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Editorial Roundup: US

Posted October 7, 2020 3:35 p.m. EDT

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Oct. 7

The San Francisco Chronicle on President Donald Trump being diagnosed with COVID-19:

Continuing to blur the line between political campaign and suicide cult, President Trump took to multiple outlets to urge his remaining followers not to be “afraid” of the coronavirus or “let it dominate” them but rather to “beat it.” He did so after discharging himself from Walter Reed National Medical Military Center hospital and returning to the White House to doff his mask for yet another dangerous and bizarre photo op.

Many politicians lack the imagination to grasp issues until they personally experience them. Trump is that rarer specimen whose ignorance has not only survived his experience but somehow been deepened by it. The president called his illness a “school” where he “learned a lot about COVID” — at long last — but he flunked the final.

The lesson Trump thinks he learned does not take into account his access to treatments that are unavailable or scarce for other patients as well as a level of care that is atypical of the American health care system he is obsessed with further undermining. And as even his obsequious military doctor suggested, the president himself has yet to safely emerge from the period when many similar cases suddenly become life-threatening.

But Trump’s latest misbegotten medical advice is most monstrous in its disdain for the more than 200,000 Americans lost to the virus, the countless others suffering lasting effects and the families devastated as a result. Now they must endure the added insult of their president implying that their personal weakness is to blame.

In fact, it’s the president’s failures that have needlessly amplified the disaster. Look no further than his White House, which has become a coronavirus hot spot linked to a score of infections without any apparent administration effort at responsible contact tracing. In spite of unparalleled diagnostic and other resources, Trump lacked the will or competence to protect himself, his household, his workplace and his government, much less his country, from the contagion.

California Sen. Kamala Harris will no doubt draw attention to that in her debate with Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday night. As of the day before, the campaigns were mired in a preliminary debate over whether Pence would accept the plexiglass safety barriers recommended by the debate commission. Given that this is coming from the chairman of the White House’s coronavirus task force, we should be very afraid indeed.

Online: https://www.sfchronicle.com/

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Oct. 7

The Los Angles Times on allegations about Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee centers:

A nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, which houses migrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, filed a whistlerblower complaint last month alleging that some female detainees were subjected to unnecessary hysterectomies, in some cases without them fully understanding what was going on.

We won’t jump to any conclusions about her complaint. The doctor at the center of the allegations has denied that he did anything contrary to medical ethics or standard medical behavior, and ICE said that only two hysterectomies had been performed on women detained at the center since 2018.

The waters also are muddied a bit by conflicting reports on the number of women who may have fallen victim to unnecessary and unwanted medical procedures, not necessarily limited to hysterectomies. There clearly needs to be thorough investigations by disinterested parties to figure out whether, indeed, a doctor working on behalf of the United States government has sterilized women or performed other possibly unnecessary procedures on them without their full consent.

But the investigations and accountability must not stop there. The federal immigration detention system — mostly an archipelago of privately run prisons or contracted space in local jails — is a humanitarian disaster and an international disgrace. And it is the largest immigration detention system in the world, with some 50,000 men, women and children held at any given time. (Other countries house more refugees, but the U.S. leads in locking up people seeking permission to immigrate.)

There have been reports of children targeted for sexual abuse by staff or other detainees — more than 4,000 such complaints from 2014 to 2018 — as well as similar abuses of women. Food preparation has violated basic health standards. A gay man sued over an alleged beating at a detention center in Colorado, and immigrant rights advocates reported that some 30 detainees in a west Texas facility were beaten, pepper-sprayed, refused medical care and subjected to racist taunts.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been particularly virulent in prisons and detention centers. Late last month, a federal judge ordered that the population at the 1,940-bed ICE detention center in Adelanto, Calif., be reduced even further after an outbreak there worsened and 81 of the remaining 784 detainees tested positive for the coronavirus.

These are unconscionable practices, yet health and safety problems in detention facilities are not new. A PBS “Frontline” documentary laid out some of them in 2011, and there have been several government reports since then documenting problems within the system.

Late in his second term, President Obama began a process to end Washington’s reliance on private contractors to house detained migrants and federal prisoners. The Trump administration not only reversed that initiative, but also has ramped up efforts to incarcerate migrants — many of whom have not been charged with a crime. Oftentimes, the migrants are held just for having the gall to use the congressionally authorized asylum system to seek protection from repression in their own countries.

Some people whom ICE wants to deport should be detained, such as those who pose a threat to public safety and those who the government has an individualized reason to believe are a flight risk. But the government — and the Trump administration in particular — uses detention as a deterrent to potential immigrants, the most notorious example being when it began charging parents caught crossing the border with a misdemeanor as a pretext for jailing them separately from their children, who were forced into foster care or other protective placements. The message: See what happens if you dare come to the border and try to exercise your rights under U.S. and international asylum laws?

The thing is, the vast majority of those being held in detention centers do not need to be there. The government has other, less costly options. It is especially heinous to imprison people who have not been charged with a crime, and who are contesting in civil immigration courts the government’s order to leave the country. It is especially atrocious that children are treated this way. But the disgrace moves into even darker waters with allegations of forced sterilizations of women and other unwanted medical procedures.

We’d like to argue that this nation is better than this, is beyond this kind of inhumane behavior. But we can’t. As long as Americans know this kind of behavior is going on in their names and do not demand changes, then, well, this is who we are — a society that ignores the unnecessary imprisonment and abuse of women, children and men often guilty of little more than dreaming of becoming Americans.

Online: https://www.latimes.com/

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Oct. 6

The Washington Post on Breonna Taylor and the release of the grand jury proceedings:

The process was broken from the beginning, on March 12, when a judge in Kentucky’s Jefferson County signed off on the no-knock search warrant that led to the death of Breonna Taylor. It remains broken today. New questions have been raised about the actions of Louisville police as well as those of the state’s Republican attorney general who declined to bring criminal charges against the two officers who shot and killed Ms. Taylor. Answers and accountability are still desperately needed, which buttresses calls for appointment of a special prosecutor.

Last week saw the release of grand jury materials in the case, a highly unusual move ordered by a judge after an unnamed grand juror accused Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron of duplicity in explaining why no one was directly charged in Ms. Taylor’s killing. But the materials only added to the confusion and the controversy. Fifteen hours of recorded testimony were made public, including conflicting accounts about whether police had announced themselves before breaking down the door to Ms. Taylor’s apartment. But the release did not include the guidance or statements that prosecutors gave to the grand jury. The panel brought no charges against the two officers whose bullets struck Ms. Taylor during a botched drug raid but charged a third officer, since fired from the force, with wanton endangerment for firing his weapon indiscriminately and endangering neighboring residents.

Mr. Cameron said the two officers involved in Ms. Taylor’s death were “justified in their acts.” This was unquestionably a complicated and fraught case, given the chaos of that night when Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend (not knowing who had broken down the door) fired his gun in self-defense, apparently hitting one officer. But Mr. Cameron undermined his credibility and the inquiry with his shifting statements — first saying he walked jurors through “every homicide offense” and then acknowledging (after a grand juror hired a lawyer and went to court to dispute his claims) that he only recommended the wanton endangerment charges. Why not be completely aboveboard?

From the start, there has been a troubling pattern of obfuscation and even duplicity in how authorities have handled this case. The initial police report on the raid incorrectly said that Ms. Taylor suffered no injuries. The ex-boyfriend of Ms. Taylor, the target of the raid, said he was offered a plea deal by prosecutors if he would name Ms. Taylor as a member of his alleged criminal gang; he refused because the only thing the 26-year-old ER technician was guilty of was being at home in her bed after working double shifts. According to recent reporting by Vice News, officers involved in the raid violated crime scene protocols that raise questions about the integrity of the investigation.

Ms. Taylor’s family has called on Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) to appoint a special prosecutor. The FBI is also conducting a civil rights investigation. It is clear there are still many more stones that need to be overturned.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com

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Oct. 6

The Wall Street Journal on living with the new coronavirus:

President Trump’s tweet Monday “Don’t be afraid of Covid” has invited more criticism that he’s again downplaying the virus. Mr. Trump doesn’t do nuance, and he and his team have often acted recklessly, most prominently at the Rose Garden ceremony announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. But scientists generally agree with his fundamental point that Americans need to learn to live with the virus.

That’s also the message of a new declaration from scientists that the media are ignoring. Organized by Harvard’s Martin Kulldorff, Sunetra Gupta of Oxford and Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya, the Great Barrington Declaration recommends that people be allowed to live normally while protecting the vulnerable. The authors are infectious-disease experts, and the statement by our deadline had been signed by more than 2,300 medical and health scientists and 2,500 practitioners, and counting.

They describe their approach as “Focused Protection,” but it’s essentially what Sweden has done and even the World Health Organization is now recommending. Many European leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron are also slowly embracing it, though it still remains heresy on America’s left.

The collateral damage from government lockdowns “include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health—leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice,” the declaration says. “Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.”

Reams of public-health data and medical literature agree. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there have been 93,814 non-Covid “excess deaths” this year, including 42,427 from cardiovascular conditions, 10,686 from diabetes and 3,646 from cancer. Many are due to government shutdowns of non-essential medical care.

Public-health surveys also show depression levels, substance abuse and drug overdoses have spiked amid rising unemployment. A quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds in June said they had increased substance use to cope with the pandemic.

Pediatricians have reported a worrying rise in child abuse and accidental injuries from school closures, which have also resulted in stunted learning and emotional growth. A new Stanford study finds that students across 19 states in the spring lost from 57 to 183 days of learning in reading and 136 to 232 days of learning in math.

As the Great Barrington authors explain, “vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.” Sixty-seven children under age 15 in the U.S have died from Covid-19.

“Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity,” they write. That means protecting the elderly and high-risk individuals—for instance, frequent testing of nursing-home staff—but also reopening schools, colleges, restaurants and businesses with reasonable precautions.

The virus isn’t going away even if Joe Biden wins the election and perhaps not even with a vaccine. Better treatments and protocols have improved outcomes enormously for high-risk individuals—of which Mr. Trump may turn out to be a textbook case.

The shame is that Covid has become so politicized that the calm reasoning of the Great Barrington scientists is drowned out by the fear and loathing of those who want to blame Donald Trump for every new infection. But it is the best advice for how we should cope with Covid.

Online: https://www.wsj.com/

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Oct. 4

The Guardian on Boohoo, an online clothing retailer, and allegations of poor labor practices at one of the company's suppliers in Leicester:

For anyone hoping that bad publicity surrounding Boohoo, the online clothes retailer, over recent months, would harm its business, last week’s figures came as a disappointment. Pre-tax profits at the group, founded in 2006 by Carol Kane and Mahmud Kamani, jumped 51% to £68.1m in the six months to 31 August. Sales surged to £816.5m. Without talking to Boohoo’s customers, it would be rash to draw conclusions about why reports of appalling labour practices by the company’s suppliers in Leicester have not changed their shopping habits. What can be safely assumed is that people aiming for improvements cannot leave it to consumers to drive them.

This should not come as a surprise. Fair and ethical trading initiatives are important. Over time it is to be hoped that more people, including the 16-30 age range targeted by Boohoo, will become more curious about the environmental and human impacts of their tastes and choices. But fashion lags a long way behind food in this area. And the failures of regulation, corporate governance and business culture that have been so brutally exposed in the case of Boohoo require a strategic and policy response, not a consumer-led, behavioural one.

A strongly critical report on the company’s Leicester supply chain by Alison Levitt QC provides a to-do list against which observers can measure its progress. The review, commissioned (and paid for) by the company after it was revealed in July that suppliers had continued to operate during the pandemic, placing workers at their factories in danger, sets out in detail how a realignment of Boohoo’s priorities could be achieved “relatively easily”. The key is to stop ignoring its supply chain. Boohoo says it can implement the report’s recommendations and is seeking an independent figure to oversee the process.

Ms Levitt offered carrot as well as stick: Mr Kamani, the chairman, “could become an icon in the industry”, if he and the chief executive, John Lyttle, clean up the company’s act. Its record does not inspire confidence, however. The report found that Boohoo knew of serious problems in the Leicester factories it uses by March 2019, if not earlier. Yet it took the decision to rip up its plans for this year, ordering new loungewear ranges that it correctly predicted would sell well during the pandemic, without any board-level assessment of the risks. Ms Levitt saw no evidence of criminal activity or proof that Boohoo was responsible for Leicester’s high rate of Covid-19. But there is no doubt that the city’s garment workers continued, during the pandemic, to labour in unsafe conditions for illegally low pay.

It started as a family business. But Boohoo is a publicly listed company that is experiencing rapid growth in the US as well as the UK. Investors should get stuck in, making their own demands of its governance arrangements, and not expect to ride hands-free. Ministers must also come under pressure. Weak regulation is at the heart of the dysfunction in Leicester, as has repeatedly been exposed by parliamentary committees as well as campaigners such as Labour Behind the Label.

Health and safety, tax and labour market inspectors need resources if they are to monitor conditions effectively, as well as incentives to work proactively together. Unions, too, should increase their efforts in the area. Boohoo’s commitment to reduce the number of its suppliers should make this easier. Currently, there are around 1,000 manufacturers of clothes and textiles in Leicester, with more than 50 people banned from running companies, often following tax violations.

The risks of inaction are plain, with broken fire regulations among the many issues raised. Minimum wage legislation and safety standards must be enforced. But with action comes another set of risks. The worst possible outcome of Boohoo’s disgrace would be for the retailer to take all its manufacturing overseas. Up to 10,000 people, many of them of south Asian and east European origin, work in Leicester’s clothing and textiles factories. And so the aim of national and local leaders must be to push Boohoo to mend its ways – to adjust its business model so that its famed speed is not at the expense of care and attention.

Online: https://www.theguardian.com/

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Oct. 2

The Denver Post on the argument between Democrats and Republicans voter suppression and lax voter security:

Politicians are playing a dangerous game with our election.

The president’s potential illness now that he has been exposed to the novel coronavirus and has tested positive will only increase the chance of catastrophe. We should all be praying that the president has a mild illness and a fast recovery — not only out of compassion; it will be good for our democracy.

But we also need our elected officials, regardless of party, to stand up and ensure November’s election is secure and that voters in America have faith in the results.

Democrats and Republicans have been playing this game for years: Democrats accuse Republicans of voter suppression and Republicans accuse Democrats of lax voter security. There is always a kernel of truth in both complaints. The GOP governor of Texas is limiting ballot drop off boxes to one per-county – Harris County has 4.7 million residents. In New York City, the board of elections, led by a Democrat, had to reprint 100,000 ballots after the original were sent to voters with the wrong voter information on the “oath envelope.”

But that game has been taken to a new level. Trump has repeatedly claimed — beginning after he lost the national popular vote in 2016 — that Democrats are trying to steal the election via fraud. He continued that assault on our democracy during the first presidential debate. Voter fraud is when a ballot is cast that doesn’t represent an actual, eligible voter or it is cast by someone other than the voter it is said to represent. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and certainly no evidence of a vast conspiracy to steal the election.

There is evidence, however, of isolated fraud (cases have been prosecuted), and isolated errors in ballot printing, ballot counting, and many incidents where ballots are being sent in the mail to people who no longer live at the address and even people who are deceased.

We cannot sweep those incidents under the rug, and we must address them directly with real solutions.

It is a felony in Colorado to vote a ballot that is not yours — no one should be tempted to do so, and our state has a rigorous signature verification system, increasing the likelihood that anyone casting a ballot that isn’t theirs will get caught. The list of voters that will be sent ballots is kept clean by checking it against other databases — state and federal death records, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and others. Also, addresses on record for registered voters are checked.

No one is wrong to highlight the potential for abuse of our election system and to demand election officials tighten election security. That kind of constructive criticism will only improve American’s confidence in the outcome of the election. On the other hand, Trump’s words are a concrete threat to our democracy if voters believe them.

So, let’s look at what has been happening in Colorado.

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck has raised concerns that a few of the hundreds of thousands of voter registration postcards sent by Secretary of State Jena Griswold went to non-citizens and deceased voters. These were not ballots. These were reminders to folks that they could register if they were eligible to do so under Colorado and federal law.

The concern from Buck, and other Republicans like former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, is that if those non-citizens or deceased voters are on a list of potentially eligible voters, they or someone else may be able to register, get a ballot in the mail and cast it fraudulently.

No one is alleging that the folks who got the postcards are on the voter rolls or that their attempt to register would be successful. But, if there is an error in the state’s driver’s license database showing that the people who received the postcards are in fact eligible voters when they are not, it could be a loophole allowing a non-citizen to register, get a ballot and vote. It’s worthy of scrutiny.

Again, there is no evidence of widespread fraud, and certainly no evidence that Griswold is conspiring to get ineligible voters registered. Buck writing a letter to the Department of Justice asking for an investigation is an overreaction to the slim possibility of fraud we think this presents. But, keeping ineligible voters off the voter rolls is essential, and Griswold would do well to calm fears and look into these cases.

Online: https://www.denverpost.com/

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