Saturday, 7 June 2008

Friday, 6th June 2008


Spain's government halts work on drought relief pipeline for Barcelona

MADRID, Spain: The Spanish government says it has scrapped an emergency plan to pipe water to the northeastern city of Barcelona because recent heavy rains have eased the severe drought that was affecting the city.
Deputy premier Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega says the decision to stop the €180 million (US$277 million) pipeline was taken after official reports confirmed reservoir levels in Barcelona have risen above emergency levels.

$45 trillion urged in battling carbon emissions
BRUSSELS: In one of the strongest warnings so far about the world's thirst for energy, the International Energy Agency said Friday that investment totaling $45 trillion might be needed over the next half-century to prevent energy shortages and greenhouse gas emissions from undermining global economic growth.The executive director of the agency, Nobuo Tanaka, called for "immediate policy action and technological transition on an unprecedented scale." Tanaka said the world needed to "completely transform the way we produce and use energy."
The IEA report said that the combination of growing demand for energy, especially in countries like China and India, the dangers of climate change and the scarcity of resources was going to require huge shifts in the way the global economy was organized. To meet those challenges, it said, nations would have to overcome objections to building nuclear power plants and storing large amounts of carbon dioxide underground or beneath the ocean floor.
"I am very pleased the International Energy Agency has put such a high figure on the cost of making this transition," said Pierre Noël, an energy expert and senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. "It is high time we got rid of the myth that we can decarbonize our economies on the cheap," he said.
The report did not say how such large sums of money should be raised. The IEA said member nations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or Unfccc, the parent treaty of the Kyoto Protocol, must negotiate ways of encouraging governments and businesses to lower emissions.
John Hay, a spokesman for the convention, said markets operating under the Kyoto treaty that put a price on carbon pollution, like Europe's Emissions Trading System, were already playing an important role in driving investment, but could not be solely relied on to raise the sums described by the IEA. Two years ago, Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the Unfccc, estimated that carbon trading could generate investments in climate-friendly technology in the developing world worth about $100 billion annually - a fraction of the amounts the IEA said was required.
The IEA report foresees "a dramatic transformation of the energy industry, and how that level of investment can be achieved is a major question," said Robert LaCount, head of climate change and clean energy research at Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "Governments at all levels will need to help and support the emergence of new technologies so that they can reach commercialization," he said.
Among the energy agency's chief messages is that current energy policies are unsustainable, with emissions of carbon dioxide expected to climb 130 percent and demand for oil to rise by 70 percent by 2050. Tanaka warned that oil demand could be five times the current production of Saudi Arabia by that time, and that carbon emissions of such a magnitude could raise global average temperatures by 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit), changing all aspects of life and creating irreversible changes in the natural environment.
A major problem for the planet is that the rising cost of oil and natural gas is prompting a switch to coal, particularly in India and China. Coal is inexpensive and plentiful but highly polluting, and its increasing use is contributing to the accelerating growth in emissions of carbon dioxide. But Noël, of the foreign relations council, said the rising cost of fossil fuels should be a cause for optimism, because they would be the main factor driving large-scale investments.
"It's not primarily a global agreement between heads of state that will make technologies like nuclear power or like carbon capture reach take off," Noël said. "It's primarily expectations about energy prices," he said.
The IEA recommended taking measures now that would ensure that carbon emissions were down to at least present-day levels by mid-century by using technologies that already exist, including steps for improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions from power generation. Such measures would cost $17 trillion between now and 2050, or 0.4 percent of global output, costing about $400 billion a year.
The agency also mapped out a second, more ambitious plan aimed at reducing emissions to half their current levels by mid-century by emphasizing technologies and strategies for "weaning the world off oil." The agency estimated the cost of that process at $45 trillion, or 1.1 percent of annual global output, over the period to 2050. Investments of $100 billion to $200 billion would be needed each year over the next 10 years, rising to $1 trillion to $2 trillion each year in the coming decades.
To reach the goal of halving emissions, the agency said, among the most important measures would be equipping more than 50 natural gas and coal power plants each year with equipment to capture and sequester carbon dioxide. Such measures would double the generating costs of a coal power station not equipped with capture and storage, and many plants that could not be converted to the new technology would have to close before the end of their useful lives.
"It is recognized that this will be a large step for countries heavily reliant on coal, but a necessary step requiring careful management," the report said.
There would also be a need for 32 new nuclear plants each year, while the number of wind turbines would need to increase by 17,500 annually. Other strategies included accelerating the development of solar electricity and so-called second-generation biofuels, made from sources that do not compete with food for farmland.
The report acknowledged that numerous objections to these technologies would need to be overcome, in particular local opposition to building new nuclear power stations and to long-term nuclear waste repositories. Geologically stable sites also would need to be found for storing carbon dioxide.
But the most difficult and costly step, it said, would be reducing carbon emissions from transportation at a time when the use of cars, airplanes and ships would still be growing rapidly but few technologies would exist to limit emissions from those sources.

Oil prices take biggest jump in history
Oil prices had their biggest gains ever on Friday, jumping nearly $11 to a new record above $138 a barrel, after a senior Israeli politician raised the specter of an attack on Iran and the dollar fell sharply against the euro.

"This market is going to shoot itself in the foot," said Adam Robinson, an analyst at Lehman Brothers. "It is searching for a price that will build a safety cushion in the system — either as inventories or as spare capacity. But this takes time. The market has gotten extremely impatient and is not willing to wait."

"The return of the Iranian risk premium calls for a careful assessment of the potential oil supply impact of military strikes on Iran," said Antoine Halff, an analyst at Newedge, an energy broker.

A more tranquil season

Patrick Seale is the author of "The Struggle for Syria" and "Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire." Distributed by Agence Global.

The most important single development is probably the growing improbability of a U.S.-Israeli strike against Iran. Fear of such a strike - and of its predictably catastrophic regional and global consequences - has kept the region in a state of nervous alert.
Why has this fear receded? The main reason is that American and Israeli politics are in turmoil. President George W. Bush and Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are largely discredited. Bush is a lame-duck president in the last months of a lamentable and much criticized mandate, while Olmert is threatened by a major corruption scandal. He could be out of office within weeks.
They are both failed "war leaders," without the authority or the domestic backing to lead their countries into another major conflict. Next November's presidential elections in the United States could well coincide with early elections in Israel the same month. In both countries, the public is eager for change at the top.

Is all well, therefore, in the troubled Middle East? Is peace breaking out? Can the journalists and diplomats go home? Unfortunately, this is far from being the case. The Arab-Israeli conflict continues to spread its poison.
Olmert may be on his way out, but he has this week - on the very eve of a visit to his U.S. ally - announced the construction of another 800 houses for Israeli settlers in Arab East Jerusalem, exposing his desultory talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmood Abbas as a farce.
A united Jerusalem will be Israel's forever, Olmert declared, as if unaware that his expansionist policy robs the Palestinians of their hoped-for statehood, and condemns his own country to live as a pariah in a dangerous and permanently hostile environment.

U.S. loses 49,000 jobs in 5th monthly drop
NEW YORK: The U.S. unemployment rate rose at the fastest pace in 22 years in May, the government reported Friday, and oil prices surged to a record, a sign of the pain assailing tens of millions of Americans amid an economic downturn that most experts assume is a recession.
"It's unambiguously ugly," said Robert Barbera, chief economist at the research and trading firm ITG. "The average American already knows that gas prices are up a ton and it's really hard to find a job. Sally and Sam on Main Street are already well aware of this, and that's why sentiment surveys are lower than they were in each of the last two recessions."


Russia and Georgia take a softer tone

"I think that we're capable of solving all the problems ourselves, overcoming the difficulties that exist and building long-term relations," Medvedev, who was inaugurated as Vladimir Putin's successor last month, said during a photo opportunity at the Konstantinovsky Palace. He said German leaders had expressed their concern to him about Russian-Georgian relations Thursday during his first European visit as president.
Medvedev then asked Saakashvili [Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili], "What do you think?"
Saakashvili said that he agreed and that many of the problems between the two countries "are artificially created."
"Russia and Georgia are countries that are very close to each other on historical, cultural and human levels," he said.

Among other highlights of Medvedev's meetings Friday was a session with President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine. Lavrov said the leaders had discussed several points of contention: the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which is based in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula; gas prices, and Yushchenko's efforts to unify the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled natural gas monopoly, has halted gas supplies to Ukraine in the past and has threatened to do so again, demanding that Kiev pay market prices. The dispute has been of grave concern to Europe, since 80 percent of Gazprom's supplies to Europe run though Ukrainian territory.

Excitement in France over Obama victory

PARIS: According to Samuel Solvit, president of France's support committee for Barack Obama, the French have not been this excited about America since they shipped over the Statue of Liberty in 1885.

"He inspires different people for different reasons, but he inspires most people," said Solvit, whose 2,000-person-strong committee is the biggest in Europe and includes prominent members like Axel Poniatowski, president of the foreign affairs commission at the National Assembly, and Mayor Bertrand Delanoë of Paris.
"For the French establishment, Obama represents a new chapter in the Western alliance," Solvit said. "For ethnic minorities he embodies the equality of opportunity they crave."

Indeed, as the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung warned Friday, European enthusiasts have elevated the senator to a role he will find hard to fulfill - "a savior of mankind, a sort of political Messiah of the early 21st century."
But this week such caution tended to be drowned out by the news about Obama's impending nomination.
"You can't welcome it enough, especially in this era of rampant anti-Americanism," Le Figaro, the French daily, said Thursday.
"With Obama, a certain idea of America is back: that of a generous society where equality of opportunity is not an empty promise. Hope and change, key words of his campaign, reinforce this rediscovered ideal, which resonates as much inside the country as beyond."
In no other segment of France's population does this ideal inspire more than among minorities. One in 10 of the nation's inhabitants is of Arab or African origin.
Kama Des-Gachons, a 28-year-old Frenchwoman, was one of about 600 young men and women flocking to a panel discussion in Paris on Tuesday about the "Obama Effect in France." Her eyes lit up when she spoke about Obama. Not because he is a Democrat or because he opposed to the war in Iraq. But because his father was an African immigrant, like hers.
"He makes me dream," said Des-Gachons, whose parents came to France from Mali. "I even bought a T-shirt with the American flag. America is the country where you can make it."
Des-Gachons is living the American election campaign vicariously, as if she had a vote herself. Could she imagine a French Obama?
"Not anytime soon," she said. Despite a university degree from the Sorbonne, it took her two years to find her current job in finance.
"But who knows?" she added, echoing a hope that many in the audience expressed. "If Obama is elected, maybe it will change perceptions in France, too."



MOSTAGANEM, Algeria: Two grizzled and bearded old Moslems in turbans held up a sign here this afternoon to please French Premier Charles de Gaulle on his final appearance on a three-day peace-seeking tour of Algeria. In French the sign said: "We want to live like our European sisters." The sign needed som explanation. It was meant to imply that the veiled Moslem women of Algeria would like to uncover their faces, put on a touch of lipstick and doff the white colack which covers all of them shroud-like and shapelessly. Undoubtedly, many of the Moslem women, after 130 years of contact with Europeans, would like to dress and acts as the French girls do. Often they went to class together, but the older women insist that the younger ones follow the pious Moslem traditions of complete modesty of dress.


A French court has fined the French actress Brigitte Bardot €15,000, or $23,000, for inciting racial hatred. She was prosecuted over a letter posted in December 2006 on her Web site that complained that Muslims were "destroying our country by imposing their ways." In the letter, Bardot, an animal rights activist, deplored the slaughter of animals for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. It is the fifth time that Bardot, 73, has been convicted over her controversial remarks about Islam and its followers.

2 bus bombings in Sri Lanka kill at least 23

In one, a bomb was detonated on a roadside about 7:35 a.m. in the Colombo suburb of Moratuwa as a passenger bus went by, said a military spokesman, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara. That attack killed 21 people and wounded 47. The brigadier said a curfew had been imposed in the area to facilitate a search for suspects by soldiers and police officers.
Windows of the bus were shattered and it was stuck by shrapnel. A 45-year-old man who identified himself only as Nalaka said he had been thrown from his motorcycle by the force of the explosion.
"When I got up I saw the bus and quickly got into it," he said on AP Television News. "Some people lay dead. Some others were bleeding, I heard somebody screaming 'Help, help,' and I rushed to him, but I could not move him. "


Pakistanis say they foiled a new bomb plot

ISLAMABAD: Four days after a car-bomb attack on the Danish Embassy in Islamabad killed at least six people, the Pakistani authorities said Friday that they had foiled a new plot when the police intercepted three vehicles laden with a ton of explosives and arrested three alleged suicide bombers.


Israeli leader hints at possible Gaza attack

Landing in Israel after a brief visit to Washington, Olmert told reporters that he was still considering the alternative option: an Egyptian-brokered temporary cease-fire with Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, and other militant organizations there. But "based on the data as I see it now," he said, "the pendulum is closer to a decision for a serious operation."


Stray Iraqi dogs flown to U.S. for adoption

The project's director, Terri Crisp, said that since Operation Baghdad Pups began last year, about 100 soldiers have e-mailed the organization for help adopting dogs and cats they befriended in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Case of Canadian sent to Syria under review

WASHINGTON: The U.S. Justice Department's ethics office is reviewing a decision in 2002 by department officials to send a Canadian citizen to Syria, where he was tortured, according to American officials.
A Justice Department spokesman, Peter Carr, said Thursday that its inquiry, by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility, was begun in March 2007 and was examining the role of department lawyers in expelling Maher Arar to Syria, which has long been identified by the State Department as habitually using torture on prisoners.

Arar, a telecommunications engineer who had immigrated to Canada from his native Syria as a teenager, was detained in September 2002 as he tried to change planes at Kennedy International Airport. He had been flying back to Canada from Switzerland. Immigration officers found his name on a terrorist watch list.
After several days of deliberation that involved some high-level administration officials, according to one former White House aide, Arar was sent to Jordan by immigration officers and turned over to Syrian intelligence.
Arar, now in his mid-30s, was imprisoned for a year in Syria and beaten before being returned to Canada in 2003.
An exhaustive inquiry by a Canadian commission found that Canadian police and intelligence officials had provided inaccurate information to their American counterparts, erroneously linking Arar to Al Qaeda.
Canadian officials apologized to Arar and awarded him about $10.3 million.


British judge orders hearing on evidence of detainee torture

LONDON: A British judge has ordered a hearing into whether the government must turn over evidence bearing on accusations by a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that he was tortured during interrogation in Morocco.
The judge, acting on a request by lawyers for the prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, rejected an argument of the British government that releasing any documents risked "that more robust evidence of mistreatment of CIA prisoners could emerge in the future."

Mohamed's case has been the source of tension between the United States and Britain. In August, Britain formally requested that Mohamed, the last of 15 British citizens or residents still being held at Guantánamo, be released and returned to Britain. The Bush administration declined to do so, and last week he was officially charged by military prosecutors with two counts of terrorism.
The British government has also unsuccessfully sought an investigation by the United States into Mohamed's accusations that he had been tortured. In February, U.S. officials told the British Embassy in Washington that "they were not looking into the allegations of mistreatment," the British Foreign Office noted in an internal report recently released to Mohamed's lawyers, who provided a copy to The New York Times.

In the charges filed against him last week, prosecutors assert that Mohamed trained at several camps of Al Qaeda, and that he had conspired with other Qaeda operatives to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States, including the detonation of a so-called dirty bomb.


Dutch authorities arrest Pakistani terrorism suspect at Spain's request

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands: Dutch police say they have arrested a Pakistani man suspected of preparing a terrorist attack in Spain.
The Amsterdam Public Prosecutors' spokesman Franklin Wattimena says the arrest was made at the request of Spanish authorities and that they requested the man's extradition.
Wattimena says 26-year-old Aqueel Ur Rehman Abbasi had been arrested in March on suspicion of belonging to an 11-man cell that was allegedly planning suicide attacks in Barcelona.
But Dutch judges said prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence. Abassi was turned over to immigration authorities for being in the country illegally.
Wattimena said Friday that Abbasi was rearrested Thursday while in immigration detention.



Wielding a small stick

Stanley A. Weiss is founding chairman of Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan organization based in Washington.

France's Nicolas Sarkozy says a nuclear Iran is "unacceptable" and has warned French companies against doing business in the Islamic Republic. But those companies have invested tens of billions of dollars in Iran, and the energy giant Total continues to consider a multi-billion-dollar deal to develop Iran's natural gas reserves, the world's second largest.
Germany's Angela Merkel has pledged to "take another look" at trade with Iran. But even as Berlin has cut export credits, some 1,700 German companies sustain a $5 billion trade relationship with Iran.
Britain's Gordon Brown says Tehran shouldn't doubt "the seriousness of our purpose." Meanwhile, London offers export credits that support more than $1 billion in annual British-Iranian trade.
With the return of Silvio Berlusconi, Italy wants to join nuclear talks with Tehran while protecting its $7 billion trade relationship, which makes Italy Iran's biggest European trading partner.
Though Royal Dutch Shell and Spain's Repsol have reportedly delayed or cancelled natural gas projects in Iran, major energy firms from Italy, Germany and Switzerland forge ahead with lucrative oil and gas ventures, ensuring that the European Union remains Iran's largest trading partner, with some $22 billion in annual trade.
"Europe's policy is schizophrenic - just enough support for sanctions to stave off U.S. pressure for worse, but not so much as to derail relations or business with Iran," says Charles Powell, a former foreign affairs adviser to Margaret Thatcher. "They give the appearance of action and buy time for possible political changes in Iran and Washington."

Designing homes for the homeless

Jim Lewis is the author of, most recently, "The King Is Dead."

It starts with a plastic tarp, a woven polyethylene sheet, blue on one side and white on the other, about 18 square meters. Propped up on sticks or simply draped over whatever can be found, this becomes a dwelling; generally, four to six people are expected to live there.
Sometimes there are tents, though usually only enough for the most vulnerable - unattached women with children, for example. The tents measure about 16 square meters, or 170 square feet, and they, too, are meant to hold four to six: a family, or at least a household.
A cluster of 16 households makes a community; 16 communities form a block; 4 blocks are a sector; and 4 sectors are a camp. Four to six people in a flimsy structure measuring 13 feet by 13 feet, and next to them another, and then another, on to the horizon, a sea of blue and white forming a dense metropolis for displaced people.

According to the UN, a refugee is anyone who has crossed an international border to escape persecution, and there are about 10 million of them worldwide, 14 million if you include Palestinians (who are considered a special case). The numbers are rough, though, and the definition is vague: a forced migration can be caused by anything from war to famine, and those who have huddled in some barren sanctuary in their own country - and are therefore officially classified as internally displaced people - are hardly better off than those who have managed to cross a line on a map.

Expanding the definition to include, in effect, everyone on the run who needs help, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts a total of 33 million people "of concern." Some have melted into neighboring countries; a great many have effectively disappeared. About 3.7 million make their way into camps.
Few governments want to see large colonies of destitute foreigners perched indefinitely upon their borders. For one thing, it is potentially destabilizing, since whatever conflict brought them there may well spill over; for another, it is a blight. So refugee camps are, in conception and by design, meant to be temporary, and the people who live there are discouraged from settling in.
The official position, then, is that repatriation is always imminent. But refugee crises have a way of lasting much longer than anyone wants to admit, still less to explicitly plan for. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. There have been Afghans stranded in northwestern Pakistan since the Soviet invasion of their country in the late '70s, and Sudanese and Somalis in Kakuma in Kenya since 1992.
This creates a number of problems, among them a sharp rise in overcrowding: a settlement growing at 4 percent a year - standard among displaced people - will almost double in size in 17 years, though the land allotted to them cannot be expected to increase.
The question remains whether there is anything about the design of refugee camps that could make them better. Consider, for example, the basic structure of camps: the tarp, the tent, the cluster, the grid. The fundamental unit assumes that the nuclear family is the basic unit of settlement worldwide, as it is in the Western countries from which most aid workers come. But in many communities, people live among their extended families, their tribes or their clans.
And the grid arrangement, too, replicates European notions of the rational city; it may not serve those cultures that originally organized themselves along more fluid lines. By the same token, Western notions of democratic space - each unit of housing equivalent to the next - may fit our own notions of fairness but prove disruptive to communities that are structured around an implicit or explicit ranking in honor, say, of town elders.
To take another quite simple fact, in some parts of the world people cook outside, while in others they cook inside. Some cultures make more of an issue of privacy, and some less. Some separate women and children from men, and some do not. And so on.

A deeper, if more diffuse, problem is built into the very idea of an encampment. Many refugees skip the camps altogether and make their way into capitals, like the 1.4 million Iraqi refugees who, since the U.S. invasion, have crossed into Syria. In some cases these are urban populations looking for an urban refuge; others are rural people who believe that cities are where the jobs are. Very often they end up homeless and unemployed beyond the UN's help.

The result is a kind of spontaneous urbanization that nongovernmental organizations simply do not know how to address. The numbers are startling, and the phenomenon is widespread.
Even Darfur, which most Westerners think of as desert, has three major cities. According to Alex de Waal, a Sudan scholar attached to the Social Science Research Council in New York: "Five years ago, Darfur was 18 percent urbanized. It's now 65 percent urbanized, and it's unlikely it will drop below 50 percent. Most are squatting outside the cities on land that was previously farmland or forest land or had been used for something else. They tend to be new settlements that are very rapidly merged with the cities."

Refugee crises are usually seen as a stark example of the more general problem of disaster relief, but it may be more useful to see them in the context of the enormous new tide of urban migration, a trend that has created at least 26 cities worldwide with a population greater than 10 million.
This has created an ongoing housing emergency: megaslums, shantytowns, favelas, squatter's colonies. There are 80,000 people living on top of a garbage dump in Manila; a population of indeterminate size - perhaps as many as a million - who sleep every night in the cemeteries of Cairo; homeless encampments in San Francisco, Atlanta and Houston; guest workers camped beside the towers of the Persian Gulf; migrant workers in the San Fernando Valley. They are all displaced people.

One might ask where the architects are in all of this, the urbanists and city planners, the people who are trained to address this sort of thing.


J.K. Rowling stressed the crucial importance of imagination during a speech at Harvard University's spring commencement, saying, "We do not need magic to transform our world." The "Harry Potter" author, who received an honorary doctor of letters degree, also spoke about the benefit of failure, recalling the humiliations of her time in poverty before her career took off with her string of novels about a bespectacled boy wizard. Rowling urged the Harvard grads to use their influence and status to speak out on behalf of the powerless.


Giant new cities offer promise and challenge

'Don't tell anyone," Rem Koolhaas said to me several years ago as we drove through New York City, "but the 20th-century city is over. It has nothing new to teach us anymore. Our job is simply to maintain it." Koolhaas's viewpoint is widely shared by close observers of the evolution of cities. But not even Koolhaas, it seems, was completely prepared for what would come next.
In both China and the Gulf, cities comparable in size to New York have sprouted up almost overnight. Only 30 years ago, Shenzhen was a small fishing village of a few thousand people, and Dubai had merely a quarter-million people. Today Shenzhen has a population of eight million, and Dubai's glittering towers, rising out of the desert in disorderly rows, have become playgrounds for wealthy expatriates from Riyadh and Moscow.

"The old contextual model is not very relevant anymore," Jesse Reiser, a New York architect working in Dubai, told me recently. "What context are we talking about in a city that's a few decades old? The problem is that we are only beginning to figure out where to go from here."
The sheer number of projects under construction and the corresponding investment in civic infrastructure - entire networks of new subway systems, freeways and canals; gargantuan new airports and public parks - can give the impression that anything is possible in this new world.

"A city like Dubai is literally built on a desert," Koolhaas conceded when I asked him about the project. "There is a weird alternation between density and emptiness. You rarely feel that you are designing for people who are actually there but for communities that have yet to be assembled. The vernacular is too faint, too precarious to become something on which you can base an architecture."
Koolhaas says he hopes that the plan will gain in complexity as the buildings' functions are worked out; he says he was thrilled to learn that the government wanted both a courthouse and a mosque on the island.

As Holl told me recently in his New York office, working on a large scale doesn't mean that the particulars of place no longer matter. "I don't think of any of my buildings as a model for something, the way the Modernists did," Holl said. "If it works, it works in its specific context. You can't just move it somewhere else."
But is site specificity enough? "The amount of building becomes obscene without a blueprint," Koolhaas said. "Each time you ask yourself, Do you have the right to do this much work on this scale if you don't have an opinion about what the world should be like? We really feel that. But is there time for a manifesto? I don't know."

All of Darfur 'a crime scene,' UN Security Council is told

UNITED NATIONS, New York: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court presented a grim portrait of conditions in the Darfur region of Sudan to the UN Security Council, as a majority of council members pushed for what would be the first statement in three years condemning the Sudanese government.

The United States, long openly antagonistic toward the court, signaled a more supportive approach, with the U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, endorsing it to prosecute war crimes in Darfur. In the past, the United States has shown only passive support, abstaining on votes regarding the court's involvement in Darfur.
"The entire Darfur region is a crime scene," Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor, told the council Thursday, saying that the government of Sudan had been bombing schools, markets and water installations, some as recently as May. He said 100,000 people had been displaced so far this year.
If the scale is slightly reduced from what it has been, he said, it is only because "there are fewer villages to burn and loot, less civilians to terrorize and kill."

"The Security Council has been too shy in responding to Sudan's refusal to comply with regards to Darfur," said Bruno Stagno Ugarte, the Costa Rican foreign minister.
Stagno evoked massacres in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda during which the United Nations failed to act, saying, "The ghosts of Srebrenica and Rwanda should awaken us to the fact that some in Sudan believe that the graves in Darfur are not sufficiently full."
Five council members, including China, Indonesia and Libya, questioned Costa Rica's position, suggesting that the body was too one-sided in condemning the government and not the rebels, and in failing to pursue talks vigorously while expecting issues of justice to progress.


Mugabe bans opposition rallies

[U.S] Ambassador James McGee said the regime was distributing food mostly to its supporters and that those backing the opposition were offered food only if they handed in identification that would allow them to vote.
If the situation continued, "massive, massive starvation" would result, McGee told reporters in Washington by video conference from Harare.
Aid groups in Zimbabwe were ordered Thursday to halt their operations, leaving impoverished Zimbabweans dependent on the government and Mugabe's party.
Relief agencies estimate that the prohibition will deprive two million people of food aid and other basic assistance.

Government insiders say that the campaign of intimidation and violence is being coordinated by Mugabe and a small clique of police, intelligence and military officials intent on winning the runoff and extending their 28 years in power.

Aid workers and human rights groups say the suspension of humanitarian operations and the detention of the diplomats are part of the governing party's strategy to clear the countryside of witnesses to its brutal efforts to suppress the political opposition and drive its supporters out of the wards in which they are eligible to vote.

Krugman: Bits, bands and books

Many highly touted New Economy companies, it turned out, were better at promoting their images than at making money - although some of them did pioneer new forms of accounting fraud. After that came the oil shock and the food shock, grim reminders that we're still living in a material world.
So much, then, for the digital revolution? Not so fast. The predictions of '90s technology gurus are coming true more slowly than enthusiasts expected - but the future they envisioned is still on the march.
In 1994, one of those gurus, Esther Dyson, made a striking prediction: That the ease with which digital content can be copied and disseminated would eventually force businesses to sell the results of creative activity cheaply, or even give it away. Whatever the product - software, books, music, movies - the cost of creation would have to be recouped indirectly: Businesses would have to "distribute intellectual property free in order to sell services and relationships."
For example, she described how some software companies gave their product away but earned fees for installation and servicing. But her most compelling illustration of how you can make money by giving stuff away was that of the Grateful Dead, who encouraged people to tape live performances because "enough of the people who copy and listen to Grateful Dead tapes end up paying for hats, T-shirts and performance tickets. In the new era, the ancillary market is the market."

Indeed, it turns out that the Dead were business pioneers. Rolling Stone recently published an article titled "Rock's New Economy: Making Money When CDs Don't Sell." Downloads are steadily undermining record sales - but today's rock bands, the magazine reports, are finding other sources of income. Even if record sales are modest, bands can convert airplay and YouTube views into financial success indirectly, making money through "publishing, touring, merchandising and licensing."
What other creative activities will become mainly ways to promote side businesses? How about writing books?
According to a report in The New York Times, the buzz at this year's BookExpo America was all about electronic books. Now, e-books have been the coming, but somehow not yet arrived, thing for a very long time. (There's an old Brazilian joke: "Brazil is the country of the future - and always will be." E-books have been like that.) But we may finally have reached the point at which e-books are about to become a widely used alternative to paper and ink.
That's certainly my impression after a couple of months' experience with the device feeding the buzz, the Amazon Kindle. Basically, the Kindle's lightness and reflective display mean that it offers a reading experience almost comparable to that of reading a traditional book. This leaves the user free to appreciate the convenience factor: The Kindle can store the text of many books, and when you order a new book, it's literally in your hands within a couple of minutes.
It's a good enough package that my guess is that digital readers will soon become common, perhaps even the usual way we read books.
How will this affect the publishing business? Right now, publishers make as much from a Kindle download as they do from the sale of a physical book. But the experience of the music industry suggests that this won't last: Once digital downloads of books become standard, it will be hard for publishers to keep charging traditional prices.
Indeed, if e-books become the norm, the publishing industry as we know it may wither away. Books may end up serving mainly as promotional material for authors' other activities, such as live readings with paid admission. Well, if it was good enough for Charles Dickens, I guess it's good enough for me.
Now, the strategy of giving intellectual property away so that people will buy your paraphernalia won't work equally well for everything. To take the obvious, painful example: News organizations, very much including The New York Times, have spent years trying to turn large online readership into an adequately paying proposition, with limited success.
But they'll have to find a way. Bit by bit, everything that can be digitized will be digitized, making intellectual property ever easier to copy and ever harder to sell for more than a nominal price. And we'll have to find business and economic models that take this reality into account.
It won't all happen immediately. But in the long run, we are all the Grateful Dead


Electronic book stirs unease at book fair

By Edward Wyatt
Published: June 4, 2008

LOS ANGELES: Is the electronic book approaching the tipping point? That topic both energized and unnerved people attending BookExpo America, the publishing and bookselling industry's annual trade show, which ended at the convention center here on Sunday.

Much of the talk was focused on the Kindle, Amazon's electronic reader, which has gained widespread acclaim for its ease of use.
Jeffrey Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, spent much of a packed session on Friday evangelizing about the Kindle, which he said already accounts for 6 percent of his company's unit sales of books that are available in both paper and electronic formats.
But excitement about the Kindle, which was introduced in November, also worries some publishing executives, who fear Amazon's still-growing power as a bookseller. Those executives note that Amazon currently sells most of its Kindle books to customers for a price well below what it pays publishers, and they anticipate that it will not be long before Amazon begins using the Kindle's popularity as a lever to demand that publishers cut prices.
Overall, traffic at the book fair seemed lower than in past years, reflecting perhaps that some editors did not make the long trip west from Manhattan, as well as the fact that the growth in the book business has slowed.

While authors including William Shatner, Andre Dubus 3rd and Ty Pennington drew big crowds of booksellers seeking autographs, several books by little-known authors scheduled for publication were being pushed hard by publishers. Those include two that use witches, of a sort, as their protagonists and one whose author is in shaman training.
One, "The Heretic's Daughter," is a novel about Martha Carrier, the first woman to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. The author, Kathleen Kent, is a 10th-generation descendant of Carrier (though not a witch herself, said Reagan Arthur, an editor at the book's publisher, Little, Brown). Another, "The Lace Reader," by Brunonia Barry, is set in modern-day Salem, where the narrator hails from a family of women who can read the future in a pattern of lace.
The novel, being published by William Morrow in July, was previously self-published by the author.
Kira Salak, the author of the third novel, "The White Mary," draws on her travels across Papua New Guinea for an account of a journalist searching for a missing reporter who is thought to have committed suicide but might still be alive. According to Sarah Knight, an editor at Henry Holt, the author has undergone shaman training in Peru.
Booksellers, who make up the other major group attending the publishing convention, are also concerned that electronic books could become more than a passing fancy for an electronically savvy subset of customers.
"It certainly does feel like a threat," said Charles Stillwagon, the events manager at the Tattered Cover Book Store, a large independent bookseller in Denver.
Nearly all publishers say their sales of electronic books are growing exponentially. Carolyn Reidy, the chief executive of Simon & Schuster, said its sales of electronic books would more than double this year, after growing 40 percent in 2007. David Shanks, the chief executive of Penguin Group USA, said his company sold more electronic books in the first four months of 2008 than in all of last year.
The numbers are still small, which helps to account for the rapid growth. Reidy said that electronic book sales last year totaled about $1 million, a sliver of its annual sales of roughly $1 billion. During the convention, Simon & Schuster said it would convert an additional 5,000 titles to electronic format this year, more than doubling its number of electronic books and making available many of the best-selling books on the company's backlist of consistent sellers.
Electronic books have been available since 1968 and have gained broader attention at least since 2000, when Stephen King sold 600,000 copies of "Riding the Bullet," an electronic-only thriller, in two days. Now, however, "we're finally at the tipping point," Reidy said.
Much of the expected growth in electronic books can be tied to the Kindle. When Amazon introduced the product, it sold out of the machines on the first day. The company needed months to adjust its manufacturing capacity and supply chain to be able to keep Kindles in stock, which Bezos said it has now accomplished.
The chief competitor to the Kindle is the Sony Reader, which has been on the market since 2006 and has also helped increase sales of electronic books. Some technology critics have given the early advantage to the Kindle, however, which downloads books, daily newspapers and magazines wirelessly; the Sony Reader downloads content via a wired connection.

Even Bezos said he did not expect electronic books to replace bound paper versions anytime soon. "Anything that lasts 500 years is not easily improved upon," Bezos said. "Books are so good you can't out-book the book."
But he also claimed that Kindle users were buying more books, not simply exchanging one format for another. He said that after buying a Kindle, Amazon customers purchase just as many physical books and two and a half times as many books overall, or three electronic books for every two physical copies.
Some publishing executives dispute that claim. "We don't see people buying both versions," Shanks said. "I think there is almost a one-to-one cannibalization."
But neither Amazon nor Sony will say how many of their products they have sold, making it impossible for publishers to assess the size of the market or for bookstore owners to evaluate the threat.
One publisher estimated that Amazon had sold roughly 10,000 Kindles, while another estimated that as many as 50,000 electronic-book readers of all types are in general circulation. But both publishers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that those figures were little more than educated guesses.
Amazon sells most Kindle books for $9.99 or less. Publishers say that they generally sell electronic books to Amazon for the same price as physical books, or about 45 percent to 50 percent of the cover price. For a hardcover best-seller like Scott McClellan's "What Happened," the former press secretary's account of his years in the Bush White House, that would mean that Amazon appears to be selling the book for about 25 percent below its cost.
(Bezos probably did not endear himself to people in the publishing industry fearful about his company's power when, in response to a question after his speech, he waxed enthusiastic about how his "lottery ticket" wealth from the success of Amazon was allowing him to invest in a project to provide commercial travel to suborbital space.)
Electronic readers have nevertheless gained many fans in the publishing industry. Random House and Penguin, among others, have equipped their entire sales forces with electronic-book readers, allowing them to avoid having to lug around as many preview editions of books. Editors at many of the larger publishing houses also use the devices to read manuscripts submitted by agents and authors.
A big advantage of the products is that bookstores never sell out of copies of an electronic book, something Bezos demonstrated by downloading and reading from "What Happened," which in hardcover format has sold out in many stores. Amazon itself expects to be unable to ship new copies until June 21, according to its Web site. said it expected the book to be available June 6.
That, too, makes bookstore owners nervous about the future of electronic books.
"We're always concerned with any competition," Stillwagon, of Tattered Cover, said. "The technology has progressed, and people are embracing it. For us, every book sale counts."



DATE: Wednesday, June 04, 2008 9:27 PM

FROM: Tim Hely Hutchinson

TO: info AT

SUBJECT: From Tim Hely Hutchinson, CEO, Hachette Livre UK


Dear Ian

Hachette Livre UK & Amazon

If you are a keen observer of the website, you may have noticed some recent oddities in relation to books, possibly including yours, published by companies within the Hachette Livre UK group.

Amazon has been removing the “buy button” from some of our books and also removing some of our titles from promotional positions such as “Perfect Partner”, in order to apply pressure on us to give Amazon even better commercial terms than it presently receives.

While it is right that we tell you what is going on if it may affect your books, we would not normally trouble you with the details of our commercial discussions. In this instance, however, there are important strategic reasons for us to resist completely Amazon’s demands and we thought you would like to know about them.

Larger British book retailers already receive the most generous terms in the English-language world from publishers including ourselves. Of the “cake” represented by the recommended retail price of a general book, major retailers including Amazon already receive on average well over 50%. Despite these advantageous terms, Amazon seems each year to go from one publisher to another making increasing demands in order to achieve richer terms at our expense and sometimes at yours. (You may have read in the press a few weeks ago of Amazon’s penalties against Bloomsbury and its authors). If this continued, it would not be long before Amazon got virtually all of the revenue that is presently shared between author, publisher, retailer, printer and other parties. (Again, you may have read that in the USA Amazon has been demanding that it should take over the printing, initially of print-on-demand titles, dictating its own royalty terms to publishers and authors). We are politely but firmly saying that these encroachments need to stop now. Declining all additional terms demands is the approach that we even-handedly take with all major retailers, and it is particularly important in relation to Amazon.

Amazon has grown very rapidly since it launched and it now makes some 16% of all book sales in Britain. We respect the creativity, the value and range offered and the standards of service that have made Amazon so successful. At its present rate of growth, which was 30% last year, Amazon would become the largest bookseller in Britain in about three years. You will be aware that the retail market for book is not increasing and therefore much of this growth would inevitably come at the expense of “bricks and mortar” booksellers. This is of course not a criticism of Amazon, and no publisher can or should tell the public where to shop. However, we are concerned that more and more traditional booksellers are having to close their doors, with skilled individual booksellers losing their jobs, and this is due in part to Amazon’s aggressively low pricing on prominent titles. Therefore, despite our limited role in respect of these changes in the retail landscape, we are determined not to provide Amazon with further ammunition with which it could damage booksellers who offer a personal service, browsing facilities and other valuable benefits to the reading public.

Amazon’s sanctions against you and us are unlikely to hurt either of us badly and they could prove to be a catalyst for Amazon starting to lose its popularity with the public. Amazon’s reputation to date has been built on range, service and honest recommendations to customers. Their current actions represent reduced range and service together with distorted recommendations – effectively creating a breach of trust between Amazon and its customers, particularly its “Prime” customers who have paid to have free delivery on a comprehensive range of books. Meanwhile, our titles are easily available online from Amazon Marketplace,, and other retailers, as well of course as from bookshops.

We would be grateful for your patience while we persuade Amazon to appreciate its many present advantages - and its responsibilities to others, as it becomes increasingly dominant. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to ask me any questions or to let me have your views.

Kindest regards.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Hely Hutchinson
Group Chief Executive

Please consider the environment. Do you really need to print this email?
Hachette Livre UK Limited, 338 Euston Road, London, NW1 3BH. Registered in England and Wales under company no. 3701589
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DATE: 05 June 2008 01:33
info AT
TO: Tim Hely Hutchinson

SUBJECT: FOR TIM From Tim Hely Hutchinson, CEO, Hachette Livre UK

Thanks for letting me know this, but frankly, I'm not very surprised, and rather indifferent.

You - the large corporate publishers - have, I am afraid for many years, through poor negotiating and not standing firm back in the days of those tiresome trips down the M4 to see WH Smiths, completely failed to protect your price position.

Secondly, when you started to promote books through Amazon/Waterstone's by actually paying for them to promote your titles, by way of huge discounts and 'administrative costs', for books that YOU, not they, needed to shift because they were dogs that you had over paid for and on which you felt obliged to recuperate, rather than right off, your initial bad investment, you entered into a pact with the devil, and basically informed them they could manipulate your price point any which way.

They had/have you over a barrel the moment you started paying them to promote books in their customer facing spaces that THEY knew (they too read the reader reviews on Amazon and the literary press) were poor books.

I would therefore advise the following strategy from now on.

Firstly, acquire less books and sit down with some industry outsiders and come up with a business plan that doesn't resemble the betting strategy of a once a year Grand National punter.

Secondly, pay less for books that you acquire, and spend that money on marketing the books that get good reader reaction and critical reviews in hardback, instead of endlessly pouring good money after bad trying to recuperate over-paid for advances on books that have been badly received. When Amazon and Waterstone's get the message that you won't pay through discounts or other mechanisms to promote bad books, then order will be re-established.

Thirdly, have a large discretionary marketing budget - at least one third - that you chuck behind books that YOU want to promote because they have been incredibly well received, and which therefore the bookshops/Amazon will ALSO want to sell for the same reason: not because they know and you know you have overpaid for a bad book you now have to break even on.

To re-establish your seat at the negotiation table you must have leverage, and right now you have none, because you have frittered it away by showing them time and time again you will pay them to push bad product. Only when you have mutual vested interests to take a well received book forward and turn it into a best seller will you have leverage, and when you have leverage, then negotiate.

Right now you have none, and your stand will amount to not a bag of beans, even if you think the negative PR out of all this for Amazon is going to make them fold. It might in the short term, but in the long term, until you change how and when you use your marketing dollars, these people will play you for the fools you are - junkies addicted to breaking even on bad product through heavy discounting and paying over the odds for in-store promotion.

Fourthly, employ some professional marketing and PR people trained and experienced in a wide array of FMCG other than books. The skills set of your staff, your most senior staff, in this department, I can tell you and could illustrate to you, are simply way, way behind the wave. The people at Amazon and Waterstone's are just a hell of lot smarter than the people you have out there selling and marketing, and they're beating you to a pulp.

Fifthly, look after your new and existing authors. Woo them not with big advances, but smaller ones, but counter balanced by well presented marketing plans for the book. (To come up with them, see point four above.) You pay them a nominal amount for their MS, on condition that if it is well reviewed and well received by readers (focus groups/the internet/blogs/Amazon reviews/letters to the author etc) you will put serious money into promoting them, and give them a bigger cut of the action, which you will be able to do, because:
a) you haven't spent £800,000 acquiring a footballer's memoirs or The Thirteenth Tale
b) you'll have a product you can hold your price point on because the book sellers know too that the book is actually good, rather than something you feel obligated to recuperate your investment on.

This means learning from the banking sector the skill of 'righting off' bad product and authors learning that the days of big advances for unproven MS are over. But what replaces it is better marketing and bigger royalties.

When agents advise their authors which deal to take based on the marketing capacities and know-how of the publisher, and the plan they present to the agent and author to market the book, then you'll know you're doing something right.

Sixthly, simply publish less books. The market is saturated. Excuse me for using Bill Clinton speak, but it's all about margins, stupid. I was staggered to hear one of your senior unit MDs and CEO boasting to me how many books (UNITS, let's call a spade a spade) Orion had sold, and how little my role was in that larger picture. It's frankly irrelevant if you are selling 6 million or 60 million units if your margins and negotiating position with your POS outlets is so bad, you have to write an email like the one below to me. Clearly you're in big trouble, and I have advised a number of banker friends to short a number of publishing stocks for some time.

Less titles will mean that you wont find yourself in a position where you have one junior PR person to look after 300 paperbacks in one of your units a year. How can she possibly do ANYTHING with that capacity, given how much time would be straight forward organisational work for big name authors, a job that could be outsourced to a competent PA in Mumbai.

What you need are creative marketers and PR professionals who find the hooks for the media in books, not people who are barely able, in fact are not able, to write a competent, professional press release.

Seventhly, and this is related to point 6, surely you have done some analysis on just how much back of the book space there is for books in broadsheets. Quality media space is finite, yet again, rather like with the retailers, they, the lit. editors and features editors have you over a barrel. They wont give you review space for a bad book that you need to recuperate your investment on, unless you give them exclusive features on big name authors. So they hold all the PR cards, just like your retailers hold all the cards at that table.

Penultimately, learn like Obama and Dean how to harness the internet to spread word of mouth. For this you will need clearly defined brands (imprints) with clearly respected reputations, and people who know about viral marketing. The hodge podge of books you find within your imprints would be like Obama trying to sell himself with one set of viral communications saying he was white and another saying he was black.

Lastly, market segment your offerings, and monetize the brand value of the imprints that you are devalueing by merging them into to say so economy of scale operations. Lord knows what you paid for W&N, but I hope the Lord got cash, not stock, and I hope you realise that you essentially overpaid, when a straightforward back list projected royalty purchase/bond might have made better sense for the Lord and you, given how you and other publishers are ripping apart, the admittedly low brand value in the consumer, if not the trade, mind.

There's money to be made out of Celebs and TV Tie Ins and all the rest, but are you seriously going to forsake, and leave to the Americans, the market for serious books of consequence?

To give you a simple illustration of the above problems, take a look at my book, how much money was spent acquiring it, how much money was spent promoting it AFTER it became clear from hardback feedback it had legs.

The answer is zero, because there is no money in your marketing coffers to spend, because it is spent on books that either don't need much in the way of promoting (Michael Palin) or desperately do need the money to spend on promoting a bad book that you paid too much for, not helped by the fact you don't understand the accounting principles of righting off 'bad debt' or devaluing your junked assets on your balance sheet in one time charges.

When viewing art, less can be more

By John Vinocur
AMSTERDAM: There's something exhausting about the great traditional art museums, encyclopedias that you can never get through and wouldn't want to, except on a bet or propelled by a massive intellectual conceit.

The big, great museums, like five-story department stores in my mind, have crash barriers into which you plunge at any moment, either lost in a room full of halberds, exhausted by paintings of midget court jesters or gone claustrophobic in the press of bodies, and mumbling gotta-get-outta-here-NOW.
Unkindly, it could be said, this was the case of the Rijksmuseum, housing vast Dutch treasures, a million items probably best reached and viewable - especially what you wanted to see - by satellite guidance system.
Until something happened. When the museum's renovation began in 2003, it was decided that 400 exceptional works would be brought together from the overall collection for exhibition in a single wing, the equivalent of one-tenth of the Rijksmuseum's normal space.
People enormously like the down-sized collection called The Masterpieces. They come to see it in numbers close to the level of all the other wings combined before their closure. And the visitors' level of satisfaction has put possibly subversive ideas in the heads of some of the Rijksmuseum's directors about how the public wants to look at art in a great, traditional museum.
Admit it: as much the Prado or the Louvre are daunting, there's something déclassé about the idea of saying you did each of them, Goyas or Mona Lisa included, and in 90 minutes (the average visiting time for The Masterpieces), re-emerged revivified. It's more than just a little like the old Reader's Digest Condensed Books - four literary classics or best sellers abridged into one volume for your personal pleasure and convenience!
Someone has surely called today's Rijksmuseum speed-dial, mini-golf culture, or a Best Of spinoff of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen, or a dumbed-down compilation of Greatest Dutch Hits.
I went inside for €10, about $15, and the answer to all the contempt is no way.
With only 650 people allowed onto the wing's two floors at any one time, the forced-march and I-climbed-Mont-Blanc accomplishment aspect of the usual visit is gone. No walls of fatigue descend that say enough and out. Instead, there's the comfort and nonrush of reasonably small spaces.
Here's a terrific thing about The Masterpieces: Because the visitor's head and body are not crushed, great individual discoveries and surprises emerge that go beyond what's most renowned from the Dutch Golden Age.
I especially wanted to see the Vermeers and Jan Steens. Simple. Done.
But I knew nothing of C.C. van Wieringen's painting of the Dutch naval victory over the Spanish at Gibraltar. A Spanish ship explodes, and in the joy of the Dutch victory - the 17th century knew no shame about military success - a drum, a broom, a ladder and plenty of bodies are blasted into the sky.
Beyond the familiar composure and contentment of the burghers in black, I had no sense of the horror of the era: look at the brothers, Johan and Cornelis de Witt, hanging upside down like meat from a gallows, their bodies hacked to the guts. Jan de Baen, painting in 1672, got there with awful power three centuries ahead of Francis Bacon.
Another first sight: the exceptional strength and excitement of Jan Asselijn's threatened swan, legs spread, white wings unfurled, the muscles of its chest and neck taut. And the cool daring of Bartholomeus van der Helst's portrait of the 20-year-old son of Amsterdam's mayor, dressed in salmony pink, fat and futile, but with cruel little eyes. It's a picture to get the man who did it in big trouble, or perhaps one painted on the instructions of the powerful father.
Best of all the discoveries - the tolerant Netherlands respects even the least qualified opinions, right? - could be a still life by Johannes Torrentius. A metallic flagon, a wine glass of perfect roundness and an earthenware jug - stunning grace (and, if you read the accompanying explanation, a message about measure's triumph over excess).


BROOKS: The art of growing up

In January 1841, Abraham Lincoln seems to have at least vaguely thought of suicide. His friend Joshua Speed found him one day thrashing about in his room. "Lincoln went Crazy," Speed wrote. "I had to remove razors from his room - take away all Knives and other such dangerous things - it was terrible."
Lincoln was taking three mercury pills a day, the remedy in those days for people who either suffered from syphilis or feared contracting it. "Lincoln could not eat or sleep," Daniel Mark Epstein writes in his new book, "The Lincolns." "He appeared at the statehouse irregularly, hollow-eyed, unshaven, emaciated - an object of pity to his friends and of derision to others."
Later, Lincoln wrote of that period with shame, saying that he had lost the "gem of my character." He would withdraw morosely from the world into a sort of catatonic state. Early in his marriage, Epstein writes, "Lincoln had night terrors. He woke in the middle of the night trembling, talking gibberish."
He would, of course, climb out of it. He would come to terms with his weaknesses, control his passions and achieve what we now call maturity.
The concept of maturity has undergone several mutations over the course of American history. In Lincoln's day, to achieve maturity was to succeed in the conquest of the self. Human beings were born with sin, infected with dark passions and satanic temptations. The transition to adulthood consisted of achieving mastery over them.


The art (and science) of making a Formula One champion

In the 1950s, in Formula One's early years, it was not unusual for men in their 40s to win races regularly. Juan Manuel Fangio won his fourth drivers' title in 1956 at the age of 45. As recently as 1994, Nigel Mansell won a race at 41 during a short-lived comeback.
Since then, however, drivers have been getting younger, with Hamilton, 23, and Fernando Alonso, 26, who won his second straight world title two years ago, rewriting the records for young drivers, and more and more teams hiring ever-younger drivers.
Yet Hamilton's failure to win the title despite holding a 17-point lead with only two races left still raises questions for team directors: Is it better to have a young, naturally talented and fast driver or an older, more experienced and mature but perhaps slightly slower driver? What is the best teammate combination?
Ron Dennis, the owner and director of the McLaren team that has nurtured Hamilton since he was a boy, said it was not so easy to find answers.
"The makeup of a winning driver isn't as simplistic as young and fast, old and mature," Dennis said. "The first thing is, a driver has to be quick, old or young."
"Sometimes speed comes with disadvantages - inconsistency, tendency to have accidents, lack of discipline out of the car, lack of physical condition - so speed isn't going to automatically make you win," he added. "But making a slow driver fast is almost impossible."
Dennis said that detecting speed is a science, as technology allows teams to study optimal sleep patterns, heart rates, and the driving skills of cornering, braking and acceleration. But he said nurturing a fast, young driver is, by contrast, an art.

Experience and maturity also have a paradoxical downside, according to Patrick Head, a part owner and director of the Williams team.
"Maturity means experience, and with experience usually comes a certain amount of wisdom," Head said. "But sometimes with that wisdom comes a certain caution, as well. So sometimes as a driver becomes more experienced he maybe loses a little bit of speed. In some conditions, say in wet conditions or difficult conditions, sometimes they lose a bit of speed."

David Sedaris talks funny: But is it real?
"I do think Sedaris exaggerates too much for a writer using a nonfiction label," Alex Heard wrote in a long article in The New Republic called "This American Lie." (Sedaris has often appeared on the public radio program "This American Life.") In preparation for his article, Heard revisited some Sedaris essays, investigating the places and interviewing the characters. Some details did not match up, and Heard suggests in the article that Sedaris "issue Oprah Moment apologies to a few people" he has written about, including members of a nudist colony and his mother.
Sedaris has always said that he exaggerates for effect, particularly in dialogue; an author's note in the new book describes the stories as "realish." He also maintains that in the sort of essays he writes, reality is a subjective, slippery concept, particularly as no two people have the same recollection of the same event. "Memoir is the last place you'd expect to find the truth," he said as he nibbled at his sandwich.
He also said that some details in his essays are obviously fictionalized. "Naked," for instance, has a story "where my mother hits a cat with her car, and the cat dies, and the cat comes back to life and says, 'You killed me,"' he said. Speaking of Heard, he added, "That's what he was fact-checking, that book."
Weighing in on The New Republic article, many critics said at the time that a little embellishment in humor was hardly the crime of the century.
"Well, flog me with a wet noodle, as Ann Landers used to say," Alex Beam wrote sarcastically in The Boston Globe. In The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, J. Peder Zane said that Heard "is more like the obsessive Inspector Javert than Woodward and Bernstein." And in The Washington Post, Peter Carlson called the article "truly ridiculous" and suggested that Heard look into other questions like "Did Mark Twain fudge facts about how far that frog jumped?" and "Did the bed really fall on James Thurber's father?"
But Jack Shafer, who writes the Press Box column for Slate magazine, said Sedaris deserved everything The New Republic said about him, and more.
"There's a whole section in every bookstore for what a guy like David Sedaris does: It's called the fiction section," Shafer said in a telephone interview. "He is exploiting his audience by presenting that which is not true as the truth, and he's doing it, basically, to make a better story, and that is deplorable."
Readers and critics are especially sensitive to signs of fabulism in nonfiction now that some of the most harrowing details in recent mean-streets memoirs, like Frey's "Million Little Pieces," have turned out to be invented. But many readers, for whatever reason, seem to hold humor writers to looser standards, almost assuming that they will embroider their anecdotes. Still, at The New Yorker, where much of his work first appears, Sedaris is subject to the same fact-checking regimen as everyone else, said the magazine's editor, David Remnick.
"I realize that there are all kinds of arguments that one can make about the special place of memoir and the complications of memory itself, but at the same time I think the reader of the magazine has a right to know what he or she is to believe - or not," Remnick said in an e-mail message. "As a result, anything that purports to be nonfiction, whether it is a reporting piece from Washington or a memoir, goes through a rigorous process of fact-checking."
Death in Wyoming: Alexandra Fuller's 'The Legend of Colton T. Bryant '
The Legend of Colton T. Bryant By Alexandra Fuller. 202 pages. $23.95, The Penguin Press; £12.99, Simon & Schuster Ltd.
If one compares a book to a house, the primary difference between the novelist and the nonfiction author is that novelists can build the most glorious mansion with nothing but their minds, writes the reviewer Bryan Burrough. With apologies to writers like Tom Clancy and Tom Wolfe, who actively research their books, a novel, for the most part, is just a dream on the page. The nonfiction author, however, must build his house by tramping into the woods of society day after day, rooting through the underbrush for just the right wood; then he must fell the trees, haul them back to his site and assemble his dwelling log by log, nail by nail, all the while keeping in mind that if one plank is out of place, someone will howl. Fiction is an art. Nonfiction is construction. Which is why, as a nonfiction writer, I get all twitchy whenever a novelist, or in this case someone who writes as well as a novelist, ventures into the world of hard-won facts. Because whew boy, can Alexandra Fuller write. In "The Legend of Colton T. Bryant," a slender volume that which tells the story of a Wyoming kid who died in an oil-field accident, Fuller strings together sentences that are as beautiful as anything you'll read in contemporary fiction. It's not a stretch to call them poetry. But the more I read of this book and the more I marveled at Fuller's evocative descriptions of sunrises and mountain lakes and boisterous rodeos, the more one question kept nagging at me: can this really be called nonfiction? The red flags begin to fly early in the book, which is essentially a series of dialogue-heavy vignettes built around Bryant, a high-spirited young man growing up in Evanston. First off, it should be said, there is no legend of Colton T. Bryant. This is an attempt to elevate an otherwise mundane story. Bryant is nothing more and nothing less than a Wyoming Everyboy and, sad to say, not the brightest one at that. Hyperactive and unfocused, he's maybe four steps up the evolutionary ladder from the mentally challenged Leo DiCaprio of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." Just about everyone joshingly calls him "retard." It's Bryant's banality, one suspects, that attracted Fuller, who wrote two books set in Africa, where she grew up ("Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" and "Scribbling the Cat"), and is now presumably trying to make sense of her surroundings in Wyoming.
In Fuller's hands Bryant wanders straight out of the new American West of "Brokeback Mountain," only without, you know, the gay stuff, and the love story and the drama. The Fuller-Bryant West is bleak and cold and exceedingly windy, all morning sunlight dappled on icy ponds, cowboy boots breaking the crust of spring snow. Here is Fuller on a long-ago morning at a Wyoming lake: "There was a lacy netting of mist coming off the lake, all secretive with what it knew about water and air and the difference between the two. ... A raven was making a noise as if two pebbles were dropping around in its throat." Really? This kind of description stopped me more than once. Is that how one of Bryant's chuckleheaded buddies described it? Or how Fuller imagined it? The book is chock-full of lines like that, deft observations of details from Bryant's past. Gorgeous word-pictures all, yet time and again a reader is obliged to ask: How could she know that?
In this way One follows Bryant's meandering story through countless Brobdingnagian bottles of Mountain Dew and wads of chewing tobacco, into an impromptu early marriage and finally out to the Wyoming oil fields, where the young man meets his death in an accident that Fuller, oddly, barely describes. It's an anticlimactic and disappointing ending to the story, following page after page of teenage banter among Bryant and his pals. A reader's sense of mild consternation is only heightened with the author's note that follows. In it, Fuller writes: "This is a work of nonfiction, but I have taken narrative liberties with the text. I have emphasized certain aspects of Colton's life and of his personality and disregarded others. I have recreated dialogue and occasionally juggled time to create a smoother story line." These three sentences cry out for explanation. "Disregarded" aspects of his personality? "Juggled time to create a smoother story line?" What does that mean? What was done here? The book is packed with dialogue. Is all of it imagined? Or some of it? Call me a strict constructionist, but I wanted to yell, No, no, no, you can't do that! Not if you want to call a book nonfiction. That's not artistic license. It's cheating. Not cheating in the sense that plagiarism is cheating. I don't believe Fuller has committed a major literary felony here, but it's clearly a misdemeanor, even if she comes out and admits it. Which is a shame. She is clearly a talented writer. She does a wonderful job of evoking Wyoming and its people. She makes Bryant a very real, if only mildly appealing, character. Why was it necessary to take shortcuts?

Bryan Burrough is a special correspondent at Vanity Fair. His new book, "The Big Rich: Four Texas Families and the American Century," will be published next year.
V.S. Naipaul's 'A Writer's People'
By David Rieff

A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling. An Essay in Five Parts. By V.S. Naipaul. 189 pages. $24.95, Alfred A. Knopf; £16.99, Picador.
All my life," V.S. Naipaul writes in the introduction to "A Writer's People," his dense, dry, frustrating new memoir, "I have had to think about ways of looking and how they alter the configuration of the world." Why this point is so crucial to Naipaul - indeed, why he seems to construe it as one of the great challenges of his long and distinguished career - is anything but evident. Surely almost every serious writer would make an identical claim.
Then again, Naipaul does not consider himself just a writer, but something grander and more ambitious. His stated project is "fitting one civilization to another."
Grandiloquence has always been the Achilles' heel of Naipaul's writing, his fiction and nonfiction alike, for all its myriad strengths-. But despite Naipaul's rather grandiose claims about his book's purpose, "A Writer's People" is actually better understood as the chronicle of the young Naipaul's arriving in London and discovering, as he puts it, that "romantic and beautiful though the idea is, there is no such thing as a republic of letters where Å. . . all bring their work and all are equal."
"I was trying to make my way," he notes, "as a writer in a place which really had no room for me, which had its own ideas of what writing was."
But is what he's saying true? Is there really an essentially English way of seeing and an altogether different Indian way of seeing, as Naipaul asserts in "Looking and Not Seeing: The Indian Way," the first of the book's two chapters on India, part reminiscence about his family's roots, part portrait of Gandhi? And are there also, as Naipaul suggests in pages on his native Trinidad, still other ways, one black, the other immigrant Indian? One may question Naipaul's premise, but it in no way negates that he is a very great writer.
What remains impressive, even in this disappointing book, is Naipaul's sense of wonder at the worlds he has discovered.
Few writers have traveled as far from their origins as Naipaul has, and done it so willingly and with such single-mindedness, and few have regretted that estrangement quite so much.

David Rieff is the author, most recently, of "Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir."
Salman Rushdie's 'The Enchantress of Florence': A long paean to the power of dreams
The Enchantress of Florence By Salman Rushdie 355 pages. $26. Random House.
From the very beginning of his new novel, "The Enchantress of Florence," Salman Rushdie plunges us into a world of marvels: "In the day's last light the glowing lake below the palace-city looked like a sea of molten gold. ... Perhaps (the traveler surmised) the fountain of eternal youth lay within the city walls - perhaps even the legendary doorway to Paradise on Earth was somewhere close at hand? But then the sun fell below the horizon, the gold sank beneath the water's surface, and was lost. Mermaids and serpents would guard it until the return of daylight." And sure enough, that's where he began to lose me. I'm probably not Rushdie's target audience: in literature, at least, I find the marvelous tedious, and the tedious - as rendered by a Beckett or a Raymond Carver or even a Kafka - marvelous. But if I can upset myself over the plight of a traveling salesman who wakes up one morning as a bug, why did this ingenious and ambitious novel - no less than a defense of the human imagination - leave me unmoved?
Well, since I asked, I'll tell you. Kafka doesn't present Gregor Samsa's transformation as a marvel but as a shameful matter of fact, and nowhere does he betray any pride in having dreamed it up - in fact, you get the feeling he'd rather not have. "The Enchantress of Florence," on the other hand, revels in writerly self-congratulation.
"The Enchantress of Florence" is so pious - especially in its impiety - so pleased with itself and so besotted with the sound of its own voice that even the tritest fancies get a free pass. "But imagine, Jodha," Akbar tells his imaginary wife, "if we could awake in other men's dreams and change them, and if we had the courage to invite them into ours. What if the whole world became a single waking dream?" Not that again - didn't Samuel Johnson squelch such Berkeleyan whimsies by kicking a stone? Maybe it's just my philistine cussedness talking, but life's just too short.

David Gates's most recent book is "The Wonders of the Invisible World," a collection of stories

Deposed CEO adds a female face to McCain's team
WASHINGTON: Three years ago, Carleton Fiorina was the celebrity chief executive who was spectacularly fired by the Hewlett-Packard board. She produced a best-selling memoir, "Tough Choices," but for the most part spent the years after her ouster in self-imposed relative exile from public life.
"Well, see, the good news about business is, results count," Fiorina, 53, responded briskly in a recent interview in her office at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill. "And the results have been very clear. The results have been crystal clear. From the day I was fired, every quarter, even before they had a new CEO, has been record after record. That doesn't happen unless the foundation's been built."
Opinion is still split on whether Fiorina or her successor as chief executive, Mark Hurd, deserves credit for Hewlett's success after Fiorina drove through the company's $25 billion acquisition of Compaq in 2002. By many accounts, Fiorina was superb at marketing, mixed on strategy, bad at execution - and extraordinarily successful in unifying the board against what Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management calls her "street bully" leadership style.
"What a blind spot this is in the McCain campaign to have elevated her stature and centrality in this way," said Sonnenfeld, the senior associate dean for executive programs at the management school and one of Fiorina's sharpest critics. "You couldn't pick a worse, non-imprisoned CEO to be your standard-bearer."

Leicester Tigers sack Loffreda after one season
LONDON: Leicester Tigers sacked their Argentine head coach Marcelo Loffreda on Friday after just one season in the job.
Loffreda, 49, took charge of the club after guiding Argentina to third place in last year's World Cup.
"The Board of Leicester Tigers has come to this decision after conducting its review of the playing season and in assessing what we believe is required to achieve the club's aspirations for the future," Leicester chairman Peter Tom said on the club's Web site (
"Our decision has been taken with a degree of sadness. But we have taken this course of action in the best interests of the club and we felt that this had to be done now to allow everyone to prepare fully to meet the challenges of the new season."
Leicester finished fourth in the Premiership.

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