Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail on how Marcellus gas can make the world a safer place:
Right now, Europe would love nothing more than to stop Vladimir Putin from reassembling the old Evil Empire of the Soviet Union
But Putin has Europe cornered this winter. Russia supplies 36 percent of the natural gas consumed by Germans.
Twelve other European countries are even more dependent with the three Baltic states and Finland receiving all of their natural gas from Mother Russia. It is difficult to stand up to someone when you are shivering from the cold.
West Virginia can help. The U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates that West Virginia and its neighbors are sitting on 141 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Marcellus shale formation.
Surely some natural gas from West Virginia and other sources in the United States can be sold and shipped to Europe to end the Russian monopoly.
But federal law restricts exports of natural gas, as House Speaker John Boehner pointed out in a column in the Wall Street Journal.
"These policies have amounted to our nation imposing economic sanctions on itself -- sentencing consumers in the U.S. and abroad to higher prices and slower growth while ceding the international energy marketplace to countries such as Russia, Venezuela and Iran," Boehner wrote.
Exporting natural gas to Europe would benefit West Virginians. State government receives about $175 million a year in severance taxes from oil and gas. Increased sales abroad would increase those tax revenues. The state already exports more than $7 billion a year worth of coal.
Boehner called upon President Obama to approve the Keystone pipeline, lift his restrictions on oil and gas from federal lands and expedite applications to export liquefied natural gas.
Ending the Russian monopoly on natural gas throughout central and eastern Europe would allow those nations to be truly independent of Putin and Russia. Sales of natural gas from the United States to Europe would hurt Moscow in the pocketbook as half of Russian tax revenues come from oil and gas exports. The soft power of exporting energy would be far more effective than the current timid diplomacy displayed by Europe and Washington.
Drill, baby, drill -- and make the world a safer and more peaceful place.
Arizona Republic on border patrol doing better:
The U.S. Border Patrol, kicking and screaming, on Friday announced clarifications in its use-of-force policies.
They are small changes, just a statement of common sense. That they have to be said -- and come only because of pressure from Congress and the press -- says much about the need for greater oversight and restraint at this agency.
Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher told agents to stop jumping in front of vehicles they're trying to stop. He said they can no longer fire on a vehicle "merely fleeing from agents."
And if someone starts throwing rocks at them, agents should move out of range instead of immediately shooting.
Recommendations to this effect were blacked out of a congressionally requested report into 19 deaths, only to later be revealed by press reports. That's an indication that enough pressure driven by disturbing truths can bring change even to this recalcitrant agency.
Had these policies been in force, Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez might be alive today.
He's the 16-year-old boy shot in the back while walking down a street in Nogales, Sonora. Border Patrol agents firing through the border fence hit him multiple times.
Pressure needs to continue on the agency to fully reveal its use-of-force policies, as all other police agencies do. The Border Patrol needs to be pressed to acknowledge mistakes and release a full accounting of deaths at the hands of its agents.
Boston Herald on traveling dirty secrets:
It is apparently the dirty little secret of international airline travel that more than 1 billion times a year passengers board planes without ever having their passports checked against Interpol's database of 40 million lost or stolen passports.
Even as investigators search for the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared out of the sky after leaving Kuala Lumpur, the tale of two men who boarded the jet with stolen passports was raising even more speculation about its fate. That the two men, ages 19 and 29 were Iranian, traveling together and traveling light, hasn't calmed any nerves.
But even if the two turn out to be simply unfortunate travelers -- along with the other 237 souls on board -- there is now no longer denying the security lapses that are a part of hopping a flight from most locations around the globe.
Only a relative handful of countries -- the United States, Britain, the United Arab Emirates -- bother to check passengers' passports against the Interpol database.
Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said his agency has long asked why countries would "wait for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates."
Fighting terrorism isn't the only reason for making those cross-checks either. There really is no good reason to be traveling with a stolen passport, now is there? Think drug smugglers, money launderers, criminals of all sorts.
The other take-away from this disaster is the revelation that Thailand is apparently the stolen passport capital of the world, where gangs of thieves have been known to go room to room at less-secure hotels.
It will ultimately be up to travelers to vote with their feet and their travel dollars for nations and airlines that put security first.
Toronto Star on Canada's trade deal with South Korea is a calculated risk:
At first blush, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's free trade agreement with South Korea looks like pretty small beer. Federal officials say it will boost Canada's $530-billion annual global exports in goods and services by a relatively paltry $1.7 billion or so. Spread across a $1.9-trillion economy, the impact would be hard to feel.
There's even less to crow about if you share Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's understandable concern that the pact risks further hollowing out one of the heartland's key industries. "In terms of the agri-food sector, we are very optimistic about the opportunities that a Canada-Korea deal might provide," she says. "We do have reservations about the auto sector" and the 93,000 direct jobs that ride on it. There's merit in Queen's Park's call for a task force to monitor the rollout of this deal.
Harper says the pact will "create jobs and opportunities" when it comes into force after it is ratified by both governments. That will likely be next year. But in his rush to sign the deal Harper took a calculated risk. He failed to negotiate the same protections that the United States leveraged in its own 2012 trade deal with South Korea, and that may prove costly. Ford of Canada predicts that Korea will remain "one of the most closed automotive markets in the world." And Unifor, the country's largest private sector union, sees the deal as a "serious threat" to domestic production and jobs. We'll only know for sure once Korean automakers such as Hyundai and Kia gain duty-free access in a few years.
On the brighter side, the deal does provide a little catch-up for Canada in terms of getting a toehold in the Asian market. That matters, given the region's rapid growth.
As the Star's Les Whittington and Robert Benzie report, it is our first trade liberalization pact with an Asia-Pacific country, opening the door to deals with other Pacific Rim nations, including Japan. The European Union, the U.S. and Australia have all reached similar deals with South Korea, putting Canada at a competitive disadvantage and hobbling our exports. Much of this deal is about regaining lost ground.
Moreover like the recent Canada-EU trade deal -- a centrepiece of Harper's political legacy which stands to boost our economy by $12 billion -- the Korea agreement is welcome to the extent that it helps diversify Canada's exports, marginally easing our unhealthy over-dependency on the U.S. market.
The Australian on bleak days for Malaysia justice:
The world's preoccupation with the missing Malaysia Airlines flight is understandable. But the long-entrenched government in Kuala Lumpur must not be allowed to escape scrutiny over the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the sudden court decision to overturn opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's successful appeal against a conviction on sodomy charges and sentence him to another five years in jail. The move reeks of blatant political interference and, as the US State Department has said - on the eve of a visit to Kuala Lumpur by President Barack Obama - it raises serious questions about the rule of law and independence of the courts in one of the most important countries in our region, and one with which Australia has particularly close ties.
According to the Malaysia Bar Council and others, the Appellate Court's unusual decision to suddenly expedite hearing of the appeal against Anwar's acquittal, pending since last July, came only days before the deadline for nominations in the crucial Selangor state assembly by-election and a month before it was scheduled to be heard. Anwar, a perpetual and highly effective thorn in the side of the long-dominant Barisan National coalition, was set for a victory that would have made him chief minister of Malaysia's most populous and richest state - a powerful platform from which to campaign against the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak. This prospect was clearly too much for the ruling coalition, which is still smarting from the debacle it suffered in last year's general election when it lost the popular vote for the first time in 44 years, though it managed to cling to its parliamentary majority through quirks in the voting system and the gerrymandering for which it has long been notorious.
Anwar is now barred from contesting the by-election, as he will be from the next national election. No wonder Human Rights Watch has labelled the case "politically motivated persecution". Anwar has been put through a judicial wringer since first being charged in 1998. The country deserves far better than the endless political and judicial chicanery being seen in Kuala Lumpur.