Europeans know a thing or two about down-to-the-wire debt deals, but with time running out in Washington to reach an agreement before a catastrophic default that could have devastating spillover effects around the globe, European leaders are sweating. On Tuesday, Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and former finance minister of France, warned the United States that the issue needed to be "resolved immediately." Today, she told the PBS NewsHour that there would be dire consequences for the world economy if there wasn't resolution.
There's quite a lot of concern out there. The global economy is clearly highly dependent on the U.S. economy, because the U.S. economy is the first in the world and it's a major power in many respects. So to have the lead economy uncertain about its debt ceiling is quite worrisome.
In a separate interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN, she said the solution would be to raise the debt ceiling now and address fiscal consolidation issues in the medium term.
Today, the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble also warned Washington to act.
Everyone in the US should be aware of their responsibility for the global financial markets.
He added, "The core of [the U.S.'s] difficulties is exorbitant debt and the economic prospects. Americans have to find long-term solutions to create solid fiscal and growth policies."
Schäuble and Lagarde were downright tame compared to Vince Cable, Britain's secretary of state for business, who told the BBC earlier this week that "the biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few rightwing nutters in the American Congress rather than the euro zone."
Perhaps, the most sobering analysis of all comes from Germany's Der Spiegel:
Even if the worst is avoided, US finances are still a mess. Total debt is approaching 100 percent of gross domestic product, putting it in the same league as Italy, Portugal and Ireland, three of the euro-zone's famous PIIGS states. America's budget deficit is well over a trillion dollars -- more than 10 percent of GDP. Were Washington to apply to become a member of the European common currency zone, it would be rejected out of hand.
We'd be rejected by the euro zone? This euro zone?
It is perhaps inevitable, given the facts of the case, that Norway's worst massacre in recent memory will lead to soul-searching questions about immigration. A blond-haired, blue-eyed sociopath -- who has railed against "Islamic colonization" -- bombed government buildings and gunned down young people at a summer retreat (officials have yet to release information about how many of the victims were Muslim and whether they were specifically targeted by the gunman). But will his actions change anything politically?
Norway's Muslim population has been growing in recent years -- estimates say there are about 100,000 Muslims in the country -- and with that growth has come the kind of backlash many of its European neighbors have seen. Immigration and asylum rules have been tightened. And the anti-immigrant Progress Party has risen to become the second largest in parliament. Its leader, Siv Jensen, has spoken of "a form of sneak-Islamization in this society and we must put a stop to that." (Last week's mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik, was once a member of the party, though he has also criticized it for not going far enough).
Analysts say politicians are going to be careful talking about immigration in the wake of the attack. "In the short term, the parties are not going to touch the immigration issue.… I think it's going to make politicians quite cautious in their wording, their rhetoric," Hanne Marthe Narud, a political science professor at Oslo University, told Reuters.
Some Muslim leaders have said the violent outburst could help bring Muslims and Christians closer together. "I think minorities will think of themselves as more Norwegian.… Religion, ethnicity, color will go into the background. The Norwegian identity will be strengthened," Mehtab Afsar, the Islamic Council of Norway's general-secretary, told Reuters. "We are standing shoulder to shoulder with our Christian brothers and sisters in Norway."
Politically, it's less clear what the outcome of the attack will be. Raymond Johansen, the ruling Labor Party's general secretary, said yesterday that the shooting "will impact Norway and the political debate in Norway for many years." Does that mean bad news for the anti-immigrant Progress Party? Not necessarily, say political analysts. Local elections are set for September, and the Progress Party will "have to keep a low profile on the immigration issue in the upcoming election campaign simply to avoid being associated with the terrorist attack," Todal Jenssen, a Norwegian analyst, told Bloomberg News. But, the party is unlikely to see a major loss of political support since national traumas like last week's rampage "tend to breed cultural fears, which project onto immigrants or the unknown," Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Center for International Political Economy in Brussels, told Bloomberg. "The fantastic show of support for open society and the values of democracy will inevitably fade away and be overshadowed by suspicion of the unknown." As shocking as it is to believe, the Progress Party could actually benefit from Breivik's attack.
One Eritrean immigrant said he wasn't worried about any negative consequences: "The most important thing is what the majority thinks. And the majority is fine with us."
The annual Bayreuth music festival in Germany -- which celebrates the works of German composer Richard Wagner -- kicked off today and for the first time will feature a group of musicians from Israel. Wagner, an avowed anti-Semite and an inspiration for Adolph Hitler, is rarely heard in Israel, where there is an unwritten ban on performing his music. Tomorrow, the Israel Chamber Orchestra will perform Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" for an audience at the festival. The group rehearsed for the first time yesterday after landing in Germany (they said they declined to practice the piece while in Israel).
The Wagner family has run the festival for the past 100 years -- including during the Nazi era. But the current co-director of the festival, Katharina Wagner, the 32-year-old great-granddaughter of the composer, said she has been trying to reach out to Jewish groups. The festival plans to introduce a Jewish cultural center and Wagner has said she would open the family archives, allowing historians to see the extent of her family's relationship with the Nazis.
The Israeli group's conductor, Roberto Paternostro, explained the decision to play the music. "Wagner's ideology and anti-Semitism was terrible, but he was a great composer," he told Reuters. "The aim in 2011 is to distinguish between the man and his art."
Among the many questions that remain over why and how a gunman was able to kill at least 76 people in Norway on Friday, perhaps nothing is more infuriating than the cushy fate that seems to await Anders Behring Breivik, the suspect. If you're going to go on a maniacal murder rampage and then not have the decency to include yourself in the body count -- Norway is the place to do it.
Norway takes the mantra of rehabilitation to an extreme. Not only are there no death sentences, there aren't life sentences. The maximum Breivik can face is 21 years (not per murder, but in total). Yes, there is a caveat that says a prisoner deemed to still be a threat can have his sentence expanded in five year blocks -- but in a very real sense, that means he will come up for parole every five years for the rest of his life -- or until he is no longer seen as a threat. Few killers in Norway serve more than 14 years.
The Norwegian prison system takes seriously the philosophy that inmates should be treated as humanely as possible and that jail sentences should be seen less as punishment than as an opportunity to reintegrate troubled people back into society. According to the numbers, this approach has some benefits -- only 20 percent of prisoners there eventually return to prison, as opposed to 50 - 60 percent in the United States and Britain. Violent crime is much lower than in other societies.
"Both society and the individual simply have to put aside their desire for revenge, and stop focusing on prisons as places of punishment and pain," one prison official said last year. "Depriving a person of their freedom for a period of time is sufficient punishment in itself without any need whatsoever for harsh prison conditions."
That's a fair point, but can the theory hold in a case like this? Will Breivik be seen as a person who can be rehabilitated and returned to society? And if not, what does the soft Norwegian prison system mean for him?
Wifi and Rock climbing walls
Norway doesn't have many jails to choose from (there are only 3,300 incarcerated prisoners in the whole country, compared to 2.5 million in the United States). Last year, Norway inaugurated its newest prison -- a campus that embodies its principles of rehabbing the worst of society.
With prisoners that include rapists and murderers, Halden Prison -- the second largest in the country and the most secure facility -- looks more like a sleepaway camp than a traditional prison -- architects say they purposely tried to avoid an "institutional feel." When it opened, some news accounts called it the "most humane" prison in the world. According to a Time magazine story last year:
Halden is spread over 75 acres (30 hectares) of gently sloping forest in southeastern Norway. The facility boasts amenities like a sound studio, jogging trails and a freestanding two-bedroom house where inmates can host their families during overnight visits. Unlike many American prisons, the air isn't tinged with the smell of sweat and urine. Instead, the scent of orange sorbet emanates from the "kitchen laboratory" where inmates take cooking courses.... To avoid an institutional feel, exteriors are not concrete but made of bricks, galvanized steel and larch; the buildings seem to have grown organically from the woodlands. And while there is one obvious symbol of incarceration -- a 20-ft. (6 m) concrete security wall along the prison's perimeter -- trees obscure it, and its top has been rounded off.
Prisoners' cells include flat screen TVs, minifridges, and long windows that let in more sunlight. Prisoners share kitchens and living rooms with sofas and coffee tables. There's a state-of-the-art gym with a climbing wall and expensive artwork commissioned for the prison. At other maximum security prisons, inmates have access to the internet, even in their jail cells.
Prison guards don't carry guns. And they are encouraged to be outgoing and friendly toward the inmates -- eating together and playing sports to "create a sense of family," one official said.
Other lower-security prisons in Norway (where violent criminals tend to end up after a few years) are even cushier -- with tennis courts, horseback riding, beaches, and ski trails (prisoners can participate in ski-jumping competitions in the winter at one facility). At an island prison (which includes murders and rapists as well) inmates work on a farm and live in "comfortable wooden houses shared between four to six inmates."
Societal criticism of prison life is somewhat faint (most of the criticism in the past has had to do with the fear that cushy jails could lure more organized crime to the country (one politician argued that some of the nicer prisons should "only be for Norwegian criminals.")
Time noted last summer that: "Norway's cultural values and attitudes toward crime mean the public sees no need to push for tougher penalties or harsher prisons."
The article also noted, "In Norway, acts of extreme violence are seen as aberrant events, not symptoms of national decay."
This unprecedented case could make Norwegians reexamine their thoughts on incarceration. For now, Breivik has been remanded to custody for eight weeks (he'll be held in isolation for the first month -- meaning no outside communication with anyone besides his lawyers). After that, if convicted, the alleged mass killer of at least 76 people may end up in a prison with a lovely rock-climbing wall to keep himself occupied.
To be clear -- no one has yet claimed responsibility for today's blasts in central Oslo. But Norway has not been immune from terror threats in the past. Al Qaeda's new chief, Ayman al Zawahri, has called for attacks on the country. After an audio message from Zawahri in 2003 singled it out, a spokesman for the foreign ministry said the government was "surprised" to be a target. Zawahri threatened Norway again in 2007, for participating "in the war against the Muslims."
Last year, Norway arrested two immigrants from China and Uzbekistan with alleged ties to al Qaeda. (A third man believed to be connected to the group was arrested in Germany). Norwegian authorities believed they were plotting an attack in Norway, though that was never confirmed. At the time, the minister of justice said the arrests indicated that the country needed to pay closer attention to possible links between immigrants and terror groups overseas.
But, why Norway?
The country supported the invasion of Afghanistan (though its troop presence is very low -- only about 400 soldiers); and there is still lingering anger over the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy from 2006. A Norwegian newspaper reprinted some of them, forcing the government to apologize. Norway's embassy in Syria was attacked by protesters. Some analysts say Scandinavian countries are often lumped together by extremist groups -- meaning Denmark and Norway are seen as intertwined. In fact, one of the immigrants arrested last year in Norway, reportedly told police his target was originally the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons.
Another potential explanation has to do with the complicated case of Mullah Krekar, an Iraqi Kurd who worked with Islamist groups there before moving to Norway in 1991 and claiming refugee status. He's praised bin Laden and has called for attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq. In 2005, he was ordered deported after being declared a national security threat, but his deportation was suspended. Earlier this month, prosecutors in Norway charged Krekar with threatening government officials. Krekar has denied having any links to al Qaeda and it seems unlikely the group would seek vengeance for his arrest.
In the end, Norway may simply have been attacked because -- despite being a low priority for terror groups -- it proved to be an easier target than higher profile locations. And in the wake of bin Laden's killing, al Qaeda has been looking to launch an attack against the West.
"It may be pointless to search for a single grievance," said Thomas Hegghammer, an expert on terror groups with the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, last year after the arrests were made. "Most likely, a combination of factors placed Norway on the jihadists' radar. In al-Qaeda's binary worldview, Norway is part of the ‘Jewish-Crusader alliance.' Not a platinum member, perhaps, but a member nonetheless.... Frustrated by the difficulty of striking key adversaries like Britain and the United States, al-Qaeda seems to be moving down the food chain."
AFP/ Getty Images
At least one bomb went off outside the offices of Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and several other government buildings earlier today. The prime minister was unharmed. Just within the hour, there were reports of a second blast in central Oslo, according to Norwegian state broadcaster NRK -- though there has been no confirmation yet.
CNN is reporting a "state of confusion" in the city. Roads into the center of the city have been shut. "It's complete chaos here. The windows are blown out in all the buildings close by," according to one reporter in the area.
No word yet on any deaths, though eight people have been reported injured. And that number will likely rise. So far, no one has claimed responsibility.
Today's proceedings were interrupted for ten minutes after a man who was sitting in the fourth row of the audience "calmly walked up" to Rupert Murdoch and splattered him with a foam pie, yelling "Greedy."
Murdoch's wife Wendi leaped up and attacked the man. One Guardian reporter in the room tweeted: "Wendi can throw quite a punch."
She is the woman in the pinkish jacket in the below video who is leaping over other people to intersect the attacker:
On Twitter, a self-described anarchist, activist, and comedian who goes by Johnnie Marbles is claiming responsibility.
"It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat"
Earlier, he tweeted:
"I'm actually in this committee and can confirm: Murdoch is Mr. Burns."
"Rupert Murdoch appears to be going senile #hackgate"
The man was handcuffed and dragged out of the committee room.
Last we left the French politician, he had been freed from house arrest after the veracity of his accuser's story came into question; French society contemplated his political future; and a French writer, Tristane Banon, said even if he didn't assault the New York City maid, he did try to sexually attack her back in 2003 -- allegations that are being investigated by French police.
Today, a new twist has emerged. In an interview with a French newspaper, the writer's mother, a prominent Socialist Party member, said she had sex with the former IMF chief back in 2000, an encounter that was "consensual but clearly brutal." She said it was something she never wanted to repeat.
Anne Mansouret, 65, said Strauss-Kahn acted with the "vulgarity of a soldier." And, he had a dominant instinct when it came to sexual encounters.
Mansouret said she felt she needed to speak out now because an image was forming of Strauss-Kahn as a "seducer, not a rapist."
The story gets a little more twisted when you consider that Mansouret was close friends with the politician's former wife, who also happens to be godmother to Banon.
Banon has called Strauss-Kahn a "rutting chimpanzee" and "very violent." She told French TV back in 2007 that she had interviewed him several years earlier for a book she was working on. He tried to hold her hand during the discussion and the hand-holding segued into sexual advances. He became violent and the two scuffled on the floor of his apartment. Eventually, she "kicked him several times, he unbuttoned my bra ... and tried to unzip my jeans." But she was able to get away.
Strauss-Kahn has called her allegations "imaginary" and has filed a lawsuit against her for slander.
If the Strauss-Kahn affair has taught us anything, it's that it is ridiculous to rush to judgment. We'll see where this new case goes. But, the more that comes out about Strauss-Kahn in France, the easier it is to understand why he doesn't seem to be in any hurry to leave the United States.
The room where the Murdochs are currently testifying looks more like a place you'd hold a school board meeting rather than a parliamentary committee hearing.
Murdoch is very low energy and seems to not have a firm grasp of all the information being discussed. He takes long pauses before answering questions. As far as visuals go, Murdoch has had his head slumped down at times when he is not testifying -- looking as tired as he has said he feels.
According to the Guardian, the News Corp. strategy that seems to be emerging is to have James "talk as much as possible and keep the interventions of Rupert Murdoch to a minimum. The role of James Murdoch is to ‘translate' his father's curt responses into comprehensive replies."
But for the most part committee members have directed their questions to the senior Murdoch and not his son, who has been eager to answer. In fact, Rupert frequently has looked toward James, saying it's more appropriate that he answers.
But, on more than one occasion, MPs have said, "If we can just return to your father..."
A few key statements Rupert Murdoch has made so far:
On the reason he decided to shut down the News of the World:
"We had broken our trust with our readers."
Was it a "commercial" decision to shut down the paper?
"Far from [it]."
Is he [Rupert] responsible for "this whole fiasco?"
When asked who is, he replied:
"The people I trusted to run it and maybe the people they trusted. I worked with Mr. Hinton [Les Hinton, the former News International exec and Dow Jones chief who resigned last week] for 52 years and I would trust him with my life."
Did this scandal cross the ocean to the United States?
"I cannot believe it happened by anyone in America."
A moment of levity: One MP asked why the prime minister had Murdoch come in to 10 Downing Street through the back door, since even world leaders enter through the front.
"I was asked, I just did what I was told."
Murdoch said he was also asked to go through the back door by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The audience laughed.
There are only 40 seats in the audience of the committee hearing room where Murdoch is testifying. And the Guardian reporter staking out the scene had this interesting observation this morning:
Harry Evans, the former editor of [the] Times when Murdoch bought it, is second in line [to get in], having flown in from New York yesterday.
Evans, who is married to Tina Brown, was the legendary editor of the Times of London until Murdoch bought the paper in 1981 and forced him out. His 1984 autobiography, Good Times, Bad Times, was a "corrosive attack on Rupert Murdoch," according to the Independent.
He wrote in the book, "I knew that Murdoch issued promises as prudently as the Weimar Republic issued Marks."
And he's called Murdoch elitist, anti-democratic, and ruthless in business.
So, one suspects he's not there to cheer Rupert on.
For Rupert Murdoch, the three hours he'll spend in a small, "bland" committee room across from the House of Commons today, answering tough questions from MPs about phone-hacking and police-bribing within his company, is just about the most important three hours he's ever faced in his career.
On the line is very possibly the empire he's spent his entire adulthood building. In the past two weeks, the question being debated has gone from whether Murdoch's son, James, will remain his father's heir apparent, to whether Rupert will even be able to remain at the helm of News Corp. Board members are said to be unhappy with Murdoch's response to the crisis and are contemplating what was once unthinkable -- replacing him with his deputy, Chase Carey, if his performance today turns out to be disastrous -- as some board members fear it will.
The setting for Rupert couldn't be worse. Despite the fact that he controls a media empire, the tycoon has never been a very good public communicator. "He is awful at this sort of stuff," biographer Michael Wolff told the Guardian. "He is pretty inarticulate, mumbles all the time and is incredibly defensive."
He has never testified before parliament before and has only attended congressional hearings in the United States twice. There's a reason that so far the only interview he's given is to the Wall Street Journal -- his own paper (and even to them he raised a few eyebrows saying he was "tired.")
Murdoch has been preparing for the performance today like a candidate getting ready for a presidential debate. He's remained mostly behind closed doors for days rehearsing his answers with a team of advisors -- including lawyers and P.R. wizard Steven Rubenstein. But News Corp. executives who have watched Murdoch prepare are concerned about his ability to handle the tough questions, according to Bloomberg.
Murdoch will likely apologize again to the families of murder victims who had their phones hacked. But he is unlikely to accept criticism of his company's handling of the crisis, if the last week is any guide. He told the Wall Street Journal that News Corp. has handled the crisis "extremely well in every way possible" and only made "minor mistakes."
Also testifying today will be his son James and Rebekah Brooks, the former News International executive who was arrested over the weekend. Given the criminal cloud hanging over her, Brooks is unlikely to answer too many questions. Both James and Rupert will have lawyers sitting with them and may consult with them before answering questions.
The parliamentarian chairing the committee hearing, Conservative MP John Whittingdale, has said he doesn't want the hearing to turn into a lynch mob.
But others on the committee have spoken of the need to ask aggressive or awkward questions. One person to keep an eye on is Labor MP Tom Watson, who is seen as a long-time critic of News International and the Murdochs (the Guardian called him Murdoch's "tormentor-in-chief"). He's solicited questions from constituents via Twitter. And he's likely to ask some very tough ones about alleged attempts to cover-up the scandal by James Murdoch -- who authorized paying millions of dollars to hacking victims over the years.
His stated goal: "To get Rupert Murdoch to apologize to the people his journalists have wronged."
Murdoch's goal now, it seems, is to survive.
Since the News of the World scandal went into hyper drive two weeks ago, Britain has been overloaded with high-level officials announcing inquiries into the matter. But has the country gone overboard in its rush to inquire?
According to the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow, there are now 10 separate probes going forward. Yes, it's a fast-moving, expansive story with tentacles into a number of areas (police corruption, media ethics, political influence). But 10 separate inquiries? Surely, in this age of British austerity they can't all be needed.
Today, three new inquiries were announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in response to the shake-up at the top of Scotland Yard. One will look at the relationship between the media and the police; another will look at police corruption in general; and a third will look at the independent police complaints commission -- the internal investigative arm of the police -- and whether it needs new authorities (given that they seem to have missed a lot of police corruption lately).
Meanwhile, all of Britain is on tenterhooks awaiting the testimony of Rupert and James Murdoch at a parliamentary inquiry tomorrow ( before one of two committees exploring the fallout from the scandal).
There are also two judge-led inquiries set up by Prime Minister David Cameron: one of which will look specifically into phone hacking, and the other, more generally, into media standards in the country. Additionally, there are two criminal investigations by the police -- the first stems from a January civil lawsuit brought by the actress Sienna Miller and other celebrities against News International for allegedly hacking their phones; the second opened this month to look into police bribes by people connected with Murdoch-owned papers. Not to be outdone, there's also an internal News Corp investigation led by Joel Klein.
And then of course there's the preliminary inquiry opened last week in the United States by the FBI looking into whether News Corp. employees tried hack the phones of September 11 victims (technically, this is probe No. 11).
What does it all amount to? Too early to say, but the flood of new information, allegations, leaks, rumors -- and added noise -- isn't likely to ease up anytime soon.
The fallout from the News of the World hacking scandal continues to swarm the News Corp. chain of command like a school of flesh-eating piranhas. Les Hinton, the CEO of Dow Jones and former News International executive, resigned on Friday, and the picture only got bleaker over the weekend with the arrest of Rebekah Brooks and the resignations of Scotland Yard's top cop and his deputy. Murdoch and his son are said to be in campaign-style damage-control mode for the full-on assault they are likely to receive tomorrow at a parliamentary hearing. And today, Bloomberg News is reporting that Murdoch's hold on his company is shaky, with some board members questioning whether a change in leadership is needed. It's hard to believe just how far the mighty have fallen in two short weeks.
Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal
The second-biggest News Corp. shareholder after Murdoch is a key voice in the company. On Thursday he gave an interview to the BBC (in shorts, aboard his yacht in the south of France) that got a lot of attention.
"If the indications are for her [Brooks's] involvement in this matter is explicit, for sure she has to go, you bet she has to go," the Saudi royal said.
Within 24 hours, she was indeed gone (though some reports say Murdoch was leaning in that direction since at least Tuesday). The prince also urged Murdoch and his son James to cooperate with the British inquiries. Murdoch, who previously had said he wouldn't attend tomorrow's parliament hearing, reversed course and announced his plan to take part. As some analysts speculate, the prince is voicing the concerns of many shareholders. He holds a 7 percent stake in the company, but despite falling share prices, he said he wouldn't sell.
The former chancellor of New York City's public schools was brought in last fall to take a key advisory post at News Corp. Dealing with New York's unruly teachers' union might soon seem like child's play by comparison. According to Reuters, Murdoch has turned to him for guidance since the crisis began and has brought him in to his "inner circle." He's now directing a newly formed management and standards committee at the company, and analysts say his power in the company will grow -- especially since the resignations of Brooks and Hinton. Klein headed the antitrust division of the U.S. Justice Department in the 1990s and is thought to be good at times of crisis.
Another key News Corp. figure in Murdoch's inner circle, Carey is hard-charging and, according to some, ruthless. The company's chief operating officer (and Murdoch's deputy) flew from New York to London at his boss's side. Carey is reportedly responsible for getting Murdoch to drop his bid for BSkyB -- an indication of how influential he is (News Corp insiders have described him as a "brake on Murdoch"). There's talk that he might nudge aside Rupert's son James to take over the company eventually.
This is the guy you go to when you're deep in crisis. Remember when David Letterman was being blackmailed over affairs with work colleagues? He hired Rubenstein. But this could be the famed public-relations expert's toughest case yet. Murdoch brought Rubenstein in last week to help manage the crisis. He is now helping to prep Murdoch and his son for their grilling tomorrow in parliament. As Murdoch's biographer Michael Wolff points out -- Rubenstein has a lot of work to do.
"[Murdoch] is awful at this sort of stuff. He is pretty inarticulate, mumbles all the time, and is incredibly defensive," he told the Guardian.
Brendan Sullivan Jr.
With an FBI probe bringing the company's legal jeopardy stateside, News Corp. is lawyering up. Brendan Sullivan, the famed Washington defense lawyer, has reportedly been hired by the company to battle any potential fallout. Sullivan, who is a partner at the firm Williams & Connolly, has defended Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso, and Oliver North, among others.
Given that News Corp. is currently without a general counsel (bad time to be hiring for that job), Sullivan seems a necessary addition.
As far as announcements go, Rebekah Brooks's resignation today shocked just about no one. The chief executive of News International and a former editor of the disgraced and defunct News of the World had some initial support from Papa Rupert after the scandal first blew up, but as it snowballed this week -- crushing everything in its path -- her hara-kiri seemed impossible to avoid.
But will she be the last to fall on the sword? The knives are still out for Murdoch and his business empire. And focus has shifted to two important people in Rupert's inner sanctum. He might find the need to sacrifice one of them. But who will it be: the son and heir apparent, or one of his closest confidantes who has been with him for 50 years?
Given her proximity to the scandal, Brooks sucked up a lot of the media oxygen when it came to blame these past few weeks. But with her gone, that attention could shift to Rupert's heir apparent, James, Brook's boss at News International. British MPs have attacked the 38-year-old executive recently -- saying he has a lot of questions to answer. Chief among them: Why did he authorize payments to hacking victims in exchange for their silence? Critics are saying it smells an awful lot like a cover-up.
The younger Murdoch has become something of a liability thanks to his response to the scandal -- which many say he was too slow to grasp the severity of. And by transferring money to victims -- no matter what the reason -- he's only made things worse.
It might seem hard to believe Rupert would dump his own son in order to save his business, but he has had fall-outs with his children in the past that have led to them exiting the company. And now that Murdoch's empire is under FBI investigation -- in addition to investigations in Britain and possibly soon Australia -- if Rupert believes it's his company or his son, you can bet he'll decide pretty quickly the kid has got to go.
Few in Murdoch's world are closer to him than Les Hinton, the British news executive who Murdoch put in charge of Dow Jones after he purchased it in 2007. Before that, Hinton headed News International from 1995-2007, when the many dirty tricks were playing out under his watch. Back in 2006, Hinton told Parliament the hacking was limited to a single reporter. Of course, we know now that not only was it not just one reporter, it wasn't even one newspaper. Many of the media properties under his control were engaging in illegal practices. Critics say he either knew about it or he allowed the dirty culture to breed underneath him. He also didn't help himself by publicly backing the former News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, who last week was arrested for his involvement in the hacking scandal.
Most problematic for Hinton -- he is the strongest connection between the British scandal and Murdoch's American empire. There are indications Murdoch may sell off his damaged British media properties altogether, but abandoning his stateside operations will never happen. And that means Minton might have to go.
Update: Hinton resigned from News Corp. late today. A memo from Murdoch after the jump:
French troops marched down the Champs-Elysees today to mark Bastille Day, in front of thousands.
For you history buffs: the holiday celebrates July 14, 1789, the day angry crowds stormed the Bastille prison in Paris, helping to set off the French Revolution.
Below, A Republican Guard infantry regiment in today's parade:
Jacques Demarthon /AFP/Getty Images
A French Rafale jet flying over the famed Paris Arc de Triomphe:
AFP/ Getty Images
There's no relief in sight for the embattled 80-year-old media tycoon. Today, British analysts grappled with a question many have called unprecedented -- what power, if any, does the Parliament have to compel Rupert Murdoch to testify? Murdoch, an American citizen, declined an invitation to attend a parliamentary hearing next Tuesday (though he said he will participate in a separate inquiry set up by Prime Minister David Cameron).
The chair of the committee said if Murdoch doesn't show on Tuesday, he would be in contempt of Parliament -- though there was confusion about what that actually means since its rarely ever been implemented. The BBC said it was "unchartered waters,"given that Murdoch is a non-Brit.
"If they have any shred of sense of responsibility or accountability for their position of power, then they should come and explain themselves before a select committee," the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said today (referring to Murdoch and his son James, who has also declined to testify Tuesday).
The Murdochs are most likely trying to buy some time, hoping the media frenzy dies down a little before they are forced to talk publicly -- in what is likely to be a very hostile setting. (James said he'd be willing to testify in August).
In the meantime, things aren't going any better for Murdoch in his home country -- the United States -- nor in Australia, his place of birth. The scandal has truly taken on a global dimension.
United States: Today, there were more calls for a congressional investigation. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), a powerful member of the House oversight committee, accused Murdoch's company of potentially engaging in "political espionage or personal espionage."
He joined Republican Peter King, who yesterday called on the FBI to look into whether journalists tried to tap into the phones of 9/11 victims. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said earlier in the week he suspected a U.S. probe would "find some criminal stuff."
A U.S. criminal investigation -- though unlikely -- would be disastrous for Murdoch, who's empire is based in the United States. It would put the company -- and its many holdings, including the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and the New York Post,under a microscope like never before. Even beyond illegal activity, embarrassing or less-than-exemplary practices could be exposed.
Eliot Spitzer, for one, believes more shady dealings will emerge -- and will likely include Murdoch properties based in the United States. "Given the frequency with which he shuttled his senior executives and editors across the various oceans-Pacific as well as Atlantic-it is unlikely that the shoddy ethics were limited to Great Britain," the former prosecutor, governor, CNN anchor, and expert on shoddy ethics wrote in Slate.
Australia: Speaking of the Pacific, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard today said she was open to initiating a probe of Murdoch's Australia holdings -- which comprise nearly 70 percent of the country's print media and a good chunk of its TV market.
Gillard said she was "disgusted" by the extent of the scandal in Britain.
The head of News Limited, Murdoch's Australian media arm, John Hartigan, said there would be an internal review of the company's practices, but said it was "offensive and wrong [to] connect the behavior in the UK with News Limited's conduct in Australia."
So, where does that leave Murdoch? Maybe China, where he's been expanding his footprint lately, is looking like a good refuge. His wife, Wendi, just produced a movie that is a hit there.
In fact, she told the Los Angeles Times -- apparently without any sense of irony -- that she had little trouble raising money for the movie: "Everybody in China wanted to give us money," she told the paper. "In China, everybody knows who I am. It definitely helped. They have confidence in me."
Niko Alm, an Austrian member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, won the right to wear a pasta strainer on his head in his driver's license photo. He originally applied for the license three years ago, but first had to get approval from a doctor that he was "psychologically fit" to drive.
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a parody religion whose adherents are known as pastafarians. Pastafarians, whose website stipulates that "the only dogma allowed in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma," celebrate the amorphous "Holiday" in December and believe that pirates are "absolute divine beings."
Fun as it sounds, the original impetus behind pastafarianism was political -- its founder, Bobby Henderson, then a 25-year-old -- wrote an open letter to the Kansas Board of Education in July, 2005, in protest of the teaching of the Christian theory of intelligent design in schools:
I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (Pastafarianism), and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster's theory of intelligent design was subsequently invoked by pastafarian protesters in a similar situation in Polk County, Florida in 2007.
Alm's request to wear a strainer on his head was a response to Austria's "recognition of confessional headgear in official photographs," according to the BBC.
Alm received his license and is currently working on getting pastafarianism designated as an officially recognized faith.
When your country is on the ropes amid widespread fears that the economy is headed in the same direction as Greece, it's probably not the wisest time to intensify a feud with your finance minister -- the man many economists believe is the only thing standing between the Italian financial system and disaster. Yet that's exactly what the irascible Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is doing. On Friday, he called Giulio Tremonti "the only minister who is not a team player" and added "he thinks he's a genius and everyone else is stupid."
"I put up with him because I've known him for a long time and one has to accept the way he is," Berlusconi told the Italian paper La Repubblica (ironically, one of the few not owned by him).
There is widespread speculation that Tremonti could be forced out of office. He backs a tough fiscal line -- largely unpopular with voters and other cabinet members -- and last week, was able to push through a €47 billion austerity program that Parliament is debating this week. Berlusconi said he would fight to change the package before parliament passes it -- which he derisively called, "Tremonti's plan." The prime minister wants to make it more attractive to the electorate rather than markets, he told La Repubblica.
But the possibility that Tremonti might be forced out is making rating agencies and markets nervous, analysts say.
Not that anyone argues that Tremonti isn't a bit of a pain in the rear. The former tax lawyer is reported to be uncompromising, aggressive, and hard to get along with -- he has said of himself that he's the only advisor willing to say no to the prime minister. In the past, Tremonti been quick to threaten resignation when he doesn't get his way (and has actually resigned before, only to come back). He also plays politics, of a sort, leveraging support among economists and fiscal conservatives to get others to compromise. And he's certainly cultivated the image that he alone is the man who can save the economy -- listen to him or face disaster. No wonder Berlusconi isn't a fan.
It also probably doesn't help that commentators keep referring to Tremonti as a potential successor to the prime minister, should his many scandals force him to resign.
But Tremonti now has a scandal of his own. The finance minister is under investigation for allegedly taking an apartment worth €8,000 per month for free from one of his closest allies in Parliament.
The controversy has been stoked by Berlusconi's media empire. "Tremonti's free flat," read the front page headline of Il Giornale. The paper also said Tremonti's position is weaker than it has been in years and called him a die-hard "socialist," who has repeatedly blocked Berlusconi's attempts to implement tax cuts.
What comes next depends largely on Parliament. Tremonti today said the austerity measure under debate will be passed by Friday. That would be a major coup for the finance minister -- though his battle with Berlusconi won't go away. The prime minister is stuck between a scary economic outlook and an angered electorate. Continuing to attack Giulio Tremonti may be his most convenient escape for now -- regardless of what it does to the economy.
The implosion of the once mighty tabloid News of the World (NoW) is nothing short of a media tsunami. And the damage doesn't end at Fleet Street -- nor even in the halls of the Murdoch News Corp. empire.
It's reaching all the way to 10 Downing Street, where Prime Minister David Cameron is facing a crisis of leadership like none he's experienced so far.
After all, Cameron has ties to some of the most vilified people in the scandal. He courted Rupert Murdoch in the run-up to last year's election (which helped to ensure his victory). He's friends with Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the tabloid and current News International chief executive who has become a focal point of criticism for the mess. And he hired Andy Coulson, another former editor of the paper, as his communications director at 10 Downing. This morning, Coulson (who stepped down from his job in January) was arrested for his involvement with the paper's illegal activities.
Those are bad associations to have these days, as the public's anger grows and demands for penance mount.
So how badly damaged is the Cameron brand after this week?
"Permanently and irrevocably," writes political analyst Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph.
"Until now it has been easy to argue that Mr. Cameron was properly grounded with a decent set of values," he writes. "Unfortunately, it is impossible to make that assertion any longer. He has made not one, but a long succession of chronic personal misjudgments."
In other words, he's forever tarred with turning a blind eye to some of the press's shadier tactics, while cozying up to media executives in order to win political backing.
In England, the announcement yesterday that the country's most popular newspaper would cease publishing after 168 years in print -- over the fallout from a phone hacking scandal -- was just about as big of a media story as media stories get. Rupert Murdoch's image took a hit. Prime Minister David Cameron got caught up in it -- due to his associations with Murdoch and the paper's editors. And politicians have called for a more rigorous media watchdog system in the country.
Here's a sampling of how England's papers covered the story this morning (as well as Murdoch's most prized jewel in his media empire -- the international Wall Street Journal).
We're a long way from Streep's inevitable Oscar nomination for her performance as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher -- the film doesn't even open until early next year -- but it's never too early to start grading her performance. Always the professional, Streep prepared for the role with a ton of research -- she attended a session of parliament to get a sense of how the prime minister question time works and found "every bit of footage" on YouTube she could, according to the film's producer.
Yesterday, a slip of a teaser trailer was released online.
So how does she do? Granted, there's only one line to judge, but Foreign Policy wanted to get an early jump on critiquing her. We contacted someone who knows Thatcher and has covered her for years -- Peter Riddell, a former political commentator for the Times of London and the author of two books on Thatcher's government.
Overall, Riddell says Streep is 85 percent there.
"If anything, she underplays Thatcher who was far more assertive and argumentative," he told FP by email. "Also the girlish half-giggle after her comments is wrong. That is not Thatcher. Physically the resemblance is good."
In terms of style, Riddell gives Streep a score of 80 percent.
All in all, not bad. Perhaps even more telling, Riddell says he can't wait to see the film.
Alex Bailey / Courtesy of Pathe Productions Ltd.
The NATO campaign in Libya is "not going as well as it should," says George Robertson, the former U.K. defense secretary who served as NATO's secretary general from 1999 until 2003. European countries lack the military capacity to bring the operation to a close and NATO has failed to mount an effective psychological campaign against members of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime -- to convince them their days are truly numbered.
All that means "it's taking longer to achieve than it should," he told Foreign Policy, ahead of a speech he will give tonight on the topic at Chatham House in London, where he is an outgoing president.
The NATO bombing campaign, now in its fourth month, has gone on longer than many leaders thought it would. Qaddafi is still in power. Government and rebel forces have fought each other to a standstill.
Yet, NATO officials insist the campaign is going well. "The noose is tightening around [Qaddafi], and there's very few places for him to go," Gen. Charles Bouchard, the Canadian head of the operations, told the Washington Post in late June.
Robertson notes that members of the alliance are committed to achieving their goals in Libya, but "don't express it regularly enough" and that populations are preoccupied with the more immediate concerns of the economic crisis, unemployment, and deficit reduction plans.
"I think the European allies -- especially those that are doing nothing at the moment -- need to do more," says Robertson. "And in the longer term, the European countries have got to achieve the capabilities that will allow them to do things in their own backyard without necessarily depending on the Americans."
Robertson echoes outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who said on his farewell tour of Europe last month that not all countries were sharing the costs of the Libya operation.
"While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated at all, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission," Gates said. "We have the spectacle of an air operations center designed to handle more than 300 sorties a day struggling to launch about 150."
Robertson tells FP:
I think Mr. Gates makes a fair point when he says this mighty alliance after only a few weeks against a pretty impoverished country finds itself out of ammunition. We don't have the right planes with precision bombing. We don't have enough deployable troops. We don't have the assets at sea that would allow the bombing campaign to take place. But we've pretended up to now that because the Europeans spend $300 billion a year in defense, that we must be well armed. We are. But it's the wrong stuff. It's for the Cold War not the next war.
Robertson says Libya has become a true turning point for the decades-old alliance. In a nutshell, the old contract between the Europeans and the United States -- that the U.S. would supply the hardware as long as Europeans provided political cover to the operations -- has ended.
"In Libya, the Americans did what I always suggested they might do -- which is to say, ‘It's your fight, please take the lead. You're big enough, you're brave enough, you're strong enough. You do it,'" says Robertson. "I think that's changed things forever. This is the wake up call. People have to realize they are not ready for the next problem that comes up."
There's been a lot of love for the 40th president of the United States these past few days in Europe. In a tour organized by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation to commemorate the centennial of his birth, the man who said, "Tear down this wall," now has two more statues raised in his memory, a street named for him, and a Catholic Mass in his honor.
A mass in Krakow
Monday of last week, June 27, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow and former personal assistant to Pope John Paul II, celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving in Reagan's honor at the Basilica of St. Mary.
"The blessed John Paul II and Ronald Reagan were, and continue to be, the beacon of hope for a world fighting against evil, irrespective of whether it is individual or structural evil, which takes on various monstrous forms," Father Jan Machniak of the Papal University in Krakow told the Polish Press Agency.
Time magazine once called the relationship between the pope and the 40th president a "holy alliance."
The two conspired back in the early 1980s to hasten the end of the Soviet Union by backing Polish solidarity. "Both the Pope and the President were convinced that Poland could be broken out of the Soviet orbit if the Vatican and the U.S. committed their resources to destabilizing the Polish government and keeping the outlawed Solidarity movement alive after the declaration of martial law in 1981," Time magazine wrote in 1992.
Reagan's national security advisor, Richard Allen, called it "one of the great secret alliances of all time."
According to a Polish news web site, there are plans to erect a Reagan statue in Warsaw.
A statue in Budapest
Budapest last week unveiled its own bronze 7-foot likeness of the American president. It was commemorated at Freedom Square at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Orban said Reagan "changed the world and created a new world for Central Europe. He tore down the walls which were erected in the path of freedom in the name of distorted and sick ideologies."
The statue, which shows Reagan in mid-stride, also has a touchscreen monitor that gives information about the president in Hungarian and English.
Hungary has been going Reagan crazy of late. In March, its postal service issued a "commemorative envelope and postmark celebrating" Reagan's birth 100 years ago, according to the Associated Press.
AFP/ Getty Images
The British tabloid media is known for its hold-your-nose-and-admit-you-like-it tastelessness. But even by its own standards, the bombshell revelations that Rubert Murdoch's News of the World allegedly hacked into the phone of a murdered 13-year-old girl in 2002 -- as well as the families of victims from the July 7, 2005 terrorist bombings in London -- are new lows. The British phone-hacking scandal up to now has involved the personal lives and embarrassing peccadilloes of princes, politicians, actors and other notable personalities. But the notion that a paper would stoop to targeting a murder victim stunned the usually unflappable British public.
Late today, the DailyTelegraph reported Scotland Yard detectives were contacting the families of victims of the July 7 bombings in London back in 2005, who might also have been victims of journalists' phone hacking attempts. "It is thought that journalists were seeking to access voice messages left on family members' phones as they desperately waited for information about their loved ones in the aftermath of the bombings," The Telegraph reported.
Labor party leader Ed Miliband summed it up, calling the episode a "stain on the character of British journalism" and parliament will hold public hearings tomorrow on the matter.
What happened? After 13-year-old Milly Dowler went missing, a private investigator hired by the News of the World allegedly hacked into her phone in an effort to get some scoops on the case. He listened to her messages, but then -- in order hear more incoming calls without the voicemail filling up -- he deleted some of the messages. Dowler's family concluded it was Milly who deleted the messages and so she must be alive. The police investigation was stymied by the confusion, and it's still not known if any vital evidence was lost.
For background into the case against the paper and its hacking attempts against Princes William and Harry -- as well as other celebrities -- check out this riveting account in the New York Times Magazine from 2010.
It described the News of the World as "a frantic, sometimes degrading atmosphere in which some reporters openly pursued hacking or other improper tactics to satisfy demanding editors...one former reporter called it a ‘do whatever it takes' mentality."
[The] News of the World was hardly alone in accessing messages to obtain salacious gossip. ‘It was an industrywide thing,' said Sharon Marshall, who witnessed hacking while working at News of the World and other tabloids. ‘Talk to any tabloid journalist in the United Kingdom, and they can tell you each phone company's four-digit codes. Every hack on every newspaper knew this was done.'
BBC political editor Nick Robinson points out that in some ways the story is a political and media tsunami, touching on multiple fronts:
For a long time the hacking story united those who'd always been hostile to the Murdoch empire with those angered by its switch from backing New Labour to supporting the Tories, and those who saw it as a way to damage David Cameron (who hired the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his spin doctor).
Now Murdoch ... and Cameron will be aware that for the first time the hacking story may be engaging and horrifying readers, viewers and voters.
In Afghanistan today, David Cameron called the charges "really appalling" if true. But he might be in an awkward position, according to the Daily Telegraph. He is a friend of Rebekah Brooks, the News Corp executive who was editor at the time the hacking occurred (she's denied knowing about it).
For David Cameron, the News of the World scandal is tremendously difficult. His close friendship with Rebekah Brooks...[is] bound to be mentioned in tomorrow's emergency debate in the Commons on the subject. For Ed Miliband, it has provided a rare triumph -- even the most spectical have praised his well-balanced attack on News International. For once, Miliband was not just delivering a line -- he was expressing a deeply held Left-wing skepticism of the tabloid press, and this resonated with the public.
The Telegraph said that one consequence of the case could be increased attempts at regulating the press in the country.
Obama tries to shore up Jewish support, while poll shows he doesn't have much to worry about
A new gallup poll released today shows that despite recent remarks by President Obama that the 1967 borders should be the starting point in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians -- a position that angered pro-Israel hawks -- most American Jews still approve of the president. His approval rating among American Jews in June averaged 60 percent, down from 68 percent in May (a change that corresponds with declining numbers among other groups, reflecting the president's inflated rating in May, post-bin Laden raid, Gallup said). Thirty-two percent of American Jews disapproved of the president's job in June.
By comparison, Gallup found that his approval rating among all groups in June averaged 46 percent.
The Washington Post reported last week that Obama's team will "go on the offensive against critics of his stance on Israel," with the help of Jewish supporters, including community leader Alan Solow, former Congressmen Mel Levin and Robert Wexler, and business executive Penny Pritzker.
Obama's supporters say the plan is in effect an acknowledgment that conservative attacks on Obama's Israel stance have made defections among Jewish voters and donors a possibility they must take seriously. Obama's advisers see a need to push back even harder on the attacks than they did in 2008, in part because Obama now has a record on the issue to defend - a record that even Obama's supporters concede has not been adequately explained.
Obama won close to 80 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008. Politico reported last week that some Jewish Democratic Party donors were worried that Obama's stance on Israel could cost him support in 2012 in the Jewish community.
In its analysis, Gallup challenged the Politico article, saying its conclusions may apply to "certain politically active members of the Jewish-American community," but are "not reflective of the views of Jewish Americans more generally."
Romney heading to London this week to raise money, may meet with PM Cameron
After weeks of soul-searching about gender, politics, lusty old men, and sexual violence, France woke to the news today that the New York City rape case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF managing director and one-time front-runner to take Nicolas Sarkozy's seat, was near collapsing since prosecutors no longer believe much of the accuser's story. And just now, he's been released from house arrest.
How do you say oops in French?
WHAT KIND OF RECEPTION WILL HE RECEIVE WHEN HE RETURNS?
Some will certainly embrace Strauss-Kahn as a martyr (like his friend and stalwart defender, Bernard Henri-Levy) on the cross of the U.S. justice system, but some in France seem less willing to give him a hero's welcome. The charges in New York led to other allegations against the former IMF leader that made him out to be -- at the very least -- a cad.
"Even if what he did was not criminal, all this is going to take time," Christophe Barbier, a political commentator and editor of L'Express weekly, told Reuters. "There is everything we have learned about him, the damage to his reputation. All this makes the idea he could be a candidate very hypothetical, it's science fiction."
As one French woman told the Times:
"People are not going to forgive him. At a political level, he is dead," she said. "It would be terrible for France if he came and if we give him some credit again."
TIME TO RETHINK THE PERP WALK?
Initially, many in France expressed anger at DSK's treatment, whether or not he was guilty as charged. The infamous "perp walk," in which he was hauled out in handcuffs, looking disheveled before cameras -- something alien to the French justice system -- made the whole thing seem if not barbaric than certainly less genteel.
Doesn't this new revelation simply confirm those stereotypes about the American justice system? The New York Times got mixed reactions:
In several conversations there seemed to be little rancor toward the American justice system, beyond a broad sense that it was, as one French legal adviser put it, "muscular." But Patrice Randé, 50, the manager of an insurance office, said the case risked stoking anti-American feeling with the impression that the New York police had deliberately humiliated Mr. Strauss-Kahn. "We were made to believe he was guilty, we dropped him, we really bought this," Mr. Randé said. "I'm shocked that they didn't take more care," he said, referring to American prosecutors.
SO, WILL HE ENTER THE FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL RACE?
Before his arrest, Strauss-Kahn was leading in the polls to win the Socialist Party's nomination and many thought he could ultimately unseat Nicolas Sarkozy. Already, there are segments of the party that are suggesting Strauss-Kahn could return to the race -- even though the field is already crowded with other contenders.
One party leader, Jean-Marie Le Guen, said his old ally, DSK, would now "be present in the presidential campaign," though he also said it was too soon to speculate on whether he would run.
Socialist Michele Sabban said the party should postpone the primary calendar, in light of the news. (The current deadline to declare one's candidacy is July 13).
Jean-Louis Borloo, a potential Socialist candidate for president, seemed to endorse a DSK run on French TV. "What's stopping him from coming back if he has the strength and desire?" he asked.
The head of the Socialist Party, Martine Aubry, who announced this week she was running for president, said she hoped "the American justice system will establish the whole truth and allow Dominique to emerge from this nightmare," though she steered clear of questions about his political future.
One politician who doesn't seem likely to embrace DSK any time soon is leader of the far right National Front, Marine Le Pen. "I don't see how he can come back as a candidate in the Socialist primaries, no matter what happens," she said. Of course, this might have more to do with her own political fortunes. Analysts said she benefitted more than Sarkozy when Strauss-Kahn left the race.
And one unnamed senior Socialist told the New York Times the party shouldn't react too quickly.
"What if we all embrace him again and then he turns out to be guilty after all? We have to wait for a clear and definite outcome before making any decisions," he said. "Our voters have lost trust not just in him but the party. We have to be careful."
Just one week after the acquittal of fiery far-right politician Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliament struck another blow against multiculturalism in the Netherlands yesterday with the passage of a bill banning ritual animal slaughter. The bill requires that all animals be stunned before being slaughtered, a requirement that conflicts with halal and kosher stipulations that animals be fully conscious.
The bill was initially proposed by the Party of the Animals, which holds two seats in the 146-seat Dutch parliament and maintains that ritual methods of slaughter are inhumane. It gained support from centrists on similar grounds, but Wilders's Freedom Party has also been a longtime proponent. In fact, it was Wilders who first raised the issue in 2007 when he objected to halal meat being served at a public school in Amsterdam.
The ban has provoked a furious reaction from Jewish and Muslim leaders in the Netherlands and Europe. From Reuters:
"The very fact that there is a discussion about this is very painful for the Jewish community," Netherlands Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs told Reuters. "Those who survived the (second world) war remember the very first law made by the Germans in Holland was the banning of schechita or the Jewish way of slaughtering animals."
It should be noted that a last-minute amendment attached to the bill states that halal and kosher slaughterhouses will be able to apply for special permits if they can show that their methods do not cause more pain than non-ritual methods. But some are skeptical of the permit process's efficacy, and the European Jewish Congress is already considering challenging the law in court.
The bill awaits confirmation in the parliament's upper house, though it passed easily in the lower house and enjoys widespread public support. If passed, it will put the Netherlands in the company of a handful of countries that have outlawed ritual animal slaughter. Revisions to New Zealand's animal welfare code made kosher slaughter illegal as of this May, while bans in a number of Scandinavian and Baltic countries date back to anti-Semitic measures passed before World War II.
PHIL NIJHUIS/AFP/Getty Images
Last night, the citizens of Naples took to the street and set the city alight, but not in the name of freedom, democracy, or human rights. No, they just wanted their trash taken out:
Residents of the Italian city of Naples set fire to piles of rubbish overnight in protest at the government's failure to clear a backlog of more than 2,000kg of malodorous waste from the streets.
Firefighters tackled about 55 rubbish fires, some of them in piles of waste 2m (6ft) high.
Yesterday's protests recall the embarrassing trash fiasco of 2007-2008, when residents torched the city's piles twice after local dumps filled up and communities vetoed attempts to build new ones. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi promised to fix the crisis first while campaigning for re-election to the Italian Parliament in 2008 and again in 2010, but the problem has since continued to fester, despite measures that have included multiple interventions by the Italian army. Trash collection in Naples remains controlled by the mafia, who are thought to net billions each year for their involvement.
The mayor of Naples hasn't been impressed with Berlusconi's efforts, although the analogy he used yesterday may be a teensy-bit generous to his city:
Berlusconi has shown with his actions that he doesn't give a damn about Naples. He has washed his hands of it like Pontius Pilate.
And Naples is Jesus? Bunga bunga, this is not.
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