Friday, April 21, 2006


Chef of the Day

Nigella Lawson:

Nigella probably cooks better than your mother. And she's a lot better looking, and cooler. Nigella wouldn't mind if you smoked weed in your bedroom before dinner, would she? She wouldn't criticise you if you came home with your nose pierced and a fierce, full-back tattoo depicting St Peter and Dee Dee Ramone shovelling coal down the crack of your ass. Of course not. She'd say, "Remember to clean that nose with alcohol - and wash your hands for dinner! We're having roast suckling pig with quince chutney." —Xenogourmet and food critic Anthony Bourdain as quoted by Martin Hickman

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Most Underreported Story of the Day

This ran yesterday as the top story in the British gossip column "Pandora" by Guy Adams—

Shades of Watergate as raid rocks al-Jazeera

Here's a tale to launch a thousand conspiracy theories: al-Jazeera, the Islamic TV station George Bush wants to nuke, has been the victim of a Watergate-style burglary.

On Thursday, intruders broke into Al-Jazeera's Knightsbridge offices and pinched several items of highly sensitive computer equipment.

The haul included a dozen laptops and several hard drives. They belong to the English-language al-Jazeera International, which launches this summer employing Sir David Frost and Rageh Omar, right.

According to insiders, the nature of the burglary, which occurred when staff were celebrating the Easter bank holiday at a nearby restaurant, caused police investigators to suspect foul play.

"Firstly, the items pinched were not what a normal burglar would take," I'm told. "Valuable stuff was left behind, and several brand-new laptops weren't even touched. They only took the most commercially sensitive kit."

"We lost several contacts books and hard drives containing email records and details of things like what people like Frost and Omar will be doing, and how much they're being paid."

As a result, there are dark rumours of industrial espionage, and police reckon the timing of the raid, when al-Jazeera's offices were unexpectedly empty, points to an "inside job".

Says the firm's official spokesman: "There was indeed a break-in, but we are unable to say anything more while police are investigating."

Industrial espionage? Is al-Jazeera International being harrassed by the BBC or Rupert Murdoch? The media really are getting out of hand, aren't they?

On the other hand, as reporter Adams subtly suggests in the headline, this burglary has the fingerprints of (take your pick!) MI5, MI6, the CIA, the DIA, or the FBI all over it.

Adams was the first reporter to mention the break-in, and I'll be very surprised if he's not the last. Even al-Jazeera doesn't seem to want to talk about it.


Germany agrees in principle to open Nazi archive

If you're like me, you were unaware that there are literally tons of Nazi documents unavailable to the public—some 30 million1 that relate to 17.5 million individuals. Privacy concerns,2 you know.

I don't know what came over the Germans, but they've agreed at least in principle to consider whether the world should be allowed to take a peek. Perhaps it was the realization that since no one currently alive in Europe or the U.S. enjoys a right to privacy, it was patently silly to pretend to be concerned for the privacy of Jews, gypsies, queers and communists, dead or otherwise. Or maybe it was an uneasiness over the European imprisonment of people who deny the truth of—or extent of—the Holocaust3 while Germany forbids them access to original documents. Or maybe it was in anticipation of April 25—Holocaust Remembrance Day. Reporter Matt Moore says that it was "pressure from Holocaust researchers and Jewish organizations." When you consider the profound effect that certain Jewish organizations have on U.S. and European foreign policy, this seems at least plausible.

The CBC reports that

Germany has ended decades of resistance and agreed to work to open a huge archive of Nazi records on millions of concentration camp inmates and slave labourers.

Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said on Tuesday that Germany will co-operate with the United States in its bid to allow access to the Holocaust archive, housed in a former SS barracks in the town of Bad Arolsen.

German officials must next present the idea to a commission of 11 nations that govern the archive at a meeting in Luxembourg in mid-May. The countries could then decide to amend the 1955 treaty that determines access to the files.

One of the largest storehouse of Nazi documents in the world, the archive holds an estimated 50 million files, many seized by Allied soldiers at the end of the Second World War.

If it is opened, historians and families of Holocaust victims will have access to the records.

Until now, survivors and family members have had to request access to files through the International Tracing Service, an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross. They often had to wait years for a response.

Of course the archive should be opened. But the CBC goes on to say,

The remaining nine countries all still have to agree before the archive can be opened. Some countries need parliamentary approval before they endorse the plan.

So don't rush to pack your bags.

2:00 pm

Allan Hall of The Independent gives some intriguing detail on the contents of the archive—

It contains, among other things, details of death camp inmates, transportation trains, round-ups and Gestapo persecution before the outbreak of the Second World War. The files also hold data about the Lebensborn (fount of life) programme, where SS men were used to breed the nucleus of Hitler's Aryan master race; hideous medical experiments performed on camp inmates; and secret weapons programmes that slave labourers were used to work on.

Sounds quite explosive.


1The Associated Press reports an estimate of 30 million; the CBC estimates 50 million. [back]

2Any time a government, of its own volition, says it's worried about the privacy of its citizens, you should hold your nose and consider the matter further. Some Republican state legislators from Florida, agents of which recently murdered 14-year-old Lee Anderson on camera, are now suggesting that autopsy-related videos should be withheld from the public—for privacy reasons. Odd.

The privacy of information in the Nazi archive has been zealously guarded by Germany. Can you guess which other European country has opposed opening the archive? [back]

3Only 2 days ago a German extradited from the U.S. and a Belgian extradited from the Netherlands were indicted in Germany for denying the Holocaust. [back]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Character Description of the Day

Concerning White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who has just announced his resignation—

McClellan is a flea on the windshield of history. On the podium, he performed his duty as a slow-flying object swatted by a frustrated and flustered press corps. Inexpressive, occasionally inarticulate and displaying a limited vocabulary, his virtue was his unwavering discipline in sticking to his uninformative talking points, fending off pesky reporters, and defending the president and all the president's men to the last full measure of his devotion. Inside the Bush White House, he was a non-player, a factotum, the instrument of Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist and deputy chief of staff. McClellan played no part in the inner councils of state. He was the blank wall erected in front of the press to obstruct them from seeing what was on the other side. McClellan's stoic façade was unmatched by a stoic interior. He was a vessel for his masters, did whatever he was told, put out disinformation without objection, and was willing to defend any travesty. He is the ultimate dispensable man. —Sidney Blumenthal writing in "Walking the White House Plank"

I don't know how we're going to get along without him.


Policy Reversal of the Day

Today, the Tories will back an expansion of renewable energy such as wind, wave and solar power by endorsing a "sustainable energy manifesto" produced by an alliance of 35 pressure groups, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. —Andrew Grice, writing in The Independent

Which just goes to show that depriving conservatives of power for extended periods can have strange and wonderful effects. Make a note to try this at home.


How to prepare a placenta

Actor and Scientology devotee Tom Cruise announced his plan to eat his firstborn's placenta. It's doubtful that his wife Katie Holmes could have objected even if she had wanted to because she was supposed to be giving the baby a silent birth. The theory, I believe, is that if the mother will just shut up, the baby won't notice what's happened until it's too late. The realization that you've been born is thus postponed until sometime around puberty.

But I digress. With Cruise's pregnancy-induced food fetish we anticipate a demand for placenta recipes. Maxine Frith, Social Affairs Correspondent for The Independent, has selected some of the best from the international scene.

The Chinese do not like to distinguish nutrition from medicine, so this recipe uses placenta in much the same way you would use dried toad. It is prepared with

rice wine, herbs and ginger before the mixture is dried, and it is then taken in capsules three times a day by the mother during the first month after birth.

Tom Cruise would be a fool to try this. Chinese medicine is geared to the individual, and when they say this medicine is for the mother, they mean the mother.

From Germany Frith finds the recipe for a skin lotion—

Some German women mix their placentas into clarified butter and use it to treat their babies' skin ailments.

If placentas become a fad, a product such as this can be expected on the shelves at Wal-Mart. "Made with genuine Placentol" the bottle might read.

In French cuisine you treat the placenta as you would any questionable foodstuff—you blend it into a pâté.

The television chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall caused outrage in 1998 when his TV Dinners programme showed him making a paté out of a woman's placenta, which was then eaten by her and her family. The Broadcasting Standards Commission censured the programme, saying it had "breached a convention" and that some complainants had compared it to cannibalism. The chef said he was happy with his creation, which he said tasted "not unlike tripe". Others have compared it to beef or foie gras.

Of course today's consumer demands foods that are lighter, less filling and prepared with an eye on health—

One woman on the British website Mothers 35 Plus tells how her placenta was put in a blender with a glass of V8 fruit juice and served to her by her midwife. "To my delight and surprise, it was great!" she wrote.

This makes an excellent accompaniment to brunch. When served in the evening vodka and a celery stick (or pickled string bean) may be added. As a cocktail it is known as a Bloody Membrane.


President Hu's Coming to America

Chinese President Hu Jintao will be arriving in the East today. We can only hope the State Department is on its toes and will keep George Bush from turning the visit into a nuclear confrontation. We just can't afford another price hike at the pump.

According to Clifford Coonan,

While Mr Bush has only given Mr Hu an hour of his time for a state lunch, the global balance of power is changing and in future meetings, the Chinese will set the timetable.

The rise of China is posing awkward questions for the US, along with the realisation that its days as the world's economic superpower are numbered.

Some analysts see America entering a period of "managed decline" not unlike that which Britain has experienced since the end of the Second World War and the end of empire.

If we're going into "managed decline," shouldn't we hire a manager?

The impression I get is that everyone is pitching in to keep President Hu away from the National Embarrassment—

Mr Hu was all business at the start of his tour. Dinner at Bill Gates' house in Seattle, followed by a café latte with Howard Schultz, chairman of the Starbucks chain of coffee shops, then on to the Boeing plant, before moving to the east coast, with an itinerary that includes a speech at Mr Bush's alma mater, Yale.

In the run-up to Mr Hu's visit, the Chinese released a number of key political prisoners; offered an olive branch to Taiwan, albeit one that Taipei cannot accept; signalled better relations with the Vatican and offered hope that the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, may visit China.

For his part President Bush caused to be slaughtered a rainbow of peoples.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Slippery Slope of the Day

Once you begin taking records out of library archives that researchers rely on for free inquiry and research purposes, it would be very difficult not to see it as a slippery slope toward government controlling research in higher education and our collective understanding of American history. —Tracy B. Mitrano, adjunct assistant professor of information science at Cornell University, reacting to the news that the FBI wants to examine the late columnist Jack Anderson's papers and "remove any item they deem confidential or top secret" before scholars can look at them.

To add a bit of weirdness to the bizarre—

The FBI eventually told Kevin Anderson [Jack Anderson's son] that the investigation centered on Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, two former officials with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who have been charged with receiving and distributing national defense information.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Pot-on-Kettle Attack of the Day

While speaking of the President of Iran to a business group—

It's going to be difficult. It's going to be tough because they [Iranians] are led by ideologues who have a weird sense of history....

Ahmadinejad spoke to the United Nations and afterwards was quoted as saying that for the 23 minutes that he spoke, there was a halo around his head that transfixed the audience and caused them to be completely focused on his message....

This guy (Ahmadinejad) had the sense that he was mystically empowered and as a result transfixed the audience -- that is not a rational human being to deal with....

—White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, as quoted by Erwin Seba of Reuters

Speaking of halos, does anyone remember this one?


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