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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Last Updated May 23, 2018 at 7:40 pm EDT

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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May 20

The Japan News questions if French President Emmanuel Macron can serve as a bridge between Europe and the United States:

Can favourable relations with U.S. President Donald Trump be maintained and his excessive “America first” policy also be stemmed? With his administration in its second year, French President Emmanuel Macron has a significant role to fulfil in this regard.

Last month, Macron visited the United States as its first state guest under the Trump administration. Bearing in mind the fact that the United States is going ahead with restrictions on steel and aluminum imports, Macron expressed concerns about “commercial war” in an address to the U.S. Congress.

He has good reason to assert that trade imbalance problems should be resolved at the World Trade Organization.

Macron also calls for maintaining the Iran nuclear accord, from which the United States had decided to withdraw. Based on Trump’s assertion that the accord is “defective,” the French president has advanced a proposal for reconsidering the accord that includes restraints on Iran’s ballistic missile development.

The nuclear agreement is an international deal concluded between six countries — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — and Iran. In exchange for the lifting of sanctions by the United States and European nations, Iran has reduced its nuclear activities.

If the accord collapses, it could serve as a trigger for Iran’s nuclear weapons development. Can the deal be retained in co-operation with such nations as Britain and Germany? This will test Macron’s diplomatic skills.

Macron’s outspoken remarks to the United States may be attributable to the fact that he invited Trump to Paris on Bastille Day in July last year, thereby building a relationship of personal trust between them.

Show benefits of reforms

France’s international image, which declined due to former President Francois Hollande’s misgovernment and unpopularity, is recovering under the Macron administration.

For many years, Britain has served as a bridge between Europe and the United States. During the days of former U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel formed a close relationship between the two sides. It is extraordinary for any French president to come to the fore in this respect.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is moving ahead with plans for her country’s exit from the European Union. Due to the refugee problem and other reasons, Merkel faces a decline in her unifying appeal within the European Union. The changes in Europe’s political map are likely one of the factors behind Macron’s conspicuous presence.

To continue his active diplomacy, it is indispensable for Macron to shore up his political footing through efforts to carry out domestic reforms, a goal announced as one of his election pledges.

Asserting that the excessive protection of workers is hindering corporate activities, Macron has achieved a revision of labour laws to make it easy to dismiss labourers and adjust their working hours. To attract foreign companies, he has also decided to reduce corporate taxes.

This has aroused growing criticism that he is giving corporations preferential treatment, and labour unions are even more intensely opposing his actions. His support rate stands at 44 per cent, down from 62 per cent soon after his inauguration.

Macron needs to demonstrate his achievements gained through painful reforms in a manner that allows his people to tangibly feel them, such as a decline in the unemployment rate.

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

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May 18

The Dallas Morning News says the new immigration policy by President Donald Trump is cruel:

Here’s a frightening reality: Thousands of vulnerable kids may be headed to Texas, which is already overwhelmed with problems in its own child-welfare system.

The Trump administration is scouting three military bases in Texas as possible shelters for migrant children in its new get-tough plan to separate them from parents who’ll be prosecuted for illegally crossing the Mexican border.

We understand that the crackdown — under which even first-time offenders face separation — is intended to discourage others from trying to come here illegally. But separating families seems particularly draconian and inhumane.

To make matters worse, unattached children without a strong supportive network are easy targets for sex traffickers who prey on these kids. With an estimated 79,000 minors and young people ensnared in this illicit trade in hotspot Texas alone, the border crackdown has the potential to leave more young people vulnerable to trafficking.

The federal government has held children in a network of 100 shelters nationwide. But with the new crackdown — and those shelters already approaching capacity — the feds are evaluating bases in El Paso, San Angelo and Abilene for additional space. The three locations would be used to hold minors under age 18 who arrive at the border without an adult as well as children who cross with their parents.

Texas already is struggling to fix a broken system that’s supposed to protect children in its care. While the federal government is responsible for the welfare of the kids picked up in illegal border crossings, holes in that system could put more vulnerable children on Texas streets.

Border-crossing children spend an average of 45 days in the government’s care until an adult relative is able to assume custody. Of the 38,000 arrests made by the Border Patrol along the Mexican border last month, 9,600 of them were classified as family units and about 4,300 were children travelling alone or unaccompanied minors.

We know that children are taken away from people who commit crimes every day, but this new policy’s punishment doesn’t fit the offence. There’s a big difference between committing a robbery with your kids in the back seat and illegally crossing the border with your children in tow in order to seek a better life than the one you fled.

Our newspaper has long urged Congress to provide comprehensive immigration reform for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., nearly 2 million of whom are in Texas. It’s particularly important to our state as immigrants contribute mightily to our economy.

We’ve pushed for a path to legalization that will bring immigrants out of the shadows. We’ve also agreed that if we help unauthorized immigrants but fail to better control illegal entry into the country, we may only encourage more illegal entry.

But ripping children away from their parents is a bridge too far, and we could be putting them further in harm’s way. It’s disturbing that once again children are caught in the middle of this complicated mess.

Congress has been giving lip service to a fix for years. It’s time lawmakers did their jobs.

Online: https://www.dallasnews.com

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May 23

Los Angeles Times says President Donald Trump is demanding the Justice Department to investigate his conspiracy theories:

For almost a year, Donald Trump’s rage about the investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia — or, as he calls it, “the greatest Witch Hunt in American History” — has threatened to provoke him to trigger a constitutional crisis by firing the lawyers leading that investigation or by making it impossible for them to do their jobs.

On Sunday, Trump seemed ready to cross that threshold. Pressing a conspiracy theory for which he had no evidence, the president tweeted that “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes — and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

This threat of intervention was ominous. If Trump was willing to order the Justice Department, which is supposed to act independently and without political influence, to instead pursue investigations that served him personally and politically, would he be equally willing to demand an end to one he considered a political liability?

The leadership of the Justice Department scrambled to try to placate the president without compromising its integrity any more than necessary. After Trump’s tweet, the department announced that its inspector general would expand an ongoing internal review to determine “whether there was any impropriety or political motivation” in the FBI’s counterintelligence operation connected to the 2016 campaign.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the current Russia investigation conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, issued this statement: “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

These responses can perhaps be justified as damage control. More concerning is a statement released by the White House on Monday after Trump met with Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. The statement said that Kelly would set up a meeting, now scheduled for Thursday, at which officials of intelligence agencies and members of Congress would “review highly classified and other information they have requested.”

This was apparently a reference to documents the president’s allies in the House have been seeking from the Justice Department, including information about an informant who spoke to Trump campaign personnel known to have dealt with suspected Russian agents. The informant, a retired U.S. academic living in England, seems to have morphed in the imagination of some Trump supporters into a spy planted inside the campaign by his enemies in the Obama White House — an idea Trump floated again on Tuesday.

If the Justice Department judges some information to be too sensitive to release, it shouldn’t change its opinion simply because the president applies pressure. It’s also troubling that the only two congressmen, both Republicans, will attend the meeting: Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, and Troy Gowdy, R-South Carolina. Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has led the effort to obtain the records.

Trump’s defenders in Congress and in the conservative news media insist that law enforcement and U.S. intelligence services should stay out of partisan politics. But if there is evidence that a presidential campaign is being courted or manipulated by agents of a foreign power, it can’t simply be ignored.

Whether anyone involved in the Trump campaign criminally co-operated with Russian efforts is something Mueller is attempting to establish. The question is whether he will be allowed to complete his investigation unmolested by the president who derides his efforts as a witch hunt. After Trump’s latest outburst — and the Justice Department’s response, however careful and calibrated it may have been — we’re more concerned than ever that the president might take that chance.

For someone who insists that there was “no collusion!” and that he has nothing to hide, Trump has sought to undermine this investigation from the start, baselessly attacking those who are conducting it, diverting attention to sideshows and injecting politics into what should be a fact-finding process. In doing so he has walked close to the line of obstructing justice.

Online: http://www.latimes.com

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May 22

The Boston Herald says the revelation that an FBI informant monitored President Donald Trump’s campaign raises questions:

Revelations that the FBI used an informant to monitor the Trump campaign in 2016 serve to reinforce the president’s contention that “deep state” forces are out to get him.

He let the world know his displeasure via Twitter on Sunday: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes — and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that the Department of Justice would have the inspector general look into the informant issue, noting in a statement that he would “expand the ongoing review of the FISA application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election.”

The informant, named by multiple media sources, is Stefan Halper, a 73-year-old Cambridge University professor who has done work with several Republican presidential administrations and has ties to intelligence services in the United States. He had several conversations with members of the Trump campaign in 2016 and corresponded in email as well. This is troubling.

Best-case scenario, a counterintelligence investigation focused on Russian election tampering organically led to members of the Trump campaign and FBI resources were dispatched to investigate. It would make sense to be thorough and ferret any information that might be pertinent to the core case.

Worst-case scenario is that the Obama DOJ looked to compromise either candidate or President Trump or both and sent the FBI buzzing around the campaign looking to entrap whomever they could. It is not fair to impugn the entire FBI, but 2016 was not its best year. It was the year of Jim Comey — a director who took unprecedented liberties in the Hillary Clinton investigation.

Let’s remember, there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Even if there were a willingness to collude, that would not be a crime unless it was acted on. So what are we still doing here?

We may have to wait for the inspector general’s report on that. Until then, it looks more and more likely that the misdeeds were committed by the “swamp” and not the man trying to drain it.

Online: http://www.bostonherald.com

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May 21

Des Moines Register says gun owners should be held responsible for failing to secure firearms:

A 17-year-old boy cannot legally walk into a sporting goods store and buy a .38 revolver. Not even in gun-loving Texas.

Yet Dimitrios Pagourtzis was armed with a shotgun and revolver when he entered his Santa Fe high school last week and started shooting. His victims include a substitute teacher, a foreign exchange student and a football player.

The guns Pagourtzis used to kill and injure nearly two dozen people belonged to the shooter’s father, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

That father should be held responsible by law enforcement and the courts. Authorities should make an example of him to send a message to all gun owners about the importance of locking up firearms. Too often, the weapons used in school shootings come from the perpetrator’s home, where adults failed to properly secure them.

Adam Lanza’s mother was a gun enthusiast before the 20-year-old used her guns to kill her, 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary school and himself. The guns were acquired legally, registered, not adequately secured and used to massacre innocent children.

Then there are the so-called accidents that happen after young children have access to guns left in drawers, purses or glove boxes by adults. These children include Jayden Choate of Elgin, Iowa. In 2016, the 4-year-old picked up a gun in a neighbour’s home, shot himself in the head and died.

Every single time a young person gets a gun and shoots himself or others, the firearm owner should be held responsible. Every single time.

Criminally charging these individuals and press conferences announcing charges may be the only way to get through to gun owners to secure firearms, regardless of whether they have children living in a home. Trigger locks can be purchased for as little as $13 at Walmart. A search of the retailer’s products online also returned dozens of gun safes for less than $100.

Yet nearly 2 million American children live in homes with guns that are not stored properly, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing violence. It reports there is an unintentional shooting involving a child in this country every 34 hours. There have been at least 70 such shootings so far in 2018.

While the U.S. Congress and state officials bear much responsibility in failing to do more to prevent gun violence, individual Americans, including parents and prosecutors, can do more. There would be many fewer “accidents” involving small children and shootings by teens if gun-owning adults locked up their weapons.

Those who do not do so should be held criminally, and very publicly, accountable. That may be the only hope for saving children — and their classmates — from gun violence.

Online: https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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May 22

The Washington Post says Saudi Arabia has taken a wrong turn on women’s freedom:

On his recent high-profile tour of the United States, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, met with executives from Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Disney, Warner Bros. and Lockheed Martin, among others, journeying from Wall Street to Silicon Valley championing his modernization plans to “unlock the potential of the Saudi people.” The promise of the 32-year-old Saudi leader to reform the hidebound kingdom impressed many. But a month later, he is locking people up rather than unlocking their potential.

Last week, Saudi authorities detained at least seven people, five women and two men, who had been advocates for the right of women to drive. Giving women equality they have long been denied is something that the crown prince supports and is popular among the younger generation of Saudis who have chafed under the sharp restrictions imposed by religious authorities in the past. Effective next month, women will have the right to drive, and MBS, as the crown prince is known, has received global approbation for that decision.

So why are the advocates of a basic liberty that MBS has embraced being arrested and vilified in the Saudi press and online? The answer is not entirely clear. It could be that he is responding to a backlash from traditional elements at home. Or it could be that the crown prince is determined not to permit any real flowering of freedom. He wants to rule without so much as a whisper of criticism. This has been his record in office so far and was certainly the suffocating practice of the monarchy in the past.

The latest detentions include Loujain al-Hathloul, one of Saudi Arabia’s most high-profile feminists. As Loveday Morris of The Post reports, in March she was stopped in Abu Dhabi, where she was studying for a master’s degree, forcibly seized, flown to Saudi Arabia and put in prison. Released a few days later, she was warned not to say anything on social media. Now she is detained again. Is MBS trying to use prisons to silence Hathloul and other women, to prevent them from making further demands? They are being accused of “suspicious contact with foreign parties” and undermining the “security and stability” of Saudi Arabia. Their real “crime” seems to be speaking out. MBS may be emboldened by the fact that the Trump administration has offered Saudi Arabia unqualified support and has barely noted the arrests.

Human Rights Watch reported on May 6 a dramatic increase in the number of Saudis detained for more than six months without referral to courts, up to 2,305, compared with 293 people four years ago. The crown prince seeks to modernize the kingdom but seems not to recognize the essential role of freedom in a modern society. You cannot deny people liberty and then expect them to flourish.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com