June 2009



Today there is a phone call from Tehran. The gentleman on the phone is developing gas fields in Turkmenistan. The tremendous lack of infrastructure there mean there are huge capital investments needed to even get started getting the gas out of the ground. the main cost, or the main difficulty as the gentleman in Tehran sees it – is getting the gas to market. The small port in the Caspian Sea does not have the ability. So to begin with, the gentleman in Tehran is going to purchase a fleet of trucks. He wants to buy/borrow three thousand trucks by his estimate. This is a considerable amount of money, and so he is digging deep in to his savings and he is willing to sell or leverage as a guarantee on the trucks four hundred metric tones of titanium.


It has been a rough couple of years for titanium. The price per metric tonne has droped from 45,000 to around 18,000 – so he does not really want to sell it, though that would clearly be easier. He wants to borrow against it. Are there banks that will do this? Well maybe a few in Russia, but this is sort of a new idea. “In Russia they will give me even less money!”


About Turmenistan: ruled over by the supreme leader, Turkmenbashi – the father of all Turkmens. There is a 20 foot high solid gold statue in the middle of the city that rotates as the sun rises and sets, so his bueatiful face is always adorned by the sun. he renamed the month of January after himself. Renamed bread and the month of April after his mother.




In the case of Mr Rothschild, the documents reveal for the first time that he made personal gains by using slaves as collateral in banking dealings with a slave owner. This will surprise those familiar with his role in organising the loan that funded the UK government’s bail-out of British slave owners when colonial slavery was abolished in the 1830s. It was the biggest bail-out of an industry as a percentage of annual government expenditure – dwarfing last year’s rescue of the banking sector. The chief archivist of the Rothschild family papers, Melanie Aspey, reacted with disbelief when first told of the contents of the records, saying she had never seen such links before. Niall Ferguson, Laurence A.Tisch professor of history at Harvard and author ofThe World’s Banker: A History of the House of Rothschild, said the documents showed “how pervasive slavery was in the structure of British wealth in 1830”. In Mr Freshfield’s case, the records reveal that he and his sons had several slave-owner clients, mostly based in the Caribbean. The lawyers acted as trustees of the owners’ estates and in one case tried to claim unpaid legal fees for the firm through the government scheme set up to compensate owners after abolition. Nick Draper, a University College London academic who examined the documents, which will now form the basis of a comprehensive British slavery database at UCL, said the records would hopefully promote a better understanding of of the significance of slavery in Britain. “We need to fill the gaps between those who deny slavery’s role and those who believe Britain was built entirely on the blood of slaves,” he said.

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Picture 2



One of them likes to call himself an “emancipator of women”. The other likes women to call him “papi”. So when two of the world’s most flamboyant and eccentric politicians – the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and Italy‘s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi – met yesterday in Rome, women figured large.

The Libyan leader was accompanied by his all-female, 40-strong bodyguard squad, its members dressed in khaki uniforms and red berets. And the schedule for his controversial first visit to Italy included, at his own request, a meeting tomorrow with large numbers of Italian women. Very large numbers.

The plan was for “only” 700. But officials said yesterday that such was the colonel’s drawing power the event had had to be moved to a concert hall with a capacity for 1,000.

Berlusconi has had more than a little trouble lately with embarrassing photos. So it must have been with a sinking feeling that he watched the Libyan leader descend the aircraft steps with another one pinned to his chest.

The photograph Gaddafi wore to several of the ceremonies on the opening day of his visit did not show young women in underwear by Berlusconi’s poolside, let alone a former Czech prime minister in the altogether. But it was discomforting for his hosts all the same: it showed the Libyan resistance leader, Omar Mukhtar, the “Lion of the Desert”, on the day before he was hanged by Italian colonialists in 1931.

Gaddafi flew in with a 300-strong retinue, on three Airbuses. As ever, he brought with him a giant Bedouin tent, which was erected in a Rome park.

Security for his visit was tight. But that is partly because, while Gaddafi may have bones to pick with Italy, some Italians have bones to pick with him.

Officially yesterday it was all smiles as the colonel praised Italy for having “turned a page on the past”. Relations have improved since Berlusconi’s government agreed last year to pay $5bn (about £3bn) reparations for Italy’s colonial rule. Italy, Gaddafi said, had “apologised, and that is what allowed me to be able to come here today”. But not everyone is happy about the visit. Gaddafi is set to encounter protests over a deal that allows Italian patrols to return would-be migrants, including asylum seekers, to Libyan ports. Yesterday he dismissed claims that the deal prevented asylum seekers from applying for protection, in a way that visibly disconcerted his host, normally a champion of political incorrectness.

“This is one of the lies that is put about,” the colonel declared at a joint press conference after his talks with Berlusconi. “The Africans do not have problems of political asylum. People who live in the bush, and often in the desert, don’t have political problems. They don’t have oppositions or majorities or elections.”

The Libyan leader, who is also chairman of the African Union, went on: These are things that only people who live in cities know. [Other Africans] don’t even have an identity. And I don’t mean a political identify; they don’t even have a personal identity. They come out of the bush and they say: ‘In the north, there’s money, there’s wealth’ – and so they go to Libya, and from there to Europe.”

According to the UN, an unusually high proportion of the migrants who cross from Libya are asylum seekers fleeing wars and disorder. But Gaddafi was having none of it. “Please, don’t take seriously this business about political asylum. The idea they are all asylum seekers makes you laugh sometimes.”

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the desert  820


First we said good-bye to Polaroid, now it’s Kodachrome. What’s a film sentimentalist to do? After 74 years of making the color film used by many of photography’s greats, Kodak announced Monday that it’s ending Kodachrome’s production. (Credit: Kodak) Kodachrome makes up less than 1 percent of Kodak’s total sales for still film, according to the company. Digital cameras are obviously the main culprit contributing to Kodachrome’s demise, but photographers are also using newer kinds of color film that are easier to process. Only one photofinishing lab in the world still processes Kodachrome–Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kan. Photographers like Kodachrome for its warm colors and fine grain, which are perfect for shooting portraits. The famous portrait of the Afghan refugee girl with the bright green eyes that graced the cover of National Geographic in 1985 was taken with Kodachrome film by Steve McCurry. But even McCurry has moved onto digital and other still film. Even though Kodachrome is largely known as still film, it has also been made for movie formats, including 16mm. In the past three years, Kodak has come out with several new professional still films and motion picture films. Kodak is donating its last rolls of Kodachrome to the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, N.Y. One of these last rolls will be shot by McCurry, with the photos donated to the museum. Dwayne’s Photo said it will continue to process any leftover Kodachrome until 2010.

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