Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers around the world:
Miami Herald on desperation in Venezuela:
The incompetence of President Nicolas Maduro's government in Venezuela, coupled with rampant corruption, is reaching dangerous levels that could portend a social explosion in that politically tense nation. With inflation reaching just under 50 percent for September and shortages of basic consumer goods multiplying by the day, there is no clear path to resolution of the country's increasingly severe problems.
In the latest sign that the economy is falling apart, Toyota announced last week that it would have to close for two weeks because of delays in getting dollars from the state currency board, Cadivi. A shortage of materials left the company, a prominent multi-national struggling to remain productive amid the economic chaos, unable to keep its doors open.
The shortage of dollars is the inevitable result of the currency controls imposed by the late Hugo Chavez, founder of the Bolivarian Revolution who died earlier this year and left the country in the clumsy hands of his (and the Cuban regime's) hand-picked heir, Maduro. Since then, the country has been wracked by a series of crises made worse by a heavy-handed government weighed down by its woeful ignorance of basic economics.
Once, Venezuela could have relied on its oil wealth to save the day, but ever since Chavez turned control of the government oil company, PDVSA, over to his political cronies, it is no longer as efficient or as productive.
In desperation, Maduro last month traveled to China to seek a loan of up to $4 billion to rescue his economy, but his erstwhile friends in Beijing turned him down and Maduro came away with only a few trade agreements.
Faced with a sea of troubles, Maduro has sought scapegoats. Last month, he expelled three U.S. diplomats and accused them of conspiracy and sabotage, uttering the most unimaginative cliche in the book: "Yankee, go home." (Yep, he really said that.)
Maduro is still seeking permission from lawmakers to rule by decree, but that won't solve his problems even if he can twist enough arms to get the votes he needs. Eventually, he and his gang will run out of scapegoats, excuses and imagined conspiracies, and that's when the crunch will come.
Heading into municipal elections in December, Venezuela's people are clearly fed up with his failed governance and may well send a signal by voting for the regime's opponents at the local level. At this point, the only thing that can save Venezuela is a change in course that Maduro's government is apparently unable or unwilling to provide.
The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on Iran's clever gambit:
The high-profile Iranian nuclear peace offensive launched with fanfare by newly elected President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations last month has disturbed long-standing U.S. allies in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. They are right to be worried.
So far, Iran continues to insist on its right to enrich uranium. Moreover, it refuses to close an enrichment facility under control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
If talks are to advance, the United States and its co-negotiators from the European Union, Russia and China will have to make concessions leaving Iran with the capability to make nuclear weapons even if its immediate ambitions are blunted.
It makes you wonder why some Western diplomats were expressing "cautious optimism" following last week's closed meeting in Geneva.
Since 2006 the United Nations has demanded that Iran stop enriching uranium, a process that produces material for nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Iran has built up a large-scale uranium-enrichment industry.
It has manufactured a large amount of low-enriched uranium suitable to fuel a power-generating nuclear reactor, and has started accumulating medium-enriched fuel for a research reactor that makes medical isotopes used to fight cancer.
And it can make high-enriched uranium used in nuclear weapons if it so chooses.
Up until now Washington and its allies, negotiating for the U.N., have demanded that Iran give up weapons-grade uranium as a first step toward lifting sanctions. ...
Iran has timed its push to get sanctions lifted with a shrewd eye on President Obama's need for a foreign policy "success." No wonder the Saudis are reported to view the administration as having gone soft. No wonder that the Israeli cabinet issued a statement before the Geneva meeting warning about the dangers of a premature end to sanctions if it allows Iran to continue taking steps leading to nuclear weapons.
The Seattle Times on who is watching the NSA:
Distributing revelations about the voracious appetite of the National Security Agency for personal email and instant messaging accounts stir a basic question: Where is Congress and the executive branch?
Who is looking out for the rights of Americans? Apparently no one.
The NSA, which already legally collects U.S. call records, also collects contact lists. The Washington Post reports the agency is not authorized by Congress or the special intelligence court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to gather this data.
Collecting the information is illegal in the U.S., so the NSA does its work overseas. This is a variation on endlessly holding terror suspects in foreign jails and torturing them outside of U.S. legal restrictions.
Irony of ironies, the NSA is collecting communications data at a volume that has imperiled the capacities of storage repositories.
Both Congress and the executive branch come off badly. Lawmakers are fully empowered to hold hearings, ask questions and rewrite budgets if they do not like the answers or outcomes. President Obama is absolutely responsible for how the money is spent, and this bald evasion of the law does not reflect well on the Harvard Law School grad.
Unnamed officials tell the Post that Americans should not be worried because the sleuths are only looking for links to terrorist plotters. All that personal stuff is safe.
Right, it is safe until some low-ranking employee with a big security clearance decides the world ought to know whom ordinary Americans are communicating with.
That kind of random decision is how Americans know about this profound level of surveillance; former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked the secrets before he fled to Russia.
Hundreds of millions of communication contacts could be dumped by someone else who perceives a higher purpose.
Get Congress involved, and wake up the White House.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the Arab kingdom passes on a coveted U.N. seat:
What started recently as a routine action at the United Nations Security Council, the election of non-permanent members, turned into a major drama when Saudi Arabia, one of the five just elected, turned down the seat.
The Security Council is made up of 15 members. Five are permanent: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Ten are non-permanent, with five chosen each year for a two-year term. Last week Chad, Chile, Lithuania, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia were picked to serve until 2015.
The Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arabia dropped a bomb by declining the seat and listing grievances against the Security Council for rejecting what is generally considered to be an honor. The Arab Group at the U.N. urged Saudi Arabia to take the seat, while the Arab League recommended refusing it. The country's U.N. delegation was apparently caught by surprise, having lobbied at this General Assembly session for the seat.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry said the Security Council had showed its "inability to perform its duties." Specifically, it complained about the U.N.'s inaction on the Syrian war and chemical weapons, the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the presence of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, presumably referring to Iran and Israel.
The Saudis apparently were also expressing annoyance at the United States for avoiding a military attack on Syria by leaving the removal of Syria's chemical weapons up to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, for restarting the Israeli-Palestinian talks and for resuming the long-suspended dialogue with Iran on its nuclear weapons program.
Some Saudi elements may prefer to conduct the kingdom's foreign policy privately, apart from international bodies, thereby forgoing the opportunity that the Security Council provides to swing a bigger bat in global affairs. Saudi rulers may consider that relative isolation is key to the monarchy's preservation in the 21st century, but that remains to be seen.
The Australian on cunning Carr exits stage left:
Bob Carr was one of the few ministers in the Gillard government who seemed to be enjoying himself. In November 1984, just a year after he was elected to the NSW parliament, he confided in his diary that "the ultimate taste of politics" would be to serve as minister for foreign affairs in a Labor government.
It explains why Senator Carr relished the job as foreign minister, even though he held the post for just 18 months. He had also long coveted a seat on the red leather benches of the Senate, putting his name forward on at least four previous occasions. Voters have every right to be disappointed that Senator Carr has quit before his new six-year term commences next July. Yet as he argued yesterday, parties should use casual vacancies to attract into politics people with experience. The Australian welcomed his appointment to the Senate. We suggested Labor and the Coalition look to other former premiers, in addition to leaders in fields outside politics, to bolster their parliamentary ranks. It is disappointing to see that NSW Labor is set to hand the Senate vacancy to Deborah O'Neill, a one-term MP who lost her NSW central coast seat of Robertson at the election. The party has not taken his parting advice.
Nor does it seem the Gillard government heeded much of his advice, despite decades of political experience. Senator Carr's resignation leaves John Faulkner as the only political adult in the Labor caucus. The departure of Labor elders Martin Ferguson and Simon Crean, with links to the Hawke-Keating era, leaves Labor lacking the experience it needs to find its way back to the mainstream political centre. Yesterday, Senator Carr offered advice on three issues that have caused Labor much political pain: carbon pricing, asylum-seeker policy and media regulation. ...
Senator Carr began his political career in 1983 as a backbencher in Wran's NSW Labor government. He served as a minister from 1984 to 1988. He led NSW Labor in opposition. Although there were missed opportunities during his period as NSW premier, from 1995 to 2005, he was often politically astute and an effective communicator. On policy, we sometimes differed with Senator Carr, particularly on his decision to mount a backroom political revolt against Julia Gillard on Palestine's status at the UN. But we acknowledge that Australia won a UN Security Council seat on his watch, that the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan was handled well and that key bilateral relationships were generally strong. But it is Senator Carr's political acumen and his ability to tell a story, albeit often directed at Labor's self-interest, which the party will miss most.
The Japan Times on U.S. deal is made:
There was a collective sigh of relief as Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress agreed at the 11th hour on a deal that reopened the government and averted a debt default. The agreement represents a virtually complete victory for President Barack Obama, who held steady to his position refusing to negotiate with a gun to his head.
He is right. Extortion is no way to run a government. Unfortunately it is not clear if hardline Republicans have learned a lesson. The terms of the deal mean that they will have another chance in a few months to try to bring the president, the Democrats and the country to their knees.
As always the final hours of negotiation were messy. As Senate leaders from both parties looked set to strike a deal, House Republicans tried to pre-empt any compromise with a plan of their own. That gambit temporarily stalled the Senate talks.
Again, however, those GOP representatives were unable to agree among themselves, leaving a simple choice: the Senate proposal or default. Sensing that a default would be a mistake, the House GOP leadership abandoned its fealty to the Hastert rule -- a self-imposed principle by which any legislation tabled by the GOP must enjoy a majority of the majority -- and allowed a vote on the Senate proposal.
Having passed the Senate by a margin of 81-18 vote, the House followed by approving it 285 to 144. All dissenters were Republicans. Obama signed the bill just after midnight.
The final agreement funds the government until Jan. 15, 2014, and raises the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. In the interim, a bipartisan commission from both chambers will attempt to hammer out a larger budget deal that includes entitlement and tax code reform to provide long-term deficit reduction. The commission is to wrap up its work by Dec. 13 and then face a vote from the entire Congress.
Unfortunately it is precisely Congress' inability to strike such a deal that put the U.S. in this position. ...
Obama is right to insist that extortion is no way to run a government and that concessions in these circumstances will only cripple future presidents.
It is not clear what, if anything, Republicans have learned from this debacle. GOP popularity ratings have reached historical lows. The party is perceived as being responsible for the shutdown, ready to take the U.S. economy and, by extension, the world economy to the precipice, and as being more interested in photo opportunities than in the hardships imposed on ordinary Americans.
Many Republicans continue to dismiss the notion that a default will damage U.S. status and influence around the world. While GOP moderates acknowledge the damage done to their party's image -- and hope that memories will fade by the time of the 2014 midterm elections so that the party can retake control of the Senate -- hardliners insist that the only problem is that they were not radical enough. ...
The questions remain: How many more times must the world watch the spectacle of lawmaker brinkmanship over the U.S. debt, and what it will take to silence the radicals? Ultimately, it is up to U.S. voters to stop this madness and demand accountability from their politicians. It is not too much to ask for.