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    No longer in opposition     [zoom]
    Photo: lalekseev

    Gunmen kill Russian op- position politician Boris Nemtsov. We are relieved to hear President Putin is personally taking charge of the investigation.



    A pied-à-terre less far       [zoom]
    Chart: Notaires

    Paris housing remains ser- iously expensive but the pri- ces have dropped below the symbolic €8,000/m2. The tr- end will continue in 2015. Hardest hit are the chic ar- rondissements in city's cen- tre.



    In happier times                [zoom]
    Photo: Daffy123

    An ambush by the Daily Telegraph and Channel 4 fells an old Tory hand. Her Majesty won't be pleased having bestowed on Sir Mal- colm, MP, a knighthood, a QC and a KCMG.The Guar- dian supplies a post-mor- tem footage:



    Equality shrugged             [zoom]
    Chart: Economic Policy Institute

    The most neoliberal states show the highest level of in- equality. Connecticut, whe- re you tax-advantageously incorporate your company, leads the pack, followed by the state that doesn't sle- ep.(bl)



    Friendly Freundel              [zoom]
    Photo: AP

    Rabbi Freundel too (see below) feels strongly about women.



    Standing behind women   [zoom]
    Photo: AP

    Rabbi Epstein gets it. (bl)



    Let the sport commence   [zoom]
    Photo: Eon Productions

    Louis Jourdan died last Saturday at the age of 92. We shall fondly remember his superb Kamal Khan in Octopussy.



    Atlas revamped                [zoom]
    Photo: CERN

    Going after Susy. CERN is hoping to see the first glim- pses of the supersymmetric particles coming out of the freshly re-vamped and beef- ed up ATLAS Experiment. The upcoming tests will try to illuminate the dark mat- ter. The Large Hadron Colli- der, of which ATLAS is part, is the biggest and most complex machine ever built by the humans.



    Freedom after speech       [zoom]
    Chart: RSF

    Reporters Sans Frontiè- res issue their 2015 Free- dom of the Press Index. Notable findings: Central Europe and Scandinavia le- ad the world in press free- dom. Uncle Sam ranks a dismal 49, behind Niger and Malta. The friend-and- ally Israel, which shoots journalists in Palestine with rubber bullets and gas ca- nisters ranks a glorious 101, while the strategic tra- ding partners, Saudi Arabia 164 and China 176. Nami- bia stands out in Africa as a sole country with a free press. There's no freedom of press anywhere in Asia.
    Our Seattle correspondent forwards this apropos.



    All covered in (Moon) dust
    Photo: Dane Penland/AP   [zoom]

    Neil Armstrong apparently forgot to return to NASA a bag containing Apollo 11 equipment, among which a camera used to film the descent of the Eagle mo- dule to the lunar surface. The late hero's widow, Ca- rol, had discovered the ob- jects in the attic of their house in Cleveland and pro- mptly notified the agency. The goods are said to be of inestimable historical value. (Credit: Le Monde)



    Close and upfront              [zoom]
    Photo: RTÉ One

    Jeeves tells God he's an asshole.



    Image: The Intercept
    Tom Ridge miraculously multiplies his fishes.


    "Memory's not what it used to be"
    Photo: NBC News               [zoom]

    A day in the life of Brian. Brian Williams can't reme- mber if it was he or the guy in another chopper that got shot in the head. We admit some events in life just ar- en't that memorable.



    Not in the Bible                  [zoom]
    Photo: SPL

    Virus Shrugged. North Ca- rolina senator Thom Tillis (R.) says market forces will sterilize restaurant staff's hands after trips to the loo.


    Bibi and his well-fed Sara
    Photo: Baz Ratner/Reuters [zoom]

    Sara Netanyahu has been pocketing the bottle refund money for the drinks sup- plied to Bibi's office, reports Haaretz. Israel's attorney general is contemplating opening an investigation into what has been termed the "Bottlegate". The scan- dal comes at an awkward moment for Bibi, whose Likud party faces an uphill battle in the upcoming par- liamentary elections.


    Building peace in Har Homa
    Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP  [zoom]

    In a continuing peace of- fensive, Bibi announces the construction of 450 new housing units for Israeli set- tlers in the Occupied Terri- tories, reports Le Monde.



    Spot Putin's people           [zoom]
    Photo: Mikhail Liberman

    Lively at the Met. Netreb- ko and Gergiev's chummi- ness with Putin prompts a protest at the finale of Tcha- ikovsky’s Iolanta. Credit: our Vienna correspondent.



    This could be you              [zoom]
    Photo: Trefecta Mobility

    Superfluous Redundancy For the partisan of the spar- tan, here comes a dream bike. Enter the Trefecta. For a mere $28k, you can hop on a bike that, in order to operate, requires an iPhone, iOS, a dedicated app, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a marina in Monte Carlo. No joy, though, if you forget the password.



    The girl from Chamonix     [zoom]
    Photo: Sony Classical

    Kathleen Battle sings O luce di quest'anima from Donizetti's Linda di Cham- ounix. Bruno Campanella conducts the London Phil- harmonic Orchestra in a 1993 recording by Deut- sche Grammophon.



    In happier days                 [zoom]
    Photo: Screenshot

    More trouble for DSK as Thierry Leyne, his partner at Layne Strauss-Kahn de- fenestrates from his 23rd floor luxury pad in Tel Aviv, leaving behind an open win- dow and a €multi-million hole in the accounts of their Luxembourg-based invest- ment banking advice and services shop.



    Short on teeth, long on bravado
    Photo: Getty Europe          [zoom]

    Peeved by its acceptance of Palestine as a member, Avigdor Lieberman threa- tens to "dismantle" the In- ternational Criminal Co- urt, of which Israel is not a member. The UN should take heed. The next time it votes in favour of the PA, it may risk being dismantled by Israel.



    Image: Faux News
    David Cameron redeems himself in our eyes (some- what) by calling a Fox News 'terror expert' an "ab- solute idiot" for saying that large swaths of the Old Continent are off limits to non-Muslims. One of the great things about Europe is that you can still call an idiot an idiot without having lawyers all over you like lice.



    Photo: RawStory
    Our Seattle correspondent forwards this Charlie Heb- do-related RawStory piece looking at Chomsky's salvo against the self-serving defi- nition of what is and what isn't terrorism.



    The just one                      [zoom]
    Photo: Uri Avnery/Wikipedia

    A good LRB blog posting from Uri Avnery on Bibi's parading in Paris..



    The evil duck                    [zoom]
    Image: Le Canard enchaîné

    A day after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, Canard en- chaîné, France's oldest and much loved satirical and in- vestigative weekly, received messages threatening its journalists with being chop- ped up.



    Seeing green                     [zoom]
    Source: The Economist et al.

    Not quite yet Colombey-les-Deux-Mosquées. At 8% France has the highest pro- portion of Muslims in the population within EU. The French public's perception of this proportion, however, is a whopping 31%, which helps explain a near-hyste- ria among the lepénistes, who already see minarets from horizon to horizon. Similar discrepancies pre- vail in the rest of Europe.



    Looking for the news fit to print
    Image: timtim.com             [zoom]

    The brave American press has been protecting its rea- ders from Charlie Hebdo's cartoons, reports today's Le Monde. The NYT quo- tes previous policy and fear, while WaPo publishes a CH cartoon from 2011 in the "Style" section. We doubt this shyness is to protect Muslim sensibili- ties: some of CH's most pungent satire lays waste to Christianity, rampant sta- teside.



    The incredible vanishing Merkel
    Photo: AFP + doctor           [zoom]

    Haredim 'newspaper' edits out Merkel and other wo- men from photo.



    He had no sexual relationship with that woman               [zoom]
    Photo: Reuters

    Alan Dershowitz a little too ardently denies having sex with an underaged girl. Con- sidering his geriatric state, instead of fuming, he sho- uld be flattered that some- one would suggest other- wise.



    Spot the intruder               [zoom]
    Photo: JC Coutausse/Le Monde

    Bibi, who terrorizes a who- le nation, has the gall to come to Paris to march ag- ainst terrorism.



    It was a dark and stormy night
    Photo: SpaceX                   [zoom]

    The Falcon has not lan- ded. The Elonian attempt to bring back to earth the fist (expensive) stage of the Falcon 9 rocket ends up, after some hard knocks, in the drink. SpaceX's custo- marily information-free web- site hints at dark and foggy conditions at the landing platform.



    Godmother to Higgs           [zoom]
    Photo: AGF/Rex

    The Italian physicist Fabi- ola Gianotti will be CERN's next boss.



    F-35 "White Elephant"       [zoom]
    Photo: US Navy

    Our Munich correspondent forwards this exposé on the mother-of-all-boondoggles.



    Some were nasty, some nice
    Photo: F.Franklin II/AP       [zoom]

    Australia joins the hooli- gans by voting with the US against resolution deman- ding an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestin- ian land. France to its cre- dit has voted for, and Ca- meron hid in the shadows.



    A Grimm moment              [zoom]
    Photo: Reuters

    A Grimm finale to a Grimm political career.


    Hey, you've had an awesome de- ath in the family!
    Photo: Facebook

    Facebook's synthetic che- er falls flat on its face.



    Desperate                          [zoom]
    Photo: M.Pöhl/Wiener Staatsoper

    Our Vienna correspondent signals a disastrous Rigo- letto at the State Opera, staged by Pierre Audi and conducted by Myung-Whun Chung, at times so loudly as to be drowning out the poor, innocent Gilda. Simon Keenlyside, who ably sol- diered on in the title role finally gave up in the se- cond act and walked out of the stage. The "live" broad- cast of the premiere substi- tuted the second act with one recorded during the ge- neral rehearsal. In short, a Milan in Vienna.



    Dirty construction              [zoom]
    Graph: SOeS/Le Monde

    Construction is the biggest producer of waste in Fran- ce. Household ("Ménages") waste vanishes by compa- rison. We suspect the sta- tistic replicates itself in other advanced economies.



    Gray then, gray now          [zoom]
    Photo: Timeline Photos

    Reporting on Ağca's la- ying flowers on the tomb of the pope John Paul II, BBC says "his motive remains a mystery". Not so, Ağca tri- ed to kill JPII for sticking his nose too deeply into the money laundering opera- tions conducted by the Vatican banks on behalf of the Gray Wolves, through whose hands passes the loot for the sale of the Asian heroin to the West.



    Down the hatch!                [zoom]
    Chart: WHO

    World Health Organization releases per capita drinking data. Litres means litres of pure alcohol per head 15 or older. Le Monde also com- piles WHO's "per drinker" data, resulting in the pic- ture below. A Chadian drin- ker leads the world quaf- fing a glorious 33.9 l of pu- re alcohol per year, while his Indian chum downs a still impressive 28.7.
    Chart: Le Monde/WHO       [zoom]



    "Some foie gras, my Lord?"
    Photo: Le Monde               [zoom]

    No go for a merger betwe- en the catering services at the Lords and those at the Commons. The bone of contention? The bubbly at the Commons found wan- ting by their lordships.



    Tell me where you live, I'll tell you of what you will die            [zoom]
    Chart: The Lancet/Le Monde

    Analysis of 55 million auto- psies reveals what people predominantly die of across the world. Red is heart at- tack, yellow, stroke, or- ange, AIDS, light blue, res- piratory infections, purple, car accidents, gray, violen- ce, black, war.



    I hear something you don't [zoom]
    Photo: Dan Pancamo/Wikipedia

    Last spring Tennessee saw the most violent weather on record: 84 tornadoes des- cended on the state infli- cting a $1bn of damage and killing 35 people. But not one northern parula, all of whom decamped for Flo- rida two days before the on- slaught. The day after the storm, they'd returned to the Appalachia to resume their breeding activities. It turns out now, they can hear the infrasounds emit- ted by the intemperie when it's still hundreds of kilo- metres away. This alerts them to the arrival of the foul weather, and prompts to take evasive action.



    Advantage Martina           [zoom]
    Photo: BBC News

    Martina Navratilova mar- ries Julia Lemigova, her girl- friend of the last six years. We wish them a happy mar- riage.



    A bridge not too far           [zoom]
    Photo: AFP/Eric Cabanis

    It's the tenth anniversary for the Millau Viaduct, world's tallest bridge, and perhaps most beautiful large struc- ture. Traffic volume exceeds the expectation by 20%.



    "Looks like jazz to me"    [zoom]
    Photo: fazilsay.com

    Fazil Say's take on Mo- zart's Alla turca, as recor- ded on the Naive label. Mo- zart would have been deli- ghted.



    (Al)chemist at work           [zoom]
    Photo: Vienna State Opera

    Carlos Kleiber conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in this 1989 New Year's con- cert rendition of Johann Strauss' Jr Blue Danube.



    The glasses!                      [zoom]
    Photo: The Guardian/EPA

    After 20 years at the helm, Alan Rusbridger quits The Guardian. We will fondly remember the style with which he despatched the bushites among the MPs questioning him during the Snowden enquiry to lick their wounds.



    Lissner's fault                   [zoom]
    Photo: Marco Brescia/La Scala

    Our Vienna correspondent signals an uninspired ope- ning of the world operatic season with a representa- tion of Fidelio at La Scala. He pins the blame for the failure on Stéphane Liss- ner, the predecessor of the current superintendent, Ale- xander Pereira.



    Golden-spiked heavy boots
    Image: SPL                        [zoom]

    A Baby White elephant got lobbed into the sky in the morning to land in the oce- an mid-day. "America has driven a golden spike as it crosses a bridge into the future," proclaimed a NASA propagandist. He is right; trainloads of golden spikes will land in the pockets of aerospace contractors pa- ving a golden road to the moon and Mars, so that a Buck Rogers can leave an American heavy-boot imp- rint in a distant soil. (Scie- nce doesn't enter the pic- ture, for profit, not science, is the goal of this exercise.)



    Heavy lifting                      [zoom]
    Image: Airbus

    Defending its dominant po- sition in the lucrative tele- com satellite launch busi- ness against a perceived in- trusion from SpaceX's Fal- con 9 Heavy, ESA decides to finance Ariane 6 built by the Airbus/Safran duo. In its heavier version, A6 will be powered by a liquid-fue- led main engine plus 4 so- lid boosters, for the total of 5 engines. The rival, F9H, will be leaving (one hopes) the pad with 27 engines blazing. Spot the error.



    Rain Man's progress         [zoom]
    Graph: CDC

    CDC releases data poin- ting to an exponential incre- ase in the number of au- tism cases among Ame- rican children. Blamed are the man-made chemicals in the environment, which in- terfere with the thyroid hor- mone controlling brain's de- velopment. Comparable EU autism figure is ½ of the US rate.



    Life itself                           [zoom]
    Photo: BBC

    A thug murders a brave young woman for defending two other young women be- ing attacked by thugs. We hope German justice finds a suitably damp, chilly, and rat-infested dungeon where to lock up these hooligans for the rest of their mise- rable lives. This is a kind of story that makes a man go Zizou.


    Image: Hédiard
    Interpol has issued an ur- gent arrest warrant for the one time Putin's banker, the oligarch Sergey Puga- chev, known in the West for his brief ownership of the delicatessen Hédiard, and in Russia for the large- scale banking swindles. Un- less protected by Came- ron, Pugachev should be easily extractable from his London residence.


    Stress out of Frankfurt
    Photo: khardan/Wikipedia

    Monte dei Paschi di Siena, world's oldest bank, toge- ther with 24 other European banks has failed an ECB-ad- ministered stress test, re- ports focus.de. (Credit to our Munich correspondent for sending this item.)



    Serene                               [zoom]
    Photo: Matthew Field/Wikipedia

    John Eliot Gardiner con- ducts the English Baroque Soloists and the Monte- verdi Choir in this rendition of the Gloria which Antonio Vivaldi wrote on the occa- sion of Serenissima's victo- ry over the Saracen on the Plain of the Balkan.



    "Make them an offer they can't refuse"
    Photo: Reuters                   [zoom]

    A new book looks at who runs Russia and how. The Economist has a review.



    Goods on display              [zoom]
    Photo: Paper

    In a continuing marketing campaign, the bottom-hea- vy Miss Kardashian relea- ses promotional photos fea- turing her main assset.


    Talking tough     Photo: Le Monde
    Bibi 'warned' France aga- inst recognizing Palestine as a state, saying it would be a 'grave error'. He didn't specify what consequences awaited the 5th Republic if it does.


    Image: Google/DD
    The EU is poised to issue a statement calling for a bre- akup of Google, which has muscled itself to a 91.2% stake of the European sea- rch engine market. We stro- ngly suggest replacing Go- ogle with ixquick for all web searches.



    Now in Blackpool              [zoom]
    Photo: BBC2

    The Fawlty Towers Hotels & Resorts advises the gen- tle clientele that its flagship hotel has relocated from Torquay in the English Ri- viera to Blackpool. FT as- sures that the quality of ser- vice and hospitality remain at the customary high level.



    Behold the white elephant [zoom]
    Photo: Ralph Vandebergh

    If you ever wondered what the Space Station was for, wonder no more.



    Sitting pretty precariously [zoom]
    Image: ESA

    Philae has signaled lan- ding on the surface of the comet 67P Churyumov-Ge- rasimenko. The message had traversed 500 million km to arrive at ESA's Ope- rations Centre in Darmstadt 27 minutes later.



    The apple of our eye          [zoom]
    Photo: Vienna State Opera

    The Bavarian State Opera Orchestra conducted by Carlos Kleiber plays the overture to Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr.



    Two weights, two measures
    Photo: CNES                      [zoom]

    The General Theory of Re- lativity hangs on the Equi- valence Principle, which says that the gravitational mass is the same as the inertial mass. But this has never been accurately tes- ted. Now two French space centres (CNES and Onera) will test it to an unprece- dented accuracy of 10-15, in a most precise measure- ment ever taken by the hu- mans. This will take place inside a small satellite in a 700 km polar orbit, inside which weights of platinum and titanium will be in a free fall for a year in total isolation from external influ- ences. Physicists are ho- ping for the violation of the Equivalence Principle since it will open the prospect of the reality actually taking place in 11 dimensions, in- stead of the familiar four, with all the new possibili- ties that it entails.



    Kerosene, LOX, and groceries
    Ph: AW&ST/CSimundson   [zoom]

    We erroneously reported (see below) that the explo- ding Antares engine was a Soviet NK-33. It was in fact an Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ- 26, which is an 'upgraded' version of the NK-33. Or- bital, which operates the Antares, has said they will abandon the AJ-26 and go back to the NK-33, of which they had bought several tens at a bargain bottom price of $1.2m a copy.


    Leadership for the 21st century
    Image: anonymous artist

    The Party of God takes control of the American Se- nate.


    Serving Air Strip One
    Photo: MoD

    The spooks at Miniluv de- mand more full frontal nu- dity better to fight the Isla- mic menace of their own making. Our Seattle corres- pondent forwards this item from Yahoo!



    SpaceDebris 2                  [zoom]
    Photo: AP

    The Bransonian predica- ment may be less severe than we thought, and may even be as innocuous (to Sir Richard) as a pilot error. It now appears that control surfaces got deployed at a wrong time, be it by a com- puter or a human error re- sulting in a disequilibrium and eventual disintegration. The propulsion system has been removed from the sus- pect list for lack of eviden- ce. AW&ST has a good ar- ticle on the status of the postmortem. Whether these findings shorten the line in front of the Refunds window at the Spaceport America remains to be seen.



    SpaceDebris 2                  [zoom]
    Photo: AP

    Bransonian rocketeering suffers a possibly terminal setback as its SpaceShip Two falls apart moments af- ter separating from the mo- thership WhiteKnight during a test flight over the Moja- ve Desert. The ticket re- fund line of Sir Richard's clients, which was begin- ning to form before the mis- hap, is bound to wrap aro- und the block now. Branson had expected the FAA to human-certify the SS2 later this year, but any such cer- tification is now a remote prospect.



    Kerosene, LOX, and groceries
    Ph: AW&ST/CSimundson   [zoom]

    An Orbital Sciences Anta- res rocket loaded with sup- plies for the ISS had fallen back on the launch pad when one of the two (other- wise excellent) Soviet NK- 33 engines exploded shor- tly after liftoff.



    A sermon on the mount too far
    Photo: AFP/Miri Tsachi      [zoom]

    Knife fell out of the teeth of a prominent knife-in-the- teeth American likudnik, rabbi Yehuda Glick, after he got shot by a motor- cycle assailant on the Temple Mount in Jeru- salem. It may have had something to do with his proposal to raze Islam's third holiest of holies, the al-Aqsa mosque, to erect in its place the "Third" Temple, the Second having succumbed to a Roman re-zoning project 2,000 years ago. In the local tra- dition, we hope the good rabbi will look on the bright side of life.



    Sneak attack on America  [zoom]
    Photo: Surveillance camera

    A nutty new convert to Is- lam takes on two New York cops with an axe, to be immediately dispatched to his new maker. The as- sault is proclaimed to be terrorism, thus providing a casus belli to attack Iran.


    "Do like the Irish"
    Photo: Romy Bonitz/ifo

    Our Munich correspondent forwards this video featuring the renowned German eco- nomist Hans-Werner Sinn speaking at the Peterson Institute in Washington. Whether one agrees or not with his diagnoses and pre- scriptions, it is well worth hearing him out. Equally in- teresting are the comments from Fred Bergsten and Adam Posen which follow.



    Lively in front of the Met   [zoom]
    Photo: AFP

    Zionists protested loudly in front of the Met against Peter Gelb's giving (a so- mewhat) equal time to the Palestinan cause. LRB ex- plains.



    Casta diva                         [zoom]
    Photo: unknown photographer

    Maria Callas sings Sola, perduta, abbandonata from Puccini's Manon Lescaut. Tulio Serafin conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra on a newly remastered set of 69 Callas CDs from War- ner Classics.



    Spot a binge                      [zoom]
    Graph: The Economist

    China has been borrowing like there were no tomorrow. Such rate of borrowing may be sustainable in a rich eco- nomy but invites a crash in a poor one like China. The Economist explains.



    Pure et lumineuse             [zoom]
    Photo: AFP/Le Monde

    Marie Dubois, who starred in many New Wave films, died the other day at the age of 77. In this charming screen test footage for the Shoot The Piano Player, Truffaut asks for her best swearing like a fish wife.



    Rake's progress                [zoom]
    Graph: CDC/Wikipedia

    What a difference a year makes. The graph shows the growth in chikungunya cases in the Western He- misphere since 2013.


    Not so wicked after all
    Photo: Eon Productions

    The revenge of Hai Fat.



    The dendritic IS                 [zoom]
    Chart: The Economist

    Obama is working hard to have his own Middle East fiasco. The Economist has an excellent summary of the unfolding disaster in Iraq and Syria.


    Stormy weather in the Rhineland
    Photo: Wikipedia

    In early September per- ceptive observers signaled a worsening outlook for the German economy. What was barely visible on the horizon then, appears to have arrived now, first tou- ching exports, as predicted.



    But not before you pay their taxes
    Photo: Reuters/R. Wilking   [zoom]

    Amazon.com runs afoul of the EU anti-competition laws for having cut a sweet- heart deal with Luxem- bourg aimed at avoiding paying taxes. Apple in Ire- land, and Starbucks in Holland have run into simi- lar troubles.


    The holes will become bigger
    Photo: Wikipedia

    By a majority of 61.9% the Swiss have rejected the ini- tiative to socialize their ex- pensive private medical in- surance system.



    Marriage in Venice            [zoom]
    Photo: BBC News

    The American film actor George Clooney and the British barrister Amal Ala- muddin emerged from the Palazzo Cavalli—Venice's town hall—as man and wife. Ladies everywhere were ex- cited and bells rang. The event reminded the Editor his own marriage at the ve- nue six years ago. He wi- shes the couple happiness.



    IS and ISn't                        [zoom]
    Chart: Le Monde

    A picture, say experienced persons, is worth a 1000 words. The chart above shows what's whose in Iraq and Syria, replacing the flood of words with concrete information. The legend go- es like this: red, oil fields held by IS; green, those not held by IS; violet, land held by IS; pale violet, zo- nes of recurrent attacks by IS.


    The holes used to be smaller
    Photo: Wikipedia

    The Swiss, whose private medical insurance is the third most expensive in the world (after that of the US and Norway), and compli- cated, vote this Sunday on whether to socialize it.



    Unbeatable, till now          [zoom]
    Photo: KHanger

    A sweet moment for the Windows geeks, forever the butt of derision from the UNIX nerds (including the Editor during his stint at Digital's UNIX Division), as a serious, easily exploita- ble, bug, aptly called Shel- lshock, is discovered in the Ba shell of the latter. This is alarming, since nearly all world's important infrastruc- ture relies on UNIX-propel- led machines owing to their reliability and security. A patch is undoubtedly on the way.



    Gone too                            [zoom]
    Photo: Marco Borggreve

    In a continuing turmoil at the Vienna State Opera, Bertrand de Billy follows in the footsteps of Franz Welser-Möst to storm out of the venerable house. Our Vienna correspondent spe- culates that if this conti- nues, Dominique Meyer, current director, will have to invest in a baton and step into the pit to conduct the orchestra.



    Eat this spicy curry           [zoom]
    Image: ISRO

    In a shameful display of po- litical point scoring, Indian rocketeers put Mangalya- an, their first foray into deep space, into a crude, highly elliptical orbit around Mars, thus reaching mis- sion's primary goal "to show China".



    You relax, we drive          [zoom]
    Photo: NASA

    SpaceX flawlessly delivers a load of supplies to the ISS on board the Dragon capsule launched on Sun- day from the government facility at Cape Canaveral on top of the Falcon 9 rocket. The mission was controlled from the unam- biguously located "SpaceX Galactic (no less) Head- quarters in Hawthorne, CA, Earth", in case you won- dered if it was not by chan- ce Hawthorne, CA, Jupiter. Note the contractor is not allowed to dock its vehicle to the Station. The manoe- uvre is performed by the Station personnel using a robotic arm.


    PM 2.5 in the GDP
    Graph New Climate Economy

    Mortality from pollution was costing China more than 11% of its GDP in 2010. Today's figure is unknown, but sure to be higher. Germany's figure was 6%. Since then it switched from the clean nuclear to the super-dirty coal power ge- neration, so that figure is bound to go up too. The Economist looks at the cost of all this.



    Dust devils                        [zoom]
    Image: BICEP2

    Planck weakens BICEP. Data from the European Planck satellite undercut the claim by the US BI- CEP2 team to the effect that the polarization of the light observed by it at the South Pole was due to the gravitational ripple in space- time engendered by the in- flation of the early Universe.



    Yankee diva                      [zoom]
    Photo: Erato

    Joyce DiDonato puts out a new CD, Stella di Napoli. Scroll down one page from here to find three picks from the same.



    Space, but not X                [zoom]
    Image: Boeing

    Two cold shoulders for the Elonian rocketeering. One, NASA's slim award to Spa- ceX for future work, two, USAF's serious skepticism about Musk's ability to se- cure requisite certification before the bidding for the AF launches. NASA has been peeved at SpaceX for the iffy launches and nume- rous snags, which the AF too was bound to notice. The pay-per-cheer press, which has been taking for granted the superiority of the private rocketeering over the old'n musty gov job, is noticeably taken aback by the travails of their dar- ling free-enterprising (on go- vernment grants) free-lan- cer.



    Murder in Park Lane         [zoom]
    Photo: Wikipedia

    A touch of headache for the Sultan of Brunei, whose su- per-swank Dorchester Col- lection hotels are being in- creasingly boycotted, if not by the super-rich, who don't boycott, then by the famo- us, some of whom do. The spat is over the sharia law which the good sultan saw fit to impose on his oil-soa- ked kingdom, calling for kil- ling of the gay and for whip- ping of the avorteuse. The ladies of the jury for the Prix Femina have fired the latest salvo noisily cancel- ling reservation at the Hôtel Meurice, where the next prix was to be announced.



    The möst                            [zoom]
    Photo: Roger Mastroianni

    To the chagrin of our Vien- na correspondent, the con- ductor Franz Welser-Möst has quit the Vienna State Opera over disagreements with the artistic director Do- minique Meyer. Our cor- respondent none the less invokes the possibility of future cooperation between the two on an opera-by- opera basis.


    Friends helping friends
    Photo: Reuters

    NSA has been illegally pas- sing to Israel intercepted communications between US citizens, reveals Snow- den. Our Seattle corres- pondent forwards this report from YahoO! News.


    Partially Lord's own
    Photo: USAF

    Under threat of a law suit (see below), the US Air Force backpedals to allow airmen to omit the "so help me God" phrase from the oath they take upon en- rollment. That's better, but still far from good. Religion should have no place in the business of the govern- ment. [Thanks to our Sea- ttle correspondent for kee- ping us abreast of this im- broglio.]



    Rough coastline                [zoom]
    Photo: ESA

    Trickier than expected lan- ding awaits Philae, a small probe which is to land in a few days on the surface of the comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko after a 30 km descent from its mother- ship, the European Rosetta spacecraft orbiting the bo- dy. It will be the first ever landing of a man-made ob- ject on the surface of a comet. The weight of the 100 kg Philae will be 10 grams.


    Lord's own               Photo: USAF
    230 years of state and chu- rch separation culminates in the US Air Force requi- ring airmen to swear to God, or to look for a job elsewhere. Thanks to our Seattle correspondent for forwarding the item.


    More blue now          Image: AFP
    Rare goodnews on the en- vironmental front: the ozone layer seems to be reco- vering as the result of the ban on chlorinated hydro- carbons imposed by the 1997 Montreal protocol. Unfortunately, there's also this.



    Plastic fantastic                [zoom]
    Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

    The noted American loud- mouth, Joan Rivers, died the other day at the age of 183 while undergoing her 745th plastic surgery at the B'nai B'rith Hospital in New York. She won't be missed by her daughter, Melissa, whom she had groomed to take over the family hand- bag and shoe business. Hordes converged on the Big Apple to pay respect to the alien.



    Binary geography              [zoom]
    Image: Gov. of Canada

    Canadian diplomats issue a handy map showing what is Russia and what is not. It is to help the Red Army find its bearings in the un- charted tribal regions of ea- stern Ukraine.



    Now darling, imagine he's an A-rab
    Photo: BBC                        [zoom]

    How does a nine-year old get an Uzi in her hands?", asks the reporter, to which she receives an irrelevant answer. But we know. It's by the idiocy of her pa- rents.



    An orbit too far                  [zoom]
    Image: ESA

    It now transpires that the Soyuz rocket carrying the first two operational satel- lites of the European Gali- leo navigational system, in- stead of depositing them into a 23,500 km orbit, put them into an useless one at 17,000 km. Fixing the problem will be "very com- plicated", according to the specialists involved. Galileo will trump the American GPS system by offering an unrestricted sub-metre glo- bal positioning accuracy. Partially because of this, the project is viewed with utter hostility by the expo- nents of the American im- perial project, so the set- back will bring smiles to many a face in Washing- ton.



    Too many engines, Wilbur  [zoom]
    Photo: BBC

    Two space launches have gone askew. The first two operational satellites of the European Galileo naviga- tional system are showing "a discrepancy between the targeted and reached orbit", and SpaceX's Falcon 9 ex- ploded seconds after lift-off. ESA is scrambling to find a fix. There will be no fixes for the Elonian shot.


    Not so green         Img: Wikipedia
    NASA reports an inexpli- cably slow atmospheric concentration decay of the ozone-depleting industrial solvent carbon tetrachlori- de, banned by the 1987 Montreal Protocol, hinting at possible clandestine emi- ssions.


    Zanoli then                  Photo by X
    Righteous then, righteous now. A Righteous Among the Nations
    returns medal to Yad Vashem protesting against Israeli bestiality in Gaza.


    Reliable                    Photo: Jmak
    A phone call too far. Guar- dian's Owen Jones argues for the nationalization of ce- llular networks. We second the idea.



    A message Kerry'd away     [zoom]
    Photo: AP/Lucas Jackson

    Friends-and-allies don't let friends-and-allies keep sec- rets.



    A depreciating but growing asset Photo: Instagram                [zoom]
    "Kim Kardashian's bottom is not up for grabs", warns the Guardian, as we were about to reach for the pro- duct.


    Photo: unknown artist         [zoom]
    Fritz Wunderlich sings Ombra mai fu from Han- del's Xerxes on a freshly remastered 1946 recording from Sony Classics, with Gerhard Becker conducing the Berliner Symphoniker.


Tragicomic Relief*

Be More Like A Sheep

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

As people across the world celebrated the 2015 Lunar New Year, whose title tran- slates in English as both Year of the Goat and Year of the Sheep, Hong Kong’s chief executive urged pro-democracy protestors in the country to “take inspiration from the sheep’s character.”

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Monday, 23 February 2015

"Let the sport commence!"                                                            Image: Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo releases its second post-attack issue. The cover assembles some of its favourite personalities: Marine Le Pen shown as a pit bull, Sarko as a nasty little poodle, Catholic Church as itself, and the jihadists also as themselves. The chase's afoot.


Debit Suisse

Happy On The Alp

Friday, 20 February 2015

...by disconnecting them from taxes                                                         Photo: HSBC

Two years ago we reported on HSBC's expeditions to France to woo rich depositors suffering from aversion to taxes. With politicians looking the other way, HSBC has since added new financial optimization products to its portfolio of services aiming at subtracting from the oligarchic contribution to the government revenue stream. LRB's Glen Newey gives it a closer look, commencing thusly,

Austeritarian politics minds less about balancing the books than cutting the state. It aims to bear down on public spending but also distrusts tax, particularly on the well-off.  Austeritarians bang on about the debt while failing to plug revenue holes.


Statistically Significant

Life Support

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Percentage of Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2014 primary-campaign contributions that came from the United States : 90
That came from three U.S. families : 30

This and more in this month's Harper's Index.


Essential Viewing

The American Ruling Class

Monday, 9 February 2015

Self-selection within                                                                     Photo: The Alive Mind

As everyone knows, America is a great democracy from which class, not to mention class war, have been banished, and where power belongs to the citizen who delegates it to his representatives in an ever fair and democratic process.

All right, that's the Hollywood version.

Lewis Lapham's garage film studio proposes an altogether different picture. Though short on special effects and star-studdedness, it's long on depicting the American reality. Here's a 13-minute YouTube sampler, and here are all the goods, though in order to see them you must first set up an account with Vimeo. Selecting the basic free service gets you there.

Oh, and remember, the next time you're invited to vote, don't.


Statecraft

 Economic Recovery By Other Means

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Behold the uptick                                                                     Graph: The Economist/DD

Thus Andrew Cockburn in the January issue of Harper's:

At the end of October 2014, as European economies quivered, thanks in part to the sanction-driven slowdown in trade with Russia, the United States reported a gratifying 3.5 percent jump in gross domestic product for the quarter ending September 3. This spurt was driven, so government economists reported, by a sharp uptick in military spending.


Tragicomic Relief

Gott Mitt Romney

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced that he would not run for president. “As you no doubt heard,” Romney told an audience at Mississippi State University prior to the announcement, “I’m already rich.”"

And not at all vulgar.

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Your Land Is Our Land

A Slightly Tougher Approach

Thursday, 29 January 2015

"Think of them as rabbits, private"                                         Photo: Haim Schwarczenberg

This essential reading comes from LRB's correspondent Natasha Roth, who lives in Israel-Palestine (Israel to Bibi.)


Essential Reading

Mutualisation Of Giving A Damn

Monday, 26 January 2015

"It's yours too"                                                                        Photo: Fotis Pleagas G/AP

Thus James Meek in the London Review of Books blog:

Syriza’s victory in the Greek general election is a hopeful moment for Europe. It shows how a radical left-wing political movement, brought together in a short time, can use the democratic system to attack three menaces: the rentier lords of jurisdiction-hopping private capital, the compromised political hacks of the traditional parties who have become their accomplices, and the pan- phobic haters of the populist right.

Greece gave us Democracy. It is doing it again.


Debit Suisse

Davos 2015

Sunday, 25 January 2015

"We will do our best to keep their heads down, sir."                                     Photo: WEF

      Sure of a business as usual, we reproduce here our 2014 Davos note.

The owners of the world converged on Davos for the annual shindig. On the agenda, how to tighten the grip, and mutual adoration. Ticket prices have been set to discoura- ge the undesirables. A front-row seat goes for €389k, while a no-press-allowed one (you mustn't know too much about what's going on behind the closed door) for a mere €115k.

Once you've got the ticket, count on spending extra $15k to $200k, depending on the lavishness of your entertainment, and whether you come on a private jet or rough it out in business class.

Some oligarchs prefer to send minions rather than participate in person. Warren Buffett, 84, who has never set his foot in Davos, opted for Omahaw, NE, to profit from a mo- ment of peace to make a few extra billion, a handy thing to have in your pocket when the Almighty finally calls.

Other skeptics include the French, always the spoilsports, only 75 of whom are expe- cted to mingle among the 2,500 participants. Boris Johnson, out in Davos pimping London to the Malaysians, for his part, described the Forum as "a constellation of egos involved in orgies of adulation".

Bankers will be aplenty, but not the tech heavyweights from Silicon Valley.

One of the themes on the agenda will be inequality, which is cynical, given that orga- nizers have been assiduously soliciting participation of the 'fiscal optimization industry'.

Gentlemen have been encouraged to come with ladies in order to 'diversify the invitee list', which, to the delight of the local retail community, heralds the arrival of a second Christmas in so many months.

What a jolly good show.


Statistically Significant

The One-Percent Bracket

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Portion of the hundred best-paid US CEOs who earn more annually than their companies pay in federal taxes : 1/3

This and more in this month's Harper's Index.


Free Expression

Journal irresponsable

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Vu de l'autre côté                                                                         Image: Charlie Hebdo

Back from a pro-Charlie demo, pencil back in the pencil cup, two thoughts presen- ted themselves for examination.

One, jabs against Mohammed pack more punch and inflict more pain than those against his competitors. This is because most of the world's downtrodden are Mus- lims to whom communion with the Prophet provides the Oxycodone needed to blunt the pain of a miserable life. Having nothing else to resort to, an attack on the Prophet is an attack on their existence, hence the violent reaction to the caricatures of Mohammed in Charlie Hebdo.

Two, in 2008 CH had sacked Siné for speaking his mind. So its record as a fortress of free speech hasn't always been stellar. Fortunately to CH, Philippe Val, its boss, a soixante-huitard turned sarkozyste, left in 2009 to sow discord and loathing at France Inter, where he distinguished himself by sacking Stéphane Guillon, a brilliant satirist and Sarko's nemesis, and threatening several others.


Tragicomic Relief

Vote-based Science

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

US senators agreed to vote on whether they believe that climate change is occurring; NASA and NOAA researchers calculated that 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history."

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


One-Upmanship

See You In The Court

Monday, 19 January 2015

"You starve our kids, we take you to the ICC"                            Photo: Abbas Momani/AFP

The news got buried under the Charlie Hebdo story, but the UN the other day had accepted Palestine's application to join the International Criminal Court. This will allow Palestinian Authority to file war crimes cases against Israel as soon as April 1.

Bibi had better prepare for pain.


Tragicomic Relief

 Driving While Trans

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Russia barred transgender people from getting driving licenses"

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Friday, 16 January 2015

"Monsignor Vingt-Trois has three papas..."                                     Image: Charlie Hebdo

By popular demand, we present the cartoon which Charlie Hebdo published after some asinine remarks about gay marriage from the Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor Vingt-Trois.


Savoir-faire

 Enter Bibi

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

He says hi                                                                                    Image: Push the Bibi

Bibi, who for security reasons was asked by the French government not to, comes to Paris and insinuates himself into the marche républicaine mourning the people murdered in the recent terrorist attacks. Once in, he elbows his way to the head of the cortege to rub shoulders with François Hollande and Angela Merkel, and to wave to fans while everyone else walks in silence.

In order to undercut Bibi, Hollande had quickly invited Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, to come to Paris and accorded him the same reception he gave to Netanyahu.

The opposition in the forthcoming elections called his behaviour vulgar and com- missioned some geeks to write a video game called Push the Bibi to highlight his antics. To play, click on the link, than on the blue arrow, then use the keyboard arrows to push 'the Bibi'. The game ends with a warning, "Don't try again", and then in Hebrew (we are told), "if you don't want Bibi to come ahead".


Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

All is forgiven                                                                                Image: Charlie Hebdo

Finale, for now.


Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Monday, 12 January 2015

Le Dîner de cons                                                                          Image: Charlie Hebdo

In a continuing tribute to Charlie Hebdo, we present one dedicated to the gourman- dise.


Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Saturday, 10 January 2015

After the floods...a frothy soirée in Lourdes                                     Image: Charlie Hebdo

In a continuing tribute to Charlie Hebdo, we present one of their more decisive pun- ches below the religious belt.


Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Thursday, 8 January 2015

"We mustn't mock each other"                                                      Image: Charlie Hebdo

In partial homage to Charlie Hebdo, we present one of its mildest jabs against religion.


Vengeance

An Eye For A Tooth

Thursday, 8 January 2015

"You join the ICC, we starve your kids"                                                        Photo: EPA

Drawing on some of the subtleties of the Babylonian codex, Bibi tries to gouge the eyes of the Palestinians for having the cheek to file a membership application with the International Criminal Court

BDS.


Tragicomic Relief

 Clairvoyance

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

A fortune-teller in Lebanon, who correctly foretold that Lebanon’s prime minister would resign in 2013, predicted that, in 2015, Gaza would be attacked"

We hasten to comment that no fortune telling ability is required to predict that much.

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Rejections

Légion d'honneur

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Not a joiner                                                                        Photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Thomas Piketty, our Person of the Year (see below), refuses to accept the Légion d'honneur saying it's not up to the government to judge who is honourable. "It would do better," he said, "to concentrate on re-launching growth in France and in Europe."

In rejecting the Légion, Piketty joins the company of Louis Aragon, Albert Camus, Claude Monet, Hector Berlioz, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Georges Brassens.


Shopping

 No Child Left Unarmed

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Kids and guns welcome                                                              Photo: Cathy Plonka/AP

A Palin Republican meets her maker at the hand of her two-year-old as he reaches out and touches the trigger of a loaded pistol in her handbag, riding along in the same Walmart shopping cart.

We would be hard pressed to come up with a cornier scenario for parting this side of heaven, in terms of what happened, how, and where.


Tragicomic Relief

 Deliveries

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would supply Ukraine with coal"

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Person Of The Year

Thomas Piketty

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Agreeably indiscreet                                                         Photo: Emmanuelle Marchadour

Our person of the year is Thomas Piketty, who explained why the rich must be getting richer and the poor poorer.


Tragicomic Relief

 Choices

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Russian president Vladimir Putin, who currently has an 80 percent approval rating, delivered a three-hour news conference in which he predicted the country’s economy would recover within two years despite a more than 50 percent decline in the ruble’s value. “I very much support Putin,” said a 79-year-old woman from the Russian town of Gryaz. “Who else is there to support?”

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Music Of The Spheres

2014 Winter Solstice

Sunday, 21 December 2014

A dark moment with a bright outlook                                                         Photo: NASA

Winter solstice in Northern Hemisphere comes on Sunday, 21 December, at 23:03 UTC, marking the shortest day of the year. Daily Detox, which advocates moving New Year's Day from its present location—the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord—to Winter Solstice, wishes all its Readers a happy New Year.


Essential Reading

An Open Letter For The People Of Gaza

Friday, 19 December 2014

Cutting to the chase                                                                         Image: The Lancet

We failed to catch the open letter by the medics working in Gaza when it first ap- peared in the Lancet at the end of July, during Israel's last round of casting lead. Here it is and it's essential reading. It should be a call to action to anyone thinking himself a human being.

Of special note is the last paragraph,

We register with dismay that only 5% of our Israeli academic colleagues signed an appeal to their government to stop the military operation against Gaza. We are tempted to conclude that with the exception of this 5%, the rest of the Israeli academics are complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza. We also see the complicity of our countries in Europe and North America in this massacre and the impotence once again of the international institutions and organisations to stop this massacre.

It is of note because in the past Israeli academic institutions were thought to deserve being exempt from BDS. They don't.


Essential Reading

Ali Dissects Post-Ferguson America

Monday, 15 December 2014

A tough prof                                                                              Photo: Portum/Wikipedia

There is an important piece by Tariq Ali at the LRB blog. The comments which fol- low contain a classical example of mendacity by a political hack, here a Democrat (if only by name.)


Detox

Enhanced Report On Interrogation Techniques

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

He's got the info                                                                         Photo: Lynne Sladky/AP

Obama:

"Part of what sets us apart is that when we do something wrong, we acknowle- dge it"

No, Mr Obama, you don't. Just like Bush, you suppress it for as long as you can and you persecute the whistleblowers. Only when absolutely cornered, you grudgingly own up to it. Fortunately, there will be a good measure by which to judge the seriousness of your acknowledgment.

It will be how high and wide you cast your net to catch the rogues responsible for this toxic spill, remembering not to spare their cheerleaders in Congress and some of the prominent Washington 'think' tanks, particularly those whose allegiances are far removed from where they ought to be.

We won't mention here as a hint to you the name of a certain retired senator from Connecticut, so bent on revenge that American troops in Baghdad (unlike he, subject to the IEDs) sought to foreshorten his days before his zeal foreshortened theirs. He might be a person of interest.

Good luck.


Tragicomic Relief

 Destinations

Tuesday, 5 December 2014

Malaysia Airlines, which lost two flights in the past year, including flight 370, which is believed to be somewhere in the Indian Ocean, apologized for tweeting, “Want to go somewhere, but don’t know where?”

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Illustration

All The Time

Monday, 1 December 2014

Time from the beginning of time until now. Illustration by Haisam Hussein in the current issue of Lapham's Quarterly
Thanks to our Vancouver correspondent (EK) for pointing it out.


Petroleum

Messing With Texas

Saturday, 29 November 2014

"You squeeze oil out of stone, we squeeze you out of business"             Photo: Wikipedia

The Saudis are bent on wringing the neck of America's newly-found 'energy inde- pendence' based on the miracle of fracking the oil-bearing shale.

It should be easy enough, suffices to keep pumping more than is needed, thus squee- zing the price. With shale oil's notoriously thin margins, death should come quickly and be painful, since colossal sums of money have been sunk into the sector.

Even if the oil price were to recover later, psychological bruises will be such that few will be brave enough to venture into resurecting fracking. Shale oil may be dead forever.


Ferguson

Walking While Black

Friday, 28 November 2014

Not in Missouri                                                                        Photo: askiadagreat/twitter

An excellent piece on Ferguson in the LRB blog. Excerpt:

After Brown fell, his body baked in the St Louis August sun for four hours, in a pool of blood, while the Ferguson police gathered evidence, further infuriating people in the neighbourhood who felt that they had witnessed the aftermath of an execution, without the consideration of a judge or jury.

Robert McCulloch, the St Louis County prosecutor, told the grand jury on 20 August to ‘keep that open mind’. But a prosecutor isn’t supposed to be ‘neutral’; he’s supposed to make the case for the prosecution. Some witnesses during the hearing were treated by the prosecution as if they were being crossexamined by a defence team, asked to explain inconsistencies in their testimony or discredited because of previous run-ins with the law. One witness was even asked: ‘Do you know what the name of your medication is that you take for your mental health?’


Albion

A Somewhat United Kingdom

Monday, 24 November 2014

Pale in the cheek these days                                                              Image: Wikipedia

We've always been fond of Tariq Ali's synthetic mind.

Ali doesn't muddle. His brush stroke is a punch on the stomach or a well-aimed kick on the snout. The result is gratifying to read and accurate enough. The following is his contribution to a post-referendum look at the situation, which appeared last month in the LRB.

Project Fear has had a temporary victory in Scotland but its legacy will not be a return to the status quo ante either in Scotland or elsewhere. The mind of the Scottish nation has stirred to new activity. Every single parliamentary consti- tuency in Glasgow voted ‘Yes’. Henceforth the divide in Scotland will always be between the Unionists and those who want independence, and that will be the main issue in 2015: if Labour is dethroned by the SNP, say farewell to the UK state.

As for the rest of us, we live in a country without an opposition. Westminster is in the grip of an extreme centre that is the coalition plus Labour: yes to austerity, yes to imperial wars, yes to a failing EU, yes to increased security measures, and yes to the status quo. And its leaders: Miliband, a jittery and indecisive leader presiding over a parliamentary party (including his shadow chancellor) that remains solidly Thatcherite; Cameron, a PR confection, insolent to the bulk of his own people while repulsively servile to Washington and often to Beijing. Clegg barely needs a description. His party will suffer in the next election and we might soon be deprived of his presence. All are flanked on the right by Ukip, whose policies each tries to pander to in its own fashion. Euro-immigration is becoming an English obsession, even though it was this country that carried out Washington’s orders to expand the EU so that it lost any chance of social or political coherence.

What of our local institutions? The neutered BBC that during crises at home (Scotland) and wars abroad (Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan) is little more than a propaganda outfit. The NHS? Crippled by Blair and Brown with their PFIs and privatisations and now well on its own way to privatisation thanks to the last Health Bill. The railway companies? Loathed by the bulk of their ‘customers’ they still receive state subsidies although the idea of renationalising them for the public good is rejected by the extreme centre.

Politically, we need a party to the left of this centre. The constitutional mess can only be sorted out by a constitutional convention that gives us a written constitution which sweeps away all the cobwebs (the antiquated and unrepresentative voting system, the unelected second chamber, the monarchy etc) and guarantees the right to self-determination of nations within the UK. This will not happen unless there is a grand remonstrance from below. Here the Scottish campaign for independence offers a good model.


Pretty Good Privacy

Tails

Thursday, 20 November 2014

"Advocated by extremists on extremist forums"                                          Image: Tails

The needle of our anticlapperometer gamely bumped into a stopper on the right si- de of the scale when we touched Tails* with its probe, indicating a strong positive signal.

Strong positive signals about Tails had previously come from Ed Snowden and his chums, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenberg, who use it on their computers to keep their communication a step ahead of the spooks at the NSA, who, for their part, describe it as a "comsec" (communications security) mechanism advocated by extre- mists on extremist forums".

Coming from the NSA, that's as good an endorsement as they get.

If you are curious, in addition to the information provided by the Tails site (see above), we recommend reading the following: Wikipedia, Le Monde, FPF, Das Erste, and Tech- nopolis.

Happy browsing.


*) Your visit to the Tails site will get duly registered by Miniluv, which will then try to find out who you are.


Interplanetary

The Little Philae That Could

Sunday, 19 November 2014

Out into the cold                                                                             Photo: ESA/Rosetta

Against staggering odds, and with a seriously damaged landing control system, the lander Philae dispatched by the European space probe Rosetta, currently in orbit around the comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, landed on the surface of the body after two lengthy bounces.

Despite the lack of sunlight to recharge its batteries, and the roughness of the terrain, Philae succeeded in accomplishing 85% of its scientific programme, and sending the data back to Earth before running out of electricity. ESA harbours some hope of wak- ing up Philae from hibernation when 67P arrives at the brighter and warmer inner re- gions of the Solar System to resume its activity.

We reckon the Rosetta/Philae mission to be the toughest, most daring, and most suc- cessful of all man's undertakings in Outer Space to date.


Interstellar

To Boldly Jump Ship

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Scouting for a new rubbish dump                                              Photo: Paramount Pictures

While heaping scorn generally suffices for a review of a Hollywood flick, Interstellar deserves a listing of pros and cons. Here they are.

Pros:  True-to-physics depiction of the relativistic phenomena; absence of guns and God; surprisingly decent acting

Cons:  Giving false hope for finding alternative place to which to go when the life on Earth becomes unbearable; plugs for the human space flight; abusively loud sound- track; a long, tedious section in the final scenes depicting a multi-dimensional reality

Rating:  7/10


Manœuvrings

Comrades In Arms

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Tom, Ulla, and the Bundeswehr brass                               Photo: Thomas Imo/German MoD

It is said that in the waning days of the second world war, Adolf Hitler bemoaned an error he had made in 1939, of having fought the Poles rather than trying to enlist them in his Kampf for the living space. We don't know if it's true or not but if not, he should have, for the mistake brought him untold grief until the end of the war.

No one knows of course if the Poles would have accepted, but going after Stalin, who had tried and failed to mug Poland freshly risen from the ashes, would have been an attractive proposition. At the time, alas, the Führer saw Poland more a part of that living space then an ally.

The error would cost him dearly. While one branch of the Polish underground was busy sabotaging the supply trains to the Ostfront, the other was stealing the Enigma and cracking its code. Throughout the war the Poles had fought Hitler on all fronts on land, at sea, and in the air.

It's an irony then that Germany and Poland would agree to integrate the command structure of their armed forces, as they have done now. Someone must have been been reading history books, and judging Putin essentially no different from bat'ka Stalin.

The combined military of the two countries will be a formidable force. This won't be lost on Vlad busy flexing muscles on NATO's eastern flank. It is sure to give him an extra headache in addition to the one given to him by the sinking oil price.

Things are looking up.


Tragicomic Relief

He May Be Grimm But He's Our Grimm

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

In the race for New York's 11th Congressional District, incumbent Michael Grimm, who was indicted on 20 counts of mail fraud, tax fraud, and perjury in April, and who earlier this year threatened to throw a NY1 reporter off of the balcony of the Capitol building, was chided by a Staten Island newspaper for being "hot headed" and "distasteful," and for making Staten Island "the laughing stock of the nation"; the paper endorsed Grimm, who has a 19-point lead in the polls."

(We first took note of the Grimm behaviour back in January.)

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Essential Reading

The Anatomy Of Bestiality

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Bibi's vision for the Palestinian side of the two-state solution                  Photo: Le Monde

A cry of desperation emanates from the online edition of the London Review of Books, where Robert Wade, political economy prof at the London School of Economics, details the biblical-grade savagery with which Israel treats the Palestinians. If you feel there's a shortage of argument in support of BDS, feel no more.

One of the two oldest talking points of the Zionist set (this category covers all Ameri- can politicians) has been Israel's famous 'right to exist' (the other being the 'right to defend itself'). It does have that right, but not to any greater extent than it lends it to Palestine.


Antiterrorism

O Poor Canada

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

And soon not under surveillance                                                       Photo: Getty Images

Christmas came early to Stephen Harper this year.

The lone gunman who rampaged through the corridors of power last week handed him a golden opportunity to invoke what Naomi Klein calls the shock doctrine, ie, to further tighten the screw on the civil liberties of the ordinary Canadians. So far as the jihadists go, it's hard to imagine them losing sleep over what Harper may concoct as anti- terrorism measures.

If he wants it to be more quiet on the terrorism front, he should first get out of Bibi's bed and then withdraw Canadian participation in Uncle Sam's petroleum-scented cru- sades in the Asia Minor. Keeping in mind that terrorism is a poor man's way of waging war, short of the aforementioned withdrawals, it will be business as usual.


Illustration

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Jacqueline aux fleurs by Pablo Picasso                    Oil on canvas


Statistically Significant

GAFAT

Thursday, 22 October 2014

Percentage increase in requests by world governments for Twitter user data since the beginning of this year: 46
Percentage of all requests that have come from the US government: 61
Portion of US government requests with which Twitter complies: 3/4

This and more in this month's Harper's Index.


Tragicomic Relief

If Alcohol Interferes With Your Work, Quit Work

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

In response to the asylum request of a 16-year-old Russian exchange student living in Michigan made based on concerns that he would be persecuted for being gay if he returned home, Russia announced that it would end its participation in the exchange program"

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Statecraft

On The Inseparability Of Church And State

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

"A word from the Prince, your Excellency"              Painting by unknown 16th c. Italian master

If they believe that," said recently Noam Chomsky of religion, "they'll believe any- thing".

It could be, but there's more to it than that.

It is that, repeated from the pulpit, the message of the Prince acquires the imprimatur of God, with whom one doesn't argue. It is for this reason that the politician and the shaman will always walk together hand in hand.


Tragicomic Relief

Built For Comfort Not Speed

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The US National Institutes of Health awarded a $466,642 grant to a study that will examine why obese adolescent girls have fewer dating experiences than their non- obese peers".

DD awaits with bated breath the outcome of this vital research, though it thinks it already has an answer.

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Your Land Is Our Land

The Two-State Solution

Monday, 6 October 2014

And its 8-metre helper                                                                   Photo: Wikipedia/Zero

Back in July we bemoaned the silence emanating from Scandinavia after Bibi had gouged out Gaza's remaining eye.

If not in Oslo and Copenhagen, someone in Stockholm was paying attention, for it's been reported that Sweden had triumphantly announced recognizing the Palestinian State (after being beaten to it by 130 other countries), and, for a good measure, putting its weight behind this precious commodity which is the "two-state solution", which Bibi wants too.

But here the joy ends, because what Israel wants can't be good.

Here's why. The two-state solution means that Israel gets the fruited plain by the sea, and the Palestinians the rocky and fragmented hinterland. Arafat had recognized this and balked. Abbas has been nibbling.

The real solution to the Israel/Palestine dilemma is called the "one state solution", with both people living on the same land on the basis of equality under a secular law. There is no alternative.

So, while Sweden's recognition has created a good atmosphere, the two-state-solu- tion which it touts plays to Bibi's hands, and is shameful. Sweden could do better that that, for example, by simultaneously announcing downgrading of the diplomatic ties with Israel to a consular level, withdrawing its ambassador, and inviting the Israeli one to take an extended leave of absence.

This done, it should suggest to Denmark and Norway to follow suit, and begin laying out plans for the BDS, the only thing Bibi fears.


Friends Helping Friends

No Whistling Please

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Too transactional, not enough relational                             Photo: Nabil Rahman/ProPublica

What does not kill me," proclaims the philosopher, "makes me stronger". This, we suggest, be the motto to emplace above the entrances to Goldman Sachs and each of the Wall Street banks which Obama had missed the opportunity to bludgeon into submission after the Grand Theft Auto of the Subprimes debacle.

This had made them stronger and even more arrogant than before, Goldman Sachs being Exhibit A. While back in 2008 they were too-big-to-fail, now they are too-big-to-touch.

Our Seattle correspondent scores a third goal running forwarding this exposé from ProPublica describing the events leading to an abrupt career termination of an intelli- gent, curious, and diligent Fed investigator who had failed to succumb to the obliga- tory "regulatory capture" while labouring to sort out the conflict of interest at GS.

So, sit back, relax, and prepare for the future pain of having to pay for the failure of the Fed to whip the banks into shape.


Tragicomic Relief

Cat's Pyjamas

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

In the United Kingdom, MP Brooks Newmark resigned as minister for civil society when it was reported that he had sent a nude photo of himself to a male freelance journalist posing on Twitter as a “twentysomething Tory PR girl” named Sophie"

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Ambition

Conspicuous Maternity

Saturday, 27 September 2014

"Well done, my dear"                                                                       Photo: Reuters/BBC

It would be tempting to congratulate Marc Mezvinsky on integrating himself so nicely into a family so prominent as the Clintons, though, as the poor Siné had found out, even noticing* such things can have a career-limiting effect. In any case, it is not he who ought to be congratulated on the arrival of his first child, which seals the union, but his mother-in-law.

Why, you may ask.

Because, with the arrival of this baby, in whose veins half of the blood is Jewish, Hil- lary washes away the mortal sin of saying "fuck the Jews" during a heated post- mortem after the disastrous 1994 mid-term elections.  That's why.

After 20 years of purgatory, the fundamental obstacle to her becoming president has vanished.


*) Siné, doyen of the French political cartoonists, got abruptly fired from Charlie Heb- do when he wrote that Jean Sarkozy (son of Nicolas) "will go far" after he married a (Jewish) heiress to the Darty empire.


Your Land Is Our Land

The Art Of Ceasefire

Thursday, 18 September 2014

"Don't linger, another ceasefire's coming"                                  Photo: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis

The blog at the London Review of Books takes a look at the ceasefire being waged by Israel against the Palestinians.


Tragicomic Relief

Have Russian Passport, Won't Travel

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The United States and the European Union issued new sanctions against Russia, including travel and asset freezes on 24 Russian officials, for the country’s support of separatists in eastern Ukraine. “The less our officials and corporate executives travel abroad,” Vladimir Putin said of the sanctions, “the better.”

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Public Education

Ebola In Town

Monday, 15 September 2014

Your school board in session                                                               Photo: Wikipedia

As the the American soldiers battle for oil with the religious fanatics in the wastes of Central Asia, the American citizenry fights a rearguard battle against a frontal assault from religious jihadists right at home.

Our Seattle correspondent—freshly back from Iceland, where he dodged the ill-tem- pered Bárðarbunga—forwards this jaw-dropper aired the other day by National Pub- lic.Radio.

It's about a school board in a small town USA being taken over by Orthodox Jews who themselves wouldn't dream of sending their own offspring to the public schools for which they are now responsible and whose property they sell to themselves better to house their own madrasas (called yeshivas) for which (miracle of miracles) they illegally receive public money, illegal tax breaks, and broad smiles from Hillary Clinton and other politicians on the make and in a hurry.


Tragicomic Relief

Hay(mini)market

Friday, 12 September 2014

More than 450 fast-food workers were arrested during demonstrations in 150 Ameri- can cities to demand wages of $15 an hour and the right to unionize."

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Mépris

The sans-culottes meet the sans-dents

Monday, 8 September 2014

"You're in the book too. Yes, you."                                                        Photo: Cyclotron

Valérie Trierweiler has just-published a memoir* covering her stint at the Elysée as François Hollande's compagne, and France's 'First Lady'. The high-profile bliss had lasted two years, until François got caught with his hand in Julie Gayet's culottes.

Le Monde describes the book as a mixture of the intime and the politique. No great revelations, no great drama.

With one exception.

Trierweiler reveals Hollande's particular contempt for the class which his nominally socialist party is supposed to represent, and from which Valérie herself hails. She says he has a habit of calling the proletariat "sans-dents" (without teeth), in reference to the sans-culottes of the French Revolution.

The question now is to what extent this will be noticed by the selectively observant press. Our bet is on little.


*)  Merci pour ce moment, Les Arènes, 330 pp


German Economy

All Not Quiet On The Home Front

Monday, 1 September 2014

View from Angie's window                                                                   Photo: Wikipedia

Not all that shines is Rheingold, says the economist Gabriel Colletis in a freshly published look* at the prospects for the German economy. What he says ought to make Angela Merkel anxious.

It comes at a time when Merkel seeks to jump the European mothership to search for the golden fleece in East Asia and America, both identified by her and by her finance minister as the locations where the future of the humanity will unfold.

Maybe.

Colletis identifies five threats closer to home which, according to him, will destroy the German model before the end of the decade. First come the précarité and the mal- emploi linked to the financialization of the economy, and the various anti-worker stratagems deployed by the industry in thrall of neo-liberalism.

Workers at amazon.de and at Zalando (known as "Sklavando"), for example, have rebelled against the third-world working conditions. Pressure from the hedge funders demanding 12 percent on the capital while 4 percent remains a sustainable average is an aggravating factor. But nowadays it is the shareholder who rules, to the tune of job losses and mounting inequality.

Colletis quotes German dependence on exports and strong growth in imports as ano- ther weakness. The organic foods, production of which not long ago seemed like a German forte, got outsourced to Central Europe, which has demonstrated to have a particularly green finger and the right prices. Recession in Europe and elsewhere does not help the exports. The Mercedes and the BMWs aren't on people's minds when the question of how to feed the children is.

The long stagnated Länder in the east have seen no growth since 2000. The prospect that this will change soon is bleak. The richest Länder, Bavaria and Baden-Württem- berg, show little enthusiasm for indefinitely supporting the poor cousins in the ex-DDR.

Though reproduction remains a well understood and popular activity among the hu- mans, Germans have been showing restraint, producing offspring at the rate of 1.39 per woman, not enough to replenish the stock. The consequence of this is that the population has been on the decrease since 2003.

The environment took a knock when Germany decided to dismantle its nuclear power and reverted to coal. The renewables are late filling the gap for the un-German-like lack of political will and investment.

Colletis concludes his analysis with this thought:

"In short, the future of Germany is less radiant than most believe. It would serve well the German leaders to recognize it and engage, when there is still time, in a debate on the best way to confront these tendencies, which are as worrisome, as they were predictable."


*)  Bientôt, l'explosion du "modèle allemand", Le Monde, 26 August 2014

Postscriptum.   Our Munich correspondent forwards a piece in which the author seems to be confirming Colletis' prognosis.


Your Land Is Our Land

Il Stato Canaglia

Monday, 25 August 2014

Straight shooter                                                                       Photo: Corriere della Sera

To the shrieks of the Zionist attack dogs, the renowned Italian philosopher and member of the European Parliament, Gianni Vattimo, gave an interview to Corriere della Sera, in which he unleashed a frontal attack against Israel's hooliganism in Gaza, and called for a campaign to organize International Brigades in the style of those which fought Franco in 1936, to fight on the side of the Palestinians.

He managed to keep the dogs at bay and dominate them the way a superior mind dominates inferior species. The spectacle (in Italian) can be heard here.

The superiority of Europe over America lies in the willingness of the Europeans to tell urbi et orbi what's on their mind.


Pretty Good Privacy

Enemy Within

Friday, 22 August 2014

Still pungent                                                                               Image: The Tor Project

We feel the pain of the spooks at the NSA and GCHQ.

It seems now that every time they try to plant a bug in the Tor browser, they get sabotaged by their own geeks who are more attached to their personal liberties than to the totalitarian projects of their respective bosses.

It's actually quite amusing.


Statistically Significant

Selfishness Gap

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Percentage of liberal Americans who would prefer a large house to a “walkable” community: 32

Of conservative Americans: 69

This and more in this month's Harper's Index.


Essential Reading

Tales From The Land Of The Absurd

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Good for the tsar                                                                                      Photo: Getty

Peter Pomerantsev looks at the Russian drinking scene. Opener:

Over a drink, an English investment fund manager working in Moscow told a friend of mine that the war in Ukraine meant everyone in his office had had to ‘downgrade their own futures’. They had been calculating that Putin would eventually calm down and things would get back to normal. He hasn’t, and it looks like nothing will ever be normal again. At the fund manager’s office, they’re talking about the possibility of 30 per cent inflation and GDP contrac- ting by 10 per cent. Some of them have decided to relax and enjoy the apoca- lypse. Since the Kremlin banned food imports from the EU and US earlier this month, there’s a sense of needing to party before the good things run out. They start drinking on Tuesdays now.


Tragicomic Relief

The Right Of Every Idiot To Keep And Bear Arms

Sunday, 17 August 2014

In Colorado, a nine-year-old handed a gun to a five-year-old, who used it to shoot a three-year-old in the chest."

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Animal Husbandry

Ersatz Everything

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Facebook community. And now to the right everybody                   Photo: Scot Campbel

A gratifying piece describing the latest trickery at Facebook appears in the July 17th issue of LRB. The music commences thusly:

Heaven knows there are reasons enough for anyone to feel miserable about Facebook: the mediation and commodification of ordinary human rela- tionships, the mediation and commodification of every aspect of everyday life, the invasions of privacy, the ‘targeted’ adverts, the crappy photos, the asinine jokes, the pressure to like and be liked, the bullying, the sexism, the racism, the ersatz activism, the ersatz everything. I don’t think this only because I happen to be a miserable git: last year, researchers at the University of Michigan found that ‘Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults’; earlier studies suggested that people felt envious and left out of all the fun stuff their friends were up to.

Enjoy.

Your Land Is Our Land

Not Eyeless In Gaza

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Alvarez: all eyes                                                                                       Photo: TVE

We have reported earlier on NBC's pulling Ayman Mohyeldin out of Gaza for witnes- sing an IDF execution of four Palestinian boys playing football on a beach.

Le Monde reports now that Hamutal Rogel, spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Madrid, has demanded a withdrawal from Gaza of the Spanish public television cor- respondent Yolanda Alvarez, accusing her of not looking the other way when the IDF brutalized the local population.

Aside from being taken aback by the ill-breeding of the Israeli demands, we are im- pressed by the fine-grained nature of their surveillance operations, which allows them to quickly identify and target whoever notices too much.


Tragicomic Relief

Friends Helping Friends

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Consumption rate has been tremendous                                       Photo: AP/Khalil Hamra

Prior to the start of a five-week congressional recess, the House of Representatives passed, by large majorities, bills to replenish Israel’s missile-defense system"

This and more in this week's Review from Harper's.


Essential Reading

Lawn Mowing

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Kneading Semtex, darling?  We would be too.                                      Photo: Le Monde

Here is the opening section of Mouin Rabbani's "Israel mows the lawn", published in the current issue of the London Review of Books:

In 2004, a year before Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Dov Weissglass, éminence grise to Ariel Sharon, explained the initiative’s purpose to an interviewer from Haaretz:

"The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process … And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with … a [US] presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress … The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."

The article is a must-read to anyone who wants to understand what Israel has always been, and, until checked, will always be up to.


EARLIER ENTRIES

Essential Reading

  (Essential Viewing
  (Essential Listening→

James Meek explains the impor- tance of Syriza

Tariq Ali looks at the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Tariq Ali dissects the post- Fer- guson America

LRB on the economic slaughter of Palestine

LRB on the art of ceasefire

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VIII)

LRB on putting Palestine in formaldehyde

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VII)

LRB on the genocide in Palestine.

LMD deconstructs TAFTA.

Dubya woz thear

A Tale from the Land Adjacent to the Land of the Absurd

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VI)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (V)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (IV)

The Intercept

Le Roi s'amuse. The 2014 Oligarch Games in Sochi.

Thomas Frank on how the hap- less Democrats allow the brain- less Republicans to steal the show in Washington. (stub)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (III)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (II)

William T. Vollmann on being a permanent suspect. (stub)

Andrew Cockburn on sanctions.

The Guardian on the 1.6 percent solution.

National Journal on the collu- sion between the surveillance state and the Internet companies.

Glenn Greenwald talks to Harper's.

Frank on a "freedom fighter", a "journalist", and a "strategist", all freshly departed. (stub)

Ellsberg on the United Stasi of America

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (I)

The Israel Lobby

Mearsheimer on Gaza

Quentin Tarantino and Friends

Essential Viewing

Lapham on the American ruling class (short, full).

Franck Lepage demolishes the notion that Culture is a social elevator (in French).

The Invisible Elephant in the Room

Blix on Iran

Chomsky in Trieste

Essential Listening

France Inter sur l'art contempo- rien (courtesy www.la-bas.org)

France Inter interview with Ken Loach (courtesy www.la-bas.org)

France Inter exposé on Pope Bergoglio (courtesy www.la-bas.org)
part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4


France Inter interview with Tariq Ali, part 1; part 2

France Inter interview with Julian Assange, part 1; part 2