US press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. America's drone wars (LA Times)

Obama's comments on drone strikes should start the process of greater openness about the program, especially the targeted killing of Americans, says this editorial.

2. The cost of a bloody florida battle (New York Times)

Mitt Romney is the victor in Florida, but he's the worse for wear, writes David Firestone.

3. The media loves Newt (Washington Post)

We love your feigned umbrage and your wild superlatives. We admire the way you frequently send us to Google to test your veracity, writes Dana Milbank.

4. Is he unelectable? (Wall Street Journal)

The case against the case against Romney, made by James Taranto.

5. The politics of dignity (New York Times)

You may think that the situations in Egypt and Russia have nothing in common. Think again, says Thomas Friedman.

6. America's waning influence (LA Times)

Any honest diplomat will tell you that American power and global influence is waning, and if we shy away from acknowledging that fact, we'll only speed up the process, writes Rosa Brooks.

7. In censorship, Twitter fails to defend free speech (San Fransisco Chronicle)

Twitter is trying to make a good-faith effort to uphold the values of transparency and free speech while complying with the laws of countries that have no respect for either, says this editorial.

8. Implementing health reform (Politico)

Consumers dread choosing health insurance, largely because they don't understand it, says Lynn Quincy.

9. Stop bothering the Fed, you peasant taxpayers! (Miami Herald)

When it comes to the Fed, the press plays more like one of those toy poodles that sits in your lap, says Glenn Garvin.

10. Right-to-work laws stand for choice (Boston Globe)

Soon, Indiana will be the first state in more than a decade that has succeeded in banning labor contracts that oblige all employees to pay money to a union as a condition of employment, writes Jeff Jacoby.

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Let's use words not weapons to defeat Islamic State, says Syrian journalist

A group of citizen journalists who report on life inside Raqqa won recognition at the British Journalism Awards.

On Tuesday night, Abdalaziz Alhamza, from the Syrian campaign organisation Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), received the prestigious Marie Colvin Award at the British Journalism Awards on behalf of the group.

RBSS has been reporting from the northern Syrian city, Islamic State's de facto capital, since 2014 on the violence carried out both by the extremist group and the regime of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The independent organisation comprises 18 journalists based in Raqqa who are supported by 10 more journalists, who publish and translate their findings between Arabic and English, and help their reports reach a wider global audience. The RBSS Twitter feed has almost 70,000 followers, and their Facebook page has over 560,000 likes, marking them as a major news source for the area.

The creation of the group came as a reaction to the heavy stifling of media from within Syria, and aims to “shed light on the overlooking of these atrocities by all parties”, according to their website. Often, posts track the presence of Assad and IS forces in and around the city. Their news reports show the raids and deaths happening within the city, the impact of the ever-diminishing medical supplies and information about recent IS killings. Alongside these are posts which have a civilian-focus, giving voice to the people who are living inside Raqqa, such as local shopkeepers.

Speaking at the British Journalism Awards on Tuesday, Alhamza said: “In 2014, we realised two important things: the first is that the outside world was not going to help us, and the second is that we had to do something. Anything. So we created RBSS.”

Alhamza further explained the campaign group's aims: 

“Our goal was not only to expose IS criminality, but also to resist them. We did that by capturing and distributing images and videos of life in Raqqa under IS.”

“My colleagues and I never thought or even could imagine the level of suffering our people has been subjected to in the last five years. We learned the hard way that freedom doesn’t come cheap.”

“The scenes of extreme violence and humiliation the group visited on our city’s people. We wanted to make sure the world – even if it wasn’t going to help us – knew what was going on.

Though constantly living under threat, Alhamza’s speech last night showed the pride and importance that RBSS place on publishing the horrors of daily life within Syria.

“Our work shows that we can fight arms with words, and that ultimately is the only way to defeat them, and IS knows it.