Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials - 660 NEWS
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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Last Updated Feb 21, 2018 at 12:40 pm MDT

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Feb. 21

The Boston Herald on Russian bots:

In an entirely predictable development, Russia-based social media trolls haven’t missed a beat in the wake of the 13 indictments that came down Friday.

No, they interrupted their railing about the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller just about as soon as the news broke of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — taking advantage of the fault lines that always accompany a mass shooting in this country.

“The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans,” Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, told The New York Times. His firm tracks disinformation campaigns as do other organizations interviewed by the Times, which all came to the same conclusion. The Russians are continuing to use YouTube, Facebook and Twitter just as vigorously as they did before and after the 2016 presidential election.

The Russian-linked bots even managed to hijack the hashtag #Parklandshooting, which was initially used to spread real information to those concerned about the victims and survivors. The bots were soon successful in exploiting the debate over mental illness vs. gun control. (Which sensible people ought to take as evidence that we need measures to address both.)

Soon the Twitter accounts drifted into actual disinformation — like the truly fake news that Nikolas Cruz had searched for Arabic phrases on Google.

We know a lot more about how this works now — from the indictments, from the testimony of the nation’s intelligence officials just last week, from experts in the field, and from the first-hand accounts from inside the Russian troll factories.

And yet President Trump continues to tweet disparaging nonsense about the FBI, or retweet the pathetic tweet from a Facebook exec who insisted that most of the $100,000 Russian ad buy was “AFTER the election.” Neither Trump nor Facebook’s ad guy mentioned the $1.2 million a month Russians spent on the broader disinformation campaign — one that appears to be continuing apace.

Online: http://www.bostonherald.com/

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Feb. 15

The Telegraph of London on shootings in the United States:

The massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, which has claimed at least 17 lives, was the 18th school shooting in America this year.

A great deal of effort has gone into identifying common traits between separate killers – mental health, narcotics, extremism – but the single linking factor is, of course, the use of guns.

The U.S. is awash with weapons. To some they are a persistent danger, to others a constitutionally protected way of life. What must be painfully obvious to all is that they part of a culture of violence that desperately needs to be addressed.

There’s a tendency in Britain to ask “why not just ban all firearms”? The proposition is both unrealistic and unreasonable.

For good or ill, the freedom to bear arms is guaranteed in the US Constitution, and some Americans are so enthusiastic about exercising this right that it’s estimated there are now more guns than people. Ban guns, say the lobbyists, and only the innocent will obey the law, putting them at the mercy of armed criminals.

Why not regulate guns to limit firepower and cease sales to those who should not have them? Some regulation is ineffectual: several killers passed background checks and owned their guns legally. Efforts in Congress to go further have repeatedly fallen foul of partisanship.

Many liberal politicians have given up, concluding that the gun control debate is a cul de sac that drains energy without actually achieving anything. Pro-gun activists are held up as heartless villains, but such a narrow apportion of blame ignores the complexities.

The US is shaped by a centuries-old frontier psychology. Its welfare system offers scant help to the mentally ill. Its schools are depersonalizing. Its young are prey to fantasies of empowerment through violence.

When Al Gore, then vice-president, spoke in the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which seemed to open this historic cycle of violence, he cut across the partisan divide by addressing both gun control and the importance of fostering character: “We must replace a culture of violence and mayhem with one of values and meaning.”

Success implementing this in the years that followed has been negligible. Yesterday, the Trump administration promised action to enforce the law, which hopefully begins a long, hard journey that America needs to take.

Online: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

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Feb. 19

Orange County Register (Santa Ana, California) on President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan:

With the federal budget on track to hit deficits of $1 trillion a year, President Trump’s long-awaited $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal was finally released.

A core focus of Trump on the campaign trail, the proposal certainly contains some important ideas, but it comes at a time when neither the Trump administration nor congressional leadership have shown any great interest in balancing the federal budget.

A White House budget proposal calling for $4.4 trillion of federal spending for the 2019 fiscal year against $3.2 trillion of revenues underscores just how much work there is to right the fiscal trajectory of the federal government before going on lavish spending sprees.

To his credit, the Trump plan doesn’t call for $1.5 trillion in direct federal spending. Predicated on the notion that state and local governments best know the infrastructure needs of their communities, the plan calls for $200 billion in federal spending over the next decade.

Under the plan, the $200 billion would be used to leverage the additional $1.3 billion in funding from non-federal sources like states, localities and the private sector. To do this, the $200 billion in federal spending would mostly be turned into grants and matching funds to encourage local projects and funding.

While the recognition that local governments best know their local infrastructure needs is a prudent one, it isn’t clear that doling out $200 billion in federal funds across the country over the next decade is especially necessary.

After all, state and local jurisdictions are already capable of raising their own funds to address their respective infrastructure problems. If the idea is to empower states and localities to mostly take on and finance infrastructure improvements anyway, it isn’t obvious that $200 billion in federal funds will make all the difference.

It’s also $200 billion the federal government doesn’t have. Perhaps this is why President Trump, according to Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, is open to backing a 25-cent federal gasoline tax increase. On top of the existing federal gas tax of 18.4 cents, it’s difficult to imagine many Republicans getting behind a federal gas tax of 43.4 cents per gallon.

Word of that particular idea drew immediate opposition by, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform. “The problem is not that the gas tax is too low,” he said. “The problem is that gas tax revenue is siphoned off to pay for projects unrelated to roads and bridges.”

But perhaps beyond the actual spending and taxing proposals being discussed, the White House’s infrastructure plan does suggest ideas for speeding up infrastructure projects. The proposal calls for an environmental review system that would assign one agency the responsibility for the reviews, a move that the plan suggests could cut down the permitting process to two years or less.

Regardless of whether Trump gets his way on the idea of greater federal spending on infrastructure, removing excessive barriers should always be a goal.

Taken together, while there are some principles and ideas in Trump’s plan worth considering, the idea of going on another federal spending spree while deficits continue to grow is incompatible with the sort of fiscal conservatism Republicans at least claim to support.

Online: https://www.ocregister.com/

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Feb. 19

The New York Times on bills in Congress with provisions that would lessen environmental regulations:

Here’s a warning to the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, and other environmentally inclined Senate Democrats, like Sheldon Whitehouse and Ed Markey: A legislative minefield lies dead ahead, pocked with destructive amendments of Republican origin hostile to clean air, clean water, endangered species and fragile landscapes. And here’s a plea: Stop these measures from becoming law.

Following its approval of the big budget deal on Feb. 9, Congress began writing the dozen appropriations bills that direct federal dollars to specific agencies. These bills are likely to be incorporated in one giant omnibus spending measure to be negotiated over the next few weeks by House and Senate leaders in advance of the March 23 expiration of the continuing budget resolution that has kept the government going.

Given its urgency, the bill is fertile ground for the kind of mischief the Republicans in particular have been notorious for over the years — loading up must-pass bills like this one with provisions, known as riders, that in most cases could not survive on their own and thus need protective cover. In years past, such riders were usually inserted at the last minute on the House or Senate floor. Here they are in plain sight, having been approved in earlier votes or endorsed by powerful committee chairmen or chairwomen who will do their level best to make sure they are included in the final bill. Mr. Schumer can prevent that from happening. The Democrats are effectively 49 in number, the Republicans 51. By holding his party together, he can deny the Republicans the 60 votes they need to overcome a filibuster — ensuring a clean bill, and a cleaner environment.

Public interest groups have counted nearly 90 of these riders, but here are several of the worst:

Clean water

In 2015, the Obama administration adopted a landmark rule intended to clarify and broaden protections for smaller streams and wetlands vital to the country’s drinking water and wildlife. Although the bill simply reaffirmed the reach of the original 1972 Clean Water Act, developers and big farmers complained to Scott Pruitt, the industry-friendly head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has begun the lengthy process of replacing the rule with something more favourable to commercial interests. That’s not fast enough for the leaders of three separate appropriations panels pushing nearly identical riders that would kill the rule right away, without consulting the public or conducting the scientific analysis required by law.

Methane emissions

As part of its larger strategy to combat climate change, the Obama administration approved two rules to minimize emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The E.P.A. would regulate emissions from new oil and gas wells; the Interior Department would require oil and gas companies to control venting and flaring from existing wells on public lands. Efforts to delay (and ultimately rewrite) both rules have been thwarted by the courts. Here again, Congress comes to the rescue with two riders (both approved in earlier House floor votes) that would kill both rules.

Sage grouse

Of a handful of riders aimed at removing safeguards for endangered species, the most infuriating are roughly identical riders in the House and the Senate that would deny endangered species protections to a Western bird called the sage grouse, whose numbers are declining. The Obama administration worked long and hard with various stakeholders — state governments, ranchers, even the oil and gas companies — to give the bird a chance, and keep it off the endangered species list, by banning commercial activities on hundreds of thousands of acres of prime sage grouse habitat.

Alaska wild lands

Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska and chairwoman of the Senate interior and environment appropriations subcommittee, managed to sneak a hugely controversial amendment into last year’s big tax bill opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. Her amendment would never have passed as a stand-alone measure. Now she wants more. One amendment she seeks would weaken protections against the clear-cutting of old growth trees in the Tongass National Forest. Another would exempt forests throughout Alaska from one of the most significant forest conservation measures of the last century, the Clinton-era “roadless rule” forbidding road building and, by extension, logging, mining and other commercial activity on roughly 50 million acres of wild national forests.

Online: https://www.nytimes.com/

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Feb. 21

Miami Herald on students’ reactions over Florida lawmakers refusing to consider a gun law bill:

That was swift. As swift as Nikolas Cruz was when he killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It took Florida legislators little time to teach some activist students a lesson by refusing to consider a gun law on Tuesday, even as students from Stoneman Douglas sat in the audience.

One student burst into tears in the gallery, stunned and angered by the slap in the face from adults. Another one, student leader Emma Gonzalez, tweeted: “How could they do that to us?.”We are not forgetting this come midterm elections — the anger that I feel right now is indescribable”

Well done, Florida legislators. You just turned those students against The Establishment. What a mistake.

Do you think the kids will now go away quietly since you flexed your procedural muscle?

Doubt it.

So welcome to 1968 and the war between the Vietnam protesters and the government. We were sending young people to die then, too, and they rebelled. Kids are now dying in school mass shootings, and they are about to rebel. The example can extend to the early 1960s, when black youths grew sick and tired of being second class citizens and pushed back and led America in to the Civil Rights Movement.

So yes, what a mistake by Florida lawmakers to not even pretend to show respect for the horrible things those kids saw a week ago. The Stoneman Douglas students got on buses and headed for Tallahassee to get some action. You showed them whose boss.

The students had arrived to witness a move to push a bill banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines directly to the Florida House floor.

Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, the incoming House Democratic leader, called for the bill that had not received a committee hearing to be immediately considered by the full chamber at the start of Tuesday’s House session. A bit unorthodox, yes. But so is the murder of 17 people in a Florida school.

Democrats used the highly unusual procedure to try to move the proposal directly to the House floor for a debate and vote. Republicans voted it down, 71-36. The several survivors watching from the visitors’ gallery were overcome with emotion, and the action set off a firestorm of controversy on social media.

So there you go, brave Stoneman Douglas student activists. This is what you’ll face in the coming days. So brace yourselves.

Online: http://www.miamiherald.com/

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Feb. 21

The Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer on the death of Christian evangelist Billy Graham:

On a cool Tuesday night in October 1958, the Rev. Billy Graham walked onto a stage at the Charlotte Coliseum for the 26th sermon of a five-week Charlotte crusade. “Tonight,” he began, “I want to talk on how to live the Christian life.”

More than 13,000 people had jammed the arena to see the young North Carolina preacher just a decade into his public ministry. By then, Graham had already become one of the most well-known figures in evangelical Christianity; for two years running, he had appeared on Gallup’s list of most admired men and women.

He would appear on it 53 more times.

Billy Graham has died, his spokesperson said Wednesday. He was 99 years old – a man who grew up on a family farm in Charlotte, enjoyed friendships with U.S. presidents and world leaders, and perhaps has delivered the Word to more people than anyone who has held up a Bible.

His message – the grace and saving power of Jesus – has reached millions across the globe, but it resonated not just because Billy Graham spoke the words. It’s because he lived them.

“A Christian is more than a person who is living up to a system of ethics. A Christian is more than a person living a good moral life. A Christian is a person in whom Christ dwells.” Billy Graham, 1958, Charlotte

How do you measure the reach of a person? You can start with numbers, of course. Billy Graham preached to more than 215 million people at crusades, missions and rallies. His Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, based in Charlotte, puts out a magazine that reaches 425,000 readers. It broadcasts a one-minute radio message that airs on more than 660 stations.

That message is the same as it ever was – Jesus died for your sins; repent and give your life to him – but the man who delivered it changed through the years. Graham was a fiery Southern Baptist preacher early on – a blend of Bible and brimstone common in evangelical churches then. The man and his message softened, however, as Graham grew older and Christianity shifted its emphasis from God’s judgment to God’s love. Still, the preacher’s purpose endured: He led people to Christ with a message and an example they could follow.

That example was intentional: Unlike preachers then and now, Graham largely steered clear of scandal. In 1948, he and his ministry team drew up the Modesto Manifesto – resolutions regarding financial integrity, sexual behaviour, publicity and meaningful partnerships with local churches. Those guidelines separated Graham and his organization from others, as did Graham’s clear and deep devotion to Ruth McCue Bell, whom he married in Montreat in 1943.

In the high-profile evangelical world, he was an exception – a leader who valued integrity over ego, a husband who lived in a full and thriving marriage, a man who offered not only words to learn by, but a life to admire.

“Then our tongue – this little bit of muscle in our mouth that causes so much trouble, that splits churches and divides homes and ruins lives and damns characters and slanders people – these tongues now are to be disciplined.” Graham, 1958

Graham was not perfect. Some, including Harry Truman, thought he was too eager for publicity. Women were stung by dismissive comments he made in 1970 about feminism.

In 1972, after attending a prayer breakfast with President Richard Nixon, Graham was caught on tape decrying the “stranglehold” Jews had over Hollywood and the media. When the tapes were released in 2002, Graham apologized and said his words then “do not reflect my views.”

In his later years, he disappointed some followers and friends who thought his inclusive Christian message was tainted by full-page newspaper ads urging people to vote “for biblical values” and oppose same-sex marriage. (Many suspected Graham’s son, Franklin, was the force behind the ads.)

But this is also true about Billy Graham: He embraced integration and the Civil Rights movement at a time it might have alienated his core supporters. In 1953, he told ushers not to erect barriers that separated whites and blacks in his audience, and he warned a white audience against feeling superior to blacks. In 1957, he invited black ministers to serve on his New York crusade’s executive committee, and he welcomed Martin Luther King, Jr., to join him in the pulpit in New York City.

Later, he told a Ku Klux Klan member: “It touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross.”

What does that tell us? That all of us have sinned, and all of us are forgiven, and all of it, according to the Rev. Graham, “is only a beginning. It is a lifetime of problems, troubles and difficulties. But you are meeting them with the help of Christ and the Holy Spirit who lives in your heart.”

And so he did. He grew and he learned and he erred and he endured. Through it all, Billy Graham not only brought Christ to millions and millions to Christ. He was the man he called on so many to be on that Charlotte stage almost 60 years ago. A man who lived a Christian life.

Online: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/