“Scoop” by Evelyn Waugh

Scoop Evelyn WaughIf you have already watched all the episodes of The Newsroom and are looking for something equally funny, yet meaningful about journalism, I recommend turning to this 1938 novel. Evelyn Waugh, who had been a journalist himself and had reported from the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, wrote a satire about news journalism. Set in the fictional African country of Ishmaelia, it is the story of a rural garden and nature writer who gets mistaken for a hot-shot journalist and sent to report on a war which may or may not be happening. Nobody knows.

But that’s how the news are made. As one of the more seasoned journalists recounts on the boat to Ishmaelia:

‘Why, once Jakes went out to cover a revolution in one of the Balkan capitals. He overslept in his carriage, woke up at the wrong station, didn’t know any different, got out, went straight to a hotel, and cabled off a thousand-word story about barricades in the streets, flaming churches, machine guns answering the rattle of his typewriter as he wrote.

Well they were pretty surprised at his office, getting a story like that from the wrong country, but they trusted Jakes and splashed it in six national newspapers. That day every special in Europe got orders to rush to the new revolution. They arrived in shoals. Everything seemed quiet enough, but it was as much as their jobs were worth to say so, with Jakes filing a thousand words of blood and thunder a day. So they chimed in too. Government stocks dropped, financial panic, state of emergency declared, army mobilized, famine, mutiny and in less than a week there was an honest to God revolution under way, just as Jakes had said. There’s the power of the press for you.’

This is what media criticism has to be like: insightful, sharp and witty. Although Waugh does not spare the owners of newspapers,

‘And what please,’ asked William, ‘is a news agency?’

Corker told him.

‘Then why do they want to send me?’

‘All the papers are sending specials.’

‘And all the papers have reports from three or four agencies?’


‘But if we all send the same thing it seems a waste.’

‘There would soon be a row if we did.’

‘But isn’t it very confusing if we all send different news?’

‘It gives them a choice. They all have different policies, so of course, they have to give different news.’

it becomes very obvious that the ultimate responsibility lies with lazy and sloppy journalists. Remember that before you go on your next rant about “mainstream media”, whatever that is supposed to be, just because you don’t like a particular story.

Of course, the problem has shifted since Waugh’s times. When in the inter-war years too many correspondents were sitting on top of each other in a bar in Africa, talking more to each other than to local sources, the problem today is that there are no correspondents in the country at all. Only when something happens will newspapers and TV stations drop in some parachute correspondents for a few days. They will have read the Wikipedia article on the way and their main source will be an overpaid taxi driver. – But then, if you don’t want to pay for your newspaper or at least for your favorite blog, you can’t really complain.

Posted in Politics, Books, Military, Media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Selfie Statue




I found this selfie-taking statue in La Paz, Bolivia.

Posted in Bolivia, Photography, Travel | Tagged | 2 Comments

6% or 7% – but definitely too many

The film Spotlight cited a study by Richard Sipe, according to which at least 6% of all Catholic priests are pedophiles and actively practice their “passion”. This was confirmed by the research of the Boston Globe. In my film review, I posed the question why this should be different in other dioceses than Boston and in other countries than the US.

The figure has now been confirmed in Australia. Over the past 30 years, 7% of Catholic priests have sexually abused children there. And not only priests, but members of religious orders, both monks and nuns, as well as laypeople.

Because these numbers have now been confirmed in different countries, I once more pose the question: Why should the figure be lower in other countries? It’s the same organization, with the same hiring practices, the same training, and apparently the same way to deal with pedophilia, all around the world. And we have to keep in mind that even these investigations couldn’t have brought all cases to light, that most pedophile priests abuse more than one child, sometimes dozens of them over their years of service. The number of victims is therefore much higher.

Looking only at the known cases, it is obvious that pedophile acts are widespread and that this could hardly be kept a secret within the Church. There have been systematic cover-ups. If you don’t find your country or your diocese in the list of sex abuse cases, it doesn’t mean that nothing criminal and sinister is going on. It just means that nobody has dared to speak up, that people are threatened or bribed into silence, or that the criminal justice system is not very energetic in investigating cases of child abuse by clergy. Probably, it’s even worse in South America, Africa and Asia because dioceses from North America and Europe often send known pedophile priests to “the third world” as “punishment”, obviously not considering the well-being of children living there.

It has to be stated that clearly: The greatest danger for children does not come from terrorists, wild animals or vaccines, but lurks in Catholic churches, schools, hospitals, kindergartens, homes and youth groups. If there was another organization applying for a permit to run a school and they would admit that at least 6% of their employees are pedophiles, they would never receive that permit.


“When you are a priest, they let you do it. You can kiss them, you can grab them, you can do anything.”

(Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Artikels.)

Posted in Religion, Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts of the Day 8

  1. I don’t understand why supermarkets, all around the world, by the way, are trying to force me to use a metal instrument when I want to buy some bread.
  2. You remember my article about the longest possible train journey and that it begins in Portugal? One of my readers went there and found the train: train-lagos
  3. This Econ-Talk episode on the connection between slavery and racism was quite interesting, but I wish the participants had looked at other countries with a history of slavery, beyond the US and the UK, too, for example at Brazil and Romania.
  4. Because refugees are still a topic, I recommend the book In the Sea there are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda.
  5. In the Roman Empire, the first Christians were regarded as atheists.
  6. A newspaper in Bolivia confused Martin Luther and Martin Luther King. That happens when people think that an internet search replaces the need for education. martin-luther-king
  7. Malta is probably the most dangerous of all the countries I ever lived in. Already when I moved there, I was greeted with a car bomb. Last year, there were three major car bombs.
  8. But when you fly to Malta, people wish you a “happy holiday”. When you go to Ukraine, on the other hand, they freak out even if you stay 1000 km away from the fighting.
  9. People who use selfie sticks look silly. But even sillier are photos taken with selfie sticks that show the stick in the photo.
  10. Ivanka Trump seemed excited when it looked like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would take over the Presidency of the United States of America. But it was just a visit. ivanka-trump---justin-trudeau-2.jpg
  11. If you are interested in nuclear weapons at a higher level than Donald Trump seems to grasp, I recommend listening to this interview with James Acton. Insightful and eloquent.
  12. When we speak about the arbitrariness of borders, we mostly think of the “lines in the sand” in Africa and in the Middle East, drawn by colonial officers. Another striking example were the India-Bangladesh enclaves, a situation that has now been rectified. The world has lost its only third-order enclave, an Indian counter-counter-enclave.
  13. A similar situation exists in Baarle, which is divided between Belgium and the Netherlands in a rather mazy way.
Posted in Bolivia, Books, Brazil, Economics, History, Language, Malta, Media, Religion, Romania, Technology, Travel, UK, US election 2016, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Very Short History of Lithuania

One of the reasons behind my move to Lithuania was that it is a perfect case study of 20th century European history, with its independence between the two World Wars, then the occupation by the Soviet Union, by Nazi Germany, by the Soviet Union again, one of the main killing fields of the Holocaust and finally independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

When I checked the ticket prices for the buses in Vilnius, I came across the following price list. If you read through some of the categories of persons who receive a discount, you will get a very short history of Lithuania in the 20th century.

PASSENGERS Type of tickets and price in litas
single tickets nominal monthly tickets
at kiosk in trolleybus and bus to go by trolleybus to go by bus to go by trolleybus and bus
1. Students, pupils 1,00 1,25 17,00 17,00 22,00
2. Pensioners up to 80 years old 1,00 1,25 42,50 42,50 55,00
3. People with accepted partial perfomance (partly disabled) 1,00 1,25 42,50 42,50 55,00
4. People who were identified as invalid of cat. II till 2005 1,00 1,25 42,50 42,50 55,00
5. Participants of resistance to 1940-1990 occupations – military volunteers under 70 years of age and participants of fights for liberation 1,00 1,25 42,50 42,50 55,00
6. Persons who have suffered from 1939-1990 occupations – political prisoners and exiles and former prisoners of ghettos, concentration camps and other types of suppression camps 1,00 1,25 42,50 42,50 55,00
7. Defenders of independence of the Republic of Lithuania who have become disabled due to Soviet Union aggression during January 11-13, 1991 and at later times 1,00 1,25 42,50 42,50 55,00
8. Family members of the perished defenders of independence of the Republic of Lithuania who have suffered from Soviet Union aggression during January 11-13, 1991 and at later times 0,40 17,00 17,00 22,00
9. Persons with a disability rate, or the recognition of disabled persons 0,40 17,00 17,00 22,00
10. Persons who are ill with diseases included in the list drawn-up by the Ministry of Health and whose treatment constantly requires haemodialysis and to their escort (one escort for one person) 0,40 17,00 17,00 22,00
11. Participants of resistance to 1940-1990 occupations – military volunteers 70 years of age and older 0,40 17,00 17,00 22,00
12. Protectors of Lithuania independency, injured during 1991 January 11-13 and afters, with accepted partial perfomance (partly disabled) and reached the age of old-age pension 0,40 17,00 17,00 22,00
13. Pensioners over 80 years old 0,40 17,00 17,00 22,00
14. People who were identified as children invalid or invalids of cat. I till 2005 0,40 17,00 17,00 22,00
15. All other persons (no discount) only working days 2,00 2,50 75,00 75,00 100,00
working days and weekends 85,00 85,00 110,00

(C) for the photo: Bjørn Giesenbauer

Posted in Europe, History, Lithuania | 9 Comments

Democracy in Bolivia

It’s still there, but …


(Photograped in La Paz on the anniversary of the 2016 constitutional referendum.)

Posted in Bolivia, Elections, Photography, Politics, Travel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Lazy People of Malta

In the most complete study yet of physical activity, covering 122 countries, the people of Malta turned out to be the laziest people in the world. 72% of Maltese don’t get enough exercise, for which they would only need to engage in 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week, 20 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 days a week or some combination of the two.

As someone who lived on Malta for 5 months, I was saddened by that information. But then, thinking back to my time on this Mediterranean island, I can come up with a number of possible explanations for this laziness.

Too many cars

Malta is quite small and you could easily get everywhere by bicycle or even by walking. Still, everyone and his uncle have their own car. The few people who don’t own a car have a boat, a motorbike, a horse-drawn carriage or one of these fancy new science-fiction Segways; anything to make sure that you don’t need to walk one step too many.

I never understood the Maltese obsession with cars. There is not enough space to put them, the public transport system is very good and the most affordable in Europe, and distances are not far, enabling bicycle use or walking. I once missed the last bus from the airport and had to walk all the way to San Pawl il-Baħar, almost the complete length of the island. Even that only took 3 hours.

Not enough space to exercise

That is really a problem. Malta seems to be in the grip of the construction Mafia, who set out to cover even the last piece of natural land with concrete and bricks. This is even more shocking in light of the thousands of empty houses and office buildings that already ruin the landscape.

It is really hard to find a large area of green space that is good for runs or long walks. There is really only one forest, at Buskett, and it’s not exactly huge. My parents in Germany have more trees in their garden than this “forest” has.

There are some beautiful areas to walk in, e.g. Il-Majjistral Nature Park, although you may (accidentally?) get gunned down by hunters during your stroll. The landscape along the coast is dramatic and the colours beautiful but because of the complete absence of shade, I can understand that people don’t want to venture there in summer. Also because of too many cars on the road (see problem #1), it’s not necessarily a joy to get there by bicycle or by walking.

Hiking is also made more complicated by all the “Private!”, “Keep out!”, “Do not enter!” and other signs, some of them with threatening depictions of skulls.

Culture and heritage

Lastly, laziness seems to be embedded in Maltese culture. At the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni, statues were discovered from around 3000 B.C. Even back then, the Maltese were already couch-potatoes:

Posted in Environment, Health, Malta, Statistics, Travel | Tagged , | 30 Comments