Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Herald, Rock Hill, S.C., on Americans are using less electricity:
As of Jan. 1, production of 40- and 60-watt light bulbs was banned as part of efficiency standards signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007. While some will miss the old incandescent bulbs, the move is part of a successful effort to make the nation more energy efficient.
The government phased out 75- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs over the past few years. But the latest ban will have a bigger impact on consumers because 40- and 60-watt bulbs are the most popular on the market.
When the first practical incandescent bulb was devised by Thomas A. Edison, it was a scientific and engineering marvel, cutting edge technology for its time. But by the time its production came to an end last Wednesday, it had become obsolete, an energy hog compared to compact fluorescent bulbs – CFLs – and light emitting diode bulbs – LEDs.
Both of those more efficient bulbs are initially more expensive that an incandescent bulb. But with much longer lifespans, sometimes lasting years, the new bulbs save considerable money over the long run.
The new light bulbs are just part of a growing array of more energy efficient products that have allowed Americans to significantly cut the amount of electricity consumed in homes and businesses. The Energy Information Administration recently announced that in 2013, the average amount of electricity consumed in U.S. homes fell to levels last seen more than a decade ago.
Big appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners also have become more efficient, thanks in large part to federal energy standards that grow stricter every few years as technology evolves. Even new TVs are far more efficient than the old cathode ray tube sets.
And desk-top computers, once cutting edge, gobble much more energy than a portable tablet or smart phone, which are designed to use battery power sparingly. It costs $1.36 to power an iPad for a year, compared with $28.21 for a desk-top, according to the Electric Power Research Institute.
Some may complain about a “nanny government” that sets insulation standards and takes away our incandescent bulbs. But increasing efficiency remains the most effective way to reduce energy usage.
That not only saves consumers money, it also plays a key strategic role in reducing the nation’s reliance on foreign oil. And more efficient electronic devices also have the benefit of reducing consumption of carbon fuels, consequently reducing damage to the environment.
The Albany (Ga.) Herald on study finds Medicaid expansion increases emergency room costs:
Politicians, at least if they’re honest, will tell you that the biggest problem with legislation is unintended consequences.
And that may be what we’re running into as the Affordable Care Act continues to be implemented.
President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation is off to a rocky start as federal officials work the kinks out of a flawed registration system. So far, the number of Americans who have obtained new coverage under Obamacare pale in comparison with the number of Americans who had their coverage pulled out from under them by the act. There are also concerns about the security of the system and its ability to protect the privacy of the information required of those who sign up.
But an even more unsettling development came to light last week when one of the biggest selling points of the part of the program that expands Medicaid coverage turns out to not be the case in the only real sampling of its implementation. Proponents of expanding Medicaid coverage argued that it would lessen the stress on hospital emergency rooms because the newly covered individuals would use primary health care instead.
It appears the effect is just the opposite.
A study published Thursday in the journal Science found that emergency room use by Medicaid patients increased by 40 percent, which some experts think could increase emergency room spending at U.S. hospitals by $500 million a year rather than reduce it.
With the administration’s estimate that 8.7 million people will be added to Medicaid in the United States this year, it means that federal taxpayers will shoulder much of the initial cost for the 26 states that went along with the Affordable Care Act and expanded their Medicaid coverage. But while the federal government is picking up that tab at first, that federal support will decrease and those states — and their taxpayers — will have to pick up a sizable tab in the not-too-distant future.
Georgia didn’t expand its Medicaid program, though there is a growing political effort in the state calling for it to happen.
The climate under the Gold Dome isn’t likely to change in the coming session, and in this case that is probably the best avenue of approach. The Affordable Care Act is flawed and first needs to be fixed by the federal lawmakers and the administration who created it before Georgia considers any Medicaid expansion.
Los Angeles Times on possible Mideast peace:
In its quest for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the United States has pursued essentially the same objective over several administrations. So when Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced during his latest round of shuttle diplomacy that “we can achieve a permanent-status agreement that results in two states for two peoples if we stay focused,” skepticism was understandable.
Not just because the peace process has been so tragically unsuccessful over the last 15 years, but because even today, each side seems intent on thumbing its nose at the other. Just last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas enraged many Israelis when he offered a hero’s welcome to a group of recently released Palestinian prisoners, many of whom had been convicted of attacking or killing Israelis. Israel infuriated Palestinians by announcing, on the eve of Kerry’s arrival, that it would build yet more settlements in the West Bank.
But there is also some reason for guarded optimism. First, Kerry has invested immense energy in trying to achieve an agreement. Second, despite periodic allegations of bad faith, Israelis and Palestinians are seriously talking to each other after a long rupture. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has grudgingly endorsed the notion of a two-state solution, though Palestinians and some Israelis doubt his sincerity. Finally, Saudi Arabia is supporting Kerry’s effort.
There is little doubt about what the “framework” Kerry is seeking would contain: a partition between Israel and a Palestinian state that would generally follow Israel’s pre-1967 borders, but with exchanges of territory to bring some Jewish settlements on the West Bank under Israeli sovereignty; a resolution of the status of Jerusalem that would allow for the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem or nearby; a recognition that most Palestinians whose families were displaced in 1948 would be able to return to the new Palestinian state rather than Israel, perhaps with compensation; and guarantees that an independent Palestine wouldn’t be a staging ground for attacks against Israel.
In recent years, Netanyahu has demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel not only as an independent nation but as a “Jewish state,” a designation he has called “the real key to peace.” In one sense, the notion of Israel as a Jewish state is obvious: It was founded as a haven for the Jewish people. But Israel also is home to 1.6 million Arabs, 20 percent of the population. For Palestinians, being required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state would be a ratification of second-class citizenship for Israel’s Arabs.
Disagreement over this issue shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. The Jewish character of Israel doesn’t depend on any blessing from the Palestinians. If an agreement is reached in which the Palestinians recognize Israel and commit to ending hostilities — and in which both sides agree on borders, Jerusalem, security and the refugee question — that would be an extraordinary achievement that would be felt around the region and around the world.
Kansas City Star on protecting young football players from concussions:
The life-altering damages caused by concussions to National Football League players have received much attention in recent months, and appropriately so. The NFL for too many years ignored its responsibilities to better protect players.
However, tens of thousands of concussions and other brain injuries occur each year to football players at the college, high school and even peewee levels of the sport across America.
Parents, coaches and school officials need to be more involved in finding ways to prevent concussions. Coaches, along with trainers, must be aggressive in making sure players do not take part in games until they have recovered from possible concussions.
Baseline concussion testing should be required for all players at the high school and college levels because individuals react differently to brain injuries. The National Federation of High Schools and the National Collegiate Athletic Association should put together more comprehensive concussion education programs.
One barrier to progress: Players, parents and coaches sometimes don’t recognize concussions when they occur. Or, players want to or are told to “play through” head injuries.
That kind of destructive attitude can lead to permanently harming the health of a young football player. Get rid of the macho posturing in the sport, and take injuries to the brain more seriously.
The Star-Ledger, New Jersey, on economic recovery, spend on the middle class and tax the rich:
Here’s the sad truth about the so-called “economic recovery” that began in June 2009: For a large number of Americans, it simply doesn’t exist.
As the stock market made giant gains and corporate profits hit record highs, the median income in America has only declined further. And African-Americans got hit hardest of all: While median income overall has dropped about 4 percent since 2009, for blacks, it plummeted by 10.9 percent.
In other words, the recession isn’t over for most Americans. This speaks to the fundamental economic injustice that inspired the Occupy Wall Street protests two years ago, and President Obama’s central argument today: Widening income inequality is the challenge of our time and should be the issue that shapes the 2016 election.
What we really need now is vigorous government efforts to create jobs. Instead of slashing public programs, we must invest in middle-class Americans in order to rekindle the demand that creates and grows jobs. That means raising taxes on the rich and applying more funding to areas such as infrastructure, research and education.
Leading Republicans say they’re against tax hikes because they hinder job creation. But there is more to it. Taxes help contain the debt and allow the government to make investments that strengthen the economy, such as spending on infrastructure, research and education. The truth is that economic growth has been stronger during periods of higher tax rates on top earners.
And the self-serving argument that the prosperity of so-called “job creators” will somehow trickle down to the average American is just as baseless. The richest Americans save more of their earnings than others do and will never spend enough to make up for the tens of millions of Americans who remain unemployed or underemployed and the effect of stagnant and declining wages.
Consider these numbers: In recent decades, the incomes of the wealthiest 400 Americans grew five times larger, as their tax rates declined by nearly half. And CEO pay grew 127 times faster over the past three decades than the pay of the average worker.
Unless we take real steps to reverse these trends, for most people, “economic recovery” will remain out of reach.
China Daily on pardon to Snowden:
Newspapers in the United States and Britain on Thursday simultaneously pushed the Barack Obama administration to give the whistleblower Edward Snowden a pardon.
With Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, already being deemed a hero by many in the world arena, offering him clemency would also cater to the U.S. interests as it could help mitigate the damage done to the U.S. image by Snowden’s leaks.
An editorial in The Guardian, the first newspaper that published information based on Snowden’s leaks, said: “We hope that calm heads within the present administration are working on a strategy to allow Mr. Snowden to return to the U.S. with dignity, and the president to use his executive powers to treat him humanely and in a manner that would be a shining example about the value of whistleblowers and of free speech itself.”
Indeed, if the United States wants to continue with its self-proclaimed role as a beacon of democracy and a champion of human rights, it should set an example in respecting and protecting individual rights and privacy.
Snowden has raised serious issues of public importance, which were previously hidden, or, worse, dishonestly concealed.
The young American has revealed U.S. malpractices that encroach upon the rights of both states and individuals. His leaks about the insidious and pervasive U.S. surveillance practices have prompted countries around the world to pay unprecedented attention to enhancing information security as an important part of national security.
Given the magnitude of Snowden’s leaks last year, what he has revealed so far may be only the tip of the iceberg. But to continue to hound Snowden as a criminal would not be in the U.S. interests, as it would only ensure his lasting fame and further tarnish the US’ public image.
In a Christmas message, Snowden called for an end to the US surveillance. He spoke for people around the world, especially those victimized by the U.S. surveillance program. In fact, showing leniency to Snowden is only the first step Washington should take. The U.S. still owes the world, its own citizens included, an honest account of its notorious spying programs and a solemn pledge that it will increase transparency.
The Australian on the terrorist threat in Iraq:
The ominous resurgence of major al-Qaida-linked Islamic militancy in Iraq, with key cities effectively falling into the hands of the Sunni jihadists, is a grim reminder of just how imperative it is an agreement be reached to enable a residual U.S. and coalition force to remain in Afghanistan. Such an agreement for a residual force in Iraq, had the Obama administration succeeded in negotiating it with Baghdad ahead of the drawdown of forces, might have gone a significant way toward heading off the strategic disaster now evident. It is vital Washington does not give up on a forces agreement with Kabul, fraught though negotiations have become with President Hamid Karzai.
Maintaining a residual force in Iraq that would enable Washington to continue to influence the country’s development was a key objective of coalition policy. In his rush to claim the political kudos for ending a highly unpopular war started by his predecessor, George W. Bush, President Barack Obama failed to successfully negotiate a deal with Baghdad.
While it would be wrong to blame the jihadist resurgence on that failure, there seems little doubt that a residual force along the lines that was projected would have helped enormously in helping Iraqi forces deal with a crisis that is threatening to descend into full-scale civil war. It might also have helped persuade Iraqi Prime Minister Noori al-Malaki, a hard-line Shi’ite and nationalist, of the dangers of the policy of blatant Shia sectarianism he has relentlessly pursued, and the importance of seeking genuine post-war reconciliation with the disaffected Sunni community whose grievances have been exploited by the al-Qaida proxies now predominant in the rebel movement in neighboring Syria. The result is that Iraq has been drawn into the vortex of the Shia-Sunni divide now threatening to engulf the Middle East with dire consequences.
The situation in Afghanistan, while different, underlines the importance of concluding the bilateral security agreement with Kabul that has been proposed as the basis for a residual force of US and coalition soldiers, including some Australians, to remain on an advisory and training role after the end of the year. For his own political ends, the unpredictable Karzai is making it as difficult as possible to conclude the agreement. He is throwing up endless obstacles. Iraq shows the importance of Washington’s negotiators not giving up and of persisting in ensuring that a deal is done.
A sobering new US report. the National Security Estimate, a collation of the analysis of 16 American intelligence agencies, underlines how important this is. It makes for sobering reading, warning that the Taliban is likely to quickly erode the gains made by coalition forces and retake much of the territory from which the jihadists have been expelled. Significantly, it predicts Afghanistan is likely to quickly descend into chaos if Washington and Kabul do not succeed in reaching agreement on a coalition contingent remaining in the country. Obama, in his enthusiasm to claim the political credit for ending the war in Iraq, erred gravely in not forcing Baghdad to agree to a residual coalition force. He must not make the same mistake in Afghanistan. Like the resurgence of al-Qaida-linked proxies in Iraq, a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan would be a complete and utter disaster.