Passport

Come to Denmark, have an illegitimate child

This could very well be the worst tourist advertisement ever produced. In what looks like a home-made YouTube video, a young Danish woman appeals to the father of "August," a newborn baby conceived in a one-night-stand with a foreign tourist. The woman is actually an actress and the video was produced by the Danish tourist board, which has since removed it from their site after complaints that they were depicting Danes as promiscuous.

Believe me, I get what they're trying to sell, and they're hardly the first country to use the promise of vacation sex (admiittedly it's usely slightly more subtle) as a selling point. But did anyone really think this painfully awkward 2 1/2 minute monologue would be enticing to anyone? Then again, this is the country that produced Lars Von Trier, so you never know.

Passport

The Lebanese Bernie Madoff

Robert Worth has a great piece in today's New York Times on Salah Ezzedine, the billion-dollar pyramid schemer being called "Lebanon's Bernie Madoff". Ezzedine seemed to use his close ties to Hezbollah to rope in Shiite investors, not dissimilar from the way Maddof preyed on eldery Jewish investors:

Many of the investors — mostly Shiites living in Beirut and southern villages like this one — say those party links were the reason they chose to risk their hard-earned savings with a man who offered 40 and 50 percent profits but never showed any paperwork.

The scandal has embarrassed the party, which prides itself on a reputation for honesty and selfless piety. It has also illustrated the way many of Lebanon’s Shiites, despite their ascent from near feudal poverty just a few decades ago, remain in some ways a nation apart. Their residual distrust of mainstream Lebanese institutions, which helped fuel Hezbollah’s rise as a virtual state within a state, also appears to have made them vulnerable to Mr. Ezzedine’s schemes.

The big question now is whether the scandal will be a blow to Hezbollah's credibility, or whether the party can use the same trust Ezzedein preyed on to lay the blame on the usual suspects:

Mustafa Fneish, a wizened 54-year-old taxi driver in Mahroub, said he invested $10,000 with Mr. Ezzedine and had received an 80 percent profit on his investment, or $8,000. When asked whether he had received the principal back, he looked confused, and said no.

“All this happened because of the United States and Israel,” Mr. Fneish added, echoing a refrain that springs easily to people’s minds here. “When they discovered that Ezzedine was close to Hezbollah, they ruined him.”