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Europe

German Press Review: A Suspected Case of Bird Flu and the US Record Budget Deficit

German papers on Tuesday comment on Europe’s first case of suspected bird flu and on the United States’ record budget deficit of $521 billion.

For Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung what is most worrying about the United State's record budget deficit of $521 billion is "not so much the sheer amount of money missing but its composition." The paper observed that the massive hole now gaping in the budget is, above all, the result of massive tax cuts in the past as well as uncontrolled spending by the Government and the Congress. And, as the paper noted, the risk of a large budget deficit will remain, because no one in Washington wants to increase taxes or cut spending on defence and internal security.

"The financial policy in the US seems to have got out of control", opined the Financial Times Deutschland. The paper based in Hamburg doubted the credibility of Bush’s suggestions to reduce the gap, "If and when the budget will ever be consolidated are totally open questions, politicians in Washington won’t dare to increase taxes and will spend even more money for military and security in the future," wrote the daily and maintained that, "Bush’s critics are right in arguing so strongly against this `budget of mass destruction´."

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung puts the record deficit against the background of this year’s presidential elections, saying that it could, in fact, be Bush’s secret trump card to be re-elected. "The deficit doesn’t concern Bush – on the contrary, wrote the paper, it is proof that, in contrast to his father, Bush junior acts and thinks of the disadvantaged in society." The paper predicted that if the economy remained stable until the elections, this plan could prove to be successful.

Other German papers commented on the first suspected case of bird flu in Germany, which health officials ruled out on Tuesday. "It was only a matter of time", wrote the tabloid Bild, "It is an illusion to believe that a virus can be stopped at the border", argued the paper. "Dangerous viruses can lurk on the shoe of any tourist arriving from Thailand and in every goods container," it warned and added that epidemics are difficult to contain in a world where millions of travelers move between continents and huge amounts of goods are transported around the world.

The Stuttgarter Nachrichten was reminded of the spread of the SARS virus a year ago, but it also pointed out that important lessons have since been learned. The paper wrote that in contrast to SARS, the bird flu virus is not being covered up and measures are being taken to contain the disease through the wide dissemination of information. And, wrote the paper, "as far as we know it can't, unless in very exceptional cases, be spread between humans". As long as the virus has not mutated into a more dangerous form, the paper concluded, there is no reason to panic.