- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2005

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

Financial Times

Good choice at the Fed

LONDON — Ben Bernanke was high on the very short list of candidates with claim to be capable of stepping into the giant shoes of Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve. That President Bush chose to appoint him, rather than a little-known political crony, is cause for celebration.

But while Mr. Bernanke may in time grow into being a full replacement for Mr. Greenspan, he is not yet that person. No one could be, since so much of Mr. Greenspan’s authority comes from his 18 years of experience at the helm of the Fed.

Mr. Bernanke will have to demonstrate an exemplary degree of political independence and an ability to understand what signals financial markets send to the Fed.

The chairman of the Fed must have a first-rate mind, capable of commanding debates on which the fortunes of the world economy rest. Mr. Bernanke has that intellect. … Of all the candidates close enough to Mr. Bush to offer the president a low risk of embarrassment, Mr. Bernanke also has the best claim to be independent.

Corriere della Sera

Iraq’s constitution

MILAN, Italy — Following a lengthy count and recount of the votes, it is certain that Iraq’s constitution … has passed the test of the referendum.

However, considering the unresolved issues, the future remains uncertain in the Iraq of inexhaustible religious, ethnic and tribal rivalries.

The effort to involve Iraqi Sunnis in the process of building the state has partially succeeded with their involvement in the referendum.

But this is only a delay of the most important controversies, like those on Shi’ite and Kurdish federalism against the traditional centralism of Baghdad, or those on the distribution of oil revenues.

It is unlikely that these and other issues will be resolved without lengthy and tough negotiations. And if all attempts to reach a more or less durable compromise should fail by 2006, the guerrilla warfare of the last years will inevitably deteriorate into open civil war.

Toronto Star

An influenza pandemic

As health officials ask themselves how equipped they are to handle an influenza pandemic, they might take the radical step of actually asking the public what they think.

While it might seem like the logistical aspects of managing a flu pandemic are best left to the experts, seemingly simple decisions in such a crisis often hide thorny ethical questions that only the general public can really answer.

Who should get antivirals and vaccines first? Who shouldn’t get them? Who should be treated? Who left to die?

In case you’re wondering, the experts already have the answers to these questions.

Currently, most pandemic planners are using the “maximization of benefit” criteria when divvying up scarce resources in an imaginary pandemic.

So the ventilated hospital bed will, by default, go to the otherwise healthy 25-year-old rather than the 65-year-old with emphysema.

Sounds reasonable enough. At first. But what about the fact that the 65-year-old is in greater need? Or what if the 25-year-old is a convicted felon and the 65-year-old a master violinist? …

Crisis planners and officials warn that in the event of a pandemic, there will be a need to ration the limited stockpiles of antivirals. Vaccine maker Roche is already withholding the supply of Tamiflu.

Who should get the antivirals is an interesting ethical question, but it assumes there needs to be a scarcity of antivirals.

If the federal government simply disregarded Roche’s patent and commissioned a generics manufacturer to meet demand it would solve one ethical question, but pose others. With anthrax in 2001, the government made arrangements to break the patent on Cipro.

But this time, it seems a decision has already been made. And it appears the government would rather decide who should or shouldn’t receive the antivirals than whether to break a patent.

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