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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Last Updated Feb 14, 2018 at 4:21 pm EDT

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Feb. 11

The Washington Post on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention needing money to prepare for the next pandemic:

Pick any of the serious infectious-disease outbreaks of recent years, and the chances are it started in one country and spread to others. The swine flu pandemic began in Mexico and soon swept into the United States; severe acute respiratory syndrome began in southern China and soon was in dozens of countries; the 2014-2015 Ebola virus disease outbreak that killed 11,314 people began in Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and threatened many others. The basic facts, that pathogens don’t stop at passport control and move fast in today’s globalized world, are why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been active in so many places abroad since the Ebola catastrophe.

At the time of the Ebola crisis, Congress approved a one-time, five-year emergency supplemental spending package, of which $600 million was sent to the CDC to help countries prevent infectious-disease threats from turning into epidemics. Anticipating that that money will run out in October 2019, the CDC has begun notifying country directors to begin planning withdrawal from 39 of 49 countries. This is not a pullout of all CDC programs — activity abroad will go on in such areas as fighting polio, malaria, HIV and tuberculosis — but it does mean retreating from frontline outposts for preventing, detecting and responding to outbreaks. According to The Post’s Lena H. Sun, the CDC plans to pull out of China, Pakistan, Haiti, Rwanda and Congo, among others, but would remain engaged in 10 nations.

A retreat will be counterproductive. The money is a small fraction of what pandemics can cost later on. The CDC programs train front-line workers in outbreak detection and work to strengthen laboratory and emergency response systems. A coalition of groups supporting the program reminded the Trump administration recently that the Ebola outbreak alone cost U.S. taxpayers $5.4 billion in an emergency supplemental appropriation. The CDC program is a good example of a relatively small investment that can pay big dividends and is part of a global health security initiative launched during the Obama years.

Congress should not let the CDC effort lapse. We’re not sanguine about the fiscal situation, with big tax cuts now in place and a new budget deal just signed that seems to be opening up the spending spigots. However, if the resources are available, this program merits a claim on them. The next pandemic will come along sooner or later. The United States should not wait for the winds and waters to carry it here; far better to be prepared and vigilant abroad, and to fully underwrite the CDC’s ability to do so.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/

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Feb. 11

Japan News on why no improvement is possible in Korea relations without denuclearization:

It is obvious that Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, has intensified his dialogue offensive to win over South Korea.

Precautions need to be taken against a situation in which a rift would emerge in international efforts to contain North Korea, while there is no progress being made on the North Korean nuclear issue.

In tandem with the opening of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, a high-level North Korean delegation visited South Korea and held talks with South Korean President Moon Jae In. Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the North Korean leader, handed a personal letter from Kim Jong Un to Moon and asked Moon to visit North Korea at an early date. The letter was said to contain the leader’s willingness to improve South-North relations.

Kim Yo Jong, as a special envoy for Kim Jong Un, joined the delegation led by Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea. It is the first visit to South Korea by a direct descendant of the North’s three generations of supreme leaders, which began with Kim Il Sung.

Moon emphasized that the delegation’s visit to South Korea has become an opportunity for easing tension and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula and improving South-North relations.

Regarding summit talks between the two Koreas, Moon said, “Let us make it happen by creating the necessary conditions,” showing his positive stance.

Not to be overlooked is that Moon did not directly demand the North abandon its nuclear development programs. Moon only went so far as to say, “An early resumption of dialogue between the United States and the North is also needed for the development” of South-North relations.

Moon should hold fast

The North Korean nuclear issue is also directly linked to South Korea’s national security. Moon should recognize that he himself has to press North Korea to denuclearize, rather than relegating the issue to dialogue between the United States and North Korea.

Leaders of countries gathered at a reception dinner in Pyeongchang.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe demanded of Kim Yong Nam that North Korea resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea and abandon its nuclear and missile development programs.

Moon tried to engineer U.S.-North Korean contact at the dinner, but U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence refused to agree. His refusal apparently indicated his intention of maintaining a hard-line stance toward North Korea, without being swayed by the reconciliatory mood between the two Koreas.

A difference in the degree of enthusiasm between Japan and the United States on one hand, and South Korea on the other is apparent. Taking aim at South Korea, which it considers the easiest target for undermining the solidarity among the three nations, North Korea is trying to sow discord among them. Moon may be playing right into the North’s hands.

Lying behind Pyongyang’s promotion of “smile diplomacy” is the economic sanctions on that country starting to prove effective. It should not be forgotten that the exertion of continuous pressure on Pyongyang will change its actions.

The future situation on the Korean Peninsula will be swayed by the handling of the joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, which has been postponed. The United States has made it clear that it will carry out the drills in April, after the Olympics and Paralympics. North Korea, which persistently seeks for the drills to be suspended, will undoubtedly put further pressure on South Korea.

The drills are aimed at deterring North Korea from making military provocations, and maintaining and reinforcing readiness to deal with contingencies. Moon should make efforts to hold fast to the U.S.-South Korean alliance.

Online: http://the-japan-news.com/

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Feb. 13

Orange County Register (Santa Ana, California) on Republicans abandoning even the pretense of fiscal responsibility with the budget deal:

With the budget deal signed last week, the White House and Congress have abandoned even the pretense of fiscal responsibility.

The bipartisan budget deal passed on Feb. 9 suspended the debt ceiling through March 1, 2019, increased spending by $300 billion and raised spending caps first put in place in 2011 at the peak of the tea party movement.

It also keeps the federal government on track to hit $1 trillion annual deficits.

For that kind of outcome to occur under the watch of a Republican-controlled White House, Senate and the House of Representatives should disabuse anyone of the notion that overspending is an exclusively Democratic problem and that Republicans can be depended upon for fiscal discipline.

It’s a complete reversal from the tough talk of Republicans during the Obama administration, something Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, pointed out in a Sunday appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Elected in 2010 as part of the tea party tidal wave that gave Republicans control of the House, Paul recalled the widespread condemnations of $1 trillion deficits under President Obama. “I’m still against deficit spending; just because Republicans are doing it, doesn’t make it any better,” he said.

Unfortunately, President Trump’s new budget plan only takes the discussion even further in the wrong direction. The 2019 spending plan from the White House calls for $4.4 trillion in spending against $3.4 trillion in revenue, which thereby leaves the $1 trillion deficit. The White House plan also projects a near $1 trillion deficit in 2020 followed by a decade of continued deficit spending, ending in 2028 with deficit of $363 billion.

This is not a responsible path forward. Saddling current and future generations with massive debts because of a desire for a bloated federal government with lower taxes than necessary to finance that desire is not a responsible way of governing.

As beneficial as tax cuts signed in December might be, they will ultimately aggravate the gap between spending and revenues. For principled fiscal conservatives, the idea should be to reduce spending accordingly. That is easier said than done, of course, but members of Congress are ostensibly there to do the hard work of solving difficult problems.

For now, it seems, Republican leaders are split on how to effectively tackle the deficit.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has talked about the need for entitlement reform as part of any true attempt to balance the federal budget, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in December that entitlement reform wouldn’t be on the agenda this year, and President Trump has shown little interest in it.

Where they seem to agree, though, is on higher military spending. At some point, fiscal conservatives must be open to the possibility that throwing more money at the military might not be consistent with their vision for limited government or fiscal responsibility. As Sen. Paul encouraged fellow Republicans to think about, “Is the military budget too small or maybe is our mission too large around the world?”

While they’re trying to have it both ways, Republicans must choose between commitments to fiscal responsibility or whatever compels them to drive up $1 trillion deficits once in power.

Online: http://www.ocregister.com/

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Feb. 13

Chicago Tribune on the safety of baseball netting:

It happens in the blink of an eye: A pitch arrives at the plate, the batter swings and a baseball or a bat rockets into the stands. In most cases, there is no harm beyond a few spilled nachos. But sometimes a fan fails to get out of the way, with grim consequences.

Last fall, a toddler sitting with her grandparents at Yankee Stadium was struck in the face by a 105-mph foul that broke her nose and orbital bones and caused bleeding in her brain. A Schaumburg man sued the Cubs last year after an errant drive left him with facial fractures and unable to see out of one eye. In 2010, a 39-year-old mother of two attending a minor league game in Texas suffered a fatal injury from a drive that hit her head.

These are not as rare as you might think. A Bloomberg News investigation found that some 1,750 fans are injured each year at major league games.

Major League Baseball has been quick to adopt technological changes to keep fans entertained, even though it means some of them spend more time looking at their smartphones than at the field. It has been slower to address the dangers of such distraction for those sitting close to the plate but beyond the protective netting behind it.

In 2015, it recommended that teams extend the nets to the inside edge of each dugout. Most teams, to their credit, went even further, installing protection to the far end of each dugout. Both the Cubs and White Sox have committed to follow suit.

Last month, with spring training fast approaching, the last two holdouts, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays, said they would do the same before opening day. Commissioner Rob Manfred had been expected to mandate such changes.

He and the teams are wise to look for ways to make the game safer for spectators. Some fans don’t like to watch behind nets, but most quickly forget their presence — and none wants to suffer or see a serious injury during what is supposed to be an enjoyable diversion.

But the change was not entirely altruistic. A New York City councilman had proposed an ordinance requiring the Yankees and Mets to string netting all the way to the foul poles — which is the norm in Japan. Some injuries have led to lawsuits, and delaying improvements amounted to inviting more legal troubles.

The professional sport has long enjoyed the shield of the “Baseball Rule,” which is printed on tickets to warn that spectators attend at their own risk. But that protection, though recognized by the courts, has been called into question by the nature of modern ballparks.

“People can now interact using their cellphones while sitting in their seats,” Chicago attorney Timothy Liam Epstein told The Seattle Times. “And so, you now have venue owners and teams that are participating actively in individual, targeted distractions that would seem to be a relatively easy way for a plaintiff’s attorney to defeat a presumption of the case getting tossed under the ‘Baseball Rule.’ ” Last year, the Atlanta Braves reached a settlement with the father of a 6-year-old girl who suffered a fractured skull from a foul ball.

Team owners would rather not write that kind of check. Fans would rather not incur that kind of injury. With expanded netting is in place, both will be a lot safer.

Online: Online: http://www.chicagotribune.com/

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Feb. 12

The Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer on due process amid recent abuse allegations:

The American principle of due process should be used neither as a political football nor a reason to excuse credibly accused abusers who are unlikely to face criminal or civil proceedings. Doing so undermines faith in the criminal justice system and makes it more difficult for victims to receive justice and for the innocent to clear their names.

And, yet, that’s precisely what the Trump administration has been doing, beginning with the president himself.

“Peoples (sic) lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” Donald Trump tweeted Saturday. “Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

The president seemed to be responding to reports about how his administration egregiously handled allegations of domestic abuse by a top White House aide, though some believe it was in defence of a Republican donor, Steve Wynn. Rob Porter, the White House aide, has been accused by two ex-wives of serial domestic abuse. Porter denied the charges, but the evidence included a photo of one of his ex-wives with a blackened eye. The FBI interviewed the women months ago and were told of the allegations, and many inside the White House also knew. Still, they denied anything was wrong and argued in favour of Porter – until the photo made that impossible.

Due process is a critically important standard. It most often refers to defendants having fair trials and representation in a court of law. That’s a legal standard that must always be protected. We should expect the same adherence to the presumption of innocence in the court of public opinion. Baseless accusations should not be allowed to ruin people’s lives.

Due process is a bridge, not a barrier, to justice for the accused and the victim. It means both sides get heard. A lack of due process has forced countless women to endure rather than expose abuse they’ve experienced in their homes. The principle of due process must apply even outside of the courtroom, which means a full, fair hearing wherever disputes erupt. There would be no crisis of sexual abuse and harassment had supervisors throughout the country guaranteed victims fair treatment in their workplaces. Had there been an adherence to that principle, maybe Strategic Behavioral Center in south Charlotte wouldn’t be under investigation for not taking seriously allegations of abuse.

North Carolina knows well what can happen to the falsely accused when due process is short-circuited. Just ask the 2006 Duke lacrosse team.

Porter’s ex-wives, who said they suffered repeated abuse from the now former White House aide, were denied due process. They endured in silence for years.

They are now being heard. No one, not even the president of the United States, should be allowed to make them silent again.

Online: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/

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Feb. 14

Los Angeles Times on a federal judge’s ruling about Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers:

One of the tools in the federal government’s immigration enforcement kit is the detainer — a written request by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to a state prison or local jail to hold a person suspected of being in the country illegally for up to 48 hours beyond his or her scheduled release. ICE makes the requests to give immigration agents time to go pick up the person for possible deportation.

But, as a federal judge recently told the federal government — again — holding someone without charge or a court order violates the 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable seizure.

The most recent decision came in a lawsuit over the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s involvement in the Secure Communities program, which the Obama administration created and then abandoned, but which the Trump administration has revived. (The county no longer takes part in Secure Communities.) Under the program, local jails co-operate with ICE in identifying people held in county jails who might be in the country illegally, and then hold those inmates for up to 48 hours if ICE sends a detainer requesting it.

That is wrong. Anti-immigration folks tend to stuff their fingers in their ears when this part of the issue comes up, but every person physically present in the U.S. enjoys the protections of the Constitution regardless of immigration status. A tourist accused of shoplifting is entitled to the same due process rights as an American citizen, including access to a government-paid lawyer if the accused can’t afford one. Neither a citizen nor an immigrant should be incarcerated if there are no charges against them.

Immigration law is primarily a civil matter, not a criminal matter. Although it is a crime to sneak into the U.S. without permission, simply being here without a visa or other document is not a criminal act. Notably, many undocumented immigrants enter the country legally but then never leave, a violation of civil codes. And local police do not have the authority to jail someone over a suspected civil violation. A detainer letter from ICE is a nonbinding request and falls far short of the authority a court order. So every time a local jail or state prison honours an ICE detainer that is not based on an arrest warrant or court order and fails to release an inmate who has qualified for bail or served out a court-imposed sentence, local officials violate the inmate’s constitutional rights.

The federal government knows this, and local governments should too, because violating constitutional rights is not just wrong, it’s expensive for taxpayers. A 2014 ruling in Oregon cost Clackamas County $30,100 plus Maria Miranda-Olivares’ legal costs because the county jail, honouring an ICE detainer, refused to let her sister post $500 bail set by a county judge. (Miranda-Olivares was accused of violating a restraining order.) In 2014, Utah’s Salt Lake County paid former inmate Enrique Uroza $75,000 to settle a lawsuit after the sheriff, acting on an immigration detainer, refused to release Uroza even though the defendant had posted bail on an unrelated criminal charge. Again, the prolonged detention the result of a criminal accusation, but because of the civil immigration request, which has no legal force. In fact, there have been at least 14 such cases since 2011, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

We’d hope the government would learn from these decisions — or that the courts would issue an injunction that could be enforced nationwide — and stop such blatant violations of the 4th Amendment. This is not part of the so-called “sanctuary city” policies the Trump administration likes to complain about. No person, regardless of legal status, should be deprived of freedom purely on the say-so of a government agency.

It should also be noted that a number of people jailed under ICE detainers are, in fact, U.S. citizens or people living here with permission. NPR reported that from 2007 to 2017, about 700 U.S. citizens were held in jails or prisons after their release dates because ICE investigators misidentified them as noncitizens without legal status (another 820 were picked up elsewhere and held in immigration detention centres until they could prove their citizenship). Ending the use of warrantless detainers would help reduce that.

Online: http://www.latimes.com