Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The New York Times says the U.S. Senate needs to stop ramming through Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination:
With a third woman stepping forward with accusations that the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual assault as a young man, this destructive stampede of a Supreme Court confirmation, driven so far by partisan calculation, needs to yield at last to common sense: Let qualified investigators — the F.B.I. — do their job. Let them interview the many witnesses whose names are already in the public record, among them Judge Kavanaugh’s close high-school friend Mark Judge, then weigh the credibility of the various claims and write a report for the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
To jam Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation through now, without seeking to dispel the darkening cloud over his head, would be to leave the public in doubt about his honesty and character — and to set an even lower standard for taking claims of sexual abuse seriously than the Senate did 27 years ago in considering the accusations against Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill.
Yes, partisan games have no doubt been played on both sides. But the only reason for so much urgency about this confirmation is politics; the same cannot be said about calls for holding a fair and thorough investigation.
To recap: On Wednesday morning, the bomb-throwing attorney Michael Avenatti made public an affidavit from Julie Swetnick, a woman who grew up in the Washington suburbs and claims to have traveled the same 1980s social circuit as Judge Kavanaugh. Ms. Swetnick says that he drank excessively at many parties she attended; that he was verbally abusive and physically aggressive toward girls, fondling and grabbing them; and that he was part of a group of young men who would spike the punch at parties with alcohol or illicit drugs with an eye toward incapacitating the female attendees, including Ms. Swetnick herself, and then abusing them.
These are grotesque charges — and, like the previous ones, they leave oceans of room for speculation and doubt. This is precisely why the Senate needs to stop trying to ram through this nomination by some arbitrary deadline and arrange for a thorough and nonpartisan inquiry.
Unlike Christine Blasey Ford or Deborah Ramirez, Ms. Swetnick is not claiming to have been assaulted directly by Judge Kavanaugh. But her accusations directly speak to his repeated insistence that he never behaved in a demeaning or disrespectful manner toward women. In his recent interview on Fox News, the nominee, seated primly beside his wife, presented his teenage self as a virtual choir boy, chastely focused on academics and sports and weekly church attendance. …
That was a risky defense, and Judge Kavanaugh seems to be reconsidering it. In an opening statement prepared for him to deliver at his appearance before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, the nominee now allows that he was “not perfect” in high school. He admits he may have drank too much on occasion (though rarely on school nights) and that he may have done said and done things that now make him “cringe.”
Yet he maintains that it is inconceivable that he would have sexually wronged anyone at any time. And he fiercely brushes aside all of the accusations to arise after Dr. Blasey came forward as part of plot against him. “Over the past few days, other false and uncorroborated accusations have been aired,” his prepared statement says. “There has been a frenzy to come up with something — anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious — that will block a vote on my nomination. These are last-minute smears, pure and simple.”
This claim of victimhood will most likely endear the judge to President Trump, whose stock reply to any accusation of sexual misconduct is to denounce the accuser as a liar. It is also likely to play well with more retrograde lawmakers like Orrin Hatch, whose response to Ms. Swetnick’s allegations was to insist that Judge Kavanaugh is the real victim here.
“It shows there are people who would stop at nothing,” Mr. Hatch told CNN in response to Ms. Swetnick’s accusations. “I don’t think we should put up with it, to be honest with you.”
In saner times, the Senate would have paused in its mad rush to confirm Judge Kavanaugh when the first credible allegations of sexual assault surfaced. As things stand, Chuck Grassley, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has shrugged off these latest accusations and asserted that the show will go on without further inconvenience or delay.
Dallas Morning News on the firing of a white police officer who fatally shot her black neighbor inside his own apartment:
Leadership is no easy task, as Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall would likely attest. Her latest leadership test involves the fate of former officer Amber Guyger, whom Hall rightly fired this week.
On one hand, Hall was faced with a situation where the raw facts are not in dispute and point to a fireable offense. Earlier this month, Guyger ended a duty shift and headed home. Rather than approach her front door, however, she arrived at an apartment directly above. There, she shot and killed 26-year-old Botham Jean in his own apartment.
Guyger believed at the time, she contends, that Jean was an intruder in her apartment. Nonetheless, it is right for Hall to expect better from her officers than the use of deadly force under such circumstances, and to terminate an officer who fails to meet her expectations in such circumstances.
On the other hand, Hall also leads a proud police force in a major American city. And here, too, the demands of leadership require her to enforce an appropriate level of expectations by terminating an officer involved in such an incident. Actions, even if they are shown to be mistakes, have consequences.
The hard part now is for Hall to lead in a city that is rife with division. In this highly charged moment, only preserving the presumption of innocence for Guyger can create the space that justice requires. She is entitled to the right to appeal her firing. And she is entitled to a full and fair trial on the charge of manslaughter that she faces.
That presumption requires us and our judicial system to be open to the facts that will be presented. But regardless of the outcome of that trial, Hall’s officers will have to police today and every day in our city. So we hope that her good decision helps foster the right climate for good, strong community involvement in the law enforcement of our city.
Los Angeles Times on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s meeting scheduled with President Donald Trump over his job:
Three days after he reportedly went to the White House to turn in his resignation, Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein is finally set to meet with President Trump on Thursday to discuss his continued employment. The right course for Trump is clear: He should tell Rosenstein to remain on the job.
This might seem like counterintuitive advice. Rosenstein is probably the president’s second least favorite appointee at Justice — the least favorite being Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, who enraged Trump when he took the ethically imperative step of recusing himself from any investigation related to the 2016 presidential campaign, which he served as a Trump adviser.
That set the stage for Rosenstein to take charge and name Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel to investigate possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, an inquiry Trump has denounced as a “rigged witch hunt” even as Mueller has scored a string of guilty pleas and the conviction of Trump’s former campaign chairman.
Rosenstein’s departure would clear the way for Trump to install a more pliable acting attorney general to supervise — or possibly subvert — Mueller’s investigation. So far, though, Trump has stayed his hand, possibly because removing Rosenstein would be viewed as a transparent attempt to obstruct justice by a president who has not only has sought to discredit Mueller, but has threatened to “get involved” in the Justice Department’s operations.
Circumstances changed dramatically last week, however. The New York Times reported that shortly after assuming his post last year, the deputy attorney general suggested that he secretly record Trump and discussed recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove the president. Rosenstein called the story “inaccurate and factually incorrect.” Even so, alleged insubordination could give Trump a plausible pretext for getting rid of Rosenstein.
That would be a disaster for the Mueller investigation and the Justice Department. Rosenstein isn’t just Mueller’s protector; he has become a symbol of continuity and institutional integrity at Justice. Those qualities make it imperative that Rosenstein, an experienced prosecutor, remain on the job, despite this latest controversy.
It’s conceivable that the Mueller investigation could proceed unimpeded under the direction of another official. (The White House has suggested that if Rosenstein were to leave, Solicitor General Noel Francisco would assume that role, although there is some question about whether he would face a conflict because his former law firm represents the Trump campaign.) But even in the most optimistic scenario Rosenstein’s departure would be a disaster. Ominously, one of Trump’s personal attorneys suggested Monday that if the deputy attorney general resigned, there should be a “time out on this inquiry.” This is precisely the kind of outcome we should both fear and expect if Rosenstein is successfully pushed out of the way.
Keeping Rosenstein on the job would be good for the country, but (as the president himself might ask), what’s in it for Trump? Simply this: Rosenstein’s departure would be widely viewed — including by many voters in the midterm elections — as a blow to the impartial administration of justice and the principle that the president is not above the law.
China Daily says the United States is threatening to cross a red line of bilateral ties:
In a sign that it will not hesitate to make more moves that could worsen the already highly strained Sino-US relations, the Donald Trump administration has approved the sale of spare parts for F-16 fighter jets and other military aircraft worth up to $330 million to Taiwan.
The move comes four days after the US sanctioned the People’s Liberation Army’s Equipment Development Department and its director for purchasing Russian fighter jets and missile systems, which evoked sharp protests from Beijing and justifiably so because Washington has been blatantly violating the basic norms of international relations.
The intensity, pace and scale at which Washington has been trying to provoke Beijing — from trade to the South China Sea to Taiwan — expose the confrontational strategy of the Trump administration. Such provocations, however, conform to the 2018 US National Security Strategy report that identified China as a strategic competitor that must be confronted.
That explains why the Trump administration has been recklessly trampling on the one-China principle, the political foundation of Sino-US relations. Since taking office, Trump has played the Taiwan card many a time, for example, by signing the Taiwan Travel Act and the National Defense Authorization Act to encourage visits between high-level US and Taiwan officials and pave the way for regular ports of call by US warships in Taiwan.
Nearly four decades ago, Beijing and Washington normalized diplomatic relations on the basic premise that they both respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that the United States “does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan” and will gradually “reduce its sale of arms to Taiwan, leading, over a period of time, to a final resolution”, according to Sino-US Joint Communiqué of Aug 17, 1982.
History is witness to how the US has repeatedly contravened its own promises, and has always been ready to trade principles for expediency. Now that the Trump administration is aggressively seeking to challenge China’s interests on both the economic and military fronts, one wonders whether Washington wants to permanently damage Sino-US relations.
And since the Trump administration is trying to jettison all principles that govern bilateral relations in a desperate bid to suit its own purpose, China should not only prepare for the worst but also be ready to appropriately respond to the US’ provocations, because when it comes to national sovereignty and territorial integrity, there is absolutely no room for compromise.
The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina on wiping out mosquitoes:
Mosquitoes are one of a few irritations we put up with in order to enjoy the many perks of life in the Lowcountry. And fortunately, the consequences of venturing out in the summer without bug spray are usually little more than itchy bumps.
But that’s not the case elsewhere around the world, where mosquitoes are responsible for hundreds of millions of cases of illness and millions of deaths each year. They’re easily the world’s deadliest animal, even more so than humans.
Malaria is a particularly devastating mosquito-borne illness. About half of the world’s population lives in areas at risk of malaria, which sickens millions and kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, most of them in Africa.
One group of species — Anopheles gambiae — out of the roughly 3,500 types of mosquitoes on earth is responsible for most of that epidemic. And researchers recently announced that they successfully tested a gene modification technique that could cause entire populations of Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes to self-destruct.
There’s just one small catch. We don’t really have any idea what would happen without mosquitoes. They’re food for other animals, they help pollinate plants, they compete with other nasty animals.
Getting rid of them could be a disaster, or it might not make much of a difference at all.
According to a report published Monday, scientists have figured out how to genetically engineer mosquitoes that pass along sterility when they mate. An entire population can be wiped out in a few generations, which for mosquitoes would take just a few months.
Humans have experimented with lower-tech methods of mosquito eradication for decades. In fact, the United States struggled with malaria until the 1950s, when aggressive pesticide spraying and other anti-mosquito efforts effectively eradicated the disease here.
Lots of counties still routinely spray for mosquitoes, although not without some controversy. And yet, the biting pests remain very much with us.
In remote places with minimal infrastructure and year-round mosquito breeding seasons, the challenge is even tougher. So scientists have been trying to come up with a more effective solution than pesticides.
What little research has been conducted on the importance of the Anopheles gambiae mosquito suggests that eradicating it might not have much of an impact. They certainly wouldn’t be missed by humans.
But far more study will be required before releasing genetically engineered, self-destructing insects into the wild.
Of course, research on genetically altered mosquitoes raises broader ethical and ecological questions as well. Harmful artificial genetic traits that can rapidly spread through a population could be used as a powerful biological weapon, for example.
Billions of species have come and gone in the long history of our planet. More than a few of them owe their demise to humans. Life on earth is still soldiering on, at least for now.
Any chance to wipe out malaria and other massively destructive diseases merits investigation. But if we’re going to intentionally eradicate a species, we’d better make sure we fully understand the consequences.
The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, West Virginia, on Congress passing legislation to address opioid addiction:
The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have approved legislation to deal with the growing opioid addiction problem that has affected communities throughout the nation. A conference committee will iron out differences between the versions passed in the separate houses before it goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The legislation takes wide aim at the problem, including increasing scrutiny of arriving international mail that may include illegal drugs. It makes it easier for the National Institutes of Health to approve research on non-addictive painkillers and for pharmaceutical companies to conduct that research.
The Food and Drug Administration would be allowed to require drugmakers to package smaller quantities of drugs such as opioids. And there would be new federal grants for treatment centers, training emergency workers and research on prevention methods.
Karen Yost, CEO of Prestera Center, said in a statement the 70 pieces of this bill is a good start, though there is no “magic bullet” to solving the opioid crisis.
“How this legislation is implemented will be key as even good legislation implemented poorly will not be helpful,” Yost said.
“This bill is a start in the right direction, even though it does not address significant underlying issues in this epidemic, including adverse childhood experiences, extreme poverty, gainful employment, safe affordable housing, related chronic health problems and co-occurring mental health problems.”
That’s a long list, and it helps explain how this problem became so big and is so difficult to overcome.
Another part of the package is the Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act, which allows Medicaid payments to pay for care at locations such as Lily’s Place, which provides residential care for babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome and their parents. It also reauthorizes the Residential Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women grant program and includes grants to help states implement plans of safe care for substance-exposed infants.
Also in the package are Jessie’s Law and a portion of the Protecting Jessica Grubb’s Legacy Act, which would better facilitate quality coordinated care for individuals with a history of substance use disorder.
The legislation headed toward conference committee does not provide funding for any of the new initiatives. That could be a problem. In the past, Congress has had a habit of authorizing big new programs or construction projects but not paying for them. West Virginia has served as a national template of how severe the opioid addiction problem can be and what can be done to deal with it.
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