Americans take universal schooling for granted. Nearly a quarter of a billion children worldwide cannot. Last week's promise by Washington and other rich countries to increase their aid budgets for Africa is welcome, but even better would be an increase in the pitifully small share of those aid budgets that goes toward expanding access to primary education worldwide. ...
Without increased efforts, scores of countries will fall short of the internationally declared goal of providing a full primary education to all children by 2015.
Roughly 130 million boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 11 are not enrolled in school. Another 150 million drop out with less than four years of education under pressure of their parents' poverty. Born poor, these children are virtually condemned to stay poor and rear their own children in poverty. ...
The first steps need to be taken by the governments directly involved, as 180 countries agreed when the international goal of universal primary education was set. They are expected to increase their own education spending, improve school quality and incorporate education into effective development strategies. Those that do were promised sustained financial help from the developed world, but that has not yet been provided. ...
The World Bank has identified 18 countries whose efforts to improve education qualify them for immediate outside help. These include Ethiopia, Mozambique, Uganda, Nicaragua and Vietnam. Five others, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Congo, which do not yet qualify, are home to more than a third of the children not in school. They need increased international help so that they can meet the standards and qualify for international assistance.
Those countries already able to make good use of aid should not be left waiting. President Bush, who has rightly made such an issue of education in this country, should seek substantially increased financing for it in next year's foreign aid budget. Other rich nations should do likewise. Poor countries not yet qualifying for outside help must intensify their educational efforts. As Mr. Bush has said, no child should be left behind.
Two breaks in the case of Sami Al-Arian. Remember him? He's the University of South Florida computer science professor whose life changed after a September appearance on the "O'Reilly Factor." Why? Maybe it was his tepid performance in professing to be shocked, shocked, that Ramadan Shallah, a man Mr. Al-Arian helped gain an entry visa and a USF position, later returned to the Middle East to head up Islamic Jihad. Or maybe it was the reference to another Al-Arian performance -- this one, no doubt, more convincing -- in which he declared, "Jihad is our path! Victory to Islam! Death to Israel! Revolution! Revolution until victory! Rolling to Jerusalem!" (Or, maybe it was Mr. Al-Arian's classic opener in response to the latter: "Let me just put it into context . . . . ")
Whatever it was, after the prime-time debut of Mr. Al-Arian -- who, not incidentally, used to run a pair of USF-affiliated organizations closed by the FBI in 1995 as terrorist fronts -- everything changed. As "Terrorism U" was besieged by calls and threats, as donations and student applications fell off, Mr. Al-Arian was suspended with pay. Citing a contractual violation and safety concerns, USF President Judy Genshaft announced in December that he would be fired.
Then, nothing. Or not much, as far as visible action was concerned. The Justice Department announced in February that Mr. Al-Arian was continuing to be investigated for links to terrorism. ...
Citing "current and former senior Israeli intelligence officials," the Tampa Tribune reported this week that Mr. Al-Arian didn't just hang out with people who -- voila -- turned into terrorists, or raised cash for groups linked to terrorism, but he also "helped found the governing council of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and then served on it."
According to the Tampa paper, authorities are focusing on whether money Mr. Al-Arian raised in the United States went to finance Islamic Jihad terrorism in Israel -- "in particular," the paper reports, "an April 1995 bombing attack on a bus that killed eight people in the Gaza Strip," including Alisa Flatow, a 20-year-old American student. Stephen Flatow, Alisa's father, recently testified about his daughter's murder before a federal grand jury in Tampa. Maybe "context" is close at hand.
Dallas Morning News
Mexico isn't about to end its constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of its petroleum resources and the refining and distribution thereof. However, its decision to allow foreign companies to compete for multiple service contracts to extract natural gas from the Burgos basin along the Texas border represents a significant infringement on the government's monopoly. Furthermore, if the decision profits Mexico and the companies, and if it survives political and legal challenges, it could portend an eventual opening in the extraction of oil, which would be nothing short of revolutionary. ...
The idea of the multiple service contracts is to get around the constitution -- at least in one area. Foreigners would not own the natural gas; rather, they would be under contract to Mexico to extract it. In practical terms, it is no different from what Mexico now practices in that it already issues many contracts for particular services. ...
Eventually, Mexico should drop the constitutional prohibition as a drag on the country's development. That is probably too big a project for Mr. (Vicente) Fox to tackle while his ruling National Action Party lacks a majority in Congress. However, it would be a fitting reform. Mexico has benefited from the economic competition that it began to unleash in the mid-1980s; it would benefit from competition in the energy sector, too.
Los Angeles Times
Resign or die. That's what Colombia's narco-guerrillas have told the nation's municipal officials. The intention is just as clear as the threat: The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, wants to discredit the government by making it unable to protect democratic rule.
The threat "to kidnap or kill" officials who refused to resign was issued directly to some officeholders, as well as in a news interview of FARC's military commander at his hide-out in the mountains of Cundinamarca near Bogota.
The government has a duty to stand up to the rebels. And it obviously can't wait for President-elect Alvaro Uribe to take office next month. ...
This is not the first time the government has endured threats by the guerrillas, who act increasingly like the forces of the late Cambodian butcher Pol Pot. In their 38 years of war against the people of Colombia, FARC comandantes have burned voting cards to disrupt elections, exploded car bombs on busy streets, blown up bridges, knocked down power lines and blocked roads to create economic chaos. During a fight in May with right-wing paramilitaries in Bellavista, guerrillas killed 119 civilians, including 46 children, who had sought shelter in a church.
The new threat is bigger, aimed at the heart of the democratic process.
Anne Patterson, U.S. ambassador to Colombia, has offered armored cars, bulletproof vests and telephones to mayors and other Colombian civil employees.
Such assistance from the United States should help some. But what Colombia needs most are signs of solidarity from its neighboring countries.
The people and the governments of Brazil, Venezuela, Panama, Ecuador and Peru must unequivocally condemn this latest provocation of the FARC. One of them could be next if the narco-bandits get away with murdering a democracy.
Raleigh News Observer
Almost single-handedly since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the United States has been helping Russia get control of more than 600 tons of weapons-quality nuclear material stored inside its borders and within its former satellite nations. Besides the obvious reasons involving its own security, the U.S. has done so to protect allies and the globe from nuclear weaponry developed and deployed by unstable regimes. The decision by several prominent nations in the so-called Group of Eight to share the cost of the effort will speed the work, and also help caution other countries that seek nuclear capabilities about international concerns.
Threat reduction is the name given to the effort to padlock supplies of Russian plutonium, highly enriched uranium, and biological and chemical weapons. The agreement by Canada, where the annual G8 meeting was held, and France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Great Britain (Russia is also a G8 member) pledges those countries to double the amount spent annually. The funds also will help dismantle decommissioned nuclear submarines and ensure that Russian scientists have adequate employment. Hungry nuclear scientists make easy targets for bribery. ...
Meetings of the G8 sometimes seem not to rise above the level of highly scripted photo-ops. But the work done in Canada this year was substantial, and could prove of lasting benefit.
(Compiled by United Press International.)