European editorials on Thursday looked at the British decision to licence a research project involving therapeutic cloning for the first time in Europe, the situation in Iraq, and Germany's spelling reform debate.
British papers didn't comment on the decision decision to licence a research project involving therapeutic cloning for the first time in Europe although many of them have the story on their front page. It's left to the rest of Europe to have an opinion on the matter, and most, like the French paper Le Figaro, are cautious: It's true that there's no apparent difference between a mouse embryo and a human embryo, but for some, whether religious or not, an embryo is a promise of human life, the paper pointed out. And even if its cells could cure diseases some time in the future, it will remain out of the question to use a human embryo like a kind of "organ supermarket," the daily concluded.
In Germany, the Rheinische Post from Düsseldorf, took a position which may be tougher in tone but remains merely cautious on the rights and wrongs of the issue. The experiments in Britain are "a slap in the face" for all those German politicians who talk about a common European policy on stem cell research, the paper noted. "There isn't one and there never has been," it wrote. But those who want a purely German solution will have to be aware that "therapies might be developed abroad of which we will be envious," the daily continued and concluded: "We'll only be able to say in a few years what was right and what was wrong, but the decisions have to be made now."
Now to Iraq, where the Shiite cleric Moqtada el Sadr continues his showdown with the new Iraqi government and the US-led forces. The Dutch paper De Volkskrant said that the interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, will have to stop the violence in Najaf and bring Sadr under control before he'll be able to show that his government won't allow itself to be intimidated. But it pointed out that Sadr doesn't have much of a reputation among Shiite spiritual leaders. He obviously thinks he can achieve more with military means, the paper concluded: It's a dangerous game.
The British Independent was critical of Allawi's leadership. It said he is behaving like the "new hard man of Iraq." He's not learned the lesson of the Saddam years, "that tough talk and brutal actions do not achieve results with the Iraqi people." If that policy only backfired on his personal ambition, "it would not be a matter of international concern," noted the paper. "But the plight of ordinary Iraqis is worsening, and his leadership is giving them scant
hope of a way out."
Here in Germany, there's currently a passionate debate going on about spelling reform. A couple of newspaper publishers have said they're going to abandon reforms introduced a couple of years ago and return to the old rules. While saying it will stick to the new rules, the German paper tageszeitung entered into the debate with an edition which completely abandons the German rule that all nouns must have capital letters. That opened up a new battlefield, since that reform is included neither in the old nor the revised rules. The paper said it wants to look forward, and adopt a simplification which works in other languages.
The Swiss are also involved in the debate as they adopted the reform as well. The Tages-Anzeiger said it's less surprised by the arguments in Germany than by the passion. Perhaps we're seeing a proxy war, it wrote. The German government has made such a mess of a whole host of reform programs that the media are only too ready to jump into another conflict. A referendum on the issue seems like a bizarre idea, even to the Swiss, who are used to referenda, the paper noted: It "could only spring from minds which are totally unaccustomed to referenda."