Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Aiken (South Carolina) Standard on International spying being a double-edged sword:
Mass surveillance of American citizens hit the news cycle first. Now, international spying on foreign leaders by the National Security Agency — or NSA — has hit the headlines.
This has undoubtedly infuriated individuals overseas, fueling concerns that American officials are indiscriminately collecting vast amounts of mobile phone and email data globally. It's really no secret that our country collects data from sources around the world. So does every intelligence service with such capabilities internationally. They likely also spy on the U.S. or would if they could.
However, our security officials need to ensure we're collecting information because we need to, not merely because we can.
For instance, Spanish media reports indicated the NSA allegedly spied on 60 million phone calls placed in Spain between Dec. 10 of last year and Jan. 8. Those reports followed the revelation that the NSA eavesdropped on millions phone calls in France and other countries.
In the post-9/11 world, that may be what it takes to keep the world safe. However, such measures must be weighed against the needs of our international relationships and ever increasing global economy.
Some heads of state have indicated the allegations have deteriorated trust in the Obama administration. This could come back to hurt us during trade agreement negotiations or when we really do need intelligence information that we haven't gathered ourselves.
While counterterrorism efforts are obviously vital, spying on close allies seemingly does more to undermine our relationships than anything else. An inside memo obtained by The Guardian newspaper indicated that eavesdropping on foreign leaders actually produced "little reportable intelligence."
We should not lose sight of the mission to keep America safe, but analyzing the political and economic costs and benefits of international spying is still essential.
The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Florida, on nation needs grand bargain, despite Nelson's pessimism:
It's a sad state of affairs when members of Congress realize the need for a grand bargain on the budget but cannot work toward one.
One of the pessimistic federal lawmakers is Florida's own U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat. He recently told a Sarasota audience that there likely won't be another government shutdown next year.
But neither will there be a major compromise between Republicans and Democrats to address the national debt, the annual budget deficits and more, he said.
Nelson told the Sarasota audience not to expect a "grand bargain."
Instead, Nelson expects a smaller deal that will take the rough edges off the next round of budget cuts scheduled. These are the cuts known as sequestration.
Nelson's remarks are disappointing, because he is one of 28 members of a select committee of House and Senate members who will work on budget compromises. Their deadline is mid-December. If all fails, another shutdown could commence Jan. 15.
Nelson's remarks, reported by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, indicate the senator is chiefly concerned with further sequester cuts, which were devised in 2011 as a way to force compromise.
The sequester grew out of the failure of a previous select committee after the last government standoff in 2011. ...
The Budget Control Act's congressional panel failed to compromise, so the sequester began to take effect March 1. Deeper cuts begin on Jan. 15, and Nelson says they will decimate NASA's space program.
That's a major concern for Volusia County and its neighbors. ...
While cuts in social spending and the military should be made, they should be made prudently.
So Nelson and others on the select committee need to buck up and shed the pessimism. The nation badly needs a grand bargain — an intelligent way to cut the $17 trillion debt over time, without crippling the Pentagon, NASA or programs for vulnerable people.
The debt is a serious issue, and Congress must end the excuses and stop keep kicking the can down the road.
Los Angeles Times on stateless in the Dominican Republic:
A recent decision by the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic effectively clears the way for officials to retroactively strip the citizenship of tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent. The ruling — that children born to Haitian immigrants are essentially foreigners in the country of their birth — is arbitrary and unjust and could potentially create one of the largest groups of stateless people in recent years.
Until recently, "birthright citizenship" was an established part of Dominican law, meaning that anyone born in the country was automatically eligible to be a citizen. That included children born to Haitian migrants who had come into the country illegally or as guest laborers to work in the Dominican sugar plantations, or to clean houses or to join construction crews. ...
Theoretically, some of the victims of this unjust new rule might qualify for Haitian citizenship. But many have never set foot in Haiti and don't even speak French or Haitian Creole. Some might find that the records needed to prove their eligibility are missing or were destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.
The Constitutional Court's decision — which follows many years of resentment and mistreatment of Haitians, who have come to the Dominican Republic by the thousands to do the country's hardest and lowest-paid work — has outraged human rights groups and raised concern in the United Nations. It has needlessly and tragically created a humanitarian crisis where none existed. There is still time, however, for the international community to urge Dominican officials to exercise restraint as they review thousands of birth records. At the very least, they should provide legal status to those they strip of citizenship.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch on taxpayers' $7 billion subsidy to fast-food profits:
Is fast food so vital to the nation that taxpayers should spend $7 billion a year to supplement the industry's profits? Imagine the outcry if that was proposed.
And yet a study by economists at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the University of California at Berkeley's Labor Center says it's already happening.
Seven billion dollars a year is what it costs taxpayers for Medicaid, food stamps and the other public assistance programs for fast-food workers who are paid poverty-level wages.
A second report, "Super-Sizing Public Costs" by the National Employment Law Project, said low wages and missing benefits at the 10 largest fast-food companies in the country cost taxpayers about $3.8 billion a year.
Another way to look at it: McDonald's posted $1.5 billion in third-quarter profits. Taxpayers paid $1.2 billion last year for public assistance to the McDonald's workforce. That's $300 million per quarter, a 20 percent contribution to the company's bottom line.
It's enough to give you indigestion. ...
The "Fast Food" researchers calculated that the cost to Missouri taxpayers, where about 49 percent of fast-food workers receive public assistance, is about $146 million a year.
Post-Dispatch reporter Kavita Kumar wrote Tuesday that Allan MacNeill, a Webster University political economist, said the public cost was probably underestimated. That's because it did not include managers and people who work fewer than 10 hours a week.
The study also looked at only five of the largest federal public assistance programs, excluding other federal and state programs that would have pushed the figures higher, MacNeill said.
By under-paying employees, companies push their real cost of doing business onto the public at large. This can be called corporate welfare. Or socialism. But not capitalism.
Fast-food workers should be paid a living wage. The corporations that hire them must stop relying on the public for anything more than buying the occasional burger.
Arizona Republic on America's spy program needs accountability:
What's going on at the National Security Agency sounds more like spies gone wild than the product of good governance. Maybe President Barack Obama should check his own phone.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's previous revelations about NSA surveillance of Americans raised questions about whether this agency was operating on a because-we-can basis without suitable adult supervision.
Those doubts are intensifying as the White House seeks plausible deniability about massive sweeps of information from dozens of world leaders.
You have to wonder if foreign leaders — our friends and allies — are really so surprised to learn the NSA was listening in. But now that it's public knowledge, they have an obligation to be outraged.
Soothing their anger may require the United States to make concessions in trade negotiations and perform other diplomatic somersaults. ...
The NSA has said Obama was not told about the spying by NSA head Gen. Keith Alexander. Several astute reporters pointed out this official denial did not specify whether somebody else might have told the commander in chief. What's more, Obama ordered a stop to spying on some leaders this summer after launching an internal review of the program, so he clearly knew then.
Yet some find the denial credible for the very chilling reason that America's Spies R Us program has so, so many eavesdropping programs that it's hard to keep track.
Someone besides the spies ought to be making the decisions about when surveillance serves a national security interest and when it merely amounts to gratuitously vacuuming up vast amounts of information.
The administration has an ongoing review of how intelligence is gathered and how to protect privacy and civil liberties. Recommendations will have to go beyond "trust us."
As Congress engages in this discussion, GOP lawmakers should focus on the issue rather than taking swings at this president. ...
The United States has vast and sophisticated surveillance capabilities which are immeasurably valuable in keeping the country safe. Good intelligence is crucial in a world where terrorists remain intent on doing us harm. High-tech snooping to assure national security is essential, but eavesdropping in order to gain a foreign policy or trade edge is a misuse of our capabilities.
The NSA needs strict supervision by those who understand that difference, as well as the importance of respecting the privacy of average Americans and the leaders of friendly nations.
The Khaleej Times, Dubai, on the U.S.-Romanian connect:
Notwithstanding budget constraints, Washington is busy building a new air base near the Black Sea. The United States plans to take over a Romanian airfield and station as many as 1,500 American troops there.
The multipurpose facility has raised many eyebrows, and it is feared that apart from training and logistics purposes, the base might also be used as a detention center in the heart of Europe. Last but not the least, the new base in Romania will house the controversial U.S. ballistic missile defense system. It will also be home to interceptor missiles and radar equipment.
Although the U.S. has said that the base will not be used for aggressive purposes, there is no dearth of skeptics who believe that it is meant to counter Iran's ambitious missile and nuclear program. The Russians also have aired their grievances, saying the missile defense shield in Eastern Europe is an attempt to weaken and counter Moscow's strategic missile capability. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already threatened to deploy more powerful warheads on Russia's ballistic missiles. To put Russian reservations to rest, the U.S. State Department says the shield called the "Aegis Ashore System" is a response by the NATO military alliance to the "increasing threats by the proliferation of ballistic missiles from the Middle East." But that explanation is hardly credible with the region likely to witness more armament policies in an era when disarmament should have been the cornerstone of both the U.S. and Russian policies.
The air base deal was signed recently as part of an exigency measure as the U.S. would be vacating its operational air base in Central Asia. With the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan due to begin and to be completed by the end of next year, the Deveselu base will serve as a link between Southwest Asia and Europe. Human Rights Watch, however, sees the Romanian base as the possible location of a clandestine CIA jail, and probably an espionage barracks, to further the controversial war on terrorism. With America's allies in a suspicious mood since the National Security Agency's sleuths have gone over the top, it is feared that this strategic realignment in Europe will also be seen with mistrust. While Russia has demanded legal guarantees from the U.S. over the base, many of the jittery European allies too might walk that path. Poland and the Czech Republic were supposed to be the other bases for America's defense shield program, but these plans have already been scrapped. It remains to be seen how Bucharest aligns with Washington to write a new security doctrine in the region.
The Japan Times on Nobel Peace Prize sends messages:
The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Oct. 11 announced its decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2013 to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The Hague-based organization, created in 1997 to implement the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to prohibit the production, storage and use of chemical weapons, will receive the $1.25 million prize in Oslo on Dec. 10, the 117th anniversary of Nobel Prize founder Alfred Nobel's death.
The committee's message is clear. It hopes that awarding the prize to the OPCW will accelerate global efforts to eliminate chemical weapons, which are relatively cheap and easy to produce and can indiscriminately kill or injure large numbers of people.
It is noteworthy that the committee explicitly named the United States and Russia in stating that certain states have failed to observe the April 2012 deadline, under the CWC, to destroy their arsenals of chemical weapons. Both countries — which together possess some 95 percent of the global stockpile of chemical weapons — should move quickly to fulfill their responsibilities.
The Nobel Committee decision will also exert pressure on six countries that have yet to become members of the CWC: Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, Egypt, South Sudan and Angola.
Another message is the committee's hope that the OPCW will complete its task of eliminating Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014, with the cooperation of both the Syrian government and rebel forces as well as the support of the entire international community. On Oct. 14, Syria, which is believed to have some 1,000 tons of chemical weapons, became the 140th country to join the CWC.
Following widespread use of chemical weapons in World War I, the 1925 Geneva Protocol banned their usage in war but not their production or stockpiling. The United Nations General Assembly on Nov. 30, 1992, approved the CWC, which bans the production and storage of chemical weapons as well as their use.
In August, more than 1,400 people were killed in a chemical weapons attack near Damascus. Under a U.S.-Russia deal, Syria must destroy its chemical weapons-filling equipment and production facilities by the end of November and eliminate its chemical weapons by mid-2014.
OPCW workers are now inspecting and destroying Syria's chemical weapons. This is an unprecedented mission as it is being carried out amid a brutal civil war. Government and rebel forces must let the OPCW team do its job in a safe and efficient manner. Japan should consider how it can help facilitate this vital work.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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