Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

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Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:


May 1

The Charlotte Observer on a mass shooting on the campus of UNC-Charlotte:

It's our turn, Charlotte, to live the nightmare.

It's our turn to see the breaking news email about gunfire, to feel the notification buzz on our phone, to be jolted that our city is included in the next words we read.

It's our turn to watch aerial footage of places we've walked, to watch video loops of cautious police leading students we might know.

It's our turn to pray that we don't know the victims or shooter, then to pray for those who do.

It's our turn to see tweets from our public officials who are "shocked and saddened," from our governor who is en route to the scene, from our members of Congress who are "monitoring the situation."

It's our turn to have Gabby Giffords send her sorrow our way.

It's our turn to type tweets or Facebook posts about students who went to class like every other student, about holding your child a little tighter tonight, and feel it a little more intimately this time.

It's our turn to wonder what on earth we can do to change this, to wonder if better school security or mental health awareness or anything might stop this plague of gun violence.

It's our turn to hope that this shooting might be that catalyst for change, perhaps even locally or with state lawmakers.

It's our turn to realize that it won't, that we're no different than Red Lake or Santa Fe or so many others.

Except some things are different now.

It's our turn to see that networks aren't breaking in to programming to cover this school shooting, that Twitter isn't putting snark on hold, that national newspapers aren't going to put this tragedy on their front pages.

It's our turn to realize that if that notification on our phone was about gunfire in another city, we too might have mentally swiped it away.

It's our turn to understand that it's no longer big news when someone walks into a classroom and starts firing, that mass shootings happen with such regularity that they've become more like all the other shootings with all the other guns.

It's our turn to also understand that "thoughts and prayers" from Republicans have worked, just not the way we want. They've worked as a stall and diversion, a way to say something without having to say anything, until the next shooting happens and everyone moves on.

Because everyone does move on now. And they will again, more quickly each time. This is the new nightmare — that we've become deadened to the worst in us because it no longer feels like the worst. It's just who we are, and it's our turn to live it.




April 30

The Washington Post on unrest in Venezuela:

Deep uncertainty surrounds the latest events in Venezuela. Tuesday began with a pre-dawn recorded address to the public by interim president Juan Guaidó, who stood with members of the security forces at a Caracas air base and declared that a long-anticipated barracks uprising against the regime of Nicolás Maduro had begun. Accompanying Mr. Guaidó was opposition leader Leopoldo López, apparently released from his four-year detention by defecting guards. Venezuelans responded to Mr. Guaidó's call for street protests and were met by troops loyal to Mr. Maduro. By late afternoon, clashes were taking place, regime officials were promising a decisive "counterattack," and there was no way to know whether "Operation Liberty," as Mr. Guaidó dubbed this high-risk move, would succeed or be crushed — or devolve into civil war.

What is not, or should not be, ambiguous is the political and moral essence of this volatile situation. The Maduro regime has violated human rights on a massive scale, leaving hundreds of peaceful opponents dead, and it has led Venezuela into economic catastrophe. Millions of Venezuelans have fled to other countries, including hundreds of thousands to the United States. Having first been elected in 2013, Mr. Maduro forfeited democratic legitimacy in January 2016, when he purported to deprive the National Assembly of its powers because the opposition had won control the previous month. He then manipulated the political system to create a parallel puppet legislature and, on May 20, 2018, engineered his re-election through a flawed process from which both international observers and leading opposition figures were effectively barred. His inauguration as president for a new term in January, in defiance of warnings from neighboring Latin democracies, prompted Mr. Guaidó, leader of the National Assembly, to declare the presidential office vacant and himself its interim occupant, as provided in the Venezuelan Constitution — and supported by more than 50 countries, including the United States.

Therefore, whatever its ultimate outcome or, indeed, its strategic wisdom, Tuesday's uprising is not a "coup attempt," as the Maduro regime, echoed by too many people abroad, calls it. Rather, it is the latest in a series of legitimate and, for the most part, nonviolent efforts by Venezuelans, both civilian and military, to throw off an oppressive, toxic regime so that they can freely elect a legitimate government. Supporters of freedom and democracy should stand in solidarity with Mr. Guaidó and the many thousands of Venezuelans now bravely asserting their rights.

The Trump administration has backed Mr. Guaidó, including — appropriately — through the use of tough new economic sanctions aimed at pressuring the Maduro regime to cede power, or persuading the Venezuelan military to oust him itself. Possibly, Tuesday's events are a sign that Mr. Trump's policy is succeeding; or, possibly, that there is nothing left of it but desperate measures. A hopeful sign was the immediate and unequivocal backing Mr. Guaidó received from six South American nations, including Venezuela's four largest neighbors: Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Peru. By working closely with these countries, and not by intervening militarily, the Trump administration may increase the chances that Mr. López's declaration Tuesday — "It's time to conquer freedom" — proves out.




April 30

The New York Times on anti-Semitism and a political cartoon it recently published:

The Times published an appalling political cartoon in the opinion pages of its international print edition late last week. It portrayed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel as a dog wearing a Star of David on a collar. He was leading President Trump, drawn as a blind man wearing a skullcap.

The cartoon was chosen from a syndication service by a production editor who did not recognize its anti-Semitism. Yet however it came to be published, the appearance of such an obviously bigoted cartoon in a mainstream publication is evidence of a profound danger — not only of anti-Semitism but of numbness to its creep, to the insidious way this ancient, enduring prejudice is once again working itself into public view and common conversation.

Anti-Semitic imagery is particularly dangerous now. The number of assaults against American Jews more than doubled from 2017 to 2018, rising to 39, according to a report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League. On Saturday, a gunman opened fire during Passover services at a synagogue in San Diego County, killing one person and injuring three, allegedly after he posted in an online manifesto that he wanted to murder Jews. For decades, most American Jews felt safe to practice their religion, but now they pass through metal detectors to enter synagogues and schools.

Jews face even greater hostility and danger in Europe, where the cartoon was created. In Britain, one of several members of Parliament who resigned from the Labour Party in February said that the party had become "institutionally anti-Semitic." In France and Belgium, Jews have been the targets of terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists. Across Europe, right-wing parties with long histories of anti-Semitic rhetoric are gaining political strength.

This is also a period of rising criticism of Israel, much of it directed at the rightward drift of its own government and some of it even questioning Israel's very foundation as a Jewish state. We have been and remain stalwart supporters of Israel, and believe that good-faith criticism should work to strengthen it over the long term by helping it stay true to its democratic values. But anti-Zionism can clearly serve as a cover for anti-Semitism — and some criticism of Israel, as the cartoon demonstrated, is couched openly in anti-Semitic terms.

The responsibility for acts of hatred rests on the shoulders of the proponents and perpetrators. But history teaches that the rise of extremism requires the acquiescence of broader society.

As anti-Semitism has surged from the internet into the streets, President Trump has done too little to rouse the national conscience against it. Though he condemned the cartoon in The Times, he has failed to speak out against anti-Semitic groups like the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 chanting, "Jews will not replace us." He has practiced a politics of intolerance for diversity, and attacks on some minority groups threaten the safety of every minority group. The gunman who attacked the synagogue in San Diego claimed responsibility for setting a fire at a nearby mosque, and wrote that he was inspired by the deadly attack on mosques in New Zealand last month.

A particularly frightening, and also historically resonant, aspect of the rise of anti-Semitism in recent years is that it has come from both the right and left sides of the political spectrum. Both right-wing and left-wing politicians have traded in incendiary tropes, like the ideas that Jews secretly control the financial system or politicians.

The recent attacks on Jews in the United States have been carried out by men who identify as white supremacists, including the killing of 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue last year. But the A.D.L. reports that most anti-Semitic assaults, and incidents of harassment and the vandalism of Jewish community buildings and cemeteries, are not carried out by the members of extremist groups. Instead, the perpetrators are hate-filled individuals.

In the 1930s and the 1940s, The Times was largely silent as anti-Semitism rose up and bathed the world in blood. That failure still haunts this newspaper. Now, rightly, The Times has declared itself "deeply sorry" for the cartoon and called it "unacceptable." Apologies are important, but the deeper obligation of The Times is to focus on leading through unblinking journalism and the clear editorial expression of its values. Society in recent years has shown healthy signs of increased sensitivity to other forms of bigotry, yet somehow anti-Semitism can often still be dismissed as a disease gnawing only at the fringes of society. That is a dangerous mistake. As recent events have shown, it is a very mainstream problem.

As the world once again contends with this age-old enemy, it is not enough to refrain from empowering it. It is necessary to stand in opposition.




April 29

China Daily on China's domestic agenda:

When President Xi Jinping outlined China's to-do list at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on Friday, many foreign listeners started taking notes.

People familiar with China's domestic agenda may marvel at the extent to which its domestic policy discourse — ranging from innovation, green development and sustainability to anti-corruption and transparency — has captured such a global audience.

But it is hard for foreign participants not to be grabbed by the relevance that Xi's proposals have to their respective nations, whether that be improving people's livelihoods or cultivating growth drivers. Interestingly, what sounds domestic to China sounds global to other countries, and vice versa. Because what China has been doing since the late 1970s — opening its door wider to foreign investment, welcoming foreign trade, and strengthening intellectual property protection — has over the years acquired increasingly more global significance.

That China has come to such a stage in its development that foreign competition is a welcome spur to its economic restructuring and industrial upgrading necessarily means it has to coordinate its inbound and outbound efforts on a single chessboard.

Many developed countries have experienced this stage. But none could boast of such a complete industrial structure and such a huge population as China. And, since starting from scratch 70 years ago, China has not sought — nor will it seek — development based on the enslaving or exploitation of other countries.

China's rise offers unprecedented opportunities to the world. Both the developed and developing countries can find partners in China, as well as sources of investment and technology. And the Belt and Road Initiative is a means to materialize the opportunities into concrete benefits.

Neither a sea nor big river selects the streams that flow into it. And without the water that flows from these, they will dry up, no matter how big they are, Xi said, calling on countries to remove institutional obstacles and break any cliques they may have formed.

The symbiosis of countries that Xi envisions, which is embodied by the Belt and Road Initiative, explains why the forum — or the initiative, to be more precise — can attract nearly 5,000 participants from over 150 countries at various development stages and 29 international organizations. And why, when Xi touched on some problems and challenges, the participants all shared similar expressions of concern.

The popularity of the initiative and how far it has progressed since the first forum two years ago, shows that the canards — such as it being merely a geopolitical tool or a creator of "debt traps" — have already been disposed of. For the foundation on which the Belt and Road is being built is trust. The reality is that, whether between people or countries, a promise kept is worth more than any amount of gold.




April 28

The San Diego Union-Tribune on a shooting at a California synagogue:

Saturday's horrific shooting at the Chabad of Poway on the last day of the sacred Jewish holiday of Passover — for which a 19-year-old college student from Rancho Peñasquitos is expected to be charged — left Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, dead and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 57, Almog Peretz, 34, and Noya Dahan, 8, with injuries they will survive but never forget.

There could have been more victims had the gunman's assault-style rifle not apparently jammed. It was a gut-wrenching reminder to San Diegans that our community is afflicted by the same roiling hatred seen across the nation and the world, especially since the act of terror was foreshadowed by another, a failed attempt to burn down the Islamic Center of Escondido on March 24, reportedly by the synagogue gunman himself.

The heroism of Gilbert-Kaye, who took bullets seemingly intended for Goldstein, and of Goldstein, who delivered a sermon after the gunman fled despite his wounds, should be lasting memories from Saturday's tragedy. So should the immediate response of law enforcement. So should the rapid outpouring of sympathy and grief from so many of our region's churches and civic groups, and the condolences they offered to Gilbert-Kaye's family and friends.

But what happened in Poway — and the killings in churches and elsewhere in Sri Lanka on Easter, at Islamic centers in New Zealand last month and at a synagogue in Pittsburgh six months ago, which reportedly inspired the gunman — demand introspection.

The easy dissemination of hate through technology seems to have made irrational "fear of the other" — the belief that those who look differently or who have different views and priorities are malign threats — more common than ever. This is reflected in government statistics showing a surge in hate crimes, most of which are anti-Jewish, against religious and racial minorities.

Yet the gunman reportedly had no previous criminal history, and one family friend expressed shock at news of his involvement and his anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim views.

This is alarming evidence that online, the most disturbed among us have found secret echo chambers that embolden them.

So what can be done?

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus offered a powerful and appropriate sentiment on Saturday: "This is not Poway," he declared. "We always walk with our arms around each other, and we will walk through this tragedy with our arms around each other."

But as Rabbi Goldstein said Sunday: "Everyone needs to step up and do something in the face of terror." A good start is to be more determined than ever. To limit troubled individuals' access to guns. To try to understand those with different views. To appreciate how much we have in common. To show solidarity with and empathy for our neighbors. To recognize the importance of fellowship, social exchange and understanding.

The tragedy in Poway and the near-tragedy in Escondido should unite San Diegans. So far, that's just what seems to have happened. May this resolve and unity endure — and may it help us overcome the hatred that fouls social media and the sunless corners of our communities.




April 26

The Orange County Register on Sen. Elizabeth Warren's student debt relief plan:

The bidding war for votes in the Democratic presidential primary escalated quickly this week with a proposal by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to wipe out student debt, courtesy of the taxpayers.

Warren's proposal, put forward not in proposed legislation but in a blog post, would cancel up to $50,000 of student debt for every American with household income under $100,000. Individuals with household incomes up to $250,000 would also get debt relief, though not quite as much. She says this will benefit 95% of the 45 million Americans who are carrying student debt.

The proposal is estimated to cost $1.25 trillion over 10 years. Warren says the money would come from a plan she previously proposed — a tax on accumulations of wealth collecting 2% of $50 million or more of household net worth, and an extra 1% on $1 billion and up. Assuming nobody leaves the country over it, the tax would hit about 75,000 families and raise $2.75 trillion over 10 years.

Warren also wants to spend $100 billion expanding Pell grants to cover non-tuition expenses, and make public colleges tuition-free.

The wealth tax might raise more legal challenges than revenue. The Constitution prohibits any national "direct" tax not collected evenly from the states, based on population. The income tax was unconstitutional until the Constitution was amended in 1913. An additional tax on "wealth" that has already been taxed as income might run into trouble at the Supreme Court. But even without debating the legality of a wealth tax, the idea of canceling student debt by having taxpayers cover it is terrible.

Start with the problem of fundamental fairness — student debt would be canceled for all income-eligible borrowers with outstanding loans without regard to financial need, so even people who are working and able to make regular payments would get the bailout. On the other hand, people who did not take out loans they couldn't afford to repay, and people who already repaid their loans, would be out $50,000 for making responsible financial decisions.

Then there's the problem of moral hazard: If the taxpayers pay the debts of everyone with outstanding student loans, how will that affect the decisions made by current students thinking about their choices for financing higher education? What's the message? Borrow as much as you can and wait for the debt to be canceled during the next presidential primary campaign?

The proposal certainly doesn't encourage restraint in tuition increases. Universities considering whether to raise tuition could reasonably believe there's no need to hold the line when the new policy is to step in and generously pay off old student loans with somebody else's money.

It's also troubling to hear a sitting United States senator so casually proposing the confiscation of some people's property so it can be given to other people. Warren has also put forward a proposal for a "Real Corporate Tax" that would collect $1 trillion over 10 years as well as an increase in the estate tax.

Student debt weighs on millions of Americans and on the economy more broadly as people find it more difficult to obtain credit or make major purchases. Serious proposals for new repayment plans and eventual debt forgiveness deserve consideration and debate in this presidential race.

But Warren's plan doesn't.