Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
Los Angeles Times on the departure of CBS Chairman Les Moonves:
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If the swift departure of CBS Chairman Les Moonves has a bright side, it’s that a major television network took accusations of sexual harassment against its chief executive seriously enough to hold him accountable and obtain his resignation even at the expense of upending the management of its multi-billion dollar business. After a year of revelations spawned by the #MeToo movement, that’s the least we should be able to expect.
It took less than two months from the first set of allegations of sexual harassment against Moonves, published in the New Yorker, for the media executive to resign under pressure. That’s warp-speed for a corporation the size of CBS. Granted, the New Yorker recently followed up with a second set of allegations, raising the chances that the network would be engulfed in a crippling scandal if it didn’t act. Those additional allegations apparently persuaded CBS to put Moonves’ $120-million severance package on hold, and wisely so, pending the conclusion of an outside investigation of the allegations.
But there’s another, less welcome lesson here. The length of time over which these alleged incidents occurred is a painful reminder of how long some men have been able to engage in such behavior, how difficult it can be for women to come forward, and how slow and painful is the process of reevaluating and revamping a culture that allowed harassers and predators to carry on.
The accusations in the New Yorker by 12 women — which include allegations that Moonves forced some to perform oral sex on him, that he threw one woman against a wall, and that he retaliated professionally against several for rebuffing his advances — span some three decades, including Moonves’ years as an executive at Lorimar before he joined CBS. Some of the women say they debated whether to report their encounters back then but decided against it, fearing that they would not be believed or that their own careers would be damaged.
Moonves has denied misusing his position and said he has always “abided by the principle that ‘no’ means ‘no.'”
The investigation, we hope, will resolve any discrepancies. In the meantime, the Moonves case should serve as a reminder that no one, no matter how successful, is beyond accountability. What still needs to be done is to make clear that no one should be abusing their power in the first place.
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The Washington Post on climate change as Hurricane Florence nears the U.S. East Coast:
Yet Again, a massive hurricane feeding off unusually warm ocean water has the potential to stall over heavily populated areas, menacing millions of people. Last year Hurricane Harvey battered Houston. Now, Hurricane Florence threatens to drench already waterlogged swaths of the East Coast …
President Trump issued several warnings on his Twitter feed Monday, counseling those in Florence’s projected path to prepare and listen to local officials. That was good advice.
Yet when it comes to extreme weather, Mr. Trump is complicit. He plays down humans’ role in increasing the risks, and he continues to dismantle efforts to address those risks. It is hard to attribute any single weather event to climate change. But there is no reasonable doubt that humans are priming the Earth’s systems to produce disasters.
Kevin Trenberth, a climate researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, co-wrote a May paper showing that Harvey’s cataclysmic wetness came from the unusually hot Gulf of Mexico water that fed the hurricane before it slammed into Texas. “Harvey could not have produced so much rain without human-induced climate change,” he and his colleagues concluded. Now Florence is feasting on warm Atlantic Ocean water. “The ocean is warming up systematically,” Mr. Trenberth said, explaining that, though natural variation can turn surface temperatures up or down a bit, the oceans’ energy content is inexorably rising. “It is the strongest signal of global warming,” Mr. Trenberth added.
Scientists also warn that climate change may be slowing the wind currents that guide hurricanes, making storms more sluggish and, therefore, apt to linger longer over disaster zones. Tropical cyclone movement has slowed all over the planet. Harvey’s stubborn refusal to leave the Houston area was a decisive factor in its destructiveness. Florence may behave similarly.
And human-caused sea-level rise encourages higher storm surges and fewer natural barriers between water and people.
With depressingly ironic timing, the Trump administration announced Tuesday a plan to roll back federal rules on methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is the main component in natural gas. Drillers and transporters of the fuel were supposed to be more careful about letting it waft into the atmosphere, which is nothing more than rank resource waste that also harms the environment. The Trump administration has now attacked all three pillars of President Barack Obama’s climate-change plan.
The president has cemented the GOP’s legacy as one of reaction and reality denial. Sadly, few in his party appear to care.
The Japan News on Naomi Osaka winning the U.S. Open women’s singles title:
A Japanese player has finally won one of the greatest tennis tournaments. It was a historic and outstanding achievement.
Naomi Osaka won the women’s singles title at the U.S. Open.
This is the first time for a Japanese player, male or female, to become a Grand Slam singles champion. Osaka has overcome the challenges that Japanese players, such as Kazuko Sawamatsu and Kimiko Date, repeatedly yet unsuccessfully took on. Heartfelt applause should be offered to Osaka.
Osaka’s dream of playing her idol, the American player Serena Williams, in the U.S. Open final has become a reality. With her characteristic, powerful serve and stable shots, Osaka dominated the match, holding even former world No. 1 Serena at bay. The way Osaka played was splendid.
It was Osaka’s strong mental power of never losing her composure that deserves special mention. Serena, on the back foot, and apparently out of frustration, smashed her racket and uttered abusive words at the chair umpire. Meanwhile, boos came from the spectators, expressing the sentiment that “It is unfair for Serena.”
Even amid an extraordinary atmosphere, however, Osaka didn’t lose her concentration. She appears to have been able to display her ability — even in a completely hostile atmosphere — because she was confident in her play, which has improved steadily.
In the post-match ceremony, Osaka said to Serena: “I’m really grateful I was able to play with you. Thank you,” and bowed her thanks to Serena. It was Osaka’s magnificent demeanor that has changed spectators’ boos into applause. …
The winners of the Grand Slam women’s singles titles this year were all different players. They were also different last year, too. This shows the current state of affairs in the women’s tennis world that there is no absolute queen.
Osaka, aged 20, still has growth potential. Depending on how she trains herself in the years ahead, it might not be a mere fantasy for her to continue standing as the top tennis player in the world. …
The New York Times on the U.S. administration choosing not to aid rebellious leaders seeking to overthrow Venezuela’s president:
America shouldn’t be in the coup business. Period.
It’s a relief, then, to learn that the Trump administration chose not to aid rebellious leaders in Venezuela seeking to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro. But it’s worrisome to think that President Trump and his advisers made the right call for the wrong reason — lack of confidence in the plotters to succeed in a risky operation rather than principled concern about intervention.
There’s no doubt Mr. Maduro is an illegitimately elected leader driving his country to a catastrophic political, economic and societal meltdown. American officials discussed the possibility of helping overthrow Mr. Maduro in three meetings over the last year with rebellious leaders, who had initiated the contact, The Times reported this past weekend.
Given the turmoil in Venezuela, it is not unreasonable for American diplomats to meet with all factions, including mutinous military officers, to learn their thinking. For instance, who would be in charge in a political transition process? What kind of government do they aim for?
But holding multiple meetings with the plotters begins to look like collaboration. The news was bound to leak out, as it has.
And the rebellious commanders had reasons to hope that the Americans might be sympathetic. Mr. Trump last year declared that the United States had a “military option” for Venezuela. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, also hinted he favored military action. In a series of tweets, he encouraged dissident members of the armed forces to oust their commander in chief.
Yet if Mr. Trump is in fact tempted to intervene, or act militarily — as past comments suggest — he should contemplate the sorrowful history of American intervention in Latin America and its more recent history of trying to interfere elsewhere to depose dictators and install democracies.
For much of the past century, the United States compiled a sordid history in Latin America, using force and cunning to install and support military regimes and other brutal thugs with little interest in democracy.
Gunboat diplomacy in the early 20th century saw American Marines invading Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and elsewhere to set up governments of Washington’s choosing …
In later years, the United States backed the contra rebels against the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua (1980s), invaded Grenada (1983) and supported brutal, repressive governments in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
A vanishing few of these interventions came to anything that could be considered a good end.
Here’s the right way to put pressure on Venezuela’s regime: Mr. Trump and other leaders need to keep trying to encourage a transition deal by tightening targeted sanctions on Mr. Maduro and his cronies who undergird an autocratic, corrupt system …
Clearly a diplomatic path is better than having the United States meddle in yet another country, an enterprise certain to fail miserably.
The Orange County (California) Register on criminal justice reform:
Over the past few decades, there has been a proliferation of criminal statutes and regulations carrying criminal penalties at the federal level. As Congress debates criminal justice reform, mens rea reform should be on the table.
For years, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has introduced and called for legislation to require federal criminal laws and regulations to include a mens rea requirement for prosecution.
Mens rea, Latin for “guilty mind,” deals with the mindset of a person accused of committing a crime.
Mens rea requirements can include requiring prosecutors to prove an accused person “knowingly,” ”willfully” or “intentionally” violated the law.
However, while the federal government has grown significantly over the past several decades, so too has the list of criminal statutes and regulations carrying criminal sanctions.
According to the Heritage Foundation, there are about 5,000 federal criminal statutes and upward of 300,000 criminal regulatory offenses on the books, though precisely how many there are isn’t known.
While many do have some mens rea standards in place, many don’t, and there is often plenty of ambiguity of the sort that shouldn’t be acceptable in the context of criminal sanctions.
To provide greater clarity, last October, Hatch, joined by Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, David Perdue, R-Georgia, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, introduced the Mens Rea Reform Act of 2017.
The law called for “a default intent standard for all criminal laws and regulations that lack such a standard.”
“Prosecutors should have to show a suspect had a guilty mind, not just that they committed an illegal act, before an American is put behind bars,” Lee said in a statement.
Unfortunately, the proposal failed to gain traction. However, Hatch, joined by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has since reintroduced a more moderate version of the Mens Rea Reform Act to achieve the same end.
The 2018 version would “establish an extended process for federal agencies and Congress, with the assistance of a National Criminal Justice Commission and input from the public, to clarify the mens rea requirements in our existing criminal laws.”
This approach, which Hatch concedes is more “incremental” than previous efforts, would certainly be an improvement over the status quo.
The proposal has drawn the support of the American Conservative Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Rick Jones, president of the NACDL, rightly notes that the failure to have intent requirements that are clearly defined “undermines the moral authority of our justice system.”
It is unacceptable that Americans can be held criminally accountable for crimes without there being clear intent standards in place.
In a nation predicated on individual liberty and limited government, mens rea reform of the sort called for by Hatch is long overdue. We encourage federal lawmakers to give the matter the consideration it deserves.
Chicago Sun-Times on raising minimum wages:
The evidence is stacking up: Raising the minimum wage does not kill jobs.
Opponents of a higher wage make that argument repeatedly, sounding the alarm in a desperate effort to squelch any idea of giving workers a tiny boost in pay so they can feed and clothe their kids a little easier on a bare-bones paycheck.
Shelling out an extra 25 or 50 cents will bankrupt companies, critics warn. Putting more money in workers’ pockets won’t help them when jobs disappear, they caution.
Nevertheless, 10 cities — including Chicago — and seven states have chosen in recent years to raise their minimum wage to a livable $12-to-$15 per hour. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in a recent study on Chicago’s higher minimum wage, found no negative impact on jobs. Other studies have suggested mixed results.
Now the University of California at Berkeley has weighed in with a new study of wage increases for food service workers — a major low-wage industry — in six cities, including Chicago.
Lo and behold, the study found, jobs as well as wages went up, “in a pattern that suggests, if anything, that the minimum wage caused employment to expand,” the study states.
Why? Workers who earn more are less likely to quit and more likely to increase their spending — both of which, in the long run, means more people on the job, not fewer.
To our thinking, a more respectable minimum wage has never been more important, even if it is only a symbolic gesture toward the notion that something must be done to reduce a growing wage and wealth gap in the United States. The stock market has been booming, but because stock ownership is concentrated among richer people, it has increased economic inequality.
Last year, Illinois legislators approved a $15 minimum wage for the state, but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the bill.
The argument for keeping the minimum at a paltry $8.25 just took another blow.
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