Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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June 13

China Daily on relations between U.S. and China amid Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit days after the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Given the global significance of China-US relations, it is natural that they should be constantly in the spotlight. So it is not surprising that the visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to China, which begins on Thursday, has grabbed worldwide attention. Especially as it comes just two days after the historic Singapore meeting between US President Donald Trump and Democratic People's Republic of Korea top leader Kim Jong-un.

Aside from allowing them to compare notes on the summit and further coordinate their stances so that the current desirable momentum on the Korean Peninsula can continue, Pompeo's visit also provides a good opportunity for Beijing and Washington to air their differences on a variety of bilateral issues such as trade, the South China Sea and Taiwan.

While the world's two largest economies are now deep in negotiations on trade, seeking to avoid a trade war, the frictions between Beijing and Washington over the South China Sea and Taiwan keep sparking heated words.

Washington's frequent sending of warships and warplanes to sensitive waters has drawn much ire from Beijing, which sees it as a provocation to its sovereignty and security. And the Trump administration's growing penchant for playing the Taiwan card is also irking Beijing.

On Tuesday, Marie Royce, US assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, attended a ceremony in Taipei, which marks the unveiling of a new office complex for the American Institute in Taiwan, which has served as the US representative office after Washington severed "diplomatic ties" with the island in 1979.

The opening, together with the US' new "Taiwan Travel Act", shows Washington is now eying a bigger US presence on the island and using Taiwan as a linchpin in its overall containment strategy toward China. But what end is served by such a strategy? It is not good news for China-US ties, the US, or the world, since it only provokes more confrontation between the two sides.

Taiwan remains the most sensitive issue in China-US relations, and Washington should handle the issue with wisdom and dexterity.

Although it can't be expected to resolve all the issues standing between the two countries, Pompeo's visit signals that Beijing and Washington are committed to high-level communication to shore up ties. And as long as the two sides discuss their differences in good faith there is no reason why they should not find solid ground on which to do so.

Online: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/

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June 13

The Post and Courier of Charleston on a tariff on imports of Canadian newsprint:

The trade war with Canada over steel, aluminum and milk understandably grabs the headlines. But flying under the radar is the battle over Canadian newsprint, a skirmish that's hurting businesses and costing jobs.

In January, the U.S. Commerce Department, responding to a complaint from a New York private equity firm that bought a Washington state mill, imposed a 6.2 percent tariff on imports of Canadian newsprint, then added another 22 percent in March. And U.S. newspapers, to put it mildly, are suffering mightily.

That's why a group of newspaper executives will travel to Washington, D.C., this week to try to persuade lawmakers to get the Commerce Department to back off. The tariff already has prompted layoffs — newsprint is typically a newspaper's biggest operating cost behind labor — and caused some newspapers to reduce their number of pages.

Thousands of U.S. newspaper jobs are hanging in the balance.

The Washington state paper mill employs fewer than 300 people. Like some other recent tariffs, the cure is worse than the disease.

Never mind that most U.S. mills quit producing newsprint more than a decade ago as demand fell and traditional newspaper subscribers migrated increasingly to digital news. Or that Canada produces about 60 percent of all newsprint.

So far, the trade group News Media Alliance, representing some 1,350 U.S. newspapers, has unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. International Trade Commission to have the case dismissed.

"For an industry already severely challenged, this is very painful, unfair and totally unnecessary," Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger said in a story Monday in his newspapers, adding that the tariff was estimated to increase his operating costs by $2 million annually.

About 50 newspaper executives with the trade group will make their case to lawmakers who are set to testify before the trade commission on July 17. After that, the Commerce Department would make a decision to keep the tariff or lift it.

A decision is expected by late summer, but relief can't come soon enough. While the largest newspapers may be able to tolerate the increased operating costs, some smaller papers are in danger of failing. In April, the Tampa Bay Times, Florida's largest newspaper and winner of 12 Pulitzer Prizes, laid off about 50 employees, citing increased newsprint costs.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, has asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to use his authority to suspend the tariff, a power the president also holds. Separately, the House and Senate are considering bills that would roll back the import duty pending a study of its economic effects.

Newspapers still depend on revenue from their print editions, and the tariff is making the industry's already difficult transition to digital even harder. We need our newspapers and our newspaper jobs more than we need U.S.-produced newsprint.

Our democracy also needs an informed public, a service that newspapers provide to their communities with more depth than other media.

So it's no comfort that fewer than half of the newspapers that existed in 2001 ago are still in business, and the industry, which employed nearly 412,000 people then, now employs less than half that, according to a 2017 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The newsprint tariff isn't the only problem newspapers are facing, but it is one the administration can and should address quickly. Lift the tariff on Canadian newsprint.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com

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June 12

The New York Times on a federal judge rejecting the government's attempt to block AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner:

President Trump's chilling campaign to politicize the Justice Department ran into a stinging rebuke on Tuesday as a federal judge broadly rejected the government's attempt to block AT&T's $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner. Appearing to pander to the president's hostility to much of the news media, the department's antitrust division embraced a radical legal strategy that backfired, depriving every American of the responsible oversight that such a far-reaching merger required.

Tuesday's ruling will probably unleash a new wave of deal making on Wall Street, in Hollywood and in Silicon Valley. As the media, telecommunications and technology industries continue to reshape both themselves and the lives of billions of people around the world, the consistent and fair application of American competition policy remains essential to foster innovation and the interests of everyday consumers. One can only hope that in the wake of Tuesday's defeat, federal authorities return to the principles that helped the United States become the world's engine of creative invention.

President Trump's antagonism toward the news media — particularly CNN, one of Time Warner's crown jewels — is one of the defining aspects of his political identity. Hours before AT&T and Time Warner announced their deal in October 2016, then-candidate Trump vowed that his administration would try to block it.

And yet once the Justice Department actually sued AT&T last November to stop the merger, the administration insisted that the president had nothing to do with it. The official line was that the White House had no contact with the department's antitrust division about the deal and did not influence its decision to sue.

Leave it to Rudolph Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, to baldly contradict the White House's story and reveal the truth. "The president denied the merger," Mr. Giuliani told HuffPost last month. "They didn't get the result they wanted."

Mr. Giuliani eventually attempted to walk back his statement (without actually retracting it), but the damage had been done. The prospect that the administration has been using antitrust law to punish the president's opponents while rewarding those he views as friends is alarming.

The AT&T-Time Warner merger has certainly required close scrutiny. Through its cable and satellite DirecTV operations, AT&T is the nation's No. 1 pay-television provider, with more than 25 million subscribers. (Comcast is second, with about 23 million cable customers.) AT&T is also the No. 2 wireless carrier, behind Verizon. Time Warner, meanwhile, controls some of the most popular television networks, including HBO, TBS and TNT, in addition to CNN. The prime concern is that a combined AT&T-Time Warner could jack up the rates it charges other TV distributors for content, increasing prices for consumers.

In antitrust lingo, this deal represents a classic example of vertical integration: The companies have a "vertical" relationship where one company — Time Warner's networks and studios — supplies the other — AT&T's distribution operations. However, the two companies' main businesses do not actually compete with each other and so a merger would not reduce the number of competitors in any particular market.

By contrast, deals like T-Mobile's $26.5 billion agreement to acquire Sprint announced in April are known as horizontal mergers. The two companies are direct competitors in the wireless phone market and their combination would reduce the number of primary national wireless carriers from four to three.

The Trump administration's suit to block AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner was a suspiciously sharp, even radical, departure from modern antitrust policy because, since the early 1980s, federal courts and authorities have extended broad deference to vertical mergers while reserving aggressive challenges for horizontal deals that more clearly imperil consumers. Tuesday's decision by Judge Richard Leon of United States District Court was clearly in line with established antitrust precedent. Before Tuesday, the government had not even brought a vertical antitrust suit to conclusion in decades.

That is probably why Makan Delrahim, then a Pepperdine University law professor, said when the deal was first announced, "I don't see this as a major antitrust problem." But then Mr. Delrahim became chief of the antitrust division under a president who despises CNN, and his tune changed. Suddenly, the deal represented a major threat to American consumers and had to be stopped.

Rather than attempt to block vertical mergers outright, antitrust authorities in recent decades have instead focused on forcing the companies to curtail potentially anticompetitive behavior. For example, when Comcast acquired NBCUniversal in 2011 (a deal quite similar to AT&T-Time Warner's), the Justice Department reached a sensible settlement requiring the combined company to abide by a broad array of conditions to protect competition. That agreement was overseen and approved by none other than Judge Leon, who ruled against the government on Tuesday.

Those Comcast-style provisions have appeared reasonably effective. Neither Comcast nor AT&T nor any other old-school media or telecommunications company has been able to hold back the relentless march of internet video behemoths like Amazon, Netflix and YouTube. In fact, the tech giants' media operations are already vertically integrated; Amazon and Netflix spend billions of dollars a year developing video content and then distributing it themselves through different systems and services.

Mr. Delrahim could have pursued such conditions with AT&T and Time Warner. Unwisely, he didn't. The big risk in the government's litigation strategy was that if it lost, AT&T could acquire Time Warner without any such pro-consumer provisions at all. That is exactly what is happening.

The rule of law is at least as important in business as it is in politics. As Tuesday's ruling potentially unleashes a new round of corporate consolidation, the most important concern remains insulating the application of antitrust law and competition policy from the whims of partisans.

Consumers and the vitality of the economy's most dynamic sectors depend on it.

Online: https://www.nytimes.com/

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June 12

The Wall Street Journal says tariffs could limit the tax-cut benefits for blue-collar Americans:

More than a few conservative intellectuals have warmed to Donald Trump's trade protectionism because it supposedly helps blue-collar Americans. But what if his tariffs do the opposite?

Erica York at the Tax Foundation crunched some numbers recently showing that Mr. Trump's proposal for a 25% tariff on imported cars, trucks and parts could eliminate half of the income gains from tax reform for millions of Americans. Those in the lowest income quintile could lose 49% of their tax gains. Say for ease of calculation that these folks received a $100 after-tax bonus from changes like the doubled standard deduction. After auto tariffs that would be whittled down to $51, Ms. York notes.

The tariffs shave gains in all income brackets, but no one is hurt more than the poor and middle class. Take the fourth income quintile, or a household making at most about $70,000 a year in adjusted gross income. The Tax Foundation says auto tariffs could erase nearly 30% of that family's after-tax income bump. Ditto for the third quintile, or a family earning no more than $43,000 a year.

Tariffs are inherently regressive because low-income Americans spend more of their income on household goods. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has argued that no one will notice price increases — what's a few cents more for a can of soup? But people in Mr. Ross's income strata are not the Trump base.

The Commerce Department is still looking at whether a muffler is a national security threat under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. President Trump should abandon the idea lest Americans wonder if they really benefitted from that tax cut.

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

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June 13

The Baltimore Sun on the Supreme Court upholding Ohio's purge of inactive voters from its rolls:

Master impersonators taking on multiple identities to vote as other people. Dead people rising from their graves to haunt your neighborhood polling place. Non-citizens descending by the caravan to vote alongside true Americans.

The mythical beast known as "voter fraud" is as preposterous as it is seemingly invincible. No amount of research — and there has been plenty — has managed to slay it, and now, it has even found a majority on the Supreme Court to rule on its behalf.

By a 5-4 vote, the justices on Monday upheld Ohio's aggressive purge of non-active voters from its rolls, which state officials say maintains "election integrity." We say it is voter suppression, targeted at groups that lean Democratic — lower-income, minorities, young people and others who tend to move more frequently.

In 2015 alone, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, hundreds of thousands of voters were purged, including more than 40,600 in Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland and a disproportionate share of low-income and black communities. A survey by Reuters found that Ohio's purge struck twice as many voters from the rolls in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods in the state's three largest counties as in Republican communities.

It's not just Ohio. Multiple states similarly are fighting this war against imaginary or at least negligible voter fraud, tightening identification requirements at check-in, for example, or shortening early-voting hours. This even as study after study has found few legitimate cases of voter fraud. The most comprehensive research, by Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School, surveyed 14 years of elections in which a billion ballots were cast — and found 31 credible allegations of someone using another person's name to vote. And not even all of those, Mr. Levitt has written, likely would stand up under further investigation.

As cynical as these election-protection efforts may be, there is a way to at least begin to ameliorate them — and it starts, ironically enough, by simply voting. Use it or lose it, in other words, to avoid getting purged from the rolls.

That, of course, is easier said than done. There are numerous reasons, from passion to practicality, why people sit out an election — if you work longer or non-traditional hours or have school, transportation, or child-care issues or have moved recently, it's harder to get to the polling place no matter how much you care about the outcome of an election. And measures like Ohio's create a cascading problem — you miss an election, you risk getting stricken and your right to vote in subsequent years.

As cynical and unjust as these election laws may be, this is the reality at the moment. But not taking the extra step — to get an absentee ballot or to find time to vote early — has all too clear consequences.

If nothing else, this past year has shown that elections matter. It matters to the kinds of laws that are enacted from the local to the global. It matters to the judiciary, from district to the highest level, that determines if those laws are indeed lawful. It most obviously matters in who we place in office.

Which brings to mind the results of a recent poll that found that the No. 1 issue for Maryland Democrats as they head to the polls for the primary election later this month is "removing Donald Trump from office."

You could argue, correctly, that Mr. Trump is not on the Maryland primary ballot. Or that voters had their chance in 2016.

And some of those voters sat home, a passive act that nonetheless swung the election, according to data-crunchers. They have found that Hillary Clinton's failure to draw Obama voters to the polls in Michigan, Wisconsin and other critical states helped propel Mr. Trump to victory.

Reliably blue Maryland went for Ms. Clinton, although our voter turnout rates have been shamefully low in some recent non-presidential years. It remains to be seen if this year's governor's race, and other high-interest contests such as Baltimore state's attorney and Baltimore County executive will drive traffic to the polls.

Midterm elections traditionally attract fewer voters than a presidential year. And, according to Pew Research Center, those who skip the in-between years fit a particular demographic mold: They tend to be younger, less white and affluent and more Democratic-leaning than those who vote more consistently.

In other words, the same demographics of those who would denied the right to vote by tighter election laws. They may not have the power to change those laws, they can still avail themselves of a ballot

Online: http://www.baltimoresun.com/

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June 12

The Miami Herald on Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School students' summer bus tour:

Music is healing. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School put that theory on display Sunday night in New York with their stirring performance at the Tony Awards — beautifully.

The students, all from the school's drama department, brought the house down singing the powerful "Seasons of Love," from "Rent," as survivors of the Feb. 14 massacre at their Parkland school where 17 died.

They touched millions of people with their moving message. This summer, many of their classmates also have a moving message: Register to vote — then vote!

On Thursday, a large group of Stoneman Douglas graduates will set out on a nationwide summer bus tour to bring about change in America. Half a century ago, it was students protesting the Vietnam War. Today, the students' mission is to end a domestic war, one we're waging on ourselves through gun violence.

The day after they received their diplomas — four seniors killed in the mass shooting received them posthumously — the grads announced the March for Our Lives tour. They will raise gun-control awareness and push for reform, likely going mano a mano with the NRA publicity machine. They will also be registering teens in time to vote in the midterm elections this November. They've got a big hurdle to clear. Millennials, who include 18 and 19 year olds, have the lowest voter turnout of any age group. Registering them will be easy, moving them to the voting booth, perhaps, not so much.

The bus tour is an offshoot of the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee in March. There will be two tours: One will make 75 stops in 20 states, with a separate statewide tour that will visit all 27 congressional districts in Florida. It's an ambitious project. It all begins Thursday with a peace march in Chicago, led by students from St. Sabina Academy.

The tours are being funded by donations made by people from around the country. A dollar amount was not disclosed. Donations are accepted through the March for Our Lives website. It's imperative that students and their advisers are meticulous and transparent with their finances. They should not let even a whiff of carelessness compromise the integrity of their righteous mission.

Their movement already has made an impact. In Florida, Gov. Scott signed into law a $400 million bill that raised the minimum age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21, banned bump stocks and imposed a three-day waiting period on gun sales. Florida is also one of four states to pass a "red flag law," allowing law enforcement to temporarily confiscate firearms from people found to pose a threat to themselves or others.

The biggest chance to bring about change will come in November. Though the student group will not officially endorse candidates, they plan to call out those who are receiving money from the NRA and have regressive views on gun reform. The issue is of vital importance and, in that spirit, the Miami Herald Editorial Board will be asking candidates it interviews their stance on gun-control issues.

If these Parkland students can turn inaction into action, nonvoters into voters and bring more souls to the polls in November, they would have accomplished something special, just like those young Americans did 50 years ago.

Online: http://www.miamiherald.com/

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