From the Publisher: Around the World

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Arnold G. York

Locally

Reversing the usual direction, I’m beginning locally because there is a serious issue and much fear that there might be a cancer cluster at Malibu High School. Three of the teachers have been diagnosed with a similar type of cancer, while some others have been having migraines. Before anyone panics, we need a very quick and transparent investiga tion and scientific analysis of the situation by independent scientific experts. The school district is moving quickly to engage an environmental firm, and I suspect the teachers union and California OSHA will do the same. We should have some basic answers relatively quickly about whether or not we should continue to use certain buildings on the campus, and thereafter deal with the larger scientific questions about what’s happening. I think the city should also hire its own independent expert to monitor the investigation and report to the citizens of Malibu. It’s important that we take our time and do the investigations carefully, not just jump into a panic mode. These things are not always as they first appear.

Statewide

The legislature gave the OK and the Governor signed a bill that will allow undocumented immigrants to get an official ID. It’s not quite a driver’s license, but it may help to eliminate undocumented immigrants having their cars impounded or stored as a result of traffic stops, which resulted in some of them losing their vehicles because of fees they couldn’t pay. A number of law enforcement agencies thought this was a good idea and backed it.

At the same time, as Brown signed a liberalization of the driver ID law, in another respect, he drew the line at letting noncitizens sit on juries and vetoed the bill that would have allowed it.

Nationally

In the nation’s capital, we appear to be engaged in a gigantic game of chicken; a game that could have serious economic con sequences. At first, pundits were predicting that we’d work something out and we’d never allow the government to be closed down. Turned out they were wrong and we are closed down, but unless you’re a federal worker, that’s perhaps only an inconvenience, at least for now.

The much bigger problem is the debt ceiling, because if it passes the drop-dead date of Oct. 17, a week away, the economic consequences could be horrendous. No one can say for sure what the consequences will be, because it’s never happened before. The stock market could take a major dive, interest rates could rise significantly, and our national breakdown could precipitate another global meltdown. The problem is that nobody knows. Understandably, people are skeptical. Everyone oversold the impact of sequestration and now the population is dubious, but I suspect this really is different. If we don’t raise the debt ceiling, the entire global financial world is going to decide what happens next, and in large measure control will pass out of our hands into the larger world.

I’m disturbed because I think both the House leadership and the White House are painting themselves into a corner without any clear path to getting out. Maybe this is the time to agree to a short extension of the ceiling and then to sit down again and retry working out a global deal. They came close a couple of years ago before the deal self-destructed. In any global deal, both sides have to win something and lose something, or it’s never going to happen. Both sides have to be willing to take some political risks. If they don’t, everything is going to stay in suspended animation until the 2014 elections, and by then it may be much too late.

Internationally

I think we’re beginning to see an international consensus building about Syria. The only outcome that makes any sense is that nobody wins. By default, Syria is going to split into pieces, with Assad getting a piece, the rebels getting a piece, and the rebels splitting into separate and hostile factions. No government or organization can officially say we’re going to let them go on killing each other for as long as they want to and we’re not going to interfere, but that appears to be the emerging consensus. We’ll supply certain factions, the Russians another faction, the Iranians a fac tion, and we’ll all just wait until they get tired and start looking for a way out. It’s cynical, but no one is anxious to send in troops, no matter what the circumstances, and there is certainly no desire in the USA to continue on as the world’s cops.