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A contrary view on the Pulitzers

WASHINGTON — On Monday, my Washington Post colleagues celebrated winning the Pulitzer Prize for public service along with the Guardian newspaper for their reporting on Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency.

Understanding our divisions

WASHINGTON — In a 2006 interview, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said the Constitution is “basically about” one word — “democracy” — that appears in neither that document nor the Declaration of Independence. Democracy is America’s way of allocating political power. The Constitution, however, was adopted to confine that power in order to “secure the blessings of” that which simultaneously justifies and limits democratic government — natural liberty.

Where the only rule is terror

BANGUI, Central African Republic — The tents of displaced people reach nearly up to the runway at the airport — the first impression of a nation in flight and in fear. Befitting the sectarian cast of the violence in this country, there are two camps, one Christian and one Muslim. The Muslim camp has shrunken in size, as Chadian planes and truck convoys have taken some people out of danger. It is both a move to safety and the victory of religious cleansing.

Benzene spill highlights China’s latest water pollution woes

On Friday the government of Lanzhou, China, informed its 3.6 million residents that their drinking water would be carcinogenic for the next 24 hours. Benzene, a chemical used in plastics manufacture, was the immediate cause, but that wasn’t even the most horrifying revelation to come from this crisis. Today, reports from state media revealed that the benzene had been released into the environment as a result of oil pipeline explosions — in 1987 and 2002. The pipelines, owned by state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, were repaired at the time. Some 34 tons of contaminated soil, however, were left in place, the benzene allowed to migrate into an underground water duct that empties out via household faucets.

A counter for hysterics in Michigan

DETROIT — Robert Griffin, now 90, who rose to be second in the Republican U.S. Senate leadership, was defeated in 1978. Since then, only one Michigan Republican, Spencer Abraham in 1994, has been elected to the Senate and for only one term. Evidence that former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land might end this GOP drought is that Democrats are attacking her for opposing “preventive health care.”

Don’t blame NATO expansion for Russian aggression

Tom Friedman, New York Times columnist, wrote a good column this week, arguing that the United States and Europe need to take a long look at whether they are ready to make the sacrifices involved in saving Ukraine from Vladimir Putin and, if not, let the Ukrainians cut the best deal they can.

The Colbert Report

WASHINGTON — In selecting Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman as host of the “Late Show,” CBS has waged war on America’s heartland — or so proclaims that Palm Beach font of heartland mirth, Rush Limbaugh.

The healing in Rwanda

KIGALI, Rwanda — At the 20th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide, the most moving moments were unplanned. In the audience at Amahoro Stadium, first one woman, then another, then dozens in turn, cried out in uncontrollable anguish and had to be escorted from the ceremony. They were overwhelmed by memory. In their screams you could hear the screams of two decades ago.

A recourse to budgetary inaction

PHOENIX — From the Goldwater Institute, the fertile frontal lobe of the conservative movement’s brain, comes an innovative idea that is gaining traction in Alaska, Arizona and Georgia, and its advocates may bring it to at least 35 other states’ legislatures. It would use the Constitution’s Article V to move the nation back toward the limited government the Constitution’s Framers thought their document guaranteed.

Hey Congress: Try inhaling

WASHINGTON — Legal marijuana is spreading like a weed across the land but it has yet to take root in the place where people might benefit most from inhaling: the U.S. Capitol.

Demonizing the Kochs

WASHINGTON — Rush Limbaugh can relax. The popular “demon of the right” has been replaced at least through the midterms by the Koch brothers, Charles and David.

A tax reformer’s uphill push

WASHINGTON — The Sisyphean task of tax reform should be tried only by someone who will not flinch from igniting some highly flammable people — those who believe that whatever wrinkle in the tax code benefits them is an eternal entitlement. Tax reform’s Senate champion is Ron Wyden, the affable, cerebral and tall Oregon Democrat who once wanted to be the NBA’s greatest Jewish power forward since … never mind.

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When geography matters

WASHINGTON — Igor Stravinsky, the Russian composer, said of Poland, perilously positioned between Russia and Germany: “If you pitch your tent in the middle of Fifth Avenue, it is quite likely you will be run over by a bus.” Poland has been run over hard and often; indeed, between 1795 and 1918 it disappeared from the map of Europe.

George Will: A half-century in denial

WASHINGTON — Critics of Rep. Paul Ryan’s remarks about cultural factors in the persistence of poverty are simultaneously shrill and boring. Their predictable minuet of synthetic indignation demonstrates how little liberals have learned about poverty or changed their rhetorical repertoire in the last 49 years.

Michael Gerson: The GOP’s need for creative policy

WASHINGTON — Of all the signs of Democratic midterm trouble, it is fitting that Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius — who has already contributed so much — should make another important offering. She recently assured the House Ways and Means Committee that health insurance premium increases this coming year would be “far less significant than what they were prior to the Affordable Care Act.”

George Will: Buds of the socialist spring

“Boys from another school pulled out the severed head of a classmate while fishing in a pond. His whole family had died. Had they eaten him first? Or had he survived the deaths of his parents only to be killed by a cannibal? No one knew; but such questions were commonplace for the children of Ukraine in 1933. … Yet cannibalism was, sometimes, a victimless crime. Some mothers and fathers killed their children and ate them. … But other parents asked their children to make use of their own bodies if they passed away. More than one Ukrainian child had to tell a brother or sister: ‘Mother says that we should eat her if she dies.’” — Timothy Snyder, “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin”