Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

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

Sept. 24

The Australian on Kenyan atrocity a wake-up call:

The slaughter of innocent men, women and children perpetrated by Islamic militants at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Kenya, a country that is a longstanding and important Western ally, should leave the international community in no doubt about the dire consequences when failed states are allowed to become breeding grounds for terrorism.

Somalia, the wreck of a country on the Horn of Africa from which the evil, al-Qaida-affiliated al-Shabab thugs responsible for the massacre emanate, has lacked stability since the regime of General Siad Barre, a Soviet toady, lost power in 1991.

In the ensuing anarchy – with the international community unable and unwilling to do much – the worst forms of malevolent Islamic extremism have spawned and thrived, leading to the attack by the al-Shabab terrorists that claimed the lives of scores of people, including Tasmanian-born architect Ross Langdon and his pregnant wife, Elif Yavuz. Another 200 people were wounded. …

Kenya, which has 4,000 soldiers in Somalia as part of an African Union military force battling to restore security to Somalia, is the al-Shabab terrorists’ immediate target, but Nairobi needs help and the international community should be unhesitating in coming to its aid because the threat posed by the Somali terrorists could spread beyond Africa. Al-Shabab is operating closely with al-Qaida and in conjunction with the equally vile Boko Haram terrorists in oil-rich Nigeria and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

Given the large Somali diaspora around the world, attacks could also be staged elsewhere. …

Recently, perceptions had grown that al-Shabab was losing ground. Senior US officials claimed the Islamist group was on the run after staging a tactical retreat from Mogadishu, the Somali capital, and losing control of the port of Kismayo from which they launched their piracy and kidnapping attacks on the east African coast. The horror perpetrated in Nairobi shows the optimism was misplaced.

Such atrocities cannot be tolerated and the international community cannot turn a blind eye. It is to the credit of the African Union that it is leading the way in seeking to deal with al-Shabab, but far more than Africa’s interests are at stake in the battle. As the death toll in the Nairobi massacre again shows, Islamic terrorism threatens us all, and the international community must do all it can to confront it. Somalia’s chaos and the terrorism it has spawned as a failed state was allowed to fester for far too long.




Sept. 23

The Korea Herald, Seoul, South Korea on policymakers need to remain vigilant:

The U.S. Federal Reserve has brought both good and bad news by deciding to delay scaling back its massive bond-purchasing program.

The Fed has been printing money to inject liquidity into the financial system and thereby stimulate the U.S. economy. Each month, it has purchased $85 billion worth of Treasury and mortgage bonds to encourage people to borrow, spend and invest.

Until early last week, the Fed was widely expected to take its first step toward rolling back the extraordinary stimulus measures this month. A majority of Wall Street analysts predicted that it would announce a reduction of $10 billion-$15 billion in its bond purchases at its Sept. 18 meeting.

But it decided to keep the current quantitative easing measures intact, citing the weak hiring and economic growth figures.

The Fed’s unexpected move is good news for a group of emerging countries whose currencies have plummeted in value since May when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke first suggested a possible pullback of the stimulus program within this year.

These countries, including Indonesia, India, Thailand and Turkey, suffered an outflow of foreign capital as the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates caused the flows of money to reverse.

The Fed’s decision is welcome as it will give some relief to these vulnerable economies. It also gives them more time to prepare for Washington’s eventual tapering of the monetary stimulus. The Korean government also welcomed the decision, although it experienced an inflow, rather than an outflow, of foreign capital in recent months.

Korea is no longer a crisis-prone country. Rather, its strong fundamentals have earned it safe haven status. …

For Korea, the U.S. represents the second-largest single export market. A slow recovery of the U.S. market would hamper growth of Korea’s exports.

Yet it seems to be only a matter of time before the Fed starts winding down the stimulus program. It is expected to take its first step within this year. Policymakers need to keep their guard up.




Sept. 23

The Anniston (Alabama) Star on the Keynesian approach:

Are we, to borrow a bit of a phrase from Milton Friedman, “all Keynesians now?”

Probably not.

There are those, like former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who have pointed to their brand of fiscal conservatism and contended that “we are all Austrians now.” It’s a tip of the hat to the school of economics that is more in line with his thinking than the followers of John Maynard Keynes.

Keynes argued, among other things, that in the short run a depressed economy can be stimulated by an infusion of capital by a central bank and/or complementing actions by a central government.

This can be seen in practice in the Federal Reserve’s decision last week to spend billions buying bonds in order to keep interests rates low, which makes borrowing money more attractive and, in this time of lackluster economic growth, helps to spur investment.

However, the Keynesian express seemed about to end as word spread before last week that the Fed would begin to slow its buying. …

U.S. Stock Exchange investors had been particular nervous, so when the Fed announced that it had met with central bankers who promised to continue loaning if the government would continue to buy bonds, the stock market responded just as Keynes said it would.

Investors invested and the Dow Jones Industrial Average set a new record last week. Some of that gain was erased the next day, as investors cashed in their gains, but for the moment at least the Keynesian approach seemed to work as predicted.

Add to this the unexpected rise in the sale of previously owned homes and the arrival of lower-than-expected unemployment reports and it was a pretty heady time on Wall Street.

No one expects the Fed to continue to buy bonds at this rate, but the Keynesian approach has given the economy a boost as well as a little more time to recover.

That was what Keynes predicted in the first place.




Sept. 23

Paris (Tennessee) Post-Intelligencer on the war’s ugliest side shown in Pakistan:

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman got it right: War is hell.

There’s not much gallant or noble about it. It’s blood and body parts and wailing.

“Collateral damage” is the sanitized way to describe the suffering of innocent bystanders.

On Sunday, 78 civilians died in the most horrific attack yet on Pakistan’s Christian minority. A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up amid hundreds of worshippers at the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar.

The Jundullah arm of the Taliban claimed responsibility, saying they would continue to target non-Muslims until the United States stops drone attacks on Taliban forces in Pakistan’s remote tribal region.

The U.S. has carried out several hundred drone attacks against militants and their allies near the Afghan border. The latest came on the same day as the church attack, when missiles hit two compounds in the North Waziristan tribal area,. Six suspected militants died.

The church bombing injured 141 people, including 37 children. The death count included 34 women and seven children.

It may not be tactically correct to do so, but it’s hard to overlook the imbalance: Six dead on one side, 78 on the other.

Targeting innocent people “is against the teachings of Islam and all religions,” the Pakistani prime minister said.

One of the problems of the nasty business of warfare is that it can be hard to tell who the innocent ones are. But it’s certain that those who died at All Saints Church didn’t go around killing people.




Sept. 24

Los Angeles Times on talking to Tehran makes sense:

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama on Tuesday promised to engage Iran’s new leadership in negotiations to prevent the development of nuclear weapons in that country as part of a broader normalization of relations. The president was right to say that “the diplomatic path must be tested” despite concerns in this country and Israel that Iran will never abandon its ambitions to be a nuclear power.

An Iran that possessed nuclear weapons would be a deeply destabilizing development. The most commonly cited concern is that Iran might launch a nuclear attack on Israel — an operation that would be suicidal in light of Israel’s own (if unacknowledged) nuclear arsenal. But a more likely danger is that a nuclear-armed Iran would seek to maximize its political influence in the region, inspiring other states to seek nuclear weapons of their own.

Although Iran insists that its nuclear program is designed only for civilian uses, the International Atomic Energy Agency has been consistently skeptical. The U.N. Security Council has approved multiple resolutions calling on Iran to stop the enrichment of uranium. Negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5-plus-1 — the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany — have failed to produce a breakthrough.

Yet economic sanctions have taken their toll, and in June, Iranians elected as their president Hassan Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator who ran as a reformist. Rouhani has suggested that he would be open to creative negotiations to resolve the nuclear issue. For now, at least, he seems to have the support of Iran’s religious establishment.

Skeptics in the U.S. and Israel are warning that this is trickery designed to soften sanctions while the nuclear program quietly progresses. But Obama is wise to engage the new Iranian leader, especially given the alternative. …

Obama noted that mistrust between the United States and Iran has “deep roots.” The difficulty of forging a better relationship was symbolized by the fact that the U.S. officials were unable to arrange even a casual meeting between Obama and Rouhani at the United Nations. But the absence of a presidential photo-op will be forgotten if lower-level officials are able to make progress on the nuclear issue.




Sept. 23

New York Times on Angela Merkel’s next challenge:

Angela Merkel’s resounding re-election in Germany on Sunday is a personal triumph, but it still leaves unanswered questions about the direction she will lead Germany and the European Union over the next four years.

Under her leadership, Germany has been an oasis of relative prosperity in the slumping euro zone, and voters rewarded her for it. Although her Christian Democrats, and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, came close to winning a majority in Parliament, she will need to find a new coalition partner. Her previous partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, was a major casualty of the vote, falling below the minimum 5 percent threshold for entering Parliament.

Merkel’s most likely partner is the Social Democratic Party, despite its relatively poor showing Sunday. The two parties shared power during Merkel’s first term, from 2005 to 2009. The Social Democrats are more firmly committed to strengthening the European Union than the Free Democrats. They are more open to easing austerity conditions for struggling debtor nations and favor measures that could usefully raise consumer demand at home, like setting a national minimum wage.

Reviving the euro-zone economy will not be easy. …

Germany’s competitive export-driven economy has stayed largely immune to the recession that has gripped the rest of Europe. (While the unemployment rate in the euro zone is now 12.1 percent, in Germany it is 5.3 percent.) For Europe to prosper, Germany must boost consumer demand at home, agree to easier bailout terms for debt-crisis countries and accept a more powerful European banking union.

Despite Merkel’s disappointing remarks on Monday that German policies on Europe would not change, she has softened her tone recently on austerity-related issues, suggesting that she has begun to understand the need for a more enlightened German approach. Her challenge now is to put together a government wise enough to make the necessary changes and strong enough to sell them to the German people.




Sept. 23

Arizona Republic on if immigration reform fails, more people die:

If you value human life, demand a change in our border policies.

Nearly 150 people have died along Arizona’s border already this year. We’ll surpass last year’s numbers.

The annual border death count is as much a part of Arizona’s summer as the achingly dry song of the cicadas.

This should cause moral outrage. But it doesn’t. It’s barely noticed beyond humanitarian groups.

This lack of general and sustained anger about the death toll is an outrage in itself. We are, after all, a nation that claims to care about human rights.

But this country’s border-enforcement policies — coupled with the continuing lure of jobs and the drive to reunite with family members — are undeniably lethal.

Efforts to reform those policies in Congress are being declared dead or on life support, depending on who is assessing the odds. There are so many reasons to pass a comprehensive solution similar to what emerged in the Senate. Among those is the consequence of inaction. …

Dr. Gregory Hess, chief of the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, says the death count this calendar year is 148 people as of Monday. That’s 23 more dead people than this time last year.

Since the beginning of 2001, Hess’ office has received more than 2,200 bodies of people who tried and failed to cross Arizona’s southern deserts. His office gets bodies from all border counties except Yuma County

The Border Patrol, which keeps track by fiscal year, reports 171 deaths statewide from Oct. 1, 2012, to Aug. 31. That’s down 10 from the same time last fiscal year.

Immigration reform is not about politics. It is about people.

It is about men, women and children who share our humanity. Their fragile hopes are like anybody else’s. So is their tender love for families left behind or waiting somewhere on this side of the line.

Their deaths are bitter testimony to the failure of our current border policies.




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