Is Scotland replacing subservience to England with vassalage to China? That is certainly the impression created by the snubbing of the Dalai Lama by Alex Salmond. The Tibetan spiritual leader, in Scotland on a “pastoral” visit, had hoped to meet the Scottish first minister, only to be told that there was no time for him on Salmond’s schedule. The Dalai Lama also found himself friendless in high places in Dundee, when the lord provost called off a speech he was due to give at a special event for the Tibetan. The BBC reported that the Chinese consul general to Scotland had paid a visit to city councilors in Dundee before the provost’s cancellation, leading to speculation that the latter had, in effect, been gagged by Beijing.
Australia’s acting prime minister, Wayne Swan, took aim at the world’s richest woman last week, suggesting that her actions could have a harmful effect on Australian society. Gina Rinehart, an iron-ore heiress worth $18 billion, recently acquired nearly a fifth of all shares in Fairfax, Australia’s largest media conglomerate, and is demanding the right to hire and fire editorial staff (in addition to three seats on the Fairfax board and the deputy chairman’s position). She is also adamantly opposed to signing the company’s charter of editorial independence. Swan called on Rinehart to “explain to the Australian people what her intentions are,” adding that her position had “very big implications for our democracy.” Rinehart, who had an uproarious public falling out with her late father in his last days—he called her a “devious baby elephant”—is sitting tight in her redoubt in Perth, refusing to take phone calls from the chairman of Fairfax unless he accedes to her demands.
The European Court of Justice has offered up an exquisite example of the sort of policy that many critics say is at the root of Europe’s economic malaise. The Luxembourg-based tribunal, ruling on an appeal from a Spanish employers’ association, held that an employee who falls sick while on vacation from work is legally entitled to take another vacation to make up for those furlough-days spoiled by sickness. “The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave,” the judgment stated, “is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure”—a legally mandated nirvana which cannot, clearly, be attained if the worker is under the weather.
A bristling maritime spat between China and the Philippines has abated for the moment with the clement intervention of some very ugly weather. As vessels from both countries jostled each other in the disputed Scarborough shoal off the Philippine coast, the arrival of typhoon season caused the ships to scuttle back to port. The Philippines claims the waters as part of its exclusive jurisdiction, an assertion the Chinese regard with characteristic contempt. When the weather improves, expect relations to deteriorate again.
Trouble and Strife
What an agitated week it’s been in France’s first household. Domestic relations turned distinctly turbulent chez Hollande when the French president’s partner, Valérie Trierweiler, tweeted her support for the man running for election against François Hollande’s ex-wife, Ségolène Royal. Royal lost, but not before calling Trierweiler a “traitor.” A less than uxorious Hollande was reported to be “furious” with Trierweiler, and Royal’s four children (fathered by Hollande) are now refusing to speak to Trierweiler. Jean-Marc Ayrault, the prime minister, jumped into the fray, cleats first, and told Trierweiler to “know her place.” Ignominious conclusion: Trierweiler apologized for the offending tweet, admitting she’d “made a mistake.”
Greece Exits Euro
There can be no doubt any longer: Germany owns Greece. Not content with humiliating a proud nation by paying for its people’s survival, the Germans handed the Greeks a clinical pounding in the quarterfinals of the Euro 2012 soccer championships, trampling their way to a 4–2 demolition of any remaining Hellenic dreams. There was, it should be said, not a trace of buyer’s remorse.
With Luke Kerr-Dineen.