans remain different at many levels. And because of that, our views of the world have been molded by our backgrounds and experiences, sometimes in ways we’re not aware of. …

Achieving King’s vision has never been easy, nor is it a given. Even after 50 years of milestones toward that goal, more work remains, and perhaps always will.




August 21

The Olympian, Olympia, Wash., on cleaning up bombs in Vietnam:

The United States has a moral responsibility to step up efforts to identify, defuse and collect unexploded ordnance that U.S. armed forces rained down on Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

It’s been 40 years since U.S. forces flew its last bombing mission over the Southeast Asian country. But the killing and maiming from those bombs continues.

The Vietnamese government estimates that 100,000 people have been killed or injured from unexploded bombs and other ordnance since 1975.

From land, air and sea, the U.S. dropped nearly 16 million tons of ordnance on the country during the war. As much as 800,000 tons of it did not explode, leaving time-bombs behind that keep on killing.

The U.S. has spent some $65 million since 1998 to retrieve these deadly remnants of war. But that’s only a drop in the bucket, compared to the billions of dollars the Vietnamese government estimates it will take to restore a semblance of safety to its countryside.

Compounding the problem is the large number of impoverished Vietnamese who scour the land for ordnance that didn’t explode during the war. They eke out a meager living by selling copper and steel from the leftover bombs, but risk their lives to do so.

All too often, children at play in rural areas of the country fall victim to these unexploded war munitions. An estimated 20 percent of the country’s land mass is contaminated by the war era bombs.

U.S. officials have expressed desire to increase trade and economic ties with Vietnam. They should start by cleaning up the mess left behind from the ill-fated attempt to bomb the country into submission more than 40 years ago.




August 25

Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J., on a sensible plan to rate colleges:

In a speech Thursday in Syracuse, N.Y., President Obama offered up one fact that speaks volumes about what has gone wrong with higher education: During the past three decades, the average price of a four-year degree at a public university has risen by 250 percent, while average family income has risen by just 16 percent.

People are still going to college, in ever greater numbers. …

Obama now proposes to help families navigate this challenge by providing scorecards that would rank colleges, and by rewarding those colleges that produce the best results. The ratings, which he said would be ready by 2015, will include measures such as average tuition, the share of low-income students they enroll, graduation rates, average debt and even average income after graduation.

Some of this information is available today in scattered places, but Obama would put it under one roof, with easily accessible software. And average incomes of graduates are not currently available to the public.

The idea behind the rating system is sound. It will help families make smart choices with one of the biggest investments of their lives. And it will give colleges new incentive to measure up.

Like any tool, this one could be misused. …

Obama can build the rating system on his own without the consent of Congress. The political challenge will come in 2018, when he hopes the ratings will be linked to federal aid programs.

Obama will be gone by then, so perhaps Republicans will have stopped trying to repeal “Obamacare” and will have some time to examine the idea on its merits. One can dream.




August 24

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on why Bradley Manning didn’t deserve a 35-year sentence:

Bradley Manning is no hero. He betrayed his country by leaking a huge trove of documents to the information insurgent Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

But the acts of this lowly private first class don’t justify the harsh 35-year sentence he received. Manning was an easy mark for an administration bent on prosecutorial overreach.

The message President Barack Obama is sending to legitimate whistle-blowers is clear: Leak documents, and you will pay dearly. Anyone interested in open government should be deeply skeptical of Obama’s tactics.

When he ran for president in 2008, Obama promised transparency and openness, and he was harshly critical of President George W. Bush, calling his “one of the most secretive administrations in our nation’s history.” Obama also vowed to protect whistle-blowers.

Instead, he has gone after them in court.

Obama’s administration has brought charges against six people so far for leaking information, more than all other presidents combined. These include the vindictive case against Thomas A. Drake, a former National Security Agency official, who shared documents about alleged agency mismanagement with a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. He had aired the same criticisms with Congress and the Defense Department’s inspector general.

Drake was indicted on 10 felony counts under the Espionage Act in a case that dragged on for four long years and ruined Drake’s reputation before most of the charges were dropped and he was set free with the judge chastising the government. …

Manning’s actions were serious. The release of documents embarrassed American diplomats and may have put people at risk. Although there is no evidence that anyone was killed as a result of the document dump, some of the files given to WikiLeaks were found in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and turned up in an al-Qaida video.

But Manning also provided WikiLeaks with videos of airstrikes in which civilians and journalists were killed and files about detainees held at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This was information that the public should have known — and didn’t — until Manning leaked it to Assange. The point is that there was public value in what Manning did — to a point.

To us, the fault lies as much with the mercurial Assange as with Manning. Assange chose to publish the documents scattershot without regard for the safety of human rights workers, dissidents or informants. …

The Bradley Mannings of the world undermine the good intentions of legitimate whistle-blowers and put the nation at risk. But what of an administration so impulsively prone to keep its own counsel? Citizens must be on guard against that as well.




August 23

Express News, San Antonio, on Mexico should allow investment:

Mexico’s natural resources are its own.

There is no contradiction in that and reform that could allow some reasonable level of private investment in its oil.

Pemex, Mexico’s state oil monopoly, is in dire need of the technological improvements that might come with that foreign investment.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is proposing reform that falls short of a foreign company’s ability to own the oil and gas that the firm drills in Mexico.

But this just isn’t in the cards.

Mexicans have opposed constitutional tweaking that might even hint at anything less than 100 percent ownership of Mexican oil.

Nonetheless, Peña Nieto has proposed constitutional changes that would allow foreign firms to share some of the risk and profits of oil exploration.

Mexican oil production has dropped 25 percent in the last decade as wells have dried up. More Mexican oil exists in deeper water and in shale, much as in the Eagle Ford play.

The petro facts of life being what they are in Mexico, Peña Nieto’s modest reforms are the most that can be accomplished.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, oil generated 16 percent of the country’s export earnings in 2011 and oil earnings were 34 percent of total Mexican government revenues that year.

A strong Mexican economy and well-funded government are good for Mexico — and its neighbors.




August 28

The Korea Herald, Seoul, South Korea, on Assembly session should not be disrupted:

The ongoing partisan standoff over the alleged meddling of the National Intelligence Service in the December presidential election is likely to continue into September, disrupting the imminent regular session of the National Assembly.

Under the law, the Assembly is required to start its 100-day regular session on Sept. 1. But a parliamentary paralysis appears to be inevitable as the rival camps are unable to find common ground on handling the thorny issue.

Political gridlock deepened after President Park Geun-hye made it clear Monday that she had no intention of accommodating the demands of the main opposition Democratic Party.

The opposition party demands that Park bring to light the truth about the allegations that the spy agency staged an online smear campaign against the DP presidential candidate.

It also demands that Park apologize for the whole affair and hold a one-on-one meeting with DP leader Kim Han-gil to discuss NIS reform. ..

Turning down Kim’s call for a tete-a-tete, Park renewed her offer for a five-way meeting, which would include the heads and floor leaders of both the opposition party and the ruling Saenuri Party.

Park avoids an exclusive meeting with the DP leader because she fears it will be dominated by the NIS issue. She insists on a meeting where the floor leaders participate because she needs their cooperation in pushing reform bills through the National Assembly.

In response to Park’s offer, DP leader Kim made a counterproposal. He suggested that Park meet with him first to discuss the NIS allegations and then hold a broader meeting to discuss bills related with people’s livelihoods.

Kim gave Park until Sept. 4 to respond to his proposal, but there is little chance of Park accepting it.

In fact, Kim himself did not put much hope on it. …

Park urges the opposition party to stop futile political one-upmanship and focus on issues related to people’s well-being. Yet it is her intransigence that is keeping the party away from the National Assembly.

We do not question Park’s integrity when she claims she had no prior knowledge of the NIS’ alleged wrongdoing. But this does not necessarily mean that she can ignore the opposition party’s demands that the truth be established.

DP leader Kim said previously that he would meet with Park regardless of the dialogue format. He should stick to his word.




August 27

The Khaleej Times, Dubai, on countdown in Damascus

The clock is ticking away as the United Nations inspectors try to find traces of chemical agents. The fear is that they may have been dissipated. But as far as the world body chief is concerned, he is already judgmental.

In a brief media talk in Seoul, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the use of chemical weapons is a crime against humanity and must be punished. “Every hour counts. We cannot afford any more delays. We have all seen the horrifying images on our television screens and through social media. Clearly this was a major and terrible incident,” Ban remarked to underscore his restlessness over the issue.

The movement on the high seas, nonetheless, suggests that Washington is gearing up to take up the role of punisher, and seems to have been emboldened with the support of France, Britain and Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, while castigating the regime in Damascus, went on to say that Ankara would support military action against it, whether it is backed by the UN or not. So is the stance of Britain, which believes that no more tolerance should be shown towards the Baath Party in Syria. This inevitably sets the stage for a military intervention, and like the case of Iraq it is closely followed on a failed diplomatic track.

Whatever may be the findings of the inspectors visiting the ill-fated areas, it should be kept in mind that no effort should be made to jump the gun. The UN and the world powers have already blundered in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, where their trigger happiness landed the whole world in a renewed security phobia and recession. The culprits responsible for using the toxic agents should be netted and punished in a way that doesn’t come to bring miseries to millions more in the war-torn country.



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