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04/03/2008

Magazine Roundup

Prospect | Al Ahram Weekly | London Review of Books | Caffe Europa | Nepszabadsag | The Times Literary Supplement | Gazeta Wyborcza | The New York Times

Prospect 01.03.2008 (UK)

In his fascinating cover story, Mark Leonard reports on intellectual life in China which he has been researching for the past three years. He was surprised to find debate raging among intellectuals, activists and think-tankers about the future of China, state and economic models. While the "new right" was at the heart of China's economic reforms of the 80s and 90s, now a "new left" is on the rise and considering possible social democratic options for China. "Wang Hui was a student of literature rather than politics, but he was politicised through his role in the student demonstrations of 1989 that congregated on Tiananmen Square. Like most young intellectuals at the time, he was a strong believer in the potential of the market. But after the Tiananmen massacre, Wang Hui took off to the mountains and spent two years in hiding, getting to know peasants and workers. His experiences there made him doubt the justice of unregulated free markets, and convinced him that the state must play a role in preventing inequality."


Al Ahram Weekly 27.02.2008 (Egypt)

Chinese goods are also flooding the Egyptian market, reports Dena Rashed. They are often cheaper and better than the local products and never was this more painfully obvious than at the Africa Cup in Cairo. "'I have to admit that many people come to ask for the flags that are made in China because they last longer,' says Abdu Gouda, who works at the Ahli Club in Cairo and has been stationed in front of its gate selling Ahli and Egyptian flags. Gouda buys the flags in Al-Moski, where wholesale vendors supply hundreds of other buyers with different kinds of goods. Egyptian-made flags are a few pounds more expensive than the Chinese ones, and, according to Gouda, they are not as good. 'The material stretches, and the flag does not last for so long,' he says."

London Review of Books 06.03.2008 (UK)

In his book "Flat Earth News" journalist and reporter Nick Davies has little good to say about British journalism. Sadly, writes John Lancaster in his review, he is right. "We have arrived at a place where 'the heart of modern journalism' has become 'the rapid repackaging of largely unchecked second-hand material, much of it designed to service the political or commercial interests of those who provide it'. 'Flat Earth News' breaks down the specific ways in which pressure is exerted on the practice of journalism, on a daily basis. Stories need to be cheap, meaning 'quick to cover', 'safe to publish'; they need to 'select safe facts' preferably from official sources; they need to 'avoid the electric fence', sources of guaranteed trouble such as the libel laws and the Israel lobby; to be based on 'safe ideas' and contradict no loved prevailing wisdoms; to avoid complicated or context-rich problems; and always to 'give both sides of the story' ('balance means never having to say you're sorry – because you haven't said anything')."


Caffe Europa 01.03.2008 (Italy)

David Bidussa reminds Tariq Ramadan and all the others who criticised the Turin Book Fair for inviting Israel as its guest country, that things are far more amiss in Arab countries than in Northern Italy. "It is not what they are saying that makes the attitude of Tariq Ramadan and the Arab Writers Union so questionable, but what they are not defending, and that is freedom. At the same time as Tariq Ramadan was calling for a boycott of the book fairs in Turin and Paris, Milan Kundera was being censored at the Cairo Book Fair and his books banned. None of these people who present themselves as the great defenders of freedom and who speak out against suppression – Tariq Ramadan being the most vociferous of them all – none of them has taken the time to find the words or the way, to step out of line from the chorus of disapproval about Israel and to stand up for the freedom of the book in Cairo."


Nepszabadsag 01.03.2008 (Hungary)

Media expert Peter György portrays the controversial Polish artist Artur Zmijewski, who currently has an exhibition in Budapest. Among the exhibits is the video "80064" in which an Auschwitz survivor has his prisoner number freshly tattooed (more here and here). "All Zmijewski's provocations, his coolly thought through complex works are aimed at Polish society - at the country which sees itself as the victim of a terrible war. Because a defensive stance and repression cannot be broken down by humanistic pedagogy. Zmijewski, it seems, wants a society with fewer lies and less self-pity and free pride. ... Films like "Fateless" or "The Pianist" are prime examples of failed humanistic pedagogy, promising redemption and catharsis even if there is no reason for it. The far more complex and risky aesthetic which Zmijewski pursues - which in his works create new connections and horizons - forces people to look themselves in the eye. It knocks us off balance and offers no consolation."

The Times Literary Supplement 29.02.2008 (UK)

Why does all the world think Latin America is drifting leftwards? asks a bemused David Gallagher of the Chilean Centro de Estudios Publicos. In Argentina Cristina Kirchner has succeeded her husband Nestor as president and will continue to rule in Peronistic tradition – in other words with "less Marx than Mussolini." And in Venezuela? "Chavez finances populist, anti-capitalist politicians all over Latin America and no country is now immune from his influence. With his 'Bolivarian' dream of uniting the continent under his aegis, he is the region's new imperialist. Amazingly Chavez gets away with selling himself as a man of the Left. Yet his authoritarian populism is closer to fascism. In Venezuela, the main beneficiaries of the 'Bolivarian Revolution' are Chavez's own megalomania, and a new breed of so-called Boligarchs: businessmen who profit from Chavez's hand-outs in an economy in which he calls all the shots. The poor have benefited too, but their benefits are not sustainable. Government price-fixing is already causing acute shortages of staple goods."

George Brock reads a number of new publications on Northern Ireland, which more than anything else provided him with the answer as to why the IRA was prepared to settle for so little: it was riddled with M15 spooks. Even Freddie Scappaticci, head of the IRA's feared 'security department', was working for the British. "If there are lessons from counter-terrorism in Ulster, they seem to be this. Recruit very good spies; then hire some more. Then give it time to work. The murders, the long wait and the compromises of the exit strategy may well grind the moderates to dust. Then wait some more. After that, the politicians can make their entrance."


Gazeta Wyborcza 1.03.2008 (Poland)

After decades of political abuse of class war rhetoric and the wild period of transformation, the self-image of the Polish worker seems to be stabilising, sociologist Juliusz Gardawski claims in an interview. Hardly anyone still describes themselves as "working class" or "proletariat", but "the polls reveal a clear division between the ruling class and those under them. When asked about conflicts, the talk turns to ideology rather than economic interests. Conflicts about property or capital seem to be non-existent." The situation on the job market, which has relaxed largely as a result of migration, has meant employees are gaining confidence about defending their rights. A recent strike at the supermarket chain Tesco was the first of its kind within the private sector.

The New York Times 02.03.2008 (USA)

Gershom Gorenberg reports on the growing tensions between American and Israeli Jews. American Jews who want to emigrate to Israel often run into problems with the religious authorities in Israel who have the final say on who is actually Jewish. "Seth Farber is an American-born Orthodox rabbi whose organization - Itim, the 'Jewish Life Information Center' - helps Israelis navigate the rabbinic bureaucracy. He explained to me recently that the rabbinate's standards of proof are now stricter than ever, and stricter than most American Jews realize. Referring to the Jewish federations, the central communal and philanthropic organizations of American Jewry, he said, 'Eighty percent of federation leaders probably wouldn't be able to reach the bar.'"
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