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Scotland’s epic vote

WASHINGTON — Tucking into a dish of Scottish haggis is not a task for the fainthearted. There are various haggis recipes, but basically it is sheep’s pluck — the heart, lungs and liver — cooked together, then mixed with suet and oatmeal and boiled in a sheep’s stomach, then served, sometimes drenched with Scotch. People who pour whisky on oatmeal are not shrinking violets. Remember this on Thursday when Scotland votes on independence from the United Kingdom.

Obama’s careful war

WASHINGTON — The most compelling and encouraging parts of President Barack Obama’s Islamic State speech — his intention to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the enemy, his pledge to hunt down its fighters and deny them “safe haven,” his moral clarity on their “acts of barbarism” — also sounded least like Obama. Everyone — and I mean just about everyone on the planet — knows that he was more comfortable declaring that America had moved “off a permanent war footing” and that the war on terrorism, “like all wars, must end.”

EU surprises Putin for once with new, sensible sanctions

For the first time since Russia annexed Crimea six months ago, the European Union has surprised President Vladimir Putin instead of the other way around. Despite a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, and despite Russia’s apparent withdrawal of troops from the region, the EU decided Thursday morning to impose new sanctions on Russia, starting Friday.

Alala program isn’t really something to crow about

Once again the environmental scientist types are bragging of their successes in rearing captive alala and feeding them with hand-held puppets allegedly so the chicks “imprint” themselves to what looks like their natural mother. But, do these artificial crows and their human counterparts speak “alala”? According to these scientists, once these captive-bred alala “imprint” to their captive surroundings, they will ultimately be released to the wild. It is no secret that anyone can get straight A’s in the classroom but out in the real world, alala-la-la … good luck. I predict the reintroduction of alala into the wild will be another “F” for the Fish and Wildlife Service at the wasted expense of our tax dollars. Keep in mind; they will not let up brainwashing you because their paycheck depends on it.

Police rake in bonanzas from people who have committed no crime

The police can take your car and everything in it — including the cash you are transporting to buy a used truck, a fixer-upper house or equipment for your restaurant — even if you’re not guilty of any crime. Getting your property back can take months and cost thousands. Sometimes authorities will offer to give those who complain half their money back, which makes little sense if the cash is free from association with a serious crime — or if it isn’t.

The new politics of foreign policy

WASHINGTON — Over the last decade, Americans’ views on foreign policy have swung sharply from support for intervention to a profound mistrust of any military engagement overseas. Over the same period, political debates on foreign affairs have been bitter and polarized, defined by the question of whether the invasion of Iraq was a proper use of the nation’s power or a catastrophic mistake.

The global complacency on Ebola must end

The Ebola epidemic now sweeping West Africa is a public health catastrophe, yet the world’s response has been to treat it like a faraway monsoon or volcano, perhaps frightening but not something that much can be done about. This complacency is wrong-headed and dangerous. The catastrophe is worsening by the day because of the actions and inactions of people, those on the ground and those far away.

Extremism in defense of re-election

WASHINGTON — Since Barry Goldwater, accepting the Republicans’ 1964 presidential nomination, said “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” Democrats have been decrying Republican “extremism.” Actually, although there is abundant foolishness and unseemliness in American politics, real extremism — measures or movements that menace the Constitution’s architecture of ordered liberty — is rare. This week, however, extremism stained the Senate.

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Obama beyond the sound bite

WASHINGTON — In 1937, Franklin Roosevelt went to Chicago to give one of the most celebrated speeches of his presidency. Pushing against isolationist sentiment, he condemned the “unjustified interference in the internal affairs of other nations” and “the invasion of alien territory in violation of treaties.”

Common Core makes states answer for dumbed-down education

There is nothing sacred about Common Core, the educational standards that are attracting renewed criticism as the school year begins. The standards, which are intended to ensure that students graduate from high school prepared to do college-level work, were not handed down from the heavens on stone tablets. They are a major improvement over previous standards in most states, but they remain a work in progress.

An eye on the Baltic States?

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State is a nasty problem that can be remedied if its neighbors, assisted by the United States, decide to do so. Vladimir Putin’s fascist revival is a crisis that tests the West’s capacity to decide.

Ukraine deserves support from NATO countries

As Russian soldiers and tanks advance across southeastern Ukraine, the Obama administration and the NATO alliance are making a show of defending several nations that lie far away and that are not presently under attack. President Barack Obama is due Wednesday in the Baltic republic of Estonia, and a NATO summit on Thursday and Friday is expected to approve several measures, including a new rapid-reaction force, to bolster the defenses of Estonia and other Eastern European nations that have joined NATO in the past 15 years.