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The first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks between the United States and the Soviet Union, on-going since November 1969, came to a conclusion when the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) and the Interim Agreement on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms were signed by Richard Nixon* and Leonid Brezhnev at a ceremony in Moscow on May 26th, 1972. These agreements prohibited both sides from building additional offensive nuclear missiles and also restricted them to only two sites for Anti-Ballistic Missiles, with 100 missiles each. At last, it looked possible that the superpowers’ previous MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) deterrent-based policy of preventing nuclear Armageddon might be replaced with a slightly less risky one. A nuclear war was still possible but at least there may not be enough weapons to blow the whole planet to smithereens. Continue Reading »

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Dead Man In Government

With the appearances of Frederic Michel and Adam Smith at the Leveson Inquiry, you may think I’m describing Jeremy Hunt. At the time of writing, the Culture Secretary is looking increasingly like an antidote selected by David Cameron to repair the damage caused by Vince Cable’s declared antipathy to News Corporation’s bid for control of BSkyB. But no, my ‘dead man’ is the senior civil servant who, in his current role as the Prime Minister’s Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, could/should have been given the task of investigating the Culture Secretary’s dealings with News Corp, rather than leaving it up to a chat with Robert Jay and Lord Justice Leveson. I suspect he’s now quite glad not to be involved and is suffering greatly from the pain being caused to Adam Smith in his attempts to reconcile truth and loyalty.

I’m talking here about Sir Alex Allan KCB, a Harrow- and Cambridge-educated career Civil Servant, one-time PPS to Nigel Lawson, John Major and Tony Blair, British High Commissioner to Australia, Permanent Secretary in the Department for Constitutional Affairs, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (after Sir John Scarlett, of ‘dodgy dossier’ fame) ….and Deadhead. Continue Reading »

You Win! Again?

Forty years ago today, Glasgow Rangers’ own European tour came to a climax when they played Moscow Dynamo in the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, in their third appearance in a European Cup Winners’ Cup* Final. Although potentially a political tinderbox (Capitalist Rangers against Communist Dynamo, played in the suppressed Basque region of Fascist Spain), this was primarily a football story. Leading 3-0 with 40 minutes to go, the Rangers fans had to undergo the ritual football torture wherein the losing team fights back: Dynamo brought the score to 3-2 with just three minutes of the match remaining.

[*A knock-out football (soccer) competition involving the winners of European domestic knock-out competitions (e.g. the English FA Cup) from the previous season. It became part of the UEFA Cup, now called the Europa League, in 1999.]
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As superpowers, that’s what United States and the Soviet Union were doing back in the seventies. But both countries had come to the conclusion that they were also doing what sounded like Sean Connery’s version of that phrase….

So, in Moscow 40 years ago today, Presidents Richard Nixon and Nikolai Podgorny, on behalf of their respective countries, signed the “Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Environmental Protection”, generally known as the “Environmental Bilateral”. Continuing until the break-up of the USSR, it was seen as a very successful process, creating joint working parties to study environmental problems and propose solutions. Who’d a thunk it?

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Which is how Bob Weir counted the Grateful Dead into Playing In The Band at the Kongressaal in Munich, 40 years ago today, as he did at every stop on the tour (twice in the Bremen TV studio) and on almost 600 other occasions over the band’s lifespan.

The 10-beat rhythmic pattern that underpins the song was created by drummer Mickey Hart and used as the basis for an instrumental jam he called The Main Ten, first played on stage in 1969 (in this incorrectly dated concert). Weir then wrapped some additional tunes around it, Hunter added lyrics and, in early 1971, it became the song as heard on the ‘Skull & Roses’ album, where the Main Ten theme is reduced to a four cycle break after the chorus. That break then started to grow into a mid-section and, after Keith’s introduction to the band in September 1971, its potential as another avenue through which the band could ‘go out’ became apparent. Continue Reading »

No Chance Of Losing?

The world’s first financial derivatives exchange, the International Monetary Market (IMM), opened on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange forty years ago today. The practice of making bets predicated on the future price of commodities had been around for quite a while but now, with greater fluctuation of currency exchange rates following the USA’s abandonment of the Bretton Woods system, the IMM opened a new era in trading/gambling. By allowing the purchase of three currencies (the British pound, the Deutschmark, and the Japanese yen) based on their predicted exchange rates, financial wizards could almost make money from thin air: a situation that could only be good for the world’s economies, surely? Continue Reading »

Payback

This illustration caricatures the Bolos and Bozos’ rapid departure from la Rotonde in Faches-Thumesnil, just south of Lille, on May 5th, 1972. To Phil Lesh’s cry of ‘Women and musicians first!’ they had climbed rapidly out of the venue’s window to escape an angry mob of French men and women who had just been told that the Grateful Dead’s concert there that evening would not happen.

Garcia and co. had plucked up the courage to go on stage to deliver this bad news but, despite the promise to return and play on another day, they were not met with calm acceptance. The promoter’s refusal to give refunds didn’t help, leading many to suspect a rip-off. Continue Reading »