- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

The New York Times

With criminal ease, Russia's organized gangs use young people's dreams to lure them into the back rooms of the world. Work in tourism abroad, a well-dressed woman promises. Model for glamorous magazines in America, a smooth-talking man suggests. Then, all too suddenly, the struggling shop girl, the lonely young boy or the frantic single mother wakes up as a prostitute in a foreign country with no time for dreams and no way to escape.

Last week, the Russian parliament took a much-needed step toward cracking down on this brutal human trafficking. The Duma drafted a law that would require the government to warn Russians about the deceitful methods used to turn women and children into modern-day sex slaves. The bill, which needs to be approved by the Russian government and then enforced by police, would make trafficking in humans illegal. …

Human rights groups have suggested that thousands of Russians are dragged away each year to underground brothels around the world.

Russia is not the only nation with a booming slave business, but its effort to change the laws comes at the right time. Under a law passed in 2000, Washington issues an annual list of nations that are "significant" contributors to this growing global problem. This year, the law allows President Bush to withhold aid or impose limited sanctions if countries like Turkey, Bosnia, Indonesia and Cambodia fail to make an effort to combat this scourge. That threat is an important tool to force governments like Russia's to lock up slave traders and help their desperate victims.

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Washington Post

When the University of South Florida declared late in 2001 that it meant to fire tenured computer engineering professor Sami Al-Arian, he became a cause celebre of academic freedom. Mr. Al-Arian had long been suspected of raising money for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group that conducts suicide bombings against Israel. Yet even as the feds disclosed their continuing investigation related to Mr. Al-Arian, many were quick to label the case a post-Sept. 11 witch hunt. They were reacting partly to the university's poor handling of the matter; it initially blamed the disruptive atmosphere created by his presence, not his alleged terrorist links. But Mr. Al-Arian's defenders also ignored the possibility that their man was actually a terrorist. The faculty union filed a grievance alleging discrimination, among other things. … The American Association of University Professors threatened to censure USF if it fired Al-Arian, after its investigating committee found the charges "insubstantial" and determined that "grave issues of academic freedom and due process" were at stake.

Last week, a federal grand jury issued a lengthy indictment of Mr. Al-Arian and several others. They are innocent until proven guilty. But the government is alleging far more than that Mr. Al-Arian was a terrorist fundraiser or a political sympathizer with Islamic resistance to Israeli policies. It contends, with considerable supporting detail, that he was a top official of Islamic Jihad. …. If these allegations prove true, Mr. Al-Arian — far from a victim of a new anti-Muslim McCarthyism — will rank among the more important terrorists ever arrested and prosecuted in this country.

The government's long-running investigation, like the university's actions, has been troubling at times. Mr. Al-Arian's brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, was held on secret evidence for nearly four years while the government pursued his deportation. But the indictment suggests that many people were too reflexive in their disbelief that an urbane, politically active professor — one who had been to the White House and who regularly talked to journalists — could be a genuine terrorist, and in their automatic assumption that he must be a victim of university railroading and FBI abuses.

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Dallas Morning News

Under President Vicente Fox, Mexico decided it wanted to play a significant role in world affairs.

Gone would be the days when the guiding principle of Mexican foreign policy would be non-intervention in other countries' internal affairs. No more would Mexico reflexively do in foreign affairs the opposite of the United States. As a newly complete democracy, it would speak with legitimacy about a host of international issues. It would cease being a passive bystander.

Mexico achieved the culmination of its wish 13 months ago, when it was elected to a two-year term on the United Nations Security Council. It was Mexico's first stint on the 15-member council, which the U.N. charter charges with maintaining international peace and security. Suddenly, Mexico had a new and important responsibility, which vastly transcended its traditional inward-looking orientation. Together with permanent council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, Mexico would take actions that would affect the entire world.

Now, Mexico faces a decision of historic dimensions. Soon, perhaps as early as next week, the Security Council may vote on a U.S.-backed resolution authorizing military force to disarm Iraq. How would Mexico vote? So far, it has closely hewed to the French position, which is that U.N. arms inspections are working and should continue. That puts it on a collision course with the United States, its neighbor and largest trading partner, whose government believes that 12 years of Iraqi stalling are enough. …

Having enlisted to help maintain the world's security, Mexico should demonstrate it takes that responsibility seriously by supporting the United States. Having thrust itself onto the world stage, it should act with all the courage, wisdom and foresight that its role requires.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Bad ideas, after being hooted out of sight, have an infuriating way of reappearing — and barely disguised, at that. We are heading into fresh debate about possible U.S. creation of a generation of "low-yield" nuclear weapons — purportedly needed in the post-Cold War era to deal with outlaw countries' nuclear capabilities, terrorists and relatively compact targets such as bunkers housing poison gas and deadly germs.

Current talk in government circles is evocative of the 1970s discussion of "neutron bombs," then contemplated as battlefield devices that would spare buildings while killing people. (A New Yorker cartoon at the time showed rich old guys in a men's club cheering at the prospect.) President Carter shelved the concept after it stirred concern in this country and in the European precincts then facing the ground armies of the Soviet bloc. President Reagan revived the idea in the 1980s, but it was scuttled by his successor, President George H.W. Bush, as part of an agreement to decrease tactical nuclear weapons.

Low-yield weapons, more likely to be put to actual use than the huge thermonuclear devices in our intercontinental stockpiles, were suggested again in the '90s to attack enemy communications and electronics from high altitudes.

Now the flurry of speculation is about using such devices (less than 5 kilotons of explosive power) to penetrate reinforced bunkers and detonate underground, destroying chemical or biological agents while producing little radioactive fallout. …

The resurgence of the low-yield nuke idea is distressing. It could undermine years of achievement in reducing Cold War stockpiles and heading off nuclear proliferation. And it would increase the chance that nuclear weapons, even if weaker than the Hiroshima bomb, would be used to kill human enemies for the first time since 1945. That's progress?

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam are linked forever in history as opposing combatants in a bitter war that ended 28 years ago with the fall of Saigon. But that sad chapter hasn't prevented the two countries from overcoming their former antagonisms.

In other words, history is history — and now is now, except in Virginia. In that commonwealth, a measure recently was proposed to require the flag of South Vietnam to be flown in place of the official flag of Vietnam at all public events. According to The Washington Post, the bill was in part a response to the feelings of 29,000 Vietnamese Americans living in Northern Virginia.

This is an initiative that can't move beyond 1975. …

In Vietnam, where knowledge of an individual state's authority is not widely understood, the proposed flag legislation caused a furor. …

Fortunately, the point has been taken in Richmond, where the bill was consigned to a subcommittee where it is expected to die.

But a larger point ought to register around the nation: State and local governments shouldn't be in the foreign policy business, for which they have neither the knowledge nor the constitutional responsibility.

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(Compiled by United Press International)


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