In the latest twist in his bizarre relationship with the foreign press, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran’s president, has denied he gave an interview to London’s Guardian newspaper. The paper ran the story on Saturday, with a picture of the president alongside journalist Simon Tisdall brandishing a tape-recorder.

“The mentioned journalist was merely in a group accompanying the president [on a trip to Ardabil province],” a statement said. “Some of the points he referred to were taken from the president’s speech.”

Tisdall, now on holiday in France, told Observer his quotes had been checked with the president’s office. “We never claimed this was an interview – although some agencies described it as this afterwards,” he said. “What I wrote is a fair representation of what Ahmadi-Nejad said during the trip.”

It’s not the first time Ahmadi-Nejad has denied an “interview”. Last year he called one in the Dubai-based Khaleej Times “a mere fabrication”

Reality race war

In the entertainment business, you gotta have a gimmick. The producers of Survivor, the reality television programme in which contestants are isolated in a remote location and battling for cash and other prizes, know this better than anyone.

In just a couple of weeks, the 13th season of the popular but tired CBS show will take 20 castaways to the Cook Islands off New Zealand where they will be split into four tribes – each divided by race. That means blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians will be in separate groups, each competing for the $1m grand prize.

This latest move comes after the show was criticised for not being diverse enough in seasons past. “I think at first glance, when you just hear about it, it could sound like a stunt,” Jeff Probst, Survivor host, told CBS television in the US. “But that’s not what we’re doing here. It’s a social experiment, and this adds another layer to the experiment.”

A grand social experiment, eh? At least the reality TV folks aren’t taking themselves too seriously.

India’s ignorance

India may be moving out of denial about HIV/Aids, but its legislators remain ignorant. A survey released this week has exposed stunning misconceptions among MPs regarding the spread of the epidemic in India, which has the largest caseload of any country in the world.

Of the 250 MPs surveyed, two-thirds think the disease can be transmitted through shared clothing; 56 per cent believe it can be caught from common food and utensils; 40 per cent say it can be contracted by working alongside those with HIV; while almost one-quarter say it is spread through the public toilet system.

Bemoaning once again the demise of India’s Nehruvian “scientific temper”, the prime minister said the findings brought together “very interesting and provocative material on the perceptions and approach of our elected representatives in a vital area of national policy”. The good news is that the survey, “Person-to-Person Advocacy”, which was produced by the Indian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, found that all MPs had at least heard of HIV/Aids.

Pool politics

Some 800 suntanned conservatives gathered at the weekend to defend Ramírez’s right to a take a dip in peace, facing off against hundreds of protesters led by nationalist and leftwing politicians, who argue that the beach is public property and so the pool should be open to all.

Ramírez says he is being persecuted by leftwing nationalists for El Mundo’s tough views on separatism. The pool is not worthy of national debate, he says. Strange, then, that his newspaper should dedicate a front-page photo, a two-page spread and an editorial to the subject this week.

Ghosn gets lashed

Peter DeLorenzo’s website can be relied on for provocative views on the auto industry. His latest column is causing more chatter than usual.

DeLorenzo tears into Nissan and Renault chief executive Carlos Ghosn, citing Nissan’s move of its North American head office from California to Tennessee. Ghosn “is a one-trick pony – a slash and burn cost-cutter who doesn’t have the mindset to run a company once it’s resurrected”, DeLorenzo says. “Mark my words – Nissan’s slide is going to gather momentum as the organisational train wreck resulting from the move becomes magnified.”

On the other hand, DeLorenzo has warm words for General Motors, which is currently considering an alliance with Nissan. Having previewed many of GM’s future vehicles, DeLorenzo declares that the Detroit carmaker’s product line-up “will be ultra-competitive and most important, desirable on its own merits”. Of course, it should be mentioned that DeLorenzo’s father spearheaded GM’s public relations for more than two decades.

Taste the difference

Controversy is bubbling in India’s soft drinks industry after allegations Coke and Pepsi contain high levels of pesticides. Several states in India have partially banned the drinks.

But caution over health standards hasn’t stop thousands from flocking to Mumbai’s Mahim Beach to drink seawater that has turned sweet. Scientists attributed the “miracle” to an inflow of fresh water from Mithi River. Whatever the reason, people frolicked in the sea and guzzled water heedless of sewerage that drains nearby.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

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