The World on a Page

By Varadarajan, Tunku | Newsweek, April 18, 2012 | Go to article overview

The World on a Page


Varadarajan, Tunku, Newsweek


Byline: Tunku Varadarajan

Provocative poetry, prohibited cheese.

Scoop D'Etat

The Indian Express, a Delhi daily, put on a world-class show of histrionics last week when it gave over its entire front page to a report of fears in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office of an attempted coup by the Indian Army. "The January Night Raisina Hill Was Spooked," screamed the banner headline, referring to "panic" in the district that houses the major government ministries on Jan. 16 when two armored units rumbled their way toward the Indian capital. It was a routine exercise to test their mobility in nighttime fog. By coincidence, the movements occurred on the very day the Army's chief of staff, a disgruntled general who is battling to extend his tenure, lodged his case with the Indian Supreme Court. The excitable Express, for whom 2 and 2 made 6 (if not 8), saw in all of this clear evidence of military mutiny. The prime minister's office dismissed the story as "bunkum."

HMS Courteous

A Type 45 class of air-defense destroyer--in plain English, a seriously nasty naval ship--is sailing for the Falkand Islands as part of Britain's "defense diplomacy." Anticipating Argentine hysteria, a spokesman for the Royal Navy was quick to stress that HMS Dauntless would be making only a "courtesy visit" to the British colony in the South Atlantic. Unfortunately, another spokesman torpedoed that narrative by pointing out to the British press that "a Type 45 is capable of wiping out the Argentine Air Force in a day if they were foolish enough to take us on." That, if it were to happen, would make the ship's visit very discourteous indeed.

Grass On Fire

"Why did I wait until now at this advanced age and with the last bit of ink to say: The nuclear power Israel is endangering a world peace that is already fragile?" These lines by Gunter Grass, published in the Suddeutsche Zeitung and described, somewhat eccentrically, as "poetry," resulted in a major blitz of outrage in Germany and Israel. The very un-Rilke-like poem, titled "What Must Be Said," also calls for "unhindered and permanent monitoring of Israel's nuclear potential and Iran's nuclear facility through an international entity that the government of both countries would approve." The Israeli Embassy in Berlin responded in prose--OK, make that drama: "What must be said is that it is a European tradition to accuse the Jews before the Passover festival of ritual murder. …

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