Editorial Roundup: U.S.
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Philadelphia Inquirer on A new year requires a better plan to tackle gun violence crisis:
It took about 90 minutes for Philadelphia to experience its first homicide of 2022.
By 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 1, a 33-year-old had been fatally shot in Feltonville. Less than 20 minutes later, four miles away near Temple University, a 16-year-old was shot and killed. The first two homicide victims of 2022 were among 14 people who were shot on the first day of the new year.
The grim statistics hardly do justice to the mounting toll of gun violence in our city: 562 lives lost last year and another roughly 1,800 people who were shot and survived.
In 2021, the city reached a bleak milestone in notching a record number of homicides. Now, the question city officials should be asking themselves is: How do we keep it from happening again in 2022?
Philadelphia is trying to do many things that broadly fall under the umbrella of gun violence prevention. In 2020, the city rebooted the anti-crime strategy known as focused deterrence in a program called Group Violence Intervention in an effort to engage would-be shooters. The Office of Violence Prevention continues to expand its street outreach program, and the city's last budget committed $68 million in new anti-violence spending. In January 2019, city officials released what they called 'úThe Roadmap for Safer Communities.'Ě Mayor Jim Kenney also holds a briefing on gun violence every other week, and both the Police Department and the District Attorney's Office are all-too-eager to report that they are doing their jobs well - and that they have the data to prove it.
And yet, nearly 1,100 people have been killed in our city in the past two years.
The unfortunate reality is that Philadelphia's anti-violence efforts are lacking evaluation, coordination, and a sense of urgency from the top.
The Office of Violence Prevention programs continue to go unevaluated. A progress report on Group Violence Intervention was due last October. When that deadline passed, the release was expected by the end of the year. We are still waiting.
An audit by the city controller, Rebecca Rhynhart, found that only 21% of the city's much-touted funding for prevention is focused on the short term.
At the same time, basic city services that can help reduce instances of gun violence - such as opening libraries and fixing street lights - aren't being fulfilled.
City officials can draw on any number of excuses for why, despite all the city's efforts, gun violence continues to rise - the coronavirus, national trends, inaction on gun control in Harrisburg - but we can't claim gun violence is our priority while leaving people in the neighborhoods that are most affected literally in the dark.
One of this board's resolutions for the new year is to remain vigilant in our coverage to ensure that the city's efforts to reduce gun violence are working. We propose a new year's resolution for every entity in city government: Before every action, decision, or new program, ask how it contributes to reducing gun violence - and communicate the answer. That's the kind of commitment a crisis of this magnitude requires.
The Wall Street Journal on Buttigieg's FAA and 5G Mid-Air Collision
Biden Administration officials are crowing that they prevented a collision over 5G wireless spectrum between airlines and wireless carriers that had threatened to ground flights across America this week. But they created this problem, and the mess could endanger U.S. 5G leadership.
Congress charged the Federal Communications Commission with ensuring that wireless spectrum is deployed to balance the interests of different industries while advancing U.S. innovation. With the U.S. trailing China in 5G, former FCC Chair Ajit Pai moved regulatory mountains to free up more spectrum.
After public comment and technical review, the FCC in March 2020 issued a 258-page decision approving the repurposing of C-band spectrum from satellite operators for 5G. The document included precautions to prevent 5G signal interference with other spectrum users, including aviation.
Usually spectrum interference involves transmissions on the same frequencies, not in different bands. Airplane radio altimeters that measure the distance from the ground occupy bands in the same region but are still a safe distance from C-band. Think the distance between Trenton, N.J., and New York City.
The FCC nonetheless included a 220 to 400 megahertz buffer between the two bands, which was more than twice as much as what engineers deemed sufficient to prevent signal interference. Nearly 40 countries operate 5G on C-band spectrum-many at higher power levels or in closer spectral proximity to airplane radio altimeters than what the FCC had proposed-with no instances of interference. Two Navy radars also operate in frequencies much closer to altimeters at power levels that are 10,000 times greater than 5G base stations without any reports of interference.
Last January wireless carriers paid $80 billion to the U.S. Treasury for the C-band spectrum and have since spent billions of dollars to deploy it. AT&T and Verizon had planned to light up their spectrum on Dec. 5. Yet Biden Administration officials interfered at the last minute, causing a near-crash between wireless carriers and the aviation industry.
Enter Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Steve Dickson, who is eager to redeem the agency after its embarrassment over Boeing's 737 Max. On Nov. 2, the FAA warned airlines that 5G could interfere with safety instruments. AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay their rollout to Jan. 5.
This didn't satisfy Mr. Dickson, who warned that the 5G rollout might force the agency to reroute planes in bad weather. As if flying weren't stressful enough. On New Year's Eve, the FAA chief and his co-pilot, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, demanded more concessions from the wireless carriers that would effectively cede to the government control over the 5G rollout.
Verizon and AT&T on Sunday rebuffed their demand, offering instead to reduce C-Band power on runways and in the first mile of takeoff or final approach for six months. Yet airlines threatened to file suit, fearing the 5G standoff between their regulators and wireless carriers could disrupt flights.
Messrs. Dickson and Buttigieg on Monday accepted the wireless carriers' offer, albeit with a two-week delay supposedly to allow the FAA more time for safety studies. They are likely to demand that this delay be extended. Mr. Buttigieg isn't an expert in aviation or broadband, but he knows that there's no risk for him in overcaution-and it isn't his money.
Meanwhile, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, who had supported the C-band rollout, has for the most part been missing in action. Mr. Pai frequently had to assert himself during the Trump Presidency when heads of other federal agencies, including the Defense and Transportation departments, encroached on FCC turf. Ms. Rosenworcel is failing her first test as chair.
Politicians complain the U.S. is falling behind China in 5G, but dysfunctional government is a big reason.
The Guardian on Yemen, the forgotten war:
By the end of this year, the United Nations warned recently, 377,000 Yemenis will have died from seven devastating years of war '" in many cases killed by indirect causes such as hunger; in others, by airstrikes or missile bombardments. Seventy per cent of the fatalities are thought to be children under five.
As 2021 began, there were hopes that Joe Biden's arrival in the White House might bring progress towards peace. His administration quickly announced it was ending all support for offensive operations by Saudi Arabia, which spearheaded the US- and UK-backed coalition fighting for the internationally recognised government overthrown by Houthi rebels. It also revoked the Trump administration's designation of the Houthis as a terrorist group. But Mr Biden's team overestimated its ability to help resolve the crisis. The diplomatic push soon faltered. In October, Washington announced a $500m military contract with Riyadh which includes support for its attack helicopters, used in operations in Yemen.
Meanwhile, a humanitarian catastrophe that the UN has described as the worst in the world is deepening. Just before Christmas, the World Food Programme said that it had been forced to cut aid due to insufficient funds, three months after it warned that 16 million Yemenis were 'úmarching towards starvation'Ě. Four million people are displaced. This was the poorest country in the region even before the war broke out, with 47% of the population living in poverty. The UN has since warned that it is on course to become the poorest in the world, with 71%-78% of Yemenis now below the poverty line. Already inadequate infrastructure and services have been devastated, with schools and hospitals targeted. Both sides have shown a ruthless contempt for civilians.
The UN special envoy Hans Grundberg warns that the recent escalation is among the worst in the conflict. The Iran-backed Houthis have intensified their offensive on Marib, the last major stronghold of the government that they ousted, stalling talks. Coalition airstrikes on the airport at the capital Sana'a, held by the Houthis, halted aid flights this month, although rebels now say they can resume on a 'útemporary'Ě basis. The war has become increasingly complex as the secessionist Southern Transition Council along with al-Qaida and Islamic State cells have seized their opportunity. But above all, it has been supercharged by the regional rivalry between Riyadh and Tehran. As one young Yemeni observed: 'úWe are just a battlefield.'Ě
Saudi Arabia, which expected a quick win, has little to show for the billions that it has poured into this war. Though its ally, the UAE, withdrew most troops two years ago, Riyadh is still in search of an exit. That it is talking to Iran, after they cut ties in 2016, is a significant advance. But the two sides have very different reasons for engaging, and the lives of Yemenis are low in either's priorities '" many suspect that the Houthis hope to derail the talks, believing that a military victory is within their grasp. They have sharply increased missile and drone attacks on Saudi targets.
With borders and airspace sealed, the world has largely been able to ignore the war's impact on Yemen's civilians. But the conflict must not be allowed to slip down the agenda again. Its grim and entrenched nature is not cause to give up on diplomacy, but all the more reason to renew the determined efforts required if Yemenis are to have a real future.
The Dallas Morning News on Tesla in Xinjiang - a bad turn for a Texas company:
On Dec. 1, Tesla moved its headquarters to Harold Green Road in Austin, officially becoming a Texas company.
On Dec. 23, with the backing of a nearly unanimous House and Senate, President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, the latest step by the U.S. government to try to interrupt, if not stop, the deplorable campaign against a minority population in the Xinjiang region of China.
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Tesla has opened a showroom in the capital of Xinjiang, with the company issuing a cheery announcement on China's state-controlled Weibo social media platform that 'úTesla (heart) Xinjiang.'Ě
We cheered Tesla moving to Texas and believe its innovative push toward electrifying cars is the future the country and the world need.
But it's also true that Tesla's relationship with China points up the concerning ways U.S. companies are entangled with an increasingly brazen and authoritarian government that has no intention of pairing its wealth from open markets with political freedom for its people.
The Chinese government has moved aggressively against companies that have tried to demonstrate moral courage. Intel embarrassed itself just before Christmas with an abject apology after it told suppliers it would not use labor or goods from Xinjiang. It's not alone. A long list of American companies do business in Xinjiang even as the Biden administration has formally labeled China's actions in the region genocide.
That might get harder. Companies can now face sanctions under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. They have a burden of proof that their factories and suppliers are not benefiting from slave labor or coerced labor, something that has been credibly documented in Xinjiang.
The question with Tesla is not so much the production of goods, but the willingness to dance to the Chinese government's tune on Xinjiang. It's hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, and business as usual follows.
In some ways, that's just as worrisome as actually doing business there. We need American companies to represent American values abroad. No one is so na√Įve as to believe that we can simply or quickly disentangle our economy from China's. The U.S. and Chinese economies are in such a deep symbiotic relationship that even degrees of separation are painful.
But we have to draw boundaries, both governmental and corporate, that demand more from China in return for its admission to the global market. We failed to set and enforce those benchmarks as it became a powerful world player.
Simply acquiescing to its anti-democratic and inhumane policies because that's how business gets done is not acceptable. Tesla and every other American company should know that and act accordingly.
The Portland (Maine) Press Herald on Judge's order against The New York Times cannot stand:
The language is clear and unambiguous: 'úCongress shall make no law 'Ľ abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.'Ě
In practice, that means that with very few and exact exceptions, no one in government can tell a newspaper what to print. No one '" not the president or a senator, or an agency bureaucrat or a sitting judge.
Yet that is just what Justice Charles D. Wood of the New York State Supreme Court did in an order issued just before Christmas, as he prohibited The New York Times from publishing documents the paper has obtained regarding Project Veritas, a right-wing activist group.
The order represents an unprecedented violation of the First Amendment and the idea of a free and independent press. It cannot be allowed to stand.
There's little comfort in the fact that Justice Wood's order already has been partially lifted. A New York state appeals court on Tuesday lifted the portion of the order requiring The Times to turn over or destroy the documents in question.
The paper still cannot report anything from the documents, however, until a further hearing is held.
While that may be a sign that sanity will ultimately prevail, it's beyond disconcerting that a judge would issue the order in the first place.
The documents are legal memos prepared for Project Veritas years ago describing strategies they can use to make sure their often-deceptive practices '" including secret cameras and fake identities used to embarrass opponents '" stay on the right side of the law.
The Times legally obtained the memos through regular reporting '" through doing its job. It published some of their contents as part of its reporting on an investigation by Justice Department into Project Veritas for the group's possible role in the theft of a diary belonging to President Biden's daughter.
In a prior, unrelated case, Project Veritas is suing The Times for defamation. The group argued, and Justice Wood agreed, that because of the ongoing litigation, the newspaper's use of the memos represents a violation of its attorney-client privilege.
That's hogwash. The reporting done by the newspaper on Project Veritas is clearly in the public interest and within its rights as a news organization. The memos have nothing to do with the litigation between the group and the newspaper, and everything to do with how a prominent, publicity-seeking organization engages with the public.
Saying otherwise would have what one media lawyer called the 'úultimate chilling effect.'Ě Organizations that found themselves the target of critical reporting by a newspaper could sue them, then argue that any subsequent reporting should be subject to a gag order as a result of that suit.
What's more, Justice Wood's order left no room for other courts to make it right. If The Times had been forced to destroy the documents, any future ruling in their favor would be moot.
Thankfully, the appeals court acted first. They shouldn't have had to.
The matter has been resolved for at least 50 years, when a judge refused to allow the Nixon administration to block The Times and Washington Post from publishing details of classified documents detailing the history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, dubbed the Pentagon Papers.
That ruling, and others, lay out the boundaries. Troop movements in wartime may be a matter of national security and thus within the bounds of a government ban on publishing. But the government's handling of a war and its genuine feelings on how that war is going are of the public interest and subject to First Amendment protections, as are the operations of a group like Project Veritas.
That should be clear, and until Justice Wood's ruling, it had been as clear as any legal precedent.
The courts should use this occasion to reaffirm the rights of free speech and an open press, and keep government from crossing a boundary that is at the heart of our democracy.
The Miami Herald on Miami's last 'úGolden Girl'Ě Betty White dies. What a way to end an awful year!
Here's how sinister the year 2021 has been - it took Betty White on its final day, darn it!
The last surviving 'úGolden Girl'Ě cast member from the Miami-based show died Friday at 99.
White was known for her excellent comedic timing, But she missed one big mark - her 100th birthday in just 17 days. Darn it, again.
During its seven-year run, the Golden Girls' home was set in Miami at the fictitious address of 6151 Richmond Street. But it flashed at the beginning of every episode, letting the audience know that they were about to be let in the door of a home where a bunch of funny women lived. White as Rose Nylund, Bea Arthur as Dorothy Zbornak, Rue Mcclanahan as Blanche Devereaux and Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo were a powerful television quartet - and they were doing it from Miami.
Our hurricane season and locales such as Joe's Stone Crab were featured in episodes of the show, which still has a tremendous cult following. And deservedly so. Although most of the action took place inside the home, its tropical decor, a Florida room and the women's floral wardrobes were a tip of the hat to the Magic City.
In one episode, White and Arthur even write and perform a song about Miami:
'úMiami, Miami, Miami, you've got style
Blue skies, sunshine, white sand by the mile!
As the show advanced, the Miami setting faded, as the rapport between the four women became the show's focus, with the veteran comedic actresses jockeying for laughs, which we, the audience, supplied in abundance. Who didn't like White's Rose, a woman of hilarious Norwegian descent? Her humor, warmth and ditziness made her lovable.
'úRose wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she wasn't stupid. She was just eternally naive,'Ě White once said. The actress used that combination to steal most of the scenes. And White was one of television's best scene stealers. She often grabbed the spotlight on 'úThe Mary Tyler Moore Show'Ě and 'úHot in Cleveland,'Ě not to mention when she hosted 'úSaturday Night Live'Ě at 88. She killed it.
Sad to see Miami's last Golden Girl pass. We'll miss those dimples.