Europe: News round-up


A man shows the French satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo," featuring a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover, following a petrol bomb attack on the magazine's offices on November 2, 2011 in Paris, France.


Marc Piasecki

There's more to going on in Europe than the renewed Greek crisis. Here's a round-up

Charlie Hebdo ... feel better now?

The offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris were firebombed yesterday. The weekly published an edition "guest edited by Muhammad" to mock the victory of the moderate Islamist An-Nadha party in Tunisia's elections two weeks ago. It also changed its name from Charlie to Sharia Hebdo (the "ch" is pronounced sh in French so the pun works.) Ho-Ho-ho

Anyway, we don't expect much from satirical mags, although sometimes they hit the nail on the head, but really, what is it with mocking Mohammed via cartoons in Europe? A Danish newspaper did the same thing a couple of years ago and sparked an international outcry.

I've reported extensively on Muslim immigrants over the last decade. They are for the most part moderate and if they remain ghetto-ized it is more likely to be because the local population resents and discriminates against them. Radical islamic beliefs arrived late in Europe, usually brought by people fleeing oppression in their own countries. Radicals are a small fraction of the total Muslim population.

I know all the free-speech arguments for allowing this kind of mockery. But I don't recall Charlie Hebdo running a picture of the German pope wearing a Nazi armband while joining pedophile priests in an orgy with little boys.  Just to make a satirical point about the hypocrisy of the Church. 

I do recall the New Statesman running a cover some years ago on Jewish influence in the UK that showed the point of a shiny metal Star of David being jabbed into the island of Britain. It was as anti-Semitic an image as it sounds ... and as a Jew I had to ask myself whether free speech had reached its limits ... and also just what the editor of the magazine, Peter Wilby, really thought about people like me.

In Europe, minority religions are fair game, I guess, in the name of free speech.

Anyway, here is a link to a story about it and Charlie Hebdo's Facebook page

2. What the Frack?

Britain is a moderate seismic zone. Every once in a while I feel a gentle rumble, kind of like standing on Central Park West when the "A" train rumbles by. That's an earthquake.

But California or Turkey or Japan we are not.

Residents in Lancashire last spring felt the earth move when they weren't having sex. It emerges that these earthquakes may well have been caused by "fracking." Cuadrilla Resources has been "fracking" - using high pressure to extract natural gas from rocks in the vicinity. yesterday the company issued a report saying it was "highly probable" that fracking at deep levels had cause the seismic events. They have agreed to suspend operations.

3. Silvio Berlusconi's Next Career Move?

In a rare display of tact and empathy, Silvio Berlusconi is delaying the release of his new CD. Before he was Prime Minister, before he was a media-magnate and property billionaire, Berlusconi was a singer on cruise ships. Music in his soul. He has made a number of recordings over the years and the latest, "True Love," was due for release last month. Release has been postponed until later in November.

My guess is most of his euro zone colleagues hope it is hugely successful and that Berlusconi goes off to Vegas to play a permanent engagement in the Bunga-Bunga room at some big hotel on the strip.

4. Attack on Professor Krugman

The Daily Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the thinking liberal's hard right economics commentator takes on the NY Times Nobel-prize winning economic commentator Paul Krugman over the latter's comments on David Cameron's austerity program for the UK.

It's worth a look.