Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Chicago Tribune on the two deaths that one family hopes will spark a conversation:
Like thousands of families shattered by drug overdoses, Becky and Mike Savage needed time and space — a breathless, agonizing canyon of pain — to begin to come to terms with the deaths of their two teenage sons. The Savages of Granger, Ind., a town near South Bend, lost two of their four sons on the same night due to accidental overdoses.
Smart, athletic and talented, 19-year-old Nick and 18-year-old Jack went to a graduation party together on June 13, 2015. Nick, a soon-to-be sophomore at Indiana University, and Jack, a soon-to-be freshman at Ball State University, returned home with friends around midnight.
They died sometime overnight, Jack in his bed and Nick in the basement with friends.
... The boys had mixed alcohol and oxycodone. Even a small amount of alcohol with a tablet containing oxycodone can be deadly, medical research has shown. But Nick and Jack, neither with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, didn't know the dangers. Their friends didn't know the dangers. Their parents didn't know the dangers.
They want you to know. The Savages, featured in a recent Tribune story by reporter Kate Thayer, launched the 525 Foundation in honor of their sons. The foundation's purpose is to educate. Becky Savage has traveled to schools around the country, shared her family's tragic story with media outlets and testified before Congress. The foundation also spearheads a drop-off program at local grocery stores where people can anonymously leave unused prescriptions. The money raised through the foundation pays for the drop-off boxes and a removal company that safely destroys the medicines.
Like many parents, the Savages had talked to their boys about drugs and alcohol, drinking and driving, sex — coming-of-age conversations that for decades have become part of the American teenage experience. National education campaigns, school curriculum changes and a cultural shift toward awareness have become part of the growing-up lexicon.
But there's a gap. Parents and educators are not as vigilant in warning about the dangers of prescription drugs. Many medicine cabinets — maybe yours — house bottles of powerful, legal painkillers, often expired or no longer used, but still potentially lethal. An accident, an injury or surgery can justify all kinds of medications. The contents of those bottles, though, can be deadly if they end up in the wrong hands.
Becky Savage has a compelling story to tell young people, their parents and grandparents, their educators and all the adults in their lives. Fourth of July weekend, with families gathered and work schedules light, is an ideal time to read her message — and follow, not sidestep, her advice.
The details of the night Nick and Jack died remain somewhat unclear. Two people at the graduation party were charged criminally after police learned the gathering took place at a home where parents were out of town, underage kids were drinking and at least one person handed out pills. One of the pill distributors himself suffered an overdose that night but was revived by paramedics.
Becky Savage believes the boys were drinking and their altered state of mind, along with peer pressure, contributed to their decision to take painkillers. In her speeches to teens, she reminds them how one bad decision, one first-time experiment, can be deadly.
... The World Drug Report estimates up to 53 million people used opioids in 2017 ... Overdose deaths in Illinois since 2013 have jumped by 60 percent to an estimated 2,525 in 2018. Opioids include illegal drugs, such as heroin; synthetic drugs such as fentanyl and hydrocodone; and legal prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and morphine.
Studies have shown even a small amount of alcohol mixed with oxycodone can cause alarming side effects including respiratory problems. The Savage boys' cause of death was accidental overdose.
The morning after the party, Becky Savage frantically tried to revive Jack after realizing he was unconscious in bed. While paramedics swarmed the house, she learned that Nick's friends in the basement — awakened by her screaming — had called first responders for him. But both boys were gone.
... Her advice to parents is to clean out medicine cabinets and have conversations about how to "create an exit plan" a teen can implement when he or she wants to escape a peer-pressure situation. She also tells parents not to overreact if they end up picking up their teens at parties where they shouldn't have been in the first place. At least the young people are still alive.
On the 525 Foundation's website, she blogged recently about cleaning out the boys' bedroom at the family lake house where she still finds respite. Going there became her own escape plan after the deaths of Nick and Jack. Becky, Mike and their younger sons, Justin and Matthew, did not sleep again in the house where the boys died. They drove to the lake instead, every night. Recently, she decided to clean out and update the bunk room, a place that had been largely left alone. Folding and refolding the boys' little SpongeBob T-shirts lying inside their dresser drawers triggered a wave of grief.
?"I told myself their lives gave us memories too beautiful to forget," she wrote. "I told myself the tears were just love that was overflowing from my heart. I told myself painting a few walls doesn't erase the memories.? I told myself change can be good . even though it's difficult."
Today. This weekend. Please. Have the talk.
The New York Times on the recent growth in the U.S. economy:
Raise a glass to the longest economic expansion in modern American history.
A full decade has passed since the end of the last recession, in June 2009, and the economy continues to grow. As of Monday, the current expansion surpassed the previous record for uninterrupted growth, set between 1991 and 2001.
But this time around, no one is accusing Americans of irrational exuberance: These good times don't feel particularly good. Economic growth over the past decade has been slow and fragile, and most of the benefits have been claimed by a small minority of the population.
The sense of disappointment is more than a feeling. Through the first quarter of 2019, the nation's gross domestic product had increased by 25 percent during the current expansion. Between 1991 and 2001, economic output expanded by 42 percent. Between 1982 and 1990, output increased 38 percent. And between 1961 and 1969, output grew by 52 percent.
The distribution of the gains is even less satisfying.
Truck drivers still earned, on average, slightly less in 2018 than in 2009, after adjusting for inflation. Executive compensation, by contrast, went up, up and away. Chief executives of companies in the S&P 500 stock index — a list that includes most of the nation's largest corporations — made an average of $14.5 million in 2018, increasing by $5.2 million in the past decade, according to data compiled by the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
The wealthy have also reaped most of the gains from rising stock prices. The least affluent 70 percent of American households had less wealth at the end of 2018 than at the beginning of 2007, according to the Federal Reserve. The top 30 percent of households saw at least some increase, but the big gains were heavily concentrated at the very top, in the hands of a small proportion of extraordinarily wealthy families.
This inequality of prosperity has become a defining issue in the nation's politics. President Trump ran on the promise that he would restructure the economy to revive employment in mining and manufacturing. Democrats vying to run against the president in 2020 are offering their own prescriptions for economic revival — and speaking of the plight of American workers in language usually reserved for recessions.
That rhetoric contrasts with the slow but steady improvement in economic conditions over the past decade. The unemployment rate is bumping along at the lowest levels since the 1960s; wages have started to rise more quickly, particularly for low-wage workers.
But the fact that it took so long to get here is a big problem for many American families. While unemployment is low, the slow pace of the recovery means that the average rate of unemployment in a given month during the past decade was a full percentage point higher than during the 1991-2001 expansion and almost two points higher than between 1961 and 1969.
There is also reason to worry that America has squandered the opportunity for a more prosperous future. During periods of economic growth, governments can take advantage of swelling tax revenues to improve infrastructure, invest in education and fund research. Companies can plow profits into new products and markets. But over the past decade, both public and private sectors have largely refrained from investing. The government has handed out tax cuts while companies have handed out dividends and repurchased shares. In effect, they've chosen to distribute profits among already wealthy Americans rather than develop the intellectual capital and equipment that could increase growth in the decades ahead, as investments in public universities, highways, fundamental scientific research and satellite networks did in the past.
Another result of the Trump administration's tax cut is that federal deficits, which usually shrink during periods of economic growth, are on the rise. That leaves less room for the government to respond to a downturn by cutting taxes or by increasing spending. And the Fed cannot easily ride to the rescue: It has kept rates low to extend this fragile expansion, leaving little room to cut rates.
The end of an expansion, like the death of a star, is visible only after it happens. It is possible the economy will continue to grow for years, giving policymakers a chance to do better; long-lived expansions have become increasingly common across the developed world. It's also possible that the analysts predicting a recession next year — there are always analysts predicting a recession next year — will turn out to be right.
So enjoy this lackluster expansion while it lasts. What comes next may well be worse.
Los Angeles Times on U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the court's most recent term:
The Supreme Court term that ended last week can be critiqued on the basis of the wisdom of the court's decisions — or the lack of it. But it's also appropriate to judge the justices, and particularly Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., on whether they safeguarded the court's independence from partisan politics, as well as the perception of its independence.
By that measure the court earned a passing grade. That's important because, while the court long has been the subject of political controversy, its credibility is especially compromised in these polarized times.
President Trump has contributed to the perception of politicization, describing a federal judge who ruled against the administration's asylum policy as an "Obama judge." (The chief justice pushed back in a rare public statement, saying: "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.") Meanwhile some Democrats have portrayed Trump's judicial selections — including the judges he elevated to the Supreme Court — as untrustworthy agents of the far right or business interests.
The justices lived down to that expectation at times, separating into conservative and liberal blocs on some cases freighted with political overtones. See, for example, the 2018 decision upholding Trump's ban on visitors from a number of Muslim-majority countries. And more recently, the execrable decision to duck the question of whether extreme partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional.
But in its recent term, the court also did a good deal to dispel the idea that the justices always vote in partisan blocs. In at least some cases, they seem to have adopted Roberts' philosophy of seeking consensus and avoiding sweeping decisions when possible.
Take the court's 7-2 decision last month holding that a war memorial in the form of a giant cross on public land near a highway intersection in Maryland didn't violate the 1st Amendment's ban on an "establishment of religion."
In our view, that was the wrong decision because the cross on public property could be viewed as an endorsement of Christianity. But frankly, the decision could've been a lot worse, and it disappointed conservatives who had hoped the court would use the case to announce a new, more permissive approach to government endorsement of religion. Instead, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s majority opinion instead rested heavily on the notion that the cross had stood on that spot for decades and had come to symbolize the nonreligious value of community gratitude to the war dead.
The court also showed restraint in sending back to an Oregon court a case involving bakers who were fined $135,000 for defying a civil rights law by refusing to bake a wedding cake for the marriage of two women. Social conservatives had seen the case as a vehicle for a broad holding that businesses could cite religious reasons for refusing to serve gay customers. That would have been disastrous. The court should ultimately say the opposite: that freedom of religion can't be used as an excuse to engage in discrimination. But thanks to Trump's conservative appointees, there may not be the votes on the court for that outcome.
The justices also disappointed conservatives by declining to review a federal appeals court ruling blocking an Indiana law that could have made it illegal for women to end a pregnancy because of the race or gender of the fetus or if they received a diagnosis of Down syndrome.
Finally and perhaps most important, Roberts joined the court's liberal justices in a ruling that questioned the motives of the Trump administration in moving to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. Roberts said that the administration's justification for asking the question — that it would help in enforcement of the Voting Rights Act — "seems to have been contrived." That was a charitable description of the administration's maneuvering, which seems to have been motivated by a desire to depress Latino participation in the census and as a result, reduce Democratic representation in the next round of redistricting. Roberts' fellow Republican appointees should have joined him in that rebuke.
Finally, this term dispelled fears that Trump's two appointees would always vote as interchangeable members of a "right-wing gang of five." Neil M. Gorsuch has joined with liberal justices in criminal justice cases and Brett M. Kavanaugh joined the liberals in a 5-4 decision allowing an anti-trust lawsuit against Apple to go forward. No doubt the two justices called these cases as they saw them, based on their own flavor of conservative judicial philosophy. But the fact they don't always vote as a partisan bloc is reassurance — and we need it — that the justices aren't politicians in robes.
Wall Street Journal on Nike's decision not to release an American flag themed shoe:
Colin Kaepernick may no longer be a quarterback, but he's calling the plays at Nike. The athletic shoe company was scheduled to release a sneaker featuring the "Betsy Ross flag" this week, but the former San Francisco 49er thought it wasn't a good idea. The Air Max 1 USA, featuring the Founding-era American flag with 13 white stars arranged in a circle to represent the original colonies, would have gone on sale to mark the Fourth of July holiday. Not any more.
We commend Nike executives for their original patriotic instincts, assuming they were sincere, but they didn't think this one through. Last year the company launched an ad campaign featuring a black-and-white photo of Mr. Kaepernick bearing the words "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."
The slogan is an allusion to Mr. Kaepernick's belief that the NFL declined to sign him after his 2016 season, not because he played badly (though by most measures he did) but because he knelt during the National Anthem to protest police brutality against African-Americans.
Remember the National Anthem? Normally we sing it standing and facing the American flag. Did no one at Nike foresee a contradiction between its exaltation of Mr. Kaepernick's anti-flag fervor, on the one hand, and its flag-embossed sneaker on the other?
Mr. Kaepernick certainly noticed. The former QB, seeing images of the Stars-and-Stripes-themed shoe on social media, contacted Nike to convey his disapproval. According to a report in The Journal, he told Nike he believes the flag is an offensive symbol of oppression and slavery, dating as it does from the 1770s. Nike folded faster than the New York Giants offensive line.
The company had already shipped the shoes to retailers, but it deferred to Mr. Kaepernick's historical and semiotic expertise and had them all recalled. Nike offered no explanation. A company spokesperson would only say the shoe was recalled because "it featured the old version of the American flag."
Nike is entitled to cancel its products for any reason. But the rest of us are entitled to point out that no flag of the United States is a symbol of oppression and racism, and that Mr. Kaepernick's suggestion that it is one— with Nike's tacit agreement — is political theater based on false history. We're also old enough to recall when feminists considered Betsy Ross a hero, not a symbol of repression. But that's another sign of our current political insanity.
It's also worth remembering that harebrained controversies like this give many Americans the not unreasonable sense that their country is being maligned by pampered social-justice warriors. Donald Trump has reaped enormous political benefits from the ill-judged fashion among NFL players to kneel during the National Anthem. If the President wins re-election, perhaps he should write a thank-you note to Colin Kaepernick and Nike.
The Japan News on the latest summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un:
The latest summit meeting was unusual, as it was held at a place that symbolizes the divided Korean Peninsula. How should an appeal for the easing of tensions by the U.S. and North Korean leaders be utilized to achieve North Korea's denuclearization? It is important to produce tangible results.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, held talks at Panmunjom, which lies along the military demarcation line. They agreed to resume working-level talks between their nations for North Korea's denuclearization.
The previous summit talks in February were broken off, as North Korea demanded the removal of sanctions imposed on it in exchange for its partial denuclearization. In May, North Korea launched short-range ballistic missiles. The latest summit meeting can be praised for halting an exacerbation of the situation and creating a trend toward bilateral dialogue.
It was of no small significance that the United States demonstrated its intention to play a leading role in dealing with the North Korean problem, at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping followed one another in having talks with Kim, with a view to expanding their influence in this respect.
The question is whether working-level talks can be brought on the right track at last. The United States and North Korea are said to be setting up a negotiation team, aiming to start talks within two or three weeks.
After the U.S. and North Korean leaders reached an agreement to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula during their first summit in June last year, working-level talks were repeatedly frustrated.
... The United States has demanded North Korea declare and dismantle all its nuclear weapons and facilities. North Korea pledged to stop producing nuclear weapons and conducting nuclear tests, but it has not referred to the dismantlement of its existing nuclear weapons.
By utilizing the diplomatic efforts of the leaders to make a fresh start, it is necessary to close this gap through working-level talks. The two countries also need to work out the details of the technical matters involved, such as procedures for denuclearization and verification methods.
Using his twitter account, Trump urged Kim to hold a meeting with him and he made it happen. He became the first sitting U.S. president to enter North Korea. With a U.S. presidential election set for next year, Trump also aimed to emphasize his latest meeting as a historic achievement.
Making an easy compromise must be avoided. It is essential to maintain the sanctions on North Korea until it takes action to denuclearize itself. It is also indispensable to cope with North Korea's short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, which threaten Japan's security.
North Korea's state media trumpeted the latest summit talks, saying, "A new history of reconciliation and peace has begun." It is safe to say that Kim has succeeded in enhancing his prestige. Will he be able to maintain a close relationship with Trump, however, while putting off his country's denuclearization as in the past?
In reference to Trump's entry into North Korea, Kim praised the move as "a very courageous and determined act" that will "bring an end to the unpleasant past." If he wants to normalize relations with the United States and conclude a peace agreement, Kim should take measures to lessen his country's nuclear and missile threats and to stabilize the region.
Boston Herald on cyber warfare:
So what if the entire history of you was under scrutiny?
For many, maybe most of us, no big deal. On the other hand, that late-night call to an old flame just before you got married might be embarrassing to have surface. But what if it's way worse? What if someone could reconstruct every place you were, every person you've talked to.
Boston-based Cybereason, a cyber security firm with Israel Defense Forces roots, told TechCrunch of a massive spying hack that stole call records from more than 10 global cell network providers, going back seven years. The hack appears to have targeted at least 20 specific individuals.
Who were the targets? Government officials? Corporate bigwigs?
We don't know. But Cybereason says the data can be used to track the date, time and location of the calls.
This isn't small potatoes: The NSA has collected this information for a long time, over the vehement protests of privacy advocates. If the NSA wants it, and the hackers want it, there must be significant value in this capability, right?
Cybereason told TechCrunch they became aware of these hacks a year ago, and have tracked the hacks to learn that it's been an ongoing operation. Which means the hackers are following specific people. Why?
"You could see straight away that they know what they're after," Amit Serper, head of security research at Cybereason, told TechCrunch.
Cybereason said they weren't going to name the affected providers, but said many were sizable, and that it didn't find evidence that North American providers had been infiltrated.
The company also didn't notify the targeted individuals.
Cybereason thinks a hack this sophisticated is very likely the work of a nation-state.
Perhaps you've seen or heard of squabbles over a Chinese telecom firm and smartphone provider called Huawei. It's currently at the center of a raging battle with the U.S. government, which has put severe restrictions on the use of Huawei products and services, citing fears the company is in cahoots with the Chinese government and is essentially a tool for spying. U.S. companies are being blocked from using Huawei computer chips, software and other components without government approval.
Cybereason characterized the hacks as "textbook APT 10" — a hacker group believed to be backed by China.
While the Russia/WikiLeaks accusations have raged, the Trump Administration has warned of possible threats from China. Whoever is behind these acts, the U.S. needs to get to the bottom of it, and continue to apply pressure on foreign entities who seek to undermine us.