Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

April 5

The Washington Post says James Madison's estate is continuing the slave-holding President's legacy:

For most of its two decades overseeing the sprawling Virginia estate of James Madison, the fourth U.S. president, the Montpelier Foundation had either zero or just one African American member of its governing board, whose authorized strength is 25 members. That was astonishing because Montpelier, in addition to being Madison’s property, was also home to some 300 enslaved people over the course of more than a century who lived, worked in bondage and died there.

So it was a momentous if overdue step forward last year when the foundation announced it would share power equally, and achieve parity on its governing board of directors, with descendants of enslaved people. Those descendants were represented by a committee, recognized by the foundation, that included dozens of prominent African Americans in academics, business, finance and other fields. At last, Montpelier, a 2,650-acre historic site and museum northeast of Charlottesville that annually hosts tens of thousands of visitors, would have leadership that reflected its legacy. The foundation’s decision was hailed by cultural institutions across the country.

Now, that agreement, in letter and in spirit, has been shredded by the foundation’s White-dominated board. In an act of exceptionally bad faith, the board last month amended its bylaws so that it — and not the committee it had recognized as the legitimate stakeholder representing descendants of the enslaved — will decide which descendants are acceptable partners. To put it plainly, it is principally White people who will determine which Black people may join Montpelier’s governing clique, and which may not.

Despite its smokescreen of obfuscation — the foundation says it will continue to work with the descendants committee and seek parity — make no mistake: The board has reneged on its deal. When the descendants committee last month submitted a list of 40 African American candidates, of whom 10 might assume seats on the board in order to achieve parity with White members, the board refused even to consider the names. It did so despite having committed last year to accept new board members endorsed by the descendants committee.

The board’s move has been widely condemned, not least by Montpelier’s own employees and by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which owns the estate but appears powerless to intervene owing to a 75-year concession agreement with the foundation.

Montpelier has a problem. It has gone from being a model for other such sites nationwide to being an embarrassment. Of its 80 or so employees, just one, plus an intern, is African American; a number of others departed as the board’s foot-dragging became clear. This on an estate where cabins that once housed enslaved people are among the structures open to the public.

Madison is a pivotal figure in U.S. history. He played a key role in drafting the Constitution, including the notorious compromise that enabled enslavement and accorded African Americans less than fully human status by determining that three-fifths of the enslaved population would count toward determining representation in the House of Representatives and each state’s tax burden. It is sad that his estate should once again be an example of racial obtuseness.

ONLINE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/04/05/montpelier-foundation-faces-racial-controversy/

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April 1

The New York Times argues that Putin is playing chess and refugees from Ukraine are his pawns:

The mass flight of refugees from Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis that dwarfs anything Europe has seen since World War II. More than four million people have poured into neighboring countries, and as long as Russia’s savage war continues, millions more will flee. Already, the flow of refugees from Ukraine is far greater than the number from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq who fled to Europe in 2015, upending European politics.

Europe’s initial reaction to the flight from Ukraine has been an impressive show of solidarity, given how suddenly the crisis exploded. Refugees, most of whom are women and children, because most men are required to stay behind in Ukraine to fight, have been welcomed and housed even as their numbers swell.

But the scale of this crisis is staggering, and it is still in its early stages. Coping with it will demand more coordination, imagination, funds and determination both within Europe and by the United States and allies elsewhere. Existing refugee centers should receive far more assistance, and ways need to be found to encourage refugees to move on to countries that have more capacity to host them. Preparations should also be made now to help Ukrainians return home, should a lasting peace eventually take hold.

Opening the doors wide to European refugees raises an inevitable comparison to the treatment of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries. About 16,000 people remain in refugee camps in Greece, and many of them are going hungry because they lack the same rights that are being guaranteed to Ukrainians. But the answer to a double standard cannot be to close the doors to Ukrainians.

To put it in perspective, close to one million Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis crossed the Mediterranean Sea to seek refuge in Europe in one year, 2015. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, nearly one million people have left Ukraine every week. Barring a peace agreement, Russia will keep bombarding civilian infrastructure. Ukraine will keep fighting for its survival. Ten million people — roughly a quarter of the population of Ukraine — could end up leaving the country in the coming months.

Cities in Poland, Moldova and Romania have been transformed, putting pressure on schools, housing, hospitals and government assistance programs. Warsaw, a city of about 1.6 million people, is now hosting more than 300,000 Ukrainian refugees, many of whom are sleeping in hastily set up welcome centers. Overcrowded shelters for women and children are targets for human trafficking and criminal exploitation.

Refugees are not a design flaw of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. Indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilian infrastructure is part of a broader strategy to demoralize the civilian population and drive residents into neighboring countries, where their presence can be destabilizing. This became clear during last year’s episode on the Belarus-Poland border, after Aleksandr Lukashenko, the autocratic ruler of Belarus, apparently manufactured a crisis by encouraging migrants to cross into Poland.

Over time, resentment of Ukrainian refugees may grow. People who started off welcoming the refugees could turn against them, putting pressure on their governments to force Ukraine to end the war on Russia’s terms. Easing this pressure, by supporting the countries that are hosting refugees, makes this tactic of trying to weaponize refugees less effective.

The Council of the European Union has already taken an important step by passing a directive that grants temporary protected status to Ukrainian nationals and certain legal permanent residents of Ukraine for up to one year. Most Ukrainians already had the right to travel without visas to European Union countries for 90 days. The new measure gives them the right to live, work and attend school in E.U. countries without having to go through the official process of seeking asylum.

But far more needs to be done to assist the places where refugees are clustered, and to help refugees find their way out of overcrowded welcome centers. Britain’s “Homes for Ukraine” program, which pays families and organizations to take in refugees, has resulted in the issuing of 2,700 visas so far, while Finland has offered spots in universities to 2,000 Ukrainians.

These ad hoc efforts are important but insufficient given the millions of people who are affected. The European Union has established a platform to match offers of help with those in need. Seven countries, including Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, have pledged to take in some 15,000 of the Ukrainians now in Moldova. But that’s a small fraction of the estimated 98,000 Ukrainians in Moldova, many of whom are reluctant to leave because a language they know, Russian, is spoken there.

The European Union has also identified roughly 17 billion euros in funds for pandemic recovery and programs to promote social and economic cohesion that could be immediately spent on urgent needs, including housing, education, health care and child care. An E.U. proposal to address the current crisis would distribute more of those funds to countries hosting large numbers of refugees. Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia would receive 45 percent more funding than they would have gotten. Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Estonia — member states that have received the highest number of Ukrainians in proportion to their national populations — would get that increase as well.

Efforts to humanely accommodate those displaced by the war need not be confined to Europe. Canada, which is home to a large Ukrainian population, has agreed to welcome an unlimited number of people fleeing the war to stay for up to three years. Even Japan, which has long been reluctant to take in refugees, has agreed to accept Ukrainians.

President Biden’s announcement that the United States would accept up to 100,000 is a good start, but the country can do more, especially when public support for welcoming Ukrainian refugees is strong. The United States has been a key player in Ukraine over the years, from encouraging Ukrainians to stand up to Russia to persuading Ukrainians to agree to the removal of nuclear weapons from their territory following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a decision that many Ukrainians deeply regret today.

As the world enters a period of greater instability, its leaders can no longer ignore the need for a coordinated and humane response to all of those fleeing war and other desperate circumstances.

ONLINE: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/opinion/ukraine-russia-war-refugees.html

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April 5

According to the Wall Street Journal, the House bill capping insulin cost is not a solution:

The House moved last week to cap the cost of insulin, and Democrats think they’ve found a winner to save seats in November. What ghoul could oppose cheaper insulin? Alas the bill misdiagnoses the problem and is a pretext for more political control of drug prices, which won’t serve suffering Americans.

The Affordable Insulin Now Act caps cost-sharing for insulin at $35 a month for diabetics with private insurance or on Medicare Part D. The bill’s Democratic sponsors call it “a critical drug pricing reform” to deal with “the skyrocketing cost of insulin.” The bill passed 232-193.

The real story is more complicated. Sticker prices for insulin have increased, but those calculations ignore discounts negotiated by pharmacy-benefit managers. Over the past five years, net revenues to drug manufacturers on diabetes drugs “have been declining and patient out-of-pocket costs have been flat or risen only slightly,” says a 2020 report from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. This isn’t a story about greed if pharma companies are earning less and less.

The gap between list and net prices can be huge, and many discounts don’t flow to customers at the counter, a real if smaller-than-advertised problem. In 2019 patients paid less than $30 out of pocket for 74% of all diabetes prescriptions, according to IQVIA’s analysis. More than nine in 10 were less than $75. But folks can get stuck paying exorbitant prices if they aren’t insured or must burn through a large deductible before coverage starts.

What would the House bill do for the uninsured? Oh—nothing. Insulin makers are treated as villains, but they do try to help such customers. Lilly’s Insulin Value Program offers a discount card for $35 a month for insulin.

The Trump Administration in 2019 revised federal guidance to allow high-deductible plans to cover more care for chronic conditions before the deductible, including insulin. It appears to have helped. Some 76% of employers reported in a 2021 Employee Benefit Research Institute survey that they’d added pre-deductible coverage as a result of the change, most often for diabetes or heart disease.

As for the House bill, insurers will respond to the added costs by increasing premiums. The grand irony of Democrats claiming to be tough on Big Pharma is that drug manufacturers would no longer have an incentive to limit price increases, confident that patients won’t notice and insurers can be stuck with the bill. Great work, everybody.

The premium spikes also mean the bill increases federal spending—for instance, on ObamaCare subsidies—which Democrats would finance by pretending to delay a long-dead Trump drug-pricing rule. This “pay for” is as phony as the policy solution.

Insulin markets need more competition, the opposite of what the House bill encourages. Congress would be smarter to prod the Food and Drug Administration to make it easier for generic equivalents to win approval, a problem that has long vexed insulin markets.

Democrats haven’t been shy about their broader plan to control the price of medicine through the euphemism of Medicare “negotiation.” This tells investors: Move your money out of better medicines or long-shot cures and into businesses that aren’t under political assault.

That would be a terrible development for diabetics, especially as cell therapies may someday provide a cure. As former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb put it recently, it’s essential that diabetes treatments are affordable, but Congress and the public shouldn’t forget that the “ultimate goal is to free patients from insulin.”

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/injecting-some-insulin-reality-house-bill-price-cap-congress-11649165579

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April 4

Gun violence has become America’s way of life — and death — according to the Los Angeles Times:

The nation’s sickening toll of gun violence was made clear once again this weekend, when a barrage of bullets left bloodied bodies strewn in the street, just steps away from California’s state Capitol. Six people dead and a dozen injured. Families in mourning and a community riddled with grief.

Though one suspect has been arrested, the public still knows very little about the who, what, why and how of the Sacramento shooting. What we do know is that it involved weapons that are horrifyingly ubiquitous in the United States and the source of so much death and destruction. While the carnage in Sacramento dominated the headlines, violence also played out across America — a country that loves its guns. On the same day that this horrific shooting rocked Sacramento, at least 95 other shootings took place across the nation.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Another 95 shootings — claiming 36 more lives and injuring 95 more people — just on this one Sunday in April, according to data tracked by the Gun Violence Archive. Two men were killed and two were injured in a shooting in a San Francisco park. Three men were killed and two were injured in a spate of shootings in Baltimore. Six people were hospitalized after shootings in Buffalo, New York.

Gun ownership and violence have been on the rise nationwide for years, but exploded amid the stress of the pandemic and the polarized politics of our times. Gun sales hit an all-time high in 2020, when Americans purchased 22.8 million firearms. Last year was the second-highest year on record, with Americans buying some 19.9 million guns.

Meanwhile, more Americans died from gunshots in 2020 than ever before — some 45,222 souls lost to murder, suicide and accidents, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2021, gun violence increased in Los Angeles and homicide rose statewide. Law enforcement officials blame much of the violence on so-called ghost guns, untraceable firearm kits that are sold in parts without serial numbers.

Other developed nations don’t live like this. The rate of gun homicides in the U.S. is eight times higher than it is in Canada, 13 times higher than it is in France, and 23 times higher than in Australia.

In the aftermath of the Sacramento slaughter, President Biden called on Congress to enact reasonable restrictions on firearms by banning ghost guns, assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; requiring background checks for all gun sales; and repealing gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability. But after years of inaction despite the nation’s mounting death toll, we have no reason to think Congress will suddenly heed Biden’s call.

In California’s Capitol, though, lawmakers will consider more gun control measures this year, including a bill to allow Californians to sue those who manufacture, distribute, transport and import assault weapons and ghost guns. Other proposals would limit firearms advertising to minors and more stringently regulate marketing and distribution by the gun industry.

But California already has the nation’s strongest gun control laws, including universal background checks and a state database of firearm sales. The Golden State has at least 107 gun control laws on the books, laws that were debated, passed and signed under a Capitol dome that gleams above the deadliest of Sunday’s crime scenes. The state must focus now on holding killers to account, ridding the streets of illegal guns and keeping firearms away from violent individuals.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-04-04/editorial-gun-violence-sacramento-mass-shooting

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April 6

China Daily says U.S. is drawing parallels between Ukraine and Taiwan in hopes of igniting proxy war in Asia:

Not content with instigating the crisis in Ukraine and continuing to pour oil on the flames of the conflict there, the United States is also intent on fueling tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.

The remarks by Admiral Samuel Paparo, the commander of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, on Monday, should sound the alarm as they indicate that the U.S. is trying to draw a link between the crisis in Ukraine and the Taiwan question in an attempt to lead the world into a similar quagmire in the Asia-Pacific region.

By saying during a roundtable discussion with Washington-based correspondents from Indo-Pacific countries that “China is undoubtedly watching what’s happened in Ukraine, taking notes, and learning from it”, and making adjustments to its plans to forcefully unite the island with the mainland, Paparo not only portrayed China as an aggressive power, he also highlighted Washington’s bid to form an entente against China in the region.

To this end, Washington has not only breathed new life into the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, but also formed a new trilateral military alliance for the region with the United Kingdom and Australia.

In a move that will only further fuel the arms race in the Asia-Pacific region and increase the possibility of military confrontation, AUKUS, as the tripartite group is known, announced on Tuesday that it is seeking to develop hypersonic missiles.

China has repeatedly said the Ukraine crisis and the Taiwan question are different in nature, as Ukraine is an independent, sovereign state, while Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. It has also made clear that it pursues peaceful reunification, but it will resort to force should the secessionists on the island cross its redline.

Those stoking cross-Straits tensions by making a connection between the Ukraine crisis and the Taiwan question, are doing so in a bid to portray China as a coercive power in the region, while at the same time endeavoring to keep Beijing in a state of constant high alert, since the continual provocations over the Taiwan question have not only ratcheted up tensions in the Taiwan Straits but also further consolidated the Chinese mainland’s resolve to realize national reunification.

The U.S. strategic maneuvering on China’s periphery is worsening China’s security environment, prompting the country to take counter and preemptive measures. What the U.S. and its allies are doing therefore seems intended to turn the Taiwan Straits into the battlefield for another proxy war like the one in Ukraine.

Washington is the world’s biggest source of turbulence and the real putter of the flame to the fuse of wars. Countries in the Asia-Pacific should beware being suckered into its games. The region has many scars to show what happens when Washington decides to get involved in its affairs.

ONLINE: https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202204/06/WS624d85b0a310fd2b29e55636.html

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