- Associated Press - Saturday, July 30, 2016

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

New Britain Herald (Conn.), July 25, 2016

Is it terrorism or is it criminal activity - or is it mental instability?

Germany is facing that question today as they investigate a 27-year-old Syrian man who detonated a bomb near a music festival, killing himself and wounding 12 others.

He had received two deportation notices. An interior ministry spokesman said he could not say “at this moment why the deportation” of the 27-year-old failed asylum seeker didn’t happen.



The “why” is of increasing importance at this time of heightened terror alerts - and Connecticut has already seen blood shed as a result of a failure by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division to expel a Haitian man just completing a 20-year prison term for murder. Free only six months, he stabbed to death 25-year-old Casey Chadwick of Norwich on June 16, 2015.

A report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, done at the request of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, found that, between the time of his release and the day of her murder, ICE had made three attempts to deport him but each time, Haiti refused to accept him, saying that there was no proof he was a Haitian citizen - but they also refused U.S. officials access to his birth certificate.

Frankly, we wouldn’t want to accept him either - which is why ICE should have been more aggressive.

But, the report found, “The caseloads of deportation officers in the field make personalized follow-up with the aliens under their supervision functionally impossible.” At one office, just four officers were assigned to facilitate deportation of 37,000 illegal immigrants.

Now Blumenthal and Courtney are proposing Casey’s Law to crack down on countries that refuse or delay U.S. officials’ attempts to deport dangerous criminals. And they are seeking reforms internally, including increased resources, “risk-based prioritization” of ICE’s workload, as well as a stronger partnership between ICE and the State Department, when other countries refuse to accept their own citizens.

Clearly, if we are willing to accept immigrants into our country - and we should - we should also have the resources to protect our citizens from those few with a history of criminal activity.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2ayyGVU

Portland Press Herald (Maine), July 25, 2016

The aftermath of each high-profile shooting plays out the same. One side says it’s the result of a culture engorged and enamored with guns, while the other blames, well, almost anything else - terrorism, mental illness, race, poverty, a weak and divisive president. Predictably, nothing changes.

Because of how wrapped up it is in personal and political identity, the cause and effect of gun violence is parsed like no other issue, and it is paralyzing. Most people understand it is a complex interplay of factors that gives the United States an almost unprecedented number of firearm deaths each year, yet when a high-profile shooting hijacks the country’s attention, people almost instantly, reflexively run to one side or the other.

Few other issues are like this. After the number of car crash deaths peaked in the late 1960s, a series of measures were put in place to make it safer to be on the road. Yet when a safety belt fails to save a life in a single accident, we don’t say the laws are useless. When a person is ejected from a vehicle, we don’t say, “See, what good are airbags?”

Each shooting, however, becomes a referendum on a specific factor related to gun violence.

If the killer in a mass shooting pledges allegiance to the Islamic State, the sole problem must be terrorism, never mind any other personal problems and prejudices exhibited by the shooter, or the ease in which they acquired firearms meant to kill multiple targets.

If the weapon of choice among mass killers is an assault rifle, then the problem must be the proliferation of military-style firearms, nevermind that the vast majority of firearm-related homicides involve handguns.

The reason this happens has almost nothing to do with mass shootings themselves.

Proponents of gun control, justifiably upset at the daily toll of gun violence in the U.S., want to capitalize on the outsized attention that mass shootings receive, and leverage it into action. However, when gun laws are only part of the equation, opponents are happy to point that out, and use it to obstruct even the most sensible of measures.

And besides the deadly use of guns, the mass shootings that grab headlines have little in common with the unremarkable everyday violence that constitutes most deaths by firearm.

The very real need for sensible gun control, and for a public health approach to gun safety, does not hinge on shootings like those in Orlando and San Bernandino.

Instead, action should come in response to the daily killings in places like Chicago and Baltimore, or to the abused women killed disproportionately by guns, or to the children who are victims of so many accidental shootings.

Stopping the rare madman is one thing. Ending systemic, entrenched violence is quite another. The debate should reflect that.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2aEDEm8

The Berkshire Eagle (Mass.), July 27, 2016

An investigation into Exxon Mobil’s stance on global warming by our state attorney general and others angers the energy giant and its congressional allies. Investigators must stand firm.

AG Maura Healey, her New York counterpart Eric Schneiderman, and environmental advocates are exploring whether or not Exxon Mobil misled investors about the reality of man-made climate change. The corporation has responded not by denying the claims against it but by suing to block the investigation.

Exxon Mobil has an ally in House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican and global warming skeptic, who has issued subpoenas to both attorneys general seeking the records they have collected in the course of their investigation. That an anti-science Republican is head of a science committee shows how far through the looking glass Congress has traveled since Republicans gained control of the House.

The two attorneys general will not hand over the records because, as a spokesman for Attorney General Healey explained, the subpoenas are unconstitutional and constitute interference with legitimate state investigations. Republican officials who regularly proclaim their belief in states’ rights routinely toss their principles aside when inconvenient, such as in their attempts to override state laws on abortion and gay marriage. Global warming-related investigations provide another example.

Exxon Mobil’s reaction to the investigations indicates the corporation has something to hide. Healey, Schneiderman and their allies should move forward and not be intimidated by a congressman wielding the power of Big Government.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2a7mBsn

The Telegraph (N.H.), July 27, 2016

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the contents of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee that showed DNC officials had been trying to undermine his bid to secure the party’s nomination for president.

DNC officials claimed publicly that they were not picking sides in the primary, since party rules prohibit them from backing one candidate over another.

“The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and even-handedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process,” the rule says.

Sanders claimed months ago that the system was rigged and that party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her staff were secretly working for Hillary Clinton.

The release of the emails last Friday prompted Wasserman Schultz to resign as head of the party, but that doesn’t change the fact that the system was not what it purported to be.

One oft-cited clue was the schedule of debates, which were few in number and timed, Sanders’ supporters claimed, to attract the fewest possible number of viewers and limit Clinton’s exposure.

The emails show there was more to it than that.

DNC officials also coordinated with Clinton lawyers on messaging and strategy and an email from DNC Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall showed an attempt to make Sanders’ religion a campaign issue: “It might make no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”

It’s not likely that the DNC role was decisive in Clinton winning the nomination, but the emails show that the party that likes to think it owns the moral high ground on issues is as phony as the other party when it comes to the sordid business of politics.

Of course, there are a couple of simple explanations for why the DNC was secretly working to swing the party’s presidential nomination to Clinton.

The first is that the end justifies the means. Getting Hillary Clinton elected was the goal, and breaking the rules didn’t matter to the DNC. Besides, as the country learned from Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state in violation of State Department regulations, rules don’t apply where Hillary Clinton is concerned.

Of course, “the end justifies the means” was also the rationale Richard Nixon’s henchmen used to justify the Watergate break-in and series of political dirty tricks leading up to the 1972 election.

It’s also a safe bet that DNC officials never thought they would get caught. Then again, neither did the creeps who worked for Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President (which made for the wonderful acronym CREEP.)

The Clinton campaign’s response to the emails was to engage in typical “hey-look-over-there” misdirection. Robbie Mook, the campaign manager, blamed the Russians for hacking into the DNC system.

He might be right, but we doubt that Sanders’ supporters would care if the hackers were from Mars.

The fact remains that the Democratic establishment never wanted Sanders, but now they desperately need his legion of supporters - the same people they derisively dismissed as “BernieBros” in their emails.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2ayBylk

The Providence Journal (R.I.), July 29, 2016

Donald Trump, a former reality TV show star who somehow has become a major political party’s nominee for the presidency, contemplates shaking up the world order in a way no president has imagined for the last 67 years.

Specifically, he challenges the notion of American obligations to the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, or NATO, the coalition of 28 European and North American governments that formed in 1949 to protect member nations against external threats, seen mostly in those days as emanating from the Soviet Union.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, understands that America has an essential role to play in the world in defending the nation’s security and that of its allies.

“An attack on one is viewed as an attack on all,” according to Article 5 of the NATO charter, in which members vow to unite for the collective defense. That article has been invoked exactly once in the last 67 years: When terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Now comes Trump, a survivor so far of the American political process, but certainly no historian, diplomat nor strategic global thinker. He told The New York Times recently he wouldn’t necessarily support a NATO member being invaded by its enemies. He would first assess whether that member had “fulfilled its obligations” to NATO and the United States.

If it had, he said, then, yes, he would order U.S. forces to support it.

This is a first.

Trump has said many things that are implausible, offensive or simply false. They are, indeed, part of his outsider appeal to a swath of primary voters who made him the Republicans’ nominee. But this time, he is saying something that is potentially catastrophic.

The mutual defense structure that was established in the wake of World War II has helped keep the peace ever since. It is true that many member nations haven’t fully met their financial obligations to the alliance, leaving it to U.S. taxpayers to pay more than their fair share - one of the costs of being the world’s greatest superpower and its bulwark of representative democracies. If Trump’s statement serves any useful purpose, it is that it should help compel delinquent members to pay up.

But the world Trump invites us to join is a dark and fearful place. He would place the United States in a figurative foxhole, hunkered down as mortars and rockets fly overhead, emerging to fight only if certain contractual terms are met. One of the most important functions of NATO is to make it clear to Russia that the West will respond if its member states are attacked - thus deterring it from making such attempts. Do we really want Russia to be confused on this point?

Imagine a morning in which Americans awoke to the news that Russian tanks had rolled into Riga. Do we want a president whose impulsive, angry and amoral nature makes it questionable whether he can balance domestic and foreign interests, weigh diplomatic and human risks and invoke - or refuse to invoke - military power?

No. We don’t.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2ahowbd

Bennington Banner (Vt.), July 24, 2016

Turkish President Recep Erdogan called the failed military coup against him a “gift from God,” and it is a gift that keeps on giving. The gleeful leader is putting the U.S., his ostensible ally, in a difficult spot.

As the U.S. has learned the hard way, nothing is ever simple in the Middle East. The putting down of a military coup against a democratically elected government should, for example, be cause for an unequivocal celebration. Erdogan, however, is a totalitarian leader who has used the coup as an excuse to go further toward dictatorship than he has before.

Erdogan has decided to go after all of his political opponents or potential political opponents, whether they had anything to do with the coup or not. Nearly 10,000 people have been arrested, including civil servants, judges and teachers. Journalists have had their credentials revoked and minority and secular groups have been attacked for not supporting the government even though they did not support the coup. It should be noted that only 34 military personnel have been directly linked to the coup so far.

President Erdogan has linked an ally turned enemy, Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania’s Poconos, to the coup and demanded his extradition by the Obama administration. There is no evidence of such a link and the White House is understandably reluctant to deport someone for the crime of being a political foe.

The U.S. needs Turkey’s help in the fight against ISIS but there are limits to what can be done to appease a purported ally. President Erdogan is emerging as a threat to democracy that may surpass that of Islamic terrorism.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2ak8iSw

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