Seattle Under Siege

Seattle Under Siege

Seattle Under Siege

What the foreign papers are saying.
Dec. 2 1999 3:30 AM

Seattle Under Siege

The riots at the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle were the world's top story Wednesday. "Seattle Under Siege" was the most popular headline in the English-language press. Some British newspapers also fronted parallel demonstrations in London in which about 1,000 anti-capitalist protesters battled police at Euston railway station, leaving one police officer seriously injured. Regarding Seattle, the Times of India began its report: "It rains here almost every day. The day it does not, it is overcast. But weather alone wasn't causing gloom on Monday." The Guardian of London's John Vidal gave one of the better accounts of the scene. "Strains of Beethoven's fifth and Tina Turner drift in with the tear gas as gangs of black-masked protestors overturn newspaper stands," he wrote. "They try to smash a Starbucks coffee house door, but give up quickly. A McDonald's window is broken, then one in Gap. They race through three streets, followed by TV cameras." Vidal quoted a Chinese government observer: "I cannot see how America will not be politically embarrassed. The world is watching. What do they see? A major city in disorder. It looks bad." A South American delegate told Vidal, "We have come thousands of miles for these talks. America is supposed to lead the world--what has happened?"

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In the Evening Standard of London Wednesday, business editor Anthony Hilton said of the demonstrators in an op-ed piece: "Most could not explain why they were there--or what any of the others were protesting about. But they were most certainly there in huge numbers and upset about something. That, rather than anything specific, they said, was the message." He described them "in their Nike trainers, excitedly loading their Fuji film to take pictures with their Canons, chatting on their Nokia mobiles and dancing at the intersections to music from their Sonys" as "walking advertisements for the global economy." But he argued that what they were really doing was protesting against the unchallenged consensus in favor of free-market economics that has dominated the whole world for the past 10 years. "[P]eople and circumstances being what they are, any monopoly of political thought, however valid it may seem, becomes unsustainable," Hilton wrote. "Perhaps the real message of Seattle is that people are beginning, however uncertainly and inarticulately, to look for an alternative."

The Times of India had a scoop Wednesday. It discovered that the plane carrying Pakistan's military leader Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf on his coup mission in October had refueled twice on its way to Karachi. This is important because the hijacking charge against ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is based on Musharraf's claim that Sharif refused the aircraft permission to land despite the fact that it was out of fuel. In fact, claimed the paper, it had plenty of fuel, and the case against Sharif "may not finally hold ground."

In Israel Ha'aretz reported Wednesday that an important Chinese visitor secretly visited an aircraft fitted with the AWACS radar system that Israel has prepared especially for the Chinese air force. The inspection by Li Peng, chairman of China's National People's Congress, was added to his timetable at the last moment, the paper said. It also noted a report in the American magazine Aviation Week that the U.S. government asked Israel to reconsider its deal with the Chinese. "A senior source in Israel Military Industries called the American stance cynical and hypocritical," it said.

Wednesday being World AIDS Day, the syndrome received much attention in the international press. In London, the Financial Times reported that AIDS has reached an explosive stage in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country. It quoted from a survey carried out by the Nigerian government with help from Britain and the World Health Organization. "Nigeria has entered the stage where the epidemic is likely to increase at an exponential rate if adequate national response is not mounted to stem its spread. While there is a window of opportunity, this window is closing rapidly." The FT also ran an op-ed feature saying that AIDS is now the biggest killer of young adults in Africa. "The future of the next generation rests on whether governments and companies can join forces to control the disease," it said. While Reuters reported from Moscow that 10 percent of Russians may be infected with AIDS within the next five years, Japan's leading newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, said Wednesday that while AIDS is declining in other developed countries, the number of new cases in Japan is on the rise.

The Independent of London reported alleged new evidence in the Louise Woodward baby-murder case that could cast doubt on her conviction for manslaughter in Boston. It said her former American defense lawyer, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, had interviewed witnesses who claimed to have seen 8-and-a-half-month-old Matthew Eappen fall from a shopping cart in a south Boston toy store while out shopping with his father, apparently injuring his head. The incident was alleged to have taken place around Christmas 1996, just weeks before the former British au pair girl was arrested.

In an interview Wednesday with Corriere della Sera of Milan, Tina Brown predicted that Hillary Clinton will lose the senatorial contest in New York. The editor of Talk, who launched her magazine this year with Mrs. Clinton on the cover, said Rudolph Giuliani will "undoubtedly" win because women didn't like Hillary. They consider her "a hypercareerist perfectionist who always makes them feel inadequate, inferior, and ill-at-ease." The media are also against Hillary, Brown said, "They hate her in a much more visceral manner than Giuliani, who terrorizes them."

Brown also forecast that Vice President Al Gore will beat Texas Gov. George W. Bush to the White House. Gore is "top of the class, very cultivated, and well up on everything," while Bush's "total lack of political culture is obvious and is frightening," she said. "America's honeymoon with Bush will begin to turn sour at the end of next spring," she predicted. Questioned about the furor over Naomi Wolf's role as a Gore adviser, Brown said: "The savage fury against Wolf is the most sinister example of the anti-feminist sexism that will dominate the coming elections. … I think it is only a foretaste of the pseudo-political perfidy that awaits us in the next few months." Corriere questioned Ron Galotti, president of Talk Media Inc., about reports that Talk is in crisis and is about to be redesigned by Oliviero Toscani, the Italian behind the Benetton advertising campaign. "All balls" was his reply.