- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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July 20

The Telegraph, United Kingdom on Prime Minister Theresa May:

In any job, first impressions are important. It is always possible to recover from a difficult debut; but it is more forgivable to mess up in future if the initial outing has been a success. So Theresa May’s confident and fluent first performance at Prime Minister’s Questions will have come as a great relief to her party and something of a revelation to a wider public unsure of her qualities. From what we have seen so far, it is clear that the Conservative Party made a wise choice not just in elevating Mrs May to No 10, but also in avoiding a damaging two-month leadership campaign.

Andrea Leadsom, newly installed in the Cabinet, must have watched her leader’s performance in the Commons yesterday with an even clearer understanding of why she was right to pull out of the contest. Indeed, throughout her first week in the job Mrs May has looked to the manner born. We have no idea yet how she will handle a major crisis or manage her Government and her party. But while PMQs may look to outsiders like a noisy bear pit, it remains the weekly showcase for a leader to strut their stuff. Mrs May certainly did that - though, as David Cameron discovered, looking and sounding like a prime minister does not guarantee longevity when events intrude. All sorts of pitfalls await the new premier, especially in handling the vote to leave the EU.

To that end, Mrs May travelled to Berlin last night and will be in Paris today for preliminary talks with Europe’s two most important leaders about how that might be achieved to the advantage of all concerned. Here, again, first impressions will prove important; so, too, will any indications that Mrs May is able to give as to where she wants to end up at the end of the Brexit negotiations.

It is too early for her to say anything definitive; but when asked by one Conservative MP to rule out any notion of staying in the single market by another means, such as through EEA membership, Mrs May said her aim was to secure the best trade deal in the national interest. On the vexed question of immigration, she said the concerns of voters, apparent in the referendum outcome, had to be addressed; but she also implied that a strict target of reducing net numbers to the “tens of thousands” has been replaced by a more sensible aim of achieving “sustainable levels” of inward migration. The Prime Minister is right to avoid any dogmatic posturing on these crucial issues. This has been an excellent start.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/

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July 20

The Los Angeles Times on banning Russia from the 2016 Summer Olympics:

The use of performance-enhancing drugs at the top levels of sports is a persistent and intractable problem. But the Russians have raised the sordid practice to an art form, according to an independent report released Monday.

Commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the report confirms the core accusations of Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s laboratory responsible for certifying that athletes have not used banned substances. It says that instead of ferreting out cheaters, Rodchenkov was personally involved in a scheme that reached to the top levels of the Russian sports ministry to cover up the use of banned substances by dozens of athletes who competed in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics, as well as the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the 2015 World Swimming Championships in Kazan, Russia.

How did they cover up the cheating? In part, by making false assertions that athletes’ tests were clean, according to Monday’s report. When a sample tested positive for banned substances, the deputy minister of sport would determine whether the cheating athlete would be protected or reported. In what sounds like an episode from the old “Mission: Impossible” television show, the Russians also turned to an agent of the Federal Security Service (a successor to the infamous KGB) to spirit dirty urine samples out of a secured testing room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, circumvent the supposedly tamper-proof container seals and replace the tainted samples with frozen-and-thawed urine collected before the athletes began doping up.

The investigation by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren was conducted over 57 days - an insufficient amount of time, he said, to identify individual athletes who benefited from the cheating. The anti-doping agency has commissioned McLaren to keep digging and file as complete a report as possible. That’s a welcome step.

Yet the scope of the cheating already revealed means that the International Olympic Committee has a decision to make. With the Summer Olympics set to begin in Rio de Janeiro next month, anti-doping groups are urging a blanket ban on participation by Russian athletes.

The International Association of Athletics Federations, which oversees world track and field athletics, already has barred the Russian team from international competitions - including the Olympics - because of a related doping scandal. (Russia has appealed the ban.)

The IOC’s executive committee said Tuesday that it is seeking advice on its legal options, including banning all Russian athletes from the Rio games, and that it is urging the international sports community to not schedule any events in Russia. The committee also announced it will not issue credentials for the Rio games to members of the Russian Ministry of Sport, has created a disciplinary commission to review the 2014 Sochi doping tests and will not plan or support any competitions in Russia.

Banning the entire Russian delegation from the summer games raises an interesting question about individual versus group punishment, and whether athletes who have not been found to have been doping should suffer for the dirty dealings of others. Collective guilt treads on dangerous ground, and risks denying due process. But as the World Anti-Doping Agency noted, the details in the McLaren report, along with allegations by Rodchenkov and others, make it clear that cheating is so rampant within the Russian athletic system - 580 positive tests covered up across 30 different sports - that a presumption of innocence may be misplaced.

The IOC should, if its by-laws allow it, ban the entire Russian team from Rio.

Why did the Russians cheat at such an epic scale? Apparently, a misplaced sense of national pride. After what McLaren described as a “very abysmal medal count” at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Russians decided to cheat to avoid a similar embarrassment at the 2014 games it hosted on its own territory in Sochi. Russia, unsurprisingly, denies that it has engaged in systematic cheating and has attacked Rodchenkov’s credibility. Yet it also suspended at least four high-level sports ministry officials.

It would be naive to think doping is limited to Russia. Just look at the parade of suspensions among professional American athletes caught using banned substances, not to mention the fall of cycling legend Lance Armstrong. It would be naive, too, to think that banning Russia from the games will end the problem. But it would send the necessary message that cheating is unacceptable, even if it is just for the sake of a game.

Online:

https://www.latimes.com/

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July 20

The Augusta Chronicle, Georgia, on the Republican convention:

The first night of the Republican convention was every bit the indictment of Hillary Clinton that somehow eluded the FBI.

In truth, it was more of an indictment - because it covered, in depth, her shameful actions surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were slaughtered on Clinton’s watch.

Those most intimately impacted by the attack - several who were there, and a victim’s mother - reminded us in often heart-rending testimony that Clinton left our people unguarded, then lied to our faces about what led to the attack.

She even lied to families of the fallen - telling them, as she told us, that an anti-Islam Internet video was to blame for the attack, when in fact records show Clinton knew immediately that it was a planned al-Qaida-style attack.

“In an email to her daughter shortly after the attack, Hillary Clinton blamed it on terrorism,” said Patricia Smith, mother of slain Sean Smith. “But when I saw Hillary Clinton at Sean’s coffin ceremony, just days later, she looked me squarely in the eye and told me a video was responsible.”

Mark Geist and John Tiegen, two nails-tough security officers who lived through the battle - and described it in a book and movie called 13 Hours - took convention viewers through the awful bloody night. And they left no doubt the men there were left in the lurch by their government and, in particular, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ms. Smith said she’s never been given an audience or explanation for her son’s death by her government or Mrs. Clinton. When she prodded them for one, she said, she was told “I am not a member of the immediate family.”

That’s your government at work.

“For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton,” she said.

“If Hillary Clinton can’t give us the truth, why should we give her the presidency?”

The Obama administration earned its own indictments, too, particularly for its open borders policy that has led to Americans being killed by illegal immigrants. Three survivors of such victims - two impaired-driving crashes and one illegal-alien gang shooting - spoke in emotional and impassioned tones about the loss of their sons and the failure of this government to protect them and the rest of us.

Each survivor - Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden and Jamiel Shaw - exhibited tremendous courage and strength in telling their agonizing stories to a national television audience.

Tellingly, Shaw recalled that after his son’s brutal murder in Los Angeles, area politicos and others offered their public support and sympathy - but after the killer was identified as an illegal alien, Shaw said that political and moral support dried up and blew away.

Interesting.

Sadly, much of the nation probably never got to hear their stories, or Geist and Tiegen’s testimony, or about the lies and abandonment Ms. Smith has suffered at the hands of our government: The networks were more interested in televising the convention’s famous names.

Those of us privileged to see and hear these brave folks - mostly ordinary citizens like you - will never forget it.

After Ms. Smith’s painful, passionate plea for answers and honesty from her government, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper sheepishly sympathized with her - with Tapper lamenting that he, like Ms. Smith, can’t explain Mrs. Clinton’s actions.

Isn’t that kind of his job - to question authority? Will he and others in the media take more of an interest in it now?

Like the men on the roof in Benghazi that night, don’t hold your breath waiting for help to arrive.

Online:

https://chronicle.augusta.com/

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July 19

The New York Times on Paul Ryan and Donald Trump:

Among the Republicans going along with Donald Trump’s takeover of their party, the House speaker, Paul Ryan, has made a tortuous art - a zigzag of maybes, yes-buts and oh, I guess sos - of protecting his interests en route to capitulating to the inevitable at the nominating convention.

By supporting the Trump candidacy, Mr. Ryan has revealed himself to be a weak opportunist, far from the ideas man and budget wonk he made himself out to be when he secured the vice-presidential nomination four years ago. It probably hasn’t been easy to engage in the political casuistry needed to simultaneously reject and embrace Mr. Trump.

While condemning Mr. Trump’s more hateful utterances, Mr. Ryan has been careful never, ever to criticize Mr. Trump himself. “It’s not what this country stands for,” Mr. Ryan said of Mr. Trump’s outrageous call to ban Muslims from entering the nation, yet he failed to challenge the person who said it.

Mr. Ryan denounced Mr. Trump’s attack on an Indiana-born judge of Mexican heritage as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” He added: “It’s absolutely unacceptable. But do I believe that Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not.” Thus goes his justification for abandoning principles and good sense: The bizarre excesses of Mr. Trump - racism, xenophobia, paleo-protectionism - are nothing compared with the prospect of Mrs. Clinton winning the White House.

Unlike Mr. Ryan, other Republican leaders have backed away from Mr. Trump as a candidate gone amok, notably Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate who campaigned alongside Mr. Ryan. Even John Kasich, the convention’s host governor, has felt obliged to boycott the celebration of Mr. Trump. In contrast, Mr. Ryan seems to be trying to look just loyal enough to avoid blame for a Clinton victory while positioning himself to pick up the pieces of the party if Mr. Trump loses. But he cannot have this both ways. He is tying his future to Mr. Trump’s ugly campaign.

Even before the credibility challenge presented by the Trump candidacy, Mr. Ryan’s reputation as a congressional thinker and innovator was subject to increasing doubts, as was his leadership of fractious House Republicans in their failure to agree on basic budget resolutions. Their election year agenda, called “A Better Way,” has been widely criticized for lacking detail in its claims about curtailing poverty. Last month, after years of vowing to come up with a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Ryan’s caucus finally offered a proposal. Far from being innovative, the plan was built around Mr. Ryan’s longstanding proposals to shift Medicare to a market-based competitor of health care companies.

Under scrutiny, Mr. Ryan’s prescriptions for reforms and savings have proved to be glossy variations on the tired Republican tactic of more tax cuts favoring the rich over the middle class, while his budget-cutting proposals have never added up to his grand promises.

As a conservative policy leader, Mr. Ryan should have every reason to oppose Mr. Trump. They hold different positions on core issues, including on immigration (Mr. Ryan opposes Mr. Trump’s call for 11 million deportations), trade deals (Mr. Ryan supports the Pacific trade deal that Mr. Trump has vilified) and international engagement (the speaker favors a stronger NATO and wariness toward Russia, while Mr. Trump seems ready to embrace isolationism).

A cynic would say Mr. Ryan has nothing to lose: Either he gets the bombastic, unpredictable Mr. Trump as the next president or he survives to seek the presidential nomination in 2020. But whatever the outcome, Mr. Ryan seems already to be what Mr. Trump typically calls a loser - a once promising politician who has lost his way.

Online:

https://www.nytimes.com/

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July 19

The Times-Picayune on recent shootings of six Baton Rouge police officers:

Montrell Jackson was 32 and married with a 4-month-old baby. He had been a Baton Rouge police officer for 10 years and was president of his Denham Springs neighborhood association.

Matthew Gerald, 41, had served in the Marines and the Army and did three tours in Iraq without being harmed. He and his wife celebrated their fourth anniversary two weeks ago. He had been a Baton Rouge police officer for less than a year.

At age 45, Brad Garafola was a 24-year veteran of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. He had four children, ages 7 to 21, and worked a security detail for B-Quik stores around Baton Rouge in his spare time.

These three beloved men died doing their duty Sunday: trying to protect the people of Baton Rouge. Their loss leaves a void not only in their families but across the city. “Our hearts are broken, but our spirit is intact,” State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said during a press conference Monday. “Our soul has survived an unthinkable crime committed against this community.”

Col. Edmonson said the officers were ambushed. According to radio traffic, Baton Rouge police answered a 911 call reporting a man with an assault rifle on Airline Highway Sunday morning. When officers arrived, the gunman opened fire on them near a B-Quik store. In addition to the three officers who were killed, three other officers were wounded.

The shooter, who was killed by a SWAT officer, was a Kansas City, Mo., resident who had been in Baton Rouge for a few days. Gavin Long, who had three guns and moved between buildings as he was firing, specifically targeted the police officers, Col. Edmonson said. As investigators sort out this horrific crime, people across Louisiana are in mourning. The pain is worst, of course, in Baton Rouge.

Officer Jackson was the “backbone of the family,” his uncle Charles Cavallier said. He liked being a police officer, “and he always tried to be fair.”

The officer wrote a heart-wrenching post on his Facebook page July 8, three days after city police shot and killed Alton Sterling outside the Triple S Food Mart. “These are trying times. Please don’t let hate infect your heart … I’m working in these streets so protesters, officers, friends, family, or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer. I got you.”

Nine days later, he is gone.

Officer Gerald came home from Iraq and still wanted to serve, so he joined the Police Department, a friend told The Washington Post.

“Matt was the kind of guy that you knew immediately when he entered the room,” said Ryan D. Cabral, who served with him in Iraq. “Whether it was the energy he carried with him or that Cajun accent he had … maybe it was the Marine in him.”

The BRPD rookie officer loved spending time with his wife and two daughters and on his bass boat, his friend said.

Brad Garafola, 45, was a 24-year veteran of the sheriff’s office. “He would give you the shirt off his back,” said Ann Lundgren, who manages the B-Quik on Perkins Road. “We lost a member of our family,” she said Monday. “He’s got four beautiful kids. I just don’t know. Senseless.”

Officer Garafola’s wife, Tonja, posted a tribute on Facebook. “Brad was such a wonderful husband, father and friend,” she wrote. “He loved his family to the absolute fullest and we were always his number one. He gave his all in everything he did!!”

A statement from the Baton Rouge Police Department said the officers demonstrated “what it means to protect and serve.” Gov. John Bel Edwards called them heroic and said they ran toward danger Sunday morning.

We owe them a debt of gratitude for sacrificing themselves to keep the rest of us safe.

Online:

https://www.nola.com

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July 19

The Boston Herald on the aftermath of an attempted coup in Turkey:

This is the way democracy dies - not in the streets of Turkey, not because of a coup but in its aftermath and in the halls of power.

And our own nation is standing by, watching it happen. Watching while Turkey’s president, who purports to be a democrat, wipes out his nation’s once free and independent judiciary, just as he cowed much of its free and independent media.

The attempted coup last week has given the autocratic Recep Tayyip Erdogan a pretext to decimate his nation’s justice system - a process that had begun long before the events of Friday. The president almost immediately announced his intention to purge 2,745 judges and prosecutors. By Sunday homes were being searched, the arrests had begun.

In recent years Turkey’s Constitutional Court has been the only thing that has stood between Erdogan and his continuing assault on the news media - those not already jailed or terrified into submission.

And what has been the U.S. response thus far?

Try these words from Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday: “I think the Turkish government itself is trying to figure out who is involved and how.”

If only. Erdogan immediately came up with the names of 2,745 judges who needed to go. By Monday some 8,777 civil servants - police, military police, 30 governors, 16 legal advisers - were added to the purge list. That must have be one speedy “investigation.”

On Monday Kerry added, “Obviously, a lot of people have been arrested and arrested very quickly. The level of (international) vigilance and scrutiny is obviously going to be significant in the days ahead.”

Kerry is no naïf. He knows the game that is afoot here. Just as surely as he knows that Turkey is a NATO member and an important ally in the fight against the Islamic State.

It wouldn’t be the first time the United States has looked the other way while a despot tightens his grip on power because that despot remains strategically important. But let there be no mistake, this time it is happening on the Obama administration’s watch and watching democracy slip away in Turkey is nothing short of tragic.

Online:

https://www.bostonherald.com

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July 19

The Toronto Star on an international AIDS conference meeting:

There’s no doubt the world has seen remarkable progress made against AIDS: Death rates have been slashed with 17 million people now receiving drugs capable of holding the virus in check. Scientists keep expanding their knowledge of its complex mechanics, while governments donate billions of dollars each year to fight one of the deadliest contagions in human history.

But it’s not enough.

More than 60 per cent of people living with HIV still aren’t receiving the drugs they need. And with the virus running rampant through this stricken population, the infection continues to spread.

About 2 million additional people become infected with HIV each year, severely straining health care systems in the developing world. Better prevention is essential, especially with growing worry over the virus developing resistance to the antiretroviral drugs essential to keeping it at bay.

As more than 18,000 researchers, patient advocates, medical staff and politicians gather in Durban, South Africa, for a major AIDS conference this week there’s a growing sense that the world is at a crossroads. A more determined push to get antiretroviral drugs to more infected people might finally break the back of this epidemic. Failing that, the virus could mount a resurgence, rolling back some of the gains made to date. It’s vital that the planet opt for progress.

“Gains are inadequate - and fragile,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters at the UN-sponsored international conference on AIDS. He urged world-wide support for a fast-track response called “90-90-90.”

Its goal, by 2020, is to test 90 per cent of people living with HIV; provide antiretroviral drugs to 90 per cent of that population; and ensure that 90 per cent of patients receiving treatment have a suppressed viral load, making it hard for infection to spread. The long-term global goal is to end AIDS by 2030.

To hit this ambitious target treatment must get to hard-to-reach populations, especially the poorest of the poor in developing nations, drug users, sex workers, and other marginalized people. That’s the theme of this year’s conference and it applies to Canada, too.

A documentary film being screened at the meeting underlines how indigenous communities in this country are experiencing soaring infection rates, especially in Saskatchewan. For every 10 people diagnosed in that province, seven are aboriginal. That’s due to inadequate health care, including lack of addiction services, as well as despair caused by destitution and lack of hope.

Millions worldwide face similar conditions, and even worse. The battle against AIDS can’t truly be won without progress against poverty and inequality. That’s the real challenge confronting those gathered in Durban.

Online:

https://www.thestar.com

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