Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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April 25

The Japan News on the bombings in Sri Lanka:

This was a despicable, inexcusable act of violence that targeted innocent people.

Terrorist bombings struck Colombo and elsewhere in Sri Lanka almost simultaneously, killing and injuring hundreds of people, including Japanese nationals.

The blasts targeted churches where many Christians had gathered for Easter events, and luxury hotels that have many foreign guests. There were explosions at eight venues, including suicide attacks.

Sri Lankan authorities have detained members of a domestic Islamic extremist group that allegedly conducted the attacks. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the government believes "there may be links" between this group and the Islamic State extremist group.

IS has claimed responsibility for the bombings and released footage that purported to show the men who committed the attacks. The authenticity of these claims is unclear, but based on the targets chosen and the elaborate methods used, it seems IS provided some kind of support to the group that carried out the bombings.

In March, the United States declared that all territory that was under IS control had been recaptured. However, the group's radical thinking continues to spread over the internet and through other channels. There is a lingering risk that the tentacles of these beliefs could reach into societies plagued by poverty, discrimination and other problems.

Alarmingly, there is a possibility Sri Lankan authorities missed signs that a terrorist attack was coming. Although foreign intelligence agencies had warned of a planned suicide bombing attack on Christian churches, the Sri Lankan prime minister and Cabinet ministers reportedly did not receive this information.

Tensions could be rekindled.

Political wrangling between Wickremesinghe and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena apparently formed a backdrop to these events. It is essential that a government operates in unison and quickly deals with a possible terrorist attack to prevent it from happening. The Sri Lankan government must seriously take to heart that it was one step behind in dealing with the situation and take steps to prevent any recurrence.

Cooperation with investigative agencies in the United States and elsewhere also will be crucial for fully uncovering the truth of what happened.

Beginning in the 1980s, Sri Lanka's government, which was led by the majority Buddhists, clashed fiercely with an extremist Hindu group that was demanding a separate, independent state. Terrorist bombings perpetrated by the extremists often occurred, but the nation's security situation had improved since the civil war ended in 2009.

There are concerns the latest attacks could again trigger heightened tensions between people of different religions and ethnicities. A chain of terrorist attacks and retaliation must not be allowed to occur.

About 40,000 Japanese visit Sri Lanka each year for tourism and other purposes. The Foreign Ministry has called for Japanese people to avoid nonessential and nonurgent travel to Sri Lanka. Many people are planning overseas trips for the upcoming 10-day Golden Week holiday. Travelers should make sure they check the latest information about the security situation in their holiday destination.

Sharing information with other nations is essential for counterterrorism measures. Japan should spearhead discussions on this issue, including at the summit meeting of the Group of 20 major and emerging economies to be held in Osaka in June.

Online:

http://the-japan-news.com/

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April 24

Evening Standard on U.S. President Donald Trump's planned visit to the U.K. in June:

Many of us have issued hasty invitations we later regret to people we don't know that well — but Theresa May topped the scale with her offer of a state visit to Britain when she saw Donald Trump in the first week of his presidency.

Naively, she hoped it would mark the start of a warm alliance between them, leading to an easy trade deal after Brexit.

Instead, President Trump pocketed her offer, went on to praise Boris Johnson as someone who "would be a great prime minister", made London the target of some of his most boorish tweets and never had any intention of opening up US markets to our goods without flooding Britain with low-standard food products in return.

Now the Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives he can't even offer that — as a more thoughtful US visitor, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, reminded us last week.

So how should we react to news that the President is set to turn up for a state visit at the start of June, amid events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings?

We could just wish he wasn't coming. But that won't stop him.

He'll enjoy provoking protesters who will, in return, enjoy taking to the streets to taunt him. Maybe the Extinction Rebellion crowd will try to stay camped in trees in Parliament Square until then. He's a better target for their call for action on climate change than a British Government which agrees it exists, after all.

Or we could hide in the detail and ask whether Mr. Trump deserves the honour of a state rather than a working visit.

But this is pointless. Some first-term presidents have been given one but most haven't and the difference is more in the title than anything else.

It's not the white-tie dinner at Windsor Castle that people object to. It's the presence of the President himself.

So the question which matters is simply: should he come here? And the answer to that has to be yes — just as President Macron was right to welcome him to Paris.

We can't pick and choose other world leaders. Diplomacy demands that countries engage, even when the leaders involved are undiplomatic.

Online:

https://www.standard.co.uk

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April 24

Houston Chronicle on the recent execution of a man for a 1998 killing of a black man:

The execution Wednesday of John William King for the 1998 lynching of James Byrd Jr., who was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to death, won't bring the victim back to life. It won't erase the heartbreak of the loved ones Byrd left behind. Neither will it remove the stain that the atrocity left on the East Texas town of Jasper, where the murder occurred. So, what purpose will King's execution serve?

King's death by injection occurred less than two weeks after a white man was arrested for setting fire to three black churches in Louisiana. The proximity of those events makes one wonder if race relations have changed since Byrd was lynched. Clearly there have been improvements in the past 21 years, but the FBI says hate crimes in America, most of them motivated by race or ethnicity, have increased. Few compare to what happened to Byrd.

While walking home late at night, he accepted a ride from three white guys in a pickup. The driver was Shawn Berry. The other two, King and Lawrence Russell Brewer, had been members of a skinhead prison gang called the Confederate Knights of America. They attacked Byrd, beat him into submission, wrapped one end of a chain around his ankles, the other end to the truck's ball, and dragged him for three miles. Part of Byrd's body was found near a cemetery; the rest a mile and a half up the road.

It wasn't hard for police to find Byrd's assailants. They clumsily left evidence where it was easily found. All three men were convicted of capital murder. Brewer was executed in 2011. Berry, who cooperated with authorities, was sentenced to life in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2038. King's fate was set after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal Wednesday evening.

King was a walking, talking advertisement for racism. His many body tattoos included a black man hanging from a tree, a robed Ku Klux Klansman, a swastika, and the words "Aryan Pride." Prosecutors said King was as an "exalted cyclops" of the Confederate Knights of America and recruited white troops for an imagined race war.

Did King's execution have a purpose other than vengeance? Executions usually don't. Research has shown them to also be poor deterrents to future crimes. Capital punishment has more to do with retribution than justice. But King's execution could be different. That's if his story of unbridled racism could be used to bury the misguided notion that memorials and traditions honoring the Confederate States of America should be treated with reverence.

Klan and skinhead groups use emblems that link them to the Confederacy for a specific reason: Like them, the rebel states were united by racism. Failing to preserve slavery, the former Confederate states continued to treat black people as inferior to whites by enacting segregation laws that stayed on the books into the 1960s.

Many African-Americans and others view commemorations of the Confederacy as endorsements of the historical subjugation of black people. That doesn't mean other folks can't be proud of their ancestors. They were fighting for a racist cause, but most were soldiers, not murderers like King and two others who killed Byrd. That pride, however, shouldn't be endorsed by state governments whose citizens also include people who aren't descendants of Confederate soldiers and sympathizers.

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Online:

https://www.houstonchronicle.com

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April 24

The Free Press of Chattanooga, Tennessee, on U.S. President Donald Trump, the phrase "Easter worshippers," and Christian voters:

Democrats, with good reason, have frequently chided deeply religious American Christians for voting for Donald Trump in 2016.

The president, who is a thrice-married, frequently mean-spirited, largely nonreligious individual, nevertheless has favored legislation important to that segment of voters.

Religious voters, if they can't have a candidate whose personal life inclines closely to their values — a Jimmy Carter or a George W. Bush, who were more forward about their religious convictions — at least want somebody who talks a good game but follows the talk with action.

Right or wrong, they see Trump that way. But, increasingly, they see neither the convictions nor the talk from Democrats.

Take last weekend's bombings in Sri Lanka, which targeted a Christian minority in a predominantly Buddhist country. Nearly 300 people died and more than 500 were injured at three churches, three hotels and a housing complex.

Whether or not Democrats played follow the leader or had a strategy in some convoluted way for responding, former President Barack Obama weighed in on Twitter at 10:02 a.m. on Easter Sunday by saying "the attacks on tourists and Easter worshippers in Sri Lanka are an attack on humanity."

By definition, "Easter worshippers" are Christians, but for some reason he couldn't bring himself to use that term.

It was mindful of Obama's presidency when he was unable to characterize the radical Muslims carrying out terrorist attacks as members of the Islamic faith. He didn't want to lump the terrorists in with good Muslims, he said, and impugn an entire religion.

The president, of course, had also pointed out at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast that Americans should not "get on our high horse" about radical Islam since "people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ" centuries ago.

Yet, the terrorists continued to slaughter innocents in the name of Islam.

On Sunday, following Obama's tweet, at 10:45 a.m. U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-California, tweeted that he was "deeply saddened over the horrific acts of violence against Easter worshippers and tourists."

At 11:08 a.m., Jared Polis, the Democratic governor of Colorado, tweeted that he was heartbroken "to learn about the attacks on tourists and Easter worshippers in Sri Lanka."

At 12:59 p.m., former San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Julian Castro, who is a declared 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted that "the evil of these attacks on Easter worshippers and tourists in Sri Lanka is deeply saddening."

And, finally, at 1:17 p.m., former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she was "praying for everyone affected by today's horrific attacks on Easter worshippers and travelers" — at least she didn't say "tourists" — "in Sri Lanka."

The wording, though perhaps just Democrats falling in behind their former leader's phrase, was nonetheless eerie.

If Democrats can't embrace the word "Christian" or "Jesus" — a video of once and future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi trying to do just that in 2010 went viral — how will they attract deeply religious voters who chose Trump, flaws and all?

Several already have made attempts and wound up as the hypocrites they accuse the president of being.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a self-avowed Christian, is the latest to fall in the trap. In a recent interview with USA Today, he allowed as to how God has chosen a side.

"We need to not be afraid to invoke arguments on why Christian faith is going to point you in a progressive direction," he said.

Buttigieg went on to say he was "reluctant to comment on another person's (faith)," then preceded to comment negatively on Trump's. Since then, he's also trashed the Christian faith of Vice President Mike Pence.

On Monday, though, during a CNN town hall in New Hampshire, perhaps knowing some who might be on the fence about Trump might be watching, he decided God hadn't chosen sides.

"At the very least," Buttigieg said, "we should be able to establish that God does not have a political party."

For him and for the rest of the crowded Democratic field, it's a matter of authenticity. Voters didn't find it in Obama, who got 4.5 million fewer votes in 2012 than in 2008 but won a second term against a weak Republican. Some of them oddly found it in Trump, who wasn't the solid family man his predecessor was but was willing to give voice to — and try to accomplish — what members of the electorate wanted.

The deeply religious part of that electorate is no different. They're not looking for perfection — and wouldn't ever find it, anyway — but do want a candidate who gives more than lip service to their faith and then works toward honoring what has been promised.

We don't believe at this point skeptical Trump voters have found such a candidate on the Democratic side.

Online:

https://www.timesfreepress.com

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April 23

The Ledger of Lakeland, Florida, on allowing guns in schools:

For much of last week, residents of Littleton, Colorado, paused to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.

Two student gunmen murdered a dozen students and a teacher that spring day, then committed suicide, the culmination of a plot designed to kill 500 people using guns and homemade bombs. The shock of such violence on a pacific, affluent suburban school campus shook much of America, and causes Columbine to live on in our consciousness, even as its death toll has been superseded by massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

During last week's tearful recollections, candlelight vigils, survivors' updates, and the weird and sad tale of a reportedly Columbine-obsessed young woman from Florida whose trek to Colorado led many to fear violence during the activities but ended with her taking her own life, many may have missed the story of Evan Todd.

Twenty years ago Todd was a 15-year-old sophomore in the school library working on an English paper when the shooters entered the room. They immediately shot in his direction, wounding him, and then made their way around the room, shooting 22 fellow students, killing 10. At one point one of the shooters approached Todd, pressed a gun against his head and asked why he shouldn't be killed. Todd recalled stammering an answer about never having done anything to either of them, and after a pause, the shooters left the library, and let Todd live. He was the last student to speak to them.

Todd has said he believes prayer saved his life that day. But since then, he has pushed for a different kind of intervention in instances such as Columbine.

Todd has become a gun-rights activist, including carrying a concealed weapon of his own, and his pet cause is allowing teachers to carry guns in schools.

This month, as the Columbine anniversary neared, he told a Colorado radio reporter, "What actually stops these from happening? And in the world we live in, a firearm is one of those ways. And a firearm would have saved lives at Columbine."

"Had I not gone through it, I don't know if I would have the same perspective," Todd added. "But I've seen evil in this world. And ignoring it never does anything."

That reiterated a message he shared last year, both with the media around the 19th anniversary of the massacre and to community groups and state lawmakers in campaigning for a bill permitting teachers to carry guns, which was proposed by one of Todd's former schoolmates and a survivor of the massacre.

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Gun opponents repeatedly maintain this is a bad idea that does nothing to enhance school safety. In fact, as the gun-control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America argues, panicky, ill-trained teachers will make things more dangerous. That's quite a commentary about the judgment of people we entrust with our children for six to eight hours each day.

Additionally, we know it's a fallacy to argue that more guns means more murder. The gun-related homicide rate in America today is half what it was a quarter-century ago, even as millions more guns have been sold in that time. And we know from reviews of both Columbine and Douglas high schools that law enforcement did not respond adequately to save lives, thus leaving victims, like Evan Todd, to the mercy of the killers.

The urge to deny people the right to defend themselves — and in the case of Florida schools, to defend children — from homicidal maniacs is a strange one. Lawmakers cannot make teachers or anyone else carry guns, but if we learn anything from the recent Columbine retrospective, it should be that prohibiting self-defense via gun can be a matter of life and death.

Online:

https://www.theledger.com

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April 22

The New York Times on the U.S. Supreme Court considering whether federal employment law protects LGBTQ workers:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of a person's sex. On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to address whether gay and transgender workers are covered by the landmark provision, in a trio of cases — two concluding that federal law protects such employees, and one resolving that it doesn't.

The cases open the door for the justices to settle the issue for the whole nation. The cases are expected to be decided by the summer of 2020 — that is, in the heat of the presidential campaign, when voters will be judging candidates in part on where they stand on gay and transgender rights. That will make this a political issue, to be sure, but there is significantly more at stake for individual workers.

The Justice Department sowed confusion in 2017 when it went against the stated position of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that oversees enforcement of Title VII, and argued before an appeals court that Congress never intended to extend protections to gay workers. That much may be true; the law as written makes no mention of sexual orientation or transgender status. Which could also explain a separate brief filed in October, in which the department told the Supreme Court that Title VII, as lawmakers wrote it, "does not apply to discrimination against an individual based on his or her gender identity."

With the passage of time, however, a number of courts, including the Supreme Court, have interpreted the prohibition against sex discrimination generously. Over the past 55 years, thanks to that forward-looking reading of the law, Title VII has addressed harms that Congress never foresaw, such as forbidding sexual harassment and gender stereotyping.

Relying on some of those precedents — and the guidance of the E.E.O.C., which in recent years has extended the reach of Title VII to lesbian, gay and transgender employees — modern-day courts have also begun to reconsider their prior decisions on such rights in the workplace, expanding the reach of the law.

As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a unanimous 1998 ruling in favor of a male worker who was subject to same-sex harassment, "statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed."

So Congress may not have the last word on this matter. What's more, absent direct action from lawmakers, the Supreme Court would be wise to keep the current progress of the law in place — and not undermine its own prior cases that helped make the American workplace more welcoming and inclusive to all.

Online:

https://www.nytimes.com

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