Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The following editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Friday, July 24:
___

One of President Barack Obama’s first acts in office was to promise that he would close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in order to “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism.” Six years later, the facility is still open, although the population has dwindled to 116, 52 of whom have been cleared for transfer if security conditions can be satisfied.

Part of the problem has been congressional obstructionism, but Obama also is to blame. Rather than veto defense authorization bills that limited his ability to transfer inmates, he has signed them, while raising questions about whether they intruded on his constitutional authority. And he hasn’t pressed the Defense Department hard enough to approve the release and resettlement of detainees who aren’t deemed a threat.

Now the White House says it is preparing to present Congress with a new plan to close the facility. That effort is welcome, but it will fully succeed only if the administration recognizes that the problem with Guantanamo isn’t just its location, but that the prison has become a symbol of a denial of due process.

Opposition to closing Guantanamo involves two issues. One is whether even “low-risk” detainees should be released to their homelands or to some other country. The other is whether inmates — including dozens of more dangerous detainees the administration says it can neither release nor try — should be moved to the United States. The administration argues persuasively that “supermax” prisons in this country provide adequate protection for public safety.

We agree with Obama that Guantanamo has been a stain on America’s reputation and a recruiting tool for terrorists. The administration should make good on its threat to veto a new National Defense Authorization Act if it makes it harder to release detainees or to shut down the prison. But even if the administration wins congressional support for closing the facility and accelerating the release of some detainees, it shouldn’t be content with simply relocating the rest and continuing to hold them without charge or trial.

In a 2013 speech, Obama acknowledged that indefinitely detaining suspected terrorists without a trial was a problem but said it could be resolved “consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.” The way to do so is to urgently revisit the question of whether supposedly high-risk detainees really pose a danger if they are released. The government should also take a fresh look at whether it really is impossible to prosecute some detainees because of missing or compromised evidence.

In the same speech, Obama warned that “history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it.” The way to forestall such a judgment is to close Guantanamo and not reconstitute it elsewhere.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: A guard tower of Camp Delta is seen at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba September 4, 2007. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.