The <i>IoS</i> Diary (05/12/10)

Skating on thin ice
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The Independent Online

The Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) in Whitehall is a venerable organisation indeed, very much the think-tank for thinking tank people. It boasts among its illustrious vice-presidents (all elected by Rusi's council) Sir Paul Lever, former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Sir David Omand, former UK security and intelligence co-ordinator, the Duke of Westminster, a heroic defender of the Territorial Army, and, hello, who's this – Mr David Abrahams? Isn't he the bloke who caused the Labour Party all that trouble with his secret donations? Well, yes, he is. So what, blameless businessman though he be, does he know about military matters? A Rusi spokesman points to his expertise in the Middle East, and says he is "very well connected". Abrahams himself said he planned to work in a number of areas, including fund-raising and on a conference on the Middle East peace initiative next year. "I'd like the Rusi to extend its base to become more internationally recognised, because it is a strong brand, but they have very much undersold themselves over the years," Abrahams tells me.

Just when Clint Hill, a US Secret Service agent who tried to save John F Kennedy on the day of his assassination, tells us he believes Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, up pops an FBI veteran to embellish the lone-gunman theory. Don Adams, 87, a former FBI agent who investigated plots to kill Kennedy both before and after his assassination, said last week he'd been told for decades to keep quiet about work he did on the assassination and inconsistencies that point to someone other than Oswald as the assassin. Adams claims that he was assigned to investigate Joseph Adams Milteer, an outspoken critic of Kennedy. An informant recorded Milteer talking about a plot to shoot the president from a tall building during a conversation two weeks before JFK's death. "It could have been prevented," says Adams, who has a book out on the subject next year. "All these people who were involved with this thing were accomplices to murder."

Clearly missing the thrills of Westminster, Alastair Campbell has taken to haunting the corridors of Random House. The former spin-doctor has published several books with Chatto and Windus, one of its imprints, and I'm told has taken to using its Vauxhall Bridge Road premises as a second office. A rumour reaches me that he managed to sit in on a meeting to discuss the cover of Nigella's new book, Kitchen, and was the main champion of the picture that was eventually chosen. But a spokesman laughs it off when I call. "I was in that meeting and I have no recollection of Alastair being there, unless he was under the table," she says. "But it's true he comes into the office, though it's not unusual for our authors to be here."

So, now we know what US diplomats think of Colonel Gaddafi. A leaked memo lists the Libyan leader's "many eccentricities", and describes him as a "complicated individual". But we can now reveal how the Libyans view the US. A friend visiting Tripoli recently asked to buy stamps at a tourist site, and was offered some special limited-edition ones. The series, titled "American aggression", features more than a dozen cartoons depicting the most appalling violence and misery, with babies lying in rubble and old men being carried on stretchers, as bombs explode all around. Apparently, the series is a bestseller.

David Cameron is known to be popular at Chequers – he has years of practice talking to staff. But feelings on the estate may turn against him if he continues to support the high-speed rail line that is earmarked to cut through the Chilterns. A letter to the Bucks Free Press calls on trustees of the estate to make their feelings about the proposals known to the PM. "Maybe it is time for the trustees of Chequers to explain that he will not be welcome at the house and estate in the future," suggests a Mr Houghton. "He clearly does not value the area – and it seems highly inappropriate that he should be staying at the grace-and-favour estate while planning to destroy so much that makes the area so special to so many."

Hats off to football broadcaster John Motson, who predicted that Russia and Qatar would win the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, on the basis that Fifa boss Sepp Blatter usually gets what he wants, and that only eastern Europe and the Middle East were missing from his CV. But, as can happen with Motty, he got overexcited. "A Nobel prize for Mr Blatter? I wouldn't be surprised," the sheepskinned one gasped to BBC viewers yesterday.

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