Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Boston Herald on Baltimore going up in flames:
President Barack Obama got one thing right yesterday when he talked about the rioting in Baltimore, saying, "there's no excuse for the kind of violence we saw yesterday," that picking up a crowbar in order to loot a store "that's not protesting, that's stealing."
Once again the tragic death of a black man — Freddie Gray, whose spine was severed while in police custody — has provided those looking for an excuse to wreak havoc on their own community a rationale for destruction.
But the president — for whatever purpose — vastly underestimated the extent of the damage, blaming "a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place."
Well it takes more than a "handful" to do the kind of damage that was inflicted on Baltimore on Monday night alone — 144 vehicle fires, 15 buildings burned (including the CVS that was looted first and a senior housing project still under construction) and 235 arrested. The film of one rioter intentionally cutting a fire hose and of another walking down the street with bolt cutters tells us all that we need to know about how much of a "protest" this was.
Schools were closed yesterday, two Orioles games at Camden Yards postponed (and for the first time in Major League Baseball history today's game will be played without fans in the park), a 10 p.m. curfew remains in place for the rest of the week. And Baltimore can pretty much kiss its tourism goodbye for the immediate future, thus exacerbating its economic problems.
Oh, there's plenty of blame to go around here on dealing with the logistics of what should have been violence prevention on the day of Freddie Gray's funeral. Baltimore police were vastly outnumbered. It took the city's hapless mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, hours to admit she needed help and to call Gov. Larry Hogan, who immediately declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard.
For those who remember the urban riots that followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, it was a back to the '60s moment — a moment made all the more poignant because the nation's first African-American president seems incapable of bringing to communities of color any of the "hope and change" he so famously promised in 2008.
"We as a country have to do some soul searching," Obama said yesterday. Shouldn't that have been job No. 1 in 2009?
Wall Street Journal on Hillary Clinton's trade wimping out:
Some business executives we know like to say these days that while President Barack Obama has a lousy economic record, Hillary Clinton would be so much better. So how do you explain Mrs. Clinton's monumental waffle on the biggest pro-growth policy fight of the year_trade promotion authority?
Obama is finally making trade a priority, and he's supported by Republican leaders in Congress. Passing this "fast-track" trade power is crucial to closing the pending trade deal with 11 Pacific nations, including a historic engagement with Japan. As Obama and Congressman Paul Ryan have argued this week, the Pacific pact is crucial for U.S. competitiveness and as a counter to China's growing clout in East and Southeast Asia.
That's what the former Secretary of State also once believed, noting in her memoir, "Hard Choices," that the trade deal is "a strategic initiative that would strengthen the position of the United States in Asia." Now that she's running for president, the hard choices are nowhere to be found.
On a recent campaign trip, Clinton refused to say where she stood on fast-track and said she'll wait to judge the details of a Pacific pact. "Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security," she said, as if she doesn't know from her experience at State what the Pacific deal would do.
The wife of Bill Clinton, who promoted Nafta and most-favored nation status for China, is wimping out now because she wants to appease the re-ascendant liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Protectionism is again masquerading as concern for the working stiff, and Clinton doesn't want to give Senator Elizabeth Warren a reason to get in the presidential race.
But if Clinton is merely going to mimic Ms. Warren on policy, there goes the hope for the return of the growth Democrats. Clinton's nascent campaign has reminded America about her routine ethical corner-cutting, and now she's taking a powder on a rare example of bipartisan pro-growth policy.
Decatur (Alabama) Daily on North Korea, Iran being bitter lessons:
What's North Korea done lately besides rage against Hollywood because of the "The Interview"?
Build more nuclear bombs.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, Chinese nuclear experts told some American counterparts North Korea's nuclear weapons stockpile is larger than previously estimated and expanding quickly. Kim Jong Un could possess 20 nuclear warheads, plus the capacity to have double that number by next year, the Chinese warned in closed-door meetings earlier this year.
No one knows for certain what the secretive regime in Pyongyang is up to, but the Chinese have the closest ties to the North. Their estimate outstrips the U.S. consensus, which said North Korea has 10 to 16 bombs plus the ability to produce several more each year.
One U.S. expert, Siegfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, told the Journal that China's higher number count matters: "The more (the North Koreans) believe they have a fully functional arsenal and deterrent, the more difficult it's going to be to walk them back from that."
You can question the estimates, but that obscures the larger point: The North Korean nuclear threat is real and growing. Joel Wit, a North Korea expert at Johns Hopkins University, co-authored a report this year that said Kim could have anywhere from 20 to 100 nuclear bombs within five years.
Earlier this month, U.S. Adm. William Gortney, commander of NORAD, said he believes the North Koreans have the capacity to put a nuclear weapon on a mobile missile launcher and shoot it at the U.S. mainland. The North Koreans haven't tested the KN-08 intercontinental missile, so maybe it doesn't work. But miniaturizing a warhead is a technological feat of its own.
That's sobering news about North Korea and a stark lesson about how the world is dealing with a would-be nuclear threat. Long before the world's powers began negotiations with Iran about its incipient nuclear program, there was Pyongyang's defiant, wily leadership using brinkmanship and lies as its primary tool of diplomacy.
Here's a short history of past nuclear negotiations with the North (spoiler alert, they all fail):
1994: North Korea signs the Agreed Framework, promising to shut down its nuclear development program in exchange for energy. Within years North Korea is secretly enriching uranium.
2005: "Six-party talks" result in a new North Korea promise to end its nuclear program. The next year, the country tests its first nuclear bomb.
2012: After the collapse of negotiations, Pyongyang agrees to suspend nuclear testing and enrichment in exchange for aid. In early 2013, North Korea tests its third nuclear bomb. There have been no talks since.
And now comes word of the assessment from China that North Korea could have as many as 20 nuclear warheads.
Paper agreements with North Korea were worthless because the world couldn't verify the rogue nation was living up to its word. Keep that in mind as the U.S. and other world powers negotiate with Iran.
Back to North Korea. There's little prospect for change there unless China tries to force it.
Beijing is the North's economic lifeline to the outside, but China's leaders historically have been ambivalent about calling out the father-son madmen on its border. Better to have stability than confrontation, even if the people of North Korea starve.
If China were to decide there's too much risk in allowing Pyongyang to continue to expand its nuclear arsenal, then China might get serious about forcing negotiations. Beijing does have some desire for global credibility, and coddling Kim Jong Un doesn't provide it.
Tampa (Florida) Tribune on Europe's immigration crisis:
In 2011, a U.N.-approved assault ousted Libya's longtime dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, but that assault's consequences only now are being fully understood.
With Gadhafi gone, Libya has become a nation in turmoil as rival factions fight to fill the leadership void, leaving its citizens in despair.
Gadhafi certainly was evil, perhaps best remembered for his role — which he unconvincingly denied — in the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that took 270 lives.
Yet, as despicable as he was, his leadership brought something akin to stability to Libya. That's gone, and the effects of today's disarray are felt far from Tripoli because so many Libyans have chosen to risk their lives to reach a better place to live.
In their minds, like the minds of many other frightened Africans (as well as Syrians and Afghans), that better place is Europe.
But the often-treacherous Mediterranean Sea stands between them and safety, and even if they do reach their chosen destination, they may face overt hostility.
Incredibly, some Europeans actually celebrated a recent mass drowning of refugees with tweets proclaiming "700 victims ... too good to be true!" and "If only all of Africa would sink."
Last week, The New York Times reported that "the number of people fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea has surged since last year."
Significantly, the report added: "As many as 1,200 migrants may have drowned attempting the journey."
It is estimated that 75 percent of all migrant deaths occur in the Mediterranean. These victims had hoped to reach one of the small islands that are part of Italy, the first stop on their trek to the continent.
Typically, it is from May to September that the largest numbers of refugees seek asylum, but in the first two months of this year Europe had to cope with a 43 percent increase in migrants.
Those fortunate enough to reach their destination often become a problem for the host nation, including the cost of accommodating these uninvited newcomers.
More importantly, the surge of hostility coming from those who don't want so many immigrants in their midst has political implications.
So illegal immigration has become a major issue in several European countries, just as it has been for years here in the United States.
For example, the general election May 7 in Britain has turned the spotlight on immigration issues.
Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, last week accused Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders of contributing to the crisis by "failing to stand by Libya." Cameron insisted that Britain had done its part in restoring order to Libya after Gadhafi's ouster.
In other European nations, especially Germany, anti-immigration sentiments have breathed new life into political parties with strong nationalist beliefs.
In January, tens of thousands of Germans demonstrated against immigration in Dresden, although pro-immigration groups helped to organize counter-demonstrations that called for tolerance and diversity.
In this country, the election season is heating up. Since immigration issues are certain to be part of the national debate, it should be helpful to keep an eye on Europe.
Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minnesota, on needing to focus on nation's problems during campaign season:
Perhaps the scariest thing about humans is their profound discomfort with ambiguity, and their concomitant desire to know things for sure, to have all the answers, and to demand that others believe exactly as they do.
Ideology, it seems, is reasserting itself in a world that less than a generation ago appeared headed toward pluralism, tolerance and pragmatism, all bolstered by an unprecedented flow of free information that promised to render extremism obsolete.
Too bad it hasn't worked out that way. Unpacking his 40-year career as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, John Burns recently concluded: "What those years bred in me, more than anything else, was an abiding revulsion for ideology, in all its guises."
Burns worked in some of the world's ugliest places, among them Soviet Russia, Mao's China, Afghanistan under the Taliban, South Africa under apartheid and North Korea under the Kim dynasty. "I learned that there is no limit to the lunacy, malice and suffering that can plague any society with a ruling ideology," Burns reflected.
But even in the Britain and America to which he has now retired, Burns detects a frightening partisan rigidity. "It can be depressing beyond words," he wrote, "to hear the loyalists of a given political creed — whether left or right — adopt the unyielding certainties common in totalitarian states."
We agree. Screeds portraying government as a manifest evil are especially damaging because they taint even the most sensible government solutions. With national campaigns approaching, our fervent hope is that voters have grown weary of the threadbare recitations common to both parties and will instead demand pragmatic, creative and courageous approaches that bypass the tiresome interest groups. This campaign will be wasted if voters continue to hear (on the right) about the dreary social issues and the virtues of never, never raising taxes, and (on the left) about candidates "who will fight for people like you." Oh, please!
We yearn for an agenda that matches the nation's and the state's actual problems: Creating a wider prosperity; building an infrastructure that works; forging a coherent, sophisticated foreign policy; fostering a truly effective system for education and training; reforming the corrupt financing of campaigns, and devising serious policies on climate and energy. We long for solutions based on hard evidence, not ideological correctness.
It's encouraging that ideology has suffered a few setbacks lately, among them the opening to Cuba and the repudiation of state laws that protected the "religious freedom" to discriminate. This advice from candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton offers another positive signal that should spread throughout the campaigns in both parties: "Don't vote for anybody of any party anywhere in the country who proudly tells you they will never compromise."
Khaleej Times, Dubai, on Russia's White House intrusion:
Reports say hackers from Kremlin were successful in gaining access to the White House computer system and able to read President Barack Obama's "unclassified" emails. It is no less than an embarrassment. The revelation does not stop there, but goes on to establish that the Russians for a long time now were privy to official and non-official digital communication of the lone superpower, as Washington kept on lecturing its own sleuths as to how to indulge in the dirty job without leaving a trace behind!
While this breach of security is being investigated, Obama who at times is seen browsing his BlackBerry — while strolling in the corridors of White House, would definitely not be at ease. On his part, the US president had taken pains to assure German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders that Washington would refrain from indulging in tapping phone calls and emails in future, and had enforced a moratorium on such activities, which could lead to diplomatic ruptures.
Now the White House will be justified in questioning the moral argument that Russia advanced as it offered political asylum to NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who spilled the beans on America's closely guarded communication secrets. Snowden, in an on-air question to President Vladimir Putin, had questioned whether his country indulged in tapping phones and emails, to which the Russian czar had replied in negative. Now, this is a faux pas moment for the Russians, too, and they definitely need to do some soul-searching.
Snowden and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks whistleblower, had been in the limelight because they took a high moral ground in letting the public know as to how personal information of individuals as well as of world leaders were monitored, and what double-standards were adopted on the interstate level. Though such an activity is not restricted to the Americans alone, as all sovereign countries do have an interest in taking that route. But with now Russians having peeped into State Department and White House data banks, a WikiLeaks-II seems to be in the making.