The Washington Post - 13.08.2019

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A16 EZ RE THE WASHINGTON POST.TUESDAY, AUGUST 13 , 2019


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

letters@washpost.com

TAKING EXCEPTION

H


ONG KONG’S political battleground has ex-
panded. Protesters who in June demanded
cancellation of an extradition bill that would
make it easier for suspects to be transferred
to mainland China are now asking for greater democ-
racy and an investigation of police brutality. The
demonstrators have shifted tactics, too, from sprawl-
ing marches to smaller, unpredictable flash-mobs, as
well as intrusions such as the airport protest on
Monday that led to massive flight cancellations.
China’s leadership has misread the situation from the
start. Time to get this right.
China gained control over Hong Kong from Eng-
land in 1997, pledging autonomy for a city that has
come to define capitalism and freedom in Asia. Gradu-
ally, China has been whittling down those liberties,
including by suppressing the “Umbrella Movement”
in 2014, refusing to allow direct elections for chief
executive, kidnapping five Hong Kong booksellers
and attempting to impose the extradition bill. When
protests erupted over the extradition proposal, Hong
Kong leader Carrie Lam should have immediately
canceled it. Instead, Ms. Lam, more sensitive to the

demands of her overlords in Beijing than to the values
that underlie Hong Kong’s success, tried to sidestep
the issue with some obfuscation. It didn’t work.
Another miscalculation was to assume that the
protests would simply flare out. The protests are a
political groundswell, a reflection of genuine popular
anger and commitment to democracy. But authorities
treated the protesters as “terrorists” and “rioters,” a
law enforcement problem to be handled by the Hong
Kong police, who have repeatedly overreacted, in-
cluding this weekend when they fired tear gas into a
subway station and were discovered using undercov-
er officers to infiltrate the demonstrators. In re-
sponse, some protesters have turned more violent,
unwisely resorting to vandalism, throwing bricks and
a petrol bomb, and disruption.
Yet another mistake of the Chinese authorities has
been to roll out the boogeyman that the protests are
inspired by foreigners. China’s state media have
trotted out the ghost that seems to frighten all
authoritarians, calling the protests a “color revolu-
tion” instigated by the United States. The charge
seems almost comical given President Trump’s lack of

sympathy for democracy movements anywhere in the
world. But it speaks volumes about paranoia in the
Communist Party that holds a monopoly on power in
China. This protest movement is very much indig-
enous to Hong Kong and its people.
Lately, there have been dark hints of a stronger
crackdown by the military. But repeating the catas-
trophe of Tiananmen Square would be terribly coun-
terproductive; hopefully China’s leaders understand
as much. They might be hoping to slowly strangle the
protest movement without violence and without
giving an inch. This would be yet another miscalcula-
tion because the pent-up demands of this summer
won’t go away.
The right answer for President Xi Jinping and for
Ms. Lam, if she remains in office, is to open serious
negotiations with the protesters on their demands,
which are quite reasonable. Cinching the noose ever
tighter, as the Chinese government has done in recent
weeks, is the pathway to a dead end that could harm
both Hong Kong and mainland China economically
as well as politically. A cliff looms, and China’s leaders
should turn back before it is too late.

Hong Kong’s summer of discontent


The protests have been met with tear gas. That’s not the answer.


Regarding the Aug. 6 editorial “Leading in the
opposite direction”:
The Brazilian Amazon is a national treasure that
needs to be both preserved and developed for the
benefit of all Brazilians, including the 25 million
inhabitants of the Amazon region. A significant effort
is being made by the government of President Jair
Bolsonaro to adequately fund the Ministry of Environ-
ment, whose budgetary cuts in 2019 were much lower
than those imposed on other ministries. The measure
was not policy-oriented and was, in fact, the result of
one of the most severe fiscal crises in Brazilian history,
inherited from previous administrations.
The Bolsonaro government remains seriously en-
gaged in combating deforestation in the Amazon.
That task entails monitoring an area of almost 2 mil-
lion square miles, more than half the size of the

United States. Recently, the Ministry of Environment
has identified lapses in the monitoring made by the
Deter satellite system, in which areas deforested in
2018 were spotted only nine months later. This dis-
torts the statistical data, making it harder for the
Brazilian authorities to curb illegal logging.
Most important, the Deter system data is an alert
system developed to provide support to surveillance
efforts and should not be assumed as a precise
measurement of deforestation. For these reasons,
Brazil is developing a new system, with higher-
resolution satellite information and real-time moni-
toring that will provide greater accuracy and contrib-
ute to law enforcement efforts in the Amazon.
Nestor Forster Jr., Washington
The writer is the chargé d’affaires
for the Embassy of Brazil.

ABCDE


AN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER


T


HE APPARENT suicide of Jeffrey Epstein,
the accused sex trafficker, represents an
unforgivable failure by the federal prison
system. Attorney General William P. Barr all
but said so on Monday, remarking that he was
appalled that Mr. Epstein was apparently allowed to
hang himself in federal custody, noting “serious
irregularities” in his handling. Yet suicide in correc-
tional facilities, especially among those recently
confined, is not as irregular as it should be. Before
Mr. Epstein, there was Aaron Hernandez and Sandra
Bland — and those are just the names people
remember.
In the year after Ms. Bland killed herself in a Texas
jail in 2015, a HuffPost investigation found that at
least 810 people died in jails and lockups, with nearly
a third of those cases suicides. According to Justice
Department data, suicide is far more common in
these sorts of facilities than in prisons, where
convicted criminals go long term after sentencing.
Part of the reason Mr. Epstein’s case is so shocking

is that he killed himself in a large federal institution.
In general, the facilities most prone to suicide
appear to be small local jails that lack the staffing
and expertise to prevent it. The federal Metropolitan
Correctional Center in Manhattan may have been
short-staffed, but officials there should not have
lacked know-how. Now a full investigation and
transparency are required.
Make no mistake — many, if not most, cases of
suicide in correctional facilities are preventable. A
2016 Justice Department report found that, on
average, those who die by suicide in jail killed
themselves nine days after entering lockup. This
early vulnerability comes as people lose control over
practically every aspect of their lives, may be
detoxing from alcohol or other substances, and
could be in the midst of mental-health episodes. An
Associated Press investigation published in June
found that “about a third of jail inmates who
attempted suicide or took their lives did so after staff
allegedly failed to provide prescription medicines

used to manage mental illness.”
Much attention has already focused on the correc-
tional center’s reported failure to monitor Mr. Ep-
stein at regular intervals and to house another
inmate in his cell, inexcusable lapses given that he
had already apparently tried to kill himself. But
there are many other procedures that jails and
prisons should adopt. It is crucial to house people in
the right places from the start — those who require
addiction care in appropriate care settings, those
who might present suicide risks in cells in which
fixtures, clothing and bedding are not conducive to
suicide. Ensuring access to appropriate medication
is another. Basic screening of those entering lockups
is still too rare. Law enforcement officers complain
that preventing suicide has become harder as jails
and prisons house more people with mental-health
problems; detainees should be diverted into treat-
ment early instead of warehoused in jail.
Few people will mourn Mr. Epstein. But he and his
alleged victims both deserved a different ending.

An appalling prison failure


Mr. Epstein’s apparent suicide is a shocking example of an all-too-common phenomenon.


W


hen the world’s population reaches
10 billion in 2050, how will everyone get
fed? Actually, a recent report under-
scored, the challenge is harder: How will
everyone get fed without frying the planet?
Climate change is usually associated with power
plant smokestacks pumping out carbon dioxide. But
a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions results from
agriculture and related changes in the way people use
land. A study released last month by the United
Nations, the World Bank and the World Resources
Institute, an environmental think tank, found that if
agriculture gets no more efficient before mid-century,
humans will have to wipe out most of the rest of the
world’s forests, kill off countless species and blow
past dangerous global warming thresholds to feed
the expanding population. Even if agricultural pro-
ductivity rises at typical rates, humans will still need
to clear land equivalent to twice the size of India.
Meanwhile, reforesting land, not clearing it, is high
on the to-do list for restraining global greenhouse gas
emissions, since growing plants absorb and store
carbon dioxide.
Environmentalists have stressed that meat-heavy
diets tend to produce lots of emissions, since grazing
animals require lots of cleared land, and they
produce methane — a potent greenhouse gas — as
they digest. One of the study’s authors found that the
average European’s diet produces as many green-
house gas emissions as her consumption of every-
thing else. Unsurprisingly, the report recommends
moderating — though far from eliminating —
consumption of red meat.
But that is not the only answer. Humans have to
get much better at growing more on less land.
Raising cows more quickly, through better manag-
ing their feed and other measures, would mean less
time grazing and emitting methane before they
produce meat for market. New feed additives could

also cut how much methane is emitted by grazing
animals. Using new gene editing techniques could
produce crops that boost farm efficiency and pro-
duce fewer greenhouse emissions. Employing new
food preservation technologies on produce would
prevent useless rot and waste.
A new and more accurate accounting method
enabled one of the researchers, Princeton Univer-
sity’s Tim Searchinger, to calculate that biofuels are
actually environmental villains: “Using ethanol or
biodiesel contributes two to three times the green-
house gas emissions of gasoline or diesel over more
than 30 years,” he found. Government subsidies for
biofuels should end. Meanwhile, governments
should enforce strict protections for existing forests,
keeping their biodiversity unharmed and tons of
carbon dioxide sequestered in their plant growth.

Agricultural lands on the margins of usefulness
should be restored as forests or peatlands.
In fact, humanity has a surprising range of
options to clean up food production and satiate a
rapidly growing population. It will just take much
more attention and money than is currently spent
on these matters. Many of the nations that must
preserve their precious forests have not taken the
basic steps needed to do so or are threatening to turn
back on their commitments, as is the case in Brazil.
This picture must change.

How to feed


the world


And without cooking
the planet in the process.

ABCDE


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Brazil is working to save the Amazon


ARMANDO BABANI/EPA-EFE/SHUTTERSTOCK
A calf in her pasture in Lorsch, Germany.

Regarding the Aug. 8 Metro article “Cafe worker’s
firing came after political disagreement”:
When you wear a pin or garment espousing a
political view, you are making a public statement
and should expect to hear reactions pro and con. Yet
Jacqueline Johanning, who was told by a cafe
employee that her “Trump 2020” pin was not
appreciated, read the server’s opinion as “discrimi-
nation” and immediately tried to cadge a free meal —
behavior that reeks of entitlement and circles back
directly to the egotistical president she supports.
Harvey Solomon, Takoma Park

Reeking of entitlement


I am convinced that appealing to politicians to
change gun laws in any meaningful way will never
work. As one definition of insanity is to keep doing
the same thing over and over and expect a different
result, expecting meaningful change by appealing to
the politicians is insane. But meaningful change is
possible, necessary and inevitable given the crisis of
violence and mass shootings in our country.
The way to effect this change is from the ground
up, with grass-roots pressure by the public to force
divestiture of holdings in companies that manufac-
ture, distribute and sell guns, especially military
assault weapons, large-capacity magazines and oth-
er weapons of mass destruction that have no
purpose in a civil society [“Gun accessories for sale
on Google, Amazon sites,” news, Aug. 7]. If the
concerned public would boycott companies that
produce guns and not allow their assets to be
invested in any gun manufacturers, we quickly could
effect a lasting, meaningful change — just as the
United States did to apartheid in South Africa and
the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did to Jim Crow laws
in the South. Let’s start a revolution and put a
“Divest of Guns Now: People Over Profits” sign in
every yard.
Gary F. Colton, Kensington

Regarding the Aug. 9 front-page article “As-
sault weapons ban gets fresh look”:
Members of Congress will most likely try to pass
the most politically palatable (i.e., ineffective) gun
legislation for which they can garner bipartisan
support. In the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton,
Ohio, massacres, Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell (R-Ky.) said expanding background
checks and red-flag laws “will be front and center” as
Congress considers bills to address gun violence.
There is no easy nor single answer, but banning
military rapid-fire weapons of war should be the first
piece of legislation. Assault weapons aren’t needed
to kill deer or shoot rapists, and allowing anyone to
own a weapon that can kill nine (or more) people in
30 seconds is insane.
Liz Reiley, Alexandria

Regarding the Aug. 8 front-page article “Trump
warned by NRA on background checks”:
When it comes to guns in the United States,
Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle
Association, calls the shots. He says dance; Congress
dances. When he says lay off enacting new gun
legislation — done. The only way he can wield this
kind of power is by throwing bags of money at the
front door of Capitol Hill. Our representatives
continue to blow smoke in our faces by telling us
they will look at the gun problem.
No, they won’t. They never do, even after 20 years
of innocents being slaughtered and our police
having to continually put themselves in the line of
fire to protect all of us. Regardless, Congress is
resolute in its acceptance of all this loss of life. The
president was elected to lead. Congress was elected
to represent. Mr. LaPierre was tasked to lobby for
guns. Who is best at his job?
Bob Bascelli, Seaford, N.Y.

It’s time to make sense on guns


Regarding the Aug. 9 front-page article “Officials
defend ICE raids that seized parents”:
Will this raid on immigrant workers solve the
immigration crisis, or was it just another headline-
grabbing stunt that dramatically affects the lives and
families of those arrested? It was just plain mean.
The nasty little secret is that we need their cheap
labor for any number of jobs. The employers benefit
in many ways, as do the immigrants. The employers
are breaking the law with impunity.
To halt the flow of immigrants, enforce the law. If
they are hired illegally, fine the employer. Come up
with a system whereby both workers and employers
are accountable. Return this country to a rule of law
that is both fair and equitable for all. It really can’t be
that hard.
Meanwhile, tone down the rhetoric and have a
reasoned discussion on how this problem might best
be solved for the benefit of all.
Michaela Carberry Early, Easton, Md.

First, enforce the immigration laws


Mili Mitra’s Aug. 8 op-ed, “A dark moment for
India,” should ring alarm bells for all Americans,
especially the Indian Americans who have worked
hard and supported the rise of a prosperous,
democratic and secular India for the past seven
decades.
Recent undemocratic actions by the Modi govern-
ment in Kashmir not only pose a threat to the
regional peace and stability, but they also could
disrupt India’s long march to improve the lives of
about 1.3 billion Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians,
Buddhists and others living in peace and harmony.
Since the reelection of Indian Prime Minister
Narendra Modi in May, extreme violence and lynch-
ings of Muslims and low-caste Dalits by Hindu
extremists have been on the rise. It would be a tragic
mistake to allow Mr. Modi to steer the world’s largest
democracy from a secular country into a Hindu
theocracy.
Islam A. Siddiqui, Arlington
The writer is a former undersecretary
of agriculture and chief agricultural negotiator
for the U.S. trade representative.

India’s potentially tragic turn


EDITORIALS

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