Editorial Roundup: US
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The New York Times on political conventions and President Donald Trump canceling the Republican National Committee's nominating convention in Florida:
President Trump announced on Thursday that, in deference to the pandemic, he was canceling the portion of the Republican National Committee's nominating convention scheduled to take place in Jacksonville, Fla., late next month.
"We won't do a big, crowded convention, per se it's not the right time for that," the president said during his daily coronavirus briefing, noting that he "felt it was wrong" to have hordes of people heading into "a hot spot." Mr. Trump added he'd told his advisers, "There's nothing more important in our country than keeping our people safe."
Better late than never.
Mr. Trump's coronation party originally was planned for Charlotte, N.C., which is where much of the convention's official business will still take place. In June, however, the president relocated all the flashy bits, including his acceptance speech, to Florida, after North Carolina officials refused to guarantee him the overcrowded, non-socially distanced spectacle he wanted.
Florida, however, is now in the throes of a Covid-19 spike. The state reported on Thursday 10,249 new cases and 173 deaths, a record. Bringing thousands of conventiongoers into the mix would have been a recipe for more tragic outcomes.
Instead of an arena full of cheering fans, Mr. Trump must content himself with "tele-rallies," other virtual events and maybe some smaller gatherings. This is surely a bitter pill for the president, who draws energy from large, adoring crowds. But this moment of crisis also provides his party both parties, for that matter with an opportunity to reimagine and reshape their conventions into something more engaging and possibly more relevant to the American public.
The convention of conventions is overdue for an overhaul. Why not make necessity the mother of reinvention?
Much of what goes on at national conventions is not meant for consumption by the general public. Once upon a time, serious nominating business was conducted at these gatherings, but those days are gone. And for all the quadrennial chatter about the possibility of a brokered convention, the parties knock themselves out to avoid that kind of drama, even in cycles with ugly primaries.
Nowadays, conventions are in large part extended reunions, awash in booze, food, music and elbow rubbing between elected officials, lobbyists, activists, operatives, celebrities, fund-raisers, journalists and other players. They are, in some ways, politics at its swampiest.
The parts produced for at-home viewers are dominated by speeches many of them boring, vapid or even frightening, with an eye toward whipping up the party faithful. The lineups typically feature political stars, up-and-comers the party wants to spotlight (Barack Obama in 2004, Bill Clinton in 1988) and members of Congress. Former primary rivals often appear as a show of party unity, and members of the nominee's family are trotted out. Then there are the celebrities brought in for a dash of pizazz, like Meryl Streep, will.i.am and Katy Perry. (Such appearances don't always go over as planned, as when Clint Eastwood conducted a much-mocked chat with an empty chair at the 2012 Republican convention.)
There has got to be a better way.
As it happens, Democrats have been working on this issue for some time, having realized several weeks ago that they needed to shift to a largely virtual gathering. The fine-tuning is still in progress, but some details are available. Airtime will be slashed and the speaking lineup shortened, Joe Solmonese, the chief executive of this year's convention, told the editorial board. "We want to be concise and respect people's time."
The proceedings will also be more geographically dispersed. Delegates and public officials aren't gathering in the host city of Milwaukee. Joe Biden will deliver his speech from there, and his vice-presidential pick will be on site for part of the week. But many speakers will be scattered across battleground states and other meaningful locales, based on each evening's theme.
"We're going to be very much grounded in the moment we're in," said Mr. Solmonese. "So when it comes time to talk about education and the tough decisions parents will make about their kids going back to school, we're going to go to the places those conversations are happening." The same holds for the public health responders dealing with Covid-19 and the small businesses fighting for survival, he said, noting that having to think beyond the convention location "creates an opportunity for us to go where we think there are important stories to be told."
With a nod to social distancing, the stage will feature a multiscreen Zoom layout on which political V.I.P.s and regular Americans will participate in a remote roll call vote. Dreamers and union members and activists will chime in from "iconic or message-based locations in 57 states and territories across America," according to an internal party memo obtained by The Daily Beast. These will include the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., the site of the Bloody Sunday civil rights clash in 1965.
Using resonant locations and nonfamous faces to spotlight important issues is a smart move. Message: This election is not about partisan games or insiders' egos. It is about the nation's collective future.
As for the themes conveyed, anything that focuses on comforting and healing the nation is likely to play well in these unsettling times and speaks to Mr. Biden's particular brand. For nonincumbents, conventions are about introducing the nominee to voters. There will, of course, be gauzy videos telling Mr. Biden's life story. Cutting down on the speechifying and focusing on real people's stories is also less likely to put viewers to sleep.
The Republicans and Mr. Trump are facing a slightly different challenge with significantly less time to adapt. At this point, most Americans already have a clear view of the president. He will not be introducing himself to the nation so much as he will be attempting to rebrand himself.
With his polls numbers slipping, it's clear Mr. Trump needs a retool. For starters, he could drop the self-pitying talk about how unfair everyone has been to him and make a positive case for why he deserves to be re-elected. Central to this: He needs to articulate his vision and priorities for a second term. The president has been asked this question repeatedly of late, and he has consistently failed to offer a coherent answer. A (virtual) convention celebrating his renomination seems the obvious place to correct that.
Pageantry and celebrities have their place. Who doesn't love a good balloon drop? But this year, the entire nation is under enormous strain. Americans want to know that the presidential contenders understand and care about their problems and, more than that, that they are focused intently on how to solve those problems.
The Seattle Times on a judge ordering journalist to turn over unpublished content, including photos, to police:
A King County judge's order that The Seattle Times and other media must turn over unpublished content to the police is a blow to independent journalism.
The order imperils journalists documenting this summer's historic protests and sends the wrong message about the media as a check on government power.
Journalists' unique role and responsibility is protected in Washington's shield law, passed by legislators in 2007. The law prohibits officials from forcing journalists to turn over unpublished information outside of specific and narrow circumstances. King County Superior Court Judge Nelson Lee's recent order that The Seattle Times and four other news outlets must hand unpublished protest video and photos to police investigators is a troubling interpretation of that law.
Police want the journalists' images to help identify suspects who set fire to police cars and stole police firearms during a May 30 protest in downtown Seattle. Certainly, those involved in the crimes should be held accountable. But even the mistaken conflation of journalists with police investigators can directly impact news gatherers' ability to do their work.
In volatile situations like recent protests, this misconception can and has led to physical violence.
As the National Press Photographers Association and Press Freedom Defense Fund wrote in a joint statement about Lee's decision, "It is dangerous enough for visual journalists to be covering the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests over the death of George Floyd. The last thing visual journalists want is to be seen as an arm of law enforcement, aiding attempts to gather evidence."
As Seattle Times assistant managing editor Danny Gawlowski wrote in a declaration submitted to the court, even before the court ruling, Times photo journalists have had to repeatedly explain their independence to protesters. During one early protest, a Times staff photographer was hit in the head by a rock and punched in the face.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has verified more than 585 incidents of journalists being assaulted, arrested or otherwise prevented from reporting during this summer's protests in dozens of cities.
Independence from political and commercial influence is the backbone of responsible journalism. Journalists must report in the public interest, not in the service of government.
Journalists are facing enormous challenges as they report this historic moment. The court's decision threatens to make a bad situation worse.
The Los Angeles Times on a new coronavirus relief package:
At the moment, Congress has two tasks more important than any others: Providing the resources and leadership needed to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, and helping the country climb out of the deep recession that the pandemic triggered. Sadly, the long-awaited coronavirus relief package that Senate Republicans released this week falls far short on both fronts.
The need for a fourth major congressional effort became clear not long after states abandoned their stay-at-home orders, leading infection rates to skyrocket. The one thing lawmakers should have been able to agree on immediately is a major increase in funding for testing and contact tracing so that states could better identify where and how the disease was spreading. But in addition to being many days late, Senate Republicans are coming to the table many dollars short on this front. Its proposal includes $16 billion for testing, compared to the $75 billion recommended by a number of healthcare analysts and public health experts.
There is nothing more important to people's lives and livelihoods than corralling the novel coronavirus. Now is not the time for parsimony.
The GOP package's efforts to boost the economy are similarly halfhearted, starting with the proposal to renew the higher unemployment benefits that Congress authorized in March at a significantly lower level: an additional $200 per week instead of $600. The $200 would lapse at the end of September, after which the additional payment would raise unemployed workers' benefits to 70% of their previous wages (state benefits currently replace 40% to 50% of an idled worker's wages).
The $600 add-on expires this week. Republicans balked at extending it because, they argued, it discouraged laid-off people from returning to work. The federal aid did allow most unemployment workers to make as much as or more than they'd been paid in their last job, but it's far from clear that masses of Americans were turning down offers of work in defiance of state requirements. To the contrary, employment data from June showed that millions of laid-off Americans did take jobs, but also that there were far more unemployed people than there were jobs available. You can't take a job that doesn't exist.
Also hugely problematic: It will take months to upgrade the antiquated unemployment systems in many states to make the change the Senate GOP has proposed, which makes it all but unachievable. The operational costs of those systems, by the way, are largely the federal government's responsibility.
The extra benefits allowed millions of idled workers to pay their bills, boosting the consumer spending that is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy. The total was about $75 billion a month, economist Gus Faucher of PNC said, adding, "If you take that out of people's pockets, they're going to stop spending it."
Continuing those extra benefits is a much more efficient way to pump money into the economy than cutting low- and middle-income families a check, as Congress did in March and the GOP proposes to do again.
The package includes badly needed aid for schools but ignores the plight of state and local governments hard hit by the recession, setting the stage for more layoffs and cuts in vital government services. It also seeks to boost businesses through more federal loans for small businesses, an effort that, while good in concept, has been marred by poor targeting and execution.
One other piece is a proposal to make businesses immune to COVID-19-related lawsuits until October 2024, retroactive to last December. It is strikingly one-sided, completely excusing companies and institutions from liability for negligent acts that spread the disease. They'd even be shielded from liability for gross negligence if they made "reasonable" efforts to comply with vague governmental guidelines.
Any liability shield should either come with an alternate way for injured people to seek compensation from the government, as is the case with vaccines, or with specific standards that companies must meet for protecting their workers and customers from COVID-19. Besides, contrary to the proposal's ominous warnings, there's been no "tidal wave" of lawsuits from consumers; according to a complaint tracker by the Hunton Andrews Kurth law firm, consumers have filed fewer than a dozen COVID-19 related claims in the past month and a half, despite the broad move to reopen businesses.
Some Republicans have balked at the idea of providing any further federal aid because of the record-setting deficit. Such fiscal responsibility would have been more welcome when the economy was growing and the GOP was cutting taxes and throwing money at the Pentagon. The human and economic problems caused by COVID-19 are enormous and ongoing, and they demand a commensurate response.
The Washington Post on aid packages for child care services and child caretakers:
With schools shuttered and child-care options restricted, working parents across the country are shouldering unexpected child-care burdens. Many will not be able to return to work until they can find safe, affordable child care. At the same time, the child-care industry is collapsing under pandemic-inflicted financial pressure. Without swift action from Congress, child-care centers are at risk of permanent closures that could severely undermine the country's economic recovery.
Unlike public schools, child-care centers are largely funded by parents' tuition payments. Even before the pandemic, most child-care centers were barely profitable. At the peak of the crisis, one-third of the child-care workforce lost their jobs, and about 60 percent of child-care programs temporarily closed. Now, those that survive are implementing virus prevention measures that reduce enrollment and revenue while increasing operating costs. Half the industry is at risk for permanent closure, which would mean millions of lost child-care slots, according to an estimate from the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
Such losses would present many parents with terrible choices. In the absence of safe, affordable child care, should parents place their children in unlicensed or lower-quality facilities during a public health crisis, or spend more than they can reasonably afford on child care for those lucky enough to have a safe option nearby? For lower-income families, the lack of affordable child care could mean giving up work outside the home and sliding into poverty. Black and brown parents are more likely than white parents to experience job disruptions due to child care.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress both have introduced measures that would help stabilize the industry. The Democratic-backed Child Care Is Essential Act would provide $50 billion in funding to child-care centers through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which provides federal funding to states to subsidize child care for working families. The Republican-backed measure would fund child-care providers through the CCDBG for up to nine months. Experts estimate that the child-care industry needs $9.6 billion a month to stay afloat, much more than the $3.5 billion the industry received in spring's coronavirus legislation.
To prevent mass closures of child-care providers, Congress must prioritize industry-wide relief. But even an emergency rescue would not address the underlying issues associated with the chronic underfunding of caregiving. Last week, former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, unveiled a proposal to invest $775 billion over 10 years in caregiving programs for small children, older Americans and those with disabilities. This ambitious proposal is a welcome and unprecedented acknowledgment that caregiving is central to a fully functioning economy. Though it is largely focused on bolstering America's caregiving infrastructure in the medium term, Mr. Biden's plan also mentions fiscal relief to keep child-care services running a recognition that, without stabilization efforts now, there may not be an industry left to bolster.
The Japan News on the relationship between the United States and China:
The escalating confrontation between the United States and China, the world's two largest economies, could further destabilize the international situation. Both countries should realize their heavy responsibilities and stop the chain of retaliation.
The United States has shut down the Chinese Consulate General in Houston, Texas, in the southwestern part of the country, on the ground that it was used as a "hub of Chinese spying."
As a countermeasure, China has closed the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, and claimed that some personnel at the consulate general were "conducting activities not in line with their identities."
The role of a consulate general is to protect its own country's citizens, be aware of the situation in the country where it is located and engage in dialogue and exchange with the host country. However, taking advantage of a Vienna Convention article on the inviolability of foreign diplomatic missions, major powers often engage in intense intelligence-gathering activities.
There are many cases in which a diplomat who is believed to be a spy is deported. However, it is unusual for a country to close a diplomatic mission of another country without specifying concrete illicit activities of that country. This can be regarded as a serious aspect of the confrontation between the United States and China.
The practice of using the closure of diplomatic missions as a sanction must not spread to other countries and hamper legitimate diplomatic activities.
The United States has made it clearer that it will step up pressure on China. Based on a ruling in 2016 by an international tribunal at The Hague, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that China's claims of maritime interests in the South China Sea were "completely illegal."
In his policy speech on China, Pompeo stated that engagement with China by past U.S. administrations that aimed to incorporate China into the international community had been a failure, and called for a change in the engagement policy. He also stressed the need for democratic countries to unite to contain China.
It cannot be denied that the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping has not listened to warnings from the international community, and has taken measures that ignored the rule of law, trade rules and human rights. It is pressing ahead with its militarization in the South China Sea, as well as breaking an international promise and depriving Hong Kong of its freedom and threatening the world order.
It is understandable that the United States is trying to change China's behavior. The question is how and when.
As opportunities for dialogue between the United States and China have been reduced due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, continued retaliatory battles could escalate tensions and develop into an unforeseen conflict. If the United States takes excessive hard-line measures, it will not be able to win the support of Japan and European countries.
Suspicions still linger that U.S. President Donald Trump is showing a confrontational attitude toward China in order to strengthen his support for the presidential election in November. The Xi administration also is apparently being forced to take a hard-line attitude toward the United States to avoid domestic criticism of a "soft attitude" and maintain its prestige.
Both the United States and China must regain their composure and find ways to settle the situation.
The Wall Street Journal on weekend police brutality protests:
Riots broke out again this weekend from coast to coast, with violence and vandalism damaging more of urban America. Democrats and their media allies insist these are largely peaceful protests, so it's worth examining what really happened.
On Saturday in Seattle, protesters gathered outside the juvenile court and detention facility, set fire to portable trailers, and smashed the windows of nearby cars and businesses. An explosive device gashed an eight-inch hole in the side of the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct, and rioters threw fireworks, stones and other projectiles at law enforcement.
"In all 59 officers were injured throughout the day with one of those being hospitalized," the police department reported, and "injuries ranged from abrasions and bruising to burns and a torn meniscus."
Similar scenes unfolded in Portland as rioters tried to tear down the fence surrounding the Hatfield Federal Courthouse. Demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails Friday night, and after midnight one federal officer took "a direct hit from a commercial grade firework," another "was hit with a mortar firework," and a third "was struck in the head with a mortar firework," the Department of Homeland Security says. Peaceful?
DHS says some 5,000 or 6,000 returned to the scene on Sunday, threw smoke bombs and launched "a roughly 10-minute-long continuous firework attack against the courthouse." DHS says at least 20 federal officers sustained injuries in Portland.
In Louisville, Ky., a black militia that calls itself the "Not F Around Coalition" lived up to its name Saturday when a member discharged a gun and accidentally struck three compatriots, causing non-life-threatening injuries. In Oakland, Calif., rioters set fires downtown Saturday night, including at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse. In New York City, demonstrators defaced police vans with spray paint and tried to smash their windows, while others lit trash cans on fire. Demonstrators carried out more vandalism at a federal building in Atlanta and a Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Baltimore.
This list isn't exhaustive, and it undermines the claim that the Trump Administration has deployed federal agents to suppress peaceful dissent. Federal officers protecting federal property are now the targets of demonstrators, not the instigators of violence. The real blame lies with progressive city leaders, who have all but promised violent protesters that they can act with impunity.
Portland recently imposed sweeping restrictions on when police can use tear gas to disperse protesters. Seattle passed a similar ordinance banning tear gas, blast balls and other less-than-lethal weaponseven after Police Chief Carmen Best warned that such restrictions leave officers with "no ability to safely intercede to preserve property in the midst of a large, violent crowd" and may "create even more dangerous circumstances for our officers to intervene using what they have leftriot shields and riot batons."
Federal Judge James Robart issued an injunction against the Seattle ordinance last week after the federal government expressed similar concerns, but it's only temporary. Other Democratic-run cities have passed or are pursuing similar bans.
The weekend's events were a deliberate assault on public and private property, law enforcement, and public order. Lawlessness begets lawlessness, and in recent weeks we've seen reports of vigilantes and far-right activists joining the melee from Richmond to Philadelphia. Local officials are allowing this disorder to occur, and the more it is indulged the worse it is likely to get.
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