Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
USA Today on California wildfires:
Rising casualties. Aerial assaults. Weary ground forces. The charred desolation of thousands of homes. The most apt metaphor about California’s rampaging wildfires is warfare.
And just like in any war, one of the first casualties is truth.
Who or what is to blame for the conflagrations? Whether it’s timber interests on one side complaining about environmental rules, or environmentalists on the other side claiming it’s all about global warming, neither faction has it completely right.
Even as the tragedy was unfolding, President Donald Trump weighed in on the side of lumber interests, threatening “no more fed payments” because of “gross mismanagement of the forests.”
What federal payments he’s tweeting about is anyone’s guess, and 57 percent of California’s forested area is owned by the federal government. If the president has a beef with how those areas are managed, he should take it up with his own administration and properly fund forest management programs.
There might, indeed, be a need to make it easier to thin dying or dead trees out of densely forested areas, reducing the fuel for wildfires. But the problem is actually more complicated. Even if dead logs are stripped away, the tinder-dry brush acts like kindling when wildfires spread.
Even more to the point, dense forests were not a factor in these recent California fires. “They’re using these fires to talk about forest management that has nothing to do with the landscape in which the fires are occurring,” says Char Miller, W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis and History at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
The Camp Fire 90 miles north of Sacramento that killed about 50 people, destroyed nearly 8,000 homes, devastated the city of Paradise, and cindered 117,000 acres — making it the state’s most destructive fire ever — burned through a mix of trees, brush and grassland. And fires that forced massive evacuations outside Los Angeles fed off of chaparral or brush.
Climate change is making wildfires worse. The resulting erratic weather patterns have created shorter, wetter winters in California, producing a sudden, heavy growth of shrubs, grasses and trees. After winter, the state’s ongoing drought and record-high summer temperatures draw moisture out of the plants, rendering them near-perfect kindling. With the hot and dry Santa Ana winds of fall, fires explode out of control.
Yet these tragedies can’t be blamed solely on global warming. Wildfires are actually a vital part of the state’s ecosystem. Lodgepole pines, for example, thrive in fire-prone areas where millions of structures have been erected in rural areas of California since the 1940s. When they burn, the cost in lives and treasure soars.
Answering these disasters with a clipped, one-dimensional solution helps no one, although it might score short-term political points.
The proper response includes placing limits on, and fireproofing, residential expansion into wildlands; better management and removal of dry brush; and relentlessly addressing the growing concern of climate change.
In other words, the solution isn’t either/or. It’s all of the above.
The Daily Leader of Brookhaven, Mississippi, on U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith making a “public hanging” comment:
The words should not have been spoken.
When U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said that if cattle farmer Colin Hutchinson “invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” it was tone deaf and irresponsible. But the single comment alone does not make her a racist, as some have suggested.
In a statement after the words from the Nov. 2 event became public, Hyde-Smith said she used an “exaggerated expression of regard.” She was essentially saying that she liked Hutchinson so much, she would accept an invitation from him to go anywhere, even to something as horrible as a public hanging.
We get it. But the words she chose to make that point are not acceptable, particularly coming from a U.S. senator hailing from a state with a racist past.
Hyde-Smith’s statement went on to say that “any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.” Those are also not the right words. Her lack of apology is not wise.
The decision to not apologize was a coordinated move from her campaign and not necessarily her own. Making light of the matter is a mistake. As is suggesting those who were upset or offended are “ridiculous.”
Current political motivations aside, Hyde-Smith must recognize she represents all Mississippians. That includes those who didn’t think twice about the comment and did not view it as racist and those who were deeply disturbed by her words.
She should apologize and admit the words should not have been spoken. To do anything less only gives her political opponent ammunition heading into the Nov. 27 runoff. It also reinforces an unfortunate, yet sometimes accurate, depiction of her state. Admitting a mistake may not be politically wise, but it’s the right thing to do and voters will respond to her if she does so.
Gov. Phil Bryant did his best at a press conference Monday to calm the waters, but Hyde-Smith would only say that she stands by the statement she released Sunday, refusing to comment further. “I can tell you there was no ill-will in her heart,” Bryant said.
We believe that, but Mississippians need to hear those words spoken from Hyde-Smith.
Business Day on French president’s comments on nationalism:
French President Emmanuel Macron chose a solemn occasion to make a critical distinction this weekend. On the centenary of the end of World War 1, beneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in front of about 90 world leaders, he recalled how Europe “almost committed suicide”. He said “old demons” were resurfacing and history was threatening to repeat itself, and that was threatening Europe’s recent history of peace.
And then the distinction: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” he said. “Nationalism is its betrayal. In saying ‘Our interests first and others don’t matter’, we erase what is most precious to a nation, what makes it live, what makes it great, what is most important: its moral values.”
The comments were obviously directed at US President Donald Trump, particularly since in the speech he also decried “the selfishness of countries that regard only their own interests”. Macron made the comments in the context of a growing sense in Europe that the US has “deserted” the continent.
Macron’s comments reflect both aptly and, ironically, very poorly the essence of the problem. Macron argues that patriotism and nationalism are opposites. In fact, technically, they are not.
It’s a strange moment for the world. The ice floes that defined the second half of the 20th century are breaking up, and what will emerge is not yet clear. The “Western alliance” that solidified the world after World War II is now a shadow of its former self; its members are bickering, its leaders are losing support to nationalists.
And, of course, new superpowers are emerging: China and India, which actually or potentially throw the global balance into a state of disarray.
Macron’s comments reflect both aptly and, ironically, very poorly the essence of the problem. Macron argues that patriotism and nationalism are opposites. In fact, technically, they are not. Patriotism is formally defined as the avid support for your country. Nationalism is the avid support for your nation. They are often used as synonyms for each other.
Macron seemed to be trying to draw a distinction between patriotism, which he clearly regards as a positive force, with nationalism, which he regards negatively. Patriotism, he would seemingly argue, consists of supporting your country but not opposing others supporting theirs, while nationalism would consist of supporting your nation first and foremost to the exclusion of others.
It’s a fine distinction, but rooted in its own context; one of Macron’s political missions is to strengthen the European experiment, and inevitably put France in a pivotal position within that alliance. Would that be nationalism or patriotism? And what of the rest of the world? Should we all be doing as Europe is doing? Ceding national control to multilateral or regional organisations?
Macron’s comments are open to another criticism: they seem inappropriate at an occasion commemorating a moment in history when the US did, in fact, make significant sacrifices to secure Europe. The US may have joined the war late, but it had no real strategic reason to enter at all.
Yet, somewhere in Macron’s perplexing distinction, there is a germ of relevance. Patterns of life and work are being disturbed everywhere by a new internationalism that builds new industries and undermines old ones at an increasing pace. Mobility is increasing and “globalisation” is affecting once secure jobs.
The effects are often less disruptive than people fear, but the fears do exist. Those fears create a ripe environment for political exploitation, not just in the US but in Europe too, evidenced partly by Macron’s own unpopularity in his own country. The only real way out of this is to change the way people learn and are taught. People are more likely now to have more than one profession during their lifetimes, and they will be competing against not just their own countrymen but those of other countries too. Citizens need the skills base to be able to learn not only a profession but how to re-engineer themselves.
As Macron says, the danger that citizens will turn to nationalism in order to solve the problem will have unanticipated consequences that could turn ugly. In that sense, the terrible memory of the War to End All Wars is its most important legacy.
The Washington Post on Amazon splitting its new headquarters between New York City and suburban Washington:
IF YOU’RE a Washington resident who has never heard of National Landing, or thought it was a lesser venue from “Game of Thrones,” guess again: That’s the official name for the site (also known as Crystal City) in Northern Virginia where Amazon will build a massive new hub to accommodate at least 25,000 tech and administrative employees over a dozen years. That announcement Tuesday by the tech giant (whose CEO and founder, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Post) held the promise of further diversifying a local economy once in thrall to the federal government, rebranding the nation’s capital as a magnet for millennial tech talent, pumping tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue into state and local coffers — and also worsening traffic, school crowding and rising housing costs.
The award of what was formerly known as HQ2 — before Amazon, which is based in Seattle, split the prize, with the other half going to New York — is a bonanza for Virginia and the Washington area. In addition to the jobs windfall — with 25,000?employees, Amazon would add more jobs than any of the region’s biggest private employers have today — its spinoff benefits include the company’s plan to invest at least $2.5 billion to establish the new digs in Arlington County near Reagan National Airport, just across the Potomac from the District. Virginia pegged the infusion of new tax revenue at $3.2 billion over 20 years, or an average of $160 million annually for the state budget, currently about $55 billion.
As part of the deal with Amazon, state and local officials pledged significant new funds to upgrade local roads and transit, protect and expand affordable housing and, importantly, boost higher- education spending to juice the pipeline of tech graduates. And the people who run Metrorail, beset by dwindling ridership for nearly a decade, must be smiling at the prospect of thousands of new daily commuters making their way to Amazon jobs on the subway.
Like most bonanzas, this one is certain to come with trials. San Francisco, with its epidemic of NIMBYism, hellish housing prices and squadrons of homeless, is a glaring object lesson in the limits of tech-driven prosperity.
By dividing HQ2, Amazon may have halved the headaches it will foist on state and local officials. Still, it will be their job to anticipate the fallout and disruption to people’s lives, and take proactive steps to mitigate the effects of crowding, traffic and higher prices.
Those are serious headaches; in many ways, they’re also the right headaches to have, far more desirable than anemic economic prospects, dwindling tax revenue and young people desperate to attend college and seek employment elsewhere. Addressing one big problem — jobs, prosperity, growth — is a good starting point for chipping away at others. For this region, Amazon is an undeniable challenge. If managed properly, it’s also a launching pad for a brighter future.
The Augusta Chronicle on comic book legend Stan Lee and his legacy:
Comic book fans know writer and editor Stan Lee like baseball fans know slugger Babe Ruth.
Both men were mythic. Their impacts and legacies are strong fuel for fan arguments. And both men changed the way the world looked at their professions.
But Lee — who died Monday at age 95 — helped create an entire universe.
Lee’s co-creations spawned what would become the Marvel Comics Universe — a fictional world where the superheroes not only had amazing powers but very human flaws. That characteristic alone turned the world of comics on its head. Until Lee came along, superheroes were more like Superman, who flew in to save the day and didn’t seem to have problems like actual people.
But in 1962, Lee — then editor and head writer at Marvel Comics — saw the success of a new set of Marvel characters called the Fantastic Four, a team with super powers but ordinary faults such as jealousy and doubt. He then co-created Spider-Man, a teenage hero who wrestled not only with villains but also with typical teenage problems.
“You ask the audience to suspend disbelief and accept that some idiot can climbs on walls,” Lee said in a 1992 interview. “But once that’s accepted, you ask … would he still have to worry about dandruff. About acne, about getting girlfriends, about keeping a job?”
Stan Lee led the revolution that made superheroes more human. And that helped the world of comics grow up.
With the characters now more complex and realistic, and more relatable to readers, the audience grew older and larger, as it is today. The conflicts of these new heroes were no longer just with other people in wild costumes. Often, the good guys fought conflicts within themselves. A famous Marvel story arc in 1979 unflinchingly showed Iron Man’s struggle with alcoholism.
Being spawned in the turbulent 1960s, Lee’s co-creations also confronted real-life social issues on its colorful comic pages. The X-Men’s creation, with the bigotry they endured in their storylines, was said to have been inspired by the civil rights movement.
The characters almost immediately jumped off the pages of print and into animated cartoons — and then, after fits and starts, into television and film. When “Spider-Man” hit screens in 2002, that truly unleashed Marvel on the big screen, and many other films followed. Today, by one estimate, Marvel movies have grossed more than $24 billion worldwide.
Also, consider: Of the 10 current highest-grossing movies of all time, four of them are based on Marvel superheroes. Largely because of that, the heroes’ images and influence have crept into virtually every level of modern pop culture. They seem to be everywhere.
And it all started with Stan Lee.
That’s not his real name, you know.
He was born Stanley Lieber, in New York City. He aspired to become a famous writer and author of the next “Great American Novel.” When he worked as an office boy for a comic-book publisher, others noticed his knack for writing and editing, and he began scripting stories. But he was embarrassed to use his real name with his comic-book work because he still held higher literary aspirations.
So, like a hero adopting a secret identity, he became Stan Lee.
And in a way, he became perhaps the mightiest comic-book hero of them all.
Tampa Bay Times on recounts in Florida:
The Florida recounts continue to move forward with few serious bumps, a credit to local election supervisors, judges and professional law enforcement who have provided a sense of calm, order and faith in government institutions. That stands in stark contrast to the overheated rhetoric from President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans spouting unfounded claims of voter fraud and conspiracy theories. Common sense and fairness require that every legitimate vote be counted, and state law provides a reasonable process for achieving that goal. That’s what’s happening now in a timely manner, and no one — particularly Scott, who continues to narrowly lead the Senate race — benefits from undermining public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.
All 67 counties have until 3 p.m. Thursday to conduct a machine recount of more than 8.2 million combined ballots in statewide races for U.S Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner. Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered the recount last week in accordance with Florida law, which requires a recount in razor-thin races. At least two of those races — for Senate and agriculture commissioner — could be close enough to force a manual recount, also prescribed under Florida law. Getting an accurate count may take time and effort, but it’s in the overriding public interest, which is why Florida law provides several steps for getting there.
Trump has been unhelpful with his uninformed tweets, but Scott and Attorney General Bondi have been particularly disappointing. The termed-out Republican governor should know better than to accuse Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of trying to steal the election and asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate vote-counting in Democratic-rich Broward County. Bondi followed suit Sunday, criticizing the FDLE commissioner, Rick Swearingen, for refusing to investigate “reasonable suspicion” of criminal fraud. Never mind that neither the governor nor attorney general have provided specific evidence of criminal activity. Swearingen deserves credit for pushing back while remaining vigilant. The biggest irregularity to date was the acknowledgement Monday by the elections supervisor in hurricane-ravaged Bay County that he had accepted 11 ballots by email and 147 ballots by fax, even though there is no provision in Florida law that allows it. You don’t hear a peep from Republicans about that.
The election supervisors are busy and the environment is toxic enough without adding to the tensions with lawsuits and histrionic allegations that Democrats in South Florida are stealing the election. There are many reasons how we got here — record turnout, confusing ballot styles in some counties, varied practices for accepting mail-in ballots, mistakes by local supervisors, notably Broward County’s Brenda Snipes. But there is a difference between apparent incompetence in Broward and outright corruption. Broward Circuit Judge Jack Tuter rejected Scott’s request Monday to have the police impound voting machines and ballots when they were not in use, suggesting that extra deputies could provide adequate security. The judge also called for toning down the rhetoric. “These words mean things these days,” he said, “as everybody in the room knows.”
Scott and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis continue to lead the statewide vote by narrow margins, and to his credit DeSantis has been more patient and appropriately restrained during the recount. Between 2000 and 2016, there were 4,687 statewide general elections and just 26 statewide recounts. Only three of those recounts reversed the initial result, according to the nonpartisan group FairVote. Counting every vote and then recounting the vote to ensure its accuracy is not redoing an election. It’s the lawful way for getting it right. That must be the priority.
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