Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers around the world:

July 15

The Guardian, London, on Zimmerman verdict:

There are uncanny echoes of the politics of Stephen Lawrence case in the acquittal on Saturday in Florida of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, having assumed him to be a criminal.

It took 44 days after Martin’s death and a national campaign in the US for Zimmerman to be arrested. In that time, evidence was lost as the Florida police insisted that the state’s law on self-defense barred them from bringing charges.

The prosecutors said the case was not about race. Before the trial began, Judge Deborah Nelson forbade the use of the term “racial profiling” in the courtroom, and yet, without the element of race, Martin might still be alive today. Zimmerman’s pursuit of and confrontation with him was premised on the assumption that the very presence of a black teenager in a gated community was sufficient cause for alarm.

Like the Lawrence case, the Martin trial has attracted national scrutiny, not always helpful to the cause of justice. President Barack Obama said before the trial that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon. On Sunday, the president said the acquittal should be met with calm reflection, and reminded Americans that theirs was a nation of laws. Put those two comments together, and the limits of presidential empathy in the face of acquittal become evident.

The question this case poses is: whose laws? Try as commentators might to tiptoe around the fact, the size of the frame in which these cases are judged is enormous. The jury decided that the evidence did not exist to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Martin was an innocent victim, but that does little to discharge the police and prosecutor of their responsibility for finding and presenting that evidence.

Whether justice stooped as low in this case as it did in Alabama in 1965, when Jimmie Lee Jackson, an army veteran on a march in support of a voter-registration drive was shot twice in the stomach by a state trooper, is doubtful. Yet although the racial dynamics may have changed from the days of the civil rights movement – the teenager’s assailant was a Latino – the message an acquittal sends out to African American parents is familiar: there are few places after dark where your sons are safe, either from the police or from the color of the law. If someone like Zimmerman assumes your son is a threat, the risk is it’s open season.

Police commissioners claim that tough stop-and-frisk policies clean up the streets, even though no such effect can be definitively established in New York or elsewhere. What matters now is to deal with the damage the verdict has done. As the Lawrence case has shown, the verdict and justice remain miles apart, sending out devastating messages that cannot be ignored.




July 11

The Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, on militants’ attacks on school were evil and barbaric:

Islamic militants’ recent attack on a boarding school in Nigeria shows just how evil these people truly are.

The attacks on the school in the town of Potiskum were barbaric. The militants doused a dormitory in fuel and burned it as students slept. At least 30 people were killed in this cowardly attack. Teachers said dozens of children from the 1,200-student school escaped into the bush but have not been seen since. Others in the dormitory were either burned to death or shot as they tried to flee the burning building.

What kind of person or group does this to kids?

One only has to consider the source to answer that question. Nigerians are blaming the attacks on the Boko Haram, a group whose name means “Western education is sacrilege.” The group has been behind a series of recent attacks on schools in the region, including one in which gunmen opened fire on children taking exams in a classroom.

Militants like this hate the fact that children are actually trying to get an education that is broader than the tunnel vision of the world their movement represents. What if it is? …

Boko Haram has a long history of killing innocent people. Since 2010, they have killed more than 1,600 civilians in suicide bombings and other attacks. On July 4, gunmen associated with the group went to the home of a primary school headmaster and gunned down his entire family.

Boko Haram needs to be destroyed. They are a threat to peace, democracy, human life and the majority of those who positively represent Islam.




July 15

Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on Zimmerman verdict provokes sorrow and fear:

The day after a Sanford, Florida, jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Travyon Martin, Americans all over the country took to the streets in protest. About 200 people gathered at Washington Square Park in New Orleans Sunday and about twice as many marched in Chicago. Thousands were reported in Times Square in New York, and in Los Angeles, protesters swarmed Interstate 10 causing that highway to be temporarily shut down.

Many of those demonstrating their anger at the 17-year-old’s death and their disappointment in the jury’s verdict wore hooded sweatshirts. That was the article of clothing that Zimmerman, Martin’s killer, found so suspicious that rainy February night that he followed him.

The shooting of the black unarmed teenager by a white and Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer had the elements of a racially divisive case from the beginning. But the racial diversity of the crowds that marched Sunday indicates that one doesn’t have to be black to be upset by the teenager’s death. …

During halftime of the NBA’s 2012 All-Star Game, Martin walked to a convenience store and bought Skittles and a can of iced tea. He never made it back home. On his way back, Zimmerman deemed him suspicious. There was a confrontation. When it was over, Martin lay dead.

One thing is indisputable: We never would have known either’s name if Zimmerman had let Martin be, or, if after Zimmerman had called 911, he took the advice of the dispatcher and kept his distance. But he chose to follow the teenager.

That fact alone made the case bigger than Martin. Those who are honest in their struggle to understand why so many black Americans are in despair need to know that being watched, being followed, being suspected of something and being assumed a danger is a near universal experience for black Americans – black boys and men especially.




July 17

Reporter-Herald, Loveland, Colorado, on the increased use of drones should spur oversight:

Drones, developed for military use at war, are increasingly being deployed over U.S. skies, looking for everything from suspicious people along the border to missing people to fishing violations.

Clearly, Americans are losing yet more expectation of privacy.

Though there is no evidence they have been yet, the unmanned aircraft could be outfitted with cameras and facial recognition programs to spy on anyone out of doors.

And recent revelations that the Customs and Border Protection Agency is considering equipping them with “nonlethal weapons” should give Americans even more concern.

The agency has loaned its drones to other agencies for domestic spying, 30 times in 2010, increasing to 250 last year. Among the agencies that have used them are the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the North Dakota Army National Guard, Texas Department of Public Safety and the US Forest Service.

Though drones could offer a tool for national security, the increasing use and the potential for equipping them with weapons show a need for Congress to set up rules to govern their use and procedures to ensure adequate oversight of their use.

Some states have also proposed rules regarding their use, something the Colorado Legislature should consider.

The American Civil Liberties Union has recommended limits on their usage, data retention and weapons, and said policies regarding their use should be developed by the public, not law enforcement agencies, and the rules should be clear and open to the public.

It’s time for states and Congress to set up the rules that will protect Americans from misuse of this new technology.




July 13

Chicago Tribune on U.S. should stay in Afghanistan:

President Hamid Karzai’s erratic behavior has President Barack Obama considering a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 2014.

The frustration with Karzai is understandable.

Last month, peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban collapsed before they even started. Karzai accused the U.S of trying to negotiate a separate peace with the Taliban and their enablers in Pakistan, leaving his government vulnerable to its foes. In retaliation, Karzai cut off negotiations with the U.S. over a security agreement that will govern American military forces after 2014.

And so, the White House signaled through a New York Times story this week, the so-called “zero option” is gaining traction.

The U.S. recently turned over complete security control to Afghanistan forces and has a timetable for withdrawal of troops by the end of 2014. The expectation is that the U.S. would keep a modest force of 3,000 to 9,000 troops after that, focused on anti-terror operations and support for Afghan security forces. Afghanistan will need international assistance to keep the Taliban at bay and deny a safe haven to al-Qaida.

But the U.S. won’t be willing to risk an extended presence if it doesn’t have an agreement with Afghanistan that legally protects U.S. soldiers. Without that agreement, the U.S. military will have to leave the country.

That’s what happened in Iraq in 2011. …

After so many years of fighting, it’s easy to lose sight of just how much life has improved in Afghanistan. …

The U.S. and its allies have pledged to spend billions of dollars after 2014 to continue building Afghanistan’s security forces. In a 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, world leaders declared that “Afghanistan will not stand alone” after 2014.

More precisely, Afghanistan will not stand if it is alone.




July 16

Los Angeles Times on James B. Comey Jr. to possibly head the FBI:

James B. Comey Jr., President Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has an ideal resume for the position — he served as a federal prosecutor and deputy attorney general — and the fact that he served in a Republican administration adds a desirable aspect of bipartisanship to the nomination. Although the FBI director is a presidential appointee, Congress has decided that he should be more insulated from politics than the typical executive branch official. That’s why the director serves a 10-year term that overlaps presidential administrations.

There is one aspect of Comey’s record that is troubling, and it received appropriate attention at his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 2004 Comey famously threatened to resign as George W. Bush’s deputy attorney general if a secret electronic surveillance program wasn’t put on sounder legal footing. But in a 2005 email, he said he concurred with a memorandum allowing waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” that by any reasonable construction amounted to torture. (He did object to a related memo authorizing the uses of those techniques in combination.)

The 2005 memos by Steven G. Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, were among several opinions issued by the department during the Bush administration that adopted a strained reading of laws against torture in order to enable the Central Intelligence Agency to subject suspected terrorists to waterboarding, stress positions and other inhumane and degrading methods.

Comey told the Judiciary Committee that when he first learned about waterboarding. …

Waterboarding, fortunately, is no longer a live issue. A law enacted in December 2005 requires military interrogators to adhere to the Army Field Manual, which bans most enhanced interrogation techniques, and President Obama by executive order has imposed the same restrictions on the CIA. The FBI, which Comey has been nominated to lead, always had a dim view of the CIA’s interrogation practices.

Still, despite Obama’s suggestion that the war against terrorism is entering a new phase, it’s possible that in this administration or the next one, overzealous bureaucrats will again propose policies or legal theories that cut legal or constitutional corners in the cause of protecting the public. Before confirming Comey, the Senate should satisfy itself that he would resist such proposals.




July 12

Kansas City Star on a Pakistan dangerous to all:

The recently leaked internal Pakistan government report on the 2011 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden affirms President Barack Obama’s decision not to alert the Pakistani government before sending in Navy Seals.

The report found “complacency, ignorance, incompetence, irresponsibility and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside the government,” to say nothing of a culture of corruption and indifference to crime.

To have brought such a government into the planning process would have assured mission failure.

The Al-Jazeera news agency acquired the 337-page report and published it on its website this week at aje.me/186WI4S.

In response to the report, Talat Aslam, senior editor of The News in Karachi, told the Christian Science Monitor that it reveals Pakistan to be in “complete shambles.”

“No one,” he said, “comes out completely competent. The military, civilians, revenue department — it is one big bunch of real incompetence.”

The picture of Pakistan that emerges from this internal report is so bleak that the U.S. and countries around the world should immediately renew efforts to contain the damage such a weakly governed nuclear power could do.

But the list of what needs to change in Pakistan is so long that it must be disheartening to even the most optimistic diplomat.

Since the country was formed in 1947 through partition from India, its history has been marked by aggression against India and Kashmir and a series of leaders unable to create permanent stability.

The new report demonstrates that plenty of work will be needed to stabilize that dangerous country and provide the kind of competent government the Pakistani people deserve.




July 15

The Korea Herald, Seoul, South Korea, on tax shortfall:

The tax authorities are switching to emergency mode as this year’s tax revenue is increasingly likely to miss the target by an unexpectedly large margin.

According to data presented by the National Tax Service, tax revenue during the first five months of the year totaled 82.13 trillion won, a shocking fall of as much as 9 trillion won from the same period a year ago.

If the trend continues, the shortfall is expected to expand to 10 trillion won by the end of the first half and 20 trillion won by the end of the year.

This means the government’s tax income for this year could drop to as low as 172 trillion won from the 192 trillion won it collected last year. The government’s revenue target for this year is 199 trillion won.

The main culprit for the disappointing outcome is the prolonged economic slowdown, which sapped corporate and value-added tax incomes.

The NTS said it collected 19.9 trillion won from corporations during the January-May period, a disheartening drop of 18 percent from the previous year. Sluggish exports and stagnant domestic consumption weighed heavily on corporate sales.

On top of that, the corporate tax rate was effectively lowered last year by the introduction of a middle income bracket: For companies whose taxable income ranges between 200 million won and 20 billion won, the tax rate has been cut from 22 percent to 20 percent.

The income from value-added tax also dropped 7.2 percent over the same period, reflecting lackluster household consumption due to mounting debt.

As tax collection is falling far short of expectations, creating another supplementary budget looks increasingly inevitable.

In May, the government drew up a 17.3-trillion-won additional budget to plug revenue shortfalls and stimulate the economy.

Yet officials rule out the possibility of creating a second extra budget. …

What worries us is that the revenue shortage does not appear to be a one-off problem. Officials need to scrutinize the situation more closely and take bold measures to stimulate corporate investment. The best way to increase tax revenue is to accelerate economic growth, which in turn requires active corporate investment.



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