- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

Excerpts of editorials from around the world:

Sydney Morning Herald

Australian hostage in Iraq

SYDNEY, Australia — The grainy videotaped footage is chillingly familiar. But it is the distinct Australian accent that drives the reality home. What has been feared for so long has come to pass. An Australian life now hangs in the balance in that excruciatingly cruel ordeal of hostage-taking which has come to mark the depravity of the Iraq war. The accompanying media spectacle is a strategy in itself. …

That Australians are now haunted by images of a disheveled, shaky Douglas Wood does not suggest that the life of this one Australian engineer is more valuable than the tens of thousands of Iraqis and foreigners who have died. It is just that Australia has, until now, experienced the Iraq war with a kind of charmed detachment. …

Last week U.S. Gen. Richard Myers made the frank admission that coalition forces have made no measurable gains against insurgents over the past year. … But like so many grinding conflicts, the daily bloodletting in Iraq has been slowly fading from view, obscured by sanitized casualty figures which read like sports scores. … Australia joined the invasion of Iraq more than two years ago. It must continue to share the burden, and risks, of deployment.

Asahi Shimbun

Taiwan independence

TOKYO — Chairman Lien Chan of the Nationalist Party, Taiwan’s largest opposition party, met Friday in Beijing with Chinese President Hu Jintao, where they agreed upon their shared opposition to independence for Taiwan. They also announced a five-point consensus for improving cross-Straits ties, including a mechanism to avoid military clashes between the mainland and the island. …

The handshake at the Great Hall of the People can be viewed as the fruits of Chinese leaders in apparently coaxing back Taipei, which seemed on the verge of straying. …

If the Nationalists win back the government, Beijing most likely believes that this recent consensus can be used as the cornerstone for initiating China-Taiwan unification talks.

Backlash, however, is emerging in Taiwan over the actions by the opposition Nationalists and Mr. Lien’s pose of mimicking the head of the government party in participating in the Beijing exchange. … We look forward to strong efforts on both sides to resume such discourse soon.


Eradicating diseases

LONDON — Disease control programs have always been a challenge. Eradication programs face even more daunting odds. In the history of man only one disease has been eradicated: Smallpox, in 1977. … there was further bad news. The World Health Organization confirmed that a Nigerian strain of polio had been detected in Indonesia. … Indonesia has become the 16th country to be reinfected. When the eradication program began in 1988, polio was endemic in 125 countries and paralyzing 350,000 people annually. By 2000 — the original target date — it was down to 3,500 new cases a year.

What went wrong — and indicates the global interdependence of health programs — was an 11-month halt in 2003 to vaccinations in the northern Muslim states of Nigeria, where rumors were rife that the program was a Western plot to render Muslim girls infertile or to spread AIDS. Paradoxically, it restarted after vaccine was purchased from Indonesia, which because it was a Muslim country reassured Nigerian imams and politicians. …

Last week, an editorial in the Lancet medical journal suggested the U.N.-led partnership was failing to halt the spread of malaria, which kills a million people a year — triple the AIDS fatalities. … Yesterday, in the first global report on the campaign, WHO pointed to some successes. They included a tenfold increase in protective bed nets in 14 African states and wider use of new and more effective drugs in 23 countries, but conceded overall success was hard to prove.

… Reformers have rightly contrasted the wide media attention to natural disasters with the minimal reporting of infectious diseases. Remember: If smallpox had not been eradicated, 400 million would have been infected and over 50 million killed.

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