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Western Press Review: Rise Of The Wall, Rise Of The Embryo

Prague, 3 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Germany's press commentators focus on the 40th anniversary of the erection of the Berlin Wall, U.S. commentary turns to the early days of embryonic research, and other commentary takes on varied topics in the Western Press Review today.


One non-German commentary on the Wall appears today in "The Wall Street Journal Europe." Saying that the 40th anniversary of the Wall's appearance "remains for many people an especially awful" date, the editorial concentrates instead on the Wall's fall. It remembers the words of U.S. President Ronald Reagan in Berlin two years before the fall.

The editorial says, "Since 1989 there has been much debate about why the Wall finally toppled." The newspaper quotes the Reagan speech: "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall."

The editorial says: "And down it came. It may be too much to attribute to one man, much less to one speech, so monumental an event. It isn't too much to say that it was the determination of the free world to stand up to tyranny, after years of failed attempts at accommodation, that brought that tyranny down."


Writing in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Mechthild Kuepper comments that the important issue now is neither the Wall's erection nor its fall. Kuepper says, "The crucial question now is how the Wall continues to affect us 10 years after it came tumbling down."

He writes: "The Wall really is gone, and Berlin is busy with a very different experiment. While the Christian Democratic Union has been the strongest party in West Berlin since the Wall fell, the East has been dominated by the [Party of Democratic Socialism]. The election campaign under way is showing us just how little the Wall's fall meant in terms of finding a lasting solution to the German question. The Wall is gone, but the 'Second German Question,' as one historian describes Western Germans' ignorance of Eastern Germans, is alive and well. A prominent theologian recently defined the Eastern German half of this phenomenon by criticizing the area's mood of discontent as the 'resentment of the eternally disadvantaged.'"


The "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" says in an editorial that the anniversary is not a day of mourning. It says, "The citizens of the Federal Republic, both East and West, have grounds for joy and gratitude that at least this injustice in German history has been rectified."


Commentator Karl Grobe writes in the "Frankfurter Rundschau" that the Wall, as it exists in peoples' minds, is more difficult to topple than was its physical manifestation. Grobe writes, "The phantom pains are still felt."


In Die Welt, Erhart Neubert writes, "The 40th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall is no cause for mourning, but the long road to the West remains a task." The writer says: "There remain almost 1,000 dead, injured, or imprisoned. Neither fascists nor NATO troops stormed the anti-fascist defense Wall. What felled the Wall were East German trumpets."


"The Wall Street Journal Europe" and "The Boston Globe" consider U.S. President George W. Bush's announcement last week that he will permit federal funding of stem-cell research with human embryos under strict restrictions. A "WSJE" editorial praises the decision as essentially an example of non-political leadership. Commentator Thomas Oliphant in "The Boston Globe" describes it as shrewd politics.

The "WSJE" editorial says: "It's clear that Mr. Bush has set the country on the road to what might become a political and moral consensus. Mr. Bush deserves credit for demonstrating political leadership by not being too political. His stem-cell speech was notable for the way it grappled with the issue's merits. He impressed us, and probably most Americans, as someone making an honest attempt to deal with a moral conundrum."

The editorial concludes: "On stem-cell research, we now have a chance to argue and ultimately forge a consensus, all the more so because of Mr. Bush's careful leadership."


Oliphant writes: "President Bush's shrewd decision on embryonic stem cell research was designed to attract as few mortal enemies as possible. It succeeded -- resoundingly -- largely thanks to Senator Bill Frist. Off the available evidence, the Bush team was awash in indecision and poor direction when the Tennessee Republican popped up with what become the catalyst for the Bush program -- on his own and without consultation with the White House."

Oliphant says that the central points of the Bush decision -- limiting federal funding to research on a sharply limited number of lines of stem cells; a significant increase in government aid to research using adult stem cells; and a presidential advisory panel to oversee the research -- came from Frist proposals in the Senate.

But, the writer says: "The result of Bush's work so far was a decently received initiative and respect for his seriousness and inclusiveness. And leading the cheers was Bill Frist."


"The New York Times" gives space to the president himself to comment on the issue. Bush writes, "Seeking noble ends by any means is unacceptable when life itself is in the balance." He writes: "Therefore my administration has adopted the following policy: Federal funding for research on existing stem cell lines will move forwards; federal funding that sanctions or encourages the destruction of additional embryos will not."


On anti-globalization protests, Kendra Okonski of the "International Policy Network" in London writes that the protests have become big business and she suggests that the business's investors would themselves be astounded to learn who they are. She writes: "Anti-globalization protests have become a big business that involves millions of dollars, transnational organizations, and a global agenda. Indeed, the anti-globalization movement seems like corporate dystopia, a mirror image of the business world complete with trade associations, venture capitalists, management recruiting, and marketing campaigns. Instead of selling T-shirts or toothpaste, the agitators are selling limits on cross-border trade."

The money for these activities, Okonski writes, comes indirectly from European governments that subsidize labor unions and social activist groups.

The writer says: "At its heart, the anti-globalization business is a foundation-, union-, and government-funded coalition of convenience. That's why when reporters wade into the crowds at anti-globalization demonstrations they quickly learn that there is no overarching philosophy, no shared ideology. If the press probed more deeply they might learn that a shared interest holds the protest industry together -- a fear of a borderless, dynamic world. In that world, a shopper in Malmo or Manchester would be as free to buy sugar from Martinique as from the European Union."

Okonski, only partly in jest, suggests, "Perhaps the EU's truth-in-advertising laws should require the anti-globalization movement to change its name to the 'protectionist caucus.'"

She writes: "If you are a European taxpayer or union member, chances are you are also a passive investor in the ventures that wrecked Goteborg, Genoa, Seattle, and the rest. The protesters hope that you enjoyed the show, but now want you to go back to work and pay your taxes. There are more international meetings coming up this autumn and the activists could use another round of financing."


"The Washington Post" says in an editorial today that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund should do whatever is required to go ahead with their planned meetings in Washington next month. The editorial says, "To do anything less would be a concession to the organizers of planned protests and a bow to the threat of violence by a small band of activists."

The newspaper says: "The challenge to the District and the federal government is to make the nation's capital a forum in which world leaders can gather safely to conduct their affairs and in which citizens simultaneously can assemble to exercise their constitutional rights. With cooperation between the Bush administration and the city's leaders, both goals can be achieved next month."


"The Irish Times" today continues its series of editorials on Macedonia's crisis. It says that Macedonia has become "the ultimate cauldron of Balkan conflict, drawing in surrounding states: what remains of Yugoslavia -- including Kosovo -- Albania, Bulgaria, and Greece."

The newspaper says that some Macedonian leaders -- ethnic Albanian and Macedonian alike -- are dismayed by the imperfection of the peace terms now pending. It says: "The Macedonian and international voices warning that all-out war will be far worse than a less than fully satisfactory peace agreement have been crowded out by the sharp escalation of violence."

The editorial concludes: "Macedonia's vulnerability is matched by several of its neighbors, which could easily get drawn into its conflict. That is why the EU and NATO will have to continue their engagement whatever happens on the ground."

(RFE/RL's Dora Slaba contributed to this Western Press Review.)