I swear I wasn't going to put up anything else regarding current affairs, taxes, etc. But I can't resist this evening's headline from the Times Online: U.S. Diplomats Add A Moat to their expenses at $1bn London Embassy.
This is not a favorable article, and it mentions that the U.S. is delinquent on payment of approximately £32 million in fees related to London congestion for its current embassy in central London.
According to the Times, which is displaying a photo of the current embassy model, the moat is 30 meters wide, and separates the "vast crystalline cube" from the Battersea "wasteland" site where the development, and others, are to be erected.
Plans for erecting bomb-resistant walls and barriers outside the current embassy site in Grosvenor Square met with strong opposition from local residents, according to the Times. Additional disputes continue over the U.S. responsibility for the Central London congestion fees, and for the Value-Added-Tax or VAT taxes imposed on the planned new construction.
Apparently, money-wise, the existing Grosvenor Square embassy was sold to a Qatari group of investors for more than $1 billion. According to the Times, long considered one of the world's newspapers of record, "The State Department sought to play down the cost of security measures, noting the expense of London building work. But the price puts the London embassy above the US’s most fortified missions, including the Baghdad embassy, which cost $600 million (£390 million) but required a further $100 million of work on air conditioning, and the Islamabad embassy, still under construction, which has cost more than $850 million."
The Guardian is not-so-kind - "Ambassador, You are spoiling our view of the Thames with this boring glass cube." From the Independent, "For its new English home, America builds a castle." Jay Merrick, the Independent's architecture correspondent, noted that the design "epitomises the post-9/11 bunker-mentality that has swept through embassy design since the Twin Towers fell." Our NY Times said, "A New Fort, er, Embassy for London." ABC News: "A Fortress, but open." But . . . how much does it cost? Bloomberg is reporting only $500 million - half of $1 billion.
Apparently, it's an "eco-cube" and is carbon-neutral. I guess the moat represents alternative transportation, as applicants for VISAs and employees can probably live somewhere out in the extensive green, grassy mound, and take kayaks to the secure, bomb-shielded, yet eco-friendly entry.
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Having received commentary, I now sort of think this: