Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Decatur (Alabama) Daily on containing the Ebola outbreak:
The Ebola virus is one of the least understood but most deadly viruses on the African continent, spreading rapidly if not checked in its early stages. The current outbreak threatens to become a continental pandemic.
Initially, health officials thought the outbreak was contained along the Liberia-Guinea border, but with people traveling to escape it or to conduct business, the virus has spread to other regions. Now, African nations are asking for greater assistance from the West.
The United States and United Kingdom are ramping up assistance in the form of medical equipment and military aid, including setting up clinics.
The Obama administration is preparing to assign 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the afflicted region to supply medical and logistical support to overwhelmed local health care systems and to boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat victims of the epidemic.
The virus’ exact origins remain a mystery, but scientists believe Ebola is transmitted from certain animals, including bats. It is spread among humans by contact with bodily fluids, either through broken skin of mucus membranes.
The symptoms are horrifying: fever, vomiting and massive internal bleeding.
As is often the case in remote areas, Doctors Without Borders has been on the front line trying to contain the outbreak, but the humanitarian aid group has been overwhelmed.
The France-based organization thought the outbreak had been contained early, but the movement of people in the region allowed it to spread. Many African nations have imposed travel restrictions and quarantines in an effort to control it. Part of the U.S. and British military assistance will be in containing movement of people.
Studies show more and more people are migrating globally in search of better lives, and diseases will travel with some of them.
A more coordinated and well-funded response to easily spread diseases is becoming mandatory. The risks of piecemeal responses are too dangerous to consider.
The Ebola outbreak has claimed at least 2,000 lives, and that number is certain to rise.
This is not the first time Ebola has appeared in Africa, and much has been learned about how to contain and treat it. But those lessons are of limited use if the response is not swifter and better coordinated.
Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Mississippi, on NFL confronting domestic violence:
Domestic violence is a terrible thing, and the current brouhaha over National Football League players accused of it is putting a lot of public attention on a crime that too often has been tolerated by both victims and prosecutors.
If the publicity over the cases of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy and others sends a message that domestic violence comes with a big price to those who dish it out, then some good will come from all this.
Give professional sports some credit. Whatever the negative aspects there are to big-money games, sports has helped pioneer positive changes in society, not the least of which is general acceptance of racial integration.
But a question that seems fair to raise is: Are millionaire football players — and their bosses — being held to a higher standard when it comes to striking a woman or whipping a child than the average person?
It’s pretty obvious that they are. Perhaps a better question is: Should they be held to a higher standard?
Wall Street Journal on leftovers at the NLRB:
A unanimous Supreme Court this year rejected President Obama’s three non-recess recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board as an abuse of executive authority, but hey, no worries. One of those illegal appointees is now getting her second chance to be confirmed by the Senate.
In January 2012 Mr. Obama “recess” appointed Sharon Block, a then-Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Labor Department and former aide to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, to the NLRB along with labor stalwart Richard Griffin and Terence Flynn. Mr. Griffin and Ms. Block left the NLRB in 2013 as part of a Senate deal to avert a showdown over the filibuster.
Republicans agreed to confirm Mr. Obama’s nominees on condition they not include Ms. Block and Mr. Griffin. A few days later Democrats turned around and promoted Mr. Griffin to be NLRB general counsel. Now the filibuster is gone and Mr. Obama has renominated Ms. Block to the board in clear violation of the spirit of the 2012 bipartisan deal.
At a recent Senate hearing Ms. Block was asked why she remained on the board even after a federal appeals court invalidated the recess appointments as unconstitutional. “I made a commitment to serve, and I took that commitment very seriously,” Ms. Block told the committee. Ms. Block’s oath of office begins with a pledge to uphold and defend the Constitution, but we digress.
All of this matters because Ms. Block’s reappointment means the reconstituted NLRB will be able to rubber stamp many rulings first issued when the board was acting without a legal quorum. Hundreds of rulings from that era were invalidated when the Supreme Court judged the appointments unconstitutional in NLRB v. Noel Canning. Reasonable people will wonder how they can expect a fair rehearing before a board member who already ruled against them.
At the recent hearing Ms. Block said she would consider requests that she recuse herself from individual cases, but we won’t be betting on it. During her time on the board Ms. Block has amassed a briefcase of decisions in favor of expanding the NLRB’s authority to assist labor unions.
She favored the board’s “Notice Posting” rule which was later invalidated by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. She also voted in favor of a decision allowing a union to charge a non-member for union lobbying related to collective bargaining, in contradiction of the Supreme Court’s 1988 Beck decision.
Now she will be back, rewarmed with a partisan Senate vote, but still guaranteed to vote for union interests regardless of the facts or legal precedent.
Seattle Times on President Obama and Islamic State:
The United States should recognize the limited scope of what it can achieve as it returns military advisers to Iraq and plots strategic airstrikes in Syria to curb the growing terrorism threat in the two volatile nations.
No matter how many smart bombs are dropped or megalomaniacal leaders are killed, the twisted ideology that birthed Islamic State — the terrorist group previously known as al-Qaida in Iraq — won’t be totally eradicated. Its physical competence, however, can be severely maimed.
President Obama outlined his measured military strategy to accomplish that goal Wednesday by putting a muted U.S. military advisory presence on the ground, and by aiding the moderate forces opposing the militant Islamic group.
This show of detached U.S. “strength and resolve,” bolstered by United Nations partnerships, will check Islamic State’s ability to threaten the United States and its allies, Obama argues.
Clearly, the U.S. must do more to cripple a group so bloodthirsty that it has brazenly beheaded two American journalists in recent weeks and posted videos of that barbarism online.
But the additional effort should involve new tactics because the old and often-used military-intervention tool has routinely exacerbated problems in the Middle East instead of resolved them.
“All you can do in these situations is learn from history,” said U.S. Rep. Adam Smith of Bellevue, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. “A full-scale U.S. military presence is not going to be the answer.”
Ravaging terrorists who justify their cowardice by provoking the very reprisals they decry only continues the cycle of compounded intervention Obama has tried to avoid.
Even though House Speaker John Boehner is legitimately skeptical that Obama’s tactics can achieve an ideal outcome and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid worries about acting in haste, members of Congress have signaled a willingness to give the president the support he needs.
That’s the proper course. But Obama and Congress should be explicit in redefining what victory means and the metrics to get there. That will help reassure the war-weary American people.
Still, military intervention has never changed the hearts, minds or politics of the Middle East. So, the president who campaigned as an anti-war U.S. senator is forced to choose from an assortment of bad options.
In such cases, lowering expectations makes a lot of sense.
New York Times on the economy:
The economy has been on the road to recovery since mid-2009, when the Great Recession officially ended. But, for most Americans, recovery is not there yet, and, at the recent rate of progress, it won’t be for a long time, if ever.
New census data on income and poverty, released on Tuesday, show that median household income barely budged in 2013 for the second year in a row, following two consecutive annual declines. At nearly $52,000, it is still 8 percent below its level in 2007 before the recession. To make matters worse, the income declines from the recession came on top of losses carried over from the prior business cycle from 2000 to 2007. In all, median household income in America is 8.6 percent below its peak in 2000.
The situation is even bleaker for households led by people under age 65. Unlike older households, their income is not usually cushioned by steady Social Security payments; instead, they rely largely on paychecks in an era of flat or falling wages. For them, median income from 2000 to 2013 declined 11.2 percent, from nearly $65,800 to $58,450.
Even positive news in the report is overwhelmed by dismaying longer-term trends. The poverty rate fell from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013, the first meaningful year-to-year decline in seven years. (The poverty threshold for a family of four in 2013 was $23,834.) But the rate is still well above its levels of 12.5 percent in 2007 and 11.3 in 2000. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has calculated that, at the recent pace of poverty reduction, it would take until 2020 for the rate to fall below the level in 2000.
Similarly, poverty among children fell from 2012 to 2013, but remains above its levels in 2007 and 2000. The improvement, such as it is, appears to stem from a rise in the employment and earnings of low-income parents. That is, of course, a positive sign in any recovery: When jobs begin to grow, low-income groups hit the hardest in the bad times should show clear signs of a rebound.
It also means, however, that further economic progress will depend on even more jobs at even higher pay. But several policy makers in Congress and at the Federal Reserve believe it is time to back off from remaining stimulus policies. Federal spending already has been cut, and safety-net programs like federal jobless benefits have ended. The push now is for the Fed to raise interest rates — using monetary policy not to combat joblessness, which is real, but to combat inflation, which is not.
Progress toward economic health has been and continues to be slow and unreliable. That’s because the policy response never was and probably never will be commensurate with the damage caused by the serial recessions and poor recoveries since 2000.
The Oklahoman on climate change:
Matt Ridley calls himself a “lukewarmer,” a person who’s somewhere in between when it comes to positions on global warming. Apparently, the number of such folks in high government positions is on the upswing — unlike the temperatures themselves.
A United Nations climate change summit this month will have some empty seats. They would otherwise be occupied by officials from China, India and Germany, among others, who’ve decided that global warming isn’t quite as urgent as the U.N. and President Barack Obama think it is.
Ridley noted in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed that the U.N. “no longer claims that there will be dangerous or rapid climate change in the next two decades.” Really? Tell that to the Los Angeles Times, which no longer accepts letters to the editor disputing conventional wisdom on anthropogenic global warming.
Scattered news reports in recent days have chronicled a change in summertime Arctic ice loss. This is a normal phenomenon that happens every year but had been happening more dramatically until it wasn’t. This year, Arctic ice loss in August was, well, normal.
Global warming zealots are scrambling to cover their igloos in these challenging times for “settled science.” The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been downgrading its forecasts for global temperature increases for the period of 1995-2025, from 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit to about 0.9 degrees.
“Even that is likely to be too high,” wrote Ridley, who is a member of the British House of Lords. “The climate-research establishment has finally admitted openly what skeptic scientists have been saying for nearly a decade: Global warming has stopped since shortly before this century began.”
The “settled science” coalition, including the White House and many members of Congress, haven’t gotten the memo. They have too much at stake. Besides, it’s so tempting to demonize Republicans about their obvious unconcern for the plight of the polar bears.
As they have throughout natural history, weather events come and go, strutting and fretting their hour upon the world stage but not necessarily signifying anything that can be scientifically settled.
Much of Oklahoma remains in drought conditions, as classified by the federal government, but this could change quickly. Or not. After the brutal summers of 2011 and 2012, Oklahoma City has had two consecutive relatively mild and wet summers. The latter fact signifies nothing in particular. It just happened.
Seems to us that the planet isn’t getting warmer, either, at least not much warmer. Ridley’s take is that this planet and the U.N. have more pressing problems, such as war, terrorism, poverty and habitat loss.
Khaleej Times, Dubai, on the CIA:
The group known as the ISIS is so feared and barbaric that it has compelled the world’s largest military to seek the support of the entire Middle Eastern allies, and cobble together an alliance to root out the extremist group. This modus operandi is more pervasive than the global campaign against Al Qaeda. Thus 13 years after the September 11 attacks on New York and Pentagon, the White House is bogged down in a conflict, which is not limited to militarily ousting the extremist group but also eradicating its gradually spreading political and ideological influence. It is a good omen that up till now 10 Arab countries have agreed to help the US attack the group both inside Syria and Iraq, and this is for the first time since the uprising in Damascus that a formal and internationally coordinated military action is evident.
The credit should, nonetheless, go to President Barack Obama for having clearly read between the lines and identified the brutality of the ISIS, and unilaterally ordered air strikes in his executive capacity. That action was a departure from the ‘red line’ argument that Obama advanced and put the ball in Congress court for ganging up against the regime in Damascus. This revision comes a day after Obama outlined a plan to “degrade and destroy” the ISIS and to increase military support for allied forces engaged in fighting the group.
The anti-terror war seems to have come full circle with now Damascus and Tehran on the side of Washington and extending voluntary support and expertise to fight the ISIS. But the US point of view to keep Iran away from the coalition — suspecting sectarian backlash in the region — is quite imprudent. They are all in this together, and the US should stop redefining the ISIS on sectarian lines. Rather it is a group that is out against humanity and has acted even against their own sect followers, who do not assent to its hardline approach. The popular opinion against the ISIS in Saudi Arabia and several other orthodox Sunni societies is a case in point.
US Secretary of State John Kerry’s whirlpool tip to the Middle East, meant to formally draw a strategy to exterminate the radical group, should come up with a broad-based approach and execute this flush-out operation in the shortest possible timeframe. Any prolonged operation will breed discontent and enable them to regroup.