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Outside Voices: Can’t ignore slavery’s role

Los Angeles Times, April 11: What was Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell thinking when he declared April to be Confederate History Month without mentioning slavery?

Whatever the explanation, the proclamation, pegged to the fact that Virginia joined the Confederacy in April 1861, has been hastily revised after a public protest. It … now … contains a paragraph – one that easily could have been included in the original – that “the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice.”

Anyone familiar with the Civil War knows that the preservation of slavery was not the only motive for secession and that Confederate soldiers saw themselves as defending hearth and home. Nor did every Union soldier feel called to battle by a commitment to emancipation.

Still, slavery was at the heart of the War Between the States, an irreducibly brutal reality that generations of revisionists have attempted unconvincingly to efface.

Like the flying of the Confederate flag, a sanitized portrayal of the Confederacy inspires anger and uneasiness that once would have been regarded – and not just in the South – as oversensitivity. We know better now, and so, we hope, does Robert McDonnell.

Philadelphia Inquirer, April 15: President Obama’s leadership of a 47-nation summit on nuclear weapons was focused on the right goal – preventing terrorists from getting their hands on nukes.

Just two months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden met with the former operator of a plutonium reactor in Pakistan. They discussed how to build a nuclear weapon, but the Pakistani man told bin Laden that it would be too difficult to develop materials that could be used in a weapon. Bin Laden reportedly replied, “What if I already have them?”

If he didn’t have them yet, the world has plenty of locations where he could try to get them. Russia alone stores uranium and plutonium at more than 200 sites. At least eight nations have nuclear weapons, and dozens of countries possess more than 2,000 tons of plutonium and uranium.

Russia and the United States announced that they will move ahead with a long-delayed agreement to dispose of 34 tons of plutonium each – enough to build 17,000 nuclear weapons. …

These voluntary agreements won’t affect Iran’s push to develop nuclear weapons, the prospect that keeps Gen. David Petraeus of U.S. Central Command awake at night. …

Pakistan, a base for al-Qaida, said it will resist international efforts to ban production of more bomb materials. …

North Korea, a wild card as usual, did not participate in the nuclear summit. …

Obama is showing needed leadership by focusing the world’s attention on nuclear security. But he will need to put more pressure on foreign leaders to produce further tangible results on this critical issue.

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Editorial: Washington state lawmakers scramble to keep public in the dark

State lawmakers want to create a legislative loophole in Washington’s Public Records Act. While it’s nice to see Democrats and Republicans working together for once, it’s just too bad that their agreement is that the public is the enemy. As The Spokesman-Review’s Olympia reporter Jim Camden explained Feb. 22, lawmakers could vote on a bill today responding to a court order that the people of Washington are entitled to review legislative records.