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    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 yu- mmy goodies, got bought by an oligarch-to-be Lau- rent Adamowicz. But th- ings didn't work out, and today Fauchon struggles to shed a burden of debt, and the Epicureans worldwide hope it doesn't go under. The second grand trophy of the Place de la Madeleine, Hédiard, fell, in 2007, to a Russian oligarch Sergey Pugatchev, a one-time chum of Putin's. Yesterday, a court in Russia issued an arrest warrant for him. The warrant was cancelled to- day, 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 al- so 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.


Departments

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


EARLIER ENTRIES

Essential Reading

  (Essential Viewing→
  (Essential Listening→

NEW: Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VIII)

LRB on putting Palestine in formaldehyde

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VII)

LRB on the genocide in Palestine.

LMD deconstructs TAFTA.

Dubya woz thear

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

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VI)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (V)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (IV)

The Intercept

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

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

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (III)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (II)

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

Andrew Cockburn on sanctions.

The Guardian on the 1.6 percent solution.

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

Glenn Greenwald talks to Harper's.

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

Ellsberg on the United Stasi of America

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (I)

The Israel Lobby

Mearsheimer on Gaza

Quentin Tarantino and Friends

Essential Viewing

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