Features » Magazine Roundup


Magazine Roundup

Rue89 | Wall Street Journal | Polityka | London Review of Books | L'Espresso | The Spectator | ResetDoc | Outlook India | Al-Ahram Weekly | New York Times

Rue89 27.07.2008 (France)

The whole of France is debating whether two sentences written by cartoonist Sine in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo are anti-Semitic or not. Bernard-Henri Levy responded with an unequivocal 'yes' in Le Monde. But Sine has many supporters. Internet magazine rue89 provides a broad range opinions on the affair, but seems to come down more on BHL's side, recalling the "Carbone 14 Affair", which was named after a Parisian alternative radio station in the early '80s: "In the middle of a beautiful night in August, the humorist Jean-Yves Lafesse, not known for his charm, invites Sine onto his show. It was just after the attacks in the rue des Rosiers in Paris's Jewish quarter, where six people were killed. Each with a bottle of whiskey on the table in front of them, they let themselves go: 'I am an anti-Semite. I will go shortly and paint swastikas on walls... I want every Jew to live in fear unless they are pro-Palestinian ...' Ambiguous this is not." Sine speaks out about the "Carbone 14 Affair" in a video on rue89.

Wall Street Journal 12.07.2008 (USA)

Andrew Higgins tells the story of Dutch cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot (a pseudonym) who was arrested at dawn one Sunday in May and had to spend a night in jail. The police also confiscated his computer and notebooks. "The prosecutor's office says he's been under investigation for three years on suspicion of violating a Dutch law that forbids discrimination on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation. The cartoon affair has come as a shock to a country that sees itself as a bastion of tolerance, a tradition forged by grim memories of bloody conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The Netherlands sheltered Jews and other refugees from the Spanish Inquisition, and Calvinists fleeing persecution in France. Its thinkers helped nurture the 18th-century Enlightenment. Prostitutes, marijuana and pornography have been legal for decades." But fuel was added to the policitcal furor when Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin "the existence of a previously secret bureaucratic body, called the Interdepartmental Working Group on Cartoons. Officials later explained that the cartoon group had no censorship duties and had been set up after the 2006 Danish cartoon crisis to alert Dutch officials to any risks the Netherlands might face."

Polityka 26.07.2008 (Poland)

Historian Jerzy Kochanowski recalls the great history of gold in the People's Republic of Poland, when it was a safe financial investment and an illegal financial speculation. The leaders played a double-sided game: on one hand, they prosecuted smugglers and fought against organised crime. On the other, state institutions assured the flow of gold to citizens and encouraged official purchasing. In 1957 rules were introduced which made it easier to sell gold and platinum than it was to sell industrial goods or groceries. The level at which the state purchase price was set made it extremely worthwhile to smuggle it into the country and sell it to the state."

London Review of Books 31.07.2008 (UK)

Jenny Diski has written a wonderful article about sleeping and waking, about death and all the semi-consciousness states in between. It includes passages such as this one: "Who leaves when you fall asleep? They do, of course. So how can they look at you when they're no longer there? Otherwise it would be you who is not there and everyone else is where they always were, getting on with what they were always doing. That would suggest, on the constant pairing of sleep with death ('Death be not proud . . . '), that when you die the world carries on without you, and that is clearly ridiculous. It is said that when Franco was dying, his ministers (lying, I hope) said: 'Generalissimo, all Madrid is standing outside the palace to say goodbye to you.' 'Why?' the Generalissimo said. 'Where are they going?' This is the first time I have identified with a Fascist dictator, but he was, in this single instance, completely correct in his understanding."

L'Espresso 25.07.2008 (Italy)

Now that the whole world is travelling about, the passport photo no longer provides sufficient identification, writes Umberto Eco. Annoying but unavoidable are the words he uses to describe the US finger-printing policy. Otherwise the whole world would soon be behaving like the taxi drivers in Paris. "One friend told me about how surprised he was to find that several taxi drivers from the Middle East had simply not heard of a number of streets in Paris. So he asked them if they hadn't had to take an exam. The good man answered that if you look Oriental you can use any I.D you want in an exam situation. As long as it shows a vaguely Oriental-looking man on it. The examiners don't notice the difference. So, the honest taxi driver says, the driver who best knows his way around will take the test for all his colleagues."

Further articles: The Vatican Library is under renovation. Until it reopens in 2010, Sandro Magister recommends using the website which has a catalogue of 150,000 manuscripts and is regularly updated. Moses Naim thinks that the situation for women could genuinely be improving throughout the world, albeit slowly.

The Spectator 25.07.2008 (UK)

Ronald Harwood, who wrote the play-turned-movie "Taking Sides" about the de-Nazification of conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, has now written a piece about Richard Strauss, another musician who failed to escape the Third Reich with his hands clean. Robert Gore-Langton introduces Harwood's play which is currently playing at the Chichester Theatre Festival. "Harwood comes at Richard Strauss without prejudice and makes it clear that the man was horribly blackmailed. The story goes that Strauss followed orders because the Nazis discovered that he had a Jewish daughter-in-law, Alice. The price of her survival was his co-operation with the State Music Bureau. His one moment of defiance seems to have been in his refusal to allow the [Jewish] librettist Stefan Zweig's name to be removed from the poster for 'Die schweigsame Frau' (The Silent Woman), an act which cost the opera its run and the theatre manager his job. 'The really low point for him was writing kitsch music - the hymn for the [1936] Olympic games, and the wedding march for the Japanese royal family - he found that appalling,' says Harwood."

ResetDoc 21.07.2008 (Italy)

The magazine Resetdoc, which is dedicated to intercultural dialogue, features a dossier on international media in the age of English-language satellite channels with their competing world-views – from CN to Al Jazeera (Editorial). We were most interested in the dialogue (featured in English) between Karin Wahl-Jorgensen and political philosopher Seyla Benhabib, who begins with an homage to Jürgen Habermas and then goes on to explain what she expects from an interplay of the blogosphere and the print media in the USA: "What I see are both trends: on the one hand the blogosphere is very often run by amateurs and this can lead to misinformation as well as misrepresentation. But on the other hand sometimes you find more information and news on the blogosphere that force the more established media to stand and take note. And actually, this is a good process on the whole because it imposes more checks on the print media."

Outlook India 04.09.2008 (India)

Seema Sirohi reports on the burgeoning number of women who have broken through the glass ceiling in the Indian Foreign Service, and are now getting the top jobs at the embassies and consulates around the world in important places like China an the US: "But it wasn't always like that...There was a time when IFS women had to give a written undertaking that they would resign if they married. The blatantly unfair rules were changed thanks to India's first woman IFS officer, C.B. Muthamma, who moved the Supreme Court in 1979 to protest the rampant gender bias and won." But the real progress could lie in policy in the Middle East where India is slowly starting to send women to head up missions in Lebanon and Qatar, "the hitherto forbidden Arab world where even the West rarely sends women diplomats."

Al-Ahram Weekly 24.07.2008 (Egypt)

Hani Mustafa watched the rather over-complicated Egyptian remake of the 1970's film "Cabaret". "While there are no Nazis, there is a bit of terrorism, and though there is no moral laxity, there is a lot of moral rigour. The Egyptian version of the film 'Cabaret' bears only the faintest resemblance to the original," but its long list of characters and their storylines does include the club's bouncer, played by Mohamed Lutfi, who "offers a good imitation of Marlon Brando, complete with husky voice and death wish."

New York Times 27.07.2008 (USA)

In the Sunday Magazine, a frustrated counter-narcotics official with ambassadorial rank since 2007, Thomas Schweich, documents a long history of thwarted attempts to implement an effective anti-drug programme in Afghanistan against "an odd cabal of timorous Europeans, myopic media outlets, corrupt Afghans, blinkered Pentagon officers, politically motivated Democrats and the Taliban." The situation today: "On May 12, at a press conference in Kabul, General Khodaidad declared the 2008 anti-poppy effort in southern Afghanistan to be a failure. Eradication this year would total less than a third of the 20,000 hectares that Afghanistan eradicated in 2007.(...) Despite this development, the Afghans were busily putting together an optimistic assessment of their progress for the Paris Conference on Afghanistan — where, on June 12, world leaders, including Karzai, met in an event reminiscent of the London Conference of 2006. In Paris, the Afghan government raised more than 20 billion dollars in additional development assistance. But the drug problem was a nuisance that could jeopardize the financing effort. So drugs were eliminated from the formal agenda and relegated to a 50-minute closed discussion at a lower-level meeting the week before the conference." - let's talk european