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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

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Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Oct. 25

The Los Angeles Times on a gun reciprocity bill in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting:

For a few days after the Las Vegas sniper attack, it seemed as if Congress might actually move to ban the device known as the "bump stock," which the gunman used to convert his semiautomatic rifles into, essentially, machine guns that could fire 90 shots in 10 seconds into a crowded music festival. That moment - like so many before it - seems to have passed. So what gun policy measure are lawmakers discussing in Congress these days? An absurd yet dangerous proposal that would drastically undercut states' abilities to set reasonable rules about who gets to carry a weapon.

The proposed federal law, the so-called Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, would require any state that issues permits for carrying concealed weapons to recognize concealed-carry permits issued by other states - even if those states have different eligibility and training requirements and less stringent restrictions on gun ownership. In the House, the measure has picked up 212 co-sponsors (including three Democrats); a companion Senate bill has 38 co-sponsors, signaling significant support.

The National Rifle Assn. has made passing the reciprocity bill its legislative priority for this session. The rest of the nation should make it a priority to stop this madness. It is little more than cynical gamesmanship by the NRA and its martinets in Congress. It needs to be shot down.

Proponents of the bill argue that a permit to carry a concealed weapon is similar to a driver's license and should be recognized nationwide. But that's cooked-up logic. States observe similar traffic laws and training requirements before issuing driver's licenses. That's not so with guns. In fact, a dozen states put no restrictions at all on who gets to carry a concealed firearm so long as people meet minimal federal qualifications for being able to buy a gun. Other states should not be forced to live under such loose rules if they don't believe those rules to be safe. Gun owners from Arizona, where no permit is required for carrying a concealed weapon, should not be allowed to wander armed into a state such as California, which has some of the strictest gun controls in the country, without meetings its requirements.

Given the Republicans' historic support of states' rights, it's a bit rich that they are now seeking a federal law to trump state laws on something so crucial to public safety as gun ownership, We hope members of Congress have closely read the studies that have found that states with the most-relaxed gun-control laws tend to have higher rates of gun deaths than states with tighter controls.

The constitutionality of a gun reciprocity law is unclear. If states have a right to determine who may carry a gun - which the courts have recognized - then is Congress within its rights to let the NRA in through the back door? In any case, such an approach is, as we have argued before, a race to the bottom, in which the least restrictive state laws will be the ones that govern the whole country.

Previous versions of this gun-lover's pipe dream have stalled in Congress, but with the Republicans now in control of both houses and the White House - and with the support of gun-friendly Democrats - there is a very real chance this reckless bill might actually get somewhere. Gun-control groups have been actively trying to stir up opposition, and a group of 17 Democratic attorneys general - including California's Xavier Becerra - sent a letter to congressional leaders over the weekend urging them to block the "ill-conceived bills that would override local public safety decisions and endanger our communities and law enforcement officers."

There is no reason for this law to exist other than to feed the fantasy that an even more heavily armed nation would be a safer nation. That is simply untrue. Congress would better serve the nation's public health and safety by ignoring this bit of legislative subterfuge and focusing its attention instead on fixing the federal law that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to convert a firearm that ought to be banned into one that already has been.

Online: https://latimes.com/

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Oct. 24

The Houston Chronicle on Republicans admonishing President Donald Trump:

The tribunes are sounding. Nine months into the current administration, serious members of President Donald Trump's party are beginning to raise alarms about the man who occupies the White House. For the good of the nation, all of us, particularly Republicans at all levels of government, must pay heed.

On Tuesday, it was U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican, who concluded there is no place for a traditional conservative in the Republican Party and who announced that he will not seek re-election. He joins U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, also not seeking re-election and also warning for weeks now that Donald Trump is a danger to the Republic.

Add those words of caution to the grave observations of our fellow Texan, former President George W. Bush, and those of another Arizonan, U.S. Sen. John McCain, an old warhorse, mortally ill and fighting to the very end for the good of the nation he loves. Conservatives all, they are responding to a political and moral duty to speak up, to speak out.

Here is Flake on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday: "Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as 'telling it like it is,' when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.

"And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength - because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness."

Corker, the man who memorably described the Trump White House a few day ago as "an adult daycare center" and who has warned that Trump's volatility could set the United States on a "path to World War III," said this on Tuesday: "For young people to be watching, not only here in our country, but around the world, someone of this mentality as president of the United States is something that is I think debasing to our country. You would think he would aspire to be the president of the United States and act like a president of the United States. But that's just not going to be the case, apparently."

The senator's warning followed on the heels of Bush's admonition, who, without naming names, left no doubt about his target. "Bigotry seems emboldened," he said. "Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication. (...) And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy."

What these men are saying goes deeper than an internecine feud between conservatism and radicalism within the Republican Party (though it is that). It is an existential moment that speaks to the direction of the party, to be sure, but also to the direction of this nation. As the traditional Republican Party devolves with Trump's encouragement into the nationalistic, nativist party of Stephen K. Bannon, Stephen Miller and Roy Moore, we call on John Cornyn, Ted Cruz and other Texas Republicans to look to their consciences. Consider the good of the nation, not merely your own party. You and your fellow Republicans must not allow Trump's behavior to be "the new normal," to use Flake's words.

Democrats need to use whatever diminished power they have to resist, to offer a clear and compelling alternative to "the debasement of our nation" (Corker's words). And voters, please, whether you're Republican, Democratic or independent, you must take the next election seriously. Political nihilism and countenancing political chaos have done enough damage.

"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil," McCain said last week, his voice as weak and reedy as his spirit remains strong. "We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad."

Are we? With three long years to go, that's the unsettling question this White House forces all of us to ask. And answer.

Online: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/

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Oct. 24

The Boston Herald on #MeToo and sexual harassment:

No, sexual harassment isn't just for celebrities.

Of course, we knew that all along, even if it did take the horrific level of allegations of gross misconduct and predatory behavior by producer Harvey Weinstein to capture the public's attention and kick off the #metoo movement.

Two celebrity chefs, Todd English and John Besh, are now being accused of harassment by former employees.

Four female members of the U.S. Senate told their stories over the weekend, including Massachusetts' own Elizabeth Warren, who shared an account of her early days as a new law professor on NBC's "Meet the Press" and of being harassed by a senior faculty member.

"He slammed the door (of his office) and lunged for me," she said. "It was like a bad cartoon. He's chasing me around the desk, trying to get his hands on me."

You'd think even back in the day a male law professor would know better.

And just yesterday Fidelity Investments Chairman Abigail Johnson issued a video message to the firm's over 40,000 employees saying, "Today, I'd like to remind everyone that we have no tolerance at our company for any type of harassment. We simply will not, and do not tolerate this type of behavior, from anyone."

According to a number of published reports, Fidelity has dismissed at least two money managers after they were accused of sexual harassment and the firm has hired a consultant to examine its processes for handling such situations. According to The Wall Street Journal, a Boston-based stock-picking unit had a particularly problematic "culture."

Yes, it certainly will take more than a hashtag to tackle a problem that everyone seemed to know existed, but no one really wanted to expose - including or in many cases especially the victims. But when the headlines fade and the hashtag is long forgotten it will still take corporate leaders like Johnson and many of her male counterparts to continue the effort - and make sure another generation doesn't have to endure such treatment.

Online: http://www.bostonherald.com/

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Oct. 24

The New York Times on White House chief of staff John Kelly's role after President Donald Trump was accused of being insensitive toward the widow of a U.S. service member:

John Kelly, President Trump's chief of staff, is grimly suited to addressing the family of a fallen service member. Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star general, is the highest-ranking officer to lose a child in Iraq or Afghanistan. His son Second Lt. Robert Kelly was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

After more than 40 years with the Marines, Mr. Kelly possesses the gravitas and credibility on matters of military and public service that his boss does not. Which is perhaps why Mr. Trump consulted him for advice on how best to console Myeshia Johnson after her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, was killed under still-unexplained circumstances in Niger.

Representative Frederica Wilson, a Florida Democrat and family friend, said Mr. Trump had upset Ms. Johnson by seeming to forget her husband's name and by saying, in effect, that Sergeant Johnson knew what he was signing up for. Mr. Trump responded by attacking the congresswoman and insulting the family, insisting he'd said the right thing.

Mr. Kelly then weighed in at a media briefing on Thursday. One might have expected him to bring some dignity to this agonizing and confounding episode, putting things right with remarks chosen with the care for which he is known among his fellow service members. But after a passionate and moving recounting of Gold Star families' trauma, he instead waded waist-deep into the morass Mr. Trump had created, insulting Ms. Wilson by accusing her of taking credit in 2015 for securing funding for a federal building in Miami named for two slain F.B.I. agents. He said she "stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call he gave the money - the $20 million - to build the building."

Maybe he simply misremembered what happened that day; we all make mistakes. But a video of the event subsequently showed that Ms. Wilson had made none of the string of boasts that Mr. Kelly put in her mouth.

Did Mr. Kelly quickly acknowledge his errors? No. Instead, in the days since, he and the White House have added to his mistakes by refusing to correct them. All evidence to the contrary, they have continued to insist on Mr. Kelly's false version, compounding the grief of the Johnson family, who laid Sergeant Johnson to rest on Saturday.

On Thursday, Mr. Kelly said that he was speaking up to defend "this maybe last thing that's held sacred in our society" - the sacrifice of an American soldier's life on the battlefield. This nation is in crying need of a demonstration of virtue in public life, and Mr. Kelly seemed until now like a man for the job. But he is not honoring Sergeant Johnson's sacrifice by insisting on falsehoods and stretching out this sordid spectacle.

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

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Oct. 24

The Arizona Republic on a bipartisan health-care bill:

The Alexander-Murray health-care bill is a rare bipartisan effort on a topic that has generated white-hot political controversy. If Donald Trump wants to show some leadership, this is his chance.

The bill isn't perfect. It isn't the final fix for Obamacare. But it deserves support for what it is: a needed quick fix and an opening to further bipartisan reform later.

The approach offers enormous advantages over the current roller-coaster ride of instability as politicians fight over the fate of Obamacare.

The bill will stabilize the health-care marketplace, which was plunged into uncertainty Oct. 12 when Donald Trump said his administration would stop paying billions in health-insurance subsidies for low-income households.

These subsidies cover costs to insurance companies of providing mandated discounted rates to low-income Americans. Because insurance companies are required to offer the discounts, these companies will have to cover the cost without subsidies - then pass on their costs as higher premiums for other clients.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that premiums would increase 20 percent by 2018. It is people in the middle class, many of them Trump supporters, who will get hit with increased costs.

The legality of the administration paying the subsidies has been in dispute. The bill introduced by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray would resolve that by authorizing them through Congress.

It would allow states more flexibility, while preserving protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.

The bill restores peace of mind to Americans who get their coverage through Obamacare. It provides (short-term) stability to the health insurance industry.

It will also buy time for lawmakers to find a more permanent solution.

If Trump's goal in rescinding the subsidies was to force congressional action, he could have taken a celebratory bow and encouraged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote on this bipartisan quick fix - something McConnell said he will do as soon as the president gives his blessing.

Trump should then have started working on conservative House members, who bristle at anything short of a full repeal of Obamacare.

Instead, on Monday, the administration circulated a list of demands for the bill, such as ending the individual mandate to have insurance and repealing penalties on large employers who don't cover their workers.

The demands embody the elements of a repeal of Obamacare, something Trump and the GOP promised but have been unable to deliver.

These demands could well end the bipartisan nature of what has been a good-faith effort to enact a fix.

Trump's task now is to be part of the fix - because even without Trump's recent efforts to sabotage Obamacare, the system had major flaws that demand attention.

But if Trump sinks this bill and contributes to the further disintegration of Obamacare, he will own the disaster - and it is a disaster that will touch many of his core supporters as they lose coverage or watch premiums skyrocket.

In the eyes of the American people, Republicans in Congress also will own the disaster.

Their task now is to salvage and stabilize Obamacare for the time being. Conservatives may need to hold their noses, but this has to be done.

This is important to individual Americans as well as the health-care industry, which endured a major overhaul after Obamacare passed.

It's worth noting that Obamacare was a purely Democratic effort. No Republicans participated. That was wrong then and it is wrong now.

We previously pointed out the folly and irony of Republicans attempting to repeal or replace Obamacare with only GOP support.

Health care is too big and too important to be purely partisan. The lack of GOP support was a genetic flaw in Obamacare. Republicans should not repeat that mistake.

The Alexander-Murray bill is bipartisan. It provides space and time for a more comprehensive - and bipartisan - look at permanent reforms to Obamacare later.

It addresses immediate concerns.

The bill represents a measured and reasoned approach to a discussion that has been more about unbridled passion than pragmatism.

It is a quick fix. But it is what we need now.

Online: http://www.azcentral.com/

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Oct. 20

The Toronto Star on the U.S. and Canada's relationship in the North American Free Trade Agreement:

When the once-unthinkable suddenly seems all-too-possible, there's a normal human tendency to look for a silver lining in that cloud. And so it is now that the deal underpinning Canada's biggest trading relationship appears to be hanging by a thread.

The story is far from over, but this may well be the week that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) suffered the blow that leads to its eventual demise, most likely early next year. With the Trump administration pushing outrageously protectionist demands, Canada and Mexico have no choice but to make clear their own bottom lines and prepare for life after NAFTA.

There was always a very real chance it would come to this. No country can afford to be rolled by a bully across the street who isn't genuinely interested in working out a deal that's good for both sides. And that's the position Donald Trump is putting Canada in as his negotiators relentlessly pursue his "America First" agenda.

We are now hearing from various quarters that if things fall apart it may not be so bad after all. Canada's chief negotiator in the original NAFTA negotiations, John Weekes, said "it wouldn't be the end of the world" if the deal disappears. And in the Star, former NDP leader Ed Broadbent wrote optimistically that there could be "major new opportunities" for Canada in a post-NAFTA world.

That's all good to hear. There has been a tendency since the deal came into effect almost a quarter century ago to exaggerate both its benefits and shortcomings. The truth is that the overall effects of globalization and rapid technological change have been much bigger factors in shaping our economy - for both good and ill. Fixing NAFTA or scrapping it won't change that.

But there's no point in minimizing the potential costs involved if it all goes south. It's not just the short- to medium-term effects on the economy if NAFTA ends. In a report last July the International Monetary Fund said that could be as little as a 0.4-per-cent reduction in Canada's GDP, a number cited by Broadbent. (It's worth noting, however, that the IMF figure is on the low end of estimates by economists; others figure the hit to Canada could be as big as 2.5 per cent of GDP, which would be painful.)

There's a bigger picture, though, one hinted at by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland as she spoke at the end of, acrimonious round of trade talks in Washington. She said the American side has brought forward proposals that "turn back the clock on 23 years of predictability, openness and collaboration under NAFTA."

Freeland called that "troubling," an understatement if ever there was one. Who can doubt that introducing such uncertainty into the mix would hurt both the Canadian and U.S. economies, which are doing pretty well at the moment. And there's no reason to believe that ending NAFTA would bring back any of the manufacturing jobs lost in both countries over the past two decades. It will still be much cheaper to operate a factory in China or any number of other low-wage countries.

And beyond the fate of NAFTA itself are the wider implications of Trump's drive to put "America First." As he interprets it, it amounts to withdrawing the United States from all sorts of involvement with the rest of the world on the grounds that other countries have been taking America to the cleaners for decades - in trade, in military alliances, in multilateral arrangements of all kinds.

Aside from NAFTA, he has pulled the U.S. out of a potential trade deal with much of Asia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership; withdrawn from the global agreement on climate and the deal to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions; called into question Washington's role in NATO and the United Nations; and on and on.

This is the biggest American retreat from the world since the 1920s, when Washington embraced isolationism, much to the detriment of the entire world. The gap is being filled by other, more confident powers, notably China. It's no accident that The Economist singled out that country's president, Xi Jinping, as "the world's most powerful man" - a label long reserved for U.S. presidents. Now, it wrote, the president of China "walks with a swagger abroad" while Trump's America "is pulling back and creating a power vacuum."

What does this mean for Canada? For one thing, Ottawa must certainly stick to its guns on issues of principle, no matter how tough the talks become. Those include, for example, maintaining a credible independent dispute settlement mechanism so that a powerful partner like the U.S. cannot simply interpret trade rules to its own advantage.

It also means at this point holding firm on some issues where it might actually be in Canada's best interest to compromise - such as our protectionist marketing board policies. Canadian consumers would benefit from rolling those back, but it can't happen with Washington holding a gun to Ottawa's head.

It means redoubling efforts to find other trade partners and lessen Canada's reliance on the United States. That has been notably unsuccessful in past decades: when Justin Trudeau's father Pierre was prime minister way back in 1971 he famously launched a so-called "third option" initiative to diversify markets in the face of protectionist moves from the Nixon administration. At the time, 69 per cent of Canadian exports went to the U.S.; now the figure is up to 76 per cent - and Canada's economy is even more dependent on trade than it was then.

Nonetheless, Trump's willingness to see NAFTA sink should light a fire under Ottawa to do whatever it can to wean Canada off its dependence on the U.S. For one thing, it should support efforts to revive the TPP agreement without American participation. If successful, that would give Canada more access to important Asian markets, including Japan.

There's nothing Canada can do about Trump. Like the rest of the world, we're stuck with him for the time being. But we can use this moment to remind ourselves of the pitfalls of leaning too heavily on one increasingly unreliable and inward-looking partner.

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

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