...Views from mid-Atlantic
24 June 2006

The rain of Qassam missiles fired from northern Gaza into Israel continues. Haaretz is reporting this morning that "For the first time since its withdrawal from the region, Israel Defense Forces soldiers entered the Gaza Strip before dawn Saturday to arrest two wanted members of an armed Palestinian group.

"An IDF special forces unit raided a Palestinian house on the eastern outskirts of the southern Gaza town of Rafah and detained two sons of a Palestinian militant from the leading Hamas faction - Mustafa and Osama Muamar. The operation was concluded without use of live fire and without any casualties among the soldiers.

"The troops carried out the pinpoint operation meant to prevent the two Hamas members from carrying out a large attack against Israel in the near future and withdrew from the area, an IDF spokesman said. IDF sources reported that the two men were recently involved in carrying out Qassam rocket fire into Israel, a claim which the suspects deny. The details of the army's investigation of the two men remain sketchy."

Meantime, the Jerusalem Post is quoting Palestinian sources as having said that Fatah and Hamas had reached an agreement on the prisoners document. "According to the Palestinian report, Hamas agreed to most of the stipulations in the document, including a demand to limit their terror attacks to territories outside the Green Line.

"Hamas also agreed that Abbas and the PLO would be responsible for all negotiations with Israel, with the understanding that any diplomatic proposals would be presented to the Palestinian people as a referendum, in which all Palestinians, including those living outside the PA, would vote."

The Canadians tried to arrest that Iranian judge (see post dated 22 June) who led the Iranian delegation to the opening in Geneva on Monday of the new and improved United Nations Human Rights Commission. Saeed Mortazavi is a much-feared judge who the Canadians believe fixed it so that no one in Iran was called to account for the 2003 death by torture in Iranian custody of a photographer with dual Canadian/Iranian citizenship, Zahra Kazemi.

The Globe and Mail says Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked German authorities this week to arrest Mortazavi if he stopped there on his way home from a human-rights conference in Geneva, where he would have enjoyed diplomatic immunity. In the event, he flew home to Tehran direct from Geneva, but Harper says "We're appealing to the international community to use all manner of law available to detain this individual, and have him face justice. I don't know whether we'll see a willingness or an ability to do that, but we want to make it absolutely clear that the government of Canada has not dropped this matter."

Mortazavi, best known for ordering the closure of about 80 pro-reform newspapers, has been rumoured as an eventual contender to become Iran's justice minister.

Speaking of the United Nations, the Telegraph is reporting this morning that the UN court prosecuting the ringleaders of Rwanda's genocide has been taken to task for taking 12 years and spending almost 550 million pounds, or just over a billion dollars, to convict only 25 people.

It has been two weeks since Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in Iraq. Since then, we've heard an awful lot about bombings and soldiers being killed, but almost nothing about Coalition successes, of which there have been many. Military historian John B. Dwyer lists some of them in The American Thinker:

"Seven terrorists were killed, three wounded and two detained near Baqouba.

"An assassination cell leader was captured in Kirkuk.

"June 15: Operation Forward Together began.

"Sheikh Aqeel, head of terror network, financier and supplier of IEDs, was captured in Karbala.

"Iraqi army & coalition forces detained suspected criminals working with terrorist IED cell in southern Babil. Weapons cache discovered.

"During simultaneous raids north of Baqouba, coalition forces killed 15 terrorists and detained 3 others. One of the terrorists killed by a coalition sniper.

"Coalition forces detained a senior Al Qaeda in Iraq network member (name withheld) and 30 other suspected terrorists in coordinated raids southwest of Baqouba.

"Since launching operations to find the missing 101st Airborne Soldiers, Coalition and Iraqi forces have killed 18 terrorists, detained 163 and discovered 12 weapons caches.

"Of the 66 tips received from citizens, 18 were found to be actionable and further raids followed. There have been 14 raids and some sniper operations.

"MG Caldwell (military briefer Maj. Gen. William B.) added to the list of 'key kills' from 4-18 June: Abu Yazid (foreign fighter facilitator), Abu Thawban (foreign fighter facilitator), Abu Abdullah (foreign fighter facilitator for Sheikh Mansur).

"Captured during this same period: An Al Qaeda in Iraq cell leader in Baghdad, a senior foreign fighter facilitator in Fallujah, a Ramadi-based Al Qaeda in Iraq leader in Yusufiyah, a Taji-based AQ in Iraq cell leader."

Just in case you're tempted to forget.

In an interview in the Wall Street Journal today, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says "Not enough people understand that what's just happened is a 'breakthrough'...It shows that Zarqawi's terror network was penetrated, that those groups are not invincible, especially through hard work and patient work. Fighting this terrorist insurgency really in the end is an intelligence operation."

"'That was the difference between many of us Iraqis and our American friends,' he adds, suggesting the coalition has too often preferred to try 'overwhelming force.' In fact, the fundamental flaw in our approach, he says, was our reluctance to let Iraqis get on with political reconciliation and their own security and intelligence efforts earlier than we did."

23 June 2006

It really hasn't been covered by the media at all, but Claudia Rosett, whose coverage of the Oil-for-Food and other UN scandals has been the pinnacle of her journalistic career, testified before the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs a couple of days ago. She talked about the "secrecy, lack of accountability, abuse, and corruption" at the United Nations.

A copy of her written testimony is here. A little excerpt: "Lacking institutional remedies, we are left to rely right now on the integrity of those holding the top positions at the UN. Currently, we have a Secretary-General who did not regard it as a conflict of interest to accept a $500,000 cash prize from the ruler of Dubai; who has blankly refused to account for or even discuss the UN records of the Mercedes imported by his son into Africa under false use of the Secretary-General's name and UN perquisites; and who promoted to head of a UN office with a $64 million annual budget (the Economic Commission for Africa) the UN resident representative who handled the Mercedes paperwork in Ghana and then claimed that neither he nor the Secretary-General had a clue anything improper was going on. Assuming it was all an honest mistake on the UN side, we are still left with big questions about the competence of the UN system to prevent such abuse."

Although public opinion in Britain is mostly favourable towards Muslims, Muslims who live in Britain are the most virulently anti-Western in Europe, according to the results of a survey published this morning by the Guardian. "...British Muslims represented a 'notable exception' in Europe, with far more negative views of westerners than Islamic minorities elsewhere on the continent. A significant majority viewed western populations as selfish, arrogant, greedy and immoral. Just over half said westerners were violent. While the overwhelming majority of European Muslims said westerners were respectful of women, fewer than half British Muslims agreed. Another startling result found that only 32% of Muslims in Britain had a favourable opinion of Jews, compared with 71% of French Muslims.

"Across the board, Muslim attitudes in Britain more resembled public opinion in Islamic countries in the Middle East and Asia than elsewhere in Europe. And on the whole, British Muslims were more pessimistic than those in Germany, France and Spain about the feasibility of living in a modern society while remaining devout. The Pew poll found that British Muslims are far more likely than their European counterparts to harbour conspiracy theories about the September 11 attacks. Only 17% believed that Arabs were involved, compared with 48% in France.

"The poll, by the Washington-based Pew Global Attitudes Project, asked Muslims and non-Muslims about each other in 13 countries. In most, it found suspicion and contempt to be mostly mutual, but uncovered a significant mismatch in Britain."

A team of Canadian and American neurologists have developed a hand-held transcranial magnetic stimulator device that is effective in eliminating headaches when administered during the onset of a migraine, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail. "Flashing lights, vertigo, a visual shower of 'shooting stars' - the early warning signs of an impending migraine attack. But before it has a chance to strike, you whip out a special gun and zap it dead with a high-powered magnetic pulse." It looks, the story says, sort of like a hair dryer. Start getting the warning signs, you put the thing to the back of your head and pull the trigger, apparently.

New York, as someone says in this New York Times story, is an intensely musical city, so you can expect good things to begin there. Like this one: When the architect Renzo Piano redesigned the Morgan Library and Museum, he included a little concert hall. Since the Morgan contains a vast collection of musical manuscripts and early printed editions, they're going to hold concerts which revolve around the collection.

The Times says "Artists who perform at the hall will have the chance to consult manuscripts of the music they perform. If the manuscripts are on display, audience members can see a composer's hand and hear what he wrote. The library already provides a taste of that with its new listening stations, which play excerpts of music displayed on manuscripts under glass. 'One of the great mysteries of music is how notation becomes live performance, and the Morgan is in a unique position to show that, to expose that truth,' said George Steel, executive director of the Miller Theater at Columbia University, who will organize a concert of Victorian Christmas music tied to Dickens's 'Christmas Carol.' The Morgan holds the original manuscript."

22 June 2006

This piece by Jonathan V Last first appeared in the Philadelphia Enquirer, and now reappears in the Weekly Standard, where he is is online editor. He asks: "Why don't we like soccer? We all play it when we're young...

"And watching soccer is kind of fun. Not real fun, like watching the Eagles, or professional basketball, or the Sixers. But fun in the exotic sense, like Olympic curling. After all, in this country, we're suckers for any sort of competition. Put the Little League World Series on TV, and we'll watch it. Just the other day, I saw competitive dominoes on one of the ESPN networks. Soccer is way better than dominoes.

"But there is one obstacle to soccer acceptance that seems insurmountable: the flop-'n'-bawl.

"Turn on a World Cup game, and within 15 minutes you'll see a grown man fall to the ground, clutch his leg and writhe in agony after being tapped on the shoulder by an opposing player. Soccer players do this routinely in an attempt to get the referees to call foul. If the ref doesn't immediately bite, the player gets up and moves along."

It's the kind of sissy tactic no red-blooded American would ever employ, he's thinking.

One of these days, they're going to expand the world heritage site programme to include humans, and Will Shortz, crossword editor of the New York Times, is going to be one of the first on the list. This San Francisco Chronicle story about him is pretty clear about the extraordinary regard in which he and his work are held - "There was the father who, camping with his family, was charged with waking up on Sunday morning, driving to the highest point around, tuning in to the radio puzzle Shortz does every week on NPR's Weekend Edition, copying it down and bringing it back to the campsite for his wife and kids to solve.

"There was the woman who asked for an advance copy of the New York Times Magazine so that her mother, a crossword fan who had died on a Tuesday, could be buried with a Sunday crossword she hadn't yet done.

"There was the woman who went through brain surgery and who, the moment she came out of anesthesia, wanted to try a Times crossword. When she finished it successfully, she knew her brain was intact."

Iran, according to the New York Sun, has appointed a judge to be leader of its UN Human Rights Council delegation who Canada blames for ensuring no Iranian official was held to account for the rape and murder of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian journalist.

"The infamous Saeed Mortazavi this week led Iran's delegation in Geneva to the first session of the United Nation's newly reconfigured human rights panel on Monday, even though Iran is not a member of that panel. Mr. Mortazavi is accused by the Canadian government of playing a role in the rape and murder of a woman journalist and photographer, is credited with closing more than 100 newspapers, and was responsible not only for jailing the students who led the July 9, 1999, pro-democracy demonstrations in Tehran but of clearing the security officials accused of torturing them...

"Human rights groups, Iranian oppositionists, and the Canadian government have expressed outrage at Mr. Mortazavi's presence in Geneva. A group of activists still languishing in jail following his prosecution of them in 1999 will be writing a letter to the United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan."

One of David Hockney's most famous works, The Splash, was sold at Sotheby's last night for a record 2.9 million pounds, providing the latest evidence of an extraordinary boom in London's art market. According to the Independent, "The sale of The Splash sealed an astonishing three days for the British art market during which all known sales records for the capital have been broken. According to estimates, by tomorrow the world's big-spending art lovers will have spent 260 million pounds at London's annual week of high-profile sales.

"The strong sales are being attributed to a weak dollar and a new crop of wealthy buyers from Russia and the Middle and Far East who have injected life into a market that some in the capital feared was fading."

21 June 2006

New York, recently celebrated for being selected by the Reader's Digest as the world's politest city, is to become even more attractive. The New Yorker says more than 3,000 new bus shelters are on the way, 330 newsstands, and 20 toilet enclosures, with the possibility of branching out into other poster-ready street fixtures, such as garbage cans.

"Unlike the existing bus shelters, which are 'effectively like tables that have been plunked down, where you can see all the bolts,' the new designs, according to their creator, Duncan Jackson, are based on a 'portal frame structure, with minimal ground fixings,' for easier sidewalk sweeping. The city's Art Commission has rejected 'perches', or waist-level bars, such as you might see in London, in favor of full benches.

"'New York doesn't like to perch,' Toulla Constantinou, the CEO of Cemusa (the Spanish firm supplying the kit), said. An illuminated information panel on one end of each shelter will allow for the eventual possibility, she added, of 'showing, in real time, that the next bus is going to be here in...' She paused. 'Five years.'"

The Washington Times's Tony Blankley is obsessing, as many do, on how cruel it is (to say nothing of inefficient) to kill lobsters by popping them into boiling water. "Professionals know that boiling live lobsters who are still at room temperature tends to make the meat too chewy. Of course freezing ruins both texture and appearance. Regretfully, most amateurs either murder their lobsters by boiling or buy them pre-murdered in a frozen state."

Here's a little tip from the boondocks - place lobster in container of cold water. Add hospitable shot of rum (or vodka, if you're worried about the flavour). Wait a couple of minutes for the li'l bugger to relax hisself to death, then cook.

Here's another of those stories you're unlikely to be reading much about in the mainstream press, which is busy with a different kind of story. This short piece is from Stratfor, which I'm afraid is closed to non-subscribers. In its entirety, it reads: "A US airstrike June 16 killed Mansur al-Mashhadani, the top al Qaeda religious leader in Iraq, a US military spokesman said June 20. Al-Mashhdani, who was close to former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed while attempting to flee US forces near the town of Yusufiya, the same area where two US soldiers were kidnapped and killed."

Peregrine Worsthorne, longtime columnist for the Telegraph, thinks humans are getting entirely too many damn rights. In coverage of a speech he made to the Atheneum Club on Monday, The Guardian quotes him has having said "Liberalism used to be dedicated to doubt, cynical about certainty and, above all, suspicious of power. All I am urging is that liberalism should start applying these attitudes as rigorously to its own powers and certainties as in the past it applied them to everybody else's...

"But my main concern is not with liberalism so much as with liberal triumphalism. The triumphalism that flared forth after the west's victory in the cold war left liberalism as the only ism still backed by a world superpower. There was another countervailing ism - communism, also highly successful at claiming the moral high ground. Today, however, liberalism is the only ism in a position not only to dream of world hegemony but to try to make that dream come true - a case of absolute power tending to corrupt absolutely, if ever there was one. Onward liberal soldiers marching as to war. Not so much Pax Americana as Bellum Americanum."

Common sense would suggest that the US should be trying to tame the oil crisis a little by expanding its own production. Wanna know why it doesn't? The Wall Street Journal points to a couple of decades of political work to prevent such a thing happening.

"...Domestic supply could replace America's importation of foreign oil for some 25 years," the Journal says. But our country's political establishment, from Congress to the press and the presidency, has worked for a quarter century to prevent increases in our energy supply.

"In 1980 President Carter imposed a 'windfall profits' tax on oil companies, which raised $40 billion rather than the $227 billion promised. Rather than easing energy shortages, the tax reduced domestic oil production by between 3% and 6% and gave imported oil from foreign countries a competitive advantage that increased imports of foreign oil by about 10%."

"In 1990 the first President Bush issued a presidential directive forbidding access to about 85% of Outer Continental Shelf oil and natural gas reserves. In 1998 President Clinton extended the moratorium through 2012.

"In 1995 Mr. Clinton vetoed a budget bill that would have allowed oil exploration and drilling in part of the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Prudhoe Bay fields, just to the west of ANWR, have delivered 15 billion barrels of oil through the Alaska pipeline to the U.S. market without damage to Alaskan land, caribou or other wildlife. ANWR contains 10 billion barrels of oil, so Mr. Clinton's veto today is costing America about a million barrels of oil each day. Yet Congress has repeatedly defeated efforts to open ANWR to exploration.

"As the Heritage Foundation points out, the US 'is the only nation in the world that has placed a significant amount of its potential domestic energy supplies off-limits.'"

20 June 2006

The Getty Museum is going to return 21 antiquities to Italy because their provenance is in doubt. The Los Angeles Timessays "Getty board chairman John Biggs said Monday that an internal review of the legal status of the objects found 'nothing that's black and there is very little that is white...It's all shades of gray.' He added, however: 'Some of them (presumably 21 of them) are sufficiently dark gray that I don't think there's going to be a lot of discussions about them.'"

The Independent is carrying a profile this morning of one of the world's most fascinating men, Vaclav Havel. I say fascinating because to me, he's one of those rare people for whom age has ruled nothing out. "Havel is now 69, retired as a politician but energetically active as a statesman. Once a chain smoker, his health isn't particularly great (he was diagnosed with cancer and had half a lung removed 10 years ago) but he is indefatigable - and there's more than a vestigial touch of hippie idealism about him - in promoting 'peaceful coexistence' and 'what is at the root of all cultures, and what lies infinitely deeper in human hearts and minds than political opinion - self-transcendence...a hand that reaches out to those close to us, to foreigners, to the human community, to all living creatures, to nature, to the universe.'"

This week, when people talk about what lies infinitely deeper in human hearts and minds than political opinion, one thinks of football...but don't let that take your eye off the ball, as it were.

This is, in its entirety, an editorial carried in the Guardian this morning: "Rhubarb can trace its ancestors back to 2,700 BC in China when it was used for its medicinal qualities (well, purgative actually) and has had a rambunctious history ever since. Marco Polo wrote about it at length in his journals in the 15th century. By the 19th it had become so popular in Britain that Chinese bureaucrats threatened to cut off supplies if the 'wicked British merchants' did not stop trading in opium, leading some historians to suggest that maybe it should have been called the rhubarb war rather than the opium war.

"Until comparatively recently Britain had cornered the market with an estimated 90% of the world's forced rhubarb being grown in the 'rhubarb triangle' between Pontefract, Leeds and Wakefield (where a rhubarb festival is still held). Sometimes it is regarded as a joke, doubtless because mumblings of 'rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb' appeared as background noise in the Goon Show. It even achieved the notoriety of becoming a verb when City slickers talked about rhubarbing shares by artificially hyping their prices. Now, this mysterious vegetable masquerading as a fruit is being rehabilitated. It is appearing increasingly on fashionable menus from Abergavenny's Angel Hotel (rhubarb meringue with ginger ice cream) to London's Tate Modern (poached with elderflower sorbet). It has even reached the dizzy heights of being offered in a Michelin three star restaurant (Alain Ducasse's at Monaco): which only goes to show that you can't keep a good vegetable down."

I don't know what they're smoking over there in that Guardian office, but whatever it is, they should lay in a good supply.

Another one of those strange little political backwashes that sometimes set up in the wake of progress is taking place in New York's 11th Congressional District. The Wall Street Journal says it's a safe Democratic seat covering several neighborhoods in Brooklyn. "The seat is currently occupied by Major Owens, a black Democrat who has held it since 1983 and is retiring this year. One of the four candidates to replace him is David Yassky, a white Democrat who represents some of the same Brooklyn neighborhoods as a city councilman.

"Mr. Owens has one of Congress's most liberal voting records, and there's nothing in the background of Mr. Yassky, a protege of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, that suggests he would vote much differently. Even so, Mr. Owens and the three other candidates, all of whom are black, are on a mission to force Mr. Yassky out of the race. In the case of Mr. Owens, this has partly to do with the fact that his son is among those running in the September 12 Democratic primary. But Mr. Owens, the other black candidates and local black officials have stressed that their overriding concern is the color of Mr. Yassky's skin. And they're using the Voting Right Act to justify old-fashioned race-baiting."

I'd like to apologise to readers for the temporary disappearance of Pondblog at www.pondblog.com. Actually, the content is forwarded by a host from another page, www.pondblog.blogspot.com, which can also be used to access Pondblog. For some reason the host is unable to explain (actually, unwilling is a better description of its attitude), the setting was changed, a problem that takes a very long 48 hours to sort.

19 June 2006

Madam Justice Louise Arbour, the Canadian UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, writes in the the Washington Times, on the day members of the new Commission take their seats, about how she thinks it's going to work. "Several new features," she says, "give us reason to believe the council will be a significant improvement on its predecessor. Even the way its members were elected last month marked a welcome departure from 'business as usual'. Commission members were preselected behind closed doors and then 'elected' by acclamation. By contrast, the new members of the council had to compete for seats, and successful candidates had to win the support of a majority of all member states, in a secret ballot.

"For the first time in history, candidates gave voluntary commitments to promote and uphold human rights, and will be expected to meet them or else face possible suspension from the council...The road ahead is fraught with challenges - many of which will require intense debate and discussion. Starting with a review of the commission's work, members must make difficult choices. The new body should build on the commission's recognized strengths and retain its established best practices and features. Any weakening of the human rights system's mechanisms is emphatically not what is needed."

It looks as if Israel is going to be allowed to join the Red Cross after six decades of exclusion, despite attempts by Muslim countries to derail a complex diplomatic initiative. Haaretz says: "The two-day International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, opening Tuesday, is being asked to approve changes to meet Israeli demands that it be granted full status without using the cross or crescent to identify itself.

"At the center of the plan is a neutral emblem - a blank square standing on one corner - that could frame the Red Shield of David of the Israeli rescue society Magen David Adom."

Whether you think the appointment of a woman as the new leader of the Episcopal Church is a good thing or a bad thing really depends on whether you mind the Church of England splitting into two separate churches, a British Church and an American Church, because that is what may well follow. A statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury is expected today, but the British Anglicans rather pointedly did not offer congratulations to Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The New York Timescovered her election.

The Guardian quotes the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the conservative evangelical Bishop of Rochester, as having told the Daily Telegraph: "Nobody wants a split but if you think you have virtually two religions in a single church something has got to give sometime...a fudge won't do."

It's extraordinary that while some of the world has moved on to figuring out such complicated issues as the morality of same-sex marriages, the British Church hasn't even got to the point of coming to terms with female vicars. It's like arguing about whether to allow gas lamps to be used to light churches instead of candles, while the rest of the world is enjoying electricity.

This is one of the more bizarre stories to come out of the World Cup - while Holland was beating the pants off Trinidad and Tobago the other day, Fifa officials were ordering the pants off more than 1,000 Dutch fans, forcing them to watch the game in their underwear. The Guardian's football section story says the orange lederhosen sported the logo of a non-sponsor, Bavaria beer. Gott verdomme...uitkladen nou!

"'They put our trousers in the bin,' whined an aggrieved Peer Swinkels, the chairman of Bavaria, Holland's second biggest brewery. 'Fans going into the stadium had to dump them in a big container. Fifa said that the supporters could get them back afterwards. But the container was full of rubbish so most people didn't bother. I understand that Fifa wants to protect its sponsors. But this is very strange.'

"Critics say the decision to make more than 1,000 Dutch fans strip off last Friday is evidence of the extraordinary lengths to which Fifa has gone to protect the interests of World Cup sponsors - at the expense of ordinary fans. Fifa, however, says it has done nothing wrong and is entitled to defend itself against what it calls 'ambush marketing'."

Well spotted, Hamish.

18 June 2006

The left's reaction to Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald's announcement that he didn't have enough evidence to indict Karl Rove was about as intelligent and gracious as that of a pack of starving hyenas who'd had their lunch stolen. Didn't mean he wasn't guilty, they hissed, just meant he got away with it. I'd have said that anyone placed under that kind of intense, hot-house scrutiny who comes out with a clean bill of health really is thoroughly unlikely to be guilty of anything more serious than wearing a green tie with a blue shirt. But as Fred Barnes, the executive editor of The Weekly Standard, writes today, "The left and the mainstream press know three things about Rove: (1) He's the most influential White House aide ever; (2) his influence is almost always in a conservative direction; and (3) his downfall is (or was) key to bringing down the presidency of George W. Bush."

Blogger Mark Donohue of Bad Altitude is absolutely right when he says: "...the United States fully joined the soccer-playing world" when they played the Italians yesterday. Donohue says the price of this passage was the American team being "on the receiving end of a royal screwing by a World Cup referee." He's right, they were, but I'm not sure that what happened is as easily defined as that. I thought it was the first time the Americans looked as if they really did play soccer...before, they seemed to be just fooling around, condescendingly humouring the rest of the world. But yesterday, it was plain they had signed on in a way that even the bolshie Brit announcer was prepared to praise.

It's probably not going to result in an increase in Coalition troops in Iraq, or anything. But things are just a smidgeon different this morning...

The British Government is said to have come under "fierce attack yesterday after quietly bringing in measures to give councils the power to seize the homes of the dead from bereaved families." The Telegraph says the political row has been exacerbated by the fact that Labour Ministers tried to bury the bad news by publishing it on the day of Britain's second game in the World Cup.

"The measures, released by Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, on Friday afternoon, give local authorities the power to confiscate homes that have been vacant for six months and rent them out to the homeless."

The Quartet - the international entities that wrote the Road Map, a route out of Middle East difficulties that one is astonished to remember once seemed achievable, have agreed to allow aid to be channelled directly to the Palestinian people, bypassing their terrorist government, Hamas. The Globe and Mail says: "The United States went along with a compromise plan to send mostly European money through the World Bank for services and to pay stipends directly to poor people in the Palestinian territories.As conditions in the territories worsened, a split emerged among donors over how to help. Israel and the US led a hard line, while the European Union and Russia said the world must keep the Palestinian economy afloat to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

In accepting the fund, the United States softened its position. Critics have warned that increased aid payments, even if they bypass the Hamas government, will eventually ease economic pressure on Hamas."

Oddly, Israel's Vice Premier, Shimon Peres, has chosen this farcical moment in the history of the Palestinians to suggest in a speech covered by Haaretz that Israel and the Palestinians are now closer to peace than they have been in past 50 years.

"'The distance between us is the shortest it's been for the last 50 years,' Peres said...'The distance is very short, but the speed is very slow...Perhaps instead of solving the political border issue, why not try to construct the relationship on the basis of economic relations. Maybe we can come to an economic peace before we come to a political peace. Then maybe political peace will come later.'"


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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