Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials


Associated Press

Posted on November 6, 2013 at 9:05 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 6 at 10:01 PM

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

Nov. 4

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on major advance against AIDS:

Scientists from Cornell and Scripps Research Institute have announced a breakthrough in understanding the mechanism HIV uses to infect humans, opening the door to creating an effective AIDS vaccine. It is hard to underestimate the significance of their feat.

AIDS is the most deadly global disease of our time, having killed well over 30 million people around the world since it was first identified in 1981. Another 35 million carry the disease, which also has inflicted an immense economic toll.

AIDS is spread through mother's breast milk, sexual intercourse, contaminated needles and other ways.

Although the death count from AIDS and the new infection rate have declined dramatically in the past eight years, thanks to the widespread availability of anti-AIDS drugs and public health education, there is no way to prevent its spread through human contact. Roughly 2.5 million new cases are reported each year.

More than 20 years of intense research into a vaccine that could inoculate humans against HIV and so prevent AIDS have failed to come up with an answer. This failure has happened in large part because the virus has evolved a complex and elusive protein envelope that allows it to enter cells. Once the HIV virus gets past the cell's immune system, its outer envelope, in effect, falls apart, frustrating laboratory efforts to study its structure.

Two papers in the Nov. 1 issue of Science magazine, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, explain how researchers from Scripps in La Jolla, Calif., and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, were able to stabilize the HIV envelope protein and subject it to study by different methods that have produced strikingly similar results.

Two studies using cryo-electron microscopy and one using X-ray crystallography produced high-resolution pictures of the molecular structure of the virus's outer envelope.

These studies have allowed researchers at Scripps and Weill Corner to begin identifying sites that could be attacked by a vaccine that would prevent the HIV entry mechanism from functioning. ...

The prospects for success against AIDS have never looked better.




Nov. 4

Paris Post-Intelligencer on global warming:

Name some of the world's major problems: Poverty, disease, starvation, war. All of them are likely to be made worse by man-made climate change.

That sober scenario is painted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. It plans to issue a report next March on how global warming already affects how we live and what is likely to happen in the future. A leaked copy of a draft of the report appeared Friday on a climate skeptic's website, The Associated Press reports.

The report says the most vulnerable people are the poor and residents of cities, where most of the world's people now live. ...

The report concludes that scientists have high confidence in the predictions. ...

Global warming isn't the only cause of these ills, the report points out, not even the leading cause. It uses the word "exacerbate" a lot to describe the effects of warming.

The report details risks on each continent and suggests ways that countries can adapt. In North America, for instance, the highest long-term risks are wildfires, heat waves and flooding.

It's not just gloom and doom, the report's director said, because it suggests what countries can do to avert some of the damage.

"I see the difference between a world in which we don't do anything and a world in which we try hard to get our arms around the problem."




Nov. 4

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on a middle course is sought for the Middle East:

Secretary of State John F. Kerry's stop in Egypt Sunday underscored that developments there continue to put America between a rock and a hard place.

The Arab Spring of 2010 toppled President Hosni Mubarak and seemed to signal a new day for democracy in that nation of 81 million, an important ally of the United States in the Middle East. The election of Mohamed Morsi as president in 2012 presented difficulties for relations.

The elections were democratic, a plus, but Morsi was the candidate of the long-suppressed, Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood. Some Egyptians, including the long-ruling military, whom he began seeking to bring under civilian authority, soon grew disaffected with what some considered an excessively Islamic trend in the policies of the new president.

On that basis, the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi in a coup d'etat in July, installing a government that was a thinly disguised surrogate for Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and other Egyptian officers. Since then Washington has reduced, but not cut off, military and other aid to Egypt, continuing to pretend that what occurred was not a coup, which by U.S. law would have required an end to U.S. aid.

The problem for the administration posed by America's principles on democratic governance in Egypt is that other U.S. allies in the region, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, supported Mubarak and found the Egyptians' election of the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi disquieting. The big stop on Kerry's trip is Saudi Arabia, where he hoped Monday to calm its rulers' anger at the United States on several matters — accepting the overthrow of Mubarak, initially supporting the election of Morsi, not snuggling up to Gen. Sisi, not attacking Syria's Bashar Assad regime and moving toward constructive talks with Iran, the Saudis' rival.

Kerry went to Egypt first to talk with the generals. He reportedly urged them to stick to what they call their road map back to democracy, to include a new constitution and parliamentary and presidential elections next spring, but the real point was the legitimacy he gave their rule by visiting there, in the eyes of the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Israelis.

Eventually Obama will have to figure out what he really thinks about democracy in the Middle East. In the meantime, the United States continues to try to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.




Nov. 6

New York Times on Asia's college exam mania:

The university entrance examination system across East Asia might once have been needed to allocate scarce university slots. But even with expanded college enrollment, and more slots, the competition to get into higher-ranked universities is destroying the lives of young people and their families in countries like South Korea and Japan.

On Nov. 7, 600,000 South Korean high school seniors will take the brutal university entrance exam, which many have been preparing for since primary school. The results will shape the rest of their lives, their jobs and even their marriages. The stress is such that the suicide rate among young people up to age 24 rose to 9.4 per 100,000 in 2010, a nearly 50 percent increase from 2000.

In South Korea, where more than 70 percent of high school graduates enter university, education is a national obsession that the government worries is actually damaging society. Education accounted for nearly 12 percent of consumer spending last year, and parents spent the equivalent of 1.5 percent of G.D.P. on cram schools for their children. There are now more cram school instructors in South Korea than regular schoolteachers, and the exams are so difficult that even college professors admit they could not pass them.

Excessive spending on education in South Korea accounts in significant part for the 45 percent poverty rate among the elderly, who cannot save for retirement because they have spent so much of their money on educating their children. ...

Some governments are starting to reconsider this maniacal focus on entrance exams. Japanese officials have talked about moving toward admissions systems that evaluate the applicants more broadly. But many universities resist this change because, they say, it would make admission decisions subjective.

The paradox is these ridiculous tests don't necessarily lead to demanding college classes. In Japan, where almost all college students graduate, it's quite common for students to be asked only to parrot back lecture notes. Rigorous thinking, reading and writing too often is simply not expected. Doing away with rigid entrance exams is just the first step. What needs to be debated is the quality of education once the students are admitted.




Nov. 1

Idaho Statesman on as health care fight lingers, nation's work must be done:

If you didn't like what was happening in Congress in 2013, get ready for more of the same in 2014. We see no reason to believe anything is going to change until one party seizes complete power in the House, Senate and the White House.

Raul Labrador's visit to our Editorial Board on Thursday was Exhibit A.

Explaining that he and a like-minded segment of the House Republican Caucus are in it for the long run, he reiterated that he was not elected to rubber-stamp initiatives for the Senate and the White House. Fights over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will continue.

Labrador made no apologies for his or any other Republican's involvement in the government shutdown. He is not about to sit back and take what he perceives to be legislation that will inflict hardship on Americans.

That $24 billion cost of the shutdown? He estimates that the loss of productivity and added burden on consumers surrounding the health care law will quickly surpass that.

Though we appreciate efforts to reduce spending and government intrusion into our lives, we think the tactic to defund/delay the ACA was a bust. If Republicans had done nothing, the troubled rollout of the law would have been their best no-talking point. ...

A bright spot: Labrador began our meeting discussing a bipartisan bill he has co-sponsored with Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. It offers judges alternatives to mandatory sentencing guidelines that could reduce federal prison costs and allow the system to focus on more serious crimes.

We hope for similar progress on topics such as immigration and tax reform. Lawmakers should find points they agree on — such as approaches to guest worker programs and upping the ante for high-tech worker visas. Small victories and collaborative discussions in these areas could reveal pathways to bigger things.




Nov. 6

The Australian on intelligence sharing vital to Australia and Indonesia:

On one level, Jakarta's indignant reaction to claims of a joint US-Australian effort to spy on Indonesian officials during the UN climate summit in Bali in December 2007 was predictable.

As with Germany's response to revelations that America's National Security Agency tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel's telephone, the revelation, which is front-page news in Jakarta, has drawn out Indonesian nationalism.

On another level, governments tend to feign outrage in such situations. Indonesia would be under no illusions about Australia listening to its communications. As Michael McKinley, a senior lecturer in global politics at the Australian National University, said on Sunday, nations not involved in such activities "either lack the technical expertise or the finance. It's not because of virtue".

Indonesia itself, of necessity, maintains an extensive domestic and regional intelligence service. And information exchanges between Canberra and Jakarta and between the Australian Federal Police and the Indonesia National Police have been critical to turning the tide against Indonesian terrorism since the Bali 2002 and Australian embassy bombings, a fact acknowledged by Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

At a delicate juncture in the bilateral relationship, after upheavals over live cattle exports and people-smuggling, when ongoing co-operation is vital to stop the boats, the latest controversy is a distraction the Abbott government does not need. ...

The most pressing challenge arising from the latest leak, unleashed by disgruntled former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, however, is for the US to overhaul and secure its intelligence processes and storage. That imperative has been obvious since disgraced army Private Bradley Manning admitted providing WikiLeaks with a trove of classified documents.

Information gathering by the US and its allies around the world has expanded since 9/11. Some of it has involved private contractors and relatively low-level government employees sifting and storing data, gaining unprecedented access to sensitive information.

Tony Abbott got off on the right foot with his management of our relationship with Indonesia when he visited Jakarta on his first overseas trip as Prime Minister, with a follow-up visit to the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Bali.

Indonesia, along with Germany and Brazil, will co-sponsor a UN resolution calling for an end to excessive electronic surveillance. However irritating the issue, Australia and Indonesia have too many common interests at stake to allow it to sour the relationship.




Nov. 3

The Japan Times on the memory of sacrificed youth:

National Stadium in Shinjuku Ward — the main stadium for the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo — will be demolished next year and a new stadium with a seating capacity of 80,000 will be built for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which Tokyo will host.

Just inside of what is known as Marathon Gate at the current stadium — through which the competitors in the 1964 marathon event left the track and entered the road course — stands a stone monument that testifies to one of the tragedies of World War II seven decades ago. Inscriptions on the monument dedicate it to "roughly 100,000 students who left the pen for the sword and were sent off to the battlefields."

National Stadium was built in 1958 on the former site of Meiji Jingu Gaien Stadium, where a ceremony was held Oct. 21, 1943, to send off university and higher vocational school students to the war. The moratorium on the conscription of college students was lifted for those at least 20 years old to make up for the worsening shortage of troops as Japan's war prospects increasingly deteriorated.

In the ceremony organized by the education ministry, roughly 25,000 students carrying rifles marched on the field in the rain, with Prime Minister Hideki Tojo in attendance.

No official records are available to give even an estimate of the number of students actually mobilized for the military — or how many of them were killed in the war. ...

The Japan Sports Council says it plans to preserve the monument as part of the new stadium. Given the Olympic goal of "promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity," the monument belongs inside the new stadium — the main venue for the 2020 games — so that people have the opportunity to reflect on the loss of so many students in the war.

As people who experienced World War II reach the end of their lives, it is imperative for citizens, educators, researchers and local government officials to push activities that pertain to the preservation of war-related sites as well as publications, records and interviews that enable people to consider what the war brought to the Japanese and other peoples.

Lack of knowledge about the war's tragic aspects or insensitivity to them could be among the factors behind the Abe administration's move to gut the war-renouncing Constitution.