Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Los Angeles Times on the U.S. Supreme Court hearing on efforts to overturn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program:
Predicting how the U.S. Supreme Court will decide a case based on the questions the justices raise during oral arguments is a fraught endeavor, but the tenor of those exchanges Tuesday morning did not bode well for supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a potential swing vote, at times seemed to give credence to the Trump administration’s argument that President Obama lacked the legal authority to create DACA in the first place.
If the court ultimately finds that President Trump has the authority to end the program regardless of his spurious rationale, the damage to the so-called Dreamers receiving protections, and to the communities in which they live, could be disastrous. It would give the court’s imprimatur to one of the harshest approaches to immigration in modern American history.
DACA, for those who don’t remember, is the process Obama crafted in 2012 to defer deportations for people who have lived in the United States illegally since they were children, provided that they are employed or attending school and have not been convicted of serious crimes, among other criteria. It goes without argument that the 700,000 or so people currently receiving protection from deportation were living here without permission prior to gaining DACA status. But it makes no sense to oust the Dreamers from the only country they have ever really known, and to deport them to countries that are not only foreign to them, but where in many case they don’t even speak the language. Remember, most of the Dreamers bear little to no responsibility for their predicament since they arrived as children in the care of parents or guardians.
The Trump administration argues that Obama stretched federal immigration law past its breaking point with the DACA order, and in 2017 it sought to kill the program as legally indefensible. This gets into arcane areas of authority, but DACA’s defenders argue that the president can’t scrap a program because he thinks it’s illegal; that’s a decision for the courts. A president can end or reverse a predecessor’s order because he thinks it’s bad policy, if he sets out a well-reasoned argument explaining why. With DACA, the Trump administration failed to do so.
Beyond the legal wrangling lies the fate of 700,000 people (including Dreamers who are parents of more than 250,000 U.S. citizens, according to the Center for American Progress) who currently can go about their lives and legally hold jobs, pay taxes and be openly active members of their communities without constantly looking over their shoulders for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. It’s a popular program. An overwhelming majority of Americans, including Republicans, tell pollsters they believe the government should leave the Dreamers alone and that they be allowed to pursue a path to citizenship.
Whatever the court decides — and we fervently hope it comes down on the side of the Dreamers — this issue is best resolved for the long term by Congress. To its credit, Congress has tried, sort of, to craft a permanent solution. Even Trump has previously said he would support legislation helping the Dreamers. But then he erected a roadblock by insisting that in return for his support Congress must also approve unrelated measures to fund his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and make other changes to border security. As we’ve argued, that’s not negotiating, it’s hostage-taking, and Congress was right to refuse to deal.
Congress should push through a clean bill offering legal standing and a path to citizenship to qualified Dreamers. It is an issue of fairness that has broad appeal across the political spectrum except, notably, among Trump’s immigration hard-liners. It’s troubling, not to mention dysfunctional, that a relative handful of xenophobes can block a sensible humanitarian effort to grant legal status to people the vast majority of Americans think deserve to become fellow citizens.
A pro-DACA decision by the Supreme Court would be welcome, but it is not a long-term solution since the Trump administration — or any future anti-immigrant regime — could simply go through the correct bureaucratic process and end the protections. A legislative solution is years overdue, and Democrats and Republicans coming together in the House and the Senate to achieve this popular end could help put the lie to the general presumption that our elected representatives no longer have the courage or the competence to do the work for which they were sent to Washington.
The Seattle Times on raising the age of legal sale for vapor and tobacco to age 21:
Federal lawmakers should follow the lead of Washington and at least 17 other states in raising the age of legal sale for vapor and tobacco products to age 21.
Doing so will make it more difficult for high school students to access these potentially harmful products, while helping keep them out of the hands of even younger teens.
Although it is often pitched as a safer alternative to cigarettes for existing adult smokers, vaping has been devastatingly popular with young people. In a recent survey, one third of the state’s high school seniors reported using e-cigarettes in 2018. According to national data, 5 million children use e-cigarettes, compared with 8 million adults.
Trump administration officials are said to be considering increasing the legal age of purchase and banning flavored e-cigarette products. Vape juices flavored to taste like candy, fruit or sweet deserts are popular with young users, who also say they appreciate small, discreet vape pens over traditional tobacco cigarettes.
But nicotine can harm developing brains regardless of how it is ingested — through smoke, water vapor or chew. And as this summer’s rash of vaping-related lung injuries so clearly demonstrates, additives may present other unknown dangers. As of last week, 2,051 cases of vaping-related lung injuries had been reported in 49 states — every state except Alaska. Thirty-nine deaths had been confirmed. At least 14 cases of vaping associated lung injury have been reported in Washington since April.
The apparent link between the injuries and the additive vitamin E acetate has the CDC urging people to avoid e-cigarette products containing THC, particularly from informal sources or online merchants. The Washington State Department of Health has asked the state’s vapor product processors to stop using vitamin E acetate or distributing products containing the additive as health officials review the evidence.
Last month, the Washington State Board of Health passed an emergency ban on flavored vapor products. Washington’s age restriction takes effect on Jan. 1.
For years, e-cigarettes have largely been given a pass by regulators, based on the lack of evidence of actual harm. Those days are definitively over. A federal ban on underage sales, and tighter restrictions on flavorings and additives are needed to safeguard public health.
The Star (Toronto) on the threat of superbugs on the global population:
Medical science has advanced so far that we’ve long come to expect that just about any illness can be treated.
But drug-resistant infections are advancing even more rapidly and they’re overtaking the best that medical science has to offer.
In Canada, superbugs immune to first-line antibiotics account for 26% of the treated infections and caused thousands of deaths last year, according to a new landmark report.
And the expert panel warns that’s likely to rise to 40% by 2050. That would exact a terrible toll in lost lives, dramatically increased healthcare costs and diminished social cohesion as fears over untreatable infections affect how people live and work.
Think of the 2003 SARS outbreak as the new normal.
That’s the scary picture detailed on Tuesday by the federally funded Council of Canadian Academies in a report titled “When Antibiotics Fail.”
It’s the most comprehensive look at this global threat with Canadian data. But it’s hardly the first such warning.
Scientists have been sounding the alarm for years. The United Nations has declared antibiotic-resistant superbugs to be one of the biggest threats to global health. Experts have said superbugs are a threat as serious as terrorism and national disasters.
And Brett Finlay, the microbiologist who chaired the expert panel, says the problem is on the same scale as climate change.
That is, of course, yet another global challenge that governments and societies at large struggle to tackle.
But, as Finlay says, “it’s time to do something now.”
This report calls for more careful use of antibiotics to preserve their effectiveness; research into possible new treatments; better infection prevention, including proper hand hygiene; and better data collection to identify emerging trends.
Those aren’t new solutions. But they require sustained effort and investment.
Hopefully this time, the Public Health Agency of Canada, which commissioned the report, is listening.
The Washington Post on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows victims of a mass shooting in Connecticut sue the maker of the gun used in the massacre:
Gun makers and sellers have never really had to account for the deadly consequences of their products because of an unusual federal law enacted in 2005 that gives them immunity from most lawsuits. So the Supreme Court’s decision not to block a lawsuit brought in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is a significant — and welcome — development. It may give the families of the victims their day in court while providing a road map for victims of other mass shootings who seek answers and some measure of justice.
The Supreme Court announced Tuesday it would not consider an appeal from the manufacturer of the assault weapon used in the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 first-graders and six educators. The decision, issued without comment from any individual justice, lets stand a groundbreaking ruling from the Connecticut Supreme Court that found an exception in federal law allowing the manufacturer to be sued and potentially held liable under state law regarding unfair trade practices.
The case against Remington Arms, brought by relatives of nine victims who died and a survivor of the shooting, focused on how the AR-15-style Bushmaster used in the attack was marketed with militaristic and hypermasculine advertising and used product placement in videos to appeal to younger, at-risk males. The suit alleges it was no accident that the troubled 20-year-old Sandy Hook gunman chose this particular weapon — promoted under slogans like “Consider your man card reissued” — to carry out a murderous rampage that took less than five minutes.
The suit was originally filed in 2014, and the families had to overcome numerous obstacles in advancing their novel theory to get around federal protection of the industry. They still must go to trial and convince a jury that Remington is liable for the deaths of their loved ones. But by bringing the case to trial, they hope to get access to information long kept private by the gun industry that will provide insights into how the industry operates. “The families are grateful that the Supreme Court . . . denied Remington’s latest attempt to avoid accountability,” said Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the families, “We are ready to resume discovery and proceed towards trial in order to shed light on Remington’s profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users at the expense of Americans’ safety.”
The Wall Street Journal on efforts to block personal income taxes in several states:
Texas has become one of America’s fastest-growing states, thanks in part to its lack of a state income tax. So it was encouraging last week when Lone Star State voters made it even more difficult to impose such a tax.
The Texas constitution since 1993 has barred the Legislature from imposing an income tax without the approval of voters in a statewide referendum. But with progressives working hard to turn Texas into another California, voters decided to raise the bar. Proposition 4 changes the state constitution to require income-tax legislation to win two-thirds support in both legislative chambers and majority approval in a referendum. It passed with 74% of the vote.
Nine states have no personal income tax, and Texas is the latest to protect a political model that leads to higher GDP growth, employment and wages. Tennessee voters in 2014 backed 2-to-1 a constitutional amendment banning its Legislature from introducing taxes on payroll or earned personal income. Last year a super-majority of Florida voters supported a constitutional amendment that requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the Legislature to raise current taxes or enact new ones.
These measures are important obstacles to future narrow majorities that might seek to impose an income tax. They’re all the more important as the success of low-tax states attracts migrants who often carry the bad political habits of their former homes.
The citizens of California, New York, Connecticut and other states have learned the hard way that once an income tax is imposed, spending balloons and the march to ever-higher taxes is on. Democrats in Illinois, prodded by public unions, are now trying to rewrite their state constitution to kill its requirement for a flat income tax. Taxpayers need every procedural fortification they can get from the relentless forces of tax and spend.
Chicago Sun-Times on a proposal to add commercial amenities to national parks:
Just as the Indiana Dunes finally has achieved national park status, Washington insiders are trying to cash in on all the parks by commercializing them to the max.
Their noxious notions include opening the parks to food trucks, expanded WiFi, mobile camp stores and even Amazon deliveries to campsites.
Please make this wretched scheme go away.
When we go to the Indiana Dunes, we want peaceful windswept shores and tranquil forest paths, not a tailgate party. When we go to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, we want the spray of a waterfall and a quiet campfire.
We get all the crowding and clamor we want — or can stand — in our daily lives.
Evidently, the people on the Trump administration’s Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee disagree. Rather than unspoiled wilderness, they favor something akin to Navy Pier.
In a new proposal, the committee, which is a part of the Department of the Interior, argues for making way for those food trucks, Amazon deliveries and other amenities more appropriate to daily city life.
Nobody should be surprised.
The committee has been lambasted since it was formed early last year, by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, as nothing but a shill for commercial interests. The committee largely is made up of representatives from the tourism, manufacturing, hospitality and recreation industries.
Last year, the Washington Post obtained documents showing that private industry pushed for the creation of the committee for the sole purpose of getting a foothold in the parks.
The committee’s priorities fit like a glove with those of the Trump administration and new Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who in September gave the go-ahead to electric-powered bicycles on formerly quiet nature trails.
This kind of commercialization — to the fattest wallet goes the spoils — could price some Americans right out of the parks. To jack up revenue, for example, the committee has proposed eliminating senior discounts during the peak summer camping season.
Our national parks, which have suffered big budget cuts, attract huge numbers of visitors every year. It’s hard to buy the committee’s argument that the parks are “underused” — one of Bernhardt’s favorite words — when there were 318 million visits last year and a record-high 330,882,751 visits the year before.
“I have a room all to myself,” Henry David Thoreau once wrote. “It is nature.”
Leave the national parks alone.