Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Boston Herald on what can be done to combat mass shootings after massacres in Texas and Ohio:
Bullet-resistant backpacks are now being sold in major retail stores. The idea is that when the next school shooter opens fire in the hallway, fleeing children who are shot in the back will have a better chance of surviving.
It is a new consideration that children and parents have to make in 2019: Is my child dressed for style? Is she dressed for weather? Is she dressed for war?
The present condition is unacceptable. High-profile mass-shootings have become a normal occurrence and this weekend brought the scourge front and center when 31 were shot dead and more than 50 injured in Texas and Ohio. These were innocent victims out shopping or enjoying a vibrant entertainment district.
It happens too often – laughter and joy turn to screams and horror.
Something must be done and something can be done.
Reacting to the shootings, Rep. Stephen Lynch got it right, saying, “I don’t know if there’s a single, one-hundred-percent solution, but there might be a hundred one-percent solutions.”
One of those solutions was endorsed (Monday) by President Trump. Red Flag Laws would allow law enforcement, family or a household member, to report an at-risk individual to the courts for a temporary restriction from firearms.
Red Flag Laws form a critical part of the solution to mass shootings because so often we hear afterwards about the myriad warning signs that potential shooters typically display leading up to an attack. Shortly before the atrocities in El Paso and Dayton, a grandmother in Lubbock, Texas, prevented a similar event by alerting authorities that her disturbed and suicidal grandson was planning to shoot up a hotel with an illegally obtained AK-47.
But since so many weapons are obtained legally, law enforcement needs a tool to temporarily get them out of the hands of would-be-shooters when they clearly pose an immediate threat, not only to those around them, but also to themselves. The relationship between rising rates of suicide and mass shootings in American society is not clearly understood, but with roughly two-thirds of gun deaths constituting suicides, it bears careful scrutiny.
The president highlighted this (Monday), where he was short on detail but correct in his focus on mental health. “We must reform our mental health laws,” Trump said. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.” With record numbers of Americans succumbing to despair and addiction, even while millions more rely on antidepressants to survive, it is clear our society is in the midst of a crisis.
On the cultural side, President Trump resurrected concerns about violent video games and exposure to extreme ideologies on the internet. Although those talking points have not been successful in the past, the president is right to be considering the role that technology is playing in our mental health decline. Many on both sides of the aisle have raised the alarm about excessive screen time, social media use and desensitization to violent imagery among young people.
And yes, we must look at gun control to see whether there are areas where all can agree we can limit the firepower that is on our streets.
There is work to be done and it should begin in earnest.
China Daily on the declaration from the U.S. of China as a currency manipulator:
The decision by the United States Department of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator is the latest sign that Washington will resort to any possible means, no matter how unreasonable, to force China into agreeing to its trade terms.
The announcement came after the yuan’s exchange rate weakened to more than 7 to the dollar on Monday. It is ridiculous for the US to assume that there was exchange rate manipulation based on a change in the exchange rate of the yuan on a single day.
That decline was a natural market reaction after the latest trade talks between the two countries failed to produce a breakthrough and the subsequent threat by the US government it would impose new 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion worth Chinese goods starting from September.
The timing of the decision just two months after the Treasury Department determined after six month’s analysis that China was not manipulating its currency betrays the real intention of the US government to use it as another means to pressure China.
Even in terms of the criteria unilaterally set by the US Treasury, it is technically impossible for a country that wasn’t a manipulator only two months ago to suddenly become one.
According to the US Treasury, a country is a currency manipulator if it has a large trade surplus with the US, has a current account surplus exceeding 3 percent of its GDP and is actively intervening in the currency market.
China does not meet all those criteria. Its current account surplus as a proportion of GDP, for instance, has been declining continually, standing at 0.4 percent in 2018, thanks to its economic rebalancing efforts in the past decade. There will predictably not be major changes to that ratio this year.
By politicizing the issue of currency manipulation, the US government has gone so far that it will disrupt the normal order of international monetary governance. It means Washington is willfully distorting its self-set rules to accuse other countries of something nonexistent and using that as an excuse to take actions against them.
Such a unilateral, protectionist act, if unchecked, will create huge uncertainties for the world economy and global financial system, as reflected by the financial market turbulences across the world this week.
The Los Angeles Times on equal pay for women, in sports and elsewhere:
Moments after the U.S. women’s national soccer team beat the Netherlands 2-0 and secured its fourth Women’s World Cup victory last month, the crowd in Lyon, France, erupted in cheers – and began an unusual chant that might have been more typical of a political rally.
“Equal pay. Equal pay. Equal pay,” thundered through the stadium.
The apparently spontaneous reaction was meant as a show of solidarity with the women players, who are embroiled in a legal fight with the U.S. Soccer Federation over claims that the winning women’s team is paid less than the less-victorious men’s national soccer team. (For what it’s worth, the federation denies this and, in fact, last week federation President Carlos Cordeiro said in an open letter that, actually, women have been paid more than men in recent years. Both the women’s team and the national men’s team say that’s not true.)
The stadium in France soon emptied, but the message continues to reverberate. That’s due in large part to the players themselves, and particularly the team’s brightest star, Megan Rapinoe, who has continued to push the public discussion about gender pay disparities, and hopefully will continue to do so on their victory tour (which came to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday). “I’m going to fight for equal pay every day for myself, for my team, and for every single person out there,” Rapinoe said on “Meet the Press.”
On the one hand, it’s depressing that it requires a sports star of Rapinoe’s stature to focus attention on the reality that, more than half a century after the Equal Pay Act passed, women still face wage disparities in just about every workplace. But we’re glad it is happening and hope it translates into substantive action that benefits women in every profession. Of course, all other things being equal, female athletes should be paid a fair and equal wage for doing substantially the same job that male athletes do, but so should factory workers, food servers and accountants.
Women in Congress capitalized on the recent attention on the women’s soccer team pay fight to introduce legislation to address the disparity in both compensation and investment into national sports teams. The “Even Playing Field Act” would amend the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act in two significant ways. First it would require the national governing bodies of U.S. sports teams to make equitable investments in women’s teams and offer equal pay and wages. And, perhaps more importantly, it would require the governing bodies to report annually to Congress on the compensation of players, coaches, administrators and staff, broken down by race, gender and employment category. It’s a reasonable measure, and should pass with bipartisan support. Even President Trump said he thinks the women soccer players deserve equal pay, kind of.
Transparency is one of the most powerful weapons against pay disparity, and is also a major feature of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has languished in Congress for more than a decade. This legislation prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who share their salary information and requires some employers to report their wage rates for general job classifications. As the women’s soccer players know, public transparency about wages can shift public sentiment. This bill also deserves bipartisan support.
The reasons the pay gap persists are complicated and not necessarily caused by deliberate discrimination, but are nevertheless real. Collectively, women make some 20% less than men; it’s even lower for women of color. Some are paid less because their career trajectories took them down different paths or into female-dominated professions that are traditionally valued less than similarly skilled fields dominated primarily by men. But sometimes it’s just because an employer could get away with paying female workers less than men. That’s wrong and these measures could help stop it.
This could be a breakthrough moment for the equal pay movement if the soccer team’s exhortations can be turned into real action.
The Washington Post on a loss of a portion of the Amazon rainforest and the potential impact on the global environment:
One of the easiest ways to combat climate change is to stop tearing down old trees. This is why it is everyone’s problem that new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro seems determined to chop away at the Amazon rainforest, the world’s greatest reserve of old-growth forest.
According to a recent analysis in the New York Times, “enforcement actions by Brazil’s main environmental agency fell by 20 percent during the first six months of the year, compared with the same period in 2018.” Fines, warnings and the elimination of illegal equipment from preservation zones are among the measures Brazil’s authorities are doing less often. “The drop means that vast stretches of the rain forest can be torn down with less resistance from the nation’s authorities.” The result has been a loss of 1,330 square miles of rainforest since January, a loss rate that is some 40 percent higher than a year previous, according to Brazilian government records.
Mr. Bolsonaro has called his own government’s information “lies,” stripped the environment ministry of authorities and slashed the environmental budget. When eight former environment ministers protested in May, current environment minister Ricardo Salles alleged that there is a “permanent and well-orchestrated defamation campaign by (nongovernmental organizations) and supposed experts, within and outside of Brazil.”
In its reality denial, Mr. Bolsonaro’s brand of right-wing populism closely resembles that of President Trump. Both leaders stoke unfounded suspicions that environmental concerns represent foreign plots to undermine the domestic economy. Both are committed to breakneck resource extraction while dismissing expert warnings. And both lead nations with special responsibilities in the global fight against climate change. Global warming cannot be successfully addressed without the engagement of the United States, the world’s largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases and erstwhile leader. The Brazilian Amazon, meanwhile, is a unique natural treasure, its abundance of plant life inhaling and storing loads of planet-warming carbon dioxide day and night. Without “the world’s lungs,” life on the planet is doomed.
Earlier this month, the journal Science published a paper finding that, if world leaders made reforestation a priority, the planet’s ecosystems could accommodate massive numbers of new trees – perhaps hundreds of billions more. True, reforestation advocates would no doubt have to compete with those who would use land for other purposes, particularly as the world population increases. Even so, the paper’s authors note, their work “highlights global tree restoration as our most effective climate change solution to date.”
This is not to say that the fight against global warming is as easy as planting a few, or even billions, of trees, if such a thing were politically or logistically feasible. As long as humans depend on carbon-emitting sources of fuel for energy, the atmosphere’s chemistry will continue to change and the climate will be in peril. But it does suggest that leaders such as Mr. Bolsonaro, who are leading in the opposite direction, can do particularly extreme damage to the effort to restrain climate change.
The New York Times on a decision by India’s government to revoke the semiautonomous status of Kashmir:
The Indian government’s decision to revoke the semiautonomous status of Kashmir, accompanied by a huge security clampdown, is dangerous and wrong. Bloodshed is all but certain, and tension with Pakistan will soar.
The Himalayan territory of Kashmir has long been the central source of friction between India and Pakistan and a hotbed of separatist aspirations. Rival claims to Kashmir have led to two wars and frequent eruptions of violence and terrorism over the past seven decades, made all the more menacing by the nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan. Only in February, a Kashmiri suicide bomber struck an Indian military convoy, prompting a tense military standoff and aerial dogfights between India and Pakistan. After an earlier such incident, former president Bill Clinton dubbed Kashmir “the most dangerous place in the world.”
The Indian government knows how incendiary its actions are, which is why, before making the announcement on Monday, it ordered tens of thousands more troops into Kashmir, put major political figures under house arrest, ordered tourists to leave, closed schools and cut off internet services.
The government claimed it was acting to prevent a planned terrorist attack. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his governing Bharatiya Janata Party, deeply rooted in Hindu nationalist ideology, have long made no secret of their intention to revoke the articles in the Indian Constitution granting the predominantly Muslim Kashmir a special status – a move the B.J.P. sees as “correcting a historical blunder.”
That “blunder” began with Britain’s 1947 partition of its Indian colony into a Hindu-majority India and a Muslim-majority Pakistan. The status of what was then the principality of Jammu and Kashmir was left undecided. India and Pakistan soon fell to blows over it, which ended with Pakistan occupying roughly a third and India two-thirds, divided by a heavily armed and bullet-riddled “line of control.” India’s side was granted a relative degree of autonomy in exchange for accepting Indian rule.
The United Nations recommended holding a referendum to let Kashmiris decide their fate, but that never happened. In later years, Muslim militants, often backed by Pakistan, joined the fray, striking at Indian troops in Kashmir and at targets deep inside India, including a multiday killing spree in Mumbai in 2008 that left more than 160 people dead.
In this volatile stew, India’s latest action provoked instant vows of resistance. The Kashmiris are especially incensed by the lifting of a ban they had long imposed on the purchase of land by nonresidents, to prevent their land from being bought up by Indians. “There will be chaos if our identity is compromised,” vowed Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. In neighboring Pakistan the sabers were quick to rattle. “Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps,” declared the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, while Shahbaz Sharif, the leader of the political opposition, thundered that “Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan, and anyone laying a hand on our jugular vein will meet a frightful end.”
The fray is not without global implications. Under President Trump, the United States has shifted its favors from Pakistan, a longtime recipient of American aid, to India, which the administration perceives as a bulwark against China. China, meanwhile, has become an ally and financial patron of Pakistan.
There is still a good chance that the changes to the Constitution will end up before India’s Supreme Court. But the fires are already lit. The United States and China must not allow Kashmir to become a pawn in their ongoing disputes; on the contrary, the United States, China, the United Nations and other powers with influence over India and Pakistan must urgently do what they can to prevent India’s folly from escalating into a perilous and unpredictable regional crisis.
The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Minnesota, on a failed attempt to revive the historic Woodstock festival:
In August 1969 – a time of cultural upheaval more tangibly disruptive than that of the current day – more than 400,000 people and 32 musical acts found their way to a dairy farm in New York for “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music.” The event, which would become known in the American vernacular as Woodstock, was a legendary failure – which is to say, a failure that became a legend.
The location was settled late in the planning process. Roads clogged with traffic. Grounds got muddy. The organizers gave up control of the gates. The masses were fed by the grace and generosity of area residents but also by the euphoria of mind-altering additives. In short, it was groovy.
Naturally, then, there’s nostalgia. The last few years have seen a cavalcade of 50th anniversaries – not just tragedies but also triumphs like the moon landing. A Woodstock 50 festival would have had to be in the works.
But like its progenitor, the effort suffered organizational woes. The location was elusive. Ticket information was, too. On Wednesday (July 31), festival organizers gave up the ghost.
Perhaps it’s best to leave Woodstock to its legacy. The original festival was a communitarian moment during a movement of the same – lightning in a bottle. In today’s fraught environment of public safety and accountability, it’s hard to imagine pulling off any such gathering with casual disregard.
In any case, today’s young people have other interests. Like video games, to name one. According to a Washington Post-University of Massachusetts Lowell poll in 2018, almost three-quarters of Americans ages 14 to 21 had either played or watched multiplayer online games or competitions in the previous year. Last month, the 16-year-old winner of the inaugural Fortnite World Cup took home $3 million. About 40 million players had tried to qualify for the competition. “The point of the game is simple,” the New York Times once reported for the sake of those who don’t play: “Be the last man, woman or child standing. Kill everyone else.”
It’s wrong, as it was at the time of Woodstock, to try to pinpoint the motivating thrust of an entire generation. But it’s worth wondering, as the British singer/songwriter Nick Lowe did in 1973 as the hippie movement was fading out: What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?