The Null Device
It now emerges that many buildings in Moscow have large quantities of explosives hidden under them. The explosives were buried by officers of the NKVD (which became the KGB) during World War 2, in case the Nazis captured Moscow:
"At night, they descended into the hotel's basement, designated a man to watch, and dug. They dug through the brick foundation and made a cache beneath the basement. Then, on another night, other NKVD officers secretly delivered a truck full of TNT right into the hotel's inner yard. The officers quartered on the first floor helped unload the explosives and carry the packages one by one into the cache beneath the basement. When they were through, they covered up the cache."
"My father said that the plan went like this: the Germans weren't supposed to suspect anything when they examined the premises. They say that the propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels wanted to be housed in the Moskva Hotel and turn it into his personal propaganda office with a view of the Kremlin."It is presently not known where exactly there still are explosives.
Apparently, next week is National Singles Week, an event to highlight the growing proportion of the population that is uncoupled, dispel myths about all singletons being desperately unhappy, and push for the government to reform laws that penalise people for being single. (Note: this is the British government; the Australian government firmly believes in the absolute supremacy of the nuclear family and is as likely to look favourably on alternatives as it is to sign the Kyoto protocol or start inviting controversial art-house filmmakers to screen their wares on its relaxed and comfortable shores.)
About 48 per cent of the adult population is now single, and by 2010 more than 40 per cent of households are expected to be occupied by single people.
(Is this one-person households? Being uncoupled I can understand, though I can't imagine 40% of households in Britain being occupied by people who can afford to live alone. Not unless they redefine bedrooms as separate households or somesuch.)
The survey, timed to coincide with National Singles Week, which begins on Monday, found that 82 per cent of those questioned said that being single gave them "an opportunity to try new life experiences" and 89 per cent said that travelling alone "boosted their confidence" and allowed them to be more spontaneous and adventurous.
"There are disadvantages to being single. Apart from some financial ones, there are social ones as some couples think of single people as predatory and many older single people are lonely," Ms Knowles said.
A list of some of the more unusual holiday options advertised, from bog snorkelling in Wales to seal hunting in Norway, and from the oft-mentioned Chernobyl tours to spending time homeless on the streets:
After paying a registration fee - which has to be raised by begging - participants are sent out to live on the streets, beg for sustenance and learn the workings of the inner-city. It is an initiation into the life of a street dweller. Participants are asked not to shave or wash their hair for 10 days before the retreat starts. They should come with one piece of ID, an empty plastic bag and wear old clothes (definitely no change of outfit necessary). Organisers promise to provide a list of soup kitchens and shelters.
A US company is planning to start selling human breast milk, buying milk from mothers, packaging it and selling it. Which is even more unusual than it sounds, given that breast milk in the US contains so many toxic chemicals that it would be illegal to sell under the FDA's own rules.
Stalinist MP George Galloway has caused another stir after praising Iraqi insurgents as "martyrs"; which is rather odd language for a good dialectic-materialist Marxist to be using, wouldn't you say?
He told Syrian Television: "Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners - Jerusalem and Baghdad. "The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. "The daughters are crying for help and the Arab world is silent. And some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters."
"It can be said, truly said, that the Iraqi resistance is not just defending Iraq. They are defending all the Arabs and they are defending all the people of the world against American hegemony."It makes one wonder: do the martyrs and heroes include those who beheaded Ken Bigley and brutally murdered Margaret Hassan? Are al-Qaeda now in George Galloway's list of global freedom fighters?
Bloody hell; they're remaking The Wicker Man. They are, of course, relocating it to the US (as all today's stories happen in America); though for some reason, they're setting it off the coast of Maine (presumably because the climate is like Scotland's). IMHO, a US-set Wicker Man would have worked better somewhere around the Old Testament heartland of the south, where people take fire and brimstone absolutism in with their mother's milk, good Christian folk believe that Satan is real and walking among them, black-clad teenage outcasts believe that Satan is way cool and drinking blood will give them super powers; they could have made Lord Summerisle into a David Koresh-like figure, a mullet-haired leader of a devout Christian community that's really a weird pagan cult. Moving it to Maine, in contrast, sounds somewhat unimaginative.
Hanif Kureishi, author of The Black Album (a book touching on Muslim radicalism in Britain at the time of the Satanic Verses fatwa), on the growth of radicalism among British Muslims:
The mosques I visited, in Whitechapel and Shepherd's Bush, were nothing like any church I'd attended. The scenes, to me, were extraordinary, and I was eager to capture them in my novel. There would be passionate orators haranguing a group of people sitting on the floor. One demagogue would replace another, of course, but the "preaching" went on continuously, as listeners of all races came and went. I doubt whether you'd see anything like this now, but there would be diatribes against the west, Jews and - their favourite subject - homosexuals.
Sometimes I would be invited to the homes of these young "fundamentalists". One of them had a similar background to my own: his mother was English, his father a Muslim, and he'd been brought up in a quiet suburb. Now he was married to a woman from Yemen who spoke no English. Bringing us tea, she came into the room backwards, and bent over too, out of respect for the men. The men would talk to me of "going to train" in various places, but they seemed so weedy and polite, I couldn't believe they'd want to kill anyone.
I found these sessions so intellectually stultifying and claustrophobic that at the end I'd rush into the nearest pub and drink rapidly, wanting to reassure myself I was still in England. It is not only in the mosques but also in so-called "faith" schools that such ideas are propagated. The Blair government, while attempting to rid us of radical clerics, has pledged to set up more of these schools, as though a "moderate" closed system is completely different to an "extreme" one. This might suit Blair and Bush. A benighted, ignorant enemy, incapable of independent thought, and terrified of criticism, is easily patronised.Meanwhile, the Graun's Jonathan Freedland suggests that the reason that second-generation British Muslims are embracing radicalism in large numbers has to do with the lack of a US-style sense of national identity; apparently, British culture is too self-deprecating and embarrassed of itself to hold much appeal or command much loyalty, and the vacuum is filled with radical Islamism and such; consequently, if Britain is to assimilate people from different cultures peacefully and cohesively, it needs a new sense of national pride.
Though wouldn't anything even remotely redolent of earnest national pride, let alone the sort of chest-beating God-Bless-America-Fuck-Yeah-We're-Number-One Stars-and-Stripes-on-your-Hummer triumphalism that exists in the US, be fundamentally un-British? I can't imagine the Britons of today festooning their Vauxhall Corsas and row houses with enormous Union Jacks and declaiming, in all earnestness, that their national destiny is ordained by God. This may have been otherwise at the height of the British Empire; after all, it was the British who coined the word "jingoism"; and as for God-given manifest destiny, Britain came up with Anglo-Israelitism, the ideology that the English are God's true chosen people. These days, however, that sort of thing comes across as a bit naff.