- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

Oct. 1

The New York Times on fighting Islamic extremists:

As we fight the Islamic State and other extremists, there’s something that President Obama and all of us can learn from them. For, in one sense, the terrorists are fighting smarter than we are.

These extremists use arms to fight their battles in the short term, but, to hold ground in the long run, they also combat Western education and women’s empowerment. They know that illiteracy, ignorance and oppression of women create the petri dish in which extremism can flourish.

That’s why the Islamic State kidnapped Samira Salih al-Nuaimi, a brave Iraqi woman and human rights lawyer in Mosul, tortured her and publicly executed her last week. That’s why the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai, then 15 years old, after she campaigned for educating girls. And that’s why Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria and announced that it would turn them into slaves.

In each case, the extremists recognized a basic truth: Their greatest strategic threat comes not from a drone but from a girl with a book. We need to recognize, and act on, that truth as well.

For similar reasons, the financiers of extremism have invested heavily in fundamentalist indoctrination. They have built Wahhabi madrassas in poor Muslim countries like Pakistan, Niger and Mali, offering free meals, as well as scholarships for the best students to study in the gulf.

Shouldn’t we try to compete?

Shouldn’t we use weapons in the short run, but try to gain strategic advantage by focusing on education and on empowering women to build stable societies less vulnerable to extremist manipulation?

The United States’ airstrikes have slowed the advance of the Islamic State and averted a genocide against the Yazidi population in Iraq, but it’s very difficult to win a war from the air. That’s why the Taliban still thrives in Afghanistan after 13 years of American air attacks.

Unfortunately, we’re not playing the long game, as the extremists are. We are vastly overrelying on the military toolbox and underemploying the education toolbox, the women’s empowerment toolbox, the communications toolbox. We’re tacticians; alas, the extremists may be better strategists.

It’s not a question of resources, because bombs are more expensive than books. The United States military campaign against the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS and ISIL, will cost at least $2.4 billion a year and perhaps many times that, according to an estimate from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.

In contrast, Obama seems to have dropped his 2008 campaign promise to establish a $2 billion global fund for education. And the United States gives the Global Partnership for Education, a major multilateral effort, less in a year than what we spend weekly in Syria and Iraq.




Sept. 29

The Los Angeles Times on herbicide-resistant crops:

When crops were first introduced that had been engineered to withstand the herbicide glyphosate - better known by the trade name Roundup - the agricultural industry said it would confer a terrific environmental advantage.

Glyphosate is a relatively benign herbicide, after all, and the industry claimed it would be able to use less of it to get rid of weeds, without harming the corn or soy.

At first, farmers did spray less glyphosate. But resistant versions of the weeds soon cropped up. That meant heavier, repeated spraying, which in turn meant more resistant weeds. No problem, agribusiness said. We’ll just make new crops genetically engineered to resist other herbicides.

But that’s not a solution. Just as the nation must stop overusing antibiotics if it hopes to slow the emergence of resistant infections, it must do the same with herbicides and genetically modified crops. The way to deal with so-called superweeds isn’t by escalating the arms race against them.

A new generation of herbicide-resistant crops is wending its way through the federal approval process. A division of Dow Chemical recently won the approval of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for corn and soy that have been bioengineered to withstand spraying with both glyphosate and 2,4-D, a more toxic weed-killer that some critics say is dangerous to the environment and to people.

Why both? About 18 weeds have developed resistance to 2,4-D over the more than 50 years it has been in use. So the idea is to use both herbicides, with each one eradicating the weeds that the other one can’t. But first, the Environmental Protection Agency would have to approve the special blending of the two herbicides developed by Dow. Called Enlist Duo, the mix has been formulated not to drift over large areas as 2,4-D commonly does. It would thus reduce the risk of killing crops miles away.

According to USDA estimates, the introduction of the new crops would mean the spraying of five to 13 times as much 2,4-D by the year 2020.




Sept. 23

The Arizona Republic on fan violence in the NFL:

Silence has not served the National Football League well.

For years the league downplayed its problem with domestic violence and lightly penalized its offending players. That all erupted in a blaze of scandal and bad publicity when a video camera caught Ray Rice decking his then-fiancee in an elevator.

Now NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is clinging to a job and reputation in steep decline.

Another sort of violence lurks beneath the surface of this league, and last Sunday reared itself in two stadiums - University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Brawls broke out in the stands between spectators that turned far too dangerous as people tumbled over seats and down cement stairs.

The crowd videos are cringe-worthy. Punches land sharply on faces. People fall several feet onto hard seats and sharp corners as those around them gasp. In Glendale blood spatters the concrete. Fans nurse bleeding wounds. Glendale police arrested two men on assault charges and stadium security expelled a number of other people involved in the two fights that broke out in the upper decks of the Cardinals stadium.

The NFL has long known it has a problem with crowd violence. Last December, at least three people were stabbed outside of the Denver Broncos’ stadium as fans poured out into the parking lot following a loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Former NFL defensive end Akbar Gbajabiamila wrote at NFL.com in 2012 that even players are concerned about the safety of their family members in the stands.

“Fans can be brutal no matter what venue you go to,” he wrote. “When I came into the league in 2003, I was warned by veteran teammates to tell all of my family and friends to wear neutral colors to road games in order to deflect unnecessary attention that might cause them to be harassed.”

Anyone who has frequented NFL games in the past decade can speak to the declining spectator environment - encounters with beer-swilling low-lifes who tease and taunt and finally bully those around them. The most dangerous people at football games are not the huge men playing a violent game, writes CBS Sports columnist Gregg Doyel. “The true danger is us. We are the thugs, and we are everywhere.”

The NFL has been quietly trying to address the problem, he explains, with liaisons to each franchise focused on crowd security as teams coordinate with stadium guards and local law enforcement. Most NFL teams post a phone line for fans to text stadium personnel of any problems or concerns, Doyel reports. And the league is actively gathering information at all stadiums and studying the findings.

The league operates quietly on this front because it doesn’t want to alarm its customers, Doyel says.




Oct. 2

The El Paso Times on Military’s Ebola mission vital for Africa, U.S.:

Hundreds of Fort Bliss soldiers are headed to an important and unique mission in West Africa, trying to slow the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The Pentagon announced the deployment on Tuesday. The purpose of the mission is to help build a medical infrastructure in West Africa to disrupt and - hopefully - end the Ebola epidemic now sweeping that region.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, was explicit on what the U.S. soldiers would not do: “U.S. military personnel are not and will not be providing direct care to Ebola patients.”

The stakes could not be higher. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of Ebola cases could reach 1.4 million by January without proper intervention.

But prompt action can make a huge difference. …

The U.S. military mission is part of a broader effort to build the infrastructure necessary to meet the goals outlined by the CDC.

The announcement of the deployment of the Fort Bliss soldiers came on the same day the CDC confirmed the first Ebola case diagnosed in the United States, involving a man in Dallas who had recently travelled in West Africa.

So it’s natural that families of soldiers deploying to Africa will have concerns about possible exposure to the deadly virus. Pentagon spokesman Kirby assured that all proper precautions would be taken.

“All the troops that are going are getting trained on personnel protective equipment and on the disease itself,” he said.

Force protection is always the top concern for the U.S. military on missions, and the fight against Ebola is no exception.

This is a different sort of mission for the U.S. military, but it is crucial. …

Containing the epidemic is not just a public health issue in Africa and elsewhere. It also is a national security issue for the United States. A spreading epidemic would create political instability across West Africa and potentially elsewhere as the virus spreads.

We wish the Fort Bliss soldiers - as well as other U.S. service members - Godspeed on this vital mission.




Oct. 1

The Missoulian on requirements for photographing or filming on federal lands:

The U.S. Forest Service’s requirement that certain people who film or photograph federal wilderness must first obtain a special use permit is rightly being met with widespread condemnation.

The American public must continue clamoring for the Forest Service to drop this awful idea. By no stretch of the imagination can taking a photo or video of wilderness be considered a “special use.” Under no circumstances should people who take photos or film of wilderness be forced to pay for the right to do so.

News organizations, as staunch defendants of the First Amendment, have been raising a ruckus since the proposed directive was posted Sept. 9. Last week Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell attempted to assuage the concerns of journalists by “clarifying” that news media would not be subject to the rule. Recreationists would be exempt as well. But the fact that Tidwell needed to provide such clarifications speaks volumes about the overly broad, overly vague nature of the rule. It leaves too much open to interpretation - and that opens the door to First Amendment violations.

Tidwell explained that the proposed directive applies only to commercial filming that includes commercial workers, such as models and actors. A permit for a small group of three or fewer people would cost as little as $30 a day, while larger productions with dozens of workers would need a permit costing as much as $800.

The rule may apply to a smaller group of people than at first feared, but it shouldn’t apply to anyone. Photos and film take nothing from wilderness, cause no damage and are no cause for public concern. Whether a picture is taken by a photojournalist or a commercial photographer, the impact on wilderness is the same: none.

The Forest Service has no basis for this temporary rule, which it is now, inexplicably, seeking to make permanent.

It’s true that commercial activity is already severely restricted in wilderness areas, and has been since the 1964 Wilderness Act. The entire nation is celebrating the 50th anniversary of this historic legislation.

To this national celebration the Forest Service has brought the gift equivalent of a bag of used socks. It’s not needed, not wanted and only causes headaches for those who now have to figure out what to do with it.

Thankfully, Montana’s entire congressional delegation has expressed a clear concern with this rule. U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh, both Democrats, co-signed a letter to Tidwell last week, and U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, a Republican, also sent his own letter to Tidwell. The Montana senators urged Tidwell to “withdraw and redraft the directive” while Daines requested a “detailed clarification” of which activities are subject to the rule. It’s time for Montanans to chime in as well.

Due to the rush of public and political outcry, the comment period, which was originally scheduled to close on Nov. 3, has been extended to Dec. 3. Speak up now and tell the Forest Service not to revise this flaw-ridden rule - but to get rid of it altogether.




The Charlotte Observer on the Secret Service scandal:

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson’s resignation Wednesday was inevitable, but it’s far from the solution to the agency’s problems, given what the last few weeks have revealed.

On Sept. 19, an intruder who jumped a White House fence failed to trigger alarms and protocols designed to protect President Barack Obama and the first family.

This week, the Washington Post revealed that shots fired at the White House in 2011 went ignored until a cleaning lady noticed broken glass and bullets a few days later.

Add to those a new lapse, revealed after a House Oversight Committee meeting Tuesday: An armed security guard with a criminal history rode in an elevator with the president last month in Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocol.

There’s a thread that runs through all three incidents - even beyond the obvious common lapse in security. In each case, the Secret Service was less than forthcoming with the public or Congress or, in the Atlanta incident, reportedly even the president. After the Oversight Committee hearing, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz accused the agency of “misleading by omission.”

Let’s be a little less delicate: In at least one case, the Secret Service also lied.

Hours after fence jumper Omar J. Gonzalez made it into the White House, a Secret Service spokesman told the Associated Press that Gonzalez had been subdued just inside the door of the North Portico. A news release later said Gonzalez was unarmed.

The reality: Gonzalez, carrying a knife, was able to run through the White House Entrance Hall and Cross Hall and into the East Room before being tackled.

Those are not omissions. Those are falsehoods. And they are telltale signs of an organization that wants to hide its mistakes, not correct them. That’s unsettling, given that the Secret Service already had been embarrassed by reports of raucous parties and prostitution, as well as allowing a fake interpreter to share the stage with Obama in 2013 at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Also unsettling is the brazenness of the deception. We’re not naive - we know that Washington is a place the truth goes to get massaged and spun. We also know that dishonesty is not limited to any one political party or presidential administration. But when a government agency says something that is flat out untrue, it fosters mistrust and gives fuel to the conspiracists who paralyze Washington by seeing scandal in every corner of government.

Members of Congress have rightfully called for an independent investigation into the fence jumping incident and others. That probe should also include the lies and omissions that followed, because those reveal a disturbing culture at the Secret Service, an agency that seems as concerned about protecting its behind as it is about protecting our leaders.




Sept. 27

The Toronto Sun on actor Leonardo DiCaprio speaking at the UN:

Two events last week illustrated the enormous misunderstanding many people who think they’re saving the planet have with regard to man-made climate change, aka global warming.

The first was the one-day UN climate change summit in New York, and the protest marches leading up to it.

The second was Apples’ release of its iPhone 6.

The irony, lost on many who no doubt lined up to buy the latest iPhone before rushing out to join the protests (leaving a tsunami of litter in their wake) was this.

If, according to their own logic, they want to save the planet, they have to stop buying the latest version of the latest cell phone, when the one they have is still perfectly usable. Same goes for the latest laptops, flatscreen TVs, cars, indeed all consumer goods.

Because if the theory of man-made global warming is correct, in order to save the planet, we have to stop consuming it. …

Most of the world’s rare earth metals are mined in China, under atrocious conditions which cause widespread damage to the environment and human health.

That’s why uber-rich Hollywood celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio - the UN’s recently-appointed “messenger of peace” for climate change, who gave a keynote address at the UN climate summit in New York - cannot be taken seriously in what they preach. Why not?

Because they consume far too much, fly far too much.

Because they have too many mansions and luxury condos.

Because they work for an industry dedicated to conspicuous consumption, from the designer gowns and jewelry they constantly promote on the red carpets of the world, to the countless product placements in endless movies encouraging us to buy, buy, buy. …

If the theory of man-made global warming is correct, then the only way to slow it is to consume less, which many of the people telling us to consume less are not prepared to do themselves.

And that, is the very definition of hypocrisy.





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