Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Kansas City Star on the possible closure of Missouri’s only remaining abortion clinic
Missouri’s only remaining abortion clinic may close Friday — the result of a relentless and unconstitutional campaign against women that’s been led by state officials, the legislature and Gov. Mike Parson.
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Without a court order, Missouri could become the first state in the union in more than four decades to have zero abortion providers, threatening the rights of more than one million reproductive-age women in the state.
“Missouri would be the first state in the country to go dark, without a health center that provides safe, legal abortion care,” said Leana Wen, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “This is a real public health crisis.”
A state official said Tuesday that a final decision on the St. Louis clinic will be made by Friday.
Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis filed a lawsuit Tuesday, asking the court to keep the facility open. Among other things, the suit argues that closing the clinic would threaten poor women, as well as women in rural areas who would have to travel to other states to obtain needed medical services if the clinic is closed.
For that reason alone, the court should order Missouri to renew the facility’s license.
But this is also a political and constitutional crisis. Missouri’s efforts to prevent women from obtaining safe, legal abortions violates the fundamental rights of its citizens, no matter where they live or how much they earn.
In recent weeks, Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services has tried to close the state’s only clinic through a series of inspections and requests that serve no real purpose other than to shut the facility down. The lawsuit lists a series of meetings and messages in which the clinic attempted to address the state’s cooked-up licensing concerns, to no avail.
“It has long been the State’s objective to eliminate abortion access in Missouri,” Planned Parenthood says. “And the State has come close to succeeding, using a series of medically irrelevant and onerous requirements to prevent health centers that stand ready to provide abortion services from being allowed to do so.”
In Missouri, lawmakers have imposed a flood of regulations aimed at making it all but impossible for facilities providing this legal procedure to remain open. The state’s threat to pull the last remaining clinic’s license is confirmation that abortion opponents are in grave danger of succeeding.
Shamefully, Missouri could provide the country with its first glimpse of what life after an overturned Roe v. Wade would look like. The prospects are frightening, and women’s rights are disappearing before our eyes.
No one from the governor’s office or the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services immediately responded to a request for comment on the case. The reason seems obvious: Missouri’s abortion regulations have nothing to do with protecting patient health or safety. They’re designed to stop a legal procedure that some lawmakers and bureaucrats oppose.
That opposition continues to do serious damage to Missouri’s reputation. Companies won’t want to conduct business in a state so hostile to women’s rights. Who would choose to move to Missouri, or study at its universities, or contribute to its economy when women are considered second-class citizens?
Even some prominent Republicans agree with this concern. A petition drive is now underway to put the most recent restrictions, which criminalize abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest, up for a public vote in 2020. So, the state’s voters could have the opportunity to protect the Constitution and the right to this procedure.
Until then, though, the court should keep the St. Louis clinic open.
After that, the case could wind its way through the state’s courts, and land on the desk of the state Supreme Court. That’s what happened in Kansas, and now the fundamental right to an abortion is embedded in that state’s constitution.
The governor and other state officials are trying to prevent women from exercising their rights. The courts, and voters, must stop them.
China Daily on tourism between China and the U.S.:
Tourists from the Chinese mainland like destinations that are convenient, secure, and friendly.
The United States used to satisfy all three. But not so much lately.
Counting in visits for sightseeing, family reunions, education, business and medical purposes, travel from the Chinese mainland to the United States dropped 5.7 percent in 2018, according to the US National Travel and Tourism Office.
That slide rings alarm bells because it follows 14 consecutive years of growth.
According to the Big-Data Report on Outbound Chinese Tourists in 2018 released by the China National Tourism Administration, none of the top 10 foreign cities favored by Chinese tourists was in the US.
As many have observed, the latest spat between the two governments, which started in March 2018 when Washington announced it would impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports and which seems to be spreading increasingly beyond trade, is no doubt a factor to blame.
But along with escalating tit-for-tat trade blows, the overall atmosphere for bilateral communication has been deteriorating, and this has inevitably affected people-to-people exchanges.
Sporadic as they may be, reports about Chinese nationals having their US visas nullified at airports and/or being inappropriately treated by law enforcement personnel, Chinese-Americans losing their jobs for alleged connections with China’s government, the clamor to restrict Chinese students’ access to high-tech majors in US colleges, and the rising pitch of the China-bashing rhetoric have all contributed to dissuading many Chinese from visiting the US.
Compared with the 2017 Chinese National Day holiday, Chinese bookings of US-bound flights for the 2018 Golden Week fell 42 percent. Indeed, why should people receive a cold shoulder when there are plenty of more hospitable places to go?
With options for overseas travel continuing to broaden, and people’s tastes diversifying, more and more Chinese are being attracted to more affordable, accessible and amiable destinations.
Given there is no sign that a trade deal will be reached any time soon, a further drop in people-to-people visits between the two countries seems inevitable.
And as the hysteria to deny Chinese students access to US colleges persists, there may be a sizable fall in the number of Chinese students on US campuses.
Chinese students now account for one-third of all international students in the US. If the present fearmongering persists in the US, this may change quite soon, as more and more otherwise incoming Chinese students will have to avoid the US for overseas education.
For decades, people-to-people exchanges have helped break down barriers and promote mutual understanding between the US and China. But the actions of the current administration threaten to undo all that good work by building a wall of enmity between the two peoples.
The San Francisco Chronicle on U.S. Attorney General William Barr:
President Trump’s witch hunt has found its Cotton Mather, provocateur of the infamous Salem trials. Attorney General William Barr, determined to leverage a lifetime of expertise on the nation’s laws to ensure they don’t apply to his boss, has begun pursuing Trump’s longed-for investigation of the investigators with all the know-how and follow-through the president lacks.
The White House last week granted Barr broad authority to declassify intelligence information as he probes the origins of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia, arming him with another means of advancing the president’s conspiracy theories of a “deep state” bent on political sabotage. Barr previously deputized the U.S. attorney for Connecticut to investigate the investigation on top of reviews by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
Americans should welcome objective examinations of law enforcement and intelligence, but Barr’s record predicts nothing of the kind. The attorney general has signaled enthusiasm for Trump’s deceptive and self-serving version of events by recklessly accusing authorities of “spying” on his campaign. That suggests Barr is embarking on a more competent iteration of California Rep. Devin Nunes’ misuse of declassified material to run interference for the president during the Tulare Republican’s mercifully discontinued leadership of the House Intelligence Committee.
Barr, who also served as attorney general under George H.W. Bush, is a longtime champion of extreme and expansive views of presidential power. This ideology is at odds with constitutional checks and balances but in line with a president who has shown scant regard for legal and ethical constraints.
The attorney general’s reinvigoration of this witch hunt is a fitting sequel to his distortion of the Mueller report. Having recast the damning document of presidential obstruction as an exoneration, he has turned his attention to sowing doubt about the investigation itself.
Taken together, however, Barr’s campaigns to obfuscate and undermine the Mueller report reveal the illogic of Barr and Trump’s position. An administration that insists the special counsel’s investigation vindicated the president is now engaged in a concerted effort to discredit that supposedly exculpatory investigation.
The Houston Chronicle on accurately reporting the predicted consequences of climate change:
With hurricane season officially beginning Saturday, it’s frightening that the Trump administration continues to ignore the role climate change plays in spawning increasingly horrific storms that threaten the lives and property of Texans and residents of other Gulf states.
The U.S. Climate and Health Alliance said Hurricane Harvey dealt Texas a harder blow two years ago because climate change produced stronger storm surges, increased precipitation, and created more powerful winds. Harvey dumped nearly of 52 inches of rain on parts of Harris County. Researchers said that was 40 percent more rain than a similar storm would have produced decades ago.
Not even scientists within President Trump’s administration have been able to weaken his skepticism. He paid no attention to the latest National Climate Assessment, which every four years evaluates the effects of climate change on the United States. The report said climate change had made Texas particularly “vulnerable to increasing temperatures, extreme precipitation and continued sea level rise.”
The report meant nothing to Trump, who remains hell bent on reversing environmental rules imposed by previous administrations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide that cause global warming. It’s bad enough that Trump ignores science, but he has also placed accomplices in key positions to hide the truth from the rest of us.
One culprit is former astronaut James Reilly, who Trump appointed last year to head the U.S. Geological Survey, one of the federal agencies charged with keeping tabs on climate change and predicting its impact. Reilly, a geologist who also once worked for an oil exploration company, has ordered USGS scientists using computer-generated climate models to project the impact of climate change only through 2040.
If you think it’s mere coincidence that scientists say current emissions’ impact on global warming won’t be felt until after 2040, you need to know more about Reilly. During last year’s confirmation hearings, he assured senators, “I’m fully committed to scientific integrity.” Yet when asked specifically “when” more action should be taken to address global warming, Reilly suddenly became cryptic.
“Interpretation of the ‘when’ is really the problem,” he said, “and the ‘when’ really is the problem in: What’s that spectrum of time for you? Time, in this regard, is probably the same as what was best described in how you measure depth in a seismic section. That is, it’s basically numbers on a rubber band, and you’re doing one of these things, trying to figure out where’s the best fit.”
Come again? His mutterings are reminiscent of Bill Clinton debating the meaning of the word ‘is.’ Only in this case, the consequences of denial are quite possibly apocalyptic.
Truth becomes more complex when we don’t want to face it. All Reilly had to say is “now.” Now is the time to directly confront global warming. Reilly shouldn’t be in charge of the USGS if he can’t admit that. If scientific integrity is as important to him as he said it is, he won’t make it a casualty to Trump’s insistence that global warming take a back seat to whatever business model he believes is more important than surviving catastrophic climate-related events.
Another of Trump’s sycophants, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, shocked some participants at a recent meeting in Finland of the eight-nation Arctic Council when he seemed to suggest global warming is good because it is thawing a bonanza of untapped reserves of oil, gas, uranium, gold and rare minerals while opening up new shipping routes and fisheries. The words “climate change” never came out of Pompeo’s mouth.
NASA, which like the USGS studies our climate, says the damaging changes scientists expect to occur beyond 2040 include stronger, more frequent, and longer-lasting hurricanes, rising sea levels due to melting ice, and an “essentially ice free” Arctic Ocean. NASA says the southwestern United States should expect “declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, health impacts in cities due to heat, and flooding and erosion in coastal areas.”
At this point, it appears unlikely that Trump will ever stop trying to weaken or get rid of environmental rules that would help mitigate these and other devastating consequences. He’s surrounded himself with yes men such as Reilly and Pompeo who won’t talk him down from his position. He doesn’t listen to anyone in Congress, Republican or Democrat, who might change his mind.
So, it’s up to the American public to reach the president. He’s running for re-election, so he must care what voters think. Contact the White House and let Trump know you don’t want to live in fear of more storms even worse than Harvey. Tell the president it’s time to acknowledge human activity’s role in creating the greenhouses gases that cause global warming and to do something about it.
The New York Times on last week’s elections to the European Parliament:
Last week’s elections to the European Parliament, like many other elections these days, were more of an ideological battleground than a process of choosing representatives to a legislature. The populist nationalists on the rise across much of the world had been expected to score big, and to the degree that they fell short there was relief. But there was little else to pop Champagne corks about.
The European Parliament itself is not an institution many Europeans feel strongly about, and past elections have reflected that disinterest. But the rise of populism and a broad dissatisfaction with traditional parties turned this year’s elections into something of a referendum on populist nationalism, on the European Union itself and on the mainstream parties.
The results delivered the heartening news that Europeans still care about Europe. Europe’s populist parties had wanted to make the elections a dagger in the heart of the bloc. That danger galvanized supporters of the 28-member union, resulting in a turnout of more than 50 percent, the highest since 1994. The populists did increase their share of seats, from 20 percent to a robust 25 percent, but fell short of the landslide many had feared. Pro-European forces in Parliament remained dominant.
Yet the results also showed Europe more polarized than ever. Those who wanted to support the European Union usually voted for smaller parties, like the Greens or Liberals, and voters on the right often went further right, all but abandoning the mainstream center-left and center-right parties that have controlled the European Parliament for years.
Bitter divisions also shaped some voting patterns. Where populists were already in control, as in Poland, Hungary and Italy, they did well. In Italy, Matteo Salvini’s far-right League Party garnered 34 percent of the vote, giving him a claim to pre-eminence among the populists of Europe. But in France, Marine Le Pen was not far behind in right-wing glory, as her National Rally vacuumed up disaffected voters, including many of the forever-protesting Yellow Vests, to take 23 percent of the vote, a smidgen more than President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche party, which had trounced her only two years earlier.
Britain was a case unto itself, since it was supposed to be out of the European Union by now. But the failure to achieve Brexit compelled the Britons to participate, and the vote confirmed a yawning gap. A pro-Brexit party formed only a few weeks ago by Nigel Farage took 31 percent of the votes. Yet parties opposed to leaving the union jointly won far more votes, 47 percent. The two establishment parties, the Conservatives and Labour, scored low — 9.1 and 14.1 percent, respectively — suggesting that any possibility of a political compromise deal is more remote than ever.
So Europe lives for now. But the main story remains the smoldering dissatisfaction with the status quo and the nationalism this has fostered. That’s not only a European story; it’s what’s happening in America as the battle lines form for the 2020 presidential race, and it’s the prism through which elections around the world are now viewed.
In the world’s biggest democracy, India, the decisive re-election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, echoed the rise of populists around the world. By contrast, in the third-largest democracy, Indonesia (the United States is second), the re-election of President Joko Widodo, a soft-spoken politician who is more concerned with building roads than firing up nationalist passions, was perceived as a strong riposte to the rise of populist strongmen.
There’s plenty of grist in this scene for both pessimists and optimists. The former will focus on the fragmentation of traditional politics and the opportunities this holds for populist parties and authoritarian leaders. The optimists will rejoice that resistance to nationalism and far-right ideologues brought out so many voters, many of them young.
It is no time to pop Champagne. A fateful debate is underway over the future of Europe, and the future of democracy, and traditional parties have been sent a strong warning that they need to get with it. But if what used to be boring elections to a distant European legislature can draw so many voters and stir such passionate debate, there is also no cause for despair. This is real politics, in real time.
The Washington Post on financial regulations:
A key objective of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law was to equip government to anticipate, and control, threats to the banking system such as the one posed by overheated subprime mortgage lending before the crisis of 2008. One such tool is the designation of systemically important financial institutions, whether banks or non-banks (such as insurance companies), as big enough to shake the system if they fail. The Trump administration’s proposal to adjust that rule in such a way as to effectively exclude non-banks has drawn fire from former officials, including several who feel that they’ve learned a lesson from having failed to anticipate the 2008 collapse. On May 13, former treasury secretaries Timothy F. Geithner and Jack Lew, plus former Federal Reserve chairs Ben S.?Bernanke and Janet L. Yellen, warned Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that “these amendments amount to a substantial weakening of the post-crisis reforms.”
The admonition comes at a time of explosive growth in high-risk corporate debt known as leveraged loans, which some, including Bank of England governor Mark Carney, have analogized to subprime mortgages. Ms. Yellen has expressed worry that defaults on leveraged loans could exacerbate the next recession. At just under $1.1 trillion outstanding, leveraged loans expanded 20.1 percent in 2018, almost twice as fast as bank lending and faster than any other segment of the $31 trillion in household and corporate debt, according to the Federal Reserve. What’s more, by several measures, expansion is increasingly occurring among the riskiest borrowers. In part, this was a response to previous deregulation under the Trump administration, as The Post’s Damian Paletta has reported. And the ultimate source of the leveraged lending is precisely the non-bank sector, whose supervision would now be further relaxed.
Could this all come crashing down, taking the U.S.?financial sector and the economy with it? Probably not is the answer Mr. Powell gave in a May?20 speech. Mr. Powell cited statistics showing that, for all its recent expansion, leveraged lending is not disproportionate to the overall economy’s growth and is still growing at only a third of the rate that subprime mortgages expanded at the height of the boom. Most important, Mr. Powell correctly noted, is the fact that major U.S. banks are far better capitalized now than they were before 2008, rendering them less vulnerable to the contagion a leveraged lending collapse might set off.
It took some guts for Mr. Powell to say this, given the price he will pay if his confidence, hedged though it was, is not borne out. His point about bank capital is worth emphasizing, however: For all the elaborate protections in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, including the various mechanisms for anticipating crises, money tends to flow through the cracks of even a tightly regulated system. Capital is the ultimate backstop. The question for the Trump administration is, if you could have a robust early-warning system for the safety and soundness of non-bank institutions, why would you soften it? Better safe than sorry.
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