Prague, 5 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Although the military conflict over Kosovo continues to dominate Western press commentary, a scan today finds editorials and analysis on other significant topics.
ATLANTA CONSTITUTION: It's the weapons that differ
The Atlanta Constitution and other newspapers of the U.S. Cox group carry an essay by editor-in-chief Arnold Rosenfeld provoked by the school massacre last month in Littleton, Colorado. Rosenfeld harks back to the 1924 American teen killers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two boys from affluent families who murdered a third teen. A key difference between the 1999 mass slayings and the 1924 murder, he suggests, comprised the weapons at hand. The essayist writes: "They picked up a 14-year-old neighbor and killed him with a chisel. Their act was once called the Crime of the Century." He concludes: "There are two points to be made here about Littleton, Colorado -- 1) There is nothing much new about young people drawing fatally wrong conclusions from complicated ideas adrift in the culture. 2) What larger deeds might Leopold and Loeb have accomplished if they had been armed with guns instead of a chisel?"
WASHINGTON POST: Press freedom is a cornerstone of human rights
The Washington Post carries today excerpts from a statement by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Monday. Annan said: "Press freedom is a cornerstone of human rights. It holds governments responsible for their acts, and serves as a warning to all that impunity is an illusion. It advances knowledge and understanding, within and between countries." Annan said: "There are some who question the value of freedom of speech to their societies. There are some who argue that it threatens stability and endangers progress. There are even some who consider freedom of speech a foreign imposition, and not the indigenous expression of every people's demand for freedom."
The U.N. chief said: "(Freedom of speech) is the essential vehicle for the exchange of ideas between nations and cultures. And without that exchange and interaction, there can be no true understanding or lasting cooperation."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: At long last the Swiss have a head of state whose name is known
Bernadette Calonego writes from Zurich in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the Swiss have gained unexpected bonuses from the ascension of Ruth Dreifuss to their presidency last year. Calonego writes: "For the past 125 days, the Swiss have been able to parade an achievement they have lacked for the past 150 years of their modern history: at long last they have a head of state whose name is known outside this smallish (half the size of Scotland) country."
ECONOMIST: Ruth Dreifuss embodies much not automatically linked to the image of Switzerland
The writer says: "From the hallowed pages of Britain's Economist to the Taiwanese United Daily News, all and sundry have expressed their interest in the 59-year-old Geneva-born politician. Under the terms of the Swiss rotating presidency, she will fill the top job for a year in all. But it is not only her sex which has made Dreifuss the darling of the foreign press. As a Jew, an ex-trade unionist, feminist and Socialist, she embodies much that would not automatically be linked to the somewhat staid image of conservative Switzerland."
DIE WELT: Today's Britain scarcely resembles the country that Margaret Thatcher inherited
From London, Thomas Kielinger writes in the German newspaper Die Welt about the decline of another woman ruler's legacy. Kielinger says: "Twenty years ago, after the 1977 general election, a woman who was to shape the country's political culture to this day moved into the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street. Today's Britain scarcely resembles the country that Margaret Thatcher inherited when she took office, so deeply did she remodel British society."
The writer says: "On this 20th anniversary of her inauguration, no one should be prouder of Margaret Thatcher's legacy than her own party, the Tories. But they aren't. On the contrary, the hapless, colorless Tory leader William Hague has, to the dismay of his small group of followers, stumbled into the biggest debacle of his term of office right at the moment of Thatcher's anniversary."
Kielinger says: "Hague's deputy, Peter Lilley, announced a Tory ideological about-face at a meeting of the conservative Carlton Club. The economy's private sector, said Lilley, had its limits. Education and health care, he said, should be public matters, tax-supported and not left to the mercies and solutions of private enterprise."
"The Iron Lady herself," Die Welt's commentary says, "remarked tactfully that she was a bit surprised at her party's anniversary gift to her, but the fact is, she was boiling mad about it. Only (Labor Party head and Prime Minister) Tony Blair can find pleasure in the Tories' political clumsiness. His popularity and power on the 20th anniversary of Thatcher's election win 20 years ago are higher than ever."
WASHINGTON POST: Clinton and Jackson are revolting spectacles
Michael Kelly, editor of the U.S. opinion journal national Review, describes in a Washington Post commentary today what he calls "revolting spectacles" in U.S. life last week. One, he said, was that of U.S. President Bill Clinton jokingly protesting at a newspaper reporters' party that his disgrace and impeachment had not been listed among the 20th century's top news events.
Kelly writes: "The president not only made light of the fact that he had wrecked his second term in office, disgraced the presidency, harmed his country, undermined the law, been impeached and been held in contempt of court, exposed himself as an obsessive liar and conscienceless sexual predator -- but that he did this with his wife sitting next to him."
The writer also cited U.S. black activist minister Jesse L. Jackson. "for undermining his nation during a time of war; for giving aid and comfort to the enemy; for grandstanding on a grand and gross scale; for exploiting three U.S. soldiers as pawns in the propaganda efforts of Slobodan Milosevic; for rewarding Milosevic with a public call that the United States cease bombing; for leading the freed soldiers to chant, in a supremely revolting moment, 'Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last.'"
WASHINGTON POST: I believe that we should establish increased security for the men and women of our Foreign Service
Also in The Washington Post, retired U.S. Admiral William J. Crowe Jr., who investigated last year's bombings of U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, warns of attacks to come on U.S. embassies overseas, and calls for increased security measures. Crowe writes: "The focus of these attacks is not the State Department or the diplomats within those buildings, most of whom have no personal involvement with the policy decisions that are being attacked. Rather, the attacks are being made on the United States and its citizens. In the attackers' minds, they are directly humiliating our country and what it stands for."
The U.S. naval warrior says: "As one who served in uniform for 47 years, I know the great responsibility of putting military men and women in harm's way. Every effort is made to enhance their protection. I believe that we should establish the same standard for the men and women of our Foreign Service, who serve as our representatives in 162 countries around the world. I think that we owe them the same protection and security that our military forces receive, especially when we reflect that more ambassadors than generals and admirals have been killed in service since World War Two."
INFORMATION: Without recognition and acceptance by Israel, a Palestinian State would not have been viable
The Danish daily Information observes the fifth anniversary of the Oslo peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization with this comment: "The expiry of the Oslo Peace Accord on May 4 has not seen the birth of a new Palestinian State. Considering the great role the peace process plays daily in the Middle East, the postponement of the independence declaration by Yasser Arafat and the PLO leaders has also been quietly passed over in the Israeli media. Probably the reason was that few people believed in the declarations made from time to time by Arafat."
The newspaper says: "One only has to take a glance at the map to see the true reason that a Palestinian state was not declared on the night of May 4. Without recognition and acceptance by Israel, it would not have been viable."