| Oscar Pistorius Indicted for Murder of Girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp!

Oscar Pistorius Indicted for Murder of Girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp ~ Devon Maylie, Speakeasy, WSJ.

Getty Images
South African athlete Oscar Pistorius appears in Pretoria Magistrates Court for an indictment hearing on August 19, 2013 in Pretoria, South Africa.

PRETORIA – Oscar Pistorius stood in the middle of the courtroom holding back tears. Behind him to his right, family members sat with their arms wrapped around each other — every now and then breaking into impromptu prayer sessions. To his back left, the best friends of his slain girlfriend,Reeva Steenkamp, sat teary eyed.

Neither side spoke to one another. Although physically separated by only a foot-wide aisle, the distance between the two camps appeared much wider.

Mr. Pistorius, nicknamed the “Blade Runner” for his carbon fiber prosthesis, will return to court next March (2014) to face the charge of premeditated murder for the killing of Ms. Steenkamp. On Monday, the state submitted its indictment sheet—but he wasn’t formally charged.

Monday would have been Ms. Steenkamp’s 30th birthday.

The Myers family, close friends of the blonde fashion model and paralegal Ms. Steenkamp, made sure those in attendance didn’t forget the woman at the center of the case. As the Pistorius family filed out of court, the Myers family lawyer read out a statement.

“Not a day has gone by that anyone who ever came into contact with Reeva Steenkamp hasn’t thought about her,” the Myers family said. Instead of celebrating her birthday, they said, the day “will now mark a court appearance relating to her untimely passing six months ago.”

Little was said during the 10 minute court appearance. Judge Desmond Nair asked how the athlete was doing.

“I’m OK under the circumstances, your honor,” Mr. Pistorius replied in a hushed voice absent of all the confidence he once exuded on the track. The Olympic and Paralympic athlete Monday looked tired, less fit and – like many others in the courtroom — ready to cry. Mr. Pistorius sobbed through his first court appearance in February, after the Valentine’s Day shooting.

Ms. Steenkamp was killed by three of four bullets Mr. Pistorius fired through the bathroom door. Mr. Pistorius said at the time he believed a burglar was inside. The state said in its indictment sheet Monday that it has witnesses who heard a woman screaming, followed by the sound of gunshots.

The usual media crowds showed up for the latest chapter of the Pistorius saga, the unlikely story of how a 26-year old runner with no legs became famous and rich through sponsorship deals – and how it all came crashing down with the shooting of his girlfriend.  Cameramen clamored on top of one another to push their lenses within a few inches of “Blade Runner’s” face.

But the frenzy had died down.

Six months ago, reporters elbowed their way past burly security guards for a coveted seat in the tiny Pretoria Magistrate Court courtroom C. Some came away with black eyes. On Monday, the courtroom was full, but no one had to fight for a space. Fewer international media flew in for the court appearance.

The Pistorius family said it’s eager to move forward – even if it’s toward a trial that will bring more intense media scrutiny. “We are grateful that a trial date has been set and that we can now start preparing for the court case,” his uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said later in the day.

Meanwhile, Ms. Steenkamp’s closest friends gathered to remember her at the Meyers’ home in Johannesburg, opening a bottle of champagne in a quiet gathering, the family’s lawyer Ian Levitt said. He said Ms. Steenkamp had wanted to be in Las Vegas for her 30th birthday.



| Frankie Boyle joins hunger strike in support of Guantánamo prisoner!

Frankie Boyle joins hunger strike in support of Guantánamo prisoner ~ The Guardian.

Scottish comedian tweets updates to fans while fasting to protest treatment of last British detainee Shaker Aamer.

Frankie Boyle

Frankie Boyle: fasting felt ‘a bit like being drunk’. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Comedian Frankie Boyle has started a hunger strike in solidarity withGuantánamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer, who has been striking for 150 days.

Boyle began fasting yesterday, joining Aamer’s lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who had already been fasting for seven days. Stafford Smith had previously tweeted that the comic was prepared to “take over from me when I fall” in theprotest, which aims to raise awareness of Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strike, some of whom have reportedly been force-fed.

Boyle has been posting updates on his Twitter feed, after sending his congratulations to Stafford Smith for his actions so far. Yesterday, he signalled the start of his shift by tweeting, “There’s no feeling on earth like being on hunger strike in a Dutch beach bar while they blast out Abba’s Dancing Queen.” Hours later, he added: “Well Day 1 of hunger not too bad. But let’s remember who’s really suffering. My local pizza shop. I jest.”

This morning, he described the start of his second day as feeling “a bit like being drunk.”

According to Stafford Smith, British actress Julie Christie has also agreed to undertake a week of the joint hunger strike.

Aamer is the last British resident imprisoned in Guantánamo, where he has been held without charge since 2002.

As of Saturday, 96 of the 166 prisoners at the detention centre were still being classified as hunger strikers by the US army, down from a high of 106.

Human rights lawyers claim those figures are being wilfully underestimated.

Aamer has twice attempted to pass Stafford Smith a list of those striking, but on both occasions names have been deleted by army censors. On 14 June, Aamer wrote a letter claiming “for sure” that 120 prisoners were on strike, despite an official count of 104.

In December, Boyle donated his £50,000 compensation from a libel action against the Daily Mirror to Aamer’s legal fund.


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Gitmo Collage GitmoTortureA

| Stephen Hawking and 7 other celebrities who’ve Boycotted Israel!

Stephen Hawking Israel Boycott: 7 Celebrities Who’ve Done It Too ~


stephen, hawking, israel, boycott:, 7, celebrities, whove, done, it, too, Stephen Hawking Israel Boycott 7 Celebrities Whove Done It Too

British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has announced his withdrawal from the upcoming Israeli conference in Jerusalem as part of an academic boycott to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

After initially agreeing to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference, hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres, the world-renowned scientist has now changed his mind.

According to a statement by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, Hawking’s move was “his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.”

Hawking’s decision to boycott, however, is not unaccompanied.

Here’s a list of numerous celebrities from across the globe who have also boycotted the country in an effort to promote the Palestinian cause:

1. Stevie Wonder

Performer Stevie Wonder decided not to perform as a gala benefit for Friends of the Israel Defence Forces’ in Los Angeles last December. 

“Given the current and very delicate situation in the Middle East, and with a heart that has always cried for world unity, I will not be performing at the FIDF Gala,” Wonder said in a Guardian article. “I am and have always been against war, any war, anywhere.”

2. Meg Ryan

In 2010, Hollywood actress Meg Ryan cancelled plans to attend the Jerusalem film festival after an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla left nine dead earlier that year.

Although Ryan did not specifically cite the country’s actions as a reason for opting out of the event, associate director of the Jerusalem Cinemateque, Yigal Molad Hayo, said “it became quite clear that [it] was the reason.”

“A day after the flotilla incident we got an email saying she was not going to attend,” said Hayo in a Guardian article. “Although they claimed it was because she was too busy it was clear to me that it probably had something to do with what had happened.”

3. Dustin Hoffman

Actor Dustin Hoffman also joined his colleague Meg Ryan in opting out of the annual Jerusalem film festival following Israel’s raid in 2010.

4. Elvis Costello

In 2010, Singer-songwriter Elvis Costello cancelled two summer performances in Israel citing that it was “a matter of instinct and conscience” to protest the treatment of Palestinians.

“There are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act …” Costello wrote on his website. “And it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.”

5. Julianne Moore 

In August 2010, a new cultural hall in the West Bank settlement of Ariel prompted a group of Israeli directors, actors and playwrights to perform in the building in protest of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians.

Oscar-nominated actress Julianne Moore joined numerous other Hollywood stars in lending her support to the boycott by signing a statement by the group Jewish Voice for Peace that praised the Israeli artists for having “refused to allow their work to be used to normalize a cruel occupation which they know to be wrong, which violates international law and which is impeding the hope for a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

6. Ken Loach

British-based director Ken Loach pulled his film Looking for Eric out of the Melbourne International Film festival in 2009 after organizers refused to reject Israeli government sponsorship. 

According to a Daily Telegraph article, Loach, who objected to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, were “part of an orchestrated campaign to target events that receive financial support from Israel.”

7. Emma Thompson

Two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson joined a group of 35 other artists protesting the participation of Tel Aviv’s Habima theatre at the Globe to Globe festival in London last summer. The Israeli theatre group was invited to perform The Merchant of Venice at the Shakespeare festival.

Thompson together with her fellow actors and industry artists signed a letter that argued Habima had “a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory. Last year, two large Israeli settlements established “halls of culture” and asked Israeli theatre groups to perform there. A number of Israeli theatre professionals — actors, stage directors, playwrights — declared they would not take part.”




| Morrissey issues second statement on Thatcher!

Morrissey issues second statement on Thatcher ~ Art, SUPAJAM.


Here’s another statement The Smiths‘ singer Morrissey made about the passing of Margaret Thatcher today, even more cutting than the one he made yesterday:

The difficulty with giving a comment on Margaret Thatcher’s death to the British tabloids is that, no matter how calmly and measured you speak, the comment must be reported as an “outburst” or an ”explosive attack” if your view is not pro-establishment.

If you reference “the Malvinas”, it will be switched to “the Falklands”, and your “Thatcher” will be softened to a “Maggie.” This is generally how things are structured in a non-democratic society. Thatcher’s name must be protected not because of all the wrong that she had done, but because the people around her allowed her to do it, and therefore any criticism of Thatcher throws a dangerously absurd light on the entire machinery of British politics.  

Thatcher was not a strong or formidable leader. She simply did not give a shit about people, and this coarseness has been neatly transformed into bravery by the British press who are attempting to re-write history in order to protect patriotism. As a result, any opposing view is stifled or ridiculed, whereas we must all endure the obligatory praise for Thatcher from David Cameron without any suggestion from the BBC that his praise just might be an outburst of pro-Thatcher extremism  from someone whose praise might possibly protect his own current interests.

The fact that Thatcher ignited the British public into street-riots, violent demonstrations and a social disorder previously unseen in British history is completely ignored by David Cameron in 2013. In truth, of course, no British politician has ever been more despised by the British people than Margaret Thatcher.

Thatcher’s funeral on Wednesday will be heavily policed for fear that the British tax-payer will want to finally express their view of Thatcher. They are certain to be tear-gassed out of sight by the police.

United Kingdom? Syria? China? What’s the difference?”



| Her gig cancelled after tirade, Michelle Shocked plays outside in protest!

Her Gig Canceled After Tirade, Michelle Shocked Plays Outside in Protest ~ LARRY ROHTER, New York Times.

Michelle Shocked outside Moe's Alley in Santa Cruz, Calif.
Thomas Vincent Mendoza/Associated Press. Michelle Shocked outside Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz, Calif.

After the punk-folk singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked made remarks critical of homosexuality and same-sex marriage while performing in San Francisco two weekends ago, clubs around the country responded bycanceling bookings they had made with her. But that hasn’t stopped her: Thursday night she turned up outside one such club with her face covered and her mouth taped shut to protest the way she is being treated.

The site of the sit-in staged by Ms. Shocked, who in the past has acknowledged being involved in lesbian relationships but now describes herself as a born-again Christian, was Moe’s Alley, in the university town and hippie haven of Santa Cruz, Calif., south of San Francisco. Seated outside the club with a mask across her mouth that read “Silenced by Fear,” she did not comment about the backlash against her onstage outburst, but instead pointed to a series of posters that had been placed above her head.

Her scheduled performance was canceled after she made anti-gay remarks at a show in San Francisco.
Thomas Vincent Mendoza/Associated PressHer scheduled performance was canceled after she made anti-gay remarks at a show in San Francisco.

“Does speech really scare you that much?” one inquired. Another asked “Is it possible Michelle Shocked was a target of fear-mongering in the name of a protection racket?” The most prominent reflected directly on the recent controversy: “What would you say to Michelle Shocked if you had waited to hear her side of the story vs. what was reported? Were you there?”

Dressed in a disposable safety suit, on the back of which was written “Gimme Wit Not Spit,” Ms. Shocked, 51, sat on the ground outside the club and strummed an acoustic guitar. Rather than engage spectators in conversation, she pointed to another sign, which invited people to use a marker and write their comments on her all-white outfit.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Shocked, who was raised in a religiously conservative household and is reported to have spent some time as a teenager in a psychiatric hospital, issued a Twitter message advising followers of what she planned to do. “It’s an art project,” she wrote. “’My Summer Vacation.’ I want your autograph. Bring Sharpie.”

At one point, the owner of Moe’s Alley, Bill Welch, came out to talk to Ms. Shocked. But he later told The Associated Press that he neither planned to rehire her nor take further steps against her. “We will not be bashing Michelle Shocked,” he said. “Rather we will celebrate music, diversity and send some healing Santa Cruz energy her way.”


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| Anthony Bourdain: Human race is ‘essentially good!’

Anthony Bourdain: Human race is ‘essentially good’ ~ Anthony Bourdain, CNN.

Anthony Bourdain reads the paper next to a local market in Yangon, Myanmar.

Anthony Bourdain reads the paper next to a local market in Yangon, Myanmar.

  • “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” takes you across the globe to exotic destinations
  • The CNN personality will share his unique perspective and insights while traveling the world
  • Bourdain: “People, wherever they live, are not statistics. They are not abstractions”
  • He hopes to show “what people are like at the table, at home, in their businesses, at play”

World-renowned chef, best-selling author and Emmy winning television personality Anthony Bourdain is the host of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” CNN’s new showcase for coverage of food and travel. The series is shot entirely on location. “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” premieres Sunday, April 14, at 9 p.m. ET

(CNN) — Before I set out to travel this world, 12 years ago, I used to believe that the human race as a whole was basically a few steps above wolves.

That given the slightest change in circumstances, we would all, sooner or later, tear each other to shreds. That we were, at root, self-interested, cowardly, envious and potentially dangerous in groups. I have since come to believe — after many meals with many different people in many, many different places — that though there is no shortage of people who would do us harm, we are essentially good.

That the world is, in fact, filled with mostly good and decent people who are simply doing the best they can. Everybody, it turns out, is proud of their food (when they have it). They enjoy sharing it with others (if they can). They love their children. They like a good joke. Sitting at the table has allowed me a privileged perspective and access that others, looking principally for “the story,” do not, I believe, always get.

People feel free, with a goofy American guy who has expressed interest only in their food and what they do for fun, to tell stories about themselves — to let their guard down, to be and to reveal, on occasion, their truest selves.

Meet the crewMeet the crew

Anthony Bourdain previews new CNN show

I am not a journalist. I am not a foreign correspondent. I am, at best, an essayist and enthusiast. An amateur. I hope to show you what people are like at the table, at home, in their businesses, at play. And when and if, later, you read about or see the places I’ve been on the news, you’ll have a better idea of who, exactly, lives there.

“Parts Unknown” is supposed to be about food, culture and travel — as seen through the prism of food. We will learn along with you. When we look at familiar locations, we hope to look at them from a lesser-known perspective, examine aspects unfamiliar to most.

People, wherever they live, are not statistics. They are not abstractions.

Bad things happen to good people all the time. When they do, hopefully, you’ll have a better idea who, and what, on a human scale, is involved.

I’m not saying that sitting down with people and sharing a plate is the answer to world peace. Not by a long shot.

But it can’t hurt.

Anthony Bourdain
Hotel El Minzah, Tangier




| White men can’t … be profiled!

David Sirota on CNN: The media doesn’t profile white men ~ Salon.

The columnist discusses a double standard when it comes to infamous killers VIDEO.

David Sirota on CNN: The media doesn't profile white men

Salon columnist David Sirota spoke with CNN to elaborate on his observation that recent mass shootings have been perpetrated by white men, and that “if this was any other kind of demographic, you would be hearing that in a much different way, a much uglier way.”

| Richard Burton reads ‘Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait!’

Richard Burton Reads ‘Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait’ and 14 Other Poems by Dylan Thomas  ~ LiteraturePoetry


When the actor Richard Burton died in 1984 he was buried, as he requested, with a copy of The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas.

Burton was a great friend and admirer of Thomas, who shared his Welsh heritage and rakish demeanor. The two men also shared a love of literature. “I was corrupted by Faust,” Burton once said. “And Shakespeare. And Proust. And Hemingway. But mostly I was corrupted by Dylan Thomas. Most people see me as a rake, womanizer, boozer and purchaser of large baubles. I’m all those things depending on the prism and the light. But mostly I’m a reader.”

In 1954 Burton read a selection of his friend’s poetry for a recording that would be released the following year as Richard Burton Reads 15 Poems by Dylan Thomas. The recordings were made about a year after the poet’s death, and just when Burton was riding high on the success of his 1954 performance in Thomas’s radio play Under Milk Wood. The long poem “Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait,” above, is from the 1954 sessions. The 14 poems below are mostly from the same sessions, although a couple of them might be from later recordings made by Burton.

  1. Under Milk Wood
  2. Deaths and Entrances
  3. Lament
  4. Elegy
  5. A Winter’s Tale
  6. Fern Hill
  7. Before I Knocked
  8. In My Craft or Sullen Art
  9. I See the Boys of Summer
  10. Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed
  11. The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower
  12. The Hand that Signed the Paper
  13. And Death Shall Have No Dominion
  14. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Related content:

Dylan Thomas Recites ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ and Other Poems



| UK statue honours Indian princess who as a secret agent was killed at a concentration camp!

Statue honours Indian secret agent killed at concentration camp ~ The Guardian.

Princess Anne unveils monument to Noor Inayat Khan, who died at Dachau in 1944 and won posthumous George Cross – this bronze sculpture celebrates Britain’s only female Muslim war heroine.

Britain honors Indian princess who doubled as spy

(Credit: Wikimedia)

In the winter of 1942 only the striking beauty of the young Indian woman reading a book on a London park bench in her lunch hour would have seemed exceptional.

A statue has now been unveiled by Princess Anne near the bench in Gordon Square, commissioned by a small group determined that the extraordinary story of Noor Inayat Khan, a gentle artistic intellectual who became a secret agent in occupied France and died aged 30 in Dachau concentration camp, should not be forgotten.

“The family is pleased – of course – honoured and touched,” said Noor’s cousin Mahmood Khan van Goens Youskine, who came from his home in the Netherlands for the ceremony along with family, friends, supporters and veterans from Germany, France, Russia and the United States. “This is a beautiful place to remember her story.” He was a boy of 12 when he last saw his cousin, but he remembers her vividly. “She made a tremendous impression on everyone who met her. She was such an intelligent, charming, dainty girl,” he said, ” and so beautiful. She was her father’s eldest child, and so much was expected of her.”

Khan was a musician and writer, daughter of an American mother and a renowned Indian Sufi philosopher father, Hazrat Inayat Khan, descended from the 18th-century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan.

Noor Inayat Khan

Noor Inayat Khan. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

She was born in Moscow, lived as a child in London and France, and by 1942 was living again in Taviton Street, just off Gordon Square, and in training as a secret agent known as Nora Baker. In 1943 she was sent by the Special Operations Executive into Nazi-occupied France as a radio operator. Her biographer Shrabani Basu recalled at the ceremony that the last time she left the house in Taviton Street, she was unable to tell her mother and sister that she would probably never see them again.

In France she was betrayed, imprisoned, repeatedly interrogated, and finally shot in September 1944 with three other female agents at Dachau, where their ashes are lost among those of more than 30,000 others who died there. She was posthumously awarded the George Cross, but the campaign for a permanent memorial, believed to be the first of an Asian woman in Britain, was launched by Basu.

The £60,000 cost of the sculpture by Karen Newman was raised by a small group with the backing of the prime minister and MPs including Valerie Vaz and Glenda Jackson. University College London, which owns the square, and the local authority, Camden council, gave permission for the memorial to be sited where she spent some rare happy hours of leisure.

Music composed by Khan as a teenager and by her brother Hidayat Inayat-Khan was performed at the unveiling ceremony, and a message from him was read by his grandson Omar.

It said: “Her family hopes her story will now be better known, but they have never forgotten her.

“It was an absolute question of conscience and conviction for her. She could not do otherwise with such a shadow hanging over Europe,” her cousin said.

“Even when she knew she had been betrayed she refused to leave France until they could get another wireless operator in. When she attempted to escape from prison, she was asked to give her word that she would not try again, but she would not and so she was held in chains.

“Her brother came through the war, and has lived to be a very old man, into his 90s. And every day of his life the thought of his sister and her fate has come into his mind.”

Noor Inayat Khan statue

A statue of Noor Inayat Khan is unveiled in central London.
Photograph: Olivia Harris/Reuters


| The spy who stayed out in the cold: George Blake at 90!

The spy who stayed out in the cold: George Blake at 90 ~ SHAUN WALKER, The Independent.

I’ve no regrets, says traitor who betrayed 400 British agents.

In a village somewhere not far from Moscow, lives a man who will celebrate his 90th birthday this weekend. The pensioner, who goes by the name Georgy Ivanovich, is almost blind and walks with a stick, though he retains a sharp dress sense and an even sharper mind.

He is no ordinary resident of the small dacha community, however, but George Blake, one of the most extraordinary characters in the history of espionage and one of Britain’s most notorious traitors.

During more than a decade of work for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Services, Blake was a double agent, passing secrets to the Soviets that resulted in the unmasking of a number of British agents and the foiling of many British plans. He was jailed for 42 years for espionage in 1961, but five years later escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison. He fled to East Germany and onwards to Russia.

In a rare interview before his 90th birthday, Blake told the Russian newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta that he has no major regrets. “I am a happy man,” he said. “I am very lucky; exceptionally lucky.” He still lives with Ida, whom he married two years after arriving in Russia, and with whom he has a 40-year-old son.

Blake is the last survivor of the group of British spies who turned traitor for ideological reasons. But unlike Kim Philby and the rest of the “Cambridge Five”, Blake says he never really felt part of the British establishment, and indeed still refuses to accept the label of a traitor, saying that one has to belong to a country first in order to betray it.

Born in Rotterdam in 1922 to a Dutch mother and a Turkish-Jewish father, he fought for the Dutch Resistance during the Second World War before arriving in Britain and joining the secret service.

His world view was turned on his head during a long imprisonment by North Korean forces during the Korean War, where he read Marxist literature and spoke at length with his captors. “I felt very acutely that I was on the wrong side and that I should do something about it,” he recalled in an interview.When he was sent to Berlin in 1955 with the task of recruiting Soviet agents, he was already working for the Soviets.

He is believed to have betrayed the names of more than 400 British agents to the Soviets, disrupting the MI6 network in Eastern Europe and leading to several executions. He was instrumental in warning the Soviets of British and US plans to build a tunnel to East Berlin.

“It is hard to overrate the importance of the information received through Blake,” Sergei Ivanov, a spokesman for the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in 2007. “It is thanks to Blake that the Soviet Union avoided very serious military and political damage which the United States and Great Britain could have inflicted on it.”

In the same year, President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB agent based in East Germany, presented Blake with the Order of Friendship, a top Russian honour, in a Kremlin ceremony.

Last year, Russia’s state-controlled Channel One broadcast a two-part docudrama featuring Blake’s exploits spying for the Soviets and then escaping from Wormwood Scrubs. Blake was on set for much of the filming and said that he liked the result. After his escape, carried out with the help of an Irish cellmate who had got to know and like Blake during his imprisonment, Blake took several months to make the journey to Russia.

On arrival, he was given an apartment in the centre of Moscow and a dacha, both rent-free, as well as a pension. Although he used to spend most of his time at the Moscow flat, the article published yesterday says that his journeys into the centre of the capital now are extremely rare; he prefers the country air of the dacha.

In an interview nearly a decade ago, he said that he did not read the British press as he did not have internet, and could not afford the hard copies, but said he enjoyed listening to the BBC World Service. Now his eyesight has deteriorated to the point where he cannot read at all, and he goes out of the house only when accompanied by his wife. Blake has said before that his biggest regret was the way he treated his first wife, who did not know he was a double agent.

She divorced him while he was in prison. He has three sons from his first marriage, about whom he has previously preferred not to talk. However, he said that they would all be attending his 90th birthday celebration this weekend.

According to Blake, one is the vicar of a church not far from London, one is a former soldier and now works as a fireman, and the third is a Japanese specialist. His son from his second marriage, Mikhail, is a financial specialist.

His unwavering faith in Communism was tested when he defected, and he has spoken of the “gradual realisation” that the Marxist ideals he held did not work in Soviet practice. The carefully selected Russian state media that is sent to interview Blake does not ask about his views on the current Russian government. However, until recently he still took part in the training of SVR recruits.

Even after nearly half a century in Russia, Blake still speaks Russian with a strong accent, but of all the British spies to end up in Moscow, he adapted to his new life better than any; perhaps because he never considered himself British in the first place.

“Once, when I was meeting up with the comrades from the service at Yasenevo [SVR Headquarters], I joked to them: ‘What you see before you is a foreign-made car, that has adapted very well to Russian roads.’ They found it funny.”