Monday, September 26, 2011


On Wednesdays my friend Andre and I have lunch at the Hungarian Old Age Home’s Cafeteria where a three course meal (Soup of the Day, Wiener Schnitzel with Home Fried Potatoes and Hungarian-style Cucumber Salad, and Dessert, PLUS a glass of the house red and a can of soda water that you can mix with the wine to make a fröcs) sets you back no more than $16, including tip.

We take our time over the meal and try to engage in meaningful conversation, such as:

Andre: I think I have a solution to Greece’s economic woes…

Robert: You don’t say! Tell me, tell me more …

Andre: Angela Merkel had it right – the Greeks should sell their gold reserves to the Germans …

Robert: They don’t have enough gold to cover the deficit …

Andre: I know …

Robert: So?

Andre: They should then start selling off their islands to the Germans and keep on doing so until they’ve made up the shortfall …

Robert: You mean like Mykonos, Delos, Santorini?

Andre: Yes, why not? And Crete if necessary – and the Greek part of Cyprus to the Turks …


Red lingerie to lure Hungarians online for census
BUDAPEST | Wed Sep 7, 2011 2:30 pm EDT

(Reuters) - Hungary has produced a provocative video advertisement to encourage more people to fill out its national census online next month.

In a video posted on social networking sites Wednesday, a topless young woman in red underwear, lacy black stockings and holding a whip opens the door to a census taker, who, realizing he has arrived at an inopportune moment -- offers her the option of completing the census online.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Chapter Three

Our race is called Homo Sapiens in Latin which literally translated into English means Man who Knows or, if you prefer Man who Thinks, or Man who has the capacity to Think.

Allow me respectfully to disagree. Homo Sapiens is a misnomer. We do not think – at least not logically!

Consider this:

The “Canadian Oil Sands”, North America’s largest recoverable oil deposit, a 54,000 square mile patch of oily sand (popularly referred to as ‘tar’) in the Athabasca basin of Alberta contains between 1.7 trillion and 2.5 trillion barrels of oil. With today’s technology, recoverable reserves stand at 178.6 billion barrels.

That makes it the world’s second largest oil reserve, second to Saudi Arabia.

Currently, there aren't enough pipelines to supply hungry markets in the U.S. and Asia. That lack of pipeline capacity is holding back full-bore oil sands production. But last week, the U.S. State Department gave its approval to the Keystone XL pipeline.

This giant, 1,700-mile pipeline would run from Alberta, across the Great Plains to Houston, Texas. It would double the volume of oil we currently export to the US to 4 million barrels per day. That's about 44% of U.S. oil imports.

Unfortunately, the process of extracting the oil from the tar sand involves pumping steam – lots of it – through the sand. The steam then turns into contaminated water that, in turn, poisons the Albertan aquifer.

Not to worry: water is a renewable resource – right?

This assumption is false. At some time in the near future, water bankruptcy will result. A United Nations study says that by 2025 – only 14 years away – two-thirds of the world will be "water-poor."

The consumption of water is doubling every 20 years, twice the rate of world population growth.

The underground aquifer that supplies one-third of the water for the continental United States is being depleted eight times faster than it is being replenished.

Saudi Arabia is a net exporter of wheat using non-renewable water reserves. Saudi Arabia is expected to exhaust its water reserves in 50 years.

Meanwhile what are we Canadians doing?

Depleting our non-renewable oil reserves to ‘help’ our economy while, at the same time, poisoning our precious non-renewable water reserves – that’s what.

We will be hearing much more about water in coming months and years. And if wars of the future will be fought over water – which they will be – Canada will be in the thick of the battle.

Monday, September 5, 2011


“US Government Asset Seizures on the Rise”

…or so claimed the headline of an article in the Wall Street Journal last week. This set me to thinking about what the dickens to do in case the fur really began to fly.

Then I came across an article written by Bill Bonner in the Daily Reckoning, a newspaper with an admittedly alarmist penchant, that contained the following piece of advice I thought I should share with you in spite of its decidedly exaggerated tone.

Here is what Bill Bonner wrote:

I’ve long advocated for an internationalization strategy: diversifying various assets and interests overseas so that no one single government has total control over your livelihood.

Store your gold in Switzerland. Open a bank account in Hong Kong. Register your company in the BVI. Establish a ‘backup’ residency in Chile. Expand your business in Brazil. Get a better job in Singapore. Obtain a second passport in Malta. Open a brokerage account in the Cayman Islands.

This approach is NOT just for the super rich.

Taking some simple steps to protect yourself will give you extraordinary peace of mind. You’ll know that, without doubt, you have some savings socked away that NOBODY can touch. You’ll know that you have a solid emergency backup plan. You’ll know that everything you’ve worked for won’t vanish in an instant.

Bill Bonner is not exactly an optimist. He went on to relate the following story:

I had dinner at a London pub last night. My companion was Dylan Grice, an analyst with Societe Generale.

The subject of discussion was Yeats’ poem — ‘Sailing to Byzantium.’ We agreed that whatever Yeats intended, we saw it as a farewell to the growth economies of the Western World — including Japan.

I said ‘They are all fastened to a whole herd of dying animals. An archaic social welfare model. Debts that cannot be paid. Promises that cannot be kept. The declining marginal utility of oil. Zombies everywhere — including in education, finance, healthcare, defense and other major industries. De-leveraging in the private sectors. Impending bankruptcies in the public sectors. Insolvent banks. Corrupt and incompetent governments.’


Monday, August 15, 2011


Chapter Two

The shenanigans, posturing and waffling in Washington resulted, as predicted, in major pressure on the world’s stock markets where the price of securities fluttered up and down world-wide like the eyelids of a maiden attempting to inveigle her paramour into giving her a substantial gift – perhaps a $4.3 Million apartment in Manhattan, a la George Soros.

Interesting man, Uncle George, and very true to form. (Most Hungarian men, whatever their age, consider not soccer, but skirt-chasing, the Hungarian national sport).

Also true to form as a contrarian, was Uncle George’s decision to bail out of gold. (In May he called the metal the ultimate bubble, but recently he moderated this observation by saying that “I called gold the ultimate bubble which means it may go higher but it’s certainly not safe and it’s not going to last forever.”).

Regardless, he lightened his Soros Fund Management LLC’s holdings of gold and closed this immensely successful hedge-fund to ‘outsiders’, announcing that, henceforth, he will manage only his own money and not that of others. He then proceeded to pay everybody out and predicted that “we are on the verge of an economic crisis”.

So what else is new?

Meanwhile back at the ranch – at the bull ranch that is – Angela Merkel suggested to the Spanish and Greek governments that they sell their gold reserves to pay down their countries’ debts.

You can imagine how these Macho legislators welcomed this suggestion, especially since it came from a woman.

While Rome is burning (as are Lisbon and Madrid and Athens) the Americans are having a Tea Party in Washington, and Libyans, Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis are bathing in blood.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Most of the time people call this building “the US Capitol”.

Today, many characterize it as The Theatre of the Absurd, or The Kabuki Theatre.


Because, in its hallowed halls, members of the Senate and of Congress are presently behaving as if they were performing at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival.

I am a Canadian with no ax to grind. Like everyone around the world, though, I watch, perplexed, as the globe’s most powerful nation clumsily stumbles toward shooting itself in the foot by destroying its AAA Credit Rating, thereby probably precipitating yet another world economic crisis of unimaginable proportion.

Don’t the ‘wise’ US legislators realize that they have already undermined the power of the US Dollar to the point where oil-producing countries have begun not to accept payment for their products in US Currency, that the Russians, the Europeans and the Chinese are in the process of creating a “currency” based on a basket composed of a mixture of Euros, Rubles and Yuans or some other mix designed to replace the US Dollar as the currency of international debt settlement?

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that the fur will suddenly hit the fan on August 2. The US will not default on its obligations on that date, whether or not the Bill to raise the debt limit becomes law. The Americans will muddle through for a month or even two, but, if the legislators don’t address DEFICIT REDUCTION then…watch out … gold will double in its value vis-à-vis the US Dollar (may be to as high as US $3,000 per ounce), Mr. Chavez and his Middle Eastern colleagues will stop accepting US Dollars in payment for petroleum products, gas will cost US $8 a gallon at the pump, and interest rates will rise sharply thereby stifling world-wide any meaningful economic recovery.

In summary, unless US legislators come to their senses and start acting responsibly SOON the US’s economy (supposedly the strongest in the world) will start resembling that of Greece.

You might well ask what qualifies me to make such a sweeping series of predictions. My answer is: ‘been there done that’.

I was there when gold was US $35 per ounce and silver $7 (the year I became a Chartered Accountant after having graduated from McGill University with a Major in Economics.)

I was there when the Hunt Brothers drove up the price of silver to US $48 an ounce almost overnight.

I was a Bankruptcy Trustee, liquidating banks in the Cayman Islands when the 1973/74 world-wide liquidity crisis impacted on the planet’s economies thereby ruining a number of large banks.

I spent over a decade chasing after money launderers in the Western Hemisphere.

I watched with alarm the shenanigans of Wall Street Merchant Bankers whose cavalier approach to leveraging precipitated the last crisis and I was happy to be living in a country – Canada – where banks were more strictly regulated than in the US.

I am now watching the US Treasury trying to lift the US out of the economic hole in which it finds itself by printing more and more money to pay for entitlements with little regard to whether or not the country’s economy can afford them.

As a consequence, I am now also witnessing the decline in value of the US Dollar vis-à-vis gold AND THE CANADIAN AND AUSTRALIAN DOLLARS.

And last, but not least, I am watching in amazement the upward trend in EMIGRATION of US citizens to Canada in the North and Belize (and other similar ‘safe’ havens) to the South.

Let’s face it, one does not have to be a genius to start, after having connected the dots, worrying about what is happening in the good old US of A.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


This is what I wrote in 2005 about the villain (Mike) of my fourth novel, FATAL GREED:

Mike spent the following week revisiting the coin dealers he had contacted … and gave them individual lists of gold coins he wished to purchase, figuring that with gold at three hundred dollars an ounce, for seven hundred thousand dollars he would have to purchase about two thousand four hundred gold coins, weighing approximately seventy kilos in total.

Mike planned to hide the coins on board his yacht and leave England for Costa Rica where he figured he’d chill out for a while.GOLD AT $300 AN OUNCE – SIX SHORT YEARS AGO!Today it’s above $1,500.

So what happened?
The US Treasury started printing money like crazy, that’s what happened.

The idea behind this move is the belief that printing more money would help the US to finance itself out of the present economic crisis.

Problem is that the oil-producing nations have begun thinking seriously about not accepting US Dollars anymore in payment for their petroleum products.

In other words, the US Dollar is in danger of losing its status as the currency of international debt settlement. Instead Europe, Russia and China are proposing a ‘basket’ of currencies which they might call the ‘Banko’ with which they intend to replace the petro-dollar.

And when this happens, watch out – gold will shoot up to US $3,000 per ounce.

The rush for gold is already on. People are concerned about the economic uncertainty to the point where they want to hold the metal itself, not the certificates.

Which means that the places where you can leave your metal for safekeeping are becoming more and more hard to find.

As if all this were not bad enough, let me tell you the following story:

A jeweler’s heirs are fighting the United States government for the right to keep a batch of rare and valuable “Double Eagle” $20 coins that date back to the Franklin Roosevelt administration.

Philadelphian Joan Langbord and her sons say they found the 10 coins in 2003 in a bank deposit box kept by Langbord’s father, Israel Switt, a jeweler who died in 1990. But when they tried to have the haul authenticated by the U.S. Treasury, the feds, um, flipped.
Source: Yahoo

More from the Associated Press:

Treasury officials charge that the never-circulated “double eagles” were stolen from the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia in 1933. They could be worth $80 million or more, given that one sold for nearly $7.6 million in 2002.

The coins come from a batch that were struck but melted down after President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the country off the gold standard in 1933.

Two were preserved for the Smithsonian Institute. But a handful more mysteriously got out.
The daughter and grandsons of Israel Switt, a jeweler and scrap metal dealer on nearby Jeweler’s Row, say they discovered 10 of them in his bank deposit box in 2003.

Joan Langbord of Philadelphia and her sons went to the U.S. Treasury to authenticate the coins, but the government instead seized them. Authorities noted that the box was rented six years after Switt died in 1990, and that the family never paid inheritance taxes on them.

What’s more, the Secret Service has long believed Switt and a corrupt cashier at the Mint were somehow involved in the double-eagle breach.

While the Treasury’s position is understandable with regards to the coins being stolen, unless they have direct evidence of these specific coins being linked to theft and Switt’s involvement (which is circumstantial at best) then these coins belong to the Langbord family.

Author: Mac Slavo
Date: July 7th, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I am happy to report that my work takes me to Spain often and that this gives me the opportunity to indulge in one of my great hobbies … eating well in good company.

And nobody knows how to eat (and drink) better – and more – than the Spaniards.

I was thrilled to discover that the owners of the hotel in which I usually stay in Toledo decided to renovate and to create a gourmet restaurant on the ground floor.

They did not forget the icing on the cake, so to speak. The restaurant is “equipped” with A FIRST CLASS, IMAGINATIVE, YOUNG CHEF!

That’s him, sitting with us after our having consumed a delicious dinner, a dinner that lasted about two hours and a half and ended at midnight. (The Spanish eat very late at night.)

Friday, June 24, 2011


Last Saturday I spent the afternoon in Montreal selling my book, Havana Harvest, at the Chapters store on St. Catherine Street. On Sunday I headed for the Indigo store on McGill College Avenue to do the same thing.

I met some amazing people and had a great time.

When I saw the guy with the black Fedora I accosted him and asked where he got the hat. We started a conversation in English and he told me he was from Haifa, Israel. “But where from originally?” I asked. “From Hungary.”

“So why don’t we speak in Hungarian?” I asked in Hungarian.

He cracked up. “We’re everywhere, aren’t we?”

Needless to say, I made a sale.

Then I saw a couple coming toward me, holding hands. “How sweet…” I said and the man laughed. He turned out to be a TV Show producer at the Montreal studios of CTV and I promptly chatted him up.

He kindly volunteered to talk about me to some of the Channel’s production people both here and in Toronto – next day I found that he did.

Merci beaucoup.

Perhaps I’ll realize my dream: to be interviewed on TV by Mitsumi Takahashi and then, perhaps, to be invited onto the week-day Canada AM Show.

The next visit was with a lovely young lady from Mexico who bought a copy of my book for her Dad for Fathers’ Day. Here she is with her Mom and her sister.

My friend Pierro (originally from Rumania) and his lovely wife Debra dropped by to say hello and they brought along Ivan Smith who took all these terrific pictures.

My final sale was to a woman dressed in white. She, too, was there to buy a book for her Dad and he wrote to me next day to say “thank you”.

Guess what. He is also Hungarian.
Pretty cool mix of people overall, wouldn’t you say?

But nothing can beat the picture that shows me having dinner at the Bloody Words literary event in Victoria BC a couple of weeks ago with – I kid you not – a LION-TAMER.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

National Crime Writing Month

On Location with Robert Landori

A Good Memory is a Shortcut to Great Locations
I wrote my very first book on a dare, for a girl-friend whom I had indelicately criticised for reading trash. She had reposted with: “All right smart aleck, if you’re so intelligent why don’t you write me a book that’s better?

Within a year she was reading my first novel.

I hurried to finish the book because I had bet her a dinner that I could perform within twelve months. So I had to look for short-cuts and there was no time for researching “locations”. To solve this problem I delved into my memory banks and chose the venues I knew intimately: Montreal, the Laurentian Mountains, the hospital in which I had worked to earn money as an undergraduate at McGill, the countryside around the English public school I had attended, Georgetown near Washington etc…

I am a lucky man. My work has allowed me to travel far and wide, and to visit enough locations to “situate” at least ten novels.

Galindo’s Turn
(my first novel)
Before he became Robert Lonsdale his name was Bernard Lands.

He lived with his wife, Andrea, in a remote area in the Laurentian Mountains near Montreal. (Picture 1). Islamic terrorists, tipped off by a mole inside the CIA as to his real identity, attempted to assassinate him while he was cross-country skiing, but only managed to wound him.

He was treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital (Picture 2) where the assassins struck again, missed once more, but killed his wife.

Land fled to the Washington area and entered the CIA’s Employee Protection Program where they gave him a new name, a new face and a new identity. He became Robert Lonsdale an obscure analyst with the US Environmental Agency. He bought himself a condo in Georgetown (Picture 3) and started to work for the Agency’s super secret Counter-Terrorism and Counter Narcotics Division (Picture 5).

It took him a year to identify the mole who had betrayed him and whom he then hunted down and neutralized at Frensham Ponds in Surrey, England (Picture 4).

Robert Landori went to school in England, France, Switzerland and Hungary; of necessity he learned eight languages in the process. He completed his education at McGill University in Montreal, became a Chartered Accountant then traveled for over twenty years in the Caribbean and South America as an exporter‑importer, business consultant and trustee in bankruptcy.

Charged with espionage in Cuba, he spent sixty-six days in solitary confinement, and was eventually ‘let go’ without explanation. His experiences in prison prompted him to write his fifth book, Havana Harvest (a story about a Cuban general, condemned to death by the Castro regime).

His first book, GALINDO’S TURN, was the result of a challenge, twenty-five years ago, by a girlfriend to “write an intelligent book within a year”.

Shh... "The Agency’s super secret Counter-Terrorism and Counter Narcotics Division"

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


This year the combined ARTHUR ELLIS AWARD DINNER / BLOODY WORDS CONVENTION was held in Victoria, British Columbia, a beautiful seaside town.

As usual, I was roped into presenting the Arthur Ellis Prize for the best French Mystery Novel of the year. I took advantage of the situation by practicing my Franglais, a combination of English and French, the nuances of which only Quebecers can really understand.

We were honored to have Lison Lescarbeau with us this year. She’s the ‘Directrice’ of Quebecor Media’s Groupe Librex and oversees the publishing of books through five imprints: Libre Expression, Trécarré, Stanké, Les Éditions Logiques and Les Éditions Publistar. Two of the five finalists came from her stable!

My major contribution, however, was not the Franglais, but a 90 minute information session on MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORISM, which I had to prepare and deliver on a couple of hours’ notice as a pinch-hitter. (A work-shop leader became ill at the last moment).

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Venezuelan-Cuban Fiber Optic Cable: A Connection to the World?

Extracts from an article by Vanessa Lopez, a Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami.

The much anticipated fiber optic cable from Venezuela to Cuba finally reached Cuba’s shores February 8, 2011.

The cable is expected to increase the speed of data, images, and voice transmission by 3,000 times and will be capable of carrying 10 million simultaneous international calls. TGC will also extend the cable to Jamaica.

Although the cable has now reached Cuba’s shore, its complete installation throughout the country is not expected to be complete until July of 2011. Noting that the initial project took double the projected time-frame, it is possible that the July date will be postponed.

Although many Cubans hope that this new cable may improve their chances of accessing the internet, it will do little to expand the population’s access to the World Wide Web. As Waldo Reboredo, the Vice President of Telecomunicaciones Gran Caribe (TGC), stated, what the cable will do, in addition to increasing speed, is provide Cuba with a cheaper alternative to its current system. Reboredo estimates the new cable will reduce costs by twenty-five percent. Whether the Cuban government will reduce the prices paid for internet access by users – primarily foreign businesses, tourists, government officials, and students (who have restricted access) – or if it will maintain prices and pocket the difference, remains to be seen.

There is little question that General Raul Castro’s regime would like to maintain its iron grip on information technology. After all, there is a reason why Cuba has the lowest rate of fixed broadband connectivity in the Western Hemisphere; it has nothing to do with the U.S. economic embargo, despite the government’s attempts to deflect blame. A survey done by Cuba’s National Statistics Office puts the figure of those who have direct access to the internet around 2.9%. And most of that 2.9% consists of government officials or others who have restricted access to the World Wide Web from monitored places of employment or education, and not from the privacy of their own homes (even though home internet usage is monitored as well).

The Castro government sees the internet as a dangerous tool to spread foreign propaganda and disseminate information to a population accustomed to hearing little other than the official Communist Party line. A recently leaked video of Eduardo Fontes Suarez, an official in MININT’s counter-intelligence apparatus, lecturing uniformed members of Cuba’s Armed Forces about the dangers of information technology perfectly depicts the government’s fear. Fontes Suarez speaks to the threat posed by the social networks Facebook and Twitter and the dangers of WiFi as well as the peaceful student group Raices de Esperanza which seeks to promote person-to-person contact between Cuban youth abroad and their counterparts on the island. Cuban blogger Claudia Cadelo explains why: "They don't want the social networks to spread because they are aware of the danger that poses to a totalitarian government which hides the truth from its people."

Renowned blogger Yoani Sanchez agrees, recognizing the government’s intention behind the cable, saying “this underwater connection seems destined more to control us than to link us to the world.” However, Sanchez further writes that she believes that Cubans will be able to circumvent barriers the government will place on internet connections throughout the country, saying “it is quite likely that many of the digital pulses will reach the hands of those who can pay for them. With authorization or without, connection hours will be sold — to the highest bidder — in a country where diversion of resources is a daily practice, a strategy for survival.”

The fiber optic cable is designed to do little more than increase the speed of already existing connections and reduce costs for the Cuban government. This cable connects Cuba to Venezuela; it will be up to the Cuban populace to innovate ways to connect itself to the world.



Sunday, May 22, 2011

On the ‘road’ with CHAPTERS/ INDIGO

Last Sunday I started my campaign to sell copies of Havana Harvest at the retail level in Canada. I visited my friends at Chapters/Indigo (Canada’s biggest book retailer) and lined up three ‘Meet and Greet the Author events’ to see if I still had the ‘touch’, that is to say the ability to interact with people on a totally spontaneous ‘in-your-face’ basis.

I’m happy to report that the first such event – at Chapters’ Fairview Mall store – went off without a hitch on May 15.

In fact, it was remarkably successful; I left the Managers with big smiles on their faces.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Crime Writers of Canada (CWC), of which I am a member, organized an extended interviewing session on 102.3 FM Radio Centre Ville’s program called Contes a Rendre (Happenings) with three authors (two French and one English).

The bilingual show ran from 6 to 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 1, 2010, and was an unqualified success.

Each of us was asked to say a few words about our respective books and then to read a short extract from it.

We had a lot of fun so I thought you would be glad to see the pictures that were taken to show three hard-working Canadian authors slaving away on a Sunday at the crack of dawn.

If you’re interested in what was said, you can catch the podcast by clicking on the play button:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Woman dies from mad cow disease in Spain (CNN)

I was on my way back to Montreal and got to talking with the man sitting next to me on the plane. When I told him that I was a writer and that one of my books (FATAL GREED) was about Human Mad Cow (Creutzfeldt-Jakob’s) Disease he became very agitated. He said that two members of his extended family (a mother and her son) had died of nvCJD some years ago and that, as far as he was concerned, the disease was hereditary.

I found this hard to believe because, when I researched the topic for my book, I read that humans become infected either through coming into contact with incorrectly sterilized surgical instruments, or through eating contaminated tissue (for example beef).

Sure enough, a couple of days after my arrival home CNN reported as follows.

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spaniard has died from the human form of mad cow disease, the fifth such death in Spain since 2005, the Ministry of Health said in a statement late Friday.

The victim was a woman who was hospitalized last fall, according to Juan Jose Badiola, director of Spain's national research center for mad cow disease.

The Spanish Ministry of Health reiterated that there is no danger from eating meat in Spain.

"The appearance of these sporadic cases is within the predictions that were made at the European level more than nine years ago," the ministry statement said.

Ten years can pass between eating contaminated tissue and the appearance of the human form of the disease also called variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, health officials say.

The first confirmed death from mad cow disease in Spain was in 2005, when a young woman died near Madrid.

The article went on to state that, last September officials reported the death of a woman and her son from the human form of mad cow disease .This was believed to have been the first case in the world where two members of the same family have died from the disease. However, and this is important, the mother and her son had the same eating habits which included eating animal organs, such as kidneys and livers, and they may also have eaten animal brains.

It seems my seat-mate on the plane was, indeed, mistaken.

What is certain though is that, in some cases, nvCJD has an incubation period that has to be measured in decades and not in months. Consequently, only time will tell (decades) how many of us are already infected with this disease.

Given the fact that the USDA only tests one cow out of every 2,000, no one really knows how many of these infected animals may have already entered the human food supply.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


We don’t realize what risks we are taking in our mad rush to invent ever more efficient methods of production to satisfy the consumerism so prevalent throughout the world. We cut corners willy-nilly to make things and provide services as cheaply as possible so as to be able to sell, sell, sell, thereby feeding the ‘bottom line’ of the huge corporations that generate what we consume. No industry – and especially not the food industry – is safe from shortsightedness when it comes to trying to increase efficiency. We force-feed the chickens and the cattle that we eat, we treat our dairy and vegetable products with chemicals so that they ripen quicker and keep their freshness longer and we try to ‘reduce waste’ wherever feasible. One such effort to ‘reduce waste’ (and increase profitability) was to mix into the feed destined for consumption by our cattle the finely-ground remains of dead cows and bulls. The result was catastrophic, not only for the animals that consumed this tainted fodder, but also for the human race. The animals involved developed BSE – Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or MAD COW DISEASE. (Their brain matter literally turned to mush resembling sponges – hence the name). BSE was first reported in the UK in 1986. Since that year, according to the world health Organization (WHO) about two hundred thousand cases have occurred in the UK. BSE in the UK began to decline in 1992 and has continuously declined year by year since then. Unfortunately, however, BSE has spread to 21 other countries. This is bad news, but not as bad as the news that the disease had mutated into a new form: HUMAN BSE. When BSE material infects humans the resulting disease is known as (new) variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob’s Disease (nvCJD). It is invariably fatal.
My book, FATAL GREED, is about a hypothetical occurrence in which surgical glue, manufactured from bovine blood, is accidentally infected by nvCJD. The glue is sent out to hospitals around the world where unsuspecting surgeons start using it thereby infecting and killing thousands of people. FATAL GREED is available in hard-cover and eBook form from Its plot is entirely plausible and very topical.

Sunday, March 20, 2011



Mergers, Acquisitions and Corporate Finance are businesses that constantly challenge the mettle and moral fortitude of those who earn their keep with this dark Art.
I should know, I was one of its practitioners for over three decades.
But then, the world of business is widely peopled by men of questionable morality. Why else did we have to witness the Ponzi scheme of a Madoff or the highly questionable practices of the top executives of Wall Street's most prestigious bankers?

Chicanery in business appalls me so I wrote a book about it and called it FATAL GREED (because greed can, indeed, be fatal at times).

My story is about two men who manufacture surgical glue from bovine blood, and, by mistake, infect a batch with human Mad Cow Disease.
The infected glue gets shipped out to hospitals everywhere and people start dying from it.
When the two realize what they have done they can't agree on what to do next.
They fight.
The bad guy kills the good guy and runs away with the money they had made selling the glue.
Their company goes bankrupt. The glue becomes an orphan and an excellent candidate for being turned into a Weapon of Mass Destruction.


Sunday, March 13, 2011


Some months ago (see my September 30, 2010 blog) I commented about how Fidel was proposing to refloat his flagging economy by allowing Cubans to start small businesses, the idea being that those who had access to money in the US would ask friends and relatives there to finance the establishment of micro enterprises on the island.

Surprisingly, the ponderously slow-moving Cuban bureaucracy has somehow managed to issue over 75,000 licenses to budding entrepreneurs by the end of 2010 thereby almost doubling the number of officially self-employed people. Of course, there is a way to go yet – according to the Cuban labor federation, within the next thirty days Raul expects to lay off about half a million of the over 4 million workers employed by the State (about 80 per cent of those who have jobs in Cuba).

Although most of the new entrepreneurs are earning more now than they were when their government paid them $20 per month as bureaucrats, they have started to worry about whether the market will support hundreds of thousands of freelancers. What is certain, though, is that the fledgling businesses are winning hearts and minds: people like to see drab streets coming to life as freshly painted signs and colorful awnings start to appear not only in Havana but also in towns right across the Republic.

An interesting side effect of this development is its impact on state-run enterprises: people prefer to frequent establishments run by private owners rather than by the State because they get better service and more value for their money. Thus, the freelancers do not only represent an emerging new middle class, but also real competition for state-owned businesses that have now begun to lose custom at an alarming rate.

Meanwhile, the Castro Brothers are preparing for the VI Congress of the Cuban Communist Party at which it is presumed the party’s Polit Bureau will evaluate the situation of the country’s affairs, the problems it faces, and the solutions the Bureau proposes to overcome them.

Presumably those militants invited to the Congress will be allowed to comment and ask questions. One of the questions is bound to be: WHITHER FIDEL CASTRO?

Will he stand for ‘re-election’ for the post of First Secretary of the Party? Will he cede this, the most powerful post in the land, to his brother, Raul? Will he content himself to be Number Two not only in law but in fact as well?

Or will he just fade away? (I DOUBT IT.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011


A writer struggles to be inspirationally creative, imaginatively informative and excitingly entertaining while fighting for market share and critical recognition. Not easy to have all these balls in the air at the same time.

But at times the rewards – and I’m not talking about financial rewards – are quite amazing. Yes, at times the light is worth the candle.

I received two such rewards last week.

The first was an extraordinarily civilized interview with Jason Hartman, the host on the JetSetters radio show. Listen to how well it went by clicking on

You can also read about what was said by going to

The second was most touching. My publisher sent me a large envelope that contained a greeting card and an in-depth analysis (12 handwritten pages) by Isabelle MacWilliam of Toronto, Canada of my book Havana Harvest.

She quotes Chapter 3, page 24, para 3: “He was not lonely, just alone, and he enjoyed being so” and then she goes on: “Essentially I comprehend this very personal salient statement of Lonsdale [the the principal character of Havana Harvest.] For a whirligig of intervening time after a person close to one dies, the sanguine is set aside for a spell.”

Elegantly put.

Thank you for understanding.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


“Los Aldeanos” is one of the most rebellious groups of rappers in Cuba. Using admittedly vulgar language, their songs aggressively attack the deficiencies of life on that island.

Last week they were the center of a ‘a public scandal’ in Holguin after they had tried to visit two young brothers, incarcerated since December 25 for having “played the duo’s music too loud”.

They were not allowed access, so they went to visit the brothers’ home where their presence attracted over 1500 young people of whom about 80 were arrested and five wounded. During this ‘public disturbance’ the police were pelted with stones.

On another topic, this week I was very pleasantly surprised to see Havana Harvest as #1 on a list of fantastic international fiction on!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Westmount (Montreal) branch of Rotary asked me to speak about Cuba and my novel, Havana Harvest, at their weekly get-together last Wednesday.

I was amazed by how many of those attending had already been to Cuba or were planning to go this Spring. Naturally, they were interested in getting information about present conditions in that country, but their predominant preoccupation can be summed up by this question: “What will happen after the Castro Brothers leave the scene?”

I told them about the Cuban Transitional Project undertaken by the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American studies and more particularly about the work of Professors Jose Azel and Brian Latell who are attempting to develop a model of what is likely to happen. I cautioned them about expecting fundamental changes any time soon because, in my opinion, Raul Castro’s control over the military, the government and the communist party seems to be secure – at least for the time being.

I also took the opportunity to say a few words about the imminent launch of a digital edition of Fatal Greed, my novel about a batch of surgical glue, infected by human Mad Cow disease that Islamist terrorists were planning to use as a Weapon of Mass Destruction.