Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hiding Bin Laden(s)

Socialist governments grow the underground economy:

MADRID — The government made a plea to banks to keep tighter controls over the flow of EUR 500 notes which are used for money laundering.

EUR 500 notes are known in Spain as 'Bin Ladens' because, like the leader of al-Qaeda, everyone knows they exist, but very few have seen one.

In the first quarter of the year, the number of these purple notes grew 32 percent from the previous year to EUR 101 million.

Now the money-laundering prevention service Sepblanc say they represent 62 percent of all the cash in Spain.

According to the economy ministry, this is due to the rise in undeclared income in thousands of households and by increased criminal activity.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Better luck next time, guys

Still gamme after all these years:

NAPA, California, May 24, 2006 (AFP) - California wines trounced Bordeaux anew in an epic rematch of a historic blind taste test credited with reshaping the enology world.

Wines from California's Napa Valley wine region were judged best by the combined scores of twin panels, one in California and a second in London.

Judges on both continents gave top honors to a 1971 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet from Napa.

....The highest ranked Bordeaux was a 1970 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, which placed sixth out of the ten wines tasted in the anniversary recreation of the historic "Judgment of Paris" tasting on May 24, 1976.

Bordeaux wines took sixth through ninth places on Wednesday....

The event was "a wonderful sustained victory" for California wines because they held their own against the Bordeaux wine, considered the most elegant aging reds in the world, Vanneque said.

....A "pre-eminent European contingent" headed by renowned British wine writer Steven Spurrier tasted the resurrected vintages at the same time at Berry Brothers and Rudd in London.

"We now know that California wines wiped the boards with the French wines," Spurrier said by telephone from London.

"No French wine is ever going to compare to a California red," he quipped.

....The 1973 Stag's Leap Cellars Cabernet that won in 1976 placed a dignified second in the rematch.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Les Trouillardes

The big day came, but most of the French ducked:

SAN FRANCISCO, May 24, 2006 (AFP) - French wines dethroned by California vintages in a landmark blind taste test in Paris 30 years ago will get a chance to reclaim their crown on Wednesday.

A rematch of "Judgment of Paris," billed as the most famous wine tasting in history, will take place simultaneously in the heart of California's premier wine country and in Britain oldest wine and spirits merchant.

Panelists swirling, sniffing, sipping, and spitting at Copia center for food and wine in Napa Valley will include Christian Vanneque, who was a judge at the historic tasting on May 24, 1976.

"Some of the Brits and the French are expecting the older French wines to beat the pants off the California cabernets," Copia's wine master Peter Marks said, citing a "classic paradigm" that French wines age better.

....A "pre-eminent European contingent" headed by renowned British wine writer Steven Spurrier will rate the resurrected vintages at the same time at Berry Brothers and Rudd in London.

....Napa Valley wineries putting their championship status on the line included Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, which finished first in 1976 with its 1973 cabernet.

Bordeaux wines being uncorked for the rematch included 1970 vintages from Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Montrose and Chateau Haut-Brion, and a 1971 Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases.

In a bow to diplomacy, and to assuage fears of embarrassment by vintners on both sides, only the original red wines will compete head-to-head.

Formidable French vintners reportedly refused to be contenders unless Bordeaux was compared to Bordeaux and California wine to California wine, without the twain meeting.

Marks downplayed the reluctance of wineries to duke it out on tasters' tongues, and portrayed the anniversary tasting as a celebration instead of a grudge match.

More News to France

At $7.00 per gallon, gasoline is expensive:

NOTICES on petrol pumps in France could soon be advising drivers to conserve fuel and think of the environment.

Finance Minister Thierry Breton said it would make people more aware that "energy is a rare commodity that must be preserved”.

Other measures he would like to see are learner drivers being taught how to drive more economically, notices on receipts advising on fuel use and the creation of a website that would allow people to compare prices between individual stations.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tick, Tick, Tick

The meek shall inherit...something:

BERLIN - The number of Islamist extremists based in Germany increased slightly last year but the country faces far lower threat of terrorist attacks than states which took part in the Iraq war, an official report said Monday.

There were 32,100 Islamists living in Germany last year - an increase of about 300 from 2004, said the report by Germany's domestic security agency, the Verfassungsschutz.

Germany has a Muslim minority of about 3 million out of a total population of 82 million, said the report.

The biggest Islamist group is Milli Gorus, a Turkish movement with 26,500 members.

Other groups are Hamas with about 300 members, Hezbollah with 900 and the Muslim
Brotherhood with 1,300.

...."Even though the degree to which Germany is threatened is clearly lower than for those states which took part in the Iraq war, it must be noted that Germany is still seen ... as a helper of the US and Israel," said the report which underlined the presence of German troops in Afghanistan as boosting this image.

....The police and military in Germany are gearing up for major security operation during the football World Cup which opens June 9 in Munich and ends July 9 in Berlin.

No kidding.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Big Three Oh Approaches

The anniversary of the catastrophic day:

LONDON, May 21, 2006 (AFP) - The year was 1976, and in Paris an English vintner, Steven Spurrier, organised an historic tasting that, in the world's wine circles, would be talked about forever after.

Nicknamed the "Judgment of Paris", it pitted France's top Bordeaux and Burgundies against American Cabernets and Chardonnays which, while well-regarded, were virtually unknown outside California.

The California wines won -- and France has never gotten over it.

....One judge, Odette Kahn, editor of "La Revue de Vin de France", demanded her scores back. Several cried foul. Others were scorned by wine industry colleagues -- and at least one may have been sacked from his sommelier job -- for shaming their country.

.... "The reaction of the French was one of complete disbelief and denial," Spurrier said.

.... "To this day, some of the judges -- like Aubert de Villaine (co-owner of the iconic Burgundy estate Domaine de la Romanee-Conti) -- refuse to discuss it." Wine columnists, shops and societies around the world continue to stage reincarnations of the original, as well as variations on the Old World versus New World theme to the ongoing consternation of the French.

Indeed, a high-profile tasting in Berlin in 2004 saw the likes of Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Margaux bested by two wines from Chile's Errazuriz wineries.

The only journalist--Time's George Taber--who accepted the invitation to attend, published The Judgment of Paris last year which tells the story of how a Stag's Leap cabernet and a Chateau Montelena chardonnay stunned the wine world 30 years ago.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Tie a Yellow Ribbon

With reports that Ahmadinejad's Iran is about to require Jews to wear a yellow ribbon around their arm and Christians a red one, it's worth remembering that this idea is hundreds of years old:

The battle of Nehavend in 642 A.D. and the defeat of the Sassanid by Arab-Muslims ended the independence of Persia after nearly 12 centuries and it became a part of the Arab-Islamic entity. The Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs of Damascus and Baghdad controlled Persia. Arabic words infiltrated the Persian language, and Islam replaced Zorastrianism as the state religion.

These changes had a profound impact on the many religious minorities within Persia. Through a covenant of Omar (a Sunni Muslim leader), non-Muslims were deprived of social and political equality, and became, in effect, second-class citizens. Jews were made to wear a yellow ribbon on their arms and Christians a blue ribbon to distinguish them from Muslims.

Professor Amnon Netzer of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem told RFE/RL that the yellow patch as a distinctive mark for Iranian Jews reappeared a number of times through Iranian history, most recently at the beginning of the 20th century.

It was only with the coming of the Pahlavi dynasty that Jews were treated as normal citizens in Iran. So, can we thank Jimmy Carter for this?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

That Urdu, You Do So Well

Goes over like a ton of lutefisk in Norway:

A proposal to translate Norway's national anthem into a language used by many of the country's immigrants is stirring controversy. Opponents claim those who can't understand the Norwegian lyrics should just hum along instead.

....The editor of a newspaper for minorities in Norway, Utrop, floated the anthem translation proposal in the national newspaper VĂ¥rt Land this week. The idea is that an Urdu version of the anthem would allow many immigrants from Pakistan, for example, to more easily express their love for Norway.

....Norway's most conservative party, the Progress Party, was quick to slam the proposal.
"This is integration in reverse," claimed Per-Willy Amundsen, the Progress Party spokesman on issues dealing with immigration.

The "best gift" immigrants can give to "their new homeland," argued Amundsen, is to learn Norwegian. He has no sympathy for immigrants who have problems singing the national anthem in Norwegian.

"It just takes practice to learn it," he claimed. "Those who are new to the country can hum along while we others sing."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Habla Derecha Cerca Immigracion

Tech Central Station nails the illegal immigration problem with two articles today. First, the reason Mexico is poor (and exporting its valuable natural resource, labor) is that Mexico is struggling with badly outdated political-economic institutions:

Spanish colonists arrived first in the Americas, installing their seigneurial (feudal) system in lands claimed for king and church. The state gained title to all mineral rights, upper classes acquired vast land holdings, and often corrupt bureaucrats regulated markets and businesses. The vast majority of families worked the land or did menial labor, with few opportunities to own property, become educated or improve their social status.

By the time the English began establishing colonies, their system of laws, democratic government, property rights, free enterprise and individual rights had evolved far beyond feudal concepts. Even poor entrepreneurs could and did acquire property, patent inventions, mine gold and silver, and build businesses, factories and industries. When wars and treaties added Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California to the expanding nation, those new states exchanged Spanish feudalism for the dynamic American system.

But even today in Mexico, key industries remain nationalized, and wealth is concentrated in the hands of elites. Prevalent ideologies view wealth as "a zero-sum game," in which what one person acquires can come only by taking money or property from someone else. These doctrines help foment class conflict, demand "more equitable" distribution of wealth, and condemn globalization and foreign investment, rather than seeing them as agents of improved opportunity, health and environmental quality.

....Low-skill wages today are less than 15 percent of what Mexican workers can earn in the US, and half of its 106 million people still live in poverty. Mexico is not poor because it lacks natural resources or bright, industrious citizens. It is blessed with both in abundance. Mexico is poor because it retains an antiquated legal and economic system.

If the southwestern United States had remained part of Mexico, this region would have been governed under Mexican laws -- and would probably be as impoverished and bereft of opportunity as Mexico is today.

All right, now we know why they flee Mexico. Here's what we can't do about it:

Around 1991, the State of Georgia passed a law that made it illegal to have window tint on your vehicle if the tint was too dark -- light tint was fine and legal, but the black tint was illegal. Unfortunately, many of the people who wish to have their cars tinted preferred to have the dark tint on them. Thus, window tinting companies were placed in a bind: They could either obey the new Georgia law and lose customers, or disobey the law and keep the customers who wanted the illegal tint.

Now had a state inspector been stationed at every one of the many window tinting shops in the state of Georgia, and if he personally examined every piece of tint put on every window, there is no question that the Georgia window-tinting law would have been a smashing success. But because the enforcement of the law was on a fairly hit-or-miss basis, and since it was aimed primarily at the drivers of the illegally tinted vehicles, the economic effect of the law on the window-tinting businesses themselves was utterly perverse. Those companies that obeyed the law to the letter were economically penalized by their very respect for the law, while those companies that flouted the law were economically rewarded by their lack of respect for the law.

....By the same logic, if all the customers of the hundreds of businesses who currently employed illegal immigrants were prepared to spend more money for the same service provided by American labor, then, once again, the current laws could be enforced -- or, more precisely, they would not need to be enforced, because the people themselves would be spontaneously obeying them.

....Herein lies the drawback to laws that are passed by legislative bodies solely to prove to their constituents that they, the legislators, are really doing something. "See," the legislators can tell the voters back home, "we are really cracking down on illegal immigrants by making tougher laws." But what is the point of tougher laws if these laws only penalize, economically, the few who obey them, while rewarding the many who do not?

....At least in the law against illegal tint, it was the final customer who was penalized by fines; but in the law against hiring illegal immigrants, the final customer is in no way punished if he decides to go with a landscape firm that uses illegal aliens, or decides to have his roof replaced by a company that employs them. In most cases, all the final customer will care about is the cost of the service, and if it is cheaper to go with a company that hired illegals, that is what he will do. And how do you solve this problem? By fining customers who eat at restaurants that employ illegal immigrants, or who have their bushes pruned by them?

As long as the final customers behave as economic actors, preferring to pay less than more for the same quality of service or product, there will be a market for those laborers who are willing to work for less, provided that they work as hard and as well as those who demand a higher wage. Pass all the laws you want; make as many examples as you please -- neither of these policies can hope to do more than to drive up the cost of those businesses that obey the law, while rewarding those that are willing to take the risk of disobeying it. In short, the end result will not be more Americans working at higher wages, but a flight of illegal immigrants from larger and more stable companies to smaller and less stable ones -- or, to put this another way, a flight from higher to lower wages.

Should this surprise us? Considering the history of legislative attempts to regulate trade and commerce, no it should not. There are some things that law can do; but it can never be able to make people act against their economic self-interest. And every time that the law has been used for this purpose, not only does it fail -- it does much worse, it backfires.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Abaya Couture

Next, icecubes to Eskimoes?

RIYADH, May 15, 2006 (AFP) - France's famed international fashion school ESMOD is teaming up with an institute in Riyadh in its first foray in the conservative Gulf region, a legal adviser to the venture said Monday.

Undaunted by the fact that Saudi women have to cover from head to toe in public, ESMOD executives will on Tuesday sign a contract for an "associated school" with the French Institute of Fashion Design in Riyadh, a first step toward a franchise in the Saudi capital, Jochen Hundt told AFP.

While Saudi women must wear black abayas over their clothes in public in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, Hundt said: "Riyadh, which was very conservative, is opening up and has a large segment of rich people ready to spend on fashion."

The Middle East accounts for 40 percent of the clientele of haute couture, with Saudi Arabia the number one market, according to the organizer of a series of fashion shows held in the neighboring United Arab Emirates last week.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A kiss on the hand may be...

or, maybe not, quite continental:

"So, do you kiss once, twice, three or four times?

"When should I shake hands?"

"Which rules apply when it comes to greeting men or women? Superiors or subordinates? Colleagues or clients?"

The bad news is that their own French colleagues don't agree on a clear set of dos and definitely don'ts. So much depends on context that an easy guide is impossible.

The good news is that their own French colleagues don't agree on a clear set of rule.... are some guidelines (not rules!) for getting off to a good start.

First, don't be surprised if a physical greeting of some kind, either la bise or a handshake, is routine in your French workplaces, not just on first introduction but every morning upon arrival at work, even though this ritual may take up several minutes. ....

Look for the cues: slight leaning means that a kiss might follow. Let the French person lead the movement: don't force the extra kiss!

Shoulder movement indicates that a handshake will probably follow. Accept it with a smile. Do not crush the fingers in a Texan grip. Do not shake wildly. Look the person in the eyes as you say Bonjour.

Two kisses are the norm in Paris in most social contexts or with colleagues with whom you are friendly.

Three kisses are not as common. French from the West and French from the East both like to claim exclusivity on the three-kiss variant, but just be aware that this more common outside of Paris.

Four kisses are for teenagers and family members as well as in some upper-crust areas of Paris. Family members usually kiss twice in the morning to say hello and twice in the evening to say good-bye (so as to arrive at a four-kiss quota per day).

A single kiss in France is considered more intimate and reserved for your spouse or lover.

Five kisses means you're probably in trouble!

The Good Ol' Days Are Back

In Murder City:

Murder is making a comeback in New Orleans.

The city had 30 murders this year through April. That is less than half of the 81 recorded during the first four months of 2005. But New Orleans' population these days is less than half of what it was before Katrina.

Also, while there were 17 murders in January through March of this year, there were 13 in April alone. That is the most for any month since the Aug. 29 storm, though still well below the monthly average of 22 in 2003 and 2004.

And May has gotten off to a violent start with three slayings, including a shooting that followed an argument in a Bourbon Street bar early Tuesday.

....Law-enforcement officers acknowledge rising numbers of murders and shootings, and attribute them largely to turf wars among criminals returning to the city.

"Since April began, we've had the return of individuals who have a legacy of violent crimes," said Jim Bernazzani, the FBI agent in charge of New Orleans. "Prior to storm they were residing in areas that are now uninhabitable. So they are returning to the 20 percent of the city that did not flood and they are running into violent criminals whose turf it is."

The post-Katrina murder are haunting echoes of pre-Katrina New Orleans.

...."I don't think things have changed at all," said Dr. Micelle Haydel, an emergency-room doctor at Charity Hospital, where most trauma victims in the city are taken. "We're still getting the shooting and stabbing victims. It's still happening, and it will get worse as people return."

In neighboring Jefferson Parish, the murder rate is way up. The population has fallen from about 450,000 before Katrina to around 370,000, according to the parish president's office. But there were 22 murders though April, compared with 28 during all of last year.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Let em eat cake

Standing on the shoulders of Harry Lyme's famous maxim:

ln ltaly, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. But they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. ln Switzerland, they had brotherly love. They had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce ? The cuckoo clock.

Today's Euro-intellects declare:

The European Union has come up with a new way of selling itself to voters - cake.

To celebrate Europe Day - 9 May is the day a European union was first proposed - the EU's Austrian presidency took over a cafe in each capital to illustrate the continent's culinary richness.

The slogan: "Sweet Europe, let yourself be seduced..."

Europe has been searching for years for something to inspire a new generation of citizens - a generation unimpressed by 60 years of peace and the ending of the continents' Cold War divisions.

....The new Cafe d'Europe initiative substituted writers for music, debates for concerts and cake for chocolate.

The acceding countries, Bulgaria and Romania, were included, so the full menu ran to 27 cakes and pastries.

....Some of the contributions were predictable, from France madeleines, from Cyprus baklava, from Denmark Danish pastry.
Lithuania's bakers were conjuring up something resembling a hedgehog, called Sakotis, while Malta's were crafting a deep-fried date sandwich made from a dough containing red wine,

....At the London event, in Waterstone's bookshop cafe, one speaker lamented the fact that the fall of communism and the pressures of globalisation had driven some Polish national pastries - Krakowskie kremowki (millefeuilles) and W-Zetki (a cousin of tiramisu) - to the edge of extinction.

"Tiramisu is now easier to get in Warsaw than W-Zetki," she said. "I wonder why there is no process of sharing the rich diversity on the table with the rest of Europe?"

Sunday, May 07, 2006

White Kids' Burden

The Brits sound the alarum over racist rugrats:

Toddlers may already be racists, nurseries told
By Julie Henry, Education Correspondent

They may still be in nappies and playing with sand and building blocks but many toddlers are already racists, nurseries have been warned.

To stop prejudice from developing while children are still three years old, staff need to ensure that different racial groups "play together right from day one", according to Herman Ouseley, the former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality.

Nursery staff should "discourage separate play" and "help children to unlearn any racist attitudes and behaviour they may have already learnt", said Lord Ouseley.

"It is important to consider whether patterns of play are consistently based on racial or cultural grounds," he writes in the latest issue of the journal Race Equality Teaching.

"If, for example, Muslim children nearly always play together and seldom play with other children, the question needs to be asked, 'Is there a reason for it that may relate to culture? Or apprehension? Or prejudice?'," said Lord Ouseley, the author of an influential report on the 2001 Bradford riots.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Greenie Meanies to the Poor; 'Drop Dead'?

Environmentalists got their way and the ship scrappers lost a chance to eke out a living:

ALANG, India.... Only a few years ago, Alang was the world's biggest ship-breaking yard, a place where aging cruise liners, fishing trawlers and toxic warships came to die and be torn apart, their parts and cargo sold for profit. Now, largely because of pressure from environmental groups, the town itself is dying.

The decision in February to turn away the Clemenceau, an asbestos-lined, decommissioned French aircraft carrier, has only brought more attention to the shipyard and caused a further drop in business, both for the companies that dismantle the ships and for ship profiteers...who sell what once was on board.

....In Alang, for example, workers still travel from across India for the chance to earn as much as $4.50 a day, breaking apart ships for 12 hours at a stretch. It's a good wage in India. It's also the only choice for many workers.

"It's for our survival," said Gama Yadav, who makes about $2.75 a day as a "cutter," taking apart steel hulls with a blowtorch. "What can we do? Back home, there's no work. There's no question of me being happy or sad. It's a question of me being able to eat."

In Alang, the numbers tell the story of a dying industry. In the fiscal year ended in June 1999 - the height of the ship-breaking business - 361 vessels came to Alang to be dismantled by 40,000 workers.

In the year ended in June 2005, 196 ships arrived.

And in the past four months, since the Clemenceau controversy heated up, only 33 ships have docked in Alang. About 3,500 people now work at the yard.

The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight

Al Qaeda, the Comedy:

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is shown wearing American tennis shoes and unable to operate his automatic rifle in video released Thursday by the U.S. military as part of a propaganda war aimed at undercutting the image of the terror leader.

The U.S. command showed the footage to reporters at a time when it is stepping up operations against al-Qaida in Iraq and making overtures to other Sunni groups. The Americans hope to isolate religious extremists from insurgents they believe are more likely to cut a deal to end the war.

The clips were part of a longer video that
U.S. troops seized in a raid last month. Al-Qaida in Iraq militants posted an edited version of the same video on the Internet April 25 _ but without the embarrassing segments.

....the previously unseen footage showed a smiling al-Qaida leader first firing single shots from a U.S.-made M-249 light machine gun. A frown creeps across al-Zarqawi's face as the weapon appears to jam. He looks at the rifle, confused, then summons another fighter.

....By contrast, the edited version which the militants posted on the Web showed what happened only after the fighter fixed the weapon _ a fierce-looking al-Zarqawi confidently blasting away with bursts of automatic gunfire.

His fellow fighters and associates appear similarly inept in the newly released footage. One reaches out to grab a just-fired weapon by the barrel, apparently unaware that it would burn his hand. The camera quickly pans to the ground and then away.

"His close associates around him ... do things like grab the hot barrel of the machine gun and burn themselves," Lynch said. "Makes you wonder" about their military skills.

Another clip showed the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi _ who has derided everything Western _ dressed in a black uniform but wearing New Balance tennis shoes as he walked to a white pickup.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The first thing we do... make sure all the lawyers get rich:

A lawsuit filed by shareholders over Boeing's procurement scandals has yielded a proposed payment of nearly $12 million for their lawyers, but little else.

The suit against Boeing, its top officers and board of directors alleged the individuals had been reckless and negligent in overseeing company operations, leading to scandals such as the use of stolen Lockheed Martin documents in a bid for a 1998 Air Force rocket-launch contract, and the illegal offer of a job in 2002 to an Air Force procurement officer who oversaw a refueling-tanker contract.

But the proposed settlement may raise some eyebrows. It would require Boeing to spend an extra $29 million over five years to enhance director and management oversight of its ethics and compliance procedures.

Such changes were already under way, thanks to Boeing's internal investigation, and to new federal laws, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, that affected corporate governance.

Apart from that, the settlement's only other result would be to pay up to $11.9 million to the national law firms that litigated the case, including Labaton, Sucharow & Rudoff; Lasky & Rifkind; and Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman.

"It's nice business for the attorneys," said John Coffee, professor of corporate law and director of the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia Law School.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Can't Hang?

Be a better executioner, but the world won't beat a path to your door. Contra Galbraith, a guy's gotta advertise:

Two rival hangmen were severely reprimanded by their Home Office masters because they were "touting" for business in the depths of the Depression.

Tom Pierrepoint, who served as an executioner for 37 years and dispatched more than 300 men and women, and Robert Baxter were both discovered writing to under sheriffs, the local officials responsible for securing the services of the hangman.

Papers newly released at the National Archives show that Pierrepoint and Baxter wrote whenever a newspaper recorded a capital sentence passed against a murderer.

....The link between money, alcohol and hanging seems to have been a long one.

After the retirement of William Calcraft, the grand old man of the profession who served as chief hangman from 1829 to 1874, the practice of paying the official hangman of London a retainer of a guinea a week (equivalent to £700 today) was ended. Calcraft received an extra guinea for each hanging and half a crown for each flogging he administered, as well as commanding much higher fees for travelling to provincial cities to execute criminals.

....Albert Allen, a junior executioner, was reported in 1934 for being drunk at an execution by the governor of Wandsworth prison in another file just opened at Kew.

His was not the first case. Henry Pierrepoint had been sacked for turning up inebriated then fighting with a rival hangman.

Allen was placed under supervision for all subsequent executions and was sacked when he botched a hanging.

The unfortunate prisoner, Frederick Field, a murderer, did not suffer because he was knocked unconscious by the concussive impact of the hangman's knot and slowly strangled to death.

....Perhaps he should have listened to Tom Pierrepoint's sage advice to Albert when first serving as his uncle's apprentice: "If you can't do it without whisky, don't do it at all."