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2014 and the limits of rage

WASHINGTON — The short-term future of politics in the nation’s capital will be determined in large part by which party ends up in control of the Senate. But for a sense of the long-term future of politics in the country as a whole, watch the governors races.

EPA’s limits on emissions important but not enough

The country is about to see its fiercest climate-change battle. After years of congressional inaction, the Environmental Protection Agency is applying new rules to curb greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, trucks and — most controversially — power plants, the biggest national emitters. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he will try to restrict the EPA if Republicans take over the Senate. President Barack Obama’s executive actions will be an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Navy with a mission in mind

WASHINGTON — Russia’s ongoing dismemberment of Ukraine and the Islamic State’s erasing of Middle Eastern borders have distracted attention from the harassment of U.S. Navy aircraft by Chinese fighter jets over the South China Sea. Beijing calls this sea, and the Yellow and East China seas, the “near seas,” meaning China’s seas. The episodes involving aircraft are relevant to one of Adm. Jonathan Greenert’s multiplying preoccupations — CUES, meaning Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.

In defense of the defenders

WASHINGTON — What is called “the” 1964 Civil Rights Act is justly celebrated for outlawing racial and other discrimination in employment, “public accommodations” and elsewhere. But that year’s second civil rights act, the Criminal Justice Act, which is 50 years old this month, is, some say, largely a failure because of unanticipated changes in the legal and social context. Is it?

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.

Too detached to lead?

WASHINGTON — Having once served a president, I don’t begrudge any president a vacation. There is, in fact, no escape from this relentless job. A change of scenery does not involve a change in responsibilities, or even a release from the essence of the president’s routine. The intelligence briefings stalk him. Presidential respites are measured in hours, not days or weeks — say, a few hours on a golf course. And the public would be selfish and shortsighted to demand those downtime hours, which are necessary for humans to function.

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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.

Ebola fever

WASHINGTON — A prominent AIDS researcher recently recalled for me the panic at the start of the pandemic in the 1980s. Her superiors asked her not to publicize her work because they didn’t want their institution to be known as an “AIDS hospital.” Some parents instructed their children at school not to play with the researcher’s children, because she was in contact with the AIDS virus. Fear and stigma were only overcome by the relentless application of science.

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?