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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

October 10, 2018

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Oct. 9

The Washington Post says President Donald Trump, unlike previous presidents, did not raise human rights issues with Saudi leaders:

Two years ago it would have been inconceivable that the rulers of Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, would be suspected of abducting or killing a critic who lived in Washington and regularly wrote for The Post — or that they would dare to stage such an operation in Turkey, another U.S. ally and a NATO member. That the regime now stands accused by Turkish government sources of murdering Jamal Khashoggi, one of the foremost Saudi journalists, in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate could be attributed in part to the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s 33-year-old de facto ruler, who has proved as reckless as he is ambitious. But it also may reflect the influence of President Trump, who has encouraged the crown prince to believe — wrongly, we trust — that even his most lawless ventures will have the support of the United States.

The Obama administration distanced itself from the Saudi leadership because of its opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran, and because of the misbegotten Saudi intervention in Yemen, which has led to thousands of civilian deaths in indiscriminate bombing. But soon after taking office, Mr. Trump moved dramatically to restore relations. He made Riyadh — rather than Ottawa or Mexico City — the destination for his first foreign visit; there he quickly succumbed to the over-the-top displays of fealty and promises of huge arms purchases by his hosts.

Unlike previous presidents, Mr. Trump did not raise human rights issues with Saudi leaders, though the crown prince has imprisoned hundreds of liberal activists, including women who advocated the right to drive. When scores of businessmen and royal family members were detained in late 2017 in what amounted to a massive shakedown — most were released after turning over assets to the regime — Mr. Trump was approving. “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” he tweeted. “They know exactly what they are doing.”

When the crown prince visited Washington in March last year, Mr. Trump received him at the White House and again made no mention of human rights. “The relationship is probably the strongest it’s ever been,” he said. “We understand each other.” The president bragged about hundreds of billions in arms purchases he said the Saudis had promised, saying, “Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation, and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth.”

Some of those deals have yet to materialize, but the administration continues to support Saudi bombing in Yemen, reversing the Obama administration’s withdrawal of targeting and refueling support. After one airstrike killed dozens of children in August, Congress conditioned U.S. aid on a certification by the administration that the regime was taking steps to avoid civilian casualties. Despite evidence to the contrary, the certification was issued.

Could this record have encouraged the crown prince to believe that he could take drastic action to silence one of his most prominent critics without damaging his relations with Washington? If so, the administration’s response thus far would not have altered his conclusion. Not until Monday, six days after Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, did Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak out; even then they offered no criticism, only expressions of concern and an appeal for investigation.

Some in Congress have had more to say: Republican senators such as Bob Corker (Tenn.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Democrats including Tim Kaine (Va.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Chris Murphy (Conn.) have warned of the consequences of an attack on a journalist. Mr. Murphy tweeted that if the Turkish allegation of murder is true, “it should represent a fundamental break in our relationship with Saudi Arabia.” That is the right response.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/

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Oct. 9

The Toronto Star on a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

Earth is rapidly headed for a place of no return, where climate change will leave the planet a more hostile place for people, plants and animals.

The impacts and costs are greater and coming faster than expected, according to a comprehensive new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that says we have about a dozen years to come to grips with the issue.

But there is some hope. The IPCC also found that reducing global warming by even half a degree Celsius would dramatically reduce deaths from heat, drought and disease; the loss of species from diminishing habitat; and submerged land caused by melting ice caps and rising oceans, with the loss of homes and livelihoods that would accompany such flooding. Half a degree less of warming could even save some of the world’s coral reefs.

That’s why the panel is urging world leaders to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees C rather than the looser goal of staying under 2 C set at the Paris climate change conference in 2015. It’s particularly sobering news since the world — based on current warming trends and lacklustre carbon reduction commitments to date — is set to blow by both numbers and see the climate heat up 3 C by the end of the century.

If there was ever reason to doubt the life-or-death impact of global warming, that’s long gone. And yet the message is still not getting through, in part because so many politicians are keen to play a politically expedient short game rather than focus on the environmental and economic imperatives that will become all too apparent over the longer term.

...

Online: https://www.thestar.com/

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Oct. 8

The Wall Street Journal on the near-triumph of Brazil’s conservative presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro:

Global progressives are having an anxiety attack over the near-triumph Sunday of Brazil’s conservative presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. After years of corruption and recession, apparently millions of Brazilians think an outsider is exactly what the country needs. Maybe they know more than the world’s scolds.

Mr. Bolsonaro won a surprising 46%, just short of the 50% needed to win outright in the first round. He’s now favored over Fernando Haddad, a one-term São Paulo mayor who won 29%. The runoff is Oct. 28.

Mr. Bolsonaro, who has spent 27 years in Congress, is best understood as a conservative populist who promises to make Brazil great for the first time. The 63-year-old is running on traditional values and often says politically incorrect things about identity politics that inflame his opponents. Yet he has attracted support from the middle class by pledging to reduce corruption, crack down on Brazil’s rampant crime and liberate entrepreneurs from government control.

He has stopped short of promising to fully privatize Petrobras, the state-owned oil giant, but his chief economic adviser says he would sell its subsidiaries, deregulate much of the economy and restrain government spending. On crime he has promised to restore a police presence in urban and rural areas that have become lawless.

Opponents claim Mr. Bolsonaro’s praise for the military, and sometimes for the military rule from 1964-1985, suggests he is a threat to democracy. But he isn’t proposing to change the constitution, which constrains the military at home.

On the other hand, Mr. Haddad wants to rewrite the constitution to include a constituent assembly along the lines of the Venezuelan model. He also wants to change how military promotions are made, giving the power to the president. This is from the Hugo Chávez playbook.

Mr. Haddad is the hand-picked candidate of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is serving a 12-year sentence for bribery but remains a hero of the left. Lula rode the commodities boom to popularity in the 2000s but he and his successor mismanaged the economy, and a corruption scandal involving Petrobas has tarnished much of the political class.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s small Social Liberal Party lacks the money and machine of Mr. Haddad’s Workers’ Party (PT), but Mr. Bolsonaro has momentum and on Sunday he also had coattails. The PT remains the largest block in the lower house with 56 deputies, but Mr. Bolsonaro’s party won 52 and gained four senate seats. The PT did well in its traditional northeast stronghold but failed to elect a governor in the rest of the country.

After so much political turmoil and corruption, it’s hardly surprising that Brazilians are responding to a candidate who promises something better.

Online: https://www.wsj.com/

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Oct. 9

The Advocate of Louisiana on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees breaking the NFL all-time passing yardage record:

When Drew Brees came to the Saints in 2006, his shoulder was so torn up that nobody else wanted him. A wounded quarterback for a wounded city.

We all know the rest of the story. Dr. James Andrews, the LSU-trained sports surgeon, put 13 anchors in Brees’ shoulder to help him recover. Brees went on to win a Super Bowl and rewrite the NFL’s record book. He erased another record Monday when he became the league’s all-time passing yardage leader, overtaking New Orleans’ own Peyton Manning. In all, Brees’ passes have covered more than 40 miles, the equivalent of throwing your way from Poydras Street to Mississippi.

New Orleans recovered too, becoming a national model for education reform and urban redevelopment, and a magnet for young entrepreneurs. The Superdome, once drenched in misery, is glistening again and hosting Super Bowls.

Americans love a comeback story.

Monday night, they saw two of them.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com/

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Oct. 9

Chicago Tribune on a father and son who witnessed white police Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shoot black teenager Laquan McDonald:

Jose Torres and his son Xavier didn’t back down; they spoke up. They are examples of what Chicago needs to become a safer city: good citizens willing to make a selfless decision out of duty to others.

The pair witnessed Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shoot teenager Laquan McDonald in October 2014. They recognized a possible police cover-up and didn’t shrug it off. Both father and son testified at Van Dyke’s murder trial. Their accounts no doubt helped prosecutors last week to convict Van Dyke of second-degree murder and aggravated battery.

Credit this father and son with doing the right thing — no easy feat, no small honor.

Jose Torres, 46, was driving north on Pulaski Road with Xavier, 26, that night when they pulled over because of police activity. They saw McDonald, an African-American teen, walking away from police. They watched as Van Dyke opened fire, shooting McDonald 16 times, continuing to fire even after McDonald was on the pavement. “Like it was never going to end,” Jose Torres told the Tribune in a joint interview with his son. “It was like pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop as he was on the ground.”

Then came a clue that police wanted what happened on the Southwest Side to stay on the Southwest Side: An officer noticed Jose and Xavier watching. The officer shooed them away. No questions, no witness statement taken. The next day, Jose Torres saw news reports that described McDonald as a threatening figure waving a knife. That’s not what Jose and Xavier Torres had seen, or what police video eventually would show. “I told my wife, ‘They’re lying,‘” Torres recalled. “That didn’t happen.’”

What kind of a city would Chicago be if more citizens were like this duo and reported what they saw? In neighborhoods prone to gun violence, many residents are alienated or intimidated by a police force with a long record of condoning misconduct. They’re reluctant to turn to police when they are victims or witnesses of a crime. They’re fearful of reporting abuses by police. Jose and Xavier Torres had to set all of that aside to do what they believed was right. It wasn’t easy.

Chicago would be safer if more residents spoke up because police can’t fight crime effectively without the public’s cooperation. “We have to just be better at building relationships with people to make them more comfortable to talk to us,” CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson explained this summer.

The killing of Laquan McDonald is one reason many Chicagoans don’t trust the police and won’t share information. The U.S. Justice Department launched a civil rights investigation of CPD amid allegations Van Dyke fired with impunity and other officers tried to cover for him. The way forward is for City Hall to complete negotiations with the state on a consent decree that will lock in police reforms under the supervision of a federal judge. Chicago’s broken system of police accountability can’t be fixed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel or his successor.

This week we heard some opposite talk from President Donald Trump, who’s not an expert on Chicago or policing. He’s had it in his head for a long time that the way to reduce violence is to give police on the street wide latitude to “stop and frisk.” That is, to encourage aggressive policing, which inevitably leads to more innocent citizens treated as criminal suspects. In 2013, a federal appeals court found that New York City’s stop-and-frisk practices violated the constitutional rights of citizens. Chicago altered its practice in 2015 under an agreement with ACLU. But Trump still thinks he knows how to “help straighten out” Chicago. His administration went further this week, saying it would oppose the consent decree now in front of a federal judge.

Chicago had a terrible year of gun violence in 2016. The number of shootings has trended downward since then, though not nearly enough. The return of stop-and-frisk won’t change the equation. The consent decree will help. Rebuilding broken trust with residents will help to solve crimes and make the city safer. What makes us think that? Because the public has an important role to play.

Just look at the contribution of Jose and Xavier Torres. They bravely reported what they saw. They deserve the city’s thanks for cooperating with a law enforcement investigation. They are models of what the relationship between police and the public can be.

Online: http://www.chicagotribune.com/

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Oct. 9

The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina on now outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley:

Nearly three dozen administration officials have left or been forced out of key posts since President Donald Trump was sworn in last year. Few, if any, will be missed as much as Nikki Haley, who announced her resignation as United Nations ambassador on Tuesday.

For a former South Carolina legislator and governor with little direct experience with foreign policy and international relations, Ms. Haley took to her post at the UN with enthusiasm and a remarkable knack for learning on the job.

During her time as ambassador, Ms. Haley racked up an impressive list of accomplishments and brought a traditionally quiet, unglamorous role into the international spotlight to near universally positive reviews. And she did so while frequently acting as a welcome counterbalance to her famously temperamental and unpredictable boss.

On Russia, for example, Ms. Haley refused to adopt Mr. Trump’s conciliatory tone and puzzling warm relationship with President Vladimir Putin.

On North Korea, she expressed appropriate skepticism and concern over the country’s nuclear program even while embracing the opportunity for a diplomatic opening with its leader Kim Jong Un.

On Venezuela, she made clear her view that a military operation to depose President Nicolas Maduro — a possibility Mr. Trump refuses to rule out — would be disastrous.

On other issues like criticizing UN bias against Israel and fighting for stronger sanctions related to the Syria conflict, Ms. Haley aligned herself more closely with Mr. Trump, but in a way that was more diplomatic and polished than his off-the-cuff style.

As such, the two made a surprisingly effective team. And many in the international community came to rely on Ms. Haley as a more reasonable indicator of the administration’s foreign policy plans than the president’s tweets and rallies.

Ms. Haley said on Tuesday that she plans to serve out the rest of the year at the UN. President Trump said he expected to announce her replacement within the next few weeks.

It is essential that he pick an evenhanded moderate in the vein of Ms. Haley over a more polarizing figure like national security adviser John Bolton.

Given the incredible upward trajectory of her political career, we expect that Ms. Haley will continue to enjoy success in whatever path she may choose.

On Tuesday, she said that a 2020 run for president or any other political office was not in the cards. Given the timing of her departure, we find that somewhat difficult to believe.

But as a demonstrated and effective leader, we would encourage Ms. Haley to remain in civic life in one way or another, whether in the immediate future or when she feels ready.

In an era of bitter partisan divides, jaundiced public discourse and scorched earth political battles, figures like Ms. Haley are too few and far between.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

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