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It’s August 

August in Europe means holidays. That includes me. I will be completely out of touch with any and all electronic devices for the next two weeks.

Lonely at the top 

I was a bit depressed last night to read Three Men in a Boat, from the latest issue of The New York Review of Books. It examines the current state of the Israel-Palestine conflict from the points of view of the three main protagonists, Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat and Abu Mazen. It rings very true to my perceptions.

Here’s the sobering conclusion: “Of the three, only Abu Mazen genuinely believes the disarray must be brought to an end; only he truly aspires to a return to normalcy and a resumption of a political process. In this, he enjoys the support of the United States and the personal backing of its powerful president. He has the help of the United Nations, of Europe, of much of the Arab world. He possesses an internationally adopted instrument, the roadmap, aimed in the first instance at restoring calm and tailor-made to shore up his domestic position. Why then, in the midst of such a crowd, does he feel so lonely?”

By their rubbish ye shall know them 

After 13 years, The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts is leaving Japan. He provides some interesting reflections on the country pre- and post-bubble.

“I had read about the ‘Japanese miracle’ of rapid growth, peace, egalitarianism, long life and low crime, but it never seemed real until I arrived and saw with my own eyes that the proof of the country’s prosperity is in its rubbish.”

Thirteen years later, however, “the rubbish is not what it was. Instead of lovingly wrapped treasures, the tips are full of dirty, broken junk.”

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