Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

Aug. 20

The Washington Post on corporal punishment in schools

While the use of corporal punishment in schools is a widely condemned practice, officials in more than 15 states can still strike a child for misbehavior.

In 2021, a 4-year-old was allegedly hit and then restrained and beaten a second time for talking during nap time in Louisiana. And in Mississippi, an 8-year-old found herself in a hospital bed with a fractured finger after enduring a beating for talking in class in 2018.

Violence is not an acceptable form of discipline. It is not only ineffective, but counterproductive, too. Research shows children who are physically disciplined become more aggressive and antisocial, and experience more mental health problems.

In Louisiana, Mississippi and other states, many still defend the right for schools to physically discipline children. And while these states often say they will seek parental consent, restrict excessive force and establish a variety of other policies to prevent abuse, neither the Louisiana nor Mississippi parents said they approved the beatings. Meanwhile, the definition of excessive force is too vague to be protective.

There should be no gray area. The United Nations considers corporal punishment a human rights violation. And leading medical associations, including the American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, decry the practice.

While most schools have abandoned the practice, it lingers in many districts in the South, where a history of racial violence makes the continued existence of school-approved physical punishment more concerning.

About 70,000 instances of corporal punishment were recorded in 2017-2018, according to the latest federal data. Among those who were subjected to it, more than 13,000 students had disabilities — a group that, along with Black students, research has found to be disproportionately targeted for physical punishment.

Mississippi, which had the highest number of corporal punishment incidents of any state in the latest federal data, recorded more than 3,800 instances of physical punishment in the last school year, according to reporting by The Post’s Donna St. George. Of those, 54% were directed at Black students, who make up only 47% of the state’s enrollment.

Defenders, such as a Missouri school district that reinstated paddling as what it claimed is a last resort for consistently disruptive students, argue its necessity. One Texas lawmaker said, “ Kids do need to fear leadership,” as the state legislature considered — and defeated — a proposed ban on corporal punishment this spring.

Schools are meant to teach children to become confident, capable citizens, not fearful followers. But when children are beaten at school, they learn the wrong lesson — that conflict should be settled with pain and physical force rather than communication. More than 90% of schools understand this. The rest need to join.

ONLINE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/08/20/corporal-punishment-paddling-schools/


Aug. 21

The Wall Street Journal on the threat of making Hunter Biden testify

Hunter Biden made big money abroad by dropping the name of his powerful father, and the same tactic seems to have nearly helped him to evade tax and gun charges. Correspondence between federal prosecutors and Mr. Biden’s lawyer has been leaked to the press, and it shows the depth of the case’s political taint.

After news reports last fall suggested federal agents had enough evidence to prosecute, Mr. Biden’s lawyer, Chris Clark, decided to bring up the big guy. “President Biden now unquestionably would be a fact witness for the defense in any criminal trial,” he wrote to David Weiss, the U.S. attorney for Delaware, according to Politico. “This of all cases justifies neither the spectacle of a sitting President testifying at a criminal trial nor the potential for a resulting Constitutional crisis.”

This is clarifying about the kind of pressure that Mr. Weiss was under not to bring a serious case. That isn’t all: Through last fall and this spring, Politico adds, Mr. Clark “sought meetings with people at the highest levels of the Justice Department,” including “the head of the Criminal Division, the head of the Tax Division, the Office of Legal Counsel, the Office of the Solicitor General, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and the attorney general himself.”

Most such entreaties failed, but Mr. Clark finally secured an April 26 meeting with Mr. Weiss and Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer. “Please advise,” Mr. Clark had written to Mr. Weinsheimer, “whether you would be the appropriate person to hear our client’s appeal, in the event that the U.S. Attorney’s Office decides to charge Mr. Biden.”

Emails the next month show Mr. Biden’s attorneys working with Mr. Weiss’s staff on a deal that would have required no guilty plea by Hunter. That appears to have changed days after IRS agent Gary Shapley went public saying the investigation into Mr. Biden had been hampered by politics. Then Mr. Biden agreed to plead guilty to tax misdemeanors, but with a broad provision for future immunity that eventually fell apart under questioning by the judge.

Mr. Weiss is still on the case, now as a special counsel, but how does Attorney General Merrick Garland possibly think that the public can trust his judgment after this fiasco?

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/hunter-biden-chris-clark-joe-biden-david-weiss-correspondence-b0cbfcd1


Aug. 18

The Los Angeles Times on Joe Biden and the Climate

President Biden’s recent claim that he has “practically” declared a climate emergency has renewed calls for him to actually do so.

And he should.

Since the start of his term, climate activists have urged Biden to declare a climate emergency to unlock additional executive powers and resources to increase renewable energy, restrict fossil fuel extraction and protect Americans from wildfires, heat waves, storms and other climate-fueled disasters.

But pressure eased with the deal to pass the renewable energy-boosting Inflation Reduction Act, and after Biden signed it into law, he never declared a climate emergency. So it was laughable when the president said an Aug. 9 interview with the Weather Channel that he already had done so, “practically speaking.” The Poynter Institute’s Politifact Truth-O-Meter rated his statement “false.”

If the president is serious about fighting the climate crisis, why not declare it an emergency for real?

Invoking the National Emergencies Act, the Stafford Act and other federal laws that give the president executive authority to respond to disasters, emergencies and threats to national security would enable Biden to access additional funding for climate-resilient infrastructure projects by the Pentagon and Federal Emergency Management Agency. He could go beyond that and restore the ban on crude oil exports, suspend offshore drilling in federal waters and stop investments in foreign fossil fuel projects. And with the Republican-controlled House blocking climate action, the country needs the executive branch to respond more aggressively.

Biden’s rhetoric on climate change has been strong — he has at least called it an emergency — and with the Inflation Reduction Act, he took the biggest federal climate action to date.

But the president’s actions still fall seriously short, particularly when it comes to phasing out fossil fuels that are overheating the climate. In March he broke a major campaign promise to stop drilling on federal land by approving the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska and he moved forward with a massive oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico that could generate tens of millions of tons of carbon emissions. In June, Biden signed legislation to fast-track the Mountain Valley Pipeline to transport methane gas from West Virginia to southern Virginia.

There is value in the country that has spewed more planet-warming pollution historically than any other declaring the crisis a true emergency. And doing it through executive action isn’t a stretch. Biden has already acted without Congress to spur production of solar panels and heat pumps under the Cold War-era Defense Production Act and designate five new national monuments using the 117-year-old Antiquities Act.

A presidential climate emergency declaration might anger Republicans in Congress, but that should not stop him. Presidents of both parties have declared dozens of national emergencies since the 1970s to respond to natural disasters, terrorism and disease outbreaks. Some of these declarations remain in place decades later, and not one has been overturned in court.

In an interview Tuesday, White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi pointed to other actions Biden has taken, through the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies, to cut greenhouse gas pollution, and said that since signing the Inflation Reduction Act last year “he has been relentless in making sure his administration is looking for additional ways to move faster and faster.”

“The president has been very clear with his team to leave no stone unturned,” Zaidi told a Times editorial writer, and is “looking at responsible uses of emergency authorities where they fit.”

The planet is, of course, already telling us loud and clear that we’re in an emergency. This year alone we’ve seen the hottest month ever recorded, flooding that caused more than $4 billion in damage in California, 101-degree ocean temperatures in Florida, choking wildfire smoke that turned skies orange, a hurricane bound for Southern California and the nation’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century.

We need the president to scale up his response to the climate crisis accordingly, and follow through with bold new actions. Biden can start by declaring it the emergency that he already knows it to be.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2023-08-18/la-biden-climate-emergency-declaration


Aug. 16

The Guardian on protecting sea coral

When images of the climate emergency’s impact are so visceral and so widespread, it is easy to neglect what we cannot see. The shocking photographs and video footage of wildfires in Hawaii and Greece, and floods in China, along with the terrible loss of life and testimony from those who fled, are beginning to bring home the contribution of global heating to such disasters – even if people, and especially businesses and governments, may be slow to accept the truth and even slower to act on it.

Yet our eyes cannot fully capture the devastation in Hawaii, and it does not end where its shores meet the sea. Beneath the surface of the water, sediment runoff may smother coral polyps and block sunlight, affecting the growth of colonies, experts warn. This is only one element of a broader disaster now unfolding, which scientists fear may soon be global and yet which has generated relatively little attention or alarm. Corals in countries across Central America, North America and the Caribbean are suffering significant bleaching as they experience unprecedented levels of heat stress due to record ocean temperatures, and there are similar warnings about reefs off northern Vietnam and southern China. In Florida, some sites have reported total loss of all corals.

Coral reefs account for only 0.1% of the surface area of the ocean. Yet they support a quarter of the world’s known marine life – and an estimated half a billion people, for whom they provide food, jobs and coastal defenses. Most corals grow less than an inch a year; some deep sea colonies have been developing for more than 4,000 years. But destruction happens at a terrifying pace. Reef cover has halved since the 1950s, with the rate of loss accelerating. And while bleaching does not always lead to the death of corals, scientists say they don’t reproduce as well and are more susceptible to disease – or further bleaching. As temperature extremes become more frequent, reefs have less time to recover. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that 1.5C of global warming – the level the world is predicted to reach early next decade – would lead to the destruction of between 70% and 90% of the world’s reefs. A recent study paints an even more alarming picture, suggesting that 99% would experience heatwaves too frequently to recover.

Valiant scientists and activists are working on ways to save reefs, such as by nurturing and reintroducing corals – though some of these projects too have been hit by bleaching recently. Potential mitigations include introducing species that are more resilient to high temperatures – though adding non-native species to an ecosystem is fraught with its own risks.

The focus must be on prevention. Reducing pollutants, especially agricultural runoff, and tackling damage from tourism and overfishing is critical, since these all make reefs more vulnerable to bleaching. But the only real solution is to slash the use of fossil fuels.

It is tempting to shock people into such changes, but not always effective. Humans need to be confronted not only by the haunting images of ghost reefs, with life and color drained from them, but also by the wonder of those that are still healthy, with their fabulous, fantastical populations. Contemplating these ecosystems in all their rainbow glory reminds us not only of what we have lost, but what we must protect.

ONLINE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/aug/16/the-guardian-view-on-protecting-corals-what-lies-beneath-matters-too


Aug. 22

China Daily on U.S.-China relations

In 1973, before diplomatic relations were established between China and the United States, at the beginning of what would be a decades-long honeymoon for their bilateral ties, the U.S.-China Business Council was set up under the auspices of the White House, and the U.S. State Department and Commerce Department.

For half a century, the private nonprofit, nonpartisan business association has been instrumental to economic and trade exchanges between what are now the world’s two largest economies. As the USCBC celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding, however, rather than pushing for the ever expanding economic and trade connections between the two countries, the group has found itself struggling to navigate the changed and still changing landscape of bilateral economic and trade relations.

With the Joe Biden administration imposing increasing controls on U.S. technology exports to China and U.S. investments in key Chinese technology sectors, each step Washington takes under its “Indo-Pacific” strategy sends shock waves, undermining bilateral economic and trade exchanges.

Premier Li Qiang impressively understated the situation when he told the visiting USCBC delegation led by Marc Casper, the council’s chair, on Monday that “China-U.S. relations and economic and trade cooperation are facing some difficulties.” The Chinese and U.S. economies and their long-standing interdependence have fallen prey to the strategic game Washington seems determined to play against China. They are no longer each other’s biggest trading partners, and keep sliding down the corresponding lists. The China hawks in Washington, on Capitol Hill in particular, would ideally like to kick China completely out of U.S. supply chains, even global supply chains. Although the slogan has changed from “decoupling” to “de-risking,” their song remains the same.

It is encouraging therefore that both sides announced on Tuesday that U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo will visit Beijing and Shanghai from Sunday to Wednesday to deepen communication between the two sides on a range of issues related to commerce and trade.

This visit carries on the positive momentum of the two sides keeping their communication channels open after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited China over the past two months. Hopefully, the discussions can help the two sides better handle relevant issues and challenges in commercial relations, and explore areas for potential cooperation.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not because of cheap labor or a huge market that U.S. businesses are in China but because the quality of its tooling engineers and its responsive whole of industry supply chains help make them globally competitive.

The Chinese premier’s patient elaboration of the Chinese government’s efforts to continue expanding market access, optimize the business environment, promote fair competition, and protect the property rights of enterprises and the rights and interests of entrepreneurs was testimony to China’s sincere wish that economic and trade cooperation serve the interests of both sides.

ONLINE: https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202308/22/WS64e4a8c6a31035260b81d98a.html