- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 7, 2009

The following are excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y., on photos of military dead: Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced last week that families of military dead will be empowered to decide whether to allow photographs of their loved ones’ final return home. This is an important first step to opening up the solemn process to media coverage, and by extension, the consciousness of the American public. Gates has formed a “working group” to figure out details.

The hope is, as the policy develops, families will see that the coverage offers a chance to honor their loved one’s sacrifice. …The decision to curtail all news coverage of coffin-arrivals was misguided. … Our sensitivities merit no such protection. The pictures certainly help convey the price being paid. With the policy change, families will determine access. Therein lies opportunity for the American people to join in the solemn ceremonies and honor the fallen. …

On the Net:


Florida Today, Melbourne, Fla., on President Obama’s budget and veterans: During the campaign, President Barack Obama promised to boost veterans’ health care to fulfill the sacred trust often neglected between the government and those who have served. His new budget follows through on that pledge in a major way that helps veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and those who have fought in past conflicts. …But that doesn’t mean we don’t have concerns.

The rumor mill says the administration may want to charge the private insurance companies of disabled vets for treatment of their service-connected injuries instead of the VA paying, which has always been the case. The worry is veterans would be forced to pay premiums for care for which they already have “paid in blood and service,” said David Gorman, executive director of the Disabled American Veterans, according to Congressional Quarterly.

If really in the offing, it cannot be allowed to occur. … That’s why we’ll be closely watching when the final budget is released in April to make certain all veterans receive the care they have earned.

On the Net:


Los Angeles Times, on national parks and gun rules: Absolutely no good can come from a late-term Bush administration rule change allowing concealed weapons in national parks, a move that endangers the lives of park employees and visitors, encourages poaching and will probably worsen damage to archaeological treasures. …The Bush administration changed the rule under pressure from the National Rifle Assn., which is determined to abolish even the most common-sense restrictions on gun rights. The NRA disingenuously argued that park visitors needed concealed weapons for self-defense, even though before the rule change, national parks were among the safest places in the country.

Because the rule change was published in the Federal Register, overturning it could take years. (Interior Secretary Ken) Salazar will have to start the entire rule-making process over, this time carrying out a proper environmental review, a detail that his predecessor omitted in his headlong rush to placate the gun lobby.

Meanwhile, though, Salazar can and should suspend implementation of the rule until the process is complete. That would allow national parks to remain the refuges they were intended to be.

On the Net:


Home News Tribune, East Brunswick, N.J., on polluted industrial sites and the Superfund tax: President Barack Obama wants to restore the federal Superfund tax. Bravo. …Obama said businesses would not have to pay the tax until 2010 - time enough, he believes, for the recession to subside and recovery to take hold. Here’s holding him to his pledge.

Congress allowed the Superfund to lapse in 1995. As the Superfund has dried up, the environmental toll has been enormous, as fewer and fewer Superfund sites have been reclaimed, not just in New Jersey but across the nation. Since that time, the cost of cleanup of the nation’s 1,200 toxic sites has surged, while the fund created from taxes on chemical and petroleum companies has plummeted from $3.6 billion at its high to next to zero, transferring costs to the general public. This shouldering of responsibility by the average taxpayer has taken place for no reason other than lawmakers’ inability to resist the influence of the powerful oil and chemical industries in Washington.

The 1980 Superfund law was created so that polluters would be forced to clean up their own mess, as they should. …

On the Net:


Chicago Tribune, on banks and nationalization fears: “Nationalization” is not a concept that many Americans find appealing, which may explain why the government’s attempts to clean up the mess in the financial sector seem to be generating fear rather than confidence. What is going on looks like a creep toward government control and even ownership of banks. …

Why the gloom? Partly because each effort to right the banking industry forces investors to admit that things are worse than they suspected. But partly it stems from a fear that Washington’s growing role means decisions will be made for political reasons rather than economic ones. …But the government has been hung up on trying not to spend too much for securities whose values are hard to assess, for fear of taking losses. It’s an understandable fear but, in this case, a self-defeating one. Taxpayers are certainly not profiting from endless uncertainty.

The Treasury would do better to pay generously for these assets and trust that by facilitating economic recovery, it will bolster the returns it will get when it eventually sells them. This is not a perfect solution, but compared to government-run banks it looks like a bargain.

On the Net:


Helsingin Sanomat, Helsinki, Finland, on Iran and the U.S.: Iran appears to have taken a new step in being able to build its own nuclear weapon. The IAEA chief has estimated that Iran could achieve nuclear weapons capability in two to five years.

It is worth noting that the new administration in the United States has taken the news calmly. According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Iran is not yet close to acquiring its own nuclear weapon and President Barack Obama’s offer of talks to Iranian leaders remains in force.

Obama is hardly likely to want to plot out his Iran strategy very quickly. A public gesture of reconciliation to hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be politically unwise so close to the presidential elections in which there are more moderate candidates when it comes to foreign policy. International diplomacy in solving Iran’s nuclear problem has for long stood still. Difficultly achieved sanctions have not hindered Iran enriching uranium. The possible success of Obama’s new approach is purely a question of faith and, at any rate, time alone won’t help solve the problem.

On the Net:


Politiken, Copenhagen, Denmark, on the EU and the economic meltdown: In times of crisis, it is everyone for themselves and that, unfortunately, may prove true in European politics today. Most economic rescue plans launched in recent months have had a nasty tinge of protectionism and nationalism. Unilateral measures aimed at saving domestic jobs and industries at the expense of others are a guaranteed way to aggravate the crisis.

While the current situation calls for the EU Commission to intervene, its role must (be) that of restricting financial aid that constitutes discriminatory subsidies and not enforcing strict rules on government deficits. …

Differences on how to respond to this have led some to call this the worst-ever crisis for European politics. Still, it also offers a unique opportunity to renew an institution built over half a century ago.

On the Net:


The Times, London, on finding a way forward in the Middle East: Hillary Clinton answered the question yesterday of who in the West is driving policy on the Middle East. She began her first visit to the region as Secretary of State with the most intractable issue: what to do about Gaza. At a pledging conference in Sharm el-Sheikh she joined dozens of others promising Gaza substantial cash to rebuild houses and infrastructure destroyed by three weeks of Israeli air attacks.

The issue, however, is not money. With Europe and the Gulf states also pledging generously, a total of $3 billion was raised swiftly - more than the sum requested. The issue is whether the money will bring peace any nearer. America and its partners insisted that none would go to Hamas, which controls Gaza. They were less clear, however, about how the money would be spent. With Israel blocking deliveries of steel and cement - on the ground that they could be used for making weapons - little can be done to repair the ruins.

And with Hamas still failing to halt all rockets being fired across the border and refusing to acknowledge Israel’s existence, there is no guarantee that any buildings reconstructed would not be hit again by Israeli jets. …

On the Net:


Gulf News, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on the terror attack on Sri Lanka’s cricketers: The cowardly terror attack on Sri Lanka’s cricketers in Pakistan is an act worthy of the utmost condemnation. The deed has not only shaken the belief of those who firmly held on to the hope that attacks on sportsmen and cricketers - who are adored in the South Asian countries - would be spared of such actions but it has also dented the ambitious plans that cricket in Asia would have had ahead of the 2011 World Cup.

The hopes and aspirations of both cricketers and fans have now been dealt a severe blow by yesterday’s shocking events. The World Cup in 2011 has been awarded to four countries - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Even though the allocation of matches is yet to be decided, it is now evidently clear, following a statement by the International Cricket Council (ICC) chief David Morgan, that Pakistan will not be considered as a cricket playing venue unless dramatic changes are made. The statement in a manner of speaking could tragically sound the death knell of Pakistan cricket. …

For the ICC, who are based in Dubai, yesterday’s events will ensure that they are hard pressed to make right decisions in order to protect the interests of players, sponsors and officials. Security will dominate all discussions. Cricket in South Asia is more than just a game. It is the way to the realization of a dream. It soothes the wounds inflicted by upheaval. It provides succor cutting across rifts created by faith, caste and creed. Sadly … that image of hope has been smashed to smithereens.

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