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New face, fresh ideas in Pentagon

If the resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel augurs a move by President Barack Obama to shake up his national security team and reconsider his strategy in crisis areas such as Syria and Ukraine, then it will be welcomed. So far, there’s not much sign of it. Hagel has been a weak leader at the Pentagon who, at least in public, has been less of a force in policy discussions than some of the generals who report to him. But his thinly disguised dismissal came after reports he had raised sensible questions about Obama’s overly constrained approach to fighting the Islamic State.

Net neutrality and the Internet balancing act

Everyone from giant Internet service providers to lone “Twilight” fan-fiction writers seems to love “net neutrality.” But few who genuflect toward the phrase can make real sense of the bureaucratic battle raging in and around the Federal Communications Commission and its frequently maligned chairman, Thomas Wheeler.

Portman-Shaheen legislation could be a jump-start in the Senate

When a carefully built, bipartisan energy bill failed in the Senate in May, it was one of the worst instances of unwarranted Washington gridlock. By the same token, precisely because it is so sensible and enjoyed such bipartisan support, it offers one of the most obvious ways for Congress’ new leaders to break Washington’s holding pattern on policy and to help the country.

A job for Congress

Even with 3 percent growth last quarter and unemployment at 5.8 percent, the lowest rate since the summer of 2008, Americans still worry about the economy and with good reason.

Shut the door to cyberthreats

Six years ago, the federal government’s classified computer networks were infiltrated by a tiny bit of malware. A massive operation known as Buckshot Yankee was carried out to clean the networks of the intruder and the event helped spur the creation of U.S. Cyber Command, which is now growing rapidly. The government has put cyberthreats at the top of its national security threat matrix.

Controlling the message in Russia

Among the main pillars that support Russian President Vladimir Putin’s power and outlook on the world — graft, cronyism, paranoia and resentment at Moscow’s diminished post-Soviet stature — it’s hard to overstate the importance he attaches to propaganda. To the Kremlin leader, who cut his teeth as a KGB apparatchik, information is an important instrument of control, influence and intimidation; Western-style journalism and the free flow of news are anathema.

Beyond gridlock: Delivering the Postal Service

Of all the tasks confronting the newly elected Congress, none is more basic, in terms of plain old democratic governance, than reforming the U.S. Postal Service. This workhorse agency, which epitomizes the federal government in the daily lives of ordinary citizens, is reeling from a double whammy: technological obsolescence and accumulated inefficiencies. Years of downsizing enabled the USPS to break even on its operations in fiscal 2013 (if you don’t count losses due to $5.6 billion in legally required retiree health care prepayments). Yet its bread-and-butter business, first-class mail, remains in long-term decline; the Postal Service’s only chance at a solvent future is to undertake further, more fundamental structural reform.

A test of bipartisanship

President Barack Obama on Saturday nominated Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, to be the next attorney general. In so doing he set up an early test of whether Republicans are serious about governing in a spirit of cooperation.

We could be entering politics’ dark age

So-called dark-money groups spent 27 percent more on this year’s elections than they did in 2010, thanks to reckless Supreme Court decisions and regulatory failures allowing unlimited, undisclosed political contributions. The groups hide donors behind the tax code, disguising themselves as “social welfare” organizations. In fact, they are an increasingly powerful and poisonous political force.

Speeding up a trade deal

Now that Republicans have gained control of Congress, no policy area is riper for bipartisan action than trade. President Barack Obama’s trade representative, Michael Froman, is deeply engaged in trade-expansion talks with 11 Asia-Pacific nations, including Japan. A bipartisan legislative framework for speeding passage of a finished agreement has already been written.

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President should wait and see on immigration

The day after Republicans trounced Democrats in the midterm elections, leaders of both parties sent encouraging signals that they might work together better than they did during the last two dismal years. Presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised to get that chamber working again and to search for areas of agreement between a Republican Congress and President Barack Obama; he mentioned trade agreements and tax reform as priorities. Shortly afterward, Obama vowed to consider Republican ideas with an open mind and to reach out to McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, both of whom he will host at the White House today. The president, too, said he sees potential for agreement on trade and taxes, as well as on improving American infrastructure.

What will Republicans do with their victories?

Republicans collected a significant victory in Tuesday’s midterm elections, gaining control of the Senate to go with their control of the House. With that win comes an increased level of responsibility for the nation’s fortunes. They can no longer behave like a petty opposition party. If the GOP wants to prove before 2016 that it is better at governing than the Democrats, this is its chance to address a backlog of problems — to seek results, rather than continue to blame others for failure.

Verizon Wireless crosses the privacy line on Web browsing

Verizon Wireless, the country’s most popular mobile phone operator, has been quietly inserting into its customers’ Web browsing sessions an identifier unique to each device they use, making it possible for websites and advertising networks to build profiles of individual customers based on their browsing habits. What’s worse, even if Verizon’s subscribers happen to find out about this and ask the company to stop, it won’t.

Europe must stop squabbling and end its fiscal paralysis

Quarrels over European Union budget policy don’t amount to much in themselves. Yet they demonstrate a pathology whose importance is hard to exaggerate. If growth in the euro area is not restored, the future of the union itself will be in jeopardy. Instead of grappling with this, however, Europe’s leaders are endlessly engaged with trivialities.

Overdue justice for N. Koreans

The United Nations, so often inclined toward rhetoric instead of action, seems to be drawing closer to action to deal with the human rights disaster in North Korea. The latest welcome step was a report to a General Assembly committee Tuesday from Marzuki Darusman, the special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea. Darusman, an Indonesian jurist, called on the United Nations to ask the International Criminal Court to take up the matter on grounds that crimes against humanity have been committed. We agree.

A vote for compromise in the offing?

As next week’s midterm elections approach, Americans are in a dark mood. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, released Tuesday, reports that 68 percent of likely voters think that the country is “on the wrong track”; a CNN-ORC International poll that came out the same day says 68 percent are angry “about the way things are going in the country today.”