by Lauren

could we have met in malta?

June 30, 2010 in news by Lauren

I love when real life turns out better than a movie script and this one is even better than a Bond film (especially Quantum of Solace. I’m a big Bond fan and I thought that one was lame.)

The US has cracked a Russian spy ring operating right under their noses, though admittedly the yanks have been watching them for over ten years. Ten people were arrested on Sunday on suspicion of spying against the US government, three days after US President Barack Obama described his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev as a “solid and reliable partner” at a White House summit. Obama even quipped that it was time to cut off Cold War-era emergency hotlines. Gotta love that American timing.

The Russians mission was to infiltrate influential US policy-making circles and pass info back to Russian Foreign Intelligence Service headquarter (or Centre) but I’m sure you already knew that – the story has been all over the news for the past day or so.

The part that fascinates me is the way the Russians pulled it off. Extracts from BBC:

– Two suspects pretended to be a married couple from Philadelphia, while another pretended to be a Canadian native but a naturalised US citizen.

– One suspect is accused of using a laptop in a Manhattan coffee shop in January to transfer data to a Russian government official as he passed by in a people-carrier.

– The same suspect was briefed by an undercover agent, posing as a Russian consulate worker, to pass a fake passport to a female spy. The agent explains that the woman “will tell you ‘Excuse me, but haven’t we met in California last year?’ And you will say to her, ‘No, I think it was the Hamptons.'”

– An undercover agent phoned a suspect and said, “could we have met in Beijing in 2004?” The suspect responded, “yes, we might have, but I believe it was in Harbin.”

– A rendezvous on a street corner in Washington DC saw one of the accused handed a folded newspaper containing $5,000 and told to leave it on the following day in a park in nearby Arlington, VA. The FBI recorded him leaving the newspaper with cash in the allotted spot.

– Intercepted messages tell that an accused will recognise a Russian agent in Rome by saying: “Excuse me, could we have met in Malta in 1999?” and look for the way his contact is holding a copy of Time magazine.

– Some of the suspects are accused of using steganography (a method of concealing data in an image) to pass information to Centre by posting pictures on public websites.

– The suspects are accused of using short-wave radios to send and receive radiograms (coded bursts of data) to Moscow Centre. US agents believe they are referred to as “RG”s by the alleged spies.

– One of the accused and a Russian government official “each carrying an all-but identical orange bag” swapped bags at a station in Queens, New York, while passing on a stairway. The bag given to Mr Metsos contained cash, the court papers claim, some of which was buried in upstate New York. It was dug up two years later by two of the suspects from a spot marked by a “partially buried brown beer bottle” that the FBI had under surveillance.

– In another “brush-pass”, a Russian government official is alleged to have dropped a shopping bag into a rucksack carried by suspect Richard Murphy as they passed each other on stairs at White Plains station in New York state.

– A safe deposit box searched by US law enforcement agents in New York City turned out to contain birth certificates that did not match any municipal records.

– A decoded message to a suspect accused of using a fake British passport reads: “Very important: 1. sign your passport on page 32. Train yourself to be able to reproduce your signature when it’s necessary. 2. Pls, be aware that you just visited Russia… If asked, we suggest you use the following story: you flew to Moscow on Mar 16 from London for example flight SU 211 to participate in business talks…” She is told to destroy the memo after reading.

Perhaps I wasn’t as paranoid as I thought when I was living in DC – I really was living in a spy movie!

by Lauren

eating out: arriva

June 29, 2010 in restaurants by Lauren

I’m a little lonely at the moment while the boy is holidaying in Italy with his family and a little grumpy that work is too busy this month for me to join him there. So what did my parents decide to do to perk me up? Take me to an Italian restaurant. Seriously guys?

Fortunately I’m a fan of Arriva. It’s one of those local restaurants that doesn’t look that flash but is always full because the friendly service and tasty food.

On this occasion, I chose a tomato, garlic and chilli penne (from the “specials” menu that never seems to change), which had a tasty, homemade-style sauce that warmed me up from the inside. My mum enjoyed her usual risotto pescatore (she always gets the same thing and every time comments on how good it is) while my dad polished off a very tasty Vitello Pizzaiola (veal escallops panfried with napoletana, olives and capers, topped with bocconcini cheese).

It was good, hearty Italian food served with a smile – I may have still been grumpy about not being actually in Italy but at least I was able to enjoy a decent taste of it right here at home.

Arriva on UrbanspoonWhere to find it: 84 Merthyr Road, New Farm
Where to find it online:

by Lauren

lusting for: sugar and cream dress

June 28, 2010 in fashion by Lauren

I was planning to write a witty and insightful semi-political post today but Mondayitis* has set in and my brain just won’t cooperate.

The only proven antidote to Mondayitis is some window shopping (or should that be Windows shopping when it’s online?) and I’m taking a full dose.

Top of today’s “I want you, I need you, oh baby, oh baby” pile is the gorgeous ruched silk Sugar and Cream Dress by Floreat, available through Anthropologie. It’s just my cup of tea!

* Caution: side-effects of Mondayitis include bad puns and references to 90s teen movies.

by Lauren

louis vuitton’s ladylike fall campaign

June 25, 2010 in fashion by Lauren

It’s that time of year when our northern hemisphere friends are boiling to death yet are about to be bombarded with autumnal clothing choices. On the upside for me, I can buy beautiful new clothes and wear them straight away (fall weight is perfect for Brisbane winter).

But I digress – the purpose of this post is to check out Marc Jacob’s fall campaign for Louis Vuitton, which in my opinion perfectly showcases the ladylike look that is set to be huge this year.

Three achingly beautiful models have been selected across different age groups (Christy Turlington in her 40s, Karen Elson in her 30s and Natalia Vodianova in her 20s) and are photographed preening in an old-fashioned dressing room. Just divine!

If you want to see more, head to

by Lauren

in the news: gillard is australia’s PM

June 24, 2010 in news by Lauren

One of my childhood dreams was crushed today – I will not have the chance to be Australia’s first female Prime Minister. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, given I decided politics was not for me quite some time ago but Australia having a female Prime Minister was still one of those things that was definitely a distant dream.

It all happened rather quickly. Kevin 07 was the golden boy just a few years ago but how the mighty have fallen – several policy failures have let him down, most notably his failure to keep fighting on climate change and the mining “super profits” tax. Labor has been falling in the polls and so too was the party’s support for its leader.

Last night, Rudd refused to step aside for Gillard and a ballot was to be held this morning. Gillard had the backing of the powerful Australian Workers Union and was also believed to have the numbers to win the ballot. In the end, Rudd decided to step aside before the ballot and Julia Gillard became leader of the Labor Party and PM of Australia.

It’s an unprecedented political ambush but it gives us our first female PM as well as our first ousted PM since Bob Hawke. Rudd was also supposed to leave for the G20 summit in Toronto tomorrow, but it seems Wayne Swan (who has taken on the Deputy PM role) will now attend.

It really is quite the day for Australian politics – who would’ve suspected it, even a week ago!

PS Props also go out to my beloved Socceroos – we may not have made it to the Group of 16 in the World Cup but the boys sure put on a brilliant show this morning to take Serbia down 2-1. Bravo!

Page 1 of 612345...Last »