It looks like I was a bit premature when I wrote in this space a few days ago about al-Qaeda’s “endorsement” of John McCain. (But the quotation-marks around “endorsement” were back in the original post, too.) From his weblog on the site of the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, Bas Benneker informs us that, actually, Al Qaida has also not yet decided. (more…)
Archive for October, 2008
Yes, the dollar is nowadays considerably stronger versus most other major world currencies than it has been in a long while. Here’s my pet theory about why that is: it’s due to the veritable flood of news correspondents from outside the US who have traveled there – many taking their camera-crews along with them – to try to capture for their readers back home vignettes of American life in the context of the election that reveal some basic essence of where that country is going. I can’t even count by now all the “road trip through America” article-series I have seen sponsored by various foreign publications, for example. (Here’s the one from the Guardian, if you want a taste.)
Pauline Michgelsen is a writer who has been dispatched to the States by the excellent Dutch daily Trouw, and while she doesn’t seem to be road-trippin’ through the highways and by-ways in some caravan, in her recent piece Learning to vote she makes a bolder move: she deliberately infiltrates a gathering held by that band of subversives famously sworn to undermine the functioning of American elections in particular, and the American Way in general. I’m talking here about ACORN, of course, and Michgelsen somehow manages both to learn of the secret handshake required to gain access to a “Know your rights” evening held inside a Lutheran church in Lansing, MI and even make her way out of there at the end intact. (more…)
Germany’s Der Spiegel has interesting news on the rock-n-roll front: Led Zeppelin looking for a new singer. You remember that the surviving band members, plus John Bonham’s son Jason, just had to get together for that charity concert in honor of deceased Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegün that was such a hit last December. Well, it seems that the fellows had such a good time with that, that the experience spurred a hankering to go play together some more on tour – at least among lead guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist/keyboard-man John Paul Jones.
But singer Robert Plant was the exception, who proved stubbornly resistant to the idea of hitting the road again, even though he is the band’s youngest member (now at 60 years). So now, as the unnamed Spiegel journalist (whose initials are “bor”) would have it, Page and Jones are ready to find someone else. Says Jones: “We want to perform again – and we’re not going to hang around and wait for Plant to change his mind.” (more…)
Once the upcoming election has been conducted and the results made known, and as we get closer to inauguration on 20 January 2009, you can expect the usual flood of articles in all the world’s media evaluating the eight-year presidency of the departing George W. Bush. It’s been an eventful eight years, no? For some reason or another, though – apparently because he recently caught sight of Bush on TV looking “tired” and “grey” during his latest address to the nation about the financial crisis – the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung’s Washington correspondent Matthias Rüb has decided to get a jump on the competition with a new piece: What remains of George W. Bush? A man of great expectations.
But don’t worry: the FAZ will surely find itself having to try again later. For what Rüb has come up with is an article that may offer a few interesting perspectives, but which first and foremost suffers from a worrying short-sightedness about what this man has done to the country for which he served as president. (Could it be a coincidence that the pronunciation of this journalist’s last name is basically “rube”? And as to that illustration at the top of his article: it’s obviously supposed to be George W., but in fact looks nothing like him.) (more…)
I thought there were some products whose sales were supposed to be “recession-proof” – like beer. Isn’t that supposed to be the poor man’s cheap solace for hard times?
It seems not, at least when it comes to one of Europe’s prime beer-drinking lands, namely Britain. We get word on that from the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau (Britons lose their taste for beer; article sourced from the dpa press agency). Beer-revenues there have fallen 7.2% over the last three months compared to the previous year, down to the level of ten years ago. And it seems all beer-outlets are being affected more-or-less equally: pubs, restaurants, and supermarkets. In fact, the article quotes the head of the British Beer- and Pub-Association that five of those delightful traditional British pubs are now closing their doors permanently each day.
A quick troll through the on-line English papers found no word about this – could this merely be another diabolical German scheme to discredit their European rivals in beer-guzzling? If so, you’d think they would come up with some calumny against the Czechs instead, who year after year consume more of the stuff even than their Teutonic neighbors.
The leading Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad had an interesting item over the press conference given by Minister of Finance (and Cabinet chairmen in the absence of Dutch premier Jan Peter Balkenende, who is visiting China) Wouter Bos, which we can see in the article’s headline: Bos alludes to extension of French EU chairmanship.
From the very beginning of the European Union (i.e. from 1958; it was then known as the European Economic Community) the member-states have taken turns, at six-month intervals, at assuming the “EU presidency,” although the role is more-accurately described as the presidency/chairmanship of the Council of the European Union, which is the legislative forum for the member-states and usually the most-powerful of the EU’s component institutions. Naturally, the queue of countries waiting to serve their turn as president includes all EU member-states, and it was in the first half of this year that the first country from the great 10-country EU enlargement of May, 2004, had its turn as president, namely Slovenia.
The thing is, the second half of 2008 has proved to be far-from-normal times. First there was the diplomatic crisis over the conflict between Russia and Georgia, and now we have the international system of finance seriously in need of some restructuring. France is now EU President, and French president Nicolas Sarkozy has by all accounts done a credible job in responding to the worldwide financial panic. (His intervention in the Russian-Georgian conflict to secure the cease-fire was subject to rather more mixed reviews.) The comfort the EU has had with Sarkozy as point-man on that crisis may have much to do with the French president’s own personal qualities, but it also stems from France’s status as one of the EU’s major powers and its deep and capable governmental machinery. What if one or more of these grave problems had arisen during the Slovenian presidency: could President Danilo Turk and the Slovenian government have effectively handled the task of leading the EU response? (more…)
The latest presidential campaign kerfluffle – a sort of “Vice’s New Clothes” story, no doubt you’ve already taken the measure of it yourself – concerns the $150,000-or-so that reporters for the site Politico revealed a few days ago has been spent by the Republic National Committee for the clothing, shoeing, coiffing, and make-up-ing of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. While the New York Times in a front-page article speculated whether $150,000 Wardrobe for Palin May Alter Tailor-Made Image, this latest tidbit about the American style of politics found its way out to foreign lands, provoking much comment there.
Within Europe, I’d have to select coverage on the US-elections blog of the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant as among the best (Palin went shopping with GOP credit card), mainly because blogger Bas Benneker suggests that all Palin was doing was taking full advantage of an opportunity that had fallen into her lap (or the lap of her Versace custom-fitted skirt) to pursue the American (Female’s) Dream: (more…)
The US presidential election is coming up soon, less than two weeks away. That means, among other things, that it’s endorsement season now, and lately those have taken somewhat of an international flavor. You might have already heard about al-Qaeda’s “endorsement” of McCain – perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to write more about that soon. As such, that nod of terroristic approval goes counter to pretty much the whole rest of the world, which prefers Obama as next US president by about a four-to-one margin. (But you’d sort of expect that Osama bin Laden and his henchmen would be inclined to go against the grain, now, wouldn’t you?) More conventional is Russia’s choice, or at least Russia’s seeming choice, as reported by Per Dalgård in the Danish opinion weekly Information (McCain asks Russia for help). (more…)
In Denmark, as really most elsewhere in the world, the media are keeping close tabs on the US presidential election – passing on the polling numbers to their audiences, looking for that special insight that might provide a clue about what is likely to happen on Election Day. Of a piece with this is the latest US election coverage from Viggo Lepoutre Ravn of Denmark’s Jyllandsposten (A former Bush-advisor: We have lost). That former advisor is David Frum, actually a former presidential speech-writer, whose comments from an appearance on CNN are quoted to the effect (because this is a translation from the Danish back into English) of “We have to look it in the eye, that we [presumably meaning the Republicans] cannot win the presidential election. We have to concentrate on saving as many of our Senators as possible.” Accompanying this account in Ravn’s article is the news that Obama has now gone ten percentage points clear of McCain in the latest Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll, plus some electoral strategy analysis. (McCain’s only hope is somehow to win one large-population state that it now seems he will lose, etc., etc. – but we don’t need to occupy ourselves with that stuff, since either Ravn assuredly doesn’t know what he’s talking about or you and I have already read such an analysis, in English, somewhere else.)
No, it’s Jyllandsposten’s Niels Lillelund who gets into a more in-depth discussion of American electoral matters in an accompanying article entitled Farwell to Bush – whom will the intellectuals hate now?. (more…)
It was heartening to read, from this European vantage-point, the article about Suddenly, Europe Looks Pretty Smart in the New York Times last Saturday, mainly describing the European “bailout plan that has now set the pace for Washington, not the other way around, as had been customary for decades.” At the same time, so far the poster-child victim of the financial crisis has been poor Iceland, a country that is rapidly running out of foreign exchange with which to pay for any imports and so is in contact with the International Monetary Fund for a rescue. But Iceland has gotten some company in the IMF petitioners’ ante-room recently from (among others, but just to name a European country) Hungary. The three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – are likely soon to join them there, although of course the European Union is also offering its own assistance.
So Europe may look “pretty smart,” but still European countries can suddenly find themselves in a deep financial hole in the present dire international conditions – yes, even EU member-states like Hungary and the Baltics. The one common denominator that seems to remove a European state from vulnerability, though, is membership of the Euro-zone, i.e. those 15 states out of the 27 member-states of the EU who use the euro as their common currency. Hannes Gamillscheg of the Frankfurter Rundschau recently picked up on this phenomenon (The guardians of the crown – alone) but from the point-of-view of a couple of those countries now outside the Euro-zone who in the past have explicitly rejected opportunities to come inside, namely Denmark and Sweden. (So the “crown” in the article’s title refers to the two different “crowns” that are those countries’ currencies.) (more…)
Look – as Fred Armisen might put it – I know that the Financial Times Deutschland is continually obliged to justify its right to the salmon-pinkish paper it is printed upon by upholding the same standard of serious and reliable business- and financial-journalism as that embodied by the original (British) Financial Times that engendered it . . . but perhaps sometimes it can just go too far.
As with the latest FTD opinion column by Henning Jess – entitled Präsident Witzig, which literally is “President Witty” or “President Funny” – whose point is to ask, “In these very serious times, how come Barack Obama and John McCain are joking around so much?” (more…)
First off, please note: that’s Paul M. Kennedy, history professor at Yale. One meta-theme that has been floating around the media throughout the global financial crisis of the last month or so has been variations on “the overthrow of the American century,” the “undoing of Wall Street as the world’s financial center,” and the like. If you’re going to write about this, what better expert to consult than Prof. Kennedy, author (although it was way back in 1987) of the noted history The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers?
The taser, that “electroshock weapon” that has already made it’s mark (but not literally, one would hope) in a handful of high-profile incidents in the US, recently crossed the Atlantic to enter service in France. Already in use by the national police, a decree from the Ministry of the Interior of last 22 September authorized them for use by local police forces.
But now something in the way of resistance is popping up. As the Nouvel Observateur reports (no by-line), a French NGO has filed an official request to have that 22 September decree nullified. Specifically, that NGO is “The Network for Alert and Intervention for Human Rights,” known by its French initials as “RAIDH.” Now, RAIDH has already found itself dragged into a court case by the company “SMP Technologies – Taser France” for allegedly having financed the activities of one Olivier Besancenot, whose political position is that of spokesman for the extreme-leftist League of Communist Revolutionaries, and who is currently on trial before a French court for defaming SMP Technologies by claiming that the taser has already been responsible for 150 deaths in the US. (“Espionage” is another charge Besancenot is on trial for; that was presumably also directed against SMP Technologies, but I can’t find much in the way of further details.) (more…)
Word comes here from Hospodárské noviny, the Czech Republic’s leading business newspaper, that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has found herself to be poorly served – poorly served indeed! – lately by her government’s financial ministers, to her considerable and personal cost. HN’s article (no by-line) reports that the value of Queen’s stock market holdings has recently plunged by 37% “in the past days.” That corresponds to a value lost of 1.2 billion – but fans of the Queen should not freak out too much, since that’s 1.2 billion in Czech crowns, corresponding these days to around £37 million. It’s still a considerable sum, though, I have to admit.
And why is this being reported in a Czech, rather than a British newspaper? Well, the HN report does cite as its source the Daily Express. But I could not find anything on this subject on its site, even by entering “Elizabeth II” in that search-box up-top there. (Yes, I did subsequently click on the “SEARCH” button over there on the right. Nada.)
Followers of this weblog over at least the past few months will recall my very doubtful stance towards the issue of possible doping by athletes at this years Beijing Olympic Games. I presented commentary from an ex-Olympic star doubting that doping could be avoided; and I pointed out how technological advances in sporting accessories were probably producing athletic performances many would call “unnatural” anyway. In fact, in my last sentence of that latter post I opined that, because of these accessories, we “have something else to be concerned about in addition to the pharmacological/blood-swapping tricks that we have to hope the Olympic authorities are sufficiently on-guard against.”
Sorry to say, but up comes an article in the respected German commentary weekly Die Zeit, by Friedhard Teuffel (Doping Policy of the IOC [= International Olympic Committee] is not credible), which indicates that those authorities were rather unlikely to have been sufficiently on-guard.
Wow – another EuroSavant post that simply writes itself! This time that delectable characteristic arises from the particular format employed (as you will soon see), and the article in question comes from Information, the Danish intellectual weekly newspaper, with the pungent title 20 reasons for the chaos we find ourselves in (and yes, it’s someone else’s fault).
Let’s go through these twenty reasons, then, shall we? – and see where we agree with the article’s author (with a very German name, I must say), Anna von Sperling. We might even keep a sort of running score; that nice, tapered, obviously feminine, nude (i.e. no rings) finger there pointing accusingly to the right at the article’s head starts us out with “one” . . . (more…)