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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

December 30, 2015

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


Dec. 30

The China Daily on Japan’s apology to Korea over World War II sex slaves:

With Japan offering an apology and 1 billion yen (about $8.3 million) to help establish a foundation to support the women forced to work as sex slaves during the Japanese occupation of the Republic of Korea, the two countries agreed to settle their long-standing differences over the so-called comfort women on Monday.

This marks a turning point in ties between Tokyo and Seoul. It should also serve as a starting point for Japan to act in a more responsible manner to resolve the sensitive historical issue with its other neighbors.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s notorious revisionist policy has fueled rightwing politicians’ attempts to deny Japan’s wartime atrocities, including the exploitation of the “comfort women”, which is a Japanese euphemism for the women forced into sexual slavery in Japan’s military brothels in the countries it occupied in the first half of the last century.

Also, the United States may have played a part in pushing for reconciliation between the two Asian neighbors since both of them are allies of the US. On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the US welcomes the agreement between Japan and the ROK, believing it will promote healing and help improve relations between two of its most important allies.

From a regional perspective, the rapprochement between Japan and the ROK could contribute to regional peace and stability and encourage countries in the region to pursue a peaceful road of development.

Yet Japan needs to be reminded that ROK women were not the only victims of its wartime crimes. Historians estimate there were about 200,000 “comfort women” from China, the Korean Peninsula, Southeast Asia, Russia, the Netherlands and other countries. In all, less than 100 are still alive today.

Obviously, this step, although welcome, does not settle the “comfort women” issue as a whole. Given that Japan’s settlement with the ROK is largely politically driven, rather than being a true reflection of its responsibility, the move is not enough to signify Japan is ready to truly own up to its past.

At present, ties between China and Japan, and the ROK and Japan have thawed somewhat, and trilateral cooperation has been revived. But for the sake of lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia, Japan is obliged to properly address the historical issues that it has allowed to fester for so long.




Dec. 30

The Boston Globe on Britain possibly leaving the European Union:

In promising his constituents a vote on whether to quit the European Union, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron made a high-risk move — one that, under the right conditions, could also have a high upside both for his country and for the cause of European integration.

At the moment, voters tell pollsters they’re worried about the immigration of workers from other EU countries and the security of Britain’s borders. Complaints about the unwieldiness of the EU apparatus are widespread. For these and other reasons, Cameron hopes to negotiate looser terms of membership that may make Britons more comfortable with staying in the union. One way or another, though, a vote will occur — perhaps next year, and certainly by the end of 2017. When that happens, advocates of continued membership will need to do something they rarely do: make a forceful case to British voters for why EU membership has been healthy and productive for the country.

If forced to do so, opponents of Brexit — a British withdrawal from the union — can cite significant benefits that membership in a larger European market brings to a modest-sized island nation. Europe is the major export destination for the products of major British industries. For American, Canadian, and Australian companies, it’s only logical to use Britain as an entry point to the mainland. London has emerged as a financial center for the entire continent.

British voters see lots of news coverage of the difficulties that come with EU regulation and the inordinately complex politics of a political body with more than two dozen members. Whatever else it achieves, a ballot campaign will highlight the day-to-day economic benefits of membership.

None of which means that every form of integration is worthwhile. Britain’s refusal to adopt the euro now looks prescient. The economies of Germany and Greece are too different to share a common monetary policy without a common fiscal policy. While Germans bristle at Greece’s mismanagement of its own finances, German industry enjoys more favorable exchange rates on its products than it would if Greece weren’t bringing down the value of the euro. As the debate over “Grexit” — should Greece leave the euro? — dragged on during the past several years, the British public was lucky to be able to observe it from a distance.

Still, Britain has developed trade relationships and treaties based on its membership in the EU, and voters there shouldn’t opt for breakup without taking stock of what they’d be losing. Amid the profound transformation of major industrialized economies and the considerable uncertainty in global geopolitics, it’s easy for anxious voters to lay the blame on the conspicuous struggles of bureaucrats from Brussels. Especially for countries that, like Britain and the United States, have reigned as the world’s dominant superpowers, it’s deeply unsatisfying to concede autonomy to multinational institutions, which are inevitably cumbersome and flawed.

Yet even proud, prosperous countries can often achieve more when enmeshed in alliances — political and economic — than on their own. The challenge for pro-integration leaders in Briton is to persuade the public that it’s better to reform imperfect institutions like the EU from inside, rather than leave them entirely.




Dec. 29

The Wall Street Journal on Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton:

Donald Trump last week used some typically coarse language to describe Hillary Clinton, who responded by accusing Mr. Trump of sexism while announcing that she is unleashing Bill Clinton to campaign for her. This was too ripe an opening for Mr. Trump, who is now attacking Hillary for acquiescing in Bill’s predations against women.

Mr. Trump is rude and crude, but in this case he is raising an issue that rightly bears on the 2016 election campaign and the prospect of a third Clinton term. Mrs. Clinton wants to use her gender both as a political sword and shield to win the White House. The purpose is to make male politicians less willing to take her on, while reinforcing her main and not-so-subtle campaign theme that it’s time to elect the first woman President.

So she and her allies will try to spin any criticism as sexist. Even politically correct Bernie Sanders got this treatment after he said during a debate this autumn that “all the shouting in the world” wouldn’t keep guns out of the wrong hands. Mrs. Clinton later said that “I haven’t been shouting, but sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it’s shouting.” Against Republicans, she’ll play the “war on women” theme non-stop.

Yet no one in American politics better personifies a war on women than Mrs. Clinton’s husband. For readers too young to recall the 1990s, we aren’t merely referring to Trumpian gibes about female looks or “Mad Men” condescension. Mr. Clinton was a genuine sexual harasser in the classic definition of exploiting his power as a workplace superior, and the Clinton entourage worked hard to smear and discredit his many women accusers.

Start with “bimbo eruptions,” the phrase that Mr. Clinton’s Arkansas fixer Betsey Wright used to describe the women who had affairs with Bill. Gennifer Flowers almost derailed his primary campaign in 1992, until Hillary stood by her man on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and the media portrayed Ms. Flowers as a golddigger.

Many more would come forward, not least Paula Jones, an Arkansas state employee who testified that a state policeman working for then Governor Clinton invited her to Bill’s hotel room where he exposed himself and sexually propositioned her. Ms. Jones filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit and Mr. Clinton lied under oath, resulting in his impeachment.

The Clinton menagerie did their best to destroy her too. “If you drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find,” James Carville famously said about the women accusing Mr. Clinton.

Then there was Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern whose story the Clintons want everyone to dismiss as a case of consensual sex and Bill’s runaway libido. But no CEO in America would survive in his job if he had a publicly known affair with a subordinate, much less a 22-year-old.

When news of that affair came to light, the Clintons also waged war on her reputation. Ms. Lewinsky “was known as ‘the Stalker,’” Mr. Clinton told adviser Sidney Blumenthal on Jan. 21, 1998, according to Mr. Blumenthal’s grand jury testimony. Mr. Clinton added that she “came at me and made a sexual demand on me,” but the President “rebuffed her” and the lowly intern then “threatened him.”

This smear quickly became a talking point of Clinton defenders. Gene Lyons, a Clinton media mouthpiece, told NBC that “the President was, in a sense, a victim of someone rather like the woman who followed David Letterman around.” The Associated Press reported that a “White House aide” was calling journalists to offer “information about Monica Lewinsky’s past, her weight problems, and what the aide said was her nickname — ‘the Stalker.’”

Mr. Blumenthal denies that he spread the Stalker tale, but the late journalist Christopher Hitchens swore in an affidavit that he had. It broke up their friendship.

Mrs. Clinton described Ms. Lewinsky as “a narcissistic loony toon,” according to the personal papers of Diane Blair, a close friend of Mrs. Clinton from Arkansas. This September Mrs. Clinton declared that “every survivor of sexual assault” has “the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed.” But when her own access to political power was at stake, she dismissed the women and defended her husband.


We rehearse all this not merely to reinforce Mr. Trump’s claims of a Clinton double standard. The point relates to the standards that would prevail in another Clinton Presidency. We know from Mrs. Clinton’s emails that Mr. Blumenthal remains a trusted Clinton friend and adviser who is likely to wield considerable influence in or outside a Clinton Administration. And we know from those emails that the Clintons indulge his political conspiracy theories almost as much as he indulged Mr. Clinton’s about Monica Lewinsky.

No wonder that Ruth Marcus, the Washington Post columnist and no conservative, called Bill Clinton’s record with women a fair political issue. At the very least if Mrs. Clinton wants everyone to forget about Bill’s harassment of women, she ought to stop playing the sexism card, or drop Bill as surrogate, or both.




Dec. 29

The Telegraph, United Kingdom, on fighting in Ramadi, Iraq:

The Iraqi government’s claim that it has recaptured the strategically important city of Ramadi could prove an important turning point in the military campaign against Islamic State (Isil).

After a year in which coalition forces have struggled to articulate an effective strategy for defeating Isil, the liberation of Ramadi by the Iraqi military, operating with the support of coalition air power, provides a useful template for how coalition forces might seek to inflict further defeats against the Islamist fanatics in 2016.

Located just 60 miles from the capital Baghdad, Ramadi had come to symbolise the fluctuating fortunes of the Iraqi government as it battles to curb the Isil threat. The capital of the mainly Sunni Muslim Anbar province, Ramadi was the scene of bitter sectarian violence following the US-led invasion in 2003. Its capture by Isil this year, when an estimated 300 Isil fighters succeeded in routing the larger and better-equipped Iraqi army, constituted a low point in the fortunes of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, particularly as the city’s capture came within weeks of the Iraqi military recapturing Tikrit, another important Sunni city, with the aid of Iranian militias. But the presence of Iranian Shia Muslim fighters in Iraq’s Sunni heartlands only served to exacerbate sectarian tensions, especially when the Iranian-backed fighters were accused of carrying out reprisals against captured Sunni fighters.

No such accusations are being made in Ramadi, where US military personnel have played a key role in helping to train and support the effort to recapture Ramadi. By using a combination of Iraqi ground forces and coalition air power, they have managed to orchestrate a morale-boosting victory over a foe that, as 2015 draws to a close, suddenly finds itself on the defensive. Let us hope that this timely victory in Ramadi bodes well for the coalition’s efforts to defeat Isil in both Iraq and Syria in the new year.




Dec. 29

The Chicago Tribune on the detainment of “affluenza” teenager Ethan Couch:

Not influenza, “affluenza.”

The term — a play on the words “affluent” and the common flu — surfaced during the February 2014 sentencing of Texas teen Ethan Couch. He was the privileged 16-year-old charged with manslaughter and assault after he struck and killed four pedestrians in June 2013 while he driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and Valium.

A psychologist hired by his defense team testified that Couch could not understand the consequences of his actions, that he didn’t know right from wrong, because he was raised in a wealthy household and coddled by his parents. It was an odd defense strategy, but it worked. Couch pleaded guilty to all charges. Prosecutors sought a 20-year prison sentence, but Couch got just 10 years of probation and was ordered to go to rehab.

That sparked a national debate about whether wealthy kids catch breaks from the criminal justice system that poor kids would not get — and about how loony the idea of “affluenza” was.

More than two years after the accident, Couch, now 18, may finally face some real jail time. He and his mother were detained Monday evening in Mexico for allegedly violating his terms of probation. He’s suspected of trying to flee the U.S. after a short video was posted on social media that showed Couch at a party where others were playing beer pong, a drinking game. His probation forbids alcohol consumption.

What will his defense team say this time? An affluenza relapse?

You hear a lot of talk about whether parents these days hover too much over their kids, whether we’ve raised a generation of weak, dependent (and easily offended) children. Couch is a case study in astoundingly disastrous parenting.

A Texas teenage fugitive and his mom attempted to disguise themselves and disappear among American tourists who flocked to a Mexican resort city before they were arrested and set for deportation to the U.S., officials said Tuesday. Dec. 29, 2015. (AP)

In depositions provided in civil lawsuits filed after Couch’s fatal car accident, and in other court documents, Couch’s parents, Tonya and Fred Couch, admitted that their son had access to drugs and alcohol at an early age. He was allowed to drive to his private school when he was 13. He often stayed by himself or with friends, largely unsupervised, at his family’s second home.

D Magazine, a Dallas-based publication, wrote in a May 2015 story titled “The Worst Parents Ever” that months before the fatal accident, Couch got caught relieving himself in a store parking lot. He was with a nude 14-year-old girl and had a bottle of booze in his car. Police decided only to ticket him. His mother took care of the fines and ignored the classes and mandatory community service that were part of his punishment. She wasn’t sure what happened to the girl in the car, she testified during a deposition.

Couch was drinking with friends the night of the accident. Toxicology reports showed he had more than three times the adult legal limit of alcohol in his system — he was 16, couldn’t legally drink a drop. He was driving a large pickup truck, with friends in the bed of the truck, more than 70 mph down a rural road when he plowed into a car and four pedestrians who were along the side of the road.

Killed were Breanna Mitchell, a 24-year-old chef who had accidentally swerved off the road and was talking to her mother on her cellphone when Couch struck her; Hollie and Shelby Boyles, a mother and daughter who came out of their house that night to help Mitchell; and Brian Jennings, a youth minister who had stopped along the side of the road to help.

Several of Couch’s friends in the pickup truck suffered serious injuries. Couch did too but he survived. His parents hired a slick defense team and he had a psychologist who was willing to explain away bad behavior with a junk science term. A judge bought the whole charade.

Now Couch and his mother have been picked up in Mexico — the resort town of Puerto Vallarta, natch.

Mexican and U.S. law enforcement officials say Couch will be brought back to Texas to face charges of violating probation. His mother could face charges.

This whole case is so outlandish that it’s risky to draw parallels to other parents. Let’s just say you don’t have to help your kid flee to Puerto Vallarta to be guilty of gross negligence through coddling your kids though.

Just a reminder that the best things parents can teach are discipline, boundaries, respect and right from wrong.




Dec. 27

The Dallas Morning-News on recent North Texas tornadoes:

The trembling terror in survivors’ voices eclipses any second-hand observations.

Those in the path of the 11 or so tornadoes that gashed through North Texas on Saturday narrate an all-too-familiar horror story of a night when momentary eerie quiet turned to devastating freight-train intensity.

No matter that tornadoes are a fact of life in this state or that so many of us shudder over our own close calls with them. Despite all that, the superstorm’s capricious deadly nature — with its characteristic clichés of cars tossed like toys, homes blasted apart like matchsticks — is something we simply will never be able to get our heads around.

Both the victims poking at the rubble that remains of their lives and those of us lucky enough to be able to assess the tornadoes’ aftermath from the cozy comfort of our unscathed existence ask the same question: How does this happen?

Even those who understand the meteorological science that creates these monsters can only shake their heads. “Reduced to rubble” rules the conversation. There simply are no adequate words.

But there is community.

Even before adrenalin had turned to tears, in came the first responders — both the official ones who swear an oath to protect us and the good Samaritans without badges but with big hearts.

Among the heroes — not counting the courageous victims themselves — were law enforcement from municipalities near and far as well as neighbors who rushed to one another’s aid.

They’re working even now in Garland, Rowlett, Ellis County and the surrounding communities. Both in devastated apartment complexes and mobile home parks as well as in upscale developments of flattened multistory homes.

As if Saturday’s swirling deadly winds weren’t pain enough, search and rescue teams battled nasty cold and rain as they moved house to house seeking survivors. Undeterred by the weather challenge, they painstakingly picked through the catastrophic scenes.

The very capable Red Cross quickly set up shelters, providing anyone in need with whatever that need may be — information, supplies, housing. Complete strangers, some far away, clamored for ways to help. (The answer: Go to redcross.org to make a financial donation or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 contribution.)

Closer to home, as temperatures continued to drop and the threat of flooding grew, victims’ neighbors continued to lend a hand to help save treasured possessions — or offer a shoulder for frightened, weary residents to collapse upon.

That kind of neighborliness happens most everywhere in tough times — but never is that spirit stronger than among Texans. Come to think of it, perhaps that reader who nominated all ordinary folks as “Texan of the Year” got it right

When tragedy strikes, people here pull together and, along the way, do extraordinary things. And from the many stories of broken hearts that emerged over the weekend will also come those stories that provide evidence that healing has begun.




Dec. 25

The Sacramento Bee on the landing of SpaceX’s Falcon:

The Falcon is not the Eagle. But the declaration that “The Falcon has landed” recalls an earlier feat, when this nation first placed a man on the moon.

On Dec. 21, the words streamed live from the Southern California headquarters of SpaceX, the corporation that launched the rocket. Though barely audible over the pandemonium, the words were historic. Across the country at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Falcon 9 had just made a flawless vertical landing.

It was, as one SpaceX commentator put it, “like launching a pencil over the Empire State Building, having it reverse, come back down and land in a shoebox on the ground in a windstorm.” In other words, it was technical feat for the ages.

The landing is a big deal for SpaceX and for the world. It signals the start of a new space race, one between ambitious corporations eager to make a buck exploring and conquering the final frontier. California, with its constellation of aerospace companies, such as SpaceX and Aerojet Rocketdyne in Rancho Cordova, could be among the biggest beneficiaries of it.

Already, the global space economy has reached about $330 billion. It’s growing rapidly, according to the Space Foundation, and most of it — about 75 percent — is from commercial activity. Elon Musk’s SpaceX proved it’s possible to expand that market with reusable rockets.

Until now, most rockets have been designed as boosters that burn up on re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Every time time they do, about $60 million disintegrates. That has made space travel expensive and rare.

The Falcon 9 — like Jeff Bezos’s suborbital rocket Blue Origin in November - was launched, used on a mission and brought back to Earth to be refurbished, refueled and launched again. It opens the door to treating spaceships more like airplanes, reducing the cost of each mission from the millions of dollars to the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

With that barrier to entry removed, many more companies could launch rockets of their own and a market would develop. More satellites could be deployed. Space tourism could become a reality, and a manned mission to Mars would become feasible. Musk already is talking about establishing a city on the Red Planet.

Talk about a giant leap for mankind.

Earth has come a long way from the 1960s, when the government-led space race was a vehicle for showing off nationalism. NASA has an important role, which deserves continued and expanded support of Congress and taxpayers.

But the new race will depend on the cooperation of the private and public sectors. NASA has infrastructure, including the landing pads and control rooms. Companies have cash and the determination to succeed.

Sure, there might be a bit of good-natured ribbing, as happened between Bezos and Musk over Twitter after Falcon 9′s landing. But it’s all in the spirit of competition and represents the best of the American spirit.

Welcome to the future of space travel.




Dec. 22

The Miami Herald on media access at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba:

The watchwords of the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to judge from its website, include a commitment to be transparent, as well as safe, humane and legal. No one would claim that the remote island prison has been a paragon of openness, but now a departing general has ordered a change in the rules that mocks the very idea of transparency.

Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly is slated to retire next month, but on the way out he has imposed new restrictions on media access to the site, further limiting what is already a narrow glimpse of the world’s most controversial prison.

Until October, reporters could apply for a four-day visit to the base that offered an escorted military tour of the detention center and interviews with troops and key prison officials. The process, to be sure, was hardly ideal. Guidelines for visiting journalists were often arbitrarily interpreted, depending on the escort. Interviews rarely revealed much. Yet this was the only way for the world outside to get any idea of what was going on at the prison, or parts of it. One camp housing secret prisoners has always been, and remains, off limits to journalists, and even to many official visitors.

Even so, this limited access was apparently too much for Gen. Kelly, who disclosed in an interview that the Detention Center Zone will be closed to reporters except for four times a year, for tours lasting no more than a day. On those day trips, the reporters will no longer be allowed inside the two major prison buildings where a majority of the 107 current prisoners are held.

This decision to dismantle the rules of media access that have prevailed for more than a decade represents an arbitrary and unjustifiable departure in the commitment to transparency made by both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Gen. Kelly said the main reason for the abrupt change was that media tours were straining the detention center staff, which also deals with visiting delegations from members of Congress and foreign officials from countries where prisoners may be resettled. He also said he was prompted to act by an incident in which a reporter (whom he refused to identify) was “very abusive” to a member of the detention center staff during an interview in October.

This is a flimsy pretext. Reporters who demonstrably misbehave should be barred. But why exclude the world’s press to punish just one individual? And if there are stresses on the staff, the details should be made public so that a justified increase in staff funding can be considered.

Gen. Kelly also said he was frustrated with reporters who asked questions about President Obama’s thwarted efforts to close Gitmo, which members of the military can’t discuss. Really? Just say “No comment” and get over it. It’s hardly a substantial reason to impose a 361-day-per-year news blackout.

Ironically, Gen. Kelly seems to be working at cross purposes with President Obama, who has repeatedly stressed that he wants to shut the place down because its isolation adds to the myth of Guantánamo as the prison of horrors. But making it harder for reporters to visit adds to the myth. It plays into the hands of recruiters for jihad.

Next month, Vice Adm. Kurt Tidd becomes the new leader of the Southern Command. He should make restoring the old rules of media access a top priority and thus ensure that the Pentagon’s professed commitment to transparency is more than just an empty promise.



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