...Views from mid-Atlantic
10 July 2004

Israel's National Library is being threatened by a species of woodworm, indigenous to Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, which probably arrived in a shipment of books from abroad. The creature is evidently immune to the standard fumigation techniques that the library has applied to all incoming shipments of books for the past 15 years. The insect's incubation period, from the time it is conceived to the time it hatches, is usually more than two years. The fear is that the eggs, which are difficult to detect since they are burrowed within the binding and margins of books, have yet to be discovered. The Library's five-million volume collection includes the personal papers of Albert Einstein and the writings of Martin Buber, as well as some Hebrew texts dating back to the 13th century. So far, these have not been harmed.

A new opera, Man and Boy: Dada, is being performed in London in the middle of this month. It's about Kurt Schwitters, and the composer, Michael Nyman, was inspired by a link the two had - a bus ticket. The opera begins, fittingly, with an old man and a young boy fighting over a ticket on a London bus. The man is Kurt Schwitters - German modernist, portrait painter, collagist, poet, composer, constructor, graphic designer, photographer, typographer, theatre theorist and co-founder of the Dada movement. Nyman says: "The boy is possibly me, made older by a few years so that I could come into fictional contact with Schwitters before he died in the Lake District in 1948. As a child in South Chingford in the early 1950s, I hoarded bus tickets as part of a collecting mania that included cigarette cards, triangular cheese labels, matchbox labels, coins and lollipop wrappers."

09 July 2004

This seems to me typical of a flaw in the way the United States works. A bunch of bright guys come up with a scheme to put air marshals aboard aircraft around the world to keep them safe from terrorists. The people further down the chain to whom they leave the details, however, are the dimmer bulbs who, lacking muscle in the ideas department, have to depend on rigid adherence to rules for their identity. The result? Air Marshals whose crew cuts and suits make them look, to passengers and terrorists alike, as if they'd been supplied by central casting.

FOXNews has obtained a list of preferred companies, put together by Saddam Hussein and his government in the days of the Oil-for-Food embargo. Investigators believe, says Fox, that the companies were selected because they or their governments were willing to back Saddam against international isolation and sanctions. Surprisingly, there are few French firms. The list suggests that Russian and Saudi Arabian companies were the big winners in the scheme, which was beset by bribes and kickbacks.

John Keegan, in a Daily Telegraph column this morning, laments the fact that the British Armed Forces, again facing deep and dangerous cuts in funding, have few friends these days in Britain. "The Parliamentary Labour Party," he says, "is anti-military to a degree that prevents it acknowledging the favour done to the Government by the Armed Forces. The chattering classes are also anti-military, as they will remain until some terrible terrorist outrage shakes their complacency. Key ministers are either anti-military, such as Mr Brown, or uncomprehending, as is the Prime Minister. The media, besotted by football and celebrity, are also uncomprehending."

A leading cancer surgeon, Michael Baum, the emeritus professor of surgery at University College London, has written an open letter to Prince Charles, chastising him for his support of alternative therapy that he says harks back to the dark days of Galen, a physician who treated patients in Rome over 1,800 years ago.

Professor Baum says in his letter, quoted by the Telegraph, that he has "much time" for complementary therapies in the treatment of cancer when they offer improvements in quality of life and spiritual solace, providing that they are properly integrated with modern medicine. "But I have no time at all for alternative therapy that finds itself above the evidence and practises in a metaphysical domain that harks back to the dark day of Galen," he writes.

"You promote the Gerson diet whose only support comes from inductive logic - that is, anecdote. Collective self-satisfaction is the death of research. It is restlessness, anxiety, dissatisfaction, agony of mind that nourish science. Please, your royal highness, help us nourish medical science by sharing our agony."

Tony Blair blew his reputation as a reader when he met Ian McEwan at a party and told him he had several of his works hanging on the walls of Number 10. But Gordon Brown, whose speech to the British Institute I posted about yesterday, is apparently rather different. His speech, about what makes the British British, drew on several literary sources, tempting the Guardian's Stephen Moss "to wonder whether Brown got some help with his richly sourced musings from a nerdy special adviser. It is after all not unknown for politicians to 'sign off' the work of their underlings, and the prose has that by-the-yard New Labour feel to it...But the Treasury insists that every syllable is the chancellor's. 'Gordon reads widely and has read every book and article referred to,' says a spokesman. 'He always spends his weekends and his holidays reading. He's been thinking about this issue for years and has been hard at work on the lecture for weeks. He has discussed it with colleagues and consulted some of the people he cites.'"

The Art Institute of Chicago has assembled a complex exhibition, Seurat and the Making of La Grande Jatte, that explains the long process the artist went through to complete what became one of the world's best-known paintings. "It's not just an explanation of this particular painting, but of how Seurat gets here, how he has the chutzpah to embark on something this much a slap in the face to his predecessors," says Gloria Groom, a co-curator of the exhibit.

Massive storms on the sun might explain how the water that was once on Mars disappeared, scientists say. This New York Times article (you'll need to register) says the big storm a few months ago produced one blast that damaged a radiation monitor aboard the Odyssey spacecraft orbiting Mars. However, the craft was still able to record how the wave stretched and tore the thin atmosphere surrounding the planet, carrying part of it into space. This process could at least partly explain how Mars has lost so much of its atmosphere and water over the course of the last 3.5 billion years.

08 July 2004

The Patriot Act's terrible reputation in the US as a document that tramples on human rights is undeserved, according to former US Attorney General Edwin Meese. In the Washington Times this morning, he writes: "The Patriot Act has become something of a political football. Inflammatory TV commercials show hands ripping up the Constitution, with a voice-over blaming Attorney General John Ashcroft. Print ads show an elderly gentleman leaving a bookstore with text decrying the use of government powers to get his reading list. But the hysteria is based on false premises, embodied in the proposed amendments...Most of the steps taken after September 11 to combat terrorism follow those previously authorized to fight serious criminal activity. And there is no evidence of any abuse of Patriot Act provisions."

The new Iraqi government is investigating whether illegal payoffs were made to secure cell phone contracts for a financial associate of Saddam Hussein, the former US administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, has told the Washington Times. The companies involved are suspected of rigging the bids in favor of Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi-born Briton who was convicted by a French court for illegal payments to a French oil company. The allegation came to light in a report written by John A. Shaw, the US deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security. He suggested that Auchi used bribes to secure cell phone contracts worth $500 million. Auchi has denied any wrongdoing and has said he is connected to only one of the three cell phone companies in Iraq.

The Washington Post has broken an excellent story about the Middle East this morning, in that they've obtained a report presented to Palestinian officials by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades that suggests the armed wing of Yasser Arafat's Fatah political movement is trying to break ranks with him. The report suggests they want a comprehensive campaign against corruption in the Palestinian Authority. They are also recommending that Arafat relinquish some of his powers and that militant groups - including Islamic organizations - be granted a formal, and governing voice. Spokesmen for Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have dismissed the document. Arafat's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said it did not sound "serious".

Researchers for the Concise Oxford Dictionary have discovered "mass dyslexia" in Britain over how to use some words and phrases. As they searched the Oxford English Corpus, a database of 400 million written words, they discovered that while spelling remains reasonably strong more and more writers are mixing up homonyms. The most common error was the use of the phrase diffuse the situation when it should be defuse the situation. Up to half the examples recorded, some of which are given here, were wrong.

Lynne Truss, the lady who wrote that book about eating, shooting and leaving, weighs in with a little advice to those who think English needs reforming: "Why is there a silent 'p' in 'receipt' and not in 'deceit'? Well, the quick answer is: life's a pain sometimes; stop whining; if you don't like it, go and speak German." That's a finely-punctuated sentence.

Tony Blair is under mounting pressure to expel a controversial Muslim cleric who declared last night that suicide bombers were "martyrs" whose actions were justified by Islam. Egyptian-born Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who also has extreme views on Jews and gays and has said that husbands should beat "disobedient" wives, is on a speaking tour of Britain and will be "guest of honour" at a conference organised by the Greater London Authority.

Haaretz has written this story in a particularly obtuse way, but I think this is what it means: The reason Syrian President Bashar Assad cut his visit to China short a couple of weeks ago was not that he and the Chinese had some kind of disagreement as rumour had it at the time, but that he was informed that one of his cousins had been arrested. An unnamed European country took Munzar Assad into custody to prevent his imminent arrest for aiding militias loyal to deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Iraq and supplying them with arms, by intelligence agents of the US and one of its European coalition partners. I don't know which one that would be, but France would be the usual suspect in the role of the villain. This was a Haaretz exclusive early this morning. If it can be confirmed, you can bet it will be used by every media outlet in the civilised world in a few hours.

"...It is my belief that out of tidal flows of British history - 2,000 years of successive waves of invasion, immigration, assimilation and trading partnerships that have created a uniquely rich and diverse culture - certain forces emerge again and again that make up a characteristically British set of values and qualities that, taken together, mean that there is indeed a strong and vibrant Britishness that underpins Britain." That's Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on what it is to be British. This Guardian piece contains excerpts from his lecture to the British Council, and there's a link to the full speech down at the foot of the page.

A new survey being published today by the National Endowment for the Arts describes a "precipitous downward trend" in book consumption by Americans and a particular decline in the reading of fiction, poetry and drama. The New York Times (registration is required) quotes the chairman of the endowment as having said "Reading is in decline among all groups, in every region, at every educational level and within every ethnic group." He called the survey results "deeply alarming".

There is every reason to suppose that this trend in the US is mirrored in Britain, where Tony Blair is quoted today as having agreed it was a scandal that one in four children leaving primary school at the age of 11 was still not able to read and count properly.

I suppose it was predictable that former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr should react to Bill Clinton's autobiography, My Life. In the Wall Street Journal this morning, he says, essentially, that his will-it-ever-end Whitewater investigation was justified because he was able to charge, not the Clintons, but a bunch of other people.

"Mr. Clinton glosses over this enduring lesson about the role of the independent counsel," Starr says, "as well as sliding by many of the investigation's undisputed findings. His epic-length reflections sweep aside not only the flinty facts, but the vital importance of history and tradition in our constitutional architecture. That impoverishment in the presentation reinforces the unfortunate sense that only personalities and (alleged) motivations count in modern public life, when in truth, it is the integrity of ideas and principles that have lasting consequences.

"That is why we as a nation, over two centuries later, remembered once again not only Independence Day itself, but the ideas at the Founding given powerful voice by Thomas Jefferson when he and the other signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their 'sacred honor'. These principles, more fully anchored in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the post-Civil War amendments, have stood the test of time and will extend far beyond our own passing age of celebrity."

It's a safe bet that when a man resorts to that kind of language, he knows he's defending the indefensible.

07 July 2004

As European Commission assistant auditor, Paul van Buitenen became famous in 1998 for blowing the whistle on fraud and mismanagement inside the EU, which ultimately led to the fall of the Santer Commission in the spring of 1999. The woman behind the alleged fraud - former commissioner Edith Cresson - was last week cleared in criminal proceedings, and has denounced accusations made against her, notably by Mr van Buitenen, as gossip that had been whipped up into a climate of hysteria.

Mr van Buitenen, however, insists that there were cases of fraud in the Cresson case and said that her responsibility "is undeniable". He has again attacked the European Commission and vowed to expose more details of mismanagement in the last administration. He criticised the European Commission for its lack of reform after the fall of the previous Santer Commission in 1999. Meantime, Ms Cresson is still awaiting the verdict of an internal Commission investigation, which could lead to a case being lodged at the European Court of Justice.

Cassini spacecraft instruments have peered through the orange smog of Titan and glimpsed the surface below. According to SpaceDaily, "Images sent back to Earth reveal dark areas and lighter, fuzzy areas. Data from the Visual Infrared Mapping Spectrometer indicate that the dark areas are pure water ice. The bright fuzzy regions have several different types of non-ice materials, and may include organic materials such as hydrocarbons."

A Pennsylvania Republican member of the House of Representatives, Curt Weldon, works himself into a fine fury in a Washington Times op-ed this morning over the perfidy of the French...or, to be specific, of Jacques Chirac. "The countries of New Europe," he says, "countries that have the nightmare of oppression seared into their memory - are willing to make heroic commitments to protect freedom and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"France values its democratic allies when her freedoms are in jeopardy. In contrast, France has a striking disregard when the freedoms of others less fortunate are at risk. Mr. Chirac's misguided refusal to allow NATO troops to provide vital security for Afghan elections or train Iraqi security forces may forever undermine the peaceful objectives that will be the foundation of stability in these long-suffering countries for generations.

"France's profitable financial support of Saddam Hussein is well documented, and prior to the liberation of the Iraqi people, it continued to prop up the Oil for Food program that will go down as one of the most corrupt international aid programs in history. Most recently, just hours after the Coalition Provisional Authority transferred sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government, the French Finance Ministry announced it would immediately restore full economic ties with Iraq. Sadly, profit and self-interest have replaced France's guiding moral compass."

Back in 1995, apparently, hundreds of precious books and manuscripts were stolen from Iraq's Awqaf library in Mosul. Of 464 that disappeared, over 400 have been recovered. Now the most valuable of them, a medical treatise written in 1012 by Arab physician Mohammed bin Zakarai al-Razi, has been recovered in London as a result of a tip-off from an unnamed auction house. The manuscript is thought to have spent several years in other Middle Eastern countries. It is now to be returned to Iraq.

There was a howl of protest when the UK, Bermuda and other countries began to require visas of Jamaican visitors 18 months or two years ago, in an attempt to cut down on drug smuggling. I've seen no figures here on whether it had a good effect, but the Brits reckon the number of cocaine-swallowing mules detected on arrival has fallen sharply, from a high of 730 in the year to June 2002 to only 41 in the past 12 months. The Guardian doesn't mention the visas in this story, giving the credit to better cooperation between British and Jamaican authorities. I can't say I know better, but I certainly strongly suspect that it was Mr Blunkett's visas decision that did the trick.

Cisco Systems stiffed computing instructor Matt Basham when he made suggestions for improving the company's official training manuals. So the professor at St Petersburg College in Clearwater, Florida wrote his own...an 800-page networking textbook that he thinks takes better account of the low level of general computer expertise of his students. And he's made it available on the Internet, free of charge. Commie rat.

Europeans are beginning to realise that the surge in employment they expected to create when they adopted a shorter work week was an illusion. In the New York Times (you'll need to register), the president of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin says "We have created a leisure society, while the Americans have created a work society...Our model does not work anymore. We are in the process of rethinking it."

From the 1970's until recently, Europe followed a philosophy of less is more when it came to labor, with the result that Europeans work an average of 10 percent fewer hours a year than Americans. Germans, with the lightest schedule, work about 18 percent fewer hours.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal this morning, Paul Volcker, chairman of the Independent Inquiry Committee looking into the UN Oil-for-Food scandal, says doubts raised about its staffing and financing are unwarranted. "Contrary to the implications of some press reports," he said, "the $4 million promptly provided by the UN in response to our request is only for 'start-up' costs, pending our determination of requirements over time...

"As a matter of priority, we seek to answer conclusively the allegations of corruption within the UN professional staff. We aim to provide, hopefully in six to eight months, the truly definitive report on the administration of the Oil-for-Food Program. In conjunction with responsible Iraqi and other national authorities as appropriate, we want to trace corrupt contractors and ill-gotten funds wherever they may be found. The chips will fall where they may."

Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, has invited anyone with information that might be useful to the committee to contact them at info@iic-offp.org.

06 July 2004

"Excessive, ill-considered and capricious regulation already has destroyed entire sectors of promising biotech applications," says Robert Miller in the Washington Times this morning. Miller is a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. From 1989 to 1993, he was director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology. His next book, 'The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution,' will be published later this year. "In the long run," he says, "if we are to reap what biopharming sows, we need more reasonable, science-based regulation. But that's as likely as rice paddies in North Dakota."

Three updates in this site's on-going coverage of the UN Oil-for-Food scandal. The New York Post says today that "Transcripts of secret U.N. Security Council sessions show that U.S. and British diplomats were constantly thwarted by their French, Russian and Chinese counterparts while investigating Saddam Hussein's dirty deals under the oil-for-food program."

CNN confirms that the blast that killed Ihsan Kareem, president of the Finance Ministry's audit board and the man heading up the Iraqi Government's investigation of the Oil-for-Food scandal, was not a random attack. Kareem was deliberately targeted with a bomb attached to the underside of his car.

And the UK's Financial Times (read it now...they make their stories disappear in three days) has published another useful backgrounder on what they say is the race to figure out who stole more of Iraq's oil money, the UN or the US. The French, the FT notes, say the whole scandal is just an attempt to discredit them.

Soldiers consider their "colours" to represent the honour which has attached to their unit over time, and all soldiers know that because of that, the colours are not paraded in public without an armed guard. The behaviour of these Mexican soldiers on Sunday was a disgraceful insult, not only to the family of this young Mexican/American who died in Iraq, but also to the US Marine Corps. Let's hope someone has the grace to apologise.

Today is the 100th birthday of one of the most influential biologists in history, Harvard University's Ernst Mayr. His work contributed to the conceptual revolution that led to the synthesis of Mendelian genetics and Darwinian evolution, and to the development of the biological species concept. To celebrate, the journal of the Skeptics Society, has reprinted an interview conducted with Mayr in 2000 by Michael Shermer and Frank J Sulloway, which is worth reading from top to bottom. Here's a pretty good sample of Mayr's often rather definite opinions:

"Darwin's metaphor of selection turned out to be wrong. Natural selection is not a process of selection, it is a process of elimination. Herbert Spencer, who was otherwise usually wrong, had the right idea of the 'survival of the fittest', defined as those individuals that have certain characteristics that prevent them from being eliminated. Nothing is being selected. Nature is just eliminating the less fit."

Bernard-Henri Levy is what Edith Wharton called one of the happy people of the world. He's got a great life, he's rich, he's married to an actress, he knows everybody. He creates, according to one of his friends, "a kind of exasperation for people for whom life is tough. To see a guy who doesn't need to do what he does, like the trips to war zones, it seems to them like a provocation. A kind of super-luxury dandyism."

But, as the Los Angeles Times says, "there's another reason for the resentment. Levy goes against the grain of certain stereotypes and prevailing ideologies. He's an ardent foe of anti-Americanism, one of the driving forces of intellectual activity in a Europe where it has become fashionable to trash America for such things as the death penalty, fast food and Hollywood movies. Although Levy criticizes President Bush and the Iraq war, he still sees the United States as 'a model of democracy, an exemplary democracy.'

"'Anti-Americanism is a horror,' Levy said during a recent interview in his study, where books lined the walls and were stacked on the floor. 'It is a magnet of the worst. In the entire world, and in France in particular, everything that is the worst in people's heads comes together around anti-Americanism: racism, nationalism, chauvinism, anti-Semitism.'"

"Over Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's objections," says Haaretz this morning, "the Fatah movement in Gaza is proceeding with elections that began on May 26 and are expected to go on for several more weeks." According to Fatah sources, the vast majority of those elected so far are allied with Mohammed Dahlan, former PA security chief, and other reformists, who are demanding greater democracy in the movement.

Professors from Laval University think they have finally pierced the web of mystery surrounding Canada's first great gold scandal. The 400 year-old puzzle concerns the ill fortunes of Martin Frobisher, a renowned British sailor who made three trips to Canada's Arctic between 1576 and 1578, convinced he had found a massive gold strike near Baffin Island.

Nat Hentoff, who writes about music for the Wall Street Journal, says the musical world has been buzzing ever since the Pulitzer governing board declared that from now on, works eligible for its prizes will include musical-theater compositions, film scores and works that are largely improvised.

"I was especially heartened by the board's explanation that this expansion is intended to recognize 'a broad view of serious music'. Years ago, working part-time at a Boston radio station that broadcast the Boston Symphony and a wide range of recorded classical music, I refused, in introducing those recordings, to use the station's customary description of Bach, Bartok, et al., as exclusively 'serious music.' Bach, I knew, could swing mightily, and I often plunged into Beethoven's late quartets. But there was also the profoundly serious music of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington."

05 July 2004

Chinese authorities invited China Central Television, China's largest national TV network to give live coverage of digging at a newly-discovered and highly promising archaeological site. "Qianjin Tadi Site is located somewhere three kilometers southeast of Qianjin Town, Huzhou. When the townsfolk heard that the excavation of this site would be live telecasted by CCTV, and that the site was one of the important items on the agenda of the 28th World Heritage Conference, they hurried to Tadi Site very early. In order to prevent traffic accidents from happening, the traffic police set up blocks three kilometers beyond, and entrance to the site was forbidden to vehicles without fixed duties. So the reporter had to hurry to the excavation spot on foot. Tadi Site was tightly packed with villagers and townspeople."

Three members of the policy research group, the Heritage Foundation, have published a long and detailed backgrounder on the UN Oil-for-Food scandal which is worth reading. Among other things, they recommend that the US should be prepared to withhold funds from the organisation. "The most effective way to ensure that the United Nations fully cooperates with its own commission of inquiry, and with investigators in Washington and Baghdad, is to threaten to reduce US funding for the UN, specifically the United States' assessed contribution. In particular, the US should target funds going to the UN Secretariat, the political arm of the UN system, that had responsibility for overseeing the Oil-for-Food program."

In a related story, the Washington Times is reporting this morning that Kofi Annan has ordered idled UN weapons inspectors to move from UN headquarters to the former offices of the Oil-for-Food program several blocks away, prompting complaints that it means sensitive documents must now be stored in a poorly secured building. Officials with the US Mission to the United Nations said they are looking into the move, which was apparently made without notification to the UN Security Council, which is responsible for oversight of the program.

British warnings about the danger of skin cancer from exposure to the sun in that country are ridiculous, says a report being published today by the Health Research Forum. On the contrary, it says, sun-starved, light-skinned British people desperately need a little exposure...20 minutes-worth three times a week, to be precise. Sunlight is the origin of up to 90 per cent of vitamin D in the body, but many people are not exposed to the sun sufficiently, so are at risk of developing diseases related to the deficiency. The bone disease osteoporosis has also been linked to a lack of the vitamin.

It is a myth that the Internet is an American invention, according to Thierry Chervel. Au contraire, he says, Europeans were responsible. His claim is published in Eurozine, and featured on the Arts & Letters Daily website this morning.

Bill Rammell, the foreign office junior minister responsible for Britain's overseas territories, has annoyed the Guardian's diplomatic editor, Ewen MacAskill, by saying there was no chance the former residents of Diego Garcia would be allowed back to their homeland. "The reasons he cited are absurd," MacAskill said. "He said conditions meant their life would be 'precarious' and there was a risk of flooding from global warming. His arguments are undermined by the US navy, which, in a message to recruits to its base there, describes Diego Garcia as one of the world's best-kept secrets, boasting 'unbelievable recreational facilities and exquisite natural beauty' and 'outstanding' living conditions. No mention of a threat of imminent demise from flooding. In fact, the US is seeking to extend its lease, which ends in 2016." MacAskill says Britain cheated the islanders out of their homes in the first place, and is now doing the US's bidding in keeping them out.

The Guardian has visited Renzo Piano's Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, and loves it! "Sited across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher building, with its lush garden, is a special place. Here is a beautifully simple, unpretentious, practical, likable and well-crafted building, an oasis in a city of mirror-glass towers. It seems a little strange to be showing this building at a time when Piano, undoubtedly one of the world's finest architects, has just witnessed the opening of his immense, eye-catching Padre Pio church in Foggia, southern Italy, and is busy with the design of his first building in Britain, a catwalk-thin 1,000-ft pyramid on the south side of London Bridge - designed, it seems, to prick the face of God. Old Europe gets architectural and religious overkill, while a cultured subtlety emerges in the young Lone Star State.

Under attack by the European Union, which equates high rates of tax with moral superiority among nations, Jersey seems to have been gripped by pessimism about its future as a low-tax jurisdiction is bleak. Its Parliament tomorrow is going to be debating a proposal that they get out of the offshore financial centre business. The measure's champion says Stuart Syvret, an outspoken senator. "There are several clearly identifiable factors that could drive offshore to extinction as far as Jersey is concerned," he said.

He told a meeting of exiles in London that "there are those of us who would much prefer to see a more balanced and less greed-oriented future for the island". This could include a new university and a return to former levels of tourism. He will argue in parliament this week that, if the financial services industry were dramatically curtailed without other businesses in place, "the island would undergo economic meltdown."

Richard Sambrook, the head of BBC News, has given his first interview since the publication of the Hutton Report, outlinging to the Guardian the changes that will are in store. He denies the changes are directly connected to the Hutton report (he's a BBC guy, what do you expect?). "It's not lessons deriving from the specific issues raised by Hutton, it's wider than that. Quite a lot of the Neil report is standing back, saying: these are our values, this is what we strive for. As far as I know, in the 25 years I've been here, the BBC has never articulated them in this way."

The Guardian says the BBC is expected soon to announce a new, improved complaints system. "As widely anticipated, there will be an ombudsman - although the BBC is curiously shying away from using that term - and a significant presence on the BBC website where all corrections and clarifications will be published."

04 July 2004

Black leaders and members of Congress are embracing comments by Bill Cosby illustrating the lack of social responsibility from some in the black community. They made their remarks in the context of celebrating the achievements of black Americans on the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act yesterday. Again, last week, Mr. Cosby enumerated problems within the black community and said those who are speaking against him are trying to hide "black people's dirty laundry."

This is about as much as anyone has on the story that the head of Iraq's probe into the UN Oil-for-Food scandal was assassinated last week.

Meantime, Paul Bremer is denying that he had any intention of blocking Iraq's probe into the scandal when he was the US administrator. "It became clear to me that the investigation should be conducted by a nonpolitical body and the Governing Council was clearly thinking in terms of a political investigation," he told reporters and editors of The Washington Times last week.

The new Iraqi government is expected to publish damning evidence this week, linking foreign powers, including Iran and Syria, to the Muslim extremists and loyalists of the former regime who launched a bloody rebellion after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister, told The Telegraph that the interim government had gathered intelligence detailing the support provided to insurgent groups by the neighbouring nations.

A French commission believes that 13% of all the paintings, sculptures and pieces of furniture allowed out on loan from the state collection since the 1930s have vanished. More than 12,000 works of art and pieces of antique furniture belonging to the French state are missing, believed stolen. This is not - or not quite - the case of the biggest art theft of all time: it is more a case of bureaucratic laxity, incompetence and the dishonesty of some public officials over a period of more than 60 years.

Christopher Walken's get-out-of-jail-free card is his voice, says the Guardian in this interview. "As much as he marches to the beat of his own drum machine, Walken speaks like a man keeping time to a metronome with a wicked sense of humour. The fickle cadence of Walkenese is his calling card. 'I get that from my days as a dancer,' he says. 'I'm still counting off dance steps as I cross a room. Two-two four. Three-three four. I'm doing that when I talk.'

"His bizarre word rhythm and gleeful disregard for punctuation makes even his most banal utterances sound dramatic. At the grocery store, he stared at a plump tomato and then put it back. 'I DON'T. Buy the tomatoes with. The stems. On them. They don't. Degrade. They go. Down the sink. And into the WATER. Then.They get lodged in the throats of little. OTTERS.'"

Art, like literature, is a mirror of its times when it's at its best. This New York Times (you'll need to register) article details 72 year-old Gerhard Richter's work on the war in Iraq. Perhaps the most influential painter in the world, he has published this body of work in a book, War Cut. It links two normally unrelated mediums, creating a hybrid commentary that can be seen as a kind of absurd historical novel.

Meantime, The Art Newspaper says Richter plans to give a personal collection of 41 works, mostly paintings, to Dresden's Albertinum gallery. He was born in that city. "Although the details remain to be finalised," the newspaper said, "it will initially be offered on a 20-year loan and the hope is that the arrangement will eventually become permanent. The Dresden State Art Collections is unable to discuss values, but Richter's paintings are among the most expensive by a living artist and the collection may well be worth around $121 million.


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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