Archive for the ‘famous people’ Category


The unceremonious departure of the Pope who protected the pedophiles

March 7, 2013

ImageAt the moment there is no pope. Ratzinger (what a great name that would have been for a metal band) has thrown in the holy towel, and his replacement hasn’t been chosen yet (I’m told Sinead O’Connor has mailed in her CV). But what intrigues me is the depontification process – or rather the lack of one. There doesn’t seem to be any official ceremony, which seems odd for a Church that has a ceremony for every occasion and contingency. One day Ritzy Ratzy is the Pope, and the next day he’s just an ordinary Joe Soap. Or at least an ordinary Joe Ratzinger. He just doesn’t show up for work, and that’s all there is to it.

So what exactly happens on the spiritual plane – do all his papal powers disappear at the stroke of midnight on the date of his resignation? One minute he’s the Pope, with the power of Infallibility, and the next minute he isn’t – just because he says so? His clothes don’t turn to rags as the Vatican chapel bell tolls, his Swiss guards don’t turn into mice, and his Popemobile doesn’t turn into a pumpkin. He just takes off his big sparkly hat and shuffles away to a presumably well-furnished bachelor pad somewhere in the bowels of the Vatican to watch daytime TV, play video games and surf the web looking for photos of altar boys.

It all seems a bit arbitrary and anticlimactic. At the very least you’d expect some kind of stripping down ceremony, whereby a clutch of Cardinals ripped off his papal tiara (yes, I know that it is properly called a triregnum), broke his staff in two with a dramatic flourish, and forced him to hand back his Ring of the Fisherman and, especially, his magic red shoes. If they don’t take back those shoes, how can they be sure he won’t click his heels together next week and reappear in the papal suite?


The social network spy

July 3, 2010

Anna Chapman - Spymistress?

Anna Chapman, one of ten people accused of being part of a Russian spy ring, is being portrayed in the media as a kind of “Mata Hari” figure; a glamorous femme fatale who used her “womanly charms” to insinuate her way into the lives and the homes (and, it is insinuated in the media, the beds) of rich and influential members of American and British high society.

I was particularly interested in her because, like me, she ran – and, as far as I can see, continues to run – a successful real estate portal. Her website – which markets Russian property – is at:

I wondered if she had a facebook page (doesn’t everyone, these days?), and, sure enough, it only took me a minute to find her profile here.

Chapman gives her favourite quotation as “Trust no one”, while her “Likes and Interests” are listed as: “Corrections officer, Federal Bureau of Investigation”.
Under “Books” she has “Agatha Christie Novels”, and under “Movies” she’s written “Spy Games”.
For “University” she’s written “Jail”.

Quite the wit for a person in her predicament, facing, we are told, the possibility of life in prison. You’d think she’d be too busy getting water-boarded by the CIA and rehearsing her story with her defense lawyers to take the time to add jokey comments to her facebook page.

Could it be because she knows perfectly well that she isn’t going to spend more than a wet day in jail and is looking forward to a stellar career as a highly-paid TV talk-show guest (or even host)? I’ll give you odds of 100-1 that this savvy spy will be back in Moscow in time for Christmas, where she will be feted as a heroine and a sex symbol.

But hold the fone, Joe! Isn’t Chapman charged with being a dangerous spy? An enemy of the state? In which case how come she’s still at liberty to access the Internet to update her social network profile? Not to mention run a business in Russia? Surely she could be sending all kinds of information and secret messages to all kinds of people in the Kremlin?

Given the high level of security that has prevailed in the US in recent years – in which people have been locked up in solitary confinement just for “looking foreign” or taking part in peaceful public protests – isn’t it a bit odd that Ms. Chapman – or, to use her real name, Anya Kuschenko – is being allowed so much freedom of movement?

And why doesn’t the US president have anything to say about this whole business? So far he has made no comment other than to express the hope that the uproar would not damage the friendship and trust that has developed between the US and Russia.

Friendship and trust, eh?

If Obama bends any further backwards to appease Vladimir Putin, he’ll qualify for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records in the Limbo Dancing category.

It seems to me that there’s something decidedly fishy going on when the FBI catches a network of Russian spies operating in the United States, and it is the Russian president who expresses his outrage!

The (commie?) plot thickens…


We’re creating a Master Race of mice

August 5, 2009

sarah_outenSo this week Sarah Outen (left) became the first woman to row solo across the Indian Ocean.
She set off from the west coast of Australia in April and landed on the island of Mauritius on Monday, 3 Aug, after spending a total of 124 days at sea.
Which just goes to prove that Brits will do anything to save on travel expenses.
Sarah, a biologist from Rutland, UK, said it had been “an astonishing experience” and she had seen the elements “in all their states”.
“In the last days I’d have whales surfing past the boat and albatrosses flying overhead,” she told the BBC website.
It’s when you start seeing whales flying overhead that you know you’re in trouble, Sarah.

This week there was great news for epileptic mice – but not much joy for humans with the condition.
“Scientists halt epilepsy in mice,” was the BBC website headline on Monday.
Great. Now they’ll be able to drive trucks and operate heavy machinery.
Has epilepsy been a big problem for mice? Not that I am aware of. I don’t know a single mouse whose life has been ruined by epileptic seizures.
Meanwhile, rodents everywhere have also been celebrating (with cheese and wine parties, presumably) the discovery of a drug – aptly named rapamycin – which has been found to extend life in mice, according to a study published on July 8 in the journal Nature.
The research, conducted as part of the National Institute of Aging Interventions Testing Program, took place at three separate test sites and involved nearly 2,000 genetically similar mice.
Exactly how rapamycin works is “still an open question,” says Randy Strong, a pharmacology professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and one of three lead authors of the study.
And then comes the inevitable disclaimer: “Earlier human trials have shown, however, that rapamycin can have serious side effects”.
In other words the drug will kill you long before it extends your life.

I’m getting a bit tired of reading about medical “breakthroughs” in mice that never seem to translate into cures for people.
At this stage there must be a miracle cure available for every disease known to mousedom. Hardly a day goes by without news of some new medical advance that has been successfully tested on mice.
We’re breeding a master race of rodents – while we humans are still dying from the same old diseases that killed our distant ancestors.
Isn’t it about time the medical boffins came up with a few genuine cures for human diseases – such as cancer and coronary disease?
For all their “breakthroughs” with mice, they have yet to produce a single cure for any of the most common diseases that kill humans.
This is the 21st century. A cure for cancer is long overdue. Yes, I know it’s a complex and difficult disease, but you’d think that after more than a hundred years of intensive medical research – involving tens of thousands of researchers and costing countless millions of dollars – they’d have made a bit more progress towards finding a cure than they have.
In any event their failure to find cures for these common killer diseases might be a bit easier to accept if they didn’t keep reminding us in their smug and arrogant way of how clever they are.
At finding theoretical cures for diseases in mice.
The sad truth is that most of the medical research effort goes into developing (profitable) drugs to “treat” diseases, rather than finding (far less profitable) cures to eradicate them.


Princess Diana moment

June 30, 2009

Princess Diana
Every year around this time I receive a spate of phone calls and emails from journalists researching articles, radio and TV programmes about my former client (and subsequently good friend) the late Princess Diana. Not from British journalists, I hasten to add, but from journalists in the US, Japan, Australia and so on. In Britain, Diana has been virtually erased from the public consciousness by a clever PR and “perception management” campaign.

Tomorrow, 1 July is Diana’s birthday, and therefore a journalistic opportunity to write “commemorative” articles about her.
Even all these years after her death, Diana’s photo on the front page of a newspaper or magazine guarantees increased sales.

There will be another spate of requests for interviews in August, the anniversary of her death. This year, no doubt, the task for journalists will be to make connections and comparisons between Diana and Michael Jackson (of whom, by the way, Diana was a huge fan). Already, there is press speculation about whether Jackson’s funeral will turn out to be be another “Princess Diana moment”.

It is Diana’s death – and the circumstances in which she died – that journalists are mainly interested in talking and writing about, with the central question being whether it was an accident or she was assassinated.

Most of the journalists I’ve talked to about this are personally convinced that Diana’s death was a tragic accident. Journalists are by and large a conservative bunch who tend to accept official versions of events; but that isn’t going to stop them from writing articles questioning the official version of Diana’s death and outlining what they themselves privately believe to be hair-brained conspiracy theories.

Of course, people don’t buy newspapers to read stories with headings like: “Diana’s death: It was an accident”. But they do buy newspapers to read articles with titles like: “Diana’s death: Was it really an accident?” or: “Startling new information reveals that Princess Diana may have been assassinated”.

Or even “psychic claims princess was murdered”.
Hence the requests for an interview. Any new hook will do to hang an old story on.

When Diana was alive I received a constant stream of offers from British newspapers – and not only from the tabloids – to “spill the beans” about the princess.

However, I’m a big believer in client confidentiality (even if the client is no longer alive), and the only time I ever spoke about Diana to journalists was at her own request, to help her to get certain facts into the public domain. This was information that she wanted people to know about, but which would have been problematic for her to reveal herself (in particular, Prince Charles’ involvement with Camilla Parker Bowles, which I was the first to reveal in a number of press articles).
When the information was published, Diana was asked to comment on it, which gave her the opportunity to confirm it publicly. Or, in some cases, to decline to deny it, which journalists understood to be confirmation.

I was only too happy to help. Diana had been treated shabbily to say the least; and when she first came to me for advice – and I don’t think I’m betraying any confidences when I say this – she was in a desperate state, caught, as she herself put it, “between a rock and a hard place”. I advised her as best I could, though in reality our sessions were mainly an opportunity for her to talk freely about her problems to someone who was “out of the loop”, and would give her objective feedback.

It is one thing to ask for, and receive good advice; but it is quite another thing to act on that advice. Diana was constantly seeking advice, and she did recognize good advice when it was offered; but she was in the grip of powerful political forces, and her options were severely limited. From the moment she became pregnant with Wiliam – the future King of England – her fate was sealed. She became a hostage to the British Establishment, and to the shadowy forces which exist to protect it. She was never going to be allowed to disappear into the sunset with the heir to the throne. Nor, on the other hand, was she ever going to relinquish custody of her children. (Although Diana had joint custody of William and Harry with Prince Charles, her influence on them was far stronger than his.) Above all, she was never going to be allowed to marry and have children – step-siblings to the future king of England – by an Arab, least of all the son of Mohamed Al Fayed, a man who had been a thorn in the side of the British establishment for many years.

The media spotlight was on her 24 hours a day, and every move she made was closely scrutinized. And, even though she was immensely popular, she understood that this could and would change in an instant if she said or did anything that showed her in any other light than that of the adoring young wife of the prince. Diana was expected to play the role of the fairytale princess, and the people would continue to adore her – provided she did not deviate from that role.

What the public did not know was that her marriage had ended in disillusionment after only a few months, when it became apparent to her that her new husband was more interested in another woman.

Diana’s downfall was her sense of loyalty and commitment. Instead of walking away from what was clearly a disastrous situation that could only get worse – and that had always been my advice to her – she decided to fight for her marriage, in the romantic but hopelessly naive and misguided belief that everything would work out fine in the end, and that she, her husband, and their children would all live happily ever after.

It didn’t happen like that, of course. Nor was there ever any chance that it would.

In the end, Diana decided – in fact she felt she had no other option – to go public about the circumstances of her marriage. She knew that she would be criticized for taking this route (even in modern Britain, one doesn’t air one’s dirty laundry in public, least of all if one happens to be the wife of the future King).

However, Diana had reached a point where she felt that she had no other choice but to get it all “out in the open”. She was also, it is not generally realized, afraid for her own personal safety, and she saw “going public” as a kind of insurance policy.

Diana was convinced that, having served her purpose (by providing the Prince with two healthy male heirs) and having become a liability and potential threat to the Royal Family, she would be targeted for assassination by “the powers that be” and the “dark forces of the state”.

At the time, her fears were dismissed by some as paranoia (and are still dismissed as such today by many). But in fact Diana had been warned on at least two separate occasions by secret service agents concerned for her safety, that she would be wise to “keep her head down”, as there was a real possibility that “certain elements” in the British intelligence community might deem it “expedient” to take her “out of the picture”.

Diana had also become aware of a “second level of surveillance”, by which she meant secret service agents – she referred to them as “spooks” – who were not part of the official Royal protection team.

As time passed, and particularly after her divorce from Prince Charles was finalized, Diana became increasingly concerned for her own safety, and for the safety of her children. She knew that it would be she, and not they, who would be targeted, but she feared that they might somehow be caught up in any attempt to assassinate her; and she did not, in any event, want her children to be left without their mother. She understood that the danger level had risen substantially now that she was completely independent and beyond the control of the Royal Family and its many faceless minders.

“I’m convinced they’re going to kill me,” she told me one day. “They can’t poison me or shoot me, so it will have to look like an accident. A car crash would be the easiest thing to arrange, I expect.”

Diana voiced these fears to a number of people, including Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon, who recorded the details of his conversation with Diana in a note whose contents he kept secret until after her death. Sir Paul – whose tone suggests that he was highly sceptical of the Princess’s fears and accusations – dutifully made a note of her belief that “efforts would be made if not to get rid of her (be it by some accident in her car such as pre-prepared brake failure or whatever)… to see that she was so injured or damaged as to be declared ‘unbalanced’.”

That was in 1995. A year later, after her divorce was finalized, the plan, if there was one, to have Diana declared “unbalanced” became redundant. A more permanent solution would be required.

And a more permanent solution was arranged.

I have never had the slightest doubt in my mind that Princess Diana was murdered in a hastily-planned operation by secret service agents who had been closely monitoring her movements for years, gauging her level of threat to certain interests within the British establishment on an ongoing basis, and seizing the opportunity to assassinate her in a foreign country at a time when they deemed her level of threat to have risen too high. (Under the Intelligence Services Act of 1994, British intelligence agents are immune from prosecution in Britain for criminal offences carried out overseas; but in any event the blame for any apparent lapses in security would automatically be apportioned to Al Fayed.)

The various official investigations into Princess Diana’s death have been nothing but cover-ups, not least the British inquest, in which the presiding judge, Lord Justice Scott Baker, specifically instructed the inquest jury to reject the possibility that the Princess had been deliberately murdered. They were practically ordered to return a verdict of accidental death. Instead, they decided that Diana had been unlawfully killed. The media interpreted this to mean that the jury believed that Diana’s death had resulted from a combination of reckless driving by Henri Paul, who was alleged to have been drunk behind the wheel of the Mercedes, and the posse of paparazzi photographers who were following the car, and this interpretation – rather than the actual verdict – is what most people remember today.

Diana’s fears for her own safety were well-founded. Her instincts were good. The danger was real. She was a threat to the British Establishment, and the agents of that establishment took her out of the picture when the possibility arose that she might become pregnant by a Muslim Arab.