Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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May 16

Sun Sentinel on the reality for Israel after the embassy opening:

On Monday, we saw how Israel can look so strong while also being so vulnerable.

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated the move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv. Netanyahu also has boasted recently about a strike against Iranian military operations in Syria that might have threatened Israel. He also had a cuddly meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, Bloomberg News and US News rank Israel's economy among the 10 most innovative and dynamic.

About 65 miles southwest of the embassy site, however, Israel was drawing near-worldwide condemnation for killing 60 Palestinians and wounding nearly 2,000 others during protests along the Gaza border. The protests reminded Israelis that the embassy opening cannot hold off fundamental questions about the country's future.

As with his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, when President Trump ordered the embassy moved, he did not address the day after. The decision was more about short-term political gain than long-term strategic advantage.

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida congressman Ron DeSantis, both Republicans, were among the 800 invitees to Monday's ceremony. Trump wants Scott to defeat Sen. Bill Nelson and for DeSantis to be governor. Not among the invitees were South Florida's three Democratic members of Congress — Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz — all of whom are Jewish. Their statements balanced all facets of this complicated issue.

"While I join Americans and Israelis in celebrating," Frankel said, "I remain disappointed by the absence of a serious commitment to the two-state solution. Divorced from a broader peace process, relocation risks more violence between Israelis and Palestinians."

Deutch and Wasserman Schultz have called Jerusalem Israel's "historic" and "undivided" capital. Like Frankel, however, they also have urged the Trump administration to engage with Israel and the Palestinians. Administration officials have promised for weeks to reveal their peace plan. By moving the embassy without extracting any concessions from Netanyahu, however, Trump may have ended America's long role as mediator.

The current crisis in Gaza dates to 2005. Under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel withdrew from Gaza — an area the size of Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn combined — and removed all settlers. Though it shares a short southern border with Egypt, most of Gaza is surrounded by Israel.

A year later, the Palestinians held elections. Hamas faction — whose leaders have rejected Israel's right to exist — defeated the more moderate Fatah faction. After a military conflict, Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza.

In the West Bank, which Fatah controls, Palestinians and Israelis have cooperated on security. In Gaza, Israel has fought three wars with Hamas. Each has left Gaza and its 2 million residents more decimated. Without massive investment, the water supply may run out in two years.

To Netanyahu and many Israelis, the withdrawal means that Gaza is Hamas' problem. As commentators here and in Israel have pointed out, that's not the reality.

Writing in The Forward, Peter Beinart said, "Israel still controls Gaza. It controls it in the way a prison guard might control a prison courtyard in which he never actually sets foot. Claiming that Israel divested itself of responsibility for Gaza when it 'withdrew totally' in 2005 may ease American Jewish consciences. But it's a lie."

Though there is little debate about Hamas' failures in Gaza and its targeting of civilians, there also is little debate that Israel has offered no plan to resolve the Gaza crisis. Whatever the tactics of this week's protest, the humanitarian needs will keep building. So will pressure on Israel for a better response.

Because the Sun Sentinel strongly supports long-term security for Israel, we believe President Trump and other Republicans endanger that security by making Israel such a partisan issue. The embassy move is just the latest example.

Every credible poll shows support for Israel under Netanyahu is waning among American Jews, even as it increases among Republican religious conservatives who strongly support Trump. These "Christian Zionists," though, see Israel more as preparing the way for the Second Coming. They are aligned with the ultra-Orthodox, who dominate religious life in Israel.

Neither group seems likely to support the two-state solution that has been American policy and which Trump also claims to support. Without that solution, Israel faces more harsh reality.

As of April, the number of Jews and Arabs living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea was roughly 6.5 million each. Forecasts show Jews becoming a minority. The 40 percent of Jerusalem residents who are Palestinians don't have full Israeli citizenship. Some Israeli leaders want to annex the West Bank without granting citizenship to the nearly 3 million Palestinians.

Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said the embassy move recognized "truth." We hope that Israel can recognize other truths, and that one day all countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem for the right reason.

Online: http://www.sun-sentinel.com

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May 16

The Orange County Register on President Donald Trump and the media:

When he was running for office, President Trump was a fan, in theory, at least, of the regularized, semi-formal politician-reporter scrum known as the press conference.

He tweeted to his followers on June 6, 2016: "Crooked Hillary Clinton has not held a news conference in more than 7 months. Her record is so bad she is unable to answer tough questions!"

In politics, as in everything else, there is the theory and there is the practice. As president, Trump has been almost entirely unable to walk his talk about facing tough questions — or softballs — from the media, whose scribes in turn report back to Americans the answers to their questions and the mood inside the room.

His first, and last, press conference as president was held a few weeks after his inauguration in January 2017. Since then, while he has indeed shouted out a few comments while walking toward his helicopter and responds sometimes to queries in what are called "gaggles" — spur-of-the-moment interactions with the small rotating press pool that follows him around and reports back to other news organizations — he has never met with reporters in an open session.

Having held just one press conference in his presidency sets a record for contemporary times going back at least to Lyndon Johnson's administration. By a year into their presidencies, President George W. Bush had held five solo press conferences, and President Barack Obama had held 11.

Times change — and how — and no president is under any actual obligation to meet with members of the press, no matter how good an idea those of us in the media think having an open conversation in person rather than through subordinates or electronic devices might be.

But it is absurd to contend, as deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters did recently to The Daily Beast, that "The president and his administration have been one of the accessible administrations," or that the notion that Trump "engages daily with the American people" — presumably through his Twitter account — is anything like a substitute for answering real questions from real reporters.

Contrary to received opinion from those not in the business, good relations with the press are not about the politics, as such, of a chief executive. Reporters, for instance, did not have a warm relationship with Barack Obama, who they found overly guarded and more than a bit of a mandarin.

Of course, the press has reason to be careful about what we wish for when it comes to White House news conferences. At the one such session the president has held, on Feb. 16, 2017, Trump lashed out at what he again called "fake news" in the media.

"Tomorrow, they will say, 'Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.' I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling you. You know, you're dishonest people."

What in the world does the president — whose entire business career has been based on cultivating reporters to tell his stories — mean by repeatedly biting the hand that has always fed him?

Well, a question such as that is just what reporters could ask if he were to meet the press just as other presidents have. Instead, Trump again last week asked a question that is so very evidently wrong in its basic assumption: "Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt?" Work so hard in what way? And he followed that rhetorical question with another, suggesting that he would rather the question-askers just disappear: "Take away credentials?"

Not a presidential hypothetical that bodes well for a healthy democracy.

Online: https://www.ocregister.com

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May 14

The Washington Post says Iraq's democratic election is a positive sign in the Middle East:

In all the turmoil of the Middle East, the most significant development of the year thus far may be the democratic election Iraq held on Saturday. It was competitive, fair and largely free of violence — a remarkable achievement for a country that until a few months ago was fighting a war against the Islamic State. Unlike most people in the Middle East, Iraqis were able to cast a vote against their government and the reigning elite — and it looks as if many did just that. The surprise front-runner in early returns was an alliance led by nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a longtime enemy of the United States — but also an adversary of Iran's local clients.

Mr. Sadr, a Shiite cleric, is remembered in Washington for leading a bloody insurgency against U.S. troops more than a decade ago. He's still calling for the removal of all American forces from Iraq, at a time when even some Shiite leaders close to Iran are saying they want them to remain to continue training Iraqi forces. Yet Mr. Sadr has shifted politically: Several years ago he formed an alliance with secular groups, including the Iraqi Communist Party, and has campaigned on a nonsectarian, corruption-fighting agenda aimed at Iran's local proxies. When his supporters took to Baghdad's Tahrir Square to celebrate his apparent victory in the capital and several other provinces, they chanted, "Iran is out, Baghdad remains free," according to a report by Al Arabiya.

Much of the Iraqi vote has yet to be tabulated, and it's too early to say what role Mr. Sadr might play in forming a new government. So far, the alliance of Hadi al-Ameri, a militia leader close to Tehran, is running second, while incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the U.S. favorite, is in third. The good news is that Iran's most slavish and sectarian proxy, former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, is running a distant fourth, just barely in front of the largest Kurdish party.

Weeks — or more likely, months — of negotiations will ensue, and for now there's no telling who might head the next government or what its position will be on cooperation with the United States. Iran will be working hard to promote its interests, and the Trump administration ought to do the same. If it can summon the focus and diplomatic resources, there's an opportunity to reinforce the incipient shift toward nonsectarian politics built around support for Iraqi sovereignty — including from Iran. That could take the country away, at last, from the internal warfare that has wracked it since the U.S. invasion — and which, with similar partisans, continues to devastate neighboring Syria.

Mr. Sadr has called for a secular government of technocrats who will respect the rule of law and civil society. That may not be entirely achievable, but it's a goal many Iraqis clearly found attractive. That they were able to express themselves democratically is even more encouraging.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com

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May 15

The Japan News says China's buildup of aircraft carriers will heighten tension:

This can be considered part of China's strategy for expanding its military clout in rivalry with the United States. It is essential to be vigilant for any Chinese move that could drastically change the global security environment.

China's first domestically manufactured aircraft carrier has undergone sea trials. The carrier will enter service as early as next year.

It is China's second carrier following the Liaoning, whose hull was bought from Ukraine, refitted in China and put into commission in 2012. The third carrier is now under construction in Shanghai, while a project to build a nuclear carrier has also surfaced.

The country plans to have four or more carriers in the future and aims to operate an aircraft carrier group, including submarines and destroyers. Although there are many tasks that need to be addressed in terms of performance, such rapid preparation is unprecedented.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also head of the Chinese military, gave an admonitory address at a naval review in the South China Sea in April, calling for efforts to build a world-class navy. There is no doubt that he considers aircraft carriers as a core of his country's buildup of military capability alongside strategic missiles and submarines in which U.S. forces are overwhelmingly dominant.

The U.S. Navy has 11 aircraft carriers, the largest number owned by a single country in the world, and plans to add one more. India, which is beset with territorial and other issues with China, is moving ahead with building an aircraft carrier. It is a matter of concern that China's moves could spur an arms race.

Beijing must clarify motives

The Xi administration envisages a strategy of securing command of the air and seas, going beyond the "first island chain" — China's original defense line linking the south of Kyushu, Okinawa, Taiwan and so forth, all the way to the "second island chain," covering the Izu Islands down to Guam.

The Liaoning has repeatedly been utilized for fighter jet takeoff and landing drills in the South China Sea and the Pacific. With an eye on unification with Taiwan, the aim of enhancing the ability to deter an intervention by U.S. forces is obvious.

During the Taiwan Strait crisis in 1996, when China intimidated Taiwan with missile drills, the United States sent two aircraft carriers to contain China. China seems to want to ward off such a development from recurring.

There is also the possibility of China operating its aircraft carrier as standard practice in the South China Sea, thus reinforcing its effective control over the area. U.S. forces have conducted patrols around artificial islands China built in order to maintain freedom of navigation. A rise in regional tensions would be inevitable.

It cannot be overlooked that China, in exchange for economic assistance, is moving ahead with developing harbors that can be converted into military strongpoints in coastal countries, from the South China Sea down to the Indian Ocean.

Free passage of sea traffic routes must not be hindered by China's enhanced influence.

The actual state of the Chinese armed forces in terms of equipment and other factors remains opaque. The Japanese government must demand that China explain the objective of its military buildup through resumed dialogue of top-level officials. It is also important for the U.S. forces and the Self-Defense Forces to enhance their ability to deal with these developments.

Online: http://the-japan-news.com

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May 14

Los Angeles Times says undermining an effective birth control funding program to promote abstinence is a bad move:

For nearly half a century, the Title X Family Planning Program has been a crucial source of federal dollars for family planning and related health care services for low-income Americans. Enacted with bipartisan support in 1970, the program's mandate to provide "a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services" has helped millions of lower-income women each year obtain contraceptives and take control of their destinies, at least in terms of deciding if and when to have children.

In 2015, according to a federal government report, more than 4 million patients (the vast majority of them women) got health care through Title X funds, including screening for breast and cervical cancers and sexually transmitted diseases. Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports reproductive rights, estimates that Title X care helped women avoid more than 800,000 unintended pregnancies that year.

The program has survived numerous changes of administrations over the decades, carrying out its mission relatively unscathed by politics. But the biggest provider of Title X services is also the GOP's current favorite health care punching bag: Planned Parenthood, which operates 13% of the clinics funded under the program and cares for about 40 percent of the patients. And now the Trump administration is steering the program itself in the wrong direction.

Recently released guidelines for providers applying for funds signaled such a disturbing shift away from the program's previous guidelines and statutory mandate that it triggered two lawsuits. The complaints — filed on behalf of three state Planned Parenthood groups and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Assn. — argue that the Department of Health and Human Services is unlawfully directing applicants to emphasize natural family planning or abstinence as birth control. They've asked for an injunction that would stop the new guidelines from being implemented, and the courts should grant it.

The problem isn't that the new guidelines instruct service providers to offer natural family planning (the calendar, or "rhythm," method of birth control) and abstinence as possible methods of birth control. The Title X statute requires as much, and Planned Parenthood officials say they have always offered these options in their clinics.

But the previous guidelines (from 2016) also emphasized that providers should offer the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives, or justify why any of the methods were not offered. The new guidelines don't even mention the word "contraceptive." Instead, they instruct providers to put a "meaningful emphasis" on counseling that extols the benefits of avoiding the risks of sex outside marriage, both for adolescents and adults. And for adolescents, in particular, providers should communicate the benefits of delaying sex, according to the guidelines.

The Trump administration is clearly trying to take a program that has successfully provided legions of clients medically effective birth control and counseling and use it to promote its philosophy that abstinence is the best policy, especially for adolescents. It's an approach championed by Vice President Mike Pence and the Trump appointee overseeing Title X grants, who previously ran an organization that promoted abstinence-only sex education. But not only does the new policy arguably violate Title X by emphasizing abstinence over other forms of family planning and encouraging single women not to have sex, it does so at the expense of other proven methods of birth control.

No one disputes that abstinence is guaranteed to prevent pregnancy. What's not guaranteed is that people will actually abstain. And if they have no other birth control information, they're ill equipped to protect themselves. Study after study has shown that encouraging young people to abstain from sex without giving them information about other forms of birth control only means that when they do have sex, they're more likely to have unintended pregnancies and contract sexually transmitted diseases.

In a 2017 review of studies and policies for the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs "have little demonstrated efficacy in helping adolescents to delay intercourse." And while those programs were theoretically protective against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, the review found, "in actual practice, (such) programs often fail to prevent these outcomes."

Just as troubling — and even more dramatic — is the administration's decision to remake the successful federal Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program to emphasize abstinence-only counseling. As HHS concedes, teen pregnancies nationwide have dropped steadily, hitting a record low in 2016. Where they remain high is among teens of color and in low-income households. But those statistics don't justify an abstinence-only approach. What poor and underserved populations need is better access to health care centers offering a wide range of birth control methods and education programs that have already proven successful.

These shifts are wrong-headed and counterproductive. Federal officials need to back off from them immediately.

Online: http://www.latimes.com

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May 14

Charleston Gazette on a recent attack in Canada aimed at women:

When a young Canadian committed a massacre recently by driving a rental truck into Toronto pedestrians, many people at first assumed it was another jihadist terror attack. But it actually was an entirely different type of menace.

Alek Minassian, 25, was spurred by woman-hating, fostered by an online community of bitter men who call themselves "incels" (involuntarily celibate). Minassian posted a boast that he would wage an "incel rebellion" by killing women and their male partners. He was charged with 10 counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

The Toronto tragedy triggered reports on the dangerous new "incel" movement. Criminologist Simon Cottee wrote that some young men who cannot find girlfriends or lovers voice their frustration on special websites for such loners. They reinforce each other's feelings and hostilities in online echo chambers.

"They are ashamed of their sexual failure," he wrote. "At the same time, they are resentful of the sexual success of others, which amplifies their own sense of inadequacy ... . (They) rationalize their shame and redirect the blame for their failure onto women."

Dr. Cottee said the deprived men think that attractive women are "having sex with everyone but them." The "incels" demonize younger women — and also hate males accepted by the females.

The first known "incel" attack was committed in 2014 by 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, in California. Armed with three pistols, he killed six people, including college sorority girls, and drove his car into others. Cornered by police, he killed himself in his car. He became an idol of the online "incel" movement.

Perhaps the phenomenon echoes a 1966 tragedy in which an alcoholic petty criminal named Richard Speck stabbed and strangled eight student nurses in a Chicago dormitory.

Cruel atrocities aimed at women who are minding their own business are not relegated to other cultures and other parts of the world. These examples show hatred of women is alive, and possibly thriving in the West.

Online: https://www.wvgazettemail.com