The Spreading Scent of Cologne

The city of Cologne, still famous for its scented water, has become, since last New Year’s Eve, best known for the depredations and misogyny of a growing population of immigrants from North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. The events of that evening, when hundreds of women were assaulted, manhandled, and even raped by thousands of migrant newcomers who could not be restrained by the police, spread across the world in days if not hours.

At first, the police played down the seriousness of the incidents, but by January 10th, the BBC reported that the number of criminal cases had risen to 516, forty percent of which were related to sexual assault. According to German police, “Asylum seekers and illegal migrants from North Africa comprise the majority of suspects.” This has been confirmed by Germany’s interior ministry, which has stated that almost all those involved were migrants.

Of course, Cologne was only the most prominent city to undergo such an ordeal: According to the Washington Post, “No city was hit harder than Cologne, where gangs of mostly young men are alleged to have ‘hunted’ women, corralling them before groping, assaulting and robbing them.” A smaller number of incidents occurred in other German cities such as Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt. In the thirteenth-century city of Bielefeld, more than 500 presumed asylum seekers attacked the Elephant Club , a night spot, and assaulted some of the women there. There were similar cases on the same evening in Austria, Switzerland, Finland and Sweden.

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Palestinians: Is Abbas Losing Control?

If Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas loses control of his Fatah faction, who gets to comfort him? Could it be his erstwhile rivals in Hamas?

Abbas has been facing increasing criticism in the past weeks from senior Fatah officials in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It seems that they have tired of his autocratic-style rule. Some of them, including Jibril Rajoub and Tawfik Tirawi, have even come out in public against the PA president, demanding that he share power enough at least to appoint a deputy president.

Fatah seems to be in even worse shape in the Gaza Strip. Fatah leaders and activists there have accused Abbas of “marginalizing” the faction, and are making unmistakable break-away noises.

At a meeting of Fatah cadres in the Gaza Strip last week, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership were castigated for turning their backs on the faction there.

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How Valley of the Dolls went from a reject to a 30-million best-seller

Even by the standards of a cold rejection letter, the one Jacqueline Susann received from publishers Geis Associates in 1965 was brutal.

Her novel Valley of the Dolls was dismissed as “painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish”. So how did such a poor book go on to be registered in The Guinness Book of World Records in the late Sixties as the world’s most popular novel? The success of Valley of the Dolls – to date more than 30 million copies have been sold worldwide – is a tale of one of the most tenacious and sharp-eyed publishing campaigns of all time.

The novel, which is about the sex lives and addiction problems of four Hollywood “glamour girls”, is 50 years old on February 10, 2016. The “dolls” in the title are the “uppers” and “downers” Susann’s characters swallow to cope with their soap-opera lives.

Susann, the daughter of a portrait painter and teacher, was born in Philadelphia in 1918. She was at heart a pragmatist and told friends that, as she had spent 18 months writing the book, “the least I can do is spend three months promoting it”. In fact, her campaign to publicise Valley of the Dolls lasted more than a year, and was organised like a military campaign.

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Happy Birthday, Islamic Republic

On Thursday, Iran celebrated the 37th anniversary of its Islamic revolution with great fanfare. To ‎mark the success of the reign of the mullahs, which began in 1979 with the return of Ayatollah ‎Ruhollah Khomeini from exile, Iranians took to the streets to chant “Death to America, Death to ‎Israel,” while waving banners hailing the current despot-cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.‎

Normally, this occasion involves a march to the defunct US Embassy, the site of the hostage-‎taking of American diplomats, to bask in the defeat of the Great Satan at the hands of students ‎loyal to Khomeini.‎

This year, however, the regime in Tehran had additional and more recent reasons to gloat. The ‎first was the lifting of international sanctions, made possible by Iran’s intransigence during ‎nuclear negotiations. Understanding full well that US President Barack Obama would stoop to ‎any low necessary to achieve a deal with the world’s greatest state sponsor of terrorism, the ‎Iranian hegemons got what they didn’t even have to bargain for.‎

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