International Papers

No Sex Please, We’re NASA 

Super Tuesday victories by Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush occasioned statements of regret from the world’s editorial writers. France’s Libération called it the  “triumph of the apparatchiks,” while the Age of Melbourne said that the “chief talent of the otherwise lacklustre Mr Bush appears to be an ability to dissemble. In this he resembles Mr Gore. … It does not augur well for the US … that in November the choice will be between two men who could be clones of each other.” The Guardian of London said that “Super Tuesday 2000 accomplished exactly what the fixers designed it to do, by enabling the two party establishment favourites to rack up emphatic wins in yesterday’s contests which effectively end their respective challengers’ hopes.” The paper predicted “the political rebels” who backed McCain and Bradley will sit the November election out, further reducing turnout “in a country where fewer than half of the electorate now vote in presidential elections.”

The Moscow Times reported Thursday on the Nyet campaign, whose objective is to encourage people to vote for “none of the above” in Russia’s March 26 presidential election. If the Nyet vote were to exceed the leading candidate’s tally, new elections would have to be held four months later. The organizers hope that a Nyet victory would give them time to find a viable candidate to face acting president Vladimir Putin and that his popularity would drop. Successful Nyet campaigns in the December 1999 parliamentary election resulted in new elections in eight electoral districts.

Ultra-nationalist presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky told the French daily Le Parisien that he viewed himself as a “Russian [Jörg] Haider” and that “Austria is an example for us.” He also told the paper that he would solve the crisis in Chechnya “in a month. There would be no amnesty. Everyone would be imprisoned. We won’t allow any journalists in and we would use every necessary piece of military hardware to finish the job off.”

Putin used the occasion of International Women’s Day, March 8, to flatter female voters. The Moscow Times reported that he sent every female federal soldier a card and a bottle of perfume. In Spain, El Mundo was encouraged that both the main political parties contesting that country’s March 12 general election had made improving the condition of women part of their electoral manifestos. An editorial concluded, “All that’s missing is making it happen.” The Jerusalem Post   regretted that a sex scandal involving the transportation minister had “overtaken the celebratory nature of Women’s Day,” and Dawn of Pakistan called it ironic that “the public display of concern for the rights of women on International Women’s Day is inversely proportionate to what is being actually done to raise the status of women in the country.” In Australia, all sections of the Age were edited by women in honor of the day.

The Israeli Cabinet decided unanimously Sunday to unilaterally withdraw Israeli forces from the “security zone” inside Lebanon by July. The move was interpreted as a tactic to bring Syria back into peace talks. An editorial in Toronto’s Globe and Mail said such a “peaceful gesture makes it harder for your former enemy to remain your future enemy. Heretofore, Hezbollah has been able to portray itself to the average Lebanese not so much as guerrillas seeking to obliterate Israel, but as freedom fighters trying to liberate an occupied part of their country. Without occupiers, the broader basis for Hezbollah support shrivels.” The liberal Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that the “public has realized that the losses wrought by the invasion of certain parts of Lebanon are far larger than any possible gains Israel may reap,” but the Jerusalem Post editorialized that “Lebanon and Syria need to understand that they are not immune to retaliation for the terrible toll they have inflicted on Israel. Responsibility for the suffering on both sides lies with the parties that have for decades employed war and terrorism as an arm of diplomacy, not with the party that wants nothing more than to live behind secure borders in peace.”

The Daily Star of Lebanon called the withdrawal mere redeployment, because the Israelis will retain some key military outposts just north of the border, “on land annexed by the Jewish state.” The posts, known as “technical fences” are on high ground “with dominating views into Lebanon.” A “Western military source” predicted “a very nasty situation down the road because the Israelis won’t make a clean break.” The Egyptian Gazette said that “Israel made a grave mistake by tampering with Lebanon’s sovereignty in the 1980s and now they are prepared to set things right. … But Israelis well realize that without withdrawing to internationally recognized borders, there will be no let up in the lawful acts of resistance.”

NASA denies the existence of “cosmic coitus,” despite French astronomer Pierre Kohler’s new book, which claims that U.S. and Russian astronauts have had sex in space and that NASA has determined, via experiments involving guinea pigs, the 10 best zero-gravity lovemaking positions. Russia’s St. Petersburg Times discounted Kohler’s assertions as unsubstantiated rumors, but the paper reminded readers that when the international space station has its maiden three-year voyage in 2012, the world’s space agencies will have to tackle the topic of sex in space. “NASA’s stated position of not being interested in the private lives of its employees may seem satisfying to [American] culture, which values privacy,” but “[u]ltimately, NASA will need to give up its puritanical views.”