Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials
The Associated Press
Sep. 04, 2015
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana on the rescuers during Hurricane Katrina:
The 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaks passed Saturday (Aug. 29) with memorials to the 1,833 who were lost and testimonials about how far we've come. Before we move on, though, we should take a moment to honor our rescuers. As horrific as the death toll was in Katrina, there were tens of thousands of people who were saved from the floodwaters — plucked from their rooftops and attics by helicopter or brought to dry land by boat.
With tropical force winds still swirling on Aug. 29, 2005, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued two women and 4-month-old baby in the community of Nairn in Plaquemines Parish. Their home had been standing since 1876, and they had thought they were safe.
But Katrina made landfall nearby and stormwaters rose into the second floor of the house. Bobbie Jean Moreau tied netting together to steady them as they climbed onto the roof, and her daughter Cheramie swam to get a neighbor's boat. In the boat, which had a cabin and a radio, they began calling for help.
Lt. Dave Johnson, Lt. Craig Murray, Petty Officer 2nd Class Warren Labeth and Petty Officer 3rd Class Laurence Nettles were getting numerous "mayday" calls as they flew out of Houma, but they heard Ms. Moreau mention the baby and made her their first rescue.
The crew would fly nine straight days of missions.
The Coast Guard rescued 33,500 people across the Gulf Coast after Katrina, according to the agency's count. Of those, 19,000 were stranded in flooded neighborhoods in the New Orleans metro area — and 6,500 of them were picked up by helicopter. It was the largest air rescue mission in the agency's history and one of the rare success stories in the federal response.
Coast Guard helicopter pilot Lt. Patrick Dill talked later about seeing small beams of light pointed up from the flooded neighborhoods in New Orleans during five nights of flights. "They were everywhere, shining flashlights," he said. "There were just thousands."
Thankfully, there were thousands of rescuers as well, including more than 5,600 men and women from the Coast Guard. The agency deployed 26 cutters, 38 helicopters, 14 fixed-wing aircraft, 13 auxiliary aircraft, 119 boats and eight Marine Safety and Security Teams and Disaster Assist Teams.
At the height of the effort, the Coast Guard contingent was rescuing 750 people an hour by boat and 100 people an hour by air, according to agency officials.
The heroic rescue operation included many others, of course: New Orleans police and firefighters, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the National Guard, active military personnel and regular citizens who volunteered with their own boats.
At a congressional hearing in January 2006, Sen. Joe Lieberman praised Wildlife and Fisheries rescue workers. They "put on what I would consider to be an extraordinary display of both organization and courage. On Monday morning, as Katrina was still raging, they transported 60 boats to New Orleans from their prestaged areas around the state, and by 4 p.m. the same day they began to rescue people stranded in the storm. They succeeded in rescuing more than 1,500 by the next afternoon, and more than 21,000 before it was over."
New Orleans firefighters and police carried on numerous rescues as well despite difficulties with communication equipment and a lack of boats, he said.
"These heroes stepped in, in some ways unprepared and unassisted, you might say with nothing but their courage and their wits about them, to save tens of thousands of lives," Sen. Lieberman said.
And for that, we will be eternally grateful.
Orange County Register, Santa Ana, California, on U.S. national debt:
As former Illinois Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen is credited with saying, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." Roughly 50 years later, the federal government's spending binge has added some zeroes to its debts, and we now talk about liabilities in the trillions of dollars. The U.S. Congressional Budget Office's latest budget and economic outlook does not inspire much confidence that the government will ever get a handle on its debts.
The CBO projects a budget deficit of $426 billion this fiscal year - $60 billion less than it estimated in March. The CBO's budget outlook predicts annual budget deficits to remain a little under half a trillion dollars through 2018, then grow to $1 trillion by 2025.
In all, the CBO projects that the nation will add $7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.
The national debt officially stands at about $18.3 trillion, yet this ignores many unfunded liabilities, and critics such as Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff contend that a full accounting of the nation's liabilities and expected tax and other receipts reveal a gap of more than $200 trillion.
Debt held by the public will constitute about 74 percent of U.S. gross domestic product by the end of the year, which the CBO notes is "slightly less than the ratio last year but higher than in any other year since 1950." This share is expected to grow to 77 percent of GDP by 2025.
"The growth in debt is not sustainable," CBO Director Keith Hall explained. "At some point, it's going to get to a very high level. Obviously, you can't predict tipping points, but at some point this becomes a problem."
Though self-serving politicians, ever eager to spend the public's money, like to act as if debt does not matter, it has real consequences. Just ask Greece. Debt service payments, which will increase markedly if and when the Federal Reserve eventually bumps up interest rates, crowd out the private savings and investment that drive economic growth.
Like the Greeks, the U.S. government has racked up massive debts it will never be able to repay. A Greece-like blowup is not likely just around the corner, but it would be foolish to think that such an event could never happen here if we continue down this path.
The Canton Repository, Ohio, on the changing of Mount McKinley's name:
Most Alaskans argue that the renaming of North America's tallest mountain actually came in 1896 by a prospector eager to honor the newly elected Republican President William McKinley, Canton's favorite son.
For in the generations before William Dickey declared the 20,320-foot peak Mount McKinley, and still until this day, most Alaskans have known this peak as "Denali," a name given by the Koyukon Athabaskan people that means "The High One" or "Great One."
Congress formally named the mountain Mount McKinley in 1917 when it established Mount McKinley National Park.
The dispute over the name began in earnest in 1975, when the Alaska legislature passed a resolution recognizing the mountain as Denali and urged the U.S. Board on Geographic Names to do the same.
Despite years of protest by Ohio's congressional delegation, spearheaded mostly by former U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, the mountain has a new, old name again.
In what Regula accurately called a stroke of "political expediency," President Obama's administration announced Sunday that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell would officially rename it Mount Denali ahead of Obama's planned trip to the state.
The inevitable resolution to the decades-old debate always seemed to favor Alaskans, who've long noted that the 25th president never visited the mountain, let alone stepped foot in the state and that the cultural significance of the Denali name long predated McKinley.
Still, if by naming the mountain after McKinley was done so to pay honor to him, then we're left scrambling for words on what to call Obama's unilateral decision to strip his name from it.
We wonder if the White House would have had its "own sense of reverence for this place," as Jewell said in a statement, referring to the traditions of Alaska Natives, if the mountain were named for Lincoln or Kennedy, two popular presidents who, like McKinley, also were assassinated. We find the decision, seemingly made in haste with no warning, to be a case of opportunism.
The decision would be more palatable coming from Congress, which officially named the mountain, after extensive debate, than from a president whose days in office are numbered.
Either way, to preserve McKinley's legacy it is now the duty of President Obama to find a fitting tribute that will stand the test of time.
Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates, on ISIS' destruction of ancient Syrian relics:
To save our common heritage from marauding terrorists, it is imperative to bring back the rule of law. But how can this be done when there is no will to fight on the ground and drive out groups like Daesh who are out to rewrite history in blood? Terrorists have launched a war against civilization and world powers should not watch from the sidelines. Ancient relics destroyed by the group are making their way to markets in the West. Top dollars are paid for these artefacts to fund the group's deadly objectives.
Daesh claims it is their religious duty to destroy symbols of idolatry but the world is poorer for the loss of cities like Palmyra that have been razed to the ground. The destruction of the ancient site and the killing of a leading archaeologist shows these killers will stop at nothing.
The plunder and looting is not limited to non-Muslim heritage alone. The group has also blown up and razed shrines of several prophets in Syria and Iraq. Their attempt to erase history should be countered with full force. The vandalism in Syria and Iraq, where they destroyed the Mosul Museum, ransacked the ruins of Nimrud, one of the Iraq's greatest archaeological treasures, Hatra and now the Palmyra site indicates they will erase history for dirty money.
The looting of artefacts from Mosul and the Baalshamim temple - and the beheading of veteran Syrian archaeologist, Khaled Assad, should not go unpunished. Daesh is doing what Taleban did in Bamiyan to the statues of Buddha. Had the world acted against Taleban then, Daesh would not have been inspired to mount their campaign of terror now. It's a shame that a terror group can hold our heritage hostage while world powers stand and watch them plunder city after city, ruin after ruin.
These are not just crimes against humanity, but also against civilization.
The Boston Herald on the Federal Reserve:
The torrent of words from the annual conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this past week, and from the satellite meetings there, throws no light on whether the Fed will raise interest rates next month. The rockiness of the stock market notwithstanding, it should.
If rates don't rise at least a bit, businesses and consumers will conclude that the Fed still expects choppy economic waters and will pull in their only recently extended horns.
Stock price declines in China, on Wall Street and around the world make headlines, but they were inevitable — sometime — after five years of suppressed interest rates that lured investors into buying shares to chase dividends, when they could earn only pitiful yields on bond investments. The stock prices' connection to the real economy is very slender. Five years of rising stock prices did far less stimulating than the Fed expected.
China's economy is not collapsing and neither is the American. The Commerce Department's routine revision of second-quarter data showed the economy rising at an annual rate of 3.7 percent, far better than the 2.3 percent of the first assessment. Unemployment has fallen to 5.3 percent.
For many months Fed members and Fed-watchers have wondered whether interest rates should or would rise. Every meeting of the policy-making Open Market Committee has shown the members deterred by weak economic data. It's just possible that some of that weakness was the result of the Fed's timidity.
A normal array of interest rates sends important signals to all economic actors, signals that have been distorted now for five years. One example: The value of many pension funds has been suppressed by their inability to earn normal long-term rates. Many elderly savers have counted on short-term savings and have had to deal with less income than they planned for.
If the economy stumbles again, it would be better to let Congress try to stimulate it than to rely on the Fed.
The Telegraph, United Kingdom, on European migration:
The European migration crisis is filled with horror. Boats sink in the Mediterranean, drowning hundreds. Macedonian police push back desperate refugees at the Greek border. Then, yesterday, police in Austria confirmed that they had found 71 migrants, including four children, dead from suffocation inside an abandoned lorry. They were packed together like animal carcasses. This inhumanity cries out for an intelligent, compassionate response.
Europe has not witnessed such a movement of people since the end of the Second World War. The difference then was that the migration was internal. Today, it seems as if great swathes of the developing world have decided that their only hope is resettlement in the West. Some are refugees and some are economic migrants. The line between these two groups is often blurred.
Technology is playing a big role in this great migration. Twenty years ago, a journey to the West was a leap into the darkness. Today, people can remain in touch with their families via mobile phones. Websites and social media provide details about life in Europe, advice on legal rights and routes of travel. Although many people die, many more take a voyage that is arguably safer than ever before - it could even be described as routine.
Greece, Italy or Hungary are not their final destinations and unfettered travel through the Schengen Area is enabled by governments who quietly wave visitors through to richer countries.
The conscience of other governments is easily pricked. Though many are complaining that Angela Merkel's willingness to take up to 800,000 asylum seekers in one year has made matters worse by offering hope to others - and, therefore, encouragement. In public, Germany's establishment is trying to occupy the high ground, chiding those who refuse to welcome the world's huddled masses. But there has been violence: in Berlin, asylum centres have been set alight, Right-wing protestors clash with police. Aside from the pressures on schools and hospitals that unmanaged migration brings, moderates also have to consider the danger of rising xenophobia. If rational men and women do not address this problem, reckless demagogues will.
Of course, these demagogues are to be found on the Left as well as the Right. They typically share an opinion that if Britain withdrew further from the world, then the world would leave it alone: end the wars and you end the flow of humanity. This is bad logic. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the two largest groups of people crossing the Mediterranean are from Afghanistan and Syria. Afghanistan was unstable before the West drove the Taliban from power. It has only become more unstable since the West left.
The Syrian civil war certainly has nothing to do with the West. On the contrary, it has arguably been prolonged by a lack of international action - the British Parliament voted against military intervention in 2013. Even today, it is not known whether Labour would formally lend its backing to military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Jeremy Corbyn and the hard Left tendency argue that intervention would make the crisis worse. It is hard to imagine how. Since 2011, 12 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes and four million forced to flee abroad. They leave behind a dystopia in which the Syrian government kills its own citizens and the rebel army butchers non-believers. The lesson of the past 10 years is that if Britain tries to withdraw from the world, then the world will arrive at its doorstep pleading for help.
It is also clear that order has to be brought to European borders. The EU cannot cope with the magnitude of this flood and the fantasy that it can will only attract more people, leading to yet more tragedy. Europeans are probably in the mood to reconsider the Schengen principle, while the awful scenes in Austria prove the need to invest in law enforcement. Western leaders must also acknowledge that what is taking place is not unique but that it is bound to continue, which is all the more reason to do more to re-establish control now. Will Europe be ready for another crisis next summer? For the sake of its own citizens and for the desperate refugees, it must be better prepared.
The Roanoke Times on the on-air killings of a television reported and cameraman
Sometimes words fail.
This is one of those times.
We are sometimes so numb to the daily horrors around us that it requires a whole new level of depravity even to shock us — which may be exactly what the man who shot and killed two WDBJ-TV (Channel 7) journalists on live television had in mind.
Even Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton was watching the broadcast and couldn't immediately understand what was happening. In a way, no one can, yet the reality is that we have seen some version of this before all too many times.
We cannot bring back those two bright lives lost Wednesday, but we can, at least, show our respect — which is more than what those who retweeted the graphic images around the Internet did.
Or perhaps, even, some of our politicians, who were quick to rush in to make their political points about guns. Perhaps those points are right, but do they have to be made right that instant? What happened to the concept of a decent interval? Can we at least take a deep breath to pray first?
There are lessons to be learned here, to be sure, but they may not be simple ones, and it would be nice if everyone would admit that for at least one day.
The civil rights leader Julian Bond passed away recently. One little-known fact about him: He was a poet. Shortly after the death of President Kennedy, he took the words of a woman he heard interviewed on the news and turned them into a simple poem: "If they can do that to him, what can they do to me?"
We live in a society where violence — unpredictable, inexplicable violence — is all too common. Why? What makes someone so angry? What can be done to calm such a troubled mind — or at least the next troubled mind where some perceived grudge that festers today might turn into violent rage tomorrow?
We don't know. All we know for certain is that our competitors — and colleagues — at WDBJ-TV showed a grace that was more than amazing during what was surely their most difficult day.
We, like everyone, only wish it had not come at such an awful price.