Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle on the indoctrination by the book:
If you lie down with dogs, you rise with fleas, the old proverb goes.
President Obama must be itching like crazy over his federal appointments _ especially given the recent revelations about his safe-schools czar.
Keith Jennings is the assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the U.S. Department of Education. Part of his formative past includes founding and leading an organization that appears to encourage underage sex.
Does that sound like someone you want to help steer federal education policy?
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network says it seeks to foster acceptance of homosexual pupils in schools and to clamp down on bullying. But it recommends books to kids that mark a dangerous step _ really, a giant leap _ toward hypersexualizing schoolchildren.
Some of the books on the GLSEN reading list detail supposedly consensual sexual encounters between children and much older adults, and some incidents between kids as young as 6. To go into further detail would be to tread into territory that a reader shouldn't be able to stomach.
There can be a fine line between education and indoctrination. But not in this case. This kind of repulsive filth shouldn't be shopped around to schoolchildren.
And America's safe-schools czar headed the organization that spreads this list.
It seems as if every government czar Obama tries to appoint comes equipped with a second, outrageously controversial shoe ready to be dropped. A nominee can have this qualification or that qualification.
But. Too often there's a big "but."
Carol Browner, Obama's energy and climate czar, was a major player with a socialist group that advocated " 'global governance' and says rich countries must shrink their economies to address climate change," according to The Washington Times.
Science czar John Holdren co-authored a textbook in the 1970s that floated the ideas of forced abortion and mass sterilization.
Mark Lloyd, Obama's FCC diversity czar, was a fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, and has had conservative talk radio in his crosshairs for quite some time.
Not one of these people should have a place in helping guide our federal government.
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San Francisco (Calif.) Chronicle on U.S. needs to help Mexico stop the drug cartels:
Three years into his war with drug cartels, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has finally scored a major victory. Last week, his special forces killed top drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva, a.k.a. "The Boss of Bosses." With Leyva's defeat, Calderon punched a hole in one of Mexico's biggest cartels.
But while Calderon won an important battle, he's still in danger of losing the war.
Leyva's death will throw his cartel into chaos, and the ensuing battle for power among his deputies could be brutal, drawing in civilians and the police.
There's also a good chance that the death may just strengthen Mexico's five other major cartels as they move in to take over Leyva's market share. Those battles, too, could prove to be as devastating as the havoc Leyva unleashed on his fellow Mexicans.
Meanwhile, Calderon is using a conventional strategy to win an unconventional war, and it's failing. Heavily armed though they may be, the cartels' greatest weapon is simple human greed. Over the past three years, they've managed to infiltrate every aspect of Mexican society.
Officials routinely arrest cartel associates who moonlight as beauty queens, Grammy award winners, and local police chiefs. It's telling that Leyva's defeat came at the hands of the Mexican navy. Both Mexico's far-larger army and its police force are riddled with turncoats and cartel agents. If Calderon can't trust his own forces, how can he hope to win this long, painful war of attrition?
The cartels continue to expand their reach into the United States, their biggest market. Federal officials have noticed that the cartels have stepped up their efforts to corrupt the border police, many of whom grew up in border towns and know people in both countries. Federal officials claim that they don't have the money to issue polygraph screenings for more than a small fraction of their border police recruits. The result is more smuggled drugs - and more violence - in both countries. Bodies continue to pop up on both sides of the border with frightening regularity.
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the Growing split: Putting off elections hurts the Palestinians:
It's hard to imagine that the Palestinians could have dug themselves a deeper hole than they were in already, but their recent decision to postpone elections and extend the term of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does that.
The Palestinians are divided badly, into Hamas, which reigns in Gaza, and Fatah, which rules the West Bank. Gaza is a small area, gasping for breath economically as the Israelis control land, sea and air access to it. Gazans' isolation is being made even worse by the construction of a new steel wall, planted deep in the ground to prevent tunnels from being dug, in the short border area with Egypt. (The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping with design and materials.)
The other Palestinians, apart from the ones in exile, are in the West Bank, ruled by Fatah, headed by Mr. Abbas. The West Bank is checkered with growing Israeli settlements and is further divided by its own Israeli wall and fence.
The Palestinian elections that were scheduled for next month have now been canceled because Hamas said it won't participate, given the extent of Israeli control in the West Bank. Hamas won the last Palestinian elections, held in 2006. Along with canceling the January elections, Fatah has extended the term of Mr. Abbas, which had already been extended last January. He has said he does not plan to run for Palestinian Authority president again. It is arguable that the Palestinian plight is largely due to Israeli skill at sowing trouble among them. It is also true, however, that the Palestinians are adept at acting to damage their own cause, instead of trying to move the Israeli-Palestinian conflict toward meaningful negotiations that could result in the long-sought two-state solution, which would give them their own recognized country alongside Israel.
The United States, unfortunately, has tied its own hands in terms of bringing reason to the Palestinian side of the table by failing to establish dialogue with Hamas and, in the meantime, taking sides by providing security assistance to Fatah. Hamas appears to have fallen outside President Barack Obama's pledge to talk to a whole range of Middle Eastern elements without precondition.
Whether that is considered policy or just the practice of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell isn't clear, but what is clear is that America remains out of touch with one of the key players in the Palestinian-Israeli face-off. It is a problem that should be fixed, urgently.
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The Denver Post on $12 trillion in debt: How much is enough?:
Call us Scrooges if you like, but we believe that a $12.1 trillion debt limit is more than enough leeway to run the United States federal government.
Yet, this past week Congress was discussing ways to raise the national debt ceiling the amount government can legally borrow by nearly $2 trillion to a more politically accommodating $14 trillion.
The same week, according to CBS News, the national debt as posted by the Treasury Department already had surpassed the statutory limit approved by Congress. At the time, it showed the nation's debt at nearly $12.135 trillion, which would be illegal. (That means each citizen's share of the debt is $39,459, if you're counting. And we are.)
Fortunately, some moderate Democrats decided this was too much for them and balked at a long-term increase, instead supporting a short- term raise of $300 billion to $12.4 trillion, which allowed Washington to fund existing budgets and revisit the issue at a more convenient time namely, after the mid-term elections in 2010.
A group of moderates also demanded, in exchange for their vote, that a bipartisan commission be set up to look at various tax increases and spending cuts that would help get control of the federal deficit.
One suggestion was to create legislation that would force new spending on federal government programs to be offset by cuts in other government spending or increases in taxes. Creating a bipartisan commission to investigate ways to reduce spending also makes sense to us, since the crushing debt we wrestle with was created with bipartisanship support.
President Barack Obama has spent more than any first-year president in history. In fiscal 2009, the budget was $3.52 trillion with a $1.4 trillion deficit which is $1 trillion more than last year. But, as Sen. Mark Udall pointed out in last Sunday's Post, the current administration inherited a chunk of this year's deficit from the previous one.
However, Democrats also were the ones running Congress for the past two years, and since 2007, the federal debt limit has climbed by 39 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal.
So there is plenty of blame to go around. We, in fact, supported spending that contributed to this problem the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP as a necessity to help avoid a more serious financial crisis. But with the continued level of spending in Washington, something clearly needs to be done.
On the Web: http://tinyurl.com/y8efx66
The Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star on War critics proven wrong on oil:
Critics of the war in Iraq have long contended that the real reason why the U.S. invaded was so U.S oil companies could grab control of Iraq's vast oil reserves.
"No more blood for oil," said one of the signs held during weekly peace vigils in downtown Lincoln sponsored by Nebraskans for Peace. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, a war critic, wrote in 2005, "It's the oil, stupid."
Even former U.S. Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan wrote "the Iraq war is largely about oil" in his memoir.
However, when the Iraqi government awarded bids this month, most of the winners came from elsewhere, including China, Russia, Malaysia and Norway. Reuters reported that only Exxon Mobil won "a major prize." U.S.-based Occidental also won as part of a consortium.
Iraqi officials were quick to trumpet the results. "For us in Iraq, it shows the government is fully free from outside influence," Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said. "No one, not even the United States, can steal the oil, whatever people think."
U.S. officials hammered the same theme. "The results of the bid round should lay to rest the old canard that the U.S. intervened in Iraq to secure Iraqi oil fields for American companies," Philip Frayne at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad said.
One reason why U.S. firms did not do well is that many of them stayed out of the bidding entirely.
Analysts speculated that one reason U.S.-based firms were worried was about continuing violence in Iraq.
They also pointed out that U.S.-based firms already have established themselves in other Mideastern locations, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.
They speculated that the publicly traded U.S. firms simply may not have been able to compete financially with bids from state-supported firms based in China and Angola, according to Reuters.
In any event, analysts project that the amount of oil pumped from Iraq, which has the third largest proven reserves in the world, should rise soon from the current 2.5 million barrels a day to 7 million barrels a day. By 2016, production may reach 12 million barrels a day, Iraqi officials predict.
The expansion of production and surging revenue will have enormous impact in Iraq, reviving the economy and lifting the standard of living.
The additional oil also should help reduce pressure on oil prices worldwide. That's good news to motorists no matter where on the globe they drive.
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The Oregonian, on What part of 'illegal' don't you understand?:
Imagine recalibrating our immigration system to maximize U.S. economic productivity and minimize waste. And then ask yourself how this newly reformed _ and rational _ system would regard a Rigoberto Padilla.
The 21-year-old, originally scheduled for deportation Dec. 16, has become an unlikely cause celebre. Unlikely, we say, because Padilla made a serious mistake. Last January, he was arrested for driving under the influence.
His parents also made a serious mistake: They brought him to Chicago illegally when he was 6 years old. Put those facts together and you have a legal justification _ perhaps even a slam-dunk case _ for deporting Padilla.
Only, thus far, it hasn't quite worked out that way. Yes, Padilla has pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. He is now wearing an ankle bracelet.
But he's also working two jobs to finance his education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Students know him as their friend and classmate. Professors know him as a smart guy with leadership potential, whose brain is simply too good to waste. Or to deport.
Shouldn't that count for something?
Over the past several years, a refrain has emerged from one side of the debate on illegal immigration: "What part of 'illegal' do you not understand?" The refrain is meant, of course, to underscore the gravity of breaking the law, and the plain fact that it is wrong. And it is.
On paper, it's easy to advocate removal of a shadowy mass of 12 million illegal strangers, even if some, like Padilla, were brought here by their parents without any say in it. In real life, though, it's not always so easy to disentangle these individuals from their communities.
Padilla may or may not deserve to stay here. But one part of illegal that we all need to understand is that it can look very different up close. In Chicago, this young man is no longer anonymous or "alien," but has a name and story, friends and colleagues, and an actual record of accomplishment people are reluctant to lose.
Last week, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., introduced legislation that he called "C.I.R.A.S.A.P." (Comprehensive Immigration Reform As Soon As Possible). The bill would strengthen enforcement, provide a path to legalization for illegal workers, and also create a standing commission, similar to the Federal Reserve, to regulate labor flows. That's a good idea.
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The Oklahoman on Obama finding that bin Ladens elusive:
During the 2008 campaign, candidate Barack Obama suggested Republican John McCain had given the war in Afghanistan short shrift and argued he would be more energetic than McCain at pursuing Osama bin Laden.
MultimediaPhotoview all photos "When John McCain said we could just muddle through in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights," Obama said at the Democratic convention. "John McCain likes to say that hell follow bin Laden to the gates of hell. But he wont even go to the cave where he lives." Tough talk, indeed.
Fast forward to present. Well give President Obama a pass on Afghanistan. His decision to increase U.S. troop strength holds promise of a successful outcome there.
Bin Laden is a different story, apparently no closer to being captured or killed with Obama leading the posse.
In fact, Newsweek reports that Obama has blocked expanded missile strikes against locations in Pakistan along the Afghan border, where bin Laden and other high-value targets are believed to be hiding. The president reportedly is concerned about civilian casualties and jeopardizing delicate relations with Pakistan.
Valid concerns, certainly. Similar considerations no doubt limited the reach of Obamas predecessor and probably kept McCain from spouting blood-thirsty rhetoric about bagging bin Laden the difference, wed suggest, between experience and aspiration.
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The Boston Globe on showing US neutrality in Pakistan:
Pakistans Supreme Court struck down a 2007 program granting amnesty from corruption charges for President Asif Ali Zardari and 8,000 other government officials. The ruling creates a grave political problem for Zardari - and obliges President Obama to reconsider the way Washington has conducted relations with Pakistan. To avoid making a dicey situation worse, Obamas guiding principle must be to make sure that America is not identified with any one Pakistani politician or party.
Pakistanis resentful of US meddling commonly cite a back-door deal orchestrated in 2007 by the Bush administration. At the behest of Washington, General Pervez Musharraf, who was president at the time, arranged the amnesty that allowed Zardari and his wife, Benazir Bhutto, to return from exile so she could lead her Pakistan Peoples Party in elections. Bhutto was assassinated, and her husband became prime minister. Not without reason, many Pakistanis who are angry about Zardaris corruption and ineffectiveness hold the United States responsible for imposing him on their country.
Nothing would be gained, however, if Washingtons backing were switched to Zardaris chief rival, Nawaz Sharif. Sharif served two earlier terms as prime minister, interludes remembered for rampant corruption, nuclear proliferation, and his penchant for cozying up to Islamist militants.
Obama must also avoid any hint that America would like another military-run government in Pakistan. Another cause of Americas plummeting popularity in Pakistan is the widespread perception that the Bush administration, while touting democracy elsewhere, was all too happy to partner with Musharrafs undemocratic military regime.
America depends on the Pakistani military to root out jihadists and Al Qaeda leaders. The soundest way to retain that cooperation is to reduce average Pakistanis distrust of America. That can be done by providing US aid for infrastructure and schools, reduced tariffs on Pakistani textiles and, above all, an end to meddling in Pakistani politics.
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The China Daily on the small essential step after Copenhagen:
Few might have expected the UN Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen, which came to a close last weekend, to throw up a game-changer of a deal.
Yet, even lowered expectations could hardly stem the disappointment many people felt over the final outcome - a last-minute accord that was weaker than not only a legally binding treaty but also the expected "political" agreement.
Even so, the Copenhagen Accord represents a step forward, although not enough, in the battle against global warming.
The next UN-backed climate summit will take place a year from now in Mexico City, but there is no time to waste.
It is imperative that all nations act now to make the Copenhagen Accord a stepping-stone to a new climate treaty that will replace the Kyoto Protocol.
The conference was widely touted as an important opportunity to boost international co-operation in combating climate change.
Two weeks of wrangling later, sharp divisions between the rich and poor nations over how to fight the fight have been laid bare.
It is clear now that developing and developed nations have different historical and emission responsibilities and vary in current emission levels due to different development stages.
Countries on both sides of the divide need to shoulder different burdens and obligations in the fight.
Concern over costs and impact have largely prevented developed countries from aggressively cutting greenhouse gas emissions and supporting poorer nations with adequate funds and technology.
Be that as it may, leaders who turned up at Copenhagen still deserve credit for inking a sub-optimal deal, rather than leaving with nothing at all.
Unsatisfactory as it is, the new accord represents an essential step forward in our response to the long-term challenge of climate change.
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put it, "this is just the beginning" of a process to craft a binding pact to reduce emissions.
This non-binding deal has explicitly recognized the "scientific view" that the world should limit warming to no more than 2 C.
This is important to drive home the message that global warming is real and that it must be avoided through effective reduction in emissions.
The accord is, however, no guarantee that another round of climate talks next year will lead to a new and binding treaty that will replace the all-important Kyoto Protocol.
Only when all countries unilaterally agree to fight climate change faster and on a war footing will consensus prevail. The international community would then be able to clinch a new deal that will help to save our planet.
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The Australian on Copenhagen being hijacked by second-order issues :
THE climate change conference conformed to the two universal rules of meetings -- the more people involved, the less chance of agreement on anything practical. And the people with the smallest stake always make the most mischief. Even with the statement that was expected to be stitched together overnight, the conference constituted two wasted weeks that will make no dramatic or early difference to global greenhouse gas emissions. And while the green extreme argues that this is the fault of the developed economies, the reality is that they never got a chance to hammer out a deal on behalf of all the people on the planet.
Copenhagen failed because it was hijacked by participants with other agendas -- especially underdeveloped nations, including the Africans. While no one really knows what the impact of global warming will be on individual countries, poor nations have used it as an opportunity to extract more aid from the developed world. Not that they need help to reduce their carbon emissions. Given the incompetence of many African governments, their people do not have access to electricity at all, let alone rely on large and polluting power plants. Rather, the continent's main sources of carbon output are entirely natural, animals, fires and the occasional volcanic eruption -- which all the aid in the world will not stop.
And so the Africans tried to turn Copenhagen into a summit on world poverty and ways to expand their economies with green energy, using climate change as leverage to seek more money from donor nations -- including China. Certainly there is a case for the developed world to fund developing nations' mitigation and abatement efforts, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has agreed to a $US100 billion-a-year climate finance fund for them, if China agreed to international verification of its pollution-fighting efforts, But handing over "compensation" for wrongs done in the distant colonial past, without proper reporting of what the money is be used for, will only perpetuate the aid-dependency and its attendant corruption that has trapped large parts of the developing world in penury.
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Khaleej (Dubai) Times on The Return of Gitmo Detainees:
The news of a dozen Guantanamo detainees being returned to their home countries is welcome.
While it denotes progress on the detention closure front, it also highlights the challenges the returning detainees are likely to pose. US President Barack Obamas efforts to meet the deadline of January end next year is likely to be extended. It may be for technical reasons, complicated Congressional requirements and placement of an alternative judicial recourse to deal with ?the detainees.
As part of the closure plans, the US has been engaged with governments that are willing to take back their nationals. Washington was hoping to send at least 116 of the detainees back before January. The ones shortlisted for repatriation are mainly suspects who, due to inconclusive evidence, could not be charged, even after being illegally detained for years and having undergone extreme interrogation. Strangely, while the majority of detainees to be repatriated are cleared by the US, many have been refused entry into their home countries. It is primarily because their governments perceive these returnees as potential security threat. The fear not unfounded is that such persons would be more prone to terrorism as a retaliatory measure and would pose a bigger challenge in terms of monitoring. Even detaining them in prisons at home could foment problems among other detainees at the site. In the face of resistance from some home states, the US government decided to enter into an arrangement with third states that may be willing ?to accept them.
The latest batch of detainees to return to their countries comprise six Yemenis, four Afghans and two Somalians. With Yemeni nationals comprising the largest number of detainees at Guantanamo, Washington is hoping to repatriate more, depending on how this transfer goes. Previously, the escape of 23 Al-Qaeda suspects from high security prison in Sanaa in 2006 led to serious complications. Some of the escapees were on the US most wanted list of terrorists. One Nasser al-Wahishi successfully reorganised and brought into operation a resurgent entity, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
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The Globe and Mail, Toronto, on U.S. initiative, Canadian passivity:
Thanks to American leadership, better news is coming out of Copenhagen as world leaders prepare for the climate change summit's last day. No thanks, unfortunately, to Canada, which failed to provide any new ideas, and apparently did nothing to help shape an emerging deal, in part because it did not play its traditional role as an honest broker with developing countries.
The Americans helped bridge one gulf between developed and developing countries after a failed first week. The offer of Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, to take part in a $100-billion (U.S.) fund to help developing countries fight climate change and its effects, was a large concession $10-billion was the amount of start-up funding that developed countries had earlier agreed to. Congress has already complemented these efforts; the Waxman-Markey bill contains a vehicle for the U.S. to invest in emissions reductions more cheaply in other countries.
Countries are also close to finalizing an agreement at Copenhagen that would set better incentives and tighter controls in efforts to reverse carbon emissions by slowing deforestation.
In return, developing countries, especially the largest ones, will have to step up; this cannot be a simple transfer of wealth. They too will need to agree to binding emissions reductions. Kevin Rudd, Australia's Prime Minister, vividly demonstrated the point: "If the developed world became carbon-neutral and the developing world continued to grow on current trends, (by 2050) this would create a temperature rise of between 3.2 degrees and 4 degrees." China must heed Ms. Clinton's demand that it be transparent about the sources and amounts of its own emissions. Moreover, the fund must have vigorous enforcement and verification mechanisms; previous efforts have been rife with corruption and mismanagement.
On each of these crucial issues, Canada has been a bystander. The government's meek call for a replacement to the Kyoto protocol had no effect. It failed to tap into Canada's forestry expertise or laud its carbon-capturing boreal forests. It made no concrete upfront commitment to the adaptation fund, a move that could have generated enormous goodwill and supplied leverage with developing countries.
In short, by failing to put anything substantial money, ideas or high-level effort on the table, Canada's reasonable demands were ignored.
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