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Twitter as America’s conscience

WASHINGTON — Denizens of social media were rankled during Sunday night’s Academy Awards telecast when actor Sean Penn made a crack about Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and green cards.

US needs to rework its byzantine food safety system

The job of keeping our food wholesome has become more difficult as food itself has become more complicated. Because processed foods include ingredients from many sources, it is hard to trace the origin of pathogens. A package of ground beef, for instance, is no longer put together by a butcher pushing a single hunk of meat through a grinder; these days it includes trimmings from many cattle and multiple slaughterhouses. That means even a small quantity of meat contaminated with E. coli has the potential to taint tremendous amounts of hamburger meat sent out across the country.

Reversing course in Illinois

CHICAGO — The most portentous election of 2014, which gave the worst-governed state its first Republican governor in 12 years, has initiated this century’s most intriguing political experiment. Illinois has favored Democratic presidential candidates by an average of 16 points in the last six elections. But by electing businessman Bruce Rauner, it initiated a process that might dismantle a form of governance that afflicts many states and municipalities.

Wasted energy on pipeline

Climate change warriors of all stripes were focused on the White House on Tuesday, where President Barack Obama vetoed a bill that would have authorized construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Like all the other attention slathered on this overblown issue, the focus was misplaced. It would have been better placed on the Capitol, where Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., without much fanfare, reintroduced a bill that would address the nation’s greenhouse-gas emissions in a serious way.

Illogical governing

Whatever its merits or shortcomings, a federal judge’s decision last week blocking the Obama administration’s immigration policy offered congressional Republicans an escape path from the corner into which they had painted themselves by imperiling funding for the Department of Homeland Security and its 240,000 employees. Thus far they have not shown the wisdom to accept this gift.

The fragility of life’s greatest gift

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — At a health center here, a young woman is in the recovery room after a cesarean section. A nurse takes the newborn to a table for cleanup. We (a group organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies) are allowed to enter and see the child. But the newborn girl starts struggling for breath. Three more nurses enter. One briefly applies bag-and-mask ventilation. Yet her breathing grows weaker and weaker, as she turns a horrible shade of gray.

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The FCC needs to do as much as it can to whittle down Title II

Since the Federal Communications Commission set out to preserve the free and open nature of the Internet more than a decade ago, there’s never been a question about the importance of that goal. Instead, the often bitter debate has been over how to achieve it. The latest proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler — to impose the strictest rules yet on Internet service providers, including mobile networks — will almost certainly draw challenges in the courts and from Republicans in Congress. But Wheeler and his allies make a persuasive case that the more permissive approach favored by Comcast, AT&T and other ISPs won’t protect consumers and competition in the long run.

Education is the business of the states

WASHINGTON — In 1981, Tennessee’s 41-year-old governor proposed to President Ronald Reagan a swap: Washington would fully fund Medicaid and the states would have complete responsibility for primary and secondary education. Reagan, a former governor, was receptive. But Democrats, who controlled the House and were beginning to be controlled by teachers unions (the largest, the National Education Association, had bartered its first presidential endorsement, of Jimmy Carter, for creation of the Department of Education) balked.

How patient should Fed be in raising interest rates? Very

With a pretty solid recovery now under way and the unemployment rate way down from its recession-era peak, the Federal Reserve is wondering when to start raising interest rates. It has said it will be “patient” — which investors have taken to mean “not before the middle of this year.” That might not be patient enough.

Seeking a vaccine for ignorance

WASHINGTON — Flashback: Galileo is under house arrest pondering the unyielding ignorance of The Church for refusing to consider his heliocentric proposition that the Earth circled the sun.

A TPP reality check

As the Obama administration and a Republican-majority Congress work toward eventual approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations, opponents of the proposed pact are issuing increasingly shrill warnings. The latest is that the deal will endanger not only U.S. jobs but also U.S. health care — and health care around the world. According to the critics, U.S. efforts to protect the pharmaceutical industry’s intellectual-property rights and commercial interests could result in higher drug prices and lower access — not only along the Pacific Rim but also in the United States. The TPP means “worse health and unnecessary deaths,” Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, warns.