- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New England newspapers:

Portland Press Herald (Maine), June 19, 2015

The more we learn about the young white man arrested in the killings of nine people Wednesday at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, the more people will want to sift through his background for some bit of personal information that makes him different from everyone else.

But Dylann Storm Roof is actually just like the rest of us in many ways. He was born and raised in a nation that allowed slavery and has yet to achieve racial justice and parity. And the massacre he is accused of carrying out was not a random, isolated event. It was the latest in a long series of acts of racial violence in this country.

Worshippers embrace after a group prayer across the street from the scene of a shooting Wednesday night at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. A white man opened fire during a prayer meeting inside the historic black church, killing nine people, including the pastor and three other clergy members, in an assault that authorities described as a hate crime.

Worshippers embrace after a group prayer across the street from the scene of a shooting Wednesday night at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. A white man opened fire during a prayer meeting inside the historic black church, killing nine people, including the pastor and three other clergy members, in an assault that authorities described as a hate crime. The Associated Press

After Roof’s arrest Thursday, coverage shifted focus from speculation over his whereabouts to speculation about whether he has a mental illness. Even if he did, however, that wouldn’t explain the events at the Emanuel AME Church. What we know so far of the case supports a much darker and more widespread affliction: the belief that black people are inferior and that the wrongs done to them don’t matter.

Granted, Roof may be at the extreme end of a continuum. It’s rare to see someone in a jacket like the one Roof wore in a photo on his now-defunct Facebook page: It displayed the flags of two former white supremacist regimes (apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe).

But Roof grew up in a state where the idea of black people as second-class citizens is implicitly endorsed at an official level. The state has displayed the battle flag of the Confederacy- a symbol of the unwillingness of white Southerners to stop treating black men, women and children as their possessions -for over 50 years.

The Confederate flag was flown atop the Capitol dome from 1962- when it was intended as a gesture of defiance toward federal civil rights efforts -until 2000, when protests forced its relocation to a less prominent location on the Capitol grounds.

Not that the South has a monopoly on race-based injustice. It’s in our national DNA. Historian Anne Farrow, who has studied connections to slavery in the pre-Civil War North, concluded that the “stolen, uncompensated labor” of enslaved Africans was “the key to America’s early success”- feeding systemic racial prejudice whose effects linger today in the form of poverty, illness and lack of access to education.

Emanuel AME Church has seen racist violence before. A co-founder, Denmark Vesey, was executed in 1822 and the church burned to the ground after white landowners discovered Vesey’s efforts to organize a slave revolt.

The men who razed the church and the man now accused of killing the church’s pastor, a member of his staff and seven congregants are linked by deeply rooted hatred, and it will continue to flourish until the rest of us recognize it, acknowledge it and refuse to tolerate it.




The Boston Globe (Mass.), June 18, 2015

In a long-awaited encyclical released Thursday, Pope Francis was blunt and to the point: Irresponsible abuse of the environment is a “violence of the human heart,” poisoning soil, water, air, and wildlife. In a 192-page letter, Francis endorses prevailing science, which holds that human activity creates greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Fittingly, he called for transformation, “for changes in styles of life, of production and consumption, to combat this warming.” His call should be heeded, and should come as a spur to action to those who sit on the sidelines.

Francis is not the first Catholic patriarch to voice concern for the environment. His predecessor, Pope Benedict, said climate change should be “of grave concern for the entire human family,” and was called the “green pope” for installing solar panels on Vatican facilities. Before Benedict, Pope John Paul II blamed consumerism and waste for the “senseless destruction of the natural environment.”

But most official papal messages on the environment and climate change have been tucked within a wider range of issues, targeted to environmental conferences or issued on fleeting “world days” dedicated to the environment, peace, or food. It has never been the sole focus of an encyclical- the teaching letter considered to be the Catholic Church’s strongest pronouncement on an issue, and meant to be incorporated into the ethos of daily living for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. With a population that size, encyclicals are also intended to influence global morality.

The timing could not be more critical, with the Paris climate talks looming. Several nations have sent carbon emission reduction pledges to the United Nations in advance of the summit, including President Obama’s pledge of 28 percent by 2025 for the United States. China, after negotiations with the United States, says its carbon emissions will peak in 2030, and the European Union has pledged a 40 percent reduction by 2030. But two new analyses this month, one done for the Guardian newspaper and another Monday from the International Energy Agency, warned that current and anticipated pledges are not yet enough to hold the earth under a 2-degree Celsius rise in temperature, compared to preindustrial levels.

Pushback from some Catholic officials has already begun, especially in the United States. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, told The New York Times that the environment is not a top priority for American bishops, saying, “They don’t understand the complexities.” But the pope should hold firm.

Climate change, originally fueled by Western industrialization and consumerism, is quickly emerging as an issue of justice. Poor, low-lying countries have few resources to protect themselves from its effects. In January, in an obvious prologue to his encyclical, Francis said man has “slapped nature in the face.” This encyclical is a powerful statement about how to begin addressing the damage.




(Meriden) Record-Journal (Conn.), June 15, 2015

Where have all the honeybees gone? Although that’s a complicated question, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the number of managed hives in the country is now around 2.5 million- half of what it was in the 1940s. If anything, the loss of bees has been worse in Connecticut, where there are 7,000 registered hives, than in the nation overall.

And yet, we need them more than ever. The U.S. population is now well over 300 million, and that means 300 million mouths to feed. Bees pollinate some 80 percent of plant species, and about a third of our food supply depends on them. Some crops, such as almonds, are completely dependent on bees for pollination.

But the honeybees have been disappearing, a situation that’s been going on for years, and much of the loss is attributed to CCD, colony collapse disorder.

Mike Rice, of Roxbury, rescues bees and brings them to the hives he builds. He told a reporter for the Republican-American of Waterbury that of the 43 colonies on his property, 28 have been destroyed by CCD.

“It’s like coming down in the morning and finding your dog’s gone,” Rice told the reporter. “I will have hives with 70,000 to 80,000 bees in the middle of summer. I go to close them up for the winter and there’s nothing there. … I just don’t know what happened.”

What’s the cause? Unfortunately, colony collapse disorder is not well understood. The U.S.D.A. and state agriculture departments have been studying the issue, and current theory is that there may be multiple factors involved, including disease, bacteria, parasites- and pesticides, including synthetic nicotine pesticides called neo-nicotinoids.

New parasites and diseases emerge periodically, and it takes time to find a treatment or a cure. Another factor could be that commercial agriculture increasingly concentrates on a handful of crops, reducing the biodiversity available to the bees.

Because commercial seeds are coated in pesticides, the crops grow up with pesticides inside them. Do the bees ingest the pesticides in this way? To make matters worse, not enough is known about possible interactions among the fungicides, herbicides and insecticides commonly used today. Even chemicals meant to protect bees from parasites may be reacting with one particular fungicide, to lethal effect for the bees.

What, if anything, is being done? The U.S.D.A. has provided a grant for collecting bee specimens, which will be studied at the University of Maryland. The federal government has also come up with a strategy that calls for preserving 7 million acres of habitat.

Perhaps the state could help by re-assessing whatever spraying of herbicides and fungicides it does along the highways.

Not enough is known yet about what’s happening to the bees, but it should be a major concern for all of us, because all of us depend on honeybees for our sustenance.

“They are a huge part of our existence,” Rice said. “People don’t realize that.”




The Concord Monitor (N.H), June 18, 2015

Donald Trump has finally done it. After years of teasing presidential runs, the Donald has announced that he is an official candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2016.

With the primary field crowded with an abundance of qualified candidates, some might wonder if Trump is a crucial addition to this contest.

He probably isn’t.

But his brash style, outspoken opinions and take-charge personality are a welcome diversion during this all-too-long primary season. (In case you’re counting, there’s about seven months left.) And if he’s interested in performing well in New Hampshire, here are some pointers.

First, he needs to be here. Trump can’t run for president from the tower that bears his name. He needs to meet New Hampshire residents face-to-face. He should talk to them, and he should listen. Committing to this kind of run would help show that Trump is a sincere candidate, not someone just out to boost his brand.

Even in a state as politically astute as New Hampshire, people appreciate politicians of any ideology showing an interest in their day-to-day lives and concerns. Bill Clinton forged such a connection with the state’s voters during his first presidential run, and it has served him and Hillary Clinton well in the decades since.

Secondly, Trump might want to develop some policy specifics. Saying that he has a secret plan to defeat ISIS and that his business experience qualifies him to make America great again doesn’t cut it. No one is asking for him to become a scholar from the American Enterprise Institute. But the ability to talk policy specifics will be an important way to show that he’s committed to making a real contribution this political season.

Finally, he should just be himself. Trump doesn’t need this piece of advice, but a little bit of gusty bravado will provide a refreshing counterpoint to the multitude of sensible men and women, all with sensibly styled hair, who have declared their presidential intentions so far.

Make no mistake: Trump is a formidable contender. His wealth, his populist stances (he is one of the only Republicans who says that entitlement programs shouldn’t be reformed or trimmed) and his fame are all considerable assets. And his placement in recent polls suggests he will shortly be debating the race’s frontrunners.

This state listens to and welcomes all of those making an honest run for leader of this nation. Many pundits have criticized Trump for not being serious enough. With this announcement, he’s finally shown himself willing to put his opinions and beliefs on the line in an election. Like Ronald Reagan and Ross Perot before him, Trump’s personality and charisma are a large part of his appeal. But he must include ideas and opinions of substance, as they did.

The challenge is formidable, but he seems eager to try.

Welcome to the race, Mr. Trump.




Rutland Herald (Vt.), June 19, 2015

It is an astonishing number: the United Nations estimates that violence and poverty have displaced 60 million people around the globe. It is a number that takes us back to the catastrophic era of World War II when vast populations of refugees roamed the European continent and war-torn regions of Asia.

Many of the refugees remain as displaced persons within their own countries. As The New York Times reported, Colombia has one of the world’s largest populations of internally displaced people- 6.5 million. Other sources of refugee flight include Syria, which has produced 11.6 million displaced persons. Sub-Saharan Africa, including Sudan, South Sudan, and Burundi is home to about 14 million refugees. Refugees from Eritrea, Somalia, as well as many parts of the Middle East are among those braving the waters of the Mediterranean in search of safety.

The United States encounters refugees mainly from Latin America. Immigration from Mexico has declined lately, but the Central American nations of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador remain plagued by violence, driving many to flee. But it is not only Latinos seeking refuge in the United States. The dozens of languages spoken in the schools of Burlington show the broad sweep of international migration.

Western nations complain about the burdens of immigration, but the percentage of refugees being received by Europe and the United States is dwarfed by the numbers flooding into nations near conflict zones. Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are among the nations feeling the effects of the wars in Syria and Iraq. Pakistan still has millions of refugees from Afghanistan, decades after war first broke out there.

The nations of Europe have considered various military measures to stop the flotilla of boats bringing refugees across the Mediterranean. But taking potshots at a few boats is not going to stem the tide. Sixty million is a large number.

What is happening is a catastrophic collapse of the nation state. The boundary lines between nations are being erased, as in Syria and Iraq, and as can be seen in Central Africa in the continuing trouble in Congo, Burundi and Central African Republic, not to mention trouble in the West African nations of Nigeria and Mali.

Western nations intervene in turbulent regions with mixed effects. The American-European intervention in Libya in 2012 when it appeared Gadhafi was mounting an extermination campaign against his enemies led to toppling him, which in itself was not a bad thing. Preventing mass killing also was not a bad thing. But chaos has followed, with no functioning government, and free rein for people smugglers seeking to transport refugees to Europe. Refugees also seek to enter Europe by the border between Spain and Morocco.

The response of the West must be twofold. We need to promote stability, which is never easy. What happens when a supposed ally, Saudi Arabia, launches a misguided air campaign against a neighbor, Yemen? Refugees happen, and strife is prolonged. We have backed several horses in Yemen, none of them the right one. It’s hard to tell which one is the right one.

The second element of the West’s response must be compassion. Helping to settle people humanely satisfies the demands of human rights, but also fosters stability. People without a home, living in want and resentment, become a perennial source of new conflict. Palestinians are still living in refugee camps created after the 1948 war. Their grievances have never been satisfied.

Nations have to step forward as they did after World War II to recognize the human catastrophe happening at the moment. The United Nations has been dealing with refugees since its creation, and it must be given the power and money to act aggressively today. In the future there may also need to be an international effort to reconcile borders with peoples, as nations disappear amid the tides of chaos and violence.




The (Norwich) Bulletin (Conn.), June 17, 2015

In a political inversion of massive proportions, congressional Democrats have spurned President Obama on critical trade legislation while across the aisle, prominent Republicans supported him, however reluctantly.

Both chambers of Congress have passed so-called Trade Promotion Authority, which would grant Obama greater negotiating authority to broker an agreement on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. But another law that would have granted assistance to workers negatively affected by the potential trade treaty was defeated, and so-called “fast-track” authority, being attached to the second law, went down with it. Now Republicans- and Obama -are likely to pursue a stand-alone bill to grant fast-track authority.

Assuming they succeed and the TPP nations subsequently reach a deal, opponents, at best, will have delayed passage of a measure meant to aid American workers whose jobs become casualties of increased and unfettered international trade.

Those potential job losses are our greatest concern with any new international trade deal. But there’s no denying that our economy is becoming increasingly connected with others around the globe, and the more we do to promote the free flow of commerce and investment across our borders, the better off we’ll be in the long term. The 12 TPP nations represent 37 percent of global GDP and one-third of trade worldwide.

It is instructive to look at the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a hallmark of the last Democrat to occupy the White House before Obama. President Bill Clinton, along with the chief executives of Canada and Mexico, signed NAFTA in 1994, beginning the process of phasing out tariffs on products traded by the three nations.

The Economic Policy Institute blames NAFTA for the loss of about 700,000 manufacturing jobs as companies moved production to Mexico. It is impossible to establish direct causality and, thus, a precise figure- most economists say the NAFTA-era job losses are also attributable to a structural shift in the U.S. away from manufacturing and toward high-end services, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

In the same background paper, CFR also notes NAFTA “has fallen short of generating the jobs and the deeper regional economic integration its advocates promised decades ago.” That’s worth keeping in mind when considering Obama’s rosy projections about the TPP’s potential to boost our economic standing in the world.




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