Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Oct. 31, 2012 at 5:31 a.m.

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

Oct. 30

The Oklahoman on President Obama's on sequestration:

Sen. Joe Lieberman vows to do all he can to make sure, when Congress returns to work in November that $500 billion more isn't cut from the defense budget as part of a government sequestration set to begin in early January.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week, Lieberman, I-Conn., warned that cutting defense by that amount over the next decade will weaken our military considerably as it tries to deal with current and future challenges. "Contrary to claims that the 'tide of war is receding,'" he wrote, "our national security threats are becoming more complex and no less demanding or urgent."

Why should Lieberman be concerned? After all, during his third debate with Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama said of sequestration: "It will not happen."

That comment had members of the president's team scrambling the next day to explain what Obama really meant (a common practice in this administration). Republican Sen. John McCain made the point that it would take legislation to repeal sequestration - about $1 trillion worth of cuts in government spending over the next decade - and that would require some sort of agreement in Congress.

Speaking of Congress, the president also said sequestration "is not something that I've proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed" ...

McCain says he and other GOP senators "have been begging the president" to sit down and work out a deal. Lieberman is clearly on board. They understand that Obama's debate proclamation means nothing. Instead, only real work from both sides of the aisle can keep sequestration from happening.




Oct. 30

The Dallas Morning News on superstorm Sandy:

Hurricane Sandy redefined what it means to be in harm's way.

Billed as the perfect storm, an Atlantic maelstrom unrivaled in generations, Sandy became all that and more - morphing into superstorm Sandy, in the parlance of TV weathercasters, paralyzing and splintering a huge swath of the East Coast, then punishing a quarter of the national map with relentless rain and wind, and even an October blizzard.

The monster that roiled the ocean reached across and roiled the Great Lakes.

The monster that shut down New York became the monster that shut down a presidential campaign. In that regard, it touched all Americans.

The campaign hiatus was fitting and proper, albeit a political no-brainer for President Barack Obama and GOP rival Mitt Romney. With dozens dead and unaccounted for, with millions without power and wondering about putting their homes and businesses back together, politics needed to take a back seat.

Blunt-spoken New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie perhaps said it best, as he pondered the devastation of his state's coastline, ground zero for Sandy's landfall Monday night.

"I don't give a damn about Election Day," Christie told reporters. "I've got bigger fish to fry" ...

The job of putting more than 20 storm-ravaged states back in working order will be less dramatic. Millions of New Yorkers in the center of the nation's business nerve wondered how they would be getting to work in the days ahead after the subway system suffered a level of damage it hadn't seen in a century. ...




Oct. 29

Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times on Mitt Romney and FEMA:

Whenever there is a major natural disaster in the United States, most people affected look to the U.S. government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide help in its aftermath. That was true here after the devastating 2011 tornadoes. It was true following Hurricane Katrina's 2005 rampage. It is no doubt true now that Hurricane Sandy and a related superstorm continue to batter a goodly portion of the United States.

FEMA's response isn't always up to speed and there often are questions about policy and rules (there were some here after the tornadoes). Usually, though, FEMA does an adequate job providing large-scale disaster aid and assistance in instances where any other agency or the private sector would be hard-pressed to meet staggering need. Not many, then, question the federal agency's overall mission, much less its existence. Mitt Romney, however, does.

He's on record - in a 2011 GOP primary debate - as saying that it was "immoral" for the federal government to be spending money on disaster relief, when it should be focused on deficit reduction. He went on to say that states, not the federal government, should deal with natural disasters. ...

Romney knows he can't take back his original statement about FEMA, so over the weekend he issued an extremely vague press release indicating that he now supports some federal involvement in disaster relief. He offered no explanation of what that might or should involve. ...

FEMA provides services that no other agency can afford or arrange on such a vast scale over multiple state borders ... One might debate about how FEMA does its work, but those like Romney who say its job should be eliminated or truncated have no understanding of the role it does play in times of crisis. This week's massive storm, unfortunately, is likely to teach that lesson anew.




Oct. 30

New York Times on Tunisia's challenges:

By many measures, Tunisia has the best chance among the Arab Spring countries to transition to democracy. It is a moderate Islamist-led state with close ties to the West. Nearly two years after deposing one of the region's most repressive autocrats, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians are deep into the crucial task of writing a post-revolutionary Constitution.

But a spate of recent violent incidents, including attacks on the American Embassy in Tunis last month, have fueled new tensions between the moderate Islamic government and liberal secularist opposition parties over Islam's role and the best way to handle extremists. ...

Only a minority of Salafis is believed to embrace violence, so, rather than crack down on all Salafis, Ennahda's leaders have tried to integrate them into the democratic system. But the attack on the embassy, which has harmed Tunisia's image and efforts to revive the faltering economy, may have forced a rethinking. ...

The pressure is on Ennahda to deliver a Constitution that protects the rights of all Tunisians under a system of equal justice and to create jobs so educated but unemployed young Tunisians are not drawn to the Salafi movement, which would try to exploit their disillusionment. The pressure is also on the secularists to find ways to work with Ennahda to build a better state. That will require more compromise and commitment to the common good than either side has been willing to show so far.




Oct. 25

The Courier, Houma, La., on U.S. oil production:

The oil production of the United States is on a sharp upward climb, and that should please anyone who is rooting for American energy independence.

That won't happen in the next year or two, but the experts predict that within the next decade, the nation's oil imports could decrease by half.

Right now, the U.S. is producing about 10.9 million barrels of crude and other hydrocarbons - representing a 7 percent increase from last year until this year.

That is strong growth that even the experts didn't foresee.

"Five years ago, if I or anyone had predicted today's production growth, people would have thought we were crazy," said Jim Burkhard, head of oil markets research at IHS CERA, an energy consulting firm.

The recent growth in America's oil production has placed the U.S. in the running for worldwide leader, a distinction that would have us pass Saudi Arabia and Russia, which have led the world for a decade.

The current upward trend is likely to continue.

The U.S. government predicts that the figure for next year will be 11.4 million barrels a day, just less than Saudi Arabia's 11.6 million barrels ...

America will not be independent of the world energy market anytime soon. But it is good to see an increased domestic production fueling a healthy trend away from foreign oil and toward the oil that's produced right here in the Gulf of Mexico and across the U.S.




Oct. 29

The Washington Post on Russia's oil deal:

The mega-buyout in Russian oil recently announced will transform state-dominated Rosneft into the largest oil company in the world in terms of production, bigger than ExxonMobil. Rosneft is acquiring another profitable Russian oil major, TNK-BP, from three oligarchs and BP. Once the $56?billion deal is done, Rosneft will control 40?percent of Russia's oil output, a significant consolidation of economic clout for the Kremlin. Rosneft is headed by Igor Sechin, a longtime pal of President Vladimir Putin.

The buyout also marks a serious retreat from an idea born in the West that held immense promise when the Soviet Union imploded two decades ago. ...

The oil industry sell-offs were slow, but in the first decade a dozen or so privatized companies emerged, often delivered into the hands of Russia's rapacious oligarchs. The lofty ideals of privatization were sorely tested, and the results not pretty. Still, private ownership and capitalism produced results: Russia this year has hit new post-Soviet highs in crude oil production, more than 10.3?million barrels a day.

Rosneft once ranked eighth among the Russian oil companies and was not privatized. In 1998, the year of a currency collapse and debt default, the government tried to sell off 75 percent of Rosneft for as little as $1.6 billion. There were no takers. But the little company gained a valuable ally. After taking office in 2000, Putin decided to push back the pesky oligarchs. He threw tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky in prison and crushed his oil major Yukos, the assets of which were scooped up by Rosneft. Today, Rosneft has a market capitalization of some $75 billion.

What is happening here? ...

The consolidation of oil and power in the hands of the Kremlin casts a shadow over the once-bright prospects of the Russian economy. There's little reason to hope that state ownership will work better for Russia now than it did the last time around.




Oct. 30

Union-Tribune, San Diego, on Libya:

What did President Barack Obama know and when did he know it? Why has the Obama administration kept changing its story about how Ambassador Chris Stevens, security officials Tyrone Woods of Imperial Beach and Glen Doherty of Encinitas, and information officer Sean Smith, who grew up in San Diego, died on Sept. 11 in Benghazi, Libya? Why won't the mainstream media treat the incontrovertible evidence of the White House's dishonesty and incompetence like the ugly scandal it obviously is?

These are all questions that demand to be answered after revelations that demolished the tidy narrative the president has been offering about Benghazi.

Until recently, the White House had taken a moderate hit over the fact that for two weeks after it happened, officials had fostered the impression that the four Americans were killed Sept. 11 in a spontaneous protest triggered by a blasphemous anti-Islam video posted on YouTube - not by a coordinated terrorist attack on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. ...

There was no "fog." There was no spontaneous uprising. Thanks to a drone and other surveillance technology, the White House's national security team knew in real time that the U.S. consulate and a "safe house" a mile away in Benghazi were under coordinated attack by a well-armed group, not from a protest that unexpectedly escalated. Over a seven-hour span on Sept. 11, the besieged Americans made at least two urgent requests for help; the U.S. military has considerable assets in the area that could have been deployed to Benghazi. ...

Isn't this a story - a gigantic story? ...




Oct. 31

Los Angeles Times on not putting deportees in danger:

U.S. immigration officials began deporting many Mexican illegal immigrants to their nation's capital this month as part of a humanitarian effort to avoid deporting them to border areas such as Tamaulipas, which are besieged by violence. The two-month pilot program seems to be a smart and responsible improvement over the current deportation policy, one that could save lives and bolster border security. If it proves effective, it should be quickly extended.

Under the temporary initiative, the United States will pay about $1.1 million to fly deportees from El Paso, Texas, to Mexico City. Mexico will then shoulder the cost of bus fare to return them to their hometowns in the interior of the country, and provide food to them during their journey.

No doubt, some critics will argue that the safety of Mexican deportees is Mexico's problem, and that the United States shouldn't incur any costs on their behalf. That's shortsighted. Repatriating migrants closer to their homes and farther from the border would not only protect them, it would also discourage many Mexicans from immediately attempting to recross illegally into the United States.

Dumping migrants in border towns where they have no roots and few prospects for surviving carries a price for both countries. ...

The United States has a responsibility to protect its border and deport those who violate its laws. But it also has a duty to ensure that those who are repatriated aren't put in danger. The new program seems to offer an effective way to enforce this country's immigration laws.




Oct. 21

The Australian on Asia offering policy lesson:

If discussion about how Australia can best profit from Asia's rise revolves only around exploiting new markets to power economic growth, it will be a missed opportunity. Asia offers lessons for policymakers as well as opportunities for business. The Australia in the Asian Century white paper seeks to drive Australia's educational standards and lift national income, but it avoided scrutinising the policies that underpin Asia's spectacular growth, and which Australia might consider for itself.

The International Monetary Fund projects the economies of Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, The Philippines and Thailand to grow in excess of 6 per cent next year. Australia's cumbersome industrial relations system is not the only reason Australian growth is projected to be about half that rate.

Asian countries lack the massive, overbearing social security schemes that impose a substantial tax burden on individuals and businesses that also undermine growth and the incentive to innovate. ...

Australian schools and universities should nurture expertise with foreign languages, as the white paper suggests, but not at the expense of other basic skills or more pressing reforms to the structure of Australian education. ...

The prospect of greater integration with Asia appears more attractive than the reality. ... The proportion of Australians of Asian background is growing - from 24 per cent in 2001 to 33 per cent last year - but Australia's policy stance remains, in many respects, more European in design and intent than our Asian neighbours would tolerate.




Oct. 31

China Daily, Beijing, on U.S.-China ties:

When the army bands of China and the United States sat shoulder to shoulder at Beijing's National Center of Performing Arts on Monday night, it was a significant moment, not just for the realms of music and entertainment.

It was the first time the two bands have played together on a Chinese stage, and marked another step in improving military ties between Beijing and Washington.

The 76-member US military band will perform two more concerts with its Chinese counterparts in Nanjing and Shanghai during its current visit.

The performances are part of this year's series of exchanges between the two militaries, which were put back on track last year after military-to-military exchanges between China and the US had remained dormant for a long time.

But besides forging friendly ties through music, the sight of the two bands playing the same songs signals hope that the two countries can foster friendly relations.

Fueled by the US' strategic rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region, there has been a great deal of speculation about the possibility of a confrontation between the two armed forces in the region, as the US move is widely perceived as an attempt to contain China's rise.

So everything the two militaries do comes laden with meaning. ...

Both countries know the world wants them to expand cooperation, reduce disputes and keep their differences at bay. For its part, China has always looked to the larger picture of Sino-US ties and is willing to work with the US to advance bilateral ties. ...




Oct. 28

The Globe and Mail on Syrian refugees:

The temporary truce in Syria, which began Friday, was a helpful if tenuous sign that there might yet be a political solution to the country's 19-month-old civil war, which has left 30,000 dead.

Though the four-day truce, to coincide with Eid-al-Adha, was brokered by the international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and endorsed by the UN Security Council, there were no arrangements for monitoring compliance. Sporadic fighting broke out and soon intensified, showing that a resolution to the conflict may still be months away. ...

President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels do not even agree on the conditions for peace. Some in the opposition do not agree with others who favour negotiation with the embattled president.

In the meantime, the West, including Canada, could consider broadening humanitarian efforts to assist the more than 358,000 refugees from Syria who have fled to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

Lebanon itself is at risk of becoming increasingly destabilized following the assassination of the Lebanese intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan, a Sunni who stood up to the Assad regime, and who had protected many whom the Assad regime would otherwise have eliminated. ..

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated that as many as 700,000 Syrian refugees will have fled abroad by the end of the year. The global community could certainly do more to assist them. Why should Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have to host all of those seeking a safe haven?

The UNHCR has urged European countries to keep their borders open to Syrians and consider granting them asylum. Under the government refugee sponsorship program in Canada, Syrians could also be resettled here. But for those who cannot or do not want to leave, even a partial truce would have been some relief.




Oct. 30

The Telegraph, London, on Iran:

The suggestion by Ehud Barak, Israel's Defense Minister that Iran has pulled back from the brink of its confrontation with the West over its nuclear program is intriguing. In his interview with The Daily Telegraph today, Barak argues that Iran's decision to consign a proportion of its enriched uranium stockpile to civilian use has averted a crisis that could easily have led to Israel launching air strikes to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities. By converting its enriched uranium to fuel rods used for medical isotopes, Iran has helped to reassure the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that its intentions are peaceful.

But that is only half the story. Iran still possesses significant quantities of enriched uranium, which could be used for a nuclear weapons program. At a time when the Iranian economy is under severe pressure from the wide-ranging sanctions that have been imposed for Tehran's non-compliance on nuclear matters, the ayatollahs may have decided to give themselves some breathing space by playing along with the IAEA's demands, with the aim of returning to their nuclear weapons program once the international pressure has eased.

But, as Barak makes clear, that would be a grave miscalculation. The stand-off between Iran and the Western powers is unlikely to be resolved so long as Tehran fails to provide satisfactory guarantees that its remaining stockpiles of enriched uranium are for peaceful purposes, and not for making atomic bombs. ...





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