- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2006

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

La Republica

Christian conversion

MILAN, Italy — The Abdul Rahman case, if confirmed, would highlight the evident contradiction between the theory of exporting democracy and its practical application. … The Afghan legal structure still allows in its court rooms to ask for someone to be sentenced to death for being a “heretic.” … It is obvious that the weak side of forced democracy in Islamic countries is not the electoral process as much as the lack of rights and respect of human rights. … [This] raises the question of what the pragmatic meaning of democracy is in that context. …

The [European] Union should ask itself what is the meaning of its presence in a country in which it is unable to ensure the respect of human rights, but that is presented on the other side of the ocean as the example of successful democratization of an Islamic country.

For this to be really the case, untying the knot of freedom of religion is one of the essential steps that need to be taken.

Asahi Shimbum

Cost of U.S. troops in Japan

TOKYO — Talks continue over Washington’s demand that Tokyo foot three-quarters of the bill to relocate U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, a move that is part of the realignment plan for the U.S. military forces in Japan.

The cost of this proposed transfer is exorbitant. The U.S. Defense Department estimates it will cost at least $10 billion, and insists that Japan shoulder 75 percent of that expense, or $7.5 billion.

There are 15,000 Marines now stationed on Okinawa. The Pentagon proposal is to move 8,000 of them to Guam by 2012, with the main focus on headquarters personnel.

In addition to the cost to move personnel and equipment, the U.S. side says it needs money to construct new living quarters and improve facilities, roads and other infrastructure on Guam. It also wants to upgrade port facilities outside the base. …

U.S. troop bases in Japan have long been heavily concentrated in Okinawa, prompting repeated requests from Tokyo to reduce the burden on that prefecture. Shifting Marines to the U.S. territory of Guam represents one phase in that direction, and of course Japan must resign itself to assuming a portion of the cost.

However, $7.5 billion is just plain exorbitant. … Now Tokyo is being asked to pay to build new base facilities on U.S. soil. … There is no legal basis that allows the government to use tax money for such a purpose.

Egyptian Gazette

A bird-flu fatality

CAIRO — The authorities did well by going public with the first death suspected of being caused by bird-flu infection. A 30-year-old native of Qaliubia province died of the fatal H5N1 strain of the virus.

The villager apparently contracted the disease from her domestically reared fowl. She had been in a close contact with the birds, despite warnings from the health authorities regarding domestic poultry farms.

Last Sunday, authorities reported a second suspected human case of bird flu. The victim is a man who was admitted to hospital last week after suffering symptoms of the disease, and has since recovered. Further tests are being carried out overseas to confirm the virus in both cases.

This open and straightforward approach on the part of the authorities is bound to help bring the virus under control and protect humans from infections. A very important thing uncovered by the first death is that more efforts need to be exerted in order to educate the public about preventive measures. The woman reportedly kept her infected hens for fear of having them killed by vets. They were apparently her source of income. … A lesson should be made from this case in order to stave off more deaths.

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