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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

September 06, 2017 - 11:03 AM

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:


Sept. 6

The New York Times on Donald Trump's strategy on North Korea:

The North Korean nuclear threat is worsening by the day. Tougher economic sanctions have not accomplished much, if anything. Nor has President Trump's bellicosity. Sunday's nuclear test was the North's most powerful blast in the 11 years it has been detonating nuclear weapons. There are signs of another test soon.

Mr. Trump's approach has so far consisted of sanctions, pressure on China — North Korea's chief ally — and taunts against the government in Pyongyang. These messages have not only produced zero positive results but they have also sowed confusion about his intentions. The president and his team seem unable or unwilling to put together a realistic and coherent strategy that goes beyond pressure tactics and harsh rhetoric to include a serious effort to engage the North Koreans.

There have been some inexplicable errors along the way. The latest was to pick a fight with South Korea, an ally whose co-operation is vital to resolving the North Korea crisis. At a moment when South Korea needs to be able to trust America's commitments, Mr. Trump has unwisely hinted at abrogating an important bilateral trade deal, thus potentially ceding more economic ground to China, and accused its new president, Moon Jae-in, of "appeasement" toward North Korea. The South Koreans are so upset, there is talk among some of developing their own nuclear weapons, which would compound the present insanity.

Containing the North is not a simple task. President Bill Clinton worked out a deal that froze the North's plutonium program for eight years, only to see the agreement collapse under George W. Bush. The North's nuclear program is now far more advanced, making getting rid of it, or even containing it, a lot harder.

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, is certainly playing a dangerous game; Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, warned Monday that Mr. Kim is "begging for war." But unless he is completely deranged he must know that war with the United States would be suicide. He seems to regard nuclear weapons as his only guarantee of survival in the face of American hostility.

He has reason to worry: Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, gave up his nascent nuclear program in 2003 in return for promises of economic integration with the West. But when rebels rose up against him, he was bombed by the United States and its allies, then executed by rebels.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have insisted that the United States is not aiming for regime change. But it could be doing considerably more to lower the temperature and lead the way to a more peaceful solution. On Sunday, Mr. Mattis seemed intent on doing just the opposite, promising a "massive military response" in return for "any threat" — not just an attack but the threat of an attack — against the United States; its territories, like Guam; or its allies. And while Mr. Mattis and Mr. Tillerson have both hinted at dialogue with the North, Mr. Trump tweeted that "talking is not the answer!"

Ms. Haley pressed the Security Council this week to impose an oil ban on North Korea. That's a likely nonstarter, since it would mostly affect China, which is the North's primary oil supplier and has long resisted such a ban because it fears it could set off a collapse of the Kim regime, a flood of refugees into China and the reunification of the Korean Peninsula under South Korea. Many experts also doubt the usefulness of sanctions as a tool to force the North to abandon its nuclear weapons, which Pyongyang sees as the only real leverage it has on the global stage.

Ms. Haley's boss seems no less enamoured of the China card, threatening to end trade with China if it does not curtail trade with the North — a completely empty threat given the powerful economic ties between China and the United States and China's pivotal role in the global economy. Mr. Trump would be better advised to work with China on a diplomatic initiative that could include the threat of tougher sanctions but would offer the North a deal in which Pyongyang would freeze its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for some American concessions, like a reduction in military exercises.

It is not at all clear that Mr. Kim is interested in talking. But Mr. Trump needs to test the possibility before design or miscalculation leads to war.



Sept. 6

Orange County Register on the need for congressional action to replace the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program:

The Trump administration's announcement that the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program will be rescinded should prompt needed congressional action to protect young immigrants whose sole offence was being brought here by their parents.

Giving the Congress six months to act before DACA permits begin to expire, President Trump issued a statement criticizing President Obama for "making an end-run around Congress and violating the core tenets that sustain our Republic" by creating the program.

"There can be no path to principled immigration reform if the executive branch is able to rewrite or nullify federal laws at will," he said.

While the details of any possible future immigration reform effort remain to be hammered out, it is imperative that DACA recipients are finally given the sort of permanent protections that can only be achieved through the legislative process.

Approximately 800,000 young immigrants, mostly in their 20s, are currently protected by DACA, with many more potentially eligible. This includes 222,795 Californians who have received DACA protections.

Far from an open-borders policy, the DACA program responsibly limited eligibility to undocumented immigrants who entered the country before their 16th birthday, arrived here prior to June 2007 and have lived here ever since.

Eligible applicants must either be in school, have graduated from high school or have been honourably discharged from the U.S. military. Under the program, young immigrants are eligible to have deportations deferred and may legally work in the United States, with renewals required every two years.

For all intents and purposes, these immigrants are as American as native-born Americans, with many having no memory of or any meaningful connection to the country in which they were born. To punish young people for having been brought to the United States as children by their parents, beyond their control, would be an unconscionable disregard of people who have done nothing wrong.

Clearly, the DACA program, which only provided temporary protections by way of an easily discarded, legally shaky executive action, was not a viable long-term solution.

With President Trump's decision to allow Congress six months in which to act, Congress must not allow the future of potentially over one million young immigrants to be thrown into turmoil due simply to political inertia.

Fortunately, bipartisan legislation has already been introduced, including the DREAM Act of 2017 (S.1615), sponsored by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Democrats including California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. The proposal would provide a path to citizenship for young, law-abiding undocumented immigrants.

It is vital that Congress not perpetuate needless confusion and harm by allowing our currently dysfunctional immigration laws to become a weapon against young immigrants. The Congress must act quickly to bring certainty and dignity to the Dreamers and allow them to live as the Americans they already are.



Sept. 3

The Boston Herald on the Los Angeles' City Council's decision to rename Columbus Day:

Into the sea of battles that don't need to be fought comes the latest effort to wipe out those historical figures who more current history has deemed less than perfect.

The latest target? Christopher Columbus, of course. Already statues of the man who set foot on this continent in 1492 are under fire — especially in New York, where Mayor Bill DeBlasio has called for a 90-day review of "all symbols of hate" in the city.

But also targeted is the day set aside in October to celebrate his arrival in the New World.

Now for many Americans the second Monday in October represents simply another long weekend at a particularly lovely time of year for parades or leaf peeping. For Italian-Americans Columbus Day has long represented a celebration of their proud heritage and of their acceptance — not without its own struggles — into the American mainstream.

But there are those who today consider this celebration of the arrival of Columbus on these shores, as Chrissie Castro of the Los Angeles Native American Indian Commission put it, "a state-sponsored celebration of genocide of indigenous people."

So henceforth in Los Angeles by vote of the City Council the second Monday in October will be Indigenous Peoples Day as it is in Seattle, Albuquerque, Denver and most recently Bangor, Maine.

Prior to the LA vote, the head of an Italian-American group pleaded with Native Americans present saying, "We want to celebrate with you."

But there is no compromise with those bent on emphasizing that which divides rather than unites us.



Sept. 4

The Houston Chronicle calls for the cleanup of federal Superfund site engulfed during Hurricane Harvey:

After Noah survived the great deluge, God placed a rainbow in the sky as an everlasting covenant with man, promising to never again punish the Earth with such a deadly flood.

Any rainbow sheen you may see today across the Gulf Coast floodwaters is no godly doing. Runoff from chemical plants, petroleum pipelines and at least a dozen Superfund sites risks transforming the destructive rain into a putrid stew filled with lead, arsenic and other toxic and carcinogenic chemicals.

So you can't help but worry when looking at the pictures of the Vita Bella assisted-living centre during Hurricane Harvey — an elderly woman calmly knitting in the Dickinson nursing home while the brown waters swirl around her feet.

They could have used an ark.

The image was shocking enough to hasten a rescue, but the damage may have already been done. After all, some of the worst flood hazards can't be picked up by photograph.

"There's no need to test it. It's contaminated. There's millions of contaminants," Porfirio Villarreal, a spokesman for the city of Houston Health Department told the New York Times as to the floodwaters.

Nowhere is the risk more worrisome than the San Jacinto waste pits, which sit between the communities of Highlands and Channelview. One of the San Jacinto waste pits, covered by a temporary armoured cap, was partially submerged in the river even before Hurricane Harvey. Now they're totally engulfed.

Last year, the Army Corps of Engineers predicted the protective device might not be reliable "under very extreme hydrologic events which could erode a sizable portion of the cap."

Harvey — which has been called a 1,000-year-flood — would certainly qualify. Now we have to worry that the cap was damaged and the toxic mess has spread downriver to Galveston Bay.

As part of the recovery efforts, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt should make time to visit the submerged pits, which were designated a federal Superfund site in 2008.

Pruitt has said he plans to create a "top-10 list" of key Superfund sites and target sites where "the risk of human exposure is not fully controlled."

The pits fit the bill: They've been ravaged by weather and contain dioxin, a highly toxic chemical that increases the risk for several cancers, including lung cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and has been linked to birth defects, liver damage and dermatological disorders.

The EPA actually proposed a solution to the pits last year: Remove about 202,000 cubic yards of contaminated material at cost of nearly $100 million. Of course, the cost and nature of the remediation may have changed depending on whether the armoured cap has been damaged.

Regardless, Pruitt should cut through the bureaucratic red tape that has slowed the cleanup of this site and act boldly in holding companies responsible for past contamination.

This site has been unsafe for over 60 years — longer than many Texans have been alive. It is time to finally clean up our river. Any Harvey recovery bill must fund this sort of ecological repair alongside the economic and infrastructure needs.

"For years our communities and local government have told the EPA it is not a matter of if, but when, a storm devastates the pits," Jackie Young, executive director of the Texas Health and Environment Alliance, told the editorial board.

The federal government bears responsibility for Superfund sites like the San Jacinto waste pits, and it falls on Pruitt to uphold his part of that covenant.



Sept. 6

The Los Angeles Times on President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program:

On the campaign trail, as part of his cynical campaign to exploit fear of immigrants, Donald Trump repeatedly attacked an Obama administration policy that offered protection to people who had been living illegally in the United States since they were children. "A horrible order," he called it, promising it would be "ended immediately." Then, after the election — perhaps worrying that such a mean-spirited move might backfire politically — Trump softened, saying he was "gonna deal with" those receiving deferrals "with heart." For some months, it was unclear what he would do.

But on Tuesday morning, he made the decision he so often does: the wrong one. In a brief written statement, Trump killed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an act of pure cruelty that threatens the well-being of nearly 800,000 people who live in the country illegally through no fault of their own but as a result of decisions made by their parents.

The president apparently lacked the courage himself to stand before the cameras and publicly dash the dreams of hundreds of thousands of people, so Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions made the announcement in a speech that was low in details and high in praise of his boss.

The best that can be said for it is that those who have already been granted what is known as "deferred status" will not be immediately or suddenly cut off. Instead, the administration will give Congress six months to decide whether to renew the protections legislatively before ending them.

Unfortunately, the chances of Congress rising to the challenge are aggravatingly slim, given the discord among Republicans over pretty much every major issue facing the nation. So a "wind down," as Sessions called it, offers little comfort to hundreds of thousands of people raised as Americans; what consolation is it to know that as of a certain date, they will no longer be able to live and work legally in the country where they were raised and educated and where many now lead productive lives?

There are many aspects of the immigration system and immigration enforcement that need vigorous debate, but it's beyond the pale that the government thinks it's wise policy to not offer relief to people who were raised here and educated here but don't have legal status because of decisions made by their parents. From a cost-benefit standpoint, American school districts have invested in these children just as they have in U.S. citizens, but now the Trump administration has set the stage for those investments to be kicked out of the country.

Who are the people currently holding deferments? They are young men and women like Antonio Cisnero, born in Acapulco and now living in Pomona, who is studying at Cal State L.A. (while working full time to pay for his education) for a career in biomedical engineering. Maria Lizeth Ruiz was born in Mexico City and now lives in Costa Mesa; she wants to become a court interpreter. Eunsoo Jeong, who came from South Korea to California as a 13-year-old, used DACA status to graduate from college and get a job in a Burbank animation lab. Jesus Contreras arrived in the U.S. from Mexico when he was 6, and he spent the last week doing his job in Houston — as a paramedic helping save people from flooding associated with Hurricane Harvey.

What public good is achieved by yanking such people from their homes, families and communities and sending them to countries where they are strangers and often don't even speak the language? Sessions argued that Obama's initial executive actions were illegal and unconstitutional — an assertion that seems based on a wilful misreading of law and precedent. And he said the orders must be overturned because the U.S. is a nation of laws, a laughable statement from an administration that recently pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio on his conviction for flouting court orders.

There is a fix for this. Congress can and should resurrect the DREAM Act and make it national policy to offer these people a path to legalization. Under the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (just as under DACA), participants can't have had a serious criminal past and must be in school, or have graduated or serve in the military. They can't pose a threat to public safety or national security. American society and institutions have moulded these young men and women; many of them already are productive members of society.

Several versions of the DREAM Act have been introduced by both Democrats and Republicans. In fact, polls show that even a majority of Republican voters believe the so-called Dreamers deserve help and protection, and many Republican members of Congress agree.

So here's an idea: How about members of Congress set aside their tribal differences and actually do something that the American people say they want?



Sept. 6

The Japan News on proposed United Nations sanctions limiting crude oil supply to North Korea:

In order to stop North Korea from taking reckless actions, there is no other way but for the international community, including China and Russia, to keep in step with each other and exert maximum pressure on the country, centring around the limiting of its crude oil supply.

The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting in response to North Korea's sixth nuclear test.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the meeting emphatically that "only the strongest sanctions will enable us to resolve this problem through diplomacy." She also indicated that the United States is considering shortly distributing a draft of a new security council resolution for imposing sanctions on North Korea.

The United States has called for putting the draft to a vote on Sept. 11, probably based on their conclusion that the situation has become critical, with North Korea highly likely to take provocative action again, such as firing a ballistic missile, to mark its national foundation day on Sept. 9.

Koro Bessho, Japan's ambassador to the U.N., echoed the U.S. call, saying that the international community "must apply maximum pressure on North Korea to make the country change its policy." Swift adoption of an effective resolution is called for.

The United States and Japan aim to include a restriction on crude oil supply to North Korea in a new resolution. This is because a reduction in crude oil shipped via China's pipelines to North Korea would deal a serious blow to Pyongyang both economically and militarily, possibly prompting the country to change its hard-line stance.

U.S. President Donald Trump has hinted at his country expanding its own sanctions against those enterprises doing business with North Korea, pressing China to respond positively. He is also discussing taking military measures against North Korea.

Unless China and Russia change their cautious stance toward intensifying pressure on Pyongyang, their position will invite more provocative actions from North Korea, making a peaceful solution less likely. Both China and Russia should realize that such a stance would also become detrimental to their economic interests.

It is worrisome that North Korea is making use of loopholes in sanctions via various means. After China suspended coal imports from North Korea, Pyongyang rerouted its coal exports to Malaysia and Vietnam.

North Korea is also suspected to have carried out a cyberattack on an account held by Bangladesh's central bank, stealing 9 billion by fraudulently transferring it out.

Not to be left intact either is the current state of affairs in which North Korea has dispatched large numbers of workers abroad, earning foreign currency.

At an out-of-session meeting of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Foreign Minister Taro Kono pointed out that "in the Middle East, there is a country that takes in North Korean workers in units of 1,000." He also indicated that he plans to raise this problem during his visits to countries in the Middle East, which start on Friday.

It is important for all member countries to implement sanctions on North Korea steadily, and to reinforce international efforts to contain the country.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly held telephone talks with the leaders of the United States and South Korea. The more tense the situation over the North Korean issue becomes, the more important close co-operation among Japan, the United States and South Korea becomes. Abe has also asked Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone to co-operate. Abe should make his summit talks with Putin, to be held in Vladivostok, Russia, an opportunity to close the gap between the position of Russia and that of Japan and the United States.


News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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