Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

Dec. 13

Chicago Tribune, on the death of the DVD:

Fast forward to obsolescence.

The death knell of the VHS format sounded recently. The entertainment industry newspaper Variety wrote its obituary. The DVD killed VHS, abetted by TiVo and aggressive, new high-definition competitors.

... Given the pace of change, we suppose we shouldn't be startled by recent intimations of mortality for another tech wonder, the DVD. Yes, it may be shuffling off to technological obsolescence sooner than we thought, after only a decade or so of life. The presumed cause of its demise: downloadable movies. A potentially big nail in the coffin: Wal-Mart recently announced that next year it will begin testing a video download service on its Web site.

... Alas, this is the way of the techno world. All things pass. Soon. If you don't believe it, try watching that videotape you made of the Bears Super Bowl victory in 1986. When we did, it was a murky mess. And then the tape snapped.

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On the Net:

www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion

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Dec. 14

The Times-Tribune, Corbin, Ky., on ACT testing:

Next year, the Kentucky Board of Education will begin the process of requiring all high school juniors to take the ACT as part of the state's accountability testing system.

ACT is a nationally used college admission exam developed by an independent, non-profit organization.

The benefit of incorporating this exam into school testing is twofold. It will encourage more students to consider higher education by forcing them to take a free version of a test that normally costs $30 and giving them a glimpse into college-level expectations.

... The battle of education has long been a battle over control _ be it local, state or federal. States have been reluctant to embrace any federal accountability test for students, but there can be no national accountability system without national standards.

For too long, education standards have been segmented by state lines.

... The most sweeping change in recent education law, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, now requires all states to be proficient in grade-level testing and sets penalties and sanctions for schools that don't meet goals.

Sounds like a good system, but NCLB doesn't create a national standard of ``proficient.'' Since it leaves each state to determine its own tests and goals, the system actually encourages states to lower proficiency standards in order to achieve federally acceptable passing rates. ...

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On the Net:

http://www.thetimestribune.com/editorials%emp h_off(%)

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Dec. 15

The Press of Atlantic City, N.J., on prostitute murders in Atlantic City and England:

Two apparent serial killers on the loose. Two sides of an ocean.

The recent discovery of four slain women lined up in a marsh in West Atlantic City resembles the finding of five naked corpses in a small city in southern England. In both cases, investigators are hard at work trying to find a killer who preys on prostitutes _ women made vulnerable by their dependence on drugs and the money of strange men.

But that's where the similarities end.

In England, Ipswich city officials and local businesses rallied immediately to provide a shuttle service to transport women home from work. They also provided hand-held alarms for female workers.

... Meanwhile in Atlantic City, it's business as usual.

... Atlantic City has worked too long and too hard at shedding its image as a seedy town gilded with a few casinos to let a horrific, random crime undo it all. Millions of potential visitors are reading sensational accounts of the resort's mean streets and the city's seeming indifference.

... As in England, city officials and investigators need to send a visible and public message that says, ``Yes, we care, and we're going to do something about it.''

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On the Net:

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/opinion/ed itorials/

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Dec. 17

The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa., on consumer confidence in produce:

It isn't good business practice to make one's customers sick, but recent high-profile food contamination incidents involving spinach, tomatoes and now possibly lettuce suggest that producers are not doing all they can to ensure that their products are safe to eat.

These outbreaks have disclosed the degree to which responsibility for food safety, especially as it pertains to produce, has been left to producers, who are governed by a voluntary set of guidelines.

The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for monitoring about 80 percent of the nation's food supply has seen its food-safety budget diminished for years to the point where the agency ``is in a position that all (it) can do is send in inspectors after the cow has left the barn,'' according to William K. Hubbard, a former FDA associate commissioner. The FDA doesn't ``have the ability to set standards and enforce standards,'' he added. ...

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On the Net:

http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/patriotnew s

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Dec. 17

The Kansas City (Mo.) Star, on national forest plans:

The Bush administration is trying again to stifle the public's say in decisions about logging and mining in the national forests.

A new rule says the government doesn't have to fully consider how forest management plans affect the environment.

The rule eliminates environmental impact statements from the management plans required every 15 years. The Forest Service says those plans have no impact on the environment because they just represent planning, not action.

That's hogwash.

Now decisions will be made about timber harvesting, off-road vehicles, drilling and mining without the formal process of environmental impact statements and public comments.

The government can more easily ignore air and water concerns, endangered species and damage to wildlife habitat. It will be easier for timber and drilling companies to do what they want. ...

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On the Net:

tp://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news emph_on(type:bold,underline; ___

Dec. 18

The Chronicle, Centralia, Wash., on troop levels in Iraq:

President Bush is right to be taking more time to determine a new strategy for fighting and winning the war in Iraq so as to ensure getting it right to the greatest extent possible.

The alternative of a premature withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq, as advocated by some, would be to admit defeat that would embolden our enemies, destabilize the entire region, provide a new sanctuary for terrorists and seriously endanger our national security.

That is a risk that President Bush, our commander in chief, rightly continues to be unwilling to take.

... Stabilizing Baghdad is essential to bringing stability to the new Iraqi government, defeating the al-Qaida terrorists and outside elements (such as from Iran) who are encouraging and fueling the sectarian bloodbath, and to enhancing the economic rebuilding of the country.

... Stability would also boost our efforts to more fully train Iraqi Army and police units toward the ultimate goal of their fully taking over security for the country.

... For the sake of our national security, our focus must be on victory, not withdrawal and defeat.

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On the Net:

tp://www.chronline.com/main.asp?Top1&Secti mph_on(type:bold,underline;%) onID16 ___

Dec. 18

The Buffalo (N.Y.) News, on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

History ought to judge Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as harshly as he judges history. The state conference he just held to ``debunk'' the Holocaust is not only outrageous, it's a transparent effort to curry favor with extremists and undermine the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

To make those arguments, he brought in such credible historians, if you'll pardon the sarcasm, as former Louisiana Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

... There is abundant scholarly material and evidence _ including witnesses, both Jewish and German _ to the murder of 6 million Jews. But since taking office in August of last year, Ahmadinejad has made it clear he is dedicated to the obliteration of the state of Israel, even more so than his predecessors. Denying the Holocaust undercuts the rationale for Israel's establishment after World War II. Ahmadinejad may actually believe that nonsense, but apparently he also thinks that by debunking the Holocaust he can change established relationships and the terms of political debate in the Middle East. It's an attempt to roll the clock back and spur the neighbors into action.

The fact that Israel will remain is something most other nations have come to accept.

... Ahmadinejad has placed himself, and his country, in that company. The only thing he has debunked is his own credibility.

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On the Net:

tp://buffalonews.com/editorial/20061218/105 mph_on(type:bold,underline;%) 6303.asp ___

Dec. 19

The Bradenton (Fla.) Herald, on Cuban migrants landing on Florida beaches:

Though they had been at sea for three days and had not eaten for four, they were the lucky ones.

The 25 Cubans found huddled on the beach of Beer Can Island on Monday morning technically had ``dry feet'' _ meaning that they had reached United States soil and would not immediately be sent back to Cuba. Instead they likely will qualify for expedited ``legal permanent resident'' status and eventual U.S. citizenship.

Had police or the Coast Guard intercepted them before they reached dry land, they doubtless would have been given a meal and a fast ride back to Cuba, the fate that awaits all who arrive with ``wet feet'' under the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy toward Cuban refugees.

... That these refugees landed on Florida's west coast indicates they were brought by professional smugglers in high-speed boats. Indeed, they told a Bradenton Herald reporter that they paid roughly $2,000 each to make the trip. Refugee landings in this area are rare, but not unprecedented. Perhaps a looming scandal over shoddy repair of Coast Guard vessels made the smuggling operation possible. The Coast Guard Commander in Key West two weeks ago was forced to take eight of 10 cutters out of action because of structural problems, leaving key interdiction routes unpatrolled. ...

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On the Net:

tp://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/news/o mph_on(type:bold,underline;%) pinion/ ___

Dec. 17

The Jordan Times, on Palestinian politics:

After a week of near silence during a worsening internal situation, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has finally taken some decisive action.

Unfortunately, his call to hold early elections is exactly the wrong way to go. It is likely to exacerbate, rather than ease, tensions and constitutes a major gamble on his behalf.

Indeed, it could not come at a worse time.

... Yasser Arafat repeatedly delayed presidential and parliamentary elections the last parliament sat for ten years, six more than the 4-year-term intended but it was a sore issue with many Palestinians. Arafat could get away with it, partly because of his status and partly because Hamas, the biggest opposition group, then showed little interest in contesting such elections.

These conditions no longer exist. Abbas does not have anywhere near the popular legitimacy that Arafat had, while Hamas not only contested elections when they were held after Arafat's death, but won them hands down.

Thus, with at best dubious legal grounds and a public deeply divided, Abbas has not only left himself open to accusations of attempting a coup against his own government, accusations Hamas has already levelled at him, but has very possibly opened the door to civil war.

In view of the political deadlock in negotiations to form a unity government and the creeping atrophy of the Palestinian Authority as a result of the international sanctions such a unity government was meant to circumvent, that risk might have been understandable under different circumstances.

... At a time when leaders of both Hamas and Fateh should have shown restraint in their public utterances, the exact opposite happened. Neither have risen to the challenge of leadership, of reining in their armed elements or of the art of political compromise. ...

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On the Net:

tp://www.jordantimes.com/sun/opinion/opinio mph_on(type:bold,underline;%) n1.htm ___

Dec. 19

Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, on on US-China dialogue:

A two-day ``strategic economic dialogue'' was held between the United States and China last week. It was the first such session ever held to exchange views on the two countries' respective economic management and systems.

... Underlying this move is the idea that while trade problems do exist, the relationship between China and the United States could be stabilized through greater mutual economic dependence, and that this could also improve their security relations.

... For stability and prosperity in East Asia, we heartily welcome a Beijing-Washington dialogue. But is there sufficient dialogue between Tokyo and Washington, and Tokyo and Beijing?

... A vice-ministerial meeting of Japanese and American officials was recently held to discuss economic issues, but the talks never delved into long-range strategy. And the economic pipelines that exist between Japan and China are still predominantly in the private sector, and these can hardly be called solid.

Japan should not remain a mere onlooker while China and the United States strengthen their ties. Tokyo must come up with its own strategy and propose Cabinet-level sessions for economic dialogue with Washington and Beijing.

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On the Net:

tp://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY mph_on(type:bold,underline;%) 200612200121.html ____

Dec. 20

Hindustan Times, Delhi, India, on Time magazine's person of the year:

It sounds highly flattering, but when Time magazine puts you on the cover, do consider the possibility of journalistic laziness as a reason for the news magazine bestowing you the honour. For you to beat the likes of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and former American Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld could lead to a skewed understanding of how important you have been in the global scheme of things over the last one year. But then, making a character from the Axis of Evil-Plus get the coveted spot sends out even more dangerous signals these days.

But there could be another reason why you get to be on this years cover. Since 1995, all of Times Persons of the Year have been Americans, starting from former US Speaker Newt Gingrich right down to last years trinity of Bono (hes as Irish as M Night Shyamalan is Indian) and Bill and Melinda Gates.

Making an easily recognisable (for the American subscriber, that is) non-American the Person of the Year can be devilishly difficult. This is usually worked around by putting Aishwarya Rai et al on the cover of the Asian edition of the magazine. While this gives every Time reader in India the idea that an Indian has finally become the global toast, that Ms Rais photograph doesnt adorn a tabletop in Houston or in Zurich tells the real, smart picture. But you dont, you cant localise a Person of the Year. So it had to be you, anonymous blogger or user of sites like YouTube. But you don't feel that feted, do you?

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tp://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181(unders mph_on(type:bold,underline; ___

Dec. 20

The Guardian, London, on the trial in Libya of Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor:

Libya's criminal justice system does not normally attract much attention abroad, but the case of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to death for allegedly infecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus is an extraordinary and troubling one. International condemnation yesterday was entirely justified after a travesty of a trial which ignored both the expert scientific opinion that discredited the charges, and credible claims that the defendants confessed after being tortured.

... The story is of course foremost a tragedy for the more than 50 Libyan children who have already died of Aids and the 370 other families who still face terrible uncertainty. But it is unfortunate that a group representing the victims claims the nurses infected the children at the bidding of foreign intelligence agencies. Libya's unfree press, persecution of dissidents and troubled relations with the west may go some way to explaining such a bizarre accusation. But this episode is all the more regrettable because those relations are changing fast.

In recent years Libya has been coming in from the cold. It ended its support for terrorism by surrendering the Lockerbie bombing suspects for trial and paying compensation to the relatives of its victims and to those killed in another attack on a French plane. In 2003 it surrendered the weapons of mass destruction it still had. Since then western leaders, including Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac, have beaten a path to Colonel Gadafy's tent door. The US is grateful for his help in fighting the ``war on terror''. This one-time pariah was feted in Brussels and the EU seeks his cooperation in controlling migration. His reformist son and heir apparent has studied in London. Oil and gas companies are investing heavily in Libya again.

Bulgaria's position has been strengthened by the coincidence that it is about to join the EU and can expect solidarity from fellow member states over this sordid affair. Condemnation of the trial should be a signal to Tripoli to drop the death sentences, discuss offers of financial assistance for the families - and prove that the new Libya fully respects the rule of law.

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On the Net:

tp://www.guardian.co.uk/leaders/story/0,,19 mph_on(type:bold,underline;%) 75536,00.html ___