Hard News by Russell Brown

Old Faithful Chops

For now, my money's on the Daily Mirror's pictures of British soldiers abusing Iraqi POWs being fakes, even if the stories they relate to aren't.

The expert analysis of evidence in the pictures, if reported correctly, raises some serious questions. And the photographs themselves look too clean, too newsworthy (like, what squaddie is shooting crisp black and whites in a prison?). As has become evident in recent days, a story with pictures is a far more powerful thing than one without.

The Internet being what it is, the real Abu Ghraib pictures from the CBS 60 Minutes programme have gone far and wide - including to Scoop, which picked them up from an Arabic website and - very stupidly - also briefly ran pictures from the same website which purported to depict the rape of an Iraqi woman by US troops. I chanced on the same page via an Iraqi blog today and it immediately appeared to me that they were actually military-rape-fantasy porn (yuck - there's some Google hits I could do without …).

This won't be the last time the real Abu Ghraib pictures will be used to legitimise fakes. So there's brutal imagery loose out there now, and it's scary any way you look at it.

Meanwhile, pretending nobody's really dying reaches a new plane with 24% of American households unable to see an ABC Nightline programme, The Fallen, in which the names and pictures of more than 500 dead US service personnel will be broadcast, because eight ABC affiliates will ban it.

The New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (hereafter, "the Rationalists") has an amusing new web feature called The Fundy Post ("We Read This Crap So You Don't Have To"), which keeps an eye on the religious Right. It points to this barking-mad barrage of bullet-points from Maxim literary contributor Alexis Stuart in the Otago Daily Times (you folks who read the South Island papers do get a lot of this stuff, don't you?). The "Bible Study with Ian Wishart" bit at the end is funny too. Truly, these people are the enemies of thought.

As Nanaia Mahuta now declines to confirm whether she'll stay with Labour or resign over the foreshores, Colin James has an interesting column in the Herald. If Mahuta really has, as the stories suggest, been promising her fealty to one party but quietly thinking something else, I'm not impressed. I can completely understand their point of view on the foreshore proposal, and perhaps it is time for a Maori party, but both she and Turia have been extended a fair bit of goodwill by the executive over the years, and the least they could do is return the courtesy.

That said: what was Clark thinking with that "haters and wreckers" crack about the hikoi organisers? (And no, I'm not buying Chris Trotter's "Tampa" theory …) I realise she was only referring to the Harawira faction - and quite explicitly not the bulk of the marchers - but she ought to have been savvy enough to realise that the phrase would rise to the top of every news story.

Wow - Steve (yes, that Steve) has lined up behind John Kerry - that'll piss Rush Limbaugh right off. This Bloomberg story suggests that he and Warren Buffett, the world's second-richest man, will be giving Kerry economic advice.

Mum went home yesterday, possibly a little heavier than when she arrived. I like cooking for Mum, after all those years she spent cooking for me. I even made a point of cooking something she used to make for me. It's called Old Faithful Chops, it's simple and reliable and this is the recipe:

6-8 lamb shoulder chops
One large red onion or two middling ones
Two large tomatoes
One large yellow or red capsicum
One cup basmati rice
Two cups chicken stock
Some chopped fresh thyme

Trim excess fat from chops, cut each in half if desired. Slice onions, capsicum and tomatoes into rounds. Spread rice across the bottom of a large casserole or similar vessel with a close-fitting lid. Pour in two-thirds of a cup and mix with rice. Sprinkle on the chopped thyme. Place chops over the rice in a single layer, then layer again with the rounds of vegetable. Season with some decent salt and fresh-ground pepper and pour on remaining stock. Cover and bake for about 70 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Serve.

Obviously, you might tweak this or that, but the main thing is to keep that lid tight. Enjoy.

And farewell then, Camillia. You were the best singer on NZ Idol but your taste in songs was just too awful. In the "Rock" round you sang that crap Alannah Myles song 'Black Velvet' when you should have sung 'Bat Out of Hell' by Meatloaf. Seriously. But have fun with your boy. And then get someone else's money and go and re-record that arrangement of 'Purple Rain' you did a few weeks back. Really let rip. Then send it to Prince and ask him if he'd like to contribute some guitar to it. You never know.