Tuesday, June 16, 1998

Hope pinned on Yeltsin
in latest Yugoslav crisis

WASHINGTON hoped that Boris Yeltsin would succeed in persuading Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to negotiate an end to the Kosovo crisis. The Russian president conferred today with Milosevic in Moscow.

Caricature After the meeting Milosevic announced he had agreed to meet most of the conditions but said he would withdraw his troops only when "terrorism" ends -- a key provision in the NATO demands.

To back up the diplomatic overture, NATO sent 85 fighter jets and reconnaissance planes from 13 member countries over bordering Albania and Macedonia. The exercises dramatized the implicit threat that the aircraft might be used against Yugoslav forces if they continued their attacks on ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo.

President Clinton telephoned Yeltsin to enlist his help and White House spokesman Mike McCurry said Clinton was confident Yeltsin would "convey the very strong sentiments" that a diplomatic solution should be sought.

Defense Secretary William Cohen said that Yeltsin "hopefully...will be persuasive in indicating to Mr. Milosevic that he is becoming increasingly isolated in the world."

Yeltsin's role could be crucial because Russia has been sympathetic to the Serbs throughout the conflicts in Bosnia and other former Yugoslav areas in recent years. Russia has also balked at military intervention in the Kosovo crisis, which could strengthen his position with Milosevic.

The Yugoslav leader kept the NATO members frustrated for years in trying to restore peace to Bosnia.

The Western allies seem determined to force an end to the violence in Kosovo before the killings reach the proportions of Bosnia, which were in the hundreds of thousands. But the issue is complicated because NATO does not want to appear to be endorsing the Kosovo independence movement. The province is considered a vital part of Serbia's history although it is now populated mainly by ethnic Albanians.

The desired outcome would be an agreement that Kosovo would get a measure of autonomy while remaining part of Serbia -- and avoid setting off a wider war.

Another NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo may prove necessary. But the most difficult issue is direct military intervention, by air and ground, if the Yugoslav government refuses to end the current fighting and killing of civilians.

There is no enthusiasm in the United States for another such mission with American troops still on duty in nearby Bosnia.


Bishop Estate assets

THE Bishop Estate is expected to realize hundreds of millions of dollars from the public stock offering planned by Goldman, Sachs & Co. The estate owns about 10 percent of the Wall Street investment firm. Goldman, Sachs is expected to offer shares representing 10-15 percent of its stock.

Although some of the investments made by the Bishop Estate trustees have lost money, this one is a winner. The sale, probably to be made in the fall, should provide an opportunity for the trustees to increase spending on Hawaiian education. The trustees have been criticized for not spending enough of the estate's huge assets on education -- the purpose of the estate as expressed in the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

In particular, the trustees should consider reviving the community outreach programs that they canceled a few years ago when they decided to establish Kamehameha Schools campuses on the neighbor islands. They have enough money for both.


Bilingual education

RESPONDING to California voters' rejection of bilingual education for non-English-speaking immigrant students, a House committee has approved a bill that would convert federal bilingual and immigrant educational programs into block grants.

That would give states and local governments more leeway to try alternative approaches, which makes sense in view of the growing skepticism about the value of such programs.

Hawaii, which currently receives $1.6 million in federal funding for a bilingual program for 13,000 students, could be affected by a change in the law.

Earlier the Senate passed legislation that would turn a number of federal education programs, including bilingual education, into block grants.

The bill was approved by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on a straight party-line vote, with the Democrats opposed. The Clinton administration has voiced strong objections. The administration approach is to get the states to move children out of bilingual programs in three years, which would also be desirable. Critics charge that bilingual education has held too many students back, preventing them from becoming fluent in English.

The California initiative, which won approval by more than 60 percent, would dismantle the state's 30-year-old program and replace it with a system that favors English-only instruction. The initiative would move students into mainstream classrooms after one year of intensive language education.

That decision seems extreme and in fact faces a court challenge that could at least delay if not nullify implementation. But the belief behind the success of the initiative -- that bilingual programs may hurt students more than they help them by postponing their learning of English -- is growing and shouldn't be ignored.

Washington should let the states and local governments seek out ways to improve the education of non-English-speaking immigrant children, whether by reforming bilingual programs or finding alternatives to them.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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