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Corruption

Narcissist of The Week: Julian Assange

Friday, 12 April, 2019

In Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday, district justice Michael Snow summed up Julian Assange perfectly: “His assertion that he has not had a fair hearing is laughable. And his behaviour is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.” Supporters of Assange are now claiming that he’s either a journalist or a publisher, as if this were an excuse for his actions. The fact is that Wikileaks’ role in the illegal transfers of information and its links to the Russian government make it more like a foreign intelligence operation than a journalist or a publisher.

Back in 2010, Tunku Varadarajan captured the essence of this ghastly man in a Daily Beast piece titled “WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Is a Fraud.” Snippet: “Assange looks every inch the amoral, uber-nerd villain, icily detached from the real world of moral choices in which the rest of us saps live. Call him the Unaleaker, with apologies to the victims of Ted Kaczynski.”

Julian Assange is a criminal who evaded charges of sexual violence and then skipped bail. Regardless of whether Wikileaks was started with noble intentions, it ended up doing Putin’s dirty work. Example: In 2016, Assange declined to publish 68 gigabytes worth of leaked Russian documents that could have helped expose Moscow’s evil activities in Ukraine. For this, and more, Julian Assange should be sent down.

Wikileaks for Putin


Venezuela: The sadism of 21st century socialism

Saturday, 3 November, 2018

Apologists for the sadistic socialism now being lived out in Venezuela include Michael D. Higgins, Ireland’s cracked President; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the crackpot US Democrat; Jeremy Corbyn, the sinister leader of the UK Labour Party and Oliver Stone, the deranged Hollywood director — “one of Latin America’s most dynamic countries.”

For them, and their many fellow travellers in academia, the media and the arts, this BBC report: “Venezuela crisis: Mothers giving away babies, children living on streets.”

“Extreme poverty has jumped 40%, deaths related to child malnutrition are on the rise, and millions have fled the country in the past two years… Mothers and children have been among those hit hardest, as the BBC’s Vladimir Hernandez found when he spent time in the capital, Caracas.”


Behind the veil in Saudi Arabia

Saturday, 27 August, 2016 0 Comments

“On every vacant lot in time appears the jumble of brownish brick, the metal spines of scaffolding, the sheets of plate glass; then last of all the marble, the most popular facing material, held on to the plain walls behind it with some sort of adhesive. From a distance it lends a spurious air of antiquity to the scene.” Hilary Mantel’s Saudi Arabia, as depicted in Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, is a place of impersonal ugliness and stifling heat, a kingdom of sexual repression, corruption and violence.

Andrew Shore, a civil engineer, accepts a lucrative package from a British firm that has been commissioned to erect an opulent office building for the Saudi government. When his contrary, independent wife, Frances — a cartographer by trade — arrives in Jeddah to join Andrew, she’s instantly disquieted by the city and soon finds herself despising this masked society peopled by expats, who are mostly alcohol-sodden mercenaries, evasive Muslim neighbours and cruel, capricious officialdom. Confined in her apartment for most of the day, she begins to hear sounds of suffering from the supposedly empty flat above. Shopping provides some relief, but not much:

In the supermarket, Francis bought mangos. She put them in a plastic bag and handed them to a Filipino. He weighed them, twisted the bag closed, gave it back to her, but he did not even glance her way. Around her, women plucked tins from shelves. Women with layers of thick black cloth were their faces should be; only their hands reached out, heavy with gold.

She caught up with Andrew, laying her hand on the handle of the trolley beside his, careful not to touch.

“I didn’t know the veil was like this,” she whispered. “I thought you would see their eyes. How do they breathe? Don’t they feel stifled? Can they see where they’re going?

Andrew said, “These are the liberated ones. They get to go shopping.”

Thirty years after its original publication, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street is still as disturbing as ever. Frances Shore is not a radical feminist but Hilary Mantel’s character is a dedicated opponent of fabricated separatism: “I would like to stride up to the next veiled woman I see and tear the black cloth from her face and rip it up before her eyes. I know that would be wrong, but I would like to do it.”

The naqab


How did the UN get it so wrong on Julian Assange?

Saturday, 6 February, 2016 0 Comments

That’s the question posed by Joshua Rozenberg in the Guardian. “Assange has always been free to leave the embassy at any time,” says Rozenberg, adding: “Of course, he knew he would be arrested for breach of his bail conditions. Of course, he knew he would face extradition to Sweden. Of course, he knew that he might face extradition to the United States once proceedings in Sweden were at an end. But that does not mean he was detained, and still less that his detention was of an arbitrary character.”

Rozenberg outlines the faulty logic of the UN working group, but it is his colleague Marina Hyde who really gets to the heart of the matter with this devastating assessment of Assange: “He can issue limitless portentous statements, and declaim from all the Juliet balconies he likes, but for my money he looks more and more like just another guy failing to face up to a rape allegation.”

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for Julian Assange’s alleged victim, named as SW, was as critical of the UN group as she was of the purported rapist. She told the Daily Mirror:

“The panel seems to have a lack of understanding of the fact the alleged rape of a woman is one of the most serious violations and abuses of human rights.

That a man arrested on probable cause for rape should be awarded damages because he has deliberately withheld himself from the judicial system for over five years is insulting and offensive to my client — and all victims.

It is time that Assange packs his bag, steps out of the embassy and begins to cooperate with the Swedish Prosecuting Authority.”

Both the UN and Assange have emerged from this looking shabby and shameless.


The ugly side of the Atlético Madrid-Chelsea game

Thursday, 1 May, 2014 0 Comments

It was a pleasure to watch Atlético Madrid defeat Chelsea FC 3-1 at Stamford Bridge last night. For those who don’t follow football, Chelsea is owned by Roman Abramovich, the poster child of corrupt Russian oligarchs. Last month, Alexei Navalny, a leading Putin critic, wrote in the New York Times that Europe should target sanctions at the Russian president’s “inner circle”, including Abramovich, who he described as “the Kremlin mafia who pillage the nation’s wealth.”

Atlético Madrid Does that mean, then, that Rainy Day is adding its considerable weight to the Atlético Champions League campaign? Not so fast. It happens that the coming Saturday is World Press Freedom Day and that’s why the slogan emblazoned across the Atlético shirts, “Azerbaijan Land of Fire”, is so disturbing. Here’s the background: “On the eve of World Press Freedom Day 2014, the press freedom situation in Azerbaijan is worse than perhaps ever before. Journalists and bloggers who dare to criticize the authorities or cover risky topics such as human rights abuses and corruption face a range of pressures, including harassment, intimidation, threats, blackmail, violent attack, and imprisonment.” That’s Rebecca Vincent writing for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

Football can be a beautiful game, but it’s often an ugly business.


Horripilation: Like quills upon the fretful porpentine

Monday, 31 March, 2014 0 Comments

Each week brings with it dreadful stories that would make one’s hair stand on end. Take the one about the four princesses who say that they have been trapped in the Saudi Arabian royal compound in Jeddah for the last 13 years. The mother of the four girls was married off to King Abdullah at the age of 15, and she claims that they have been subject to constant abuse and are effectively being held under house arrest. Sadly, such tales about court intrigue are not new and Shakespeare captured the horror of it all some four centuries ago in Hamlet, where the ghost addresses the young prince:

But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine

Language note: Shakespeare’s “porpentine” is better known today as the porcupine, and the idiom of hair standing on end refers to the sensation of hairs, especially those on the neck, standing upright when the skin contracts due to fear. This phenomenon was once called “horripilation” and was defined in 1656 as “the standing up of the hair for fear… a sudden quaking, shuddering or shivering,” by Thomas Blount in his splendidly named Glossographia, or a dictionary interpreting such hard words as are now used.


Canadians and Putin: Craven and Courageous

Tuesday, 18 February, 2014 0 Comments

The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, visited Team Canada House at the Olympic Park in Sochi at the weekend and was “treated like a rock star”, writes Sharon Terlep in the Wall Street Journal. Her report is graced with a photo of Putin being embraced in a bear hug by the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Marcel Aubut.

That’s the craven Canadian bit. For Canadian courage, here’s Cathal Kelly, sports columnist with the Toronto Star newspaper. Snippet:

When Putin showed up at Canada House on Friday, it was a frenzy. He stood up on a small stage, modeling his own wax statue. The Canadians on hand treated him like Jesus returned.

For one terrible moment, it seemed as if COC boss Marcel Aubut might embrace the tyrant.

“I want to tell you how much we appreciate what Russia is offering…. great Games. Probably the best ever,” Aubut gushes.

Wait. What?

It is one thing to be polite. It is another to pawing the guy who has his foreign enemies radioactively poisoned.

Those on hand, their voices peaking like groupies, rushed forward for selfies. Putin’s expression does not change. He is not after love. He wants tribute. Canada is happy to provide.

Kelly’s report is titled “Canada’s swooning over Putin the tyrant all too common sight at these Games” and what makes it particularly readable is the way in which the writer places the global and the local in context. Seeing Putin in action has helped Kelly better understand the controversial, aberrant Toronto Mayor Rob Ford but, says Kelly: “Where Ford is feckless, Putin is purposeful. Where Ford is bumptious, Putin is regal. And where Ford is kind of a knob, Putin is full-on evil… Even though the average Canadian here has no idea what Putin is really about, they instinctively sense it — the combination of power and malice.”

Marcel Aubut is the craven Canadian who embraced evil. Cathal Kelly is the courageous Canadian who named it.

Putin


The bureaucratic birthday Nobel Peace Prize

Tuesday, 10 December, 2013 0 Comments

They’re handing out the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo today. According to the instructions in Alfred Nobel’s will, the recipient is selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, a five-member body appointed by the Parliament of Norway, and over the years it has displayed its fondness for similar officialdoms. Peace An outfit called the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, headquartered in The Hague, is this year’s recipient. Just 185km down the road in the Flemish region of Belgium lies Ghent and back in 1904 the prize went to the Institut de droit international, which was founded there and today maintains an infrequently updated website.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, a somewhat sombre group, seems to have a weakness for bureaucratic birthdays. The 1917 prize was given to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was similarly rewarded in 1946, and again in 1963, the year that happened to be the centennial of its founding. In 1969, the Committee gave its prize to the International Labour Organization, which was celebrating its 70th birthday, and when the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was having its 30th birthday party, it got the gong from Oslo. And then, the ultimate love in, the Nobel Peace Prize celebrated a century of its existence by awarding the 2001 honour to the United Nations and Kofi Annan.

Next up? In 2016, Unicef will be 70; in 2020, Terre des Hommes will be 60; in 2021, Amnesty International will be 60 as well, and in 2022, Vladimir Putin, the protector of Edward Snowden, will be 70.


Claude Monet and the Syrian connection

Wednesday, 19 June, 2013 0 Comments

This evening in London, Sotheby’s will auction 72 lots of Impressionist and modern art in one of the most anticipated sales of the year. When all the bidding’s done, Sotheby’s expects to have raked in more than £75 million. Undoubtedly, the star of show is Claude Monet’s gorgeous depiction of The Palazzo Contarini in Venice, which he painted during a three-month stay in the city in 1908. But it’s complicated.

Monet

What the Sotheby’s auction catalogue does not mention is that this particular Monet is from the collection of Helly Nahmad, a character for whom the adjective “colourful” was coined. The Nahmad family hails from Aleppo in Syria and its members operate art galleries in New York and London. Their collection of 3,000 works, including 200 oil paintings by Picasso, is valued at $5 billion by Skate’s Art Market Review.

Much to the surprise of its posh patrons, however, the Helly Nahmad Gallery in Manhattan was forced to shut its doors earlier this year after it was raided by US agents on the grounds that its owner was running a high-stakes gambling ring that catered to celebrities and the very wealthy. On 16 April, Helly Nahmad was charged with racketeering and money-laundering conspiracy. According to the indictment, Nahmad ran an operation that used illegal gambling websites to generate tens of millions of dollars in bets each year. The gambling ring was supported, in part, by the gallery, states the indictment. After such unpleasantness, it is a relief to lovers of modern art, no doubt, that the Helly Nahmad Gallery is open for business once more. The proceeds from this evening’s sale of The Palazzo Contarini painting, which should be spectacular, surely will comfort the proprietor during his difficulties.


They eat horses, don’t they?

Friday, 15 February, 2013 0 Comments

In the magazine business, the less-is-more pivot is executed when the jovial publisher cuts the number of pages but keeps the cover price as it is. The consumers won’t notice the difference, is the theory. The gangsters behind the horse-meat lasagna scandal have borrowed this page, as it were, and European supermarkets are now filling up with products whose ingredients have been cheapened to maintain the price. As with the magazine with fewer pages, nobody noticed a difference in the taste when horse replaced beef in frozen lasagna.

This is a huge story involving a continent-wide web of slaughter houses in Romania, traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands, companies in France, including a subcontractor of Findus, which shipped the horsemeat to Luxembourg where it was turned into the lasagna that then filled freezers across Europe. But what started as a beef-burger scandal in Ireland and then became a lasagna outrage in Britain is now expanding exponentially. In France, cannelloni, spaghetti bolognese, moussaka and hachis parmentier have been pulled from shelves at six supermarket chains. On Wednesday, the French brand, Picard, found horse meat in its chili con carne.

Findus is full of surprises

Catherine Brown, chief executive of the Foods Standards Agency in the UK, called for retailers to test their dishes containing ‘pork,’ ‘chicken’ and other meats. Retailers are currently focusing on ‘comminuted‘ beef, she said, calling it ‘the stuff where meat is ground up to the point that it is not readily recognizable.’

Because horsemeat is cheap, the gangsters in the food industry decided to mince it up, stuff it in the lasagna, call it ‘beef’, freeze it and then laugh all the way to the bank, safe in the knowledge that the consumers sticking it in the microwave will never taste the difference. Findus and lots of other companies in the food industry are now playing the “It wasn’t me guv” card, but it won’t work. If they had wanted to know what that cheap meat was and where it was coming from they could have found out and refused to use it. They didn’t want to, of course. What mattered was keeping those profit margins up.

Yesterday’s news that Greek unemployment had hit a new record of 27 percent in November means that price pressure is becoming unbearable for consumer product companies in the EU and some of them are responding to this pauperization by producing food that is being debased constantly. This just in: “Irish food group Greencore became the latest company to become embroiled in the horse meat scandal when it confirmed it manufactured bolognese sauce that British retailer Asda has withdrawn from the shelves after it was found to contain horse meat.”

This one is going to run and run.


The horse is inside

Thursday, 17 January, 2013 1 Comment

Today’s stomach-churning headline is provided by The Daily Telegraph: “Beef contaminated with horse meat sold in Britain for ‘several years'”. Appetizer: “Seven of the leading supermarkets have cleared their shelves of frozen beefburgers after a supplier sold Tesco products which were 29 per cent horse meat.”

Because there’s a murky Irish connection in this scandal, now is a good time to roll out the Rubberbandits, a pair of lads from, er, lovely, Limerick, who know their equine affairs, outside and inside. “They’re a hip-hop comedy duo from Limerick who rap about horses and terrorism,” states The Guardian today, and asks: “Is Britain ready for the Rubberbandits?” Timing is everything, and it’s an ill wind… and all that.