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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

And another thing …

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The American way. The world has plenty of villains capable of any atrocity, including suicide bombings and beheadings. Desecrate a holy book? Piece of cake.

Many outraged Americans wonder, therefore, why the United States, a common target of such ruthlessness, frets so much over the occasional excess by a U.S. military prison guard. So an Army sergeant urinated on the Quran, as the Pentagon now acknowledges? So a suspected terrorist took offense? So what?

Answer: America is special because of enduring values.

America doesn’t answer malice with malice. It doesn’t justify misconduct on its own part by comparing it with worse behavior on someone else’s. It doesn’t let others’ vile deeds tempt it into compromising the standards that underpin Americans’ liberty and justice.

Above all, America counts on its government, civilian and military, to uphold those fundamental values, not subvert them.

Up in smoke. For eight years, the feds pursued various tobacco companies for covering up health risks and enticing young people to smoke. And for eight months they argued the latest episode in this quest in a federal courtroom in Washington, D.C.

Then, on Tuesday, an assistant attorney general dropped a bombshell. Rather than seek $130 billion over 25 years from tobacco companies for smoking cessation and education projects (as was recommended by expert testimony), the feds asked for a mere $10 billion over five years. In 1998, states were awarded $246 billion while pressing similar claims.

Why the sudden change? That obvious question was left hanging as the federal legal team left the courtroom without comment. The lack of a response left many observers to speculate, including the judge, who questioned whether “additional influences” altered the case. An anonymous source familiar with the situation told the Los Angeles Times the change was “forced on the tobacco team by higher-level, politically appointed officials of the Justice Department.”

The Justice Department’s silence only invites suspicion. It needs to explain itself.

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