If the media hype was not enough for you, this is definitely a sign that Somali pirates have gotten a little bit too sexy:
Samuel L. Jackson and his Uppity Films have joined forces with Andras Hamori's H20 Motion Pictures to secure life rights of Andrew Mwangura, a negotiator between pirates and the owners of vessels hijacked off the coast of Africa.
Mwangura, the pro-bono negotiator who often brokers the release of hostaged ships' crews, was as shocked as you are:
Mwangura told the Guardian that he had been taken aback by Hamori's interest. "He said he wanted to make a story about my life. I was very surprised. He had been trying to reach me for two months but did not have the right phone number."
But sorry movie producers, there's a caveat:
Asked how he would react if the film-makers felt the need to "Hollywoodise" the story, [Mwangura] said: "I always stand for the truth. I don't want Pirates of the Caribbean. I am a living man, and you can't say lies about a living man ... I am what I am am – someone who does things for forgotten people and the community."
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) survey, Bollywood – as the Mumbai-based film industry is known – produced 1,091 feature-length films in 2006. In comparison, Nigeria’s moviemakers, commonly known as Nollywood, came out with 872 productions – all in video format – while the United States produced 485 major films.
“Film and video production are shining examples of how cultural industries, as vehicles of identity, values and meanings, can open the door to dialogue and understanding between peoples, but also to economic growth and development,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.
“This new data on film and video production provides yet more proof of the need to rethink the place of culture on the international political agenda,” he added.
KAMBOU SIA/AFP/Getty Images
Reuters reports on the details of Japan's largest-ever economic stimulus plan, revealed by Prime Minister Taro Aso. He intends to make cultural products 18 percent of Japan's exports, up from around 2 percent now.
Aso waved glossy magazines from China and Taiwan featuring Japanese pop stars on their covers.
"Japanese content, such as anime and video games, and fashion draw attention from consumers around the world," he said.
"Unfortunately, this 'soft power' is not being linked to business overseas ... By linking the popularity of Japan's 'soft power' to business, I want to create a 20-30 trillion yen ($200-300 billion) market by 2020 and create 500,000 new jobs."
The proposal seems a bit pie-in-the-sky -- Japan's exports have more than halved this year. But the country's certainly on a mission to expand its cultural importance (including in all things cute). Nota bene, Gwen Stefani.
Photo: Flickr user dogonthesidewalk
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone say they were sent a signed photo of Saddam Hussein, after the the deposed Iraqi dictator was shown their film South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, in jail. The movie depicts him as the boyfriend of Satan:
Stone, 37, said both he and Parker, 39, were most proud of the signed Saddam photo, given to them by the US Army's 4th Infantry Division.
He said: "We're very proud of our signed Saddam picture and what it means. Its one of our biggest highlights.
"I have it on pretty good information from the marines on detail in Iraq that they showed Saddam the movie.
"Over and over again – which is a pretty funny thought.
"That's really adding insult to injury."
No word yet on whether Kim Jong Il has seen Team America.
Peter Feaver says the United States is losing to Europe in the soft power battle. But when it comes to commitment to cute power, nobody tops the Japanese.
In a bid to raise its international profile, Tokyo has appointed three young women as cultural envoys because they represent Japan's long-running craze for all things cute.
Inspired by the characters in Japan's distinctive "anime" animated films and "manga" cartoon books, one of the new ambassadors dresses as a schoolgirl, another as a Victorian doll in voluminous frilly skirts.
The third of the women, presented at a news conference on Thursday, was a singer dressed in a polka dot shirt with a bunny print, offset by bouffant back-combed hair, a look that has made her a fashion leader in Tokyo teens' favorite haunt, Harajuku.
Japan wants to exploit the popularity of the "kawaii" (cute) culture, which has influenced young people in Asia and Europe.
"AC/DC played here (in Prague) last week. And their cult song 'Highway to Hell' might have led me in that very improvised speech to use the phrase 'road to hell'," Topolanek was quoted by daily Lidovy Noviny as saying on Friday.
Tom Stoppard would be proud.
ROBERT VOS/AFP/Getty Images
A guerrilla artist, using a trick popularized by grafitti-artist Banksy, placed portraits of the taoiseach in the Royal Hibernian and National Galleries. In one, he's holding his underwear; in the other, he's in the loo. In both, he's nude, though depicted in classically chaste poses.
Irish police immediately confiscated the paintings and announced a public search for the offending, offensive artist -- although it's unclear that he or she committed any crime at all. Except against good taste, perhaps.
It's been a rough trip to Africa -- at least in the headlines -- for Pope Benedict XVI, but hey, he got some great souvenirs!
No stranger to unusual gifts, Pope Benedict was presented with a tortoise in a basket by a group of Baka Pygmies who gave him an unscheduled send-off from Cameroon last week. I’m not sure whether one can read deep messages into the gift of a tortoise (“It’s a metaphor for Pope Benedict’s approach to the Church, a slow dogged move forward with a heavy protective shell.” “It’s a symbol for…” etc etc etc ad nauseam). At any rate appears that tortoises are quite important to Baka Pygmy culture as a symbol of wisdom—they even have a special dance called the tortoise dance.
Vatican officials at first suggested it might find a nice home in the Vatican gardens. But something must have gone wrong with the turtle that was supposed to bring wisdom. After tagging on to the flight from Cameroon to Angola, the turtle (but let's hope not the wisdom!) was left behind in Luanda.
Father Lombardi told reporters the turtle was "in good hands" with the staff of the nunciature in Angola because it was decided the African turtle should live in an African habitat.
It seems the world won't get to see Georgian vocal group 3G (left) perform their Putin-mocking single "We don't wanna put in" at the Eurovision song contest in Moscow. The politically charged dicso tune was a little too hot for organizers to handle:
The contest's oversight committee said in a statement on the Eurovision web site that the song violated a statute in the contest's charter stating that songs must not bring the contest "into disrepute" and banning "lyrics, speeches [and] gestures of a political or similar nature."
The committee has given Georgia until March 16 to select a new entry or "change the lyrics of the selected song" so that it complies with the rule, the statement said.
I call BS on this. Ireland's Eurovision entry last year, sung by an obscene turkey puppet name Dustin, poked fun at a number of other countires, was purposely designed to mock the contest, and nearly set off a diplomatic incident in Macedonia. And Arab-Israeli singer Mira Awad has angered Palestinian nationalists with a pro-reconciliation Eurovision duet with a Jewish singer.
Whether it's a kitschy song contest or the Olympics, geopolitical rivalries are inevitably part of any international competition. It's very sad to see Eurovision's organizers compromise the integrity of this august institution by bowing to Russia's objections.
The Indonesian island of Bali has big dreams to become a world capital of spiritual tourism. But that required ignoring the religious edict issued by the country's top Islamic body last week. The Council of Ulemas issued a Fatwa against yoga. Awkward, since Bali had planned to host an international yoga conference.
What ever to do? Not much of a question there, it seems. Yoga! The conference went off as planned, finishing up today, with even the island's governor attending.
Praise be to tourism, the payoffs from Bali's yoga drive could be big. Wayan Wijayasa of the Denpasar Tourism Academy in Bali told local press that if just one percent of U.S. "yogis" visited Bali a year, it would mean 160,000 yoga tourists in the country. That's big dough if you consider that Americans spent $2.95 billion on yoga equipment presumably last year, according to Wijayasa.
Monetary gains aside, yoga is popular in Bali. So that must be what Hillary Clinton meant when she said, "If you want to know if Islam, democracy, modernity and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia." That should ceratinly be worth a few sun salutations.
See also, FP's list of the all-time stupidest fatwas.
SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images
As it turns out, Gordon Brown's White House visit was even lamer than previously thought. The Daily Mail is reporting that while the enthusiastic British PM clearly put some thought into his diplomatic gifts for Obama, "an ornamental pen holder made from the timbers of the Victorian anti-slave ship HMS Gannet," a "first edition of the seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill by Sir Martin Gilbert," and clothing and books for Obama's daughters, the president's gift for Brown was rather less personal: a set of 25 DVDs of classic American movies.
As he headed back home from Washington, Gordon Brown must have rummaged through his party bag with disappointment.
Mr Brown is not thought to be a film buff, and his reaction to the box set is unknown. But it didn't really compare to the thoughtful presents he had brought along with him.
The film collection, including such classics as Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia, and Star Wars, was apparently specially assembled by the American Film Institute, but as Ed Morrissey notes, it's the kind of thing you can buy at a steep discount on Amazon. At least with a gift certificate, Brown could have picked out his own movies.
I wrote on Wednesday that I can understand why Obama might not have wanted to give Brown the full state dinner and Camp David treatment, but surely the White House could have put a little more thought into this.
For what it's worth, the DVDs would have been the perfect gift for a meeting with Kim Jong-il.
On his China Rises blog, McClatchy's Tim Johnson reports that Chinese authorities have cancelled performances by British band Oasis because of concerns over singer Noel Gallagher's political views. From the band's press release:
"The licensing and immigration process for the two shows had been fully and successfully complied with well before the shows went on sale. The Chinese authorities action in cancelling these shows marks a reversal of their decision regarding the band, which has left both Oasis and the promoters bewildered.
"According to the show's promoters, officials within the Chinese Ministry of Culture only recently discovered that Noel Gallagher appeared at a Free Tibet Benefit Concert on Randall's Island in New York in 1997, and have now deemed that the band are consequently unsuitable to perform to their fans in the Chinese Republic on 3rd and 5th of April, during its 60th anniversary year.
By now, China should've somehow realized that it's gotta lighten up on those artistic censorship laws. Other superpowers' leaders seem perfectly content to just ignore self-righteous outbursts from ageing foreign rock stars.
Dave Hogan/Getty Images
With a delegation of American movie industry officials, including actresses Annette Benning and Alfre Woodard, visiting Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "art and cinema advisor" Javad Shamaqdari has decided that it would be a good time to demand an apology for Hollywood's "insulting" treatment of Iran. Particularly offensive are the films 300 and the The Wrestler:
The film "300," portrays the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., in which a force of 300 Spartans held off a massive Persian army at a mountain pass in Greece for three days. It angered many Iranians for the way Persians are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks.
Iranians also criticised "The Wrestler" starring Mickey Rourke as a rundown professional wrestler who is preparing for a rematch with his old nemesis 'The Ayatollah'.
During a fight scene, "The Ayatollah" tries to choke Rourke with an Iranian flag before Rourke pulls the flagpole away, breaks it and throws it into the cheering crowd.
Shamaqdari's case is pretty weak here. It's telling that neither of these movies has anything to do with contemporary Iran (The symbolism of 300 is debateable but that movie should only be offensive to people who aren't legally brain dead.) and I'm having a hard time thinking of another recent film that was in any way insulting to the country.
As The Atlantic's Ross Douthat has pointed out, Hollywood has generally shied away from Middle Eastern villains in the post-9/11 era compared with the 1980s and '90s.
Then again, this is the same country that accused Harry Potter of being a Zionist stooge so I'm not really sure if logic is the best response.
The miniskirt and the hijab (the traditional Islamic headscarf) might be on opposite ends of the women's fashion spectrum, but they've found a common enemy in the government of Uzbekistan which deems both items "alien" to Uzbek culture and hazardous to your health. From RFE/RL's TransMission blog:
Speaking in a 25-minute long, prime-time television program aired this week, Uzbek officials and doctors cited health and security reasons to condemn both the hijab and the miniskirt.
"Some religious extremist women carried guns under their hijab," warned an official from the state religious committee in the television program called "Tahdid" ("Threat").
The hijab can also cause oxygen and calcium deficiencies, warned doctors. As for women who wear miniskirts, they were advised to dress with "moderation" to prevent susceptibility to all kinds of infections and other unspecified health problems.
Tajikistan apparently tried to do something similar in 2007, banning both garments on university campuses. According to TransMission, the hijab ban was more effective than the miniskirt one.
ALI YUSSEF/AFP/Getty Images
Did Iraq read my piece on the future of Iraq tourism? After the re-opening of Iraq's National Museum yesterday, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki signaled that his government is trying to move towards normality. Bring on the vistors! (and sign me up for the tour...)
What you'll no doubt remember about the spot is its famous looting six years ago during the U.S. invasion of Bagdhad, as seen above. Fifteen thousand items were stolen amid massive looting, and only 8,500 were later recovered.
That the museum reopened is something of a miracle. As a U.S. embassy official in Iraq told me last fall, "[Iraq's] museums have been in dire shape for many many years; it long predates the looting." Another official pitched in: "[The Museum was] closed first in the 1980s and again before the first Persian Gulf war. Then, under Saddam, he only opened it for one year in 2002. [Now,] there is some refurbishment going on. There are several halls that are still in need of help. ... [it's] mainly empty with the exception of the few halls."
Far from empty, the museum would surely be a treat to see. Further proof that Iraq is closer than you thought to going from a conflict-ridden deathtrap to a sunny tourist haven.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images, Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images, Spencer Platt/Getty Images
That Bishop Richard Williamson, as a representative of the Vatican, openly and ardently denied the Holocaust's occurrence was a problem. A big problem. As a religious leader it was a position that shouldn't be tolerated. His dismissal from the Church was warranted.
Today however, Argentina's interior ministry announced that the bishop had ten days to leave the country or he would face expulsion, saying that Williamson "has concealed the true motive for his stay in the country." He had said he was an employee of a non-governmental group rather than declaring 'his true activity' as the director of a seminary, the ministry stated."
Wait a minute. Has Williamson broken any laws? No charges have been filed against him. However ignorant, however reprehensible his beliefs, he's entitled to them. This latest action against the bishop seems like blatant persecution and it's a horrendous precedent to set that will no doubt arm more dangerous Holocaust deniers with anti-Semitic rhetoric.
It's certainly not hard to understand the desire to just get rid of Williamson as quickly as possible, but Argentina just gave him a whole new subject to talk about.
Georgia's entry in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, which will be held in Moscow in May, is a pretty obvious jab at Russian Prime Minsiter Vladimir Putin. The peppy disco number by vocal trio 3G with guest vocalist Stefane, is titled "We Don't Wanna Put In" and features the chorus:
We don't wanna put in/the negative move/is killing the groove
Imma try to shoot him/some disco tonight/boogie with you.
Check it out:
"We need to send a message to Europe and first of all to Moscow. It's important for us to say what Georgia wants to say as a country."
Putin took a few hours off from dealing with the financial crisis late last month to dance to hits like "Money, Money, Money" performed by the ABBA tribute band Björn Again in a private concert for the prime minister and a group of friends, organizers of the show told The Moscow Times.
"Putin and his colleague friends were all dancing and getting involved with the choreography," Björn Again founder and creator Rod Stephen said in a telephone interview from London.
Putin and the others waved their hands in the air during a rousing rendition of the Swedish group's "Super Trouper" and pointed their fingers during "Mama Mia," Stephen said.
The Jan. 22 show took place in a concert hall at a Kremlin residence near Valdai Lake, in the northwestern Novgorod region, said Stephen, whose band charged ?20,000 ($29,000) for the performance.
A source involved in the concert said it was organized by the Kremlin for Putin but that no state funds were used in arranging the show.
"ABBA is popular, and [Putin] likes them," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
I can understand why the source was worried. We may have just discovered the one area where the Deep Purple- and Pink Floyd-loving Dmitry Medvedev is more of a badass than his prime minister.
Update: It just occurred to me that if known ABBA-lover John McCain had been elected, the two leaders could have used this common interest to move past their differences and usher in a new era of U.S.-Russia cooperation. Oh well.
With the nomination of Slumdog Millionaire for an Academy Award, it's easy to view Mumbai's slums as wastelands of filth and misery. But they're actually vibrant business centers filled with scrappy entrepreneurs. If some wealthy developers get their way, though, the slums' days may be numbered.
Learn all about it in this week's FP photo essay, "India's Real-World Slumdogs."
And while you're at it, you might enjoy these previous FP photo essays:
The Indian public's reaction to the award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire has gone from indifferent to outright hostile. Rioters in the eastern city of Patna attacked theaters showing the film and tore down posters to protest the use of the word "dog" in the title.
The protests were organized by social activist Tapeshwar Vishwakarma, who has also filed a lawsuit against actor Anil Kapoor (who played the game show host in the film) and Academy Award-nominated composer A.R. Rahman for violating the rights of slum dwellers by depicting them in a bad light. Kapoor and Rahman are both better known to Indian audiences than the film's other stars.
The parents of two of the child actors in the film have also accused producers of underpaying and exploiting their children.
It remains to be seen how this bad press will dampen some of the near-univeral praise the film has received in the U.S.
Photo: PAL PILLAI/AFP/Getty Images
On Friday, a day after Slumdog Millionaire was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, the movie filled just 25% of the seats for its debut in theaters across India, the country of its setting.... Theaters showing the movie averaged 50% of capacity on Saturday, which was an improvement over the opening day but hardly a 21-gun salute.
Some Indian moviegoers might have agreed with Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan that the British-directed film's depiction of India's urban poverty verged on voyeurism, though the film has gotten mostly positive reviews from Indian critics. A more likely culprit may be that the film's leads, the British actor Dev Patel and model Frieda Pinto, are essentially unknown to the Indian public.
On Tuesday, Dan Drezner wondered how Indian audiences might react to the colorful depiction of India's urban poverty in Danny Boyle's film Slumdog Millionaire. If Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan is any indication, Slumdog might be in trouble:
"If Slumdog Millionaire projects India as a third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations," he bellowed. "It's just that the Slumdog Millionaire idea, authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a westerner, gets creative global recognition."
On the other hand, the Guardian's Nirpal Dhaliwal says India's movie elite are just rattled because no Bollywood director would have the guts to make a film like Boyle's. Indian audiences will get to make up their own minds on Jan. 23.
Hunting, fishing, fighting, kissing babies, Machiavellian political maneuvering, ruling with an iron fist...and painting? Is Vladimir Putin the most complete human of the 21st century?
Putin's debut painting, a delicate if somewhat rudimentary water color based on a Nikolai Gogol story, will be auctioned for charity this weekend. The work is part of a collection of paintings by celebrities to raise money for a cultural fund in St. Petersburg. The painting has some weird resonance with current events, the Telegraph reports:
According to organisers, Mr Putin popped into the exhibition unexpectedly on Boxing Day where, after drinking some mulled wine, he agreed to reveal his previously hidden artistic talents by contributing a painting of his own.
According to the rules of the exhibition, Mr Putin was required to paint an image related to the Night Before Christmas, a story by the Ukrainian born author Nikolai Gogol, the bicentenary of whose birth is celebrated this year.
Set in Dikanka, a village in central Ukraine, the story tells of events on a blizzard-swept Christmas Eve thrown into chaos because the Devil has stolen the moon.
With Russia locked in a bitter gas dispute with Ukraine, the theme is replete with ironic symbolism with even the frost encrusted windows unwittingly suggesting freezing homes across central Europe after Mr Putin ordered all supplies through Europe to be cut.
I have a feeling the mulled wine bit is journalistic embellishment. Putin is, famously, a light drinker or at least unlikely to appear sloshed in public.
Rather than a drunken whim, this seems like a well calculated move to soften Putin's already sufficiently manly public persona. Not everyone's buying Putin's sensitive side though:
"A leader who demands that the world play by our rules could hardly have painted such a picture," said one painter, who asked to remain anonymous for his own security. "It looks as if it was painted by a sentimental woman. It is too sweet; you can feel it in the brushwork and the palette. The core theme is feminine too."
The charge was denied by exhibition organizers. "He did the painting all by himself, but he was given advice by a lady artist," said Polina Vavilina, press secretary for Tsarskoe Selo.
I have to say, Vavilina's explanation really raises more questions than it answers.
The Czech Republic, having only taken over the rotating European Union presidency in January, has already managed to offend its EU peers with a sculpture it installed in the atrium of the European Council headquarters in Brussels. Titled "Entropa," the sculpture makes light of European national stereotypes:
[C]ountries digested depictions of their national character as a Dracula-inspired theme park (Romania), a rudimentary toilet (Bulgaria) or a flooded land with minarets poking through (the Netherlands)...
Other national depictions in ”Entropa” include Luxembourg as a lump of gold on sale to the highest bidder, France emblazoned with the word ”Greve” (”strike”), Denmark made of Lego, and Sweden lying within an Ikea flatpack. Britain is simply missing – supposedly a reference to its deep Euroscepticism.
Worse still, the piece turns out to be an eleaborate prank. It was not the work of artists from all 27 EU member states, as had been claimed, but was created by a single Czech artist, David Cerny. (You probably want to make sure your speakers are turned off if you click on that link at work.) The Czech government has been forced to make a public apology.
Arguably, the Eurocrats should have known what they were getting into. As anyone who's read Kafka or seen a Jan Svankmajer movie can attest, Czech culture has always had a somewhat dark, surrealist edge to it. This is, after all, a country that elected an absurdist playwright as its first post-communist president. I reported on the country's strange obsession with Frank Zappa for Radio Prague in 2004. The documentary, Czech Dream, a feature-length prank in which hundreds of real Prague residents were tricked into attending a fake supermarket opening in an empty field, is another good example.
So while Cerny's sculpture might not be great diplomacy, I like that a bit of classic Czech weirdness has been injected into one of the world's stuffier organizations.
(Hat tip: Passport reader Aaron Lovell)
Update: Cerny responds to the controversy:
Grotesque hyperbole and mystification belongs among the trademarks of Czech culture and creating false identities is one of the strategies of contemporary art. The images of individual parts of Entropa use artistic techniques often characterised by provocation. The piece thus also lampoons the socially activist art that balances on the verge between would-be controversial attacks on national character and undisturbing decoration of an official space. We believe that the environment of Brussels is capable of ironic self-reflection, we believe in the sense of humour of European nations and their representatives.
That belief was clearly mistaken.
Photo: DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images
Subprime lenders, reckless traders and lax regulators have all been blamed for the current financial mess. Then again, maybe it's all Beyoncé's fault.
According to findings by Phil Maymin, professor of finance and risk engineering at New York University, the more regular the beat on Billboard's top singles, the more volatile the American markets. After studying decades of Billboard's Hot 100 hits, Maymin found that songs with low "beat variance" had an inverse correlation with market turbulence. Which is to say, the more regular the song, the crazier the stock market.
And Single Ladies is very regular
I wonder what Maymin's NYU colleague Nouriel Roubini thinks of this. Personally I think that if the predictive power of pop songs were really this strong, Nickelback would have heralded a nuclear apocalypse years ago.
(Belated hat tip: Carolyn)
Photo: Scott Gries/Getty Images
But I'll be damned if I'm going to let him get away with referring to Dublin born-and-bred U2 as a "UK" band in his post on the lack of great European rock bands. If that's what passes for realism these days, I want no part of it. (He's technically right about Belfast's Van Morrison, though some of my relatives probably feel differently.)
Richard Dawkins -- famed evolutionary biologist, bestselling atheist, and delightful interviewee -- has launched a new campaign in Britain to get atheists to "come out." All over central London, the tube, and on the sides of buses will be the following slogan:
There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life"
Don't you feel better already?
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
A wealthy Bangladeshi filmmaker is spending about $60 million to build an exact replica of India's Taj Mahal 20 miles from Dhaka:
Construction work began five years ago, but Mr Moni says that he came up with the idea in 1980 when he first visited the real Taj in Agra, northern India.
He said that his homage had been built because most people living in Bangladesh - where nearly half of the population exist below the poverty line - cannot afford to travel to India to see the real thing.
“Everyone dreams about seeing the Taj Mahal but very few Bangladeshis can make the trip because it's too expensive for them,” he said.
Indian diplomats are not happy about the plan and are currently "investigating" the matter. Though one admits, “A copy is a form of flattery, I suppose.”
Bangladesh clearly has a taste for monumentally ambitious construction projects. Their stunning Louis Kahn-designed parliament building took two decades to construct and, I would think, would be more a source of pride than an exact copy of India's most famous building.
Photo: Munir UZ-ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images
Readers, which "we never realized this would offend anybody" statement do you find less convincing:
Busta Rhymes not realizing Muslims might be offended by his Koran-sampling song "Arab Money," in which the rapper boasts of getting "oil-well money" and "gambling with Arafat?
Or, Playboy not realizing that Catholics might be offended by its Mexican edition depicting a nude model as the Virgin Mary on its cover?
I vote for the second one.
I doubt this is true, but it is funny:
The subdued Ms Merkel, who loathes Mr Sarkozy's bravura, has been watching videos of the late Louis de Funès, a manic comic actor and Gallic institution, for clues to understanding the ever-agitated President.
Here's a representative sample of M. De Funès's work:
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