Editorial Roundup: Excerpts From Recent Editorials

The Associated Press Published:

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

Feb. 21

The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee on politicking and social welfare groups:

Voters have a right to know who tries to sway elections and influence politicians with their money. The Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Senate have an obligation to help bring about that transparency.

Eight U.S. senators correctly called on IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman to improve visibility at one of the blind intersections of money and politics.

Political operatives establish so-called social welfare organizations governed by Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(4), and use the secrecy afforded to them by the law to carry out electioneering activity. Through inaction, the IRS has permitted these organizations to proliferate.

These nonprofits exist on the right and on the left. Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist operates one that aids Republicans, as does conservative strategist Karl Rove. President Barack Obama's backers set up one to help his re-election. ...

Nonprofit corporations benefit from tax codes. They are exempt from state and federal taxes. In exchange, the law limits the amount of time they can devote to election campaigns. Inexplicably, the IRS refuses to enforce that law.

Identities of contributors who donate money to candidates' campaigns are publicly disclosed. But donors who contribute to nonprofit corporations know that their identities and the amounts they give will remain confidential.

They know they will never be held accountable for their actions.

Not surprisingly, many of the most underhanded television ads are funded by these secretive organizations.

What's more, operators of the corporations need not disclose basic information until long after votes have been cast. The amounts raised by these organizations in 2012 won't become known until as late as October 2013, hardly useful for voters hoping to make informed choices. ...

Just as Shulman should crack down on campaign operations that masquerade as nonprofits, the Senate should approve pending legislation, S. 219, to require that senators file their campaign finance reports online.

Online:

http://www.sacbee.com

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Feb. 21

The Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times on efforts on the housing market:

Two years ago the Obama administration sought to stimulate the housing market by offering certain home-buyers an $8,000 tax credit. Now some banks are coming up with their own incentives to encourage sales with cash offers to eligible sellers rather than buyers.

With a huge inventory of foreclosed homes, banks, which have been under investigation for their practices, are trying to avoid further foreclosures through the use of short sales in which properties are sold for less than is owed on the mortgages. Last November, 9 percent of single family home sales were short sales, up from less than 7 percent in November 2010. Upfront cash helps make the deal.

JPMorgan Chase will give cash-strapped homeowners up to $35,000 with Wells Fargo offering incentives ranging from $3,000 to $20,000, if homeowners agree to a short sale to avoid lengthy and costly foreclosure, USA Today reported.

"When a loan modification isn't possible a short sale may be a better and faster solution," JPMorgan spokesman Thomas Kelly said.

Bank of America is testing a program in Florida with incentives ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 before deciding whether to go national. In Florida, half of the mortgages in foreclosure are more than two years past due.

Not all borrowers are being offered incentives, which are being determined on a case-by-case basis. However, it is another means of clearing the backlog that will be necessary to revive the national housing market.

Online:

http://www.watertowndailytimes.com

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Feb. 18

The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wis., on the 2013 budget:

In case you need another sign of how screwed up Washington is, here you go:

Despite the fact that Congress hasn't passed a budget in more than three years, President Barack Obama's 2013 budget plan was already dead when he released it.

Critics say Obama's plan is more of a campaign statement than a serious budget proposal and that it does nothing to address the growing costs of Social Security and Medicare. And they're right.

But, at the same time, there have been no efforts by the Republican-controlled House or the Democratic-controlled Senate to come together on a budget plan, either.

Everyone -- the president, the House and the Senate -- looks like losers who are paralyzed by their own dysfunction, not just on the budget but on, well, everything.

With Congress' approval rating in the single digits and a seemingly simple item like passing an extension of the payroll tax deduction being touted as some major accomplishment, you'd think that might dawn on our legislators, but it hasn't. ...

The House GOP passes bill after bill, just to say it did, knowing they'll go nowhere in the Senate.

But the Senate Democrats are no better, refusing to take up anything the House passes and, in general, being utterly inactive. ...

... The smart thing to do is change your approach. Try something else.

Congress can start by just looking at the Obama budget bill. Take it apart and put it back together. Work together to find areas of agreement, however rare they might be

But don't just call it "dead on arrival." ...

Online:

http://www.postcrescent.com

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Feb. 19

The Dallas Morning News on U.S.-Mexico border entry:

The legal -- and vital -- movement of people across the U.S.-Mexico border is seldom in the public consciousness. The national discourse is so dominated by illegal entries that we end up defining migration by an illicit act that is, statistically speaking, a gross aberration. The overwhelming number of people who enter from Mexico do so legally in a routine that stands out for its astonishing numbers.

At the Paso del Norte Bridge in El Paso, for example, between 12,000 and 14,000 pedestrians heading north are processed on any given day. Managing this daily mass migration on foot is a daunting task because it requires balancing two seemingly competing goals: securing the border even while expediting commerce.

Over the last few years, the federal government, to its credit, has invested millions of dollars in modernizing border entry points, including the bridge crossing at El Paso. More than 1 in 3 border crossers at this heavily used port of entry now have cards embedded with a microchip that allows for an expedited review. The new system for pedestrians, which is voluntary and was launched in November, has reduced wait times by a quarter. ...

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security ... designed a system that safeguards privacy. Most significantly, the microchip on the card contains only a number, which is read electronically and then used to access information from a secure database. Were someone to read the microchip, all that would be obtained is a random number assigned by the card's manufacturer. ...

The system is still being tested and modified in El Paso, which is where U.S. Customs and Border Protection set up the pilot program. The goal is to expand it to other pedestrian-heavy ports of entry, which include Brownsville and Laredo in Texas, Nogales in Arizona and San Ysidro, south of San Diego. That makes sense. Each of these places serves as a daily portal into the country for thousands of legal migrants who deserve smooth passage.

Online:

http://www.dallasnews.com

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Feb. 21

The Denver Post on the English-only debate:

If you go to the U.S. Small Business Administration's website, SBA.gov, you'll see a "Translate" button in the upper right-hand corner. Proceed to the drop-down menu and click on one of the many languages there and soon you'll be reading -- or gazing at -- the same SBA material in Greek, Italian, Yiddish, Malay or Maltese, among other possibilities.

We consider the translation service a neat use of advanced technology. Unfortunately, that's not the view of those pushing legislation to make English the nation's official language so that all "official functions" of government are conducted only in English. They'd outlaw that "translate" option. Indeed, their definition of "official" includes "any function that ... is otherwise subject to scrutiny by either the press or the public" -- so goodbye to the translation software.

The English Language Unity Act, which is supported by Colorado Republican Congressmen Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn, is the sort of bill that probably sounds appealing to many voters but that mostly fails to address their actual concerns. For example, some voters no doubt worry about whether immigrants are assimilating fast enough to preserve a common American culture. We think the answer is yes, but even if we're wrong, this bill won't really help. ...

If Congress wants to toughen the English-language requirement for naturalization, so be it. That may be desirable. But is it really necessary that newcomers master 18th century patterns of speech as well?

The English Language Unity Act is a badly flawed bill that should never make it into law.

Online:

http://www.denverpost.com

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Feb. 21

The Post and Courier of Charleston on space junk:

Great things have been achieved in 55 years of space exploration. But accompanying those achievements are a half-million pieces of space litter in orbit around the Earth.

Leave it to the Swiss to come up with a plan to clean it up -- and to make a profit by doing so.

Recently, the Swiss Space Center announced plans to launch an $11 million satellite called CleanSpace One to capture and "de-orbit" space debris, including satellites, rocket stages and assorted other litter.

The idea is to capture the debris and direct it back to Earth where it would burn up in the atmosphere on its way down.

Doing so would greatly reduce problems for the practical use of that increasingly crowded area around the Earth. The space junk can collide with functioning satellites and quickly turn them into more litter, and more problems.

There are technical problems to overcome, but a launch is anticipated in five years, according to The Associated Press.

The first goal of the Swiss project?

Cleaning up after itself, by eliminating two Swiss satellites launched in 2009 and 2010. Eventually, the Swiss hope to market the janitorial service in space.

Who says that nature abhors a vacuum?

Online:

http://www.postandcourier.com

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Feb. 20

The News & Observer of Raleigh on wasted stimulus dollars:

It's a given, during the presidential primary debates, that the billions of federal "stimulus" dollars were wasted. That money was said to be gone, vanished, and for no good purpose. Never mind that about a third of the funds went for tax cuts, and another third to keep states' finances afloat. The final third, which financed improvements such as roads and buildings, generally wasn't wasted either.

For example, a recent News & Observer article about the new North Carolina National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, in Raleigh, mentioned that the facility -- which sensibly brings together the Guard, the Highway Patrol's emergency communications center, along with DOT and other state emergency personnel -- was paid for in large part with federal stimulus funds. It's the largest single Recovery Act project in the state.

This is an up-to-date building designed to do an important job, for years to come. Constructing it created jobs; having it creates public-safety efficiencies. Is that the waste they're talking about?

Online:

http://www.newsobserver.com

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Feb. 19

The Seattle Times on U.S. Postal Service reforms:

Overdue financial reforms for the U.S. Postal Service should be a priority delivery. They should not include new sources of revenue that directly compete with existing businesses.

Congress is wrestling with how to staunch the losses at the Postal Service without dramatic changes. It is wishful thinking in the face of plunging mail volumes, stunning employee overhead and yet another quarterly loss, this one at $3.3 billion.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahue is proposing a five-year cost-cutting plan that has lawmakers from rural districts in a panic. The ideas represent a no-nonsense effort to save more than $6 billion a year by closing 252 mail-processing centers and 3,700 post offices. More than 100,000 jobs would be lost.

Included in Donahue's proposal, which was restated recently in a letter to Congress, is an end to Saturday service, slower delivery and a nickel increase in postage to 50 cents for a first-class stamp. ...

Congress is of two minds, and the stalling is costing a bundle. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., has Senate Bill 1789, which follows the closure template, but is considered an improvement. Bipartisan resistance is growing. In part the protests are over first-class service bumping down to three-day delivery. At the core, however, are rural jobs and the cultural role of local post offices.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has HR 2309, which also promotes five-day delivery, and would gradually eliminate discounts for nonprofits and their direct-mail campaigns. He has resisted a key change that others argue could make the Postal Service marginally profitable: changes to employee benefits systems. ...

Stay focused on mail delivery. Make postmarks count, so bill payers do not suffer late fees with slow delivery. ...

The first savings is ending the massive prepayments on future health benefits, then making sure the mail is delivered. ...

Online:

http://www.seattletimes.com

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Feb. 17

The Telegraph, London, on Iran:

When the Cold War ended more than two decades ago, the shadow of nuclear catastrophe lifted on both sides of the Iron Curtain. This year, that era of relative comfort could well draw to a close; alternatively, the West's efforts to prevent that from happening could trigger a crisis of such gravity that countless millions will be affected.

If that sounds like an alarmist prognosis, consider the situation in Iran. Despite an ever-tightening net of economic sanctions -- not to mention a covert campaign of sabotage -- Iran is drawing inexorably closer to achieving the ability to build nuclear weapons. At the last count, 6,208 centrifuges were enriching uranium inside a previously secret plant at Natanz, defying six United Nations resolutions which ban the regime in Tehran from operating a single such machine. Meanwhile, a further 412 centrifuges have been moved to another once-secret installation ...

Iran's scientists may soon be able to present their country's obdurate and ruthless leaders with an invulnerable means of constructing a nuclear arsenal. As William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, warns in his interview with this newspaper, any such decision on the part of the regime would trigger a "new Cold War in the Middle East without, necessarily, all the safety mechanisms". ...

As Hague makes clear, the window to avoid this outcome is closing. ... Yet destroying Iran's nuclear installations would trigger a war that could escalate into a regional conflagration, threatening the global economy by causing oil prices to soar. The risks attached to military action are such that no government presently favors this option: even Israel's official position remains that sanctions should still be given time to work.

Online:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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Feb. 13

The Globe and Mail, Toronto, on oil sands and climate change:

Canada is justified in making very clear to the European Union that it may well start a World Trade Organization lawsuit, if there is a vote in favor of a proposed measure that would attach a special opprobrium to oil from the Canadian oil sands, under the EU's fuel quality directive.

A group called Friends of the Earth Europe is making much of Canadian documents it has obtained under a freedom-of-information request, but in fact Joe Oliver, the Minister of Natural Resources, made public the federal government's position in October, 2011, in a letter to the EU's commissioner for energy. He raised the prospect that Canada would "not hesitate to defend its interests" if "unjust, discriminatory measures ... are put in place."

According to the WTO, countries have a duty to treat similar goods from other countries similarly to their own, and not to discriminate. Some elements in the EU, however, are trying to stigmatize oil-sands bitumen as being in an ignominious class of its own. What's more, WTO case law has already established that different production processes -- oil-sands extraction requires special techniques -- do not make similar products dissimilar.

This controversy has a hypothetical, somewhat unreal, quality, because Canada does not export bitumen to Europe from the oil sands. Europe does, however, import comparable heavy crudes from Nigeria and the Middle East -- which are often worse on the emissions front. The EU measure, if approved, would be a rhetorical gesture, but one that would doubtless be invoked in other settings in order to damage Canada's reputation.

... Fortunately, Britain and France are on Canada's side, and a number of other EU members appear well disposed, too. The federal government is right not to let the oil sands be manipulated as a pawn in a much larger debate over climate change.

Online:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com

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Feb. 17

China Today, Beijing, on the European financial crisis

China is putting flesh on the bones of its commitment to work together with the European Union to address the evolving European sovereign debt crisis.

Both President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao assured visiting EU leaders that the country supports global efforts to back the eurozone and Europe.

On Feb. 15, China's central bank also pledged it will increase its holdings of euro-denominated assets.

Though specific investment plans are yet to be announced, China's willingness to help clearly goes far beyond rhetoric. And the reason is more than obvious as the two sides rank among each other's top trade partners and China is eager to diversify its portfolio of foreign exchange reserves.

However, while such external support is important if Europe is to survive the ongoing debt crisis, it is unrealistic to expect too much of such help.

The eurozone must come up with a credible long-term solution of its own. ...

Admittedly, debt-laden countries should be held accountable for their rapid accumulation of debt, which was enabled by the creation of the single currency market more than a decade ago. But that does not mean EU policymakers can ignore the difficult and painful task of implementing fiscal consolidation plans. ...

A self-help program within the eurozone is therefore badly needed.

It is believed that Europe can find a better way to make use of its overall strength to expedite economic recovery in those debt-laden countries.

Only then will external help really work as hoped.

Online:

http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn

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Feb. 21

The Daily Star, Beirut, on Yemen's future:

Many Yemenis are rightly questioning whether the Feb. 21 vote constitutes the democratic future they have fought for, and in many cases, died for; whether this is really the promised end to Saleh's 33-year rule.

Over a year after Yemenis first took to the streets to demand political reform, the country will go to the polls in an uncontested election in which ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh's deputy is the sole candidate.

In a deal signed late last year and brokered by Gulf states in Saudi Arabia, where Saleh was recovering from wounds sustained in a rocket attack on his palace, the former president agreed to transfer power to Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Now in the U.S. for further treatment, Saleh has vowed to return once more to Yemen.

The deal stipulated that Hadi could run uncontested, granted Saleh immunity from prosecution and allowed his party, the General People's Congress, to maintain power through a power-sharing deal with the opposition. Twelve members of Saleh's family have retained their positions in senior security and political roles, including his son as commander of the Republican Guard Forces and his nephew as commander of the paramilitary Central Security Forces.

While Hadi has vowed to usher in major reforms, including the drafting of a new constitution and a reorganization of the army, the country faces many great challenges, and coupled with Hadi's ascendancy to power in a way many view as undemocratic, it is unclear as to what the next few years will hold. ...

Coupled with endemic corruption, none of these signs point toward a stable, democratic or prosperous Yemen. They point toward the creation of a failed state.

Online:

http://www.dailystar.com.lb