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Firstly, the new treaty would add to the powers of the Brussels institutions, which already make the majority of our laws, in over 40 new policy areas - including energy, transport, tourism, public services, space, sport, civil and criminal law, civil protection, public health, the EU budget - while correspondingly reducing the powers of national States, national parliaments and citizens.
1) EU Constitution by any other name At the summit on June 21-22 EU leaders agreed a deal on a revised Constitutional Treaty. While the treaty is not yet finalised - the politicians only signed up to an outline of a text which will be thrashed out by diplomats between July and October - it is clear that they have agreed to retain the vast bulk of the proposals from the original Constitution. In a detailed analysis, Open Europe argues that almost all of the contents of the original EU Constitution are to be reintroduced in the "new" version of the Constitutional Treaty. The report highlights at least 40 areas where the contents are the same as the EU Constitution - which was overwhelmingly rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. Click the link to read the analysis, "The EU Constitution by any other name": http://www.openeurope.org.uk/research/byanyothername.pdf
The Government is attempting to persuade voters that the new treaty is very different from the EU Constitution, and therefore not worthy of a referendum, even though it is unable to point to any substantial differences between the texts. The Government has even resorted to claiming that the difference is that the new text is not a Constitution because it does not contain things such as the EU flag and anthem. According to the Downing Street website: "Asked what it was in 2005 that required a referendum, and what were the elements of the constitution, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman replied they were elements such as flags, national anthems, etc." In a short briefing note we examine the Government's case against holding a referendum: http://www.openeurope.org.uk/research/government_arguments.pdf
In a separate briefing, we look at EU leaders' attempts to avoid holding referendums across Europe as well as looking at opinion poll data on what voters in other European countries think: http://www.openeurope.org.uk/research/referendums.pdf
Open Europe has also released a briefing calling on the Liberal Democrats "keep their promise to back a referendum". It argues that withdrawing their previous support for a public vote in order to please the Government would rob the Liberal Democrats of their distinctive commitment to principle. http://www.openeurope.org.uk/research/libdems.pdf
2) Red lines beginning to fade After signing the deal on the revised Constitutional Treaty, Tony Blair declared that it was a good deal for Britain because "The four essential things that we in the UK required in order to protect our position have all been obtained." But the 'red lines' were there as a smokescreen. The Government aimed to focus attention on areas where it thought it was likely to get a result in order to distract attention from everything else it was giving up. For example, the 'red line' securing a safeguard on social security rights for migrant workers was never actually up for negotiation. Unfortunately for the Government, legal experts have begun to question whether the safeguards that the Government has put in place to attempt to protect its other "red lines" will be worth the paper they are written on.
Charter of Fundamental Rights The Government repeatedly insisted that it did not want the Charter of Fundamental Rights to become "legally binding" in the UK. But the new treaty states that "the article on fundamental rights will contain a cross reference to the Charter on Fundamental Rights, giving it legally binding value." Open Europe interviewed several European Court of Justice (ECJ) judges who said the Charter would change national laws, despite the safeguards. This is crucial, as it would be the Court's judges who would ultimately decide on how to interpret the Charter if the Constitutional Treaty is ratified. One EU judge said it would be "a basis for challenging national law". Another has said it is "foolish" to think it will not affect national laws. Even the President of the Court explicitly refused to deny that the Charter may be used to change member states' laws. Several judges said that the Charter, despite the "safeguards", would give the court "more power". Asked whether the proposal for safeguards would work, one judge said "I guess not, because I saw what was the destiny of other safeguard clauses in the treaty." The Government has inserted a new clause into the revised Constitutional Treaty which it hopes will give the UK an "opt-out" from the Charter, but legal experts have already called it into question. Jacques Ziller, a professor at the European University Institute in Florence, said that the idea of one country opting out of the Charter was "nonsense" and would quickly be challenged in the courts. (European Voice, 31 May 2007) Former EU Justice Commissioner Antonio Vitorino has questioned the legal basis for the British opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights and warned that it would not work. The Commission's legal experts have also taken the same view. (Guardian, 26 June 2007) Legal Adviser to the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, Michael Carpenter questioned the claim by Tony Blair that the Charter of Fundamental Rights will not extend the ability of the European Court of Justice to challenge UK laws. Carpenter said: "This is a high standard to set, and I doubt if what appears to have been agreed secures this result." He indicated that the Charter could have an indirect impact on UK law, if the Court gave a ruling on the Charter's effect on a given EU law in another member state. An EU official told EUobserver that the British exemption from the Charter of Fundamental Rights is "complicated" and that "The opt-out probably does not cover the whole of the Charter. The scope of application does not seem to be extraordinarily wide." (27 June 2007) The Government has potentially created a lawyers' paradise with this messy fudge. It has clearly broken its repeated promise that the Charter would not become legally binding, whilst it is becoming clear that the much-vaunted safeguards simply will not work. For more information on what a legally binding Charter would mean in practice see our new briefing: http://www.openeurope.org.uk/research/charteranalysis.pdf
Foreign policy Despite repeated assurances from the Government that giving up vetoes in foreign policy was a "no-go area", the revised Constitutional Treaty would in fact introduce majority voting in seven areas of foreign policy. The most important of these would be on proposals made by the new EU Foreign Minister. This was initially described as "simply unacceptable" by Jack Straw when he was Foreign Secretary. Unfortunately, the Government has rolled over and accepted it. At the summit, Tony Blair strove to keep foreign policy inter-governmental and outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. But according to Foreign Office officials, who spoke to the News of the World, this failed. The guarantee Blair had written into the new treaty was a "declaration" and not a "protocol". A Foreign Office aide said, "There is a massive difference between a declaration and a protocol. Everything else in the treaty is a protocol, but this is just a declaration. It is a worthless promise and not legally binding. Brussels will gradually expand its role in security, defence and foreign policy." (24 June) The British Government also got the name of the EU Foreign Minister changed to "High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy". But several EU leaders have played down the significance of this. Nicolas Sarkozy said, "What does it matter what we call him?" A Spanish diplomat said, "If your name is Maria, you can call yourself Jane, but you will still do Maria's job. We have exactly what we wanted. The foreign minister will have the political clout necessary to do his job and will control the administrative services too. Blair was worried about this, but over lunch he calmed down."
Justice and Home Affairs Another of the
Government's 'red lines' was to maintain control over
crime and policing issues. What was eventually
agreed was an opt-in arrangement - whereby the UK will
have to decide whether to participate in new measures or
not. The problem is that once the UK has opted-in,
it cannot decide to pull back out - even if the resulting
law is not to its liking and it is outvoted. But
even more significantly, under the new Constitutional
Treaty the European Court of Justice would get full
jurisdiction over justice and policing. This would
make the ECJ the highest criminal court in the land,
clearly breaching previous promises and crossing the red
line. The Government themselves admitted that it was a
big transfer of national sovereignty:
3) What other EU leaders are saying While the Government is attempting to argue that the revised Constitutional Treaty is fundamentally different to the old version, other EU leaders are being more honest. German Chancellor Angela Merkel "The substance of the constitution is preserved. That is a fact." Telegraph (29 June) Author of the EU Constitution Giscard d'Estaing "This text is, in fact, a rerun of a great part of the substance of the Constitutional Treaty." Telegraph (27 June) German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier It will "preserve the substance of the Constitutional Treaty". Agence Europe (25 June) Spanish Prime Minister Jose Zapatero "A great part of the content of the European Constitution is captured in the new treaties". El Pais (23 June) Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen "The good thing is...that all the symbolic elements are gone, and that which really matters - the core - is left." Jyllands-Posten (25 June) Finnish Europe Minister Astrid Thors "There's nothing from the original institutional package that has been changed." TV-Nytt (23 June) Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern "Given the fact that there was strong legal advice that the draft constitution in 2004 would require a referendum in Ireland, and given the fact that these changes haven't made any dramatic change to the substance of what was agreed back in 2004, I think it is likely that a referendum will be held... thankfully they haven't changed the substance - 90 per cent of it is still there." Irish Independent (24 June) EU Commissioner Margot Wallstrom "It's essentially the same proposal as the old Constitution." Svenska Dagbladet (26 June)
4) Getting ready to campaign for a vote: how you can help We believe that in the modern world decisions should be made at the local level - close to the people they affect. The last thing we want is to give even more power to remote EU officials who are not accountable to anyone. But the EU just keeps trying to grab more and more powers, no matter how many times people say "no". We need a vote to make Europe's politicians finally listen to the people - and sort out the failings of the EU. The new constitutional treaty is yet another step in the wrong direction. It will be more of the same, consolidating the current failings of the EU, rather than introducing the reforms that Europe desperately needs. Open Europe will be pressing to make sure that people are given the vote they were promised. We will be working to make the case against the new treaty in every region. If you would like to help please contact our Campaigns Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org
5) Open Europe's alternative family photo Open Europe staged an alternative 'family photo' on the edges of the EU summit on June 21. It featured life-size cardboard cut-outs of all 27 EU leaders standing with their fingers in their ears, symbolising how politicians have disregarded the "no" votes in France and the Netherlands and ignored Europe's voters throughout the negotiation process. The stunt was a huge success - over 35 TV crews from across Europe came to film the cut-outs and interview Open Europe Vice-Chairman Derek Scott. The image also appeared in newspapers and magazines across the EU. For more information and pictures from the stunt, please follow the link below: http://www.openeurope.org.uk/media-centre/article.aspx?newsid=1934
6) News in Brief German politicians call for a "supra-national European army." A number of leading MPs from the governing German SPD party have called on EU members to "integrate our national armies into a supra-national army, a European army." In their report - "On the way towards a European army" - they argue that, "National armies within an increasingly strong, supranational EU will gradually develop into relics of the last century We should build on the successes of the European unification process, and as an expression of our common security interests we should have the courage to initiate a development at the end of which we have a European army." EU spending millions on empty buildings. A report for the Court of Auditors has revealed that the EU is wasting tens of millions of euros by negotiating construction deals behind closed doors and by renting instead of buying many of its own buildings. The report reveals for example that the Commission is paying ¤6 million in rent for an empty building and that the Parliament bought three buildings worth ¤143 million in Strasbourg, without taking into account decades of rent paid, which had been inflated by the Strasbourg authorities. (FT 28 June EUobserver 27 June)
Portugal hopes to reach agreement on Constitution by October 18. The incoming Portuguese Presidency has set aside only three months for negotiation on a new EU treaty. Formal negotiations will be opened on 23 July with the aim to have them concluded by 18-19 October. (EUobserver Le Monde 26 June)
New ICM poll: refusal to hold a referendum would
cost Brown Labour votes. A new ICM poll of 1,000
people for Open Europe found that a majority of voters of
all political parties want a referendum on the new
constitutional treaty - and don't want to give more
powers to the EU. The poll also finds that refusing
to hold a referendum may well damage Labour at the next
election. 83% of Labour voters want a vote to be
held on the text, as do 88% of Lib-Dem and Tory voters.
88% of trade union members want a referendum. 43%
of Labour voters say they will be "definitely less
likely" to vote for Brown if he does not hold a
release 21 June)
7) Open Europe in the news Sarkozy scuttles
EU with change to Treaty Bloomberg
27 June On Bloomberg, in reference to Sarkozy's
removal of the EU's commitment to "free and
undistorted competition" Open Europe Director Neil
O'Brien argued "We'll need to see what the lawyers
make of it in practice. But this is a bad sign of the
direction Europe is taking.''
Open Europe's alternative 'family photo' attracts Europe-wide media attention Newsnight Guardian 10 O'clock Hoy MetroHK Politiken Swedish Television Swedish Television2 Irish Times Danish TV Spiegel Conservative Home BBC
22 June Open Europe staged an alternative 'family photo' on the edges of the EU summit, featuring life-size cardboard cut-outs of all 27 EU leaders standing with their fingers in their ears. More than 35 camera and broadcast crews came to film the image and interview Open Europe Vice Chairman Derek Scott. Derek was interviewed on the BBC 6 O'clock news, 10 O'clock news, Newsnight, ITN's 6:30 and 10:30 news bulletins, Channel 4, CNBC and Al Jazeera English. Derek was also interviewed by television stations from most other major EU countries, including: German channels ARD, WDR, Deutsche Welle and ZDF; LC1 and TF1 from France; RTE from Ireland; RTP from Portugal; and RAI from Italy. The image was one of BBC online's pictures of the day, and was featured in Spiegel, the Guardian, the Metro, Sunday Times, Dutch daily NRC Handelblad, the Herald, Danish daily Politiken, on the front page of Belgian daily Het Laatste Niews, and in Spanish dailies Hoy and El Norte de Castilla. The picture was also picked up by Reuters, AFP and Associated Press, and featured on Conservative Home. Open Europe's Mats Persson appeared on Swedish Television's 6 and 9 o'clock news programmes and Danish Radio. Lorraine Mullally was interviewed by Channel Russia and EUX-TV. Paul Stephenson was interviewed by Danish state broadcaster DR, Danish Radio and BBC Five Live. Neil O'Brien appeared on BBC News 24. Crews from the Netherlands, the US, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Georgia and Lithuania also filmed the stunt. Open Europe's Paul Stephenson was quoted in the Irish Times arguing that "Millions of Europeans voted against the constitutional treaty, and our leaders still don't listen". He objected to the "elitist" way the summit is being conducted: "It's all behind closed doors, in secret."
86% of voters want a referendum on a new EU
blog 21 June The Evening Standard reported on Open
Europe's new ICM poll, which found that 86% of voters
want a referendum on the new EU treaty, as well as a
majority of voters of all political parties. The
poll was also mentioned on the Spectator blog, and in Le
Figaro, which noted the result that 43% of Labour voters
will be "definitely less likely" to vote for
Gordon Brown if he does not hold a referendum.
"I am very surprised by the view of those who say
that one is not allowed to return to the questions of
history," he told the newspaper. "The Germans
return to this question. The expellee federations do, as
does (head of the Federation of German Expellees) Erika
He also talked about "a revision of memory" in Germany. "Germany was not a victim of this war. Germany was the aggressor," he said. "If someone creates the impression that the suffering of Germany is comparable with that of Poland's, then that is very disturbing."
He also blamed an ongoing media skirmish between the
two neighbors on the German side. "The attacks in
the media, and not only in the media, come from
Germany," he said, adding that he could "only
hope that that dies down with time." He said he felt
recent Wprost cover image of German Chancellor Angela
Merkel breast-feeding the Kaczynski twins
In the interview he also reiterated his claim, which
he made Wednesday on Polish radio, that a verbal
agreement had been reached at the
recent EU summit
New treaty outline creates fresh question marks
23.06.2007 - 01:11 CET
Dismay over competition shift(President Sarkosy set this in motion when forbidding Spanish purchase of French company last month)
By Tobias Buck and Bertrand Benoit in Brussels
Published: June 22 2007 20:25 | Last updated: June 22 2007 20:25
A deal to remove the commitment to free and undistorted competition from the European Union treaty sparked howls of protests from business leaders, regulators and antitrust experts on Friday.While goals such as full employment and social progress will be held up as core objectives in the EUs new legal foundation, free competition will be downgraded, mentioned only in a protocol attached to the treaty.
Diplomats and officials claimed the move which came at the bequest of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president would not diminish the European Commissions powers to pursue and punish competition abuses. A German official was adamant that removing the reference from the general objectives would not weaken the legal basis for EU competition policy because it is mentioned a total of 13 times in other EU texts.
But antitrust specialists dismissed that argument, warning that it would still have a negative impact on the Brussels competition watchdog and the European courts. Professor Damien Geradin, director of the Global Competition Law Centre at the College of Europe and a partner at Howrey, a law firm, said: To mention the importance of competition law in a protocol does not address the concerns. Removing competition from the objectives of the treaty is extremely unfortunate and damaging.Frank Montag, partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and chairman of the antitrust lawyers association of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, described the move as a catastrophe. He said: If I was a judge at the European Court of Justice I would have to assume a protocol has a different legal status from something that is in the treaty. This is just window-dressing.Lawyers and former competition officials such as Mario Monti, former EU competition commissioner, believe the change will make it more difficult for Brussels to crack down on protectionism and antitrust abuses. They point out that the European Court of Justice, the EUs highest court, frequently refers to EU objectives when it examines competition cases.John Fingleton, chief executive of Britains antitrust watchdog, the Office of Fair Trading, said it would be shocking if competition were eliminated from the list of EU objectives enshrined in the treaty. One worry is how this would work at a legal level and the fear is that it would weaken the competition rules. But even more worrying is the fact that we need to persuade consumers and everyone else that competition is a good thing.
Business groups were also up in arms: This could have a very negative effect. We are worried, said Wim Philippa, secretary-general of the European Round Table of Industrialists, whose members include chief executives and chairmen such as BPs Peter Sutherland and Thierry Desmaret of Total.We think this could take away the pillar of the [EU] internal market. And it would be food for people arguing in favour of economic nationalism, Mr Philippa added.Business Europe, the pan-European business lobby representing more than 16m companies, also voiced concern. Jérôme Chauvin, the groups director for legal affairs, said: We would be worried if this had an effect on EU competition policy.
While the Commission derives its powers to fight cartels, illegal state aid and anti-competitive mergers from other clauses in the treaty, legal experts insist that those competencies are underpinned and fortified by the reference to competition in the EUs overall objectives. This principle is the bedrock on which competition law provisions?.?.?.?are based, said Prof Geradin.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Green Shift, the project will replace energy-absorbing PCs with greener alternatives in up to 10 cities by the end of 2009. It aims to change the way computers work and how they deal with email and internet surfing.
Green data centres will host services such as email
and deliver them using non-fossil-fuel power. People will
be able to access the service through a small desktop box
rather than having to have their own
BlackBerry ban for French cabinet
By Mark Solomons in Paris
Published: June 19 2007 20:08 | Last updated: June 19 2007 20:08
Members of the new French cabinet have been told to stop using their BlackBerries because of fears that the US could intercept state secrets.The SGDN, which is responsible for national security, has banned the use of the personal data assistants by anyone in the presidents or prime ministers offices on the basis of a very real risk of interception by third parties.The ban has been prompted by SGDN concerns that the BlackBerry system is based on servers located in the US and the UK, and that highly sensitive strategic information being passed between French ministers could fall into foreign hands.
A confidential study carried out two years ago by Alain Juillet, the civil servant in charge of economic intelligence, found that the BlackBerry posed a data security problem.Mr Juillet noted that US bankers would prove their bona fides in meetings by first placing their BlackBerries on the table and removing the batteries.
Although the foreign ministry is thought to have long taken heed of an earlier ban on the use of BlackBerries, members of other government departments are said to have been still secretly using the devices.President Nicolas Sarkozy is often seen with a mobile phone clamped to his ear and was engrossed in calls for much of his election day victory parade in Paris.But Mr Sarkozy and his cabinet colleagues face limits on their embrace of the digital age. Ministers have complained that the SGDN went ahead with the ban but has still to provide advice on alternative options. They dont seem to operate in the same time frame as us, complained one.
The BlackBerry has become the favoured communications accessory of bankers, journalists and others, but the government is following an example set by the French private sector. Total, the oil company, has never allowed its staff to use the BlackBerry, also for security reasons according to the company. There are plenty of other perfectly good PDAs, Total said.
Le Monde, which first reported the ban on Tuesday, said officials feared messages could be intercepted by US agencies such as the National Security Agency because they ran through servers in the US and Britain. It quoted Alain Juillet, an official in charge of economic intelligence issues as saying that the Blackberry poses a problem of data security.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
best efforts of Google to cozy up to Red China, Google
Video is blocked.Say goodbye to e mail as a reliable form
of communication. If the person you're writing to has an
account with a mail service that the government doesn't
like, the mail is simply returned to you and you're
informed that the recipient is an "illegal
user".Keyword logging is also employed to block out
individual words - if you include them in the e mail then
you've just wasted your time in writing it because it
doesn't get through.
We may say
goodbye to Googling away to our heart's content. If you
input too many sensitive words in one go, as I did with
"Bush" and "Taiwan" - google.com ceases to be accessible
at all and in some cases your Internet connection is
Sarkozy chooses Socialist as Foreign
Robert Fisk: How can Blair possibly be given this job?
Here is a politician who has failed in everything he has ever tried to do in the Middle East
Published: 23 June 2007
I suppose that astonishment is not the word for it. Stupefaction comes to mind. I simply could not believe my ears in Beirut when a phone call told me that Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara was going to create "Palestine". I checked the date - no, it was not 1 April - but I remain overwhelmed that this vain, deceitful man, this proven liar, a trumped-up lawyer who has the blood of thousands of Arab men, women and children on his hands is really contemplating being "our" Middle East envoy.
Can this really be true? I had always assumed that Balfour, Sykes and Picot were the epitome of Middle Eastern hubris. But Blair? That this ex-prime minister, this man who took his country into the sands of Iraq, should actually believe that he has a role in the region - he whose own preposterous envoy, Lord Levy, made so many secret trips there to absolutely no avail - is now going to sully his hands (and, I fear, our lives) in the world's last colonial war is simply overwhelming.
Of course, he'll be in touch with Mahmoud Abbas, will try to marginalise Hamas, will talk endlessly about "moderates"; and we'll have to listen to him pontificating about morality, how he's absolutely and completely confident that he's doing the right thing (and this, remember, is the same man who postponed a ceasefire in Lebanon last year in order to share George Bush's ridiculous hope of an Israeli victory over Hizbollah) in bringing peace to the Middle East...
Not once - ever - has he apologised. Not once has he said he was sorry for what he did in our name. Yet Lord Blair actually believes - in what must be a record act of self-indulgence for a man who cooked up the fake evidence of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" - that he can do good in the Middle East.
For here is a man who is totally discredited in the region - a politician who has signally failed in everything he ever tried to do in the Middle East - now believing that he is the right man to lead the Quartet to patch up "Palestine".
In the hunt for quislings to do our bidding - ie accept even less of Mandate Palestine than Arafat would stomach - I suppose Blair has his uses. His unique blend of ruthlessness and dishonesty will no doubt go down quite well with our local Arab dictators.
And I have a suspicion - always assuming this extraordinary story is not untrue - that Blair will be able to tour around Damascus, even Tehran, in his hunt for "peace", thus paving the way for an American exit strategy in Iraq. But "Palestine"?
The Palestinians held elections - real, copper-bottomed ones, the democratic variety - and Hamas won. But Blair will presumably not be able to talk to Hamas. He'll need to talk only to Abbas's flunkies, to negotiate with an administration described so accurately this week by my old colleague Rami Khoury as a "government of the imagination".
The Americans are talking - and here I am quoting the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack - about an envoy who can work "with the Palestinians in the Palestinian system" to develop institutions for a "well-governed state". Oh yes, I can see how that would appeal to Lord Blair. He likes well-governed states, lots of "terror laws", plenty of security - though I'm still a bit puzzled about what the "Palestinian system" is meant to be.
It was James Wolfensohn who was originally "our" Middle East envoy, a former World Bank president who left in frustration because he could neither reconstruct Gaza nor work with a "peace process" that was being eroded with every new Jewish settlement and every Qassam rocket fired into Israel. Does Blair think he can do better? What honeyed words will we hear?
I bet he doesn't mention the Israeli wall which is taking so much extra land from the Palestinians. It will be a "security barrier" or a "fence" (like the famous Berlin "fence" which was actually called a "security barrier" by those generous East German Vopo cops of the time).
There will be appeals for restraint "on all sides", endless calls for "moderation", none at all for justice (which is all the people of the Middle East have been pleading for over the past 100 years).
And Israel likes Lord Blair. Indeed, Blair's slippery use of language is likely to appeal to Ehud Olmert, whose government continues to take Arab land for Jews and Jews only as he waits to discover a Palestinian with whom he can "negotiate", Mahmoud Abbas now having the prestige of a rabbit after his forces were crushed in Gaza.
Which of "Palestine"'s two prime ministers will Blair talk to? Why, the one with a collar and tie, of course, who works for Mr Abbas, who will demand more "security", tougher laws, less democracy.
I have never been able to figure out why the Middle East draws the Balfours and the Sykeses and the Blairs into its maw. Once, our favourite trouble-shooter was James Baker - who worked for George W's father until the Israelis got tired of him - and before that we had a whole list of UN Secretary Generals who visited the region, frowned and warned of serious consequences if peace did not soon come.
I recall another man with Blair's pomposity, a certain Kurt Waldheim, who - no longer the UN's boss - actually believed he could be an "envoy" for peace in the Middle East, despite his little wartime career as an intelligence officer for the Wehrmacht's Army Group "E".
His visits - especially to the late King Hussein -
came to nothing, of course. But Waldheim's ability to
draw a curtain over his wartime past does have one thing
in common with Blair. For Waldheim steadfastly,
pointedly, repeatedly, refused to acknowledge - ever -
that he had ever done anything wrong. Now who does that
remind you of?
He was so skilled, in fact, that it almost seemed that he could stop Rome's large army single-handedly. But in the end Archimedes fell victim to brute force after all. One of the greatest inventors of all time, Archimedes was killed at the age of 73. His murder, notes British philosopher Paul Strathern, was "the Romans' only decisive contribution to mathematics."
Archimedes prepared the way for integral calculus and approximated the number Pi. He discovered the law of leverage and invented new formulas to calculate the properties of cylinders and spheres. He once yelled "Eureka" while bathing, after having dreamed up the concept of specific weight while splashing around. He even specified the number of grains of sand that could fit into the universe: 1063. Until then the Greeks had merely left it at a "myriad" (or 10,000).
"It took almost 2,000 years before anyone else could hold a candle to him," Strathern says about this extraordinary man, who lived from 285 to 212 B.C. But brilliance had its drawbacks. Archimedes was often so engrossed in thought that he would forget to eat -- and he bathed infrequently. But aside from that, researchers know little about this oddball from the early days of geometry and mechanics. Unfortunately many of his writings were lost, while the rest have been handed down in the form of Arabic and Latin copies. Vandals destroyed his famous planetarium, with its water-powered wheelworks.
But now a Greek original has been discovered after all. In "The Archimedes Codex," recently published in English, two US researchers describe the decoding of a manuscript from the early days of mathematics. It took the authors years of painstaking work to "extract the secrets from these faded letters."
Old Manuscript for $2.2 Million
The Beck publishing house, which will first publish the German edition on Sept. 17, is also heavily promoting the book. With a scheduled initial printing of 20,000 copies, Beck is advertising the book as an "important work." "Our scientific view of the world is turned upside down," the publisher raves in the press release.
The fuss revolves around a manuscript that caused an uproar once before, in October 1998, when a fragile, handwritten manuscript with mold spots and blackened edges was offered for sale in an auction at Christie's in New York. After a contentious bidding war, the auctioneer's hammer fell at a price of $2.2 million.
An anonymous "billionaire from the computer industry" had apparently purchased the rare work. But who was it? Neither the auction house nor the new owner was willing to answer that question. Insiders are now certain that it was Jeffrey Bezos, the founder and CEO of online book retailer Amazon.
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2007