The Associated Press
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
New York Times on brain research:
President Barack Obama officially announced his new brain research initiative on Tuesday, with a pledge to put $100 million in his 2014 budget to support work at three federal agencies. It is a modest but welcome start for an effort that could transform our understanding of how the brain works and help researchers find new ways to treat and prevent brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer's.
The ultimate aim is to learn how the brain generates thoughts, dreams, memories, perceptions and other mental images; how it stores and retrieves vast quantities of data; and how it learns from experience or education. More immediately, the aim is to generate new technologies in data processing, nanotechnology, optogenetics and other esoteric fields to study how billions of brain cells and complex neural circuits interact.
The $100 million will be split among the National Institutes of Health, the lead agency for biomedical research; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which has a strong interest in treating soldiers with brain injuries; and the National Science Foundation, which supports a broad range of research in numerous fields. Federal officials say $100 million in the first year will be sufficient to convene expert groups to identify worthwhile projects and to collaborate with private donors who are also pouring millions into brain research.
Some researchers think a higher level of financing -- perhaps $300 million in federal support annually -- will be needed over the next decade to make substantial progress. For now, Obama's challenge to the nation's research community to get started is a big leap forward.
Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on abstinence-only classes:
Two decades ago, conservatives in Congress undercut comprehensive sex education, which teaches teens how to avoid pregnancy and venereal diseases, and instead poured taxpayer money into abstinence-only classes that advocate shunning sex until marriage.
Well over $1 billion was spent to preach abstinence -- and it didn't produce a dollar's worth of results. Study after study found that "just say no" teaching had no effect on adolescents -- except to harm them by keeping them ignorant of ways to prevent pregnancy and V.D. Most U.S. medical groups called for a return to comprehensive courses that protect teens.
In 2010, under President Barack Obama, Congress ended two abstinence programs, saving taxpayers $112 million a year, but retained a third that grants up to $50 million annually to puritanical states wanting to keep teens sexless.
An obstetrician, Dr. Stephanie Sober, recently suggested that taxpayers should save the $50 million, rather than waste it on abstinence-only classes.
Southern West Virginia has a pathetic rate of teen pregnancy -- up to three times higher than the national average -- which often dooms both mothers and children to poverty and lost potential.
This state actually has good sex education laws, requiring schools to protect youths by giving them effective birth control instruction. But puritanical mountain taboos cause many rural schools to shun this obligation, like Dracula recoiling from a crucifix. In effect, some classes teach abstinence-only, even though state law requires comprehensive training.
All teenage girls deserve the best future possible. Helping them avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases should be a solemn commitment. America should stop pushing futile abstinence-only training and instead teach teens how to protect themselves.
Telegraph of Macon on not abandoning U.S. troops' allies:
When American troops went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, they relied on local translators, drivers and guides to help them navigate incalculable risks. In exchange, the United States promised, beginning in 2006, to provide visas for those men and women whose work put them in danger. But nearly a decade later, it has yet to fulfill that commitment.
Washington must live up to its obligations. A good place to start would be for Congress and the White House to move swiftly to extend the Special Immigrant Visa program, which is due to expire in the months ahead. Enacted by Congress in 2007, the program provides 6,500 new visas annually for Iraqis and Afghans to resettle in the United States. Yet it has been plagued with problems.
An unwieldy application process, coupled with enhanced security measures designed to weed out possible terrorists, has led to backlogs and long delays. As a result, only a fraction of the available visas have been issued. In fiscal year 2012, for example, fewer than 2,000 visas were granted, according to the U.S. Department of State's data. Overall, only 22 percent of the authorized Iraqi visas and 12 percent of the authorized Afghan visas have been issued since the program began.