Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Australian on US-Russian relations ice over:
President Barack Obama's abrupt cancellation of long-standing arrangements for a bilateral summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is a rare but calculated diplomatic snub. The trigger was Putin's provocative decision to grant temporary asylum to the fugitive US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Putin has also been obstructionist in backing the Syrian Assad regime with sophisticated missile combat systems. And Washington and Moscow are at odds on the Kremlin's repression of Putin's political opponents, the plight of human rights campaigners and Russia's support of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. Putin, a former KGB colonel, has even been unwilling to take action on reducing nuclear stockpiles.
A return to the aggressive rhetoric and confrontation of the Cold War is in nobody's interests, least of all Moscow's. Mr Putin needs a reality check. His self-delusional chest-thumping cannot disguise the fact Russia is nothing like the power it was in Soviet times. Its best interests would be served by working with the international community. Obama will attend the G20 leaders' meeting in Russia next month. Participants should leave Putin in no doubt he is seriously risking Russia's interests.
The Khaleej Times, Dubai, on the coup terminology:
We Sen. John McCain has put the White House in a tight corner.
His remarks that former Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi's ouster was a coup had put the cart before the horse for Washington. The US administration had strictly avoided using the term for the Egyptian military's dismissal of Mursi, and had been keeping a low profile over the change of guard in Cairo. McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham, who were hobnobbing in Cairo for the last several days in hope of brokering a thaw between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, now seem to have given up. McCain sealed the fate for both Cairo and Washington by saying, "we have said we share the democratic aspirations and criticism . and the circumstances of (Mursi's) removal was a coup".
With Egypt lacking a political solution to its homegrown crisis, the US will be locked down in a serious diplomatic tangle. And now McCain plain talking has further compounded the equation. If the White House formally calls the move a coup, it would be caught in a serious politico-legal limbo. Then it would be under legal compulsions to cut off $1.3 billion in aid, and lose such a great geo-strategic partner in the region. This is where diplomacy is badly needed to not only pull the Egyptians out of the quagmire that has claimed hundreds of lives, but also to put it back on the path of political stability.
Unraveling of Egypt as it is mired in turmoil could be a prelude to a catastrophe in the region. With violence and political polarization taking roots, something serious is up in the air. The military government, which has already expressed its desire to take along the opposition elements including the Brotherhood, has to initiate another effort to mend the fences. It is, though, a difficult moment for Cairo.
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Putin earns Obama snub:
When the leaders of the industrial nations meet next month in Russia, there will be formal large sessions and, in the unvarying tradition of diplomacy, many one-on-one meetings at which more real negotiating might be done.
We're glad that President Barack Obama erased one of those sessions from his calendar, that with the authoritarian president of Russia. "The immediate cause of the rupture is the Russian sheltering, against its treaty obligations, of U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden.
However, there are many other good reasons for the United States to avoid entanglement with the near-dictator Vladimir Putin. From Damascus to Moscow, in fact, people are dying or suffering imprisonment because of Putin's reckless policies.
Things will change, as is also an unvarying tradition of diplomacy, but Russo-American relations are going to be in a deep freeze for a while.
The Miami Herald on scandals in Cuba:
A rusty North Korean ship hides 2 MiGs, munitions and radar systems -- 240 tons of contraband weapons in all -- under tons of sacks of Cuban sugar then gets stopped going through the Panama Canal.
A former Cuban Interior Ministry colonel accused of abusing prisoners of conscience retires in Miami, then flees to Cuba when former prisoners spot him on South Florida streets only to return again, this time to New Jersey, and, get this, apply for U.S. aid.
A growing number of Medicare fraudsters owing the U.S. government millions of dollars for fake claims exit stage left and head to the communist island, living the high life with impunity.
Meanwhile, Cuban officials keep decrying the U.S. "imperialist" government for an embargo that has so many loopholes -- allowing food, medicine and even high-tech communications to reach Cubans -- that it's turned into a paper tiger without a Cold War roar.
What's going on? Are U.S. officials paying attention?
Then there's the case of Crescencio Marino Rivero, 71, and his wife Juana Ferrer, as reported by El Nuevo Herald's Cuba reporter Juan Tamayo on Sunday. ...
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may be investigating if the couple lied on their entry papers, but ICE officials won't confirm it -- though former political prisoners have said ICE officials have interviewed them about this case. The couple maintains they are innocent and simply want to live in peace near their daughter in South Florida.
It wouldn't be the first time that former Cuban military or Interior officials get a pass -- virtually every U.S. administration has allowed it in exchange for information that those former officials can provide about Cuba. ...
The question begs: If Cuba is on the State Department's "terror" list, why would the regime's former officials be able to obtain U.S. visas and go back and forth to the island in their "retirement"?
Cuba is not a postcard of rum and dance. It should give U.S. officials pause that the 54-year dictatorship run by the Castro brothers has been securing friends in all the wrong places: from North Korea to Iran. Nothing good can come of it.
Seattle Times on Obama administration de-escalating 'war on drugs':
Attorney General Eric Holder's speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco was a bit like hearing from a stockbroker after trading has closed.
"Well, of course the market went down." Well, of course the U.S. needs to rethink drug laws and enforcement.
Decades after America righteously declared a zero-tolerance policy toward all drug crimes and nonviolent crimes involving drugs, Holder and others want to stop the abuses.
Seize the belated insights whenever they come along.
Support for being "Smart on Crime," in the AG's words, is aimed at undoing laws that maintain "a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration" that "traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities."
Under the policy proposal, fewer drug offenders would face long sentences, fewer would go to federal prison and judges would have more discretion.
Substantial credit for this change of heart might truly go to the bloated, unsustainable expense of a federal prison system bursting at the seams and concentric circles of prison costs the policies impose on local jurisdictions.
These policies are on a path to end in the same way they began, with broad bipartisan support. Republican President Reagan's "War on Drugs" took shape in a heated competition with Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill, D-Mass. ...
Holder's policy direction has stirred questions about the need to replace U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, formerly Seattle's police chief, as he leaves the post for another federal job.
Holder has bipartisan support in Congress for change. Maybe something actually will happen to reform laws that have ruined lives and budgets.
Arizona Republic on Justice Department and airlines:
The federal Justice Department tossed a misguided wrench into the merger plans of US Airways and American Airlines, arguing that the public's interest is ill-served by a commercial passenger-airline industry dominated by three or four mega-airlines.
Wrong. The public interest is far more poorly served by financially weak airlines artificially hamstrung by government lawyers who think they understand market forces but clearly do not.
The lawyers concluded that the public is better off with two large and healthy "legacy" airlines in Delta and United; one healthy discount airline in Southwest; one limping, bankrupt legacy airline in American; and one midsize contender in US Airways -- as opposed to a market contracted into three large and financially strong legacy carriers (Delta, United and the new, merged American) and discount player Southwest.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne joined the Justice lawyers in their suit. Left unchallenged, the merger would reduce competition and raise prices, Horne said.
If this vision constitutes a better market for consumers, it is at best marginally so.
Price and service negatives for consumers can (and often do) result from airline consolidation. ...
Since 2008, the airline's parent company has lost more than $8 billion. American's enormous debt burden, pension costs and other factors leading to its bankruptcy are not appreciably changed by one or two profitable quarters.
The Justice lawsuit presumes a "government knows better" understanding of the future of the commercial passenger-airline industry. That ignores the rise of aggressive discount carriers such as Allegiant and Spirit airlines, to say nothing of expansion-minded Southwest.
The feds may be waving a "consumer interest" flag, but they are just as capable of acting out of self-interest as the airlines are. ...
The longer-term consequences appear to include an industry dominated by a pair of stable legacy carriers, as opposed to three, and a handful of also-rans handicapped by a government that presumes to know more about market forces than the market does.
That doesn't strike us as a deal in the best interest of consumers.
Dallas Morning News on Mexican cartel leader's release an outrage
A Mexican judge's decision to release drug cartel leader Rafael Caro Quintero makes our blood boil. Caro Quintero played a key role in the 1985 kidnapping, sustained torture and death of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Enrique "Kiki" Camarena.
Few cases did more to sour U.S.-Mexico relations than this one. And if President Enrique Pena Nieto fails to act swiftly to block Caro Quintero from escaping justice, bilateral relations could once again turn frosty. Since the United States has long requested Caro Quintero's extradition, Pena Nieto should honor it. Washington should insist on it.
Caro Quintero remains at the top of the DEA's list of international fugitives. He partnered with two other drug lords, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, in a cartel based in the western state of Jalisco but whose business spanned multiple Mexican states, Colombia and the U.S.-Mexico border.
They paid massive bribes to Mexican officials to expand their empire and evade prosecution. All of this occurred when the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was firmly ensconced as the ruling party, a position it held for seven decades, until 2000.
Last year, Mexicans returned the PRI to the presidency after Pena Nieto pledged there would be no return to the party's old, corrupt ways. His handling of Caro Quintero's case serves as a test of the PRI's new commitment to law and order.
Caro Quintero's operations, including Camarena's murder, fell under the aegis of an international criminal enterprise, placing it under Mexican federal court jurisdiction. ...
Neither country can afford to let relations devolve to that old, abysmal era. Mexico should not expect Washington simply to forget what happened. Caro Quintero's extradition would send a strong message about the priority Pena Nieto places on close U.S. relations -- and on serving notice to other cartel leaders that they will not escape justice for their crimes. ...
New York Times on shortsighted thinking on Israeli settlements
There was a certain internal political logic to two announcements made by the Israeli government, just days before Wednesday's scheduled resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians. Early Monday, the government released a list of 26 Palestinian prisoners to be released Tuesday, most serving sentences for murder and other violent crimes. A few hours before that, the government published bids for the construction of more than 1,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and existing West Bank settlements -- a move apparently designed to mollify right-wingers who would oppose the prisoner release.
This balancing act may have made sense in the narrow world of the Knesset. But, in the broader world beyond Israeli domestic politics, giving the green light to more settlement construction in contested territory is not just untimely but a fresh cause for pessimism about the prospects for successful peace negotiations.
Secretary of State John Kerry has set an ambitious goal of reaching a comprehensive peace settlement within nine months. In any conceivable agreement, at least some West Bank settlements will have to be uprooted. And East Jerusalem is where Palestinians hope to locate the capital of their eventual state.
Why further complicate these already complicated negotiations three days before they start? ...
Knowing this, many Israelis also expressed dismay at the settlement announcement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's finance minister and coalition partner, Yair Lapid, rightly complained that it would "needlessly challenge the Americans" and "poke sticks in the wheels of peace talks." Announcing settlement bids now embarrasses Mr. Kerry, who worked very hard to persuade the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, to drop his earlier demand for a settlement freeze. It also unhelpfully embarrasses Mr. Abbas, whose good faith now appears to have been abused and who may now find it harder to sell difficult-but-necessary compromises to his people.
No one is under any illusions that reaching a peace agreement will be easy. Both sides must summon the courage to tackle extremely sensitive issues, like settlements. Mr. Netanyahu can show his by freezing the construction bids before any actual building begins.