...Views from mid-Atlantic
28 August 2004

The long list for the Booker Prize was announced last week, and one of the judges makes the observation that many of those whose novels are up for contention seem to rage against the middle class. Tibor Fischer says "We can all understand why novelists like to attack their own kind (anybody who writes a book is middle-class, almost by definition): they feel more comfortable criticising what they know than the scary world of the underclass. It is much easier (and lazier) for a writer to sneer at what is familiar to him, and to glamorise what is not, than to try to penetrate the minds of such frightening people as prostitutes, beggars and asylum-seekers."

Telegraph correspondent Harry de Quetteville sniffs out an Olympic rivalry in Kolybari, Crete, that required settling by Solomonic judgement before things turned really nasty. Excellent little story.

"Bluebeard's Castle, Bela Bartok's only opera, opens with a narrator addressing the audience in the cryptic language that characterises the work as a whole. The tale is old that shall be told,' he informs us, 'but where does it belong: within? Without?' The opera, dependent for its effect on seeking solutions to mysteries, paradoxically refuses to answer its opening question and we are left wondering whether what we have witnessed is a genuine drama that mirrors action in the world 'without' or whether the opera takes place 'within' someone's psyche - and if so, whose?

"There are only two characters, Bluebeard and his fourth wife, Judith, trapped in a psychological duel both tender and destructive. She demands the keys to the seven locked doors of his castle in order to bring light into his dark world. But the longed-for clarity brings with it a series of alarming, unanswered riddles. The contents of the first five rooms are inexplicably covered in blood, while the sixth contains a lake of someone's tears."

Tim Ashley takes a look at fascinating look at the various interpretations of the Bluebeard story. "In the process, however, many critics have ignored the enigmatic quality of the Bluebird legend that raises more questions than any retelling can ever answer. There is no consensus even as to its origins, which have been traced to two very different sources, though both, significantly, have a serial killer at their centre."

"Art Spiegelman is among the best-known living cartoonists," the Guardian says, "but the drawings that have made him famous are not funny, and they are not intended solely for children. Spiegelman and other comic-book artists of the underground renaissance that occurred during the 1960s are inclined to call their work 'comix' - the final letter, perhaps subliminally, endorsing them for consumption by grown-ups. His most famous creation, Maus, in which the Jews are depicted as mice, tracks the experience of his parents in Poland before and during the second world war, leading eventually to Auschwitz, or 'Mauschwitz'. The book was published in two volumes in 1986 and 1991." It's also one of the masterpieces of the contemporary literary landscape.

In Zimbabwe's state-controlled press, Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, is sometimes described as gay, sometimes as a rapist, sometimes as HIV-positive. Robert Mugabe says he's satanic, an unholy man, another Desmond Tutu, who Mugabe thinks is an "angry, evil and embittered little bishop." In March, he began soliciting foreign donations to a legal defense fund for Zimbabweans who allege human rights abuses, collecting about $130,000 so far. In July, he held a news conference in London to argue that Mugabe is terrorizing his citizens and reducing them to paupers while the world looks the other way. The Bishop is about the only man in Zimbabwe who dares criticise Mugabe, and it worries his church.

But, he replies, "I say I can not be diplomatic when there is so much suffering. I have to talk straight. We must defend the people who are suffering. Who else will defend them? There is no opposition."

27 August 2004

According to one Brooklyn mobster, the Mafia's a dead duck. "I really made a terrible mistake by choosing that life," Primo Cassarino said about the mob in a letter read in open court yesterday to Brooklyn federal Judge Frederick Block. "I hope every Italian kid will not choose that life because that life is over." Nice try...might have worked somewhere else...but in Brooklyn? He got ten years.

Edward Bernard Glick, professor emeritus of political science at Temple University and author of Peaceful Conflict and Soldiers, Scholars, and Society, has written a powerful piece on the folly of trying to win wars by fighting on the hearts and minds front. His article was originally written for the Jerusalem Post, and is reprinted in the Washington Times this morning.

"America's and Israel's struggles will end favorably," he says, "only if they follow Churchill's dictum: 'Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.'"

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has twice taken an official look at the UN Oil-for-Food scandal. Its chairman, Rep. Joe Barton, claims in the Washington Times this morning that the reason UN officials didn't want to listen to complaints that it was corrupt may partly have been a case of blindness for profit. Rep Barton says "The UN bureaucrat who ran the oil-for-food program from his office in New York - he recently submitted his retirement papers - is reported to have somehow made $3.5 million by selling Iraqi oil."

The new European Commission team being put together by its new president, Jose Barroso, is not the usual French-dominated group. Britons seem to have edged them out. Michel Barnier, the French foreign minister, believes France is paying the price for its high-handed treatment of the new EU states and failure to grasp that Paris no longer had the clout to impose diktats on Brussels.

The Telegraph says he has told senior French ambassadors that "France is not great when it is arrogant. It is not strong if it is alone. France certainly has to conduct its own diplomatic action without shrinking back, but it increasingly has need of others. And the first reflex, I say bluntly, must be European."

The last time I mentioned Polly Toynbee on Pondblog, I was expressing surprise that she had written a piece lamenting that the public seemed unable to tell the difference between fair criticism of Muslims and racism, which I thought was uncharacteristic. This is the lady writing in a more predictable vein. She's having a go at a speech Michael Howard made a couple of days ago about the pernicious effect of political correctness in Britain. It wasn't a particularly inspired speech, I agree, but in criticising it, Toynbee twists the facts a bit. She claims Britain is now a more tolerant place than it was, and says the battle to make it that way was a victory for progressives, who "think the world can be made better, while conservatives look backwards for inspiration, dreaming of imaginary golden ages of stability, security and sunlit summers when everyone knew their place and liked it."

The truth is that the golden age isn't exactly imaginary. Britain's in the first half of the last century was a society with a remarkably low and falling incidence of violent and acquisitive crime, illegitimacy, and drug addiction. Christie Davies, author of The Strange Death of Moral Britain, has a long piece in The New Criterion about it, in which he claims that Britain's current violent and dishonest society was caused by an intertwined loss of religious values, and rise in secular liberalism. So far from saving Britain from a climate of intolerance, the "progressives" Toynbee talks about turned it over to a climate in which anything can, and does, go.

Just in case you thought Howell Raines might really have been running a clean, non-partisan operation at the New York Times when he was editor, this article, published this morning in the Guardian and the Washington Post simultaneously, should settle the matter once and for all.

There's a bit of a dust-up going on between Cuba and Panama at the moment. Cuba has broken diplomatic ties after the outgoing Panamanian president pardoned four Cuban exiles the communist government accuses of trying to assassinate President Fidel Castro. Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso issued the pardons Thursday, six days before she is to leave office, despite Havana's threat to sever relations over such a move and what she said were threats against her life.

Just in case such an unkind thought should cross your mind, the US denies having anything to do with it. One hopes not...the people involved sound like a bunch of evil bastards. Venezuela had been looking for one of them, Luis Posada Carriles, because he escaped from a Venezuelan jail where he faced charges of planning the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner that killed 73 people. Posada, 74, is not a US citizen, and it is not clear whether he left Panama. Posada has also claimed credit for having planned and directed six Havana hotel bombings in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist and injured 11 other people.

The other three men, Gaspar Jimenez, Pedro Remon and Guillermo Novo Sampol, have US passports and arrived in Miami yesterday. A Miami newspaper says that Jimenez, 69, helped kidnap Cuba's consul to Mexico in 1977 and killed a consular official, and that Remon, 60, was identified as the triggerman in the slaying of a pro-Castro activist and a Cuban diplomat. Novo, 65, was convicted in the United States in the late 1970s of taking part in the 1976 assassination of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier. He was acquitted on appeal but served four years in prison for lying to a grand jury.

26 August 2004

Hiwa Osman, the Baghdad journalist who writes for the Washington Times, says we're not understanding what's going on in Iraq as well as we should. For one thing Muqtada al-Sadr isn't the head of some kind of populist, grass-roots movement. "For the majority of the Iraqi people, he is little more than a low-level cleric cum outlaw who is being exploited by Iran to undermine an emerging Iraqi state...

"Another mistaken belief that anti-U.S. quarters and supporters of Islamic theocracy hold is that those who are in power today in Iraq are the puppets of the United States. They are not. And they enjoy more popularity among the culturally, socially, ethnically and religiously diverse people of Iraq than the likes of al-Sadr."

The Isle of Man's come up with a neat little way of capitalising on the growth of offshore financial centres, like Bermuda, without getting too close...

A species of nearly blind shrimp, discovered some years ago in caves in Bermuda, turns out to have family abroad...some of whom have some fairly unusual habits.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who died this week, was the author of On Death and Dying, a 1969 bestseller that illuminated the emotional life of dying patients by identifying five stages of the experience: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The book, which has been translated into more than 25 languages and is still a widely used text, spurred a revolutionary movement within the medical community to lift the taboo on discussions about the dying and infuse their treatment with dignity and affection.

"Prior to Elisabeth's work, patients who were dying were objectified, seen as a collection of manifestations of disease," the Los Angeles Times quotes Dr. Ira R. Byock, a longtime hospice physician and past president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, as having said. "She forced the medical profession and healthcare in general to listen to the person who was confronting the end of life. This was a radical notion … one that medicine sorely needed to hear."

Book collectors will understand that acquiring the original typescripts of all 18 novels Antony Powell wrote during a 55-year period, including those of the 12-novel sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time, would be an experience incapable of description. But that's what happened to the British Museum yesterday. It's got me thinking, frankly, of dusting my balaclava off, once the fuss dies down.

Max Hastings is quoted at the end of this Guardian piece as having had a clever thought: "Under whatever alias, Widmerpool was the man who herded the Cossacks back to Stalin's firing squads in 1945, who sought to block corporate compensation for the Thalidomide babies, whose fingerprints are all over the arms for Iraq business, who would fit perfectly as director general of the European commission. Brussels was made for him."

The Guardian asked scientists to vote for their choice of the best science fiction film ever made, and for the best science fiction writer. Blade Runner won hands down in the film category, of course, but what in the world are John Wyndham and Fred Hoyle doing beating out Philip K Dick in the writing category? Brit scientists voting for hometown boys, I guess.

This is a detailed list of the top ten films.

There are a lot of really excellent female jazz singers about at the moment - Karrin Allyson, Kendra Shanks, Jane Monheit and Patricia Barber are four that come to mind - but the most exciting of the bunch has to be the Canadian singer, Diana Krall. Her marriage to Elvis Costello a few months ago seems to have nudged her into taking a new direction...her new album, The Girl in the Other Room, has her singing some unfamiliar material - some Joni Mitchell, six songs written with Costello, and would you believe Tom Waits's Temptation? The New York Times listened to her at Radio City Music Hall the other evening, and was impressed.

25 August 2004

Liverpool was apparently involved in the American Civil War to the extent that it built blockade runners to ferry supplies from places like Bermuda to Confederate forces in the south, sneaking through a fairly extensive Union sea-borne blockade. They say that more Confederate flags flew in Liverpool in those days than flew in the South. One of the boats built there was the 640-ton Lelia, which was to have operated out of Bermuda. But a combination of misfortunes, including a drunken ship's carpenter's negligence, sank the ship on its maiden voyage just a few miles off the British coast. The recent discovery of the ship is the subject of a new book, and is to be shown on television in Britain this weekend. Thanks, Steve, for the tip.

Salim Mansur, a professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario, writes in the London (Ontario) Free Press that Sudanese actions in Darfur have "exposed to the world the racial dimension of Arab-Muslim culture and the hollowness of rhetoric proclaiming the brotherhood of Muslims...Blacks are viewed by Arabs as racially inferior, and Arab violence against blacks has a long, turbulent record. The Arabic word for blacks ('abed) is a derivative of the word slave ('abd), and the role of Arabs in the history of slavery is a subject rarely discussed publicly.

"Here, the contrast between the Arab treatment of blacks, irrespective of whether they are Muslims or not, and the Israeli assimilation of black Jews of Ethiopia, known as Falashas, cannot go unnoticed."

Chinese authorities have seized a couple of tons of antelope horns in Jieyang city of south China's Guangdong province. Police said some of the 8,100 horns seized are believed to have been taken from Saiga antelopes, which used to live in China but died out in 1940s due to rampant poaching and the shrinkage of their habitats. Saiga horn is an often-used ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for treatment of fever, stroke, headache and dizziness.

The US Treasury Department has taken action against two foreign banks, the First Merchant Bank of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Infobank of Belarus, that it suspects of money laundering, including one it accused of helping Saddam Hussein use funds from the United Nations' oil-for-food program. The department proposes to cut the banks off from the U.S. financial system, although interested parties will have a chance to weigh in before final action is taken.

There seems to have been something of a breakthrough in the hunt for who leaked CIA agant Valerie Plame's name to the press. The Washington Post reports that Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time magazine who had been threatened with jail time for refusing to respond to a grand jury subpoena, gave a deposition Monday about his conversations with a single anonymous source - I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Cheney - after Libby waived Cooper's responsibility to keep their conversations on the topic confidential. Time officials say Libby was the only source of Cooper's that special counsel prosecutors asked about.

And in a related story, Editor and Publisher says that special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald now wants to talk with Judith Miller of the New York Times. This is a little odd, because the Times has never published any article saying it had information about Plame's identity. The trade publication suggests that although Miller had not told her editors the leaker's name or Plame's identity, she seemed to have knowledge of both. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of the Times, said the paper would move to quash the subpoena.

Archeologist Zemaryalai Tarzi is digging to find what he calls "the greatest statue in the world" - the long-lost sleeping Buddha of Bamian. It's said to be 1,000 feet long...said to be, that is, by a Chinese pilgrim who reported seeing it in AD 629. But if Tarzi succeeds in locating it, the discovery will mean more than uncovering the largest known statue of Buddha. It could be a psychic balm and a financial boon for Afghanistan, easing a collective guilt over the Taliban's destruction of the cliff Buddhas while they were still in power, and reviving Bamian's fortunes as the tourism capital of the nation.

In a speech before the Palestinian Legislative Council last week, Yasser Arafat admitted to making mistakes and vowed to fight corruption and implement reforms in the PA. Did you think that might mean the Palestinians were going to get somewhere in fighting the corruption that is pulling them into the mud? Guess again. Arafat has kicked a group of legislators, who wanted him to put it in writing, out of his office, accusing them of seeking to undermine his authority. The legislators had argued that the speech was not enough, and demanded that Arafat sign a 'presidential decree' authorizing the PA cabinet and judicial system to take serious measures to stem out corruption and introduce reforms. "We can't fight corruption with words and speeches," said one legislator. "We need written laws and decrees signed by Arafat."

The reasons for Britain's hostility to the European Union are to be found in Britain, not Brussels, says Chris Huhne, a Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament. "Certainly, the EU does stupid things. But most of the 450 million European citizens are wise enough to know that a set of institutions that delivers peace, prosperity and the power to tackle cross-border problems such as pollution is not going to be perfect. The calculus, comparing the past 50 years with any previous 50 years of European history, is overwhelmingly positive.

"The real problem is that successive British governments have failed to make it clear that no major EU decision is taken without British ministers participating, and generally agreeing. The most sensitive issues - such as tax - require unanimity. Even when issues are agreed by majority, Britain is outvoted less often than any other major member state. We win from majority voting."

Robin Denselow of the Guardian talks to Khaled, a man in black jeans and striped shirt, who resembles nothing so much as the stocky boss of some Algerian trucking company. "You'd never guess," says Denselow, "that he is 'the king of rai', and one of the greatest celebrities of the Arab world. Khaled is the man who brought North African music to a new audience in Europe, shaking up the pop scene in France and becoming as influential as Bob Marley in the process. No wonder he says: 'I think that God loves me a lot.'"

France's decision, 15 years ago, to offer sanctuary to 100 far-left Italian guerrillas, on the condition that they renounced their past, did not go into hiding, and kept completely out of politics, has come back to haunt them. It was an outrage in the first place, a flouting of the country's responsibilities to be a part of the world's fight against terrorism and crime. And it was legally unsustainable. Now that the court system has forced France to renege on the bargain it made with the guerrillas, a series of furious rows has broken out. The most serious involves Italian anger over the disappearance from Paris of Cesare Battisti, a convicted terrorist-turned-novelist who the French courts had ordered returned to Italy for trial. But Italy has also confirmed that it intends also to press France and Nicaragua to return 12 other convicted left-wing terrorists who evaded justice by living in exile.

They include Alessio Casi-mirri, the only Red Brigades terrorist still at liberty who was involved in the kidnap and murder of the former Italian prime minister, Aldo Moro. He is in Nicaragua. The others are believed to be in France.

24 August 2004

An enquiry in Britain has failed to pinpoint why the tiny spacecraft, Beagle 2, vanished shortly before it landed on Mars on Christmas Day last year. In May, Professor Colin Pillinger, the British scientist who was the project's leader, said unusually thin air over the landing site, caused by dust storms, was the most likely reason for its presumed destruction. However, the enquiry report said that despite rigorous testing, a number of potential systems malfunctions could not be ruled out. These included electronic failures, a puncture in one of Beagle's cushioning gas bags, a failure of the craft to deploy its instruments, damage to the heat shield and a broken communications antenna. It was also possible that Beagle 2 unexpectedly hit one of a pair of craters discovered in the predicted landing site.

The International Editor of United Press International is challenging readers of the Washington Times this morning to ask themselves: Who stands to profit from the turmoil in Najaf? "Who could be pulling Sheik al-Sadr's strings and, of course, to what end? The answer, no matter how you turn this thing around, dissect and analyze it, seems to point in one direction: Iran."

When cartoonists aim their sketch pens at the Republican National Convention in New York starting on Monday, it'll pay them to remember that for all their imagination, they sometimes have an unfortunate way of thinking alike. When five or more similar cartoons on the same subject appear simultaneously in print, Slate's cartoonist calls it a "Yahtzee", after the board game of the same name. The greatest Yahtzee occurred in the aftermath of 9/11, when at least 38 cartoonists drew versions of a weeping Statue of Liberty. That might be a sign of decline in cartooning. An increasing dearth of paying newspaper jobs and the spread of gag cartoons, according to the Los Angeles Times, "is leading to the slow death of a great American art form...What we are seeing is a general decline in the profession."

Writer's block plagues so many people that there are those who make a living giving advice on how to get the creative flow to resume. Alan Sillitoe (Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) sends messages of encouragement to himself in Morse code. That's what he told the Edinburgh International Book Festival yesterday, anyway.

Finnish police are investigating an art fraud in which dozens of high-quality photocopies of works by artists such as Salvador Dali were passed off as originals and sold for up to $12,000 each. A spokesman for Helsinki police said their prime suspect was the organiser of an exhibition in the Finnish capital that claimed to display original works by Dali and such other famous artists as Chagall, Rembrandt, Picasso and Andy Warhol. All of those artists, perhaps except Rembrandt, are well known to attract fraudsters. Collectors shouldn't risk buying works alleged to be by any of them without expert help.

Here's bad journalism down at its very roots - failing to carry a denial of the allegation a story contains. The villain in this case in Britain is chief of the the usual suspects.

Sometimes, the Brits seem like the meanest people on earth. As of this month, older people will be able to enjoy lower-priced tickets for events at the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and the South Bank centre's other venues only if they receive the pension credit - the government's new tax credit for pensioners who live on modest incomes. Previously, all the over-60s were entitled to concessionary ticket prices. Late last week, a left-wing think tank was urging a 50% rate of tax on estates of a certain size, although the Government said it had no plans to alter the existing rate. It seems they aren't going to be happy until everybody's been levelled down to that level of poverty at which the state must bear the burden of keeping them in food and shelter. Pretty grim, Orwellian sort of society.

This is going to be a tough play - a restauranteur who didn't like the review the food in his new Texas restaurant was given is suing the the newspaper that published it, Dallas Morning News.

23 August 2004

DEBKAfile is reporting on what it calls "determined Iranian steps worldwide to undermine Israel's strategic positions by deepening its international isolation." Iranian officials, the organisation says, are going around capitals on three continents telling governments friendly to Israel to lessen their military and other ties. Turkey and Azerbaijan have had such visits over the course of the last couple of months.

Earlier this year, the United States and Russia marked the 10th anniversary of their government-to-government agreement to eliminate enough highly enriched uranium to build 20,000 warheads. Since deliveries of the fuel from nuclear warheads began in June 1995, according to the Washington Times, the program has resulted in the destruction of more than 8,000 warheads from ex-Soviet nuclear arsenals. By the conclusion of the agreement in 2013, some 500 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium (an amount equivalent to 20,000 nuclear warheads) will be converted into fuel for use in electric power plants in the United States and elsewhere. The Times says this is enough electricity to power the United States for two years.

This Washington Times editorial praises the Financial Action Task Force for its post-9/11 decision to broaden its oversight of money laundering to include terrorist-financing issues. "The reports it publishes on countries' laws and practices are widely respected and have a political impact. The FATF's work will help staunch the flow of resources to international terrorist groups - a critical front in the war on terror." Bizarrely, the Times says that Bermuda is considering "adopting new laws on terror financing." That's news to the Bermuda public, which by coincidence is also criticising the country's Premier this morning for discussing independence for Bermuda during a visit to the Cayman Islands, before bothering to discuss his views with the Bermuda public.

The British public seems to understand the plight of the British armed forces as well as any commentator. A Telegraph survey showed they thought British troops were professional, disciplined and miles ahead of the competition. They also see them as overstretched, indifferently equipped and underfunded. The newspaper said "voters do not support the proposed amalgamation of historic regiments and regard the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, as a clot." British understatement, I guess.

That Palestinian singer trying to become the Superstar of the Arab world on a Lebanese version of the TV show American Idol, is going to have to wait until next Sunday to find out whether he won or not. He told Haaretz last night that he believes his support came mainly from Abu Dhabi, although he says he felt an increase in support from among Palestinians in recent weeks. "Art is like a bird," Ammar Hassan said. "Art has no borders, and I believe it is the faithfulness of my voice that brought me this far."

Graduate students at the University of Toronto have boosted hopes for an effective diabetes treatment after growing insulin-producing tissue from the single cell of a mouse pancreas. That may sound simply like big news for diabetic mice, but there has been considerable debate in the science world as to whether the pancreas of any mammal, mouse or human, has the biological goods to generate new insulin-producing cells. So far, according to Toronto's Globe and Mail, "no experiment has proved that the pancreas contains stem cells, those promising and controversial cells capable of growing into any tissue type in the body, making the Toronto study an exciting lead in finding an abundant insulin-cell source for transplant into diabetes patients."

Oz blogger Arthur Chrenkoff continues his summaries of the good news from Iraq and Afghanistan with a report in the Wall Street Journal this week from Afghanistan, where elections are to be held in October. "The presidential elections," he says, "are still some two months away, but the foundations have already been laid down with considerable success. According to initial United Nations reports, almost 80%, or 7.9 million out of estimated 10 million eligible voters, have registered to vote in October.

"Other reports at the time put the figure as high as nine million registered voters, but when the voter registration officially closed on Sunday, August 15, the United Nations realized that a staggering 9.9 million Afghans had registered to vote, of whom almost 42% were women. In the words of Manoel de Almeida e Silva, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 'This registration process has concluded after a number of problems and what is even more remarkable is the number of Afghans registered in spite of these problems.' One of those who have recently registered to vote is Afghanistan's former king."

The first military trials of prisoners of war conducted by the US government in more than half a century begin this week at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Law.com says that "Of the approximately 600 foreign detainees held at Guantanamo, four will appear before a panel of military officers to formally hear the charges against them, setting in motion a process initiated in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The prisoners -- two from Yemen, one from Australia and one from Sudan -- have been charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, including the murder of civilians.

These hearings are distinct, of course, from the US military review panels, which are currently conducting hearings to make sure that the detainees are properly classified as enemy combatants. A decision on Saturday that 10 of them were brought to 14 the number of cases decided by the panels. The panels decided to hold all 14. The military so far has reviewed the cases of 31 detainees, including that of a 30-year-old prisoner on Saturday who allegedly served as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. All 585 Guantanamo detainees are accused of links to al-Qaida or Afghanistan's former Taliban regime.

22 August 2004

Palestinians will be taking a break from their intifada this evening, to follow the fate of Ammar Hasan, 26, who is going to be competing in Lebanon against a Libyan in the finals of a televised contest to see who will be named the Arab world's greatest singer.

Many West Bank towns and villages are setting up large televisions or screens in city centers so that everyone can watch the finals of Super Star 2, a hugely successful production of the Lebanese satellite station al-Mustaqbal, or Future Television, which is owned by Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

One thinks of counterculture groups, of the kind that plan to stage protests in New York during the Republican convention, as a ragtag bunch of kids who rely on enthusiasm for fuel, but it turns out that what they're doing is big business. "Many are heavily financed by people like [billionaire financier] George Soros and the Tides Foundation," says David Martosko, research director for the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit coalition of restaurants, food companies and citizens advocating consumer choice. For instance, says the Washington Times, "WBAI-FM in New York, part of a legion of self-proclaimed 'Peace and Justice Radio' stations, is also part of community radio giant Pacifica, whose Pacifica Radio Foundation claimed $13 million in revenue for the 2002 tax year."

It's like finding out that Wendy was bonking Captain Hook, isn't it?

In a poll of members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the performance as King Lear by the veteran stage and screen actor, Paul Scofield, has been acclaimed as as the greatest performance ever in a Shakespeare play, writes Roya Nikkhah of the Telegraph. It's a pity she doesn't explain a little better what the poll was and how it was conducted, but that's a small quibble. Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood was judged the best film adaptation of a Shakespeare play. It is a 1957 black and white version of Macbeth, in which Shakespeare's original story is transposed to medieval Japan. It's so good that although I've watched it three or four times, I would never have thought to mention that it was in black and white!

Nikkah writes that "The survey also looked at Shakespeare's impact as a wordsmith. The bard is credited with the creation of an estimated 1,700 words including 'bedazzle', 'punk', 'lustrous' and 'vulnerable'. Participants were asked to name a word in Shakespeare's work which they considered to be the most important addition to the English language. The most popular choices included 'sea-change', from The Tempest and 'assassination', which is first used in Macbeth..."

"I wanted to be Britain's first great Jewish comedian, but I was beaten to it by a man called Sacha Baron Cohen, who came up with this amazing character called Ali G," the Independent quotes Ivor Dembina, another Anglo-Jewish comic as having said. "A white man playing the part of an Asian who wants to be black? Only a Jew can make money out of this."

I have no great fondness for John Kerry, who I think is a weak candidate for president, but this rings true to me. If the anti-Kerry veterans are making their stories up in some respects, as this would suggest, then they should be consigned to the rubbish bin of political history without further ado.


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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