Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials - InfoNews

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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

March 27, 2019 - 10:59 AM

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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March 24

Los Angeles Times advises caution in light of reactions to the release of the U.S. attorney general's summary of the Mueller report:

President Trump and his defenders are understandably exulting now that the Justice Department has released a summary of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III's principal conclusions about his investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. But, all too characteristically, the president is portraying Mueller's findings as a "total exoneration." It's no such thing.

The summary of Mueller's conclusions came in a letter Atty. Gen. William Barr sent to Congress Sunday. According to Barr, Mueller did not establish that the Trump campaign "conspired or co-ordinated with" the Russian government or a Russian "troll farm" in two notorious operations: the social-media disinformation campaign launched by the Internet Research Agency and the hacking of Democratic email accounts and the release of embarrassing emails via WikiLeaks.

Of course that's a victory for the president. For that matter, it's also good news for the country. Even Trump's critics should welcome a finding that the president and his campaign officials didn't break the law by conspiring with Russians to subvert the election.

But Trump wasn't content to welcome this finding. On Twitter he suggested that Mueller's message was "No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION."

In fact, Mueller didn't absolve the president of obstructing justice. Instead, according to Barr, Mueller "did not reach a conclusion — one way or the other" about whether actions by Trump constituted obstruction. Barr quoted Mueller as saying: "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Barr and Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein then made their own quick determination that the evidence that Mueller amassed over the course of a two-year investigation wasn't enough to establish that Trump committed an obstruction-of-justice offence.

These contrasting perspectives, as well as a profusion of other as-yet unanswered questions, are a reminder that it is absolutely vital that Congress — and the public — be given access to Mueller's complete report, with only minimal redactions to protect legitimate national security secrets.

That Mueller cleared the Trump campaign of colluding criminally with Russia doesn't mean that his investigation was a wasteful "witch hunt" or that people in Trump's orbit didn't engage in questionable contacts with Russians, as Trump and his allies contend. The guilty pleas and convictions obtained by Mueller belie that.

And, of course, the end of Mueller's investigation doesn't mean that other investigations related to the Trump campaign — including those underway in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere — won't uncover information about criminal activity by Trump or his aides.

The president is entitled to take satisfaction in some of what Mueller concluded. But Congress must not take Barr's summary of Mueller's conclusions as "total exoneration" of the president or a substitute for Congress' own responsibility to investigate important matters. They include the president's firing of former FBI director James B. Comey and Comey's allegation that Trump pressured him to drop an investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

It isn't second-guessing Mueller to insist that Congress and the public receive access to his complete report, not just the snippets that appeared in Barr's letter.

And one other point. There is a long list of reasons why we think Trump is unfit for the presidency and dangerous for the country. The only thing we learned from Barr's summary is that colluding with Russia is no longer on it.

Online: https://www.latimes.com/

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March 25

The Washington Post on lessons the U.S. can draw from the fight against the Islamic State group:

The capture of the last territory controlled by the Islamic State on Saturday was far from a final victory over the movement, as U.S. commanders and diplomats were careful to emphasize. The jihadists retain thousands of fighters in clandestine cells scattered across Syria and Iraq, as well as affiliates in Afghanistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Libya, Burkina Faso and elsewhere. Nevertheless, the final elimination of a self-declared caliphate that once controlled a territory the size of Britain and ruled over as many as 12 million people is worth celebrating. It represents a victory not just for moderate forces in Syria and Iraq, which did most of the fighting, but for a U.S. military mission that succeeded with a light footprint and relatively low costs.

The rapid advance of Islamic State forces across Iraq in the summer of 2014 forced President Barack Obama to reverse his premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. But the campaign that then unfolded in Iraq and later in Syria was dramatically different from the previous, troop-heavy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. strategy was to partner with local forces that would take the lead on the ground, including elite elements of the Iraqi army and Kurdish-led forces in northern Iraq and eastern Syria. American troops in Iraq and Syria, mostly Special Operations forces and trainers, numbered in the single-digit thousands.

The biggest U.S. contribution was in air power. The United States and coalition partners carried out nearly 34,000 airstrikes between August 2014 and the end of January 2019, according to the Pentagon. That proved devastatingly effective against Islamic State forces, which had no air force and scant air defences. By U.S. estimates, 70,000 of 100,000 Islamic State fighters were killed, many of them in airstrikes.

American allies paid a heavy price, as well. The Kurdish-led alliance that fought the jihadists in Syria says 11,000 of its fighters were killed, and Iraqi security forces and militias probably lost at least as many. Large parts of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, were destroyed, as was the Syrian town of Raqqa. Pentagon figures show 1,257 civilians unintentionally killed in coalition airstrikes, a number human rights monitors say is understated.

U.S. losses, in contrast, were remarkably light: Sixteen soldiers and one civilian were killed in action over the past 4 1/2 years, and 58 other "non-hostile" fatalities were associated with the mission. As of the end of last year, the war has cost some $28.5 billion — a fraction of the more than $1.5 trillion price of the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In all, the fight against the Islamic State showed that the United States is capable of leading effective foreign counterterrorism campaigns, provided it partners with local forces and focuses on supplying unique U.S. assets, such as intelligence and precision airstrikes. A second lesson is that the costs of playing such a role are far less, in the long run, than withdrawing and allowing terrorist groups to rebuild. It's not clear whether President Trump accepts that conclusion, but the history of the past decade in the Middle East ought to be persuasive.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com

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March 21

Chicago Tribune on federal protections for grey wolves:

The bald eagle is America's symbol, but 70 years ago it was nearly extinct. Once numbering as many as half a million, the population in the lower 48 states had been reduced to fewer than 1,000 by pesticides, hunting and destruction of habitat. Under the Endangered Species Act, bald eagles made a comeback. There are now some 70,000 across North America, including every state but Hawaii.

That's the definition of success in recovery of an endangered species. But it's not one that the Interior Department wants to follow for another treasured American creature: the grey wolf.

The federal government once promoted eradication of wolves, an effort that came close to happening. But after gaining protected status in 1973, they, too, rebounded. There are now about 6,000 in nine states.

From the point of view of the Trump administration — and the Obama administration before it — that's good enough. These iconic predators once numbered in the millions and inhabited virtually the entire area of the lower 48. Today they exist in just a tenth of their historic range. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to remove them from the list of creatures deemed endangered or threatened.

The change, which has already happened in much of the West, would mean loss of protection in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, which now have nearly 4,000 wolves. These states then could allow hunting, as all three did when wolves were temporarily delisted in 2012. Some 1,500 were killed. The same federal policy would apply in Washington, Oregon and California.

Gray wolves effectively would be limited to where they are now present, rather than be allowed to spread beyond that range. Remember the bald eagles? Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told National Geographic, "We didn't declare them to be recovered until they were found in every state." ...

Wolves could easily expand their territory in the absence of human predation, but some people prefer to keep their numbers down and their range tightly restricted. Farmers and ranchers regard them as a threat to livestock. There are also hunters who love the idea of killing wolves as trophies ...

The Midwest once had lots of wolves, and eventually lost nearly all of them. Bringing them back has been a major achievement. But we're not alone in thinking this part of the country would benefit from having more of these beasts — which Midwesterners have been known to travel to Yellowstone or Glacier National Park in hopes of glimpsing ...

Allowing the wolves to expand their range and population would strengthen our tenuous connection to our wild past. Delisting them, however, would mean premature death — by extermination — for a lot of wolves. It would also be a big loss for people.

Online: https://www.chicagotribune.com/

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March 25

The Baltimore Sun on children's health and taxing soda:

Picture this. The nation's children are drinking on average what amounts to a bathtub full of sugary beverages every year. That's 30 gallons of soda, sports drinks and probably the biggest healthy drink fraud of all, fruit juice.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association painted this vivid visual Monday as they announced what is probably the most aggressive proposition ever by national health organizations to curb consumption of the sugary drinks that are wreaking havoc on children's health.

The groups suggested an excise tax on such drinks, making water and milk the default beverages on children's menus and in vending machines, requiring hospitals to discourage purchases of unhealthy beverages and making sure nutritional information is visible on restaurant menus and advertisements.

They also want the federal and state governments to push to limit the marketing of these drinks to children and teens and for federal nutrition programs to discourage sugary drinks. For instance, low-income families can currently buy soda with their SNAP benefits.

We welcome the call of action from the medical doctors who see firsthand every day the health impact of such drinks and whose stance can help bolster the push to rein in the forceful marketing tactics used by the beverage industry.

These drinks amount to nothing but empty calories with little or no nutritional value, and beverage companies spend millions — $866 million in 2013 — to get kids hooked no them. Dietary guidelines recommend that children and teens consume fewer than 10 per cent of calories from added sugars, but they consume about 17 per cent, and nearly half of that comes from drinks ...

What's worse, studies have shown these drinks are pushed more heavily in Latino and African American communities. In some of Baltimore's poorest neighbourhoods, you'd be hard-pressed to find a fruit or vegetable, but plenty of corner stores line their shelves with cheap bottles of soda, which are often less expensive than a bottle of water. High concentrations of fast food joints in these same neighbourhoods serve up super-sized sodas with their meals.

It is only setting children up for a lifetime of health failures that include dental problems, heart disease and obesity, among other issues ... Obesity now affects 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Monday's announcement marks the first time the two groups have proposed excise taxes, which proved successful in some states, including reducing the amount of sugary beverages bought in both Berkeley, Calif., and Philadelphia ...

Still, regulating sugary drinks usually ignites controversy, and any effort is likely to face intense pushback and lobbying from the beverage industry. The Beverage Association sued the city of San Francisco for violating its First Amendment rights for requiring labels that warn of the health consequences of drinking sodas and other beverages. In Baltimore, such legislation faced intense lobbying from retailers concerned about costs. It never made it out of the City Council. The beverage trade group also sued the city of Philadelphia over its soda tax ...

For those who argue that the government shouldn't be in the business of telling people what to eat, we say that it is indeed their job to protect the public health of the country's citizens.

We hope the endorsement by the health groups gives more ammunition to those who care about kids' health. The groups are modeling their effort after the previous public health assault on the tobacco industry, which put up similar defences when health groups strived to reduce tobacco use among kids. The health community kept on fighting, and those efforts eventually paid off.

Online: https://www.baltimoresun.com/

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March 25

Boston Herald on progressive colleges:

Last week, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion at Amherst College posted and emailed to students a "Common Language Guide," a 36-page document containing dozens of politically correct definitions.

As the Herald's Sean Philip Cotter reported, the document defined "capitalism" as a system that "leads to exploitative labour practices, which affect marginalized groups disproportionately."

"White feminism" is "predicated upon the erasure of women of colour and the ways in which racism and sexism converge and compound one another." ...

And on and on.

The college has pulled the glossary and Amherst College President Biddy Martin — who claimed she hadn't seen the document before it was posted and sent out — said in a statement that the guide "takes a very problematic approach."

This kind of thing happens again and again in colleges and universities but rarely if ever in the other direction. It's always wacky progressive manoeuvrs creeping through the campuses that are exposed. And then only when found out.

It would be wise for parents to take that into account as they contemplate where to spend their money on higher education.

Online: https://www.bostonherald.com/

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March 21

The Star of Toronto on New Zealand's swift ban on military-style weapons:

There's an old saying in politics: "Never let a good crisis go to waste."

It sounds cynical, but it needn't be. If a genuine crisis is used to accomplish something that should have been done before, then the public good is being served.

Such was the case on Thursday in New Zealand, where just a week after the tragic shooting deaths of 50 Muslim worshippers the government announced a ban on military-style firearms and high-capacity magazines.

It's believed the perpetrator used weapons of that kind to wreak so much deadly havoc in such a short period of time.

But you don't have to know exactly what kind of arms were used to devastate the mosques in Christchurch to know that no civilian needs to possess military-grade assault rifles designed specifically to maximize an attacker's death toll.

The New Zealand ban will apply also to accessories used to convert other firearms into high-capacity military style weapons. But it won't apply to most rifles and shotguns used by hunters and farmers in the largely rural country.

This is not about outlawing all guns; it's about doing away with weapons that have no purpose but to mow down people in large numbers.

That it can be done so quickly in New Zealand while the United States, in particular, fails time after time to ban assault rifles despite dozens of mass shootings highlights differences in both constitutional order and political culture.

New Zealand, like Canada, has no Second Amendment-style "right to bear arms." A majority government can take swift action if it chooses.

And New Zealand's public opinion has been outraged by the Christchurch massacre, giving the government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern an opening to act decisively.

It's to her credit that she has chosen to use the crisis presented by the shooting to get this done while the wounds, both literal and figurative, are still fresh. Failing to act would indeed be a tragic waste.

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

News from © The Associated Press, 2019
The Associated Press

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