“Come clamb zeh kheel vid me, bebby!” Who could resist such an enticement? Not any Russian citizen desirous of remaining at liberty, for the enticer there was Supreme-Leader-for-Life Vladimir Putin. The kheel, sorry hill, in question was the Blueberry Hill made most famous by Fats Domino in his 1956 R&B hit song of that name. Vlad was crooning the classic to a celebrity audience at a charity show in St. Petersburg on Dec. 10. The enthusiastic attendees included Goldie Hawn, Kevin Costner, Sharon Stone, and other American showbiz luminaries. Among Russians not present were Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova, and the scores of other journalists and activists murdered since Putin took charge. Nor was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s most humane and capable but least Putin-compliant entrepreneur, in the audience. He was in jail awaiting sentence — delivered three weeks later — on preposterous, rigged-up charges. (For more on these acts of oppression, see David Pryce-Jones’s article on page 24.) As Putin crooned to the worshipful celebs: “Oll of zose vows ve made vair neveh to be.”
The town of Trevélez, in the hills of Granada province, southern Spain, is famous for its air-cured hams. A schoolteacher in the neighboring province of Cádiz told his students about this in a geography class, explaining that the cold, dry climate of Trevélez is ideal for the curing process. A Muslim student objected to hearing the word “ham,” as his religion taught that the pig is unclean. The teacher said that he was simply giving an example. The student reported the incident to his parents, who called the police, who went to the school and took a statement from the teacher. A prosecution was threatened under Article 525 of the Spanish penal code, which makes it a crime to “offend the feelings of the members of a religious confession,” but the complaint was dismissed. Still, the law includes no exception for, and thus encourages, the hypersensitive and the deranged.