30 September 2009

A bit of Podge and Rodge

Enjoy a couple of scary stories from Irish TVs biggest stars Padraig Judas and Rodraig Spartacus O'Leprosy, aka Podge and Rodge. I give you the vampire Leprechaun and Little Green Fellas for your scary delight

Shock research discovers that meeting pretty women makes men feel good

According to the Telegraph researchers found that just being in the presence of a pretty member of the opposite sex causes a temporary boost in levels of testosterone and cortisol. However hanging around with other men has the opposite affect – reducing the levels of both substances in the body.

The researchers at the University of California carried out the study to see if humans replicated the boost found in animals known as the “mating response”. They recruited 149 male students aged between 18 and 24 with a third interacting with a male researcher of 25 and the others talking to one of seven young female undergraduates aged 18 to 22.

After the short five minute sessions the men were asked to rate the physical attractiveness of the women between one and seven. The average was 5.83 showing they found them alluring.
The participants then swished with mouthwash before providing a sample of saliva into a collection vial which was tested within 20 to 40 minutes of exposure to the women.

Psychologists found that just a five minute talk with an attractive women raised the levels of testosterone by 14 per cent and the anti-stress hormone cortisol by 48 per cent. Spending the same time with men saw the hormones drop two per cent and seven per cent respectively.

Dr Leslie Knapp, a biological anthropologist at the University of Cambridge, said the response was evolutionary and was to do with finding and competing for possible mates. “It all boils down to sex,” she said. “High levels of testosterone are associated with boosting sexual performance whereas cortisol helps focus your energy and helps you deal with anxiety.”

Err why am I not surprised! The researchers should have observed this overweight, talentless loser last year at a picnic in Versailles with several talented, charming and beautiful Iranian women.... or dinner with six talented, charming and beautiful Iranian women and a Finnish dancer. They could have seen the testosterone and cortisol fountaining from the top of my head through a reopened fonatnelle!

28 September 2009

Shostakovich Symphony No 13 "Babi Yar"

The first part of Shostakovich's 15th symphony "Babi Yar" . Thanks to Modernity Blog and Simply Jews for giving me the idea to post this

A man bites dog story: van Meegeren forgery proved genuine masterpiece

The work of a great master being condemned as a fake is remarkable but not totally unusual; the work of a forger being hailed as a genuine work is far, far rarer. But this is what has happened at the Courtauld Institute of Art according to Telegraph. Nearly half a century after it was first deemed to be a forgery, albeit a brilliant forgery, scientific research has concluded the painting is an authentic work that may have even hung in the house of the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer.

Courtauld’s latest research has revealed that The Procuress is a version of the 1622 brothel scene by the eminent Dutch painter, Dirck van Baburen and is depicted in the background of two works by Vermeer.

The Courtauld acquired the work in 1960 after it was donated as a van Meegeren and duly accepted it as a rare offering from one of most famed and gifted forgers of all time. The donor Professor Geoffrey Webb had served in Germany just after the Second World War. He received the painting in the Netherlands as a gift for helping with the restitution of works of art. He believed it was a Van Meegeren fake which had been recovered by the Dutch authorities in 1945 from the forger's villa in Nice.

van Meegeren painting for his life

Van Meegeren was possibly the greatest art forger of the 20th Century. He forged works from some of the world's most famous artists, especially Vermeer. He was exposed in 1945 after being accused of treason after selling a “newly-discovered” Vermeer to Hermann Goering. He saved his neck literally by painting for his life

Sadly The Procuress is not on view to the public due to its fragile condition, but may be viewed by appointment at the Courtauld.

27 September 2009

Will Polanski finally face the music?

I go to the BBC website find out who won the Singapore Grand Prix (Lewis Hamilton by the way) and I see the headline that Roman Polanski has been taken into custody in Switzerland on a 31-year-old US arrest warrant.Polanski was detained on yesterday as he arrived in Switzerland to collect a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival.

The Swiss justice ministry said he was being held ahead of a possible extradition to the US for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Mr Polanski fled the US in 1978 after pleading guilty to the charges. In recent years, he has tried to have the rape case dismissed, but a US judge formally rejected his requests in May. He claims the original judge, who is now dead, arranged a plea bargain but later reneged. Earlier this year, Judge Peter Espinoza agreed there was misconduct by the judge in the original case, but said Mr Polanski must return to the US to apply for dismissal.

Mr Polanski's lawyers said he would not return to the US because he would be immediately arrested as a fugitive. The victim, Samantha Geimer, has previously asked for the charges to be dropped, saying the continued publication of details "causes harm to me, my husband and children".

The Swiss justice ministry said on Sunday that Mr Polanski was being held under a 2005 international alert issued by the US government related to a 1978 arrest warrant. He will not be sent to the US until extradition proceedings were complete, the ministry added.

Polanski has not set foot in the US for more than 30 years. He has even avoided making films in the UK for fear of extradition.

France's culture minister said he was "dumbfounded" by Mr Polanski's detention in Switzerland. Frederic Mitterrand said he "strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them". He added that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was "following the case with great attention and shares the minister's hope that the situation can be quickly resolved".

The organisers of the Zurich Film Festival said Polanski's detention had caused "shock and dismay," but that they would go ahead with a planned retrospective of the director's work. A special ceremony is planned for Sunday night "to allow everyone to express their solidarity for Roman Polanski and their admiration for his work," festival managers said in a statement.

Polanski is a superb director, there is no doubt, but he fucked a 13 year old after plying her with alcohol and drugs. He has spend the ensuing three decades avoiding the consequences of his crime. Had it been an electrician or the guy who cleaned the swimming pool I’m sure the people who are “shocked and dismayed” at his arrest would have been baying for his blood.

Personally I hope he is returned to the US and serves an appropriate sentence. Artistic merit is not relevant in this case. Frederic Mitterand wouldn’t be dumfounded the next time a child rapist is arrested in France, he and those who can’t accept that a great director should be punished for his acts should stick his crocodile tears where the the sun doesn’t shine.

Wil he actually face punishment for his crime? Sadly I don't hold out too much hope.

Trafigura and more pollution problems

Having gotten away with a derisory payment of just £30m to victims of an appalling pollution disaster in Abidjan, the Independent reports that it has refused to co-operate with an investigation into an explosion in a Norwegian fjord involving waste from one of its ships.

Hundreds of residents of the Norwegian village of Slovag fell ill in May 2007 when a huge tank holding waste from low-quality oil processed on behalf of Trafigura caught fire and exploded, leading to one of the worst pollution incidents in Norway's history as a cloud of sulphurous smoke rose over the surrounding area.

A prosecution of three individuals linked to Vest Tank, the Norwegian company which ran the processing operation on Norway's west coast, is due to begin in November and will hear evidence of how Trafigura sent six shipments totalling 150,000 tonnes of cheap and dirty coker gasoline to Slovag in 2006 and 2007.

Trafigura is not being prosecuted in Norway in relation to the explosion and there is no suggestion it was responsible for the disaster. But Norwegian police told The Independent that the company has refused repeated requests to interview a number of its employees involved with the shipments.

Tarjei Istad, a senior investigator from Norway's national economic and environmental crime force Okokrim, said: "As a result of our investigation [into the 2007 explosion] we are interested in speaking to some Trafigura employees who were on the side of the business that dealt with Vest Tank. This has not happened. Trafigura have attempted to set conditions before they decide whether to allow these interviews. Our understanding is that Trafigura is not willing to allow these interviews. We are satisfied we have sufficient evidence from elsewhere, but it is a pity that Trafigura will not agree to co-operate."

The explosion on 24 May 2007 took place after Vest Tank struck a deal with traders in Trafigura's London offices to treat its coker gasoline – bought at bargain prices from Mexico – with caustic soda, so as to create a low-octane petrol. The resulting substance was further treated at a refinery in Estonia to create a fuel with a high sulphur content, which meant it could not be sold in Europe but was permitted for sale in Africa.

The Norwegian authorities allege Vest Tank did not hold the correct permits to carry out the caustic soda "washing" of Trafigura's gasoline or to process the waste from the procedure which contained mercaptan sulphur. Vest Tank insists it did have permission.

The Slovag explosion took place nine months after waste from the Probo Koala, a tanker chartered by Trafigura, was illegally dumped in the Ivory Coast port of Abidjan by a sub-contractor. The foul-smelling waste was produced while the Probo Koala was anchored off Gibraltar conducting the same caustic soda treatment on a cargo of coker gasoline as that used in Norway. Trafigura insists the waste was dumped in Abidjan without its knowledge.

The first Slovag residents knew of the process being conducted at Vest Tank's terminal was when a plume of mercaptan-laden smoke rose into the air. Norwegian authorities said hundreds of people fell ill.

A spokesman for Trafigura said it would not comment on a continuing investigation, adding: "Trafigura complied fully with the relevant regulations in its dealings with Vest Tank's owners."

Trafigura have denied any responsibility for the pollution problems in Ivory Coast, expressing utter shock that the contractor disposed of their waste irresponsibly. I’m sure they are just as “horrified” at event in Norway. But then their dealings in the dregs of the oil business gives some indication of the measure of the company: a bunch of unprincipled bottom feeders.

I would like to think that their reputation is mud but I can only imagine that among their peers they are nothing special.

25 September 2009

Photo Hunt - Twisted

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is twisted. I have been pretty apathetic about taking photos this year, Paris excepted, so rather than a picture of a morning glory coiled around some twine, here's a reflection of the Louvre pyramid, duly distorted... This time I've not only stretched but utterly twisted the theme!

A Fillum Review from the KFA

It’s been a while since I visited the website of Korea’s Foul Apologists, sorry that should be the Korean Friendship Association. It was just as well as I found a wonderful post from England’s premier fan of Juche and Songun, Fuckwit, err Dermot Hudson in which he praises a recent North Korean film to the high heavens. The film in question is The Voice Calling Me. Here is his review:

... Just watched a DVD of a newish DPRK film “Voices Calling Me”. This tells the story of the land rezoning campaign in the DPRK centring on father and son bulldozers (bulldozer drivers or perhaps they really are father and son vehicles, called “Dear Leader” and “Spirit of Stakhanov” or the North Korean equivalent.)

I found one of the most impressive and moving scenes is when the army arrives to help in the project a practical example of army–people unity.

There is a beautiful scene near the end when a mass meeting is held to present the bulldozer driver with a membership card of the WPK.

So there you have it. When you have films like that who needs Citizen Kane?

I was so taken by the review that I resolved to find a copy for myself but does Amazon stock it or can I rent it from Lovefilm? Can I hell! Mercifully a copy is available here for the utterly reasonable price of 25 Euros. Unfortunately it does not seem to have English subtitles. Ah well it’s Korean lessons for me then...

Some happier news – Sea Eagles

A sea eagle chick...

While I can imagine that the Daily Mail would talk about evil immigrant predators breeding like rabbits it is pleasing to see further news that the reintroduction of the sea eagle to the UK has been a resounding success. Today’s Times reports that the number of sea eagle chicks hatched in Scotland has reached its highest level in 150 years.

According to the RSPB 36 chicks were successfully hatched in 2009, eight more than last year. Two new breeding pairs were seen during its annual survey. The species was hunted to extinction in Britain in the last century (the last one was shot in 1918) but has been reintroduced to Scotland, where there are believed to be at least 200 birds and 46 breeding pairs.

The Sea Eagles Project to reintroduce the birds to Scotland started in 1975 and involves RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland. Last year 44 pairs of breeding birds produced 28 chicks, a record year for the species since the project began. In 2009, two new pairs were found on the Isle of Lewis and Lochaber. A further 20 young birds will be brought to Scotland every year for the next three years.

...grows into this magificent creature

Five of the eaglets will be monitored to help wildlife experts understand more about their habits and keep up with their progress. The chairman the Sea Eagle Project team, Colin Galbraith, of Scottish Natural Heritage, said that the record number of the birds now living in Scotland was important progress. “This is the result of a huge effort by many people over the past 30 years, he said. It shows what can be done to reinstate a key part of our natural heritage. It remains important however for the population, especially the newly released birds in the east of the country, to be allowed to fully settle in and establish territories.”

Robyn does not approve of untidy tables

This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

24 September 2009

Argentine Dirty War suspect arrested

According to the BBC Transavia pilot Julio Alberto Poch, has been arrested in Spain over his alleged role in Argentina's 1976-1983 "Dirty War". He was held at Valencia airport as he was about to fly a passenger plane to Amsterdam, Spanish officials say.

Poch, who has dual Dutch and Argentine nationalities, is said to have been a military pilot at Argentina's Naval Mechanics School – an infamous torture and detention centres of the Argentine military regime. He is alleged to have been involved in the so-called "death flights", in which political prisoners of Argentina's military were drugged and dumped into the sea from the planes.

It is expected that the Argentine Government will ask for his extradition to face trial. Argentine judge Sergio Torres had previously called for the Netherlands to extradite Poch at the end of 2008, after he received testimony from witnesses implicating him in the "death flights".

Judge Torres says he has proof that Poch was involved in the abuses at the ESMA, naval mechanics school. Torres received testimony from a Transavia pilot who said Poch had described to him how the regime's political opponents were thrown into the sea.

"He told me that on board his planes, people were thrown into the sea while still alive with the goal of killing them, and he justified the practice by saying that the people were terrorists," the pilot told the criminal investigation. Another source's testimony also implicates Poch for having "flown regular flights during which groups of people were thrown from his plane into the sea."

Some 30,000 people disappeared during the military dictatorship in Argentina, according to human rights organisations.

If there is enough evidence to extradite Poch I hope he is sent back to Aragentina to face trial. If he is guilty then he deserves to rot in prison for the rest of his worthless life.

Muammar the Magnificent bombs New York

Muammar fails to impress with his walnut cracking routine

Err that should have been “bombs in New York” Surprisingly after 40 years at the top of the Libyan comedy circuit Muammar had never had the chance to play New York until yesterday.

Dressed in saffron robes and a black felt hat Muammar the Magnificent grabbed his 15 minutes of fame during an open mic night at the UN building in New York and ran with it. He ran with it so hard he stretched it to an hour and 40 minutes, six times longer than his allotted slot, to the dismay of organisers.

Sadly his ventriloquism routine did not impress either

Gaddafi fully lived up to his reputation for eccentricity, bloody-mindedness and extreme verbiage. Opening his act with one of his trademark acts of strength he tore up a copy of the UN charter in front of a startled audience he then accused the security council of being an al-Qaida like terrorist body, called for George Bush and Tony Blair to be put on trial for the Iraq war, demanded $7.7tn in compensation for the ravages of colonialism on Africa, and wondered whether swine flu was a biological weapon created in a military laboratory. At one point, he even demanded to know who was behind the killing of JFK.

Sadly Muammar the Magnificent’s trademark style did not go down well, Critics were united in panning his act agreeing that he had blown his chance of the big time after 20 years in the wilderness.

While it works for some acts he chose the wrong audience to insult blatantly. It was not a good idea to turn his wrath on to America, Britain, France, Russia and China - the permanent members of the Security Council, or "terror council" as he renamed it. Their veto was tantamount to terrorism. "This is terrorism, like the terrorism of al-Qaida. Terrorism is not just al-Qaida, it takes many forms.”

Muammar was distressed when he didn't get an encore

He then suddenly changed tack, heaping praise and devotion on the one man he appears to respect. "Now the black man doesn't have to sit in the back of the bus, the American people made him president and we are proud of that. We would be happy if Obama stayed president of America forever." Despite this it was clear that he would not be working in that town again

His agent made told an audience at a subsequent Q&A session that Muammar the Magnificent was suffering from severe frustrations having been banned from pitching a tent in Central Park. On a brighter note it was announced that he would be would be supporting Tommy Tiernan (qv) on a 16 date tour of Leitrim and Cavan in November. Tommy Tiernan is said to be relieved that he now has a support act guaranteed not to be funnier than he is

23 September 2009

Les Secrets de Morphee - Lyn

From France

According to the BBC Iranian police have warned shopkeepers not to display female mannequins without a hijab, or showing bodily curves. Displays of bow ties and neckties, and the sale of women's underwear by men are also banned.

"Un-Islamic behaviour" has been targeted since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's first election in 2005. "Using unusual mannequins exposing body curves and with heads without hijabs [Muslim veils] are prohibited to be used in the shops," police said i

Ach there goes my dream of selling Janet Reger knickers in Tehran. Is there a point to this post? Well it does further wreck my chance of getting an Iranian visa I suppose. Oh and it does give me the chance to post stock photos of mannequins...

22 September 2009

WW- Candles II

Candles in a Paris church. This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of Wordless Wednesday.

Fertile Lands and Mammoth Cheese

It's been a while shince I've posted some bad poetry. So here's a but of James McIntyre, Canada's bard of cheese. Enjoy!

Fertile Lands and Mammoth Cheese

In barren district you may meet
Small fertile spot doth grow fine wheat,
There you may find the choicest fruits,
And great, round, smooth and solid roots.

But in conditions such as these
You cannot make a mammoth cheese,
Which will weigh eight thousand pounds,
But where large fertile farms abounds.

Big cheese is synonymous name,
With the fertile district of the Thame,
Here dairy system's understood,
And they are made both large and good.

21 September 2009

Fireworks III

Trafigura gets away with a small change settlement

The BBC reported yesterday that 30,000 victims of the Trafigura-caused toxic waste disaster in Abidjan are being offered £1,000 each in compensation.

The payout offer amounts to about £30m in total – a little over more than 10% of Trafigura's declared annual profits. Trafigura also provided £100m to the government of Ivory Coast in 2007 to pay for a clean-up and to make some payments to the families of 16 people who had died.

The confidential negotiations are likely to include a further payment for the costs of the British law firm Leigh Day, which took on the case on a no-win, no-fee basis and is thought to have risked more than £10m. Leigh Day's original claim for the victims was for another £100m, which would have given them just over £3,000 each.

Marvin Outtarra, described as the president of the Union of Victims of Toxic Waste, told Reuters: "This compensation to be shared equally among all the victims doesn't work for me. Trafigura has given no compensation to the families of the deceased and the amount of compensation of 750,000 CFA francs does not vary based on the severity of the injuries." London-based Trafigura declared profits of $440m (£270m) last year on turnover of more than $70bn. Its traders are reported to receive annual bonuses of up to $1m.

On a happier note Yesterday’s Observer said it would continue legal action against Trafigura. The organisation wants Trafigura prosecuted for manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, citing documents it says demonstrate the waste's high toxicity. Trafigura also faces a Dutch prosecution for allegedly lying about the true nature of its waste.

Greenpeace said of Trafigura's strategy: "Justice is not a commodity to be bought and sold: only when those who are responsible are prosecuted under the full force of the law and made to pay for their crime will environmental legislation become a force to be reckoned with."

The Ivorian National Federation of Victims, which says it represents nearly all the victims, accused Trafigura of trying to avert a public trial. Denis Pipira Yao, the group's president, told Reuters in Abidjan: "As people are poor in Africa, Trafigura is using money to get away with it."

I hope this derisory settlement is not the last we hear of this. It would be good to read of Turckheim’s imprisonment on manslaughter charges and the bankruptcy of this amoral rabble. Sadly I won’t hold my breath.

20 September 2009


Iran protests - and still they continue!

Three months after Stalinist relic George Galloway vouchsafed that the protestors were not representative of the people of Iran and that the protest would fizzle out, anti government protests are back with a vengeance.

Last week on tens of thousands of protestors used the annual Al Quds Day rally as a way to voice their opposition against Ahmadinejad’s illegitimate government,

While Ahmadinejad drivelled on repeating his vile Holocaust denial riot police beat protesters who were pelting them with stones in the central Haft-e Tir Square. They also fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators who chanted: "Torture and rape are not effective any more."

They also chanted "Not Gaza, Not Lebanon. We are ready to die for Iran."

Protests were not confined to Ahmadinejad’s foul speech and the idiotic anti-Israel demonstration. According to today’s Observer television coverage of an Iranian football match was blacked-out because sections of the crowd were chanting anti-government slogans and waving green emblems.

Coverage of a premier league match between Esteghlal and Steel Azin took place at Tehran's Azadi stadium just hours after the Al-Quds Day was disrupted apparently after bosses of the state broadcaster, Irib, learned of the presence of protesters inside the stadium.

According to Iranian websites, the match was initially broadcast for a few minutes in black-and-white without crowd noise to show that technical problems were being experienced. The transmission then cut back to a studio presenter who said that the problems had arisen because Irib had "sent only one camera to the stadium".

Eventually the match was shown nearly an hour late, again without sound and with close-up shots focusing solely on the pitch and editing out the 70,000 spectators.
The news website Mehr described the live broadcast failure as "unprecedented". Aziz Mohammadi, the head of Iran's premier league, blamed it on Esteghlal's refusal to agree to a 15-minute kick-off delay to give extra preparation time to cameramen who, he said, had been under added pressure because of the earlier coverage of Quds Day. However, that explanation was dismissed by club bosses who said Irib had cited "technical problems" throughout the match.

The Mizan Press website – linked to the opposition National Religious party – said the real reason was the presence of supporters Mir Hossein Moussavi who was cheated of victory in June. "Following the self-motivated presence of the green wave in Azadi stadium, Irib did not cover live the Esteghlal-Steel Azin match," it wrote. "Irib's lie about camera malfunction and receiving only black-and-white images from inside the stadium was uncovered an hour later by the colour transmission using close-up and specially edited frames. In these images the spectators were not shown at all."

Suspicions that the broadcast was delayed deliberately were bolstered by reports from listeners who said they heard chants in support of Mousavi during a live radio broadcast of the game. It was the second time on Friday that TV bosses had been blindsided by opposition protests. Hours earlier, Ahmadinejad was publicly embarrassed during a live interview when opposition chants of "Ahmadi, Ahmadi, resign, resign" could clearly be heard while he was speaking.

The incident also exposed the authorities' sensitivity to expressions of dissent in sporting arenas, especially football, which has an avid following in Iran. Days after the disputed election, four members of Iran's national team were banned from the game after displaying their support for Mousavi by wearing green wristbands during a World Cup qualifying match against South Korea.

It all goes to show that the protests are not over. There may not be the huge spontaneous demonstrations we saw in June but the protestors are just as motivated to get their message over. These are not the “Gilded Youth” of North Tehran as regime apologists like Seumas Milne and George Galloway claim they are from all sections of Iranian society. Their fellow protestors have been beaten killed, arrested, even tortured and still they protest.. I am not sure I would be as brave as these people.

19 September 2009

Two songs by Jane Siberry

Two Canadian winners below, two canadian songs here! I don't think I've posted these two videos before. If I have enjoy them again. Both songs are from Jane Siberry's finest work When I was a Boy. It also contains her best known song Calling All Angels but I prefer these songs to that one

Iran, Trafigura and Vulture Funds and the scum that administer to follow tomorrow

What and where am I? There's a prize in it

UPDATE - Just like an Ice Hockey World series we Have a Canadian 1-2!

Claudia ssaid it was at the Musee D'Orsay and while it is the roof and not part of a painting that is close enough. So a copy of the Poor Mouth will be sent to her

I hope Knatolee likes Sibelius as she gets the prize for the strangest suggestion

So Claudia, Knatolee if you would get in contact via the email address on my profile I will make arrangements to sent you your prizes

Here's a little challenge. The first person to say what this is a photograph of wins a copy of Flann O'Brien's The Poor Mouth.

Addendum. You can have as many goes as you like. The strangest suggestion will get a Sibelius CD

NB This is pinned to the top of the blog. Scroll down for earlier posts

Arrr It Be Talk Like a Pirate Day Again

Scroll down for Photo Hunt

Well shipmates it be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!. Shiver me Timbers, Aarrrr, me salty sea-dogs.... and so on and so forth

As ever I post this instructional video to help those who are not proficient in Pirate.

18 September 2009

Photo Hunt - Upside Down (Refelction II)

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is upside down. Now I can't provide an image as wonderful as Cherie's. I simply can't find any actual photos of anything acttually upside down. Stretching the theme ever so slightly here is a pohto of flower baskets reflected in a stream in Bayeux. THe reflected images are upside down!

I can put my hand on my heart and say I did not manipulate the image at all

Forough Farrokhzad - Terrestrial Verses

Then the sun cooled
and fertility left the earth.

And vegetation withered in the fields
and the fish shriveled up in the oceans
and the earth
did not open its arm
to the dead.

Night stood in constant commotion
behind all the pale window-panes
like a dubious illusion
and the roads
lost their extension in the dark.

No one cared for love
no one cared for triumphs
and no one
ever cared for caring any more.

In caverns of loneliness
absurdity was born
blood reeked of bhang and opium
pregnant women
gave birth to headless infants
ad cradles for shame
buried themselves in graves.

What bitter black days!
bread had won over
the wonder of prophecy
hungry, helpless prophets
deserted divine havens
the lost lambs of Jesus
n longer heard their shepherd’s call.

In the eyes of mirrors
motion, color, and form
reflected in reverse
and a halo of holiness
glowed above the heads of uncouth clowns
around the shameless faces of whores
like a splendid canopy.

Swamps of alcohol
exuding dry, deadly gases
attracted to their lower depths
inert masses of intellectuals
while in antique cabinets.
pernicious rats gnawed
at the golden leaves of books.

The sun was dead
the sun was dead, and
in the minds of the children
was a half-lost, indeterminate concept,
in their notebooks
they marked
its quaint sense
with a big black blotch.

The fallen masses of people
heartsick, broken, stunned
dragged their ill-omened carcasses
from one alienation to another
and the will to kill
swelled in their hands.

Once in a while a spark, an infinitesimal spark
suddenly imploded
the silent stupor of their society,
they rushed at each other
daggers in hand, men
slit one another’s throats
and rolling in pools of blood
raped underage girls.

They were immersed in their fear
and a terrifying sense of sin
had stupefied
their blind, dull souls.

And in public hangings, often
as the hangmen’s rope
pushed out of its sockets
the bulging eyes of the condemned man
they sank inside themselves
And their tired old nerves felt alive
at some lusty sensation.

And yet you could always see
these little murderers
at the edge of the public square

and staring
at the continual downpour of water spray
from the fountain.

Perhaps still
some confused, half-alive something
lurked behind their emaciated eyes, deep in their frigid souls
which struggled feebly
to believe in the purity of the water’s words.

Perhaps—but what an endless void!
the sun was dead
and nobody knew
that the sad little dove
flown off from the hearts is called—faith.

Imprisoned voice!
will the glory of your despair
ever be a tunnel toward light
through the walls of this loathsome night?
Oh, imprisoned voice!
Oh, last of all voices…..

Boris in all his magnificence

This week's entry for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats.

17 September 2009

Trafigura open, candid and honest (hahaha)

The more I read about the awful events in Abidjan three years ago, the more I see Trafigura resorting to high priced lawyers to suppress any criticism of their actions. Over the past couple of years it has launched attacks on the Dutch and Norwegian press, forced an apology from the Times, demanded that the Guardian take down articles about the story and launched a libel case against the BBC

On 13 May Newsnight carried the Probo Koala story: I won’t repeat everything that was reported but here are the main points

Trafigura has always denied that the chemical waste was dangerous, but we have seen an analysis by the Dutch authorities which reveal it to be lethal.

Newsnight consulted a leading toxicologist, John Hoskins from the Royal Society of Chemistry. He said it would bring a major city to its knees. The waste includes tons of phenols which can cause death by contact, tons of hydrogen sulphide, lethal if inhaled in high concentrations and vast quantities of corrosive caustic soda and mercaptans which John Hoskins describes as "the most odorous compounds ever produced".

Reporters met Jean Francois Kouadio and his wife, Fidel. She had been eight months pregnant with their first child when the fumes swamped their home. Fidel gave birth prematurely and the boy, Jean Claude, died within a day. Their second child Ama Grace was born a year later. She too fell ill. The doctors said that Ama Grace "was suffering from acute glycaemia caused by the toxic wastes". They could do nothing for her and she died.

The medical reports state a "strong presumption" that the deaths of the two children were caused by exposure to the toxic waste and Jean Francois and Fidel now fear they will never become parents.

The reporters also visited the village of Djibi, just outside Abidjan. The head of Djibi, Esaie Modto, told us that every last person there fell ill, two thousand people: "There were women who miscarried, and that was very painful. But still, the worst was that three people, two adults and a girl were killed by the toxic wastes. That was very hard."

When Newsnight first investigated the toxic dumping scandal in 2007 one of Trafigura's founders Eric de Turckheim told Jeremy Paxman "these materials were not dangerous for human beings. It was smelly, but not dangerous."

The BBC also carried a statement from Trafigura date also 13 April, I won’t repeat statements available in other posts but here Trafigura stated categorically:

  • The Probo Koala's slops were a mixture of gasoline, water and caustic soda. According to analyses that Trafigura has seen, it is not possible that the content of the slops could have led to the deaths and widespread injuries which are alleged to have been caused by them. This is supported by independent expert evidence which Trafigura will present in the English High Court in autumn 2009.
  • Trafigura's own investigations did reveal that people living in the village of Akouedo (one of the places where the Probo Koala's slops were dumped by Compagnie Tommy) have suffered significant long-term health issues caused by over 40 years of commercial and domestic waste dumping. However, it does not know and will not speculate publicly as to where this waste originated.
  • Trafigura has always said that the appropriate place for this case to be heard is in court and we are not prepared to engage in a trial by media. Whilst we refute your allegations, in the light of the impending court hearing, Trafigura does not feel it is appropriate to deal with these matters via the media. We will demonstrate the strength of our case when the trial commences in the autumn."
Despite this Trafigura’s lawyer Carter Ruck and its PR company issued the following joint press release on 15 May 2009 stating that the company would sue the BBC for Libel

  • Trafigura Limited has today issued proceedings for libel against the BBC in the High Court in London. The action relates to a broadcast on the Newsnight programme on 13 May 2009 and three related stories on the BBC website, concerning the Probo Koala, a Trafigura-chartered vessel which discharged slops in Côte d’Ivoire in August 2006.
  • However, the BBC’s one-sided reports on 13 May were wildly inaccurate and libellous, leaving us with no choice but to take legal action. There was no justification or public interest in the BBC misleading its viewers in this way.
  • Trafigura has always denied that the slops caused the deaths and serious health consequences presented by the BBC – a position fully supported by independent expert evidence which will be presented to the Court in due course.

Once again we saw a high powered company using our ridiculous libel laws to suppress valid public interest stories. We saw it with Schillings and their counterproductive attempts to muzzle Craig Murray and Tim Ireland over Alisher Usmanov’s decidedly murky past. Trafigura used Carter-Ruck and the PR firm Bell Pottinger to stifle a vital news story.

The key contacts in the above release were Adam Tudor (Carter-Ruck) and Neil Cameron (Bell Pottinger). I wonder how they feel about the recent press reports which make it clear that Trafigura were lying all along. If I were either one of them I would feel pretty uncomfortable about dealing any further with the company. But then I am not an amoral shit who has no problem in taking on tainted cash.

Trafigura – Liars in the pursuit of filthy money

Count Eric de Turckheim Corporate Criminal

Trafigura have denied that they knowingly were involved in any wrong doing in respect of the dumping of waste in the Ivory Coast in 2006. My previous post sets out the company’s position as of yesterday. Basically Trafigura denies that the slops within the vessel the Probo Koala could not have caused fatalities or injuries (ie not dangerous), there was no plan to dump waste West Africa and besides everything was the fault of some Africans (so it really doesn’t count at all I suppose)

According to the website Newsnight revealed that the company knew exactly that the waste dumped in Ivory Coast in 2006 was hazardous. Furthermore there are smoking gun emails to support the point. Please go to the link above to view the emails. They are also available on the Guardian website.

Probo Koala

The chemical waste came from a ship called Probo Koala and in August 2006 truckload after truckload of it was illegally fly-tipped at 15 locations around Abidjan, the biggest city in Ivory Coast.

The story began four years ago at an oil refinery in Mexico, owned by the state company Pemex, or PMI.. In its chemical processes the refinery was producing a by-product - coker naptha, a dirty form of gasoline which could not be treated on site.

The e-mails which Newsnight has obtained reveal that Trafigura executives realised they could make a fortune by buying the dirty Mexican oil for next to nothing.One e-mail says: "This is as cheap as anyone can imagine and should make serious dollars."

However, to sell it on at a profit, Trafigura first had to find a cheap way to clean the coker naptha and lower its sulphur levels. Trafigura chartered the Probo Koala and while the ship was off the coast of Gibraltar poured tons of caustic soda and a catalyst into the dirty oil to clean it - a rough and ready process known as "caustic washing". The method is cheap, but it generates such dangerous waste that it is effectively banned in most places around the world.

The e-mails obtained by Newsnight show that in the months before the waste was dumped the company knew about the difficulties they would face in disposing of the waste. "This operation is no longer allowed in the European Union, the United States and Singapore" it is "banned in most countries due to the 'hazardous nature of the waste'", one e-mail warns.

Another e-mail points out that "environmental agencies do not allow disposal of the toxic caustic".The process left a toxic sulphurous sludge in the tanks of the Probo Koala.
Claiming that the waste was simply tank washings - the standard oil-water mixture produced by routine tank cleaning - Trafigura attempted to offload the waste in the Netherlands. However, when the waste was offloaded the smell was so strong, the emergency services were called. Samples were taken and Trafigura was told the waste was toxic and would cost hundreds of thousands of euros to treat safely.

However, Trafigura opted for the much cheaper option of reloading the waste and taking it elsewhere. It ultimately ended up in Ivory Coast. Evidence seen by Newsnight shows that knowledge of the waste and problems getting rid of it went to the very top of Trafigura and the company's President Claude Dauphin. The Trafigura e-mails say that Mr Dauphin was urging his team to "be creative" in how they dealt with the hazardous waste.

The contractor that they found in the end was Solomon Ugburogbu, the owner of a company called Tommy, which had no facilities to handle hazardous waste. Ugburogbu, is now serving a 20 year sentence for poisoning local people.

Trafigura has always denied and continues to deny any liability for events that occurred in Ivory Coast.In a statement to Newsnight on Wednesday the company said: "With regard to Trafigura's proposals for handling the treatment and disposal of the slops, Trafigura always sought to comply with the laws and regulations of the jurisdictions in which it operates."

The Quote The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.is attributed to Joseph Stalin. He may or may have not said it. Let me paraphrase the quote “The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a few Africans is just Trafigura making a dirty profit.

Victim (from the New York Times)

I would like Count Eric de Turckheim and his amoral minions to look this child Salam Oudrawogol in the eyes and say that they were not responsible from his pain. But then I suppose another lie would trip easy off their tongues...

Probo Koala - A Statement by Trafigura

Yesterday Trafigura included the following points in a statement of position about the dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan. It is was an addendum to a joint statement between the company and Leigh Day & Co in respect of a legal action being pursued by the latter against the former on behalf of Ivorian citizens who were affected by the dumping incident:

Following media enquiries and comments, Trafigura reiterates its long-held position as follows:

* The company has always maintained that the Probo Koala’s slops could not possibly have caused deaths and serious or long term injuries. Independent expert witnesses firmly support Trafigura in this stance.

* Although it was agreed by both parties that the UK group action case would only focus on causation, Trafigura has always denied and continues to deny any liability for events that occurred in the Ivory Coast. The company sought at all times to comply with all relevant regulations and procedures concerning the offloading of the Probo Koala’s slops in Abidjan. Compagnie Tommy was a fully licensed contractor, recommended to Trafigura by an experienced and reputable Ivorian shipping agent to handle the slops in a legal and responsible manner. Consequently, Trafigura cannot have foreseen the reprehensible and illegal way in which Compagnie Tommy then proceeded to dump the slops.

* Trafigura has consistently stated that the Probo Koala was returning from a routine commercial voyage to deliver a gasoline cargo in Lagos, Nigeria, when it stopped in Abidjan. Consequently, any suggestion that the vessel was sent to West Africa solely for the purpose of offloading its slops is entirely inaccurate.

The next post shows that they are liars

Trafigura - Corporate Criminals

This is taken from the lead story in today’s Independent. I want to find out more about this but initial reading indicates that Trafigura are the lowest form of scum.

A British oil trading giant has agreed to a multimillion-pound payout to settle a huge damages claim from thousands of Africans who fell ill from tonnes of toxic waste dumped illegally in one of the worst pollution incidents in decades.

Trafigura, a London-based company which bills itself as one of the world's largest oil traders, said it was in talks to reach a "global settlement" to the claim by 30,000 people from Ivory Coast, who brought Britain's largest-ever lawsuit after contaminated sludge from a tanker ship was fly-tipped under cover of darkness in August 2006.

The incident caused at least 100,000 residents from the west African country's capital Abidjan, to flood into hospitals and clinics complaining of breathing difficulties and sickness. Investigations by the Ivorian authorities suggested that the deaths of at least 10 people were linked to the waste. Trafigura has always insisted the foul-smelling slurry, dumped without its knowledge by a sub-contractor, could not have caused serious injury or illness.

The bitterly contested legal action has seen Trafigura repeatedly deploy one of Britain's most aggressive firms of lawyers to dispute reporting on the case by media outlets including the BBC. Under the deal, thousands of Ivorians who suffered short-term illnesses, including vomiting, diarrhoea and breathing difficulties, receive a payout understood to be set at several hundred pounds.

But the settlement, which is likely to be confirmed by the end of this month, will mean that claims of more serious injuries caused by the waste – including miscarriages, still births and birth defects – will now not be tested in the £100m court claim, which had been scheduled to start in London's High Court next month.

Trafigura, a privately-owned multinational which has 1,900 staff working in 42 offices around the world, last year claimed a turnover of $73bn (£44bn). The figure is double the entire GDP of Ivory Coast, where half the population of 21 million live on less than a dollar a day.
Internal Trafigura emails, obtained by Greenpeace, show that Trafigura struck a series of bargains on the international markets in 2005 and early 2006 to buy cheap and dirty petroleum, called coker gasoline, which the company believed could then be cleaned up at profit of £4m per cargo.

Rather than send the oil to a refinery, Trafigura used the Probo Koala, a Panamanian tanker chartered by the company since 2004, as a floating processing plant while it was anchored off Gibraltar. Using an ad hoc process of adding caustic soda and a catalyst to the coker gasoline, the oil was "cleaned" to produce a sellable fuel and a toxic sludge which sank to the bottom of the ship's tanks.

The precise composition of the waste is strongly disputed, with Trafigura vigorously denying it contained high concentrations of hydrogen sulphide, a potentially lethal poisonous gas. Problems began for Trafigura when it needed to dispose of the slurry. When the Probo Koala arrived in Amsterdam in July 2006 and tried to unload the contaminated slops, allegedly described as "watery cleaning liquids", the process caused a health alert and Trafigura was informed the cost of dealing with its by-product would rise from £17 per cubic metre to £800.
Rather than pay the estimated bill of £500,000, Trafigura ordered the waste to be pumped back on to the Probo Koala and the vessel travelled to west Africa laden with a cargo of unleaded petrol collected from a supplier in Estonia.

The first the four million inhabitants of Abidjan knew of their role in Trafigura's project was after darkness on 19 August 2006. A fleet of 12 trucks hired by a local waste contractor, Compagnie Tommy, which had only received its operating licence weeks earlier, offloaded the sulphurous sludge from the cargo vessel and deposited the waste at 18 locations around thecity. Hospital records showed that within hours thousands of patients were treated for complaints including nausea, breathlessness, headaches, skin reactions and a range of ear, nose, throat and pulmonary problems.

A United Nations report yesterday found that "there seems to be strong prima facie evidence that the reported deaths and adverse health consequences are related to the dumping". The study by the UN special rapporteur on human rights Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu levelled a series of criticisms against Trafigura, including claims that it had failed to check the ability of Compagnie Tommy to deal properly with the waste. The report said that Trafigura went ahead with the arrangement despite being told by Tommy that it intended to dispose of the sludge at Akouedo, a vast open-air waste site where hundreds of Ivorians earn a living by picking over the rubbish. Professor Ibeanu said: "Akouedo was not in any way equipped to treat the waste from the Probo Koala."

Bell-Pottinger, the London PR company working for Trafigura, responded by saying the report was "inaccurate" and "potentially damaging".

In a statement, Trafigura said: "The company has always maintained that the Probo Koala's slops could not possibly have caused deaths and serious or long-term injuries. Independent expert witnesses firmly support Trafigura in this stance.

"Compagnie Tommy was a fully-licensed contractor recommended to Trafigura by an experienced and reputable Ivorian shipping agent to handle the slops in a legal and responsible manner. Consequently, Trafigura cannot have foreseen the reprehensible and illegal way in which Compagnie Tommy then proceeded to dump the slops."

“Trafigura cannot have foreseen the reprehensible and illegal way in which Compagnie Tommy then proceeded to dump the slops." Oh for Christ’s Sake does Trafigura think we were born yesterday. When it decided not to pay £500k to clean out the Probo Loala’s tanks properlybut send it to West Africa if knew full well what it was doing. I hope that the company is taken to teh cleaners at the courts next month

Perhaps Bell-Pottinger (its PR firm) and Carter-Ruck (its law firm) can find better employment promoting and defending the integrity of the pile of dog shit at the corner of my street. Somehow I doubt that the dog shit would want to associate itself with such bottom feeders.

16 September 2009

A warning in French

I saw this poster several times in Paris last month. More to follow on this

Relics of the Little Flower on tour

Today’s Times reports that bodily remains of St Thérèse of Lisieux have arrived in Britain for a month-long tour of England and Wales.

Born in 1874 Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin, St Therese was a Carmelite Nun who is best known for the “Little Way” – carrying out even the most mundane tasks with love.

"Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."

In effect a good, ided a saintly life can come from the quotidian and not just the grandiose

St Terese died of tuberculosis in 1897. She was beatified in 1923 and canonised in 1925. She is, inter alia, the patron saint of AIDS sufferers and a patron saint of France

A casket containing pieces of St There’s thigh and foot bones will tour 28 centres of prayer and worship in England and Wales, starting at St John’s Catholic Cathedral in Portsmouth today.
Canon Dave Hopgood, of the cathedral, said: “It’s a great honour, not just for Catholics and Christians but it’s a great honour for the city, too. “People will come not just from our diocese but from the whole of the South of England. She was just an ordinary person who lived an ordinary life extraordinarily well. She was one of the great saints.”

A full list of places where St There’s relics will be on view can be found here. Not all of the locations are catholic – the relics will be on view at York Minster and Lancaster Cathedral.
Monsignor Keith Barltrop, the organiser of the tour, said

“St Thérèse has always been popular, I suppose for her simplicity and the very direct, almost childlike relationship she had with God and the fact that she was very ordinary and full of love for God and other people teaches us that everyone can be holy. I suppose we live in such a complicated age that people value the kind of direct approach she has.”

I parted company with the Catholic Church a good 30 years ago and I don’t often have good words to say about the church in general. A part of me finds the idea of touring relics rather strange but I am not going to be the one to sneer at the idea.

14 September 2009

Automne et long silence

From France - Collection D'Arnell-Andrea. Another band I have only just discovered.

Like a shaft of gold in the darkness

According to Space.com skygazers were treated to the unexpected view of a bright and sparkling glow in the sky last Wednesday night. The beautiful trail in the sky looked like a mysterious celestial event.

Was this some strange meteor, on an unidentified flying object, possibly an interstellar vessel from Zeta Reticuli?

Actually it was urine created when astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery dumped waste into space. The water dump was a scheduled task for STS-128 pilot Kevin Ford, who poured out urine and waste water stored aboard the shuttle in preparation for a landing attempt Thursday.

An unusually large amount of water was dumped all at once - about 150 pounds (68 kg), said NASA spokeswoman Kylie Clem. Discovery had just undocked from the International Space Station the day before, and had not been able to unload waste water during the 10-day visit.

"It would have been a large quantity because we don't do water dumps while docked to the station now,"

In general, though, spotting space water dumps from Earth is common, Clem said. Waste water usually freezes upon jettison into a cloud of tiny ice droplets. Then when the sun hits, the ice sublimates directly into water vapour and disperses in space.

A number of people in North America apparently spotted Wednesday's dump, one of them, Abe Megahed, photographed the tail at 9:40 p.m. EDT (0140 GMT) Wednesday from Madison, Wisconsin.

"I just watched the shuttle and station flyover (8:40 PM CST 9/9/09) and was surprised to see that the shuttle was sporting a massive curved plume," he wrote. "What could it be? Something venting? An OMS burn? RCS thrusters? A massive, record breaking urine dump?

While virtually every mystery ends up having a relatively mundane explanation, it does seem a little sad that a visual treat of the astronomical kind was simply water. It’s as if someone s taking the piss....


in a stream in Bayeux

13 September 2009

The Collect Call of Cthulhu

Well it amused me! From a T Shirt design by Off World Designs

Queen Elizabeth II (1940-?) Almost

Princess Elizabeth on Children's Hour in 1940

Yesterday’s Telegraph reported on a letter written by the Queen Mother at the height of the Blitz which revealed how close she and her husband, George VI, came to being killed in a bombing raid.

The previously-unpublished correspondence, to her mother-in-law Queen Mary, was written on 12 September 1940. It revealed how the Royal couple leapt for their lives after a bomb exploded in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Three servants were injured in the attack.
"My darling Mama. I hardly know how to begin to tell you of the horrible attack on Buckingham Palace this morning."

The Royal couple were going to collect some of their belongings after a previous bombing raid when they came under attack. "At that moment we heard the unmistakable whirr–whirr of a German plane. We said 'ah a German,' and before anything else could be said, there was the noise of aircraft diving at great speed, and then the scream of a bomb," she wrote. "It all happened so quickly, that we had only time to look foolishly at each other, when the scream hurtled past us, and exploded with a tremendous crash in the quadrangle. "I saw a great column of smoke and earth thrown up into the air, and then we all ducked like lightening into the corridor.

"There was another tremendous explosion, and we and our 2 pages who were outside the door, remained for a moment or two in the corridor away from the staircase, in case of flying glass. "It is curious how one's instinct works at these moments of great danger... Everybody remained wonderfully calm, and we went down to the shelter – I went along to see if the housemaids were alright, and found them busy in their various shelters – then came a cry for "bandages," and the first aid party, who had been training for over a year, rose magnificently to the occasion, and treated the 3 poor casualties calmly and correctly.

The 14-page letter, on notepaper headed with the royal crest, is featured in the official biography of the Queen Mother, written by William Shawcross, which is published this week.

The letter ends: "Darling Mama, I do hope that you will let me come and stay a day or two later – it is so sad being parted, as this War has parted families. With my love, and prayers for your safety, ever darling Mama, your loving daughter in law. Elizabeth. P.S. Dear old B.P. is still standing, and that is the main thing."

The words "still standing" were underlined.

Buckingham Palace was one of the estimated 3.5 million British homes that was damaged or destroyed by the Luftwaffe. The King and Queen Consort had stayed in London after the outbreak of war to boost the nation's morale.

Andrew Roberts, the historian, said the letter was remarkable. "We can now see that this was much the closest that a reigning monarch came to a violent death since the assassination attempt on Queen Victoria," he said.

I wonder how the Queen’s accession in 1940 would have changed things? Not a lot I would imagine. She would have become the longest reigning British monarch in late 2003 or early 2004. She would be the longest reigning living monarchs, rather than King Bhumibol of Thailand who has been Monarch since 1945. Apart from that I doubt the UK would be a hugely different place.