La Repubblica, Rome, Feb. 4: The Columbia crew members did not die on the first of February. They died sixteen days earlier, 30 seconds after the launch, when a piece of thermal insulation tore a fatal gash in the left wing, marking the fate of the Columbia mission. The sixteen days in orbit served only as a final pilgrimage of seven people unaware they had been condemned to death. With them, however, dies the credibility of a space agency, which, over 42 years, managed to obtain our unconditional trust, our admiration, and our gratitude.
Reduced safety margins
It is our duty to ask NASA, and above all the American government which has slowly strangled it, about a space program where the safety margins have been reduced, while safety risks have multiplied exponentially. The aging of the fleet, government stinginess and "Pentagon wolfs" who want to militarize NASA have pushed the agency to take greater risks, hazarding a game in which the human beings on board have no chance of survival if something goes wrong.
Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, Feb. 5: The U.N. option to use military force is one of the linchpins in the international system. He who claims otherwise has probably never even looked at the U.N. charter.
"Just as U.N. authority is undermined if people act upon their own accord, the Security Council's authority will be undermined if we exclude the possibility for the United Nations to use military means," Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh said some time ago.
And this is exactly what it is about. Now the train has started to roll.
Today U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will address the Security Council. Next week, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix will submit his second report to the council.
If they speak the same language the last chance Saddam Hussein evidently will get from the Security Council should also be the last.
The Star, Johannesburg, Feb. 4: An extensive study in Sweden has revealed that children of single parents suffer more serious addictions and psychological problems as young adults than their counterparts from more traditional home environments. What are the implications for South Africa, where increasing numbers of children are growing up without any parents at all?
When the instability caused by migrant labor is coupled with the stresses of urbanization and the impact of the AIDS epidemic on the domestic situation of millions South Africa's next generation, a picture emerges that makes the mere 7 percent of Swedish children growing up without traditional parenting look like a Sunday school picnic.
We live in a society plagued by violence, including much child abuse and rape, and equally plagued by general crime and corruption.
Can the Swedish study help to focus our attention on at least one of the causes of this profoundly disturbing spiritual disarray?
Straits Times, Singapore, Feb. 5: The Indonesian security authorities are to be commended for their dispatch in arresting a terrorist suspect, the wanted Singaporean Jemaah Islamiyah leader Mas Selamat Kastari. They had acted on information given by the Singapore police.
The various operational and intelligence branches of the Indonesian military and police had, in common with some senior political figures such as Vice President Hamzah Haz, been under fire before for not taking seriously the terrorism danger confronting the country in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
It was fortuitous, if regrettable, that Indonesia had to endure its own Sept. 11, in Bali on Oct. 12 last year, before the threat was acknowledged.
But change has been noticed. The thoroughness of the Bali investigation, and a number of key arrests resulting, show Indonesia is intent on making up ground in going after known cell leaders so as to disrupt regional links in terror networks of indeterminate reach. Quick action in detaining Mas Selamat at the request of the Singapore security services is fresh proof.
Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo, Feb. 3: The midair breakup of the space shuttle Columbia Saturday consumed the United States in frustration and grief. Space shuttles have been a point of pride for the American challenge to the frontier of space. Seventeen years earlier, the space shuttle Challenger exploded just after blastoff, killing its crew of seven. The shock of this second tragic accident is even greater.
Attention will turn to investigation of the cause of the accident. The United States has a body of experience to draw upon. In the Challenger probe, Richard Feynman, the physicist, and not a rocket expert, had a central role. His team determined that faulty rubber O-rings in seals of the craft's solid-fuel rocket booster were at fault.
Technicians knew the potential risk for more than three years and had said so. But NASA at the time tended to put more emphasis on keeping its overstuffed organization going, and because of that, negative information never got to the management.
Investigators who pursued the Challenger investigation and reported their findings emphasized the biggest failing was in structural fatigue of NASA itself, and in the minds of people. The report became a text for streamlining organizational management and establishing reliability critical for big, complex systems.
Now for pursuit of the Columbia investigation, such a diverse and thorough investigation will be needed again.
Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin, Feb. 4: At the moment all are claiming to have won. Hugo Chavez sees himself as the winner because the opposition has had to end its two-month-long strike.
The protesters point out that the mediation of Jimmy Carter has forced him to agree to negotiations leading to a referendum which could more than halve his term in office. But in actual fact this power struggle has produced no victors, but only losers.
The strike has cost Venezuela between 25 and 30 percent of its economic strength. Hundreds of businesses are bankrupt. It will take months for the economy to recover.
Der Bund, Bern, Feb. 4: It is hardly pure political reason that finally led the political opposition in Venezuela to give in. Instead, the strike front has been crumbling recently. More and more small businesses saw no sense in ruining the economy of the country and themselves for a power struggle that led nowhere.
President Chavez, who still has at his disposal an army of passionate supporters, proved to be completely unfazed by the weeks of mass protests. Even the economic demise of his country combined with the collapse of the crucially important oil sector were apparently less important to him than his personal claim to power.
Of course, Chavez now finds himself in a triumphant position. But his jubilation is naive and arrogant. Even if the referendum initiated by the opposition works in his favor, contrary to expectations, in the long term the president cannot afford to ignore the dissatisfaction.