- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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


June 12

The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, on U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor’s loss in Virginia’s Republican primary and proposals to overhaul immigration laws:

America needs immigration reform. Polls show a large majority of Americans want immigration reform.

That reform, to be worthy of the name, must include a clear path to citizenship - or, at the very least, legal status - for the more than 11 million human beings who now live in this country without benefit of proper paperwork. A recent Pew Research Center poll puts the number of Americans who favor a path to full citizenship at 76 percent.

But because he was considered insufficiently hostile to just that kind of reform, the second-ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives was thrown out of office Tuesday, June 10, by a handful of voters in Virginia.

So even though none of Utah’s Republican members of Congress currently faces a challenge from their right wing, our own delegates are even more unlikely than they were before to push through an immigration reform bill this year.

Which means it may never happen at all.

Rep. Eric Cantor, House majority leader and widely considered the heir apparent to Speaker John Boehner, lost his primary election to a hitherto unknown economics professor who overcame the incumbent’s huge advantage in money and name recognition by accusing him of, among other things, being in favor of “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

It wasn’t true. If anything, Cantor bore a lot of the credit - or blame - for bottling up the Senate-passed immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship. That bill had a lot of bipartisan support, including from Utah’s Orrin Hatch.

But that wasn’t any deterrent to the right wing echo chamber and its talk radio ringmasters whose screeching helped get Cantor bounced.

It is apparently what Utah Republicans such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Rep. Chris Stewart fear when they resist the entreaties of such mainstream stalwarts as the Utah Farm Bureau, Utah Restaurant Association and Utah Manufacturers Association. Those groups, and others, met with the congressmen last week to explain how a lack of reform hurts businesses, consumers and the whole of the state economy.

They rang up a big No Sale for their efforts. Stewart basically brushed the groups off by telling them he didn’t see that his constituents really cared that much. Which may be true.

Immigration is one of those issues where a vast majority, who favor one path of action but don’t feel vehemently about, lose out to a much smaller, but more vocal, fringe.

That fringe ended one political career Tuesday in Virginia. Making sure they don’t go next now becomes the priority of other Republicans. Including, sadly, most of them in Utah.




June 15

Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star on student loan debt:

It’s general knowledge that standards for policymaking in Congress have sunk to abysmal lows.

The executive branch of government isn’t doing much to set a better example.

The most recent case in point was President Barack Obama’s plan for helping college students struggling to repay their debt.

Obama used his presumed executive authority to expand an existing program that eases the repayment burden for college student loans.

That’s not such a shocking idea - the program Obama expanded was signed into law by President George W. Bush. And students definitely could use some help in repaying loans in an economy that has yet to raise wage levels.

What is disconcerting is the sloppy way the administration implemented the change. “We don’t actually know the costs yet,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “We’ll figure that out on the back end.”

Is that any way to run the government?

The amount of outstanding student loans soared past the trillion-dollar mark several years ago, an amount greater than either credit card debt or auto loan debt.

In Nebraska, the average student owes $26,473 at graduation, according to the Project on Student Debt.

The default rate for college loans is higher than for credit cards or other types of debt, despite the fact that not even declaring bankruptcy will erase a student loan. Currently, almost 15 percent of college students default on their loans within three years of entering repayment.

The Pay as You Earn program expanded by Obama could help an additional 5 million students by requiring them to pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income to student loans. After 20 years, the remainder of the loan would be forgiven.

The program could help a student with $55,000 in debt reduce the payment from $541 a month under a traditional 10-year schedule to $146, assuming an income of $35,000 a year, under the Pay as You Earn plan, according to “The Student Loan Ranger” blog.

It’s no secret that salary levels in some fields are so low that it would take half a lifetime or more to repay a college loan.

Good advice for any college student taking out a loan is thinking ahead to how they can repay it.

That’s the adult, responsible way to make these decisions.

Now we just need to get federal officials to take that advice, as the national debt climbs past $17.5 trillion.




June 11

Minot (North Dakota) Daily News on proposed federal regulations for carbon emissions:

It has become perfectly clear that President Barack Obama’s goal is to shut down coal-fired power plants - whether doing so is essential in battling climate change or not. If he is successful, tens of millions of American families will pay much higher electric bills. And hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs, all to allow Obama to get his way.

Obama’s schedule for wrecking the coal industry and driving up electricity prices has been obvious. First, his Environmental Protection Agency adopted rules effectively banning construction of new coal-fired power plants in the United States. He did that against the will of the people, as expressed by a majority of members of the Senate, who refused to vote in favor of his “cap and trade” scheme.

Utilities quickly revealed plans to close hundreds of older coal-fired power stations. Most will be replaced with natural gas facilities. Then, late last month, Obama decided to administer the coup de grace. The EPA revealed new rules that will make it virtually impossible to operate existing coal-fired power plants.

Even Obama’s administration admits that will drive electric bills up by 20-30 percent for many Americans. More objective analysts say bills may go up by double that amount or more. Business analysts say the president’s agenda will cost the nation at least 500,000 jobs.

If technology existed to retrofit coal-burning power plants to comply with EPA limits, things would be different. But it does not. And that is part of Obama’s plan. While he has been throwing away billions of dollars on so-called “alternative” energy such as solar power, Obama has been slashing federal funding for coal research. It is all part of a plan, one certainly crafted more carefully than many White House initiatives, such as foreign policy.

Unless Democrat members of the Senate begin representing their constituents, Obama will win in his vendetta against coal - while tens of millions of Americans lose.




June 11

New Britain (Connecticut) Herald on regulation of commercial truck drivers:

At the same time that Congress is considering whether to relax work rules for freight haulers, a truck driver’s lack of sleep is being blamed for the highway crash that injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed Connecticut resident James “Jimmy Mack” McNair.

Wal-Mart trucker Kevin Roper apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead on the New Jersey Turnpike and then swerved to avoid a crash.

Instead, his rig smashed into the back of Morgan’s chauffeured limo bus, killing comedian McNair and injuring Morgan and three others.

Authorities said that Roper hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours before the accident.

This comes at a time when a proposed change to federal regulations would effectively let drivers put in as many as 82 hours a week behind the wheel.

The change is backed by the trucking industry and opposed by safety advocates and the Obama administration.

An amendment that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would repeal a requirement that drivers take a 34-hour break, including no driving from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on two consecutive days.

“This regulation dumps concentrated amounts of commercial traffic onto the highway system at 5:01 a.m. Monday, when people are trying to get to their offices and their businesses … and deliver children to schools,” says Phil Byrd, chairman of the American Trucking Associations.

The senator and trucking industry officials said it is safer for truckers to drive at night when there is less traffic.

Those who oppose the change point out that nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year, and driver fatigue is a leading factor, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Do you want to share the road with a tired trucker? We didn’t think so.




June 16

The Daily Reflector, Greenville, North Carolina, on measles vaccination:

A disease once on its way to oblivion apparently is on the rise - and headed this way, say health officials locally and nationwide. So forget rumors you might have heard about vaccinations and make sure you and your children have had one.

That’s the message coming this week from health officials about a resurgence in cases of measles nationwide.

The Centers for Disease Control reported this month that measles has reached a 20-year high, and a big reason for the increase is a decrease in the number of people being vaccinated, especially children.

Pitt County Health Director John Morrow told The Daily Reflector that with measles’ virtual disappearance in years past, parents today are not aware of its potentially terrible effects.

That’s one reason they might not worry much about making sure their children receive the vaccine that would protect them.

Morrow also cited a report that originated in England years ago as another reason for the decline in vaccinations. The report suggested that some of the ingredients in the vaccine could cause other childhood illnesses, including autism.

The researcher behind this report had falsified data, Morrow said, but by the time that became broadly known the rumor that the vaccine was harmful had “gone viral.”

As a result, the threat of a measles comeback today is real. In the last five months, measles has caused more U.S. illnesses than in any entire year since 1996, said the CDC. The disease spreads easily through the air and in a closed room infected droplets can linger for up to two hours after a sick person leaves.

There have been 16 outbreaks producing 397 cases of the highly contagious respiratory disease in 20 states, including nearby Virginia and Tennessee …

So vigilance and awareness are in order to head it off, and it’s certainly not too soon to vaccinate any who need protection from this unwanted visitor from the past.

Let’s just hope it’s not too late.




June 16

China Daily on the Islamist insurgency in Iraq:

Iraq is in real crisis again three years after U.S. military forces pulled out.

On Saturday, insurgents seized the small town of Adeim in Diyala province 60 miles north of Baghdad, which followed the fall of the major cities Mosul and Tikrit last week. The insurgents are an al-Qaida splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Poor Iraqis, war has again started to devastate their lives. The nightmare all started with the war the U.S. launched against Iraq in 2003 with the pretext that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which proved to be nonexistent.

U.S. military forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011, leaving this country and its people in constant threat of terrorist attacks. Now whether the current Iraq government can survive remains a question.

If not then who knows what will happen.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday, June 12, that “we don’t rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold either in Iraq or Syria …”

Clearly what the U.S. is concerned about is not the stability of Iraq or the wellbeing of the Iraqi people but whether the jihadists will pose a real threat to the U.S.

The U.S., as the world sole superpower, should have a guilty conscience about what has happened to the innocent Iraqi people. The Middle East country would not have been reduced to what it is now, facing the threat of constant terrorist attacks and now engaged in a war with insurgents, had the George W. Bush administration not launched the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. should not shirk its responsibility, and it should do whatever it can to restore peace in the country. Besides the military aid the Iraqi government forces need to fight against insurgents, what the country is in urgent need of is a mechanism, which can help the various tribes and religious groups sit down at the negotiating table for reconciliation.

The U.S. should not take for granted that it can accomplish whatever it wants to do with its military might and neither should it believe it can force its values on other countries and peoples with force.

It is high time that U.S. learned the lesson of war it launched in Iraq.




June 16

New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370:

Lost a hundred days ago, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370’s whereabouts remain a huge mystery with no indication of unravelling any time soon.

Families of the more than 300 missing passengers and crew have waited in dismay and some have decided to take matters into their own hands, attempting to raise millions of ringgit through a crowd funding exercise to finance an independent investigation.

Desperate for closure, the loved ones of the missing Boeing 777-200ER jetliner last heard from over the South China Sea are left utterly confused, resentful and, of course, thoroughly saddened.

Confused, because of the many conspiracy theories concocted and the conflicting early reports of sightings as far away as in the Maldives airspace.

Resentful because they felt cheated of information and then to suddenly be faced with the sudden declaration that the plane had indeed ended in the depths of the southern Indian Ocean.

Saddened is but a natural consequence of that announcement.

Yet, that end is bereft of certainty because concrete evidence is absent and the search of the area decided upon by some so-called science only raised more questions than answers. Relief was not to be had.

Now, after 100 days, the prime minister can only reiterate earlier promises of his administration’s refusal to surrender until the wide-bodied jet, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, is found.

As Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s former prime minister asserts when, in today’s world, a small mobile phone can be tracked almost to the ends of the Earth, how is it that this massive object can be missed by all radar systems except that claimed final satellite handshake, which gave rise to a novel science looking set to be discredited.

Pings were heard thought to be from the black box are now presumed to be from similar tracking objects. Trawling the ocean floor proved to be an expensive exercise in futility.

Despite Dr. Mahathir’s challenge to Boeing to explain what might have happened, the maker of the aeroplane is keeping mum.

Flight MH370 is Malaysia’s nightmare in more ways than one. Unprecedented in aviation history, it challenges the ingenuity of a small, economically emerging nation.

Naturally, without answers, the matter lingers on not to be forgotten by friends and relatives of those who have literally disappeared; until the mystery is solved.

Then the financial calamity waiting on the horizon threatens the existence of the national carrier, Malaysia Airlines. There is, too, the question of who bears the cost of any continuing search mission.

However, the absence of irrefutable answers do give rise to some ray of hope.

Some fact may have been overlooked and those missing might still be with us, somewhere. And, for as long as conjectures form the basis of any explanation to this vanishing, then, every possibility is fair game, but ultimately fantasies must give way to facts.

It is difficult to not conclude that tragedy is inevitable.





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