The Hand that Feeds You
A notoriously thin-skinned nation played host to the Queen of Talk when Oprah Winfrey went to India for a segment of her new show, Oprah’s Next Chapter. Dining with a courtly Mumbai family—three generations of whom were present at the table to give their American visitor a tutorial in Indian culture—an expansive Oprah beamed at everyone and made small talk, including the observation that “I hear some Indian people eat with their hands still.” Although the family hosting her found this inquisitive comment inoffensive, telling her genially that Indians always eat with their hands, howls of indignation went up in the Indian media. The CNN-IBN website published an overwrought “Open letter to Oprah Winfrey from an Indian who eats with her hand,” whose author huffed: “Oprah, ... we are used to gross Western ignorance regarding our ancient country. But as a responsible public figure about to air a show that will be beamed across the world, you should have done your homework. Using our hands to eat is a well established tradition and a fact none of us are ashamed of.” Another indignant commentator, unimpressed also by Oprah’s choreographed visit to a Mumbai slum, described her as “myopic, unaware, ignorant, and gauche.” Advice to Oprah: pack a fork next time.
‘Revolución o Muerte?’
Was there foul play in the recent death of Oswaldo Payá, Cuba’s leading dissident, who was killed in a car crash near the eastern city of Bayamo? An editorial in The Wall Street Journal hints darkly that there may have been. Referring to Payá’s death—and to that of Laura Pollan, leader of the Ladies in White protest movement, from a mysterious illness that was never fully explained—the Journal says: “Twice in the past year a popular and internationally recognized leader for democracy in Cuba has died in unusual circumstances.” With Pollan and Payá out of the way, the Castro regime need no longer contend with two of its most headstrong and charismatic opponents. Payá, 60, was a Catholic pacifist who won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2002 for his indefatigable campaign for democratic reform in Communist Cuba. His widow has suggested that the car he was traveling in may have been rammed from behind before it crashed. She also told The Miami Herald that a Cuban police investigator who spoke to her after her husband died declared that “the revolution does not murder anyone.”
Hitting a High Note
Sixty years after her untimely death—she was only 33 when she succumbed to cancer—Eva Perón returns to Argentina as the winsome face of a newly designed banknote. The Perónist icon, known fondly as “Evita,” will grace the country’s 100-peso bill, on which, currently, is emblazoned the bearded visage of Julio Argentino Roca. Roca could not have been more unlike Evita: before he became president in 1880, he led military campaigns of ethnic cleansing in Patagonia, designed to rid those vast lands of their indigenous people so that European settlers could move in. Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner—who has been likened to Evita herself—has indicated that the Roca bills will be phased out over time. All this while the beleaguered Argentines themselves are showing a distinct preference for the American dollar.
Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition in the House of Commons, became the first senior British politician to visit the Elysée Palace when he was received by his center-left confrère, François Hollande. The French president overruled protocol that called for him to meet opposition leaders in private, investing the Miliband meeting with some of the flair and formality normally associated with a state visit. At the back of Hollande’s mind, no doubt, was his snubbing by David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, who gave him a wide berth when he was in London earlier this year during the French presidential campaign. The Cameron camp had cited protocol as an obstacle to any meeting between prime minister and opposition leader.
With Luke Kerr-Dineen