Life After Death
There is relentless speculation in the French news media about whether former president Nicolas Sarkozy could announce a political comeback. In a TV interview, Valérie Pécresse, who was Sarkozy’s spokeswoman and budget minister until François Hollande won election in May, was asked if her boss was “dead and buried”; and Pécresse responded, “There is a book that is the bestselling book in the world called the Bible, and in the Bible, there is the possibility of resurrection.” Although the thought of Sarkozy as the messiah should boggle the Gallic mind, many of the photos published of him post-Élysée show him bearded—like Jesus. This has inspired giggles in France because Sarkozy, when he was just an unsubtly ambitious cabinet minister in 2003, was asked on TV whether he thought about the presidential election during his morning shave. “Not simply when I shave,” he replied, effectively confirming he’d angle for a run in 2007. And now that he’s stopped shaving, what presidential conclusions might the nation draw? Despite Hollande’s meager approval ratings, a poll released last Friday showed that 55 percent of those asked whether they miss Sarkozy said non. That unloving statistic notwithstanding, Sarkozy is reported to have told another former cabinet colleague that “the question is not whether I come back, but [whether] I have the choice, morally speaking, of not coming back.”
The Best Business in Pakistan
Anti-Americanism runs deep and passionate in Pakistan, as the recent violent protests against Innocence of Muslims, an incendiary film about Islam, made depressingly clear. But as the Agence France-Presse has reported, this rage against Uncle Sam has had a deliciously ironic result: a boom in the sale of the Stars and Stripes in such places as Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, and Karachi. As anger over the film mounted, those in the flag business began licking their entrepreneurial lips. “I knew the tills would start ringing,” said one fabricator of flags and pennants. “Whenever we have these demonstrations, I make 10 times as much money as normal.” As readers will surely have surmised, American flags are purchased for burning at public demonstrations. (Pakistan’s traditional foe has slipped in the ire ratings: “It’s been a long time since I sold an Indian flag,” a shopkeeper told AFP.)
Big Bucks Stop Here
In a continent of unabashed kleptocrats, Joyce Banda, president of Malawi, shines like an improbable beacon of probity. Banda, who came to power in April after the death of her sticky-fingered predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika, has announced that she will set a personal example in these times of austerity by taking a 30 percent pay cut. “When I took over, the economy had almost collapsed. I told Malawians we needed to pass through difficult times,” she said to a local newspaper. Although her vice president, Khumbo Kachali, will emulate her sacrifice, the distinctly nondespotic Banda has stated that the rest of her cabinet need only do so on a voluntary basis. She has also announced that her government will sell off the presidential jet, controversially purchased by the spendthrift Mutharika. Banda has yet to set foot on the plane, a vehicle she has shunned with almost theatrical vehemence.
‘Let it Rot’
An unorthodox protest is underway among the normally docile citizens of Saudi Arabia. Faced with the soaring cost of chicken—a staple at the heaving dining tables of the desert kingdom—campaigners are urging Saudis to boycott the bird. The agitation has taken wing on Twitter, where a campaign called Let It Rot is exhorting people to punish traders—blamed for exploiting the shortage of chicken in jacking up prices to unconscionable heights—by leaving the meat untouched on supermarket shelves. “If you stop eating chicken,” an indignant tweet explained, “it will help bring down the corrupt traders, not just the prices.” Poultry prices have risen by as much as 50 percent in recent weeks. “There are many replacements for chicken such as fish, beef and vegetables,” a consumer tweeted, offering a helpful tip to drumstick-deprived compatriots.
With Luke Darby and Jane Teeling