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    Look, no spark                  [zoom]
    Photo: Stephen Brashear/AFP

    More sleepless nights for the Dreamliner engineers. The onboard electricity ge- nerators inexplicably shut down at random moments. Given that the 787 is en- tirely electrically controlled, this poses a serious pro- blem. The solution is to completely power down the craft and unplug it from ex- ternal supplies of current. The snag is the plane refu- ses to boot afterward.

    So many parades so little time
    Photo: Reuters                   [zoom]

    We signal presidential material. Sen. Lindsey Gra- ham (R. S.Carolina) says he's running because "the world is falling apart" and the country needs a good commander-in-chief. We can't wait to hear the deba- tes.

    Photo: Richard Drew/AP
    The chamber bursts into laughter followed by prolon- ged heckling from the Pale- stinian members (promptly escorted out) after Bibi mentions "peace" in the opening speech to the new Knesset.

    Even some Texas Repub- licans are waking up.

    On the same page             [zoom]
    Photo: Andrew Medichini/AP

    Bibi's having a fit as Vati- can recognizes Palestine in a treaty. "This move does not promote the peace pro- cess," growled Netanyahu in his role as the foreign mi- nister. We fear random la- shing out on his part to vent anger.

    Beegone                            [zoom]
    Chart: U. of Maryland

    Massive bee loses have been registered in the US in the 2014/15 season. Varroa was the killer, with pesticides the accomplice. In a new development, sum- mer loses topped the winter ones. Mortality correlated with the use of pesticides, being heaviest in the Corn Belt, which massively re- sorts to chemistry to maxi- mize yields.

    Soon to rat on you too       [zoom]
    Photo: SPL

    A new frontier called the microbiome is opening to the snoops. A sample of excrement might soon lead them to the depositor, says an article in Nature.

    "We tighten the screw?"   [zoom]
    Photo: Home Office

    On the pretext of fighting 'terrorism', Cameron plans to restrict the freedom of speech, focusing in the internet and the mosques (but not the churches), and snooping on the telephone conversations. Such a bold clampdown on the peasan- try will surely merit him a lordship from the hand of Her Majesty.

    Biondina inside                 [zoom]
    Painting by anonymous artist

    Juan Diego Flórez sings a traditional Venetian song La biondina in gondoeta, acco- mpanied by the Venice Ba- roque Orchestra on a fre- shly released DG disk Avi Avital Vivaldi.

    "Look at 'em scuttle"        [zoom]
    Photo: Haim Schwarzenberg

    It has emerged that Israeli soldiers amused themsel- ves during lulls in last ye- ar's punitive expedition to Gaza by taking potshots at the Palestinian civilians. See Interview (Hebrew/Fre- nch) Compare this and con- trast with this.

    A strong but weakening brand
    Cima da Conegliano          [zoom]

    Though diminishing, reli- giosity remains strong across the world. It stood at 68% in 2012, according to a report by WIN-Gallup, having lost 9 points since 2005. China, at 14%, takes the cigar for rational thin- king, followed by Japan, the Czech Republic, Turkey (yes!) and Sweden. Credu- lity in the US stands at an impressive 60%.

    Fire in the nostrils             [zoom]
    Photo: NASA

    The Elonian rocketeering project successfully com- pletes a launch abort test at the government space fa- cility at Cape Canaveral.

    Bibi woz thear                   [zoom]
    Photo: Getty

    General Martin Dempsey (US Army): "Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties." Well, thank you, Israel! Here's a version from the field.

    Footage: The Guardian
    Greece has got its Syriza and Spain its Podemos. Now Britain has got Owen Jones. We encourage you to vote for him in tomor- row's elections.

    Bad at Bad Aibling            [zoom]
    Photo: AFP

    Angie spies on herself for the Americans.

    Quo vadis?                       [zoom]
    Photo: ABC News

    Practice makes perfect.

    Positively crocodilian       [zoom]
    Photo: Tony Avelar/AP

    Orgy in Cupertino. The toy- maker Apple paid $83m to the sales chief Angela Ah- rednt last year.

    Image: INC
    Some good news from the 2014 INC report Pesticides et risques de cancer. First, even if some pesticides find their way to the [European] food and water, their con- centration is too low to ha- ve an effect on health. Se- cond, big consumers of fruits and vegetables (po- tential carriers of the che- micals) are best protected against cardiovascular dise- ases and cancer. The re- port says nothing about the levels of agrochemicals in wine.

    Something's upside down
    Photo: Sacramento Bee     [zoom]

    Student debt in America reached $1.2tn in 2014, ex- ceeding that of credit card and car loan. A typical fre- shly-minted lawyer begins career with a $300k hole in his pocket and slim pros- pects of landing a job.

    Adieu!                                [zoom]

    The legendary prima balle- rina Maya Plisetskaya died today at the age of 89.

    "Read my lips"                  [zoom]
    Photo: Screen capture/Bollywood

    Per kitsch ad astra. (wh)

    Running while black         [zoom]
    Photo: from video by witness

    Belén Fernández reports on the discontent in Balti- more.

    Elle est conne...                [zoom]
    Photo: UGC

    Catherine Leprince sings J'suis conne de ne pas av- oir accepté from the Trente Glorieuses film by Claude Confortès Vive les fem- mes! Excerpt.

    Time flies                           [zoom]
    Photo: M. Smith/Wikipedia

    The Airbus A380 has been flying now for 10 years. 156 are in service and 161 on order. Passengers like it.

    Fatal attraction                  [zoom]
    Photo: BBC

    Rather than being repelled by them, bees are attracted to the neonicotinoid pestici- des, reports Nature.

    Subversive element
    Photo: AFP

    The fink who had ratted on Anne Frank turns out to be sister of the angel who had helped hide her from the Gestapo.

    Marble, mahogany, and gold
    Photo: Susan Walsh/AP     [zoom]

    Having well served the banksters as chief of the Fed, Bernanke retires into a rich sinecure at the Cita- del hedge fund.

    The goldman touch
    Image: Goldman Sachs

    Goldman Sachs extracts record profit speculating in frothy markets of the first quarter. Trading revenue rose 23% to $5.5bn. Tobin tax begs to be implemen- ted.

    "¡Hasta la victoria, siempre!
    Photo: Alberto Korda         [zoom]

    Compay Segundo sings Hasta Siempre, Comandan- te by Carlos Puebla.

    Ricci and getting riccier   [zoom]
    Photo: Loïc Venance/AFP

    Bodies begin to (softly) drop in the HSBC affair. Arlette Ricci, 73, of the perfume division of Nina Ricci's empire was put for a year on a low-caviar diet at contribuable's expense. We feel for her. In addition, she must avert eyes in the presence of champagne for three more years. She will lose a house in Paris and another in Corsica, and must cough up €10m for back taxes and some crumbs for a fine. No one has said how much she's got to wipe off the tears after jail but probably more than enough. For our part, we think that proper puni- shment for cheating the lit- tle taxpayers should be a total confiscation of mis- creant's earthly possessi- ons plus a period of diet.

    Tiny drummer                    [zoom]
    Photo: Allstar/Cinetex

    Günter Grass died today at the age of 87. DD salutes him, perhaps the only ex- Waffen-SS we ever would.

    Ouch!                                 [zoom]
    Photo: John Vachon

    Ozzies clamp down on op- ting out of child vaccination. That's the way to deal with obscurantism.

    "Got a drawing table?"     [zoom]
    Photo: Le Monde/Dailymotion

    Speaking with Le Monde Joseph Stiglitz launches a scathing attack on the eco- nomic policies conducted by the EU, saying they are decades behind the current economic thinking. He sin- gles out austerity as being particularly toxic, followed by the absence of a plan to grapple with inequality. An- gie and her evil accountant Schäuble should listen ca- refully.

    Chip or Dale?                    [zoom]
    Photo: Reuters

    Hillary Clinton is poised to launch her presidential bid. We wish her bad luck.

    Fidelity fiduciary bank       [zoom]
    Photo: Daniel Michailescu/AFP

    A $1bn evaporates from Moldavian banks to vanish into the mangroves of the offshore entities. The sum amounts to 15% of the Mol- davian GDP.

    Zeman who can say no     [zoom]
    Photo: David Sedlecký

    The Czech president Miloš Zeman refreshingly makes the US Amabassador to Prague persona non grata for telling him not to go to Moscow to commemorate the anniversary of the end of the second world war. We like that, but we don't like Zeman's chummy rela- tionship with Bibi and his hostility toward the Pales- tinians.

    Bibi has been telling por- kies denying Israel's spying on the US–Iran talks, shows The Intercept.

    Footage: Airbus
    The footage above explains how to enter a locked cock- pit of an Airbus jet. This procedure is useful in the unlikely event both pilots become incapacitated. The snag is that it doesn't work if the pilot sets the door opening mode on the cock- pit panel to "Lock", as it was on the Germanwings FL 4U 9525.

    Aristegui thanks her sup- porters.

    Whistle slinger                  [zoom]
    Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP

    The star journalist Carmen Aristegui is fired from Noti- cias MVS, the most liste- ned-to radio show in Mexi- co, for denouncing official corruption and encouraging whistle-blowing. Her two colleagues, Daniel Lizarra- ga and Irving Huerta got fired for a good measure for looking too closely into the circumstances surrounding the acquisition by the wife of el presidente Peña Nieto of a sumptuous villa known as the "White House" Sign petition calling for a re-ins- tatemnet of this brave wo- man to MVS.

    La vaillante citoyenne Louise
    Photo: Procinex et al.        [zoom]

    Cora Vaucaire sings Le Temps des cerises.

    Death in the family            [zoom]
    Photo: qypchak/Wikipedia

    Our Munich correspondent reports now that the bees had died of a varroa infes- tation (see below).

    Radiant future                    [zoom]
    Chart: Int'l Energy Agency

    A chart just released by the IEA shows world's atti- tude toward nuclear power generation.

    Death in the family            [zoom]
    Photo: qypchak/Wikipedia

    Our Munich correspondent reports on the demise of the ¾ of his bees during the winter. He has referred the case to the Institute of Biology of the Munich Uni- versity.

    Trust in Jesus!                   [zoom]
    Photo: AFP

    Faith-based governance in Florida..

    She likes her privacy       [zoom]
    Photo: AP

    Private world, private coun- try, private State Depart- ment, private email.

    No longer in opposition     [zoom]
    Photo: lalekseev

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

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

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

    In happier times                [zoom]
    Photo: Daffy123

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

    Equality shrugged             [zoom]
    Chart: Economic Policy Institute

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

    Friendly Freundel              [zoom]
    Photo: AP

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

    Standing behind women   [zoom]
    Photo: AP

    Rabbi Epstein gets it. (bl)

    Let the sport commence   [zoom]
    Photo: Eon Productions

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

    Atlas revamped                [zoom]
    Photo: CERN

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

    Freedom after speech       [zoom]
    Chart: RSF

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

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

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

    Close and upfront              [zoom]
    Photo: RTÉ One

    Jeeves tells God he's an asshole.

    Image: The Intercept
    Tom Ridge miraculously multiplies his fishes.

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

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

    Not in the Bible                  [zoom]
    Photo: SPL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This could be you              [zoom]
    Photo: Trefecta Mobility

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

    The girl from Chamonix     [zoom]
    Photo: Sony Classical

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

    In happier days                 [zoom]
    Photo: Screenshot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The evil duck                    [zoom]
    Image: Le Canard enchaîné

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Godmother to Higgs           [zoom]
    Photo: AGF/Rex

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

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

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

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

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

    A Grimm moment              [zoom]
    Photo: Reuters

    A Grimm finale to a Grimm political career.

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

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

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

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

    Dirty construction              [zoom]
    Graph: SOeS/Le Monde

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

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

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

    Down the hatch!                [zoom]
    Chart: WHO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Advantage Martina           [zoom]
    Photo: BBC News

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

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

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

    "Looks like jazz to me"    [zoom]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Golden-spiked heavy boots
    Image: SPL                        [zoom]

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

    Heavy lifting                      [zoom]
    Image: Airbus

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

    Rain Man's progress         [zoom]
    Graph: CDC

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

    Life itself                           [zoom]
    Photo: BBC

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

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

    Stress out of Frankfurt
    Photo: khardan/Wikipedia

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

    Serene                               [zoom]
    Photo: Matthew Field/Wikipedia

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

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

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

    Goods on display              [zoom]
    Photo: Paper

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

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

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

    Now in Blackpool              [zoom]
    Photo: BBC2

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

    Behold the white elephant [zoom]
    Photo: Ralph Vandebergh

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

    Sitting pretty precariously [zoom]
    Image: ESA

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

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

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

    Two weights, two measures
    Photo: CNES                      [zoom]

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

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

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

    Leadership for the 21st century
    Image: anonymous artist

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

    Serving Air Strip One
    Photo: MoD

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

    SpaceDebris 2                  [zoom]
    Photo: AP

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

    SpaceDebris 2                  [zoom]
    Photo: AP

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

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

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


Reforming Europe For Fun And Profit

Friday, 22 May 2015

Osby's got the reforms lined up for you                                                Photo: BBC News

Emboldened by the recent victory at the polls, Tories and their business base want to jump the European mothership and go it alone under the banner of neoliberalism. Not so long ago, when the depression was biting, they talked about hiding under the umbrella of the Eurozone. Try to mention it now.

They invoke the possibility of returning to the fold, but on the condition that Europe reform. They leave no doubt as to the meaning of this reform: further tightening of the screw on the lean-many, while relaxing any residual stress for the fat-few. That's about the size of the swinerey. Just wait for Cameron to recycle Stephen Green of the HSBC infamy.

As BBC explains, the Chancellor George Osborne wants the UK "to be in Europe, but not run by Europe", that is, eat the cake and have it, adding that "Europe has priced itself out of the global economy". Yes, Mr Osborne, Chinese work hours, wages, and socia protections should restore this debilitating disequilibrium.

At a closed door pre-election meeting with oligarchs, Dubya once declared love to the billionaires when he said, "You are my constituency!". Today, Cameron and his junta are saying the same.

Little Brits should pay attention.

Tragicomic Relief


Thursday, 21 May 2015

At 10-year-old African-American boy who was maced at an anti–police-brutality protest in Minneapolis said he was grateful he hadn’t been shot”

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


Waco II

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The bullet goes there                                                                 Photo: Dean Lewins/AAP

Waco does it again.

In a sequel to the 1993 wipeout of 82 Branch Davidians, Waco hosts another extra- vaganza to result in a net gain to the human gene pool. Nine members of motorcycle gangs fall during a gunfight which, besides collateral damage to property, had left 18 injured.

We hope seriously.


Hersh Reality

Sunday, 17 May 2015

It was a dark and quiet night                                                      Photo: US Defence Dept.

Pakistan, to paraphrase Churchill, is a puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Add to it a helping of good-old-American mendacity, and you've got yourself a quanda- ry cut out for a quantum computer. The snag is there isn't one.

LRB last week published a piece by Seymour Hersh giving his version of the events surrounding the 2011 raid by the American Navy Seals on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. It is a lecarrésque read deliciously playing to the lust for dimi- nishing Obama. Coming from Hersh, it recommends itself. The idea for the raid, he explained, was to boost Obama's chances in the upcoming elections.

But cracks soon began to appear on the façade of the edifice, notably in the form of a too-high-for-comfort number of anonymous sources and unnamed 'high officials'. Then, the Intercept fielded a piece explaining that Hersh had been underscooped in 2011 by R.J. Hillhouse. Then on May 11, Vox published an exposé which left but smouldering debris on the ground. A chorus of government objectors followed, and on May 16 Le Monde delivered the knockout.

Pasture is calling, Mr Hersh.

Tragicomic Relief


Friday, 6 May 2015

It was reported that Israeli soldiers fired on civilians during Operation Protective Edge, a 2014 military operation in Gaza. "If it looks like a man," a soldier was reportedly told by his commander, "shoot."”

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


The M104

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Sombrero Galaxy

Often referred to a as M104 (for its number in the Messier Catalogue), the Sombrero Galaxy is one of the most photogenic objects in the sky. It contains about 100 billion stars, a portion of which make up the luminous haze inside the outer ring.

Distant 28 million light years from Earth in the direction of the Virgo constellation, the galaxy measures 50,000 light years across, one-half the size of the Milky Way. In the middle of the Sombrero Galaxy lies a black hole with a mass of a billion Suns.

People often refer to 'spirituality' when speaking about religion. To us, spirituality is the sight of the M104.

The photo was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, now beginning its 26th spring.

May Day

Mayday, Mayday...

May Day 2015

New Harmony (work suspended due to excessive labour cost.)          Painting by F. Bate

There is little to celebrate for the common man this May Day. Of the two bright lights on the dark horizon, Syriza and Podemos, one soldiers on under the assault from the banksters, the other isn't yet in power, and once there, will be facing the same struggle.

Meantime, with the aid of gadget makers and with eager collaboration from politicians who don't understand that lasting well-being of all depends on the well-being of the masses, surveillance has reached new levels of perfection, propelled by the mistaken belief that monitoring exorcises rebellion.

We wish all our Readers a pleasant May Day.


Beware of Greeks Bearing Bad News

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Photo: Ints Kalnins/Reuters                                                  "Prepare for pain, Pierre"  

Greece finds itself in dire straits.

Unlike its previous default, which stiffed private lenders, its next would have to stiff the European Central Bank, which also happens to be the source of all its future cash. Imagine setting fire to a bank you expect to loan you money you absolutely need in order to survive. But, theoretically, Greece could default on the ECB debt too, in fact, it may have to.

This, alas, wouldn't be the last of the bad news coming from the Hellenic Republic.

Alexis Tsipras has already declared that he would veto the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement currently being finalized (in secret) between the European Commission and the US. Since members of the EU must unanimously approve the text before it becomes law, a Greek no would scupper the deal.

Though billions are involved in the putative ECB default, politicians can be counted on to socialize the ensuing pain. Trillions are at play with the TAFTA deal and no amount of socializing would repair the colossal damage to the quarterly reports of the (mainly) American corporations. Greece might be a small country on the southeastern peri- phery of Europe, but, by the power of this veto, it can deliver a knockout.

Ejecting Greece from the EU before the vote on TAFTA would solve the problem, since it would deprive it of the vote on the matter and thus eliminate the danger of a veto. A psychological warfare in that direction has already begun. Ask yourself how many times lately you have heard the word "grexit" smugly uttered by the one-eyed apostles of the 'markets'.

DD would not shed a tear for TAFTA, believing it to be a dangerous and rotten deal, with strong totalitarian overtones, but we fear that the ever-hungry transnational capital would respond with extreme violence to a Greek veto, by, for example, staging a military coup d’État to install in Athens a fascist dictatorship. The memory of the last one may still be fresh to the more mature among the Readers.

Essential Reading

Like Father Like Son

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Long on the school tie, short on equality                                     Image: Harvard University

Deborah Friedell casts an eye on the egalitarian goings on at Harvard. We encou- rage the Reader to become a Viewer and see Lewis Lapham's film referred to in the Comments, as well as more locally here.

Freedom After Speech

Beware Of Jews Bearing Gifts

Saturday, 18 April 2015

"Welcome to the University of Illinois, B'nai B'rith willing"                             Photo: UIUC

You can't legislate what's seemly and what's unseemly", say experienced persons. In fact, a civil society can be recognized by the manner in which it protects unseemly expression.

But the Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign begged to differ when it pulled the plug on a prof who quit a tenured position at the University of Virginia to take a similar post at UIUC, setting the poor chap adrift. The motive? His harsh criticism of the Israeli hooliganism in Gaza. His outbursts over Twitter tripped the sensors of the hyperactive American likudniks who immediately organized a hos- tile campaign, flooding the chancellor's office with threats of halting donations.

An article in The Nation (kindly forwarded by our Seattle correspondent) casts light on this outrage.

The career of a prof is gone with the wind. But the imbroglio brings to light a particular pitfall inherent in the private sponsorship of arts and education, and this may do some good. It is that a private donor's sudden change of heart, or financial condition, can rattle a public institution. This is what had happened to the Metropolitan Opera when Alberto Vilar's affairs went belly up.

Public financing of education and arts seems like the best bet to assure their stability. Given that private money never comes without strings attached, it should be outlawed.

Choices '16

Behold A 3-Dollar Bill

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

"Campaign reform, did you say?"                                                Photo: Steven Senne/AP

Clinton stages a farce in the blue-collar Iowa to launch her 2016 bid for the White House, choreography courtesy Madison Avenue. Many a chump will buy into the shtick. Others will opt for the Fox production. Guardian deconstructs the event.

Prise De Position

Harry Belafonte

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Marching in 1963 on Washington with Poitier and Heston       Photo: US Information Agency

The other day we stumbled on Jamaica Farewell, written by Lord Burgess, and sung in 1957 to a great success by Harry Belafonte.

The loveliness of the tune inspired us to dip into man's life and times. We've discovered among other things that in 2006 he went to see Hugo Chávez together with Danny Glover and Cornel West, and that this had elicited wrath from the opportunist and right-winger Hillary Clinton.

Essential Reading

The Full Sheep-Dip

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Abteilung MI5 HQ                                                                       Photo:C Ford/Wikipedia

Frances Stonor Saunders explains how the MI5 had hounded the historian Eric Hobsbawm during his entire life for belonging to the British Communist Party, and that by doing this it had unwittingly placed Britain on the same moral level as the Soviet Union, which it was ostensibly fighting.

Stonor Saunders' lively style makes for a gripping read, and her aristocratic pedigree adds spice to the dish.

Pretty Good Privacy

Strong Phrasing

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Safety in numbers                                                                   Photo: Diacritica/Wikipedia

The Intercept explains how to shrug a clapper off your back.



Saturday, 4 April 2015

Western Sahara on the horizon                                                     Photo: StAn/Wikipedia

We have added Sahrawi to the list of the countries we support (see bar above). We also support its claim to the Western Sahara, and reject the Moroccan. We condemn the enhanced interrogation of the Sahrawi fighters by the clappers of the king Mohammed VI, and condemn the European and American politicians who chum up to him and his billions.

Tragicomic Relief

By Bread Alone

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore and the leader of its People’s Action Party, which has ruled the city-state since it gained self-governance from Britain in 1959, died at the age of 91. President Barack Obama called Lee a “true giant of history,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon called him a “legendary figure,” and British prime minister David Cameron said he was Margaret Thatcher’s favorite prime minister. “We have to lock up people, without trial, whether they are communists, whether they are language chauvinists, whether they are religious extremists,” Lee, who was criticized for his intolerance of opposition, harsh punishment of minor infractions, and stringent restrictions on freedom of speech, once said. “As long as you are economically well off, with housing and food,” said an Indian man who lived in Singapore two decades ago and joined mourners gathered outside the building housing Lee’s remains, “who cares?”

This and more in the last week's Review from Harper's.


Daily Detox At Two

Monday, 30 March 2015

Piff...!!                                                                                            Photo: Egitaniense

Time flies when you have fun, say experienced persons. So much so that we've mis- sed our second anniversary when it came and went at the beginning of March. Bubbly duly popped, we now wish ourselves and our readers health.

Debit Suisse

Shoot The Messenger

Friday, 27 March 2015 disconnecting them from taxes                                                         Photo: HSBC

In 2008, Hervé Falciani, software engineer with HSBC Private Bank (Suisse), handed the French fisc a CD documenting private and corporate tax evasion to the tune of €180bn. The optimization operations took place in Geneva and involved some 100,000 individual and 20,000 corporate offshore accounts.

But, fittingly for a world owned by the banks, it wasn't the evaders that got pursued but the whistle-blower Falciani, who had been thrown in jail in Switzerland and then in Spain. So far as the cheats, only Syriza looks determined to act. There is no real interest elsewhere, save perhaps for France, where Hollande has been trying to open a new revenue stream to fill up the state coffers. There are hopes that Pademos will follow the Greek example when it takes over after the next elections.

During the time Falciani was collecting the goods (2005-2007), HSBC Swiss was run by Stephen Green (Baron Green of Hurstpierpoint), an ordained Anglican priest who killed time on long flights writing sermons, presumably intended for the poor, who need them. For the services rendered to the rich, Cameron had rewarded Green with a post in the cabinet.

"This place belongs to us", quipped recently a lobbyist for the Citigroup referring to the US Congress. Except for Greece, European parliaments appear to have been spoken for too, though this may change if the Greek democratic disease spreads throughout Europe.

Let's hope for the best.


Beware Of The Greeks Sending Letters

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

"Just look at the sky, my dear"                                                            Photo: Le Monde

Before flying to Berlin for pourparlers with Angie, Tsipras wrote her a letter explai- ning what it was he was after and why. It is a historical document of singular clarity and purpose, to be studied by anyone interested in statecraft.

It is hard to know of course how carefully it was read and whether it was understood. What is certain is that various people will be whispering into Angie's ear during his visit, none more than Wolfgang Schäuble, the minister of finance, a man whose crowning achievement was to prescribe austerity at the time when a Keynesian expansion was called-for, in addition to publicly insulting Greece and Portugal.

His advice should be discarded the moment it comes, better yet he should be put to pasture and required to read Keynes as a condition for receiving state pension, and writing a 100 times before breakfast, "'Christian Democracy' is an oxymoron". His previous achievements may have something to do with the fact that he boasts a doctorate in chartered accountancy.

Financial Times provides annotations to the Tsipras letter.

We thank our Munich correspondent for forwarding the links to the letter and the com- mentary from the FT.

Tragicomic Relief

Creflo A Dollar For A Gulfstream

Friday, 20 March 2015

Creflo A. Dollar, Jr., the Atlanta-area megachurch pastor and leader of World Chan- gers Church International, canceled a fundraising campaign to buy a $65 million Gulf- stream G650 private jet so he could “blanket the globe with the Gospel of grace.”

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

Tragicomic Relief

Clueless In Persia

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Forty-seven Republican senators signed an open letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran explaining that Iranian officials might not “fully understand our consti- tutional system.”

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

Bibi Watch

In Performance

Friday, 6 March 2015

"Greetings boehneheads!"                                                                        Photo: Getty

Exploiting the stupidity of the Republicans, Binyamin Netanyahu had staged a one-man show on the centre stage of the American Congress, where he insinuated himself with the aid of the Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio). The farce featured the Islamic Republic as the protagonist bent on taking over the Middle East and posing an immediate existential threat to Israel on the account of its possession of nuclear weapons.

The gig was such a triumph that even the Saudis had sent flowers. Never mind the absence of the weapons, and the fact that IS is an Israeli-American creation.

The awkward emptiness of the royal box seemed to have gone unnoticed, as did that of the viceroy. The foreign minister, for his part, was absent too, engaged in pour- parlers with the devil himself in Geneva.

So, what was Bibi's angle?

His own interests, of course. With the opinion polls sagging just two weeks before the legislative elections, he needed a political boost. And what could provide a nicer back- drop for an ad than the chamber of the United States Congress?

Bibi's initiative just happened to coincide with Boehner's own itch to stick one to Obama, and why not do it with someone else's hands? Bibi had another strong motive: he wanted to take revenge on the President for cutting him off from the pro- gress briefings on the Geneva talks. (The White House didn't want Bibi to exploit the inside information for the benefit of his campaign, which he surely would have.)

His mendacity, alas, had an effect he could have hardly foreseen: it quickly reduced the differences between the negotiating parties, and elicited some optimistic state- ments from both sides.

Leaving the euphoria of uncertain authenticity behind, Bibi is returning to Tel Aviv to face an even more uncertain political future. A massive anti-himself rally on Tel Aviv's Rabin Square planned for this Saturday, featuring two former Mossad chiefs, Meir Dagan and Amiram Levin as speakers, is a preview of the coming attractions.

Tragicomic Relief

Mother Is Always Right

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Boris Nemtsov, a former first deputy prime minister of Russia who was an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine, was fatally shot four times on a bridge near the Kremlin. Nemtsov, who was recently asked by a reporter if he feared Putin might kill him, had said he was “somewhat worried, but not as seriously as my mother.”

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

Tragicomic Relief

Be More Like A Sheep

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

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

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

Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Monday, 23 February 2015

"Let the sport commence!"                                                            Image: Charlie Hebdo

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

Debit Suisse

Happy On The Alp

Friday, 20 February 2015 disconnecting them from taxes                                                         Photo: HSBC

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

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

Statistically Significant

Life Support

Thursday, 19 February 2015

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

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

Essential Viewing

The American Ruling Class

Monday, 9 February 2015

Self-selection within                                                                     Photo: The Alive Mind

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

All right, that's the Hollywood version.

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

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


 Economic Recovery By Other Means

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Behold the uptick                                                                     Graph: The Economist/DD

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

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

Tragicomic Relief

Gott Mitt Romney

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

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

And not at all vulgar.

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

Your Land Is Our Land

A Slightly Tougher Approach

Thursday, 29 January 2015

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

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

Essential Reading

Mutualisation Of Giving A Damn

Monday, 26 January 2015

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

Thus James Meek in the London Review of Books blog:

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

Greece gave us Democracy. It is doing it again.

Debit Suisse

Davos 2015

Sunday, 25 January 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a jolly good show.

Statistically Significant

The One-Percent Bracket

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

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

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

Free Expression

Journal irresponsable

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Vu de l'autre côté                                                                         Image: Charlie Hebdo

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

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

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

Tragicomic Relief

Vote-based Science

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

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

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


See You In The Court

Monday, 19 January 2015

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

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

Bibi had better prepare for pain.

Tragicomic Relief

 Driving While Trans

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Russia barred transgender people from getting driving licenses"

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

Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Friday, 16 January 2015

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

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


 Enter Bibi

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

He says hi                                                                                    Image: Push the Bibi

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

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

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

Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

All is forgiven                                                                                Image: Charlie Hebdo

Finale, for now.

Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Monday, 12 January 2015

Le Dîner de cons                                                                          Image: Charlie Hebdo

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

Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Saturday, 10 January 2015

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

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

Free Expression

"Journal irresponsable"

Thursday, 8 January 2015

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

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


An Eye For A Tooth

Thursday, 8 January 2015

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

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


Tragicomic Relief


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

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

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

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


Légion d'honneur

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Not a joiner                                                                        Photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters

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

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


 No Child Left Unarmed

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Kids and guns welcome                                                              Photo: Cathy Plonka/AP

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

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

Tragicomic Relief


Thursday, 1 January 2015

Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would supply Ukraine with coal"

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

Person Of The Year

Thomas Piketty

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Agreeably indiscreet                                                         Photo: Emmanuelle Marchadour

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

Tragicomic Relief


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

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

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

Music Of The Spheres

2014 Winter Solstice

Sunday, 21 December 2014

A dark moment with a bright outlook                                                         Photo: NASA

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

Essential Reading

An Open Letter For The People Of Gaza

Friday, 19 December 2014

Cutting to the chase                                                                         Image: The Lancet

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

Of special note is the last paragraph,

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

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

Essential Reading

Ali Dissects Post-Ferguson America

Monday, 15 December 2014

A tough prof                                                                              Photo: Portum/Wikipedia

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


Enhanced Report On Interrogation Techniques

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

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


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

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

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

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

Good luck.

Tragicomic Relief


Tuesday, 5 December 2014

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

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


All The Time

Monday, 1 December 2014

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


Messing With Texas

Saturday, 29 November 2014

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

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

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

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


Walking While Black

Friday, 28 November 2014

Not in Missouri                                                                        Photo: askiadagreat/twitter

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

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

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


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

Scouting for a new rubbish dump                                              Photo: Paramount Pictures

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

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

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

Rating:  7/10


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.


Essential Reading

  (Essential Viewing
  (Essential Listening→

Deborah Friedell on the egalitaria- nism reigning at Harvard

Frances Stonor Saunders on the travails of Eric Hobsbawm

James Meek explains the impor- tance of Syriza

Tariq Ali looks at the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Tariq Ali dissects the post- Fer- guson America

LRB on the economic slaughter of Palestine

LRB on the art of ceasefire

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VIII)

LRB on putting Palestine in formaldehyde

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VII)

LRB on the genocide in Palestine.

LMD deconstructs TAFTA.

Dubya woz thear

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

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (VI)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (V)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (IV)

The Intercept

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

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

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (III)

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (II)

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

Andrew Cockburn on sanctions.

The Guardian on the 1.6 percent solution.

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

Glenn Greenwald talks to Harper's.

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

Ellsberg on the United Stasi of America

Tales from the Land of the Absurd (I)

The Israel Lobby

Mearsheimer on Gaza

Quentin Tarantino and Friends

Essential Viewing

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

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

The Invisible Elephant in the Room

Blix on Iran

Chomsky in Trieste

Essential Listening

France Inter sur l'art contempo- rien (courtesy

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