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Editorial Roundup: US

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

July 7

The Washington Post on a new U.S. guideline forcing international students to leave the country or transfer to another college if their schools only offer online classes this fall:

The Trump administration has used the novel coronavirus as license to indiscriminately kill off and impede every sort of immigration — legal and illegal, permanent and temporary, work- and family-based. On Monday, it took aim at the more than 1 million international students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities, threatening them with deportation if their classes move online, as many already have.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made the announcement as a growing number of colleges, facing a widening pandemic, have shifted entirely or largely to virtual learning for the fall. International students at those institutions, who represent a sizable cohort, will have to go home or transfer to another school that offers in-person classes.

ICE provided no rationale — unsurprising, given that it is unfair and irrational as a matter of policy. But within hours of its announcement, President Trump sought to make school closings into an election issue. Democrats, he claimed on Twitter, want schools closed “for political reasons, not health reasons,” to help them in the fall elections.

That’s preposterous. Colleges and universities have scrambled to devise plans to operate safely in the fall, in some cases pivoting from one scenario to another as the virus has spread. Last week, the University of Southern California reversed course, scrapping a mix of in-person and online classes at its campus in pandemic-plagued Los Angeles and shifting to a mostly virtual schedule. Those decisions have nothing to do with partisan politics, nothing to do with the fall elections and nothing to do with Mr. Trump.

The new rule means colleges that depend critically on tuition revenue from international students — many from China, India and South Korea — will be under pressure to offer in-person classes even in places where covid-19 is a major threat. International students will face deportation even if their colleges, facing a fresh outbreak, shift mid-semester from in-person to online classes. International students with preexisting conditions will feel forced to attend in-person classes despite the risk to their lives.

Those students, who constitute 5.5 percent of overall higher education enrollment, contributed more than $40 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2019-2020 academic year. They provide a steady stream of energetic, talented youth, some of whom make key contributions to the U.S. economy and form lifelong ties with U.S. businesses and scientific and cultural institutions.

None of that matters to Mr. Trump, who has made it a personal and political crusade to rid the nation, to the extent possible, of foreigners. Last month, his administration suspended work visas for various non-immigrant categories and widened a ban on new green cards for applicants outside of this country. Under cover of the pandemic, asylum seekers have been effectively banned from the United States for the first time in modern history, and many U.S. embassies and consulates remain shut, closing off other avenues of legal entry for visitors, workers and immigrants alike.

The president’s goal is to turn America’s back on the world. Sadly, it is Americans, and institutions like U.S. universities, that will pay the price.

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

July 7

The New York Times on allegations Russia paid bounties for the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan:

There’s a lot still missing from the reports that Russia paid for attacks on American and other coalition forces in Afghanistan. That’s why it’s critical that emotions and politics be kept at bay until the facts are in. Some important context might come from a hearing on the matter by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, even though Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, has declined to attend.

The charges are explosive, and the public — especially the families of fallen soldiers — deserves some honest answers. The reports in The Times and other news media cite intelligence findings that a Russian military intelligence unit rewarded fighters linked to the Taliban for targeting American troops, possibly disbursing money through a shadowy Afghan middleman named Rahmatullah Azizi. The findings are said to have been relayed to the White House in a regular intelligence briefing that President Trump says he never saw.

The logical next step for the president should have been to acknowledge the gravity of the allegations and demand a full report. Instead, Mr. Trump dismissed the story in a tweet as “just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party,” even as he acknowledged that the information was contained in intelligence reports. Inevitably, the response resurrected speculation about Mr. Trump’s unexplained affinity for Vladimir Putin, most recently displayed in attempts to include the Russian leader in a meeting of the Group of 7.

Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, said this month that the Justice Department was considering an investigation into whomever may have leaked the information.

The Trump administration’s response to this story raises critical questions about whether it is focusing sufficient attention on the plight of American soldiers deployed far from their homeland and on dangerous ground. John Bolton’s new book about his time as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser is only the latest depiction of a president incapable of absorbing policy briefings.

But this issue is not solely a question of Mr. Trump’s competence. From the various news accounts, others in the White House and Congress were also apparently advised of the claims, yet no one reacted until the allegations were made public in The Times.

Then there’s the question of the motives behind the leaks and the solidity of the information. The Wall Street Journal, for one, reported that the National Security Agency — which specializes in electronic espionage — strongly dissented from other intelligence agencies over the strength of the intelligence. For agencies to differ in their assessments of intelligence is not unusual in the business of espionage, which by its nature often deals in circumstantial evidence. What the differences were in this case is not known, but they probably account for Mr. Trump’s claim that the intelligence did not reach him because it “didn’t rise to that level.”

Other questions abound: When did the reported payments begin? Were they payback for American support of Afghan militants against Soviet troops there in the 1980s, or something else? Were the payments a factor in the deaths of any American or other coalition troops? Was the intelligence tweaked by people seeking to hinder efforts to withdraw American troops?

Coalition forces suffered a spate of casualties in Afghanistan last summer and early fall, but there have been only a few deaths since. Four Americans were killed by hostile fire incidents early this year, but the Taliban has not attacked American positions since it signed an agreement with the United States in late February. (Five other Americans died this year in nonhostile accidents or crashes.) A spokesman for the Taliban said the reports of any deal with Russian intelligence agencies were “baseless.” Russian officials have said they’ll respond if and when they hear concrete accusations.

Mr. Pompeo has declined to comment on the specifics of the intelligence reports of bounties, but he noted in a recent interview that Russia’s involvement in Afghanistan was nothing new and was regularly raised with Russian officials. “There are many folks using the Taliban or who have used the Taliban over years and years and years as proxy forces,” he said, noting that Iran and Pakistan have also provided aid to the Taliban over the years.

Afghanistan is a forbidding country that has repeatedly confounded invaders. There is no question that the war there has been rife with atrocities, shifting alliances and dubious sources of funds and arms. Mr. Trump is right to try to pull Americans out after more than two decades of inconclusive fighting.

Yet the public anger aroused by the bounties story will not go away by claiming “hoax,” or dismissing the payments as collateral damage of a dirty war. Legislators from both parties are already demanding explanations, and the House Armed Services Committee voted by a large bipartisan majority for an amendment to the defense bill to make any further withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan contingent on an assessment of whether any country has offered incentives for the Taliban to attack American and other coalition troops.

It is unfortunate to connect the issue of possible Russian payoffs with the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The administration ought to provide more information to lawmakers, which is why it was a missed opportunity for Mr. Pompeo to decline to attend the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

But whatever those investigations reveal, the war in Afghanistan needs to be brought to an end. Mr. Putin’s intelligence services shouldn’t get a say in what is in the best interests of the United States.

The threat to Mr. Trump’s withdrawal deal alone should encourage the president to get to the bottom of the issue, and if necessary to confront Russia with the numerous tools of statecraft at his disposal.

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

July 7

The Boston Herald on a recent speech by President Donald Trump:

Amidst the Independence Day celebrations, tucked between news stories of illegal fireworks in the streets and statue topplings in public squares, there was another notable weekend event.

President Trump spoke at South Dakota’s 2020 Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration, delivering perhaps his best speech to date. His words drew a sharp contrast to the cultural unraveling in which progressive activists and their media allies look to tear down history and engage in a full assault against our institutions and values.

“No nation has done more to advance the human condition than the United States of America,” declared Trump. “And no people have done more to promote human progress than the citizens of our great nation.”

Then the president addressed the shocking images Americans are seeing in the streets almost nightly.

“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities. Many of these people have no idea why they are doing this, but some know exactly what they are doing.”

Indeed, at this point no connection between the tragic killing of George Floyd and the actions of the mob can be made. Hyper-progressives have hijacked the original protest and fueled a movement based on destroying all symbols of history — whether they be abolitionists or pro-slavery or even monuments paid for by freed slaves themselves.

In Boston, the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial was damaged by protesters. The monument recognizes the first all-volunteer black regiment of the Union Army. Over two million soldiers fought on the Union side during the Civil War. Their Commander in Chief was President Abraham Lincoln, also a target in the revisionist revolution of 2020.

At Mount Rushmore, President Trump re-established the truth about America’s 16th president.

“Abraham Lincoln, the savior of our union, was a self-taught country lawyer who grew up in a log cabin on the American frontier. The first Republican President, he rose to high office from obscurity, based on a force and clarity of his anti-slavery convictions … and he led the country through the darkest hours of American history, giving every ounce of strength that he had to ensure that government of the people, by the people and for the people did not perish from this Earth.”

As the president addressed those gathered in South Dakota, he reduced the threat to its core:

“The radical ideology attacking our country advances under the banner of social justice. But in truth, it would demolish both justice and society."

Trump acknowledged that our education system bears some culpability in creating a culture in which young people are taught that America is a force for evil, from front to back.

“We must demand that our children are taught once again to see America as did Rev. Martin Luther King,“ Trump declared. “When he said that the Founders had signed ‘a promissory note’ to every future generation. Dr. King saw that the mission of justice required us to fully embrace our founding ideals.”

Predictably, the activist media declared the speech to be “dark” and “ominous,” but it was anything but. It was a promise to good people that their government supports them and a reaffirmation that we are a great country and will forever strive to be greater.

Now, it is up to President Trump to rise to a great cause and resist the temptation to mire himself in trivial matters while the country needs him. We hope this is his moment. We shall see.

Online: https://www.bostonherald.com/

July 7

The Baltimore Sun on Christopher Columbus, and the toppling of a Columbus statue by protesters in Baltimore, Maryland:

Christopher Columbus did not set out to prove that the world was round (educated people had proven the flat-Earthers wrong centuries earlier). He was not the first European to cross the Atlantic (that title goes to Norse Viking Leif Eriksson). And he never, ever — not once — set foot on what is today the United States of America; he didn’t even make it to the North American continent. (He landed on a Bahamian island during his famous 1492 journey.) Even the story of his ship names is false: The Niña and the Pinta you were told about in school? Really the Santa Clara and the nobody-remembers-anymore, but definitely not “Pinta,” which was a nickname bestowed on the boat by “salty sailors,” according to History.com, that meant “painted one” or “prostitute.”

Those are the myths that have long been perpetuated about the Italian master navigator, who might not even have been Italian; there are theories out there that he was Portuguese, Spanish or possibly even Scottish. Now here are the realities: Columbus indeed charted a path leading to European colonization of the Americas. And he absolutely terrorized the Taino people Indigenous to the Caribbean. He and his men killed them, abducted them, enslaved them, raped them, chopped off their hands for not delivering gold dust on demand and — according to a firsthand account by Bartolomé de las Casas, a participant turned repentant Dominican friar — “grabbed suckling infants by the feet and, ripping them from their mothers’ breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks.”

Likewise, there are some myths and realities we should discuss about the protesters who tore down the Christopher Columbus statue near Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood and chucked it into the harbor. Those who consider them an un-American angry mob might want to take another look at history themselves: Tearing down symbols deemed offensive is something of a patriotic tradition in this country, going back to the birth of our independence.

Two-hundred-forty-four years ago to the day as of Thursday, a New York City crowd that included some of Gen. George Washington’s troops got so worked up after a reading of the Declaration of Independence that they collectively marched toward Broadway and ripped down a 2-ton statue of King George III that had been erected six years earlier, according to a piece in National Geographic magazine. Eventually, the British coat of arms was pulled off a courthouse as well, a stone pediment with the same symbol destroyed and the king’s portrait set on fire.

Of course, we are not in any way advocating a repeat of the events of July 9, 1776 — or July 4, 2020, for that matter. As General Washington noted, advising his troops to stay away from such scenarios in the future, defacing property in such a way gives “the appearance of a riot, and want of order.”

While we may understand and even embrace the rationale behind the recent action in Baltimore, we don’t condone the act itself. It was not heroic; it was dangerous and inflammatory. The marble statue was dedicated 36 years ago on the false premise, inscribed on its base, that Columbus was the “discoverer of America.” But it was not posing an immediate threat to anything other than our collective sensibilities. Toppling it could have killed someone. There’s a process that should have been followed to initiate its removal safely, legally and promptly; more on that in a minute.

No, our hope here is to bring some perspective to such deeds and the words now surrounding them.

The demolition of the statue undoubtedly felt good in the moment for those participating and is hardly unique to Baltimore; Columbus was beheaded in Boston, ripped down in Minnesota and tossed in a lake in Virginia. But just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t make it right, and the action here also offended Italian Americans who saw it as an affront to their heritage and dismissal of the discrimination they’ve faced as a group through the years. They absolutely should have been consulted in crafting a solution here.

The statue toppling has also been picked up as a talking point by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan who appears to be equating it, somewhat ridiculously, with violent crime in the city. And it feeds into the phony narrative President Donald Trump is spinning about a “left-wing cultural revolution.”

It also redirected what should be a conversation about historical accuracy, inhumanity and how to achieve an equitable future to one chiefly focused on symbols and their worth. In other words, it’s become a distraction to the cause.

But that’s not just the fault of those who took the statue down; it’s also the fault of those who didn’t recognize where the demands for change rocking our country right now were headed. Philadelphia leaders got it: Mayor Jim Kennedy launched a public process three weeks ago to figure out what to do with that city’s Christopher Columbus statue on South Broad Street — before residents felt so unheard that they had to take matters into their own hands.

Baltimore should take note. This has been an issue for years, with Native Americans long decrying such statues, not to mention the federal holiday, as offensive and asking for relief. It’s time to listen. There are other statues still standing. We should take a proactive, public approach to their future, rather than waiting to react to the inevitable. That’s not giving in to ultimatums set by protesters, that’s just smart governance — and a recognition of today’s truth, which has been too long in coming.

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

July 4

The South China Morning Post on tensions between China and India:

A border stand-off between China and India has spurred Indian nationalists to seek a severing of ties. While military commanders appear to have calmed tensions in the Galwan Valley high in the Himalayas with an agreement that troops pull back, trade and technology pressures are now mounting.

In moves reminiscent of steps taken against Beijing by Washington, New Delhi has banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, including immensely popular TikTok and WeChat, on security grounds. Efforts for a political solution have to be redoubled to prevent relations from further souring.

The pulling back of troops from the disputed boundary between the Chinese region of Aksai Chin and the Indian-administered territory of Ladakh lessens the risk of accidental clashes. But it does not mean a military build-up will be reversed.

Both sides have been stepping up deployment of soldiers and equipment since a skirmish on June 15 that killed 20 Indian soldiers and left an undisclosed number of Chinese casualties. Tensions had been rising for two months and there were brawls during a previous encounter, but the hand-to-hand fighting was the deadliest in four decades.

Nationalists in China and India have used the dispute to push agendas. For both nations, it is a distraction from the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic troubles it has wrought.

The area is strategically important for both, Ladakh being part of Kashmir and close to the only road linking China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and Tibet. Large parts of the 3,400km (2,113-mile) border between the nations have been disputed since a war in 1962 and the latest row raised fears of another conflict.

The agreement has allayed such concerns. But calls in India for a boycott of all things Chinese have raised worries about other aspects of the relationship, most immediately trade and investment. The banning of Chinese apps is a small step that is likely to hurt Indian consumers more than Chinese companies.

That it comes at a time when goods bought from China are being held up at Indian ports, and with authorities planning to increase tariffs and implement more stringent quality control measures for shipments, bodes poorly for the expansion plans of Chinese firms.

Trade between China and India runs deep and will not easily be unravelled. Although the United States overtook China to become India’s biggest trading partner in 2018, the vast majority of imports are Chinese. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to push self-reliance through reducing imports and boosting domestic manufacturing.

A potential military conflict has for now been averted. But nationalist urges have to be assuaged. Political efforts have to be intensified on both sides to get relations back on track.

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

July 3

The Miami Herald on the arrest of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell:

Ghislaine Maxwell finally has been arrested. We’ve all been waiting for this shoe to drop.

The onetime girlfriend and alleged accomplice of late Palm Beach millionaire sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was charged Thursday with six criminal counts alleging she aided Epstein in his sexual abuse of teenage girls.

New York prosecutors should keep digging in South Florida and other parts of Epstein’s far-flung empire of perversion. We are convinced that he couldn’t have pulled it off without many others enabling his depravity, and no one was closer to him than Maxwell.

The same prosecutors — and Epstein victims who spoke exclusively to Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown for the paper’s award-winning “Perversion of Justice” investigation — said Maxwell was more than just Epstein’s girlfriend. Between 1994 and 1997, they say she was a fixer, facilitator and participant in the scheme Epstein ran to keep Palm Beach high school girls visiting his home with the promise of $200 for a massage, a ruse to sexually abuse them.

HOUSE OF HORRORS

Epstein’s waterfront mansion of horrors housed this enterprise, and Maxwell was his accomplice, at times taking part in the sexual abuse of the girls she helped recruit, prosecutors alleged when they unsealed the indictment and arrested her in New Hampshire. They say she “normalized” the abuse by helping put the girls at ease during sex acts. If this is proved in court, she should get hard time.

The door into Epstein’s dark world that closed when he was found dead in a New York jail last year while awaiting trial for new charges of trafficking girls could swing wide open. Maxwell’s arrest offers prosecutors the possibility of an insider’s knowledge of the extent of Epstein’s human trafficking.

Maxwell knows names, times and places. If the feds squeeze her in exchange for some leniency, she might just talk about how, as prosecutors suspect, Epstein loaned out girls to famous friends as he flew them around in private jets. They are culpable, too, and should receive harsh punishment as well, if guilty.

TAINTED ASSOCIATIONS

Already the association with Epstein, who used money and influence to move in heady social circles, including the current president, a former president and a British prince, has embarrassed universities that accepted his donations, along with politicians, prominent attorneys and CEOs.

A legal deal brokered by federal prosecutors in Miami that allowed Epstein in 2008 to plead down to charges of soliciting prostitution, instead of sexual assault, eventually caught up with Alex Acosta, then a U.S. attorney. Last year, Acosta, then secretary of Labor resigned under pressure. As the U.S. attorney for the Southern District more than a decade ago, he gifted Epstein with what Herald reporter Brown called “the deal of a lifetime.” Epstein was sentenced to only 13 months in a relatively comfortable jail with work-release privileges and, reportedly, sexual privileges in his office.

British socialite Maxwell started dating Epstein in the ’90s and opened doors to people of influence for him — Britain’s Prince Andrew, among them. The prince is also embroiled in the sex scandal, with one victim alleging she had sex with him at Epstein’s request.

Epstein’s victims still are navigating a winding road to restitution and justice. With Maxwell under arrest, prosecutors should make sure that whatever she knows gets the victims closer to that goal.

Online: https://www.miamiherald.com/

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