Sunday 11 July 2010


** Summer-loving ** 11th July
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Honey-traps, spy-swaps, renegade prisoners, quiet politicians and the best week for financial markets in a year (Dow Jones +5.1%) as the world’s largest ever IPO gets going from another giant Chinese bank (Agricultural Bank of China - $22.1bn), punctuated a week that sees the start of the summer holidays in earnest, as the last of the schools shut their doors till September..ahh, those where the days of 3-mth long school summers. Another small victory for China in tandem with rising exports above expectations saw Google back-down from its chest-thumping as the allure of huge-profits overrode its “social-concerns” and subsequently brought the renewal of its operating licence on the Chinese mainland. As pressure momentarily eases for those involved in the always-strenuous financial world, it seems pressure has been increasingly emanating from FIFA on the incredible Madeeba (Nelson Mandela) to attend the closing ceremony of the world-cup tonight and it’s culmination as he hands the trophy over to Spain – yep, Spain.

You know summer is in full swing across the streets of great cities like London, when almost every spare square inch of pub-garden-space and pavement is battled over, ice-cream van queues packed with sweaty-children stretch for miles and restaurants mysteriously run-out of ice just when you order that all-important wine-chiller-bucket – I’ve never understood why they don’t stock-up the night before? Air-conditioning machines are as rare as an England World Cup win and the city generally does not cater for the heat, simply because it does not normally experience anything resembling a traditional summer!

A city more accustomed to the stereotypical doom and gloom of rain and heavy-grey-overcast transforms into a resplendent world-capital-city in the glorious sunshine, even if very few Londoners have actually gotten any sleep in the last month during those balmy evenings. If only the British would learn to refrain from complaining no matter what temperatures they are faced with. It doesn’t take a genius in the meteorological department to figure-out summers are getting hotter. Enterprising air-conditioning firms are working over-time to rip-off, I mean charge customers for urgent installations.

The London summers also brings another kind-of-wave. The annual Middle Eastern month-long-tour-of-Knightsbridge is well under-way, with the cars, the bling and the musky-scents all in full-force around Harrods and a few other carefully selected establishments, but little really outside SW1 (for more info please see last year’s piece:

With the economic crisis putting the UK towards the very-top-of-the-list-in-debt-to-GDP, austerity packages introduced in recent weeks and a concern for maintaining Sterling’s competitive position in the global currency market (Cable currently 1.50, exactly where the exporters and retailers want it) the welcome influx of oil-money spreading its way across every-facet of London life, from taxis to restaurants, the Dorchester to Harvey Nichols, should not be looked down at but rather openly welcomed. London is a lucky enough capital city to continue to attract the big-spenders from all over the world and ensures its always robust and enviable position as a city never destined for a deep-recession. There is simply far too much money here for that to occur and far too much money willing to enter the city on top of that.

Knowing your enemy when faced in battle is a critical factor in deciding between the victor and the vanquished. Getting into the minds and comprehending the culture of those that you are in conflict with is the only method to truly anticipating their movements and strategy. Ancient armies would frequently capture enemy soldiers and rather than subject to torture, bestow upon them gifts and other lavishes (you can guess what) to elicit nuggets-of-information about their home kind. So with all this knowledge of historically tried and tested methods, why are so many rookie mistakes made at top-levels of defence management? A recent report that, at the UK’s not-so-“secret” eavesdropping HQ , far-too-few ethnic minorities are employed surprises given the current commotion surrounding the revelation and subsequent deportation of a number of Russian and US spies.

In this day and age of global-fear-of-terrorism and constant communication coupled with the breakdown of cultural barriers across great swathes of the globe, all in the name of the “internet”, it is amazing that such a critical aspect of national-security and intelligence gathering can be overlooked. How can you truly tap-into the psyche of a hostile people and use that knowledge for good, if those willing to assist you are not given ample opportunity in the correct positions of influence. Even worse, apparently those ethnic minorities that are employed by such “intelligence-gathering” agencies are constantly subjected to taunts and remarks combined with ceaseless doubts of their allegiances – now come on, if you cannot even trust those that you have asked to help with the very matter of defusing a potentially volatile situation half-way across the world what hope is there for the peaceful conclusion of any efforts made in that actual land? Incredible how the lesson taught by history is all too-often ignored

On the spying theme, the heavy media interest in the swap that took place this week in docile Vienna can be attributed to the glamorisation of “spies”. The apparently low-level comrades deported from the US – even the ever-eloquent-Biden said “those guys didn’t really do very much while here” – were scrutinised from every angle and their entire life-stories picked through for the world to see. Not such a difficult thing these days with everyone posting endless photo-journals of their boring daily activities on Facebook.

The story quickly narrowed in-on, of course, of the more...shall we say...“easy-on-the-eye”...voluptuous Russian-with-an-English-name, Anna Chapman. The fascination across the City of London was especially amusing as investment bankers across the square-mile and as far as Canary Wharf could all be heard exclaiming “but I’ve definitely bought her a few drinks before!” on the revelation she had lived and worked in London’s financial industry for several years and under (ahem) some of those very same bankers.

Hani Kobrossi