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What U.S. newspapers are saying

New York Times

The phrase "end of a political era" usually refers to the eclipse of a movement, a collective approach animated by an idea. But when Vaclav Havel left Prague Castle on Sunday after 13 years as president, he took with him something quite different -- an exceptional individual moral authority. Mr. Havel leaves no clearly defined political legacy. What he leaves is the sense that in the life of a nation the character of its leaders matters. He showed us that speaking honestly and deeply when you are expected merely to express platitudes brings its own political authority. Czechs and the rest of us are better off because of him.

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Mr. Havel's achievement has its roots in the satirical political plays he wrote in the1960's, but he made his name in the 1970's as a leading thinker and organizer of the underground opposition to totalitarianism in Central Europe. Of the generation whose dreams turned to ashes when the Soviet tanks put an end to the Prague Spring of 1968, Mr. Havel emerged as the man who could best articulate how to counter regimes that try to control every aspect of their subjects' lives. For his views, the regime forced him in 1979 to choose between exile and five years in prison. His enduring stature is partly a result of his having chosen prison. ...

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Mr. Havel was not immune to defeat, most bitterly the separation of Czechoslovakia in 1993. But on the international stage he shone. His country joined NATO in 1999 and will become a member of the European Union in 2004, in part because of his hard work. Parliament has failed twice to choose his successor. The parties bicker and the press reports it. For those freedoms and many more besides, Czechs have Vaclav Havel to thank. HEADER:Dallas Morning News

Nearly 30 million Africans -- more than the entire population of Texas -- have the AIDS virus. About 3 million of those infected -- three times as many people as live in Dallas -- are under the age of 15. There's nothing sadder than looking in the eye of an orphan who knows that tomorrow may never come.

Admittedly a slow convert to the issue, President Bush clearly gets it now. Colin Powell, U-2 singer Bono, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a physician who has worked as a medical missionary in Africa, are among those who put Africa and the disease on the president's heart. And to his credit, Mr. Bush responded in his State of the Union address with an unprecedented $$@$!15 billion, five-year commitment to tackle the world's most urgent health crisis. ...

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The president's initiative needs to move along quickly. Every day that passes makes the fight against AIDS a more arduous and perilous battle. HEADER:Houston Chronicle

President Bush's State of the Union speech last week focused heavily on the push for war with Iraq but contained only one statement about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

It was a perfect illustration of how the one crisis can easily overshadow the other and give the illusion that they can be neatly compartmentalized.

The truth is that a perilous synergy combines the two issues, and there is as much urgency in defusing the one as the other.

Israeli elections this past week resoundingly returned hard-liner Ariel Sharon to the head of government, but his efforts over the next six weeks or so to cobble together a governing coalition will be profound.

U.S. plans to offer a "road map" of how to proceed with the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort are by most accounts on hold because of the Iraqi war buildup and because of Sharon's political complications. ...

The next five or six weeks will determine the course of war with Iraq. They will also go a long way toward determining the course between Israelis and Palestinians.

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The Bush administration's statecraft and multitasking abilities will be sorely tested. Bush is proving he can talk war. He must show he is as adept at talking peace. HEADER:Washington Post

Last Thursday, on a high Afghan plain seven miles east of Bagram air base, a Blackhawk helicopter went down, killing the entire crew. The four U.S. soldiers who died in the accident, like the seven astronauts who perished Saturday, were volunteers, taking on risks they understood well in service of their country. Beyond their units and their families, their deaths attracted little notice -- a paragraph or two in some newspapers, not even that in others. ...

The prayers of a nation were offered yesterday in memory of seven astronauts and their families, and rightly so. They gave everything in service to the nation, as did the Bagram four and so many more. HEADER:(Compiled by United Press International)

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