Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Arizona Republic on Eric Holder needing to go:
During his May 23 speech on national security, President Barack Obama promised to chat with Attorney General Eric Holder about reviewing his policies for investigating the news media.
"I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable," the president said.
It is hard to imagine an assessment more divorced from reality.
The still-developing story of the Obama administration's willingness to steamroll First Amendment rights of a free press has blown well past the stage at which even the most thorough, chin-pulling "review" of policies is likely to change anything. This debacle requires a change of Justice Department personnel. At the top.
This administration has demonstrated, emphatically, that it has no problem whatsoever with putting a chill on investigative journalism. ...
Justice guidelines require subpoenas of media records to be as narrowly drawn as possible, according to Arizona State University journalism professor Leonard Downie Jr., writing in the Washington Post, which he formerly edited. The AP warrants captured thousands of calls.
The media company being investigated should be given reasonable notice of the intrusion. The AP had none. And the investigation — again, according to policy — must strike a balance between the public's right to know and national security. The Justice investigations of AP and Rosen struck no such balance. ...
The disturbing Internal Revenue Service scandal is also part and parcel to the administration's control-freak behavior. And every bit as much a threat to free speech.
Whether dictated from the top or created by spontaneous combustion, the IRS harassment of conservative groups prior to the 2012 elections stifled speech. The administration may not have issued directives to IRS apparatchiks, but it certainly set the tone for what would occur.
In 2008, President-elect Obama promised the most transparent administration in history. That would be a policy worth reviewing.
New York Times on smart change in Iran policy:
The Obama administration has made a useful modification to its Iran policy by lifting sanctions on companies that want to sell cellphones, laptops, encryption software and other similar technology to ordinary Iranians. This should improve the ability of Iranians to circumvent their government's unrelenting crackdown on dissenting opinion and communicate with each other and the outside world without reprisal.
The decision, announced by the State and Treasury Departments on Thursday, is a departure from the administration's general approach, which over four years has been to increase sanctions in an effort to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear program.
The Obama administration has definitely not repudiated that approach. ...
The technology decision, which comes two weeks before Iran's presidential election, inserts the United States into Iranian politics on the side of political freedom in a way the Obama administration did not during the last election in 2009. That election was denounced as fraudulent by the Iranian opposition, which, using various social networking services and Web sites, staged months of protests that, in turn, triggered a vicious government crackdown.
Just what impact the technology decision might have on the presidential election on June 14 is unclear. ...
This should have been done sooner. Tensions between Iran and the United States — over Syria and terrorism, as well as the nuclear program — will almost certainly get worse, barring some unexpected new policies in Tehran. But America will be in a stronger position if it is seen as standing with the Iranian people.
The Post and Courier of Charleston on nervous investors being a good sign:
Most of President Barack Obama's conservative critics fairly lament the limited benefits from the "stimulus" plan he helped push through Congress in 2009. That package is projected to ultimately cost $831 billion.
But since late 2011, the Federal Reserve has been pumping $85 billion a month (that's a rate of $1.02 trillion a year) into the economy in an ongoing effort to stimulate it. And the nation's central bank doesn't need federal lawmakers' approval to indulge in that high-stakes enterprise.
So in a perverse yet wholly predictable twist, many investors are getting increasingly jittery about the risks of the economy bouncing back too strongly.
They dread the day when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke cuts off, or at least slows, that massive monthly money flow. They know he has repeatedly said, and as recently as May 23, that this "quantitative easing" will end once he's convinced that the U.S. economy has grown strong enough to no longer need it.
Last week's news of unexpectedly sharp rises in home sales and consumer confidence helped trigger a strong Tuesday on the stock market. And though the Dow Jones Industrial Average took a 106-point tumble on Wednesday, Thursday's news of unexpectedly high unemployment claims and a lowered revision in first-quarter growth helped settle investors' nerves (and stock prices).
But the Dow tumbled more than 200 points Friday. ...
Yet rather than rooting for higher unemployment, less growth and more dollar printing that will inevitably endanger our currency if it persists, Americans should take heart at some of the more welcome economic developments:
That home-price increase from March, officially reported last Tuesday, was the highest in nearly seven years.
The Conference Board, a non-profit business membership and research organization, announced last week that the Consumer Confidence rating had reached a five-year peak.
And even with the rough ending to the market's week, the Dow ended May on a six-month winning streak.
Too bad some of that investor enthusiasm is based on the Fed's easy money.
Another less than encouraging note: Figures released Friday showed that unemployment in the 17 European Union countries that use the euro rose to 12.2 percent in April — the highest rate since the shared currency was introduced in 1999. In our global economy, Europe's persisting economic woes — including soaring government debt — have negative ripple effects on us.
Closer to home, the U.S. unemployment rate of 7.5 percent, though our lowest in more than four years, is still too high — and still doesn't reflect the millions of Americans who have given up looking for work over the last five years.
Our record national debt, at $16.75 trillion and rising, is also too high.
But at least we're on track for our lowest federal deficit in the last five years.
Meanwhile, rising housing prices mean more Americans are spending more money to buy homes.
And if that positive trend continues, we might even be able to sustain a not-so "jobless" recovery without the Fed printing a trillion a year that we don't really have.
The Anniston Star on Obama still struggling to bridge divide between his political opponents
In his new book "The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies," journalist Jonathan Alter quotes a generous contributor to the president's campaigns as saying Barack Obama has "been humbled by the opposition's intransigence." The supporter, according to Alter's telling, added that Obama "had never failed to bring anyone around before, and it changed him."
This episode comes from an early review of Alter's book, which hits stores today. The book sets out to explain how Obama went from a 2010 midterm whipping at the hands of Republicans to a successful 2012 re-election bid. ...
From the start, Obama could not break through the wall of inaction. Was he incapable of granting the Republicans a brand of Washington duality — allowing them to (a.) talk tough and (b.) quietly negotiate at the same time?
Washington observers have cited any number of former chief executives — Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson — as positive examples of how a president can cajole, bargain, harass or charm the loyal opposition to the bargaining table. Invite them to the White House, the pundits advise, wine 'em, dine 'em, make 'em feel special. No matter what, don't take all the rhetoric personal.
Whether Obama has thick skin or thin skin or whether he lacks the warm personality to persuade the opposition to drop its guard, it's obvious he hasn't been able to bridge the divide.
Some observers note that Republican opposition may be doing more than merely playing to the cameras. ...
The silver lining in this cloud, if there is one, is that the nation is no less challenged than it was when Obama became the 44th U.S. president. Republicans and Democrats don't lack for incentives to work together to tackle employment, the economy, the future of energy production or climate change, to cite a few examples. They do lack grassroots pressure to get them moving.
The Dallas Morning News on Oklahoma storm chasers' deaths a sobering reminder:
The very term — storm chaser — suggests thrill and adventure. It conjures images of swashbuckling weather junkies who tempt fate in pursuit of dramatic video or close encounters with killer cyclones.
Our video-obsessed culture can't get enough of their harrowing tales. Now add the grimmest of chapters — the obituaries of three tornado chasers among the 13 dead from Friday's second round of lethal storms in the Oklahoma City area.
There is a lesson to be learned in how they died. It's about the respect everyone in Tornado Alley — and that includes us, in the Dallas area — should have for our volatile springtime weather.
The chase team was headed by a veteran engineer and inventor whose former show, Storm Chasers, aired on the Discovery Channel and who had several science grants from the National Geographic Society. Known for attention to safety, Tim Samaras was in the field for the science, not the rush of excitement, say those who knew him. His goal was collecting data to help understand twisters better and save lives in the long run.
It's a cruel irony that his death — and those of his son, Paul, and crew mate Carl Young — illustrate the wisdom of what experts tell us about tornadoes. They drop from the sky with little warning and disappear just as fast. They are capricious, defying explanation about why they will obliterate a line of houses but spare one or two. They change course in a heartbeat.
That adds up to advice we often hear but don't often heed. A tornado warning means seek shelter. Do the best you can. Get off the road, since a vehicle is a poor option. Do not try to outrun a tornado.
The chasers in Oklahoma staked out what their experience told them would be a safe vantage point for tracking a tornado near El Reno. But then it took a sharp turn and went right at them.
The popularity of tornado videos might lull us into thinking that storm hunting is a thrill-a-minute spectator sport. The casualty list from El Reno says otherwise. Violent springtime weather is lethal, even to the pros.
Seattle Times on protecting Alaska's Bristol Bay:
Plans for a massive copper and gold mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay represent a long-term hazard to the health of an extraordinary source of wild salmon.
Bristol Bay is a part of a lucrative Alaskan salmon industry that employs thousands, and is a rich part of the state's economic and social heritage.
Seasonal estimates for the state push the 2013 projected catch to 179 million salmon. Last year Bristol Bay was the third-most-productive region with 22 million salmon caught, and most were pricey sockeye salmon.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has looked askance at the mining plans, but made no decision. The epic scale of the proposal and its impact on vast expanses of rivers, streams and wetlands stir deep concerns.
For all of the potential of modern mitigation techniques, questions are raised about the practical burden of keeping mine tailings and fouled waters out of pristine waters for, well, ever.
Bristol Bay's salmon fishery fuels trade with China and Japan, and the processing and commercial fishing pieces are present in Washington's economy.
Sport fishing is also part of Alaska's economic mix and tourist draw.
Bristol Bay nurtures a healthy economic environment that produces American jobs. Bristol Bay thrives because of a sustainable natural environment for wild salmon.
Protect a valuable resource from an avoidable and artificial hazard.
Omaha-World Herald on IRS facing a trust gap:
Maybe this is where IRS officials learned to dance around questions about the extra scrutiny they gave to conservative groups.
An internal report says the Internal Revenue Service spent $1,600 producing a video showing a dozen or so IRS employees learning how to line dance the "Cupid shuffle."
The video was made for a 2010 training and leadership conference the agency held in Anaheim, Calif., and comes on top of revelations that IRS workers made other videos parodying the "Star Trek" and "Gilligan's Island" TV shows. It is one small piece of a larger picture of poor judgment in spending tax dollars.
A Treasury Department inspector general is releasing a report this week entitled, "Collected and Wasted." ...
The disclosures bring to mind last year's fiasco involving the General Services Administration, which spent $823,000 on a Las Vegas conference for employees that featured a mind reader, a clown and staff videos mocking the agency's spending of tax money. Two top GSA officials were forced out over that, but it later was disclosed that several conference organizers received $500 to $1,500 bonuses for their work in planning the extravaganza.
The three-year period covered in the upcoming IRS report on waste came before the across-the-board sequestration spending cuts hit all federal agencies. But the nation's economy was reeling during those years, the federal budget deficit was ballooning and millions of taxpayers were struggling.
The acting IRS commissioner, Daniel Werfel, acknowledges that the expenses should not have occurred. ...
Testifying to Congress, Werfel said American taxpayers no longer trust the IRS but that he is "committed to restoring that trust." Werfel said new leadership has been installed, and he is conducting a review of what went wrong and ways to correct it.
He could start by insisting that everyone in his agency be a good steward of every dollar they collect from taxpayers. Trust means that taxpayers must know the tax collector is fair, impartial and prudent with their money.
The Australian, Sydney, on Bradley Manning far from a noble hero:
Legitimate questions exist about why it has taken so long to bring US Army Private Bradley Manning to trial and the circumstances surrounding his incarceration, much of it in solitary confinement. But he deserves neither the status of hero nor the aura of martyrdom some on the Left have bestowed on him.
By his own admission, after pleading guilty to 10 of the 22 charges at his court martial, Manning was responsible for leaking 750,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks while working in Baghdad as a low-level intelligence analyst. He violated his obligation as a member of the U.S. military to protect and defend his country. Many lives were put at risk as a result of the disclosures and the irresponsible way they were published around the world, often without regard for the consequences. The biggest intelligence breach in U.S. history badly damaged America's interests and anti-terrorist operations, and compromised its allies.
Following disclosure in 2010 of the names of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan helping allied forces, Kabul human rights officials reported a jump in the assassination of alleged collaborators. Publication of State Department cables identifying the sources used by U.S. diplomats meant many had to flee to avoid retribution. Prosecutors have charged Private Manning with working with WikiLeaks' Australian founder, Julian Assange, to put military secrets in the hands of America's enemies. It was reported Osama bin Laden asked another al-Qaida terrorist to download battlefield reports and State Department cables supplied to WikiLeaks.
Supporters see Private Manning as a noble whistleblower in the tradition of Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers. He is no such thing: He is on trial not for his politics, but because he deliberately broke his solemn obligation as a serving soldier and committed sustained treachery that has had appalling consequences. On the charges to which he has pleaded guilty, Private Manning is likely to get 20 years. Prosecutors are also pursuing a charge of aiding the enemy, which carries a life sentence without parole.
Washington must do more than seek to punish him. It needs to establish how a 21-year-old analyst with a deeply troubled personal life could access and harvest a trove of highly classified and potentially damaging intelligence and pass it to Assange.
No such breach must be allowed to occur again.
The Khaleej Times, Dubai, on offering a reward for arrest and killing of Islamist militants:
Washington is fond of offshore expeditions and there seems to be no second thoughts.
The latest stunt is the State Department's offer to reward people with cash to the tune of $5 million for information leading to the arrest or killing of Islamist militants in North and West Africa. The move is perhaps intended to marginalize terrorists in the region and force them to go underground so that relative peace could be achieved. Though it is very difficult to exactly pinpoint as to where the wanted men are hiding and operating from in an uninhabitable terrain, the announcement could result in retribution activities.
The U.S. wants to capture Boko Haram leader Abubaker Shekau and other leading al-Qaida figures in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The militants are said to be behind the ransom, kidnapping and murder of Westerners in the Sahara desert, including three U.S. hostages killed in Algeria. The Boko Haram movement, against which the French forces had waged a war in Central African States, has reportedly carried out a series of deadly attacks across northern Nigeria, leading to the deaths of more than 2,000 people since 2009.
This strategy of the United States has parallels with what it did in Afghanistan and Yemen, where it was engaged in a ruthless fight against the faceless enemies in the form of al-Qaida and the Taliban. The head money on dreaded terrorist Osama bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Omar are a case in point. But that hardly helped the State Department or the Pentagon make any inroads in the divisive societies where the controversial war on terror was being fought. Rather than posting reward bills, the U.S. can do a better job by addressing the factors — in socio-economic realms — that give birth to such unscrupulous elements in the backward regions of the world.
The Telegraph, London, on Britain standing on the edge of a potential energy boom:
The solution to Britain's energy problems could well be beneath our feet. On Monday, IGas, one of the leading shale gas explorers, revealed that there may be as much as 172 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the area that it has a license to explore in the North West of England - equivalent to more than 50 years of UK usage. Of course, we do not know for sure if this entire amount is either there or fully exploitable, but it is a hopeful sign nonetheless. Cuadrilla, another energy firm, estimates that its license area near Blackpool contains roughly 200 trillion cubic feet.
The only way to exploit all this potential is to drill wells and "frack," and there the political challenges begin. Fears about the tremors that occurred when Cuadrilla carried out fracking in 2011 - a study by Durham University found that seismic events caused by fracking are actually "low compared to other manmade triggers" - led to a damaging one-year moratorium. The Government and the industry have to reassure local communities that concerns will be listened to and that people's quality of life will not suffer if fracking goes ahead. One solution might be payment to localities affected.
However, the news from IGas brings the hope that shale gas might revolutionize energy production, cut the need for imports and have geopolitical implications similar to the North Sea oil exploration of the late Sixties. It could help consumers, as it has done in the United States, by putting a cap on gas bills, and boost the labor market by creating an estimated 70,000 jobs.
Britain needs to make the most of this golden opportunity; the Chancellor is right to offer tax breaks to companies looking to explore. We stand on the edge of a potential resource boom, if only we have the courage to exploit it.
The Globe and Mail on Turkey's Erdogan should not attain the executive presidency he desires:
The arrogance of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, toward protesters in several major Turkish cities is a vivid confirmation that his aspiration to become his country's first directly elected president, with strong executive powers, should not be fulfilled. A constitutional amendment that would enable that ambition would dangerously add to his already swollen head.
The overreaction by the police to a peaceful protest against the redevelopment of a park and square in Istanbul does not seem to have been Erdogan's doing. But his dismissal of the protesters as "looters" and "wild extremists" walking "arm-in-arm with terrorism," and his wild claim that "social media is the worst menace to society," show a lack of judgment and self-control. ...
Indeed, Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish religious leader (living, oddly enough, in the Pocono hills of Pennsylvania) who arguably has as much influence in the membership of the AKP as Mr. Erdogan, has let it be known that he thinks the police used excessive force. He has recently preached against "hubris," which is interpreted as being directed at Mr. Erdogan.
The Turkish Prime Minister is most unlikely to lose power in the near future, but there is now reason to hope that he will not attain the executive presidency that he has sought.