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04/09/2007

Magazine Roundup

Gazeta Wyborcza | Internationale Politik | Al Ahram Weekly | The Economist | L`Espresso | Prospect | Outlook India | Nepszabadsag | The Guardian | HVG | The New York Times
Gazeta Wyborcza 01.09.2007 (Poland)

In an interview published in German in the Polish daily, journalist Adam Krzeminski speaks with German historian Heinrich August Winkler about the complex German-Polish relations (more here). Winkler comments: "On the Polish side, it's difficult to ignore the groups that foment anti-German sentiment. They exploit the organisations of German expellees as an element in the political equation... In my opinion, however, fears in Poland of losing its newly recovered sovereignty to the EU are much more important than the nationalist sentiments of some Polish politicians. This supranational association of states executes its sovereignty partly collectively, and partly through supranational institutions. Similar fears also exist among other new EU member states, and older members should handle them with extreme caution. This is also why I found the the term 'European constitution' ill-considered. It was bound to provoke resistance, and not just in Poland or the UK."


Internationale Politik 01.09.2007 (Germany)

In the supplement on Islam in Europe, Syrian philosopher Sadiq al-Azm attempts to explain the fierce conflict between science and religion in what he describes as the completely backward universities of Beirut, Cairo and Istanbul. The situation reminds him of the early days of the Enlightenment in Europe and he draws astounding parallels between the case of Salman Rushdie and Galileo Galilei. "It seems to me as if Rushdie's first recantation was just as forced and utilitarian as Galileo's. The persecuted father of modern physics did not only recant his recantation when he mumbled: 'And still it moves!', he also did so in giving his most mature work, the 'Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche intorno a due nuove scienze', to the world. He wrote this behind the back of the Church censors who were keeping tabs on his every move, and smuggled it into Holland to be published. It was the same with Rushdie who recanted his recantation by resisting the terror of the fatwa and continuing to write critically, creatively and almost exclusively about sacrosanct subjects. Will Islam wait another 300 to 500 years before making concessions to Rushdie? And finally, there is the question as to whether Islam will ever be capable of reconciliation with the ruling scientific body of knowledge."


Al Ahram Weekly 30.08.2007 (Egypt)

Karim El-Khashab addresses the taboo of taboos in Egyptian society - sex before, during or completely outside marriage. "A marriage based on family interests - to appease the elders or keep wealth within the family - as opposed to genuine affection and understanding, is unlikely to sustain a healthy sex life. For men, masturbating to porn or indeed Arab video clips, or sociologist Said Mustafa puts it, 'marrying the TV' - is a convenient alternative to both the hassles and expenses of matrimony, which are absurdly exhausting by any standards, and the moral agony of engaging in premarital sex. (...) Masturbation may be perfectly harmless in its own right, but the fact that, abetted by pornography, it has come to replace sex in Egypt Mustafa finds alarming."


The Economist 31.08.2007 (UK)

The magazine reports on the German and French resistance to the construction of urban mosques - and concludes that attitudes in the USA are far more relaxed than in "Eurabia". "Although America has plenty of Islam-bashers ready to play on people's fears, it offers better protection to the mosque builders. In particular, its constitution, legal system and political culture all generally take the side of religious liberty. (...) More important than the letter of the law is an ethos that leans in favour of religious communities which are 'new' (to their neighbours) and simply want to practise their faith in a way that harms nobody. In America the tone of disputes over religious buildings (or cultural centres or cemeteries) is affected by everyone's presumption that if the issue went to the highest level, the cause of liberty would probably prevail."


L'Espresso 31.08.2007 (Italy)

Giuliano Foschini quotes from a number of reports on findings concerning the spread of the Mafia in Germany, and Fabrizio Gatti portrays the most powerful clan boss from San Luca. "Ntoni Gambazza does not officially exist. He is not registered in the community directory of San Luca. Partly because the unwritten rules dictated by fear forbid all public mention of certain persons. But also because Ntoni Gambazza is only a sobriquet which has been associated with organised crime for years. The square face under the thick head of hair is, however, registered under the name of Antonio Pelle, a name he shares with a number of men in the area. He was born on March 1st 1932, at a time when people still travelled exclusively on foot in the Aspromonte region. This is also the identity given on the ministry of the interior's list of the thirty most dangerous criminals in the country. Ntoni Gambazza has earned this honour: since 2000 he has been the the number one on the 'Ndrangheta von San Luca' like a sort of Bernardo Provenzano prior to his arrest."


Prospect
01.09.2007 (UK)

The cover story is devoted to the economic power of India and the rise of the middle classes - which is marked, to the alarm of Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, by a lack of interest in trickle-down social reform. "The middle classes take India's new status for granted; they simply assume it is India's due to be treated as the 'equal' of the US and the rest, and move on to talk of economic opportunities. This commitment to their own idea of India and their central role in its economic rise makes the middle classes sure of themselves. But at the same time, their sense of citizenship is weak: they do not, on the whole, extend a sense of solidarity to the poor; they often do not acknowledge the role of the state in their own rise or its capacity to solve any of the country's problems; and they are, in general, politically apathetic."


Outlook India
10.09.2007 (India)

Shruti Ravindran looks to psychology in seach of an explanation for the Indian obsession for creating crazy records. Cases like that of Harprakash Rishi, however, remain inexplicable. He had all his teeth pulled to be able to fit 555 straws in his mouth. "Rishi first made it to the Guinness Book two decades ago, for riding 20,000 km around India on a Luna moped. He has since sent in a wide variety of claims, 47 of which languish unaccredited. Among these are records for the fastest ketchup drinking, longest domain name, longest valid will, longest non-stop brick carrying, longest distance curry/pizza delivery, most chillis eaten in three minutes, and most blank pages in a published book. Also, strangely enough, the largest bra. His enthusiasm is infectious. Even his wife, Bimla Rishi, has now earned a record for the shortest will, consisting of two words in Hindi, which mean 'All to son'. 'If you want to get into the Guinness Book,' he muses, 'you need lots of money, a very big team, stamina, or prove yourself a mad person!'"


Nepszabadsag 03.09.2007 (Hungary)

"There has never been socialism in Eastern Europe. Even the USA was more socialist," claims Noam Chomsky in an interview: "In the 1970s, the USA had the highest wages and the shortest working hours in the world. Today it's exactly the opposite. Americans have to work the longest for the lowest pay in the industrial countries. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the USA experienced an unprecedented increase in living standards, on an egalitarian basis: higher income brackets had just as much more in their pockets as the low wage sector. Statistics show a rapid social development, for example regarding life expectancy and infant mortality." In Chomsky's view, the collapse of the Soviet Union offered a chance to implement true socialism for the first time in the history of the world. The October Revolution was potentially such a chance, "but the Bolsheviks destroyed it. Lenin and Trotsky destroyed all socialist institutions that existed before the revolution and established a tyranny-based capitalist society."


The Guardian 01.09.2007 (UK)

Writer Zadie Smith remembers reading Zora Neale Hurston's emancipation classic "Their Eyes Were Watching God," which she was given as a precocious 14-year-old by her mother : "I lost many literary battles the day I read 'Their Eyes Were Watching God.' I had to concede that occasionally aphorisms have their power. I had to give up the idea that Keats had a monopoly on the lyrical.... I had to admit that mythic language is startling when it's good."


HVG 03.09.2007 (Hungary)

At a swearing-in cermony for the extreme right wing parliamentary "Hungarian Guard," priests of the country's three largest religions, the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed Churches - gave the guards their blessing. Shortly thereafter, leading church representatives declared that the priests were not acting officially, but as private individuals. Zoltan Horvath demands a clear statement. The churches, he writes, "said that they were not involved as institutions in the ceremonies in which the extreme right-wing group was consecrated. Does that mean that the priests appearing on the tribune were acting fully independently, or were even small-time actors dressed as priests? Inexperienced in such matters of ceremony, we the citizens ask: is this blessing which happened without the official stamp of the churches valid, or is it not?"

The New York Times 02.09.2007 (USA)

In The New York Times Magazine, Lynn Hirschberg portrays Rick Rubin, the legendary producer of Public Enemy, Johnny Cash and the Dixie Chicks. Now he has been hired by Columbia Records to save the music industry. Evidently, Rubin is not worshipped as a guru in vain: "Rubin, wearing his usual uniform of loose khaki pants and billowing white T-shirt, his sunglasses in his pocket, his feet bare, fingers a string of lapis lazuli Buddhist prayer beads, believed to bring wisdom to the wearer. Since Rubin's beard and hair nearly cover his face, his voice, which is soft and reassuring, becomes that much more vivid. He seems to be one with the room, which is lined in floor-to-ceiling books, most of which are of a spiritual nature, whether about Buddhism, the Bible or New Age quests for enlightenment. The library and the house are filled with religious iconography mixed with mementos from the world of pop. A massive brass Buddha is flanked by equally enormous speakers; vintage cardboard cutouts of John, Paul, George and Ringo circa 'Help!' are placed around a multiarmed statue of Vishnu."
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