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AUSTRALIA



Published: Mon, October 30, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



AUSTRALIA

The Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 19: Reports on violence in East Timor have tended, in the past, to be followed by inaction. The findings of various United Nations, Indonesian and East Timorese inquiries into the mayhem around the country's birth remain, frustratingly, gathering dust in judicial archives rather than being used as foundations for specific criminal investigations and prosecutions, except in a number of minor cases.

The U.N.'s special commission of inquiry has reported this week in a timely way, so it can be taken into account and acted upon well before elections toward the middle of next year.

Illegal arms transfer

The report singles out several leaders for investigation. Notably, the former interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, the former defense minister, Roque Rodrigues, and the defense force chief, Taur Matan Ruak, are cited for allegedly transferring arms illegally to civilians.

All three civilian leaders have stood down and Lobato and Alkatiri are already subject to judicial investigation.

The commission concluded that the fragility and the weakness of the rule of law were the underlying factors in this year's crisis. Work has already started to rebuild the police and, as the commission suggests, respect for the law will be reinforced by providing independent judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers to help deal with the cases resulting from the events of April and May. The case for deep U.N. assistance in the running of the elections is made even more strongly.

BRITAIN

The Observer, London, Oct. 22: Take two antagonists, a black hole of a marriage, hotshot lawyers, a voracious press and a public hungry for dirt. Add a little girl caught between warring parents and you have the ingredients for a "divorce of the century."

Despite a move away from assessing conduct, divorce is strictly blame-based, demanding proof of irretrievable breakdown.

No-fault divorce will never happen, though, until society gets over its undue veneration of marriage. Commercialized at the entry stage (all those gift-wrapped electric woks) and at the exit (all those lawyers' fees), it is invested with fake dreams. While many marriages are long and happy, some are little more than a charade in which the irreligious make promises they will not keep to someone else's god. Even those who marry in civil ceremonies are bound by the same legal strictures.

Marriage plummeting

In France, where the "pacte civil de solidarite" (civil union) gives tax and immigration breaks to heterosexual and same-sex couples alike, marriage is plummeting. The option of civil partnerships allowing for simple, non-adversarial dissolution must be better for men, women and children than a system that offers nothing between the insecurity of informal bonds and a contract still prone to end in feuding.

Good laws should reflect private behavior, not dictate it. More couples favor commitments shorn of blame and a capacity for emotional carnage unaltered since the time of Henry James.

JAPAN

Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 24: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent four-nation tour should be regarded as unsuccessful in terms of achieving its goal of placing North Korea under international siege in the wake of the country's nuclear test.

The United States and four other nations -- Japan, China, Russia and South Korea -- have failed to announce specific measures to carry out economic sanctions unanimously adopted by the U.N. Security Council. This could spark concerns about whether the five nations will be able to take coordinated actions against the reclusive state.

No strong message

The five countries have been unanimously adamant in protesting to North Korea's nuclear test and its possession of nuclear weapons. However, their inability to implement forceful and specific actions against Pyongyang means they have failed to send a strong message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

We believe the five nations should implement necessary sanctions against Pyongyang under the U.N. resolution as swiftly as possible.

The imminent challenge facing Japan -- a nation directly threatened by North Korea's nuclear weapons and missiles -- is to unite with other nations in placing the belligerent country under an even more powerful international siege.

SWEDEN

Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm, Oct. 24: The battle over Icelandic whaling is in essence cultural. A traditional hunting culture is pitted against modern eco-tourism. The two have to be combinable.

In the Nordics' westernmost countries you can buy T-shirts with the text "If We Had Dolphins, We'd Kill Them Too."

The jokesters are of course referring to the contested whale hunt, and illustrate a deep rift between those who are for and against this bloody tradition.

Emotional charge

Negotiations are needed, since the issue of whale hunting has received an unnecessary emotional charge. For Icelanders and Norwegians, the hunt has become a symbol for independence and national pride. Hundreds of people applauded by the dock when a dead fin whale was towed in this Saturday.

Opponents sometimes display equally irrational traits. Europeans and Americans who gladly eat hamburgers refuse to accept even the hunting of whales who are not endangered.




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