Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Los Angeles Times on contraceptive coverage:
Several Roman Catholic organizations have challenged Obama administration rules requiring religious colleges and hospitals (but not churches themselves) to offer preventive health care, including contraceptive coverage, with no deductibles or co-pays. Even though the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of most of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), the courts still have to decide whether those institutions are exempt from the contraception requirement under a federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Our view is that church-affiliated charitable and educational institutions should offer such coverage, even if they are self-insured. Not all of their employees are Catholic, and even many Catholics make a personal choice to use contraceptives. The Obama administration's decision to provide only a narrow religious exemption is the right one.
That said, religious colleges and hospitals are at least part of a church's religious mission, so the discussion makes sense. The same cannot be said for a company that sells heating, ventilation and air conditioning services. Yet a federal judge in Colorado is taking seriously a complaint by Hercules Industries, an HVAC company owned by a Catholic family, that the contraceptive mandate violates its rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Senior U.S. District Judge John L. Kane issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the contraceptive mandate against Hercules. ...
It's troubling that Kane sees a for-profit secular company as in any way analogous to a parochial school or Catholic hospital. It's not a new idea: Earlier this year Senate Republicans unsuccessfully proposed a bill to let any employer drop health coverage that didn't comport with his religious or moral beliefs. But it is a bad idea. Reasonably interpreted, neither the Religious Freedom Restoration Act nor the 1st Amendment provides an escape hatch for profit-making businesses from the ACA, any more than it exempts them from civil rights laws.
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, on college loan debt:
It's not exactly news that college loans could be the next bubble, passing the $1 trillion mark.
College loans are now greater than credit card debt.
Because they cannot be eliminated, even in bankruptcy, college loan debt can follow people to Social Security.
Now a Wall Street Journal article illustrates just what a bad debt college loans can be. ...
Lenders are offering college loans without the same kind of checks that used to be expected. And students, too often immature when it comes to offers of easy money, too often are taking on much more in loan burdens than they can afford.
So a new program from the Obama administration ought to be applauded. It encourages colleges to have students fill out a "Shopping Sheet" that illustrates the real cost of the debt to be undertaken. ...
Dawn Lockhart, CEO of Family Foundations... would like the proposed checklist of college costs to include a place for the student to pick a career that shows the sort of income the student can expect to make.
The income of the profession the student is pursuing will make a huge difference in the justification of the loan.
The student should have to take a moment and realize just how much of his beginning salary will go to college loans. As much as a car payment? As much as a mortgage payment? ... families with the means owe it to their children to take a long hard look at the loans their children are taking. And colleges themselves owe it to their students to forcefully encourage a hard look. ...
The Oneonta (N.Y.) Daily Star on offshore accounts of wealthy Americans.
Some staggering figures on tax evasion were revealed by British economist James Henry in a report titled "The Price of Offshore Revisited."
Henry, a former chief economist for the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., determined that at least $21 trillion worldwide is being stashed in tax havens such as Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, Hong Kong and Singapore. The study — which compiled data from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United States and central banks — said $21 trillion is a conservative estimate, and the actual figure could be as high as $32 trillion. By comparison, the entire annual U.S. economy totals roughly $15 trillion.
Equally frustrating is the relatively small number of tax cheats responsible for this "huge black hole in the world economy," as Henry described it. These offshore assets are held by fewer than 10 million people worldwide, and $9.8 trillion is held by the wealthiest 100,000 — or 0.001 percent of the world's population.
The banks that handle much of this activity have been hiding in plain sight — and could be held responsible, if doing so became a political priority. ...
In an era when many governments worldwide are resorting to painful tax hikes and budget cuts to balance their budgets, it's unconscionable that a small segment of the population can game the system using methods to which the average citizen doesn't have access. ...
The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo., on the Colorado shooting suspect:
When accused killer James Holmes appeared July 30 in district court in Arapaho County to be formally charged with numerous counts of murder and attempted murder, there were no cameras to film the orange-haired suspect, as there had been a week ago.
There were also not supposed to be any cellphones, audio recorders, laptop computers or iPads at the hearing for the man accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 others at an Aurora movie theater July 20.
Judge William Sylvester has apparently decided to turn back the clock on technology in hopes he can prevent Holmes' case from turning into the kind of media circus that other high-profile cases have unfortunately become. But he should rethink that strategy and look for ways to deal with today's technology ...
Concerns about a media barrage related to the Holmes case are certainly not without merit. Cases such as the O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony murder trials demonstrate how excessive media coverage — in which legal and law enforcement participants, defendants and witnesses all play to the camera — can change the trajectory of a criminal case.
More recently, there is the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida, in which politicians, pundits and talk show hosts have already convicted or exonerated suspect George Zimmerman, even though the case has not yet proceeded beyond bond hearings. ..
Attempting to retreat into a 19th century world through gag orders, technology bans and limited access to public documents won't prevent the 21st century from intruding. ...
The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, on U.S. drone strikes:
The government's decision to kill three U.S. citizens with drone missiles, allegedly disregarding their rights to due process, has been challenged in federal lawsuits against top military and national security officials. The Obama Administration now will need to explain how it engages in such attacks....
President Obama, who reportedly approves all drone targeting, cannot be sued for the deaths since he has absolute immunity from litigation stemming from official actions. The suits are backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights....
Many Americans have reservations about the U.S. government ordering the killing of people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, as it has done and continues to do, by unmanned drone aircraft. It is an impersonal means of waging war, highly susceptible to causing collateral damage, often through the inadvertent killing of innocent people in the vicinity of a targeted person....
It is useful that the lawsuits have been brought, and that the administration will be forced to provide a legal justification for its claimed right to execute American citizens without due process of law. Such an explanation should be informative to all Americans.
The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle on the 40th anniversary of the 1972 terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics:
Confronted with one of the largest television audiences in history, Olympic organizers could've made a statement for peace.
They chose politics instead.
We appreciate NBC Olympics host Bob Costas' indignation at the Olympics' bizarre decision to ignore the 40th anniversary of the 1972 terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics that killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.
The conscious, unrelenting decision to dishonor the dead by refusing to acknowledge them on a milestone anniversary speaks volumes ...
The Olympics should not just be about athletics; they should be about world peace as well. ...
This year's Olympics opening ceremony could have used the anniversary to make a historic, healing statement about hatred and racism and peace. Nope.
Instead, we got a peculiar bit of propaganda about the British National Health Service — socialized medicine. ...
Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star on accountability:
When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the now-infamous Citizens United ruling that unleashed a deluge of unaccountable corporate cash into the political system, the court had a pollyannaish view of what would happen next.
"With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.
It hasn't happened, thanks to the GOP.
Senate Republicans refused to let the Disclose Act even come to a vote. They filibustered the measure to death.
It's not difficult to figure out why.
The Grand Old Party thinks the current setup favors its side.
Back in 2010, Senate Republicans had a legitimate reason to vote against a previous version of the Disclose Act. Democrats had carved out exceptions from reporting requirements for a few groups like the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association.
Those carve-outs are gone now, but Republicans insist that provisions in the current bill exempting donations of less than $10,000 from individuals and less than $50,000 from affiliate organizations provide greater anonymity to unions. ...
Those provisions, however, applied to everyone — corporations, unions, trade associations and 501(c) (4)s. ...
Current reporting requirements are full of loopholes, and late deadlines mean groups can drop millions into a close race at the last minute and not have to identify themselves until the election is over. ...
That's un-American. ...
Times Herald, Port Huron, Mich., on poverty:
There's an ugly truth that keeps nagging us. As much as we might like to, it cannot be ignored. ...
More Americans are becoming poor. ...
The nation's 2011 poverty rate is expected to hit 15.7 percent, according to an Associated Press forecast, a troubling increase from 15.1 percent in 2010 and a harbinger of worse rates to come. ...
There's no disputing the Great Recession's impact on the growth of poverty. The national rate increased from 13.2 percent in 2008, when the economic crisis began, and has grown steadily ever since.
With the ranks of the poor significantly expanded with victims of the economy, it stands to reason that the threat of the growing poverty rate ought to have emerged as a critical issue. It has not.
Election campaigns locally, statewide and nationally don't address the threat of poverty or the increasing ranks of the poor. You won't hear a robocall, watch a television ad or read a campaign flier that mentions the issue, much less proposes ways to fight poverty.
Thank goodness for the soup kitchens, food pantries and other services that help the poor. Most of them struggle to meet the rising demand for their services despite reductions in government aid.
You won't see many politicians paying them visits in this election year — and you won't hear the candidates making any promises to win these resources greater support for the vital work they do.
Poverty is the status we fear and fight to avoid, but it is a condition few of us seem willing to do something about. It also is a circumstance that is becoming greater — and that ought to trip some alarms. ...
The Jerusalem Post on Mitt Romney's visit to Israel:
There is no doubt that Mitt Romney is a great friend and supporter of Israel. During his short but significant visit to the country, the former Massachusetts governor said all the right things.
He backed, inter alia, "any and all measures" to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons, Israel's right to defend itself (adding "it is right for America to stand by you") and its claim to Jerusalem as its capital — much to the chagrin of the Palestinians.
He argued that Israel's security is a "vital national security interest of the United States" and advocated a strong partnership between the two countries. ...
Romney received a warm welcome from Israeli leaders, especially Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who noted that they had been friends for decades.
Netanyahu stressed that international sanctions against Iran, led by the US, must be backed by a credible threat of military action. ...
But Netanyahu, whose relations with President Barack Obama have sometimes been strained, must be careful not to appear to be backing Romney. As Israel's leader, he cannot publicly favor one candidate over another. ...
His trip to Israel, like Obama's before the last presidential campaign, clearly won him friends here and might boost his chances among American Jews and perhaps Christian voters, too.
With Obama and Romney running neck and neck in the polls, recent surveys have signaled that the American Jewish vote could swing in the direction of the Republican party more than in the past, even if a majority continues to vote Democrat. ...
Actions often speak louder than words. We can only embrace Romney and thank him for this important visit while urging Obama to follow suit. Both men are friends of Israel; we believe their friendship will endure, irrespective of who wins the presidential race. It is in both their interest and ours.
The Telegraph, London, on dissent in the eurozone:
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the Eurogroup organization of eurozone finance ministers, said that the single currency had reached a "decisive phase." In the near three years since the sovereign debt crisis first erupted, how many times has that phrase been trotted out, only for this slow-motion car crash to continue? We are no nearer a lasting resolution now than we were at the outset — though many billions of euros have been frittered away on a series of ineffectual, short-term fixes.
Will the outcome be any different this time? Expectations have certainly been stoked up since Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, told a global investment conference in London that the ECB would "do whatever it takes to preserve the euro." Taking their cue, the leaders of Germany, France and Italy spent the weekend repeating the Draghi formula verbatim. ...
... The evidence is growing that the eurozone's political leaders are grappling with this crisis without any democratic mandate to shore them up. The most striking sign of this was an opinion poll that showed that a majority of German voters want to return to the Deutschmark. ...
... This hardening of opinion against monetary union is significant. It is the voters of Germany who are going to have to dig the deepest to deliver "whatever it takes". When the people on whom the entire edifice of the single currency is built want out, it is clear the euro is facing an existential crisis that will take far more than further fiscal juggling to resolve.
It is not only in Germany that political tensions are growing. In Spain, the strains between the national government in Madrid and Catalonia, the country's most prosperous (and indebted) region, are intense. ... The euro's leaders remain so fixated with their totem that they seem not to notice the mounting anger and dissent among their own electorates. They will surely come to regret it.
The Globe and Mail, Ontario, on U.S. gun laws:
America's permissive gun laws, fetishized in their laxness as the epitome of American freedom by the powerful National Rifle Association, are a common denominator in mass shootings around the world. From Aurora, Colo., to Norway to Toronto and Mexico, the stubborn refusal to link the worldwide availability of American-supplied semi-automatic weapons, accessories and ammunition to tragedy after tragedy is a black mark.
In the case of the Aurora killer, James E. Holmes was able to order 6,350 rounds of various types of ammunition over the Internet without triggering any alarms. He may as well have been ordering housewares. He also acquired, unnoticed, a high-capacity machine-gun magazine that holds 100 bullets, plus bullet-proof pants and a vest, knives and magazine holders. His case is similar to that of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who killed 76 people a year ago. Breivik outlined in his "manifesto" how he purchased 10 30-round magazines — an item necessary to his goal of mass slaughter that was not available in Norway because of its rigid gun controls — from an indifferent American supplier via the Internet.
In Mexico, which has strict gun laws, the drug cartels have armed themselves like a paramilitary operation with easily available American assault weapons and used them to kill hundreds of innocent people. In Canada, a rising tide of American weapons spilling over the border is defeating the country's attempts at gun control.
The biggest tragedy, of course, is in the U.S., where only killings on the scale of Aurora now make the national news but as many as 15,000 die in gun homicides every year. ... gun homicides in general — the rate of gun homicides per 100,000 people in the U.S. is almost four times that of Canada — and that the controls would be even more effective if they were not being sabotaged by American constitutional literal-mindedness.
China Daily, Beijing, on the Japan defense report:
Not surprisingly, China has again featured in Japan's annual defense report.
To justify Tokyo's ambition in the region, the Defense of Japan 2012 report plays up its concern over China's military, including Chinese naval vessels' activities in the Pacific Ocean. It says China is likely to expand maritime activities, and conduct operations and training as routine practices in waters near Japan, which Tokyo is increasingly worried about.
Given the report's logic, every move China makes to build its navy and defend its land and waters may be at fault in the eyes of the Japanese. Such prejudice is nothing but a feeble attempt to propagate the outdated "China threat" theory.
As a country with a vast territory and long coastlines, China is fully justified in enhancing its military capabilities. Because of the complicated environment China faces today, it is important that the Chinese military, the navy included, is able to respond timely and effectively to potential threats to its sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.
China is committed to a defensive national defense policy, and its military buildup will not pose a threat to others. ...
Japan's concern over China's military activities is unnecessary. As an important player in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan should instead show greater commitment to regional peace and stability.
As a major document stating Japan's view of its security environment and its defense policy, the annual defense report should have sent a more fair-sounding message to the outside world, especially its neighbors in Asia. ...
This Japanese trend does not bode well, for it is at odds with the generally peaceful environment in the region.