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Column: What Others Have to Say


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Are fusion centers unconstitutional?

Savannah (Ga.) Morning News:

In the years following 9/11, and well into the Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security has established a multitude of so-called “fusion centers.”

What are fusion centers?

Simply put, these centers allow for expedient communication between different branches of defense and law enforcement, with specific focus on communicating information on potential terrorist threats and suspects.

On paper, it looks like a great idea. In reality, a bipartisan Senate report suggests it’s expensive and potentially unconstitutional.

The ranking Republican, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, on this Senate panel accused the Department of Homeland Security of hiding embarrassing information about these intelligence-sharing centers, charging that the program has wasted taxpayer dollars while doing little to improve America’s security.

In a 107-page report, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said that Homeland Security has spent up to $1.4 billion funding fusion centers that have produced “useless” reports.

Fusion centers that share information and build needed teamwork among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have their place in our national security framework. However, it’s abundantly clear that they need greater oversight when taxpayer dollars — and, our civil liberties — are at risk.

Chávez in control another six years

The Dallas Morning News:

Score another lamentable election victory for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The fiery, anti-U.S. revolutionary now has another six-year term to continue with the plans he launched after his first election in 1998 to dismantle Venezuela’s free-market economy and pursue his anachronistic socialist agenda.

Venezuela sits atop the world’s largest proven reserves of oil and is a major petroleum exporter to the United States. Chávez has repeatedly rankled U.S. leaders by providing support for leftist Colombian guerrillas and sponsoring socialist political campaigns in Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

Yet his so-called Bolívarian revolution has proved hollow. Chávez’s Latin American political allies have found that, without the same kind of oil income Venezuela enjoys, revolutionary socialism is almost impossible to sustain.

His continuation in power for another six-year term will no doubt rob Venezuela of the economic growth opportunities that are spurring job creation and investment elsewhere in the region.

For all his antics and rhetoric, Chávez should increasingly be dismissed for what he is — a toothless tiger.

Workers deserve notice about layoffs

Herald-Journal of Spartanburg:

If you ever doubted the fact that many politicians see citizens as mere pawns in their political game, the wrangling over whether employers should give adequate notice about looming layoffs should enlighten you.

Congress passed the WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification). It requires large employers to provide workers with 60 days notice before they close a plant or lay off a significant number of employees. That law takes effect if the pending layoff or closure is foreseeable.

Since the committee couldn’t agree on how to cut spending, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts take effect on Jan. 2. About half of that money will be cut from the defense budget. That will mean layoffs across the defense industry at the end of December or the beginning of January. Sixty days prior to that will be late October or early November.

But the Obama administration doesn’t want thousands of workers to get notice just before the election that they will be laid off. So the White House sent a notice to defense contractors last month, telling them they don’t need to obey the WARN Act. In fact, the White House told them that if they violate the law, the administration will cover any legal expenses they may incur from the violation.

And what about the workers and their families? Don’t they still deserve notice about these layoffs that have been moving closer for months? Apparently not.

Online:

http://www.goupstate.com

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Oct. 9

The Buffalo (N.Y.) News on “insider attacks” and U.S. policy in Afghanistan:

The recent spate of attacks by Afghan forces against their coalition counterparts is troubling, to say the least, but it should not change the timetable for withdrawal.

The announcement earlier this year by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta that the United States will end its combat mission there in 2013, one year earlier than expected, remains a viable plan.

The military calls the attacks on coalition members “green-on-blue” or “insider” attacks. ... So now American and NATO service members always have a loaded magazine in their weapons and there is a program, “Guardian Angel,” that calls for one or two soldiers to monitor the Afghans during every mission or meeting. In addition, the Afghan government is doing more to monitor the off-duty movements of its soldiers and police.

Still, as the last of the 33,000 “surge” troops ordered by President Barack Obama in 2009 leave Afghanistan, the question remains as to what will become of the country. The Taliban, toppled from power following the 2001 U.S. invasion, started regaining momentum when America turned its focus to Iraq.

Politically, Afghanistan has had parliamentary and presidential elections and improved women’s rights under President Hamid Karzai, but his government is riddled with corruption and has grown wary of cooperating fully with the U.S. And there is concern over the opium trade, which has fueled the rise of the Taliban. Political instability has become the norm, and growing insider attacks only raise more questions on the timetable for an exit. Some analysts consider asking Afghanistan to assume full security responsibility in 2014 to be a lofty goal. ...

The rise in insider attacks in Afghanistan is a disturbing trend that must be dealt with on the ground, but should not be used as an excuse to reverse American strategy there.

Online:

http://www.buffalonews.com

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Oct. 8

Online:

http://www.savannahnow.com

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Oct. 7

Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis., on a global ban on anti-Islamic expression:

The leaders of Islamic countries demanding global free-speech restrictions are being unrealistic if not childish.

“When we discriminate against gender, it is called sexism. When African-Americans are criticized and vilified, it is called racism. When the same is done to the Jews, it is called anti-Semitism. But why is it when Muslims are stigmatized and defamed, it is defended as freedom of expression?” Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Aman asked in a recent speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

The answer to Aman’s question requires a mature understanding of the difference between speech and actions. And if Aman wonders why so many people in free countries are less than enthusiastic about the tone of some of the rhetoric coming from Islamic countries these days, he should spend more time making clear he and his faith deplore anyone who would threaten to kill another person for words, cartoons or Internet postings.

Also, the notion that anyone could or should police the Internet and prosecute anyone who insults another person’s religion is not only next to impossible, but it would be a waste of resources.

Saying something that might anger or be disrespectful of women, African-Americans or Jews is in itself not illegal in free societies. What’s not acceptable, at least in this country, is to discriminate against women or minorities, including Muslims, in employment, housing, voting, etc. ...

No, the way to a better world isn’t to have some global power with its thumb on anyone who criticizes or belittles a religion, race, political party, etc. The solution is something we learned in this country a long time ago. That is, say or believe whatever you want, but don’t take the next step and impose your beliefs on anyone else. ...

Online:

http://www.leadertelegram.com

___

Oct. 5

Kearney (Neb.) Hub on the federal farm bill:

Don’t allow federal lawmakers to shrug off their inability to pass the 2012 Farm Bill by claiming their inaction before recessing for the campaign season won’t affect very many Americans. That’s a cop-out.

The U.S. Senate and House Ag Committee both passed their versions of the farm bill, but the full House of Representatives did not take up the legislation before the election recess. Lacking a vote in the full House, the farm bill expired Sept. 29.

Farmers who need to finance their planting for next year may face problems completing that process because neither they nor their lenders will know exactly what to expect when Congress revisits the farm bill after the November elections.

Also waiting with concern are farmers who depend upon federal programs to boost foreign trade, fight soil erosion and help dairy operations.

Dairy farmers have uncertainty because the Milk Income Loss Contract program has expired. ...

The USDA’s Foreign Market Development Program is a cost-sharing trade promotion partnership with agricultural producers and processors, but its funding will run out later in October. ... Thirty-one percent of U.S. gross farm income comes from exports, which also help to counter our nation’s trade imbalance.

Finally, there will be no new signups in the Conservation Reserve Program. About 6.5 million acres are enrolled in CRP, a voluntary land retirement program that helps ag producers fight erosion, restore wildlife habitat, and safeguard ground and surface water.

In addition to CRP, signups have ceased for wetlands and grasslands reserve programs. ...

It seems unlikely that the same legislators who dropped the ball before the election will be of much use to America’s farmers after the election.

Online:

http://www.kearneyhub.com

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Oct. 6

Loveland (Colo.) Reporter-Herald on flip-flopping in politics:

Anyone who has watched a basketball game has likely seen what is casually known as “the flop.”

The player with the ball makes contact with a standing defender or a defender who leaps to block or prevent a shot toward the rim, then one of the players makes a dramatic fall to the floor, hoping an official will see the result of what must have been an egregious foul. When the call is made against a player who was within the rules, the “flop” succeeds.

This year, the National Basketball Association is going to try to do something about the unfairness.

After games, league officials will look again at video of action on the floor, and if a player is suspected of having committed a flop, he will first be warned, and on subsequent offenses be required to pay a fine. Now, gamesmanship at the expense of the truth will have a cost. ...

This political season, candidates, parties and outside interest groups have each seemingly tried to take a flop.

For instance, Republicans have tried to paint the Obama administration as heartless for the fact that the Affordable Health Care act anticipates a reduction of growth in Medicare of more than $700 million. The budget proposed by vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan makes that same accounting move. Of course, anything the Democrats want to feel aggrieved about in the budget is a flop, too; the Democrat-led Senate has not taken up its duty to pass a budget in several years, so of course it’s easy to fault the other party.

Where it gets tricky is finding out who will be the enforcer for the flops. Unlike the NBA, there’s no commissioner’s office where violators can be issued punishment. It’s up to voters, who should take with a grain of salt the claims coming from candidates and parties. ...

Online:

http://www.reporterherald.com

___

Oct. 7

Midland (Mich.) Daily News on federal unemployment figures:

Is it good news or are the numbers fudged?

That’s the debate raging in the aftermath of the most recent report on the country’s unemployment rate.

According to the latest statistics, the nation’s unemployment rate fell below 8.0 (to 7.8 percent) for the first time since January 2009.

The Labor Department said that employers added 114,000 jobs in September. The economy also created 86,000 more jobs in July and August than first estimated. Wages rose in September and more people started looking for work, the Labor Department reported. ...

But many say the numbers are being spun to help Obama’s re-election bid, with less than a month remaining to Election Day. The Wall Street Journal downplayed the report, saying to “take it with a grain of salt.” ...

Ways and Means Republicans sent an email to the media, presenting 10 points that refute the Labor Department’s most recent report. Among the points mentioned include the following: If the unemployment rate included the “invisible unemployed” (discouraged workers who dropped out or never joined the workforce), the September 2012 unemployment rate would be 10.9 percent; and, during the Obama administration, the number of people not in the labor force has grown by 8.2 million while total employment has grown by less than 800,000. This means that during the Obama years new workforce dropouts have outnumbered new employees by 10 to 1, according to the email.

This is the election season during a hotly contested presidential race. And this is what happens — spin.

When you get down to it, the only analysis that really matters is what comes from you, the voter.

Do you believe the economy is improving and brighter days are ahead?

The answer to that question should help you to decide who to vote for on Nov. 6.

Online:

http://www.ourmidland.com

___

Oct. 8

The Jerusalem Post on the U.S. presidential election:

For the record, The Jerusalem Post is not backing either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in next month’s presidential elections.

As Israel’s top English-language newspaper which prides itself on its balanced news coverage and opinion columns, we are certainly committed to providing our readers with as much material as we can on the candidates and their campaigns. ..

And it is our job as a newspaper to report on the presidential race as best we can, in an unbiased but informative way.

At the same time, however, The Jerusalem Post — like any other newspaper — is a business. As such, we are open to advertising from both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Running paid ads in our print edition and on our website and sending them to our subscribers does not mean that we are endorsing one side or the other.

In order to give our readers first-class, original content, we need the resources provided by such advertising. ...

Supporters of Republican challenger Romney recently produced and posted on YouTube an anti-Obama documentary called Absolutely Uncertain. It featured interviews with The Jerusalem Post’s editor-in-chief, as well as with other Israel-based journalists who were told they were being filmed for a documentary on the U.S. and Israel.

They had no idea that their statements were going to be used for political propaganda. ...

It is in no one’s interest for Israel to be a wedge issue in the upcoming U.S. elections. To play political football with the enormous challenges facing Israel, the U.S. and the entire world today, especially when it comes to Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, is irresponsible and immoral.

Such issues must be addressed not in propaganda ads with a clear political agenda but via channels that promote robust discourse and free thought. ...

Online:

http://www.jpost.com

___

Oct. 9

China Daily, Beijing, on U.S.-politicized China business bashing:

With the world’s economic recovery showing no signs of improvement, we have seen countries resorting to protectionist measures as the last straw to save their ailing economies. Still, it is shocking to learn that the United States is proposing to shut Chinese companies out of the U.S. market.

A draft report by the House Intelligence Committee accuses two Chinese technology firms — Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp — of posing a national security threat to the U.S. The report says, “China has the means, opportunity, and motive to use telecommunications companies for malicious purposes.”

Such allegations do not hold water and only stain the image of the U.S. itself and dampen the enthusiasm of Chinese companies to do businesses in the US.

Huawei and ZTE, which are among the world’s leading suppliers of telecommunications equipment and cellphones, have expanded their business in roughly 140 countries. Both non-governmental companies have grown through entrepreneurship and technological innovation and have been developing their international business based on market economy principles.

Yet this is not the first time the two have been put under scrutiny in the U.S. In the past, U.S. lawmakers have blocked several proposed deals between the two Chinese companies and their U.S. business partners. ...

In the run-up to the U.S. presidential election, we have heard President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney both blaming China for the U.S.’ woes with increasing frequency. So it will come as no surprise should the report fuel even more vehement China bashing.

... U.S. politicians should set aside their prejudices and respect the facts. They should let business be business and refrain from dragging Chinese companies into the battle for the White House.

Online:

http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn

__

Oct. 9

The Calgary (Alberta) Herald on the HIV status court decision:

Extra- and premarital sex is a lot like skydiving. Not everyone does it and those who do are aware of the risks. Nevertheless, when it comes to skydiving, those who partake are given the right to informed consent before doing so. As of Oct. 5, those engaging in casual sex are no longer so lucky.

Thanks to an ill-considered and even reckless decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, informed consent and being given the right to choose the level of risk you care to take while having sex has been removed from many people — particularly young people just exploring their sexuality.

In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, need not inform a sexual partner of their status if they wear a condom and their viral load is low as a result of treatment.

In 1998, the Supreme Court ruled that not informing a potential sexual partner of their HIV status was akin to aggravated sexual assault. That ruling was just.

This latest decision is flawed on many levels. The simplest flaw, of course, is that many sexually active people know that condoms break.

The justices cite an expert who said that condoms reduce the risk of the transmission of HIV by 80 per cent.

If a skydiving company told its customers that its safety rate was 80 per cent, it’s a good bet that their risk-taking clients would go elsewhere.

Ultimately, people should have the right to disclosure and to give informed consent as to the level of risk they are prepared to take when having sex with a person carrying a chronic and potentially deadly disease.

Online:

http://www.calgaryherald.com

___

Oct. 9

The Telegraph, London, on the country’s future relationship with the EU:

Prime Minister David Cameron used his round of eve-of-conference-speech interviews recently to show a little more ankle on the vexed issue of a European referendum, saying it would be the “cleanest, neatest, simplest” way to settle this country’s future relationship with the European Union. The more naive may have thought that this was a pretty clear steer that there will be a national plebiscite at some time in the next few years. After all, it is 37 years since the British people last had a direct say on our place in Europe.

In fact, Cameron intended nothing of the sort. For in the same interview he argued that the crisis in the eurozone created an opportunity for Britain to get a “fresh and better” settlement with the EU, which would then require the renewed consent of the electorate “either at a referendum or a general election”. And it is the general election option that remains the government’s preferred policy...

So why did Cameron feel the need to set the referendum hare running once again? Well, a struggling economy has made this a tricky mid-term conference, and a hint at a vote on Europe will always appeal to some of his critics on the Right. He may also have thought he was at risk of being upstaged by Boris Johnson, whose high-wattage star quality gave the conference some much needed uplift. ...

Cameron is right to say that the economic meltdown in the eurozone must lead to profound changes in the structure of the EU and that this offers Britain a golden opportunity to recalibrate its relationship. ... It would not be credible for such a historic shift to become no more than a paragraph in the next general election manifesto. It requires the separate endorsement of the British people.

Online:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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