Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Oct. 14

The Republican of Springfield, Massachusetts, on how the U.S. Supreme Court ruling cutting the census short could have lasting impacts:

When you don't truly believe that all the people count, it only makes sense not to count all the people.

How else can one explain the White House's efforts to screw up the decennial census, which received the blessing of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, when justices said the administration could move ahead with its plan to halt the count early.

When the White House recently announced that this years enumeration of the people was 99.9% complete, the figure seemed, well, too good to be true. After all, the Commerce Department had tried to wrap up the census early, despite reports of widespread problems. In particular, it seemed that specific groups were routinely being undercounted -- minorities, young people and the poor. Think it's merely a coincidence that folks in those groups aren't generally wild about President Donald Trump?

The first census in the newly established United States, mandated by the Constitution, was conducted in 1790. The idea, seemingly so simple, was actually quite radical: In a nation where the people are the ultimate authority, with the power of those in the federal bureaucracy obtained only by the consent of the governed, it is imperative to have an accurate count of the people, and to know where they live. We've done this every 10 years since, trying always to count everyone. Until now.

Because Trump felt that undocumented immigrants shouldn't be counted. And while that notion didn't initially pass muster in the federal courts, Tuesday's emergency ruling from the Supremes effectively hands Trump the win he wanted. Sadly.

This is no way to run our nation's 24th census, which should be as free from political interference as can be. And if we get it badly wrong this time around, there won't be an opportunity to fix it until 2030.

The census, of course, is used to determine the apportionment of the 435 representatives in the House. Each state gets one to start with, and then the rest are divvied up by population, in an effort to see that congressional districts are more or less the same size. But that's only one aspect of the count. Vast amounts of federal funds are also handed out based on population figures. As a result, this year's undercount will deprive already-underserved communities even further.

Showing that in the eyes of this administration, they simply don't count.

Online: https://www.masslive.com

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Oct. 14

The Hindu newspaper on calls for a ceasefire and the opening up of diplomatic talks in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan:

The ongoing fighting between Armenian rebels and the Azerbaijani Army in Nagorno-Karabakh, a self-declared republic within Azerbaijan, risks becoming a wider regional conflict. Though Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a Russia-mediated ceasefire last week after days of fighting, the truce crumbled immediately amid a blame game. Whatever the truth is, an emboldened Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, seems determined to press ahead with its offensive.

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is decades old. The region, largely populated by ethnic Armenians, is located within the international boundaries of Azerbaijan. Under the Soviet Union, it was an autonomous province that was part of the Azerbaijan republic. In 1988, when the Soviet power was receding, the regional assembly in Nagorno-Karabakh voted to join Armenia, triggering ethnic clashes. After the Soviet disintegration in 1991, Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over this largely mountainous, forested enclave. By the time a ceasefire was reached in 1994, the rebels, with support from Armenia and Russia, had established their de facto rule and extended their influence to the Armenian border. Ever since, the border has remained tense.

What makes the clashes now far more dangerous is the external intervention. Turkey has called Armenia a threat to peace in the region; the Azeris and Turks share ethnic and linguistic bonds. Also, the pre-Soviet Azerbaijan was a local ally of the Ottomans when they invaded Transcaucasia in the last leg of World War I. For Turkey, which, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is trying to expand its geopolitical reach to the former Ottoman regions, the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is an opportunity to enter the South Caucasus. Turkey also has a particularly bad relationship with Armenia.

But its problem is that Armenia is a member of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Russia enjoys good economic and defence ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. But Armenia, as a CSTO member and host to a Russian military base, has more weight. In a wider conflict, Armenia could trigger Article 4 of the CSTO treaty and ask for Russian help. And if Moscow responds favourably, that would pit Russia against Turkey, a NATO member. Russia, already involved in military conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Libya, may not like opening another front. That is why it has re-emphasised its neutrality and hosted talks in Moscow for a truce. But it will be forced to take sides if the conflict spills into Armenia.

Both sides should understand the volatile situation and call off the hostilities. Nagorno-Karabakh has in the past witnessed large-scale ethnic violence. Instead of risking a regional war, Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Karabakh rebels should go back to the ceasefire and open up diplomatic channels.

Online: https://www.thehindu.com

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Oct. 13

The Washington Post on Facebook's new policies aiming to reduce misinformation ahead of the U.S. general election:

Facebook last week unveiled an expansion of its previously announced policies to fight confusion, misinformation and general malfeasance as election results roll in next month. These steps include a much-discussed suspension of all social issue, electoral and political ads after polls close on Nov. 3, in addition to the already existing ban on new political ads in the previous week. The change is more distraction than solution; political ads were only the problem insofar as they were a loophole through which false claims could slip. Those false claims are the real menace — which is why Facebook's other efforts are more important, and why on their own they're unlikely to be enough.

The debate over political ads started as a fight about fact-checking. A freeze on ads after the election might do some good by preventing President Trump from misleading voters about the results, yet it will also prevent his opponents from correcting the record, should he continue to churn out the lies he is accustomed to sharing in his normal, unmonetized posts. And because the president has also rallied around him a right-wing apparatus of fringe personalities ready to share his latest claim, he holds the advantage. Facebook's proposals on this front are promising, but their effects on democracy will be in the details.

Facebook already planned to append "informational" labels to premature declarations of victory, and to continue applying labels to content concerning the legitimacy of the election. Now it will extend its partnership with Reuters to put notifications of the latest results atop Facebook and Instagram — plus, after major media outlets announce a victor, it will add that person's name to posts from both candidates. The question is what these labels will look like. Does a post from Mr. Trump claiming he has won before ballots have been tallied deserve the same label as a post from Joe Biden counseling supporters to wait, or ought the former be called out explicitly as incorrect? Then there's the content Facebook theoretically will remove outright, such as posts calling for poll watchers that include militaristic or otherwise intimidating language. Where will the platform draw its lines?

This last update to Facebook's policies cuts to the core of the problem. The company is essentially playing catch-up to the president and his allies, who have been exhorting supporters to "defend" their ballots or join an "army." Tweak after tweak responds to the unprecedented reality of a leader determined to undermine the integrity of the election. A recent paper from scholars at Harvard University tracking the disinformation campaign surrounding mail-in voting determined that social media played only a supporting role in an effort that was driven by mass media and elites. Facebook could and should fact-check more, or take down more, and it could even adjust its underlying algorithm that rewards sensationalism. But the platform cannot fix Donald Trump. It can only try to manage his deceptions.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com

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Oct. 13

The Wall Street Journal on partisan divides during Amy Coney Barrett's U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings:

The Senate confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett may lack for political drama, but they are still instructive. They are revealing the deep fault lines over the Supreme Court, and how Democrats view it as a mini-legislature to achieve policy goals, rather than a real judicial body.

Democrats are asking very little about the actual law or Judge Barrett's jurisprudential thinking. Instead, one after another, Democrats have used their time to focus on a parade of policy horribles if she is confirmed. And for emotional effect, they brought along photo displays of children and women who would supposedly be her victims on health care, abortion, gun violence and more.

All of this distorts the role of a judge, who has to rule based on what the law is, not on what she would want it to be. "Judges can't just wake up one day and say 'I have an agenda. I like guns. I hate guns. I like abortion, I hate abortion' and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world," Judge Barrett said Tuesday. But that is lost on Democrats, who are treating the hearings like a campaign rally.

Start with their focus on Judge Barrett as a threat to health insurance. Republican state attorneys general, joined by the Trump Administration, argue in a case that the Court will hear on Nov. 10 that the Affordable Care Act should be struck down. Recall that Chief Justice John Roberts in 2012 upheld the individual mandate to carry health insurance as a tax. But the 2017 tax reform zeroed out the financial penalty for not being insured. The AGs say that because there now is no tax, the entire law should be struck down.

As we've argued, the AG suit is political and legal malpractice because the lawsuit has almost no chance of success. Three conservative Justices have suggested in opinions this year that they are wary of throwing out entire laws due to discrete constitutionally defective provisions, and with good reason. The vote could be 9-0.

Yet Democrats assert that Judge Barrett's appointment to the Court would threaten protections for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions, insurance coverage for young adults, free mammograms and birth control as well as lead to higher prescription costs for seniors. "It's all at stake," Kamala Harris declared.

Imagine if GOP Senators displayed photos of crime victims for a Democratic nominee who had overturned a conviction on appeal? They would be skewered as demagogues.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked how Judge Barrett would handle the ACA's lifetime coverage caps. Judge Barrett duly noted she would consider this like any "issue that would arise under the Affordable Care Act or any other statute should be determined by the law—by looking at the text of the statute, by looking at precedent." Good answer. Coverage caps are a policy issue for Congress.

Democrats also flogged Judge Barrett for criticizing the Chief Justice's creative interpretation of the individual mandate as a tax. She joins a long queue there. But Judge Barrett replied: "I am not hostile to the ACA. I am not hostile to any statute that you pass. ... I apply the law. I follow the law. You make the policy." She also said "reliance interests," such as the number of people who gained insurance under ObamaCare, have to be considered now that the law has been in place for six years.

Democrats also distorted the risks that the Court will overturn Obergefell v. Hodges that divined a right to same-sex marriage in the Constitution because Justice Antonin Scalia dissented and Judge Barrett was his clerk. Yet Justice Scalia dissented because the Court was imposing policy preferences by diktat.

As he explained, "the substance of today's decree is not of immense personal importance to me," but the judiciary's hubris in divining a new right signified "that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court."

He was right then, but tens of thousands of same-sex Americans have been married since Obergefell. This is the definition of a "reliance interest," and conservative judges take it seriously. There is no way a conservative Court is going to invalidate those marriages.

The current "conservative" Court has already shown it is more heterodox than one dominated by liberals. That's because originalists seek to interpret laws based on the text and the Constitution rather than merely find a way to arrive at a foregone policy result. Everything we know suggests Judge Barrett will rule in the same originalist way, and this should reassure the public that the Court will be properly modest in interpreting the law as it is.

Democrats are doing a great disservice to the law and judiciary by treating these hearings like an emotive political ad. They are telling voters that the courts are nothing more than another arena for political disputes. Keep doing that and soon the Supreme Court will be as unpopular as Congress — which may be their real goal as they prepare the ground to pack the Court next year.

Online: https://www.wsj.com

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Oct. 13

The Denver Post on the shooting of a Colorado man during a rally to support police:

Lee Keltner — a Denver-area hat maker who created art with his custom-ordered products — was shot and killed in downtown Denver while attending a rally to support the police and after a physical altercation with an armed man providing security for a television producer. Keltner's death, like several across the U.S. that have occurred during protests since the death of George Floyd, is a tragedy.

Americans must find ways to gather and express their views, to be vocal and passionate, and to also be peaceful and non-violent.

And we are sure all Americans can agree that no one deserves to die for getting in a verbal or physical fight, spraying mace, resisting arrest, grabbing a police officer's spent Taser, serving this country as a police officer, or exercising the right to peacefully assemble.

We don't pretend to know what transpired before or after Keltner was shot; we are waiting on additional information from the police investigation. An attorney representing Dolloff's family said that Dolloff was protecting a journalist and acted in self-defense.

Just like thousands of others, we've seen the photos that Denver Post photographer Helen Richardson captured showing the moments before and after Keltner was shot. It need not be said that Richardson displayed incredible bravery and dedication to her role as a journalist capturing these moments of strife and division in America.

We know from Richardson's photos that Keltner slaps Dolloff. Dolloff appears in another photo to be reaching for his gun. Then another image shows Keltner spraying a cloud of pepper spray as Dolloff fires his gun (the photo captures a shell casing in the air.) Keltner was killed and police arrested Dolloff.

Dolloff had been hired as a security guard to accompany a 9News producer who was covering the protests, police and a 9News source have said. However, it's unclear what company, if any, Dolloff was employed through and whether he was properly licensed to be a private security guard in Denver.

It doesn't matter what Keltner or Dolloff thought of Black Lives Matter or police.

What matters is that one man was killed, and the Denver district attorney must determine if this was manslaughter, murder or self-defense.

We cannot help but note the reversal of roles in this situation, and it's possible that if Coloradans can step back from this tragedy dispassionately, they could find common ground. A man is dead who did not appear to use or threaten lethal force (we'll wait for the investigation to tell us whether he was unarmed or not and what words were exchanged), and the question is whether the shooting was in some way justified. It's a question that Americans have grappled with far too many times this year.

All of these deaths and shootings — whether it was at the hands of a police officer, a private security guard, an armed teen trying to protect private property, a protester recklessly firing a gun at a moving vehicle or anyone else — should lead us to question whether our self-defense laws are serving justice or permitting murder. Are we empowering people to protect themselves and others or are we making our public spaces unsafe with our laws?

As a society, we must look at the tragic deaths that occurred across the nation in 2020 and consider the answers to those questions. We must protect the right to assemble.

Online: https://www.denverpost.com

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Oct. 11

The San Francisco Chronicle on the effects of the Trump administration's tightening of tech visas:

For years Washington has debated the fate of a subset of the immigration picture: the flow of trained, sought-after foreign tech workers allowed entry under a visa lottery program. Now the Trump administration is stepping in with a sledgehammer to lower the numbers and tighten the rules.

It's a long anticipated gesture from a nativist White House that's bidding to reduce immigration, especially on the eve of an election. But there are also real problems with the specialized entry permits known as H-1B visas. The Bay Area's sprawling tech world has a ringside seat in the brewing situation.

The Trump plan devised by the Department of Labor and Homeland Security agency will firmly restrict the prized visas doled out by the luck of the draw. The current lottery reserves 20,000 slots for applicants with a master's degree or more and opens the remaining 65,000 visas to all applicants

Under the proposed rules, foreign workers would need to be paid more, their credentials linked more directly to stateside jobs and permitted stays would be shortened in some cases. And one more thing: The new guidelines would cut the numbers by a third, predicted Homeland Security official Ken Cuccinelli. That estimate comes on top of a prior surge in rejections of tech visa requests.

The plan requires that overseas applicants have a college degree, not simply work experience, to qualify for visas. That could screen out the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, who didn't graduate from college, from coming from overseas. The changes also zero in on third-party hiring agencies with compliance rules and a limit of a one-year visa in place of the present three years. It's anything but a welcome sign to outside talent.

Slamming the brakes on H-1B programs is sold as protection for American workers seeking the same jobs. With COVID-19 devastating the economy and a jobless rate stuck at 7.9%, the Trump team is offering both a solution and a scapegoat. "America's immigration laws should put American workers first," said Patrick Pizzella, the deputy secretary of labor who took part in presenting the plan.

That message has gone out from the early days of the administration. But a package of changes to halt H-1B visas announced in June and tied to the COVID outbreak were stopped by a federal court decision in San Francisco last week. Now comes a new strategy. It involves an initiative that doesn't need major review or public comment and could take effect quickly. That shortened schedule, though, will invite yet another court challenge that could stall the latest announcement.

Beyond legal gambits, there are undeniable problems. The tech guest workers in some instances are underpaid compared to U.S. employees pounding out code down the hall. Lining up foreign workers has led to a small group of personnel agencies that control the market. But the broad stroke plan detailed this week doesn't just go after these instances. It goes after the entire H-1B program in a wholesale way.

Demonizing foreign workers is once again in this administration's playbook. Yet there is a defensible need by the tech sector for these workers with a majority coming from India.

Should the visa limits stick, there's sure to be reaction from tech businesses. They'll ship jobs overseas, disrupting work here and adding to employment rolls elsewhere. That's a self-defeating outcome and the very opposite of the announced goals to save American jobs. Both the tech industry lobbying group TechNet and the employer group Bay Area Council have weighed in against the visa changes.

The visa restrictions capture the harsh White House view on immigration: chase away outsiders in the name of self-preservation. In this case, as with other border controls, it's illogical and myopic. This country has thrived on arriving talent who supplement the strengths on hand. Foreign tech workers are no exception and should be welcomed, not spurned.

Online: https://www.sfchronicle.com