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Editorial Roundup

April 28, 1999

Here are excerpts from editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

April 22

The News Herald of Panama City, Fla., on Colorado school shootings:

We know who is responsible for turning the Colorado high school into a killing field. ... We even know ... who possibly could have prevented it: Mike Vendegnia, or Alisa Owen, or Greg Barnes. Others, too, and students all.

Dylan Klebold, recalled fellow senior Vendegnia, ``was into guns and stuff like that. We’d talk and joke around.″

Klebold and Eric Harris always ``were joking around saying, `We are going to shoot you,‴ Owen said.

It was Barnes who told the Denver Rocky Mountain News that no one took Harris and Klebold seriously. He needed no prompting to add, ``That was a mistake.″ ...

It’s not pleasant to imagine a school resource officer or an administrator asking parents to come in to talk about suspicions other students have of their son. But that apparently is the only prevention that can work. ...

In truth, the first defense against a situation like this is other students. It’s politicians who cloud the issue.

April 21

The Seattle Times, on Colorado school shootings:

Adolf Hitler was born 110 years ago April 20 and committed suicide a half-century ago, but he lives on _ resurrected to describe war crimes in faraway Kosovo and to inspire unspeakable horrors toward children so close to home.

Two students became gunmen at a middle-class suburban high school near Denver, Colo., killing 15 people and wounding at least 23 others in one of the worst shooting rampages in recent history. Classmates say the boys were part of a group that spoke admiringly of Hitler and wore swastikas on their clothing; the carefully planned spree was aimed first at minorities and athletes, then at any human being in their paths. ...

The first rash of shootings prompted disbelief that such a thing could happen at a school. By Springfield last May, the disbelief had narrowed. Once the nation unwillingly absorbed school shootings as a freakish reality of modern education, the disbelief was no longer that it could happen, but that it might happen often, or nearby.

Hitler is an inappropriate metaphor for nearly any current event, no matter how terrible. But one of the lessons of Hitler is the frightening ability of humans to accept the terrible as normal.

April 22

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, on Lessons from Littleton:

Maybe the Trenchcoat Mafia didn’t seem any more threatening than other teenage cliques that adopt a certain look or attitude, even if that attitude was rebellious and antisocial. ...

But Tuesday’s carnage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., is a horrifying reminder to school officials everywhere that they need to be vigilant when it comes to violence. ...

The Littleton attack, after all, is not an isolated incident. Even as violence continues to decrease on school campuses nationwide, with 90 percent of schools reporting no serious violent crimes, incidents like those in Pearl, Miss.; Paducah, Ky.; Jonesboro, Ark.; and Springfield, Ore., seem to signal a terrifying and deadly trend. Loners, kids who are teased and ostracized, turn to acts of unspeakable violence. Littleton’s distinction is that it was the most deadly. ...

It’s encouraging that many schools and communities aren’t ignoring the potential for a tragedy in their midst.

But grants, workshops and programs can only do so much. The bottom line is paying attention, and everyone _ parents, volunteers who work with youth, teachers, administrators and even other students _ needs to have their antennae up. ...

April 26

Daily Jefferson County Union, Fort Atkinson, Wis., on school shootings:

In the minutes and hours after the first shots were fired in Littleton, Colo., the media were scrambling to piece together the scenario inside Columbine High School. ...

In the days that followed, however, the big question has been: How can America stop tragedies such as this from happening again? And everyone seems to have a different answer.

There are those who would have us install metal detectors in our schools or require students to wear uniforms so no teen-ager feels or can be different and outside the pack.

There are others who tout stricter gun control, saying that curbing firearms’ availability is the first step in halting violence.

There are people, including some Wisconsin legislators, who propose banning minors’ purchase of CDs and tapes bearing labels that warn of nasty, inciteful and questionable lyrics. ...

While well-meaning, these are knee-jerk responses to a much deeper problem troubling America’s children, and turning off TVs, banning CDs or transforming schools into prisons will not alone prevent another Littleton, Jonesboro or West Paducah from taking place.

We don’t claim to be psychologists, but it seems clear that many children are not learning two very basic concepts that previous generations were taught at home from early on: Respect and responsibility. ...

America has become a nation that treats the symptoms instead of the disease. Teaching respect and responsibility early on at home might not singlehandedly stave off an epidemic of school violence, but it is a very good place to start.

April 21

The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore., on Colorado school shooting:

We here in Oregon mourn for Littleton, having ourselves experienced the horror of mass violence at a school not quite a year ago.

No words can help families and friends endure the unendurable, we know that. But a community that has lived through a traumatic crime can offer to another its experience as a guide to what lies ahead. Looking back at the rampage at Thurston High School and its aftermath, a few simple lessons come to mind that might be of benefit to the people of Littleton:

Pay as much attention to those who were strong and brave as to those who committed this awful crime.

Be prepared to deal with pain and trauma for a long time after the national spotlight has shifted elsewhere. Remember that every act of support, every word of reassurance, every gift, every prayer counts. ...

Littleton is the center of the world’s attention right now and desperately wishes it were otherwise. It is being watched especially closely by people here in Oregon, and the understanding and empathy that we can offer might be more welcome than the stares and speculation from other quarters. Perhaps they and we will find time to compare notes on how to respond to such awful crimes. If it can happen in Springfield, it can happen anywhere. And if it can happen in Littleton, it can happen again somewhere else.

April 25

The Vicksburg (Miss.) Post, on Colorado school shooting:

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris have made a strong case for smaller schools.

The days since the 17-year-old and 18-year-old killed 12 classmates, a teacher and themselves in a thoroughly planned assault on Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., have been filled with ample speculation. ``Why?″ and ``how?″ may never be known with certainty, and no one can offer assurance their crime won’t be duplicated, perhaps on a larger scale. There’s no one cause. There’s no one cure.

Fact has also emerged. For example, the two were described in one evaluation as bright young men with ``a great deal of potential.″ Neighbors and friends say they perceived the teens with middle-class backgrounds as having quiet, ``utterly normal″ family lives. No one, it seems, really knew them. Perhaps no one could.

But there’s another fact: Columbine was a big school. And it follows that the larger the school, the easier it is to get ``lost,″ to escape personal attention from administrators and faculty. What principal can know 1,800 names, much less 1,800 personalities?

A decades-long trend in American education has been consolidation into larger schools. There have been good reasons for this. The larger the school, the more diverse course offerings can be. And, of course, the larger the schools, the larger the pool from which to recruit student athletes.

But as with any change, there are drawbacks. The bigger a school, the more intimidated students might feel. The bigger a school, the more likely that strong ``identity″ cliques will be formed. ...

It’s a tough choice _ bigger schools with more equipment, more courses, more everything or smaller schools where those things are limited. But Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris have shown us it’s something we need to think about. Clearly they were lost. Clearly no one was close enough to pierce their veneer or to see and head off their deadly potential.

April 25

Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram on tax debate:

Many Americans figure that taxes are like the weather: Everybody talks about them, but not much can be done.

But there’s a movement afoot among people who don’t buy that premise _ people who believe that a more equitable system can be devised by altering the current code. Sort of like seeding clouds to promote rain during a drought.

Flat tax, fair tax, graduated tax _ regardless of the plan, Americans deserve an easier, less complicated way to pay their fair share to the government.

One look at today’s internal revenue tax code makes it glaringly obvious that it’s time for an earnest debate on changing it. ...

Taxes were first collected to fund those government services that the citizens deemed necessary in a democratic republic. But somewhere along the line, a wrinkle in the philosophy was added: Use the tax system to encourage citizens and businesses to do things that the nation’s elected leaders thought were good for the country.

Owning a home was a good thing, so tax breaks were given for mortgage interest. Giving to churches and charities was a good thing, so tax deductions were provided to tithers and donors. ...

When the first exemption was written into the document, it tilled the soil for the weed that is the nation’s current tax code. It looks like the head of a dandelion _ all 7.5 million words, 9,000 individual sections and 569 filing forms. ...

Any revision of the internal revenue code will wither and die if exemptions and deductions, no matter how socially worthwhile, make their way back into the mix. ...

April 23

Star Tribune of Minneapolis, on Vatican and rapes in Kosovo:

The Vatican has acquired a reputation, recently, of speaking for the voiceless. It pleads for the safety of children, the harboring of refugees, the feeding of the hungry. But even a wise preacher sometimes delivers a dud sermon, and the Vatican has done just that in speaking to the suffering of the raped women of Kosovo.

The refugees fleeing that land are bringing stories of inconceivable sexual cruelty meted out by Serb forces. Mothers tell of watching as groups of young girls were rounded up by soldiers and systematically raped by the roadside. Grown women tell of being raped in front of their children.

There is a way to minimize the horror _ to assure that women who have been raped in the name of war do not become pregnant. All that is necessary is access to the morning-after pill _ a medicine which, if taken soon after the rape, can prevent a pregnancy from developing. When refugee workers encounter a rape victim, they offer the pills as a matter of course. It’s a humane gesture _ an attempt to avert the most heartbreaking outcome of a soldier’s savagery.

But the Vatican does not call this gesture humane. Its preferred term is murder. It notes that the morning-after pill works not by averting fertilization, but by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. In the Vatican’s eyes, that makes the pill a form of abortion. It vehemently opposes the pill’s use in refugee camps.

Perhaps this stand is to be expected from a religious institution that exhorts women already overburdened with hungry children to steer clear of birth control. But it’s nevertheless surprising to see the Vatican turn such a cold shoulder to the suffering of raped Kosovars. Whatever the Vatican may say, the morning-after pill isn’t an abortion pill; unlike the controversial RU-486, it can’t end a pregnancy already underway. It’s a high-dose contraceptive that prevents a pregnancy from being established.

Women who share the Vatican’s views about the morning-after pill are free to refuse it. Rape victims who want it should have the chance to take it. It’s entirely a matter of personal choice.

April 22

Sandusky (Ohio) Register, on separatism:

Residents of Brooksville, Ala., recently petitioned to have their community declared a new town, founded on Christian principles and beholden only to the laws of the King James version of the Bible.

Pizza mogul Tom Monaghan announced last week his plans to build a law school where prospective lawyers would be schooled in the law from a Christian perspective.

Both of these actions seem to be well-meaning attempts by God-fearing people to live their faith and bring the word out of the pulpit and into their daily lives.

What could possibly be wrong with these ideas?

Separatism for any reason, be it religious or race-based, eats away at the foundation of our country. America was founded by people who had suffered under a government which was inflexible on matters of faith.

April 22

Mainichi Shimbun, Tokyo, on high school shooting:

Why do such shootings take place so often in U.S. schools? U.S. news organizations frequently point the finger at the violent images and story lines in video games and computer games. Victims of school shootings have filed lawsuits against the manufacturers of violent video games and software.

Americans tend to blame education and violent images in the media instead of the easy access to guns, which forms the backdrop to those incidents. The problem is the refusal by the United States to impose strict controls on gun ownership. ...

No matter how much President Bill Clinton calls for education reform, such tragedies will be repeated at U.S. schools as long as guns are easily accessible. ...

April 28

La Stampa, Turin, Italy, on Yugoslav President Milosevic:

After a month-long air strikes escalation, observers may draw first conclusions on the campaign against Serbia.

The result is, under every respect, a disaster for (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic and his regime.

The Serbs used all their military potential against Kosovo’s civil population, but found no counter measures against the NATO’s missiles. ...

At this point Milosevic is no longer acceptable as a party at the negotiating table. ...

After a month, it makes no sense anymore to wonder whether or not the bombings were necessary, or effective. They have succeeded in further weakening the Serbian strategic armament.

The military and paramilitary bands in Kosovo have no fuel and in a short time they will run out of ammunitions.

If NATO, as it is possible, will decide to send ground troops, they will just have to disarm, not even fight, the rest of an army in disarray.

April 26

Liberation, Paris, on NATO and Serbia:

The NATO summit has ended and leaves us only with unease: the feeling that this push forward in the bombardament of Serbia cannot be the proper solution.

What’s most important is the fate of the refugees. How can we stop the massacres? How can we stop the deportations? What can we do to enable 1.5 million Kosovo Albanians to return home in the future, and live in peace and freedom?

Even under the bombs, despite the destruction of homes, despite the destruction of factories, despite the blows to his television station, Milosevic has kept the initiative. He is free to carry his agenda on to the end.

Time is on Milosevic’s side, aiding his tactics to destabilize the region. NATO, on the other hand, does not have time on its side.

The allies who have just met in Washington cannot ignore this.

April 27

The Independent, London, on Kosovar refugees:

The arrival of 161 Kosovar refugees at Leeds airport is a welcome start. But it is still a very long way from the government’s promise of taking in 10,000 refugees from the Balkan conflict. This airlift from Macedonia must be swiftly followed by others; whereas Germany has already taken nearly 10,000 refugees, Britain’s efforts so far have been grossly inadequate.

Germany’s speed in taking in refugees is not just a response to its misdeeds in the Second World War. The Germans recognize that the Kosovar people have suffered murder, rape, arson and exile, and that 600,000 of them are still living in appalling conditions in overcrowded camps. Britain and France have been slow to take in Kosovars, in part because of specious arguments that sheltering refugees furthers the desire of the Yugoslav regime to expel Kosovo’s Albanian-speaking majority.

April 27

The Daily Telegraph, London, on President Clinton and Kosovo:

Having committed the NATO alliance to the botched air campaign against Serbia, President Clinton is now behaving as if the war will somehow take care of itself. He has conspicuously failed to use the ``bully pulpit″ of his office to rally American opinion behind the policy, deferring to NATO’s secretary-general, Javier Solana, or to our own prime minister. His grandiloquent rhetoric about a Marshall Plan for the Balkans is no substitute for a properly executed strategy to engage the enemy, defeat it and impose terms. We are beginning to glimpse the full malign consequences of Mr. Clinton’s poll-driven, focus-group ``exquisite followership.″ This method may have won him two presidential elections, but it is a formula for failure in warfare.

April 27

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurt, on Kosovo:

By saying that a peaceful solution to the Kosovo crisis must be measured by the swift and safe return of refugees to their homeland, U.S. General Secretary Kofi Annan exhausted every means of political decision left to him. .... First, the refugees can only return and feel secure in their homeland when they no longer fear being harassed by Serb police or massacred by paramilitary criminal bands. For that, an international protection force that in emergency situations can protect itself and the people will be necessary.

That is only possible if Milosevic either fulfills NATO’s conditions, which he has so far refused, or when his power is militarily broken.

That is probably why Annan cannot approve of the NATO’s military mission in Yugoslavia; that he does not publicly disapprove of it, rather welcomes its goals, speaks for itself.

April 23

Expressen, Stockholm, on foreign ownership of Swedish companies:

The debate about foreign ownership is taking place in most every developed industrial nation. ... In 1990 about 200,000 Swedes were employed in foreign-owned companies in Sweden. Last year the number rose to 350,000, according to the Association of Industries’ estimate.

For the most part, foreign investment is something we should welcome with open arms. Sweden, as a European Union member, cannot try to close its borders to foreign capital. And if Sweden were not in the EU, every such attempt would only lead to a massive outflow of capital and jobs.

This is not to say that every deal is necessarily good for shareowners or Sweden in the long run. ... (But) Sweden as a nation has lived well on multinational companies that have travelled around the world and shopped for other companies. That foreign companies shop in Sweden can also _ as the government depends _ depend on our having a relatively good business climate.

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