- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

March 16

The Press of Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J., on school’s “zero tolerance” policy:

… The Pinelands Regional School District, like so many other districts, has a zero-tolerance policy barring any “illegal or dangerous item, product or commodity” from its schools. So what do school officials do when they find an eighth-grader with a perfectly legal Alavert allergy tablet in his backpack?

Well, this district smacked the student with a five-day suspension. Never mind that it is virtually impossible to figure out how an over-the-counter allergy pill could be called illegal or even dangerous. …

The ACLU is also involved this time _ it’s suing the district on behalf of the student, who is now a freshmen at Pinelands Regional High School. …

The suit contends the district’s zero-tolerance policy violates the student’s right to due process under state statutes, administrative regulations and the New Jersey Constitution. Zero-tolerance policies violate requirements that school officials must make case-by-case decisions in disciplinary matters that don’t involve weapons or assaults, the ACLU said.

School administrators are paid to exercise common sense and discretion. In fact, the exercise of discretion _ that is, learning to understand distinctions and differences _ is exactly what schools should be teaching students. …

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On the Net:

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/

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March 17

(Melbourne) Florida Today, on the need to pick a new NASA boss:

… (S)huttle Discovery is to dock at the International Space Station … setting the stage for its astronauts to get going on a busy mission. …

But back on the ground, NASA still doesn’t have a new administrator, and it’s hurting the agency’s ability to gain a fair share of federal money as long-range budget negotiations between Congress and the White House take shape, NASA supporters say.

That makes it critical President Barack Obama follow through on his statement last week that he’s poised to name NASA’s new boss.

We urge him to make the announcement this week because there’s no more time to waste.

Each day brings the shuttle program’s end next year that much closer and with it the loss of an estimated 3,500 jobs at Kennedy Space Center and perhaps thousands more along the Space Coast, which will worsen the already battered regional and Florida economies.

Selecting the new chief now would provide the coming transition with the steady leadership it badly needs.

It also would cement Obama’s strong start in supporting NASA as evidenced by his commitment to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 and boosting NASA spending $2 billion to $18.7 billion for fiscal year 2010. …

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On the Net:

http://tinyurl.com/cwd2bk

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March 15

San Antonio Express-News, on the violence in Mexico:

The prognosis for the violence in Mexico is eerily similar to the forecasts about the economy in the United States: It will get worse before it gets better.

That is bad news for both countries. …

“Anything you can think of that’s happened in Mexico, we have to think could happen here,” Steve McCraw, the director of homeland security for the state of Texas, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We know what they’re capable of.”

In a recent interview with PBS, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano expressed the same sentiment.

“But let’s be very, very clear,” she said. “This is a very serious battle. It could spill over into the United States. If it does, we do have contingency plans to deal with it.”

Napolitano did not reveal those contingency plans, but the best plan is to help our neighbor before the Mexican violence becomes the U.S. violence.

This was the motive that led to the Merida Initiative, a $1.6 billion package to help Mexico combat the drug cartels.

U.S. officials, however, must not be content to stop with the initiative.

If the program is helping, officials must increase the aid to achieve even greater success, and if it is not working, they must come up with an initiative that does. …

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On the Net:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/

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March 16

The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, on sentencing Bernie Madoff:

Life in prison is almost too good for Bernie Madoff. That’s what the fallen Wall Street baron could get as a prison sentence after pleading guilty … to all the criminal charges that federal prosecutors have filed against him.

But the thousands of unwitting investors who lost billions of dollars to the former Nasdaq chairman in what is perhaps the largest fraud in Wall Street history want their pound of flesh. And who can blame them?

This is a guy who engineered an investment scam for more than 20 years in a vast Ponzi scheme that drew in retirees, charities, school trusts, and even Holocaust survivors who entrusted their life savings to his investment firm. …

Many unanswered questions remain about the involvement of “others,” from employees and family members to the treatment of favored investors. By his own estimate, Madoff apparently confessed to carrying out a $50 billion fraud that lasted right up until his arrest in December _ although in court documents prosecutors raised the size of the swindle to nearly $65 billion.

And Madoff investors still have no idea where all that money went. Life in prison may be the beginning of the end for the 70-year-old trader, but it’s nowhere near that for thousands of his victims who have nothing, and know next to nothing about when, if ever, they’ll recover from their nightmare. …

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On the Net:

http://tinyurl.com/dgt2m8

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March 16

The New York Times, on preserving presidential electronic records:

Every new administration arrives heady with resolve to make history. Unfortunately, the Bush administration was determined to hide a lot of it. It somehow deleted hundreds of days’ worth of official White House e-mail from the public record. Also gone missing are messages from top Bush appointees who improperly used private Republican Party e-mail accounts to conduct public business.

All this underscores the need for legal protections to ensure that the nation’s increasingly electronic history is preserved.

A measure moving through Congress would strengthen the power of the National Archives to require that the White House and other related agencies preserve all of their electronic records. The office of the archivist would establish better procedures and would be required to check and certify that the systems are doing the job. …

Bush officials pleaded faulty technology as the cause of the missing e-mail. Maybe it was an accident that entire workdays turned up blank at the offices of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Maybe it was a coincidence that hundreds of thousands of the missing e-mail messages went missing during the lead-up to the Iraq war _ with its manipulated intelligence _ and the outing of Valerie Plame and the decision to destroy CIA interrogation tapes.

All such maybes are no substitute for the actual historic record. Congress must protect this priceless taxpayer property before any more history goes missing.

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On the Net:

http://www.nytimes.com

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March 18

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on AIG bonuses:

President Obama said that his administration will “pursue every legal avenue” to block $165 million in new bonuses for AIG executives. That resolve may be akin to closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. Even so, the AIG brass should take the mounting political and public resentment seriously enough to take a pass on the bonuses.

… They should follow the example of some other executives at AIG _ and at some other mammoth firms being bailed out _ and pass on their bonuses, regardless of contracts.

Their motivation for that financial sacrifice need not stem from New York Sen. Chuck Schumer’s … warning that “if you don’t return it on your own we will do it for you.”

Ideally, it would stem from an overdue sense of responsibility.

But if that’s asking too much, those AIG executives should consider their larger self-interest. Rejecting the bonuses would placate the growing sense of public fury that may ultimately find expression in something akin to tar and feathers.

It also could help restore at least a bit of confidence in America’s troubled financial sector, including the hugely botched operation at AIG.

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On the Net:

httP//http://www.charleston.net/opinion

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March 13

The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo., on earmarks:

During his hot-blooded adolescence, while grappling with the urgency of conversion and the pleasures of the flesh, St. Augustine is said to have prayed: “Lord, grant me chastity and self-control _ but not just yet.”

President Barack Obama may have uttered something similar to himself Wednesday, as he delivered a speech criticizing pet spending-project earmarks in the morning and announcing new guidelines designed to curb them, and in the afternoon, away from the cameras, signed a $410 billion spending bill containing at least 8,500 earmarks costing more than $7.7 billion. …

Obama’s reform proposals are modest. Congress members would have to publish on their Web sites all requests they make to appropriations committees _ currently they have to publish only those that are granted.

Agencies would have 20 days to deem proposals inappropriate, and agencies would have to conduct competitive bidding for earmarks targeted to private companies.

The lobbyists must be trembling in their Guccis.

Earmarks are mostly egregious, but until the public mindset changes away from seeing Washington as a giant piggy bank and toward a serious demand for smaller, more limited government, earmarks will persist. Since the current administration seems to see larger, more ambitious government as a positive good, don’t expect much beyond empty rhetoric about responsibility and accountability.

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On the Net:

http://tinyurl.com/co5xxh

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March 12

Chicago Tribune, on a cure for the common cold:

Given the vicious virus that has rampaged through the office lately, we rejoiced at the news that scientists have cracked the genetic code of all known species of the common cold. …

We can now eagerly anticipate that glorious day when colds are wiped from the Earth. (Possibly ditto for the flu, because researchers announced recently they engineered antibodies that protect against many strains of the virus, so that flu vaccines would not have to be changed yearly.) Will anyone weep for the common cold-inducing rhinovirus, aside from the makers of cold remedies that don’t work?

Of course not. Still, after so many eons of battle, we think it is only proper to pause here for a moment of reflection, in awe and grudging respect for this crafty adversary. Astonishingly resilient and inventive, the rhinovirus has triumphed over the human immune system year after year, century after century. …

But is it possible that people in the distant future who don’t get colds will miss the experience in some tiny way? Will they miss the enforced respite? The bundling and the chicken soup? The sympathy? The dread of that first twinge of a sore throat, and the relief and triumph when normal breathing is restored?

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On the Net:

http://www.chicagotribune.com

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March 17

Gulf News, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on AIG bonuses:

It is easy to understand the anger of taxpayers and U.S. president Barack Obama after it emerged that executives at American International Group (AIG) have received $165 million … in bonus payments.

AIG has received $170 billion in bailout money from the US government, with more on the way. Obama has reportedly ordered that every legal avenue be explored to recoup the payments.

Obama is right to choose the legal route _ tearing up a contract between a company and any one of its employees is not an option. The business world operates on trust and the strength of contracts between companies and other parties.

If executives were wrongly paid performance bonuses, then the money should be reclaimed. Incompetence should never be rewarded. But if those that have received payments are due the bonuses, then the rule of law must be respected by the company and politicians alike.

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On the Net:

http://tinyurl.com/dh5wmy

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March 13

Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, on stem cell research:

Multipotent stem cell research in the United States is likely to accelerate following a recent decision made by President Barack Obama. …

Obama lifted the restrictions imposed by his predecessor on federal funding of research on embryonic stem (ES) cells, an important class of multipotent stem cells extracted from embryos, which could turn into any of the human body’s tissue types. …

Obama is seeking to establish a sound science policy not distorted by political or religious influences. His stem cell initiative is a major step in that direction.

Along with Nobel laureates and other leading scientists, Kyoto University professor Shinya Yamanaka was invited to the White House ceremony for signing the executive order by Obama. Yamanaka is known worldwide for his discovery of a method of producing a new type of versatile cell, known as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, from ordinary cells, instead of an embryo.

After the ceremony, Yamanaka voiced alarm about the state of stem cell research in this country, saying, “Japan will find itself left behind if things remain unchanged.” Yamanaka says Obama’s decision will accelerate further the remarkable progress already achieved in the United States in this field. …

There are strong expectations about iPS cells, which can be created from ordinary adult cells without using an embryo for a wide range of studies. … We hope Japanese researchers will build on Yamanaka’s pioneering work to keep this nation on the cutting edge of research in this field.

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On the Net:

http://tinyurl.com/c5ojka

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March 18

The Times, London, on AIDS and the Vatican:

Roman Catholic teaching rejects artificial methods of birth control. … You either accept the teaching or you do not.

But statements about the effects of contraception are different. While traveling to Cameroon on his first trip to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI yesterday declared that Aids “cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems.” The Pope’s comment is a testable proposition that has immense implications for human health and welfare. …

The Church’s position on the virtues of chastity outside marriage, and fidelity and natural family planning within it, has consistency but it is inadequate to the gravity of the epidemic that afflicts Africa. The United Nations estimates that worldwide there are 33 million adults and children living with the HIV virus _ of whom two thirds are in sub-Saharan Africa. While the position is stabilizing in some African countries, such as Malawi, others report an increase in new infections. …

The Church, through its hospitals, hospices and orphanages on many continents, has provided compassion and selfless care for Aids sufferers. But it has opposed the most reliable means of preventing Aids: the distribution of condoms and education in safe sex. Africa has suffered as a result. …

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On the Net:

http://tinyurl.com/djdd4s

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March 17

Hufvudstadsbladet, Helsinki, Finland, on Avigdor Lieberman and Israeli politics:

It looks like Israel is set to appoint a foreign minister who is a clear provocation to Palestinians, other Arabs and the rest of the world with the United States and the European Union at the forefront. The leader of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu faction, Avigdor Lieberman, does not want to hear about a Palestinian state and calls into question the citizenship of Israeli Arabs.

One can say that Israel is now simply playing it tough. Neither have the Palestinians in Gaza been any wiser when they opted to give power to the Hamas terrorist organization.

The kind of government that (Prime Minister-designate) Benjamin Netanyahu is now forming is a shame on Israel, and it will become more difficult for her friends in the world to understand the country’s goals and actions.

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On the Net:

http://www.hbl.fi/

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