Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Houston Chronicle on the Supreme Court allowing the Trump administration to go ahead with its plan to restrict military service by transgender men and women while court challenges continue:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a green light for discrimination against American soldiers, sailors and Marines who are transgender — a decision that means the Trump administration can begin enforcing a heartless policy that will expel legions of patriots who have served their country well. Many new recruits will also be turned away.
The policy will upend the lives of potentially thousands of men and women in uniform and bring careers to a cruel and premature close. For many other troops, the policy means either having to relinquish their uniforms or once more having to hide their true gender identities.
Congress should demand the Trump administration reverse course on this pointless ban and restore the 2016 directive that permitted transgender troops to serve openly, seek ordinary medical care, and to do so as men or women regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth. The move had signaled progress and long-overdue acceptance into the mainstream not just for troops, but for the transgender community as a whole. Its devastating reversal will be just as broadly felt.
The Trump administration’s ban of transgender people in the military has been challenged in at least four federal courts and was put on hold while courts considered whether it was legal. Tuesday’s decision by the high court, on a 5-4 vote without any commentary, quashes a series of stays ordered by lower district courts and appellate courts, allowing the policy to take effect while litigation continues.
This course will only lead to instability. Since there’s a very real chance the policy will eventually be overturned, the administration should delay implementing it until its legal status is confirmed, as ordered last July by a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The district court’s preliminary injunction preserves the status quo, allowing transgender service members to serve in the military in their preferred gender and receive transition-related care,” the court reasoned. “Appellants ask this court to stay the preliminary injunction, pending the outcome of this appeal, in order to implement a new policy. Accordingly, a stay of the preliminary injunction would upend, rather than preserve, the status quo.”
Trump’s initial announcement, via tweet, that he planned to expel transgender troops and new recruits from the armed services took almost everyone by surprise — including then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It was a blatant effort to pay political favors to the religious right and others in America who’ve increasingly targeted transgender individuals in recent years.
No short-term political gains from such a sop are worth such callous treatment of our troops.
Thousands of troops who serve our country loyally and effectively identify as transgender. The Obama rule allowed them to stop hiding that fact and, when necessary, seek medical and psychological care needed to remain healthy. Many military leaders told Congress that their presence in the military had not led to concerns about unit cohesion or military readiness. And when Mattis finally did put Trump’s order into a new policy, it was a softer, somewhat kinder approach than the president’s bare-boned discriminatory version.
For instance, some transgender troops who do not need sex reassignment — either through surgery or hormone treatments — may be allowed to remain in uniform. Some recruits, particularly those who will not in the future transition from one assigned gender to another, may be allowed to join.
Mattis’ memorandum argued that paying for medical care for transgender troops is too high, and that troops who are diagnosed with profound unease with their birth gender are too fragile and too troubled to remain in the service. But cost estimates for the care put the average annual cost across all transgender troops at only hundreds of dollars. And as for the idea that troops who transition are inherently unfit for service, the long record of professionalism among the thousands of troops who are already in the services suggests otherwise.
Obviously some cases will present challenges that would put personnel out of fighting form for too long, or could require more than easily available care. In those cases, as in any medical discharge determination, individual facts will lead to case-by-case decisions. But a blanket decision rendering a whole class of personnel unfit to serve is, at its core, discriminatory — and badly mistaken.
This official marginalization of transgender troops should be rescinded. At the very least, it should be sidelined until the courts can finish their scrutiny.
San Francisco Chronicle on Sen. Kamala Harris:
The rise of Sen. Kamala Harris was made possible by her ability to navigate between the poles of politics. She was elected San Francisco district attorney by unseating an incumbent to her left, became state attorney general by defeating a Los Angeles prosecutor running to her right, and won a U.S. Senate race in 2016 in a landslide over a 10-term Democratic congresswoman.
Now comes the big test: running for the Democratic nomination for president in a rapidly growing field in which she will be neither the furthest left at a moment when the party’s base is agitating for purity, nor the most experienced choice for voters desperate to bring seasoning and stability back to the White House.
But Harris, who announced her candidacy Monday with the slogan “For the People,” has always managed to find a winning lane. She begins the campaign among the upper tier of contenders, though the support is so diffuse at this early stage that it would be foolhardy to anoint anyone a favorite.
That Harris made it official on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was an unmistakable signal that she planned to accentuate her multicultural heritage — Jamaican father, Indian mother — as an asset for voters who have been repulsed by the racism and xenophobia tolerated and even encouraged in the Trump era.
Not surprisingly, her announcement drew a few shots from the left (focusing on her role as a prosecutor), and the Republican National Committee put out a statement scoffing at her as “arguably the least vetted Democrat” and “unqualified and out of touch.”
And so begins her quest to answer those and other questions sure to arise about her experience and ability to connect with voters far from San Francisco, in geography, culture and ideological perspective.
Those of us who have followed her career from the start expect her to be prepared, determined — and formidable.
The Japan News on President Donald Trump’s administration unveiling its Missile Defense Review:
How will the United States deal with the possibility that it will lose military supremacy over China and Russia due to their development of new weapons? To maintain its deterrence capability, the United States has embarked on a comprehensive strengthening of its missile defense system.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has unveiled its Missile Defense Review (MDR) that incorporates a medium- and long-term missile defense strategy.
The previous MDR, which was compiled in 2010 under the then administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, focused on the ballistic missiles of North Korea and Iran. With the latest MDR giving weight to ways of responding to new arms developed by China and Russia, it could be described that the U.S. is showing a sense of danger that its missile defense system might be neutralized.
Posing threats are hypersonic weapons that are capable of traveling at speeds five or more times faster than the speed of sound, making them difficult to detect and intercept. These weapons are separated from ballistic missiles after their launch and act like gliders to reach targets.
China is said to be accelerating the development of hypersonic weapons, which China plans to have mounted on a new ballistic missile known as the (Dongfeng) DF-17.
Russia last year successfully test-launched its Avangard hypersonic missile and plans to deploy the new weapons as early as this year. Putting pressure on the U.S., Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that missile defense systems of an adversary will have no means to deal with them.
It is essential to prevent the activities of U.S. troops in Asia and Europe from being threatened, causing regional destabilization.
Enhance missile defense
Given the difficulty of tracing new weapons by land-based radars, the 2019 MDR sets forth the utilization of space. It calls for building a surveillance network without blind spots through the use of sensors mounted on satellites and establishing a system capable of intercepting targets with a high degree of precision. The United States plans to begin the operation of the planned missile defense system in the 2020s.
The United States will also promote research on shooting down targets in the initial stage after launches by utilizing drones equipped with laser weapons or its state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighter jets.
It is unavoidable that the development of a new missile defense system will require a tremendous amount of expenditures. Can the Trump administration obtain cooperation from Congress? Will the U.S. request its allies to increase their burdens? These matters need to be watched closely.
A matter of concern is an unregulated arms race in space involving the United States, China and Russia. The United States must work on ameliorating tensions and controlling arms with China and Russia, while securing its deterrence capability.
The threat of North Korea’s ballistic missiles faced by Japan remains unchanged. The MDR warns that the North has been increasing the number of missiles deployed and diversifying the ways it transports them, including the use of mobile launch pads and launches from submarines.
As long as prospects remain uncertain about North Korea’s relinquishment of nuclear and missile development programs, Japan and the United States are called on to continue to work toward enhancing their missile defense capabilities.
Los Angeles Times on the city’s public school teachers’ return to classes after reaching a deal ending a strike at the nation’s second-largest district:
On Wednesday, some 31,000 Los Angeles teachers (went) back in school. Nearly half a million students (were) back to learning. And parents’ lives (are) back to normal after the six-day strike and the weeks of uncertainty leading up to it.
It has been a deeply disruptive period — and expensive as well, both for teachers, who went without pay, and for the Los Angeles Unified School District itself, which lost well over $100 million in state funding tied to student attendance.
On the positive side, the strike did something that could prove transformative in the coming years: It put the importance of a quality education front and center in the public psyche. The urgency and attention generated by the strike must not now be allowed to fade.
For more than a week, teachers, families and supporters marched and picketed in support of their local schools. People following the news got a crash course in the issues at the heart of the strike — overcrowded classrooms, understaffed campuses, unsustainable pension liabilities, inadequate state funding and the role that privately operated charter schools play in public education.
That’s good, because those issues are not going away, and because fixing Los Angeles’ schools will ultimately require more money. That, in turn, will require squeezing more aid from Sacramento and could mean voter approval of new taxes as well.
From the beginning, the strike wasn’t about whether L.A.’s schools had unmet needs. Both the district and the union — United Teachers Los Angeles — agreed that teachers deserved a raise and that the district should lower class sizes and increase the number of librarians, nurses, counselors and other staff. The fight was over what L.A. Unified could afford, given forecasts that show the district could be insolvent in a few years as pension liabilities grow and demographic changes shrink enrollment.
The settlement announced Monday includes promises by the district that it will gradually reduce class sizes over four years, hire more staff, and open 30 “community schools” that offer extra educational and social services to students and families. The district and the union will create a joint committee that will help negotiate the tricky subject of how and when to “co-locate” charter schools on public school campuses, and they will ask the governor to set up a committee to evaluate the overall impact of charter schools on public education.
The future of charter schools in L.A. has been a contentious backdrop to the strike. The union views charters as a threat to public education, because the publicly-funded, privately-operated schools take students and funding from the district. It’s absolutely appropriate for state leaders to scrutinize charter schools and their effects.
The agreement also calls for the district, the union and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to work together to advocate for local and state measures to increase education funding, which is woefully insufficient. California ranks near the bottom nationwide in per-pupil spending when the cost of living is factored in.
L.A.’s public schools are responsible for educating nearly 500,000 children, many of them low-income or non-English speakers or students of color. The success of the city in the years ahead relies upon the existence of safe, adequately funded, high-quality public schools capable of educating a new generation of Angelenos. The strike may be over, but the real work lies ahead.
NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune on the New Orleans’ Saints loss in the NFL playoffs to the Los Angeles Rams:
Three days after referees blew a blatant pass interference call and robbed the New Orleans Saints of a return trip to the Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said nothing publicly.
A league official admitted to Coach Sean Payton almost immediately Sunday night that the officiating crew blew the call on the goal line that would have set the Saints up to run down the clock and make a winning score.
At his post-game press conference, Coach Payton said NFL senior vice president of officiating Alberto Riveron called to admit the costly error at the end of regulation in the NFC Championship against the Rams. “Just getting off the phone with the league office, they blew the call,” Coach Payton said.
Every Saints fan already knew that, but it was important for the NFL to acknowledge it. There’s been nothing since, though.
Come out of hiding, Mr. Goodell.
We don’t need you to tell us what we all saw. We need you to tell us what you’re going to do about it. If you’re not going to invoke Rule 17 to undo the damage, and you clearly are not, we need to know why.
Section 2, Article 1, of Rule 17 seems made for this situation: “The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which the Commissioner deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.”
If this isn’t “extraordinarily unfair,” what is?
Will this officiating crew be disciplined? These refs are responsible for possibly the worst no-call in NFL history. They have decided who is in the Super Bowl. How can they continue to call games? How can any team feel comfortable with them?
And what about Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman? He admits the whole thing.
“Oh, hell yeah, that was PI,” he told The Washington Post. “I just know I got there before the ball got there. And I whacked his ass.” He actually seems proud of himself.
Why should he get to play in the Super Bowl after essentially admitting he targeted Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis? What about the NFL’s claims to be concerned about reducing head injuries?
What about the future? What is the NFL going to do to make sure no other team is the victim of such egregious referee ineptitude?
And what about the ramifications beyond the game itself? That no-call cost Saints’ players tens of thousands of dollars they would have earned in the Super Bowl. It cost New Orleans businesses the money giddy fans would have spent after the game Sunday night and beyond.
It cost our community the economic and emotional high that comes from having your team in the Super Bowl.
Saints fans long ago gave up on Roger Goodell being fair, so our expectations aren’t high. Mr. Goodell was self-righteous when he handed down severe punishments for the Saints’ bounty scandal in 2012, including suspending Sean Payton for a full season.
“We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game,” Mr. Goodell said in a statement then. “We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities. No one is above the game or the rules that govern it. Respect for the game and the people who participate in it will not be compromised.”
What about now, Mr. Goodell? What about the integrity of the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl? We’re waiting to hear from you.
The New York Times on a second North Korea summit for President Donald Trump’s administration:
President Trump remains bullish that the North Korea nuclear threat can be contained. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, the president praised the “incredible meeting” he had the day before with a top representative of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, trumpeting the “tremendous progress” the two sides had made.
The optimistic view is that the White House meeting with Kim Yong-chol, a former North Korean intelligence chief and now his government’s lead nuclear negotiator, was indeed productive, and Mr. Trump is on his way to resolving one of the world’s most complex and dangerous nuclear weapons problems.
But a path to that outcome isn’t yet visible to the outside world. North Korea has forgone nuclear tests, missile tests and rhetorical attacks for more than 400 days. That’s an important development. At the same time, however, it continues to produce nuclear fuel, weapons and missiles. It has not denuclearized, as Mr. Trump has demanded.
So, as the two leaders prepare for their second summit (reportedly next month in Vietnam), the pressure is on the Trump administration to articulate a realistic strategy for achieving a mutually agreed upon outcome.
No such strategy was evident last June when Mr. Trump broke with decades of foreign policy precedent by meeting directly with Mr. Kim in Singapore, in the first summit between American and North Korean leaders. Mr. Trump deserves credit for opening up this dialogue, but it has, so far, yielded few tangible results.
After that meeting, Mr. Trump declared that North Korea, which possesses 20 to 60 nuclear weapons, the missiles to deliver them and the facilities to make even more, was “no longer a nuclear threat.” Saying so didn’t make it so.
The one concrete product of the Singapore meeting, a concluding statement, was so poorly drafted that it laid the groundwork for months of stalemate. It committed the two leaders to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” without even defining “denuclearization,” let alone explicitly agreeing on the sequence of actions to be taken.
A new report this week about a previously secret North Korean missile base at Sino-ri, 132 miles (212 kilometers) north of the Demilitarized Zone, is a reminder of how sprawling and hidden the country’s nuclear program is and how challenging any sort of outside inspections regime might be to carry out.
Publicly, the two sides still hew to staunch positions: The Trump administration insists that tough sanctions will stay in place until North Korea completely gives up its nuclear arsenal. North Korean officials insist on sanctions relief early in the process.
But small signs of movement led to plans for the second summit. Mr. Trump backed off his insistence on immediate disarmament, and his administration recently eased travel restrictions so American aid workers and humanitarian supplies could once again enter the impoverished country.
Mr. Kim’s annual New Year’s Day speech presented a somewhat more positive view of United States-North Korea relations, an encouraging sign…
Even if complete denuclearization is not possible, negotiators should at least seek a permanent end to testing and the production of fissile material.
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