Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina, on stopping Ebola in West Africa:
The United States seems to be suffering from extreme exposure to Ebola – not to the virus itself but to the viral speculation about the danger it poses to Americans. It’s time to calm down.
Ebola is an intrinsically frightening disease. It’s a terrible way to die, and that naturally heightens fears about contracting the disease.
But so far, only one person has died of the disease in the United States, a man who traveled here from Liberia after contracting Ebola in his home country.
The number could rise. Several Americans have been exposed to the disease and are under close watch by health authorities.
But all indications are that the United States is fully equipped to treat those who get Ebola and stop the spread of the disease before it becomes anything close to an epidemic. We have the doctors, the health facilities, the isolation rooms, the protocols to limit contact with patients by health workers and the basic equipment needed to keep them safe.
The real crisis is in Africa, particularly the three West African countries where the disease is quickly spreading – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The death toll as of Tuesday was nearly 4,500 people from about 9,000 cases of infection, according to the World Health Organization.
But the situation could grow much worse. WHO officials warn that the death rate among those with the disease has increased from half to nearly 70 percent, and that there could be 10,000 cases a week within two months.
If Americans want to prevent Ebola from coming here, the best way to do that is to help battle the disease at its epicenter in west Africa. The three countries where the epidemic is raging have almost no chance of stopping the spread of the disease without outside help.
We need to be concerned about Ebola but not simply about the possibility that it might immigrate to the United States. It is both a humanitarian and strategic priority to help Africa contain and halt this epidemic and to help save the lives of tens of thousands of vulnerable people there.
News Journal, Pensacola, Florida, on the Pope Francis and gay marriage:
Pay attention to this moment. This week alone stands as proud evidence of Western Civilization’s inevitable march toward freedom and equality. Collectively, we have resisted, fought, even slipped backward at times. But eventually, we are always shown that our faith in the rights of all men is not unfounded.
The New York Times reported Monday that “an assembly of Roman Catholic bishops convened by Pope Francis at the Vatican released a preliminary document on Monday calling for the church to welcome and accept gay people.”
In addition to urging acceptance of unmarried couples and those who have been divorced, the document says that gay people have “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” and acknowledges that gay couples can give each other “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice” and “precious support in the life of the partners.”
This is a monumental indication that one of the most ancient, important and stalwart institutions in the world is moving in the philosophical course set forth by Pope Francis, which ultimately, is the foundational message of Jesus Christ.
Regardless of what faith you subscribe to, this shift under Pope Francis is hugely symbolic. These are ideas that would not have even been discussed in the Catholic Church 10 years ago. And while this single assembly won’t officially set church doctrine, it’s proof that even the buttressed fortifications of the Vatican are not impenetrable to the sweeping winds of equality.
Meanwhile, this same slide toward greater freedom is playing out in the secular realm here in the United States. Following the Supreme Court’s decision last week that effectively made same-sex marriage legal in 30 states, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi relented Monday night and asked the state Supreme Court to decide the issue here in the Sunshine State.
After a summer of appealing judicial defeats, Bondi asked the state’s highest court to withhold action until the U.S. Supreme Court could decide the issue. From Miami-Dade to Monroe County, lower-court judges found Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Now, Bondi is rightly ending the state’s costly and inevitably losing battle against a clear issue of individual rights. We’re glad Attorney General Bondi is finally getting out of the way.
It doesn’t require the pope’s infallibility to realize that secular government has no business dictating the lives of individuals by oppressing such a basic liberty. Besides, states and churches alike are wise to see that committed couples in any form strengthen society at its core. We need more families, not fewer; more freedom, not less.
That is the message of Pope Francis and the spirit of the legal changes sweeping through our state capitals. From our faith to our politics, pay attention to this moment in history.
It’s something to be proud of.
Kansas City Star on Noble Peace Prize winner:
The Nobel Peace Prizes recently awarded to a 17-year-old Pakistani girl and an Indian man should inspire the leaders of their countries to end their decades-long, dangerous struggle over Kashmir.
The time to find a peaceful future for Kashmir is now.
Violence between Pakistan and India along the disputed Kashmiri border has escalated lately into the worst fighting between the nuclear-armed countries in more than a decade, causing U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to say he “deplores the loss of lives and the displacement of civilians on both sides.”
Such statements are fine, but action is more important.
One Nobel recipient is Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, a fearless advocate of girls’ education who was shot by a Taliban gunman. The other is Kailash Satyarthi of India, who works to end child labor and to free children from trafficking. Both have provided better models than their countries’ leaders, who can’t seem to end their battle over beautiful Kashmir. Since Pakistan became a separate nation in 1947, the year India achieved independence, the countries have fought several wars, at least two of them over Kashmir. In 1999, India and Pakistan came to the edge of a nuclear conflict over this dispute.
The future of Kashmir should have been the focus of international diplomacy long before now, but over and over this matter has tended to get shoved off the radar screen. The result has been a simmering conflict, disrupting the lives of Kashmiris and providing opportunities for extremists to make trouble.
The latest violence has struck heavily populated civilian areas. Indian and Pakistani officials have been blustering about who is to blame and who won’t talk to whom until this or that happens.
No doubt India’s defense minister was near the truth when he said Pakistan “has clearly been the aggressor” in the latest flareup. Pakistan has tended to allow it (or to look the other way) when extremists use bases inside its borders to launch attacks in Kashmir. But neither side is innocent, and both need outside help to extinguish the violence.
The latest fighting comes after terrible summer flooding in the region. The government of Jammu and Kashmir is now responding to that dire situation by ordering construction of prefabricated houses for families left homeless. Humanitarian concerns alone should drive Indian and Pakistani officials to follow the examples of the newest Nobel laureates and work for peace.
Instead, the people of Kashmir get wars and rumors of wars but little assistance from the world community, which would pay an atrocious price if the latest outbreak over Kashmir escalated into a nuclear conflict.
There are battles in many places in the world, but this one contains the seeds of global catastrophe and must be settled.
The Oklahoman on data points on President Obama:
President Barack Obama has always seen himself as an agent of change, a la Ronald Reagan. His goal was to do for progressive politics what Reagan had done for conservatism.
Thus it was no surprise that he parroted a Reagan trope in recently asking the question of whether Americans are better off today than when he took office — and then answering his own question by concluding that “the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office.”
For Reagan, it was a campaign strategy drawn as a weapon against Jimmy Carter in 1980. Are you better off, he asked voters, than you were four years ago?
Such comparisons aren’t unique to Reagan and Obama, of course, but Reagan put his own stamp on it — quite successfully as it turns out.
“By every economic measure,” Obama told college students the other day, “we are better off than when I took office.” So not only has this president adopted the Reagan line (even crediting Reagan). He’s turned it into yet another example of repeated, robotic rhetoric in the endless campaign speeches made by a man “who is not running for anything except the exit,” in the words of Caroline Baum, a former Bloomberg News columnist.
Baum correctly notes that Obama has set a low bar for economic measurements, as did Reagan in a sense. When the former took office in 2009, the longest recession since World War II was at its nadir. Reagan, inaugurated in 1981, took the reins at a time when Carter’s legacy had produced a terrible economy. Both Reagan and Obama inherited bad economies. How could people not be better off?
The problem is that Obama’s stewardship set in motion a sluggish recovery. Unemployment has fallen, but the labor participation rate has dropped to a low not seen since 1978. Yes, that was during the Carter administration. Obama’s Department of Labor says nearly 100,000 jobless workers have given up. This pushed the unemployment rate down to its lowest level since the last summer of the George W. Bush administration.
Obama doesn’t mention this when he’s in his “Are you better off?” mode. To bolster a weak argument, the president repeatedly compares today’s numbers with those of January 2009. Therefore, writes Baum, “Almost anything appears better compared to the worst recession since the Great Depression.” What’s more, Baum adds, “he has a habit of taking credit for things he had nothing to do with: the energy renaissance, for example .”
Neither Obama nor the federal government is in any way responsible for the energy boom. It was created and sustained by the private sector and has occurred despite the administration’s hostility to fossil fuels.
So The Great Divider has found a way to brag about a meaningless comparison (the 2009 economy versus today), ignore a troubling statistic (the labor participation rate) and take credit for something he basically opposes.
The man’s got skills. We’ll hand him that.
But who’s really better off today? Not the jobless. Not those who are paying more for health insurance — which is most of us — or who’ve been forced to migrate from full-time to part-time status because of Obamacare. Not the middle class, for whom Obama casts himself as a champion. Baum notes that real median income was 4 percent lower in 2013 than when Obama took office. And the poverty rate is higher.
Just what set of statistics supports Obama’s “better off” boasting?
Agents of change are supposed to change things for the better. Reagan did. Obama has not only mismanaged the economy, he’s set it on a course that will plague this nation for years to come.
New York Times on deadly alliances against Muslims:
On his 79th birthday in July, the Dalai Lama appealed to Buddhist extremist groups in Myanmar and Sri Lanka to stop instigating attacks against Muslim minorities that have killed scores. Instead, in an affront to Buddhism’s core message of compassion, leaders of those groups announced an alliance to make common cause against Muslims.
“The time has come to ally internationally,” Galagodaththe Gnanasara, the leader of the radical Sri Lankan Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena, announced at a convention held in Colombo last month. The guest of honor was Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist radical whose picture Time magazine put on its July 1 cover as “The Face of Buddhist Terror.” The government of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa ignored pleas by Sri Lankan Muslim and Christian civil groups, fearful of more anti-Muslim violence in their country, to deny Mr. Wirathu a visa. Granting Mr. Wirathu a visa can only reinforce the fears of many Muslims that the government — and perhaps more powerful regional allies — back Bodu Bala Sena, which translates as Buddhist Power Force.
Last week, Mr. Gnanasara claimed he was in discussions “at a high level” with the right-wing Indian Hindu group Rashtriya Swayam Sevak to form what he called a “Hindu-Buddhist peace zone” in South Asia. A Rashtriya Swayam Sevak spokesman, Ram Madhav, promptly denied that there were any such discussions. But Mr. Madhav, now general secretary of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, has written comments sympathetic to Bodu Bala Sena and Mr. Wirathu’s group 969 in Myanmar on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
It is folly for the governments of Mr. Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka, President Thein Sein of Myanmar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India, or their political allies, to give even the appearance of tolerating these Islamophobic groups in a region that has too often been convulsed by religious sectarian violence. They should condemn this mad alliance before it can spread further.
Los Angeles Times on AIG:
Imagine you were a swimmer who’d recklessly gotten caught in a riptide, only to be saved by a boater who was busily helping other struggling swimmers to shore. Would you complain if the boater charged you a big fee? Maybe. But you almost certainly wouldn’t sue the boater for not offering help sooner.
Some shareholders in American International Group have no such compunction. In a federal lawsuit now being heard in Washington, they accuse the U.S. government of withholding the low-cost financing AIG needed to overcome its cash-flow problems, even though the government was providing that help to other troubled Wall Street firms. They also claim that the bailout eventually extended to the company was so punitive to them and AIG that it violated the Constitution.
Although a federal judge found the shareholders’ claims serious enough to merit a trial, it’s hard to ignore the overpowering aroma of hubris. As costly as the bailout was to shareholders, they almost certainly would have been left with nothing had AIG not been rescued. Banking analysts say AIG was doomed by the housing-backed securities and derivatives it held after the subprime mortgage meltdown, and it couldn’t have avoided bankruptcy had the government not lent it $85 billion the day after Lehman Bros.’ catastrophic collapse in September 2008.
The bigger issue highlighted by the lawsuit, though, is the fact that federal officials and bank regulators were acting without a script as they scrambled to prevent financial companies from tumbling like dominoes and deepening the recession. In the heat of the crisis, they had to make judgment calls about which institutions were too big to be allowed to fail and which ones weren’t. That discretion is at the heart of the shareholders’ lawsuit.
Ultimately, the better solution is to let failing financial companies fail. That means having mechanisms in place that discourage these companies from becoming so big that the economy depends on their survival, and that protect their trading partners from being dragged down with them into bankruptcy. Congress and global banking regulators have made progress toward both goals, but the AIG lawsuit should prod regulators to make sure that companies can safely be allowed to fail.
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