Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on the great toilet paper conspiracy:
The latest news from the forefront of the Bolivarian Socialist Revolution in Venezuela is the government's seizure of a toilet paper factory.
In carrying out a "temporary occupation" of the Paper Manufacturing Company's plant, the government was staging an effort to show it is combating shortages of food and basic commodities. It would have been better off canceling its price control policies.
Despite the country's oil wealth — the state oil company had revenues of $124 billion last year — Venezuelans have suffered from a shortage of toilet paper since last spring and have been limited to buying only four rolls at a time. They also encounter periodic shortages of rice, milk, sugar, cooking oil and flour.
Economists say the blame falls on the government's attempt to control prices in a failing effort to combat inflation running at 20 percent a year.
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the shortages, instead, on a conspiracy of his political opponents and the rich. He gave the same explanation for a major power outage in early September, tweeting, "All signs indicate that the extreme right has implemented its plan to carry out an Electrical Coup against the nation."
Interviews by the BBC and CNN with Venezuelan consumers indicate that they are not buying this excuse for the government's failure to ensure orderly markets. Public support for Maduro is falling, suggesting he would not win re-election at this point, having eked out a bare 1.5 percent victory in last spring's presidential election. If he keeps up the conspiracy talk he could become a laughingstock.
The Bolivarian Socialist Revolution was invented by Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez, in imitation of Marxist-inspired Cuban socialism under Fidel Castro. Maduro is faithfully trying to execute Mr. Chavez's misguided master plan.
But he evidently is not aware of the perils he faces.
As Karl Marx wrote, history repeats itself "the first time as tragedy, the second as farce."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on proof of Tehran's seriousness will come in Geneva:
President Barack Obama's phone conversation Friday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was a historic ice-breaker after decades of no high-level contact with the leadership of that critical Middle East country.
Some believed that the two presidents should have deliberately run into each other during the busy first week of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. At the same time, the inevitable grip-and-grin photo of the two wouldn't have done either president any good at home in the overheated political atmospheres of Tehran and Washington.
No one should presume too much at this stage, but it now appears that the road is set for a constructive, negotiated approach to the primary issue dividing the United States and Iran, that country's nuclear program. Talks between Iran and U.N. Security Council permanent members China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus Germany, are now scheduled for Oct. 15-16 in Geneva. Those talks are not specifically about U.S.-Iranian relations, but a deal involving Western economic sanctions and Iran's nuclear program will be at the core.
Rouhani, the whole week in New York, including during interviews with American journalists, gave signals that Iran is now ready to work toward a deal. So far he has not been disowned by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Geneva meeting will provide Iran with every opportunity to show whether Rouhani was serious about repairing relations. A failure by Iran to put concrete proposals on the table would be an equally clear signal that Rouhani's performance in New York, including his phone conversation with Mr. Obama, was an effort to substitute theater for real willingness to negotiate.
America and the world have every reason to hope that Rouhani's posture reflected Iranian reality, not subterfuge. The Geneva conference will tell the tale.
New York Times on containing the Conventional Arms Trade:
Efforts to control the $70 billion a year global market in conventional weapons got a big boost when the United States signed the United Nations arms trade treaty, joining more than 100 other countries in affirming the need to keep these weapons out of the hands of unscrupulous regimes, militants and criminals.
But the work is far from done. At least 50 member countries, including the United States, must still carry out the next step and ratify the treaty for it to take effect; only six have done so. Proponents fear final ratification could take years, and it would be a travesty if it does.
The treaty, which took seven years to negotiate, is a pioneering agreement that is unquestionably needed. It covers global trade in tanks, armored combat vehicles, large
caliber weapons, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and launchers, small arms and light weapons — the kinds of weapons that are fueling conflicts and killing innocents in Syria, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond.
The treaty would require states to review all crossborder arms contracts, establish national control systems and deny exports to purchasers who might use the weapons for terrorism or violations of humanitarian law, including genocide. In April, the 193-member General Assembly adopted it overwhelmingly by a vote of 154 to 3, clearing the way for individual states to sign and then ratify the pact. The states in opposition were familiar outliers in the international system: North Korea, Syria and Iran.
The National Rifle Association, like those nations, rejects this sensible international weapons regulation. It is opposed to the arms treaty even though the treaty has no impact on the American domestic market.
The group falsely claims the treaty will somehow infringe on Americans' gun rights under the Second Amendment. ...
The United States is the world's main arms exporter, responsible for about 80 percent of the global trade. But experts and officials say the treaty won't impose any new requirements on the federal government or American companies because laws and regulations already require American manufacturers to comply with a comprehensive export control system that is designed to keep weapons away from human rights abusers and other bad actors. The treaty's main impact will be felt elsewhere as other countries adopt comparable standards and rules.
Although the treaty has no enforcement power, its export control requirements, coupled with disclosure provisions to shame violators, could help reduce the spread of weapons in conflict zones. In a world where virtually every major commodity is subject to international agreements, allowing weapons to avoid any review or regulation is irresponsible and unacceptable.
The Khaleej Times, Dubai, on Tel Aviv's immature stunts:
Israel seems to be perplexed as the United States and Iran agreed to a thaw.
The high-profile interaction between the two presidents of the US and Iran has irked Tel Aviv and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's agenda is to warn the world of the impending dangers if Iran is granted concessions. This is brinkmanship politics and squarely reflects Israel's unease on seeing its arch rival mend fences with the US and Europe. Like last year, Netanyahu used the forum of the United Nations General Assembly to air his grievances, urging member states not to believe in what the leadership in Tehran says or does. He went to the extent of calling President Hasan Rohani 'deceptive' and more 'dangerous' than his hawkish predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
When it comes to interstate relations, Netanyahu is more preoccupied with playing to the gallery. That was evident as he took the pain to visit the White House twice in the last one year, though unwelcome to a great extent, trying to explain how essential it is to act against Tehran before it allegedly crosses the nuclear threshold. ...
The need of the hour is to keep in mind the sensitivities of both the rivals and try to find out how cooperation could help overcome the security and nuclear impasse in the region. Israel, which has nuclear weapons and that too without any international safeguards, has little moral right to question other nations of the region. It has not been able to maintain decorum with its Arab neighbors and has stalled any breakthrough in efforts to attain peace with the dispossessed Palestinians.
Israel should mind its business first, and realise how harmful its policies have been for the region, from the invasion of Lebanon to the occupation of Arab land elsewhere. At this point of time, Israel's nightmare is a world where its best ally, the U.S., and its worst enemy, Iran, go on to improve their bilateral relations. All this hip-hop diplomacy is meant to derail any possible normalisation of ties between the two countries. Tel Aviv should realise that a thaw in US and Iran relations could help address the security imbroglio in the region and make it a better place to live in. This crying wolf is uncalled for.
The Korea Herald, Seoul, South Korea on OPCON transfer should not be tied to missile defense:
The U.S. has suggested considering another delay in the transfer of wartime operational control to South Korea, but apparently with a precondition that Seoul finds hard to accept.
Top U.S. officials have recently increased pressure on Seoul to join the Pentagon-led global missile shield program, implying that its participation would facilitate discussion on putting off the OPCON handover slated for December 2015. They cite the need to counter threats from North Korea's ballistic missiles, but South Korea's decision to join the multilayered missile defense scheme is certain
to strain its ties with China. For Seoul, it is a more reasonable choice to establish a separate low-tier defense system against Pyongyang's threats.
South Korean and U.S. defense chiefs appeared to have gone as far as was allowed by current conditions by sharing the need to reconsider the timing of the OPCON transfer and agreeing to continue specific consultations during their annual Security Consultative Meeting in Seoul on Wednesday.
Wartime operational control was originally set to be handed over to Seoul in April 2012. But Seoul asked for a rescheduling shortly after North Korea's deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship in 2010. Washington accepted the request.
As this paper has noted, the OPCON transition should be a process absolutely free of any potential risk. ...
Building an effective global missile shield may be a top strategic priority for U.S. officials. But their move to tie Seoul's participation in the program to an agreement to delay the OPCON transfer would hardly sound persuasive to the South Korean public.
Seoul and Washington need to strengthen coordination to ensure that their alliance will not be affected by a possible entanglement of the two matters. As some experts suggest, consideration may be given to heightening the interoperability between the U.S.-led joint missile shield and South Korea's separate system.
Paris (Tenn.) Post-Intelligencer on the partial government shutdown:
The government shutdown seeks to refight battles that have already been decided.
It seeks to defeat the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which already passed by both houses of Congress and was upheld by the Supreme Court. It is the law of the land.
On a deeper level, instigators of the shutdown seek to combat President Barack Obama, who won re-election fair and square.
Does Congress have an obligation to fund a program that it has enacted? Of course. Why launch a ship and then refuse to put a crew aboard?
The straightforward approach would be to repeal the law, but that would require a majority vote in each house. There aren't enough opponents to win repeal, but there are enough to lock Congress up and prevent any action at all.
Still, the Affordable Care Act is not quite stopped in its tracks.
The new federal fiscal year begins today, and with it the reform measure's Health Insurance Marketplace. The Web-based exchange lets people sign up for medical plans and see whether they qualify for subsidies to help buy policies.
Uninsured people in their 50s and 60s who are prone to pre-existing conditions are among those who will benefit most.
As people become more familiar with the law and have their own experiences with it, it seems likely to become more popular. And people in their 50s and 60s are prone to vote.
In the end, public pressure is likely to be the hammer that breaks the stupid deadlock in Congress.
Las Vegas Review-Journal on global warming alarmists push false premise:
If you think coming upticks in fuel taxes and water rates are alarming, then you won't want the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to have its way with your power bill.
The panel, overseen by the United Nations, on Friday released a report that says "it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century." This is the IPCC's fifth assessment report, and with the previous four, anyone who dares challenge its conclusions is castigated as a "denier."
But pesky climate change skeptics persist. Last month, The Associated Press reports, the United States and several European governments tried to persuade the panel's climate scientists to downplay or even delete evidence of the lack of global warming over the past 15 years, despite rapidly rising global greenhouse gas levels over that same period.
Why would those governments go to such measures? Because such information doesn't fit the narrative the climate change lobby and their media allies have sold for more than two decades.
What the IPCC report — and the alarmism coming from the developed world — is really all about is killing off fossil fuel use despite its affordability and reliability. And as alarmist in chief Al Gore has proved, it's also about the ever-encroaching thought police. Last week, the former vice president said, "There needs to be a political price for climate (change) denial." News flash: The First Amendment protects the free speech rights of Americans, especially political speech. Mr. Gore's rhetoric shows climate change is less about science and more about politics; he's saying global warming is a political cause.
And it already has brought great change to the United States. Carbon dioxide emissions — considered the key cause of global warming — are declining domestically. ...
Green energy already is driving power bills ever higher, thanks to government subsidies and mandates. Let the global market set the price of natural resources.
Let the free market determine which fuels produce our electricity. The global warming agenda is bad policy based on false premises, and the sooner elected officials stop bowing to climate change, the better off we'll be.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Tower cranes stand tall in downtown Buffalo. They are sky-high symbols of change and development finally coming to the waterfront.
Police, FBI agents and a bomb squad all showed up on a quiet residential street in North Buffalo overnight.
Experts are being brought into Niagara Falls to deal with a rat problem that Mayor Paul Dyster calls "extraordinary," and neighbors say they have had enough.
Global civil rights icon Nelson Mandela, whose legacy is ending South African apartheid, has died.
Eighty-two-year-old Edward Spencer was making a left hand turn while exiting the Budwey's parking lot when he struck 52-year-old Sandra Garner and 55-year-old Kevin Nowak, according to authorities.
The AARP wants to make sure New Yorkers have the care they need as they age.