...Views from mid-Atlantic
09 July 2005

The name Mohammed al Gerbouzi seems increasingly to be mentioned in the UK in connection with the London bombings. The Independent has an article this morning that suggests Scotland Yard and MI5 have asked European countries for help tracking the Moroccan national down. Although al Gerbouzi is said to have been living with his family in Britain for 16 years, he is reported to have disappeared from his London flat in April. British authorities granted him indefinite leave to remain in Britain, despite warnings from Morocco that he posed a threat.

As head of the Group of Islamic Combatants of Morocco, he has been linked to the Madrid atrocities and bombings in Casablanca two years ago when 40 people died. A former pupil of cleric Abu Qatada - said to be Osama Bin Laden's European ambassador - Gerbouzi is alleged by the Spanish authorities to have spoken to some of the Madrid bombers twice in the hours before they blew themselves up as police closed in.

More on this story from the Australian Sun-Herald.

It's been hard not to notice that many of the images of the London bombings and their aftermath that are now familiar to us, were supplied by amateurs using cellphones and digital cameras. Wired comments that new technology and the internet have made distribution of such images easy. The problem for news organisations is now not finding good images, but sifting through the thousands they get in a search for the best. There are problems associated with this new way of dealing with things, mind you. The media which use them have to make sure the image isn't already owned by someone else, and that it hasn't been digitally manipulated.

It's part of a larger phenomenon - the waning of traditional methods in journalism - as the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars points out: "At their best, the elite media pursued stories of public importance and reported them thoroughly, accurately, and in reasonably fair and balanced fashion. And they did that a great deal of the time. They were never the relentlessly vigilant 'watchdogs' they congratulated themselves on being, but they did sometimes do valuable work policing the abuses and failures of government and other institutions."

But in the 1960s, probably driven by the need to compete, old media began to treat the world as if it were a cabal of villains, out to pull the wool over the public's eyes. The resulting negativity of the news, not to mention the arrogance with which it was often served up, caused many to tune out.

Now, technology is allowing the public to work around that phenomenon. In 1995, Jonathan Alter wrote a Newsweek column recognizing that the 'old media order' was in decline. The decline has only continued.

The Center comments that "...For the old media to become newly credible, to regain respect and audience, in a country more populous and less enamored of elites than it once was, and more red than blue, they're going to have to dial down their imperial arrogance. They're going to have to learn from the best of what the new media offer, and perhaps even recruit bloggers to help with news judgment and fact-checking. And they're definitely going to have to look for news in places they formerly did not."

All of which assumes that they're smart enough to recognise what's going on. New evidence emerges every day that many of them can't see the wave for the water.

It's almost lost from view in the tidal wave of news about London and the G8, but nonetheless, Luxembourg is holding a referendum on the EU Constitution on Sunday. It is a strongly pro-European country, but the vote is still going to be a pretty close call.

Another group of terrorists has claimed responsibility for the London bombings. This one, according to the Jerusalem Post "has no proven track record of attacks, and...has claimed responsibility for events in which it was unlikely to have played any role, such as the 2003 blackouts in the United States and London that resulted from technical problems."

On the other hand, alJazeera's columnist, Hypatia Clark, says London was just a diversionary tactic by the Military/Industrial Complex. She's a little shaky on the subject of what it is they're trying to divert people's attention away from, but says she does feel it is shameful that the majority of "our citizens" are still hypnotised by their lies.

Ms Clark is the Secretary of an online reading society dedicated to awakening the world to the danger that the Bush administration poses to freedom everywhere, but she promises faithfully that she is not attempting to publicize her society on the back of the tragedy in London. No, no, perish that thought.

I'd like to suggest that the intelligence services waste no time planting listening devices in Ms Clark's brain the next time she goes to sleep. She plainly has valuable information.

08 July 2005

Among many fine pieces of comment that appear in the press on both sides of the Atlantic today about yesterday's bombings, this one stands out. It is a guest contribution to the London Times, written by Amir Taheri, an Iranian who comments on Middle Eastern Affairs, and I'd say it was required reading for anyone trying to understand what al Qaeda and similar groups are all about, and what we need to do to defeat them.

"The ideological soil in which alQaeda, and the many groups using its brand name, grow was described by one of its original masterminds, the Pakistani Abul-Ala al-Maudoodi more than 40 years ago. It goes something like this: when God created mankind He made all their bodily needs and movements subject to inescapable biological rules but decided to leave their spiritual, social and political needs and movements largely subject to their will.

"Soon, however, it became clear that Man cannot run his affairs the way God wants. So God started sending prophets to warn man and try to goad him on to the right path. A total of 128,000 prophets were sent, including Moses and Jesus. They all failed. Finally, God sent Muhammad as the last of His prophets and the bearer of His ultimate message, Islam. With the advent of Islam all previous religions were 'abrogated' (mansukh), and their followers regarded as 'infidel' (kuffar). The aim of all good Muslims, therefore, is to convert humanity to Islam, which regulates Man's spiritual, economic, political and social moves to the last detail.

"But what if non-Muslims refuse to take the right path? Here answers diverge. Some believe that the answer is dialogue and argument until followers of the 'abrogated faiths' recognise their error and agree to be saved by converting to Islam. This is the view of most of the imams preaching in the mosques in the West. But others, including Osama bin Laden, a disciple of al-Maudoodi, believe that the Western-dominated world is too mired in corruption to hear any argument, and must be shocked into conversion through spectacular ghazavat (raids) of the kind we saw in New York and Washington in 2001, in Madrid last year, and now in London."

"It is, of course, possible, as many in the West love to do, to ignore the strategic goal of the Islamists altogether and focus only on their tactical goals. These goals are well known and include driving the 'Cross-worshippers' (Christian powers) out of the Muslim world, wiping Israel off the map of the Middle East, and replacing the governments of all Muslim countries with truly Islamic regimes like the one created by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and by the Taleban in Afghanistan.

"How to achieve those objectives has been the subject of much debate in Islamist circles throughout the world, including in London, since 9/11. Bin Laden has consistently argued in favour of further ghazavat inside the West. He firmly believes that the West is too cowardly to fight back and, if terrorised in a big way, will do 'what it must do'. That view was strengthened last year when al-Qaeda changed the Spanish Government with its deadly attack in Madrid. At the time bin Laden used his 'Madrid victory' to call on other European countries to distance themselves from the United States or face similar 'punishment'.

"Bin Laden's view has been challenged by his supposed No 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who insists that the Islamists should first win the war inside several vulnerable Muslim countries, notably Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Until yesterday it seemed that al-Zawahiri was winning the argument, especially by heating things up in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yesterday, the bin Laden doctrine struck back in London."

One of those paragraphs bears repeating - "It is, of course, possible, as many in the West love to do, to ignore the strategic goal of the Islamists altogether and focus only on their tactical goals. These goals are well known and include driving the 'Cross-worshippers' (Christian powers) out of the Muslim world, wiping Israel off the map of the Middle East, and replacing the governments of all Muslim countries with truly Islamic regimes like the one created by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and by the Taleban in Afghanistan."

The West is not even a quarter of the way on the road to disposing itself properly to meeting this kind of threat. Because we don't have our heads around the strategic goal of the terrorist, we don't yet properly understand the role being played by groups fighting in and around Israel, and in places like Chechnya. Many in the West want to cut those groups the kind of slack that might be given to guerillas fighting for things we understand only too well - for their 'freedom', their 'independence', their 'rights'. But in doing that, we are giving ourselves the muddiest of aims, all but hamstringing our will to fight. We want to believe that while alQaeda may well be evil, groups like Hamas and Hizbollah are not. We ignore the fact that all of them use terrorism to defeat us 'cross-worshippers'. To defend our right to live as we choose and not as they choose, we must understand that it is the use of terrorism - the targeting of innocent people - that defines our enemy, not the spin they put on their goals.

It is vital, of course, to deny physical and financial sanctuary to terrorists, but to win, we must stop giving them intellectual sanctuary as well.

Victor Davis Hanson understands the part we're playing in our own defeat only too well.

"To criticize Islamic fascism is supposedly to be unfair to Islam, so we allow on our own shores mullahs and madrassas to spread hatred and intolerance, as part of our illiberal acceptance of 'not offending Islam'.

"It is not that we don't believe in Western values as much as we don't even know what they are anymore. The London bombings were only a reification of what goes on daily with impunity blocks away in the mosques and Islamist schools of London. The enemy knows that and thrives on it. That refuge in religion is why imams shout that 'Islam doesn’t condone such things' - even as bin Laden has become a folk hero on the Arab Street. Jihadists sense that even here at home more Americans are more concerned about a flushed Koran at Guantanamo Bay than five Americans fighting for the Iraqi jihadists or Taliban sympathizers in Lodi, California.

"As long as there is not any price to be paid for Islamism, either by governments abroad or purveyors of its hatred in the West, the propaganda works and the killing will go on. But when a renegade Saudi Prince, Pakistani general, London imam, or Lodi mosque leader screams out to the jihadist, 'Stop that before those crazy Americans really do go to war,' the war, in fact, will be over and won."

Shortly after the bombings in London yesterday, a story began to make the rounds that British police had tipped the Israelis off about them before they occurred. It quickly became clear that what had happened was that after the first explosion, British police telephoned Binyamin Netanyahu, who was in London to speak at a conference, and asked him not to leave his hotel. Very sensible.

But in the hands of some conspiracy-loving people, it is proof once again that the evil Jews, in their dark quest to dominate the world, were the real villains, at the bottom of the attacks. Remember the rumour after 9/11 that all the Jews in the Twin Towers had been tipped off not to go to work that day? Same stuff.

It's early days yet, so there's no telling whether this particular rumour will grow legs or not, but it certainly shaped official Israeli responses to the British tragedy. "The Prime Minister's Office instructed Israeli officials not to give interviews to the foreign media Thursday on the London bombings...Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Finance Minister Binyamin Netanhayu (spoke only)to the Hebrew-language media.

"In the international arena this time the message was the following: 'It's not a story with anything to do with Israel. It's a story of international terrorism in Britain and therefore we should be quiet."

07 July 2005

First word was that these explosions in the London Underground were a result of power surges. But it's now obvious from reports like this one, from Bloomberg News, that something a great deal more serious has happened.

UPDATES: CNN has just published a timetable, illustrating how the situation developed.

BBC News is quoting Tony Blair as having said it is "reasonably clear" that the explosions were part of a terrorist attack on London.

DEBKAfile says al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the blasts, saying they were revenge for Britain's participation in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Der Spiegel says "A group calling itself 'Secret Organization - al-Qaeda in Europe' has posted on the Internet a claim of responsibility for the series of blasts in London.

In its message, the group says: "Rejoice, Islamic nation. Rejoice, Arab world. The time has come for vengeance against the Zionist crusader government of Britain in response to the massacres Britain committed in Iraq and Afghanistan."

This report from Xinhua confirms that although British Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday has left the Group of Eight summit by helicopter to be briefed on the attacks in London, the G8 summit will continue. It says Britain's Home Secretary Charles Clarke has confirmed that there were four, not seven, explosions and it gives new casualty figures.

The New York Sun says "A former colleague of Iran's president-elect who has since turned on the regime says he suspects that the incoming leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, played a role in the 1989 assassination of a Kurdish leader in Vienna.

"In an interview yesterday, Mohsen Sazegara, who helped found Iran's revolutionary guard and served as a high official for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei until 1988, said he was watching closely a developing investigation by the Austrian government into Mr. Ahmadinejad's possible connection to the murder of a Kurdish dissident leader, Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, and two associates on July 13, 1989, in Vienna."

"AlJazeera says the Austrian Justice Ministry has denied that it was investigating Iran's president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's links to the 1989 murder of three Iranian Kurds in Vienna. The ministry said that all it was doing was trying to find out whether Mohsen Sazegara existed. An Austrian politician, Peter Pilz, had raised the issue, and said he had sent information about Sazegara's allegations to Austrian authorities to be looked into.

M Chirac is obviously not having a good week. What makes it worse, says the Washington Times is the fact that Tony Blair won with the panache normally associated with the French, and the French are giving him credit for it. "'Tony Blair acted brilliantly,' said Pierre Durand, the French gold medalist in the equestrian competition in 1988. 'He has a dynamism which makes him win all his bets, win all the gambles he takes and win all the challenges he sets himself.'

"'They have the luck to have a prime minister who is young, emblematic, charismatic, deliberately looking to the future and at odds with 'Old Europe'. You can feel it on every level.'" If it hadn't been for those really thoroughly nasty remarks about British cooking and mad cow disease, someone on the face of the planet might have felt sorry for the French leader this morning.

A US federal court judge has extended for the fifth time an order barring a former investigator for the Volcker probe from turning over documents to a US Congressional committee, according to this Reuters dispatch. "The delay, until July 13, was granted by US District Judge Ricardo Urbina in Washington. All parties have asked for repeated delays while they try to work out an agreement. The restraining order, first issued on May 9, blocks Robert Parton, a former FBI agent, from handing over boxes of documents to two congressional committees that subpoenaed them after he resigned from the UN-appointed Independent Inquiry Committee."

Meantime, Claudia Rosett is clamouring for an accounting of another huge sum of Iraqi money the UN was handling. Nearly $20 billion has been disbursed by a UN group as reparations for Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Writing in the National Review, she says "This money was parceled out by a UN outfit based in Geneva, Switzerland, the UN Compensation Commission, which has so far escaped the spotlights that have begun to expose the web of graft, kickbacks, and front companies that infested almost every other aspect of Oil-for-Food. All told, the UN's Iraq program involved roughly $65 billion in UN-monitored oil sales, of which some $46 billion were designated for relief and oil equipment, with most of the remainder funneled through the UNCC.

"The guest appearance at Wednesday's UN press briefing in New York by UNCC spokesman Joe Sills provides a prime opportunity to revisit some of the mysteries surrounding the Iraqi money doled out by the UNCC. One of the simplest questions is whether we will ever see a full accounting of UNCC administrative costs, which totaled well over $350 million. Given that the commission fielded a staff of about 200 during its boom years (1999-2003), with yearly budgets running to roughly $50 million, and had no business other than assessing and paying out claims, those administrative costs average out to about $250,000 per employee. Even with Swiss overhead, and the support staff needed for the rotating three-member panels of commissioners who judged the claims, one has to wonder about the perks. The UNCC costs were UN fees above and beyond the $1.4 billion in Iraqi money collected by the Secretariat to run Oil-for-Food and the $500 million collected for weapons inspections (though for four of the program's almost seven years, there were no weapons inspections)."

The New York Times is behaving as if its refusal to reveal its reporter's sources in the Valerie Plame case were Paul Revere's ride and the Boston Tea Party all rolled up into one. "She (their reporter, Judith Miller) is surrendering her liberty in defense of a greater liberty, granted to a free press by the founding fathers so journalists can work on behalf of the public without fear of regulation or retaliation from any branch of government."

Good grief. Journalism's a tough business. Sometimes, though very seldom, reporters go to jail. Soldiering is also a tough business, and very often, soldiers get killed. The Times should pay some attention to its sense of proportion.

06 July 2005

A lot of articles are now being published about NASA's successful July 4 thumping of the comet Tempel with a refrigerator-sized missle, and what it all means. The SF Chronicle's science editor's analysis is better than some: "The 9-mile-long nucleus of Tempel 1...appears very different from the comets that other spacecraft have flown past in recent years. It also looks very different from earlier images of itself; it now seems to look more like a misshapen bread loaf with a broad bottom and a smaller rounded top - far different from the curving pickle shape seen previously. It is also studded with what look like older impact craters - some of them large and clearly circular - that may be the remnants of a time when the solar system itself was still forming and hordes of icy comets crowded the sky, their orbits jostling each other violently like restless rush-hour crowds on BART.

"'There are bright spots on the surface we don't understand yet,' (a NASA scientist) said. 'There are areas that are flat and smooth, and we don't understand them either. The old impact craters seem to be remnants of a layering process, and we don't understand that either.'"

Other comments range from the bizarre, as in a Russian astrologer's suit against NASA, claiming that the US space agency's bombardment of the Tempel 1 comet will upset her horoscope and violates her spiritual rights, to the oddly insightful. The Guardian's science editor says: "Nasa engineers on this week did settle one point: if indeed there is a comet with the Earth's name on it - a monster the size of Manhattan speeding towards the planet at 30 miles a second - it will be very difficult to stop. Deep Impact cost 188 million pounds and its copper bullet hit Tempel 1 so hard that it triggered a 1,200 mile explosion from a grubby ice lolly a mere 9 miles long.

"But did Tempel 1 slow, falter or alter course? Not so that anyone would notice. Deep Impact was more than a triumph of human patience and cooperation. It was a lesson in humility as well. We should be grateful for both." Interesting point, though Tempel 1 wasn't exactly hit with the planet's best shot, was it? We've still got Tom Cruise up our sleeve.

I'm not quite sure why the London Times describes this article by Rosemary Righter as a Guest Contribution - the last I heard, she was a Times assistant editor, and a leading Times editorial writer. Whatever she is, she's also an excellent writer and thinker. Her column this morning is about the G8 and, specifically, Global Warming: "The most valuable present that Tony Blair could make to his fellow-summiteers at Gleneagles would be the rigorous and persuasive report on the economics of climate change published today by the Economic Affairs Committee of the House of Lords. He is unlikely to do so, for two main reasons. The first is that the report unanswerably demonstrates not only that in terms of averting or even delaying global warming, the Kyoto Protocol is about as futile as sending seven maids with seven mops to rid a beach of sand, but that 'more of the same', a 'Kyoto-plus' treaty that sets tougher emissions targets, would fail too, because the whole approach it embodies is fatally flawed."

The Guardian's science editor summarises the Lords' comments on Kyoto. Just in case any of the people at Gleneagles would like to read the full report, I'm posting this convenient link. It covers five international science and technology agreements, so pick and choose what you read.

Michael Palin (I'm tempted to say 'of all people', but that would be unfair. You know what I'm driving at. It's the Shock of the New, or something) has written a tribute to a little-known Danish artist, Vilhelm Hammershoi, who the Guardian describes in its headline as A Heady Fusion of Hopper and Vermeer. "...Three years ago, riffling through a pile of books in a covered arcade in Paris, I found myself staring at the back of a woman in a simple black dress standing in a corner of a room with panelled doors on either side of her and a glow of light on the nape of her neck. It was the cover of a catalogue devoted to 'Vilhelm Hammershoi, Danish painter of solitude and light'." It's nicely done.

Fu Chengyu, the chairman and CEO of CNOOC, phrases his Wall Street Journal appeal to American common sense constructively and calmly: "Two weeks ago, our company, CNOOC Ltd, extended a friendly, all-cash offer to Unocal's board of directors. After being invited to engage in dialogue with Unocal earlier this year, we entered detailed negotiations regarding a possible merger. We have made our offer because Unocal's asset base fits our business extremely well - 70% of its oil and gas reserves are close to Asian markets where we operate. We are listed on the New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges and have fiduciary obligations to all of our shareholders. We believe this merger will offer our shareholders, which include many leading US institutional investors, tremendous growth opportunities...

"We also believe that our two companies can bring even more oil and gas to the US market by building on Unocal's strength in the Gulf of Mexico and other producing areas in the US Last year, CNOOC grew production of oil and gas by over 7%. Over the past three years, we achieved an average reserve replacement ratio of about 213%, one of the best records in the industry."

But his message really could be phrased much more directly and succinctly - What's your problem, Yankee running-dog capitalists?

05 July 2005

Norman Geras is one of the most respected bloggers on the net. He is featuring, at Normblog this morning, some excerpts from a Nick Cohen review of Paul Berman's essay, Terror and Liberalism. It's not to be missed.

Walter E. Williams, who is a professor of economics at George Mason University and a nationally syndicated columnist, extends Bill Cosby's theories on black victimhood a little in this Washington Times piece. "As my colleague Tom Sowell pointed out in a recent column, Liberals, Race and History, if the Democratic Party's share of the black vote ever fell to even 70 percent, it's not likely the Democrats would ever win the White House or Congress again.

"The strategy liberal Democrats have chosen, to prevent loss of the black vote, is to keep blacks paranoid and in constant fear. But is it fear of racists, or being driven back to the plantation, that should be a top priority for blacks?" (We've got a politician here in Bermuda who loves to use that plantation line. There are no plantations in Bermuda's past, so his use of the word really sticks out as claptrap that is as surreally overt an appeal to racist cliche as were Little Black Sambo's big red lips over 100 years ago.)

"Since black politicians and the civil-rights establishment preach victimhood to blacks, I would prefer they be more explicit when they appear in public fora. Were they to say racists are responsible for black illegitimacy, blacks preying on other blacks and black family breakdown, their victimhood message would be revealed as idiotic. But being so explicit is not as far-fetched as one might think. In a campaign speech before a predominantly black audience, in reference to so many blacks in prison, presidential candidate John Kerry said: 'That's unacceptable. But it's not their fault.'"

Mark Steyn's sense of humour seems to have been put under some strain by the Live8 concerts. Although he makes an attempt at lightheartedness on his way to the end of this Telegraph column, you can tell he is having to dig hard for it. The concluding paragraphs tell the tale: "Once upon a time, rock stars weren't rated by Moody, they were moody - they self-destructed, they choked to death in their own vomit, they hoped to die before they got old. Instead, judging from Sir Pete Townshend on Saturday, they got older than anyone's ever been. Today, Paul McCartney is a businessman: he owns the publishing rights to Annie and Guys & Dolls. These faux revolutionaries are capitalists red in tooth and claw.

"The system that enriched them could enrich Africa. But capitalism's the one cause the poseurs never speak up for. The rockers demand we give our fokkin' money to African dictators to manage, while they give their fokkin' money to Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts to manage. Which of those models makes more sense?"

Here's a guy with whom Sun Ra would have had much in common - Velemir Khlebnikov, poet and founder of Russian futurism. "One of his several improbable and faintly ludicrous ideas was that he wished to purify the Russian language, ridding it of its western elements; he came to write his own poems in this invented language. This sort of thing is infinitely tiresome, as undoubtedly was this ridiculous magus - whose origins lay in an obscure, nomadic Buddhist tribe. When he died, in 1922, he was buried in a coffin embellished with a blue planet Earth and the words The President of Planet Earth, Velimir 1.

"Were it not for his peculiarity, and the fact that he lived when he did, Khlebnikov would doubtless be forgotten."

That's from the Guardian, from their review of a two-part exhibition in London of the German artist Anselm Kiefer's latest work. Kiefer entitles his exhibition For Khlebnikov, and the works on display spin off Khlebnikov's bizarre idea that great naval sea battles are cyclical, recurring every 317 years. Pretty decent theory, actually...I wish I'd thought of it.

Joel Henning of the Wall Street Journal attended Wired Magazine's NextFest.2005 in Chicago, and said "You know you're in a world of extravagantly high technology when you find yourself establishing active animosity toward some of the robots in an exhibition and deep affection toward others...The most advanced robot on exhibition was also, in my view, the most obnoxious. Designed and programmed to be the spitting image of sci-fi icon and author Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, etc.), the robot has hardware by Hanson Technology and uncannily lifelike 'skin.' Cameras in the robot's eyes allow it to track faces, and 60 sensors behind its face make it eerily able to reproduce facial expressions. It can even recognize people in a crowd (Mr. Dick's family and friends, celebrities, etc.). Mr. Dick's doppelganger is set in a room replicating the writer's study.

"Despite these enormous technological achievements, I was put off, perhaps because Mr. Dick - I mean the robot - not only didn't recognize me, but wouldn't answer my questions. I would, for example, ask it how it likes Chicago. Driven by some of the best speech-recognition software, advanced natural-language processing and speech synthesis in the world (designed by a team led by Andrew Olney, of the FedEx Institute of Technology of the University of Memphis), it would launch into long stories, mainly about itself and its namesake's writing (much, I'm told, like the real Philip K. Dick, who died in 1982, was wont to do)."

04 July 2005

Mark Steyn reflects on the recent Supreme Court decision allowing commercial developers to seize private property to make way for money-spinning projects. Supreme Court Justice David Souter wrote the narrow majority's opinion in the case. Shortly afterwards, Steyn notes in the Washington Times, New Hampshire businessman Logan Darrow Clements announced a plan to build a new hotel in the town of Weare, right where Justice Souter's house stands. "In compliance with Justice Souter's view of the public interest, Mr. Clements' project will generate far more revenue for Weare than Mr Souter's pad ever could. The Lost Liberty Hotel will include the Just Desserts Bar and a museum dedicated to the loss of freedom in America...How does that banned-in-Kentucky Commandment go? 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, nor his ass.' However, if thy neighbor is an ass and thou hast financing for a luxury hotel, covet away."

What exactly is it about the way we're wired together that, against all evolutionary logic, drives some males to wear shoes with leather tassels? As the Washington Post reports, it's one of 125 mysteries of the universe that scientists have failed to crack. If you want the full list, it is in Science Magazine's 125th Anniversary Issue.

Technological advances will one day allow computers to be implanted in the human body - and could help the blind see and the deaf hear - Bill Gates said Friday. But the Microsoft chairman says he himself is not ready to be hardwired. Technology Review quotes him as having said "One of the guys that works at Microsoft ... always says to me 'I'm ready, plug me in.' I don't feel quite the same way. I'm happy to have the computer over there and I'm over here.'"

The ordinary people of Africa, according to the Independent, were barely aware that the Live8 concerts were being held. Only in South Africa, the sole African country to hold its own Live8 concert, understood the significance of the event. In Kenya, a country that the G8 leaders feel is too successful to qualify for debt relief, one young man told a reporter: "We are not beggars so we don't need to be treated like that. Some help with development will be useful but before rich countries send us money, they should take time to truly understand us. There is so much corruption here that funds from overseas often go straight into the pockets of politicians. We must find a way to give aid money directly to the small people. Will the people at this concert understand all that?"

Nonetheless, the BBC reports that "African leaders are gathering in Libya to discuss how to capitalise on the global anti-poverty campaign unleashed around this week's G8 summit in the UK."

And in the Middle East, a music festival that had been held successfully for seven years in Kalkilya, has been banned by Hamas, the terrorist organisation that won elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The organisation said its decision was made because it feared those who attended might trample the grass at the stadium where it was to have been held. The Jerusalem Post says "the organizers of the festival rejected the claim, accusing the municipality of seeking to impose strict Islamic rules in the city. 'We've become like Iran and Afghanistan when it was ruled by the Taliban,' one of the organizers of the festival (said)...'The municipality's argument over its concern for the grass is ridiculous. They actually don't want to see young men and woman appearing together at the event.'"

While we're on the subject of barbarians and philistines, the Independent reports that "Russia's State Cinema Museum, a repository containing the belongings of Sergey Eisenstein, the director of the ground-breaking 1925 film Battleship Potemkin, is to be shut down to make more room for a strip club. In what the country's cultural guardians believe is an ominous sign of the times, the central Moscow museum has been ordered to vacate its premises by the end of the year."

03 July 2005

DEBKAfile is reporting that Syrian president Bashar Assad has given orders to his forces to stop Arab terrorists fighting in Iraq getting to a rest and recreation area in Lebanon through Syrian territory. As a result, Syrian forces killed an Arab terrorist who led a radical group of 34 non-Syrian Arab nationals trying to cross illegally into Lebanon. Two Syrian soldiers were killed in the firefight. "DEBKAfile's military sources add: The group appears to have come from Iraq along a well-trodden route at the end of which the Lebanese Hizballah give Arab terrorists sanctuary and a chance to rest up from the fighting in Iraq...Our sources connect this policy change with the support Egypt and Syria are tentatively extending to the ongoing mediation bid to persuade Sunni leaders to cease hostilities in Iraq."

Meantime, the LA Times (and others) are reporting that Saudi Arabian security forces "killed the al-Qaida terrorist group's leader in Saudi Arabia, during a fierce gun battle Sunday in the capital, Riyadh...Younis Mohammed Ibrahim al-Hayari, a Moroccan, was killed during a raid by security forces on an area where suspected militants were hiding."

I shouldn't have thought this story is going to do much for relations between China and Japan. People's Daily says "Chinese experts have discovered new evidence of the Japanese wartime atrocity in China - a toxic gas experiment plant in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The plant, known to the locals as 'Bayanhan', is located on the grassland of the Ewenki Autonomous Banner in Hulun Buir city, said Xu Zhanjiang, a researcher on the history of Japanese biological war with the Harbin Municipal Academy of Social Sciences in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province...The Inner Mongolia-based researcher said the Japanese soldiers used to conduct biological tests here during the World War II, by blasting gas bombs in pits buried with live human beings and animals."

The Washington Times reports that Iran's newly elected president, already accused of taking American diplomats hostage 26 years ago, played a key role in the 1989 execution-style slayings of a Kurdish opposition leader and two associates in Vienna. Austria's daily Der Standard quoted a prominent Austrian politician as saying authorities have "very convincing" evidence linking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the attacks in Vienna, in which the Kurds were killed. The reports follow accusations from some of the 52 Americans who were held hostage for 444 days in Iran beginning in 1979 that Mr. Ahmadinejad, a hard-line Islamist, was among the hostage-takers. He denies it.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, who runs Strategic Policy Consulting, a Washington-based think tank focusing on Iran and Iraq, said Mr. Ahmadinejad was a Revolutionary Guard commander who supplied the weapons used to gun down Iranian Kurdish politician Abdul-Rahman Ghassemlou and two colleagues on July 13, 1989, in Vienna.

The Washington Post has published an article by Aaron Lazare, a psychiatrist, who is chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the author of a book called On Apology. "I...analyzed the annual number of stories involving public apologies in The Washington Post and the New York Times during the 13-year period from 1990 through 2002 and found that it had doubled.

"The notable rise in apologies during the Clinton years, especially, leads me to think of him as a 'professional apologizer'. But like other presidents, he apologized for offenses committed by previous administrations - rather than his own failings. Remember his famous non-apology for the Monica Lewinsky mess?

"I also observed that public apologies seemed to occur randomly or in unpredictable waves. There would be several important apologies followed by months of quiet. What we are seeing now, I believe, is more of the same. During Bush's first term, there was relative quiet on the apology front. (This president, as has been frequently noted, rarely, if ever, apologizes.) Now, with the growing polarization between the administration and the opposition over presidential appointments and the conduct of the Iraq war, nastiness is on the rise, with a subsequent demand for apologies as a weapon in the battle for public approval.

"But I hope the public won't be deceived into thinking that these politically motivated demands for apology and their responses are in any way representative of the true process of apology. A successful apology - a real apology - results in the dissolution of grudges and reconciliation between two parties. The offended parties feel like they have received 'gifts' and usually attempt to offer 'gifts' in return. People are brought together, not pushed apart. The thirst for 'apologizing' in Washington these days, though, is all about pushing apart. If you ask me, it's a sorry spectacle, indeed."

From our Look Who's Running for Cover department, these stories in the LA Times and the Washington Post. They both say more or less the same thing - Yes, I smoked one of those things, but I never inhaled. Honest.

The headline on this Sunday Times story, written by Simon Jenkins, says all there is to say, doesn't it? With a Song in Their Hearts and Not Much at All in Their Heads.

This story is all over the British press this morning - "Tony Blair has issued a furious dressing-down to Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, for going soft in the fight against crime, a secret Downing Street memo has revealed. The memo, written two weeks ago, shows that the Prime Minister has taken personal charge of the drive to stamp out antisocial behaviour and has ordered urgent action to prevent a 'sense of fatalism' setting in. In a humiliating snub to Mr Clarke, Mr Blair has ordered Louise Casey, the national director of the Government's antisocial behaviour unit and a hardline Home Office figure, to report directly to him."

And editorial writers are making comments like the one the Telegraph makes: this is "a pitiful insight into an administration at odds with itself, presiding over a shambolic law and order policy. In the argument recorded in the memo, the criticisms levelled by Mr Blair are mostly well-made. If the Government does not make progress on anti-social behaviour and its awkwardly-named 'respect agenda', a 'sense of fatalism' will indeed set in among the already-disenchanted voters. The Prime Minister is also right that prisons policy should be determined not by the number of places that are available in jails, but the sentences that criminals deserve. If more prisons need to be built - and they do - then so be it."

So...any bets on who did the leaking? And whose resignation he wants on his desk in the morning?


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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