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March 12, 1999 – BBC World Service – Newshour – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
March 12, 1999 – A busy news day made sadder by the report of the loss of violin icon Yehudi Menuhin while Newshour was on the air. The news began with a report that Germany, after much speculation and wrangling, got a new Finance Minister after it was reported Oskar Lafontaine resigned over a power struggle with Chancellor Gerhart Schroeder. The new Finance Minister would be Hans Eichel. In his short note to Chancellor Schröder and the party accompanying his resignation, Lafontaine gave no reasons for his decision. For three days he spoke to no one. Only on Sunday did he appear before the press to make a short statement in which he declared that his decision was the result of “bad team play” within the government. “When the team no longer plays well, then you have to select a new team. My step is the necessary prerequisite for such a move,” he said, without identifying anyone who had been responsible for the “bad team play”.
There are numerous speculations over the exact reasons which moved Lafontaine to resign so abruptly. They extend from a conspiracy in the chancellor’s office designed to publicly discredit Lafontaine to reports of a vigorous conflict between Schröder and Lafontaine, whereby the latter was left only with the possibility of “overthrowing the chancellor or throwing in the towel” ( Frankfurter Rundschau).
Russia was receiving its first shipment of emergency food aid from the U.S. later on this day. Ambassador James Collins said was confident that the supplies, worth almost $1 billion would be going to the needy and not the Russian Mafia. The move was criticized in some circles as being unnecessary and counter-productive.
And while the broadcast was on the air it was learned legendary Violinist Yehudi Menuhin had died of heart failure in Berlin at the age of 83. Menuhin was an American-born violinist and conductor who spent most of his performing career in Britain. He is widely considered one of the great violinists of the 20th century. He played the Soil Stradivarius, considered one of the finest violins made by Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari.
And that’s a small portion of the news for this March 12th in 1999 as presented by the BBC World Service program Newshour.