- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 25, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The following are excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on U.S.-Cuba relations: Addressing leaders of oppressive regimes in his inaugural speech, President Barack Obama said the United States “will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Whether that is imminent in Cuba remains to be seen. But Cuban President Raul Castro’s statement that his regime is “willing to discuss everything, human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners, everything” with the Obama administration is an opening both sides should explore.

… The ultimate goal should be clear. The Cuban government must end the oppression of its citizens and give them a significant say in their government by freeing political prisoners, allowing freedom of expression and of the press and holding free, multiparty elections.

For its part, the United States should end the decades-long embargo that has only aggravated the poverty of the Cuban people and limited our power to bring about democratic change in Cuba. …

No one knows whether the Castros’ regime is ready for meaningful change. But the Cuban people surely are, and the Obama administration concedes that our past Cuban policy has been a failure. …

On the Net:

www.nola.com

Florida Today, Melbourne, on how a special commission should probe the Bush administration’s use of torture: President Reagan once called America a “shining city on the hill” to describe our democracy and the beacon of hope it provides to the world.

But under President Bush, that view of a nation whose moral authority rests on the rule of law was cast into a deep pit of darkness with the White House-approved use of torture on terrorism suspects.

Late last week, the Justice Department provided the fullest accounting to date of that when it released memos detailing brutal interrogation techniques that were based on the perverted legal opinions of Bush administration attorneys. …

Within days of taking office, President Obama renounced torture and said the interrogation methods would never be used again. It was an important move to restore America’s moral standing around the globe.

He advanced further up the high ground in releasing the memos and condemning what he called “a dark and painful chapter in our history.”…

The memos show the need for a complete investigation into the circumstances that gave rise to torture and the people in the most senior reaches of the Bush administration who approved the criminal practices.

The best way to accomplish that is creation of an independent, bipartisan panel modeled on the 9/11 Commission that would release its findings for Americans, and the world, to see.

The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, must be known to ensure this never happens again.

The rule of law demands it.

On the Net:

https://tinyurl.com/cxe3oe

Journal Star, Peoria, Ill., on the tax protests: One tea party does not a revolutionary make.

Nice turnout Wednesday as some 500 central Illinoisans showed up Downtown to protest governments’ grip on their pocketbooks. The local contribution to the nationally orchestrated Tax Day Tea Party, it boasted spirited demonstration by folks carrying signs that read “Free market, not free rides” and “Give me liberty, not debt” and “Born free, taxed to death.”

Certainly we share their concerns about the unchecked growth of government, its lack of discipline as reflected in its staggering spending, the red ink that has been swelling for decades and continues to with a fury rarely seen in America. …

The difference for us is that we’ve gotten it and appreciated it for some time. Indeed, we’re curious:

Where were these 500 when President George W. Bush and friends were piling up debt over the [past] eight years like none before them, nearly doubling the nation’s loan obligations over that time? …

Where were they when that White House started the ball rolling on bailing out the nation’s banks and other private companies?

Where were they when America was going in hock by nearly $700 billion - by trillions over the long term - on arguably a war of choice in Iraq? …

To the degree those who showed up Downtown … are Johnny-Come-Latelies to these issues, they’ll forgive those who speculate about their motives - partisan or otherwise - now. If one wishes to enhance one’s credibility on matters like these, it helps to have a memory that stretches beyond yesterday.

On the Net:

www.pjstar.com.

Poughkeepsie Journal, New York, on credit card reforms: As millions of Americans try to pull themselves out of debt in a tough economy, government must tighten the reins on the credit card industry that, in no small way, contributed to the troubles so many people find themselves in.

Financial stability starts with personal responsibility, of course. People shouldn’t spend more than they can afford, and that simple premise too often has been ignored in our consumption-obsessed society. But credit card companies have preyed on far too many people - and have used dubious methods to achieve their goals.

For instance, it’s not uncommon for people to get slapped with steep interest-rate increases on existing accounts, hikes that occur seemingly out of nowhere. The federal government recently approved rules that will allow companies to raise interest rates only on new credit cards and future purchases or advances, rather than on current balances. And they will force companies to give longer notifications for certain changes made to the terms of an account, such as tagging on higher penalties for delayed or missing payments.

All to the good, but those rules announced by the Federal Reserve, won’t go into effect until July 2010. …

Banks and other financial institutions are getting billions of dollars of taxpayer relief these days, and they should be doing their part to help with the economic recovery. Giving people a realistic way to get out of credit card debt through more stable interest rates and other remedies should be part of the equation. And the government shouldn’t be waiting [until] July 2010 to get new policies on the books.

On the Net:

www.poughkeepsiejournal.com

Montrose Daily Press, Colorado, on piracy: Arrrrggggg!!!!

The romantic notion of piracy - what with Johnny Depp movies or how pirates helped Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, or assisted Texas in their independence from Mexico - is just that, a notion.

As we as a country know, real piracy exists, given the circumstances of Capt. Richard Phillips and the U.S. merchant ship, Maersk Alabama. President Barack Obama signaled to USS Bainbridge captain, Cmdr. Francis X. Castellano, recently to take out the Somali pirates that held Capt. Phillips hostage. With three remarkable shots from Navy SEALs, this particular crime ended, Capt. Phillips was rescued and a Somali pirate taken prisoner.

While Capt. Phillips enjoys a homecoming, there are at least 260 members of merchant ships being held hostage on at least 14 vessels in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Somalia, a lawless country without a government, navy or coast guard. Piracy is their national industry, with 1,900 miles of shore line. Pirates have vowed revenge on U.S. shipping. …

Piracy, a business model without regard to conscience or religion, must be dealt with. Collaboration is one way. History shows that pirates were for the most part eliminated by civilized countries during the last two centuries. Today, however, with the globalization of economies, and a host country that is bereft of a society, it is a complex problem with no quick end in sight.

On the Net:

https://tinyurl.com/ce33hz

Los Angeles Times, on arrested journalists: At least 125 journalists are being held worldwide in blatant government attempts to restrict freedom of speech, according to human rights groups, employing a form of hostage-taking in the service of censorship. … Of particular concern at this moment are the recent detentions of American reporters in Iran and North Korea who, in addition to being silenced, may be held for use as pawns in negotiations with the West.

Iranian American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has worked for National Public Radio, the BBC and other media outlets, was detained in Tehran in January, allegedly for buying wine. The charge was later changed to reporting without valid press credentials, and then to spying. …

The North Korean government, meanwhile, is holding Asian American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were captured March 17 on the border with China as they reported for San Francisco-based Current TV on North Koreans fleeing their country. …

… Besides Saberi, Iran has jailed at least six other journalists. All of these - and all political dissidents - are entitled to due process of law. It is that principle that the Obama administration must uphold, insisting on respect for free speech and dissent from any nation that covets American goodwill. Journalists should not be detained for doing their jobs, and they should not be used for political leverage or barter.

On the Net:

https://tinyurl.com/d8esgk

Jerusalem Post, on Holocaust deniers: … On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the world’s pre-eminent Holocaust-denier and leading anti-Zionist, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was granted a platform at Durban II, the UN’s so-called anti-racism conference in Geneva yesterday. He promptly called for the destruction of Israel: “Governments must be encouraged and supported in their fights at eradicating this barbaric racism. Efforts must be made to put an end to Zionism,” he said.

We watched in distress as many in the audience and galleries applauded. …

Equally pernicious are those who are too slick to deny the Holocaust outright but instead claim that Israel inoculates itself with the memory of the six million in order to kill or oppress innocent Palestinians with impunity.

A variation on the theme that Israel uses the Holocaust as a battering ram against the Palestinians is the disingenuous argument that it’s time for us Israelis to move on. …

Our bogus fears, goes the claim, are as “corrosive” as they are delusionary. They make us think we are vulnerable when we - a nuclear power - are stronger than all our enemies combined. …

It’s hard to decide which is worse - outright Holocaust-denial of the Ahmadinejad variety, or insidious assertions by Euro-leftists and anti-Zionists that would lull Israelis into letting down our guard and robbing us of the will to fight for our survival.

On the Net:

https://tinyurl.com/d4zuo4

The Daily Telegraph, London, on politics in South Africa:

There is something deeply disturbing about the mood of triumphalism that appears to have taken root within the African National Congress ahead of [the] South African general election, the most significant since the ANC first came to power in 1994.

It is not just the fact that Jacob Zuma, the ANC leader and most likely the next South African president, has the unnerving habit of singing the old anti-apartheid anthem Bring Me My Machine Gun every time he takes to the stage. Nor is it the unwelcome reappearance at the ANC’s final pre-election rally of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, wearing a black beret adorned with a Communist star. …

During its 15 years in office, the ANC has promised much but delivered little. The rainbow coalition that Nelson Mandela espoused when he was elected president has failed to materialize, with much of the white population finding itself suffering economic and social discrimination in the name of black empowerment. Nor have poor blacks been lifted out of dire poverty to as great an extent as could have been hoped.

Disillusionment with the ANC’s performance has led to the creation of the Congress of the People, which could be an effective opposition to the ruling party, particularly if it formed a coalition with the Democratic Alliance. Mr. Zuma has already made threatening noises about amending the constitution to curb the judiciary. It is for this reason that we hope the millions of South Africans who turn out … will cast their vote in favor of democracy, rather than the one-party dominance that Mr. Zuma craves.

On the Net:

www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/5196108/Curb-the-A NC.html

The Toronto Star, on Earth Day: We’re told the polar ice caps are melting due to global warming, that India’s increasing affluence will mean millions of new cars on the roads, and that China is building coal-fired power plants at an alarming rate.

So it’s understandable if changing a light bulb and taking public transit here at home feel like futile gestures in the face of these global challenges. …

Individual actions, multiplied by millions of people, can add up to enormous environmental benefits. In Canada, households are responsible for nearly half the national greenhouse gas emissions, notes Jed Goldberg, president of Earth Day Canada.

If we commit to a range of realistic changes in our lifestyles, we could cut those greenhouse gas emissions in half.

… Today is a good day to start.

On the Net:

www.thestar.com/comment/article/622075Q

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