Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
New York Times on trade wars in Congress:
Congress is considering a trade bill that is pitting President Obama against many members of his own party and some Republicans. Though the two sides have major differences, a compromise is still possible and would be good for the American economy.
Obama is pushing for a bill that sets negotiating objectives for trade agreements and binds Congressional lawmakers to casting up-or-down votes on those deals for up to six years. This "fast-track" process would be used for two big pacts being negotiated now: the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and Mexico, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union. Mr. Obama argues that foreign negotiators will not put their best offer on the table if Congress can easily amend deals after they have been signed.
On Tuesday, the Senate is expected to take up the bill, which is opposed by some liberal Democrats who believe such trade agreements hurt American workers and by Republicans who do not want to give the president a victory. Getting support in the House might be even harder.
The important thing to remember about the Pacific and European trade deals is that they are not primarily about lowering customs duties and quotas. While these deals would reduce those barriers to trade, they would have much of their impact by getting countries to adopt similar regulations in areas like labor standards, environmental protection, how governments treat foreign investors and patent and copyright law.
Done right, the Pacific trade deal, which is nearing completion, could help reduce environmental destruction and improve the lives of workers in countries like Brunei, Peru, Chile and Vietnam, which are part of the negotiations. That agreement would also strengthen American alliances in Asia because it includes Malaysia and Singapore. Administration officials say other countries like South Korea and Thailand might want to join the pact in the future.
Some provisions that are expected to be part of the deal could raise problems. For example, some public interest groups fear that the deal could force developing countries to adopt strict patent regulations that could make many medicines unaffordable to poor people.
Other critics like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, are worried that provisions in the trade agreement that prohibit governments from discriminating against foreign companies might be used by international banks to challenge American financial regulations. Mr. Obama has called Ms. Warren's fears "hypothetical" and "speculative;" the administration says the fast-track bill contains language that would prevent the use of trade measures to change American laws.
Many lawmakers want the administration to include an enforceable provision against currency manipulation in the Pacific trade deal. This is a concern because countries like China, Japan and South Korea have, at various times, artificially depressed the value of their currencies to boost exports, which has hurt American businesses and led to manufacturing job losses.
There are ways Obama can address these legitimate concerns. For example, he and lawmakers should be able to write amendments to the bill that clearly explain that trade pacts that could undercut financial and other regulations would not receive fast-track consideration. This is important because the bill in the Senate would be effective well after Mr. Obama has left office.
On currency manipulation, the administration has acknowledged that the Pacific pact should address this issue. But it has provided few details about how the agreement might prevent or discourage countries from using this tactic.
Most Americans support increased trade and business ties with other countries. But half also believe that trade destroys jobs, according to a 2014 Pew Research report. Last week in a speech at the offices of Nike, Mr. Obama said the agreements he is negotiating would be good for American workers and the economy. He still needs to convince lawmakers in Congress.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on CIA leaks case:
Disproportionate penalties given to two CIA employees who leaked secrets raise a question about the fairness of American justice.
On April 23 a judge sentenced retired general and former CIA director David H. Petraeus to two years' probation and a $100,000 fine for admitting he had provided highly classified notes of his official meetings, U.S. war strategy, intelligence capabilities and the names of covert CIA officers to his mistress, who was writing a biography of him. Petraeus also lied to the FBI. The fine was comparable to what Petraeus earns for one speech. He was permitted to plead guilty to a misdemeanor as part of a deal with the Justice Department.
On Monday, a judge sentenced former CIA employee Jeffrey A. Sterling to three and a half years in prison for espionage. He was convicted of nine violations of the Espionage Act by providing New York Times reporter and author James Risen information about a CIA program on Iran that the reporter had used in a 2006 book.
It's unfair that Sterling will go to jail for years while Petraeus gets a symbolic fine and no time behind bars. The former CIA director also retains a position as adviser to President Barack Obama.
The crimes are not identical. If anything, the information that Petraeus handed out was much more sensitive and comprehensive than Sterling's leak. Most Americans would agree that Petraeus also had much greater responsibility as CIA director to protect highly classified information.
In these two cases two kinds of consequences were handed out. A stiff sentence went to an ordinary American who broke the law; a relative slap on the wrist went to another lawbreaker who was rich and famous. The difference reinforces many citizens' perceptions of Obama administration law enforcement and the current state of American justice.
Paris (Tennessee) Post-Intelligencer on recruiting by ISIS:
It's probably safe to say that most Americans don't understand the appeal of Islamic fundamentalists' recruitment of supporters in this country.
The Islamic State has recruited hundreds of American converts, we're told.
What we're not told is how they're doing it, and what Americans can do to counter their influence.
If the trend doesn't change, and soon, one veteran CIA agent claims, the terror group before long will be in a position to conduct major attacks on American soil.
The agent, Michael Morell, is the author of a book published last Tuesday entitled "The Great War of Our Time: The CIA's Fight Against Terrorism From Al Qaida to ISIS."
Recruiters for ISIS paint the U.S. government as the bad boy in the Middle East's conflict. Terrorists are portrayed as freedom fighters, campaigning to rid their nations of Western influence.
Those are the broad strokes. The details are largely lacking in the news reports we see.
Morell says the "great war," testing our national security and our politics, is likely to stretch for decades more — "for as far as I can see," he writes.
In a television talk show Sunday the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said terrorism "has gone viral." The committee secretary said, "We're very definitely in a new phase in the global terrorism threat."
Al-Qaida did not die with Osama bin Laden, Morell said. "They today have the ability to bring down an airliner in the United States," he said. "If that happened tomorrow, I would not be surprised."
Part of the problem is that this is a free country. A dictatorship would be in a better position to fight back. But that's a handicap we must not give up in the name of safety. Freedom is too important.
Charlotte Observer on health care law spurring progress:
When the Affordable Care Act and its insurance plans made their disastrous debut on the Internet nearly two years ago, the last thing journalists might've expected was an offer from President Obama's health care secretary to drop by the newsroom for an in-person briefing on how things were going.
But memories of the massive 2013 crash of the healthcare.gov website are fading, and the legislation known as "Obamacare" is settling into the fabric of the nation's health care system.
That's not to say it's perfect. People still complain about how hard it is to navigate the dense bureaucracy, especially when trying to fix errors. But it's generally working as intended.
More people are insured, and insurers can no longer turn away those with costly medical conditions. Contrary to what doomsayers predicted, employers kept hiring despite the new insurance requirements. They reported only modest growth in insurance premiums last year.
A recent Gallup poll found that while half of all Americans still disapprove of the 2010 law, the percentage of those who approve (44 percent) is rising. The gap is the smallest since October 2013.
A Kaiser poll found that we might have even hit the tipping point, with 43 percent of people reporting a favorable view of the legislation, compared to 42 percent unfavorable - the first time the positive view had taken the lead in that poll since late 2012.
So it wasn't a surprise when U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell sought to drop in on the editorial board last week while in town to announce new money for a community health center.
She seemed less interested in touting past successes than in looking ahead toward improvements in the affordability and quality of care, as well as access to it. The federal government, she said, sees its role as helping set the pace for such improvements.
North Carolina, of course, is hobbled to some extent by the legislature's refusal to expand Medicaid. Gov. Pat McCrory has voiced tentative interest in the possibility of a North Carolina-specific expansion plan, but hasn't put any such plan forward.
About 377,000 North Carolinians would gain coverage if legislators in Raleigh would begin to accept that perhaps, just perhaps, they are as wrong on Medicaid expansion as they were on the Affordable Care Act.
But that doesn't seem likely. McCrory has said he's waiting on the Supreme Court's expected ruling on the subsidies that drive the Affordable Care Act.
About 560,000 people in North Carolina got coverage this year through the federal marketplace — 92 percent with subsidies. Burwell said she remains confident the subsidies will survive. With all those North Carolinians depending on them, let's pray she's right.