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Editorial

U.S. needs fresh ideas for a new kind of unemployment

The U.S. labor market is still a long way from healed. The unemployment rate of 6.1 percent, down from 10 percent in 2009, is misleading: Long-term unemployment accounts for a much bigger share of the total than usual. Millions who would like full-time jobs are having to work part time. And millions more have given up looking for work and are no longer part of the count.

The heavy burden of college aid

Return on investment is a clear measure of what you get for your money. Incredibly, the federal government doesn’t apply that simple concept to the $137 billion a year it spends on college financial aid.

Widening the loopholes for business

This past week, two more U.S. companies moved to re-establish themselves overseas, allowing them to pursue lower corporate tax rates. They will join dozens of others who have chased lower tax bills abroad while maintaining operations in the United States, benefiting from the U.S. business climate, legal stability and research investments without helping to pay for these advantages. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pressed Congress on Tuesday to close the avenues in U.S. law that allow companies to evade corporate taxes by moving to foreign countries.

Downing aircraft a heinous crime

In recent days there has been abundant evidence of Russia stepping up supplies of heavy weapons to rebels in eastern Ukraine, including advanced anti-aircraft systems. The Kiev government reported that two of its military aircraft were shot down in the past week, either by separatists, Russian planes or batteries operating from across the border. On Thursday came a greater tragedy: the destruction of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet with 298 people aboard. Ukrainian authorities charged that it had been struck by a missile fired by a Russian-made surface-to-air battery supplied to Moscow’s Ukrainian proxies.

No relief on the debt

Washington has taken an indefinite break from the budget debate that marked the early part of this decade. No one’s expecting a grand bargain any time soon. Nor a small bargain, nor even serious incremental reform. Deficits have come down from their historic highs during the Great Recession and its aftermath. Health care costs have not risen as quickly in the last few years, helping to right the country’s fiscal balance and making the long-term budget outlook a bit more manageable.

Enough with these highway-spending gimmicks from Congress

It’s not quite fair to call this a do-nothing Congress. It’s really a do-the-bare-minimum-at-the-last-possible-moment-to-keep-the-country-from-actually-collapsing Congress. The handling of the Highway Trust Fund provides the latest master class in this debauched style of government.

‘Dental therapists’ could give more Americans the care they need

In 2009, 830,000 visits to emergency rooms around the country could have been prevented if the patients had seen a dentist earlier. In 2011, more than half of children on Medicaid went without dental care. These facts lie behind the story of Deamonte Driver, a Prince George’s County, Md., seventh-grader who died of a preventable infection that spread from his mouth to his brain in 2007. Maryland pushed through some reforms following Deamonte’s death, but the situation across the country has not dramatically improved.

Latest Fed minutes misunderstood by investors again

The gap between what the Federal Reserve says about monetary policy and what investors think it’s saying would be funny if it weren’t so important. Most of this gap is the listeners’ fault — but not all. The Fed could do a better job of explaining itself.

New Jersey’s experiment worth trying

New Jersey’s Senate approved a raise in the legal smoking age from 19 to 21 last week, pushing the groundbreaking experiment in public health one step closer to fruition. The bill, which the General Assembly will consider in the fall, would make New Jersey the first state to prohibit the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to anyone younger than 21. It is designed to cut teenage exposure to tobacco, since about 90 percent of regular smokers have their first cigarette before turning 18. A few localities, such as New York City and the Hawaii County, already raised the age.

Douse the fire in Gaza

The latest mini-war between Israel and the Hamas movement is as unwinnable for either side as previous rounds in 2009 and 2012. Though it has stockpiled thousands of rockets and some longer-range missiles, Hamas lacks the ability to inflict serious damage or casualties; a new anti-missile system has blocked most of the warheads headed toward Tel Aviv and other populous areas. Israel, for its part, can target Hamas commanders and infrastructure in Gaza but probably can’t entirely silence the rocket launchers. A ground invasion of Gaza, for which troops are now being mustered, would cause heavy casualties and, if it destroyed Hamas, leave Israel with the task of governing the territory and its nearly 2 million people.

Patience needed in Donetsk

Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s chocolate-magnate president, has been having unaccustomed success in rolling back separatists in the eastern regions of the country. Now, however, as pro-Russians regroup in Donetsk, the region’s largest and most prosperous city, he needs to pause.

Yellen, Fed should fight inflation hawks with facts

The U.S. economy added a whopping 288,000 jobs in June — even better than expected. Unemployment dipped to 6.1 percent, the lowest since September 2008. The major stock market indexes are setting almost-daily records. Manufacturing is booming. Housing is rebounding. Consumers are spending. Even General Motors eked out a sales increase last month.

A study not to ‘like’

Facebook’s study on emotional contagion may not have broken laws, but it has exposed the unfettered power of big data companies grounded in opaque user policies.

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Giving us hope for the oceans

Humanity depends on the oceans, but their worsening state gets little attention. Good for Secretary of State John F. Kerry, then, for trying to elevate the issue last week in an international oceans conference in Washington. The conference produced a billion dollars in pledges for ocean programs, promises from other nations to better protect their marine ecosystems and the news that President Barack Obama will set aside a vast portion of U.S. waters in the central Pacific for ecological conservation. That’s all to the good. But the health of the oceans — sources of employment, recreation and food for billions — depends on what Kerry and those like him can get other nations to do.

Iraqi Kurds deserve more independence, not their own state

In the lightning takeover of swaths of Iraq by Sunni jihadists, primarily the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, one beneficiary is already clear: the Kurds. The Kurdish Peshmerga, easily the most disciplined military in the country, has filled a vacuum left by the flight of the Iraqi military in many areas, especially those considered historically Kurdish. Never has the dream of an independent Kurdish state been closer.

Solving border crisis

This country benefits from a healthy, legal flow of fresh talent and energy from all over the world. For that, a comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration laws, including a path to legalized status for those already here illegally, is essential.

A victory for tolerance

Shortly after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced Wednesday that it was canceling the Washington Redskins’ trademark registration because the team name disparages Native Americans, team owner Dan Snyder waved off a reporter’s question about the decision and walked away. Snyder plans to appeal; even if he loses, he won’t be barred from using the Redskins name. But Snyder would be smart to take this as an opportunity. He is kidding himself if he thinks concerns about the continued use of an offensive name can be waved away as easily as a reporter’s question.

Scalia’s uncommon sense on straw purchases of guns

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has just slyly pointed out how crazy U.S. gun laws are. Scalia’s typically scathing dissent in the court’s 5-4 decision this week prohibiting straw buyers from purchasing guns, along with the majority’s suspiciously reasonable opinion, exposes Congress’s legislative failure.

A smarter way to help students

It’s an election year, and Democrats are loudly decrying the cost of higher education and demanding the government spend more to cut student debt. The Senate on Wednesday rejected one of their less-sensible ideas. But there are better ones that lawmakers should embrace.

Red card for FIFA

As the World Cup kicked off in Brazil Thursday, its governing body found itself mired in controversy surrounding the tournament eight years down the road.

Just what are Obama’s options in Iraq?

President Barack Obama said Thursday that the administration was considering “all options,” including military action, to help the government of Iraq fend off advancing Sunni Muslim extremists. But we would be surprised — and disappointed — if the administration injected American forces into a conflict from which the U.S. finally extricated itself only three years ago. Ominous as they are, this week’s developments justify neither American boots on the ground nor airstrikes carried out by American pilots.

The Iraq ‘success’

For years, President Barack Obama has been claiming credit for “ending wars,” when, in fact, he was pulling the United States out of wars that were far from over. Now the pretense is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain.

Want to help protect women worldwide? Apparently, Congress doesn’t

Recently, two girls, aged 14 and 15, were gang-raped in the poverty-stricken Uttar Pradesh state of India. They were later found dead, hanging from the branches of a mango tree. In Pakistan late last month, family members of a pregnant woman beat her to death with bricks and clubs outside a Lahore courthouse for marrying a man of her choice instead of the cousin her family preferred. Last February, in conflict-ravaged South Sudan, 20 women in the Mayendit region were raped by soldiers. Then the soldiers urinated into victims’ mouths, according to an eyewitness.