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    Spot the unwelcome one   [zoom]
    Painting by Holbein the Younger
  • President Obama signs into law ban on 'terrorist' UN envoys. We feel for the Isra- eli ambassador.


  • "Welcome comrades"       [zoom]
    Photo: AP

  • NASA was told to sever all contacts with Russia as a punishment for the mugging of Ukraine, except those related to the ISS. Wisely so, if eating space statio- ners' heavy boots, and then each other is to be avoided in the near future.


  • Overtime French style      [zoom]
    Painting by Manet

  • La vie en rose, says Lucy Mangan in her fantasy pie- ce in the Guardian, of the new French work law com- pelling workers to ignore boss' email after 6 pm. "If only!," comments the amu- sed Le Monde.


  • Photo: wn.com                   [zoom]
  • Franck Lepage démolit la notion que la culture est un outil de rattrapage social.


  • Photo: ESA                        [zoom]
  • Perfect launch from Kou- rou for ESA's Sentinel sate- llite, first in the Copernicus Earth observation program- me. This open-ended prog- ramme is by far the biggest earth monitoring project of its kind.


  • Photo: AFP                        [zoom]
  • Sorry, no twerking for Putin


  • Le Monde/J-C Coutausse   [zoom]
  • Immediately after a com- prehensive rout in the mu- nicipal elections, Hollan- de, makes a grave error of promoting Manuel Valls from the post of the interior minister to that of Prime Minister, instead of firing him. Then taking time off to concentrate on what it me- ans to be a Socialist.


  • AFP/J. Sutton-Hibbert       [zoom]
  • Whales would be the most researched animals on the earth, if you believed the Japanese authorities. We don't. Mercifully, the UN has now caught up with this research, taking place principally on the Tokyo Fish Market at 4 o'clock in the morning. But not bris- kly, because no one is in- terested in whale's meat. The annual slaughter is a form of government subsidy to the whalers, whose jobs would otherwise vanish.


  • Photo: El Al                       [zoom]
  • UP, but for how long? El Al launches a low-cost offspr- ing, not to jazz-up business, but tourism. Businesswise it's lead baloon, given a stiff European competition, one- rous and expensive security procedures, and a self-inflic- ted wound of a 24-hour sab- bath each week.


  • Photo: Kodak                     [zoom]
  • No photographer worthy of his lens shade is indiffe- rent to the Tri-X film from Kodak. Our New Mexico correspondent forwards this tribute to its glory in the current issue of Intelligent Life.

  • We warmly welcome Wal- lis Hutton as our new cor- respondent. Dr Hutton is a research scientist at the IRIS/PASSCAL Instrument Center of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Tech- nology. She is also a moun- taineer and a serious reader. She regrets the extinction of "interesting men".

  • Photo: Event Brochure
  • Hilary Hahn delivers a me- smerizing performance at the Philharmonie, reports our Munich correspondent. In program, Brahms' Violin Concerto in D-Major, Paavo Järvi conducting the Hes- sischer Rundfunk Sympho- ny Orchestra. For the enco- re, she played an excerpt from JS Bach's Partita Nr 3 in E-Major.


  • Photo: BFMTV                   [zoom]
  • Nathalie Kosciusko-Mori- zet, we predict, will be the next mayor of Paris. Why? She's pretty, Paris apprecia- tes that. And brainy, being alumna of the École Poly- technique, reputed to be the toughest school in the world.

  • Photo: Reuters/Neil Hall
  • Defanged. Under pressure from the FBI, JPMorgan China dumps Fang Fang, a top boss, for nepotistic hiring practices. Hiring red princelings has been JPM's tactic for gaining preferential access to Chinese goodies.


  • Photo: NSA                       [zoom]
  • NSA's council unceremo- niously contradicts GAFA's claim that it didn't participa- te in the Agency's spying.


  • Photo: USDE                     [zoom]
  • Mishka's gentle hint to the West. But Mishka is wrong. It is the US alone that's got the capability to track all submarines, ie, to destroy them, and any attack on the US would have to come from a submarine. A bad bluff on the part of Mishka. (Story forwarded by our Houston correspondent.)


  • Photo: NOAA                     [zoom]
  • Billions and trillions. An otherwise interesting NYT piece on the origin the oxy- gen in the atmosphere is marred by the innumeracy of the author who seems not to grasp the timing of the events on the evolutio- nary time scale.

  • Photo: AP/Dan Steinberg
  • The right wing jihadist Ru- pert Murdoch sees Islamic jihadists behind the disap- pearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. In the tradition of the News of the Screws, evidence for the assertion is optional.

  • Photo: Reuters
  • Zuck, the core of whose bu- siness is spying on people and selling the information to marketeers, expresses indignation at the spooks', whom he helped tap into his database, doing the same. We think he ought to consider running for the Senate.

  • Photo: Wikipedia
  • Zbigwrites on Ukraine. Im- portant reading. (We thank our Munich correspondent for pointing us to the article.)

  • Photo: Le Monde
  • When all else fails, call them anti-Semites. Having run out of rational argument, Bibi lashes out against sup- porters of the Boycott, Dis- investment and Sanctions movement, which is rapidly gathering momentum, cal- ling them anti-Semites. Subtlety, alas, is not Bibi's forte. BDS is in support of the Palestinians, who are Semitic people.


  • "This one looks yummy."  [zoom]
    Photo: AP

  • A leopard sparked panic in the northern Indian town of Meerut. Army was deplo- yed but there was no news of his capture. DD roots for the animal.


  • Maybe God knows?          [zoom]
    Photo: Reuters/Baz Ratner

  • BBC people reporting from Ukraine find it difficult to identify the soldiers roaming the Crimea. DD wishes to help. They are Chinese.


  • Putin's gentle touch          [zoom]
    Photo: BBC/Christian Fraser

  • Crimean wars. Russian forces have invaded Ukrai- ne. Russian gunboats fire on the entrance to the port of Balaclava, and Russian troops patrol the main air- port of Simferopol.


  • Photo: J. Stratenschulte     [zoom]
  • NSA has ceased spying on Angie but they are merrily at it spying on 320 others in the German government and business, reveals Bild am Sonntag. 300 clappers are said to have been dep- loyed in Germany for the task. The bilateral relation- ship is bound to flourish and the future for the Black- phone looks bright.


  • Predator                            [zoom]
  • The ex-workers of Sam- sonite France are in Bos- ton for a second hearing in a suit they had filed against Bain Capital for being swin- dled out of their severance when Bain had artificially bankrupted the firm in order to avoid the payment. At the time, Bain was run by Mitt Romney.


  • Photo: Unknown artist         [zoom]
  • Vladimiro, formerly Risto- rante Marcello, in Via Au- rora, is a few steps from the Via Veneto, dear to all cinephiles fond of Federico Fellini and Marcello Mas- troianni. DD, having just partaken, reports the fare to be great, service excellent, and the ambiance old Rome


  • Quo vadis?                       [zoom]
    Photo: Le Monde

  • The sky in Xingtai, China's most polluted city, has be- come permanently not visi- ble.


  • Photo: Pascale/Giorgio      [zoom]
  • The 2014 edition of the Carnevale di Venezia commenced yesterday, February 15, and shall last until mardi gras, March 4.


  • Photo: D. Goddard/Getty   [zoom]
  • Suddenly politicians have noticed the climate is chan- ging. Good news, you might say, let's do something abo- ut it. Well, no, it's too late.


  • "Hey, what's that thing in the mid- dle?"                                 [zoom]
    Diagram: N. Copernicus, 1543

  • Jesus 1, Copernicus 0. A just-published report by the National Science Foun- dation says 26% of Ameri- cans don't know that the Earth circles around the Sun, and more than a half don't know humans descen- ded from an earlier species.

  • Image: PewReseachCenter
  • Evolution my foot, particu- larly if the foot is Republi- can. In 2009, the foot was half-way up the tree, today it's in the foliage, banana firmly in the other.

  • Photo: Chinese Acad. of Sciences
  • Yutu gives out the ghost. Re-education (concentra- tion) camp awaits the hap- less rocketeer.


  • Image by unknown artist     [zoom]
  • João Vale de Almeida, the EU ambassador to Wa- shington, responded with the above image and the wishes of a good Valenti- ne's to Nuland's suggesti- ve advice to Europe.

  • "Fuck the encryption!"
    Photo: Reuters/Gleb Garanich

  • Nuland's soft-spoken con- versation with Pyatt went on an unencrypted cellular line, revealing breathtaking incompetence.

  • Photo: Reuters/Gleb Garanich
  • The ill-bred Victoria Nul- and, it turns out, is wife of Robert Kagan, a noted ne- ocon and promoter of the Iraq war.

  • Photo: Tovah Lazaroff
  • Avigdor the dove. In an apparent dramatic change of heart, Lieberman "is rea- dy to swap populations an land for peace", reports Je- rusalem Post. Translation: Israeli Palestinians go to Palestine, where some of their land is given back to them.

  • "Hear those clicks, Goeff?"
    Photo: Itar-Tass Maxim Nikitin

  • Hooligan to hooligan, he- art to heart. The sound tra- ck in its full glory.

  • Photo: Lionsgate
  • The Old Redford and the Sea. An error-based, Holly- wood-style flick not to see, a real disappointment after The Company You Keep.


  • "Look, the finest cardboard and staples money can buy"   [zoom]
    Photo: Freshome

  • Zuckerberg, who makes money by selling your pri- vacy, has bought four hou- ses adjacent to the one he lives in to enhance his own.

  • Photo: NASA
  • "This is Ground Control to Major Tim. Repeat after Ms Hewson from Lockheed, Tim, 'Space travel is vital to our survival.' Say it again, Tim. And again." Our view.


  • Photo: AFP/Ch. Stache      [zoom]
  • Angie + 1. The defence mi- nister Ursula von der Leyen is hinted successor to An- gela Merkel as Bundeska- nzlerin.


  • Smiling while Grimm        [zoom]
    Photo: US Congress

  • Brother Grimm. Grimm life and times. Grimm action.


  • Photo: AFP/Alex Wong      [zoom]
  • Clapper wants Snowden to return NSA's goods, whi- ch he no longer has. Le Monde readers want Cla- pper to return their privacy, and treat him and the guy from the CIA to Guignols. Clapper's anger suggests some real whoppers will be coming out of Snowden's trove still.

  • Photo: AP
  • Into the drink. A $12m US Customs & Border Predator B drone takes a dip in the Pacific. One wonders if so- meone didn't help it to it. The pilots went for a cigare- tte break.

  • Photo: NASA/Apollo 8
  • Our Houston corresponde- nt forwards this spectacular footage recreating the mom- ent the historic photo was taken by the crew of Apol- lo 8.

  • Photo: AFP/Getty
  • Microsoft helps us, we he- lp Microsoft. In an interview Sunday with a German pu- blic television channel ARD, Edward Snowden descri- bed NSA's industrial espio- nage. But that's not the most interesting bit. The most interesting bit is that some government security goons, who apparently took the job home, threatened to put a bullet in his head. DD is curious if any law enfor- cement official took note, as this is clearly a criminal act. ARD for some reason has not made the interview available to viewers outside Germany.

  • Photo: CNSA
  • Lame rabbit. To a distress of schoolgirls, a wheel came off the animal recently depo- sited on the lunar surface. No one knows why, but we suspect an unscrupulous sub-contractor had used some Chinese parts cons- tructing it.

  • Photo: EPA/Patrick Pleul
  • CAT bulldozers get thrown in the air by twisters in Ok- lahoma and Kansas, cats in Kent and Surrey.


  • Image: Google                  [zoom]
  • Google Chrome, they rea- lly listen.

  • Image: Microsoft
  • Micro expertise and a soft underbelly.


  • Photo: ESA                        [zoom]
  • A green spike popped up at about 18:05 UT on the screen of a spectrum ana- lyzer at ESA's headquarte- rs, signalling the arrival of a carrier frequency signal from a freshly awaken radio tran- smitter onboard the Rosetta spacecraft on a trajectory to a rendez-vous in August 2014 with the comet 67P/ Churyumov–Gerasimenko, to which it will deliver a first ever probe to land on the surface of a comet. Rosetta, currently about a billion km from Earth, had been in hi- bernation for almost three years.


  • Image: ESA                       [zoom]
  • ESA hopes to see a thin bar pop up at about 18:45 UT on Monday, 20 January, on the screen of a frequen- cy analyzer at its Space Centre in Darmstadt, sig- nalling that the onboard computer woke up from hi- bernation the electronics of the Rosetta space probe, and with it the radio trans- mitter, whose carrier fre- quency the thin bar will re- present. ESA's animation explains.

  • Photo: AFP
  • Godsabotages his own gig.

  • Photo: BBC
  • Bibi wants to "stop this hy- pocrisy". Every time he wants to build a few houses (1,400 in the latest volley), the anti-Semite Europeans call his ambassadors to explain themselves. Why don't they call their ambas- sadors when the Palesti- nians want to build their houses on Israeli land, err, take it back, when the Pa- lestinians, err, use harsh language against Israel for stealing their land? Hmm? So there!
    Amuse yourself watching his clowning.

  • It will be a dark and stor- my night. Sun's average ac- tivity is dropping, but no one knows why. Cold win- ters lie ahead if it continues say solar scientists.


  • Photo: Onion News Network [zoom]
  • Mark Zuckerberg, director of CIA's "Facebook" pro- gram, has been recognized for his contribution to the mass surveillance of the nation, reports the Onion News Network. (We thank our Seattle correspondent for forwarding this item.)

  • The 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty has been greeted with the observation by Mario Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 elections, that the American dream is now out of reach for the lower class. DD wonders if he's noticed that his own party was the principal architect of this Bay of Pigs.
  • It's been so hot at the Aus- tralian Open that the balls have been melting mid-air.


  • Bad batteries included      [zoom]
    Photo: AFP/Yoshika Zutsuno

  • A leaky battery grounds a Japan Airlines Dreamliner in Tokyo. Embarrassing enough. But that's not the most interesting bit. The most interesting bit is this (from The Guardian),
    The agency [FAA] also launched a review of the design, manufacture and assembly of the 787 in Ja- nuary last year and said its report would be releas- ed last summer, but it has so far not released the re- port and has not responded to questions about when it will be finished.
    Try not to fly the 787, if you can.



  • From Toulouse but not to lose
    Photo: AP/P. Pigeyere       [zoom]

  • Airbus and Boeing have divided 51–49 the $0.5tn jetliner business in 2013. Airbus won in all catego- ries, including eating into Boeing's monopoly in Ja- pan, and effectively putting to pasture the venerable 747, for which there were few takers, notwithstanding a new paint job and a new designation number. The Airbus A350, a more fuel- efficient competitor to the Boeing's Dreamliner, has proved a huge success.


  • Photo: Illy                          [zoom]
  • An espresso too far. We have said on several occa- sions that BBC should re- frain from writing about culi- naria. This obtains for this piece on coffee, in which they suggest places where to drink it, Britain among them, where you can count yourself lucky to find a de- cent espresso, or San Fra- ncisco, where your choice is either Starbucks or Sta- rbucks. But not Italy, its birthplace, where you can drink a perfect one each spitting distance between Alto Adige and the bottom of Sicily, nor Paris, which offers pretty much the same.

  • Photo: Reuters
  • Ariel Sharon, Israel's pri- me minister and a war cri- minal died while in coma. DD doesn't salute him.


  • Presentation: NOAA      [animate]
  • Polar vortexas it happens. Click on the picture above to launch a real-time pre- sentation.


  • Photo: NOAA                     [zoom]
  • A fantastic new application from NOAA. (We thank Au- drey Garric from Le Mon- de for pointing it out.) Rejoi- ce who navigates!

  • Image: Amazon.com
  • Recognizing the important role a local bookshop plays in a community, the French lawmakers have imposed restrictions on Amazon's dumping practices with res- pect to printed books. Fran- ce publishes five times as many new books per capita per year as the US.

  • Hear the laughter?
    Photo: Sunil060902

  • As the ordinary Brit writhes under the draconian auste- rity measures imposed by the Cameron junta, and the retailers lick their woun- ds after a miserable Christ- mas season, the bankers of the City are amassing champagne, caviar, and foie gras in anticipation of the fat bonuses expected to land on their laps in the co- ming days. 2,700 of them will be taking home more than €1m each, while the top performers at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan up to €3m each. 'Top perfor- mer' often means someone who throws on the street workers of a moderately profitable enterprise for the sake of being able to pre- sent glowing figures in the next quarterly report. When will the ordinary Brits wake up from their stupor, asks DD?


  • Scientific library Stephen Harper style                                 [zoom]
    Photo: Le Monde/DR

  • The baboon, as everyone knows, is the progenitor of all conservative movemen- ts, be it the British Tories, the American Tea Party, or the Canadian Conservati- ves. A primate's belonging to a band of baboons can be readily ascertained by the size of the drycleaner's bill to remove his faeces from one's jacket. A con- servative affiliation elicits a similar effect, though the objects thrown will be pub- lic schools, hospitals, or academic libraries. Such, in fact, is the fate of several Canadian university libra- ries, reports Le Monde, or- dered to be purged of books and closed by the creatio- nist junta of the 'Prime Mi- nister' Stephen Harper. The bill, when it comes, will be stiff.

  • Photo: John Kerry Solutions Ltd.
  • As a thank you note to Kerry for his peacemaking efforts, the Israeli likudniks release this video.

  • Image: Facebook
  • Facebook caught snoop- ing in people's private mes- sages, says Le Monde. Two snoopees have launch- ed a class action suit aga- inst the snooper, demand- ing $100 per day per snoo- pee, a potentially devasta- ting sum of money, if it ca- me to a payment, given that all FB sheep have been su- bjected to the snooping.


  • Head and deceleration
    Photo: AP                         [zoom]

  • Mountain police respond- ing to Michael Schumach- er's accident, referred to his injury as a "severe cran- ial trauma". Our Munichcorrespondent, drawing on his medical expertise and Newton's second law of motion, provides insight in- to how it came about. Upon impacting the rock, the bra- king distance is the defor- mation distance of the safe- ty helmet, which is about 1 cm. At 30 km/h, the decele- ration is equivalent to 353G, which increases the weight of the brain to 486 kG. Hum- an brain, however, cannot survive accelerations grea- ter than 80G, which come about in a hard impact at only 15 km/h.

  • Image: Walmart China
  • Yummy chow. Foxy too. But where's the donkey?


  • Spot the Comandante.
    Photo: Joaquim Azevedo   [zoom]

  • Hasta la Victoria siempre. A Brazilian football team adoptsChe's motto and the iconic Alberto Korda port- rait to adorn its jersey. The Cuban flag goes to the go- alie.

  • Image: Facebook
  • Facebook uncool among teenagers, says new rese- arch. Cool.


  • Wet winter over in Kent.   [zoom]
    Photo: Matthew Lloyd/Getty

  • A quarter century ago, Sci- ence predicted a radical we- ather change in the British Isles as a consequence of a massive influx of fresh wa- ter into the northern Atlan- tic from the melting Green- land icecap, and the ensu- ing cessation of the Gulf Stream. Ever more nasty weather pattern in the green Albion appears to be confir- ming that dire prediction.


  • "You can eat all you want, my dear."
    Photo: AP/Dominic Favre  [zoom]

  • A farmer.in a village in Estremadura has figured out how to get wild geese to stuff themselves to burs- ting point under their own propulsion, thus avoiding force-feeding (viewed as unseemly) in the course of producing foie gras.


  • Photo: dreamstime             [zoom]
  • Anxiety mounts in Israel as instances of international boycott and disinvestment multiply, reports Haaretz. (A simple registration is re- quired in order to see the full text.)

  • Image: Hédiard
  • In 1998, Fauchon, the ve- nerable purveyor of the yum- miest among the yummy, got bought by an oligarch- to-be Laurent Adamowicz. But things didn't work out, and today Fauchon strugg- les to shed a burden of debt, and the Epicureans world- wide hope it doesn't go un- der. The second grand tro- phy of the Place de la Ma- deleine, Hédiard, fell, in 2007, to a Russian oligarch Sergey Pugatchev, a one- time chum of Putin's. Yes- terday, a court in Russia issued an arrest warrant for him. The warrant was can- celled today, but you get the picture.


  • Photo: RiaNovosti              [zoom]
  • Mikhail Kalashnikov may be dead, but a new kalash- nikov is born. Behold the AK-12, which is said to have little recoil, and to be able to place all rounds on the target in the continuous fire mode.

  • Photo: The Mirror
  • Her Majesty may have a Christmas message. But so does Edward Snowden.


  • Photo: NASA Goddard       [zoom]
  • Sun has sprung into action releasing an M-class flare. More such flares are likely, and X-class flares are possi- ble. There is a possibility the released radiation will cook the Chinese rabbit cu- rrently hopping on Moon's surface.

  • Photo: Peter Gronemann
  • Another no-go for a figh- ter deal (see below). BAE Systems fails to convince United Arab Emirates to sign a £5bn deal to buy the Eurofighter Typhoon. Das- sault's Rafale looks poised to carry the day.

  • Image: Space-Travel
  • Bolivia launches its first satellite. The 5 tonne Chi- nese built and launched Túpac Katari should subs- tantially boost Bolivia's tele- com infrastructure. It will also have some earth obs- ervation capability. It is ex- pected to last 15 years. DD congratulates Bolivia, and Evo Morales, who champ- ioned this project.

  • Not grasping the differen- ce between streaming and downloading, a German court releases 20k names and addresses of porn vie- wers, reports NBC News. Our Munich corresponde- nt, who forwarded this item, adds that while the cost of the films in question is re- ported to be about €20k, the lawyers stand to squ- eeze €15m out of this im- broglio.


  • Image: Carmat                   [zoom]
  • A first ever totally artificial heart has been implanted into a man last Wednesday at the Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Pa- ris by the surgeon Alain Carpentier, the inventor of the device. The heart was said to have immediately sprung into action at a 'phy- siologically correct' pace, and the man is talking to his family. Three more such implants are scheduled to take place soon.


  • Photo: Arianespace           [zoom]
  • Spectacular launch of the Gaia telescope on top of a Soyuz from French Guyana toward the Lagrange 2 point, 1.5m km from Earth, from whence to take pictu- res of the Universe. BBC's Jonathan Amos reports.


  • Photo: SAAB                     [zoom]
  • Brazil, peeved at NSA's spying of its top people, picks Saab's Gripen NG instead of the previously favoured Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet as its new fighter jet in a deal worth $5bn. This comes as a hard knock for Boeing, still licking wounds after losing an $11bn Super Hornet deal with India.


  • USGS/Kate Barton et al.   [zoom]
  • You and Dr Jones might have a thing going on, if LA is your lady.

  • Photo: Getty/Win Mcnamee
  • Comedy in Texas, where zealots try to convert Jews into Christians in prepara- tion for the second coming of the Lord. Prophet Beck (who boasts a high school diploma) mixes with the Prophet Dubya, and Rabbi Wolpe speaks of things making a "theological sen- se". Meanwhile the faithful at the Cowboys Stadium eat pork barbecue and lis- ten to speeches.

  • Photo: AP/Gali Tibbon
  • Bibi, who spends public money like a drunken sai- lor, offends South Africans saying he couldn't come to Mandela's funeral for bud- getary reasons.

  • Roger's got a message.
    Photo: contactmusic.com

  • Pink Floyd fires a broad- side at Israel, gets the ra- bbinate in a tizzy.


  • Photo: Michel Clementz   [zoom]
  • A new high-speed double- decker line between Paris and Barcelona will take you from one to the other in 6 hours for a starting fare of €59.

  • GPS antenna included
    Photo: Keith Woodley

  • Wanderlust writ large. A bar-tailed godwit E7 flies non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand. Returns to Alaska via China. Beep beep.


  • Bibi, Sarah, and the scented candles
    Photo: A. Shaar-Yashuv    [zoom]

  • High on the hog in Holy Land, says Yedioth Ahro- noth, of Bibi and Sarah's lifestyle at taxpayer's expe- nse.

  • Photo: Flickr
  • Kaput-kind-a-thing. Four executives of the Icelandic bank Kaupthing receive stiff jail times for subprime swindling. DD wonders how many thousands of their American colleagues would qualify, had the same law been applied to them.

  • Photo: Thomas Wolf
  • We warmly welcome Mi- chael Kratzer as our new correspondent. Michael is a retired professor of Labora- tory Medicine at the Uni- versity of Munich. He is also a navigator and a bee- keeper.

  • Photo: La Scala/Marco Brescia
  • A height of irony between the Staatsoper and La Sc- ala, says our Vienna cor- respondent, where, in one, the Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo butchers Rodolfo to no ill-effect from the pub- lic (some ill-effect from the press), and, in the other, the foreigner Piotr Beczala delivers a brilliant Alfredo only to be booed by the lo- ggionisti. The Guardian does the postmortem.

  • Photo: Télérama/Ludovic Carème
  • Greenwald in a demolition mood.

  • Photo: ABC News
  • He did it his way.


  • Image: Carmat                   [zoom]
  • Deep out of space comes the heart. A totally artificial heart, a spin-off from the European space program, is about to be implanted in- to a person, says the ESA website.

  • Photo: AFP/Peter Parks
  • Yellow smog has descen- ded on Shanghai. "Try not to breathe". suggested the authorities to the 23m inha- bitants as the pollution con- centration reached 30 tim- es the safe limit..

  • Photo: SAGN
  • Nelson Mandela, 1918– 2013.  DD salutes him.


  • Photo: JJ Georges
  • A robbery bearing hallmar- ks of a Pink Panther hit, relieves a swank horloger in the swank rue Saint-Honoré of €800k worth of swank watches.

  • BBC has a good summary of the Rusbridger hearing.

  • Photo: Getty/J. Sutton-Hibbert
  • Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the Guardian, appears be- fore MPs to answer ques- tions about the Snowden coverage. If his convocation was an attempt at intimida- tion, it failed. He dominated the proceedings, easily de- fending his ground. Story here, transcript here. Carl Bernstein of the Waterga- te fame, had sent Rusbrid- ger a strongly supportive open letter before the hea- ring.

  • Photo: NASA/JPL
  • The Indian Mars probe has crossed the Moon's orbit. The Great Galactic Ghoul has woken up.

  • For a fee, your name will appear among co-authors of Chinese scientific pa- pers published in reputable Western journals, reports Science. Fees vary depen- ding on the caliber of the journal and the importance of the study in question. On the low end it could be $1k, on the high, $26k. The co- authors, to whom your na- me means nothing, don't seem to object.


  • Photo: AFP/Odd Andersen Click to enlarge
  • In the red in Reykjavik. Iceland's centre-right coali- tion plans to present each household affected by the sub-primes fiasco with a cheque for €24k. The snag is no one knows where the €1bn needed to finance the scheme will come from. DD suggests privatizing the problem by requiring each and every bank planning to do business in Iceland to cough up.

  • Photo: CDC/Dr Fred Murphy
  • These could be spook's. Governments ask providers of anti-virus apps to look the other way as they plant spyware and malware on your computer, reports The Register. (Thanks to our Seattle correspondent for forwarding the piece.)

  • Photo: Olivier Cleynen
  • Ice inside. Another snag for the beleaguered Dream- liner

  • Just like this, only smaller.
    Photo: Le Monde

  • "Psst, wanna Prism?" Pri- vate firms compete to sup- ply fancy spying technolo- gy to whoever pays the pri- ce, says the Guardian.


  • Photo: AP/NYHun Click to enlarge
  • His life has now been fulfil- led.


  • Graph: IMF et al.  Click to enlarge
  • 30 years of raeganomics bears its bitter fruit. A gra- phic in the latest IMF re- port shows the US to lead the rich world in wealth ine- quality. (From our Vienna correspondent)

  • Photo: Reuters/Bader
  • Bears and gorillas. Our Vienna correspondent de- molishes the new Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier production of Die Zauber- flöte at the State Opera. Dominique Meyer's produc- tion may appeal to the 'Pe- ople' set, he says, but not at all to the aficionados of Mozart.

  • Photo: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino
  • It seems, at least for now, that Greenwald wouldn't immediately go to jail for doing journalism, were he to turn up stateside, reports WaPo. We are impressed by the awesome freedoms granted to journalists by the Obama administration.

  • Photo: PA
  • "I say, Poirot, what a stun- ner!"  A charming BBC pre- sentation of Hercule Poi- rot's Art Deco era.

  • Photo: Reuters/Mark Blinch
  • The staff of the apparently well-fed-at-home mayor of Toronto is said to be fed up.

  • "I know who you are."
    Photo: Loic de Meur

  • A good piece from the Economist on the present and the future of being wat- ched. 14/11

  • Photo: AFP/Emmanuel Durand
  • JP Morgan chased off the stage where it was trying to pull off a publicity stunt by the means of a Twitter fo- rum. 14/11

  • Photo: Simon Pauly
  • Joyce DiDonato sings Ro- sina 13/11

  • Photo: Maxppp
  • Contemporien. A France Inter programme exposes the nullity and degeneration of the contemporary art. See "Essential Listening". (in French) 12/11

  • Photo: AFP
  • Krugman dramatically confirms our thinking (see below) about S&P's down- grading France's credit ra- ting, calling them, in effect, incompetent. 10/11

  • Photo: John Severns
  • A new study casts light on the bee mortality. Mathe- matical models followed by experimentation show that chronic exposure to sub-le- thal doses of pesticide will eventually lead to collapse of a colony. Legalization of pesticide currently relies on testing whether it's lethal or not. 9/11

  • M. Cheval sees a deficit.
    Photo: Gaumont/EFVE/TF1

  • Total panic among Fran- ce's well-off, as their depo- sits in undeclared Swiss bank accounts will have to be disclosed before the end of the year, and taxed. The sum of €100bn is involved, and no elegant solution to the problem avails itself, explains the Swiss financial bi-monthly Bilan. 8/11

  • Image: S&P
  • S&P lowers France's cre- dit rating as punishment for Hollande's trying to do something for the ordinary people. 8/11

  • Photo; Getty
  • Polonium-210 reunited Ya- sser Arafat with his maker, says Swiss forensic report obtained by Aljazeera. 7/11

  • Next step, University of Phoenix
    Photo; AFP/Louisa Gouliamaki

  • Greece is being murder- ed by Wall Street. The la- test stab in the heart is a demand to eliminate most of the university staff, which effectively decapitates co- untry's public higher educa- tion.

  • Photo; AFP/Ronen Zvulun
  • Avi's back, knife between the teeth.

  • Image: AW&ST
  • A Mach-6 SR-72 appears to be emerging out of the Skunk Works, reports the Aviation Week & Space Technology.

  • Photo: AFP/Stephen Brashear
  • Two new incidents for the Dreamliner. A windscreen of one Air India 787 fractu- res upon landing, and ano- ther one emergency lands with a brake fault warning. Boeing, where sales are brisk and profits great, will shed 2,000 to 3,000 jobs due to 787's teething diffi- culties, of which 800 imme- diately. The direction wi- shes them and their fami- lies a Merry Christmas.

  • Photo: DD Live
  • Naughty vicar splits atom. India's Mangalyaan spa- cecraft clears launchpad commencing the first stage of its journey toward Mars. Interplanetary missions are among the most expensive human endeavours. With a GDP per capita of $1,500, India is among the poorest nations on earth. The obje- ctive is to 'show' China.

  • The peace team
    Photo: AFP/Baz Ratner

  • Peace initiatives are com- ing fast and furious. Today's takes the form of an annou- ncement calling for the con- struction of 1859 new hou- sing units, of which 1031 in the occupied West Bank and 828 in the annexed East Jerusalem, the capi- tal of Palestine. Mahmoud Abbas says the purpose of the announcement is to tor- pedo Kerry's visit later this week. DD doesn't think so, considering Kerry stands completely behind Bibi.3/11
    UPDATE: For the first time taking advantage of Palesti- ne's new status as a UN observer, Abbas plans to go in front of the Security Council, and the internatio- nal courts to lodge a comp- laint against Israel. 4/11

  • Including St Peter's
    Photo: Tim Bray

  • Showdown at the LA Cor- ral.  DD wonders though why the suspect wasn't su- mmarily executed, as is the custom nowadays in such circumstances. BBC reports.

  • Photo: Fir0002
  • London buzzing. A char- ming piece on the bees by LRB's Tristram Stuart.

  • Photo: Getty Images
  • More peace process on the way. 1500 new hous- ing units for Jews are to be built in East Jerusalem. DD is getting tired of repor- ting these peace-making initiatives.


  • Chart: Maplecroft  Click to enlarge
  • New chart shows the risks posed by the climate chan- ge. As usual, God reserves his wrath for the already wretched tropics.

  • Photo: ESA
  • ESA releases a new Mars overflight footage compiled from photos taken by a ste- reographic camera onboard the Mars Express satellite in orbit around the planet. Chose the resolution, "720" renders nicely the detail while allowing for a smooth replay.

  • Photo: Sascha Ditscher
  • High on the hog in Hesse. Bishop Franz-Peter Tebar- tz-van Elst has been living it up. He's dropped €31m of the diocese money on his pad, and five- or six- figure sums for various 'im- provements' and exotic tra- vel. All this flies like a lead balloon by the Holy See, bent on improving its image by promoting poverty as a modus operandi among the rank and file. The Right Re- verend Bishop has now been summoned to Rome for a chat.


  • "I know who you are."
    Photo: AP/Evan Vucci
  • In a direct challenge to the US Constitution, Alex- ander calls for muzzling of the press. That looks to us like treason. Than, he sho- ws the Enigma and says he cracked the code. No, the Polish Cypher Bureau did, and the Polish under- ground (the AK) gave Chur- chill an Enigma stolen from the SS, that on top of several copies made by the PCB and given to the allies before the war. Greenwald offers more detox in today's Guardian

  • Image: BBC
  • Billions and trillions. La- dies report on a 30 billion light-year distant galaxy in a 14 billion year old univer- se. That's Nobel territory.

  • Photo: Le Monde
  • Eat broccoli, says report just published by PNAS. The I3C it contains gets transformed in the body into DIM, which has a re- markable capacity to pro- tect tissues against radia- tion damage and cancer.

  • All there's to it.
    Photo: Eva Rinaldi

  • "Sexually suggestive ro- utines", says Malaysian government of Kesha's se- xually suggestive routines, which won't happen now in Kuala Lumpur. To little loss to the arts, let us add, as the main attraction of the concerts given by the keshas are just such routi- nes, rather than music.

  • Photo: Wikipedia/Okin
  • Back in August, we intro- duced the Special Colle- ction Service (SCS), illus- trating the story with a photo of the US embassy in Berlin. Now it turns out that it is with an (illegal) antenna installed on that building that the NSA had spied on the communica- tion within the ministerial quarter of Berlin, and that similar operations were ca- rried out in Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, Geneva, and Frankfurt, in addition to the locations listed by the Wikipédia.

  • Photo: NASA
  • There's a solar activity warning. 2 X-class and two M-class flares erupted on 25th October. Further M- class flares are likely, but the probability of new X- class events has dimini- shed. X-class flares can destabilize Earth's magne- tosphere, and perturb sate- llite orbits.

  • Photo: AFP/Julian Stratenschulte
  • Forlorn Angie with her NSA-hacked Bundestele- fon. Der Spiegel says An- gie's cellphone has been under NSA's surveillance for several years. In a de facto confirmation, Oba- ma's spokesman said Merkel's phone is not mo- nitored, and will not be in the future. (Click photo to enlarge.)

  • There's a solar activity warning. 2 M-class flares erupted on 24th October, and further such flares are likely. There's a possibility of X-class flares, capable of destabilizing Earth's mag- netosphere, and perturbing satellite orbits.

  • Photo: Paul Delort
  • Le Monde treats the Fren- ch tycoon and Sarkozy's friend, Vincent Bolloré, to a predator. It would be nice to see the NYT take inspiration from this, as there's no shortage of can- didates stateside, including at least one presidential one.

  • Image: Wikipedia/Looie496
  • Nightly detox: brain wash- ing, essential, it now seems.

  • Photo: AFP/Getty Images
  • Snowden: “The system does not work, you have to report wrongdoing to those most responsible for it.”  Essential reading from the Guardian.

  • Image: See © notice
  • Have the American spo- oks tried to bug LINUX? No, says Linus Torvalds, its godfather, shaking his head affirmatively. While not much used at home, the servers running the Web and the Internet rely heavily on LINUX. Success- ful penetration by the NSA would give it unlimited ac- cess to the information transiting the net. Fortuna- tely, hiding a bug in a pub- lic-domain code such as LINUX would be very diffi- cult, as many eyes cons- tantly look at it.

  • Bergoglio burnishes his fascist credentials by ex post facto beatifying the pro-Franco clergy killed by the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War.

  • Photo: AFP/Robyn Beck
  • Branson, who's got £3bn to his name, decamps to his snake, scorpion, and mosquito-infested BVI island to dodge Her Maje- sty's Revenue.

  • In a silly move, the Inter- national Herald Tribune changes its name to a self- contradictory International New York Times.


  • Photo: BBC                       [zoom]
  • Help is on the way. Ram- pant political correctness may soon be meeting its match. As Guardian re- ports, a big screen version of Absolutely Fabulous is on the minds (if that's the word) of Edi and Patsy.

  • Photo: Vimeo
  • A woman that could.   Felicity Aston speaks about her solo crossing of the Antarctic. She will be giving a talk at 7:30 on Monday, 21st October at Brigham's, Southampton St. Covent Garden, WC2E 7HA. Tickets here.

  • Photo: Le Monde
  • Bibi's peeved.  In an inter- view in Paris, he lashed out against Obama's engage- ment with Iran, and genera- lly against the Europeans, targeted, he said, by the Iranians not with 2 nukes but with 200. He didn't ex- plain from where the said weapons came from.

  • Photo: Reuters/Andrew Winning
  • Assange demolishes The Fifth Estate, by all indica- tions another piece of gar- bage from Hollywood, in- herently incapable of hone- stly addressing serious matters.

  • Photo: Gali Tibbon/AFP
  • A leading shaman joins his maker. "How will we remain alone? Who will lead us?", asks one sheep.

  • Photo: BBC News
  • Airbus eats Boeing's su- shi. Japan Airlines buys 31 A350s, with an option for 25 more. The A350 is a more fuel-efficient competi- tor to the much-touted Boeing's 787, which has also been plagued by seve- ral birth defects. (Click thumb to enlarge photo.)

  • Photo: BBC News
  • How safe is Gazprom's Arctic rig, asks BBC News. Very safe, is the answer, until it explodes.

  • Image: MemeGenerator
  • Our Vienna correspon- dent offers this earthy look at America's current imbro- glio (click on thumb to ex- pand.)

  • Spammer at work
    Photo: BBC News Asia

  • SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM kimchi and SPAM. (refe- rence)

  • "Trust me on this."    Photo: BBC
  • Bibi warns of 'immortal Iran', armed with nukes. Why he wasn't asked about his own nukes, and his own record of aggression in the region, is a mystery.

  • Photo: Wikipedia
  • Sorry, no terror today. Government shutdown halts the operation of OFAC

  • Photo: Red Bull
  • Red Bull can be bad for you, particularly when mi- xed with booze, say French medical authorities, which are considering banning its sale to young people.

  • Disarray among Ameri- can likudniks as the pros- pects for a normalization of the relationship with Iran brighten. Ervand Abraha- mian explains.

  • Image: Gen. Charles Davis, USAF
  • Pentagon's Inspector Ge- neral fires a missile at the F-35 program, listing 343 problems of "conception" and "realization". At $400 bn, 70% over budget and counting, and years late, the F-35 is the most expen- sive military project in his- tory.

  • Photo: Wikipedia
  • Uri Avnery on Rouhani.

  • "What on earth have we done!"
    Photo: Getty/Alex Wong

  • Travail privé. Let's see what the wife's up to.

  • Photo: IDF
  • Bibi descends on Wash- ington brandishing some- thing called "truth". DD, su- specting the purpose of the trip is to torpedo the Iranian overture, wonders what might be his definition of a lie.

  • Photo: NBC/Justin Stephens
  • Greenwald demolishes NBC's Brian Williams for peddling anti-Iran propagan- da.

  • The Internet is running out of positive integers, reports Le Monde, which results in a penury of IP addresses. Europe is suf- fering the most, but no one will be spared, given that 51m new tablets entered the circulation in just the third quarter. The current Internet Protocol, v.4, disposes of 4bn addre- sses, almost all of which have been allocated. The new version, IPv6, comes with 340bn bn bn bn addre- sses, but implementing it isn't simple. 6% of the French already have it, and 2% of the Americans. In five years, every Internet user must have it.

  • Photo: Royal Mail
  • Royal Mail goes private. DD expects a train wreck such as the one that fol- lowed the privatization of British Rail.

  • Photo: BBC News
  • Three pieces of spam went up to the ISS onboard Soyuz, bringing along the unlit Olympic torch. No one knows what else they are supposed to accomplish.

  • Photos: Wikipedia
  • False flag operation, says former Bush official   of the Syrian gas attack. "Think Israel", he sugge- sts. Haaretz reports.

  • Photo: USDE
  • The good people of North Carolina ought to erect a monument to the lowest-bid contractor who supplied a switch that failed to detonate a 24 megaton hydrogen bomb accidenta- lly dropped on the town of Goldsboro by the US Air Force in 1961.

  • Photo: AFP/Mandel Ngan
  • The incredible vanishing McCain. McCain publish- es an anti-Putin piece in a Pravda but not in the Prav- da, reports BBC, and, besi- des, no one can find it. Pure fun.

  • Photo: AFP/Mandel Ngan
  • Ire of the American mili- tarists. McCain assaults Putin for his preventing the attack on Syria, though not on its merits but rather be- cause of Putin's bad bre- ath. Another brainiak, Buck McKeon does the same. Think of all these great mili- tary contracts that aren't going to be.

  • Photo: AFP/Dailymotion
  • Rafael Correa calls for a boycott of Chevron, quo- ting its vandalism in the Amazon. DD seconds the motion. Footage.

  • Larry Summers, one of the architects of the current depression, abandons the race for the Chairmanship of the FED. Good news. The bad news is that there are more like him lined up to take the job.

  • Photo: NHK News
  • Japan fires a new laun- cher called Epsilon. NHK News provides the video.

  • Photo: Monty Python
  • Mr Nesbitt, will you stand up, please. This year's Ig Nobel prizes were presen- ted in a ceremony at Har- vard. (Reference)

  • Photo: BBC Middle East
  • Too much moral guidan- ce, too little morality.

  • Photo: Apparently BBC
  • A 60-year old piece of technology brings down three ISS people back to mother Earth. They no longer bother to say what their tribute was to glory.

  • Photo: Siete días ilustrados
  • 9/11, 1973. 40 years ago, a Nixon/Kissinger-orches- trated putsch overthrows a democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. Skulduggery such as this had brought America its own 9/11 thirty years later.

  • Revenge of the jeweler. Two bunglers impersonating Pink Panther robbed a fancy jeweler in Nice, then proceeded to flee on a sco- oter. But the jeweler ope- ned fire with his 7.65, killing the one in the back, who, as luck would have it, also carried the loot.
  • BBC News Africa introdu- ces a new unit of volume, the "cubic litre". This, DD presumes, to distinguish it from a spherical litre, or a pyramid-shaped one. Pred- ictably, it fails to ask the fundamental question about the salinity of the water in the newly-discovered aqui- fer.

  • Photo: Le Monde/Benoist Robin
  • A Panther of as yet unde- termined colour strikes a fancy jeweler in the seriou- sly upmarket zone of Pla- ce Vendôme. At 4:30 in the morning, a Jeep rams the display window, follo- wing which 20% of the fan- cy inventory vanishes, and the Jeep catches fire. Four men flee the scene in ano- ther car.

  • Photo: Le Monde
  • Beny's diamonds may not be forever (see be- low.) The FBI, the British Serious Fraud Office, the Prosecutor of Geneva, and several private people with deep pockets, have launched investigations into Beny Steinmetz's deal- ings in Guinea. The auspi- ces don't look too good for Beny, who's Israel's rich- est man, and a friend of the ex-PM Ehud Olmert, him- self pursued by justice for swindling.

  • Photo: NASA
  • A beautiful night launch for a converted ICBM carry- ing a lunar probe. DD app- lauds the use of ICBMs to scientific ends.

  • Photo: Wikipedia/STASI
  • STASI chic. Familiarize yourself with the style, it may come handy in the near future.

  • Photo: ZUMA/REA/A. Parsons
  • Diamonds and Rubins. Beny Steinmetz, son of Rubin, who set up Israel as one of main diamond centres, got in hot water when Alpha Condé, the current president of Gui- nea began sniffing around the contract which Beny signed with his friend, Lan- sana Conté, the previous president. It transpired that Beny bought a half of Si- mandou, the world's best iron ore deposit, for $165m, which he then flipped to a Brazilian group for a cool $2.5bn. Washington, Geo. Soros, and Tony Blair are lending hand to Conakry to get to the bottom of this open pit.

  • Photo: BBC News
  • The dog that didn't bark. The Italian online daily Il Foglio points out that in his Syria speech, Obama neither mentioned Britain, nor the "special trans-At- lantic relationship", but rather referred to France as America's "oldest ally". Americans should expect French wine to be promo- ted round the clock, and "Cooking in France" to re- turn to the PBS program- ming.

  • The American unemploy- ment figure, officially lis- ted at 7.4%, is in reality closer to 20%, shows a Le Monde analysis. The new jobs are overwhelmingly in the fast food sector, earning minimum wage.
  • Four more wars.   A US Intelligence service asses- sment expresses "high confidence" about the Syrian government troops conducting a chemical attack on the rebel forces on 21 August. Given the service's record of providing the government with the intelligence it desires, DD has no confidence in their confidence.
  • Ex-JPMorgan trader arre- sted in Spain, reports BBC. DD for its part wonders if all of them shouldn't be arres- ted somewhere.
  • Independent bookshops in America are doing well, reports The Economist. Warms one's heart.

  • Photo: AFP/Soeren Stache
  • Nasty bit. French govern- ment is likely to reauthorize the use of sulphur dioxide against the Asian hornet, which is spreading across Europe at the rate of about 100 km per year, killing honeybees, says Le Mon- de. SO2 has been traditio- nally used by beekeepers against the pestilence.

  • "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."
    Photo: Warner Bros.

  • Heavy boots. BBC recaps Parmitano's travails during a space walk when his hel- met began to fill up with water. Spooky enough. But the reporter fails to ask the central question, which surely has been answered by now: where did the wa- ter come from? And to ob- serve the painful truth that even a brief outing into space requires heroic means, and is strewn with pitfalls. Consider now the absurdity of heavy boot traipsing on Mars, as pro- posed by such luminaries as Buzz Aldrin, as a means of planet's explo- ration.

  • Photo: United Artists
  • One for Clouseau. French police arrest a member of the Pink Panther gang, credited with relieving fancy jewelers worldwide of €250m of inventory. Of ex- Yugoslavian origin, many of the felines are alumni of the French Foreign Legion. They are renowned for their professionalism and unbe- lievable level of sang-froid.

  • Photo: AP/Patrick Semansky
  • Pfc Manning gets 35 years for crimes against Bush.

  • Financial capitalism eats its own children. The in- dustry which pays its exe- cutives trillions in bonuses cannot refrain from explo- iting interns. Moritz Erhar- dt's premature demise casts a stark light on the shambles. Amazingly, nei- ther Die Zeit nor the Fran- kfurter Allgemaine Zei- tung have picked up the story

  • The Empire lashes out. Traveling while Miranda will land you in front of the Brit spooks for nine hours, the maximum allowed un- der the law. Greenwald lashes back promising aggressive reporting and new scoops from the Snowden spill.

  • Photo: Wikipedia/LPS.1
  • Facebook is bad for you, concludes a study just pu- blished in the journal PLOS One. Direct contact with people, on the other hand, was found to be good for you.

  • Photo: AP
  • Golden Dome. Israel fires three Iron Dome missiles to down a Palestinian Gr- ad. Cost: $100k to $150k for the Domes, a few hun- dred bucks for the coal- fired Grad. If you want to burn money, that's the way to go. Some 400 IDs have been fired so far. We feel for the American taxpayer.

  • Photo: Haaretz/JTA
  • Bill and Marty, the pros- perous poverty guys. Wil- liam Rapfogel, a former NYC assistant comptroller, gets a rap for 'financial mal- feasance' as a chief of anti- poverty org, his own, it now appears.

  • Israeli settlement move was expected, says Kerry. Ah, but in that case all's well, what a relief.

  • Photo: Haaretz/Emil Salman
  • Rosa Parkstein can't find her place on a Jerusalem bus. The gentlemen in black help her find it.

  • Photo: AFP/Attila Kisbenedek
  • At the World Fencing Championships in Buda- pest, the Italian women take the gold in foil, the French silver, and the Rus- sian the bronze medal. The spirit of Mlle de Maupin lives on.

  • Photo: Guardian//Channel 7
  • Ozzies now have a Palin of their own. The Guar- dian has a nice summary of her 'platform'.

  • Photo: Le Monde Video
  • Great balls of fire. A huge explosion at a government munitions depot in Homs sends a mushroom cloud into the sky. Allahu Ak- bar!, proclaimed the street.

  • Photo: Reuters
  • The American drone sa- fari in Yemen backfires: the local Ali Baba was found planning terrorist attacks in response to the drone action, which prom- pted the Americans to flee. DD predicts a repeat of the scenario wherever a drone turkey shoot is taking pla- ce.

  • Photo: AFP/Emmanuel Durand
  • In a new instance of con- centration of oligarchic power, Bezos buys WaPo out of his own pocket. DD, believing that private media ownership is antithetical to democracy, takes a dim view of this, and sounds alarm to the Americans to wake up.

  • A wild brawl breaks out in the Taiwanese parlia- ment, which, incidentally, bears resemblance to a bazaar.
  • Michela Capri, our Veni- ce correspondent, forwards this FT report on the fias- co of Frank Castorf's Göt- terdämmerung in Bayreuth.

  • Image: United Artists
  • The Pink Panther Strikes Again.. A few steps from the Carlton, where two robbers helped themselves to more than a hundred million euros of goodies the other day, two masked men, one with a hand grenade, the other with a pistol, got away with forty fancy watches from a fancy watch jeweler located in front of the Festival Pala- ce. Where's Chief Inspector Clouseau when Lady Lit- ton needs him, asks DD?

  • Kangaroo court finds Manning guilty of crimes against Bush.

  • Photo: Reuters/Dwi Oblo
  • The first Frankenburger is about to be served in London, reports Le Monde. The 140g piece, entirely lab-grown, will cost €290k. But the future for this kind of meat looks bright, as producing regular beef requires 99% more land, 96% more water, and generates 85% more greenhouse gases, as well as copious pollution.

  • Stormy weather. A river runs above it.

  • Photo: BBC
  • 'Peace is possible', wink wink, nudge nudge, says Martin Indyk, a card-carry- ing likudnik freshly nomina- ted by Kerry to lead the Israeli-Palestinian 'negotia- tions', wink wink, nudge nudge. DD denounces the cynicism of this farce.

  • Photo: JJ Georges
  • The return of the Pink Panther. A lightly camo- uflaged thief brandishing a small machine gun had left the Cannes Carlton with a sack containing €103 mil- lion worth of diamonds and diamond-incrusted watches belonging to an Israeli jewe- ler, the billionaire Lev Lev- iev. A panther (as it were) got the upper paw (so to speak) on a lion ('lev' in Ru- ssian.)

  • Photo: Friedrich Böhringer
  • The lederhosen worn by an old friend of DD's went under the hammer in Cali- fonia, reports BBC. May they bravely wear the harsh treatment from another boy.

  • Graph: Le Monde/Idealwine
  • After years of steady gro- wth, prices for the top French wines dropped by an average 1.5% in April and May, and since recove- red at a monthly rate of slightly under 1%. (Click on the graph to enlarge.)

  • A Sun knock-off.     Image: ITER
  • US Senate halts contri- butions to the ITER pro- ject. DD wonders if this will not prove to be a repeat of the Supercollider fiasco which had ceded the field of high energy physics to the Europeans.

  • US opts for watching its citizens.
    "They that can give up es- sential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, des- erve neither liberty nor safety."
    —Benjamin Franklin

  • DSK finds himself before a criminal court for pim- ping.

  • Image: ESA
  • Perfect launch for Ariane 5 carrying a big telecom satellite.

  • A lovely scenario for bur- ning a trainload of money to do what robots can do better for relatively nothing.
  • Hot gas in the Arctic. At $60tn, the bill for it looks even hotter.

  • Spot the Clinton lip bite.
    Photo: AP/Kathy Willens

  • Weiner keeps scoring own goals. DD predicts the next step: a chat with God (arranged by a Madison Avenue PR shop), resulting in forgiveness, which will clear the way to a long and successful political career in New York City.

  • Departments

Oligarchy*

One Man, One Useless Vote

Saturday, 19 April 2014

And We the People who count                                                    Photo: National Archives

One of DD's constant themes, as regular Readers have no doubt noticed, has been the grotesque farce which is the 'American Democracy'.

Our Seattle correspondent forwards an article which gives a preview of what seems like a scholarly look at the sham. We are looking forward to reading the paper, even though aren't entirely thrilled about its apparently high-fibre style.


Naked Aggression*

Russia's Imperial Moment

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A touch of headache, Vladimir Vladimirovich?                                Photo: AP/Yves Logghe

There is something intensely gratifying about small causes triggering big effects.

Such a big effect is now buffeting Vladimir Putin. It was triggered by the seemingly innocuous sanctions put in place against him for raiding the Crimea. At first they seemed like a slap on the wrist unlikely to go noticed by the thick-skinned siloviki at the Kremlin, and they were decried as such by the more junior members of the Western press corps, or those who have never grown up. But the more perceptive observers have immediately seized their portent

The biggest pain has been immediately felt by the apparatchiks and the oligarchs in Mishka's entourage. What's life worth if you can't go to see your mistress in London or pop in to Saint-Tropez to check on your carbon superyacht?

From one moment to the next they had to say goodbye to jetsetting and hello to kartoshki and rotgut vodka at the Griboyedov. Vladislav Surkov, Putin's evil hunchback, has been heard making light of the pain, but not convincingly; he himself had the habit of flying to Stockholm to take luncheons. That's over now. He will be one of the first to jump ship when the crunch comes.

The crunch will be economic. We had mentioned previously that $70bn had fled Russia in the first spasm of panic. That figure has been now upped to $100bn and counting. In a country with an economy of Holland, that begins to look like real money, and the bad news doesn't end there.

For Mishka has been stabbed in the back by the "middle-income trap", a phenomenon well known to rapidly growing economies, wherein they seemingly cannot progress beyond the $10,000 to $11,000, or $15,000 to $16,000 GDP per capita, a malaise described by a Berkeley economist Barry Eichengreen. While countries such as South Korea had managed to extricate themselves from that ditch, Russia seems stuck in the $15,000 to $16,000 bracket for good. This will be Mishka's undoing, and he knows it.

It's been calculated that in order to keep Putin's promises to the middle class, Russian economy has to grow at an annual rate of 5 to 6 percent. The actual figure is 0.5 per- cent. The middle-class natives have already been restless comparing and contrasting their lot with that of the Europeans. Hitherto docile, Mishka's bronco is bucking.

Desperate times, say experienced persons, call for desperate measures.

Contrary to the propaganda, which has it that Europe cannot survive without Russia's gas, it is Russia that cannot survive without the petro-euros. Gazprom has been aggressively expanding in Western Europe, fighting tooth-and-nail for the market share with local gas distributors. Mishka, meanwhile, has dipped into the rainy day kitty which he managed to accumulate in the halcyon day of the peak oil price. These reserves are now vanishing before his bewildered eyes, and Russia's rickety economy offers few alternatives to plug up the hole.

Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had propped up their sagging popularity ratings by bombing Grenada and the Sudan respectively. François Hollande, by raiding Mali. Mishka, under the pretext of defending ethnic Russians, grabbed the Crimea. This gave him his imperial moment. His domestic ratings shot up. They will crash so much the harder.

Speaking to Die Welt, Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's Finance minister, predicted that "Russia's imperial moment will be just that, a moment".


Inquiry

Interesting Men

Friday, 11 April 2014

A hard act to follow                                                                   Illustration by FD Bedford

Having read our New Mexico correspondent's welcoming note, our Munich corres- pondent asked his wife who, in her opinion, was an "interesting man".

The answer which he received is the most charming thing we have heard for a long time.

"An interesting man", she said, "is like Peter Pan. He can fly, but sometimes he crashes."


Survival Of The Fitted

 Lee Kee Shipyard

 Wednesday, 9 April 2014

"It's over now. Off you go."                                                       Painting by Simon de Myle

The just-released Hollywood sword-and-sandals Noah will, to the majority of the Americans, depict the historical truth, and be further proof of God's might and glory. It will be also a handy reminder in these times of 'great recession' that things can get much worse, and a stern warning from Metro Goldman Sachs to those who disobey.

And there are those who do.

Pierre Barthélémy, Le Monde's Science Editor is one. He thought to give the biblical screenplay a back-of-the-envelope once over. The question was, would the ark of the dimensions stipulated in Almighty's blueprint have been able to float holding two specimens each of all of the 8.7 million, minus 2.2 million that swim (and presumably can take care of themselves), or, 6.5 million species on Earth? In working out the answer, he propped himself up on a seminal paper presented in the British journal of irreproducible results called the Journal of Physics Special Topics, published at (if not quite by) the Physics Department of the University of Leicester. The answer was a resounding yes, it would float! So far as this went, the question was settled.

But God forgot something—the food and drink for the happy menagerie for several months at sea. Which throws the scenario overboard.

We are happy to inflict more pain. For example, where would the huge amount of water needed for the deluge come from? Not from the oceans, surely, because the sea level would have then dropped owing to the evaporation and transfer of the liquid into the atmosphere, thus cancelling the inflow from the precipitation.

All right, say the counters of angels on the head of a pin, God created this water! Very well, but the creation of matter, while allowed by physics according to E=mc2, involves such fantastically huge amounts of energy that creating from scratch several trillion tonnes of water would drain the entire Universe of juice. That is not evident.

There's no choice but to disobey.

Postscriptum.   Helena Porter, our Vancouver correspondent, points out that 'waste management' would have proven to Noah an even greater problem than feeding the furry, scaly, and befeathered masses huddled on and under the deck. The following calculation explains why.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the average mass of the waste material produced per sheep per day was 0.5 kg. (For the benefit of the Literal Truth set—how- ever unlikely they may be to read this text—that's a tad more than a pound.) Multiplied by 13x106 sheep, that's 6.5 million kg, or 6,500 tonnes of fertilizer, handling which would require a big, well equipped, and well-organized department of sanitary person- nel (nowhere mentioned in the Holy Writ) to remove.

Alternatively, let's assume the material would be allowed to accumulate (as it may have had to during period of bad weather. Since all depictions of ark's voyage show nothing but stormy weather, this may have been a permanent condition at the time.) 6,500 tonnes per day makes for 65,000 tonnes per 10 days of the cruise, in other words, quite a shitload. Furthermore, this exceeds the 50,000 DWT rating of the empty ark (see the scholarly paper mentioned above), and 10 days is nowhere near the months at sea referred to in the Bible.

The scripture set may counter that God himself took care of the sanitary engineering. The problem with this argument is that it's hard to imagine Southern Baptists accep- ting a vision of the Almighty in which He shovels manure.


Tragicomic Relief

Saturday, 5 April 2014

BuzzFeed revealed a Pentagon plan to help Yemen develop its own targeted-killing program by supplying the country with crop-dusting planes armed with laser-guided missiles. “As much as you can put a Yemeni face on it,” said an American business- man familiar with the plan, “it feels better.

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


Air Travel

The Tale Of Two Airports

Monday, 31 March 2014

This isn't JFK                                                                                     Photo: Flickr/loac

Having flown many times between New York and Venice, the Editor has acquired a certain feel for their respective airports; at Marco Polo, it's pretty much luxe, calme et volupté, at JFK, on the other hand, it is not.

At Marco Polo, pretty girls in short skirts and not very short heels carry pencils and notepads and ask if it was you who packed the suitcase. Yes, it was you, and you catch yourself hastily devising some stratagem in order to prolong the inspection. At JFK, a goonish oaf barks at you to take off your shoes after you've just disembarked from an American flight, and had undergone the shoes-off routine eight hours earlier, and made no intermediate stops in the tribal regions of Waziristan before alighting from the aeroplane in the City-That-Doesn't-Sleep. There's no need or indeed latitude for any stratagems. Your ill-tempered remark about the redundant gyrations is met with a threatening growl. They wear latex gloves. There's something about it that brings to mind animal husbandry.

The air at Marco Polo smells vaguely of Chanel N°5, of which a huge crystal bottle greets you at the entrance to the departure lounge. The espresso in your cappuccino is Illy and the croissant is hot. Paper cups and plastic utensils remain unknown. Vivaldi joins N°5.

JFK has no restaurant where to kill two hours over a decent dinner. It stinks of toil and trouble, and the 'security' personnel watches over you. For some reason they all seem derived from the 'minority' segment of the America population. As a rule, fat bulges from under the belt on which they carry a pistol.

The best American airport is Cincinnati. It ranks number 27 in a survey conducted by Skytrax, and reported here by The Economist. Airports have joined the rest of the crumbling American infrastructure of interstate highways and bridges, whose mainte- nance budgets went to Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever the war on 'terror' saw it fit to take them, irrespective of the fact that the true terror hotbed was right at home, at Fort Meade, MD, and at the Treasury Annex in Washington, DC.


Naked Aggression

Expensive Crimea

Friday, 28 March 2014

"Yes, darling, these are papa's dacha and boat, but you can't see papa's bank from here"                                                                                                               Photo: Flickr
Putin's mugging of Crimea may not come without nasty consequences, not just to his nomenklatura, but to the entire Mother Russia. It is not clear whether Putin had thought of these consequences before launching the Crimean operation. The Econo- mist makes a good observation with respect to this (Mar 29th).

"A senior Russian minister predicted that up to $70 billion could flow out of the country this quarter, as investors fret about the effect of sanctions that may be imposed for annexing Crimea. The chief executive of Sberbank, Russia’s biggest financial company, warned that there was a real risk of recession if outflows reach $100 billion. Russian stockmarkets and the rouble have fallen sharply over the past month and speculation has increased that the government may have to impose capital controls."

Petroleum, on the sales of which Russia relies to stay afloat, has been showing signs of weakness on world's markets in recent weeks. A significant drop in the price of oil is sure to destabilize Putin politically, and may eventually lead to his ousting. Let's hope for the best.


Aviation

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


"This is Puffin 1-heavy on the final. Gear down and locked."                               [zoom]

Note the upturned wingtips, conformant to the latest aerodynamic standards.

"Clear to land, Puffin 1-heavy."
                                                                                                    Photo by Anonymous


GAFA

Blurred Vision

Sunday, 23 March 2014

"Greetings, glassholes"                                                             Photo: AP/Paul Sakuma

The Google Glass is quickly becoming uncool.

Sarah Slocum, a high-tech 'evangelist' with Google discovered this having ventured into Molotov's, a punk-rock bar in the Haight-Ashbury quarter of San Francisco, where she was brusquely confronted for wearing the equipment. Since she filmed, there will be good downrange telemetry to mull over at the post-crash soul-searching sessions at the Googleplex in Mountain View, from where the product was launched a year ago.

The objections to Google Glass range from ugliness to snooping, since the device is capable of registering all that is said, and all that happens to find itself in the field of view of the wearer. Institutions begin to take notice, reports Le Monde: the 5 Point bar in Seattle, for example ("where alcoholics serve alcoholics since 1929"), has taken action—sorry, no Glass in the name of the right to be able to get drunk without the risk of finding oneself on YouTube the following day. A dozen or so West Coast establish- ments followed suit. Several states have disallowed the use of the Glass while driving.

The stink emanating from NSA's spying (with Google's eager help) doesn't create a good ambiance for the product, nor does the sobriquet "glasshole" with reference to the wearer.


Illustration

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


"Nathalie", Carnevale di Venezia 2014, by Erich Reindl                        [click photo to enlarge]

Mr Reindl (our Vienna correspondent), has been coming to the Carnival of Venice each year since 1985, both as a photographer and as a maschera. He is author of some of the best photos of the Carnevale that have ever been taken.


Statistically Significant

Monday, 17 March 2014

Amount a Texas safari club raised in January for the protection of black rhinos by selling a permit to hunt a black rhino : $350,000"

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


Big Bang

Tiny Waves

Saturday, 15 March 2014

This says it all                                                                               Equation: Wikipedia

A team from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reports having detected the elusive gravitational waves representing an echo of the cosmic inflation, an unimaginably rapid expansion of the nascent Universe 10-34 seconds after the Big Bang.

If the finding survives the scrutiny it's bound to receive in the coming weeks and months, it will represent a dramatic confirmation of the hitherto untested predictions of the General Theory of Relativity.


Southern Comfort

High On The Hog In Kiev

Friday, 14 March 2014

Looking empty these days                                         Photo: Reuters/Konstantin Chernichkin

No one knows to whom belongs the palatial dacha on the outskirts of Kiev until recently occupied by Viktor Yanukovych, the thuggish ex-president of Ukraine, though it is a safe bet his name will eventually pop up from under a mountain of mail boxes, entries on computer disks, and filing folders in one-man legal offices in those famous offshore locations which are London and Vienna.

Le Monde refers to the "outrageous luxury and uncertain taste" of the place, adding that when asked, Yanukovych used to say he was but a tenant, and that the owners were foreigners who occasionally visited Ukraine.

Sergey Leshchenko of the Ukrainska Pravda has been sniffing around the dacha since 2009. He discovered the beneficial owner, a fake outfit called Tantalit, 99.97% owned by an Austrian entity Euro East Beteiligungs, and by one Pavlo Litovchenko, to the inaudible tune of 0.03%. Litovchenko, however, is linked to Yanukovych's eldest son, Oleksander, so those 0.03% might end up being a majority stake.

65% of Euro East Beteiligungs, it turns out, is owned by the EuroEast Bank, and the remaining 35% by Blythe, a letter box in Harley Street, which harbours also a company owning the ample forest surrounding the domicile, Yanukovych's hunting grounds.

Blythe suddenly took on importance when the EuroEast Bank vanished in a puff of smoke, and it became the sole owner of the Euro East Beteiligung. At the head of Blythe one finds one Dr Reinhard Proksch and his trust, P & A Corporate Services of Vaduz, Liechtenstein...

We are sure that there is no need to say more dear Reader. Stay tuned.


Tragicomic Relief

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph “Jay” Morse, the U.S. Army’s top sexual-assault prose- cutor, was suspended for allegedly groping a colleague at a conference on sexual assault".

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


Le Carré

The Spy Who Bugged Me

Monday, 10 March 2014

The shadows are closing                                                         Photo: AFP/Clemens Bilan

We had described earlier how the swarms of sarkozystes at Place Beauvau would eventually catapult François Hollande clear out of the Elysée and into the pasture, where better to ruminate upon the failure to clear and fumigate said premises after Sarko's ousting in May 2012. The revelation of the Gayet affair provided an amuse-guele.

It now seems that Sarko himself will be an early catapultee into the dock from where to better answer some tough questions from the magistrates about corruption. Good bye hopes for another presidency, goodbye Carlita.

Several articles in the French press, mainly in this weekend's Le Monde, recount a jaw-dropping intrigue at the heart of the French power, which is bound to leave dead and mutilated bodies on the ground, one of which, this time, is going to be Zoltan's. Here's the story.

It began on 19 April 2013 when magistrates launched an enquiry into the financing of Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign by Libya. The judges took a drastic decision to put in place surveillance of Sarkozy and his two ministers of the interior, Claude Guéant and Brice Hortefeux. In December 2013 several conversations between Hortefeux and an ex-chief of the judiciary police in Paris leak to Le Monde, revealing an embarrassing proximity of the agents conducting the investigation to the politicians they investigated, resulting in a dismissal of a top policeman.

Fear grips the Sarkozy camp. Sarko himself becomes laconic on his official cellphone. But when the judges enquire, they discover he has another cellphone, registered under a false name. They bug that one too. Subsequent surveillance reveals frequent conversations with another cellphone, also obtained under a false flag, subsequently traced to Sarko's lawyer, the formidable Maître Thierry Herzog, phone obtained expressly for the purpose of establishing a discrete communication channel with Sarkozy.

But it wasn't discrete, and surveillance revealed that both Sarkozy and Me Herzog were unusually well-informed about another affair being investigated by the magistrates, and which involved both Sarko and his lawyer. That affair concerned Liliane Bettencourt, from whom Sarko was alleged to extract bundles of cash for the same 2007 campaign, and the Affair Tapie, concerning acquisition by the oligarch Bernard Tapie of the bank Crédit Lyonnais, on which deal la République had lost half-a-billion euros, subsequently revealed to have been pocketed by Bernie.

No skin off Nico's nose. Having Bernie for a chum was more important. And isn't La République there to be milked in the first place?

So the question was how Nico and his lawyer were able to be so minutely and timely informed about what was happening at the Cour de Cassation, France's court of highest instance, where the magistrates were headquartered.

  Southern Comfort

The answer was Gilbert Azibert, general counsel at the Cour de Cassation (pictured here working in his cubicle on Place Vendôme), to which he had been nominated by Sarko, with a Légion d'Honneur thrown in for a good measure. A firebrand of the right-wing and old royalist (anyone remember liberté, égaalité, fraternité?), Azibert was a natural ally, and, having access to the court's intranet, a perfectly placed agent to keep one abreast of the goings on.

He was approaching retirement. To further sweeten his already sweet packet of a high fonctionnaire, he thought to land himself a sinecure by becoming a conseil d'état to His Highness Prince Albert II of the sunny Monaco, a post carrying a tax-free €18,000 a month salary and other perks.

Sarko was the needy man of the moment, with the muscle to pull it off. Azibert rolled up his starched sleeves in front of the computer screen at the Cour de Cassation.

The snag was that he was watched too.

  Coincidence

The Sarkozys had spent the last week of February vacationing in Monaco, where Nico was taking rejuvenating baths at the Hôtel de Paris. (Alain Ducasse has a restaurant on the premises, in case someone got hungry.) Thierry Herzog arrived soon after to stay at the hotel for the balance of the week, though he's got a house in Nice, a spitting distance away from Monaco.

Suspicious minds might think they came to press Azibert's case. Oh, come on!

The Hungarian goulash is stewing.

Postscriptum.  As we were going to press, Le Point reported that Azibert tried to commit suicide, and that he was at a hospital in Bordeaux. The information was confirmed by the French Magistrate's Union. Azibert's son, however, has said that dad, poor lamb, had fallen from the stairs. DD smells the aftershave of the ubiquitous Me Herzog.

Bodies are beginning to drop sooner than we'd expected.


Geostrategy

The Oracle Of Wasilla

Friday, 7 March 2014

She saw it coming from her window                                                        Photo: Reuters

Move over Zbig, a new monster brain bursts onto the geostrategy stage.

Six years ago, Sarah Palin spoke of Putin's invading Ukraine. The unfolding Russian aggression seems to dramatically validate the prophecy. It would be laughable, of course, to assume it was in any way her idea, since it's unlikely she had been aware of the country's existence before the cramming all-nighters with Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering, hired in panic by McCain for the occasion. Unlike Eliza Doolittle's, however, Sarah's thought-unclouded eyes had only got clouded with confusion. The momentous pronouncement itself is a bushism:

"After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama's reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia's Putin to invade Ukraine next,"

Yes, and Africa is a country, North Korea is an ally, and the dinosaurs roamed the earth with the humans.

It's America's great tragedy that it allows monkeys to speak into the microphone as if they were real persons, while shunting thoughtful people into obscurity or letting them not participate. This points to an absence of a self-preservation instinct. The effects are there for all to see.

So, maybe not a cigar, but surely a banana for Sarah.


On The Campaign Trail

Voter Outreach

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Retail politics in Paris                                                                 Photo: Le Monde/SIPA

Campaigning for the mayorship of Paris, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Sarko's minister for the environment, stops by to have a clope with the clochards. Given that the poor nowadays vote against their own interests, she may even get their votes.

One can't but wonder what a photo of a candidate smoking a ciggy in public would do to his prospects stateside.


Tragicomic Relief

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Vice President Joe Biden encouraged a Canadian woman to sign up for health insu- rance under the Affordable Care Act. “I didn’t know if I should just say ‘I’m sorry — Canadian,’ ” said the woman."

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


Anniversary

Daily Detox At One

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Piff...!!                                                                                            Photo: Egitaniense

It's been a year since we've launched Daily Detox.

It was with a essay on Beppe Grillo and the Movimento 5 Stelle. 156 essays, 400 Aperçus later, and a dash of evolutionary process, we've made it to here.

We hope to continue to do our little part detoxifying the intoxicated, decoding the encoded, and shining light on the hidden and the censored.

We thank our Readers worldwide for reading, and wish for their many returns. Special thanks go to our Correspondents for their contributions.

Ande Rychter,
Editor


Pretty Good Privacy

Pretty Good Phone

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

                                                                                                      Image: Blackphone

A clapperproof smartphone has been unveiled at a geekfest in Barcelona. The phone, jointly developed by GeekPhone and Silent Circle, uses a modified version of the Android operating system called PrivatOS as a platform, which is overlaid with several layers of additional code making the phone impenetrable to the curious. Serious geeks are involved, among them Phil Zimmermann, who invented the PGP.

The Anglo-Saxon press seems to be protecting the readers from the information. A cursory search of the BBC and the New York Times sites for "Blackphone" drew a blank. So did a search of The Guardian, but in their case we think it's sloppiness.

Blackphone has a video worth seeing.

Spread this information generously to counter the timidity of the press.


Tragicomic Relief

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Chevron delivered gift certificates for a large pizza and a two-liter bottle of soda to 100 households in Bobtown, Pennsylvania, following an explosion and five-day-long fire at a fracking well in neighboring Dunkard Township. “We are committed to taking action,” said a letter accompanying the certificates."

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


Contemporary Art

Rubbish Removal

Monday, 24 February 2014

Behold love, truth, and beauty                           Painting by Mark Rothko, Tate Gallery, London

It's been reported that a cleaner at an art gallery in Bari, mistaking an exhibition item for rubbish, relegated it to the rubbish bin, and that on other occasions, a similar thing happened to the artists Gustav Metzker and Damien Hirst.  DD is sorry for them, but not overly.

Someone once asked Ruskin to explain what art was. He replied that he didn't know, but that he knew what it was that a work absolutely required in order to qualify as art. They were, he said, love, truth, and beauty, and that absence of any one of them disqualified the piece as art.

On a rainy London morning some 20 years ago, the Editor went to the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) to satisfy his curiosity. At one point he found himself before a vast unframed canvas, entirely white, at the bottom corner of which, near the floor, a sign proclaimed it to be the œuvre of a Mark Rothko. A smaller print indicated that the item had been actually purchased.

Clearly something didn't jibe—the money changed hands, the cart was there, but not the goods.

Tintoretto, who was also a fan of the XXXL format, filled his canvas with universes of glory, enough for a dozen doctoral dissertations of conflicting conclusions. Here, nada, zip, zero, niente, no detectable love, truth, or beauty. At least by one measure, the painting didn't belong to an art gallery.

If things have changed since, it's for the worse: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, for example, saw it fit to dedicate a room to a complex machine laying huge plastic turds, continually removed by a conveyer belt through an opening in a wall into another room. At the (annual) Biennale di Venezia, national pavilions compete for the palme d'or in ugliness of their exhibits, and for the golden globes in banality. "Save the whales", and "No nukes!" seem to be the perennially popular themes; ashen grays and body parts dominate the artistic landscape. The spiritual Buchenwald of the nearby François Pineault Collection makes one grope for Prozac.

DD would like to table a modest proposal: instead of press previews, why not use the time to let cleaners roam new art exhibits with the mandate to clear all they deem rubbish?  Egos would be pricked, but art would benefit.


Tragicomic Relief

Saturday, 22 February 2014

During a trip to announce federal relief measures for California, which is suffering its worst drought on record, U.S. president Barack Obama pledged to include a $1 billion fund to fight climate change in his 2015 budget and played golf at two of Coachella Valley’s 124 courses, which collectively consume 17 percent of the region’s water."

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


Essential Reading

Through A Soda Straw, Darkly

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Way too cheap and effective                                                               USAF/Kenn Mann

Writing* in the February issue of Harper's, Andrew Cockburn describes how the US Air Force shot itself in the foot with depleted uranium. Here's the opening salvo.

Early one evening in May 2012, an extraordinary hour-long radio conversation attracted the attention of various listeners among the NATO forces in the Afghan theater. On one end of the conversation were the pilots of two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack planes, who had been patrolling the eastern province of Paktia, not far from the Pakistani border. They were on call for any ground unit needing “close air support,” a task for which the A-10 was expressly designed.

On the other end was a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), a specialist whose job is to assign and direct air strikes. The JTAC was reporting Troops in Contact (TIC) — meaning that American soldiers were under fire. Although the entire, acronym-sprinkled transmission was on a secure “strike frequency,” such communications can enjoy a wider audience, not only among the crews of other planes in the neighborhood but at various headquarters across the theater and beyond. Such was the case with this particular mission, making it possible to piece together an account of the ensuing tragedy.

After reporting the TIC, the controller, who was inside a base headquarters somewhere in eastern Afghanistan, informed the pilots that the enemy force was a large one and read out a grid coordinate. Reaching the designated spot, however, the pilots reported “no joy” — i.e., no sign of action. They were directed to another grid, and then to a third, with the same result. At the fourth location, the flight leader reported the presence of a farm building. People and animals were visible, he said, but no one with a weapon, nor was there any sign of military activity.

The JTAC refused to accept this conclusion. According to one listener, he told the pilots that the ground commander, who was most likely sitting in the same room, “has determined that everybody down there is hostile.” He then ordered them to prepare for a bombing or strafing run for the A-10, whose 30mm cannon is capable of firing 4,200 rounds per minute.

The pilots continued to insist that they could see nothing out of the ordinary, reporting “normal patterns of life.” The JTAC had at least a rough means of confirming this situation: like many other aircraft, the A-10 carries a “targeting pod” under one wing, which in daylight transmits video images of the ground below, and infrared images at night. This video feed is displayed on the plane’s instrument panel and is relayed to the JTAC’s array of LCD screens in his operations center, and frequently to other intelligence centers around the globe.

The pilots, who could fly low and slow close to the target and study it through binoculars, had a much more detailed view. Circling above the mud-brick farm building, they affirmed it to be a “bad target.” Now, however, there was a new voice on the frequency. A B-1 bomber, cruising high above the clouds, was checking in and reporting its position to the JTAC. Originally developed to deliver nuclear bombs to Moscow at supersonic speeds, the 150-ton plane with its four-man crew lacks the A-10’s low-level maneuverability and detailed views from the cockpit. It relies instead on what I am told are crude video displays and instructions from the ground to hit its targets. Yet it is now commonly employed for the same purpose as the A-10: close air support.

As the B-1 broke in with offers to take over the mission, the controller’s voice grew increasingly frustrated. He continued to insist that the farm was a hostile target. Finally, his patience snapped, and as other listeners recall, he again asked the A-10 flight leader if he was willing to prepare for an attack.

“No,” replied the pilot. “No, we’re not.”

The controller addressed the same question to the B-1, which had been privy to the A-10’s ongoing reports.

“Ready to copy,” came the quick, affirmative reply.

Down below, the unwitting objects of all this potent dialogue, a farmer named Shafiullah and his family, were settling in for the night. They would not have understood what it meant when the whine of the A-10s was replaced by the deeper rumble of the huge bomber, which was meanwhile confirming that it had “weaponeered” a mixture of large and small satellite-guided bombs. A few minutes later, the farm building was torn apart by three huge explosions that killed Shafiullah, his wife, and five of their seven children, the youngest of the victims only ten months old. Two other children were wounded but somehow managed to survive.

USAF is planning to retire the A-10, which Cockburn call's "its most effective weapon", and replace it with other, unsuitable aircraft, among them the hero of the above story, the B-1.


*) Tunnel Vision. Will the Air Force kill its most effective weapon?


Statistically Significant

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Percentage change in the past five years in the portion of Republicans who believe in evolution : –26"  (See also.)

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


Illustration

Friday, 14 February 2014

Liseuse by Greg Kawczynski                     Pastel on paper

Mr Kawczynski is a sculptor, painter, and a graphics artist whose works can be seen in Europe and North America. He, and his wife Ewa (whose work we have presented earlier) both live in Vancouver.


Tragicomic Relief

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Vice President Joe Biden compared New York City’s La Guardia Airport to “some third world country,”

While at it, DD suggests Biden visit the JFK airport as well, and try to eat a decent dinner. Judged by its airports, New York is a third-world city.

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


Essential Reading

The Intercept

Monday, 10 February 2014

Prepare for pain, totalitarian                                                               Image: firstlook.org

Normally, Essential Reading proposes an article we think essential to read. This time we propose a whole new publication which promises to rattle the totalitarians who have insinuated themselves into the power structure in the United States and else- where. The names of Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill at the editorial helm promise a rough ride for those individuals and their organizations.

We wish The Intercept a long, fruitful, and happy roto-rooting.


2017

Niccolò Sarkozy

Monday, 3 February 2014

"C'est beau, place Beauvau !"                                                             Photo: Le Monde

Question: Which ministry would you wish to run before running for the French presidency?

Yes, the correct answer is the interior ministry.

Question: in which ministry would you wish to leave your people after you've left the office?

Yes, your are right again.

The first salvo of the 2017 battle for the French presidency was fired a month ago when a photo of a behelmeted François Hollande bestraddling a scooter appeared in the tabloid Closer, whose photographers, as it were, got closer than those of the other tabs to the rue de Cirque apartment of the comédienne Julie Gayet, in the swank 8th arrondissement of Paris.

To think the Closer people found themselves in an expensive apartment overlooking the action by accident would be naïve, they were tipped off by Place Beauvau, which is the address of the Interior Ministry, nominally reporting to M. Hollande, but in reality to the former president Nicolas Sarkozy. (see the answer to the second question above.)

François Hollande's first fatal error upon arriving at the Élysée in May of 2012 was not purging Place Beauvau of sarkozistes and fumigating the premises. It will now cost him his presidency. That is not to say that this is necessarily bad. The bad thing is it would be Sarko who replaces him.

Sarkozy's nomination to the ministry of the interior by Jacques Chirac was also a monumental error, unless he had no choice, given the murkiness of his dealings, of which the clever Sarko no doubt had been aware. The fact that Chirac hated Sarkozy lends credence to the supposition of blackmail.

Once at Beauvau, Sarko had access to a treasure-trove of information on everybody and his brother and his brother's dog. In other words, he held the real power. Since Beauvau swarms with his people to this day, he still holds this power.

The UMP stands firmly behind him. It is less certain where stands the French public, but judging by the recent warm receptions, they have already forgot how much they hated him not quite two years ago. The auspices are therefore good. It will suffice to keep Hollande crippled until the election in 2017, which shouldn't be too difficult having your agents where it matters.

The question which poses itself is whether it is too late for Hollande to clean the Augean stables at Place Beauvau? The answer is that it probably isn't, as it probably isn't too late to cast light on some of Sarko's more interesting exploits. Holland's spies should have by now accumulated some goods on Nico too.

All that if it is worth keeping Hollande beyond 2017.

The sad truth is that it probably makes no difference, since Hollande's 'Socialist' Party has long ago become indistinguishable from Sarko's own UMP.

Is there something Hollande can do in the meantime?

Yes!  Purge Place Beauvau of sarkozistes, fumigate as described above, and make the humorist Stéphane Guillon minister of the interior. The very thought of this would make Sarkozy abandon Carlita and flee Paris for a remote tribal region of Chad, and to remain there in hiding for the balance of Guillon's mandate*.


*) For the benefit of the readers who are unfamiliar with Stéphane Guillon, we would just like to say that Guillon's merciless satire drove Sarkozy to desperation, if not to losing to Hollande. His final stunt, just before the 2012 presidential elections, was to post placards all over the Parisian metro depicting himself in deep bow. The caption read, "In May 2012, Stéphane Guillon goes too...". We cheerfully reproduce the poster here. Two years on, Guillon never misses a chance to take a potshot at Sarkozy, who should be careful about what he wishes.


Pretty Good Privacy

Sorry, No Privacy

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Fast, reliable, discrete                                                         Image: Wm T. Coleman & Co.

Last August we reported on the mugging Lavabit had received from the totalitarians. Here's an update, and here's background information.


Your Land Is Our Land

Disinvestment And Boycott.  Sanctions Next

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Haemorrhoids, Mr Netanyahu, or something more serious?           Photo: AP/D. Buimovitch

There are signs Bibi is beginning to notice things aren't as they used to be, and it makes him anxious.

The Germans, traditionally reliable allies, have said they won't finance any Israeli high-tech ventures located in the Occupied Territories. The future of a scientific cooperation with the EU looks shaky, and the Dutch are making serious noises about boycotting Israel. Several European pension funds follow suit, and even a number of the American universities refuse to cooperate with the Israeli academics based in the Occupied Palestine.

The Israelis say this is manageable. Perhaps, provided the contagion doesn't spread farther. The boycott of South Africa had begun slowly but then accelerated, finally strangling the apartheid regime, Israel with it to the end.

For the religious nationalist Naftali Bennett, Bibi's minister of the economy, sanctions don't matter. In his words, "Better an economic boycott than a Palestinian state."

Not all share this sanguine outlook. The left-of-the-centre parties in the Knesset sound alarm comparing Netanyahu to the captain of the Titanic who ignored a warning about the icebergs. They see a diplomatic disaster in the making.

Circumstances aren't favourable to Bibi. America is disengaging, first, because it sees (wrongly) a future independent of the Arab oil, second, because it's tired of seeing itself unable to shape the Middle East to its liking.

Netanyahu should pay attention, haemorrhoids may seem like a pleasant memory compared to what's coming.


Illustration

29 January 2014

Lutte des classes (Class War), by Daniel Mermet (ink on paper)

We think this satirical drawing is an apt illustration to the Tragicomic Relief, and the piece on Davos, below.

Mr Mermet is a renowned French journalist, broadcaster, and author, whose Public Radio program, Là bas si j'y suis, consistently ranks top among the audience. The program lives by the forgotten values of the French national motto, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, to which Mermet throws in Solidarité. For this it has received scorn of the Sarkozy administration, which had tried to suppress it but retreated fearing mass demonstrations. The direction of Radio France had partially succumbed to the pres- sure from Sarkozy and moved the programme from prime time to the 3 to 4 PM slot, where it remains to this day, irrespective of the arrival of a 'socialist' government of François Hollande. Recently, in a volley of austerity measures, Là bas's Friday's broadcast has been eliminated.

As all honest commentators on the war waged by Israel on Palestine, Daniel Mermet has been treated to anti-Semite by the ultra-Zionist elements in France and dragged to courts. In 2006 he was cleared of all charges by France's high appellate court. Attacks on him continue.

A high-resolution version of the drawing, which accompanies a program dedicated to a book by Olivier Besancenot The Conspiracy of the Unequal, has been kindly forwar- ded to us by Mr Mermet's office.


Tragicomic Relief*

29 January 2014

OccupyWallSt.org released sample dialogues provided by Walmart to its store managers in order to help them deal with employee inquiries about labor unions. “Well that’s a good question LaTonya,” says a fictional employee in one of the dialogues. “Our company doesn’t feel that associates should have to spend their hard earned money to have someone represent them.”

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


Debit Suisse*

Davos 2014

24 January 2014

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

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 of what's going on behind the closed door) for a mere €115k.

Once you've got the tickets, count on spending $15k to $200k more, 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, 83, 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 heavyweights from the 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", thus, to the delight of the local retail community, heralding the arrival of a second Christmas in so many months.

What a jolly good show.


Faux News

Fox For Jesus

17 January 2014

Lord's own                                                                                 Inside Cable News/Spud

The Reza Aslan debacle (see below) flushed out Christian jihadists other than Lauren Green at Fox News. One is Brent Bozell, who's 'first to stand up and defend Lauren Green', and who's offended by "Moslem faith's belief that Jesus Christ did not have a divine nature", which, as everyone knows, he did. His rant begins at 5'28" into the footage.

Another is Megyn Kelly, here badly roughed up by the atheist Michael Newdow, and again here by another son of the Lucifer, David Silverman. Note the mysterious "Crucifiction" (sic) sign persisting in the lower right corner of the screen. Might it be Megyn's? Or is it a not so subliminal subliminal message referring to the evil works of the A, whose number is 6 6 and 6?

The stuff is painful to watch.

But if you thought this was about religion, you would be wrong. This is about controver- sy. Because controversy attracts viewers, and viewers the ratings. And ratings, the advertisers, and advertisers boost the revenue stream.

And the revenue stream is the truest of all true gods.


Faux News

He Didn't Disclose

13 January 2014

Wicked Muslim slays righteous Christian                                          Mediæval miniature

Diarmaid MacCulloch's review* of Reza Aslan's new book** on Jesus commences thusly,

Academics, chief among them theologians, are deeply envious of Reza Aslan’s stroke of luck in encountering a particularly stupid Fox News reporter during his round of publicity interviews for this book. Apparently having got no further than the publisher’s blurb in wrestling with the work, she asked Aslan why he as a Muslim had written a study of the life of the founder of Christianity. He replied rather testily that he was a scholar of religions, with four degrees, who just happened to be a Muslim. She asked much the same question again; he replied in much the same fashion, and again, and again, and mercifully never quite lost his temper. His interlocutor also appeared to believe that he ‘had never disclosed’ that he was a Muslim in media appearances, and that exhausted the ideas on her prompt-card. To expect that she might be at all aware of Jesus’ presence in the Quran would have assumed too high a level of sophistication. Aslan won hands down. Altogether it was the sort of TV that you end up watching from between your fingers – and naturally the clip went viral, to the huge benefit of Aslan’s bank balance. A best- seller was born.

Video of the encounter between the two incompatible species here.


*) London Review of Books, vol. 35 No. 19, 10 October 2013, p. 9
**) Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Westbourne, August 2013


Tales From The Beehive

Bees 1, HIV 0?

7 January 2014

Front end for the hive, rear end for the HIV                                       Photo: Louise Docker

Our Munich correspondent forwards a link to an article outlining a breakthrough in the fight against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. The research team not only describes the weapon, but also the exact technique, which is to selectively deliver to the virus melittin, the principal toxin of the bee venom, on the surface of nanoparticles without poisoning the cells of the human tissue. DD reckons this achievement to be extraordinary, and the technique remarkably elegant.


Your Land Is Our Land

Snub Of The Week

5 January 2014

"Do it for Bibi, my boy."                                                                 Photo: Olivier Fitoussi

All Kerry's recent visits to Israel have been greeted with, or preceded by a snub of one kind or another, orchestrated by Bibi. Secretary's present foray into the Middle East peacemaking didn't disappoint in that respect.

Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders had been muted by both sides before the trip (apparently without anyone's face twitching as they tried to suppress laughter), so a visit by the Israeli vice-foreign minister Zeev Elkin to a remote settlement in the Jor- dan Valley to dedicate a new neighbourhood, and to declare that the "1967 borders were Auschwitz borders", just a few hours before Kerry's plane touched down at the Ben Gurion airport achieved the desired effect. The clear message was, "your land is our land, and we've got the firepower, and the support of the American politicians, to prove it."

So as to make sure the point wasn't lost on anyone, Bibi had arrived to a meeting with Kerry in a state of extreme agitation, and then kept on ranting for an hour before letting anyone say a word. Poor Kerry just sat there blinking his eyes.

Secretary of State Kerry is wasting time and taxpayer's jet fuel on futile expeditions. He should turn his attention to more important matters, of which there is no shortage.


Tragicomic Relief

31 December 2013

The Xenoturbella bocki “paradox” worm was confirmed to be the progenitor of human- kind"

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

DD's Paleobiology Department notes that not all X. bocki had launched themselves at the same time or with the same enthusiasm into the evolutionary process, as evidenced by the existence today of such movements as the Tea Party, and such organizations as Fox News.

We wish all our Readers and Collaborators a happy New Year.


Illustration

29 December 2013

Michèle Mercier as Marquise des Anges in a 1966 Bernard Borderie film Angélique et le roi.

Photo: Rue des Archives/Collection CSFF


Person Of The Year

Edward Snowden

25 December 2013

The arch-antitotalitarian                                                                      Photo: AFP/Getty

Our Person of the Year is Edward Snowden, who singlehandedly took on the dragon.


Music Of The Spheres

2013 Winter Solstice

21 December 2013

A particularly dark moment                                                                      Photo: NASA

Winter solstice in Northern Hemisphere arrives today, 21 December, at 17:11 Univer- sal Time. Daily Detox advocates moving New Year's Day to coincide with the solsti- ce, rather than with the feast of Circumcision of the Lord.


Nineteen Eighty Four

Zuck Knows What You Wanted To Say

18 December 2013

The Facebook community. "And now to the right everybody."           Photo: Scot Campbell

The American totalitarian machine has another trick up its sleeve: Facebook can now read what you'd written, but then decided not to publish.  And if Zuckerberg knows, than Keith knows. and no doubt appreciates, because those self-censored thoughts might be the most interesting.


Tragicomic Relief

17 December 2013

North Korea executed an uncle of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and accused him of distributing pornography, failing to clap with sufficient enthusiasm, and sabotaging a monument by having it erected in the shade. “Jang pretended to uphold the party and leader,” said the state-run Korean Central News Agency, “but was engrossed in such factional acts as dreaming different dreams.”"

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


Chevalier Sans Foy

Habemus Right Papam?

13 December 2013

One of them after all?                                                                   Photo: Edgar Jiménez

We are re-thinking our thinking about Pope Bergoglio.

What may have been true and possibly unseemly about the Father Superior of the Argentine Jesuits, may no longer hold for the Pope. Personal transformations are rare, but do happen, and there are now signs Bergoglio has undergone one.

The good tidings come as an apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, brought to our attention by Michael Kratzer, our Munich correspondent, specifically its paragra- ph 54,

"In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us."

Potent stuff from comrade Francis. (Paragraphs 52 through 60 equally don't disap- point.)

It's hard to say exactly what is happening here, and what will ensue, but the Pope is listened to by many people, and they may begin asking the same questions and making the same demands. Politicians and oligarchs should pay attention.

It's ironic and encouraging that liberation theology, which Jorge Bergoglio had fought back in the '80s, be returning to become the mainstay of his social philosophy.


Your Land Is Our Land

First Intifada at 25

8 December 2013

An early Palestinian surface-to-surface missile and its launch system
Photo: AFP/Esaias Baitel

Back in the late '80s, the way to deal with the recalcitrant Palestinians who for some reason didn't want to relinquish their land to Israel, was to "crush their bones". Many bones were crushed, including a great deal of children's. On 9 December 1987, however, the IDF slightly overdid it, running a heavy truck over a Palestinian car, crushing to death four civilians inside. This lit the fuse under the First Intifada, which lasted until the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

Outcome? As always, 2160 Palestinians dead, 160 Israelis. Political casualties, America and Israel advance to the rogue nation league. The gyrations at the UN illustrate the point.


Friends-And-Allies

Busy In The Knesset-West

5 December 2013

Iran's atomic test                                                                                   Photo: Doron

Back in the early '90s, the Undersecretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs George Ball made an observation* to the effect that America's Middle-East policy was made in Tel Aviv, thus signaling for the first time that America had ceded part of its sove- reignty over foreign affairs to another country. A look at the events in the Middle East over the last two decades confirms Ball's remark to be right, not only then, but to continue to be valid to this day.

The latest spat over the Iranian nukes provides a good example. While Bibi hadn't quite managed to scupper the deal, he came close. And he left maimed bodies on the ground, among them those of President Obama, and the Secretary of State Kerry. And that's not all. His agents are swarming the Capitol Hill where, with a mixture of cajoling and threats, they try to sabotage any rapprochement between the US and Iran that my be vaguely looming on the distant horizon. Their main source of ammunition is Ayatollah's atomic bomb, which happens not to exist, and whose prospects of mater- ializing are nil, since no work on it is in progress.

And that's before considering the delivery systems. As the Americans now say, "if you haven't got a stealthy launch platform, you haven't got a nuke." Practically no one, aside from the US, has such platforms, since Uncle Sam can now track all submari- nes, hence destroy them if needed. (France and Britain, which used to be on a more or less equal footing with the US in this respect, already have, or are in the process of losing this footing, as they have no reciprocal capability to track the American ballistic missile submarines.)

Andrew Cockburn's recent blog at Harper's provides excellent insight into what is going on in Washington with respect to Iran, while his article in the December issue of the magazine presents a broader panorama. Let us quote Uri Avnery's description (quoted by Cockburn) of AIPAC's 2008 annual conference as a sample.

All the three [American] presidential hopefuls made speeches, trying to outdo each other in flattery. 300 Senators and Members of Congress crowded the hallways. Everybody who wants to be elected or reelected to any office, indeed everybody who has any political ambitions at all, came to see and be seen.

The Editor recalls seeing on television Hillary Clinton's appearance. She commenced her speech with a sweep of the venue and an orgasmic, "...so many friends!...". In rea- lity, she had no friends in the audience, and her rupture had fallen on a bored-faced crowd used to, and indeed expecting such lèche-bottisme, and a barely polite appla- use. The moment was profoundly embarrassing.


*) The Passionate Attachment, America's Involvement with Israel, 1947 to the Present. W W Norton & Co Inc, 382 pp, 1992


The Art Of Saying A To Say Z

The Great Red Herring

27 November 2013

Served daily de chez Bibi                               Image adopted from a painting by Pablo Picasso

As Bibi returns from Geneva to Tel Aviv beaten up and livid, Rouhani returns from Geneva to Tehran upbeat and radiant: he can keep his budding atomic workshop, while the sanctions against his country are poised to be loosened up. In contrast, all Bibi brings home is a renewed (and unwelcome) interest in his own vast and very much existing nuclear arsenal.which 'may or may not exist', wink wink nudge nudge. That's assuredly not what he hoped to achieve in Geneva.

But to assume that Bibi's bitter tears have much to do with his inability to foil Iran's nuclear bricolage would be to make a mistake, or to presume it had to do with the lifting of the sanctions.

No, the reason for his discontent is the distinct possibility that Iran might replace Israel as Uncle Sam's best friend-and-ally in the region, with the collateral inflow of cash and a boost to the country's political and strategic importance. That thought is enough to give him nightmares at night and heebie-jeebies during the day.

But why would this happen, you may ask?

The answer is that a friendship with Iran would offer hugely more than one with Israel. Iran is a big and populous country with considerable natural resources, such as oil and uranium. Israel is a tiny country with a small population and no natural riches to speak of. Iran is an ideal beachhead where to pre-position the forward-leaning boots-on-the-ground against the crouching Tiger and the hidden Dragon. Israel, by contrast, has a few good beaches upon the shimmering waters of the blue Mediterranean, which is nice, but not quite the same thing for the straight-faced chaps at the Pentagon.

Don't expect Bibi and his Fifth Column to abandon the field. The false-flag operations will probably intensify from their current intense level both in America and in Europe, under the pretext of the Iranian 'nuclear threat' to the world. Obama may already lean toward Iran, but not so the Congress, subjugated into unconditional obedience by the relentless circling of the Great White.

It's not perfect, but Bibi's best weapon against the 'threat' of Iran's becoming America's chum is to keep presenting nuclear mushroom clouds as a consequence of such a rapprochement.


Touche Pas Aux Tontons

Georges Lautner, 1926 – 2013

25 November 2013

Le vrai chef                                                                           Photo: AFP/Frédérick Florin

Georges Lautner, the director of the immortal classic, "Les Tontons flingueurs", died the other day aged 87. Here, the unforgettable scene where the boys drink "le vitriol".

Let us join in saluting him.


Tales From The Land Of The Absurd

 Moscow Calling

23 November 2013

Peter Pomerantsev explains Ukraine's about-face on joining the EU, courtesy London Review of Books.

    When the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, was a young hoodlum on the make in late 1960s Soviet Donetsk – or so the story goes – he made his first money through the following ruse: he would lurk in a cubicle in a public toilet in winter. When a man came into the cubicle next door, he would wait for the opportune moment, then lean over, grab the man’s expensive fur hat and make a run for it: the victim, caught with his pants down, mid-crap, was in no state to give chase...  MORE


In Search Of A Friend

Enter Hollande

20 November 2013

Exit Kerry                                                                                   Photo: AP/Jason Reed

Watching Benyamin Netanyahu's political manoeuvering is an ever amusing pass- time. The other day, for example, he declared François Hollande a 'close friend', which is strange, given that the two had met for the first time only a few months ago, and that no great flux of billets doux between Tel Aviv and Paris has come to evidence since. Monsieur Bloch Sr famously 'knew' the Duke of Guermantes 'without knowing him'. Hollande has thus become Bibi's chum without knowing it.

What's behind these amourous advances?

Bloody necessity, of course. Under pressure from Obama, he had to abandon a fresh- ly-minted plan to build 20,000 new homes for settlers in the occupied Palestine. Pre- viously, he had failed to trick Obama into attacking Iran on his behalf, in spite of a strong bi-partisan support from the Likud faction in Congress. He had switched to plan B, which was to do it himself, but it was just posturing, since everybody knew it was beyond the bungling capability of the IDF, moreover, Obama had threatened to withhold the necessary intelligence.

To these insults add a threat from Abbas to take Israel before the UN and the interna- tional tribunals (to do which Palestine is eligible having become a UN observer), for stealing land and constant harassment of the Palestinians. In normal times Bibi woul- dn't care. But these aren't normal times.

So, he unrolled a freshly dry-cleaned red carpet to welcome his 'close friend'.

Contrary to Bibi's propaganda, Hollande's was but a routine state visit of the type heads of states pay to each other every now and then, and not an expression of support for Israel's policy vis à vis Iran. Superficially, the positions of the two countries coincide. But France's opposition to Iran is not ideologically but commercially based. A closer look would reveal that France has great expectations about weapons deals with the Arab world, all Sunni, and all avowed enemies of Iran. No such contracts to sign are on the horizon with Iran, not only because it would look bad, but also because Iran is subject to a strict embargo on military materiel. Being against Iran nowadays is cheap.

But there's plenty of business to do in Israel, with which France transacts only 2.2 percent of its foreign trade (vs. Germany's 6.6 percent). Hollande's main objective for coming to Israel was not to give support to Bibi's sabre rattling against Tehran's (non-existent) nukes, but to help French companies do more business with Israel.

Nor are the Iranian nukes Israel's main preoccupation, notwithstanding the propaganda which has been blaring out of Tel Aviv for years.

But on this next time.


Credit Rating Agencies

To No Credit

15 November 2013

Best ratings money can buy                                                 Image: Agencies/Daily Detox

A week ago we scornfully commented on the downgrading by S&P of France's credit rating. This was followed three days later by Paul Krugman who fired a salvo at S&P quoting the same delinquency on their part which justified our own jab.

Now Glen Newey at LRB asks, "Who rates the rating agencies?", and, seeing void where there ought to be a suitable body, takes it upon himself to demolish their edifice. A gratifying reading.


Illustration

11 November 2013

Exploring the Northern Patagonian Icefield, by Jaroslaw Wieczorek.

Mr Wieczorek is an explorer and photographer presently based in Iquique, Chile. He directs Antofaya Expeditions.


GAFA

Open Facebook

8 November 2013

The Facebook community                                                             Photo: Scot Campbell

Si c'est gratuit, c'est vous le produit !*, say the French.

Facebook, masquerading as a social network, wants to know your every move, predi- lection, and buying habit, so as to be better able to pimp your derrière to the markete- ers. It's been gathering behavioural information on the sheep for a long time, but now the goal is to reach a new level of sophistication. Wall Street Journal explains.

DD calls on all to sever their relationship with this totalitarian outfit, delete the Face- book cookies from their browser, and to block their return.


*) The GAFA entry has recently vanished from the Wikipedia. We want to help. It stands for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, four leading collaborators with the snoops.
*) If it's free, it's you who's the merchandise


The Dystopian Corporation

 Forget The Offshore

4 November 2013

Tax exempt                                                                            Photo: Toho Company Ltd.

Wall Street has spawned another monster.

It is called distorporation, though we think it would be better to call it "dystorpora- tion". Distorporation is like any other corporation, with the exception that it pays no taxes, thus enjoying a huge competitive advantage over other companies in the sector, which are subject to the usual taxes. How is it possible, you may ask?

The old-fashioned way, by swindling and bribing of the politicians, who, by some legerdemain still to be elucidated in the annals of business and fiscal literature, make it not only possible but legal. The resulting shortage of revenue will of course have to be made up in some way, the most versatile of which has proven itself to be boosting taxation of the poor or imposing "austerity measures" on the government programs which benefit them. The latter enjoys the benefit of being more digestible since it relies on the feeling of guilt instilled in the prole from childhood through religious indoctrina- tion.

The Economist casts light on the newly-emerged organism.

(We thank Helena Porter, our Vancouver correspondent, for bringing the video to our attention.)


Beny The African

Simandou, mon amour

30 October 2013

It's actually gold, if you can get it.                                                             Photo: Getty

Beny's life has suddenly got complicated.

The FBI in Florida locked up his sidekick for trying to bribe the wife of the ex-Guinean president in return for the dirty pictures which she had brought with her from Conakry as an insurance policy against Beny's ill temper, for which he has a reputation. The man, named Cillins, had been running some 'companies' in the British Virgin Islands for the purpose, it appears, of supplying anonymous offshore cash to lubricate Beny's efforts to get hold of Simandou, the best iron ore deposit this side of heaven.

Meantime, Alpha Condé, the new president of Guinea, began sniffing around the sweetheart deal which Beny made with his predecessor, Lansana Conté, by the virtue of which Beny ended up with Simandou, a half of which he promptly flipped to the Brazilian group Vale SA for $2.5bn.

Nothing raises the hackles of the oligarchs more than the sight of an oligarch perfor- ming the miracle of the fishes.

Thus, the 'philanthropist' George Soros, aided by the junior philanthropists, Tony Blair and Bernard Kouchner, jumped into the fray, ostensibly to protect the poor Guinea from the predation by unscrupulous businessmen. Agents fanned out into the field in search of evidence pointing to bribery and swindling, which they had soon found in abundance. Beny's Geneva offices got raided by the police, and the Brazilians, having already paid $500m, refused to cough up the remaining $2bn, a serious setback. By the looks of it, Beny won't see either the cash or the Simandou.

It's nonetheless doubtful anything nasty will befall Beny in the wake of these ructions. In a new take on what is a public-private partnership, his African buccaneering has a full support and cooperation from the Mossad, Shin Bet, tsahal (in which Beny served during the Yom Kipur war), and the veritable who-is-who of the dominant Likud wing of the Israeli establishment. His private fortune did take a knock. He's no longer the richest man in Israel but the 6th richest. No worry, with his acumen and connections it won't be long before he pulls himself out of this misery.

There's a funny finale to this story. For his efforts on behalf of Guinea, Beny had treated Soros (a Jew) to 'antisemite'. When all else fails, there's always that, isn't there?


Illustration

27 October 2013

Spring by Ewa Kawczynski                         Ink on paper

Ms Kawczynski's works will be on display 27 October – 8 December at the Public Art Space, Ron Andrews Centre, 932 Lytton Street, North Vancouver.


Really Simply Syndicated

Our RSS Feed Goes Live

23 October 2013

Happy emanations                                                                                 Icon: Gojol23

By popular demand, we have added the RSS feed to our stream. For those curious about the absence of the Facebook, Tweeter, and Google icons on the menu bar, we are sorry but there won't be any, owing to their record of collaboration with the snoops, which we don't tolerate.

Best wishes to all our Readers.

—The Editor


Tragicomic Relief

22 October 2013

An Iranian prisoner who awoke in a mortuary after being hanged was ordered hanged again."

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


Debit Suisse

The Two-Trillion Euro Pigout

16 October 2013

"Let's eat their lunch."                                                       Photo: Wikipedia/Jessica Reeder

Two trillion euros in corporate taxes don't make it to Europe's state coffers each year owing to a stratagem known as "fiscal optimization", say two deputies in a report submitted to the French Parliament. The principle upon which the legerdemain operates is simple. It consists of separating the jurisdiction in which the economic activity occurs from that in which profits from that activity are taxed.

For example, if business is conducted in the United Kingdom, the idea is to expatriate the profits to Switzerland, Lichtenstein, the Isle of Man, or the sunny Caymans, where there are no taxes, or, if there are, they are agreeably small. Mitt Romney knows all about it. Legislations which allow this trick had been drafted by corporate lawyers and subsequently adopted by the perennially hungry elected officials.

Alas, what is optimization to some is a disaster for the rest—schools, hospitals, public transport, maternity wards, and youth programs won't see a budget, and there may be little left to bail out the hard-working PIGS.

Meanwhile, all is well in the oligarch camp; superyachts have supplanted the mangy megayachts and crowd the picturesque waterfronts of the blue Mediterranean. A fierce competition rages as to whose is the longest.

One wonders what might be the equivalent figure for the American corporate tax cheating. It is a pertinent question in this time of fiscal unrest. One is given to thinking it would be enough to give all Americans free medical and dental coverage, and a tuition-free university education to all interested and capable.


Tragicomic Relief

15 October 2013

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) reportedly offered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) a deal that would fund the government until Decem- ber, while Speaker of the House John Boehner gathered Republican lawmakers to eat Chinese food and smoke cigarettes. “The speaker is very upbeat,” said John Kline (R., Minn.)."

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


At The Staatsoper

La fanciulla del West

by Erich Reindl
12 October 2013

Kaufmann and Stemme in top form                                       Photo: APA/Hans Klaus Techt

A triumph for Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann at the Vienna Staatsoper in Marco Arturo Marelli's new production of La fanciulla del West. The production features excellent singing, tight orchestration, and perfect staging with no cowboys, saloons or other Wild West clichés. Set in a modern-day mining town in the middle of nowhere vast and spectacular, the production focuses on the struggles of the miners and the social interplay within the community, exactly in line with Puccini's verismo. The orchestra is brilliantly led by Franz Welser-Möst.

Everybody's efforts are generously rewarded with standing ovations and numerous curtain calls. Truth to tell, it is the greatest success for Dominique Meyer in his two years at the helm of the Opera.


Enemy Within

Help Is On The Way, Part 2

8 October 2013

Kaspersky 1, Norton 0                                                                 Image: Kaspersky Lab

The Editor wonders if he was alone to notice that the behaviour of Norton Antivirus was more like that of the virus it was supposed to detect, combat and slain, than that of a deterrent against the pestilence.

He had noticed the 'idle time' scans would wrestle his dual CPU to the ground, email scans took their precious time, and the product seemed to elbow its way to all as- pects of the on-screen existence. With every 'update' his choice not to scan the out- going email would be stubbornly corrected to "scan outgoing email". Only the laten- cies in message's departure would signal the sabotage.

To make the story short, he decided to search for an alternative, and why, in the pro- cess, not to demand a refund for the remaining 11 months of the 'service'?

Examining his Norton account (which he hadn't visited in two years) he'd noticed that each year he was double-billed for the privileges. That prompted him to immediately remove Norton root-shoot-and-branch from the machine, and, after some research and consultation with learned opinion, replace it with the Kaspersky Lab product, which has since proved to be light of touch, polite, and, like a perfect servant, almost invisi- ble; in short, it was what the doctor ordered.

Postscriptum.  He secured a refund for the 11 months and the double-billing for the current year, but, alas, not for the double-billing for the previous year, effecting which, he was told, was beyond the capabilities of Norton's computers.


Essential Reading

Guilty Until Proven Guilty

3 October 2013

The proto-Unamerican                                                                       Photo: US Senate

The KGB used to pride itself on the saying that they "knew about you more than you did". It was strictly true, given their own brand of the enhanced interrogation technique.

But, as everyone knows, everything is better in America, and so, the FBI has one up on them. This is demonstrated by William T. Vollmann in "Life As A Terrorist", which appears in the September issue of Harper's. In it, Vollmann shows that they actually know more about you than they do. No chicken feed, this.

The article is essential reading, particularly for those who harbour delusions about the 'Great American Democracy'.


State Terrorism

The Office Of Foreign Asset Control

29 September 2013

Treasury Annex. WMD within                                                           Photo: Wikipedia

Israel is said to have a sizeable arsenal of nuclear weapons, whose existence it notoriously "doesn't confirm or deny"*. It has not used nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in any of its wars, and probably wouldn't dare to, but that doesn't mean it hasn't ever resorted to a WMD. It has, and it is resorting to it now, condemning whole nations to untold misery.

The Wunderwaffe in question is the Office of Foreign Asset Control, OFAC** for short. It is part of US Department of the Treasury, and it is located in the Treasury Annex in Washington.

The work of OFAC has been elucidated before, but Andrew Cockburn's exposé in the September issue of Harper's paints a particularly stark image. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the origins and motivations of American agitation in the Middle East.


*) It is not inconceivable that Israel doesn't possess any nuclear weapons. It suffices that everyone thinks it has them for the stratagem to achieve the desired political, strategic, and psychological effect. Nor is it difficult to imagine masquerades specifi- cally designed to give it authenticity. Their non-use, moreover, is interpreted as restraint.
**) Pronounced "oh fuck" by those whom it targets.


Illustration

29 September 2013

Princess Scheherazade             Photo by unknown photographer


Lean Mean Fighting Machines

Jock Strap Not Required

25 September 2013

Look, no hands.                                                                                    Photo: Boeing

Under the pretext of testing a realistic target drone for the pilots to shoot at during practice, Boeing, to the approving noises from the Air Force, test flew an F-16 without a human soul in the cockpit.

Arriving at a realistic target drone isn't the objective of this exercise, of course, it is to develop an unmanned combat aircraft capable of doing what a manned one cannot, something military planners have been drooling over for decades.

There are several advantages to not having a pilot onboard. The most obvious being that there is no one to die, were a fight to go to the adversary—fighter pilots are very expensive to train and to maintain, so losing them is a bad thing.

There are other advantages. The missing pilot and his non-existing life support systems leave room for extra payload, extra fuel, or make the aircraft lighter, therefore more agile. Not bound by human physiology, the aircraft can execute manoeuvres with accelerations well beyond the human limit of about 6G. That comes handy when chasing bogey, or evading a missile. In short, from a technical point of view, a fighter drone is a good thing.

The disadvantages come from the moral and ethical corner. For example, combat in which only one side is subject to dying can no longer be called warfare. What can it be called? Given that the holy grail of air combat is a fully autonomous robot taking on the enemy, the question arises, will it be given the right to decide who lives and who dies?

While thoughts like this may not cloud the eyes of the military, they should cloud the eyes of those who send them into a scrape.


Note: Having written the above text, and prepared the illustration, the Editor noticed The Guardian carried a nearly identical banner, with an identical caption, announcing a piece on the same subject. The similarity is accidental.


Great White North

Getting Around The Fairbanks' Sarah Palin Int. Airport

25 September 2013

"Turn left and proceed across the runway 20L."                                 Photo: Google Earth

A goof from a GAFA member.

But DD wonders how ordinary street traffic was able to penetrate into the presumably TSA-protected grounds of the airport.


Tragicomic Relief

24 September 2013

Leith, North Dakota, was considering a plan to condemn the home of neo-Nazi Paul Craig Cobb in order to prevent him from building a white-supremacist colony in the town. “Legal paperwork is being drafted,” said a commander of the American National Socialist Movement, “to ensure the civil rights of Mr. Cobb.”

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


Illustration

18 September 2013

Mariana Alcoforado by Modigliani                                                                                                         


Iran

To Persia With Love, Part 2

16 September 2013

"A letter from Mr Obama, Your Excellency."                   Painting by unknown 18th c. master

Someone in Washington must have been reading our August 5th billet-doux to Persia.

Today's Guardian reports on a rapprochement with Tehran which seems to be developing. That's great news.

But not all is perfect: Welcoming the news, Obama thought it appropriate to wipe off Bibi's tears by talking about Iran's 'nuclear threat' to Israel (non-existent for the foreseeble future), while remaining totally silent about Israel's vast—and vastly destabilizing to the region—nuclear arsenal. Any discussion of Iran's nukes must include those of Israel, for the exercise not to look like a farce.  DD hopes Rouhani won't let this slip by in any discussions that may follow.

There is a Syrian connection. Some years ago, Damascus (accused then of nuclear ambitions) demanded that any future peace deal with Israel included a provision that all sides to the conflickt renounce nuclear weapons.

It attracted no interest from Tel Aviv, and the current Israeli animus toward Syria may have something to do with that proposal.


Marianne

Les Lettres espagnoles

14 September 2013

"Follow me, comrades!"                                                                    Photo: tele gràcia

The Iberian peninsula lives up to its reputation for supplying interesting nuns. Sóror Alcoforado made a scandal when her Lettres Portugaises were published in Paris in 1669. Now, Sister Teresa Forcades y Vila, whose red cell is on the mountain of Montserrat in Catalonia, is making rounds and stirring things speaking out for social justice and against the Wall Street capitalism. She is likely to become a headache for Bergoglio.

Back in April we reported on the problems he had with his underlings when he was Father Superior of the Jesuits in Argentina. They had the cheek to engage in the liberation theology during the reign of terror of the Videla junta, which landed them in the hands of torturers.

Now the problem has returned in the form of Sister Teresa, a Benedictine nun, though to Bergoglio she may seem more like a dangerous bolshevik freshly unleashed by Laverntiy Beria. She is intelligent, charming, charismatic, and she has a sharp message for Bergoglio's traditional clientele. In short, a menace.

The Editor wonders when the 'pope of the poor' will get behind her campaign.


Four More Wars

Who's Next?

14 September 2013

It's rough going for Bibi.  He's been denied two nice little wars by the faint-hearted friends-and-allies. Some friends!

So, what's there for a man to do?

Attack Lebanon, of course. Thank God for Hezbollah.


Winston, You Can Stay Where You Are, I Can See You Anyway

Total Snooping—Wiring Diagram

13 September 2013

Arbeit zu samen                                                                             Diagram: Le Monde

Back in June, we presented a wiring diagram for Prism. This time we present a picture of the environment of which it is part. Wikipedia has some illuminating articles on the less-known components of the totalitarian machinery depicted in the diagram above.


Malthus

Conspicuous Maternity

10 September 2013

Use condoms.                                                                                 Photo: decals.com

"A plague on Earth", says David Attenborough of the human race. DD agrees, wishing Sir David had mentioned the nefarious role of the organized religion in promo- ting unfettered procreation.


Tragicomic Relief

10 September 2013

During a Senate hearing on the proposed U.S. intervention [in Syria], John McCain (R., Ariz.) was photographed playing a smartphone game called VIP Poker. “I had fun,” he said."

DD remains in awe of McCain.

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


Four More Wars

When All Else Fails, Roll Out The Children

5 September 2013

"Oh, please, Mr Kerry!"                                                 Photo by an unknown photographer

Netanyahu's Iranian adventure, having fizzled out on the launch pad, prompted him to re-target. He has ordered John Kerry to orchestrate an attack on Syria, the second best thing in the crosshair.

Alas, that too isn't going so smoothly: Her Majesty's Parliament has voted the adven- ture down, and Obama is vacillating, absurdly requesting an OK from Congress.

So, while it's not hopeless, the auspices for an immediate new war aren't great.

Children to the rescue. A warmongering piece of propagit at Yahoo!, buttressed by a 'spontaneous' appeal from Syrian children for an attack on Bashar, is a classic of the genre, and it can be counted on to convince the Limbaugh audience. But it looks desperate.

America will bomb Syria, just as Netanyahu wants it, but DD doesn't expect the American boots to stir the ancient dust on the road to Damascus.


Lucullus

Economic Recovery In America

2 September 2013

And $trillions to arrive in medical bills to pay for it                   Photo: Wikipedia/Sam Smith

It is well known in the economic circles that a rich, terminal-cancer patient embroiled in expensive divorce proceedings is a textbook example of a perfect contributor to a nation's Gross Domestic Product.

Now, new class of excellent GDP contributor presents itself, and features prominently in the current 'recovery' (see sidebar). He's been identified as the employee (if that's the word) of a fast-food joint. Not only is he a good worker bee, but, given the meagre- ness of his pay, hence inability to afford proper nutrition, a natural client for his employer, who, besides, exerts pressure on him to be one. The boom in the sector, which gave him the job, comes largely from others like him seeking to put something in the empty stomach—hardly an uplifting scenario*.

What's nice about the arrangement is that at the end of his career—to come sooner rather than later—he will have to undergo an expensive medical intervention (whose cost will be socialized, to be sure) on the account of the plugged arteries, diabetes, failed liver, and the kidneys—byproduct of years of ingesting semi-toxic compounds, passed to him under the fraudulent pretext of being food.

In short, great fun for the surgeon and the economist compiling the GDP statistics.

This grotesque recovery points to a fundamental flaw of the American-style capitalism, whose holy grail is profit, namely, that this model, which feeds on the vulnerable, is untenable. People must urgently seek an alternative, wherein the goal of the activity is shifted toward seeking the greatest good for the greatest many, instead of the pharaonic riches for the tiny few.


*) In the interest of completeness, the Editor feels compelled to add that fast-food plays an essential social role in an economy such as that of the United States, and, increasingly, in many other hitherto advanced economies of the world, which, in the aftermath of the Great Wall Street Swindle, fell into destitution, and where large swaths of populations can no longer afford proper food. Those miserables have to resort to the toxic fare, or go hungry. The role of fast-food is that of a safety valve, and damn the consequences.


The Ship Of Fools

Why Are We Ruled By Idiots?

30 August 2013

An early take on the government.                                                         Musée du Louvre

It is a commonly held belief that the people in power are somehow special, that they uniquely posses that which the hoi poloi doesn't, that, unlike you and I, they are qualified to govern, be it by natural gift, schooling, a special dispensation from God, or, in fact, all of these together.

But, the evidence which has been accruing over the centuries suggests otherwise; that they are lazy, arrogant, given to thievery, swindling, and striking poses; that they are cowardly, credulous, and generally incurious about the reality surrounding them. In short, that they are plain bloody stupid.

The Editor came across two good examples to illustrate the point. They show how the rulers, faced with a condition certain to bring about dire consequences, do nothing, or do the exact opposite to that which ought to be done.

One, presented in a letter to the Editor of the London Review of Books by Prof. David Campbell of the Leeds University, is a response to an earlier LRB piece addres- sing the subject of the global climate change.

The other is a Harper's magazine piece describing the appallingly bungled approaches by governments toward economic troubles, including the current depression.

Only the actions of the government of Iceland shine brightly upon this bleak landsca- pe. May cod and herring fill the nets of their fishing ship to capacity.


Orwell

Magna Carta My Foot

27 August 2013

Invisible from Downing Street                                                           Photo: British Library

The upcoming 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta shapes up to be a sad event, more like mourning than a celebration, as the British civil liberties, ever since 9/11, have been heading in the general drainward direction.

A piece in today's Le Monde depicts a bleak landscape: a British Gitmo (12 people locked up for three years without inculpation), arbitrary stop and search; lockup (gradually extended under Tony Blair to 28 days) for suspicion of terrorism; arbitrary arrest, such as that of David Miranda at Heathrow; pursuit of journalists and activists; building of the largest video-camera surveillance system in the Western world—all to the sound of silence from the docile public.

More hooliganism is yet to come; David Cameron wants to exit from the European Convention on Human Rights, which Britain signed in 1951, on the pretext that the "terrorists use it to defend themselves". The damage to the civil liberties in Britain has been mitigated so far thanks to the Convention, to which the courts have resorted in curtailing the excesses of the successive tenants at Nr 10. In its absence, only the howling of the wild beasts would be emanating from the once green shores of the Albion.


The Empire Strikes Because It Can

His WMD, Our Satellite Photos

26 August 2013

Those were the days                                                             Photo: Iraqi State Television

On the eve of Obama's assault on Syria, for which the pretext is Assad's use of chemical weapons, Foreign Policy publishes CIA documents demonstrating Uncle Sam's collaboration with Saddam Hussein in preparation of such attacks on the Iranian troops during the 1988 Iran-Iraq war.

Cute, no?


Winning Friends And Influencing People

Through A Prism, Darkly, Part 10

25 August 2013

Strong steel outside, Special Collection Service inside                     Photo: Wikipedia/Okin

The Obama totalitarian squad must be beside themselves. Each day brings emba- rassing new revelations about the breadth of its global snooping enterprise.

Today's bad news comes from Der Spiegel, which describes NSA's break-in to the UN's teleconferencing system and subsequent recording reams of conversations between foreign diplomats, notwithstanding that the privacy of the exchanges is protected by agreements signed by the United States, and by encryption. Europeans are given special attention, making mockery of the American protestations of friendship.

This is a good moment to familiarize yourself with a new snooping system. It's called Special Collection Service, and no, it's not about collecting old newspapers and empty glass bottles. It's based in each of the 80 main American embassies and concerns surreptitious interception of electronic communication in their respective jurisdictions.

Special attention is reserved for the European representations in Washington. The SCS has invited itself into the telecommunication systems used by their ambassadors and diplomats, as well as into their VPN's.

Way to win friends and influence people, Mr Obama.


Essential Reading

Through A Prism, Darkly, Part 9

24 August 2013

GCHQ.  Omertà applies.                                                         Photo: Ministry of Defence

The Guardian is forced to flee harassment by the Cameron junta and to seek protection of the first amendment to the American Constitution.

That's a good first move. The need, however, for such an evasion is a symptom of a greater malaise, which DD diagnoses as the democratic deficit.

In order to rectify this problem, DD encourages the Brits to undertake the following modifications to their status quo,

For starters, dump the present government,
...then refrain from repeating the error of voting the Tories into office,
Nationalize the monarchy,
Adopt laws to beef up civil liberties, particularly the freedom of speech,
Eliminate privileged castes. Nationalize most of their assets.
De-establish religion and institute a stupidity tax on that which remains.

In short, change Britain's status from that of a feudal anachronism to a democracy. Journalists and their readers might appreciate it too.


An Option Too Far

These Pesky Computer Errors

21 August 2013

"Did you say buy or sell?"                                                         Photo: AFP/Spencer Platt

A computer cockup at Goldman Sachs leads to a chaos at the American stock exchanges, leaving a number of GS clients with gaping holes where there used to be money. GS, for its part, says it hasn't suffered.

Lucky they.

Meanwhile, minds less charitable than Editor's look at this episode with skepticism, and invoke Goldman's record of swindling and manipulation, such as when it advised clients to dump gold while scooping it up, $5bn of it just in the last quarter.

Those bonuses have to come from somewhere, don't they?


Winston, You Can Stay Where You Are, I Can See You Anyway

21 August 2013

                                                                         

Our Vienna correspondent forwards this cartoon by an unknown artist.


Tragicomic Relief

20 August 2013

Anti-abortion activists petitioned for the closure of Wichita’s South Wind Women’s Center, where physician George Tiller was shot and killed by an extremist in 2009, on the grounds that the clinic attracts gun violence."

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


Essential Reading

Through A Prism, Darkly, Part 8

14 August 2013

They don't care for Lucy over at Bluffdale                                                     Photo: CBS

The NSA claims it 'touches' only 1.6% of internet traffic – doesn't sound a lot. In fact, that's practically everything that matters."

The Guardian explains the three-card trick.


Tragicomic Relief

13 August 2013

The White House press corps asked no questions about reforms to National Security Agency surveillance practices at a press conference called to discuss reforms to NSA surveillance practices.

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


Essential Reading

Through A Prism, Darkly, Part 7

12 August 2013

Corrected and amended by the NSA                                           Photo: National Archives

1.6 percent suddenly becomes 100 percent. The Guardian explains.


Your Land Is Our Land

Peace Is Possible

11 August 2013

But getting indyked is a certainty.                                                             Photo: BBC

Peace is possible", says Martin Indyk, the 'impartial' American 'negotiator' for the precious commodity (see below in the "New" column). DD agrees, the same way it agrees with the statement, "winning a lottery jackpot five times in a row is possible".

Now, in order to 'facilitate' the charade, err...process, due to begin in a few days, Israel, with its customary delicacy, announces a plan to build 2,000 new homes on the land of those with whom it is about to negotiate. The worthy minister who announced the plan, says the houses will be for the 'Israeli citizens who need them'.

Fine.

But the ever suspicious Editor wonders how many of these houses will be for the needy Israeli citizens of Arab origin?

Ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha...wink wink, nudge nudge.


Winston, You Can Stay Where You Are, I Can See You Anyway

Through A Prism, Darkly, Part 6

10 August 2013

Full of computers, but something doesn't compute.                                  Photo: Reuters

NSA releases a seven-page statement explaining it is interested in only 1.6 percent of the internet traffic, and out of that it actually looks at only 0.025 percent. As all in the States is measured in football pitches, or some such folksy unit, the extent of the snooping was likened to a basketball court out of which the surface of a dime went under the microscope.

DD challenges this comparison. By its own calculation, the area of a dime is but 0.00023 percent of the area of a basketball court.

Incidentally, we don't believe in that 1.6 percent either.


Essential Reading

Through A Prism, Darkly, Part 5

10 August 2013

Not to Big Brother's liking                                                                       Photo: Lavabit

A well-aimed salvo from Greenberg lands on the shorts of the American totalita- rians. Essential reading.

DD salutes Lavabit and its founder, Ladar Levison, and wishes both prosperity in other jurisdictions.


Tragicomic Relief

6 August 2013

A Detroit pastor was shot to death when he asked his neighbors to quiet down. “It was devastating,” said his daughter. “I cried for a minute.”

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


Iran

To Persia With Love

5 August 2013

Friends-and-allies                                                                   Photo: AP/Ebrahim Noroozi

An opportunity not to be missed avails itself to President Obama, which is to bring Iran back into the western fold.

It would be a good thing all around. First, because it's better to have a friend than to have an enemy. Second, because Iran is rich in the kind of stuff the West needs. Third, because of its strategic location between it and the hostile China, hungry for the same stuff for which the West is, and, in the end, willing to take it by force. Fourth, a friendly relationship with Iran would muzzle Bibi's warmongering.

Not bad for the beginning.

Obama can probably count on Rouhani's cooperation. He can surely count on the Iranian youth, which is massively pro-western. But the American president must remember the errors of his predecessors, and do his level best not to repeat them. He should begin by boosting Iran's security by entering into suitable agreements, and by supplying it with modern, non-nuclear weaponry, as a deterrent against its neighbours, all of whom are Sunnis, and hostile.

Don't miss this chance, Mr Obama. And think of paying a visit.


Winston, You Can Stay Where You Are, I Can See You Anyway

Through A Prism, Darkly, Part 4

31 July 2013

Of course He is.*                                                                                Photo: Wikipedia

It's called XKeyscore, and it's NSA's own telescreen, only better, for, unlike the one in Winston Smith's apartment, it can, so to speak, see around corners. Let's call it progress.

Today's Guardian presents another Greenwald scoop from the Snowden spill. It explains how NSA can spy on anyone using the Internet.

Happy browsing.

(Of course, if you're innocent, you have nothing to worry about.)

*) Annuit Cœptis = Gott mit uns.


Tragicomic Relief

30 July 2013

NSA asked a reporter from ProPublica to modify a Freedom of Information Act request because it has “no central method to search an email".

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


Essential Reading

Through A Prism, Darkly, Part 3

28 July 2013

A bullseye from the Observer. It could well be titled, "It's about the Internet, stupid".

Patriots are advised to seek refuge.


Essential Reading

Through A Prism, Darkly, Part 2

27 July 2013

Capitalism and Democracy, goes the cliché, is a marriage made in heaven. It's amazing how many people actually believe it, ample examples to the contrary (China) notwithstanding. Snowden has shown (see the Prism wiring diagram below), that the one and the other are, in fact, incompatible. He has shown GAFA and all the rest of the 'cool' Silicon Valley outfits, to be sponsors of totalitarianism. Which is a shame.

Our Seattle correspondent, Bruce Lowe, draws attention to an excellent National Journal article depicting the scorched landscape and the sordid history of telecom- munication industry's collaboration with the totalitarian elements within the govern- ment. Eisenhower had warned against the military-industrial complex, Snowden has shown the workings of the high-tech-snoop one, equally bad, or worse.

Why does everything in the United States these days seem upside down?


The American Soldatesca

Why Is NSA Headed by a General?

22 July 2013

Alexander has you (and everybody else) covered.                                     Photo: BBC

When it happens in Chile or Argentina, it's called a military coup d'état. What might it be called when it's slow, and when it happens in the United States of America? A creeping military coup is the correct answer. The April 2006 issue of Harper's has a transcript of a discussion among some prominent military minds on the very subject. Their diagnosis unmistakably points to a CMC.

As the hitherto hidden face of the NSA now adorns every television and computer screen across the world, it is a good time, DD thinks, to ask the fundamental question:

Why is NSA's secretive apparatus run by an Army general, and not by a civilian?


Essential Reading

Greenwald in a Demolition Mood

18 July 2013

Absolutely essential reading from harpers.org.

DD is delighted to see Greenwald's view of the Democrats' cowardice parallel its own, and congratulates him on his courage to face up to the totalitarians.


Tragicomic Relief

16 July 2013

Zimmerman's family expressed concern about his safety. “There are people,” said Zimmerman’s brother, “that would want to take the law into their own hands.”

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

ARCHIVE


Winston, You Can Stay Where You Are, I Can See You Anyway

Guess What I Know

14 July 2013

Superpower of one.                                                               Photo: AFP/Tanya Lokshina

A major scoop by Argentina's La Nación, which, under the title, ""Snowden tiene información para causar más daño", publishes an interview with Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist to whom Snowden entrusted the spillage of the Prism beans. Here's a summary of what Greenwald had to say:

  • Snowden has enough information and documents to inflict, in one minute, more damage than any other person in the history of the United States, but that this isn't his intention.
  • In releasing the information, he wanted to expose the risks to privacy posed by the use of certain computer applications by people who are unaware of the fact they they have ceded their rights to the protection of private data.
  • He has passed copies of the entire dossier to several trusted persons and entities for an immediate release were he to be murdered.
  • He revealed asking Russia for a temporary political asylum, expecting to receive a permanent one in South America.
  • The US government should pray every day that nothing bad happens to Snowden, because if it does, all information will be released, and that it will be its worst nightmare.
Greenwald said he himself was in possession of a great quantity of data relative to the American surveillance operations in Latin America. For each South American country with an advanced telecommunication system, such as Mexico and Argentina, he said, Uncle Sam intercepts a vast flux of information, and that he held documents detailing how the US is implementing the interceptions, the type of programs it uses, and the quantity of data collected every day.

Greenwald reckons Snowden's decision to ask Russia for a temporary asylum was right. "The most important thing for him is to not find himself held by the United States, whose government showed itself to be extremely vindictive with respect to those who reveal embarrassing truths about it."

DD, for its part, has noted the Anglo-Saxon media are protecting their readers from the above information.


Paris Hilton and Friends

These Bright Young Things

10 July 2013

"Names, sweetie darling, names!"                                          Photo: Marc by Marc Jacobs

Wisdom, say experienced persons, is being able to walk in another man's shoes. This could be. But chic, surely, is to be able to walk in Paris Hilton's ones. This, at least, is what the golden young humanoids inhabiting Hollywood Hills are convinced of.

DD proposes a little of light summer reading, a London Review of Books review of Nancy Jo Sales The Bling Ring.


Winston, You Can Stay Where You Are, I Can See You Anyway

La Prisme

4 July 2013

DGSE:   "This we keep au sous-sol."                                                  Photo: Le Monde

The muted criticism which Prism received from Paris had probably all to do with the fact that DGSE, the French spooks, have one just like that, though their ambition is limited to the electronic communication within and with France, reveals an investigation by Le Monde.

What is limited in reach, however, is compensated by the freedom to dig through the data at their heart's content, as their access to the haul isn't circumscribed by any law.

The operation takes place in the vast basement of the DGSE headquarters, which is filled to capacity with the latest and the greatest the computer makers have on offer.

Thus, a président socialiste joins with a Democratic president in a totalitarian enterprise to fulfill the age-old ambition to know all that there is to know about all.


Winston, You Can Stay Where You Are, I Can See You Anyway

O Tempora O Mores

1 July 2013

RAF Menwith Hill.   Her Majesty's ears.                                             Photo: Le Monde

Imitation, say experienced persons, is the sincerest form of flattery.

This time the flattery came to further enhance the already special transatlantic relation- ship, and took the form of a Prism knock off called Tempora, by means of which British spooks, with a helping hand from the companies operating the cable, tapped into the transatlantic fibre optic line carrying voice and internet traffic between the new and the old continents.

The revelation, which came from Snowden, ruffled the feathers of mummy Angela, who ordered the minister of justice to have a chat with her opposite number in London, and demand explanations. Barack Obama found himself target of a barrage of related questions from the Germans (particularly sensitive to snooping, being on the receiving end of it during the Nazi and the Stasi periods) when he came to visit to Berlin a few days ago.

Stormy weather for the Yank and the Brit together.


Waves Rule Britannia

Slash n' Gash

28 June 2013 "Look at them squirm."                                                                     Photo: AP/PA Wire

Working from the precepts laid out for the world at the Chicago school of voodoo economics, the Cameron junta has just imposed a new round of belt tightening on the proles, meant to shore up the government and, nominally, the said proles themselves. The blame for Britain's ills was apportioned to the nefarious goings on in other jurisdictions: the crisis in the Eurozone, and high petroleum price at the wellhead.

Thus, to the approving noises from his side of the Chamber, George Osborne proclaimed the other day that £12bn will be whacked off from social programs, and not spent on salaries by firing 144,000 more public sector workers between now and 2016.

Jolly good.

But not all shall suffer. The military will be spared, and the budget of the spooks will even get a 3.4% boost in order to further lean on the two "Islamists" who are suspected of a (timely) killing of a soldier in a London suburb. Oh, and the budget for the bribes to the African chieftains sitting on natural resources essential to the arms industry will also be left alone.

The wicked witch is smiling in her tomb.


EARLIER ENTRIES

Essential Reading

  (Essential Viewing→
  (Essential Listening→

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

NEW: 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