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Holding firm on Ukraine

Western leaders boast that the sanctions slapped on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine are inflicting real pain, and that’s true — even if Russia’s macroeconomic indicators still don’t look worse than those of France, Italy or even Germany. But there’s no indication that the punishment is having a salutary effect on Vladimir Putin. In a quick but high-profile trip to meet leaders in Milan last week, the Russian ruler was no more disposed than he has been to retreat from Ukraine or his larger neoimperialist agenda.

Gillespie’s plan would be worse than Affordable Care Act

Republicans calling for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, are a dime a dozen. Fewer offer a plan to replace the law with something they claim would work better. To his credit, Virginia’s Ed Gillespie, a GOP Senate candidate, is in the more select group. Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent, Sen. Mark Warner, favors tweaking the law without upsetting its framework.

Putin should worry about the price of oil, not ‘blackmail’

Last week, as falling oil prices have hammered the Russian economy, President Vladimir Putin has warned repeatedly that his country, a nuclear superpower, must not be “blackmailed.” He was talking about economic sanctions, but there is a different lesson he should be drawing right now and it has nothing to do with the United States or the European Union.

Ebola is no one’s ‘fault’

The ebola virus reached this country at the height of the 2014 campaign, so perhaps it was inevitable that the political parties would try to exploit it. To Republicans, the situation proves once again that President Barack Obama has failed to protect Americans. In one of the milder versions of this allegation, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal published an op-ed faulting Obama for spending Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources on grants for exercise and healthy diets rather than fighting infectious disease. Some Democrats say, meanwhile, that we wouldn’t have to worry about Ebola if not for budget cuts to the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, for which the GOP alone is to blame. As one especially inflammatory TV ad puts it: “Republican cuts kill.”

Yemen unravels

President Barack Obama cited Yemen as a model for U.S. operations against the Islamic State last month, not long after he told an interviewer that the intervention in Libya was his greatest foreign policy regret. In fact, the two countries offer similar lessons in the deficiencies of Obama’s strategy. By backing local forces with airpower in Libya, the United States and its allies were able to overthrow a murderous regime — but, as Obama acknowledged, the failure to assist with building a state afterward has facilitated Libya’s collapse into chaos.

Overcoming the ‘new mediocre’

It’s never wise to base policy on the gyrations of the stock market, but the sell-off on Wall Street this week reflects investors’ increasing nervousness about global economic growth — and their fears are not unfounded. To the contrary, the International Monetary Fund’s forecasters describe the global recovery as “disappointing” and “uneven” and have reduced their 2014 growth projection for the world economy downward, from 3.7 percent in April to 3.4 percent now. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde warns of a “new mediocre” in economic performance. Behind that lapidary phrase is a human reality of joblessness, stagnant wages and frustrated hopes.

A square deal in Hong Kong

Pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong persist in part because of the self-defeating way local authorities — and their masters in Beijing — have responded to them. More than once the encampments on downtown streets have started to dwindle as unfinished schoolwork and sleep-deprivation take their toll on the middle-class student protesters. Then authorities dispatch police or groups of thugs to attack barricades, as happened on Monday and again on Tuesday. Or they abruptly announce the cancellation of talks they had previously agreed to, as happened last week. In each case, the response has been a resurgence of people to the streets and the erection of new blockades.

Federal government gets sued for saving AIG

Former Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke found himself facing tough questioning in a federal courtroom last week, and he seemed “none too pleased about it,” as the Wall Street Journal put it. Bernanke’s interrogator was a lawyer for Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former chief executive (and a major shareholder) of insurance giant AIG, who is suing the U.S. government on the grounds that its 2008 bailout of the firm violated his constitutional rights. Bernanke has said that the rescue of AIG, which ultimately involved $182 billion in government commitments, was a necessary evil that he and the Bush administration undertook only because AIG’s collapse would have imperiled the world economy. By his apparent demeanor in the courtroom, Bernanke communicated annoyance at Greenberg’s attempt to punish this good deed — and we don’t blame him.

Chinese leaders should allow Hong Kong voters more choice

With Hong Kong protest leaders calling their supporters out onto the streets again, there’s good reason to doubt whether talks with the government that were expected Friday will ever take place, let alone whether they could accomplish anything. Protesters’ demands for full democracy remain irreconcilable with Beijing’s decree that only China loyalists be allowed to stand for the city’s top office. Between those positions, however, lie solutions that could give Hong Kongers what they deserve: a freer choice of leaders. It would be foolish not to explore them, and soon.

Pay workers for time spent at security checkpoint

Imagine you’ve finished your shift, left your workstation, and as you exit the building you have to wait an additional 20 or 25 minutes to clear a security checkpoint set up by your employer to ensure that you aren’t stealing anything. Should you be paid for that time as part of your workday?

Reining in pensions

Here are the facts of life about the American public sector: Citizens depend on local government for vital services, from education to parks; the quantity and quality of those services depend directly on how many tax dollars are available to pay for them; and insofar as those resources are already committed to pensions and other forms of deferred compensation for public employees, they can’t be used to maintain and enhance services in the here and now.

IMF sends an urgent message about global recovery

If anyone was unaware of the challenges facing the global economy, the International Monetary Fund lays them out well in a new report. The extraordinary stimulus efforts of some of the world’s largest central banks haven’t been enough to produce a healthy global recovery and could be setting the stage for another financial disaster.

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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.”

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.

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.

Home Depot’s breach should spur us to fight cyberattacks vigilantly

Home Depot, which calls itself “the world’s largest home improvement retailer,” can add a new distinction. It is now the scene of the world’s largest known theft of consumer credit card information. A cyberattack has put at risk the data of about 56 million customers between April and September. This exceeds the approximately 40 million credit accounts breached at Target stores, the previous all-time high.

Provide Ukraine with the military aid it needs to deter Russia’s aggression

For the sake of the cameras, President Barack Obama assured Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at a White House meeting Thursday that “not only do we support Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence in words, but we’ve also been supporting it in deeds.” If only that were true. The reality is that the beleaguered Ukrainian leader left Washington backed by considerable rhetoric from the Obama administration but little with which he can turn back the continuing Russian aggression against his country.

The economy is improving, but not everyone is sharing in the better times

Amid other good news about the U.S. economy — a declining unemployment rate, lower child poverty — the Federal Reserve has just reported that the net worth of U.S. households rose $1.4 trillion, to $81.5 trillion, during the second quarter of 2014. This means that families’ assets, such as homes and stocks, have risen roughly $23 trillion in value since the depths of the “Great Recession” in 2009. Credit the market on Wall Street and recovering real estate prices, both partly attributable to the Fed’s easy-money policies.

Immigration stutter-steps

President Barack Obama’s zigs and zags in pursuit of immigration reform are a long-unfolding narrative now assuming epic dimensions. In the latest installment, Obama has postponed the unilateral reforms he promised to have unveiled by now. He did so not for any high-minded purpose but rather to avoid dealing mortal blows to the re-election of a handful of Democratic senators who begged the president to hold off.

Finally combating Ebola

With people dying in the streets of the Liberian capital, President Barack Obama has at last ramped up the U.S. response to the worst outbreak ever of the Ebola virus in West Africa. The fresh surge of support announced Tuesday represents a welcome change of course. No one knows if the package outlined by Obama at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be sufficient, but at least the United States has started to act like the world’s indispensable nation.