ITALY



ITALY
La Stampa, Turin, Nov. 20: The oil spill from the tanker Prestige which sank in the Atlantic Ocean off the Spanish coast on Tuesday represents the inability or inadequacy of the world's most advanced nations to prevent environmental disasters.
We know that similar incidents have occurred in the past and are bound to be repeated in the future because the transport of enormous quantities of oil from one part of the world to another cannot stop -- it means survival for our energy-starved civilization.
The dependence of the West on oil imports mainly from the Middle East postpones from year to year the implementation of concrete measures to reduce environmental damage -- related to obtaining energy from oil -- caused by the emission of harmful gases from cars and industries.
Evading safety norms
Vested economic interests linked to oil have caused the failure of environmental conferences from Rio de Janeiro to Johannesburg. More specifically those same interests prevented European Union leaders at their 2000 summit in Nice, France to introduce controls on oil tankers such as the Prestige which continue to evade EU safety norms.
SWEDEN
Expressen, Stockholm, Nov. 20: The gap between the United States and Europe grows every day. That's true not only when it comes to the military capability, where Europe increasingly resembles a fly weight. It's also true for the view on when military force should be used. The result has been that the United States is losing interest in Europe and NATO.
Europe and the United States need each other. For the superpower the European partnership within NATO offers not least political legitimacy. But if NATO also is to be a military power to be reckoned with the alliance must show that it has the capability to meet the threats of the new era.
Alliance a la carte
It's time for NATO to step up to the plate. If Europe accepts the challenge the NATO of the future can develop into an alliance a la carte in which "coalitions of the willing" shoulder the military missions. Such a NATO would definitely have an important role to play.
BRITAIN
Sunday Telegraph, London, Nov. 17: McDonald's, the American burger-chain, which has proliferated with seemingly unstoppable vigor throughout 121 countries, appears to be in retreat.
Some days ago, the food chain announced that it was withdrawing from three Latin American and Middle Eastern countries. Now, it is also said to be "reviewing" the future of certain prestigious London branches, including those in Oxford Street and Regent Street.
Critics frown upon McDonald's global empire as a culinary example of American imperialism, but its customers are simply delighted to obtain a Happy Meal, a plastic toy and use of a clean lavatory for what seems an astonishingly low price. When one tastes McDonald's food, however, it becomes clear that the price is perfectly appropriate.
Craven adult capitulation
The company's success in marketing itself to children -- with games, puzzles and Disney film tie-ins -- has been such that most children, upon glimpsing that illuminated yellow sign, are guaranteed to work themselves into a frenzy of wheedling and nagging, which usually ends in craven adult capitulation.
McDonald's "review" of select branches may be for many reasons, but we prefer this one: in central London at least, parents just might be regaining the upper hand.
SINGAPORE
Straits Times, Singapore, Nov. 20: The smooth leadership change in Beijing last week will bolster China's political stability. The orderly and peaceful transfer of power, unprecedented in the 81-year history of the Chinese Communist Party, marks a new phase in China's politics as its younger leaders grapple with the problems of modernization.
General Secretary Hu Jintao, 59, takes over the helm in far less turbulent times than when Mr. Jiang Zemin was handed the top job after the Tiananmen protests in June 1989. The speculation is that Mr. Hu will be hemmed in, with Mr. Jiang pulling the strings from behind with help from his cohorts.
China's new leaders are pragmatic modernists who have reoriented the party's founding principles to embrace the nascent entrepreneurial class. In this environment, the gradual liberalization of the Chinese economy in line with Deng Xiaoping's open-door policy is likely to continue.
Frail banking system
As the party reinvents itself to stay relevant, China's fourth generation of leaders will work on Mr. Jiang's legacy to push forward with economic development, maintain stable relations with the United States and enhance China's role in world affairs. Difficult and politically sensitive economic problems, like the frail banking system and rising unemployment, have to be solved by China's younger and better-educated leaders, mostly technocrats. Their cohesion will be tested. So too Mr. Hu's mettle as the country's new leader.

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