What U.S. newspapers are saying

March 13, 2002 at 10:36 AM
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New York Times

In one of the oldest tricks in the Senate playbook, Mitch McConnell surfaced yesterday with what he said was one minor "fix" he wanted to make in the Shays-Meehan campaign reform bill. Just a bit of clarifying language was all he wanted, he said, to make sure that politicians running for office could "coordinate" with independent groups in their election campaigns. But Mr. McConnell's measure is far from minor. It would blow a huge hole in the bill, allowing politicians to raise the newly banned soft money for their campaigns by other means. The Senate must reject the McConnell "fix" and pass Shays-Meehan right away. ...

Mr. McConnell maintains that the language in the bill regulating coordination between politicians and outside groups is so tight that it would bar even the most innocuous contacts between, say, the National Rifle Association or the AFL-CIO and a candidate. He is wrong. The bill instructs the Federal Election Commission to draft its own regulations on coordination, but to do it in a way that prohibits widespread abuse. If there is a danger of ambiguity, it can be cleared up in a colloquy on the Senate floor by Senators McCain and Feingold.

Campaign reform is to be placed before the Senate today. The first vote, on a motion to proceed to the bill, is expected Friday. Some Republicans are pledging to filibuster that motion, and to filibuster on the actual bill next week. The Senate is at crunch time on this vitally important measure. Last-minute appeals, ostensibly to tighten a bolt here or there, should be seen for what they are: last-ditch attempts to kill the bill. Mr. McConnell has already had many chances to try to stop the bill. He should step aside and let it pass.

Washington Times

At an important bankruptcy hearing in New York today, Global Crossing executives will seek approval from a judge to sell the company to two Asian telecoms, one of which has close ties to the Chinese government. Permission should be denied. Given the slew of unanswered questions about the collapse of Global Crossing, which is being investigated by the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission, now is not the time to approve a hastily arranged transaction that raises serious national security questions.

After crushing shareholders, Co-Chairman Gary Winnick and Chief Executive John Legere now seek to stiff creditors. Both men have already profited handsomely -- some might say obscenely -- from a company that has never made a profit. Mr. Winnick, for example, sold stock worth $734 million before the firm collapsed. When Mr. Legere, who was chief executive of the separately listed subsidiary Asia Global Crossing (which is also considering filing for bankruptcy), added the CEO duties of Global Crossing last October, his package included forgiveness of a $10 million balance still due from a $15 million interest-free loan extended to him by Asia Global Crossing. ...

Today, two Asian telecoms seek to purchase about 80 percent of Global Crossing for $750 million. They are government-owned Singapore Technologies Telemedia and Hutchison Whampoa, the latter of which is controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, who, according to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, is a member of inner circle of the government of communist China. It makes no sense to place control of the firm's strategic undersea cable network in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. After all, another Chinese telecom has recently been caught building a military-related fiber-optic cable network for Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Many creditors, who are being offered a 20 percent interest in the reorganized company and a mere $300 million for the $12.4 billion in debt they hold, believe they would do better liquidating Global Crossing. Given all the unanswered questions and the ongoing investigations, transferring Global Crossing assets at worse-than-firesale prices to a Chinese-controlled firm is the worst option of all.

Washington Post

Recent reports about the Bush administration's review of U.S. nuclear weapons strategy have tended to obscure the fact that much of what the administration laid out in the congressionally mandated report isn't new. For more than a decade, the United States has sought to deter rogue states from using weapons of mass destruction by publicly suggesting that it might respond with a nuclear strike, and Pentagon planners have backed the threat by laying out theoretical targeting plans for Iraq, Iran and other such states. The policy, which the Clinton administration continued from the first Bush presidency, has been a success: Saddam Hussein, who used chemical weapons against his own people in the 1980s, did not dare to employ them against U.S. troops or allies during or after the Persian Gulf War. You wouldn't know it from recent scaremongering headlines and overheated rhetoric, but in this aspect the Bush review has merely reaffirmed a sensible strategy. ...

Administration officials say their new strategy will ultimately decrease U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons, because they will develop "new capabilities," such as high-tech conventional weapons and missile defenses, to counter weapons of mass destruction. That is a promising scenario, but it is undermined by another old idea: the development of new nuclear weapons, including low-yield warheads that could be aimed at smaller targets or deeply buried bunkers. The administration's plan to develop designs for such arms over the next three years is troubling; the presence of such weapons in the U.S. arsenal could dangerously lower the threshold for launching a nuclear attack, while inviting a new arms race among existing and aspiring nuclear powers. The Bush administration is right to focus more of its strategic planning on deterring rogue states; but developing new nuclear weapons for that threat is neither necessary nor sensible.

Los Angeles Times

Sept. 11 blew to bits any illusions Americans might have harbored that the danger of devastating attacks on this nation ended with the Cold War. The Pentagon's Nuclear Posture Review, disclosed this past weekend in The Times, should give pause to any enemy who harbors illusions that post-Cold War retaliation against such attacks would automatically preclude the use of nuclear weapons.

Good. Hard though nuclear counterattack would be to deliver, the free world will be safer if terrorists and rogue states understand that if they kill millions with smallpox or anthrax they may face the United States' ultimate weapon. That said, there are aspects of the nuclear plan that Bush should publicly disavow -- or Congress aggressively challenge: the apparent lowering of the threshold for using nuclear weapons and the blurring of lines between nuclear and conventional weapons. ...

Bush administration officials have defended the Pentagon proposals as prudent military planning. It is true that planning is necessary, but merging nuclear and non-nuclear systems as part of the planning could encourage other nations to step up development of their own nuclear weapons.

In 1945, J. Robert Oppenheimer watched the detonation of America's first atomic weapon, which he helped build, and recalled the lines from the Hindu epic Bhagavad-Gita: "Now I have become Death, destroyer of worlds." His horror is worth remembering.

New York Newsday

President George W. Bush chose an apt moment to outline his vision for the next stage in the war on terror. He timed his speech Monday to mark the six-month observance of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. But other developments helped him make a case for staying the course.

As he spoke, U.S. forces in Afghanistan were overrunning the last remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaida forces around the Shahi Kot Valley in Afghanistan, in another major success in the war's first phase. On the same day, a poll showed that most Americans support him strongly in the way he has waged the war, and they accept that the longest and most difficult part of the war still lies ahead.

Bush will need all those good portents, because the course he has laid out for the future of the war is anything but simple and certain. In the Afghanistan phase, the aims and tactics are clear and the successes visible. In the second phase, which began weeks before Bush's speech, U.S. efforts are indirect, spreading military and intelligence aid to a number of countries where global terrorism has taken hold. Progress may be hard to see or quantify; mistakes and mix-ups may be all the public sees.

As Bush put it, this phase will be "a sustained campaign ... anywhere in the world" to deny sanctuary to terrorists. ...

More daunting are Bush's other two key points about the next phase: Any government will be viewed as an enemy unless it acts against the terror network in its midst, and any nation posing a threat to this nation or its allies with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons will be confronted with force. These two provisions open the United States to potentially treacherous military conflicts. In fact, they might be seen as another phase entirely, one that needs more careful consideration before being put into action.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The attitude sounds all too familiar.

"We do not need the interference and contemptuous attitude of President Carter or anybody else," South Africa's ruling party stated recently. "We are not arrogant to presume that we know what the United States should do to respond to its many domestic challenges. Nobody from elsewhere in the world should presume they have a superior right to tell us what to do with our own challenges."

The statement could been lifted right from South Africa's ugly past, when the National Party responded in similar fashion to the calls of President Carter and others to abandon apartheid and embrace democracy. This time, though, it's the post-apartheid African National Congress that's circling the wagons.

In a visit to Africa last week, Carter had urged the South African government to act more aggressively against AIDS, even offering to help raise funds for the effort. By distributing the AIDS drug nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women, South Africa could save tens of thousands of newborns from the disease, but instead the government of South African President Thabo Mbeki has refused to act.

In a brazen lie, Mbeki's government claims that nevirapine is unsafe, and that Carter "is willing to treat our people as guinea pigs, in the interest of the pharmaceutical companies." But the drug has already been approved for use here in the United States by our own Food and Drug Administration, and has also been endorsed by the World Health Organization.

Even Mbeki's mentor, the venerable Nelson Mandela, is tiring of the games that the president and his leadership play with people's lives.

"This is a war. It has killed more people than has been the case in all previous wars and in all previous natural disasters," Mandela told South Africa's largest newspaper, The Sunday Times. "We must not continue to be debating, to be arguing, when people are dying."

How tragic that the ANC, which this year celebrates 90 years of struggle for the rights of nonwhites, now stands idly by as they die.

(Compiled by United Press International)

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