Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Jan. 18

The Detroit News on Michigan State's culpability in Dr. Larry Nassar's sex abuse case:

"Play it straight" is how President Lou Anna Simon says she advised her Michigan State University staff to handle allegations of sexual misconduct against a MSU physician. But Simon has not played it straight herself, choosing instead to pull a curtain over questions of culpability by university officials in the serial molestation of young girls and women at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar.

As such, Simon has lost credibility and the confidence of many MSU stakeholders. She should step down or be removed by the board of trustees.

Nassar's victims, already betrayed by a physician they trusted to ease their pain, should not be let down a second time by a university president more interested in shielding the school from legal liability than finding the truth.

The confluence of the heartbreaking testimony of 101 of Nassar's victims and a detailed report from The Detroit News blowing holes in MSU's claims of total ignorance of the doctor's wrongdoing raises the outrage level to a point that can no longer be ignored.

President Simon is not complicit in enabling Nassar's horrors — it's hard to know what she knew and when she knew it. But she should be held responsible for bottling up the investigation into who at MSU may be culpable in brushing aside complaints and allowing his abuses to continue.

The urgency of action on the part of MSU was driven home in the most poignant way this week, as Nassar's victims stood bravely in a Lansing courtroom and one after another shared their wrenching stories of abuse. Many said they tried to tell their parents, their coaches and trainers, other MSU doctors and even police, but were disbelieved, shamed, brushed off or bullied into silence.

The News' reporting identified 14 MSU staffers who in some fashion were made aware of the girls' complaints, but either did not act, or acted instead to protect Nassar.

The group includes Simon, who was briefed about a 2014 Title IX complaint against Nassar, but allowed him to keep seeing the patients referred to him by the MSU gymnastics program for another nearly two years. How many young women might have been spared had Simon suspended Nassar pending the outcome of the investigation?

That's one of the many questions Attorney General Bill Schuette should ask. But he seems curiously uninterested in determining who knew what and when inside the MSU administration and athletic and osteopathic medicine programs.

Schuette's indifference borders on dereliction of duty, the same charge he leveled against state workers who failed to act to protect citizens in the Flint water crisis. How is the Michigan State case different? And how does it differ from Penn State University, where a university president, vice president and athletic director were criminally convicted for not protecting boys from abuse on their campus by a former assistant football coach?

Schuette, who is running for governor, must step beyond any political calculations and do his job before he can make a legitimate claim to the next one he seeks.

Likewise, the elected members of the MSU board of trustees have not fulfilled the watchdog role voters entrusted to them, choosing instead to close ranks around Simon and the university administration and athletics program.

The elected board members failed miserably in meeting their responsibility to hold the administration accountable. Their names are: Brian Breslin, Joel Ferguson, Dianne Byrum, Melanie Foster, Dan Kelly, Brian Mosallam, Mitch Lyons and George Perles.

The trustees were not sent to MSU by voters to schmooze in fancy suites at football games. They have an oversight role, and have been too weak to fulfill it.

Both Simon and the board are complicit in fostering the canard that an outside attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, had done an independent investigation and found no evidence on the part of MSU officials of Nassar's criminal behavior. In reality, Fitzgerald was not hired to do a thorough investigation, and never did one. His contract with the university is to shield it from liability in the civil cases, not to expose its failures.

The pretense that Fitzgerald cleared MSU amounts to a cover-up.

This week we heard a volume of tragic stories from the victims of Nassar, some now raising families of their own. We have heard in court the damage his abuse has done to them. What we haven't heard is whether MSU could have done anything to protect them.

Answering that question starts with President Simon. Many of those who were alerted to the abuse, according to The News' reporting, are still on staff at MSU.

Simon has shown no indication she is willing to determine for herself if they had a chance to stop Nassar, but failed.

Simon should go voluntarily, and the board must install a new president committed to full transparency, one who can begin the process of restoring MSU's integrity and reputation.

The voices calling for Simon's resignation are growing, and include both the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Legislature, the MSU student newspaper and the hometown Lansing State Journal.

We add our voice.

For two decades MSU handed over innocent, trusting girls and young women to a sexual predator. There is growing evidence Nassar might have been stopped, had the early complaints raised by his victims been taken seriously.

Justice for those who suffered Nassar's assaults demands a full and unobstructed accounting from MSU.

Online: http://www.detroitnews.com/

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Jan. 22

The Miami Herald on congressional politics' impact on DACA recipients:

The Democrats blinked, but they still have their eye on a bigger prize. Meanwhile, DREAMers have to keep on dreaming.

Based on Senate President Mitch McConnell's pledge to address the fate of the up to 800,000 young immigrants, Democrats voted to end the three-day shutdown before more serious damage was done. President Trump signed the bill Monday night.

The DREAMers and their heart-rending stories have gotten the lion's share of publicity recently. But so much more was at stake: The short-term budget agreement extends funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program — CHIP — for six years. That's extremely important. Nationally, CHIP covers almost 9 million children. In Florida alone, almost 375,000 children are enrolled in this program each year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But Congress let CHIP funding lapse almost four months ago. Then Republicans held it hostage in the budget negotiations.

Still left unresolved is dealing with the epidemic of opioid use across the country and keeping community health centers whole, to name just a few urgent issues.

While some have criticized President Trump for keeping a low profile for the three days of the shutdown, we think he did himself and the Republicans a huge favor by staying out of it. After all, he ultimately hijacked what could have been a surprisingly bipartisan process and injected vulgar and bigoted commentary about some immigrants.

Trump has vacillated on the DREAMers, campaigning on wiping out President Obama's executive order letting young adults brought here illegally as children stay in this country. Recently, he pivoted, saying, almost as persuasively, that he wants to help them through a "bill of love" and offer them legal status. All the while, hardliner Stephen Miller, his mean-spirited senior policy adviser is dead-set against showing love or any other kind of leniency toward immigrants.

Maybe, the president is genuinely ambivalent. Maybe it's part of President Art-of-the-Deal's negotiation strategy. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said that getting Trump to make a definitive decision is like "negotiating with Jell-O."

Then there's the ad. Saturday, Trump's re-election campaign released — on the anniversary of his inauguration, no less — a 30-second spot that says the Democrats will be "complicit" in murders committed by illegal immigrants. No matter that evidence shows that legal and undocumented immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to commit crime.

For Trump, it's the virulent fear-mongering that counts.

The Democrats' power play to lock in a solution to the immigration status of DREAMers in the original budget deal has stalled. Republicans adroitly accused them of supporting the federal government's shutdown to demand a solution for undocumented residents. As usual, the Democrats have a messaging problem. Though on the side of right, Republicans use the optics to say otherwise.

If there's no bipartisan agreement that the president can live with — and, most important, that lets him claim victory — then the threat of another shutdown in about three weeks is real. So is the lack of trust that McConnell will keep his pledge.

Democrats and those Republicans — who, like the majority of Americans, want to throw the DREAMers a lifeline — have their work cut out for them.

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

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Jan. 23

Deseret News on providing inmates access to books:

The United States incarcerates more people than any other developed nation; unfortunately, these imprisoned citizens are not receiving access to the educational tools they need to reform their lives.

Recent Deseret News reporting documented the high recidivism rates for inmates who do not have access to library books; one prison employee interviewed estimated the figure was 60 percent. While admirable private solutions have emerged to address the need and demand for books in prison, the U.S. government should act on the moral and political imperative to empower and ennoble all citizens — even the most disenfranchised — to achieve their full potential.

First established in 1790, American prison libraries were instituted as a method for reforming behavior, usually through religious means. Clergy often ran the prisons, and early libraries usually contained only scriptural texts. While libraries grew to include secular materials, it wasn't until 1977 that the U.S. government acknowledged a constitutional responsibility to provide inmates access to a law library to ensure access to information that would help them litigate their own appeals and empower themselves. However, a subsequent ruling complicated the mandate for law libraries in all prisons. Now, inmates are required to prove their rights are impinged by inadequate access to legal materials for a full library to be provided, in some cases.

What is missing from these legal battles is the charitable and moral sentiment evidenced by the diligent work of nonprofits stocking prison libraries. These volunteers are motivated by a belief that all people deserve a meaningful opportunity to reform their lives and empower themselves. Volunteers such as Toby Lafferty collect and distribute books to prisons around the country. For Lafferty's Millcreek-based nonprofit organization, Books Inside, that means providing 23,000 books to 35 prisons and jails in 13 states nationwide last year alone.

However, the requests Lafferty receives annually from more than 28 states and 150 facilities reveal the depth of the need for books to offer career skills, increased literacy and a mental and emotional escape from a dismal reality.

While a moral imperative exists to offer prisoners a minimum living standard, the education and escape that books offer inmates is not important for self-actualization alone. The government also has political and fiscal incentive to invest in books as a way to decrease recidivism. In one study, researchers found that "prisoners sentenced to a literature discussion group" in lieu of additional jail time experienced a "19 percent recidivism rate as compared to 42 percent in a control group."

In 2012, independent research found that U.S. prisons collectively cost the U.S. government $39 billion annually. Broken down, it costs taxpayers and the federal government $168,000 to incarcerate one inmate in New York City for a year. In total, the U.S. prison budget is roughly two-thirds of the federal education budget. With costs this high, the U.S. should seek every policy opportunity available to rehabilitate criminal behavior, reduce prison costs and protect the public by decreasing recidivism.

Doing so requires increasing the quality and quantity of libraries in facilities nationwide.

Online: https://www.deseretnews.com/

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Jan. 22

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the size of the American defense budget:

One line continues to be repeated during the discussion between the White House and Congress, from both Republican and Democratic sides, over the budget and the partial government shutdown drama: Action is essential so as not to leave Department of Defense financing up in the air.

This particular chord usually also has a note in it about the importance of U.S. national defense and another about supporting our soldiers.

There is no reason to quarrel about either point, although focus on those two relevant factors usually leaves out two others, which should be looked at more vigorously, by the White House, Congress and the public.

The first is that American arms manufacturers and defense-related contractors take away buckets of taxpayer money from America's wars. The second is that the wars that gobble up this money are seemingly endless. In addition, virtually nothing is being done by the U.S. government to bring the wars to a conclusion, thus bringing to an end the bloody conflict and the risk to life and limb involved for our sons and daughters. Less important but nonetheless relevant is the high level of government expenditure that goes into perpetuating these wars. Is this incidental or deliberate?

The colossal size of the U.S. defense budget has almost come to be taken for granted. At some $600 billion, it dwarfs the budgets over every other nation in the world. Saudi Arabia does take the honors in defense spending per capita, and a lot of that goes to buying U.S. weapons. Still, the United States' defense budget is greater than the next eight top-spending countries combined, and it's hard to find anyone in Washington with the will to restrain it.

The money is particularly important when it is understood that the overall budget covers not only defense expenditures, but also money for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, not to mention the tax cuts. Do we really want to see big bites taken out of these programs, most of which benefit American children, disabled and old people, to keep U.S. involvement in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen going?

The Afghanistan War started in 2001; Iraq in 1991, to be continued in 2003; Libya in 2011; Somalia in 1992; Syria in 2012; and Yemen in 2015. We can leave out the point about how American diplomacy also shouldn't be a victim of budgeting disputes, but it is, in fact, very much to America's advantage to be playing an active role in bringing these conflicts to an end, to save American lives and money if for no other more global reason.

Are none of these wars susceptible to a constructive effort on America's part to bring them to an end? Or are some sectors of American society making too much money from them, to our shame?

Online: http://www.post-gazette.com/

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Jan. 23

The Wall Street Journal on President Donald Trump's new tariffs:

Can Donald Trump stand prosperity? Fresh from a government shutdown victory and with the U.S. economy on a roll, the President decided on Tuesday to kick off his long-promised war on imports — and American consumers. This isn't likely to go the way Mr. Trump imagines.

"Our action today helps to create jobs in America for Americans," Mr. Trump declared as he imposed tariffs on solar cells and washing machines. "You're going to have a lot of plants built in the United States that were thinking of coming, but they would never have come unless we did this."

The scary part is he really seems to believe this. And toward that end he imposed a new 30 percent tariff on crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and solar modules to benefit two bankrupt companies, and a new 20 percent to 50 percent tariff on washing machines to benefit Whirlpool Corp. The tariffs will hurt many more companies and people, and that's before other countries retaliate.

The solar tariff is a response to a petition filed at the International Trade Commission by two U.S.-based manufacturers — Chinese-owned Suniva, which filed for bankruptcy last year, and German-owned SolarWorld Americas, whose parent company filed for bankruptcy last year. Under Section 201 of U.S. trade law, the companies don't need to show evidence of dumping or foreign subsidies. They merely have to show they were hurt by imports, which is to say by competition.

The two companies once employed some 3,200 Americans. But the wider solar industry, which depends on price-competitive cells as a basic component, supports some 260,000 U.S. jobs. Costs will rise immediately for this value-added part of the industry, which the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says includes the manufacture of "metal racking, high tech inverters, machines that improve solar output by tracking the sun and other electrical products."

The Journal reported Tuesday that the Trump tariff may spur an unnamed panel manufacturer to invest in a new plant in Florida that will create 800 new jobs. But SEIA says it expects that the tariff will cost 23,000 U.S. jobs this year alone. It will also mean that billions of dollars of solar investments are likely to be postponed or canceled. Utility companies facing green-energy mandates from state governments will also suffer as it gets more costly to deliver solar-produced electricity.

Mr. Trump will also make doing the laundry great again, or at least more expensive, with a new 20 percent tariff on the first 1.2 million imported washing machines every year. Above that the tariff will go to 50 percent. Don't even think about assembling a washer with foreign parts, which get whacked with a 50 percent tariff above 50,000 imported units in the first year.

Goldman Sachs analyst Samuel Eisner wrote Tuesday that consumers can expect price increases for new machines of 8 percent to 20 percent depending on how much of the tariff the manufacturers decide to eat. Producers and workers are also losers. LG Electronics USA noted Tuesday that its new plant to make washers in Clarksville, Tenn., will be "the most advanced factory in the world" but warned that the tariff "hinders the ramp-up of the new plant and threatens many new U.S. jobs."

Manufacturers will also lose flexibility in sourcing parts, which is critical to competitiveness. In South Carolina, where Samsung has a new $380 million appliance plant, the Trump tariffs aren't welcome. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster is worried they'll hurt the investment climate and invite retaliation.

Mr. Trump conducts trade policy as if U.S. trading partners have no recourse. With exports of $30.9 billion in 2016 and among the country's highest level of exports per capita, South Carolina knows better. By justifying tariffs solely on the failure to compete, Mr. Trump is inviting other countries to do the same for their struggling companies. Their case at the World Trade Organization will also be a layup, allowing legal retaliation against U.S. exports.

By the way, if Mr. Trump thinks these new border taxes will hurt China, he's mistaken again. China ran a distant fourth as a producer of solar cell and modules for the U.S. in 2017, after Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam. Korea and Mexico are the two largest exporters of washing machines to the U.S. Mr. Trump's tariffs are an economic blunderbuss that will hit America's friends abroad and Mr. Trump's forgotten men and women at home.

Online: https://www.wsj.com/

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Jan. 19

Business Day (South Africa) on how to succeed at Davos, where attendees include the anti-globalization U.S. president:

The World Economic Forum really couldn't come at a better time for Team South Africa. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, leading SA's delegation, said on Thursday that the African National Congress and SA as a whole were entering a phase of renewal. Both SA and the ANC were "coming out of a period of uncertainty, a period of darkness, and getting into a new phase", he said at a pre-Davos meeting.

His job would be to convince wary investors that the tide has turned in SA. His comments were echoed by Business Leadership SA CEO Bonang Mohale, who said "as complex as the challenges we face are, with demonstrable ethical and inspirational leadership and collaboration we can send out a strong message that SA is open for business."

Compare these soothing words to what might have been: an ANC conference that had collapsed or been caught up in legal wrangling. The grand pitfalls, almost miraculously, have been avoided and that will allow the South African delegation to meet the world on the front foot.

Yet it will remain a skeptical audience, as Ramaphosa implicitly acknowledges. SA's decline from a country of hope to a country on the brink has been startling and shameful, and that decline will not rub off easily. Even as no fewer than seven cabinet ministers in the delegation woo global leaders of politics and business, SA's state-owned entities continue to wobble and urgent action will be required.

The timing is fortunate from another point of view too. The mood at Davos is likely to be upbeat, or at least more upbeat than in the recent past, notwithstanding the rather downbeat theme of the conference, Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.

The world is going through a period of unusually synchronized global economic growth. Perhaps partly for that reason, the 48th meeting of the event has attracted a record number of presidents and deputy presidents from around the world, about 60 in all.

Included in that group will be U.S. President Donald Trump, whose presence will be something of an anomaly. Trump is perhaps the most fervently anti-globalization and anti-free-trade U.S. president in a generation, a stance that stands in stark contrast to the loose consensus of the Davos set, which is generally staunchly internationalist. Interestingly, the opening address will not be delivered by the notional "leader of the free world" but by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, symbolically suggesting the grander shift in geopolitics.

The WEF is often criticized for being a closed circle of like-minded plutocrats: it costs about $50,000 for senior business leaders to attend. It takes place in a sealed-off Alpine retreat guarded by thousands of soldiers and police. Yet the reality of the conference is very different: the consensus is loose if it exists at all, the span of the conference's subject matter is much wider than often thought and the participants are drawn from a broad array of society. Even singer Elton John will be attending.

The nature of the meeting is likely, however, to coalesce around the danger of a deteriorating geopolitical landscape that is only just eclipsing the dangers associated with social polarization — which has been the main conference topic of previous meetings. Under those two headings, a host of other dangers looms, including growing income disparity, cyber-threats, and environmental degradation.

In this grand scheme of global politics, SA's problems might seem small potatoes, but in many ways, SA is a microcosm of these broader issues. From severe water shortages in Cape Town to social conflict around school attendance, societal stresses from fast population growth, environmental change and political dislocation are everywhere evident.

If the meeting is to have real value, it will demonstrate to SA's leaders the need for real urgency in confronting powerful trends. This is not a time for procrastination. With any luck, that message will be etched into the minds of SA's political and business elite.

Online: https://www.businesslive.co.za/

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