Diplomats are expert at couching hard truths in soft language, a trick that leads to ambiguity. There's not much of either in the letter Sir Ivan Rogers left for his staff when he left his post several months early so that he was no longer there when negotiations for the UK to leave the EU start in earnest. In Whitehall, this morning, there will be more bloody noses than pulled punches - but Whitehall has a treacle-like approach to criticism. Standard operating procedure is to hang-around until the fuss dies down, then carry on as before.
One of the things France has been so very proud of itself for is that it not only brought into force the maximum 35 hour working week required under the EU's Working Time Directive (no one else did) but actively enforced it with squads of inspectors checking how long employees' cars were in office car parks. France has, however, admitted that it didn't work. But even so, why was it necessary to pass a law to say that employees have a legal right to refuse to answer office phone calls, deal with messages including instant messaging and emails out of office hours? Isn't that common sense?
In "The Edge of Madness," Michael Dobbs (of "House of Cards") fame writes of a mad senior officer in China who, off on a frolic of his own, creates a team of hackers who break into infrastructure projects all over the world, causing enormous damage and dangers. It was published in 2008. And when the Washington Post published an article saying that an electricity company in Vermont had been hacked and Russian code found, demonstrating the vulnerability of all systems, including the USA's national grid, Dobbs' novel seemed prophetic. But the Washington Post made up material parts of the story.
There are few people who do not believe that man is causing harm to the planet and that global warming is a significant part of the problem. However, the specific causes of both global and localised warming are hotly debated, even though some of the results are now beyond doubt. The problem might not be the message: it might be the messengers.
The news has become so driven by rapidly changing stories and sound-bytes that serious issues are increasingly hidden away or barely reported. One such issue is Egypt's resolution before the UN Security Council which condemns Israel's illegal settlement building outside its UN approved borders. Outgoing US President Obama, with only days remaining in an unremarkable double term in leadership, had made it known that the US intended to abstain, a radical course of action : historically, the US votes against any vote critical of Israel. But the vote has been postponed and the first signs of future President Trump's foreign policy have been telegraphed.
Now, with the acquisition of LinkedIn by Facebook, three US companies know far more than three facts, actually almost everything, about you, wherever you are in the world. Move over NSA: the Google-Microsoft-Facebook axis of evil is the real threat to personal privacy and security.
A note of personal sadness: long, long ago, this writer was considering his future. At the top of the list of highly professional firms that attracted him was Mallesons in Hong Kong. But a family discussion resulted in staying in London and taking a radically different approach. The hankering remained but the shine is wearing off as the now global association of practices is heavily in debt, shedding staff and trying to hive off offices and teams.
There's rarely anything new in Spam Scams but the letter that purports to come from "Investigation and Enforcement Services" and carries a (not exactly correct) UK Government Copyright Notice is novel. Read the full mail below.
Uncrate is a kind of super-blog that doesn't sell anything online. It's like those glossy magazines that pretend to journalism but are really there to advertise the latest shade of lipstick or a new hair gel. Or, heaven forbid, the latest colour iPhone. But Uncrate is honest: it doesn't pretend to journalism, there is no fake editorial and no click-bait stories promoted via those annoying "around the web" things at the bottom of so many web pages. It's an open, clear and honest business model, mixing blatant advertising with interesting things they've found, even though there is no advertising contract in place. So why are so many people bitching about the way it does business?
Every year, millions of people go skiing, ill prepared for the harm that might arise from a fall. Former Formula One driver Michael Schumacher wasn't one of them. He was wearing a helmet when he had a simple fall and hit his head on a rock in 2013. His medical condition has been the cause of much speculation in the media and generally but his family have been parsimonious with information. Now someone is reportedly trying to sell photos showing Schumacher's present condition.
Donald Trump is not yet in the White House but he's already flexing his muscles. Already at odds with the State Department, which issued an official apology to China because Trump directly spoke to Taiwan's President, Madam TSAI Ing-wen, he's not only unrepentant but, for a man who has a history of casino ownership, he's doubling down on what might be the biggest gamble of his own Presidency, even though he's not President yet.