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In today's pages: Parole reform, fires and sunspots

September 1, 2009 | 11:25 am

Fire The Times doesn't buy arguments that Jaycee Lee Dugard's 18-year ordeal as a kidnapping and rape victim is a reason to oppose coming reforms to California's parole system. The Assembly passed a bill Monday that would reduce the case rolls of parole officers by mandating less supervision for low-risk, non-violent ex-convicts, while increasing supervision for more dangerous criminals. That doesn't mean Dugard's alleged abductor, Phillip Garrido, and his ilk would be off the hook -- in fact, it means they would get more attention in the future, the editorial page argues.

What's the upside to the Station fire, which has killed two firefighters, burned dozens of homes, fouled L.A.'s air and destroyed thousands of acres of scrubland? It's that fire is a natural part of Southern California's ecosystem that will clear wild areas for new growth and deposit fertilizer. The real problem, The Times points out, is that the frequency of such fires is rising, and continued sprawl into wilderness areas is increasing the costs and the environmental woes.

And Japan's dramatic changeover Sunday, when the party that has ruled the country almost continuously for half a century was booted from power, gets a thumbs up from The Times. Though the Liberal Democratic Party has helped turn Japan into an economic powerhouse, a one-party state seldom makes for good governance; "competition is as important in politics as it is in business," The Times asserts.

On the Op-Ed page, global warming skeptic Jonah Goldberg wonders whether the media are giving short shrift to sunspots. Evidence is mounting not only that we're living through a period of highly unusual sunspot activity, but that such events can have a dramatic impact on Earth's climate -- meaning the current warming we're experiencing might have more to do with solar activity than the greenhouse gases Congress aims to reduce. "I don't know what [this evidence] tells you, but it tells me that maybe we should study a bit more before we spend billions to 'solve' a problem we don't understand so well," Goldberg concludes.

Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, sounds off against one of his faculty members -- Neve Gordon, who published an opinion piece in The Times last month arguing for an economic boycott of Israel. Carmi says he can't fire Gordon for his controversial views under Israeli law, but his explosive anti-Israel rhetoric could seriously harm both the nation and the university.

Finally, Leo Hindery Jr., Leo W. Gerard and Donald Riegle argue that the "buy American" provisions of Washington's economic stimulus package level the playing field with our trading partners and boost U.S. manufacturing jobs. They back legislation that would expand them to cover all national government procurement. "'Buy American' is neither un-American nor anti-globalization. It is simply good, necessary, balanced and reciprocal economic policy."

* Photo: The Station fire as seen from a hill overlooking Tujunga. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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