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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

September 19, 2013

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

Sept. 14

The Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on Syrian war gains face with story of victim:

While it’s not impossible, it’s unlikely that many of us in Murfreesboro will ever meet Rema Faour.

In the midst of all the debate about whether the United States should launch a limited assault against Syria because of its government’s use of chemical weapons, however, Rema Faour offered a true flesh-and-blood example of what is happening every day in Syria.

Rema Faour and her family in Syria have been among the victims of the ongoing violence there. She personally has sustained injuries as have other members of her family. Members of the family also have died.

Syria may seem quite far away, but thanks to Rema Faour’s brother, Louai, who lives in Murfreesboro and was willing to share her story and reporter Christopher Merchant who was able to tell her story, those of us in Murfreesboro got a much better understanding of the pain and frustration of this civil war.

Rema Faour’s story puts a face on the many column inches that we have published about the dire situation in Syria and the many hours of television time that is has occupied. Her story has given life to the many dry statistics about deaths, injuries and displacements in the war-torn country. ...

Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, one-time House speaker, receives credit for the observation that “All politics is local,” but most world events also are local, particularly as Rutherford County has grown to provide home for a diverse population.

When protesters recently gathered downtown to oppose U.S. military intervention in the Syrian conflict, also present were Syrian nationals who urged the United States to act to help save their families and friends still in Syria.

Those in Syria are not merely numbers, but families with fears and aspirations — just as families who live in Rutherford County.

We only can hope that Rema Faour and her family survive this conflict. They are also part of our family.




Sept. 17

The Star-Ledger, Newark, New Jersey, on Miss America:

To the new Miss America we offer hearty congratulations, and best wishes in her determination to ignore the psychos who have been posting racist comments online.

It is a sad fact of modern life that bigots can gain visibility much more easily than they used to. There was a day when they had to screw up the courage to confront their targets in the flesh, or at least take the trouble to scrawl graffiti or draft a letter.

Now they can post a comment online under an anonymous screen name in 30 seconds. And with that vile mission completed, they can move on to pollute another online conversation. So a mere handful of bigots can spread their slime far and wide, making their views seem more common than they are in reality.

The messages regarding the new Miss America, Nina Davuluri, who is Indian-American, proved yet again that bigotry and stupidity often go hand in hand. Here’s a sampling:

“And the Arab wins Miss America. Classic.”

“9/11 was 4 days ago and she gets Miss America?”

“Congratulations Al-Qaeda. Our Miss America is one of you.”

For the record, Davuluri, 24, is headed to medical school, unlike the clowns who wrote these notes. When she was asked about the ugly tweets, she turned it into a teaching moment.

“At the end of the day, we are all Americans,” she said. “Some of us have different skin color or may speak a different language at home or may practice a different religion. But we are all still American.”

Tweet that, bigots.




Sept. 18

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the Navy Yard shootings come with a lesson:

America’s latest mass shooting, in which 12 victims were gunned down at the Washington Navy Yard by a killer who also lost his life, is another stomach-turning episode in the life of the nation.

While the government operates a sophisticated surveillance program in which every citizen’s phone records can be inspected to protect the country from foreign threats, the nation is powerless against a lone deranged American who will use guns to speak for himself.

Many questions will be answered in the days ahead about the motive and conduct of Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old employee of a military contractor, and the weapons he used in Monday’s shooting.

On Tuesday, news reports were changing on the guns Alexis used in the attack. Initial reports said that he fired an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and a handgun taken from a police officer at the scene. Later in the day, The Associated Press said the gunman carried an AR-15, but did not fire it -- instead using a shotgun and two handguns grabbed from officers.

Another question must be addressed by the military. Should Alexis have had security clearance to enter the Navy Yard despite the pattern of misbehavior he displayed, with both civilian and military authorities, before his early, yet honorable, discharge from the Navy Reserve in 2001? ...

Until more of the facts are known, it is difficult to see whether better gun laws could have averted this tragedy. Meanwhile, this remains a nation awash in arms and firepower beyond the needs of any hunter, sportsman or person seeking protection.

If nothing else, the Aaron Alexis case demonstrates the sorrowful toll that can result when an explosive personality gets quick access to guns. In a culture where that access is made exceptionally easy, where sensible limits are denounced as threats to the Second Amendment and where lawmakers are too spineless to balance the right to bear arms with the need to be secure, the next mass shooting is just a matter of time.




Sept. 15

The Seattle Times on policing privacy on the Internet and Facebook:

As a good rule of thumb, assume any information posted on social media will be harvested like a veal calf headed for sale on a digital town square.

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reminded us all of that pipeline in announcing it was looking into Facebook’s new privacy policies.

Those polices — unveiled just before Labor Day weekend, when presumably few would be paying attention — made clear that Facebook considers signing up for its service is de-facto consent to resell users’ data to advertisers.

The FTC, on the other hand, considers that a potential breach of a 2011 regulatory agreement, which requires Facebook to get explicit consent from users. Facebook, which has a troubling record of eroding privacy standards, looks like it tried to slip one past consumers.

Thank goodness someone is looking, because the vast majority of consumers are not. The boilerplate legalese of online contracts is scrolled past, in search of the quick “Agree” button.

Facebook isn’t alone. Since 2011, Google, MySpace and Path social-networking sites all have settled FTC charges that the companies duped consumers regarding privacy policies.

A digital thumbprint is easily left but nearly impossible to erase.

It will get even more difficult to erase with advances in facial-recognition software, which suggest a future in which embarrassing “selfie” photos are instantly matched to LinkedIn business profiles and Facebook “likes” for lingerie manufacturers.

In a Slate essay, writer Amy Webb described her aversion to posting any pictures of her child. ...

That future is hypothetical. Facebook, and other social-media companies, can ensure a present modicum of privacy. Signing up for a Facebook account is not an invitation to harvest our lives for sale on the town square of digital advertising.




Sept. 18

The Khaleej Times, Dubai, on the D.C. shootout:

A former U.S. Navy serviceman who went on a rampage at a naval installation in Washington D.C — before being shot dead — has left behind numerous questions that are unlikely to be answered.

The man who was identified as Aaron Alexis, hailing from Texas, went on a shooting spree and gunned down at least 12 people. He was reportedly armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun. He is also said to have snatched a handgun from a policeman nearby! The narration is too dramatic and unconvincing to believe in a heavily secured installation in the US capital. Moreover, there is confusion as to whether Alexis was acting alone or had accomplices, and what could have been his real motive?

The ex-serviceman who was on a roll call as a contractor back with the military, FBI input says, was formerly a petty officer in the navy who completed his full term and was decorated with medals. Surprisingly enough, he was a recipient of the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal at the navy! What factors could have motivated him to go on a shooting spree will help answer many searching questions in American conscience. It should also be probed, independently, whether the allegation that Alexis was the shooter is true or not, and needs to be supplemented with CCTV footage. Reports that he had disciplinary issues and was not psychologically sound after converting to Christianity and had gun-related brushes with the law makes the mosaic too confusing.

The trend in the US of going on a rampage at sensitive installations needs to be studied carefully. As rightly stated by Washington D.C mayor Vincent Gray, it should not be read as a terrorism incident. Rather, it has more to do with the mores and undercurrents of American society in an evolution of its own.




Sept. 17

Toronto Star on Egypt should free two Canadians held without charge:

Enough. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making discouragingly little headway with muted expressions of diplomatic “concern” about the fate of two Canadians — a physician and a filmmaker — who have been languishing for weeks in an Egyptian jail without explanation or charge. It’s time to channel some outrage.

The military coup that has plunged Egypt into this contempt for due process and the law is a betrayal of its 2011 democratic revolution. It is roiling relations with friendly countries such as Canada and the United States. It is scaring off aid, investment and tourism. And it is condemning Egyptians to yet more violence and instability. That’s the message Harper should be sending, forcefully and publicly, to Cairo’s generals and their political cronies.

Dr. Tarek Loubani and John Greyson were arrested on Aug. 16 after they went into a Cairo police station to ask directions in the midst of political upheaval there. The police now allege that they and a few other foreigners took part in riots involving Muslim Brotherhood supporters near a police station and mosque. They’ve been held for a month, and on the weekend a prosecutor ordered them held for 15 days more. They fear being jailed indefinitely, and have now launched a hunger strike to protest.

While their families credit Harper and our diplomats for “advocating for John and Tarek’s release at the highest levels,” the pair’s detention is an outrage. Our diplomats are in touch, have managed to improve their jail conditions, and have met briefly with Egyptian prosecutors. But that still leaves the two in limbo. ...

Canadians can’t be expected to turn a blind eye to this. More than 115,000 have signed a petition demanding that Greyson and Loubani be freed. And at the Toronto International Film Festival high-profile stars including Atom Egoyan, Sarah Polley and Alex Gibney took up their cause.

Egypt must provide a credible case, or release these men as it should release many others. ...

The Canadian government has vouched for them. They have cooperated with Egyptian officials, answered questions and produced evidence that they were on their way to Gaza. Their lengthy detention without charge is yet more appalling proof of just how much Egypt has suffered in this coup.



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