Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

July 12

The Washington Post says the Jan. 6 hearings show that lies can kill

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” President Donald Trump tweeted in December of 2020. “Be there, will be wild!” His supporters listened.

This week’s hearing by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol underscored the connections between key Trump associates and right-wing militia groups along with others who participated in the insurrection. The “unhinged” six-hour meeting in advance of Jan. 6, filled with expletives and shouting so loud it could be heard outside the closed Oval Office, remains disturbing as ever. So does the draft executive order presented to the president that would have authorized the Defense Department to seize all voting machines. More alarming still is the revelation that lawyer Sidney Powell believed she had been appointed special counsel, another part of that plan.

Perhaps most consequential is the news, shared by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) at the end of Tuesday’s hearing that Mr. Trump recently tried to call an unnamed witness in the House’s investigation. This troubling outreach to a witness, along with the rest of Mr. Trump’s conduct, deserves further probing.

The committee’s focus Tuesday, however, was on how the then-president’s words inspired his followers to violent action. At least one pro-Trump group moved up plans for a rally later in January to the 6th; the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers coordinated with the help of longtime ally Roger Stone to honor Mr. Trump’s wishes; conservative influencers promoted the protest as a “red wedding,” a “Game of Thrones” reference that invokes mass slaughter. Most important, text messages showed that Mr. Trump’s exhortation to march to Capitol Hill was planned rather than spontaneous — and that those involved in coordinating the rally sought to conceal this intention, because they knew it would get them into trouble.

Congress heard from one of the protesters who illegally entered the Capitol. He came to D.C. because Mr. Trump told him to; he marched to the Capitol because Mr. Trump told him to; he left, after so many hours, because finally after 187 minutes of silence Mr. Trump told him to. “I feel like I had horse blinders on,” he said. “I was locked in the whole time.”

The Jan. 6 committee has shown that Mr. Trump knew better: His closest advisers, his in-house lawyers, his own Justice Department told him there was no evidence of the widespread voter fraud he alleged. Many of his supporters, though, did not know better at all — because they trusted a president who cares nothing for truth. Mr. Trump relished in the effect his words had on his supporters. A responsible president would have used that power to restore our shared reality, but he used it lead his followers further into delusion. A responsible Republican Party would, today, also fight for the facts rather than resist efforts to find them.

These lies matter — to democracy, and to individual people. They can wound, the way they did when a crowd pushed, kicked and sprayed with chemicals a police officer who, Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) explained on Tuesday, will now never return to the force. They can kill; at least seven people lost their lives in connection with the violence of Jan. 6. Brad Parscale, the former Trump campaign manager, said after the attacks that he felt guilty for helping his boss win in 2016.

“If I was Trump and knew my rhetoric killed someone,” he wrote to his colleague Katrina Pierson. Ms. Pierson replied, “It wasn’t the rhetoric.” “Katrina,” he answered, “Yes it was.”

ONLINE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/07/12/jan-6-hearing-trump-lies-dangerous/

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July 8

The New York Times argues that Biden must act now to protect abortion rights

Barely two weeks have passed since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and already chaos reigns. Several states are moving to ban abortion almost completely, abortion-rights proponents are challenging those bans in court and in some cases, judges have been asked to issue injunctions that could, for a time, prevent the bans from going into effect.

Doctors across the country, including in places where abortion is legal, are confused about what is and isn’t allowed — even when the life of a patient may be at stake. Patients are equally confused and panicked, and in some cases, their health is being put in danger.

President Biden, responding to harsh criticism from his own party that his administration has not done enough to defend abortion rights, on Friday signed an executive order to help protect access to reproductive health care. In his remarks, Mr. Biden made a plea for Americans to elect a Congress that would vote to codify the rights once guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. He is correct that it will be a long political fight to restore the constitutional right that the Supreme Court took away with its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

At the same time, the Biden administration has an immediate duty to protect public health and the rights Americans still have. There are several steps the federal government can take now, with laws that are already on the books, to fortify abortion services in states where they are legal, support doctors facing legal and logistical quandaries and help women who may need to cross state lines or secure abortion pills online. The executive order signed Friday does little more than direct the health and human services secretary to look for ways to better enforce these existing laws, and report back.

The need for action is clear, from years of research on how abortion access affects women’s health. One recent study estimated that denying abortions in the United States would lead to an increase in deaths of pregnant women by more than 20 percent overall, and by more than 30 percent for Black women — and that’s not counting the deaths that can result from unsafe abortions. While not all abortions will be denied in the new landscape, and how abortion pills will be regulated could play an important role, the public health consequences of overturning Roe could be severe.

The most urgent step for the federal government to take is to ensure access to medication abortion, the most common method of abortion, according to preliminary data from the Guttmacher Institute. In a strong public statement in defense of abortion rights, Attorney General Merrick Garland underlined his commitment to “work with other arms of the federal government that seek to use their lawful authorities to protect and preserve access to reproductive care.” He noted, in particular, the Food and Drug Administration’s authority over abortion drugs. States may not ban these drugs “based on disagreement with the F.D.A.’s expert judgment,” he said.

The F.D.A. should follow the attorney general’s lead and say, unequivocally, that the agency’s approval of and regulatory decisions around prescription drugs, including abortion pills, pre-empt any state-level regulations or statutes. That argument will almost certainly be challenged in court, but there is precedent to support it. When Massachusetts tried in 2014 to ban Zohydro, an F.D.A.-approved prescription painkiller, the move was struck down in a federal district court based on the F.D.A.’s pre-emptive powers.

The F.D.A.’s pre-emptive authority should be acknowledged by states that support abortion rights as well. At least 30 states, including some Democratic-led ones, have chosen to regulate abortion pills more tightly than the F.D.A. does. Some require a physician to dispense the pills, even though the F.D.A. allows other qualified health professionals to do so. Others require in-person appointments, even though the F.D.A. allows telehealth consultations. The F.D.A. should insist that those strictures be removed, and that guidelines be consistent with federal ones.

The agency should also take immediate steps to loosen constraints on medication abortion that experts have long said are unnecessary. For example, the two-drug cocktail commonly used for a medication abortion is approved for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy in the United States, but the World Health Organization has deemed it safe for up to 12 weeks. And as reporting by The Atlantic has noted, the pills have been used safely even later than that.

Likewise, the F.D.A. requires pharmacies to obtain certification to dispense one of the two pills, a policy that isn’t used in other countries and impedes access. To this end, federal officials should also support the drugmaker GenBioPro in its Mississippi lawsuit challenging other restrictions; the F.D.A.’s public support would help, as would the Justice Department’s involvement in the case.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should also make clear, publicly, that all hospitals receiving federal funds for Medicare and Medicaid (meaning nearly all hospitals and clinics) are required to provide all F.D.A.-approved drugs and that emergency departments are bound by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires medical professionals to provide the necessary treatment in a medical emergency.

Both the Medicaid agency and Health and Human Services should make clear — again, unequivocally — that the emergency treatment law applies to abortion when a pregnancy is life-threatening and that they will enforce it. (The Hyde Amendment, a legal provision that prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion, also has a provision for rape, incest and medical emergencies that still applies to federally funded health centers.) Doctors faced with an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage — which can turn deadly if fetal tissue remains in the body for too long — might be less afraid to act if they were reminded that inaction is still a crime, and if they knew that the federal government would support them.

Other federal agencies also have roles to play. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can aggressively monitor and publicize the illnesses and deaths in states where abortion is no longer available. As America’s leading public health agency, the C.D.C. has an obligation not only to continue studying the harm to public health caused by limits on abortion access but also to speak publicly about the intention to do so. The Federal Trade Commission can make clear that anyone who tries to sell fake abortion medications, online or anywhere else, will be prosecuted.

It’s true, as administration officials have said, that there are no easy solutions to the fight over abortion rights that Americans are now engaged in; even among those who favor reproductive rights, there is little consensus about the best solution. It’s also true that any action the administration takes may prompt litigation. But given the grave threat to public health, failing to act is not an option.

ONLINE: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/08/opinion/abortion-pills-policy.html

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July 11

The Wall Street Journal believes that Donald Trump can’t stay out of the limelight, which is exactly where Democrats want him

Donald Trump’s whisperers are saying he may soon announce his plans to run for President in 2024, and Democrats are keeping their fingers crossed that he does. Since his surprising victory in 2016, Mr. Trump has been the main cause of Democratic electoral success.

All the usual signs say this should be an excellent election year for Republicans, perhaps an historic one. Inflation is 8.6%, gasoline is $4.50 a gallon, mothers can’t get baby formula, crime is rising, 401(k) values are falling, and rogue nations are on the march around the world.

The polls show some 75% of the public thinks the country is moving in the wrong direction. President Biden’s job approval rating is under 38% in the Real Clear Politics composite index, and 33% in the latest Siena/New York Times survey. That’s Mariana Trench depth for presidents, and it typically signals a midterm rout for the party in power.

This all means that if the record of Mr. Biden and Democrats in Congress is the dominant issue in November, the GOP should regain control of the House and Senate. To put it more starkly, less than four months before Election Day it would take surprising events or political malpractice for the GOP to lose.

Enter Mr. Trump, who may announce his presidential candidacy before the midterms, which we can’t recall a major candidate doing. The former President’s advisers say he may do this so soon because he doesn’t like the attention other potential candidates are getting.

That’s especially true of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who seems poised to win his re-election campaign by “a lot,” as Mr. Trump might say. Mr. Trump would like to pre-empt the field, freeze GOP donors, and show his dominance over the GOP in 2022 with an eye on 2024.

That would thrill Democrats, who are eager to change the subject from inflation and the Biden record. They timed their Jan. 6 committee hearings for mid-2022 to remind everyone about Mr. Trump’s behavior and wrap him around GOP candidates.

That won’t matter in safe GOP districts, but it could work in the swing House districts and states where Democrats won their majority in 2018 as suburban voters wanted a check on Mr. Trump’s chaotic governance. If the main issue in November is GOP fealty to Mr. Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen, Democrats might have a chance to hold Congress. Republicans would have to play defense rather than focus on the Biden- Nancy Pelosi – Chuck Schumer record.

This is what cost the GOP the two Georgia Senate seats in January 2021 as Mr. Trump dampened GOP turnout by telling voters the presidential race was stolen. The two incumbent GOP Senators should have been making the case to check Mr. Biden and the left. Mr. Trump is in danger of repeating the Georgia mistake by focusing almost entirely on the last election rather than this one.

Mr. Trump’s meddling in primaries has already hurt GOP chances of taking back the Senate. His vendetta against Doug Ducey kept the Arizona Governor from running for the Senate, though Mr. Ducey would have been the strongest candidate against Sen. Mark Kelly.

Mr. Trump’s preferred candidates in key states are struggling or close in the polls despite the favorable GOP trends. Mehmet Oz is trailing left-wing Democrat John Fetterman in Pennsylvania. Herschel Walker is a rookie candidate showing his inexperience in Georgia. and Rep. Ted Budd is barely ahead in North Carolina. As in 2010, Democrats could prevail against a slate of weak GOP candidates.

It’s possible that voter unhappiness with the Democrats may be so strong that it swamps any concern with Mr. Trump, who after all will not be on the ballot. Glenn Youngkin was able to win the statehouse in Virginia in part because Mr. Trump largely stayed out of the race.

But that was a rare exception, and Mr. Trump typically can’t help himself. He wants to be the center of attention all the time, and the media are all too happy to oblige. All the more now when his preoccupation is overcoming the stigma of his defeat in 2020 by sticking to his stolen-election line. If Republicans fall short of the gains they expect in Congress, he’ll blame them. If they do well, he’ll claim credit.

Which brings us back to this week’s Siena/New York Times poll. For all of its bad news for Mr. Biden, he still beats Mr. Trump 44%-41% in a theoretical 2024 presidential rematch. What does it say that Joe Biden, the least popular President in modern times, still beats Donald Trump?

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-and-the-midterms-democrats-ron-desantis-11657576122

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July 13

The Los Angeles Times says its time to declare a public health emergency for abortions

The Biden administration should declare a public health emergency to ensure everyone in the U.S. has access to abortion medication.

It doesn’t matter that the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade is not the equivalent of a disease outbreak or a bioterrorism attack (although it does feel like the latter). Abortion care is healthcare, and the court’s June decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has empowered state legislatures to cut off people in half the country from that care.

According to legal advocates, if Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a health emergency under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act it would allow drugs to be used that mitigate the emergency regardless of state laws banning their use. In this case, that would be medication abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, that have been approved for use during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy by the Food and Drug Administration for more than two decades. This declaration is not about freeing up federal money, but shielding providers and pharmacists for prescribing or dispensing abortion medication in states that have banned abortions.

Even a declaration that only allows out-of-state providers to prescribe and mail pills to people in states where abortion is banned would greatly expand access. The declaration doesn’t need to exempt providers in the states that have banned abortion in order to help people in those states. The key point here: The federal act cannot override state bans on abortion procedures — just on abortion medication. But since more than half of abortions in the U.S. are done by medication, that would have a huge impact on abortion access in a country now riven by current or pending abortion bans in more than half the states.

And here is the public health emergency: being forced to carry to term an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion has long been a safe procedure — much safer than pregnancy. An amicus brief filed in the Dobbs case by the American Medical Assn., the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and nearly two dozen other medical groups notes that the risk of death associated with childbirth is “approximately 14 times higher than any risk of death from an abortion.”

Even if a woman doesn’t die in childbirth, she faces mental and physical health risks from pregnancy, labor and delivery, such as stress upon the body and gestational diabetes and other complications. Being forced to give birth only adds stress. The authors of the brief argue that evidence indicates being denied an abortion can have a detrimental effect on women’s mental health.

And for poor people and those of color, mortality rates connected to pregnancy are even higher. “Nationwide, Black women’s pregnancy-related mortality rate is 3.2 times higher than that of white women, with significant disparities persisting even in areas with the lowest overall rates and among women with higher levels of education,” according to the brief.

These troubling facts are more than enough justification to declare a public health emergency. This decision will probably invite legal action from states with abortion bans arguing the administration has overstepped. But that shouldn’t stop the Biden administration from immediately taking this important and powerful step. The grim reality is that the Biden administration can’t issue an executive order overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the Roe decision. The president can’t make this go away like it was all a bad dream. But he can and should do everything in his power to protect abortion access.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-07-13/its-time-to-declare-a-public-health-emergency-for-abortion

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July 7

The Guardian says that now is the time to act to address the global food crisis

Hunger is stalking the world. Seven years ago, the United Nations vowed to eradicate it by 2030. Yet the number of people affected globally reached 828 million last year, and an unprecedented number – 345 million – are currently experiencing acute food insecurity, the U.N. has warned.

COVID-19 and the climate emergency had seen that tally rise from 135 million people before the pandemic to 276 million by early this year, reflecting a 55% increase in the Food and Agriculture Organization’s food price index since May 2020. “We thought it couldn’t get any worse,” said David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme.

But the war in Ukraine has exacerbated increases in freight and fertiliser costs due to rising fuel prices, and has blocked ports; Ukraine and Russia previously accounted for almost a third of global wheat exports – though the U.S. alleges that Moscow is trying to sell stolen grain in Africa. And many middle-income countries have already spent large parts of their reserves due to the pandemic.

Even in wealthier countries, the cost of living crisis is seeing more parents going hungry to feed their children. In low-income countries, where people already spend two-fifths of their income on food, rising prices are truly deadly. Around 2.3 billion people face moderate or severe difficulty obtaining enough to eat, and in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan, sections of the population are enduring catastrophic levels of hunger. The repercussions – in social unrest and political violence – are already being seen in some countries.

Though G7 leaders pledged an extra $4.5bn to tackle the food crisis last month, that was just a fraction of the $28.5bn that experts say is needed (and the U.K., of course, has cut aid spending overall). Food aid can bring a wealth of problems; the U.N. Development Program has recommended cash transfers in many cases. Beyond that, a substantive shift in global agricultural policies is needed. Countries should redirect domestic support towards sustainable farming and nutritious foods, reducing their reliance on imports. Others, notably the U.S., should prioritize grain for human consumption over biofuels. Above all, action must be taken urgently. It may already be too late to save some lives. We must prevent more being lost.

ONLINE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jul/07/the-guardian-view-on-the-global-food-crisis-no-time-to-lose

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