Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The New York Times on Obama's explanation for military involvement in Libya:
President Barack Obama made the right, albeit belated, decision to join with allies and try to stop Moammar Gadhafi from slaughtering thousands of Libyans. But he has been far too slow to explain that decision, or his long-term strategy, to Congress and the American people.
On the night of March 28, the president spoke to the nation and made a strong case for why America needed to intervene in this fight _ and why that did not always mean it should intervene in others.
Obama said that the United States had a moral responsibility to stop "violence on a horrific scale," as well as a unique international mandate and a broad coalition to act with. He said that failure to intervene could also have threatened the peaceful transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, as thousands of Libyan refugees poured across their borders, while other dictators would conclude that "violence is the best strategy to cling to power." ...
To his credit, Obama did not sugarcoat the difficulties ahead. While he suggested that his goal, ultimately, is to see Gadhafi gone, he also said that the air war was unlikely to accomplish that by itself.
Most important, he vowed that there would be no American ground troops in this fight. ...
Instead, he said the United States and its allies would work to increase the diplomatic and military pressure on Gadhafi and his cronies. ...
The president made the right choice to act, but this is a war of choice, not necessity. Presidents should not commit the military to battle without consulting Congress and explaining their reasons to the American people. ..
The Denver Post on the government-sponsored report about BP's Macondo blowout preventer:
A recent report provided much-needed answers about how a critical piece of equipment failed to avert an oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now it should be easier for the United States to push forward with a reasonable and responsible offshore drilling program.
The government-sponsored report said the blowout preventer at BP's Macondo well malfunctioned because surging oil and gas mangled a drill pipe, and emergency shears weren't able to fully sever the pipe.
It is a conclusion that suggests a relatively straightforward solution: Design a better blowout preventer.
To be sure, there were many other mistakes and problems that contributed to the disaster. We aren't soft-pedaling the need for reasonably overhauled regulations on offshore drilling operations. However, had the blowout preventer _ the last line of defense _ functioned as designed, the worst oil spill in U.S. history would have been averted.
A forensic analysis of the massive set of valves, performed by a Norwegian company under contract to government investigators, suggested the task may not be as simple as it might sound. The report raised serious questions as to whether the massive shears are even able to accomplish the task that they are designed for. That question must be answered before policymakers can focus on ensuring a vastly improved blowout preventer becomes standard equipment on underwater wells.
Such a development is crucial to the continued offshore drilling that this country must pursue to support its energy needs. ...
The time has come to take on the issue, and we hope federal regulators will do so in a way that balances environmental protections and industry concerns.
The Seattle Times on Catholic sex-abuse scandals:
After decades of silence, deceit and settlements, the Roman Catholic Church's sexual-abuse scandal might finally be headed where it truly belongs, U.S. criminal courts.
Church leadership has been granted extraordinary latitude in handling epic cases of sexual assault against children who put their innocence and trust in religious figures who violated them, sometimes for years. ...
Recently, a $166 million settlement was announced for victims abused by Jesuit priests on Northwest tribal lands and in remote Alaskan villages. ...
But real progress came across the country in Philadelphia, where a judge approved requests by the district attorney to move ahead in a case involving accusations of rape and conspiracy involving clergy, and a subsequent cover-up by a senior church official. ...
In the U.S. and elsewhere, the church was given authority and deference it did not deserve and repeatedly violated in the handling of cases that date back decades. Instances of abuse are still being revealed. ...
The outside world did not sully a sacred vocation. No more operating above the law. Turn those accused of assault and abuse over to secular authorities. Send the guilty to jail.
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, on federal spending cuts:
If you're looking for something positive in the federal government's serious deficit, here is something.
There are plenty of places to cut in the federal budget.
The Government Accountability office recently released a report that identified nine specific ways to save up to $20 billion over time. Some of the reforms have already started.
And the GAO is being careful on this because some apparent duplication may not save money. Some careful thought is needed, a scalpel rather than an ax. Therefore, the GAO identified 81 different areas for examination. ...
The Center for American Progress highlighted defense spending and tax enforcement as worthy of further study. ...
One key suggestion is to get rid of unneeded federal property. A report by Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., and others made it clear that $2 billion could be saved by selling at least 20 percent of underperforming federal real estate. In addition, leases should be renegotiated to take advantage of declining market rates. ...
If President Barack Obama wants to move to the political center, he ought to start an aggressive move immediately to cut back the size of the federal government.
The public will know his project is serious when the bureaucrats begin to complain.
Right now, the federal government is largely a protected class when compared to the stresses in the private work force.
Chicago Sun-Times on the 40th anniversary of Starbucks:
Star bucks went into business 40 years ago, and coffee drinking hasn't been the same. The Seattle-based innovator made the "small" into the "tall," the clerk into the barista and the complex order into performance art and punch line _ shot-of-this, skinny-that, 180-degrees, please.
It even went global, winning converts in the tea-drinking strongholds of Japan and Britain. China, you're next.
What Starbucks didn't do, however, is make coffee the adult beverage of choice once again. Despite the chain's visibility, coffee consumption in the U.S. peaked decades ago.
Anyone who thinks America is big on the bean today should turn back the clock to 1946: Our soldiers had returned from war, evidently hankering for caffeine. We brewed 46.4 gallons per capita that year, almost double the amount today.
What changed? Soda pop took off, and more recently bottled water. As women joined the workforce, fewer prepared coffee at home. Supermarket sales plunged.
By the time Starbucks got rolling on March 30, 1971, coffee had become a commodity in every sense of the word. ...
Starbucks' success has raised the bar. ... So thanks, Starbucks, on your 40th birthday, for making it easier to find a decent cup of coffee _ in your stores and in many others, too.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the federal budget:
Here's how not to deal with the federal government's long-term fiscal problems: Focus on only a third of the budget.
But that's what Congress is doing as the government veers toward a potential government shutdown less than two weeks from now.
Members of Congress are fighting over discretionary spending, a small slice of the overall budget. Democrats are making a new pitch, this time to trim $20 billion more, on top of the $10 billion of cuts Congress already has made. Republicans, facing tea party pressure from their right wing, have sought up to $61 billion in cuts.
Sorry, but we won't get the nation's fiscal house in order by arguing over National Public Radio and the national parks. Entitlement spending _ for Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid _ should be addressed. And significant cuts to the defense budget must be on the table.
The federal budget deficit is expected to hit a record $1.65 trillion this year. Congress faces an April 8 deadline for reaching agreement on a spending plan for the current fiscal year. ..
The Government Accountability Office has found that "current fiscal policy is unsustainable over the long term." Rising health care spending and an aging population have put the nation on a fast track to insolvency. The sooner the nation acts to rein in entitlement spending in a humane fashion, the better.
The News & Observer of Raleigh on the legacy of Geraldine Ferraro:
Most Americans born in the last 25 years probably don't know the name Geraldine Ferraro. But they should, as then-Congresswoman Ferraro gained more than a footnote in history in 1984 as the first woman to serve on a national party ticket as the vice presidential candidate. Ferraro, who died March 26 at 75, remained somewhat active in public policy issues for the quarter century-plus that followed that campaign, but her candidacy of a few months with Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale will be her legacy.
Mondale, Jimmy Carter's vice president, was facing what proved to be the insurmountable popularity of incumbent President Ronald Reagan, and the Ferraro choice was seen as a bold move to bring attention to the ticket. Ferraro proved to be a formidable campaigner, though she was questioned about issues in ways that a female candidate would not face today, such as whether foreign powers would think a woman strong enough to stand up to other leaders. There also were all sorts of worries about how she and Mondale should act toward each other (kiss on the cheek or handshake?) and the role Ferraro's husband would play in the campaign. His business dealings in fact were made an issue by Republicans.
But it's fair to say that Ferraro's candidacy did encourage more women to seek office, and it also diluted at least some of the old-fashioned chauvinism that was not too far under the surface in national politics. After all, women really have come to the forefront as candidates for major political office and for judgeships in fairly recent history. (Beverly Perdue is the first woman governor of North Carolina, for example.) At least some measure of that success is due to the courage of the congresswoman from Queens...
The Providence (R.I.) Journal on the center of the U.S.:
Where is the center of the United States? Census Bureau figures for 2010 suggest the answer is: Not where it was. Since 2000, U.S. population has been shifting to the West. The change continues a decades-long slide in which the Northeast and the Midwest have steadily ceded their dominance.
Currently, what is called the mean center of population lies in Phelps County, Mo. The Associated Press reports that the center is expected to move southwest of there, probably to Texas County, Mo., when the Census Bureau unveils new numbers next month. (Abandoning Illinois, the center point crossed into Missouri in 1980.)
Yet what does it really mean, this mean center? Simply that, given its distribution, the U.S. population would balance in Place X, if each of the country's more than 300 million residents weighed the same. (As we all know from the recent scientific obsession with measuring the nation's obesity, some places are fatter than others. The mean center of population may therefore not be all that it seems.) ...
Arab News, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on U.S. involvement in Libya:
Nearly two weeks after U.S. and European jets started pounding forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi's, President Barack Obama has finally broken his silence on what's being labeled as the third Western war on the Muslim world. The U.S. leader tried to explain to Americans why the U.S. had to get involved in Libya. And ever the suave and persuasive orator that he is, Obama managed to do so.
Indeed, even as the U.S, France and Britain come under fire for Libyan strikes some of which have ended up killing civilians, it's not possible to ignore the fact that the West was offered a perfect opportunity _ excuse? _ to intervene in the Arab country by the Libyan strongman himself who unleashed despicable savagery against his own people.
Of course, given the long and sordid history of Western machinations in the region, it's but natural everyone is suspicious of its intentions. How can anyone forget what happened _ and is still happening _ in Afghanistan and Iraq? ...
This is why many suspect the Western interest in Libya is driven by the oil factor. ...
It has taken Uncle Sam eight years and more than 5,000 American lives, not to mention more than a million Iraqi lives and destruction of an ancient civilization, to realize the absurd and unjust nature of its foreign policy. Nonetheless, this is a welcome change in the US policy, if it's indeed a change. Does it mean the US has finally realized that it's not the lord of all it surveys and regime change is not its job but the people of Libya, or for that matter, of Iraq and Afghanistan? We'll wait and see.
The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, on nuclear worker's safety:
Safety must be ensured for the workers on the front line of the battle to contain the nuclear crisis triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. ...
The Nos. 1-4 reactors at the Fukushima plant are still in dangerous and volatile conditions. It is imperative to restore the cooling systems for these reactors and their spent fuel pools to stabilize the situation.
To achieve that goal, a mountain of tasks must be carried out in areas contaminated with high levels of radioactivity.
Completing the mission will take at least a month, according to one estimate. This is going to be a long, drawn-out battle.
People from various companies and organizations are working at the crippled plant, tackling a broad array of tasks according to their skills and expertise. ...
The government needs to obtain maximum assistance and cooperation from various organizations, including reinforcements from other electric power companies and manufacturers.
Some 700 employees of TEPCO and affiliated companies are currently working at the Fukushima power station. Many of them come from local communities in the quake-hit areas. Some of them have had their houses swept away by the tsunami ... Some of them can only get one or two hours of sleep in a chair a day.
A system should be created swiftly to ensure that the people engaged in the heroic efforts to defuse this national crisis will receive all the possible support from both the government and the private sector, including from the nuclear power industry, nuclear safety experts and medical institutions.
The Ottawa Sun on nuclear energy protests:
The stunt monkeys from Greenpeace showed up in Courtice, Ont., to do what they always do.
After all, the stunt monkeys ... are nothing if not predictable.
This time, they chained themselves to a table _ other times it's a gate, or a tree, or a piece of equipment _ to disrupt public hearings into Ontario Power Generation's plan to build new reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Station.
Greenpeace pulls these stunts because it has nothing constructive or realistic to offer to solve complex problems like balancing our energy needs with public safety and concern for the environment.
But don't take our word for it.
Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore abandoned the stunt monkeys years ago in disgust, saying while they started off as sincere environmentalists with a valid cause, they have, over the years, become increasingly "antihuman" in their views.
Moore told a British documentary several years ago that once their sensible views became mainstream, "the only way to remain antiestablishment was to adopt ever more extreme positions." ...
If wind and solar energy were capable _ as the stunt monkeys inaccurately claim _ of providing reliable, affordable, on-demand, base-load electricity to the Ontario grid, who wouldn't be in favour of shutting down all nuclear plants tomorrow?
But that's just not realistic.
And so we have tough decisions to make in a province where 50 percent of our power comes from nuclear energy, balancing safety with energy and environmental concerns. ...
The Telegraph, London, on Syrian unrest:
As its planes and submarines destroy Moammar Gadhafi's ability to kill his own people, Britain is naturally preoccupied with Libya. But a much more significant struggle is taking place in Syria, where about 60 anti-government demonstrators have been shot dead over the past 10 days. Situated between Israel and Iran, Syria is at the core of conflict in the Middle East. By comparison, Libya is a side show.
The unrest understandably worries Western governments. Will President Bashar al-Assad and his fellow Alawites cling grimly to power, possibly seeking to divert attention from domestic affairs by picking a fight with Israel? If they fall, will the Sunni majority take fearful revenge on a Shia sect that has dominated the country for the past 41 years? And what might be the complexion of a Sunni-led administration _ moderate and willing to seek peace with Israel, or rejecting its very existence, like Iran? Given such uncertainty, the argument "better the devil you know" appeals.
It is best countered by looking at the record of the Syrian government over the past 10 years. As is the case in most Arab countries, it has failed dismally to create jobs for an overwhelmingly youthful population and has squashed any signs of political dissent. In addition, it has sought to acquire nuclear weapons. Abroad, it has continued to support groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbollah, thus remaining on the State Department's list of regimes that sponsor terrorism. It has undermined the government of Saad Hariri in Lebanon, to the advantage of Hizbollah, and, despite appeals from Washington, has moved closer to Iran. That is no recipe for stability, either at home or abroad. Uncertainty is worrying. But we know enough about the Assad dynasty not to shed any tears over its demise.