Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The New York Daily News on public support for immigration reform:
The immigration reform debate is over. The nativists lost.
That's the undeniable conclusion to be drawn from a new Politico/George Washington University poll, and it means there ought to be a stiff wind at President Barack Obama's back should he embark on a new push to overhaul immigration laws next year.
Fully 62 percent of those surveyed want to give illegal immigrants an eventual path to citizenship as part of comprehensive reform. Perhaps most surprising, even Republicans favored a path to citizenship — with 48 percent saying yes and 45 percent no.
On allowing younger illegal Americans to get permanent residency status if they earn a college degree or serve in the military — the contours of the DREAM Act — support is even more overwhelming: 77 percent back it, 19 percent oppose.
The numbers represent a tidal shift and suggest the country would also welcome residency permits for students who earn advanced degrees in science, technology, math and engineering — and upping the number of H-1B high-tech visas.
Obama must finally go all out for immigration reform, as he has long promised and never done.
For their part, members of Congress — Republicans especially — should remember the November election. Obama won the Latino vote overwhelmingly, in no small part because of his pro-immigrant stances. Those include suspending deportations for many children of the illegal immigrants.
It is rare that the courage to do the right thing also happens to be relatively easy politics. ...
On one side is common-sense reform that would improve border security, let in more skilled workers, streamline the outrageous backlog for legal immigration applicants — and give 11 million illegals a road to permanent status. On the other are crass appeals to economic and political fears. ...
Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Miss., on automobile "black boxes":
You've heard of those "black boxes" on airplanes that record data used to determine the cause of a crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to soon propose regulations requiring automobile manufacturers to install similar equipment on all new cars and light trucks.
What most motorists don't know is that automakers on their own have been quietly installing data-recording devices in some vehicles for years. The devices can record the actions of drivers and the responses of their cars and pickup trucks.
According to an Associated Press article, when a car equipped with such devices "is involved in a crash or when its airbags deploy, inputs from the vehicle's sensors during the five to 10 seconds before impact are automatically preserved. That's usually enough to record things like how fast the car was traveling and whether the driver applied the brake, was steering erratically or had a seat belt on."
Sounds like a good thing — especially when it comes to lawsuits involving both drivers and manufacturers. Such equipment can be useful in placing blame where it belongs.
Also, the recorders can help identify defects in automobiles, showing manufacturers things they need to correct.
But such devices are not without controversy. Already privacy advocates are insisting on rules and limits on how much information can be gathered and how it can be used.
Perhaps they'll make a valid argument for some limits, but we doubt it.
In our view, the benefits of using reliable data to produce safer vehicles, as well as helping establish accurate blame for crashes, outweigh privacy concerns.
Winston-Salem Journal on the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission:
As the days dwindle before the U.S. government reaches its fiscal cliff, there is a place where both parties should be looking to find a compromise.
The Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission provides an outline for how Democrats and Republicans can come together and avoid the kind of mess to which we'll wake on New Year's Day if they fail to do so.
Their plan itself is not quite the answer, for reasons we will state later. But the process through which Erskine Bowles, a veteran of the Clinton White House, and former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming reached their agreement is.
Both are smart men who are experts in government budgets. ...
And Bowles and Simpson know how to reach a settlement among competing sides. ...
A recent analysis by The Washington Post explains why a plan that sounds so good when summarized — it significantly shrinks the federal deficit by spreading the pain evenly — is politically unacceptable. It proposes $2.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years. That's more than Obama, $1.6 trillion, and the House GOP, $800 billion, combined. And the ratio of tax cuts to spending cuts is almost one-to-one, with cuts only slightly higher.
With dire consequences staring at us from the other side of the holidays, the American people need a few statesmen to step forward. This is never easy in a negotiation. No bargainers want to crack first and give away too much of what they consider important.
That's where Bowles and Simpson can come in. If drawn into the process, they can help shape alternative proposals that will reflect that both sides are winning on key points while also sacrificing on others.
The fact that they have done this kind of bargaining with each other clearly demonstrates that they are right for the job.
The Seattle Times on the U.S. Supreme Court accepting same-sex marriage cases:
As hundreds of Washington same-sex couples eagerly awaited the opportunity to exchange wedding vows recently, the nation's highest court accepted two cases regarding such unions.
The nine justices are encouraged to review the photographs from those joyous ceremonies to understand where the country is headed, and how far politics, public opinion and, yes, the law has come.
One case involves the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which sought to put the federal imprimatur on marriage defined as an institution between one man and one woman.
With nine states and the District of Columbia now recognizing same-sex marriage, the federal law denies legally married couples rights and access to hundreds of benefits and prerogatives.
The United States got by for 200-plus years without federal interference in defining a valid marriage. The Defense of Marriage Act was an intrusion.
Eliminating DOMA touches on many issues for gay and lesbian families, from taxes to Social Security benefits. Another less-recognized benefit is immigration law related to married couples. ...
Repeal of that law, by California's Proposition 8, was also accepted for review. The judicial matrix for same-sex marriage, and arguments for marriage as a fundamental right, could get more legally complex.
The high court could defer to lower court findings and agree that Proposition 8 overstepped, but say the ruling applies only to California. The court could decide that Proposition 8 violates the Constitution and puts the laws in some 31 states that ban same-sex marriage at risk.
The court could also recognize life as it is in the 21st century. Marriage is a fundamental right, and a group of citizens and their families have been discriminated against. Do the right thing.
A ruling is expected in June, traditionally a great month for weddings. Perfect.
Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal on the fiscal cliff:
The recent employment report from the Labor Department reinforced the importance of Congress and the White House managing well the looming collection of budget challenges, known as the "fiscal cliff." President Obama indicated that the matter could be resolved rather quickly. He is right in theory. The trick will be setting the priorities in a sound order....
Today, there are 4 million fewer jobs than when the recession began in late 2007. Two-fifths of the unemployed have been seeking work for 27 weeks or longer. The previous high for this figure during the past 60 years was 26 percent in June 1983....
All of this points, again, to the type of recession the country suffered, one featuring the collapse of a financial bubble. These downturns almost always involve a long, slow recovery, as people repair their finances and seek to restore their assets.
For Congress and the White House, the first priority must be to do no harm to the fragile recovery. The Congressional Budget Office has warned that a failure to ease the approaching tax increases and spending reductions would likely the send the economy into another recession....
The country doesn't face something as dramatic as a steep cliff at the end of the month. The impact would be gradual, allowing room for negotiation into the new year. Yet the psychology is crucial, Washington taking command, more or less.
Los Angeles Times on U.S. Senate filibuster reform:
Nothing exposes partisan hypocrisy quite like the filibuster, that irksome parliamentary rule that allows a minority of U.S. senators to block legislation, judicial appointments and other business by requiring a 60-vote majority to proceed to a vote. Almost invariably, the party in power considers the filibuster to be an enemy of progress that must be squashed, while the minority fights to preserve it at all cost. That the same players often find themselves arguing from opposite sides depending on whether they control the Senate or are in the minority hardly seems to trouble most lawmakers.
So comes now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) with a campaign to alter the filibuster rule using the so-called nuclear option, which if invoked on the opening day of the new legislative session would allow senators to change the rules by majority vote. Republicans are appalled that he would consider such a ploy, even though they floated the same proposal when they held the majority in 2005. Back then, reform was blocked when a Gang of 14 senators led negotiations that kept the filibuster largely intact, and top Senate Republicans are reportedly reaching out to their Democratic counterparts in an effort to repeat that "success." We hope they fail.
For the record, we were rooting for the Republicans to go nuclear in 2005, and we feel the same way with Democrats in control. This is not a venerable rule created by the Founding Fathers to protect against the tyranny of the majority, but a procedural nicety that has been altered many times throughout history. In its current incarnation, it goes much too far and has produced gridlock in Congress. ...
Even many Democrats realize that someday they'll be in the minority, and fret that a future Republican-dominated chamber will use Reid's precedent to put even stricter limits on filibusters. But that's no reason not to approve Reid's proposal. If some future Senate majority wants to go thermonuclear, that's a debate for another day.
The Express-Times, Easton, Penn., on electronic device use on commercial flights:
You're a businessperson on a tight schedule who can't afford much down time.
You're a mother trying to keep a bored and active 6-year-old occupied.
You're a son rushing home to visit — perhaps for the last time — a seriously sick parent.
All these situations — and more — would be easier to handle in the confines of an airplane if passengers could use cellphones, tablets, laptops and other mobile devices during takeoff and landing.
Now, the Federal Communications Commission is pushing for that to happen. ...
The FAA announced in August that it would take another look at its policy banning the use of electronic devices. The review with the Aviation Rulemaking Committee — which includes the FCC, pilot and flight attendant groups, airlines and passengers associations — is expected to take six months.
Virgin Airlines has allowed limited cellphone use on some of its airplanes since May and other international carriers allow cellular connectivity as well. According to an FAA study in June, none of the carriers have experienced any safety or behavior-related problems associated with use of cellphones.
Allowing broader use of personal electronic devices on commercial airlines is overdue. As long as they pass critical safety tests, the FAA should allow use of these devices in a world where most people are lost without them.
However, even if the FAA changes its policy, don't expect it to happen soon. The experts estimate it could take up to two years to adequately test each personal electronic device on each type of plane to ensure safety is not at stake.
So, in the meantime, make sure to pack plenty of books, magazines or non-electronic games and gadgets to keep occupied during takeoff, landings — and those unexpected delays on the tarmac.
Chicago Sun-Times on the "new" Obama:
We like this new President Barack Obama.
Assured and direct, Obama is refusing to yield to Republicans on a core idea he ran — and won — on: increasing the tax rate for America's top earners.
Though Obama scored a relatively narrow victory on Nov. 6, he can claim a clear mandate in this area.
No one could have missed Obama's simple message over the last year on the Bush-era tax cuts: Let them expire for just the wealthiest top 2 percent of taxpayers. All who earn below $250,000 would carry on at a lower rate. ...
Failure to strike a deal will result in a tax hike for all and severe spending cuts that could trigger a new recession. Both Obama and the GOP also propose spending cuts as part of any long-term deficit-reduction plan, though there is no agreement on particulars.
Raising tax rates on top earners is Obama's starting point in the fiscal cliff negotiations. And apparently, he's willing to make it his end point as well. ...
Reinvigorated after the vote, Obama is taking a new tack with the Republicans, who get credit for coming around to the notion that any deal will require new tax revenue. Instead of endless negotiations, Obama has drawn his line in the sand and is standing firm on tax rates for top earners. He's doing the same with Republican attempts to gain leverage by potentially refusing to raise the government's debt limit next year. Last time that happened, in 2011, Congress brought the U.S. to the brink of default.
After Obama was re-elected, we said our nation desperately needs a grand bargain, one that combines increased tax revenues with bold spending cuts. That is what Obama ran on, and he now has every right and obligation to fight to the end to get it.
The Jordan Times, Amman, on Palestinian support:
At the recent Arab foreign ministers' meeting in Doha, Qatar, Arab states agreed to come to the rescue of the Palestinian Authority by pledging a $100 million monthly payment.
The money comes to compensate the Palestinian Authority for Israel's decision to hold on to the customs fees collected on its behalf, as punishment of the Palestinians for seeking and obtaining an upgraded status at the UN.
The excuse is that the duties payable to the Palestinians are withheld to settle an electricity bill owed to Israel.
As heartening as it is, the Arab decision, however, is a mere pledge in principle. No information is available to show the details of such endeavor, such as what each Arab country pays or whether the amount would be allocated based on certain criteria to be agreed upon later.
While financial assistance is needed and welcome, the real issue facing the Palestinians is the occupation.
The Palestinian Authority needs and deserves steady and dependable financial support from the Arab world, to help the people cope with the hardships brought about by the Israeli occupation and designs on the Palestinian territories.
In order to overcome the Israeli plans to colonize the West Bank, the Palestinians need viable financial and economic conditions that enable them to hold on to their land, develop it and, most importantly, improve their economy in a way that helps them break the dependence on Israeli handouts.
This cannot be done with sporadic Arab support that may or may not materialize. It can be done when the Arab League commits itself to stand by the Palestinian Authority economically and financially at all times.
The Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, on North Korea's planned rocket launch, published before Wednesday's actual launch of a three-stage rocket:
North Korea is again preparing to launch a rocket, saying it plans to put a satellite into orbit. But this explanation is suspected to be a ruse to test-launch a long-range ballistic missile, like the botched one in April.
We strongly urge North Korea to call off the launch.
Pyongyang claims the project is for the "peaceful utilization of space" in accordance with instructions left by the country's previous leader, Kim Jong Il, who died a year ago.
Every country has the right to utilize space for peaceful purposes. But rocket technology is essentially the same as missile technology. North Korea is developing nuclear arms in violation of international rules. Its acquisition of the missile technology would pose a serious threat to peace.
North Korea test-fired a missile and carried out an underground nuclear test in 2009. These moves prompted the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution banning the secluded communist regime from "making any launches using ballistic missile technology."
Following what North Korea claimed was a satellite launch in April this year, the Security Council confirmed through a statement of its president that even a satellite launch is "a serious violation" of Security Council resolutions. In other words, Pyongyang is not allowed to launch any rocket, even under the pretext of peaceful utilization of space. ...
The Japanese government has postponed just-started talks at bureau chief level with North Korea. It has also deployed the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air missile system and Aegis ships to Okinawa and other areas to shoot down the North Korean missile if it veers off its planned flight path and falls toward Japanese territory.
... The Japanese government should make all possible preparations in a cool-headed manner while continuing efforts to deal with the situation through international cooperation.
The Telegraph, London, on same-sex marriage:
If Prime Minister David Cameron hoped to assuage critics of gay marriage by offering additional legal protection to the Church of England and other religious bodies, then he will have been taken aback by the reaction in the Commons recently. Dozens of Conservative MPs made clear their deep unhappiness with the way this matter has been handled, and they clearly represent a sizeable number of traditionalist Tory voters. After all, there was no great public clamor for same-sex marriage: many imagined that the inequality of treatment had been properly dealt with in 2005 by the introduction of civil partnerships.
What we appear to be witnessing is the import from America of "culture war" politics, where a leader seeks to parade his modernist credentials by pitting them against the values of people judged to be out of step with mainstream opinion. Unfortunately for Cameron, most of them are in his own party; but perhaps he thinks there is a political advantage to be had by picking a fight with his bedrock supporters. ...
Since Labour will almost certainly try to remove this proposed exemption, the established church will be drawn deeper into unnecessary controversy. Furthermore, by denying heterosexuals access to civil partnerships, the legislation will create a new inequality once gays can marry. So, while the government may hope that the measure is human-rights-proof, it would be a surprise if it were not challenged in the Strasbourg court.
Nor do the religious protections address another matter that vexes critics — namely the redefinition of marriage, understood by every human society through the ages to be a legal relationship between people of opposite sexes. ... Cameron may come to rue the day he embarked on this reform. Sad to say, but in a country that prides itself on its tolerance, he risks sowing division where none previously existed.
Ottawa (Ontario) Sun on Canadian support for Israel and Palestine:
Despite it being one of the few nations with both the courage and the foresight to vote against the Palestinian Authority getting non-voting observer state status in the UN, Canada's support of Israel is not unconditional.
It is close, but it's not absolute.
This will come as a surprise, of course, to those who still believe Hamas is not a terrorist-backed government, and that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is not unwilling and unable to accept Israel as a Jewish state.
Canada, however, is not that naive.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's phone call recently to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, therefore, was not to pledge an all-for-one, one-for-all allegiance.
Instead, it was to chastise Israel for responding to the U.N.'s vote on Palestine's observer state status by reviving settlement plans east of Jerusalem that have been plaguing peace talks since the first shovel broke ground. ...
This will come as a blow to Netanyahu, but it is an admonishment the Israeli leader needed to hear, particularly since it was coming from a country that has had Israel's back through thick and thin, often with few questions asked.
Nonetheless, it had to have been a rather uncomfortable conversation, especially since it was friend talking to friend.
Uncomfortable, but necessary.
Those who still wish to believe Canada's relationship with Israel is one-sided need to be reminded that Canada has invested some $300 million in aid to the Palestinian cause over the last five years, and much of it has been without restriction.
That must end now...
Expanded settlements do not help that process, and neither do Israel-bound missiles flying out of Gaza.
The UN has already done its damage.
Now it's time for damage control.