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Editorial Roundup: U.S.

·18-min read

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

Oct.18

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Colin Powell's efforts to build bridges, steer GOP from extremism:

Much as Colin Powell deserves a tribute as America’s first Black secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was under-recognized as a bridge-builder and champion of political moderation. Powell, who died Monday, was a Republican who dared to challenge his own party’s orthodoxy and tried to avert its drift toward right-wing extremism. The fact that he was later joined in his call for moderation by one of the architects of that rightward lurch — former Vice President Dick Cheney — attests to Powell’s judgment and thoughtful foresight.

Cheney was adamant about launching the 2003 Iraq war and was willing to engage in the worst forms of political subterfuge to get his way. He enlisted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a campaign to deceive Americans — and the world — into believing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Powell’s was the loudest and most persistent voice of dissent in President George W. Bush’s administration, arguing that evidence was flimsy and didn’t justify going to war. Cheney and Rumsfeld ridiculed the retired four-star Army general and Vietnam veteran as weak. Their insistence on the Iraqi threat (non-existent though it later proved to be) convinced Bush that an invasion was necessary. The result was a costly, deadly and highly unpopular war that destabilized the region and wound up drawing troops and resources away from America’s well-justified war in Afghanistan. Both wars ultimately would conclude in humiliating U.S. retreats.

Long before that, however, was Powell’s own humiliation. Bush, under heavy pressure from Cheney, ordered Powell to compile the most persuasive case he could for United Nations support for the Iraq invasion. Powell, an obedient soldier to the end who believed first and foremost in honoring the chain of command, gave a 76-minute Security Council speech aided by enlarged intelligence photos and visual aids purporting to prove that Iraq was developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Across America, those who dared to question Cheney and Rumsfeld found themselves bombarded with right-wing attacks on their patriotism. Powell recognized that this dangerous trend screamed for correction before it got out of control. After resigning as secretary of state in 2005, he admitted the U.N. speech was a “blot” on his legacy. In 2008, Powell wanted to endorse his longtime friend, Republican Sen. John McCain, for the presidency. But he feared McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate would pull the GOP even further to the right.

Powell broke with his party and backed Democrat Barack Obama instead. He later endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid over Donald Trump.

In the ultimate affirmation of Powell’s good judgment, he was joined recently in the call for GOP political moderation by none other than Cheney himself.

Powell was “simply and completely, a leader,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated Monday. “… He gave us his decency.”

ONLINE: https://www.stltoday.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-colin-powell-sought-to-build-bridges-and-steer-his-party-away-from-extremism/article_21320f65-c06d-5a29-bf98-0e27baaa17ba.html

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Oct. 18

The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer on unvaccinated police officers:

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth shows of bravery and dedication from nurses, doctors and other health-care workers. In a less dramatic way, other essential workers, from supermarket clerks to bus drivers, have stepped up to serve the public at risk to themselves.

But alongside these impressive efforts has emerged a puzzling disappointment — pockets of law-enforcement officers who refuse to get vaccinated. From Los Angeles to Chicago to New York City, a surprisingly high percentage of those who have taken an oath to protect and serve the public are — with the support of their police unions — choosing to put themselves, their fellow officers and the public at risk.

That resistance came to Raleigh last week. A group of 118 city employees – including 53 police officers and 48 firefighters – has united under the banner of City of Raleigh Freedom to Choose (CRFC). The group hired Raleigh attorney James R. Lawrence, III, who has presented the city with a 14-page letter threatening legal action. CRFC says that the city’s rules on vaccinations represent illegal discrimination. Raleigh’s city manager has ordered that all city employees show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly COVID tests and that only vaccinated city employees will be considered for promotion.

Charlotte has likewise faced vaccine resistance among its officers. The Police Department’s 66.5 percent vaccination rate is the third lowest among Charlotte’s city departments, WCNC reported. In the U.S., 78 percent of adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Charlotte has stopped short of mandating vaccinations, but it has offered cash rewards for city employees who get the shot and it requires that the unvaccinated to be tested weekly. The city also requires that all new hires be vaccinated.

The resistance among U.S. law-enforcement officers is particularly striking given the toll the virus has taken on their ranks as the leading cause of officer deaths. Since the start of the pandemic, 476 officers have died from COVID-19 compared to 94 killed by gunfire and about 100 who died in vehicle-related incidents, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Still, the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police remains neutral on the issue. William H. Hollingsed, the group’s executive director, said in a statement: “As an association, we feel like this decision is up to individual agencies and municipalities. Individuals in the law-enforcement profession, the same as those in the medical profession, other emergency services, transportation, education, etc., have different feelings toward a vaccination mandate.”

In Raleigh, the police holdouts say their refusal is about freedom. In its letter to the city, the CRFC said that its members are not opposed to vaccines, but they oppose “top-down mandates, coercion, and control. Fundamentally, CRFC is for freedom and for respect of the individual.”

No, officers refusing to get vaccinated is not about freedom. It’s about shirking their duty. As police departments seek to improve their culture in response to protests against police abuses, now may be a good time to let go of officers who resist the rules at the public’s expense.

Fortunately, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin is standing firm on her city’s vaccination rules. She said the city will ignore the CRFC letter.

“Our job is to make sure our employees are safe and our community is safe,” she told the Editorial Board.

Baldwin noted that the testing of unvaccinated city workers has found seven who tested positive. Those results helped prevent the infection of other employees and members of the public.

“There are real implications to the choices being made,” Baldwin said. “Testing at least helps us curb exposure.”

Law-enforcement officers should be the first to choose to protect each other and the public. Instead, some are choosing their freedom to do otherwise.

ONLINE: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/article255046372.html#storylink=cpy

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Oct 16

The Dallas Morning News on a school district's Holocaust controversy:

If any American community embodies the national frenzy about how we teach race in schools, it’s Southlake. The acrimony over Carroll ISD’s diversity plan to tackle racism reshaped the school board, drew unflattering headlines and inspired a podcast by NBC News.

Now the ugly debate in Southlake has twisted into something unthinkable.

On Thursday, news broke that a Carroll ISD administrator advised teachers to make sure classroom libraries featuring books about the Holocaust also included “opposing” perspectives. The administrator, Gina Peddy, was directing teachers on how to vet books in light of a new state law meant to ban critical race theory in schools.

Let’s start with the obvious: Nazis and their collaborators slaughtered more than 6 million Jewish people. There should be no denial of the Holocaust nor any defense of it, and we should never wander into a place where our teachers might be pressed to treat it as anything other than the unspeakably evil act it was.

The views of Nazis are not morally equivalent to those of the people they terrorized. If our children are to study a perspective other than those of victims, it should be a lesson on how some of our fellow citizens will contort facts and deny others their humanity for their own purposes. It should be a lesson on how those actions are indefensible.

What happened in Southlake this month is the unfortunate outcome of a new and misguided state law against critical race theory that passed earlier this year. While the law doesn’t define the term or even mention it, it was crafted by legislators in the context of a national panic about how our country confronts racism.

A major sticking point for educators was a requirement that teachers not be compelled to discuss current events in class, and that those who do so explore “diverse and contending perspectives” without giving deference to any particular one. Educators and other critics of the legislation warned that it was vague and that it would create confusion and lead teachers to avoid issues such as racism. Some worried it would force them to straddle the fence on something like a white supremacist rally.

Peddy clearly misunderstood the law, which instructs teachers on how to discuss any “particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” That does not describe the Holocaust. Still, many teachers are terrified about the climate in schools right now, as one of them told Peddy during the book-vetting training session. Photos show Carroll ISD classroom libraries covered with yellow caution tape or black sheets of paper.

“We are in the middle of a political mess,” Peddy said, according to a recording obtained by NBC News. “And you are in the middle of a political mess.”

There should be no moral confusion in our schools about the evils of the Holocaust, of slavery, of white supremacy. But educators are overreacting to the new state law out of fear of getting in trouble, and our lawmakers should have never put them in this predicament. They must revise the law or repeal it.

This awful episode could ratchet up tensions in Southlake even higher. How much more discord can a community take?

We hope Southlake parents will agree that the hostility has gone on too long. It’s evident that this political mess only exacerbates feuds. There have been more than enough incidents to make it clear why many students and families feel less than welcome in Southlake, so it should be equally clear why the community needs honest and civil discussions about a diversity and inclusion plan.

The Texas Legislature has made it harder for Southlake to find a path toward reconciliation. Our lawmakers should be joining us in these difficult conversations instead of dividing us.

ONLINE: https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/2021/10/16/we-blame-legislative-meddling-for-the-holocaust-controversy-in-southlake/

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Oct. 16

The Detroit News on the travel ban with Canada:

Since the beginning of the pandemic, our border with Canada has remained closed to non-essential travelers. The Biden administration has kept delaying the opening, and now says it will be in early November. If there’s a good reason not to do it now, we’d like to hear it.

The administration didn’t initially set a firm date, which was worrisome, but on Friday said it would happen Nov. 8.

Canada eased travel restrictions for vaccinated Americans more than two months ago, yet we haven’t returned the favor. This isn’t the way to treat a close ally and trading partner.

Given Michigan’s large shared border with Canada, this state is especially impacted. The restrictions have hurt not only economically, but they’ve prevented friends and family from visiting one another, too.

The U.S. seems more concerned about a consistent approach than one that takes an individual country’s record into account. It plans to open the land border with Mexico at the same time as Canada, and to allow fully vaccinated international air travelers into the country as well.

A targeted plan would be smarter. Currently, only two-thirds of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated. In Canada, more than 88% of eligible citizens are fully vaccinated.

On the other hand, Mexico reports a vaccination rate of 53%. There’s more cause for concern with the southern border, and Canada shouldn’t have to pay the price.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have pleaded with Biden officials to open the Canadian border much sooner.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, says the Biden administration has made Canadians and Americans on the northern border pay a disproportionate price. Huizenga co-chairs the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group and says more needs to be done to ease travel.

“For over a year and a half, northern border communities and Canadian-American families have had to live with overly burdensome restrictions that divided them because of the Biden administration’s inability to stem the tide of people illegally entering the United States along our Southern border,” he said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also thinks the easing of restrictions is necessary.

“I’m pleased that President Biden has put forward a public plan that will safely reopen northern land ports of entry to vaccinated travelers,” Peters said. “There is no question travel restrictions at our Northern Border have caused significant disruptions and challenges for Michigan’s cross-border communities and binational families.”

A July letter signed by a bipartisan group of 75 members of Congress warned the Biden administration that keeping the border with Canada largely closed would lead to the loss of 1.1 million jobs and $175 billion by the end of the year.

We’re getting close to the year’s end, and it’s past time for the U.S. to open the border with Canada.

ONLINE: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2021/10/17/editorial-no-reason-continue-travel-ban-canada/8454062002/

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Oct. 19

The Wall Street Journal on Europe’s climate policies aiding Putin:

With winter fast approaching, Europe finds itself in an energy crisis — and reliant on the tender mercies of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. It’s a self-induced disaster years in the making.

European energy prices are up more than five times from a year ago, as Asian consumption has risen and supply has tightened around the world. Russia supplies about half of the Continent’s natural gas, which heats homes and powers industry. While Moscow is fulfilling long-term contracts, it is refusing significant spot gas sales.

Mr. Putin said last week that his country is supplying as much gas as possible, but International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol estimated this month that Russia could boost exports to Europe by 15%. Several Russian officials have made clear that political concessions would ease the crisis.

“Change adversary to partner and things get resolved easier,” Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian ambassador to the European Union, said this month. “When the EU finds enough political will to do this, they will know where to find us.”

Other Kremlin officials, including Mr. Putin, have hinted that providing regulatory approval for the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Europe would help ease the crisis. Moscow wants the pipeline to deepen Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, as well as deprive Ukraine of lucrative gas transit fees it collects from current gas pipelines.

Konstantin Kosachev, an influential Russian legislator, recently told Bloomberg that “we cannot ride to the rescue just to compensate for mistakes that we didn’t commit.” Give him credit for thuggish honesty.

European leaders have handicapped themselves on energy in the name of pursuing a climate agenda that will have no effect on the climate but is raising energy prices, harming consumers and industry, and is now empowering the bullies in the Kremlin.

The U.K. and EU have pledged net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, closing coal plants and pouring billions into solar and wind projects. Germany and several other European countries have largely banned fracking. This has transformed European leaders into the equivalent of 16th-century naval explorers, praying for favorable winds and weather as energy prices rise and fall depending on cloud cover and wind conditions.

Germany also hurt itself when Chancellor Angela Merkel chose to eliminate nuclear power in an overreaction to the 2011 Fukushima accident. Germany will phase out its final nuclear station next year. The European Commission is now debating whether to classify nuclear as a sustainable energy source, which could lower financing costs for nuclear projects. But Germany is opposed.

Europe’s willingness to harm itself in the name of unachievable climate goals is one of the greatest acts of democratic self-sabotage in history. Yet Europe’s leaders are heading to the global climate confab next month in Glasgow to increase their energy masochism. And America’s President Biden is eager to join them in abandoning energy security. Mr. Putin must be amazed at his strategic luck.

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-wests-energy-masochism-russia-vladimir-putin-europe-11634675580

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Oct. 19

The Guardian on net zero strategy to decarbonize Britain:

In a number of ways the net zero strategy published by the UK government on Tuesday falls short of what was hoped for, and perhaps even expected by more optimistic observers. The public investment that ministers have committed to is insufficient, their faith in private-sector solutions overblown.

The combination is concerning. As the host of the upcoming Cop26 summit, and the first major industrialised country to put a net zero target into law, the UK is in a unique position. By significantly upping their ambitions with regard to emissions cuts, ministers had the chance to send a powerful message. Instead, they have hedged many of the new commitments in ways which risk undermining them.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the section of the strategy dealing with the heating of homes and other buildings. Heating accounts for almost a third of the UK’s total emissions, and progress on reducing these has long lagged behind other areas. Bold action to end households’ dependence on gas was urgently needed. But instead of clear deadlines, the strategy states only an “ambition” that by 2035 no new gas boilers will be installed. And while grants to enable 90,000 households to install low-carbon heat pumps are likely to be popular, gestures such as this are not enough.

Just last month the government was strongly criticised by the National Audit Office for the shambolic handling of a £1.5bn green homes scheme. But the net zero strategy does not make it clear how such mistakes are to be put right. A domestic energy-use policy should contain strict new standards for insulation, as well as mandating the switch from dirty to clean energy. This would have the huge bonus of helping people to reduce bills, at a time when the cost of living is rising and average household incomes are certain to be badly squeezed. Instead, the government has concentrated on a business-friendly package, with the promise of £3.9bn funding to help create 240,000 new jobs.

Strong support for the offshore wind sector is one of the strategy’s more positive aspects. This forms part of a wider commitment to decarbonise the electricity supply altogether by 2035, conditional on security of supply. The emphasis on carbon sequestration, both through natural means (peat bogs, trees) and new capture and storage technologies, is welcome. The commitment to build another new nuclear power station, after Hinkley Point C, looks like the least bad answer to the question of how to meet the demand not met by renewables. The further expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure also makes sense, although the government’s broader road policies must be watched closely. While electric cars are a big improvement on internal combustion engines, what is needed is a modal shift away from driving.

Some of the other pledges contained in the document are more fanciful. There is nothing wrong with investing £180m in the development of sustainable aviation fuel. But it is irresponsible for the prime minister to encourage people to envision a future of flying “without guilt”, and to be contemptuous about the idea of scaling back consumption. On diet, particularly meat, the strategy says almost nothing, which is disappointing given the constructive approach taken in the recent national food strategy.

The expansion of fossil fuels in the North Sea should be strongly opposed. The policy announced at the Labour party’s recent conference, of investing £28bn a year on green measures until 2030, would have taken the UK further, faster. But Boris Johnson’s government has set out its chosen path to net zero, and it falls to its critics and opponents to try to speed things up.

ONLINE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/19/the-guardian-view-on-the-net-zero-strategy-not-tough-enough

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