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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.

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.

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.

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.”

Obamacare, beyond the label

WASHINGTON — The Affordable Care Act was supposed to be a slam dunk issue for the Republicans in this fall’s elections. Karl Rove told us so in April, writing that “Obamacare is and will remain a political problem for Democrats.”

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CIA spying on its own overseers suggests a deeper problem

A strange and convoluted fight between the Central Intelligence Agency and its ostensible overseers in Congress has reached a zenith of sorts. A report by the CIA’s inspector general has concluded that the agency’s employees had improperly spied on a computer network used by a Senate committee. That committee just so happened to be investigating the CIA.

A progressive with punch

WASHINGTON — If Ohio’s senior senator were named Sharon Brown instead of Sherrod Brown, progressives would have a plausible political pin-up and a serious alternative to the tawdry boredom of Hillary Clinton’s joyless plod toward her party’s presidential nomination. Drop one of Brown’s consonants and change another, and a vowel, and we might be spared the infatuation of what Howard Dean called “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

A shameful abdication

Opting for the preposterous when summoned to do the practical, House Republicans rallied Wednesday behind a measure to sue President Obama, then threw up their hands Thursday when called on to resolve the crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors streaming across the southwestern border. Having postponed its planned Friday adjournment, the House now faces the choice of redeeming itself by acting on the humanitarian emergency or slinking away in disgrace.