Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
Los Angeles Times on the Apple vs. Samsung decision:
After finding Samsung liable for more than $1 billion in damages for infringing Apple’s iPhone and iPad patents, members of a federal jury told reporters that they hoped to deter companies from copying one another instead of developing their own designs and features. That’s a laudable goal, and the public would surely benefit from more choice and differentiation among products. The challenge is in distinguishing between the sorts of innovations that should receive patent protection and the ones that shouldn’t.
We don’t mean to second-guess the jurors or defend Samsung, which was found to have deliberately imitated Apple’s iPhone designs and some of its functions. If companies were able to wait for their rivals to come up with successful devices, then rush out copycat versions with confusingly similar features, there would be less money spent on R&D and more on marketing.
Nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that Apple made its name building successful, even iconic products based on ideas that other companies pioneered. The iPhone, for example, was a significantly better version of the smartphones Nokia introduced more than a decade earlier. Innovation is by its nature an iterative process, and good patent policy creates an incentive to innovate more. Bad policy just makes it easier for patent holders to extract royalties from anyone venturing within reach of their claims.
The risk is especially great in the area of patents on design, such as the ones that covered the look and feel of Apple’s iPhones. …
One safeguard against overly broad or unjustified patents is to provide the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office the resources needed to give applications enough scrutiny. Congress took an important step in that direction with the patent-reform law it passed last year. But the courts have played a critical role in defining what is patentable, and the big judgment in Apple’s favor is likely to invite more claims that stretch the boundaries of reasonableness.
The Miami Herald on Ecuador entering the WikiLeaks fray:
The grant of extradition to WikiLeaks founder and alleged sex-crime perpetrator Julian Assange by Ecuador is the most bewildering twist yet in this long, bizarre saga. Up to now, the government of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was better known for stifling freedom of the press at home than for championing the free flow of information. If ever there was an odd coupling of convenience, this is certainly it.
There’s no mystery over why Assange, a 41-year-old Australian, should choose to go on the run, defy his bail conditions in Britain and seek asylum in any country willing to stick its neck out for him — any port in a storm, and Ecuador’s embassy in London would do as well as any other.
But for Correa, the only way to explain this strange and otherwise inexplicable maneuver is the president’s apparently urgent desire to burnish his anti-American credentials and claim for himself some of the notoriety and adulation from leftist sympathizers that he feels is his due.
Next door in Venezuela, poor Hugo Chávez must be beside himself with envy to see a neighbor steal the anti-yanqui spotlight: Why didn’t he take cover in my embassy? …
It’s equally absurd for Assange, whose supporters see him as an anti-authoritarian hero, to align himself with a budding despot like Correa while claiming to be a martyr for freedom of information. …
Ecuador should reserve asylum for genuine victims of government persecution, rather than grant it to a figure who disdains the laws of two democracies (Britain and Sweden) in pursuit of his own political agenda. To end the impasse, Ecuador should seek assurances from Sweden that Assange’s rights will be respected, then persuade him that leaving the embassy is the best option for everyone.
The Republican, Springfield, Mass., on the re-occurring Republican abortion debate:
A renewed debate on abortion following U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s remarks shows Akin’s problems are the Republican Party’s problems.
No, we’re not talking about his greatly diminished electoral prospects, and we aren’t considering his suddenly immense financial difficulties. What we’re referring to are the statements that got Akin into the news in the first place. While they were truly outrageous, unbelievable, more like the random mutterings of some wacko on the street than pre-election assertions from a contender for a seat in the U.S. Senate, they are, at the end of the day, remarks that spring from the thinking inside today’s Republican party.
After the initial news accounts, reports on Akin tended to sum up his statements by noting that he had referred to “legitimate rape.” While there’s no denying that the locution marks the congressman as somewhere between completely out of touch and a man who has taken leave of his senses, the sad truth is that the phrase itself only touches on the whole disturbing mess.
What Akin actually said was that a woman who is raped does not tend to get pregnant. This, he asserted, is a truth he learned from doctors.
There is not a single legitimate medical professional anywhere who believes such a thing. None. It is important to note that the would-be senator made his statements in the context of a discussion of abortion. As the Republican Party has once again put forth a platform that is so anti-choice that it does not even allow a woman who was raped to terminate her pregnancy, the question is not merely an academic exercise, a difficult moment in a debate. It is terrifyingly real.
Yes, Akin is far afield, beyond most in his political party, but the party itself continues to move outside the mainstream of modern American thought.
The candidate’s problems, big as they are, are an extension of the party’s problems.
The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle on Congress shamefully dragging its feet:
There’s not only another recession on the horizon, but your U.S. Congress is helping put it there.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted recently that continued inaction on tax and spending policy by Congress “would lead to economic conditions in 2013 that will probably be considered a recession.”
Bush-era tax rates are set to expire next year, raising taxes on millions of Americans. Meanwhile, Congress, in the hopes that a deadline would inspire it to actually cut federal spending thoughtfully, set up a system of blunt and potentially very damaging automatic across-the-board spending cuts that take effect in January. …
The combination of tax increases and spending cuts, writes The Associated Press, would mean “in effect sucking roughly $400 billion out of a U.S. economy that is already struggling.”
All this happens unless Congress takes action.
Economic experts say the uncertainty of it all is helping tamp down economic activity now.
Don’t bank on anything getting done before the election, either. While both parties are to blame for the mess we’re in… The truth is, neither party has covered itself in glory in this disgraceful episode.
What we are seeing today must be particularly galling to the remaining veterans of World War II, who gave us the best years of their lives to defeat tyranny on two ends of the globe. That our “leaders” in Washington can’t muster the mere mettle to balance our budget, or even talk with each other in a rational way to avoid what some are calling “Taxmageddon” next year, is an insult to the men and women who once made this the greatest nation on Earth.
Shame on all of those responsible.
The Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, on Neil Armstrong:
It is difficult to separate the man from the mission.
Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, is dead. But what he did and the familiar words he spoke remain embedded in the minds of those who witnessed his small step and giant leap on July 20, 1969. They will remain engraved in history for as long as there is recorded history.
Armstrong, who died at 82 of complications from heart surgery, didn’t seek fame, and for decades he actively avoided it, living quietly in southwestern Ohio, where he died Aug. 25. But he couldn’t avoid being famous, because he earned it. In a day when vacuous people are famous (and become rich) for simply being famous, Armstrong represented the best of a more authentic age….
Armstrong well knew that he did not get to the moon and back on his own. But what he never said is something that the rest of us sensed: He wasn’t the only man who could have succeeded, but was a member of a select few. He succeeded because he was smart, coordinated, dedicated, educated and cool under pressure. He was all those things in measures that most of us could only dream about or, well, envy.
The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis., the ticking Medicare clock:
The recent debate about the future of Medicare is being framed as the Democrats doing nothing as the system goes broke and the Republicans privatizing the program so they can shove granny off a cliff.
Voters who haven’t been hypnotized by the political extremes — and hopefully there are some of those left — are clamoring for some middle ground on which our elected leaders could work together to head off a calamity.
The status quo is not an option. The Medicare Trustees’ most recent report predicts that after 75 years the government health care system for retirees will have an unfunded liability of $38.6 trillion, or nearly $330,000 per household. The trustees predict that from 2045 to 2085, tax revenues would cover about 67 to 69 percent of projected expenditures. Don’t touch “my” Medicare, indeed.
To make matters worse, current law calls for a 31 percent cut in payment rates to doctors for Medicaid patients next year. However, Congress has approved similar cutbacks every year since 2003, and every time it has rescinded the cuts after providers protested.
There are some obvious things lawmakers should do but won’t because they lack the backbone lest they be voted out of office. Sadly, that says more about the ignorance of the electorate and the power of negative advertising than the wisdom of lawmakers who are nothing if not survivors. ..
The need to lay out a plan of shared sacrifice to preserve Medicare for future generations is crucial. That won’t happen before the election. And, sadly, given the seemingly never-ending election cycle, it may never happen, or at least not until it’s too late.
The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y., on the legacy of cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Say it ain’t so, Lance. In fact, the world’s most famous bicycle racer has said that many times about allegations he took performance-enhancing drugs and otherwise cheated during his storied career, which included an incredible seven straight top finishes in the Tour de France.
“Incredible” appears to be the appropriate word here, literally, both for Armstrong’s championships and his claims of innocence. Although he still hasn’t admitted to cheating, he has decided to stop fighting the U.S. Anti-Doping Association’s case against him, which will result in a lifetime ban from the sport and forfeiture of those Tour titles.
… It’s hard to believe he would give up the fight to save his reputation and titles now unless he believed his accusers had strong evidence, in the form of test results (he has repeatedly said in the past that he has never failed a drug test) and testimony from former teammates (and not just admitted cheats Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis). …
Armstrong will still have his true believers, just as Hamilton and Landis did for the years they denied using performance-enhancing drugs even after testing positive. That made them not only cheats — which was understandable given the fact that professional cycling has been rife with doping for a long time, with riders thinking they were at a disadvantage if others were doing it and they weren’t — but, worse, liars.
However, it will now be much harder for those who doubted Armstrong but wanted to believe him — not just for his exploits on a bike but for the money he raised for cancer research, and the support and inspiration he gave to cancer victims — to do so. That’s sad, but better than self-delusion.
Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on national political conventions:
OK, so it’s been a while since there was any real drama at a national political convention.
Back when, the Democrats could brawl for 16 days and 103 ballots (New York, 1924) in picking their nominee. Republicans (Chicago, 1912) could watch a slugfest between an incumbent president, William Howard Taft, and a former president, Theodore Roosevelt, that would leave the loser running anyway as a “Bull Moose.”
But lately? Modern conventions pretty much are scripted coronations for nominees chosen months earlier in primaries and caucuses. Even the announcement of a vice presidential choice comes well before the convention opens.
So the major television networks, which once aired the events almost gavel-to-gavel, have pulled back. ABC, CBS and NBC are promising only three hours of coverage spread over the four nights of each convention — Republicans in Tampa, Fla. and Democrats in Charlotte, N.C.
But despite network TV’s shrinking interest, the 2012 conventions may be more accessible to interested voters than ever. Newspapers will report on the events in detail, and there will be a new wave of live coverage utilizing the Internet, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, tablet computers and smartphones.
These conventions are an institution going back to the 1830s, yet many 21st-century Americans are still paying attention. For three convention nights over two weeks in 2008, more than 40 million people watched the speeches of Barack Obama, John McCain and Sarah Palin on television.
While it’s easy to poke fun, these quadrennial pep rallies remain more than a place to see donkey jewelry and elephant hats. …
The Jerusalem Post on the passing of Neil Armstrong:
Whether you were a wide-eyed five-year-old, a self-absorbed teenager or world-wise adult, you’ll likely never forget the moment. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder outside the lunar module, and with a little jump, became the first person to set foot on the moon.
Some 600 million people — a fifth of the world’s population — watched or listened to the moon landing, the largest audience for any single event in history. In a fast-forward world … amid the turmoil of Vietnam War protests and civil rights strife, and less than a month before the American counterculture peaked with a display of mass humanity at Woodstock, Armstrong and his crew — Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins — gave everyone pause.
The majesty, grandeur and awe of such an otherworldly event taking place in our lifetime immediately placed Armstrong in the annals of history. …
Armstrong never understood why so much attention was given to that first fateful footstep. Asked once how he felt knowing his footprints would likely stay on the moon’s surface for thousands of years, he answered, “I kind of hope that somebody goes up there one of these days and cleans them up.” …
Describing his impressions, Armstrong said, “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”
That dichotomy - man’s ability to use knowledge and technology to achieve unbelievable accomplishments while at the same time realizing that we really still don’t know very much about anything - may be the ultimate lesson that Armstrong leaves us with. That, and the need to dream. …
The Telegraph, London, on the Republican National Convention:
Mitt Romney has been introduced to the American people in many guises: the hard-nosed executive who saved Utah’s Winter Olympics; the middle-of-the-road governor who brought universal health care to Massachusetts; the repentant and radicalized Right-winger who campaigned (twice) for his party’s presidential nomination; and now, since the selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, as the fiscal conservative to bring sanity to the nation’s finances.
In Tampa, Romney will be attempting to synthesize these personae into something at once more complex and more simple: a commander in chief. If the making of a president is America’s most distinctive rite, then the party conventions are arguably the most important moment in the liturgy, save for the candidates’ debates, and of course Election Day itself. Romney and his party will unveil — with full orchestration — what they hope will become the campaign’s defining themes, even as the Democrats seek to insert their own nagging counterpoint.
Americans’ attention will be on Tampa not merely because of the storm warnings, but because there is a palpable sense — thanks in part to the selection of Ryan — of how much this contest matters. Often in elections, what appears to be a cataclysmic contest of ideology turns out to be a choice between shades of technocracy. Not this time. The Republicans’ chosen battleground is the very shape and scope of U.S. government, not least since a combination of political and fiscal pressures mean that whoever is elected will face choices that could ultimately determine whether the world’s greatest power remains not just prosperous, but even solvent. The stage is set - and, for the moment, is Romney’s to seize.
Calgary (Alberta) Herald on the Summer Paralympics:
The 2012 Summer Paralympics, opening in London, are at risk of straying from their noble origins forged in the very same city more than six decades ago.
Ludwig Guttmann, keen to showcase the rehabilitation of soldiers after the Second World War, organized the precursor to the Paralympics — a multi-sport competition between hospitals to coincide with the 1948 London Games.
The chairman of the 2012 London organizing committee, Sebastian Coe, went so far as to proclaim earlier this month, “We want to change public attitudes toward disability … .”
Although the practice is banned, it’s common for Paralympians with spinal cord injuries to break their toes or even be jabbed with sharp needles in an effort to increase their blood pressure and improve athletic performance.
Dr. Andrei Krassioukov, a Vancouver researcher, estimates about 30 per cent of athletes at the London Paralympics could be involved in the nasty practice. Krassioukov has been working with the competitors for more than three decades and says that cardiovascular abilities must be added to the Paralympics’ system for classifying athletes. Otherwise, he said, competitors are at risk of life-threatening strokes or brain aneurysms.
As well, if a ranking for cardiovascular abilities is added, athletes would be competing against others who perform at the same level as them, notes the doctor, reducing the temptation to elevate their blood pressure through such distasteful acts as twisting their testicles.
It’s a common-sense solution that ensures athletes’ safety and dignity.
China Daily, Beijing, on Mitt Romney’s China policy:
By any standard, the U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s China policy, as outlined on his official campaign website, is an outdated manifestation of a Cold War mentality.
It endorses the “China threat” theory and focuses on containing China’s rise in the Asia-Pacific through bolstering the robust U.S. military presence in the region.
And by stating that the U.S. “should be coordinating with Taiwan to determine its military needs and supplying them with adequate aircraft and other military platforms”, the Republican challenger has also gone so far as to provoke China over its sovereignty of the island.
True, politicians tend to go back on their words after being elected, and it has become usual for U.S. politicians to play the China card in an election year. But Romney’s stance on China is still worrying, as it could poison the friendly atmosphere necessary to develop Sino-U.S. relations.
Putting aside his remedies for the U.S.’ domestic problems and whether they would be effective or not, his China policy, if implemented, would cause a retrogression in bilateral ties and turn the region into a venue for open confrontation between China and the U.S.
Compared to the “strategic pivot” policies U.S. President Barack Obama is implementing in the region, Romney’s recommendations are more pugnacious. …
As China and the US both have a stake in peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, any responsible politician would refrain from making recommendations that might turn the two countries into rivals, rather than partners.
… It requires political vision as well as profound knowledge of Sino-US relations as a whole, to make sensible policy recommendations about what are widely recognized as the most important bilateral ties in the world. Romney apparently lacks both.