Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Post and Courier on remembering the nine African American parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church who were massacred by a white supremacist:
Most of us remember where we were and what we were doing on the evening of June 17, 2015, when nine African American parishioners at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church were gunned down during a Bible study.
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As the fifth anniversary arrives, it doesn’t feel like enough simply to remember that horrible crime, especially as a fresh wave of racial tension breaks over this country.
The latest unrest has been triggered by last month’s death of George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer. To many protesters, his death is part of a larger pattern, one that includes too many widely reported, hate-driven deaths of African Americans, including those killed by a white supremacist inside Emanuel.
So we need to remember more than that tragic day and those lives lost and irrevocably changed. We need to remember the goal of the pathetic criminal — to start a race war — and to rededicate ourselves to empathy, understanding and goodwill. We need to rededicate ourselves to fighting hate.
It is heartening to see so many survivors and relatives doing just that, in their own way.
As The Post and Courier’s Jennifer Berry Hawes reports, Tyrone and Felicia Sanders, who lost their son Tywanza, 26, find hope in his namesake foundation, which awards college scholarships and supports a camp for entrepreneurs. Jennifer Pinckney, widow of Pastor Clementa Pinckney, has focused on their daughters. The Rev. Anthony Thompson, who lost his wife, Myra, wrote a book, “Called to Forgive.” The Rev. Sharon Risher and Chris Singleton also have written books.
Rev. Thompson also speaks together often with survivor Polly Sheppard to spread the message about the power of faith. “That’s where I’m at now when it comes to remembering, it’s about helping people,” he told Ms. Hawes.
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Those stories are just a slice of how they are picking up the pieces and trying to turn an unimaginable loss into something good, or at least not as bad.
Most of us did not have a family member inside Emanuel that evening, but we all share a sense of loss and grief. And on this anniversary, we all can do something in our own way to try to improve things, whether it’s forging new relationships, becoming more politically active or providing fresh support for a good cause.
There is hope that something good will come out of all this nation’s anguish over the death of Mr. Floyd and other tragedies, including the one that unfolded in downtown Charleston five years ago.
U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told our Jamie Lovegrove essentially what so many others have said in recent weeks: This time feels different.
“I spend quite a bit of time researching and reflecting upon our country’s history, and I cannot think of any other time that this kind of reexamination has taken place,” Mr. Clyburn said.
This may indeed be a unique opportunity to make progress on matters of justice and equity — to help build a better America. In doing so, we should draw inspiration from the living victims of the Emanuel tragedy and the example they continue to set of empathy, love and hope.
The Los Angles Times on two black men found dead, hanging from trees:
The image of a Black man hanging from a tree is seared into the American psyche as the embodiment of racism in all its ugliness and cruelty. Lynchings of African Americans through the civil rights era of the 1960s challenged the nation’s perception of itself as the land of liberty, justice, equality and rule of law, and we have seen to our horror that even today, racial hatred can still descend to murder.
So even if a hanging in the Antelope Valley might look at the authorities’ first glance like suicide, that simply must not be the end of it. There must be a thorough probe, and findings must be made public.
The body of 24-year-old Robert Fuller was found June 10 in a tree near Palmdale City Hall. Officials quickly labeled it a suicide, but protesters to their credit immediately demanded a deeper investigation. So did Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
How likely is it that a man would hang himself from a tree? It is not unheard of, but it is hardly reassuring to note that two weeks earlier the body of 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch was found hanging from a tree in Victorville, a desert city at the opposite end of the storied Pearblossom Highway from Palmdale. Coincidence is possible. But so is a pattern. We don’t have enough information yet to know. Until a generation ago, much of the desert just north of Los Angeles and San Bernardino was dotted with mostly white communities that attracted families seeking homes that were more affordable and a lifestyle that was less urban than what was found in the packed cities south of the mountains. They were joined in the 1980s by a large migration from L.A. of Black families. The relatively quick demographic change brought some tension and several instances of violence.
L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey is today vocally opposed by protesters angry that she has not prosecuted police who have killed unarmed Black men. But as a young deputy district attorney assigned to Lancaster (not far from Palmdale), she prosecuted the killers of a homeless man whom they had met at a McDonald’s. Lacey said that they had set out to kill a Black man and that, when they had done it, they celebrated by getting tattoos. Lacey won the county’s first hate crime convictions.
“Here we are in the 1990s, in Southern California,” she recounted as a candidate in 2012, “and you have a racist group that has decided to murder people much the way they did in the South and got away with it in the ’50s. The verdict was about this: We are not going back there. Justice will be served. It was a message to anyone else out there who would even think of engaging in this behavior — that we’re just not going back there.”
That’s a sentiment that ought to ring true today: We will not go back there. Those are the words that ought to be on our minds when we see the videotaped killing of Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased down this year by white men in Georgia and shot to death. We will not go back there — and yet here we are. Arbery’s killing has the look and feel of a lynching, even if in this instance there was no rope and no tree.
That was the South, but those same words echo when we see the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. And yes, Floyd was killed not by a lynch mob but by a police officer. Yet the brutality and gratuitousness of the killing lend it the caustic flavor of a lynching. We will not go back there, yet here we are.
People around the nation are marching in resolve and anger against the continuing individual and institutional — and deadly — anti-Black racism still ingrained in our society. We struggle with the lines that separate the killing of people like Breonna Taylor in her own home by police officers from the killing of people like Arbery by civilians.
So we do not — we must not — simply shrug and say “suicide” when Black men are found hanging in trees. We leave no stone unturned until we can determine conclusively that these men were not killed by others, but by themselves.
And then, if we conclude that it could not have been murder but must have been suicide, we must recognize that our work is not done. We will have to ask ourselves: Why would a young Black man in the 21st century United States kill himself? Suicide in the Black community was historically low but is on the rise, especially among teenagers and young adults. Where did we go wrong? And, whether it be murder or suicide, how do we prevent such a thing from happening again?
Valdosta Daily Times on commemorating Juneteenth:
On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, announcing all persons held as slaves within the rebellious areas are and henceforth shall be free.
A political move by Lincoln, the proclamation did not end slavery immediately or in all states, but it served as a rallying cry for Union troops and for blacks to fight on the side of the Union to win their freedom.
The Civil War did not officially end until June 2, 1865, and word of the Emancipation Proclamation did not reach the last stronghold of slavery, in Galveston, Texas, until June 19, 1865, more than two and a half years after it was issued.
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
So began General Order Number 3, as read by Major Gen. Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865.
It was on this date that Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news the Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free — again, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which became official Jan. 1, 1863.
The annual celebration of the events of June 19, 1865, is most commonly known as Juneteenth. It’s the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. …
Juneteenth has become a day of freedom — a day marking the liberation from American slavery, and now a day symbolically marking the liberation from racism and prejudice.
The Guardian on journalist Maria Ressa being found guilty of “cyber libel” in the Philippines:
The persecution of the courageous journalist Maria Ressa in the Philippines should not only horrify her compatriots and her counterparts elsewhere. The conviction of Ms Ressa and a former colleague for cyberlibel this week, which could see them serve up to six years in prison, is designed to chill the media. But it should reverberate throughout her nation and more widely, because it forms part of a broader assault on democracy.
Having overthrown dictatorship three decades ago, the Philippines is now regressing under its authoritarian but popular president, Rodrigo Duterte. His brutal “war on drugs,” with its thousands of extrajudicial killings, has been accompanied by a relentless campaign against those who have dared to challenge it or otherwise criticise him.
As president-elect, Mr Duterte suggested that corrupt journalists were “not exempted” from assassination and told reporters: “You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong.” The leading broadcaster ABS-CBN was forced off air last month when its licence was not renewed.
Rappler, the news website headed by Ms Ressa, has already faced verbal attacks by Mr Duterte, multiple investigations, tax fraud charges and the revocation of its licence. Amnesty has described this week’s verdict as a sham. The Philippines has signed treaties that outlaw jailing people for libel. The article, which alleged ties between a businessman and a high court judge, was not authored by Ms Ressa herself. It appeared years before the legislation on cyberlibel had been passed. Yet the court accepted that Rappler had “republished” it because a single spelling mistake was corrected. Ms Ressa is now appealing.
This is, as she has said, an existential moment for journalism and for democracy. The country’s legislature has just passed a draconian anti-terrorism bill allowing the surveillance, warrantless arrest and detention of “suspicious” individuals. Human rights defenders say it will give authorities carte blanche to target those who criticise them online. ….
Under another president, the US would strongly press Manila over Ms Ressa’s case. But Donald Trump loves authoritarians and has normalised and enabled the abuses of press freedom that are now increasing worldwide. As his administration stands by, making only the most feeble statement, others must take a stand. While the UK has rightly expressed concern about the case, it should now work with others to defend media freedom.
It is not merely that Ms Ressa and her colleagues need and deserve support: her case has such frightening implications beyond her own country. When Mr Duterte is given a free pass for his behaviour, other leaders take note. Without freedom of the media, it is impossible to protect other freedoms: citizens cannot know what is being done in their name. Journalists are targeted because they sound the alarm. They must not be silenced.
The New York Times on a Supreme Court ruling barring employers from firing workers for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender:
In an emphatic win for civil rights, equal justice and common sense, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that federal law bars employers from firing workers for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
The vote was 6 to 3. It should have been unanimous.
As Justice Neil Gorsuch explained for the court’s majority, the right result could not be clearer. The federal law at issue, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, prohibits employment discrimination “because of sex.” And “an employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Gorsuch wrote. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
In separate cases consolidated for argument, three plaintiffs — two gay men and a transgender woman — had sued their employers for firing them after learning of their sexual orientation or transgender status.
It does not matter, the court said, whether the employer might have had additional reasons for the firing. “Intentionally burning down a neighbor’s house is arson, even if the perpetrator’s ultimate intention (or motivation) is only to improve the view,” Justice Gorsuch wrote.
Nor can an employer avoid the law’s prohibition by claiming it treats all men the same or all women the same. The bottom line, he wrote, is that Congress wrote a law with intentionally broad language, and “ours is a society of written laws.”
Monday’s decision will soon have ripple effects, including the likely invalidation of the Trump administration’s decision last week to eliminate protections against discrimination in health care for transgender patients.
In a lengthy dissent that sounded like it was written in 1964, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, argued that the court’s job is to interpret statutes to “mean what they conveyed to reasonable people at the time they were written.” It’s hard to imagine these justices applying the same logic to the meaning of the Second Amendment, which reasonable people at the time understood to apply to bayonets and muskets. But we digress.
Justice Alito’s point was that the lawmakers who passed the Civil Rights Act could not possibly have anticipated “sex” to cover discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
That’s true, of course. They also could not have imagined that it would cover sexual harassment of male employees — and yet in 1998 the Supreme Court found unanimously that it did. “Statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed,” the court said then, in an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia.
Justice Gorsuch, who succeeded Justice Scalia on the bench, reiterated this basic concept on Monday: “The limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”
While we’re on the subject of legislators’ intentions, it is worth noting the historical irony behind the inclusion of “sex” in the civil rights law — which was, after all, targeted primarily at racial discrimination. The term was added at the last minute by Representative Howard Smith, a staunch segregationist from Virginia, in the hope that lawmakers would see it as a bridge too far and vote down the entire bill. Mr. Smith’s failed gambit continues to pay off in ways that he surely never could have dreamed.
Still, there are reasons to be cautious.
Justice Gorsuch’s commitment to textualism, a method of interpreting laws by looking solely to their plain words, achieved a just result in this case, but when applied too rigidly it can lead to very unjust results. In his previous job on a federal appeals court, then-Judge Gorsuch wrote an opinion holding that a trucker could legally be fired for abandoning his broken-down truck in subzero temperatures — based on a wooden reading of the word “operate.” In short, this particular victory for gay rights was based not on the fundamental equality or dignity of gay and transgender Americans, as previous Supreme Court decisions have been; it was based on the meaning of a single word.
The opinion also hints at a potentially serious obstacle on the horizon: claims by employers that being prohibited from discriminating against gay and transgender workers violates their religious convictions. Such claims are likely to find a sympathetic ear among this Supreme Court’s conservative majority, which has repeatedly voted to protect if not promote religion and religious objectors.
For now, however, Monday’s decision is a victory to savor, the next major step in a line of gay rights decisions stretching back nearly a quarter century, and until now written solely by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who succeeded Justice Kennedy in 2018, graciously admitted as much in his own dissent. Although he disagreed with the majority’s opinion, he wrote: “It is appropriate to acknowledge the important victory achieved today by gay and lesbian Americans. Millions of gay and lesbian Americans have worked hard for many decades to achieve equal treatment in fact and in law. They have exhibited extraordinary vision, tenacity and grit — battling often steep odds in the legislative and judicial arenas, not to mention in their daily lives. They have advanced powerful policy arguments and can take pride in today’s result.”
Take pride, indeed.
The Wall Street Journal on a possible second wave of COVID-19 cases:
Stocks sold off Thursday amid investor worries that a “second wave” of coronavirus infections could cause countries and states that are reopening to lock down again. But headlines about a coronavirus resurgence in the U.S. are overblown so far, and the bigger threat is keeping the economy in a coma.
“We know as a fact that reopening other states we’re seeing significant problems,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. “Twelve states that reopened are now seeing spikes. This is a very real possibility.” This is Mr. Cuomo’s excuse for keeping New York City in lockdown purgatory for 12 weeks as other states reopen and their economies rebound.
Democrats cite a spike in cases in Florida, Arizona and Texas as evidence of a virus resurgence. But more testing, especially in vulnerable communities, is naturally turning up more cases. Cases in Texas have increased by about a third in the last two weeks, but so have tests. About a quarter of the new cases are in counties with large prisons and meatpacking plants that were never forced to shut down.
Tests have increased by about 37% in Florida in two weeks, but confirmed cases have risen 28%. … In Arizona, cases have increased by 73% in the last two weeks though tests have increased by just 53%. But a quarter of all cases in the state are on Indian reservations, which have especially high-risk populations. …
Liberals and the media demanded more testing before states could reopen, yet now are criticizing states because more testing has turned up more cases. Keep in mind that New York has reported about the same number of new cases in the last two weeks as Florida, though it ramped up testing earlier so the relative increase appears less significant.
A more important metric is hospitalizations. In Arizona the weekly rolling average for new Covid-19 hospitalizations has been flat for a month. Emergency-room visits for Covid-19 have spiked this week, but the number of ER beds in use hasn’t changed since late April. …
Texas has also recently reported an uptick in Covid-19 hospitalizations, mostly in the Houston and Austin areas. Current Covid-19 hospitalizations are up about 20% since the state began to reopen, but Gov. Greg Abbott says hospitals aren’t overwhelmed and much of the increase is tied to nursing homes. ….
Fatalities are a lagging epidemic indicator since most people who die have been in the hospital for two to three weeks. But deaths also aren’t surging. Texas has recorded 151 deaths this past week versus 221 in the last week of April. Florida has reported 239 deaths, 72 fewer than in the last week of April.
Deaths are probably declining in part from better and earlier treatment, but this means there’s less to fear from reopening. While Arizona has reported 114 deaths—43 more than in the last week of April—its deaths per capita are similar to the 325 that New York has reported in the past week.
Mr. Cuomo over the weekend boasted that New York “did the impossible” and “crushed” the coronavirus curve. New York has made enormous progress since the early days of the pandemic, which hit the state harder and earlier because of its population density, mass transit and international travel. We aren’t among the revisionists who say Mr. Cuomo should have locked down New York earlier.
But other states that didn’t impose strict lockdowns and have been gradually reopening have kept the epidemic under control and not paid as high an economic price. Some 7.3% of workers in Arizona and Florida and 11.4% in Texas were collecting unemployment benefits in late May compared to 18.7% in New York.
More infections are inevitable as states reopen, and there will be much trial and error. States need to be vigilant for outbreaks and protect high-risk areas and the vulnerable. But the costs of shutting down the economy are so great, in damage to lives and livelihoods, that there is no alternative to opening for the broader public good.
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