Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Boston Herald on H. Ross Perot's death and his impact on America and politics:
Ross Perot was not a large man: barely 5 feet, 6 inches tall, and maybe 150 pounds. But he was a giant.
Perot died in Dallas (July 9) at age 89. A family spokesman said the cause was leukemia.
He led an amazing life serving his country, amassing a fortune on his own and ultimately launching a third-party run for president in 1992 that wound up garnering 19 percent of the popular vote. It was the most successful third-party run since Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Party splintered off from President William Howard Taft's Republican Party in 1912, throwing the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
Perot may have had a similar effect in 1992, and the reverberations are still being felt today.
By any independent accounting, H. Ross Perot was quintessentially American, and unabashedly Texan. Born Henry Ray Perot in Texarkana in 1930, Perot was a born fireball — he began earning money at age 7, and by the time he was 12 he was delivering his local newspaper, the Texarkana Gazette, on horseback and established a hugely successful route. It was a set piece in Perot's life. He wasn't the brightest student, but refused to be outworked. After two years at a junior college, Perot earned an appointment to the Naval Academy. He became class president, graduating in 1953.
His 4-year stint in the Navy was too late for Korea and too soon for Vietnam. In 1957, he joined civilian life and began a Midas-like career. He started at IBM in Dallas, at one point selling his annual quota in three weeks. The slowness of corporate life rankled him, so he quit, founding his own company — Electronic Data Systems — that became a mammoth force in the burgeoning computer industry. He made a fortune when EDS went public in 1968, becoming one of America's wealthiest men.
He was a titan in business but had bigger ideas. He became not just a philanthropist, but an evangelist for causes he believed in, and one of those was care for veterans. In 1969, alarmed by reports of mistreatment of American POWs in Vietnam, he chartered two jets and filled them with food, medicine and supplies. The North Vietnamese turned him away, but he raised awareness. Even bolder was his rescue effort in 1979 in Iran, where he authorized a commando raid that freed two EDS employees from an Iranian prison and served as the basis for Ken Follett's best-seller "On Wings of Eagles."
And the money kept coming. GM bought EDS for $2.6 billion in 1984, then paid Perot $750 million to go away two years later. So he started a new company, Perot Systems, in 1988. Dell bought that in 2009 for $3.9 billion.
But it was Perot's foray into politics that has had lasting impact. Perot hated inefficiency, and saw it everywhere in Washington, D.C.
George H.W. Bush was poised to get another four years against the Democrats, who settled on a governor from a small southern state: Bill Clinton.
Enter Perot. Bush was flailing, and while Clinton was a new voice, he wasn't exactly a fresh one. Perot dazzled a disaffected electorate with his straight talk, his impeccable background and his penchant for success.
His populist manner in many ways was the precursor to Donald Trump, another political newcomer with a history of getting things done and saying exactly what was on his mind. Perot took 20 million votes in 1992, although he didn't win a single state. Bush gained 38% and Clinton became president.
A 1996 run was substantially less successful, and Perot more or less gave up his political aspirations. But his impact remains.
The Miami Herald on U.S. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta and the Jeffrey Epstein scandal:
If Alexander Acosta had done in South Florida what Geoffrey Berman just did in New York, Jeffrey Epstein, a sexual predator, might already be behind bars for the rest of his life instead of serving only 13 months.
If Acosta, when he was U.S. attorney in Miami, had shown an ounce of sympathy for the vulnerable girls Epstein sexually exploited, they would have had a powerful voice on their side. They didn't. Now, Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is their next best hope for justice.
If Acosta had not shown himself to be ethically challenged 10 years ago, we wouldn't be calling for his resignation as U.S. secretary of Labor now. But we are — again.
Epstein was arrested Saturday at a New Jersey airport upon his return from Paris. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged him with sex trafficking and sex-trafficking conspiracy. He faces a maximum of 45 years in prison if convicted.
Back in 2008, Acosta had the chance to prosecute Epstein for luring dozens of troubled girls to his Palm Beach estate on the pretense of giving him massages — before he escalated things to sex acts. As in a Ponzi scheme, he used those girls to recruit others.
The stomach-turning allegations should have been enough to haul Epstein before judge and jury. Instead, Acosta agreed to a benevolent non-prosecution deal, aggressively pushed by Epstein's powerhouse attorneys. Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge of soliciting prostitution, paid a fine, registered as a sexual predator and served 13 months of an 18-month sentence. No federal charges were filed.
Since then, Epstein, along with powerful men who hobnobbed with him, sometimes on his private plane, have done quite well: Donald Trump the businessman now is Donald Trump the president; Bill Clinton still earns big bucks for speeches. Epstein, himself, played in his mansions in Palm Beach, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Acosta now is U.S. labor secretary, a nomination that the Editorial Board cheered in 2017.
However, Epstein's victims, many of whom are struggling to get past the abuse they suffered, are still waiting for their own day in court. In 2008, Acosta shut them out of the process, failing to even inform them of his lenient plea deal with Epstein. In February, U.S. Judge Kenneth Marra ruled that Acosta's office broke the law by not telling Epstein's victims of the sweetheart deal. In contrast, Berman, has issued a public call for women to contact his office to help him build his sex-trafficking case against Epstein.
Saturday, federal agents found a "vast trove" of lewd photographs of girls and young women, some bearing descriptions, in a locked safe in Epstein's $77 million mansion in Manhattan.
In reality, Acosta's current job has nothing to do with his former position as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Except for this: He is an ethically compromised public servant who has failed to address his suspect actions in this case, but he continues to act on citizens' behalf in the public domain.
In December, we said: "Acosta is now damaged goods. He should realize it and move on. He does not deserve to be in the halls of power — he abused his power so tragically."
As evidence grows against Epstein, through both the Miami Herald's pit-bull reporting and because a U.S. attorney is committed to seeing justice done, it is evidence, too, that not only did Acosta fail to get it right in 2008, but also that he didn't care to.
He has to go.
The Los Angeles Times on adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census:
Seizing on an opening provided by the Supreme Court, the Trump administration is scrambling to offer a new, legally defensible rationale for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. But it's all a charade ordered up by President Trump, who is determined to enlist the decennial census in his crusade against people living in the country illegally. Lower federal courts across the country have properly refused to play along; the Supreme Court should belatedly do the same.
The background to this story should be familiar by now. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced in March 2018 that the government was amending the census form to ask about the citizenship status of every person in the country. He was sued almost immediately by a number of immigrant-heavy cities and states, which argued that the change would deter some immigrants — and especially those living here illegally — from responding to the census.
The resulting undercount would shift political power and resources away from communities with large immigrant populations, which tend to vote for Democrats. But Ross insisted that the administration's motives were pure; the idea for the question, he said, came from the Justice Department, which supposedly sought the data to help it enforce the Voting Rights Act.
After lower federal courts blocked the citizenship question, the case made its way to a divided Supreme Court. The majority held that Ross' explanation wasn't credible, although the justices gave him the chance to offer one that was.
That should have been that. Administration officials had repeatedly said that they needed to start printing the census forms by July in order to fulfill their constitutional duty, and the court's ruling left no time to keep the legal battle going.
Sadly, like an investor pouring good money after bad, President Trump doesn't know when to stop fighting for the wrong thing, especially on issues involving immigration. Contradicting the initial response from administration lawyers, Trump ordered his subordinates to keep searching for a way to add the citizenship question. And on Monday, Atty. Gen. William Barr told reporters that the administration would reveal soon how, exactly, it planned to add the question while complying with the court's ruling.
Good luck with that. The problem for the administration is that it has been operating from a disingenuous premise from the start. It strains credulity to think that Trump would be eager to bring more Voting Rights lawsuits against cities and states that are suppressing minorities' right to vote; after all, he appointed an election fraud commission that seemed to exist mainly to justify more vote suppression.
The evidence gathered in the lawsuits against Ross offer a much more believable explanation: The administration recognized that adding a citizenship question would deter noncitizens (or the citizens whose households they share) from responding to the census, leading to an undercount — especially in Latino communities, which tend to be dominated by Democrats. Trump's uniquely hostile and intimidating rhetoric about illegal immigration would only depress participation more.
But the administration can hardly afford to admit as much in court. It would mean confessing that the Commerce Department was trying not just to make the census less accurate — the Constitution requires a count of "every" person, citizen or not — but also to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity. (And remember, legal residents would be harmed by a census undercount at least as much as those without legal status would be, as their communities lose federal funding and representation in Congress.)
That leaves the administration with only one realistic option: to come up with a new lie about its rationale. While four of his conservative justices might not have a problem with that, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. seems to recognize that letting administrations blatantly deceive the public about the purpose of their actions would give free rein to the basest impulses of the worst presidents.
This case shouldn't have reached this point. Previous administrations recognized decades ago that it was a mistake to use the census to gather extra demographic information about the population because it prompted more people to toss the questionnaire in the trash. That's what led the government to create the "short form" census that it mails to every household, confining questions like the one about citizenship to a longer survey that it sends separately to a small fraction of the population.
The constitutional purpose of the census is clear, and the administration should fulfill it. The administration's purpose in seeking to add the citizenship question is clear too, no matter what it tells the courts. They should not be fooled.
The Baltimore Sun on a federal appeals court panel weighing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act:
Texas v. United States probably doesn't ring a bell for most Americans, but the legal proceeding heard Tuesday by a federal appeals court in New Orleans could have dire consequences for the nearly 20 million Americans who have health insurance today because of the Affordable Care Act. Last December, a U.S. District Court judge in the Lone Star State struck down the ACA for a suspect legal reasoning — declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional and inseverable from the rest of Obamacare, thus dooming the entire framework.
In the language of the health care debate, that makes the 5th Circuit an actual death panel, not the phony-baloney kind conjured by Obamacare critics a decade ago. The judges literally have in their hands the power to kill the medically needy. According to one Harvard University study, increased insurance enrollment has caused patients to seek medical treatment earlier and thus avoid more risky surgical procedures and other treatments. The federal government's own analysis show it has saved Americans billions of dollars in the form of lower health care costs. If one 2006 Massachusetts study on the importance of government-backed health insurance can be relied upon, the ACA may have saved 24,000 lives in its first nine years of existence. Kill the ACA and you are going to pull the plug on thousands of human beings, too.
What's truly breathtaking about Texas v. United States, however, is its legal reasoning. Judge Reed C. O'Connor based his ruling on the decision by Congress to render useless a single provision of the ACA — the individual mandate. The Republican majority did so in 2017 by taking away the penalty as part of its tax cut legislation. No longer do individuals face a fine (or, technically, a tax, according to the Supreme Court) for failing to obtain insurance. No tax? No law. That's what Judge O'Connor decided. Yet Congress had the option of killing the ACA instead of simply removing the penalty and didn't take it. And now the courts are going to usurp the legislative function? Isn't that what conservatives are supposed to hate?
Make no mistake, we argued against congressional action to zero out the individual mandate two years ago because it has been a helpful part of the ACA, spurring young, healthy people to buy health insurance, which not only protects them from medical and financial disaster but makes premiums more affordable for everyone by balancing out the risk pool. It's a win-win approach. But even without the mandate, the thought of denying health insurance to millions of Americans who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford it is unacceptable. This country is already suffering enough social and financial division, enough haves versus have-nots class warfare, to throw yet another timber on that particular fire. Forget the ambition of Medicare For All, how about just some basic health insurance coverage of any type for the working poor that they can actually afford?
Twice, the Supreme Court has given its stamp of approval to Obamacare. Kill the health care law now and there will be chaos. The nation's health care system has adapted. Huge investments have been made. Millions are in the system. If Congress wants to put the nation on a different path, they need to be the ones to make that choice. The jurists of the 5th Circuit aren't equipped to fundamentally remake health care delivery. Particularly not on such a slender legal thread — on an argument that a provision now rendered useless by the legislative branch was too critical to circumvent.
Let's recall all the ACA provisions that Americans really, really like. Take, for instance, the ability to keep a child on a family health insurance plan until age 26. Or coverage for preexisting conditions. Or expanded Medicaid coverage in many states. What happens to all that if the entirety of Obamacare goes away? The short answer: They go away, too. As much as some people may truly believe President Donald Trump's claim that he and Republicans in Congress have a heretofore unknown plan to replace the ACA after the 2020 election, Americans should be skeptical.
That's like expecting professional saboteurs, vandals and graffiti artists to devote themselves to restoring public infrastructure to pristine conditions. No one is expecting the court to fix the nation's health care problems, they'd settle for judges not making them much, much worse.
The New York Times on the United States women's national soccer team's effort to earn equal pay:
It is difficult to understand the argument that the United States women's national soccer team should get paid just as much as the men's national soccer team.
The women are much more successful. They should earn more.
On Sunday, the 23 women selected to represent the United States at the 2019 World Cup triumphed over the Netherlands to complete a dominating run to victory. It is the second straight time the United States has won the quadrennial tournament.
During the celebrations, fans chanted "equal pay," highlighting the fact that the United States Soccer Federation, which employs the members of the men's and women's national teams, has long paid larger sums to the men. Megan Rapinoe, honored as the World Cup's top scorer and best player, used her moment in the spotlight to call on United States Soccer to "set things right for the future" by giving the women's team a raise.
Ms. Rapinoe and her teammates have also gone to court, suing the federation in March for gender discrimination. The allegations extend beyond pay. The suit says United States Soccer also invests less in the team's practice facilities, travel arrangements and medical care.
It is an embarrassment that United States Soccer has failed to address this injustice, allowing the joy of Sunday's celebrations to be tainted by the reality of unfair treatment.
Pay comparisons are complicated because the men's and women's teams have separately negotiated contracts. Members of the women's team are paid by the federation to play in the National Women's Soccer League, on top of which they receive payments for playing for the national team. The men just get national team payments.
Under the current contract for the women's team, which took effect in April 2017, the women and the men would earn the same amount if both national teams played 20 games — and lost all 20 games. With each victory, however, the men's team would enjoy a larger advantage.
The women can earn more in a given year, as they are likely to do this year. But that is only because they achieved so much. For comparable success, the women get less.
Even by this measure, there is a case that the women are being wronged. It is not clear, for example, how United States Soccer treats sponsorships that cover both teams.
But revenue is the wrong measuring stick. United States Soccer is a nonprofit, exempted from taxation because it serves a social purpose: "To make soccer, in all its forms, a pre-eminent sport in the United States." It should be obvious to the people who run the federation that the women's team is fulfilling that mission at least as well as the men's team.
The women's soccer team, like other national teams, also represents the United States. The women who wear the nation's colors are ambassadors on an international stage. Their performances inform perceptions of the United States. Millions of people around the world watched on Sunday as a team of strong and skillful women played a game with determination and sportsmanship, and then celebrated freely.
Much of the debate about the pay gap has focused on revenue. Officials have argued that the men's team should simply be regarded as a more successful business.
The federation is making a statement about America by treating those women as second-class citizens. It has an opportunity to make a very different statement by rectifying the situation. Players should get the same rewards for the same achievements, without regard to gender.
The World Cup presents a special challenge because much of the money comes from FIFA, the international organization that stages the tournament and disburses the proceeds of its television deals and corporate sponsorships to the national federations. The pot of money for the men's World Cup is larger than the women's pot.
The women earned bonuses of $37,500 for making the 2019 World Cup team, while the men could have earned $68,750 for making the 2018 World Cup Team — if the team had qualified.
FIFA, too, should be held accountable for moving toward gender equity. But there is no need to wait. United States Soccer could make a powerful statement by equalizing these payments, too.
And the men's national team wants to help. In 2017, Norway agreed to equalize pay for its men's and women's national soccer teams. To make the deal possible, the men's team agreed to share its sponsorship revenues. Admirably, it agreed to earn less as a matter of principle. The union representing the American men's national team has endorsed this concept.
Pay gaps are a persistent problem in American society. The case of the national soccer teams is merely an unusually clear and public example of the issue. United States Soccer and its 28 female players suing for gender discrimination have agreed to enter mediation in the hopes of resolving the players' lawsuit. The federation now has the opportunity to create its own clear and public example — by finally doing the right thing.
The Toronto Star on women not being included in safety research:
More women than men are licenced to drive cars in the United States and they influence 80 per cent of car purchasing decisions there and in Canada, too. But you'd never know that by the disturbing facts in a new study that shows auto accidents are much more dangerous for women than they are for men.
Because, as it turns out, manufacturers are not taking women into account, despite their purchasing power, when they design automotive safety features. Almost all vehicle safety tests are conducted with crash test dummies modelled on a man's anatomy, not a woman's.
The shocking result of that exclusion, according to the study from the University of Virginia, are that the odds of a female sustaining a serious to fatal injury when she is in a collision are an alarming 73 per cent higher than they are for a male.
That may sound counter-intuitive, considering that more men than women are injured and die in car crashes each year. But the fact is, the high injury and death tolls for men are mainly the result of risky driving behaviours that result in more collisions, not a lack of built-in safety features designed specifically to protect them when they do crash.
It's time regulatory authorities mandate that automotive safety tests are designed for both men and women. Anything short of that should be penalized.
Sadly, these latest findings are nothing new. As Caroline Criado-Perez, the author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, points out, researchers at Michigan University made the case for the inclusion of crash test dummies modelled on women in tests as far back as the early 1980s.
But their advice, and the results of numerous studies conducted since then that have echoed the University of Virginia results, were ignored. Why? Manufacturers have been reluctant to invest the millions of dollars required to create anatomically correct female crash dummies.
The result? Safety tests don't account for the differences between male and female bodies, such as how breasts may alter how seat belts function or how women generally sit closer to the steering wheel because their arms and legs are shorter.
Now Carolyn Roberts, a researcher at the University of Virginia, concludes: "We're improving automotive safety for males at a faster rate than we're improving it for females."
That's unacceptable. Even worse is the fact that the auto industry is far from alone in ignoring women, with dire results for their safety.
Sadly, designers of body armour and construction safety equipment, such as harnesses, do the same. As a result, women are at a higher risk of dying of everything from stab and gunshot wounds to falls.
Even NASA failed to consider the differences in the bodies of its female and male astronauts when it planned the first all-female spacewalk last March. That had to be scrapped when the space agency realized it did not have a medium-sized space suit on board the International Space Station for one of the female astronauts, so a man was sent in her stead.
Medical researchers often ignore women, as well. For example, women make up more than half the 35 million adults living with HIV worldwide and yet they are vastly under-represented in clinical trials looking for vaccines, treatments and cures.
That's true, too, of research into heart disease, which focuses on male symptoms even though it is the No. 1 cause of death for women around the world.
Even the lab rats used in clinical drug trials are more likely to be male because female ones are considered more complicated because of their fluctuating hormone levels.
Women should not be dying in 2019 because they are, as Criado-Perez argues, invisible. The study on crash test dummies is a wake-up call for researchers and designers the world over.