Saturday, May 9, 2009

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

Chicago Tribune, on swine flu’s impact on the meat industry: Where others see a looming pandemic, the Australian crocodile meat industry sees only opportunity. No, you can’t get swine flu from eating pork chops, but if you’re nervous, Aussie croc farmers would be happy to introduce you to the other white meat. …

China, Russia, the Philippines and several other countries have banned pork imports from the U.S. and Mexico, despite assurances from the World Health Organization that the disease can’t be transmitted from hog to human. … American pig farmers complain that some countries are just happy for an excuse to enact emergency trade barriers that benefit their own farmers. …

All of this could prove disastrous to the U.S. pork industry. …

A truth-in-labeling campaign launched by the pork producers met with resistance at first. But then Nebraska, which has a whole lot of pig farmers, broke ranks with the rest of the world, calling the virus by its scientific name, H1N1. Within days, U.S. health officials had adopted the name, while the European Commission had settled on the puzzling “novel virus.” On Thursday, the WHO announced that it would go with H1N1 to avoid confusion and to prevent the unnecessary slaughter of perfectly good pigs.

It won’t be easy to get that hog back in the barn, though. H1N1 doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and folks have gotten used to using the term “swine flu,” as we’ve done several times in this editorial. It’s time we all stopped dragging the pig’s reputation through the mud.

Swine: It’s not a virus. It’s what’s for dinner.

On the Net:

New York Post, on Spanish judge’s torture investigation: The Spanish sure don’t make inquisitions like they used to.

But a renegade Madrid judge is trying his best to revive the tradition.

Claiming universal “human rights” jurisdiction, Judge Baltasar Garzon announced last week that he is opening a criminal investigation - his own personal inquisition, of sorts - into (ironically) alleged torture at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. …

No one’s in imminent danger of extradition. But the case - and the eagerness with which many on the American left have embraced it - are Exhibit A of the fundamental lack of moral seriousness surrounding the “torture” debate.

Clearly, there’s a respectable argument to be made that certain practices allowed by Bush-era interrogation policy, like waterboarding, should be forbidden.

But as even the supposedly infamous “torture memos” leaked by the Obama administration make clear, Bush officials made a deliberate, good-faith effort to draw a line between reasonably aggressive interrogation and illegal torture.

And, lest anyone forget, they understood that the cost of getting it wrong would be paid in American blood.

Yet to hear the left tell it, there’s no difference between them and the most heinous criminals in world history. …

If anything, of course, this only serves to cheapen the suffering of the real innocent victims of torture, brutalized even now by regimes around the world.

Funny how Garzon & Co. aren’t going after them.

On the Net:

Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida, on how President Obama should name a woman to replace Justice Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court: Whom should President Obama appoint to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court? Someone who is smart, fair, wise, progressive, experienced - and female.

Many women fit that description. Obama should pick one as a first step toward righting a serious gender imbalance on the high court.

The pending retirement of Justice David Souter, who plans to step down this summer, creates the opportunity.

Only two women have served on the nine-member Supreme Court. …

A male-dominated court was expected in the 19th century, but it’s unacceptable today. Women once were largely excluded from a legal career, but now almost half of recent law school graduates are female, according to The New York Times. The ranks of attorneys include thousands of women. Hundreds of judges in county, state and federal courts are female. …

They - as well as women in politics and other fields - form a rich vein of talent, from which Obama should find a replacement for Souter.

Beyond all other qualifications, service on the Supreme Court demands excellence, integrity and a respect for the Constitution. But the bench also needs diversity, reflecting the court’s central involvement in American life. …

The mix of voices on the court should reflect the nation it serves.

On the Net:

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on Miss USA finalist Carrie Prejean: It would be one thing if Carrie Prejean had auditioned to represent the United States in a capacity that required skills beyond working the catwalk in a bikini and negotiating steps in sky-high heels and an evening gown. …

But, no, when Carrie Prejean answered the question that made her famous, she was trying to become the next in a long line of crowned queens in a pageant literally descended from a “bathing beauty” competition.

As Miss California, Ms. Prejean was a finalist for Miss USA when she was asked a question about gay marriage by judge/celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. Her answer was thus:

“We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.” …

She was asked a question about an issue that divides many of us, and she answered it in an honest, if garbled, way. She should not be pilloried - or subject to a vile Internet rant, as Mr. Hilton delivered - for giving her opinion. And last time we checked, it was an American value to defend the right of others to say what they think, even if it’s a Miss USA contestant whose views may come across as intolerant. That her attackers have shown themselves to be intolerant, too, is just one of the ironies in the Miss USA flap. …

On the Net:

Herald-Star, Steubenville, Ohio, on the automobile business: America is about to test uncharted waters in the automobile business, as well as in business in general.

The bankruptcy filing by Chrysler and 24 affiliated businesses on Thursday will test the concept that a bankrupt automaker won’t be able to sell cars. …

The fear is that buyers will not purchase cars from a company or division that will cease to exist during the life of the vehicle, making service and parts availability and warranty claims tough to obtain.

The federal government has said it will back the warranties of Chrysler, and GM, too, a bit of uncharted waters.

But who will service the vehicles of consumers if the companies slam the doors on dealerships as part of the “surgical” bankruptcy? …

To be a “surgical” bankruptcy will require a judge to overlook the rights of creditors, including dealerships and suppliers, who normally have their day in court to argue in a major bankruptcy case.

There’s a federal government attitude that Washington will have its way when it comes to Chrysler’s bankruptcy, but that would require a whole lot of change in the way bankruptcies are typically handled.

Which would put the nation not only in uncharted business waters, but a whole new legal ocean.

On the Net:

The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo., on media coverage of the swine flu: As of Friday, there had been exactly one death in the United States from the swine flu. He wasn’t a U.S. citizen. He was a Mexican youth who happened to die in this country.

There are a few dozen other cases in the United States and nearly all of them are reportedly mild. People suffering from the swine flu aren’t on their death beds. In fact, most of them are probably suffering not a great deal more than if they had a common cold.

But 36,000 Americans die every year from the common, garden variety flu.

Those statistics quite starkly illustrate the insidious nature of the media, particularly television, to run, and run hard, with the panic story du jour. We, that being the print media, won’t deny some culpability, but much of the current unnecessary near-hysteria about swine flu must be laid at the feet of the 24-hour news networks.

If one were to listen, and unfortunately far too many people do, to the likes of MSNBC, CNN and Fox the past few days, he or she might logically conclude that we’re in the midst of a deadly flu outbreak the likes of which haven’t been seen since 1918.

That is about as far from the case as it could possibly be. …

But perspective is something that’s lost in the age of instant and constant news. Something, after all, has to fill up all that air time.

So yes, do wash your hands often.

Yes, cough into a tissue.

Yes, do stay home if you feel ill.

And please, please, pay no attention to the hyperventilating reporters and anchors who would have us all believe that death from swine flu is imminent.

It’s not.

On the Net:

Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, Sweden, on Fiat’s interest in Chrysler and GM’s European operations: While the world’s auto industry, nearly paralyzed, watches stockpiles of unsold cars growing and searches in vain for customers, Fiat’s management has made a move.

Last week, (Fiat) CEO Sergio Marchionne… promised to support Chrysler if and when the company passed the acid test of bankruptcy administration. And the same Marchionne appeared in Berlin to seek the support of the German government for a Big plan: Fiat’s cars plus GM’s European brands Opel, Vauxhall, Saab plus what is left of Chrysler. …

Is this what everyone has been longing for - a trustworthy business plan? … Marchionne has cleaned up Fiat’s businesses and made the company perform well. But that was under a different situation for the auto industry. …

The plan of Fiat’s chief for a new big European auto company is just as much about helping Fiat. And it is the Germans who would pay, among other things with slimmed down and shut down plants …

The Merkel government isn’t the Obama administration either. It is a coalition of the two parties which in September will be each others’ main opponents in the Bundestag elections. Against that background, which would dare contribute to a deal that could mean shutting down German auto factories … and costing German auto workers their jobs? …

Marchionne may end up stopped, but his plans are still concrete. And that in itself is encouraging considering how things currently are in the auto world right now.

On the Net:

Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on concerns about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons: Though US President Barack Obama only recently expressed confidence about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, his top administration seems to think otherwise.

The recent indicators from Washington suggest growing U.S. concern about the vulnerability of these weapons, especially at a time when Taliban influence within the country has grown to alarming proportions. It is expected that the American nuclear concerns will be a key topic of discussion between Obama and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in Washington this week - just ahead of the trilateral talks including Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Zardari recently came under scathing criticism from Obama for his running of a dysfunctional and ineffective government that is rapidly losing its writ and credibility, both internally and internationally. Washington’s deep concern about what may be the worst-case scenario should not, however, be dismissed as mere hyperbole. …

In an interview [with] the BBC, the U.S. National Security Adviser, General James Jones, while commenting on the precarious situation within Pakistan, has sought guarantees on the safety and security of its nuclear program. …

In addition, a White House spokesperson while circumventing the issue of a specific U.S. concern related to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into Taliban hands, has maintained that Obama will discuss nuclear proliferation with Zardari.

Though these concerns have been aired in the past as well, with many in Pakistan denouncing the hype as part of larger U.S. conspiracy to take over Pakistan’s nuclear program or dismantle it in future, the recent discussion on the media stems from Taliban movement being in areas close to the capital, Islamabad. …

It is expected that the Pakistan civilian leadership, during the meeting in Washington, will be asked to redress the erosion of trust and credibility in their ability to steer the country away from imminent collapse into militancy and instability.

On the Net:

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