Wednesday , March 14, 2018 - 12:59 PM
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The San Francisco Chronicle on the resignation of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, citing false statements:
Citing “false” and “misleading” public statements by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Thomas Homan, the agency’s San Francisco spokesman, James Schwab, resigned on Monday.
Schwab told the Chronicle he couldn’t continue to do his job, as officials pressured him to deflect media questions by using so-called “alternative facts” about last month’s “Keep Safe” raid in Northern California.
What Trump administration officials said, again and again, was that about 800 undocumented immigrants evaded arrest during the operation — thanks to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Schaaf alerted the public on Feb. 24 about an upcoming raid. Officials arrested 232 suspected undocumented immigrants during the operation.
Schwab wanted officials to correct the claim of 800 undocumented immigrants evading arrest. He stated that he knew it to be far lower.
“I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” Schwab told The Chronicle. “I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that.”
Out of a target list of nearly 1,000 undocumented immigrants, Schwab said, the agency would never have been able to capture all of them — regardless of whether Schaaf warned the public.
Meanwhile, ICE has been backpedaling: The agency now claims it never said it would capture all of the targets. ICE spokeswoman Liz Johnson said: “While we can’t put a number on how many targets avoided arrest due to the mayor’s warning, it clearly had an impact. While we disagree with Mr. Schwab on this issue, we appreciate his service and wish him well.”
Schwab was right to follow his conscience and quit his job. He was also right to insist that a federal agency do its job.
Providing the public with truthful information is a basic responsibility of government — whether the Trump administration likes it or not.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch on the rise of fake video:
If you thought fake news was bad, better hold on to your hat. It’s only going to get worse.
The New York Times reports that technology has advanced to the point that, with some off-the-web software and a little effort, people can now create fake videos. They are not yet sophisticated enough to fool the careful observer, but that will change. Once, it took a huge Hollywood studio to create a clip of Forrest Gump shaking hands with John F. Kennedy. Soon anyone will be able to do it in her basement.
This means that in the near future it will be possible to create, say, a video clip that seems to show a political candidate confessing to murder, or kicking a puppy, or doing something even worse, like rooting for the Dallas Cowboys.
Most people probably will use the technology the way they use face-swapping apps now: to post funny things on social media. But others could cause a great deal of mayhem. Imagine a candidate for the state legislature having to prove, say, that he never threw up in a strip club when a video purports to show him doing just that.
The potential for havoc is huge. Still, there is an upside: Fake videos, like fake news generally, could renew interest in epistemology: the study of knowledge — of how we know what we know and whether we are justified in knowing it. This isn’t to say dollar stores will start selling T-shirts of Edmund Husserl and Willard V.O. Quine. But optimistically, a few philosophy professors might want to get ready for their close-up.
The Lincoln Journal Star says tariffs will harm Nebraska and the rest of the U.S.:
As federal trade policy shifts and wobbles toward a somewhat uncertain endgame, one thing remains crystal clear: Today’s smart trade pacts have unquestionably benefited this state and country.
The five Republicans who make up our state’s congressional delegation understand this, with Sen. Ben Sasse and Rep. Adrian Smith strongly condemning the implementation of tariffs - most recently, on imported steel and aluminum - and the negative impact those will have on business and consumers alike.
Many columnists on this page have correctly noted that tariffs represent a tax on American consumers, with the duty applied at the border ultimately paid by the end user. They’re just bad business and compound the flat-out wrong rhetoric President Donald Trump used last week when saying trade wars are “fun” and “easy to win.”
That’s a dangerous game to play, one with costs far too great to trifle with.
The history books are littered with cautionary tales of protectionism gone wrong, from the disastrous tariffs instituted around the Great Depression to the shortsighted withdrawal from trade pacts that cost Nebraska beef producers both access and sales to Asian markets at a time of already low commodity prices.
The White House seems to focus its attention on trade deficits, an imperfect means of measuring these deals’ benefit, as a win-or-loss metric. Even though the truth is much more nuanced than using that as the only yardstick, Nebraska still comes out way ahead, turning a $2.8 billion trade surplus in 2016.
A prime example of how free trade maximizes efficiencies and improves all participants’ lots comes from a readily apparent source in Nebraska - agriculture.
Compared to the U.S., Canada has relatively few manufacturers that produce major farm implements and machinery. Meanwhile, our northern neighbor specializes in the production of young livestock, as a delegation that included Canada’s deputy ambassador to the U.S. and its Minneapolis-based consulate general pointed out when meeting with the editorial board.
It’s no coincidence that these two fields represent Nebraska’s single greatest export to ($218 million) and greatest import from ($105 million) Canada in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Nationally, it’s a $47.2 billion relationship that supports 9 million jobs stateside, including $2.4 billion and 57,400 jobs in Nebraska.
And Canada was merely Nebraska’s second-largest trading partner from 2016, as Mexico - the third partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement and a major consumer of Nebraska agricultural goods - held the top spot that year.
Protectionism, tariffs and other anti-free-market steps threaten the widespread benefits of such agreements, needlessly jeopardizing jobs and industries. Nebraska, and the U.S. as a whole, benefit from free trade agreements.
The Boston Herald on the purported link between violent video games and real-life violence:
President Trump used the shooting in Parkland, Florida, to convene a group at the White House last week to discuss the possible nexus between violent video games and actual violence, despite the lack of conclusive evidence that such a nexus exists. No less an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court said in 2011 there is no “compelling” link.
And talk about going from the trivial to the titanic — the video game meeting was on the same day the president said he will meet for direct talks with the repressive leader of nuclear-armed North Korea. Hey, the president gets to pick his priorities — and it seems that in addition to meeting with Little Rocket Man one of his main goals is shifting the focus away from gun control to other “causes” of school violence.
The president is not alone in his concern about the impact of violent video games on young people. President Obama raised similar concerns when he was in office.
But even if the research were on Trump’s side — then what?
In that landmark Supreme Court case overturning a California law in 2011 the high court declared that video games represent a form of speech protected under the First Amendment, and said California couldn’t carve out a violence exemption. We realize this president doesn’t have much use for the First Amendment, but even he doesn’t have the power to wipe “Call of Duty” or “Grand Theft Auto” off store shelves.
And so what the meeting amounted to was a gripe-fest — a distraction from Trump’s own mixed messages on gun control. It was also a sop to folks like National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre, who has famously castigated entertainment companies for inciting violence.
In other words, it was a waste of time.
The Orange County Register on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions suing California over immigration policy:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement Wednesday that the Justice Department is suing California over its so-called sanctuary policies is the latest escalation in the conflict between the Golden State and the Trump administration.
Speaking at the 26th Annual Law Enforcement Legislative Day hosted by the California Peace Officers’ Association, Sessions strongly denounced California’s efforts to obstruct the work of federal immigration agents.
“Contrary to what you might hear from the lawless open-borders radicals, we are not asking California, Oakland or anyone else to enforce immigration laws,” Sessions said. “We are simply asking California and other sanctuary jurisdictions to stop actively obstructing federal law enforcement.”
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, seeks to block three state laws enacted last year.
The first is the Immigrant Worker Protection Act which among other things prohibits employers in California from allowing ICE agents into their workplace without a warrant. The law, which was opposed by business groups like the California Fresh Fruit Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, carries steep financial penalties of up to $10,000 for employers who voluntarily allow ICE into their place of business.
Whatever one thinks about immigration policy, this state law clearly thrusts employers into a conflict between the state and federal government. At the very least, the idea that the state can force, under threat of prosecution, business owners to defy federal immigration agents seems like a misplaced effort.
Another law under challenge by the Justice Department is Assembly Bill 103, which directs the state attorney general to inspect immigration detention facilities in California. The law, passed in response to concerns about the treatment of immigrant detainees, who aren’t necessarily guilty of any crime, is challenged by the Justice Department as an attempt to regulate federal immigration detention.
While California’s concern for immigrant detainees is understandable, and detention should be humane and reasonable, it is easy to see how AB103 oversteps California’s authority.
The third law being challenged is Senate Bill 54, the so-called “sanctuary state” bill which restricts the information state and local law enforcement officials can provide to federal immigration authorities. While the law includes some exceptions for immigrants convicted of certain, serious crimes, the Justice Department argues the law “interferes with federal immigration authorities’ ability to carry out their responsibilities under federal law.”
Here there is likely to be the most significant legal battle.
While SB54 is largely political theater that has done more to make California a target for immigration enforcement than anything else, state and local law enforcement agencies are under no obligation to do the work of the federal government. The federal government should not be able to commandeer state and local police to enforce federal immigration law. But to what extent SB54 or what Sessions would like to see can hold up in court remains to be seen.
The escalation of this political and legal battle between California and the federal government has been inevitable. With millions of undocumented immigrants living in California, and a Congress still unable to put together even the most modest of immigration reforms into place, it is a conflict which is likely to persist for some time.
China Daily on the significance of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s firing for U.S. foreign policy:
Abrupt as it was, United States President Donald Trump’s dismissal of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state came as no real surprise. There has been speculation for a long time about a parting of ways, as the entire world witnessed them differ on Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Paris climate agreement, among other things.
Thanks in part to what Trump described as a “different mindset” and “different thinking,” Tillerson often seemed at odds with his boss during his 14-month tenure. Many believe his replacement, CIA director Mike Pompeo, will at least speak as one with the president on US foreign policy, something Trump seems to be counting on to get his way, saying they “have a very similar thought process” — words that will sound ominous to many given some of Trump’s previous remarks and his country’s habit of hasty action.
While coherence may seem an upside, it will be quite another story if the new secretary of state is simply a yes-man enabling impetuous deeds in pursuit of a set agenda.
Pompeo’s hawkish stance toward China, along with his military background, have already alerted US foreign policy watchers here to the likelihood of further frictions ahead, given the differences that already exist in bilateral relations and the complexity of many issues on which they have divergent views.
This may not necessarily put China and the US on a collision course. But bilateral ties may get rockier at the hands of a combative and bombastic Trump and Pompeo double act.
In his farewell speech, Tillerson left the White House and his successor with a question that needs serious deliberation: How should the two countries deal with one another over the next 50 years to avoid conflict?
China said on Wednesday that it hopes to continue working with the US on hotspot issues and urged that relations not be viewed as a zero-sum game.
Certainly, right now, the two countries need to continue to communicate and work together with other parties to secure the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Although there are already concerns that the hawks have taken over US security and foreign policy decision-making and what that might entail.
However, while the intended audience might be taken in by appearances, it will be better to concentrate upon the details as they unfold, rather than trusting to general impressions.
New watchdog good for consumer rights protection: China Daily editorial
China Central Television marks World Consumer Rights Day on March 15 each year with an annual gala that uses investigative reporting to name and shame unscrupulous retailers. Many brands, both domestic and foreign, have come under fire for either their shoddy goods or poor after-sale service and been forced to apologize and offer customers compensation.
Millions of Chinese consumers like to watch the program as it strikes a chord with them even though they know product quality problems cannot be solved overnight.
The fact that the vast rural areas are still being plagued with fake and shoddy products, which pose risks to the health and welfare of consumers there, points to the urgency of tackling such problems through improved governance and law enforcement.
Premier Li Keqiang stressed the importance of a sound business environment for high-quality development and called for more efforts to maintain market order in his report on government work on March 5, saying the government will work to increase the supplies of premium products and services through improved quality certification and strengthened oversight of food, drugs, and consumer and industrial products, among other things.
As part of the restructuring of government departments announced on Tuesday, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, and the China Food and Drug Administration are to be dismantled and their functions incorporated into one new supervisory department.
The new State market regulatory administration that is being set up will shoulder the responsibility for market supervision and management, market entity registration and market order, including examination and testing, certification and accreditation, with a specific supervisory body affiliated to it to keep a watchful eye on pharmaceutical drugs, a particularly sensitive area given their importance to people’s well-being.
The history of consumer rights protection is often viewed as specific legal and administrative responses to quality-related crises and emergencies. For instance, the tainted milk scandal in 2008, which sparked public outrage, led to an overhaul of the industry and upgrading of the country’s product tracking system. The latest moves aim to try and prevent such crises and better meet people’s demands for safe, quality goods.
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