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Posted on on March 8th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (



A Tsar’s Bride Dmitri Tcherniakov has set this Rimsky-Korsakov work, with Olga Peretyatko (in white suit) in the title role, in a TV studio, at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Credit Brescia/Amisano-Teatro alla Scala


MILAN — The Oprichniks were the murderous henchmen of Ivan the Terrible, torturing and killing the czar’s enemies.

It says a lot about the Russian director Dmitri Tcherniakov’s world view that he has chosen to reimagine these thugs as contemporary television executives in his exhilarating production of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Tsar’s Bride” at the Teatro alla Scala here. This lurid tale of jealousy, insanity and the search for a royal wife has become, in Mr. Tcherniakov’s alchemical hands, a vivid, unsettling reflection on the media and the fast-disintegrating line between what seems real and what is.

It isn’t the first time that this director has brought a new angle to an older work. His charged, often claustrophobic interpretations of operas like Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” over the past few years have revealed fresh narratives and unexpected emphases in well-trodden classics. Just last month at the Metropolitan Opera, his new production of Borodin’s “Prince Igor” added some sections, cut others and rearranged what was left to create a dreamy portrait of a ruler and society thrown out of joint by the hunger for war.

Ms. Peretyatko, left, and the mezzo Anna Lapkovskaja in ‘‘The Tsar’s Bride.’’ Credit Brescia/Amisano-Teatro alla Scala


But “Prince Igor” is a torso. Borodin never finished it and, as far as an overarching structure, barely even started it, a fact that even the Met’s strong production couldn’t conceal. While Mr. Tcherniakov’s version of “Igor” showed craft and care, it was bracing on Wednesday, at the second performance of “The Tsar’s Bride,” to see what he is capable of when he actually has a full opera to work with.

Like many Russian masterpieces, this Rimsky-Korsakov piece, which premiered in 1899, is still a relative rarity in the West, and it hasn’t always gotten the respect it deserves. It can seem, at first glance, a rather superficially sumptuous melodrama. But this performance made a strong case for its glimmers of forward-thinking angularity as well as its late-Verdian propulsion: it is an assemblage of set pieces — arias, ensembles, choruses — that presses forward with vigor.

The plot takes its cue from an encyclopedia footnote about which little is known: Ivan the Terrible’s brief third marriage to a commoner who was selected from 12 finalists for his hand and who died mysteriously a few days after their wedding. In the opera, this young woman, Marfa, is the pawn in a tangled love story that leaves her insane, succumbing to poison, and several other people dead.

The odd thing about Rimsky-Korsakov’s telling is that while there’s certainly a bride in it, there’s no czar. The one time in the original libretto that the fearsome Ivan seems to enter the picture, we’re not even sure it’s him: Marfa and her friend think they recognize his dreadful eyes in an anonymous man on horseback.

First at the Berlin Staatsoper in October and now in Milan, and both times with Daniel Barenboim conducting, Mr. Tcherniakov has taken this empty space at the opera’s core and run with it. The curtain rises on a TV studio where what seems to be a storybook pageant about old Russia is being filmed.

Before the overture is over, video projections bring us into an online chat among the Oprichnik-executives, who propose the need to invent a fake czar. A computer-generated leader is swiftly created for the public to revere and fear, and a “Bachelor”-style competition is started to help choose his bride.

At its heart this is yet another iteration of the theater-within-the-theater conceit that has tripped up even gifted directors. (See Stefan Herheim’s London production of Verdi’s “Les Vêpres Siciliennes” last fall.) But Mr. Tcherniakov makes it work with the fresh energy of his concept and the vital performances he draws from his cast.

All the world’s a screen in this “Tsar’s Bride,” a society distinguished most by the ceaseless generation and consumption of “content.” So Lyubasha, driven to desperation by jealousy, performs part of her first-act monologue in front of the cameras in an empty studio.

At the end, the innocent Marfa’s mad scene is filmed — ready to join happier, earlier clips flickering on the studio monitors. Becoming a media spectacle may be the most fitting way for her to go, in a live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword way: Throughout the previous acts, the Oprichniks’ product — a manufactured reality, half-news, half-entertainment — has been gobbled up from the television at Marfa’s family’s home. (We glimpse a few seconds of battle footage, too, lest anyone forget what all the fuss about a royal wedding is distracting from.)

Mr. Tcherniakov’s tweaks yield some of the production’s most effective moments. In the original libretto, the vindictive Lyubasha secretly spies on Marfa, her romantic rival. But here the encounter was face to face, making Lyubasha’s furious vows both more terrifying and more pitiable.

This director designed his own set, as is his usual practice, and it is a rotating wonder that makes possible, for instance, an elegant transition into the first-act trio. The world of the opera is rendered as a hermetic, arid interior. Nature is just another image, whether in the form of video of sun-dappled leaves or in the flowered wallpaper of Marfa’s living room.

The intense performances, not least that of the theater’s vibrant chorus, popped against this stark setting. The dusky-voiced mezzo Marina Prudenskaya’s Lyubasha was a small miracle of barely contained despair. The tenor Pavel Cernoch was a bright-voiced wimp as Marfa’s childhood sweetheart, Lykov, and the bass Anatoli Kotscherga a bearish presence as her father, Sobakin.

His baritone husky and lithe, Johannes Martin Kränzle was a bitter cynic at the heart of a cruel game as Gryaznoy, the Oprichnik mastermind of the czar’s bride scheme. The mezzo Anna Lapkovskaja was warm-hearted and warm-toned as Marfa’s friend, Dunyasha. The veteran soprano Anna Tomowa-Sintow was touchingly deluded as her mother, Saburova.

Her voice and manner agile and girlish in the early acts, the soprano Olga Peretyatko was transformed into a bitter Norma Desmond lookalike for a riveting mad scene, her eyes glittering under the studio spotlights. (She gets another descent into insanity next month as Elvira in Bellini’s “I Puritani” for her Metropolitan Opera debut.)

Mr. Barenboim brought out the music’s broad sweep and agitated details in moments like the febrile trembling as Gryaznoy toasts the bride-to-be in Act 3. He led the brass blasts at the start of the fourth act, each of which recedes into quiet unease, with a tautness and weight that revealed their debt to the opening of Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung.”

I wondered how the plusher Metropolitan Opera Orchestra would sound in this score, which has never been performed at the Met. I hope to have the chance to find out before too long, perhaps in Mr. Tcherniakov’s daringly theatrical production, a natural fit if ever there was one for media-driven New York.

The Tsar’s Bride. Directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov. Teatro alla Scala, Milan.Through March 14.




Posted on on February 28th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

“Their Mothers, their Fathers” – or maybe even ours -  a movie that tries to promote thinking about the triteness of the reality of an evolution of crime as a worm that eats into what looks like civilized normalcy.

These days in New York we host the Carnegie Hall Festival “Vienna City of Dreams” which is a celebration of culture of the last 100 years which is in effect the time-span since the break out of WWI on June 28, 1914, and as a matter of fact includes also WWII.

To above Festival The Calgary, Alberta, CHUMIR FOUNDATION for Ethics in Leadership contributed a three events Symposium – “Vienna’s History and Legacy of the Past 150 Years” – and this morning coincidentally I received the Uri Avnery mailing about the German Film “THEIR MOTHERS, THEIR FATHERS” that is being shown in Israel. We find it all connects – and we start looking into this by bringing here the Uri Avnery article.

Also, these days the Peace Islands Institute, which is connected to a Turkish Cultural Center, had its own events in New York of which one – linked – without mentioning it – to the previous mentioned events – it was a panel on Intergovernmental Relations among Balkan Nations & The EU with the participation of the Ambassadors to the UN from Bulgaria, Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia, chaired by the President of the Federation of Balkan American Associations, that followed a similar earlier event that included Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia but never looked at Slovenia or Austria. Then the same Peace Islands Institute followed on its studies of the three Abrahamic religions with a first inroad into Muslim – Buddhist understanding after quite successful previous activities into ethics of Muslim -Jewish mutual acceptance. These days such are events happening in  New York.


Uri Avnery

March 1, 2014


                                    Their Mothers, Their Fathers


IT IS the summer of 1941. Five youngsters – three young men and two young women – meet in a bar and spend a happy evening, flirting with each other, getting drunk, dancing forbidden foreign dances. They have grown up together in the same neighborhood of Berlin.

It is a happy time. The war started by Adolf Hitler a year and a half before has progressed incredibly well. In this short time Germany has conquered Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France. The Wehrmacht is invincible. The Führer is a genius, “the greatest military strategist of all times”.

So starts the film that is running now in our cinemas – a unique historical document. It goes on for five breathless hours, and continues to occupy the thoughts and emotions of its viewers for days and weeks.


Basically it is a film made by Germans for Germans. The German title says it all: “Our Mothers, Our Fathers”. The purpose is to answer the questions troubling many of the young Germans of today: Who were our parents and grandparents? What did they do during the terrible war? What did they feel? What was their part in the horrible crimes committed by the Nazis?


These questions are not asked in the film explicitly. But every German viewer is compelled to ask them. There are no clear answers. The film does not probe the depths. Rather, it shows a broad panorama of the German people in wartime, the various sections of society, the different types, from the war criminals, through the passive onlookers, to the victims.


The Holocaust is not the center of events, but it is there all the time, not as a separate event but woven into the fabric of reality.


THE FILM starts in 1941, and therefore cannot answer the question which, to my mind, is the most important one: How could a civilized nation, perhaps the most cultured in the world, elect a government whose program was blatantly criminal?

True, Hitler was never elected by an absolute majority in free elections. But he came very close to it. And he easily found political partners who were ready to help him form a government.


 Some said at the time that it was a uniquely German phenomenon, the expression of the particular German mentality, formed during centuries of history. That theory has been discredited by now. But if so, can it happen in any other country? Can it happen in our own country? Can it happen today? What are the circumstances that make it possible?

The film does not answer these question. It leaves the answers to the viewer.

The young heroes of the film do not ask. They were ten years old when the Nazis came to power, and for them the “Thousand-Year Reich” (as the Nazis called it) was the only reality they knew. It was the natural state of things. That’s where the plot starts.



 TWO OF the youngsters were soldiers. One had already seen war and was wearing a medal for valor. His brother had just been called up. The third young man was a Jew. Like the two girls, they are full of youthful exuberance. Everything was looking fine.

The war? Well, it can’t last much longer, can it? The Führer himself has promised that by Christmas the Final Victory will be won. The five young people promise each other to meet again at Christmas. No one has the slightest premonition of the terrible experiences in store for each of them. 


 While viewing the scene, I could not help thinking about my former class. A few weeks after the Nazis’ assumption of power, I became a pupil in the first class of high school in Hanover. My schoolmates were the same age as the heroes of the film. They would have been called up in 1941, and because it was an elitist school, all of them would probably have become officers.

Half way through the first year in high schooI, my family took me to Palestine. I never met any of my schoolmates again, except one (Rudolf Augstein, the founder of the magazine Der Spiegel, whom I met years after the war and who became my friend again.) What happened to all the others? How many survived the war? How many were maimed? How many had become war criminals?

In the summer of 1941 they were probably as happy as the youngsters in the film, hoping to be home by Christmas.


 THE TWO brothers were sent to the Russian front, an unimaginable hell. The film succeeds in showing the realities of war, easily recognizable by anyone who has been a soldier in combat. Only that this combat was a hundredfold worse, and the film shows it brilliantly.

The older brother, a lieutenant, tries to shield the younger one. The bloodbath that goes on for four more years, day after day, hour after hour, changes their character. They become brutalized. Death is all around them, they see horrible war crimes, they are commanded to shoot prisoners, they see Jewish children butchered. In the beginning they still dare to protest feebly, then they keep their doubts to themselves, then they take part in the crimes as a matter of course. 

One of the young women volunteers for a frontline military hospital, witnesses the awful agonies of the wounded, denounces a Jewish fellow nurse and immediately feels remorse, and in the end is raped by Soviet soldiers near Berlin, as were almost all German women in the areas conquered by the revenge-thirsty Soviet army. 


 Israeli viewers might be more interested in the fate of the Jewish boy, who took part in the happy feast at the beginning. His father is a proud German, who cannot imagine Germans doing the bad things threatened by Hitler. He does not dream of leaving his beloved fatherland. But he warns his son about having sexual relations with his Aryan girlfriend. “It’s against the law!”

When the son tries to flee abroad, “aided” by a treacherous Gestapo officer, he is caught, sent to the death camps, succeeds in escaping on the way, joins the Polish partisans (who hate the Jews more than the Nazis) and in the end survives.


 Perhaps the most tragic figure is the second girl, a frivolous, carefree singer who sleeps with a senior SS officer to further her career, is sent with her troupe to entertain the troops at the front, sees what is really happening, speaks out about the war, is sent to prison and executed in the last hours of the war.


 BUT THE fate of the heroes is only the skeleton of the film. More important are the little moments, the daily life, the portrayal of the various characters of German society.


 For example, when a friend visits the apartment where the Jewish family had been living, the blond Aryan woman who was allotted the place complains about the state of the apartment from which the Jews had been fetched and sent to their death: “They didn’t even clean up before they left! That’s how the Jews are, dirty people!”

Everyone lives in constant fear of being denounced. It is a pervading terror, which nobody can escape. Even at the front, with death staring therm in the face, a hint of doubt about the Final Victory uttered by a soldier is immediately silenced by his comrades. “Are you crazy?”     

Even worse is the deadening atmosphere of universal agreement. From the highest officer to the lowliest maid, everybody is repeating endlessly the propaganda slogans of the regime. Not out of fear, but because they believe every word of the all-pervading propaganda machine. They hear nothing else.

It is immensely important to understand this. In the totalitarian state, fascist or communist or whatever, only the very few free spirits can withstand the endlessly repeated slogans of the government. Everything else sounds unreal, abnormal, crazy. When the Soviet army was already fighting its way through Poland and nearing Berlin, people were unwavering in their belief in the Final Victory. After all, the Führer says so, and the Führer is never wrong. The very idea is preposterous. 

It is this element of the situation that is difficult for many people to grasp. A citizen under a criminal totalitarian regime becomes a child. Propaganda becomes for him reality, the only reality he knows. It is more effective than even the terror.

THIS IS the answer to the question we cannot abstain from asking again and again: How was the Holocaust possible? It was planned by a few, but it was implemented by hundreds of thousands of Germans, from the engine driver of the train to the officials who shuffled the papers. How could they do it?

They could, because it was the natural thing to do. After all, the Jews were out to destroy Germany. The communist hordes were threatening the life of every true Aryan. Germany needed more living space. The Führer has said so.


 That’s why the film is so important, not only for the Germans, but for every people, including our own.


People who carelessly play with ultra-nationalist, fascist, racist, or other anti-democratic ideas don’t realize that they are playing with fire. They cannot even imagine what it means to live in a country that tramples on human rights, that despises democracy, that oppresses another people,  that demonizes minorities. The film shows what it is like: hell.


THE FILM does not hide that the Jews were the main victims of the Nazi Reich, and nothing comes near their sufferings. But the second victim was the German people, victims of themselves.

Many people insist that after this trauma, Jews cannot behave like a normal people, and that therefore Israel cannot be judged by the standards of normal states. They are traumatized.

This is true for the German people, too. The very need to produce this unusual film proves that the Nazi specter is still haunting the Germans, that they are still traumatized by their past.

When Angela Merkel came this week to see Binyamin Netanyahu, the whole world laughed at the photo of our Prime Minister’s finger inadvertently painting a moustache on the Kanzlerin’s face.

But the relationship between our two traumatized peoples is far from a joke.





Posted on on February 25th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Bolivia VP Slams IMF, Talks Up G77.

By Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press.


UNITED NATIONS, February 25 — When Bolivia’s Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera spoke to the media on February 25, he was setting the stage for the Group of 77 and China summit set for Santa Cruz in June.


  Inner City Press asked him if at the Summit G77 will adopt a position on what should be in the Sustainable Development Goals, and for his response to comments about Bolivia by the International Monetary Fund which Inner City Press reported back on February 10.


  He replied that Bolivia doesn’t much care what the IMF says, that if they criticize the country for being too pro-poor, that’s a matter of pride, they are going to do more of it. [Tweeted photo here; higher resolution photos by Free UN Coalition for Access member Luiz Rampelotto, to follow.]


  Back on February 10, the IMF had just released its Article IV review of Bolivia, in which it criticized the country’s new Financial Services Law, specifically that


“the law’s general thrust is to subordinate financial sector activities to social objectives with instruments that could create risks to financial stability. Main features of the law include: (i) provisions to regulate lending rates and set minimum lending quotas for the productive sector and social housing; (ii) discretion to set floors on deposit rates; and (iii) mechanisms to enhance consumer protection and financial access in rural areas.”


  On February 10, Inner City Press asked the IMF’s Mission Chief for Bolivia Ana Corbacho to explain this criticism, and more generally to reconcile Bolivia’s and President Evo Morales’ public critique of the IMF with this visit.


  In response to a question from Inner City Press at UN headquarters in January, Morales recounted how the IMF dominated Bolivia in the past, but now decision making had passed from the “Chicago to the Bolivia boys.


  The IMF Article IV staff report says they met with “Minister of Economy and Public Finances Arce, Central Bank President Zabalaga, Minister of Planning Caro, other senior public officials, and representatives of the private sector. Mr. Tamez and Ms. Kroytor (LEG) provided inputs on the new Financial Services Law at headquarters.”


  The IMF staff report also says that “the instruments chosen (interest rate caps and minimum credit quotas) could reduce the profitability and lending funds of financial institutions, over-leverage target beneficiaries, and complicate the conduct of monetary policy.”


   Ms. Corbacho of the IMF, on the February 10 embargoed press conference call, largely in Spanish, on which only three media asked questions, replied that Bolivia for example capping interest rates might impact financial institution’s profitability and thus “financial stability.”


   She said the government responded that financial inclusion has not progressed fast enough and so they are taking these steps. She the Article IV discussion, which are held with each IMF member, were “very open and frank” with Bolivia, and thus positive.


  To Inner City Press, the IMF’s willingness to criticize consumer protection in Bolivia stands in contrast to the IMF’s deference to the US on the how to manage and communicate the Federal Reserve’s tapering, the debt ceiling — anything, essentially.


  On February 25, Bolivia’s Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, with his UN Permanent Representative Sacha Llorenti translating, described this is a key time for sustainable development, and that the G77 and China will play a key role, since it has 133 members (2/3 of the UN membership) and represents 70% of the world’s population.


  Given that, it was noteworthy that the pro-Western “United Nations Correspondents Association” did not send a single one of their 15 Executive Committee members to the briefing by Bolivia’s vice president about the Group of 77 and China. Tellingly, UNCA last July used the big third floor room the UN gives them to host Saudi-supported Syria rebel leader Ahmad al Jarba for a faux “UN briefing.”


  In the same room, also tellingly, the outgoing UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky will hold his farewell on March 7. His deputy Eduardo del Buey held his farewell, more appropriately, in the UN Spokesperson’s office. But this UN is going more and more Gulf and Western, with its spokesperson’s job now passing to France.


 We’ll have more on this — for now, we will link to Bolivia’s Vice President’s comments on G77, and on the IMF.


SustainabiliTank actually expected the Bolivian VP to touch also upon the meetings of the SIDS, but seemingly there wee no questions to him on this topic.





Posted on on February 25th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (



On the occasion of the International Year of Family Farming 2014, 


the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, in cooperation with this human world (THW) Film Festival and Topkino,


the Ciné-ONU Vienna screening of the documentary“The Moo Man”


(by Andy Heathcote, UK 2013, 98 min, English)
followed by a Q&A session with invited guests, free entry.
Date / Time: 24 February 2014, 18:30 hrs
Location: Topkino, Rahlgasse 1, 1060 ViennaParticipants of the panel discussion:

Elisabeth Sötz - Advisor for Environment and Natural Resources, ADA (Austrian Development Agency) 
Nikolaus Morawitz – Head of EU & International Affairs, Austrian Chamber of Agriculture
Frank Hartwich – Industrial Development Officer, UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization)
Janos Tisovszky – Outgoing Director, United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna (Moderator)

as reported for SustainabiliTank by Ms. Irith Jawetz:


“The Moo Man” tells the remarkable story of a maverick farmer and his unruly cows, filmed over four years on the marshes of the Pevensey Levels*.  In an attempt to save his family farm, Stephen Hook decides to turn his back on the cost cutting dairies and supermarkets, and instead stay small and keep his close relationship with the herd. However farmer Hook’s plans to save the farm do not always go down well with his 55 spirited cows. The result is a laugh-out-loud, emotional roller-coaster of a journey.
“Heart warming, a tearjerker of a movie, about the incredible bonds between man, animal and countryside.” 




Mr. Hook describes his cows as “family”. While the average life span of a cow on a farm is 5 to 6 years, his cows live 9 to 10 years. “We do not push them, they are more relaxed” he explains as the reason for their long life.




The film follows partly the story of his favorite cow, Ida. “Ida is a symbol of what we do” says Mr. Hook. We follow her life until she passes away and the sadness expressed by Mr. Hook is really touching. “She was a lovely cow the queen of the herd, and had a lot of character” Mr. Hook laments .




Farming is a 24/7 job, with no time off. Mr. Hook explains that the work is hard and you basically work for nothing. He milks the cows himself with little help, since he cannot afford to employ people, bottles them and brings them to the customers in his truck. This milk is literally brought from the cow to the consumers directly. However, it is a losing battle because of the high costs. As Mr. Hook explains nobody wants to farm anymore because you work hard for nothing.  Family farms close down all over England and Wales.




The discussion after the film focused basically on how the private farms could be helped.  They all agreed that farmers need subsidies, that is why the United States had the farm Bill. There is also a big difference between small farms in developed countries and those in developing countries – and that is where three essential facts were put forward to produce the best conditions for successful farming:




1) Stable policy on environment by the respective government;




2) Providing education, skills, and know-how to the farmers;




3) Organization, i.e. lobbying & marketing.




This is where developing countries falter, while developed countries are doing better. In the developed countries, especially in the EU, the farmers are well represented, have a strong lobby and basically do better.




One big problem for the farmers is Climate Change.  Since they cannot predict the weather, it is difficult for them to know when to plant what and whether the weather will cooperate.



Sudden floods, drought may ruin the whole crop.



A second problem is urbanization. Young people move to the cities seeking easier and more profitable jobs.



Agri-tourism is a small help. Small farms, especially in the EU open B & B facilities for families, particularly city folks with children, to spend time on the farm. The income helps.




It was all in all an interesting evening, combining an endearing film with lots of emotions, yet also laughter, and a serious discussion afterwards.





Natural England – Pevensey Levels NNR…/1006119.aspx?

Natural England

Pevensey Levels NNR lies in the heart of a large grazing marsh which is home to many species of wetland bird.

This event – the showing of the movie to the public at large – by a UN Information Service/Center – shows what an outreach of the UN can do even in a developed country – that is not just assuming the role of the UN is just to teach the backward developing countries.




Posted on on February 5th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

The inevitable happens – man is fickle and the pristine beauty of “poor pale Rusalka” – is betrayed by the Prince upon whom preys a scheming Princess. That is when the witch Jezibaba leads to revenge against the Prince even though the Water Gnome – Rusalka’s father – would have had rather pity because of her suffering. In the end – Rusalka’s kiss is a kiss of death to the betrayer.

As it happened, I saw the Opera on February 4th after having spent half a day at the Church Center across from the UN, at a meeting related to the 8th Session of the Open Working Group (OWG) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). That was a Press Conference Panel that included the Bolivian Ambassador to the UN, and other very interesting individuals, that all had to say something about the importance of Nature when considering the corrupting human activities that with unsustainable consumption and production patterns destroy what Nature has to offer. Here I only hint at that event as I will be reporting on it at length in a subsequent posting.

Nature has Spirits so nothing is just there for the taking. Bolivia and Haiti are two states with inhabitants that have not forgotten this. We wrote about it in the past and mentioned it again today. What I called above romanticism is in effect the application of this sort of spirituality if we want tp preserve Nature and this appears in art form in this Opera.

All what I want to say here is that with the Press Conference in mind, the discussions I heard and participated in -
I found the Rusalka Opera very relevant and could not hold back the need to post these comments.

For now – the only other comment I post here is that the Panel included also Ms. Ghislaine Maxwell of The TERRAMAR Project that campaigns for an SDG for Oceans, and about that I just posted from the activities of Palau as reported from the UN by Matthew Lee.


Posted on on January 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

Transcript of President Obama’s Jan. 17 speech on NSA reforms.

Published: January 17, 2014

President Obama delivered the following remarks on changes to National Security Agency programs Jan. 17 at the Justice Department in Washington. Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you so much, please have a seat.

At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee, born out of the Sons of Liberty, was established in Boston. And the group’s members included Paul Revere. At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early patriots.

Throughout American history, intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms.

In the Civil War, Union balloons’ reconnaissance tracked the size of Confederate armies by counting the number of campfires. In World War II, codebreakers gave us insights into Japanese war plans. And when Patton marched across Europe, intercepted communications helped save the lives of his troops.

After the war, the rise of Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons only increased the need for sustained intelligence gathering. And so in the early days of the Cold War, President Truman created the National Security Agency, or NSA, to give us insights into the Soviet Bloc and provide our leaders with information they needed to confront aggression and avert catastrophe.

Throughout this evolution, we benefited from both our Constitution and our traditions of limited government.

U.S. intelligence agencies were anchored in a system of checks and balances, with oversight from elected leaders and protections for ordinary citizens.

Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes.

In fact, even the United States proved not to be immune to the abuse of surveillance. In the 1960s government spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War. And probably in response to these revelations, additional laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens. In the long twilight struggle against communism, we had been reminded that the very liberties that we sought to preserve could not be sacrificed at the altar of national security.

Now, if the fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower, emerging threats from terrorist groups and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction place new and, in some ways, more complicated demands on our intelligence agencies.

Globalization and the Internet made these threats more acute as technology erased borders and empowered individuals to project great violence as well as great good.

Moreover, these new threats raised new legal and new policy questions, for while few doubted the legitimacy of spying on hostile states, our framework of laws was not fully adapted to prevent terrorist attacks by individuals acting on their own or acting in small ideological — ideologically driven groups on behalf of a foreign power.

The horror of September 11th brought all these issues to the fore.

Across the political spectrum, Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away. We were shaken by the signs we had missed leading up to the attacks, how the hijackers had made phone calls to known extremists and traveled to suspicious places. So we demanded that our intelligence community improve its capabilities and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack.

It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11. Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile powers and gathering information for policymakers.

Instead, they were now asked to identify and target plotters is some of the most remote parts of the world and to anticipate the actions of networks that, by their very nature, could not be easily penetrated by spies or informants. And it is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we’ve made enormous strides in fulfilling this mission.

Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with and follow the trail of his travel or his funding. New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly and effectively between federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded and our capacity to repel cyber attacks have been strengthened. And taken together, these efforts have prevented multiple attacks and saved innocent lives — not just here in the United States, but around the globe.

And yet, in our rush to respond to a very real and novel set of threats, the risk of government overreach, the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security also became more pronounced. We saw in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 our government engage in enhanced interrogation techniques that contradicted our values. As a senator, I was critical of several practices, such as warrantless wiretaps. And all too often new authorities were instituted without adequate public debate.

Through a combination of action by the courts, increased congressional oversight and adjustments by the previous administration, some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took office. But a variety of factors have continued to complicate America’s efforts to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties.

        First, the same technological advances that allow U.S. intelligence agencies to pinpoint an al-Qaida (sale ?) in Yemen or an email between two terrorists in the Sahel also mean that many routine communications around the world are within our reach. And at a time when more and more of our lives are digital, that prospect is disquieting for all of us.

       Second, the combination of increased digital information and powerful supercomputers offers intelligence agencies the possibility of sifting through massive amounts of bulk data to identify patterns or pursue leads that may thwart impending threats. It’s a powerful tool. But the government collection and storage of such bulk data also creates a potential for abuse.

      Third, the legal safeguards that restrict surveillance against U.S. persons without a warrant do not apply to foreign persons overseas. This is not unique to America; few, if any, spy agencies around the world constrain their activities beyond their own borders. And the whole point of intelligence is to obtain information that is not publicly available.

But America’s capabilities are unique, and the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do.

That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.

And finally, intelligence agencies cannot function without secrecy, which makes their work less subject to public debate. Yet there is an inevitable bias, not only within the intelligence community but among all of us who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less. So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate and oversight that is public as well as private or classified, the danger of government overreach becomes more acute. And this is particularly true when surveillance technology and our reliance on digital information is evolving much faster than our laws.

For all these reasons, I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became president.
I ordered that our programs be reviewed by my national security team and our lawyers. And in some cases, I ordered changes in how we did business. We increased oversight and auditing, including new structures aimed at compliance. Improved rules were proposed by the government and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And we’ve sought to keep Congress continually updated on these activities.

What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale, not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review and nothing that I have learned since indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.

To the contrary, in an extraordinarily difficult job, one in which actions are second-guessed, success is unreported and failure can be catastrophic, the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people. They’re not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails.

When mistakes are made — which is inevitable in any large and complicated human enterprise, they correct those mistakes, laboring in obscurity, often unable to discuss their work even with family and friends — the men and women at the NSA know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber attack occurs, they will be asked by Congress and the media why they failed to connect the dots. What sustains those who work at NSA and our other intelligence agencies through all these pressures is the knowledge that their professionalism and dedication play a central role in the defense of our nation.

Now, to say that our intelligence community follows the law and is staffed by patriots is not to suggest that I or others in my administration felt complacent about the potential impact of these programs. Those of us who hold office in America have a responsibility to our Constitution. And while I was confident in the integrity of those who lead our intelligence community, it was clear to me in observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place.

Moreover, after an extended review in the use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believe a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open-ended war footing that we’ve maintained since 9/11.

And for these reasons, I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty. Of course, what I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day.

Given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations. I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy. Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we might not fully understand for years to come.

Regardless of how we got here though, the task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future.

Instead we have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections our ideals and our Constitution require. We need to do so not only because it is right but because the challenges posed by threats like terrorism and proliferation and cyberattacks are not going away any time soon. They are going to continue to be a major problem. And for our intelligence community to be effective over the long haul, we must maintain the trust of the America people and people around the world.

This effort will not be completed overnight, and given the pace of technological change, we shouldn’t expect this to be the last time America has this debate.

But I want the American people to know that the work has begun. Over the last six months I created an outside review group on intelligence and communications technologies to make recommendations for reform. I consulted with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by Congress. I’ve listened to foreign partners, privacy advocates and industry leaders. My administration has spent countless hours considering how to approach intelligence in this era of diffuse threats and technological revolution.

So before outlining specific changes that I’ve ordered, let me make a few broad observations that have emerged from this process.

           First, everyone who has looked at these problems, including skeptics of existing programs, recognizes that we have real enemies and threats and that intelligence serves a vital role in confronting them.

We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyberthreats without some capability to penetrate digital communications, whether it’s to unravel a terrorist plot, to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange, to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts. We are expected to protect the American people; that requires us to have capabilities in this field.

Moreover, we cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies. There is a reason why BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the White House Situation Room. We know that the intelligence services of other countries, including some who feigned surprise over the Snowden disclosures, are constantly probing our government and private sector networks and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations and intercept our emails and compromise our systems. We know that. Meanwhile, a number of countries, including some who have loudly criticized the NSA, privately acknowledge that America has special responsibilities as the world’s only superpower, that our intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting these responsibilities and that they themselves have relied on the information we obtained to protect their own people.

              Second, just as our civil libertarians recognized the need for robust intelligence capabilities, those with responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledge the potential for abuse as intelligence capabilities advance and more and more private information is digitized. After all, the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors. They’re our friends and family.

They’ve got electronic bank and medical records like everybody else. They have kids on Facebook and Instagram. And they know, more than most of us, the vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world where transactions are recorded and email and text and messages are stored and even our movements can increasingly be tracked through the GPS on our phones.

           Third, there was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data and use it for commercial purposes. That’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.

But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher. Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us. We won’t abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power. It depends on the law to constrain those in power.

I make these observations to underscore that the basic values of most Americans when it comes to questions of surveillance and privacy converge a lot more than the crude characterizations that have emerged over the last several months. Those who are troubled by our existing programs not interested in repeating the tragedy of 9/11. And those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties. The challenge is getting the details right. And that is not simple.

In fact, during the course of our review, I’ve often reminded myself I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Dr. King who were spied upon by their own government. And as president, a president who looks at intelligence every morning, I also can’t help but be reminded that America must be vigilant in the face of threats.

Now, fortunately, by focusing on facts and specifics rather than speculating and hypotheticals, this review process has given me, and hopefully the American people, some clear direction for change. And today I can announce a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress.

              First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities both at home and abroad. This guidance will strengthen executive branch oversight of our intelligence activities. It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances, our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of American companies, and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by my senior national security team.

            Second, we will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Since we began this review, including information being released today, we’ve declassified over 40 opinions and orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which provides judicial review of some of our most sensitive intelligence activities, including the Section 702 program targeting foreign individuals overseas and the Section 215 telephone metadata program.

And going forward, I’m directing the director of national intelligence, in consultation with the attorney general, to annually review for the purposes of declassification any future opinions of the court with broad privacy implications and to report to me and to Congress on these efforts.

To ensure that the court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I’m also calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

               Third, we will provide additional protections for activities conducted under Section 702, which allows the government to intercept the communications of foreign targets overseas who have information that’s important for our national security. Specifically, I’m asking the attorney general and DNI to institute reforms that place additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search and use in criminal cases communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702.

            Fourth, in investigating threats, the FBI also relies on what’s called national security letters, which can require companies to provide specific and limited information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation.

Now, these are cases in which it’s important that the subject of the investigation, such as a possible terrorist or spy, isn’t tipped off. But we can and should be more transparent in how government uses this authority.

I’ve therefore directed the attorney general to amend how we use national security letters so that this secrecy will not be indefinite, so that it will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy. We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders that they have received to provide data to the government.

This brings me to the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months, the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215. Let me repeat what I said when this story first broke. This program does not involve the content of phone calls or the names of people making calls. Instead, it provide a record of phone numbers and the times and length of calls, metadata that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization.

Why is this necessary? The program grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after 9/11. One of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar, made a phone call from San Diego to a known al- Qaida safehouse in Yemen.

NSA saw that call, but it could not see that the call was coming from an individual already in the United States. The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists so we could see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible.

And this capability could also prove valuable in a crisis. For example, if a bomb goes off in one of our cities and law enforcement is racing to determine whether a network is poised to conduct additional attacks, time is of the essence. Being able to quickly review phone connections to assess whether a network exists is critical to that effort.

In sum, the program does not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans. Rather, it consolidates these records into a database that the government can query if it has a specific lead, a consolidation of phone records that the companies already retain for business purposes. The review group turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused, and I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved.

Having said that, I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future. They’re also right to point out that although the telephone bulk collection program was subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has been reauthorized repeatedly by Congress, it has never been subject to vigorous public debate.

For all these reasons,  I believe we need a new approach. I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.

This will not be simple. The review group recommended that our current approach be replaced by one in which the providers or a third party retain the bulk records, with government accessing information as needed. Both of these options pose difficult problems. Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns. On the other hand, any third party maintaining a single consolidated database would be carrying out what’s essentially a government function, but with more expense, more legal ambiguity, potentially less accountability, all of which would have a doubtful impact on increasing public confidence that their privacy is being protected.

During the review process, some suggested that we may also be able to preserve the capabilities we need through a combination of existing authorities, better information sharing and recent technological advances, but more work needs to be done to determine exactly how this system might work.

Because of the challenges involved, I’ve ordered that the transition away from the existing program will proceed in two steps.

               Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization, instead of the current three, and I have directed the attorney general to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding or in the case of a true emergency.

             Next, step two: I have instructed the intelligence community and the attorney general to use this transition period to develop options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address, without the government holding this metadata itself. They will report back to me with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28th. And during this period, I will consult with the relevant committees in Congress to seek their views and then seek congressional authorization for the new program, as needed.

Now, the reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe. And I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate. For example, some who participated in our review, as well as some members of Congress, would like to see more sweeping reforms to the use of national security letters, so we have to go to a judge each time before issuing these requests.

Here, I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime.

But I agree that greater oversight on the use of these letters may be appropriate. And I’m prepared to work with Congress on this issue.

There are also those who would like to see different changes to the FISA court than the ones I’ve proposed. On all these issues, I’m open to working with Congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward. And I’m confident that we can shape an approach that meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American.

Let me now turn to the separate set of concerns that have been raised overseas and focus on America’s approach to intelligence collection abroad. As I’ve indicated, the United States has unique responsibilities when it comes to intelligence collection. Our capabilities help protect not only our nation but our friends and our allies as well.

But our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy too. And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to know what they think about an issue I’ll pick up the phone and call them rather than turning to surveillance.

In other words, just as balance security and privacy at home, our global leadership demands that we balance our security requirements against our need to maintain the trust and cooperation among people and leaders around the world. For that reason, the new presidential directive that I’ve issued today will clearly prescribe what we do and do not do when it comes to our overseas surveillance.

To begin with, the directive makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary folks.

I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity or race or gender or sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors.

And in terms of our bulk collection of signals intelligence, U.S. intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements: counterintelligence; counterterrorism; counterproliferation; cybersecurity; force protection for our troops and our allies; and combating transnational crime, including sanctions evasion.

In this directive, I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas. I’ve directed the DNI, in consultation with the attorney general, to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information while also restricting the use of this information. The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.

This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I’ve made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.

And I’ve instructed my national security team, as well as the intelligence community, to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust going forward.

Now let me be clear. Our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments, as opposed to ordinary citizens, around the world in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does. We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective. But heads of state and government with whom we work closely and on whose cooperation we depend should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners, and the changes I’ve ordered do just that.

                 Finally, to make sure that we follow through on all these reforms, I’m making some important changes to how our government is organized. The State Department will designate a senior officer to coordinate our diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence. We will appoint a senior official at the White House to implement the new privacy safeguards that I’ve announced today. I will devote the resources to centralize and improve the process we use to handle foreign requests for legal assistance, keeping our high standards for privacy while helping foreign partners fight crime and terrorism.

I’ve also asked my counselor, John Podesta, to lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy. And this group will consist of government officials who, along with the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, will reach out to privacy experts, technologists and business leaders and look how the challenges inherent in big data are being confronted by both the public and private sectors, whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this data and how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent with both privacy and security, for ultimately, what’s at stake in this debate goes far beyond a few months of headlines or passing tensions in our foreign policy.

When you cut through the noise, what’s really at stake is how we remain true to who we are in a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed. Whether it’s the ability of individuals to communicate ideas, to access information that would have once filled every great library in every country in the world, or to forge bonds with people on the other side of the globe, technology is remaking what is possible for individuals and for institutions and for the international order. So while the reforms that I’ve announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future. On thing I’m certain of, this debate will make us stronger. And I also know that in this time of change, the United States of America will have to lead.

It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard. And I’ll admit the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating.

No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs or Russia to take privacy concerns of citizens in other places into account.

But let’s remember, we are held to a different standard precisely because we have been at the forefront of defending personal privacy and human dignity. As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment, not government control. Having faced down the dangers of totalitarianism and fascism and communism, the world expects us to stand up for the principle that every person has the right to think and write and form relationships freely, because individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress.

Those values make us who we are. And because of the strength of our own democracy, we should not shy away from high expectations. For more than two centuries, our Constitution has weathered every type of change because we’ve been willing to defend it and because we’ve been willing to question the actions that have been taken in its defense. Today is no different. I believe we can meet high expectations. Together, let us chart a way forward that secures the life of our nation while preserving the liberties that make our nation worth fighting for.

Thank you. God bless you. May God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you.


President Obama criticized Edward Snowden's method of revealing classified information about the NSA's intelligence gathering during a speech Friday.

President Obama criticized Edward Snowden’s method of revealing classified information about the NSA’s intelligence gathering during a speech Friday.

Read more:

‘We must maintain the trust of the American people’

‘We must maintain the trust of the American people’

President ends eavesdropping on friendly foreign governments, changes system of data collection.

Five big takeaways from the speech

Five big takeaways from the speech

Here the major changes in U.S. policy on conducting surveillance both at home and abroad that Obama is proposing.

Obama acknowledges limits in changing intelligence policy

Obama acknowledges limits in changing intelligence policy

Candidate Obama criticized Bush-era policies, but President Obama faces responsibility, concerns about legacy.

Everything you need to know about Obama’s phone surveillance reforms

Everything you need to know about Obama’s phone surveillance reforms

Three changes that were bigger than anyone expected — and what’s still left unsaid.n. 17.



1/17/2014 10:35 PM GMT+0100
Ok, as a critic of the NSA domestic metadata program: this will do for now. Excellent speech. But speeches, and even presidential directives, are not laws or Supreme Court opinions. The domestic surveillance is too serious a matter to leave to the whims of this or the next president. So yeah, work with Congress to find a formal solution. In the meantime, Congress should simultaneously go ahead and end the current program (doesn’t have to be immediate) and the Court should decide whether it’s even constitutional.
Anthony Poland
1/17/2014 8:58 PM GMT+0100
Summary: Basically, the U.S. is involved in creating terrorism and counter-terrorism technologies, many of which have eventually become adopted by industry. A LOT of these technologies are being used today on YOU, and anyone can purchase them just by owning a business. It seems to me (and a lot of other people), that this is too much of big brother, and it seems like a good time to get out while there is still time.
1/17/2014 8:51 PM GMT+0100
So what did Mr. O just demanded of the world? “Trust us”?It’d be hilarious if it is not so sad.

Responding to the clamor over sensational disclosures about the National Security Agency’s spying practices, Mr. Obama said he would restrict the ability of intelligence agencies to gain access to phone records, and would ultimately move that data out of the hands of the government.

But in a speech at the Justice Department that seemed more calculated to reassure audiences at home and abroad than to force radical change, Mr. Obama defended the need for the broad surveillance net assembled by the N.S.A. And he turned to Congress and the intelligence agencies themselves to work out the details of any changes.

“America’s capabilities are unique,” Mr. Obama said. “And the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do. That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.”

Noting his own record of opposition to intrusive surveillance and the “cautionary tale” of unchecked state spying in countries like the former East Germany, Mr. Obama said the disclosures raised genuine issues of the balance between liberty and security.

The president gave Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. 60 days to come back with recommendations; the government, for the time being, will continue to collect the data until Congress decides where ultimately it should be held.

Civil-liberties groups and lawmakers who have been critical of the N.S.A.’s practices appeared divided over whether Mr. Obama’s proposal on bulk phone records should be greeted with applause or wariness.

Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico — three Democrats on the Intelligence Committee who have been outspoken critics of government surveillance — jointly called Mr. Obama’s embrace of that goal “a major milestone,” although they said they would continue to push for other overhauls Mr. Obama did not endorse.

But Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, was more skeptical, noting that Mr. Obama had warned of hurdles with moving the data into private hands. “The bulk collection and retention of data in government warehouses, government facilities, seems to still be an open question,” he said.

While nothing in federal statutes explicitly gives the court the authority to grant requests to obtain the data, the Justice Department decided that it would most likely consent to doing so, in part because for a period several years ago, the court signed off on each query, officials said.

Two strong defenders of the N.S.A., the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, focused on that change as a potential problem.

“If instituted, that approval process must be made faster in the future than it was in the past — when it took up to nine days to gain court approval for a single search,” they said in a joint statement.

Mr. Obama also said he was taking the “unprecedented step” of extending privacy safeguards to non-Americans, including requiring that data collected abroad be deleted after a certain period and limiting its use to specific security requirements, like counterterrorism and cybersecurity.

“The bottom line,” he said, “is that people around the world — regardless of their nationality — should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”

Google, which briefly considered moving all of its computer servers out of the United States last year after learning how they had been penetrated by the National Security Agency, was looking for a public assurance from President Obama that the government would no longer secretly suck data from the company’s corner of the Internet cloud.

Microsoft was listening to see if Mr. Obama would adopt a recommendation from his advisers that the government stop routinely stockpiling flaws in its Windows operating system, then using them to penetrate some foreign computer systems and, in rare cases, launch cyberattacks.

Intel and computer security companies were eager to hear Mr. Obama embrace a commitment that the United States would never knowingly move to weaken encryption systems.

They got none of that.

Perhaps the most striking element of Mr. Obama’s speech on Friday was what it omitted: While he bolstered some protections for citizens who fear the N.S.A. is downloading their every dial, tweet and text message, he did nothing, at least yet, to loosen the agency’s grip on the world’s digital pipelines.

White House officials said that Mr. Obama was committed to studying the complaints by American industry that the revelations were costing them billions of dollars in business overseas, by giving everyone from the Germans to the Brazilians to the Chinese an excuse to avoid American hardware and cloud services.

“The most interesting part of this speech was not how the president weighed individual privacy against the N.S.A.,” said Fred H. Cate, the director of the Center of Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University, “but that he said little about what to do about the agency’s practice of vacuuming up everything it can get its hands on.”

Then – In fact, he did more than that: Mr. Obama reminded the country that it was not only the government that was monitoring users of the web, it was also companies like Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo that had complained so loudly, as members of an industry group called Reform Government Surveillance.

“Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes,” Professor Cate said. “That’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.”

Translation: Corporate America wants to be able to mine Americans’ data, but fears business will be hurt when the government uses it for intelligence purposes.

In fact, behind the speech lies a struggle Mr. Obama nodded at but never addressed head on. It pits corporations that view themselves as the core of America’s soft power around the world — the country’s economic driver and the guardians of its innovative edge — against an intelligence community 100,000 strong that regards its ability to peer into any corner of the digital world, and manipulate it if necessary, as crucial to the country’s security.

But as Mr. Obama himself acknowledged, the United States has a credibility problem that will take years to address. The discovery that it had monitored the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, or that it has now found a way to tap into computers around the world that are completely disconnected from the Internet — using covert radio waves — only fuels the argument that American products cannot be trusted.

That argument, heard these days from Berlin to Mexico City, may only be an excuse for protectionism. But it is an excuse that often works.

“When your products are considered to not only be flawed but intentionally flawed in the support of intelligence missions, don’t expect people to buy them,” said Dan Kaminsky, a security researcher and chief scientist at White Ops, an antifraud company whose clients include many of the nation’s biggest data users,

Mr. Obama will have to address those issues at some point. Every time he meets Silicon Valley executives, many of whom enthusiastically campaigned for him, they remind him of their complaints. But at the Justice Department on Friday, he reminded them that the battle for cyberspace runs in all directions.

“We cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies,” he said at one point in the speech. “There is a reason why BlackBerrys and iPhones are not allowed in the White House Situation Room. We know that the intelligence services of other countries — including some who feign surprise over the Snowden disclosures — are constantly probing our government and private sector networks, and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations, and intercept our emails and compromise our systems.”


The President on Mass Surveillance


Restoring trust in government agencies requires more than a few good restrictions on collecting personal data.


Posted on on January 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (



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(Kindly RSVP by January 18th to
Your RSVP will be confirmed via e-mail.)
The Center for Traditional Music and Dance and its Haitian Community Cultural Initiative, Verite sou Tanbou (formerly known as Ayiti Fasafas), invite you to “Vodou Is Nature,” an educational workshop on Haitian Vodou practice and performance in New York City. Oungan (Vodou priest) Dieudonné Jean-Jacques and Manbo (Vodou Priestess) Marie Carmel will lead a conversation discussing the roots of Haitian Vodou with respect to the environment, in its “four elements” (air, earth, fire, and water), and the Vodou spirits (lwa) which guard and represent the powerful forces and precious resources of the natural world.  The conversation will be translated into English and Kreyol and will be followed by a question-and-answer session, plus a performance of traditional Vodou songs on nature themes. Audience participation is encouraged!
WikiCommons Tree



Verite sou Tanbou image design by Kesler Pierre.

Roots/water photo by Pam Fray, 2007 (public domain via Wikimedia Commons).

Support for this program is provided to the Center for Traditional Music and Dance and Verite sou Tanbou by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Con Edison, the Emma A. Sheafer Charitable Trust, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Gilder Foundation, the Hearst Foundation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and the Scherman Foundation.

Find out more about CTMD!
For more information about upcoming events, what’s happening in New York City’s traditional music and dance scene, to join or to donate, go to CTMD’s website.  


Posted on on January 10th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


The Republican Strategy To Keep Wages Low

The following was orginally published on Facebook

I’m freezing in Chicago. Meanwhile, in Washington, Republicans say they won’t extend emergency unemployment benefits unless their cost is offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

But they won’t even consider offsetting the cost by closing tax loopholes for the rich — such as the “carried interest” loophole that gives hedge-fund and private-equity partners an annual $11 billion tax subsidy, almost twice the cost of extending unemployment benefits.

Put this in a larger context and see the pattern:

(1) Not only do they oppose extending unemployment benefits, but (2) they oppose any jobs program to put the long-term unemployed to work, (3) they want to cut food stamps, (4) they refuse to raise the minimum wage, and (5) they’re determined to kill off unions.

Connect the dots and you have a calculated strategy to keep wages as low as possible — forcing large numbers of Americans to choose between working for peanuts or having nothing at all.

Republicans are pushing this strategy because lower wages give their big-business patrons fatter profits (at least in the short term; longer term, they reduce overall demand for goods and services).

The strategy is already succeeding: Real median household incomes are now 4.4 percent below what they were at the start of the so-called recovery, and corporate profits are up.

Democrats, including Obama, should be calling them out on this strategy. Why aren’t they?

Some of the comments:

Thank you Robert Reich for continuing to point out that there are causes of inequality and particular people who are obstructing solutions.
  • Richard Schwartz · Top Commenter · CUNY (The City University of New York)

    Excellent analysis as always by Robert Reich.It is essential that this message be widely spread.

    Please help in doing that.

  • Robert J Stedman · Top Commenter

    The question I have is how do we get this across to the people that are being effected by their action and get them to the ballet box to vote? Until they are voted out of office they will continue to serve their corporate masters and spread their miss information via the news media.One suggestion I will make is that this covers most thing that will effect the majority of low wage earners that is could be made into a simple one page pamphlet and handed out to them, mailed to them and used as a means to get them to the ballet box.


    There is nothing good to say about the December employment report, which showed that only 74,000 jobs were added last month. But dismal as it was, the report came at an opportune political moment. The new numbers rebut the Republican arguments that jobless benefits need not be renewed, and that the current minimum wage is adequate. At the same time, they underscore the need, only recently raised to the top of the political agenda, to combat poverty and inequality.

    The report showed that average monthly job growth in 2013 was 182,000, basically unchanged from 2012. Even the decline in the jobless rate last month, from 7 percent in November to 6.7 percent, was a sign of weakness: It mainly reflects a shrinking labor force — not new hiring — as the share of workers employed or looking for work fell to the lowest level since 1978. That’s a tragic waste of human capital. It would be comforting to ascribe the dwindling labor force mainly to retirements or other long-term changes, but most of the decline is due to weak job opportunities and weak labor demand since the Great Recession.

    One result is that the share of jobless workers who have been unemployed for six months or longer has remained stubbornly high. In December, it was nearly 38 percent, still higher by far than at any time before the Great Recession, in records going back to 1948.

    And yet, nearly 1.3 million of those long-term unemployed had their federal jobless benefits abruptly cut off at the end of last year, after Republicans refused to renew the federal unemployment program in the latest budget deal. Each week the program is not reinstated, another 72,000 jobless people who otherwise would have qualified for benefits will find there is no longer a federal program to turn to. Worse, in the Senate this week, after a show of willingness to discuss renewing the benefits, Republicans objected to a bill to do just that. They had demanded that a renewal be paid for, but they didn’t like how Democrats proposed to do that — with spending cuts at the end of the budget window in 2024 in exchange for relief today.

    There was no need to pay for the benefits, which have such a crucial and positive effect — on families, the economy and poverty — that it would be sound to renew them even if the government borrowed to do so. But Republicans would rather criticize President Obama’s handling of the economy than help those left behind.

    A similar dynamic is developing around the drive for a higher minimum wage. In the December jobs report, the average hourly wage for most workers was $20.35. That means that the minimum wage, at $7.25 an hour, is only one-third of the average, rather than one-half, as was the case historically. Raising the wage to $10.10 an hour, as Democrats have proposed, would help to restore the historical relationship. But even that would fall far short of the roughly $17 an hour that workers at the bottom of the wage scale would be earning if increased labor productivity were reflected in their pay, rather than in corporate profits, executive compensation and shareholder returns.

    Republicans, however, are opposed to any increase, as if the numbers don’t speak for themselves. Their stance also dismisses research, and common sense, which says that raising the wages of low- and moderate-income workers is essential for lessening both poverty and inequality.

    Instead, in the past week, they have introduced ostensibly “antipoverty” ideas, most prominently Senator Marco Rubio’s plan to transform federal safety net programs into state block grants, another of the shopworn Republican ideas that also include privatizing federal services and slashing domestic spending. Block grants have allowed states to disregard the needs of the least fortunate. The proposal would set back the debate on wages, poverty and inequality.

    The December jobs report is telling Congress what it needs to do. Unfortunately, that will not lead to action anytime soon.



Posted on on January 4th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Green Prophet Headlines – Dubai exploded 400,000 fireworks in record-shattering NYE display [video]

Link to Green Prophet

mailed-by: – Dubai exploded 400,000 fireworks in record-shattering NYE display [video]

Posted: 03 Jan 2014 01:44 PM PST

guinness world records, world's largest fireworks display, the palm, world islands, artificial islands dubai, dubai fireworks, NYE Dubai, 2014 fireworks display Dubai

Dubai rang in 2014 with a record-shattering fireworks display. In an effort to break the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest fireworks extravaganza previously held by Kuwait, the emirate exploded a whopping 400,000 fireworks in less than 10 minutes.

Choreographed by America’s Phil Grucci, Dubai’s fireworks display was spread across 100 kilometers and lasted six full minutes.

The event took 10 months to plan and more than 200 pyrotechnicians arranged around The Palm and The World artificial islands ensured the display went off without a hitch.

Fireworks used were purchased in China, Spain and the United States, according to The National, and were hauled to the launching site by a long series of trucks.

We’re being given the challenge of breaking the world record,” said Grucci, who has worked in Dubai in the past, “so the scale of this is nothing that anybody has had the opportunity to oversee.”

Kuwait’s previous record was shattered by Dubai’s over-the-top performance, where nearly 100,000 fireworks were set off every minute.

“[Kuwait's] firework display stretched over 5 km (3.11 miles) of seafront, started at 8 p.m. and lasted 64 minutes,” according to the Guinness World Record website. “Event organizers Parente Fireworks srl and Filmmaster MEA produced the event, which included the pyrotechnic display and a lights and sound show. Preceding this, an airshow was staged in the afternoon.”

Albeit impressive, the show somehow undoes all of the small steps that Dubai has taken over the last year to become a little less environmentally destructive.

While those that saw the show were extremely impressed and lauded Dubai’s efforts to draw tourists to the city, some commentators expressed regret over the extraordinary expense and extravagance.

“When I see this and remember that Gaza has been without electricity for 40 days,” said Oussama Bargougui on YouTube “I really feel ashamed to be Arabic.”

Screengrab from Dubai Media video


Above reminded me of the Arab UN official supervisor who at 60 years age bragged of just having had a baby.


Posted on on December 29th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


36th Annual Kennedy Center Honors.

honorees list 



Submit a Kennedy Center Honors Recommendation for 2014.

The Kennedy Center Honors provide recognition to living individuals who throughout their lifetimes have made significant contributions to American culture through the performing arts. The primary criterion is excellence, and artistic achievement in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures, and television is considered.

Recommendations are now being accepted for the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors. Please use the fields below to submit a recommendation.

Watch and Listen

Highlights 2013 click to watch the video Kennedy Center Honors Highlights 2013 Highlights 2012 click to watch the video Kennedy Center Honors Highlights 2012 Honors Highlights click to watch the video Kennedy Center Honors Highlights 1978 – Present


Martina Arroyo, Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel, Shirley MacLaine & Carlos Santana
Will Receive 36th Annual Kennedy Center Honors

America to Celebrate the Careers of Five Extraordinary Artists Sunday, December 8, 2013

Gala will be broadcast on CBS on December 29, 2013 at 9:00-11:00 p.m., ET/PT

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts today announced the selection of the five individuals who will receive the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors. Recipients to be honored at the 36th annual national celebration of the arts are: opera singer Martina Arroyo; pianist, keyboardist, bandleader and composer Herbie Hancock; pianist, singer and songwriter Billy Joel; actress Shirley MacLaine; and musician and songwriter Carlos Santana.

“The Kennedy Center celebrates five extraordinary individuals who have spent their lives elevating the cultural vibrancy of our nation and the world,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. “Martina Arroyo has dazzled the world with her glorious soprano voice and continues to share her artistry with a new generation of opera singers; Herbie Hancock has established himself as one of the most innovative musicians in the world, constantly breaking musical barriers and redefining the art of jazz; Billy Joel’s melodies have provided the soundtrack of our lives for over four decades making him one pop music’s most prolific and memorable singers and songwriters; the remarkable breadth and range of Shirley MacLaine’s acting has left an indelible impression over a nearly 60-year career on stage and screen; from his legendary performance at Woodstock to his sweep at the 2000 Grammys and beyond, Carlos Santana’s artistry transcends genres while entertaining millions.”

The annual Honors Gala has become the highlight of the Washington cultural year, and its broadcast on CBS is a high point of the television season. On Sunday, December 8, in a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, produced by George Stevens, Jr. and Michael Stevens, the 2013 Honorees will be saluted by great performers from New York, Hollywood, and the arts capitals of the world. Seated with the President of the United States and Mrs. Obama, the Honorees will accept the thanks of their peers through performances and tributes.

The President and Mrs. Obama will receive the Honorees and members of the Artists Committee who nominate them, along with the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees at the White House prior to the gala performance. The 2013 Kennedy Center Honors Gala concludes with a supper dance in the Grand Foyer.

The Kennedy Center Honors medallions will be presented on Saturday, December 7, the night before the gala, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for the 36th consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Sunday, December 29 at 9:00 p.m. (ET/PT).

Under the leadership of George Stevens, Jr. and his Honors producing partner, Michael Stevens, the broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors has received four consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Television Special. The Honors telecast has also been recognized with the Peabody Award and seven awards from the Writers Guild of America. Between them, the Stevenses have received 22 Emmys and 53 nominations for their work in television. Nick Vanoff was co-creator of the Honors with George Stevens, Jr. in 1978.

The Boeing Company is the exclusive underwriter of the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors Gala Luncheon and post-gala supper dance in the Grand Foyer.

Delta Air Lines, the official airline of the Kennedy Center Honors television broadcast, will provide transportation for the performers and television crew that will be coming to Washington for the Honors Gala.

The Honors recipients recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts—whether in music, dance, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television—are selected by the Executive Committee of the Center’s Board of Trustees. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement; the selection process, over the years, has produced balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.

This year, a revised Honoree selection process included expanded solicitation of recommendations from the general public and an advisory committee comprised of artists, past Honorees and Kennedy Center board members. Previous Honors recipients and members of the Center’s national artists committee, including Emanuel Ax, Alec Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Joshua Bell, Glenn Close, Christoph Eschenbach, Renée Fleming, Morgan Freeman, Paloma Herrera, Lang Lang, Steve Martin, Leontyne Price, Chita Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, Steven Spielberg and Forest Whitaker also made recommendations.

Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser expressed the Center’s continued gratitude to the many individuals involved in the success of the Honors program. “In addition to recognizing some of the world’s most treasured artists, the Kennedy Center Honors supports a wide variety of artistic programming, as well as the Center’s educational and national outreach efforts.”


Our reaction to last nights viewing of the December 8th event is that it indeed covered the American Rainbow Arch as fitting an Obama Presidency. Pulling on stage also Bill O’Reilly enlarged the intellectual scope to include a Republican.

Having learned that Justice Sotomayor will also be honored by doing the count-up to the New Year, Times Square ball that will announce a De Blasio mayorality in New York City in 2014 – falls into this same political tent.


Posted on on December 28th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


From Daniel Pipes of Middle East Forum about his new book

“Islam and Bebop Jazz”


Dear Reader:

To commemorate the publication of this look at the connections of Islam to jazz, I posted today “Bibliography – My Writings on Music and Islam.” It contains nine items. 

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Pipes

Islam and Bebop Jazz

by Daniel Pipes
December 27, 2013

The passing of Al-Hajj Dr. Yusef Abdul Lateef, 93, on Dec. 23 in Massachusetts brings to mind the exotic, semi-forgotten influence of Islam on the American music scene in the 1950s, when Islam, and specifically Ahmadiyya Islam, was cool.

Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston on Oct. 9, 1920, in Chattanooga and grew up in Detroit, where his father changed the family name to Evans. He began as a saxophonist in 1946, then went on to play the flute, oboe, bassoon, and many other instruments. In a very long and important career, he made music with such renowned figures as Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charles Mingus, as well as being a band leader in his own right.


Yusef Abdul Lateef died at 93 on Dec. 23, 2013.

Lateef become one of the first black jazz musicians to associate with Islam, converting in 1948 and changing his name at that time, then twice going on the pilgrimage to Mecca and writing a PhD dissertation in 1975 titled “An Overview of Western and Islamic Education.” As an implicit indication of his piety, from 1980 on he banned alcohol from his performances.

Missionaries of the small Ahmadiyya movement out of Pakistan had eye-popping success among leading jazz musicians of the 1950s, converting in addition to Lateef such luminaries as Nuh Alahi, Art Blakey (Abdullah Ibn Buhaina), Fard Daleel, Mustafa Daleel (Oliver Mesheux), Talib Daoud, Ahmad Jamal (Fritz Jones), Muhammad Sadiq, Sahib Shihab (Edmund Gregory), Dakota Staton (Aliya Rabia), and McCoy Tyner (Sulaiman Saud).


Dakota Staton, aka Aliya Rabia (1930-2007).

Superstars whispered to have converted included John Coltrane (who first married a Muslim), Dizzy Gillespie (whose band included several Muslims), Charlie Parker (Abdul Karim), and Pharaoh Sanders (whose work contains Muslim themes). One listing of Muslim jazz players contains about 125 names. These musicians preferred to perform at clubs owned by fellow Muslims, many of whom hailed from the Caribbean.

In short, Islam was the unofficial religion of bebop.

The musicians turned to Islam in part for genuine religious reasons; in part because (in the words of 1953 Ebony article), “Islam breaks down racial barriers and endows its followers with purpose and dignity”; and in part because Islam served them as a mark of distinction in a United States where Muslim numbered only about 100,000 out of a population of 150 million.


(1) This connection contains a certain irony, given Islam’s dubious and sometimes directly hostile attitude toward music. For example, when the singer British Cat Stevens first converted to Islam in 1977, he stopped recording music for two decades. For a time in 2010, Somali Islamists not only banned all music but even school bells. Their counterparts in Mali in 2013 banned mobile phone ringtones.

(2) Ahmadis also harbor reservations about music, especially what they call pop music (which presumably includes jazz): Replying to a question on this topic, Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, replied in 2010:

it all depends on the degree of the habit and the nature of the music. The music in itself, as a whole, cannot be dubbed as bad. … In these things it is a matter of taste. … as far as pop music is concerned I don’t know how people can tolerate that! Just sheer nonsense! I don’t disrespect music altogether, because I know the classical music had some nobility in it. … the taste left behind by this modern “so-called music” is ugly and evil, and the society under its influence is becoming uglier and more permissive, more careless of the traditional values, so this music is obviously evil and sinful. … an occasional brush with music which draws you into itself at the cost of higher values, at the cost of memory of Allah, at the cost of prayers, where you are taken over by music and that becomes all your ambition and obsession; if that happens then you are a loser, obviously.

(3) The Islam of the bebop era enhanced the musicians’ cool factor and was apolitical.

(4) That stands in sharp contrast to American Muslim music of subsequent years, which is characterized by alienation and anger. In the 1990s, for example, the Nation of Islam could count on the support of Ice Cube, King Sun, KMD, Movement X, Queen Latifa, Poor Righteous Teachers, Prince Akeem, Sister Souljah, and Tribe Called Quest. The Five Percenters, a splinter group of the Nation, had Grand Puba, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. and Rakim, and Lakim Shabazz in its corner. Normative Islam also had a smattering of artists such as Soldiers of Allah. Mattias Gardell, a biographyer of Louis Farrakhan, finds that the “hip-hop movement’s role in popularizing the message of black militant Islam cannot be overestimated.” (December 27, 2013)


Louis Farrakhan was a talented violinist when young and still Eugene Walcott. He made his mark in the late 1950s with theatrical and musical creations, the only ones the Nation of Islam countenanced in its early decades.

 This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.


Posted on on December 11th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (



You are invited

To the

Cocktails, Hors D’oeuvres
Thursday, December 12, 2013
6:00 – 8:00 pm
at the Embassy of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
1708 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC, 20036
Sponsored by:
American Gas Association (AGAthat when dominated by Mobil Oil used to fight the introduction of the Natural Gas that they were established with intent to support – i.e. they did not support use of CNG motor-vehicles), American Petroleum Institute (API – Washington DC based – all out oil), American Public Gas Association (regulated utilities), America’s Natural Gas Alliance, Ballard Spahr LLP, Business Council for Sustainable Energy (Geneva based – so far positive industry lobby established for the Rio UNCED in 1992), Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (a shipping interest), Chevron, Concentric Energy Advisors, Deloitte Services LP, Edison Electric Institute (established by the nuclear lobby), Embassy of Canada (with pipeline interests), Independent Petroleum Association of America, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (clearly not a decentralization proponent), National Ocean Industries Association (?fisheries?), National Propane Gas Association (petroleum refinery dependent – no relative of natural gas or biogas), Natural Gas Supply Association, NGVAmerica (Natural Gas or CNG motor-Vehicles), NiSource Inc, North American Energy Standards Board, Shell Oil Company, Williams, World Alliance for Decentralized Energy (WADEbased in Edinburgh – wind-mill operators or renewable energy proponents?).


Posted on on December 8th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (



December 8, 2013


Purchase TicketsHERE





The warm and rhythmic music of Brazil will help us “bring home the sun” in our upcoming 34th annual Winter SolsticeSeries, December 19, 20 and 21, at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Renowned singer/composer Ivan Lins will be joining us, for the first time, along with singer and guitarist Renato Braz, and a Brazilian chorus.


The 25 dancers and drummers of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre will premiere a new work based on an Ivan Lins composition, and our favorite gospel singer, Theresa Thomason, will perform with both Ivan and Renato, as well as the Consort. We will dedicate the entire Winter Solstice event to our long-time Brazilian brother, guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves, who passed away in late September (see below).


Guest artist Lins is one of Brazil’s most beloved musical superstars, and its best-known living songwriter. He has recorded more than 35 albums and won multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. His songs have been recorded by many notable international artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Vaughan, Michael Bublé, George Benson, Take 6, and Dave Grusin.




Once again, we are pleased to offer you our free Winter Solstice Collection album. It’s become a tradition for us, that each year just before our Winter Solstice Celebration, we put together the collection, and invite you to download it for free. Our intent is both to give a sampling of our musical lineup for this year’s show, and also simply to share the music.


This year’s collection is 10 tracks, more than 40 minutes, with an emphasis on Brazilian songs by Ivan Lins and Renato Braz, as well as pieces by the Paul Winter Consort and Theresa Thomason. All these performers, along with the dancers and drummers of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre will join us at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Dec. 19-21.


We hope you’ll enjoy the collection, and please share it with others: listen & download.


Included Tracks:
1. Velho Sermão – Ivan Lins
2. Peasant Revels – Paul Winter Consort
3. Last Train – Renato Braz
4. Icarus – Paul Winter Consort
5. Bandeira do Divino – Ivan Lins
6. The Rain is Over and Gone – Theresa Thomason
7. Lua Soberama – Renato Braz
8. Fantasia – Paul Winter Consort
9. Silent Night – Renato Braz & the Paul Winter Consort
10. Common Ground – Paul Winter Consort




Oscar Castro-Neves and I met in June of 1962, when my Sextet played in Rio de Janeiro during our six-month State Department tour of Latin America. We crossed paths again that October when Oscar came to New York to be musical director for the first-ever Bossa Nova concert in the US, at Carnegie Hall. After Oscar came to live in Los Angeles in the late ’60s, as musical director for Sergio Mendes’ band, Brazil 66, we reconnected and he helped me produce the Consort’s second album, Something in the Wind, in 1969, and then came on tour with us.


In the spring of 1977, I went to LA to spend some days with Oscar at his home, exploring ideas for a new album. I had a new vision for the Consort’s music, embracing vocals for the first time, as well as the voices of wolf, whale and eagle, as a symbolic trilogy of the greater life family, representing the land, the sea and the air.


I had invited an array of musicians from diverse genres to come to my farm during the summer months to collaborate in creating this new album. I wanted to feature Oscar’s rhythmic realm in the new music, and Oscar played me many recordings from a broad spectrum of traditional and contemporary Brazilian music. One song ignited my soul: “Velho Sermão,” by Ivan Lins, based on a rhythm from the Northeast of Brazil, where the African influence was most prominent. This song had exactly the bright energy and spirit I wanted for the album, and I began wondering if we might create English lyrics for it. That summer, with new musicians gathered at the farm, we began playing “Velho Sermão” instrumentally, to get it into our bodies, and see what lyrics might emerge, that might put forth the message of our music-making summer “village.” By the end of the summer we had the words, and the title: “Common Ground.” This became the title song for the album, and has been part of the Consort’s repertoire since. So Ivan Lins has been a spiritual member of our community for these many years, but in all my trips to Brazil, and all his to the US, we’ve never crossed paths.


Over the decades since then, Oscar was my co-dreamer, and co-producer on many albums, including Missa Gaia/Earth Mass, Concert for the Earth, Canyon, Earthbeat, and Brazilian Days. He was part of the Consort in our performances at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1991; with the Boston Pops in 2000; and at the Cathedral for our “Carnival for the Rainforest” and numerous Solstice celebrations. We shared the dream of weaving the world together through music.


In early September this year I got word that Oscar was seriously ill, and I flew to Los Angeles to see him. He was bedridden, and had great difficulty talking, but I got to play for him a recording of my reunited Sextet with African singer Abdoulaye Diabate, from last year’s Winter Solstice Celebration, and he smiled broadly and punched both thumbs up in the air, and then whispered to me: “It is a revisit to that sacred ground we cherish.” Six days later, Oscar passed away.


He was, and is, a true treasure of the world, and beloved by all who knew him.


Oscar had also brought Renato Braz into the Consort’s life in 2005. I had heard one track on a “Rough Guide to Brazilian Music” compilation, that had a beautiful clear high beguiling voice, by a singer whose name I didn’t know. I wanted to learn more about him, and asked various friends if they’d ever heard of Renato Braz, and no-one had. In Rio that spring I asked my long-time friend Carlos Lyra, and he also didn’t know of Renato. When I came home I decided I would ask Oscar, Brazil’s greatest ambassador to the world, and he began calling around for me. Two days later Oscar called me and said: “I found him. He’s from Sao Paulo, which is why our Rio community didn’t know him. I had a wonderful talk with him, and I think he’s going to be one of our dearest friends.” And his prediction absolutely came true.


So once again, Oscar is bringing us all together, as we salute him in this year’s Solstice Celebration.




Posted on on December 5th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Nelson Mandela, died today at age 95. (photo: Joe Alexander/AFP/Getty Images)
Nelson Mandela, died today at age 95. (photo: Joe Alexander/AFP/Getty Images)

Thank you for your life, my friend – by Walter Sisulu
Mandela’s friend and fellow freedom fighter wrote this  towards the end of his own life.
He did not live to see it published but it remains a worthy tribute and a revealing portrait.
Some call it a true obituary.

Thabo Mbeki’s praise poem
From “A Farewell to Madiba”, a praise poem by Thabo Mbeki (president of South Africa from 1999 to 2008),
delivered by him to the National Assembly, Cape Town, on 26 March 1999


Our original posting of December 1, 2013 was:

This Thanksgiving and Chanukah  weekend – the first time in history a Thanukah Day – we went to see the just released new movie “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.”

The Thanksgiving part dealt with memory of thanks for affluence to which were invited also the surviving colored neighbors that had not been exterminated, killed, deported or just chased away. The Chanukah part reminds us of cleaning house from those that chased us away from our own homes, and the fact that we managed to do nevertheless well with what we found. How nice if history could have been different and the new start was with a Mandela vision?

The unforgetable about Mandela the image, is his coming out of prison with a message of reconciliation rather than the obvious  triumph of a universal force of gale size. In the movie this is refined in essence by his jailer bending to tie his shoelaces when  onto what was already accepted as his victory visit with de Klerk. With his halting voice and friendly demeanor, Mandela had s spine of steel and ould not allow anyone to temper with his vision.

The 2.5 hours Mandela movie is based on excerpts from Mr. Mandela’s autobiography that tells the complicated story of his life, from a childhood in a tiny rural village to his slow immersion in the struggle against apartheid, his leadership of the African National Congress, his 27 years in prison, and his eventual resurrection and triumph.  My wife read the book but I had the honor to meet the man. That was when he was already the new President following his old scheme – building the new Nation of South Africa.

I was lucky to go on a trip organized by a South African finance and law company that intended to show the business World at large that there is continuity in South Africa and that its new economy can be trusted. Nelson Mandela stood there and received the visitors in a huge tent that was set up on the grounds of a hotel outside Johannesburg – squinting in the light – and we were told not to take photos with flash as his eyes were hurt by the dust of the quarry he was working and breaking up the carbonate stone.  Mr. F. W. de Klerk, the outgoing President, was also there and showed unity.

A few days later it was Walter Sisulu, one of those that went to prison with Mr. Mandela, and Govan Mbeki (father of the Second South Africa President after Mr. Mandela) he took us through Robben Island outside Cape-Town. I also was at the opening of the Parliament and sitting in the balcony saw Winnie Mandela downstairs in the pit as she was elected to that first Parliament – all eyes on her. Later we had also separate meetings with the two Mbekis and with Cyril Ramaposa who was another candidate for the eventual succession.

Seeing  now this excellent movie that manages to chose from the book episodes that when strung in a narrative  manage to show the evolution of the super-man Mandela without blushing that he was mere blood and flesh – a normal human with feelings. But let me say that I write this posting not because I want to say that God was presented as man – not at all. To me Mandela signifies something really above mere mortals.

I do not see just the Long Walk to Freedom in the evolution of one man – not even of a group of suppressed people – but rather a Promethean Figure that set out to help all men – it is the Long Walk To Freedom of Africa and of all those other places where man bites man.

The highlight of the movie is when Mandela tells de Klerk that he gets him nothing in exchange for being set free – the reward for de Klerk is in the actual act of letting him just walk out – this because he is not out for revenge but rather for the continuation of the process of building towards the humanism in the color blind equality and democracy of one man one vote.

Mandela and de Klerk got together the recognition of the Nobel Prize for having jointly ended apartheid – this by Mandela taking on the extremists that were out to get revenge for those terrible indignities of the past. What was more important to him was to have a New South Africa that starts from ground-rules of rejection of any kind of racism, and of feelings of revenge as well.

Our view is that the world needs more Mandelas – some of them sprinkled on the Middle East, on the UN, over East Europe – and some kept in reserve as potential Gurus for enlightenment for locations that need them.



Walking tonight on East 38 Street in Manhattan, I saw on the sidewalk, in front of a building that houses some New York University offices, jars holding flowers  stationed on top on notes saying this was the greatest man of our generation … A 31 year young Afghan-American who saw my surprise told me – yes – he passed away about 5 pm our time.

By now every important person in the world got to make a statement about the passing away of the Madiba.

Let us just add here a few informative lines from



“We have many articles, slideshows, and other content to share with those of you who wish to remember Madiba, as he was known in South Africa. Among other articles, I would like to share with you the article I wrote during Obama’s visit to South Africa a few months ago. It speaks to the bond between Mandela and Obama: both men ascended to lead two nations which held little prospect for a black leader when they set their eyes on the top seat.  Also, our official obituary


 We hope that you find your way to honor this great leader who has become an icon revered not only by Africans, but by people of all backgrounds throughout the world. Sincerely, Teresa Clarke, Chairman and Executive Director
President Obama said: “We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” the President said. “So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set:  to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.” “Mr Mandela gave me a sense of what a human being can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.” “I cannot imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set. As long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.”

Conducting his own defence in the Rivonia Trial in 1964, he said: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.” “It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

And lately he said: “Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace” – Nelson Mandela


Press Statement

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
December 5, 2013

Death of Nelson Mandela

Madiba’s ‘long walk to freedom’ gave new meaning to courage, character, forgiveness, and human dignity. Now that his long walk has ended, the example he set for all humanity lives on. He will be remembered as a pioneer for peace.

There are some truly brave people in this world whom you meet and you’re forever changed for the experience. Nelson Mandela remains Teresa’s hero, and a person who inspired her as a young woman to march with her classmates against apartheid. We had the honor of sitting with Mandela over the Thanksgiving holidays of 2007. I was struck by how warm, open, and serene he was. I stood in his tiny cell on Robben Island, a room with barely enough space to lie down or stand up, and I learned that the glare of the white rock quarry permanently damaged his eyesight. It hit home even more just how remarkable it was that after spending 27 years locked away, after having his own vision impaired by the conditions, that this man could still see the best interests of his country and even embrace the very guards who kept him prisoner. That is the story of a man whose ability to see resided not in his eyes but in his conscience. It is hard to imagine any of us could summon such strength of character.

Nelson Mandela was a stranger to hate. He rejected recrimination in favor of reconciliation and knew the future demands we move beyond the past. He gave everything he had to heal his country and lead it back into the community of nations, including insisting on relinquishing his office and ensuring there would be a peaceful transfer of power. Today, people all around the world who yearn for democracy look to Mandela’s nation and its democratic Constitution as a hopeful example of what is possible.

Teresa and I join those from around the world in honoring the life of this great man. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife, Graça, his family, all the people of South Africa and everyone who today enjoys the freedom Madiba fought for his entire life.





Nelson Mandela, World Icon, Dies at 95

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela has died. Surrounded by close family members, the 95-year old succumbed to a recurring lung infection at home in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The former South African president had been receiving treatment for the infection at his home after spending close to three months in a Pretoria hospital earlier this year. His battle with the infection was said to be a result of the tuberculosis he contracted in the 1980s while working in the prison quarry on Robben Island.

Named by his father, Rolihlahla was born in Mvezo, a small village in the eastern part of South Africa, on July 18, 1918 – a day now commemorated annually as International Mandela Day. Rolihlahla literally means pulling the branch of a tree, and informally, it means troublemaker.

It was only on his first day at school that he was called Nelson – the name was given to him by his teacher as it was common practice to give African children English names. He was later referred to by at least 4 other names – including the more popular ones: Madiba (traditional clan name) and Tata (a term of endearment meaning “father”). There was also Khulu (meaning “great” and “grand”) and Dalibhunga (the name given after undergoing the traditional Xhosa initiation. It means “founder of the council”).

In the early 1940s, having just enrolled for his LLB at Wits University in Johannesburg, Mandela became one of the founding leaders of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). It was during that time that he married his first wife, Everlyn Ntoko Mase, with whom he had four children.

Mandela kept busy over the next decade and right through the fifties. He he was elected president of the ANCYL in 1951, the same year the Defiance Campaign against unjust apartheid laws was presented. It was officially launched the following year, and resulted in more than 8,000 activists, including Nelson Mandela, being arrested for refusing to obey apartheid laws. A year later he and Oliver Tambo opened the country’s first black law firm, ‘Mandela and Tambo’s Attorneys’, in Chancellor House, Johannesburg, where they provide low-cost and sometimes free legal services to black South Africans. In 1956 he was among the 156 people arrested on charges of treason – Tambo left the country and remained in exile.

In 1958 Mandela divorced Mase and married Winne Madikizela Mandela, with whom he had two daughters – Zenani and Zindzi. A tipping point came in March 1960, when thousands marched to a police station in Sharpeville to demonstrate against having to carry pass (identification) books at all times. By the end of the day 69 were killed by police. Soon after, the ANC was banned but continued its work underground, and the country was in a State of Emergency. The period saw a change in usually peace-loving leader. The following year he co-founded the armed branch of the African National Congress (ANC) called Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) along with Oliver Tambo and other anti-apartheid fighters. He spent months on the run, and left the country soon after to undergo military training in Algeria. Shortly after his return he was arrested and charged with incitement and leaving the country illegally. He was also charged with sabotage along with 9 others in what would later lead to the infamous Rivonia Trial in 1963. He would ultimately be sentenced to life imprisonment.

In the 1980s, a worldwide campaign gained strength, urging South Africa’s National Party to release Mandela, but under the restrictions of then-president P.W. Botha—that included Mandela renouncing violence as a means of protest and change—the ANC would not agree to these terms and Mandela was refused release. When F.W. de Klerk became South Africa’s president in 1989, he announced Mandela’s unconditional release. Mandela finally left prison on 11 February 1990. After nearly three decades behind bars, Mandela took over as  president of the ANC in 1991, leading the party – and country – through a tumultuous time of transition from apartheid into democracy.

As the elected leader of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela ran for president in South Africa’s 1994 elections, winning the ballot to become the country’s first black and democratically elected president. He led the country for five years, working to make broad moves to unite the country’s fractured black and white populations. He stepped down in 1999, refusing to run for a second term.

The Nobel Prize winner is survived by his wife, Graça Machel who he married on his 80th birthday in 1998,  Makaziwe Mandela (his daughter from his first marriage to Evelyn Ntoko Mase), Zenani and Zindziswa Mandela (his daughters from his second marriage to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela), 17 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

  • Nelson Mandela fought against social injustice and inspired many others to do so as well (Photo: symphony of love)




Posted on on December 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (







Julya Rabinowich: österreichische Schriftstellerin, Dramatikerin, Malerin und Simultandolmetscherin.


Moderation: Isolde Charim, Autorin und Philosophin

Anmeldungen unter:

Tel.: 3188260/20

Fax: 318 82 60/10


Melitta Campostrini
Bruno Kreisky Forum
for International Dialogue
Armbrustergasse 15


Posted on on December 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Media Decoder

Turning to Public to Back Investigative Journalism.

If you suspect your local town government is corrupt, would you pay a journalist to investigate?
We re-post this and add the question – Would you bother spending money on investigating the UN that wastes your money?


  Asie Mohtarez

Israel Mirsky, founder of the journalism site Uncoverage.

Uncoverage, a website that will be announced on Monday {that is today}, will test whether the public cares enough about investigative journalism to pay for it. The site, to be at, will allow journalists and nonprofits to seek crowdsourced funding for both articles and topics like, for example, the Syrian war. Money for general topics will be split up among projects by the site’s editors.

The nonprofit investigative group the Center for Public Integrity has signed on as a partner whose projects will be featured on the site.

The commercial site is being founded by Israel Mirsky, an entrepreneur who said that the current model for financing investigative journalism was broken.

“I am passionate about depleted uranium” he said, “but if I want to see more on the topic, my only choice is to buy a paper where reporting on the topic has appeared before and watch for future articles. I can’t imagine a less effective and satisfying way to get journalism on a topic I care about.”

Investigative journalism, he said, is shrinking as web journalism grows, and tends to cater to celebrities and other traffic-driving topics. “There is a lot of things digital journalism can do well, investigations is not one of them,” he said.

He said that sites like Kickstarter, which lets people back a broad array of projects like movies or new businesses, are not suited to investigative journalists who might require serial funding, instead of a one-time infusion.

Uncoverage, which will take 5 to 7 percent of every transaction, will provide specific services to journalists and other safeguards like fact-checkers who verify the quality of the pitches and editors who hone the pitches and help shape and sell the final product.

Editors will receive a portion of the funding of each article they work on beyond the site’s take, a compensation structure Mr. Mirsky said was intended to give an incentive to editors to build followings for their topics.

Topic cans be proposed by would-be backers, but only on subjects of public interest. “I won’t take money for journalism on Miley Cyrus — it is not an open season,” Mr. Mirsky said.

He also said that the site was only for journalists with significant experience. “This is not a place to start your career,” he said.

The site will post completed work, but hopes journalists will also be able to sell their articles to other outlets for the widest possible distribution.


Posted on on November 10th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Henrik Ibsen 1828-1906 is for the Scandinavians what Shakespeare is for the Anglo-Saxons, Gogol and Chekhov for the Slavs or Cervantes for the Spaniards. These individuals saw man as he or she are and their writings become globalized. Take then a Bertolt Brecht “theater of ideas” approach to the staging of an Ibsen play – or a play of any of the great playwrights  – get the acting up to an intelligent level  so that there are hints to the daily live of the audience – don’t over-do it – let the audience participate  directly – and the show turns into an event. That is great theater today and ever.

While on Broadway a Tennessee Williams great play – “The Glass Menagerie” – is these days over-staged, over-laud, over expensive – a must for tourists that can afford $300 for a seat, across the river in Brooklyn, at the incomparable masterpiece Harvey Theater – named after Harvey Lichtenstein – who was a former dancer who became arts administrator and for 32-year  the executive director of the Brooklyn Academy of Music that he turned with his strong will from a struggling mainly unused opera house into a Mecca for new legitimate theater.  At the Academy building started out people like Robert Wilson and the yearly New Wave Festival was just a natural outgrowth. Then there was the need of a second theater and The Harvey Theater Hall was born just one block away on Fulton Street. Now foreign directors bring their companies from overseas to teach America how to get back to the promise of good theater. We just got to witness there a truly great production of a play, for one tenth of the cost of the Broadway theater, and got to learn a lot about ourselves as well. These foreigners truly understood the US, while the US theater on Broadway showed very little understanding of the foreigners that leave the theater there with a feeling of being had.

Looking up via the internet we found – “The Enemy of the People” (1882), follows earlier Ibsen plays, where controversial elements were important and even pivotal components of the action, but they were on the small scale of individual households. In An Enemy, controversy became the primary focus, and the antagonist was the entire community. One primary message of the play is that the individual, who stands alone, is more often “right” than the mass of people, who are portrayed as ignorant and sheep-like. Contemporary society’s belief was that the community was a noble institution that could be trusted, a notion Ibsen challenged.

In An Enemy of the People, Ibsen chastised not only the conservatism of society, but also the liberalism of the time. He illustrated how people on both sides of the social spectrum could be equally self-serving.

An Enemy of the People was written as a response to the people who had rejected his previous work, Ghosts. The plot of the play is a veiled look at the way people reacted to the plot of Ghosts. In “Enemy” the protagonist is a physician in a vacation spot whose primary draw is a public bath. The doctor discovers that the water is contaminated by the local tannery. He expects to be acclaimed for saving the town from the nightmare of infecting visitors with disease, but instead he is declared an ‘enemy of the people’  by the locals, who band against him and even throw stones through his windows.
The play ends with his complete ostracism. It is obvious to the reader that disaster is in store for the town as well as for the doctor.

Then the source continues – As audiences by now expected, Ibsen’s next play again attacked entrenched beliefs and assumptions; but this time, his attack was not against society’s mores, but against overeager reformers and their idealism. Always an iconoclast, Ibsen was equally willing to tear down the ideologies of any part of the political spectrum, including his own.   Ibsen thus liked more the interaction of positions rather then the taking of a position. In effect the whole society is being criticized by Ibsen.

The Wild Duck (1884)  that followed The Enemy is by many considered Ibsen’s finest work, and it is certainly the most complex. It tells the story of Gregers Werle, a young man who returns to his hometown after an extended exile and is reunited with his boyhood friend Hjalmar Ekdal. Over the course of the play, the many secrets that lie behind the Ekdals’ apparently happy home are revealed to Gregers, who insists on pursuing the absolute truth, or the “Summons of the Ideal”. Among these truths: Gregers’ father impregnated his servant Gina, then married her off to Hjalmar to legitimize the child. Another man has been disgraced and imprisoned for a crime the elder Werle committed. Furthermore, while Hjalmar spends his days working on a wholly imaginary “invention”, his wife is earning the household income.

Dr. Stockman is the idealist who naively believes he can win by being right, but then encounters the truth that all levels of society are corrupt. Some start on the corruption path knowingly and others backstep into it because circumstances might otherwise turn them into major losers.
Nobody is ready to lose intentionally.

The Enemy that hit the Harvey Theater comes from the Schaubuhne at the Lehniner Platz (The Lenin Square) in what used to be East Berlin. The artistic genius – Director Thomas Ostermeier -  was responsible for this production as he was for several previous shows that were seen previously at the BAM.

The acting was impeccable – down to the facial expressions of the stage dog. There were minutes of talking without words and you knew exactly what they were saying. Only very seldom did the actors shout – and that was in cases of natural crescendo. I was able to understand the clear German and compliment it with the flashed English. The updates were in many cases just results on inflection and accent rather then as changes in wording. Nevertheless we understood that the closing of the bath would lead to unimaginable economic losses that the town will not allow. The vested interests were ready to fight back and had already prepared an alternate study that says there is nothing at fault with those waters – this sort of the Koch Brothers funded pseudo-scientific studies that say there is no man-made global warming.

Then, if one was going to do any changes to the water system it would cost money and nobody will want to pay higher taxes in order to pay-off the debt that the town will incur. In the end this becomes the common attitude to all those involved – just like in the USA of 2013. At this point some of the actors moved over to the audience and an exchange started that brought in regular members of the audience. When eventually Dr. Stockman is bombarded with paint balls the audience seems like having been wrestled down as well – though those balls originated from the theater hall.

YES – WE ARE ALL THE ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE – this because except for Dr. Stockman and his faithful wife nobody is left with ideals – and the young couple themselves have been presented with the shares of those baths, bought up by the father in law who invested in this the money that he had intended originally for them as inheritance. Now they can be rich if they only declare that they have a way to save those baths.



Posted on on October 29th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


For further interest please contact and visit our homepage


Soshana Afroyim (born 1 September 1927, Vienna, Austria) is an Austrian painter of the Modernism period. She devoted her life to art and travelled around the world, where she had many exhibitions. During her journeys, she portrayed many well known personalities and her art developed in different directions. Her early period artwork was largely naturalistic in nature, showing landscapes and portraits. Later her style developed towards abstract art, strongly influenced by Asian calligraphy.

Susanne Schüller born in Vienna into a Jewish middle-class family. Father Fritz Schüller owned a cufflink factory, mother Margarethe Schüller was a sculptor. Soshana first went to the Rudolf Steiner School, but soon changed to the alternative Schwarzwald School. She started do paint and draw at a very young age. Her mother supported Soshana’s creativity and collected her works carefully.

At the age of eleven, Soshana witnessed the German annexation of Austria 1938. Her father who had been born in Brno, had a Czech passport and left the country first to prepare the way. Margarethe Schüller, Soshana and Maximilian the brather fled to Switzerland, then Paris, where Fritz Schueller had waited for them and finally in 1939 they reached London, where they would stay two years. Soshana attended the Northwood College and in 1940 the Chelsea Polytechnic School, where she had painting and drawing lessons and learned about fashion design.


Soshana’s father fled then to Spain and via Tangier he escaped to New York. In 1941 he managed to get an affidavit for his family and booked three tickets for the S.S. Madura, the last civil ship that would leave Europe. In 1941 Soshana, her mother and her brother arrived at Ellis Island.


In New York City Soshana enrolled at Washington Irving High School and attended painting classes under the guidance of artist Beys Afroyimwhom she eventually married in 1945 and their son Amos was born in 1946. The family eventually returned to Vienna in 1947, Amos was left with her father and Soshana went to Paris in 1952 to continue a life in the arts. in 1956 her attention turned to Asia, then Mexico in 1965 and then to the world at large eventually new York, then back to Vienna in 1985 where she lives now in a nursing home, and still paints every day.

Since 2005 her son Amos takes care of her work and organizes exhibitions and other projects. We have met the several times and wrote about her in the past.

Of special interest – I submit…

And while the Austrian government honored her with a special postal stamp, she showed in Vienna a large exhibit with paintings reminding the viewers of the Nazi times, extermination camps and Jewish revival in Israel.

Soshana says about her work that “it is suffering that helps you grow and develop, the struggle and conflict in life. Even the plants seem to struggle for light and space … I believe in a greater spirit of nature, from which each person is a part, here to play his role in life.” 

Soshana used drawing and painting as an outlet to deal with traumatic events she experienced in her life – like in a drawing, she called “Hitler as Cloun”.

Themes like The Cold War, the Yom Kippur War, the atomic age or terrorism can be found over and over again in Soshana’s Oeuvre.

When she returned to Vienna in 1985, she worked up the time of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust.

During Kurt Waldheim‘s election campaign in 1987/88, she made a series of paintings and collages, in which she incorporated Nazi propaganda texts. Soshana also painted motive cycles of the wars in Yugoslavia, the attacks on the World Trade Center or the wars on Iraq.


Posted on on July 19th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (…

On the Conviction and Sentencing of Alexey Navalniy and Pyotr Ofitserov.

Press Statement
Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 18, 2013

It Says:

“We are very disappointed by the conviction and sentencing of opposition leader Aleksey Navalniy and his co-defendant, Pyotr Ofitserov, to lengthy prison terms for alleged embezzlement by a court in the city of Kirov.

Throughout the case we have expressed our concern about its apparent political motivation.

We remain troubled with the failure to respect the rule of law or to ensure the fair trial guarantees required by international law.

Mr. Navalniy’s and Mr. Ofitserov’s harsh prison sentences are the latest examples of a disturbing trend in the Russian Federation of legislation, prosecutions, and government actions aimed at suppressing dissent and civil society.

We encourage Russia to embrace serious efforts, like Mr. Navalniy’s, to improve government accountability and combat corruption in order to nurture a modern economy.

We call on the Russian Government to guarantee that individuals can freely exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of expression and assembly. We urge Russia to ensure conditions for a fair and impartial appeal of the verdict in accordance with the law and its international human rights obligations.”

PRN: 2013/0905

It obviously does not mention the Edward Snwden name.

Then we have:

Barack Obama Ponders Canceling Summit With Vladimir Putin In Moscow.

AP | On HuffingtonPost by JULIE PACE Posted: 07/19/2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is considering canceling a fall summit between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, a move that would further aggravate the already tense relationship between the two leaders.

The White House is dangling that option over the Russians as Moscow considers a temporary asylum petition from Edward Snowden, the American accused of leaking information about classified U.S. intelligence programs. But officials have privately signaled that scrapping the bilateral talks would also be retaliation for other areas of disagreement with Russia, including its continued support for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s attacks against civilians.

Regardless of what happens with Snowden, the White House says Obama will still attend an international summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. But officials have gone out of their way in recent days to avoid publicly committing to the meetings in Moscow.

“The president intends to travel to Russia for the G20 Summit,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “And I have no further announcements to make beyond what we’ve said in the past about the president’s travel to Russia in the fall.”

By simply considering cancellation of the trip, the Obama administration is indicating its concern the Kremlin will allow Snowden to take refuge in Russia. The White House has called on Russia to return the 30-year-old former government contract systems analyst to the U.S. where he is facing espionage charges.

Snowden, in a temporary asylum request submitted by his lawyer Tuesday, claimed he faces persecution from the U.S. government and could face torture or death.

Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC, said the White House’s cancellation threat could be effective leverage over Putin, who likely wants to avoid an embarrassment on the world stage.

“When the spotlight of the world is on him and Russia, he doesn’t want that spotlight to reveal a lot of negative things which are going to be distractions,” Kuchins said.

Pulling the plug on the U.S.-Russia talks would deepen the tensions between the two leaders. And it would likely make it even more difficult for the two countries to find common ground on areas of disagreement that plague the relationship.

The U.S. accuses Russia of providing military support to Assad that has allowed him to cling to power during more than two years of clashes with rebels seeking to overthrow his government.

The U.S. deeply angered Russia earlier this year when it announced sanctions against 18 Russians as part of a law named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates. Russia also announced last year that it was banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children, a move seen as a retaliation for the Magnitsky act, passed last year.

On Thursday, the White House also said it was “deeply disappointed and concerned” by the conviction of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who challenged the Kremlin with exposures of high-level corruption and mocked the leadership with biting satire. He was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday in a verdict that fueled street protests near Red Square and drew condemnation from the West.

Kuchins said that while granting Snowden asylum would certainly be the impetus for canceling Obama’s Moscow trip, it would not be the only reason.

“It would be saying at least two things to the Russians,” Kuchins said. “That granting asylum to Edward Snowden was a bridge too far, and secondly that we don’t feel like we’re actually losing so much out of the cancellation of the summit because we didn’t expect to get much out of it.”

Some U.S. lawmakers are calling on Obama to go beyond simply canceling his talks with Putin.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has also called on the U.S. to boycott next year’s Winter Olympics scheduled for Sochi, Russia.


Follow Julie Pace at


Posted on on July 16th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

You may find this new play interesting and entertaining.

Midtown International Theater Festival presents

(Mahler seeks help from Freud to save his marriage.)
A play by Gay Walley
Directed by Gregory Abels

(In 2006, Abels directed production of Rimske Noci in Prague, starring
Simona Stasova and Oldrich Visner. It now plays at the Divadlo Bez

Opens on Tuesday July 16 at 8:30pm ( 5 performances only. Last on August 4.)
The June Havoc Theater
312 W 36 Street

For more information see attached.

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Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences NY