- Associated Press - Saturday, May 7, 2016

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New England newspapers:

The Providence Journal (R.I.), May 3, 2016

Puerto Rico’s economy has been in dire straits for what seems like an eternity. This week, it sank a little further into the financial abyss.

After Moody’s Investors Service recently reported that the U.S. territory would default on $422 million in bonds, Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla confirmed the worst. He announced that the Government Development Bank wouldn’t make any payments on Monday. While Mr. Garcia Padilla claimed this was a “painful decision,” he said he had “decided that essential services for the 3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico came first.”

The $422 million is a minor part of the problem for an island that already has a bonded indebtedness of approximately $71 billion, and a total pension liability of roughly $44 billion (according to the U.S. Treasury Department).

And it is hard to see how the American territory will ever be able to pay back its enormous debt load.

Because of its poor government and overspending, Puerto Rico is losing population, as people flee its staggering economic burden, steady increase of taxes, and lack of available opportunities for individuals to succeed and thrive. As the Pew Research Center pointed out in an August 2014 study, “144,000 more people left the island for the mainland than the other way around from mid-2010 to 2013.”

Unless something is done, this number will continue to grow by leaps and bounds.

The United States has a couple of options. It could initiate a federal bailout, which would immediately wipe out the Puerto Rican debt. At the same time, this seems grossly unfair to American taxpayers- and is a fiscally irresponsible way of dealing with this problem.

Second, Congress could change the rules and let Puerto Rico formally file for bankruptcy. While this isn’t necessarily a desirable solution, at least the taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for tens of billions of dollars (although investors would, and would be wary of helping out Puerto Rico again).

It would also be wise to remove U.S. minimum wage restrictions from the island to help make it more competitive.

During the White House Correspondents Dinner Saturday night, President Barack Obama joked that he only has several more months before he becomes a lame duck. Well, he isn’t one yet- and he should push Congress to help Puerto Rico get back on its feet.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1OhUZJZ

The Portsmouth Herald (N.H.), May 5, 2016

Ask a room full of political pundits what the anointing of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee means and you will most likely get more than a room full of answers.

Since the Trump candidacy moved from mere theater to reality after Tuesday’s win in Indiana with Ted Cruz and John Kasich calling it quits, attempts have escalated among those paid to speculate on what it all means.

The truth is that figuring out the Trump phenomenon is like trying to find the meaning of life in the zany Monty Python movie by that name. But there are clues and we have some theories.

Interestingly, the story line for “The Meaning of Life” has a lot in common with this presidential primary season.

The film begins with a segment in which a group of office clerks in a small accounting firm rebel against their emotionlessly efficient, yuppie corporate masters. They take over their building, turn it into a pirate ship, sailing into a major financial district, where they raid and overthrow a large multi-national corporation.

This could aptly describe the Trump phenomenon- a 21st century American Revolution of sorts. The difference, however, may not be just the actions taken by an oppressive ruling power but the inaction of our present-day government.

Monty Python’s “yuppie corporate masters” are much akin to our federal government, perceived as cold and unfeeling for the problems of everyday Americans.

For its part, the Republican-controlled Congress has fed the notion of an uncaring government through its inaction. It has failed in every measure after promising to improve the lives of the middle class.

This has led a significant portion of the country to follow the Trump bandwagon which has ridden roughshod over more than a dozen mostly traditional candidates.

Whether Trump will win the right to park his bandwagon on the lawn of the White House is an open question. The odds may be against him, but remember, the Leicester City Football Club (soccer for those of us across the pond) just beat 5,000-to-1 odds to win the British Premier League crown.

Setting aside who will win, however, we can speculate as to what the upcoming campaign will look like and the tone it will take.

For the most part, social issues are off the GOP table. Trump has made it clear he will not be a champion of conservative positions on abortion, same-sex marriage and the like.

We expect the New York billionaire to stick to his mantra: “Make America Great Again.”

How he will make us great again will remain undefined. We, as a nation, will be asked to believe the promise because of Trump’s optimism and, unsaid, anger over the status quo.

As for tone, there have been off-and-on-again indications that Trump may take a more traditional approach as he pivots to the general election campaign. He was gracious after his defeat of Cruz on Tuesday, which some take to mean that a more civil general election campaign lies again.

As much as we try, we can’t subscribe to the theory. Too much of America is enthralled with reality TV and living in the moment. Too much of America- on both sides of the political aisle -thinks it is getting a raw deal from the federal government and Congress.

This means the general election campaign will mostly likely reflect that anger. And we will have no one else to blame but ourselves- a general public that has chosen to feed on political red meat rather than demand cogent, well thought-out policies to solve deeply entrenched problems.

Hopefully, once the election is a thing of the past and our nation’s anger has been vented, our new leaders will get down to the business of leading.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1WQt6zt

The Recorder (Mass.), May 4, 2016

As a prelude to Northampton’s Pride Festival Saturday, Franklin County residents can join in the celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community with what’s being called the “Gay 5K” and 1-mile walk starting at the Town Common in Greenfield Friday evening.

These events not only foster equality and tout the value of diversity, but also offer a refreshing contrast to what Americans are witnessing elsewhere in the battle over bathrooms.

We’re referring to the silly and blatantly discriminatory efforts against transgender and gay people when it comes to using public restrooms. This attempt by lawmakers segregating and setting back civil rights gained national attention with North Carolina’s “bathroom bill.” Under the pretext of protecting women and children from predators, legislators pushed a law that makes it illegal for anyone to enter a public restroom not in line with the gender on his or her birth certificate, regardless of sexual identity.

This might simply be fodder for a bit of bathroom humor, if this kind of absurdity wasn’t aimed at building barriers rather than taking them down. These so-called protections are built upon misguided perceptions and outright lies.

They ignore the facts, which show there is no increase in sexual assaults in places where bathroom access is based on personal choice and identity. And it’s not transgender or gay individuals who are the monsters here; too often, they are the victims of ridicule and physical assaults.

“For decades, all trans people just used the bathroom that they thought would be best,” says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in a recent Newsweek article. “Now we’re all looking over our shoulders.”

Along with creating unnecessary stress and risks for transgender and gay individuals, these laws raise this practical question: Are states prepared to ask for birth certificates at restroom doors to make sure no one is illegally sneaking in?

No wonder social media sites are filled with messages that simply say “#wejustneedtopee.”

Luckily, there are plenty of people who see the absurdity of what’s going on. In North Carolina’s case, economic pressure is being applied by entertainers and other businesses through cancellation of performances or conferences. The retail department store giant, Target, announced a transgender-inclusive bathroom policy, leading to more cheers than jeers.

What all Americans should be focusing on is ending discrimination for all. In Massachusetts that means having the House and Senate pass legislation that protects transgender people in public places, including public restrooms.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1O5Yrg5

The Caledonian Record (Vt.), May 4, 2016

On Sunday approximately 50 Egyptian police officers stormed a newspaper in Cairo, assaulted security guards, and arrested two journalists for criticizing the government. According to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, Egypt is the second worst jailer of journalists, worldwide.

In Turkey this week two newspaper columnists were each sentenced to two years in prison for “insulting people’s religious values,” after they re-published the Charlie Hebdo cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The sentences are in keeping with an aggressive crackdown on media by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Last week a car full of Somali broadcast journalists, who receive daily death threats, came under machine fire on their way to an assignment. Since Civil War broke out in 1992, 59 journalists have been killed for doing their job in the African nation.

Two weeks ago 64-year-old Chinese journalist Wang Jing was sentenced to four years in prison for “provoking trouble.” Her “crime” was photographing Chinese police beating protesters. Wang is in poor health, suffers from a brain tumor, and has been beaten repeatedly by police while in captivity, her editor says. China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, the CPJ reports.

Last year 14 journalists lost their lives in Syria and nine were killed in France. Overall 72 journalists were killed in the line of duty in 2015 and 10 have been killed so far this year.

Yesterday was World Press Freedom Day, an occasion to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence; and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

President Obama’s administration has been chilling on American press freedoms and media organizations are under tremendous financial strain. But things are much worse elsewhere. In 2015 hundreds of journalists were beaten, harassed, intimidated, killed, arrested, exiled or simply made to disappear for doing their jobs.

Without a free press, there isn’t freedom. We join the United Nations in honoring the bedrock role played by journalists in guaranteeing lawful and democratic societies.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/272Hrhe

The Portland Press Herald (Maine), May 4, 2016

Twenty-three times so far this year, according to The Washington Post, a child age 3 or younger has found and fired a gun. In 11 of these shootings, somebody- usually the child -was killed. Incidents like these are shocking, tragic and largely preventable. But that means fully, and finally, committing ourselves to policies and technology that help keep firearms out of kids’ hands.

The figures presented by the Post on May 1 show an acceleration in the pace of toddler shootings. However, they’re just a small part of the gun violence involving children in our country. In 2015, at least 265 people in the U.S. were unintentionally shot by children under 18. Eighty-three died, including 41 of the children who carried out the accidental shootings.

There are proven ways to stanch this epidemic. For example: Twenty-eight states have child access prevention laws, which, to varying degrees, hold gun owners liable if a child accesses their firearms. Over 800 injuries were prevented and $37 million in medical costs were saved in 2001 in 10 of the states that have these laws, according to a 2005 study for the National Bureau for Economic Research.

On the technical side, guns are now being designed with features that prevent the wrong person from pulling the trigger, such as biometric sensors (like fingerprint readers) and “James Bond”-style grip recognition. One such “smart gun,” the iP1, requires the single authorized user to enter a five-digit PIN into a special watch before firing. (The code is good for eight hours at a time.)

But the company that makes the iP1 hasn’t been able to sell it because of boycott pressure from the National Rifle Association and its allies. Invoking fears that mandating gun-safety technology will pave the way for greater gun control, gun-rights advocates have also come out against a recently announced White House plan to use federal funds to help develop smart guns and to subsidize their purchase by police agencies.

President Obama should focus on fighting terrorism, an NRA spokeswoman declared after the president’s announcement last week. But the threat that militants present to Americans must be put into context. Twenty Americans died at the hands of potential or suspected terrorists in Paris, San Bernardino, California, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2015. Accidental shootings by children, on the other hand, took over four times as many American lives last year.

When it comes to protecting children versus protecting rapid access to guns, our priorities should be clear. Most Americans want safer firearms- just as they support policies to require that guns be stored out of children’s reach. It’s time for this silent majority to speak up and demand action.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/24Drdca

Hartford Courant (Conn.), May 5, 2016

Yale University will come to regret keeping the name of Calhoun College. John C. Calhoun wasn’t merely a 19th-century slave owner. He was the most influential mouthpiece for slaveholders of the time. He laid the groundwork for the Civil War and later segregationist policies. This is not a man Yale should continue to honor.

But Yale President Peter Salovey has said that erasing his name from Calhoun College would risk “downplaying the lasting effects of slavery, and substituting a false and misleading narrative, albeit one that might allow us to feel complacent or, even, self-congratulatory.”

That’s rubbish. Keeping Calhoun College’s name only glorifies the white supremacist who called slavery “a good- a great good.” The university downplays the name’s pernicious effect by leaving it in place.

A “false and misleading narrative” was created when Yale celebrated the slavery apologist in 1931- 81 years after his death -by naming its new college for him. Yes, this Yale alum was powerful in his time as a vice president and a senator, but he used his power and intellect to spin slavery as a “positive good” for the enslaved. In this, he went beyond other Southerners, who had framed it as a necessary evil.

There are two consolation prizes Yale’s president offers. One is changing the title of “master,” given to faculty who head the 12 undergraduate residential colleges, to “head of college.” The other is naming a college now under construction for a civil rights activist who is an African-American woman- a double first for the university.

These are no consolation, however, to the students stuck in the college bearing the Calhoun name.

Yes, other buildings at Yale are named for slave owners, but none so fervent a defender of the evil institution as John C. Calhoun. But for him and his states’ rights doctrine, slavery might well have ended sooner and without such great bloodshed.

This is a bewilderingly bad decision on Yale’s part.

___

Online:

http://cour.at/1SWluGV

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