Ankara's Two Faces
Will the real Recip Tayyip Erdogan please stand up? The Turkish prime minister has been justifiably lauded for bringing his country to the doorstep of Europe, squeezing the Army out of politics, dismantling the apparatus of the Turkish police state and introducing a raft of European-style human-rights laws in order to win a start date for talks to join the European Union. But late last year he mystified many fans by pushing a conservative adultery law that almost sabotaged Turkey's bid. In recent weeks he seems to be backsliding again. On March 6, Istanbul police were filmed brutally beating marchers at a Women's Day rally; Erdogan condemned the violence but also blamed "provocative" demonstrators and the media. This week his government is pushing through a press law under which journalists can be jailed (as well as fined) for "insulting the state." Erdogan also recently brought charges against two cartoonists for satirical portrayals of him. And last week the P.M.'s top human-rights adviser announced his resignation, saying the government's stance on reform was insincere.
So is Erdogan a reformer or a reactionary? Some political observers think he has pushed Turkey too far, too fast, sparking a backlash from the grass roots of his own religious-conservative AK Party, as well as from nationalists in the bureaucracy and judiciary. Ordinary Turks have been particularly irked by Cyprus, where Brussels forced Ankara to establish a limited relationship with the Greek-dominated Republic of Cyprus; polls show that most Turks believe the prime minister conceded too much.
Not surprisingly, alarm bells are ringing in Brussels. Many in Europe would be relieved to see Turkey disqualify itself from membership--the French and Austrian governments, for instance, which are already having a tough time selling the new European Constitution to voters deeply skeptical of further EU enlargement. Talks with Turkey are to begin on Oct. 3. It's a safe bet that recent developments will be part of the conversation.
An Unexpected Gift
China may not have intended it, but when Beijing passed its antisecession law on March 14, it handed Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian an incredible PR coup. The law has achieved the near-impossible task of uniting the island's deeply polarized public--protests last Saturday brought hundreds of thousands to the streets. It also gave Chen a rare opportunity to win global sympathy--with CNN broadcasting worldwide images of Taiwanese taxi drivers spelling out peace with their cabs, and pregnant women taking to the streets to demand a calm future for their babies. Pressure is now mounting in Taiwan to push through reforms China vehemently opposes: changing the country's official name and altering sensitive parts of its Constitution. "Do you suppose I should thank the PRC for the antisecession law?" quipped Taiwan's Deputy Defense Minister Michael Tsai.
Worse for Beijing, its law may have seriously set back efforts to lift the EU arms embargo. England has said the widely expected removal of the ban has been put on hold. China's best chance to regain international favor, experts say, is to wait and hope Taipei overplays its hand. Although Chen has so far been moderate in his response to the law, Saturday's rally could make him think he has a popular mandate--or even a public demand--for concrete countermeasures, such as calling a "defensive" referendum.
If Chen's rhetoric turns stridently anti-China, the sympathy that the law has won for Taiwan could quickly evaporate, at least in Western capitals. France, for one, continues to insist that the EU embargo will be lifted, most likely after a seemly waiting period. Still, for now analysts say there's no getting around Beijing's gaffe. Says China expert Andrew Yang: "Beijing should understand that this legislation was just shooting themselves in the foot."
TERROR Web Wars
Intelligence and law-enforcement agencies are learning that tracking down the operators of Islamic terrorist Web sites is like trying to locate a floating crap game: here today, gone tomorrow. During the past year, investigators in America and Europe watched as a business called 357Hosting, based near Utrecht, the Netherlands, became the officially registered Internet host for several notorious militant Islamic Web pages and bulletin boards, including sites that disseminated videos of beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq and messages from Qaeda leader Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. The public prosecutor's office in Utrecht tells NEWSWEEK that it has opened a criminal investigation into possible Internet hate crimes.
But the former operator of the hosting company claims that ownership of the firm has already moved out of the Netherlands. In e-mails, 357Hosting's former chief, who asked to be called "Awad," acknowledged that his business last year hosted Web sites "that may be deemed as radical," including sites that glorify the actions of Iraqi militants. Information on 357Hosting's own site indicates that the Dutch firm offered Islamic groups bargain-basement rates, from as little as 4.99 euro per month. Awad says a former owner of 357 even offered Islamic groups free space, raising questions among investigators as to whether 357's rates were subsidized by wealthy Islamists from outside the Netherlands.
As the criminal investigation heats up, 357's former owner claims that Dutch authorities once indicated the firm's activities were legal. "My policy was freedom of speech... as long as they didn't violate laws, so no threats, no bomb-making manuals and things like that."
Shades of Blue
Continental Europe's three largest industrial economies all slumped in 2004, but not all slumps are created equal.
Numbers released last week showed that not only did Italian GDP shrink (by 0.4 percent) in the fourth quarter (while Germany came in at zero percent, and France grew a mere 0.8 percent), but the nature of Italy's fall bodes especially poorly for its prospects as a global competitor. Italy relies heavily on exports of textiles and clothing, which are under the most dramatic pressure from emerging economies. France is slightly better off thanks to government initiatives to boost consumer spending, which upped growth in the fourth quarter. But exports, under the same pressures as in Italy, added nothing to that picture.
The brightest of the bad news comes from Germany, where a diverse manufacturing mix helped exports push GDP up by 0.5 percent. German exports have risen strongly in sectors like complex machinery. The irony, says Bank of America economist Lorenzo Codogno, is that a lot of this machinery is going to factories in China, which will only make China a bigger competitive threat.
One answer would be to push more aggressively away from manufacturing exports and into services. Yet European leaders are heading in the opposite direction. France and Germany helped vote down a plan to further deregulate the services industry at last week's EU leaders' summit. Can anyone say, "Lisbon Agenda?"
India: More Pills
For more than a decade, India has been a haven for generic drugmakers that have taken advantage of skilled workers and weak patent laws to become master pharmaceutical knockoff artists. No more, since the Indian Congress last week passed a new patent law to close the loophole that had allowed companies to copy patented drugs. While those in need of cheap drugs may suffer, the Indian economy stands to benefit hugely. International pharma giants, attracted by those same skilled workers and stronger laws, say they plan to shift more of their R&D operations to India. They're also tempted by the booming country's large middle and upper classes, some 50 million people.
As soon as it became clear India would pass the law to comply with WTO rules, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca and others announced plans to expand their research operations there. The law also gives a chance for Indian drug companies like Biocon and Dr. Reddy's Laboratories to compete internationally by developing their own blockbuster drugs. Analysts say India's $5 billion-a-year drug industry now has access to a research market worth $50 billion. The next Viagra may be from Mumbai.
Britain: Sleeper Cells
As if Al Qaeda weren't enough to worry about, British security agencies are nervous about the possibility of renewed terrorism by the Irish Republican Army. Scotland Yard recently warned a London business group that IRA "dissidents... are currently planning to mount attacks on the U.K. mainland." The tactics could include homemade bombs, "postal devices" and "shooting attacks," according to the London Observer. U.S. and British security sources say IRA sleeper cells may already have planted themselves in England in preparation for such attacks. But investigators told NEWSWEEK they are unsure of the cells' political complexion. The cells may have been sent to Britain by breakaway radicals like the "Real IRA," which carried out a deadly bombing in 1998. The greater fear: the sleepers may belong to a militant element within the Provisional IRA, whose political wing, Sinn Fein, is being urged by the British and Irish governments to announce the abandonment of paramilitary activity and total disarmament in return for seats in a new Northern Irish government. A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said she could not comment on security alerts.
'STAR WARS' Luke, Who's Your Daddy?
You're a "Star Wars" fan who can't wait to see Hayden Christensen become Darth Vader in "Revenge of the Sith" (May 19). But wouldn't you rather undergo that transformation? Here are the latest Vader masks--just shell out the $$, and give in to your Dark Side.
Darth Vader "Episode III" Helmet, $899, Master Replicas. It's made of fiberglass and lined with foam, suede and leather. The Dark Side: Out in October, it's taken from the studio mold, so it won't fit if your head's bigger than Christensen's. Is that possible?
Silver Color Mask and Helmet Set, $2,000, Rubie's. It's coated to protect against tarnishing--and comes with a stand. Who said you don't have a good head for decorating? The Dark Side: There are only 500 out there.
Supreme Edition Darth Vader, $130. A high-end plastic mask at party stores. Wear it with a black cape on the day the movie opens. The Dark Side: The lenses are tinted "like sunglasses," says a rep, to hide your eyes.
Darth Vader Voice Changer, $30, Hasbro. It breathes and talks--with sayings like "The Force is with you." The Dark Side: The voice-changer function makes you sound more like Vader on a bad cell phone.
A New Palace in Paris
Filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci considered the Cinematheque Francaise's salle at the Palais de Chaillot a temple, and he was not alone. New-wave directors Jean-Luc Godard and Claude Chabrol credited the shrine with teaching them their craft. The dismissal of its founder, Henri Langlois, sparked the student riots of 1968. So when the final reel played there last month after 43 years of movie history, it was as if the memories of an entire generation of cineastes flickered out. "I am quite aware of how sad it is," Bertolucci told NEWSWEEK. "In the '60s, the stairs to the Cinematheque were like stairs leading to the center of the earth. It was a mystic experience."
Thankfully for film buffs, the Cinematheque is coming back--and in style. This fall, the French Ministry of Culture is relocating it to a 14,700-square-foot building at 51 rue de Bercy designed by Frank Gehry. The vast, geometrically irregular space is an interactive ode to all things cinematic, and will house the Bibliotheque du Film, four screening rooms, conference centers and, possibly, inspiration. "We'll take advantage of the chance to touch a larger, younger public," says Serge Toubiana, the general director of the Cinematheque Francaise. "We want it to bring to life a new kind of cinephile."
Will the new digs recapture the je ne sais quoi of '68, perhaps inspiring another round of great French directors? "Who knows if the discovery of movies will be the same emotional event as in the Palais de Chaillot?" muses Bertolucci. "Time will tell..."
A Mixed Marriage
In 1999, while India and Pakistan were at war in Kashmir, Amitava Kumar, an Indian Hindu writer, married a Pakistani Muslim in Toronto. Their union wasn't the first of its kind--there have been many Hindu-Muslim marriages in India--yet Kumar believed his was particularly symbolic. After all, he was marrying the enemy. But he didn't anticipate the hate and suspicion his act would generate in both societies.
Kumar tells the story in his new book, "Husband of a Fanatic: A Personal Journey Through India, Pakistan, Love and Hate," a bold and searingly honest report of his experiences. The backdrop is political. After Hindu-Muslim tensions were deliberately rekindled by India's nationalist government in the 1990s, Hindu fundamentalists came out of the closet, denouncing Jawaharlal Nehru's secularism and Mahatma Gandhi's ecumenism. Pakistan, a theocratic state, doesn't even recognize marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim. In that climate, Kumar encountered every shade of prejudice--from the rabidly ugly, upfront bigot who attacked him as a traitor on a Hindu Web site, to his middle-class Canadian in-laws who manipulated him into accepting conversion without quite naming it. Kumar's soul-searching is unsparing even of his own liberal reactions as a post-independence "secular" Indian raised to question all religiosity. His finely nuanced essay on hate is a must-read for anyone concerned with the Other.
After 12 years, Billy Idol is back. Same hair. Same leather pants. New album. It's called "Devil's Playground," and the tracks are hot enough to last at least another decade. He spoke to NEWSWEEK's Vanessa Juarez before a recent gig in Texas.
What the hell have you been doing for the last 12 years? Knitting?
Knitting, yes. Well, no, I just think it's a combination of corporate-music America swallowing up the movement of the '70s and '80s. I got caught up in that in the '90s. I was on the edge of burnout with my ideas. I had a couple of kids too. I never meant it to be 12 years.
Is performing onstage at this age easier or harder than it was 20 years ago?
Yeah, I can't hear anything. I'm just guessing what I sing. Yeah, I mean obviously being 4,900 years old, one has to package one's energy.
Twenty years ago I had bags and bags of energy to burn. You had to take drugs to burn the energy off, you just couldn't do it onstage.
Most people would consider the '80s your heyday.
No, I had a really great time. I thought I kicked ass in the '80s. I kicked ass in the '90s when I wanted to. I'm kicking ass now.
In three words, tell people why they should get "Devil's Playground."
They'll have a great time. That's four words. [Laughs] That's why I'm doing this. I'm hopeless at math.