Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:


March 25

Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, on flood insurance increases:

You really need to know only two things about the federal flood-insurance program to evaluate its wisdom. First, many owners say they couldn't afford to have homes so close to the shore without the substantial subsidy. Second, the Obama administration considers it too socialistic.

Last year, Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that runs the program, said the administration wanted to move away from "subsidizing rates" to "a capitalist, private-sector model of managing risk." You know things have gone too far when the current White House wants a greater degree of laissez-faire.

Two years ago, Congress considered legislation that would have raised rates rapidly to market levels. Beneficiaries raised unholy heck. The other day, President Barack Obama signed legislation to increase rates more gradually.

Those hikes are still steep — as high as 18 percent a year. But their very steepness testifies to how out of tune the subsidized policies had become. Washington — meaning the taxpayers — is $24 billion in the hole because of them. In essence, that means the federal government has spent $24 billion encouraging riskier choices than people would otherwise make.

Homeowners faced with whopping premium increases — including a few hundred of them here in central Virginia — deserve sympathy. Politicians put down a rug and are now pulling it out from under them. That is the painful price of correcting a policy that never should have existed in the first place.




March 25

The Detroit (Mich.) News, on religious liberty and health insurance:

Hobby Lobby is the kind of business President Barack Obama says he loves. The family-owned company is successful, and its owners treat their employees like family. They receive better pay and benefits than many others in retail jobs, including wages well above the federal minimum.

But through Obamacare, the Health and Human Services Department is requiring all businesses provide a wide range of contraceptives free of charge to employees through their insurance plans. Part of that requirement goes against the religious beliefs of the family who owns Hobby Lobby, and they've brought a lawsuit against the Obama administration.

The company was founded by David Green in a garage in 1972. The family business has grown into more than 556 stores in 41 states with 16,000 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby pays its hourly employees 90 percent above the federal minimum wage and offers them generous insurance and retirement plans for a retail chain.

(Tuesday), the U.S. Supreme Court (heard) oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case. This case was combined with a similar one out of Pennsylvania. The Greens are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit legal and educational institute.

The contraceptive mandate has created an uproar throughout the Catholic Church and beyond to the private sector. So far, 94 cases have been filed challenging the mandate — half are from for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby. The rest are from nonprofits. Eleven of the lawsuits are out of Michigan.

And the Hobby Lobby owners do offer birth control to employees in their insurance plans. It's the drugs and devices that may induce an early abortion that they object to — only four out of 20 contraceptives the Obama administration wants employers to include.

Lori Windham, a Becket Fund attorney who is representing Hobby Lobby, says the law is on the side of Hobby Lobby. For instance, in a decision last June, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the religious rights of the Greens. Many of the other businesses and organizations challenging the mandate have had similar favorable rulings.

"We are hopeful," Windham says. If the Green family doesn't win, Windham says this will set a "very disturbing and troubling precedent" that if you open a family business you forfeit your religious rights. And with that precedent, there would be few limits as to what the government could tell companies to do.

In a country that was founded on protecting basic, individual freedoms, that would be a significant setback — not to mention an affront to the Constitution ...

Churches are exempt from the mandate, but the administration didn't rule out religiously affiliated hospitals, charities and colleges ...

The Supreme Court should uphold the ability of people like the Greens to run a business without violating their conscience.




March 24

The Kansas City (Mo.) Star on federal health care insurance:

It's down to the wire, folks. Under the new federal health care law, March 31 is the deadline for signing up for health insurance, either through the federal marketplace, HealthCare.gov., or from a private insurer.

If you aren't insured through an employer, or don't already have an individual policy, you have compelling reasons to act quickly ...

... Going uninsured will cost you. The law requires a tax penalty for remaining uncovered. Depending on your income, you could end up paying anywhere from $95 as a single adult to as much as $10,150. A single person whose modified adjusted gross income is $35,000 a year would be liable for a $249 penalty. And you get nothing for your money ...

Yes, Obamacare has been controversial. But it is the law, and millions of Americans are benefiting from it.

Even critics appreciate the law's consumer protections, especially a prohibition against insurers refusing affordable policies to consumers with pre-existing health conditions. And the only way to guarantee affordable coverage to sick people is to recruit healthy people into the insurance pool ... Unfortunately, signing up for insurance on the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, isn't as simple as officials initially promised. It's especially tricky for people who aren't computer-savvy.




March 24:

Reading (Pa.) Eagle, on the NRA and Obama's surgeon general nominee:

Though the designee supports increased gun regulations, he'd play no role in forming policy.

The National Rifle Association's attack on President Barack Obama's surgeon general nominee is a too-common tale of corrupted power and political cowardice. It's also, apparently, on the verge of derailing Dr. Vivek H. Murthy's candidacy.

No doubt many NRA backers will blindly rejoice, but we caution that this story should dismay both guns-rights advocates and gun-control proponents.

Because the crux of the NRA's smear campaign simply bears no relevance to Murthy's would-be role as the country's top doctor. Murthy is Yale- and Harvard-educated ... But the NRA began aiming its political guns at Murthy in a bullying February letter to Senate leaders, writing, "(There is a) likelihood he would use the office of surgeon general to further his pre-existing campaign against gun ownership." ...

It's true that Murthy advocates an assault-weapons ban and mandatory training. Patching gunshot victims' gaping wounds when he was an emergency-room doctor likely helped shape Murthy's position that gun ownership is more a harmful than a helpful right.

Still, the NRA's arguments are specious.

Forget that at his confirmation hearing Murthy testified he had no intention of using the surgeon general's post to advance a gun-control platform, because Murthy's intent has little to do with the fact that a surgeon general has no role in gun-regulation formation.

It's also a rich irony that the NRA would concern itself with accurate public-health information, given its open role as lobbyist ...

Despite this nonconnection between Murthy's guns stance and a surgeon general's role, the White House is reportedly recalibrating its strategy on Murthy, and 10 Democrats from heavily pro-gun states have hinted they'd vote against him.

Shame on the NRA for exerting its alarmist might against a qualified candidate not in lockstep with its one-way agenda. Shame on Obama for not having Murthy's back. And shame on those Democrats for their me-first approach to politics.




The Dallas (Texas) Morning News, on Flight MH370:

One part of the mystery solved, another continues to build.

Malaysia's prime minister ended the rankest speculation with the announcement Monday that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was likely lost in the southern Indian Ocean.

It was, at least, a merciful gesture for loved ones of the 239 passengers and crew members after more than two weeks of agonizing over how and why a Boeing 777 could simply vanish — and whether they should hold out hope for a miracle.

A statement the airline sent to relatives said an analysis concluded that "none of those on board survived." The heartbreaking news let the families move on to a new phase of their vigil.

Prime Minister Najib Razak's announcement also should end conjecture over certain implausible scenarios ...

The detective work to piece together why the Beijing-bound plane went drastically off course is no closer to definitive answers, however.

Why did the plane's transponder abruptly go quiet as the plane neared Vietnamese airspace? Was there hidden meaning to the first officer's last words: "All right, good night"?

Was the crew overcome by a suddenly depressurized cabin? Why didn't passengers make any cellphone calls? Did lithium batteries in the plane's cargo hold ignite?

The answers are significant to both the flying public and an airline industry that desperately wants to address lingering doubts about safety. The Boeing 777 has a remarkable safety record, with only two serious mishaps among hundreds of aircraft over 19 years. If it has an undiscovered vulnerability, analyzing that could save lives in the future ...




March 24:

Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, on jobs for youth:

The rising rate of unemployment among teenagers is the perfect storm of social and economic trends that is clouding the future for American youth, particularly young men. Jobs are harder to come by. This scarcity is likely to continue as technology and automation replace jobs traditionally held by those first entering the workforce, and as long as government tinkers with policies that make it harder for companies to hire young people.

The consequences may be difficult to grapple with: young men who are unable to find employment and vocational skills early in life are less likely to embark on a career path that ensures stability in adulthood ...

One reason for hope is the programs springing up to provide apprenticeships for teenagers to gain real-world work experience as part of their secondary or post-high school educations. ...

In Utah, the rate of teenage employment is relatively high, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institute. The Provo area enjoys the nation's highest rate of employment among 16-19 year olds, at about 49 percent. The national rate is around 26 percent, down from about 45 percent in 2000. The higher job rate in Utah is attributed to several factors, primarily the influence of an overall low unemployment rate, a higher-than-average number of youth per capita, and a culture of attaining part-time employment at an early age.

That culture provides benefits to individuals and to society at large. To ensure that it continues, educators in Utah and nationwide should consider the kinds of initiatives to partner schools and businesses in apprenticeship programs. Existing programs could be expanding to a larger scale, extending their benefits.

Similarly, both local and national policy-makers must remember not to do harm to teenage employment prospects. Specifically, raising the national or state minimum wage laws are certain to narrow the opportunities available for younger workers ...




March 23:

Chicago (Ill.) Sun-Times, on the Obama presidential library:

Just say no to splitting up the Obama presidential library.

Say no to an annex in Hawaii.

Say no to a building at the University of Illinois.

Say no to a facility at Chicago State University.

Sometimes the whole really is better than the sum of its parts.

To realize its full potential, the Barack Obama presidential library and museum should be confined to a single site on Chicago's mid-South Side, within striking distance of the University of Chicago ...

The foundation overseeing the library last week laid out in broad terms its vision, making it a critical moment to draw a line in the sand.

The Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet said that document includes a reference to a "multi-unit facility," possibly a signal that the first couple is looking for more than one building and location. That potentially opens the door for a site in Hawaii or local sites beyond the mid-South Side.

The foundation expects to select a site in early 2015.

There is only so much money, so many artifacts, so much time. They should all be concentrated on Chicago's mid-South Side, giving each and every library visitor the richest and most rewarding experience possible.




March 23:

The Jerusalem Post, on the Palestinian Authority and U.S.

Last week, an exultant Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas returned from Washington to Ramallah and was received by cheering crowds. He came carrying a decidedly rejectionist, triumphalist message.

"I have honored my pledge and kept my promise," Abbas declared to the thousands who had gathered at his Mukata headquarters. It quickly became clear what the celebrating was all about. After eight months of negotiations, Abbas was proud to announce that he had not budged on any of the divisive issues preventing the creation of a Palestinian state.

The rally at the Mukata had been carefully planned ... It seemed to be, like the rallies that take place under other autocratic regimes in the region and elsewhere, more a testament to Abbas's ability to mobilize those Palestinians dependent on the PA's power and money than a genuine show of support.

This is not to say that there are within Palestinian society voices calling on its leaders to be more flexible and accommodating to Israeli demands. Eight months ago, Abbas had almost no support inside his Fatah party and among other political parties for his decision to renew negotiations with Israel. The situation has not changed since.

For most Palestinians, anything less than a Palestinian state established in the West Bank along the 1949 armistice lines with east Jerusalem as its capital; the removal of all Jewish settlements except for a few close to the Green Line; an equitable solution to the Palestinian "refugee" issue that includes the right of return for thousands; and complete Palestinian control of borders and airspace with no Israeli troops on the ground would be essentially a continuation of the "occupation." No Palestinian politician has managed to convince Palestinians otherwise.

It is difficult not to be pessimistic about the prospects for a peace agreement. A gaping chasm separates Israelis and Palestinians on everything from Jerusalem and Palestinian "refugees" to security arrangements in the Jordan Valley and the recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Abbas refused to budge on all of these issues. And due to the inner dynamics of Palestinian politics, he is presenting his rejectionism as a heroic, act as though to have the guts to say no to US President Barack Obama can be leveraged by Abbas to increase his popularity on the Palestinian street ...

The US-orchestrated peace talks seem on the verge of falling apart. Can the relative stability that we have grown accustomed to in the West Bank no longer be taken for granted? Unfortunately, a Palestinian political leadership capable of making the sorts of concessions necessary for a peace agreement has failed to materialize. As a result, we are fast approaching a dead-end ...




March 26:

China Daily on Flight MH370

It is heart-wrenching for the relatives of the passengers and crew onboard the missing plane to accept the fact that they have lost their loved ones forever.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivered his sadness for the lost lives and his condolences for the relatives during his announcement on Monday night. His feelings are shared by people all over the world.

But the pain for the relatives persists, because they still do not know exactly what happened after their loved ones stepped on board Air Malaysia Flight MH370 and where their remains are. While related departments are offering psychological and legal assistance to the relatives, their wish for the whole truth is humane and justified.

Based on fresh analysis of satellite data tracking Air Malaysia Flight MH370, the Malaysian conclusion was it had ended its flight in the southern Indian Ocean remote from any land, yet the detailed evidence to support this deduction was not publicized, giving rise to further doubts and conspiracy theories.

As Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday, the priority is still the ongoing search operations, and the Malaysian government is expected to provide more detailed and accurate information and continue to coordinate these unprecedented international efforts. The special Chinese envoy to Malaysia will help.

After 17 days of consistent actions, the international hunt has produced initial clues to possible MH370 debris in the southern Indian Ocean ... Yet it has become a race against time to pinpoint the location of the plane's black box, as it may only have enough power to emit a signal for 30 days, which explains the urgency for concerted international efforts in the coming days and our appreciation of additional help from the United States and Australia.

Although what has happened to the MH370 flight and the 239 passengers and crew onboard may remain a mystery for long, or even forever, finding out the whole truth about this ill-fated flight is in the interests of everyone, besides acting on behalf of the lost souls.

As varied nations carry on this joint operation, those involved in the search should avoid any repetition of the unsatisfactory communication of earlier days. Their timely exchange of accurate information and sound coordination of actions offer the best chance of finding the MH370 wreckage and its black box as early as possible.