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August catch-up: Barack's phone calls, tribute to Norm and my Desert Island Discs

Half a dozen things collated by our political columnist in which you might be interested
  • @johnrentoul

1. Great map of all the phone calls that Barack Obama has made to other world leaders this year. Put together from White House news releases by Reddit user nyshtick.

No sooner had I seen it, however, than David Cameron was on the blower to the President, throwing the numbers out. But it is still notable that the most special relationship that America has is with Germany.

2. Court news. "I'm not Leo Tolstoy, I'm a Sun journalist," says reporter Ben Ashford, when accused of being a wordsmith skilled in formulating sentences. Via CourtNewsUK, 11 August.

3. Iraq: a few things over the past couple of weeks worth catching up with. Hopi Sen wrote a fine comment about how he has felt further adrift from the liberal consensus on foreign policy than ever.

There has been something of a realignment on the left since 9/11 and particularly since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Two of the voices that spoke for me are no longer with us: Christopher Hitchens, about whom I wrote yesterday, and Norman Geras.

I was pleased that some of my friends have set up a blog, The Gerasites (and a Twitter account), devoted to carrying on the spirit of the great Norm. One of the early contributions, by Citizen Sane, was outstanding.

Furthermore, the Humanitarian Intervention Centre, run by my friend Julie Lenarz, has been relaunched as the Human Security Centre, with an upgraded website. The valuable work goes on.

4. Thanks to the democracy of Spotify, everyone can be on Desert Island Discs. All you have to do is upload a playlist of your eight pieces of music to a website or blog (the instructions are here), and tell everyone about your book and luxury. I've done it before, but the thing is that favourite pieces of music keep changing. So I am casting myself away on another island, so that I can share with you my eight favourite pieces of music now.

I'm counting "The Crane Wife", parts 1, 2 and 3, as one piece of music, which it is. (So there are nine tracks altogether: you have to scroll down for "Hey Now" by London Grammar.)

As for my book, I would still take Robert Caro's third volume of Lyndon B Johnson, because I still haven't read it. I never thought through the luxury thing, but a comfortable bed would be good. And if the point of Desert Island Discs is really the interview, there is one with me here.

5. Penultimately, from Chris Heaton-Harris via Enanem:

"I’ve just mixed nitrous oxide, water and an oxo cube, it’s made me a laughing stock."

6. And finally, from Lee "Budgie" Barnett:

"As Jon Ronson said, 'Ever since I learned about confirmation bias, I'm seeing it everywhere ...'"