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Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

Wednesday - 9/10/2014, 5:00pm  ET

The Associated Press

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


Sept. 8

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on World Health Organization hurting:

Were it not for horribly misguided Islamic religious fanatics in northern Nigeria and tribal Pakistan, the World Health Organization might have been able to eradicate polio this year. And in fact the organization and its health care allies have succeeded in eliminating rinderpest, a disease affecting cattle that is deadly serious if you live in rural parts of the world where your existence depends on cattle.

Thus, in a world grown comfortable with the World Health Organization's track record of containing infectious diseases, the widespread assumption was that it would quickly be on top of the spreading Ebola outbreak. But because of severe budget cuts, First World complacency and Third World inability to implement World Health Organization guidelines, the Ebola outbreak in Africa has spread out of control and reached epidemic status.

The New York Times, in a story on a diminished organization's inability to cope, asked, "If WHO, the main United Nations health agency, could not quickly muster an army of experts and health workers to combat an outbreak overtaking some of the world's poorest countries, then what entity in the world would do it?"

The immediate answer is that there is none, the heroic efforts of aid organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the Carter Center notwithstanding. The World Health Organization has been so hollowed out that its director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, told the Times it was a fantasy to think of her agency as a first responder ready to lead the fight against deadly outbreaks around the world.

Cruelly, the most effective way of combating an unexpected epidemic is to have it occur in a relatively prosperous country. Once the Chinese government owned up to the existence of the deadly pneumonia known as SARS, the disease was contained within a year thanks to hundreds of millions donated by wealthy individuals concerned about the welfare of their workforces. But as Dr. Jim Yong Kim, head of the World Bank and former head of the World Health Organization, told the Times, as soon as SARS burned out, "Those guys disappeared, and we forgot very quickly."

Ebola is a reminder of why "those guys" and the rest of us should not forget. Having created a strong, effective health agency doing vital and humane work, we have a moral obligation to keep it that way.



Sept. 9

Miami Herald on immigration:

On June 30, President Obama ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to recommend actions he could take "within my existing legal authorities" to fix immigration: "I expect their recommendations before the end of summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay."

No mincing words there. But over the weekend Obama said, in effect, "Never mind." The bold deadline he proclaimed -- "end of summer" -- was set aside so the president could have time to explain his plans to the American people. Politics, he solemnly declared, had nothing to do with it.

That strains credulity. With control of the Senate in the balance, the pleas of Democrats in hotly contested races to postpone unilateral action on immigration until after the November election probably played a big role in the president's decision. Political calculation apparently trumped Obama's earlier boldness.

His caution may be understandable, up to a point. Losing the Senate to Republicans would further cripple his ability to govern. But he should never have set a deadline unless he was prepared to follow through. Obama's paralyzing second thoughts following bold pronouncements is becoming a habit that disappoints supporters and lends credence to critics who call him weak. In this case, it once again disheartens Latino voters.

They have reason to be discouraged. Credited with providing a critical edge for the winner of the last two presidential elections, they have time and again been disappointed by the president's failure to deliver on promises of immigration reform.

Obama said the executive actions he would contemplate must fall "within my existing legal authorities." Critics deliberately choose to ignore his words and claim he plans to go beyond what the law allows. But there is plenty Obama can do to ease the immigration crisis.

Presidents have wide latitude in this area. That includes giving relief to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, exercising more discretion in deciding who gets a waiver for deportations -- and halting all or most deportations of non-criminals for the time being, the boldest step of all. Sooner or later, Obama must act. Advocates of reform who have relied on his promises have been disappointed one time too many.

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