The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Columnist of The New York Times
Committed to Carbon Goals
November 24, 2014
by Joe Nocera
Since the early 1990s, the consensus view in the climate science community has been that if the world is going to escape the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, it needs to keep the average global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, compared with pre-industrial levels. A few years ago, the Presidential Climate Action Project issued a report in which it estimated that to meet that goal, global carbon dioxide emissions would need to be reduced by 60 percent by 2050 — and the industrialized world would need to reduce its emissions by 80 percent.
This would seem, at first glance, an impossible task. Until, that is, you meet a man named David Crane. He is the chief executive of NRG Energy, the largest publicly traded independent power producer in the country. When he took over a decade ago, NRG was just emerging from bankruptcy. Today, it is a Fortune 250 company, with 135 power plants capable of generating 53,000 megawatts of power.
NRG, Crane told an audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival this summer, is the country’s fourth-largest polluter. “We emit 60 or 70 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year,” he said, mainly because a third of its power is generated by coal-fired plants. “I’m not apologetic about that because, right now, owning those plants and operating those plants are critical to keeping the lights on in the United States.”
But then he quickly added, “We have to move away from that.” And he has, reducing the company’s carbon footprint by 40 percent in the decade that he’s run the company. And, on Thursday, as The Times reported, he committed NRG to reducing its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050.
These are terribly ambitious goals, but Crane is not some pie-in-the-sky dreamer. Although he sees climate change as an “intergenerational issue” — a way of ensuring the future for our children and grandchildren — he is also a pragmatic man running a publicly traded company. He firmly believes that the technology exists to make his ambitious goals possible, and that the real problem is the refusal of the rest of the power industry to adapt and change.
Crane likes to say that when he first started hearing about carbon emissions, he didn’t view it all that seriously. “To be frank,” he said in that same Aspen presentation, “I thought this is just the next pollutant that we have to deal with.” But once he got religion — and realized, as he put it, that power producers like NRG are “the biggest part of the problem” — he was determined to make his company a leader in reducing carbon.
One of his early moves was to apply for a license to build a new nuclear power plant. (It already co-owns one nuclear plant.) But the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan in 2011 scotched those plans, and NRG wound up writing off more than $300 million. NRG also invested in a wind company, which it sold three years later “because we got a little disenchanted with the way that the wind technology was moving.”
So how is he planning to get that 90 percent reduction? One answer is solar power, in which NRG has invested some $5 billion. Crane is a big believer in the eventual importance of solar, both for consumers — he foresees a day when millions of Americans rely on solar as their primary power source — and for power companies. Even so, Crane told me that solar generates only 3,000 megawatts of the company’s potential for 53,000.
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And then there’s coal. When I asked Crane if he would have to eliminate coal to reach his goals, he said no. Coal, he said, will continue to play a big role. A carbon tax would be a great way of reducing emissions. But that is politically impossible.
So, instead, the carbon will need to be captured and then put to some good use. At one of its Texas power plants, NRG is teaming up with JX Nippon of Japan in a $1 billion joint venture to build a carbon-capturing capacity, which it expects will capture 1.6 million tons of carbon each year — some 90 percent of the plant’s emissions. He is also convinced that that carbon will eventually be used to create liquid fuel or get embedded in cement. “We could rebuild America’s roadways with embedded carbon from coal.”
He has another reason for wanting to be out in front on climate change. He says it will make his company more attractive to investors — and consumers. The day is going to come, he believes, when climate change risk will be something investors factor in to their investment decisions. And he believes that the next generation of consumers will demand clean energy. He views the disinvestment campaign now taking place on college campuses as a harbinger of things to come.
“It’s like Wayne Gretzky said,” he told me before hanging up the phone. “We are skating where the puck is going, rather than where it is now.”
A version of this op-ed appears in print on November 25, 2014, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Committed to Carbon Goals
First our posting of October 21st – then the Jewish Week article reporting from St. Louis that was coincidentally written also October 21, 2014 and todate is the best article we found in the printed press.
We saw last night the Metropolitan Opera’s opening of the Opera titled “The Death of Klinghoffer” and we came out with a firm conclusion that the roaring controversy is all nothing more then a misunderstanding created by an unfortunate choice of the name of the Opera.
Yesterday my wife was having lunch with one of her lady-friends at EJ’s Luncheonette. Her friend, a New Englander, has a daughter who is media-correspondent in the Middle East and the family is very much aware of what goes on in that corner of the world.
She asked my wife what she thinks of the brouhaha that surrounds the MET, and my wife said that we are going to see it “tonight” as I saw it years ago when it was first performed and do not recollect that I had misgivings at that time. That was the era of operas like “Einstein on the Beach” and “Nixon in China.”
Another lady, seemingly a grandmother having pancakes with her grand-daughter, before leaving the restaurant, turned to my wife and said that she is going to the opera – “to demonstrate.” My wife asked her – “did you see the opera?” The lady answered NO!
My wife said then that she is going to see it in order to be able to make up her mind and the lady answered – “Fair Enough!.
I did see the opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music September 1991 still the days of President Bush the First, and coincidentally, was also at a Chamber Orchestra semi-staged performance at a modern restored building in Geneva, Switzerland, (1998) that was funded in part by a rich local Jewish Real Estate man and his Israeli wife. There were really no accusations of antisemitism that I remember.
The work, composed by John Adams with libretto by poet Alice Goodman – the same team that also wrote “Nixon in China” (1987) -
is presented as the memory of the Captain of the Achille Lauro passenger cruise-ship that was involved in the October 1985 highjacking by four members of the Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF) that ended with the murderous execution of American wheelchair-bound Mr. Leon Klinghoffer.
First let us note that John Adams, besides the mentioned two operas also created “On The Transmigration of Souls” (2002) -
a choral piece that commemorates the 9/11 2001 events – for which Adams was awarded the Pulitzer prize in 2003, and with Peter Sellars as librettist he created the “Dr. Atomic” Opera (2005) on J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb – all three operas mentioned were produced also by the MET.
The 1991 production of Klinghoffer was staged with the help of Peter Sellars and the present days MET production was done with staging by Tom Morris. I seem to remember that the 1991 production started with the image of the ship – something non existent in 2014. This production starts with people running around with green Islamic flags and inducting Omar into the group. He is then bound to be one of the four hijackers. Later we see him interacting with one of the two Klinghoffer daughters.
We find it unacceptable to focus on corners of humanity when centering on lamentations by Palestinians for lost homes when seeing them run around with those green flags as if they were doing Allah’s work. And that is really the point – it looks like real daily life as presented on our TVs. That PLF is now – 24 years since the take-over of Achille Lauro – morphed into Al Qaeda, Hamas, ISIL, the Al-Nusra Front …and yes – Boko Haram, the Somali Shabaab, the Libyan and Yemen Islamists as well.
Leon Klinghoffer told the hijackers that they were wrong in what they were doing – in some ways he was actually a hero tied to his wheelchair. He saw the reality. He was on a trip to Egypt with his family – he did not hate Arabs as such – he was on his way to see the pyramids. His antagonists did hate the Jews because thy were from abroad – no recognition on the Arab side that these Jews must be fit somehow into their life as they were actually people that came home to the region for which they have historic ties as well.
Look again at those green flags and think for a moment. If those flags represent real life so just stand up and acknowledge that the show before you is a negative picture not of Klinghoffer but of what the four hijackers stand for – and yes – THEY EXECUTE KLINGHOFFER BECAUSE THEY CANNOT ACCEPT THAT THIS MAN IN HIS WHEELCHAIR HAS THE STRENGTH TO TELL THEM OFF.
The 100 people outside Lincoln Center sitting in wheel-chairs under a sign saying “I am Klinghoffer” did not demonstrate against antisemitism. They actually spoke up in my opinion against the green-flag-waving lunatics.
It is not about the death of Klingoffer – but about the lunacy of his executioners – so for Pete’s sake object to all those Middle-Easterners running around with colored flags – green or black – but stop accusing the whole world of antisemitism.
RENAME THE OPERA AND CHANGE NOTHING FROM WHAT YOU SEE – Do you not realize that whatever is your cause – this opera actually helps you by the mere fact that the artistic creators aimed at pure neutrality and brought to us a documentary?
In the hall there was one demonstrator who shouted as long as he could:”THE MURDER OF KLINGHOFFER WILL NEVER BE FORGIVEN.”
His intervention had clear echos – at first we heard only three people clapping their hands after the run of the flags, but there was strong applause at the end of the performance. THE AUDIENCE ACCEPTED THE TOTALITY OF THE SHOW.
In St. Louis, the controversial opera served as a foundation for new relationships across faith lines.
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, Special To The Jewish Week
For the past few weeks, my email and social media have been inundated with discussions and links to flyers, articles and events that all support the opposition, protest and even disruption of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of John Adams’ “The Death of Klinghoffer.” And I disagree with each one.
Like many, if not most, of the protesters, I have not seen “The Death of Klinghoffer” or read its libretto. I cannot comment on its content nor its staging. I make no judgment to classify it as anti-Semitic or to argue against such a classification. I also cannot make any determination of its commentary on terrorism, those who perpetuate those heinous acts, and those who fall victim to these horrific crimes.
My disagreement is not with the offense that they take to the performance — although I would hope that each person would choose to at least read the text for themselves before coming to a final conclusion — but with the chosen response.
The Jewish community in New York has chosen to launch a passionate protest against the performance and, in doing so, they have let a tremendous opportunity fall by the wayside.
In 2011, the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis staged a production of “The Death of Klinghoffer” — the first staging of the full opera in the United States in 20 years. The Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis did not object to the performance, but instead partnered with the Opera Theatre and other faith-based and arts organizations to prepare study guides, coordinate community events, organize roundtable discussion and engage in deeper dialogue around painful and difficult subjects.
Instead of igniting hatred or perpetuating anti-Semitism, as some protesters have predicted, the opera served as a foundation for new relationships across faith lines. In fact, these initiatives sparked a new nonprofit initiative, Arts & Faith St. Louis, based on the belief that the arts have a unique power to inspire thoughtful discussion among diverse audiences, to bring people together and to bridge divides through shared experiences. This initiative has brought together leaders across the faith communities of St. Louis (Jews, Muslims and Christians) with leaders in the art world to respond to pressing needs in our region and to create innovative approaches to difficult discussions.
These conversations are not easy. Often, they are quite painful. To engage in dialogue around such profoundly tender and traumatic topics such as terrorism, anti-Semitism, extremism, hate crimes, identity, abuse and fear, by definition, requires a person to be immensely vulnerable.
The bonds that can form between two people who strip away their protective shells and open their minds and hearts to one another, however, is immeasurable.
I admire the monumental efforts of the organizers in New York to raise awareness for their cause, to coordinate partners and organize demonstrations. I am confident that, as the objectors state, “The Death of Klinghoffer” is both disturbing and uncomfortable. But a protest is easy. To protest the opera is to express a voice — a unilateral opinion shared through words on a placard or the dramatic imagery of 100 wheelchairs staged at Lincoln Center.
Instead, I invite all those who plan to protest the production to choose to engage. To take the difficult, likely painful step, to opt for dialogue over demonstrations, proaction over protests.
The Metropolitan Opera in New York is the largest classical music organization in North America, with the capacity for nearly 4,000 viewers at each opera performance. The opportunity here is monumental. We can choose to seize the moment, or to stand on the sidelines, holding placards, as it passes us by.
Please, choose the difficult path. Choose the disturbing. Choose discomfort. Choose dialogue.
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss is director of programming, education, and community engagement at Bais Abraham Congregation in St. Louis.
We do not assume for a moment that we know the facts – this like when most patriotic Americans were stuck with the Joe McCarthy hearings. Most important – What were the convictions mentioned here? Not all convictions in the USA are born equal – who knows? Some might be badges of honor!! It would be interesting to find out!
Politics: Armed contractor with criminal record was on elevator with Obama in Atlanta.
By Carol D. Leonnig September 30, 2014 – THE WASHINGTON POST.
There were some heated moments Tuesday when Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about two security breaches at the White House, one in 2011 and one less than two weeks ago. (The Washington Post)
A security contractor with a gun and three prior convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.
The incident occurred as Obama appeared at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis.
The contractor did not comply when Secret Service agents asked him to stop using a phone camera to videotape the president in the elevator, according to the people familiar with the incident.
Agents questioned him, and used a database check to learn of his criminal history.
When a supervisor from the private security firm approached and learned of the agents’ concern, the contractor was fired on the spot and agreed to turn over his gun — surprising agents, who had not realized he was armed during his encounter with Obama.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he was appalled when whistleblowers came forward to him with this account. The Washington Post confirmed details of the event with other people familiar with the review.
“You have a convicted felon within arms reach of the president and they never did a background check,” Chaffetz said. “Words aren’t strong enough for the outrage I feel for the safety of the President and his family. “
Elements of the breach were first reported Tuesday afternoon by the Washington Examiner.
Chaffetz added: “His life was in danger. This country would be a different world today if he had pulled out his gun.”
It is the latest in a string of embarrassments for the Secret Service, whose director, Pierson, drew criticism Tuesday from lawmakers in both parties during a combative hearing that focused on her agency’s security lapses. The hearing focused on a man who was able to foil Secret Service officers by jumping the White House fence Sept. 19 and also a 2011 shooting at the residence that the Secret Service failed to identify and properly investigate.
The elevator incident exposed another serious breakdown in the Secret Service’s safety protocols: this one meant to keep the president safe from strangers when he travels to events outside the White House. In close quarters or small events, when the president is on the road, all of the people who could have access to him must be checked in advance for weapons and any criminal history.
In response to a question at the hearing Tuesday, Pierson said she briefs the president “100 percent of the time” when his personal security has been breached. However, she said Tuesday that has only happened one time this year: Soon after Omar Gonzalez jumped over the White House fence Sept. 19 and was able to burst into the mansion.
A Secret Service spokesman said the agency would provide a response soon.
Some elements of the Atlanta incident were first reported Tuesday afternoon on the Washington Examiner’s Web site.
Under a security program called the Arm’s Reach Program, Secret Service advance staff run potential staff, contractors, hotel employees, invited guests and volunteers through several databases, including a national criminal information registry, and records kept by the CIA, NSA and Department of Defense, among others. Anyone who is found to have a criminal history, mental illness, or other indications of risk is barred from entry.
Local police and federal officers are not checked in the same way under the Arm’s Reach Program, with the Secret Service presuming they meet the safety standards because of their employment. But private security contractors would be checked, two former agents who worked on advance planning for presidential trips said.
Politics | News Analysis
Showing Concern for the President, Even While Criticizing Him
By PETER BAKER SEPT. 30, 2014
WASHINGTON — President Obama must be touched by all the concern Republicans are showing him these days. As Congress examines security breaches at the White House, even opposition lawmakers who have spent the last six years fighting his every initiative have expressed deep worry for his security.
“The American people want to know: Is the president safe?” Representative Darrell Issa of California, the Republican committee chairman who has made it his mission to investigate all sorts of Obama administration missteps, solemnly intoned as he opened a hearing into the lapses on Tuesday.
Continue reading the main story
Yet it would not be all that surprising if Mr. Obama were a little wary of all the professed sympathy. Although the target of the legislative scrutiny is the Secret Service, not the president, the furor over security has left the White House on the defensive. At Tuesday’s Capitol Hill hearing and at the daily White House news briefing, the questions fueled an air of scandal: Who knew what when, and was there a cover-up?
Democrats joined in the grilling, and some were as tough as or tougher than any Republican on the Secret Service director, Julia Pierson. . But privately, some Democratic officeholders and strategists have complained that the episode contributes to a broader impression that the Obama administration’s competence has come under fire on a variety of fronts, including last year’s botched rollout of Mr. Obama’s health care program, the breakdown of services at the Veterans Affairs Department and the handling of a series of international crises.
Coming just weeks before midterm elections, they said, the intense focus on the matter might further undercut confidence in the government Mr. Obama runs even though it was hardly his fault an intruder with a knife made it into the White House.
“This is an opportunity to make it seem like nobody’s in charge in the Obama administration, even though it’s almost certainly not the case that political appointees could have done anything to change the facts in this situation,” said Matt Bennett, a White House aide under President Bill Clinton and now vice president of Third Way, a political group. “I’m not surprised that they’re doing this.”
Like other Democrats, Mr. Bennett said Congress had a duty to exercise oversight over the Secret Service and investigate what went wrong, and he said serious questions had been raised in recent days. At the same time, Democrats said, if it happened to damage the perception of the president in the process, Republicans would not object.
“I do think for a lot of Republican congressmen, this is a twofer,” said Erik Smith, a former House Democratic aide and a campaign adviser to Mr. Obama. “The Secret Service may be in the line of fire, but they’re not the only target.”
Not every Democrat sees it that way. Paul Begala, no stranger to partisan warfare as a longtime adviser to Mr. Clinton, said Republican lawmakers were asking the right questions out of genuine concern. “This is totally on the level,” he said. “They’re acting like real human beings and patriotic Americans.”
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story
Other Democrats said Republicans had good reason to preserve that impression. “So far there is bipartisan outrage and concern,” said Margie Omero, a strategist for Democratic candidates for nearly 20 years who has studied midterm voters in swing Senate races this year. “But at this time of year, candidates will try just about anything to find an opening. It could definitely backfire if Republicans look like they’re making political hay out of a threat to the president’s life.”
Republicans rejected the notion that their inquiry had any political implications. “This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of a subcommittee looking into the episode. “This is an American issue. I don’t want it to be the political football, but we in the United States of America are self-critical. It’s one of the beauties of our nation is we do hold ourselves accountable.”
And they were aided by the tough statements voiced at Tuesday’s hearing by several of the committee’s Democrats, who told Ms. Pierson that they did not have faith in her leadership and accused her of caring more about protecting her reputation than the president’s life.
While the director of the Secret Service is appointed by the president, the White House under either party typically defers to the agency on how to handle the president’s security. Even when a president is angry at missteps — as reports suggest Mr. Obama was after a 2011 shooting at the White House when one of his daughters was home — he rarely expresses that publicly. For one, it might come across as impolitic. For another, it might offend the very people a president depends on most.
So even though Mr. Obama had nothing to do with the various problems involving his security beyond appointing Ms. Pierson last year, his White House now finds itself in the position of defending the Secret Service to a degree.
At his daily briefing on Tuesday, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, was buffeted with sharp questions about when the president found out about the intruder and whether the Secret Service had been candid in describing that incident and others. While acknowledging concerns over the incident, Mr. Earnest gave Ms. Pierson an endorsement at a time when some critics are calling for her resignation.
“What we saw was a willingness that she demonstrated in testifying before Congress under oath on live television today, a commitment to leading an agency with a very difficult mission,” he told reporters. “She is somebody who took responsibility for the incident that occurred about 10 days ago. She also took responsibility for ensuring that the necessary reforms were implemented to ensure it never happens again. That is a sign of leadership.”
And that is a conclusion that Republicans can disagree with, all with Mr. Obama’s interests at heart.
We knew Hank as a friend and tennis partner of Ernie Schneider who was the editor of the writings of Mr. Herman Kahn of the Hudson Institute (the Herman on the Hudson). We met Hank at the house of Suzy and Ernie Schneider. Suzy who was a daughter to a honored Austrian family was a colleague of my wife at the Austrian Consulate General in New York City and the Schneiders and Laventhols lived in Croton on the Hudson.
Hank liked to talk politics but professionally was rather a relaxed painter who liked classic music and jazz. We praised his work, and for disclosure I must say that we are proud of one of his piano/Chopin prints that hangs in our Vienna living room next to a New Orleans Jazz scene done by our son Gil.
When I first wrote the review I wanted to make reference to Hank’s whole range of work and realized that some of the reviews of his work were under a wrong spelling of his name that used the letter “a” instead of the “o” in Laventhol. I did not think that he should suffer from that seemingly widespread mistake and mentioned this other spelling as well. It turns out that Ms. Laventhol is upset with this alternate spelling – so I am taking it of my posting but have no power over all those other articles one finds on the internet.
Also, and this is more substantial, I was not careful in giving credits to the source of the material I quoted in that first posting. Now let me add here that probably all the photos of the paintings by Hank Laventhol were taken by his wife – Josay Laventhol. Probably much of the data about him was also taken from biography written by his wife, though I am sure I peppered it with material from some of the other reviews as well. Sorry if all of this has hurt feelings of the family.
THE FOLLOWING IS PART OF OUR ORIGINAL REVIEW OF DECEMBER 26, 2011.
Birth name Henry Lee Laventhol
Born 21 December 1927
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Died 21 February 2001
Somers, New York
Field painting, graphics, sculpture,
Laventhol’s mysteriously romantic landscapes and multiple images evoke dream states and double meanings.” Pictures on Exhibit. N.Y.C.
shell wars, oil on linen, 20”X26”
Hank Laventhol, an American painter, made his early career in Europe. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Laventhol graduated Yale University with a B.A. in Fine Arts and did post graduate studies at Columbia University. At age 32 he left his business life in New York City for Europe to pursue his early vocation and life long interest in art. He studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Florence, Italy and eventually spent ten years in Europe, making his home in Mallorca, Spain. He had four solo shows in London and exhibited in major cities in Western Europe. He returned to the United States for good in 1970, settling in Westchester County, New York, with his Dutch born wife.
Trained as a sculptor he worked in many other media, including painting, print making, drawing and photography. He said “ they all mesh for me.” Laventhol painted on wooden panels prepared with gesso using the ancient egg tempera technique until he towed an American couple in a failing rental car to a garage outside Madrid. In gratitude, they sent him a roll of Belgian linen which started him painting on canvas using oil and acrylics.
He was a master printer, specializing in multi plate color etchings and aquatints, a demanding and precise process that provided him with a variety of color and texture, unrivaled by any other etching technique. He owned two Wright presses and pulled his own limited edition prints. Publishers include Associated American Artists, New York Graphic Society, Original Print Collectors Group Ltd., Georges Visat, Paris, and Pierre Chave, Vence, France. Laventhol was a guest lecturer at Pratt Graphic Center, New York City and wrote articles about print making, specializing in how to achieve perfect register in multiple color aquatint.
In the United States, his work was seen at four solo shows in New York City as well as one man and group shows across America.
Laventhol’s work is in corporate and private collections, museums and libraries, including the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Yale University Museum, the New York Public Library Print Collection, the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris, France. Laventhol has been listed in Benezit, the definitive international Directory of Artists.
Published illustrated portfolios include: “Le Miroir Aux Alouettes” by Georges Visat, Paris, with six color aquatint etchings and a poem by Andre Serini. Later porfolios include “Les Crises” and “Eyedeas.”
Eggs, eyes, roses, and flying torsos were recurring themes. Some critics considered him a surrealist. Laventhol, however, preferred to think of his work as dealing with fantasy realism.
* * *
Hank Laventhol, a gregarious, kind man with a fine, broad mind enjoyed life to the fullest. Besides being a disciplined, hard worker he had a wide array of interests and hobbies. His art was his passion, but he rarely started a day without an early game of tennis. He was an eclectic music lover and an opera and chamber music buff. It was hilarious to hear him sing along with all the voices while listening to an opera as he worked. He was well versed in American folk music and loved playing his classical guitar - not well, he admitted. During the 1960s he sought out small locales all over Europe to tape indigenous music – Flamenco in Spain, Fado in Portugal, Stornelli in Italy and jazz in Northern Europe – using a huge reel to reel recorder. Mexican and South American indigenous music was another interest added to his music collection .
He spoke fluent Spanish and Italian and said he knew enough French, Dutch and German to defend himself. Whatever the topic, he communicated. His sense of humor got him past being embarrassed. An adventurous traveler with an infallible sense of direction, Laventhol met his Dutch born wife over a chessboard in Mallorca, Spain, and was kind enough to let her win a few times during the ensuing 40 years. An imaginative chef, he made up his own multi cultural recipes. Stuffed trout was served with the head on. Asian wok-cooked food was a treat. Dill, unavailable in Mallorca, was imported from the U.S. to pickle a fresh crop of cucumbers in large clay pots placed around his Mallorca rental house. When they started fizzing, it was time to serve them to his “expat” friends, together with his amazingly good baked beans. He used a wood chip smoker to prepare fish and fowl and made his own gravlax and seviche. He said eating Dutch New Herring in the Netherlands was a life altering experience.
Frugal artistic life never held his ingenious imagination back. Any potential problem or road block was dealt with and solutions found. The Mallorcan car mechanic built an hibachi that was carried from his tiny fishing boat, which he called, a “one lunger”, to friends’ houses. The same mechanic fabricated a roof rack for a convertible VW beetle to carry paintings to art shows. Laventhol’s talents converted what he saw as poetry into striking atmospheric work with a touch of the mystical.
We learned that the timing of the March – Sunday, September 21, 2014, has more to do with the release last night (September 16th, 2014) at the Ethical Culture Society New York Headquarters at Central Park West and 64th Street, then with the forthcoming September 23rd UN event on Climate Change.
The movie is -”THE FUTURE OF ENERGY: Lateral Power to The People” – which is in effect a logic – non-UN inspired – sequel to Franny Armstrong’s “THE AGE OF STUPID” that was released in 2009 prior to the Copenhagen COP 15 of the UNFCCC (The UN Convention on Climate Change). That movie belonged still to the time people believed in multilateralism as a way to answer the growing threat to humanity from our super-dependence on fossil-carbon fuels. Today the “People” are sophisticated enough to realize that governments via multilateralism do not stand a chance to an agreement that gives birth to a solution to the on-going changes in the global environment that lead to global warming and climate change. The PEOPLE in their own actions – in their communities – are our only hope. This is now the wave of the future – not the UN.
The UN was good to make it crystal clear that there is a problem that needs a solution – but the UN is impotent when it comes to provide the solution. This belongs now to the PEOPLE – the ethical guardians of their own future and the future of the generations to come.
This was made clear to me as I asked the panel that followed the inaugural viewing of the movie “What they expect of the upcoming event at the UN?” The answer from the Producer/Writer – Mr. Maximilian DeArmon – was very short and clear. What will save us are the People in their LOCALITIES and the fact that the non-fossil-carbon solutions to energy needs are already economical and their introduction will make them cheaper, while the continuing use of fossil-fuels makes those trouble-causing fuels more expensive. The logic is here and the People recognize what that means to politics, the economy, and their daily lives.
——————————————————————————– The March – 11:30 am, Sunday, September 21st Assembly Location: Central Park West, between 65th and 86thstreets. NOTE – Some streets will be closed. Enter on 65th, 72nd, 77th, 81st, or 86th street.
March Route: The march will begin at 11:30 am. Assembly starts from 9:00 a.m.
March down Central Park West and go east on 59th Street. Turn onto 6th Ave. and go south to 42nd Street. Turn right onto 42nd Street and go west to 11th Ave. Turn left on 11th Ave. and go south to 34th Street End Location: 11th Ave. in the streets between 34th Street and 38thStreet.
350NYC at the People’s Climate March! Meet us on Central Park West between 71st and 72nd by 10am on Sunday Sept 21st. We’ll be marching in the green “Solutions” section of the march. T
To receive updates.
At the UN highlights were during the years of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and we want to mention two of his innovations:
(a) he chaperoned the introduction to the UN of the Principle of THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT (R2P) which, as he understood it – was the responsibility of governments to protect their citizens from the wrath of the government itself. Clearly, this was not the obviously understood – the responsibility of a government to protect their citizens from outside attacks. Let us say that this was the first innovation of the UN Charter since the Declaration of Human Rights championed by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. We like to view R2P also as a call to governments regarding their responsibility to protect the citizens from the effects of Climate Change and to act in order to avoid this subservience to fossil fuels and corporate greed.
(b) he was responsible for the creation of the United Nations Global Compact.
The United Nations Global Compact is a UN initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation. The UN Global Compact is a principle-based framework for businesses, stating ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. Under the Global Compact, companies are brought together with UN agencies, labour groups and civil society. Cities or localities can join the Global Compact through the Cities Programme.
The UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative with two objectives: “Mainstream the ten principles in business activities around the world” and “Catalyse actions in support of broader UN goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).” We like to see here an opening regarding the effects of Climate Change and the need that corporations are bound to help avoid Global Warming and Climate Change.
Under UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Climate Change continued to get a lot of attention, but we did not see yet the needed push to hold governments and corporations responsible for acting along the lines that became available under his predecessor’s leadership. It seems that telling Dr. Assad that he is not allowed to gas his citizens is much easier then telling China not to poison Beijing’s air by building more coal-fired power plants.
Since 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has convened the UN Private Sector Forum during the opening session of the General Assembly in order to bring the voice of the private sector to inter-governmental debates on key topics.
This year, the UN Private Sector Forum will be an integral part of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit. The Climate Summit will serve as a public platform for leaders at the highest level – all Member States, business, finance, civil society and local leaders – to:
Catalyze ambitious action on the ground to reduce emissions and strengthen climate resilience
Mobilize political will for an ambitious global legal agreement by 2015 that limits the world to a less than 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.
Convened by the UN Global Compact in close cooperation with the World Bank Group, and with the support of UN partners, the Private Sector Forum will provide a unique platform for Governments and business to demonstrate their leadership on climate change.
The theme of this year’s luncheon segment of the Forum will be carbon pricing, focusing on actions that the public and private sectors can take to achieve an equitable and fair valuation of carbon through long-term strategies, investments and policies.
Comprising two programme segments to showcase and catalyse leadership on climate change, the Private Sector Forum seeks to:
Provide a platform for business and investors to demonstrate the contribution that they can make towards reducing global emissions and strengthening resilience; and
Inspire new public policy measures, commitments to action, and public-private partnerships to steer global and local climate action
Put a Price on Carbon:
Carbon pricing is a critical tool to address climate change, and momentum is building to put in place carbon pricing schemes. Nearly 40 countries and more than 20 cities, states and provinces use carbon pricing mechanisms such as emissions trading systems and carbon taxes or are preparing to implement them. The private sector has been increasingly outspoken in its support for consistent carbon pricing.
Many companies already operate in countries with carbon pricing and use an internal carbon price in their planning and investments, however more leadership is needed if we are to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
Two separate initiatives representing a progression of commitments to support carbon pricing will be presented during the Private Sector Forum on 23 September 2014. To learn more, please read this letter from the UN Global Compact and the World Bank Group.
But the working part of the September 23rd meetings are slim. They amount to:
11:40 Welcoming Remarks -Mr. Georg Kell,
Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact
11:50 Introduction to the Roundtable Discussion by the Master of Ceremonies Ms. Christiana Figueres,
Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
11:50 – 12:20 Roundtable Discussion
Participants will be seated at tables of ten and will discuss the following question:
What effective measures can private and public sectors take to significantly advance corporate
action on climate change and help limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius?
12:20 – 12:50 Report back and Announcements: Commitments to Action
The Master of Ceremonies calls on leaders from business and civil society to report back on the roundtable
discussions and to announce a commitment to action
Mr. Feike Sijbesma, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Royal DSM
Mr. Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman and Managing Director, Hindustan Construction Company, India
Mr. Kerry Adler, President and Chief Executive Officer, SkyPower, Canada
Mr. Jose Lopez, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Nestle, Switzerland
Mr. Morten Albaek, Group Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Vestas, Denmark
Mr. Jerry Lynch, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, General Mills, USA
Mr. Peter Bakker, Chief Executive Officer, The World Business Council for Sustainable Development
12:50 – 12:55 Closing Remarks – Mr. Adolfo Heeren, Chief Executive Officer, Cálidda, Peru
12:55 – 13:00
Wrap up by the Master of Ceremonies Participants move to their seats in the Delegates Dining Room
The film is a drama-documentary-animation hybrid which stars Pete Postlethwaite as a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055, watching archive footage from the mid-to-late 2000s and asking “Why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?”
A CHOREOGRAPHY THAT EXPLORES THE IDEA OF RECONCILIATION.
Fishman Space in BAM Fisher, 321 Ashland Place, near Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene, Brooklyn; 718-636-4100, www.bam.org.
The main purpose of DanceMotion USA, a cultural diplomacy program run by the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the State Department, is to send American artistic troupes abroad. Yet the program also benefits New Yorkers directly by having American companies bring back a foreign one for a free, collaborative stay and performance here of several weeks – sometimes at dance camps out-of-town i.e. in Maine. Eventually a new program is born and it is shown at the Brooklyn BAM which is now blessed o have also the Fisher Building (Fishman Space) next door. These visits have proven to say the least – interesting. The New York Times prefers to say illuminating.
At the BAM Fishman Space on Thursday, David Dorfman Dance which is based at the BAM, back from a four-week tour of Turkey, Armenia and Tajikistan, teamed up with the Korhan Basaran Company from Istanbul, augmented by two Armenian dancers – Karen Khatchatryan and Davit Grigoryan.
The program was not one with pieces from each of the performing triangle’s previous repertory. Mr. Dorfman and Mr. Basaran went all the way, joining forces for an hour-long joint program titled – “Unsettled” with a chosen theme of “reconciliation.” It was remarkable how well the two companies, both packed with powerful dancers did merge.
The work teemed with groups pushing and shoving, but it did not set one troupe against the other. The sharpest contrast — in the opening moments and in two later face-off duets — was between the choreographers: Mr. Basaran, tall, with a tendency to collapse inward, and Mr. Dorfman, squat, always hurling his energy out. Yet the aesthetic kinship between them was also apparent in eruptive rhythms and labile emotions.
The music, composed and played live by Sam Crawford, Liz de Lise, Jesse Manno and Timothy Quigley, beguilingly blended Western and Middle Eastern styles and instrumentation. It borrowed the folk song “Sari Gyalin” (or “Sari Gelin”), which in Turkish, Armenian and English versions laments the failure of love across ethnic divides.
A few scenes — for example, a forced march — could be read as specific allusions to the bloody history between Turks and Armenians, but much of the work’s tension was cannily translated into the power dynamics of the choreographic process. In its strongest segment, Evrim Akyay, a slinky Turkish dancer with a menacing presence, directed the motions of an ingenuous American, Kendra Portier, as if in rehearsal for this show. The more he yelled at her in Turkish and slapped her around, the brighter her smile. Though, the power of that scene was squandered as Ms. Portier turned to audience members and implored them to move closer together, vocalizing her needs in dancerly double entendres (“I need to be moved”). Similarly, another scene swerved from infantile humor to a sharp evocation of the coercion in making people say they’re sorry, only to end with weeping on the ground. A shrewd point about forced reconciliations got belabored in a manner that was itself coercive.
Still, it is to the credit of all involved that “Unsettled,” after a celebratory group dance, had the honesty to remain unsettled. What resonated was a moment before the end, when Mr. Dorfman, having failed to force his friendship on Mr. Basaran, took a line from the folk song and allowed it to expand into a humble question for everyone: “Oh tell me please, what can I do?”
This reporting of mine follows a review in the New York Times and a feeling that many in the audience, including myself, had that though seeing a piece that historically dealt with the Armenian – Turkish relations that included an attempt at genocide, actually today the topic is the Israeli Palestinian conflict and it was obvious that to untrained ears Turkish, Armenian, or Arab music – seem all the same – and thus a presence in the air – reference was being made to the Middle East as if there were some generic to it.
The performances at the BAM went on Thursday – Friday – Saturday evenings, but then there was also a performance Saturday afternoon that I attended because it had also a follow up discussion with TV link to Istanbul and questions via the internet from London, Ankara, Germany and some other places.
On a question about the collaboration we heard an answer that said – in a month we become one but in some things where there were differences we become States.
Before the TV land internet links the conversation was according to the natural language of the speaker with a sometime translation into English – then from Ankara came the notion that something that was said in Armenian needed also Turkish translation. Fair enough.
On the I AM SORRY piece: “Children can easily apologize to each other – forget and forgive.” As he got older, the comment went on, he felt he needed more – the words alone mean less.
Then he saw The Planet of the Apes – they have the capacity of forgive & forget – but we do not have that capacity anymore.
This is our first posting on food – we picked it because rhubarb is hardly known – but it can grow easily – even in city backyards – and is somewhat a dangerous plant because its leaves are poisonous. CUT OFF ANY GREEN PARTS – EAT ONLY THE BOILED PINK STALKS – and you make delicious food.
I, for one, am eager to stand up with other rhubarb lovers who are tired of the suppression of the vegetable’s true, pucker-inducing nature. (Yes, it is a vegetable, not a fruit.) Rhubarb does not have to be sugared into submission to be delicious. “Sour power” is our battle cry.
My own rebellion came after years of following the sweetness status quo and baking the stalks into an array of pies, crumbles and cakes. As good as these classics are, they are not the only way to use the stridently tart stalks.
In fact, when rhubarb is used in savory dishes, its fruity tang becomes an asset much like citrus or pomegranate, without any annoying seeds. Rhubarb works especially well when paired with fatty meat. It slashes through the richness like lemon juice or vinegar, but has the added benefit of falling apart and thickening the sauce.
A piquant rhubarb butter sauce, softened with a drizzle of honey to smooth out the edges, is also a great partner for milky cheeses, eggs and certain vegetables. Once, while exploring the adage of “what grows together goes together,” I paired that rhubarb butter sauce with its seasonal sister, asparagus. It was a hit: bracing, earthy and a change from the usual hollandaise.
In this recipe, I combine rhubarb with chicken. I first stew the stalks with onions, garlic and a little white wine, then use the mix as a bed for braising the bird. The fat rendered by the chicken skin enriches the sauce, while the meat absorbs all the tangy flavors. I use a whole cutup chicken here, but feel free to use an equal weight of your favorite parts instead. Thighs and drumsticks work particularly well.
The only disadvantage to a savory rhubarb sauce is that as it cooks down, it loses its pinkness, turning drab beige. You need plenty of green garnishes on hand to perk it up. Herb sprigs work nicely, as do the tops from the spring onions (or scallions) used in the sauce. Red scallions are pretty here if you run across them.
You end up with a nuanced, spectacularly savory dish that just may revolutionize the way your dinner guests think about rhubarb.
View of Smara, one of the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.
What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun.
The HSBC ads at Newark International Airport could not have been more appropriate for my trek to the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. As I ambled through the jet bridge with my carry-on, color-coordinated images of demure North African women met my eyes, accompanied by some facts assembled by the bank—”0.3% of Saharan solar energy could power Europe”—and a self-aggrandizing but, for me, prescient message: “Do you see a world of potential? We do.”
It was the fall of 2011, and I was on a string of flights from North Carolina to Algeria to participate in an ARTifariti convening of international artists presenting human rights–related projects at the Algerian camps and in Western Sahara. During previous gatherings, a New York–based art critic had presented a slide show to international artists and Sahrawi refugees, sharing pieces by activist artists and filmmakers such as Ai Weiwei and Spike Lee. The get-togethers offered a forum to consider artists who might do a project in the camps.
And in the end, the refugees had chosen a Chinese Texan who had spearheaded Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project, an artwork that prompted Americans to draw their own versions of $100 bills (in order to raise awareness of and prevent childhood lead poisoning). Essentially they said, “Bring us the guy with the money.” So I packed my bags and left for the western lands of North Africa.
Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project in St. Roch, New Orleans. CREDIT: Amanda Wiles, 2009.
At an unknown hour on a starless night, I arrived in the 27 February Camp—one of Algeria’s five Sahrawi refugee camps (named after the date in 1976 on which the Polisario Front declared the birth of the Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic)—and was led to the home of our host, Abderrahman. As we entered his compound, the seasoned warrior, dressed in a blue darrâa, emerged from a UN tent, unfurled a carpet over the sand, ignited charcoal and began to prepare the customary tea for us. We attempted to translate from Hassaniya Arabic to Spanish to English over tea, getting a taste of enthusiastic nomad hospitality.
That night I heard firsthand the history of the Sahrawi people, who today are divided between Algerian refugee camps and a sliver of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara that they call the “liberated territories.” For nearly four decades, warfare and political powers have trapped more than 150,000 Sahrawis in the camps and separated them from their family members in the liberated territories, which are bounded by the Moroccan wall to the west and Algeria’s border to the east.
When Morocco and Mauritania invaded Western Sahara in 1975 (Mauritania withdrew in 1979), they split up the land and seized the Sahrawis’ natural resources—water, rich fishing grounds and the world’s largest phosphate mine. Now, inhabiting either the arid, landlocked region of Western Sahara or the bare-bones camps of Algeria, the Sahrawi people depend entirely on international humanitarian aid for food, water and medicine. And while Western Sahara has none of the lead-poisoning problems of postindustrial America, its liberated territories have more landmines than any other place on the planet.
In the tent of Abderrahman and his family. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.
In the morning I awoke from this harrowing chronicle in a land of sand and rock that was brutally burnished by the sun—and I can guarantee that there was no bank in sight. I soon learned why the Sahrawi people were so interested in the Fundred Dollar Bill project: they have no currency of their own and deal mostly with Algerian dinars. In response, we created a background template for their currency, printed thousands of blank bills and distributed them through the camps, announcing a design opportunity. After we curated their drawings, the Sahrawis would vote on the designs for what might become their first currency.
The denominations for the currency, called “sollars,” were 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Children and teens drew the 5s and 10s; young adults, the 20s; and of course, the elders, the 100s. But the designs for the 50s would have two adult versions, one male and one female. The survivalist family culture that has emerged from the hostile desert climate has enforced a long-standing code of equality between the sexes. In a region where food is scarce and hot summer temperatures and freezing desert nights can kill, whoever survives the elements must be allowed equal rights in the tribe to barter and represent the family, regardless of religious dictates.
The children’s school at the 27 February Camp. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.
While I was in the camps, I came to understand that the symbolic and therapeutic benefits of designing the first Sahrawi currency with the refugees were not worthy enough goals. The Sahrawi people need a real economy. And to make that happen, the fictional currency I helped the refugees design had to be backed by something real and exchangeable on international markets.
As I mulled over the problem under the blazing sun, I realized that the desert holds the potential to bring Sahrawis economic and political independence—and the leverage necessary to help us all combat climate change.
What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun. The first solar energy–backed currency in the world could bring the Sahrawi people an independent economy and offer a major breakthrough in an environmental quagmire. We would create a new model of banking and currency, free from the dominance of gold and oil, for first-world countries to follow.
And this model would be delivered by the Sahrawi people, who have been waiting for freedom and self-determination for 39 years! By achieving worldwide renown for freeing people from hydrocarbon dependency, the Sahrawi could then barter with the global community for another form of independence: their right to self-determination.
Freedom is the concept propelling my action with the Sahrawi people. The sun on this poster for the Bank of the Sun is composed of the Arabic word for “freedom,” repeated 38 times—once for every year the Sahrawis have waited for the right to self-determination (as of last year). CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2013.
I admit that it was a pretty far-out and grand idea, but I suppose I did see a world of potential in Saharan solar energy, just like the jetway HSBC ad said. I was thinking like a bank.
After getting back from the Tindouf camps, I found myself in Texas, accepting a national award for my efforts in public art and, most likely, boring everyone with crazy talk about a Bank of the Sun in landmine-laced Western Sahara. My friends were more concerned about my diminishing sense of self-preservation than about anything I said—especially after I told them that my trip to Tifariti had been interrupted by the armed kidnapping of three foreign-aid workers from a neighboring refugee camp. They didn’t even entertain my ideas with any questions about how the bank idea could be pulled off.
As with most such gatherings, there was not much left to do after the award ceremony but drink and dance. So, with friends in tow, we honky-tonked through San Antonio, taking over a bar by the River Walk and proceeding to do what had to be done. While taking a break from the floor, I noticed a man about my age sitting at a table with a beer, tapping his feet to the bluesy beat. I had my posse pull him onto the floor. He began to move in a calculated way, like an engineer. Intrigued, I joined him and the party on the floor.
Over the din, I shouted, “What do you do?”
He shouted back, “I’m an engineer.”
“Really?” I asked. “What kind?”
“A solar engineer.”
I challenged Texas style: “So, ever heard of Western Sahara?”
Matter-of-factly he replied, “Yes, we designed a power station for the refugee camps there.”
For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds; the bodies in frantic motion seemed to stand still. I urged him off the dance floor. He told me, in an Australian accent, that he was Dr. Richard Corkish, head of photovoltaic engineering at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Not only that—his colleague had just been in the same refugee camps I had visited, advising on how to power a women’s clinic. It was a profound coincidence, to say the least. We closed the bar, and I left clutching Dr. Corkish’s business card.
For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds.
Since our night on the floor, Dr. Corkish has been an adviser to the Bank of the Sun, which is on its way to becoming a reality. He has assigned students the project as part of his curriculum and counseled us on the design of a modular, pragmatic stand-alone solar power plant in Western Sahara, as well as a cost-effective method for transmitting power. Following Corkish’s methodologies, we could generate more than enough energy for Sahrawi needs, creating a surplus to sell to neighboring countries or even to Europe. By working in the Western Sahara to retool our approach to energy, we would prove that the most advanced methods of solar-power storage and delivery are feasible even in a place with no infrastructure. The most appropriate technology for us all could be built from the sand up.
In February 2013 I discussed the project with Ahmad Bukhari, the Polisario representative to the United Nations, and later with Mohamed Yeslem Beisat, the ambassador to the United States for the Western Saharan people. Skeptical at first, they have both become advisers and creative collaborators.
To make the first Bank of the Sun a reality, we have to find a place where electricity can be generated that is both safe from armed conflict and close enough to someone interested in buying energy. Bukhari suggested placing the stand-alone solar power plant not in the camps but in Mijek, a nomadic outpost in the liberated territories. Mijek continues to be the most likely site because the energy could be sold to Zouérat, a town in northern Mauritania where an iron ore mine needs more power than is available. The Mauritanian ambassador recently confirmed that the country would buy any energy offered. I have started to seek funds for a fact-finding trek, during which I will finally step on the sands of Western Sahara.
The site and plans for the potential Bank of the Sun. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2013.
During my time in the Sahrawi refugee camps, I relearned a lesson I picked up in the flood-wracked and environmentally poisoned parts of New Orleans: you are not inspired by tragedy or human suffering—you are compelled.
My brilliant translator, a young man named Mohamed Sulaiman Labat, was born in the camps and has never traveled beyond his host country, Algeria, or the shameful wall of sand and explosives erected by Morocco in Western Sahara. Sulaiman is majestic in his capacity for optimism and his aptitude for imagining alternative futures based on ideas we discussed during my stay. On our last night together, he spoke with me about staring each night into the vast sky above the camps. He then asked, “No disrespect, but why is it so easy for an artist to see our need for justice when the rest of the world can’t?”
A question like that makes you think about what could be and about how our humanity is challenged if we don’t take action to amplify his question—and to force an answer.
This piece from Creative Time Reports is republished without trying to track down permission. Climate Reports is made possible by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. This series is produced in conjunction with the 2013 Marfa Dialogues/NY organized by Ballroom Marfa, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and the Public Concern Foundation. We hope that the authors will not mind our trying to publicize their very sound dream for a mos reasonable future. The only question is if the world will be enlightened enough to see that the true realists are the dreamers of today.
AUSTRIA, SINCE THE MAY 11, 2014, CROWNING IN COPENHAGEN, HAS A QUEEN -
HER EXCELLENCY IS KNOWN AS CONCHITA WURST.
Eurovision Song Contest 2014 The winner
Performer: Conchita Wurst Song title: Rise Like a Phoenix
Song writer(s): Charly Mason, Joey Patulka, Ali Zuckowski, Julian Maas
Song composer(s): Charly Mason, Joey Patulka, Ali Zuckowski, Julian Maas
Rise Like a Phoenix
Waking in the rubble Walking over glass Neighbors say we’re trouble Well that time has passed
Peering from the mirror No, that isn’t me Stranger getting nearer Who can this person be
You wouldnt know me at all today From the fading light I fly
Rise like a phoenix Out of the ashes Seeking rather than vengeance Retribution You were warned Once I’m transformed Once I’m reborn You know I will rise like a phoenix But you’re my flame
Go about your business Act as if you’re free No one could have witnessed What you did to me
From the fading light I fly Cause you wouldn’t know me today And you have got to see To believe Rise like a phoenix Out of the ashes Seeking rather than vengeance Retribution You were warned Once I’m transformed Once I’m reborn
I rise up to the sky You threw me down but I’m gonna fly
And rise like a phoenix Out of the ashes Seeking rather than vengeance Retribution You were warned Once I’m transformed Once I’m reborn You know I will rise l the Israeli Dana Internationalike a phoenix But you’re my flame.
Eurovision 1998, that was held in Birmingham, the UK, was won by someone very similar to To Tom Neuwirth / Conchita Wurst.
That person was the Israeli performer of Yemenite and Romanian Jewish parentage, named Dana International, whose real registered name was Sharon Cohen born February 2, 1972 as Yaron Cohen. She was a clear trans-gender woman that was born a man.
Dana was chosen to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Diva“. Orthodox Jews and others with conservative views were opposed to her appointment and attempted to void her participation in the contest. However, in May 1998, Dana performed “Diva” at the Eurovision final and won the contest with 172 points.
Conchita Wurst, a transvestite dressed in woman’s closing but sporting a beard to match in color her long black hair wig, won the Copenhagen 2014 Eurovision getting the smashing 290 points result. Indeed – in these last 16 years the world made tremendous progress in recognizing the human diversity as stressed by Tom Neuwirth when he chose to himself the name “WURST” which in German signifies – “it does not matter – all is equal to me.”
I am talking here politics and must notice that despite tremendous progress – nevertheless not every thing has changed. This is signified by the fact that nobody in the media has remembered Dana International. Is this because of her Israeli origin? Also, so far as I know, our website was the only example in the media that linked the Mauthausen Memorial of Sunday May 11, 2014 with the Eurovision Song Contest that gave such acclaim to Wurst – the person – and let us also say – the concept.
Further, let me stress that Austria is in the forefront of these achievements – the same Austria that it’s people were responsible for running the Mauthausen extermination plant in the 1940′s established to wipe out all diversity has now a Chancellor, the Honorable Werner Faymann, Who sat for four hours on May 11th, and watched the march of memory at Mauthausen and gave recognition to the honored documentary journalist Arnold Schwarzman who in 1981 helped prepare the Mauthausen documentary GENOCIDE and now was the US Representative at the 2014 Memorial. We wrote this up at:
One week later, on Sunday May 18, 2014, the Chancellor and his Minister of Culture, Dr. Josef Ostermayer, and their wives, stood in the official halls of Austrian Government, in front of the Nation’s cameras – or all to see, and with 10,000 people gathered in front of his windows facing the Balhausplatz, and acclaimed Conchita Wurst’s victory saying this was a victory for Austria. We say – this was a recognition that not only Tom Neuwirth and his friends have risen from the Mauthausen ashes – but all of Austria ought to consider itself as risen from its ashes. Yes, we know that there are exceptions also in Austria – but at least the leadership is stating that the change is welcome.
We are not going to post our notes from the Balhausplatz event, which I watched on location as media, and the Chancellor’s speech. Those were covered by the media in general. Watching the debates towards next Sunday’s elections for the European Parliament we are aware that not all Europe has not overcome the disease of excessive Nationalism and hatred of diversity. We will get back to this after the results of the elections are in and do not want to preempt this.
For now, trying to contribute here something the rest of the media does not focus on to their discredit,
I will post about DANA INTERNATIONAL’s Career:
1990–93: Dana International
At 18 years of age, Cohen (still legally male) earned a living as Israel’s first drag queen parodying many famous female singers. During one of her performances, she was discovered by Offer Nissim, a well-known Israeli DJ, who produced her debut single “Saida Sultana” (“My Name is Not Saida”), a satirical version of Whitney Houston‘s song “My Name Is Not Susan“. The song received considerable exposure and helped launch her career as a professional singer.
In 1993, Dana International flew to London for male-to-femalesex reassignment surgery and legally changed her name to Sharon Cohen.Returning home with her new name, that same year Cohen released her first album, titled Danna International, in Israel. Soon after, the album was also released in several other countries including Greece, Jordan, and Egypt (In Jordan and Egypt the album sold illegally). Sharon’s stage name Dana International comes from the title track of the album, and was originally spelled with two n:s. Danna International soon became a gold record in Israel.
1994: Umpatampa and Best Female Artist
In 1994, Dana released her second, Trance-influenced album Umpatampa, which built on the success of her debut and provided further hit singles. The album went platinum in Israel and has sold more than 50,000 copies to date. Because of her popularity and the success of this album, she won the award for Best Female Artist of the Year in Israel.
1995: Eurovision song contest
In 1995, Dana attempted to fulfill her childhood dream of performing in the Eurovision Song Contest. She entered the Eurovision qualifying contest in Israel with a song entitled “Layla Tov, Eropa” (“Good Night Europe”) which finished second in the pre-selections, but became another hit single.
In late 1995, Dana released an E.P. called E.P. Tampa with three new songs and four remixes and special versions of her earlier songs.
1996–97: Consolidating popularity
In 1996, Dana released her third album, Maganuna. Although this album was less successful than her previous efforts, it still reached gold record sales in Israel and included the hits “Don Quixote,” “Waving,” and the club smash “Cinque Milla.” In 1997, Dana collaborated with the Israeli artist Eran Zur on his album Ata Havera Sheli, and together they sang the duet “Shir Kdam-Shnati (Sex Acher)” (“Pre-Bed Song (A Different Kind of Sex)”) which became a huge hit.
1998: Diva and mainstream spotlight
Dana was chosen to represent Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest 1998 in Birmingham with the song “Diva“. Orthodox Jews and others with conservative views were opposed to her appointment and attempted to void her participation in the contest. However, in May 1998, Dana performed “Diva” at the Eurovision final and won the contest with 172 points. She became an international superstar, and was interviewed by CNN, BBC, Sky News, and MTV among others mostly focusing on her life as a transsexual person before winning the contest. Dana’s own words “the message of reconciliation” were; “My victory proves God is on my side. I want to send my critics a message of forgiveness and say to them: try to accept me and the kind of life I lead. I am what I am and this does not mean I don’t believe in God, and I am part of the Jewish Nation.”
Dana released “Diva” as a single in Europe and it became a hit, reaching number 11 in the UK charts and the top ten in Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, and the Netherlands.
1999–2001: Stage falling, Streisand cover and new albums
In 1999, Dana released Woman In Love, a Barbra Streisand cover, but it was not the hit that “Diva” had been. In May 1999, Dana again participated in the Eurovision Song Contest held in Jerusalem. Dana was a part of the interval act and sang the Stevie Wonder song “Free”. She also presented the award to the winners of the contest but accidentally managed to steal their thunder. Whilst she was carrying the heavy trophy, one of the composers of the winning Swedish entry by mistake stepped on the long trail of her dress and she fell over on stage – in front of a television audience estimated be to one billion or more, making it one of the most memorable moments in the 50-year-long history of the contest.
She released her next album Free in Europe in 1999, which enjoyed moderate success. A few months later Dana moved back to Israel and started to work on different projects. Israeli and Japanese editions of Free were released in 2000. That same year, an Israeli documentary film was made about Dana called Lady D.
In 2001, after a break, Dana released her seventh album Yoter Ve Yoter (More and More). The album put her career in Israel back on track and provided two hits called “I Won” and “After All”, which eventually both went gold.
2002–06: Fading from the scene and Sony incident
Dana was about to sign with a major label, Sony/BMG, for an international recording contract but something went wrong in negotiations. These were disagreements that led to Sony cancelling the deal before it was completed. In 2002, she released another album, HaHalom HaEfshari (The Possible Dream), which was a minor chart success. In 2003, she released an exclusive 8-CD box set, containing all singles from The Possible Dream and a new house version of the hit single “Cinque Milla”, titled A.lo.ra.lo.la. A few years later, in 2005, Dana participated in the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision song contest, held in Copenhagen, after “Diva” was selected as one of fourteen songs considered to be the best Eurovision songs. The song did not make it into the final top five but, Dana got the chance to perform both “Diva” and an old Eurovision favourite of hers; Baccara‘s 1978 entry “Parlez-Vous Francais?“. She also recorded the song “Lola” (sung in French), to which she released a video. This video can be found on the CD Hakol Ze Letova, released in 2007 as a bonus CD-rom video.
In 2005, Dana was voted the 47th-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet, to determine who the general public considered the 200 Greatest Israelis.
After a few years away from show business, together with the relaunch of her official website, a first single of the upcoming album was released in March 2007: “Hakol Ze Letova” (“It’s All For the Best”). The second single to be released from the album, “Love Boy”, became the most played song on Israeli radio in a decade. It also gained a respectable place on the airplay of the Greek radio station FLY FM 89,7. The following album, also titled Hakol Ze Letova, was released on August 15, 2007. “At Muhana” was the third single and “Seret Hodi” (feat. Idan Yaniv) the fourth to be released from the album, which became a bestseller in many online stores. The next single released from the album was “Yom Huledet”.
Dana also recorded the song “Mifrats Ha Ahava” (“The Love Bay”) for an Israeli version of the TV-show “Paradise Hotel”. She also collaborated with the Ukrainian duo NeAngely (Not Angels), recording “I Need Your Love” and releasing a video. In 2009, Dana starred in a mock reality show called Dana Kama/Nama for cellphone provider Cellcom
In April 2009, Dana performed in the opening concert of Tel Aviv-Yafo Centennial Year. She performed a cover version of Danny Robas‘ song “Lo nirdemet Tel Aviv” (Tel Aviv Doesn’t Fall Asleep) in front of 250,000 people.
Also in 2009, Dana International joined the 7th season of “Kokhav Nolad” (the Israeli version of Pop Idol) as a judge, also joining the 8th one in 2010.
Dana made a guest appearance, as herself, in an episode of the second series of UK sitcom Beautiful People, which was set around her Eurovision appearance.
On March 8, 2011, Dana International won the Israeli National Final for Eurovision with the song Ding Dong, and represented Israel at Eurovision for a second time.However, she did not make it into the final; she was the first Eurovision winner not to do so.
2013–present: new singles, TV show and album
In April 2013, after a two-year break, Dana released a new single, “Ma La’asot”. It was released digitally worldwide on April 24, 2013. On May 29, Dana released a video clip for the song Loca, to promote the Gay Pride Tel Aviv 2013. Dana will perform on the main event for the Gay Pride on June 7. Her third single for that year, “Ir Shlema”, was released in July. Late in January 2014, Dana’s new music reality show “Yeshnan Banot” premiered. Dana is the main judge on the show, attempting to find Israel’s next girl group.
THE WORDS OF THE SONG “DIVA.”
She is all you’ll ever dream to find On her stage she sings her story Pain and hurt will steal her heart alight Like a queen in all her glory
And when she cries Diva is an angel When she laughs she’s a devil She is all beauty and love
Chorus: Viva Maria Viva Victoria Aphrodite Viva le Diva Viva Victoria Cleopatra
Silent tears drop from these eyes tonight Tears of prayer for all those aching hearts
And when she cries Diva is an angel When she laughs she’s a devil She is all beauty and love
The Museum of Chinese in America in New York City (MOCA) will host a scholarly symposium in conjunction with MOCA’s upcoming exhibition Oil & Water: Reinterpreting Ink, opening April 24th. The exhibition will feature the work of three renowned Chinese contemporary artists: Qiu Deshu, Wei Jia, and Zhang Hongtu, guest curated by Michelle Y. Loh.
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Museum of Chinese in America
215 Centre Street
For more information and to register, click here [r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=00167beTHns6pzj-cS2-Xdec62GSqZdAXks51UXUXm3grc0kRAzdKXUmAdxPSN6LlicUEsRnMIQiL3oaydnIO66kIpQV-zavHy-YApl9TvXVSim2x0ku5dAUfHKSJgok-HhqKQQD4UHr_VWGjnovZniX-mIxdHdybBekLdKLUPRjVU=]
Sponsored by the Museum of Chinese in America
WE HOPE WE CAN CONVINCE THESE CHINESE TO TAKE A LOOK AT OIL & WATER IN THE FUTURE OF CHINA – AND TALK OF OIL & WATER IN TERMS OF SUSTAINABLILITY!
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.
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. teatroallascala.org.
“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.
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.
THE 90 year young URI AVNERY NEVER ENDED HIGH-SCHOOL BUT HE IS NON-DISPUTABLE ISRAEL’S GREATEST JOURNALIST AND MOST FAMOUS EX-MEMBER OF THE KNESSET (PARLIAMENT). WHO COULD SAY WHAT GERMANY LOST – IF NOT FOR HITLER – HE WOULD HAVE HIMSELF BEEN NOW A SECULAR COMPLETELY ASSIMILATED GERMAN?
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.”
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.
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,
presented 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
President Obama, acknowledging that high-tech surveillance poses a threat to civil liberties, announced significant changes on Friday to the way the government collects and uses telephone records, but left in place many other pillars of the nation’s intelligence programs.
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.”
Center for Traditional Music and Dance & Verite sou Tanbou present
VODOU IS NATURE!
A conversation about Vodou and the Environment
followed by a Vodou singing session
WITH SPECIAL GUESTS
OUNGAN DIEUDONNÉ JEAN-JACQUES
MANBO MARIE CARMEL
Sunday, Jan 19th, 6:30PM
138 South Oxford Street, 2nd Floor
FREE ADMISSION – PRIOR RSVP IS REQUIRED
(Kindly RSVP by January 18th to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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!
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.
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?
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.
=============================================================================== AND TO NAIL THIS IN PLACE – THE DECEMBER DATA ON THE ECONOMY AND THIS NYT EDITORIAL.
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.
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.”