Editorial Roundup: Excerpts From Recent Editorials

The Associated Press Published:

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

Feb. 28

Los Angeles Times on fallout from Quran burnings at U.S. base in Afghanistan:

Three Republican presidential candidates are shamelessly criticizing President Barack Obama for apologizing to the government of Afghanistan for the incineration of Qurans at a U.S. military base in that country. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum should be praising the president instead, not only because acknowledging the offense to Muslim sensibilities was the decent thing to do but because it may have prevented an even worse backlash than the one that has cost four American lives so far.

That said, the violence -- in which more Afghans than Americans have been killed -- is an ominous reminder of the fragility of the relationship between the United States and its allies on the one hand, and an Afghan populace wearied by a decade of Western occupation on the other. Especially shocking was the execution-style murder of two U.S. service members assigned to the supposedly secure precincts of the Interior Ministry. The gunman, who is still at large, is suspected of being an Afghan police intelligence officer. Afterward, U.S. commanders withdrew Western military advisors from various Afghan ministries as a precaution. The symbolism was stark: Americans couldn't trust their Afghan allies. ...

After stabilizing the military situation in Afghanistan with a surge of 33,000 troops in late 2009, Obama is now withdrawing forces, and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has expressed hope that the U.S. combat role in the country will end in 2013, a year earlier than NATO originally estimated. Meanwhile, the U.S. is gingerly exploring the possibility of a political solution in Afghanistan while reorienting its anti-terror strategy to targeted attacks on individuals. Someday -- sooner rather than later, we hope -- U.S. troops will be gone and there will be less of an opportunity for clashes of culture like the conflict over the burning of the Quran.

Online:

http://www.latimes.com

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Feb. 27

The Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y., on a war correspondent's death in Syria.

Because the profession is so routinely denigrated by critics or those with political agendas, it is easy to forget that journalism is an often thankless, endlessly difficult and, at times, life-threatening occupation. Marie Colvin reminded the world of that.

The 56-year-old foreign correspondent was killed recently in Homs, Syria, the victim of rocket attacks that also claimed the life of French photojournalist Remi Ochlik. They were the sixth and seventh journalists killed in Syria since November (an eighth died Feb. 24). With Homs surrounded, they may well be buried there.

While the extent of the government shelling is not fully known, its human toll has been felt worldwide because of the reporting Colvin did right up until her death.

... She shared the grievous conditions inside Homs -- a city being pounded by its own government as Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad seeks to quell a popular uprising. Colvin reported on -- and from -- a cellar known as the widow's basement, where women and children huddled, wept and prayed. The night before her own death, she shared a story of a baby who slowly died of his wounds.

Colvin believed it is the journalist's duty to provide such unvarnished, unflinching accounts of the realities of war. A longtime reporter for the Sunday Times of London, she shied away from nothing. Baghdad in 1991; Kosovo in the late 1990s; East Timor in 1999; Sri Lanka in 2001, where she lost an eye to shrapnel. She told stories from the victims' point of view, with special attention paid to women and children. ...

A fearless correspondent, Colvin brought honor to her profession. A product of Oyster Bay, Long Island, she brought honor to her state. Throughout her life and even in death, she brought attention to the humanitarian crisis that is, always, war.

Online:

http://www.democratandchronicle.com

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Feb. 27

The Baltimore Sun on U.S. transportation policy:

When U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican, recently called the House transportation bill the worst such measure he's seen in 35 years of public service, he was being kind. Surely, it's among the worst, most cynically partisan bills to ever threaten U.S. highway and transit infrastructure in all of recorded history.

That's because the serious business of building and maintaining roads, bridges, rail systems and other vital transportation assets is usually among the most bipartisan of Congressional actions. Every community requires such spending whether it's rural, a small town or a big city. Decaying bridges are a danger, and without transit, cities would not function.

But it's clear House Republicans have decided to ignore precedent, and the result has been an absolute mess. As introduced earlier this month, the $260 billion American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act would strip public transportation of its gas tax funding and pour it all into highways, open up protected lands to oil and gas drilling, and roll back contributions to federal employee pensions.

When it became clear that wasn't going to fly, House Speaker John Boehner broke it up into three components, won approval for the drilling and pension changes but pulled back the transportation bill for lack of support. ...

Even by Congressional standards, this is heavy-handed stuff. The Senate's version of the transportation bill, a more conventional two-year, $109 billion program, has won support from both Democrats and Republicans and is nothing like the House monstrosity. ...

Admittedly, the Obama administration has failed to show much leadership in this arena. The president's $476 billion, six-year transportation reauthorization included in its Fiscal 2013 budget proposes a level of spending that's appropriately high but unlikely to win Congressional approval. ...

Something close to the Senate bill -- a short-term patch -- is probably the most the nation can expect...

Online:

http://www.baltimoresun.com

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Feb. 26

The Eagle, Bryan-College Station, Texas, on the DISCLOSE Act:

Got an extra $52 million in your petty cash slush fund? Want to buy an election? Well, you can and no one would be any the wiser unless Congress passes the badly needed DISCLOSE Act.

If passed, the act would require greater disclosure of who is spending how much on political advertising. The rich still will be allowed to give huge sums of money to so-called Super PACs, but the bill would ensure that the rest of us know just who is spending that money in an effort to influence elections.

A couple of years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court in a hard to fathom ruling said that, for political purposes, corporations and unions are people with the same First Amendment rights and protections afforded those of us who are, indeed, real people.

In the wake of that ruling, outside groups called super PACs have grown in number, wealth and, thus, power. The rules that limit how much individuals can contribute to politicians' campaigns don't apply to these super PACs. So, corporations, unions and the super-rich can give as much as they want, to be spent on advertising designed to influence the outcome of elections. Officially, wink-wink, the super PACs cannot coordinate their messages with the actual campaigns of those running for office. Uh huh, they would never think of doing that, right?

Instead, the super PAC ads simply mirror closely the candidates' messages.

... Through Feb. 23, super PACs have spent $51.9 million trying to influence the November presidential election, most of it in support of the various candidates for the Republican nomination. A full 25 percent of that money came from just five extremely wealthy people.

The Supreme Court created this political monstrosity and Congress should work to overturn the court's bizarre ruling. But that likely will take a lot of effort and time. Until then, Congress should pass the DISCLOSE Act so that we can at least know who is seeking to buy our elections.

Online:

http://www.theeagle.com

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Feb. 27

The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo., on Keystone XL Pipeline politics:

A permit for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico was rejected by the Obama administration earlier this year, the result of a political showdown with Republicans in Congress.

Now a portion of the pipeline is coming back, and along with it, political posturing.

TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, said it now hopes to build the southern-most section of the pipeline, from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf Coast. Because this section of the pipeline doesn't cross an international border, no State Department approval is required for this portion, which would cost an estimated $3.2 billion.

The company also said it plans to renew its application for the full pipeline in the near future.

Even so, President Barack Obama signaled he was ready to offer his support to the southern portion of the Keystone pipeline because it would help alleviate a glut of oil at an Oklahoma storage facility.

But politics are part of the equation. An Obama spokesman also said the president is willing to look at any renewed application for the Keystone pipeline. He only rejected the earlier application because Republicans forced his hand by mandating that Obama make a decision on the initial application within a few months.

The GOP members of Congress certainly were playing politics when they added the Keystone mandate to an unrelated bill. And Obama was doing so when he announced before then that he intended to postpone any decision about Keystone until late this year -- after the November election. ...

TransCanada's announcement is evidence of a private entity trying to respond nimbly to a changing situation and still make a sound decision for the use of its resources. The question now is whether the politicians in Washington and the states involved will allow that to occur.

Online:

http://www.gjsentinel.com

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Feb. 23

The Miami Herald on Venezuela's political future:

An unusually reflective Hugo Chavez disclosed recently that his cancer has apparently returned, conceding that this forces the Venezuelan strongman to "rethink my personal agenda." The turn of events, although not totally unexpected, casts a shadow over Venezuela's political future and the upcoming presidential elections.

Even before the latest development, Chavez's henchmen had turned their rhetorical guns against his main opponent in this year's presidential elections, Henrique Capriles Radonski. ...

A Chávez propagandist denounced Capriles as the embodiment of Zionism and disparaged this as "an ideology of terror."

The disclosure of Chavez's cancer recurrence will no doubt raise the profile of Capriles even higher as someone who can carry the banner of democracy to victory in October. For once, the opposition has united behind a single figure, Capriles, who wants to restore Venezuela's institutions and end the chaos, mismanagement and dead-end policies of Chavez. ...

The international community cannot look the other way. Venezuela's friends, including the United States and the Organization of American States, should denounce the scurrilous campaign against Capriles.

The key to what happens next may lie with Venezuela's military, the ultimate guarantors of democracy. Mr. Chavez has done his best to indoctrinate the armed forces, but many believe it is not blindly pro-Chavez, at least not yet.

The military would become even more important in any non-Chavez scenario. The generals should be reminded that they owe their allegiance to the nation, not to Chavez, to safeguard the country's democratic tradition.

Online:

http://www.miamiherald.com

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Feb. 28

Parkersburg (W.Va.) News and Sentinel on the president's energy policies:

On the campaign fundraising trail in Florida recently, President Barack Obama addressed the rising cost of gasoline by talking up his own energy policies -- taking credit for increased oil and natural gas production. ...

... This is a cyclical rise. It has nothing to do with politicians or campaign promises.

Any decrease in the cost of gasoline will be the result of market forces, as well.

But rising gasoline prices will have an effect on attempts at economic recovery in this country. And Obama has missed several steps that might have buffered that blow.

His rejection of a permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline likely caused at the least a delay in efforts toward energy independence, and squashed the creation of possibly thousands of jobs.

And, for all Obama's talk about increased production, the trend actually began during the George W. Bush presidency, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The agency projects that by 2020, oil production will hit a level last seen in 1994.

Touting his alleged success in developing a greater mix of energy sources will not hold much water for Obama, either. Honest efforts by those who are working to develop renewable energy sources are, of course, admirable. But the percentage of cars on the road today powered by anything other than gasoline is minuscule.

Even his own staff quietly admits there is very little a president can do to affect gasoline prices in the short term. And Obama clearly has done nothing to increase oil production in the long run. To the contrary, through opposition to new drilling in many areas of the country, his administration has had a negative effect.

But that is not stopping Obama from using a little coal smoke and solar mirrors on the campaign trail.

Online:

http://www.newsandsentinel.com

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Feb. 28

The Washington Post on Afghanistan:

The latest crisis in Afghanistan strikes at the heart of the U.S. strategy for preventing the country from reverting to Taliban rule or becoming a base for al-Qaeda. If those goals are to be achieved, the Afghan security forces that have been recruited, trained and equipped at enormous cost over the past several years must be sustained -- something that will require continued training and advising by NATO, and heavy outside funding, for many years to come. That prospect seemed to be endangered recently when four U.S. soldiers were killed by Afghans in uniform. After an attack inside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, U.S. and NATO advisers were withdrawn from all ministries. ...

The probable trigger for the latest attacks was the mistaken but inexcusable burning of Korans at the U.S. air base in Bagram...

The popular backlash in Afghanistan nevertheless reflects deeper problems. There is understandable weariness with foreign troops after more than a decade of inconclusive war; resentment at the death of civilians in NATO operations; and frustration with the corruption and fecklessness of a U.S.-backed government. The Obama administration's... setting of politically motivated timetables for troop withdrawals and aggressive pursuit of negotiations with the Taliban has convinced many Afghans that the United States is preparing to abandon the country.

The only secure and honorable means of exit is to finish the work of creating an Afghan army and police force capable of defending the country from the Taliban and other extremists, with backup from U.S. special forces and air power. ... If the Obama administration chooses to accelerate the timetable or significantly reduce the funding -- and thus the size -- of Afghan forces, it will become nearly impossible.

Online:

http://www.washingtonpost.com

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Feb. 24

London Evening Standard on the U.S.-British extradition treaty:

The case of Christopher Tappin raises questions about this country's extradition treaty with the U.S. The retired businessman was extradited to Texas to face charges that he conspired in the sale of specialized batteries to Iran. U.S. authorities allege that Tappin, who ran a shipping company, knew the batteries were destined for use in Iranian surface-to-air missiles. Tappin says he had no such knowledge and was entrapped by an FBI sting (the Appeal Court rejected the latter claim). However, under the treaty the U.S. had merely to convince an English court that there is a "reasonable suspicion" against Tappin, not a prima facie case -- a test which critics say is less rigorous than the equivalent for Americans whose extradition is sought by the UK.

The treaty was agreed after 9/11 to expedite extradition of terror suspects. But other cases, notably that of hacker Gary McKinnon, have raised concerns that it is biased toward U.S. interests. Both Conservatives and the Lib Dems promised reform in opposition, but a wide-ranging review last year by a senior judge concluded that the treaty was fair. Still, the recent case of Abu Qatada, whose extradition to Jordan on terrorist charges was blocked by the European Court, contrasts oddly with that of Tappin. The U.S. has a fair legal system while authoritarian Jordan does not. But Tappin's case will add to the calls for a fresh review of our U.S. extradition treaty.

Online:

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk

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Feb. 24

Calgary Herald, Alberta, on oil sands and climate change:

Andrew Weaver, the respected Canada research chair in Climate Modeling and Analysis at the University of Victoria, and a lead author with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recently confirmed what we've been saying in this space for a long time -- that the demonization of Alberta's oilsands is vastly disproportionate to its actual impact.

The oilsands have been called a global "carbon bomb" by activist Bill McKibben. Their development will be "game over for the planet," according to James Hansen, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The oilsands have, in effect, become the whipping boy of the global environmental movement, which is also fighting a proxy war against the oilsands by opposing the Keystone and Northern Gateway pipelines.

Yet, developing the oilsands will not result in climate Armageddon. Extracting the resource will not be game over for the planet. As for a carbon bomb, there is one of nuclear proportions, but it is not the oilsands. It is coal, as we have repeatedly noted in attempting to bring some perspective to the shrill rhetoric surrounding the oilsands.

An analysis conducted by Weaver and co-author Neil Swart on the impact of various fossil fuels on future global temperatures reaffirms this. ...

As for the current state of affairs, they offer this:

"If only the reserve under active development were combusted, the warming would be almost undetectable at our significance level." Burning the world's coal reserves, by comparison, would have a warming potential of almost 15 degrees centigrade. Their study appeared in the publication Nature Climate Change, an affiliate of the highly respected science journal, Nature. ...

Online:

http://www.calgaryherald.com

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Feb. 28

The Japan Times, Tokyo, on dealing with North Korea:

The United States and North Korea held two days of talks recently in Beijing -- the first such talks between the two countries since the death of North Korea's long-time leader, Kim Jong Il, in December. The talks were a chance to look for signs of any changes in the North's positions under the leadership of its new leader, Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of the deceased leader, over dismantling of its nuclear weapons program and other issues. The negotiations produced no breakthrough, although they made "a little bit of progress," according to the U.S.

After the Beijing talks, U.S. special envoy Glyn Davies said, "there was nothing stylistically or substantively dramatically different in terms of how the North Koreans were presenting their positions." North Korea regards its nuclear weapons and missile programs as a great "revolutionary legacy" left by Kim Jong Il and is unlikely to give them up easily. It is all the more important for the U.S., Japan and South Korea to unify their approach on North Korea and persevere. ...

Pyongyang continues to pursue its nuclear weapons program even though it is unable to grow enough food to feed its own people. This fact reveals the inherent weakness of the North Korean government. If it sticks to its "military first" policy, dissatisfaction could increase among the North Korean people and the regime could eventually crumble from within. With this in mind, the U.S., Japan and South Korea should carefully study the conditions under which North Korea would accept a deal.

In Beijing, the U.S. and North Korea also discussed the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents. Japan should seek to hold bilateral talks with North Korea to resolve the abduction issue and lay the groundwork for the eventual normalization of bilateral ties. Insisting on a resolution of the abduction issue as a precondition for starting talks would be counterproductive.

Online:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp

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Feb. 23

Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Iran ratcheting up tensions in the region:

There are currently four spokes to the wheel that Iran is turning to ratchet up tension in the region.

By refusing to permit inspectors from the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, examine the key military nuclear site at Parchin, south of Tehran, the Iranian government has once again kicked sand in the face of the international community.

When the IAEA team arrived in the country, at Iran's invitation, it seemed that at last Tehran's claim that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only could be fully tested.

But not a bit of it. Once again the IAEA people became bogged down, with two days of frustrating meetings at which it quickly became apparent the Iranians were not about to accede to UN demands. ...

The second spoke is the movement of two warships through the Suez canal and into the eastern Mediterranean. Leaving Egyptian waters, the vessels headed straight to Syria, where it is suspected they offloaded further armaments for the Bashar Assad regime.

This third spoke to its brinkmanship wheel are joint force exercises carried out by Iran in the Gulf. The threat to block the Strait of Hormuz has to be taken seriously by all neighboring countries.

The final spoke on the dangerous wheel is the cutting off of oil supplies to France and the UK, in advance of the implementation of the EU's decision to boycott Iranian oil. The cut-off is not of itself serious -- Iran sold the French and British relatively small amounts of crude.

But it will have political and propaganda resonance where the Iranian regime most needs it, on its very own streets. ...

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad knows that the one thing that would unite Iranians behind his crumbling government, the one element that could restore his weakening control of the political process, would be an outside attack on something Iranian. Whether it was an Iranian warship or warplane or even the suspect Parchin military nuclear site itself does not matter. Iranians are a proud people. Such an attack would reunite them in anger and few would be likely to admit that it was the suicidal maneuverings of their own government that had provoked this assault.

Online:

http://www.arabnews.com