World in January: Chronicle of Events


January 1

The Pakistani authorities announced that they would not grant a political asylum to five hi-jackers of the Indian airbus A-300. The latter after they released all hostages on the New Year eve in exchange of freed three Kashmir extremists as if were going to come to Pakistan. According to Taliban spokesmen, �there were no hi-jackers in Afghanistan, they have gone towards Pakistan.�

January 2

In Germany in fog in the motorway between Wurcburg and Fuld about 100 cars collided. Two people died in the accident, over 20 seriously wounded, 50 lightly injured. The traffic in the motorway was completely blocked.

January 3

In Croatia at the Parliamentary election there was a sensation. For the first time during the last 10 years (i.e. for the history of the modern independence of the state) the Croat Democratic Commonwealth (CDC) failed to gain the majority of votes in the Upper House of the Sabor (Parliament) of the country. They yielded to their �traditional� opposition � the Social-Democratic and the Social-Liberal Coalition.

January 4

In Norway two passenger trains with 96 passengers bumped. In the result of the accident, according to different sources, 3 to 7 people died.

January 5

In the Sri Lanka capital Colombo, there was an attempt upon the Prime Minister�s life. The terrorist rushed into the PM�s waiting room and blasted the bomb. At least 11 people died, about 30 wounded.

January 8

Soon Egypt will begin to print new banknotes. The Central Bank APE Manager Ismail Hasan announced this. According to Hasan, they will begin to issue the new banknotes of different denominations with several additional protection degrees in April and complete it in December. This is a part of the governmental plan to struggle against false banknotes.

January 9

In Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov again triumphed at the presidential election: 92% of voters, including his only competitor the philosopher and politician Abdulhafiz Dzhalalov (gained about 4% of votes) voted for him. At the sight of microphones and cameras Dzhalalov �voted for stability.�

January 10

The Chinese authorities banned the famous perfume of Ive Sen-Loran �Opium�. In China the perfume was sold during five years, but then Beijing suddenly decided that the perfume�s name might arouse unwanted associations of customers in Shendu, as they considered the name �insulting spiritual principles� and able to provoke people to take opium.

January 11

The US biggest Internet provider, the company America Online (AOL) and the leading media-group Time Warner announced the merge. In the result of the merge, the biggest completely integrated informational and communicational company is to be established. This will be the first precedent of the merge of a traditional informational group with a representative of �the new media.� According to experts, soon we should expect a wave of similar merges. The AOL share equity in the new company AOL Time Warner will come to 55%.

January 12

For the first time Europay, MasterCard and Visa proclaimed standards of usage of microprocessor cards in Internet. This is the first step towards the principally new Internet payment system � the electronic authorization of chip cards on Internet. Once the system is introduced, payments on Internet will be as simple and secure operation as withdrawal of money from the Bancomat. For this in the early 1999 the competing payment systems had to establish jointly new structures � EMVCo (to work out the standards) and SETCo (to make them complying with the SET security protocol).

January 13

The Beatles, who have been prohibited in Cuba for a long time, now was included in the list of �the most outstanding peoples of the 20th century�. The Cuban Communist Party approved the list. Lenin, Castro and Che Gevara occupied the first three lines of this �hit-parade�. The Beatles take the sixteenth place passing ahead of Ernest Hemingway, who despite the fact that he was working and living for 20 years on the Island was the last, nineteenth one.

January 14

The Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ejevit announced that according to the request of the European Court on human rights the Turkish government decided to postpone the execution of the death sentence of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ojalan. If the Kurdish rebels, however, recommence the war against the Turkish army, Ojalan will be punished.

January 15

The Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma ratified the decree on the referendum. The referendum is to discuss six issues: on distrust to the Verkhovnaya Rada and on supplementation to the Constitution, which will authorize the President to dismiss the Parliament; on President�s right to dismiss the Parliament if the latter either does not form the majority or does not approve the budget submitted by the government within three months; on abandonment of the parliamentarians� immunity; on reduction of the number of parliamentarians from 450 to 300; on establishment of the two-Houses Parliament instead of the Verkhovnaya Rada; and approval of the Constitution at the referendum. The referendum is to be held on April 16.

January 16

In Pakistan a spokesman of the Afghan movement Taliban announced the acknowledgement of �independence of Chechnya� and establishment of �diplomatic relations� with �the government of Aslan Maskhadov.� The Taliban spiritual leader, the mullah Mohammad Omar took this decision in Kaddagar after he had met the former Chechen President Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. Chechens were permitted to open �the diplomatic office� in Afghanistan. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Talib administration Vakil Mutavakkil declared that it was possible to consider military aid to Chechen separatists.

January 17

Karmapa-lama, the third person in the Buddhist hierarchy fled from the Chinese Tibet to India. China lost the only lama, who was recognized by all Buddhists and was loyal to the Chinese authorities. India received a dangerous political emigrant and turned to be on the verge of a war with China.

January 18

In Germany the leaders of the Christian-Democratic Union (CDU) laid an ultimatum to Helmut Kohl: either he confesses from whom he received illegal donations (minimum DM 2 million) or the party ceases to consider him its honorable chairman. In an hour, Kohl abandoned the high post himself, but he did not mention names of his financiers.

January 19

The German Constitutional Court turned down the claim by the last GDR leader Egon Crenz and the latter arrived to the Berlin prison Hakelfelde to spend there six years and a half. A representative of the prison administration announced that they would �treat the high-rank prisoner in the same way as they treat other ones.�

January 20

The Brazilian shore, near the Gunabara bay where the central regions of Rio de Janeiro are located, was pored over with oil. The reason for the accident was the explosion of the oil pipeline built in the bottom of the sea. According to primary estimation, the size of the oil stain comes to 20 sq. km.

January 22

In Ecuador a coup d�etat happened � the President Jamil Mauad dismissed and arrested in one of the military airports near the capital. According to sources, the Vice President Noboa agreed to undertake responsibilities of the country�s leader.

January 24

In Croatia, Stipe Mesic (65), a representative of the least of the two opposition parties that won in the recent Parliamentary election won the first round of the extraordinary presidential election. About 41% of 2.5 million of voters voted for him. The candidate from the main coalition, consisting of the Social-Democratic (SDP) and Social-Liberal (SLP) parties, the 51-years-old SLP cochairman Drajen Budisha received 28% of votes. Now these politicians will compete in the second round, which will be held on February 7.

January 25

Terrorists from the Burma group The God�s Army captured the hospital in Ratchaburi, near the Myanma (former Burma) border. Terrorists seized about 500 doctors and patients. On the same day the Thailand army freed all hostages kept in the hospital. There were about 700 people in the hospital. In the result of the anti-terrorist operation that lasted for about two hours, nine terrorists died, two policemen wounded.

January 27

In Stockholm (Sweden) twenty leaders if the states and governments, administrations of the international law-reinforcement organizations, scientists and public figures (over 700 delegates from 46 countries) gathered to participate in the conference devoted to Holocaust�s lessons. At the opening of the forum organized in the biggest conference center, representatives of the king dynasty came.

January 28

In Scranton (Pennsylvania, the USA) the legendary tennis player Don Baj (84) died. Possibly, he was the first who achieved what any tennis player strives for. In 1938 he won all the four Big Helmet tournaments, open championships in Australia, France, the USA and the Wimbledon.

January 29

In Greece after seven years of construction, the metro began to work in Athens. The first line of the Greek metro includes 14 stations and stretches from the Ministry of Defense to the Athens western suburbs. The metro stations are decorated with antique displays found while building the tunnels. The total number of metro stations to be constructed is 21.


The 2100th anniversary of Julius Caesar�s birth

By Alberto MENGONI


�Caesar�s wife needed be over every suspicion� is a quote that has become world known, testifying the importance of the man who pronounced it and his ambiguity when coming to terms with the quest for power over Rome.

The man is, of course, Julius Caesar, who repudiated his wife Pompea in 61 BC because it turned more advantageous to him exculpating Clodius that had violated the misteries of Bona Dea celebrated by Pompea in her house. Clodius would have been a precious ally, reasoned Caesar, in the event of a showdown with the other two leading figures in the Rome of those times, Pompey and Crassus, over the control of Rome �caput mundi�.

Rome was formally still a republic even if the implicit partition of power among the 3 leaders had already created a vacuum in the decisional prerogatives of the Senate. In fact the concept of republic itself had sunken, and an individual leadership was what the three men were indeed seeking. Point was that to be the ruler, one ought to eliminate the other two: none of them had at that time the stomach or the strength to do it. So rather than a demonstration of pluralism, the Triumvirate that was established the following year, in 60 BC, happened to be a deal privately struck by 3 men to deprieve Rome of its republican institutions. The goal was clear, sooner or later one of them would have become sole dictator and, who knows, perhaps king, in so doing determining even the formal end of the republic.

Julius Caesar was born in Rome in the aristocrat Julia House in the year 100 BC (for some historians that happened one or two years earlier), her mother was a member of the Aurelius House and he was nephew of general Gaio Mario from his father�s sister�s side. In all, good connections for a career that to define remarkable doesn�t properly describe it.

At 16 young Caesar repudiated his first wife Cossuzia to marry Cornelia, Lucius Cornelius Cinna�s daughter, leader of the democratic party and mean political adversary of that time dictator, mighty Sulla.

The latter opposed that marriage but stubbornly Caesar refused to part from his young wife: clearly when the dictator seized power Caesar had to flee, joining the army and serving in Asia Minor. He�ll be back in the capital only after Sulla�s death on 78 BC. In that occasion he gave proof of political acumen by refusing to take part in the riots of that year, nevertheless demonstrating his planning ability by charging some Sulla�s

men of malversation. In other words he was showing himself as moderately democratic without committing fully to the cause.

The next step of young Caesar is at Rhodes between 75 and 73 BC, where he studies rethorics, a must for a man of his ambitions. The move proved right since upon his return to Rome he�s given the first public post, that of pontifex, in 73 BC.

In the following period two of his most important supporters, Cinna�s wife Julia (his aunt) and his wife Cornelia die (70 and 68 BC): he takes the chances offered by the funeral orations that he pronounces, to let the democratic leaders know that he is with them.

Once more his political acumen has proven infallible, he�s nominated quaestor of the western part of Spain, at that time including a great deal of today�s Portugal.

From that moment on his �cursus honorum� is unrestrainable, following a �crescendo� that reaches its climax in January 14th, 44 BC when he�s appointed for the 5th time �imperator�, consul and dictator! But at that moment his very end is on sight. A tragic one.

What follows his appointment in Spain is perhaps the less detailed part of his life: there�s who declared he supported Catiline�s conspiracies against the oligarchic power of the Senate in 65 and 63 BC, like Cicero and Plutarch, and there�s who, like Sallust, found him strange to such destabilizing attemps. For sure, even if he didn�t directly took part in the conspiracies, he was against Rome�s oligarchic Senate so much so that all his political actions aimed at impoverishing its attributions and, of course, in so doing creating a gap that the senate tried to fill by establishing closer ties with one of the other strongman of the period, Pompey.

From his side Caesar balanced the missing Senate support with that of the plebs and closing ranks with Crassus, the third leading figure of that period in Rome.

Because of that in the year 63 BC he advanced one more step being nominated Pontifex Maximus. From that post to that of praetor in 62 BC it�s a short step, integrated with the pro-praetorship in the Spain that already he governed, the following year.

However, it�s in 60 BC that Julius Caesar realizes he has a stature feared by many, so that his ambitions must be closely checked. It comes that year the agreement with Pompey and Crassus known as First Triumvirate, in which Caesar plays the role of the �scale indicator�: allied with Crassus since when the latter supported some Caesar�s recent nominations, he closed an alliance with Pompey too by letting him marry his daughter Julia. That way from being checked he became the controller of his two rivals. Then, elected consul as part of the triangular deal in 59 BC, he approved laws that could benefit both his �allies�� interests. In so doing he eclipsed the other Roman consul, Bibulo, alienating the support of the majority of the Senate.

Crassus and Pompey, realizing that Caesar was becoming too popular in Rome, worked out a scheme to have him out of the �control room� and his supporting plebs, by letting him have some sorts of command abroad. So Caesar is given the pro-consulate in Cisalpine Gaul and Illyria with 3 legions until the year 54 BC, then in 58 BC he�s given control of Narbonensis Gaul too with another legion at his orders.

By giving him a dangerous and far away theater neither Crassus nor Pompey supposed of having handed him a golden opportunity to pursuit success and triumphs. Step by step Caesar subdued Helvetians and Suebs, while having left in Rome a more trustable ally, Clodius, whose daughter Calpurnia he married in 59 BC, he kept an eye on the capital�s affairs. In the meantime Clodius became consul but couldn�t help Cicero�s comeback from exil (where he had previously sent him), and the latter proposed a higher post for Pompey, supported by the Senate, that should have unbalanced the equilibrium so patiently reached by the members of the Triumvirate in his favour.

Naturally Pompey, Crassus and Caesar had to meet again: that happened in Lucca, on that time�s Italy�s northern border, in 56 BC and a new warless deal was cast. Caesar was to maintain the pro-consulate in Gaul for 5 more years, Crassus by being given command in Syria might have tried his luck against the Parts, and Pompey would have had control over the whole Roman Iberian Peninsula.

In his theater of operations Caesar continued achieving his most striking results by landing in Britannia with two victorious expeditions in 55 and 54 BC, and finally completing control over the whole Gaul territory by defeating Vercingetorige at Alesia in 52 BC.

The diplomatic �truce� lasted little, since Crassus died in battle at Carre, in the area that supposed to be under his control, and Caesar�s daughter Julia, Pompey�s wife, died too. Both in the year 53 BC. No more diaphragms existing between the two remaining leaders, their showdown was soon to come. That Rome�s situation is well depicted by an ancient Italian saw: �One is not enough, but two is a multitude�.

With Clodius� death in that same year Caesar lost his most precious ally in Italy and the Senate, fearing his growing power, elected Pompey Rome�s sole consul. The unwise senators were trusting Pompey less dangerous than Caesar, anyhow, whoever might have been the leader, that would have been one only man, not an entire body. The republic was dead.

The subsequent civil war was purely a matter of power, both men did not want to give up their privileged conditions, perhaps genuinely considering to well deserve them, the result, however, was that the climate of uneasiness determined by the new Pompey�s dominant position in Rome, lasted while Caesar was completing his pro-consulate mandate, due to expire in 50 BC. What would have been then his future assignment? Whould he have obtained a subordinate position or given satisfaction for his military merits? Caesar was expecting a consular appointment in Rome so to team up with Pompey, but he should have had to partecipate at to the elections in the �urbe�, without the acclaiming comfort of his troops, by deposing before his �imperium�, i.e. his supreme military and jurisdictional command. Too risky, having the Senate almost totally opposing his candidature.

So Caesar launched at the end of 50 BC his last proposal: he and Pompey ought to abandon all their posts at the same time. A wise solution that a shortsighted Senate turned down, so that the rivals� differences would have been measured by the force of arms.

The inadequate response of the Senate indeed fuelled the civil war: on January 10th, 49 BC Julius Caesar crossed in arms the Rubicon River, at that time Italy�s borderline, while Pompey (and many senators) moved to Greece his HQ. Caesar did not pursue him immediately but adopted the strategy of the burned land around his foe. One by one he defeated his allies, at Ilerda, in Spain, then at Marseille.

Finally elected consul in Rome, he launched his attack against Pompey�s troops at Pharsalo on June 7th, 48 BC, in Greece, obtaining a sound victory. Pompey fled seeking refuge in Egypt where Ptolomy XIII killed him to please the winning warrior, but finding his unlucky day at Peluso (47 BC) in connection with his refusal to co-reign over Egypt with his sister and wife Cleopatra that from his wife�s role had passed to that of Caesar�s lover.

Restless as he was, Julius Caesar got back in Asia Minor where he defeated Pharnaces at Zela reconquering the Pontus.

Pompey was dead but not so all his forces, so Caesar had to move his legions to Northern Africa where he defeated Cato�s 14 legions at Tapso, in today�s Tunisia.

The final act of the civil war was played in Spain where the last forces of Pompey, guided by his sons Gneo and Sextus, were disposed of at Munda on 3/17/45 BC. Julius Caesar was now Rome�s only ruler, a supreme condition that he maintained exercising it with moderation and �clementia� towards all those that opted for his foe�s side during the conflict.

As dominant a figure he was, however, he cared not to foster the impression he was the absolut ruler in Rome. A strange presumption for a man that after Pharsalo was nominated dictator in 48 BC and after Tapso was confirmed as such in 46 BC for a term of 10 years, a condition that finally became �permanent� on February 14th, 44 BC. In the meantime Caesar collected other assignments becoming Rome�s sole consul in 45 BC, headed the �praefectura morum� and the tribunate of the people. He was not a king under a formal standpoint, but of such condition he had all prerogatives, even if on February 15th, 44 BC, perhaps realizing he was pushing too much, he refused the king�s crown that his �magister equitum� Mark Antony was offering him during the public ceremony of the Lupercalis. In that occasion, however, the crowd shouts it wants him to be king, but Caesar, as a fine politician, had considered to be still too early to cause the formal end of the republic and left things as they were. The confrontation with the senators, disapproving such a collection of attributes on one person, was only procrastinated, the crisis only delayed.

To match Caesar�s power on a frank debate would have been of no prevail, too strong was the loyalty of his legions and too dear to the masses of the plebs he was, so those who opposed him resolved to adhere to a conspiracy not only to averthrow him but to phisically suppress him. Trouble was, for them of course, that they had planned only the first step, the killing of the dictator, not the outcome, nor the consequences.

So on the ides of March of that same year, i.e. March 15th, 44 BC, a group of conspirators waiting for him to enter the Senate, surrounds him and kills him by 23 stabs, of which only one mortal, in the Curia hall at the base of the statue of his ancient foe, Pompey.

Among the conspirators former Caesarians such as Trebonio, Casca and Brutus, a son Caesar had in virtue of a relation with Servilia, Cato�s sister.

The inspirer of the conspiracy is Cassius even if it seems it�s being led by Brutus. What about Mark Antony? To many the real mastermind behind the coup was right him, Caesar�s cavalry commander, who took care of maintaining a low profile all along the preparation of the killing, assuming then a mediator�s role between the conspirators and the Roman population during the first uncertain days after the assassination.

Antony, surely already in love with Cleopatra, was aiming at replacing Caesar on his �throne� and his alcove, but Caesar had already, again giving proof of farsightedness, chosen his successor by adopting his nephew Octavian as son, on September 13th, 45 BC. A clear sign that he did not fully trust his legate.

The aftermath of Caesar�s tale is known: Brutus and Cassius, defeated by Octavian and Antony at Philippi, will commit suicide in 42 BC. Cleopatra and Antony, defeated by Octavian, will imitate them in 30 BC. Finally Caesar was on the throre through his selected heir�

In this short reconstruction of Julius Caesar�s life it cannot be forgotten his keen ability as a writer. His �De bello gallico�, eight books on his wartime in Gaul, and �De bello civili�, three books on the years of the civil war, are examples of immediate exposition, rethoricless style, general vision, accurate observation and clarity of judgement, that much have contributed to the knowledge of Latin and history alike. Two other works, �De analogia� and �Anticato�, have gone lost.

European Observer

The giant and the dwarves

By Alessandro RAIMONDI


�It seems almost unreal, nevertheless it has happened. A renown world leader besieged by midget politicians that one thing could do with such a living example at hand: learn from him!�. This is one of the voices heard in Europe these days as for the case that sees the former German chancellor mentioned in all major newspapers headlines. Accused of having accepted undue financing for his party, the CDU, in the past years, Helmut Kohl seems to be the rope with which his opponents of the SPD are trying to regain the surf of the wave, after one year of plenty electoral failures.

�It�s the old stratagem of the left � another voice tells � rather than getting back on the saddle by learning how to ride, it prefers to kill the horse!�.

Of course, such opinions are debatable, nevertheless they indeed introduce elements of meditation by looking at the problem from a different perspective: that of the accused side. Let�s look at facts.

What�s the fuss all about? Schroeder�s party, that so well must have not acted at the helm of Germany since it defeated CDU�s Kohl in 1998, is running short of popularity. That�s a fact.

The chancellor of the reunion has indeed, by his own acknowledgment, accepted money from donors for his party that ought to have been declared, specially in the period 1990-1998, i.e. at the early stage of the achievement of �ein land, ein volk� (one land, one people) policy. That�s another fact.

One more fact is that since the appearance of politics in the social sphere of mankind, money, in whatever form, has followed it like a shadow. And like a shadow has sometimes preceded it. What�s so strange in this, a practice that is old as the world? What�s the difference between a money donation which is declared and another one which isn�t? Is it more important the filling of a form � I simplify, of course � or the action of getting that money? If the answer is �money�, then there�s no difference at all whether it has come from a plain or a secret donation, that money would just get the same value for the purpose it �d be donated. If the answer is �form�, then it�s not politics we�re talking about, we are simply switching from a men�s issue to a childish one.

The whole affair let me recall a practice that has got a vacuum as for integrity and morality, nevertheless it has been used, and abused of, widely in the past: that of having the inventor shot by his own financers as soon as they are certain the invention is commercially worth! Applied to Kohl, it seems that once everything consistent has been done (by the CDU) in Germany � reunion, Euro, wealthy economy, etc. � it�s good to shoot the maker of it all, so to have him forgotten in a matter of time, and have somebody else benefiting of such unquestioned advancements.

This opinion is also shared and heard of in Italy too, where another Politician (the capital P is not casual) has been �forced� to self-exile by magistrates who want to apply a law that nobody asks them too� The reference to Mr. Bettino Craxi, whose political eclipse today can precisely be described for what it has been, a political killing, is not casual at all.

�What the SPD wants is to have Kohl disappeared � says a Swiss observer � his presence prevents it to grow. Compared to a giant even tall men look like Lilliputians!�. Hard not to agree with such simple piece of wisdom�

The other stream of thinking naturally heralds the banner of integrity, theirs, against Kohl�s �wicked� willingness of wrongdoing. Yes, formally the former German leader has misrepresented the tenure of his office by accepting some 2,000,000 DM to be used by CDU in the Eastern provinces of the country, without declaring it. However, since that money, according to Kohl, came from some donors� personal resources, and being those donors not institutional ones or companies, but private citizens (of which SPD asks for their identities), one question raises spontaneously to challenge SPD�s action. Would have it been better if Kohl had given his party money coming from the State public financing of Germany�s parties? Don�t think so. Why? Very simple: because that public money would come from the taxpayer�s pockets and a taxpayer, whatever his political faith, is being taxed for financing all parties, not only his. Is this moral? If someone ought to be shot than these are those lawmakers able to foal such nightmare laws! Just think, for example, that a communist�s money goes to partially finance the neo-nazy party, or that of a neo-nazist goes to let the communist party survive! So, again, is this moral? It�s far to be moral, it�s absurd and grotesque, such as any form and way of public expenditure to finance political parties that should strictly be supported by their own supporters on a voluntary basis. This is moral, just simple as that. �The one having legs, walks, otherwise it slithers� says an old Italian saw: another fine piece of wisdom.

Last consideration. Once that there�s a law it�s everybody�s right to respect it, they say. True? True. But even more dutiful seems, to scores of Europeans, the right to use one�s own head. It�s not difficult to see that many of the laws, rules, regulations and the like around us are either obsolete or wrong, some even senseless from the very beginning. In such cases it sounds more dutiful to dodge them than applying them. Just like AIDS, if you know it, you avoid it�

When a national legal code carries laws such as the public financing of parties, or the condition to declare financing sources, we are in the domain of Orwell�s �Big Brother�: nothing good could come out of it. What�s moral in such cases is reducing the charge or, even easier, changing those laws.

To get back to Kohl�s case and to see how instrumental is SPD�s request of having the names of CDU�s donors clearly stated and declared, it�s just enough to make a simple observation. We�ve been always told that the act of casting a vote is secret. A donation should be so too. By having to declare a donation to a certain party, it�s like asking the donor �Who are you voting for?�. Where would have secrecy gone then?

C�mon SPD, let�s stop playing politics and try, instead, to make it: if Kohl is a giant and you�re not, many EU citizens believe, that�s not his fault. You may grow too, with real issues not silly stuff. But as they were singing during W.W.I, �it�s a long, long way to Tipperary��

All Over the Globe is published by IPA House.
© 1998 IPA House. All Rights Reserved.