The Iranian Nuclear Deadlock Continues

In perhaps the least surprising news of the year, Iran and the P5+1 failed to reach an agreement in Vienna on Monday. The P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) want Iran to scale back its uranium enrichment activities; Iran wants sanctions to be lifted. More »

Parliamentary Roadshow

Palace of Westminster: 'They need to get out more'

They really need to get out more

The Palace of Westminster is crumbling. It will require £3 billion to restore it. I’ve never been very fond of the building architecturally, and it wasn’t popular when it was built – least of all among MPs, who complained of the stink it let in from the Thames – but familiarity often breeds acceptance, and the silhouette has become so iconic that of course the place needs to be put back into shape. Whether or not that’s worth splashing out three billion for, when there are so many other worthy causes to hand, such as bailing out banks, is for taxpayers – or rather the chancellor – to decide. More »

A la Cambacérès

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Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès

Escalope de foie gras à la Cambacérès, roughly speaking, is a piece of toast covered with an apple purée and a slice of foie gras placed on top, the escalope already dusted with flour and briskly fried without oil or butter. A Madeira sauce – reduced beef stock with some of that fortified wine – is poured over it all. (A warning: this completely misrepresents the dish. There shouldn’t be anything rough about it. A Madeira sauce isn’t something you can rustle up in moments.) More »

Subliminal Falsehood

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Foam, Amsterdam’s photography museum, has been running a show on Disguise and Deception featuring work by Anika Schwarzelose, derived from the Tarnen und Täuschen camouflage unit of the German army. On Monday, Foam staged an associated symposium at the Marineterrein naval base. More »

Royal Mail’s Managed Decline

When the business secretary Vince Cable announced the sale of Royal Mail shares last autumn, his Labour counterpart Chuka Umunna, rather than focusing on the principle of a publicly owned postal service, complained that taxpayers were being ripped off. Royal Mail shares soared by 38 per cent in 24 hours. A parliamentary select committee said the group had been undervalued by £1 billion, in part because ministers had failed to account for the expanding parcels trade. They also appeared to have forgotten the company owned three major development sites in inner London, including Mount Pleasant, where several Christmases ago I sorted parcels – mainly Amazon deliveries. More »

My Great-Uncle Tony

Roxana Badin's grandparents, 1937

Roxana Badin’s grandparents, 1937

I visited Romania for the first time with my mother in the summer of 1975. I was five years old. At Bucharest airport a passport official whisked us behind a limp curtain. My mother hadn’t been back since she and my father escaped ten years earlier. As the curtain closed, she squeezed my hand. She’d told me before we left New York not to look anyone in uniform in the eyes. This was tricky during the pat-down. The official was so close I could feel her breath on my face. Trying to avoid her nose, I met her eyes. I thought she might make me stay at the airport without my mother or return me to Jamaica, Queens. Instead, she smiled. More »

The World according to Caroline Fourest

On 22 October, the French journalist and LGBT activist Caroline Fourest was convicted of slandering a young woman called Rabia Bentot during her weekly slot on France Culture, a public radio station. She has said she will appeal. More »

Zero-Hours Academics

More than half the academic staff at London Metropolitan University – around 840 people – are on zero-hours contracts. Their hours of employment vary from term to term or year to year. Most earn nothing during the university holidays. They do the same work as permanent staff but have no job security, minimal prospect of advancement and inferior benefits. Many are teaching courses that they designed: their work is not incidental or unskilled. They can be fired at a month’s notice. Many have been in this position for years. More »

Killing the Fatted Goose

A new butcher’s opened in Primrose Hill earlier this autumn, and because the shop sells foie gras it has been besieged by animal rights protesters, if only on Saturday afternoons. ‘You have blood on your hands,’ was one of the taunts aimed at the butchers the other day.

The livers of wild geese and ducks typically double in size as they prepare for migration or the winter ahead. If domesticated and force-fed, their livers can expand six times or more. The fattening of all animals is ancient and persistent, and the making of foie gras is as old as Greece. Ditto, the sacrificial and spiritual significance of the livers of goats, sheep and cattle; the complexion of a liver determined whether the feasting element of a sacrifice would go ahead. If the liver looked unusual then the animal was dispensed with. The cultivation of edible livers has been so systematic and accompanied with such veneration and symbolic force that to call the practice ‘inhumane’ is, historically speaking, to misrepresent it (which isn’t to say the animals don’t suffer). More »

Virtual Schools

Wey Education PLC is proposing ‘one of the most significant and exciting innovations within state education for a generation’. This is the Wey ecademy, ‘England’s first state online school’. According to the ‘trading update’ in the company’s latest report on results,

the ‘virtual’ school will be able to offer a wider curriculum than any traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ school, and will offer full access to all applicants irrespective of their background, postcode, social situation, beliefs or previous experience within education.

The virtual school, an interesting feature of American public education, may soon arrive in England – subject to approval by the DfE. More »

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