Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The New York Times, on gray wolves:
Not everyone was happy when the gray wolf population in the Northern Rockies, near extinction in the mid-1970s, staged a remarkable comeback under the protections of the Endangered Species Act. By the end of last year there were about 1,650 in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Ranchers complained that the wolves were killing their sheep and cattle; hunters complained that they were devastating big game, mainly elk.
So when protections were lifted earlier this year in Idaho and Montana the states immediately approved wolf hunting seasons. But what seemed to be an ordinary big-game hunt, with licenses and duly apportioned quotas (75 in Montana, 220 in Idaho) now looks like the opening of a new front in the age-old war on wolves.
Once the season opened in Montana, some of the most-studied wolves in Yellowstone, including a female that scientists had been tracking for years, were killed almost immediately just outside the park, jeopardizing several scientific studies. The reaction from the state's wolf program director? "We didn't think wolves would be that vulnerable to firearms harvest." By the time Montana's season ended on Nov. 17, 72 wolves had been shot _ 3 short of the state's quota _ out of a total population of some 500.
Nothing lays bare the true point of the wolf season more than Idaho's recent decision to extend its hunt by three months, ending on March 31. The reason is that hunters have simply not killed enough wolves _ only half of the state's quota of 220 so far.
Environmental groups and other wolf advocates argued, before protections were lifted last spring, that populations across the Northern Rockies had not in fact reached sustainable levels. Having lost that argument, they are now insisting on stronger state management plans, and a moratorium on hunting until such plans can be formulated. This is a fair request. What matters is the survival of not just a few token wolves, but strong, genetically healthy wolf populations.
On the Web:
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., on abusive debt collection tactics:
Thanks to a stubbornly persistent recession, millions of Americans find themselves saddled with debt that they can't repay or can repay only with such difficulty it discourages them from even trying.
Trying to collect these debts has become a big and fast-growing business with debts being packaged and sold, often for pennies on the dollar, in financial instruments with a disturbing resemblance to the way sub-prime mortgages were packaged and sold off. The whole point of buying deeply discounted debt is that the buyers keep every dollar they collect. So-called secondary debt is now a $60 billion industry.
Aggressive attempts to collect the debts threaten to overwhelm the courts and have resulted in a record number of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission. Those collection tactics may get even more aggressive if the industry can persuade Congress to allow it to make automated calls to cell phones.
Abusive collection tactics such as deception and harassment were outlawed by the 1977 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act but a Scripps Howard News Service investigation published over the weekend shows that the law is only spottily enforced and could benefit from tightening and more uniform enforcement. In particular there is a great need for improved documentation of debt that has repeatedly been resold to prove that the debt is lawfully owed. ...
Ample and easily available consumer credit is essential to a capitalist economy and U.S. economic growth. And for that system to function properly, it is also essential to have an effective and fair system to make sure those debts are repaid. Debt collectors working on behalf of lenders return $40 billion a year, money that is then recycled as fresh credit.
On the Net:
Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, on Tiger Woods:
Tiger Woods has spent the 14 years of his professional golfing career cashing in on his charismatic image at least as much as he has on his immense, perhaps unprecedented talent. Except for a few relatively minor cracks in his carefully maintained facade _ an expletive here, a thrown club there _ he has mostly succeeded in managing what the public was allowed to see of this appealing and gifted athlete.
That facade sustained major damage last week in a weird incident that was officially in the books as a traffic accident as of Tuesday, but which continues to raise questions as to what really happened, and why. ...
Woods reportedly has the right, under Florida law, to refuse any information to authorities beyond his driver's license and other official documentation _ as long as the incident is being treated officially as a traffic accident. Thus have ESPN and other sports media outlets explained Woods' repeated cancellations of interviews with Florida state troopers. Whether somebody not named Tiger Woods and not living in an exclusive gated community would be granted that kind of kid-gloves treatment under similar circumstances is a matter about which it is hardly "irresponsible" (to use Woods' own term) to speculate. ...
Whatever his legal obligations, Woods has every right to clam up publicly. Perhaps he sincerely thinks he owes the public nothing more, and he might be right. But when he insists that people stop speculating about this strange sequence of events, maybe he needs to rethink what the rest of us owe him.
On the Net:
The Seattle Times, on Comcast acquisition of NBC:
It is a fine thing that General Electric has reached a deal to buy back the last 20 percent of NBC Universal from the French. The French should not own it. Neither should GE, which has enough on its plate _ refrigerators, jet engines, compact fluorescence, etc. _ without running a media empire.
NBC Universal should be independent.
Consider what it owns. Start with NBC Entertainment, whose offerings include "The Office" and "30 Rock." Add NBC News, NBC Local Media, which owns TV stations in the largest U.S. cities (in San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego on the West Coast), and NBC TV Network, which reaches almost every home in the country. NBC also owns Telemundo, which reaches big U.S. Spanish-speaking communities.
Add Universal Pictures, which makes movies, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, which sells DVDs, and interests in the several Universal Studios theme parks.
The public argument ought to be whether, in such a sensitive industry, even this is too much for one company. Instead, all of NBC Universal becomes a mere Park Place or Boardwalk deed to be consolidated by GE and resold to the happy buyer.
That would be Comcast, which already is America's biggest cable-TV and broadband Internet company.
This page said Monday that "if there ever was a corporate marriage federal regulators should block, it is Comcast Corp.'s proposition to buy NBC Universal." We say it again, and we hope others say it.
The consolidation in media is dangerous _ to the economic interests of the public and to democracy itself. The trend toward media giantism should be stopped, and the place to begin is this proposed deal.
On the Net:
Kansas City (Mo.) Star, on letting bank bailout plan expire:
The Troubled Asset Relief Program, approved during last fall's market meltdown, gave Washington authority to spend up to $700 billion to stabilize the financial system.
The question is whether TARP should continue beyond its current expiration date of Dec. 31. If Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner decides to extend it, it will live on until next October.
Geithner should allow it to lapse. Otherwise, the unobligated spending authority could morph into a slush fund.
Despite widespread objections, last fall Congress was right to take extraordinary steps. The financial sector appeared to be on the edge of collapse, an event that would have engulfed not only the Wall Street banks targeted by today's populists, but the entire economy.
TARP helped achieve stability. But it has proven an imperfect solution to a monumental problem. ...
In a recent congressional appearance, TARP Inspector General Neil Barofsky acknowledged that the program had improved market stability, but he noted that it hasn't spurred increased lending and "it's unlikely the taxpayer will see a full return on its TARP investment."
Some think TARP should be extended, in case of another crisis. A better course would be to bolster the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which backs up deposits and deals with failing banks _ and let TARP expire.
On the Net:
The Miami Herald, on Honduran elections pass important test:
The people of Honduras made it clear on Sunday that they fully supported the electoral process that produced a presidential victory for Porfirio Lobo, the candidate of the opposition National Party.
The turnout of more than 60 percent signals that most Hondurans were unwilling to heed the call of ousted president Manuel Zelaya, who had called for a boycott of the process to strengthen his claim that the elections were not legitimate because he was improperly removed from power back in June.
In fact, the elections easily passed the most important test of all in any democracy by attracting popular support. That, along with an absence of reported irregularities at the polls and a generally peaceful atmosphere around the country, helps to make the case that the results of the election should be respected by other countries, even though Mr. Zelaya himself remains holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in an increasingly futile effort to win back his old job. ...
That's not the end of it, though. It's up to the interim government and Mr. Lobo to help restore democracy by creating a unity government between now and the inauguration in January, with a place in it for Mr. Zelaya. Failing to do so will only give other countries in the region an excuse to keep Honduras in isolation. No one profits from that except Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and others like him who are the real enemies of democracy in the region.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration needs to get its act together in Latin America. Its handling of the controversy left much to be desired. ...
On the Net:
Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, on "fair and equitable" college football playoff system:
Armchair quarterbacking turns principle on its head.
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, for instance, disfavors big government, prefers free markets and isn't too keen on liberal notions like wealth spreading. ...
It's that dadgum Bowl Championship Series that's driving a few showboats in Congress silly.
After all, playoffs are an American way of sport, and if the football elites won't start one, then federal law must force it on them.
Please don't do it.
The much-maligned BCS, the system of computer and poll rankings by which a national football champion has been determined since the 1998 season, has flaws that even a casual fan can enumerate. ...
Playoff proposals abound, with their own merits and deficiencies. And don't forget, as a group of faculty pointed out in an April report, football players are student-athletes, and more games, especially with travel, would not enhance players' chance for academic success.
Barton's H.R. 390 would make it a deceptive trade practice to call a Division I football game a "national championship" unless it culminates "a fair and equitable playoff system." But what does "fair and equitable" look like? Presumably, the Federal Trade Commission would have to decide in enforcing the mandate. As though the debate over a "fair" way of choosing a national champion isn't frenzied enough already. ...
College presidents, trustees and alums can handle college football. ...
On the Net:
San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, on Obama's land mines decision:
President Barack Obama will collect his Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10 two weeks after his administration announced a decision not to join the global treaty banning land mines. He shouldn't get away without having to reconcile the glow of Oslo with that deadly, heartless and inhumane decision, another sign that the president's peace prize may have been premature.
Land mines caused more than 5,000 casualties in 2008, many of them outside current war zones.
More than a third of the victims were children. If the United States can support treaties against the use of chemical weapons and other atrocities, surely it can ban devices that keep on killing the innocent years after a war is over.
More than 150 nations, including the majority of our NATO allies, have signed the treaty.
Even Iraq, Afghanistan and Colombia have signed. But not China. Not Russia. And not the United States.
It's a disgrace.
This country has a stockpile of more than 10 million land mines.
Ian Kelly, a spokesman for the State Department, told reporters that the United States "determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we signed this convention."
We have not used land mines since the 1991 Gulf War.
The notion that our security rests on them now is ludicrous a distortion of reality unworthy of a president who claims to want to restore U.S. stature in the international community.
U.S. officials backtracked a bit on their position last week after humanitarian groups exploded in rage.
They now say the policy again is "under review."
What's left to review?
The civilized world agreed more than a decade ago that these weapons have no place in modern warfare.
On the Net:
The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, on world hunger:
The United States will host a summit meeting in April on nuclear security. The gathering will discuss ways to prevent nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation, mainly by strengthening measures against theft and black market sales of nuclear fissionable materials that can be used to produce nuclear weapons.
The idea had its roots in President Barack Obama's landmark speech in Prague last April on nuclear weapons. While announcing his intent to seek "a world without nuclear weapons," he said that nuclear terrorism is "the most immediate and extreme threat to global security." ...
In November, following summit talks in Tokyo between Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Obama, the two leaders issued a joint statement in which they stressed the importance of bilateral cooperation on nuclear security. The policy should gain as much ground as possible.
Obama has expressed concern that if one nuclear device exploded in a major city such as New York, Paris or Tokyo, it could not only kill a large number of people but also throw the international community and the global economy into upheaval. His fundamental recognition that nuclear terrorism is a genuine threat cannot be understated. It is also correct to expedite measures to deal with the threat. We must spread this common recognition that prevention of nuclear terrorism is essential for the stability and prosperity in this age of globalization.
In Japan, there is concern about North Korea's nuclear program and China's nuclear strategy. They are, of course, serious matters, but Japan should at the same time grapple more with the U.S. concern about nuclear terrorism. It is time, as a key ally, for Japan to make every possible diplomatic effort to alleviate Washington's concern about the threat of nuclear terrorism. ...
On the Net:
The China Post, Taiwan, on U.S. boosting troop levels in Afghanistan:
The United States has been criticized over the years for acting as if it were the world's policeman. The U.S. has had a mixed experience with nation-building or rebuilding. The Marshall Plan and subsequent reconstruction efforts in Germany and other parts of Europe after World War II is credited by many as saving Europe from a decent into anarchy. But after years of success on the battlefield, hubris set in and the U.S. was forced to learn a very costly lesson about trying to remake nations in the quagmire of the Vietnam War. ...
Today, U.S. President Barack Obama is winding down operations in Iraq while quite possibly boosting troop levels in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is now being called Obama's war, but unless the entire international community realizes that this conflict is a global problem, it may be very difficult to bring even a semblance of normalcy to this troubled region. ...
Obama's political team may have stopped using the term "war on terror," but the reality is the U.S. military is trying to defeat Islamic extremists that are overwhelmingly responsible for inspiring the sorrow and carnage many nations of the world have suffered over the past decade.
China has been singled out for criticism as it has business and commercial interests in Afghanistan and the surrounding area, but is loath to actually join the fight against extremism. For political reasons, it's unlikely that China will be sending any troops anywhere soon, but every nation in the world needs to get in on this fight. Those who can send troops should do so. Others can contribute money or provide other assistance. America isn't perfect, but what's the rest of the world doing to help defeat extremism?
On the Net:
Calgary (Alberta) Herald, on new credentialing standards for foreign-trained workers:
Monday's deal between Ottawa and the provinces sets the framework for recognizing or rejecting credentials of foreign-trained workers. It's a huge victory for the Canadian economy, immigrants, potential immigrants, the health-care system and employers seeking to position themselves for the economic recovery. ...
Under the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications, professionals educated abroad will be told within a year whether or not their credentials will be recognized in Canada. The first eight professions include architects, registered nurses, engineers, financial auditors, pharmacists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. Six more will be added to the list by 2012.
The deal, criticized by one immigrant group as a Conservative "feel-good" announcement, is far more significant than a political play for votes. It's a big step toward removing harmful interprovincial barriers that restrict the movement of professionals, whether Canadian-born or immigrants educated outside the country. Such barriers to a resource as valuable as our people hurts Canada's economy and limits international trade opportunities. ...
Studies show the Canadian economy is losing between $2.4 billion and $15 billion a year because of its failure (or inability?) to recognize international credentials of potential workers. ...
The new program is a job well done because it promises timely handling of requests and is a solid effort to closely match people's ability with employment. That leads to a healthier, more productive and happier society.
On the Net:
The Times, London, on French President Nicolas Sarkozy's economic diplomacy:
"Unlike any French president before him," wrote Agnes Poirier, the French political commentator, last year, "Nicolas Sarkozy hasn't understood that universal suffrage has elevated him above all parties and trite bickering."
Trite bickering is an apt characterization of President Sarkozy's economic diplomacy. He said yesterday that the nomination of a French EU commissioner would promote the European economic model over the Anglo-American one. In his view, the appointment of Michel Barnier, a former agriculture minister, as Internal Market Commissioner represented "victory" over the City of London. Mr. Sarkozy thereby simultaneously misunderstood the nature of the international economy, the function of the EU, the role of financial services in promoting growth and _ not least _ the dignity of his own office.
Mr. Sarkozy was elected president in 2007 on a message that he was an economic reformer committed to cutting taxes, curbing union power and promoting enterprise. But the greatest financial crisis since the 1930s has caused a radical reevaluation in his thinking. A fortnight after the collapse of Lehman Brothers last year, he declared that financial capitalism was coming to an end and denounced as a "mad idea" the power of unconstrained markets. ...
Mr. Sarkozy plainly interprets a crisis in one segment of the economy, finance, as a crisis of unregulated capitalism. It is not. The crisis was created not by markets but by incompetence in the most regulated part of the financial system: the commercial banks. French banks were as culpable as any: Societe Generale lost billions of euros owing to a rogue derivatives trader.
The notion that the French Government should now use the institutions of the EU to rein in the City of London is deeply irresponsible. For reasons of history, language, location and expertise, London specializes in financial services. That is a source of strength for the UK economy, which is an integral part of the European single market. Mr. Sarkozy should cease bringing discord where there ought to be harmony.
On the Net: