Western European News Digest
Cheney Shooting Makes Headlines Throughout Europe
The story is out all over Europe:
* Neue Zuercher Zeitung on Feb. 15, had a very lengthy, sarcastic description under the headline, "Vice President Cheney on Hunt in Texas," with the subhead, "Instead of a chicken he hits a lawyer." Among the hunting guests was Pamela Willeford, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, who said that Cheney is guilty. But, says NZZ, for the American journalists, the hunting spree has only begun. Why does it take hours before the public gets to know?
* London's Financial Times Feb. 16 has extensive coverage, with the central article (reprinted from Slate) entitled, "Cheney and the Public's Right to No," by Jacob Weisberg. After writing that "The Bush Administration's aversion to openness reached the proportions of parody" with the 18-hour delay in the reporting of Cheney's shooting of a fellow hunter, Weisberg drew the interesting historical precedent. "When Vice President Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804, Burr's second used an umbrella to obscure the wounded man from potential witnesses. Burr went home and mentioned nothing to his luncheon guest about the incident. After Hamilton died, a public cry went up and Burr fled to an undisclosed location in Georgia."
* Le Figaro of Paris has a picture showing Cheney with a rifle in his hand at the Riflemen's Association. Headline: "Heart attack for Cheney victim." The article reports that the White House is under fire from the media, and that for Dick Cheney and the Administration, whose rating is already very low, the criticisms come together with a wave of sarcasm and caricatures.
* The leading mass-tabloid of Germany, Bildzeitung, finally broke the story on Feb. 17, with a banner headline on its back page, "All of America Is Laughing About Vice President Bang-Bang"; it shows the barrel of a hunting gun pointed at the reader.
* Spain's El Mundo Feb. 17 headlines, "Dick Cheney: I shot at my friend and this is something that I will never forget." Their coverage is non-accusatory, using quotes from his Feb. 16 Fox TV interview.
(See this week's InDepth Feature for "Cheney: Caught in the Act of Being Himself," by Jeffrey Steinberg, and other coverage of the "Shooter-in-Chief.")
Berlusconi Allies with Mussolini Granddaughter
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has just concluded an electoral alliance with Allessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the fascist Il Duce, Benito Mussolini. The deal is that La Nipote (the granddaughter), as she is called in political circles, will bring the votes of her party Alternativa Sociale, and, in exchange, will receive four seats in Parliament in the April 9 general election.
Berlusconi has also courted other shadowy figures, like Gaetano Saya, head of a neofascist movement called Nuovo MSI, who was arrested last July in Genoa for having founded a clandestine anti-Islamic private police force. Berlusconi met Saya at a reception at the Israeli embassy on May 12, 2005, and laterwhen Saya was in jail received his wife last September.
Another neofascist, former Ordine Nuovo founder Pino Rauti, has also been part of electoral negotiations.
Whereas the center-right coalition includes the neofascists, on the opposite side, Rifondazione Comunista includes left-wing radicals such as Antonio Caruso, a leader of the "disobedients," and one transvestite called Vladimir Luxuria. However, when a Trotskyist candidate publicly defended suicide bombers who had killed Italian soldiers in Nassiriya, he was promptly expelled by Rifondazione head Fausto Bertinotti.
EP Votes for Slightly Modified Bolkestein Directive
Concluding its first session on the issue Feb. 16, the European Parliament voted 394 to 215, with 33 abstentions, in favor of the compromise formula on the Bolkestein Directive worked out by the two biggest groups, the Socialists and the Conservatives. (See InDepth: "The Bolkestein Directive; European Labor Erupts Against Dereg Policy, by Rainer Apel.) The votes against came from two camps: 1) the leftists and the ecologists; 2) the radical neo-liberals who insist that the original text not be modified. They would rather have the whole directive withdrawn, than accept a compromise on deregulation principles.
The compromise is a trade-off: The highly controversial term "country of origin" which the directive wants to establish as standard of the lowest regulation in the EU, is taken out of the text, in exchange for the Euro Parliament no longer insisting that social and consumer regulations be exempt from the directive. The compromise accepts as a guiding principle that "services be free for access throughout the European Union, like financial services," but leaves options for individual governments to keep some regulations intact. The Commission will now work out a new draft for the Bolkestein Directive, to be presented to the Parliament for a second session, and to the EU member governments.
Cardinal Urges Christian, Muslim Reconciliation
Renato Martino, president of the Vatican's Justice and Peace Council, declared in an interview with the Rome daily La Repubblica Feb. 9 that, "the West must adopt a geopolitical strategy towards the Muslim world, deeply rethink its relationships, and imagine something like the European Conference on Security and Cooperation in the '70s" (between Western European and Warsaw Pact countries).
Martino said that "we must go to the roots, face the question of unfulfilled promises by the West towards poor countries, heal open wounds." As an example, he mentioned the Middle East conflict. "God forbid economic aid were now cut to the Palestinian Authority. If Hamas must recognize, unconditionally, Israel's right to exist, it is right that the Palestinians demand to respect the 1967 borders." Martino said it is idiotic to accuse the West of cowardice towards Islam, and that rather, "the issue is how the West succeeds in holding a consideration of the others, of their situation, history, dignity and culture."
Turkey Commits To Building Nuclear Power Plants
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan gave his go-ahead Feb. 15, in principle, for the construction of three nuclear power plants, to be completed by 2012. Construction work on the first reactor is to begin in 2007, if the National Security Council votes in favor of it, in its session on Feb. 28. (See also, InDepth: "A Renaissance in Nuclear Power Is Under Way Around the World," by Marsha Freeman.)
The most likely site of the first reactor, Sinop, on the Black Sea Coast, is one of eight sites that have been pre-selected under criteria including safety from earthquakes and from terrorist attacks.
Turkey not only wants the power plants, but also wants full national control of the entire nuclear fuel cycle, which means it wants to build an enrichment facility as well.
Carlyle Group Merges British, U.S. Defense Networks
Making a whopping 800% profit in the bargain, the Carlyle Group has managed to merge major segments of the U.S. and British defense networks, the Washington Post reported Feb. 13. Qinetic, the British Ministry of Defense lab for high-tech gizmos (liquid crystals, vertical takeoff gear, radar, etc.), was privatized in 2002. Carlyle bought one-third for $73 million, but got 51% voting rights, and directed the company to buy up several U.S. military contractors with the right connections. Thus merged into the booming U.S. military spending, Qinetic's stock soared, and Carlyle made off with a quarter of a billion on a $73 million investment, while America's historic enemy is more embedded in U.S. defense than ever.