International Papers

Easy Rider


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As Louise Woodward returned home to England, still protesting her innocence in the killing of baby Matthew Eappen in Massachusetts, the British tabloids rose in uproar over the VIP treatment from British Airways on her flight from Boston to London. Some of the British tabloids did, that is. The mass-circulation Daily Mirror and Sun newspapers protested loudly, but the Daily Mail was much more sympathetic to the convicted killer.

The liberal broadsheet the Guardian suggested a reason. The Daily Mail “was leading the tabloid pack” for Louise’s story, it said, despite her public denial that she planned to defy the Massachusetts Supreme Court and sell her story to a British newspaper. The Mail was also “believed to have paid £40,000 ($64,000) to her parents, Gary and Sue, for an exclusive interview” following her conviction last November for second-degree murder (later downgraded to manslaughter by Judge Hiller Zobel).

The Mirror, whose editor had improbably expressed “disquiet” to the Guardian over the Mail’s payment to her parents, splashed the headline “First Class Child Killer” on its front page, calling Louise’s journey home a “five-star freebie-to-freedom trip.” It claimed that “a wave of fury erupted in both America and Britain” over the airline’s lavish treatment of her. The Sun’s story, headlined “Louise Flies Back in £2,700 [$4,300] Plane Seat,” stressed a point that had also exercised the Mirror–the fact that BA staff “gave Louise the red carpet treatment throughout her hour-long stay in the premier lounge, and at one stage asked if she wanted the air conditioning on.” Their point appeared to be that child killers shouldn’t have the right to air conditioning.

The weekly Economist said of the Louise Woodward case: “England is the home of Mary Poppins, while Massachusetts is the scene of the Salem witch-hunts; and so the televised trial for murder of an English au pair girl in the state of Massachusetts played on potent stereotypes right from the start.”

The joint U.S.-Japanese move to support the yen was warmly welcomed in Europe, though editorials in British newspapers were united in demanding dramatic economic action by Japan. “Now, please, a big push” was the headline over an editorial in the Financial Times Thursday, calling for “a fundamental shift in Japanese macro-economic policy capable of staving off an incipient slump.” If U.S. Deputy Treasury secretary Larry Summers’ visit to Tokyo “leads to the promise of anything less than this, the latest currency intervention will have been wasted,” the FT said. “Without decisive action, disaster lies ahead.”

The Daily Telegraph’s editorial said, “The Americans have done their part. It is now up to the Japanese government to deliver.” Ryutaro Hashimoto’s government must take the “hugely unpopular step of bailing out the more viable financial institutions with taxpayers’ money. But it must also let the laggards go bankrupt,” it said. “This means confronting the keiretsu network of banks, manufacturing companies, bureaucrats and even the Yakuza mafia that has controlled the post-war system in Japan.” The Times of London, under the headline “Depression Alert,” said U.S. intervention has bought only a little time and complained that “Mr. Hashimoto, like St. Augustine, is pledged to virtue, but not yet.” Japan’s crisis is “mainly political,” it went on. “This Bill Clinton, his mind sharpened by his imminent trip to Beijing, now appears to understand. America’s refusal to take ‘not yet’ for an answer should be echoed in every finance ministry, bank and dealing room in the industrial world.”

In a recent editorial, the Japanese paper Mainichi Shimbun agreed with most of the rest of the world in its analysis of the Japanese disease. “Truth be told, the nation’s leaders have given almost no indication that they are willing to implement the solutions that global markets have been waiting for,” it said. “The politicians blame the bureaucrats, and the bureaucrats point fingers at financial institutions. But they all miss the point. We should not overlook our national tendency to put off dealing with our painful problems until a later date.” The Straits Times of Singapore said in an editorial Thursday that “Japan seems to be remarkably complacent about the impact of the tumbling yen on the region’s economies and what damage it could wreak in its wake.”