Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
By Jacob Comenetz
Journalist Miriam Hollstein teamed up with political cartoonist Heiko Sakurai to tell the story, with pictures and speech bubbles, of ”How Angie became our chancellor”, as the 64-page book is subtitled.
The authors say it is the first comic book devoted to the German chancellor in a country that lacks a tradition of comics and has a reputation for seriousness.
“Germans are ready for this kind of book,” said artist Sakurai, pointing out that the book is not only about entertainment. “Our comic is serious too.”
But fears that Germany might end up “smelling like a banana republic”, as Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper columnist Kurt Kister wrote, or be mentioned in the same breath as Iran if it ends up tampering with the law so close to the Sept. 27 ballot has helped kill the intriguing idea for the time being. There is also a tacit angst running through Merkel’s conservative CDU and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, that they could end up throwing away a possible victory once again (a 21-point lead melted to 1-point win in 2005) for their preferred centre-right coalition with the Free Democrats by changing the law now.
The results of European Parliament election have caused deep concern in European Union candidate Turkey, where gains made by conservatives and some far-right parties have been read as a clear win by the “No to Turkey” camp” and thus a blow to Ankara’s already troubled EU membership quest.
Trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the vote as a “futile effort by those who cannot digest Turkey’s enormity and strategic importance”. He said politicians who vilified Turkey to win votes in the short term would be judged by history.
After his Social Democrats scored their worst-ever result in European elections on Sunday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier might have thought things couldn’t get much worse. But then the man who hopes to beat German Chancellor Angela Merkel in September’s federal election sat down for a late night television talk show. During the one-hour broadcast, a tense-looking Steinmeier tried to answer the growing number of critics who say he lacks the charisma for the top job — but to many, he only ended up confirming that view.
Breaking from his normally polite, soft-spoken manner, Steinmeier frequently interrupted presenter Anne Will. When Will presented him with a video clip of SPD activists questioning his ability to energise the party, Steinmeier tried to sell his ”seriousness” as a vote-winning virtue. Perhaps the oddest moment came at the very end, when an unemployed man from eastern Germany complained about his struggles to find work. After quizzing the gas fitter about his search, Steinmeier announced that he had “two or three ideas” about jobs in the man’s region and promised to personally take charge of finding him a job. To derisive chuckles, his spokesman was asked at a regular government news conference on Monday whether Germany’s other 3.5 million jobless could count on the SPD candidate to personally sort out their work woes. No, the spokesman said, shifting uneasily in his chair: “The situation yesterday was very special.”
Germany’s 37-year-old economy minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, could become a liability for Chancellor Angela Merkel in September’s election thanks to his open criticism of the government’s 11th-hour rescue of carmaker Opel.
Guttenberg, a rising star in Merkel’s conservative camp, had argued for an Opel insolvency in the days preceding the deal.
It’s not quite as bad as it was back in 2003 when Gerhard Schroeder publicly chastised George W. Bush for invading Iraq and Condi Rice introduced a new policy in the White House called ”ignore Germany” (France was to be punished and Russia forgiven for their opposition to the war).
But relations between Berlin and Washington are probably as poor as they’ve been since Angela Merkel replaced Schroeder in 2005 and set Germany on a course of reconciliation with the United States.
When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the head of the Roman Catholicism in 2005, the best-selling daily Bild caught the national mood with a frontpage headline crowing Wir sind Papst! (We're Pope!). Now, Germans are falling out of love with their pope for readmitting to the Church an excommunicated bishop who denies the Holocaust. For the vast majority of Germans, denying the Holocaust is beyond the pale. Shunning anyone who does deny the Holocaust is considered a civic virtue. So seeing the world's most prominent German rehabilitate a Holocaust denier is quite distressing for a upstanding, post-war German democrat. How could he do it? (Photo: Pope Benedict at the Vatican, 2 Feb 2009/Alessandro Bianchi)
The Vatican and Catholic bishops around the world have been defending the pope, saying the lifting of the excommunications for the controversial Bishop Richard Williamson and three other bishops was an internal Church issue unrelated to his political views. They say repeatedly that this is not a rehabilitation, but simply a readmission to allow discussions on rehabilitation to start. After botching the initial announcement, the Vatican has had a tough time trying to convince public opinion in other countries. In Germany, where many understandably think Holocaust deniers deserve no sympathy whatsoever, this task is proving to be doubly difficult.
As Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has delivered many speeches, but none that anyone can particularly remember. Germany’s top diplomat has impeccable credentials yet has rarely come close to stirring anyone with his balanced, cautious, usually dry and sometimes rather dull addresses. No one would ever think of ticking the box “rousing speaker” next to his name.
That all changed on Saturday — when Steinmeier gave the speech of his life to a congress of his centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). The 500 delegates interrupted the white-haired lawyer’s riveting 88-minute address with applause 114 times. They then elected Steinmeier, who had never won election for any public office, as their candidate for the 2009 election with 95 percent of the vote.
The European Union has come under sharp criticism for having a fragmented approach to the financial crisis. It is exemplified by Ireland’s go-it-alone decision to guarantee all accounts and Germany’s surprise announcement after a meeting of leading members that it was taking unilateral action too.
Relief, then, that the 27 member states issued a statement on Monday that they would do what it takes to bolster citizens’ savings and build financial stability. Only problem was, they could not coordinate the announcement. First Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi released it, then Portugal. Only after a while did French President Nicholas Sarkozy weigh in. He does head the current EU presidency after all.
Suddenly, the outlook has darkened for Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanks to Bavaria’s conservatives who suffered their worst result in half a century in a state vote on Sunday.