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16/09/2008

Magazine Roundup

Vanity Fair | Le Monde diplomatique | The Spectator | Le point | The New Republic | The New Yorker | Przekroj | The New Statesman | Outlook India | The Atlantic | L'Espresso


Vanity Fair 15.09.2008 (US)

Over a nine month period, Michael Wolff spent his Tuesdays with Rupert Murdoch. A ideal opportunity to get the inside story on the media mogul's latest plans ā€“ now that he has the Wall Street Journal under his belt - to get his hands on the New York Times. While others have interpreted this as a liberal-shift in the Murdoch image, Wolff knows better: "It's obviously irresistible to him. I've watched him go through the numbers, plot out a merger with the Journal's backroom operations, and fantasize about the staff's quitting en masse as soon as he entered the sacred temple. It would be sweet revenge - because the Times for so long has made him the bogeyman and vulgarian. And wonderful to own not just one of America's most important papers but both (he believes in monopolies)."

Further articles: Reporter and writer Sebastian Junger revisits a US unit in a remote outpost of Afghanistan which is fighting a losing battle against the Taliban despite having the upper hand, militarily. But the Americans are persisting with their small-base strategy, in order to better access local hearts and minds. Junger speculates: "This is not a war where soldiers are taken prisoner; if a position were to be overrun, virtually every American in it would be killed during the firefight. The wounded would probably be executed where they lay, or worse. The Taliban would take astronomic casualties, but they may have calculated that one or two such incidents would cause the American public to demand an end to the small-base strategy in Afghanistan."


Le Monde diplomatique 15.09.2008 (Germany/ France)

In a text from a posthumous collection of essays, Jaques Derrida thinks about rogue states ā€“ and finds echoes of Niccolo Machiavelli's descriptions of the animal in StratCom's (US Strategic Command) guidelines on how the USA should deal with them: "We should not show ourselves as too 'rational', the guidelines recommend, when it comes to defining what is most valuable to the enemy ā€“ and therefore how best to threaten him. In other words, one should not show that one is in full control of one's senses, one should make it understood that one can take leave of one's senses and act like an animal in setting targets, in order to create fear and make the other believe that one is willing to stop at nothing, that one will go beserk when vital interests are at stake. One has to give the impression that one can go crazy, irrational, in other words become animal. 'It hurts', says one of the Stratcom recommendations, "to present ourselves as too rational and controlled.' In fact it is even is 'beneficial for our strategy, to make certain elements seem out of control.'"


The Spectator 13.09.2008 (UK)

Tom Parfitt tells a story from Russia's war in Ingushetia: "Among the first-class passengers who flew into Ingushetia's Magas airport from Moscow on the afternoon of 31 August were two grey-haired men in suits. The pair avoided each other's gaze. One was Murat Zyazikov, 50, a former KGB officer and president of Ingushetia, the small Muslim republic which borders Chechnya in southern Russia. The other was Magomed Yevloyev, 36, an outspoken critic of Russia's brutal rule in Ingushetia, founder of the ingushetiya.ru website, and Zyazikov's great nemesis. The fates of the government bureaucrat and the government critic, which had been so closely bound up with each other, were about to diverge. Once the plane had touched down and the passengers offloaded, Zyazikov was ushered into a waiting Mercedes and swept away. Yevloyev meanwhile was met by a team of armed police. They bundled him, protesting, into their vehicle and drove off. Within 20 minutes Yevloyev had been shot in the temple. His near-lifeless body was dumped at a hospital where he died hours later. Officials in Moscow and Ingushetia's police say that Yevloyevā€™s death was the result of an accidental shot when he tried to grab an officer's weapon. But too many unarmed people have died in Ingushetia while 'putting up armed resistance' for this to be at all believable."


Le point 11.09.2008 (France)

In an interview with Elisabeth Levy and Franz-Olivier Giesbert, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel talks about his new novel "Le cas Sonderberg" (Grasset) about a New York journalist of Jewish origin who is searching for his identity. His story converges with the trial of a German student during which the Nazi past of his grandfather is dredged up and and who pleads "guilty but not guilty" to killing his uncle. In the novel, Wiesel reaches out a hand to the innocent "children of slaughterers" who feel themselves guilty nonetheless. It is also a reaction to his altered relationship to Germany. "It's true that I have always kept my distance from Germany. Not because I believed in the criminal character of an entire people or culture. That would be to banalise evil again. If everyone is evil then no one is evil. But this is how it was. I didn't understand Germany. (...) People didn't use to talk much about the past. Now it is taught everywhere, dealt with in books and films. Germany has retrieved its memory."


The New Republic 24.09.2008 (USA)

In a paradoxical way, the Bush administration is also to blame for the hard-hearted reactions of many so-called liberals to Russia's punitive action against Georgia, writes David Greenberg in the New Republic. When it came to taking sides in the Caucasus conflict, they defended the sort of crude realism that they once considered anathema. "After September 11 and during the run-up to the Iraq war, the Bush administration hijacked the liberal vocabulary of democracy, liberty, and human rights. It then proceeded to make a mockery of this rhetoric by thumbing its nose at the United Nations, curbing civil liberties at home, and torturing suspected enemies. Ashamed of the deeds done in the name of their principles, liberals turned not just on Bush but on the very espousal of those principles. They ceded them to the neocons, and ran as far away from foreign policy idealism as they could."


The New Yorker 22.09.2008 (USA)

David Remnick describes the difficult situation of one of the last bastions of free media in Russia: the radio station Ekho Moskvy and its editor-in-chief Aleksei Venediktov. In 2001 Putin invited Venediktov to a meeting in the Kremlin library. By way of embracing him and warning him simultaneously, Putin spoke at length about the difference between enemies and traitors. "It's a crucial distinction for Putin,' Venediktov said. 'He said, >Enemies are right in front of you, you are at war with them, then you make an armistice with them, and all is clear. A traitor must be destroyed, crushed.< This is his philosophy of the world. And then he said, >You know, Aleksei, you are not a traitor. You are an enemy.> ' Foolishly, perhaps, I asked Venediktov if Putin smiled when he said this. 'Smile?' Venediktov said. 'Putin never smiles. He was just making it clear in what sense I existed for him.'"


Przekroj 11.09.2008 (Poland)

Adam Michnik was never one to endorse the Kaczynski brothers. But all of a sudden, he is saying not only that the Polish president did the right thing over the Georgian crisis, but that it filled him with pride. In a conversation with his former pupil Piotr Najsztub, he does, however, speak out against a confrontation with Russia. "It is dangerous and stupid to abandon the future project of democracy in Russia. And the same goes for speaking the Cold War language again. Perhaps Russia is going in this direction and will force this language on us, but we should not comply. Putin is not Stalin, he is a KGB sub-lieutenant whom many Russians believe is effective. We should know whom we are talking to, but we should keep talking."


The New Statesman 15.09.2008 (USA)

The new issue explores Iran. In one article Aseih Amini reports on the blogger scene which, over the last seven years, has spawned a number of citizens' and women's rights initiatives- such as "Change for Equality" - and provided a reliable source of independent journalism. But Amini and her fellow bloggers are increasingly preyed upon by full-scale state repression and censorship. President Ahmadinejad might have his own blog, but the pressure on the free bloggers increases by the day. "In July the government began to consider a bill against 'online crimes'. Parliament is yet to vote on the bill, but if it is approved, bloggers and webmasters found guilty of 'promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy' may find themselves facing the death sentence."

Further articles: In Tehran, Maziar Bahari collects impressions of his divided country and talks to Akbar Etemad, a long-term advisor to the Shah, who shows understanding for the Iranian nuclear programme. And Robert Tait explains that it's only the money bubbling up from the oil business that is staving off economic collapse in Iran.


Outlook India 22.09.2008 (India)

In an unusually patriotic tone, Outlook India celebrates the official recognition of India as the world's sixth nuclear power, in what it describes as an historic shift in global political power relations: "Those who gaze only at their own political navel do not appreciate how tectonic a shift it is in the calcified thinking of the status quo world where the already powerful rarely accept the newly emerging and advantaged rivals work hard to pretend, postulate and pontificate against the one outside the door ... Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, mysteriously patient and quietly firm, prevailed in the end, winning the confidence vote. He has earned his place in history as the leader who wears two crowns - unshackling India at home through economic reforms and liberating it abroad from nuclear apartheid."

The Atlantic 01.10.2008 (USA)

Jed Perl bids farewell to Philippe de Montebello who is retiring at the age of 72 and whose formula for success as head of the New York Metropolitan Museum was not to underestimate the public: "This has in many respects been an unlikely golden age, unfolding as corporate and government support shrinks and the conviction grows among cultural arbiters that the public will invariably gravitate toward the latest pop sensation rather than the art of the past. De Montebello, however, isn't among the pessimists. Rejecting the idea that a museum lives or dies on the basis of a few heavily marketed blockbuster events, de Montebello operates, as he told me in May, under the assumption that 'the public is a lot smarter than anybody gives it credit for. The public as a whole has intellectual curiosity. These are people who know the difference between a serious show and pure sham.'"

Further articles: James Fallows travels through the Western China with two Taiwanese businessmen, who have taken it upon themselves to catapult this backwater and its 300 million inhabitants into the 21st century. Benjamin Schwarz rubs his hands together in anticipation of Christian Lander's blog, "Stuff White People Like", which tracks trends in the camp of progressive white middle-class liberals. And Eric Hanson collects great moments in the history of man, from Proust's first asthma attack to Hitler's first Lohengrin and Ronald Reagan's entry into the Republican party.


L'Espresso 12.09.2008 (Italy)

In the film of Roberto Saviano's reportage, "Gomorra", which hit German screens last week, one of the stories follows the Comorra's lucrative waste disposal business, where toxic waste is dumped in illegal landfills around Naples. Now the man who started this dirty business twenty years ago, Gaetano Vasallo, has revealed all. Gianluca Di Feo and Emiliano Fittipaldi cite from the confession dictated by the former Mafia boss-turned-penitent. "I fear for my life which is why I have decide to work together with the law and reveal everything I was involved in, including illegal activities. In particular, I want to go into the illegal disposal of special, toxic and health-damaging waste from 1987/88 to 2005. The waste was disposed of in caves and undeveloped areas of land and not in certified land fills."
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