...Views from mid-Atlantic
13 February 2004

Another excellent essay from David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen, this one on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's 17-page letter to his Al Qaeda colleagues, asking for help creating chaos in Iraq. Zarqawi, thought to be an Iraqi himself, has a long history of association with Saddam Hussein's regime. His lieutenants run the Ansar al-Islam operations in that country. Warren is concerned that the American media are not paying sufficient attention to Zarqawi's letter and what it means.

A translation of the letter is here.

I wouldn't normally post something about the bust-up of a romance, but this one seems to turn over a significant cultural page, somehow.

Lady Justice might as well pull off her blindfold and hock her scales to the highest bidder, suggests the Los Angeles Times, unless Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia finds a way out of the ethical tangle he's in. It's all about going duck hunting with a principal in a case he is soon to hear, and the fact that the principal in question is Vice President Dick Cheney has pumped the temperature of this issue up pretty high. I agree with those who feel Mr Scalia ought to take himself off the case - it seems the very simplest kind of ethical conflict. Judging by the bizarre remark he is reported by the Times to have made earlier this week, it also seems to be affecting the judge's ability to act his age.

Most of the mainstream American press has so far steered clear of this allegation about Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry. The same is not true of the European press, where it is getting front page treatment today, nor in political blogs around the world, where it is also being treated as hot stuff. Proto-blogger Matt Drudge, who broke the Clinton/Lewinsky story, was the first with this one as well.

Michael Howard, the new leader of the British Conservative Party, has been staking out his claim to political vision. In a speech in Britain earlier this week, he spoke of wanting to free Britons from the dulling yoke of their very large and very powerful government. Last night, he had a go at the European Union. He told an audience of politicians, journalists and bureaucrats in Berlin that he did not want Britain to be taken down the road towards a federal state. "I don't want to reach the destination that some of our partners may aspire to. But I don't want to block their aspirations. My policy is simple. Live and let live. Flourish and let flourish. That is a modern and mature approach."

Best-selling American science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card has been handing out prizes to Israeli science fiction hopefuls at I-Con, the annual convention of Israel's science fiction fans and writers. The Internet has been a big help in kickstarting science fiction in a country where the facts and pressures of life are bizarre enough without throwing space into the bargain. But creativity is a powerful force, and there's plenty of that among Jewish writers.

A Nigerian court trying the case against five of that country's citizens for involvement in the notorious 419 email scams has been the target of bribes, according to the presiding judge. Nigeria's President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has given strong powers to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which is bringing the prosecution, in order to try to unsully Nigeria's reputation.

The commission has arrested more than 200 people and started about 30 court cases since it was established in May, but it has yet to secure a conviction. Among those indicted was a parliamentarian from Nigeria's House of Representatives. Western firms have also been subject to allegations of sleaze in Nigeria.

The French are rolling out the red carpet for a state visit by the President of Israel, Moshe Katsav. According to Haaretz, "Katsav's visit will not spur France into changing its policies on Israel and the Middle East. In the long run, the future of French-Israel relations will be determined by the peace process.

"But the powerful message that the Chirac administration is trying to pass on to the people of Israel is one that is hard to ignore. While Muslim women in France are being ordered to remove their head scarves, flags emblazoned with the Star of David are being hoisted in the streets of Paris. And symbols, as we all know, have a tendency to penetrate deeply."

The world is likely to see more and more disputes over water cropping up as the world's climate changes. This one, pitting Egypt against sub-Saharan African countries over control of the Nile, is already sufficiently heated for war to have been mentioned.

The British enquiry into intelligence failures before the Iraq invasion will be held in private, and will concentrate on systems failures, as opposed to the actions of individuals. Its terms of reference will also allow it to look into the global trade in weapons of mass destruction, which is likely to be a crowd-pleaser in the beleaguered intelligence community.

12 February 2004

On the cold highlands of Venus (yes, it does get cold at higher altitudes on that hot planet), it snows heavy metal, according to this SpaceDaily story.

Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry joined the radical New Left outfit Vietnam Veterans Against the War when he returned to the US after serving in Vietnam, according to the Washington Times. The newspaper describes the VVAW as an extremist fringe group whose portrayal of US troops as war criminals turned off most vets.

William Hawkins, senior fellow for national security studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council, concludes his analysis of this hidden side of Kerry's Vietnam experience this way: "It would seem Mr. Kerry's service with the VVAW has had much more to do with shaping the senator's public record on the issues than did his military service in Vietnam. He did what he had to do under fire and deserves praise for that. But what he has chosen to do since in politics is the better predictor of what he would do as president."

This is a wonderful story from the LA Times today about the late Lou Harrison, a new music composer who built an extraordinary house of straw near Joshua Tree National Park.

"The retreat is dominated by a soaring, arched roof that took design cues from both mosques and medieval cathedrals. It uses traditional materials in an experimental way, so much so that it took almost three years to get through the permitting process. It was built in large part by a community of people, some of whom were longtime friends and admirers of Harrison and others who were lured by the novel way in which the house was constructed. And finally, it has strong ties to the environment.

"Inside the retreat's 2-foot-thick walls, the primary building material is tightly bound bundles of straw. Straw-bale construction - a rapidly growing nationwide trend - was used because of its recycled materials, low cost, malleability and insulating quality that makes heating and air-conditioning more efficient."

Julius Schwartz, a legendary figure in the world of comic books, has died in New York. He created Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Atom and the Justice League of America. He brought Batman back to life in the '60s, and revived Captain Marvel in the '70s. His work won him many awards, including the Comics Fandom's Alley award for Best Editor in 1962; the Academy of Comic Book Arts award for Superior Achievement in 1972; three Eagle awards; the Jules Verne award for Life-time Achievement in 1984; and the Diamond Lifetime Fandom Award in 1991. This Guardian obituary is markedly better than the one published in the New York Times today.

Fatah, Yasser Arafat's revolutionary movement for Palestinian nationalism, is crumbling all around him, according to this Haaretz backgrounder, largely under the weight of charges of graft and corruption. One report alleges that Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia's cement company is under investigation by a Palestinian parliamentary committee for supplying concrete to build Israeli settlements outside Jerusalem, and for supplying the monumental concrete plates that are butted together to form the West Bank separation fence.

The Guardian's got this wrong. They say Immanuel Kant has always been portrayed as a bore. I remember snatches of a song from the distant days of my youth that said, unequivocally, you might think, that "Immanuel Kant was a real pissant," and, for what it's worth, "Heidegger was a boozy old beggar." There were other supposedly boring philosophers in there as well, but I can't offhand remember who they were. So somebody knew what a wild man Kant was ages ago.

This is typical. A European company is found to have broken every rule in the book in defrauding investors of billions of euros, five international and two Italian banks are involved and who does Brussels want to crack down on? Offshore tax havens, of course.

Surprise, surprise! Iran was fibbing about its nuclear programme. United Nations inspectors have found a new type of centrifuge design in Iran and other experiments that Tehran has failed to declare, despite its claim in November that it had fully disclosed its nuclear programme.

Meantime, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, Muhammad Al-Baradei has warned that nuclear technology is now too easy to obtain, and has echoed the US President's call for states to tighten control of nuclear exports.

Saddam Hussein was so convinced that war would be averted or that America would mount only a limited bombing campaign that he deployed the Iraqi military to crush domestic uprisings rather than defend against a ground invasion, according to a classified log of interrogations of captured Iraqi leaders and former officers. It's a New York Times story, so you must have registered with them to read it.

Fancy yourself as an artist? Have a go with this.

French scientific research directors, angered by what they see as a government death wish for science, are planning to resign en masse early in March if politicians do not clean up their act. It's about money, and it's about the survival of scientific research in France, they say. In a press statement, however, the Ministry of Research and New Technologies launched a "collective reflection, open to all, to establish a shared diagnostic for French research and to prepare the legal framework which will help make concrete the great scientific ambition which our country desires." No word yet on what on earth that might mean.

11 February 2004

Scientists are just catching up with something writers have known and talked about for centuries - the process can make you feel better. According to The Age, some believe improvements in a person's wellbeing come about because writing offers catharsis; others suggest putting pen to paper provides space for reflection, the gaining of insight and the opportunity to attain some much-needed perspective.

One of these days they'll get around to figuring out why writing is also such a catalyst in the process of understanding.

NASA is proposing to use electrical ion propulsion powered by a nuclear reactor for its Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter, an element of Project Prometheus, which is scheduled for launch after 2011. The spacecraft proposed would orbit Callisto, Ganymede and Europa to study their makeup, possible vast oceans beneath the ice, their history and potential for sustaining life.

"This election would shame Tammany Hall," said former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm, a board candidate on the anti-immigration slate. "I have been watching elections for 40 years, but I have never seen an election less just, less objective or less democratic.'' Surprisingly, he's talking about the Sierra Club, not some third-world banana republic. Immigration has become a big issue for environmentalists - some of them say it is the United States' most pressing environmental problem - and it is that that is chiefly causing this rather sad and destructive fight.

The Washington Times wonders why South Africa persists in allowing its apologies for Zimbabwe's policies to tarnish its image.

Democratic presidential candidate and Vietnam vet John Kerry says Jane Fonda was never more than a good friend.

Janet Daley of the Telegraph, an American transplanted in Britain, takes Michael Howard's "British Dream" speech as part of an agonizingly slow realisation by the British that they might be able to learn something from American optimism about life. This is a good piece of social analysis from a lady who gets better and better at what she does.

Worried by falling attendances, the Church of England has been urged in a new report to experiment with new styles of worship, from midweek services with coffee and croissants to cathedral raves led by rapping DJs. No word on whether topless sermons by women priests were considered, or calling for volunteers to go on Middle East suicide missions...either one would pack the house nicely.

A fairly routine Microsoft security patch release is getting falling-sky billing in Britain, famous for its media's penchant for pumping the least little problem into a major drama, and famous, too, for its public's willingness to believe the worst about absolutely anything.

Prosecutors in France have announced they've opened an enquiry into the transfer of nine million euros into the bank accounts of Yasser Arafat's wife, Suha. And in a parallel development, the European Union's anti-fraud office, looking into allegations that the Palestinian Authority diverted European aid to terrorist activity, has accepted as genuine incriminating PA documents seized by the Israeli Defence Force in a military operation in 2002. A final report is now expected in a couple of months.

More on writer Roddy Doyle's dramatic dismissal of James Joyce's Ulysses as a bore. John Mullan of the Guardian writes:

"Great literature does not have to be difficult (Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby), but there is a kind of difficult book where the obscurity has been willed by the writer. Oddly, several of these belong to that movement of which Joyce was a part: modernism. As well as Joyce there was TS Eliot, whose densely allusive poem The Waste Land prompted such perplexity that the poet felt prompted to provide his own notes. Several of these, presenting slabs of untranslated Latin or medieval Italian, made the poem even more taxing. And these are falling off a log compared to Ezra Pound, whose Cantos is simply unintelligible without a scholarly guidebook."

Mullan's defence isn't exactly passionate, and I suspect that's because he, and others, realise that Doyle's assault poses no more threat to the place of Ulysses in literature than a flea might to an elephant.

Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, is brushing off complaints about a huge rise in the organisation's budget. The EU's six main paymasters - Austria, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden - urged Mr Prodi last month to make "painful" choices and to cap spending at its current level of 1 per cent of gross national income. The Financial Times predicts a fierce and lengthy battle.

You need to work about two thirds of the way through this story before you realise that its headline, A new probe into the mysteries of the St Valentine's Day massacre refers to a new book about it. But the fascination the public has for that gangland murder means that nobody who starts this story is likely to bail out before reaching the end.

10 February 2004

Richard W. Rahn, senior fellow of the Discovery Institute and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute, is the rarest of Americans - he is a man who understands how and why offshore financial centres work.

Writing in the Washington Times this morning, he said: "The fact is that big offshore financial centers, such as Cayman and Bermuda, and other big financial centers, such as Switzerland, the UK and the US, are all characterized by having honest courts and competent administrators...

"Some politicians in both Europe and the US attempt to scapegoat offshore jurisdictions because they do not punish capital through high taxes in the way many governments in Europe and the US do. These politicians either fail or choose not to recognize that their attempts to keep individuals and institutions from utilizing offshore entities will merely result in less saving and investment, and ultimately slower economic growth in their own countries as well as the rest of the world.

"If these politicians do not want funds to flow though Cayman and the other offshores, the constructive thing to do would be to reduce the taxation on productive saving and investment and reduce regulatory red tape in their home countries.

"The next time you hear some politician bashing a company or individual who utilizes an offshore financial center, realize the politician is either ignorant of the economic facts or doesn't care if there are fewer jobs and more people in poverty throughout the world."

What a lovely man he is.

A business journalist and novelist based in New York says virus protection should be a publicly-funded service...at least that's what I think he means. It's certain, though, that he doesn't think he should be expected to play any part in protecting his PC. Doesn't sound the frontier type to me.

A pitched battle over farmland between 6,000 Zimbabwean farmworkers and a greedy Minister of Agriculture? I don't like to think about the outcome of that fight.

Gordon Brown's opposition to the European Union's request for more money as a result of taking on new members is well known. He's going to be making a "hard-hitting statement" to a meeting of European Finance Ministers today, according to the Telegraph. In it, he'll say that before asking member states to swallow a 25% increase in its spending, the EU should tackle "wasteful bureaucracy" in its ranks.

If Mr Brown wants to get his teeth into some wasteful bureaucracy, he perhaps needn't look so far away from London. It seems Suffolk county council might benefit if something suitably heavy (a gross of copies of Chicken Little?) were bounced off the thick heads of its members.

Sources in Israel are claiming that Muslim terror groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah, are trying to consolidate their presence in areas of Latin America, particularly in the area where Argentinian, Brazilian and Paraguayan borders meet.

Haaretz claims that "According to Israeli sources, Hamas and Hezbollah, alongside Al-Qaida and World Jihad groups, are busy training recruits, collecting arms, and gathering intelligence about targets, including Jewish and Israeli targets. They prefer hard-to-reach areas, far from local security and law enforcement agencies, and the decision to conduct activities in Latin America, say Israeli sources, is meant to take the terror front beyond the Lebanon-Israel borders."

Ireland's Booker prize winner Roddy Doyle has shocked the literary world by describing James Joyce's Ulysses, often chosen as the best novel ever written, as overrated, overlong and unmoving. He's not the first writer to do that, and the publicity similar attacks generate pretty much guarantee he won't be the last. Here's what some of his colleagues in the book biz think of his remarks. I particularly liked the admission by poet Craig Raine that he used to carry a copy of Ulysses everywhere, because he thought that if he got knocked down by a bus, it was probably a more important statement than wearing clean underwear.

But the last word on Ulysses has already been written. Edmund Wilson's masterful review, published in the 1920s, criticises Joyce for having "written some of the most unreadable chapters in the whole history of fiction."

"Yet for all its appalling longueurs, Ulysses is a work of high genius. Its importance seems to me to lie, not so much in its opening new doors to knowledge - unless in setting an example to Anglo-Saxon writers of putting down everything without compunction - or in inventing new literary forms - Joyce's formula is really, as I have indicated, nearly seventy-five years old - as in its once more setting the standard of the novel so high that it need not be ashamed to take its place beside poetry and drama.

"Ulysses has the effect at once of making everything else look brassy. Since I have read it, the texture of other novelists seems intolerably loose and careless; when I come suddenly unawares upon a page that I have written myself I quake like a guilty thing surprised.

"The only question now is whether Joyce will ever write a tragic masterpiece to set beside this comic one. There is a rumor that he will write no more - that he claims to have nothing left to say - and it is true that there is a paleness about parts of his work which suggests a rather limited emotional experience. His imagination is all intensive; he has but little vitality to give away. His minor characters, though carefully differentiated, are sometimes too drily differentiated, insufficiently animated with life, and he sometimes gives the impression of eking out his picture with the data of a too laborious note-taking. At his worst he recalls Flaubert at his worst - in L'Education Sentimentale. But if he repeats Flaubert's vices - as not a few have done - he also repeats his triumphs - which almost nobody has done.

"Who else has had the supreme devotion and accomplished the definitive beauty? If he has really laid down his pen never to take it up again he must know that the hand which laid it down upon the great affirmative of Mrs. Bloom, though it never write another word, is already the hand of a master."

This review, and others by Edmund Wilson, (whose book of literary criticism, Axel's Castle, is itself accepted as a classic of the Modern Movement) is accessible to subscribers of the the New Republic.

Who can resist a review that suggests a painter's subjects "have the air of grenades about to go off, bursting into uncontrollable life"? Adrian Searle is the reviewer, and his piece about a retrospective of El Greco is published in the Guardian this morning.

Norman Geras of Normblog is guest blogging at A Fistful of Euros this week, and is hoping to offer a mini-series on European thinkers. In his first, he meditates on the phrase Hannah Arendt used in her coverage of the Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem in 1961. She wrote of "...the lesson that this long course in human wickedness has taught us - the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil."

09 February 2004

Newsweek says presidential candidate John Kerry made "up to $200,000" by trading the stock of a company that boosted its balance sheet by moving its headquarters to Bermuda. His dislike for "Benedict Arnold" companies apparently does know some bounds.

The intelligence community offered world leaders several conclusions from their investigations before the Iraq invasion. They thought Iraq possessed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons; they thought Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear-bomb research and that Saddam still wanted atomic weapons; they thought Iraq was producing missiles beyond the range allowed by United Nations resolutions; and they thought that Iraqi research continued into chemical and biological agents. Only the first seems to have been incorrect.

According to this Washington Times story, Daniel Gallington, an analyst at the conservative Potomac Institute and former counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, says Baghdad became skilled in the 1990s at counterintelligence that kept the CIA from developing spies.

"What's 'right' is relative," Mr. Gallington said. "We always have to go with the most dangerous possible scenario with these guys. The one that troubles me most is that Saddam did know we were going to invade and he sent [weapons material] to possibly Syria. So, if you can't find it in country and you can't figure out how or where he disposed of it, then we should be looking elsewhere. It is extremely dangerous that we can't precisely account for any of it, at all. This is the point that all the commentators, in and out of government, seem to be missing."

The diary of a young foreign jihadi in Iraq has become known as "the Book" to American forces there, fascinated by the glimpse it provides into the world of insurgency.

"The jihad people who came in had their own agenda. They were not connected to former regime loyalists, but to Islamic extremists," according to one military intelligence official. "But as this thing evolved, it became obvious that the best network for anyone coming from outside to fight would be to contact former regime loyalists. Those were the people who knew who to call, where to find safe houses, where to get their hands on money, weapons, transportation. They had intelligence on where the coalition troops were moving convoys, where troops were stationed, where mortars could be set up."

Norman Thelwell, the British cartoonist who died over the weekend, created a wonderful little visual world of young girls and their bossy ponies that is as recognisable as a Rolls Royce. The first (and last) time he rode a horse, it bolted. In his cartoons, perhaps as a result, the animals always have the upper hand.

This sample of his work seems to be one of his earlier cartoons.

Cricketers are an eccentric crowd of people, but their craziness always seems to have a foxy side to it. Here's a village team that wants to lock itself inside its crumbling pavilion in order to raise money to build a new one. They are to be allowed out only to be suspended in a cage over the wicket for four hours at a time, to be tormented with rotten fruit and eggs. In Bermuda, we'd call that full-taut crazy. Nonetheless, I do wish the Telegraph had included in its story an address to send money to...

You know, I often disagree strongly with the Guardian's left-leaning political support for every bad hat and low life on the planet, but there is no newspaper in the world I know that can match the quality of its coverage of the arts. A mortuary chapel in Hungary in which the dead rest in the heart's place in a timber representation of the human torso? Built by "the Robin Hood of Hungarian architecture"? It's a little package of information which delights on an otherwise rather drear Monday morning.

Joseph Priestley was a non-conformist Calvinist who was more or less run out of Britain for his religious views and for his support of both French and American revolutions. He never took a science course in his life, yet after an inspiring meeting with Benjamin Franklin, he became a scientific experimenter. He discovered oxygen and nitrous oxide, invented soda water, and was the first to document the process of photosynthesis. Writers should revere him, because he also invented the eraser. The British are just waking up to what a talented man they lost the day he and his family took ship for the US in 1794.

The European Union is making little progress in its attempts to get "tax havens" to agree to information sharing and to introducing withholding taxes. It's particularly interesting that the holdouts are not the Caribbean villains Europeans love to hate, but four European nations - Lichtenstein, Andorra, San Marino and Monaco.

Many German commentators suggest it was the decision by US authorities to withhold key evidence from the Hamburg trial of lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Attar's roommate, Abdelghani Mzoudi. Unnamed security analysts in this Christian Science Monitor story say that allowing key terror suspects to testify openly in open court could allow them to divulge information and send messages to their comrades. It seems odd to me that some device can't be found to meet both the need for secrecy and the need for evidence.

08 February 2004

The influential scholar Bernard Lewis, author of more than 20 books on Islam and the Middle East, says the United States has but a single choice in the Middle East - get tough, or get out. As mentor and informal adviser to some top U.S. officials, Mr. Lewis has helped coax the White House to shed decades of thinking about Arab regimes and the use of military power. Gone is the notion that U.S. policy in the oil-rich region should promote stability above all, even if it means taking tyrants as friends. Also gone is the corollary notion that fostering democratic values in these lands risks destabilizing them. Instead, the Lewis Doctrine says fostering Mideast democracy is not only wise but imperative.

He told the Wall Street Journal "...you can't be rich, strong, successful and loved, particularly by those who are not rich, not strong and not successful. So the hatred is something almost axiomatic. The question which we should be asking is why do they neither fear nor respect us?"

Nearly 400 members of Yasser Arafat's ruling Fatah Party resigned on Saturday to protest corruption and bad leadership, according to this AP story carried by the Washington Times. It is never clear what effect this sort of protest is likely to have on Yasser Arafat's merry men, but to the extent it is troublesome for them, it couldn't happen to a more appropriate gang.

The Washington Post suggests this morning that investigations into Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's nuclear trafficking network have extended to seven countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. It is highly unlikely that Mr Khan would have been pardoned if the authorities hadn't been satisfied that they had been able to extract from him every piece of useful information he possessed during his three-month interrogation, so it seems reasonable to expect that the rolling-up of his ring will be pretty thorough.

Observers on both sides of the Atlantic are trying to puzzle out why intelligence agencies might have thought Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction programmes were more threatening than they turned out to be. The Los Angeles Times thinks it might have something to do with the sheer volume of raw material analysts have to deal with.

The Guardian has an idea that MI6 and the CIA focused too much on the possibility that the head of the Mukhabarat, one of Iraq's three intelligence agencies, might lead a coup against Saddam.

The last survivor of the Bloomsbury set, Frances Patridge, died in Britain this week. She was an author of some stature who was little bothered by the often rather convoluted domestic arrangements of members of the set. "Social conventions," she said in her old age, "have always seemed to me a means of avoiding thinking out one's own values and clinging blindly to the security of being like other people - a process that starts among the snake-belts of prep schools and ends in Jennifer's Diary."

The Iraq conflict is probably the most misrepresented war of modern times, says Matthew d'Anconca in the Telegraph this morning.

"As inquiries proliferate on both sides of the Atlantic and politicians squirm in a seemingly interminable audit, the prejudice that it was an unnecessary and reckless enterprise is hardening into orthodoxy...the relish with which some - especially, but not exclusively, within the Labour Party - have seized upon the WMD furore is deeply distasteful. Their loathing for Mr Blair has completely infected their appraisal of the war, its causes and its consequences. They are more animated by the prospective downfall of the Prime Minister than the actual downfall of the Iraqi dictator. That is their privilege. But it carries a cost. As the debate has become more introspective and introverted, the horizons of British politics have narrowed dangerously. The global perspective which followed September 11 has been replaced by a shabby insularity. The threat posed by rogue states and fundamentalist groups is all but forgotten."

One of the terrorist suspects recently-released from the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba says he enjoyed his time there. Fifteen year-old Mohammed Ismail Agha, who was arrested in Afghanistan, said "They gave me a good time in Cuba. They were very nice to me, giving me English lessons." He wasn't thrilled by the fact that the Americans failed to contact his parents for 10 months, mind you, but his comments won't be comforting to human rights campaigners, who have been trying hard to make the case that Camp Delta prisoners are being treated abonimably.

The BBC's attempts to clean up its act have apparently reached even its coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth, says it has appointed someone to monitor its Middle East output for objectivity and impartiality.

The Swiss-born photographer Rene Burri gatecrashed (sort of) a Picasso party and took some pictures of the great man having fun. They launched a career that was characterised by his managing to be in the right place at the right time.

A literary spat that has been raging on blog sites for weeks now has surfaced in the Guardian. It has to do with New York Times editor Bill Keller's plans to revamp his Book Review. Keller things the Review should review less literary fiction and more non-fiction. He wants to pay closer attention to potboilers, and make reviews shorter. His critics say that what he wants to do will have the effect of dumbing the book review down. It's all really rather predictable, and I wonder whether he might not have been floating a trial balloon. That would allow him to look like a hero when he announces that he's going to do a little compromising to take account of public opinion.

Why on earth did it take so long to figure out that women's handbags really should be equipped with a light? A German manufacturer has finally caught on, and the illuminated model will be on sale in London in April.


Art in Bermuda
Bermuda's Cuban Connection
Death of the Nation State
Helen Lives!
Joe Wilson and Michael Moore
Linton Kwesi Johnson's Dub Poetry
Me and Evergreen Review
Michael Howard's Vision
Miss Lou and Jamaican Patois
More Doomsday Nonsense
Mullah Nasrudin's Lessons
New York Dogs
OECD's Unfair to Competition
On Catullus
On Charles Ives
On Colin MacInnes
On Collecting Books
On Collecting Books - Part Two
On Gambling in Bermuda
On Napoleon
On Patrick Leigh Fermor
Race and Bermuda's Election
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Gift of Slang
The Limits of Knowledge
The Nature of Intelligence
The Shared European Dream
The US Supreme Court's First Terrorism Decisions
Useful Yiddish
Yukio Mishima's Death

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2003 Index


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