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Issue 29 | July 6, 2007

Aishwarya Rai

Rai: India’s Angelina Jolie People, pg 10 Britain under attack On the front pages, pg 2 Caught: Indonesia’s most wanted On the front pages, pg 2 Yang at Yahoo Business, pg 8 The world’s ugliest plant Health & Science, pg 13 Sept 11. and Chinese food Opinions, pg 16 Hillary and Celine Opinions, pg 17 Kevin Costner: Serial killer Film, pg 19 Forgedaboudit: Sopranos bow out Arts & Entertainment, pg 24 The axis of decency Travel, pg 26 Chris Patten... ten years on Penultimately, pg 38
RMB12 HK$20
July 6, 2007

What hope now for Palestine?
pg

3 

the front pages On
Britain under attack
The story...

July 6, 2007

N E W S

Britain was placed on the highest terror threat level on June 30, following three failed bomb attacks in 36 hours. On June 29, two cars filled with fuel, nails and gas cylinders were found by chance in central London, one of them outside a popular nightclub. Police said the bombs could have caused “significant loss of life” if they had exploded. The following day, a jeep packed with gas cylinders was set alight and driven into the main terminal building at Glasgow airport in an apparent suicide attack. The vehicle failed to explode, but witnesses said the driver had doused himself with petrol and was on fire as the vehicle smashed into the terminal. The driver fought with police and airport security as they tried to extinguish the flames, while his accomplice was wrestled to the ground by a member of the public. At the time of going to press, eight arrests, including that of a Jordanian neurosurgeon and an Iraqi doctor, had been made by British officials who said they are hunting for an al-Qaida-linked network behind the attempted attacks.
The comment...

Inflamed actions: an “apparent suicide attack” at Glasgow airport what drives them? When I was a member of the British-Muslim jihadist group Al-Muhajiroun we used to “laugh” when people claimed “Western foreign policy” was to blame for Islamic acts of terror like Sept. 11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7. The truth is that what drove me and my associates to plot terrorist acts within our British homeland “was a sense that we were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary state that would eventually bring Islamic justice to the

The London bombing attempts are “likely to have been carried out by my former peers,” said Hassan Butt in The Observer (London). So

world.” What’s more, radicals have been able to increase their following in Britain because our Islamic institutions refuse to broach the difficult topic of “violence within Islam.” Instead, “they repeat the mantra that Islam is peace, focus on Islam as personal, and hope that all of this debate will go away.” It won’t, until we tackle it head on. Whatever the mind-set of these individuals, it’s clearly a “twisted” one, said The Sunday Times (London) in an editorial. “How else to explain an attack directed at ‘ladies night’ at the Tiger Tiger nightclub?” For Muslim extremists, “young women drinking, dancing and enjoying themselves embodies everything they find repulsive about western society.” Some terrorism analysts also believe the plots were intended as a message to the new British government led by Gordon Brown, said BBC News. Brown handled his first big test as prime minister well, said the Guardian (London) in an editorial. Less than a week into his new job, “he did not seek to play up the danger, or to capitalize on it.” Brown “refused to resort to the politics of fear,” unlike Tony Blair, who declared after 7/7 that “the rules of the game have changed” and tried to introduce “draconian” security measures such as detention without charge for 90 days.

Caught: Indonesia’s most wanted
The story...

Indonesian police arrested the head and military chief of Southeast Asia’s most feared terrorist organization, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), claiming a breakthrough in the fight against radicalIslamic extremism in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Zarkasih, 45, the group’s leader, was captured in Yogyakarta, just hours after anti-terror police closed in on its military chief, Abu Dujana (pictured), 37, in a village in central Java. JI, formed in Malaysia in the late 1990s, is blamed for a number of terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia, including the September 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202, the August 2003 bombing of Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel which killed 12, the September 2004 bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta which killed 11, and a return attack in Bali in October 2005 which killed 25. The group’s stated aim is to create an Islamic state across much of Southeast Asia.
The comment...

The two arrests are the “heaviest of blows” for JI, said Mark Forbes in The Sydney Morning

Herald. Zarkasih and Dujana — known among militants as “the guru” — should know most, if not all, of JI’s “secrets.” Indonesia’s anti-terror police will now have access to a “walking treasure trove of intelligence.” What’s more, both men are “graduates of al-Qaida’s Afghanistan academy of terrorism” of which JI is now in short supply. But don’t break out the champagne just yet, said Philip Bowring in the International Herald Tribune. Many Indonesians believe JI is more of a “concept with which zealots are to varying degrees affiliated,” rather than an “organization with a structure.” Thus, while the arrest of key individuals is a success, “decapitating a headless movement” is of limited value. Yes, to stop further attacks, we really need to come to terms with the organization’s “ideology” and “psychological and cultural relationships” which have turned scores of “ordinary people” into jihadists, said Noor Huda Ismail in The Jakarta Post. JI’s “ideological roots run deep in Indonesia,” and the organization is resilient enough to withstand the arrest of a small number of individuals.

Dujana: “a walking treasure trove of intelligence” Also “looming in the background” is Indonesia’s failure to ban JI, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Add to that a weak court system that’s proved “woefully inadequate” in tackling complex terrorism cases, as the “muddled prosecution” of Bali mastermind Abu Bakar Bashir in 2005 shows. That said, Indonesia “has come a long way in a short time” in combating terrorism, and the two recent arrests show “what committed anti-terror governments can accomplish, even in countries with majority-Muslim populations.”
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July 6, 2007

N E W S
Cover story 

On the front pages
Hamas “accepts none of these things.” Ever since Hamas won Palestinian elections in January 2006, the United States and Israel have done everything they could to isolate it. Now, 18 months on, “Hamas is that much stronger and Fatah is that much weaker.” Yes, it’s “wishful thinking” to believe that aid money alone can create a strong new administration in the West Bank or squeeze Hamas in Gaza, said The Washington Post in an editorial. “While it’s worth trying” to support the new government of the “moderate” Abbas, he’s proved incapable of controlling Fatah’s armed gangs or ridding the party of “rampant corruption and malfeasance” which led to Hamas’ election victory in 2006. Hamas still has the support of a large number of Palestinians: it can’t be “abolished by decree,” and isolating it “will only make it more radical and more dependent on sponsors in Syria and Iran.” “In seeking to boost ‘moderates’ such as Abbas, the west only hugs them to death,” said Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian (London). The more aid Abbas takes from the west will only confirm him as a “western proxy” in Arab eyes, casting him alongside Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, Iraq’s Nuri al-Maliki and Lebanon’s Fouad Siniora. If the West Bank is showered with money but most of it stays in “Fatah’s gilded circle,” it will foster “precisely the resentment” that brought about Hamas’ election victory in 2006. One thing’s clear, said Niall Ferguson in The Sunday Telegraph (London). Any “lingering hopes” of a two-state solution to the IsraeliPalestinian conflict have now “evaporated.” The next peace plan for the Middle East will need to be a “three-state solution: Israel, Hamastan and Fatahland.”

Palestine splits in two
The story...

Palestinian Islamist party Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip on June 14 after days of bloody fighting with rival party Fatah, which left 116 people dead and put an end to the two parties’ so called “unity government.” After Hamas militants routed Fatah in Gaza, Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency, dismissed the Hamas-led unity government and installed a new cabinet comprising mostly bureaucrats. Abbas, who is based in the Fatahcontrolled West Bank, vowed to reunite the Palestinians under their “lawful” government. But Hamas declared the new government illegal and refused to recognize it. The United States and European Union said it would support the Abbas government through direct financial aid, while continuing an economic boycott of Hamas. Sanctions were imposed last year when Hamas — which the United States regards as a terrorist organization — formed the unity government with Fatah. In Washington, U.S. President George W. Bush praised Abbas as “a voice for moderation” and called him the true “president of all the Palestinians.” Meanwhile, Israel said it would release US$560 million in frozen tax revenue to the Abbas government.
The comment...

Front page of the week

The Independent (London), Friday, June 15.

The Independent uses the Palestinian flag for its front page to make the point that Hamas’ triumph in Gaza may well be Palestine’s tragedy.

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It might seem like there’s not much choice between “the gunmen of Fatah and the gunmen of Hamas,” said The New York Times in an editorial. “But there is.” Fatah has renounced terrorism and supports a two-state peace settlement with Israel.

“Doctors of death.” The Sun (London), July 2.
The Sun describes the doctors arrested in connection with the failed car bombing attacks on London and Glasgow.
China

Town and country

A recent U.N. report said that more than half of China’s population will be living in cities in 10 years. An estimated 150 million people moved to China’s urban areas between 1999 and 2005. William Ryan, information adviser for the U.N. Population Fund in Asia and the Pacific, said: “From 1980 to 2030, the population of China will go from being 20 percent urban to almost two-thirds urban.” Zhang Bing is one of “huge wave of rural workers streaming into China’s cities to seek opportunity,” said the Associated Press. Zhang, 26, who until recently herded sheep and raised chickens in Inner Mongolia, now manages a
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Living for the city: migrants on the move “glittering karaoke club” in a “booming eastern Chinese city.” China’s urbanization “is unique in that it stems largely from migration instead of natural population growth.” It is only recently that “rising wealth and greater personal freedoms have allowed rural dwellers to move to cities.” 

Miscellany
Calendar
July

July 6, 2007

N E W S

Tuesday

Saturday

10

confused with the exiled billionaire of the same name.

This week on YouTube
Hail to the thief Pressing the flesh in Albania was a new experience for U.S. President George W. Bush where he was mobbed like a Hollywood film star. The crowd seem genuinely astonished to have such an international statesman within their modest midst. A memento of this-oncein-a-lifetime event was too great an opportunity for one patriotic Albanian to pass up: at some point during the impromptu walkabout the president was deftly relieved of his US$50 Timex watch. www.youtube.com [Search for: Bush watch stolen Albania] Salud! When Boris Yeltsin was somewhat worse for wear, the journalistic euphemism was “tired and emotional.” Newbie world leader Nicolas Sarkozy looks as though he too enjoys the occasional long lunch. But facing the world’s press at the recent G8 summit straight afterwards, and with an uncontrollable smirk on his face, can surely only be put down to inexperience on the French leader’s part. [Search for: Sarkozy pissed] Barack me tonight Mmm… a wannabe starlet, Amber Lee Ettinger, believes the quickest route to pop stardom is to pen a slushy love song to one of the 2008 U.S. presidential candidates. Choosing the most photogenic presidential candidate to boost your career makes sense, but with “friends” like this, Obama can now look forward to charges of “dumbingdown” his election campaign. [Search for: I got a crush on Obama]

7

Hong Kong fashion week

Live Earth

On the back of the island’s 10th anniversary celebrations to mark its return to China, Hong Kong Fashion Week should have more buzz than usual this year. Featuring the latest creations from Asia’s hottest young designers, the event is expected to draw 15,000 visitors and buyers into the city. Running concurrently will be a flurry of fashion shows by individual designers, while essential trade tips can be picked up at any number of seminars organized by the region’s leading fashion authorities.

Saturday

14

Bastille Day

The mega-concert is back. After last year’s Live8 just about changed the world, the team behind it are doing it again with a series of concerts taking place in eight cities over 24 hours, to trigger a global movement to solve the climate crisis. While Live8 was fronted by Bob Geldof, this time it’s Presidential-candidate-turnedcampaigner Al Gore. Concerts will be held in Shanghai, New York, London, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Tokyo and Hamburg. London will host performers such as Madonna, while Shanghai will see the likes of classical-crossover soprano Sarah Brightman.

France’s most important national holiday commemorates the uprising that marked the beginning of the French Revolution. The focal point — aside from liberté, égalité and fraternité — is a huge military parade on Paris’s Champs-Elysées, but celebrations are held around the country, including dancing in Bastille Square the night before. Curious features of Bastille Day celebrations are the parties held in fire stations, and the Incredible Picnic, which in the year 2000 featured a 1000-kilometer feast. This year, around 4 million picnickers are expected.

Wednesday

18

Japan sea celebration

Friday

13

First night of the Proms

Sunday

8

Wimbledon final

The fortnight in which British mothers and grandmothers suddenly become tennis experts will come to an end with the Wimbledon men’s final. Expect to see Swiss world No. 1 Roger Federer, who is going for his fifth straight title. Some people say his dominance is dulling the men’s tournament, while others argue his game on grass is a thing of beauty. His biggest challenger is French Open champion Rafael Nadal, who reached the final last year but is yet to prove he has the grasscourt skills to match Federer.

The Proms is most famous for its last night, but the best bits normally come during the two months of the world’s greatest classical music festival, which starts on July 13. Themes in 2007 include words and music such as Shostakovich’s take on Hamlet and Stravinsky’s ‘Three Songs from William Shakespeare.’ Violinist Joshua Bell will appear again after a triumphant 2006 performance, and illustrious Russian pianist Boris Berezovsky should not be

Until 1996, July was the only month in the Japanese calendar without a public holiday. An oversight that has since been rectified by Umi no Hi, which celebrates the country’s seas and oceans, and Japan’s particular relationship to them. The crisis over the nation’s current tuna shortage has made it clear just how important that relationship is. The date marks the return of the Emperor Meiji from a boat trip to Hokkaido in 1876, probably the only occasion an emperor ever came close to leaving Japan, as Hokkaido, at the time, was just being colonized.

American states vs. the world
The fact that the United States has the world’s largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) isn’t exactly news. What people may not be aware of is that its individual states boast economies that are comparable to major nation states. California tops the list and would rank as the world’s eighth largest nation by GDP if it counted as a country. Its GDP of US$2.15 trillion gives it a similar ranking to European superpower France. And even though the Texan economy (at No. 2) is only half that size, it equates roughly with Canada on US$1.08 trillion. Other intriguing matches include Australia (Ohio), Ireland (Nevada) and Saudi Arabia (Tennessee). The once mighty Russia now stands head-to-head with... New Jersey. www.nvrmagazine.com

July 6, 2007

N E W S
Kabul Beijing 

In brief: Asia
Hu gets casual over energy
The start of the Chinese summer saw Chinese President Hu Jintao shed his suit and tie to address a conference of similarly attired officials, in an attempt to encourage energy conservation by turning down air-conditioning. China’s leaders also attended a standing committee meeting in casual clothes for the first time ever, and central government offices spent a day without air-conditioning. On one day in Beijing, temperatures hit 37 degrees, lifting electricity consumption to 11.22 million kilowatts, the highest ever recorded. The State Council has ruled that big buildings must not set their air-conditioning below 26 degrees Celsius.
Tokyo

Worst bomb attack since Sept. 11
A bomb attack on a police bus in Kabul killed up to 35 people and injured more than 30 others. The attack, by Taliban militants, is thought to be the worst bombing in the Afghan capital since the Taliban were ousted by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Most of those deceased were police instructors, while five foreigners were wounded. Police are unsure if the attack was conducted by a suicide bomber, as the Taliban claim, or a pre-planted device. Meanwhile, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai survived an assassination attempt after Taliban militants fired rockets at him while he was giving a speech in a district known as one of their strongholds.

Japan running out of tuna
High demand for sushi and sashimi worldwide has led to a tuna crisis in Japan, with shortages leading to prices beyond the reach of many Japanese consumers. Since January 2006, the average price of imported frozen northern and Pacific bluefin — the best and most commonly-used tuna in sushi — has risen by more than a third to about US$6 per kilogram, according to Japan’s Fisheries Agency. Japan has been further panicked by the decision of dozens of nations to reduce annual tuna catches in the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas by 20 percent.
Guangzhou
See The last word in fish, pg 27

Local authorities get sniffy about pollution
A group of “professional noses” will sniff out foul-smelling gases as part of a battle against unlawful emissions from factories in Guangzhou. The team, from the Panyu environment monitoring station, will use equipment to monitor the density of the gas, but will use their own noses to detect its harmfulness. Liu Jingcai, part of the team, said: “It’s quite unpleasant. We have to stay in a lab smelling those awful gases repeatedly.” Liu said the group could differentiate between hundreds of smells, many of which can make people ill. The team will target oil refineries, rubber factories and rubbish dumps.
Bangkok

Anti-government protests continue
Up to 15,000 protesters have been marching nightly for the past month against Thailand’s military government which took power in a coup last September. The protesters, who are mostly supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra, want to see the junta resign and fresh elections held. The military, who overthrew Thaksin over allegations of electoral fraud, have provoked the ire of Thaksin supporters by freezing US$1.6 billion of his assets, disbanding his party and barring him from office for five years. Thaksin has been ordered to appear in court in Bangkok, but has chosen to stay in England, where he is bidding to take over Manchester City Football Club.
Kuala Lumpur

Manaparai

Teenage surgeon on run
Indian police have arrested the parents of a 15-year-old boy who allegedly delivered a baby by Caesarean section under their supervision. The boy has absconded and police are looking for him. Physician Dr. K. Murugesan showed a video to the Indian Medical Association of his son, Dhileepan Raj, performing the operation in an apparent bid to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest surgeon. Murugesan, who filmed the operation in his maternity hospital in Manaparai, was arrested alongside his wife. The baby was born with a lump on the spinal cord, although it was not due to the Caesarean section.
www.nvrmagazine.com

Fleeing maid highlights abuse
The plight of Indonesian maids in Malaysia has come under the microscope after a maid who was allegedly beaten and starved by her employer knotted pieces of fabric together to flee a 15-storey apartment. Sumatran Ceriyati Dapin, 33, was rescued by firefighters while hanging 12 floors up, after fleeing from her 35-year-old female employer who had locked her in. Malaysian authorities have since suspended 19 maid agencies and blacklisted 85 employers for failing to pay workers. Maids enjoy little protection under Malaysian labor laws, and earn around US$100 a month. 

brief: World In
New York Montreal

July 6, 2007

N E W S

Ripley’s re-opens for business
After a 35-year absence, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, famous for depicting the weird and the wacky, has opened a new emporium in New York’s Times Square. Ripley’s new “Odditorium” is being touted as the “greatest collection of unbelievable odd and unusual items ever assembled under one roof, from this world and beyond!” The collection includes a twoheaded calf, a six-legged cow, an albino giraffe, a lock of Elvis Presley’s hair and 24 shrunken heads from Ecuador. It’s an experience organizers insist is a “family affair.” Ripley’s last exhibition in Times Square closed in 1972.
Washington

Roid rage suspected in Canadian Crippler killings
Police are investigating whether steroid use is to blame in the suicide and double murder of professional wrestler Chris Benoit and his family. Nicknamed the “Canadian Crippler,” Benoit is believed to have hung himself using a weight machine pulley after strangling his wife and then suffocating his 7-year-old son. A Bible had been placed next to their bodies. Anabolic steroids, which can cause paranoia, depression and explosive outbursts known as “roid rage,” were found in the house. Benoit was known as a family man and no suicide note was found.

Bush’s immigration reform collapses
The authority of U.S. President George W. Bush continues to be undermined after much of his party abandoned him on a key vote to overhaul the country’s immigration policy. The bill, that would have given legal status to millions of illegal immigrants in the United States while strengthening the nation’s borders, was rejected 53 to 46. Despite last minute pleas from Bush, only 12 of 49 Senate Republicans sided with him in the vote. The contentious bill would have meant some of the most radical changes to U.S. immigration law in more than 20 years, but opponents criticized the proposal for rewarding lawbreakers.
Caracas

Chávez calls country to arms
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has warned the United States not to consider using force against his country. “We are ready to die defending the sacred sovereignty of our country,” Chávez said on a recent visit to Russia. Last year, Venezuela bought helicopter gunships, fighter planes and rifles from Russia worth US$3 billion. Chávez said he welcomed Russian investment in the country’s booming energy sector and reiterated his call to U.S. oil companies to the leave the country if they were not happy with Venezuela’s move towards nationalizing its oil resources. “The door is open,” he said. Only days earlier, U.S. companies ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips pulled out of Venezuela.
Bogota

Same sex marriage bill loses final vote
A new bill approved by the Colombian Congress and supported by President Alvaro Uribe to allow same-sex couples equivalent access to social security, health insurance and estate inheritance as heterosexuals has hit a road-block. The bill had already been approved by the country’s senate but a final vote was derailed when a senator affiliated to an evangelical Colombian church called for an unusual floor vote. The ballot allowed conservative lawmakers to break ranks with their parties, defeating the bill 34-29 in the 102-member Senate. Many of the bill’s supporters were absent. Had the bill been passed, Colombia would have become the first South American country to endorse same-sex relationships.
Sydney

Lima

Speeding not “manly”
Australian traffic authorities have taken a novel approach to reducing road deaths, by suggesting drivers who speed have small penises. In a new television advertising campaign, women are shown shaking their little fingers as male motorists speed past them. The gesture suggests a man has a small appendage. Australia often uses shock-value advertisements in a bid to reduce its road-death toll, but the new “Speeding. No-one Thinks Big of You” campaign has been designed to target a young audience desensitized by graphic computer games and horror films. In the state of New South Wales, speeding accounts for 40 percent of road deaths each year.

Cameron Diaz insults Peru
Hollywood star Cameron Diaz has apologized to the people of Peru after visiting the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu carrying a bag emblazoned with a red star and the words “Serve the People” in Chinese. The slogan, made famous by Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong, is said to have evoked painful memories in Peru of the Shining Path insurgency which killed almost 70,000 people in the 1980s and early 1990s. “I sincerely apologize to anyone I may have inadvertently offended. The bag was a purchase I made as a tourist in China and I did not realize the potentially hurtful nature of the slogan printed on it,” Diaz said.
www.nvrmagazine.com

July 6, 2007

N E W S
London Berlin 

In brief: World
Germany blocks Cruise film
The German government has blocked makers of an American movie from filming on a German military site because Tom Cruise, its star and co-producer, is a Scientologist. Valkyrie stars Cruise in the role of Colonel Claus von Staffenberg, who led an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. Director Bryan Singer planned to film at the Bendlerblock memorial in Berlin, where von Staffenberg hatched the plot, but the government intervened on the grounds that Scientology’s money-making goes against the country’s constitution. Cruise’s religion also upset Germany’s Christian Democratic Party and von Staffenberg’s 72-year-old son, who said that the actor should “keep his hands off my father.”

Blair’s final farewell
Hostilities in the British House of Commons were fleetingly suspended for the occasion of Tony Blair’s final appearance as prime minister. Watched by his family in the public gallery, MPs from all parties gave Blair a standing ovation in recognition of his 10 years in power, despite the confession that “he never pretended to be a great House of Commons man.” Wife Cherie Blair couldn’t extend the same courtesy to journalists waiting outside No. 10 Downing Street later the same day, telling them: “I don’t think we’ll miss you.” Gordon Brown takes over as prime minister after being the country’s longest-serving finance minister of modern times.
See Broker Blair, pg 15

London

Muhammad by thy name
Muhammad could become the most popular name in Britain, after it came second in last year’s registration of boys’ births. The prophet’s name was given to 6,010 babies in 2006, second only to the 6,928 children called Jack. Officially, Muhammad did not appear in the top 10 boys’ names published by the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics, because the registrations are split into 16 different spelling variations. There were 12 percent more babies with the name Muhammad than in 2005, and experts predict that above-average fertility rates among British Muslims will make the name the most popular this year.
Paris

France’s power-couple split
Ségolène Royal, the Socialist presidential candidate who lost the French election to Nicolas Sarkozy in May, has split from long-term partner and Socialist party leader Françoise Hollande, admitting their relationship had been in trouble throughout her campaign. The pair, who were considered France’s foremost power-couple, had been together for 30 years and had four children together. Royal said she asked Hollande to leave their Paris home so that he could pursue “his love interest” elsewhere. Hollande said the split had “no political cause” and “no political consequence.” Rumors of a break-up had dogged Royal’s campaign, particularly after the couple were photographed shaking hands in March.
Baghdad

Chemical Ali to hang
There was little surprise in Iraq that Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as “Chemical Ali,” received the harshest sentence possible for his role in the massacre of Kurds during the so-called Anfal campaign of the late 1980s. Al-Majid, a cousin of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, was given five death sentences for ordering the use of deadly nerve agents and mustard gas which led to the deaths of as many as 180,000 people. As the verdict was read, al-Majid was heard to say “Thank God.” The trial also heard how victims were tortured and executed in concentration camps as part of a campaign to try to eradicate Kurds from northern Iraq.
Khartoum

Tehran

Sudan agrees to Darfur peacekeepers
Following months of pressure from the United Nations and Western governments, Sudan agreed to allow a joint U.N.-African Union force of 20,000 peacekeepers into the country’s ravaged Darfur region. The joint force will replace a 7,000-strong African Union force that observers say did little to stop the violence. International experts say some 200,000 people have died and about 2.5 million been displaced in four years of fighting. Observers have warned, however, that the U.N.-African Union peacekeepers stand little chance of success.
www.nvrmagazine.com

Fuel rationing sparks protests
The start of fuel rationing in Iran has led to unprecedented scenes of violence as protesters torched several petrol stations across Tehran. Queues of several hundred meters formed outside stations as the government imposed the plan, which is expected to last between four and six months. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hopes prices will rise for a commodity that currently costs less than for a comparable amount of mineral water. Such is the level of consumption in Iran that the country is forced to spend billions of dollars importing petrol from abroad, despite being OPEC’s second largest oil producer. 

Business
Yang at Yahoo
Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang (pictured) has replaced Terry Semel as CEO of Yahoo, while Susan Decker, a key Yahoo executive, was named president. Semel presided over five years of 20 percent annual sales growth at Yahoo, but in recent years, the company has lost its lead in Internet advertising to competitor Google. Last year alone, Yahoo shares fell 35 percent. Taipei-born Yang, however, says he can turn things around. “I believe that Yahoo has all the assets it takes to win, and we’re well positioned to do just that,” he said following the announcement. Will Yang and Decker be able to do what Semel couldn’t? “I doubt it,” said Fred Vogelstein in Wired. com. Semel’s biggest mistake was that he let rival Google grow from a “pipsqueak into a giant.” Now, not only is Google the “most efficient producer of content on the planet,” but it doesn’t even have to pay for marketing; when it releases a new product, “everyone comes.” Google isn’t Yang’s only challenge, said the Financial Times (London). Yes, he’s “older and

July 6, 2007

N E W S

Founder and savior? Yang is more “a technologist than a manager” wiser” than when he founded the than a manager. Running a public company in 1995 [he’s now 38], company takes “sophisticated” but he’s still more of a technologist management skills. People like

Apple’s Steve Jobs and Microsoft’s Bill Gates have pulled it off, but they’re exceptions to the rule. What’s more, Yang has “a credibility problem” because he’s been at the company through its recent problems, said the Los Angeles Times. He “isn’t like Michael Dell, Steve Jobs and other high-profile executives who returned to rescue the companies they founded.” Some people at Yahoo believe Yang’s position is only temporary and that Decker will soon take over, said Kevin J. Delaney in The Wall Street Journal. However, Yang denies such claims. And at least one former president of Yahoo, Jeff Mallet, agrees. He described Yang as having always been “half in that chair [of CEO].” But others in the company perceive Yang as a “gentleman founder” who’s “not that involved in the day-to-day operation of the business.” One thing’s for sure, said Miguel Helft in The New York Times: the shake-up has “left investors with more questions than answers.” Shortly after the announcement, Yahoo shares fell 49 cents to US$27.63.

In the courts...
Judge loses pants and court case
A Washington, D.C judge who filed a US$54 million lawsuit against his dry cleaners over a pair of missing pants “will not get a penny,” says Ariel Sabar in The New York Times. Roy Pearson could not prove that Korean-owned Custom Cleaners was misleading customers with its "satisfaction guranteed" sign, after one of his suits was returned without the pants in 2005 following a US$10.50 alteration job (they were found two days later, though Pearson argued unsuccessfully they had been replaced by a cheaper pair). Pearson will have to pay up to US$5,000 in court costs, and possibly up to US$100,000 in legal fees if Judge Judith Bartnoff, who delivered the verdict, deems the lawsuit “frivolous.” Pearson rejected a US$12,000 settlement in March, and continued to argue that U.S. consumer protection law entitled him to “thousands of dollars for each day over nearly four years in which signs at the shop promised ‘same day service’ and ‘satisfaction guaranteed.’” The verdict brings a “momentary pause” to a case that has “inspired international ridicule and calls for legal reform.”

Good week for...
Wendi Deng, the Chinese wife of Rupert Murdoch, who was given an official post within News Corp. as chief of strategy of MySpace China. Chinese workers, who are set to enjoy improved working conditions thanks to new laws which set standards for labour contracts, use of temporary workers and severance pay. The move follows a crackdown by authorities on illegal labor practices after an outcry over revelations of slave labor at brick factories in the country’s central provinces.

Bad week for...
Chinese consumers, after inflation hit a 27-month high in May, according to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics. Food prices, which comprise a third of the consumer basket, rose 8.3 percent from a year earlier and a shortage of pork caused meat prices to jump 26.5 percent. Thomas the Tank Engine, after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that toy maker, RC2 Corporation of Oak Brook, Ill., was recalling some 1.5 million Thomas & Friends wooden railway toys because its Chinese manufacturer appeared to have used highly-leaded pigments in their paint.
See Tainted toys, pg 9

Taken to the cleaners: Pearson

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July 6, 2007

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Viewpoint Viewpoint 

Business
Seung-Youn Kim
South Korea’s richest brawler
Seung-Youn Kim, one of South Korea’s richest tycoons, has been given 18 months in jail for “abducting and beating up a group of karaoke bar workers” who had attacked his son, says Phillippe Naughton in The Times (London). Kim, who is head of the Hanwha group, South Korea’s 12th-largest conglomerate, and worth around US$1 billion, “stormed into an upmarket karaoke bar” with several bodyguards, looking for the men responsible for beating up his son, a 22-year-old Harvard University student. The victims were taken to “a building site outside Seoul,” where the businessman “kicked and punched” them, as well as threatening them with an electronic shock device and hitting one of with a steel pipe. Kim said during his trial that he asked his bodyguards to take over because he “got tired” of beating the workers himself. The judge said Kim had taken “advantage of his status to carry out ‘organized’ violence for private purposes.” The Hanwha group has interests in explosives, petrochemicals, finance, insurance, telecommunications, construction and retail, and owns the Hanwha Eagles baseball team.

China’s virtual gold rush Tainted toys
The Internet has produced some pretty weird jobs over the years, but it’s hard to imagine anything “more surreal than that of the Chinese gold farmer,” says Julian Dibbel in The New York Times. An estimated 100,000 workers, mostly migrants, toil in online fantasy games like World of Warcraft (WOW), killing monsters and robbing them of virtual gold to sell to Westerners. In fact, China produces the “bulk” of the world’s virtual booty in what has become a US$1.8 billion-a-year business. The individual gold farmers themselves see only a fraction of that, earning about 30 cents an hour. This “gray market,” called realmoney trading, is prohibited by game companies, but it persists nonetheless. Recently, American WOW players filed a “first of its kind” class-action lawsuit against the virtual-gold retailer, IGE. But in the end, it’s the farmers, not the customers, “who catch it in the face.” The Internet is experiencing an anti-Chinese backlash with “homemade” WOW video clips posted to YouTube bearing names like “Chinese Farmer Extermination.” And farmers are being called “vermin” and “rats” — rhetoric that bears “unsettling parallels” to 19th-century U.S. literature on immigrant Chinese laundry workers.
Media

Thomas the Tank Engine has served up some “important lessons about regulating environmental poisons in the global economy,” says Christian Warren in The New York Times. In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled 1.5 million Chinese-manufactured Thomas & Friends wooden railway toys because their coatings contained lead. The recall of lead-tainted children’s products is not unusual, but the products are almost always cheap, un-branded novelties and trinkets rather than a product purchased in “upscale toy stores.” A “spirited game of blame and counterblame has ensued”: people argue the American company, RC2 Corporation, “should have exercised more control over its Chinese partners”; that the commission should have caught the problem earlier; and that President George W. Bush should not have cut the commission’s budget by 10 percent in the last two years. The solution is not just to prevent the import of dangerous toys, but “to help international partners curtail the use of lead and other toxic substances in their own markets.” Lax regulations may lower costs, “but it perpetuates the risk to our children,” who will not be safe until “stiff standards are global norms.”
See Letters, pg 17

Currency counter
Currencies United States (US$1) Euro (€1) United Kingdom (£1) Japan (¥100) Korea (₩1000) Singapore (S$1) Malaysia (RM 1) Australia ($A 1) Canada (CAN $1) Hong Kong (HK$1) Taiwan (NT$10) RMB 7.61 10.28 15.27 6.17 8.24 4.98 2.21 6.46 7.16 0.97 2.32 Weekly change (%) - 0.21 + 0.11 + 0.15 - 0.03 - 0.06 + 0.32 - 0.23 - 0.23 + 0.37 - 0.27 - 0.50

A Bollywood fairytale for Disney?
Disney has teamed up with Yash Raj Films to make at least one feature-length animated movie a year, in what will be the company’s first deal to co-produce films in India. The first film, Roadside Romeo — understood to be about a spoilt dog who is abandoned on the streets of Mumbai — will feature traditional Indian singing and dancing plus the voices of Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. Disney aims to “crack the growing Indian entertainment market,” said The Independent (London). Bob Iger, Disney’s chief executive, “has put growth in overseas markets at the top of the company’s agenda.” Disney
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has been working “particularly hard” to find production partners in India, spurred on by last year’s appointment of Indian film producer Shyam PS to head its Indian studios. The company already owns India’s Disney Channel, and last year bought Hungama TV, a Hindi-language children’s channel. “This could be huge,” said Foreign Policy. Yash Raj Films expect the Indian animation market to triple its returns of US$40 million by 2011 — “probably not an unreasonable estimation.” No it’s not, said the Financial Times (London). Once upon a time, Bollywood returns were “about as predictable as, but

rather less uplifting than, the plotline of the average Hindi movie.” While the world’s biggest movie market sells 3.7 billion tickets a year, the industry has traditionally offered “miserable returns to its backers.” Revenues have been “swallowed up by a blend of piracy, taxes and inefficiencies.” But the fact that companies like Disney are starting to enter Bollywood “is testament to improving industry dynamics.” Reduced piracy, new ways of mitigating taxes, more overseas shooting locations and increasingly specialized entertainment companies are just a few of the ways in which the industry is streamlining itself. As a result,

Disney: not such a small world analysts now say Bollywood offers returns of about 30-35 percent, “not too dissimilar” from Hollywood. “Years of tears followed by a happy ending? How Bollywood.”

10 People
Rai of light
America’s tiger tamer
U.S. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer has China by the tail and he’s not about to let go, “no matter how loudly the tiger roars,” says Tom Plate in a syndicated column. Brooklyn-born Schumer, 57, is “on China’s case” over its under-valued currency and burgeoning bilateral trade deficit with America. But Schumer, who is as “rough as a Brooklyn bookie,” despite a Harvard education, wants to “red hook” Beijing with tariffs and sanctions. That’s in sharp contrast to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson who has “skillfully” played the “supplicant role [to China] of the vassal from a far province requesting the emperor’s beneficence.” In this “tale of three cities” — Washington, Beijing and Brooklyn — Washington seems for now to be holding back Schumer’s red hook and “leaning eastward toward Beijing.”

July 6, 2007

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The word around town
Actor Christian Bale was attacked by angry ants during the filming of his new film Rescue Dawn. The Batman Begins star agreed to hang upside down with his face buried in an ants’ nest for a torture scene in the movie, in which he plays a prisoner of war. “I could’ve done without that,” said Bale. Ex-jailbird Paris Hilton has been dumped by her agent because she “just wasn’t worth it,” says Us Weekly magazine. A source at Endeavor Agency was reported as saying, “The goal was to make her the Martha Stewart of her generation. It just didn’t work out that way.” A DNA test has confirmed that Eddie Murphy is the father of his ex-lover Melanie Brown’s 11-weekold daughter, Iris. The comedian — who notoriously dumped a pregnant Brown, aka “Scary Spice,” and intimated during interviews that she slept around — took the court-ordered test last month. Prince William has rekindled his romance with Kate Middleton after seeing her partying with other men. The second in line to the British throne was reminded of what he was missing when he saw pictures of a happy Kate enjoying nights out on the town without him, said a royal source. Since their split in April, Kate has been spotted enjoying herself in London clubs with apparently no shortage of male suitors. The husband of former Hong Kong actress Moon Lee has filed for divorce, alleging that the 42-yearold had an affair with their godson. Dennis Law told the Apple Daily newspaper he returned to the couple’s apartment one day last year to find his godson, dancer Zong Tianyi, hiding halfnaked in his closet.

Rai is "ludicrously beautiful" Indian actress Aishwarya Rai is at the Cannes Film Festival. And “ludicrously beautiful,” says Martyn her most recent film, Provoked, a Palmer in The Times (London). And true story about Kiranjit Ahluwalia, that’s not just a personal opinion: who, after an arranged marriage, the judges of Miss World (she suffered horrific abuse at the hands held the title in 1994), Harpers & of the British husband she later Queen, Hello! and Julia Roberts all murdered, is a good example of her agree. After watching her in the “refusal to be pigeon-holed.” “lavish potboiler” Devdas, Roberts Rai, 33, grew up in a traditional described Rai as the most beautiful family in Mumbai, where as a woman she’d ever seen. With her teenager, she “fended off offers “big, almond-shaped blue-green of modeling work,” hoping ineyes, lips to rival [Angelina] Jolie’s stead to focus on her studies. She in the bee-stung stakes, honeyed wanted to be an architect but at skin and a figure to die for,” it’s no 18 she sealed her fate by doing wonder there are 17,000 Web sites a fashion spread as a favor for a devoted to her, with the number teacher. After that, says Rai, “the growing each year. And not only modeling work started coming does Rai get the pick of Bollywood in and it kind of never stopped.” roles — she’s starred in over In April, Rai married fellow 40 films since 1997 — increas- Bollywood actor, the “ludicrously ingly, she’s getting offered roles in handsome” Abhishek Bachchan. Western movies as well. “Miss World, Bollywood star and But Rai isn’t just a pretty face. In beyond: Aishwarya Rai has done 2003, she was the first Indian ac- the lot.” Now prepare yourself for tress to be invited to sit on the jury Ash and Abhi.

Open-source optimist
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, is “an Internet rock star,” says Katherine Mangu in Reason Magazine. But despite his notoriety, the 40-year-old public face of one of the world’s 10 most popular Web sites “plays it low key.” Wales, who lives with his family in a onestory bungalow in Florida, is modest when it comes to Wikipedia’s success. “We make the Internet not suck,” he says. Wales’ latest project is “Wikia,” a free Internet tool based on Wikipedia that enables users to create open-source communities. For now, the biggest “wikis” are devoted to Star Trek and Star Wars but Wales hopes to one day start an open-source search engine he calls “The Google Killer,” armed with a community of volunteers who “rerank results and tweak algorithms” so as to streamline searches. Wales, who calls himself a “pathological optimist,” is certain things will work out — which means, soon, there will be “another reason the Internet doesn’t suck.”

Gaffe of the week
A joke in bag taste
It seems the head of Britain’s equality watchdog, Trevor Phillips, forgot that royalty are a little more equal than everyone else. While giving a recent after-dinner speech on Queen Elizabeth II’s official birthday, Phillips joked about having once danced with the late queen mother and having to avoid clasping her colostomy bag. Phillips said that as a student leader he was briefed by Buckingham Palace officials about how to dance with the queen mother at a ball. “One said, ‘Mr Phillips, I need to share something with you. When you’re dancing with the queen mother you will have to lay your hands on her.’” Phillips replied: “Yes, that’s what happens in dancing. But I’m not going to grope the queen mother,” to which the aide said: “You have to be careful where you put your hands. You have to be careful about the colostomy bag.” The joke with the audience of some 2,000 went down like a, well, lead colostomy bag. Phillips later issued an apology.

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11 People
No more Paris
Mika Brzezinski, an MSNBC morning presenter, “obviously wasn’t thrilled with her lead story” when she was given a script about Paris Hilton’s release from jail, says Richard Gizbert in The Huffington Post. “She announced on air that she didn’t want to read it,” which she got away with in the first news block. But when a Hilton story appeared at the top of the second news block, Brzezinski tried to burn the script with a producer’s lighter, “before settling for just ripping it up.” At this point her co-presenter, ex-Congressman Joe Scarborough, picked up the scraps of paper and sniffed them, presumably “imagining that he had in his possession a pair of Ms. Hilton’s underwear.” The third time a Hilton story appeared, Brzezinski “ran the script through the shredder.” Brzezinski’s father was President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, and she’s “a bit of a celebrity herself, albeit one who is lumbered with a brain.” A la Hilton, she could certainly “smell the ratings.”
Obituary

In their own words
“Other than the diamonds and all of that... I’m really low maintenance.” Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty on her easygoing dating style. “Reviewing takes expertise, wisdom and judgment. I am not much fond of the notion that anyone’s view is as good as anyone else’s.” Author Ian McEwan on Internet reviewers. “A girl’s history book is important. One ex too many and others will think you have a bad record.” Hong Kong actress Fiona Sit on how rumored relationships destroy reputations. “She’s accomplished many missions impossible. It’s okay to be pushed down by a girl. I have my movies anyway.” Singer Jay Chou on the possibility of losing to fellow songster Jolin Tsai in album sales. “The price tag is the art.” Journalist Nick Cohen trashing artist Damien Hirst, who unveiled a diamondcovered skull for sale for US$100 million. “It was pretty embarrassing. They brought Brad and me in, and they just made us take off our shirts and stand there for a while, and then they picked Brad.” Actor George Clooney on losing the hitchhiker role in Thelma & Louise to Brad Pitt. “I always felt as if I had been born into the wrong family. I felt that I should have been royal.” Actress Jessica Alba on growing up poor. “Seeing a hereditary monarch reward people by calling them a ‘Member of the British Empire’ in 2007 makes me sad for my country.” The Independent’s columnist Johann Hari on the Queen’s Birthday Honors List. “Here [in the United States] they get their snatches waxed. I get a strip, a runway strip. I don’t think I could get it done in England. They stare at it. They spend ages doing it. It’s like, ‘Get it over and f***ing done with!’” Britpop singer Lily Allen admires the bravery of body conscious American women.

U.N. head who tried to hide his Nazi past
Kurt Waldheim, 1918-2007

The other Churchill
Arabella Churchill, granddaughter of Sir Winston, is one of the “founders, organizers and guiding spirits” of Glastonbury, England’s biggest outdoor rock festival, says Cole Moreton in The Independent (London). Churchill, 57, was “very close” to her grandfather, who died in 1965 when she was 15. Back then, the Churchills were “almost as famous” as the royal Windsor family, which meant that the “glamorous debutante” Arabella constantly found herself the subject of media scrutiny. So she ran away to a Glastonbury in 1971 and liked it so much she decided to stay. Since then she has overseen the festival’s non-musical acts. Once a year she commands “a mutant army of jugglers, sword swallowers, contortionists and fire breathers as well as serious actors, dancers and some of the biggest names in comedy.” Churchill dislikes comparisons with her famous grandfather. “I was no good at being Churchill,” she says. “People never saw me for me.”

Kurt Waldheim, who was elected President of Austria despite revelations of his former ties to Nazi Germany, has died aged 81. The disclosure ensured he became “the best known Austrian politician since Adolf Hitler,” said The Daily Telegraph (London). It was an achievement that also owed something to his high-profile role as Secretary-General of the United Nations (1972-1982). After studying law in Vienna, his decision to join the Nazi student association in 1938 showed “opportunism” if not necessarily “convictions” in the movement’s ideology. But his role as an intelligence officer linking Italian and German forces in 1942 fully implicated him in the massacre of partisans at Kozara in Bosnia that year. After the war, he served as his country’s ambassador to the United Nations, a springboard to the organization’s top job. He viewed his appointment as “fitting compensation” for failing to win the Austrian presidency the previous year, said The Times (London). But it was rumored that Waldheim’s “mediocrity” was seen as his most fitting qualification for a post which was soon to be “deliberately downgraded.” A “hot temper” may have marked him out as a difficult boss, but his efficient handling of what was then seen as an “unmanageable” organization ensured his re-election in 1977. As an “indefatigable” worker, he acted as a personal go-between in the “tortuous” negotiations to release the hostages from the American Embassy in Tehran in 1981. And he wasn’t without “moral courage” in forcing the United Nations to directly address terrorism after the Munich Olympic Games massacre.

Waldheim: "opportunism" He hoped to serve a third term but the proposal was vetoed by China. If Waldheim had chosen to bow out of public office at this point, “his Nazi past would probably never have been revealed,” said Jonathan Kandell in The New York Times. But running once more for the Austrian presidency in 1986, rival politicians began to investigate his wartime record. A newspaper uncovered his Nazi associations and the findings were made public by the World Jewish Congress. The revelations, however, were regarded by many Austrians as an “intolerable interference by foreigners,” and they elected Waldheim regardless. It was also true that many Austrians saw in his life a “parable of their own,” as citizens of a nation that was occupied by Germany and which forced them to collaborate. But even an investigation at Waldheim’s own behest found he must have been aware of certain “atrocities,” even if he wasn’t guilty of “war crimes.” Right up until his death he expressed no “remorse or regret” for his actions, preferring to see himself as “an ordinary citizen who had been caught in a maelstrom.”

Farewell
Vilma Espin "First lady" of the Cuban revolution, aged 77. Gianfranco Ferre Italian designer known as the “architect of fashion,” aged 62. Ruth Bell Graham The woman behind American evangelist Billy Graham, aged 87. Bernard Manning Racist, homophobic and misogynistic British comedian, aged 76. Richard Rorty American philosopher, aged 75.

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12 Sport
Basketball

July 6, 2007

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Generation Yi
China’s Yi Jianlian, who has just been drafted into the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks, is not just another player, said Liz Robbins in The New York Times. He’s a “symbol of discovery that is rippling through [China].” The 7-feet tall Yi joins the NBA at a time when “its players, agents and multiple shoe companies” are all wanting to get a foothold in China in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The success of players like Yi is “critical to the international growth of the game,” especially in China where, according to NBA estimates, some 300 million people play organized basketball. NBA Commissioner David Stern knows this all too well, saying, “It is time for us to be making a greater investment in China… to take advantage of the opportunities, from marketing, to new media, to retail, to merchandise, to television.” But is Yi any good? asked Stephen Wade in the San Francisco Chronicle. And will he “have the impact of the Houston Rockets’ Yao Ming?” Or will his stay in the NBA match the “short, modest” careers of Wang Zhizhi and Mengke Bateer, the only other Chinese players in the league? No one really knows, as Yi remains a “mystery.” Even his age is a matter of contention. The Chinese Basketball Association claims he’s 20, while others say he’s three years older. Whatever the case, his “pace, natural leap and soft hands” evidently impressed the Milwaukee Bucks enough to pick him, said Reuters. But it remains to be seen whether the former Guangdong Tigers power forward will be able to “step out from the shadow of Yao Ming and carve out a career in the world’s top league in his own way.” The only certainty is that Yi’s arrival in the United States will only “deepen China’s passionate love affair with basketball and the NBA.”
Cycling

Olympic watch
China’s golden boy Liu Xiang isn’t content with holding the current 110 meter hurdles world record. “I think I have the chance to break the world record again this year and I’m sure I can run faster,” said Liu. With the hopes of a nation on his shoulders, his coach Sun Haiping is now demanding that Liu gets special “leg insurance” to protect his career, which is worth an estimated US$2.5 million a year in endorsements. China is building a highway to Mount Everest in preparation for the 2008 Olympic torch relay, running up to base camp at 5,200 meters — the highest road on earth in one of the world’s most remote regions. The torch relay will cover 85,000 miles in total, lasting for 130 days and reaching the peak of Everest. 17,000, the total tons being shipped from Hainan Island to Chaoyang Park in Beijing for the Olympic Beach Volleyball Competition, at a cost of US$1.28 million.

399 days to go

Numbers game

Yi helps China aim high

Profile

Peng Shuai
Back from the brink
Just a year ago, the “rise of the East” in women’s tennis was predicted when Li Na became the first Chinese woman to reach the Wimbledon quarter finals, said Katie Scott in The Times (London). But this may have been a “false dawn” since only one Chinese player made the second round in this year’s tournament. For Chinese No. 2 Peng Shuai, however, even qualifying for Wimbledon was an achievement. Peng nearly quit the sport last year due to disillusionment and depression. Her change of heart is due to her new coach Michael Chang, the former world No. 2 and the 1989 French Open winner, who has made Peng believe in herself again. And Peng may just have got the break she needs. One half of the reigning Wimbledon doubles champions, Zheng Jie, is about to undergo surgery on her ankle that will put her in doubt for next year’s Games, paving the way for Peng to step in alongside Yan Zi. Yan believes she can emulate her Wimbledon doubles success with her new partner, despite having never played together.

Avoiding scandal
“Never mind who wins,” said Julien Pretot in The Washington Post, the Tour de France organizers “just want their sport to emerge scandal-free” when the race finishes later this month. After a “traumatic experience” last year, when winner Floyd Landis tested positive for doping, and further drug scandals throughout this year, everyone is hoping for a “smooth ride.” The Tour is not only looking for a new winner, said Alasdair Fotheringham in The Independent (London), but “for some kind of credibility as a sporting event.” And “it will be looking hard.” This is one of the reasons that the start of the race will take place in London, giving the event a fresh lease of life. But who will emerge

Vinokourov: "pin-up boy" as the new hero? The favorite is Alexander Vinokourov (pictured), said William Fotheringham in the Guardian (London). Kazakhstan’s “most popular sportsman” is the kind of pin-up boy the sport needs: “blond, with piercing blue eyes and the stocky build of a boxer.”

Coming up
2014 Winter Olympics venue announcement, Guatemala July 7 Tour de France, July 7-29 British Formula One Grand Prix, Silverstone July 8 Fed Cup tennis semi-finals and play-offs, July 14-15 German Moto GP Sachsenring July 15 , British Open Golf Championship, Carnoustie July 19-22

Peng's return: the Chinese No. 2 almost quit

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13 Health & Science
Gellene in the Los Angeles Times. Nobel prizes are awarded to more firstborns than other siblings, and they make up “disproportionate numbers” in American colleges. Kristensen’s analysis found firstborns had an average IQ of 103.2, roughly 2 points higher than second-borns and 3 points higher than third-born sons. But the reason they’re on a “trajectory for success” has nothing to do with genetics and everything to do with their parents. Boys who only became the eldest after the death of an older sibling, for example, were found to have IQs very close to firstborns. Kristensen contends this is because they are given a similar amount of responsibility and are treated as “leaders” by

Older and wiser
A 20-year study from Norway has confirmed “what many older siblings have thought all along — they’re smarter,” said Kavita Mishra in the San Francisco Chronicle. Experts have long disputed the role that birth order plays in intelligence, but now “the debate is over,” according to researcher Petter Kristensen, a professor of epidemiology at Oslo University. His team looked at the IQ scores of 250,000 men as they entered compulsory military service, including 60,000 pairs of brothers. Previous studies suggest women are similarly affected by birth ranking. The findings are “the latest twist in a phenomenon that scientists have long noticed but have been at a loss to explain,” said Denise Some might say I'm smarter: Noel and Liam Gallagher their families. But then, as birth order expert Prof. Frank Sulloway points out, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin are both examples of “revolutionary thinkers” who had older siblings. In fact, Charles Darwin was the fifth of six children and “didn’t fare very well in some of his classes at Cambridge,” said Katharine Sanderson in Nature. Sulloway cites the father of evolutionary science as a perfect example of a later-born who proved to be “good at different things.” A famous older child like rock singer Noel Gallagher of Oasis, however, would no doubt agree with the findings, said Steve Connor in The Independent (London). While younger sibling Liam “causes havoc, starts fights and occasionally sings,” there’s little argument about where the real talent in the pair lies.

Amazon vs. Nile

World’s ugliest plant

Birds’ new habit

Big ideas
A ring that costs peanuts
Scientists at Edinburgh University have developed a technique “to create artificial diamonds from peanut butter,” said the Edinburgh Evening News. Peanut butter is just one of many carbon rich materials that can be transformed into the gems simply by “squeezing” at very high pressures. The technique involves squeezing the paste between two diamonds at a pressure greater than that “found in the center of the earth.” The same technique is also being used to turn oxygen into red crystals. Professor Malcolm McMahon of the university’s Centre for Science and Extreme Conditions described the research as “the holy grail of high-pressure physics,” in being able to discover the “metallic phase” of hydrogen. “Metallic hydrogen would be unlike any other metal ever seen,” he said. “It is predicted to have a number of unusual properties, including being a superconductor at room temperature.”

A team of scientists from Brazil are claiming the Amazon River, “not the Nile, is the longest in the world,” said John Loach in National Geographic. The Amazon in Brazil was always known to be larger in volume, but it was thought to be slightly shorter than the African Nile. But the findings of a 14-day expedition has now “extended” the Amazon by about 284 kilometers, after the discovery of new headwaters at the mouth of the river. The researchers claim this makes it 105 kilometers longer than the Nile. The two rivers have been at the center of a “centuries old rivalry” as to which is the longest. Glenn Switkes, co-ordinator for conservation group International Rivers Network, believes the debate over the length is “trivial” but hopes the publicity will focus attention on efforts to build more than 60 large dams on the Amazon’s tributaries.
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“It lives for 2,000 years, has only two leaves, and has been called the most hideous plant on earth,” said Sean Thomas in the Daily Mail (London). While the giant panda, Siberian tigers and mountain gorillas enjoy the limelight as endangered species, the “silence is deafening” when it comes to the welwitschia, which also faces imminent extinction. It grows up to 6 meters wide and 2 meters tall, with each leaf reaching up to 75 meters long, and lives perhaps longer than any other organism. “There are welwitschias around today that were first showing their ugly little tendrils when Jesus was a boy.” But changing climate and human pressure are destroying its habitat in Southern Africa’s Namib Desert. It’s a shame, because the welwitschia is a “triumphant counterblast” against a world that ranks beauty above all else.

Birds are apparently starting to take up smoking, said Roger Highfield in The Daily Telegraph (London). But instead of inhaling, they are using cigarettes “to fumigate parasites from their wings.” Rooks in Britain have been spotted swooping onto cigarette butts as soon as they’ve been discarded by humans. One man saw a rook pick up butts on the station platform in Exeter, pulling its wings over the butt to “collect the smoke” underneath. “It seemed as if it were using the smoke to rid itself of ants or something similar.” Another rook carried out the same routine when another cigarette was flicked away. Richard Archer, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said the birds may have adapted and learned that cigarettes can be used to kill parasites. “Rooks are very intelligent,” he said.

14 Opinions: Asia
North Korea China

V  E W S I

July 6, 2007

Will Kim disarm this time?

Can’t tell who’s Hu?
“Such is the level of confusion” regarding the state of Chinese surnames that China’s public security ministry wants to introduce a law allowing parents to give their children hyphenated surnames, says Jane Macartney in The Times (London). The current law says that a child must be given the surname of either his mother or father. But China’s 1.3 billion people share only about 100 surnames, which leads to more than a little confusion. China has so many Wangs (93 million) that if they seceded they’d become the world’s 12th-most-populous nation. And the U.N.’s World Food Program, “distributed annually to people in 82 countries,” wouldn’t be enough to feed China’s 88 million Zhangs. Apart from the most popular names — Wang, Zhang and Li (92 million) — at least 20 million people share just seven other surnames. Imagine the confusion Chinese authorities face when it comes to differentiating between 1.3 million people (1 percent of the entire population) named Liu Bo. When the Communists came to power in 1949, parents named millions of children “Liberation” and “Nation Founding.” Then, during the Cultural Revolution, names like “Safeguard Red” and “Leap Forward” were all the rage. In recent years, a “vogue” for names of two characters, instead of the more common three-character kind, has compounded the problem. The proposed new laws, however, will open up some 1.28 million new possibilities.

After four months of diplomatic wrangling, Washington and Pyongyang agreed on a three-week timetable for shutting down North Korea’s nuclear reactor, following a surprise visit to the reclusive state from top U.S. envoy Christopher Hill on June 21. “Stay tuned,” Hill told reporters on his arrival in Tokyo following his visit to North Korea, the first by a high-ranking U.S. official since October 2002. The three-week timetable followed the release of some US$25 million of North Korean funds, frozen by Washington two years ago on account of alleged money laundering and counterfeiting. Pyongyang had demanded the funds be unfrozen as a prerequisite to shutting down its reactor under the disarmament agreement it reached in February with the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. Pyongyang, which conducted its first nuclear test explosion last October, had pledged to close the reactor in exchange for energy aid. A team of U.N. nuclear inspectors will now be allowed to visit North Korean’s nuclear reactor to verify its closure. Washington’s “good-cop strategy” towards Pyongyang seems to have worked, “for now,” said Mitchell Landsberg in the Los Angeles Times. But it’s “far too early” to say whether it will succeed in “peacefully persuading” Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program for good.

Well, “we won’t be holding our breath,” said The Washington Post in an editorial. Since February’s disarmament agreement, Washington “has made a string of concessions” to Pyongyang, which “has done nothing, other than skillfully extract those favors.” Hill’s visit to North Korea is a perfect example, as up until that point Washington had consistently refused direct dealings in favor of the six-party format. Hill’s visit was certainly a “propaganda triumph” for Pyongyang, said The Straits Times (Singapore) in an editorial. It made the news about the nuclear reactor seem “almost secondary.” It’s hard to imagine that so little as US$25 million — “petty cash in sovereign finance terms” — has delayed until now Pyongyang’s compliance with February’s agreement. But it turned out to be a crucial component of that compliance, “rather like a jetliner missing a critical bolt.” “The money was the easy part,” said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. “Now comes the hard part.” February’s agreement was vague about the “truly critical issues” which are yet to be negotiated, not least of which is: “what does ‘disabling’ mean?” Pyongyang wants to disable its reactor “in such a way that its bomb-making apparatus could be restarted within days.” Washington, however, is looking at something “that would require months or years to reverse.”

Hong Kong as Switzerland?
China’s growing capital surplus, soon to exceed US$1 trillion per year, could catapult Shanghai over Hong Kong as the country’s financial center, says Andy Xie in the South China Morning Post. Hong Kong was once a necessary intermediary between international finance and Chinese opportunities, but China’s new capital surplus will soon make that role “obsolete.” Cheap capital is now available to mainland companies via a “buoyant” share market. China “simply doesn’t need foreign capital anymore”; indeed, it actually needs to export capital. And it’s just “not practical” for an offshore financial center like Hong Kong to mediate Beijing’s savings into investment, even though it boasts a “world-class” financial system. What’s more, Hong Kong’s stagnant population of 7 million is about a third smaller than Shanghai’s, which is still on the rise (a country’s financial center is usually its largest city). In the end, it’s more likely Hong Kong will become a “center for private wealth management, like Switzerland,” with its low tax rate and offshore status. With such massive wealth, the city could “sustain a good living standard without strong economic growth.” For now, Hong Kong can “afford” to watch the mainland’s “mad dash for money.” After all, “if you already have it, why bother again?”
www.nvrmagazine.com

July 6, 2007

V  E W S I

15 Opinions: Europe
Germany/Poland

United Kingdom

A knight’s crusade?

Berlin or bust
“It’s not exactly how one expects to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel,” says Charles Hawley in Der Spiegel (Hamburg). Polish weekly magazine Wprost recently headlined with “Europe’s Step-Mother,” showing a picture of Merkel with “two breasts spilling out” of her blouse and Poland’s governing Kaczynski twins — Prime Minister Jaroslaw and President Lech — “suckling” one each. The article makes it clear that while Merkel treats the rest of Europe like her step-children, “she has been particularly condescending to the Poles.” Reaction to the image in Germany has been “predictably shrill”: Cologne daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger said the Chancellor had been “mocked” and “ridiculed,” while Bild quoted a number of politicians criticizing the cover’s “tastelessness.” It’s “just the most recent salvo” in an “ongoing media war between the two countries.” In 2003, Wprost printed a cover showing then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder being “ridden dominatrix style” by Erika Steinbach, head of a group representing Poles kicked out of Germany in World War II, wearing a Nazi uniform. Germany’s Die Tageszeitung has printed images of the Kaczynskis “with potatoes as heads,” while Der Spiegel showed Merkel being “ridden” by the Polish twins.
United Kingdom

Rushdie: a “living target” for over a decade The fuss about Salman Rushdie’s knighthood is “depressingly predictable,” said India Knight in The Sunday Times (London). Eighteen years after the Iranian government called for his death following the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses, Tehran has now made the “inane” suggestion that his knighthood is somehow an “insult to Islamic values.” Like most of us, Rushdie could never have predicted the “calamitous consequences of his act of creativity” and his deserved knighthood surely takes account of his being a “living target” for over a decade. But rather than “pandering to extremists” with halfhearted apologies, British politicians should be defending the government’s decision to award Rushdie a knighthood, as well as championing the right to free speech. In the face of pressure from this “grotesque distortion” of the Islamic faith, it appears that “art, beauty, reason and morality” must now be sacrificed. And all because a writer said some “questioning, querying things about a man who died over a thousand years ago,” said Johann Hari in The Independent (London). By simply trying to “nudge his fellow Muslims” away from a literal reading of the Quran, the Indian-born writer ensured that beheading became “a legitimate form of literary criticism.” The mullahs he so “enraged” by mentioning the Prophet Muhammad in The Satanic Verses would rather maintain their own “monopoly” on how the Holy Book is interpreted. And the jihadism seen in the years since the fatwa was pronounced in 1989 underlines the urgency to
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move away from such “literalist fanaticism.” The truth is that “the Islamic world has acquired a penchant for self-righteous fury,” said Jenny McCartney in The Daily Telegraph (London). It’s now the “emotion of choice” for many, in much the same way that Westerners have developed a taste for “mawkish sentimentality.” In the case of Rushdie’s knighthood, there’s no shortage of “competitive outrage” between Iran, Pakistan and homegrown critics, all keen to be seen as the “authentic voice” of their community. But such anger “need not define Islam.” Moderate voices like that of late Arab scholar Zaki Badawi who pleaded with fellow Muslims to “spurn” The Satanic Verses but “spare” its author, remind us that anger “is not a compulsion” but “a choice.” As a British Muslim who enthusiastically supported the fatwa against Rushdie at the time, I now admit “our detractors had been right,” said Inayat Bunglawala in the Guardian (London). I still “strongly disagree” with Rushdie’s caricature of revered Islamic figures, but acknowledge that banning the novel “was not the answer.” In the intervening years I’ve come to realize that the “freedom to offend is a necessary freedom.” That said, our protests at the time gave Muslims immigrants from Arabic, Bengali, Gujarati, Pakistani, Turkish and other backgrounds, a sense that we were, together, “British Muslims.” And for that I can only say “Thanks, Sir Salman.”
See Letters, pg 17

Broker Blair
The speed with which former British Prime Minister Tony Blair “has scripted his own sequel” by becoming the world’s envoy to the Middle East “gives the impression of self-absorption,” says Bronwen Maddox in The Times (London). The rush to announce a new role for Blair by the time he left office seemed “designed to ease the sting of surrendering high office more than to solve the problems of the Middle East.” That said, Blair’s appointment isn’t as absurd as it might seem, as long as “you take a long step around” his role in Iraq and his support for Israel’s military campaign in Lebanon last summer. After all, Blair’s “passion for tackling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is beyond dispute.” But it will be virtually impossible to define his new role “while the political route ahead remains so unclear,” with the only certain conclusion being that it will be political rather than economic. Blair faces serious problems in reconciling U.S.-Israeli plans and those of Palestine, though he may feel the “paralysis plays to his strengths.” His great success in bringing peace to Northern Ireland “sprang from his skills as a broker.” But that approach could “make too light” of his new mission, in which he will lack “the clout of a government head.”
See Blair’s final farewell, pg 7; Letters, pg 17

16 Opinions: Americas
Twatting about on the Net

V  E W S I

July 6, 2007

Jew hate, in moderation
A little bit of anti-Semitism isn’t such a bad thing, says Eugene Volokh in The Wall Street Journal. As a “relatively assimilated” American Jew, I feel that a moderate level of anti-Semitism is actually a “net positive” for the American-Jewish community and for Israel. Why? Well, feeling “embattled” leads to “group solidarity” — a bond that’s sorely lacking at a time when increasing assimilation of American Jews has led to a “declining sense of a common fate” and a dwindling “emotional connection” with Israel. The “fear” of antiSemitism also reminds American Jews of Israel’s potential role as a “refuge” should we ever need it, as European Jews did 60 years ago (“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in”). Then there’s the flip side. If we suppress anti-Semitism — “whether Muslim, white nationalist or otherwise” — it could have the effect of making the anti-Semites look as if they’re the persecuted ones. Obviously, rampant anti-Semitism is a dangerous thing, but American Jews should support free speech, even if it means the free speech of “anti-Semites and unfair, bigoted critics of Israel.” Anti-Semitic advocacy which is publicly visible is an “important informational tool” in today’s America. It reminds American Jews of the “value” of their religious and cultural institutions and does so in an “emotionally effective way.”

In another age, all that campaigning politicians were expected to do was to wear a “smart suit” and kiss a “baby or two,” says Stuart Heritage in HecklerSpray.com. Now, they’re expected to “twat about on YouTube every now and again.” The “pack-leader when it comes to wanking about like a dickhead on the Internet” is 2008 presidential contender Hillary Clinton. Rather than announcing the winner of her recent campaign song competition like a “normal” person, Clinton recruited her husband Bill to “spoof” the final scene of television series The Sopranos. The video, available on Clinton’s Web site, shows the power couple proving why they’ve made it big in Washington rather than Hollywood, with a “slightly confused” re-enactment of the mob

melodrama’s final ever scene — “complete with obligatory blackout ending.” The stunt has been such a success that the fact that “bloody Celine Dion” was the winner of the song competition has barely been noticed. Fellow Democratic hopeful Barack Obama has also learned the power of the Internet. A song about how “sexy” the politician is recently appeared on YouTube, and did more for his popularity than a “thousand of his tiresome Hollywood fundraisers” ever could. As for Clinton, she now plans to continue doing send-ups of popular Internet videos for the rest of her campaign. So, what’s next? Clinton “dressed as a toddler screaming ‘I want my money, bitch!’ a la Will Ferrell?”
See Blogs view, pg 17

The “Law and Order” candidate
Former Senator Fred Thomson, who recently announced he may run for president in 2008, has been embraced by some Republicans as a “political messiah, a latter day Ronald Reagan who can lead their party out of the wilderness,” says Holly Bailey in Newsweek. But what do conservative voters really know of the star of television’s Law and Order beyond his obvious “magnetism” and “celebrity”? Take his flipflop on abortion. Thinking that he’d “forever traded Washington for Hollywood,” Thomson handed over years of records to be publicly archived at the University of Tennessee. They reveal a history of positions on issues which have proved to be a political minefield for other Republican candidates. For example, in a 1994 newspaper interview Thomson said, “The ultimate decision on abortion should be left with the woman and not the government.” Once a Senator however, his pro-life credentials were impeccable. The “charismatic and down to earth” former Senator also made “enemies” in the Republican Party by supporting campaignfinance reform and investigating Republican campaign funding abuses. But on that same issue now, he says he’s a “changed man.” So will Thompson’s Tennessee charm be enough to convince conservatives to turn a blind eye to these inconsistencies? As one pundit put it, “You can never get all of the stain out, but you can get some of it out. The test is to see if he really means it.”
www.nvrmagazine.com

Sept. 11 and Chinese food
“Twenty years ago, American perceptions of Asian food could be summed up in one word: ‘Chinese,’” say Tim and Nina Zagat in The New York Times. Since then, Americans have been introduced to Korean, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese food, but while the quality of restaurants serving those cuisines has greatly improved in the United States, Chinese restaurants “have stalled.” The “unimaginative dishes” we’ve been subjected to seem as dated as the “pseudo-imperial décor” of the establishments that serve them. But why? There’s a historical reason for the “abysmal” state of Chinese restaurants in the United States. Back in the 1860s, during the great wave of immigration, Chinese, faced with a lack of key ingredients, “improvised dishes like chow mein and chop suey that nobody back in their native land would have recognized.” But nowadays getting ingredients is no drawback. Instead, the “principal obstacle to improving Chinese fare here is the difficulty of getting visas for skilled workers since 9/11.” Top Chinese restaurateurs have complained that their plans to open major eating establishments have been derailed by the amount of time it takes to secure work permits. Perhaps Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could try a little “dumpling diplomacy” so that our two countries could develop a program making it easier for Chinese chefs to come here? “Eating food prepared by an influx of Chinese chefs would be like opening up a culinary time capsule.” And believe us: “American palates are ready for the real stuff.”

July 6, 2007

V  E W S I
Exchange of the week

17 Letters
much offence but I don’t want Mr. Siddiqui silenced because he and I clearly differ on this, and I hope he would feel the same.
Paula Jones, London
See A knight’s crusade, pg 15

A knight’s crusade?
To The Independent (London)

Blogs View
You and I: Hillary and Celine

How can I express my personal outrage at the queen’s lack of judgement in agreeing to bestow a high honor on Salman Rushdie, a person who is widely considered to be a scoundrel by U.K. Muslims and by the vast majority of the entire Muslim world? Nearly 19 years ago when The Satanic Verses was published, my wife and I skimmed through the book. It is filled with utterly filthy language including four-letter expletives all over the place, not to mention a grotesque portrayal of the personal life of Muhammad. What were the advisers thinking of when they chose to recommend Rushdie for this honor? They surely would have thought about the offense this would cause. But clearly this mattered not a jot. I am deeply disappointed that Her Majesty did not reject this out of hand. Does she not see the news? I was born and bred in the United Kingdom. I am a subject of Her Majesty, whom I have always held in high esteem. I also adhere to the Muslim faith. While the Danish cartoons were produced by someone I consider to be plain ignorant, but caused deep offence, I’m afraid this knighthood to Rushdie cuts even deeper. This is a highly public endorsement by the Establishment of Rushdie’s offensive book. I would urge that a precedent be set with Rushdie and that his knighthood be revoked on the grounds that it was a mistake. A very bad error of judgment.
Athar Siddiqui

Broker Blair
To the Guardian (London)

Blair’s failure to condemn Israel’s destruction of Lebanon last summer would appear to make him unfit for the job; but on the other hand he got Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness to have tea together.
San Cassimally, Edinburgh

I cannot help but feel that this news redefines irony in a way not seen since Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel peace prize.
Julian Howes, Plymouth To the Los Angeles Times

Hillary Clinton hit upon the idea that she should let the American public choose her 2008 presidential campaign song. So, which song did the people decide upon? U2? KT Tunstall? Smash Mouth? No, it was Celine Dion’s ‘You and I.’
See Twatting about on the Net, pg 16

Celine with backing by Hillary

Tony Blair may be passionate about Middle East issues, but I do not detect any passion for him by the people of the Middle East. His nomination to be a Mideast envoy makes about as much sense as President Bush seeking the same position in 2009.
Dodd Sheikh, Redondo Beach
See Broker Blair, pg 15

Tainted toys
To The New York Times

From LAist: It’s possibly the lamest campaign song EVER. Move over, Bill and Fleetwood Mac. Here comes Hill and Celine Dion. Yup, to appeal to all those kids and liberals out there, she picked the Canadian queen’s ‘You and I.’ (Why? For the love of God, why?) Of course, Hillary held an interactive voting campaign on her Web site to let the masses pick the winning song, but those Celine fans probably stuffed the ballot box. What was wrong with Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’? Hillary, this is America. Democracy can always be overruled. Christine N. Ziemba From TimesOnline.co.uk: Songs have always been associated with presidential candidates — Jimmy Carter used the Rocky tune, for instance, and Al Smith had ‘The Sideways of New York’ in 1928. Clinton’s use is very clever, since she has dumped five songs and inserted public choices in the “second round” and is noting who writes in so as to add them to her list of supporters. Clinton-Obama, Clinton-Richardson, Clinton-Inouye or Clinton-Mabus in 2008 looks a real possibility, though one final thought is that song saying ‘we’re gonna rock this country’ continues ‘and blow it out of this world’... uh oh... Dr. M Meenagh, London, England From www.mickwright.net: This may be the worst lyric ever written: ‘Brighter than the sun and darker than the night / I can see your love shining like a light.’ Then there’s: ‘If I could travel across the world / The secrets I would tell.’ Is Hillary Clinton really going to “travel across the world” and tell our secrets? What is this, a love song for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Mick Wright From Grammar.qdnow.com: When I heard that Hillary Clinton had chosen the song ‘You and I’ by Celine Dion for her campaign theme song, I knew it was finally the right time to tackle this topic! Celine Dion’s song ‘You and I’ is grammatically correct, whereas the Jessica Simpson song ‘Between You and I’ is incorrect. It should be ‘Between You and Me.’ Grammar Girl

I am sorry that Athar Siddiqui is offended by Salman Rushdie’s writing and the decision to award him a knighthood. He says he is outraged by the queen’s lack of judgement in this matter, an opinion he is fully entitled to express publicly however much it might offend the head of state and others in Britain. I would, however, ask him to consider whether he would enjoy the same entitlement in states where religious or political frictions lead to death for those who speak freely. I have never read The Satanic Verses nor any of Salman Rushdie’s work so am unable to offer an opinion on his literary achievement. I do think he is among those writers who, at no small risk, have defended the right to free expression which is so fundamental to democratic society. That to me is worth acknowledgement and is what I suspect lies behind his award. We are all offended by opinions and beliefs we don’t share, especially those we see as a threat to our view of the world. For me, belief in God and prophets is the source of
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As the Thomas the Tank Engine recall shows, the export of goods from China is seemingly driven by greed and that the regulation of imports from that same country is dangerously lax. So let’s not wait for hundreds or thousands of poisoned Americans to force a revision of consumer safety laws governing imported products. Congress should pass legislation that requires a prominent warning label when any product sold in the United States is manufactured in or contains ingredients obtained from China.
Pietro Allar
See Tainted toys, pg 9

Polling booth
Varying states of failure
The threats of weak nations “ripple far beyond their borders,” says Foreign Policy in its Failed States Index. Corruption and an absence of the rule of law are among some of the “all too similar” problems that beset many failed nations. Unfortunately, the “complex” process of state failure “remains little understood.” Using 12 social, economic, political and military indicators, Foreign Policy listed 177 states in order of vulnerability to “violent internal conflict and societal deterioration.” For the second year in a row, Sudan topped the list, followed by Iraq and Somalia. Eight of this year’s 10 most vulnerable states are in sub-Saharan Africa.

18

Film
Comedy Biopic

R E    E W S V I

July 6, 2007

Heist caper

Ocean’s Thirteen
∂∂∂∂∂
Released: June 8 122 minutes

Knocked up
∂∂∂∂∂
Released: June 1 132 minutes

La Vie en Rose
∂∂∂∂∂
Released: June 8 140 minutes

Sound off: the movie features a “faked earthquake” After the European setting of the movie that still resembles a movie,” 2004 sequel that irritated some said Joe Morgenstern in The Wall fans, Ocean’s Thirteen returns the Street Journal. action to Las Vegas and thereby Actually, it’s a “rambling mess,” “recaptures the feeling” of the said William Arnold in the Seattle 2001 original, said Todd McCarthy Post Intelligencer. The film is just “a in Variety. This time around the jumble of fragmented scenes filled heist is about taking revenge on vil- with incomprehensible technolain Willy Bank (Al Pacino), who’s babble,” designed to give each cheated the gang’s beloved men- of the stars “their moment” on tor Reuben out of co-ownership screen. “A chimpanzee could reof his soon-to-be-opened casino. arrange these scenes in any way To do this, the group — again and the movie would play basically led by George Clooney’s Danny the same.” Ocean — plan to bankrupt Bank The problem is that “only the on opening night by rigging most characters know what the plan is, of the casino’s games so that the and we’re expected to watch in house loses. The heist involves a gratitude and amazement,” said faked earthquake, some loaded Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sundice manufactured at a Mexican Times. “I know full well I’m explastics factory and the theft of pected to Suspend My Disbelief,” Bank’s diamonds. but during Ocean’s Thirteen, “the Much of the movie “is taken up suspension cable snapped.” with the complex planning necesWell, “I left my PhD in ridiculous sary for these elaborate scams,” said heist plots at home,” said Wesley Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Morris in The Boston Globe. So I Times. While this is “entertaining was able to enjoy the “breezy way” up to a point,” it sometimes seems Clooney, Brad Pitt and the rest put that the entire film is “an elaborate the job in motion while not undersleight-of-hand maneuver, a series standing exactly they were up to. of manufactured crises designed to It may seem like a “rinse, repeat” divert us from how little is actually version of the original film but it’s going on.” Indeed, director Steven good, “and that’s enough.” See Real Vegas vs. Film Vegas, pg 19; Soderbergh and cast “have manCurb appeal, pg 26 aged to make the least possible

Like his previous work, The 40Year-Old Virgin, writer-director Judd Apatow’s new film is “a morality play dressed up as a filthy piece of mummery,” said Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. This time the focus has shifted “from a guy who hasn’t had sex but wants it to a guy who has had sex but wishes he hadn’t.” The setup is somewhat “sitcom trite,” said Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. Gorgeous career girl Alison (Katherine Heigl) falls pregnant to party animal Ben (Seth Rogen) after a drunken onenight stand. While the two leads “nail every laugh,” it’s the film’s “unexpected gravity” that carries it through. There’s a reason why Apatow is being hailed as “the new king of comedy”: he “won’t settle for skin-deep” and his gags tend to “double back after the first laugh and hit you where it hurts.” Above all, the film “feels honest,”

said A.O. Scott in The New York Times, particularly its exploration of “the built-in discrepancies between what men and women expect.” For all its “gynecology-inspired” humor, the film “rarely feels coarse or crude” and perfectly captures the moral ambivalence and sexual confusion of our age “without straining or preaching.”

Director Olivier Dahan’s biopic of French singer Édith Piaf has “all the makings of showbiz melodrama: childhood blindness, doomed love affairs, the death of a child, serious car accidents, onstage collapses and drug addiction,” said Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.com. Marion Cotillard gives a “dazzling, seamless and un-self-conscious” performance as Piaf, said Philip Kennicott in The Washington Post. She seems to get “the frailty, the awkwardness, the sexiness, the sadness, the coquettishness and finally the utter, self-annihilating misery” of the legendary singer’s life. Cotillard certainly turns in a “passionate performance,” said Anna Smith in Empire, but structurally the film “has almost as many problems as the troubled singer.” Dahan, who also co-wrote the script, adopts a “flashback-heavy structure” that’s “so full of incident it leaves little room for insight into Piaf’s complex character.” Scenes of Piaf’s youth, for instance, are “broken up” by deathbed scenes set many years later. Dahan makes it harder for us to “fully empathize with the hopes and dreams of the young Piaf” when he’s frequently reminding us “of the wizened, drug-addled woman she became.”

U.S. box office
Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Title Ratatouille Live Free or Die Hard Evan Almighty 1408 Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer Knocked Up Ocean's Thirteen Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Sicko Evening Total Gross Week # $47m 1 $48m 1 $61m 2 $40m 2 $115m 3 $122m 5 $102m 4 $296m 6 $5m 2 $4m 1

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July 6, 2007

R E    E W S V I
Thriller Feature

19 Film
Mr. Brooks
∂∂∂∂∂
Released: June 1 120 minutes

Horror

Hostel: Part II
∂∂∂∂∂
Released: June 8 94 minutes

Real Vegas vs. Film Vegas

The sequel to 2005’s gore-fest sees respectable businessmen bid for freshly-abducted American college girls they’ll later torture and kill in a network of dungeons hidden in an abandoned factory in Slovakia. “You come to the film expecting — hoping — to be grossed out,” said Kyle Smith in The New York Post. And on that level the movie delivers: “Arteries gush like Oprah.” If there is a “creative element” here, it’s the set pieces and makeup. As for the script, well, “any four randomly selected dudes I went to high school with could dream up something equally sick over a six-pack of Molson.” Too true, said Scott Bowles in USA Today. The Hostel films make the Saw franchise look like “Oscar bait.” It seems that “porn-torture is what passes for horror these days,” and director Eli Roth has

“The appeal of Mr. Brooks is as obvious as it is hard to resist,” said Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle: Kevin Costner as a serial murderer. Costner plays wealthy Oregon businessman Earl Brooks, a “reasonable man in the grip of something that is twisted into his very nature.” By casting Costner against type and examining Brooks’ compulsion to kill, the movie does “a number of insidious things”: it turns a “heartless sociopath” into a “sympathetic

On a roll: Vegas presented as “sanitized promotional montages” “What is it about Las Vegas and movies?” asks Kevin Maher in The Times (London). Already this year we’ve had three films set in America’s gambling capital: Ocean’s Thirteen, Lucky You and Smokin’ Aces. In each movie, Vegas “isn’t just some arbitrary shooting location.” Rather, it’s “a title character, a dramatic player, and indeed a star.” A film with “Vegas” in the title suggests a “stylistic and emotional terrain” we all know: “sharp suits and hipster cool,” “seedy underworld connections” and “life-altering high-stakes” card games. Ironically, Hollywood’s current “love affair” with Vegas occurs at a time when the real Vegas is “virtually unrecognizable” from its film version. Today’s Vegas is mostly a “family-friendly tourist trap” which makes the majority of its profits from non-gambling entertainment. Hollywood, however, has never been “too bothered by the disconnect.” During its gangster heyday of the 1960s, the city was presented as “a place where a backwoods girl could become a starlet through grit and determination alone” (The Las Vegas Hillbillies, 1966). Even “iconic” Vegas movies such Elvis’s 1964 Viva Las Vegas (pictured) were no more than “sanitized promotional montages.” Then, in the ‘90s when the city had somewhat cleaned up its act, movies like Bugsy (1991) and Casino (1995) portrayed a Vegas “that had clearly vanished.” Both films were “dripping with nostalgia for a bygone time of glamorous gangsters” and contributed to “the myth of Vegas as a fantasy place.” In fact, director Martin Scorcese complained that the real-life Vegas exteriors he wanted to shoot for Casino “weren’t ‘Vegas’ enough.” The late French philosopher Jean Baudrillard once argued that Vegas is a place of “hyper-reality”: a “plastic copy of every city and no city, of everywhere and nowhere.” And Hollywood has been happy to perpetuate this myth of an “idealized city.”
See Ocean’s Thirteen, pg 18

come perilously close to making “a snuff movie.” And “if you think Kazakhstan got a bad rap in Borat, the Slovakian board of tourism must be in conniptions.” In the end, said Vince Horiuchi in The Salt Lake Tribune, the “real victims of this exercise in cynically-packaged horror moviemaking” are the viewers of this “dreck” who fork out money to see it.

figure,” and, “most disturbing of all,” makes his addiction to killing seem “almost understandable.” Writer-director Bruce A. Evans presents Brooks’ internal struggle through an ongoing dialogue with Marshall (William Hurt), his “invisible alter ego,” who eggs him on from murder to murder. Imagine the introvert/extrovert duo from Sideways “sandwiched into one psychological ham-on-wry,” said Ty Burr in The Boston Globe. Indeed, one of the “pleasures” of this “totally absurd and equally entertaining” thriller is the interplay between Costner and Hurt, said Jack Mathews in New York Daily News. The two are so “terrific together” that “you’re prepared to accept a story riddled with holes.”

Reel time
Shaken and stirred, German style
What will the “notoriously touchy Bond fan-base” make of the recent announcement that German film-maker Marc Forster will direct the next 007 movie? asks Wendy Ide in The Times (London). The news may not be as earth-shattering as the casting of Daniel Craig as the first “blond Bond,” but it’s “not far off.” After all, Forster is a “Bond neophyte with no experience of directing action pictures.” He’s also a “curious choice” given that his CV has “previously veered towards intimate dramas” (Monster’s Ball), “sentimental family stories” (Finding Neverland) and “total misfires” (Stranger Than Fiction). Forster is reportedly looking forward to the challenge and says the direction the Bond films took with Casino Royale offers “a host of new possibilities.”

Coming up
July 11 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix In the fifth installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry returns to Hogwarts to discover that much of the wizarding community is in denial about the return of evil Lord Voldemort. July 20 Hairspray John Travolta is back on the musical track in a film based on John Waters’ 1988 cult classic about star-struck teenagers on a local Baltimore dance show. Also stars Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer and Christopher Walken.

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July 6, 2007

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21 Music
Top tunes
“You know you’re in for a treat the minute Maximo Park‘s new single ‘Books From Boxes’ kicks into gear,” said Miriam Zendle in DigitalSpy.co.uk. “Lovely keyboard antics provide a funky backing” to the gentle yet powerful sound, and there’s something “increasingly lovely” about their accents. This is a “pretty rare find,” a “brilliant track.” “It seems that Editors have found their life-force in death itself,” said NME. Single ‘Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors’ “is a dizzying gurn across the contradictions of terminal illness,” and has the intensity of a life that knows it’s about to be blown out. “Audacious, certainly, and very good to boot.” “The new Unklejam single is great!” said Rosie Swash in the Guardian (London). ‘What Am I Fighting For?’ has two essential components that make it so fantastic: the chorus’ “resounding synthy bass line” and the “stripped back verse.” The band show that “restraint is definitely better than overkill when it comes to funk.” Norwegian duo Datarock “pumps life” into the flagging genre of electro clash with their “terrific, if slightly offbeat” debut Datarock, Datarock, said Adrienne Day in Entertainment Weekly. They’ve taken Talking Heads and Devo as their muses, and though it’s not all new, singles like ‘Fa-Fa-Fa’ with their techno drumbeats and David Byrneinspired vocals “definitely bear repeating.” Era Vulgaris is the fifth Queens of the Stone Age album, “and like the others, it’s intricately crafted, meticulously polished and ruthlessly efficient,” said Rob Sheffield in Rolling Stone. Most of the record concerns having sex with ladies, though Josh Homme shows his tender side with ‘Into the Hollow.’ He also throws some New Wave synth into the mix.

White Stripes

Icky Thump
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Released: June 19 (Warner Bros/Wea) Paul McCartney

Memory Almost Full
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Released: June 5 (Hear Music)

Earning their stripes: the Detroit duo are “thriving” When they first arrived on the scene in July 1997, the White Stripes “seemed destined for a shorter shelf life” than most other bands, said Alexis Petridis in the Guardian (London). Their “contrived” image and “self-consciously limited” music indicated a quick fall. And yet, a decade on, the blues-rock duo from Detroit are “thriving.” Icky Thump, their sixth studio album, “positively swarms out of the speakers” with a “breezy diversity.” The title track provides an “ominous thud, enlivened by frantic abuse of a primitive synthesizer,” while ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You’re Told)’ has a “fabulous, effortless melody that bears a hint of ‘70s FM radio rock.” Meanwhile, Meg White’s drumming smacks “not of a percussionist but a first-time property developer setting about a supporting wall with a sledgehammer.” The album also formalizes the band’s departure from indie rock, said Pete Paphides in The Times (London). After Jack White recorded a song for a Coca-Cola ad last year, Oasis’ Noel Gallagher declared: “Jack White ceases to be in the club.” But you have to wonder why White didn’t leave sooner. With Icky Thump, he “wipes the floor with anything that has borne the Oasis imprint for more than a decade.” He is now an “irresistible force” with a slew of “great ideas” as a songwriter. One can only imagine that for White, “writer’s block is something that usually resolves itself by the end of the afternoon.” White’s lyrics covers a wide range of subjects, said Andy Gill in The Independent (London). From relationships to “Scottishand Mexican-themed tracks and America’s treatment of its immigrant minorities.” Musically, the band has abandoned the mandolin, marimba and glockenspiel employed on 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan, and returned to the “guitar/ drums formula” that has served them so well in the past. Though this time a mariachi trumpet and bagpipes have been thrown in for good measure.

McCartney’s new album will “play in every Starbucks store in the world,” said Joan Anderman in The Boston Globe, referring to the former Beatle’s cross-promotion with the coffee giant, but it still “smacks of Wings at its goofiest.” And yet this, his 21st solo output, shows that Macca still holds “a sentimental, effervescent charm to everything he touches.” But his “sugary romanticism often gets unchecked,” said Randy Lewis in the Los Angeles Times, and although it’s far from his worst effort, the “frivolity” of the tunes often “sounds like arrogance.” ‘Dance Tonight’ and ‘The End of the End’ carry the cheery, inoffensive sound of his “late-1970s period,” said Allan Kozinn in The New York Times, but as dire as the album often is, McCartney should be respected for “steadfastly avoiding hopping on current pop music trends.”

Gig guide
Blondie (pictured) U.K., until July 11 Genesis Europe, until July 14 Alice Cooper Australia, until July 21 The White Stripes U.S. & Canada, until July 31

Chart toppers
Rank Week # 1 1 2 2 3 3 Rank Week # 1 1 2 1 3 1 Artist/Album Bon Jovi / Lost Highway The White Stripes / Icky Thump Brad Paisley / 5th Gear Artist/Album Editors / An End Has A Start Kelly Clarkson / My December Traveling Wilburys / Collection

Coming out
July 10 Interpol / Our Love to Admire Smashing Pumpkins / Zeitgeist They Might Be Giants / The Else July 17 Garbage / Absolute Garbage Suzanne Vega / Beauty And Crime Rooney / Calling The World

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22Nonfiction
Books
Biography Science/Philosophy Carl Bernstein

R E   E W S V I
History

July 6, 2007

A Woman in Charge

The Black Swan
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Justinian’s Flea
William Rosen

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Published: May 3 400 pages, Allen Lane

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Published: May 3 384 pages, Viking Adult

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Published: June 5 640 pages, Hutchinson

The legendary Watergate journalist’s account of Hillary Clinton “stands as a model of contemporary political biography,” said Ronald Brownstein in the Los Angeles Times. In a “balanced, judicious and deeply reported” study he paints a “three dimensional portrait” of the Democratic Party’s leading presidential contender that challenges common assumptions. The belief the Clintons’ marriage only served Hillary’s own political ambitions, for example, is turned “on its head” with the revelation she sacrificed her early “forays into political activism” for family life. Yet later as a governor’s wife and then first lady, Bernstein shows her “defining characteristic” was to view politics uncompromisingly as “war.” While the president was happy to “convert” or somehow “envelop” his opponents by accommodating their concerns, Hillary was living proof that “even paranoids have enemies.” This shrewdness allowed her to spot Monica Lewinsky-investigator Kenneth Starr early on as a “sanctimonious partisan” out to destroy her husband. But such “pugnacious instincts” were also her undoing. Threats to “demonize” any Democrat senator opposing her ambitious universal healthcare plan, merely had the effect of killing the proposal altogether. Bernstein only falters in glossing over Clinton’s more recent senate career in a

Taleb has penned an “important, albeit at times, abstract book” dispelling the notion that humans are somehow able to predict “extreme impact” events, said Michael Scown in The Asian Review of Books. The author calls these “Black Swans”: events that couldn’t pos“slapdash six pages,” depriving us of an insight into the kind of president she might make. Bernstein’s book “will please neither Friends of Hillary nor Enemies of Hillary,” said Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times. It’s “often critical” of her as a politician, yet is “often sympathetic” toward her as an individual coming to terms with a complex marriage and trying to put her genuine idealism into action. Bernstein “tries hard to feel the Clintons’ pain,” arguing that the couple “were “treated more harshly” than any other president and first lady of the 20th century. His retelling of the “sex and real estate follies” of the Clinton era is like a “slow acid flashback” where we learn anew about “Monica, Whitewater, bimbo eruptions” and the changing state of the couple’s marriage. Yet it’s exactly the “central mystery” of this enduring relationship that Bernstein renders “curiously flat-footed,” said Ana Marie Cox in The New York Observer. He concludes that “some kind of partnership” means they could never have achieved what they did without each other: not exactly an earthshattering revelation.

sibly have been predicted, such as Sept. 11 and World War I. Historians may now tell us of “rising tensions” before 1914, but the price of bonds at the time “barely moved” until war broke out. This inability to come to terms with unforeseen phenomena is “in part, hard wired into us,” said Will Self in The Independent (London). But this doesn’t excuse whole disciplines being built on the “shifting sand of our ignorance” as practised by economists and other professional forecasters. Taleb accepts, like most of us, that sometimes “shit happens.” But his dismissal of these industry “bluffers” is a “little unfair,” said The Economist. Countless business successes, for example, can be attributed to “rigorous research and canny marketing,” and not just mere chance.

Rosen’s book is “a librarian’s nightmare” in that it defies easy categorization, said The Economist. It “reads like several books in one,” dealing with cultural, medical, military, political and even zoological history. It examines the bubonic plague’s effect on the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of modern Europe. But Rosen also covers the evolution of the Silk Road, the rise of Islam, and even dabbles in microbiology with the development of the bubonic bacteria, Yersinia pestis. “At the core of the book, however, is a splendid biography of the emperor Justinian (482-565),” said Ian Pindar in the Guardian (London). Justinian survived the plague and

went on to leave lasting memorials such as Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia. But Rosen’s central contention, that the plague gave rise to the development of today’s Europe, seems “too slick an answer,” said Mary Beard in The Sunday Times (London). The birth of modern Europe “is a rather more complicated process than a series of footnotes to a pandemic.”

Hitchens silenced (in Malaysia)
If religious militancy is on the increase in Malaysia, then dictating what citizens can and can’t read isn’t going to help matters, said Ioannis Gatsiounis in Asia Times Online. The country’s Internal Security Ministry has the power to “pressure bookstores not to carry certain titles” on the grounds that it may “disrupt peace and harmony” in the largely Muslim nation. The latest victim is the best-selling God is not Great by British-born journalist Christopher Hitchens (pictured). The well-known polemicist’s study of the “irrational legacy of religious conviction” has fallen foul of the authorities, despite the fact that anti-Semitic literature like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is still “readily available” throughout the country.

Nonfiction bestsellers
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. The Secret / Rhonda Byrne Women & Money / Suze Orman In an Instant / Lee and Bob Woodruff You: On a Diet / Michael F. Roizen I Feel Bad About My Neck / Nora Ephron The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid / Bill Bryson The God Delusion / Richard Dawkins Humble Pie / Gordon Ramsay Don’t Tell Mummy / Toni Maguire Please, Daddy, No / Stuart Howarth

www.nvrmagazine.com

July 6, 2007

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Historical novel Thriller/fantasy

Fiction Books
Heyday
Kurt Andersen

23

Novella

After Dark
Haruki Murakami

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union
Michael Chabon

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Published: June 7 191 pages, Knopf

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Published: March 6 640 pages, Random House

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Published: May 1 432 pages, HarperCollins

Japanese cult writer Haruki Murakami delivers a suspenseful thriller, similar in style to the films of Jean-Luc Godard or Michelangelo Antonioni, “where something dire seems always about to happen,” said Michael Dirda in The Washington Post. The story takes place during a single night in Tokyo, but Murakami’s emphasis is more on setting and characters than on what happens, said Edward Champion in the Los Angeles Times. A cast of “sad sacks and loners” inhabit this darkness, including Murakami’s two heroes — struggling university students Mari and Takahashi — and a sociopathic engineer named Shirakawa, who represents “the feral yin to Mari and Takahashi’s insouciant yang.” Styles Murakami employed in previous novels — “dark surrealism,” “mournful realism,” and “supernatural yearning” — are all here, said Steven Poole in the Guardian (London). The story’s minimalist plotline “spells out less” than his previous stories have, but “evokes as much if not more.”

Andersen deals with a time in America “when a combination of technological and political revolutions seemed to rewrite all the rules overnight,” said Dan Zigmond in the San Francisco Chronicle. The time is 1848: a year which saw the start of the California Gold Rush and the popular use of “new inventions” like the photograph and telegraph. Through immigrant Englishman Benjamin Knowles, Andersen allows the reader to “see the sprawl of pre-Civil War America through a foreigner’s eyes,” said Allen Barra in the Chicago Sun-Times. The plot, which sees Knowles and acquaintance Duff Lucking travel cross country in search of Lucking’s sister

Polly, gives us “a sightseeing tour of North and Central America at a time just before modernity overwhelmed the primitive, buffalo-strewn West.” Unfortunately, a book with such scope suffers from “facts. And more facts,” said Louis Bayard in The Washington Post. Andersen “whiles away” for about 300 pages before bothering to set his main plot in action.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Chabon has crafted “a capacious meditation on the contradictions of Jewishness, disguised as a detective novel,” said Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly. In the writer’s “virtuoso imagining,” the fledgling state of Israel lasted just three months in 1948 before its cast of “criminals, cops, dreamers, losers and schemers” were relocated to Alaska. Unfortunately, this land for the “Frozen Chosen” was leased for only 60 years and time is almost up. Meanwhile, alcoholic cop Meyer Landsman has taken on one last case of a dead man found in the same “fleabag hotel” he’s been reduced to living in. These two events collide when the “teeming, slushy” Jewish tundra of Alaska reverts to the United States, and thereby halts the investigation. The subject matter proves that “Chabon the serious artist means business” even if the conceit is “jokier and cartoon broader” than usual. In fact, “no quirk of Jewish life” is left unexplored for its comic potential, said Ruth Franklin in Slate.com. Alaskan Jews shop at “KosherMart,” while a reclusive religious sect is described as a “Disney shtetl.” But it’s a selective humor for a small audience. Ironically, Chabon has fashioned “a mass entertainment” that’s “largely inaccessible to the masses.” The truth is “you don’t have to be

Jewish to enjoy Chabon,” said Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun-Times. “But it sure helps.” The narrative’s “Yiddish tone” enlivens this “bleak world” in which Orthodox Jews are “grotesques,” and heroin addicts use the leather straps from their prayer boxes in order to shoot up. But a story about a “cabal” of Jews conspiring to reclaim Palestine and “boot Arabs out of their homes” while dividing up their criminal spoils, is in danger of provoking both “old slanders and contemporary accusations.” Yes, a thriller needs villains, and Hasidic Jews fit the bill as well as anyone, but some might argue the novel’s “fanciful premise” is ultimately undone by the very real weight of history. Indeed, and the “sheer awfulness of one miserable Jew after the next sticks in the throat after a while,” said Lisa Jennifer Selzman in the Houston Chronicle. If Chabon weren’t Jewish himself, one could imagine “outraged protest” over this book. His underlying message that Jews have had enough of oppression is “powerful and deeply important” but must he resort to every “vicious stereotype” to make his point?

Fiction bestsellers
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Lean Mean Thirteen / Janet Evanovich A Thousand Splendid Suns / Khaled Hosseini Blaze / Richard Bachman Double Take / Catherine Coulter The Navigator / Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos Crystal / Katie Price A Thousand Splendid Suns / Khaled Hosseini The Overlook / Michael Connelly The Children of Hurin / J.R.R. Tolkien The Quest / Wilbur Smith

World honors Achebe
Often referred to as the father of African literature, Chinua Achebe has been awarded the Man Booker International Prize. The 76-year-old author topped a shortlist that included iconic literary names like Philip Roth, Doris Lessing and Carlos Fuentes. Awarded every two years, the prize for lifetime achievement has earned “the status of an authentic world award,” said John Ezard in the Guardian (London). Earlier this month a fellow Nigerian and “disciple” of Achebe, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, scooped the Orange Fiction Prize for her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun. The more established Man Booker Prize, awarded in October, aims to recognize the best novel of the year by a citizen of the British Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.

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24Arts &
Documentary

Entertainment
Architecture

R E   E W S V I

July 6, 2007

Pilger’s War on Democracy
Veteran journalist-documentarian John Pilger’s new film, The War on Democracy, looks at “half a century of furtive and bloody U.S. intervention” in South America, said Danny Leigh in the Guardian (London). It shows how U.S. foreign policy has sought to topple many of the subcontinent’s democratically elected leaders and put brutal pro-U.S. strongmen in their place. Pilger’s film details a “noxious story,” which “needs to be told.” Perhaps the film is “rightfully indignant” of U.S. foreign policy on South America, said Kevin Maher in The Times (London). But it’s ultimately spoiled by its presenter Pilger — the veteran of over 50 documentaries — “who can’t help but jump into frame at the slightest provocation, attired in Man-From-Del-Monte whites and loaded with oily amour-propre.” Whether he’s ingratiating himself with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, praising the spirit of the poor, or tricking a rich Venezuelan businessman into being an ignoramus on camera, “the temptation to reach into the screen and slap him is overwhelming.” The Chávez interview in particular “has moments of almost Hello! magazine deference,” said Peter Bradshaw also in the Guardian (London). Pilger is unabashed in his admiration for Chávez, but he’s “in dereliction of his journalVenice Biennale

Icons wanted
Buildings by well-known architects have their fair share of critics, and Beijing’s National Grand Theater “is no exception,” said Calvin Low in The Straits Times (Singapore). Known as the “egg,” the structure (pictured) has been criticized as “too modern” for the city. But “time heals all wounds,” if the once-contentious examples of the Eiffel Tower and Louvre pyramid are anything to go by. Citing the “Bilbao effect” as justification, city planners the world over are constructing more and more “elaborate and expensive edifices” to attract tourists. Bilbao’s iconic Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, swelled the coffers of the former “rust-belt” Spanish city by US$400 million within two years of it opening in 1998. But procuring the “gilded services” of a “starchitect” is no guarantee of success, as the developers of London’s Millennium Dome found to their cost with Richard Rogers. A bigger problem is that the centers of power that once created architectural icons like Beijing’s Forbidden City, Athen’s Parthenon and Agra’s Taj Mahal, no longer exist. Today, architects and the “consuming public” alike need to discover new points of reference to create our own “contemporary iconography.”
Television

Whiter than white: Pilger in South America istic duty” by glossing over the darker side of the Venezuelan president’s regime. Chávez’s decision to bypass the National Assembly and rule by decree for 18 months, for instance, is conveniently ignored. “Yet for every interview that feels contrived or staged,” said Rich Cline in RealMovieNews.com, there’s another that “bristles with raw honesty.” Pilger’s film digs under the surface “to show a side of the story the media rarely reports.” It also serves as an “eerie” parallel to the current U.S. occupation of Iraq.
See the trailer at www.youtube.com [Search for John Pilger, The War on Democracy]

Sopranos bow out
The final episode of The Sopranos arrived in “a frenzy of audience speculation” but was “perversely non-earth shaking,” said Frazier Moore in The Huffington Post. There was no “mass extermination” and the only violence came when Leotardo was “whacked”; a predictable, “even comical” demise witnessed by his grandchildren. True to form, producer David Chase refused to give viewers “comfortable closure,” or even “catharsis.” Even in the final scene, every moment during the family gathering at a diner seemed to “foreshadow disaster” which never came. But then “any ending would have been a letdown” for the “most unusual and realistic family drama in television history,” said Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times. For the whole of the final season “myriad hints and red herrings” suggested any number of outcomes, but Tony (James Gandolfini) finally turning state’s evidence perhaps wasn’t the hardest to predict. Gandolfini “looked like he hadn’t slept in week,” said Phil Gallo in Variety. Yet his performance was as “tough and focused” as any we’ve seen in 85 episodes. Chase and his team did “yeoman’s work” trying to tie up loose ends, but there were still enough gaps to have us wondering where “all those Sopranos might be five, 10, 15 years from now.”
www.nvrmagazine.com

What’s dug up, Doc
The 52nd Venice Biennale won’t be remembered as “groundbreaking or dynamic,” said Michael Kimmelman in The New York Times. But this year’s festival — the largest yet — is at least “independent” and “strong in its convictions.” That’s certainly true of the Korean pavilion’s display which features the imagined fossil remains of Bugs Bunny. But overall, this year’s displays could hardly be described as “funny.” Typical is Emily Prince’s “deeply moving” drawings of every U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, Tracey Emin’s etchings are like “warmed over Egon Schieles” and suggest that even Britain’s cheekiest artists are just “reactionaries at heart.” It’s true that this year’s event may be “a little boring” but it certainly “grows on you.” We critics can secretly wonder “how we got lucky enough to call this work,” said Sarah Milroy in The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Many nations boast their “best curatorial picks in a long time,” and there’s less of the cheap and “hastily installed” exhibits we’d come to expect from past biennales — Switzerland’s recent “menstrual hut in upholstered maxi pads”

Floor act: an installation at the biennale springs to mind. But the selection suffers some “uncharacteristic lapses in discrimination,” notably in curator Thomas Storr’s favored category of painting. That may be, but if “curators could win the Nobel Prize,” said Richard Dorment in The Daily Telegraph (London), “I’d nominate him.” For the first time ever, artists from the north and south of Ireland share the same pavilion including one whose “masterly” film depicts the “haunting” of this troubled region by the ghosts of murdered civilians.

26

Travel

R E   E W S V I

July 6, 2007

The axis of decency
“Rogue states are easy to find, but places at the other end of the scale are few and far between,” says Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler in The Independent (London). Five years ago, I wrote Bad Lands, a guide to the world’s “axis of evil” countries — Afghanistan, Albania, Burma, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. But “finding a mirror-image set of ‘good lands’ is, unhappily, nowhere near so easy.” After all, a place like Switzerland, which seems “democratic, neutral, neat and tidy,” is in fact a favorite place for dictators to deposit their cash. And Scandinavia, which has everything Switzerland does plus socialism, is as “unscrupulous as any other country” when it comes to arms dealing. “Let’s face it, no country is all good.” That’s why I’m “happy to settle for eight ‘pretty good’ ones.” It’s hard not to rate a country like Bhutan “good” considering that it’s more concerned about “Gross National Happiness” than Gross National Product. Germany also makes the grade, doing the “hard yards to make the European Union work.” What’s more, it’s “steered clear of international mistakes” like

Countries with no axis to grind Iraq, while remaining “one of the biggest contributors” to the Afghanistan peace-keeping mission. Canada, where Greenpeace first started, is also a member of the “axis of decency.” Despite its neighbor to the south, it’s resisted both the “Iraq call siren” and “gun-ownership madness.” Nor, it seems, can New Zealand “do anything wrong these days.” It’s “so anti-nuclear” that the U.S. Navy is prohibited from sailing into their waters, and while neighbor Australia is “apt to send refugee boat-people off to its Pacific Gulag (also known as Nauru), New Zealand is likely to take them in.” Other bastions of decency include Iceland, Finland, Ireland and Costa Rica which deserves special mention. It’s got an economy based on ecotourism and, here’s the “trump card” — no army.
www.lonelyplanet.com/tonywheeler

Gourmet traveler
As cool as a cucumber
If you’re looking for a way to quench your thirst in Japan this summer, try Pepsi’s new cucumber-flavored soda, says Brian Tracey in MSNBC.com. The innovative soda, “Pepsi Ice Cucumber,” is already in stores, but don’t pop open a can expecting a health drink — “it doesn’t have any of the green gourd in it.” Instead, it’s been “artificially flavored to resemble the refreshing taste of fresh cucumber,” said Aya Takemoto of Suntory Ltd., Japan’s Pepsi distributor. It turns out that in Japan, cucumber is the first thing that comes to mind when people think about “keeping cool in the summer heat.” But this “mint-colored” soda will only be around for the summer, during which Suntory expects to unload about 200,000 cases. Pepsi rivals should “retaliate with Spinach Sprite and Dr. Bell Pepper.” That way, “we can skip the salad bar entirely and get all that green goodness in liquid form.”

Macau

United States

Macau to get Playboy Mansion
Playboy Enterprises, “home to gentlemen clad in silk pyjamas, girls with bunny ears and an empire that ranges from gambling to soft-core porn,” has announced plans to open a Playboy Mansion in Macau, says Dan Glaister in the Guardian (London). The Mansion will feature a hotel, pools, grottos, restaurants, gambling tables and, “of course, scantily clad bunnies.” The plan follows last year’s launch of a Playboy club in Las Vegas. Playboy once ran 22 clubs, “from Chicago and New York to Tokyo,” but the last of those died out in Manila in 1991 due to “an awakening cultural maturity, feminism and the growth of pornography.” Now things have changed again, “with an explosion of interest in gambling and a burgeoning resort sector.” Macau used to be “the personal fiefdom of billionaire Stanley Ho,” but the Chinese government ended his casino monopoly in 2002. The first foreign-run casino opened in the former Portuguese colony in 2004, and “the territory’s revenue has soared.” In 2006, Macau’s gambling revenue grew to over US$6.95 billion, more than Las Vegas. Playboy magazine is banned in China.
www.worldcasinodirectory.com
See Ocean's Thirteen, pg 18; Real Vegas vs. Film Vegas, pg 19

Curb appeal
Motel life was once “a glimpse of paradise” in America, says Wayne Curtis in The Atlantic Monthly. Recently however, motels have been displaced by “boxy three-story chain hotels.” So the classic motels that remain, such as the ones along Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard, are to be savored. Biscayne Boulevard is home to one of Florida’s finest collections of postwar motels, typified by their distinctive “collage of angles, swooping curves and neon lights.” In the days before Internet booking, it was all about “curb appeal.” Former fashion mogul Eric Silverman hopes to single-handedly restore the boulevard to its “former glory.” He’s purchased the Vagabond (pictured), which once had a “raffish, if Rat Pack charm” (Dean Martin used to perform in the hotel bar). Silverman believes the motel will one day become “a destination for people to come see what life was like” — and it’ll be even better this time around since there won’t be any “orange shag carpeting.” But other motels along the strip are waiting to see what comes of his attempted renaissance. For now, unfortunately, “none seem quite ready for retro-tourism.”
www.motelguide.com/flmi.html www.nvrmagazine.com

Pepsi's new soda: "taste of fresh cucumber"

July 6, 2007

R E    E W S V I

27 Travel
Beat the crowd
The world’s wackiest hotels
Looking to stay in one of the world’s “craziest” hotels? Oddee.com lists some of its favorites. Ice Hotel, Sweden This 550 square meters of ice and snow is the world’s first, and largest, ice hotel. You’ll get to sleep on an ice bed in a thermal sleeping bag, and in the morning a cup of hot lingberry juice will be brought to your bedside. But with an average indoor temperature of -8 C, be sure to “bring lots of layers.” www.icehotel.com Poseidon Undersea Resort, Fiji This hotel’s rooms, 12 meters beneath the surface of the “clear blue” Fijian Lagoon, are enveloped in acrylic walls, enabling guests to enjoy unparalleled ocean views. The only catch is that you’ll have to wait until early 2009 to reserve a room because the resort is still under construction. www.poseidonresorts.com Capsule Inn, Japan If you find yourself on a shoestring in Tokyo and looking for a place to sleep, check in to the Capsule Inn. Each capsule is made of reinforced plastic and comes with all of the usual amenities such as TV, radio, and alarm clock. www.capsuleinn.com Green Magic Tree house, India Located in India’s southern Kerala state, this hotel is the perfect getaway for someone who “longed for a tree house” as a child. Each suite, equipped with running water, private baths and telephones, is built 30 meters above ground. All of the tree houses have been built using eco-friendly materials and are powered by alternate energy sources. www.hotelskerala.com/greenmagic

All soled out: the market unloads 2,000 tons of fish a day
Japan

The last word in fish
In the “wild, engulfing, blood drenched madness” of Tsukiji, the world’s largest fish market in Tokyo, a bluefin tuna can sell for more than US$170,000 at auction, says Nick Tosches in Vanity Fair. Tsukiji, whose 1,677 stalls unload 2,000 tons of fish a day, has a history dating back 400 years. Each day, its fishmongers offer up a “biochromatic wealth of mysterious mollusks and other sea invertebrates,” including barnacles, “grotesque” scorpion fish, toxic blowfish, octopus roe and the “weirdest looking” of all, sea pineapple, which resembles an “otherworldly marital aid of inscrutable purpose for the brides of Satan,” and tastes “something like iodine.” But bluefin tuna, a migratory fish that can grow to more than 700 kilograms and almost 3.5 meters in length, is the market’s “main event.” In the “dark of early morning,” bidders take part in
Iran

auctions that are closed to the public. Unable to cut open the fish, which come from as far away as Spain, or as near as Osaka, they poke around in the body with flashlights in search of “kata” — the “mysterious” qualities that constitute an ideal specimen. Tsukiji is also where you’ll find Tokyo’s best sushi. Down a warren of nameless alleyways, buried somewhere in the 55 acres the market occupies, there’s a “poky” restaurant called Daiwa that seats fewer than a dozen. But be sure to arrive early. At 7 a.m., there’s already a long queue of people waiting to enter. With Tsukiji at its doorstep, it’s no wonder that chef Shinichi Irino serves up fatty bluefinbelly-meat sushi that “melts in the mouth.”
www.tsukiji-market.or.jp
See Japan running out of tuna, pg 5

Money in the name of Allah
The Shrine of Imam Reza in Iran is the Islamic republic’s “biggest and richest business empire,” says Andrew Higgins in The Wall Street Journal. Located in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, the shrine is a “sumptuous parade” of mosques, minarets and marble that’s “vaster” than Vatican City and draws more pilgrims than Mecca. For centuries, the shrine has “intermingled faith and money.” In addition to operating an Islamic-studies center, the companies in its corporate portfolio “make everything from city buses to pizza strudels.” The shrine is what’s known in Iran as a “bonyad” — a “nominally charitable” foundation with huge holdings acquired through generations of donations confiscated after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Bonyads publish no accounts and answer only to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In fact, the shrine’s “independence from government supervision” — in addition to its stuffed coffers — is what makes it so “potent.” How much the shrine makes each year is unclear. Estimates vary from US$50 million
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Priceless: the shrine has its own "corporate portfolio" to US$2 billion due to a lack of transparent accounting. In Mashhad, where the shrine owns three-quarters of the land, the shrine also runs a bakery, Reza Bread Co., that buys its yeast from Reza Yeast Co., its sugar from Reza Sugar Co. and its fruits from shrine-owned orchards. One of the bakery’s biggest customers for its strudels is the Reza Hospital. Best of all, since Reza companies seamlessly blend capital gains and religion, their employees never go on strike.
www.imamreza.net/eng/

Travel deals
Four Points by Sheraton Shanghai, Daning Experience Sheraton Shanghai’s brand new guestrooms from RMB699, including daily buffet breakfast for up to two persons. Upgrade to a Comfort Suite for an additional RMB500 with access to the fitness center and heated indoor pool. Until August 31. www.fourpoints.com/daning (2602 2222) Grand Hyatt Shanghai Summer Take advantage of the special summer offer at the highest hotel in the world, starting from just RMB1,850 for a Grand Room. Until August 31. www.shanghai.grand.hyatt.com (5049 1234)

28 Consumer

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July 6, 2007

Headphones to shut out the world
“Air travel this summer isn’t going to be pretty,” says David Pogue in The New York Times. Fortunately, you’ll be able to avoid one of the biggest headaches — the roar of plane engines — with noise-canceling headphones. Market-leader Bose provides quality you can’t dispute, but at US$300 a pair, there’s “little wonder rival companies are now trying to bring you similar peace in the stratosphere without propelling the price up there, too.”

1. JVC HA-NC100

“You could buy seven pairs of these for the price of one Bose set.” And, since they rest on your ears instead of surrounding them, they’re very small. The only problem is that they only cut out a “chunk of the lower frequencies, leaving much of the engine roar unabated.”
www.jvc.com; US$40 2. Panasonic RP-HC500

solidly built, absolutely great-sounding headphones.” What’s more, the circuitry cuts out a “huge swath” of engine, road or train noise and the music is “crystal clear, sweet and finely textured.”
www.audio-technica.com; US$132 4. Logitech Noise Canceling Headphones

The noise cancellation on this model works well, probably because the “pleasantly smushy-edged earcups “do an excellent job of isolating your ears.” Also, the music reproduction is “stellar.” With these headphones, you’ll get “quality that’s nearly indistinguishable from the Boses — for a third of the price.”
www.panasonic.com; US$100 3. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7

The noise-canceling circuit on this pair is “superb.” And the music sounds “pretty good for the price,” though it can’t compare to Bose.
www.logitech.com; US$155 5. Bose Quietcomfort 2

These are Bose “without the marketing campaign.” They’re “comfy,

These may be pricey but Bose “know their acoustics.” The noise cancellation is “amazing; when you throw the switch, the world just falls away.” And the music sounds “fantastic.”
www.bose.com; US$300

Luxury real estate

Spider-Man’s house
Toby Maguire (aka Spider-Man/ Peter Parker) has made a “tidy sum” on the recent sale of his Hollywood Hills house, says Ruth Ryon in the Los Angeles Times. Maguire bought the property for US$3.7 million as a first-time buyer in 2002 and has almost tripled his price with a sale for US$11.5 million. The one-story Mediterraneanstyle house was built in 1962, and was recently refurbished by Cubanborn interior designer Waldo

More money than sense
Bling bling mouse
Its creators, Pat Says Now, are calling it “the most expensive computer mouse in the world,” says Chris Davies in SlashGear. com. Made with 18-carat white gold and set with 59 diamonds in a floral pattern, the limited edition mouse comes complete with trackball for page navigation and an optical sensor. And if you don’t like the flower thing, the Swiss manufacturers will custom make a design to your choosing. Personally, I think it “looks a bit rubbish,” but if you’re the kind of person “who squeals over white gold encrusted with diamonds” then perhaps you’ll think the exorbitant price tag of US$25,000 is worth every cent. www.pat-says-now.com

Up for auction
Iran’s military history
You can’t put a price on nostalgia, although Mr. Parviz Zeinali has tried. The former Iranian marine is selling his uniform on eBay for a whopping US$1.5 million. The costume dates from immediately prior to the Iranian revolution which overturned the Shah and swept Ayatollah Khomeini to power in 1979. Zeinali claims the uniform is one of only three in existence, since all uniforms worn during Shah’s time was ordered to be destroyed. www.ebay.com [Search for Parviz Zeinali]

Fernandez. Covering almost 5,000 square feet, it includes a gym, spa, infinity pool, courtyard entry, chef’s kitchen and maid’s quarters. Will & Grace’s Megan Mullally lives next door, and Keanu Reaves lives three doors down.
www.bergproperties.com

Just what you’ve always wanted
A musical condom A Ukrainian scientist has created a musical condom that plays music during sex, says Korrespondent magazine. Different sex positions determine what tune is played by the condom, which has tiny sensors connected to a minielectronic device that produces the sounds. As the sex gets more passionate, the condom — which also works like a normal contraceptive — registers the increased speed of the movements and plays the melody faster and louder. Dr. Grigoriy Chausovskiy, who invented the device as an aid for more pleasurable love-making, reassures “there is no danger of being electrocuted.”

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3

38 Penultimately
Hong Kong’s last governor... ten years on
Chris Patten was the last pampered and plumed Governor of Hong Kong. On the 10th anniversary of the handover, he talks to Elizabeth Grice about the lasting impact of the experience.
People still come up to Chris Patten and say: “I remember the day you left Hong Kong.” Of course they do. That night of bucketing rain and high emotion on the waterfront when the last Governor handed over the former British colony to the Chinese. His three famously lovely daughters in tears. ‘Nimrod’ playing as the Union flag was lowered. The Prince of Wales, soaked to the skin, water gushing off his naval cap, doggedly peeling off the notes of his sodden speech. Next morning, Britannia sailed through the Fleet for the last time, leading a diamond formation of 17 naval vessels as she ploughed through the waves flanked by dolphins and flying fish. Behind the clamor and the flypast, you felt the quiet slide into history. How can it be 10 years ago? The stiff dignity of imperialism’s last gasp is still sharp. Lord Patten says he hadn’t watched the film until the other day and he was surprised how emotional it made him. The “king over the water” and his family had five glorious years in Hong Kong. They’d made friends, worn down many — if not all — enemies and lived high on the hog. His daughters had done a lot of their growing up there and sobbed when they had to leave. He’d secured a dignified and successful transition that was by no means inevitable. “You must try not to be regretful,” he says, “but when you’ve done a job like that in your early fifties you know you may not have anything as interesting again. I try not to dwell on it too much.” It amuses him that on the stroke of midnight, June 30, 1997, all glory vanished. Until 11.59 p.m., the program notes respectfully referred to him as HE Governor — as the Queen’s representative, His Excellency theoretically took precedence over the Prince of Wales. But at midnight, he became plain “Mr. Patten.” When they reached the Philippines, there was a 21-gun salute, but at Heathrow, servantless, chauffeurless and cold, they were disgorged straight into the taxi queue. “We came down to earth pretty rapidly,” he says, liking the poetic irony. Patten only briefly wore the Governor’s ridiculous uniform and plumes. He didn’t think he had the necessary height or elegance, and it wasn’t his style anyway, so he asked the Queen’s permission to stick to a suit. On his first morning in Government House, he walked into his

July 6, 2007

All back to Blighty: the Pattens say farewell dressing room to find suits, ties, pants, socks, all laid out for him. This was a man who’d been used to polishing his family’s shoes every Sunday morning, as his own father had done. “I said to my very nice steward, ‘Look, I’ve been dressing myself for 40 years. I think I can manage.’” Ten years on, he’s back to the old habit of polishing the shoes, only now there aren’t so many. His once-so-nubile daughters, Kate, Laura and Alice, have flown the nest. His wife, Lavender, is away in Italy, helping Kate after the birth of her second child, a son, their third grandchild. Patten pads about their bow-fronted house on the edge of Barnes Common looking more baggy-eyed than usual and a bit forlorn. He has a small paunch, a slight stoop and a voice of mellifluous melancholy. As usual, he is doing too much — writing, speaking, travelling, attending the Lords, obligingly saying yes when he should be saying no. A Chinese film crew, one of many wanting his reflections on the 10th anniversary of the return of the former colony to the mainland, has just left and he subsides gratefully into a red velvet chair, placing his mug of tea on a book called The Mind of God by Peter Davies. Lavender would not like to find ring-marks on the table. The convalescent quiet is due mainly to the absence of his two irritable, ankle-hungry Norfolk terriers, Whisky and Soda, whose delinquent behavior made their mark in Hong Kong before Patten made his. Soda was the flirt with a penchant for custard tarts. He wrote her obituary in Country Life. Whisky, who passed away last year, was the smaller and more crotchety. When he came out of prison for biting a workman, Patten likened it to the release of Ronnie Biggs. Five television cameras and 30 journalists were there to meet him. That is rather how it is these days when Patten returns to Hong Kong, which — in keeping with his policy of looking forward rather than back — he says he tries not to do too often. At book signings, Fat Pang — a man the Chinese once called a whore, a tango-dancer and “a villain for a thousand years” — is now a sort of
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July 6, 2007

39 Penultimately
Visibly shaken, he says he could feel the ground slipping from under his feet and, at the time, thought it was the worst thing that could have happened to him. But three months after losing Bath, he was on his way to Hong Kong. “Out of the wreckage came what were to be the most wonderful five years of my life,” he wrote. Looking back, Lord Patten of Barnes marvels at just what an Andy Warholish moment it was. A less honest man might have downplayed the glamour, or pretended to be unimpressed, but Patten accepted the trappings of high office with obvious gusto: the fleet of cars, the yacht fully staffed with waiters in white jackets and plimsolls, the helicopter and the scores of staff. He loved the Chinese cuisine and asked for more of it at Government House, which endeared him to the cooks. “The snake soup was terrific but I’m not sure I could eat cockerels’ testicles every day of my life.” The effects of good living were worked off daily on the tennis court. Patten is lyrical about the vitality and excitement of the port city — “the clutter, the sea, the backstreets, the Chinese traders, the hawkers, the rush, the noise, those elegant, elderly Chinese gentlemen with a cigarette at the very end of their fingers... all the rumbustiousness of urban life.” He won’t hear a bad word against Prince Charles, whose private journal of the official visit to Hong Kong, in which he caricatured Chinese diplomats as “appalling old waxworks,” was leaked to the press. All his scorn is reserved for the “friend” who circulated extracts. “The Prince of Wales is an interesting, intelligent man, with enthusiasm for what matters — and he behaved heroically on that day.” The former Governor’s fondness for things Chinese, and the Chinese he knew, is everywhere. In Hong Kong, he indulged his passion for antiquities — figurines of court ladies, Neolithic pots, horses from long-gone dynasties. He’s been banned from buying any more pictures, but managed to commission portraits of his loyal staff before the edict took effect. On his mantelpiece there’s a little carved table loaded with food, the kind of thing the Chinese don’t buy because of its burial associations but which possibly appeals to him for that very reason. A sense of mortality didn’t just arrive with the passing years. For him, it’s part of what it means to be a Christian, a Roman Catholic. (A former altar boy, he can still remember most of the responses to the Latin Mass.) He doesn’t want to be frightened of dying, so he confronts it. “I don’t know any way of doing that except by thinking about it. I don’t think I’m catatonically gloomy and I don’t want to give the impression that I’m obsessed with cemeteries — I whistle past cemeteries — it’s just that, when you reach a certain age [he’s 63] you can’t help but notice the age of the people in obituary columns. It’s part of preparing yourself for the inevitable.” He had angioplasty in 1993 but his cardiologist told him that stress was quite good for him, so he cheerfully went on as normal, leaving his wife to do the worrying. He says he shares with “Mr. Blair” an irregular heartbeat, implying that’s all they share. The former prime minister’s long farewell didn’t chime with Patten’s idea of dignity at all. “It’s hubris,” he says. “It makes you want a banana skin. It’s pretty tacky and it’s turning politics into showbiz. I think Mr. Blair has become a tacky politician. He has confused politics and policy. The question people will ask is why, given such majorities, he accomplished so little.” Patten now so obviously inhabits the world of ideas that he seems far removed from the politics of pragmatism. He joins debates in the House of Lords, he lectures and travels, and he’s an energetic Chancellor of the University of Oxford, with a flat in the city that gives him the excuse to sneak off and buy a few more pictures. But there’s another book taking shape in his crabbed, indecipherable longhand on A4 ruled pads. “Don’t accuse me of vainglory,” he says, “but it’s called How the World Works.” The book is about the disconnection between economic globalization and politics, a rallying cry for international co-operation on issues that nation states can no longer tackle alone: terrorism, climate change, organized crime, drugs, people-trafficking. In July and August, while on holiday at his farmhouse in southern France with the family, including his three small grandchildren, he has to write 50,000 words. So his beloved vegetable garden will have to run riot and there will be no afternoon sleeps in the deckchair. “I have a very happy life,” he says. “I just work too hard.”
This article originally appeared in The Daily Telegraph (London). Used with permission.

cult hero. His visits have been likened to the return of an aging rock star. The Chinese, he says, treat him with exquisite politeness and respect. Chinese holidaymakers come up to him for his autograph at airports. The Chinese government in Beijing allows him to promote his richly political and philosophical books — East and West (1998) and Not Quite the Diplomat (2005) — and people queue for hours to shake his hand at signings. On a visit in November, he had meetings with the foreign minister and his deputy. The Chinese government, he says, was “much too sophisticated” to allow past differences and arguments affect the way they did business when he was European commissioner for external relations from 1999 to 2004. In fact, when he was two years into that job, the then foreign minister publicly pronounced Patten “a force for concord rather than discord.” He imagines all this tolerance is because the government in Beijing, expecting the worst, found that the British had left Hong Kong in extremely good shape. “We hadn’t made off with all the treasure, and we hadn’t deliberately sown the seeds of turbulence.” Patten ridicules the rumor that he is “absolutely spitting” not to have been invited to the 10th anniversary celebrations on July 1 in Beijing. “Nothing is farther from the truth. I wouldn’t have expected to be there. Indeed, it would have been curious to have been asked. Nor do I think the U.K. expected to be there. For the past 18 months I have been planning my own party for about 140 people in Oxford.” In a sense, Patten’s journey to Hong Kong began the night of April 9, 1992, when he won a fourth election victory for the Conservatives (he masterminded their campaign) but lost his own seat. It knocked the stuffing out of him.

3

Hand it over: the British left Hong Kong in "extremely good shape"
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4

40 Sudoku
1 4 87 3
20

R E   E W S V I

July 6, 2007

Sudoku Challenge No.29

4

5 2 1 9 5 9 7

47 7 2 54 8 1

63
Sudoku Challenge

3 8 7 5 2

Ju ly

Solution to Sudoku Challenge No.28

Think Sudoku is easy? Then try NVR's Sudoku Challenge. One rule only — each row, column and 3x3 box must contain the digits 1 to 9. The sender of the first correct solution will receive two movie tickets from Paradise Warner Cinema City (Value: RMB 160). E-mail to info@nvrmagazine.com or mail to: NVR Sudoku Challenge, No.51, Lane 749, Yuyuan Lu, Shanghai 200050, China.

Air quality watch
City Fortnightly API* average Fortnightly % change

*Air Pollution Index API 0-50 51-100 101-200 201-300 >300 Grade
Ⅰ Ⅱ Ⅲ Ⅳ Ⅴ

Beijing Shanghai Guangzhou

105 64 45
Pollution level
Good Acceptable Slight pollution Medium pollution Heavy pollution

- 79 + 63 - 22

Source: State Environmental Protection Administration of China

Sources
Asia Times Online www.atimes.com; The Asian Review of Books www.asianreviewofbooks.com; Associated Press www. ap.org; The Atlantic Monthly www.theatlantic.com; BBC News news.bbc.co.uk; The Boston Globe www.boston.com; Chicago Sun-Times www.suntimes.com; The Christian Science Monitor www.csmonitor.com; Daily Mail www.dailymail. co.uk; The Daily Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk; Der Spiegel www.spiegel.de; Digital-Spy.co.uk www.digitalspy.co.uk; The Economist www.economist.com; Edinburgh Evening News edinburgh-news.scotsman.com; Empire www.empireonline. com; Entertainment Weekly www.ew.com; Financial Times www.ft.com; Foreign Policy www.foreignpolicy.com; The Globe and Mail www.theglobeandmail.com; Guardian www.guardian.co.uk; Hello! www.hellomagazine.com; HecklerSpray.com www.hecklerspray.com; Houston Chroni-cle houstonchronicle.com; The Huffington Post www.huffingtonpost.com; The Independent www.independent.co.uk; International Herald Tribune www.iht.com; The Jakarta Post www.thejakartapost. com; Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger www.ksta.de; Korrespondent www.korrespondent.net; Los Angeles Times www.latimes.com; MSNBC.com www.msnbc.msn.com; National Geographic www.nationalgeographic.com; Nature www.nature.com; New York Daily News www.nydailynews.com; The New York Observer www.observer.com; New York Post www.nypost. com; The New York Times www.nytimes.com; The New Yorker www.newyorker.com; Newsweek www.msnbc.msn.com; NME www.nme.com; The Observer observer.guardian.co.uk; Oddee.com www.oddee.com; RealMovieNews.com www. realMovieNews.com; Reason www.reason.com; Reuters uk.reuters.com; Rolling Stone www.rollingstone.com; The Salt Lake Tribune www.sltrib.com; San Francisco Chronicle www.sfgate.com/chronicle; Seattle Post Intelligencer seattlepi. nwsource.com; SlashGear.com slashgear.com; Slate.com www.slate.com; South China Morning Post www.scmp.com; The Straits Times straitstimes.com; The Sunday Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk; The Sunday Times www.timesonline. co.uk; The Sydney Morning Herald www.smh.com.au; Time www.time.com; The Times www.timesonline.co.uk; USA Today www.usatoday.com; Vanity Fair www.vanityfair.com; Variety www.variety.com; The Wall Street Journal wsj.com; The Washington Post www.washingtonpost.com Photos: Amazon; The Barbican Center; China Foto Press; HBO; Imagine China; Lions Gate Films; Metro-GoldwynMayer (MGM) Studios; Panorama; stock.xchng; Universal Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures

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