Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
China Daily on United States' presence in the South China Sea:
Not surprisingly, the "freedom of navigation" operations conducted by the United States in the South China Sea featured in the meetings between high-ranking Chinese military officers and Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command, in Beijing on Tuesday.
Defense Minister Chang Wanquan told Harris that the U.S. move could easily lead to misunderstandings and misjudgments, and bring new uncertainties to regional security, while Chief of General Staff of the People' Liberation Army Fang Fenghui reiterated China remains resolute in its determination to safeguard its sovereignty and maritime interests.
Such face-to-face talks between high-ranking army officers from both sides should help both militaries better understand each other's strategic intentions and avoid any miscalculation.
Tensions between China and the United States have flared up after the U.S. destroyer USS Lassen entered the waters near Zhubi Reef in Nansha Islands last week without the permission of the Chinese government.
China deems the US move a provocation that undermines its sovereignty and security interests, while the U.S. insists it was meant to assert the right of free passage.
In a clear signal that the US is not paying due attention to China's rightful concerns, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said on Monday that there would be more such operations. Under such circumstances, without proper risk management the current feud over the U.S.' provocative move will only escalate and could even lead to confrontation.
Admittedly, thanks to efforts from both sides, China-U.S. military-to-military ties on the whole have been improving. As Harris told his Chinese hosts, there will be 33 interactions between the two militaries over the next two weeks.
But it is also true that whenever the U.S. chooses to have its own way or show no regard to China's legitimate security concerns or core interests, disputes arise.
In a speech delivered at Peking University on Tuesday, Harris insisted the U.S routine operations "should never be construed as a threat to any nation." If that is the case how can the US view China's resolve to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime interests as a threat? Any unilateral move of provocation will only throttle mutual efforts to better manage differences and fend off risks.
The Sacramento Bee, California on Republican candidates' requests about debates:
They want a pledge that the temperature will be kept below 67 degrees. That no one will require them to raise their hands to answer a question, or pose a yes or no question without providing enough time for a "substantive answer."
Also, no "lightning rounds." Those are definitely off-limits, just like audience "reaction shots." And, please, no footage of their empty podiums after a commercial break.
These are just a few of the demands that Republican presidential candidates have for TV networks before they agree to take part in another primary debate. With such a list, you'd think the candidates were pampered rock stars on tour, not supposedly serious politicians running for the nation's highest office. (In our dressing room this evening, we'd like five bottles of San Pellegrino chilled to 33 degrees, one large bowl of peanut M&Ms, all green ones removed.)
The list, which no campaign has endorsed yet, was nonetheless drawn up in a clandestine meeting Sunday night attended by the leaders of more than a dozen GOP campaigns. It represents an attempt to alter a debate process that the candidates loathe, culminating with last week's debate hosted by CNBC.
Wanting debates with more substance, as several candidates have said they want, is a noble goal. The face-offs are an important way for voters to vet candidates aspiring to be president, and yet, at times this year, the debates have resembled more of an ego-fueled WWF match than a sobering war of words.
The debates should be better. But petulantly issuing demands to TV networks - and threatening to go around them and stream debates online if they don't comply - isn't the best way to go about that. Not when your list includes frivolous things like making sure the temperature of the room remains pleasant and forbidding moderators from talking about the candidates using the restroom during breaks.
Some candidates, wisely, have recognized this.
On Monday afternoon, the campaign for Donald Trump, now in second place behind retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, announced that it would negotiate independently with TV networks before the next debate.
Carly Fiorina's campaign has opted out, as has Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told CNN the same thing, following comments he made Monday on Fox News: "Stop complaining," he told his rivals. "Do me a favor, set up a stage, put podiums up there and let's just go."
We hope they add that to the list.
The Wall Street Journal on the Keystone pipeline:
One difference between the developed and developing worlds is honest, transparent government that treats investors fairly. By that standard, the Obama Administration's handling of the Keystone XL pipeline shows the U.S. is sliding closer to Third World politics than Americans would like to admit.
On Monday TransCanada Corp. asked the State Department to stop its review of the proposed pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast that has been held hostage to liberal politics for seven years. The company said it wants a pause to give Nebraska time to finish its review of the pipeline route.
That may be true, but everyone knows that TransCanada's bigger problem is the State review that President Obama has dragged out to the end of his term. The company's reasonable fear is that Mr. Obama will reject the permit in the weeks before the global climate-change fiesta in Paris in December. He would then use this as a chit to prod other countries to sign onto bigger CO2 reductions.
This triumph of politics is part of a pattern for a White House that has stretched its bureaucratic power to delay, undermine or scuttle investments in mining and energy production, especially fossil fuels. Other examples include Alaska's Pebble Mine project, Shell's drilling in the Arctic and liquid natural gas terminals, among others.
This is the capricious rule enforcement that companies expect in Argentina or Cameroon. But then the U.S. is no longer capitalism's leading light. In the World Bank's latest Doing Business survey, the U.S. ranks seventh overall. But it is 33rd in the ease of obtaining construction permits, just behind St. Kitts and Nevis but ahead of Belarus. The U.S. is 49th in ease of starting a business and 53rd in paying taxes.
TransCanada is no doubt hoping that a suspension will carry the project past the presidential election, after which it can present its case to a new Administration. That would require a Republican presidential victory, however, because Hillary Clinton has already announced her opposition to Keystone and its thousands of jobs, putting her green donors ahead of blue-collar workers.
TransCanada deserves to have its request granted given its abysmal treatment, but the green lobbies are already demanding that Mr. Obama deny it and reject the permit anyway. In that case TransCanada would have to refile its application and start the review process all over again. America is now a country in which investors have to account for political risk as much as business risk.
The Toronto Star, Canada, on Syrian migrants and refugees:
Here's a thought. Every senior bureaucrat in Canada's immigration, foreign affairs and defense ministries should tape a picture of the drowned Syrian toddler, Alan Kurdi, next to his or her computer screen, as a reminder of the incoming Liberal government's most urgent moral challenge.
There's no more symbolically important file on Justin Trudeau's swearing-in day agenda than lighting a fire under the Ottawa bureaucracy to honor his party's campaign pledge to "expand Canada's intake of refugees from Syria by 25,000 through immediate government sponsorship."
Canadians will be looking for a sign from the Trudeau cabinet on Day One that the machinery of government has been galvanized to actively rescue some of the world's most wretched refugees, not shrug them off into paperwork hell as Stephen Harper's Conservatives were content to do. As Trudeau recently told CTV News, it's important to "get cracking" before ministers get distracted by other issues.
Canada's honor is on the line here. This will set the tone for this country's renewed engagement on the world scene.
That said, the logistics of taking in so many refugees is daunting. Trudeau proposes to take in 10 times as many as Harper did. That's no small pledge.
There are security, health and ID checks to be done, although the new Liberal government should err, if err it must, on the side of humanity. Officials need to transport and house the newcomers. Tent camps may work in the Middle East, but not here in the dead of winter. Beyond that, refugee support groups in Toronto and other cities need to mobilize and ensure that families get a good start. And willing employers need to lend a hand, training and hiring. All this will take a huge, coordinated effort.
As for the timing, we have already run down much of the clock for this year. Trudeau called on Harper more than seven months ago to resettle 25,000 refugees. And on Sept. 5, the Liberals offered to work across party lines to bring in the refugees over the next four months, by year's end, if that could be agreed on. Sadly, it was not to be. To the end, the Harper government dragged its heels.
With the New Year fast approaching the Liberals are rightly sticking by their commitment to resettle 25,000 people. But it's unrealistic to expect that the new government can get the job done in seven weeks after so much delay. Even refugee advocates caution against attempting to bring in so many, so quickly. Trudeau should walk back on that pledge, linked as it was to all-party support that never materialized.
A far more realistic goal, comparable to our resettlement of 60,000 Southeast Asian "boat people" over 18 months in the 1970s, would be to bring in the Syrians at the rate of a few thousand a month over the next eight months or a year.
As the Star has argued, Trudeau should make every effort to resettle as many as is practical by year's end, with the rest to come later. It's far more important to resettle people in a well-screened, well-supported way than to rush to meet an arbitrary deadline.
Reversing the Conservatives' callous, years-long indifference toward the Syrian crisis can't be managed in just a few weeks. The key thing is to get a more compassionate program rolling between now and year's end, in close collaboration with refugee advocates and support groups.
That should be Trudeau's goal. The commitment of 25,000 must stand. As for the timing, Canada should make haste, carefully. Syria's refugees have been through enough. They should find sanctuary here, and a better life, not more uncertainty and distress.
The Boston Herald on Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen
The House Judiciary Committee and the House itself should approve impeachment charges filed against the head of the Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen, on charges of allegedly giving false testimony in the investigation of IRS harassment of conservative political groups. The Justice Department's whitewashing of Koskinen and the IRS is outrageous
The department said it found "mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia" but no evidence of crime when Lois Lerner was in charge of the section that granted tax-exempt status. (She retired after invoking her privilege against self-incrimination.)
Harassment (through delay and offensive questioning) of conservative applicants before the 2012 elections has been fully documented. Ditto the waving through of applications from liberals, and the "Be On the Lookout" instruction to target groups using certain phrases like "Tea Party," and the destruction of email backup tapes after they were subpoenaed, and a failure to look for relevant emails — which an inspector general soon found. Koskinen was not in charge while Lerner was active, but was during the investigation by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), filed charges on behalf of himself and committee Republicans.
The Justice Department has been inexcusably partisan and, therefore, not trustworthy by the American people. Its work brings to mind an observation by Henry David Thoreau 161 years ago that the department ignored: "Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk."
Partisan administration of the tax laws is intolerable, but President Obama has ignored requests to fire Koskinen.
An impeachment by the House would be an indictment. Conviction by the Senate would mean removal from office. The Senate, wrote Alexander Hamilton in the 65th Federalist paper, has to judge in impeachments "those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust."
Exactly. The House should call the Senate to its duty.
The Miami Herald on Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush:
No, Jeb Bush's campaign isn't close to imploding, and No, Sen. Marco Rubio should not resign from the Senate. But both of them have some explaining to do to constituents and supporters about recent statements and performances on the campaign trail if they want to claim their party's nomination.
With the election still a year away, the large field of GOP candidates is sorting itself out into front-runners and also-rans. Both Gov. Bush and Sen. Rubio are among the leading candidates based on the amount of money they've raised, their prominence in the GOP, and the support they can count on from important segments of the party.
But a confrontation between the two Floridians was ultimately inevitable because they'll face each other in the all-important state primary on March 15, and only one of them can win.
For the two one-time friends — they deny bad blood between them, but it's hard to imagine their bitter exchange at the CNBC debate was not honestly felt — it's a critical time. They've become two cats in a bag, whether they like it or not.
Mr. Rubio has pointed out that other candidates from the Senate who ultimately won the nomination had worse attendance records in the Senate than he did and weren't asked to resign. True. But he has missed more votes than any other senator in this presidential round, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul.
And worse, he seems to have given up on the job that Floridians elected him to do. He must do better if he wants to stay on the public payroll.
His claim of "frustration" with the Senate doesn't excuse his disdainful attitude. Heck, we're frustrated, too. So are most Americans. But if he thinks Capitol Hill is frustrating, he ought to stay away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He should ask Barack Obama about frustration with the politics of Washington and dealing with a dysfunctional Congress.
Sen. Rubio also has a perplexing habit of dodging questions he doesn't like, as detailed in a news story elsewhere in this section of the newspaper. If he has any hope of becoming the nominee, he'll have to answer challenging questions head-on.
The big surprise in the GOP campaign so far, beyond the popularity of outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson, is the lackluster performance of former Gov. Bush.
Agree or disagree with his politics, Mr. Bush is smart, competent and honest. He was generally an effective governor for two terms. But on stage, he comes across as stiff and ill at ease. He often stumbles over his replies.
The problem is brought into sharp relief when contrasted with Mr. Rubio. Where Mr. Bush fails to look forceful and passionate, Mr. Rubio shines. The consensus among political analysts is that he had his best debate showing last Wednesday and may be ready to replace his former mentor from Florida as the establishment favorite.
"The end is not near," Mr. Bush told a reporter during a campaign stop a day after the debate. No, it isn't, but he has to find a way to motivate supporters and fence-sitters who were expecting a better performance. He still has time, but the campaign clock is winding down. The Iowa caucuses are 107 days away.
Beyond the two Florida candidates, it was impossible to ignore how the radicalization of the GOP, so evident in the drama over the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner, has seeped into the presidential race.
The default position of all the candidates — possibly excluding Ohio Gov. John Kasich — is demonization of government. This is truly an odd stance for anyone seeking the highest office in the land and raises doubts about why they want to become president.
The Chicago Sun-Times on football safety
At its best, football is a beautiful sport. From the Olympic speed of NFL running backs to the masterful skills of quarterbacks, the game can take your breath away.
But the sport has a monumental problem. It is a game of tackling and hitting, essential to its entertainment value. Some of those hits become blows to the brain. Catastrophic injuries, such as the fatal head trauma suffered in a game last week by Andre Smith, a player for Bogan Computer Technical High School, are rare, but concussions are prevalent and dangerous.
For too long, the NFL dismissed the hazards of head injuries. Its executives and medical staff denied that playing football could lead to permanent brain damage, defying common sense and the findings of specialists. Now league officials and teams, including the Chicago Bears, want to show they are making the game safer.
Their target audience? Moms and dads, of course. Keeping kids involved — playing the game and loving it — is crucial to the NFL's future bottom line.
The NFL, we have no doubt, also hopes to get out in front of the potential fallout from a soon-to-be-released movie, "Concussion," starring Will Smith, about a neuropathologist credited with finding chronic traumatic encephalopathy in deceased football players.
The stakes for the league are huge. Football has good reason to fear going the way of boxing, a once beloved sport that lost its mainstream popularity.
Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey, as well as an NFL senior vice president and an independent neuropsychologist, shared with us Wednesday important changes to the game in recent years that have brought a drop in concussions. Medical timeouts are called at the discretion of a medical trainer monitoring games from a stadium box; the kickoff line was moved to the 35-yard line from the 30 to make returns safer, and rules to protect "defenseless" players were expanded.
Every fan should welcome the changes, but the NFL would be smart to do more. We see no reason, for example, why the league cannot take a firm stand on the appropriate age for a child to begin playing tackle football.
"Ours is the greatest game," McCaskey told us. "The combination of speed, finesse, strategy, teamwork. You'll see it in a 60-minute game. I don't want to get too dramatic but (there are) metaphors for life: Picking yourself up when you get knocked down, never giving up."
But much the same can be said about other team sports.
And kids will turn to those other sports if their parents lose faith in the safety of football.