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Editorial Roundup: US

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

June 23

The Washington Post on the importance of wearing face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic and President Donald Trump’s refusal to wear them:

AMC Entertainment, the movie theater chain, flip-flopped on the pandemic last week, first saying its customers wouldn’t be required to wear masks, then saying they would. It’s hard to blame the company given the Trump administration’s, and the president’s own, scattered, inconsistent and flat-out wrong messaging. Still, if the United States is going to beat the coronavirus and revive its economy, the private sector — including airlines, restaurants, retail establishments and entertainment companies — needs to step up.

AMC’s first move was to say it wouldn’t adopt any mask requirement at its cinemas — even though masks are proven to impede spread of the coronavirus — because it wanted to avoid being “drawn into a political controversy.” Facing a social media backlash, it reversed course the next day, saying it’s “crucial that we listen to our guests.”

That was the right outcome, but both statements missed the point: Covid-19 is not a “political controversy,” and combating it is not a matter of customer relations. It’s a public health crisis, and defeating it requires heeding public health experts. That means wearing masks in public; increased testing and tracing; and isolating people who become infected.

AMC’s flailing was a symptom of the country’s larger failure to unite against the pandemic. That is unsurprising given that President Trump, who ostentatiously refuses to wear a mask himself, is actively defying public health experts — holding his political rally in Tulsa last weekend inside an arena, subverting the importance of testing and saying that Americans who cover their faces do so to spite him.

In framing mask-wearing as a culture-war issue, Mr. Trump obscures and impugns what should be a straightforward and responsible act of personal protection and public hygiene.

The good news is that companies are starting to understand not only the research on mask-wearing but also the implications for their bottom line. U.S. airlines, whose recovery may be one barometer of the economy’s overall fortunes, have finally started to enforce a policy, announced in late April, requiring passengers to wear masks. For weeks, flight attendants were instructed not to confront passengers who flouted the policy. Now passengers are to be warned that defying the rule may get them banned from future flights.

That’s progress; it’s also a belated act of self-interest on the airlines’ part. Many people will not fly if they have to share a row with a fellow passenger whose face is uncovered — and for good reason: No one should be subjected to that risk. The administration has declined to take any regulatory steps toward requiring masks aboard flights; in the absence of federal action, airlines must get tough.

All Americans, and all businesses, want the country reopened. Mr. Trump has framed the issue falsely, as a choice between economic revival and public health. In fact, the goal is to reopen intelligently, without triggering a fresh tsunami of infections. That will require responsible decision-making by state and local leaders as well as companies and individuals. Wearing masks is an essential place to start.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/

June 23

The Baltimore Sun on President Donald Trump mentioning Baltimore during a campaign rally, and the similarities between the city and some states the president won during the U.S. presidential elections in 2016:

Anyone with the fortitude to endure President Donald Trump’s wearisome campaign rally Saturday in Tulsa might have caught a passing reference to Baltimore. Was it regarding the city’s improving coronavirus numbers? Its more peaceful approach to Black Lives Matter protests? Was it about the 64th anniversary of the integration of the city’s public pools on June 23? You know better than that. President Trump regards Baltimore “as flies to wanton boys,” as the Bard might observe, meaning with both disdain and callous indifference.

The reference was to the city’s homicide rate comparing it to that of El Salvador, Guatemala and Afghanistan. And it was purely to make a point about Democratic leadership. He made no mention — as he spoke the day after Juneteenth and not far from the site of the worst massacre of African Americans in U.S. history — of the awful legacies at work in Baltimore and other cities, ranging from racial discrimination to the failed drug war to concentrated poverty, and on and on. Mr. Trump isn’t about fixing inequities; he’s about exploiting them.

Given that the president also mentioned Baltimore just four days earlier to decry the police department’s failure to solve 68% of homicides last year and last year’s attacks on the city’s litter and rodent population, it’s clear that he sees attacking Charm City as being in his political interest. But the president may want to pause and look around. If the 2020 campaign is going to be about which party should be held accountable for the nation’s social ills, the Republican nominee may find himself holding the short end of the stick. By any reasonable measure of quality of life, including the most basic measure of life and death, it’s not the blue states that are coming up short, it’s those under the firm control of the GOP.

Take the infant mortality rate, for example. That’s the number of deaths for every 1,000 live births. It’s a key measure of the physical health of a community. And most Americans regard preserving those youngest of lives as a high priority. So which states are the worst at that? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list these at the top: Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina and West Virginia.

Or what about the other end of life: Which states have the shortest average life span even before the COVID-19 pandemic? That would be Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Then there’s average household income, where West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico bring up the rear. Of those, only New Mexico qualifies as a blue state in that list. It also happens to be one of seven states with a 16% or higher poverty rate. The other six are red states, of course.

We could go on. But the irony here — lost too often on many of President Trump’s supporters, alas — is that these states and the shorter, more difficult lives their residents face have much in common with Baltimore. They, too, are trapped by their pasts, by systemic discrimination against people of color and longtime poverty, by substance abuse and lack of economic opportunity. What the nation needs now is not for Joe Biden or any other Democrat to be a blue state version of President Trump and mock Mississippi or Louisiana. What we need in the next president is someone who can rally the nation to improve the lives of the forgotten, the downtrodden, the ignored. How awful that President Trump could speak for so long in Oklahoma without once addressing the worst problems facing the Sooner State because they don’t fit his campaign narrative of places controlled by Democrats being bad and places run by Republicans good. It’s all just another deception from a tireless spewer of them.

As Baltimore native and 1966 McDonogh School grad John Bolton has observed, if belatedly: The 45th president is unfit for office and a “danger for the republic.” Polls show even red state denizens seem to be gradually recognizing that, which we take as a sign that his time for dishonoring himself, the presidency and the country will soon be coming to a close. So mock us all you want, Mr. Trump. Baltimore has survived bombardment from the British; it will surely survive bombast from you.

Online: https://www.baltimoresun.com/

June 22

The Wall Street Journal on the American Museum of Natural History removing an equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt flanked by a Native American man and African American man that stands on the building's entrance:

The Committee for the Removal of Public Monuments has bagged its biggest trophy to date. On Sunday New York Mayor Bill de Blasio acceded to a request from Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History, to remove the equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, that fronts the museum entrance on Central Park West.

“The Statue has long been controversial because of the hierarchical composition that places one figure on horseback and the others walking alongside, and many of us find its depictions of the Native American and African figures and their placement in the monument racist,” Ms. Futter wrote in a letter to the mayor. She added, “While the Statue is owned by the City, the Museum recognizes the importance of taking a position at this time. We believe that the Statue should no longer remain and have requested that it be moved.”

The Roosevelt statue has long been a target for progressives. Last year the museum organized an exhibition, “Addressing the Statue,” which did a poor job of exploring the issues involved. As our critic Edward Rothstein wrote at the time, “(T)he exhibition actually does very little to help explain the statue or to put it in context. And while it claims to want to participate in a ‘national conversation’ by presenting a variety of views, its own weigh down the scales.”

This current anti-monument wave degrades what originated as a legitimate grievance: the presence of Confederate monuments, many erected during the Jim Crow era to perpetuate the Lost Cause myth and advance white supremacy. But that idea has been taken over now by what has turned into a mob intent on willy-nilly eradication of chunks of American history.

And so during the recent protests in Boston, we saw the spray-painting of the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial, a monument to the first African-American regiment to fight in the Civil War and an emblem of racial reconciliation and harmony. On Friday they toppled a statue of Ulysses S. Grant in San Francisco. Never mind that as President, Grant enforced Reconstruction, lobbied for passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan.

With the capitulation of the Natural History Museum’s leadership this weekend, the coerced erasing of U.S. history has gained momentum. It is a good moment for what remains of unintimidated funders of these institutions to consider whether their money could be put to better use elsewhere.

Online: https://www.wsj.com/

June 22

The South China Morning Post calling for China's National People’s Congress to release a draft of a national security law the Standing Committee has been considering for Hong Kong:

Beijing is pushing ahead with its national security law for Hong Kong at a breathtaking pace. The National People’s Congress passed a resolution requiring its Standing Committee to enact the legislation less than a month ago. A draft was considered by the committee for the first time last week. But it will convene again on Sunday and the law, which aims to stop subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with external forces, is expected to be passed by the end of the month.

This is a national law and the procedures may not be familiar in Hong Kong. But there has been little time for the city to come to terms with the fast-moving and far-reaching developments.

The biggest concern is that the draft of the law has not yet been made public. Without the wording, it is unclear how it will work or how profound its impact will be. Meaningful feedback cannot be provided until the details are known. It has been suggested releasing the draft would allow opponents to mobilise or flee. But there is not much the opposition can do with so little time left.

A summary of the draft was released through state media on Saturday. It set out a broad framework, but also raised concerns. There was reassurance the law would not curb Hong Kong’s freedoms and would mostly be enforced by the city’s authorities. But other areas raise uncertainties.

The chief executive will lead a new national security commission, featuring an adviser from the central government. Beijing will also set up a national security commissioner’s office in Hong Kong. The role of the two commissions needs to be further explained.

The chief executive will select judges to hear security cases, raising concerns about the independence of the judiciary. Beijing appears to have accepted that there should be no ban on foreign judges hearing the cases. But it needs to spell out how this new selection process will work.

The prospect of a “tiny”number of exceptional cases being handled by the mainland rather than Hong Kong courts also needs more clarification. In what circumstances will this happen? Will the criteria be clearly specified in the law? And the possibility that the law might operate retrospectively should not be left in doubt.

The Standing Committee’s rules do not require it to publish the draft. But releasing the details would further inform debate and ease concerns.

Beijing may feel there is no point in reaching out to its hardline opponents. Certainly, there are sharp political divisions in the city. But there are also many who would engage constructively with Beijing in seeking to improve the draft and make the law more acceptable to the community. The central government should reach out to those sectors.

The legislation will soon be passed, with time for feedback short. Beijing should release the draft as soon as possible.

Online: https://www.scmp.com/

June 19

The New York Times on some Republicans opposing moves to remove portraits and monuments of Confederate leaders from the Capitol:

Confederate statues are being pulled down across the South — from Birmingham, Ala., to Decatur, Ga., to Richmond, Va., the Confederacy’s former capital. The U.S. Navy and the Marines have banned public displays of the Confederate battle flag — as has NASCAR.

Now, Congress is taking its own halting steps forward. On Thursday, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, announced that portraits of four former House speakers who also served the Confederacy would be removed from display in the Capitol in observance of the Juneteenth holiday. (June 19 marks the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news of the end of slavery — two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It has come to be a more general celebration of liberation.)

The portraits are of Robert M.T. Hunter of Virginia, who was speaker from 1839 to 1841 before serving in various high positions in the Confederacy, including secretary of state; Howell Cobb of Georgia, who was speaker from 1849 to 1851 and later served as a Confederate Army officer; James L. Orr of South Carolina, speaker from 1857 to 1859, who went on to serve in the Confederate Army and in the Confederate Senate; and Charles F. Crisp of Georgia, the House speaker from 1891 to 1895, who served in the Confederate Army as a young man.

“As I have said before, the halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy,” Ms. Pelosi wrote to the clerk of the House, requesting the removal. “There is no room in the hallowed halls of Congress or in any place of honor for memorializing men who embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy.”

Over in the Senate, Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, tried to nudge his chamber forward as well. He and the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, moved Thursday to pass a bill by unanimous consent that would remove 11 monuments to Confederates from the National Statuary Hall Collection displayed in the Capitol. (Each state is represented by two figures.) Mr. Booker denounced the statues as part of an effort to intimidate black Americans. “We cannot separate the Confederate statues from this history and legacy of white supremacy,” he said, calling them a “painful, insulting, difficult injury” to many Americans.

Not all of Mr. Booker’s colleagues agreed. Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, blocked the move. He said that as chairman of the Rules Committee, he needed time to examine the proposal and to confer with the states involved. Current law gives each state the right to choose its own displays, and Mr. Blunt voiced concern about running afoul of that.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was more outspoken in his opposition. On Tuesday, he derided brewing efforts to “airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery” as “nonsense” and “a bridge too far.” He even felt moved to list for reporters some of the early presidents who owned slaves. “Washington did. Jefferson did. Madison did. Monroe did.”

None of those presidents, it should be noted, went to war against the United States to defend slavery. Nor are all the 11 statues of peripheral figures who had just “any connection” to the war for chattel slavery. The statues include one of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America; Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the vice president; and its most famous general, Robert E. Lee. There are other statues of men less central to the rebel cause. But given that states can select any person of note from their state, surely there are many other men or women who don’t have the Confederacy on their résumés.

Is this really the hill that the Party of Lincoln wants to fight on in 2020? What an ignoble, lost cause.

Online: https://www.nytimes.com/

June 18

The Los Angeles Times on the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a program that protects immigrants who were brought to the country as children and allows them to work:

A significantly fractured Supreme Court on Thursday shot down the Trump administration’s efforts to undo the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, concluding — without ruling on the merits of the policy itself — that the government’s order canceling DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.” But the president’s efforts also were cold, heartless, and counter to the nation’s best interests, so it’s encouraging that the court allowed the program to continue.

But DACA survived on a technicality. Had the administration taken the time to lay a proper foundation for its impulsive action to withdraw the protections for the Dreamers, this decision could have gone the other way. So as heartening as the court’s decision might be, it does not resolve the underlying issue.

DACA is, at best, a temporary solution to a broader problem, and it’s one of the more frustrating aspects of our long-running political impasse over immigration reform. Reasonable minds — and a majority of Americans regardless of political affiliation — recognize that the Dreamers stand in a unique position not of their own creation, and justice and fairness dictate that they receive some accommodation. Yet DACA, which is a policy decision that is demonstrably susceptible to political vagaries, doesn’t do that. It just delays the crafting of a real solution.

The Obama administration crafted DACA in 2012 after a bipartisan proposal in Congress was scuttled by the deep partisan divisions on immigration policy. It provides temporary protections against deportation for people who meet specific criteria based on their arrival and length of residence in the United States, who have led productive lives through jobs or schooling, and who have not had significant run-ins with the law. Most of the Dreamers bear little responsibility for their presence here since they were brought as minor children by parents or guardians.

It would be manifestly unfair, as the anti-DACA folks demand, to uproot them from the only country most of them have ever really known and send them off to places that are not only foreign to them, but where in many instances they don’t speak the language. The hardship such deportations would create on people who are Americans in all but legal standing far outweighs any purported gain in hard-line enforcement of immigration laws.

There are other pragmatic reasons for finding a better solution to this problem. Those who qualify for DACA include parents of about 250,000 children born here in the U.S. What purpose is served in disrupting those families or, even worse, forcing parents to leave the country with children who are U.S. citizens? What sense does it make to force American children to pay a penalty for the long-ago misdeeds of their grandparents?

Further, the DACA-eligible folks have been educated here by U.S. taxpayers, contribute to the economy, and play significant roles in their communities. The Center for American Progress estimates that more than 200,000 DACA recipients are essential workers — including first-responders, frontline healthcare workers, and food producers and distributors — during the coronavirus pandemic. The nation should reward them by kicking them out?

The solution here is clear. An overwhelming majority of Americans, including Republicans, believe the government should leave the Dreamers alone and craft a path to citizenship. That can be done only by Congress. President Trump has been an unreliable figure on this issue, saying at one point that he would support legislation to help the Dreamers, but then holding the issue hostage to his own dreams for a border wall with Mexico. Whether Trump would do the right thing now as he campaigns for reelection is anyone’s guess, but Congress should make the effort and force the issue. And if Trump successfully vetoes it, the nation can hope that the next president could fix it come January.

At a base level, it’s troubling and dysfunctional that a relative handful of xenophobes among Trump’s base can in effect block a sensible humanitarian act supported by the vast majority of their fellow citizens. That is the antithesis of a healthy democracy. And in this instance, it has a drastic impact on the lives of people caught up in circumstances created by others. Congress needs to get its act together and take an obvious step in the national interest.

Online: https://www.latimes.com/

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