March 9-15, 2008
Inside Angelini's without food.
PS: Andy Page as a test passenger:
Putting Heathrow's T5 to the test
As Terminal 5 prepares to open its doors on 27 March, members of the public have been recruited to help test the £4.3bn building in a bid to iron out the wrinkles before the real passengers arrive. The BBC's Matthew Shaw was one of them.
Not being the most relaxed traveller in the world, it seems a bit mad to spend my spare time in an airport.
I am one of those weird people who arrives at the terminal a day before my flight, checks for my passport and boarding pass every five minutes and won't relax until those cabin doors are finally cross-checked.
But this time was different. I had volunteered for a different kind of experience. Along with 2,000 other would-be passengers, I was trying out Heathrow's Terminal 5 for size just days before its royal opening.
For weeks now, armies of men, women and children have been pretending to be British Airways customers as it conducted a series of trials to test out the UK's newest and biggest air terminal.
After booking my place online, I am told to meet at a hotel for breakfast.
Dozens of scanners
I am with a few hundred others, most of them cub scouts and guides. It's more like a noisy jamboree than a serious dress rehearsal for such a high-profile building.
We hit our first queue of the day to be given our passenger profiles.
My luck is in – I am now to be known as Mr E Brooks and I am due on the 1145 to Hong Kong. I do a lot better than my friend – he is now called Miss Dianne Frankfurter.
But now the bad news - I'm flying economy. I'm not even at the airport yet and I'm already fooled into thinking I am actually going somewhere.
I have been told I've no baggage to check in - which leads to much discussion about how I could last in the Far East with the contents of a plastic bag.
I spy a Club Class ticket-holder but breathe a sigh of relief when I am reassured that the executive lounges are not yet open.
A short bus ride and I'm finally at the terminal. It's truly enormous but not as noisy as I'd feared.
The departure area is open and bright, with no sign of those dreadful Heathrow carpets.
I spend a few minutes checking myself in, a member of staff pretends to flick through my truly fake passport and I am off to security.
There seem to be dozens of scanners so it's not long before I'm in the cavernous departure hall.
If the shops were open I'd never leave - but it's off to gate 10C to climb aboard a bus to my flight. At the start of the day we were tantalisingly told we might actually be boarding a real plane - which would push back off the stand and taxi for at least 10 seconds.
No such luck - I'm on a bus tour of the runway and the nearest I get to Hong Kong is the distant sight of a Cathay Pacific plane.
Back to arrivals and we're told we're now transferring to a flight to Nice.
Never mind Kowloon, I've got the Cote d'Azur to look forward to now!
I stroll around the empty corridors and start the whole journey again. The wait for my transfer flight is a little bit long but thankfully I don't have to go through the pretence of boarding again.
In fact I'm told to go straight to passport control where UK border staff wave us all through with a smile.
In fact the whole experience is probably a bit like the heyday of glamorous air travel - no queues, no borders and no hassle.
So armed with a gift, I'm sent packing. I'm relieved to be home in one piece and longing to sleep off the make-believe jetlag.
Do you remember February 2nd and February 16th? Today THOCBDC asked its girls to open the box.
Here is the bare bones TV room at 26D....with the tiny storage room at the back.
Three more visits to the Thai girls.
Dinner at The Peninsula with views of the other side of the river.
Washington diary: Spitzer's scandal
There may well be outrage amongst the prostitutes of the District of Columbia this week.
Why did the governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, allegedly feel the need to bring in a prostitute from the Empire State when there were plenty to choose from in the nation's capital itself?
One can imagine the District's red light district heaving with indignation. "You see! Those snooty New Yorkers. We're not good enough for them."
Mr Spitzer may well reply that he was acting out of state pride when he reportedly bought what court documents describe as a 5ft 5in brunette called "Kristen" a train ticket to Washington.
In his surreal post-scandal press conference he did, after all, refer to the "importance of ideas in politics" and his desire to keep building New York's future.
Unfortunately, outsourcing hookers to a rival state is not just an insult to the local guild. It also happens to be a federal crime, written into law in 1910 to prevent forced prostitution and protect women from being trafficked across state lines.
In any case, these peccadilloes are as familiar as bathroom mould. We have had a quite a few in recent years.
Larry Craig, the senator from Idaho who was caught playing lavatorial footsie in a men's room at Minneapolis-St Paul airport; David Vitter, the Louisiana senator who admitted his phone number was called by an escort service several years ago, but at least it was DC's own "DC Madam".
Jim McGreevy, the governor of New Jersey who announced at a news conference, with his wife next to him, that he had had an affair with a man; Mark Foley, the Florida congressman who sent inappropriate messages to teenage congressional pages.
There is a routine to these scandals. The revelation. The shock. The blanket coverage on the cable networks.
The news conference, where the aggrieved wife is made to stand next to her errant husband while he delivers an apology and promises to rebuild the trust of his family.
Every time, I ask myself the same question.
What possessed Silda Wall Spitzer, a Harvard Law School graduate, a corporate lawyer, a mother-of-three and a wife of 21 years, to bestow upon her husband that image of unity, familial love and partnership without which he would look hopelessly alone and guilty?
Appearing by yourself at these press conferences is simply not an option. It makes you look sleazy and shamed.
It allows the audience to picture the 5ft 5in "very pretty brunette", as the FBI described her, by your side. It hastens political death.
The First Lady of New York looked as if she had cried since dawn and eaten bad oysters.
Why didn't she just biff the governor, who until Monday was famous for his moral crusade and proud of his reputation as the so-called Sheriff of Wall Street?
There was the inevitable transatlantic chuckle in the boudoirs of Paris and the kellers of Berlin over those prudish Americans.
But to be honest, we Europeans love a scandal as much as anyone and we are far more outraged than we would like to think.
Even those hard-core Lotharios in France were hooked to the marital mess in the Elysee Palace, the Carla Bruni affair and the president's whirlwind nuptials.
The real difference is that Europe does not expect the wife to save the husband's career. It seems old-fashioned, unreasonable and in the end it doesn't do the wife any favours.
Unfair though it may be, the de rigueur support of the scorned spouse raises the question whether she is more in love with her husband's power than with her husband.
As Hillary Clinton edges ever closer to the nomination and the Monica Lewinsky scandal is inevitably revisited in excruciating detail, it is a question we will hear more often.
What should women do? Walk out? Stay loyal? Buy a gun?
In that sense, the Spitzer scandal might have an impact on the presidential race. It raises awkward questions the Clintons would rather keep in the closet because they produce only bad answers.
But what makes every scandal from Monica to Kristen memorable are the details that suddenly flood the ether, as if an army of brilliant Hollywood scriptwriters had been at work for months.
This scandal has produced a vintage crop. The alleged assignation took place on the eve of Valentine's Day. The governor was in town to testify before a congressional committee on the state of the bond insurance market.
There was the suggestion from the ever-helpful accountants at the Emperor's Club Call Girl Agency that Client 9, as court documents call the man who is alleged to be the governor, should pay more money up front so that he could have a larger credit next to his name. Such an arrangement suggests he was a regular.
There is the jaw-dropping cost of a two-hour session with a prostitute: $4,300 (£2,143)! Forgive me for asking, but isn't that a touch inflationary?
There is the Mayflower Hotel, where Client 9 booked into room 871 as George Fox, the name one of Mr Spitzer's fund-raisers.
There is the fact that this hotel was where Franklin Delano Roosevelt allegedly wrote one of the greatest lines in American history: "All we have to fear is fear itself." He penned those words in room 776, on the floor below.
There is the business-as-usual tone of the crusading governor at his news conference, in which he reduced what appears to be the biggest sex scandal since Monica to a "minor personal matter", as if it were an in-growing toenail.
Or his promise that he would get back later to the assembled crowd of journalists with "more details", as if he was putting the finishing touches to a carbon emissions reduction programme. His apology, when it came, seemed almost begrudging.
Eliot Spitzer clearly took the words of the hotel guest in room 776 to heart. Fear makes you look guilty. Fear breeds fear. That may be true for stock markets, but on this occasion the governor has strayed fatally from the prescribed script.
The crowd loves a scandal but they also lap up remorse and redemption. They want the sinner to look afraid.
They expect a large portion of humble pie, especially from a man who made a career from going after sinners. They want genuine abasement - and on that score, the governor failed to deliver on Tuesday. It could be the end of a beautiful career.
Look at Martha Stewart, the domestic make-over diva who did time for share shenanigans.
Only after five months of baking cookies for her fellow inmates in West Virginia did she find redemption, and her share price resurrection.
Just ask her, Eliot. You were New York state's attorney general at the time and your people did, after all, help to put her behind bars!
Matt Frei is the presenter of BBC World News America which airs every weekday at 0030 GMT on BBC News 24 and at 0000 GMT (1900 ET / 1600 PT) on BBC World and BBC America (for viewers outside the UK only).
PPS: So, aside from blackmail risks, why is this so naughty?
ALBANY, N.Y. (March 12) – With pressure mounting on Gov. Eliot Spitzer to resign over a call-girl scandal, investigators said Tuesday he was clearly a repeat customer who spent tens of thousands of dollars – perhaps as much as $80,000 – with the high-priced prostitution service over an extended period of time.
Spitzer and his family, meanwhile, remained secluded in their Fifth Avenue apartment, while Republicans began talking impeachment, and few if any fellow Democrats came forward to defend him. A death watch of sorts began at the state Capitol, where whispers of "What have you heard?" echoed through nearly every hallway of the ornate, 109-year-old building.
On Monday, when the scandal broke, prosecutors said in court papers that Spitzer had been caught on a wiretap spending $4,300 with the Emperors Club VIP call-girl service, with some of the money going toward a night with a prostitute named Kristen, and the rest to be used as credit toward future trysts. The papers also suggested that Spitzer had done this before.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a law enforcement official said Tuesday that Spitzer, in fact, had spent tens of thousands of dollars with the Emperors Club. Another official said the amount could be as high as $80,000. But it was not clear over what period of time that was spent.
Still another law enforcement official said investigators found that during the tryst with Kristen on the night before Valentine's Day, Spitzer used two rooms at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington – one for himself, the other for the prostitute. Sometime around 10 p.m., Spitzer sneaked away from his security detail and made his way to the room where she was waiting, the official said. The three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
In the court papers, an Emperors Club employee was quoted as telling Kristen that Client 9 – Spitzer, according to investigators – "would ask you to do things that ... you might not think were safe," and Kristen responded by saying: "I have a way of dealing with that. ... I'd be, like, listen, dude, you really want the sex?"
A law enforcement official said Tuesday the discussion had to do with Spitzer's preference not to wear a condom and the call-girl's insistence that he use one.
Spitzer's vast personal wealth would have made it easy for him to spend thousands of dollars on prostitutes. The scion of a wealthy Manhattan real estate developer, Spitzer reported $1.9 million in income to the IRS in 2006.
Meanwhile, Albany insiders on Tuesday said the governor was still trying to decide how to proceed. Options included quitting immediately, or waiting to use resignation as a bargaining chip with federal prosecutors to avoid indictment.
Democrats privately floated another option, telling The Associated Press that Spitzer was considering what was almost unthinkable immediately after Monday's bombshell apology: hanging on.
"If the public is fine, he'll stay," said a Democrat who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Still, Spitzer's many enemies from Albany and Wall Street were emboldened, and some of his friends went from shock to outrage.
"Particularly because of the reform platform on which he was elected governor, his ability to govern the state of New York and execute his duties as governor have been irreparably damaged," said Citizens Union, a good-government group that supported the crusading attorney general for governor in 2006 and provided critical support in his effort to reform Albany. "It is our strong belief that it is now impossible for him to fulfill his responsibilities as governor. Accordingly, Citizens Union urges him to resign as governor."
Oh my God! I forgot to show my last meal at Angelini's. OK, I know it is a repeat of some earlier meals but it is a sin to waste food.
Also, after our last visit to Athenee Residence I forgot to show our departing elevator plunge.
The Bangkok Post, the International Herald Tribune and Bangkok's The Nation (Express section) each ran terribly funny cartoons today.
The one about Bill, Hillary and Obama (from the Bangkok Post) will be understood by practically everyone who does not live in a cave.
The one found in the IHT about Eliot will get chuckles largely from North America and Europe.
But, to understand the cartoon with the fighting air hostesses you pretty much have to live in Thailand or be a Thai. The Battle of the Angels is a local soap opera dealing with the dramatic romances of those who fly people from place to place (Thai Airways hostesses took great umbrage at this portrayal). Samak, the guy with a nose that looks like a rose apple and who is Thailand's new Prime Minister, has a reputation for liking the ladies. The nuance in the cartoon is the fight between corruption and democracy: will they always be on the table, like salt and pepper or will one kill the other?
From The New Yorker.
Next: Part III