Editorial Roundup: US

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Dec. 16

The Philadelphia Inquirer on evictions once the Centers for Disease Control’s nationwide moratorium ends:

Millions of households nationwide could find themselves evicted from their homes soon after New Year’s Day as one of the last safeguards from eviction during the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nationwide eviction moratorium, is set to expire.

In September, the CDC issued an order halting all evictions nationwide. The order was significant, and explicit about the importance of preventing evictions during a pandemic. Keeping people in their homes can ensure a space for quarantining, enhance their ability to comply with stay-at-home orders, and reduce pressure on homeless shelters.

The timing of the order’s expiration couldn’t be worse. New cases and deaths have reached an all time high as the nationwide death toll surpasses 300,000. If an eviction moratorium is an “effective public health measure,” as the CDC clearly states, the United States needs it now more than ever.

As the pandemic has gotten worse, so has the financial situation of many households. According to one estimate, 12 million renter households will owe an average of $5,000 in rent by the end of the year. A Census Bureau survey estimates that nearly 400,000 adults in Pennsylvania are either behind on rent or mortgages or have no confidence that they’ll be able to make payments in the coming weeks.

Black and Hispanic families with children, particularly those headed by a single woman, are at the highest risk of eviction.

It’s not that tenants aren’t trying to pay. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found a 70% increase in the number of people paying rent on a credit card — setting the stage for a future crisis in personal debt …

As the first Americans get the coronavirus vaccine, the end to this pandemic may be in sight. The question is how many people will survive the winter to get the vaccine. A critical part of the final push is maintaining people in their homes. The CDC must extend the order halting evictions — and Congress needs to step up and provide critical financial relief to tenants, landlords, and homeowners. An eviction avalanche leading to a surge in coronavirus and homelessness starting on New Year’s Day is no way to set 2021 as a year of recovery.

Online: https://www.inquirer.com

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Dec. 16

The Houston Chronicle on securing the trust of Blacks and Latinos in the COVID-19 vaccine:

Robert Luckey, the first person in the Houston region to get the coronavirus vaccine, is a registered nurse at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and is assigned to the hospital’s COVID-19 unit.

He is also Black.

Why does that matter? Because the image of Luckey rolling up the sleeve of his blue scrubs to get the shot may help convince folks in Black and Latino communities that the much-anticipated vaccines are safe.

Experience with a public health system that has often failed and abused people of color has sown a deep mistrust in those communities, even as COVID-19 ravages entire Black and Latino families and leaves others grappling with the economic fallout.

Unlike the baseless fear-mongering of the anti-vaxxer crowd, which reflexively rejects most vaccines, concerns in communities of color about this new vaccine are real and understandable and require special attention. Community leaders and public health officials must work fast and hard to build trust long fractured by historical trauma and mistreatment.

In the Black community, there is the still-vivid communal memory of horrors such as the Tuskegee Study, a 40-year secret experiment begun in 1932 by the U.S. government in which Black men with syphilis were told they were getting health care but were actually left untreated — given only placebos even as they developed blindness and other severe health issues — just so scientists could study the uninhibited progression of the disease.

There are regular interactions with doctors whose personal bias affects care and a growing body of research documenting how that bias leads doctors to discount the pain of Black people, including pregnant women and children, often leading to inadequate prescribing of pain medication. There is the palpable fear in Latino immigrant communities of any interaction with government officials, not to mention the recent reports of forced hysterectomies and other invasive surgeries performed on migrant women in U.S. detention centers.

It’s encouraging that polls this week show that as the vaccine is rolled out, more Americans are reporting they plan to take it. But there is still much work to do. A Pew Research Center survey in September found that 32 percent of Black adults would take a vaccine when available, compared with 52 percent of whites and 56 percent of Latinos. According to another survey by the Covid Collaborative, only 14 percent of Black Americans and 34 percent of Latinos believe a vaccine will be safe; 18 percent of Black Americans and 40 percent of Latinos think a vaccine will be effective.

There is reason for people of color to be skeptical of a vaccine that has raced through development and trials in record time, but there is also ample reason for folks in those communities to line up when the COVID-19 vaccine is ready for distribution.

Black people and Latinos are nearly three times more likely than whites to die of COVID-19 …

Vaccines will be a necessary tool for stopping COVID-19 from continuing its rampage through those communities and for building the herd immunity that can protect the general population, Dr. Jean L. Raphael, who studies health disparities at Texas Children’s Hospital, told the editorial board.

But overcoming the deep-seated suspicion will require work.

Public health officials and elected leaders must spend time in communities of color and acknowledge the history fueling the skepticism. They must be transparent about the vaccines: how they were developed, how they work, what possible side effects there may be. … Pledges by high-profile people such as President Barack Obama and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who have both said they will take the vaccine and are encouraging the public to do the same, will help. But to be effective, COVID-19 vaccination campaigns must enlist grassroots-level leaders: activists, ministers, primary care physicians — people already known and trusted in communities.

It is not an impossible task. Childhood immunization rates, for example, in Black and Latino communities fall in line with overall rates. The Covid Collaborative survey also showed that Black Americans who believe they have a social responsibility to get vaccinated or who were surrounded by others who planned to get vaccinated were more likely to get one vaccine themselves.

But public health officials and politicians can’t just parachute in and expect communities long overlooked, mistreated and subjected to unethical experimentation to jump on board with COVID-19 vaccines. That will take commitment and compassion that should continue long after this crisis has passed.

Online: https://www.houstonchronicle.com

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Dec. 16

The Boston Herald on Georgia’s Senate runoffs and outside influence:

Whether Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff or Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler win the January runoff races in Georgia, we already know the losers.

The citizens of the Peach State.

Because the contest isn’t so much about who will best serve Georgia’s residents and advocate for their needs in Washington, but rather which candidates will tip control of the U.S. Senate.

The voters of Georgia are merely the delivery systems of party power.

To that end, outside influence on the election is ramping up, and Massachusetts Democrats are very much in the mix.

According to the State House News Service, Massachusetts Democratic Party and elected officials have sent out fundraising appeals, organized phone banking events and sold tickets to a virtual fundraiser with the cast of “Hamilton,” all to benefit the campaigns of Ossoff and Warnock …

Republicans aren’t sitting out this dance either.

Fundraising emails from the MassGOP have come from party Chairman Jim Lyons, his wife Bernadette and MassGOP political director John Milligan, according to the News Service.

The parties are doing more than just firing up the autodialer. The most recent records of activity through Oct. 14 show Warnock raised $870,338 from 2,770 donors from Massachusetts.

Ossoff raised over $1.4 million from 3,604 Massachusetts donors.

Loeffler raised $6,037 from 17 donors in Massachusetts through mid-October, while Perdue collected $71,357 from 68 individual contributions.

Whose election is it, anyway?

While this is not exclusive to Georgia or this election, the premise of outsiders pulling out the stops to get a member of their party elected to further political agendas in D.C. undermines the integrity of local elections … A Georgia native would be no more inclined to make pecan pie with raisins than he would to let a Massachusetts caller tell him who he should vote for, and therein lies the pitfall of outside influencers.

Who would you rather check a ballot for — a candidate touted by locals who extol his or her competence at legislating for their constituents, or someone who is throwing elbows thanks to outsider money designed to further the party agenda?

Online: https://www.bostonherald.com

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Dec. 14

The Japan News on the United States and the Iran nuclear deal:

The Iran nuclear deal is significant in that it deters Iran from possessing nuclear weapons and eases tensions in the Middle East. The countries concerned should make every diplomatic effort to ensure that the administration of incoming U.S. President Joe Biden returns to the agreement.

The nuclear agreement between Iran and the six countries of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia was concluded in 2015 at the initiative of the administration of then President Barack Obama. In exchange for Iran significantly reducing its uranium enrichment activities, the United States, Europe and other countries and regions lifted oil embargoes and financial sanctions against Iran.

The agreement is highly regarded for having placed Iran’s nuclear facilities under the monitoring of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and created a framework in which it would take more than a year to complete the production of nuclear weapons even if Iran starts to produce them.

The issue was reignited after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement in 2018 and reimposed sanctions against Iran. In response, Iran stepped up its enrichment activities in violation of the agreement, and the exchange of hard-line measures has continued.

It must be said that Trump’s policy of applying “maximum pressure” on Iran and aiming for a new agreement that would more strictly limit its nuclear development has failed.

President-elect Biden plans to return to the nuclear deal, but the road ahead is rocky. It is necessary to keep in mind how the U.S.-Iran relationship has deteriorated over the past four years.

Iran has been suffering from economic difficulties caused by the sanctions, and anti-U.S. hard-liners have gained momentum. The parliament has enacted a law that requires the government to significantly expand uranium enrichment and to refuse IAEA monitoring.

Late last month, a scientist believed to be a key figure in Iran’s nuclear program was assassinated. It is widely believed that Israel, which opposes the nuclear agreement, led the assassination as a distraction to prevent the United States from returning to the agreement … The incoming Biden administration takes the position that Iran must first comply with the agreement before the United States returns to it. Taking into consideration the concerns of Israel, Saudi Arabia and other nations, an extensive discussion must be held on Iran’s ballistic missile development and its intervention in regional conflicts.

Countries participating in the nuclear agreement, including Britain, France and Germany, have been opposed to the withdrawal of the United States and have emphasized the need to maintain the agreement. Japan has taken the same position.

In order to stabilize the situation in the Middle East, it is important for these countries to work together and carry out diplomacy to mediate between the United States and Iran.

Online: https://the-japan-news.com

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Dec. 11

The Los Angeles Times on climate change after the Paris agreement:

Representatives from nearly every country on Earth met in Paris five years ago and promised to work together in an unprecedented effort to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, with a preferred goal of capping the rise at 1.5 degrees. It took a lot of maneuvering and diplomacy by the Obama administration to reach that agreement after a similar effort six years earlier in Copenhagen failed.

What changed in the interim was strengthened resolve by the U.S. and a decision by China, whose cities were choking on coal-fired smog, to join in the move to a new energy future. Even though some climate advocates argued that the Paris agreement fell short of what was necessary to achieve its goals, it stood as a framework for moving forward.

But then things unraveled with the election of President Trump, who denounced the agreement, then reneged on the United States’ promises by walking away from it — making the U.S. the only nation in the world to not be part of the pact.

So here we are five years after the Paris agreement, still spewing carbon … Contrary to Trump’s assertions, the Paris agreement did not impose “draconian financial and economic burdens” on the U.S., nor is climate change a bit of Chinese chicanery to gain economic advantage. Climate change is as real as the wildfire ash that fell over Orange County last week, as real as the rising seas that imperil tens of millions of people worldwide, as real as the hurricanes made stronger and increasingly volatile by warming ocean surface temperatures.

Protracted droughts and heat waves are making parts of the Earth uninhabitable for humans and spawning migrations that will only worsen — and threaten political stability — as we continue to spew heat-trapping gases into the air. Warming is occurring at faster rates in the polar regions than elsewhere, fueling a feedback loop that threatens to exacerbate weather changes across the globe and further raise sea levels …

Frankly, we have no choice. We must redouble efforts to mitigate the worst effects of the problems that we, through decades of human activity, have wrought. The Paris agreement was a start, but we need a restart, a fresh global drive to combat the common menace — ourselves, and the way we produce and consume energy.

If there’s a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that it has shown the developed world that we can, indeed, change behavior, and that basic changes in daily life can reduce emissions. But it also has shown how small those steps are — experts see the decrease in emissions this year as a blip that will disappear once the world economy gets back on track.

The Paris agreement was a bold pact framed by optimism, but also by a recognition that weaning the world off fossil fuels is expensive, will require unimaginable levels of political will and self-sacrifice, and cannot be achieved without deep wells of mutual goodwill. Nations that industrialized early — such as the United States and much of Europe — accumulated massive wealth and bear significant responsibility not only to significantly curtail current emissions, but also to help less-developed nations progress into a future of renewable energy.

And we cannot change by clinging to the past. Oil corporations are already transforming themselves — though not quickly enough — into energy companies. Governments must help workers in that sector retrain for jobs in the growing renewables industry, push through new infrastructures to accommodate the changes, help people transition their own methods of transportation and warming or cooling their homes, and — perhaps most crucially — work to end the extraction of fossil fuels in the first place. Our world hangs in the balance.

Online: https://www.latimes.com

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Dec. 11

The Seattle Times on the federal antitrust case against Facebook:

The landmark antitrust case against Facebook, filed last week by states and the federal government, is powerful and welcome.

Strong measures to end Facebook’s unfair, anti-competitive behavior were overdue in the United States.

The lawsuit, and another federal antitrust case filed against Google in October, should start a new era of regulation of digital platforms with extraordinary influence over daily life, commerce and democracy.

These platforms’ dominance, opacity and anti-competitive behavior have continued in plain sight for years. Unhindered by oversight or rules affecting traditional advertisers, they stifled new competitors and suffocated established ones, particularly the free press.

Facebook “for many years, continued to engage in a course of anticompetitive conduct with the aim of suppressing, neutralizing, and deterring serious competitive threats,” according to the case filed by the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general for 46 states including Washington, Guam and the District of Columbia.

In quashing potential rivals, Facebook suppressed competition in the sale of advertising, the case states. That hurts all manner of companies and leads to higher prices for consumers.

The situation demands more than a single lawsuit, however. It also calls for revisions to federal antitrust law, to reverse a decades-long trend toward overly cautious enforcement that’s created a small handful of unassailable winners at great cost to everyone else.

Because digital platforms and their business models are so complex and fast-moving, the U.S. also needs to update its regulatory infrastructure to be more agile and better equipped to examine and monitor these titans.

One promising suggestion is to create a new digital competition authority, with dedicated expertise. Because of limited bandwidth at existing regulatory agencies, the initial push to crack down on these U.S. companies drew heavily on research done by the United Kingdom’s competition authority.

While bold and necessary, the antitrust lawsuit has limitations. It won’t directly address other big Facebook problems, such as the proliferation of false and harmful information it distributes. If the case results in more competition, Facebook will be pressured to improve. But more immediate, direct intervention is still needed …

Legislative reforms and antitrust enforcement are both needed. Those responses are “mutually reinforcing,” as seen during the breakup of the Bell system, said Charlotte Slaiman, an FTC veteran now directing competition policy at Public Knowledge.

“The process of the case brings forward information, highlights the problems in the industry, and that can influence Congress to take up the issue in a broader and more comprehensive fashion,” Slaiman said.

The Facebook case focuses on two key acquisitions, mobile and photo-centric social app Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp. It also calls out unfair restrictions placed on programming interfaces, which other apps need to access Facebook’s platform.

It seeks divestment of Instagram and WhatsApp, requiring prior approval of any future mergers, and prohibiting anticompetitive restrictions on programming interfaces.

Facebook said the government is wrongly seeking a “do over” after previously approving the mergers.

There are legitimate concerns about preserving certainty for companies given government approval to proceed with costly investments. A key issue is whether Facebook lived up to commitments made during the merger review process.

Government must also protect consumers from anti-competitive behavior without causing undue harm to companies and sectors that provide great value to the public and the economy. Because U.S. government has done little to rein in dominant digital platforms, the harms are now clear, as documented by the federal cases, a recent House investigation and regulatory actions in other countries … It is especially welcome that FTC commissioners and attorneys general pursuing the case are a strongly bipartisan group, reflecting widespread concern about Facebook and how it’s harming competitors and the country.

President-elect Joe Biden should ensure that his administration and regulatory appointees enthusiastically support this overdue enforcement regime. He also needs to work with Congress to update antitrust law and improve regulation of digital platforms to preserve competition and prevent further harm.

Online: https://www.seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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