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Editorial

Containing Ebola means sending masks and gowns, not drugs

The question of how to fairly distribute scarce doses of experimental Ebola treatments is capturing the world’s attention. Yet the fate of the epidemic doesn’t rest on getting these expensive and unproven drugs to the afflicted African countries. What medical teams there need most are protective masks, goggles, gloves, gowns and boots.

Put brakes on auto-lending bubble before it bursts

The U.S. auto market is booming, with new car sales on track to hit 16.5 million in 2014, the best year since 2006. On the whole, this is great for the economy, since more demand for cars means more jobs in automobile manufacturing, sales and service. It’s a plus for the environment, too, since the average fuel efficiency of new cars is rising. There’s just one catch, though, and it’s a pretty big one: The car boom might be a bubble.

Into a new void?

WASHINGTON — This far into the human story, only the historically uninstructed are startled by what they think are new permutations of evil. So, when Russia sliced Crimea off Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry was nonplussed: “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.” If, however, Vladimir Putin is out of step with the march of progress, where exactly on history’s inevitably ascending path (as progressives like Kerry evidently think) does Kerry, our innocent abroad, locate the Islamic State?

Africa’s shift

Even while irrational fears about Ebola’s spread to the United States swirled, the three-day Africa summit in Washington this last week managed to crystallize the continent’s continued evolution from a beneficiary of U.S. aid and security interventions to a partner in trade.

Obama’s authorization of Iraq airstrikes isn’t connected to a coherent strategy

President Barack Obama was right to order military action to prevent a potential genocide in northern Iraq and to stop forces of the al-Qaida-derived Islamic State from advancing on Baghdad or the Kurdish capital of Irbil. However, the steps the president authorized on Thursday amount to more of his administration’s half-measures, narrowly tailored to this week’s emergency and unconnected to any coherent strategy to address the conflagration spreading across the Middle East.

The growing scourge of cybercrime demands action from Congress

The scale of cybercrime continues to astonish. The latest eye-opener is a Milwaukee security firm’s claim that Russian hackers stole 1.2 billion usernames and related passwords. This must be one of the biggest hauls of all time, and while it is not clear what the hackers intend to do with their stolen data, the report should serve as another wake-up call to Congress and the American people to break out of their long period of complacency.

Looking away from Libya

Three years after U.S. and NATO forces helped liberate Libya from the dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi, the country is beginning to look a lot like another nation where an abrupt U.S. disengagement following a civil war led to chaos: Afghanistan in the 1990s. In Libya, heavily armed militias are battling for control of Tripoli and Benghazi as well as the international airport. The United States, France and other Western governments involved in the 2011 military intervention have evacuated their diplomats and abandoned their embassies. A U.N. mission that was supposed to help broker political accords also left.

Movement on Medicare

For years, lawmakers, policy experts and journalists have fretted about the explosive growth of health care spending. Would the United States ever find a way to “bend the curve” on economic charts that projected seemingly endless growth in health care’s share of the gross domestic product and, consequently, uncontrolled expansion of federal spending on health-care entitlement programs?

Inverting tax policy

One campaign 2014 kerfuffle concerns the previously arcane issue of “inversion,” the process by which a U.S. corporation merges with a foreign one so as to pay taxes at the other country’s lower rates. If ever a tax loophole were designed to provoke inflammatory rhetoric, this is it. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., labeled a recent wave of corporate reflaggings a “plague”; Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew took to The Washington Post’s op-ed page to demand “economic patriotism.” For their part, Republicans are playing this as a simple story of corporate escape from the allegedly oppressive U.S. corporate tax rate.

CIA spying on its own overseers suggests a deeper problem

A strange and convoluted fight between the Central Intelligence Agency and its ostensible overseers in Congress has reached a zenith of sorts. A report by the CIA’s inspector general has concluded that the agency’s employees had improperly spied on a computer network used by a Senate committee. That committee just so happened to be investigating the CIA.

A shameful abdication

Opting for the preposterous when summoned to do the practical, House Republicans rallied Wednesday behind a measure to sue President Obama, then threw up their hands Thursday when called on to resolve the crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors streaming across the southwestern border. Having postponed its planned Friday adjournment, the House now faces the choice of redeeming itself by acting on the humanitarian emergency or slinking away in disgrace.

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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.

‘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.

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.