Editorial Roundup: US

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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April 14

The Chicago Tribune on the federal pause of administering the Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine:

Blood clots in veins that drain blood from the brain can lead to alarming strokelike results. The symptoms can be severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain and shortness of breath.

That’s why it made sense for federal, state and local health officials to hit the pause button Tuesday and again on Wednesday on continued distribution of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Six known cases of a rare clotting disorder called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis in women between the ages of 18 and 48 might be linked to the vaccine, health officials said. More information is needed.

On Wednesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met to decide next steps. The committee opted for additional time to gather information. They also learned more about the six women, one of whom died 11 or 12 days after receiving the vaccine — a 45-year-old woman with no known risk factors — and other reactions reported nationally that could be linked to the vaccine.

A Nebraska woman, 48 years old, presented with possible cerebral venous symptoms 14 days after the vaccination. She has not recovered. The youngest woman with possible serious side effects, an 18-year-old from Nevada, experienced complications, including cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, 14 days after vaccination. Her status, doctors said, is “not recovered.”

Five of the six women reported headaches initially. Later, some of them reported left-side weakness, vomiting, vision troubles, severe abdominal pain and loss of consciousness. Three remain hospitalized with two in intensive care, doctors said on Wednesday.

The individual stories are scary to be sure.

But it’s critical to keep them in context. Of the nearly 7 million doses given across the U.S., only six suspected cases with this side effect are known so far. In Illinois, more than 290,000 doses have been given, including to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, with no serious problems.

The vaccine remains effective in inoculating patients from COVID-19 66% of the time and limiting severe cases of COVID-19 that require hospitalization nearly 100% of the time, health officials said.

Hitting the pause button was a smart and cautious approach, and continues to be so, especially given two other alternatives exist, Pfizer and Moderna, to continue mass vaccination programs. The city of Chicago is rescheduling appointments for those who were supposed to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Pritzker said the state would help supplement supplies of the other two brands to Chicago for residents still waiting to be inoculated.

Dozens of health experts met Wednesday to discuss in detail what they know. The continued pause, out of an abundance of caution, is not something to be feared but rather, something on which to build confidence in safety protocols. If the vaccine is pulled off shelves permanently, it will be because of this moment.

Online: https://www.chicagotribune.com

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April 14

The Wall Street Journal on President Biden’s approach to bipartisanship:

President Biden campaigned on unity and bipartisanship, but his governing philosophy has been the opposite. So now the White House is redefining the concept.

“If you looked up ‘bipartisan’ in the dictionary, I think it would say support from Republicans and Democrats,” Anita Dunn, a senior White House adviser, said recently. “It doesn’t say the Republicans have to be in Congress.”

To take Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid spending spree: The thesis seems to be that if polls say it’s broadly popular, then it’s “bipartisan,” though zero Republicans voted for it. That’s certainly a novel way to look at it.

Mr. Biden also got into the act last week by rewriting the history of how he handled his bill on partisan lines. On Feb. 1, before the bill went through, 10 GOP Senators (enough to break a filibuster) visited Mr. Biden at the White House with a $600 billion counteroffer. A day later, Democrats in Congress began to push through their $1.9 trillion budget resolution, so they could pass Mr. Biden’s plan wholesale. The Republican offer was dismissed out of hand.

“I would’ve been prepared to compromise,” Mr. Biden said last week, “but they didn’t. They didn’t move an inch. Not an inch.”

The GOP Senators fired back in a public statement. “Our $618 billion proposal was a first offer to the White House designed to open bipartisan negotiations,” they said. “The Administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy.”

Perhaps Mr. Biden was hoping to hear a higher opening offer. But if he’s really interested in working across the aisle, then why not haggle?

The answer is that he had no intention of doing so. Democrats told him they could ram it through on narrow partisan majorities, and they did. It looks like that’s also what they plan to do with Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure, social welfare, climate and tax proposals. Mr. Biden’s governance so far makes Donald Trump look bipartisan and unifying.

Online: https://www.wsj.com

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April 13

The Bangor Daily News on the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by a police officer in Minnesota:

Shock. Outrage. Fatigue. It is hard to watch yet another video of a police officer killing a Black man without a mixture of emotions. The predominant question we, and many other Americans, have is simple: Why does this keep happening?

Certainly police officers are sometimes caught in the midst of dangerous situations that require split-second decisions for the safety of the community and the officers involved. But why do traffic stops too often become deadly when Black men are involved? And why are Black men disproportionately pulled over, often for minor offenses like an expired inspection sticker?

On Sunday, a female police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop. According to the Brooklyn Center Police chief, the officer thought she was firing her Taser, but instead shot Wright once in the chest. He died of the gunshot wound. The officer and chief have both resigned.

According to police, Wright was pulled over for expired registration tags. Police found out that there was a warrant for Wright’s arrest. In a dashcam video, police were handcuffing Wright when he resisted and got back into the car. Obviously, none of that should amount to a death sentence. Wright was shot in the driver’s seat before speeding off and crashing the car. Wright was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash and his girlfriend was injured.

The shooting of Wright took place only about 10 miles from the Hennepin County Courthouse where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the killing of George Floyd. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds after Floyd was arrested for using a suspected counterfeit $20 bill at a small grocery store. Floyd pleaded that he could not breathe and bystanders asked officers to allow Floyd to have medical attention.

The chief of the Minneapolis Police Department testified that Chauvin’s actions were a clear violation of its policies. We appreciate the sentiment from law enforcement officers around the country who have condemned Chauvin’s actions. It’s valuable for officers to stand up and say that this isn’t who they are. But that also requires a sustained commitment to reflection and reform. This can’t keep happening.

The shooting of Wright came the same weekend that video of an officer in Virginia pepper spraying a Black and Hispanic Army officer was revealed. In that incident, which occured in December, Army Lt. Caron Nazario was stopped by police who did not see the temporary license plate on his new SUV.

Police, with guns drawn, ordered Nazario, who was in uniform, out of the vehicle but he said he was afraid to do so. An officer pepper sprayed Nazario in the face. He was then pulled from the vehicle and forced to the ground.

At the end of the interaction, officers told Nazario he was free to go if he did not talk about the incident, but that he would face additional charges if he complained about it. The officer who used the pepper spray has been fired.

Police in America fatally shoot about 1,000 people a year, a number that has remained fairly constant in recent years, according to data collected and compiled by The Washington Post.

Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be killed by police than white Americans. And, although Black Americans account for 13 percent of the country’s population, they account for more than a quarter of those killed by police. Hispanic Americans are also disproportionately killed by police.

More than 95 percent of victims of police shootings are men and the majority are between the ages of 20 and 40.

But, the problems start well before an officer draws a gun. Researchers have found that Black motorists are much more likely to be pulled over than white drivers and that Black drivers are more likely to be searched.

An analysis of 16 years worth of traffic stop data in North Carolina found that Black drivers were 63 percent more likely to be stopped. When accounting for the fact that Black people drive 16 percent less, Black drivers were nearly twice as likely to be stopped. Black drivers were more than twice as likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white drivers. However, contraband was more likely to be found in searches of white drivers.

The researchers also gathered and analyzed traffic stop data from law enforcement agencies in 16 states, including Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio and Vermont that pointed to similar disparities in the rate at which Black drivers were stopped and searched compared to white drivers.

“‘Driving while Black’ is very much a thing; it’s everywhere and it’s not just a North Carolina or a Southern problem but across the United States,” said Kelsey Shoub, an assistant professor of political science at the University of South Carolina and one of three co-authors of “Suspect Citizens: What 20 Million Traffic Stops Tell Us About Policing and Race.” “The second thing is that it appears to be more systemic than a few ‘bad apple’ officers engaged in racial profiling.”

This and other data highlight the need for systemic reviews of police training and conduct with an eye toward rooting out racially motivated behavior among law enforcement officials.

As if we needed it, this data and the continued killing of Black men remind us that disparities in policing can have needlessly fatal consequences. It should not be radical to suggest that these patterns must stop.

We condemn the protests that have turned violent in the wake of Wright’s death and fail to see how looting is a legitimate response to a very real problem of failed police work. We also understand why too many Black Americans feel unheard and fear for their safety when doing what should be everyday things, like driving or going to a convenience store.

We don’t have all the answers, or maybe any of the answers. But we do know this cycle can’t keep repeating itself.

Online: https://bangordailynews.com

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April 13

The Los Angeles Times on President Biden’s announcement of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan:

President Biden’s announcement Wednesday that he will begin removing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the month and complete the withdrawal by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks that provoked the war, will finally bring to a close direct American military involvement there.

But as the administration has said, it will not end the government’s role in trying to broker a lasting peace and regional stability. “What we won’t do is use our troops as a bargaining chip in that process,” a government official told the Washington Post, which first reported the development.

The situation remains dicey. The Trump administration signed an agreement last year to remove the last of U.S. troops by May 1 (which also would precipitate withdrawals by NATO allies), but that date was thrown into doubt after security officials warned that a precipitous departure could add to the instability and increase the chances of the country descending back into civil war.

It’s unclear whether that risk diminishes if the U.S. waits until the end of summer to be gone, or what the Taliban might do in the interim (it has resisted attacking U.S. troops since the agreement). But the timing of our departure has been problematic ever since President George W. Bush launched the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks two decades ago. His and successive administrations have long struggled to craft an exit plan from a deployment that once peaked at about 100,000 troops.

What is clear is that it is in the best interests of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the Taliban and the U.S. to reach a lasting peace accord before the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops. And at this point in that seemingly endless engagement, the departure of U.S. troops might compel the compromises necessary to achieve peace.

The original allied goal was to destroy the Al Qaeda training bases and oust from power the Taliban regime of Islamist hard-liners who sheltered the terrorist network. Those goals were met, but we’ve had far less success standing up a sustainable, self-sufficient Afghan government. And we’ve been unable to broker a successful conclusion to the molasses-like negotiations between the Afghan government and a resurgent Taliban.

Continuing to risk American lives in Afghanistan has limited appeal to the American public, which is more focused on jobs, the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic than the situation in Afghanistan. That doesn’t mean the Biden administration should slip the estimated 3,500 remaining U.S. troops out while Americans are distracted, but that the lack of clear options suggests the president would encounter little significant political opposition from a nation tired of war.

So the president is right to make this move, but he also must make certain that the U.S. and its allies continue to exert whatever diplomatic influence they can to keep the sporadic attacks by each side from escalating into open civil war, and to ensure the region doesn’t become a fresh nest for terrorists. The best path to a sustainable peace, and political and social stability, is that the Afghans themselves negotiate the path to their own future.

Online: https://www.latimes.com

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April 13

The Hindu on discussions in Vienna between the remaining members of the Iran nuclear deal:

The Vienna talks between the remaining members of the Iran nuclear deal — China, Russia, the U.K., France, Germany and Iran — have raised hopes for the revival of the agreement from which then President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. in May 2018.

After the initial round of talks, European and Iranian diplomats have said efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is officially called, are on “the right track”. An American delegation, led by Robert Malley, the White House special envoy for Iran, is also in Vienna, though the Americans and the Iranians would not hold direct talks. All sides agree that bringing the deal back on track is ideal, but who will blink first?

The U.S. wants Iran to end its uranium enrichment and centrifuge development programmes and return to the 2015 agreement, while Tehran has demanded the U.S. lift all sanctions imposed by Mr. Trump and still enforced by President Joe Biden. The agenda at Vienna, therefore, is to produce a road map for the revival of the JCPOA by addressing these two critical issues — Iran’s nuclear enhanced programme and American sanctions.

The Biden administration has displayed flexibility in its approach towards Iran. The President appointed a special envoy, ended the U.S.’s support for Saudi Arabia’s war against the Houthis, Iran-backed militants, in Yemen and promised to lift sanctions if Tehran returns to the JCPOA terms. The administration has also reportedly made an offer to Iran to release $1 billion of Iranian money frozen in South Korea as part of the sanctions in exchange for ending its 20% uranium enrichment.

But a wary Iran, which was fully compliant with the agreement when Mr. Trump abandoned it and slapped back sanctions, has rejected the offer, seeking more concrete measures from the U.S. The challenge both sides are facing is a lack of time. Iran holds its presidential polls in June. If the U.S.’s best chance to address Iran’s nuclear programme is through the revival of the JCPOA, the best possibility of reviving the agreement is to do it (or at least agree on a road map) before the presidential election.

There are external dangers as well. Iran-backed Shia militias in Iraq continue to target U.S. forces and bases in Iraq. The Israel-Iran shadow conflict is now being fought inside Syria and on the seas. Last week, an Iranian ship was attacked in the Red Sea. If security tensions rise in the region involving Iran and its proxies, it could derail the diplomatic efforts.

The U.S. and Iran should exercise restraint, stay focused on talks and rebuild the lost trust, and take measures to get the deal back on track that would resolve the nuclear crisis in return for dismantling the sanctions regime.

Online: https://www.thehindu.com

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April 7

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the investigation into Florida U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz:

Scandal has been brewing for a Florida congressman. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is under federal investigation. The central question hinges on whether Mr. Gaetz paid an underage girl for sexual favors, and whether he paid for her to travel with him across state lines, which could constitute trafficking under the federal crime codes.

The Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been looking into the matter since 2020. As of yet, Mr. Gaetz has not been charged with any crimes, and he has denied all allegations of illicit behavior. He asserts that he and his family are being extorted. The FBI is examining Mr. Gaetz’s claims separately.

Like all citizens, the congressman deserves due process protections, which come with an assumption of innocence until proof of guilt emerges.

However, Mr. Gaetz currently sits on the House Armed Services Committee as well as the Judiciary Committee. The former isn’t an issue, but the Judiciary Committee oversees federal law enforcement entities, including those actively investigating Mr. Gaetz.

He should do the right thing and resign this committee position while the investigation is ongoing.

The conflict is obvious. Presidents accused of wrongdoing are investigated by special counsel to avoid the appearance of tampering with evidence or impeding the investigation’s progress. A congressman may not merit a special prosecutor, but Mr. Gaetz should take pains to separate himself from the judiciary process to avoid the risk of even the appearance of conflict.

If he will not, his Republican colleagues should take steps to remove him. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has indicated that Mr. Gaetz would be removed from all committee assignments if charges against him are proven, but he has not said whether the House will remove him during the ongoing proceedings. Members should.

Such a move is not a punishment, and indeed Mr. Gaetz should not be penalized without proof of wrongdoing. However, someone undergoing investigation into his personal affairs should not have a hand at the tiller of the Justice Department during that investigation.

Rumors that Mr. Gaetz is considering resigning his seat amid the potential scandal appear to be incorrect; the congressman has stated publicly that he will not resign. That is his right, but if he wishes to best serve his constituents, he should step away from the Judiciary Committee to avoid whispers of misconduct that impact his credibility and the credibility of the entire system.

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

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