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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

July 5, 2013

July 1

The Paris (Tennessee) Post-Intelligencer on tolerance policy setting Mandela apart:

Nelson Mandela ... was called a “world hero” by President Barack Obama. Mandela has exhibited that rarest of qualities for national leaders: Grace.

Imprisoned by the racist government of South Africa for a quarter-century, he led the gallant campaign that finally put his nation’s black majority in power.

That was enough to earn him a gold star in the history books, but what happened next is what was so very remarkable.

Down through world history, oppressed peoples who successfully revolted against the power structure invariably took violent revenge on those who had lorded it over them.

The 18th century French Revolution is the prime example. Guillotines were kept busy chopping the heads off people whose only offense was to have been a member of the former aristocracy.

The same thing happened time and again in different parts of the world. Once free of oppressive rule, the masses reacted violently.

But not South Africa. Its black population had long been under the thumb of white apartheid, and when that majority finally controlled the government the world expected a bloodbath.

But due in a very high degree to Mandela’s influence, it didn’t happen. Instead, the new power structure offered forgiveness.

Only in the most blatant cases were charges brought against oppressors. The policy of the new government was for both the races to live together in peace.

The design of the nation’s new flag showed two streams from different sources coming together to create a new whole.

It was not all his doing, of course, but no one had a greater share in the policy of togetherness than Nelson Mandela. A world hero indeed.




July 2

Boston Herald on the 19 men who died in a raging wildfire:

In seeking the truest definitions of heroism and bravery we must look immediately to the actions of the 19 men who ran toward a raging wildfire as it devoured the dry Arizona landscape on Sunday — and who will never again return to their families.

These were men as brave as any soldier on a battlefield. As the name implies, this elite squad of “hotshots,” who fight the worst fires that a bolt of lightning and a dry climate can conjure, surely have a bit of the adventurer about them.

But like every firefighter, every cop, every soldier — what matters in the end is that they were individuals driven to extraordinary lengths to preserve the lives and property of their fellow citizens, who understood that every mission might be their last.

The nation today is in deep mourning for these 19 men. The loss is almost unspeakable, and yet even now the colleagues of the crew based in Prescott, Ariz. are rushing to the front lines, summoning superhuman strength to meet their duties, while the rest of us whine about the challenge of a traffic jam.

Here in New England we are not unaccustomed to the sudden loss of strong, young men, lost in the prime of their lives in the line of their particular duty, whether in the smoke and flames of a Worcester warehouse or to the power of the ocean in a fishing boat out at sea.

But the scale of this loss, the nation’s biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years, is simply staggering.

There are questions that need to be answered; there will and must be an investigation into the mechanics of how an entire company could suffer such a fate, beyond the cruel simplicity of shifting winds. In the same way that past tragedies have led to advances in fighting wildfires, the loss at Yarnell will surely bring similar lessons.

But there will be time for those questions, those lessons, after the mourning is done. For the families and colleagues of those who were lost, of course, that day may never come.




June 30

Detroit Free Press on a war on climate change:

Climate change is surely the looming disaster of our time.

Scientists say it’s inevitable that sea levels will rise 2 1/2-6 1/2 feet — sufficient to endanger or wipe out many cities. One scientist believes that in the long-term, 69 feet of sea level rise is inescapable.

And the source of the swelling oceans — rising temperatures — will stress the nation’s food system, while the increasing number of devastating storms will place an economic burden on a nation reeling from disaster to disaster, patching its wounds without effecting meaningful change.

It’s tempting to dismiss these projections as hysterical. That life as we know it could change so dramatically, so quickly, seems impossible. But on this topic, the scientific community (if not the political one) speaks with one voice.

Despite the preponderance of evidence — rising temperatures, powerful storms, droughts and fires — no significant action has been taken that would limit the impacts of climate change. Until last Tuesday.

President Barack Obama delivered a bold proposal for a set of regulatory changes that could turn the U.S. from its headlong rush into disaster. ...

Indeed, some members of Congress have made their careers by obstructing just such measures. Sadly, many of those whose denials of the causes and impacts of climate change ring the loudest represent the coastal areas most vulnerable to rising seas, an act of self-immolation that’s impossible to understand.

Obama’s climate change plan was heralded by these intransigent members as “job killing,” irresponsible and an abuse of executive fiat. ...

Obama’s willingness to circumnavigate Congress is a regrettable necessity.

In an ideal world, lawmakers would be swayed by the preponderance of scientific evidence, reach consensus and move to enact regulations that protect our environment. But that’s not what has happened. For a legislator to accept that climate change is happening has become a political, not scientific decision.

And while we’re wary of the increasing power of the presidency, what could be a more appropriate use of that power than to turn the country from environmental devastation?




July 2

The Oklahoman on Hobby Lobby’s battle against Obamacare mandate:

Score one — a big one — for Hobby Lobby, and for all those offended by the Obama administration’s assault on religious liberties in this country.

Last week the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said Hobby Lobby had the right to sue over a Health and Human Services mandate included as part of Obamacare that requires companies to provide insurance covering birth control.

The administration had argued that for-profit companies couldn’t claim that the mandate violates their constitutionally protected religious freedoms. The Denver court called the argument bogus. ...

Like many Christians, the family was floored by the original mandate announced in January 2012. It required faith-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and charities to offer free contraception and abortifacients as part of their health insurance coverage. One month later the administration “improved” the rule by making insurance companies, not the religious employer, offer contraception free of charge. This was of no help to self-insured companies such as Hobby Lobby.

Of course, organizations that didn’t get on board would be fined — Obamacare is loaded with potential fines and penalties. In the case of Hobby Lobby, these fines would have been about $1.3 million per day. ...

The struggle is sure to continue, too, because Barack Obama is a true believer in the cause of abortion-rights advocates. As a state senator, he opposed a bill designed to prevent partial-birth abortions. The National Abortion Rights Action League gave then-U.S. Sen. Obama a 100 percent score on his abortion-rights voting record. In April, he gave a speech to Planned Parenthood — becoming the first sitting U.S. president to do so in the nearly 100 years Planned Parenthood has been in business.

In his remarks there, Obama said that as long as there’s a fight to defend women’s reproductive rights, “you’ve also got a president who will be right there with you, fighting every step of the way.” Part of that battle plan includes forcing employers’ insurance companies to pay for drugs that can stop a pregnancy.

We’re heartened by Hobby Lobby’s court victory, and by the knowledge that this good company is in it for the long haul. Others who cherish religious liberties should be as well.




July 2

The Star, Toronto, on Bangladesh and worker rights:

After the Bangladesh garment factory collapse in April that left more than 1,100 workers dead, their broken bodies mingled with brand-name clothing tags, the country’s politicians and sweatshop owners no doubt hoped the resulting furor over worker rights and safety would soon blow over. It hasn’t.

Bangladesh’s garment workers are notoriously poorly paid, making as little as $38 a month to produce cheap clothing for consumers in far richer countries. They are commonly abused, largely non-unionized and routinely exposed to fire and other workplace hazards. The Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka was one of the worst industrial disasters ever.

Now, in a stinging rebuke to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government, U.S. President Barack Obama is moving to suspend Bangladesh’s trade benefits until its officials deliver on promises to improve worker rights and workplace safety. Under pressure from American trade unions, Obama served notice late last week that he intends to revoke the break on some tariffs that Bangladesh enjoys, and make it harder for certain products to get into the U.S. market.

At root this is a symbolic gesture, affecting barely $40 million worth of Bangladeshi products such as tobacco and sports gear. ...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has no plans to follow Washington’s lead, partly out of a principled concern not to put poor workers out of jobs. But the European Union has been mulling trade action, and Washington’s move can only strengthen the hand of those who want to rescind Bangladesh’s duty-free privilege.

That threat should concentrate minds around the Hasina cabinet table, where politicians have been scandalously tolerant of employer intimidation and brutality, appalling working conditions and criminally unsafe workplaces.

Galvanized by the Rana Plaza disaster, and fearing a consumer backlash, Canadian and international brand-name clothing firms that have goods made in Bangladesh are marshaling their collective commercial clout to force some changes. ...

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