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

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



    An orbit too far                  [zoom]
    Image: ESA

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



    Too many engines, Wilbur  [zoom]
    Photo: BBC

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


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


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


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



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

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



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


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



    Not done at Fox                 [zoom]
    Photo: Al Jazeera

    Yesterday we presented a subhuman performance at Fox. Today, we present the other end of the human spectrum at Al Jazeera.



    With Bibi all the way         [zoom]
    Photos: Fox News

    The Great American Freak Show continues, featuring Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S. Carolina) and the host Greta Van Sustern in this Fox News orgy of stupidity, opportunism, sycophancy, and cowardice. Thanks to our Seattle correspondent for bringing this gem to our attention.


    It used to be Providence's
    Photo: Federal Reserve

    The American totalitarians go after the journalists, using surveillance and inti- midation to suppress exce- ssive curiosity and devia- tion from the party line.



    Worrisome growth            [zoom]
    Graph: Tor Metrics/Russia

    Something about the Tor Network upset Putin, pro- mpting him to post an €83,000 reward for finding out the identity of the user. The ambitious objective got downgraded to "conducting Tor research" after some- one had explained to him the difficulty of the task.



    Holder loves it                  [zoom]
    Photo: AP/Matt Dunham

    Ozzie justice minister (on the left) is proudly propo- sing a law allowing the go- vernment to lock up whi- stleblowers, as well as the journalists using their infor- mation, for up to 10 years. Justice ministers of Eng- lish-speaking countries me- eting in London are duly im- pressed.



    It left the scene immediately
    Photo: USAF                      [zoom]

    Our Seattle correspondent forwards this fascinating Smithsonian article about the legendary X-15 aircraft.



    Unsafe at any speed         [zoom]
    Photo: Royal Opera House

    Ewa Kawczynski, one of our Vancouver correspon- dents, signals an excellent Covent Garden production of Manon Lescaut. For a couple more days, the ope- ra can be heard on BBC 3.



    This one for Avigdor, and this one for Bibi                               [zoom]
    Photo: Palestine Today

    Israeli border cops beat up brother of the burnt-alive Palestinian boy.



    No holy smoke for now     [zoom]
    Image: Ando Hiroshige/Wikipedia

    The magnitude 9 Tohoku earthquake, which triggered the Fukushima disaster, had also put Mount Fuji on a short fuse, says a Fran- co-Japanese study just pu- blished in Science. The last major eruption of Mt. Fuji came in 1707, 49 days after an 8.7 magnitude qua- ke in the south of Japan.



    Hungarian goulash            [zoom]
    Photo: Wikipedia

    Spicy beef from Tiszafu- red. BBC reports.


    Clueless looking for clues
    Photo: NASA

    NASA launches a satellite to "seek clues to climate change". They are wasting time and taxpayer's money. We've had these clues for the last quarter of a cen- tury, and will give them out just for the asking.


    Keep it complicated, stupid!     Photo: MoD
    The Brits show how to em- power the spooks by ma- king the law governing sno- oping (RIPA) deliberately obscure. Caspar Bowden, a privacy researcher, ex- plains, "Interpreting that se- ction [of RIPA] requires the unravelling of a triple-nested inversion of meanings ac- ross six cross-referenced subsections, linked to a do- zen other cross-linked defi- nitions, which are all dep- endent on a highly ambigu- ous 'notwithstanding',"



    Ki-moon tries to smile       [zoom]
    Photo: Dannynis/Wikipedia

    A bad joke at the UN. An Israeli will be in charge of a Special Commission on Decolonization. The last ti- me we heard one like this was when Kissinger got a Nobel for Peace.


    Orthogonal but compatible         Photo: Edda Dietrich
    Our Vienna correspondent signals the good works of the Austrian professor Chri- stian Felber, who cham- pions the "Economy for the Common Good". Felber presents it himself in this You Tube footage.



    Photo: AP/Th. Habede       [zoom]
    We love good football, we give a yellow card to FIFA, and we absolutely adore the spirit of the Brazilian girl shown here before the match between her country and Mexico.



    Photo: Jacob Rask              [zoom]
    A Jaffa orange too far. In order to exorcise the dae- mon of the Boycott, Disin- vestment and Sanctions which is hovering over Isra- el, Bibi appoints a destabi- lization and disinformation wiz, the current minister for the strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz.



    Photo: NASA                      [zoom]
    We've always thought the purpose of the International Space Station was to en- tertain children. Now we know for sure.


    Muggy woz hear        Photo: BBC
    Filthy rich, dirt-poor, and the studs.


    It's got the kicks
    Photo: Wikipedia/M. de Silva

    Debit Suisse. The Swiss have unearthed a 120 kg container filled with radio- active waste, mainly ra- dium 226 left over from the 60s, when the highly-radio- active isotope was com- monly used to make the hands and the numbers of the watches glow in the dark. Many more such sur- prises remain to be disco- vered.



    Photo: SpaceX                   [zoom]
    A little bit of smoke and a couple of mirrors. The pri- vate rocketeer Elon Musk presents an animation and gives a guided tour of a mockup of a space capsule freshly off the drawing bo- ards at SpaceX. May the propulsive force be with him.


    Photo: SpaceX                   [zoom]
    Lee Kee Shipyard. Elon Musk's private rocketeering plagued by leaks. One, a helium leak in the first stage of the Falcon v1.1, the second in the Dragon capsule which brought to Earth the samples of a water leak which filled the astronaut Palmitano's hel- met during a space walk.

    Image: US Gvt.
    Pills and spills. Forget the al-Qaeda. The Economist describes the magnitude of the health-care fraud in Am- erica..


    Photo: AP/D. Lopez-Mills   [zoom]
    Subcomandante Marcos has quit the command of the Zapatistas.

    Photo: JAXA
    Clean launch for the Dai- chi-2 satellite on top of the H-2A rocket from Japan's Tanegashima Island.

    Image: The Guardian
    The Guardian and others demolish DIA's report clai- ming Edward [redacted]'s disclosures did staggering damage to the US intelli- gence.


    Photo: Yorick Le Saux        [zoom]
    We wish to signal a serio- usly good film coming out of Cannes: Sils Maria, by the director Olivier Assayas.


    Walking while Palestinian  [zoom]
    Photo: Surveillance camera

    Israeli soldiers waste two Palestinian youths just to show who's the boss. Dis- turbing footage here.


    Behold a new Callas          [zoom]
    Photo: myrtopapatansiu.com

    Our Vienna correspondent signals a birth of a star. She is Myrtò Papatana- siu. He says her Violetta is glorious, and that she sings Mozart, Rossini, and Verdi with equal success. Her repertoire spans music from the Baroque to the contemporary. This season she will be singing Fiordiligi at the Opéra Garnier and Violetta at the Concertge- bow in Amsterdam, but not in Vienna, to the chagrin of our correspondent. We wi- sh her a long and happy stardom.



    There will be a slight pain [zoom]
    Photo: AFP

    US has slapped the wrist of Credit Suisse with a debit of $2.6bn. The bank is ex- pected to feel some pain for a quarter, after which all sh- ould return to normal.



    Abstention-free zone         [zoom]
    Photo: BBC

    Cheers mate! The Econo- mist takes a look at booz- ing across the world.



    Not Cotillard                      [zoom]
    Photo: Eric Gautier

    The 67th Cannes Festival opened with Grace of Mo- naco by Olivier Dahan, who had previously directed La Vie en Rose. Le Monde treats the new film to pit- oyable and the princely fa- mily is said to be peeved.


    'Dave, I want to stay in Grenoble'
    Photo: Warner Bros.

    Grenoble's newly-elected socialist council wants to dismantle the 13 high-tech surveillance cameras instal- led in the city centre by the previous junta. We applaud this initiative and wish other cities follow suit.



    "Look, an American chip" [zoom]
    Photo: MCT/Getty

  • Hands on at the NSA.

  • Photo: wordpress.com        [zoom]
    Elisabeth Schwarzkopf sings O mio babino caro. Karajan conducts the Vien- na Philharmonic in this fre- shly re-mastered 1948 re- cording by Warner Clas- sics.



    Bezos wants to help         [zoom]
    Photo: AFP-Getty/E. Durand

    Women on the verge of a shopping spree. Bezos has got a website to tell him who they are. NSA ta- kes care of the rest.



    Rainy night in Georgia      [zoom]
    Graph: Nat. Climate Assessment

  • Even rainier in Pennsyl- vania. (Also see below.)


  • Spot the glorious lifestyle [zoom]
    Graph: The Economist, 2013

  • "Our glorious lifestyle", used to rhapsodize Dubya referring to the America's gas-guzzling culture. An un- glorious effect of this is now manifesting itself in Florida where raising sea level is bringing flooding to the land- scape. Erecting barriers will not help, since the Swiss-cheese nature of the bed- rock assures the water will get through. Graph: tonnes CO2 emissions per capita per year.


  • Health food, actually         [zoom]
    Photo: Tomas Castelazo

  • Those pesky negative iso- topes. "All bizarrity comes from California," once said Jack London. No joke.

  • Photo: Wikipedia
  • Remembering the Nakba as the 66th anniversary ap- proaches


  • Photo: Gill/Glasgow           [zoom]
  • A chorus of oy veys ema- nated from Israel as the Nigerian-born Muslim anti- Semite Obama demanded banking details of the Ame- rican tax cheats hiding their loot in the noted tax haven


  • Photo: AP/L. Pitarakis        [zoom]
  • Muggy woz hear. In Wes- tern Europe, only Malta has a higher child mortality rate than Britain.

  • Photo: The Counterforce
  • The natives are restless. Protest against the googli- fication of San Francisco gets close and personal. Demos were held in front of homes of Kevin Rose, found guilty of nerdification, and Jack Halprin, a Google la- wyer and slumlord, found guilty of evicting people in order to replace them with geeks capable of paying several times more. Sepa- rately, a glasshole, posing as a reporter, had his glass snatched and smashed ag- ainst the pavement.

  • Photo: YouTube
  • Palin speaks, err, quacks.

  • Image; BBC
  • Our Vancouver correspon- dent (EK) forwards this ex- ceptional BBC Radio 3 pro- gram in which Rolando Vil- lazón presents Mozart's operas (available till May 2)

  • Image: Firstlook.org
  • Greenwald explains how the NSA unceremoniously reveals its top secrets whe- never it suits them. Others doing this endanger Ameri- can lives.


  • Kratzer the Younger           [zoom]
    Painting by Holbein the Younger

  • Our Munich correspondent tells us that among the pain- tings of Hans Holbein the Younger (see below), there is a portrait of his own ance- stor, Nikolaus Kratzer, who 500 years ago, was a well- known figure in the Renais- sance Europe. We congra- tulate Michael for having such an illustrious ances- tor, in whose footsteps, as a scientist, he himself fol- lowed.


  • "Hey, life's great!"             [zoom]
    Photo: Reuters/A. Bianchi

  • High on the hog at the Holy See. Pope Francesco lives in a humble 70 sqm pad. Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone will soon be living in the Pa- lazzo San Carlo in a fresh- ly-revamped 700 sqm (7,500 sqft) one, with 3 girls full-ti- me at his service. Church of the Poor his foot. Pope Francis is not amused.


  • 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 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

Your Land Is Our Land*

Il Stato Canaglia

Monday, 25 August 2014

Straight shooter                                                                       Photo: Corriere della Sera

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

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

The superiority of Europe over America is that in Europe people still have the courage to tell urbi et orbi what's on their mind.


Pretty Good Privacy

Enemy Within

Friday, 22 August 2014

Still pungent                                                                               Image: The Tor Project

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

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

It's actually quite amusing.


Statistically Significant

Selfishness Gap

Thursday, 21 August 2014

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

Of conservative Americans: 69

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


Essential Reading

Tales From The Land Of The Absurd

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Good for the tsar                                                                                      Photo: Getty

Peter Pomerantsev looks at the Russian drinking scene. Opener:

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


Tragicomic Relief

The Right Of Every Idiot To Keep And Bear Arms

Sunday, 17 August 2014

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

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


Animal Husbandry

Ersatz Everything

Saturday, 16 August 2014

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

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

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

Enjoy.

Your Land Is Our Land

Not Eyeless In Gaza

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Alvarez: all eyes                                                                                       Photo: TVE

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

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

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


Tragicomic Relief

Friends Helping Friends

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Consumption rate has been tremendous                                       Photo: AP/Khalil Hamra

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

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


Essential Reading

Lawn Mowing

Saturday, 2 August 2014

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

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

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

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

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


Apocalypse Earlier

Close Encounter With The 18th Century

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Hairy                                                                                                     Image: NASA

NASA reports on a near wipeout of Earth's electricity, telecommunication, and satel- lite navigation infrastructure when a huge solar storm two years ago nearly relegated our electricity-based civilization back to the 18th century.


The Great American Freak Show

A Stern Message

Monday, 28 July 2014

Howie speaks, you listen                                                                   Photo: FanPix.net

We have known for a long time that to be anti-American—for example, by not having supported the war on Irak—was automatically to be anti-Semitic. Now we learn that to be anti-Israel is automatically to be anti-American.

The truth comes from the American lout Howard Stern, hastily enlisted by Bibi to boost the sagging ratings of Israel's latest mugging of Palestine.

The target audience was the America's Zionist Christians, which have become essen- tial part of Israel's artificial life support system. The technique du jour was the "demo- lition of a straw man", in this case, a fictional caller to Howie's Tea Party News Net- work rant show, who was given the role of a defender of the Palestinians.

Howie hit him with nuclear weapons, at one point calling him a "cocksucking fuck", which, as a sacred cow, he can afford. Here's a link to the spectacle, kindly forwarded by our Seattle correspondent.


Statistically Significant

Kinder, Küche, Kirche

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Percentage of Republican women who say it would “make no difference” to them if there were more women in Congress : 67

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


Your Land Is Our Land

This Pesky Fog Of War

Friday, 24 July 2014

Regev is confused                                                                        Photo: BBC newsnight

Bibi's personal disinformation chief says he doesn't know who is firing the ordnance which is landing on Palestinian schools and hospitals. Poor lamb.

Daily Detox hastens to help.

These missiles, Mr Regev, are being fired by the Chinese.

Being so disoriented, Regev probably isn't also noticing that the International Criminal Court in the Hague is busy dusting off the dock where to put him and the rest of the murderous junta to which he belongs.


Tragicomic Relief

Eyeless, Armless, Legless, And Childless In Gaza

Updated Friday, 25 July 2014

Pass the popcorn                                                                       Photo: AP/Khalil Hamra

In the border town of Sderot, Israelis gathered on a hilltop to eat popcorn and cheer strikes on Palestinian towns below."

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

UPDATE  Schools, hospitals, and UN facilities are now fair game for the IDF exter- mination campaign. Warnings previously issued to the Palestinian population before attacks are not longer seen by the Israelis as necessary.


Your Land Is Our Land

Silence Of The Lambs

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Victims on the move                                                             Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

Daily Detox finds no words of contempt for the meek passivity and cowardice of the West vis-à-vis Israel's sadism in Gaza.

Hollande (may Julie dump him) has just banned a pro-Palestinian demo in Paris. Angie (may she always look frumpy) keeps quiet so as not to compromise the submarine deal with Bibi, Cameron, never prepared to sacrifice a weapons contract on the altar of humanitarianism, cannot be counted on, and Obama (may his birthpla- ce be proven to be Nigeria), held so firmly by the genitals by the AIPAC that he cannot move an inch, is afraid to inflict the slightest pain on the Zion.

With minor exceptions, the media look the other way, or withdraw correspondents who have seen too much and may get the idea to write about it.

Silence emanating from Scandinavia particularly pains us, because in the past Scan- dinavia spoke for the oppressed. That voice is no longer heard, having succumbed to the homogenized market barbarity which is beaten into the heads of the ambitious thirtysomethings in business schools.

Canada used to be a vice of conscience in those good old days. Now, Harper (may he choke on a hockey puck) tries to outlikud Bibi.

Golda Meir had once rhapsodized about dispersing Palestinians "like the dust in the wind". The opposite is actually happening, though it probably wouldn't displease her: they are being bombed in a concentration camp from which there's no escape.


Essential Reading

A Dime A Dozen

Thursday, 17 July 2014

He violated the curfew                                                                            Photo: Reuters

Mouin Rabbani writes about the Israeli contempt for the Palestinian life. Essential reading from the current issue of LRB.


Monty Python's Flying Circus

And Now For Something Completely Different

Monday, 14 July 2014

It ain't gonna fly, Donald                                                Photo: Monty Python's Flying Circus

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders," observed Her- mann Goering. "All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

This for firing up nationalist fervour. To boost sagging popularity ratings, one goes to Mars, or at least into space.

Every rocketeer knows that going to orbit is best done from launch pads located near the equator. This is because Earth's rotation gives a free extra boost to the rocket, which can then carry more payload, or get to the orbit on less fuel. For that reason, the European launch facility is situated in the French Guyana, practically on the equator. The farther away from the equator, the less the effect. At the poles, the effect vanishes altogether. At 56° of latitude, Scotland is an example of a bad location from where to launch space rockets.

Yet, it is precisely from where Cameron wants to boldly go to where others, more cheaply, have gone before. Desperate times call for desperate measures, we guess.


Your Land Is Our Land

Rubble To Rubble, Dust To Dust

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

"You send us the firecrackers, we send you the real thing"                        Photo: Reuters

The programmatic pulverization of Palestine, having just acquired a fresh alibi, resu- med with a renewed vigour. While the coal-fired Palestinian missiles fall randomly on the Israeli border wastelands, occasionally frightening some old women out of their wits, real munitions rain on the Palestinians, making what had previously resembled one big rubble heap, resemble an even bigger rubble heap, with body parts sticking out here and there.

The world, as is its habit, takes pictures and does absolutely nothing. Uncle Sam him- self keeps the good eye on Israel's munitions stockpile to make sure it isn't wanting, and the glass one on Gaza.

Chomsky had treated both Israel and the US to rogue states. This now seems almost polite.


Tragicomic Relief

Thursday, 8 July 2014

A customer entered a Barclays bank in Andover, England, defecated on the floor in several places, and left. “He didn’t look ill,” said a witness, “he just looked a bit smug as he walked out."

His deposit may not be credited today.

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


BDS

Acupressure

Sunday, 6 July 2014

"Let me tell you, it hurts"                                                                       Photo: Reuters

Writing for the Nation, Noam Chomsky urges caution about the boycott, disinvest- ment, and sanctions diet prescribed for the Israelis to get them off the Palestinian back and land. There's something in it, and we appreciate the difference which Chom- sky points out between the South African apartheid and the Israeli one.

But to see Bibi squirm is a hugely gratifying sight and a sign that the punches are landing where it hurts, contradicting previous consensus to the effect that, being pro- tected by the Americans, Bibi was immune to all pressure. Now proven untrue, this new knowledge must be exploited to inflict pain on Bibi and his likudniks.

So, as much as we don't want ot disagree with Noam Chomsky, we will support the BD to the bitter S.


Le Carré

The Spy Who Bugged Me, Part 2

Tuesday, 2 July 2014

Sir, here is your toothbrush, razor, and a change of shorts      Photo: P. de Cosette/Europe 1

At 7.30 yesterday, the French Judiciary Police took the former president Nicolas Sarkozy into custody in order to give him a chance to explain in his own words how he stayed abreast of the details of a confidential inquiry into the financing of his 2012 election campaign. This is not to say that this isn't known.

At the police headquarters in the Paris suburb of Nanterre he will join a select group which had arrived earlier and includes his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, and two magistrates from the Cour de cassation (France's Supreme Court), who fed him the information.

It is poignant that Sarkozy's political life come to an end a stone's throw from where it began 30 years ago, in his fief of Neuilly-sur-Seine. It is customary in such situations to invoke the concept of 'closure', though, given that he is in one, it would be at the risk of being accused of undue levity in face of a grave (we hope) circumstance.


Broadcasting

Daniel Mermet

Monday, 30 June 2014

Soon to be replaced by a Jacques du Rozier                                     Image: France Inter

It's a joyous moment for hooligans of all stripes.

The first move of Laurence Bloch, the new directrice of France Inter, the most important of France's nine public radio channels, was to pull the plug on Daniel Mermet's famous program Là-bas si j'y suis, which has been on the air for the last 25 years. In other words, to pull the plug on Mermet.

None is more pleased than CRIF, France's answer to the American Anti-defamation League. CRIF was saddled with a stiff bill after losing a legal attack on Mermet. It had accused him of anti-Semitism, which is understood to be any form of defence of the Palestinians against the Israeli land grab. Mermet had a nasty habit of inviting pro- Palestinian people, including a number of Israelis opposed to the occupation. The court had disagreed. In France a losing plaintiff coughs up for everybody's legal fees. The pain was intense and the memory bitter.

The list of celebrants today will be long. From Sarko, to the arms manufacturer and dealer Serge Dassault. From the oligarch Bernard Arnault to the oligarch François Pinault. From the Rotary Club, to the Bilderberg Club, from Monsanto to Exxon, from the likudniks in the Knesset to those on Capitol Hill. We cannot think of any other individual with so many high-power enemies as Mermet. Nor of one with so many friends.

One time he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He immediately announced he wanted nothing to do with it.

He has a huge support across France, and the hostile move of Mme Bloch acting on orders will be met with a protest. There's been talk of a siege of the Maison de la radio at the Trocadéro.

DD has had some pleasant interaction with Mermet and with his staff at Radio France, and at the unofficial La-bàs site, la-bas.org. The scoundrels may have succeeded in kicking him out of RF, but we doubt he will remain silent for long.

Bonne continuation, cher ami !


Free Trade

In TAFTA's Embrace

Thursday, 26 June 2014

He wanted clean air                                                                    Photo: 20th Century Fox

Following up on our June 21st TAFTA essay, our Munich correspondent signals an earlier piece on the same topic, which we'd inexplicably missed when it first appeared back in December 2013. We thank Michael for saving it from oblivion.


Music Of The Spheres

Summer Solstice

21 June 2014

A bright moment with a dark outlook                                                         Photo: NASA

Summer solstice in Northern Hemisphere had arrived on 21 June at 10:51 Universal Time marking the beginning of a slide toward winter.


Free Trade

TAFTA Bursts On The Stage

Saturday, 21 June 2014

He will be always right                                                                Photo: 20th Century Fox

Something nasty is hatching.

"What doesn't kill you," says the philosopher, "makes you stronger". Thus, Obama's failure to bludgeon Wall Street after the sub-primes swindle has spawned a beast so fearsome that it will put an end to the West's silly experiment with Democracy, and, more particularly, will finish off with the frivolous idea of a united Europe.

The TAFTA talks, conducted in secret, have produced one thing that is known thus far—special courts, run by corporate lawyers, to deal with 'trade' matters. To give an example of a trade matter, consider the 'problem' of the minimum wage. A multi- national will now have the right to sue in front of these courts a country for enacting a minimum wage law, if it feels the law steps on its bottom line, which it surely will. The court will then award said multinational a compensation for the future lost income.

These figures normally run in billions, as Ecuador, among others, has found to its chagrin. Enacting legislation to protect population against dangerous pesticides or food additives will have a similar effect. There won't be any need to produce anything to ascertain future cash flow, just to sue a country which had the cheek to put in such reckless laws. Try to object and you'll have your head bitten off (see above.)

The multinationals will be reimbursed with public money for the projected losses. A law enacted by a sovereign body, in other words, will be subject to a penalty. Spot the error. Yet, this is what's being concocted in complete tranqulity, with elected officials looking the other way.

Owing to the strong structure of social and environmental protection which will come under fire, Europe will be a big looser. The little people, who might think that TAFTA will let them move freely between the New and the Old worlds, should not hold their breath. It's not for them.


Statistically Significant

No Child Left Behind

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Percentage of children in single-mother Scandinavian families who are living in poverty : 11
In single-mother U.S. families : 55

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


Singspill

Phantoms At The Opera

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Pre-recorded from the Lincoln Center                                                  Photo: Paul Masck

Peter Gelb, New York Metropolitan Opera's General Manager, just back from a ma- nagement refresher sponsored by Goldman Sachs, fumed against a third of his bud- get "going to the unions", by which he meant the people working at the Met. We were relieved not to hear that the money went "to the union bosses", as the reacs had the habit of putting it back in the halcyon day when the unions actually existed.

Gelb says the house is on a bankruptcy track. If so, we feel his pain. But neo-fascist stunts aren't the way to fix it. He ought to go to Obama and ask for a few minutes of the annual war-on-terror budget to save the bottom of an important American cultural venue, which is the Met.

For other Met news, the diva Anna Netrebko cancelled a performance in Japan for fear of the slow neutrons from Fukushima lurking in the wings at the Tokyo Opera house. Pity, Japanese food is great for losing weight.


Tragicomic Relief

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Obama Administration proposed an Environmental Protection Agency regulation that would establish the country’s first official limit on carbon emissions, targeting a 30 percent reduction by 2030 in carbon pollution from power plants compared with 2005 levels. “Today’s proposal from the EPA could singlehandedly eliminate [our] compe- titive advantage,” said the CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.”

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


Statistically Significant

In God Some Trust

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Percentage of Egyptians who say it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person: 95
Percentage of Americans who do: 53
Of Chinese: 14

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


Pretty Bad Privacy

Yellow Bird Up High In Banana Tree

Sunday, 25 May 2014

And la cucaracha in the cell phone                                                       Photo: Wikipedia

The Intercept reports that NSA has comprehensively bugged the island nation of Bahamas, intercepting all electronic communication and recording it for later analysis. A similar operation is under way in another, unnamed, country.

So what's going on? And why the Bahamas?

As we suspected, and as the article confirms, the Bahamas serve as a rehearsal stage for a similar operation on the territory of a more important target. The Bahamas just happened to offer a convenient alibi—fight against narco traffic—that allowed DEA to tap into its telecommunication infrastructure. Under the pretext of chasing drug smugglers, the agency installed a fancy and potent data collection infrastructure, and put it to use while opening the shop to the NSA. "The DEA and the NSA", as one memo puts it, “enjoy a vibrant two-way information-sharing relationship”.

Nice. If it only squared with the law.


Pretty Good Privacy

Enigmail

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Enigmail v. 0.1                                                                   Image: Greg Goebel/Wikipedia

If you want to massively boost your privacy, download, install, and use Enigmail.

The adverb "massively" is actually inadequate. It should be "infinitely", because the underlying PPP encryption is unbreakable, and will remain so until someone (NSA) comes up with an operational quantum computer.


Debit Suisse

Full Frontal Nudity

Sunday, 18 May 2014

New traffic lights                                                                                       Photo: AFP

The last two bastions of banking secrecy, Switzerland and Singapore, have suc- cumbed to the pressure from the cash-strapped governments to sign the full disclosure agreement with the 34 members of the OECD plus China and Russia, designed to help pursue tax cheats. At first, banking data will be released case by case, upon a specific request from fiscal authorities, but beginning with 2017, the fisc will have an automatic free access to the information.

That sounds nasty if you're a tax optimizer.

DD, however, has learned from a source intimately familiar with the subject that not all is lost, for it is possible to circumvent the requirement by the following simple strata- gem. The moment a financial institution hosting an account wishing to remain anony- mous receives a request for information, it transfers the account to itself, so it can truthfully answer that it hosts no account of the person in question. As soon as the intruder goes away, all reverts to the original status.

Complications will come in 2017. But we will be surprised if they are not met with a satisfactory workaround.


To Boldly Stroke Ego

Blue Yonder

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Strange sightings in West Texas                                                        Photo: Blue Origin

Noting a continuing paucity of interesting space news, we thought to check on the progress of the private rocketeering by the retailer Jeff Bezos.

While we've found the countdown at the Corn Ranch space facility (a concrete slab, basically) on hold, and the technicians out scouring the downrange perimeter for the bolts that fell off the New Shepard vehicle on its maiden flight, we have discovered that an escape capsule had been successfully tested, and that a new liquid fuel rocket engine underwent a full-cycle static firing in situ.

Barbecue picnics were held at a nearby shack to celebrate the progress of the project Blue Origin.

There are, alas, signs that Bezos has filed an amended flight plan for his undertaking, which calls for the lowering of the flight level, and a group performance with Richard Branson, rather than a solo stunt. This may have something to do with a realization that came more or less simultaneously to both rocketeers of the enormity of the costs which are involved.

Spreading the immediate pain might help for now, but it won't alleviate the pain to come. Bezos' declared intention to put "2 to 3 million people into hotels and luna parks" in orbit should draw attention of the mental health and law enforcement commu- nities, for the amount of pollutants which such an endeavour would inject into the alrea- dy fragile atmosphere would drive the final nail into its coffin.

An Orange-brown Finale to a megalomaniac lunacy, one might say.


Tragicomic Relief

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Russian president Vladimir Putin... signed a law banning cursing in public performan- ces. “It is a common practice to swear,” said Russian philosopher Vadim Rudnev, “among the intelligentsia.”

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


Pretty Good Privacy

ixquick

Friday, 9 May 2014

The incurious                                                                                        Image: ixquick

If you don't want to be spied on, if you don't want another piece of information about you added to your digital profile every time you search the Internet, if you don't want that profile to be sold to advertisers, then use ixquick.

We have it on the authority of the nerds at Radio France, who had dissected it, that ixquick is what it claims to be on its front page.

We have reported (see Pretty Good Privacy below) that Gmail objects to being used from the Tor network. Our Munich correspondent adds that Google search some- times doesn't work when accessed from the Tor Browser. We have seen no such beha- viour from ixquick.

Happy searching.


Pretty Good Privacy

Tor

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Surfing from another jurisdiction                                                    Image: The Tor Project

If you're innocent, says the snoop as he sticks his hairy nose into your life, you have nothing to worry about.

We prefer not to worry unconditionally, by leaving him no place where to put his nose.

Please say hello to the Tor Browser, which allows you to surf the Internet with total anonymity. Goodbye to being tracked, having your digital profile built, being targeted by who knows whom and who knows where, hello to anonymity and a poke in the eye of the corporate and government spy. Goodbye to selling your profile to the advertiser; they won't have any information to build one.

The Tor Browser (TB) is a modified version of Firefox, so those who already use it will be on a familiar ground. (You may of course use your old browser as you wish, but you won't be anonymous.)

The difference comes on the other end, so to speak. To someone who happens to watch your browsing, you will be in Mongolia. Or in Bolivia, or Timbuktu. The IP address which he thinks is yours, won't be yours. To put it differently, your internet identity, as it presents itself to the curious, will have nothing to do with you, or anyone in particular. In addition it will be changing all the time.

That's as good as it gets, especially compared to the full frontal nudity of the conven- tional browsing. And Tor's pedigree is great—Snowden used it to pass to the Guardian the Prism scoop.

To get the Tor Browser, go to the website of the Tor Project, click on the big purple button, and follow the instructions in the documentation. It's a good idea to do all the authentications and verifications of the source code, as recommended therein. Some minor nerdy skills on your part, or on the part of someone you know, will come handy.

Take a look at the Wikipedia article on Tor.

Happy browsing.

Postscriptum.   You will begin noticing funny things when you start Tor browsing. For example, looking at an article at the USA Today had triggered the following message from the TB,

"This website (usatoday30.usatoday.com) attempted to access image data on a canvas [of Editor's computer]. Since canvas image data can be used to discover information about your computer, blank image data was returned this time."

Well, thank you!

Often, but not always, upon closing TB, Windows will growl at you saying it closed the TB (no, it didn't, you did) to protect you against "data execution". We think it's a form of intimidation on the part a card-carrying member of GAFA.

Trying to send Gmail from TB, which combination is said to offer discrete email com- munication, will engender all sorts of anxiety on the part of Google, this other card- carrying member of the club. Immediately upon logging in, they ask you to provide an alternative email address as a verification that you are you. Fair enough.

Then, about two minutes into the session, a message pops up saying they have a difficulty identifying you and to please log in again. We don't, suspecting it's a ruse to find out who you are. We think that for the second log in, they drop the (secure) https protocol, which, upon your initial log in, had protected your credentials. Pure fun. Enjoy.


May Day

From Haymarket To The Financial Market

May Day 2014

New Harmony (work presently outsourced to China.)                         Painting by F. Bate

We wish to signal progress.

Last year we quoted from Wikipedia that May Day was "an ancient Northern Hemis- phere spring festival and usually a public holiday; it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures." This year the following has been added, "May Day coincides with International Workers' Day, and in many countries that celebrate the latter, it may be referred to as "May Day".

Times must be harder than we thought for such a bolshevik addendum to get bolted on.

The reality on the ground is even harder. The class war appears to be over, as explain- ed by Warren Buffett*, the Occupy movements in hiding, and the governance, in fulfil- lment of Rockefeller's wet dream, taken over by the monied interests**.

Happy May Day.


*) "Class war? Of course there's a class war! It is us who's waging it, and it is us who's winning."
**) "...somebody has to take governments' place, and business seems to me to be a logical entity to do it."—David Rockefeller, Newsweek International, Feb 1, 1999.
See also our April 19th essay.

Presentation

Heinz Anger

Tuesday, 29 April 2014
Campo Pescheria, Venice. Watercolour by Heinz Anger, 1994                            [zoom]

Our Vienna correspondent, having recently organized a show for his friend, the reno- wned Austrian painter, Heinz Anger, wishes to present him to our Readers. Anger, born in 1941 in Karlstetten, a year later moved with his parents to Vienna, where he has been living since. He received his artistic schooling at the Vienna College for Graphic Arts and at the Academy of Visual Arts. Since 1965 Anger followed the style of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, then Pop-Art, finishing in Impressionism.

Some of his works can be seen at his website, and the Wikipedia entry for the legen- dary Austrian soprano Leonie Rysanek is accompanied by a portrait he was commis- sioned to paint in 1962. To us, it reflects her beauty and intelligence, and his own love of the opera.


Tragicomic Relief

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Israel suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority after President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party agreed to form a unity government with Hamas."

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


Statistically Significant

Gender Gap

Monday, 28 April 2014

Percentage of US married men who say their spouses vote the same way they do: 73. Of US married women who say so: 49

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


Branson Galactic

To Boldly Sell Tickets

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Not to confuse with Virgin Comics                                                  Photo: Virgin Galactic

Noting a certain paucity of interesting space news, we thought to check on the sta- tus of the private rocketeering by the entrepreneur Richard Branson. While we've found the countdown at the Spaceport America on hold and windows shuttered, we did come across this excerpt in a recent LRB piece about his exploits.

"Since 1999 Branson has been pioneering the idea of commercial space travel under the auspices of his Virgin Galactic business. He has been taking deposits from would-be civilian astronauts for more than a decade, many of them paying up to $200,000 to secure seats on a flight into orbit. He promised these eager punters that takeoff would happen in 2007, then 2010, then 2012, then 2013; now we are told the first flight will take place sometime later this year or early next. The project is based in the New Mexico desert, in part because Branson was able to extract subsidies of more than $200 million from the state governor, Bill Richardson, who seems to have been dazzled by the Branson name. The ostensible reason for the delays has been a series of technological and practical setbacks, the worst of which occurred in 2007 when an exploding fuel tank killed three engineers working on the project. Critics complain that Virgin Galactic’s technology, far from being groundbrea- king, is hopelessly out of date, and what is being proposed (a short flight above the atmosphere with a brief bout of weightlessness) is nothing that couldn’t have been attempted in 1945. Branson talks about the project as though it were something else entirely. In 2005 he told an audience that included Donald Trump (which may have sent him into overdrive): ‘My aeronautical engineers are designing a Virgin hotel to be built on the moon, or perhaps orbit around it, with glass-encased sleeping areas. You could be making love in these see-through domes and looking at Earth.’ Since then the rhetoric has been damped down a notch or two. Now the focus tends to be on the celebrities who have signed up for a trip: Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber all want to go into space on a Virgin craft. Branson’s children, Holly and Sam, will be on the first flight, to be screened live on NBC, which is already describing this future broadcast as something that ‘will go down in history as one of the most memorable events of television’. Maybe so, especially if something goes wrong."

For other space news, Elon Musk has just delivered a load of groceries to the ISS, where there are apparently some people, though no one knows for exactly what purpose.


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 periods 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


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