Five Best Friday Columns

Barack Obama and Tony Abbott on the new challenges facing their countries, Catherine Rampell on why eliminating teacher tenure won’t improve education, Colby Buzzell on what happens when you leave a war early, Parker Marie Molloy on the fight for transgender insurance equality, William Pesek on China’s bubble millionaires.

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Barack Obama and Tony Abbott at The Los Angeles Times on the new challenges facing their countries. “Australia and the United States have consistently stood together, not just for our own security but for the well-being of people far beyond our borders. Thursday's meeting examined new challenges. As Pacific nations, both of our countries have benefited from the explosion of economic growth and development in Asia over the last half-century,” Obama and Abbott write. “Australia welcomes and fully supports the U.S. effort to rebalance its foreign relations with a greater focus on Asia and the Pacific, a shift that recognizes that America's future is inextricably linked to the people and nations of the world's fastest-growing region. The Asian economic miracle could not have occurred without regional stability and security. And today, both Australia and the United States are concerned that increasingly provocative behavior in advancing maritime territoriality claims in Asia poses an increasing risk of miscalculation and, in the worst case, of conflict.” Freelance journalist Tim Robertson tweets, “#Australia's interests would be better served if we didn't kowtow to #US power. They call, we come running.”

Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post on why eliminating teacher tenure won’t improve education. “This week a California judge declared that tenure and other seniority rules that make it hard to dismiss teachers ‘result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment,’ which hurts the low-income and minority children that low performers disproportionately teach,” Rampell writes. “Almost exactly 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, the California judge said that state statutes violate children’s constitutional right to equal educational opportunity. The decision looks likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers said similar suits would soon be filed in other states. Teachers’ unions, predictably, denounced the decision as further trampling on their noble profession. The Silicon Valley group that bankrolled the case hailed it as an unalloyed victory, one sure to give America’s poor and minority students access to better teachers. Both sides claim they are fighting for The Children. Who’s right?” Media Matters’ Hilary Tone tweets, “Eliminating teacher tenure won't improve education.” Constitutional scholar Linda Monk simply tweets, “Finding good teachers.”

Colby Buzzell at the Guardian on what happens when you leave a war early. “Tuesday 10 June 2013, Starbucks, Los Angeles An ominous Facebook message: So what do u think? I asked myself: is this person drunk? Think about what? Minutes passed. My friend answered: Mosul. I have many fond memories of my time there in 2003 and 2004 – getting shot at sometimes while going out on three or four combat operations a day, watching every last vehicle in our platoon get blasted by an IED or RPG (or both) – but the truth is I don't think about Mosul, my alma mater in Iraq. Maybe I should, but I don't,” Buzzell writes. “We had lost the war. Of course Mosul had fallen, and of course Tikrit and maybe even Baghdad were on the way. I'm no general or military strategist, but I'm pretty sure that's what happens when you exit early, when you leave without finishing a job: the shithole gets shittier, and hell comes back. I thought about why my friend cared what I thought. I thought about what the 4,487 soldiers killed in action would think about this week. Sadly, we'll never know.”

Parker Marie Molloy at The New York Times on the fight for transgender insurance equality. “Transgender Americans scored a major victory for equality last month, when the Department of Health and Human Services overturned a decades-old ban on Medicare coverage for gender-confirming surgeries. But the decision is hardly a final triumph. Though thousands of people will now receive insurance coverage, many, many more will continue to be denied because of state-level restrictions on coverage. Indeed, only five states and the District of Columbia require that private insurance companies cover transition-specific care,” Molloy writes. “A growing number of medical organizations have concluded that treatment of gender dysphoria is a medically necessary step toward helping transgender individuals lead healthy and happy lives. For some transgender people, just hormone replacement therapy is enough. Others need surgery to align their bodies with their brains. What it comes down to, though, is that these treatments are, without question, lifesaving.”

William Pesek at Bloomberg View on China’s bubble millionaires. “Funny how everyone thought China would get old before it got rich. The opposite seems to be true. A new Boston Consulting Group study shows America's lock on the most-millionaires title may be in jeopardy after a surge in Chinese wealth. The Middle Kingdom surpassed Japan and Europe in the most recent survey, boasting 2.4 million millionaires. That's still far off the U.S.'s 7.1 million, of course. But the absence of transparency in China and the vast networks that exist to spirit wealth into bank accounts overseas makes it a sure bet BCG's figure is wildly conservative,” Pesek writes. “The first risk is straightforward enough. Even if a few million are rolling in yuan (several million, more likely), most of China's 1.3 billion people aren't. Creating an oligarchy wasn't Deng Xiaoping's plan when he initiated China's economic opening in 1979. Yet the combination of huge gains in gross domestic product and an opaque political system has fueled a robber-baron culture.”

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