Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

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

August 31

The Clarion-Ledger on Syria:

Regardless of motives, President Barack Obama made the right decision in seeking congressional support for a military response to Syria’s (alleged) use of weaponized gas on rebels.

While history and precedent provide a clear enough path for the president to make the decision himself, this particular incident at this particular time holds tremendous importance for the future of the Middle East and for the direction of our country.

Syria is but a minor player among Arab nations, but its allies are strong. Furthermore, we have seen all too well how American intervention without well-planned strategies for post-success actions can make matters far worse than before. Look to Iraq. Look to Egypt.

Compound this with the increasing reports of a strengthening al-Qaida presence in Syria, and we must be more vigilant than ever in vetting any military response that leaves Syrian power in place — which is the extent of any military reaction that most even would consider supporting.

At home, the divide among our national leaders is clear, and it worsened by the divide among our people. If the backlash against former President George W. Bush was bad after his decision to invade Iraq, the backlash against Obama for launching a military action against Syria could be devastating to our domestic agenda.

With Great Britain unlikely to join us in a military response and with the United Nations deciding against any retaliatory action, Obama would be unwise to move forward alone. Congress must be his ally in this action, or this action must not take place.

Congress, however, now has a bigger job to do. …

There is no good decision, no right and no wrong. And while the president could have made it himself, he was right to heed the calls of congressional leaders and many Americans who said he should seek the approval of Congress.

This will now be an American decision, one made by all we have elected to represent us, lead us and protect us.




August 31

News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C., on NFL brain injuries:

Next week the National Football League begins play in earnest, and across the nation millions of Americans will welcome another season of this thrilling, but violent sport.

But this season will be different. It is the first in which the NFL has financially conceded that the brain-rattling hits that give football its powerful and, for the NFL, immensely lucrative appeal, may be taking a serious toll on players. Last week, the league agreed to pay $765 million to settle legal claims brought by more than 4,500 players and their families over concussion-related brain injuries.

The settlement, which will cover all 18,000 former NFL players, was reached by court-appointed mediators. …

Yet the federal judge who must approve the settlement, Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia, could provide more help for past, current and future players at all levels of football by rejecting this tentative agreement.

For one, the settlement is too small. The NFL will generate a projected $10 billion in revenue this year. Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said he wants revenue to reach $25 billion by 2027. Should a payment of less than $1 billion — notably without an admission of guilt — be enough to make the long-term consequences of the NFL’s game go away?

Secondly, the settlement does more to slow progress on the problem than to resolve it. …

The settlement provides $10 million for research into football-related brain injuries. Much more is needed to ascertain the safety of the game as it is played not only in the NFL, but also at all levels down to youth football.

The NFL and contact sports at all levels have stopped dismissing hits to the head as simply having one’s “bell rung.”

For all the money generated by the NFL, surely more than $10 million can go to studying and preventing brain injuries that are obvious, documented and ongoing.




Sept. 3

Los Angeles Times on Time Warner Cable, CBS bury the coaxial:

The settlement of the bitter contract negotiations between Time Warner Cable and CBS cost cable subscribers in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas a month of darkness on CBS-owned channels. Viewers were denied “Under the Dome,” ”Ray Donovan” and, in L.A., nine Dodgers games. Outlets affected included the CBS-owned KCBS and KCAL TV stations as well as the cable channel Showtime.

Not surprisingly, the two giant corporations settled less than a week before the kickoff of the National Football League season, much of which airs on CBS. A football blackout would have been bad news for both Time Warner, which might have lost subscribers, and CBS, which might have lost ratings and advertisers. Neither side divulged details of the new contract, but both put out statements declaring some measure of satisfaction.

We’re glad the battle is over but annoyed that it took so long. And here’s a word of warning to the companies: Viewers may not continue to tolerate extended blackouts and constantly rising fees. …

Although CBS was demanding higher fees from Time Warner Cable, which the operator publicly balked at, the most difficult negotiations in this case were said to be over digital rights. CBS wanted the broadest possible ability to sell its programming to digital platforms, while Time Warner Cable wanted rights to as much content as possible. According to news reports, CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves suggested in a memo to staff that the network had prevailed as far as online transmission rights were concerned.

Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Glenn Britt lamented that the regulations in the 1992 Cable Act, establishing the right of broadcasters to seek compensation from pay-TV operators airing their programming, were “woefully out of date.” He’s right about that. It’s time for Congress to adjust them to catch up with two decades of enormous changes in the way television shows are made, sold and shown in this country.




Sept. 3

The Seattle Times on Microsoft buying Nokia, keeping smartphone choice alive:

WITH the $7.2 billion Nokia acquisition, Microsoft becomes a player in making smartphones.

The Finns are sore about this. Nokia is Finland’s flagship company. In 2010 Stephen Elop, a Canadian, left Microsoft to become the first foreign chief executive of Nokia. Now he’s headed back to Microsoft with a shot at becoming CEO and taking half of Nokia with him.

That is the sort of thing that happens when a company falls behind. In 2007 Nokia had 40 percent of the world market in handsets. That share has slipped to 15 percent, and in the next-generation product, smartphones, it has only 3 percent. Without a new owner, it could be the end of the road for Nokia’s phone business. With a new owner comes cash, talent and another chance.

It just won’t be a Finnish chance.

Microsoft needs to take some chances. It is sitting on a $77 billion cash mountain, the legacy of a near-monopoly in PC-operating systems. Self-respect forbids it to pay it all out as dividends, which would be an admission of impotence. Also, some of the company’s billions are overseas, outside the firing range of the U.S. corporate-income tax.

It has an incentive to invest abroad, as it already did in buying Skype.

Microsoft’s move also pre-empts a Chinese telecom company, Huawei Technologies. In June, when Microsoft was in acquisition talks with Nokia, Huawei expressed an interest in Nokia — but not in Nokia’s commitment to Windows Phone.

Microsoft’s acquisition buys a lease on life for Windows Phone. Google and Apple have 90 percent of the smartphone operating-system business — this time around. But in technology, change is the one constant. Any strong player can win the next round, provided it stays in the game.

In any scenario, the shopper with the most choices wins.




August 30

The Oklahoman on Michael Behenna and Bradley Manning:

Here begins the list of similarities between Michael Behenna and Bradley Manning:

Neither is a hero. Both were soldiers. Both are from Oklahoma. Each was court-martialed and got a sentence considered too long by their supporters and too short by their detractors.

There ends the list of similarities. Here begins the litany of differences:

Behenna was sentenced to 25 years in a military prison for the unpremeditated killing of an Iraqi with known terrorist ties. The killing took place near a combat zone in a theater of war.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for the deliberate, calculated theft of classified information. His crime took place in the climate-controlled comfort of an office.

Since a death was involved in the Behenna case but not in the Manning case, the disparity in sentencing may seem unfair. It is indeed unfair. Behenna got too much time. Manning got too little.

Few would make the argument that Behenna is a hero. He joined the Army after 9/11 and was a 1st lieutenant at the time of the shooting. Behenna wanted to serve his country and was willing to put himself in harm’s way in Iraq. He said he shot and killed Ali Mansur in self-defense.

Outside of Oklahoma in general and his hometown of Edmond in particular, Behenna’s name is scarcely known. He never enjoyed the political prisoner or living martyr status that Manning has had from Day One. But this young officer, who volunteered to fight for his country, a man who made a mistake in a dangerous place at a dangerous time, is a political prisoner because of international relations, America’s image and the timing of Mansur’s killing.

Were it not for these factors, Behenna likely would have gotten a lesser sentence. His family has worked tirelessly to call attention to his case, but Behenna has gotten as much notice in all the months since the killing as Manning typically gets in one day.

Manning’s name is known around the world by the enemies of the country that Behenna chose to fight for. Manning is better known globally now than he likely ever was among the people of Crescent, where he grew up. His prosecution wasn’t based on a desire to punish a whistle-blower. He was prosecuted because he broke the law in a premeditated fashion. He dishonored the very uniform that he continued wearing all during his trial.

If Behenna is denied parole and Manning gets released as soon as he’s eligible, it’s entirely possible that Behenna will spend more time behind bars than Manning. That would send a terrible message to the young men and women who enlist in the military and risk their lives for this country.




Sept. 4

Omaha World-Herald on swimmer’s feat offers lessons:

Diana Nyad’s successful effort in swimming across 110 miles of open water to get from Cuba to the Florida Keys says a lot.

It speaks of Nyad’s amazing determination — the swim across the Florida Straits requires overcoming wind, waves, sun, currents, stinging jellyfish and more, and all without benefit of a protective shark cage.

It speaks of Nyad’s commitment — the swim took nearly 53 hours of near-constant exertion.

It speaks of Nyad’s persistence — she first tried this feat in 1978, and success finally came on her fifth attempt.

It speaks, too, of the power of the human spirit. Nyad, after all, is 64 years old and accomplished something she couldn’t do at age 28. After reaching Florida, she said the swim showed that “we should never ever give up” and “you’re never too old to chase your dreams.”

Those are powerful lessons for anyone at any age.




Sept. 1

The Korea Herald, Seoul, South Korea, on cuts, tax hikes inevitable if growth stays sluggish:

Korea is standing its ground at a time when some Asian countries, such as India and Indonesia, and other emerging economies are taking a drubbing as the United States prepares to phase out quantitative easing. The Korean currency remains stable while stocks are rallying.

No wonder Korea is now touted as one of the most attractive investment markets among the emerging economies. The Korean economy, policymakers say with confidence, will be able to fight back a financial squeeze, should it come as a consequence of cheap financing coming to an end. Their optimism is based on what they call sound fundamentals.

Indeed, foreign exchange reserves have expanded to $330 billion as Korea has continued to generate consecutive monthly current account surpluses since February 2012. Its short-term foreign debt as a percentage of the total external debt is the lowest since the third quarter of 1999 ? at 29.1 percent at the end of June. Growth is recovering, albeit at a snail’s pace.

But not all economic fundamentals are sound, as evidenced by an enormous fiscal deficit the Korean government sustained in the first half of this year. The deficit, the largest ever, amounted to 46.2 trillion won.

Policymakers sound smug when they claim that it is not unusual to sustain a huge fiscal deficit in the first half of a year. The reason, they say, is that the government customarily frontloads spending. Maybe so. As they say, more money was allocated for the first half this year.

But here the size matters. …

Fiscal soundness, if sacrificed to meet a growing demand for welfare, will undermine the nation’s creditworthiness. That is why the Park administration will have to strive to balance annual budgets in the near future. Options are few. The administration will have to spend less, collect more taxes, in particular from the wealthy, or both, if growth remains sluggish.




Sept. 4

The Khaleej Times, Dubai, on basketball diplomacy:

Kim Jong-un is once again playing host to Dennis Rodman. The United States basketball player, though on a private sojourn to the Stalinist state, has stirred the media over his possible role as an emissary to build bridges between Pyongyang and Washington.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Apparently, Rodman before flying off to Pyongyang from Beijing said that he will be meeting his ‘best friend’, who is a great fan, and his visit is merely part of basketball diplomacy tour. So far so good! But the fact is that the reclusive leader had agreed to host Rodman just days after refusing a formal diplomatic request from the US special envoy for North Korean rights, who wanted to deliberate with Kim over the fate of jailed Korean-American Kenneth Bae, who is facing a sentence for illegally entering the country and allegedly plotting to topple the regime. Thus, this faceoff speaks for itself.

As they say in diplomacy too many explanations also make it smell a rat. So is the case here. Though it would not be appropriate to get judgmental in this case, nonetheless, it goes without saying that while Kim is eager to reach out to the corridors of power in the White House, Rodman can inevitably help broker that deal. Rodman credentials speak for him, as he remains the most high-profile American to meet Kim since the leader took over after his father died in 2011. It is also a fact that Kim had expressed his personal desire to Rodman, in his previous visit, to be invited by Barack Obama and nurse his dream of rubbing shoulders with the who’s who in Washington.

If ping-pong diplomacy could broker the world’s greatest diplomatic thaw between China and the United States in the 1970s — through the auspicious of Pakistan — what is stopping a repeat now between Pyongyang and Washington? Rodman can take a lesson or two from Henry Kissinger’s yesteryears policies — and help Kim and Obama opt for a handshake over a game of basketball anywhere in the world! Let sportsmanship triumph in the midst of brinkmanship.



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