- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Nov. 5

Gainesville (Florida) Sun on protecting privacy:

Technology is advancing so rapidly that privacy rights haven’t kept pace.

Cellphones are an obvious example. Cellphones can track the movements of users, information that law enforcement has obtained without going through the same checks required for other searches.

Thankfully, the Florida Supreme Court has reached an important decision that protects this information from unreasonable searches.

Florida has the first high court in the nation to find a federal Fourth Amendment protection for such information, Nathan Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Tampa Tribune.

The court cited data that show nearly three-quarters of smartphone users report being within five feet of their phones most of the time, with 12 percent admitting that they even use their phones in the shower. It found that tracking these devices can easily invade the right to privacy in one’s home or other private areas in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Wessler told the Tribune that the logic of the court’s opinion should apply to the use of devices that allow law enforcement to mimic cellphone towers to track cellphone locations.

The use of the devices, known by the model name Stingray, has been shrouded in secrecy in part due to law-enforcement agencies signing nondisclosure agreements with the device maker.

It is not too much to ask that law enforcement and other government agencies use these tools under appropriate court supervision rather than in an indiscriminate fishing expedition.




Nov. 3

Tampa (Florida) Tribune on Arab Spring:

In 1919, while basking in the satisfaction of having won World War I, colonial powers Britain and France got together and drew new boundaries for the Arab nations in the Middle East.

Almost a full century later, that act of imperial arrogance is behind a great deal of the unrest that has the Western democracies flailing about in an attempt to impose a new peace in the region.

A few years ago, the once-promising “Arab Spring” (centered in Egypt, where it soon descended into chaos rather than stability) offered genuine optimism that a new era was beginning.

But now, even the emergence of democracy in Tunisia - where the people were allowed to elect their political leaders - presents an almost bewildering reversal of that early optimism.

Although few Americans were paying attention at the time, those who did notice the breakthrough in Tunisia had reason to believe that, in combination with the uprising in Egypt, democracy may actually take root in the region.

But despite an election last week that handed political power in the parliament to a secular party at the expense of a Muslim party, Tunisia’s good fortune has been twisted beyond recognition.

To a surprising degree the beneficiary is Islamic State, the ruthless advocates of a single Islamic caliphate wreaking brutal havoc in Iraq and Syria. IS has goals that reach far beyond the borders of these deeply troubled nations.

And it is these particular borders that are part of the problem in the minds of those who support IS because they never did represent the wishes (or the geographic or cultural characteristics) of those living within these borders.

Apparently, it is their strict religious upbringing that is the driving force behind those who support IS. They’ve been taught that the path they are taking was determined for them 1,400 years ago in the words of Prophet Mohammad and his supporters.

Democracy, as Americans understand it, does not draw its strength from a single religious point of view. Apparently, the mayhem wrought by IS does.

In the West, we need to understand that if we are to deal successfully with its implications.




Nov. 2

Miami Herald on no time for quarrels:

Last week’s unfortunate outburst of name-calling between the White House and the prime minister’s office in Israel doesn’t speak well for either President Obama or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It’s no secret that these two don’t like each other very much, but that’s no reason for either leader, or their aides, to engage in unseemly personal insults. The essential reality is that their two countries are partners in a long-standing geo-political alliance that benefits both parties, and they need each other more than ever as they approach a deadline requiring a strong measure of mutual trust and support.

On Nov. 9, the group of nations known in diplomatic shorthand as the P5+1 - the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany - will meet with Iranian negotiators to try to hammer out a deal over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities. Israel won’t be in the room, but it expects to have a say on whether any deal is acceptable, which is only fair considering that the Jewish State has the most to lose if Iran acquires nuclear weapons capability.

Whether a deal is possible or not is anyone’s guess. “I’m hopeful,” Secretary of State John Kerry said last week, but he noted that there are still serious gaps between the two sides. “I hope the Iranians will not get stuck in a tree of their own making, on one demand or another.”

There are some reasons to be hopeful. Iran’s people have been hurt by the economic sanctions imposed on the country, and the worldwide drop in oil prices doesn’t bode well for Iran’s economic improvement. The last thing the ayatollahs need is another, stricter set of sanctions, which is exactly what they would face if there is no deal by the self-imposed negotiating deadline of Nov. 24.

Not everyone is optimistic. Gerard Araud, France’s chief nuclear negotiator with Iran from 2006 to 2009, told reporters in Washington last week that Iran did not seem to be prepared to pay the price of making a deal.

But back-biting between American and Israeli leaders only benefits the Iranians. For the sake of peace in the Middle East and throughout the world, the United States and Israel must stand together and demand that Iran be held to a strict and verifiable standard that prevents the country from acquiring nuclear weapons.



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