International Papers

On Murdoch, Malaysia, and Murder

If you missed the most recent installments of this column, here they are: posted Tuesday, Nov. 17, and Friday, Nov. 13.

Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald led with a story on the attempt by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to start a fourth TV channel, calling its effort “an ambitious campaign to shake up Australia’s television industry.” Current foreign ownership laws prevent Murdoch from acquiring a TV network, since he already owns 70 percent of Australia’s newspapers. Nonetheless, his team is pressing for meetings with the government to change the policy.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has concluded–to little end, said a Nov. 19 report in the Herald: The summit was “plagued by internal fighting over free trade and human rights” and yielded only a meaningless communiqué. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, more optimistic about the “pledge to mount a region-wide economic growth campaign and launch simultaneous stimulus measures across the Asia-Pacific to lift the region out of its slump,” reprimanded U.S. Vice President Al Gore for his comments on Malaysian human rights issues. “There is still a world of difference between speaking to a political forum in Washington and at an Asian banquet where you are the guest,” scolded an SCMP editorial, adding that Gore’s criticism of the Malaysian government for imprisoning former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has probably “sharpened the divide” between Asian countries and the United States.

Meanwhile, British papers focused on the defeat in the House of Lords of the government’s proportional representation bill. The vote, the papers concurred, leaves next year’s European elections in chaos. It marks the fifth and final defeat of this particular bill and the most serious defeat of any government bill since 1986. Had it passed, the bill would have altered the system to allow voters to elect a party rather than a candidate. Some papers, including the Daily Telegraph, noted that Tory Lords leader Viscount Cranborne has said that if the bill is reintroduced, his party might follow parliamentary traditions and “cooperate.”

A London Times feature took up the debate over whether Hillary Clinton, soon to grace the cover of Vogue, is “the sexiest woman alive” or merely “has matured as a First Lady better than a fine wine.” For this “once-bespectacled feminist who recently turned 51,” gushes the Times, “her new role as cover girl is merely belated proof of her transformation–no snorting–into one of the most revered and glamorous First Ladies ever.”

Both the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz led with Israel’s imminent pullback from the West Bank–the first phase of implementing the Wye agreement. The pullback, which may take only a few hours, is scheduled to take place today in conjunction with the release of 250 Palestinians from Israeli prisons and the opening of the Palestinian International Airport in Gaza. Before signing off on the pullback, however, the Israeli Cabinet will review Palestinian compliance to date with Wye. According to Ha’aretz, settler leaders deluged Parliament with last-minute letters, faxes, and phone calls protesting the move.

From Belgrade, Yugoslavia, text from Radio B92 gives us the latest on Kosovo: Kosovar Albanian negotiators have called for a referendum to determine the future political status of the 90 percent ethnic Albanian province in southern Serbia. A NATO rapid response team to rescue international monitors in Kosovo could be ready by early December. Meanwhile, in Belgrade, several hundred teaching staff and students of Belgrade University’s philology department stopped work for an hour yesterday to protest the government’s dismissal of certain faculty members. This is a prelude to a planned full-fledged boycott starting Nov. 23.

Pakistan’s News International and India’s Times both ran brief reports on the massacre of nine members of a Christian family in Pakistan Wednesday. The unidentified killers, said News International Pakistan, used the victims’ blood to scrawl “This is the end of black magic” on the walls. The Times noted that Christian groups in the region have faced harassment by Sunni Muslims because they oppose the imposition of Shariat Islamic Law.

The Zimbabwe Standard reported what it called “one of the most disgraceful incidents of unbecoming behaviour at the Parliament of Zimbabwe”: A female member of Parliament was verbally and almost physically attacked–“nearly beaten up”–by a fellow legislator in the Members’ Bar last week. The attacker claimed the victim was part of a reactionary gang plotting to remove the city mayor from office. The incident, said the Standard, is being investigated.