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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Wednesday - 1/22/2014, 3:12pm  ET

The Associated Press

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

Jan. 21

Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on how Egypt has yet to earn our support:

The Obama administration is reportedly poised to ask Congress to exempt Egypt from the law that requires ending financial aid (in the case of Egypt's military, that is $1 billion annually) in the event of a military coup, and that would be a misreading of the situation.

Any support for such an exemption would have to be based on the belief that Egypt's recent referendum, which passed with overwhelming approval by voters, means the military leadership is actually practicing and embracing democracy.

The evidence, unfortunately, points in the opposite direction.

The most recent example is the arrest Sunday of a prominent intellectual who is accused of daring to criticize his nation's judiciary on Twitter. In Egypt, criticizing judges and the court system has long been forbidden, and apparently it remains so. How could such an impediment to free speech possibly advance democracy?

Three of these organizations were financed by the United States government and were promoting democracy. But the court held that their true objective was to "undermine Egypt's national security and lay out a sectarian, political map that serves United States and Israeli interests."

Egypt's opposition media have been shut down, and three journalists for Al Jazeera have been imprisoned without any charges. Meanwhile, the constitution adopted last weekend exempts the army, police and intelligence services from civilian control while allowing these very same arms of the government to prosecute anyone they deem threatening in military courts.

The great promise of 2011's Arab Spring, which began in Tunisia and spread very quickly to Egypt, took its time before reaching its goals in the former but has not even come close to bringing about the kind of pluralistic, democratic government so many Egyptians had in mind when they demonstrated against the stifling regime of former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

But as bad as Mubarak may have been, he was at least a staunch ally of the United States, particularly on the issue of Israel's right to exist. The government now calling the shots in Cairo is no such ally, and pouring American dollars into its treasury won't change that unhappy truth.

Online:

http://tbo.com

___

Jan. 20

Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on the 5.4 million people who die from smoking worldwide each year:

Incredibly, the World Health Organization says 5.4 million people around the planet suffer agonized early death each year because of tobacco smoking. Cigarettes are an international curse, the worst cause of unnecessary sickness and lost lifespan.

Tobacco firms are, in effect, drug pushers. Their profits depend on getting young people addicted to nicotine, a drug with a grip as powerful as that of heroin. As long as smokers are unable to break the addiction, tobacco profits roll in.

The latest New England Journal of Medicine says the world could avoid 200 million needless deaths by 2025 -- and also gain trillions in tax revenue -- if tobacco taxes were tripled worldwide, preventing millions of youths from becoming addicted.

Dr. Prabbat Jha, author of the new study, says France cut its tobacco consumption in half between 1990 and 2005 by imposing drastic tax increases. He commented:

"Death and taxes are inevitable, but they don't need to be in that order. A higher tax on tobacco is the single most effective intervention to lower smoking rates and to deter future smokers."

He added that the United States and Canada could reap $100 billion extra revenue each year if they merely doubled cigarette taxes.

Last year, U.N. countries set a global goal to curtail smoking by one-third by 2025 and reduce smoking-caused premature deaths by one-fourth. Sir Richard Peto, co-author of the study, observed:

"Young adult smokers will lose about a decade of life if they continue to smoke. They've so much to gain by stopping."

Most American states have boosted taxes to prevent the young from becoming addicts. The U.S. average now is around $1.50 per pack. But West Virginia lags far behind, with just a 55-cent tax -- the nation's 44th lowest.

Each year, health reformers in the Legislature try to boost the state's cigarette tax, but high-paid tobacco lobbyists defeat this lifesaving attempt. As a result, West Virginia continues to have America's worst smoking rate -- an ugly distinction.

With the 2014 Legislature in full swing, conscientious senators and delegates who oppose unnecessary sickness and death among West Virginians -- and who see a need for extra revenue -- should rally behind an effort to help this state catch up with the rest of America.

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