Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post on ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn:
The resignation of Michael Flynn as national security adviser offers President Trump an opportunity to right what has been a dysfunctional policymaking apparatus. Having previously been dismissed from a post at the Defense Intelligence Agency for erratic management, Mr. Flynn failed to prepare Mr. Trump for conversations with foreign leaders, inadequately vetted executive orders and staffed key positions with military cronies even before he lied to the media and vice president about the content of his conversations with the Russian ambassador. His self-destruction in a post that demands the steadiest of hands was widely anticipated; the only surprise was that it took just 24 days.
It's not unusual for an incoming national security adviser to speak with foreign ambassadors, and it's not entirely clear that what Mr. Flynn said to Russian envoy Sergey Kislyak in late December was improper. But Mr. Flynn clearly misled The Post, Vice President Pence and other senior officials when he said he did not discuss U.S.
sanctions against Russia with Mr. Kislyak. He did so in the context of as-yet- unresolved questions about Russia's interference in the presidential election and other possible contacts between the regime of Vladimir Putin and the Trump campaign. The affair underlines the urgency of an impartial investigation into those matters by the Justice Department, Congress or an independent commission and the full disclosure of the results to the public.
The White House's handling of Mr. Flynn's deception also raises concerns. According to The Post, the acting attorney general told the White House counsel late last month about Mr. Flynn's false statements and warned they could expose him to Russian blackmail. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Mr. Trump was informed "immediately" afterward, but the White House did not correct the false public statements about the Flynn-Kislyak call, and Mr. Trump told reporters last Friday that he was unaware of the issue. At a minimum, the episode further undermines the credibility of an administration that has repeatedly disseminated untruths.
Mr. Trump could begin to undo the damage by appointing a new national security adviser prepared for the job's most essential work, which is serving as an honest broker in internal debates over questions of war, foreign policy and intelligence. The National Security Council chief should ensure that the unschooled Mr. Trump is fully briefed for encounters with foreign leaders and that policy steps " whether a response to a North Korean missile launch or a new strategy for fighting the Islamic State " are fully studied and discussed in an orderly way before a presidential decision is made.
The past two weeks have seen some welcome corrections by Mr. Trump to what looked like potentially rash departures from previous U.S. policies. He calmed Asian leaders by accepting the one-China principle and strongly backing the U.S. alliance with Japan, and he retreated from suggestions that the U.S. Embassy in Israel would be swiftly relocated to Jerusalem. His U.N. envoy affirmed that sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Crimea would remain in place.
However, Mr. Trump still has some fixes to make " above all in U.S. relations with NATO allies, where signals from Cabinet secretaries and the White House have been conflicting, and in his dangerously appeasing stance toward Mr. Putin. A competent national security operation may not correct the president's mistaken convictions, but it should, at least, provide him with better intelligence and options.
Los Angeles Times on an emergency spillway at the nation's tallest dam:
Southern Californians have been drinking from the Feather River " and washing in it, flushing with it and sprinkling it over their lawns " for nearly a half century without giving it much thought, so the emergency at distant Oroville Dam provides a jolting reminder of our dependence on the wetter, northern part of the state. A disaster there could easily become a crisis here.
Oroville is the linchpin of the State Water Project, the massive engineering feat that brings Northern Sierra water from the Feather River to the Sacramento, through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, into the California Aqueduct, over the Tehachapis and to our faucets. This season's storms have filled the dam to capacity, so managers diverted water onto a concrete spillway to keep it from topping the earthen dam itself. When damage to the spillway was spotted, water managers switched to an unpaved, and previously unused, emergency spillway " but the water releases carved up the hillside, sending debris down the Feather River, threatening further erosion and prompting the evacuation of more than 100,000 residents downstream, including in Yuba City, Marysville and once-remote towns and cities that are increasingly becoming commuting suburbs for greater Sacramento.
California is an extremely engineered environment. Decades ago, the natural state of affairs in years like this one had previously been flooding in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. Since 1960, the State Water Project has helped to protect Northern California cities, towns and farms from floodwaters while providing usable water to Central Valley farms and Southern California homes. Ratepayers here, as elsewhere, help keep the system in repair. The project binds Californians to each other, despite the difference in precipitation between the wet north and the dry south. A catastrophe at Oroville Dam " for example, spillway-loosened detritus blocking flow to the delta " could cause a water-supply emergency here, despite all the rain.
Engineers (and taxpayers and ratepayers) have provided Southern California useful redundancy in water delivery systems. Los Angeles gets water via William Mulholland's Owens Aqueduct and later extensions, and the region relies heavily on Colorado River and Lake Mead. But import of Owens water has been limited to mitigate environmental damage east of the Sierras, and the water level at Lake Mead remains so low that delivery cutbacks may be on the horizon.
There will likely be lessons learned about how the state should manage water from the emergency at Lake Oroville, but it is too early at this point be certain what they are. Meanwhile, Californians will have to keep the names and distant places " the Feather River, the Oroville Dam, the Owens, the Colorado, Lake Mead " in the forefront of their minds as we make decisions to sustain, supplement or abandon the water projects that have made the state what it is today.
Chicago Tribune on two girls shot in the head in Chicago:
Two scenes in Chicago:
.Children playing basketball in a schoolyard suddenly scatter. Because it begins to rain or was time to go home? Yes, in most neighborhoods that's why children run with purpose. In parts of Chicago, children run from gunfire. They know the sound. They know they should duck. Kanari Gentry Bowers, 12 years old, is in a West Englewood elementary schoolyard with classmates early Saturday evening when they hear shots. Kanari knows to duck, her uncle says, but the kids scatter. Kanari is struck in the head by a bullet.
.A half-hour later, members of a family sit in a parked minivan while running an early Saturday evening errand. Nothing could be less remarkable. But it's the Parkway Gardens neighborhood. There is gunfire. The mom in the vehicle asks: Is everyone OK? There is no answer from 11-year-old Takiya Holmes in the back seat. She's been hit in the head by a bullet.
Two preteen girls shot in the head in Chicago on a Saturday evening, 4 miles apart in South Side neighborhoods. The horror isn't easy to process. How does this happen? What are the odds? But there is no simple explanation, no pattern behind the coincidence of these separate tragedies. There is, however, an epidemic of gun violence in Chicago neighborhoods that fells victims of every age.
The numbers: Last year was the city's bloodiest year for violence in two decades. Chicago had 762 homicides and 4,367 shootings. Of those shot, 76 were children younger than 15 " three of them fatally " according to Tribune data. This year, so far, shootings are up 8 percent and homicides down 20 percent; nine children younger than 15 have been shot.
Much of the city's gun violence in neighborhoods on the South and West sides traces to gangs and drugs. There are feuds, fights over territory or, we suppose, other motives. Mostly there is indifference to life and the safety of others. Shooters take aim or spray a target zone while on foot or in a vehicle. Anyone within blocks, outside or inside, risks being caught in the crossfire or struck by a stray bullet.
As we write, Kanari and Takiya remain in critical condition and police have no one in custody. The girls' families, shocked, sickened, each took time to speak out, with grace and defiance, about the terrible toll of violence not just on their lives but on their communities.
"Kids can't even play in a school playground," Djuan Donald, Kanari's uncle, said. "That was my 'moo moo.' That's what we called each other. ... She didn't deserve none of this. I want some answers. Please stop; put down these guns. Ya'll are taking our lives from us. And it hurts. . Over a piece of street that doesn't belong to you? Ya'll fighting over squads, cliques and gangs?"
And this from Patsy Holmes, Takiya's grandmother, according to the Sun-Times: "This has got to stop. These babies are dying, and for what? They was just shooting at someone and that vehicle just happened to catch one of the bullets. We all have to come together as a city and make sure we get this under control because this is getting out of hand."
They are right about what happened to Kanari and Takiya. And they are right about Chicago. This has got to stop.
The Boston Herald on President Trump's foreign policy "theatrics:"
The unanticipated floor show at Mar-a-Lago this weekend " captured by a Bostonian and club member who posted it all on his Facebook page " raises questions about the president's seriousness on issues demanding a certain level of security.
Let's not forget Donald Trump was the guy who encouraged those "Lock her up" chants about Hillary Clinton and her emails at his own campaign rallies.
The Trump administration now insists there was nothing "classified" discussed in the open " despite the sudden intrusion in the dining room by a scrum of staff and advisers, who huddled around the president and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the evening of yet another North Korean missile test. But some briefing papers were indeed being read in public by the flashlight of an aide's cellphone (surely that wasn't the dessert menu).
It was at best an unseemly display, but one that no doubt left fellow diners believing their $200,000 club membership fees were surely now money well spent.
Trump's love of the spotlight is well-documented. But he owes the nation a little more discretion even at the "Winter White House."
The Charlotte Observer on U.S.-born terrorists:
Imagine it had been a man named Muhammad who walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and murdered 20 children and six of their teachers or opened fire in a Colorado movie theater, killing 12 people and wounding 70 others.
Or that this Muhammad and a friend had attacked Columbine High School, or gotten into an armed stand-off with federal officials, or assassinated two Las Vegas police officers eating lunch, or murdered nine people in a Charleston church, or shot up a Planned Parenthood facility.
Would we have placed all such incidents under one umbrella? Under those circumstances, maybe that would have been warranted. But that's not what we are facing. And yet, some Republican Party leaders are acting as though we are, because, to them, a white American randomly shooting up a mall or school feels like less of a threat even though that has been more commonplace than a foreigner infiltrating the U.S. and causing great harm.
A misplaced fear of Muslim-inspired terrorism has convinced the Trump administration to focus even more on what it calls "radical Islamic extremism," and was illustrated recently when Rep. Sean Duffy declared that fighting Muslim-related terror requires the most urgency. (Never mind that a few years ago, a white supremacist killed six people in a Sikh Temple in Duffy's home state of Wisconsin.)
The FBI has nabbed more anti-immigrant American citizens plotting violent attacks on Muslims within the U.S. than it has refugees the past few years, according to data compiled by the Lawfareblog.com. The New American Foundation found that about half those charged since the 9/11 attacks with true terror-related activities have been U.S.-born citizens.
Charles Kurzman, who teaches sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University, say that 74 percent of the law enforcement agencies they surveyed listed anti-government extremism as one of the top three terror threats in their jurisdictions - compared with only 39 percent who felt the same about Al Qaida and like groups. And with good reason: An average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in terror plots since 9/11, in contrast to the 337 per year by right-wing extremists.
By Kurzman's calculations, there was only a one in six million chance in 2016 of an American being killed by a Muslim terrorist. Still, brown- and olive-skin terror convinces us to launch wars in the Middle East. Homegrown terror perpetrated by white Americans doesn't even prompt a tweak in background check laws.
Violent Muslims are not lurking behind every bush. The longer we act as though they are, the easier it will be for leaders to prey upon our fears to enact unwise policies that leave us vulnerable in ways we don't even realize.
The Telegraph on President Donald Trump and Michael Flynn:
The startling fall from office of Michael Flynn, for just 24 days the national security adviser to Donald Trump, is on the face of it a classic political tale of misplaced trust and deception.
During the transition period between the president's election in November and his inauguration in January, Gen Flynn was in contact by telephone with the Russian ambassador to Washington.
This hardly seems remarkable since it was known Mr. Trump was seeking a new relationship with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. But Gen Flynn had not disclosed the call; and when its existence became known he denied that they had discussed the penalties then being imposed on Russia by Barack Obama when they had.
Not for the first time, the lie was his undoing. Inevitably, questions are now being asked about what the president knew and when. Such scandals tend to develop a life of their own, leading who knows where.
If this were just an internal Washington hubbub it would be of little more than passing interest, an indication of naivete on Gen Flynn's part and of the continuing dysfunctionality of the new White House. But there are potential consequences here that go far beyond American politics.
Are we witnessing a concerted attempt by American intelligence agencies to undermine Mr. Trump's national security team, and if so why? Arguably, if the FBI knew Mr. Flynn was lying they had a duty to bring this to the public's notice, though how they knew is another matter.
But there is also a suspicion that this has something to do with the Trump policy towards Russia, which many old hands in Washington, with memories of dealing with the Soviet Union, do not like. Their suspicions have not been allayed by the allegations that Russia interfered in the presidential elections by hacking into Hillary Clinton's emails.
This is all sowing confusion in Western policy towards Moscow just as fighting has erupted in eastern Ukraine and concern is growing elsewhere in the region about Moscow's intentions, notably in Poland and the Baltic states. They are members of Nato, which began a three-day meeting in Brussels yesterday at a time when policy towards Russia needs to be clear and robust.
This is not, therefore, just a matter for the Americans. How to handle a resurgent Russia was always going to be one of the biggest challenges facing the new president. It is early days, but so far it is not going well.
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings