Every day, the National Security Agency's massive surveillance apparatus hoovers up nearly 5 billion records drawn from the location data of cell phones around the world. That's according to the Washington Post's latest installment in their coverage of the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the Snowden saga has taken a very different turn. On Tuesday, Alan Rusbridger, the affable, rumpled editor of the Guardian appeared before a Parliamentary committee to testify about his paper's articles based on the Snowden documents. Wednesday's article in the Post about the NSA's collection of geolocation data is one of the most aggressive articles since the Snowden documents began appearing in public. The article details specific tactics used by the NSA in utilizing cell phone data and exposes several innovative methods used by the agency in tracking its targets. It also reveals that Americans' geolocation data are often "incidentally" hoovered up as well. Despite all this, it is all but unimaginable that Marty Baron, the editor of the Post, would be dragged before Congress and made to testify about his editorial decisions.
When he was asked on Tuesday whether he loves "this country," Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian's affable, rumpled editor scoffed at the question. "We live in a democracy. Most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country," he said. "But yes, we are patriots, and one of the things that we are patriotic about is the nature of a democracy, and the nature of a free press, and the fact that one can, in this country, discuss and report these things."
Rusbridger was speaking before a Parliamentary hearing on the stories his paper and others have run about the documents provided by Edward Snowden. Those articles have shed unprecedented light on the massive data collection and surveillance tools employed by the National Security Agency and its allied agencies. Critics of Snowden and the papers who have run stories based on those documents have repeatedly argued that they pose a dangerous threat to national security and expose intelligence practices that they say have prevented another major terrorist attack like those of Sept. 11, 2001. On Wednesday, the Washington Post published the latest installment in their coverage of the Snowden leaks when they revealed that the NSA is gathering nearly 5 billion records every day on the location of cell phones around the world.
On Tuesday, the British government and its allies in Parliament made clear to just what lengths they may be willing to go in order to prevent additional such stories from being published. While they aren't about to admit it outright, that response is based on large part on a doctrine known as prior restraint, aimed at suppressing material before it is published.
That's a doctrine that's been largely discredited and outlawed in the United States. The same can't be said for the United Kingdom.
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It's Wall Street's latest counterstrike against Washington and its attempts to rein in the financial industry after the crisis that plunged the U.S. economy into recession in 2008. And if the legal attack is successful, it could leave an opening for banks to return to some of the dangerous deals that were a Wall Street hallmark before the crash.
The trade groups, which represent U.S. and international banks, filed a lawsuit Wednesday aimed at one of the central parts of the regulatory overhaul intended to prevent another financial crisis like 2008. It's the latest step in a long campaign by global banks to push back on stricter U.S. regulation and oversight of trades done in other countries. If a judge agrees with the Wall Street groups, it could spell the end for a central plank of the law meant to curtail risky trading and make the banking system safer.
Wall Street's chief trade group, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, along with two international trade groups, sued to stop the United States from regulating deals American banks do abroad. In a complaint filed Wednesday, the trade groups ask the court to "halt an unprecedented and unlawful effort" by U.S. regulators to "regulate financial activity around the world."
Regulators have beat back some of Wall Street's legal challenges, like a suit by Bloomberg LLP over other trading rules. But this suit comes at a vulnerable time. The chief regulator who pushed for the provision is about to step down. If it's shot down, it's unlikely to be passed again in the same form.
The lawsuit challenges one of the most controversial aspects of the regulatory overhaul: rules for complex contracts called derivatives. Derivatives are financial contracts linked to the value of something else, like interest rates or currency exchange rates. Companies and financial firms use the contracts to offset risk in their business or to bet on the fluctuating values. After the financial crisis, lawmakers targeted derivatives as an accelerant to the financial crisis and decided to rein in the market with regulations aimed at making it more transparent and less risky.
Derivatives brought insurance giant American International Group to its knees during the financial crisis. Too many derivatives deals souring at the same time nearly killed the insurance giant, but they also linked the failing company to lots of other firms on Wall Street, threatening to bring them all down with it. The U.S. government opted to rescue the insurer, rather than face a possible financial market collapse.
Some of those AIG derivatives deals were done in London. That's been an oft-repeated talking point for the regulator charged with writing the new derivatives rules, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler. Gensler has agued that if U.S. regulations don't apply to U.S. banks and hedge funds doing deals in other countries, you might as well "blow a hole out of the bottom" of the new oversight regime.
Gensler has faced pushback not only from Wall Street lobbyists, but also fellow Democrats and other U.S. regulators. But by far his most vocal critics have been European and Asian officials, who have argued that the United States is overstepping its jurisdiction. Gensler compromised with his critics in July, delaying part of the new regulatory regime, but now he faces a new challenge in court just as he is about to leave the agency at the end of the year.
A spokesman for Mr. Gensler's agency declined to comment.
U.S. and international banks, through their trade groups, are arguing that the agency is hurting global derivatives markets. The trade groups said regulators were "harming the business relationships of U.S. companies" by "dictating private parties' obligations through sudden and unpredictable regulatory fiat." Stephen O'Connor, chairman of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, said on a conference call that the rules would be "harmful to the global economy" because non-U.S. banks will stop doing business with American ones because they don't want to get roped into the U.S. regulatory system.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of challenges to the financial overhaul law, which have targeted rules on everything from mutual funds to the labeling of products that contain minerals from conflict-torn countries. The suits have been successful in some cases and have forced regulators to move more slowly and carefully in rolling out the new rules. But if this challenge is successful, it'll be the biggest blow yet to the regulator that has moved swiftest in completing its post-crisis rules.
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In an unprecedented parliamentary hearing resembling a scene from Skyfall, three British intelligence chiefs made the case for spying and secrecy in the modern world, while assuring the assembled that their agencies adhere to strict legal and ethical guidelines. The heads of Britain's electronic spying agency (GCHQ), domestic security service (MI5), and secret intelligence service (MI6) appeared before Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee Thursday to answer questions about the scope and nature of their surveillance operations.
It was a major departure for the notoriously secretive agencies. Before 1992 -- when the identity of MI5's director was made public for the first time -- the chiefs tended to avoid the spotlight. The British government didn't even acknowledge the existence of MI6 until 1994. But in a 90-minute open session, MI5's Andrew Parker, MI6's John Sawers, and GCHQ's Iain Lobban appeared unfazed as they were quizzed about torture, terrorism, and privacy in the wake of the leaks by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Naturally, the presence of Britain's most famous spy -- James Bond -- was acutely felt, if only because Sawers used him to illustrate how the agencies do not operate these days.
Here are a few other claims made Thursday by the British spy chiefs:
1. GCHQ does not spy on (most of) its citizens: When asked whether GCHQ spies on innocent civilians in its efforts to weed out a "minority of evildoers," Lobban insisted that the agency does not listen to the phone calls or read the emails of the vast majority of citizens. "I don't employ the type of people who would do [that]," he argued. "If they were asked to snoop, they would leave the building." But he acknowledged that plenty of communication is necessarily monitored in an effort to "draw out the needles" in the haystack.
"It would be very nice if all terrorists or serious criminals used a particular method of communication and everybody else used something else," he said. "That is not the case.… If you are a terrorist, a serious criminal, a proliferator, a foreign intelligence target, or if your activities pose a genuine threat to the national or economic security of the UK, there is a possibility that your communications will be monitored. If you're not, and if you're not in contact with one of those people, then they won't be. And that's true if you're British, you're foreign, and wherever you are in the world."
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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution this afternoon to authorize the use of U.S. military force against Syria. The resolution will be voted on by the full Senate next week, but since before this afternoon's committee decision, politicians and commentators have been trying to read the tea leaves on how the vote will go. And unlike on so many other issues, this vote probably will not follow party lines.
Whip counts by the Washington Post, Think Progress, CNN, and others have been shifting over the past day or so. The Post, for instance, moved Sen. John McCain from their "Against military action" column (he'd been placed there for saying earlier in the week that he didn't support the president's plan as proposed) to "For military action" after his SFRC vote this afternoon. Still, all the tallies so far leave about 300 of the House's 435 members unaccounted for, making them only modestly instructive.
The 10-7 committee vote this afternoon, however, may be a preview of next week's vote. Interventionism makes for strange bedfellows: McCain and fellow Republicans Bob Corker and Jeff Flake joined seven Democrats in support of the resolution, while Democrats Tom Udall and Christopher Murphy voted against it along with Republicans Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts voted "present."
The latest -- but still early -- forecasts for the full Senate show signs of a similar split. This was the Post's count as of this afternoon:
The coalition between the interventionist wings of the Republican and Democratic Parties stands in sharp contrast with what occurred in the British Parliament's vote last week. On August 29, the House of Commons split nearly along party lines: The entire Labour Party stuck together, as did much of the governing coalition of the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties. But a handful of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats voted against the motion -- and the efforts of their prime minister -- sinking David Cameron's proposal for a British role in a Syrian intervention, 272-285.
The vote next week will likely involve a greater commingling of political parties than in Britain. But, in keeping with the parliamentary outcome, whether or not President Obama's proposed strikes move forward will probably be decided by a very narrow margin.
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Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you've probably been exposed to the nearly wall-to-wall coverage of the impending birth of Kate and Will's Baby. And while the media frenzy is sure to provoke some earnest "why-should-we-care?" think pieces -- as well as some more pointed "Royal-Baby-as-symbol-of-nefarious-inherited-privilege" columns -- Royal Baby coverage, much like an outbreak of Spanish Influenza, is largely inescapable.
But, just because journalists have to cover William and Kate's as yet nameless, genderless progeny, that doesn't mean they have to like it. Exhibit A is BBC newsreader Simon McCoy, seen here taking an exasperated shot at his network's round-the-clock coverage:
McCoy's snark continued well into the day with this deadpan reading of e-mails to the BBC featuring gems like "what a load of sycophantic rubbish" and "God help us if this ends up a long labor" (sentiments with which he appears to sympathize), before admitting to the audience that, until the birth, "we're going to be speculating about this royal birth with no facts at hand."
McCoy obviously isn't the only one who feels that Royal-Baby-mania has gone over top. The Guardian website is currently offering readers of its website a "Republican" button that hides all mention of the various members of the House of Windsor. The Telegraph's Michael Deacon asks readers to sympathize for the poor cable news reporters asked to fill hours of dead air waiting for an announcement. The Independent, meanwhile, rounds up "Five Things We Didn't Need to Know About the Pregnancy" including the important news that the mother-to-be is "in a hurry to eat some curry." There's also this surreal photo gallery of the journalistic feeding frenzy, which, Reuters notes, "had taken all the disabled people's parking spaces."
Meanwhile, Russian-based broadcaster RT, which would never stoop to such fluff, is attempting to one up the Guardian in the "we-don't-care" sweepstakes by issuing a series of tweets such as this one:
Of course, one could also say that trolling the RoyalBaby hashtag to promote just how much you don't care is not exactly rising above the fray.
ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images
On Wednesday, the Indian Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling banning politicians who have been convicted of serious crimes from sitting in parliament, supplementing an earlier law banning convicts from running for office. But what really caught our eye was a statistic in the Financial Times' write-up of the news. An astounding 162 out of 543 members of the Lok Sabha, India's lower house of parliament, have criminal cases against the, according to data collected after India's last general election in 2009 by National Election Watch and the Association for Democracy Reforms. For those keeping score, that's 30 percent of lawmakers.
In its coverage of the Supreme Court decision, the Press Trust of India, citing the findings of the same two organizations, adds that 1,258 out of 4,032 sitting lawmakers in state legislatures are facing criminal cases -- also roughly 30 percent.
DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images
Ramadan, the Islamic holy month marked by fasting from sunrise to sunset, begins Monday evening in many parts of the world (just when continues to be the subject of debate). And in a intentionally provocative move, the British broadcaster Channel 4 has announced that it will be airing the call to prayer, or adhan, live every morning throughout Ramadan (an autoplay version will also be available on its website five times daily). The first call to prayer will air at 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday and "[p]rogrammes in the schedule will be cut to accommodate the adhan."
Writing for Britain's Radio Times magazine, Channel 4's head of factual programming, Ralph Lee, called the decision "a deliberate 'provocation' to all our viewers in the very real sense of the word," noting that the broadcaster expected to be "criticized for focusing attention on a 'minority' religion." Lee went on to point out that nearly five percent of the country will be participating in Ramadan. "[C]an we say the same of other national events that have received blanket coverage on television such as the Queen's coronation anniversary?" he asked.
The president, it seems, committed a minor gaffe during this week's G-8 meetings in Northern Ireland. According to the Financial Times, the stumble came during a discussion of tax avoidance issues, when Barack Obama thrice interrupted the British chancellor of the exchequer in order to say he agreed with "Jeffrey."
The chancellor's name is George Osborne.
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for The Jackie Robinson Foundation
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett saw the scene in Woolwich -- two men standing over the body of the soldier, Lee Rigby -- from the bus she was riding, stepped out, and tried to find out what had happened. After finding that Rigby no longer had a pulse, she turned to one of the men, trying to calm him down.
"I asked him why he had done what he had done," she told the Guardian. "He said he had killed the man because [the victim] was a British soldier who killed Muslim women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was furious about the British Army being over there."
The photo of Loyau-Kennett, a scout leader and former teacher, calmly speaking to one of the men alleged to have carried out the attack has become a sensation in Britain, where she has emerged as an unlikely symbol of British fortitude. When the assailants told her that they hoped to spark a war in the streets of London, she told one of them, "Right now it is only you versus many people, you are going to lose -- what would you like to do?" "I would like to stay and fight," she quoted the man as telling her. With those words -- "you are going to lose" -- British Prime Minister David Cameron said she spoke for the British people.
Here's that photo, with commentary from Loyau-Kennett's son:
My mum is a motherfucking badass twitter.com/SiibillamLaw/s…— Basil Baradaran (@SiibillamLaw) May 22, 2013
And here's Loyau-Kennett, still remarkably unfazed, recounting the experience in a television interview:
Meanwhile, the two suspects who were shot by police on the scene are reported to be in stable condition. One of the men has been identified as Michael Adebolajo and was previously known to British security services. Two additional people have been arrested on conspiracy charges.
Additionally, the full version of the video of one of the suspects -- his hands soaked in blood -- explaining his actions to a bystander was obtained by the Sun. The clip is below (warning: it's graphic):
In death as in life, Margaret Thatcher inspires endless controversy. The former prime minister was buried today at St. Paul's Cathedral, and even the hymns chosen for the service have sparked debate -- never mind the lavish trappings of the ceremony itself. One of the hymns -- "I vow to thee, my country" -- apparently has surprising feminist overtones, which has the good folks at the Economist pondering questions of deep theological import:
As prime minister, Mrs Thatcher pointed out that in the hymn, the kingdom of God's numbers are said to increase "soul by soul"—in other words, through the salvation of individuals and not social classes or communities.
But she probably did not realise the full import of the line that follows: a form of words that is considered of great significance in feminist readings of the Jewish and Christian tradition. "And her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace" is a quote from a passage in the Book of Proverbs, in which Wisdom is personified as a female divine figure. The word "her" does not refer to the heavenly homeland, but to a lady called Wisdom. Jewish and Christian theologians have long wondered how this can be reconciled with monotheistic belief in a Deity who (if He has any gender at all) is usually regarded as masculine.
Let's just say this isn't a question we've spent much time thinking about here at FP. But it did get us wondering what an alternate music selection for Maggie Thatcher's funeral -- one picked by her fiercest critics -- might look like. And you thought "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" was scathing.
Elvis Costello, "Tramp the Dirt Down": A track in which Costello dreams of dancing on Maggie's grave. He may finally get his wish.
Morrissey, "Margaret on the Guillotine": If nothing else, Maggie being led to the guillotine with handbags and all à la Marie Antoinette sounds like a promising movie premise.
Pink Floyd, "Fletcher Memorial Home": In which Floyd imagines Maggie living out her final days in the company of her good friend, Augusto Pinochet.
Robert Wyatt, "Shipbuilding": A Costello cover, this song will probably go down in history as the greatest song written about the Falklands War.
Sinéad O'Connor, "Black Boys on Mopeds": Using the killing of a young black man as a symbol of police violence, O'Connor accuses Thatcher of being no different than the Chinese autocrats who ordered the Tiananmen Square massacre. It is one of the more brutal indictments of Thatcher's England you'll ever hear.
ANDREW YATES/AFP/Getty Images
After being carried through the streets of London in a flag-draped coffin aboard a gun carriage, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was laid to rest this morning in St. Paul's Cathedral. But the big story of the day wasn't Maggie. No, it was a 19-year-old Texan who stole the show from the deceased Iron Lady.
With a poise reminiscent of the elder Thatcher, Amanda Thatcher, Margaret's granddaughter, delivered a reading from Ephesians that has the British media agog. Amanda, who lives with her mother in Texas, chose a rather militant passage that calls on believers to "put on the whole armour of God." But the reading was a good one, delivered with remarkable grace by a young woman suddenly thrust into the international spotlight. In a tweet that nicely summarized the breathless British media reaction, Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland couldn't help but speculate "whether somewhere a Texas Republican operative is watching Amanda Thatcher thinking 'Wonder if she has political ambitions...'"
Here's the clip:
So who is Amanda Thatcher, and how did Maggie Thatcher's granddaughter end up in Texas of all places? Amanda is the daughter of Mark Thatcher and the Texas heiress Diane Burgdorf, who underwent an ugly, highly public divorce from Mark (Diane went so far as to detail her ex-husband's history of infidelity in a broadside published in a British paper). When Amanda's father became embroiled in an acrimonious business dispute, Diane agreed to move her family to South Africa. But after Mark was arrested in 2004 over his alleged involvement in a coup in Equatorial Guinea, the marriage finally dissolved. Amanda now lives in Texas with her mother, stepfather, and brother Michael. She is reportedly deeply religious, has carried out missionary work in China, and attends the University of Richmond in Virginia.
Voted "most likely to change the world" by her high school classmates, Amanda was a favorite of the Iron Lady. The former British prime minister reportedly kept a portrait of her two grandchildren on a mantle alongside a picture of Sir Denis, her beloved late husband. Maggie, the daughter of a fervent lay Methodist preacher, approved of Amanda's turn toward evangelical Christianity, and she cherished her relationship with her granddaughter during her ailing later years. As the Guardian notes in its excellent profile of the young Thatchers, Amanda's religiosity lined up nicely with Maggie's hard-nosed political and social conservatism.
Poised, eloquent, the descendant of conservative royalty, evangelical Christian, and Texas-bred: It all seems to add up to a promising political future. She certainly hit it out of the park in her introduction to the world, and isn't it pretty easy to picture a clip of Amanda's speech at her grandmother's funeral playing a role in a future campaign commercial?
The Republican Party could certainly do worse.
An earlier version of this post referred to the Biblical passage from which Amanda Thatcher read as the Epistles. She read from Ephesians, which is one of the Epistles.
Peter Nicholls - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Margaret Thatcher's death on Monday prompted a great deal of reflection on the Iron Lady's many legacies. But one in particular has been less explored: the former British prime minister's recurring appearance in political cartoons.
"She was a great subject for people who really hated her or hated her for what she stood for, which was many of the cartoonists," Anita O'Brien, the curator of the London Cartoon Museum, told Foreign Policy. "She was very distinctive. She had a particular way of speaking, which some [cartoonists] used to their advantage.... She was somebody that somehow couldn't be ignored."
For that very reason, O'Brien's museum devoted an exhibition to the satirical sketches featuring Thatcher called Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! The exhibit opened in 2009 -- two decades after the divisive British leader had left power. "Because she was such a strong figure and because she continued to try to exert an influence over many of the succeeding prime ministers, both Tory and Labour, she continued to feature in cartoons long after she had ceased to be prime minister," O'Brien explained. "Much much more than probably any figure."
To get a sense of how Thatcher was depicted in political cartoons, check out the image below by American cartoonist Bill DeOre, which appeared after Thatcher dispatched the British Navy to the Falkland Islands in 1982:
DEORE © 1982 Bill DeOre. Courtesy of the artist and Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.
And another by DeOre:
DEORE © 1982 Bill DeOre. Courtesy of the artist and Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.
The cartoon below was published in the Daily Mirror the day after Thatcher's longest-serving cabinet minister, Geoffrey Howe, delivered a scathing resignation speech, voicing his discontent over her refusal to better integrate the United Kingdom with European economies:
This photograph shows a sketch at the Cartoon Museum drawn by Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell in 2000, after former British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared that it was time to "move British politics beyond the time of Margaret Thatcher."
Photograph by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
"One of the things that came across when we did the exhibition was that she really divided the country," O'Brien told , and this doesn't look to be changing any time soon. "Even the whole issue of her funeral is dividing people. I'm sure there will be more cartoons between now and next week and probably after the funeral."
For Maggie's part, "she didn't care about cartoons at all," O'Brien notes. "We know this because one of our trustees was one of her ministers. Whereas some other politicians and previous prime ministers may have been quite hurt or offended by the cartoons, she just completely ignored them so they had no impact on her. I don't imagine she had that much interest in the visual arts."
Today, 30 July 1987 © Martin Rowson
The rare public figure as beloved by some as she was reviled by others, Margaret Thatcher, who died today at 87, was the first female prime minister in British history and a world leader who arguably did more than anyone else to usher in today's free-market capitalism. In pushing for deregulation, privatization, and lower tax rates, Thatcher succeeded in dismantling what she saw as a bloated British public sector that was holding the country back. Though Ronald Reagan embarked on a similar project in the United States, Thatcher was first. And given neo-liberalism's ascendance today, on that basis alone she deserves to be called an historic figure.
But does Thatcher deserve to be called the greatest post-war prime minister in British history?
Unlike American historians -- who love nothing more than to debate endlessly about who qualifies as the greatest U.S. president -- the Brits have more of an aversion to this sort of ranking, and the first rigorous survey of British academics that examined the question of prime ministerial greatness was not carried out until 2004, by researchers at the University of Leeds. That study included all 20th-century premiers and crowned Clement Attlee the victor, with Thatcher finishing in fourth place:
1. Clement Attlee (Labour, 1945-1951)
2. Winston Churchill (Conservative, 1940-1945, 51-55)
3. David Lloyd George (Liberal, 1916-1922)
4. Margaret Thatcher (Conservative, 1979-1990)
5. Harold Macmillan (Conservative, 1957-1963)
If one limits the field to post-war prime ministers, the discussion becomes even more interesting. David Lloyd George drops off the list, and Winston Churchill should arguably be excluded -- his second term in office predictably did not approach the heights of his wartime leadership. That puts Thatcher in second place behind Attlee, the man responsible for laying the foundation of the British welfare state.
Thatcher, meanwhile pulls ahead of Attlee in surveys of British public opinion. A YouGov poll from November 2011, for instance, found that 27 percent of Britons consider Thatcher the greatest prime minister since 1945, while 20 percent give the nod to Churchill (Atlee trails in a distant fifth place with only five percent). Looking at the cross-tabs, that result appears to stem from a pro-Labour split between Attlee, Churchill, Tony Blair, and Harold Wilson. But it is nonetheless a surprising outcome for Thatcher, whose approval ratings in office fluctuated a great deal.
In many ways, Thatcher and Attlee couldn't be more different. While Attlee founded the National Health Service -- and with it the British welfare state -- Thatcher fought to undo much of what Attlee had built. Where Attlee saw the comforting hand of the state, Thatcher saw encroaching state power. The 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing eurozone crisis represent the latest, most important test for whether European governments will work to maintain Attlee's legacy and keep the state involved in the economy, or move further toward Thatcherism and embrace the free market.
The outcome of that argument could play a big role in determining whether it is Thatcher or Attlee who ultimately secures the title of Britain's greatest post-war prime minister.
(h/t to reader Erica Jackson, who pointed us to the Leeds study)
JOHNNY GREEN/AFP/Getty Images
More than 800,000 Americans packed the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Monday to listen to President Obama deliver his second inaugural address, but many more were listening around the world. Here are a few interesting global reactions:
In the Chinese media, Obama's promise to "try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully" and argument that "engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear" than military force was taken as a sign that the U.S.-China relationship will be at the top of his foreign policy agenda for the next four years. Of course, as the state-run Global Times notes, there's a bit of skepticism that the president will live up to his words:
"If the president really lives his words, he would agree that for the sake of the world's peace and prosperity, it is important for the United States and China to foster mutual trust, for trust is the cornerstone for every relationship, no matter between people or between nations...The words also show that he agrees that the two nations should properly solve their disputes, either economic or political."
News agency Xinhua was a little more positive, describing the overall approach Obama outlined in his Monday address as "balanced" and "decidedly progressive."
One Guardian writer described Obama's speech as "urg[ing] Americans to reclaim from conservatives the spirit of the founding fathers" and as "more inspirational than 2009," praising Obama's strong support of climate change and gay rights. Another was more cautious in hispraise, maintaining that Obama's speech was less of a populist manifesto and more of a "to-do list [covering] what he has still to do to make good on the economic promises of his first term."
Peter Foster of the more conservative Telegraph granted that Obama's speech was well-received
by the spectators on the Mall, he reminded readers just how deeply divided the United States still is: "It was apparent," writes Foster, "that only half of the nation had showed up to listen
to [Obama's] call...Overwhelmingly, the crowd of 800,000 people was filled with
the faces of the young, female, urban, African-American coalition that ensured Mr. Obama's re-election for a second term last November. They were Obama's people, and they
were there to celebrate their victory."
In his article for the Australian, Troy Bramston praised Obama's rhetoric, but argued that Obama cannot rank amongst the truly great American presidents until he "translate[s] a presidency of promise into a presidency of action."
That may be hard to do, claims Janet Hook in another article for the Australian, in which she points out that Obama's speech made little effort to readch out to the GOP.
After the inaugural address, the headline of Saudi-owned, pan-Arab daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat read "The decade of war is over," referencing a line from Obama's speech. Yet in an op-ed for the same paper, Abdul Rahman Rashed, though praising Obama's experience in Middle Eastern affairs, was not so sure about peace in the coming decade. "Obama's second term will possibly be reconciliatory, particularly after John Kerry and Chuck Hagel join his administration...but who can tell if the region will be in a reconciliatory mood?"
In his article for Palestinian-run, London based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi (translated into English by the Times of Israel), Abdel Al-Bari Atwan writes that Obama "completely shut the door on any military intervention, stressing that a decade of wars has ended and that the only way to peace is dialogue." "President Obama's message is very clear," the article continued. "In short, he said that he does not intend to militarily intervene in Syria; will not wage a war on Iran, succumbing to Israeli pressure; and will focus on rescuing his country from its crippling economic crisis."
Atwan continues: "Obama disappointed many of his allies in the Middle East by neglecting to mention any of them in his speech." (Obama didn't mention any foreign countries by name in his address.)
Obama's equal opportunity rhetoric made news in Mexico. In its coverage of the inaugural address, El Universal highlighted Obama's commitment to immigrants, women, and gays. The article quoted Obama's statement promising immigration reform:
"Our trip (as a nation) will not be complete until we find a better way to welcome the hopeful, striving immigrants in the U.S. are still the land of opportunity, until the brightest students and engineers are listed on our strengths work instead of being expelled from our country."
The headline of the article read, in Spanish, "Obama calls for welcoming immigrants."
The president's inaugural address was a chance for Canadians to pat themselves on the back, the Ottowa Citizen snarkily reports:
"On the key issues that President Barack Obama pledged to dedicate his second term to in his inaugural address, Canada has already made substantive progress: on supporting democracy around the world; on providing equal rights to gays and lesbians; on creating an aspirational immigration system."
It doesn't stop there either. The column went to on say that Canada has also beat Obama to the punch in securing a budget deal and repairing its economy.
When Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird hosted a largely American gathering at the Canadian embassy on Monday, he was more tactful. "This is not a time for long speeches," he said. "We have very different systems, so we don't exactly want to be bragging," a Canadian embassy spokesman said.
Rob Carr-Pool/Getty Images
A report produced by a group of 11 E.U. foreign ministers this week on the future of Europe focused, understandably, on how greater integration - or "more Europe" - could help resolve the ongoing debt crises, through greater oversight of member states' budgets, centralized bank supervision, etc.
But further down, the 8-page document also lays out a plan for how more federalism could boost the region's overall global clout -- and includes the possibility of a Pan-European Army.
"To make the EU into a real actor on the global scene we believe that we should in the long term... aim for a European Defence Policy with joint efforts regarding the defence industry (e.g. the creation of a single market for armament projects); for some members of the Group this could eventually involve a European army."
The report makes clear that an all-Europe fighting force is only supported by some of the countries who helped produce the document; however, it also argues for a policy of more majority voting on security and foreign policy questions, meaning single states would no longer be able to veto defense policies they aren't in favor of. Alongside the European Army proposal, the report calls for an overall strengthening of the European External Action Service, the E.U.'s foreign policy arm.
The document has the backing of foreign ministers from Germany and France, as well as Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and other major European actors, but not Britain, where news of the report has met with some alarm. The UK has opposed greater European military integration in the past, and the Daily Telegraph speculates that the new report could fuel current calls for a referendum on the E.U.
Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images
Fifty years after Kenya's independence, the British high court opened the second part of a case brought by three Kenyan nationals against the British government today. The trial sheds light on Kenya's gulags, a largely forgotten dark corner of England's colonial legacy.
The plaintiffs -- Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambuga Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara -- were formerly rebels during the Mau Mau uprising against colonial rule. They allege that they were the victims of torture and brutality at the hands of the British administration during the "Kenya Emergency" that lasted from 1952-1960.
According to the BBC, the "claimants' lawyers allege that Nzili was castrated, Nyingi severely beaten and Mara subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the rebellion."
The fourth claimant in the original case, Ndiku Mutwiwa Mutua, died in the interim between when the test case was ruled arguable in July 2011 and the opening of the trial.
The lawyers for the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) have argued that the case should be struck down because the lapse in time between the end of the insurgency and the current proceedings is too great. However, a new cache of secret British documents unveiled in April 2012 has shed new light on crimescommitted in Kenya, as well as other former colonies -- and the decades-long effort to cover them up.
The files - which had been purposely withheld from the National Archives and illegally hidden at Hanslope Park, an intelligence station -- were uncovered by historians working on the Kenyans' case. Subsequently, the Foreign Office released all of the records.
The documents include accounts of British officials "roasting detainees alive" in Kenya. The colony's attorney general in 1953, Eric Griffith-Jones, described the internment camps as "distressingly reminiscent of conditions in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia" -- yet nevertheless endorsed British policy, claiming that "if we are going to sin, we must sin quietly."
The Kenyans first requested the release of these documents in 1967, according to an internal FCO review from February 2011 that was made public in May. The review, which explains how the Kenyan request served as a blueprint for refusing such information to all former colonies, details that the files were consciously concealed by the government. They reasoned that releasing any information would set "a dangerous precedent" which would make it "difficult to withhold un-reviewed and potentially sensitive papers from other former colonies."
The Guardian confirmed that the most incriminating of the documents were systematically destroyed. Nevertheless, the remaining incriminating files -- known within the FCO as the 'migrated archives' because they were whisked out of colonial territories before the post-independence administration could take power - total 8,800 files. The Kenyan documents alone total 294 boxes.
As the trial progresses, government fears of "a dangerous precedent" may prove well-founded: this case might very well open up avenues for other colonies to bring legal cases against the former empire.
SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images
British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed in a statement to parliament today that the British Army will be slashed by 20,000 troops over the next decade as part of a new strategic plan called Army 2020. Nearly one-fifth of standing forces will be relieved of their duties as 17 major units are culled and many others shrunk in the effort to limit the army's force numbers to 82,000, its lowest level since the Napoleonic Wars.
In a video interview with the Telegraph, Hammond cited a "black hole in the defense budget" and a need for the military to contribute to "the wider package of fiscal correction." Calling Army 2020 "an army designed package to create an army fit for the future," Hammond called for a reorientation of British security policy as the country withdraws from its active combat role in Afghanistan.
"It will be one of the most effective armies in the world, best of its class supported by a defense budget that is still going to be above the four or five largest in the world," Hammond predicted, declaring that increased integration of reserve forces and heavier use of private contractors would produce an army that was "more agile...able to do all the tasks set out for it in the strategic defense and security review."
Others, however, disagree. In the days' leading up to the predicted announcement, several high ranking military officers warned that the cuts were "not a sensible military option" and called for a reconsideration of the Army 2020 plan. Labour Shadow Defense Secretary Jim Murphy responded immediately to Hammond's statement, deriding the speech as "rightly long on detail but totally short of strategic context." Murphy elaborated in a statement to Sky News, warning: "You can't make cuts in the British army of this depth and at this speed without it having an impact on our ability to project power, our influence in the world and the ability of the British army to be deployed on a sustainable basis at points in the future...This isn't without cost and without consequence."
As Passport reported last May, a general trend of European demilitarization has begun despite Asia's dramatic defense build up. Coupled with the United State's pivot towards the Pacific and NATO's increasing reliance on European forces, the announcement highlight's Stephen M. Walt's question last week: "Are the EU member states serious about being in the security and defense business at all?"
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't choose his foreign visits lightly. On May 31, Putin makes his first trip abroad since being inaugurated for a third term as president on May 7, to neighboring Belarus. The visit is highly symbolic of Russia's desire to be the leader in the post-Soviet space, as well as Putin's continued support for the authoritarian president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko (also known as "Europe's Last Dictator"). Afterwards, Putin will head to Germany and France, Russia's major trading partners in the EU. After the European visits, Putin will fly to speak with Uzbek ruler Islam Karimov in Tashkent, to Beijing, and finally to Astana, Kazakhstan, to meet with long-time ruler Nursultan Kazarbayev; countries central to Putin's vision of a Eurasian Union.
Earlier in the month, Putin suddenly declined to attend the G8 Summit in Camp David, under pretext that he was too busy forming a new Cabinet of Ministers, sending instead Prime Minister Medvedev. The move was widely seen as a snub to President Obama, as Putin avoided a meeting with the president, and sidestepped making the U.S. his first foreign visit. A few days later, Obama announced he would not be able to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Vladivostok this September, because it conflicted with the Democratic Party convention.
Putin has now also taken the opportunity to snub the UK, by announcing he will not attend the opening of the London 2012 Olympics, even though the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held on Russian territory in Sochi. Likely, Medvedev will once again be sent in his stead. Russian-British relations have been tense since the 2006 poisoning of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London. Moreover the West has been pressuring Russian officials over the 2009 death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky while he was detained in prison. Putin's foreign trip destinations are by no means accidental.
Swedish furniture giant IKEA has begun work on a 26-acre self-contained neighborhood in Stratford, East London - just in time for the 2012 Olympics.
The town will be called Strand East and will contain 1,200 new homes, 480,000 square feet of office space, and a 350 bedroom hotel. The development's canal side location -- nicknamed "mini Venice" -- will feature a water-taxi service and floating cocktail bar. It is the first major development for LandProp, which owns the intellectual assets of the furniture company. The development group already operates in Holland, Lithuania, Poland, and Latvia, according to the Daily Globe and Mail.
The announcement comes shortly after the British government's agreement last month to slim down urban planning laws in order to encourage more sustainable projects, like this one. In what was a bitter dispute with countryside campaigners, the reforms represent a huge step along the way to reviving Britain's struggling rural economy.
Andrew Cobden, a spokesman for the project, also described a 40-meter illuminated tower that will be visible across the East London skyline - meant to emulate the Olympic torch. Like all things IKEA, the tower will be made from relatively "simple" materials, a wooden lattice of 72 diagonal laths, 16 horizontal steel rings, and held together by 32,000 trusty steel bolts.
The development will accommodate residents at a range of income levels. IKEA's first pre-fabricated home debuted last month in Portland, at an all-inclusive price of just $86,000. You might need more than a tiny Allen wrench to build this one.
Masked youth wander the streets armed with Molotov cocktails, families flee as their homes erupt in flames, medics tend to the bloodied and bruised as armored vehicles patrol the streets -- a scene fit for a war zone. The world has been capitaved by the scenes emerging from London, Manchester, and Birmingham in recent days while the British public has searched for explanations for what set off this wave of anarchy.
But shocking as the violence has been, this isn't the first time England has been paralyzed by riots -- history seems to be repeating itself with terrifying accuracy.
St. Pauls Riot
In April of 1980, the Black and White Café, a famous drug den in Bristol, was raided by officers. High unemployment, poor living conditions and a general feeling of discrimination by the police force proved a deadly combination as over a hundred youth battled with officers, destroying police cars and fire trucks as well as local buildings.
In total twenty-five people were hospitalized, including 19 officers, and 130 were arrested. While the numbers were relatively low compared to later riots, St. Pauls would seen as a turning point.
1981 Summer Riots
The "sus" law -- short for suspected person -- was a police method that allowed individuals to be stopped and searched without just cause, generating a harsh division between the police and minority communities in the late 1970s and early 1980s. April marked the introduction of a new tactic, called Operation Swamp, where police patrolled the streets in large groups, arresting thousands of suspected criminals in order to slash the crime rate.
On the evening of April 10 in Brixton, as officers led a young black man suffering from stab wounds to a police car to take him to a hospital, he broke free, fearing he was actually being arrested. A crowd began to form around the scene, throwing bottles and bricks at the policemen. As the night went on, rumors spread like wildfire throughout Brixton that the injured man had actually been stabbed by the White officers.
Operation Swamp searches ensued and when officers attempt to search a man suspected of carrying drugs, a full-fledged riot broke with Molotov cocktails being thrown for the first time on the mainland in British history. Hundreds of homes and buildings were looted and torched. 300 officers were injured, along with 60 civilians. Riots spread to areas of Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool in the later months.
CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
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:
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."
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.
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.
Is the end nigh for Indian tech support? A British telecommunications company is moving one of its call centers from Mumbai to Burnley, 21 miles north of Manchester, to cut costs. New Call Telecom chief executive Nigel Eastwood explains the decision:
Salaries in India aren't that cheap any more. Add to that the costs of us flying out there, hotels and software, and the costs are at an absolute parity.
In the UK we will pay workers the minimum wage. Given the current economic environment, we will get good "sticky" employees who will also receive bonuses linked to performance.
With rents as low as £4 per square foot, prices for commercial real estate in Burnley are reportedly on par with those in Mumbai. Residential prices are similarly affordable; data from the property website Mouseprice indicates that four of the five most affordable streets in England and Wales are located in Burnley, a former mill town struggling with high unemployment. Meanwhile, salaries in the IT outsourcing industry in India are set to rise 11.9 percent in the upcoming year, and some business process outsourcing leaders in India have already admitted that, with unemployment high throughout the West, India's competitive advantage in call centers is shrinking.
Eastwood also notes that using British staff should make call handling more efficient as well, because British customers will find compatriots easier to understand. Although the rest of the world may beg to differ on that one.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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