Thursday, November 9, 2017

President Trump’s Generals’ Pact to Prevent War




The Economist
9 November 2017


WASHINGTON, DC, is a revealingly gossipy place. A favourite tale of the Donald Trump era involves a pact that the generals working for the president are supposed to have sworn. As described by ambassadors, senators and foreign-policy panjandrums, the generals have agreed that one of their number will remain in America at all times, to prevent a war being started by intemperate presidential tweets.

The details change. Sometimes, it is said, the pact involves James Mattis, the defence secretary, aligning travel with the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, a fellow retired four-star Marine general. Others say Mr Mattis is in cahoots with Joseph Dunford, a serving four-star Marine general and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, or with H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser (an army lieutenant-general still on active service but shouldering a mere three stars). Still others insist the pact includes the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, a former oil man and a rare civilian among the so-called “grown-ups” who run national-security policy for Mr Trump.

Mr Mattis has told aides that no such pact exists. The Economist recently travelled to South Korea with the defence secretary on the same day that General Dunford was also in Seoul, and Mr Tillerson was in Geneva. The durability of this urban legend is telling, however. […]

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Deadly Perfume Rumors




Middle East Monitor
30 August 2017


The Algerian Ministry of Defence is thought to be behind a warning against purchasing and wearing a deadly perfume. […]

The document claimed to be issued by the Algerian Ministry of Defence that dates back to 17 August and was posted by the Regional Directorate of the Military Health, which is affiliated with the first military district. It suggests that “available information suggests that the perfume is a poisonous substance with a delayed effect that appears after 3 or 4 days of spraying it on the body, resulting in sudden death.”

The document also unveiled that the “toxic perfume has been discovered in Arab and Islamic countries such as Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, Sudan, and Kuwait”. […]

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Drinking Coca-Cola Darkens the Skin



Will Storr, The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science (New York: The Overlook Press, 2015), 38-9.

[Storr is granted a ten-minute audience with Swami Ramdev, who is in London for a series of lectures on yoga.]

I move on to the reports that I have read in the Indian press of Ramdev telling children that Coca-Cola will turn their skin dark, a powerful message for vanity-conscious youngsters to whom pale complexions are desirable – and a statement that is unarguably wrong. I am curious to see if Ramdev will admit to saying this as, presumably, he is smart enough to realise that I know it to be untrue.

‘Did you once claim Coca-Cola darkens the skin?’ I say.

His eyes slide sideways, towards Shipra [his translator].

‘Even in the USA, the government has banned it in schools,’ he says.

‘But did you claim it darkens the skin?’

‘There has been scientific research that says it can be harmful to health.’

I put down my pen.

‘But did you say it darkens the skin? I just want to establish, for the record, if you’ve ever claimed this.’

He looks toward Shipra once more. I watch as a hot conference takes place between them in Hindi. Eventually, she tells me, ‘Swamiji just says that to the kids. It’s not necessarily true.’