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Editorial Roundup: US

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

April 22

The Boston Herald on comedian Jimmy Kimmel's comments regarding protesters demanding businesses be reopened:

It’s no secret that Hollywood celebrities and their ideological counterparts in the mainstream media despise President Trump. In the runup to the 2016 election, that contempt spilled over to his supporters. The “basket of deplorables” as Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton labeled them, were painted with the same rabid gun-toting, religious zealot, racist brush. In the elitist view, stereotypes are fine if they are used to defame people one doesn’t like.

It’s a new election cycle, and the disdain is back. One of the latest iterations came via Jimmy Kimmel. On his Monday night show, he referenced the country’s coronavirus shutdown. “People are getting restless,” he said. “Especially the people who aren’t too bright.”

Cutting to images of various “stay-at-home” protests across the country, Kimmel said: “I get that people need to go back to work, I do. But the point of ‘stay-at-home’ is to get a lid on this, so we can get back to work. And then stay at work. I’m starting to think that these characters who support Trump might be suicidal. They seem to fight hardest for the things that will kill them.

“They want freedom to gather in large groups during an epidemic,” he continued. “They want guns. They want pollution. I figured it out: They want to die and they’re taking us down with them.”

From a few protests around the country and people hitting newly opened beaches in Florida to Trump supporters are nihilists bent on self-destruction and want to destroy the country.

You can bet the Bel Air and Manhattan crowd loved his monologue, as it played to prejudices about those from flyover states. But here’s the thing: You can’t win voters or converts when you decry half the country as morons.

And that’s roughly the percentage who voted for Trump. In the three and a half years since, the left hasn’t made any effort to find out why voters were attracted to the president and his platform, other than attributing their choice to knee-jerk racism, lack of education, religious fervor or other “deplorable” reasons.

It’s not lost on conservatives that the left, whether in the halls of Congress or in television studios, are exasperated with gun owners’ citing the Second Amendment to support their right to own firearms, while themselves insisting that abortion is protected under that same Constitution.

Trump supporters — and that term encompasses a spectrum of conservative Americans — haven’t forgotten the “deplorables” label. Nor the Mueller probe, nor the impeachment trial. Democrats and their media and celebrity allies have done little to impress them.

And now, out of work Americans hear that they are “not that bright,” and “they want to die and they’re taking us down with them”?

Kimmel is a comedian, but we doubt people who support the president found any of that funny. Writing off half the country as buffoons with a death wish does nothing to help our nation to heal, whether it’s from pandemic anxiety or political division.

Unfortunately, it will likely not end with Kimmel, especially as states reopen and the economy, especially consumer confidence, start to pick up again. Those who can point to any positives under Trump’s watch are targets for belittling and bullying by the left.

It will be interesting to see who is laughing in November.

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

April 21

The Los Angles Times on President Donald Trump halting immigration to the U.S.

You have to say one thing for President Trump: He has yet to find a crisis he can’t try to exploit for his own political gain. Trump tweeted late Monday that he intends to sign an executive order halting all immigration to the U.S. (never mind that closed government offices have already effectively made it impossible to immigrate legally); reports out of the White House Tuesday said he intended to freeze new green cards for relatives of existing green card holders and for people expecting to move here to take a job offer. Notably, he didn’t attribute the decision to fears that new arrivals could exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus, but because they would compete with U.S. workers for jobs, which have been disappearing at a stunning rate in recent weeks.

Trump won election in part through bashing immigration, both legal and illegal, and has worked diligently since then to limit new arrivals while ramping up arrests of people here without permission. He has sharply lowered the cap on the number of refugees accepted for resettlement, while also trying to restrict asylum claims by denying them from people who did not present themselves at a legal port of entry.

That policy went into effect despite an immigration law that states plainly that any foreign national “who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival…)” is eligible to apply. The administration also has forced those applying at ports of entry to remain in Mexico while the lengthy process plays out. But as the pandemic grew, the president shut down nearly all non-trade traffic at the southern and northern borders — including asylum seekers.

Now, citing the massive job losses from widespread stay at home orders, Trump intends to halt all immigration. “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” the president tweeted.

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany followed that up with a statement Tuesday morning that “President Trump is committed to protecting the health and economic well-being of American citizens as we face unprecedented times. As President Trump has said, ‘Decades of record immigration have produced lower wages and higher unemployment for our citizens, especially for African-American and Latino workers.’ At a time when Americans are looking to get back to work, action is necessary.”

But the president’s assertions just aren’t true. Numerous studies have found that new arrivals tend to take jobs that employers have trouble filling — often tasks that pay poorly, are dangerous and involve hard physical labor. Those workers tend to compete with and dampen wages for the immigrants who preceded them into the country.

But the new arrivals also add to the economy and help create higher-paying, less physically strenuous jobs for native-born workers. As the Brookings Institute reported in 2012, “immigrants and U.S.-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs,” and “low-skilled immigrant laborers allow U.S.-born farmers, contractors, and craftsmen to expand agricultural production or to build more homes — thereby expanding employment possibilities and incomes for U.S. workers.” And they also help support local retail shops, restaurants and other businesses. The economic impact of immigrant workers tilts heavily to the positive end of the scale.

Does that change during an economic crisis like this? In some ways, yes. Is it reasonable to declare a short-term hiatus? Perhaps. But that has already been put into effect by the shuttering of government offices that process visa applications, by the restrictions on travel, and by the collapse of the labor market (economic migrants tend not to travel for jobs that don’t exist).

It’s hard to assess whether the president’s metaphorical barricading of the border will help or damage the economy until we see what, exactly, he will do. But bear in mind that the current disruption of the economy is not permanent, and that the president himself has argued vociferously for a (too rapid) lifting of the restraints on commerce. No one can offer a reliable sense of what the future economy will look like, but it will need workers, whether they are new-arriving immigrants or laid-off native-born Americans.

It’s no coincidence that his call for a ban on new immigrants dovetails with one of his signature campaign issues at a time when the vibrant economy he had planned to campaign on has cratered. This is about saving one job — the president’s.

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

April 20

The Washington Post on protesters demanding businesses be reopened:

Public fatigue with stay-at-home orders to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic is inevitable and understandable. Not understandable, nor forgivable, is the president of the United States inciting disrespect for his own government’s guidelines, which are unquestionably essential for the public health.

Relatively small protests have broken out in the United States in recent days against the strictures designed to slow the spreading virus. People have a right to protest, if they conduct themselves without endangering others. But leaders have an obligation to point out that the behavior the protesters are encouraging could reignite the virus and cost lives.

Tens of millions of Americans in recent weeks have willingly complied with stay-at-home guidelines put out by President Trump and by governors, a commendable showing of cohesion and collective good judgment. For many, it came at a steep personal sacrifice. Next will be hard choices about reopening. Doing so too soon risks reigniting a firestorm that has already cost more than 168,000 lives globally. Opening must be done with special protections, testing and data, as Mr. Trump’s own phased-in guidelines would suggest.

The protesters in the United States carried signs such as “Live Free or Die in Lockdown” and “Re-Open Now.” Some of them set a bad example, without masks or social distancing. But what was most concerning was the message that somehow all this sacrifice can be quickly abandoned in the name of liberty and rights. This is wrong. The pursuit of liberty does not mean a license to endanger the lives of others.

Mr. Trump was exceedingly reckless to incite protests with three tweets on Friday saying “LIBERATE” Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia, all of which have Democratic governors. He undermined his own published public health guidelines and his own reopening plan. His message threatens to destroy broader public confidence in the reasons for the social distancing and mitigation strategies. His comments could inspire additional disobedience and spark new outbreaks and another round of restrictions that would be even harder to impose.

Such a cycle must be avoided. There is no arguing with the facts: The virus jumps from person to person and can kill. A responsible leader would express empathy with the millions of Americans who have followed the rules, reinforce why they are necessary and offer reasonable expectations about what comes next. To fail at this is to fail at a central function of the presidency.

Some protests may reflect a genuine cry for help — from hunger, desperation and fear. These voices must be listened to, and their needs addressed as fast and far as possible.

In the end, our fate in this pandemic will be determined by what we do now, in the months or more before a vaccine. We must accept strategies that are working to keep as many people alive as possible. Shouting “liberate” invites disaster.

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

April 20

The New York Times on employers protecting essential workers:

Shelter-in-place orders are an effective means to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, yet millions of Americans have no choice but to leave home to go to work every day. Deemed essential for their jobs in manufacturing, grocery stores, pharmacies, warehouses, retailing and restaurants, they face daily risks by working alongside colleagues and customers who may be carriers of the coronavirus.

At grocery stores and sprawling warehouses, workers say not enough is being done to protect them from exposure. Walmart employees, for instance, say they lack sufficient sanitizing supplies and protective gear and are forced to congregate in spaces that put them well within a six-foot radius of co-workers. At meat processing plants, where production lines often require working shoulder to shoulder, the risks are particularly acute. And mass-transit workers say they haven’t been provided masks or personal cleaning supplies.

When their shifts end, they go home to their families, putting more people at risk.

Weeks into the pandemic, it’s apparent that not nearly enough is being done to protect these front-line workers, even as their continued labor ensures that a semblance of normality endures for their fellow Americans.

The Department of Labor’s primary worker safety enforcement arm, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has taken a largely hands-off approach to the pandemic. Only last week did OSHA put a priority on investigating health care facilities for complaints about coronavirus safety procedures, while effectively giving a free pass to some of the nation’s largest employers. Without a clear set of rules to follow, employers are making them up as they go.

“As long as OSHA doesn’t take a position, these employers have a pass to say workers got sick elsewhere and it’s not their responsibility,” said Marc Perrone, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents some 1.3 million laborers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued sensible guidelines on the federal level that can protect workers, such as standards for social distancing, sanitizing stations and using masks in the workplace. But OSHA hasn’t made the guidelines mandatory for workplaces — the C.D.C. itself doesn’t enforce them — nor has OSHA adopted other new rules that could help ensure worker safety during the pandemic. It should do so now. Requiring businesses to follow the C.D.C.’s guidelines would allow OSHA to enforce them with inspections and fines.

Instead, a patchwork of rules — led primarily by governors in New York, Washington State and California — serve as an unsatisfactory substitute by mandating masks in all public settings and the use of other protective measures. But these haven’t been aimed specifically at workplaces, many of which need more guidance.

OSHA said its prior rules for worker safety apply during the pandemic, though the agency last week did give agents leeway to investigate coronavirus claims so long as they were confined to health care facilities and met certain other criteria. In a statement to The New York Times, OSHA said that “employers are, and will continue to be, responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace” and that it can respond to formal complaints where a worker is killed or seriously injured on the job, known as the General Duty clause. The agency’s Covid-19 guidance for employers, however, acknowledges upfront it “is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations.”

In the meantime, OSHA offices are fielding thousands of coronavirus complaints but don’t have the wherewithal to investigate them. In Oregon alone, by early this month the local OSHA office had received 2,747 complaints about workplace conditions but had issued zero citations, the top local administrator told The Portland Tribune. An OSHA official in Illinois wrote in an email to a local union that, though she had been receiving daily complaints for weeks, “these recommended measures are not enforceable by OSHA since they are guidance and not OSHA law.” OSHA also told a lawyer representing an Illinois Walmart worker who died after contracting the coronavirus that “OSHA does not have any jurisdiction on enforcing anything related to Covid-19 at this time,” according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

As part of an advisory last week, OSHA indicated companies should conduct their own investigations and report back to the agency.

“The message from OSHA to employers and their workers is: You’re on your own,” said Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA official and now program director of the National Employment Law Project.

That means a formal complaint lodged with the agency’s California division, known as Cal/OSHA, by Amazon warehouse workers in Eastvale, Calif., last week isn’t likely to result in an inspection, let alone a penalty or reform, she said. Workers there allege that, in Amazon’s rush to get customers their essential goods, they have had to work well within six feet of one another and aren’t given sufficient time or materials to sanitize their hands or their workstations. Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, said the company was working on expanding testing capacity for its hundreds of thousands of workers and called for regular universal testing to arrest the virus’s spread.

OSHA also can and should go beyond C.D.C. guidelines to require measures such as staggered shifts and lunch breaks and construction of barriers to protect employees in jobs like manufacturing and meatpacking that require close quarters. And it should carefully evaluate updated C.D.C. guidelines that permit employers to bring some workers back to the job after potential Covid-19 exposure before a two-week quarantine. Some say the new policy, meant to keep essential businesses running, risks re-exposing workers. Minnesota’s Department of Health, by contrast, has maintained a recommendation for a 14-day quarantine for workers after exposure.

OSHA has precedent on its side for tougher rules. During the H1N1 flu outbreak, it made C.D.C. rules enforceable, requiring the use of face masks and other measures to slow transmission. It has failed to act so far this time, however.

Companies may say new rules would be onerous and expensive, but the cost of prolonging the coronavirus’s spread can be far more costly: Smithfield Foods was forced to indefinitely close its Sioux Falls, S.D., plant — responsible for roughly 5 percent of the country’s pork production — after it failed to impose safety measures even as hundreds of its workers contracted the virus. The retailer Gap Inc., by contrast, told customers this month to expect slower delivery times after voluntarily following C.D.C. guidelines.

OSHA has taken steps to protect health care workers by prioritizing inspections of hospitals and other “high risk” facilities. But during the pandemic, warehouses and slaughterhouses, city buses and grocery stores have become high-risk facilities, too. If the spread of the disease is to slow, millions of workers deserve far better protection.

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

April 20

The Advocate on the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion:

The traumatic events of the explosion and massive oil spill ensuing off the cost of Louisiana 10 years ago are hardly forgotten.

Most of all, of course, the families of 11 men killed working on the Deepwater Horizon platform — another 17 were injured — had their lives forever altered in that moment of horror.

Those were not the only families affected.

Such a massive spill damaged the coast of our state. Then-Gov. Bobby Jindal mobilized a major operation to try to protect the coastline and wildlife. Thousands of workers and volunteers helped.

The images of birds coated in oil made an indelible impression upon the American public and that of the rest of the world, as did video of oil still spewing out many days later.

The economic impact on our region was serious, with a decline in tourism and even people curtailing purchases of seafood.

Afterward, there was that was the inevitable consequence of things going very badly: a government reorganization. A new bureau in the U.S. Department of the Interior was created, safety procedures changed, a moratorium on offshore production was declared by the Obama administration.

And just as inevitably, there were debates over the debate: Workers in the Gulf oil regions felt they were being penalized by BP’s mistakes, companies criticized revisions in safety procedures. And the latter debates continue today, with environmentalists arguing that the Trump administration has further eroded the complex safety rules that underlie oil and gas production in offshore.

For those with shorter memories, the way that the oil disaster is most frequently seen in the news is in the payouts of billions of dollars to governments as well as nonprofits in civil and criminal penalties levied on BP and other responsible companies.

Those are long-lasting, in that the payments are large. Those payments have begun and will fund coastal protection and restoration efforts for some years to come.

That may be a lasting legacy of the events of a decade ago, although benefits that were purchased at the cost of lives and huge environmental and economic consequences.

Louisiana remains at the epicenter of oil and gas exploration, even if recent events have driven prices for those commodities to lows not seen in decades. And Louisiana’s coastline continues to be a rich and varied economic and environmental asset for fisheries and tourism, even if recent events involving coronavirus outbreaks have also sharply diminished those activities as well.

We see two permanent lessons. One is that economic progress, while important, cannot override safety for humans or for the environment we hold in trust for future generations.

Another is that Louisiana’s coast and its heritage is worth saving, and while the BP settlement pays for a lot, it’s not enough. America paid attention 10 years ago. Let’s hope the U.S. government continues to help, a lot, in future years.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com/

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

April 20

The Toronto Star on the mass killings in Nova Scotia:

Over and over, the same phrases were uttered by men and women across Nova Scotia. “Surreal.” “Senseless.” “No words.” “Why?”

But the full measure of shock and grief at the slaughter in their province didn’t come from the lips. It came from the eyes.

Haunted, red, glazed, bewildered. Eyes seeking, in some obscure middle distance, rational answers to a horrifically irrational act.

A 51-year-old man cut a murderous swath through rural Nova Scotia from late Saturday night to Sunday morning, killing at least 18 people, leaving homes burned to the ground and cars torched at 16 separate crime scenes.

Odds are it will get even worse. Chief Supt. Chris Leather, of the Nova Scotia RCMP, said police expect the death toll to rise as burned-out residences are searched.

As much as anyone, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau best described things when he said the slaughter, on top of the COVID-19 lockdowns that make it impossible for stricken family and friends to gather and mourn, is “heartbreak on top of other heartbreaks.”

On hearing the news, he said, many Canadians probably asked themselves “how much more can we take?”

Trudeau has grown sadly familiar with the role of national consoler. Canadians have been killed in numbers in shootings at a Ste. Foy mosque and on Toronto’s Danforth, in the Yonge Street van attack, in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, in the downing of Flight 752.

The prime minister was able once again, by dint of emotional intelligence or political shrewdness, to strike the right notes. Even as Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer once again misread the moment, going on about the need for enhanced parliamentary sittings on a day when most Canadians could have cared less.

The newest devastation unfolded in a manner fit for fiction, the suspect eluding police for some 12 hours by driving a mock RCMP cruiser and wearing a police uniform remarkable in their detail.

It seems unlikely such extraordinary materials would have been assembled by someone who simply snapped. Rather, they seem to suggest extraordinary planning.

Yet no one acquainted with the killer seems to have noticed anything untoward. Local MP Lenore Zann said she heard from people who “went to school with him, said he was such a nice guy, talked to him all the time, said he seemed to be fine.”

The rampage began in the community of Portapique, a cottage area so sleepy that signs around town spell it different ways.

It’s a place few Canadians had likely heard of, but a place that has become forever notorious after the killer left a list of dead that could have been pulled from a Tim Hortons ad.

A grade-school teacher. A nurse. A volunteer firefighter. Health-care workers from the Victorian Order of Nurses.

In the Commons, Trudeau said RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, one of those killed, “embodied the values that built this country. Integrity, honesty, compassion.”

Trudeau acknowledged the acute pain of mourners being unable to come together. But he and health authorities properly insisted that social-distancing measures in effect to combat the coronavirus pandemic must be maintained.

Grieving will be done, but there will be few hugs. Rather, a “virtual vigil,” in the style of spring, 2020.

On Monday, there remained large missing pieces in the story and many unanswered questions about the police response.

How, for example, did the killer manage to carry on spitting death and flames for 12 hours?

His costumery helped him remain “steps ahead of our investigators,” Leather said somewhat sheepishly.

And why was the province’s emergency alert phone system not used? “Good question.”

Such questions must continue.

“Nobody can lose their life in vain,” said RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki. “And Heidi will not lose her own in vain nor will the other 17 victims.”

She and her force have work to do to make good on that promise.

Online: https://www.thestar.com/

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