...Views from mid-Atlantic
07 August 2004

Niall Ferguson, the Englishman who is now a professor of history at Harvard - the most talented and easily the most industrious British historian of his generation - says the reason Europeans don't work as hard as Americans is that they're a bunch of atheists. "I do not say that this is the sole explanation for the fact that London today is lethargic while New York toils away as usual. But there is surely something more than coincidental about the simultaneous rise of unbelief in Europe and the decline of Weber's work ethic." I think he's trying to wind someone up.

An exhibition in October of the giant canvases of the British painter, George Frederick Watts, is expected to cause some soul-searching among critics struggling to grasp his significance. Fiona MacCarthy of the Guardian says that in Britain, most people know him for his image of Hope, "that blindfold female figure crouching on a globe twanging her broken lyre. Watts' picture has been used on stamps, reproduced on calendars and done stalwart service as an all-purpose comfort to the afflicted. Prints were handed out to Egyptian troops after their defeat in the 1967 Israeli-Egyptian war (who knew?).

"The relative neglect of the rest of Watts' great paintings," she said, "can partly be explained by their size. The artist's declared aim to 'stimulate the mind and awaken large thoughts' resulted in canvases so monumental they have rarely been exhibited in modern times. But now the centenary of Watts' death gives us a compelling reason to re-evaluate 'England's Michelangelo' as his Victorian contemporaries called him. Tennyson and Gladstone, John Ruskin and the young Oscar Wilde were mad about him.

"How to place Watts precisely? He had many connections with PreRaphaelite painters but his work has none of their perfectionist finish. One sees what George Moore meant when he compared the craggy surface of Watts' paintings to the rind of Stilton cheese. In contrast to the close intense PreRaphaelite vision, Watts took a very long view. For him art was 'not a presentation of nature but the representation of a sensation'. He looked outwards and heard the music of the spheres." Heavens.

Oriana Fallaci's latest attack on radical Islam, the third since 9/11, is being treated by the Guardian as if it were some vile, racist pamphlet issued by someone on the lunatic fringe. The truth is a long distance away from that scenario. Ms Fallaci is a serious, highly-respected and clear-thinking journalist who is blunter than most, and passionate about what she believes is right. It is not in her to be racist. But she believes that Europe's cowardice and lack of moral fibre in failing to stand up to the threats posed by radical Islam have led it to act as a kind of midwife's assistant in the birth of global terrorism. "There are moments in life," she wrote in The Rage and the Pride (Rizzoli, 2002), "when keeping silent becomes a fault, and speaking an obligation - a civic duty, a moral challenge, a categorical imperative from which we cannot escape."

Sadly, Ms Fallaci also announced in the document published on Friday that the cancer she has fought for the last decade has gained the upper hand, and that she does not expect to live for very much longer as a result.

Evidence is accumulating, according to the Globe and Mail and other newspapers, that we may be in for another visit from El Nino, that weather-altering climate wizard that is the curse of West Coast skiers.

06 August 2004

The view from Cuba is always fascinating. Today, Granma says a depressed President Bush is "retreating into a private, paranoid world where only the ardent loyalists are welcome." Granma reckons that among the things that are depressing him were remarks made by President Fidel Castro regarding the effects of alcoholism on him.

Quoting from a July 29 article on the web site Capitol Hill Blue, Granma says "Bush's erratic behavior and sharp mood swings led White House physician Colonel Richard J. Tubb to put the President on powerful anti-depressant drugs after he stormed off stage rather than answer reporters' questions about his relationship with indicted Enron executive Richard J. Lay. 'Keep those motherfuckers away from me,' he screamed at an aide backstage. 'If you can't, I'll find someone who can.'

"However," says Granma, "White House insiders are saying that the strong prescription medications seem to increase Bush's sullen behavior towards those around him...At the White House, it is said that access to Bush is very controlled. Only advisors such as Karl Rove and Karen Hughes are allowed. Even the White House chief of staff has complained that he has less and less access to the President. Tom Ridge, who is Homeland Security Secretary, and heading the government's war on terrorism, says that he has little time with the president, and 'gets most of his marching orders lately from Ashcroft.'"

Fred Krupp, the president of the group known as Environmental Defense, and author and ocean conservationist Peter Benchley join forces this morning in a Washington Post article urging lawmakers to make science the basis of ocean management. "Sensible coordination of the myriad laws and agencies responsible for ocean protection could bring order and effectiveness to today's dizzying bureaucracy, they say. Some regulators, they say, are so pressured by the short-term economics of the fishing industry that they haven't been able to see the oceans for the fish.

"They set higher catch limits than are justified by science and enforce them with ever-shorter fishing seasons that distort the market and make fishermen compete in dangerous and crowded conditions. Fortunately, many fishermen have come around to a long-term view. The Alaska halibut fishery, which faced a crisis in the 1990s, is thriving again thanks to a quota system by which each fisherman is assigned a percentage share of the scientifically determined total allowable catch. Gone are the perilous short seasons; now boats can go out whenever they choose, supplying a profitable year-round market for fresh fish. As the fishery continues to recover, the allowable catch will increase and so will the fishermen's guaranteed stake. Such proven quota-based methods should be expanded elsewhere."

What's causing this sudden breaking from cover of al Qaeda operatives all over the world, says the Washington Post, is an an intense Pakistani military operation directed at suspected al Qaeda hideouts along the Afghan-Pakistan border. It led to the seizure of a number of al Qaeda suspects and the discovery of a cache of computer information, and that, in turn, contributed to arrests in London and Saudi Arabia.

The Pope thinks the third millennium is going to be a time of unity among peoples and religions, in which the entire human family will come together to build God's kingdom. But the hard man who is his intellectual right-hand man, the Bavarian theologian, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, doesn't see it. Cardinal Ratzinger is the man who wrote the critique of feminism this week. He is, the Los Angeles Times says in a fascinating article, the head of what is known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is, effectively, the successor to the Inquisition. Cardinal Fang, one must presume.

Sometimes, the Government of Israel makes it hard for people to support it. The High Court of Justice has had to order government authorities to grant qualified Palestinian journalists accreditation to work in Israel.

Oxford University is sending back to Greece a small cultural treasure with roots almost as ancient, in honour of the Olympic games. At the closing Olympic ceremony in Athens on August 29, a British former Olympic fencer, Dame Mary Glen-Haig, will recite lines in a poetic form first heard there 2,500 years ago, the Pindaric Ode. Its opening lines are:

Blessed precinct of the land of Athena ...
Now as for a second time with good fortune
You have welcomed these contests here
Let us celebrate you with Pindaric song.

Pindar was famous for the complexity and beauty of his poetry, which generally employed a three-part structure using repeated rhythmical patterns of words. The director of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Michael Vickers, says the ode that has been written is "an exquisite piece of work, full of delicate allusions and wordplay of a kind worthy of the master himself. He (the writer, Armand D'Angour) has entered fully into the spirit of the genre."

If you're interested in the form, Tufts University has a series of excellent pages on it, and on Pindar himself.

Carnegie Hall has a new artistic director - Clive Gillinson, the visionary leader of Britain's highest-profile orchestra, the London Symphony. Gillinson's over the moon about it - "I cannot imagine, he told the Guardian, "a greater honour than to be asked to lead it into the 21st century...As with all great institutions, Carnegie Hall has its roots in a remarkable history, but its eyes on the future. It will undoubtedly continue to play a central role in defining the future of great music in our society, ensuring that music can be part of everyone's life."

He'll have a tough time filling the shoes of the last artistic director, the beloved Robert Harth, who died suddenly of a heart attack early this year, having taken up the post only days after 9/11. Harth spearheaded an eclectic blend of programming, from new classical compositions, jazz and rock to avant-garde theater that drew a wider audience than usually attends Carnegie performances.

"Robert created a different atmosphere - much more relaxed," mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne said, soon after his death. "He was so incredibly enthusiastic! He had a great spirit that permeated everything at Carnegie Hall," she said, remembering a moment when Cuban jazz pianist Omar Sosa tossed seashells onto the piano strings.

The Spanish poet and playwright Garcia Lorca's violent death during the Spanish Civil War still has the power to uncover divisions papered over more than half a century ago. Lorca's execution, at just 38, made him one of the most famous victims of a civil war that divided the world and, 60 years later, still has the power to divide Spaniards. The socialist mayor of Alfacar, where he died, admits that "The ghosts of the civil war still float about. There are still hatreds and rancour. Some things have been passed from grandfather to father to son. It has not gone into history."

He should know, the Guardian says this morning, because he is at the centre of the row over whether the poet's body should be exhumed. On one hand, those already campaigning for a comprehensive exhumation of some 30,000 Franco victims scattered in similar graves around Spain see Lorca's case as a chance to set a precedent. If Lorca can be dug up, they reason, why not the rest? They are backed by leftwing intellectuals who see, in Lorca, a symbol for the butchery, cultural and human, carried out in the name of Franco's doctrine of "national Catholicism". On the other hand, however, are the poets' six nieces and nephews, members of a wealthy family, some dedicated to heading publicly funded Lorca foundations, who are still influential in Granada. They are backed by conservative intellectuals, whose rallying cry is: Let Garcia Lorca rest in peace!

05 August 2004

Britain is shocked that the price of an average home there has risen to 160,000 pounds. Lucky buggers...the average price of a home here in Bermuda just went up to $1.2 million!

The European Union is to send investigators to Israel to interview Palestinians held in Israeli prisons over suspicions that Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, and senior officials transferred EU funds to the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the military wing of Mr Arafat's Fatah faction. The plan follows an investigation, begun at the end of last year, by the EU fraud investigation agency, Olaf.

Al-Qaeda is trying to carve out a bridgehead in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by exploiting the anarchy in the Palestinian Authority, according to Aksa Martyrs Brigades leader Zacharia Zubeidi. The Jenin-based Zubeidi's comments are the first Palestinian acknowledgement that al-Qaeda is actively seeking a presence in the West Bank or Gaza.

Moshe Arens served as Israel's Ambassador to Washington from 1982 to 1983, and as a member of the Israeli government from 1983 to 1992. He was Defense Minister of the country from 1983 to 1984, Foreign Minister from 1988 to 1990, and again Defense Minister from 1990 to 1992. In this article in Haaretz, he says that the Arrow anti-ballistic missile system, which was successfully tested a few days ago off the coast of California, the Ofek reconnaissance satellite, and the Lavi jet fighter, which was rejected by the Israeli government, are the three great Israeli technological achievements of the past 25 years. To say nothing of the Uzi submachine gun and the Galil rifle.

It's a little odd to hear of Kofi Annan and the UN taking stick in a third-world country these days, but that's what's happening in Sudan at the moment. It's worth recalling that in May of this year, the US ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission walked out, calling Sudan's candidacy for membership "an absurdity", and "entirely inappropriate". U.S. Ambassador Sichan Siv said that "with credible reports continuing to come out of Sudan regarding the most serious human rights violations in Darfur, Sudan's membership on the commission threatens to undermine not only its work but its very credibility." Sudan is, among other things, one of the very few countries in the world still being accused, quite credibly, of involvement in slavery. How a world body wanting to be respected for its judgement could do such a thing is a question almost beyond answer.

The Guardian's correspondent in Zimbabwe, Andrew Meldrum, has won Columbia University's Kurt Schork prize for his reporting on Robert Mugabe's government. The judges said "What we know about the brutality of the Mugabe regime, and about the suffering of the Zimbabwean people, we know in very large measure from Meldrum's extraordinary reporting." Meldrum was forced out of Zimbabwe and now reports from South Africa.

Force and intimidation remain the method of choice of some regimes in the world to deal with journalists. These are examples taken this morning from Rwanda and from Moscow.

To judge by the uneven coverage, the British imagination has been more caught than the American by the possibility that digital analysis will settle, once and for all, the question of how many shots were fired during the assassination of John F Kennedy. The recording that is to be analysed was made through an open microphone on a police motorcycle as Kennedy's motorcade entered the Dealey Plaza in Dallas. The sounds were captured on a Dictaphone belt at police headquarters, but scientific analyses have failed over decades to show how many people were involved in the shooting.

Henri Cartier-Bresson was probably the world's finest photographer. He died in France on Tuesday at the age of 95, as this New York Times article records. "The term that has come to be associated with him is 'the decisive moment,' the English title of Images a la Sauvette (Images on the Run might be a closer translation), a book of his photographs published in 1952. Mr. Cartier-Bresson described 'the simultaneous recognition in a fraction of a second of the significance of an event, as well as the precise organization of forms that give that event its proper expression.' Content plus geometry.

"Walker Evans reviewed The Decisive Moment when it was published. 'What Cartier-Bresson has is a more or less dependable ability to snap a picture,' he wrote, 'just when a child takes off into an ecstatic state of being as he skips beside a wall that is covered with an unearthly design of some lunarlike patina.' The photograph to which Evans referred shows a boy in Valencia, Spain, in 1933, his upturned face giving him the surreal look of someone in a trance, a look akin to divine rapture. In reality the boy was waiting to catch a ball he had tossed in the air. It was Mr. Cartier-Bresson's genius to see instantaneously how the child's expression would take on new meaning if the ball were not visible in the picture."

The Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or Capps II, sought to make sure that air passengers are flying under their own identity and were not wanted as terror suspects. Passengers would have been asked to provide four pieces of information - name, address, phone number and birth date - when they make their reservation. That information would have been compared to commercial records, to see if it matched, then checked against government intelligence files to determine whether a passenger had possible terror connections. Depending on the outcome of those two checks, a passenger could have been screened more closely at the airport, or perhaps - if government intelligence on him raised alarms - not allowed to board. It sounds the sort of straightforward screening that ought to take place all the time, not just when there's a war on.

But as Heather MacDonald says in the Wall Street Journal, "Privacy advocates on both the right and the left attacked Capps II from the moment it was announced. They called it an eruption of a police state, and envisioned a gallimaufry of bizarre hidden agendas--from a pretext for oppressing evangelical Christians and gun owners, to a blank check for discriminating against blacks." The administration gave way. Now, says McDonald, "The privocrats have tipped their hand: Their real agenda isn't privacy, but a crippling of all security measures. Leading advocate Edward Hasbrouck has decried both a voluntary 'registered traveler' option, in which passengers agree to a background check in order to circumvent some security measures, and physical screening at the gate. Bottom line: Any security precautions prior to flight constitute a civil liberties violation."

MacDonald, incidentally, is the much-admired contributing editor of the excellent magazine City Journal.

04 August 2004

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Presidential hopeful John Kerry said that, if he were elected president, he would "go to the United Nations and travel to our traditional allies to affirm that the United States has rejoined the community of nations."

The Washington Times points out that Kerry wants the American public to believe that this approach "is far superior to Mr. Bush's approach to dealing with Saddam Hussein - one which did not win the approval of Kofi Annan, Jacques Chirac or Gerhard Schroeder. One would never know it from listening to Mr. Kerry, but his approach has been tried by the Europeans for more than a year in an attempt to halt Iran's nuclear program. It has been an abject failure, while Mr. Bush's more assertive foreign-policy approach has achieved some important successes."

Alan Dershowitz is working up a fine froth in the Los Angeles Times this morning. The object of his fury is the American Presbyterian Church, which, he says, has committed a grievous sin. "The General Assembly of that church has voted," he says, "to divest from only one country in the world. No, it was not China, which has occupied Tibet for half a century and continues to deny basic human rights to its own citizens. No, it was not Iran, which threatens nuclear holocaust, executes dissenters and denies religious freedom to Christians and Jews. No, it was not North Korea, Libya, Russia, Sudan, Cuba or Belarus. It was - you guessed it - Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and America's most reliable ally in a troubled part of the world."

Gibraltar? John Keegan, the Telegraph's excellent Defence Correspondent, thinks the Spanish should get over it.

Dutch and Italian archaeologists digging in the fertile Sardara hills north of Sardinia's capital Cagliari said yesterday that they had discovered grape pips and sediment dating to 1,200BC. Sardinia, it seems, may be the cradle of European wine culture. So far, M Chirac has remained calm.

A little mid-summer present from the Guardian to history buffs - a collection of newspaper stories from the weeks immediately before the start of the First World War.

So what is the problem between Libeskind and Silverstein, the Mr Big of New York's property world and lessee, from the Port Authority, of the World Trade Centre site? "It's a straightforward legal issue," says Libeskind. "Larry wanted us to reposition the tower. We wouldn't, and won't. He's been holding back our fees. We want to get paid. And that's it. It'll get solved and we'll carry on with planning Ground Zero."

Space lawyers are trying to draft a body of law that will, they say, "preserve outer space from the lawless free-for-all that characterized exploration and colonization here on Earth." I have a feeling that if they'd taken the same attitude a few hundred years ago, the New World would still be virgin territory, and a lot of us would still be stuck over on that side of the pond, no wiser, no safer, no more civilized...just poorer.

The Gotham Book Mart has been a powerful force in literature since 1920, when it was opened by a remarkable, worthy woman named Frances Steloff. She died a few years ago at the age of 101, but during her life was the valued friend of just about every 20th Century English or American writer of note. Over the door of the 47th Street shop is a sign that reads "Wise Men Fish Here". In the frenetic atmosphere of New York's diamond district, it's an arresting thought. A move has been on the cards for a long time...since the building was sold. Now, the Gotham has found new quarters, conveniently only a block away. Praise be!

And since we're on the subject of shops and real estate in New York, Barney's is for sale, again.

03 August 2004

Al-Jazeera says Yasser Arafat knew all about the recently-discovered Palestinian selling-cement-to-Israel scam, but failed to do anything about it. It quotes the deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, which investigated the business links between an Israeli businessman and a number of Palestinian companies, some affiliated to the PA, as having said: "This is a national treachery. It is a treasonous act to help build the racist wall at a time when Palestinian children are risking their lives and dying protesting the evil structure."

AlJazeera laments that "Fears remain that the matter will be whitewashed over as were numerous previous corruption scandals. Notwithstanding its gravity, the current scandal represents only a small part of the huge corruption phenomenon inundating the Palestinian Authority. Indeed, one could argue that corruption, with its various manifestations and expressions such as bribery, nepotism, favouritism, cronyism, kickbacks, pitfall profits and embezzlement and theft, served as the modus operandi of the PA operations since day one."

DEBKAfile argues that the story of all that intelligence being winkled out of two al Qaeda has-beens in Pakistan just doesn't hold water. "The Al Qaeda computers fallen into US intelligence hands until now have thrown out an abundance of data on terror plots and networks, most of which proved false or planted to mislead. The most striking instance occurred in September 1998, when FBI agents reached the hurriedly-vacated home of al Qaeda's East African agent Muhammed Fazul on the Indian Ocean Comoro Islands. Fazul orchestrated the US embassy attacks in East Africa and was Ghailani's direct commander. The computer he discarded on the Indian Ocean Island was packed with data on terrorist targets and al Qaeda cells in the Horn of Africa and the southern extremity of the Arabian Peninsula. Years of strenuous following up this information ended up yielding nothing."

On your newsstand now - the truth about what George Bush did during that missing year! Isn't that a picture of the bare-chested George W. cavorting with Saigon bar girls in 1972? And who knew that the leader of the free world once worked as a Rolling Stones roadie? Or hung out with Andy Warhol's Pop Art crowd? It's all laid out in a lavish photo spread and accompanying text in GQ's latest issue.

Larry M. Wortzel, the Vice President and Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation, quotes former Secretary of State George Schultz as having urged that in reacting to international terrorism, "First and foremost, we must shore up the state system. The world has worked for three centuries with the sovereign state as the basic operating entity, States are accountable to citizens and responsible for the well-being of their citizens. And states create international organizations to serve their needs, not as means to govern them."

Commentator Fareed Zakaria says one of the events that is going to have a big influence on the outcome of the US presidential election is the election in Afghanistan. "The political scientist Max Weber once defined a state as that entity that has a monopoly of the legitimate use of force in the country. In Afghanistan, the state has no such monopoly. Winding down militias is the only path to that goal. The Pentagon had made it so clear that the United States would have nothing to do with this that Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations' special envoy, used to jokingly call it 'the American fatwa' on demobilization. By the end of 2003 the fatwa was revoked. Now, finally the United States is assisting in the process, urging warlords to disband their militias and incorporate into the new Afghan army.

"There are other positive trends in the country. Afghans have approached the national elections with huge enthusiasm, exceeding all predictions of voter registration. Polls show that they are highly supportive of Karzai, the United States and the international efforts at reconstruction. The problem in Afghanistan has not been with the Afghans but with the U.S. government."

A gambling addiction cousellor in Los Angeles says "the wreckage from gambling is unbelievable." But at a time when a major expansion of casinos, the lottery, racetracks and card rooms is making California one of the nation's gambling giants, that wreckage gets scant attention from public officials. Six years ago, the state created an Office of Problem Gambling but only last year gave it money to operate - $3 million a year donated by Indian tribes. Despite the windfall, it still has no full-time staff and no plan of action, and has spent only $95,000 on a study.

When Ellen Auerbach started, photography was still accepted by the public as something of an experimental discipline without rules or boundaries. As can be seen in the pictures of her contemporary, Man Ray, it often reflected current ideas in painting. In 1944, the Bauhaus photographer went from Europe to live in New York. She worked occasionally for Time magazine, and came to know artists such as Willem de Kooning, whose portrait she took. Between 1946 and 1948 she photographed young children for a research institute in Kansas. Later she travelled widely, visiting Chile, Greece and Majorca, among other destinations recorded in film.

Ellen Auerbach took a number of powerful images of children in America, but she never recaptured the professional status she had in Europe there. Her growing interest in children subsequently led her to become an educational therapist, pursuing this from 1965 until 1986, when she was 80. She died in New York at the end of last week, aged 98.

How to explain this numbness? That may be the best question asked since the creation of the United Nations. It was lifted from a Washington Post editorial about the international community's pissy little attempt to waggle a big stick at the Sudan by Simon Tisdall of the Guardian. Tisdall says that what he calls "Khartoum's militia puppet-masters" were, in effect, let off the hook. "That, after all," he says, "is how it has always been in Sudan since the 19th century joustings of Ismail Pasha, the Mahdi and Herbert (later Lord) Kitchener. In the end, everybody tends to walk away from Sudan, somewhat baffled, lances a trifle bent. It is just too big and too complicated."

Sudan too complicated for the rest of the world to deal with? There's a silly story. What's happening here is that it is being proven, once again, that the internationalist approach to world affairs doesn't work, and probably couldn't if we tinkered with it from now until Doomsday.

Here's another of those ubiquitous and lovable lists - this one of the top ten books about Elizabeth I, written by Michael Dobson and Nicola J Watson, authors of England's Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy (Oxford, 2002), which is a guide to Britain's 400-year obsession with the Virgin Queen.

Best bit? "The 12-year-old Alexandra Sheedy produced She Was Nice to Mice in 1975, before growing up to abbreviate her first name to Ally and become a Hollywood actress. It's a charming book, and the scene of the Queen's death, with her beloved mice mourning in her hair, remains strangely haunting."

02 August 2004

Three members of the same Guatemalan family are now serving jail sentences after being convicted of stealing an eighth-century Mayan altar from an archaeological site and then threatening to kill anyone who told the authorities. Theirs was, according to the Art Newspaper, "a remarkable trial, full of intrigue, shifting allegiances and witness intimidation." It was also a watershed event in South and Central America's efforts to get theft from historical sites under control.

The British Defence Department has signed a contract with a Chinese company for the manufacture of the British Army's uniforms from now on. If they're so desperate to save money, one wonders why they don't recruit soldiers out there, as well.

Rainmaking has become an everyday accomplishment in China, where drought is affecting many areas. "Ban Xianxiu, director of Liaoning province's Weather Modification Bureau, was at ease in a recent conversation," says the Washington Post, "discussing the fine points of rockets vs. antiaircraft guns for coaxing rain out of the clouds, which he and his staff do for a living. The guns do better with small, fat clouds, he said, while rockets can spread chemicals over a wider area. Planes do so over a wider area still, if the clouds blow in as flat layers."

Tiziano Terzani, the Italian travel writer and journalist who died on Wednesday aged 65, first came to the notice of non-Italian readers in 1992 with his memoir of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Goodnight, Mister Lenin, but for almost 30 years he was also perhaps his country's most celebrated foreign correspondent."

Haaretz quotes from an article bitingly critical of Yasser Arafat by columnist Huda Al-Husseini in the London-based Arabic daily, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, and remarks that such criticism "no longer needs to be described as courageous in light of the Palestinian and Arab discourse developing against Arafat." Al-Husseini likened Arafat's "Crisis? What crisis?" question, asked as Fatah rebels were burning his office buildings, to Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake."

Meantime, a website devoted to getting rid of Arafat has appeared on the Internet, featuring articles and a signable petition.

And the Jerusalem Post speculates that Arafat loyalists are planning more demonstrations and rallies in the West Bank in the next few days to condemn Muhammad Dahlan and those who are seeking to undermine Arafat's leadership. And for their part, Dahlan's supporters are planning massive rallies in the Gaza Strip to demand an end to corruption and cronyism. "Nevertheless," the paper says, "Dahlan's efforts to instigate anti-Arafat protests in the West Bank are likely to fail because he does not have any basis of power there."

It's still chaos in Greece as frantic preparations are made for the start of the Olympics, a few days away, but some gems are emerging from the dust of construction. In the Guardian, Johnathan Jones's coverage seems almost as chaotic as the sites he's describing, but if you bear with it, you'll be rewarded.

"Athens broke with recent Olympic tradition in commissioning a major permanent work of architecture rather than the temporary, functional structures with which other cities have been satisfied...I care far more about architecture than I do about athletics, and as architecture, this is lovely. Calatrava is a poetic designer of warped and vibrating baroque forms; he made his name with a bridge, the Campo Volantin footbridge in Bilbao, that uses bent arcs of metal to suggest motion and tension and life. His Olympic designs work in exactly the same way. Apparently ignoring function, they insist on expression. Graceful and agitated, they are sculptures; they do not so much fulfil tasks as generate emotion. This is a daring achievement; the one thing I saw in Athens that lives up to the spirit of ancient Greece, where sport and culture, body and intellect, were unified."

See what I mean?

The caspian - a small horse that was probably used to pull chariots in battle at the time of Alexander the Great, has been rediscovered and pulled from under the shadow of extinction with the help of modern DNA technology. Caspians are smaller than modern horses - about 11.3 hands compared with a modern racehorse at 16 - but just as fast.

The president of what is now the world-wide Caspian Horse Society says "They have light frames and thin bones which are incredibly strong. They are not like ponies, which are piggy and can be bloody-minded. They are slim, narrow, elegant and fast."

Arthur Chrenkoff, the Australian blogger, publishes another in his series of round-ups of the good news in Iraq in the Wall Street Journal this morning. "...For every foreigner taken hostage," he says, "there are stories of hundreds of Iraqis who can now enjoy in many different ways their regained liberty. For every attack, with all its terror and bloodshed, there are countless stories of courage, determination and resourcefulness on the part of the Iraqi people. And for every intelligence failure by the government agencies then, there is an intelligence failure by the media now. Which is why you are likely to have recently missed some of the stories below."

A couple of examples - "Global Heritage Fund (GHF) and the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities signed a multi-year partnership to jointly develop master conservation plans and training to help conserve Iraq's most endangered and important archaeological and world heritage sites. 'This is a major step toward bringing world-class conservation to Iraq and preventing further loss and destruction,' says Jeff Morgan, executive director of Global Heritage Fund."

And in sports news, the Iraqi soccer comeback continues, after a 3-2 victory over Turkmenistan in the Asian Cup. "Now we are building the new team, the Olympic team," says the new national coach, Adnan Hamad. "Hamad's boys no longer answer to Uday Hussein, the psychotic son of the toppled ruler, known to beat the soles of their feet or lock them up for days over slip-ups on the pitch."

01 August 2004

Iron Mike Tyson's boxing career came to an end after 2 minutes and 51 seconds of the fourth round of his fight against Britain's heavyweight champion Danny Williams on Friday night. In his prime, Tyson seemed an unstoppable force. But now, he's going to end up in the same sort of hard-knock place Dominic Calder-Smith of Britain's Independent newspaper, who spend a long time looking, found that many of the boxers Tyson beat during his long career ended up. In what has to be the best-done story of the day, Calder-Smith finds there are no golden parachutes, no pensions, no retirement homes for fading boxers.

Gunmen loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat opened fire earlier today on a conference of Arafat's Fatah movement, in the latest sign of factional infighting among the Palestinian leadership, says Haaretz. No one was hurt, but the conference was said to have broken up as a result. It had been convened to discuss proposals for reform in the PA and to call for elections to the Palestinian parliament, which have not been held for 15 years.

Also on Sunday, former Palestinian security chief Mohammed Dahlan, one of Arafat's most prominent critics and a man with ambition written all over him, voiced his strongest criticism yet of Arafat in an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan. "Arafat is sitting on the corpses and destruction of the Palestinians at a time when they're desperately in need of a new mentality," Dahlan was quoted as saying during the interview, which was held in Jordan. If Arafat does not carry out real reforms within the PA by August 10, 30,000 Palestinians will demonstrate in the streets of Gaza, Dahlan said.

The jailing of a pushy young editor in China, says the Washington Post this morning, "highlights a momentous and complex struggle now underway between the country's increasingly independent-minded and profit-driven state media and entrenched interests inside the ruling Communist Party. The outcome could determine the future not only of journalism in China but also of the largest authoritarian political system in the world. More than a quarter century after China launched economic reforms while continuing to restrict political freedom, the government still owns and controls all of the country's newspapers and television stations. But journalists have fought off party censors in one sensitive subject area after another, and they are waging a daily battle for even greater freedoms."

Even the Europeans are getting antsy about Iran these days. Investigations in France, Italy, Spain and other countries since the Sept. 11 attacks point to an increasing presence in Iran of Al Qaeda figures, including suspected masterminds of this year's train bombings in Madrid and last year's car bombings of expatriate compounds in Saudi Arabia.

"The Iranians play a double game," said a top French law enforcement official who, like others interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, asked to remain anonymous. "Everything they can do to trouble the Americans, without going too far, they do it. They have arrested important Al Qaeda people, but they have permitted other important Al Qaeda people to operate. It is a classic Iranian style of ambiguity, deception, manipulation." European investigators, the Times says, think Iranian officials have alternately pursued and tolerated Al Qaeda because the group serves as a tool for Iran's geopolitical interests in neighboring Iraq and against key foes: the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Anyone who has ever suffered from that excruciating pain in the plantar fascia ligament at the bottom of the heel that is sometimes caused by jogging on hard surfaces like tarmac - will welcome this news that a treatment has finally been found that does it in. Shockwave therapy is apparently capable of curing even chronic fasciitis. The treatment, pioneered in Germany in the early 1990s and based on a procedure used to treat kidney stones, has been available in North America for the past five years. It is also being used by physiotherapists and orthopedic surgeons to treat chronic inflammation in places where tendons attach to bones, including the elbow, shoulder and knee.


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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