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Humor: The joys of air travel

Sixteen time zones

This is not my story.

Yet, it is a story that illustrates modern space and time considerations that were not relevant just fifty years ago, coupled with social issues that have had relevance through time immemorial. It is also a story of extreme mental stress.

The location: a vast area of the world covering sixteen times zones between Tokyo, Japan, and Brussels, Belgium, but the crucial focus is on a certain terminal in Heathrow Airport, England.

The time: getting ever later for a vital appointment.

It had been a forward-looking honeymoon when my wife-to-be, Emmy, joined me on a trip to the Orient, specifically for two scientific conferences in Japan. I arranged for her to fly in Business Class on my airline mileage credit and for that reason, she had to fly United Airlines from Brussels to San Francisco, where we met, and then onwards to Osaka.

It was the longer way sixteen time zones around two thirds of the globe while passing around the globe the other way would have taken half the time. However, to travel together for half the trip, we would meet in San Francisco and that gave Emmy the longer journey.

Fifty years ago, the journey would have been a lengthy adventure including an ocean liner, a railway and yet another ocean liner. Crossing the Atlantic would have taken five days. Crossing the United States to San Francisco would have taken three days. Crossing the Pacific would have taken another two weeks. Now, in the reclined atmosphere of Business Class air with music, food, and good conversation the whole thing took less than two days ignoring, of course, the time zones passing forward as time changed backward. Time had very little meaning other than what one’s watch registered when one got off the plane.

Space too had changed in fifty years. Previously the liner would have plodded through the best weather that could be found across the Atlantic and the train would have chugged and rattled over hard rails through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois to Chicago, following the last century’s immigration paths before contemplating the long Western journey to Colorado and through passes in the Rockies and the Sierras to California. Nowadays, the plane flew great-circle routes across the ocean as it curved towards Washington, and then onwards above the cloud covering an invisible earth to San Francisco and, finally, a further great-circle route up around Alaska to Asia, hardly passing over the ocean. These

Can Yahoos search technology catch up with Googles?

The question is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft are in the news right now, Redmond having dropped $40B in market cap in response to their bid to buy up the Yahooligans for another $45B in order to produce a “credible number two” to Google’s far-and-away number one in the online advertising space.

They’re all fighting to be the best buggywhip manufacturer in town, particularly when it comes to the mobile space.

Horizontal search, which Google unquestionably excels at, has its uses, but those uses become more and more limited as information (much of it useless) becomes increasingly “available” (i.e. findable). Simply finding a chunk of information that matches your inevitably incomplete attempts at what you think it might look like isn’t usually enough, not when the matching process is driven by how many randomly-chosen others point at this chunk, without regard to who’s looking for it.

A couple of concrete examples: if you just know me by first and last name, you’ll have one hell of a time finding anything that’s actually about me with Googlethere’s a guy who’s worked for Reuters for years with exactly the same name, who gets pointed at a lot more than I do (I’m working on this, I assure you). Most of what you’ll turn up is about him, unless you know more about me than that.

I live in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz, California. When I try to find out something about Santa Cruz,I frequently find myself wading through a stuff about Santa Cruz County, Arizona, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Santa Cruz Island (aka Indefatigable Island) in the Galapagos archipelago, and so on. These are all places, whichwhile I’m sure they’re quite interesting, kindaare not locales that I’m likely to be looking for information about. Because I’m me, but Google doesn’t really know that (although they have enough information to know it better than they do).

I travel a lot. Type “plane flight to Brussels” into Google, and you’ll certainly turn up pointers to places that could get you one. Quite a few of them, in fact, both of the “sponsored” (i.e. AdWords ads) as well as of the “organic” (i.e. directly generated by the search) variety. Now, your work really starts. Out of the, oh, three-quarters of a million responses there, which one gets you the cheapest ticket on the nicest airline leaving (or arriving) at the time you want, and so on…?

Thus, the limitations of the horizontal approach to both

Air Travel In Italy

The price of flying within Italy is often comparable to the cost of rail travel, although be sure to factor in the expense of getting to and from the airport. When flying out of Italian airports, always check with the airport or tourist agency about upcoming strikes, which are frequent in Italy and often affect air travel. The work stoppages, are called by trade unions over contractual disputes, and can also ground or delay flights to and from Italy operated by several European carriers, including British Airways and Air France.

Booking Your Flights
When you book, look for nonstop flights and remember that “direct” flights stop at least once. Try to avoid connecting flights, which require you to change plane. Two airlines may operate a connecting flight jointly, so ask whether your airline flies every segment of the trip. You may find that the carrier you prefer flies you only part of the way. Check web sites to find more booking tip, to check prices and to make online flight reservations.

When flying internationally, you must usually choose between a domestic carrier, the national flag carrier of the country you are visiting (Alitalia for Italy), and a foreign carrier from a third country. National flag carriers have the greatest number of non stops. Domestic carriers may have better connections to your hometown and serve a greater number of gateway cities. Third-party carriers may have a price advantage.

On international flights, Alitalia serves Rome, Milan, and Venice. The major international hubs in Italy are Milan and Rome, served by Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines. American Airlines flies into just Milan. US Airways serves only Rome.

Alitalia and British Airways have direct flights from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports to Milan and Rome. From Manchester, British Airways has daily flights to Milan and Rome. Smaller, no-frills airlines also provide service between Great Britain and Italy.

EasyJet connects Gatwick with Bologna. British Midland connects Heathrow and Milan. Ryanair, departing from London’s Stansted Airport, has daily flights to Milan, Rome, Pisa, and Venice. Meridiana has two or three direct flights each week between Gatwick and Olbia on Sardinia in summer, and daily flights to Rome and Florence throughout the year. From its hub in Brussels, Virgin Express files to Milan, Catania, and Rome.

Alitalia connects Canada and Italy. Air Canada flies to Munich for connections to Rome, Florence, and Milan via Lufthansa. Qantas flies from various cities in Australia via Bangkok, arriving in Rome. Alitalia and New Zealand Air fly from Auckland to Rome with a stop in London. Another option if you’re coming from Australia or New Zealand is Thai Airlines, landing in Rome via Bangkok.

When buying tickets for flights within Italy, on Alitalia and small carriers such as Meridiana and Air One shop around for the best deals. Tickets are frequently sold at discounted prices, so check the cost of flights, even one-way, as an alternative to train travel.

Can Learning Languages Help You Better Understand Science and Technology?

by Philip Yaffe

“I was 24 years old when I first began thinking and speaking in a foreign language. It was like being released from prison. I saw my cell door swinging open and my mind flying free. That was over 40 years ago, but the picture is as fresh now as if it had just happened.”

I am a linguistic iconoclast. Throughout my life (I am now in my seventh decade), I have heard the mantra that learning a foreign language gives you invaluable insights into the cultures of the people who speak it. I don’t believe it.

In addition to my native English (I grew up in Southern California), I have become fluent in two other languages and have a good working knowledge of three more. I doubt that all this effort has given me any insights into the cultures of the people who speak these languages. At least no insights that I couldn’t have acquired more easily in 30 – 60 minutes by reading a well-written essay or in a few hours by attending well-crafted social-cultural lectures.

By contrast, I have acquired a deeper understanding of science.

What does science have to do with language? Actually, very little. But it has a lot to do with flexible thinking. And this is where science and language learning converge.

Contrary to the common belief, science is not about certainty but rather uncertainty. Good scientists are always looking for what has been overlooked, i.e. they are always searching for surprises and welcome them when they happen. They know that moment we believe a phenomenon is “natural” and must be that way, or that it is “unnatural” and cannot be that way, we are either heading for trouble or missing out on something important.

For example, Albert Einstein investigated the “unnatural” belief that a beam of light in space must always have the same velocity; other scientists had spent decades trying to disprove this. He wanted to see where this “unnatural” might lead. In fact, it lead to e = mc², the formula for atomic energy, and transformed the world.

It is not necessary to be a genius like Einstein (who spoke German, French, Italian and English), or even a scientist at all, in order to profit from the mind-stretching benefits of learning foreign languages. In our daily lives we all make assumptions about how the world works; often we are not even aware that we are making them. And that’s the danger. If we are insensitive to our assumptions, we are almost certain to end up believing things that aren’t true and refusing to believe things that are true.

Learning languages can help correct this parlous state of affairs. How? Quite simply, because nowhere else are our assumptions more rapidly and forcefully challenged by other assumptions about what is or isn’t natural that are equally valid.

Here are some simple examples.

1; Trailing Adjectives

It is “natural” to put adjectives before a noun, e.g. “an unidentified flying object”. Well not really. Many languages put adjectives after the noun, e.g. “un objet volant non-identifie”. You could argue the “naturalness” of these conflicting practices both ways. In English, we prefer to describe something before identifying what it is, as if to build up the suspense. In French, they prefer to identify what it is first and describe it afterwards. Who is right?

2. Optional Pronouns

English speakers take it for granted that constructing a sentence requires a subject and a verb. The subject can be either a proper noun (John talks) or a pronoun (He talks). If you have any acquaintance with Spanish, you know that in this language the pronoun is usually not necessary. You would still say “Juan habla” (John talks); however, in most cases you would simply say “Habla” for “He talks”. In fact, if you use a pronoun where it isn’t required (“El habla”), you would be committing a serious error.

3. No Distinction between Male and Female

English speakers learning French are often puzzled by the language’s apparent inability to distinguish between male and female. For example, “This is his book” and “This is her book” in French are both “C’est son livre”. The possessive adjective “son” means both “his” and “her”. If it is absolutely necessary to distinguish between “his” book and “her” book, there is a way of doing so. However, it is employed only when absolutely necessary.

But isn’t it always absolutely necessary? It seems so unnatural not to specify whether the book’s owner is male or female. Isn’t this fundamental information?

It may seem so, but it isn’t. By the same logic, it should be fundamental information to distinguish between male and female when saying “This is their book”, but we don’t. “This is your book” can be either male, female, or both, but we never specify. Even “This is my book” can be either male or female, but again we don’t specify.

Having grown up speaking only English, you probably have never noticed this inconsistency in the language. Neither had I. I simply knew that is was “natural” to distinguish between his and her book, until a Frenchman asked me why. I couldn’t tell him.

4. Inclusive and Explicit Forms of “You”

In English, we have only one way of saying “you”, which covers all situations. Many languages have several ways of saying it, notably the “formal you” and the “familiar you”. English used to have a familiar “you” (thou), but it has essentially disappeared. But in French and Spanish, for example, it is still widely used, making speakers of these languages feel that English is somehow “incomplete”.

Spanish speakers are particularly poorly served. In their language, not only do they have a formal and familiar “you”, they have them both in the singular and plural. In other words, in Spanish there are four ways of saying “you”: formal singular (one person), familiar singular (one person), formal plural (several persons), familiar plural (several persons). For Spanish speakers, having these four options is natural and necessary; not having them in English is unnatural and constricting.

5. Exclusive and Explicit Verb Forms

English has very few verb forms. For example, in the present tense we say “I cook”, “You cook”, “He cooks”, “She cooks”, “We cook”, “They cook”. In other words, there are only two forms of the verb, “cook” and “cooks”, depending on whom we are talking about. In the past tense English has only one verb form, e.g. “I cooked”, “You cooked”, “He cooked”, “She cooked”, “We cooked”, “They cooked”. Likewise in the future tense; everyone “will cook”.

In other languages this is quite unnatural, because they use distinct forms for each different person being talked about. For example, in French and Spanish “I” is associated with one verb form, “you” with a distinctly different verb form, “we” with yet another form, etc. And of course there are distinct verb forms for the “familiar you” and “formal you” (singular in French, and both singular and plural in Spanish).

But doesn’t all these differences make other languages significantly more complex than English? Yes, indeed. However, they also make them significantly more precise. For speakers of these languages, it is crucially important to make these distinctions, because this is how their minds have been trained to work. Just as it is crucially important for English speakers to distinguish between “his” and “hers”, because this is how our minds have been trained to work.

Examples of these different ways of doing things from one language to another are endless. Each time we encounter them our mind opens up a little bit more, because the unexpressed assumptions we all carry around with us are continually being challenged.

Growing up in California, I used to be strongly opposed to language learning because it seemed so difficult and pointless. I have since changed my mind. I now strongly advocate language learning. Not because knowing a foreign language teaches us very much about others, but because it teaches us so much about ourselves.

Accepting that language learning is more about mind expansion than culture implies that language teaching must be fundamentally reformed.

I live in Belgium, where speaking two or three languages is the norm rather than the exception. This is generally true throughout Europe. In these countries, teaching languages in the belief that people will actually use them makes sense. The mind-expanding aspects of the effort come along as a welcomed bonus.

However for English speakers in general, and Americans in particular, it is almost impossible to learn to speak foreign languages because it is so difficult to practice them outside of the classroom. Here, the mind-expanding aspects of language learning should be the primary objective, and courses designed and taught in consequence.

If this were done, I believe that the American fear – and dare I say loathing – of other languages could be reversed. The schools would lay down the foundations of a language without trying to force students into the hopeless and demoralizing task of trying to speak it.

With this foundation firmly in place, when a person traveled to an area where that language is spoken, he would be able to rapidly turn his passive knowledge into active use. Even better, even if he traveled to an area with a totally different language, he would understand how languages work and therefore be ready to learn the new language rapidly and without fear.

Finally, the general aversion – and again dare I say loathing – many monolingual English speakers have of science and technology might also moderate. A mind made flexible by language learning would find it much easier to grasp and appreciate scientific principles than one still imprisoned in single-language rigidity.

In an age dominated by science and technology, surely this would be a benefit of ineffable importance.

Philip Yaffe is a former reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal and a marketing communication consultant. He currently teaches a course in good writing and good speaking in Brussels, Belgium. His recently published book In the “I” of the Storm: the Simple Secrets of Writing & Speaking (Almost) like a Professional is available from Story Publishers in Ghent, Belgium (storypublishers.be) and Amazon (amazon.com).

For further information, contact:

Philip Yaffe

Brussels, Belgium

Tel: +32 (0)2 660 0405

Email: phil.yaffe@yahoo.com

How to get back to basics and know God

No Room

It was my ninth birthday in July 1963, and my family was driving to Washington D.C. for a few days of sightseeing. We had planned to spend the night in a motel somewhere in eastern Ohio or western Pennsylvania but my father, ever the intrepid traveler, felt we should push on closer to our destination. By the time 11 PM rolled around, we were all tired and not just a little cranky so we started looking for vacancy signs at road side motels. Most were posted no vacancy by that time of night, and many simply had shut off their lights. We stopped at a few with vacancy still lit, but all they had available would never accommodate a family of five.

We kept driving east, and though I was hungry for sleep, I became ever more anxious that we really would never find a place to lay our heads. My eyes grew wider and I was more awake than ever, having never stayed up beyond 1 AM before and certainly, I’d never had the experience of being awake all night long. It still goes down in my annals as my longest birthday on record.

By 2 AM we arrived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and my dad had reached his driving limit and my mom had declared we were not traveling another mile. We headed downtown where the brick Harrisburg Hotel stood some 10 stories high, an old structure in a questionable area of town, but the lights were on and there were signs of life inside.

They did have a room that gave us two saggy double beds to share for eight dollars, with sheets and blankets with dubious laundering history, a bare light bulb that turned on with a chain and a bathroom down the hall. I’m surprised my mother even considered laying down on that bed, but she did. I don’t remember getting much sleep that night, but it was a place to rest, and the sirens and shouts out on the street did make for interesting background noise.

Some 12 years later, I had another experience of finding no room to lay my head after arriving late at night in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, with supposed reservations at the local YMCA for myself and my three student friends traveling together on our way to Gombe to study wild chimpanzees. We landed at the airport after midnight after a day long flight from Brussels, managed to make it through customs intact and find a taxi, only to arrive at the Y to find it dark and locked. It took some loud knocking to rouse anyone and with our poor Swahili, we were able to explain our dilemma-we were supposed to have two rooms reserved for the four of us. He

Humor: Getting pulled over by a police officer

Happy Turkey Day:

To see flashing red and blue lights in your rear-view mirror is never pleasant. To see them on Thanksgiving Day with two highly amused college students as passengers in the back seat does not improve your mood. After all, instead of tending the turkey, I was out there driving from Newark International Airport in New Jersey back to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving because of them.

The boys were euphoric to begin with – and not because they were high on anything but being back in the USA.

As someone who drove 40,000 miles a year with a sparkling clean record, the path to what looked like my first ticket since I was a teen myself started with a “will you accept the charges” international phone call. The voice of my youngest son came over the line to tell me that he and his classmate had been robbed on the train from Paris to Brussels en route to catch their flight home. Gone were their return tickets, their clean clothes and, above all, their passports. It was a sad end to their semester at a French university for credit at their college.*

They had camped outside the Embassy until it opened to report the loss and to get help. It was not a good situation; two, by now scruffy, college age boys without identification. Fortunately, the consul knew Harrisburg and when my son correctly answered his questions about facts only locals would know, two new passports were forthcoming, a new flight arranged, their tickets replaced at no charge, and they were arriving on Thanksgiving.

While I was thrilled that they were safe and on their way home, I was not thrilled to be on the highway on Thanksgiving. Because many Pennsylvanians ate their Thanksgiving feast in the early afternoon, there were sure to be drunk drivers on the roads by the time we started on the return trip.

So, there we were on Route 22 in a known speed trap area. An innocuous brown sedan in front of us was bouncing back and forth between 45 and 50 in a 55 zone. That worried me; it sure looked like a drunk driver trying to be extra careful. I signaled, pulled out to pass, and stepped up to 63 until there was a safe distance between us. I then moved back into the right lane to start easing back down to 55. Within seconds, the flashing lights in my mirror told me that the innocuous brown sedan was an unmarked police car. As I said, this was a known speed trap area; I just had not known what kind of speed traps.

The officer approached my window and asked for my license and car papers. In the back seat, the boys were laughing and having a great time at the joke of Mom being pulled over. I just sat there with my hands in my lap enduring their jibes. The officer gave them a look; then he looked again at me. He walked back to his car. In the mirror I could see that he wrote for a while, looked up at the clearly rollicking boys in the back seat, and wrote again. He returned.

“Please, officer, just give me the ticket,” I said tiredly. He handed me my papers and a filled out form. With another sharp look at the boys, he said, “I’m giving you a warning, not a ticket. Have a Happy Turkey Day.”

Incidentally, Thanksgiving dinner came out just fine.

* Note, back in the 1989, the semester in France was cheaper than the semester in the US, plane tickets and all.

Fast-tracking Foreign Languages: How to Meet the Linguistic Challenges of Working Abroad

Native English-speakers are increasingly exhorted to learn foreign languages to play a more effective role in globalisation. However, we tend not to learn foreign languages for three very valid reasons.

1. Many other peoples in the world are not just exhorted to learn English, they are required to do so. Thus, you can find English virtually everywhere you go.

2. The grammar of most other languages, certainly most European languages, is much more complex than English. Thus, native anglophones often view language learning as a daunting, and even demoralising task.

3. Most native anglophones, especially in North America, live in almost exclusively English-speaking environments. We virtually never hear other languages spoken live, on radio or television, and virtually never see them written in newspapers, magazines, books, etc. This is hardly motivating.

The fact is, the world conspires against anglophones learning other languages. So if you speak only English, you have no reason to be ashamed.

Nevertheless, whilst these factors explain why so few anglophones know other languages, they are not valid excuses for not learning them when the situation calls for it. For example, you are sent to open or manage a foreign subsidiary, you are assigned to negotiate or maintain working relationships with a foreign partner, etc.

How should you go about learning a foreign language with the least pain and most gain? In my personal experience, the secret lies in changing your mindset.

I live in Brussels. I speak French fluently, understand and can more-or-less get around in Dutch and German, and I am now rapidly acquiring Spanish. But the first language I mastered was none of these. It was Swahili, which I learned when I spent two-and-a-half years working in Tanzania.

Like many (probably most) Americans growing up in an essentially English-speaking environment, I thought the ability to speak another language required superior intelligence; only people endowed with this unique talent could actually achieve it. Shortly after I got to Tanzania, I visited in a remote tribal area where virtually everyone spoke three languages. Moreover, virtually none of them had ever seen the inside of a school (there just weren’t any schools), let alone graduated from a prestigious university (UCLA).

I therefore had to radically rethink my attitude towards language learning. This new mindset has significantly helped me master the languages I now regularly use. I will illustrate with French, the language I know best. But remember, these same ideas and techniques apply to virtually any language you may need to acquire.

Some Useful Psychology

The good news is: Learning to speak a language is the easiest part of the job.

I know you may have thought that speaking would be the most difficult part. However, I would argue that most people, with minimal effort, can learn to speak a foreign language reasonably well really quite quickly.

Writing a language is very a different story. French, for example, is one of the most complex written languages in the world. In fact, written French and spoken French are almost two separate languages. Therefore, if your objective is to speak, concentrate on the spoken language and leave the written language to come along later.

I know this may sound like heresy, because the majority of language courses try to teach both at the same time, particularly in public schools. They spend a demoralising amount of time making you write a language (probably because it is easier to grade students this way), although this is the last thing you really need to know.

When I say that speaking is the easiest part of the job, I am not advocating “total immersion”. Few of us have the luxury of spending a week, or preferably several weeks, totally concentrating on learning a language. What I am advocating is doing things in the proper psychological order.

Most people can master enough of the fundamentals to be able to speak (poorly but nevertheless coherently), and to understand what is being said to them, within only 2 – 3 months. The trick is to recognise that the major obstacle to acquiring a foreign language is not grammar. It’s vocabulary.

If you don’t know the verb you need, it doesn’t matter that you know how to conjugate verbs; you still cannot speak. If you don’t know the adjective you need, it doesn’t matter that you know how to decline adjectives; you still cannot speak. And so on.

I therefore suggest that the most effective order for learning a language would be:

1. Basic grammar

The minimum necessary to put together an intelligible (if incorrect) sentence.

In my experience, this is most efficiently done self-taught. Sit down with a grammar book for about 10-15 minutes each day until you begin to feel somewhat comfortable with it.

2. Basic vocabulary

The minimum necessary to begin using the basic grammar.

Again, in my experience this is most efficiently done self-taught, i.e. the classic “learn five new words each day”. It won’t be very long before you start seeing how different words are related, so you can begin to guess what new words mean without resorting to the dictionary.

3. Speaking the language

Putting basic grammar and vocabulary to work as soon as you can actually begin using them.

This is the time to consider a language school or a personal tutor. With the foundation of what you will have already learned by yourself, you will certainly progress more easily and rapidly than if you had leapt into formal language instruction at the very beginning.

4. Writing the language

Tackling the daunting task of putting the language on paper.

You will almost certainly never need to do much writing. And what you do write will certainly need to be revised and corrected by a native speaker.

Since vocabulary is crucial, then the largely unrecognised key to mastering another language is: Learn to read it.

There is nothing like being able to sit down with a newspaper, magazine, or even a novel in the language to reinforce both grammar and vocabulary. The more you read, the more your vocabulary will expand. And the more some of the language’s apparently bizarre ways of doing things will become increasingly familiar.

best results, the novel should contain a maximum of dialogue and a minimum of description. With dialogue, you can frequently anticipate and interpret what the characters are saying; with description you haven’t a clue.

When I was learning French, I used novels by Agatha Christie and the adventures of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs, because they are about 90% dialogue and 10% description. Hardly my favourite literature, but they served the purpose. I would also suggest Animal Farm by George Orwell and Candide by Voltaire. However, any novel with a high ratio of dialogue to description will do.

Important Tip

The purpose of reading in the language is to learn vocabulary automatically. Constantly looking up unfamiliar words will break your reading rhythm and damage your enjoyment. Consequently, keep use of a dictionary to an absolute minimum.

It isn’t heresy to say this, just common sense.

In fiction, very few words are crucial for understanding the story line. Do you really need to know precisely what a room looks like? It’s enough to know that is large and elegantly furnished. Do you really need to know precisely what a landscape looks like? It is enough to know that it is isolated and windy.

Moreover, words repeat. You will certainly see an unfamiliar word many more times throughout the text. At least one of those times, the way it is used will tell you exactly what it means, with no effort at all.

As a rule of thumb, if you are using a dictionary more than 2 – 3 times a page, you are probably being too fastidious. Stop it. Just read and enjoy!

Once you arrive on site where the language is spoken, all the grammar and vocabulary you have stored up in this way will rapidly show its worth.

In my case, this occurred only a very few weeks after landing in Tanzania. At the beginning, I was speaking by translating through English. However, one magic day I suddenly realised that I was no longer translating through English. I was speaking in Swahili directly. It was like being released from prison. Although this happened more than 40 years ago, the picture of my cell door flying open and my mind flying free is as vivid now as the day it happened. It’s an experience not to be missed!

Having discovered that I could really speak a foreign language – and that I didn’t have to be a genius to do it – I tried to determine how it had happened. I came to the conclusion that the single most important psychological factor is resignation.

Different languages have different ways of doing things, some of which will seem quite absurd. It is useless to keep moaning: “Why do they speak in this ridiculous way when it is so much easier to do it the way we do it in English?”

Whatever it is you find so annoying: Don’t fight it; accept it.

This is how children learn languages. They don’t constantly question grammatical structures, because it would just never occur to them to do so. And we all know how much more easily and rapidly “naïve” children learn languages than do we “sophisticated” adults!

Three Fundamental Principles

With Swahili as a basis, I also tried to determine the fundamental principles of language learning that could help me go on to mastering others. I found three to be particularly useful.

Facility Principle

What you don’t have to do is always

easier than what you do have to do.

In other words, the less you have to think about in learning a language, the more rapidly you will learn it. And the fewer mistakes you will make. As I will demonstrate below, French has certain features and characteristics that make it dramatically easier than English. Take advantage of them.

Here is the second principle that can smooth your way.

Familiarity Principle

Familiar habits and patterns of thought

are often hard to break.

Paradoxically, some of the aspects where another language is easier than English at first glance appear unfamiliar – and therefore falsely difficult. Although it may take you some time to accept them, once you begin to think in the language, you will rapidly come to appreciate them and enjoy their benefits.

Here is an anecdote to illustrate the point.

One time I was talking with a Dutch-speaking friend. He agreed that English is fundamentally simpler than his own language; nevertheless, he complained that he just couldn’t get used to English’s simpler sentence structure. In certain instances, Dutch grammar requires the order of the words in the sentence to reverse; this never happens in English. Objectively, then, English sentence structure should be easier than Dutch. But to him, not reversing the word order just didn’t seem natural.

Here is a third principle you will find extremely useful.

Context Principle

By themselves, words and sentences

have little meaning; often they can

be understood only in relation to

other words and sentences.

This is very reassuring. It means that even if you say something incorrectly, in general people will still understand you because of the context in which you say it. Likewise, even if people say something to you using unfamiliar grammar or vocabulary, in general you will still be able to understand them because of the context in which they say it.

In short, you don’t have to approach perfection in a language in order to use it effectively.

Focus on Simplicities, not Complexities

To conclude, let me fulfil the promise I made to demonstrate that French has certain features and characteristics that make it dramatically easier than English. This is equally true of most other languages, regardless of how difficult they may seem at first. The important thing is to focus on the simplicities, not the complexities.

Here are just seven examples; I could cite many more.

1. No tonic accent

Most people are largely unaware of how seriously difficult their own native language could be to a foreigner. As a native speaker, you probably find that English is quite easy to pronounce. But the fact is, French is even easier.

What! With its nasalisation, trilled “r” and other difficult sounds? Absolutely!

First, it is important to understand that no sounds, in any language, are inherently difficult to pronounce. If they were, they wouldn’t exist because the native speakers would never have accepted them in the first place.

Learning to pronounce unfamiliar foreign sounds is never easy. Francophones learning English have a terrible time pronouncing the “th” sound in words such as “the”, “they”, “through”, “throw”, etc., because there is no French equivalent. But they do it reasonably well. Just as you may have difficulty with certain French sounds that have no English equivalents. But you can also do it.

Where French pronunciation has an undeniable advantage over English is its virtual lack of a “tonic accent”.

Tonic accent simply means that certain syllables are given more stress than are others. For example, “difficult” is pronounced “dif!-fi-cult”; the first syllable carries the tonic accent. It could just as easily be pronounced dif-fi!-cult, or even “dif-fi-cult!”

Technically, the tonic accent does exist in French, but it is very hard to hear it. For example, in English we say “rest!-au-rant; there is a distinct stress on the first syllable. In French, this is “rest-au-rant”, with no stress anywhere. Likewise, “con!-ven-tion” has a distinct stress on the second syllable. In French, this is simply “con-ven-tion”, with no stress. And so on for every word in the language.

Thus, you never have to guess where the tonic accent should go, so you can never make a mistake.

You have grown up with the tonic accent, so you might not immediately recognise what a problem it really is, even between native speakers. Britons, for example, like to say “con-tro!-ver-sy” whilst Americans prefer to say “con!-tro-ver-sy”. And sometimes they don’t understand each other because of this difference. Britons say “gar!-age” whilst Americans say gar-age!”, again with the possibility of misunderstanding. And so on. In French, there is no tonic accent, so this problem simply doesn’t exist.

2. Gallic Impersonality

A. Use of “on”

or anglophones, imbued with the idea that French is a very personal language (the so-called “‘language of love”), few things are more surprising than the frequent use of the very impersonal “on” (pronounced ohn). By contrast, francophones learning English are surprised to discover that English has no equivalent of “on”, so they have to search all over the place for substitutes.

Actually, this is not entirely true. English does have an equivalent, “one”, but it is seldom used. The Queen of England uses it: “One has considered the matter carefully” rather than “I have considered the matter carefully”. Moralists use it: “One should not kill”, “One should be ready to fight for one’s country”, etc.

French uses “on” without the slightest embarrassment. In fact, using it prevents a lot of embarrassment. For example, a key problem in English is avoiding “genderism”. This is the explanation for the very odd use of the plural pronoun “they” as if it were a singular. Example: If someone studies hard, they will succeed.

Why do we make this apparently illogical switch from the singular pronoun “someone” and the singular verb “studies” to the plural pronoun “they’? Because otherwise, it would have been necessary to say “he will succeed”. However, the sentence clearly is not directed only to males. Alternatively, it would have been necessary to say “he or she will succeed”, or “he/she will succeed”, which are cumbersome. French has no such problem, because “on” (one) is the universal solution.

B. Use of possessive adjectives

Here is another example of how Gallic impersonality avoids genderism. Consider the sentence: “Everyone who studies hard will see their effort rapidly rewarded.” We start the sentence with a singular subject and verb; however, we finish it with a plural possessive adjective (“their”). In French, the sentence remains singular all the way through, because there is no gender distinction. “Son effort” can mean either “his effort” or “her effort”, according to the context.

Thus, the inherently impersonal nature of French grammar automatically precludes a lot of “political incorrectness”. In English, we can achieve this only through some rather illogical and inelegant grammatical contortions.

3. Use of infinitives

A major problem French speakers (and most other Europeans) face in English is the correct use of infinitives. As a native speaker, you probably never realised that infinitives can be a problem. After all, an infinitive is just an infinitive.

Well, not quite. English infinitives are in fact very unusual compared to French infinitives. This is because French infinitives are unified, whilst English infinitives are separable. For example:

1. French: manger (-er marks the infinitive)

2. English: to eat

The French infinitive is always a single word; however, the English infinitive can be used with both parts or only the second part. The problem is, in many cases this is not optional, but required. For example: “I need to eat something” (both parts), but “I must eat something” (only second part). So what’s the difference? Why in the first example is the “to” necessary and in the second not only isn’t it necessary, using it would be quite incorrect?

In French, this problem never arises. “J’ai besoin de manger quelque chose” (I need to eat something) and “Je dois manger quelque chose” (I must eat something). Simple, isn’t it. Just imagine if French worked like English. You would constantly be making choices about which form of the infinitive to use – and in many cases you would be wrong.

4. Use of definite articles

Use of the definite article (“the”) in English presents pretty much the same problem as use of the infinitive. In other words, you must always be making choices about when to use it and when not to use it. French is much simpler.

Really! Doesn’t French have three definitive articles (le, la, les) compared to only one in English? Absolutely! But the problem is not deciding which definite article to use. Rather, it is deciding whether or not to use any definitive article at all.

In French, you retain the definite article much more frequently than you do in English. Thus, you have considerably fewer decisions to make, and therefore considerably fewer opportunities to make a mistake.


1. “I like cats” (cats in general)

2. “I like the cats” (specific cats, not necessarily all cats)

In French, both statements are rendered “J’aime les chats”, so no decision about whether or not to use the definite article. You distinguish the meanings of the two sentences from the context in which they are used, not their grammatical form.

5. No distinction between “a” and “one”

The words “a” and “one” are the equivalent of “un” in French. Fundamentally, these two words mean the same thing; however, “one” is more precise, so it adds emphasis. For example:

1. I saw a Chinese film (at least one, perhaps more)

2. I saw one Chinese film (only one, no more)

Both of these sentences are rendered in French as “J’ai vu un film chinois.” As with the definite article, you distinguish the meaning from the context.

Many francophones speaking English frequently make the mistake of saying “I have eaten in one Japanese restaurant” when they really mean “I have eaten in a Japanese restaurant”. As an anglophone speaking French, you will never make this mistake, because it simply isn’t possible!

6. Simple & progressive (continuous) tenses

English makes frequent use of progressive (continuous) verb tenses, whilst French almost never does.

The progressive tenses are formed by two verbs: the helper (auxiliary) “to be” and the “present participle” (-ing form) of the other one. Example: She is eating.

English uses progressive tenses to distinguish between the general time period during which an action takes place and the exact moment that the action takes place. French generally does not make this distinction. “Elle mange” means either “she eats” or “she is eating”. Once again, French leaves interpretation of the correct meaning to context.

And once again, since there is only one grammatical form, there is no possibility of error!

7. Converting verbs into nouns

Because of its fondness for progressive verb tenses, English has a characteristic way of converting verbs into nouns, i.e. using a verb as the subject or the object of a sentence.

In French, and many other languages, you simply use the infinitive: Marcher est bon pour les poumons. You can do the same thing in English: To walk is good for the lungs. However, the preferred form is: Walking is good for the lungs. To anglophone ears, “walking” is more dynamic than “to walk”, i.e. it seems to give a better picture of what is happening.

This may very well be the case – in English. But there is no such distinction in French. So once again, there is no way of making a mistake!

Admittedly, learning another language is never easy; it takes time, energy and dedication. However, as we have seen, there are three powerful strategies you can use to make the job considerably easier.

• Focus on the simplicities of the other language rather than on its complexities.

• Channel your energies according to the best psychological order:

1. Basic grammar

2. Basic vocabulary

3. Speaking the language

4. Writing the language

• Concentrate on reading the language to comfortably and automatically master its grammar and vocabulary

Good luck! Bonne chance! Veel geluk! Viel Gelück! Buena suerte! Buona fortuna! . . . .

Philip Yaffe is a former reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal and a marketing communication consultant. He currently teaches a course and conducts one-day workshops in writing and public speaking in Brussels, Belgium.

In the ‘I’ of the Storm: the Simple Secrets of Writing & Speaking (Almost) like a Professional, his recently published book, perceptively and entertainingly explains the key principles and practices of persuasive communication. It is available from the publishers in Ghent, Belgium (www.storypublishers.be) and Amazon (www.amazon.com).


By Doug Krieger


Carthage was Rome’s implacable foe; thus, did the Roman Senator Cato conclude whatever the topic at hand on the floor of the Senate with: “Carthago delenda est” – Carthage must be destroyed! Eventually, once the Senate of Rome realized her proximity to the pesky Punic, they attacked with impunity and wiped them off the map in the Third Punic War (149-146 BC), salting Hannibal’s commercial bastion, never to have her rise again; thus Rome’s supreme illustration of brutality and imperial ambition incorporated, like the Borg of Star Trek, the commercial aspects of Empire.

Alas! Meeting the challenge of President Bush’s infamous remarks hurled at the Axis of Evil (which clearly includes Iran), and reinforced by his NED speech given on October 6, 2005 to wit:“ . . . authoritarian regimes, allies of convenience like Syria and Iran, that share the goal of hurting American and moderate Muslim governments, and use terrorist propaganda to blame their own failures on the West and America, on the Jews . . . we’re determined (against Syrian and Iran) to deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes . . . STATE-SPONSORS like Syria and Iran have a long history of collaboration with terrorists, and they DESERVE NO PATIENCE FROM THE VICTIMS OF TERROR. The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, BECAUSE THEY’RE EQUALLY AS GUILTY OF MURDER. Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization . . . and the civilized world must hold those regimes to account.”
. . . Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decided to fight fire with fire: ISRAEL MUST BE DESTROYED! He shot back at the “World Without Zionism” conference held in Tehran this week against the United States and Israel (a.k.a., the USA=The Great Satan; Israel=The Little Satan…DiscoverTheNetworks). Ahmadinejad called Israel a “disgraceful blot” on the Islamic world, and the US Middle East “roadmap” nothing more than a diversion from the crusader wars between the Islamic world and perceived imperialists like the USA (http://news.viewlondon.co.uk)“Israel must be ‘wiped off the map’ . . . she is a ‘disgraceful blot’ on the Islamic world . . . the US Middle East Roadmap to peace is a diversion from the crusader wars between the Islamic world and perceived imperialists such as the United States. Furthermore, Iran’s President attacked other Muslim nations which recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state (an obvious allusion to Egypt). Israel is naught but the product of an ideological struggle between the ‘Arrogant World Order’ and ‘Islamic rule.’” (News.viewlondon.co.uk)

Quoting Mr. Ahmadinejad:“Over the past 100 years, the last bastions of the Islamic world have collapsed. The World Arrogance turned the Zionist regime occupying Jerusalem into a staging-ground to dominate the Islamic world . . . there continues a historic war between the World Arrogance and the Islamic World, the roots of which go back hundreds of years ago.”

Now that sounds vaguely familiar. In my last article, “The Crusader vs. The Caliphate” President Bush targeted the source of terrorism’s frustration:“The excuses for violence (range from) the Israeli presence on the West Bank . . . the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia . . . the defeat of the Taliban . . . or the CRUSADES of a thousand years ago.”


Putting it bluntly: The problem, President Bush, is the Israeli aircraft carrier—the USS Israel—poised on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, ready (as far as the Middle Eastern edge of the Axis of Evil is concerned—Syria/Iran) to launch its cruise missiles throughout the Islamic lands in order to expand its Arrogant World Order (a.k.a. the Decadent West—The American New World Order System) under the guise of democracy, women’s rights, religious freedom, and, of course, economic globalization; in sum: Western world hegemony.

In 1991, Daniel Pipes in Commentary described the then unnamed Axis of Evil by inquiring:“Why did British and American imperialists want Israel to exist? Arabs have a rich assortment of answers to the question. Ash-Sha’b, a leftist Egyptian newspaper, portrays Israel as a branch-office of the Central Intelligence agency, one which requires CIA “approval and support” before taking almost any step. Ahmad Jibril (leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command) dubs Israel ‘America’s Mideast aircraft carrier.’ Khalid al-Hasan, another PLO leader sees Israel as ‘something like a conglomerate-General Motors, for example.’“And what functions does this intelligence office/aircraft carrier/multinational corporation serve? To jeopardize whatever it may be the speaker holds most dear. Thus, for Nasser, the Pan-Arab leader, Israel endangered Pan-Arab nationalism. His 1962 Charter of National Action dubbed Israel ‘the tool of imperialism’ and ‘a whip in their hands to fight the struggling Arabs.’ In 1968 the PLO was still under Nasser’s influence, so its Covenant accused Israel of being ‘a geographic base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, amity and progress.’”


Hating and annihilating Israel is not news. However, the hate rhetoric’s been ratcheted up a great deal—especially the “religious” overtones and undertones, greatly! Instead of President Carter and the Ayatollah Khomeini, who founded the first modern Islamic Republic (Iran) chattering away over American hostages for 400+ days—we now have President Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (perhaps to the right of the original supreme leader Khomeini) blasting away at one another.

Somehow, the current war in Iraq, the intel scandal rocking the nation, and Israel-America being fed up with Moslem terrorists (who more and more interfere with our quest for “hidden treasurers” in the Middle East—i.e., OIL), has got to be dealt with. Is/was there a plan to effect this sea change in the Middle East—i.e., put the terrorists on notice (and to flight) after the collapse of the Soviet Union and their little war they lost in Afghanistan, as we, the Americans, supplied millions to the likes of Osama ben Laden and his Mujahadeen (Holy Warriors) to defeat the red menace?

Indeed, thus was laid the plan entitled “Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The document was prepared in 1996 by an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. The document was a precursor to the then-incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The plan was, according to the London Guardian, Brian Whitaker and syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, designed to reshape Israel’s “strategic environment” (Christian Century) Alas! The proposal/plan has turned out, according to Geyer, to be Bush’s blueprint for Iraqi policy—and, I hasten to add, the centerpiece for an upcoming confrontation with both Syria and Iran.

The 1996 plan called for the removal of Saddam Hussein, the installation of a monarchy akin to Jordan’s—similar to one that ruled Iraq in the mid-1900s. Next, with Saddam eliminated, Jordan and Turkey would team up, along with Israel, to severely weaken Syria. Thus, “Israel will not only contain its foes, it will transcend them.”

Naturally, to orchestrate the plan, Israel would need extensive American downfield blocking. Thence, was born the linguistics of the Cold War to persuade the Americans to get on board; and, after all, it would (in the long/short run) secure America’s insatiable quest for cheap energy. Hard to say who was pushing whom here . . . the Israelophils/Israelis the Americans or the Americans the Israelophils/Israelis!

In any event, by 2000 the Americans under the then (now deposed) Richard Perle—perhaps the most prominent of the war hawks after 9/11 insofar as Iraq is concerned, and strong proponent of Dr. Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, wherein the Judeo-Christian West vs. Islam is a defacto reality of life (apparently, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unwittingly embraces the same reality)—drafted additional expansions of “Clean Break” – to wit:“Following is a report prepared by The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies’ ‘Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000.’ The main substantive ideas in this paper emerge from a discussion in which prominent opinion makers, including Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser participated. The report, entitled ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,’ is the framework for a series of follow-up reports on strategy.As group leader, Perle (also of the American Enterprise Institute at the time, and still is), knew full well the immediate plans insofar as Syria were concerned:“Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which America can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including by:

• Striking Syria’s drug-money and counterfeiting infrastructure in Lebanon, all of which focuses on Razi Qanan.
• Paralleling Syria’s behavior by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces.
• Striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper.
It is safe to say that Perle, who has spent considerable time in Israel, is a staunch supporter of Israel’s conservative Likud Party. Furthermore, while the 2000 report wholeheartedly supports the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime (i.e., “regime change”), it wholly backs the encirclement and neutralization of Syria:“Given the nature of the regime in Damascus, it is both natural and moral that Israel abandon the slogan ‘comprehensive peace’ and move to contain Syria, drawing attention to its weapons of mass destruction program, and rejecting ‘land for peace’ deals on the Golan Heights.”And, finally, the coup de maître:“Israel can make a clean break from the past and establish a new vision for the U.S.-Israeli partnership based on self-reliance, maturity and mutuality — not one focused narrowly on territorial disputes.”Perle headed up the discretionary-funded Defense Policy Board (Advisory Committee) which provided the Secretary of Defense, under Bush (i.e., Donald Rumsfeld), “independent, informed advice and opinion concerning major matters of defense policy.”

Prior to “financial indiscretions” which brought Perle down (March 28, 2003), Perle was a member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC—an original signer of their January 26, 1998 letter sent to President Clinton. An outstanding article/intentions of PNAC can be found at the 11th Hour, by Frank Reilly. The group’s fascination with “American Dominance” is no small accusation (to say the least, throughout the whole world). Interestingly enough, in today’s light, original signers included: “Richard Armitage, William J. Bennett, Jeb Bush, Ellen Bork (the wife of Robert Bork), Dick Cheney, Zalmay Khalilzad, Lewis Libby, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. A large number of its ideas and its members are associated with the neoconservative movement.”


In case you haven’t noticed, the NEOCONS (that most despised of expletives hurled from the Left) are peppered amongst the PNAC group and ipso facto, main backers of the demise of Saddam Hussein, and aggressive democratization of the Middle East—in particular, Syria and Iran. In defense against the British Left’s accusations, Ledeen, currently National Review Online contributing editor, author of The War Against the Terror Masters, and resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute (among other “items”—we’ll discuss later) remarked in a July 13, 2005 piece for NRO entitled THE JEWS, War and a Sickness:“The final component of British blindness on the subject of the Middle East is one we are not supposed to talk about in good company: the Jews. Yet I don’t know any country this side of the Levant in which there has been so much anti-Semitism, so many complaints that ‘Zionists,’ ‘Likudniks,’ ‘Jewish hawks,’ and — the single epithet that sums up all of the above — ‘neocons’ had manipulated America and its poodle Blair into the ghastly blunder of Iraq. The BBC has devoted hours of radio and television to slanderous misrepresentations of places like the American Enterprise Institute, where I sit, and of such Jewish luminaries as Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, and Paul Wolfowitz. Sometimes it seemed one was reading translations from the Saudi or Egyptian or Iranian press, so total was the hatred of the Jews.” (My emphasis.)Ledeen, who also heads the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, expressed his foreign policy initiatives in his recent release:“The awesome power of a free society committed to a single mission is something [our enemies] cannot imagine. … Our unexpectedly quick and impressive victory in Afghanistan is a prelude to a much broader war, which will in all likelihood transform the Middle East for at least a generation, and reshape the politics of many countries around the world.”Ledeen’s co-worker at the American Enterprise Institute, Richard Perle, has articulated a new neocon book entitled: An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. Check out this review:“Billed as a ‘manual for victory’ in the war on terror, the book suggests ‘reinvigorating homeland security with a new security agency; waging a global campaign against the terrorist ideology…’ Among the book’s proposals are: funneling U.S. aid to Iranian dissidents to help them overthrow their government; promoting the secession of Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province; and rejecting the jurisdiction of the United Nations Charter, unless it is modified to accommodate the doctrine of preemption. According to Frum (co-author) and Perle, militant Islam has replaced communism as the main threat to U.S. and global security. ‘There is no middle way for Americans,’ they write. ‘It is victory or holocaust.’” (My emphasis.)A group, comprising of many of these same people, was formed around the time of the Iraqi incursion—CLI: Committee for the Liberation of Iraq . . .“Like most front groups, the CLI was a transitory political project (Note: Membership included . . . Robert Kagan, Richard Perle, William Kristol, Joshua Muravchik AND Senator Bob Kerrey, former Congressman Steve Solarz, Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute (an offshoot of the center-right Democratic Leadership Council), Sen. John McCain, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and former Secretary of State George Shultz, who served as honorary chairman of the CLI advisory board.) . . . that (i.e., the CLI’s mandate) faded as soon as the invasion was launched – despite its professed mission of working beyond the ‘liberation’ to ensure the reconstruction, democratization, and institution of the rule of law in Iraq. For CLI organizers, the toppling of the Hussein regime constituted, as President Bush declared on May 1, 2003, evidence of a ‘mission accomplished.’ Thus, the attention of the new crusaders turned to Iran, Lebanon, and Syria, while talk continued about restructuring Saudi Arabia and the Muslim nations of North Africa.Two months prior to the Iraq invasion, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton (now US Ambassador to the UN), an early associate of PNAC and a former AEI vice president, traveled to Jerusalem to meet with Ariel Sharon. Bolton promised Sharon that the Iraq offensive would be just the first of the disarmament wars, declaring that “it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran, and North Korea afterwards.” FPIF CommentaryLedeen, considered by some to be . . . “. . . the neocons’ point man on regime change in Iran (and in Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia), is apparently capable of viewing diplomacy only through the barrel of a gun, arguing in a November 2003 piece for the National Review Online that the ‘appeasers’ in Congress and the State Department ‘don’t want to know about Iran, because if they did, they would be driven to take actions that they do not want to take. They would have to support democratic revolution in Iran, and they prefer to schmooze with the mullahs.’ He concludes, ‘I guess some top official will have to die at the hands of (obviously) Iranian-supported terrorists before the Pentagon is permitted to work on the subject.’” (Unpunished Failure, NRO, Nov., 2003 and the International Relations Center).Now, the Road to Damascus (title of Ian Williams’ article below) appears on the horizon, but a close second (to Ledeen and other neocons) is the Prince of Persia (Iran) . . . listen to Ian Williams in his November 28, 2003 article which appeared in the Interhemispheric Resource Center (Foreign Policy in Focus publication of IRC):“The neocon chorus and Vice President Cheney made it possible—in defiance of the UN, major allies, and much of Congress—to stampede the U.S. into a paroxysm of righteous patriotism against Iraq by manipulating claims of WMDs, terrorism, and similar bogeys. They have made it plain that they would like to do it again for Syria, and they may find allies in the White House who are more expedient in their views about Damascus. Syria would be a good scapegoat for continuing failure in Iraq during an election year. Taking another capital in the Spring is unlikely to hinder Republican prospects in the Fall. To paraphrase Woody Allen, just because I’m paranoid does not mean that they won’t try to follow Iraq with Syria.”The DEAD-WRONG intelligence afflicting the administration on the incursion of Iraq, quite frankly, was overruled by the presuppositions and passions for a CLEAN BREAK with the status quo in the Middle East—which, as far as they were concerned—could only get worse. But, let’s look at another aspect of that faulty intelligence—through the eyes of Michael Ledeen.


The on-going investigations regarding outing Valerie Plame-Wilson as a CIA agent via Mr. Irv Lewis “Scooter” Libby, et al, is naught but a side bar to the real story—which everyone knows—on how in the world did all this “disinformation” and so-called “intelligence” get started in the first place?

Ultimately, the preemptive invasion of Iraq occurred. Now the pending conflicts in both Syria and Iran seem inevitable (now that today, November 4, 2005, we hear of massive movements of war materials through Iran’s borders into Iraq (not a new story), and of the continued insurgency in Iraq and support of the same through Syria—to say nothing of the US/UN pressure upon Bashir Assad to give up both his brother and brother-in-law who allegedly orchestrated the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri).

But, the initiation of the bogus intelligence that Saddam attempted to purchase “yellowcake” from the Central African nation of Niger (which later on Ambassador Joe Wilson investigated and found utterly preposterous) in order to make WMD, was confirmed by the British, and announced in the now famous “16-word” utterance by President Bush during his January, 2003 State of the Union Address, to wit:“The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .”The retribution (“treasongate”)—i.e., “getting back” at Joe Wilson for having his article published in the New York Times exposing the bogus “yellowcake deal” (July 6, 2003) by having Robert Novak “out” Joe’s CIA-wife, Valerie-Plame, in a syndicated article on July 14, 2003—leads us to backtrack. The “who said, he said, she said” smokescreen is NOTHING compared to the origination of the fraud itself!

So, what’s Rome got to do with Ledeen, the British, Niger, Joe Wilson, Saddam, and ultimately, the war in Iraq? Much, in every way . . .

After 9/11, 2001, events rapidly changed…by October, 2001 the US moved on the Taliban in Afghanistan…but it was not until March 20, 2003 that Iraq was invaded. The “yellowcake” via Niger to Iraq intelligence was somehow hatched in Rome and some very interesting people showed up for the Roman party.

First of all, Michael Ledeen (Karl Rove’s foreign policy advisor!) and others met in Rome with Italian intelligence in December 2001 (over a year before Bush’s infamous “16-words”). Their intention was to procure evidence against Iraq as an excuse for war.


It is repugnant to me to “concoct a conspiracy” through guilt by association; however, this appears so convincingly suspicious, that it begs the question: If it smells like a duck, looks like a duck, and swims like a duck, it ain’t no elephant. Now, including Ledeen, the party roster:(1) Larry Franklin – Mr. Franklin, 58, was apprehended at a restaurant in Alexandria, VA, in June of 2003 by FBI agents. As a former Pentagon analyst on Iran and an Air Force Reserve colonel, it was most fascinating to observe him meeting with two agents of AIPAC (the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee, i.e., the “Israel Lobby” in America). Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman had been under surveillance for a couple of years by the FBI. When Franklin showed up with the two from AIPAC, the FBI began to investigate Franklin. Eventually, they arrested Franklin on May 4, 2005 and accused him of disclosing highly classified information to AIPAC (i.e., spying for AIPAC); however, he is now free on bond pending trial.To clarify Franklin’s background a bit:“The story reported the FBI had uncovered a spy working as a policy analyst under Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz. He was later identified as Larry Franklin, a colonel in the US Air Force Reserve, who had previously served as an attaché at the US embassy in Israel and was one of two mid-level Pentagon officials in the Office of the Secretary of Defense responsible for Iran policy in the office’s Northern Gulf directorate. Franklin is not Israeli, nor is he Jewish. He has since been demoted within the Defense Department and no longer has his previous security privileges.” (Washington Post)It’s hard to pass up this James Bond thriller…so, here’s how Justin Raimondo describes how reporters Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball reported it in Newsweek:“He (Franklin) had sensitive information about the possibility of pro-Iranian groups in Iraq, such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Dawa Party, launching attacks on American occupation forces. Franklin, known as a committed ideologue of the neoconservative persuasion, and passionately committed to Israel, divulged the contents of a document marked ‘top secret’ and dated June 25. The FBI agents who were listening in were shocked: they had the Tivoli (an Italian restaurant in Alexandria) bugged that day as part of a larger and long-standing investigation into Israeli covert operations in the U.S. When Franklin barged in unexpectedly on the assembled cabal (which included Naor Gilon, chief of political affairs at the Israeli embassy in Washington), he stumbled into a web of espionage in which he was soon ensnared.”Here’s the kicker in the Franklin affair, as reported by the Washington Post last year (2004):“The FBI is examining whether highly classified material from the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic intercepts of communications, was also forwarded to Israel.”Franklin’s trial is being conducted by prosecutor Paul McNaulty, who no doubt is sharing information with prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the Scooter Libby/Valerie Plame “treasongate” affair. But, in sum, here’s the essence of the matter (and, yes, I intend to get back to my party roster):“The Washington, DC, grand jury of US Attorney Fitzgerald will obtain indictments in the outing of CIA’s Valerie Plame, sources say, and one could be George Bush’s closest advisor, Karl Rove. In Alexandria, VA, the grand jury of Paul McNulty, investigating Israeli espionage against the US, has indicted a neocon Pentagon analyst, Larry Franklin. With these and other probable indictments, there will be trials that will EXPOSE FIXED INTELLIGENCE and ISRAELI MANIPULATION that pushed us toward war. Also, Italian officials promise to request soon the extradition of CIA man Bob Lady, a key figure in the IRAQ BETRAYAL. See how these events are converging.” (Tennessee Independent Media Center, October 21, 2005).Finally, Justin Raimondo’s conclusions are more striking:“The Franklin affair branches off into so many different separate-but-related investigations – Chalabi’s follies, the Niger uranium mystery, the ‘outing’ of CIA agent Valerie Plame – that, as I wrote last year, we might as well merge the scandals breaking out all over into one big Neocon-gate. Franklin’s arrest is the first act of that unfolding drama. ‘It’s not legal to out CIA agents,’ as I wrote last summer, and ‘feed forgeries to U.S. intelligence’ – but even in an administration where every allowance is made for Israel, and such shenanigans are routinely overlooked, one has to draw the line at espionage.” (May 6, 2005, ANTI-WAR.COM)Now, I don’t want to loose you here—guests are still arriving at the party. Incidentally, if it could be said that Karl Rove is President Bush’s brain, it can also be said that Michael Ledeen is Karl Rove’s brain—when it comes to foreign affairs. You see . . . “Michael Ledeen, Rove’s ‘brain,’ is one of the leading advocates for a US attack on Iran. The Washington Post quoted Ledeen as saying that Rove told him, ‘Anytime you have a good idea, tell me.’ I guess that means we can look forward to the Bush team drumming up a war with Iran. [For more, see articles by Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post -- the main man of the mainstream media pursuing the Rove Scandal.] George Bush Jr., when he assumed the presidency in 2000, already knew that he was going to settle the family score with Saddam Hussein. His ‘brain,’ Rove, quickly enlisted Ledeen to trump up a causus belli.” (Bella Ciao, July 29, 2005)Now, back to Ledeen’s party in Rome . . .


What’s a spy thriller without the French-Italian connection? Nothing! So, although he didn’t show up for the December 2001 party in Rome, this guy sure had lots to do with the Ledeen bash:

Here’s how the Bella Ciao article details the role of one, Rocco Martino, who inadvertently brought the “yellowcake” to the party:“Rocco Martino is a 66-year-old Italian gentleman who worked on and off for the Italian SISMI (analogous to the CIA) for many years and who also peddled the same information to various spy organizations and publications — a convicted felon and international stool pigeon, just the kind of person Ledeen’s associates needed. After being fired by SISMI (for receiving stolen checks, among other things), he convinced the French intelligence in 2000 that he knew all about Africa and the trafficking of conventional and non-conventional arms. To avoid stepping on the toes of Italian intelligence, the French gave him a contact, or handler, in Brussels. Martino’s handler in Brussels asked him to obtain every type of news or reference to contraband uranium from Niger (“NYE-jer) — a former French colony in the Sahara desert (not to be confused with ex-British Nigeria in W. Africa), where mining was under the jurisdiction of two companies controlled by the gigantic French mining company Cogema.”The serpentine trail of Martino is fraught with James Bond intrigue. Having read many sources on this, I simply summarize my findings as is the case with bloggers—it is up to you to conclude the matter right or wrong—but within the bounds of honest reporting I shall attempt to be concise.

First of all, Martino was well on his way to fabricating documents PRIOR to the Ledeen bash in Rome. In 2000 Martino got his marching orders from his “handler” in Brussels (Merci Monsieur, French for “thank you man”). He showed up at the Niger embassy in Rome where he met a “lady” (but no “lady” was this Italian functionary—some suggest that “lady” was none other than Robert Seldon Lady Sr., a man who headed up the now infamous 20+ CIA agent apprehension and torture of Abu Omar in Italy; Bella Ciao, July 29, 2005) who assisted him in securing Niger documents (forged) which ultimately “validated” Saddam’s quest for “yellowcake” uranium via Niger. Initially, however, the docs. appeared as simple trade plans that one would exchange between, for example, Arab oil states and third world nations.

When Martino presented these bland elements to French intelligence, they jumped to conclusions and determined that Iraq was interested in uranium . . . “We need additional confirmation and more detailed information.”

Naturally, Martino set out to suffice the French secret service regarding their suspicions.


So a year before the Ledeen meeting in Rome, a mysterious break-in occurred at the Niger Embassy (between the first and second of January, 2001). The mysterious thief burglarized the residence of the counselor in charge of the Niger embassy in Rome. Some letterhead and seals were missing—thus did the SECOND dossier of Niger-Iraq trade documents “appear” in Martino’s dirty little paws.

A little doctoring (and bogus it was) and the “Second Coming” now included references to uranium! Martino claims he got these documents from Niger embassy personnel and that they were genuine. Now the French secret service had the goods on Saddam (and, handsomely paid Martino for the “evidence”).

But, Martino was a bit greedy—and slipped the “Second Coming” to the Italian magazine Panorama (which turns out to be a super backer of both Bush and Italian president Silvio Berlusconi). Panorama, in order to authenticate the “evidence,” sent a female journalist to Niger. Likewise, Panorama turned the “Second Coming” over to the US Embassy in Rome for “cross-checking” in the US.

The female journalist told Martino the “Second Coming” was a hoax. Likewise, the French secret service informed Martino the “Second Coming” was bogus. Thence, the French and Italians came to their senses—and, way back in early 2001 (long before 9/11) Bush’s war rationale—at least from this source—was ludicrous! Never mind, though, now the US herself had the “Second Coming” – simply resuscitated the “evidence” and decided to have a party in Rome in December 2001 (of course, by then, 9/11 had taken place and Afghanistan’s Taliban was defeated).


Now, guest No. 3 (Ledeen and Franklin have already been seated) . . .

Nicolo Pollari, is head of the Italian SISMI (again, equivalent to our CIA). Incidentally, Ledeen is a personal friend of Pollari, who, like himself, is a master of card game bridge!

Guest No. 4 was Italy’s Minister of defense, Antonio Martino (sorry, not related to James Bond want-to-be Rocco Martino). As you can see, this little party was not comprised of small potatoes.

Guest No. 5 was Harold Rhode. Rhode is a protégé of Ledeen and member of Vice-President Cheney’s Office of Special Plans—and, no less, a go-between the CIA and the discredited, but ever-resourceful, Iraqi exile-now-enmeshed in Iraqi politics, Ahmed Chalabi.

Ledeen’s Italian connections go way back . . . “In 1980 [Ledeen] entered into a collaboration with Francesco Pazienza, an agent of the Italian secret service (SISMI) and a member of Rome’s extreme right-wing Masonic Lodge, P2 (Propaganda Due), headed by the fascist Licio Gelli. In an Italian criminal court in 1985, Pazienza was judged guilty of political manipulation, forgery, and the protection of criminals and terrorists, among other offenses. Indeed, according to the findings of the court, Pazienza falsified information about the Bologna bombing in order to divert attention away from the real (right-wing) terrorists who had staged the attack.” (August 18, 2004, Rigorous Institution)Now with all the party goers seated around the table (I suspect another Italian restaurant would have been a great venue here.) the little group reviewed Ricco’s brilliant forgeries and Saddam popped out of the yellowcake—uranium references had been confirmed once and for all!

Was Ledeen’s old bud, Francesco Pazienza, recruited by Ledeen to fabricate the now infamous forgery? Who knows? But one thing is certain—a great time was had by all the party goers!

One thing more—depending upon who’s winning the war—Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, now running for re-election, flatly denies that the Italians were hoodwinked by the forgery and told the US as much. Berlusconi was adamant that he warned Bush not to go to war, especially over this bogus information . . . to wit:“‘I have esteem for Gen. Nicolo Pollari. I have followed his work with trust and I have always appreciated and continue to appreciate what he’s doing at SISMI,’ Berlusconi said in a statement issued as Berlusconi traveled to Washington for a meeting Monday with President Bush. Berlusconi’s office has denied reports last week in the daily La Repubblica that Italy was involved in giving the United States and Britain documents known to be forged that detailed a purported Iraqi deal to buy 500 tons of uranium from Niger.” (Associated Press, October 31, 2005).Not to be outdone by Berlusconi, Washington seconded the motion:WASHINGTON (Reuters) – “President George W. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, denied on Wednesday that he or his staff received fake documents in 2002 that showed Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, a claim that formed part of the administration’s case for going to war.“After consulting with a member of his staff ‘to refresh my memory,’ Hadley told reporters that the documents were first obtained by the State Department and then shared with the CIA, and that he does not recall ever discussing the issue with Italian intelligence officials.“‘Suffice to say they didn’t come to me. They didn’t come to the NSC,’ Hadley said, referring to the National Security Council.“Bush, in making a case for war in his 2003 State of the Union address, said there was evidence that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa to further apparent nuclear-weapons ambitions. Bush cited British intelligence as the source of the information.”By the way, the White House acknowledges that this is the same Stephen Hadley who took the blame for the reference that showed up in Bush’s State of the Union speech (the 16-words), and the same Stephen Hadley, who on September 9, 2002 met with Italy’s intelligence chief, Nicolo Pollari. (Note: Exactly one month later, on October 9, 2002, an Italian journalist provided the U.S. Embassy in Rome with copies of documents about the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium sale, according to a U.S. congressional investigation. Copies of the documents were then sent to State Department headquarters and the CIA, the congressional report said.) (From Reuters, November 2, 2005, by Adam Entous).

Now that this nefarious trail involves the media—media like Robert Novak and Judith Miller who outed, via Scooter Libby (Cheney’s chief aide), Valerie Plame-Wilson to get back at her husband, Joe Wilson, who debunked the myth of the “Niger-Saddam Yellowcake” intelligence—and said so—who knows where it will lead—but you can just imagine!


This article started off with the title: ISRAEL MUST BE DESTROYED (i.e., “Wiped Off The Map”). However, if you were Israel, and you were Jewish, like so many of the neocons in this piece who have apparently teamed up with American politicos, mostly Republican, who as well have had it with terrorism/terrorists/rogue regimes (for whatever reason), then you might be considering Michael Ledeen’s summation of the matter:“Now Michael Ledeen is calling for regime change beyond Iraq. In an address entitled Time to Focus on Iran — The Mother of Modern Terrorism, for the policy forum of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) on April 30, he declared, ‘the time for diplomacy is at an end; it is time for a free Iran, free Syria and free Lebanon.’“Ledeen has advocated total war . . . In a 2003 essay for the American Enterprise Institute, he wrote: “There is every reason to believe we will succeed in revolutionizing the Middle East, for we have always excelled at destroying tyrannies…. We wage total war, because we fight in the name of an idea — freedom — and ideas either triumph or fail.” (Center for Media and Democracy, August 25, 2005).


Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: The evidence appears overwhelming . . . neocons, many of whom are Jewish, have decidedly taken up Israel’s quest for survival in the Middle East. This drive for survival among Jews in the Diaspora, and most certainly Israel, is NOT unjustified—to say the least—given the recent holocaust of the 20th Century, let alone centuries of persecution. The rhetoric of Islamic leaders, and the VAST majority of Arabists throughout the world, and, in particularly the Middle East, has repeatedly concluded the harshest conclusion to the State of Israel: ANNIHILATION!

Faced with this real and present danger, desperate things are done by desperate people—they are calculated, persistent and formidable. Time does not permit a discussion of the political alliance formed between the Neocons and the Pro-Israel Evangelicals in the United States; however, it is this bulwark of Judeo-Christian Civilization that alone can wage war and ultimate victory against the implacable foe: Radical Islam.

The current “scandal” swirling around Washington—what did he/they know, and when did they know it?—should be rephrased to: Who knew it? How did they go about doing it? The biggie: Why did they do it? . . . is altogether obvious!

“We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we are in agreement . . . when the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves . . . Your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overflowing scourge passes through, then you will be trampled down by it . . . as often as it goes out it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass over, and by day and by night; it will be a terror just to understand the report” (Isaiah 28:15, 18-19)“He shall confirm a covenant (i.e., “treaty”) with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering, and on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolator” (Daniel 9:27).The Herculean efforts of Israel, and her American allies amongst the Neocon-Evangelical alliance, are steadfast and sure . . .

Is this not the false hope of PEACE and SAFETY that will ensue shortly after Israel tears down her wall and dwells in safety?“After many days you will be visited. In the later years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them DWELL SAFELY” (Ezekiel 38:8).The mysteries surrounding the imbroglio of “treasongate” appear unending and so massive that it boggles the mind—grief, the whole world is being sucked into this black hole! Even so is the prophecy being fulfilled in our ears, in our day:“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling (drunkenness) to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem . . . and it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it . . . For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished” (Zechariah 12:2-3; 14:2).What has been described here—notwithstanding all the great and noble intentions of man—is naught but the “arm of the flesh” which fails; the Machiavellian machinations of a fallen creature; an attempt, like Abraham of old, who sought the fulfillment of the promise through the Hagarian Option only to witness for centuries the contestation of cousins: Arabs vs. Jews.

The world sits precipitously upon the edge of a Middle East conflagration that will sweep the entire earth into its vortex. A PERFECT STORM of apocalyptic fulfillment awaits humankind—and, like Katrina’s wrath: WE ARE UTTERLY UNPREPARED to weather this calamity!

This is no half-pint, stupid, little, bungled Watergate burglary being pulled off by Castro-hating Cuban exiles. The Keystone Cops within the Nixon cover-up cannot be compared to the scores of intelligence operatives throughout the world who pulled off this caper! No, no, no—this is a massive juggernaut of immense political consequence involving numerous governments and staggering conspiracies whose trails and tales lead to the highest echelons of world leadership and whose sources reach to the lowest rungs of Dante’s inferno!

Juggernaut? Because NOTHING CAN STOP IT! The inexorable drive for war in the Middle East—ALL OUT WAR—is inevitable and irreversible. You altruistic lefties/progressives and patriotic constitutional conservatives—try though you may—the quest for cheap energy, survivability—couched in the pompous dialect of ideological democracy and freedom—and the moralistic intolerance of religious hyperbole (from Christian, Moslem, and Jew)—is so all-consuming that any reasonable argument—any rational thought to the contrary—pales into insignificance.

Yes, I confess, I have become an absolutist to the max! Without DIVINE INTERVENTION no one will be saved from this drunken monster—this WILLFUL KING who threatens to plunge the nations into Armageddon. Well was it said of him by Daniel the Prophet:“At the time of the end the king of the south shall attack him (ANTICHRIST); and the king of the North shall come against him (ANTICHRIST) . . . and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through . . . he (ANTICHRIST) shall enter the Glorious Land (Israel), and many countries shall be overthrown . . . he (ANTICHRIST) shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape . . . he shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians (all of Africa) shall follow at his heels . . . but news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; YET HE SHALL COME TO HIS END, AND NO ONE WILL HELP HIM!” (Daniel 11:40-45).Try, though you may, to say this “Willful King” is Antiochus Epiphanes IV and these be his exploits of yesteryear . . . but to surmise this superficiality you have unwittingly become part of the Apostle Paul’s “Great Apostasy” in the latter days.

No, Daniel could not figure it out; and, why?“Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, ‘My lord, what shall be the end of these things?’ And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.’” (Daniel 12:8-9).Simply put: There was no “need to know.” But all that has radically changed . . . now:“Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).On the one hand, sad to say . . . but it will be through the process of purification and refinement through suffering at the hands of these deceits, lies—wars, and rumors of wars—but on the other hand, those who “know their God” shall overcome these falsehoods and the Father of Lies and Distortions . . . “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him . . . and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:9 & 11)“And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time, and at that time your people shall be delivered . . . those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:1b & 3).

Please view full article/graphics/links @ The Tribulation Network

Holiday Destinations by Flight Duration

If like me you’re one of those people who love going on holidays, but cannot abide the whole flying experience, then this feature will be your new best friend.
Location, hotel, weather, nightlife – these are all major factors that we consider when planning a holiday. Although often overlooked, your flights play a hugely important role in your whole holiday experience as well. A bad flight or a flight that’s too long can be the difference between a fantastic holiday and an ok holiday.

ExclusiveLondon.co.uk has complied a list of holiday destinations by flight duration to help you choose the perfect holiday. If you don’t like lengthy flights, you may think you are just limited to holidays in France or Germany, but there are many destinations featured below that may be closer than you think. Flight durations are based on flights leaving from London, UK.

1 to 2 hours

Austria (Tryol, Salzburg)
Belgium (Brussels)
Denmark (Copenhagen)
France, North to Mid (Paris, Lyon)
Germany (Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg)
Ireland (Dublin)
Netherlands, The (Amsterdam)
Scotland (Edinburgh)
Spain, North (Bilbao)
Switzerland (Basel, Geneva, Zurich)

2 to 3 hours

Romania (Bucharest)
Hungary (Budapest)
Finland (Helsinki)
Balearic Islands (Ibiza, Majorca, Menorca)
Italy, North (Milan, Venice)
Latvia (Riga)
Lithuania (Vilnius)
Costa del Sol (Marbella)
Poland (Krakow, Warsaw)
Portugal (Lisbon)
Czech Republic (Prague)
Iceland (Reykjavik)
Netherlands, The (Rotterdam)
Bulgaria (Sofia)
Spain, Mid to West (Barcelona, Madrid)
Sweden (Stockholm)
Tunisia (Tunis)
Austria (Vienna)

3 to 4 hours

Bulgaria (Sofia)
Greece, North to West (Halkidiki, Preveza)
Greece, South (Kalamata, Athens)
Greek Islands, North to West (Corfu, Kefalonia, Skiathos, Zante)
Gibraltar (South of Spain)
Turkey (Istanbul, Anakra)
Madeira (Island South of Portugal)
Malta (Valletta, Birkirkara)
Morocco (Casablanca, Marrakech, Rabat)
France, South (Marseille, Montpellier, Nice)
Norway (Oslo)
Portugal (Porto Islands)
Italy, Mid to South (Rome, Naples, Sicily)
Russia (Moscow, St Petersburg)
Spain, South (Seville)

4 to 5 hours

Azores Islands, The (inc. 2 hour flight from Lisbon, Portugal)
Canary Islands (Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Tenerife)
Greek Islands, East to South (Mytilene, Cyprus, Mykonos, Kos, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes)
Egypt (Cairo, Luxor)
Jordan (Amman)
Syria (Damascus)
Turkey (Izmir, Bodrum)

5 to 6 hours

Israel (Eilat)
Africa, West (Nigeria)

6 to 7 hours

Africa, West (Gambia, Ghana, Senegal)
Saudi Arabia (Riyadh)
Oman (Muscat)
United Arab Emirates (Dubai)

7 to 8 hours

Antigua (St John’s)
Barbados (Bridgetown)
Bermuda (Hamilton)
USA, East (New York, Boston)
Canada, East (Montreal)
St Lucia (Castries)
Trinidad (Port of Spain)

8 to 9 hours

India, North (New Delhi)
India, West (Mumbai, Goa)
Pakistan (Karachi)

9 to 10 hours

Aruba (Oranjestad)
Bahamas (Nassau)
Bangladesh (Dhaka)
Botswana (Gaborone)
Cuba (Havana)
Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo)
Jamaica (Montego Bay)
Kenya (Nairobi)
St Kitts (Basseterre)
Zimbabwe (Harare)

10 to 11 hours

Canada, South (Ottawa, Toronto)
USA, South East (Atlanta, Miami)
USA, West (California, San Francisco)
USA, North to West (Montana, Seattle)
USA, South (New Orleans)
Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo)
Argentina (Buenos Aires)
Cayman Islands (George Town)
Hong Kong
Grenada (St George’s)
Mexico (Mexico City)
Namibia (Windhoek)
Chile (Santiago)
South Africa (Cape Town)
Sri Lanka (Colombo)
Tanzania (Dodoma)
Zambia (Lusaka)

11 to 12 hours

Australia (Sydney)
Thailand (Bangkok)
Hawaii (Honolulu)
Japan (Tokyo)
Mauritius (Port Louis)
South Korea (Seoul)
Venezuela (Caracas)

12+ hours

Fiji (Suva)
USA, West (Las Vegas)
Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)
USA (Montana)

This article was written by Maryse Mignott, for ExclusiveLondon.co.uk. Balance your work and social life by taking part in the London entertainment scene. For the hottest London events, restaurants, clubs, fashion boutiques and much more, visit www.exclusivelondon.co.uk

Spanish Berths as an Alternative Investment

Since the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, and the start of tourism and package holidays, Spain has been transformed into one of the leading European economies, with a diversified market covering both the manufacturing and service sectors. Between 1961 and 1973, the so called years of development, the Spanish economy grew at 7% a year with a per capita income of $500 per year. After joining the EU in 1986, Spain once again had one of the world’s fastest growing economies, with annual growth averaging 4.1% in the period between 1986 and 1991, compared with an EU average of 3%. Likewise, foreign trade grew from $23.8 billon in 1975, to $52.5 billion by 1980, and to $143 billion by 1990.

Today, the economy of Spain is the fifth largest in Europe, accounting for around 9% of EU output. Income, at 78% of the EU average, is among the lowest in the EU, although it is well ahead of Ireland, Portugal and Greece. Spain’s main trading partners are France, Germany and Italy for exports, and Germany, France and Italy for imports. Spain’s most important industries include tourism, chemicals and petrochemicals, heavy industry, and food and beverages. Spain is also Europe’s fourth largest manufacturing country after Germany France and Italy. The principle growth areas include tourism, insurance, property development, electronics and financial services. Tourism is one of Spain’s most important industries, especially in Andalucia, earning approx. 4% of GDP and employing some 10% of the workforce, both directly and indirectly. With over 5,000 kms of coastline, and a unique blend of almost perfect year round weather and Mediterranean lifestyle, Spain has become a Mecca for holidaymakers and boating enthusiasts alike.

With the advent of the low cost airlines, a weekend trip to Spain has now become the norm for many European travellers, and the huge Eastern coast, all 750 miles of it, is still home to more British boats than anywhere else in the Mediterranean. Whilst the booming economy and influx of foreign visitors in the seventies and eighties certainly caused it own unique problems, the development of smart marina complexes such as Sotogrande, and the hosting of the 2007 Americas Cup in Valencia, are undoubtedly attracting the boating enthusiasts back in huge numbers. Increasingly, many of these enthusiasts are also buying second homes, either as a holiday home to enjoy their boat on trips to Spain, or indeed to retire.

In terms of demographics, the generation of buyers termed the ‘baby boomers’ (currently 42 – 58 years old), is now due to retire within the next 10 years. With considerable wealth, which has been built on property, business interests and inheritance, they have little desire to see these assets taxed on death. This trend is now being seen throughout Europe, and in a cultural change, this age group is retiring earlier, spending more of its wealth, and in general enjoying life to the full. In the UK, this exodus which was once a small trickle has now become a torrent. Increasingly wealthy, and healthy, individuals are moving abroad, encouraged by the media and low cost travel, in order to enjoy a more relaxed and enjoyable life in the sun. With global demand for recreational boats estimated to reach $24 billion by 2006, projected growth of annual sales worldwide of 7%, and with Europe experiencing the highest growth in the last five years, there seems little to stop the European market growing and expanding further in the next few years.

Owning and maintaining a boat in Spain is becoming easier, cheaper, and considerably more enjoyable than the UK. With the advent of cheap flights, more scheduled services, and new infrastructure, it is easier and quicker to reach the Spanish coast and be on the water, than it is for an owner in the Midlands to reach his boat in Southampton. The Spanish coastline is divided into six Costas – the Costa del Sol is the most southerly, followed by the Costa Calida, Costa Blanca, Costa del Azahar, Costa Dorada and the most northerly, the Costa Brava. The atmosphere on Spain’s coastline varies enormously from Costa to Costa and from marina to marina. From the small and beautiful Cabopino to the glitzy Puerto Banus, where yachts are squeezed in purely to be admired by the less well off passers by! Major cities such as Valencia, Almeria, Malaga and Barcelona offer marina facilities right at their centre, an option that is becoming more popular as many cities are being turned into world class destinations. Valencia in particular is beginning to rival Barcelona, as the impending America’s cup has drawn billions of euros of investment into the area. Marinas and boating facilities on both sides of Valencia such as Denia, and areas to the south of the city, are feeling the benefits.

The islands of the Balearics cover a tiny fraction of the Mediterranean, yet are perhaps one of its most popular cruising areas, and as such are the most densely populated with boats. In recent years Mallorca has shed its night club image, and a huge marketing campaign has pushed the relatively unknown and more beautiful aspects of the island. A recent article in the Majorca Daily Bulletin outlined the amount of money being invested in property and yachts on the island by UK city traders. With bonuses in excess of 1m euros, these buyers not only want a house, but a yacht to match. This, like elsewhere, has led to unprecedented demand for mooring space. Whether boat owners want a quiet laid back marina, or one with a busy night life, the one thing they all have in common is a lack of adequate berths, both in size and availability.

The shortage of berths in the Mediterranean is getting worse. There are currently an estimated 160,000 boats waiting for a long term space and skippers lucky enough to have one are sitting tight. Only recently, a report commissioned by the Spanish Government concluded that in 2005, a total of 2,300 yachts will be looking for berths in Andalucia alone, and by the year 2020 that this figure would leap to over 5,000 yachts in just this one area. The report concludes: The demand from the nautical sector of the tourism market, on the Costa del Sol alone, is reaching unprecedented figures, which can only be remedied by a dramatic upgrading of facilities. Indeed the 11 ports on the coast, which cater for yachts, only have 4,200 mooring points between them. Figures issued by the Costa del Sol Tourist Authority suggest the Costa’s ports would need to increase by 300% the number of available mooring spaces just to satisfy current requirements.

The Director-General of the Costa del Sol Tourism, Ana Gomez said “We are lacking many mooring points and because of this waiting lists are tremendous”. She went on to explain that due to the marinas being at saturation there was little benefit to be had from marketing and promotion. Nearly 60% of owners were tourists predominantly from Germany, France and the UK. With the lack of availability, prices of berths have risen dramatically, along with the annual rentals demanded by owners. This has compounded the problem, as investors are now moving into the market with the prospect of long term capital growth, coupled with excellent rental returns of between 8% and 15%. Berth prices vary enormously and depend on several factors, including the size (length and width), location (both of the marina, and position within the marina itself), and the length of lease remaining. In general they start at 50,000 euros approx. and go to several million for the very biggest. As an example there is currently a 20m berth in Sotogrande for sale at 600,000 euros – a similar size berth in Puerto Banus would sell for well over a million (if one were available!)

When a new marina is established, it is leased to the port operator by the Government for a fixed period. These periods are normally between 30 and 50 years. The berths are then bought and sold on a leasehold basis only. Gradually over time, the length of the lease left on a berth becomes shorter depending on the date the original lease was granted to the port operator. Typically berths will have leases remaining of between 15 and 25 years. Naturally in a brand new marina, the berth would have a full term lease. Each berth will have its own escritura, essentially a land title document, which is signed and witnessed by a notary in any sale or purchase. Each berth is defined by its size and a reference number on the port authority plan. Berths are always quoted in length and width ie. (8m x 3m).The bigger the boat, the wider the berth has to be! Berths are bought and sold by brokers. The largest of these is Genus Marine Leisure, who has been working in Spain for nearly 20 years. The prices for any particular berth are dictated by supply and demand, and with so much experience, Genus know all the marinas intimately and can therefore price their berths to sell at sensible market prices. If it is considered that the owner is asking too much, the berth sale is refused. In some marinas it is only possible to buy the berth, but not to rent it out to someone else (this was a condition of the original lease to the port authority). We can supply a list of these (if required). In these marinas boat owners can only use the berth themselves. Sailing conditions in the Mediterranean are virtually perfect, as there are no tides to cause problems either in sailing conditions or in entry or exit to marinas. In the UK (as elsewhere) trips have to be planned extremely carefully to ensure that the boat can both leave and enter the port with the tide. This can mean waiting for hours for the correct conditions – something that never happens in the Med! In the UK, boating is restricted to the summer months (3 at best) – more and more owners are now moving abroad to have access to 12 months of sailing in warm and calm water.

Motor boat enthusiasts tend to berth around the Costa del Sol marinas for two reasons. Firstly the diesel in Gibraltar is substantially cheaper than in Spain. Secondly the weather conditions are smoother and calmer. (The Costa de La Luz facing the Atlantic is noted for its windy conditions and attracts the windsurfers) Sailing enthusiasts tend to berth further North, towards the Balearics, as there is generally more wind, and therefore better sailing conditions. In Spain, as elsewhere throughout Europe, there is an extremely strong environmental lobby which has grown in strength in the last decade, particularly with the election of Green MEP’s to Brussels. Throughout the world, environmentally sensitive areas are being protected and designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty or as nature reserves. The argument for building more berths has never been stronger, but neither have the environmental pressures on an already developed coastline.

The Spanish Costas, and particularly the Coast del Sol, have been warned of impending environmental catastrophe if development is not brought under control. The Government is an extremely awkward position, since eco tourism is destined to be a major growth market in the next decade. However it is also acutely aware of the lack of facilities and berths for boat owners and operators. Plans for new marinas are constantly proposed, but generally drag on for many years through lengthy planning and lobbying meetings. Motor boats in particular are not considered to be environmentally friendly. Accidental fuel discharge and emptying of tanks in port (accidental or otherwise) do not help. Whilst the Green lobby is fighting to prevent further marina development, the availability of berths becomes more acute. In Italy recently, a new law has been introduced banning motor boats from coming within 200m of the coastline, making it illegal to anchor in rocky inlets and coves.

All of this helps to push prices of berths even higher. Berths that were selling for 10,000 to 20,000 euros a few years ago, are now changing hands for 80,000 to 100,000 euros. This trend can only continue with the lack of new marinas being built. As a specialist marine financial services company Marinablu offers a unique facility with our Spanish banking partners to provide berth finance, tied directly to the berth itself. This facility is only available via ourselves. This allows our clients ( whether boat owners or investors ) to raise capital against the berth itself. Existing owners are also able to release equity from their berths to buy a bigger boat or simply to re-invest in another berth.

PS-We are currently selling one of our berths in Estapona – a 25m berth – please email for more details.