The Satchel Review - Friday 10th February, 2012

While Queen Elizabeth celebrated 60 years of ruling over the British monarchy and reflected on the death of her father, George VI (royal subject of the brilliant The King's Speech), another grand old Elisabeth (yes, with an "s") was ushering in her 103rd year.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch "chatted and laughed with her children, including her London-based granddaughter Elisabeth Murdoch and grandson Lachlan Murdoch, then was met with a standing ovation as she entered the hall", reported The Australian the day after her 103rd birthday celebrations at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

"It is remarkable that at the age of 103 there is no one we know with more sparkle in their eyes, more intelligence and insight in their opinions and stories, more passion for the best things in life, or more passion for all people – no matter their background or standing," said Theatre director Michael Kantor.

Born on February 8, 1909, Murdoch has witnessed two World Wars and countless others, pioneering a philanthropic spirit within her family. Her grandson, Lachlan, was this week appointed non-executive chairman of the Ten Network after an 11-month stint as interim chief executive (now, with due conjecture and judicial delay, James Warburton). 

Prior to a gala celebration hosted by the American Australian Association in his honour, Australian billionaire Lindsay Fox this week took to the press to air his opinions on the current leaders of government the world over. "Whoever is in power today will be replaced," he said. "You can take that for just about any country because of the financial crises, one after the other. The uncertainty about where things are going. You don't win elections, you lose them. And I think those in power today will probably lose office."

This is good news for the American Republican candidates who continue on the campaign trail towards the November election in the hope that President Barack Obama will be usurped on the back of the financial crises. After surprise victories in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, Rick Santorum has a new lease on life and more money in the coffers.

Unlike Aussies, who love an underdog, the Americans love to back a winner. Sensing that a Santorum victory is actually within reach, Foster Friess, a billionaire and born-again Christian conservative, has given Santorum a helpful cash injection. "Suddenly people realise he's got a shot," he said of Santorum. Last year Santorum raised $US2 million to Mitt Romney's $US56 million in campaign funds, so his formerly shoestring campaign is looking much more viable.

German journalist Marcus Hellwig has talked about his treatment at an Iranian prison and his encounter with Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery. "There was a time when I was up against my mental limits," he said, disclosing that he had been held in solitary confinement, beaten and subjected to other abuses after being arrested for interviewing Ashtiani's son at her lawyer's office in 2010.

The future of Syria hangs precariously in the balance, its infighting concentrated now in Homs after 11 months of unrest taking the human life toll well beyond the UN's recorded 5,400 deaths as at January. President Bashar al-Assad is hanging onto power against the Free Syrian army as China and Russia decided against backing a UN resolution to condemn the Syrian regime.

Syrian freelance journalist Mazhar Tayyara, a stringer for Agence France-Presse, was killed in Homs this week. This follows the death of French TV reporter Gilles Jacquier. "The Syrian conflict is growing increasingly dangerous for all kinds of journalists, from citizens who have taken the role of documenting unrest in the country to international journalists who report from the frontlines," said the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Asma al-Assad, the British-born wife of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad has spoken in support of her husband out via an email sent to The Times through an intermediary. "Why are we shaming her and saying she should do something? There was never any question that she would do anything else," said a sympathetic Rime Allaf of London foreign affairs think tank Chatham House in a story in The Guardian.

"Even if, deep down, she was not happy with what's happening, she wouldn't be able to do anything about it. And even if, between four walls, she told him 'I don't approve of this', we wouldn't know about it. Let's be more realistic about this." While a skeptical Spectator reflected on 'Our enemy's enemy', taking a lesson from recent history, (be careful who you depose), The Guardian asks, what of the Iron Ladies in history's ranks who have influenced the decision making of their spousal autocrats?

Like Queen Elizabeth II? Or her mother, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who reluctantly married into the royal throne and was once described by Adolf Hitler as "the most dangerous woman in Europe". Or the wonderful Queen Esther, the Old Testament saviour of the Jews?

Then there's Florence Green, the last World War I veteran who died, aged 110, this week. A member of Britain's Women's Royal Air Force who was afraid of flying, she joined the R.A.F. as a teenager shortly before the war's end, according to The Guardian. The special regiment, which employed women as mechanics and drivers and other noncombatant jobs, had been created to free men up for duty on the frontline.

Speaking of which, US military women will soon have the opportunity to serve in combat, taking up 14,000 new posts in the Army and Marine Corps. The changes forbid women to serve directly in the frontline infantry, armour and special operations forces, but but will allow them to serve in non-infantry battalion jobs, such as radio operators, intelligence analysts, medics, radar operators and tank mechanics.

GWAS wonders what impact The Hunger Games might have on young women's thinking on entering the combative professions.

Girl With a Satchel


Stephanie said...

Hi Erica

I was going through old GWAS posts I'd bookmarked ages ago and noticed a bunch of them were missing. Was this a conscious decision or blogspot playing up?

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

Hey Steph,
It was a conscious decision. I did a summer content cleanse, letting a huge bulk of posts go - I shall address this more in an upcoming post!
Is there anything particular you are chasing that I can help you out with? I still have some on file.