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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal
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(CNN) -- The New York Times says "new laws in Iraq criminalize speech that ridicules the government or its officials, and any journalist who 'publicly insults' the government or public officials can be subject to up to seven years in prison."

"Some of the language is resurrected verbatim from Saddam Hussein's own penal code. It is hard enough for journalists to operate on the ever-expanding battlefields of Iraq.

"That is true for foreign journalists, who often have all the gear and protections of powerful outside media. But it is even harder for Iraqi journalists, who now face not only the dangers on the street but the threat of defamation laws as well... Surely any crackdown on freedom of speech and the press is not what the American people had in mind when the Iraq invasion began."

Abe in China and South Korea

The Times in the UK says Japanese Prime Minister Abe deserves credit for engaging in talks with China and South Korea. "Japan, China and South Korea are more mutually dependent than it often suits any of these players to acknowledge.

"There is the potential for co-operation on trade, a co-ordinated reduction in carbon emissions and creating stability in which all three nations can achieve economic growth and exercise greater influence on the global stage. Neither the bad blood of an unfortunate history nor the posturing of a surreal regime in North Korea must be allowed to interfere with that progress."

Japan's Asahi Shimbun has criticized Abe's speeches to the houses of parliament in Japan, saying they "lacked detail and substance" but is more hopeful about his talks in China and South Korea.

"Abe did not have much political experience before becoming prime minister. The past week must have represented a sharp learning curve for him in regard to how to handle the long history of postwar politics. His next challenge is his first diplomatic summits with the leaders of China and South Korea."

Meanwhile, Singapore's Straits Times has called for urgent cooperation between Japan, South Korea, and China, in light of North Korea's plans to test a nuclear weapon.

"If the diplomatic chill between Japan and its two neighbors gives way to a durable form of accommodation, North Korea would find its manipulative ways circumscribed. It has profited from their mutual sniping far too long."

Straw and the veil

Jack Straw, the British leader of the House of Commons, has come under fire from many papers for his comments on Muslim women wearing veils, including The Guardian, which calls his comments "absurd and dangerous."

"And here's the most damaging aspect of Straw's self-indulgent intervention: The niqab is a drastic option and one that many Muslim women reject. It is the response of a minority who feel that they are living in a hostile climate. Straw's comments have unleashed a storm of prejudice that only exacerbates the very tendencies which prompt some Muslims to retreat."

Meanwhile, an editorial in The Times thanks Straw for his comments, saying it is "never right for a woman to hide behind a veil and shut herself off from people in the community."

"It was absolutely right for Jack Straw to raise this issue. Nobody should feel threatened by his comments; after all, the debate about veils has been raging in the Islamic community for many years. To argue that non-Muslims have no right to discuss it merely reinforces the idea that Muslims are not part of a wider society."

An icy end

The Sun reports on an environmentally-friendly scheme in the city of Preston, where dead bodies -- along with the coffins -- are turned into powder after being dropped into liquid nitrogen at minus 196 degrees Celsius. The process is called promession.

"The scheme is hailed as an environmentally-friendly option to burning bodies. After the pieces become brittle, they are put on a vibrating pad to disintegrate. Then a metal separator picks out items such as artificial hips and tooth fillings."
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