Five Best Thursday Columns

George W. Bush on World AIDS Day, Joshua Green on Gingrich, Julene Bair on contaminated farm water, Jack Shafer on privacy and the press, and David Ignatius on civil rights post-revolution.

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George W. Bush in The Wall Street Journal on World AIDS Day "On this Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, the promise of progress against the disease has never been more vivid -- or more fragile," President Bush writes from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Bush describes the challenges the world faced in combating AIDS a decade ago. He describes the steps the world community and his administration took, like the establishment of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, to begin providing relief in regions where prevention and treatment were lacking. Now advances in research find that interventions like male circumcision could radically lower the transmission rate. Even so, he writes that the financial crisis threatens to impede progress. "In lean budget times, the U.S. and the developing world must prioritize. But there can be no higher priority than saving lives."

Joshua Green in The Boston Globe on Gingrich's anti-Tea Party ideologies In a political climate that has been dominated by the Tea Party of late, Newt Gingrich has become the unlikely "conservative" alternative to Mitt Romney. "Should all that anger, energy, and antipathy to Washington end up concentrating itself in the person of Newt Gingrich, then the movement will have failed in its most important race," Green writes. Gingrich's criticisms of the media give him the temperament of a Tea Partier, Green says, but his time as a Washington lobbyist since serving as speaker of the House put him at odds with the Tea Party. He's also espoused political positions that contradict the group's ideology, once supporting, for instance, taking action against climate change. "A Republican primary that began as a contest for the hearts and minds of these activists - causing mainstream figures like Tim Pawlenty to contort themselves in accommodation - now seems likely to end as a desperate bid to find anyone who isn't Romney."

Julene Bair in The New York Times on the Ogallala Aquifer The Ogallala Aquifer is an underground geological formation that helps water a huge area of crops across eight states, and it got a lot of press when opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline claimed the natural gas project threatened to contaminate it. "Regardless of whether the pipeline was a good or bad idea, it was never the real danger. The true threat is posed by agriculture as it's currently practiced on the Great Plains by the farmers themselves, many of whom opposed the pipeline vehemently," writes Bair. The aquifer is only replenished by precipitation, and farmers are drawing too heavily on it to grow corn, a thirsty crop. Nitrate fertilizers have already contaminated its water supply. Because corn contributes to the economy, environmental groups haven't rallied to protect the water supply, Bair argues. "[Corn] subsidies should end. When the farm bill comes up for reauthorization next year, Congress should instead pay farmers to reduce their dependence on irrigation and chemicals."

Jack Shafer in Reuters on violation of privacy and freedom of the press in the U.K. Speaking yesterday, News of the World features editor Paul McMullan blamed the tabloid's faults on the 5 million people who once regularly read the paper's content. The high circulation "can't justify the serial law-breaking attributed to its journalists. But McMullan's moxie temporarily moved the topic to an area of non-consensus: How grounded to reality are the privacy expectations of politicians, sports stars, celebrities, and civilians?" Shafer asks. He notes that in Britain, journalists are now more likely to face an invasion of privacy suit than a libel suit, and this can restrict the freedom of the press. The press can rightfully act as a provider of entertainment for a public interested in celebrity news. Journalists have no excuse to break the law, but, "if the Leveson inquiry ends up inspiring new, tougher privacy laws in the U.K., celebrities might sleep better. But so will U.K. government and corporate officials, and that's not good."

David Ignatius in The Washington Post on civil rights in the wake of revolutions By documenting a regime's violent excesses, smartphones once proved powerful enough to win revolutions in the Arab Spring, but now the focus is on the excesses of the majority. "What can safeguard the individual against chanting demonstrators in the streets or doctrinaire religious parties in parliament?" asks Ignatius. The Americans guaranteed individual rights post-revolution with our Bill of Rights, but Arab countries aren't always willing to listen to our lectures. He notes that even constitutions that ensure rights on paper can be ignored by abusive regimes, so a government's actions matter as much as words. A successful document will ensure certain rights and demonstrate how they will be protected. "And this brings us back to those smartphones: Today, as never before, citizens have the tools to protect their freedoms. The revolution will be televised, and so will the aftermath."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.