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Editorial Roundup

July 15, 1998

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

July 14

The Miami Herald, on Japan’s economy:

In American movie houses this summer, doomsday comes via asteroids and space aliens conspiring to take over the world. In reality, the likelier doomsday comes when Japan’s economy collapses. ...

Such is today’s global economy: Japan twitches, Southeast Asia teeters, and South Floridians suddenly have reason to cringe at what might come next.

On the optimistic side, Japanese voters ... sent a clear message to their leaders and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party: Right the economy! The immediate result was Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s resignation. ...

So what does happen next?

A happy ending would have a bold new leader rising from the ashes of the LDP losses to take charge and do what has to be done despite the pain. ... It is by no means certain that Japanese voters, though clearly ready for action, have been prepared for painful action. ...

July 14

North County Times, Escondido, Calif., on Northern Ireland:

Protestants in Northern Ireland marched Monday in commemoration of their biggest holiday, the defeat of a Catholic king by William of Orange in 1690. But a pall hung over the usually raucous celebrations _ a pall that might just signal this war-weary end of Ireland is finally ready to accept peace.

Years ago, the firebombing death Sunday morning of three Catholic boys would probably have sparked a whole new wave of retribution shootings and bombings by the Irish Republican Army or one of its many parallel militant Catholic groups. But the horrible attack instead seems to have numbed the country and laid bare the senselessness of the violence that has gripped the land for generations. ...

Protestant leaders called for silent observances at all gatherings Monday, and Catholics, who often try to disrupt the parades ..., avoided most confrontations. ...

Nothing, of course, could justify the killing of the boys. What would be worse is if their deaths are used to rationalize more killing and to unravel the tenuous peace before, like the Quinn boys, it has a chance at life.

July 13

The Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma City, on IRS reform:

Based on the horror stories from aggrieved taxpayers that emerged during congressional hearings over the past year, the Internal Revenue Service was an agency out of control and long overdue for reform.

Now reform is on the way. The U.S. Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill that promises to rein in the tax agency’s excesses and make it more taxpayer-friendly. The Senate vote, 96-2, mirrored the 402-8 tally by which the same measure passed the House of Representatives two weeks ago. President Clinton on Thursday praised the measure and pledged to sign it into law. ...

Sen. Robert Kerrey, D-Neb., perhaps best summed up the need for IRS reform. American government is at risk, he said, ``if people come to believe they aren’t getting a fair shake from the tax collectors.″

It has been apparent for some time that a vast number of Americans have come to believe just that. The votes in the Senate and House on the reform measure reflect the fact that many Americans have had an unpleasant experience with the IRS or know someone who has.

July 8

Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun, on CNN retraction of military-nerve gas story:

Cable News Network did the only thing it could last week when it admitted that its sensational account of nerve-gas attacks on suspected American defectors in Vietnam was unsupported by fact. In its haste to accuse the Pentagon of indiscriminately using deadly nerve gas in Vietnam, CNN twisted facts, suppressed evidence and misquoted witnesses.

Things get worse. The story’s primary source, a onetime Army lieutenant, has asserted that his knowledge of the alleged incident was based on ``repressed memories,″ an exceedingly shaky source of information.

It is a measure of the estrangement of news organizations such as CNN from the American mainstream that its producers, editors and reporters should have characterized such outrageous myths, and gone to such lengths to publicize an insult to the brave men who fought in that war 30 years ago.

July 7

Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass., on Viagra:

Thirty-one men seeking to restore the sex life of their youth have paid the worst price. They’ve died. They died believing that the medication they’d taken _ Viagra, the hottest-selling drug in the market _ was safe for them.

Although Pfizer Inc., the drug’s manufacturer, along with the Food and Drug Administration, insist the drug is safe, the consumer group Public Citizen may have found a deadly exception.

Pfizer refused to admit men with certain heart-related conditions into its trials of the drug, but men with those conditions are allowed to take Viagra anyway, and some have suffered heart attacks or strokes, Public Citizen says. ...

The FDA, despite its insistence on Viagra’s safety, has agreed to consider the concerns Public Citizen has raised. Another fad has overcome reason. So many men are so eager to reap Viagra’s rejuvenating benefits that they have thrown reason and caution to the wind.

In some cases, so have their doctors. ... Life is precious _ don’t lose it in a blind leap to regain a bit of your youth.

July 12

Star Tribune of Minneapolis, on the environment:

One would permit cutting a road through an Alaskan wildlife refuge. Another would erase funding for the planned reintroduction of grizzly bears to wilderness in Idaho and Montana. A third would halt phase-out of commercial fishing in Glacier Bay National Park, the largest protected marine ecosystem on the Pacific coast.

These are but three of 20-some environmental riders now attached to key appropriations bills in the U.S. Senate and House. Many wouldn’t stand a chance on their own merits. But some will probably be adopted as the price of securing legislation that the government can’t do without.

Lawmaking by rider reduces important, complex questions to simple horse trading. It averts public scrutiny and debate and turns competition among social values into bargaining over a price tag.

Some in Congress have proposed a requirement that all significant environmental measures be subject to open debate and an independent vote. This is an idea that merits support. In the meantime, Congress and the White House should turn back these environmental assaults one by one.

July 11

The Hickory (N.C.) Daily Record, on children and firearms:

Everyone can support the bipartisan U.S. Senate proposal to hold adults criminally responsible if they allow children easy access to firearms.

President Clinton has endorsed stiffer penalties for adults who do not keep their guns out of the hands of children, and he repeated his call to Congress for appropriate legislation last week. ...

Both sides of the firearms debate, often characterized (and caricatured) as Handgun Control Inc. vs. the National Rifle Association, can find common ground on the issue of keeping unsupervised minors away from guns. Indeed, adults are responsible for their children’s safety and the safety of children under their care.

The idea that adults should be treated as criminals and held accountable for the misuse of their firearms by children is long overdue. ...

July 11

Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, on reporting child abuse:

Justice, although bold in concept, can be a fragile thing. Therefore, it must be handled with care. Laws, though generally precise, can sometimes be vague and open to interpretation. Therefore, we must continue to examine, and occasionally fine-tune, our statutes.

Last week, in a Tarrant County courtroom, we got a valuable lesson on law and justice that must not go unheeded. During the trial of Hilaria Ruiz, assistant principal at Fort Worth’s Sagamore Hill Elementary School, a Child Protective Services employee lied under oath while testifying for the state. As a result, the trial was stopped, and all charges of failing to report suspected child abuse were dropped against Ruiz and Principal Sherry Breed. ...

Child abuse should be reported, and those who have special responsibility to our children should be required to contact the proper authorities when they feel that a child has been violated or may be harmed.

This law ought to be revisited by the Legislature next year. Just as we must stop the abuse of children, we must also stop the abuse by a system using a law that is too ambiguous.

July 14

Belfast Telegraph, Belfast, Northern Ireland, on murder of Quinn brothers:

For the sake of our children, was a phrase much used in May during the run-up to the Referendum. Back then the Troubles had taken its toll on 257 young lives.

The murder of brothers Richard, Mark and Jason Quinn is a tragedy, not just for their grieving family, but for all of us.

How a hand could fill a bottle with petrol, light it and throw it into a house where children lie sleeping is beyond most of us. Yet that is what happened on Sunday morning. And every morning for a week.

Hundreds of people have been burned out, intimidated, made homeless in the week of the Drumcree siege.

And we accepted it. After all, no one was seriously hurt. Until now.

To be fair, this is not just a parade problem. It is something that has gone on for more than 30 years. We may talk about justice and rights and equality but this is really about an us-and-them thing. ...

Nearly a year ago Ulster went into a frenzy of grief after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

But I have to ask what kind of society are we that will mourn the passing of a Princess who was rarely here but will barely lift a hand or say a word to save our own children? ...

July 14

La Nacion, Buenos Aires, on Northern Ireland:

... Today in Northern Ireland, there exists a real commitment to achieving understanding and putting to rest the struggles and differences that have pitted Catholics and Protestants against each other for centuries. But regrettably, there still exist those intransigent and belligerent minorities (whose) one and only aim is to continue sowing terror, and in such a way, hinder the road that would seem to lead to peace. ...

July 14

The Times, London, on Japan’s economy:

When Ryutaro Hashimoto became Prime Minister of Japan 30 months ago he said that he would ``go down in flames″ if he failed to turn around Japan’s moribund economy. But neither he nor anyone else expected Japan’s voters to light so fierce a bonfire.

In burying Hashimoto, it is right to offer some praise. His foreign policies have been courageous, particularly in strengthening the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. But what counts is that he plunged Japan into needless recession. The voters were right to blame him personally _ and dead right to make their views so plain that he had no option but to resign. Without radical action, the mess he has made of Japan’s economy could yet drag the world into depression. ...

July 14

La Repubblica, Rome, on Japan’s elections:

The leader who loses, resigns. On this occasion Japan is to be admired. In a country where honor, even political honor is significant, Ryutaro Hashimoto decided to present his resignation when the results from the ballot boxes became known.

This admission of guilt is very rare in politics.

But beyond the gesture itself, the resignation of Hashimoto is followed by a series of question marks regarding the continuation of reformist policies in Tokyo. ...

This political uncertainty has alarmed the markets and worried the U.S. and Europe.

Japan can only solve its crisis if it understands the meaning of this vote: Japanese people expect more pervasive reforms to revive the country’s economy.

July 14

Mainichi Shimbun, Tokyo, on Japan’s election:

Voters had vented their anger at the failed economic policies of Hashimoto’s Cabinet and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). We feel, therefore, that it is only fitting that the prime minister and the leaders of the LDP should resign.

The LDP has already begun the process of selecting a successor to Hashimoto. A Cabinet would normally be compelled to dissolve the Diet and hold elections for the House of Representatives after such a humiliating setback. But Japan needs to respond immediately to its economic crisis and cannot allow a political vacuum to develop.

After passing emergency economic and financial legislation during the extraordinary Diet session, the new Cabinet must dissolve the Diet and hold early elections in order to win the confidence of the people. The new Cabinet should be content to manage the economic crisis and prepare for the next election.

July 15

Times of India, New Delhi, on Japan’s election:

In ordinary times, the fall of yet another Japanese prime minister would not be such big news. But these are not ordinary times. If Japan fails to recover, it will drag much of Asia down the tube and also rattle economies as far afield as Russia, Chile and Brazil. Thus, the world anxiously waits to see what concrete steps Mr. (Ryutaro) Hashimoto’s successor will take to revive the economy. The options, of course, are limited and will have to include sweeping bank reforms and a broad reflationary package. There are indications Mr. Hashimoto was beginning to grapple with this reality, though the measures he undertook were halfhearted and too diffused to instill much confidence. If his exit has opened up the possibility for change, it is only because voters have demonstrated that mismanagement of the economy will not go unpunished.

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