That whole “jokester” issue – dealt with in my previous post, and having to do with a young Frenchman touching off a bomb-on-plane scare at JFK airport – refuses to die down, at least as far as the conservative French newspaper Le Figaro is concerned. You see, that’s not the only instance recently of French citizens tangling with the American authorities. The newspaper even thinks it sees some sort of pattern emerging, as is apparent right away in the title of its latest article, Those Frenchies [that's the word the title uses] Being Maltreated by the American Authorities. (more…)
Archive for January, 2004
American security and air transport personnel these days truly do not joke around. Thank goodness I’m not telling you that out of sad personal experience arising out of my recent travels to and within the United States – recall that I advanced the heretical idea in this space not so long ago of displaying a sassy Dilbert cartoon while going through security checks. No, the above conclusion is instead clear from the recent experience of an unfortunate Frenchman – “a rather flippant French jokester,” some would conclude – named Franck Moulet who seemingly took a schtick about suspicious shenanigans on the American Airlines flight he was on rather too far a couple of weeks ago, and was jailed in New York City and put up on charges for his pains. English-language coverage of the incident (at least what I could find using that old reliable stand-by, Google News) is rather sparse. The French press, in contrast, has proved rather more willing to cover the story, as reporting attests to in Le Monde and in Le Figaro (Franck Moulet Freed in Exchange for Confession), and that last article even features a head-shot of the 27-year-old M. Moulet. Just look deeply into those eyes, I say, and then tell me whether this is some sort of comedian. (more…)
Wow: the split-up of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez is homepage news even for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (“Jennifer Lopez Gives Ben Afflek Walking-Papers), with column titles such as Doch wieder Puffy? (“So It’s Back to Puffy?”). That’s pretty tempting to get into. But it’s not like there isn’t anything else a bit more “legitimate” to discuss – like recent setbacks for the idea of banning the wearing of religious symbolism (primarily the Muslim head-scarf for females), in both France and Germany. (more…)
I’m over here in the US now, and clearly where you are determines what you hear and what you cover. Or perhaps “what you couldn’t escape, even if you tried,” since President Bush’s State of the Union speech last night dominated the airwaves everywhere and the on-line American press this morning.
But I reside in the Netherlands, so let’s take a look homeward: How did the President’s speech go over in the Dutch press? I ask that in full awareness of the inherent asymmetry at the bottom of all of this: there’s of course a yearly, regularly-scheduled policy speech delivered each year on behalf of the Dutch government too (called the troonrede, or “throne-speech,” it occurs on the third Tuesday of September, and happens to be delivered by the Queen), but there is naturally hardly the same attention – if, indeed, any at all – devoted by the American press to that. All completely understandable: just speaking of events of this past year, it’s not the Dutch who have thrown the geopolitical structure of the Middle East on its ear, together with the whole web of post-World War II Western Alliance relations, by invading Iraq.
Still, this example of the sovereign actually reading the speech (as also happens yearly in the United Kingdom, of course) might be something worth transferring over to American practice, if the royalty-less American society could somehow come up with an appropriate analogous figure (the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, perhaps?). My reason for suggesting that is that in that case perhaps – just perhaps – the sitting President would be deterred from delivering, for public reading by another, any text that ultimately amounts to a mere electioneering stunt, rather than a sober, candid view of what the government has done and what it intends to do. The former is at least the overwhelming impression Dutch writers and editors took away from Bush’s performance last night, as reflected even in headlines such as Het Parool’s Bush’s State of the Union Mainly an Electioneering Speech (verkiezingsrede). (more…)
I’m headed off to a two-week trip to the US, back in early February. But I’ll still be able to get on-line most of the time – of course! – courtesy of those whom I’ll be visiting. So my EuroSavant posting – and let’s not forget the meticulous scanning of the on-line European press that lies behind that – should continue; it will just be a question of the time I can devote to that. Actually, it’s quite likely that my frequency will be just as good/bad as has marked January, although no way will I attain the daily posting rate I reached in December before Christmas, when vital, interesting things (e.g. the EU IGC) were actually going on.
I’ll be making a total of three round-trip flights on this journey: six occasions to remove jacket, belt, shoes, etc. and fight as best I can against the presumption that I’m a terrorist who means to do the airplane harm. What fun! I feel like taping this Dilbert cartoon somewhere prominent on the outer surface of a handbag, but I hear that US Transportation Security Administration personnel have even less of a sense of humor about their assigned functions than Scott Adams does about allowing people to reproduce his cartoons directly on their websites.
As 2003 has turned into 2004, there has been a lot of movement world-wide in the area of – brace yourself for this all-too-familiar, overused bureaucratic term – “weapons of mass destruction” (call ‘em WMD) and the “rogue states” that, to various degrees, have pursued their acquisition in the past. Most prominent was Libya’s renunciation of such weapons and agreement to adhere to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards, even before actually signing any written accord to do so. But North Korea also recently allowed a team of US observers visit its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. For its part, back in October Iran signed agreements granting the IAEA more scope for inspection of its nuclear facilities, and even Syria started to speak publicly last week about its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Zbynek Petracek, in the most-recent issue of the Czech commentary weekly Respekt, surveys these developments in an article he entitles So That You Don’t End Up Like Saddam. But is all this breaking of the nuclear ice attributable to the downfall of the Iraqi dictator?
If it were, Petracek notes, that would be somewhat ironic, given that the WMD justification for the invasion of Iraq hasn’t panned out at all; last week also marked what was attempted as the “quiet” pull-out from Iraq of the main American team of 400 WMD-searchers (but the media are always watching, especially these guys). But actually there’s precious little connection; indeed, and unfortunately, there has been less progress in fighting the spread of WMD even after the fall of Saddam, even after he was caught in his spider-hole, than you would hope. (more…)
It seems that Danish troops over the past weekend uncovered in southern Iraq some artillery shells that quite likely were filled with the “blister agent” chemical weapon. I was first alerted to this by an entry in Joshua Micah Marshall’s Talking Points Memo site, where he also linked to a BBC report on the find. Naturally, this sort of thing called for a search on in the Danish press for word of what had gone on, and what it might mean. The answer: not that much. (more…)
For many people around the world, mainly either those actively wanting to or at least thinking about traveling to the United States, the big event marking this past first-business-week of the New Year was the introduction last Monday at America’s seaports and airports of mandatory procedures involving the photographing and fingerprinting of most foreign entrants. In one sense, this was just the sequel to the “air marshal” flap happening just before, as yet one more unilateral demand placed by the Bush administration on travel to the US, placed out there for other involved countries to “take it or leave it,” although resistance to this so far has been less than to the demand for air marshalls.
However, see this NYT article for the great Brazilian exception, where authorities – spurred by a judge’s ruling – have in turn instituted the requirement that all Americans entering Brazil be photographed and fingerprinted. And that’s all Americans – the article makes mention that even American diplomats, plus visiting US Senator Pat Roberts, were required to deliver up mugshots and prints – and a better solution is hard to imagine for the obvious problem here that the high-and-mighty setting such US policy normally get to remain blissfully unaware of the impact their decisions have on the everyday lives of ordinarily mortals. There just remains the task of getting George W. Bush to pose in an airport somewhere, which would have the collateral benefit of greatly assisting those many hundreds of thousands of anti-US-policy protesters in Western Europe whose own attempts at fashioning a Bush mugshot on the posters and placards they march with in the streets have too often been hopelessly amateurish.
Another reason resistance is less to the new mugshot-and-prints regime is that citizens from a core of 27 countries (mostly Western European) seen as low-risk and/or particularly friendly to US policy (plus Canada) are exempt. Unfortunately, it’s questionable whether the friendliness of the country and the degree of terrorist risk posed by its citizens are very much correlated; you can grasp this by recalling that that gentleman (now locked up in perpetuity) who two years ago tried to blow up a US-bound flight with explosives hidden in his tennis-shoes was a French national, as well as by reading this excellent opinion-piece on the whole issue in today’s Washington Post’s “Outlook” section. (Then there are those of you asking aloud now “What, France? A ‘friendly country’?” Sillies, for all the Franco-American policy differences of recent years, clearly from geopolitical and immigration perspectives France belongs in that camp of 27.)
But back to the new requirements for folks from what you could call the “great unwashed” parts of the world who would like to visit America, and in particular Poland. Yep, the Poles also belong to those “great unwashed,” notwithstanding things like the prompt and firm support the Polish government provided the Bush administration when it came to Iraq. The Poles are not happy with the new requirements, naturally. Surprisingly, though, a review of Polish press coverage of the matter has convinced me that this development itself barely rates “man-bites-dog” newsworthy status. Rather, the new requirements are merely the latest riff on what Poles perceive to be an ongoing insult – namely that they are required to obtain visas to visit the US at all. What’s more, George W. Bush’s announcement of this past week of proposed changes to US immigration law to grant amnesty in certain cases to illegals in the US turned out 1) To be directly relevant to the mugshot-and-photo issue, and 2) To be of much more interest to Poles. Intrigued? Just click on “More…”
Once again, on this issue Gazeta Wyborcza wins the prize for the extensiveness of its coverage; it builds a handy collection of links to its various articles on a page entitled Should We Introduce Visas for the USA? (more…)
The Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad has an interesting section covering tech developments called Internet and PC, in its on-line edition too, and the subject of weblogs written by Dutch politicians was recently treated there, in an article entitled Blogging for the People by Reinoud den Haan. The star Dutch political blogger, whose on-line work has already attracted some attention due to his leading role in several current controversies (such as the French & German violation of the EU’s Growth and Stability Pact), is of course Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm. (Edward, are you out there?) Den Haan’s article does not disappoint: we learn quite a lot about Zalm’s blogging habits, such as that he regularly sits down to write an entry, with “iron discipline,” on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays, and even then he has to be careful, as he finds his weblog to be verslavend, that is, “addictive.” But probably the most surprising thing is that, when he prepares his latest contribution on that regular schedule, he does so at his kitchen table and with pen-and-paper – i.e. not with a laptop, or indeed with any sort of keyboard whatsoever! (“That’s faster,” he explains. “I’m still in the department of those who type with two fingers.”) (more…)
You would really think the Czechs would be looking forward to 2004. After all, this is the year when, on May 1, they finally enter the European Union. True, there’s no new-and-improved Constitutional Treaty in place yet to adjust the EU to the reality of ten new members, but that’s (hopefully) just a matter of time; in any case, at least Vladimir Spidla’s government (no matter what the opinions of President Václav Klaus may be) can’t really be blamed for the constitutional hold-up.
But that’s not the case, as a pair of articles by Petr Holub in today’s Hospodárské noviny reveals. As Holub points out at the beginning of one (The More the Union Approaches, the More Czechs Are Afraid), “Half of the people think that they will have it worse [in the coming year], and the cause is what they themselves approved in a referendum – May’s accession into the European Union.” (more…)