International Papers

The Blair Baby Project

Torn between the duties of governing and parenthood, Tony Blair has once again chosen the third way. The British prime minister told the Observer of London Sunday that he will “try as much as possible” to cut down on his work after the birth of his fourth child next month. This falls far short of his taking full paternity leave as his wife Cherie, pregnant at 45, has hinted he should do. Blair’s lack of wholehearted commitment to changing diapers was a disappointment to family pressure groups. “Taking full paternity leave would have sent a more positive message,” said Mary Newburn of the National Childbirth Trust. This is how Blair described his intentions to the Observer: “I don’t ever stop being prime minister. Even when I am on holiday, I do several hours work a day. But of course I want to spend more time with Cherie when the kid is born to help out, and I will do that. …The important thing is to help Cherie and the baby. I obviously will try as much as possible to cut down in that period what I’m doing. But I have to run the country. That still has to go on.”

The main weekend story in British newspapers was the arrest of best-selling novelist Jeffrey Archer for attempting to pervert the course of justice. Police questioned him Friday for four and a half hours before releasing him on bail until June. The arrest stemmed from his having asked a friend to provide him with a false alibi when he was accused by the Daily Star of consorting with a prostitute. Lord Archer went on to sue the paper for libel in 1987 and won a then record $750,000 in damages. Leading on the story Saturday, the Times of London said that Archer—a former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party who was forced to withdraw his candidacy for mayor of London because of the scandal—had suffered “his greatest public humiliation” and “was left in no doubt that he was the loneliest man in public life, just seven days before his 60th birthday.”

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph of London, Michael Lewis of this magazine urged investors to buy Microsoft shares. “Right now the world has gone mad,” he wrote. “There is money to be made. Buy Microsoft.” Lewis said the failure of Microsoft and the U.S. government to reach a settlement meant that the matter would stop being purely a legal issue and would become a party-political one, which was good for the corporation because “there’s not a populist vote to be got in bashing this monopolist.” He wrote, “Microsoft has emerged from settlement talks with the best outcome investors could realistically have hoped for: more time. They somehow see this as disastrous for Microsoft. They are wrong.”

In an editorial Saturday, the Financial Times of London said the upswing of high-technology stocks at the end of last week suggests that “the markets will continue to offer an unpleasantly bumpy ride.” It concluded: “It is little wonder, therefore, that investors have been searching more critically for sound companies in all sectors including high technology. It is a process that needs to continue if overvalued sectors of the market are to achieve a smooth descent.” Le Monde of Paris led Sunday with an investigation into the growth of stock ownership in France because of the Internet. “Eight million French people, which is 18 percent of the population over 15 years of age, now have part of their savings on the stock exchange,” it said.

Le Monde is still recovering from an embarrassment last week when it was taken in by an April Fool’s Day hoax by the Russian newspaper Moskovskii Komsomolets. The Moscow paper published what purported to be an early excerpt from the memoirs of former President Boris Yeltsin, in which Yeltsin said that President Vladimir Putin owed his sudden rise to power to his prowess as a marksman. Putin was said to have caught Yeltsin’s eye by killing a wild boar with a single shot through the head. “Moscow needs such men,” Yeltsin was quoted as saying. Le Monde carried this report last Wednesday but apologized the next day, promising to be more cautious in future.

Le Figaro of Paris and Die Welt of Germany led their front pages Saturday with the creation of a new broadcasting and content giant as Europe’s answer to AOL Time Warner. The International Herald Tribune said the merger of the broadcasting interests of Britain’s Pearson plc, Germany’s Bertelsmann AG, and Belgium’s Groupe Bruxelles Lambert would create a company that had sales of $3.64 billion and earnings of around $450 million in 1999. According to Pearson’s finance director, John Makison, quoted in the IHT, the merger talks began in earnest about two months ago, “prompted in part by the merger of America Online and Time Warner.”

According to the Times of India Saturday, India has decided to open up 20 “virgin” peaks and 176 other challenging Himalayan summits to mountain climbers. They are mostly situated in sensitive areas close to the Chinese and Pakistani borders and have generally been off-limits to foreigners in the past. But defense ministry officials told the newspaper that the security situation has changed. Relations with China have improved, and “in any case, in the age of satellite imagery, when you can pinpoint a rat in its hole in the ground, you don’t have to actually send spies into the mountains to find out your adversary’s troop strength.”

A friend of the late Greta Garbo revealed to the Sunday Telegraph that the actress once faced exposure as a lesbian unless she paid hush money to a former female lover, the playwright Mercedes de Acosta. De Acosta, who died in 1968, had let it be known she would sell 55 letters she had received from Garbo unless somebody paid off her debts, according to Sam Green, a close friend of Garbo’s for nearly 20 years. Although Garbo said she would not pay them, the debts were eventually settled by an unidentified person. The letters, now owned by the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, will be publicly revealed April 18, two days after the 10th anniversary of Garbo’s death, the paper said.