- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Aug. 3

The Telegraph, United Kingdom, on the UK Independence Party:

Contrary to appearances, the process of selecting a new leader for the UK Independence Party is not a joke. It is potentially a matter of importance to people far beyond the party itself, and it is vital that Ukip politicians and members recognise what is at stake.

Thus far, the search for a leader to replace Nigel Farage has not shown Ukip in the best light. The former favourite, Steven Woolfe, may be justified in complaining that he has been excluded from the race on what are essentially administrative grounds arising from a poorly run application process. Yet Mr Woolfe’s own conduct - letting his party membership lapse, failing to declare a drink-driving conviction - does little to inspire confidence in his ability to lead a political party.

Whoever does eventually take on the leadership will have no shortage of challenges. Succeeding the charismatic and sometimes divisive Nigel Farage will be a real test, not least since Mr Farage and his friends retain much influence in the party - perhaps too much, in fact. An even bigger task than drawing a line under the previous leadership will be defining a role for the party in the post-referendum political system.

After the Brexit vote and without Mr Farage at the helm, it would be easy for Ukip to devolve into a fractious and self-regarding protest movement that lacks clear political focus. Yet British politics already has one such organisation in the form of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, and the country can ill afford another. In the coming years, we will learn what sort of relationship Theresa May’s Government proposes Britain should have with the European Union after Brexit. While we have great confidence in Mrs May and her team to make the most of this great opportunity and strike a good deal, it is also essential that any post-Brexit settlement is subjected to the fiercest possible scrutiny on behalf of the electorate. A Labour Party rendered impotent by its internal divisions is unlikely to discharge its responsibilities as an opposition party here. Ukip’s contribution to the Brexit debate therefore assumes greater weight.

Under Mr Farage, Ukip played a pivotal part in delivering the referendum that will take Britain out of the EU. After Mr Farage, the party has a new and important role to play in ensuring that departure is enacted in the best way possible. Ukip should consider that new role carefully when picking a leader.

Online:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

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Aug. 2

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on House Speaker Paul Ryan and Donald Trump:

This is what political courage looks like: U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, a Republican from New York, told Syracuse.com Tuesday that he would not vote for Donald Trump for president. He will vote for Hillary Clinton.

Trump, he said, is a “national embarrassment.”

Take note, Paul Ryan.

Trump has said many things during his 14-month campaign. He has called women “dogs” and “pigs.” He has mocked a disabled reporter. He has shown only the slightest interest in learning the issues - his apparent surprise at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this week is only the latest example of vacuousness.

But Trump’s denigration of the parents of a Muslim soldier who died trying to save his fellow troops was indeed a “national embarrassment.”

And it ought to be the last straw for the Speaker of the House. Khizr Khan, speaking with his wife Ghazala at his side during the Democratic National Convention last week, explained how his son, Humayun, died in a car bombing in Iraq in 2004; Humayun Khan ran toward the oncoming vehicle while ordering his men to flee. Khizr Khan castigated Trump for his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country and asked the billionaire if he had ever bothered to read the Constitution, pulling a copy from his pocket and offering to loan it to him.

“You have sacrificed nothing and no one,” he said.

Trump was quick to retaliate. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Trump said he had “made a lot of sacrifices,” noting that his business had created jobs, and he questioned why Ghazala Khan stood by silently (she later said she still finds it painful to talk about her son’s death).

“Maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say, you tell me,” Trump said. In a statement, Trump said Khizr Khan had “no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things.”

In fact, Khizr Khan had every right. And Khizr Khan was right about Trump.

Donald Trump was staked to his business by his wealthy father and has sacrificed very little for his country. During the Vietnam War, Trump, 69, received five deferments, four because he was in college and a fifth for bone spurs in his heels, The New York Times reported Tuesday. And yet he has the gall to treat a family that has given so much to its adopted nation in this manner? Ryan again condemned the idea of a religious test for entry into the country and he praised Humayun Khan.

“Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military and made the ultimate sacrifice. Capt. Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice - and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan - should always be honored. Period.”

But Ryan still believes he can have it both ways with Trump - that he can support Trump and still manage the billionaire’s frequent eruptions of ignorance. He cannot. His principles and Donald Trump’s candidacy are simply not compatible.

What will it take, Speaker Ryan? If not small-minded contempt for a Gold Star family, then what? How far must Trump go? Stand on principle. Disavow Donald Trump.

Online:

http://www.jsonline.com/

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Aug. 2

The Washington Post on Vladimir Putin and Syria:

For more than a month, Secretary of State John F. Kerry has been pressing the regime of Vladimir Putin to accept what, for Moscow, would be a sweetheart deal on Syria. The United States would grant Russia’s long-standing request to carry out joint operations against Syrian rebels deemed to be terrorists, in exchange for another Kremlin promise to restrain bombing by the regime of Bashar al-Assad in some parts of the country. This cave-in to Mr. Putin would be so sweeping that some senior Obama administration officials have not concealed their doubts: In an interview with The Post’s David Ignatius, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. questioned whether Russia could be expected to deliver on any promise it made in Syria.

Sure enough, it turns out that Mr. Putin had other ambitions. Rather than settle for the partial victory offered by Mr. Kerry, Russia has joined with the Assad regime in a new campaign to drive all anti-regime forces out of Aleppo, the country’s largest city - a feat that would essentially win the war. Last week, Moscow unilaterally declared that it was creating four evacuation corridors out of rebel-held districts and invited the 300,000 civilians and armed combatants in them to evacuate. Anyone who remained, the Russians suggested, would be mercilessly targeted. That assault is already underway: Having cut off the last road into the rebel-held area nearly three weeks ago, regime forces have been systematically bombing its remaining hospitals and other medical facilities.

As even State Department spokesmen were obliged to acknowledge, the Russian operation, which the Kremlin cynically described as a humanitarian mission, was little more than a preemptory demand for the opposition’s unconditional surrender that ignored the ongoing U.N.-sponsored political process and violated a Security Council resolution. For their part, the rebels responded with a major offensive to break the Aleppo siege. On Monday, the deadline set by U.N. Resolution 2254 for an agreement on a political transition in Syria, some of the heaviest fighting of the year was underway.

Once again, the Obama administration appears to have been blindsided by Mr. Putin, just as it was when Russia dispatched its forces to Syria in September. On Friday, Mr. Kerry said he had been on the phone to Moscow seeking clarification about the Aleppo move, which he said posed the “risk, if it is a ruse, of completely breaking apart the level of cooperation.” By Monday, he had no answers. “These are important days to determine whether or not Russia and the Assad regime are going to live up to the U.N.,” he said, adding, “the evidence thus far is very, very troubling.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Putin has no reason to respect such warnings from Mr. Kerry. Time and again, the secretary has declared that Russia must deliver or suffer consequences, such as a U.S. “Plan B” for Syria. Each time, Moscow has disregarded the jawboning - and Mr. Kerry has responded not with consequences but with new appeals for cooperation and more U.S. concessions. On Monday, he said, “We will see in the course of the next hours, few days, whether or not that dynamic” with Russia “can be changed.” But then, he spoke nearly the same words six months ago.

Online:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

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Aug. 2

The New York Times on Police Commissioner William Bratton’s departure:

Police Commissioner William Bratton abruptly announced on Tuesday that he is stepping down next month, more than a year earlier than expected. He is leaving his boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a tough spot.

Choosing Mr. Bratton was one of the best decisions Mr. de Blasio made after his election as mayor, one borne out by ever-declining crime rates and the department’s sharp turn away from abusive stop-and-frisk policing - a necessary precursor to repairing frayed community ties. Mr. Bratton, now 68, was already an old-timer, a celebrated innovator who had successfully run the police departments in New York and Los Angeles, and seemingly had little left to prove, when Mr. de Blasio turned to him. He instantly strengthened Mr. de Blasio’s credibility on law and order, tried to shield him from the contempt of rank-and-file officers and oversaw a department that continues to operate - though with troubling exceptions - as a national model of professionalism and restraint.

Mr. Bratton understood, in a way that his jut-jawed predecessor Raymond Kelly did not, that policing could be - had to be - both constitutional and effective. To see how Mr. Bratton responded to the Eric Garner killing, with sensitivity and tact, and to hear him speak at the funerals of slain police officers, was to be reminded of his deep understanding of the honorable and central role of police officers in a society - not so much to fight crime but to prevent it, and always to keep the peace.

Now Mr. de Blasio has to keep that going without Mr. Bratton, in an administration whose headaches and investigations are mounting, in a city where disorder and discontent are never fully vanquished. On the same day Mr. Bratton announced he was taking his leave, gushing praise for the mayor, members of the police union tailed Mr. de Blasio from Gracie Mansion to his gym in Brooklyn, in an aggressive stunt about pay raises. A knot of anti-police demonstrators, meanwhile, on the second day of a sit-in at City Hall, toasted Mr. Bratton’s departure (their No. 1 demand) while pressing for their next one: defunding the Police Department to pay for “reparations” to minority communities.

The city remains safe; the lawless crack-and-squeegee days, for all the wishful predictions of Mr. de Blasio’s most dogged, doomful critics, have not returned. But the thin blue line is thin. Terrorism, here as everywhere, remains in the realm of who-knows-what, or when. And for citizens leading the movement for police reform, outraged and energized by the Garner killing and other appalling police abuses across the country, change has not come quickly enough.

Into this challenging moment steps Mr. Bratton’s successor, the chief of department, James O’Neill. Chief O’Neill, who goes by Jimmy, is a respected career cop who has been leading the department’s neighborhood-policing initiatives, and who successfully oversaw high-security events like the pope’s visit.

It will be up to him to finish the job of transforming the Police Department. He will have to overcome deep wariness in neighborhoods as the force, under court supervision, enacts reforms, including tests of body cameras to record encounters with civilians. He will have to manage relations with the City Council, which has been trying to exert its own authority to rein in unlawful policing. He will need to stand up to the dead-end mind-set of the police union, its either-you’re-with-us-or-against-us attitude that led hundreds of officers to disgrace themselves by turning their backs on the mayor at public events and, for a few weeks, to unofficially and illegally walk off the job.

Chief O’Neill will have 34,000 officers behind him, a force bolstered last month by a large and diverse crop of new officers - 1,257 graduates of the Police Academy, who started work on the Fourth of July. At their ceremony, Mr. Bratton urged them to avoid the “blue cocoon that isolates you from the community,” and added an exhortation that could fittingly encapsulate his remarkable career: “Together we can make New York a city that is safe and fair - everywhere for everyone.”

Online:

http://www.nytimes.com/

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Aug. 2

The Khaleej Times on Harry Potter and the power of books:

We are constantly being inundated with facts, figures and opinion pieces on why print is on its last legs (with many pessimists already giving it a premature burial) and why digital is the way forward. While we are in no way disputing the latter’s importance, the crowd that turned up for the launch of J.K. Rowling’s new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at 3am in Dubai, is a heartening sign that all’s well with the printed word. With teens and millennials, there was a fair sprinkling of adults who have spent considerable amount of time and money pursuing their Potter addiction. It was definitely a sight for sore eyes. And a fitting reply to those who have been eager to give print a kick in its rear to make way for the digital world.

With 2016 being declared the Year of Reading in the UAE, to foster a generation of book lovers who will hopefully take the habit forward to the next generation, the country has shown it is on the right path. After all, no nation can move forward while turning a blind eye to the best of its culture. The digital space is now a free-for-all - where sensational headlines serve as click-bait and unverified stories thrive. They are no doubt targeted at those with short attention spans. But in the end the demand for original content and quality writing will prevail, and those who have grown up reading the Harry Potter series will hopefully be the ones who lead us to a brighter, more rewarding future. People who prefer print over digital will no longer be seen as uncool. Last heard, Cursed Child is being touted as the “publishing sensation of the decade” and the “fastest selling book” of the year. All we can say is: long live print!

Online:

http://khaleejtimes.com/

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July 31

The Miami Herald on the Zika virus:

Bad news - they’re here. The Zika-carrying mosquitoes - despite all the spraying - have arrived in Miami-Dade County, responsible for at least four local victims contracting the disease. They are the first to be infected by mosquitoes in the continental United States.

And the situation grew more dire Monday morning. The number of local Zika cases jumped to 14 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory warning pregnant women to avoid visiting sections of Miami.

What do we do now?

First, Florida needs to make a specific request for federal funding. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the Editorial Board on Sunday that the department, so far, hasn’t received one. Why this dangerous delay?

Second, the do-nothing Congress, which went on recess before approving adequate funding to bombard the infected stingers wreaking havoc in the region, should come back early and lift a finger to protect the public.

That was the unequivocally strong message from Florida’s Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on Friday, as local and state health officials, along with Gov. Rick Scott, confirmed that the newest cases are people who had not traveled and been infected abroad. That means that now you can catch the virus just by stepping out of your house and encountering the wrong kind of mosquito.

“Congressional members should go back to Washington and approve additional funding before this becomes a full-blown problem,” Sen. Rubio said. “We have waited far too long to address this issue.”

We could not agree more and commend him for his well-placed concern. In June, the Editorial Board urged Sen. Rubio to be a forceful voice for the well-being of his constituents, so it’s good to hear his clarion call.

Now, he, along with Gov. Scott, needs to be equally committed to jettisoning the politics that have been injected into stemming a potential crisis and work to get a clean funding bill passed in Congress, not one larded with nonrelated items from the GOP’s agenda. That’s what did in the most recent attempt to secure funding. Democrats balked at the bills that included measures that would make it more difficult for women trying to access contraceptive services through Planned Parenthood and similar organizations and cut $540 million from the Affordable Care Act.

The Department of Health And Human Services says that this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has moved $8 million for Florida in the fight against Zika. The money can, among other things, enhance mosquito control and monitoring, provide epidemiology and laboratory staff, equipment and supplies, and help contribute data to the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry. Zika causes brain-damaging microcephaly in women’s fetuses. In addition, the CDC awarded on July 1 about $27 million to the state in Public Health Emergency Preparedness funding, which can be used to support Zika response efforts.

Now the onus is on the state of Florida to come through with a formal funding request. The delay is irresponsible.

Before Friday’s troubling revelation, Florida had 300-plus Zika cases, more than any other state.

Back in February, President Obama asked Congress for $1.8 billion to fight Zika. But Congress sat on its hands, while the Obama administration shifted $510 million for Ebola to fight Zika, a stopgap measure.

The Senate eventually cut the president’s request to $1.1 billion, while the House allocated only $662 million. But the chambers, ultimately, approved nothing.

Blame the House for its attempt at legislative blackmail by attaching poison-pill provisions that Republicans knew Democrats would never accept - which is unacceptable.

We need funds to stage a D-Day on these mosquitoes. As Sen. Rubio reminded fellow lawmakers: “This is not a partisan issue; Zika bites everyone.”

Online:

http://www.miamiherald.com/

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July 29

The Montreal Gazette on Hillary Clinton:

To paraphrase Hillary Clinton, when a barrier falls, it clears the way for everyone.

The enormous barrier that came crashing down at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday represents an important milestone for women’s progress in politics; it leaves open the possibility that the United States might yet join countries like Germany and the United Kingdom in being led by a woman.

Of course, Americans have yet to choose their president. There is no doubt Clinton has the smarts, drive and credentials for the Oval Office. Unfortunately, the best candidate doesn’t always get the job.

Still, what was made official in Philadelphia is historic - the first time a major U.S. party has nominated a woman for president.

This breakthrough makes no small impression on this side of the border, too. For older women who remember when female politicians were rarities, it is a marker of how far our societies have evolved; for girls, it shows that no ambition is too high.

In Canada, there is now gender parity in the federal and Alberta cabinets. Three provinces have female premiers - and at one point not so long ago, five did.

We’ve had a female prime minister, too, albeit with an asterisk. Kim Campbell rose to the highest office in 1993 when she took over the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives, but her party lost the election six months later. Still, it’s probably safe to say most Canadians would not have any problem with the idea of electing a female prime minister.

And yet, hurdles persist for women in this country, both in politics and the wider society. The World Economic Forum ranks Canada 80th out of 145 countries when it comes to wage equality, and 40th for the number of women in politics and key leadership positions.

In last fall’s election, the percentage of women elected to the House of Commons increased by just one point, to 26 per cent, from the previous House. And female MPs sometimes face discrimination, as Michelle Rempel of Alberta, a former cabinet minister, made clear in a recent opinion piece. “The everyday sexism I face,” she wrote, “involves confronting the ‘bitch’ epithet when I don’t automatically comply with someone’s request or capitulate on my position on an issue.”

Sadly, these are the same kind of attacks that Clinton has faced, and will continue to face on the road to the presidential vote. “Life’s a bitch. Don’t vote for one,” says one pro-Republican campaign button.

Clearly, Clinton’s nomination is a moment to celebrate. It’s equally clear, though, that tough battles lie ahead for women in politics, there and here.

Online:

http://montrealgazette.com/

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