"What's New? How Is the World Treating You?"
Table of Contents for the Fourth Quarter of 2012
On the morning of 1 January 1993, two decades ago, I sat with my second ex-wife, a Czech born in České Budějovice, to watch the news on CNN. We waited for the coverage of the peaceful breakup of Czechoslovakia, but there were two events dealing with borders. First, there was news about the implementation of the Single Market Act in the European Union. As the commentator spoke, a clip showed guards on the German-French border raising the gates to allow for the free flow of vehicular traffic and then returning to their guard booths to collect their belongings before heading home. Seconds later, another clip showed gates lowering at a temporary border installation on the Czech-Slovak border. Czechoslovakia was no more.
To read more about the experiences my family and I have had with Czechoslovakia in its various forms, click here.
Be sure to tune in to your local PBS station for the annual New Year's celebration with the Vienna Philharmonic under the direction of Franz Welser-Möst and with Julie Andrews as the host. It will air live on Tuesday, January 1 at 2.30 pm EST with an repeat performance that evening at 8.00 pm. In keeping with the Viennese tradition, be prepared to clap when the orchestra plays the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss (the elder). Check your local listings at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/from-vienna-the-new-year%E2%80%99s-celebration-2013/about-the-concert/1478/.
http://www.npr.org/2012/12/30/168219426/the-mysterious-disappearance-of-the-russian-crown-jewels?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20121230. The USGS article at http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/tracking-the-story-of-the-russian-crown-jewels/ includes more information and a link to a podcast that shows images of the two books.
Maurizio Cattelan is causing some controversy. Many agree with the organizers of the exhibition that it provokes people to think about evil, but some, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, think that an image of Hitler in the former ghetto is provocative and insulting. For the AP story, see http://news.yahoo.com/praying-hitler-ex-warsaw-ghetto-sparks-emotion-161124083.html.
In retaliation for the Magnitsky Act that prevents certain Russians from entering the United States because of their alleged involvement in human rights abuse, the Russian government has passed legislation preventing American couples from adopting Russian children. Putin has signed the legislation into law. See NPR's coverage at http://www.npr.org/2012/12/28/168178292/russias-putin-signs-controversial-adoption-bill?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20121228.
http://hnn.us/articles/florida-historians-standing-rick-scott. The petition through Change.org is available at https://www.change.org/petitions/governor-rick-scott-protect-higher-education-in-florida. See the earlier entry on this topic here. Readers should note that academic freedom enshrined in the tenure system enables the professors to speak out and sign the petition.
The Democracy Ranking applies the following conceptual formula: Quality of Democracy = (freedom & other characteristics of the political system) & (performance of the non-political dimensions). The non-political dimensions are: gender, economy, knowledge, health, and the environment.
For more information, see http://www.democracyranking.org/en/.
Change.org. Since the state cut funding to colleges by 26 percent between 2006 and 2011, it is not difficult for faculty to notice the difference in library budgets and funding or for students to see how tuition has increased to offset the loss of state investment. A major fear of educators is that continued cuts and preferential treatment for some fields will have a negative effect on a variety of noted programs and harm the overall reputation of Florida's universities. For more information, see http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/10/education/florida-may-reduce-tuition-for-select-majors.html?ref=todayspaper.
CIA director David Petraeus and raises questions about his legacy. Read more at http://www.democracynow.org/2012/11/12/juan_cole_real_petraeus_failure_was.
http://www.centerforfinancialstability.org/brettonwoods_docs.php. The web site also offers a print version available for purchase. An article on the transcript is available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/business/transcript-of-1944-bretton-woods-meeting-found-at-treasury.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121026&_r=0.
The Chronicle article is available for subscribers only at http://chronicle.com/article/Ideal-Ratio-of-Tenure-Track/135500/?cid=at, but the study is open to all readers at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2153122.
http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120711/174549486.html and http://en.ria.ru/russia/20121101/177116836.html.
http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2012/11/01/more-stem-majors-wont-solve-higher-educations-problems/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en. On Governor Scott's earlier comments about non-STEM fields, see the brief articles on this web site here and here.
Slovenia – average purchasing power with some areas just under average
Greece – some areas just above average, and a few areas with average purchasing power
Czech Republic – under average purchasing power
Slovakia – under average purchasing power with some areas just above the weakest in Europe
Poland – just above the weakest in Europe, aside from the areas near Warsaw and other major cities, which are just under the average purchasing power
Baltic States and Hungary – similar to Poland
Turkey – just below average to the weakest in Europe
Montenegro and Croatia – just above the weakest in Europe.
Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Serbia, Ukraine – weakest purchasing power in Europe, with some areas that are just above the weakest in Europe
Moldova – the poorest purchasing power in Europe
More details are available at: http://www.gfk-geomarketing.com/fileadmin/newsletter/pressrelease/purchasing-power-europe.html.
The initial process to beatify the monks, which is the first step in the Roman Catholic Church to sainthood, began in the seventeenth century. The Church reopened the process in 1992, and commissions that concluded their work in 2011 determined that the fourteen monks indeed were martyrs. On 13 October, during a mass at St. Vitus’s Cathedral, the Church beatified the fourteen monks in the first such service to take place in Prague. The celebrant was Cardinal Angelo Amato, who traveled to Prague from the Vatican for the occasion, and attending the mass were 6000 believers, 250 priests, approximately 300 monks and nuns, as well as three other cardinals.
Information for this article came from the web site of the archbishop of Prague, http://www.apha.cz/ctrnact-prazskych-mucedniku-bylo-dnes-blahoslaveno/, and news from the 13 October 2012 Czech web pages of Radio Prague.
14 October Elections in Montenegro -- For background to the elections in Montenegro on 14 October, a contest in the ruling Social Democrats are expected to win, see http://www.neweasterneurope.eu/node/464.
The War of 1812 -- Russia is celebrating its victory in the War of 1812, and an interview with Sergey Mironenko, historian and director of the State Archives of the Russian Federation, brings out some interesting details about the conflict. See http://valdaiclub.com/history/49843.html.
EU Literature Prize Goes to a Slovak -- The 2012 European Union Prize for Literature has gone to a Slovak author, Jana Beňová, who writes poetry and prose, for her 2008 work Plán odprevádžania (Café Hyena), translated as Seeing People Off (Café Hyena). Read more at http://www.euprizeliterature.eu/author/2012/jana-benova.
Europe’s Oldest Urban Area Discovered in Bulgaria -- Archaeologists have discovered what appears to be Europe’s oldest urban settlement about 40 km from the Black Sea city of Varna in Bulgaria. The estimated date of construction for the city walls is 4700-4200 BCE. The area was important for its production of salt. See http://www.stonepages.com/news/#4856.
A Glimpse of Life in Divided Cyprus -- A report from NPR considers life in the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus. The article and link to the audio report is at http://www.npr.org/2012/10/13/162837461/cyprus-divided-capital-a-last-vestige-of-war?ft=3&f=1001&sc=nl&cc=nh-20121013.
Cuban Missile Documents -- The JFK Library has released new documents on the Cuban Missile Crisis and has placed them on line. An article about the documents is at http://www.boston.com/politicalintelligence/2012/10/10/kennedy-library-dorchester-release-seven-boxes-robert-kennedy-papers-cuban-missile-crisis/LlZOVhjcGiKuFBevGRrTnJ/story.html?comments=all#readerComm. The documents are available at http://www.jfklibrary.org/Search.aspx?nav=Ntk:Digitized+Collection|Robert+F.+Kennedy+Papers.+Attorney+General+Papers|1|,N:16-4294962039. The web site for the JFK Library is http://www.jfklibrary.org/.
NAM still holds high symbolic significance. Of course, NAM is also facing challenges while having its own weaknesses. NAM has its own strengths and their importance should not be downplayed. The movement puts the emphasis on the principle of cooperation among nations and continues its support for maintaining peace. It encourages disarmament, insists on the nations’ right to self-determination, emphasizes on the need for structural changes in the United Nations, especially the Security Council, in order to encourage optimal participation of the international community in international processes related to the fate of humanity, insists on the adoption and implementation of multilateral policies as well as focuses strongly on unanimity on issues such as human rights and cultural pluralism.
For the entire article, see http://valdaiclub.com/asia/49820.html. For the web page of the NAM, see http://csstc.org/.
In the inter-war years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made several awards to persons who were seeking reconciliation between Germany and France. Since 1945, that reconciliation has become a reality. The dreadful suffering in World War II demonstrated the need for a new Europe. Over a seventy-year period, Germany and France had fought three wars. Today war between Germany and France is unthinkable. This shows how, through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners.The reactions from around the world at the news generally are positive, especially in light of the EU efforts to encourage democracy in Southeastern Europe and to solve the current economic crisis. Some expressed a more cynical outlook, such as Maxim Delchev, who wrote on the Nobel Committee’s web site: “what a perfect epitaph for the European Union.” A historian in Prague commented privately that awarding the EU the Nobel Peace Prize is much like Caligula’s intent to name his horse, Incitatus, consul. The Norwegian Peace Council has called for the resignation of the Norwegian Nobel Committee should resign because of the decision. The New York Times reported that the British MEP, Martin Callanan, who leads the eurosceptic European Conservaties and Reformists group, remarked that “the Nobel Committee is a little late for an April Fool’s joke.” The Wall Street Journal and the BBC also noted the mixed reaction about the award. Speaking on Democracy Now!, Tariq Ali, the British-Pakistani writer and editor, stated that the award to the EU is "complete and utter joke, especially at this time, when there’s complete turmoil on the streets of southern Europe. And it just shows that these Norwegian former politicians who comprise the committee are completely out of touch. And I’m sure there will be anger in Norway itself, as there usually is when they announce the peace prize."
In the 1980s, Greece, Spain and Portugal joined the EU. The introduction of democracy was a condition for their membership. The fall of the Berlin Wall made EU membership possible for several Central and Eastern European countries, thereby opening a new era in European history. The division between East and West has to a large extent been brought to an end; democracy has been strengthened; many ethnically-based national conflicts have been settled.
The admission of Croatia as a member next year, the opening of membership negotiations with Montenegro, and the granting of candidate status to Serbia all strengthen the process of reconciliation in the Balkans. In the past decade, the possibility of EU membership for Turkey has also advanced democracy and human rights in that country.
The EU is currently undergoing grave economic difficulties and considerable social unrest. The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU's most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights. The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.
The work of the EU represents "fraternity between nations", and amounts to a form of the "peace congresses" to which Alfred Nobel refers as criteria for the Peace Prize in his 1895 will.
For information on Serbia, see http://news.yahoo.com/police-ban-gay-pride-march-serbia-christian-orthodox-164308344.html and http://euobserver.com/enlargement/117756.
The press release from the Nobel Committee announcing the prize is at http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2012/press.html. The New York Times article is at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/13/world/nobel-peace-prize.html?_r=0. See also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444799904578051960191363312.html; http://norgesfredsrad.no/en/; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19921072; and http://www.democracynow.org/2012/10/12/european_union_wins_nobel_peace_prize.
Croatia is the furthest advanced in terms of becoming a member. In December 2011, it concluded its accession treaty, continues to pass laws to complete its alignment with the aquis, and on 1 July 2013 is expected to become a full member state.
Turkey, Iceland, Montenegro, and Macedonia are candidates at various stages in the process of becoming full members. The possibility of EU membership for Turkey began a quarter century ago and only one of 13 chapters is closed, but the EU is committed to continuing the process. A problem area that the EU has noted with respect to Turkey in its current report centers on political reforms, especially freedom of speech. In contrast, Iceland, where legislation has mirrored that of the EU for some time, began negotiating for entry into the EU in 2010 and has 10 out of 18 chapters closed. Montenegro, already a candidate since 2008, remains hopeful about full membership, but the EU still is determining what the country needs to accomplish in terms of legislation and other matters before accession takes place. Macedonia, a candidate since 2004, is prepared to begin accession negotiations, but the Greeks still object to the country’s name.
Three states have not achieved candidate status. Albania applied as a candidate in 2009, but the EU has not granted it that status because it must undertake more reforms regarding the judiciary, parliamentary procedures, and public administration and more efforts to reduce corruption and organized crime. Candidacy status for Bosnia and Herzegovina still hinges on completing a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), a process that began in 2005 and is ongoing. Kosovo also must conclude an SAA, but the difficulties with Serbia over the Serbian minority population in Kosovo and the fact that only some EU member states recognize Kosovo are hurdles to overcome.
In the general report to the European Parliament and the European Council, the European Commission noted that:
At a time when the EU faces major challenges and significant global uncertainty and gains
new momentum for economic, financial and political integration, enlargement policy
continues to contribute to peace, security and prosperity on our continent. Within a framework
of strict but fair conditionality, the prospect of accession drives political and economic
reforms, transforming societies and creating new opportunities for citizens and business. At
the same time, enlargement reinforces the Union’s political and economic strengths. By
exercising leadership through its enlargement policy, the EU can reap the benefits of a
stronger and more united continent, also demonstrating its continued capacity as a global
actor (p. 2).
Complete information from the EU is available at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-1087_en.htm?locale=en and http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/countries/strategy-and-progress-report/index_en.htm. The report of the Commission to the European Parliament and Council is at http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2012/package/strategy_paper_2012_en.pdf.
During a conversation this writer had several years ago, a particularly perceptive historian remarked that while it was difficult being Jewish in Hitler’s Europe, it was particularly problematic if one were in territories a state had acquired during the hostilities. The Bulgarian case provides an excellent example of the hopeless situation many Jews faced.
For more comments from the historians meeting in Sofia, see http://www.sundaytimes.lk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=25174:-bulgarias-wwii-rescue-of-jews-the-other-side-of-the-coin-by-vesselka-sergueva&catid=83:analysis&Itemid=561.
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/angela-merkel-enters-the-athens-storm/story-e6frg6so-1226492337729 and http://euobserver.com/economic/117801.
http://euobserver.com/enlargement/117812. This is not the first time that Nikolić has snubbed the EU. After recently banning a gay pride parade in Belgrade, he stated: "Screw the kind of Union for which gay pride marches are the entry ticket." On the parade, see the article on this web site here. Nikolić was elected to the presidency in May 2012 on the Serbian Progressive party ticket and has a five-year term.
Slovenia claims it needs no bailout -- http://news.yahoo.com/slovenia-pm-no-bailout-needed-045330264.html.
Albania sold its state oil company for 1.1 billion USD to Vetro Energy, which is based in Houston, Texas, and Singapore -- http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/albania-sells-state-oil-company-vetro-energy-17384791#.UHI2hK7FCSI and http://www.vetroenergy.com/news.
Częstochowa, Poland, has renamed its symphony orchestra after Bronisław Huberman (1882-1947), a native of the city and a Polish-Jew who not only helped Jews during the Nazi Era but who was the founder of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra -- http://news.yahoo.com/polish-philharmonic-orchestra-named-jewish-violin-virtuoso-bronislaw-163117068.html.
Ruzyň Airport in Prague has been renamed Václav Havel Airport Prague after the first president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel (1936-2011). Ironically, Ruzyň is also the location of Ruzyň Prison, where Havel served time during the Communist regime for his dissident activities. English speakers have a tendency of pronouncing Václav as VAK-lav when it should be VAT-slav, and the airport may be slightly more difficult to pronounce than Ruzyň (RU-zin with a soft n as in onion). Read more at http://www.radio.cz/en/section/curraffrs/ladies-and-gentlemen-well-shortly-be-landing-at-vaclav-havel-airport.
Lithuania is suing the Russian natural gas giant Gazprom for price fixing -- http://euobserver.com/foreign/117743.
Georgian politicians are negotiating for a transfer of power to the country’s new government, and 21 October will be the first sitting of the newly-elected parliament -- http://news.yahoo.com/georgian-govt-opposition-negotiate-power-handover-111450257.html.
The discovery of the bones of a woman in Austria reveal that she likely was a metal worker in the bronze age between 3200 and 5000 years ago. The find questions the assumptions that certain trades were exclusively the domain of males. See http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_AUSTRIA_BRONZE_AGE_FIND?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-10-03-09-55-18.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Greece this coming week as announcements from officials in Athens reveal that the country will run out of money by November if it does not receive the funds the troika has promised. The government is still struggling to enact austerity measures amidst protests. Further demonstrations will take place against Merkel because many Greeks see Germany as holding their country financially hostage. Read more at http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/merkel-to-visit-greece-as-its-money-is-running-out/189925/on and http://euobserver.com/agenda/117766.
On 2 October, the Ukrainian legislature passed the first reading of a measure to punish those who disseminate literature that advocates homosexuality with up to five years in prison. The United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights activists has condemned the draft bill and is calling on the Ukrainian lawmakers to reject it.
In Serbia, authorities cancelled a gay-pride march on 3 October to avoid violence that they feared would result from right-wing elements that oppose homosexuality. The Serbian patriarch also condemned the march as a “parade of shame.” Through their actions, the Serbian authorities have conceded to the pressures of the far right and are willing to blur the separation of church and state to trample on the rights of their gay citizens and the freedom of speech in general. Various officials from the European Union have criticized the ban as inconsistent with a democratic state that wishes to enter the EU.
For a report on the gay pride parade this past August in Prague, including a note about the critical remarks of the Czech president’s office that sounded like those of the Serbian patriarch, click here.
On the situation in Ukraine, see http://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-parliament-tentatively-approves-much-criticized-anti-gay-031259830.html; http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine-abroad/independent-online-experts-slam-ukraines-anti-gay-law-314054.html; http://www.rferl.org/content/ukraine-antigay-bill-clears-first-hurdle/24727046.html; and http://www.iol.co.za/news/world/experts-slam-ukraine-s-anti-gay-law-1.1397532#.UHL7BK7FCSJ.
Addressing risks of instability in the Western Balkans is manifestly in our joint interest, given the legacy of war and division which has plagued this region. Enlargement to the Western Balkans is an investment in stability also in the EU’s wider neighbourhood. It helps avoid the potentially far higher costs of dealing with the consequences of instability. The need for stability and democracy in south-east Europe has taken on a new dimension in view of the events of the Arab Spring. By exercising leadership in stabilising its neighbourhood, the EU can reap the benefits of a stronger continent, demonstrating its continued capacity as a global actor (p. 2).
The report highlighted the progress to date with respect to Croatia, which is about to enter the EU, the accession negotiations with Montenegro, the awarding of candidate status to Serbia, and the talks regarding accession with Macedonia and Albania as well as with Iceland an Turkey (negotiations between Turkey and the EU have not taken place for two years). Hurdles remain, however, and the report noted:
Good governance, the rule of law, administrative capacity, unemployment, economic reform and social inclusion remain major challenges in most countries, in particular Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. There is often a need to take more responsibility for reforms and to muster the necessary political will to move forward. Strengthening freedom of expression and independence of the media remains a major challenge, particularly in Turkey (p. 3).
The report then listed the challenges facing further expansion (see pp. 3-10):
1) rule of law (justice systems; corruption; fight against organized crime; public administration reform; and guaranteeing freedom of expression);
2) regional cooperation and conciliation in the Western Balkans (regional cooperation; reconciliation, including war crimes and refugee return; minority rights; and bilateral issues);
3) economic challenges, mainly strengthening economic recovery.
Finally, the report outlined the efforts of the EU to maintain the momentum for integration, the successes each prospective Member State has made thus far, and the support the EU can lend to the so-called enlargement countries.
The actual report is at http://euobserver.com/media/src/4cf131c09151a12142a60ba4fdf2fdc7.pdf, and EUobserver.com has an article on the report at http://euobserver.com/enlargement/117769.
Both the party of President Mikheil Saakashvili, the United National Movement party, and the opposition Georgian Dream coalition, under the wealthy businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, are claiming victory in today’s parliamentary election. Based on exit polls, Georgian Dream has won between 5-10 percent more than the ruling party in the 77 seats of the 150-seat legislature that are based on party votes, but it is possible that the United National Movement party will win the remaining 73 seats. Saakashvili admitted defeat in the contest for party seats but predicted ultimate victory because the remaining votes have not been counted. In the capital, Tbilisi, opposition supporters are celebrating.
Saakashvili has tackled corruption and has improved the economy, but he led Georgia in a failed war against Russia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia. His reelection hopes also suffered a blow when recent news of inmate abuse surfaced in the country’s prisons. Saakashvili appeared to be the preference of Western governments over Ivanishvili, whose wealth is tied to business ventures in Russia.
For more information, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/georgia/9580039/Georgias-Mikheil-Saakashvili-set-to-lose-control-of-parliament.html; http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6ed73ab4-0bea-11e2-8e06-00144feabdc0.html#axzz285YuLq93; and the AP feed at http://news.yahoo.com/georgias-president-opposition-both-claim-victory-184240768.html. For the situation before the election, see http://news.yahoo.com/voters-georgia-deciding-fate-government-065725156.html.
Genovese was an American historian whose best-known works involved slavery, including his prize-winning work, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. Genovese, like Hobsbawm, began as a Marxist, but he became a staunch Roman Catholic later in life.
Information about Hobsbawm is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19786929; http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/oct/01/eric-hobsbawm-history-lost-voices?newsfeed=true; and http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4287347,00.html. An HNN article about Genovese that includes a number of links is at http://hnn.us/articles/eugene-genovese-1930-2012.