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Editorial Roundup

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

Oct. 18

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Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, on health care reform and the public option:

Health insurance for all: That's not too much to expect in the world's richest nation. Nor is it too much to expect of Congress, which desperately needs to shed its image of intransigence and incompetence.

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The bill that cleared the Senate Finance Committee last week would leave an estimated 17 million citizens and legal residents uninsured. Eight million illegal residents would also remain uninsured. ...

But it's not good enough. Universal coverage is the fundamental requisite for health care reform. Aside from the moral imperative, economics demands covering everyone.

Insurance is sharing risk. The more people who are sharing the risk, especially the more young and healthy people who don't need a lot of expensive care, the lower the cost for everyone. ...

The Baucus plan does some good things, including requiring insurance companies to sell all customers the same policy and ending industry practices that deny care for spurious reasons.

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It falls short in holding down insurance costs because there's no public option to compete with private insurers.

... It seems to us, though, that the public option is a more streamlined way to achieve reform's goals than a new bureaucracy to police 50 state insurance markets to be sure that insurers aren't illegally denying coverage and cherry-picking customers.

A self-supporting public option would keep insurers honest by injecting real competition into the market. This would help make universal coverage affordable, while insurers would profit from an influx of millions of new customers.

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Oct. 18

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The Jackson (Tenn.) Sun, on nuclear waste:

If a friend asked to dump his garbage in your yard because he knew you would know what to do with it, what would you say? Probably, no thanks. That's what the U.S. should say to countries that want to send their nuclear waste here for processing and storage. Thankfully, Sen. Lamar Alexander and U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon of Murfreesboro are sponsoring legislation in Congress to keep other countries' nuclear waste out of the U.S.

No other nation allows the importation and storage of another country's nuclear waste. We shouldn't, either.

The controversy arose when a private Utah company, EnergySolutions, asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to bring in 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste from Italy. The company would process the waste in Tennessee and store the resulting 1,600 tons at a private facility 80 miles west of Salt Lake City. The NRC also said it has applications from Mexico and Brazil to do the same thing.

The U.S. handles its own nuclear waste based on a regional system established by Congress in the 1980s. Current laws don't address importing nuclear waste from other countries. But that issue is addressed in the proposed legislation. ...

The problem with allowing the waste to come to the U.S. is that America will become the world's dumping ground for nuclear waste. That's because no other country will accept the stuff. This is not a "world leader" designation America needs. ...

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Oct. 19

The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo., on medical marijuana:

After almost a year in office, the Obama administration made a decision this week.

The Justice Department ... issued a memo to federal prosecutors in Colorado and 12 other medical marijuana states telling them to stop enforcing federal marijuana laws against medical marijuana patients. This should result in an end to the mean-spirited and bizarre federal attacks on people treating conditions such as glaucoma and chronic pain with a natural drug that's far less harmful than an array of hard drugs the pharmaceutical giants push like candy.

From the memo: "Prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources." ...

Although the memo was clear in directing federal authorities to respect state medical marijuana laws, it emphasized the federal government's commitment to continuing the drug war. Prohibition has created a black market, in the form of Mexican cartels that are willing to kill in order to trade in common weed.

The administration's memo is a step in the direction of ending prohibition. It's a small step, but first steps are milestones.

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Oct. 20

The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y., on Social Security:

The prospect of the federal government punishing Grandma and Grandpa is repugnant – so politically unpalatable, in fact, that President Barack Obama is urging Congress to send every Social Security recipient $250 to make up for this year's lack of a cost-of-living adjustment in their retirement checks.

But the perception that no COLA is punishing or depriving seniors is inaccurate. When the measurable cost of living actually goes down, how do you justify a COLA boost?

The recession still imposes brutal costs on workers and their families. Taxpayers have taken on well over $1 trillion in debt to bail out financial institutions and stimulate the economy. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still cost the Treasury billions each month. If the federal government can't justify a modest cost-of-living boost for Social Security recipients, neither can it afford the estimated $13 billion price tag for a one-time payment. ...

Social Security COLAs have come to seem automatic since 1975. Last year the boost was a hefty 5.8 percent, driven by increases in energy costs. Since 2005, there have been 15.9 percent worth of COLA hikes. And don't forget: This year's economic stimulus package included $250 checks for each Social Security recipient.

The Consumer Price Index that measures inflation actually decreased this year, along with gas and energy prices. Without inflation, there is no rationale for a COLA. And if a COLA is not warranted, neither is a one-time payment. ...

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Oct. 21

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Los Angeles Times, on the Obama administration and Sudan:

President Obama's Sudan strategy, announced this week, is consistent with his approach to foreign policy elsewhere: Engage, don't isolate. Hold out carrots, but hang on to the sticks. And, quite often, seek the middle ground.

Obama offered direct talks on nuclear weapons to the notorious leaders of North Korea and Iran, and he made it clear he wanted to meet with the Communist bosses in Beijing before receiving their Tibetan human rights nemesis, the Dalai Lama, in the White House. Now the administration has raised the possibility of peace dividends for Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in the country's western Darfur region. This page supports the broad policy of engagement in the belief that it is more effective than isolation and confrontation for achieving U.S. goals. Although Obama's overtures have yet to yield results on most fronts, these are early days.

The administration says it will use a mix of "incentives and pressure" to ensure that the Khartoum government denies a haven to terrorists, implements a 2005 deal to end a decades-old civil war in the south and seeks peace in the conflict in Darfur, where more than 300,000 people have died since 2003 and another 2.7 million have been driven from their homes. ...

Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice, the architect of the Sudan policy, said Khartoum's peacemaking efforts would be evaluated every three months. ...

U.S. officials are not to deal directly with Bashir -- still an accused war criminal, after all -- and the administration did not reveal the incentives or sanctions being considered for Sudan. But as long as the Sudanese government does not receive rewards before demonstrating verifiable advances in peacemaking, the long-awaited policy is a move in the right direction.

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Oct. 21

The Herald, Rock Hill, S.C., on the "balloon boy" saga:

Most of us probably have had enough of the "balloon boy" stories – and still may be a bit put out that we were taken in by the hoax. However, we will relish seeing the heedless Heene parents punished for their outlandish publicity stunt. ...

At this point, it is difficult to work up much anger at the Heenes. Their failed attempt to grab the gold ring of fame was more pathetic than anything else.

Nonetheless, their stunt endangered a lot of people, especially the pilots who tried to get close to the soaring balloon to see if the boy was still aboard. Many people, including law enforcement officers, air traffic controllers, military personnel and others, also wasted time and taxpayers' money on this bogus emergency.

So we have no trouble with the plan by Sheriff Alderden to charge the Heenes with conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, making a false report to authorities, attempting to influence a public servant and, apparently, whatever else he can throw at these two highly irresponsible parents.

As often is the case in instances of ill-advised attempts at pop-culture immortality, we are left wondering: What could they have been thinking?

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Oct. 18

The Boston Globe, on President Obama and the Dalai Lama: President Obama was too quick to please China's leaders when he recently put off meeting with the Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader of the long-oppressed Tibetan people was visiting Washington, but Obama said he did not want to meet with the exiled monk until after meeting President Hu Jintao of China next month.

Obama's consideration for foreign leaders' sensibilities can be a virtue, but in this case the president showed China's leaders and Tibetans alike that he is more susceptible than recent predecessors of both parties to pressure from Beijing.

The informal chats presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush held in the White House with the Dalai Lama had no adverse effects on US-China relations. Obama should be using his persuasive powers to convince China's leaders that their interest would be best served if they granted cultural autonomy and religious freedom to Tibetans.

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Oct. 21

The Detroit News, on the auto industry and credit regulations:

Legislation creating a new agency with broad powers to regulate the credit industry is wending its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. A vote is scheduled today on removing auto dealers from the jurisdiction of the agency, and this change ought to be approved.

The auto industry is still undergoing a shakeout and thousands of dealers are going out of business. Vehicle sales for the year are expected to reach a 30-year low. The proposed new Consumer Finance Protection Agency, a dealer organization says, would impose complex new rules and fees on dealers who help their customers arrange financing for vehicle purchases.

The organization, the National Association of Automobile Dealers, notes that the economic meltdown occurred in the mortgage market, not auto loans. Loans arranged by auto dealers are already regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general.

The last thing struggling auto dealers or the industry as a whole need is another layer of regulations that could drive up the cost of credit and make car sales more difficult. ...

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Oct. 18

The Observer, London, on Africa and China:

The exact number of protesters shot dead at a demonstration in Guinea last month is unknown. Estimates vary between 150 and 200. Soldiers of the ruling junta beat and raped survivors.

The massacre was condemned by the EU, the UN secretary-general and the African Union. On what foundations, observers asked, does the Guinean regime stand other than murderous repression?

The answer came last week, with reports that Chinese investors are planning infrastructure, oil and mining projects in the country worth up to $7bn. The deal appeared to confirm a trend: China propping up noxious regimes in Africa in exchange for natural resources, no questions asked.

... After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the west acquired a near monopoly in African trade. That it made human rights part of the terms of discussion is laudable; that it failed to make much progress is a tragically wasted opportunity. Now the monopoly is lost. If western democracies want to influence African development they must compete with the offer from Chinese autocratic state capitalism.

It is meaningless just to assert the moral superiority of trade with conditions of good governance and transparency attached. It is time to start proving it with sustained investment aimed at fostering civil society that will yield real political benefits for Africa.

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Oct. 21

Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Afghanistan:

Afghan politics and international security stand at a critical point today. President Hamid Karzai has accepted the verdict of the Independent Election Commission and the disputed August elections to go for a run-off on November 7.

The IEC has thus validated the findings of the UN-backed Electoral Complaint Commission, released a day earlier, bringing Karzai's total votes to below the 50 per cent needed to form the next government. Karzai will now face his closest contestant, former Foreign minister Abduallah Abduallah, once again in a scenario fraught with challenges.

While U.S. disgruntlement with Karzai is no secret especially over his penchant for choosing controversial figures for key government positions it is still unsure about which horse to back in the presidential race. Karzai may have disappointed in not delivering, but Abduallah's test is yet to come. ...

A second run, now considered necessary as the only alternative, is likely to come with its own set of woes. For one, the security challenges surrounding the exercise are immense. ...

Unfortunately, so far, the biggest problem in Afghan politics has been of legitimacy. This issue has dogged even the latest elections, the irrefutable evidence of fraud branding its mark on the face of the Karzai government. Added to legitimacy is now credibility.

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Oct. 20

The Toronto Star, on Tamils leaving Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka's postwar human exodus is washing up on faraway shores: Hundreds of Tamils have reached Indonesia and Australia, and others apparently are being drawn here. While authorities are still investigating, the Canadian Tamil Congress says 76 men from the merchant ship Ocean Lady off the British Columbia coast are Tamil refugees.

"Sri Lanka has become hell for Tamils and they have to get out," says Congress spokesperson David Poopalapillai. Others who fled to Indonesia have made the startling claim that they are facing "genocide."

While that strains belief, the Sri Lankan military continues to hold some 260,000 Tamils in detention camps, in poor conditions, five months after shattering the Tamil Tiger insurgency in mid-May. The government says only some 30,000 have been sent home. Tension in the camps is reportedly reaching the boiling point. ...

That leaves Canada and other countries of asylum in a fix. More Tamils are bound to flee if they can't live normal lives. We can either grant them asylum, or ship them back to a clouded future. The better course would be for President Mahinda Rajapakse to close the camps, restore normalcy and make flight a less desirable option. ...

In the meantime officials should give the refugees a sympathetic hearing. Some would "draw the line" against taking in the refugees. But provided that they are not Tiger leaders, they should be entitled to temporary sanctuary until Sri Lanka finds a humane way to deal with people displaced by the fighting. Sri Lanka's defeat of the Tigers should lead to national reconciliation, not indefinite internment.

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Oct. 20

Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, on children of international divorces:

When the United States and European nations say that more than 100 children have been "abducted" to Japan, they are not lying.

Troubles involving children of international divorces being taken from their countries of residence by their Japanese parents and brought back "illegally" to Japan are creating an international stir.

More than 100 such cases have been filed in the United States, Britain, Canada and other countries so far. Some people even accuse Japan of "encouraging child abduction."

Last month, a U.S. citizen was arrested in Japan for attempting to snatch back his two children from his Japanese ex-wife who had returned to Japan with them in August.

The trouble occurred because of differences in the rules for dealing with children of international divorces in Japan and the United States. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, to which 81 nations are signatories, states that, in principle, when a child has been taken from his or her country of residence, the child must be returned to that country. The convention requires the governments of signatory nations to comply.

Among the Group of Eight countries, Japan and Russia are the only non-signatories to the convention. ...

The great majority of parental child abduction cases filed in North America and Europe today involve ex-wives who are Japanese. And a number of these women say they have returned to Japan with their children to escape physical abuse by their ex-husbands. How can such women and their children be saved from their predicament abroad? This question cannot be ignored. ...

The time has come for Japanese society to seriously debate the welfare of children of divorced parents, in Japan and overseas.

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