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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

December 24, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

The Dallas Morning News. Dec. 22, 2018.

Normally in times of national trouble, we want the president at his desk in the Oval Office in the White House in Washington.

But given events of the last few days, we are inclined to urge a different course. A golf course. For the president. Somewhere he is holding a putter instead of a smartphone. Somewhere he is otherwise occupied. Somewhere the whirlwind of problems he is stirring are stopped.

From national and international security to the stability of the government and economy, this has been a really bad run for the country. And, unfortunately, much of it is traceable straight back to the twittering whims of the president.

Let’s review:

The president is removing 2,000 troops from Syria who are the bulwark against Iranian and Russian influence in the entire Middle East as well as the force denying ISIS the ability to re-establish.

The president is removing 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, a move that could hasten the Taliban’s dominance of the country where we have fought so hard to deny terrorists safe haven. Afghanistan is also in the midst of peace negotiations with the Taliban, and we would have thought that the president understood that one way to succeed at negotiating is to look strong throughout. This move only undercuts the democratically elected government of Afghanistan as it seeks to hammer out an agreement that will lead to long-term peace and stability.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the man who has steadied the course of American military power during this administration, has announced his resignation because of differences with the president over Syria. Mattis is not the sort of person one can easily replace.

The president has said he is ready to let the U.S. government partially shut down if he does not get billions of dollars to fund a border wall. Such funding is tough to get in normal circumstances. In this case, he is only strengthening Democrats, who will soon take control of the House, by risking postponing any budget agreement after the start of a new Congress. In any case, after promising to own the shutdown, he now is claiming it will belong to Democrats. Our concern isn’t who “owns” it politically, but what damage a shutdown might do to the American economy.

Markets go up and down, but the story of the American economy, at least as it’s told through Wall Street, is getting uglier. Markets hate turmoil. America is in tumult.

The best thing to do right now might be to suggest a warmer climate to the president. Wouldn’t a few days at Mar-a-Lago be good medicine? Sunny weather. Green grass. Hey, that course record isn’t going to set itself. And anyway, it’s the holidays. Time for a bit of cheer. Air Force One is ready when you are.

Just sign this spending bill here. That’s it.

Fore!

___

The Monitor. Dec. 23, 2018.

Several Congress members who recently toured a West Texas tent city housing roughly 2,700 young migrants asked that its contract not be renewed.

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, and four other Democratic House members went through the facility at Tornillo, several miles southeast of El Paso, on Dec. 15. They said they were not allowed to speak with any of the children in any substantial way, and that the center’s contract, which expires Dec. 31, should be allowed to expire.

Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, whose district includes the Tornillo facility, also wants it shuttered.

Most Americans probably would agree. The shelter was opened in June to house up to 360 migrant children, most of them who arrived from Central America by themselves, for a month. The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy of criminal prosecution for all undocumented immigrants and consequent separation of children from their families swelled the ranks of children held at Tornillo and other facilities across the country into the thousands. It was expanded and the contract has been extended three times.

The growth has caused costs to balloon beyond original budgets; they could reach nearly $450 million.

But closing it and scattering the current residents to other, more permanent locations could create problems such as being able to track them all properly. The Department of Health and Human Services reported in April that the Office of Refugee Resettlement could not determine the whereabouts of 1,475 unaccompanied migrant children. The report was based on an effort to track unaccompanied minors in U.S. custody between October and December 2017.

A second survey conducted from April to June of this year found another 1,488 children were unaccounted for, a Senate committee revealed in September. It’s unknown how much duplication might exist between the two reports.

To be sure, the tent city’s change in function and rapid expansion created some problems. A recent Associated Press investigation found that staff at the tent city has grown to some 2,100, and none of them have gone through FBI background checks to ensure the children’s safety. The facility’s contractors have hired a private company to screen applicants, but the company doesn’t have the same access to criminal information as the FBI.

Facility staff reportedly don’t have enough mental health clinicians; federal policy calls for one clinician for every 12 children, while Tornillo might have one for every 100 residents.

And more permanent facilities don’t have room for 2,700 new residents.

At least at their present location the children are accounted for and interested parties can continue to monitor their well-being. Similar oversight must be assured before the teens are moved to other facilities. And with those facilities already at or near capacity it might be hard to assure that their whereabouts, much less their welfare, will always be known.

Until those assurances can be made, it might be best to leave these children where they are, where concerned advocates, lawmakers and others can keep an eye on them and their guardians.

___

Houston Chronicle. Dec. 23, 2018.

Never before had humans been so alone.

As the Apollo 8 capsule slipped behind the moon, the three men on board — Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders — found themselves utterly isolated from the planet they called home. Their sight of Earth was lost to the lifeless rock. Radio transmissions from mission control went silent. They were the first to ever see the dark side of the moon.

As they continued their orbit around the Earth’s most familiar satellite, slipping in and out of blackness, the three men took a moment to transmit a message home, one appropriate for the date — Christmas Eve, 50 years ago.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” Lunar Module Pilot William Anders read from the Bible.

“And the Earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

Suddenly, on that night half-a-century ago, humanity had never before been so united.

Their transmission was the most-watched television broadcast in history at the time.

It’s hard to fathom anything could unite people like that today.

Behind that remarkable moment had been a decade of national unity. There had been a boldness born out of conviction that America would lead the world in understanding space and answer ancient questions that had once seemed all but unanswerable.

When President John F. Kennedy first challenged the nation to send a man to the moon, it was part of an even larger call to action — The New Frontier.

“Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus,” Kennedy said.

Our manned space missions continue. For all the technological wonder they engender, they no longer seem capable of inspiring us as the Apollo missions did. But a new generation finds itself confronting its own uncharted areas — of an interconnected globe, of a nation growing ever more diverse, of technological innovations and challenges unimagined even in the realm of science fiction.

The hope is that this new generation will not shirk from this test, but will embrace it with the courage of those who came before them. It’s an opportunity for a nation to unite under a new cause and shared mission — no matter where they may take us.

It’s an opportunity to once again set forth as pioneers with the same spirit that we brought to the moon and, God willing, to return — with peace and hope for all mankind.

Merry Christmas.

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