Editorial Roundup: United States | Health & Fitness

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

The Washington Post says Democrats should deal with Sen. Joe Manchin on Build Back Better

Sen. Joe Manchin III is floating yet another idea to salvage the Build Back Better package. The Democrat from West Virginia wants to hike taxes on the rich and some corporations and then split the money between debt reduction and addressing climate change. In other words, he wants a smaller package than the $1.75 trillion deal Democratic leaders tried to make happen last year. Notice he also doesn’t mention President Biden’s key social priorities: universal pre-kindergarten, expanded child care and at least another year of the child tax credit.

It’s understandable why many of his fellow Democrats are scoffing. Mr. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are the two holdouts who have prevented this major legislation from passing for months. They have brought a lot of ridicule on their party and Mr. Biden for failing to get this done while Democrats hold a slim majority in Congress.

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But it’s time to set the grudges aside and engage with Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema again. Democrats still have one last chance to enact fairer tax policy, lower drug prices and make a major down payment on America’s energy future. It’s far better to take this deal than to do nothing. We applaud Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, for signaling an openness to Mr. Manchin’s approach.

Mr. Manchin’s general framework makes sense: Focus on how much money can be raised from taxes on high earners and some corporations, along with savings from allowing the government to do some negotiation of drug prices. Then discuss how to use that revenue. He wants to put some of the money toward debt reduction, which would be an encouraging gesture from Democrats that they are not ignoring the more than $23 trillion in debt held by the public. Even after doing that, there would still be money left over for a comprehensive energy package that beefs up clean energy while also permitting domestic energy exploration — a key issue as the United States and European Union look for ways to break from Russian oil and gas.

We would like to see at least another year of the child tax credit, which lifted millions of kids out of poverty last year and made it easier for their families to deal with the rising costs of food, gas, electricity and rent. Already this year, 3.7 million more children are living in poverty, largely due to the expiration of the credit. Mr. Manchin calls inflation America’s “No. 1 enemy,” and low-income families are hit hardest by rising prices.

Now is the time for compromise. There’s a united resolve in Congress to thwart Russia’s unjust war against Ukraine. Let Democrats show the world that they are also capable of unity on a substantial domestic bill, too.

ONLINE: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/03/06/make-deal-with-manchin-build-back-better/

The Wall Street Journals wonders if the Biden Administration will give Russia relief to revive Iran deal

The U.S. and Europe are trying to stop Russia’s bloody conquest of Ukraine, but at the same time they are relying on Russia to help revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. No wonder Russia feels emboldened to call for even more capitulation from the West.

“We have asked for a written guarantee . . . that the current process triggered by the United States does not in any way damage our right to free and full trade, economic and investment cooperation and military-technical cooperation with the Islamic State,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.

The world’s rogue regimes are increasingly working together, and here Russia is trying to leverage Iran for relief from the sanctions imposed over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Lavrov’s demand points to the fundamental absurdity of this process: Iranian officials have refused to speak with Americans directly, and Russia has played a central role as a mediator since negotiations began last year in Vienna.

The Biden Administration claims there’s no linkage between Iran and Ukraine sanctions. “The new Russia-related sanctions are unrelated to the JCPOA and should not have any impact on its potential implementation,” a State Department spokesman said on Saturday. “We continue to engage with Russia on a return to full implementation of the JCPOA. Russia shares a common interest in ensuring Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.”

A common interest? Russia has worked to help Iran evade sanctions, and you can bet Iran will help Russia do the same.

This triumph of hope over reality has been a consistent theme in the Obama-Biden approach to Iran. The 2015 accord provided Iran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for temporarily slowing nuclear development. Obama officials hoped this would moderate Iran’s behavior abroad. But the deal didn’t stop the country’s missile development or support for terrorism, both of which the Islamic Republic pursued with a vengeance after 2015.

Donald Trump left the deal in 2018 and pursued a “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign. Iran began openly violating the deal and gaining irreversible nuclear knowledge—gains that have made the old deal increasingly irrelevant. The Trump Administration also imposed sanctions related to Iran’s terror support, and leaks to the media suggest the Biden Administration is willing to lift both those and the nuclear sanctions to get a renewed deal.

The 2015 deal was also based on the assumption that the West had a full accounting of Iran’s nuclear program, but the regime has stonewalled the International Atomic Energy Agency. On Saturday the United Nations agency and Tehran announced a plan to clear up questions about undeclared nuclear sites, but IAEA chief Rafael Grossi suggested the issues ultimately might not be resolved. Iranian military sites are still likely to be off-limits to inspectors in a new deal.

Why the U.S. desperation? Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday on “Face the Nation” that it wants to put Iran’s nuclear program “back in the box,” but it’s a box made of cardboard. Even if Iran abides by the deal again, its provisions already have started to expire and by 2031 Tehran will be able to freely produce and stockpile weapons-grade uranium.

A new deal will also shower Iran with tens of billions of dollars to stir mayhem in the Middle East. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg suggested last week that “all options are on the table” when asked whether the U.S. could purchase Iranian oil. Brilliant: Impose sanctions on Russia—then support Russian ally Iran. Venezuela could be next.

No agreement will stop Iran from its determination to become a nuclear power, and Russia won’t enforce the deal. The two malign powers will work together to harm U.S. interests around the world.

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-russia-nuclear-deal-jcpoa-sanctions-relief-ukraine-invasion-war-crisis-putin-tehran-middle-east-evade-11646587769

The Los Angeles Times warns that the U.S. should use caution with sanctions on Russia

A little more than a week into Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine, Russia is isolated at the United Nations, hobbled by unprecedented economic sanctions and stalled in its conquest by the inspiring resistance of Ukrainians.

Yet Russia retains a substantial military advantage and is pressing on with its “special military operation,” despite the cost in innocent human lives and the dislocation of a million refugees. On Thursday, Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron that Russia would achieve its goals in Ukraine “no matter what.”

Ukraine’s vulnerability has prompted calls — and not only from Ukrainians — for military intervention by the United States and its NATO allies to arrest the Russian onslaught. Andriy Yermak, a member of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration, wrote in the New York Times this week to plead for more assistance, including the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

To its credit, the Biden administration continues to ratchet up pressure on Russia while proposing more aid for Ukraine. President Biden reportedly will ask Congress for $10 billion in new aid to Ukraine over and above the $1.4 billion already provided.

About 20 countries, including members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, are sending weapons into Ukraine to fight the Russian military.

On Thursday, Biden also announced new sanctions on more than a dozen Russian oligarchs and their families. Some members of Congress are also suggesting that the U.S. ban oil and gas imports from Russia, an idea the administration hasn’t embraced but should consider.

It is possible that stronger sanctions and an infusion of military hardware will help the Ukrainians to continue their resistance. Faced with the prospect of a long and costly occupation of Ukraine, Putin might relent in his aggression, agree to a significant cease-fire and ultimately withdraw his forces. Stronger sanctions might also make it harder for Russia to menace other nations, including NATO members.

The proposal for a no-fly zone, however, is one that Biden and his advisors are right to reject. The reason is simple: Such a zone would be meaningful only if the U.S. and its allies were willing to enforce it by shooting down aircraft that violated it.

Targeting a Russian plane over Ukraine would involve direct hostilities between the U.S. and Russia, as would the deployment of American troops to assist in the defense of Ukraine, another option Biden has ruled out, including in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

If it were a NATO member, Ukraine would benefit from Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which says that an armed attack on one alliance member will be considered an attack against all. Biden cited that distinction in his speech when he said: “Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine but to defend our NATO allies in the event that Putin decides to keep moving west.”

Yet it isn’t just because of NATO that Biden is unwilling to deploy U.S. forces in Ukraine or approve a no-fly zone against Russia. A direct military confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers would be terribly, existentially dangerous, even if Putin hadn’t announced recently that he was directing Russian nuclear forces to be placed on “special combat readiness.”

It’s understandable that Ukrainians would want the U.S. and its allies to do more to help repel the Russian invaders. But a confrontation between NATO and Russia could increase the possibility of a catastrophic conflict that would be global — and unimaginably deadly — in its consequences.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-03-04/sanctions-military-aid-help-ukraine

China Daily says the U.S. “pouring oil on crisis” raises stakes

In hindsight, the tragedy that is now unfolding in Ukraine could have been averted if some of the parties involved had focused more on seeking a diplomatic solution rather than taking steps that have only served to precipitate the conflict.

Given that it is now the military alliance’s consensus that Ukraine’s membership of NATO “will not take place”, as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, an earlier clarification of that stance would have been opportune. Now, more than 10 days after Russia launched its “special military operation” in Ukraine, the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen while the prognosis for the ongoing military conflict remains grim.

More than 1.5 million refugees have fled from Ukraine into neighboring countries in “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II”, said Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, on Sunday. Many more are still trapped in towns and cities by the fighting.

Meanwhile, Moscow told Ukraine’s neighbors and its allies in NATO on Sunday that hosting Ukrainian military aircraft could be considered as direct involvement in the war, following the warning it has already made that any country imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine will have entered into a military conflict with Russia.

Given the high stakes involved in case of a miscalculation or misjudgment, speaking on the sidelines of the fifth session of the 13th National People’s Congress on Monday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi once again called for countries to support direct talks between Ukraine and Russia and to refrain from taking any steps that might further complicate the situation.

It has been China’s consistent stance that the Ukraine crisis can only be resolved through dialogue and negotiations, rather than military actions or sanctions. Talks between Russia and Ukraine are the only way for the two sides to agree on a cease-fire. And extensive negotiations between Russia and the United States, NATO and the European Union are the only way to resolve the deeper issues that have led to the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine.

Yet until the other Western countries are prepared to stand on their own two feet, the US will continue to drag them into chaos and war as it seeks to maintain the primacy of its influence worldwide.

Washington, alarmed at the growing trade relations between European countries and Russia, has taken the opportunity of the vacuum in European leadership resulting from former German chancellor Angela Merkel stepping down to engineer a breakdown in trust between the two sides and draw the EU closer to the US. It is seeking to do the same thing in the Asia-Pacific with its regional allies by demonizing China and provoking the latter on the Taiwan question.

As the swelling catalog of suffering worldwide shows, Washington’s world view and the actions it takes to manifest it are neither constructive nor inspiring but instead destructive and enervating.

ONLINE: https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202203/07/WS6226070fa310cdd39bc8b009.html

The Guardian says negotiators must target both production and consumption to curtail global plastic pollution

There is no data on global plastic pollution that is equivalent to the regular measurements of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. But as with greenhouse gases, the recent news has been nearly all bad. In 1950, worldwide production of plastics stood at 2m tons per year. In 2020, it was 367m tons (down from 368m the year before due to the coronavirus pandemic). An increase this enormous is hard to visualise. But the 8.8m tons of plastic waste that is estimated to enter the world’s marine environment each year is the equivalent of a rubbish truck filled with plastic being tipped into the sea every minute.

So the agreement struck by 173 countries at the UN environment assembly in Nairobi last week was a huge relief. At last, something is going to be done multilaterally about a problem that no government can solve on its own. Without the legally binding treaty that will be negotiated over the next two years, it was hard to see where progress would come from.

The announcement was only the beginning of a long and fraught process. The pollution and destruction of nature are material phenomena. As with cutting emissions (or failing to), fine words about plastics are no use unless they are accompanied by strong actions, including mechanisms to ensure reductions in consumption. Plastic pollution is closely linked to economic growth, and changing our way of life will not be simple. But as a statement of intent, and proof that multilateral cooperation to protect our shared environment is still possible, the agreement is more than welcome. Like global heating, plastic pollution is a matter of social justice issue as well as conservation, with people in poor countries suffering disproportionately.

As with emissions, the richest countries and companies are the worst culprits. Research for the US federal government last year found that Americans now generate about 42m tonnes of plastic waste a year – more than all European Union member countries combined. Another report found that 20 companies are responsible for producing 55% of the world’s pla stic waste. Some are the same companies responsible for fossil fuel production, since plastics are made from petrochemicals.

Efforts to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and television footage of plastic waste in an albatross’s nest, have imprinted themselves on public consciousness in countries where these reports have been widely seen. But policymakers’ efforts to tackle the plastic problem have been limited to waste management, including the bans on plastic waste imports imposed by China and other countries, and restrictions in many countries on the sale of single-use plastic items such as bags.

Such measures can have localised effects, and influence attitudes and behaviour. But they have not touched the source of the problem: the total amount of plastic waste in the world is predicted to almost quadruple by 2050 and the oil industry is heavily invested in expansion, partly as a means of coping with reduced demand in other areas, as people switch to greener technologies. This has to change. In the words of oceans campaigner Christina Dixon, the “plastics tap must be turned off”.

ONLINE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/mar/08/the-guardian-view-on-plastics-a-treaty-could-stem-the-tide

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