Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers around the world:
Financial Times, London, on France's presidential election:
Observers have been quick to point out the unprecedented nature of Nicolas Sarkozy's defeat in the first round of the French presidential elections. No incumbent has failed to lead the field at this stage since direct elections were inaugurated in 1965.
But whether or not the symbolism of his defeat has humbled the president, simple voting arithmetic suggests that he is far from down and out. Indeed, given the way the votes fell, with Sarkozy trailing the winner, François Hollande, more narrowly than expected, and the Front National outpolling the far left by a wide margin, it is in some ways easier to construct a majority for the right in the second round than vice versa.
Sarkozy has already indicated what his pitch will be in the run-off, hinting at the "chaos" that would ensue were Hollande to assume the presidency because of what the president sees as the challenger's aversion to austerity....
The markets may have wobbled after the first round, but Hollande is hardly a rabid socialist. One can argue that he does not have the correct policies. For instance, his fiscal plans would leave public spending at a higher level than Sarkozy's, funded by higher taxes. But the differences are fairly marginal. Even some of Hollande's eye-catching pledges, such as to roll back Sarkozy's pension reform, turn out on closer inspection to be tinkering, not real changes of direction. ...
The truth is that neither candidate has conjured a compelling vision. The problem for Sarkozy is that the lack of a clear policy contrast turns the run-off into a personality contest that becomes harder for him to win. While Hollande does not inspire, he does not seem to enervate so many of his fellow countrymen as the president does.
... Whatever the outcome, the narrowing of horizons does not bode well for France.
Ottawa Sun on Omar Khadr and detention in Guantanamo:
If American soldiers had not saved Omar Khadr's life, even after he killed one of their own, there'd be no bleeding hearts and drama queens urging the Harper government to immediately accept his application for transfer to Canada from a U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
If Afghan soldiers had ruled the day following that gun battle with al-Qaida, the seriously-wounded Khadr would have now been dead 10 years, and his existence would have been all but forgotten ...
Instead, the then-15-year-old Canadian-born jihadist, now 25, wants to come "home" as part of a plea bargain in the United States that saw him get eight more years imprisonment after finally pleading guilty to various charges ...
Just because Khadr was born in our country, however, does not mean we have to willingly accept his return...
There's the International Transfer of Offenders Act, for example, that says Canada can refuse to take a Canadian prisoner from another country "if it would constitute a threat to the security of Canada."
And what is Omar Khadr if not a threat? ...
The Japan Times, Tokyo, on the Summit of the Americas:
It is a sad commentary on the Sixth Summit of the Americas, the triennial gathering of 34 heads of state from North, South and Central America, when the outcomes of the summit are overshadowed by the misbehavior of U.S. President Barack Obama's advance team and security detail.
Then again, even that commentary might be preferable to focusing on the deep disagreements that make plain the distance between Washington and most of its Latin American interlocutors.
Two issues dominated the meeting. The first was the ongoing exclusion of Cuba from the gathering. Most Latin governments prefer to have Cuba in attendance... His absence is a testimony to U.S. influence. ...
Obama noted that "Cuba, unlike the other countries participating, has not yet moved to democracy ... has not yet observed basic human rights." But Mr. Castro is also the longest serving leader in the region and enjoys considerable support among the public and governments of many Latin American countries. His exclusion may gratify a powerful constituency in Florida, but it adds an asterisk to any declarations or outcomes that result from the meeting. ...
The second issue is drug policy. The prevailing policy throughout the region is the "war on drugs" that has been pushed by the U.S. for over four decades, despite its minimal impact on prices or drug use. It has resulted in huge sums of money for drug dealers, while contributing to corruption throughout the hemisphere, fanning terrorism and militarizing many states. By just about every indicator, the war is being lost and demands reconsideration. ...
Unfortunately, Obama, like most other U.S. political leaders, is unwilling to consider possible alternatives. Inflexibility in the face of repeated failure and the continued demand that other leaders adhere to the failed policy only undermined the credibility of the Summit of the Americas once again.
Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on foreign direct investment:
Saudi Arabia continues to ratchet up the amount of foreign direct investment (FDI) that it brings in. Since December 2005, when the Kingdom became a full member of the World Trade Organization and began to open up its economy, more than $200 billion has been attracted from other countries. In 2011 alone, some $34 billion of outside funds were committed to Saudi projects.
This is a testament both to the considerable opportunities that exist here for foreign investors and to the increasingly benign investment climate. Given the current inability of overseas interests to invest directly in the Saudi Stock market, the inward flow of foreign funds is all the more remarkable.
The obvious question of course is why a nation as wealthy at Saudi Arabia, with in excess of $750 billion of its own money invested in other countries, should need foreign capital at all. The answer is that when an outside investor commits to direct investment — putting money into a project that is expected to grow and give returns — there is more than cash that is arriving in the Kingdom. Very often, the outside interest is a "strategic investor" who is already involved in the same sector elsewhere in the world. That foreign partner therefore also brings a whole range of expertise, as well as very probably technology transfer, which will add to the strength and diversity of our economy. ...
Outside the Arab world, the United States remains our largest foreign direct investor followed by France and Japan. There are, however, other significant FDI sources that we are yet to see build up. India is likely to be a prime source of investment, not least in information and communication technology, while the industrial power bases of China and Brazil are also producing increasingly sophisticated overseas investments.
... A great deal has been achieved but much remains to be done.
Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal on new EPA fracking rules:
The regulators at the federal Environmental Protection Agency listened to the concerns of the oil and gas industry. Then, they made adjustments in proposed air quality standards for the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing. The result is the balanced approached unveiled recently, the industry gaining flexibility in the implementation, the agency fulfilling the mandate of the Clean Air Act, protecting public health and making an advance in mitigating climate change.
The process of fracturing involves injecting a combination of water, sand and chemicals into underground shale rock. This is followed by a "flowback," the natural gas and other chemicals coming to the surface, resulting in emissions of methane, plus toxic, cancer-causing pollutants such as benzene and hexane. Nearby residents, along with environmental groups, have complained about health problems and other harmful effects.
Agency officials, thus, had an obligation to act, and to consult with the industry in devising the best way forward. ...
This is a national challenge, the 13,000 wells drilled each year requiring a uniform set of rules. ...
What the EPA has achieved isn't simply a deft balancing act. It has orchestrated something consequential, no less than one of the country's most productive efforts to combat climate change.
The Oregonian, Portland, on Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex:
Sen. Ron Wyden's, D-Ore., recent daylong field trip from Tokyo to the zone of Japan's nuclear devastation is worth at least a week in the telling. Bunny-suited with a breathing device for protection against radiation exposure, Wyden walked through the ruined Fukushima Dai-ichi complex and saw what few from the West have seen: another bomb waiting to go off.
The senator is not typically alarmist. But his field notes, followed by letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, signal alarm. They paint a picture of extreme nuclear vulnerability, especially in Reactor No. 4, inactive at the time of the quake and tsunami but wrecked by explosion. The reactor now warehouses Fukushima's hottest inventory of radioactive fuel rods in a seismically jittery part of the world.
Wyden completed his tour by asking Japan, with written urgings for help from Clinton and Chu, to sharply speed up a cleanup expected to take 10 more years. His fear is that another big seismic event will trigger another disaster before the cleanup is completed — exposing Oregon and the West Coast to potentially lethal risk. ...
Neither Wyden nor U.S. officials can tell Japan what to do. But they can urge Japan's leaders to consider not only the welfare of their own citizens — thousands of whom were endangered by official deceits in the first weeks of the disaster — but also their international neighbors. ...
San Francisco Chronicle on Walmart:
Retail giant Walmart has fallen from the high ground with revelations that it may have violated U.S. and Mexican laws in its zeal to expand its empire south of the border.
Its market value has sunk by more than $10 billion and its reputation has been tarnished significantly by allegations that some of its top executives were well aware that the company was paying millions of dollars in bribes to expedite the opening of new stores in Mexico.
The New York Times reported that Walmart had sent investigators down to Mexico City to look into the allegations after they arose in 2005 — and found evidence of suspicious payments and potential wrongdoing on a large scale — but shut down the probe without alerting authorities.
Walmart said it has appointed a global officer to ensure compliance with a 1977 U.S. law that prohibits bribes to foreign officials. The company also has insisted that its investigation into the Mexico scandal is continuing. The U.S. Justice Department is also said to be investigating possible criminal misconduct in connection with the case.
The revelations have promoted relatively little shock or outrage in Mexico, where payoffs to government officials — from traffic stops to City Hall — are perceived as commonplace. But this scandal raises unsettling questions about the corporate culture in Bentonville, Ark., where global citizenry and ethics were supposed to be as much a part of the Walmart brand as cut-rate prices.
Loveland (Colo.) Reporter-Herald on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico:
Offshore oil drilling may be a critical part of the United States' domestic energy industry, but the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling doesn't think it's safe enough yet.
The commission's final report cited progress by the Obama administration and the industry itself, but graded Congress poorly because it has yet to "enact any legislation responding to the explosion and spill."
And all three need to do more, the report concluded, to ensure that deepwater drilling is safe for both workers and the environment.
Congress, in particular, needs to codify the necessary regulations needed to prevent another BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, considered to be the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, and one that killed 11 workers.
Fortunately, oversight of offshore drilling was improved after the spill two years ago. The Minerals Management Service, which had too cozy a relationship with the industry it was charged with overseeing, was overhauled to improve oversight.
But better regulation and oversight of deepwater drilling are sorely needed. While regulation may be costly, environmental disasters are even more costly.
How many more disasters on the scale of BP Deepwater Horizon can the Gulf of Mexico take? We'd rather not find out.
The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss., on the U.S. Secret Service probe:
The 11 Secret Service agents who were part of the president's advance security detail were hired, trained, armed and paid well for their judgment. They failed miserably. Fire them.
Take a couple of their supervisors off the payroll as well. The numbers involved in this scandal suggest a failure of command and control in a go-along, get-along culture without any professional oversight.
On one level, this is a frat party run amok, with agents reportedly trying to impress their female companions with their status as protectors of the president. They were so damn special.
In fact, the behavior is closer to the Army's Abu Ghraib debacle or the Navy's Tailhook scandal, where no rules applied and no one was apparently in charge ...
None of us would be paying attention if this were a bunch of party-hearty federal employees from the Commerce Department, but the assignment was to secure an unknown environment and help protect the president, Cabinet officials and senior administrators — our leaders representing our interests.
On that kind of assignment is the security detail ever truly off duty? How does mindless, self-indulgent behavior potentially compromise the mission with loose talk or pilfered records and plans?
Apparently, an agency culture that left the agents confident enough to hire hookers did not feel particularly vulnerable to exposure, blackmail or extortion.
The Secret Service agents have had their security clearances pulled, so they have lost the coin of the realm in the federal government. They might as well start looking for other work. ..