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Opinion

Sewage disposal — a shared responsibility

The Nov. 19 issue of West Hawaii Today reported some residents of a Kona subdivision are objecting to sewer hook-up fees estimated at $19,000 in combined county plus contractor fees, plus monthly bills after connection. The Nov. 8 issue reported the county is having trouble collecting those bills, but is unable to suspend sewer service to delinquent customers. Previous articles and letters have reported widespread resistance to a proposed state policy that would require all property owners on cesspool to convert to septic upon sale of their properties.

In Ferguson, where next?

WASHINGTON — My hometown of St. Louis has given up its sad secrets. Journalists — like tourists taking in the sights of social dysfunction — have explored its courthouses, its speed traps, its racial tensions and its redlined housing history. Cable television has carried images of burning cars and tear gas, which better qualify as “breaking news” than clergy-led marches and civic dialogue. From the coverage, one would think a whole city walks on broken glass. Perhaps it does.

Fighting facts with fear in Russia

President Vladimir Putin has re-established dictatorship in Russia with a veneer of legality. The veneer doesn’t fool anyone who pays attention, nor is it really intended to do so; Putin prefers to rule through fear. But the pretense gives some cover to Putin’s apologists in the West and provides material for his increasingly surreal and aggressive propaganda campaign.

Thanks, or something

WASHINGTON — Before the tryptophan in the turkey induces somnolence, give thanks for living in such an entertaining country. This year, for example, we learned that California’s Legislature includes 93 individuals who seem never to have had sex. They enacted the “affirmative consent” law directing college administrators to tell students sexual consent cannot be silence but must be “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement” and “ongoing throughout a sexual activity.” Claremont McKenna College requires “all” — not “both,” which would discriminate against groups — participants in a sexual engagement to understand withdrawal of consent can be any behavior conveying “that an individual is hesitant, confused, uncertain.”

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.

‘Emperor’ Obama’s immigration frustration

Republican fury over President Barack Obama’s drastic executive action on immigration distracts from the most obvious solution: the sensible compromise senators from both parties passed more than 500 days ago, only to have it bottled up by Speaker John Boehner in the House.

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.

Judge’s decision does not protect the public

We have judges and the justice system to protect the public. We need protection both from people who steal property valued at $495,000, as well as from judges who cannot fulfill their responsibilities to protect the public from such theft. If judges cannot properly serve the public, then they are part of our problem by encouraging such criminal behavior.

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.

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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.

A murderer’s warped idealism

WASHINGTON — Western reflection about human nature and the politics of the human condition began with the sunburst of ancient Greece 2,500 years ago, but lurched into a new phase 70 years ago with the liberation of the Nazi extermination camps. The Holocaust is the dark sun into which humanity should stare, lest troubling lessons be lost through an intellectual shrug about “the unfathomable.”

Help your community improve health care

Every month we will bring you a column on community initiatives to improve the well-being of the people of Hawaii Island. Along with the state and the nation, we have serious challenges in providing quality medical care and improving the health of our population, while bending the medical cost trend downwards. This is often referred to as the “triple aim” in health care: better quality, better health and lower costs. To achieve any of these three aims, we must work on all three, or we will achieve none.

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.