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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

October 22, 2014

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

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Oct. 21

The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, on easing Ebola fear:

It’s been said quite a bit, but undoubtedly it’s not been said enough: the hysteria surrounding Ebola is far worse than the reach of the disease — at least for now and most likely forever.

The possibility of an Ebola epidemic should be taken seriously, without a doubt. The Center for Disease Control and health care leaders across the country need to work hand-in-hand to make sure the best, most responsible measures are taken to treat those who are infected and to protect the further spread of this deadly disease.

Clearly the CDC and some hospitals have made missteps early in this situation; however, everything seems to be fairly well contained at this point. What needs to happen now is continued diligence in work, preparation and education.

Here’s a few things that need to stop:

— Politicians need to shut their mouths and stop playing politics over this. Blaming the Obama administration or Republican leaders in Congress is the stupidest move to make with this scenario.

— People need to stop joking that they or someone else has Ebola. Take the three men in Horn Lake who are at the center of a joke that one of them had Ebola. It led to the involvement of the local fire and police departments along with health care workers. Now the mayor wants to sue because you don’t yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theatre, and he says you don’t joke with police about having Ebola.

— Some in the media need to stop talking about every Ebola “scare” that comes along. We’ve reported on two involving school officials because the schools were actively discussing the issue with parents. Otherwise, we’ve not reported on the daily reports of Ebola at area hospitals. We call and check them out, but that’s the extent of it.

Personal and professional responsibility seems to be in short supply when the latest health scare comes up, but the hysteria surrounding Ebola is particularly heightened.

The fear is understandable. It’s a deadly disease that until recently was never a threat to the United States. So, sure, people are worried. That’s why it should be the role of the government, health care professionals and the media to educate people and keep them informed of facts and realities, not distortions, speculation and rumors.

Online:

http://www.clarionledger.com

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Oct. 22

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on Putin’s antics:

When George W. Bush proposed pulling U.S. bases out of Germany and moving them farther east to Poland and Romania, the plan got a chilly reception with the U.S. public and Congress.

The move was meant as a cost-saver, and a welcoming and less crowded Eastern Europe offered plenty of room for maneuvers. Bush also intended the bases as a shield against the problematic attack by Iranian missiles. But Bush’s credibility was at low ebb. Russia was in economic shambles and posed little immediate threat. Now large, permanent NATO bases in Eastern Europe don’t seem such a bad idea, particularly now that Russian President Vladimir Putin has annexed Crimea, seems bent on reducing Eastern Ukraine to vassal status and cowing Poland into weakening its commitment to NATO.

As Russia’s economy sinks deeper into recession, more because of falling oil prices than Western sanctions, Putin reflexively blames all of Russia’s woes on the West. Then there is the problem of Putin himself. His behavior is increasingly erratic, and although this might be a tactic to keep the West off balance, his actions have surely started to worry his acolytes in the Kremlin.

He kept, for example, West German Chancellor Angela Merkel waiting for a meeting in Milan. As a former KGB agent in East Germany, he must have been aware that this was a horrendous breach of protocol. The New York Times commented that “Mr. Putin’s showmanship appears to be wearing thin with Europe’s leaders.”

Poland’s current leadership is formally opposed to a permanent NATO base on its soil, preferring a quick reaction force based somewhere else. That will change in a hurry if Russia, as it surely will to distract from domestic problems, begins to meddle in Polish affairs.

Online:

http://www.commercialappeal.com

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Oct. 21

Wall Street Journal on Kobani’s unavoidable reality:

Islamic State’s siege of Kobani in Syria has become a microcosm of the choices facing the United States in the war with this terrorist army.

On Sunday, three C-130 cargo planes dropped relief shipments into the Syrian Kurdish forces attempting to beat back ISIS’s offensive against Kobani. The details of these airdrops are instructive.

The materials that the American cargo planes are delivering to the Syrian Kurds do not come from the U.S. Instead, the U.S. is delivering supplies sent by the Kurds in Iraq. Moreover, the weapons included in the cargo drop are small arms and ammunition. The Kurds defending Kobani have said for a week they need more significant weaponry to prevail in city fighting against Islamic State’s tanks and heavy artillery.

They did not get that. A senior Obama administration official said, “This is really meant to provide resupply.”

The limited nature of the air drops is also meant to provide political credibility for President Obama’s repeated assertion that the U.S. will not be “dragged into” a war in the Middle East. The likelihood, however, is that the U.S.’s current standoff strategy_airstrikes from above and small arms_will allow conditions on the ground to erode over time in favor of Islamic State.

The politics of the battle for Kobani are complicated. Turkey doesn’t want to help Syrian Kurds who it says have supported their enemies in the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK. The Syrian Kurds have long been divided into factions. There is the matter of who has supported or opposed the Assad regime in Damascus. Add that the Kurds in Iraq supplying the small arms have their own set of interests.

We get that. But the Obama White House appears to be using the region’s complexities_which existed before ISIS seized one-third of Iraq_as an excuse for an overly circumscribed engagement with the new realities on the ground.

The small-arms drop is welcome; it lifted the spirits of the city’s defenders. But Kobani likely will join most of Iraq’s Anbar province in falling to the Islamic State if the U.S. doesn’t soon provide fighters on the ground with anti-tank weapons and the like. That commitment will require the U.S. to participate in some accommodations with the region’s near-term alliances. It isn’t easy. Someone should make that reality clear to people before they seek the U.S. Presidency.

Online:

http://online.wsj.com

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Oct. 21

Orange County Register, Santa Ana, California, on no time for czar:

Conservatives have been in a justifiable snit during the past few days over the appointment of Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and Al Gore, to be the Obama administration’s “Ebola czar.” All of the Right’s criticisms - that Klain is a political operative rather than a medical professional; that he’s already missed key meetings about the disease; and that this approach shows the White House treating the Ebola threat as a crisis of public relations rather than public health - strike us as justified.

That said, we have a bigger issue: that Klain’s position even exists.

The very use of the word “czar” in regards to American government ought to give conscientious citizens pause. The word, which, like its German equivalent “Kaiser,” derives from the Latin “Caesar,” is not one with which a constitutional republic should trifle. It ought to be an anathema in a free society to adopt the stylistic trappings of absolute power. We suspect that most Americans would be unsettled if the White House were to announce the appointment of an “Ebola emperor.” The “czar” formulation should be regarded with equal contempt.

On a substantive level, however, the real problem with a White House czar doesn’t have to do with any potential threat to the public’s liberty. If anything, Klain appears to be little more than a figurehead intended to pacify a restive public. Rather, the issue is the underlying idea that the government, when faced with a serious problem, has to create new positions to effectively respond to it.

As of 2012 (the most recent year for which data is available), the Office of Personnel Management reported that the executive branch of the federal government had nearly 2.7 million civilian employees. If those workers and their leaders are consistently unable to meet the most pressing challenges facing the nation - the sorts of problems for which government actually exists - then creating supplementary positions is, at best, an exercise in triage. What’s required is wholesale reform of the federal workforce that allows it to respond effectively in moments of such gravity. What use, after all, is government that can’t be relied on in a lurch?

As we have noted on these pages before, the irony of President Obama’s seemingly boundless faith in Washington is that it has inspired an equally forceful skepticism from the American people. Obama shouldn’t expect that dynamic to change when his appointment of Klain sends the implicit signal that the federal government, as normally constituted, isn’t up to the job of keeping the nation safe. Americans won’t have their faith in government restored until their political leaders have earned it.

Online:

http://www.ocregister.com

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Oct. 20

Arizona Republic on military key to stopping Ebola:

President Barack Obama is sending more than 3,000 active duty troops to West Africa. He signed an executive order authorizing the Pentagon to call up reserves and the National Guard to help fight the Ebola virus.

At first glance, this appears to be a head scratcher. How are men and women who carry machine guns supposed to fight a microscopic bug?

But this may be one of the smartest actions the federal government has taken. The best way to keep the story of Ebola in the United States to a single incident at a Dallas hospital is to stop the virus at its source. Czars and travel bans will be of little help if the epidemic explodes in Africa.

Troopers are not doctors, and they won’t be treating people. Their purpose is to create a health-care infrastructure in three countries that essentially have none. That’s why infections have spread so quickly.

The military’s first task is to build a 25-bed field hospital for infected health-care workers. Navy Seabees will also build 17 treatment centers with 100 beds each. Specialists are training local professionals how to handle Ebola patients and testing blood samples to confirm infections.

When this crisis began, Liberia’s only lab, housed in a collection of World War II-era buildings, could barely test 40 specimens a day. U.S. workers have upgraded that lab and added three more.

Reserves would fill any gaps active-duty personnel cannot in such areas as technical engineering and communications systems, according to USA TODAY. Logisticians, comptrollers and religious specialists may also be needed.

Sending in the troops is the humanitarian thing to do and part of our nation long tradition. More than 4,400 people have died already. Children have been orphaned. Without U.S. involvement, it will only get worse.

But sending troops is also self-defense.

Consider the hysteria in this country after one man died and two nurses who treated him were infected. There is no epidemic in this country, yet politicians and many in the media are acting as if there was. If Ebola were actually to establish a foothold, our economy and lives would come to a standstill.

No one wants that. But a czar can’t stop it. Nor can a flight ban. The only way to prevent that is to quell the virus where it began. The U.S. military has a role to play.

Online:

http://www.azcentral.com

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Oct. 22

Oklahoman on GAO report:

One argument for expanding Medicaid under Obamacare is that Oklahoma could “save” money by shifting costs to the federal government, including payment for the care of inmates in prisons. A new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office indicates this claim is overstated.

Under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, the federal government will supposedly cover at least 90 percent of costs for those added to the program (although less for those currently eligible). This expansion group would include most prison inmates. Currently, state government pays all the costs of medical care for inmates. This is one reason a Leavitt Partners study predicted that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections would save $118 million through Medicaid expansion.

The GAO’s findings undermine that cost-shifting claim. Responding to congressional inquiries, the GAO examined Medicaid-expansion coverage of inmates. The report bluntly notes, “Federal law prohibits states from obtaining federal Medicaid matching funds for health care services provided to inmates .” with only limited exceptions.

Medicaid pays for care only when inmates are placed in a hospital outside the prison system for more than 24 hours. “The intent of the federal prohibition is to ensure that federal Medicaid funds are not used to finance care that is the responsibility of state and local authorities,” the report states.

The GAO examined four states that expanded Medicaid (California, Colorado, New York and Washington) and two that didn’t (North Carolina and Pennsylvania). The GAO found between 72 percent and 90 percent of inmates were Medicaid eligible in New York, Colorado and California, compared with just 2 percent in non-expansion North Carolina. Yet, despite eligibility, the GAO found 5 percent or less of inmate care actually qualified for Medicaid payment in expansion states.

The GAO found federal matching funds obtained for inmate medical care in 2013 ranged from $1.3 million in Washington to $38.5 million in California. That’s far less than the $118 million predicted for Oklahoma, even though California’s prison population is roughly five times larger.

Those amounts are expected to increase, slightly, in future years. Colorado officials expect to get $2.5 million in federal matching funds for inmate medical care in 2014; Washington officials anticipate about $2.2 million in 2014 and 2015 combined.

In Colorado, the GAO reports many county jails don’t bother enrolling inmates in Medicaid because “the federal matching funds obtained may be less than the administrative costs associated with enrolling inmates and claiming funds .”

Thus, the GAO concludes that “increases in federal spending on inmate care due to Medicaid expansion are likely to be limited.”

Still, states will undoubtedly seek to boost those Medicaid reimbursements. Such strategies could impact public safety. To qualify for more federal matching funds, officials could place more inmates in public hospitals for longer stays, regardless of need. They could also increase early release efforts to boost Medicaid rolls and associated reimbursement.

At the same time, officials would have greater financial incentive to enroll ex-convicts than to enroll many law-abiding citizens. Under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, the federal government will pay 90 percent of costs for inmates and ex-convicts, but just 60.99 percent of costs for a low-income pregnant woman who is currently Medicaid-eligible in Oklahoma.

The GAO’s report indicates Medicaid “savings” for the state prison system are mostly illusory. And unyielding pursuit of those savings may generate outcomes far worse than a lack of insurance.

Online:

http://newsok.com

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Oct. 22

Khaleej Times, Dubai, on Pyongyang:

The sudden change of heart of the powers-that-be in the Stalinist state is surprising, as the American was flown directly from the communist state capital to Ohio. The most mysterious aspect is that perhaps for the first time in their troubled relationship, a US Air Force jet was spotted at Pyongyang International Airport, which hours later landed at Ohio. His family and State Department officials greeted Fowle on the US soil. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said North Korea had asked the US government to transport Jeffrey Fowle out of the country as a ‘condition of his release’.

The Pyongyang leadership had played such gimmicks in the past as well in its pursuit to seek US acknowledgement. This time as well it seems to be all about Kim Jong-un’s obsession to get recognized by the US and Western leadership with which Kims always wanted a quid pro quo relationship at par with South Korea. Fowle and two other US detainees had in earlier interviews asked for a US representative to go to North Korea to make a direct appeal for their release. They were held by North Korea on alleged charges of indulging in espionage and anti-state activities. Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller are serving contested sentences and their release too is being negotiated.

If the North Korean precedents of give and take are any criterion, it is difficult to assume that Fowle could have been released without a deal. Seoul reportedly took down a towering Christmas tree on its northern border in an attempt to appease North Korea. Similarly, the recent détente meeting with South Korean officials at the fag end of the Asian Games in Incheon and the toning down of the joint US-Korea war drills in the region also provide credence to that thought.

Online:

http://www.khaleejtimes.com

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