The Olympic Games are about athletics, not politics. Yet, the awarding of the Games is inescapably political. The government that wins the right to host them also wins international recognition and prestige, a kind of unofficial stamp of approval from the rest of the world. Should the International Olympic Committee bestow that stamp on the brutes who rule China?
... The issue of human rights hangs over Beijing's bid like the midwinter smog. Unlike the other candidates ... China is a dictatorship, a place where people can be tortured in prison, executed for nonviolent crimes or thrown in jail for trying to organize a free labor union. ...
China insists things are getting better, and suggests they will get better still if the Olympics come. ...
... It is true that China's opening to the world has improved the lives of its people, who are far freer in their everyday lives than they have ever been. On the other hand, the Communist regime still holds grimly to its monopoly on power and shows no inclination to change. To the contrary, human-rights groups say rights abuses have increased in recent years. ...
Perhaps China's leaders would amend their behavior if Beijing got the Olympics. On the other hand, they might well take it as a sign that the outside world will embrace them no matter how badly they behave. We cannot really know.
What we do know is that giving the Olympics to Beijing would give a huge moral boost to a regime that still shows contempt for the rights of its own citizens. Perhaps, some day, China will be ready for the honor of hosting the Olympic Games. Not yet.
-- The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Something needs to be done about buildup of space junk
Mir, the Russian space station, is scheduled to plummet back to Earth around Tuesday. The uncertainty surrounding its final plunge is keeping the inhabitants of the countries expected to be under its final flight path on edge.
The (Japanese) government ... should implement disaster plans to be ready for a worst-case scenario. The Russians have not been forthcoming with sufficient information on Mir's re-entry, so we urge the government to acquire orbital data from the United States and to publicize it as it becomes available.
Today, the United States, Japan, Europe and Russia are jointly constructing the International Space Station, which will be as large as a soccer field and weigh three times as much as the Mir. But little time has been devoted to the topic of how to dispose of the structure once its mission has been completed.
If a fuss is made every time space junk enters the Earth's atmosphere, the public will only grow more wary of space development programs. Countries around the world need to cooperate to develop technology to control the descent of space structures. Furthermore, international rules that would ensure the rapid dissemination of information on de-orbits should be adopted.
-- Mainichi Shimbun (Tokyo)
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