- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

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The Wall Street Journal on relations between the U.S. and Taiwan

Sept. 11

The U.S. recalled its ambassadors to El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Panama on Friday, which prompted a cryptic warning from Beijing of all places not to “gesticulate” or make “thoughtless remarks.” So why are American and Chinese diplomats jousting in Latin America?

The answer is Taiwan. In the last 15 months Beijing has convinced the three countries to drop diplomatic recognition of the island and establish relations with mainland China. The U.S. recalled its ambassadors to signal that it will downgrade ties with countries that switch. Only 17 nations now recognize Taiwan, and several of those are wavering.

China’s diplomatic campaign is part of a larger effort to force Taiwan to accept reunification. Chinese leaders have threatened war if there is no progress toward this goal, and Chinese military forces are conducting maneuvers around the island. Taiwanese understandably refuse to give up their de facto independence or their hard-won democracy.

The U.S. show of solidarity with Taiwan is welcome, and perhaps the demarches will deter more diplomatic defections. But the Trump Administration could do much more to help the island. For example, in June the U.S. opened a new de facto embassy in Taipei. Taiwan’s friends in Congress requested that a cabinet-level official attend the ceremony. But after China threw a tantrum, the U.S. was represented by the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.

The U.S. is also failing to sell Taiwan the arms it needs to defend itself, a requirement under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. A modest package of $1.4 billion in arms was approved last year, but that had been put in motion by the Obama Administration. No significant new sales are under consideration.

Congress passed a defense spending bill last month calling for arms sales, joint training and exercises, and visits by senior U.S. officials to Taipei. The Taiwan Travel Act, passed unanimously and signed into law in March, urges exchanges at all levels of government.

But the Administration has failed to follow up. China-friendly officials held over from the Obama Administration were an early obstacle, in particular the acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton. She retired last month and her expected replacement, former Air Force Gen. David Stilwell, may be more forward-leaning on Taiwan. The bigger problem is President Trump’s belief that he can charm President Xi Jinping into helping with other priorities such as North Korea and trade.

Moves to engage Taiwan or bolster its defense may cause fireworks in Beijing, but that is because Beijing has learned that its threats work. Li Kexin, then a counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, last December responded to a proposal for U.S. Navy port calls to Taiwan: “The day that a U.S. Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force.” The U.S. shelved the idea, and Beijing promoted Mr. Li to deputy chief of mission.

Online: https://on.wsj.com/2OkDRKA

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The Times Herald-Record on the Democratic candidate for governor

Sept. 10

On Thursday New York Democrats will select their candidate for governor and unless the polls are wrong in a way that seems almost mathematically impossible, their choice will be Andrew Cuomo for a third time.

Then attention will turn to the general election in the fall and you can expect many an editorial or opinion column lamenting another imbalance, this one between a powerful and experienced Democrat and a Republican with a skimpy resume.

We need to expand that discussion.

Last week Barack Obama made the important point that Donald Trump is a symptom, not a cause. New York Democrats and New Yorkers in general have to start wondering about cause and effect in our state, asking if Andrew Cuomo is a symptom of something fundamentally wrong that we need to right.

When Cynthia Nixon announced that she was going to challenge Cuomo, the reaction was almost universal. How could an actress, someone with no political or government experience, have the nerve to think she could run any state, let alone one as large as New York. How could she believe that she could take on somebody as entrenched as Cuomo?

Since then we have learned that those original reactions were flawed, that somebody who is smart and shows a mastery of the issues can challenge an incumbent, even one with the formidable reputation of Andrew Cuomo. Nixon has held her own in interviews and in their lone debate, has credibly challenged the governor’s many failures,

This weekend, in the closing days of the campaign, we learned just how seriously Cuomo is taking Nixon’s candidacy, a hint to New York Democrats that they need to start re-thinking their allegiance to a man who does not show much appreciation in return.

On Sunday the grand opening of the second span of the bridge that Cuomo bullied the Legislature into naming after his father had to be delayed. It turns out that the work to dismantle the old span alongside the new one has not yet been completed, that part of it might dislodge, posing a threat to the new lanes.

Did Andrew Cuomo rush to have this photo op a few days before the vote despite the danger such an opening might pose to New Yorkers?

Of course he did. He either ignored the safety concerns or made sure that they did not penetrate his bubble. Either way, it is not much of an endorsement for a man who wants us to believe that he can handle much more complicated challenges and issues.

Then came the last-minute mailing to many Jewish New Yorkers claiming that Nixon had been “silent on the rise of anti-Semitism,” a charge that she, her rabbi, her supporters and even many of the governor’s supporters found offensive, as well they should.

They also should be offended by the leaders of the Democratic state committee, those who sent out the mailer, for trying to make us believe that it was some sort of mistake, that nobody was really responsible. Equally offensive was Cuomo’s claim that he knew nothing about it even though there is no evidence that the committee does anything without his approval.

Online: https://bit.ly/2QpcDUM

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The Daily Star on “Fear: Trump in the White House”

Sept. 8

“Fear: Trump in the White House,” the new tell-all book by famed journalist Bob Woodward, confirms what most of us feel but wish were not true - our government is headed by a man utterly unfit for the office.

“Fear” is not an opinion piece, written by Trump detractors. It’s the product of painstaking research, including interviews with White House insiders, backed up by tape recordings.

We’ll say it again - backed up by tape recordings.

That’s important, because Trump supporters will shout “Fake news!” just as the president already has.

But evidence is evidence, and the evidence shows that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told associates that Trump acted like - and had the understanding of - “a fifth- or sixth-grader.”

The reported words of Chief of Staff John Kelly should chill us all to the bone. Kelly said, according to Woodward’s reporting, “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown.”

Economic adviser Gary Cohn reportedly said that Trump is a “professional liar.”

We know Trump lied in a telephone conversation with Woodward, when he denied knowing Woodward wanted to interview him before admitting that South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham had relayed a request from Woodward to do so.

We know because we heard the tape, made with Trump’s permission.

In the same recorded conversation, Trump threw loyal adviser Kellyanne Conway under the metaphorical bus, denying that she had relayed Woodward’s request and putting her on the phone to face the reporter.

The book also tells how Trump insults senior aides. He reportedly made fun of retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, for dressing in cheap suits “like a beer salesman.”

One bit of bad behavior that might actually come back to bite Trump is his reported opinion of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump reportedly mocked Sessions’ Southern accent and said, “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

Trump enjoys a lot of support from people who sound like Jeff Sessions. Will it last?

Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, told CNN, “I resent that.”

Graham, a Trump apologist, said such remarks, if real, would be “inappropriate.”

In an astounding revelation from the book, it was reported that Cohn stopped Trump from signing a document that would have ended a trade agreement with South Korea and another that would have withdrawn the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

How did Cohn do it? By stealing the documents from Trump’s desk.

Really.

Distracted by the next shiny object, Trump reportedly forgot about the documents and moved on.

The image of harried senior operatives trying to protect the nation from the whims of someone not in control of his impulses, someone who makes up stories as he goes along, is frightening, indeed. We can’t imagine such behavior being tolerated by a Congress or Cabinet at any other point in history.

Perhaps Republicans, who hold all Washington’s power, are content to leave the executive branch under such incompetent rule as long as they get their priorities - things like massive tax cuts for the rich and Supreme Court nominees like Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Perhaps they fear the wrath of Trump supporters should they stand up to the President.

The bottom line is, Woodward’s book gives thorough documentation to what we can all see every day in Trump’s tweets, and the picture is frightening.

The book is aptly named - “Fear.”

Online: https://bit.ly/2x5gUV9

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The New York Daily News on ads in the city’s subways

Sept. 12

Perhaps you’ve heard: Nike and Colin Kaepernick have teamed up to create a potent advertising campaign, a defiant political statement applauding the former NFL quarterback for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police killings of unarmed black men.

You can see it in magazines, on television and in billboards across the country.

But you won’t see it yet in the common space almost all New Yorkers use daily: on subways cars, in subway tunnels or on city buses.

After trying and failing under an old policy to block a few message ads that made them queasy - basic First Amendment principle says you can’t discriminate on the basis of viewpoint - the folks who run the Metropolitan Transportation Authority took the coward’s way out.

The MTA banned any and all “ads that prominently or predominantly advocate or express political messages.” Even as train cars are plastered with politically tinged taxpayer-funded public service announcements, many of which carry the name of elected officials, as well as ads for breast enhancement and erectile dysfunction products.

So, if Nike wants to reach electric railroad riders with its electric new campaign (and why wouldn’t they?), the folks who run the subways will have a choice:

Pretend the ads aren’t political and let them through - even as they ban ads that support standing for the anthem. Or acknowledge that the ads are political, and reveal the absurdity of shielding New Yorkers, in their subways, from a campaign that’s as ubiquitous in America as they come.

The ad’s tagline: Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything. The MTA’s ad mantra: Believe in nothing. Even if it means making yourself look utterly ridiculous.

Online: https://nydn.us/2x61uiQ

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The Post-Journal on vaccinations

Sept. 10

World health officials are worried that measles may be making a comeback. During the first six months of this year, Europe alone reported more than 41,000 cases of the disease. Thirty-seven victims died.

Contrast that with U.S. statistics: This year, there have been just 107 instances of measles here. There were no deaths. (The last, a single fatality, was in 2015.)

Many of the European deaths are linked to health care disruptions due to violence in places such as Ukraine, which has had 23,000 measles cases this year.

But according to analysts, failure of many European parents to have their children vaccinated against measles played a role, too.

Worldwide, measles remains a scourge. It was not until 2016 that the global death toll dropped below 100,000 annually, at 89,780.

Our experience in this country has been unusual because the vast majority of parents do have their children immunized. But to guard against outbreaks, a 95 percent vaccination rate is required, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Junk science - some of it fabrication - persuades some parents vaccines are dangerous. In truth, they save lives. If your child has not been immunized, consider the statistics from Europe.

Online: https://bit.ly/2CQKNhA


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