Friday, August 31

Another Course on the Robert Mugabe School of Mad Magic Economics

Here's another session of the mad wonderful world of Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe bans pay and price rises
President Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe has brought the new rules in unilaterally
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has banned all pay rises and price increases in a new bid to curb the country's runaway inflation.

With Zimbabwe's annual inflation now at more than 7,600% - the highest in the world - the latest move was announced by the state-run Herald newspaper.

Anyone who breaks the freeze, which applies for six months, will get a jail sentence of up to the same length.

Shops have previously been told to cut prices, but most have little to sell.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

The Madonna, Malawi and the NGO community

When Madonna adopted a Malawi baby, the western media was its usual confused lot, fascinated with celebrity on one hand and on the other, cynically sneering at her for trying to use a baby to improve her image.

But what about the Malawians themselves? what did they think? Here comes a nice review of a book which answers some of these questions. The book also talks about how expatriates and foreign origin citizens (such as from India) are so heavily racist towards the local Malawians and how they are oppressed and discriminated against. Sounds like a great book to me and it goes into my Amazon Wish List!

Some quotes:

For most Malawians, the biggest news story of 2006 was the adoption of the thirteen-month-old baby boy David Banda by the mega pop star Madonna. The adoption caused a storm both in Malawi and outside, but for very different reasons. Most of the views expressed in the mainstream media and on blogs in the West focused on whether Madonna was adopting David for reasons to do with enhancing her own media image; yet in Malawi, the debate was on why human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were opposing the adoption.

As far as comments expressed in the Malawian media and on the street went, human rights NGOs opposing the adoption were doing so for reasons that had little to do with baby David's welfare, and everything to do with the NGOs' own image. Many Malawians saw the NGOs' actions as defending themselves from accusations that all they cared for was for their pockets and prestige, as evidenced by the conspicuous, sudden wealth acquired by NGO activists, from expensive SUVs to mansions in Malawi's big cities.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Parents and old people need so little but they need the little so much!

This is a bit of a sad state of affairs, but perhaps inevitable given the changes in demography and economics. Still, it is a bit tragic to read about old people being dumped in old age homes, abandoned and no longer loved. To the extent that the government has to enact a law to force children to take care of their parents! Mind you, we have child abuse laws. But, ok, I am thinking too much. Read and reflect as Tarek says (I am sure he wouldnt mind me pinching his sign-off line!).

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Indian bid to enforce children's obligation to aging parents

Amid changing family values, a proposed law would force children to support their elderly parents.

| Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Tarabai Godbole vividly remembers the proud moment when she gave birth 50 years ago. But now, in her twilight years, Ms. Godbole's pride is sobered by her feelings of rejection from her own child.

Two years ago, at the age of 75 and after the death of her husband, Godbole was left by her daughter in an old age home run by the city's Radha Medical Trust. For the first two months, her daughter visited her regularly and paid for her medical expenses.

But then the visits stopped, and the trust says Godbole's daughter can't be found.

"You become a burden on your kids when you grow old," Godbole says.

As a rapidly urbanizing India sees its social landscape shift away from traditional family bonds, the country's once-revered elders are becoming increasingly marginalized. The swelling ranks of middle-class children are moving out of their parents' homes to live independently or go overseas for better employment opportunities, leaving the elderly at home.

To offer legal recourse to people like Godbole, the Indian government introduced a bill this year that would make it a legal obligation for children, heirs, or relatives to provide financial assistance to senior citizens. Such a law would take India's traditionally strong sense of filial obligation into the stricter territory of legal statute.

"India is losing its family values," says Sumangala Gokhale, president of the International Longevity Center's office in Pune. "Children move out as soon as they become financially independent."

Along with its changing social dynamics, India is also witnessing a demographic shift. While its population remains predominantly young, the office of the Registrar General of India forecasts that people over the age of 60 will make up more than 12 percent of the population by 2026 – up from nearly 7 percent in 2001.

Loneliness a problem for India's seniors

Surveys among India's elderly have found that due to abandonment or gross neglect by children, India's elderly suffer from loneliness and isolation.

According to HelpAge India, a New Delhi-based organization that advocates on behalf of India's elderly, 11 percent of India's elderly live alone or with nonrelatives. By 2025, it is estimated that 25 percent of those over 60 and 40 percent of those over 75 are likely to be living alone. Some 40 percent of older people living with their families reportedly face abuse, but only 1 in 6 cases are actually reported.

For these people, the proposed law offers a chance for dignity and financial stability.

The "Parents and Senior Citizens bill, 2007" states that adult children and grandchildren who earn incomes are required to maintain and take care of their parents or grandparents.

A senior citizen – who could be a biological, adoptive, or stepparent – who is unable to maintain him or herself would have the right to apply to a tribunal for a monthly allowance – up to Rs. 10,000 ($250) – from their child or relative.

Any relative of a senior citizen who is in possession of property or who stands to inherit the property of the concerned senior citizen would be liable to provide maintenance.

The law also states that those who refuse to pay the fees can face up to one month in prison.

"Our message is that older people do not need charity or sympathy," says Anjali Raje, a sociologist from the Pune-based Community Aid and Sponsorship Program, an advocacy group that works primarily on behalf of children."They need respect, companionship, and dignity."

Legal questions remain

But experts warn that several legal holes must be filled in the bill before it is made into a law. In its current form, the bill does not address the needs of senior citizens who do not have children or property.

Another shortcoming, experts and advocates say, is that the law would only provide for senior citizens who are older than 60 years.

"Many women are widowed before their attaining the age of 60 years and their maintenance should be ensured in case of destitution," says Nandita Banerjee, a senior citizens' projects manager at the Dignity Foundation, a social services organization for elderly Indians that is based in Mumbai (Bombay). "And indigent, unemployed men [who are] below the age of 60 years and not eligible for old age pension have the right to be maintained by their adult earning children."

The proposal also does not make it entirely clear how the state will deal with kids who can't afford to pay for their parents. India's Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in New Delhi says its officials are in consultation with various nongovernmental organizations to discuss the legal gaps.

But beyond the purely legal difficulties, many parents say they would be reluctant to use the law to sue their own children.

"No parent would like his child to be penalized for not showing regards to them," says Ananta Khudaskar, whose son walked out with his wife and daughter a year ago, leaving the frail man to survive alone on a small pension. He's bedridden, and there's no one to take care of him.

Mr. Khuduskar's son, Vinayak Khuduskar, says he sends his father Rs. 500 ($12) each month, a fact his father denies.

The younger Mr. Khuduskar, a clerk who earns $400 per month, says the bill is too one-sided in favor of the elderly. "I won't be able to afford paying up $250 on a regular basis if the law is enforced," he says.

But despite their disagreement, the senior Mr. Khuduskar says his differences with his son stem from more than money. "I want my son's love and affection, not his money."

Free digital content cannibalises print content for magazines

A very interesting article here on whether digital publication of a magazine cannibalises the print sales. Well, according to this article, it does. The statistical methodology looks robust and the assumptions valid. Even though the time horizon is a bit old, I still do think that the results will get worse, not better, for magazine publishers.

This needs a wholesale change in the business model of print publications but I do not think that the market has settled down hard. I wrote earlier about how the media market is changing and my initial ideas but i dont think we know where life will take us.

Daniel H. Simon and Vrinda Kadiyali, The effect of a magazine's free digital content on its print circulation: Cannibalization or complementarity?, Information Economics and Policy, Volume 19, Issues 3-4, Economics of the Media, October 2007, Pages 344-361.

Abstract: We examine how offering digital content affects demand for print magazines. Using a searchable website archive, we measure the digital content offered by a sample of US consumer magazines from 1996 to 2001. We find strong evidence that digital content cannibalizes print sales. On average, a magazine's print circulation declines about 3-4% when it offers a website. However, the effect varies with the type of digital content offered. Offering digital access to the entire contents of the current print magazine reduces print sales by about 9%. We find no evidence that digital content complements print magazines. These results are robust to including controls for unobserved magazine, category, and time effects, as well as controls for the impact of contemporaneous price changes and other factors.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Darfur: the politics of genocide denial syndrome

It is just today morning that I did my customary cynical moan about how Sarko and Gordon Brown are wittering on about Darfur and how nothing will happen. And today evening, i saw a paper on Darfur and the politics of genocide denial syndrome. It is a very sad story and it is worthwhile me quoting from it:

Read and weep. We did nothing to stop this genocide from happening, day after day after day. We are culpable in that genocide.

Darfur: the politics of genocide denial syndrome
Author: Matthew Lippman
DOI: 10.1080/14623520701368594
Publication Frequency: 4 issues per year
Published in: journal Journal of Genocide Research, Volume 9, Issue 2 June 2007 , pages 193 - 213

Several non-governmental organizations and American commentators characterized Darfur as a genocide. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, writing in the New York Review of Books, noted that of the 24,000 front-page stories in the New York Times during World War II, only six directly addressed the Nazi attack on European Jews and other groups. He argued that the same lack of attention and concern marked the massacres in Rwanda in 1994, the Armenian genocide of 1915, the Cambodian slaughter of the 1970s and the atrocities in Bosnia in the 1990s. Kristof bemoaned that in each instance the global community only responded following the end of the killings. He noted that Darfur, in contrast, is a "slow motion" genocide that was methodically unfolding before our eyes. Kristof admonished that the world community cannot credibly claim to be unaware of what is transpiring in Darfur.

In February 2005, Kristof confronted readers of his column with the "victims of our indifference" and published four photos from a "secret archive" of photos gathered by African Union monitors, many of which portray attacks on children and were described by Kristof as too "horrific for a newspaper." The archive also included a document allegedly dictated by the President of Sudan to regional commanders and security officials. The text ordered the militia to "change the demography of Darfur and make it void of African tribes" and called for "killing, burning villages and farms, terrorizing people, confiscating property from members of African tribes and forcing them from Darfur."5 Kristoff would later write that "[p]erhaps the most extraordinary aspect of Darfur isn't that gunmen hellip have heaved babies into bonfires as they shout epithets against blacks. It's that the rest of us are responding only with averted eyes and polite tut-tutting."

The UN and associated regional organizations are very far from finding a solution in Darfur and this essay is in the nature of a preliminary commentary on the all too familiar inaction of the international community. In the aftermath of Bosnia and Rwanda, the world community avowed to prevent a recurrence of the scourge of genocide. In 2003, various observers warned that conflicts over land, water and governance in Darfur Sudan between African agricultural tribes and Arab nomadic tribes threatened to escalate into mass atrocities and ethnic cleansing. Security Council resolutions and political agreements have proven unable to halt the violence, which arguably constitutes a genocide. The reluctance of global powers to characterize Darfur as a genocide reflects a "genocide denial syndrome," a reluctance to invoke the morally and politically significant term genocide. The focus is on the genocidal violence sponsored by the Sudanese regime.

The question arises why the international community has insisted that Darfur is not a witness to genocide. The simple answer is that Darfur has fallen victim to a toxic mix of the politics of oil, multinational investment and arms sales and that events in the Middle East and Africa have made the international community reluctant to intervene in the affairs of a fundamentalist Islamic regime

There is, of course, the obvious fact that African victims do not possess the political appeal and potency of Europeans. We also can speculate that there is a deeper explanation for this syndrome of "genocide denial." The historical association of genocide with the Holocaust has provided the term with enormous moral weight. The term is a clarion call to action. The acknowledgement of genocide, however, reminds us once again that there are victims, victimizers and morally culpable bystanders and that there are limits to our resources and compassion. An admission of genocide is a recognition that there are primordial forces at work that call into question our faith in the inevitability of democracy and human rights.

Our image of genocide remains identified with the "Nazi Super State." The acknowledgment of genocide at times seems more a matter of politics than analytical precision. The international community in a seemingly choreographed response invariably characterizes contemporary slaughters as ethnic conflicts in which both sides are equally guilty, violence is inevitable, and intervention is too little too late. These events are viewed as of regional rather than international concern and are portrayed as "humanitarian crises" rather than as criminal conspiracies. The atrocities are labelled as ethnic cleansing and the international community relies on rhetorical acrobatics to avoid invoking the term genocide.

Statistics on death and dying and eyewitness reports are dismissed as hyperbole and the motives and judgment of those who denounce the killings and urge intervention are questioned. We are told that the label genocide is of little consequence and an unnecessary fixation. The economic advantages of good relations with the perpetrators are stressed while the national and humanitarian interest in protecting the victims is minimized.

It is a sad fact that Sudan has remained a member in good standing of the international community despite the fact that the regime has engaged in serial slaughter, against the Darfurians in the west, the Nubian people in the north and the Christians in the south. In short, genocide, in effect, is a "victimless crime." A crime without victims, victimizers or morally culpable bystanders.

The crime of the last century now is clearly established as characteristic of the twenty-first. We can anticipate that future political leaders will one day visit Darfur and, with abject wringing of their hands, repeat President William Clinton's pained apology to the Rwandans107 - that he was unaware of what was transpiring and that the rapidity of events had outpaced the ability of the international community to respond

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Compensation and the abandoned property of the 1948 Palestinian refugees: Assessment and implications

A very interesting paper was recently published on how to measure the amount of compensation that is due to abandoned Palestinian property in 1948. The author also suggest that the cost of the compensation can be easily afforded by the Israeli state without much impact on the public finances.

Frank D. Lewis
Department of Economics, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont., Canada K7L 3N6

Explorations in Economic History, Volume 44, Issue 4, October 2007, Pages 523-537

Abstract: This paper extends the analysis of “Agricultural Property and the 1948 Palestinian Refugees: Assessing the Loss” [Lewis, F.D., 1996. Agricultural Property and the 1948 Palestinian Refugees: Assessing the Loss, Explorations in Economic History 33, 169–194] to non-agricultural property. The urban property abandoned by refugees is valued on the basis of transfer prices, tax payable, and inferences about rent. The estimated value of the property is much higher than was reported by the United Nations Conciliation Commission in 1951. Still the total implied by this paper and [Lewis, 1996] is such that if Israel were to pay the overall loss as compensation, the transfers are unlikely to have a serious impact on its economy.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

The Top 10 IT Management mistakes and how to avoid them

Last year, I was singularly unfortunate to have a line management IT job. But it gave me a fascinating view on how technology management works. One of the things which I noted was how many times people commit the same mistakes over and over again, specially when managing IT. I got a nice document from TechRepublic and there was a list of top ten IT management mistakes. I printed it off and carried it around till now. The paper is falling apart so I thought of writing it out before it totally disappeared into pocket lint.

  1. Focusing on technology and not the business - IT managers must become leaders and turn their focus to supporting and enabling business improvement
  2. Thinking "out of sight is out of mind" - the most powerful task an IT manager can do is an assessment to track progress and identify opportunities / threats
  3. Thinking that the team has it covered - when leaders delegate a job, they must make sure that it is done right. Following up is not micromanagement
  4. Not inspecting what you expect - managers need to form expectations around key projects, network performance & client satisfaction, and track performance.
  5. Not creating partnerships with business management - IT needs to act in partnership with business executives, to influence peers and leaders
  6. Burning out - long hours lead to lower productivity and disgruntlement
  7. Not testing backup solutions - breakdown in hardware are inevitable, so backups need regular testing, including disaster recovery and simulation
  8. Not asking for help - the key to success is finding and executing solutions as quickly and cost effectively as possible, using available resources effectively.
  9. Not devoting time to personal development - IT managers should devote at least 30 minutes each day to personal development
  10. Not finding a mentor or coach - Everyone should have a mentor or coach and should also be mentoring or coaching someone else.
Quite an interesting set of points here and pretty worthwhile to print off and stick it in front of your eyes. I have stuck it on my wall and make it a point to read it while my sweet machine boots up every morning. Quite useful, as it so happens.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Two comments, one on CDO's and second on Microsoft Vista

1. Quote:
"You can’t polish a turd" One mucker's realistic appraisal of the CDO market

Very funny and amusing!

2. Microsoft has clearly launched a product that is full of bugs and some of us appear to be paying for the privilege of beta testing it.

I hate Microsoft Vista with a vengeance. It sucks. It has done my head in, made my hair fall out, destroyed my marriage, created global warming, done genocide. I hate it. My printers do not work, it crashes frequently, freezes every 40 minutes, web cam doesn't work, my statistical packages are screwed, cannot access them. Despite having 4 CPU's and 4 GB of RAM, it runs slower than an arthritic and rheumatic one legged snail. I have reinstalled it all all over again and it still doesnt work properly. Adobe Acrobat dies frequently. My headphone doesnt work. It persists in telling me that I have IRQ conflicts. It keeps on moaning about weird and wonderful services crashing. Logging files are frequently corrupted.

Great paperweight!

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Migrations in the ancient ages and now.

An interesting story as to how migrations of early humans's worked out and was helped with the wet weather. No wonder we love to go off to Spain and Italy. And I hate this current poxy weather, its overcast, dull, dim, grey. Its not even raining! (ok, so I am a bit grumpy right now!)

But at this moment, an interesting report on EU migration policy came out. And the migration out of MENA is not driven by wet weather, it is driven by economics and political repression. I quote:.

The EU has seen a shift towards "an externalisation of migration policy" towards the Mediterranean countries of the Middle East and North Africa (Med-MENA) – as proven by current Association Agreements – according to a study by Ounia Doukouré and Helen Oger for the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies.

The new European migration policy seeks to serve the EU's own interests rather than that of migrant workers, claim the authors – and thus the policy developed since 2002 has focused on illegal migration, border control, the management of migration and asylum and the fight against terrorism, rather than the rights of Mediterranean migrants in Europe.

Doukouré and Oger believe that the Commission's policy specifically targets attention and funds to countries such as Turkey and Morocco in order to try to stop migration in these transit countries, rather than adopting the approach of the Mediterranean countries themselves, which links development with migration – in keeping with World Bank and European Parliament opinion.

The authors claim that the EU's external policy of migration attempts to "Europeanise" the countries geographically closest to Europe by employing diverse regional approaches, rather than encouraging "global and homogenous regionalisation".

Talk about confusion galore!

Migration of Early Humans From Africa Aided By Wet Weather
Science Daily ^ | 8-30-2007 | Geological Society of America

Posted on 08/30/2007 10:15:20 AM PDT by blam

Source: Geological Society of America
Date: August 30, 2007

Migration of Early Humans From Africa Aided By Wet Weather

Science Daily — The African origin of early modern humans 200,000--150,000 years ago is now well documented, with archaeological data suggesting that a major migration from tropical east Africa to the Levant took place between 130,000 and 100,000 years ago via the presently hyper-arid Saharan-Arabian desert.

This migration was dependent on the occurrence of wetter climate in the region. Whereas there is good evidence that the southern and central Saharan-Arabian desert experienced increased monsoon precipitation during this period, no unequivocal evidence has been found for a corresponding rainfall increase in the northern part of the migration corridor, including the Sinai-Negev land bridge between Africa and Asia.

Passage through this "bottleneck" region would have been dependent on the development of suitable climate conditions.

Vaks et al. present a reconstruction of paleoclimate in the Negev Desert based on absolute uranium series dating of carbonate cave deposits (speleothems). Speleothems only form when rainwater enters the groundwater system and vegetation grows above a cave.

Today the climate in the Negev Desert is very arid and speleothems do not form, but their presence in a number of caves clearly indicates that conditions were wetter in the past. Vaks et al. dated 33 speleothem samples from five caves in the central and southern Negev Desert.

The ages of these speleothems show that the last main period of increased rainfall occurred between 140,000 and 110,000 years ago. The climate during this time consisted of episodic wet events that enabled the deserts of the northeastern Sahara, Sinai, and the Negev to become more hospitable for the movement of early modern humans.

The simultaneous occurrence of wet periods in the northern and southern parts of Saharan-Arabian desert could have led to the disappearance of the desert barrier between central Africa and the Levant.

The humid period in the Negev Desert between 140,000 and 110,000 years ago was preceded and followed by essentially unbroken arid conditions; thus creating a climatic "window" for early modern human migration to the Levant. Vaks et al.'s study suggest that climate change had an important limiting role in the timing of dispersal of early modern humans out of Africa.

Reference: Desert speleothems reveal climatic window for African exodus of early modern humans, Anton Vaks, Hebrew University, Institute of Earth Sciences, Edmond Safra Givat Ram Campus, Jerusalem 91904, Israel; et al. pages 831-834.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Geological Society of America.
All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Divorces fall but weddings fall as well in the UK

The ONS has released new divorce figures which suggest that English divorces are falling, in part due to the change in divorce settlement cases. Which, given the fact that children are clearly better off in married family households, is good.

Mind you, the corresponding aspect, the weddings are falling is not good. And the number of out of wedlock and single parent households keeps on going up. See my previous post on the Child Support Agency reasons for not knowing who is the father of the child.

Given that economic incentives seem to change behaviour, here's an idea. Give a higher amount of child benefit if the parents are married, a still higher amount if they are living together. I am sure it will change behaviour. You ask how we can fund it? Close down the CSA and use that money. Such a waste of money and increase in bureaucracy.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

France in the dock for atrocities and genocide in Rwanda

Quite a lot of the Newspapers and media outlets are talking about how the French behaved disastrously in Rwanda which directly lead to one of the worst genocides in history. When will these ex-empire countries learn not to muck around in their colonies? One mistake they already made by doing colonisation. Then you follow it up with keep on poking around, helping the kleptocrats in town and generally being as horrible as one can get. Disgusting.

Oh! btw, remember that France is going to be very heavily involved in Darfur. Which is the country where most of the Darfuri's have gone to? Chad. Who was the colonial power in Chad? France. And the French conquest of Chad and its behaviour in Chad since independence has been strangely akin to Rwanda. Chad is a magic kingdom as well. Check out this report from AI. And check out all the AI reports on Chad. I am not sure I like this at all.

Read and weep. Some excerpts

French soldiers stationed in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994 have been accused of "widespread rape" by a Rwandan commission investigating France's role during the conflict.

The commission, which is due to publish its final report in October, will also provide fresh evidence that French soldiers trained the Interahamwe, the extremist Hutu militia responsible for most of the killing, and even provided them with weapons.

Based on testimony given at public hearings by genocide survivors and former soldiers trained by French forces, plus evidence from piles of official paperwork left by the fleeing Hutu regime, the commission believes it has enough proof to convince the international community.

Dr Kimonyo said: "France was directly involved in the preparation of the genocide. They were training the Interahamwe in a systematic manner. They were training them to kill, to kill as fast as possible as one witness said, using knives and machetes. What were they training them for? It is very disturbing."

How France intervened

October 1990

Tutsi-led rebel forces, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), invade the north of the country. President Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu backed by the French, calls in support. Three hundred French paratroopers secure Rwanda's International Airport and fight off the invading forces. In a few days 600 more French troops are sent in to "protect and evacuate French citizens".


France continues to send military advisors and arms. The army grows from 5,000 to 28,000.

February 1992

Lieutenant Colonel Chollet, the commander of French forces in Rwanda, becomes army chief of staff and advisor to the Rwandan presidency.

3 February 1993

The RPF launches a major attack, capturing the town of Ruhengeri and moving towards the capital. Hundreds of French troops are sent to Rwanda along with huge quantities of ammunition to back up the government forces.

20 February 1993

Threatened by the rapid French deployment, the RPF forces call a unilateral ceasefire and withdraws.

6 April 1994

President Habyarimana's plane is shot down, triggering the genocide of almost one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

June 1994

French troops launch "Operation Turquoise", aiming to establish a "safe zone" in the south-west of the country. Although some killings continue in the zone, President François Mitterrand later claims it has saved "tens of thousands".

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Israel: if you broke it, you fix / buy it. Do it for the child, please!

Now this is tragic, children always get caught up in tragedies like this. And between the demands of national security, national ethos, self determination, terrorism, religion, a tiny soul like this gets caught up in helpless angst. I wish I had a solution, but that will rest on Israel's will. I would actually suggest that Israel do as much as it can, even further to what it has done right now. Give the girl and her family a residency permit.

Remember the placards in china shops? If you broke it, you buy it.

The birthday party that captured Israel's heart

By Eric Silver in Jerusalem

Published: 31 August 2007

Maria Amin, a chubby-faced Palestinian girl with gleaming brown eyes, celebrated her birthday yesterday like any pampered six year old. Doting aunts decked her out like a princess in a gauzy white chiffon dress, spotted with pink hearts and topped with a toy tiara.

A make-up girl primped her hair, rouged her cheeks and painted her lips. With a pout and a shake of the head, Maria rejected a plain lipstick and demanded a glittery gold one. She insisted on being sprayed with a favourite scent. When the make-up girl held up a mirror, she cooed: "How pretty!"

But Maria was no ordinary birthday girl. She came to the party in a wheelchair, which she navigates with her chin against a joystick. She was paralysed from the neck down in May last year when the car she was in was caught in an Israeli missile strike on an Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza. Her mother, grandmother and older brother were killed.

She celebrated her birthday party in the Israeli Alyn hospital and rehabilitation centre for handicapped children, where she is hooked to the respirator she will need for the rest of her life.

Her father, Hamdi Amin, who is on call 24 hours a day, supervised the festivities. The Israeli army allowed his father, grandfather and sundry cousins to visit from Gaza. The hall, overlooking the Jerusalem forest, was awash with balloons.

Reporters who had followed Maria's story, turned up with their own children, bearing gifts, as did Arab and Jewish friends. The birthday girl thanked them in her native Arabic and the Hebrew she has picked up from the hospital staff.

But the celebrations were overshadowed. The Israeli Defence Ministry has paid for Maria's rehabilitation at Alyn and for a small flat on the premises for her father and younger brother. Now, however, the ministry says she must move to the Abu Raya Rehabilitation Centre in Ramallah. It will continue covering expenses.

The Palestinian doctors say that they cannot provide the care Maria needs. They don't have the equipment; they don't have the trained staff. The Israeli hospital is defying orders and refusing to discharge her. The case will come before the Israeli Supreme Court on 25 September.

Hamdi Amin is a father in limbo. He can't work, even if the Israelis give him a permit. Maria needs him constantly. "Until the judges decide," he said, "I don't know how we'll live or where we'll go. Maria's condition is still very grave. For her it's a matter of life or death. She can't move her arms or legs. She can't breathe on her own. There's nowhere in Gaza or the West Bank that can look after her. How can the Defence Ministry say the Ramallah hospital has to treat her?"

The family has seen the worst and the best of Israel. Hamdi declines to blame or to praise. "I don't care about wars, I don't care about Hamas, I don't care about America," he explained. "I grew up in a family where you worked to put food on the table for your children. I believe that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away."

A support group of Israeli and Palestinian activists has rallied to the Amin family's side. Dalia Becker, a chain-smoking Israeli matron, said: "We're Hamdi's second family. Anything he needs, he turns to us. We're paying for the lawyers who will represent Maria at the Supreme Court. It's hard to believe that once the judges see her, they will send her away."

Back in Gaza, the undeclared war goes on. Children are still paying a price. An Israeli shell killed two Palestinian boys and a girl near Beit Hanoun on Wednesday. A military spokesman said the troops targeted several Qassam rocket launchers aimed at Israel. It expressed "sorrow for the cynical use the terror organisations make of the active participation of teenagers in terror attacks".

The army said yesterday that it had arrested a 15-year-old Gaza boy on his way to a suicide bombing against Israeli soldiers.

Round III, Sarko rampant in France - this time its the French Bureaucracy and Civil Service

I feel like I am suffering from a disease, I am actually going to praise something about France, not once, not twice but thrice!.

Sarko now wants to reduce the dead hand of the state and reduce the civil service bureaucracy in France. Bloody hell, I am so impressed with this chap, good man!. and He will achieve it as well. This is a man who can shake France out of its sloth!

Mind you, he has to keep an eye out on the common man and the common elements of living, dont ever let the price of bread rise too high/too fast, Sarko, therein lies the seeds of revolution.

Some excerpts from the Independent

The principal exception was his promise to cut into the bone of the French state, which employs 40 per cent of the working population. Previous attempts to impose such biting reforms have been successfully resisted by the civil service and by trades unions. President Sarkozy said that he was "not afraid of reform of the state because we need a strong state and a state cannot be strong if it is collapsing under the weight of debt and stifled by bureaucracy".

"All structures will be simplified and all useless organisations will be abolished," he said. The two separate agencies within the sprawling finance ministry which assess and collect taxes would be merged. So would the two agencies to help the unemployed.

Go Sarko Go!

And perhaps Gordon Brown could ask Sarko about something about kicking economic butt besides wittering on about Darfur. Those wittering ons are just talk, not much use but Gordon can actually do something about the dead hand of the state in the UK by getting rid of the variety of Quango's. Why dont you have a sunset clause on the Quango's? And when they have to renew, they have to actually show what value they added and why the private sector cannot do it (under legislation/regulation if required!)

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Kenya Looted and Raped by Daniel Arap Moi

The Guardian is reporting an amazing and gobsmacking amount of corruption in Kenya, one of the posterboys of western aid and financial institutions. It is absolutely amazing that Daniel Arap Moi and his family/friends have managed to amass a billion pounds of corrupt money and assets in more than 28 countries.

All this from a report that was commissioned by the successor government to Mr. Kleptocrat Moi. And once the report was commissioned and submitted, it disappeared into the morass which is the local government. Guess what they are now saying? The report is not good, it was based upon hearsay and it is incompetently done. Ok, so I am fine with it. So how much money have you managed to get out of the estate, friends and family of Moi? Let me guess, Zero!

And the worst part is that my tax pounds as well as charity pounds are going to support these kleptocrats. Why? Why are the friends and family of these corrupt bastards allowed to purchase property and assets in the UK? And why is the UK prominent in every large corruption case whether it be Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines, Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Mobutu of Congo? Remember BCCI? We seem to have a regular progression of the great and good of crime flushing through the UK, and doing white collar crime.

But we all need to fight back. Here is a site which the Guardian suggested:

I have already suggested checking and using this site.

Let us fight this cancer of corruption and ask each of our parliamentary representatives as to what they are doing about it? Mind you, given how the British Government treated the corruption allegations about British Aerospace, I do not have much hope. Disgusting. Criminal.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Thursday, August 30

The Darfur UN Mission: The Flying Pigs are still circling the genocide.

Remember I was asking where in the name of all that's holy would all those thousands of troops come from, for the Darfur UN mission?

Take a look at this report from the Council of Foreign Relations. The mystery deepens and my original questions still stand. And we keep on having more and more deaths in Darfur. Brilliant, Ban Ki Moon.

Some excerpts

Their jeeps lack (McClatchy) two-way radios, they’ve been forced to borrow soap and food (WashPost) from humanitarian agencies, and some of them haven’t been paid in months. Yet the seven-thousand beleaguered troops currently stationed in Darfur as part of the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force are expected to form the backbone of the new joint AU/UN peacekeeping force for Darfur authorized by the UN Security Council in July. The UN resolution authorized a force of roughly twenty-six thousand military personnel and police, but it also specified the force should be primarily African. The AU’s chairman, Alpha Oumar Konare, declared that due to sufficient troop pledges (AP) there will be no need “to resort to non-African forces.”

But many of Africa’s militaries are already stretched “to their limit” (CSMonitor). The challenges encountered by the current AU peacekeepers illustrate “it may not be possible to source from Africa the full range of skills, expertise, and experience required for either the military or the civilian contingent of the hybrid force,” writes watchdog group Human Rights Watch. Many African countries do not have (Reuters) the capacity to equip their troops to the level required by the UN peacekeeping department. Army engineers, intelligence-gatherers, and transport helicopters are necessary to make the Darfur force effective. These capabilities are not just lacking among African Union peacekeepers, reports the Economist, they are also in short supply worldwide.

Do read the full report, 1 page most. Quite worrying actually.
All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

But the Affirmative Action Emperor is Nekkid!!!!

There is an American quote that I love, "The Government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always rely on the support of Paul". There is another related French quote, "the art of taxation is to pluck the maximum amount of feathers from a goose with the minimum amount of hissing"

One thing which really gets my goat is affirmative action on the basis of positive discrimination based upon race, religion, etc. That is one of the most stupid, incoherent, intellectually defunct public policy measures that one can ever see. Take a look at who champions this policy, and you will always see that it is politicians who are doing it for a short term reason.

There is no economic reason for a liberal democracy to single out a certain sect, religious segment etc. for specialised treatment without any sunset clauses or a very good explanation as to why a certain section of society is so privileged.

You will note that there is no measurement for judging who is bad and who is good. It is generally based upon self identification (race, religion, sect, colour, language...). And there is generally no clear statement or case for when the preferential treatment will be ended.

Finally, one would note that if somebody does question this entire edifice, the whole panoply of bureacracy, politicicians, the people who are gaining from this, etc. will rush to talk about everything but the issue.

I have written about this before in 2004. Since then, we have had affirmative action riots where one group of people rioted because another group of people were given the same kind of benefits in India.

We have had a case of clear evidence that affirmative action for blacks in the legal education field is spectacularly failing and is actually producing less number of black lawyers than would have graduated without affirmative actions. According to this story in the WSJ recently about black admissions in law schools, UCLA Law Professor Richard Sander. According to his calculations

"Mr. Sander calculated that if law schools were to use color-blind admissions policies, fewer black law students would be admitted to law schools (3,182 students instead of 3,706), but since those who were admitted would be attending schools where they have a substantial likelihood of doing well, fewer would fail or drop out (403 vs. 670). In the end, more would pass the bar on their first try (1,859 vs. 1,567) and more would eventually pass the bar (2,150 vs. 1,981) than under the current system of race preferences. Obviously, these figures are just approximations, but they are troubling nonetheless."

And when he tried to get more data, he was stonewalled and refused any further data for further research. An objection was, "disclosure risks stigmatizing African American attorneys" or that "the State Bar Association will be sued". But not one good, intellectually coherent argument against this proposition that the very policy that is supposed to improve Black performance is actually leading to a loss of Black lawyers.

The Americans do not know how lucky they are, at least the selection of judges, howsoever flawed, is not based upon affirmative action quotas. Take a look at this story. Now the Indian judiciary is also proposed to be based around racial and caste based quotas.

I look forward to when fighter pilot squadrons have caste based quotas, the Indian cricket team has race based quotas, when medical operations on you will be carried out strictly on the basis of religion based quotas, when icecream and burgers will be served to you strictly on the basis of gender based quotas and parking is allocated based upon sexual orientation quotas.

Weep, World, Weep, for the Emperor is naked.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

I get taxed and taxed so off to work I go

This joke is so sad that it is funny and can be applied to almost every large country around the world.

I remember the first time I went to the Isle of Man way back in 1993 along with a bunch of central bankers from the UK, Nigeria, France, USA, Malaysia, India, Japan, etc. And that was my first exposure to low tax regimes. See here for an example of what the Isle of Man does with its taxation policy.

Before I got naturalised, I used to get very upset about being taxed without being represented, but as usual, one has literally very little to say about such things when you are not a citizen. Now that I AM a citizen, I am constantly amazed at the sheer ability of the British people to suffer from low efficiency of their tax usage. The government squeezes tax after tax from us and in return what we get is very low productive government services.

And the complexity of the British Tax system. Holy Christ, Allah, Ganesh, Imhotep, Zeus. All of them and their subordinate gods could not come up with another more complicated system. And its not like the Government doesnt know it. See this debate in Parliament. And this ever increasing complexity is slowly strangling British Business and will drive business out of the country.

The world is flat and is getting flatter!

1) Qus. : What are you doing?

Ans.: Business.

2) Qus. : What are you doing in Business?
Ans.: Selling the Goods.

3) Qus. : From where are you getting Goods?
Ans.: From other State/Abroad

4) Qus. : What are you getting in Selling Goods?
Ans.: Profit.

5) Qus. : Where you Manufacturing the Goods?
Ans.: Factory.

6) Qus. : Do you have Office / Warehouse/ Factory?
Ans.: Yes

7) Qus. : Do you have Staff?
Ans.: Yes

8) Qus. : Doing business in Millions?
Ans.: Yes

9) Qus. : Are you taking out over 25,000 Cash from Bank?
Ans.: Yes, for Salary.

10) Qus. : Where are you taking your client for Lunch & Dinner?
Ans.: Hotel

11) Qus. : Are you going Out of Station for Business?
Ans.: Yes

12) Qus. : Have you taken or given any Service/s?
Ans.: Yes

13) Qus. : How come you got such a Big Amount?
Ans.: Gift on birthday.

14) Qus. : Do you have any Wealth?
Ans.: Yes

15) Qus. : To reduce Tension, for entertainment, where are you
Ans.: Cinema or Resort.

16) Qus. : Have you purchased House?
Ans.: Yes

17) Qus. : How you Travel?
Ans.: Bus

18) Qus. : Any Additional Tax?
Ans.: Yes

19) Qus. : Delayed any time Paying Any Tax?
Ans.: Yes

At the end, let us get high inflation and bribes/corruption eat away anything that is left. Thanks to Shadi KatyalSearch for this gem.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

So what's the history of the Bra?

I am all for women's lib and burning bra's but always had a burning desire to know more about who invented this infernal device? And now, thanks to the Independent, I know and I decided to share it here! :)

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Breast supporting act: a century of the bra

In 1907, Vogue coined the term 'brassiere', and launched a billion-dollar industry that changed the way women dress for ever. A hundred years on, lingerie lover John Walsh provides an uplifting social history of the undergarment – and grapples with its role in today's world

Published: 15 August 2007

The bra was invented by an engineer of German extraction called Onto Titzling in 1912. He was living in a New York boarding house, and one of his neighbours, a voluptuous opera singer called Swanhilda Olafson, complained that she needed a garment to hoist her vast bosom aloft every evening – so Titzling obliged, using some cotton, elastic and metal struts. Unfortunately, he failed to patent the device and, in the early 1930s, a Frenchman named Philippe de Brassière began making a suspiciously similar object. Titzling took him to court, but the unscrupulous Frenchman won the day. And that's why the garment all the ladies are wearing is called a brassiere, not a titzling.

Bette Midler sang about this court case in the film Beaches, so obviously it's true, isn't it? Don't be ridiculous. It's a total fabrication, based on a spoof 1971 history by Wallace Reyburn, and is just one of a thousand tales and myths that punctuate the history of the small double-dome of cloth that encases the female chest.

The bra is a thing of wondrous variety. It has been called the Hemispheres of Paradise and, less flatteringly, the Over-the-Shoulder Boulder Holder. Its function has been, paradoxically, both modest concealment and brazen revelation. It has been praised as a revolutionary garment that freed women from constriction, and has been (allegedly) burnt in public as an emblem of oppression.

It's available in a riot of forms, including lacy, push-up, sporty, plunge-line, strapless, pointy, Cross Your Heart, conical, and Wonder. It's a billion-pound industry in the UK, and a $15bn mega-industry in America. No other garment has so closely shadowed the history of the status of women. No other garment has had the power to reduce intelligent, rational men to drooling boys and awestruck slaves.

Exactly a hundred years ago, in 1907, the word "brassiere" was used in Vogue for the first time. But its evolution goes back three millennia. Historians have found that, while Roman women sometimes wore a band of cloth over their breasts, to restrict their growth or conceal them, the Greeks favoured a less uptight approach. Some enterprising designer realised that such a belt worn under the breasts might accentuate them, to pleasing effect. (In the hierarchy of ideas that have made the world a better place, this is up there with light bulbs and indoor plumbing.)

The brazen Minoans were streets ahead of the Greeks, however: women in Crete wore material that both supported and revealed their bare breasts, in emulation of the snake goddess – 3,000 years before the invention of glamour modelling.

While the French Revolution freed women from the corset (it was outlawed because of its fatal association with the aristocracy), elsewhere its rule continued. The big change came in the early 20th century, as women played more sport, and the corset divided into the girdle and the "bust bodice" , like a really scary bikini.

Early feminist organisations, such as the National Dress Reform Association in America, had warned against the health risks of corset-wearing and called for "emancipation garments". By 1900, several proto-bra experiments had been conducted. Henry Lesher of Brooklyn offered ladies a rigid metallic structure, like a dustbin, to hold their bits in place. Clara P Clark's "improved corset" came up with shoulder straps in 1874. Olivia P Flynt's "bust supporter" offered to hold each breast in a "fabric pocket" supported by wide straps.

In 1885, Charles Moorhouse romanced lady customers with his "inflatable breast-enlarging garment", with its rubber straps and cups. And in 1889, Herminie Cadolle invented the "soutien-gorge" (the name meant "throat-support") as part of a two-piece undergarment, patented her idea and showed it off at the Great Exhibition. It was 1905 before she thought of selling the upper section separately.

The word "brassiere" was once a military term meaning "arm protector" (le bras being French for arm), and, by extension, " breastplate". It was first used in the sense we understand it during the 1890s. Manufacturers used it in 1904, but it took a mention in the pages of Vogue in 1907 to make it a milestone in fashion history. It first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1911. In that year, Britain's new king, George V, visited France with his queen, Mary. Because of her small stature beside the king, she was known to hilarious Parisians as " La Soutien-George".

Credit for the first brassiere usually goes to Mary Phelps Jacob, a 19-year-old girl-about-Manhattan who, in 1910, bought a sheer evening gown for a party. The whalebone corset that was supposed to define her figure actually poked out of the plunging fabric. What was a girl to do? She and her maid dug two silk hankies out of a drawer, sewed them on to a length of pink ribbon, added some string and tucked her breasts in place. Girlfriends asked if she would make a similar device for them. Then somebody paid her a dollar to do so, and she took the hint.

The "backless brassiere" was patented on 3 November, 1914. Ms Phelps Jacob (who later married Harry Crosby, founder of the Black Sun Press, which published works by D H Lawrence, Joyce, Hemingway and Pound) didn't do well out of her invention. Disappointed by sales, she flogged the patent to the Warner Bros Corset Company for a measly $1,500. It was later valued at $15m.

The First World War saw more and more women abandoning corsets, as they found themselves, for the first time, in uniform and factory garb. The bra began to take off – not that the fashions of the time gave it much to work with. The flat-chested "flapper" look required breasts to be flattened and bound rather than lifted and defined.

The next bra revolution was the Maidenform breakthrough in 1922. In a New York shop called Enid Frocks, a seamstress, Ida Rosenthal, spotted that women with the same chest size didn't necessarily look right in the same bra, because the breasts were different shapes; and so cup size was born. In accentuating and lifting the bosom, rather than trying to flatten it, they bade farewell to the flapper, and paved the way for the future glamourpuss.

In the next two decades, a combination of Hollywood starriness, ever-bolder advertising, and the lure of department stores saw a colossal boom in women's products; and the bra was, so to speak, at the forefront. Maidenform was joined by Gossard, Triumph, Spirella and Teilfit, manufacturers who fought tooth and nail to invent refinements: better fabrics, patterns, straps, cups, fibres, padded sections. As the technology became more abstruse, the garment's name was simplified, in the 1930s, to "bra" .

The Second World War helped, with the Forces' insistence that low-rank military women should wear bras and girdles "for protection" – especially the ludicrously conical "Torpedo" or "Bullet" bras. Step, or rather wiggle, forward the Sweater Girl, whose tight jumper was meant to show off the artificial jut of her breasts, like twin artillery shells.

The Fifties saw the pointy bra give way to a more shapely, maternal look (probably helped by the huge post-war baby boom), and the market rose exponentially, with ever-greater choices of bra, new styles, paddings, even functions: the zip-up nursing bra was born, and the 24-hour "Sweet Dreams" model.

The Sixties saw the biggest upset in the history of the garment, when Germaine Greer declared, "Bras are a ludicrous invention", and her sister feminists insisted that they reduced women to sex objects. The key moment was the 1968 demonstration by 400 women against the Miss America beauty show at Atlantic City Convention Hall. Somebody put a "Freedom Trash Can" on the ground and encouraged protesters to throw into it girdles, nylons, bras, curlers, high-heeled shoes and other emblems of enslavement. When the can was full, someone suggested setting fire to it, but no one could obtain a permit, and the plan was, rather weedily, dropped. But the idea of "bra-burning feminists" remained a potent image in the public mind – on a level with students burning their draft cards in protest against the Vietnam War.

In the late 1960s, the head of the Canadian Lady Corset company died and his son, Larry Nadler, a Harvard-educated MBA, conducted some intense market research. Women, he discovered, didn't hate their bras as symbols of oppression. Rather, they considered them a means to looking beautiful. Nadler targeted the bra market with something new: it would be seamless, sexy and flattering, and would appeal to teenage girls. His invention was called the "Dici (by Wonderbra)" – of the two names, the former was later ditched, and the latter went on to change the world.

In underwear history, the Wonderbra was the Great Liberator. Bras would no longer lurk unseen behind a lady's blouse. They would no longer be " unmentionable", nor be a defence against prying male eyes. On the contrary, they'd be the main attraction. Rather than "lift and separate" (the Playtex tag line), the Wonderbra would yank the breasts together and shove them in your face. Rather than a purely functional garment, they would be seen as a means of attraction, marketed as a luxury item.

In 1974, its TV commercials took the unprecedented step of showing a woman's torso wearing only a Wonderbra, with the tag line, "We care about the shape you're in". By 1980, sales in Canada alone hit $30m.

In 1991, Gossard took on the brand under licence and hit a wave of popular uplift. British women in the early Nineties became fixated by plunging lines and spilling cleavages. Vogue carried articles on the return of the padded bra, Vivienne Westwood brought out a range of outrageous corsetry, and Jean Paul Gaultier began his cheeky experiments with lingerie worn as outerwear – a trend that reached its apogee with the conical breastplate worn by Madonna on her Blond Ambition tour.

The Wonderbra, now owned by Sara Lee, the parent company behind Playtex, scored a bull's-eye with its 1994 poster campaign showing the model Eva Herzigova gazing at her pushed-together breasts, and the words "Hello Boys". In major conurbations across the UK, cars mounted the pavement or crashed into bollards as motorists tried – and failed – to drag their eyes away from Ms Herzigova's perky frontage. The image was later voted No 10 in a "Poster of the Century" contest.

Rigby & Peller, corsetière to the Queen since 1960, opened its flagship store in London in 1994. It is prized by its well-heeled clients for its expert fitting service – it claims that 80 per cent of women who walk through its door are wearing the wrong size and fit of boulder-holder (and need constant refittings, every six months or so). The company has had a huge influence by insisting that a bra is far from a one-size-fits-all clothing item – that it's something unique to the individual, like a second skin.

In the 2000s, the market has expanded (ahem) to bursting point. The arrival over here of Continental brands such as Lejaby and La Perla, and newer brands such as Under Cover and Elle Macpherson Intimates have established bras as a self-indulgently luxury purchase, while the Agent Provocateur and Myla houses have opened up a lucrative market in sexy products for women who like to remind themselves of the wanton seductress that lurks beneath their sensible business suits.

The top-of-the-range modern bra is a semi-visible item, heralded by a pretty, pastel-coloured shoulder strap that hints, a little saucily, at the colour of its wearer's matching bra and pants down below. It's a long way from the days when underwear was about concealment, flattening and the furtive "structuring" of female breasts. While sales of functional Marks & Spencer cotton bras are still high – and the world bestseller remains the sturdy Triumph Doreen, as worn by millions of ladies over 50 – many women are happy to spend £100 on a pure-silk number as a caressing indulgence.

It has to be silk, though – not cotton, or lace, or nylon or polyester. Strangely similar, in fact, to the twin silk handkerchiefs sewn together with some pink ribbon by Mary Phelps Jacob's enterprising maid, a whole century ago.


Me and my bra

Interviews by Julia Stuart

Amy Alexandra

(ex-Big Brother glamour model)

I think bras indicate your sexuality and mood. You might be having a girly day, and then go on a date and wear a more sexy one in black or red. I'm size 32DD, and being a model I have a personal relationship with bras. They are a massive part of my work and help me create a different look with every shoot and enhance what I have.

Laura Bailey

Bras can be both liberating and mood-enhancing. Textile technology means they can now be totally invisible, or designed to be admired in its own right. M&S fit the best and I can find everything I need there for sport, work, and fun. I did get quite attached to my Elle Macpherson Intimates maternity bras in my all-too-short-lived voluptuous pregnant days.

Tracey Emin

I wear a bra because I would never not be able to: my bust is a 32FF. Even though I'm known for flaunting my cleavage I actually try to disguise my breasts to make them look smaller. I was totally flat-chested until I was 13. Once I was put on the pill at 14, they just grew totally out of control. My grandmother had a 46-inch chest and it's something that runs in the family.

Joan Bakewell

I never burnt my bra. That was a very minor activity, which became a cliché. I buy bras with great care. I like them to look attractive. When I was a teenager they were pink and shiny, and no one knew how to fit them. There's been a miracle of styling and development. I go to Rigby & Peller, where great trouble is taken to get your correct size.

Clarissa Dickson Wright

I don't wear a bra unless I'm dressing up. At my 50th birthday party I was boogieing away and suddenly felt this terrifying pain in my chest. I thought: "That's it, I'm having a heart attack." Then I thought: " Don't stop now, what a way to go!" The pain got more and more intense. I staggered off and discovered I'd broken my underwired bra.

Mary Killen

It's important to get the correct size. Not only do you get cramp in your neck if you're not being supported, you also get "banana bosom" when you lose elasticity. Girls don't realise it's terribly bad to run. If your bosom is any size, when you're walking along you are conscious of it moving around. If you've got it constrained, you're not. It's a bit of a nuisance bobbing around otherwise.


An A to Z of bras

By Simon Usborne

Anna Kournikova

In 2000, the toned tennis star had van drivers swerving all over the road when her scantily clad form appeared on billboards advertising Berlei's " shock absorber" range of sports bras. The slogan: "Only the ball should bounce."


More than 90 per cent of women are thought to wear bras, but a dedicated minority prefer the freedom of an unbolstered bosom. Several studies have cast into doubt the belief that bras prevent sagging; almost all 250 participants in one French study, in which the women agreed not to wear a bra for a year, showed signs of improved firmness and elevation.

Cup size

According to the 2001-02 government-sponsored National Sizing Survey, the average bust size for females in the UK is 38.5 inches (compared to 36 inches in 1951). Other surveys have put the average UK bra size at 36C.


The Chinese silk dudou ("stomach cover") was employed as a bust-flattening undergarment during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and has appeared more recently on high streets as a kind of oriental boob-tube.


Bra comes from the French brassière (child's vest), a derivation of the Old French word bracière, which was an arm protector in military uniforms and, later, a chest plate and a type of women's corset. The word "bra" appeared in Vogue in 1907 and in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1911.


The popular image of feminists burning brassieres is an urban myth. During a protest against the 1968 Miss America beauty pageant, a group of women filled a "freedom trash can" with bras, high heels and girdles, but they never set fire to it. The phrase "bra burning" was the invention of a New York Post reporter.


About 70 per cent of women wear ill-fitting brassieres. Good fits are calculated thus: measure around the chest directly under the breasts and add four inches to the number if it is even and five inches if it is odd. This is the bra size. To determine cup size, subtract the bra size from the bust size (around the fullest part of the bosom). Differences of 0-3 inches equate to, respectively, cup sizes A to D, while 10 inches give you a G-cup.

Howard Hughes

In breaks from designing aircraft, the Hollywood tycoon Hughes moonlighted as a lingerie designer. For his 1943 film The Outlaw, he created a steel underwire push-up bra for leading lady Jane Russell (above). The star reportedly failed to wear the garment because of a poor fit.


In 2002, the British Journal of Plastic Surgery reported that a 27-year-old man required surgery after catching his finger in his girlfriend's bra strap. In response, a team at St George's Hospital, south London, led by Dr Andrew Fleming, said: "[We] advocate patient self-education (during the adolescent years) on the mechanism of external female mammary support, and postulate that it may be important in reducing the incidence of other such injuries."

Jean Paul Gaultier

The enfant terrible of French fashion hit the headlines in 1990 when pop queen Madonna (right) thrust her bust into his iconic conical bra during her Blond Ambition tour. The black satin brassiere was snapped up by a Chilean textiles museum for five times its asking price at a Christie's auction in 2001.

Klum, Heidi

In 2003, the 34-year-old German supermodel posed in the world's most expensive bra. Comprising more than 2,500 carats of diamonds and sapphires, the Victoria's Secret Fantasy bra, designed by the jewellers Mouawad, took more than 370 man-hours to make and was valued at $10m (about £5m).

Lesher, Henry

The New Yorker Henry Lesher invented a bra-style garment in 1859. His patent for "combined breast pads and armpit shields" detailed how the inflatable rubber and cloth device, which never caught on, would " prevent the arm-pits of [ladies'] dresses from becoming saturated and stained by perspiration, give a symmetrical rotundity to their breasts and a more comfortable and graceful support to the skirts of their dresses than heretofore".

Men's brassieres

The American company Enell is one of many online firms offering custom-fitted "male support vests" designed to "minimise bounce" for men with overdeveloped chests, or "moobs". In one survey of more than 5,000 men at, a surprising 97 per cent of respondents admitted to a desire to wear a bra.

Northumbrian Water

In June, engineers at Northumbrian Water retrieved a bra from a sewage pipe in a village near Darlington. Heavy rain, together with a build-up of grease behind the offending article (at least a 36C), had caused a pipe to burst and a road to collapse, costing the water company £15,000 in repairs. The owner's identity remains a mystery.

Outlaw, The

Howard Hughes's seamless cantilevered bra designed for his leading lady in the 1943 western The Outlaw never appeared in the film, but its invention, as well as the regular appearance of Lana Turner's cone-shaped " projectiles" in films such as They Won't Forget and Ziegfeld Girl, heralded the heyday of the push-up "bullet bras".


The Portuguese for bra is sutiã, while the Spanish say sugetador (from sujetar, to hold). The French prefer soutien-gorge (throat-support) and the Germans, Swedes, Danes and Dutch all use "BH" from, respectively, büstenhalter, bysthållare, brysteholdere and bustehouder (bust-holder). In Esperanto, the bra is called a mamzono (breast-belt).

The Queen

Since 1960, the London corsetieres Rigby & Peller have had the honour of lifting and separating the royal bust. The Queen has never revealed the size of her bosom, but celebrity bra-size websites put it at an above-average 36B, which puts HRH in the same league as Carly Simon, Claire Danes and Doris Day.

Rosenthal, Ida

The inventor of the uplifting Maidenform was a canny businesswoman. With her husband William and partner Enid, she became a management and marketing genius, managing the company's finances and sales and building the brand name with racy ads featuring photos of women in bras. The "I dreamed... in my Maidenform bra" campaign ran for 20 years.


Considering the abundance of colloquial terms for breasts, alternatives for " bra" are surprisingly rare. Some cockney rhyming slang dictionaries list " Master McGrath", the name of a champion 19th-century Irish greyhound, while the online Urban Dictionary offers only "over-shoulder boulder-holder" and "upper-decker flopper-stopper".

Tit tape

First spotted on celebrity breasts belonging to Geri Halliwell and Jennifer Lopez in 2000, tit tape quickly became a discreet alternative to bras. First employed by Donatella Versace, the double-sided adhesive has become a must-have accessory for those seeking to prevent Janet Jackson-style wardrobe malfunctions.


The cleavage that threatened to upstage Julia Roberts in the 2000 film Erin Brockovich (below) owed much to the supporting role played by a gel-filled push-up bra. Launched in 1999, the Ultimo bra made its creator Michelle Mone a multimillionaire and has also reportedly graced the bust of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Vogel, Thomas

The Guinness world record for the most bras unhooked in one minute using one hand is 56, a feat achieved by the German Thomas Vogel in Cologne on 9 September 2006. A YouTube video featuring a bearded and bespectacled Vogel wearing a white coat offers a step-by-step guide for speedy unfastening.


In an internet poll hosted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Wonderbra (advertisement above) ranked fifth in the 50 greatest Canadian inventions, losing out to insulin and the light bulb but beating the pacemaker and the electron microscope.


The largest off-the-shelf brassiere (sold only in America) is thought to be a 54LL, but the Japanese branch of lingerie firm Triumph International holds the Guinness world record for the largest bra ever produced, with an underbust measurement of 24 metres (78ft 8in) and a bust measurement of 28 metres (91ft 10in).


According to official statistics, every year the UK imports more than 100 million bras. A 2006 survey by the market analysts Mintel showed that we spend £1.2bn on bras and pants every year. Out front on the high street is Marks & Spencer, which claimed a 38 per cent share of the underwear trade in 2005.

Zwart, Piet

In 2005, the designer Wendy Rameckers unveiled a wall of breasts as part of her design for a lingerie shop in Rotterdam. Rather than comparing wives' or girlfriends' busts to those of embarrassed staff, clueless men would ponder different-sized fake silicon breasts. Rameckers said: "Men know all about their car, but never seem to know their wife's bra size."