"What's New? How Is the World Treating You?"

In 1939 Johnny Burke (1908-1964) composed the music and Bob Haggard (1914-1998) wrote the lyrics for the hit song "What's New?" whose first line serves as the title of this blog.  To listen to Linda Ronstadt (born 1946) perform "What's New?" with Nelson Riddle (1921-1985) and his orchestra (Asylum, 1983), click here.  A new window will open, allowing the music to play in the background.

Check this web page for occasional posts containing news and commentary, mainly about events in Central Europe.  To read the article of your choice, either click on the title that appears in the table of contents or scroll down the page.
For news and commentary from the most recent past quarter, click here.  For earlier quarters in the year or previous years, see the Introduction and Index for "What's New?"

Table of Contents for the Third Quarter of 2013


  1. 1 EU Counterintelligence Results from US Spying    26 September 2013
  2. 2 Discrimination of Roma in Hungary    26 September 2013
  3. 3 Is Hungary’s Democracy in Crisis?    25 September 2013
  4. 4 Greeks Investigate Golden Dawn    25 September 2013    UPDATE!--26 September 2013
  5. 5 CDU-CSU Win German Elections    23 September 2013
  6. 6 Latvians and the Euro    20 September 2013
  7. 7 Russian Intimidation    18 September 2013
  8. 8 News Briefs    18 September 2013
  9. 9 Russia Blocks Moldovan Wine    13 September 2013
  10. 10 Armenia to Join Russia’s Customs Union    12 September 2013
  11. 11 Jacobs Exhibits at London’s Ronchini Gallery    10 September 2013
  12. 12 Sobyanin Wins Election in Moscow    10 September 2013
  13. 13 Moscow’s Elections    8 September 2013
  14. 14 Hitler’s Bodyguard Is Dead    6 September 2013
  15. 15 Obama and the Wallenberg Case    5 September 2013
  16. 16 Moldova and the EaP    5 September 2013
  17. 17 A Shitstorm over Shitstorm    2 September 2013
  18. 18 Poland Begins Fracking    2 September 2013
  19. 19 Central European Economic Recovery    2 September 2013
  20. 20 Gramaphone Award for Bělohlávek    29 August 2013
  21. 21 President Zeman on the Anti-Roma Marches    26 August 2013
  22. 22 PSO Goes to Europe    25 August 2013
  23. 23 News Briefs    25 August 2013
  24. 24 Russian Kvas on Your Grocer’s Shelves?    25 August 2013
  25. 25 Czech Vote of Confidence Fails    8 August 2013  UPDATE!
  26. 26 Verdict in Turkey    6 August 2013
  27. 27 Privatization in Slovenia    5 August 2013
  28. 28 Communism in Japan    5 August 2013
  29. 29 Opinion from RT on Snowden    4 August 2013
  30. 30 Opposition from Students in Hungary    4 August 2013
  31. 31 Interview with Adam Michnik    4 August 2013
  32. 32 How Hollywood Helped Hitler    4 August 2013
  33. 33 Hungary? Have Some Wooly Bacon    4 August 2013
  34. 34 Extraordinary Rendition in Poland    29 July 2013
  35. 35 Georgia: The Next Dubai?    29 July 2013
  36. 36 Bell with an Odd Ring    28 July 2013
  37. 37 News Briefs    28 July 2013
  38. 38 Prague Is Never a Boar!    18 July 2013
  39. 39 News of the Nazi Era    18 July 2013
  40. 40 News Briefs    18 July 2013    UPDATE!
  41. 41 The Government Crisis in the Czech Republic    18 July 2013
  42. 42 Navalny and Magnitsky Guilty    18 July 2013  UPDATE!
  43. 43 Summer News Schedule    18 July 2013

EU Counterintelligence Results from US Spying    26 September 2013

As a result of revelations that the NSA in the United States has spied on its allies in the European Union, the EU will employ a counterintelligence expert to detect similar future activities.  See http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/09/23/europe_recruits_counterspy_in_scramble_to_combat_nsa_surveillance.html.  The NSA has had a history of overstepping its bounds.  Recently, declassified NSA documents revealed that the agency spied on prominent Americans in the 1960s and 1970s, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Senators Frank Church and Howard Baker, and even Art Buchwald.  See http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/26/nsa-surveillance-anti-vietnam-muhammad-ali-mlk. For more information about the NSA and its spying program, see also http://hnn.us/article/153082.  Although the ability of the White House to use the NSA for political purposes appears to be a thing of the past, recent information about the NSA's activities have harmed America's credibility abroad, most regrettably with its closest allies.  It is apparent that the agency needs greater oversight.

Discrimination of Roma in Hungary    26 September 2013

The Roma of Hungary are facing ever more intense discrimination on the local level.  For the situation in Ózd, including the lack of water, see http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/952.  For an article in defense of Hungary's recent path, see the preceding news item.

Is Hungary’s Democracy in Crisis?    25 September 2013

Filip Mazurczak, who interned for the US Congress and now is an intern at the American Enterprise Institute after graduating with degrees in history and Spanish literature from George Washington University and Creighton University, has written an article in defense of Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and his Fidesz party, which many analysts accuse of threatening the democratic process in Hungary.  His article is available at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/935.

Greeks Investigate Golden Dawn    25 September 2013    UPDATE!--26 September 2013

The Greek authorities are investigating the radical right-wing party Golden Dawn, including the possibility of police and military ties to the party, after a Golden Dawn adherent was involved in the stabbing death of a Greek hip-hop musician.  See http://www.democracynow.org/2013/9/25/headlines#92514 and http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/23/greece-inquiry-golden-dawn-armed-forces.  The government also is investigating a blog posting of a military reservist that called for the resignation of the government and the installation of one that had military backing.  See http://www.times-standard.com/nationandworldnews/ci_24179452/greece-probes-blog-post-calling-govt-change.

CDU-CSU Win German Elections    23 September 2013

Angela Merkel has won Germany's elections with 41.5 percent of the votes, what Merkel called a "super result."  She still will have to form a coalition, but it will not be with the traditional third party, the Free Democrats, who failed to gain enough votes to enter the Bundestag for the first time since 1949.  The other parties that gained enough votes to enter the parliament are the Social Democrats, The Left (Die Linke), and the Greens.  See http://euobserver.com/political/121524 and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-22/merkel-wins-as-fdp-losses-leave-ally-unclear-exit-polls-show.html.

Latvians and the Euro    20 September 2013

A recent poll suggests that Latvians, who are to enter the eurozone on 1 January, are hesitant about doing so.  A total of 56 percent do not want to give up the lat, 22 percent are in favor, and the remainder is undecided.  See http://euobserver.com/tickers/121521.

Russian Intimidation    18 September 2013

The Russians are intimidating Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, all former Soviet states that are building closer ties with the European Union, through various economic actions.  Now the Russians have targeted Lithuania, which is in the EU but is hosting a conference in November, during which former East European states will discuss closer economic and political ties with EU member states.  The Russians are imposing additional controls on trucks entering Russia from Lithuania, and they have begun to target automobiles as well.  The European Union has criticized the Russians’ policy.  See http://euobserver.com/foreign/121446 and http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/transport/?doc=80745.

News Briefs    18 September 2013

EU Sanctions against Croatia -- The European Union is threatening to place sanctions on Croatia because it refuses to change a law prohibiting the extradition of a Croat accused of a murder in Germany that took place during the cold war.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/121469 and http://euobserver.com/tickers/121478.

Bulgarian Protests -- A report dated 14 September from Al Jazeera describes the ongoing, largely peaceful protests in front of the Bulgarian parliament against corruption, including politicians’ links with organized crime.  Read more at http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/09/201399112250813566.html.

NSA Operations in Vienna -- The National Security Administration is operating in Vienna in a mansion, but the NSA claims that the work there is examining only materials that are publically available.  See http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2013/09/13/222072251/cold-war-flashback-vienna-villa-alleged-to-be-nsa-post?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=share&utm_campaign=.

Albanian Elections -- On 15 September, Albanians voted the Socialists into power, and the new prime minister is the artist and former mayor Edi Rama.  See http://euobserver.com/tickers/121442.

Polish Labor Protests -- On 14 September, workers in Warsaw protested government efforts to raise the retirement age and allow longer work weeks.  See http://euobserver.com/tickers/121445.

Polish Nursing Homes for Germans -- Germans have found that it is cheaper to have their aged relatives in Polish care facilities than to keep them in Germany.  The Poles welcome the added business, but many in Germany find the practice deplorable.  See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-16/germans-export-grandma-to-poland-as-costs-care-converge.html.

Russia Blocks Moldovan Wine    13 September 2013

After beginning to block Ukrainian goods, Russia has announced a ban on Moldovan wine.  Russia’s apparent purpose is to discourage both countries from concluding agreements with the European Union at an upcoming summit in Vilnius this November.  Ukraine has vowed to resist Russian intimidation, and the Moldovan president has criticized the move.  Armenia, also under pressure from Russia, was has had less staying power and stated that it will join Russia’s Eurasian Economic Community (see the posting below).  The EU reiterated that Moldovan wines meet EU standards, but it will be hard for Moldova to replace the Russian market, which accounts for 21 percent of Moldovan exports.  During a 2006 border dispute, Russia also banned Moldovan wines.  See http://euobserver.com/foreign/121388 and http://www.rferl.org/content/moldova-wine-russia-import-ban/25102889.html.

Armenia to Join Russia’s Customs Union    12 September 2013

Despite the negotiations between the European Union and Armenia about concluding a Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreement, Yerevan has announced earlier this month that Armenia will join Russia’s Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC).  The decisive factor prompting the move seems to have been Russia’s threat to increase dramatically the cost of energy that it exports to Armenia.  Another impetus likely was Russia’s large sale of arms to Azerbaijan, which has strained relations with Armenia.  An exclave of Azerbaijan borders Armenia in the south.  Furthermore, Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a part of Azerbaijan but has declared its independence (it has received no international recognition), has a multiethnic population that is 76 percent Armenian.  Many Armenians had hoped for closer ties with the EU and have protested the surprise announcement that places their country with Belarus and Kyrgyzstan in the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Community.  Read more at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/939.

Jacobs Exhibits at London’s Ronchini Gallery    10 September 2013

Patrick R. Jacobs, a graduate of the University of West Florida (BA) and the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), will be exhibiting his miniature dioramas with the works of two other American artists, Adrien Broom and Thomas Doyle, at the Ronchini Gallery in London.  Jacobs, who majored in history and art while at the University of West Florida, also spent two years on an exchange program through UWF in Klagenfurt, Austria, while completing graduate courses in history.  His dioramas, which he installs in partition walls, measure often measure less than one square foot in height and width.  In most cases, Jacobs uses a lens a few inches in diameter to allow the viewer to see the lighted sculpture.  Mr. Jacobs also reported in an e-mail that he has another show running concurrently in Amsterdam.

A description of Jacobs's work and the exhibition at Ronchini Gallery appears in The Wall Street Journal at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323906804579037331881453384.html.  The website describing the exhibition that runs from 6 September to 5 October 2013 is at http://www.ronchinigallery.com/archives/mostre/dream-no-small-dreams-the-miniature-worlds-of-adrien-broom-thomas-doyle-and-patrick-jacobs.  Mr. Jacobs’s website, which includes examples of his dioramas, is at http://www.patrickjacobs.info/.  The illustration here is of Jacobs's diorama "Stump with Red Banded Brackets and English Daisies" (2013) that measures 30.25 x 48.25 x 31.5 in. and is viewed through a 7.5 in. window (Source: http://www.patrickjacobs.info/work/enlarge/46).  It is one of the pieces featured in the Ronchini Gallery exhibition.

Sobyanin Wins Election in Moscow    10 September 2013

Sergey Sobyanin, a supporter of Putin, has won Moscow's mayoral election with 51.4 percent of the votes.  His main opponent, Alexei Navalny, an outspoken critic of Putin and his administration, is demanding a recount after receiving 27.2 percent of the vote.  See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/09/moscow-mayoral-race-sergei-sobyanin_n_3891484.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/10/world/europe/challenger-in-race-for-moscow-mayor-says-he-can-force-a-runoff.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

Moscow’s Elections    8 September 2013

Elections for Moscow’s mayoral race take place today.  Sergey Sobyanin, the incumbent who has Vladimir Putin’s backing, is expected to win, but a strong showing by  Alexei Navalny, who is facing embezzlement charges that experts see as politically motivated, may embolden Putin’s opponents.  Local elections also are taking place elsewhere in Russia.  See http://rt.com/news/mayoral-election-sobyanin-navalny-574/, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24004840, and http://news.yahoo.com/moscow-votes-pivotal-mayoral-race-070648121.html.

Hitler’s Bodyguard Is Dead    6 September 2013

Ruchus Misch, one of Adolf Hitler’s bodyguards, has died at the age of 96.  His book, The Last Witness, will be published this October.  See http://news.yahoo.com/hitler-bodyguard-rochus-misch-dies-96-115646740.html.

Obama and the Wallenberg Case    5 September 2013

While visiting Russia, President Obama will ask President Putin to look into the case of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat working in Hungary who was responsible for saving perhaps as many as 100,000 Jews during the Second World War.  Wallenberg would have been 100 this year, and his half sister, Nina Lagergren, received a pledge from Mr. Obama, while he was in Sweden recently, that he will encourage Mr. Putin to assist in unraveling the mystery of Wallenberg’s death.  After the Red Army took Budapest, Soviet officials invited Wallenberg for an interview, and he disappeared.  The Soviets claimed that he had died of a heart attack in 1947, but others say that he was executed.  See http://news.yahoo.com/obama-raise-wallenberg-fate-russia-095401486.html.

Moldova and the EaP    5 September 2013

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) of the European Union, which the Poles inspired and the EU brought into existence in 2009, is a mechanism through which the former Soviet states of  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine and the EU can promote their mutual political and economic interests.  In an article at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/926, David Rinnert, with with the German Development Agency (GIZ) in Moldova, discusses what Moldova and the EU might achieve at the November EaP summit in Vlnius in light of Moldova’s ongoing political crisis.

A Shitstorm over Shitstorm    2 September 2013

The Association for German Language (Verein Deutsche Sprache) has given its yearly Sprachpanscher or language adulteror award to the publisher of the Duden dictionary for including such English colloquial words as Shitstorm, app, Facebook, social media, and flashmob.  See http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/duden-dictionary-gets-spoof-award-for-tainting-german-language-a-919933.html.  News of the award from VDS (in German, of course) is at http://www.vds-ev.de/presse/pressemitteilungen/1221-duden-ist-sprachpanscher-2013-.

Poland Begins Fracking    2 September 2013

Poland is the first country in the European Union to succeed in fracking, which extracts natural gas from shale deposits.  Other countries also have test wells, but France and Bulgaria have abandoned the environmentally controversial procedure that some have linked to chemical and methane contamination in water supplies.  The Poles are hoping for more production that ultimately will reduce the country’s reliance on natural gas from Russia.  See http://rt.com/business/poland-shale-gas-fracking-europe-154/.

Central European Economic Recovery    2 September 2013

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland reported greater growth in manufacturing indexes than expected in August, a result of Germany’s economic recovery. 
See http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/02/us-euro-zone-factories-pmi-idUSBRE98105O20130902.

Gramaphone Award for Bělohlávek    29 August 2013

The Czech director Jiří Bělohlávek and the BBC Symphony Orchestra have won the prestigious Gramaphone Award in orchestral music for their Chandos recording of Josef Suk’s “A Summer's Tale.”  Last year, Bělohlávek and the BBC SO won the same award for their recording of Bohuslav Martinů’s symphonies.  Bělohlávek left his position as the conductor of the BBC SO in 2012 and returned to the Czech Republic as the director of the Czech Philharmonic.  See http://www.gramophone.co.uk/awards/2013/orchestral and http://www.gramophone.co.uk/awards/2012/orchestral.

President Zeman on the Anti-Roma Marches    26 August 2013

The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, condemned the wave of anti-Roma demonstrations in the Czech Republic that started with a march in České Budějovice several weeks ago.  The most recent march in Ostrava resulted in 25 injured officers and marchers.  For more, see http://praguemonitor.com/2013/08/26/zeman-denounces-anti-roma-marches.

PSO Goes to Europe    25 August 2013

Some readers may realize that I hail from Pittsburgh, PA, so they will not mind if I indulge in a little Pittsburgh pride.  The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has announced that its schedule in the summer of 2013 includes several venues in Europe: Austria, France, Germany, Romania, and Switzerland.  The PSO, one of America’s premier symphony orchestras, has toured Europe several times, and as with other European concerts, this year’s touring schedule includes a number of special guest soloists, including the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.  Read more at http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/ae/music/pittsburgh-symphony-orchestra-heads-to-europe-700704/.

News Briefs    25 August 2013

Russia Threatened Ukraine -- On 23 August, Vladimir Putin hinted at economic sanctions against Ukraine if it signs an association agreement with the European Union.  Russia wants Ukraine to join its emerging Eurasian Union.  See http://euobserver.com/foreign/121189.
German Neo-Nazis --
A parliamentary report dated 21 August notes that the neo-Nazi movement in Germany has been more violent than most assumed and was responsible for ten murders unknown to authorities.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/121182.
Germans Abroad to Vote --
Ethnic Germans living abroad, such as those in Poland, may now vote in German elections, even if they never resided in Germany.  See http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/ethnic-germans-in-poland-set-to-vote-in-german-election-a-917864.html.
Czech Elections --
The Czechs have set parliamentary elections for 25 and 26 October.  The new parliament will meet for the first time on 26 November.  See http://zpravy.rozhlas.cz/zpravy/politika/_zprava/prezidentem-navrzeny-termin-voleb-vyhovuje-vsem-parlamentnim-stranam-budou-25-a-26-rijna--1249123.
Controversy over Polish Power Plant -- The European Union is claiming that a proposed coal-burning power plant in Opole is illegal because of the emissions it will release.  See http://www.euractiv.com/energy/poland-collision-course-brussels-news-529895.
Croatia Changes Arrest Warrant Law -- The European Union is threatening sanctions against its newest member state for changing a European-wide arrest law in order to protected an alleged spy wanted in Germany for murder.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/121162.

Another Greek Bailout -- The German finance minister claims that Greece will need another bailout, although it would be smaller than the earlier amounts.  See http://euobserver.com/economic/121160.  Other EU sources are downplaying the Greek crisis.
Slovak Wall to Separate Roma -- Authorities in Košice, Slovakia, erected a wall without having the proper permits to isolate Roma residents.  The mayor pledged to remove the wall, after facing criticism.  Such structures are becoming more common in Slovakia.  See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23767036.
GZ Media, the Czech Record Producer -- The Czech vinyl record producer GZ Media, now claims to be the world’s largest record producer.  It has deals with major labels and will be producing a special anthology of music from The Who.  See http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/19/vinyl-revival-czech-record-producer.
Poland Cuts Troops in Afghanistan -- Poland announced that it will reduce its troops in Afghanistan from 1600 to 1000 in the fall as part of the NATO withdraw.  See http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/16/us-poland-afghanistan-idUSBRE97F0E220130816.
Badger Archaeological Find --
A badger in Germany recently unearthed bones of Slavic chieftains near Berlin.  See http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/badger-discovers-medieval-tomb-in-germany-a-916305.html.

Russian Kvas on Your Grocer’s Shelves?    25 August 2013

No, not quite yet, but the fermented bread drink that Russians love has come to America.  Those today tasting kvas (pronounced with an open a, as in awesome), recognize it as a sweet, yeasty, fizzy drink.  In the past, however, it was sour because of the fermentation and the addition of raisins and citrus.  Advocates of the original drink enjoy its taste but also its health benefits, since it contains vitamin C, and its sourness helps kill unwanted bacteria in the water.  Available in the Pittsburgh and New York City area, kvas eventually may catch on and spread.  After all, Americans all enjoy Klondike bars, which once were available only from Isaly delis that stretched from Pennsylvania into the Midwest.  A few remain, but all are under new ownership.  Unilever now owns the Klondike bar.

For more information, see the NPR report at http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/08/11/204859046/america-are-you-tough-enough-to-drink-real-russian-kvas?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=DailyDigest&utm_campaign=20130811.  A brewer of kvas in America is Beaver Brewing Co. of Beaver Falls, PA, which is just west of Pittsburgh.  The firm’s web site is http://www.beaverbrewingcompany.com/beers-2/kvass.  An interview with Dan Woodske of Beaver Brewing Co. is at http://voiceofrussia.com/2012_05_24/75810495/.

Czech Vote of Confidence Fails    8 August 2013  UPDATE!

On 7 August, the technical government of Jiří Rusnok, which Czech President Miloš Zeman appointed in June, failed to win the confidence of the Chamber of Deputies.  Although Rusnok expected a victory, two deputies from the conservative ODS party as well as the chairman of the chairman of LIDEM were absent, prompting a few other to desert Rusnok.  The deputies are angry with Zeman’s appointment of Rusnok, claimint  that it was an attempt to enhance the power of the president.  TOP9, which was in the previous coalition with ODS and LIDEM, now is calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections.  It appears that the fractures in the old ruling coalition of ODS, TOP9, and LIDEM will prevent it from regrouping and returning to power.  That is good news for the opposition Social Democratic party, even though the socialists’ chairman, Bohuslav Sobotka, is not on the best of terms with President Zeman, a former Social Democrat.  The current cabinet may remain as a caretaker government until the elections, which likely will occur in October, although Rusnok claimed he would resign were he not to receive a vote of confidence.  Read more at http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/czech-republic-evidently-heading-for-early-elections, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323977304578654360108421632.html, and http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/world/europe/czech-government-loses-confidence-vote.html?_r=0.  On Rusnok’s appointment, see the entry on this website here.

UPDATE!  9 August 2013

In the wake of his failure to win a vote of confidence, prime minister Rusnok announced that he will submit his resignation to President Zeman on Tuesday.  He also stated that he will focus on running the day-to-day affairs of state and not implement new policy.  The Chamber of Deputies, in the meantime, has scheduled a vote to dissolve itself on 20 August, with new elections taking place in the middle of October or shortly afterward.  See http://www.radio.cz/en/news#2 of 9 August 2013.

Verdict in Turkey    6 August 2013

A Turkish court has convicted participants of an alleged coup attempt against the current Islamist-based government.  The court sentenced a total of 275 defendants, with the former military commander, Ilker Basbug, receiving a life term.  Read more at http://news.sky.com/story/1124739/turkey-coup-trial-ex-military-commander-jailed, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-05/turkey-court-jails-ex-generals-for-plotting-coup-against-erdogan.html, and http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2013/08/scientists-prison-sentences-turkey-coup-trial.

Privatization in Slovenia    5 August 2013

In order to keep the country solvent, Slovenian lawmakers have approved the privatization of 15 companies.  More information is available at http://euobserver.com/tickers/121041.

Communism in Japan    5 August 2013

Although Japan is far from Central Europe, recent political events there are relevant to students of Central European politics and history.  After a decade of poor performance at the polls, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) recently won enough seats in the upper house to propose legislation.  Frustration with the mainstream parties explains some of the party's success, which was the experience in Central Europe between the world wars, but the JCP's work with youth on line was another factor.  For more, see the AP news feed at http://news.yahoo.com/communist-party-makes-comeback-japan-134436281.html.  On the staying-power of the JCP, see the 2007 article in Time at http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1636115,00.html.

Opinion from RT on Snowden    4 August 2013

Russia has given temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, whom the United States wishes to take into custody for leaking information about the program in the United States and the United Kingdom that involved mass surveillance of citizens' cell phone calls, supposedly necessary national security.  While information on the Snowden case abounds, little appears in the American press about the Russian perspective.  The Russian Foreign Ministry has not issued a major statement on its website, obviously in the interest of not worsening US-Russian relations, and it treats the matter as a case of human rights and not as a case of espionage or treason.  Similarly, nothing appears on the website of the Kremlin or Vladimir Putin.  RT, the autonomous Russian news network, has two recent items on its web site about Snowden.  The first is an unsigned piece that appeared on 2 August titled "US Has No Legal Ground to Object to Snowden Temporary Asylum" that examines the US options at this point.  The link to the article is http://rt.com/op-edge/snowden-asylum-russia-us-960/.  The second is a toung-in-cheek opinion piece by the RT reporter Irina Galushko titled "Welcome to Russia, Mr. Edward Snowden."  It is available at http://rt.com/op-edge/welcome-russia-edward-snowden-002/.

Opposition from Students in Hungary    4 August 2013

The second part of an interview with Hungarian student leaders who are protesting anti-democratic measures in Hungary has appeared in New Eastern Europe at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/894.  The link to the first part of the interview appeared on this website in the "News Briefs" article of 18 July 2013 that is available here.

Interview with Adam Michnik    4 August 2013

Der Spiegel has published a two-part interview with the former Polish dissident Adam Michnik, who now is the editor of the liberal newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.  Michnik discussed the current state of democracy in Central Europe, including Poland and Hungary, and the Balkans, specifically Bulgaria.  About the situation in Hungary, Michnik concluded that "We should be openly critical. Europe cannot remain silent on Hungary. Sanctions should be imposed, if necessary. When the West imposed sanctions on communist Poland after martial law was declared, we said that we didn't notice anything. But they were ultimately effective."  Read the entire interview at http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/polish-dissident-adam-michnik-on-eastern-europe-after-communism-a-913912.html.

How Hollywood Helped Hitler    4 August 2013

Between the time Adolf Hitler came to power until the beginning of the Second World War, Hollywood film makers sought to preserve their market in Germany.  As a result, they edited films to please Nazi demands, as was the case with All Quiet on the Western Front.  They removed the names of Jews from the credits and even substituted music for a film when the Nazis objected to the original work of a Jewish composer.  Film makers also made sure certain films never hit the screen, such as the project called The Mad Dog of Europe that was to depict the Nazi treatment of Jews.  Ben Urwand, a post-doctorate fellow in history at Harvard University, recounts these and many more ways Hollywood cooperated with Hitler's regime in Hollywood's Pact with Hitler that Harvard University Press will release in September 2013.  Urwand published a summary of his research in the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter, which is reprinted by Yahoo! at http://movies.yahoo.com/news/chilling-history-hollywood-helped-hitler-exclusive-050000260.html.

Hungary? Have Some Wooly Bacon    4 August 2013

Hungarian farmers raise most of the curly haired pigs in the world known as mangalicas in Hungarian and mangalitsas in English.  They are a cross between the pig and a wild boar, and their meat, which contains a higher percentage of fat than regular pork, is a delicacy that Americans are beginning to recognize.  Read more from NPR at http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/08/03/208348598/bringing-home-the-woolly-bacon-from-hungary?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=DailyDigest&utm_campaign=20130803.

Extraordinary Rendition in Poland    29 July 2013

Two Saudi nationals, both incarcerated for terrorist involvement at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have asked the European Court of Human Rights to examine their claims that Poland cooperated with the United States and ran a secret prison in Poland where they were detained, interrogated, and tortured.  The Poles are conducting their own investigation into whether their government has been involved in the extraordinary rendition program, but it has progressed for five years with no results.  Poland has been a close ally of the United States in the war on terror.   See the AP feed at http://news.yahoo.com/european-court-hear-cia-jail-case-against-poland-150155823.html.

Georgia: The Next Dubai?    29 July 2013

The prime minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, a wealthy businessman-turned-politician, envisions his country as the next Dubai and a commercial bridge between Europe and Eurasia.  To achieve that goal, he is attempting to improve Georgia's infrastructure, strengthen its economy, and rid the country of corruption, even if those targeted are his own ministers.  His opponents, however, claim that he threatens democracy, despite his claim that he will retire from office.  See more background information and a brief interview with Ivanishvili at http://euobserver.com/foreign/120991.

Bell with an Odd Ring    28 July 2013

Recently, an Austrian entrepreneur from Linz purchased the castle in Wolfpassing, Austria, about 75 miles west of Vienna.  It was discovered, however, that the tower contains a bell dedicated to Adolf Hitler.  The inscription on the bell under a swastika states: “On 11 March 1938, the unifier and leader of all Germans, Adolf Hitler, freed the Ostmark [a reference to Austria] from the yoke of foreign national oppression and led it home into Great German Reich” (translation by DEM).  Complicating matters is that the Führer Bell (Führerglocke), as it has become known, was cast from another bell dating from 1935 that commemorated the memory of Engelbert Dollfuss (1892-1934), Austria’s Christian Socialist dictator who was killed during an attempted Nazi coup.  The issue now is what to do with the bell–destroy it, place it in a museum, or keep it in place with an appropriate notation about its history.  The new owner has made no statement of intent, and the official agency that sold the building remarked that it cannot check every minor detail when it makes a sale.  See the AP report at http://news.yahoo.com/austrian-flap-over-bell-dedicated-hitler-091140297.html as well as the articles from Der Standard at http://derstandard.at/1371170981383/Niederoesterreichische-Fuehrerglocke-wird-ein-Fall-fuer-Juristen and http://derstandard.at/1369363242864/Die-Fuehrerglocke-und-der-mysterioese-Schlosskaeufer-im-Mostviertel.

News Briefs    28 July 2013

Cyprus Talks -- Turkish Cypriots have petitioned the European Union to involve them directly in talks about Cyprus to counter what Cypriot representatives claim is Greek efforts to deal directly with Turkey.  See http://euobserver.com/foreign/120981 from 27 July 2013.

EU Backs Bulgarian Protesters -- The EU justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, told Bulgarians during a Citizens' Dialogue that she supports their constant protests against corruption before the National Assembly.  See http://euobserver.com/justice/120951 of 23 July 2013.

Prague Is Never a Boar!    18 July 2013

A wild boar ran through Prague on Sunday, 16 July, until police managed to catch it.  Spiegel Online posted a CCTV video of the event at http://www.spiegel.de/video/video-wild-boar-wreaks-havoc-on-prague-video-1284255.html.  In the second scene, the boar is running in front of the Masaryk Train Station. Although the police were to turn over the boar to foresters, one wonders whether the beast met a fate similar to the boar in the Czech film from 1983 Slavnosti sněženek [Snowdrop Festival], which was based on a 1978 novel of the same name by Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997). Clips from the film are available on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg3m_n9AoJA and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg3m_n9AoJA. In the film, the boar, stunned by a hunter, managed to run through the town and enter a school before a bullet ended its rampage.  The boar became the highlight of the village feast, but that's another story.

News of the Nazi Era    18 July 2013

Alfred Rosenberg's Diary Discovered -- US authorities cooperating with the Holocaust Memorial Museum have discovered the diary of Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946) among the papers of Robert Kempner, who was a prosecutor at Nuremberg.  Historians consider Rosenberg the most important Nazi ideologist. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/09/alfred-rosenberg-diary-top-nazi-leader-hitler-aide_n_3412671.html.

Eva Braun Letters -- The Nazi-era expert Anna Maria Sigmund has published several letters from Eva Braun (1912-1945), the mistress and later wife of Adolf Hitler (1889-1945).  Read more at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/10112114/Eva-Brauns-letters-discovered-charting-her-fall-from-hope.html.

Eagle's Nest Reconstruction -- The visitors' center at Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Obersalzberg, Bavaria, will be renovated and expanded beginning in 2015.  See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/11/hitler-eagles-nest-makeover_n_3421614.html.

Hungarian Indicted for War Crimes -- Hungarian authorities have indicted a 98-year-old Hungarian, Laszlo Csatary, for war crimes at a camp for Jews working at a brick factory near Košice, Slovakia.  The Slovaks are hoping to extradite him in order to stand trial in Slovakia.  See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/18/laszlo-csatary-indicted-hungary-nazi-era-war-crimes_n_3458881.html.

News Briefs    18 July 2013    UPDATE!

Croatia is EU's 28th State -- On 1 July, Croatia became the European Union's 28th state.  Its first hurdle: dealing with a flood of refugees and those seeking asylum in the EU.  For more, see http://euobserver.com/enlargement/120688 and http://euobserver.com/justice/120680.

UPDATE! The Kremlin's New Weapon against Spying --  In order to deter leaks and spying, the Kremlin is about to place an order for 20 new typewriters (corrected from an earlier statement that reported “thousands”).  The Kremlin also wants typewriter ribbons for older models.  See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23282308.  An updated report is at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/30/russian_spooks_never_stopped_using_typewriters/.

Sainthood of John Paul II -- The Vatican announced in June that Pope John Paul II has met the requirements for becoming a saint.  See http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/07/05/198993166/pope-john-paul-ii-will-be-made-a-saint?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=DailyDigest&utm_campaign=20130718.

The Situation in Hungary -- The website New Eastern Europe (neweasterneurope.eu) has published an interview with two members of Hallgatói Hálózat [Student Network] about the challenges to democracy from the Fidesz party in Hungary at http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/846.

Techno Tallinn -- The Estonian capital of Tallinn is one of the most technical savvy cities in the World.  For more, see the NPR article at http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2013/06/12/190693661/tallinn-the-former-soviet-city-that-gave-birth-to-skype?utm_medium=Email&utm_source=DailyDigest&utm_campaign=20130718.

Napoleon's Telegraph -- Napoleon commissioned a semaphore telegraph network that served France well until the electronic age.  Some enthusiasts are preserving its last towers.  See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22909590.

Sixtieth Anniversary of the 1953 Riots in Germany -- on 17 June, Germans celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the 1953 anti-communist riots.  See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/18/world/europe/germany-puts-spotlight-on-its-own-anti-soviet-revolt.html?pagewanted=all.

Putin's Lavish Lifestyle -- Russian dissidents have released a report about Valdimir Putin's rich lifestyle.  Details are at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/28/vladimir-putin-palaces-planes-toilet.

Iceland Ceases Its Interest in Joining the EU -- Both parties of the new Icelandic government campaigned against joining the European Union, so accession talks have ceased.  See http://euobserver.com/political/120501.

The Government Crisis in the Czech Republic    18 July 2013

What started as a corruption and spy scandal that brought down a government has appeared to many as a crisis of democracy for the Czech Republic.  Problems began when, on 14 June, police raided government offices and discovered millions in money and gold.  They took into custody several individuals, including three former ODS deputies and Jana Nagyová, an advisor to and rumored lover of the prime minister, Petr Nečas.  Nagyová also apparently had authorized illegal spying programs against several, including the estranged wife of the premier.

On 17 June, the government of Nečas collapsed over the scandal.  He also withdrew as head of ODS.  There was no success at constructing a new governing coalition, so the president of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman, installed Jiří Rusnok as the head of a government of experts.  Rusnok, an economist, served twice as a cabinet minister and was once a deputy in the parliament for the Social Democrats.  After leaving the parliament, he had a troubled relationship with the Social Democrats and occasionally cooperated with the conservative ODS.  Until becoming prime minister, Rusnok was the director of the ING Pension Fund.  He supported Zeman during the presidential election and served as an advisor to Zeman.

President Zeman, who took office as the country's first popularly elected president this past spring, has gained a reputation of governing as a strong president who is prone to push the limits of his constitutional powers.  For example, he has the formal right to grant university professors tenure, but he attempted to deny one professor at Charles University tenure because he had criticized openly the prior president, Václav Klaus.  Rusnok appears to be someone willing to do the president's bidding.  Furthermore, many criticize the members of his cabinet for being too close to various special economic interests.

The Social Democrats, Zeman's old party, have criticized the appointment of Rusnok.  The socialists along with ODS and TOP9 are waiting to see how events will unfold.  The days before 11 August are crucial because that is the deadline for Rusnok to gain parliamentary approval for his government.  Should that fail, new elections would take place before those scheduled for the spring of 2014.  Early elections would ensure that Rusnok would in power for several months.

Zeman has taken advantage of the political crisis, but he is not wielding dictatorial powers.  He is well within his right to appoint Rusnok as prime minister, and Rusnok has the prerogative of selecting those on whom he can rely as cabinet ministers.  It would have been more prudent, though, to rely on neutral figures to form a true caretaker government.  Zeman and Rusnok appear to many politicians and the public that they are poised to benefit politically and financially from the situation.  That suspicion could become reality if the parliament dissolves itself and begins an early election campaign because the Rusnok government then could make decisions without formal scrutiny.

Cabinets of officials and non-political cabinet members as well as the issue of presidential powers are nothing new to Czech and Czechoslovak democracy.  At the inception of the First Republic (1918-1938), President Tomáš G. Masaryk called for a strong presidency, one that could appoint certain cabinet ministers, but the parties excluded such a possibility in the constitution.  Afterward, Masaryk sought means to strengthen his position in politics, and the parties resisted.  Masaryk found it necessary to appoint two bureaucratic governments, and the parties viewed the president's strengthened position at the time with concern.  To maintain control over the country's affairs during the crises, they created an extraparliamentary and extraconstitutional association of parties that counterbalanced the president's enhanced role.  When Masaryk made it a habit to give written instructions when appointing cabinet members, Antonín Švehla, the leader of the influential Republican (Agrarian) party, pressed him to cease the practice.  Until the Czech parties produce dynamic leaders who gain the respect of voters and seek political cooperation, the president and his surrogates will dominate politics.

Navalny and Magnitsky Guilty    18 July 2013  UPDATE!

On 18 July, a Russian court on has found the anti-corruption activist, mayoral candidate for Moscow, and an instrumental  leader of the 2011 protests in Russia, Alexei Navalny (born 1976), guilty of embezzlement and has sentenced him to five years of imprisonment.  The charge against Navalny was that he had stolen 16 million rubles of timber when he worked as an unpaid consultant for the provincial governor in Kirov.  Vyacheslav Opalev was the main witness against Navalny and his co-defendant, Pyotr Ofitserov, who headed the state timber company at the time of alleged crime.  Opalev received a suspended sentence for conspiring with Navalny because he had pleaded guilty and had cooperated with authorities, but a vendetta may be a factor.  Navalny had recommended that Opaley be fired because of losses the timber company had incurred.  Adding to the suspicion that the trial was politically motivated is the fact that Opaley was the only witness against Navalny.  According to Navalny's associates, he will not run for Moscow's mayoral seat as a result of the trial.  Both the American ambassador in Moscow and the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy have condemned the verdict.  See http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/russian-court-convicts-navalny/2013/07/18/5d058cfc-ef7c-11e2-bed3-b9b6fe264871_story.html and the AP news announcements at http://news.yahoo.com/russian-opposition-leader-navalny-found-guilty-051657060.html, and http://news.yahoo.com/russian-opposition-leader-sentenced-5-years-084213369.html.

On 19 July, a Russian court released Navalny while he goes through the appeals process.  This will enable him to campaign for the Moscow mayoral position.  Protestors supporting Navalny may have influenced the authorities in making their decision.  See the AP release at http://news.yahoo.com/russian-opposition-leader-navalny-released-072257210.html.

In another case, a Russian court on 11 July found the whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky (1972-2009) guilty of tax fraud.  Magnitsky's trial was held posthumously after he died of pancreatitis while in pretrial detention.  He faced charges immediately after discovering a huge embezzlement scheme in the Russian treasury.  See http://euobserver.com/foreign/120838.  Representatives of the European Union and other foreign states have condemned the trial and conviction.

It appears that prosecuting corruption and embezzlement in Russia have taken on new meanings, as they have in Ukraine.

Summer News Schedule    18 July 2013

Because I was in Europe for several weeks in June and the beginning of July, in part because I lead a tour of a dozen participants, half of whom were students, to Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary, I have been unable to update the "What's New?" section of this website.  I will endeavor to summarize the highlights in the prior weeks during the course of several days and make every effort to make entries on a regular basis, despite the summer break.  After all, events continue to occur, and Central Europe has its share of exciting news.