...Views from mid-Atlantic
24 July 2004

Remember the UFOs caught on film by the Mexican Air Force? They released a videotape back in May that showed some bright objects, resembling sharp points of light, moving rapidly in what appeared to be a late-evening sky. The lights were filmed by pilots using infrared equipment during a surveillance mission in search of drug-smuggling planes. They were reportedly flying at an altitude of about 11,500 feet.

Now, aerospace engineer James C Smith has a crack in Michael Schermer's journal of the Skeptics Society at explaining exactly what they were - oil platform burn-off flares.

You can now take it as official, the Mona Lisa's about to get a face lift. The Art Newspaper confirms that "the thin poplar wood on which it is painted has begun to warp. Although the warping has occurred at the rate of 'less than a millimetre' over the past year, according to Vincent Pomarede, chief curator of the Louvre's paintings, one side is buckling at a faster rate than the other, causing 'some concern'. The painting's surface has been badly discoloured for many years, its brownish cast caused by the accumulation of dirt and chemical changes to the varnish, but the Louvre has consistently resisted calls for the work's original colours to be restored, for fear of damaging the delicate sfumato effects built up through thin layers of oil paint."

So the Louvre has ordered an urgent analysis of its condition, to be carried out early next year when the work is removed from its current display case and installed in a new climate-controlled vitrine. It will then be moved to a new, specially-designed gallery as part of a $2.7 million project paid for by the Japanese company, Nippon TV.

"In a stunning blow to Democrats and civil rights activists, God revealed today that he'd meant to create ONLY rich white men and that everyone else should try to be 'more white, straight and male', or risk going to eternal hell." So! You read it here first.

The Los Angeles Times hits the nail on the head in this editorial about Stephen Hawking, the physicist who backed away, this week, from his previously-held theory about black holes. What makes Hawking, like Galileo, worthy of the often glibly assigned adjective 'great', even if all his theories prove wrong one day, is both his boldness of ambition and his frankness about failure."

23 July 2004

The 9/11 Commission Report, says the Chinese People's Daily, was a bit of a dud.

"After more than a yearlong investigation, the Sept. 11 commission finally released the report. Since the process and some conclusions have been leaked out beforehand, now the report is no more than a rattle and cackle, resembling a bomb ignited far away from the stage of the US presidential election."

The Washington Times says a senior CIA official believes that al Qaeda operatives in Iran probably had advance knowledge of recent terrorist attacks, a sign that the cooperation between Tehran and al Qaeda has been continuing since September 11.

"There have been al Qaeda people who have stayed for some time in Iran...and because they have been in touch with colleagues outside of Iran at times when operations have occurred, it's hard to imagine that they were unwitting of those operations," the senior official said.

A former European Union commissioner and Irish cabinet minister testified yesterday that he does not know how a secret donation to his campaign from a property developer ended up in a bogus offshore account. The account used by Padraig Flynn, according to this Independent story, was registered to a fictitious London address, "a device that allowed them to evade hefty income and deposit taxes on the secret payment."

London? A tax haven? Goodness gracious me.

Israel and the EU are still having a smouldering exchange in the wake of the UN General Assembly vote against the separation fence. Both Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom have repeated their warning to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana that following Europe's support for the resolution on Wednesday, the EU will be unable to play a significant role in resolving the conflict, "because it is not impartial". Solana says he doesn't much care - the European Union will be involved in any Israeli-Palestinian peace process, whether Israel likes it or not.

Many think that the vote against the barrier might have been a little less one sided had Ariel Sharon not invited French Jews to save themselves from French anti-Semitism by emigrating to Israel on the eve of the General Assembly's debate. Jacques Chirac went so far over the top in his reaction that he declared Sharon persona non grata. The Jerusalem Post points out that the exchange typifies the Franco-Israeli relationship. "The Chirac government has assumed the role of the Palestinians' unwavering patron. Even recently, when longtime supporters like Terje Roed-Larsen have come to the conclusion that Arafat is no longer a viable partner for anything, France remains the only major country to continue honoring Arafat with high-level visits.

"We understand that France does not see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an 'internal' Israeli matter. But the defense of Israeli citizens from Palestinian terror is indeed our internal affair. If they wish to deliver pronouncements about it, fine, but what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. We also believe that the French government would do better to direct their efforts inwards. In 2002, Chirac insisted there was no anti-Semitism in France. Now he and his ministers are finally beginning to admit that they have a serious problem. Instead of preaching to Israel, the French should get down to dealing with their own homegrown intifada in which French Jews are the primary targets and French Muslims the primary aggressors."

The editor of the the independent webzine Canadian Content says that Canada's abstention in the UN General Assembly vote was its way of demanding a change in the region, and a change in the UN's attitude towards it. Canada did not accede, said Alex Harris, "to pressures from the predictable voting blocs and the EU, who voted in favour of the resolution, or pressures exerted by the US and Israel, who voted against it. Given the publicity and the implications of the vote, Canada's stand was even more remarkable. Canada's abstention is a not so subtle demand to change to the status quo in both the region and the UN. The decision to abstain from endorsing the resolution or condemning it, reflects a singularly realistic view and interpretation of today's realities in the Middle East conflict-- something sorely lacking in the UN today."

The signing of a new air travel agreement, the Montreal Convention, means that as of June 28, UK travellers have been able to claim up to $1,500 in compensation for lost bags. Under the now-defunct Warsaw Convention, they were able to claim only about $20 per kilo, up to a maximum of $500 or so. As the Guardian points out, though, these rates are still ridiculously low, and travellers will do themselves a big favour by getting some insurance.

Sacha Distel, who the Guardian says was Britain's favourite French crooner, has died in France after a long illness. That's apparently a French eupemism for dying of cancer. The Telegraph does its usual excellent job with an obit, saying that the success of Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head led to his becoming a fixture on television shows such as Morecambe and Wise, where "his accent, teeth and green eyes were all displayed to advantage. Yet while in Britain he was dismissed as a crooner of chansons d'amour, he had in fact made his reputation as a well-respected jazz guitarist and, though content to play along with his image as a Lothario for English audiences, in France he was regarded as a family man, albeit one who had almost married Brigitte Bardot."

22 July 2004

China's planning to launch what it calls a Red Tourism project...the creation of a tourist product that features such theme activities as "re-experience the Long March, revisit to the battlefield, heroic city tour, tours to famous personage hometown, etc."

These tourist activities, the People's Daily says, "will be jointly put forth to correspond to the 70 anniversary of the Long March. By doing so it is to create a momentum to ensure the 'red tourism' work to be carried out with a high-starting point, of a high quality and at a high-level."

In a letter to the editor of the Washington Times, Sudan's Ambassador to Washington claims that election-year grandstanding has exaggerated the scale of the problem in Darfur. "No one seems to have time to understand the complexity of the situation. The Sudan Campaign, an umbrella of many organizations and individuals in the United States, is busy with daily demonstrations at the doorstep of our embassy in Washington. It is a hasty and nonstop campaign that pays little or no attention to the root causes of the conflict or the genuine measures taken so far to solve it...From a visit approved by the government of Sudan to several camps, they concluded that 'what is going on there is a genocide.' In fact, even before they arrived, they reached that conclusion, based on unverified accusations collected by organizations that became famous only by tarnishing the image of Sudan.

"This hasty cooking has created the perception in Sudan that in an election year, many people here in the United States are trying to take advantage of their suffering and plight to get elected or attract attention and claim importance for themselves."

The Times comments that his letter fails to address "the gathering storm of evidence illustrating its complicity in what has been, at best, homicidal ethnic cleansing, and, at worst, genocide. The death toll in Sudan's western region of Darfur largely speaks for itself. An estimated 30,000 Sudanese have lost their lives in what is currently the world's most severe humanitarian crisis. Another 1 million are in dire need of aid relief after they were driven out of their homes by murderous militias known as the Janjaweed."

He also fails to account for the deep concern of many countries not having an election this year, and of the United Nations.

An internal enquiry undertaken by a Glasgow engineering firm, the Weir Group, has shown that there were financial irregularities in work it did for the UN Oil-for-Food programme in Iraq. The firm said more than £4m was paid on top of normal commission and it does not know who received the money. It had previously denied it struck illegal deals with Saddam Hussein's regime to win work in Iraq.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo is urging Britain to take a stronger stand against President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, at least in part because he's a closet Anglophile.

The Most Rev Pius Ncube argues that Britain's silence played into Mr Mugabe's hands. "Mugabe has got Britain where he wants them," he said. "He blames the evil on Tony Blair but it is he who perpetrates evil on his own people. "We should not allow him to hoodwink everybody. He is 100 per cent responsible for the suffering of the people."

Urging Britain to "stand strongly", the archbishop said Mr Mugabe cared about what London said despite his bluster. He said Mr Mugabe used to delight at shopping in London. "He admires Britain secretly. Listen to how he expresses himself. His accent is unique among Africans."

This is one of those 'write in with your questions' interviews that the Brits are fond of, and therefore so uneven in tone that it's like reading in an off-road vehicle that's lost its springs. But it's Lou Reed, who's a bit like that himself, so what the heck...

Q In 1966 the Velvets scared the pants off everyone; now your music is used to help sell cars for giant corporations. What gives? Andy Leacock, Luton

A Well, Pirelli tyres used Venus in Furs in one of their adverts. And the Velvet Underground had a vote on that - the members who were still alive that is - and we all thought it was funny so we did it. Keep in mind that we worked with Andy Warhol who did commercials all the time. In the old days people would get pissed off if someone took a song and put it to a deodorant commercial, but these days... if something's funny, I like it.

Despite the squealing from the recording industry, a recent study has shown that internet downloads have an effect on sales that is "statistically indistinguishable from zero." The new report has suggested that for popular albums, "the impact of file sharing on sales is likely to be positive."

The European Union has frozen a $153 million grant of aid to Kenya because of concerns that corruption was engulfing the east African country. The withholding of the grant, meant to boost the Kenyan economy, follows the attack on corruption by the British high commissioner, Edward Clay, who accused the government of President Mwai Kibaki of "arrogance, greed and perhaps a desperate sense of panic, to lead them to eat like gluttons".

Israel, says Toronto's Globe and Mail, has long been "the United Nations' favourite punching bag. About a quarter of the denunciations issued by the UN Commission on Human Rights focus on Israel. In the UN General Assembly, each year sees a ritual lineup of resolutions condemning Israel for oppressing the Palestinian people and standing in the way of peace. So it came as no surprise, particularly to Israelis, when the assembly voted 150-6 on Tuesday to demand that Israel comply with an order of the International Court of Justice and pull down its security barrier in the West Bank. Even so, this was an unusually vivid example of the UN's bias."

Israel has made it clear to senior European officials that "it will be very difficult in the future to include the EU as a party in efforts to advance the peace process." Senior Israeli and EU officials met earlier today in Tel Aviv to discuss the matter after the Foreign Ministry summoned European ambassadors for consultations, lambasting the EU for supporting the United Nations resolution. Meantime, a Western diplomat has told Haaretz that "It was the French connection that delivered Europeans' support for the resolution...In behind-the-scene negotiations over the wording of the resolution, it was sometimes hard to distinguish between the eagerness of the PLO observer al-Kidwa and that displayed by French Ambassador [Jean-Marc de la] Sabliere." Think M Chirac might have been trying to take it out on Israel after Mr Sharon invited France's sinned-against Jews to emigrate?

21 July 2004

DEBKAfile says Sandy Berger's arrest for nicking documents is "pennies from heaven for the Bush presidential campaign with important bearing on the inquiries into intelligence performance prior to the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War.

"For months, President George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney have been under unremitting attack in official probes, films and books for bad decisions and 'flawed intelligence' in the war on terrorism and for misrepresenting the grounds for going to war in Iraq. In the privacy of the Bush White House, presidential aides grumble that the Clinton administration's failure to properly handle rising threats from Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the 1990s left these ticking bombs in Bush's lap. Clinton was said to have ignored the many warnings reaching him, including a specific threat against New York's World Trade Center. However, Bush has always forbidden his campaign staff to point the finger at his predecessor in the White House for the ills of today, just as Clinton refrains from criticizing the incumbent.

"The actions of his former aide have changed these rules."

A Chinese beauty pageant contestant who was bounced in the final round of the Miss Intercontinental Competition because she'd had nearly $15,000-worth of cosmetic surgery, has lost her suit against the pageant organiser for infringing on her rights and dignity. People's Daily reports that the 18-year old had sued for a public apology and about $6,000 in compensation for her emotional damages.

A first-of-its-kind survey released by researchers at North Carolina State University indicates that 80 percent of the more than 1,500 persons polled by phone in the United States said they were not worried about nanotechnology; 70 percent said they were either "somewhat" or "very" hopeful about it, and 40 percent of respondents said they expected that the benefits of nanotechnology would outweigh its risks. I'd bet those figures would be radically reduced if the same survey were done in Europe, where risk-taking is frowned upon. Few Americans fear the swarms of self-replicating, out-of-control nanobots depicted in Michael Crichton's book Prey (and in the bizarre imagination of Prince Charles). Far more were worried about losses of privacy to nano-sized surveillance devices, losses of jobs to new nanotechnology industries and losses of health to nano-sized particles.

I've posted stories that suggested Joe Wilson was lying in his sensational take on the Niger yellowcake controversy, so I suppose when he publishes an op ed in the Los Angeles Times defending himself, I should post that as well. Pathetic though it is.

The Telegraph's Janet Daley thinks that "Politics is finished. The great arguments are over. Consensus has made con-men of an entire generation of party leaders. "In my darker moments", she says, "I believe that real politics, as my super-political generation (yes, the guilty 1960s) understood it, died in 1989. The collapse of the Marxist dream left only the phoney argument between social democrats, who want a little bit more state control but have learnt about the danger of killing the goose that lays the golden egg, and capitalists, who are embarrassed into magnanimity by their all-out victory and want to make socially conscientious noises. If it is true, as they say, that Marxism survives only in the senior common rooms of Britain, then it is probably as an antidote to boredom."

Britain's Independent newspaper admits that until recently, Lyndon LaRouche "was virtually unknown in Britain, while in the United States he is dismissed as a crackpot, ignored by both the media and the political world." Then it all but accuses him of causing the death of the British student Jeremiah Duggan, a 22-year-old Jew found dead in mysterious circumstances in Germany about a year ago, after becoming involved with LaRouche supporters."

On the eve of England's Test Match against the West Indies, the Guardian laments that while West Indian cricketers were once the most exciting in the world, in recent years, they've become one of the weakest and most inconsistent sides, at times putting on performances "downright embarrassing" to world cricket.

The art critic and editor of the New Criterion, Roger Kimball, has published a new book, The Rape of the Masters, in an attempt to re-construct an art world de-constructed by left-wing cultural politics. In this interview with John J. Miller of the National Review Online, he talks about why art historians stopped caring about aesthetics and began obsessing over politics: "A glib, partial, but not inaccurate answer is the 1960s. It was then that the radical political imperatives of the New Left insinuated themselves into mainstream cultural enterprises like the art museum and the university. Institutions that had hitherto been devoted primarily to the preservation and transmission of culture were radicalized and, to one extent or another, conscripted into the battle to raise consciousness, undermine tradition, and politicize culture.

"What happened to many professors of literature and other branches of the humanities also happened to professors of art history: Their infatuation with politics meant that they were less and less interested in the aesthetic substance of their subject. The result was that the subject at hand - be it literature or history or art - became little more than a prop in a politically correct exercise to spread the gospel of (pick one or more depending on the ideological commitments of the proponent) feminism, Marxism, deconstruction, racial enlightenment, environmental sensitivity, sexual liberation, gay rights, third-worldism, and general-purpose, off-the-rack hostility to America, its institutions and core values."

20 July 2004

A judge in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, has ruled he lacks jurisdiction to try three of those Nigerian email scammers, and that the case must be moved to the southern city of Lagos. This is the biggest fraud case of its kind - the three are accused of conning $242 million out of a bank official in Brazil. The Brazilian banker allegedly used his own bank's funds to transfer the money to accounts around the world.

Nuhu Ribadu, head of Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said the swindle took place over a four-year period starting in 1995, and has also led to criminal investigations in Switzerland, Britain and the United States. Mr Ribadu said his commission - set up by President Olusegun Obasanjo's government - intended to use this case to show "no one is above the law".

Here's a treat - the superb American novelist John Updike writing about the superb British poet, Philip Larkin. If you don't read anything else today, you should read this - it's from the New Yorker.

China's People's Daily says the Top Ten Buzzwords of the Economic Type for the first half of the year are: auto show, zero tariff, power control, two-color ball, auto recall, negative interest rate age, underground insurance, non-performing loan ratio, legislation on direct sales, lottery legislation.

The Top Ten Buzzwords of a Cultural Type are: China-France Culture Year, red classic, 'Three Education', Shi mian mai fu (Ambush on All Sides), synthetic beauty, Twelve Girls Band, Porch of the Three Kingdoms, film classification system, media responsibility and film legend.

There's more. Go look if you don't believe me. I'm just reporting the facts.

John Keegan, the finest writer on matters military alive today, if you ask me, has published another book. The Iraq War, says the Washington Times "might have been better titled A Primer on Iraq. The first half of the book is a brief history of that nation, going back to the dawn of civilization and culminating in events leading up to the military confrontation with an American-led coalition in March 2003. This alone makes the book worth its price." It is also, the Times critic says, "a superb strategic overview of the second Iraq conflict." The critic is Gary Anderson, a retired Marine Corps officer who lectures on the Revolution in Military Affairs at George Washington University.

The Washington Times thinks Paul Volcker should think again about asking Congress not to undercut his UN Oil-for-Food scandal investigation. "For one thing, the Times says, "it is highly unlikely that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan ever would have agreed to appoint Mr. Volcker to conduct his investigation if it hadn't been for the pressure from Capitol Hill. For another, it quotes one Senator has having said that "given the lack of credibility that the United Nations has with the American public, it would be disastrous for the world body if Congress were prevented from going forward with comprehensive investigations of its own."

Granma, the Cuban Government newspaper, is saying this morning that Bermuda is one of five countries which it is going to allow to export goods to Cuba without paying duty on them. "Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque explained," says Granma, "that via an agreement Cuba will grant special and differentiated treatment to the Eastern Caribbean countries (Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Antigua and Bermuda), allowing them free access to its market without claiming reciprocity; in other words those states would not pay tariffs on their exports to Cuba."

I think this must be a mistake. Bermuda isn't a full member of CARICOM, with whom the deal was concluded, we don't have any exports worth the name, and we aren't situated in the Eastern Caribbean. I think the paper must mean Barbados...but then the Government now running Bermuda behaves so oddly where Cuba is concerned (see the article entitled Bermuda's Cuban Connection in the column on the right), that nothing would take me completely by surprise.

Gerard Latortue is in Washington today, asking for $900 million in aid for the next two years. In an op ed in the Washington Post today, he writes that "this is about much more than money. It is about putting in place the institutions, the practices, the accountability and the partnership to ensure that Haiti develops in the decades to come. Never was such a partnership more needed. The recent political crisis and armed rebellion have taken a further heavy toll on what was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The numbers are sobering. Behind each one lies a life just 700 miles from these shores, and yet so far removed as to be almost unimaginable. Five million people - two-thirds of the population - live on less than $1 a day. Four million cannot read and write. Half the population lives in cities with no access to clean water." If Haiti had ever produced a leader who cared more about that kind of million than about the other kind of million, one might feel a little more sympathy.

Human Rights Watch claims to have found documents that prove Sudan's Government recruited, equipped and guaranteed impunity for the Arab militias accused of killing tens of thousands of Africans and driving more than 1 million from their homes in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Meantime, the Washington Post says the US is considering abandoning its plan to seek immediate UN sanctions against the militias. That plan, included in a draft resolution presented to Security Council members earlier this month, has been criticized by both critics and supporters of the Khartoum government. The critics argue that the sanctions are too weak to deter those responsible for atrocities in Darfur, while backers of the government say the provisions would undermine the UN effort to secure Khartoum's cooperation in resolving the crisis.

The river Wandle, one of those feeding the Thames in the London area, has been so cleaned up that trout have taken up residence. The Wandle runs for nine miles, from Croydon and Carshalton, at the foot of the North Downs. Even in its lower reaches, where it joins the Thames just down from Clapham Junction, fish can be seen.

The BBC is not going to deal with complaints by hiring an ombudsman, but will appoint a complaints management board, to be headed by the BBC deputy director general, Mark Byford, who oversaw the review of the BBC's news operations in the wake of the Hutton Report. The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, said: "We want to begin with the presumption that the licence-payer is right, not wrong...There will also be a greater willingness to admit mistakes and, where appropriate, put things right." That sounds like the sort of meaningless crap that politicians so love, but I suppose one must give them a chance. There's a web page, but it seems to be saying that the system won't be fully operational until some time in the autumn. In the meantime, they give a phone number to call or an address to write to. Don't bother trying to use the online contact given - it'll run you round in circles if complaint is your game.

Geoffrey Chaucer was so annoyed with one of his scribes - Adam the Scrivener - that he threatened him with an outbreak of scabs. Adam must have pulled up his hose in the end, however, because he became Chaucer's favourite. He is now recognised as the scrivener of the two most authoritative copies of the Canterbury Tales: the Hengwrt manuscript, which is now in the National Library of Wales, and the Ellesmere manuscript, kept in San Marino, California.

19 July 2004

The Washington Times thinks the International Court of Justice's ruling on Israel's fence was a crock, and says the worst part of it was the ICJ's declaration, in effect, that Israel wasn't entitled to defend itself against Palestinian terrorists. "Without doubt," it says, "the ICJ's worst folly was its assertion that the inherent right of self-defense, which is based on centuries-old norms of customary international law and explicitly recognized by Article 51 of the UN Charter, is not available to Israel in this case because it is not being attacked by a sovereign state. Not only is this view not based on the language of the UN Charter or international practice, but it flies in the face of post-September 11 Security Council resolutions that expressly acknowledge the US right to engage in self-defense against al Qaeda."

Mark Steyn's putting the boot into Joe Wilson this morning. I've commented on Wilson's lies before, but Steyn...well, Steyn's Steyn. Joe Wilson, he says, "is already slipping down the old media memory hole. He served his purpose - he damaged Mr. Bush, he tainted the liberation of Iraq - and yes, by the time you read this the Kerry campaign may well have pulled the plug on his Web site, and Salon magazine's luxury cruise will probably have to find another headline speaker, and he won't be doing Tim Russert's Meet the Press again any time soon. But what matters to the media and to Mr. Kerry is that Mr. Wilson helped the cause of (to quote his book title) The Politics of Truth and if it takes a serial liar to do that, so be it."

If you're numb keeping up with all those stories that purport to explain why the world's getting warmer, this'll make you number still, and perhaps impress you with its simple, direct, no-frills approach. It's the sun, stoopid.

American officials believe that millions of dollars Saddam Hussein skimmed from the scandal-ridden UN Oil-for-Food program are now being used to help fund the bloody rebel campaign against US forces and the new Iraqi government, according to a story this morning in the New York Post. US intelligence officials and congressional investigators say the "oil-for-insurgency link" has been unearthed in the numerous probes now under way into the giant UN humanitarian program, in which Saddam is believed to have pocketed $10.1 billion through oil smuggling and kickbacks from suppliers.

The Royal Navy's historic officer training base at Dartmouth faces closure as part of a wave of heavy budget cuts mandated by the Department of Defence. The RAF's officer training base at Cranwell, set up in 1920, will also close. If Britain weren't so blinded by their ridiculous lust for putting the boot in the officer classes, they'd take Geoff Hoon out of his office and string him up on the nearest tree. He is presiding over the downgrading of the most successful armed forces in the modern world to a level at which it would be unable to deal with Argentina in a rematch. All right, that may be an exaggeration...but only a little one.

Posting was late this morning, as a result of yet another breakdown at Logic Communications, my ISP (at the moment, but I think not for long if this keeps up).

At least eight of the 19 9/11 hijackers moved from Afghan training camps through Iran without getting their passports stamped, which helped cover their tracks, top US counterterrorism officials have confirmed, a day after it emerged that the information will be included in this week's final report from the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. There is no evidence that Tehran actually knew about the plot, US and Iranian officials said yesterday, but the Washington Post argues that is is time, nonetheless, for the US to fish or cut bait where Iran is concerned. "The administration," says the paper, "launched a war to oust Saddam Hussein in Iraq and is now engaged in delicate talks over nuclear issues with North Korea. But six months before its first term ends, the administration has still not formally signed off on a strategy for Iran since a review of US policy was begun in 2001."

Australian blogger Arthur Chrenkoff is criticising the main-stream media in an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning for ignoring the good news coming out of Iraq.

"Another fortnight in Iraq," he laments, is "another fortnight's worth of news about terrorism, hostages, military and civilian casualties, faulty intelligence in the run-up to war, and the problems of reconstruction, as our mainstream media continue to focus overwhelmingly on bad news from the Mesopotamian quagmire. And yet, some still think that the latest coverage is actually too positive - as in this Reuters story: 'Some US news outlets are treating the transfer of power to Iraqis as a new beginning for the country, even though the situation on the ground seems little altered, experts said.' Some 'experts' will remain 'little altered' regardless of the actual situation on the ground...

"In many ways, it now falls to the political blogs to do the work one would expect from the mainstream media--to provide a fair and balanced picture of situation in Iraq. It's the blogs that dig up the information, disseminate it, and bring to everyone's attention the more outrageous examples of media bias or carelessness with facts."

Chrenkoff lists a whole heap of good news in his piece, to which can be added this story from the Washington Times, about the enthusiasm of Talib Al-Tabatabaie, chairman of the board of governors of the new Iraq Stock Exchange. For him, Iraq is a potential goldmine where investors can make a killing -- the kind that has nothing to do with ammunition or explosives. "If I am permitted to dream," he said, "Iraq will develop like Japan or Korea," said Tabatabaie, casting his eyes around the exchange's small trading floor. "It needs only the effort to redevelop it again, and this will be one of the richest countries in the Middle East."

French and German plans to create an inner core within the European Union have been bolstered by a European Commission push to increase EU co-operation on tax. The Brussels body, the Financial Times says, "is trying to build up support among EU governments for a ground-breaking scheme to create common rules for corporate taxation within a limited number of EU states. It has circulated a paper to national capitals and believes it has had favourable initial responses from enough countries to proceed with its plan. This would fall short of imposing minimum tax rates - a long term goal of Paris and Berlin. But it would create a common set of rules within participating countries for calculating companies' tax burdens by harmonising the corporate tax base."

18 July 2004

Indonesian literature? Isn't there something wrong with the juxtaposition of those two words? Apparently not. The Los Angeles Times tells an interesting story, today, about the efforts of an American, John McGlynn, a translator living in Jakarta, to tell the real story. McGlynn has formed an organization to translate and promote the largely unknown literature from the world's fourth most populous nation. The Lontar foundation has now published scores of books and branched out into documenting some of the archipelago's cultural traditions, such as regional theater and dance, which are threatened by the irresistible pull of globalization.

The 9/11 Commission's report is due to be released on Thursday, and if you got your hand too close to the major spinning enterprise that has begun, you might lose it. In the UK, Iran gets a bit of a biffing, perhaps because the Americans are afraid Jack Straw goes too easy on them. On the other side of the pond, the Washington Post says it's going to target the intelligence community, the White House...the usual suspects.

Piqued a little, perhaps, at having been scooped by the New York Times over the recommendation that there be a Cabinet-level office and director to oversee the CIA, the FBI and other intelligence agencies, the Post huffs that "one official familiar with the report said that was only part of a broader reorganization aimed at shaking up the intelligence community."

And oh, by the way, the Post says "The five Republicans and five Democrats on the commission say they have jointly agreed not to discuss details of their recommendations before the report is released," just in case any incorrect thoughts were forming in your head.

The strange goings-on in Gaza over the last couple of days have been hard to follow. Haaretz paints a picture of Yasser Arafat as "teetering, but surviving" the turmoil, and suggests that Mohammad Dahlan, might be behind the kidnappings and the unrest. He was removed from his post as interior minister following the resignation of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, and has not been allowed to reclaim a senior post in the PA since, reportedly because Arafat considers him a threat.

The Jerusalem Post agrees that Dahlan's pulling the strings.

The Telegraph, like most British newspapers, doesn't seem to quite know who to blame, but shades towards prime minister Ahmed Qureia himself. "Palestinian officials privately conceded yesterday that relations between Mr Qureia and Mr Arafat had reached breaking point over the latter's failure to curb high-level corruption."

But I reckon DEBKAfile's got this one straight - the man pulling the strings is Arafat himself. The day after the hostages had been released, it says, "as Sharon's office crowed that these events proved how necessary it was to speed up his unilateral evacuation, Arafat struck with lightning speed: he rid himself of Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, who had been forced on him in the first place, purged the top ranks of Gaza Strip national security and installed his own men. By nightfall Saturday, Arafat was in absolute command of the territory."

DEBKA also notes that the various groups in the Gaza Strip are in an uproar over Arafat's new appointments. Naval intelligence chief Abu Zakki has quit, calling new security overlord Mussa Arafat "a vicious dwarf who will inflame civil war." Palestinian protesters earlier broke detainees out of Mussa Arafat's Khan Younes intelligence HQ, swiped weapons and set the building on fire.

UPDATE: This CNN report indicates that the building burned to the ground. And late this afternoon, there was a Reuters report that a gun battle had broken out between members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Palestinian policement.


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

Article Archive

2003 Index


About Pondblog
Contact the Pondblogger

About Last Night
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Arts Journal.com
Aworks :: "new" american classical music
Brad DeLong
Crooked Timber
Cup of Chicha
Day by Day by Chris Muir
Mickey Kaus
Kesher Talk
Little Green Footballs
Maud Newton
Michael J Totten
Oliver Kamm
Patio Pundit
Reflections in d minor
Roger L Simon
Talking Points Memo
The Forager
The Volokh Conspiracy

Bermuda Links

A Bermuda Blog
A Limey in Bermuda
Bermuda 4u
Bermy Adventures
Politics.bm: A Mostly Bermuda Weblog
The Bermuda Sun
The Mid-Ocean News
The Royal Gazette


10/26/2003 - 11/02/2003 11/02/2003 - 11/09/2003 11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003 11/16/2003 - 11/23/2003 11/23/2003 - 11/30/2003 11/30/2003 - 12/07/2003 12/07/2003 - 12/14/2003 12/14/2003 - 12/21/2003 12/21/2003 - 12/28/2003 12/28/2003 - 01/04/2004 01/04/2004 - 01/11/2004 01/11/2004 - 01/18/2004 01/18/2004 - 01/25/2004 01/25/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 02/08/2004 02/08/2004 - 02/15/2004 02/15/2004 - 02/22/2004 02/22/2004 - 02/29/2004 02/29/2004 - 03/07/2004 03/07/2004 - 03/14/2004 03/14/2004 - 03/21/2004 03/21/2004 - 03/28/2004 03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004 04/04/2004 - 04/11/2004 04/11/2004 - 04/18/2004 04/18/2004 - 04/25/2004 04/25/2004 - 05/02/2004 05/02/2004 - 05/09/2004 05/09/2004 - 05/16/2004 05/16/2004 - 05/23/2004 05/23/2004 - 05/30/2004 05/30/2004 - 06/06/2004 06/06/2004 - 06/13/2004 06/13/2004 - 06/20/2004 06/20/2004 - 06/27/2004 06/27/2004 - 07/04/2004 07/04/2004 - 07/11/2004 07/11/2004 - 07/18/2004 07/18/2004 - 07/25/2004 07/25/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 08/08/2004 08/08/2004 - 08/15/2004 08/15/2004 - 08/22/2004 08/22/2004 - 08/29/2004 08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004 09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004 09/12/2004 - 09/19/2004 09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004 09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004 10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004 10/10/2004 - 10/17/2004 10/17/2004 - 10/24/2004 10/24/2004 - 10/31/2004 10/31/2004 - 11/07/2004 11/07/2004 - 11/14/2004 11/14/2004 - 11/21/2004 11/21/2004 - 11/28/2004 11/28/2004 - 12/05/2004 12/05/2004 - 12/12/2004 12/12/2004 - 12/19/2004 12/19/2004 - 12/26/2004 12/26/2004 - 01/02/2005 01/02/2005 - 01/09/2005 01/09/2005 - 01/16/2005 01/16/2005 - 01/23/2005 01/23/2005 - 01/30/2005 01/30/2005 - 02/06/2005 02/06/2005 - 02/13/2005 02/13/2005 - 02/20/2005 02/20/2005 - 02/27/2005 02/27/2005 - 03/06/2005 03/06/2005 - 03/13/2005 03/13/2005 - 03/20/2005 03/20/2005 - 03/27/2005 03/27/2005 - 04/03/2005 04/03/2005 - 04/10/2005 04/10/2005 - 04/17/2005 04/17/2005 - 04/24/2005 04/24/2005 - 05/01/2005 05/01/2005 - 05/08/2005 05/08/2005 - 05/15/2005 05/15/2005 - 05/22/2005 05/22/2005 - 05/29/2005 05/29/2005 - 06/05/2005 06/05/2005 - 06/12/2005 06/12/2005 - 06/19/2005 06/19/2005 - 06/26/2005 06/26/2005 - 07/03/2005 07/03/2005 - 07/10/2005 07/10/2005 - 07/17/2005 07/17/2005 - 07/24/2005 07/24/2005 - 07/31/2005 07/31/2005 - 08/07/2005 08/07/2005 - 08/14/2005 08/14/2005 - 08/21/2005 08/21/2005 - 08/28/2005 08/28/2005 - 09/04/2005 09/04/2005 - 09/11/2005 09/11/2005 - 09/18/2005 09/18/2005 - 09/25/2005 09/25/2005 - 10/02/2005 10/02/2005 - 10/09/2005 10/09/2005 - 10/16/2005 10/16/2005 - 10/23/2005 10/23/2005 - 10/30/2005 10/30/2005 - 11/06/2005 11/06/2005 - 11/13/2005 11/13/2005 - 11/20/2005 11/20/2005 - 11/27/2005 11/27/2005 - 12/04/2005 12/04/2005 - 12/11/2005 12/11/2005 - 12/18/2005 12/18/2005 - 12/25/2005 12/25/2005 - 01/01/2006 01/01/2006 - 01/08/2006 01/08/2006 - 01/15/2006 01/15/2006 - 01/22/2006 01/22/2006 - 01/29/2006 01/29/2006 - 02/05/2006 02/05/2006 - 02/12/2006 02/12/2006 - 02/19/2006 02/19/2006 - 02/26/2006 02/26/2006 - 03/05/2006 03/05/2006 - 03/12/2006 03/12/2006 - 03/19/2006 03/19/2006 - 03/26/2006 03/26/2006 - 04/02/2006 04/02/2006 - 04/09/2006 04/09/2006 - 04/16/2006 04/16/2006 - 04/23/2006 04/23/2006 - 04/30/2006 04/30/2006 - 05/07/2006 05/07/2006 - 05/14/2006 05/21/2006 - 05/28/2006 05/28/2006 - 06/04/2006 06/04/2006 - 06/11/2006 06/11/2006 - 06/18/2006 06/18/2006 - 06/25/2006 06/25/2006 - 07/02/2006 07/02/2006 - 07/09/2006 07/09/2006 - 07/16/2006 07/16/2006 - 07/23/2006 07/23/2006 - 07/30/2006 07/30/2006 - 08/06/2006 08/06/2006 - 08/13/2006 08/13/2006 - 08/20/2006 08/20/2006 - 08/27/2006 08/27/2006 - 09/03/2006 09/17/2006 - 09/24/2006 09/24/2006 - 10/01/2006 10/01/2006 - 10/08/2006 10/08/2006 - 10/15/2006 10/15/2006 - 10/22/2006 10/22/2006 - 10/29/2006 10/29/2006 - 11/05/2006 11/05/2006 - 11/12/2006 11/12/2006 - 11/19/2006 11/19/2006 - 11/26/2006 11/26/2006 - 12/03/2006 12/03/2006 - 12/10/2006 12/10/2006 - 12/17/2006 12/17/2006 - 12/24/2006 12/24/2006 - 12/31/2006 12/31/2006 - 01/07/2007 01/07/2007 - 01/14/2007 01/14/2007 - 01/21/2007 01/21/2007 - 01/28/2007 01/28/2007 - 02/04/2007 02/04/2007 - 02/11/2007


design by maystar

Search WWW Pondblog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com

Join BermyBlogsPrevious siteList sitesRandom siteNext site

Site Feed
Technorati Profile