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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

July 25, 2013

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers around the world:

July 24

The Khaleej Times, Dubai on Baby Cambridge:

For months, the media had given in-depth coverage on Kate Middleton’s pregnancy that precariously bordered on utter voyeurism.

The hoax call placed by two Australian DJs to the hospital, where Kate was getting treatment for morning sickness, represents a tiny example of the great media interest in her pregnancy. But now the “great Kate wait” is over. The Duchess of Cambridge has delivered an eight-pound, six-ounce, baby boy, much to the delight of her compatriots, who are arriving in hordes outside the Buckingham Palace to celebrate his birth. Congratulatory messages have poured in from all over the world following the much-awaited birth of baby Cambridge.

The international interest in the arrival of the royal baby has been especially phenomenal. The media in the US — a country that has been historically bereft of an aristocratic class and prides itself for giving its citizens equal opportunities — has ironically shown a great obsession with the royal baby. The news of Kate’s delivery made it to every major news bulletin and websites like the New York Post altered their layout to dedicate space to coverage on Baby Cambridge. It seems like the modern fairytale has generated much fascination among the Americans, despite their age-old dislike for the concept of nobility or a privileged class.

But there are some who are rather puzzled or annoyed by this abnormal fixation on the latest addition to the British royal family and have taken to the social media to express their views. These people, however, should know that the royal baby mania is not going to die anytime soon. Speculations regarding the baby’s name are already rife in the media and soon the paparazzi will go in a mad rage to snap a picture of the newborn. Subsequently, the baby’s looks will spawn columns in tabloids. So, everyone must get ready to hear and watch anything and everything about the future King of England. Baby Cambridge — named on Wednesday George Alexander Louis — is definitely going to be the most talked about baby in the world, and there’s nothing that will change that.




July 22

The Guardian, London, on Chinese corruption:

One of the most reliable indications that things are not well in an economy or a society is a rise in street trading and increased harshness in enforcing the rules that control it. When people can’t find proper jobs or can’t stand the ones that are available, they go to the streets with a barrow-load of vegetables, a swatch of scarves or a tray of cheap plastic toys. Sometimes they have licences; often they do not. Then the police or their auxiliaries appear, one day taking bribes, the next day confiscating produce, but in either case standing between ordinary men and women and what they see as their right, and sometimes their desperate need, to make a living.

China and Tunisia are about as different as two countries could be. Yet that has not stopped Chinese critics likening the death of a watermelon vendor in Linwu, in Hunan province, last week to the case of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruitseller whose suicide led to the fall of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Deng Zhengjia was apparently beaten up by chengguan, officials whose job is to keep China’s cities free of the untidy open-air commerce other Asian countries generally tolerate.

The Chinese concern with order verges on the obsessive, but it is especially problematic when it is combined, as it is, with serious corruption, reaching to the highest levels of party and government. ...

Rivalling Deng as an object of sympathy at the moment is Ji Zhongxing, a former taxi driver who blew himself up in his own wheelchair at Beijing airport. He too appears to be a victim of the chengguan, who he says crippled him after a traffic incident in 2005.

When the evasion of planning regulations magnifies the suffering inflicted by natural disaster, as it has in the past, a particularly cruel form of suppression threatens those whose lives have already been shattered by the loss of loved ones, although Monday’s earthquake near Dingxi in western China does not seem, so far, to have a dimension of that kind.

The corruption experienced by the average Chinese citizen is petty compared to what goes on higher up. In that stratosphere, the corrupt police the corrupt. The ubiquity in China of inducements that are legal, semi-legal and illegal, with vague boundaries between the three, has created a minefield for international corporations, as GlaxoSmithKline is discovering. Who in these circumstances is the corrupt, and who the corrupter?




July 24

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on U.S. intervention would come at too high a price and Syria’s cost:

A letter from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the high cost of military intervention in Syria has probably put an end to any ideas of the United States taking such action.

The letter Friday from Gen. Martin E. Dempsey to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., cited the experience of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan and detailed the effort needed to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Mr. Dempsey said hundreds of U.S. aircraft, ships and submarines would be used by thousands of American troops to make airstrikes, launch missiles, maintain no-fly zones and train Syria’s opposition forces. He said training alone would cost $500 million a year. Air action would cost $1 billion a month.

Mr. Dempsey said that such action would be “an act of war,” which would entail risks to Jordan, a neighboring U.S. ally, and could backfire in terms of overall U.S. policy.

His message came as the Syrian opposition continued to lose ground to Assad regime forces. One of the opposition’s major problems is its divisions. Analysts say there may be up to 1,500 groups that make up the opposition. In principle they exist to some extent under the umbrella Free Syrian Army, but any unity among them is very tentative. A July 11 incident in which a jihadist group assassinated a senior Free Syrian Army officer underlined the depth of the divisions and the problems confronting the United States or other countries in trying to support them. The CIA continues to give covert training and small arms to the opposition.

President Barack Obama, who declared that Mr. Assad was finished in Syria, is now at the point of having to walk away both from that assessment and from any suggestion that the United States is going to achieve that result. The letter from Mr. Dempsey, the nation’s most senior military officer, illustrates that, in spite of the wishes of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others that the United States intervene in Syria, the costs would be too high and the outcome too uncertain.




July 21

The Miami Herald on Obama administration must push for stronger U.N. response:

The seizure in Panama of the Chong Chon Gang, a rusty old North Korean ship carrying last century’s Soviet-era weapons from Cuba hidden under 250,000 sacks of brown sugar, may seem to have the wacky trappings of a Gilligan’s Island episode with a Cold War flashback that includes a rioting crew and a captain threatening to kill himself when Panamanian soldiers boarded his ship.

But as the ship’s containers begin to be cleared of the 100-pound bags of sugar and the weapons systems are exposed and analyzed by experts, no one’s laughing. The case for maintaining a tough line on North Korea and Cuba has been strengthened.

The Obama administration, which has spent years tossing carrots at both communist countries, keeps finding that neither wants to nibble. They’re too busy, after all, plotting against the United States and the United Nations.

Any talk of removing the communist island from the State Department’s terror list remains a fool’s errand when faced with more evidence of Cuba’s role as a pass-through for every renegade nation and terrorist group that seeks harbor there.

The Cuban and North Korean communist dictatorships maintain Cuba was sending “obsolete defensive weapons” for repairs in North Korea so that Cuba can “protect its sovereignty.” ...

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and past chair, is right to call for North Korea to be put back on the terror list. And those hoping to get Cuba pulled off the terror list should have gotten their wake-up call about the Castro brothers’ ill will, too.

This is no time to be chummy with rogue regimes. Keep Cuba where it belongs — on the terror list — and add North Korea to the membership because both countries have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted.




July 22

San Antonio Express-News on the House tackling ‘amnesty’:

The bipartisan group of U.S. House members working on its version of comprehensive immigration reform has reportedly come up with a different “trigger” for citizenship.

This involves E-Verify, the electronic system for employers to confirm workers have legal residency. Mostly, these triggers have focused on securing the border, where extensive security measures already are in place.

Under the proposal, E-Verify would have to be operational after five years. If it isn’t, immigrants would be bumped out of “probation” and revert to undocumented status.

This was reported by Greg Sargent of the Washington Post last week.

This E-Verify component, at least, has the virtue of addressing the problem at a more critical point — in the workplace, giving employers the tools so that they can no longer claim that they “unknowingly” hired a person with no legal right to a job.

As long as jobs are available — and employers can evade legal responsibility for hiring those without papers — undocumented immigrants will come. And stay.

The border security measure in the Senate plan would cost $30 billion to nearly double the number of Border Patrol agents. It would also build 700 miles of fence.

This, though the country has already doubled the number of Border Patrol agents since 2005, spends more on border security than other federal law enforcement endeavors combined and net migration has dwindled to about net zero.

Politics drive this yen for border security, the need to give Republicans cover so that they can claim they are “getting tough” on immigration. ...

What does operational mean? And if this “admission” means fewer of the 11 million estimated undocumented workers here step forward, it will be counterproductive.

Why, after all, step forward if there is a chance you will have set yourself up for deportation if E-Verify isn’t “operational?”

Still, the approach has more promise than border security, which can most charitably be described as pork whose only saving grace is that it gives some members cover to do the right thing.

We await details and, should the plan even get through the House, we are hopeful that a conference committee with the Senate will iron out the differences to the common good.




July 21

Kansas City Star on answers needed on Cuba’s missile shipment to North Korea:

Given Cuba’s long-running economic crisis, you could imagine that some entrepreneurial lieutenant of the revolutionary government got a gold star for inventing a possible new revenue stream.

It certainly sounds like a clever move to clean out the Cold War closet and dump some outmoded radar systems, Russian jets and missile parts on a willing taker. After all, Cuba’s Museum of the Revolution can hold only so many military souvenirs. Were the parts going to North Korea for repair, as Cuba has confessed in the days since a North Korean ship was halted at the Panama Canal? Or is Kim Jong Un in the midst of refreshing his toy chest?

And burying the cargo under bags of sugar — that’s the kind of low-tech comedy we’ve come to expect from the Cubans.

So, was Cuba paying North Korea in advance with sugar for the fix-it work or was it selling a fellow underfed nation one of the only exports of substance it has to offer, along with the military hardware?

Weapons analysts have said that even if the restored equipment made its way back to Cuba, it would be ineffective to useless. The Russians made these things a half-century ago. The Cubans can hardly keep Russia’s leftover Lada cars running.

Seriously folks, this episode, which reportedly follows a similar Cuba-to-North Korea shipping event in 2012, comes right at a time when the U.S. and Cuba seemed ready for constructive engagement.

Is this another Cuban Missile Crisis, the edge-of-war standoff of 1962 that should’ve remained a distant memory?

That’s doubtful. But what is certain is that Cuba owes the U.S. and the world a full explanation. The United Nations will take up the matter, and the U.S. government, thankfully, is not reacting in haste.

We’ve been led to expect better from Cuban President Raul Castro, who has seemed more open to repairing relations with the U.S. than was his older brother and predecessor, Fidel. But making nice with big boy Kim puts Castro on a par with — say it ain’t so — Dennis Rodman.

That’s a comedy and a tragedy all rolled up into one.




July 23

Los Angeles Times on trying again in the Mideast:

Like second marriages, attempts by the United States to promote a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians represent a triumph of hope over experience. But Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who has engaged in his own version of shuttle diplomacy in recent weeks, deserves credit for bringing the two sides back to the bargaining table. He announced Friday that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would meet in Washington for initial talks within a week or so.

Of course, this initiative could unravel. On Sunday, a Palestinian spokesman warned that talks would be “conditioned on many clarifications about core issues” and that several “sticking points” remained unresolved. But Kerry obviously was confident enough to go public with the announcement, and there are indications that he has been able to finesse objections from both sides that have previously blocked the resumption of talks. For example, while Israel may not formally agree to suspend settlement activity in the West Bank, in practice it may be willing to exercise restraint.

The outlines of a so-called final-status agreement have been obvious for decades and can be found in dusty briefing books dating to the Clinton administration. The Palestinians would finally get an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in exchange for recognizing Israel and relinquishing the dream of a universal “right of return” for the descendants of those displaced when Israel was created after World War II. ...

It is true that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always been skeptical of a two-state solution, and that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a weak and unpopular leader (who does not even control the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas). But these complications needn’t be fatal to a resumption of negotiations. For the Palestinians, an agreement would mean not only a long-dreamed-of state but an unprecedented infusion of economic and technical assistance. And a deal would allow Israel to remain both a Jewish and a democratic state, and would spare the country from the condemnations its occupation of the West Bank has provoked in Europe and the U.S. — a source of embarrassment and anger for many Israelis.

It’s a truism that the United States can’t dictate a peace agreement to the Israelis and Palestinians. But this country possesses unique leverage that administrations of both parties have exerted in the cause of a lasting peace. Kerry’s initiative is in that tradition. We hope it succeeds.




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