Editorial Roundup: Excerpts From Recent Editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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July 14

China Daily on a kidnapping case involving a Chinese student in the U.S.:

A US federal grand jury indicted Brendt Christensen on a count of kidnapping on Wednesday in connection with the disappearance of Zhang Yingying, a 26-year-old Chinese research student at the University of Illinois, and who was last seen at its Urbana-Champaign campus on June 9.

Christensen will now formally enter a plea to the charge at an arraignment scheduled for July 20.

The penalty for kidnapping is up to life in prison if convicted. And for many in China, it is an open and shut case.

Surveillance video shows Zhang, who was on her way to sign a lease for an apartment, climbing into a vehicle that investigators later identified as Christensen’s car.

A search of the car found the passenger’s side had been thoroughly cleaned.

And a search of Christensen’s cellphone found he had visited a website that included threads on “perfect abduction fantasy” and “planning a kidnapping”.

However, an indictment is merely an accusation.

Although people may have decided in their own minds that Christensen is guilty based on the reports they have avidly been following, he has not confessed to any crime nor has he been proven guilty in a court of law. That means, as the US Attorney’s Office in Urbana reminded people, the law must presume him innocent.

Since the one-page indictment on Wednesday did not offer any new details beyond what the FBI and prosecutors had already revealed in an affidavit and court hearings, the whereabouts of Zhang, and whether she is alive or not, remain unknown.

However, a criminal complaint filed before Christensen was arrested on June 30, shows that although there have been many reported sightings of Zhang, law enforcement officials believe she is dead.

The uncertainty surrounding her fate, and people’s clinging to the hope that she will still be found alive and well, has provoked an outpouring of anger among her compatriots directed at the investigators, who have been unable to determine what happened to Zhang after she got into Christensen’s car.

It is to be hoped the investigation can be pursued until the mystery is solved, not only for the peace of mind of her parents, but also to show the law seeks justice for the victims of crimes who are not US citizens.

Zhang, from Nanping in East China’s Fujian province, came to the university in late April as part of a one-year research appointment in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.

Meanwhile, since the United States is home to the largest number of Chinese students studying abroad — about 330,000 last year, according to the US Student and Exchange Visitor Program — yet many of them are naive to the possible dangers they may encounter.

Zhang’s case should prompt the authorities in both countries to enhance Chinese students’ safety awareness when they go to study overseas.

Online: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn

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July 18

The New York Times on Trumpcare:

It will come as a huge relief to millions of Americans that Republican lawmakers have struck out in their attempts to destroy the Affordable Care Act — at least for now. But this ideological exercise in futility has already done great damage to the health care system.

First the good news, which came in two installments: No. 1, the Senate’s health care bill — which would have stripped 22 million people of their health insurance and increased premiums for older Americans and those with pre-existing conditions — collapsed Monday. Then, Tuesday, Mitch McConnell’s plan to repeal much of Obamacare without a replacement also fell apart as senators defected.

Now the bad news: While the Affordable Care Act is not collapsing, the Senate and House health bills and President Trump’s promises to sabotage the A.C.A. have destabilized some of the health insurance marketplaces created by that law. Nearly 40 counties in Indiana, Nevada and Ohio are at risk of having no insurers participating in the marketplaces next year; other counties will have only one company offering policies.

In addition, policies sold in the marketplaces could cost a lot more if the Trump administration carries out its threats to stop providing subsidies to insurers to lower deductibles for low-income and middle-income people. It can do that through administrative action. House Republicans sued the Obama administration to block the payments on grounds that Congress had not voted separately to appropriate the money, even though the A.C.A. had authorized them.

So far, Mr. Trump is viewing health care policy through the same narrow lens he uses for everything: his political standing. On Tuesday, he blamed Democrats for obstructing repeal and said that Republicans should “let Obamacare fail” in order to have another shot at replacing it, as if the health of millions of Americans wasn’t at stake. Compare that to what Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said about her decision not to support a repeal-and-delay bill: “I did not come to Washington to hurt people.” The question now is which approach Congress will take.

Under the humane approach, with a stronger health care system a shared goal, Republicans and Democrats would work together to fix the marketplace problems and restore confidence among insurance companies. In counties with no insurers, Congress could require the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to offer coverage. State governments, working with the Trump administration, could create reinsurance programs to reduce the risk that insurers would lose money because of a few very sick patients. This could lower premiums and encourage insurers to operate in sparsely populated parts of the country.

If it chooses to set partisan point-scoring aside, the Trump administration would continue subsidy payments to insurers, House Republicans would drop their lawsuit and, going forward, Congress would appropriate money for these payments so that they could not be used to undermine the health care law. Quick action is needed on all fronts because insurers and state and federal regulators must finalize rates and policies for next year in the coming weeks.

In the longer term, the 19 states that have refused to expand Medicaid under the A.C.A. ought to reconsider. The program helps lower-income, older and disabled people, with positive results for beneficiaries and the economy. It reduces uncompensated care at hospitals, and the people who receive treatment are healthier and more productive. About four million people could gain coverage if these last states expanded Medicaid, making it a big win for the country.

Online: https://www.nytimes.com/

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July 18

The Miami Herald on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s role in a bipartisan health care plan:

This is what happens when you try to muscle through in six months — and in secret — what you could have done over seven years. You bear the brunt of the responsibility for the GOP’s disaster of a healthcare plan getting flushed down the tubes.

This is what happens when you do anything, short of crawling under a rock, to avoid having to look your scared and angry constituents in the eye at town hall meetings. When you emerge from wherever you’ve been hiding, those constituents are still scared, still angry, having flooded your offices on the Hill with phone calls and emails to make sure you get the message.

This is what happens when one of your own gets seriously sick, then gets the treatment he needs — stat! — because he has insurance that he and his Senate colleagues refuse to give up because they sure don’t want the misbegotten healthcare with which they want to saddle the rest of us. Americans wish John McCain well, but are resentful.

This is what happens when you close the door on Senate colleagues who are women. There were no women at the table to hammer out the healthcare bill. Not that it would have guaranteed more palatable legislation. But the optics and, seemingly, the intent were clear. So it’s deliciously ironic that three Republican women — Sens. Susan Collins, of Maine; Shelley Moore Capito, of West Virginia; and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, sank Republican leaders’ backup plan.

Plan A was a nonstarter — 22 million people would move from the insured to the uninsured column, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The revised, slightly more moderate Plan B, unveiled last week, had lost four crucial GOP votes by Monday, making the bill dead on arrival. Then Senate President Mitch McConnell, looking to save face, pushed to simply repeal Obamacare, kicking the long promised “replace” part far down the road. Collins, Capito, and Murkowski said, basically, “We’re not going for it.”

And this is what happens when arrogantly playing only to your political base and campaign donors doesn’t do the trick. You go on national TV and declare:

“Passing this legislation will provide the opportunity for senators of all parties to engage in a fresh start and a new beginning for the American people.”

How magnanimous. This was ringmaster McConnell, serving a lukewarm slice of humble pie.

But this is the overdue opening that Democrats, if are true to their word, should charge through. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, of New York, said Tuesday from the Senate floor that, “Rather than repeating the same failed partisan process yet again, Republicans should work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets, and improves our healthcare system.”

Schumer’s on point.

Apparently, bipartisanship is what can happen when the Party of No becomes the Party of Can’t.

Online: http://www.miamiherald.com/

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July 18

The Advocate of Baton Rouge on Senator John N. Kennedy bucking the Senate’s tradition:

Seniority isn’t what it used to be in many workplaces — even in one of the most august, the United States Senate.

That’s why we’re not surprised that John N. Kennedy, just about the least senior among the senators, is already causing trouble in the chamber he entered in January.

Kennedy was a longtime head of the Louisiana Treasury, an important office but one with a small staff and with relatively limited functions in state government. For Kennedy, who had started out in the reformist administration of Gov. Buddy Roemer, the office nevertheless gave him a platform to criticize state budgeting practices. His office was in charge of guarding the money, not budgeting, but that hardly phased him.

Now, he is almost dead last in seniority among 100 senators. Luther Strange, an Alabama Republican, is No. 100, having been appointed to fill the seat of Jeff Sessions, named attorney general in the new administration of President Donald Trump. Kennedy is just ahead of Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat. Although they entered the Senate at the same time, and neither has any previous federal service or was a governor, he ranks slightly above Masto because he’s from the more populous state. That arcane pecking order follows the Senate’s honored traditions.

But as more senior senators have learned quickly, the new fellow from Louisiana is no respecter of traditions, having quickly joined with more senior colleagues to cut back the Senate’s prized August vacation.

“I know I’m new here and there are a lot of traditions, and people need to do things back home, but we can’t pass things back home,” Kennedy, a Republican from Madisonville, said during a news conference Tuesday. “I don’t know any working class Americans who get to take a whole month off.”

Remarkably, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, has agreed, and the Senate will work until Aug. 11.

Officially, the leader of the GOP majority blamed Democrats for slow-walking approval of Trump’s nominees for courts and federal offices. This takes some nerve, given McConnell’s blocking for an entire year President Barack Obama’s last nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland. The fact is that neither party has an unsullied reputation in the confirmation process.

Less officially, the reality is that the tangle over the GOP priority of a new health bill has created a backlog in a chamber — as well as the U.S. House across the hall — that is barely functioning anymore as a legislative body.

When it comes to traditions, we’re not surprised that Kennedy is willing to disrupt the stately processes in his new office. But we wish that the Senate as a whole would start paying attention to some traditions that the entire body has abandoned, starting with quick and judicious consideration of Trump’s nominees. Garland deserved that consideration last year, from Republicans.

Another tradition that’s gone out the window is the timely approval of federal budgets.

Kennedy is well aware of the Louisiana families still struggling with catastrophic flooding from last year, but the Congress and the administration have been mired in other matters, and the budget for federal agencies, including those administering flood relief, is approved only in short-term continuing resolutions and deals among the senators.

Some practices become traditions because they work. The Senate’s long history of compromise, the means by which it approved vital services, is an institutional tradition worth reviving.

Online: http://www.theadvocate.com/

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July 15

Los Angeles Times on President Donald Trump blocking Twitter users:

Despite pleas from across the political spectrum that he stop his 140-character outbursts, President Trump can’t stop tweeting. Indeed, he has defended his incessant online exclamations as essential to the conduct of his office. “My use of social media is not Presidential,” he tweeted earlier this month, “it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.”

Taking Trump at his word about the importance of these communiques, a group of Twitter users who have been blocked from seeing and responding directly to his tweets has filed suit in federal court in New York seeking to regain access to @realDonaldTrump, the account Trump established before he became president and still uses. (He also tweets, but less provocatively and to fewer followers, on an official @POTUS account he inherited from Barack Obama.)

The plaintiffs’ legal argument strikes us as debatable. But their sense of grievance rings true. If Trump is going to treat Twitter as a means of engagement with the public, he shouldn’t muzzle voices that disagree with him.

That is just what Trump, or his social-media staff, did to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed this week by lawyers from the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. For example, Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, a writer and legal analyst, was blocked after she responded to a Trump tweet about his election victory with: “To be fair, you didn’t win the WH: Russia won it for you.”

Buckwalter-Poza and the other plaintiffs argue that the president and his social-media team are violating the 1st Amendment by preventing them from viewing Trump’s tweets, replying to them and participating in the associated comment threads. It’s an intriguing but not conclusive argument.

The idea that the plaintiffs are being kept in the dark about what Trump has tweeted is doubtful; his tweets — especially the factually challenged ones — tend to be copiously quoted by others on Twitter and in the news media, and can easily be viewed by the plaintiffs on Twitter if they log out of their accounts.

The plaintiffs are on more solid ground in complaining that they’ve been barred from arguing with Trump in his own feed. But to turn that into a constitutional claim, they must argue that @realDonaldTrump is a “designated public forum” controlled by the 1st Amendment, and that’s much harder to establish. The longstanding account is “personal” even though he uses it to post about government and politics.

Then there is the fact that Twitter is a private company, not a public utility. It should have a 1st Amendment right to set its own rules — even though, as professor Eugene Volokh of UCLA law school has pointed out, a federal judge has ruled that a Facebook page set up by a local government was a “limited public forum.” Facebook, like Twitter, is a private company.

Twitter created the blocking tool as a countermeasure to disruptive users, in the spirit of promoting civil debate. Whatever the courts say about the constitutional issue, Trump is acting childishly by excluding citizens who dare merely to disagree with him from @realDonaldTrump — a forum what he considers an important channel of communication. Such pettiness isn’t presidential — or even MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. If Trump is going to use this forum to speak to the world, he needs to let the world talk back.

Online: http://www.latimes.com/

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July 14

The Boston Globe on gun legislation after Congressman Steve Scalise was shot:

The gunman’s bullet that struck Representative Steve Scalise at a congressional baseball practice last month entered at his left hip, smashing bone and tearing into internal organs as it ripped through his body.

At the hospital, doctors stopped the internal bleeding. At the White House, President Trump called for unity. And at the Capitol, congressional leaders offered the prayers of a nation. But then, Scalise’s Republican colleagues did something truly craven: They used the shooting to rally support for less restrictive gun laws.

That’s right, less restrictive gun laws.

It’s bad enough that lawmakers failed to pass widely supported common-sense gun control measures after mass shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and a nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Now this.

In the weeks since the Scalise shooting, House Republicans have introduced three bills that would allow lawmakers to carry concealed weapons at nearly all times — as if tossing guns into Washington’s toxic stew would make lawmakers safer.

They’ve also added cosponsors — 200 of them, now — for The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would require each state to honor concealed carry permits issued in other states. The effect: Permits obtained in the least restrictive states, like Mississippi, would suddenly be valid in the most restrictive states, like Massachusetts.

If that wasn’t enough, Senate Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Mike Crapo of Idaho filed legislation that would wipe out decades-old federal restrictions on silencers.

Silencers, supporters say, protect the hearing of sportsmen. But they don’t actually silence guns, all those James Bond movies notwithstanding. They only muffle them. And the National Hearing Conservation Association recently declared that silencers provide inadequate protection against hearing loss — recommending ear plugs or other protection even when silencers are in use.

Lifting the restrictions on sales, says Robert Spitzer, a political science professor at the State University of New York at Cortland and author of five books on gun policy, is really about boosting the fortunes of the gun industry.

“A lot of money is made in the gun industry from accessories,” he says. “This is especially true of the popular AR-15-like weapons — assault-type weapons — which are sometimes referred to as ‘Barbie dolls for men.’ “

The sound of gunfire, Spitzer says, is actually an important safety feature. Joggers running in the woods or pedestrians walking city streets should be able to hear gunshots clearly so they can avoid danger.

Advocates are quick to point out that silencers are rarely used in the commission of crimes. But David Chipman, senior policy adviser with Americans for Responsible Solutions and a former employee of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, says that’s a testament to the strength of the existing law, which requires an extensive background check, registration, and payment of a $200 tax.

“I would argue,” he says, “that it’s a gun violence prevention law that actually works.” Congress risks endangering the most basic precepts of public safety if this longstanding, and rational, regulation is rolled back.

Expanding concealed carry, Chipman says, has some visceral appeal after an incident like the Scalise shooting. But adding amateurs with guns to high-stress situations carries enormous risk: Civilians can be mistaken for shooters, bystanders can be struck.

If members of Congress are worried about their safety, they should invest in more professional security — like the US Capitol Police officers who took down the gunman at the baseball practice — not ratchet up our gun culture.

Brutal mass shootings occur year after year, taking an unconscionable toll. Yet congressional Republicans continue to block action on gun control, through either misguided fealty to NRA lobbyists or a deliberately bellicose interpretation of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution — or both. Lawmakers shocked by the brazen carnage on the baseball diamond in Virginia last month should be looking for ways to further restrict access to guns and their lethal accessories, rather than swearing a blood oath and proposing legislation more suited to the Wild West.

Online: https://www.bostonglobe.com/

Copyright © 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.


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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials