- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

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


Feb. 2

Los Angeles Times on U.S. giving Ukraine a defensive military boost:

Fearful of provoking a new Cold War with Russia, the Obama administration has for months resisted pleas that it provide weapons to the government of Ukraine. This page has supported that cautious policy, worrying that military assistance to the government in Kiev would seem to create a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia.

But the collapse of a cease-fire and recent gains by Russian-supported separatists are causing U.S. officials to question their policy of relying on economic sanctions to alter Russian behavior. There are good reasons for such a reconsideration.

Last year, Congress passed legislation authorizing (but not requiring) the president to provide arms to Ukraine. On Monday, a group of former U.S. officials - including Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense in Obama’s first term - recommended that the U.S. supply Ukraine with $3 billion in defensive equipment, including anti-armor missiles, reconnaissance drones and advanced radar systems. The purpose of the aid would be twofold: to deter further Russian military action “in or against Ukraine” and to make it clear that “the West will not accept the use of force to change borders in Europe.”

In their report, the former officials noted that Russia’s actions in Ukraine - including its annexation of Crimea - violated a 1994 agreement in which Russia (along with the U.S. and Britain) promised to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and not threaten it with force. The report warned that success in Ukraine might tempt Russian President Vladimir Putin to seek territorial changes in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, former Soviet republics, now members of NATO, that also have sizable Russian and Russian-speaking populations.

There is no guarantee that arming Ukraine will succeed in persuading Putin to change course, but we believe the administration should make the effort. In doing so, however, the administration must strive to preserve a united front on economic sanctions with European nations such as Germany that choose not to provide military aid. It also should continue to encourage negotiations on the political future of Ukraine.

Finally, the U.S. must emphasize why it is acting: not to move a pawn on what Obama once called a “Cold War chessboard” but to support the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and every other nation in Europe. If Russia wants a respectful hearing for its views about the future of Russian-speaking Ukrainians, it will commit itself to the same principles.




Feb. 3

Miami Herald on lifeline for the middle class:

Despite the volley of partisan rhetoric hurled from Capitol Hill to the White House this week over President Barack Obama’s proposed federal budget, it’s possible to discern the sounds of political harmony beneath the thunder.

It’s no surprise that Mr. Obama’s $4 trillion Fiscal Year 2016 budget was derided by leading Republicans as “dead on arrival,” and worse. We’ve come to expect that as politics as usual. The president’s reliance on large tax increases on corporations and the wealthy to finance efforts to help the middle class and create more jobs was a sure bet to be greeted with instant rejection.

But there’s something else - something more important, we hope - going on in the larger political discourse under way in the country as candidates gear up for the 2016 election.

The most striking evidence is that even Mitt Romney - he of the “47 percent” - made it a point before he bowed out of the upcoming race to promise that he would “end the scourge of poverty” if he ran. Similarly, Jeb Bush said in his non-declaration of a candidacy that, “While the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top earners, they’ve been a lost decade for the rest of America.”

In other words, income inequality, long a fundamental concern of Democrats that President Obama has seized as his current theme, is being recognized by some GOP leaders as a major national issue that deserves a solution.

And not a minute too soon. For the last 15 years or so, the middle-class share of households has continued to shrink as more Americans fall to the bottom. The Great Recession worsened the trend because the economy lost a lot of middle-income jobs, which have been replaced during the painfully slow recovery by lower-paying jobs.

Given that the middle class is where the great mass of voters are, it makes sense that politicians of all stripes would sooner or later wise up. No one should harbor any illusions about the political difficulty of implementing effective policies to deal with the problem, but agreeing that, in fact, there is a problem represents a hopeful moment that must not be wasted.

The best solution outlined in Mr. Obama’s 2016 federal blueprint is a plan to increase jobs by spending $478 billion on transportation and infrastructure over six years. This represents over a third more than the current spending rate and a 78 percent increase for mass transit. He proposed to pay for it in part by getting $238 billion from a one-time tax on repatriated corporate profits.

Obama also proposed a host of other programs to help lift incomes, from free community college to more generous childcare subsidies and education tax credits, expanded unemployment benefits and others. But spending on infrastructure should be a priority because it produces good jobs even as it provides a tangible public benefit. As President Ronald Reagan said, “The best social program is a productive job.”

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is among the GOP leaders in Congress who thinks there may be something in the president’s plan to work with, including the expansion of the earned-income credit to childless adults and a public-works bill that can generate jobs.

The sticking point comes in how the spending is paid for. Reaching agreement won’t be easy, but both sides must realize Americans are fed up with gridlock. If the nation’s leaders can agree on the goal - helping the middle class - they should surely be able to reach consensus on how to get there.




Feb. 2

Anniston (Alabama) Star on measles:

A full month into 2015, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 102 cases of measles, a pace surpassing the typical year. Disneyland in California is believed to be Ground Zero for this outbreak, which may have exposed 1,000 people to measles. In 2014, 644 cases of measles were reported in 27 states, the CDC reports.

These new infections are a shock to most medical professionals, who could rightly point to a steady decline in cases that culminated with a record low of 86 reported U.S. cases 15 years ago. The hero in this drop was widespread acceptance of vaccinations among U.S. parents.

The villain blamed for today’s alarming rise in measles cases is a small group of parents who are foregoing having their children immunized. Trustworthy health organizations - the CDC, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, for example - promote the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which is 97 percent effective in preventing measles.

Yet the dissenting parents cite unproven medical quackery in justifying their decision to reject vaccinations for children, a practice that endangers both their children as well as many others.

What’s playing out is the consequence of a serious national problem - the lack of trust. For some Americans, healthy skepticism has turned into widespread paranoia. The president’s ideological opponents tell us he is more than wrong; he is a secret Muslim and a non-U.S. citizen. A basic outline of public school coursework promoted by the states - Common Core - is believed by some to be a conspiracy to indoctrinate children. And dangerous vaccines are foisted on an unsuspecting public, according to some parents who withdraw their children from immunization shots.

The dangers of these illogical beliefs are clear. Until this mistrust is bridged, the nation will suffer the consequences.




Feb. 2

The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on how Obama says he does ‘own’ economy:

Polling done just after the State of the Union speech found “crosscurrents that signal a complex political terrain” for Congress, the White House and 2016 presidential candidates, according to a report in USA Today, which co-sponsored the poll.

President Barack Obama has seen improved favorability ratings as signs of an economic upturn emerged, but the poll found that many Americans believe only the rich are benefiting - another sign that Obama’s class warfare strategy has diverted attention from the fact he’s been president for six years of “the rich getting richer.”

Gains in wealth are largely attributable to the stock market; gains in the stock market are largely attributable to federal monetary policy. The market has been a magnet for investment and that’s paid off for investors, including middle-class citizens with positions in mutual funds, IRAs, 401(k) plans and other instruments.

Obama has been deft in distancing himself from the agonizingly slow economic recovery during his entire presidency. At first he blamed the previous administration, while doing little to stimulate private-sector growth. But now that the economy appears in a growth mode, Obama is all over the news with self-congratulatory rhetoric expressed in the State of the State speech and elsewhere. In other words, this president didn’t “own” the economy until the news improved. Perhaps he was just renting it.

The USA Today/Suffolk University poll points to trouble ahead for Republicans because Americans are convinced things are getting better only if you’re rich. Obama tapped this unrest with his storied pivot to the middle class and his continued class warfare strategy to soak the rich yet again.

The poll shows widespread skepticism that Obama’s agenda is anything more than political posturing. Americans don’t believe Republicans will accept the agenda - which is part of the Democratic Party’s strategy to demonize the GOP and part of Obama’s strategy to lock his successor (if the Democrat wins) into continuing his worldview.

When asked how many of Obama’s proposals will make it into law, 45 percent of those polled said only a few items; 22 percent said none of it would make it. Thus, 67 percent believe the president’s agenda is dead in the water.

Not to worry if you’re a White House staffer. Obama’s cynical approach to governance is ratified by these results. He can say he tried and that the Republicans, interested only in enriching the rich, shot it down. Yet one of his key proposals - taxing college savings plan accounts - met widespread opposition from Democrats and Republicans. It was gone within the first week after the State of the Union.

Obama’s middle-class pivot is designed to build on his base with programs that mostly involve the transfer of wealth and passing money through government agencies. Fifty percent of taxpayers account for just 3 percent of federal income tax collections. Most of those in the other 50 percent (responsible for 97 percent) are in the middle class. Republicans need a unifying strategy to counter The Great Divider. That might include no tax increases for the wealthy but also tax cuts for the middle class.

Our view, cynical as it may seem, is that Obama has no genuine concern for average people who work and pay taxes. His concern is for expanding government with programs that benefit Americans who pay little or no income taxes and throwing a sop to the middle class, which will cover much of the expense.

“No modern presidency has been worse for average American incomes than Mr. Obama’s,” The Wall Street Journal opined Friday, “and his new tax proposals are more of the same.”




Feb. 2

China Daily on the Dalai Lama meeting:

In whatever form and on whatever occasion, should a president of the United States meet with the Dalai Lama, it will unquestionably step on China’s toes and therefore cast a shadow over US-China relations. This should be clear to all US politicians.

So Washington seems to play a political gimmick by inviting the Dalai Lama to the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday (US local time), at which US President Barack Obama is due to deliver remarks. We have no idea whether it was the US president’s idea to invite him. Neither do we know whether such an arrangement has been orchestrated so the meeting is not a specially arranged one, so that more room is left for the White House to respond to China’s reaction.

But whatever the reason, Obama is acquiescing to the Dalai Lama’s attempt to split Tibet from China.

Tibet is an inseparable part of China. The Dalai Lama’s flight from China’s Tibet in 1959 was because of his failed attempt to maintain the serfdom in the region, under which the majority of Tibetans were slaves leading a life of unimaginable misery.

Over the years, the Dalai Lama has never stopped conducting subversive activities in order to pursue his dream of an “independent” Tibet. This has not only caused a lot of trouble to China, but also negatively affected the social and political stability in the Tibet autonomous region.

However, some politicians in the US believe what he says and turn a blind eye to what he does. Some have even gone so far as to echo his calls for an “independent Tibet.”

Obama should not be that unwise. He should know that meeting the Dalai Lama and thus endorsing what he has been doing constitutes interference in China’s domestic affairs. It is also against international conventions, as it infringes upon China’s territorial integrity.

China-US relations are not just in the interests of both countries, but also of importance to world peace and development. It is important for both sides to keep their relations on the right track by managing their differences and respecting each other’s core interests.

Obama has met the Dalai Lama three times, which, instead of being a move to manage their differences, has caused damages to bilateral ties.

If he does cherish the smooth development of US-China relations and does treasure what such relations can achieve for a better world, he needs to think twice about his fourth meeting with the Dalai Lama.





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