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A better side of America

WASHINGTON — In the first days of the Iraq war 11 years ago, Army reservist Jay Briseno was shot in the back of the head at a Baghdad market. The bullet left him blind, brain-damaged, paralyzed from the neck down and unable to communicate, eat or breathe on his own.

The people’s party

Now that pro-democracy protests have shut large swaths of central Hong Kong, China’s leaders find themselves in a trap of their own making. Denying residents authentic democracy has not led to stability nor peace in the city-state. Crushing the demonstrations would do even more harm to the international reputation for freedom and the rule of law that has allowed Hong Kong to prosper as a semi-autonomous piece of the People’s Republic of China. The future of the city-state — and much more — rests on whether the Chinese central government realizes that its tight grip is ultimately counterproductive.

Runaway Obamacare costs will hurt Senate Democrats

As we start the final stretch before the midterm elections, many analysts are convinced that Obamacare isn’t the hot political issue it once was. While the flood of negative publicity about the law has subsided of late, a majority of people still oppose it, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polls taken from Sept. 2 to 15. And I’ve always believed the voters’ negative impressions of the law were “baked” into their assessments of Democratic incumbents.

Holder and RFK’s legacy

WASHINGTON — When he announced his leave-taking last week, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke of Robert F. Kennedy as his inspiration for believing that the Justice Department “can and must always be a force for that which is right.”

Battle royal brewing in Iowa

URBANDALE, Iowa — The Machine Shed restaurant, where the waitresses wear bib overalls and suggest a cinnamon roll the size of a loaf of bread as a breakfast appetizer, sells a root beer called Dang!, bandages made to look like bacon strips, and signs that proclaim “I love you more than bacon.” For Joni Ernst, however, the apposite sign reads “No one ever injured their eyesight by looking on the bright side.”

The law of the war

At the United Nations on Wednesday, President Barack Obama offered a powerful case for war against the Islamic State. “This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria,” he said. “There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.”

Introspection time for evangelicals

WASHINGTON — Christian conservatives are often the subject of study by academics, who seem to find their culture as foreign as that of Borneo tribesmen. And this is a particularly interesting time for brave social scientists to put on their pith helmets and head to Wheaton, Ill., Colorado Springs or unexplored regions of the South. They will find a community under external and internal cultural stress.

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Nations face challenge of how to de-radicalize terrorists

President Barack Obama’s speech to the United Nations Wednesday morning may have attracted more attention, but his chairmanship of the U.N. Security Council later in the day may have the more lasting impact. The council unanimously agreed to adopt his proposal for a more coordinated global effort to track and arrest so-called foreign fighters — thousands of whom have joined Islamic State and other jihadi groups. Now it’s time to start thinking about what to do with them once they’re in custody.

Tax plan a short-term corporate fix

The Obama administration’s plan for executive action against corporate tax “inversions” is finally out, and it’s a potentially significant one. Inversion is the process by which a U.S. corporation merges with a foreign one so as to pay taxes on overseas income at the other country’s lower rates. The new plan, announced late Monday by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, would crack down on it in several ways. It would prevent inverted companies from deferring U.S. taxes via “hopscotch” loans from the U.S. company’s foreign subsidiary to the new foreign parent. It would prevent inverted companies from restructuring foreign subsidiaries so as to give the new foreign parent access to their earnings, tax-free. And it would put extra teeth in the current law’s requirement that an inverted entity’s former U.S. owners own less than 80 percent of the new combined one.

High stakes in Kansas

SHAWNEE, Kan. — Tacked to the wall of Greg Orman’s campaign office is a print of a John Steuart Curry painting, “Tragic Prelude,” that hangs in the capitol in Topeka. It depicts John Brown of Osawatomie, 39 miles south of here, as what he was, a deranged product of “bleeding Kansas,” the Civil War’s overture. Today, Orman, who is as calm as Brown was crazed, is emblematic of fascinating Kansas.

Trespassing at the White House

The Secret Service can’t say what exactly went wrong Friday to allow an intruder to get through the front door of the White House. A review into the unprecedented security breach is underway. The lack of understanding, though, hasn’t stopped the Secret Service from floating the notion — let’s hope it stays just that — of pushing visitors even further back from the perimeter of the president’s home.

Tall order for GOP in ’16

WASHINGTON — It is the most important development so far in the 2016 presidential race, at least on the Republican side: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is evidently not a total meathead. Which he would have needed to be to have anything to do with the politically motivated lane closures of the George Washington Bridge — a dirty trick oddly and aimlessly directed at the public. According to recent reports, nine months of federal investigation into emails and text messages have produced nothing implicating Christie.