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Use of force by police a growing problem. Or is it?

Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson, Missouri, Wednesday to assure the community that the federal government will be taking an active role in the investigation of the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. But Brown’s death raises larger questions about the use of force by police that Holder and President Barack Obama need to confront.

Doubling down on failure

When President Obama announced in 2011 the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq, he was sanguine about that nation’s future. U.S. soldiers could be “proud of their success,” he said, and he was “confident” that Iraqis would “build a future worthy of their history as a cradle of civilization.”

Islamic State must be stopped

Americans awoke Wednesday to a gruesome video, showing an Islamic State executioner beheading James Foley, an American. A grim President Barack Obama interrupted his vacation to condemn this act of savagery, aptly calling the Islamic State “a cancer” that must be eradicated.

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.

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Congress should act to close the metadata gaps

Of all of Edward Snowden’s revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency, the most unsettling was that the government was accumulating vast numbers of records about the telephone calls of American citizens. In May, the House approved a bill that would end the bulk collection of so-called telephone metadata, but time is running out for the Senate to approve a similar — and we hope stronger — version of the legislation.

Keeping Cold War buried

International outrage over the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane over Ukraine on July 17 does not appear to have affected either the actions of pro-Russia forces in that country or the material support Russia is offering the rebels. On Wednesday, the separatists apparently shot down two Ukrainian warplanes flying near the border with Russia. Then on Thursday, the U.S. accused Russia of firing artillery from its territory into Ukraine.

Tunnel vision in Mideast

The distinguishing feature of the latest war between Israel and Hamas is “offensive tunnels,” as the Israeli army calls them. As of early Wednesday, 28 had been uncovered in Gaza, and nearly half extend into Israel, according to Israeli officials. The tunnels are the reason that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu decided last weekend to launch a ground invasion of Gaza, and they explain why that operation has strong support from Israelis in spite of the relatively heavy casualties it has inflicted. Most significantly, the tunnels show why it has been difficult to reach a cease-fire and why any accord must forge a new political and security order in Gaza.

Take the cool out of Kools

To buy cigarettes in Australia, you have to pick up a dull green package plastered with photos of a shriveled infant, a blackened lung or an old man with a tracheotomy hole in his throat. You also need to look closely because the only difference among brands is the name in a small, prescribed font on the bottom quarter of the pack. This arrangement, implemented in 2012, made Australia the first nation both to require graphic images and ban enticing logos on cigarette packs.

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.

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.