- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

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

March 29

Gloucester County Times, Woodbury, N.J., on the future role of nuclear power as a source of energy:

South and central New Jersey are Ground Zero, so to speak, concerning the future of aging U.S. nuclear electricity plants.

The nation’s oldest operating commercial plant, Oyster Creek in Lacy Township, awaits its fate, with its initial 40-year license set to expire this year. Meanwhile, PSEG Nuclear took official steps this month to extend the licenses of its three Salem County plants. …

At Salem, the original license for Unit 1 expires in 2016, the Unit 2 license expires in 2020, and Hope Creek is licensed until 2026. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires considerable lead time for re-licensing, and there should be sufficient time to answer questions from citizens, experts and the NRC itself.

Since the region needs its power, Oyster Creek has backed regulators into a corner. Its deadline is here. Although the NRC is reportedly in no rush, design concerns could get glossed over.

When decision day arrives for Salem 1, hopefully, there will be better answers about the suitability of operating a plant with 40-year-old technology for another 20 years. To start with, the federal government must honor its obligation to complete a spent-fuel storage site at Yucca Mountain or offer a viable alternative. …

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On the Net:

https://www.nj.com/gloucester/

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March 30

The Jackson (Tenn.) Sun, on voting and proof of citizenship:

A bill working its way through the Tennessee General Assembly would require prospective voters to provide proof of citizenship before they could register to vote. This bill is ridiculous. It is another case of lawmakers addressing a nonexistent problem. This bill should be defeated.

The legislation is being sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, a Collierville Republican. …

Norris says he is not trying to restrict access to the ballot box, but that’s exactly what this bill would do. He has expressed concern about “fraudulent registrations or registration by those who are not U.S. citizens.” Just how big a problem does he think this is, anyway? The truth is, it’s not.

The only thing this bill would do is unnecessarily hamper people’s ability to register to vote. It is just one more inconvenience (who carries their birth certificate around with them, anyway?). It is likely to have a chilling effect on voter registration. It will definitely hamper the ability of voter registration groups to go to the voters in places like churches and supermarkets and sign them up. In a country where too few eligible people vote already, this is just one more inconvenience we don’t need.

Our current system, with rare exception, has worked fine for years. There’s no need to tinker with it or “improve it.” Lawmakers should quickly reject this ill-thought-out piece of legislation and move on to more important matters.

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On the Net:

https://www.jacksonsun.com/article/20090330/OPINION/903300302/1014

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March 26

Chicago Tribune, on automatic pay raises for Congress:

It used to be that members of Congress had to ask themselves if they deserved a pay raise before giving themselves one. …

That’s how it worked until 1989, when Congress came up with an even better way to reward itself for a job done medium well. Lawmakers now get automatic cost-of-living increases every year, unless they vote not to take them.

Not everyone in Congress thinks this is the way to do business. Some lawmakers refuse to accept mid-term raises, returning the money to the U.S. Treasury or donating it to charity. Congress opted to forgo the raises several times during the 1990s and again in 2007. Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) have repeatedly sponsored measures to do away with automatic increases.

With layoffs, pay cuts and salary freezes running rampant in the real world, the Senate actually passed such a bill last week. …

As bosses go, the American taxpayer is notoriously hard to please. History will be made the day Congress gives itself a raise without a round of grousing from the citizenry. It’s no wonder lawmakers prefer the passive approach to enhancing their paychecks. But it’s cowardly and self-serving, and it’s time for it to stop. Lawmakers should have to take an up-or-down vote, in broad daylight, before helping themselves to another penny of taxpayers’ money.

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On the Net:

https://www.chicagotribune.com.

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March 31

The New York Times, on North Korea and missiles:

For weeks, North Korea has been talking about plans to launch a rocket sometime between April 4 and 8. Whether it intends to put a satellite in orbit as it claims or test a long-range missile, as the Obama administration and many others suspect, Pyongyang has fueled dangerous new tensions in East Asia.

Japan has ordered its military to destroy the missile if the launch fails and debris falls on its territory. The Pentagon has sent two missile-interceptor ships off the Korean coast, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that they would act only if the missile appeared headed toward American territory. North Korea, meanwhile, has threatened unspecified “strong steps” if the United Nations Security Council decides to penalize it for the launch. …

If Pyongyang defies the Security Council and tests a missile, there will have to be a clear and unified condemnation. But as soon as possible, Washington must work with its partners to find a way back to the negotiating table. However tortuous, firm and patient engagement offers the best chance of curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and its missile program.

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On the Net:

https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/opinion/01wed1.html?_r1&refopinion;

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March 31

The Cincinnati Enquirer, on the auto industry:

For a century, the most enduring symbol of U.S. industrial might - and of the strength of the nation’s middle class - has been something we could see, touch, own and drive: the American-made car.

So the specter of collapse hovering over General Motors and Chrysler is giving Americans a reality check in a way the less tangible woes of investment and insurance firms might not. Concerns heightened after President Barack Obama this weekend threatened to withhold future bailout money unless the automakers win further concessions from unions and creditors. …

Obama is right to demand that GM and Chrysler do far more to restructure, and quickly; they’ve been dragging their feet on that task since December’s $17.4 billion federal bailout. And the president’s openness to an expedited bankruptcy process for one or both sends the message that this restructuring will indeed happen.

But the Obama administration and Congress must take extreme care not to handle this process in a way that shakes the confidence of consumers, investors and others on whom the industry _ including the vast network of suppliers _ depends.

They should give Americans specific, up-front evidence that the restructuring, whatever form it takes, will result in stronger, viable automakers that will continue employing Americans and building better products.

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On the Net:

https://news.cincinnati.com/article/20090331/EDIT01/903310336/1019/EDIT

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March 26

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on the Small Business Administration:

When bank giant Washington Mutual collapsed last year, news reports highlighted the bank’s jaw-dropping lending practices, such as giving a loan to a mariachi singer who claimed a six-figure income.

Unable to verify the singer’s claim, WaMu officers simply photographed him in front of his home wearing his mariachi outfit. His loan was promptly approved.

Now it turns out the federal government had its own WaMu going on.

Lax oversight at the Small Business Administration allowed unqualified companies to collect at least $30 million in federal contracts from a program designed to help small businesses in poor areas, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The SBA routinely failed to verify paperwork or to audit the program to prevent fraud from large firms that falsely claimed to have offices in poor neighborhoods. …

The probe, which examined select contracts from fiscal years 2006 and 2007, found that the SBA asked for supporting evidence from only a third of applicants and visited the site of only a few companies.

The agency’s failure to conduct even these elementary checks is appalling and clearly let the program become a vehicle for waste and fraud. …

It’s imperative that the administration set up more strict oversight procedures at the SBA to ensure this money goes to companies that truly need it.

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On the Net:

https://tinyurl.com/cqzylj

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March 29

Odessa (Texas) American, on the stock market:

The past couple of weeks’ general upward trend of the stock market is a welcome change from the constant downward spiral of market indexes that has deflated a lot of hopes _ as well as 401(k)s.

And it would seem to indicate that a lot of investors who pulled out of the market are rejoining the game.

Of course, no one is doing any excessive cheering at this point.

The Dow Jones average has a lot of rallying to do before it comes anywhere close to the marks we saw last summer.

But the trend does give us a bit of a morale boost. Really, it’s more of a mind game than anything else. …

So now we’re back to watching the stock figures again because the Dow is climbing, with some fits and starts, again. Hey, maybe it can get above the 8,000 mark, we tell ourselves. Never mind that it was above 13,000 when the bottom fell out. …

But that’s OK. If investors decide that Wall Street is safe again, maybe the wheels will get some traction. And perhaps this time, we won’t get so thrilled about being on a wild ride. We’d just as soon chug along on a gentle incline instead of roaring up the mountain knowing that you’ll eventually reach the peak and immediately plunge down the backside slope. …

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On the Net:

https://www.oaoa.com

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April 1

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on the White House’s response to GM:

President Obama fired General Motors Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner over the weekend, ostensibly due to his failure to come up with a “plan” acceptable to the administration. If he hadn’t cleaned out his desk and surrendered his key to the executive washroom, he was told there would be no more taxpayer dollars to keep GM afloat.

CEOs of other corporations taking federal bailout money surely have taken note. The stock market certainly did when the news hit.

If you are not worried by the Obama administration’s audacious grab for the commanding heights of the U.S. economy _ the banks, the insurance industry, the giant too-big-to-fail manufacturers _ you should be. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner even suggests that government takeover of private corporations that have not accepted federal loans would be warranted, if considered necessary to rescue the overall economy.

The question boils down to this: Would it have been better to let well-established bankruptcy law apply to GM (and other failing corporate giants) rather than suffer Washington’s continued exertions on its behalf. …

Or, to put it another way, would you like your next car designed in Washington rather than in Detroit?

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On the Net:

https://www.charleston.net/editorial

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March 31

Politiken, Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir attending the Arab summit:

Rolling out the red carpet for a wanted war criminal seems quite a demonstration. But that is how Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who is charged with crimes against humanity, was received when he arrived Sunday in Qatar for an Arab summit.

The red carpet was rolled out, and the emir showed up in person at the Doha Airport to greet the wanted man with hugs and kisses on both cheeks.

It was a truly astonishing sight.

Nearly 300,000 people have died during the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur province, and Bashir has been closely linked with those crimes by the International Criminal Court, ICC.

So why would the Arab summit want to sit together with a man responsible for such violence? …

Could it be that the Arab world’s rulers wanted to pressure al-Bashir into turning himself in to the court in The Hague?

Nope. The Arab world’s foreign ministers would rather urge the ICC to abandon the case against Omar al-Bashir. The summit offered no concrete help to Darfur’s hard-pressed population. …

It is a disgrace for the Arab community, which needs better and more righteous leaders than the bunch who met in Qatar.

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https://www.politiken.dk

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March 28

Diena, Riga, Latvia, on the G-20 summit:

… (L)eaders of the world’s 20 leading economies will convene in London for the G-20 summit. This forum, formed in 1999, has historically received much less attention than the glorified G-8. … However, in the current global economic crisis, in which China, India and Brazil must play a significant role if it is to be overcome, the G-20 will be the most ideal forum for seeking solutions. Together these countries create 90 percent of the world’s gross domestic product … and account for two-thirds of the world’s population.

Stimulative steps by the U.S. government … have in the rest of the world sown fears and created doubts whether it will be possible in London to agree on a common strategy for overcoming the crisis … The European Union and China have given unambiguous signals that Washington’s plan to turn on the money printing machine with maximum speed is not to their liking. …

If businessmen and consumers believe that the world’s leading governments are prepared to cooperate to overcome the crisis, then this can build hope. If they think that the pie was pulled into twenty pieces behind closed doors, then we can expect an even greater wariness and decrease in economic activity.

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On the Net:

https://www.diena.lv

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March 31

The London Telegraph, on the G-20 summit and President Barack Obama:

The leaders of the world’s richest countries are in London this week to attend the G-20 summit, but most eyes will be on just one of them. Barack Obama, who arrived last night with his wife, Michelle, in an echo of JFK’s visit in June 1961, is a mere 72 days into his presidency; yet its style and likely direction of travel is already being established. From the British point of view, the signs are not entirely propitious. Even though Gordon Brown was the first European leader to be invited to Washington to meet the new president, the treatment he received there was perfunctory, bordering on the dismissive. Understandably, Mr. Obama is preoccupied with the momentous economic events in his own country; but the decisions, both domestically and diplomatically, that he and his administration take now will have an impact around the world. The extraordinary sight of a presidential decree forcing the resignation of the chief executive of General Motors, one of America’s most important companies, is indicative of the strange times we are in.

It was inevitable that after arriving in the White House like a knight on a charger, Mr. Obama would be brought down to earth by the scale of the challenge he faced. … If Mr. Obama wants to don the mantle of a statesman, this week in London is a good place to try it on for size. These are early days; but the President is finding out the hard way that simply not being George Bush is an insufficient condition for global success, however charismatic he may be. …

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On the Net:

https://tinyurl.com/chtspz

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March 27

The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, on baseball:

Ichiro Suzuki’s game-winning single in the final of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) will probably remain seared in the memories of many people. With a spectacular 5-3 extra-innings victory over South Korea in the hotly contested final of the international baseball tournament, Japan captured the championship again following its win in the first event in 2006.

The United States, which invented baseball, has created an impressive catchphrase for the event: “Behind every play, a nation.”

The second WBC was marked by the brilliant performances of emerging Asian teams. In the first event three years ago, Japan won the title and South Korea advanced to semifinals. But the American media coverage of the tournament focused mostly on the U.S. team’s miserable results.

This time was different. Droves of American baseball experts, including major league scouts and media commentators, showed up to watch the Japanese and South Koreans in their pre-game practices. …

The U.S. team could be likened to the Big Three automakers, which have suffered badly from competition from their Japanese and South Korean rivals and now symbolize the economic woes of the United States. …

The world baseball landscape is changing rapidly and dramatically.

In the next WBC, the U.S. team will no doubt be much more serious about winning its first title. Flat-out battles between baseball’s native land and the emerging baseball powers will further increase the appeal and potential of the sport.

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On the Net:

https://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200903270068.html

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