Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post on a school bombing and Afghanistan’s future:
The horrific bombing of a school for girls in Kabul on Saturday was a grim presage of the catastrophe Afghanistan — and, in particular, its women — may suffer with the withdrawal of U.S. and other international forces. Three bombs killed at least 85 people and wounded more than 147 — most of them girls in their teens from the Hazara Shiite minority. The Taliban, which has often targeted that group as well as girls’ education more generally, denied responsibility. But the slaughter came as the insurgents are escalating attacks around the country, while refusing to negotiate in good faith with the U.S.-backed government.
As The Post’s Susannah George and Aziz Tassal have reported, the Taliban has been massing forces around a number of provincial capitals since May 1. It has overrun a number of Afghan bases, even as U.S. air support for the Afghan army has dwindled, and set up numerous checkpoints along the main highways leading in and out of Kabul. Inside the capital, key government and aid workers have been targeted for assassination.
Taliban spokesmen claim they do not intend to take over the country by force following the U.S. withdrawal, which is due to be completed by Sept. 11, and it’s not clear whether they could do so before the onset of winter. But Mr. Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces has so far brought about a rapid and ominous deterioration in the government’s position and in security for Afghans who support it. If it continues, the result could be a collapse of the political system and civil society the United States spent two decades helping to build, a resurgence of Afghan-based international terrorism, and another massive wave of refugees headed toward fragile neighboring countries as well as Europe.
The State Department’s statement condemning the school bombing said the Biden administration “will continue to support and partner with the people of Afghanistan, who are determined to see to it that the gains of the past two decades aren’t erased.” U.S. officials have expressed the hope that, if it does return to power, the Taliban will ease its repressive policies toward women and denial of other human rights to avoid international pariah status. However, a recently declassified assessment by the National Intelligence Council was not optimistic, concluding that the movement would “roll back much of the past two decades’ progress.” In many areas the Taliban now controls, women are largely banned from working outside the home, and schools for girls don’t operate above the primary level, if they exist at all.
The administration apparently is seeking to hedge against a revival of terrorist bases or threat to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul by basing aircraft, troops and equipment elsewhere in the region; the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Central Asian countries bordering Afghanistan may be approached. That raises the question of why the United States does not simply retain its relatively small footprint in Afghanistan, which in recent years has consumed less than 10 percent of the Pentagon’s budget and cost few U.S. casualties.
It may, alas, be too late for that. But the Biden administration should be prepared to step up its air support for Afghan forces to ensure that any Taliban offensive against Kabul or other major cities can be turned back. It should also accelerate plans to grant visas, and if necessary, provide evacuation to the many Afghans who supported the U.S. mission and now face grave risks.
The Guardian on violence in Jerusalem and Gaza:
Ten children were among 28 killed in Gaza in the Holy month of Ramadan, while two Israeli women were killed as Israeli air strikes pounded the territory and Palestinian militants fired rockets. In Jerusalem, Israeli police fired stun grenades, teargas and rubber bullets at one of Islam’s holiest sites, leaving 300 Palestinians injured. Could this get worse? Yes. The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has vowed to increase the intensity of attacks. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars as well as periodic battles. Though they often prepare their exits, events can have a momentum of their own.
The tinder was the decision of Israeli authorities to prevent Palestinians from gathering at the Damascus Gate following night-time prayers during Ramadan, as they normally do; a spate of intercommunal violence; and plans to evict hundreds of Palestinians from the homes they have lived in for decades in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, giving them to Jewish settlers. Under Israeli law, Jews who can prove a title from before the 1948 war can claim back properties in the city. This cannot be justified when no similar law exists for the Palestinians who lost their homes. The evictions have been described by a UN rights body as a possible war crime. Aggressive tactics used by police there and at al-Aqsa mosque reflect a culture of impunity. And only at the 11th hour, when the damage had already been done, was Monday’s provocative ultra-right march rerouted away from the Muslim quarter of the Old City.
All this has happened within the context of dual political crises. Mr Netanyahu is attempting to cling to power while coalition talks between his rivals and his corruption trial progress. Meanwhile, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has indefinitely postponed elections that everyone expected Fatah to lose to Hamas again. Denied the ballot, the militant group has fallen back on deadly tactics to restate its claim to leadership.
But the fuel is decades old. Anger at the occupation inevitably deepens. “Generation blockade” has grown up in Gaza, a tiny strip of land crammed with residents but short on work, power or clean drinking water. Covid, and the desperate inequity of the vaccination campaigns in Israel and the occupied territories, has sharpened the resentment at living under a government that controls without offering protection. The unrest seen in Arab towns in Israel on Monday demonstrates the breadth as well as depth of the rage at the kind of accumulated injustice that recently led Human Rights Watch to accuse Israeli officials of committing apartheid, to the angry denial of the government.
The priority must be de-escalation to protect the lives of civilians, treated with such ruthless and fatal disregard by both the Israeli government and Palestinian militants. The international community must bring its weight to bear. Donald Trump egged Mr Netanyahu on at every turn. There is now an administration in Washington that can address these issues seriously. It has rightly condemned militant attacks. But it must be similarly clear with the Israeli authorities, not only over their military response, but over the actions that predictably led to this latest outburst of violence.
The Boston Herald on the Department of Energy and cybersecurity:
No wonder Joe Biden picked former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as Secretary of Energy — they’re cut from the same green cloth.
Not only is Granholm a big fan of electric vehicles, she spearheaded passage of a renewable portfolio standard during her second term as governor. That standard required that 10% of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by 2015 and 25% by 2025.
But the Department of Energy is in charge of much more than touting wind turbines — and the consequences of its misplaced priorities hit home late last week.
In her testimony before the House Appropriations Committee on Biden’s FY22 budget request for the agency, she noted the DOE’s effort ” to own the global market for clean energy and sustainable technologies.”
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), pointed out that the budget overview lacked any mention of cybersecurity.
“Cyber threats like these are persistent and increasing. As our world becomes more reliant on Internet-connected capabilities and technologies, we know that the cybersecurity challenge in front of us will increase in scope,” as Federal Computer Week reported.
Not a problem, replied Granholm.
“I know from our industry partners that I have spoken to that they are totally focused on it and I am completely committed to getting them, and us the tools and the intelligence and the cyber response that they need to address the threats that are out there.”
The next day, Colonial Pipeline was hit by a cyberattack, causing it to temporarily halt all operations on a major pipeline that delivers roughly 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast.
As the AP reported, the company transports gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil from refineries primarily located on the Gulf Coast through pipelines running from Texas to New Jersey. Experts foresee a rise in gas prices as a result of the hack.
This is not the first time we’ve been hit — the sprawling cyberattack using SolarWinds software which hacked at least nine federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, as well as private companies stretched over months during 2020.
One would think that the top priority of the DOE, on the heels of such a blistering breach, would be cybersecurity.
As Llewellyn King wrote in the Herald, the national labs under the aegis of the DOE are vital in cybersecurity, particularly to assure the integrity of the electric grid and the security of things like Chinese-made transformers and other heavy equipment.
It also oversees the strategic petroleum reserve, and has been charged with facilitating natural gas and oil exports.
Security should be top of mind.
On Monday, Granholm appeared on Bloomberg TV’s “Balance of Power.” The closing of the nation’s biggest fuel pipeline system at the hands of hackers illustrates how at risk the infrastructure is to cyberattacks, she said.
“It tells you how utterly vulnerable we are. We’re seeing all of these examples of ransomware attacks coming — whether it’s telecommunications or this critical infrastructure. And obviously in my lane I’m very worried about the energy infrastructure.”
Granholm alluded to previous ransomware attacks, so why is the DOE batting cleanup? The Biden administration knew of cyberattacks going in, protecting our pipelines, grids and sensitive information should take precedence over plans to roll out charging stations.
The Dallas Morning News on bird migration:
Millions of birds have put another spring migration behind them and dozens of volunteers are chronicling the event. For 16 mornings this month, volunteers are gathering in the predawn dark to walk through downtown Dallas collecting the carcasses of birds that didn’t make it. That may sound like a gruesome task, but it’s essential for helping scientists understand migration patterns.
Every spring, millions of birds fly over Texas and many of them die in collisions with buildings. During the peak nights of migration last week, volunteers documented 163 dead birds. They also released 22 stunned birds and transported six to rehab facilities. Since the fall, the effort has documented 68 different species impacted by light pollution in Dallas.
Birds are confused by city lights which obscure landmarks and celestial guides. In conjunction with Cornell University and Audubon Texas, the Texas Conservation Alliance has convinced dozens of property owners to turn out their lights during peak migration dates. Last week, some of the largest, most iconic buildings in Dallas went dark, including Reunion Tower and the Omni Hotel.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Rick Santorum and Native American history:
Dear CNN commentator Rick Santorum,
In recent televised comments you said that “there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture,” implying that Christian European settlers built this country from nothing.
To set the record straight, this is offensively incorrect. Such words indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the melting pot of cultures that is these United States.
As a former Pennsylvanian senator and U.S. presidential candidate, you should know better.
As a current voice of conservatism with a broad platform, you must do better.
Do you enjoy corn, Mr. Santorum? Or perhaps peanuts, pumpkins, squash or melons? Native Americans were responsible for genetically modifying many crops that still permeate a typical Westerner’s diet. Settlers arriving in the “New World” would never have survived if the native tribes had not shared their farming techniques with them.
How about rubber, kayaks, certain early forms of analgesic or the game of lacrosse? These tribal cultures you so readily dismissed have cast shadows stretching to today, with their discoveries and practices continuing to impact American lives.
The list of their contributions is lengthy, but perhaps the most significant impact by Native Americans involves the U.S. Constitution. Dating to 1142, the Iroquois Confederacy is said to be the world’s oldest living participatory democracy. This confederacy of six Iroquois-speaking tribes in New York, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada, provided inspiration for the original 13 colonies of the United States to band together. To this day, the Great Seal of the United States features an eagle holding 13 bundled arrows, a nod to Onondaga leader Canassatego, who argued in the 18th century that many arrows together are tougher to snap than just one.
More than 200 years later, the U.S. Senate continues to acknowledge the significance of this contribution. In 1988, U.S. leaders passed a resolution (House Concurrent Resolution 331) acknowledging “the contribution made by the Iroquois Confederacy and other Indian Nations to the formation and development of the United States of America.”
Not much Native American culture in American culture? Mr. Santorum, without Native Americans, American culture would not exist. It is one thing to argue that the United States’ founding principles are part of what make this country special. It is another thing altogether to argue that this country’s principles of government are wholly unique and do not owe tribute to the people who already occupied the land.
What was merely embarrassing for you, Mr. Santorum, was highly disrespectful to the millions of Native Americans alive today, as well as to their ancestors. In the future, please think before speaking.
The Los Angeles Times on how ‘drought’ in California is now simply the norm:
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency last month in Sonoma and Mendocino counties because of severe drop-offs in the winter rains that once had been counted on to fill reservoirs in the Russian River watershed, north of the San Francisco Bay Area. Like most other California reservoirs, those human-made lakes were built in the 20th century, an unusually wet period when compared with more than a thousand years of climate records reconstructed from studies of ancient tree rings and geological evidence.
The two formerly verdant counties were among the state’s hardest-hit regions in last year’s record-setting wildfire season that included the August Complex fires, which erupted not just because of years of intensifying summer heat drying out the trees and the ground beneath them but also, ironically, because of fierce summer storms and accompanying lightning. The August Complex followed the 2019 Kincade fire, which burned much of Sonoma County, and the 2018 Mendocino Complex fires, which at the time made up the state’s largest recorded wildfire incident. Before that was the 2017 Tubbs fire, which destroyed significant portions of Santa Rosa — following California’s wettest year on record. So much rain fell that winter that the ground could not absorb it all, yet the summer was so hot that it desiccated the forests.
Average out the sporadic flood years with the succession of dry ones and the numbers will tell you that California is getting as much precipitation as ever. There is no drought — not if drought means a decrease in total rainfall.
But we legislated and plumbed this state for a different climate pattern, when annual winter rains reliably fell on Sonoma and points north, and a full Sierra snowpack reliably melted through the spring and summer to feed streams and irrigate orchards and farm fields. That era is long gone. The snowpack comes unpredictably, because a warmer climate means water that formerly stayed in the mountains as snow through the summer now melts sooner, or falls as rain and rushes westward to the sea in the winter, when we need it the least. A quick look at any satellite photo from a heavy-snow year reveals that no number of new dams could ever replace the snowpack’s formerly reliable volume.
More 20th century infrastructure, lawmaking and emergency declarations won’t get us through this drought — because this is no drought.
Droughts come for a year, or two, or even 10 — and then end. Seasonal crops are fallowed, lawns are ripped out, car washing stops — and then life, lawns, crops and car washing all return to the way they were before.
That’s not what we’ve got. Drought does not erase the coastal fog that once was commonplace in the Bay Area, or suck all moisture from the ground even after flood winters the way it has done not just in Sonoma and Mendocino but also in Topanga, Malibu and the Santa Susana Mountains, as was the case before 2018’s Woolsey fire. Droughts are deviations from the norm. What we have now is no deviation. It is the norm itself. Our climate has changed. As much water falls from the sky as before, but at different times and in different ways.
A drought declaration suspends existing rules governing storage, transport and quality of water, but the details matter. In Sonoma and Mendocino, Newsom’s declaration means more water can be kept in reservoirs instead of being delivered to farmers who grow wine grapes and other crops. But Central Valley lawmakers are hopping mad that the governor didn’t declare drought statewide, because they want the rules bent to allow the opposite — more water from reservoirs to grow their crops, less for urban residents and migrating fish.
They argue that an emergency order will help with “this challenging, but temporary, situation,” and that in the meantime, some of California’s unexpected billions in revenue should be used to keep agricultural operations going through the “drought.”
But no — this is no drought, there is no “temporary” situation, and one-time money should not be spent to keep operations at unsustainable former levels. Money spent on programs or infrastructure that does not reflect new climate patterns or help water users adapt to them is money wasted.
More agricultural acreage should be fallowed, and less water diverted from dried-out rivers and streams for unsustainable vineyards and orchards. Floodplains should be restored, so that in wet winters the excess water that once might have been frozen on mountainsides but now rushes downhill as flash floods can gather, settle and seep into the ground over the dry springs, summers and falls, and in the meantime sustain birds and spawning fish whose ancient marshes and wetlands we have drained. Urban areas, once they use their water, must purify it and use it again, because imports from distant places will be less certain, and it is foolish to keep flushing all that useful water away.
Yet we still need linkages among California’s many regions. That’s one lesson from Sonoma and Mendocino, which have no water connections to wetter areas, and Los Angeles, which does. Some transfers must be actual water, but many can be on paper — transfers of contractual water rights, for example.
There is no drought. That phrase is sometimes used to deny the epic and obvious change in our climate patterns, but that’s all wrong. Just as there is no temporary drought in the Sahara, where heat and dryness punctuated by flash flooding is the norm, there is no temporary drought in California. The years of steady and predictable water flow are over, and there is no sign of them coming back in our lifetimes. This is it. We have to build, and grow, and legislate, and consume for the world as it is, not as we may remember it.
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