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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

April 23, 2014

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


April 22

The Oklahoman on Obama administration and Keystone XL pipeline:

The Obama administration has found yet another way to keep from deciding the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline’s northern leg, from Canada to Cushing. This time, to hear the administration tell it (with a straight face, no less), a court case stands in the way.

The State Department said Friday that because of a Nebraska court decision in February that invalidated part of the pipeline’s route, a final decision must be delayed. Conveniently, this means a final thumbs-up or thumbs-down almost certainly won’t come until after November’s midterm elections, because no resolution to the court fight is expected until late this year.

It’s interesting that after the court ruling in February, the administration said the case wouldn’t have a bearing on its decision-making. But now State has decided that federal agencies wouldn’t be able to measure the impact of the pipeline until the “uncertainty” resulting from the litigation was resolved.

So a project that’s been studied and dissected and debated for more than five years, and shown repeatedly to merit approval — in January, a State Department review cited no major environmental objections related to the pipeline — must wait even longer, just so President Barack Obama can score political points with environmentalists.

Those environmentalists have thrown a wrench into this project. They’ve voiced concerns about the pipeline’s route, concerns that were addressed in revisions to the route. They’ve barked about the potential damage that could be inflicted to land and water by leaks in the pipeline, but moving oil in this manner is far safer than moving it via rail — a practice that has only increased as Keystone has languished.

But of course, this is a blatantly political decision by Obama. He is bowing to people like Tom Steyer, the San Francisco billionaire who wants Keystone scuttled. Steyer has pledged to spend $100 million this year backing Democrats who feel as he does about climate change, and going after those who don’t.

That seems to be the one certainty: Keystone will get rejected by this anti-fossil fuel administration. The only question is when.




April 19

Miami Herald on Guantánamo disclosures:

Another week of hearings at Guantánamo, another series of jaw-dropping revelations and rulings that underline the futility of the whole enterprise. That the system isn’t working has long been obvious. Now the tragedy is turning into farce.

Exhibit A: The disclosure that the FBI allegedly tried to turn a member of the defense team for 9/11 defendants into a confidential informant, spying on colleagues on behalf of the U.S. government.

Did the FBI not realize that by doing so the agency was damaging the trial procedure at Guantánamo (such as it is)? Did it really believe it could flip a member of the defense team and keep it secret? No wonder some skeptical family members of 9/11 victims believe the whole thing was a deliberate effort to derail the hearings. What else are they to think?

Army Col. James L. Pohl did the only thing he could, issuing a bench order to anyone who ever served on the defense teams of the Sept. 11 case to find out if any of them indeed were approached and asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement about the contact. The notion that you can commit an illegal act and get away with it by making the other party sign a nondisclosure agreement is itself farcical. Inspector Clouseau would approve.

The upshot is another delay in an absurdly long process. This is the 10th round of hearings for the 9/11 defendants since the five accused were formally charged (finally) two years ago. If a violation occurred, it could require reappointment of a new defense team, setting the process back yet again for who knows how long.

Prolonged incarceration without formal charges, evidence withheld, limited access by the public, defendants subjected to torture after their capture, severely limited rights to object by the defense, hunger strikes, etc. Now government spying on the defense. All this and more is what passes for justice at Guantánamo, and it is only thanks to a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings for the defendants that matters aren’t even worse.

At this rate, it looks less and less likely that the 9/11 defendants will ever be brought to trial, and victims and family members will have to wait a very long time to have their day in court, unless Congress were to, say, create a conventional federal district court down there. Fat chance.

The frustration of family members of the victims is all the more infuriating because the federal criminal-justice system has shown time and again that it can handle suspects accused of terrorism.

Hundreds of cases have been tried across the country, mostly in New York federal court, with judges and juries rendering guilty verdicts in virtually all significant cases.

And that is another eminently practical reason that the whole Guantánamo project should be shut down: It doesn’t work.




April 15

Albany (Ga.) Herald on Putin and Ukraine:

As much as the world would like for it to settle into a resolution, the face-off between Ukraine and Russia shows no signs of tapering off.

On Tuesday, the stakes escalated when Ukrainian officials sent troops into the eastern part of the nation to reclaim a military base from pro-Russian separatists. Officials in Kiev described the retaking of the airfield as a “special operation.”

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin again proved he has no sense of irony — or, more likely, he simply loves to stir the pot more — when he called U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday and demanded that the United Nations and the international community condemn what he described as “anti-constitutional actions” by the government in Kiev.

This demand from the man who sent Russian troops without insignia into sovereign Ukrainian territory to slice off the Crimea region by force so that Russian could orchestrate a vote that was decided long before anyone went to a ballot box and annex the region, all of which was done in clear violation of international law.

The burr in Putin’s saddle was the February ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich by Ukrainians who want stronger ties with the West. Fueled by hardliners in Russia who long for the so-called glory days of the Soviet Union, Putin has gotten bolder and more boisterous seemingly by the day.

The fact is, the government change in Kiev was made by Ukrainians who want a different, more productive direction for their country, which is mired in debt to Russia. The fear is that Putin will continue to ignore the nation’s right to sovereignty and reclaim it, piece by piece.

The famed Russian propaganda machine has been churning away, claiming crimes against ethnic Russians in Ukraine. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Putin is attempting to lay groundwork, as he did in Crimea, for a deeper incursion.

While the White House said Tuesday that Kiev’s security action in eastern Ukraine was warranted, it added that only sanctions were being considered against Russia. There are no plans to provide arms to Ukraine, and Western governments won’t look at ratcheting up sanctions until Thursday.

Diplomacy, of course, is still the best avenue to proceed on.




April 23

Sacramento (Calif.) Bee on Boston Marathon:

Monday’s 118th running of the Boston Marathon displayed in full measure the resolve and unity meant by “Boston strong.”

A year after explosions at the finish line killed three people and injured 264 others, an expanded field of more than 35,000 runners included victims and their relatives, first responders, others “personally and profoundly impacted” by the tragedy and nearly 5,000 runners who didn’t get to finish in 2013.

Unprecedented security - more than 3,500 police officers and 800 National Guard troops - made sure that the race went off without incident, even with an estimated 1 million spectators lining the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Back Bay.

And in what can only be called a storybook ending, Meb Keflezighi of San Diego - defying the odds at 38 - became the first American to win the iconic race since 1985. He wore red, white and blue, had names of bombing victims on his runner’s bib and broke down in tears at the finish line. “At the end, I just kept thinking, ‘Boston strong, Boston strong,’ ” he told reporters afterward.

It seems fitting that the one to break the Kenyan stranglehold was Keflezighi, who emigrated from Eritrea when he was 12 and made his own American dream come true. “God bless America and God bless Boston for this special day,” he said.

It was just another day in federal prison for accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, awaiting his trial scheduled for November that could result in the death penalty. It also shows America’s values - including a bedrock belief in the rule of law - that he will have his day in court, afforded all the protections of the justice system. The Obama administration wisely resisted calls to take a quicker path and put Tsarnaev before a military tribunal. A marathon is a good metaphor for the hard work of our democracy.

At times, events weighted with so much emotion and symbolism can veer off course. Monday’s marathon stayed true, a sincere tribute befitting Patriots’ Day.




April 22

Chicago Tribune on President Obama stressing the durability of the U.S. Pacific role:

When President Barack Obama scrubbed an October trip to Asia to attend to the government shutdown in Washington, Asian leaders worried that it meant the United States lacked sufficient interest in the region to remain a powerful presence. This week, Obama will finally make the trip, but it may not be enough to reassure allies and others.

Why not? Two obvious reasons. One is Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its aggressive activities in eastern Ukraine, which have focused Washington’s attention on how to assure the security of Europe. The fear is that this new threat will divert American attention and resources to the task of bolstering NATO and containing Russia, at the expense of its Pacific role.

Another is that the administration trumpeted its intent to make Asia a higher priority — the Asia pivot — but has repeatedly disappointed. In 2011, reported Peter Nicholas and Christi Parsons in the Tribune, “U.S. foreign policy revolves around a single idea: With U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan coming to a close, Washington is focusing on the fast-growing Pacific region to curb the influence of China.” But the world has had a way of preventing any “single idea” from enjoying a monopoly on the U.S. global agenda.

Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have all demanded their share of the spotlight. Ukraine is the latest crisis to preoccupy the president and his advisers. Cuts in the defense budget mean the U.S. will have fewer military assets to bring to bear in the world. So Asian allies figure they’re bound to get shortchanged.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

The U.S. has proven in the past that it’s capable of addressing dangers in both places. The Pacific alliances were established in the same era that NATO came into being. We fought wars in Korea and Vietnam while facing down the Soviet threat in Europe. We’re a global power, with the means to act in more than one place at a time.

None of the administration’s challenges are easy. Hammering out a good trade accord is anything but a sure thing. Countering a stronger and more assertive China will be tricky. North Korea remains the wildest of wild cards. There are limits to the time and energy of American policymakers, who are obliged to respond to immediate emergencies even when they have equally vital long-term work elsewhere.

But those realities are just part of life in a turbulent and perilous world. The United States didn’t become the world’s only superpower without developing a capacity for coping with multiple challenges at once. It’s Obama’s task to convince Asians that our capacity and resolve are undiminished.




April 20

Wall Street Journal on chemical reprise in Syria:

Chemical weapons are again being used in Syria. Israeli newspapers, citing senior Israeli defense officials, have reported that Bashar Assad’s regime used chemical agents at least twice on March 27 in the Harsata neighborhood of Damascus. Then the rebel-controlled village of Kfar Zeita was attacked April 11 by what seems to have been chlorine gas dropped from the air. Some 150 people are reported injured. Three are dead.

Both sides in the conflict agree that chemicals were used, but as is its habit the Assad regime blames Syrian rebels. And as is the Obama Administration’s habit, it’s, well, studying the matter. “We are trying to run this down,” U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “So far, it’s unsubstantiated, but we’ve seen, I think, in the past that we will do everything in our power to establish what has happened and then consider possible steps in response.”

A year ago, the Administration was also saying it couldn’t say for sure whether the Assad regime was behind a series of small-scale chemical attacks. Then 1,000 people were gassed in Damascus. The Administration stopped denying any knowledge, then threatened the use of force, then agreed to do nothing in return for Assad’s promise to get rid of his chemical arsenal.

The latest attacks are taking place amid claims that Syria has relinquished more than half of its declared chemical stockpile and promises to hand over the rest by the end of the month. This is supposed to be a triumph of Administration diplomacy. But note the word “declared.” What the regime or elements of its military have failed to declare or turnover is another matter. In the meantime, Assad has turned the tide of war and is routing his enemies_a victory for him and his patrons in Tehran and Moscow.

All of which illustrates the perils of cutting arms-control deals with rogue regimes. They inevitably cheat, but the temptation of the West is to overlook the cheating lest it expose the arms agreement as a mistake. The Russians are supposed to lean on Assad to honor the terms, but Vladimir Putin has every incentive now to let him cheat and further bedevil the U.S. (see above). As for President Obama, his legacy may yet include an Assad triumph using chemical weapons.




April 15

Jerusalem Post on the Kansas Jewish center shooting not isolated:

America is no stranger to senseless shootings.

That being the sad case, it is easy to place the targeting of two Kansas City-area Jewish institutions into that “senseless” category and thereby eventually put it out of mind.

Besides, some of the shooting sprees across the US in recent years have exacted far greater tolls than the three lives taken in Overland Park, Kansas, on the eve of Passover.

But this shooting was not “senseless.” The targets were not random and the killer came to do his evil deed with a brazenly touted motive. “Heil Hitler,” he hollered This was a crime directed against Jews and committed in the name of the most unspeakable barbarity ever unleashed on the Jewish people. If this was not a hate crime, it is impossible to define what one is.

The Jewish community in Kansas and American Jews throughout the country were given bitter food for thought this Passover. One of the most meaningful passages in the Haggada holds that “in every generation, they rise upon us to destroy us.” This is an indisputable fact of Jewish existence at all times and in all places - the American Midwest included.

US Jews may not wish to acknowledge that reality.

But the ancient, noxious hate against the people of Israel still exists in some places.

It is difficult to confront such truths in places where Jews enjoy unprecedented liberty and freedom and have made their mark in every facet of the American landscape.

Perhaps because of that sense of security and well being, an increasing proportion of the American Jewish population prefers to make believe that they are immune to the Jewish lot of yesteryear and of other lands. That’s why the Kansas shooting can’t be seen as an isolated incident and why it is far from simple to compare the Kansas atrocity to the Toulouse one of two years ago. The French Jewish community is vastly different from the American and the Toulouse shooter was an Arab and a jihadist. His American counterpart was a Ku Klux Klan activist, apparently impelled by the more old-style anti-Semitism, even though he too railed against “the Zionists.”

But the bottom line is the same. In both cases the aim was to kill Jews for the crime of being Jews (although in Kansas this did not quite go to plan).

In both cases the shootings cannot be divorced from other acts of violence and most of all from words. The World Wide Web makes the most virulent anti-Semitic invective easier to disseminate and more incendiary than ever.

There is no denying that anti-Semitism flourishes.

As the tragedy in Kansas demonstrates, no Jewish community is immune. Today, we stand together in solidarity with our Jewish family in the US in mourning the dead and wounded, and in outrage that the evil history of anti-Semitism is still being written.



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