What U.S. newspapers are saying

Sept. 30, 2002 at 8:38 AM
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New York Times

No country in the world has been struck as hard by the AIDS epidemic as Botswana, an arid, thinly populated land of 1.6 million inhabitants in southern Africa. An astonishing 39 percent of the adult population is infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, prompting President Festus Mogae to warn, "We are threatened with extinction." The plight of Botswana is a sobering example of what can happen when the AIDS virus is allowed to spread widely before an all-out effort is mounted to contain it. Once deeply embedded, it is difficult to root out, even with generous aid from international donors. Other lands where the virus is beginning to take off, including China, Russia and Eastern Europe, had better take note.

The epidemic threatens to undermine the tremendous gains made by Botswana over the last three decades in converting itself from a poverty-stricken basket case into a model of stability, peace, democracy, good government and strong economic growth. Life expectancy has already dropped by at least two decades, from a peak of 67 years to 47 or less. Social indicators that had shown steady improvement have now stagnated or gone into reverse. ...

The virus spread easily because Botswana lies along major transportation routes, the population is very mobile, and social customs tolerate such risky behavior as unprotected sex, multiple sex partners and sex between older men and teenage girls, a recipe for passing the virus from one generation to the next. ...

President Mogae expresses cautious optimism that prevention programs can stop the spread of the virus into young people and thus achieve an AIDS-free generation of young adults by 2016. But that formidable task will require fundamental changes in social attitudes and gender relations. ...

Now that it looks as if enough money and medicines will be on hand, international donors need to concentrate on supplying medical personnel. There could be no more vital service to help Botswana surmount this threat to its social fabric.

Washington Times

If Friday's protests against the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and globalization were a discordant rage against the machine, Saturday's were more like a perturbed Rio carnival without rhythm.

There were Reds and Greens, anarchists in black coats and Greenpeace activists in white uniforms. Shrieking guitars from the band Blowback and drums from the Rhythm Worker's Union. There was a cardboard Trojan horse, a huge pink pig balloon and a gigantic inflated bottle of Coke.

The speakers seemed almost incidental to the affair -- just background noise against the dissonance of people telling one another about their pet causes. Every fifth person seemed to be passing out pamphlets (none of which were printed on recycled paper): There was the National Youth Rights Association, the Student Environmental Action Committee and the ANSWER Coalition. A sign said Ghana's water wasn't for sale, a banner suggested Colombia's labor unions were being assassinated, a poster called for Argentina to be cried over. Some placards complained about corporate abuse, others advocated stopping U.S. aid to Israel. The protesters wanted democracy, free health care, fair trade and environmental justice, but none of them seemed willing to pay for it.

Whether the carnival of protest on Saturday or the incoherent rage of Friday, the result was the same -- if the people spoke, they did so in a cacophony that did little to remedy any of the abuses allegedly being protested against.

Chicago Sun-Times

We will soon speak with one voice," President Bush said after meeting with House members of both parties Thursday, focusing on efforts to arrive at a resolution to use force against Iraq. The history of international conflict has proved him right: When push comes to attack, Democrats and Republicans have put their differences aside to unite behind their commander in chief. But the history of politics also tells us that the parties will indulge in the most unpleasant kind of partisan bickering and pandering until the bell rings -- and that's not entirely a bad thing.

Given the emotional context of the war on terror, no one enjoys the kind of barbs exchanged last week by Tom Daschle and President Bush. The Senate majority leader accused Bush of fixating on the proposed war effort against Iraq to deflect from domestic problems (a charge echoed by other Democrats, including House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin). Bush fired back at the Democrat-controlled Senate for being "more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people." Even in an election year, such statements by both sides are excessive.

But one of the cornerstone strengths of democracy is its openness to spirited, angry and even irrational debate -- to the constant games of tactics and rhetorical maneuvering that go on as the parties try to gain the upper hand or at least keep each other honest. ...

The debate over the Iraq resolution, said Bush, "will be conducted in a manner that will make Americans proud." As elections approach and the vitriol heats up, that may be a difficult promise to live up to. But even when it's not pretty, even when the "p" in politics is in upper case, the democratic process glows.

Dallas Morning News

The United States hasn't had an ambassador to Mexico since Sept. 14. The Senate should waste no time in confirming President Bush's nominee to the post, Tony Garza.

The U.S.-Mexico relationship is too important for Mexico to be without a U.S. ambassador for long. Mexico and the United States share a 2,000-mile border. Mexico is the United States' second-largest trading partner.

There are signs of trouble in the relationship, which is all the more reason for the Senate to quickly confirm Mr. Garza. Playing to the segment of Mexican public opinion that sees him as fawning toward Mr. Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox on Sept. 6 announced Mexico's intention to withdraw from the Pan American mutual-defense pact known as the Rio Treaty. The timing of the announcement -- just as Americans were preparing to mark the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks -- was bad. It solidified the impression that some Americans have that Mexico is an indifferent ally in the war against terrorism. ...

The real potential for a harmful delay has nothing to do with Mr. Garza, a Texas railroad commissioner who is well qualified for the post. Lynne Weil, a spokesman for the majority Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that there is "no problem (with his nomination) that I'm aware of" and that she expects the committee and the full Senate to vote before Congress adjourns in October. Rather, the potential has to do with the Senate's packed agenda, which includes consideration of controversial bills having to do with Iraq, homeland security, pension security and energy.

Mexico is important, too. The Senate shouldn't let anything get in the way of an early vote to confirm Mr. Garza as ambassador.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Patsy Takemoto Mink forged an outstanding career in politics with her tenacious battles for civil rights, education and environmental protection by breaking through the walls of an arena that women and minorities had not penetrated before. With her death yesterday, Hawaii has lost a dedicated public servant whose string of "firsts" marked the opening of the halls of power to those who had previously been denied entry.

Mink was the first Asian-American woman to practice law in Hawaii, the first of her race and gender elected to the state Legislature and the first to be elected to Congress. As a pioneer, she became an advocate for others like her, playing a key role in passage of Title IX legislation that forbade gender discrimination at educational institutions. The emergence of women's athletics as a direct result of Title IX and her fight to retain the law after it was threatened is a testament to Mink's devotion to equal rights for women. ...

For now, Hawaii will mourn. Mink was a passionate, hard-working and intelligent benefactor for the state. She will be missed.

Los Angeles Times

After including North Korea in his controversial "axis of evil," President Bush is backing away from his confrontational course and displaying some welcome flexibility.

Senior State Department official James A. Kelly's trip to North Korea early next month should offer both sides a chance to ease tensions. North Korea's economic woes are forcing its leader, Kim Jong Il, to embrace reforms.

The U.S. should seize the opportunity to probe the sincerity of the rogue regime's commitment to becoming a responsible state.

The U.S. shift follows Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's productive visit to North Korea, which resulted in an agreement to resume normalization talks in October. Japan is urging the U.S. to reach out to North Korea, and South Korea is even more eager to see that happen. South Korea's president, Kim Dae Jung, has sought to promote normal relations with the North and reduce political tensions. With the disappearance of the Berlin Wall, the razor wire-topped chain-link fence dividing Korea has become a historical anachronism, an ugly vestige of the Cold War.

Washington's main focus will be slowing North Korean weapons proliferation and compelling its compliance with an agreement negotiated by the Clinton administration. That 1994 pact froze North Korea's nuclear programs in return for desperately needed American aid.

For his part, Kim Jong Il is looking for the U.S. to support the creation in his country of a trade and investment zone -- with Japan, Russia, China and South Korea as partners. He knows that will happen only if he gives the United States real reasons to stop viewing his nation as a pariah.

Kelly's trip is an encouraging sign. Just because the Clinton administration tried to reach out to North Korea doesn't mean that it's a bad idea. The Bush administration is beginning to get this, to understand that talking to the North is better than dismissing it as evil and then ignoring it.

(Compiled by United Press International.)

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