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    A view from the Pietà       [zoom]
    Photo: Matthew Field/Wikipedia

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

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

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

    Goods on display              [zoom]
    Photo: Paper

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

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

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

    Now in Blackpool              [zoom]
    Photo: BBC2

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

    Behold the white elephant [zoom]
    Photo: Ralph Vandebergh

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

    Sitting pretty precariously [zoom]
    Image: ESA

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

    The apple of our eye          [zoom]
    Photo: Vienna StateOpera

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

    Two weights, two measures
    Photo: CNES                      [zoom]

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

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

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

    Leadership for the 21st century
    Image: anonymous artist

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

    Serving Air Strip One
    Photo: MoD

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

    SpaceDebris 2                  [zoom]
    Photo: AP

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

    SpaceDebris 2                  [zoom]
    Photo: AP

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

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

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

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

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

    Sneak attack on America  [zoom]
    Photo: Surveillance camera

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

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

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

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

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

    Casta diva                         [zoom]
    Photo: unknown photographer

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

    Spot a binge                      [zoom]
    Graph: The Economist

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

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

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

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

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

    Not so wicked after all
    Photo: Eon Productions

    The revenge of Hai Fat.

    The dendritic IS                 [zoom]
    Chart: The Economist

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

    Stormy weather in the Rhineland
    Photo: Wikipedia

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

    But not before you pay their taxes
    Photo: Reuters/R. Wilking   [zoom] runs afoul of the EU anti-competition laws for having cut a sweet- heart deal with Luxem- bourg aimed at avoiding paying taxes. Apple in Ire- land, and Starbucks in Holland have run into simi- lar troubles.

    The holes will become bigger
    Photo: Wikipedia

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

    Marriage in Venice            [zoom]
    Photo: BBC News

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

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

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

    The holes used to be smaller
    Photo: Wikipedia

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

    Unbeatable, till now          [zoom]
    Photo: KHanger

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

    Gone too                            [zoom]
    Photo: Marco Borggreve

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

    Eat this spicy curry           [zoom]
    Image: ISRO

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

    You relax, we drive          [zoom]
    Photo: NASA

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

    PM 2.5 in the GDP
    Graph New Climate Economy

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

    Dust devils                        [zoom]
    Image: BICEP2

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

    Yankee diva                      [zoom]
    Photo: Erato

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

    Space, but not X                [zoom]
    Image: Boeing

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

    Murder in Park Lane         [zoom]
    Photo: Wikipedia

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

    The möst                            [zoom]
    Photo: Roger Mastroianni

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

    Friends helping friends
    Photo: Reuters

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

    Partially Lord's own
    Photo: USAF

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

    Rough coastline                [zoom]
    Photo: ESA

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

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

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

    Plastic fantastic                [zoom]
    Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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

    Binary geography              [zoom]
    Image: Gov. of Canada

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

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

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

    An orbit too far                  [zoom]
    Image: ESA

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

    Too many engines, Wilbur  [zoom]
    Photo: BBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    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]

    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:        [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:
  • 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:                   [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.


A Somewhat United Kingdom

Monday, 24 November 2014

Pale in the cheek these days                                                              Image: Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty Good Privacy


Thursday, 20 November 2014

"Advocated by extremists on extremist forums"                                          Image: Tails

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

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

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

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

Happy browsing.

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


The Little Philae That Could

Sunday, 19 November 2014

Out into the cold                                                                             Photo: ESA/Rosetta

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

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

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


To Boldly Jump Ship

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Looking where to put the new rubbish dump                              Photo: Paramount Pictures

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

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

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

Rating:  7/10


Comrades In Arms

Thursday, 6 November 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things are looking up.

Tragicomic Relief

He May Be Grimm But He's Our Grimm

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

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

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

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

Essential Reading

The Anatomy Of Bestiality

Sunday, 2 November 2014

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

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

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


O Poor Canada

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

And soon not under surveillance                                                       Photo: Getty Images

Christmas came early to Stephen Harper this year.

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

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


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Jacqueline aux fleurs by Pablo Picasso                    Oil on canvas

Statistically Significant


Thursday, 22 October 2014

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

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

Tragicomic Relief

If Alcohol Interferes With Your Work, Quit Work

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

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

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


On The Inseparability Of Church And State

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

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

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

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

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

Tragicomic Relief

Built For Comfort Not Speed

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

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

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

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

Your Land Is Our Land

The Two-State Solution

Monday, 6 October 2014

And its 8-metre helper                                                                   Photo: Wikipedia/Zero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends Helping Friends

No Whistling Please

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Tragicomic Relief

Cat's Pyjamas

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

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

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


Conspicuous Maternity

Saturday, 27 September 2014

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

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

Why, you may ask.

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

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

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

Your Land Is Our Land

The Art Of Ceasefire

Thursday, 18 September 2014

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

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

Tragicomic Relief

Have Russian Passport, Won't Travel

Thursday, 18 September 2014

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

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

Public Education

Ebola In Town

Monday, 15 September 2014

Your school board in session                                                               Photo: Wikipedia

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

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

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

Tragicomic Relief


Friday, 12 September 2014

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

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


The sans-culottes meet the sans-dents

Monday, 8 September 2014

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

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

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

With one exception.

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

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

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

German Economy

All Not Quiet On The Home Front

Monday, 1 September 2014

View from Angie's window                                                                   Photo: Wikipedia

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Colletis concludes his analysis with this thought:

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

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

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

Your Land Is Our Land

Il Stato Canaglia

Monday, 25 August 2014

Straight shooter                                                                       Photo: Corriere della Sera

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

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

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

Pretty Good Privacy

Enemy Within

Friday, 22 August 2014

Still pungent                                                                               Image: The Tor Project

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

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

It's actually quite amusing.

Statistically Significant

Selfishness Gap

Thursday, 21 August 2014

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

Of conservative Americans: 69

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

Essential Reading

Tales From The Land Of The Absurd

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Good for the tsar                                                                                      Photo: Getty

Peter Pomerantsev looks at the Russian drinking scene. Opener:

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

Tragicomic Relief

The Right Of Every Idiot To Keep And Bear Arms

Sunday, 17 August 2014

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

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

Animal Husbandry

Ersatz Everything

Saturday, 16 August 2014

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

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

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


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:

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.



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.


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, 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.


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


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


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


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 ( 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.


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.


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".


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.


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


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.


Essential Reading

  (Essential Viewing→
  (Essential Listening→

NEW: LRB on the economic slaughter of Palestine

LRB on the art of ceasefire

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VIII)

LRB on putting Palestine in formaldehyde

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VII)

LRB on the genocide in Palestine.

LMD deconstructs TAFTA.

Dubya woz thear

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

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VI)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (V)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (IV)

The Intercept

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

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

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (III)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (II)

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

Andrew Cockburn on sanctions.

The Guardian on the 1.6 percent solution.

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

Glenn Greenwald talks to Harper's.

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

Ellsberg on the United Stasi of America

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (I)

The Israel Lobby

Mearsheimer on Gaza

Quentin Tarantino and Friends

Essential Viewing

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

France Inter interview with Ken Loach (courtesy

France Inter exposé on Pope Bergoglio (courtesy
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