Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

Sept. 18

The Dallas Morning News on a U.S. Supreme Court decision to require asylum seekers who enter the country from the southern border to seek asylum in another country they traveled through first:

We understand why immigration leads to a raucous and, too often, heated public policy debate. But what we fear is that this debate, especially the portion of it that centers on those fleeing oppression and seeking asylum in the United States, is losing sight of the people whose lives are at stake in this fight.

We'll stipulate, as we have many times before in editorials, that it is critically important for the United States to have robust border controls, a legal process that is adhered to, and consequences for people who break the law. Our question in engaging in this debate, however, is always this: What should the law be?

In terms of asylum, it's critically important that this country remain a refuge for those fleeing tyranny. By being that refuge, we undercut tyranny abroad. And by offering asylum, over the course of our history we have taken in millions of people who went on to serve this country with distinction.

So it is with some disappointment that we watched the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week to stay an injunction on the Trump administration's latest attempt to restrict asylum for those fleeing Central and South America.

Put a little more plainly, the rule change in question — which requires that asylum seekers who enter the U.S. from our southern border first seek asylum in a third country, almost certainly Guatemala or Mexico — took effect on July 16 without the usual preceding comment period.

As Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in an incisive dissent, the rule is "especially concerning" because it "topples decades of settled asylum practices and affects some of the most vulnerable people in the Western Hemisphere — without affording the public a chance to weigh in."

For this reason alone, a California District Court was right to enjoin the rule. But, as Sotomayor points out in her dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the lower court "found it probable that the rule was inconsistent with the asylum statute" which "provides that any noncitizen 'physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States ... may apply for asylum.'"

And while there are "carefully calibrated exceptions" to asylum eligibility, namely "on the possibility that a person could safely resettle in a third country," the Trump administration's rule "does not consider whether refugees were safe or resettled in Mexico — just whether they traveled through it." That "blunt approach," said Sotomayor, "rewrote the statute."

Moreover, the idea that asylum in Mexico or Guatemala is somehow equivalent to asylum in the U.S. is not based in fact. America has its problems with crime and violence, but its unequaled freedoms, long-established rule of law, and unparalleled economic opportunities are a magnet for millions of hopeful immigrants as well as a place of refuge from war and persecution for, in President Ronald Reagan's words, "anyone with the will and the heart to get here."

America is a unique place. Not only can you find safety here, but you can assimilate and become American. Take for example, Hung Ba Le, one of millions of Vietnamese who fled after the fall of Saigon in 1975. He was fortunate enough to arrive in America as a refugee and has gone on to an illustrious career in the U.S. Navy that included not only the U.S. Naval Academy but that also included, a decade ago, serving as the commanding officer of a destroyer, the USS Lassen, that docked in Vietnam.

This kind of story would be unusual or impossible in many parts of the world. But here, and other free countries, it's more common than many might realize. Or put another way, the U.S. military and the ranks of corporate America are full of native speakers of other languages because people from all backgrounds can and do subscribe to the idea that is America and become Americans.

Instead of finding ways to more swiftly and judiciously evaluate the claims of all asylum seekers, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security adopted a rule that only applies to asylum seekers "who enter or attempt to enter the United States across the southern land border after failing to apply for protection from persecution or torture while in a third country through which they transited" while traveling to the U.S.

It's worth pointing out that most Central Americans in the U.S. aren't newcomers. According to the Migration Policy Institute, nearly half of the roughly 3.5 million Central American immigrants residing in the U.S. as of 2017 came before 2000, many fleeing brutal civil wars in the region. Between 1980 and 1990, in the midst of devastating civil wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, the Central American immigrant population in the U.S. tripled.

Today, while economic and political instability remain a major problem, the power of drug cartels and organized crime has led to a near complete collapse of the rule of law and in many cases the corruption of local law enforcement in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. That and the droughts and failed crops that have plagued the region is why people are fleeing.

President Donald Trump called the Supreme Court's decision to stay the injunction on the rule a "BIG United States Supreme Court WIN for the Border on Asylum!" We respectfully disagree, and hope the court strikes it down when it eventually rules on the key issue involved, not just on the temporary injunction from a district court. Regardless of where the court lands, what's needed in Texas and across the country is a congressional fix to our asylum laws and on immigration policy more broadly.

———

Sept. 17

The Washington Post on the national implications of a California bill to change how employers treat workers in the gig economy:

Critics, and some cheerleaders, too, are greeting a California bill as an Uber-killer. They may be right. But the legislation known as AB5 did not start with the ride-hailing industry, and its role in this country's conversation about labor will not end there, either.

AB5, which the Golden State legislature passed last week, codifies a state case revolving around truck drivers who argued their companies intentionally misclassified them as contractors to save money, even as they hauled goods for tens of hours a week. The rule is essentially this: Workers are company employees if the company controls how they do their work, or if that work is core to the company's business.

This spells trouble for gig-economy start-ups that run on outsourcing. Ride-hailing juggernauts in particular, already in precarious financial shape, are crying out that it represents an existential threat. Uber has said the legislation doesn't apply to it because driving is outside the usual course of its business of ... coordinating driving trips. It has also said it will sponsor a referendum for voters to overturn the law. And it has said that if it loses both the definitional argument and the referendum, the app as we know it faces certain doom.

Well, Uber and Lyft certainly have brought convenience to many users. But if it turns out their model depends on unfair exploitation of labor, then the model does not deserve to survive. It's important to understand this: The California bill is not asking ridesharing companies to give health insurance to every driver who picks up a ride or two between running errands. Employees will have to meet the 30-hour weekly threshold for full-time work to get the benefits mandated for full-time workers.

Still, the bill creates some confusing incentives. Will gig companies gravitate toward hiring mostly workers who can contribute well over 30 hours a week, to avoid responsibility for all those part-timers? Or will they do the opposite, limiting hours to keep more drivers part-time so they won't have to provide so many full-time perks? Nothing in the bill forces companies to yank away flexible schedules, but they might do it anyway — at least for the less reliable laborers who value flexibility most.

Ride-hailing companies propose solving their problem with a compromise that retains drivers as contractors but entitles them to earn a minimum wage and band together to bargain, even as contractors. But that might not solve a problem that extends well beyond ride-hailing companies: Americans increasingly work for multiple employers in multiple capacities, and they are losing out on protections because of it.

Researchers and some lawmakers have been experimenting with alternative setups that would make injury insurance, paid leave and other benefits "portable" and prorated, with each firm contributing to a fund in proportion to an employee's labor. Another route, most notably gaining currency in the health-care arena, would be to open up government-sponsored benefit plans to anyone who paid in. California's bill will not be the last word, but it will be useful if it kick-starts a nationwide rethinking of labor rules that embrace both flexibility and fairness.

———

Sept. 17

The New York Times on a House inquiry to determine whether to recommend the impeachment of President Trump:

To clarify: The House Judiciary Committee has begun an inquiry to determine whether to recommend the impeachment of President Trump. The effort has been underway since March 4, when the committee announced it would look into "the alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power" on the part of the president. Last Thursday, committee members passed a resolution setting the parameters for the investigation "to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment." On Tuesday, the panel began what its chairman, Representative Jerry Nadler, has said will be an "aggressive series of hearings" to this end.

This does not mean that the committee will necessarily recommend impeachment. But Mr. Nadler's team is working to establish whether that step makes sense.

Unfortunately, there is tremendous confusion about what the Judiciary Committee is up to — largely because of conflicting signals from House Democrats, who have been struggling with their public statements on impeachment. Mr. Nadler has said repeatedly that his committee is engaged in an impeachment investigation — or, if you prefer, an impeachment inquiry. He insists the "nomenclature" does not matter. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and her leadership team clearly disagree. They assiduously avoid the "I'' word, painting the committee's work as garden-variety oversight.

As a result, even Democratic lawmakers don't seem to know whether they are engaged in an impeachment inquiry. Representative Pramila Jayapal has said "yes." Representative Jim Himes has said "no." Last week, Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, said "no" — then backtracked, claimed he'd misheard the question and offered a non-answer instead.

This is more than semantic hairsplitting. It is a reflection of the Democrats' divisions over the wisdom of impeaching Mr. Trump. Advocates of impeachment are eager to play up, and skeptics to play down, the possibility of the Judiciary Committee's work leading in that direction. Need to Impeach, the advocacy group founded by the Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, called Thursday's resolution vote a "pivotal moment." The speaker's camp characterized it as non-news. At her Thursday news conference, Ms. Pelosi bristled when reporters pressed her on whether an impeachment investigation was underway. The conference was "gathering facts" as it had been doing for months and would make a decision "when we're ready," she said. "That's all I have to say about this subject."

Complicating matters, in attempting to wrest documents and testimony from a White House committed to stonewalling, Democrats have argued in court filings that they are already engaged in an impeachment inquiry. (Some legal experts contend that impeachment proceedings — versus ordinary investigations — could strengthen Democrats' hand in such scuffles.) So even as the leadership and other skeptics insist there's nothing unusual going on, Democrats' court filings cite an existing impeachment inquiry.

Republicans have waded into the mix, arguing that impeachment investigations of past presidents required an authorization vote by the full House. Democrats counter that the rules have been changed such that the committee already possesses the investigatory powers that authorization once conferred, making a vote unnecessary.

You can see why people might be confused.

But the muddled messages are creating their own problems and threatening to undermine the push for presidential accountability. The contradictory statements make Democrats look divided and conflicted, complicating efforts to build public confidence in their oversight powers. Representative Tom McClintock, a Republican, has mocked the Democrats' strategy as, "You can have your impeachment and deny it, too."

More concretely, the Department of Justice is using Democrats' ambiguity to argue that the administration need not hand over information sought by congressional investigators. "Most prominently, the speaker of the House has been emphatic that the investigation is not a true impeachment proceeding," the department contended in a court brief filed Friday.

The Democratic leadership should try to find a way forward that, at the very least, doesn't leave members contradicting one another and further embolden Mr. Trump. Consider having members defer on the question to Mr. Nadler's committee, which can reply, truthfully, that the panel is uncovering the facts and will decide how to proceed based on those facts.

As the Judiciary Committee's hearings begin, fresh attention will fall on its investigation. This exercise is about more than politics; it is about safeguarding the health of our democracy. Democrats need to clarify to the public — and to themselves — where they are headed.

———

Sept. 16

The Star Tribune (of Minneapolis) on a new medical research partnership between Google and the Mayo Clinic:

In 1966, Dr. Leonard T. Kurland could only have imagined a world in which his employer, Mayo Clinic, would team up with a technology company named Google to mine health care data in hopes of finding new treatments and cures.

But Kurland, the health-data visionary who founded Mayo's influential Rochester Epidemiology Project (REP) nearly 53 years ago, likely would have applauded the Mayo-Google marriage announced Tuesday and its potential to improve lives not only in Minnesota but globally.

Kurland, who died in 2001, helped make Mayo a world-class center for medical research and care because he recognized the potential to improve diagnoses, treatment and outcomes by mining the medical records of people living in southeastern Minnesota's Olmsted County, where the main Rochester clinic is located. That population-based research, which has expanded to include 1 million patient records from 27 counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin, has provided Mayo and other providers with valuable answers to medical questions on disease risk, frequency, prevention and treatment.

The Mayo-Google partnership can build on that success by using cloud computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence. It also will enhance the clinic's efforts under new CEO Gianrico Farrugia to create a technology platform that helps solve complex health problems. As part of the 10-year agreement, Google will store Mayo data and open an office in Rochester — another positive development in the clinic's Destination Medical Center project.

Skeptics no doubt will question Google's corporate ethics as well as raise data privacy concerns. Like it or not, large technology companies are increasingly focusing on health care, which Google CEO Sundar Pichai has called "one of the most important fields that technology will help transform" in the years ahead. As for privacy, Mayo says it will continue to control patient data and that related research will not include individual identities.

Much can be accomplished between now and 2030, Mayo's chief information officer Christopher Ross told an editorial writer.

The hope is that the partnership will produce new clinical insights. The clinic already has 200 projects underway looking at how artificial intelligence can enhance patient care, and Ross said that number could grow to 2,000 in the next decade. And, he added, "More data means more cures."

Ross also believes scientists from Mayo and Google will team up to find ways to better connect patients and clinicians — and to make health care more "affordable, accessible and understandable."

By creating a technology platform much like Airbnb or Uber have done in the travel and transportation industries, Mayo and Google want to connect people with health problems to those who may have answers. For example, "That could be a device that could be attached to a smartphone to help manage a disease or monitor a disease," Ross said.

Health care solutions that lead to earlier diagnoses of disease or those that result in fewer or shorter trips to the hospital can help cut costs, Ross said, and new research also will focus on wellness.

The data repository that Leonard Kurland made possible five decades ago has aided researchers who've made important discoveries about Parkinson's disease, ovarian cancer and Alzheimer's risk factors.

Kurland's foresight helped make Minnesota a leader in medical research. The Mayo-Google partnership is likely to strengthen that position and produce significant advances in health care in the years ahead.

———

Sept. 15

The Boston Herald on the sentence for actress Felicity Huffman in "Operation Varsity Blues" case:

What is the price of denying opportunity?

When you've helped get your child into a choice college by paying a scammer to boost their SAT score so said offspring gets a coveted slot, thereby taking that spot from a student who worked hard to come by their score through study and sweat — what should that cost you once you've been caught?

For actress Felicity Huffman, one of the rich and famous netted in the "Operation Varsity Blues" college admissions bribery scandal, it's two weeks in prison, a $30,000 fine and 250 hours of community service.

As the Boston Herald's Sean Philip Cotter reported, the former "Desperate Housewives" actress was ordered Friday to self-surrender to a federal lockup on Oct. 25. Her lawyers have asked that she serve time at FCI Dublin in northern California, a low-security, all-female inmate prison.

According to the prison's commissary list, Huffman can purchase raw almonds, granola cereal and French vanilla cappuccino on site. So while it is a federal prison, there are worse places she could go. As for that fine, Huffman and her husband, William H. Macy, have a net worth reportedly in the tens of millions of dollars, so she won't exactly be clipping coupons once she gets out.

Huffman was sentenced after pleading guilty to a single count of conspiracy and fraud in May for paying $15,000 to scandal mastermind Rick Singer to boost her daughter's SAT score. She is the first parent to be sentenced among 34 charged in the scheme. According to former federal prosecutor Tim Burke, the allegations against Huffman are among the least serious in the Varsity Blues cases, so defendants such as "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin, accused of more egregious schemes, such as bribing college officials, would likely face more jail time if convicted.

Before sentencing, Huffman summed up her actions succinctly: "I was so stupid, and I was so wrong."

And yet, celebrities have never been reticent in telling "the little people" how smart and right they are — from what to eat to how to vote.

In 2017 Huffman and Macy both signed on to do a marketing campaign for Renew Life, a line of probiotics sold by Clorox Co. The actress told AdAge she'd been trying different brands of probiotics for years. "I'm an encyclopedia about this stuff," she said.

And last year, Huffman stepped up in a video endorsement of Danielle Shelton, supporting her bid to become a Milwaukee County Circuit judge. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Shelton took down the post after Huffman was charged.

Huffman is far from alone, of course. Alyssa Milano, the "Charmed" star, has been debating gun control with Ted Cruz; singer Rihanna told interviewers at her Diamond Ball this week, "I think climate change is a real issue."

With all due respect to the talented woman who gave us "Diamonds" and "Disturbia," when researching climate change, we don't think "what does Rihanna say?" should be anyone's first Google query.

While there are stars who do good works, raising money for poor children and to advance education, among other things, the gaping maw of celebrity convinces far too many that their views on the world and how to live in it should serve as a primer for the rest of us.

Fame does not confer wisdom.

And Hollywood stars should be seen as no better, or worse, than "ordinary" people — especially when their actions undermine the hard work of regular folks.

———

Sept. 15

China Daily on deferred planned tariffs hikes between the U.S. and China:

Former United States ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power's sensational remark that the ongoing US-China trade war is "mutually assured destruction" misses a vital fact — the trade war was not "mutually started" but was unilaterally triggered by the US.

Indeed, China has been emphasizing there is no winner in a trade war in sharp contrast to the White House's claim that "America is winning" the trade war.

Washington has deferred a planned tariff hike on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods from Oct 1 to Oct 15, as a "gesture of good will". In response, Beijing announced on Friday (Sept. 13) it was suspending tariff hikes on US soybean, pork and some other farm products, adding "China has a huge market, and the prospects for importing high-quality US farm produce are broad".

Which certainly is a goodwill move that could help the upcoming mid-level meeting to pave the way for top-level negotiations next month.

The process, if it proceeds smoothly, could bring the two parties closer to a broader agreement on trade.

Such exchanges of goodwill gestures, however, also reveal that neither side can afford to let the tit-for-tat tariffs go unchecked forever. Knowing well this fact, Beijing has been explicit right from the very beginning that it does not want to engage in a trade war, though it is well prepared to fight one to safeguard its national and core interests.

China's confidence in its capability to weather a trade war is based on the resilience of the Chinese people and economy. In other words, having been through so much hardship in the past, the country and its people can endure some difficulties in order to safeguard national interests.

On the other hand, despite the White House's optimistic messages about the "unprecedentedly good" shape of the US economy, evidence keeps piling up in support of Power's observation that there are people "getting hurt in the United States".

In fact, she was being modest. Not only has the trade war dealt a direct, heavy blow to the US agricultural sector, it is taking a toll on manufacturing as well. For the first time in three years, factory production in the US has shrunk, according to a recent survey, exacerbating fears of recession.

We might be wary of clichés such as "cooperation benefits both, confrontation hurts both". But that is precisely what decision-makers and negotiators on both sides need to keep in mind in handling the Sino-US trade relationship — for it is at once tricky, fragile, important and influential.

——————

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(0) entries

Sign the guestbook.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.