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Firestone And The General Pick of the day

Magnificent piece of extended reporting. Charles Taylor maimed and massacred his way to power in Liberia with help from the Firestone rubber company. Firestone gave Taylor money and a safe haven for his militia on its Liberian plantation. Taylor allowed the plantation to continue working. Taylor is now serving 50 years in gaol for crimes against humanity. Firestone is unrepentant. “Does Firestone believe it did the right thing? Yes” (20,000 words)

Death Of A Cricketer

Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes was felled by a fast ball in the neck. “There is a vast, unspoken violence to the game of cricket. It is not immediately obvious, but is recognised and felt by anyone who has ever played it. A new cricket ball is about the size of an adult fist, as hard as a rock and is bowled by one person at another from a distance of 22 yards. The ball that hit Hughes was travelling at around 90 mph” (920 words)

The Unfinished Battles Of Waterloo

Discussion of recent books about the Battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815, where 150,000 soldiers fought and 12,000 died. The battle turned against Napoleon when 400 Germans fighting for Britain held off the French long enough for Blücher’s Prussians to arrive and reinforce Wellington. “The dividing line between victory and defeat is precariously fine: and on those 400 men would hinge the development of a whole continent” (1,580 words)

Edelweiss

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II added Edelweiss to the score of their stage musical The Sound Of Music after a try-out in Boston. They felt that Captain von Trapp’s love for the land of Austria needed to be communicated more clearly to the audience, and that a solo song would do the job. It was Hammerstein’s last lyric. He was dying of stomach cancer, unknown to himself, but known to Rodgers (1,840 words)

The Kremlin’s Kiev Connection

Impressive investigation shedding much light on the Putin régime, Gazprom and Ukraine. In brief: the Russian state gas monopoly Gazprom sold gas cheaply to a Ukrainian straw man called Dmitry Firtash, who sold the gas on to Ukraine at a $3bn profit. Russian banks lent Firtash a further $11bn to buy up Ukrainian petrochemical plants. Firtash then bankrolled the rise of a pro-Russian president for Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich (3,700 words)

Obituary: Frankie Fraser

“Frankie Fraser, who has died aged 90, was a notorious torturer and hitman for the Richardson gang of south London criminals in the 1960s; he spent 42 years behind bars. His nickname ‘Mad Frank’ derived from his violent temperament which caused him to attempt to hang the governor of Wandsworth prison (and the governor’s dog) from a tree, and to be certified insane on three separate occasions” (2,120 words)

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