Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials
(AP) - Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Boston Herald on bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon:
The words have now been spoken- and by the president- lest there be any doubt that this attack on Marathon Day could have been anything other than an act of terrorism.
"Anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror," President Obama said yesterday. It was a word he seemed to avoid on Monday- however he chose to define it.
"What we don't know, however, is who carried out this attack, or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was it the act of a malevolent individual," he said.
And yet we do know some things that we did not know 24 hours earlier. We know from the pieces of shrapnel removed from many victims of Monday's explosion that this was- in the manner of explosives used by terrorists during the intifada- created to maim, to do maximum damage. The explosives, nails and ball bearings were packed into kitchen pressure cookers, then placed in black nylon bags and left on the ground at those two Boylston Street locations. Similar bombs have been used in Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Pakistan.
How diabolically simple- and how deadly ... Young people with their whole lives ahead of them ripped from our community.
And today we also know that even as our hearts ache at the loss- of lives, of futures, of our sense of safety- we have never been stronger as a community.
The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee on a report examining U.S. interrogation techniques after the 9/11 terrorist attacks:
As a country, we have not yet accepted that in the understandable fear and anger after 9/11, suspected terrorists were tortured. An independent review released Tuesday can be an important step to reach that truth- and to make sure it never happens again.
"It is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture," concludes the report issued by the bipartisan Constitution Project. "As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture."
The 577-page study confirms previously reported abuses by military and intelligence personnel at detention centers in Iraq and Afghanistan, secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. It also validates a report that one or more Libyan militants were waterboarded by the CIA, which has long maintained that only three al-Qaida prisoners were subjected to the near-drownings.
The CIA also slammed detainees into walls, chained them in uncomfortable positions and kept them awake for days. The report cites dozens of cases in which similar treatment was prosecuted in the United States or denounced as torture by the State Department when done by other countries.
The report concludes that there's "no persuasive evidence" that the brutal interrogations yielded any valuable intelligence that could not have been obtained by other means.
We don't know yet whether those behind the horrific bombing of the Boston Marathon are linked in any way to al-Qaida or another foreign terrorist group.
We do know that there will be more acts of terror against Americans. And we should know that the torture perpetrated after 9/11 has made those future attacks more likely, not less. The inhumane treatment almost certainly endangered our own soldiers, violated international law, damaged America's moral standing and only bred more militants. ...
The study was conducted by an 11-member task force led by two former members of Congress, Republican Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Democrat James Jones of Oklahoma. While the task force did not have access to classified reports, it visited Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other countries, and interviewed more than 100 people, including former detainees, military and intelligence officers and policymakers.
Like many in his party, Hutchinson, who was undersecretary for homeland security for Bush, had been reluctant to acknowledge that the U.S. practiced torture. But after nearly two years of intensive research, he has no doubts.
"The United States has a historic and unique character," he told The New York Times, "and part of that character is that we do not torture."
Yet we have tortured, and recognition of that is the first step to ensuring it never happens again.
Parkersburg (W.Va.) News and Sentinel on the cancellation of a reality television series about young adults in Appalachia:
Even critics would have to admit that "Buckwild," the "reality television" program that debuted this year, was a runaway hit. While not reaching the ratings zenith of "Jersey Shore," the show "Buckwild" replaced, the network was convinced beyond any reasonable doubt the best was yet to come-in ratings, that is.
However, there will be no second season of "Buckwild."
The MTV television network canceled plans to resume production on the series.
"Buckwild" followed the escapades of a group of young West Virginians in the Sissonville area. Once the show began airing, however, things turned sour for two cast members. One was arrested for driving under the influence. Another is charged with drug possession.
Then tragedy struck. One of the show's breakout stars and most-popular cast members, young Shain Gandee, died along with two other men in a tragic accident.
Gandee's death and charges against the two other cast members would have guaranteed a well-watched, and highly-rated second season for "Buckwild."
But MTV officials said no.
They said they did so out of respect for Gandee. They may also have wondered if stardom was having negative effects on the show's cast- and how it might influence viewers. Or it could have been MTV network officials were concerned about the negative publicity the network would have received for seeming to exploit a tragedy had the series been allowed to continue.
Whatever their reasons, MTV officials decided to forego a money-making television success. They did the right thing- something all too uncommon in the entertainment industry.
For whatever reason the network used, MTV deserves praise.
The Grand Island (Neb.) Independent on juveniles convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole:
The U.S. Supreme Court threw a sensitive issue back to the states last year and Nebraska is one of many states trying to deal with it.
The court said it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles convicted of first-degree murder to life in prison without parole. Doing so, the court ruled, amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
So now 29 states, including Nebraska, are working to comply with the court's ruling.
It's not an easy issue. On one hand, "These aren't shoplifters. These are people doing some really bad things," as state Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala said in legislative debate last week. These are killers, murderers who deserve harsh punishment.
The opposing argument is that these are people whose young age may have played a part in their terrible judgment in committing these murders. Their young age may be considered a mitigating factor in a sentence, as the court said.
In Nebraska, 27 inmates are serving life sentences without parole for crimes they committed before they turned 18.
The Nebraska Legislature has been wrestling with this issue. The Judiciary Committee proposed a 30-year minimum prison term. However, in debate on the floor, some lawmakers thought 30 years was too low because the inmate would be eligible for parole in 15 years. Nebraska law allows parole after half of a minimum sentence has been served, although few are released at that time.
So some legislators proposed increasing the minimum sentence to 60 years. In the end, senators agreed to a compromise of 40 years. Under the plan, juveniles convicted of first-degree murder could receive a sentence within the range of 40 years to life in prison.
This is a good compromise because it listened to all concerned and set the minimum sentence at a reasonable level for both sides. ...
The Joplin (Mo.) Globe on Saturday mail delivery:
Foiled in March by Congress, the U.S. Postal Service admitted it was licked on its plan to end Saturday mail delivery.
The Postal Service, which lost $16 billion last year, had announced in February it wanted to switch to five-day mail service to save $2 billion annually. It had planned to switch to five-day-a-week deliveries beginning in August for everything except packages.
Congress traditionally has included a provision in legislation to fund the federal government each year that has prevented the Postal Service from reducing delivery service.
The Postal Service had asked Congress not to include the provision this time around.
Congress held firm, citing the needs of families, businesses and seniors, particularly those living in rural areas.
We might add to that list: newspapers.
We are elated that our mail customers will see no changes in the delivery of their Saturday paper. Especially when you consider that some of the potential cost savings cited by the Postal Service may have been greatly overstated. ...
Saturday mail delivery is still too important to our way of life to go by the wayside.
Journal Inquirer of Manchester, Conn., on politicians' private lives:
A major shift in politics seems to be under way. Elected officials and candidates for office are more often being judged not by their accomplishments or lack of accomplishments but by their private lives. Any problem in an official's or a candidate's private life is treated as fair game and cause for disqualification.
How different the country's history might have been if the private lives of some of its leaders had caused their banishment from politics. Consider Thomas Jefferson's supposed liaison with Sally Hemings; John Kennedy's sexual escapades; Franklin Roosevelt's dalliances with his secretary; and Bill Clinton's fun with his intern, which he denied on national television only to admit it later. What if Dwight Eisenhower had been forced to resign just prior to the Normandy invasion because of his relationship with his driver and assistant?
Should such activities disqualify people from serving their country? Does anyone doubt that Gen. David Petraeus was an outstanding military leader and that his disqualification from office may be hurting the country? Might imperfections in personal lives be outweighed by political and administrative ability?
Television news today must fill every minute around the clock. The Internet never sleeps either, and often doesn't check facts. But both delight in taking what used to be malicious gossip and using it to destroy careers.
The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, on participation of gay adults and youth in the Boy Scouts:
As the Boy Scouts of America prepares for the 60th anniversary of the Pinewood Derby a month from today, a well-timed move is afoot in the California Legislature to strip tax-exempt status from Scouting and other nonprofit youth organizations that block gays and transsexuals from membership.
Both efforts reflect the push of tradition and the pull of social change that define Scouting today as its sponsoring members consider whether to allow openly gay boys and adult leaders into the ranks of an American institution that is under fire and in decline.
The question, whichever way it is decided when the organization's national council meets May 20 to discuss it, carries profound implications for Scouting's future as a molder of young boys pledged to be "physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."
If the Boy Scouts holds to its exclusionary past by rejecting the resolution, it will have unwisely chosen a bleak future as a 103-year-old anachronism, beset by legal challenges and a rising tide of public support for same-sex equality that is contributing to steady erosion in the ranks of Scouts and corporate donors.
Even if, instead, the Boy Scouts adopt a policy permitting civic and religious groups to decide for themselves whether to welcome gay boys and adult leaders into the troops they sponsor, it will likely win only partial relief from its critics. Choosing a half-measure over a full one may or may not buy time the organization feels it needs for a gradual move to unqualified acceptance. Such a delay is in no way defensible. Fairness alone dictates otherwise.
Indeed, fairness to taxpayers is at the heart of legislation being considered in the California Senate, where a committee on Wednesday voted 5-2 to recommend abolishing exemptions from state income and sales taxes for youth groups that discriminate on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, nationality, religion or religious affiliation. Such groups would have to pay corporate taxes on membership dues and donations, and sales tax on food, drink and homemade crafts sold to raise money.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Ricardo Lara, rightly observed that while "the Boy Scouts provide a critical service for our youth," taxpayers should not be forced into "paying for discrimination."
The Star, Toronto, on the NHL and gay hockey players:
Barely three months after ending a caustic labor dispute that discredited both sides, the National Hockey League and its players have found unity through integrity. They've signed a landmark deal that doesn't concern salary caps, revenue shares, arbitration or free agency. It's about advancing human rights.
The NHL and the National Hockey League Players' Association this past week entered into a formal partnership with the You Can Play Project, an organization dedicated to ending homophobia on playing fields and in locker rooms in every sport. Hockey's commitment has rightly been called historic.
The NHL is the first major North American professional sports league to officially partner with a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group on this scale.
The new agreement will provide education and training for teams and players on combating homophobia. You Can Play will conduct seminars on equality at the NHL's rookie symposium, and the project will be integrated into the sport's health program so that any player in need of counseling can confidentially seek it out. The message will go out to fans and the media, too, through high-profile public service announcements.
But the biggest impact of this partnership will likely stem from the simple fact that it exists. Few sports, if any, have a "tough guy" tradition that runs deeper than hockey's with its drop-the-gloves, play-through-the-pain, rock 'em, sock 'em ethos epitomized by the rants of Don Cherry. For this sport, beyond others, to emerge as a leading voice against homophobia speaks volumes about the justice of its cause and the importance of standing up for fairness.
It's no accident that hockey is in the forefront. Patrick Burke, a scout with the Philadelphia Flyers, launched You Can Play a year ago in honor of his younger brother, Brendan, who was killed in a car crash in 2010 after he came out to his family. The boys' father, Brian Burke, former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, has also been an outspoken advocate of equality.
It seems only a matter of time before other leagues come aboard and LGBT athletes in all sports find more freedom to compete without hiding their orientation.
The timing for this is propitious with gay marriage, already established in Canada, becoming increasingly accepted in the United States. Accomplished gays and lesbians have come out in the entertainment world, in the U.S. military and in politics. And in another nod to the fight for rights in the sports world, "42," the inspiring story of Jackie Robinson, the first black player in major league baseball, has just opened on cinema screens.
The realm of big league professional sports seems poised for another breakthrough. You Can Play can claim a fair share of the credit for leading the way, along with the NHL and its union. It's one more reason for Canadians to take justifiable pride in our national game.
The Japan Times, Tokyo, on more children taking standardized tests for English proficiency:
Japan's obsession with testing is growing, according to new information from the Eiken Foundation of Japan. The foundation, which oversees one of Japan's most oft-taken English exams, the Eiken, has reported that the number of primary school students taking the Eiken test in practical English proficiency has reached the highest number ever.
More than 200,000 primary school students sat for the exam in fiscal 2012, up 80 percent from 10 years ago.
The reasons why the foundation released the data by age group for the first time this year is unclear, but perhaps they would like to compete with the English exam currently being promoted by the Abe administration, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). In Japan, not only test-takers compete, but test-makers compete as well.
The competition for applicants, status and income in the massive testing industry has never been fiercer. The push for greater internationalization in universities and the workplace has unfortunately not resulted in improved English, but rather in more customers eager to display their English ability through such exams.
Now, students younger than ever are taking English exams. ...
Schools, teachers and parents should move away from the testing obsession. There is no good reason why 5-year-olds need to display their achievements through such exams. Instead, energy can be better focused on developing children's positive attitudes, broader understanding and all-around language skills.
English should become a life skill, not a test number. The pressure on young children to be tested on yet one more part of their education does little to advance the long-term goals of producing workers and members of society who can function satisfactorily in English. Japan desperately needs people with such skills to remain competitive in the 21st century.
The Australian, Sydney, on professional golfer Adam Scott winning the Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga.:
It was the moment for which we waited 79 years, and even then we were kept in suspense until the final moment.
There have been too many Australian near-misses at the U.S. Masters for Adam Scott's victory to be taken for granted.
Scott came second two years ago, a bittersweet honour for any competitive athlete and the unhappy lot of Greg Norman on three occasions. When Argentina's Angel Cabrera failed to sink a birdie putt in the sudden-death playoff, the chance fell to Scott to secure the prize that has eluded Australian golfers for three-quarters of a century- the winner's green jacket. The 32-year-old Queenslander kept his nerve, holing a 4-meter putt to become one of only 10 Australian male golfers to win a major and the first to win the Masters. With one deft touch of the putter, Scott leaped into the stellar ranks of Australian sporting greats.
His achievement has been a long time in the making. Since turning professional in 2000, he has worked assiduously to lift his game. Only last year, he lost the British Open to South Africa's Ernie Els by a stroke. This year's strong performances by Jason Day, who finished third, and Marc Leishman, who tied in fourth place, augur well for the future of Australian golf.
Australia's Masters victory coincides with the 30th anniversary later this year of Australia II's victory in the America's Cup yachting race. The comparisons are irresistible. After 132 years, the crew of Australia II were able to claim victory in a sporting challenge that had long escaped us. As a nation that unites behind sport perhaps more than anything else, having so often bonded in the afterglow of international triumph, Scott's victory is not only a personal one- it is a victory that Australians will remember for many years to come.
The Jerusalem Post on the upcoming 65th anniversary of the May 1948 founding of Israel:
Celebrating the 65th anniversary of Israel, one cannot help but be struck by the incongruity of conflating an ancient people with a birthday befitting a baby boomer.
Indeed, the old and new coexist side by side in the Jewish state, perhaps like no other country in the world. Unlike in modern Greece, for example, citizens of Israel converse in their ancient tongue, a language that would still be intelligible to the Hebrew prophets who lived here in the biblical era.
Archaeological sites that are an integral part of our landscape are discovered regularly, giving constant, tangible evidence of the Jewish people's ancient ties to this particular strip of land. At the same time, Israel is an eminently modern country, overrepresented in the number of patents it produces per capita, in the number of Ph.D.s, published scientific papers, companies listed on Nasdaq and startups per capita. ...
Israel at 65 remains a country of paradoxes and contradictions that strives to fuse new and old, particularism and universality, vitality and vulnerability. Israel at 65 has not resolved the Jewish predicament and has even created a set of new challenges. But its accomplishments are mind-boggling considering they were achieved while fighting conventional and nonconventional wars, absorbing a huge immigrant population and providing basic democratic rights to every citizen, regardless of race, creed or religion- including those openly opposed to Israel existence as a Jewish state.
Not bad for a country the age of the average baby boomer.
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