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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

November 14, 2013

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

Nov. 13

The Khaleej Times on new party in China:

The disgraced Chinese politician, who was sentenced to life last month on charges of corruption and abuse of power, is now chairman of a new political party. His supporters say they have formed the Zhi Xian Party (Supremacy of the constitution) to act as a pressure valve within the system and help fight for the rights of citizens. Wang Zheng, a university professor who founded the party, is treading a cautious path, saying it is not meant to undermine the authority of the one-party system in the country, but to act as an interest group for upholding the constitution.

The doctrine and intentions of the new-founded group, nonetheless, are debatable. The fact that Bo has been named its chairman even though he fell from grace with the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) making an exemplary case of him is certain to be a thorn in the party’s flesh just as its third plenum session has finalized the agenda for the next decade and decided to move on from the scandals and drama that erupted during the trials of Bo and his wife, former business woman Gu Kailai.?

Despite Wang’s claim that the new organization is meant to defend the constitution, it could be an oblique retaliatory tactic to caution the CPC against penalizing Bo further. While Gu, who has been convicted of murdering her business associate, Briton Neil Heywood, was pressured during her trial to give evidence that incriminated Bo, he however has so far not made any stunning revelation to incriminate senior party leaders and utterly disgrace the CPC.

However, the new party could be a gentle reminder that the skeletons in Bo’s cupboard could start rattling if he is leant on too heavily. It is not unlikely that at some point the new party will question the modus operandi of the government, which is already facing allegations of corruption, nepotism and malfunctioning.

On the other hand, the powers that be in Beijing are likely to come down hard on Bo’s fledgling party if it shows signs of seriously challenging the CPC, just as they did in 1998, when Qin Yongmin, a human rights activist with a better non-political image than Bo, was jailed for 12 years for trying to register the China Democracy Party.

While the two sides play their little game, the Zhi Xian Party has made its point. Bo may be down but is still not out of the ring. The stab at introducing political pluralism in one-party China, be it for whatever reasons, will have caught the eye of the world and Bo has secured for himself a platform from where he can voice his thoughts.




Nov. 13

The Japan Times on spotlight on the Deep Web:

Last month, U.S. authorities arrested Ross William Ulbricht and charged him with running an online marketplace for a cornucopia of illegal goods and deals. That online bazaar was called The Silk Road, which, like its fabled namesake, offered visitors just about anything they desired.

The arrest has thrown light on two disturbing elements of the Internet — the existence of the so-called Deep Web, a massive virtual world that is not visible to most Web users or search engines, and the use of Bitcoin, a rapidly expanding digital currency that allows for anonymous transactions.

These revelations are a reminder that despite fears of living in a surveillance state, substantial parts of the digital world remain unobserved and unregulated — perhaps dangerously so.

The Silk Road, sometimes called the eBay of the black market, was set up in 2011. Its 900,000 users could deal in just about anything illegal, including counterfeit currencies and documents, drugs, guns, hacking services and even murder for hire.

Transactions on Silk Road were conducted in Bitcoin, a digital currency that is actually an open-source protocol running on computers. ...

Silk Road and Bitcoin were designed to foster anonymity and permit transactions that would leave no trace of the people behind them. Ulbricht, charged with narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, computer-hacking conspiracy and money-laundering conspiracy, was arrested not because of ace digital detective work but because he slipped up and left real-world fingerprints.

He was arrested when fake IDs he ordered online from Canada were discovered at a routine border search and the authorities followed them to his home.

Silk Road is only part of larger digital world, often referred to as the Deep Web. Most of us are familiar only with the Surface Web, the part indexed by standard search engines. Those services, however, merely trawl the surface of the worldwide web; as much as 96 percent of the Internet remains beyond their algorithms.

Access to these websites is by invitation only, available only to those who know where to look and which digital doors to knock on. ...

Terrorists and criminals deserve no safe havens, but many civil society groups battling authoritarian governments use the same technologies. So, too, do individuals who wish to protect personal information from unauthorized access.

Today the headlines are dominated by reports of unlimited surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). In the case of Bitcoin and the Deep Web, the fear is that the NSA is not doing its job properly.

Law enforcement is waking up to these new challenges, but technology continues to outpace the detectives. Finding people with the right skill set is difficult; being able to afford them when that means competing with the astronomical salaries offered by the private sector makes it a whole new type of challenge.

The bigger question remains, however: How can we ensure privacy while guaranteeing accountability?




Nov. 13

The Star-Ledger, New Jersey, New Jersey, on under chain of command, military justice is a joke:

If it were mostly men being raped in our military, it’s hard to imagine the Pentagon fighting for its farcical in-house prosecutions, in which perpetrators are almost never punished.

But that’s where we stand today, as one in five women serving our country suffers sexual assault, and fewer than 6 percent of their attackers are brought to justice.

The need to remove these cases from the military chain of command is clear. Yet Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is still facing an uphill battle to pass this reform, thanks to stiff opposition from the Pentagon. As the Senate prepares to take up the issue in coming weeks, she’s taking her case to the public.

Sexual assault cases should be tried by impartial military prosecutors, she argues, instead of allowing the accuser’s commander to oversee the investigation and decide whether anyone should be charged.

That’s basic common sense. Yet top brass refuses to budge. In response, she invited former U.S. Marine Ben Klay, the husband of a rape victim, to testify on Capitol Hill last week. His wife, Ariana Klay, was a Marine herself, and an Iraq War veteran — but whose perspective do you think carries more weight with these military men?

Ben Klay described how his wife was assigned to the commander of an elite Marine Corps unit who said she deserved whatever harassment she got because she wore makeup and running shorts. ...

Klay recalled finding himself seated in a room beside one of his wife’s rapists, who was granted immunity so he could testify that he and his accomplice were innocent. Even when Klay was called to testify, not a single question was asked to help prosecute the attackers, he said.

That’s what passed for justice for his wife.

“I’m lucky I married someone so strong,” he said, choking up as Gillibrand and Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, stood by. “Even though she still suffers.”

And as long as we require military commanders to prosecute their own top warriors, that’s what will pass as justice for every other victim, too.




Nov. 13

The Oklahoman on October sign-ups bode poorly for Obamacare:

Jeffrey Zients, the man called in to rescue the federal government’s health care website, stated the obvious Friday when he said HealthCare.gov was “a long way from where it needs to be.” New enrollment numbers illustrate the point.

According to The Wall Street Journal, fewer than 50,000 people were able to sign up for Obamacare insurance plans during October, the first month the site was up and running. That’s just one-tenth the number of people the administration had expected would sign up.

The Journal obtained its figure from two people familiar with the matter, who cited internal government data. The administration is supposed to release the official October enrollment numbers this week. There’s no reason to expect the number presented by the Office of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing enrollment and the website, will be substantially different from what the newspaper reported.

After all, HealthCare.gov has been a disaster since its debut Oct. 1. Americans have come to learn that the administration was bent on getting the ball rolling that day, despite testing that showed the system wasn’t anywhere close to ready.

The Journal interviewed one man in Illinois who had to try a half-dozen times just to create a profile on the website. In late October, he finally was able to review premiums for some insurance plans. He said he would like to review the government’s small-business plans before making a decision, but that part of the site isn’t working.

The low number of sign-ups, particularly among younger Americans, will eventually turn Obamacare on its head because the higher rates paid by younger, fitter enrollees are needed to help offset costs of services to older Americans.

The spokeswoman for HHS says officials expected all along that the largest number of registrations would occur closer to the Dec. 15 deadline. Then again, the administration also expected the website to work, too.



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