Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
Boston Herald on the FBI’s leadership:
The news that the FBI fired Peter Strzok broke yesterday, and with that we can begin to see big-picture truth take shape about the bureau’s role in the Hillary Clinton investigation as well as the Russia investigation.
It does not look good for the leadership at the FBI. 2016 did not bring out the best in them.
Director James Comey was fired, as was Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and now Strzok, an FBI senior counterintelligence agent, has been terminated after being demoted earlier. He was a lead investigator on the probe into Clinton’s email server in 2016 before moving on to Mueller’s team.
Add to that Lisa Page, who was also on the Mueller team, and who was demoted before resigning earlier this year, and Bruce Ohr, who was stripped of his title as associate deputy attorney general.
Page had been texting anti-Trump messages back and forth with Strzok, and Ohr had been in contact with the authors of the Steele dossier shortly after the election.
FBI chief lawyer James Baker also stepped down amid allegations that he’d been involved in leaking classified information about the Steele dossier.
FBI agents need to keep their politics and biases out of their day-to-day behaviour and certainly away from their workflow. The infractions that have continually come to light since the election of Donald Trump have served to degrade the public’s trust in the nation’s leading law enforcement agency and may have seriously impeded the duly elected president of the United States in performing his duties as described in the Constitution.
We can begin rebuilding the credibility of the FBI as soon as those who’ve acted deleteriously have been removed.
The Orange County (California) Register on climate change:
Even — or especially — among those who agree human-caused global warming is happening, the footnote has been the understanding that no individual weather event or catastrophe is caused by the overall temperature rise.
Until this summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
It’s not just hot here in California, where it’s always hot in July, August and September. It’s not just Death Valley, where German tourists always flock to feel the heat they (formerly) couldn’t at home.
It was hovering around 90 degrees Fahrenheit at the Arctic Circle in Norway and Sweden last week. In July, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Scotland was hit — 92 degrees in a village near Glasgow. It was 106 in Japan, also that nation’s highest ever.
And while it’s often in the triple digits in the air here, the Pacific Ocean had never in 102 years of daily water-temperature readings seen the Pacific Ocean hit 78 degrees at the pier in La Jolla where the Scripps Institute is — until this summer. Rising ocean temperatures are another feature of global warming, and will radically alter our formerly famous Mediterranean climate insofar as night-time air temperatures go. Unlike most of the rest of the country, when California has a 95-degree summer day, it’s never been unusual for the outdoors temp to cool to the mid-50s by late evening. Felt anything like the upper 50s lately? Up and down California, last month saw the highest minimum temperature statewide of any month since 1895, rising to 64.9, from the redwood forest to the Coachella Valley, Ron Lin and Javier Panzar report in the Los Angeles Times.
And so, yes, to answer many Californians’ understandable question, climate change is contributing to the unprecedented wildfire seasons we are seeing this year and last. Global warming is without a doubt a culprit in the suddenly year-round fire danger we face throughout our state. The higher temperatures mean dried-out trees, forest undergrowth and grasslands. Those plants burn more easily when a spark of any kind ignites them — mostly, of course, also man-made sparks, but now with drier kindling to deal with. And the snowmelt and river levels are lower, too, because of climate change.
The San Francisco Chronicle cites a report in which researchers at Columbia University and the University of Idaho showed that human-caused warming had dried out our forests so much that fire seasons throughout the West have expanded by an average of nine days every year since 2000.
So — now that the demonstrably real effects of climate change are affecting our California lives every day, what to do about it? It’s only human to lament the lost opportunities, the fact that responsible scientists warned us two decades ago that this would come to pass if we didn’t halt the rise in greenhouse-gas production. But humans have faced existential threats before, in the last century — from world wars, from nuclear weapons. Now is the time to not give into despair but to lobby our leaders, and governments around the world, telling them to stop sticking their heads in the (hot) sand, believe the science and begin a technical approach to reversing the real problem humans have brought to our planet.
The Wall Street Journal on the white nationalist rally on the anniversary of last year’s deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia:
Anyone who pays the slightest attention to the daily passage of events in the news was aware that white-supremacist alt-right groups were planning a rally in Washington, D.C., this past weekend. The anticipatory media coverage of the event didn’t quite reach Super-Bowl hype levels, but it was close. And the number of white supremacists who showed up for the Sunday rally?
Not 200. Not 100. About 20.
This whimper of an alt-right rally raises some interesting political questions about what has transpired in the year since the tragic confrontation in Charlottesville between alt-right groups and left-wing groups like antifa left one woman dead.
In the last 12 months, the left — abetted by some in the media — has transformed Charlottesville into “Charlottesville” — a one-word symbol of civic and racial strife presumably at large in Donald Trump’s America.
To be sure, Mr. Trump ham-handedly gave the left this opening by issuing an equivocal statement about the Charlottesville violence. He deserved criticism, and he got it.
The left, nonetheless, has kept alive the notion that the Trump Presidency is an enabler of larger, latent white supremacist sentiment that is supposedly surging in the U.S. The truth is closer to the pathetic reality of Sunday’s mini-rally in Washington.
Until recently, the various aggregations of alt-right sentiment were called fringe groups because they were exactly that — extremists operating on the loony edge of American politics. And the white-supremacist movement seen in Charlottesville last August has largely collapsed the past year because of infighting and disorganization.
But with the help of social media, the lunatic fringe has forced its way into the mainstream media and been made to look larger and more important than it is. The left recognized that the newly visible alt-right could be turned into a political weapon by drawing a straight line between Trump voters and white supremacists, thereby hoping to scare off more mainstream supporters of the current government.
We wish Mr. Trump was more adept at navigating through this minefield. We also wish we didn’t have to read in the second paragraph of the New York Times coverage of Sunday’s microscopic rally that “even with the low turnout, almost no one walked away with the sense that the nation’s divisions were any closer to healing.” Even no news is bad news these days.
One person who deserves commendation is D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Before the rally she said, “While we are opposed adamantly to what we are going to hear, we know what our responsibility is — to protect First Amendment events.” In the current climate, Mayor Bowser’s admirable defence of free speech will need all the support it can get.
Khaleej Times on Turkey’s currency crisis:
It’s not just Turkish lira, but many other currencies that are weakening and touching new lows. The slide is creating nervousness, and impacting the performance of stock markets, which are essentially barometers of confidence in economies they represent. So, is the Turkish lira to blame for this? How is its performance connected with fluctuations in stock markets elsewhere, and falling currencies in emerging markets (read: Indian rupee, South African rand, Indonesian rupiah)? Well, the answer primarily lies in the strength of the dollar and relatively less demand for gold.
Traditionally, investors have viewed gold as a safe haven. Individual and institutional investors, especially from the emerging markets, have been investing in the yellow metal for uncertain times. However, the trend seems to be changing in favour of the US dollar. The price of gold has tumbled about 14 per cent since the last quarter of 2017, and the US dollar instead has risen. With interest rates rising in the US, investors could be finding it more profitable to invest in the greenback, which is keeping the demand high.
The strengthening US dollar, rising debt levels in Turkey, and lack of sufficient foreign exchange reserves are pulling the lira down. And this is a problem for Turkey, and a lot of other markets that have exposure to it. Over the years, Turkey has relied heavily on foreign-currency debt to fuel growth. Data from the Bank for International Settlements suggests, Turkish borrowers owe Spanish banks about $83.3 billion; $38.4 billion to the French; $17 billion to Italian banks; and $14billion to the Japanese. If Turkey fails to honour its commitments, it could impact banks and economies in Europe and elsewhere, which is why jitters are being felt way beyond the shores of Turkey.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for more than a decade, had insisted on keeping interest rates low for years. Populist policies don’t always work in the best interests of the people, and leaders like Erdogan would do well to realise that. It’s a shame that a country that was once among fast growing economies is now on the verge of bankruptcy. Turkey won’t achieve much by boycotting US electronics; it must swallow the bitter pill of reforms and seek help to contain the crisis, before it spills across the world.
The New York Times on the feud between former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman and President Donald Trump:
President Trump’s spat with Omarosa Manigault Newman, the White House adviser who was fired in December for “serious integrity issues,” is another of those particularly Trumpian innovations in public life — the raging dumpster fire that continues to yield new trash.
In her juicy new tell-all, aptly titled “Unhinged,” Ms. Manigault Newman paints an unflattering portrait of the president, whom she has known since appearing as a contestant on his reality TV show “The Apprentice” in 2004. She characterizes Mr. Trump as a racist, misogynistic narcissist with poor impulse control, severe attention-deficit issues and signs of creeping mental decline, who “loves the hate,” ”thrives on criticism and insults” and “delights in chaos and confusion.” Her anecdotes range from the prosaically awful (she claims he has used the N-word) to the freakish (she says she once walked into the Oval Office and found him eating paper). She says the Trump campaign offered her a $15,000-a-month sinecure to keep quiet about her on-the-job experiences. (A copy of the agreement has become public.) And, oh yes, she has secret audio recordings to corroborate some of her claims, including a recording of her firing by the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, in the Situation Room.
Mr. Trump has responded with characteristic restraint. He has dismissed Ms. Manigault Newman as “wacky”; called her a “lowlife”; mocked her for her having, he claims, weepily begged him for a job in the White House; and said she was “hated” by her colleagues for being “nasty,” ”vicious, but not smart” and “nothing but problems.” Despite all this, insists Mr. Trump, he had tried his best to make things work because Ms. Manigault Newman always said “GREAT things” about him. For this president, there remains no higher job qualification than constantly telling him and others what a super guy he is.
On both sides, the spat is vintage Trump: tawdry, cruel, vindictive and highly personal. That said, this is about more than a petty feud with a former aide who famously shares Mr. Trump’s love of chaos, confusion and high drama. It is also a glaring reminder of one of this president’s central failings as a leader: his disastrous judgment when choosing people with whom to surround himself.
The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina on President Donald Trump’s idea to create a Space Force:
Earlier this month, President Trump’s administration doubled down on his earlier proposal to create a Space Force as a new branch of the United States military. The suggestion, as before, was met with much eye-rolling and plenty of snarky remarks from the president’s critics.
We have argued before that space is a uniquely bad place to wage war. But Mr. Trump seems serious about the idea, so perhaps it’s worth seriously weighing.
And besides, it wouldn’t be the first time that pushing the military into a new frontier drew skepticism. Military officials at the start of World War I were famously critical of the usefulness of airplanes in combat. That turned out to be a shortsighted opinion, to say the least.
Certainly, the Air Force has helped make the world a safer place. It’s possible that boosting our military capabilities in space would do the same. But there are also a lot of ways things could go wrong.
For one thing, when something blows up in the air, it falls to the ground. When something blows up in space, it turns into millions of tiny bullets that whiz around the planet faster than the speed of sound until they burn up in the atmosphere or crash to Earth, sometimes many years later.
High-speed junk in orbit makes it harder to keep satellites safe, which threatens communications, scientific research, GPS service and, of course, military technology. All of that mess in space also makes it harder for us to get off of Earth, which is important for studying our home planet — and possibly for one day travelling to a new one.
So far, we don’t know how to clean up space. So if satellites — or missiles — started smashing into each other, the chain reaction could wipe out so much crucial technology that it could plunge us into a virtual Dark Age for many years.
That’s something called the Kessler Syndrome, and it’s not entirely hypothetical. In 2007, China tested an anti-satellite technology that created at least 150,000 pieces of debris — thousands of which are large enough to be tracked from the ground — that will orbit the Earth for decades.
In other words, the less stuff we blow up in space, the better.
Besides, the United States already has significant military capabilities in space. We blew up a satellite too, in 1985, for example. And each branch of the military already has operations dedicated at least in part to space-based warfare. Even the Coast Guard plans to launch satellites this year.
Mr. Trump and his administration have been decidedly light on details of how a Space Force would be any different from current operations. Perhaps it would be prudent to combine different areas of expertise under one command. But no one has effectively articulated what’s wrong with the existing setup.
The more immediate concern is that talk about a Space Force distracts from some significantly more pressing challenges facing the United States — not the least of which is growing aggression from North Korea, Russia, Iran and other dangerous regimes that still commit or facilitate plenty of violence here on Earth.
President Trump’s Space Force proposal is less a punchline than the reaction on late-night television would suggest. In fact, it’s not necessarily a preposterous idea at all, just one that ought to be very low on the priority list.
And our ultimate goal — whether we pursue it with a Space Force, existing military efforts, treaties or some combination thereof — ought to be preserving space as a place for exploration, learning and international co-operation, not yet another frontier for destruction and conflict.