Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

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

Jan. 22

Los Angeles Times on the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade:

Forty years ago Jan. 22, the Supreme Court ruled that women had a constitutional right to an abortion. This one sweeping decision transformed abortion from what was often a secret, illicit and dangerous act, sometimes crudely self-inflicted, into a generally legal and safe procedure. But it also turned abortion, always an emotional issue, into one of society's most divisive.

Unlike many landmark Supreme Court cases that have become accepted parts of our culture — such as Brown vs. Board of Education, which declared school segregation unconstitutional, or Loving vs. Virginia, which overturned state bans on interracial marriage — Roe did not lead to a clear national consensus on abortion.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that although most Americans support the court's decision, 29 percent said they would like to see Roe overturned. Nearly half of Americans say they believe abortion is morally wrong. Those positions have changed little in recent decades.

Sadly, the Roe decision remains under attack in many quarters from politicians, conservative religious groups and others. Fueled by their belief that abortion is murder, they are intent on taking away or substantially curtailing the right to choose, even though the Supreme Court has correctly concluded that abortion is a private matter. ...

We look forward to the day when a woman's constitutional right to make such a fundamental decision about her own body as whether or not to have a child is as clearly settled and calmly accepted as the right of black and white children to attend school together or the right of people of all races to marry one another. Until then, courts and legislatures must be vigilant in assuring that a woman's right to a safe and legal abortion is neither thwarted nor denied.




Jan. 18

AL.com (Alabama) Editorial Board on gun clip capacities:

Before the sun set on the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, gun devotees across the country began their customary chant: "Guns don't kill people; people kill people."

The AL.com Editorial Board agrees that people kill people, and that high capacity magazines allow them to kill lots of people. Today we are proposing to limit the capacity of magazines for pistols and rifles to seven-rounds. ...

Today's semi-automatic pistols commonly come from the factory with 15 or 16-round clips, and aftermarket magazines can hold many more. Combat style semi-automatic rifles come from the factory with a 20 or 30-round clip, with even higher capacity magazines readily available from dealers.

We believe President Barack Obama's proposed 10-round limit is too timid. It would allow a perpetrator armed with two pistols to get off 22 shots without reloading. That's a lot of casualties.

All interchangeable clips should be limited to seven rounds unless in the hands of a sworn law enforcement officer or soldier. This would have no impact on hunters; almost all sporting rifles hold fewer rounds than that. Those who keep semi-automatic pistols or rifles for protection would be limited to eight shots (if they had an initial round in the chamber) before changing clips, but that limitation seems reasonable.

Current owners of rifles or pistols equipped with magazines of greater capacity would be given a grace period, perhaps a year or two, in which to replace the clips or have them modified so they could accommodate no more than seven rounds. Once the high-capacity ban took effect, a person caught with an illegal clip would pay a steep fine, with jail possible for subsequent arrests. An illegal clip used in the commission of a crime would automatically add to the sentence. ...




Jan. 22

The Paducah (Ky.) Sun on U.S. energy security:

U.S. oil production surged almost 14 percent in 2012, despite falling domestic consumption. Production is projected to further accelerate in 2013.

The American Petroleum Institute reported that the average daily output of crude oil jumped 779,000 barrels a day last year, the biggest increase in history. New technologies, especially hydraulic fracturing, have opened up vast, previously inaccessible oil deposits for extraction.

At the same time, domestic oil consumption fell in 2012 to the lowest level in 16 years, according to The Wall Street Journal, which attributed the decline to the sluggish economy and stricter fuel economy standards. Also, oil imports fell 6.9 percent in 2012.

As a result of the converging trends, the U.S. became a net exporter of petroleum products in 2011 for the first time since 1949, according to the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy.

The U.S. is becoming less dependent on foreign energy sources. That's a good thing.

Energy independence is not just an economic issue but a security issue, as the armed siege in Algeria makes clear. Terrorists believed to be affiliated with al Qaida seized a remote natural gas installation and took dozens of hostages. Algerian news reports that 38 hostages, including three Americans, were killed. Algerian forces launched a series of assaults on the complex during which scores of hostages were rescued or escaped, including seven Americans. ...

That's all the more reason for the U.S. and Canada to continue increasing their own oil production. The technologically driven resurgence of domestic oil production has the potential to make the Middle East almost irrelevant to America's energy supply by 2025 and thus neutralize this newest terror tactic.

Developing our own energy reserves also is producing jobs and reviving the economy. ...

This is a historic opportunity the U.S. must not squander. ...




Jan. 22

Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on food safety progress:

New, more stringent food safety rules ordered by Congress in 2010 are a step closer to reality. But it still will be at least three years before they can begin to affect the number of outbreaks, illnesses and deaths from salmonella and other food-borne pathogens.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3,000 Americans or more die from these diseases each year, while about 1-in-6 Americans (48 million) gets sick and 128,000 are hospitalized. The Food and Drug Administration indicated the new rules could prevent almost 2 million illnesses annually.

Congress gave the FDA authority to require U.S. food producers and manufacturers to draw up detailed plans to ensure the safety of their products, giving large producers three years to comply and smaller facilities and growers even longer. Lawmakers ordered the FDA to inspect production facilities more frequently. Many plants today are not checked for years at a time.

The FDA also will more closely oversee imported foods, which account for about 15 percent of the nation's food supply by value. Imports totaled $76 billion through the first 10 months of 2012.

Perhaps the biggest new club given to the FDA in the legislation is the ability to order recalls of food itself rather than asking for industry cooperation. Over the years, the FDA's weakness on this point has delayed recall action a number of times. ...

That's not ideal, considering the number of hospitalizations and deaths, but it is definitely progress.




Jan. 18

Evansville (Ill.) Courier & Press on Obama's second term:

The commentators waiting for President Barack Obama to take the White House podium Jan. 21 made much of this being the last news conference of his first term, implying that it could be almost a valedictory look back over the past four years.

Fortunately, Obama was anything but reflective. He moved quickly and almost combatively to seize the high ground in the coming debate over raising the debt limit, currently $16.4 billion, on how much Uncle Sam can borrow.

The debt ceiling, which the country is expected to reach by early March, is the first of three economic hurdles Obama faces this spring. It is also the most important. ...

GOP Tea Party-movement followers in the House broke with the leadership last year to force a near-default. Although no bills went unpaid, this resulted in an international downgrade in America's credit rating.

Not this time, said Obama: "The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. And they" — the House Republican hard-liners — "better decide quickly, because time is running short."

In short order after that, Obama and Congress must deal with an automatic, across-the-board slash of more than $1 billion in government spending. The dramatic meat-ax approach was an unsuccessful attempt to galvanize lawmakers into attacking the deficit problem. The deficit is still there, and we're still stuck with the automatic cuts.

Congress then must pass a spending bill to keep the government running after the temporary spending measure enacted last fall expires, again risking a government shutdown and economic setback. ...

It could be a good year, Obama said, "if only politics don't get in the way." It's a variation of an old Washington expression about unrealistic hopes: If we had some ham, we could have ham, and eggs if we had some eggs.




Jan. 17

The Ironton (Ohio) Tribune on proposed federal anti-gun legislation:

Far too often our government leaders and lawmakers try to "fix" all our perceived problems in a particular area in one fell swoop, an approach that is actually flawed and impedes progress....

Now here we go again with proposed anti-gun legislation. The president unveiled a $500 million package that includes 23 executive orders but will also require action by Congress.

Some of the proposed changes make perfect sense — consistent background checks regardless of where a firearm is purchased and allowing schools to use federal grant funds for safety improvements. Others, including the ban on military-style assault rifles and magazine clips for them, need more review.

But lumping everything into a one-plan-fits-all approach makes it more difficult to accomplish anything because opponents of the changes will have far more opportunities to criticize.

A smarter approach would be incremental changes that can be addressed one at a time.

The end result would be better for government efficiency and better for the American people.




Jan. 20

The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo., on Lance Armstrong's TV confession to doping:

Public confessions of despicable behavior are all the rage among the rich and famous. Tell the camera tales of drug abuse and alcoholism, preferably with tearful eyes, and all related behavior shall be forgiven.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong upped the ante when he confessed to Oprah Winfrey his life as a fraud, liar, cheat and bully who has ruined the lives of others around him.

Hey, Armstrong: Owning up to it — especially without a hint of remorse — doesn't make it OK. You remain a fraudulent, cheating liar who bullied your friends.

Armstrong's confession competed for attention with the bizarre saga of Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o, who told the sad tale of losing his girlfriend to leukemia even though the girlfriend never lived.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tiger Woods cheated on their wives. Penn State's Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted numerous boys. Lindsay Lohan stole jewelry, fell out of her sundress on stage and drove drunk.

Google "celebrity scandals" and an endless array of stories appear. Famous people are human. Often, though not always, a fall from grace has the amazing ability to revive a stagnating career.

Poor behavior of the rich and famous, coupled with the NFL's unmerciful rejection of Tim Tebow — a successful young quarterback with a talent for flaunting ostensibly good behavior — creates a dilemma for parents. ...

Society must rethink how it chooses heroes. Stop confusing trophies, medals, fortune and fame with character. ... Good character isn't accomplishment. It's the way we treat the people around us.




Jan. 20

The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y., on veteran suicides and unemployment:

There were two big news stories recently relating to veterans, one concerning suicides, the other concerning jobs. The subjects are not unrelated.

Military suicides rose to record levels in 2012, with as many as 349 (239 confirmed and 110 being investigated as probable). This epidemic, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has rightly called it, is occurring even with the war in Iraq having ended for American troops and the one in Afghanistan winding down. (In fact, the 349 suicides far exceeded the number of combat deaths last year in Afghanistan.) ...

The reasons aren't necessarily related to the stress of combat, but most of the dead soldiers presumably served in at least one of those extremely challenging war zones, and one of those multiple deployments the military has come to rely on. That's bound to take a psychological toll, and can easily lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Add to that the difficulty of adjusting to a routine military and domestic life after one's tour is over, or the prospect of civilian life after one's military career is over... and the problems are exacerbated. Then add such things as failed romantic relationships, alcohol use and guns, and the chances of suicide become that much greater. ...

... They also suffer from high unemployment, partly due to the perceptions that they're unstable and their military skills aren't transferable to the civilian world.

But veterans can be very good employees. They are mission-oriented, quick learners and team players...

A nation that spends hundreds of billions to train soldiers and send them to war should be able to bring them home and successfully reintegrate them into society. It must also do more to make sure they get to that point, to keep them from killing themselves before they leave military service.




Jan. 18

The Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Syrian atrocities:

Time and again in the bloody Syrian conflict, as Bashar Assad seeks to crush his own people, it has seemed that the horrors could not increase. Yet recently there's news of further depravities, all too often visited upon civilians who have been caught in the firing line.

It is now clear that, as with Moammar Gadhafi in his own doomed attempt to hang on to power, rape and sexual violence are being used as a tool against the civilian population suspected of sympathizing with, or actually assisting the fighters. This despicable behavior is more than a loathsome crime which can traumatize victims for life; it also brings shame and dishonor upon them and their families. That is why both Gadhafi and now Assad see rape as such a potent weapon.

What neither leader appears to have recognized, is the trail of white-hot fury these outrages leave in their wake. The families targeted may have been ambivalent about the insurgency, wishing, like many Syrians, simply for the violence to stop and for life to return to normal.

However, once their family has fallen victim to this odious assault, there can be no doubt where their sympathies will lie.

On top of this horror, it is now clear that Assad's air force and artillery have been using cluster bombs and shells in increasing numbers. These iniquitous weapons, much favored by the Israelis in their failed 2006 assault on Lebanon, are now banned under an international treaty signed by 111 countries. ...

But there is worse, even than this. Though the Americans seem oddly reluctant to confirm it, there now appears to be credible evidence that the regime has used some form of poison gas, on at least one occasion, in the original battle for Homs. This being the case, it seems clear that in the regime's final death throes, Assad and his generals will have no hesitation whatsoever in ordering further deployment of their atrocious chemical weapons arsenal. ...

With 60,000 of his people dead, Assad shows no sign of restraining his violence. What fresh perversity will he perpetrate next?




Jan. 23

The Japan Times, Tokyo, on the Islamic insurgency in Mali:

French President Francois Hollande has sent French forces to stop an Islamic insurgency from taking over the West African nation of Mali. It is a bold step for Hollande, who faces rising discontent at home as well as fear that the intervention could become a quagmire.

Blowback has already become evident in the attempted takeover of an Algerian natural gas facility by Islamic sympathizers. Hollande must have thought that the danger of inaction was more compelling and that failure to stop the insurgents could produce another Afghanistan, a base for radical forces, this time in Africa.

While world attention has focused on the northern-most states of Africa as they struggle with the forces unleashed by the Arab Spring, politics to the south has been equally confused. ...

There is a very real fear that an insurgent victory in Mali could lead to another militant Islamic state and sanctuary for radical forces to launch attacks on "enemies of Islam," especially in Europe.

The problem is that, as in Afghanistan, the Malian government is weak and divided. While the public in the south has little if any sympathy for the insurgents, they have little confidence in their own government. A military coup a year ago undermined the legitimacy of the government in Bamako and divided the army. Hollande's intervention risks bogging down if the Malians cannot unite to fight off this threat.

The proper approach would have the French scale back their presence as African forces step up. If not Malian, then those of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-country group led by Nigeria, will do. ...

The Islamists reportedly number just 2,000; depriving them of their local support would further isolate a small group that seeks to impose its harsh version of Islam on the entire country. As always, outside forces like Hollande's can help, but the real work must be done by the Malians themselves.




Jan. 23

The Telegraph, London, on the country's emigration "brain drain":

When we think of emigration, the image that comes to mind is of retirees fleeing to the sun lounger after a lifetime of labor. But, this has long been an illusion. In fact, the vast majority of Britons who choose to pack their bags are in the prime of their lives — and are taking with them the skills that this country so badly needs.

Of course, worries about "brain drain" have been with us for almost as long as mass travel. In fact, it is greatly to Britain's credit that its people have long possessed the wanderlust, the entrepreneurial spirit, to seek their fortunes elsewhere (and one has only to look out of the window to see why life in sunnier climes might have its attractions). Moreover, in a highly globalized age, when leading companies recruit and deploy their personnel irrespective of borders, it is hardly surprising that the numbers on the move have crept steadily upward.

At the same time, however, there is reason to be concerned both by the scale of the exodus and its composition. The fact that so many people of working age are departing has created gaps in the labor market that have had to be filled by arrivals from outside — accounting in part for the wave of newcomers that has done so much, in the years since 1997, to make immigration one of the public's most pressing concerns. With global competition for the best brains growing ever sharper, we will only keep those we have — let alone attract new ones — if we make Britain a more pleasant place to be based. ... High emigration might help the government achieve its target to reduce net migration, but it will be a pyrrhic victory if we lose those we should be trying the hardest to retain.




Jan. 22

Ottawa Citizen, Ontario, on Obama's second-term challenges:

Good luck, President Barack Obama. You'll need it. Plus lots of smarts, patience, prudence and sheer perseverance. Obama officially took the oath of office for his second term in a brief ceremony Jan. 20 to satisfy constitutional requirements, however, Jan. 21 was the inauguration day as far as the public was concerned, with parades, dress balls and speechifying. ...

Hopefully, Obama also enjoyed himself. It might be the last time he has a good time for a long time. ...

First and foremost, Obama has to find some agreement with the Republicans to get America's finances in order. The national debt, which hovers at $16.4 trillion — exceeding the United States' annual gross domestic product — is a millstone on America's future. Of course, he faces other challenges: Will the pullout from Afghanistan see the Taliban back in power? Will he get effective gun control laws though Congress? Will he see through his commitment to equality for same-sex couples? But the debt is the biggie. If he fails he could go down in history as the president who lost the United States' pre-eminent superpower status.

The reality is that a financially weaker America would be a militarily weakened America. And that would make the 21st century much more dangerous, both for Americans and the rest of the world. So, like we said, good luck.

Oh yes, one more thing: Don't forget who your friends are. Approve the Keystone XL pipeline. It's the neighborly thing to do, as well as a smart thing for the American economy.