Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., on Britain's economic example:
The British government unveiled a new spending plan recently that should show the way to the next U.S. Congress. Britain's new budget will hold government outlays almost constant for the next five years in an effort to close a huge deficit and protect the nation's global credit.
The austerity budget produced howls from every quarter as advocates of special interests complained it would hurt the poor, the middle class, health care, students, schools and universities, incapacitate Britain's military forces and so on.
A prominent American economist, Joseph Stiglitz, denounced the plan in the Guardian newspaper for reducing government spending at a time of high unemployment. He argued that the government should be spending more, not less.
But the greater concern is that continued deficit spending will lead to higher interest rates that would choke off economic growth.
That prospect also looms for the United States as it emerges from recession. Britain's new leadership recognizes that the time to wean the economy from stimulus spending is coming up fast. ...
The U.S. is not going to get painlessly out of its precarious fiscal situation as subsidies and services are reduced or withdrawn. The sooner Congress attacks our out-of-control spending, the easier it will be over the long term. Britain is showing the way.
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on the regulation of e-cigarettes:
Nearly everyone has heard the old maxim that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Surely, that warning should be kept in mind when it comes to electronic cigarettes, the latest development in a decades-long effort to find safer ways to provide a nicotine fix.
What's different in this case is that e-cigarettes don't involve smoking. They are plastic or metal tubes that contain a nicotine solution instead of tobacco, and are inhaled as a battery heats the liquid into a vapor.
The argument that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking cigarettes seems persuasive at this point. The user does not inhale smoke, and the carcinogens in tobacco smoke that cause cancer and heart disease aren't present. E-cigarettes may at a minimum be a useful tool for heavy smokers who have failed repeatedly in efforts to quit.
At the same time, however, there are plenty of reasons to proceed cautiously and to avoid embracing e-cigarettes as the "next big thing." ...
While not calling for a ban of e-cigarettes, the Food and Drug Administration nevertheless is wise to push for safety studies and to try to prevent companies from making unsubstantiated health claims about e-cigarettes or to use them to deliver drugs other than nicotine.
The best approaches to tobacco and nicotine are still smoking cessation programs and aggressive efforts (including higher tobacco taxes) to discourage young people from using nicotine.
The Albany (Ga.) Herald on NPR's firing of Juan Williams:
Apparently the head honchos at National Public Radio are getting their cues for dealing with personnel issues from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Much like the Shirley Sherrod firing episode, NPR's termination of analyst Juan Williams was, at best, a drastic overreaction to one statement that Williams made while ignoring the full thrust of what Williams was trying to say.
More likely, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller had just been sitting back and looking for a reason to bounce Williams off the public airwaves, since the organization's leadership had already shown its disgust with Williams' periodic appearances on Fox News.
The impetus for the firing of Williams was an appearance that Williams made on Bill O'Reilly's "The O'Reilly Factor." The friction between NPR and Fox is no recent phenomenon. ...
So it's no surprise that Williams' employers at NPR were unhappy that he was appearing on Fox to start with, and on O'Reilly's show in particular.
What got Williams in hot water _ at least as far as Schiller will admit _ was his statement that he gets nervous on an airplane when he sees passengers in Muslim dress. ...
The bottom line is Williams didn't ask for stricter checks of passengers in Muslim garb. He didn't say that he wouldn't get on a plane. He didn't suggest anyone else avoid flying with someone dressed in Muslim garb. He didn't say to treat them differently than anyone else.
He simply admitted that it made him nervous.
Williams said he just didn't fit in NPR's "box." Indeed, Williams was essentially fired long before that TV appearance. He just didn't know it.
The Seattle Times on mortgage lending and foreclosures:
SLOPPY, greedy mortgage lenders helped inflate the housing bubble of the Great Recession, now the Federal Reserve is investigating to see if the same avaricious instincts are being applied to home foreclosures.
All of this belated attention by federal banking regulators is too late for taxpayers covering the losses of mortgage-backed gambling by Wall Street.
At the heart of the review announced by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Monday are the paperwork and procedures of a volume industry moving product. In one mode, the mortgage giants were cranking out dubious loans; now in retreat, they are processing foreclosures on full automatic.
It is more corner-cutting by lenders with potentially disastrous consequences for consumers who do not know all the rules and safeguards as well as the financial pros who cannot be bothered with the basics, such as reading the paperwork ...
Bernanke reported that one in five borrowers owe more than their house is worth, and another third have an equity of 10 percent or less in their property.
With legions of vulnerable homeowners, the review of foreclosure practices by 10 federal agencies has a huge, anxious audience.
The Kansas City (Mo.) Star on China's rare-earth deposits:
Rare earths are obscure elements with names like terbium that are essential for much of the electronic wizardry we take for granted today, including hybrid motors, wind turbines and crucial military applications. These elements once were supplied by several countries, including the United States.
But now they come almost exclusively from China, which is endowed with rare-earth deposits that are much more accessible and cheaply mined. And China being China, it has been using this leverage in a heavy-handed way.
The Chinese have been dialing back export quotas in general since 2005. In July, already tight quotas were slashed for the remainder of 2010 by 72 percent. The New York Times recently reported that China quietly halted shipments of certain rare-earth elements to the United States.
All this flies in the face of pledges China made when it was allowed to become part of the World Trade Organization, which bans export quotas except in certain cases. ...
The matter should be brought up at the next Group of 20 meeting _ in South Korea in November _ involving the heads of states of the major developed nations.
The Chinese should be reminded that while the world depends on their rare-earth exports, China's prosperity depends on continued access to the world's markets.
The New York Post on Obama having a Karzai problem:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is up to his elbows in Iranian cash, using bribes from Tehran to help buy the loyalty of friends and rivals.
Every other month, The New York Times reports, Iran sends over about $1 million to $2 million, which Karzai and his chief of staff dole out to maintain power over a network of tribal leaders, government officials and Taliban warlords.
Karzai's in bed with the US for much more than Tehran dishes out, but Iran's gifts are entirely off the books _ literally delivered, as they are, in bags.
"We have no choice but to be friendly with Iran," said Afghanistan's finance minister.
Friendly ain't the half of it.
Iran's meager millions have bought it unfettered access to Karzai's presidential palace, even as it finances, trains and arms some Taliban factions. ...
It's hard to believe the US is incapable of managing this rag doll who owes his political and financial fortunes to the US. But relations with Karzai have deteriorated under President Barack Obama.
It doesn't matter whether it's America's fault. It's Obama's responsibility to ensure Karzai doesn't fall into Iran's pocket or cut a deal with the Taliban that makes America's nine-year fight all for naught. ...
Los Angeles Times on the Congo atrocities:
For more than a decade, rebel soldiers from Rwanda have committed atrocities in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo with almost complete impunity. They kidnap children, murder men and are conducting a strategic campaign of raping and torturing women. In August, the United Nations confirmed that members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, and another militia were responsible for hundreds of rapes in the Walekali region _ and rape is a tepid word for the brutal attacks. ...
Human Rights Watch, the Enough Project, Women for Women International and many other groups, working with Africa-based organizations such as Friends of the Congo, have sustained awareness of a crisis that otherwise would be remote and unseen by much of the world. ...
Increasingly, activism and art have become partners. This month, the group honored Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage before a performance of her searing drama "Ruined," about three Congolese rape survivors living in a brothel. In New York, a series of Congo-related films recently kicked off Congo Week.
The arrest and indictment of one FDLR leader will not halt years of conflict ... Nor can one play, a handful of films or the work of several charities bring peace to Congo. But taken together, they offer hope.
Chicago Tribune on the fiscal woes across the world:
With garbage piling up, gas stations running dry and scattered violence in the streets, France hardly looks like a role model for the U.S. these days.
But at least French officials are trying to deal with their biggest fiscal woes. Those crippling strikes and protests come in response to a necessary plan to cut back public entitlements, including a two-year increase in the nation's minimum retirement age.
In a marked contrast to America's free-spenders, Europeans are taking an ax to their government excesses. A continent known for nanny states is making the tough decisions that we need to make. ...
If the U.K., France and other European nations can figure out a fair approach for reining in spending without wiping out their economies, they will show us the way.
In our hearts, we want it all. Political leaders tell us we can have it all. But our brains and our guts know better. ...
Illinois is a perfect example. At the rate we're going, our state pensions will pay out their last dollar in 2018, according to at least one reliable estimate. ...
Watch what's happening in Europe. And understand that if we continue to do nothing, the old world's pain will hit us, too.
The Toronto Star on the Omar Khadr trial:
Canada's notorious Omar Khadr finally buckled before a discredited American military tribunal and provided the guilty plea it was set up to elicit. But nothing like justice has been done in this wretched case.
U.S. President Barack Obama can take no pride in the judicial coercion he faced. And Prime Minister Stephen Harper shamed the nation by acquiescing to it.
Khadr, a marginal militant if ever there was one, has spent eight years in prison for killing Army Sgt. Christopher Speer in Afghanistan in a 2002 firefight, when he was all of 15. That's more than he would have served in Canada for committing murder as a young offender.
Yet Khadr still faced trial before a U.S. military judge and military officers in a Guantanamo Bay process the American Civil Liberties Union has called "irretrievably defective" and that no U.S. citizen would ever face. It might well have ended in a life sentence. His plea bargain Monday to murder and war crimes was a "hellish decision" to get home. The satisfaction voiced by the U.S. military was nauseating.
Khadr will reportedly serve one more year at Gitmo and more time here.
He could have been tried in a fair U.S. federal court, as others have been, but prosecutors would have had a hard time getting a conviction. Alternatively he might have been shipped back here and deemed to have done enough time. Instead, he was railroaded. ...
Khadr was forced into battle by his Al Qaeda father. He got neither the protection nor the rehabilitation to which he was entitled under international law. His trial would not pass muster in any normal circumstances.
The guilty plea spares Obama the ignominy of a full trial of a child soldier in a sham court. But it makes the Harper government complicit in an injustice. And it offends the principle that justice should not only be done but also be seen to be done.
The Jerusalem Post on the pope must speak up:
In the name of radical Islamic-inspired nationalism, Mideast Christians of all denominations, including Catholics, have faced devastating persecution for their religious convictions. From the Gaza Strip and Egypt to Iraq to Turkey, Christians have been murdered...
Ostensibly with the purpose of addressing these injustices and stemming the tide of a dwindling Christian population in the Mideast, Pope Benedict XVI convened a special Vatican Synod in Rome, composed of about 200 bishops mostly from Muslim countries. ...
Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee's International Director of Interreligious Affairs, has now called on the Vatican to issue a clear repudiation of Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros's "outrageous and regressive comments." We firmly join him in that call.
IT IS an undeniable fact that the bulk of Christian persecution in the Mideast is perpetrated in the name of radical Islam.
Open Doors, an organization that tracks attacks on Christians, regularly compiles a global "persecution index." North Korea has topped the list for many years.
However, of the top 10 countries on the list, eight are Islamic and three _ Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen _ are in the Middle East. ...
SO, IF radical Islam is the principal persecutor of Christians in the Mideast, why was Israel singled out? ...
When secular Pan-Arabism was still in vogue, this tactic was much easier to pull off. ...
However, with the rise of Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaida, radical Shi'ism and other extremist Islamic movements, Arab Christians have had an increasingly harder time integrating into their respective societies. ...
Bishops from this region have distorted both church teachings and the facts to sully Israel, while the Vatican has remained silent, in the process turning a blind eye to Christian suffering.
Pope Benedict XVI still has a chance to distance himself from the synod's declarations and make it clear that Bustros's comments deviate from Church teaching. That is the right and necessary thing for the pope to do _ not just for Jewish-Catholic relations, but also for the sake of the Middle East's persecuted Christian minority.
China Daily, Beijing, on rebalancing via reform:
By agreeing to give under-represented emerging market countries more power in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), finance ministers from the Group of 20 have given the fragile global recovery a much-needed and surprising shot in the arm during their weekend meeting in South Korea.
While applauding the joint effort by big industrialized and developing economies to enhance the fairness and legitimacy of the IMF, we are urging the international community to build on the historic agreement to rebalance the world economy through different necessary domestic reforms.
The shift of 6 percent of IMF voting power away from the richest countries toward "dynamic emerging-market developing countries" will surely, at least for the moment, put an end to the discussion about the legitimacy of this international institution.
Sluggish reform on power sharing between developed and developing economies once significantly crippled the IMF's ability to reflect and respond to the dramatic changes in the world economic landscape. ...
The bigger-than-expected shift of voting power within the IMF will also considerably boost confidence in the forthcoming G20 summit in Seoul next month.
At a time when the global recovery is increasingly threatened by tensions over trade imbalance and exchange rate issues, some sort of breakthrough is badly needed to avoid a widening of the gulf between emerging and developed nations. ...
The Telegraph, London, on Haiti still needing help:
When an earthquake struck Haiti in January, the world hoped that, having plumbed the depths, the lot of this dirt-poor, malgoverned republic could only improve. Over nine months later, that hope has barely been realised, the latest symbol of failure being an outbreak of cholera which is threatening the capital, Port-au-Prince. Hundreds of thousands of people are still in tented camps and tons of rubble have still to be cleared. Only a small fraction of the .... aid promised by donors has come through, with the US Senate proving particularly recalcitrant. Both within and outside Haiti, the record has been dire ...
The main bar to recovery has been the incapacity of the Haitian state, already weak before many of its officials were killed. Public anger has been directed primarily at President Rene Preval, who is due to step down early next year. The United Nations, which has pressed for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in November, despite huge logistical problems, is evidently hoping that a new head of state will provide fresh impetus to reconstruction. ...
Patience and persistence are, therefore, the watchwords. Much more of the pledged aid must be disbursed, whether for providing proper homes for those displaced or creating jobs in a country heavily dependent on an agricultural economy wrecked by slash-and-burn methods. Conditions in Haiti remain a disgrace both to the government in Port-au-Prince and to those foreign states which have promised to help lift the country from its nadir.