World on a Page: La Grande Feminisme Debate

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy
At the time, Nicolas Sarkozy’s divorce and subsequent marriage to model and musician Carla Bruni, right, seemed unorthodox. But his successor’s may be more shocking. Valérie Trierweiler’s book, right, is the first time a serving French president has been exposed to a kiss and tell while in office Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP-Getty Images

Hacked Off

No one in the U.K. expected the report of an official inquiry into press standards to be a breezy read, and Sir Brian Henry Leveson—whose name the report bears—did not disappoint. The judge, by all evidence an earnest, decent man, served up a 2,000-page tome that should have taken several days to plow through. And yet—thanks, no doubt, to the executive summary—political reaction was almost instantaneous, with Prime Minister David Cameron opposing the report and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg embracing it. Although it was not his intention to put Britain’s coalition government under strain, this rift between the P.M. and his number two would appear to be the report’s most eye-catching achievement. Its main recommendation, the setting up by statute of an independent panel to regulate the press (and also to punish it in case of breaches of prescribed standards), looks unlikely to win 
sufficient support in a country that adores its free-wheeling newspapers even more than it reviles them. The British are, ultimately, a pragmatic people wary of regulation. An old Fleet Street sage told this columnist that “the law already exists to penalize phone hacking, bribery, and libel.” Warming to the subject, he continued: “The Palladium of a Free Press is the market. The cure is not to buy the rubbish, if you don’t like it, and to prosecute like mad if the hacks break the law. It is dangerous and undemocratic to bring back a prefect of the press, as existed under the King Georges.”

Careless Carla

Hell, as we all know, hath no fury quite like that of women scorned, and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is the latest to testify to the ardent truth of that Shakespearean adage. In an interview with French Vogue, the former French first lady remarked somewhat insouciantly that “You don’t need to be a feminist in my generation.” Why? Because “there are pioneers who paved the way.” She added that she was “not at all a militant feminist,” but was, in fact, “a bourgeoise.” Twitter, sure enough, went indignantly to town, with a feminist group exhorting users to “Express to Carla Bruni why your generation needs feminism,” as well as to accompany their displeasure with the hashtag #ChereCarlaBruni (#DearCarlaBruni). A chastened Carla soon beat a retreat, expiating her sin in an interview with Elle’s French website: “This phrase [I used] is very clumsy and translates my thoughts poorly ... ” She had, she insisted, supported the cause of women “on many occasions.”

Poet in Prison

A court in Qatar, the land of Al Jazeera, has sentenced a poet to life imprisonment for criticizing the country’s emir in verse. Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, who has already spent a year in prison, largely in solitary confinement, was not allowed to defend himself in court. After the judges ruled against him, a despairing Ajami, clearly praying for a royal pardon, told Reuters, “The Emir is a good man. I think he doesn’t know that they have me here ...” In his offending poem, Ajami had written that “If the sheikhs cannot carry out justice, we should change the power and give it to the beautiful woman.” He also wrote of “sheikhs, playing with their PlayStations.” The poem, “Jasmine,” was penned in the wake of the uprising in Tunisia: “We are all Tunisia, in the face of the repressive elite.”

Aakash-2 tablet India’s tablet arrives—by way of China. Stan Honda / AFP-Getty Images

Cheap Tablet, Bitter Pill

A $40 tablet, hailed in India as a national technological breakthrough and unveiled with such fanfare at the United Nations that Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, lauded India as a “superpower on the information superhighway,” was, in fact, not made in India. The deflating truth was revealed by the Hindustan Times, a New Delhi newspaper, which reported that the tablets—called Aakash 2—were bought off-the-shelf in China. When faced with the report, the CEO of DataWind, the company that supplies the tablets to the Indian government, conceded that the devices were “kitted” in China “for expediency’s sake.” China and India, he continued eccentrically, “are neighbors. China is part of the global community. In my mind there is no controversy, all that there is is sensationalism.”

With Luke Darby and Jane Teeling

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