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Tuesday toon

An editorial from the Los Angeles Times:

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive outpouring of previously repressed tales of sexual harassment gives us reason to hope.

The latest revelation comes from L.A. radio anchor Leeann Tweeden, who says U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) forcibly kissed her while they were rehearsing for a USO show overseas in 2006, just before Franken began his campaign for the Senate. She also says he groped her without her consent, and there’s a photo that adds legitimacy to her tale. In it, Franken grins over his shoulder at the camera as he reaches for her breasts — possibly touching her, possibly not — while she sits asleep in a military plane jump seat.

This disturbing, juvenile photo was distributed to the USO cast at the time; seeing it, Tweeden said, made her feel “violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated.” That appears to have been the intent.

Franken has apologized, though says he doesn’t remember the incident the way Tweeden does, and he asked for an investigation of his own behavior by the Senate Ethics Committee. Such a probe would be welcome. The committee can also investigate whether it’s an isolated incident or part of an offensive pattern.

We’re having a moment of reckoning, America. Stories that would have been waved off at the time they occurred as harmless or aberrational are now gaining currency. Women who previously have only whispered their stories in private are now being convinced to go public because it seems that, at last, they might be taken seriously, that they won’t be brushed off. It’s good that the moment has finally come, and that women are stepping forward with stories of sexual aggression of every variation.

Yet we are just scraping the surface, hearing mostly about the misdeeds of very powerful men — not the harassment and intimidation meted out daily in society’s lower echelons. And thorny questions remain about how society should treat decades-old allegations or differentiate among the many gradations of bad behavior alleged.

Yet it is important that we see the whole picture, even if the tales are decades old, describe murky, unwanted advances or seem at first, in some cases, like nothing more than mean-spirited jokes. We need to understand the breadth of the problem if we are going to begin to address it and to change attitudes in a meaningful way.

Release the Sandy Hook report

An editorial from the Hartford Courant:

It’s been nearly five years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., but the state police still haven’t released a report evaluating their response on that day.

With mass shootings showing no sign of slowing down in this nation, any insights into the best policies for police response would be welcome, especially insights gained by those who investigated one of the deadliest school shootings in United States history.

The after-action report could be of particular value to rural and suburban police agencies that don’t have the resources or training that major metropolitan forces might have. A forthright and critical self-analysis should provide perspective on issues that, sadly, could present themselves to another small town.

For example: Should the officers who first arrived at Sandy Hook have stormed the school? What are the potential risks and benefits of that tactic? Did police properly clear the school before proceeding with their investigation? Was access properly controlled immediately after the shooting?

The answers might never be clear, but any guidance, any wisdom that could be gleaned from lessons learned at Sandy Hook will be invaluable.

The Connecticut Department of Public Safety must re-examine its priorities, complete the report and release it to the public.

News of another mass shooting came from rural Northern California on Tuesday afternoon, where a gunman randomly shot people at an elementary school and other locations before being shot by police. It drives home the importance of learning from these incidents. Police must be armed with experience.

Treatment is answer to opioid crisis

An editorial from the Seattle Times:

President Donald Trump recently declared a public-health emergency for the opioid epidemic. The announcement was mostly meaningless to opioid addicts and the people trying to help them because it did not include any useful new ideas or dollars to fight the epidemic, which killed nearly 700 people in Washington last year.

The few details offered with the declaration are especially troubling. The government could redirect resources, potentially taking public-health dollars away from other urgent needs. A renewed focus on prevention, instead of treatment, is also problematic.

The president seemed especially keen on reviving a “say no to drugs”-style advertising campaign. Past attempts using advertising to prevent drug abuse have had no effect and may have even encouraged some kids to try drugs, according to national research funded by the federal government.

Prescription opioid drug deaths have quadrupled nationally since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 100 people die every day because of the epidemic.

The research is clear: Medication is the best hope to get addicts off opioids — both prescription drugs and heroin — but that medication is expensive.

If the president truly cares about the epidemic, he should look closer at what is actually working right now in places like Washington state and promise to renew grant money that is offering treatment to more people.

Caleb Banta-Green, a researcher at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, says federal drug treatment grants from the Obama administration are starting to make a measurable impact on the epidemic in Washington because they make money available for treatment medication, including the newer drug buprenorphine and the more traditional methadone. But there’s so much more that could be done.

First, those grants that are being used to set up drug treatment centers across the state, in both rural and urban areas, are limited in scope. Washington state was given $12 million in federal dollars from the bipartisan Cures Act adopted by Congress nearly a year ago, with no expectation that the grants would last more than a year.

The Cures Act included $1 billion for opioid treatment, aimed at reaching underserved populations, particularly in rural areas. If the Trump administration wants to make a difference in fighting the opioid epidemic, it will continue to make this treatment money available and not throw away cash on ineffective TV campaigns.

How big a tax cut for Trump?

A Los Angeles Times editorial:

At President Donald Trump’s insistence, congressional Republicans are proposing something unprecedented: a special, lower tax bracket for partnerships, contractors and other “pass-through” businesses. And they’re doing so with only the vaguest of ideas how the proposal will affect the country’s most famous pass-through business owner: Donald Trump.

That’s because Trump has disclosed his holdings but not his tax returns. Although we know he has a stake in hundreds of pass-through businesses through the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, we don’t know how those businesses are organized for tax purposes, or what techniques the companies might be using to minimize their taxes — and Trump’s. So it’s impossible to tell exactly how much more or less in taxes he’d have to pay under the plans being proposed in Congress.

Actually, we know enough to say that he wouldn’t have to pay more. Trump declared that he’d be a “big loser” under the measure — that is, before he called on lawmakers to cut the top individual tax rate from 39.5 percent to 35 percent. But that’s almost certainly false. Congress’ own analysis of the tax bill’s effects shows that it would deliver the biggest benefits to those on the penthouse floor of the U.S. economy.

But creating a lower top rate for pass-through businesses could provide an even bigger boost to Trump than the bill’s other perks for the wealthy, such as the elimination of the alternative minimum tax. The pass-through provision would slash the taxes he pays on at least a portion, and potentially most, of his income to 25 percent.

As the first billionaire to occupy the Oval Office, Trump will have an outsize personal stake in any major tax bill. Yet he has doggedly and arrogantly refused to release his tax returns, breaking with decades of presidential practice. The fact that the administration helped GOP lawmakers craft a tax proposal that’s particularly attuned to Trump’s holdings makes it imperative that the president release his returns. Americans need to know whether he’s acting in his interests or theirs.

Back to the past with U.S.-Cuba relations

An editorial from the Miami Herald:

Are the Trump administration’s new stricter rules on travel and trade with Cuba a return to the past? The Cold War days. Likely. Is that a shame? Well, yes and no.

The new regulations announced last week cancel any direct U.S. financial transactions with 180 entities tied to the Cuban military and intelligence and security services. We can’t argue with the soundness of that move. It’s possible this correction of the flow of money from the U.S. to the Castro regime was needed.

Let’s be clear. In Cuba, for the most part, the government owns everything. Money goes into its pockets — not the people’s. It’s naive to think otherwise.

Many of entities that U.S. companies can no longer strike new deals with come under the umbrella of Cuba’s military conglomerate GAESA. They include hotels, marinas, tourism agencies, industries, stores and even a few rum and soft drinks manufacturers.

No doubt, reasons for the tightening of rules include Trump’s willingness to undermine one of Obama’s crowning accomplishments — the easing of relations with Cuba frozen for more than 50 years. That’s obvious.

But another reason is this: Is it possible that in the Obama administration’s rush to “get this done” before Obama’s presidency ended certain things were let go — for now, hoping they would work themselves out with the Cuban government?

Well, two years later, the reprehensible sonic attacks on scores of U.S. diplomatic personnel living on the on the island is unacceptable — regardless of whether the Cuban government carried out the attack or not. It occurred on their soil.

The editorial board has long supported the easing of relations with Cuba, but we have been disappointed at how little Cuba has bended in the way it treats its people.

So this all important issue — a reexamination of where the money injected into the island’s economy from the U.S. flows — is in order.

From the start, these negotiations with Cuba were tricky. Back in January 2015, Roberta Jacobson, the top U.S. negotiator at normalization talks with Cuba, sat down with the Miami Herald Editorial Board on her way back to Washington. At the time, Jacobson said she was optimistic, but didn’t want to raise expectations too high, given the attitude of the Cuban delegation.

“I don’t want to build people’s hopes too high around a process, which will take a long time but is the true normalization of relations and change,” she said.

Two years is obviously not long enough. Cuban officials said last week the new U.S. rules will harm the Cuban economy and both its state and private sectors. But the change will also channel economic activity away from the military.

And wasn’t that the whole idea of the easing relations? So that the interaction would somehow bring change for the Cuban people?

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