That Sinking Feeling
For passionate Pacific Islanders, the people of Kiribati are displaying impressive sang-froid. Destined to disappear undersea as a result of climate change, the atoll nation is making arrangements for the day when it will exist only in out-of-date atlases. Kiribati’s government intends to purchase 6,000 acres in Fiji—a land blessed with less precarious sea levels, and, clearly, a very accommodating people—on which to relocate Kiribati’s entire population of 103,000. The projected date for the change of address: 2062.
The former prime minister of Iceland, Geir Haarde, is on trial in Reykjavik on charges of criminal negligence in his handling of the country’s economy, which disintegrated in 2008 with the collapse of the country’s main commercial banks. Haarde, who faces time in prison if convicted, sees himself as a recession martyr, describing his conscience as “clear” and his prosecution as “politically motivated” and “preposterous.”
‘We have too many foreigners in France’
Thus quipped Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the French Republic, in a recent television interview. A quiz for readers: Sarkozy’s own ancestors have their roots in: (a) Calais (b) Carcassonne (c) Neuilly-sur-Seine, or (d) Hungary? Answers on a postcard to the Élysée Palace, 55 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris, France. (Tel.: 33-1-42-92-8100)
Alien vs. Predator
The U.S. Supreme Court is taking a skeptical look at the Alien Tort statute, enacted in 1789, which courts have said allows a foreigner to sue another foreigner in the U.S. for rights violations committed on foreign soil. The law had lain dormant for nearly 200 years—until 1980, when a Paraguayan citizen brought successful suit in the U.S. against his Paraguayan police torturer for pain inflicted in Paraguay. Despondent rights lawyers are predicting that the conservative Roberts court will conclude that all this “universal jurisdiction” stuff has gotten out of hand.
A most tedious trope in American journalism—in which reporters feel compelled to point out that a person (invariably foreign) “uses only one name”—will get much-needed rest after the results of elections in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Chief Minister Mayawati (who uses only one name) lost power to a populist party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son, Akhilesh Singh Yadav, one of whom will become the next chief minister—and both of whom use only three names.
An increasingly republican Jamaica is in the throes of a debate on whether to ditch the British queen as its head of state. But on a royal visit last week, Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth’s more raffish grandson, gave Jamaicans a sense of what they’d miss if they fired his grandma. Apologizing for the queen’s absence, which left them “stuck” with him, Harry created a sympathetic stir by quoting Bob Marley: “But don’t worry, cos every little ting, gonna be aright.” He later danced with local women. (Those royals will stop at nothing to keep themselves in office.)
Valérie Trierweiler, the girlfriend of the Socialist frontrunner in the French presidential campaign, is furious with her employer, Paris Match, which featured her on its cover as “Valérie, François Hollande’s Charming Asset.” Trierweiler took to Twitter on March 8, accusing Paris Match of “sexism, on this [International] Women’s Day.” She had not, she tweeted cholerically, been forewarned about the cover. The glossy mag, uncowed, tweeted right back at her: “It’s true Valérie that we didn’t discuss the cover with you. That’s Match’s independence. You’re best placed to understand that.”