THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Herald of Rock Hill on immigration reform needed:
Sen. Lindsay Graham among first Republicans to make call for immigration fix.
At least one Republican U.S. senator is ready to try to tackle the politically controversial problem of immigration reform. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said this month that, with the poor showing his party made among Hispanic voters in the presidential election, other Republicans should be eager to join him.
It is not surprising that Graham would be among the first to step forward in favour of comprehensive changes to the nation’s immigration laws. He was among the most vocal champions of the reform plan proposed by President George W. Bush in 2006.
That bill included a provision to legalize an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, most from Latin America, and to create a temporary worker program sought by business groups. But it also featured tougher border security and workplace enforcement measures, including an extra $4.4 billion for more border enforcement.
In the end, though, the bill fell short in the Senate with 37 Republicans opposing it. …
While unemployment is high now, as more and more baby-boomers retire, the nation is likely to suffer a shortage of workers in key jobs. We will need more immigrant workers, not fewer.
The nation also needs to find ways to encourage the best foreign students attending U.S. colleges and universities to stay in this country and use their skills here. …
The hard anti-immigrant stance taken by many Republicans might have appealed to some in the party’s base, but it was not a winning formula at the polling booths. Graham thinks Republicans can remain true to their values but also embrace immigration reform — and attract Hispanic voters to the GOP in the process.
We hope more of those from his side of the aisle will join like-minded Democrats to find a lasting fix to the problem of illegal immigration. It would be both good for the nation and smart politics.
The Miami Herald on the Petraeus/Benghazi investigation:
To his credit, even though he was at the centre of a burgeoning scandal, former CIA Director David Petraeus had sense enough to see that the leader of the nation’s principal intelligence agency could not deal with both a personal scandal and, simultaneously, answer tough questions about his agency’s role in the Benghazi attack that claimed four American lives.
Members of Congress insist on getting to the bottom of what happened in the consulate attack in Libya, as well they should. They need to know what the CIA knew and when, whether it failed to provide timely intelligence to the White House and the rest of the government.
Above all, they need to investigate whether lives were lost due to intelligence failures by the CIA or any other U.S. agency.
Petraeus decided to deal with his twin headaches by getting ahead of the personal scandal and making the issue of his own leadership moot. He resigned before detractors demanded his scalp so that he could face the Benghazi controversy squarely, without having his continuing role as head of the CIA come under fire.
The 60-year-old general also realized that he had failed to live up to his own ethical standards (and how!) and took it upon himself to act accordingly. He made a big mistake and he took a big fall. He offered no excuses and he spared his agency from the fallout.
There are several lessons here for other public officials caught up in personal scandals, mostly about how to respond appropriately and what “accountability” means.
Now the scandal has spread to other players, including Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. As Congress and the public sift through the headlines to learn whether harm has been done to national security, it’s worth keeping everyone’s eyes on the ball:
— Don’t be distracted from the main agenda. President Obama and Congress must agree on a tax-and-spending deal before the end of year to avoid a series of unwise, across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases on most taxpayers that have been written into law. This directly affects the public purse strings and the family pocketbook. Investigate Benghazi and the sex scandal, but keep in mind that avoiding the “fiscal cliff” is Priority No. 1.
— No scapegoats. …
— Don’t make this a partisan issue. …
Petraeus, now out of government, has volunteered to testify at the hearings. Let’s hear what he has to say before jumping to unwarranted conclusions.
The Telegraph, Macon, Georgia, on U.S. being No. 1 producer of oil and gas:
The headline on the report from the International Energy Agency proclaimed that the United States would be, by 2017, the world’s top oil producer, stepping ahead of Saudi Arabia. The report also predicts the United States will be the world’s largest producer of natural gas in three years surpassing Russia.
Seems impossible doesn’t it? The report goes on to say that in about two decades America would be “self-sufficient,” meaning we couldn’t be held hostage by the Middle East for our energy needs.
Don’t feel too sorry for Saudi Arabia, while we won’t have them to blame for gas prices anymore, there is still a healthy market for their crude. Instead of it being shipped here, it will head to China and India. Will we be able to name our own price for gas? Well, no. That’s set on the world market and even though we will be self-sufficient we will still be vulnerable to the ups and downs of the global marketplace,
At the base of the predictions by the IAE are increased mileage standards and the sobering realization that as long as we depend on fossil fuels — here and abroad — that there will be more freakish storms such as Hurricane Sandy. The message that we will be self-sufficient should not slow efforts to discover and refine new energy resources not tied to oil and gas.
Los Angeles Times on fog of politics on Benghazi:
Some Republicans aren’t giving up on the claim Mitt Romney floated in the second presidential debate: that the Obama administration, for political reasons, downplayed the possibility that the deadly attack on a U.S. facility in Libya in September was a well-planned terrorist operation.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has suggested that Susan Rice, the U.S. representative to the United Nations, is “not qualified” to serve as secretary of State because, in television interviews five days after the attack, she said that “the best assessment we have today” is that the attack in Benghazi began as a spontaneous response to earlier protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo related to the video “Innocence of Muslims.”
If the fog of war obscured what actually happened at Benghazi on Sept. 11 — even now, investigators are trying to reconstruct the events that led to the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans — then the fog of politics continues to distort the picture of how and why the administration characterized the events the way it did. Most of the obfuscation has come from Republicans. ..
Should the talking points have included that information? …
Both Rice’s comments and the talking points on which they were based apparently erred in portraying the attack in Benghazi as a spontaneous reaction to the protests in Cairo. But the charge that she knowingly misled her interviewers or the country is, as President Obama rightly said at his news conference last week, outrageous and utterly unsupported by any evidence.
On a recent “Face the Nation,” McCain suggested that Rice might return to his good graces “by publicly coming back on this show and saying, ’I was wrong, I gave the wrong information on your show some several weeks ago.’ That might be a beginning.” No, the beginning would be for the senator to apologize to the ambassador.
Dallas Morning News on breaking the Middle East war cycle:
We won’t spend too much space here calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Officials from Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Britain, the U.S. and the United Nations already are working on a truce with an urgency that reflects the very high stakes if fighting escalates into an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. The fuse keeps burning shorter atop the Middle East powder keg. So, yes: Cease fire now.
Israel and its neighbours have been through six wars and countless armed altercations since 1948. Each time, the world unites in calling for peace. The warring parties stand down. But over time, tensions resurface, tit-for-tat attacks resume, and eventually, another war is in full bloom.
The point is, for decades, Middle East enemies have been locked in a basic argument over who committed which egregious act of aggression first. Ask Israel, and the finger points to its neighbours. Ask the Arabs, and the blame goes back to Israel. Historical evidence supports aspects of both arguments. …
The solution is not just to negotiate another cease-fire; it’s to break this cycle.
Of course that’s easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Egypt and Jordan recognized long ago that the cycle couldn’t continue because the cost of continually going to war was too great. They negotiated imperfect peace treaties that didn’t come close to redressing theirs or Israel’s historical grievances, but they did so acknowledging that the cycle had to stop.
Recall that the Palestine Liberation Organization, just like Hamas today, used to voice its grievances by constantly lobbing Katyusha rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon — until Israel silenced them for good with its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. …
Breaking the cycle requires a mutual acceptance that no one will win and that serious compromise among sworn enemies is the only route to peace. This medicine leaves a bitter aftertaste. But it’s the only medicine that works.
San Francisco Chronicle on Libya account not being the whole truth:
The Obama White House needs to set the record straight about the disconnect between what the CIA knew about the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, and the administration’s public insistence that it was an outgrowth of a spontaneous demonstration.
Ex-CIA Director David Petraeus reportedly told Congress in a closed hearing Friday that he knew early on that the attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans was an act of terrorism, but that critical detail was not made public for fear of tipping off the perpetrators that they were being tracked.
“Talking points” supposedly based on the best available intelligence continued to advance a narrative that the assaults were prompted by an overheated demonstration prompted by an anti-Muslim video. Most notably, those talking points were parroted by Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Sunday talk shows. The president himself advanced the spontaneous-demonstration theory long after it was presumably discounted at the top levels of U.S. intelligence.
Whether this represents tactical disinformation, a serious breakdown in communication between intelligence officials and the White House or a political move to preserve the fantasy that al Qaeda was all but vanquished — various Republicans are suggesting the latter — the American people deserve to know how, when, why and by whom these “talking points” veered from the CIA’s understanding of reality.
Kansas City Star on President Barack Obama’s trip to Myanmar:
Some human rights groups criticized President Barack Obama’s visit to Myanmar as too hasty. Democracy in that country is hardly assured, more than 200 political prisoners remain behind bars, ethnic and religious conflicts continue and the military remains dominant.
All true, yet the Obama administration’s much-vaunted diplomatic “pivot” to Asia comes at a critical time, given China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour, illustrated in disputes over control of key islands in the South China Sea. Boosting American influence in the Asia-Pacific region makes excellent sense.
In the last few days, the diplomatic effort has ramped up considerably. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta took off with full schedules for Australia, Cambodia and Thailand. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey headed for South Korea and Australia.
Obama himself flew to Thailand and then Cambodia, for a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The trip also included the first-ever visit by a U.S. president to Myanmar, formerly Burma.
In Yangon, the capital, Obama visited Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and President Thein Sein, whose country has opened rapidly in the last three years.
Suu Kyi, long held under house arrest, was freed — then won a seat in parliament in elections permitted in 2010. …
Rebel insurgencies and ethnic conflicts remain a problem — as is the army, which has been accused of massacres, rapes and the dragooning of child soldiers. Incredibly, army troops still have immunity from all crimes in civilian courts and the military is guaranteed 25 per cent of the seats in parliament and three cabinet posts.
To encourage further reforms, Obama pledged $170 million in aid. Assuming Congress approves the funds, Washington must closely watch events in Yangon to ensure progress continues.
Chicago Sun-Times on Gaza cease-fire may be all Israel achieves
Under what circumstances should Israel sit idly by as Hamas shoots rockets from Gaza into the Jewish state?
The simple answer is none.
Since taking control of Gaza in 2007, Hamas has shot thousands of rockets into Israel, with the rockets now reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel responded in kind last Wednesday, launching a punishing campaign of airstrikes on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Israel has every right and an obligation to defend itself, as President Barack Obama emphasized over the weekend. This editorial page strongly agrees and, despite the heavy loss of life on the Palestinian side, the Israeli attacks likely will have the desired effect: ending the daily rocket attacks on Israel that are terrorizing its citizens.
As of late Tuesday, a cease-fire — featuring an end to air strikes by both sides — appeared at hand.
But that may be all Israel achieves.
The Jerusalem Post on legal loophole regarding Eli Cohen:
It appears that nothing can legally be done to prevent the reentry to Israel in a few months of convicted murderer Eli Cohen. He cannot be incarcerated, retried or even denied parental rights. He gallingly beat the system, barring some legislative amendments that would anyhow not be instant and not redress the basic injustice.
What Cohen, a dual Israeli-Australian citizen, did to his ex-wife, the mother of his children, in Thailand in 2004 is the stuff of horror movies.
He lured Carol Amsalem to Bangkok, tortured her with acid and a hot iron, gruesomely butchered her, dismembered her, stuffed some of her hideously mutilated remains in a suitcase and dumped them. Not all the remains were recovered.
This was not a crime of passion but a premeditated atrocity. The couple split up after Cohen demanded they move to Australia. Carol Amsalem refused but, by all appearances, their divorce was amicable.
Cohen was sentenced to 150 years. Prison conditions in Thailand are notoriously harsh yet occasionally, especially on royal birthdays, the king grants pardons.
As a result of the latest round of reprieves, Cohen is to be set loose in mid-May. …
Thai justice is not pedantic in protecting defendants’ rights, and the prisons are survival of the fittest nightmares in which abuse, malnutrition and disease proliferate. ..
The only move that could be taken against Cohen would be to revoke his parental rights, but that would hinge on new legislation. At present a released felon, no matter how heinous his crime, cannot be prevented from raising his children, much less from seeing them. This is a dreadful legal loophole that ought to be plugged, although even the swiftest efforts in that direction are unlikely to be of much use in this shameful case.
This is a tragedy not of our making – a glaring instance where our intuitive sense of right and wrong and the dry letter of the law do not mesh.
China Daily, Beijing, on upgrading co-operation
During their meeting on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit held in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Premier Wen Jiabao and US President Barack Obama reaffirmed the two countries’ commitment to promoting bilateral co-operation.
Given that this is their first meeting after China’s leadership transition and Obama’s re-election this month, the significance of their remarks go beyond the bilateral level, as they have positive implications for the world economy and the two countries’ co-operation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Business, trade and finance are where the two countries’ interests already converge to a large extent. Bilateral trade is likely to top $500 billion this year. Ironing out the road for greater bilateral co-operation in these fields will obviously benefit both economies.
And given the size and clout of their economies, taking concrete steps in this regard and promoting trade ties in a cordial atmosphere, rather than miring them in disputes, would inject much needed confidence in a global economic recovery.
The same principle should apply to their co-operation in the Asia-Pacific, where China hopes the US will be constructive so the two countries can jointly contribute to regional peace and development. …
As a global power eying a bigger role in Asia, the US should make sure its involvement mitigates the tensions over maritime territorial disputes and not the opposite.
Power politics or the world’s only superpower dictating affairs in the Asia-Pacific would inevitably lead to confrontation and crisis. Cooperation is the only option if the two countries want to contribute to peace and prosperity in the region. Something that benefits all.
The Australian on Gaza needing durable peace deal:
An end to hostilities over Gaza would clearly be in the interests of everyone, especially the hapless civilians caught in the crossfire on both sides of the border as Israel seeks to staunch the intolerable wave of rocket attacks launched by Hamas and its Islamic Jihad, Salafist and al-Qa’ida-affiliated allies. But after the events of the past week there is a need to ensure that if a genuine cessation in the conflict is achieved it is based on a durable agreement that will give peace more than just a passing chance.
The lessons of the last Gaza war, fought over 22 days between December 2008 and January 2009 amid even greater controversy, must not be forgotten. Then, responding to international pressure, Israel unilaterally withdrew, claiming to have achieved its objectives, while Hamas announced its own ceasefire. The terrorists’ pledge endured only a few days. After that, they were back in business with their cross-border rocket, mortar and missile assaults on Israeli civilian centres.
The current conflict is an inevitable consequence of that failure to secure an enduring ceasefire. …
With that mindset among Hamas’s backers, it’s hard to be optimistic about the prospects for a sustainable truce. That is why Israel must pin Hamas down to an enforceable deal — a genuine, durable peace grounded in reality, not the fantasy world of Hamas and its apologists.
The Globe and Mail, Toronto, on Brazil’s aspirations:
A political corruption trial in Brazil that has riveted locals could end up enhancing, not battering, the country’s global image. The judiciary’s handling of the scandal known as the “mensalao” (or big monthly pay-out) has been admirable, and the Supreme Court has been independent enough to convict some of the country’s most powerful former politicians and operatives from the Workers’ Party.
Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s chief of staff received a 10-year jail term for his role in a vote-buying scheme in the Congress that dates back to 2003-2004, and another man, the former president of the Workers Party, which is still in power, was sentenced to six years and 11 months in prison. Others face charges of corruption, conspiracy, embezzlement and misuse of public funds.
This judicial autonomy is a break from the past, and a sign of Brazil’s democratic maturation. Former president Fernando Collor was impeached for corruption while in office, but went on to become a senator. Today, a law prevents convicted criminals from running for public office.
The case will help Brazil’s aspirations to be a regional and global power, especially when one considers the ongoing challenges to good governance in neighbouring Argentina. …
This respect for the rule of law is a welcome sign that points to larger changes within Brazilian society and political culture.
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