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The new alliance

‘Freedom fries,’ served instead of French fries back in 2003, are no longer on the menu in Washington DC. French wine, out of fashion after Jacques Chirac refused to join our ‘coalition of the willing’ in Iraq, is no longer shunned. Au contraire. In one Washington restaurant last Saturday night, someone at my table raised

Hot shots with cold feet

When the United Nations sanctioned the use of force against Colonel Gaddafi, it could not quite bring itself to use the word force. The word force is, well, forceful. It suggests ruthlessness. Force is something that gets things done, and those in its way tend to get swept aside. The German word is Macht, and

The greatest living pianist

Why, despite his devoted fans, Grigory Sokolov won’t play live in Britain Grigory Sokolov is a pianist in his fifties; he is overweight, Russian, sleeps only three or four hours a night, is a strict vegan and is obsessed with the occult. He can calculate with one glance the number of seats in an empty

The Gorbachev files

The international stage is dominated by two men this March: Muammar Gaddafi, fighting like mad for the survival of his regime, and Mikhail Gorbachev, celebrated around the world on his 80th birthday for not being a Gaddafi. Nobody knows what will now happen in Libya; but the Gorbachev celebrations will culminate next week in a

Amateur hour

Thrilling as the race was, last week’s Cheltenham Gold Cup will leave an even more remarkable legacy: the winning jockey, Sam Waley-Cohen, did it as an amateur. Being a jockey isn’t his day job — he is the CEO of a dental business — and he races for love, not money. It’s not supposed to

Abu Dhabi Notebook

With oil trading at more than $100 a barrel, Abu Dhabi holds a jackpot-winning ticket in the lottery of life. The emirate sits on reserves of nearly 100 billion barrels, about 9 per cent of the world’s proven supply. At today’s pumped-up price, its subterranean treasure is worth at least $10 trillion. That’s $10,000,000,000,000.Abu Dhabi