Posts tagged ‘politics’

October 13, 2010

New report finds Germany swinging towards the right

FOR MONTHS IN THIS SPACE I have been writing about the resurgence of anti-immigrant sentiment and “respectable” far-right parties in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. While such feelings and parties come and go and have rarely amounted to much since 1945, a new report being presented in Berlin today shows that right wing ideas are becoming increasingly acceptable in Germany and have, in fact, moved into “the center of society.” The Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s new 180-page report The Center in Crisis: Far Right Attitudes in Germany in 2010 finds that “in 2010 there was a significant increase in anti-democratic and racist…

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October 5, 2010

Right-wing Sweden Democrats walk out of anti-racist sermon

IT APPEARS AS IF the Sweden Democrats, the far-right party that recently gained twenty seats in Sweden’s 349-seat Riksdag, are not only skinheads but they are thin-skinned too.  (I have already written about the Sweden Democrats here.)  Today, Prime Minister Reinfeldt, the new parliament, the royal family, and other dignitaries met at Stockholm’s St. Nicholas Cathedral to celebrate a formal service to mark the opening the new parliament.  So far so good.  But as soon as Bishop Eva Brunne began telling the congregation of the thousands of people around the country who were demonstrating against racism, and that it is not worthy of a devout person to make distinctions on the basis of race or ethnic background, the SD group stood up and walked out of the church…

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September 29, 2010

New terror threats encourage Europe’s new New Right

JUST AFTER NORWEGIAN POLICE uncovered a further plot to blow up the headquarters of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, new reports have come out revealing a broad-based conspiracy to stage massive urban terror attacks across Europe. Britain’s Sky News told viewers yesterday that a group linked to a Pakistan-based al-Qaeda network is planning to stage armed assaults in the style of the 2008 Mumbai attacks on London as well as on cities in France and Germany. All three countries have sizeable ISAF forces operating in Afghanistan. The current surge in American drone attacks on targets in Pakistan is apparently aimed at disrupting the plot, which is at an “advanced but not immanent stage.” Ironically, the acts appear to be motivated by revenge against the drone attacks, which regularly violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and have killed…

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September 27, 2010

Politician’s “slip of the tongue” has France on its knees

CALL IT THE INTERPRETER’S dilemma: to what extent is it permissible to “improve” on the speaker’s words coming through your headset? So far, my experience with this problem has been limited to desperately trying to make sense out of the frequently meaningless flood of language coming from politicians whose speeches sound like they mean something but are actually crafted to obscure the truth and bore their audience into submission. If you’re an interpreter of German, as I am, the main problem lies in a speaker’s stubborn failure to employ verbs (which normally come at the end of a sentence in a subordinate clause), i.e. their refusal to make sense, and it can…

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September 20, 2010

The new New Right wins big in Sweden

AS COUNTRIES GO THESE days, you can’t get much more respectable than Sweden. Didn’t the Swedes remain (more or less) neutral during both World Wars? Don’t they spend more than almost any other people on foreign aid? And wasn’t it a Swede who created the Nobel Peace Prize? But Alfred Nobel also invented dynamite, and last weekend’s parliamentary election with its lurch to the “respectable right” is the most explosive in recent memory.

Things started out very well for conservative minister president Fredrik Reinfeldt, who hoped to walk back to power after a successful four years at the head of this traditionally…

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September 8, 2010

Inspired timing: Berlin politician launches anti-Islam party

THAT’S WHAT I CALL inspired timing. Just when (some) Americans are already gathering to burn Qurans in Florida, a German city councilman in Berlin today announced the founding of a new anti-Muslim party that will run candidates in next year’s municipal election. The conservative Christian Democratic Union kicked René Stadtkewitz (45), who represents the city’s Pankow district in the capital’s local House of Representatives, out of the CDU group yesterday for inviting the xenophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders to deliver a lecture here on October 2 to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of Germany’s reunification. This was too much for the CDU, and Stadtkewitz…

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August 23, 2010

Sitting parliamentary leader to donate kidney

SOMETIMES THE TERM “HUMAN interest story” doesn’t quite do a situation justice. Take the example of German politician Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is scheduled to undergo a very special operation here in Berlin tomorrow.

If most Americans have never heard of Steinmeier, it’s not for his lack of trying. The head of the Social Democratic group in the German Bundestag, Steinmeier challenged Angela Merkel for the chancellorship in last fall’s bruising parliamentary elections, coming in at a distant second place. He had previously served as Germany’s foreign minister and as vice-chancellor in the country’s Christian Democratic – Social Democratic coalition. Since the election, he has…
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August 16, 2010

From pastor’s daughter to terrorist: Gudrun Ensslin at 70

YESTERDAY, AUGUST 15, MARKED the seventieth anniversary of the birth of German terrorist Gudrun Ensslin. Born to a Lutheran pastor and his wife in the Swabian village of Bartholomä during the Second World War, Ensslin absorbed her social conscience with her mother’s milk. She prayed to Jesus, hiked with her local Wandervogel group, spent a year as a high school exchange student in Pennsylvania, and sought to make the world a better place. While still a student she moved to West Berlin in 1965 to fight for nuclear disarmament. There she met revolutionary outlaw Andreas Baader. Soon the couple were torching department stores and planning bloody revolution. What ensued was a love affair made in hell that still haunts the Federal Republic to this day.

The so-called Baader-Meinhof Gang (the later Red Army Faction), born in a spectacular prison escape in 1970, was innacurately named. Despite journalist Ulrike Meinhof’s high profile, her depressive, masochistic personality was no match for Ensslin’s sheer terrorist drive…

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August 13, 2010

Gay foreign minister treads softly abroad

LAST OCTOBER, GERMAN POLITICIAN Guido Westerwelle grabbed world headlines when he was appointed as the world’s first openly gay foreign minister. In January, he nearly provoked a diplomatic incident by insisting on making a state visit to Japan with his long-time partner, German sport manager Michael Mronz, at his side. The confused Japanese protocol officers quietly decided to offered Mronz its standard “lady’s program” of official sightseeing and museum visits in the company of the Japanese prime minister’s wife. (I already wrote extensively about Westerwelle and Mronz in my essay “When the Minister’s Wife is a Man.”) The press got a good story out of the trip and it looked as if Westerwelle…

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July 28, 2010

Ahmadinejad vs. Paul: Should the West take action?

IRANIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD regards himself as something of an authority on world affairs and twentieth century history. But who would have thought he was also an expert on sea life? 

So far, oceanography hasn’t exactly been Ahmadinejad’s calling card. He is best known for such fatuous (but frequently disputed) statements as: “Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury,” “There is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will wipe off this stigma (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world, … The World without Zionism,” “we don’t accept this claim [of the holocaust],” or for glibly  claiming that…

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