Thursday, April 5th, 2007 at 9:12 am - - UN, Whipping

The President: The Assembly has before it 18 draft resolutions recommended by the First Committee in paragraph 71 of its report and one draft decision recommended by the First Committee in paragraph 72.

I shall put the 18 draft resolutions and the draft decision to the Assembly one by one. After all the decisions have been taken, representatives will again have the opportunity to explain their vote or position.

We shall turn first to draft resolution A, entitled “Nuclear testing”.

We shall now begin the voting process.

A recorded vote was begun

Mr. Perfiliev (Director, General Assembly Affairs Division): I wish to make it clear that the Assembly is voting on draft resolution A in document A/50/590 and Corr.1. This draft resolution, entitled “Nuclear testing”, appeared in the First Committee as document A/C.1/50/L.3.

Will all delegations confirm that their votes are accurately reflected on the board?

The President: I call on the representative of Oman on a point of order.

Mr. Al-Hassan (Oman): My delegation mistakenly participated in the voting on this draft resolution. We should like to correct that. Oman wishes not to participate in the voting and asks that this be reflected in the proceedings of this meeting of the General Assembly.

The President: I call on the representative of France on a point of order.

Mr. Dejammet (France): For once, this is indeed a point of order — order in the voting on the draft resolutions. I am afraid there is some confusion, because the document before us contains the texts of the draft resolutions in a certain order, which is not the one announced by the President.

I would therefore like us to be absolutely clear about what text we are voting on. It seems to me that if we are voting on the draft resolution on nuclear testing, that should be stated specifically by the President, and he should make it clear that the draft resolution is contained in document A/C.1/50/L.3. This must be stated very clearly by the President so that we will know what we are voting on. The order set out in the table of draft resolutions does not seem to have been respected, and this has given rise to some confusion.

I would ask you, Mr. President, if at all possible, to put the draft resolution to the vote again, making it clear that it is the draft resolution in document A/C.1/50/L.3. That would make everything much clearer.

The President: May I clarify the situation?

The Assembly is voting on draft resolution A, entitled “Nuclear testing”, in document A/50/590 and Corr.1. This corresponds to the draft resolution contained in document A/C.1/50/L.3, which was discussed and voted on in the First Committee. This, I think, is clear to everybody.

If any delegation wishes to change its vote, it can do so now because the machine is still open. I therefore do not believe that we need to repeat the voting. I repeat: the machine is open and any vote can be changed.

It is clear that we are voting on the draft resolution entitled “Nuclear testing”, contained in document A/C.1/50/L.3 in the First Committee and now called draft resolution A for the purpose of this vote in the plenary Assembly.

I call on the representative of Oman on a point of order.

Mr. Al-Hassan (Oman): My delegation fully shares the opinion expressed by the delegation of France. Due to the order that appears in the document before us, my delegation mistakenly participated in the voting. You said, Mr. President, that delegations can still change their positions because the machine is open. But in our case we did take part in the voting, and we did not wish to take part. If the vote could be taken once again, with a clear and precise statement to delegations about which draft resolution we were voting on, my delegation would not participate.

The President: I call on the representative of Cape Verde on a point of order.

Mr. De Matos (Cape Verde): I wish to speak in support of the statement made by the representative of Oman. Once one has pressed the button, it is impossible to reverse oneself. Cape Verde does not wish to participate in the vote, but the voting buttons give us only three options: in favour, against or abstention. Our choice is: not participating in the vote.

Mr. Mubarak (Libya): I do not want to change my vote. I have voted correctly. However, so that the present situation does not occur in the voting on other draft resolutions, I would ask that the President refer to the draft resolution by the document number used in the First Committee. I was the first to ask to speak to clarify this matter, because the document, as it is before us now, does not reflect in its first part the Rapporteur’s recommendations in the second part in the same order.

Mr. Dlamini (Swaziland): The President has correctly advised the Assembly that, since the voting machine has not been locked, those who feel that they have inadvertently voted incorrectly have enough latitude to change. However, to start from the beginning would be unfair to those who voted as they wished to. I therefore concur with the view expressed by the President.

The President: Since delegations still have the possibility of changing their vote, the only problem we have now relates to delegations that participated in the voting on this draft resolution but did not wish to participate. So far two delegations have indicated that they mistakenly participated in the voting and do not want to do so. This can be reflected in the results of the vote.

Are there any other delegations that mistakenly participated in the voting and wish not to participate in it?

There appear to be none. May I therefore consider that we can take into account the desire expressed by the two delegations that do not want to participate in the voting?

The Assembly is voting on draft resolution A in document A/50/590 and Corr.1.

Will all delegations confirm that their votes are accurately reflected on the board?

The voting has been completed, and the machine is now locked.

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007 at 10:00 pm - - UN, Whipping 1 Comment »

I’ve been doing a lot of digging for reports of what the UN thinks it’s doing on the web. This has required pulling down documents whose code I can guess, but which are too painful to obtain through their website via the usual channels. And I am not kidding you about how bad it is. The UK Model United Nations, which had a “hugely successful week” last month, is just as shoddy with its web information. I have been through every link on their site and I still don’t know where it was or what gives with it.

The following links show you what you can do with sensible URLs, which the UN goes out of its way to prevent you from having.

Document 5 each session usually has some kind of Audit report. If you are lucky you might find what special Add.11 (Vol.IV) you need to put in there to get the different sections. I found them out by visiting the document dump in the Liverpool Central Library on the weekend.

I went through the documents by number. Document 1 is the Secretary-General’s report. Document 2 is the Security Council report. Yeah, those guys.

Document 7 of Session 60 happened to be from the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. Table VII.1 on page 149 of the PDF file outlined the Current staffing of the Web Services Section, News and Media Division. They have to get stuff out in at least 6 different languages with non-ASCII alphabets, which is quite hard, so if you factor out the 18 staff in language units, and three chiefs and their secretary, and just count the Website Coordinator, Website Designer, Database Developer, Website Programmer, Webcast Assistant, and Web Development Assistant, that gives you only six people who have the potential for doing core work (as opposed to managing content or just talking about it).

This explains a lot about the quality of what they are doing — very good, given the lack of resources. Meanwhile, the UK mission to the United Nations lists 36 named staff, including one military adviser, three financial staff, three third secretaries, and nine second secretaries. I have no idea what any of these guys have to do. I do know what web-teams need to do. I also know that our nation’s finest performance at the UN had nothing to do with the web-team, and was described in the annual Report of the Security Council covering the time of March 2003 thus:

Iraq figured prominently in the agenda from the summer and autumn of 2002 until the end of the period covered by the present report. The Security Council found a path of unanimity with the adoption of resolution 1441 (2002) and, in spite of divisions that emerged later over the course of action to be taken on Iraq, it managed to find that path again with the adoption of resolutions 1472 (2003), 1476 (2003) and 1483 (2003) [which legitimized the US and UK squatters rights], and was thus able to work with a unity of purpose for the future of Iraq.

You see, friends, a thousand American cruise missiles bombarding a heavily populated city for no justified reason as part of a wholly unprovoked and aggressive military operation known as “Shock and Awe” Never Happened. It stays off the record. Referred to only as exceptional circumstances.

Anyways, moving swiftly back to the record, such as it is on what is known as the web, we see that there’s this supporting document for the coming meeting, supplied by the Secretary General, which is worth taking a look at. There’s a long discussion of the figures for numbers of page views and visits, which seems to settle on a figure at something like 135,000 visitors on average per day, seeing about ten pages each.

This is interesting, but not great. What they don’t investigate is whether it’s the same 135,000 people visiting the site the next day and in fact that, since the grand total of UN staff total about 50,000 and have had more of their communication services moving on-line, this number could be entirely due to people being there on business because they’re either employees of the organization, or involved in diplomatic missions. How many actual members of the public get through it’s sheer awfulness to an actual document? I’d be kind of interested. I was poking around the FAQs and came across this amazing howler:

Q: How many countries are there in the world?

A: We are not an authority on this topic. We suggest you visit a public library in your area, consult an encyclopedia or a world almanac. The United Nations, however, has 192 Member Countries.

WTF!

You know, my local library is pretty good… But I’ll bet that the UN has a one where international affairs section is about a thousand times bigger.

Anyway, back to the report, Section VII:

The search facility

In 2005, one aspect of the Department’s annual programme impact review focused on improving the user experience of finding information on the United Nations website. After an analysis of the top 100 search queries over a one-year period, findings revealed that overall search requests are highly generic in nature, such as “United Nations”, “jobs” and news specific, e.g., “tsunami” and “Darfur”. Other popular queries include United Nations agencies, “Charter of the United Nations”, country names and peacekeeping missions. Full analysis of search logs was constrained by limitations in the search appliance, most specifically on queries done in Arabic, Chinese and Russian. Search logs currently do not provide non-roman alphabet characters and these reports now are unable to separate by language. Research is continuing for better search analysis tools…

[T]he full use and further development of the search system to fulfil the demands from other content-providing offices for customized search pages and collections to limit search results to their sites continues. From a management perspective, a much-needed analysis of user search patterns continues to present a challenge. In order to provide this type of follow-up action effectively and efficiently, dedicated resources need to be assigned to it, which means that this task can be achieved only at the cost of limiting progress in other areas.

The Department continues to work with the Information Technology Services Division on an enterprise search solution. The Division has issued a request for proposals for an enterprise search solution and the Department has been closely involved in the process.

It has not been possible to index the United Nations system websites despite at least a six-month effort of fine tuning, owing to limitations of the current search appliance. The Organization had procured the largest appliance available to the commercial market.

The search engine market had matured prior to the creation of the request for proposals and there were other offerings that were server-based and did not have the limitations of the appliance approach and that could operate in a federated fashion giving more flexibility in the mode of operation. The technical evaluation was completed in November 2006 and by mid-February 2007 the Procurement Service was undertaking a financial evaluation.

The Information Technology Services Division has funded the current search appliance and has also requested funds in the current biennium to replace the appliance to address the requirements of the Secretariat. The possible implementation of indexing the United Nations system is under discussion, but the funding mechanism has not been addressed at this early stage.

Discussions with the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) will be necessary to fully explore what the approach will be from a funding perspective for the search solution as well as for the enterprise content management system and the United Nations portal to encompass the United Nations system. The hardware in a highly available architecture, the software licences and the resources to coordinate this effort will need to be found.

You know, there’s a really simple answer to all this: Stop Blocking Google! You get everything for free.

After that, we can talk about why you should stop using PDF files for everything, and especially get rid of those scanned pages.

I mean, really. It’s been 40 years since UN Security Council Resolution 242, which is one of the seminal moments in the Israel Palestine occupation question. It’s only a page long. You’d think someone would have had time to have typed it in by now.

Meanwhile, I’ve found a project for Sym to do once he ever gets anywhere with this website. It’s a five week job to Develop Community Tec. Centre web site with DRUPAL in the Dominican Republic. It’s available from the Online Volunteers portal, part of the UN Volunteers service. If you pass the seven pages of guidelines, you too could do something which is wanted, as opposed to that which is not.

Monday, April 2nd, 2007 at 8:14 pm - - UN, Whipping 1 Comment »

I wonder if what we’re up to counts as “civil society”. I’ve been working straight hours, sometimes till 4 in the morning, hacking my UN parser so that all speakers and debates are categorized. I created a category known as “disasters”, but I think I am going to change it to “Expressions of sympathy”. Some go on for a good length. For example at the start of the meeting on 1996-05-24:

The President

Before turning to the items on our agenda for this morning, may I, on behalf of all the members of the Assembly, extend our deepest sympathy to the Government and the people of Bangladesh for the tragic loss of life and extensive material damage which have resulted from the recent tornado.

I also express the hope that the international community will show its solidarity and respond promptly and generously to any request for help.

I now call on the representative of Bangladesh.

Mr. Ziauddin Bangladesh

On behalf of the people and the Government of Bangladesh, I wish to thank you most profusely, Mr. President, for your kind words of sympathy and condolence expressed at the death and destruction caused by a tornado that struck and wreaked havoc in northern Bangladesh on Monday, 13 May. I take this opportunity to express our profound gratitude to all the Member States of the United Nations that so spontaneously rose to the occasion and offered their support, both moral and material, at this time of national calamity. I also take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Secretary-General for his prompt response in offering aid and assistance to alleviate the hardship and suffering of the distressed people.

In a span of about half an hour, the tornado took an awesome toll of over 1,000 deaths and shattered the lives of some 80,000 people. Approximately 10,000 people with serious injuries are being treated in hospitals located in, or in close proximity to, the disaster area. It is also estimated that about 19,965 hectares of crop land have been decimated. Despite such devastation, I should humbly like to inform the Assembly that the Government of Bangladesh has been successful in mobilizing adequate manpower and resources to mitigate the sufferings of the affected people. The national agencies concerned are working round the clock, without rest or respite, to provide assistance and succour, and relief and rehabilitation activities are continuing in full swing.

I am pleased to inform the Assembly that the Government of Bangladesh has had the good fortune this time to successfully control, by itself, the overall situation resulting from the devastating tornado. The resilience of the people has added immensely to the Government’s ability to overcome the grave and grim tragedy.

I wish to express once again, on behalf of the people and the Government of Bangladesh, our deepest gratitude to you, Mr. President, to all the Member States of the United Nations, to the Secretary-General and to the related bodies of this esteemed Organization, for rallying round Bangladesh in generously extending all support at this time of our nation’s dire and difficult dilemma.

Obviously the Government, almost certainly composed of the sort of people who entirely escaped the devastation, is deserving of sympathy. Some expressions of sympathy are a little broader in nature, such as on 1995-09-14:

The President

I wish, on behalf of all the members of the Assembly, to extend our sympathy to the Governments and the peoples of Antigua and Barbuda, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Morocco and Pakistan for the tragic loss of human life and extensive material damage that have resulted from the recent floods and hurricanes in those countries.

May I also express the hope that the international community will show its solidarity and respond promptly and generously to any request for assistance.

Naturally, if you are a victim of aerial bombardment by cruise missiles or B52’s, you don’t get any sympathy. You just don’t count!!

When it comes to dealing with the main powers, particularly United States power, the United Nations is systematically blind to the issue. Maybe there are good diplomatic reasons for it, but it keeps the public — in what are supposed to be the democratic nations where we could have an influence — in the dark. The United Nations is silent, the news-media is silent, and the bombs keep falling on our fellow human beings with the sound turned off.

Just to prove my point, go see Document 1 for 2003, which is the annual Report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization to find the bit where it glosses over the US invasion of Iraq.

Paragraph 15: By early March 2003 there were divisions in the Security Council as to how to proceed. I continued to urge united international action, as well as constant and persistent pressure on the leadership of Iraq, through daily exchanges with Council members, the League of Arab States, UNMOVIC and others both in New York and in capitals. By mid-March it was clear, however, that some Member States had taken the position that it was impossible to resolve the crisis without the use of force. On 17 March I informed the Council that I would suspend United Nations activities in Iraq and withdraw all remaining United Nations system personnel the following day.

Are you ready for the next paragraph?

The very next paragraph?

Are you sure…

Wait for it…

Paragraph 16: Following the end of major hostilities, which had resulted in the occupation of Iraq by a coalition headed by the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and after protracted deliberations, the Security Council adopted, on 22 May 2003, resolution 1483 (2003). In paragraph 8 of the resolution the Council requested me to appoint a Special Representative whose responsibilities would include coordinating United Nations activities in Iraq and, in coordination with the Coalition Provisional Authority, assisting the people of Iraq in such areas as humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and development, human rights, legal and judicial reform and the restoration of an internationally recognized, representative Government of Iraq. I proceeded to appoint a Special Representative for an initial period of four months.

The next section of the report was aptly entitled “Conflict prevention and peacemaking”, but it chose to concern itself with more minor situations entirely.

The following year the report waffled about some trivial (ie it didn’t result in mass death) mismanagement issues of the oil-for-food program, a program for mitigating some of the most lethal effects of the Iraqi sanctions regime which had cut off that country’s medical supplies immediately following a 1991 bombing campaign that had leveled much of its infrastructure.

A year later, Iraq appears under the “Conflict prevention and peacemaking section” of the report with some garbage about organizing elections. This has resulted in the type of sham democracy we are used to whereby an overwhelming public opinion saying that the US army should get out now, gets converted into a government who invites them to stay unconditionally, and furthermore goes ahead and signs away their oil rights for the next 40 years.

By the time we get to last September, the situation isn’t mentioned once, which is quite good for what appears as the most serious human massacre through violence going on in the world today.

But that’s okay, it’s only the Iraqi’s doing it to themselves, if you don’t mention George Bush’s re-election celebration in 2004 where he ordered napalm into the streets of the city of Falluja, and then our government lied about it. That’s okay. The Secretary-General sent a private complaint about it so it could get ignored. That’s why it had to be private. It’s purely to settle his conscience, while not upsetting anyone.

Ultimately, the United Nations can probably do a lot of good in Africa and parts of the Pacific, and perhaps coordinate some important interventions in terms of world health, so long as it doesn’t interfere with corporate profits.

But when it comes to the actions of a rogue superpower, we’re totally on our own. The UN might as well not exist. They cannot even mention the issue, let alone deal with it.

Monday, January 8th, 2007 at 10:05 pm - - UN, Whipping 1 Comment »

Marvel at the incredible amount of research that went into writing up wikipedia: UN Security Council Resolution 1267 (1999). A lot of this information is just barely teetering on the edge of the start of the internet age at the point when newspapers began putting the articles on-line so that not only academic scholars have access to last year’s official lies news.

The article is also due to my processing a tonne of downloaded UN documents over the past few weeks, and now not having much idea of what to do with it. If I think it can be made into a tool to help people write articles about what’s going on in that body, then obviously I have to give it a try. The subject follows from a previous blog posting about some suspicious happenings up the street from here.

The basic story is that there is now a Consolidated List maintained by the UN which governments who have bought into this war on terrorism garbage can put names onto. Once you’re on it, you’re knackered. Even when you are in jail your wife isn’t even allowed to take your children to the swimming pool due to the sanctions because — according to the government — it might benefit Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. You wonder why Muslims are getting so pissed off with it all. It’s completely outside the law. No charges. No evidence. No trial. No judge. No proof of guilt. Nothing.

Speaking of terrorism, did anyone notice that massive bomb in a Spanish airport last week? Didn’t think so. Wrong kind of terrorists who don’t fit with the official narrative, so they don’t get reported like the Wood Green no-ricin plot, or the Miami bomb plot to attack the Sears Tower, both of which don’t even pass the laugh test. It wears you out. What’s the point in these jokers in government. They do not care if we live or die for as long as they can get on with spinning their lies.

Monday, September 4th, 2006 at 12:55 am - - UN, Whipping 4 Comments »

There’s a letting agency up the road from us that got closed down for terrorist activities earlier this year. Martin remembers visiting it when he was looking for a house in the area last year. The authorities tell us that we shouldn’t be alarmed, since the terror was not threatened on the streets of Liverpool. Well, what do they know?

Back in 1996 the UK government backed the LIFG in an assassination attempt against Colonel Gadhafi, the dictator of Libya. This was only ten years after Ronald Reagan ordered an unprovoked bombing raid from US bases in the UK all the way into Libya. In those days, Colonel Gadhafi was the terrorist, and in George W Bush’s immortal words, “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” You might therefore have reason to believe that if you were fighting with us and against the terrorists of the day, you were one of the good guys.

Unfortunately, there is no way to tell who are the terrorists, because the terrorists are simply those whom the government says are terrorists. Alliances shift like the flow of oil, and suddenly Colonel Gadhafi was no longer a terrorist. You may have thought you had been fighting a terrorist, but it seems were not; you were fighting an ally, so now you are a terrorist. This is politics, not law, so the crime can be backdated. Anyone who ever attacked Colonel Gadhafi in the past, even during the years when he was officially a terrorist, is now a terrorist. Arresting all these terrorists is one way to prove to your new ally that you really like him.

Never do something covert for a government; you will always get stabbed in the back.

There are a number of appropriate extrajudicial tools for dealing with terrorists — those people who have been designated as terrorists. They can be blown up, they can be detained without charge, or they can be destroyed economically by threatening anyone who ever makes an financial transaction with them. Proper judicial sanctions are out of the question because judges tend to work on the basis that if you are being done for doing something wrong, it had to have been wrong at the time you were doing it. It obviously violates basic fairness to allow changes in interpretation of the past when when these people don’t have the power to change the past.

On February 8, the US Department of Treasury designated five Libyans in the UK for supporting the LIFG: “[T]hrough a sophisticated charitable front operation and other companies, the individuals designated today have financially supported LIFG’s activities” which included mounting “several operations inside Libya including a 1996 attempt to assassinate Qadhafi”.

I don’t know the facts of this allegation, or whether these men even had anything to do with helping the UK government against a then-terrorist dictator, since no case has been presented. All I do know is that the name Mohammed Benhammedi, and the business he runs, Sara Properties, up the road, has been put onto the list. The message goes out to the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee of the UN — a wholly owned subsidiary of the US government — where it duly gets copied onto their list.

Once you are on the “Consolidate List of Individuals and Entities Belonging to or Associated with the Taliban and Al-Qaida Organisation”, you are knackered. It’s practically Guantanamo Bay. There is zero independent oversight, since the regulations (p.6) say:

[A person] on the Committee’s consolidated list may petition the government of residence and/or citizenship to request review of the case. In this regard, the petitioner should provide justification for the de-listing request, offer relevant information and request support for de-listing;… The petitioned government should review all relevant information and then approach… the designating government to seek additional information… If, after reviewing any additional information, the petitioned government wishes to pursue a de-listing request, it should seek to persuade the designating government to submit jointly or separately a request for de-listing to the Committee.

What this means is: guilty, until proven innocent to the government who is accusing you. The state loves this sort of thing, because it provides an unprejudiced free-fire zone. The Bank of England does its bit for The War Against Terror, and employs some civil servants to administer their own financial sanctions list, copied straight from the UN list without review. This means that Statutory Instrument 2002/111, passed without any Parliamentary and therefore any democratic oversight, on the basis of the United Nations Act 1946, can be applied. So that:

Any person who, except under the authority of a licence granted by the Treasury under this article, makes any funds available to or for the benefit of a listed person or any person acting on behalf of a listed person is guilty of an offence under this Order.

where:

“funds” means financial assets, economic benefits and economic resources of any kind, including (but not limited to) gold coin, gold bullion, cash, cheques, claims on money, drafts, money orders and other payment instruments; deposits with financial institutions or other entities, balances on accounts, debts and debt obligations; securities and debt instruments (including stocks and shares, certificates representing securities, bonds, notes, warrants, debentures, debenture stock and derivatives contracts); interest, dividends or other income on or value accruing from or generated by assets; credit, rights of set-off, guarantees, performance bonds or other financial commitments, letters of credit, bills of lading, bills of sale; documents evidencing an interest in funds or financial resources, and any other instrument of financing;

For each person in the list, there are a dozen aliases with Arabic names that are probably the equivalent of “John Smith”, guarenteeing the possibility of hassling millions of people on the basis of mistaken identity because of their dark skin and funny name.

Well, that sorts out the money, which may or may not be wholly to do with charitable gifts to places in the Middle East.

How about the body? Mohammed Benhammedi gets arrested for “immigration offences”. His Lithuanian girlfriend’s father gets arrested because he works at a nuclear plant. I guess it takes a government official to understand the connection. There either is some plot by a Libyan to attack a nuclear reactor in Lithuania for the purpose of which he seduces a relative of an employee in another country, or the police are making senseless trouble because they can think of nothing better to do.

The information trail dries up at this point, but one of the other five, Taher Nasuf who may or may not have any connection with the Liverpool man, got arrested again on the same not-called-terrorism-at-the-time terrorism charges on 26 May.

According to statewatch Taher Nasuf is challenging his proscription in the European Courts, which is usually on the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights — our closest thing to a constitution, which assures fair trial, due process before law, and the right not to get punished if you are not guilty. Unfortunately, on several similar cases, the fine legal minds have succeeded in speaking power to truth and, since these people have not been proven guilty, they are therefore not being punished. The rulings say:

[T]he Court of First Instance confirms that… the European Community has competence to order the freezing of individuals’ funds in the context of the battle against international terrorism. Such a measure does not infringe the universally recognised fundamental rights of the human person (jus cogens)… the Court goes on to recognise that freezing of funds constitutes a particularly drastic measure, but adds that that measure does not prevent the individuals concerned from leading a satisfactory personal, family and social life, given the circumstances.

In other words, without any access to money, you can live like the Queen who gets by without carrying any cash. Bear that in mind when you next get robbed.

I want to go see Gaddafi – the Opera, but unfortunately I will be away cycling in the Pyrenees for two weeks. This is a pity. Our current clutch of world leaders are such a pack of comedians that to report them in the serious tone of the news is wrong, because their jokes fall flat, and we don’t get them. We should be laughing.