- Associated Press - Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Providence (R.I.) Journal, June 6, 2014

Controversy continues to swirl around the Obama administration’s swap of five dangerous Taliban Guantanamo detainees for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. According to the administration, Bergdahl was a hero who served with honor, but members of his unit in Afghanistan and others say that he deserted his post and went over to the enemy. They insist that he face a court martial on his return to the United States.

A story in The New York Times describes a disillusioned soldier who slipped away from a remote outpost on the Pakistan border in June 2009, leaving a note on his bunk explaining that he did not support the American mission in Afghanistan and had left to start a new life. Soon after Bergdahl vanished, radio chatter picked up talk about an American in a village two miles away, his team leader that night, former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow, told CNN. “He’s looking for someone who speaks English so he can talk to the Taliban,” was one message reportedly picked up.

For three months, his platoon and another scoured the region looking for him. Two soldiers were killed in an ambush during one such mission. The Defense Department maintains that it is unclear whether the men died because of the search. In 2010, news reports said that Bergdahl was working with his captors, making bombs and teaching ambush skills.

The New York Times also reported that negotiations for Bergdahl extended over a long period and that at one point the president hoped that a deal might help start a larger Afghan peace process. Among the U.S. demands was that the Taliban must renounce terrorism and links with al-Qaida and take other steps to gain legitimacy, but these were gradually scaled back.

The five al-Qaida operatives, at least one of whom is reported to be a former associate of Osama bin Laden, were released to Qatar, where Obama has received the personal assurance of the emir that the detainees will be closely watched. In a year, they will apparently be free to return to Afghanistan. A Taliban propaganda video of Bergdahl’s release taunted America with the misspelled message: “Don’ come back to afghanistan.”

All this has left several members of Congress, of both parties, livid that they were not given 30 days’ notice of the release from Guantanamo, as seemingly required by law. Some are concerned that those released could now pose a threat to Americans. Others fear that President Obama may have declared open season on American soldiers in Afghanistan, since Taliban there may conclude they can now trade hostages for Gitmo terrorists.

“I don’t want the message to be, ‘You can go ahead and capture Americans and use them to barter for others,’” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

There also seems to be a renewal of the pattern of the administration initially misleading Americans, as in the case of the 2012 killings of a U.S. ambassador and three others in Benghazi. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who famously claimed the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous demonstration in response to an obscure Internet video, appeared on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday and categorically declared that Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction.” That now seems to be open to debate.

Is there something going on here we don’t know? Was Bergdahl more than a mere soldier who wandered away, and did America have secret reasons to want him back?

Clearly, there is cause for Congress to look into this deal.

The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, June 5, 2014

The proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulation is a long-overdue move by Washington to reduce greenhouse gasses spewing from the nation’s dirtiest power plants.

The preponderance of scientific evidence says that human activity is adding to climate change. The EPA’s new rules target power plants, with the weight falling on coal-fired plants.

Washington for too long has dithered on climate change, hampered by aggressive obstructionists who question the validity of the data and analysis, or are unwilling to bear the cost of dealing with our past sins.

Meanwhile, the nation continues to see more extreme weather such as heat, heavy rainfall, floods, ice storms and droughts.

The Obama administration sidestepped the legislative stalemate over climate change by turning to the EPA’s rules-making authority to take on the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the nation.

Vermont earns an exemption from the proposed rules because the state, as the Free Press reports, “lacks a fossil-fuel power plant of any significant size.”

Yet climate change is very much on the minds of state policymakers.

For Vermont, reads the state Agency of Natural Resources website, “Landscape responses to our distinct seasons support local businesses such as maple sugar producers; provide residents and visitors alike with winter sports opportunities; and create the green mountains of our summers and vibrant colors for which our autumns are famous. Our native fish, wildlife and plants are vulnerable to climate-related changes.”

America has the economic muscle and brainpower to lead the global charge in reducing carbon emissions and in adopting greener alternatives in every field from energy production to manufacturing to transportation.

The energy efficiency expertise that resides with Vermont companies and nonprofits, as well as the state’s experience as part of a regional cap-and-trade emissions market can help lead the way to a cleaner energy future for the entire nation.

Vermont can present the real-world possibilities of the economic opportunities that lies in embracing the fight to reduce greenhouse gases.

Too much of the energy industry appears incapable of moving beyond squeezing the last bit of profit from antiquated power plants to give a short-term boost to the bottom line.

Those opposed to the proposed EPA regulations are raising a hue and cry about the cost of meeting new standards. In the business world, this is called an investment.

Forcing owners of coal-fired power plants to find ways to cut emissions should prove the incentive needed to fuel investment and spur innovation.

We must stop fouling our own nest and begin to clean up the mess we’ve made.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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