Online Opinion Outpost: March 31, 2015

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The Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.

Prosecuting Bergdahl

The New York Times
It won’t be hard for military lawyers to argue that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl violated military regulations when he slipped out of a remote outpost in Afghanistan in 2009 and became a Taliban prisoner for five years.
They would have a tougher time explaining why it’s worthwhile to prosecute a soldier the Army recruited despite significant concerns about his psychological state and who endured years of torture and privation during his captivity. As a general matter, the American military has good reason to punish service members who desert. However, it should exercise discretion in extraordinary cases. Sergeant Bergdahl’s is certainly one.
Some called him a coward and argued that he put troops in Afghanistan in harm’s way as they devoted significant resources and energy to searching for him. This anger is understandable.
But trying him for desertion and misbehaving before the enemy — for allegedly engaging in misconduct that endangered his unit — stands to accomplish little at this point.

Michael G. Waltz, USA Today
The charge of desertion against Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl comes as a relief to many of us in the military who had worried politics might get in the way of justice.
What Bergdahl did was so serious and so appalling, it must be dealt with in a way that deters future desertions — and it must respect the sacrifices made by countless other service-members and their families.
While it’s not unheard of for a servicemember to become disillusioned with the fight, and even to leave his unit, military desertions on the battlefield are extremely rare, and the Bergdahl case illustrates why. It’s a betrayal not just of one’s country but also of one’s brothers in arms. The ripple effect of a battlefield desertion transcends one man’s selfish actions. In this case, his actions put the lives of others at risk.

 

Facebook is the new Wal-Mart
Paul Ford, The Los Angeles Times

As reported in the New York Times, Facebook may start directly hosting the content of various news websites, starting with the New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic. What this means for Internet users is that instead of seeing a summary of an article on Facebook, clicking, reading it on the publisher’s website, then coming back to Facebook to discuss the article, you’ll just read the whole thing right on Facebook — which will share the advertising revenue it generates from managing the publishers’ articles. What this means in the larger sense is that the Internet will become more centralized.
Unless everyone decides to start paying for news again … Facebook is going to be a newspaper for millions of people.
When you decide to read your content on Facebook instead of on the publisher’s website, when you decide to look for a free content option instead of subscribing, you’re making the same kind of choice that people make when they go to Wal-Mart to buy the cheapest possible TV. This is not to say that you are a bad person — I use Facebook and I happily shop at big-box stores like Wal-Mart — just that you are, actually, making a choice.

 

Future epidemics
Michael Gerson, The Washington Post

“Of all the things that could kill more than 10 million people around the world,” writes philanthropist Bill Gates in the New England Journal of Medicine, “the most likely is an epidemic stemming from either natural causes or bioterrorism.”
We are given a detailed picture of the specter that haunts Gates’s nightmares: the emergence of a highly infectious virus that would spawn global panic, overwhelm the supply of medical commodities, set off a desperate technological race against death, reduce global wealth by trillions of dollars and fill millions of graves.
What Gates calls “the next epidemic” is likely to be an airborne virus, turning markets or airplanes — really any congregation of breathing humans — into places of mass transmission. Modern travel would hasten the globalization of death. Following the Ebola crisis, we know one thing with complete certainty: The world would be utterly unprepared for an outbreak 100 times as large.

 

‘Let’s Move!’ anniversary
Michelle Obama, CNN

It has been five years since I started Let’s Move!, an initiative to address childhood obesity and help all our kids grow up healthy. Our theme for this anniversary year: Celebrate, challenge, champion.
We have seen a real cultural shift across our country. Food and beverage companies are racing to cut sugar, salt, and fat from their products. Cities, towns, and counties are supporting healthy after-school programs and youth sports leagues. Faith leaders are educating their congregations about healthy eating and physical activity. Restaurants are offering healthier versions of their dishes, and fast food places are even including apple slices and low-fat milk in their kids’ meals.
Taken together, these efforts are starting to have an impact: Childhood obesity rates have finally stopped rising — and obesity rates are actually falling among our youngest children.

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