Editorial voices from the U.S., elsewhere

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Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad as compiled by the Associated Press:


Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette

Until recently, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd had served more time in Congress than anyone in American history. He had a tremendous impact on the course of West Virginia and, to a lesser degree, the course of this nation.


But until the day he died in 2010 – indeed, even after he died – Byrd’s legislative legacy was marred by his filibuster against the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964. Byrd attempted to deny U.S. citizens rights owed to them, because of something they could not control – the color of their skin.


To his credit, Byrd came to realize how wrong he was. He got behind other civil rights initiatives in his later years, and proudly supported the nation’s first African-American president.


Now, another U.S. senator from West Virginia faces a similar moral decision. Many times, Joe Manchin has expressed his admiration for Byrd. Manchin should follow Byrd’s belated example on civil rights, and extend some basic rights to gays, lesbians and transgender people.


A federal law is needed because some states – including West Virginia – have shown themselves unwilling to extend basic protections to gays, lesbians and transgender people.


By battling the National Rifle Association, his longtime ally, Manchin has shown he’s willing to take political risks to do the right thing. And ethically, there should be no question on this issue. There are thousands of West Virginians – people Manchin was elected to represent – who can’t enjoy the basic rights of their neighbors. Those West Virginians have committed no crime, but they are being punished.


Sen. Joe Manchin has a chance to stand up for them. We hope he does.


News & Observer Raleigh, N.C.

Reflecting little more than their distaste for federal safety net programs and their lack of care for the unemployed in North Carolina, Republicans in the General Assembly cut the maximum unemployment benefit to $350 from $535 and curbed the length of time people are eligible. The reason? To pay back more quickly the $2 billion the state owes the federal government for money borrowed to cover benefits following the Bush recession.


But the GOP knew that if the state rules were changed, federal benefits for the long-term unemployed, which might have continued, would be cut off. They didn’t care, and nor were they concerned that tens of millions of dollars would be lost to the state’s economy. Some 70,000 North Carolinians will be hurt.


Republicans say that by cutting benefits, the state will be encouraging the unemployed to find work. That’s insulting, of course, because the vast majority of the jobless have been trying to find employment. The average benefit check of about $300 a week doesn’t exactly provide for a take-it-easy lifestyle. And GOP lawmakers don’t care to consider what happens to people when their benefits are cut off and they are still without work. Homes will be lost. Medicine will go unbought. Kids will go hungry. That’s the reality, as opposed to the rhetoric.


The Australian, Sydney

By flitting from one authoritarian country to another, the fugitive U.S .spy agency contractor Edward Snowden is making a mockery of his claims to be a high-minded whistle blower acting purely in the interests of “freedom and basic liberties”.


His trajectory from Hong Kong – a Special Administrative Region of China, which has been severely criticized for its human rights record and pervasive cyber espionage – onward to Russia, where the definition of treason and espionage has been expanded to include “international advocacy on human rights”, is hardly reassuring for those trying to draw comparisons between Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg.


U.S. senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat with a long record of support for liberal causes, has said of Snowden: “I don’t think running is a noble thought.” She’s right: if he really believed in what he was doing and wanted to be taken seriously as a whistle blower, Snowden would have done better to stay home and defend himself. He is being compromised by his own unfortunate choices.


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