- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 2, 2009

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

Jacksonville Journal-Courier in Illinois, on the U.N. racism conference: President Obama was quite direct in announcing over the weekend that the United States, “with regret,” would boycott the U.N. conference on racism in Geneva … “… our participation would have involved putting our imprimatur on something we just don’t believe,” the president said.

Like the U.N. commission on human rights, the most active players in the conference on racism seem to be the nations whose records least bear scrutiny.

Since an earlier conference on racism in 2001, which the U.S. ended up walking out of, some of the participants have tried to engineer language that conflates Zionism with racism and thus, by extension, making Israelis racist.

The U.S., not surprisingly, finds this totally unacceptable, as it did attempts by Muslim nations to effectively outlaw criticism of Islam, the prophet Muhammad - the Danish cartoons still rankle - and Sharia law. And the tone of the conference is that racism and intolerance are largely the problem of the developed West. …

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, got the conference off to a calamitous start by claiming that the West used the Holocaust as a pretext for oppressing the Palestinian people, that Israel was a “most cruel and repressive regime,” and that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was the result of a Zionist conspiracy. …

President Obama may have regretted the U.S. boycott when he announced it, but it’s unlikely that he does now.

On the Net:


The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio, on prosecuting Bush officials for torture policy: An attempt by congressional Democrats to grill and perhaps prosecute Bush-administration lawyers who developed the legal rationale for the use of harsh interrogation methods on terrorism suspects is bound to be cast as politically motivated retribution. It will divide the nation and very well could backfire against Democrats and President Barack Obama.

The president already has said that there will be no prosecution of CIA officers who employed harsh interrogation methods, including waterboarding, because they were operating under the legal rationale approved by the Bush administration. …

He wisely advised congressional Democrats that if they are determined to subject Bush administration officials to an inquest they do so with an impartial panel, modeled after the 9/11 Commission. Otherwise, the effort will be condemned by Republicans as a witch hunt, and many Americans are likely to agree. …

This is not to say that torture is acceptable. It is not, and the president has repudiated and prohibited it. And the November election was a repudiation of the administration that approved the methods.

Democrats might be wise to recognize that they already have won and hold the high ground. Further action might only lead them downhill.

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Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky, on morning-after pill Plan B decision: It’s easy to agree on at least one point with activists who criticized the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement that it will approve sale of the morning-after pill Plan B without a prescription to 17-year-olds: The agency should keep politics out of its decisions. …

The three-year delay in approving the nonprescription sale of Plan B, even after outside advisers and internal reviewers recommended it, was based on politics rather than science. …

In his decision, handed down last month, (U.S. District Judge Edward R.) Korman ordered the agency to reverse its earlier decision, saying the FDA had been “arbitrary and capricious,” acting under the influence of the “political and ideological” bent of the Bush administration. Korman is right, and the FDA is absolutely correct to say it will obey his ruling and allow 17-year-olds access to Plan B, if the drug’s maker requests the change, as it has indicated it will. …

Since 2006 when Plan B became widely available without a prescription to women who are 18, there’s been no measurable change in abortion or teen pregnancy rates, as abortion rights advocates had predicted. Nor is there any evidence that women in general have had more unprotected sex and abortions, as anti-abortion proponents had foreseen. …

Plan B is neither an answer nor a curse. It is a pharmaceutical developed for a specific use. The victory here is for science, which is what should have guided the FDA all along.

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Odessa American in Texas, on tea parties across the nation: Some have been quick to downplay the surprisingly strong showing at the hundreds of “tea parties” that were held across the country on April 15, the deadline for filing income tax returns or getting an extension. Since then critics have come out to suggest that the protests were aimed personally at President Barack Obama.

Such comments are unfair. While most of the protests were organized by Republican Party supporters and obviously were politically partisan, many of those attending or commenting about them rightly noted the drastic growth of government size and spending under the Bush Administration as well. …

The message is that people have reached the end of their patience with government intrusion in their lives. And it doesn’t end with the burden of growing taxation amid shrinking paychecks. … Government has become too intrusive in our daily lives; more and more people are beginning to realize that and taking action.

We’re glad they are. …

On the Net:


The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., on the need to get answers in the torture debate: The release of the so-called “torture memos” on April 16, in response to a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, has renewed debate in this country about whether torture, or “enhanced interrogation,” was useful or justified as part of what officials then called the “war on terror” following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. The debate is healthy, but if we don’t learn something useful from it, it is likely to pass into the dustbin of history as another episode of mutual recrimination leading nowhere and satisfying nobody. …

What seems also important to this editorial board is to find out whether torture actually “works” in the sense that it can elicit information vital to protecting America and American interests. You know the argument. If you had a captured terrorist and you knew [of] a plan to detonate a nuclear weapon in a major American city and the terrorist knew the details, wouldn’t you torture him to get the information and prevent the catastrophe?

Maybe you would resort to torture, argue torture opponents, but you wouldn’t be likely to get accurate information. Under torture prisoners tell their captors what they think they want to hear or what they think will stop the pain. …

Even if it has to be done by people cleared to handle top-secret information, it would be worth trying to find out if torture really does yield reliable information. It probably hasn’t done so in more than a tiny number of cases. But we may be wrong; let’s find out.

On the Net:


The Daily Journal in Vineland, N.J., on a national group’s proposed boycott of the 2010 Census: If the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders wanted to bring attention to the illegal immigration issue, it certainly accomplished that.

Unfortunately for the group and its cause of comprehensive immigration reform, its position of urging illegal immigrants to refuse to be counted in the 2010 Census will be counterproductive and hurt the states and communities where illegal immigrants live the most.

This proposed boycott just doesn’t make sense. …

(T)he information collected is confidential, and census officials say they don’t ask people about their immigration status or require Social Security numbers. …

The census is used to determine congressional districts and the number of representatives a state has in Congress. That would mean less representation in Congress for areas with the most undocumented immigrants, potentially reducing the number of lawmakers sympathetic to the cause of immigration reform.

Perhaps most importantly, the census also is used to allocate federal dollars for social programs and other areas, such as schools and health care. Taxpayers in states and communities with many illegal immigrants … would not get their fair share of federal support and could have to make up the difference through local taxes. States also apportion money based on population, so it could mean being shortchanged on state funds, too.

We believe Congress needs to approve comprehensive immigration reform, which should include some type of guest worker program and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. But if this national coalition of Latino ministers thinks that this boycott will pressure Congress to pass such reform and get more Americans to support its cause, it better think again.

On the Net:


Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo, on nuclear disarmament: Since North Korea fired a missile on April 5, Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers have hotly debated whether Japan should possess the capability to attack North Korean missile launching sites on its own. …

The same day in Prague, U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a speech on nuclear disarmament. The reaction in Japan to the speech was cool.

It is true that Prime Minister Taro Aso sent a letter to the president, saying the two nations should work together for nuclear disarmament. Ruling and opposition parties in the Lower House are discussing a resolution calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. But unfortunately, we do not sense any passion among the politicians to change the realities of the world. …

Although the Cold War has ended, a greater number of countries now possess nuclear weapons. Technologies to manufacture nuclear weapons have spread through black markets, and there is a growing danger that nuclear weapons may end up in the hands of terrorists. Obama pointed out his concern that if we sit back and do nothing to stop the trend, the world would be in chaos.

North Korea’s nuclear test and its test launches of missiles in defiance of international criticism are unforgivable. But that is all the more reason why we have to strengthen global moves for the control and abolition of nuclear weapons. Otherwise, the apprehensions expressed by Obama could turn into reality.

On the Net:


The Times in London, on the threat of a swine flu pandemic: There has been a lot of talk lately about global contagion. With the banking crisis the talk of an epidemic is a metaphor. The risk with the swine flu scare is that it turns into a genuine pandemic. …

This inevitably throws up the specter of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the worst of modern times. Forty percent of the world’s population were infected and 50 million people were killed. In 1957 the Asian flu virus, mutating from a strain found in wild ducks, killed two million people. A flu outbreak in 1968 in Hong Kong killed up to one million people globally.

So this is no idle threat. The pertinent question, then, is how prepared are governments in the face of the threat? …

On the Net:


Khaleej Times in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on U.S. automakers: Detroit is in a fix. Its identity as the American state, which churns out automobiles, is at stake. With Chrysler already knocking on the doors of the bankruptcy court, General Motors is likely to follow suit.

It seems the government’s intervention to bailout the automobile industry from the tsunami of recession has hardly helped. Rather the restructuring plans, dictated by corporate concerns, have now forced General Motors to announce closure of plants, cut [its] workers and dealers, and more surprisingly to scrap its once famous brand: Pontiac. …

The Michigan crisis is set to trigger an avalanche of business failures in the U.S. and beyond. Eight long years of recession and six years of government neglect have brought the automobile industry [to] the brink of collapse. In such a scenario, the century-old automaker’s offer to the U.S. Treasury Department to take over 50 percent of its stock to absolve it of $10 billion in government loans needs to be considered on a rescue-footing basis. White House shrugging off such a proposition would not help - as this is no time for such reaction.

The industry as a whole should not be allowed to fall. Bankruptcy will put a damper on consumer confidence and demand for vehicles. Its trickle-down effect will impact the manufacturing industry worldwide as well.

The solution lies in spending reform. President Obama’s administration should come up with a reforms package for the automobile industry, by pumping in cash and incentives, for bringing around a boom in demand and viability at the consumer end. General Motors is a consumer-facing company whose success or failure is in the hands of millions of Americans. A right business environment, and the government’s prudent role, can help thwart this crisis, which perhaps is in need of a right-sizing strategy. The Detroit Three manufacturers need to be saved.

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