Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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July 16

The New York Times on the Justice Department’s decision not to bring federal charges against a police officer who put a man in a chokehold, causing a fatal asthma attack:

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On Tuesday, just one day before the statute of limitations would have run out, the Justice Department said it wouldn’t bring federal civil rights charges against the New York City police officer who put Eric Garner in a chokehold that caused a fatal asthma attack in 2014 as Mr. Garner cried, “I can’t breathe.”

A state grand jury declined to indict that officer, Daniel Pantaleo, five years ago, and as departmental disciplinary action has been delayed, he not only remains on modified duty but also received an increase in overtime pay. So far, nobody has been held accountable for Mr. Garner’s death.

After meeting with federal prosecutors, the Garner family stood outside a courthouse in Lower Manhattan, convulsing with pain.

“Y’all watched him kill my father,” Mr. Garner’s daughter Emerald Garner shouted as she stood before the cameras, her voice heavy with anger. “Fire him.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Police Department delayed disciplinary action against Officer Pantaleo because the Justice Department asked them to wait while it considered whether to prosecute him. On Tuesday, the mayor said waiting so long for the Justice Department to bring charges was a mistake.

The Police Department finally began a disciplinary hearing in May, after the Civilian Complaint Review Board brought charges. An administrative judge has yet to decide whether Officer Pantaleo is guilty of departmental charges that he recklessly used a chokehold, in violation of departmental policy, and intentionally restricted Mr. Garner’s breathing.

Standing in the hot sun outside City Hall on Tuesday, Mr. Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, implored Mr. de Blasio to fire Officer Pantaleo.

“Do your job,” she said. “Come forward and show yourself as the mayor you were elected to be.” As she spoke, Mr. de Blasio, who won election largely because of support from black New Yorkers while promising to hold the police accountable, was at Gracie Mansion, miles away.

City law seems to preclude the city from firing Officer Pantaleo until the conclusion of the hearing.

Given the facts of the case, it’s hard to see his continued employment by the Police Department as anything but an insult to the people of New York.

Mr. Garner, who was unarmed and supposedly selling loose cigarettes, which is illegal, died because Officer Pantaleo used a chokehold. The Police Department banned the use of chokeholds in 1993 amid a rise in deaths linked to the maneuver.

In searing testimony at the departmental trial this year, the medical examiner said the chokehold triggered an asthma attack that led to Mr. Garner’s death, which he ruled a homicide.

A police internal affairs investigator also testified that he recommended disciplinary charges against Officer Pantaleo in 2015. None came until last year.

While the judge will decide if Officer Pantaleo’s actions violated departmental rules, they clearly violated good sense and demonstrated the kind of overly aggressive policing that has led to many controversial deaths. He chose to escalate an encounter, involving several officers, with an unarmed man over a minor violation, then used a dangerous and banned maneuver. Video of the episode, viewed by millions, shows the officer with his arm across Mr. Garner’s throat.

Even before Mr. Garner’s death, the Civilian Complaint Review Board had substantiated four allegations of abuse against him in previous cases.

Why should an officer like Officer Pantaleo remain on the force, diminishing the trust of New Yorkers?

The Justice Department’s delay is inexcusable.

The city’s deference to federal prosecutors, and lack of urgency, are offensive.

That Officer Pantaleo could remain on the force, after everything, seems unimaginable.

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

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July 16

The Wall Street Journal on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s move to condemn President Trump’s tweets about four House representatives:

If you’re going to condemn someone else in politics, or any other walk of life, you should have your own house in order. Nancy Pelosi learned that the hard way on Tuesday as the Speaker violated House rules by accusing President Trump of sending “racist” tweets.

“Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the President’s racist tweets,” Mrs. Pelosi said in teeing up a House resolution to denounce Mr. Trump that passed Tuesday evening largely along party lines. “To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people.”

Speaking of values, House rules say that Members may not call a President racist. Rep. Doug Collins (R., Ga.) rose to ask the Speaker to “rephrase” her comments. She refused, saying the House parliamentarian had approved them in advance. A flurry of conversation followed, with a Democrat even abandoning the chair presiding over the House lest he have to strike the Speaker’s words from the record. No one can remember that ever happening.

Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer eventually took the chair to say the Speaker’s words were “out of order.” But the Democratic majority then voted 232-190 not to strike Mrs. Pelosi’s words from the record, and it voted again by a similar margin to override House rules so she wouldn’t be banned from speaking on the House floor for the rest of the day as she should have been when a Member’s words are “taken down.”

What a farce. In her zeal to play to the media chorus that Mr. Trump is a “racist,” Mrs. Pelosi violates her own House rules on appropriate speech. But rather than apologize, she and her party override the rules to spare her embarrassment. All of which proves again that Donald Trump, for all of his excesses, has no monopoly on violating political norms.

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

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July 15

The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, on President Trump’s tweets about four House representatives:

We’re not big believers in public officials being responsible for all the bad things other public officials say or do. It’s become a too-common political weapon to ask lawmakers to condemn members of their own party, even for behavior that’s not representative of anything more than one person’s poor decision. But sometimes that behavior is so troubling that our leaders need to stand up and say something.

So it was Sunday when President Donald Trump tweeted a bigoted attack on four Democratic Congresswomen of color, telling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” This despite three of the four women being born in the United States, and the other, Omar, being a U.S. citizen.

“Go back where you came from” is among the worst of racist tropes. It divides us by ethnicity and skin color. It says that even if someone is a citizen or legal immigrant, they are not part of the rest of us. That runs contrary to who we should be as Americans, and if Donald Trump didn’t know it when he typed the words, he surely did later when people responded with appropriate outrage. But the same president who referred to Haiti and African nations as “(expletive) countries” and said African visitors would never “go back to their huts” once again doubled down on his racism.

It’s dangerous, destructive behavior, and at the least every Republican lawmaker in Congress should declare as much about their president’s outburst. That includes North Carolina’s most senior leaders, Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. We know this isn’t easy politically, especially for Tillis, who is running for reelection and faces a Republican primary challenger in a race to see who can embrace the president more fully. Tillis, of course, has a history of comically wavering on Trump — standing up then backing down on issues that include the Mueller investigation and the president’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border.

North Carolina’s lawmakers, however, are far from the only Republicans to struggle with Trump’s troubling tendencies. A handful have dared to step forward and criticize the president, only to equivocate when everyone else takes a step back. Most have instead decided that any criticism of Trump — be it for policy or problematic behavior — is not worth the heat that follows.

The result is that the Republican Party is firmly Donald Trump’s party now. It’s the party where insults and other ugliness are just being “rough around the edges.” It’s the party where locking legal migrants in crowded, unhealthy cages is acceptable immigration policy. It’s the party where it’s OK to say racist things so long as the next jobs report is encouraging.

If you don’t believe it, listen to the meekness today from Republicans, including those who represent our state. Instead of standing up for who we should be, they’re bowing to the worst of who we are.

Online:

https://www.charlotteobserver.com and https://www.newsobserver.com/

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July 15

The Los Angeles Times on setting bail:

Bail was set at a stunning $25 million for Naason Joaquin Garcia after he was arrested last month at Los Angeles International Airport on charges of human trafficking and forcing children to perform sex acts. The presumably unattainable amount was sure to keep him behind bars for however long it takes to get him to trial.

Or was it? Joaquin Garcia is leader of La Luz del Mundo, a church with as many as a million enthusiastic followers who consider him the most recent apostle of Jesus Christ. Maybe his devotees could raise that kind of money after all, or at least 8% to 12% of it to pay a bail bond agent, who would pledge the rest. And if they did, and if he was released, wouldn’t Joaquin Garcia just flee to his home and church headquarters in Mexico rather than hang around L.A. to be prosecuted?

So California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra asked to double the amount, and a Los Angeles Superior Court judge agreed. Bail is now at a record-setting $50 million. At least for now, Joaquin Garcia isn’t going anywhere.

For George Tyndall, bail was initially set at $2.1 million, so he wasn’t going anywhere either. Tyndall is the former USC gynecologist accused of sexually assaulting patients at the student health center. On Tuesday a judge reduced the amount to $1.6 million — a still-hefty sum, but one that Tyndall may be able to meet by putting up his condo as collateral.

He may well be guilty, and perhaps Joaquin Garcia is too — but that’s got nothing to do with whether they ought to be in or out of jail before trial.

The whole point of money bail is that accused criminals are supposed to be able to pay it. Presumed innocent until proven guilty, they’re supposed to get out before trial in order to participate fully in their own defense. And then, the theory goes, they won’t run away because they won’t want to lose their money (or their house or their car or whatever other collateral they put up).

In practice, however, setting money bail amounts has become a ruse for keeping defendants locked up, either because judges believe they will flee no matter how much money is at stake — or perhaps because prosecutors want to squeeze a guilty plea out of them in exchange for their freedom.

But if a judge has sufficient evidence that Joaquin Garcia is truly a high risk to flee, the right response is not to set impossibly high bail. It’s to deny him release on bail at any level.

Likewise, Tyndall shouldn’t be released if there’s enough evidence that he’s a danger to flee or hurt someone. But if there’s little or no such evidence, he should get out without posting any bail at all, no matter how wicked his alleged crimes and no matter how his accusers feel about it.

It would be bad enough if it were just the rich and notorious who were slapped with huge bail amounts. But the even more insidious problem with money bail is that it generally discriminates against the poor. Perhaps Joaquin Garcia and Tyndall will be able to raise all that money. But how about Kristen Gotangco, whose bail was set at $600,000 after she was arrested on an animal cruelty charge for allegedly hoarding 78 cats?

Why was it so important to keep her in jail before trial? It can’t be the only way to protect the neighborhood felines. Gotangco sounds like a woman in need of serious help, not someone who’s likely to flee the jurisdiction in order to hoard cats in some other country. Any amount of money bail for such a person is excessive.

Decisions about whether to release an accused criminal before trial should be based on the risk that the person will flee or hurt someone while awaiting his or her day in court. They should not be based on the public’s feelings about the crime, and certainly not on the defendant’s wealth or poverty.

The state Supreme Court is to decide later this year whether to ban money bail in all cases in which defendants can’t afford it. In about 15 months, California voters are to decide whether to finally scrap money bail in this state altogether. Until then, we live with an absurd system that calculates justice and public safety by the amount of money the defendant can beg, borrow or otherwise fork over.

Online: https://www.latimes.com/

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July 12

The Miami Herald on the effects of the sex crimes charges against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein:

After Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest, it was not a matter of “if,” but “when” Alexander Acosta would step down.

Acosta, the Miami-raised U.S. secretary of Labor did resign on Friday — two days after he tried to make a logical case for the lenient deal he gave sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein; six days after Epstein’s arrest in New Jersey; six months after the Miami Herald Editorial Board first called for Acosta to resign. And 11 years after Acosta did so little to ensure Epstein — alleged to have sexually molested or raped dozens of young girls, some barely in their teens, at his mansion in Palm Beach County — landed in prison for a long time.

Acosta broke faith with the young victims of whom Epstein took advantage. Acosta thought so little of them that he didn’t bother to inform them that Epstein was going to jail for a ridiculously short period of time. Just this past February, a federal judge in Florida ruled Acosta’s egregious misstep illegal. Now that he has resigned as labor secretary, how will Acosta be held accountable for that shameful lapse?

Acosta also failed the broader public, letting the jet-setter whom he forced to register as a sexual offender be released after mere months in jail, free to continue his crimes if he desired, if not in Florida, then anywhere else in the world. Acosta did not deserve to be a public servant.

The Epstein case hit a raw nerve with the public. Justice not only was delayed and denied. It was trampled upon.

Of course, Epstein got a light tap on the wrist. Of course, his victims were kept in the dark. Of course, his money and his connections insulated him. Epstein’s case is singular because of the number of girls he sexually abused and trafficked, the gaudy depravity of his crimes and his high-voltage associations in politics, finance and the law.

However, it’s also the same old story: the story of a powerful man and his powerless victims. The story of enablers who provided assistance and excuses. The story of men who were believed and women who were dismissed or intimidated into silence.

Epstein was arrested on July 6 on charges of sex trafficking with minors in Florida and New York. He has been a registered sex offender since 2008, when he was convicted of soliciting a 14-year-old girl for prostitution.

A pal of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, Epstein could have faced federal charges in that 2008 case and 45 years behind bars. Instead, Acosta, then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, agreed to a sweetheart plea deal. It was a third-rate consolation prize for victims and for the Palm Beach police and prosecutors who had worked the case.

Last November, the Miami Herald published Julie K. Brown’s three-part series, “Perversion of Justice,” identifying 80 girls and young women whom Epstein had allegedly molested from 2001 to 2006.

There is some evidence that Americans finally are becoming more serious about their response to sexual abuse. It can be found in the lengthening list of high-profile sex abusers who have lost the immunity they once enjoyed, in #MeToo and in the revulsion that greeted a New Jersey judge’s lenient sentence recently for a young rapist from “a good family.”

But, of course, this is a country in which several women have credibly accused the president — the president! — of sexual violence, and the media have become blasé about it.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 63 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. Survivors remain silent because they dread being blamed, shamed and doubted — even though the NSVRC says the prevalence of false reporting is no greater in cases of sexual abuse than for other crimes.

Most of those survivors never have the full attention of law enforcement. If they aren’t young white women with high-profile abusers, the odds of television crews showing up are low. Celebrity lawyers don’t leap to take their cases. Maybe the DNA evidence disappears into the backlog of unprocessed rape kits that exists in many states, leaving rapists free to continue their crimes.

Rape suspects are innocent until proven guilty, and many are found guilty and receive tough sentences, but not enough. When one in four girls is sexually abused before her 18th birthday, according to the NSVRC, and when one in five women is raped during her lifetime, crimes of sexual violence and exploitation cannot be minimized or excused, no matter how rich or powerful the perpetrators — or how poor and nondescript the victims.

Online: https://www.miamiherald.com/

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July 11

The Chicago Tribune on hints often given ahead of mass shootings:

A cliché about violent offenders is that someone often will say what a nice, quiet neighbor the person was before the eruption. A new study of mass attacks in America suggests quite the opposite — and that perhaps more of these rampages can be prevented.

The U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center studied 27 incidents in 2018 in which a total of nearly 200 people were killed or injured in public spaces, including Mercy Hospital in Chicago and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The findings don’t at all suggest that perpetrators had gone unnoticed by others, or that they had shown no previous signs of strain.

Rather, researchers found that most attacks were motivated by specific grievances. Two-thirds of offenders had histories of mental health symptoms, though mental illness alone is not a risk factor for violence. Nearly all were men, and nearly all had made threats, or said or done things that raised concerns in people around them.

Three-quarters had experienced a major stress event, such as a death, divorce or homelessness. They had gotten a divorce. They’d lost their job or been kicked out of school. The future, for whatever reason, looked bleak, and disturbing behavior was escalating.

Last February in suburban Aurora, Gary Martin killed five co-workers and injured five police officers at manufacturer Henry Pratt Co. He had a history of violent behavior going back two decades, including stabbing one girlfriend and threatening to kill another. On the day of the shootings, he warned a co-worker that “If I get fired, I’m going to kill every mother (expletive) here” and “I am going to blow police up,” according to the Kane County state’s attorney’s office.

That was an extreme example, and of course hindsight is 20/20. An observer might even think that if someone were really serious about wanting to commit a crime, he’d have the sense to keep quiet about it. But rather than plotting in secret, these perpetrators tend to strew around plenty of hints.

The need to pick up on those clues is not a license to report people to bosses, school officials or the police for no reason. Rather, it’s about understanding how to recognize and respond to red flags in family, acquaintances, co-workers or fellow students, and making it more routine to report behavior that seems truly out of line and escalating. Friends, neighbors and members of online communities can be more alert to who in their midst might be in real trouble. Workplaces and other institutions can build effective ways to respond. Law enforcement and other public officials can accept tips and connect dots whenever possible.

This isn’t a perfect solution. It echoes the advice for situations that could be precursors to terror assaults: If you see something, say something. If people on both ends of a tip behave with respect and resolve, a person who isn’t dangerous might at most get an alert that others are concerned about his well-being. And a person who is spiraling out of control might merit an intervention.

Very few people commit mass violence, and it can’t all be stopped by personal vigilance on the part of others. Many offenders are already under some kind of watch, and too many have illegal access to guns. But the picture forming here is worth understanding. Given the heavy toll of these incidents — 17 dead and 17 injured at Stoneman Douglas, most of them students — foiling even a single attack can save quite a few lives.

Online: https://www.chicagotribune.com/

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July 11

London Evening Standard on the loss of its ambassador to the U.S.:

Humbled by a belligerent US President, ignored in Asia and withdrawing from the European continent — Britain has been here before. In 1956. Back then the threat by Dwight Eisenhower to dump sterling in the financial markets forced a Conservative government into a humiliating retreat from the Suez Canal. It was the end of the UK as an imperial power with global pretensions, and in the decade that followed, the military and diplomatic infrastructure that had sustained those pretensions east of Suez was dismantled.

But if we had lost an empire, the crisis helped us to find a role — as a European power. Subsequent Tory prime ministers understood what a mistake it had been for Britain to stay out of the creation of the then European Economic Community in the foolish belief that we could rely solely on our American alliance and our links with former colonial possessions. So in the years after Suez applications were made to join the EEC and eventually, in 1973, we were let in. Now, five decades later, we are trying to leave — and the politicians who championed Brexit, and those who embraced the referendum result, promise us a “global Britain” again, sustained by — wait for it — our alliance with the US and a rejuvenated Commonwealth.

This week we have been reminded what a delusion that remains. The resignation of Sir Kim Darroch as ambassador to the US was inevitable once his private thoughts on the Trump administration were leaked . As a talented public servant, Sir Kim understood that instantly — in a way that the harrumphing chorus in Westminster demanding he stay in post did not. The blame for his fate lies less with President Trump — no one likes being called “inept” and any White House would have responded angrily, if not quite so colourfully, to such a leak — than with a riven and rudderless Government at home that can’t keep anything secret.

But the episode has reminded us that, vital as the American alliance is, Britain will never be anything like an equal partner and will always, ultimately, be dispensable to it. We can and should forge new ties around the world. But even before the recent clash over Hong Kong, the “golden age” with China that the Cameron government carefully sponsored was already heavily tarnished by the May Government’s mishandling of everything from nuclear power to gunboat diplomacy in the South China Sea. Our history with India will forever remain as much an obstacle as an opportunity with that great power, while, for all the good it tries to do, the Commonwealth will never be more than a loose relationship between disparate countries.

The truth is that in 2019, as in 1956, Britain needs Europe — and yet the two people aspiring to be the next Tory prime minister are trying to outdo each other with their threats and insults to our near neighbours. Friendless in Brussels; unheard in Beijing; insulted in Washington — Britain doesn’t feel very global right now.

Online: https://www.standard.co.uk/

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