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Wishes for an Uneasy World

January 01, 2002

Ayear ago, health care and education reform topped our traditional New Year's wish list. Today, the tasks of making Americans smarter and healthier are still critical, but secondary to keeping them safe and stabilizing the international order. Here are our hopes and suggested resolutions for 2002.

A Safer Nation

* We hope U.S. soldiers will be safe and successful in their continued mission in Afghanistan and wherever else the nation sends them to fight terrorists. With that in mind, we wish American leaders wisdom and courage. We hope that Osama bin Laden is found quickly, dead or alive, and that Mullah Mohammed Omar is forced to answer for his destructive theology.

* We hope that the success of domestic law enforcement agencies in protecting the nation from follow-up attacks continues but suggest that Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft resolve to back away from using the terrorist threat as a pretext for dangerous moves against civil rights.

* Congress has authorized more than $3 billion to fight bioterrorism, and we hope it will not be directed too narrowly at such necessary but incomplete fixes as smallpox vaccine production. Health experts also agree that money must go to clinics and hospitals for equipment and to train staffs to recognize and treat the effects of biological and chemical weapons.

* We wish the government would stop dawdling on airline security. Will it take another day like Sept. 11 before lawmakers meet demands that checked-bag safety measures, new screening technology and federalized security staffs be put in place nationwide?

A More Stable World

* We wish the interim government well as it rebuilds a shattered Afghanistan. May music fill the nation's airwaves and may kites fill its sky.

* We hope Pakistan's crackdown on militant groups assuages India, reducing tensions that have become explosive.

* For Russia, we wish President Vladimir V. Putin would hold more town hall--type meetings with his fellow citizens. Topping his resolution list should be: "Jail fewer journalists on trumped-up charges, and ease the grip on the levers of power."

* In the Middle East, we wish for the political will on both sides to resume dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.

* We hope China's entry into the World Trade Organization will make it less likely to persecute its own citizens and more willing to work with other nations to combat the theft of intellectual property.

* We wish Argentina a democratic, non-demogogic solution to its current crisis, with increased help from Italy and Spain, whose immigrants did the most to shape the nation.

Well-Educated Children

* We wish Washington the strength to hold states accountable for bringing students up to tough testing standards, as prescribed by last year's landmark education law, a smart compromise pushed by President Bush and supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

* We hope the $8-billion increase in federal spending on K-12 education is used wisely and wish for even more money to allow principals in the most challenged schools to hire the best teachers and reduce class sizes.

* Let California resolve to keep a sharp focus on improving the quality of teachers and recruiting more of them. Start by expanding programs such as the state's excellent summer academies for reading and algebra teachers, making it easier for experienced teachers from other states to become certified. We hope too for further improvement of teacher education throughout the California State University system, which produces most of the state's teachers.

Better Health

* We hope that legislators stop turning a blind eye to mental health: Congress should pass a bill by Sens. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) that would prohibit insurers from discriminating against mental illness--requiring them to offer the same co-payments and deductibles for schizophrenia as for influenza.

* In Sacramento, we wish Gov. Gray Davis and senators would press Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) to allow a vote on "Laura's law," a sensible bill by Assemblywoman Helen Thomson (D-Davis) that would give mental health professionals the resources and authority to compel seriously mentally ill people to receive treatment when they don't realize they need it.

* We hope the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which spent most of 2001 searching for the right person to run its ailing health services department, will step out of the way and allow Dr. Thomas L. Garthwaite to revive the county's system of hospitals and clinics. The supervisors should finally adopt long-standing recommendations to create a health care authority to oversee the department and remove themselves from daily operation.

Stronger Safety Nets

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