Actually Bream Street (hence Fish Island) but, you know, these artists...
And, round the corner, a red van:
This, from Ronen Bergman in Tablet, is as damning as anything I've seen on the Iran deal - though of course, as Bergman stresses, the sources are not, by their nature, unimpeachable. What Information Collected by Israeli Intelligence Reveals About the Iran Talks:
In early 2013, the material indicates, Israel learned from its intelligence sources in Iran that the United States held a secret dialogue with senior Iranian representatives in Muscat, Oman. Only toward the end of these talks, in which the Americans persuaded Iran to enter into diplomatic negotiations regarding its nuclear program, did Israel receive an official report about them from the U.S. government. Shortly afterward, the CIA and NSA drastically curtailed its cooperation with Israel on operations aimed at disrupting the Iranian nuclear project, operations that had racked up significant successes over the past decade.
On Nov. 8, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw him off at Ben Gurion Airport and told him that Israel had received intelligence that indicated the United States was ready to sign “a very bad deal” and that the West’s representatives were gradually retreating from the same lines in the sand that they had drawn themselves.
Perusal of the material Netanyahu was basing himself on, and more that has come in since that angry exchange on the tarmac, makes two conclusions fairly clear: The Western delegates gave up on almost every one of the critical issues they had themselves resolved not to give in on, and also that they had distinctly promised Israel they would not do so....
It is possible to argue about the manner in which Netanyahu chose to conduct the dispute about the nuclear agreement with Iran, by clashing head-on and bluntly with the American president. That said, the intelligence material that he was relying on gives rise to fairly unambiguous conclusions: that the Western delegates crossed all of the red lines that they drew themselves and conceded most of what was termed critical at the outset; and that the Iranians have achieved almost all of their goals.
Interesting, from Jieun Baek, at Politico: How to Smuggle $1,000 Into North Korea.
The next time Kevin talks to his mother, she asks him for $1,000. She gives Kevin a phone number. When he hangs up after about a minute, Kevin then calls that number and tells the stranger on the line that he got a call from someone (he uses a pseudonym to protect his mother’s identity). Every time, the phone number is different.
The stranger on the other line is usually a girl, a Joseonjok girl. The woman gives Kevin a South Korean bank account number, to which Joseph wires $1,000. He then sends the woman a text message using Kakao Talk (a Korean smartphone application that’s similar to Whatsapp), texting that he sent the $1,000. After receiving the message, the Joseonjok lady sends a message to another Joseonjok living in North Korea. This person will then notify Kevin’s family via their legal domestic cell phones that the money has arrived so that Kevin’s mother can go to that individual’s location, or the underground financial house, to pick up her $700 in Chinese RMB. The two middlemen take 30 percent of the requested money and split the commission. The whole transaction, part of the small underground financing system inside the country, can take place in as little as 20 minutes.
Cell phones are essential in allowing for these illicit networks, activities and conversations to exist. The legal cell phone networks inside North Korea, of which the Egyptian telecom company Orascom owns 70 percent, will not allow ordinary North Korea citizens to make international calls. So the estimated 200-2,000 calls made between North and South Korea every day make use of cell phone networks throughout China (especially close to the border, where the cellular connection from the Chinese towers are powerful) and North Korea. The networks themselves are not illegal. It’s the use of them by North Koreans that constitute the illegality. Some people who have been caught making international calls have been publicly executed. The North Korean government has very elaborate machinery and systems to detect cellular usage, which compels people to walk miles from their homes to make a call that lasts a few minutes, then walk a few more miles away from the location of the first call in order to avoid being detected. And yet these networks, and North Koreans’ use of them, are proliferating.
Also smuggled to Kevin's mum - medicine, mobile phones, DVD player....
Though I somehow doubt that Kevin is his real name.
Roger Boyes, in the Times (£), on "feeble Obama":
Dictators are most likely to take the path of conciliation with the west when they are on the ropes, yet no pressure is being put on them to pay the price of political rehab. Bashar al-Assad last week lamented the lack of Syrian military manpower. His message was directed at Iran, his chief sponsor. Don’t desert me, he was pleading, just because you now have a deal with the US. If I fall, you lose too.
Bashar doesn’t have to worry, though. Cash and guns will still flow from Iran. And Obama is not going to touch him either. Not as long as he surrenders the moral argument by co-opting bad guys in the name of regional stability. Obama entered the White House committed to ending imperial overstretch, winding down two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That mission, though, has mutated into an almost dogmatic reluctance to use force or coercive diplomacy.
Even the dimmest autocrat now grasps he can rule with impunity and that the age of western-influenced regime change is over. It wasn’t long ago that tyrants like Saddam Hussein ended on the gallows calling “Down with the traitors!” Now their last words, spoken in palaces surrounded by fawning courtiers, are more likely to be the gasped details of their numbered Swiss bank accounts.
It’s pretty much official: the US administration no longer considers anything worth fighting for beyond a direct and verifiable-in-triplicate threat to the homeland. Its allies are split between the relieved, the discomfited, the nervous and the downright perplexed. Perhaps no one is more bewildered than the Kurdish fighter who for the past year has considered himself, proudly, to be President Obama’s man-on-the-ground in the war against Isis in Syria — and who is today being bombarded by a Nato ally, Turkey, with the apparent approval of the US.
The result: moral confusion all round. America’s allies are being built up and then left hanging in the wind. Human rights are promoted and then betrayed. Obama wanted to leave behind him a world that conformed to rules of good behaviour, to international norms. Instead, through his lack of consistency, his over-eagerness to abandon the principles of strong, democratic foreign policymaking in exchange for imaginary future gains, much of the world will be pleased to see him go.
In the old cold war days the US would support "our bastards": nasty autocrats who survived, with American backing, as bulwarks against the spread of communism. (The phrase supposedly originated with Franklin Roosevelt, when Secretary of State Sumner Welles said of the then Nicaraguan leader, "Somoza's a bastard!" "Yes, but he's our bastard", Roosevelt replied.) It would have been the easy option for George W. Bush to treat Saddam the same way. Certainly if it was all about oil, as so many claimed, then a deal would have been by far the easier option - with plenty of historical precedents. But Bush decided that Saddam was a tyrant too far: that holding one's nose while shaking hands with a man of Saddam's blood-drenched record was no longer an option, despite the fact that the US had previously supported Saddam in the war against Iran. There were limits as to the kind of people the US would deal with.
Now Obama has reversed all that. But, not content with returning to the old "our bastards" days, he's moved straight to "bastards". Any old tyrant will do - they don't have to be ours. They don't have to be support us, or make any but the most superficial concessions. Just as long as they're not directly and specifically threatening the US - general insults like "death to America" are fine - he'll deal with them.
The Tim Hunt affair was well over a month ago, and the dust has settled. Cathy Young, in Reason, looks back and puts it all together in perhaps the clearest exposition of the whole wretched business that we're likely to get. What, she wonders, would have happened if the original three complainants, St Louis, Blum and Oransky, had reported Sir Tim's speech accurately?
And here’s the answer: There would have been no story to report. If an accurate account of the luncheon and of Hunt’s remarks had appeared in a general report on the conference, his joke would probably have offended a few of the Sisters of Perpetual Grievance. But it’s unlikely that the outrage would have spread far and wide.
In her latest blogpost on the Hunt scandal, [Louise] Mensch catalogues numerous misleading, contradictory, and self-contradictory statements by Hunt’s accusers, suggesting that they have been knowingly dishonest. This is an extremely serious charge that is difficult to prove or disprove—it is just as possible that they simply saw the events through the filter of their own biases. A deliberate conspiracy to frame an innocent scientist for misogyny seems far-fetched; more likely, St. Louis and her allies were genuinely offended by Hunt’s remark about his "trouble with girls," allowed their offended sensibilities to color their perception of the rest of his comments, and ran with what they thought was a bombshell of a story....
Of course, the rest of the media and the commentariat did little better in their rush to judgment. No one bothered to ask how plausible it was that a scientist who had worked with women and was married to a prominent female scientist actually believed women should be relegated to their own all-girl labs—and would stand up and say that to a roomful of female scientists and journalists. The "sexist scientist" narrative was too good. As Guardian commentator Ann Perkins wrote with open glee, "The mask has not so much slipped as crashed to the floor. … Here at last is someone who has come out with it. Women at work are a nuisance." Jarringly, Perkins called this "a moment to savor"—not, as some thought, because of Hunt’s humiliation, but because he had supposedly laid bare the pervasive hidden misogyny women face.
East 14th St., New York City, 1975:
From a gallery of photographer Michael Tighe's NYC portraits from the 1970s. Quite a few of the subjects I'd never heard of, despite being supposedly famous in their time. They had their fifteen minutes, I suppose. (Yes, Andy Warhol's there.)
Palestinian cleric Sheikh Khaled Al-Maghrabi preaching on the delights of martyrdom, and the number of virgins you can expect in paradise, to children on the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem. All part of summer camp at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Halfway through, a passer-by calls him out:
Listen Sheikh, they do not understand what you are saying. They are children. You are talking to them about ribat, martyrdom, and the virgins of paradise. Shame on you. You can teach these lessons to (adults) like us, not to them. Look at these children. Look at what you are planting in their minds... Shame on you.
But the priest carries on, while the children chant:
Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews.
The army of Muhammad will return...
Ribat, apparently, originally referred to the defence of Islam, and a murabit is one who performs ribat. Now, though, it seems to be used to refer to those carrying out jihad against the infidels. A murabit, the sheikh is keen to emphasise, gets seventy virgins in paradise, while the ordinary common-or-garden martyr has to make do with just two. The young children in his audience are no doubt excited at this news - especially the many young girls.
The mosque was closed off, incidentally, because of yesterday's riots.
More on Jeremy Corbyn, this time from Ian Moss at Labour Uncut:
The internet enables those that believe in absurd propositions to find a whole community of people that will back them up with some great pseudo-science to arm them in debate. Anyone with a social media account can see the result of this community of misinformation every day in the hyper-concerned postings of the disappointingly credulous. This same echo chamber of inaccuracy is what currently allows the hard left to believe a great electoral future is available for their policies based on wild counter-factuals on how voters might behave when faced with a regressive, leftist policy programme.
Of course one of the most obviously absurd positions Jeremy Corbyn takes is that he supports actual homeopathy and he signed an Early Day Motion to that effect. I have no doubt that he is a very firm believer in the placebo effect; that is what he offers in politics- simplistic views on tax, on public services and on welfare that will not work, and offer no credible analysis of how to improve the lot of the people Labour is there to represent.
The rhetorical history of grievance Corbyn is peddling in this contest – that Labour isn’t left wing enough; that it hasn’t offered an alternative to the Tories; that the way to resolve all problems is more spending and more state control – may be tested again. But on this, the evidence of voters faced with a fiscally irresponsible left wing Labour party has a repeated experiment in history that returns the same result. From that evidence there is no doubt that the public, in a clear majority, know that the homeopathic remedies don’t work.
Back to the Beeb. Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi this time, on Saudi hypocrisy:
If you watch Saudi television, as I sometimes do, you will quickly realise that Saudi Arabia is tragicomically caught in the huge gap between the image it tries to project and the reality it pretends does not exist.
Last Saturday was such a moment.
After the announcement that the interior ministry had broken up terror cells linked to so-called Islamic State (IS) and arrested some 400 suspects, Saudi commentators took to the airwaves. They praised the police for thwarting planned terrorists attacks and, crucially, noted the young age of the suspects, most of whom were Saudis.
They talked about how Saudi society could steer those stray, lost souls back to the path of true Islam and away from extremism.
The irony couldn't have escaped anyone who knows Saudi Arabia well.
How could this ultra-conservative monarchy fight extremism when its own brand of the faith - known as Wahhabi Islam - is barely distinguishable from the one practised by the militants in Syria and Iraq?
Both feature strict separation of the sexes, the obligatory covering of women from head to toe, public executions and a virulent hatred of Shia Muslims and all other forms of Islam.
And both share a visceral animosity to Christianity and Judaism, the two Middle Eastern religions which predated Islam and whose followers should be, according to the Koran, respected and protected.
But not only is Saudi Arabia the birthplace of Islam, it has also used its enormous oil wealth to export its own brand of the faith to the whole world - from Pakistan to north Africa and to Muslim communities in America and Western Europe....
While many have pointed the finger of blame at Wahhabism, or the rise of Islamism as a social and political phenomenon, others have directed their aim at the institutions of mainstream Islam itself.
To this day, it is not uncommon, for example, to hear the imam at the end of the Friday sermon in any Arab capital cursing the infidels and the Jews.
Critics have argued that without a radical reform of the tradition that puts Islam above - or in conflict with - the rest of the world, Islamism, just like the mythological hydra, will just continue to grow new heads.
The Turkish government has long been accused of at best turning a blind eye to the rise of IS - and at worst, actively backing the jihadists against the Assad regime. It has always denied the allegation.
But last week came the suicide bombing in Suruc, southern Turkey, in which 32 died and which Turkey blamed on a militant trained by IS. And then a firefight in which IS forces shot at Turkish border guards. That was, it appears, the final catalyst for Turkish involvement.
But Ankara's strategy is complex. Alongside the IS strikes, Turkey has now bombed several PKK positions and arrested hundreds of suspected members of the group.
That, too, was prompted by last week's violence, after the PKK killed Turkish police officers in the wake of the Suruc bombing, in retaliation for what they saw as Turkey's collaboration with IS. Could Washington's tacit toleration of the PKK strikes have been the price of Ankara's involvement against IS?
Critics believe Turkey is only striking the jihadists as cover for going after its real enemy: the Kurds. Ankara's reluctance to hit IS earlier, the argument goes, was actually a reluctance to help Kurds fighting IS militants. Now both can be bombed, Turkey is willing to get involved.
But there's also potentially a domestic political consideration.
In June's general election, the governing AK Party lost its majority and is now in coalition talks to form a government. If that fails, new elections would have to be held in which President Erdogan would hope the AKP could win back nationalist voters who had drifted away. By hitting the PKK and potentially ending the peace process - despised by nationalists - he could well achieve that and regain the AKP majority he craves.
The danger, though, is that this two-pronged attack will expose Turkey to more attacks by IS and foment more violence among Turkey's Kurdish minority, spurred by the PKK.
Forty-thousand people died during the 30-year armed conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state. Turkey can ill afford a return to the bad old days of the 1990s. But the ghosts of the past could be reawakened.
A perilous game indeed.
Well, that's just what the area needs: for Turkey to be drawn into the maelstrom.
15,000 ft above sea level, in Tibet:
Namtso means "heavenly lake", so the correct translation is Lake Nam, not Lake Namtso. It's the highest salt water lake in the world.
The lack of ripples around the yak suggests that the wretched beast is stuck. Or - more likely - its clever owner sticks it in the lake during the tourist season and charges photographers for the privilege. Either way, that doesn't look like a happy yak to me.