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Blind ideological justice

WASHINGTON — Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens captured our ideal when he wrote of the judge as “an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

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.

Goldwater 2.0

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Fifty Julys ago, up the road near San Francisco, in the unfortunately named Cow Palace, the Republican National Convention gave its presidential nomination to Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who knew he would lose: Americans were not going to have a third president in 14 months. Besides, his don’t-fence-me-in libertarian conservatism was ahead of its time. His agenda, however, was to change his party’s national brand.

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.

Vote fraud myths meet voting rights reality

Before she was allowed to register and vote for the first time in Franklin County, N.C., Rosanell Eaton had to read the entire preamble to the U.S. Constitution out loud in front of three men in the county courthouse.

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 dystopia next door

WASHINGTON — In 1993, Lois Lowry wrote a slim book for youth about totalitarianism, euthanasia, suicide, sexual awakening and infanticide. “The Giver” created a blooming genre — the dystopian youth novel — and considerable controversy. Some parents wanted the book banned from schools, thus unintentionally re-asking the book’s central question: How comprehensively should children (and other humans) be protected from risk and pain?

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.

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‘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.

Corrupting citizens for fun and profit

WASHINGTON — Two of the larger social trends of our time — the growth of payday gambling and the legalization of marijuana — have two things in common: They are justified as the expansion of personal liberty and they serve the interests of an expanding government.