Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

AP News
Posted: Sep 30, 2015 7:20 PM

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


Sept. 29

The Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Mississippi, on Volkswagen's emissions scandal:

Volkswagen has had a habit of bragging about the superiority of "German engineering" in its advertising campaigns.

Apparently, those who wrote the ad copy didn't realize just how good that engineering could be. For at least seven model years, according to a recent bombshell delivered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the German carmaker has been engineering diesel-powered cars whose computerized controls were so sophisticated that they could turn on emissions controls during government tests and off for regular driving.

This was no innocent screw-up. This was an intentional fraud designed to skirt by U.S. emissions standards and allow Volkswagen to lie to its American customers that the carmaker had figured out how to produce a diesel engine that gave great fuel mileage and was still environmentally friendly.

So far, the fallout from this deceit has been massive. Volkswagen's stock has tanked, its chief executive officer has resigned under pressure and the company is looking at probably multibillion-dollar fines from the U.S. government — not to mention sticking its U.S. dealers with cars they can't now sell and unhappy customers wanting them to take the cars back.

It's going to take a while for Volkswagen to recover the trust it has forfeited through its calculated dishonesty. Whatever business you are in, whether it's making cars or publishing newspapers, the public's trust is your most vital commodity. The public will tolerate unintentional mistakes. What it won't tolerate is an orchestrated, planned, premeditated act of deceit.

Volkswagen's leadership apparently was so driven to become the world's No. 1 carmaker that it decided to cut corners to grab a larger share of the U.S. market. It was an ill-gotten gain and, because it was, it will also be a transient one.




Sept. 28

Tampa (Florida) Bay Times on the global security challenge:

The global security challenge came into full view Monday as Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin sketched out two entirely different visions for the new world order. Speaking at the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Obama appealed for an international order based on democratic ideals, while the Russian leader called for a robust military response to the threat from Islamic-inspired terrorist groups. The world's two leading powers continue to talk around each other instead of reaching for common ground in Syria, Europe and other emerging hot spots.

The differences in substance and tone between the presidents could not have been starker, and they come as relations worsen in the wake of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and its new resurgence in Syria and elsewhere. Obama used his appearance on the United Nations' 70th anniversary to harken back to the ideals of the post-World War II era, imploring member states to expand democracy, human rights and civil institutions as a means of strengthening their countries. He wasted no time pivoting from the theme of moving forward to sharply criticize Russia — and to a lesser extent China — for projecting a more bellicose nature in foreign affairs.

Putin turned the tables shortly afterward in a defensive speech that sought to blame the United States for the deterioration in relations between the two nations. He said Washington emerged after the Cold War as an unchallenged force that overplayed its hand, and he dismissed U.S. criticisms of his autocratic approach at home and abroad by saying there is no one right model for democracy. Putin then redirected the focus by calling on a new global effort (headed by Russia) that would examine the roots of instability in the Middle East. And he called for an international effort akin to the allied front that challenged Adolf Hitler to work together to eradicate global terror.

These were two compelling speeches meant to score political points. They frame a hardening of positions as the allies continue to struggle in the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. Putin reaffirmed on Monday his support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the Obama administration has insisted must go. And on the eve of Putin's speech Monday, Russia announced a new agreement to share intelligence on the Islamic State with Iraq, Syria and Iran — apparently catching the Obama administration by surprise.

The meeting between Obama and Putin scheduled for late Monday offered a chance to get relations on track after nearly a year without face-to-face contact. But both leaders also seem intent on pursuing dueling courses on Syria, European integration, the Mideast refugee crisis and other major issues. Though the two sides worked together to craft the Iranian nuclear deal, it is unlikely that experience will produce a diplomatic honeymoon.

Monday's public events showed that Obama and Putin fundamentally disagree on the role that military power and democratic principles play in the modern age. That's a huge vacuum for terrorists and their state sponsors to exploit, and it likely won't end soon. For the good of the citizens in both countries, let's hope the private talks between the two leaders went better.




Sept. 28

The Wall Street Journal on Britain's nuclear deterrent:

Only two weeks after being elected leader of Britain's Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn has faced the first challenge to his authority_and no one has won. The left-wing radical Mr. Corbyn on Sunday lost his bid to force party members to discuss scrapping the country's Trident nuclear deterrent at their conference in Brighton, but for reasons that won't inspire confidence that the adults are regaining control of Labour.

Abandoning the nukes isn't a mainstream position within Labour, at least not yet. But Mr. Corbyn, who says he's a lifelong opponent of "weapons of mass destruction," hoped to let delegates debate the issue. In addition to his moral views, Mr. Corbyn also objects to the £20 billion ($30.3 billion) expense of maintaining the submarine-based weapons amid cuts to social spending.

His ploy to force a debate went down to an overwhelming defeat. But what sealed its fate wasn't a division between so-called Corbynites and moderates in the party leadership, let alone a reconsideration by Mr. Corbyn of the costs to national security of abandoning Trident.

Rather, it was support for Trident from two major unions, one of which_Unite_couched its defense of the program solely in terms of the jobs it creates. "The most important thing for us is to protect jobs," Unite leader and Corbyn supporter Len McCluskey said. "In the absence of any credible alternative to protect jobs and high skills we will vote against any anti-Trident resolution."

So an influential wing of Britain's main opposition party views nuclear weapons essentially as a Keynesian jobs program. Perhaps Mr. Corbyn is inadvertently performing a public service by exposing such strands of thought within Labour. But this is hardly the kind of intelligent opposition Britain needs amid impending debates on military intervention in the Middle East and the growing threat to Europe from Russia.




Sept. 30

The Los Angeles Times on Syria:

As their dueling addresses to the U.N. this week made clear, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin see the crisis in Syria in radically different ways. For Obama, Bashar Assad is a tyrant whose brutal repression of peaceful protesters led to a humanitarian catastrophe and who has forfeited his right to rule. But Putin cast Assad as an indispensable ally in the fight against Islamic State.

Even so, there is enough potential common ground to justify the administration's decision to pursue cooperation with Russia, both in combating Islamic State and in advancing a political settlement of the Syrian civil war, which has cost the lives of 200,000 men, women and children over the last 41/2 years and uprooted millions of others.

Engaging Russia in this way is an acknowledgment of its growing influence in the region, but denial of that reality serves no purpose. In recent months, Russia has seized on the emergence of Islamic State to involve itself not only in Syria — where it has transported military equipment and appears to be on the verge of launching airstrikes, presumably against Islamic State — but also in the wider struggle against the extremist group that is also active in Iraq. Moscow is sharing intelligence now not only with Assad's government but also with Iran and even with Iraq, a nominal U.S. ally.

Of course the U.S. and its allies must reject Putin's suggestion that they join forces with "the Syrian authorities and government forces who valiantly fight terrorists on the ground." But Russian assistance in defeating Islamic State — an objective the U.S. seems to have elevated above an early exit for Assad — shouldn't be spurned simply because Moscow supports Assad, or because of differences on other matters, such as Ukraine. And, as a practical matter, coordination will be necessary if both Russia and the U.S. are launching airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria.

More difficult will be winning Russian support for a political settlement in Syria. Despite the praise Putin offered at the United Nations for the "valiant" regime in Damascus, Russia might be willing to support a peace agreement in which Assad would eventually step down or at least agree to share power with opponents. The U.S. is right to explore that possibility.

For Obama's GOP critics, this frustrating state of affairs is the result of the administration's failure to pursue a more muscular policy both in Syria and in its relations with Russia. We remain unconvinced that the U.S. could have turned the tide in Syria by arming Assad's "moderate" opponents, a problematic strategy that became even riskier with the rise of Islamic State. Nor was it realistic to believe the U.S. could exclude Russia from discussions about Syria's future. The focus now should be on pushing those discussions in the right direction.




Sept. 22

The New York Times on funding to fight wildfires:

Wildfires that have burned more than eight million acres and are still raging in the West are draining the budgets of federal agencies and forcing them to divert money from essential environmental and land conservation programs to fight the fires. That is why Congress needs to start budgeting for forest fires in a different way, treating them more like natural disasters rather than a continuing expense. The Agriculture and Interior Departments have been making this case for some time, and it's a good one.

The Forest Service, a division of the Agriculture Department, says that 52 percent of its budget this year is dedicated to suppressing and managing fires, a whopping increase from 16 percent only 10 year ago. But even that has not been enough, and the agency has had to move $700 million from the rest of its budget just to deal with wildfires.

Agencies in the Interior Department like the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service have struggled with similar budget issues.

This borrowing from Peter to pay Paul is an incredibly shortsighted way to manage the nation's prized forests, parks and wilderness areas. Federal agencies should have sufficient resources to deal with wildfires without robbing programs designed to protect water quality, preserve and acquire open space and which, in some cases, are explicitly aimed at making forests more resilient to future fires.

The secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack; the secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell; and the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Shaun Donovan, sent a letter on Sept. 15 to members of Congress calling on them to treat wildfires more like other national disasters. Annually recurring fires are obviously different from, say, a catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina, but the idea is that the agencies would be allowed to tap emergency funds in bad fire years when costs exceed a certain percentage of their budgets ...

Congress needs to respond soon, because fires are only becoming a bigger burden ...




Sept. 29

The China Daily on the U.N.'s role:

The series of meetings at the UN Headquarters from Sept 25 to 28 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations will have a huge impact on international relations, the future role of the world body and the direction of global cooperation.

Over the years, the UN, established after the world's victory over fascism, has played the principal role in maintaining peace and development across the globe. And as the most representative and authoritative intergovernmental body, the UN has promoted human progress, with peace and security, development, and human rights being its three pillars.

Seventy years on, the UN Charter remains as relevant as ever. The meeting at the UN headquarters in New York offered the world community a golden opportunity to review the spirit of the charter and enrich it with new connotations that comply with the trends and needs of our times.

But despite all the great achievements, the UN Charter has not yet been implemented in its entirety. Peace and stability is still a luxury for people in some countries in the Middle East and North Africa. One out of every 122 people in the world is displaced either in his/her country or abroad as a refugee. And some 750 million adults can't read or write, with two-thirds of them being women.

These formidable challenges to peace and development make it necessary to uphold the lessons learned from the war against fascism, and rally maximum support for maintaining peace and stability across the globe. And one of the most valuable lessons for peace and justice from that war is to steadfastly uphold the postwar world order and strictly adhere to historical facts.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China remains committed to observing the doctrines and principles of the UN Charter, peace and justice in particular. As the UN enters a new era, China hopes it plays a bigger role in ushering in a new mode of international relations with win-win cooperation at its core.

The new mode should abide by the basic norms governing international relations, especially equality, justice, mutual respect and non-interference in other countries' internal affairs. Also, it should promote multilateralism and cooperation.

To cope with the changing global realities, the role of the United Nations must be strengthened, because a stronger UN can shoulder more responsibilities and bring countries closer to build a better future for all.