Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials - InfoNews

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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

April 11, 2018 - 11:37 AM

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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April 11

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Paul Ryan's responsibilities after announcing his retirement:

Will Paul Ryan unshackle himself from Donald Trump and give a full-throated defence of the rule of law? Now that he has announced his retirement from Congress, we urge him to do so.

Ryan must be clear: Any attempt by the president to quash the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is an attack on the rule of law. The House Speaker should throw his support behind legislation to protect Mueller.

Ryan will leave behind a legacy of honest, thoughtful conservatism — he fought for what he thought was best for his constituents and the country, based on a vision of smaller, less intrusive government and personal freedom. His rise to power in Washington over the past two decades put Wisconsin at the centre of some of our most important political debates.

But Ryan's decision to leave Congress, while a blow to Wisconsin's political might, could be good for our democracy if Ryan finds his voice.

The Speaker has consistently defended Mueller. He repeated Wednesday what he has said before, that he doesn't believe President Trump will fire Mueller before the investigation is complete.

But after an early morning raid on the offices of Trump's personal attorney on Monday, the president erupted in anger. He called it an "attack on the country," saying Mueller's investigators were "the most biased group of people" and that "Many people have said, 'You should fire him.'"

Maybe this is just Trump venting. With Trump, a New York real estate tycoon who has associated with fixers and con men his entire adult life, you never know. But with the law closing in, a president already given to rash judgment may act rashly.

If Trump moves to fire Mueller or his boss at the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Ryan and his colleagues in Congress must be ready to act.

And not just with words. They should throw their support behind a bill that would protect the special counsel. Two bills under consideration would give a panel of federal judges the power to review any dismissal of the special counsel and decide whether there was "good cause" to fire him.

During the Watergate crisis, it was Republican leaders in the legislative and judicial branches who stood strong in defence of democracy and the fundamental principle that no person is above the law and certainly not an elected public servant of the people, which is what the president of the United States remains.

Republican Senator Howard Baker was the one who asked, "What did the President know and when did he know it?"

Republican Judge John Sirica, an Eisenhower appointee, ordered President Nixon to turn over his tapes of White House conversations, which revealed his crimes and ended his presidency.

It is time now for Republicans to stand up again to defend an investigation of an administration, especially as we've learned more and more about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Speaker Ryan, if anything is done to interfere with or stop the Mueller investigation before it concludes, you should do everything your power to retain all findings, all records and all investigators through the Legislative Branch.

Our nation's founders set up three separate branches for exactly this purpose — to help us keep democracy alive. It becomes especially important when one party controls all three branches, as Republicans do today, that our representatives in Congress stand strong to ensure the citizens of our democracy remain in charge.

We live in a dangerous world, one that requires steady American leadership. A constitutional crisis, prompted by a president eager to cover his tracks, would be like nothing we have seen since Watergate and would severely weaken the nation both at home and abroad.

Republican leaders in the other two branches stood up in defence of democracy in the 1970s.

Your time is now, Paul Ryan.

Stand strong.

Online: https://www.jsonline.com/

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April 9

The New York Times on Syria:

A world grown numb to the slaughter of civilians in Syria has been roused in the last 48 hours by photographs on social media of lifeless men, women and children in the rebel-held town of Douma, many with white foam coming from their mouths and nostrils, victims of chemical weapons. Outraged Western nations blame President Bashar al-Assad's regime and demand retaliation.

Russia and Iran, Mr. Assad's callous enablers, have denied that he has once again used these horrific weapons on his own people. But Douma is surrounded by Syrian forces, whom experts have blamed for most of the 85 chemical attacks in the country over the past five years. Syria had a major chemical weapons program before pledging to surrender it after chemical attacks in 2013, a commitment it failed to fully honour.

President Trump took limited military action against Syria after a chemical weapons attack last year, largely ignored the issue after that and then last week surprised his military commanders by announcing plans to soon withdraw 2,000 troops in the fight against the Islamic State. Mr. Trump vowed on Sunday on Twitter that there would be a "big price to pay" for the latest killings, estimated at up to 70 people dead, according to aid groups.

But the president should know by now that tough talk without a coherent strategy or follow-through is dangerous.

What to do next in Syria is a crucial test for Mr. Trump, who has shirked America's traditional leadership role. He has tried to seem like a macho leader who would aggressively use American power where President Barack Obama wouldn't, while talking about pulling out of the Middle East and walking away from international commitments.

With such inconstancy, he will not be able to stop the violence in Syria, and with no clear, unified plan with the Western allies, he will only empower Mr. Assad.

Mr. Trump needs to work with the other major powers on a broad plan that could force Mr. Assad, Russia and Iran to end the carnage and be held accountable. The United Nations Security Council needs to recommit to the Chemical Weapons Convention's ban on such weapons, authorize experts to verify who was responsible in Douma and create an independent investigation that could lead to prosecution in a tribunal like the International Criminal Court.

If the Syrian regime's guilt is determined, the United States should impose tough new sanctions, like a freeze on financial assets, as well. If military action is considered, Congress — which has long avoided its constitutional war-making responsibilities — needs to approve it. If a Russian veto prevents Security Council action, then Mr. Trump needs to work with our allies, through NATO or otherwise.

The timing isn't great — Mr. Trump's newly appointed national security adviser, John Bolton, only showed up for his first day at the White House on Monday, and his secretary of state nominee, Mike Pompeo, hasn't been confirmed — but this work is too important to wait. The use of poison gas, a war crime under international law, has been integral to Mr. Assad's scorched-earth drive to regain control of the last rebel-held areas. As Mr. Trump said on Monday, "We cannot allow atrocities like that."

Just to reiterate: To have any chance of success, any international retaliatory action must be part of a coherent diplomatic strategy for stabilizing Syria and putting a political settlement in place. Since 2011, more than 500,000 Syrians have been killed and millions of refugees have fled to neighbouring countries and Europe. The conflict has allowed Russia, Iran, Turkey and the Islamic State, now degraded by an American-led coalition, to gain a foothold in Syria.

During a Security Council briefing on Monday, Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador, lamented that chemical weapons were becoming "normalized" and argued "Russia could stop this senseless slaughter" in Syria if it chose to.

"Only a monster targets civilians and then ensures that there are no ambulances to transfer the wounded. No hospitals to save their lives," she said. "No doctors or medicine to ease their pain."

Ms. Haley called for the appointment of an expert group to investigate the attack, demanded humanitarian access to Douma and warned that if Russia continued to block Security Council action, "the United States will respond."

After each new atrocity, Mr. Trump and others tend to blame Mr. Obama, because Mr. Obama "did nothing" to enforce his red line against chemical weapons after an attack near Damascus in August 2013.

Mr. Obama forswore military action after that attack in favour of working with Russia to get Syria to destroy its chemical weapons. The resulting agreement deprived Mr. Assad of much of his arsenal, though not all, despite Moscow's promises.

In those days, Mr. Trump wasn't a fan of military action, either, warning Mr. Obama against it. Once president, though, he made a different choice and, operating under dubious legal authority, sent cruise missiles to strike a Syrian airfield last year after the attack on Khan Sheikhoun.

But lacking a plan to keep up the pressure, his one-off military operation failed to deter Mr. Assad from using chemical weapons; there have been at least seven other attacks this year. Now, the military option is back on the table.

Mr. Assad, President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Iran's leaders came to believe that they could do what they wanted in Syria; Mr. Trump reinforced that when he called for the early withdrawal of the 2,000 troops there.

He further reinforced a sense of impunity every time he exempted Mr. Putin from direct criticism for Russia's reprehensible behaviour. So it was significant that Mr. Trump finally drew a line, saying in a tweet, "President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad."

The question is what comes next.

Online: https://www.nytimes.com/

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April 6

The Denver Post on a hedge fund's management of the newspaper and other media properties:

At The Denver Post on Monday, more than two dozen reporters, editors, photographers, videographers, page designers, digital producers and opinion staff will walk out the door. Our marching orders are to cut a full 30 by the start of July.

These heartbreaking instructions raise the question: Does this cut, which follows so many in recent years that our ranks have shriveled from more than 250 to fewer than 100 today, represent the beginning of the end for the Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire?

The cuts, backed by our owner, the New York City hedge fund Alden Global Capital, also are a mystery, if you look at them from the point of view of those of us intent on running a serious news operation befitting the city that bears our name. Media experts locally and nationally question why our future looks so bleak, as many newspapers still enjoy double-digit profits and our management reported solid profits as recently as last year.

We call for action. Consider this editorial and this Sunday's Perspective offerings a plea to Alden — owner of Digital First Media, one of the largest newspaper chains in the country — to rethink its business strategy across all its newspaper holdings. Consider this also a signal to our community and civic leaders that they ought to demand better. Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom. If Alden isn't willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will.

A flagship local newspaper like The Post plays a critically important role in its city and state: It provides a public record of the good and the bad, serves as a watchdog against public and private corruption, offers a free marketplace of ideas and stands as a lighthouse reflective and protective of — and accountable to — a community's values and goals. A news organization like ours ought to be seen, especially by our owner, as a necessary public institution vital to the very maintenance of our grand democratic experiment.

Yes, for years now, large media chains have struggled to responsibly downsize newsrooms. But some have done so less responsibly than others.

Here in Colorado, Alden has embarked on a cynical strategy of constantly reducing the amount and quality of its offerings, while steadily increasing its subscription rates. In doing so, the hedge fund managers — often tellingly referred to as "vulture capitalists" — have hidden behind a narrative that adequately staffed newsrooms and newspapers can no longer survive in the digital marketplace. Try to square that with a recent lawsuit filed by one of Digital First Media's minority shareholders that claims Alden has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars of its newspaper profits into shaky investments completely unrelated to the business of gathering news.

Coloradans feel the insanity of it in their bones. And what a sad history.

In 2009, the large chain that owned the Rocky Mountain News closed that storied paper's doors. In 2010, Alden bought the chain of papers that features The Denver Post. The hedge fund gained a talented team of journalists reporting from all over the state, the nation and some of the biggest hotspots in the world, a winner of numerous Pulitzer Prizes, including newsroom-wide awards for its coverage of the massacres at Columbine and, more recently, a theatre in Aurora.

Since Alden took control, the decline of local news has been as obvious as it's been precipitous. The editor who oversaw coverage of the Aurora theatre shooting, Gregory L. Moore, decamped in 2016, unable to endure the new fund's directives any longer.

This year began with The Post recovering from more bloodshed as it packed up to leave its namesake city, its journalists clinging to the hope that a newly launched initiative to charge for online content would improve its fortunes. Before journalists were even in their new headquarters, our publisher and former editorial board member, Mac Tully, resigned.

Still more reductions came, and they did so as fast and as chilling as a high-desert storm.

The cuts come despite constant adaptation and innovation within our organization that grew our online reach exponentially.

This in a city that has seen more than 100,000 newcomers since Alden took control, and in a country where other cities Denver's size and smaller enjoy larger newsrooms and papers. (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's newsroom, for example, has upwards of 170 managers and staff.)

This in a state and region thrumming with energy and enthusiasm for its future.

This in a market filled with hyper-educated citizens ready and able to afford great journalism should it be offered them.

The inevitable result is that the reduction in quality leads to a reduction of trust. So when errant politicians and public figures push back against even the most credible of reports, they find a fertile environment for doubt.

Yes, other media chains and operations haven't been spared the same market realities Alden faces. The transition from print to digital publication is a challenging one.

Another factor: Critics on both sides of America's ever-widening political divide heap blame for the loss of readership on claims — too many of them credible — that newsrooms have lost sight of their responsibility to be truly objective. Such criticisms help fuel spectacularly successful social media companies, which also reap profits from links to traditional newsroom offerings.

Another regrettable result of the fracturing of newsrooms has been the rush by political interests to lavish investments in echo-chamber outlets that merely seek to report from biased perspectives, leaving the hollowed-out shells of newsrooms loyal to traditional journalistic values to find their voice in the maelstrom.

Still we take the moment to acknowledge fundamental truths. When newsroom owners view profits as the only goal, quality, reliability and accountability suffer. Their very mission is compromised. The course correction that needs to come for the benefit of communities across the land depends on owners committed to serving their readers and viewers and users.

We get it that things change. We get it that our feelings are raw and no doubt colour our judgment. But we've been quiet too long.

We believe without question that if community leaders and our readers care about our mission, and what our newsroom ought to be instead of this shadow of what it once was, it's time for their voices to be heard.

The smart money is that in a few years The Denver Post will be rotting bones. And a major city in an important political region will find itself without a newspaper.

It's time for those Coloradans who care most about their civic future to get involved and see to it that Denver gets the newsroom it deserves.

Online: https://www.denverpost.com/

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April 6

The Tennessean calls for the release of journalist Manuel Duran, who was detained while covering Memphis protests and now faces deportation:

Journalist Manuel Duran was arrested for doing his job: For exercising his First Amendment rights.

He now he faces deportation from the United States.

The 42-year-old Salvadoran immigrant was live-streaming demonstrators in Memphis protesting immigration detention and enforcement policies on Tuesday when he was wrongfully detained.

Duran's status as an undocumented immigrant complicated his release from Shelby County jail, but prosecutors eventually dropped the charges.

Unfortunately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were waiting in court to seize him.

He will likely be booted out of what has become his home unless ICE releases him. The federal agency should free him because Duran should never have been arrested.

It is a difficult case, exposing a broken immigration system that makes it hard for undocumented residents who want to contribute to their communities but cannot earn their legal status.

There are 11 million people in this nation who are living in the shadows because of their legal status.

Not Duran. He has been a voice for his community and has documented the good and the bad.

He started in Memphis in 2008 on La Voz 1240 radio, where he was co-anchor of a morning radio show and a newscaster on "Minuto 60."

He was news director and co-anchor at Ambiente 1030 radio station until 2017. Now, he owns Memphis Noticias, a local news source for the Latino community.

He has interviewed local officials such as Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.

He also has been at risk for deportation for some time.

An ICE spokesman said an immigration judge ordered Duran be deported in 2007 for failing to make a scheduled court date. That was 11 years ago, during the George W. Bush presidency.

The Trump Administration has begun a purge of undocumented men, women and children — some who have lived peacefully for decades in America. That includes Thursday's raid of a meatpacking plant in Grainger County, where ICE held 86 people to check their immigration status. Of those, 54 were detained for further immigration proceedings.

They have worked at jobs — not stolen them — and they have also paid taxes without receiving benefits like Medicare or Social Security.

There should be a solution to fix the system and allow immigrants like Duran a path to experience and enjoy the American Dream and contribute to the nation's success.

Congress has failed numerous times over the years to do so. This year, shamefully, Congress abandoned an effort to provide a permanent solution to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that President Trump ended. Without a solution, 800,000 people — including 9,300 Tennesseans — who are working or going to school will be at risk of being deported.

Regarding Duran, the Constitution does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens when it comes to exercising First Amendment freedoms.

He was exercising the right of freedom of the press to hold government accountable, and he was wrongfully punished for it.

Journalists like Duran should not be arrested for doing their jobs. ICE should free him so he can continue fearlessly reporting on his community.

Online: https://www.tennessean.com/

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April 11

The Orange County Register on the DACA impasse:

While President Trump blames the failure of any emergent DACA fix on the Democrats, a closer look reveals a more complicated situation.

Last September, Trump issued an executive order giving Congress six months to come up with a permanent, legislative solution to the situation of the up to 2 million young people who qualified for deferred deportations under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Trump's reasoning for this was sound. The program, which shielded young people who entered the country illegally before the age of 16 and have lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007, among other qualifications, offered only temporary protections and was created by highly questionable executive fiat.

A March 5 deadline for the expiration of DACA as a result of Trump's rescission of Obama's order has since been rendered moot as a result of legal challenges by defenders of the program, and at least in theory gives Congress more time to actually come up with a fix.

Unfortunately, efforts to legislatively resolve the issue have consistently fallen short, despite widespread bipartisan agreement that it makes little sense for the United States to deport millions of young people raised, educated and integrated in the United States.

"They really let them down," Trump said April 2. "They had this great opportunity. The Democrats have really let them down. It's a shame. And now people are taking advantage of DACA and that's a shame."

To his credit, there seems to be a kernel of truth in Trump's version of events. Congressional Democrats have repeatedly threatened to hold up government spending bills if a DACA fix wasn't included, yet they've inevitably and even predictably folded every time.

Senate Democrats also didn't vote for the White House's preferred DACA fix in February.

The bill, backed by President Trump and introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, offered a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million young people brought to the United States illegally as minors. In exchange, the bill called for an end to the diversity visa lottery program and restrictions on so-called chain migration.

However, a lot of Republicans didn't vote for that bill either. The bill only mustered 39 votes in support with 60 opposed.

Trump's insistence on an unpopular border wall and adding unrelated legal immigration restrictions into the discussion have done far more to prevent a DACA fix than an unwillingness on the part of congressional Democrats to compromise. We know this because Democrats did join Republicans in voting for two compromise bills to trade a DACA fix in exchange for additional border security measures.

The proposal that got closest — a plan put forward by the Common Sense Caucus to provide $25 billion in border security funding and prevent DACA recipients from sponsoring their parents for legal status — received the support of most Democrats and eight Republicans, in total receiving 54 votes in favour, 45 against.

For Trump to put the blame on the Democrats for the failure of a DACA fix might be red meat for his staunchest supporters to cover for his failure to get anything meaningful done on immigration, but it's an incomplete narrative at best.

Online: https://www.ocregister.com/

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April 11

The Evening Standard (London) on tech and politics:

Big tech met big politics yesterday — and came off best.

Swapping his usual grey T-shirt for a sober suit and tidy blue tie, Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg spent five hours giving evidence to the US Congress about the data scandal that has hit his business.

Even for a billionaire it was an intimidating event. But as he spoke, his company's share price climbed and that more than anything else revealed the final score.

Senators tried to put him under pressure. Some of their questions were good ones; others were not.

It would be easy to mock the senator who asked how Facebook made money — apparently unaware of its vast revenues from advertising and data.

But mockery would be the wrong response.

Governments, courts and parliaments all over the world are struggling to respond to the vast and rapid changes to politics, society and economics being brought by businesses such as Facebook.

Would British MPs have asked better questions than the senators? No.

Do they have the knowledge and the tools to respond to the power of social media? No.

Do our regulators or our courts? No.

Digital technology is no longer just one industry among many others: it is a fundamental dynamic in almost every part of modern life and its power is only going to become greater.

The established ways of business, politics and Government can no longer deal with this adequately — as everything from the influence of fake social media in the US presidential election to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, to the epidemic of gang violence on London's streets shows.

So the big question we should all be asking is: what needs to change? And how do we make it happen?

The wrong response would be to fear technology or to try to contain its impact.

It is improving lives fundamentally but our governments, parliaments and courts need to make a systematic attempt to understand its consequences so they can better regulate it, support it and improve it.

As Congress has just found out, ignorance isn't bliss.

Online: https://www.standard.co.uk/

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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