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426 posts
  • Opinion
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Majdi Mohammed / Associated Press)

No one had the slightest reason to believe that relations between Palestinians and Israelis were getting any better in recent days. The long-moribund peace process remains moribund. Tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have been demonstrating against Israeli policies for several weeks; nearly 50 of them have been killed by Israeli soldiers. The United States is set to open an embassy in Jerusalem this month, which will undoubtedly spur more protests.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get more depressing comes the news that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the 82-year-old successor to Yasser Arafat, gave a rambling speech Monday in which he said that the root cause of the Holocaust was not the racist ideology of the Nazis, but the Jews’ own behavior. In the speech, which Abbas described as a “history lesson” — he said that the “social function” of the Jews of Europe (specifically “usury and banking and such”) was what led to the animosity that fueled their extermination.

What cruel, ignorant, ahistorical comments. And how irresponsible for Abbas — a world leader of sorts — to spew such low-level, garden variety anti-Semitic canards. Of course, it’s not only reprehensible for Abbas to say such things, it’s also utterly counterproductive to his cause because it suggests to millions of people around the world that the struggle of the Palestinian people for an end to the occupation and a state of their own is not a legitimate cause, but a smokescreen for hatred and prejudice.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks in March at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago.
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks in March at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago. (Jim Young / AFP/Getty Images)

While analysts caution that it’s still too early to tell how the GOP tax cuts will affect U.S. businesses, it’s clear who the early beneficiaries are: shareholders.

Payments to shareholders, either directly as dividends or indirectly as stock buybacks, are hitting record levels, with Goldman Sachs projecting $1.2 trillion in dividends and buybacks by Fortune 500 companies in 2018. The rise is fueled by companies such as Apple, which announced Tuesday that it would devote an additional $100 billion to buybacks and boost dividends 16%.

The source of the money is likely to be Apple’s cache of overseas profits, which it (like many U.S. multinationals) has been stashing in foreign subsidiaries to avoid being hit with high U.S. tax rates if the profits were repatriated. That behavior was both rational and lamentable, because it discouraged U.S. companies from using the money their products and services earned around the world to hire more people, start new product lines and increase wages here.

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  • Opinion
  • Climate Change
A new study finds that microbes, left in isolation with plentiful food supplies, can poison their environment and kill themselves.
A new study finds that microbes, left in isolation with plentiful food supplies, can poison their environment and kill themselves. (Dreamstime / TNS)

Well, here’s a cheery thought for a Tuesday afternoon: Scientists have discovered organisms can commit ecological suicide by gorging on food and then poisoning their ecosystem with their own waste. Remind you of any species you know?

The lab-based study, published in the most recent issue of Nature Ecology & Evolution, found that the soil-dwelling Paenibacillus microbes, in high concentrations and with plentiful food, made their environment too acidic to live, and killed themselves off down to the last microbe.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Climate Change
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a United Nations Climate Change Conference in Germany in November..
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a United Nations Climate Change Conference in Germany in November.. (Getty Images)

If there was any doubt that California and the Trump administration are at war over environmental protection, Gov. Jerry Brown cleared it up Tuesday.

“We’re losing our battle on climate change,” Brown said during a news conference announcing the state’s 10th lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This one seeks to block the attempt by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt — dubbed “Outlaw Pruitt” by Brown — to roll back national standards to make passenger cars more fuel efficient and less polluting.

“If we follow the Pruitt Trump path, we follow our way off the cliff into disaster,” Brown said. “This is an existential threat to America, to California and the world.”

  • Politics
  • Opinion
Two more top aides have abandoned Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt.
Two more top aides have abandoned Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

It’s twofer Tuesday for Scott Pruitt, the embattled director of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Resignations of two top aides were reported Tuesday morning. The first to go was Albert Kelly, a longtime personal friend of Pruitt and Oklahoma banker who had no background to do his job overseeing the Superfund program cleaning up toxic dump sites. Kelly, incidentally, also has been banned from the banking industry by regulators at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. over issues with the bank he formerly ran in Tulsa, Okla.

The Washington Post reported that Kelly resigned because he “was tired of coming under criticism for the FDIC ban and didn’t need the job.”

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  • Trump
  • Politics
  • Opinion
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, left, reportedly has given President Trump's lawyers a list of questions he'd like to ask.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, left, reportedly has given President Trump's lawyers a list of questions he'd like to ask. (AFP/Getty Images)

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference must be nearing its end. We’ve reached the leaking endgame.

Late Monday, the New York Times reported that it had obtained a list of nearly 50 questions that Mueller has submitted to President Trump’s lawyers. The questions explore what Trump knew and felt about several figures involved in his campaign who’ve been indicted or implicated in some way in Mueller’s probe.

Trump quickly tweeted that there were no questions about collusion with Russia on the list, and that’s patently false. There are several, including one that suggests new information about former campaign manager Paul Manafort: “What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?”

  • Politics
  • Opinion
Protesters parade at Los Angeles Hall of Records on behalf of 17 county employees fired because they wouldn't take a loyalty oath in 1948.
Protesters parade at Los Angeles Hall of Records on behalf of 17 county employees fired because they wouldn't take a loyalty oath in 1948. (Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

President Trump skipped it last year, but on Monday he caught up with tradition and issued a proclamation recognizing May 1 as Loyalty Day — the same day much of the rest of the world celebrates as May Day. There’s a story behind that.

As The Times editorial board explained two years ago, Loyalty Day traces its roots to 1921 and Americanization Day, the response to Russia’s 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and growing radicalism among labor advocates, and as a nativist rebuff to a spike in immigration (sound familiar?). Fast-forward to the post-World War II Cold War and fears of communist spies and subversives. That led to President Truman’s insistence that federal employees sign loyalty oaths, a concept that spread to most levels of government. In fact, California still has one, though it’s watered down from the original version that made oath-takers attest that “I am not a member of the Communist Party.”

  • Opinion
  • Plastic Trash
Plastic trash overflows a trash can in London.
Plastic trash overflows a trash can in London. (Mike Kemp)

Los Angeles is the latest California city looking at passing a straws-on-request law. There’s a state law proposed too. What this means is restaurants and other food joints may hand over a plastic straw only to customers who ask for one.

Before you groan and say, “what a silly and meaningless law,” consider how often plastic straws have been foisted upon you just in the last week. Fast food places stick a straw in drinks as a matter of course. In recent years, even sit-down restaurants have taken to sticking a straw in water glasses before delivering them to customers. Happens to me all the time.

Having to ask for a straw puts the onus back on the customer, who may indeed need and want one. But it comes with a subtle but potent message about the environmental cost involved. (Just check out this distressing video of a plastic straw being extracted from the nose of a sea turtle for a clue.)

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  • Trump
  • Politics
  • Opinion
Some observers are suggesting that President Trump, shown with national security advisor John Bolton, should receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Some observers are suggesting that President Trump, shown with national security advisor John Bolton, should receive the Nobel Peace Prize. (Ricky Carioti / Washington Post)

If the negotiations with North Korea actually denuclearize the Korean peninsula, it would be such an epic accomplishment that South Korean President Moon Jae-in believes President Trump would deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

That’s what a spokesman for Moon told Reuters on Monday. And although Democrats probably wouldn’t go that far — I’m just guessing here — they have grudgingly given Trump credit for North Korea’s entry into talks.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), who is, umm, not Trump’s biggest fan, had this to say Sunday on ABC’s “This Week”: