...Views from mid-Atlantic
18 February 2006

"Like the Nazi romance of an exalted ancient Volk, the Islamists hearken to a mythical purity, free of decadence brought on by Western liberalism. Similarly, they feed off victimization - not just recent defeats, but centuries-old bitterness at the rise of the West. Their version of the stab-in-the-back Versailles Treaty is always the creation of Israel." That's Victor Davis Hansen having a righteous little rant in the Washington Times about the similarities between Muslims and Nazis.

"Just as Hitler concocted incidents such as the burning of the Reichstag to create outrage, Islamist leaders incite frenzy in their followers over a supposed flushed Koran at Guantanamo and several inflammatory cartoons, some of them never published by Danish newspapers at all. Anti-Semitism, of course, is the mother's milk of fascism. It is always, they say, a small group of Jews - whether shadowy Cabinet advisers and international bankers of the 1930s or the manipulative neoconservatives and Israeli leadership of the present - who alone stir up the trouble.

"The point of the comparison is not to suggest history simply repeats itself, but to learn why intelligent people delude themselves into embracing naive policies. After the Taliban and Saddam were removed, the furious reply of the radical Islamist world was to censor Western newspapers, along with Iran's accelerated efforts to get the bomb. In response, either the West will continue to stand up now to these recurring post-September 11, 2001, threats, or it will see the bullies' demands increase as its own resistance weakens. Like the appeasement of the 1930s, opting for the easier choice will only guarantee a more costly one later."

"According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an angel named Moroni led Joseph Smith in 1827 to a divine set of golden plates buried in a hillside near his New York home. God provided the 22-year-old Smith with a pair of glasses and seer stones that allowed him to translate the 'Reformed Egyptian' writings on the golden plates into the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ." The book says, to cut quite a long story short, that any American Indian who converted to Mormonism would become white.

In this day of an avalanche of email scammers promising the most unlikely bonanzas to the faithful - millions for help in getting a king's ransom out of some bank, or a pill that will grow an extra couple of inches here or there about one's person - who is there left on the earth who would fall for crap like that?

Long ago, as the LA Times says, it was a short leap to faith in stories like that. But times have changed. The book is still central to the Mormon faith, and the Church is having a lot of difficulty explaining it all away.

I never have quite been able to fathom the difference between that species of polite scam, run in the name of God and all that, and the plainer variety that gets people locked up. the Palm Beach Post is carrying a story about a fortuneteller and the crooked cop who joined forces with her to trick a fortune out of gullible people, including a countrywoman of mine. "With less than a first-grade education she used magician's tricks that made snakes seem to emerge from eggs, and water appear to turn into blood, to scare victims into entrusting her with their cash, which she kept. On Thursday, she hedged at first, saying she returned some customers' cash, before she admitted to swindling people who came to her for help. Among her victims: a Bermuda woman who over eight years gave Marks $1 million, and a dying leukemia patient who gave Marks his life savings of $320,000."

The fortuneteller and her partner are almost surely going to end up behind bars, and deservedly so. Why doesn't the head of the Mormon Church get some time as well? I don't mean to single out the Mormons...there's some pretty crazy stuff out there, all designed to enrich those who swindle with it. I'm in favour of locking the whole bunch of them up.

Thanks for the tip, Brenda.

It's a fascinating phenomenon anyway, the African-American impulse to search for roots obscured by slavery by having their DNA tested. As Gary Younge writes in the Guardian: "'It's basically a matchmaking game,' (according to) Megan Smolenyak, an expert in family history research...'I like to warn folks: be sure you can deal with the results...Some people don't like what they find.'

"The science, now commercially available, has become something of a boom industry. Growing numbers of relatively wealthy African-Americans have been buying up test kits that can cost up to $350 a throw.

"While other Americans could travel to towns in Ireland, Italy or Germany in search of genealogical sustenance, slavery deprived African-Americans of a clear and precise geographical bond with their own ancestry. As Gates puts it: 'There is no Ellis Island for the descendants of the slave trade.' Moreover, since slave-owners changed people's names, regularly split up families and banned reading and writing, the usual methods of keeping family histories have not been available to African-Americans until relatively recently."

But there's another interesting thing about that story - why Gary Younge and his headline writer should have described the African-Americans who spend $350 on the test kit as 'wealthy'. Surely Britain long ago passed the stage of thinking that only the rich have that kind of money to spend. What's the price of a cup of coffee and a sandwich in London these days? Getting on for 10% of that, isn't it? It's a kind of inferiority complex, the Brits have, which has been there, never dealt with, since the Second World War, certainly. Maybe longer? Maybe back to the days of losing America as a colony?

17 February 2006

The embattled Kofi Annan's at it again with the press. This time, it was Benny Avni of the New York Sun, who has the UN beat, who got the sharp edge of the Secretary General's tongue. "Mr. Annan refused to take up a question...by the New York Sun, because he disapproved of the editorial content of the newspaper. 'Do answers to any of your questions make any difference to your paper? Next question,' the secretary general told the Sun in an apparent escalation of his policy of berating reporters who have criticized him and refusing to address their questions.

"A version of the Sun's question - on the degree of the secretary general's endorsement of 'rapporteurs' who pride themselves on independence from the U.N. system, and who represent a body so discredited, the U.N. Human Rights Commission, that Mr. Annan himself has called to overhaul it - was later picked up by another reporter.

"'These individual experts who are appointed to make an independent assessment, and it is not the secretary general report, or the U.N. report (on the prison at Guantanamo Bay), so we should see it in that light,' Mr. Annan acknowledged."

The Times doesn't put it quite as bluntly as this, but it is certainly what is meant: Margaret Thatcher's determination to cut trade union power, curb contagious disputes, reduce wildcat stoppages and end closed shops was the foundation of Britain's present economic prosperity.

The Times says: "Fewer working days were lost through industrial disputes in 2005 than in any year since records began nearly 200 years ago. Whatever else may be wrong with the economy, that is a cause for celebration. Every strike or lockout represents a failure. And the ordinary families who lose their pay usually suffer most.

"The 156,000 days lost last year compare with about 30 million in 1979, when public sector unions killed off the Callaghan Government with their winter of discontent over pay. The last year of widespread industrial chaos came in 1984, when 27 million days were lost - coalminers were manoeuvred into a prolonged, bitter strike against closures of uneconomic pits, which precipitated the industry's virtual demise."

The myth of the Mac as superior to the PC has died away recently, and may disappear entirely with the news that security experts at Sophos Labs have discovered the first virus for the Mac OS X platform. The Globe and Mail says it is 'in the wild', meaning that it has escaped the confines of an experimental laboratory and is meant to cause harm. "The worm is called Leap-A or Oompa-A, and it spreads via the iChat instant-messaging system, forwarding itself as a file called latestpics.tgz to contacts on the infected users' buddy lists."

16 February 2006

When someone as White House-connected as Peggy Noonan speculates that there might be a change of vice-presidents floating around in the air, I get a strong mental image of the launching of a balloon of some kind. She says, in the Wall Street Journal this morning: "I suspect what they're (that is, people in the White House)...I suspect what they're thinking and not saying is, If Dick Cheney weren't vice president, who'd be a good vice president? They're thinking, At some time down the road we may wind up thinking about a new plan. And one night over drinks at a barbecue in McLean one top guy will turn to another top guy and say, 'Under the never permeable and never porous Dome of Silence, tell me...wouldn't you like to replace Cheney?'"

I wouldn't be surprised. It ought to be a law that no one who is unlucky should be allowed to lead other people.

Aren't the Olympics meant to be a vehicle for increasing respect for sport and for sportsman-like behaviour? When a hockey commentator criticises a team for doing too well, something's going wrong... The Toronto Globe and Mail says: "Hockey commentator Don Cherry criticized the Canadian women's hockey team Wednesday for running up the score against their weaker opponents at the Winter Olympics. He was referring to Canada's 16-0 shellacking of host Italy to open the tournament Saturday, followed by a 12-0 victory over Russia on Sunday.

"Cherry, speaking from Toronto on CBC-TV, said the women made a big mistake. 'To run up a score like that, that is wrong,' said Cherry. 'First of all, it is not the Canadian way.'"

That the sale of rare British art outside Britain should cause a fuss in that country is hardly unusual. The Brits are obsessive about not letting the Americans, especially, get their hands on almost anything with a British connection. It's a curious sensitivity for a people whose appetite for importing art from other countries was huge, until the cost of two world wars forced a pulling-in of horns during the 20th Century. However, this particular fuss, over some recently-discovered Blake watercolours, is unusual in its scale and intensity.

The New York Times says: "The discovery was pure serendipity: nosing around in a dusty bookshop in Scotland on a spring day five years ago, a pair of British booksellers stumbled upon a weathered red leather case engraved with the words 'Designs for Blair's Grave.' Opening it, they found 19 Romantic yet macabre watercolors - depicting angels, sarcophagi, moonlit graveyards, arm-linked spirits - rendered in a subtle range of grays, black and pastels.

"Five years, one lawsuit and an export battle later, the watercolors - illustrations created in 1805 by the poet and artist William Blake for a 1743 poem - are being heralded by scholars as the most important Blake discovery in a century."

A lawyer in Pakistan seems to think that publishing the Muhammad cartoons constitutes a criminal offence which can be prosecuted by the International Court of Justice. The Jurist reports: "The Supreme Court of Pakistan has been petitioned to force the country's government to bring an action in the International Court of Justice against countries where cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad have been published. A Pakistani lawyer filed the petition Tuesday, arguing that the government had failed to meet its duty of referring the case to the ICJ. The petition also called for Pakistan to withdraw its diplomats from countries where the cartoons were published. Protestors in Karachi on Tuesday also called for the country to sever diplomatic ties with offending European countries."

15 February 2006

Iran has lost what little sense of humour it seems to possess over another cartoon, this one published in Germany, depicting the Iranian football team dressed as suicide bombers, over a caption that reads "Why the German army should definitely be used during the football World Cup". The Guardian says Iran has demanded an apology - "The general secretary of Iran's sports press association yesterday described the latest caricature as a 'black joke'. The Iranian embassy in Berlin called for an apology, saying the cartoon was 'an immoral act'."

The Germans will have been itching to do something like this for years. They suffered enormously after their World Cup team was defeated by the Brits in the final some years ago. British wags, and others around the world, it must be said, have been chanting "Two World Wars and One World Cup" ever since.

That was funny, but in City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple says there's nothing funny about the British and American reaction to the cartoon controversy in a general sense. The ones who are getting it right, he says, are the French.

"Two French satirical weeklies with Voltairean aplomb, Le Canard Enchaine and Charlie Hebdo, have published a series of cartoons mocking the Islamists and their beliefs as they deserve, with a courage and frankness almost entirely missing from the British and American media...A Muslim association tried in the French courts to have Charlie Hebdo banned, but the courts firmly rejected the request, and the edition sold out quickly. The two papers have inflicted a humiliation on the Islamists, in the best possible way, by exposing their intellectual nullity to withering scorn. No one can accuse the two papers, either, of racism, xenophobia, or any of the other crimes of lèse-PC, since they criticize and mock everyone (who deserves it) without fear or favor.

"The French have emerged in this crisis as far stauncher and more fearless and unapologetic defenders of freedom than the Americans or the British. In this instance, they have stuck to an important principle without calculation of immediate interest or even short-term consequences. They find the equivocations of the Anglo-Saxons strange, spineless, and reprehensible, and in this instance they are absolutely right."

The Wall Street Journal has published a timeline in the Cheney shooting scandal, to illustrate its point that members of the mainstream media really do work hard to earn their reputation with the American public.

Sample: "6:30 p.m. White House Chief of Staff Andy Card informs President Bush that there's been a hunting accident involving the Vice President's party. Did Mr. Bush ask follow-up questions? Was he intellectually curious?"

Those who subscribe to the theory that if you give a Palestinian a gun the very first thing he'll shoot will be his own foot, will smile knowingly at hearing that they've been looting the greenhouses they were given to try to jump-start the economy in Gaza when the Israelis left. Aljazeera says: "A recent spate of looting of greenhouses in the Gaza Strip has caused more than $1 million of damage to a farming project set up to provide jobs for thousands of Palestinians, officials said. The theft of entire greenhouses and their equipment has put out of action about 70 acres of the roughly 1000 acres left by Jewish settlers as the basis of a Palestinian agriculture industry when Israel withdrew from Gaza last September."

It was a group of Jewish-American philanthropists who bought more than 3,000 greenhouses from Israeli settlers in Gaza for $14 million and transferred them to the Palestinian Authority. Former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who brokered the deal, put up $500,000 of his own cash.

14 February 2006

He sounds like the slightly miffed librarian he was (a most unfairly maligned species, in my experience), and he speaks in a bit of a monotone, but recordings of the poet Philip Larkin, found in a Yorkshire garage, are electrifying Larkin fans. They're especially exciting because, uniquely, he reads three poems from his first book, The North Ship, in these recordings, according to the Guardian. Frankly, The North Ship isn't his best poetry. He made his name with a volume published ten years later, The Less Deceived (a very rare copy of which I managed to acquire the other day for a great deal less than I should have paid...frabjous day, etc, etc!)

The Guardian says: "Sounding like a slightly miffed schoolmaster and occasionally interrupting his dry, unemotional style with bursts of good humour, Larkin's informal recital of nearly 30 poems more than doubles the number of his known recordings. 'It's particularly promising that these have got him reading some of his earliest verse,' said Wendy Cole of the Philip Larkin Society.

"Larkin made the tapes with a colleague, John Weeks, who managed the sound department at Hull University when the poet was the chief librarian there. The two occasionally had a drink in the staff bar and Weeks persuaded Larkin to visit his home-made recording studio in Hornsea."

Thanks for the tip, my son.

Irving Berlin didn't write dance songs because he was making dance movies with Fred Astaire, Fred Astaire made dance movies because Irving Berlin was writing the songs. The New York Sun, has published a little ode to the genius of the songwriter written by author Will Friedwald (read especially Stardust Melodies) that makes charming reading: "Once I asked the great lyricist Sammy Cahn about his song Come Dance With Me, which he wrote at the request of Frank Sinatra. The challenge, he told me, was trying to come up with a song about music or dancing that Irving Berlin hadn't already written. 'He has written all the great songs about dancing, has he not?' Sammy said. 'He covered all the bases!' Then Sammy began reeling off the titles of some of the most famous songs Berlin had written for Fred Astaire: Cheek to Cheek, Let Yourself Go, You're Easy To Dance With.

"The Berlin-Astaire connection was strong. They collaborated on six films together, more projects than Astaire did with any other composer or Berlin with any other star. Yet Berlin didn't write songs about dancing because he worked with Astaire - it was the other way around. Astaire wanted to work with Berlin (who was nearing 50 when they began their collaboration) because he had captured the magic of dancing in the words and music of so many of his songs. Indeed, a majority of Berlin's songs were about the sheer joy of music: making it, dancing to it, participating in it."

Columnist Fareed Zakaria analyses, for the Washington Post, a report by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development on its recent study of economic promise in the industrial world. For Europeans, it must make sobering reading. "In March, 2000, EU heads of state agreed to make the European Union 'the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010'. Today this looks like a joke. The OECD report goes through the status of reforms country by country, and all the major continental economies get a B-minus.

"Whenever some politician makes tiny, halting efforts at reform, strikes and protests paralyze the country. In recent months reformers such as Nicolas Sarkozy in France, Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels and Angela Merkel in Germany have been backtracking on their proposals and instead mouthing pious rhetoric about the need to 'manage' globalization. EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson's efforts to liberalize trade have been consistently undercut. As a result of the European Union's unwillingness to reduce its massive farm subsidies, the Doha trade expansion round is dead..."

"And while economists and the European Commission keep proposing that Europe take in more immigrants to expand its labor force, it won't. The cartoon controversy has powerfully highlighted the difficulties Europe is having with its immigrants.

"What does all this add up to? Less European influence in the world (Europe's position in such institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund relates to its share of world GDP). Its dwindling defense spending weakens its ability to be a military partner of the United States, or to project military power abroad, even for peacekeeping purposes. Its cramped, increasingly protectionist outlook will further sap its vitality."

Fidel Castro's growing relationship with countries in the Caribbean has odd roots - supposedly democratic, freedom-loving countries embracing one of the world's last anti-democratic, freedom-bashing holdouts simply and solely on the basis that they all occupy the same sea. There are bound to be some strange faults along the boundary-lines of that relationship, as a pair of Cuban dentists who have been held for several months in a jail in the Bahamas illustrate. The Wall Street Journal tells the story: "David Gonzalez Mejias and Marialys Darias Mesa are not lawbreakers. Their efforts to emigrate from Cuba with their families began legally when they entered the visa 'lottery' that the US holds for Cubans every year since President Clinton made the 'wet foot-dry foot' deal with Castro. That policy says that the US will send back Cuban migrants captured at sea (wet foot) but will also allow 20,000 visas a year to Cubans through a lottery system.

"Not surprisingly, Fidel has not always kept his side of the bargain. Though the dentists had won US visas in the lottery, he denied them exit visas in 2002 on grounds that their medical training made them too important to spare. The dentists sent their families on to the US and obediently waited the three prescribed years.

"When they reapplied in 2005, the Cuban government again refused to let them go. This time they were termed 'indispensable' and given no certain date for when they might join their loved ones. (Meanwhile, Castro has sent thousands of Cuban medical professionals to Venezuela both to promote revolution and earn the hard currency that is so precious in Cuba's Third World economy.) In desperation, the dentists joined a 'fast boat' escape from Cuba at the end of last April.

"When the U.S. Coast Guard picked up the pair, along with 16 others, their mechanically disabled boat was in Bahamian waters. Tired and terrified, they say they showed their legal - but expired - visas to the Coast Guard officer, who decided not to allow them an immigration hearing, nor to repatriate them to Cuba. Instead he deposited them with the Bahamian government, which rejected their pleas as political refugees and sent them to the detention center in Nassau."

13 February 2006

The president of the International Republican Institute, Lorne W Craner, takes issue in today's Washington Times with a very recent New York Times story that claims his meddling in Haitian politics made a mess of things there. The article's headline was Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos. Craner, who is a former US Government assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour, says: "The three-page article charged that rogue Bush administration officials connived with the International Republican Institute to undermine democracy in Haiti.

"I sent a 189-word response to the Times. They refused to print it without substantive edits, in part, they said, because 'the News Department disputes the accuracy of' a sentence in my letter. The Times contends that IRI 'undercut the official United States policy and the Ambassador [Dean Curran] assigned to carry it out.' IRI allegedly did so in collusion with rogue administration officials who differed with Secretary of State Colin Powell's Haiti policy. 'As a result the United States spoke with two sometimes contradictory voices,' which, says Mr. Curran, 'made efforts to foster political peace 'immeasurably more difficult.' '

"The article charges that IRI consorted with rebels who overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Mr. Aristide is depicted as a man who 'wanted to raise the minimum wage and force businesses to pay taxes' but 'did not know much about the games that politicians play.'

"The article's problems start with its title. Haiti did not tilt toward chaos in 2004. Sadly, it has been chaotic for most of the last two centuries. Second, the article's underpinning, that a rogue group under Colin Powell opposed his Haiti policy, was contradicted by Mr. Powell himself before the article was published. Asked in an e-mail from the Times if there was a policy difference between him and the officials, Mr. Powell responded: 'I don't accept that view.' The Times neglected to mention Mr. Powell's response, maintaining the article's false foundation."

Clive Davis is again writing in the Times of London about the phenomenon of blogging, urging Europeans to get involved. "One other problem with post-9/11 blogs (I've been guilty of it, too) is an over-sensitivity to criticism of America. It's an understandable response, given the amount of dimwitted anti-Americanism washing around. Yet it also leads to the temptation to indulge in what Timothy Garton Ash has described as 'the hubris of the wounded', an assumption that any attack on the US is motivated by bad faith, envy or prejudice. In truth, the mind-boggling incompetence of America's diplomatic machine (if I can flatter it with that term) is sometimes the real culprit.

"Ultimately, however, I remain optimistic. For one thing, conservative bloggers still tend to be more tolerant of dissent than their left-wing counterparts, many of whom are about as much fun as superannuated members of the Militant Tendency. More importantly, if American bloggers often take a superficial view of Europe (we all sit on street corners begging, apparently) Europeans must take some of the blame. There simply aren't enough of us out there working the internet. For some reason, the habit still hasn't fully taken root on this side of the pond. Which means that, unless we rise to the challenge, the stereotypes will only get worse. Pardon my franglais, but the time has come to say 'Aux keyboards, citoyens!'"

The New York Times says Korean researcher Hwang Woo Suk's fabricated research is making journalists nervous of accepting the accuracy of articles published in magazines like Science and Nature. "The growing competition for the most important research among the journals may contribute to mistakes and fabrications," says the Times, "but in the end, the severe consequences of presenting fraudulent research generally act as a deterrent."

I don't know why the Times picks on Hwang Woo Suk's article - there have been several instances recently of these magazines publishing dodgy research. What leads them astray isn't so much anxiety to be the first with important research, but competitive anxiety about being on what they consider to be the right side politically, so their mistakes are most often to be found in areas like the environment and the war on terrorism. Even the editor of Scientific American, perhaps the grande dame of such publications, took an obviously political position with reference to Bjorn Lomborg's study of statistics relating to the environment, and eventually had to back down.

12 February 2006

Not realising he was talking to a reporter, a leading British Muslim imam has hailed as a "good act" the tube and bus bombings of July 7. The Times of London claims that "Hamid Ali, spiritual leader of the mosque in West Yorkshire, said it had forced people to take notice when peaceful meetings and conferences had no impact. He also praised the bombers as the 'children' of Abdullah al-Faisal, a firebrand Muslim cleric, who was convicted of inciting murder and racial hatred in 2003.

"Ali revealed that the leader of the London suicide bombers had attended sermons in Yorkshire by al-Faisal and tapes of al-Faisal's teachings were still circulating within his mosque. Al-Faisal, who has branded non-Muslims as 'cockroaches' ripe for extermination, is serving a seven-year prison sentence but is eligible for early release next week."

In an editorial, the paper speaks of the impatience building in members of the British public over the tolerance with which people like Al-Faisal are treated: "The public is deeply disillusioned with the way the Establishment appears to appease Islamic extremism. Two-thirds think senior policemen such as Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan commissioner, are too 'politically correct' to deal toughly with extremists. Four-fifths think this also applies to Britain's politicians. They believe politicians were pusillanimous and slow to act and the courts have been too lenient. More than two-thirds believe Hamza should have received a much longer jail sentence than seven years.

"This disenchantment has been translated into a profound gloominess about the clash of cultures and civilisations. Most expect relations between British Muslims and the rest of the population to get worse and for attacks on Muslims to increase. Nearly nine out of 10 think there will be more Islamic inspired terror attacks in the UK. Half feel less tolerant to people of other religions. It makes gloomy reading, echoing the hatreds that have emerged even in once tolerant Holland."

The Odd Couple of British politics, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, are now sharing the role of Prime Minister, according to a senior Minister in the British Government. The Observer claims that "Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, admitted in a remarkably frank interview with The Observer that 'profound' events were unfolding, with Brown given unprecedented licence to set out his stall for the leadership while the Prime Minister was still in office. But he disclosed that he had warned Brown against appearing 'just to cavil' with his colleagues, saying that it was crucial now to show he was a team player. Asked if Brown and Blair were now effectively running a dual premiership, Clarke said: 'That's what Tony would always want, what Gordon should do. To be a great, great leader, that requires [Gordon] to lead - he has to come out and make the speeches, make the arguments.'"

But in the Telegraph, Clarke is saying something different. "The Home Secretary's intervention (in the process by which Blair is supposed to be handing the reins of Government over to Brown) shatters the carefully choreographed plan at the top of government for the Chancellor to succeed Tony Blair unopposed when the Prime Minister chooses to step down. Mr Clarke is understood to have used a pre-recorded interview for the BBC to suggest strongly that Mr Brown is by no means certain to enjoy a 'coronation' and that a contest would be welcomed by certain sections of the Labour Party."

Can both those things be true? Maybe, but Clarke nonetheless seems to be imitating that man who leapt on his horse and galloped off in all directions, doesn't he?

Here's another guy who doesn't seem to know which way is up. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has written to British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks to apologize for the Church of England's vote last week, says the Jerusalem Post, "to divest from companies whose products are used by the Israeli government in the territories. This despite the fact that Williams himself backed the anti-Israel vote.

"The vote on Monday by the General Synod, the church's parliament, to 'disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation,' prompted widespread opprobrium and severely tested Jewish-Christian relations in the UK. Williams' predecessor, Lord Carey, told The Jerusalem Post he was 'ashamed to be an Anglican when I see this kind of thing,' while Britain's Council of Christians and Jews said it was 'wholly regrettable' and 'will have little consequence for Israelis and Palestinians, and only further inflame the conflict at a very difficult time.'

"Now, in a February 10 letter to Sacks, Williams has expressed his 'deep regret' for the 'deep distress' caused by the vote, and said the church has been misunderstood and had 'not resolved to disinvest'. Sacks, evidently prepared to try and downplay the dispute, welcomed the Williams clarification. Williams wrote that the church was seeking to register its 'concern' over the 'demolition of Palestinian homes' by the Israeli government and to 'review whether we should or could continue with an investment policy which appeared to accept something with which we were deeply uneasy.'"

Every significant cultural innovation of modern times - from the invention of the radio, to the Internet, to air traffic control - began in an English-speaking country or was immediately facilitated by an English-speaking country, claims the Globe and Mail. The Toronto paper quotes Paul Payack, who it describes as "a Harvard-educated executive and language lover", as having predicted that English will get its millionth word some time this year. Payack says that right about now, English has 986,120 words.

The US Government's Accountability Office intends to report that FEMA failed to take even the most basic steps to confirm the identities of about 1.4 million people who applied for cash assistance in the wake of hurricane Katrina, says the New York Times, which has seen a copy of the as-yet unpublished document. "The auditors did not try to estimate the total dollar amount of fraudulent claims. But the report says that FEMA itself had found that 900,000 of the 2.5 million applications for all forms of individual assistance were 'potential duplicates'.

"Even when FEMA's automated computer system picked out what might be fraudulent applications, payments were at times still sent, says the advance testimony of Gregory D. Kutz, the managing director of the GAO's forensic audits unit. The controls were so lax that auditors were able to secure their own $2,000 relief check by using 'falsified identifies, bogus addresses and fabricated disaster stories', and then simply waiting for the money to arrive in the mail..."


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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