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Press Review: In the United States, the Crash; Around the World, the Dollar

Prague, July 23 (RFE/RL) -- Much U.S. press commentary examines the probable cause and likely aftermath of the death last Wednesday of TWA Flight 800. International economics also claims the attention of the Western press.

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Americans must understand their world has changed

About the crash, columnist Claude Lewis writes today: "Americans now must understand that their world has changed forever. The explosion. . . is but the latest reminder of their vulnerability. The blast that tore apart the federal building in Oklahoma City. The bomb that shook the World Trade Center in Manhattan. The plastic explosive packed in a boombox that downed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The poison gas attack on Tokyo subway riders. All reminders. In our modern world, mass death can be delivered despite our best efforts to defy it, despite a fortune spent on security and intelligence. Those efforts often fail."

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Could a surface-to-air missile have downed the plane?

In today's edition, Ellen O'Brien and Pamela Ferdinand write: "The Paris-bound jet exploded shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. . . The absence of a distress call has led investigators to lean away from mechanical failure as a cause for the crash and toward the possibility of a bomb. Witness accounts, meanwhile, have led investigators to look more closely at the possibility that a surface-to-air missile knocked the 747 from the skies.

"In a brief interview, (James Kallstrom, who heads the FBI's New York office and is director of the task force probing the crash) said the FBI had statements from about 100 credible witnesses, ten of whom said they saw a bright streak arc toward the jet before it exploded. It would be the first case of a U.S. commercial airliner being shot down by a missile."

THE NEW YORK TIMES: Terrorists are still not punished for their crimes

Commentator A.M. Rosenthal writes today: "Six months after Pan Am 103 and all aboard were blown up over Scotland in 1988, a commission appointed by President Reagan came to a specific central conclusion about defeating international terrorism and presented it in the first paragraph of its report. . . .'The president's commission on aviation security and terrorism recommends a more vigorous U.S. policy that not only pursues and punishes terrorists but also makes state sponsors of terrorism pay a price for their actions.'

"Now we watch or brood, mourning, knowing that we or those we love could have been on that sickeningly brief flight of TWA 800. . . We do not know whether the 230 aboard went down murdered. . . . But we do know that whatever the truth, we ourselves will continue to be prey, meat for predators killing in the sky, a skyscraper in downtown New York, a community center in Buenos Aires or U.S. military housing in Saudi Arabia. So this should be the moment to remember not only what the commission said, but that its point has never been fulfilled by the United States or its allies in the eight years and two presidencies since then."

DIE WELT: Is trade war replacing the Cold War?

The German newspaper says today in an editorial signed by Herbert Kremp: "Prophets of doom are arguing that the Cold War is about to be replaced by the trade war. This war is fought on different fronts and by other means, but in the extreme it will manifest itself just as tangibly as a hot war with shipping blockades, air blockades, entry blockades, deportations and court sentences--all backed up by military or police force."

He continues: "At issue, as we are just discovering, are not soja beans but Big Power Policy, that is the right claimed by a superpower to direct the Western world's flow of trade, and force Cuba, Iran and Libya on their knees by imposing sanctions on them. This is one aspect of the Helms-Burton Law passed by Congress. The second aspect is aimed against President Bill Clinton, whom the Republicans would like to embarrass for campaign purposes.

"A third aspect is to punish ungrateful allies who are obviously not prepared to sacrifice their trade interests to the wishes of the current majority in the U.S. Congress. . . .The main issue--Is it permissible to pass a national law which affects extra-territorial dealings? This issue is one of power politics, of the blend of economic and political interests; of how to decide between friend, foe and trading partner."

THE NEW YORK TIMES: The U.S. should wipe out its debt to the World Bank

The paper editorialized yesterday: "Congress is threatening to renege on a worthy commitment made by President Clinton to wipe out America's debt to the World Bank program that lends money to desperately poor countries. The House voted to appropriate only $525 million of the $934 million that the United States owes. A Senate committee voted for $626 million. Unfortunately, the administration is not fighting very hard to restore the original target.

"The danger is that once the United States falls short, other donor countries will withdraw their pledges, leaving sub-Saharan and other poor countries without any source of money to pay for investments in health, education and roads. . . .Full funding would not be difficult to provide. There is fat in the pending foreign operations budget, including excessive spending on military assistance for foreign countries so that they can buy American arms they do not need and cannot afford.

"Foreign aid programs are unpopular when Congress is cutting domestic programs. But IDA is special. Most of the money goes to people squeaking by on a dollar a day. A $7,000,000 million economy can easily afford to honor America's proud tradition of helping the world's poor."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Scrap the current U.S. foreign aid program

Harvard Professor Nicholas Eberstadt is a researcher with the American Enterprise Institute and the author of "Foreign Aid and American Purpose." He writes in a commentary in today's European edition of the Journal: "America's chronically ailing foreign aid program is on its way down. . . . With public support for Washington's aid policies at an all-time low. . . , officials. . . are scrambling to protect the existing foreign aid from further congressional cuts.

"Their energy is misplaced. . . . America's current aid program should be. . . scrapped entirely and replaced by a smaller, more focused program that might convincingly contribute to international development. . . . What America lacks are sound and credible aid policies worthy of the public's support."