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16/01/2007

Magazine Roundup

Vanity Fair | Folio | Outlook India | Reportajes | Il Foglio | Gazeta Wyborcza | Le Monde diplomatique | The New Yorker | De Groene Amsterdammer | Nepszabadsag | Elet es Irodalom | Al Hayat | Le point | The New York Times


Vanity Fair
(USA) 01.02.2007

Michael Wolff has penned a sharp-witted article on the latest pastime of American billionaires: buying newspapers. David Geffen (4.6 billion) has put in a bid for the Los Angeles Times, Ron Burkle (2.5 billion) and Eli Broad (5.8 billion) for the Tribune Company, Jack Welch (around 270 million) for the Boston Globe and Hank Greenberg (2.8 billion) is buying huge wads of shares in the New York Times, which currently has a very tired market value of 3.3 billion dollars. Are these white knights of the Internet-beleaguered newspaper industry? Wolff met a "really, really rich" man keen to join their ranks. "I pointed out that, actually, only older people read a daily paper - average age: 56. He said that, in his opinion, when people got married and settled down, that's when they'd start reading a paper. (...) But what about selling advertising?, I asked. It's an ever more competitive and cut-throat world. He tsked. His view was clear: only the weak-willed and pantywaist could not sell in a difficult market. Anyway, in short order, the billionaire checked his watch, and I was dismissed. ... 'He doesn't have a clue,' I said to one of his aides on the way out. The aide said, brightly, 'He's probably the leading expert in buying businesses he knows nothing about.'

Whether married or not, you should not miss Sebastian Junger's lengthy reportage on Nigeria. It deals with corruption, power and the MEND rebels who with their tactics of hostage taking and armed attacks are threatening to destroy the oil production of America's fifth largest oil supplier. On page three, a MEND group enters a small Nigerian village: "They climbed out of the boat with their weapons propped upright on their hips and their faces immobile and expressionless. They didn't bother to look at us and we hardly dared look at them. They carried heavy belt-fed Czech machine guns with the ammunition draped across their bare chests like deadly-looking snakes. ... They had painted their faces with white chalk to signify purity, and they had tied amulets around their arms and necks and foreheads for protection from bullets. ... One of them had painted the Star of David on his stomach to signify the lost tribe of Israel. They were a collection of walking nightmares, everything that is terrifying to the human psyche, and when confronted with them, Nigerian soldiers have been known to just drop their weapons and run."

Also worth a read is James Wolcott's moving lament on the mediocrity of American sex scandals. "When it comes to whipping up a political sex scandal into a donnybrook, the Brits have us beat—they really know how to make the bedsheets billow."


Folio (Switzerland) 15.01.2007

(N.B. All articles in this magazine are also available in English)

Ethnologist Nigel Barley describes dangers one encounters when studying pain rituals of other cultures. "I once worked among a people where the central rite of a man's life was to have his penis peeled for its entire length. It literally sorted the men from the boys. Without undergoing it, you were a snivelling child, wet and smelly, as contemptible as a mere woman. After the transformation, you were a real man, the finest thing God had created and allowed to swagger and swear oaths on the knife of circumcision. I sat up all one night worrying about whether to become a 'real' man or - more seriously - a 'real' hairy-chested anthropologist. Then, I paid a fine of six bottles of beer to the men to be classed as 'honorary circumcised'. I still think it is the best deal I ever made."

In his column on fragrances, Luca Turin describes how he managed to extract something good from the film of Patrick Süskind's "Perfume". Thierry Mugler sent him the limited edition DVD of the film "which contains fifteen fragrances composed by 'The Christophs', Laudamiel and Hornetz, illustrative of various scenes in the movie... the best being a cobbler's shop (Atelier Grimal), a wonderful, bitter leather accord, and another, depressingly entitled 'Human Existence', which contains the biggest, most fecal dose of civet in living memory."


Outlook India (India) 22.01.2007

Burn the burqa! Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin makes an unequivocal appeal against wearing the veil and the oppression of women. "My mother used purdah. She wore a burqa with a net cover in front of the face. It reminded me of the meatsafes in my grandmother's house. One had a net door made of cloth, the other of metal. But the objective was the same: keeping the meat safe (...) Why are women covered? Because they are sex objects. Because when men see them, they are roused. Why should women have to be penalised for men's sexual problems? Even women have sexual urges. But men are not covered for that. In no religion formulated by men are women considered to have a separate existence, or as human beings having desires and opinions separate from men's. The purdah rules humiliate not only women but men too. If women walk about without purdah, it's as if men will look at them with lustful eyes, or pounce on them, or rape them. Do they lose all their senses when they see any woman without burqa?"


Reportajes (Chile) 14.01.2007

In an interview, the infamous Chilean arms dealer Carlos Cardoen tells of his adventures, among such notables as Saddam Hussein , Augusto Pinochet, Fidel Castro and George Bush. "If an autocratic ruler has intelligence, he can put together the best government in the world, but every human being has his limitations. The person I got to know the best was Fidel Casto. He seemed to me to be highly intelligent, yet blinkered. Saddam Hussein seemed to have a well-balanced personality, he was excellently informed and highly attentive. Yet Saddam never really understood the west. I often discussed this with Fidel Castro and we both agreed: if it wasn't for Saddam's hamfistedness, America would never have been able to do what it did in Iraq."


Il Foglio (Italy) 13.01.2007

Ugo Bertone describes the ugly war of succession being waged by Macau's two most powerful casino moguls, the siblings Stanley and Winnie Ho – 85 and 83 years old respectively, but by not the least bit peaceful. The stakes are high. "Stanley, who, before the swarms of American tycoons descended on Macau in 2003, personally provided a third of Macau's national revenue, is the head of the gambling business in the city state. But he alone, powerful and anything but conflict-shy can take on his devilish sister, who until 2001 acted as the top arbitrator of the family's gambling empire. Then she was forced into retirement. Put out to cool but not deactivated, as demonstrated by the thirty times she has tried to take her brother to court."

Fabio Sindici looks with pure envy at London's contemporary art scene which centres round the sensationally successful Tate Modern. "The Tate Modern beats all other modern art museums hands down. More tickets are sold there than at the MoMA in New York, the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the old Centre Pompidou. This accounts for 150 million euros in spending yearly. The contribution of England's cultural institutions to the GNP, combined with that of the private sector, amounts to several billion pounds. Italy should wake up and smell the coffee."


Gazeta Wyborcza 13.01.2007

In a long article written for the weekend edition, Maciej Stasinski covers an unusual topic for Polish readers: immigration to Europe over the Mediterranean. "Fifty million people are waiting in Africa to make a break for Europe. After Spain pressured the Moroccans into tightening their border controls, the bulk of immigrants come via the Canary Islands. Spain is simply the closest country. Many cross the Pyrenees and travel on from there. As long as Europe remains the promised land for Africans, they will be waiting at its gates. Even in the most distant corner of Africa, the television brings images of a fairy-tale-like world of riches and happiness. Border controls, by contrast, are a Sisyphean task, a band-aid on an open wound," writes Stasinski.


Le Monde diplomatique 12.01.2007

In a letter from Ljubljana, Boris Cizej explains why Slovenia is so uninteresting for journalists: The country is simply doing too well, there is almost a "lethargic hedonism". "We Slovenians have specific difficulties with our self image. We didn't have to suffer Soviet humiliations behind the Iron Curtain. We lived in a tragicomic, but relatively free experimental state, and we played anything but a bit part in it. We were the developed north, the model republic. We enjoyed being one of the champions. We invented 'socialist self-management.' We also were the first to audibly express our will for democracy, our drive to integrate Europe. In the mirror of Yugoslavia we were used to seeing our image as the most beautiful."


The New Yorker 22.01.2007

Raffi Khatchadourian describes in a portrait how the 29-year-old Southern Californian Adam Gadahn became a prominent member of Al Qaida and one of the world's most wanted terrorists: "Adam Gadahn's nom de guerre is Azzam al-Amriki (Azzam the American). He can fluently recite the Koran in classical Arabic, and, since the late '90s, when he joined the jihad, his English has acquired a vaguely Middle Eastern accent. At times, he speaks in what might be called Jihadlish - a peculiar fusion of American vernacular and militant Islamist theory. Gadahn may be the first Al Qaida operative to lace a religious threat with a reference to Monopoly. 'If you die as an unbeliever in battle against the Muslims, you’re going straight to hell, without passing Go'."


De Groene Amsterdammer 12.01.2007

Would a European Turkey be a Trojan horse? "This fear is utter nonsense," says British historian and extremism expert Michael Burleigh in an interview. "Militarily, Turkey is incredibly important, and has long been a bridgehead for NATO. In contrast to the Netherlands or Belgium, Turkey counts among the few European states in a position to fight a war. If Turkey became a EU member, it would send an important symbolic message to the rest of the Islamic World. It would be a cosmopolitan signal – I prefer the old fashioned term cosmopolitan over multicultural – to the groups in these countries who sympathise with the West." Burleigh is counting on these people: "The liberal, educated circles you find everywhere in Istanbul, Cairo and other big cities are our natural allies. There's a large, cosmopolitan bourgeoisie. And there are many good writers we should hold out our hands to. We cannot win a war of ideas, a competition for the sympathies of the population – and that is what this is of course – by military means alone."


Nepszabadsag
12.01.2007

After the Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus, Janusz Bielanski, prelate of Krakow's Wawel Cathedral, has also resigned because of his contacts to the Communist secret service. Laszlo Kasza urges Hungarian cardinals to follow the example of their Polish colleagues: "All the heads of the Hungarian Bishops Conference – Czapik, Grösz, Ijjas, Lekai, Paskai, Seregely – and most of the bishops themselves have worked with the Hungarian Secret Service. Unlike their Polish counterparts, they don't say a word about it publicly.... Archbishop Wielgus said in announcing his withdrawal: 'I know I have done considerable damage to my Church.' Such admission of guilt is never heard in Hungary. And there is not a single conservative newspaper in Hungary that would reveal cardinals as former spies of the communist Secret Service, the way Gazeta Polska did."


Elet es Irodalom 12.01.2007

Writer Peter Esterhazy is shocked by an openly anti-Semitic article by the well-known writer Tibor Gyurkovics published in the January 6 edition of Magyar Nemzet, Hungary's second largest daily papr. In it, Gyurkovics suggests that Hungarian Jews had no identity, and questions their contribution to progress in the country. "Ten or 15 years ago, I would have let loose if I saw something like that in the paper. I would not have believed my eyes, and I would have screamed out in hopes of - in hopes of whatever. Today, it seems, this tone is acceptable because none of the conservatives have openly protested against the article."


Al Hayat 14.01.2007

Many people looked on the recent Holocaust Conference in Tehran with bitterness, among them writer Ghalia Qabbani. It is unfathomable for her that Arab intellectuals can show solidarity with extremists like British Holocaust denier David Irving. "In view of the debate about the Holocaust and the Holocaust denial conference in Tehran, I ask all those who were encouraged by this event: What do Arabs win in denying the Holocaust, or in supporting Holocaust deniers? Such a denial is of no use whatsoever in bringing justice to the Palestinian people. On the contrary, it is better for Arabs to support the attitude of those who don't deny the Holocaust, but who at the same time criticise Israeli policies and accuse Israel of repeating the Holocaust on the Palestinian population."

Muhammad al-Haddad raves at the thought that socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal could win the elections in France, proclaiming "the second French revolution."


Le point 11.01.2007

In his Notebook column, Bernard-Henri Levy comes back on Saddam Hussein's execution, which he holds for a mistake. Referring to Gershom Sholem, who is said to have told Hannah Arendt that rather than being the maximum punishment, the execution of Adolf Eichmann was the absolute minimum, Levy argues: "The same goes for the secret execution of Saddam, whose unfinished trial, which never really started, leaves a bitter aftertaste. It's a trivialising punishment, a banalising punishment. This execution rightly arouses fears that it marks the initial act of the grand revisionist undertaking that to a certain extent has always accompanied massacres. Not to mention the numbskulls who (…) never tire of saying of the despot's last moments diffused on the Internet: 'What dignity! What bearing! That's the worst."


The New York Times 14.01.2007

The New York Times Magazine preprints an excerpt from Ishmael Beah's report "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier," which is soon to be published. The book gives a gruesome account of the civil war in Sierra Leone: "Josiah. At 11, he was even younger than I was. Musa, a friend my age, 13, was also nearby. I looked around to see if I could catch their eyes, but they were concentrating on the invisible target in the swamp.... I heard Josiah screaming for his mother in the most painfully piercing voice I had ever heard.... An RPG had tossed his tiny body off the ground, and he had landed on a tree stump. He wiggled his legs as his cry gradually came to an end.... Sometimes we were asked to leave for war in the middle of a movie. We would come back hours later after killing many people and continue the movie as if we had just returned from intermission."

Further articles: Jim Holt enthusiastically presents Cern's new Large Hadron Collider, "next to which the Alps, for all their grandeur, look just a bit slovenly."
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