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

2013 Central European Tour

Join me from 13 to 29 June on my 2013 European tour to Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary.  We will be traveling for seventeen days and will be visiting five towns and cities on a journey that starts in Berlin and takes us to Dresden, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest.  The trip is great for individuals of any age, families, friends, and students.  Full details will be available soon, but the basic information about the tour already is available here.
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 Fourth Quarter of 2012


  1. 1 Two Decades after Czechoslovakia: A Belated Requiem    31 December 2012
  2. 2 A New Year Tradition: The Vienna Philharmonic  30-31 December 2012 & 1 January 2013
  3. 3 Russia's New Borei Class Submarine    30 December 2012
  4. 4 USGS Identifies Three Missing Russian Crown Jewels    30 December 2012
  5. 5 Statue of Hitler Praying in Warsaw Causes Controversy    28 December 2012
  6. 6 Russia Bans American Adoptions    28 December 2012
  7. 7 Florida Historians Take on Their State's Governor    24 December 2012
  8. 8 Democracy Rankings: USA at Fifteenth Place    24 December 2012
  9. 9 Vienna: The Best City    12 December 2012
  10. 10 Humanities and Social Sciences Discrimination in Florida    12 December 2012
  11. 11 Safran to Open in Mobile, Alabama    7 December 2012
  12. 12 Overwhelmed!    6 December 2012
  13. 13 Hiring Bias Favors Graduates from Elite Institutions    6 December 2012
  14. 14 Juan Cole on the Resignation and Legacy of Petraeus    11 November 2012
  15. 15 Greek Parliament Approved Further Budget Cuts    8 November 2012
  16. 16 A British Journalist Considers How America Has Changed    4 November 2012
  17. 17 British Torture of Germans during the Second World War    2 November 2012
  18. 18 Transcript of the 1944 Breton Woods Meeting    2 November 2012
  19. 19 Study Finds that the Best Faculty-Administrator Ratio is 3:1    2 November 2012
  20. 20 Romania Detains Bankers and Officials for Money Laundering    2 November 2012
  21. 21 A 14-Year Old Rape Victim Denied an Abortion in Poland    2 November 2012
  22. 22 Russian Duma Approves Internet Censorship    2 November 2012
  23. 23 Higher Tuition for Florida Students in non-STEM Majors    2 November 2012
  24. 24 Purchasing Power Survey of Europe    31 October 2012
  25. 25 Fourteen Monks Beatified in Prague    13 October 2012
  26. 26 News Briefs    13 October 2012
  27. 27 XVI Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement    13 October 2012
  28. 28 EU Wins the Nobel Peace Prize    12 October 2012
  29. 29 Earning Potential Information from the Census Bureau    11 October 2012
  30. 30 New EU Plans for Enlargement    11 October 2012
  31. 31 Dismal Greek Unemployment Statistics    11 October 2012
  32. 32 The Fate of Jews in Bulgaria during the Second World War    10 October 2012
  33. 33 Merkel Reassures Greeks    10 October 2012
  34. 34 Nikolić’s Inflammatory Comments    10 October 2012
  35. 35 One Pussy Riot Member Freed    10 October 2012
  36. 36 Ten Days for Greece    9 October 2012
  37. 37 Recent Events in Europe    8 October 2012
  38. 38 Ukraine and Serbia’s Anti-Gay Measures    8 October 2012
  39. 39 EU Integration Difficulties, Including the Western Balkans    8 October 2012
  40. 40 PLUS Loans Create Difficulties for Families    10 October 2012
  41. 41 Contested Election in Georgia    1 October 2012    UPDATE: 2 October 2012
  42. 42 Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012) and Eugene Genovese (1930-2012)  1 October 2012

Two Decades after Czechoslovakia: A Belated Requiem    31 December 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.

A New Year Tradition: The Vienna Philharmonic  30-31 December 2012 & 1 January 2013

Central European Observer wishes all our readers the best for 2013!

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/.

Russia's New Borei Class Submarine    30 December 2012

Russia today commissioned its first submarine of the Borei class, a second is undergoing tests, a third has been launched and will begin testing, and a fourth is being built.  All told, the Russians expect to commission ten submarines in the Borei class.  They are virtually noiseless, are equipped with missiles that can evade any current defense system, can remain submerged for three months, and have an escape pod for the entire crew.  For more information, including pictures of the submarine, see http://rt.com/news/russian-noiseless-borei-submarine-106/.

USGS Identifies Three Missing Russian Crown Jewels    30 December 2012

Researchers at the US Geological Survey discovered two books in their collection that raised questions about four crown jewels from the Russia's Romanov dynasty that apparently had been forgotten.  The researchers accounted for one, but it along with three other pieces that appeared in a 1922 publication do not appear in a 1925 book, even though both books were to have been complete inventories.  For more information, see the NPR report at 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.

Statue of Hitler Praying in Warsaw Causes Controversy    28 December 2012

A statue in the former Jewish ghetto in Warsaw of Adolf Hitler kneeling in prayer by the Italian artist 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.

Russia Bans American Adoptions    28 December 2012

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.

Florida Historians Take on Their State's Governor    24 December 2012

Recently, a task force that Florida's governor, Rick Scott, appointed recommended keeping tuition for STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) low but allowing increases for the humanities and social sciences.  Discussions about the lack of fairness to the proposal, the efforts of the state government to conduct an experiment in social engineering through education restrictions (ironically, the Republican-controlled administration of the state criticizes the federal government for its interference), and the value and meaning of a liberal arts education are intensifying in the state.  Furthermore, historians at the state's universities began a petition that criticizes the proposal.  A summary of the debate appears in the History News Network article 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.

Democracy Rankings: USA at Fifteenth Place    24 December 2012

Democracy Ranking Association, a group of academics based in Vienna, Austria, has ranked countries based on their democratic qualities.  The top five are Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and Denmark--four out of the five being Nordic countries.  Austria is in the tenth slot, while Canada eleventh, the United Kingdom is thirteenth, and the United States is fifteenth, down one point from the 2007-2008 score.  The Czech Republic is twenty-seventh, and Slovakia is thirty-fourth.  Other countries Central Europe, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe are: Slovenia (19), Estonia (25), Poland (30), Lithuania (31), Greece (32), Latvia (33), Croatia (35), Hungary (36), Bulgaria (41), Romania (42), Albania (55), Georgia (58), Macedonia (59), Ukraine (61), Turkey (65), Bosnia and Herzegovina (80), and Russia (88).  Belarus and more than forty other countries are not on the list.  The bottom ten on the list of 104 countries include Egypt, China, Libya, Syria, and in last place, Yemen.  The organization explains how they determine their rankings as follows:

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/.

Vienna: The Best City    12 December 2012

Mercer, the human resources firm, has named Vienna the top city to live in for 2012 citing its economy and cultural attractions.  The second on the quality of life list is Zurich.  Fifteen of the top 25 cities in the world are in Europe.  In North America, four Canadian cities top the list--Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal--because of infrastructure and public services, including health care.  The first city in the United States on the list is Honolulu, which is 28th, with a few others following: San Francisco (29th), Boston (35th), Chicago (42nd), Washington, DC (43rd), New York and Seattle (both at 44th), and Pittsburgh (49th).  Other cities in the US are on the list, with Detroit, at 71st, having the lowest rank.  There is a separate survey ranking cities for their infrastructure.   These surveys of 221 cities help multinational businesses best compensate their employees.  The complete survey is at http://www.mercer.com/qualityofliving.

Humanities and Social Sciences Discrimination in Florida    12 December 2012

Florida's governor, Rick Scott, has cut university funding dramatically, has criticized the humanities and social sciences for producing graduates with majors that are not in demand, and has favored the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  Now he wants universities to freeze tuition for three years for majors in the STEM fields while allowing the tuition for other majors to increase.  Such a short-sighted policy is nothing less than discrimination against the students outside of the STEM fields.  Another initiative of the governor is to have the former community colleges, now known as state colleges, offer four-year degrees for $10,000.  The average degree at a former community college costs $13,000, and the price tag is $24,000 at universities.  This plan has brought the criticism of many, including the vice chairman of the State Board of Education, Roberto Martinez.  University of Florida professors also have organized a petition against the state cuts through 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.

Safran to Open in Mobile, Alabama    7 December 2012

The French aerospace engineering firm, Safran, is opening an office in Mobile, AL, and will employ approximately 50 engineers and support staff.  Safran has contracts with Airbus, which also has opened a manufacturing facility in Mobile.  For more, see http://www2.wkrg.com/news/2012/dec/06/airbus-supplier-moving-mobile-ar-5119728/.

Overwhelmed!    6 December 2012

Many of my readers may have wondered what has happened to the "What's New?" feature of this web site.  The explanation is simple: a conference, the need to be out of town, graduate papers, preparation for finals, and other commitments have made it impossible for me to keep up to date with reporting newsworthy events.  As the semester ends, I will post on a more regular basis and attempt to list some of the most critical occurrences dealing with European affairs.

Hiring Bias Favors Graduates from Elite Institutions    6 December 2012

Everyone in academia realizes that an Ivy League doctoral degree does not mean that an individual is the best teacher or researcher.  Conversely, academics know that state schools and lesser-known private institutions produce some amazing talent.  Nevertheless, the assumption persists that the best minds emerge from the schools that top the US News and World Report rankings.  Now, a recent study has revealed that 11 prestigious institutions provide half of those who received tenured and tenure-track positions in political science.  Graduates from more than 100 other institutions compete for the remaining positions.  Although logic dictates that the elite institutions have no monopoly on intelligence, elitism prevails.  Any student planning on getting a doctorate in the humanities and social sciences, where the employment opportunities are so scarce, must consider this unfortunate reality.  A report about the study is available from the Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/PhDs-From-Top/136113/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.

Juan Cole on the Resignation and Legacy of Petraeus    11 November 2012

In an interview on Democracy Now!, Juan Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and a specialist on the Middle East, reviews the career of 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.

Greek Parliament Approved Further Budget Cuts    8 November 2012

Despite protests on the streets, the Greek parliament approved budget cuts of €13.5 billion in order to receive the next tranche of loans of the same amount in order to avoid default.  The prime minister, Antonis Samaras, admitted that many of the wage and pension cuts that will result from the measure will be unfair, even though they are necessary.  On Sunday, the parliament is scheduled to pass the budget, which is the final requirement for receiving the loan.  More is available at http://euobserver.com/economic/118131.

A British Journalist Considers How America Has Changed    4 November 2012

Simon Kupper, who writes for The Financial Times, was born in Uganda but was raised in the UK, Netherlands, US, Sweden, and Jamaica and has degrees from Oxford and Technische Universität in Berlin.  He recently published an article in The Financial Times in which he considers how America and Europe are becoming more distant since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Part of the problem, as he sees it, is the unique style of American conservatism that is linked with Christian religious fundamentalism.  His article is available at http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/1a9a99de-22ea-11e2-938d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2BJqWdbXI.

British Torture of Germans during the Second World War    2 November 2012

A book by Ian Cobain titled Cruel Britannia (Portobello Books, 2012) outlines the systematic British torture of Germans during the Second World War to extract information.  Cobain, a reporter for The Guardian, has written an article that describes his findings at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223831/How-Britain-tortured-Nazi-PoWs-The-horrifying-interrogation-methods-belie-proud-boast-fought-clean-war.html.

Transcript of the 1944 Breton Woods Meeting    2 November 2012

Kurt Schuler, an economist in the US Department of the Treasury, discovered a transcript of the Breton Woods, NH, meeting of 1944 that created the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.  The researcher also found other copies of the transcript at the National Archives and at the International Monetary Fund archives.  Schuler along with Andrew Rosenberg at the Center for Financial Stability edited the transcript and have made it available electronically at 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.

Study Finds that the Best Faculty-Administrator Ratio is 3:1    2 November 2012

Universities and colleges throughout America are plagued with an overwhelming number of administrators who seem to multiply at amazing rates.  The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that a study by Robert E. Martin, a retired professor of economics at Centre College in Danville, KY, and R. Carter Hill, a professor of economics at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, determined that the best ratio is three tenured and tenure-track faculty members to every one administrator.  Currently, there are generally twice as many administrators than desirable in American institutions of higher learning.  The study found that costs are higher if there are fewer or more administrators than the 3:1 ratio.

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.

Romania Detains Bankers and Officials for Money Laundering    2 November 2012

Romanian authorities have detained 33 bankers and officials for money laundering and fraud after raiding approximately 50 homes and offices.  See http://news.yahoo.com/romania-33-bankers-officials-detained-131856510--finance.html

A 14-Year Old Rape Victim Denied an Abortion in Poland    2 November 2012

A 14-year-old victim of rape in Poland faced great difficulties having an abortion before finally succeeding 500 km from her home.  In her search for an abortion, she had received council from a priest who attempted to convince her not to have the procedure, police questioning, and rejection at hospitals where the doctors were under pressure not to abort the fetus.  She even was placed in a juvenile shelter because her mother supported her quest for an abortion.  The European Court of Human Rights ruled that she should have had access to an abortion and ordered the Polish government to pay the woman and her mother 61,000 euros.  Because of the Roman Catholic Church's interference in politics, Poland has some of the strictest laws against abortion, and it is unlikely that policies regarding abortion will become more liberal in the near future, despite public pressure.  The BBC report about the case is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20143558.

Russian Duma Approves Internet Censorship    2 November 2012

The Russian Duma has approved a bill that would halt Internet access to web sites with child pornography, information about drug use, and suicide.  The bill must also pass the upper house of the legislature.  Meanwhile, Russia's Pirate party has vowed to find ways to provide citizens with access to the banned content, providing it is not "unethical," such as child pornography.  See http://en.rian.ru/russia/20120711/174549486.html and http://en.ria.ru/russia/20121101/177116836.html.

Higher Tuition for Florida Students in non-STEM Majors    2 November 2012

One of the proposals of the Florida Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform is to charge college students more tuition if their majors that are not in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).  Although those programs generally are more costly than the social sciences, humanities, business, and education, Governor Rick Scott believes that the higher tuition will result in students migrating from non-STEM majors to those fields which the governor believes are more productive for society and more profitable.  In reality, such a proposal is akin to discrimination of non-STEM majors and a philistine shortsightedness that believes a society has little to benefit from preserving knowledge of its past, communicating effectively, educating future generations, theorizing about its morality and existence, and finding enjoyment in the arts.  Elizabeth Popp Berman, an assistant professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Albany, has evaluated the proposal and noted its drawbacks in an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education at 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.

Purchasing Power Survey of Europe    31 October 2012

GfK GeoMarketing has released information about purchasing power in Europe based on specific areas in each country.  Liechtenstein  has the strongest purchasing power per capata, while Spain is closest to average.  Germany, which has the largest amount available for purchases of any country,  and Austria have a mix of above-average areas.  The survey did not include Russia   The information for Central Europe and the Balkans revealed that Slovenia had the strongest purchasing power of the two regions, while Moldova had the weakest:

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.

Fourteen Monks Beatified in Prague    13 October 2012

The Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612) reigned as king of Bohemia beginning in 1575 and in 1583 moved his capital from Vienna, Austria, to Prague.  In 1609, the Protestants in Bohemia managed to get him to sign the Letter of Majesty, which recognized freedom of religion in Bohemia, where Protestants comprised the vast majority of the population.  In 1611, Rudolf II attempted to use the army of his cousin, the Bishop of Passau, to reassert his authority in Bohemia.  When the invasion occurred, on 15 February 1611, at the height of Carnival, the people of Prague rose against the invading army and attacked monasteries.  In the process, they killed fourteen Franciscan monks whom they suspected of having aided an invading army.  The Bishop of Passau retreated, and Rudolf II abdicated the crown in favor of his brother, Matthias (1557-1619).

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.

News Briefs    13 October 2012

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 Slova
k -- 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/.

XVI Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement    13 October 2012

Nivedita Das Kundu, the assistant director of the Indian Council  of Social Science Research in New Delhi, discusses the evolution of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that has 120 member countries and 17 observers in a recent article.  The NAM, which began in 1961 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, recently held its XVI Summit in Tehran, Iran, where delegates considered a wide range of issues, including the nuclear question of Iran.  For the most part, they see the world as applying a double standard to Iran, especially since states are not concerned about Israel’s nuclear capability.  Nivedita Das Kundu calls on the West to pay more attention to NAM:

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/.

EU Wins the Nobel Peace Prize    12 October 2012

The European Union has won the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”  The press release from the Norwegian Nobel Committee further explained:

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.

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.

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." 

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.

Earning Potential Information from the Census Bureau    11 October 2012

The United States Census Bureau has released brief studies that outline the earning potential of people who have attained bachelor’s degrees with a number of majors and who are employed in various professions.  Those studying social sciences make much less over the course of a lifetime than those who study engineering, computers, and mathematics, but the lowest paid are those who work in the fields of education, community service and legal, office support, and service.  The information about the findings as well as links to the three studies are at http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/education/cb12-196.html.

New EU Plans for Enlargement    11 October 2012

The European Commission has released its recommendations about enlargement with respect to nine countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia., Iceland, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey.

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.

Dismal Greek Unemployment Statistics    11 October 2012

Greek unemployment officially hit 25.1 percent in July, and the unemployment for youth is 54.2 percent.  The Greek statistical office concluded that the Greek economy lost more than 1000 jobs each day during the past year.  For more information about the economic situation in Greece, see the AP report at http://finance.yahoo.com/news/greek-unemployment-rises-above-25-093535840.html?l=1.

The Fate of Jews in Bulgaria during the Second World War    10 October 2012

Many are aware that Bulgaria managed to defy the Nazis and refused to send its 48,000 Jews to death camps, but typically only specialists know that the Bulgarians willingly sent 11,000 Jews to their deaths from territories the Bulgarians had acquired during the war.  Historians recently addressed the issue during a conference in Sofia, and some expressed hope that the Bulgarian government would acknowledge the state’s role in the Holocaust and apologize for its involvement. 

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.

Merkel Reassures Greeks    10 October 2012

Amidst demonstrations that drew tens of thousands, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, told Greeks during her visit that she comes “as a friend” and is sympathetic to their economic woes, but she brought no specific good news.  The protestors, some wearing Nazi uniforms and giving the Hitler salute, were largely peaceful, but police had to keep a few at bay with tear gas.  The politicians on the left in Greece continue to criticize the terms of the bailout, claiming that the money will help Greek banks but not the common people, who suffer from the effects of budget cuts, more taxes, and high unemployment.  Read more at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/angela-merkel-enters-the-athens-storm/story-e6frg6so-1226492337729 and http://euobserver.com/economic/117801.

Nikolić’s Inflammatory Comments    10 October 2012

In advance of a report from the European Commission on Serbia’s progress toward accession that is expected to be embarrassing to the current government in Belgrade, the Serbian president, Tomislav Nikolić, a former associate of Slobodan Milošević, has denied that the killings of 8000 men and boys at Srebrenica was genocide and vowed that Serbia will not recognize Kosovo.  His remarks came in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Seraon and appear in summary form in an EUobserver article at 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.

One Pussy Riot Member Freed    10 October 2012

A Russian court has suspended the sentence of one Pussy Riot member who was ejected from the church where the group performed a protest song on the altar last February before she could join the other band members.  The band claims that it did not wish to offend churchgoers with its “punk prayer,” and lawyers for the two women remaining in prison vowed to continue their appeal efforts.  See the report at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19893008.

Ten Days for Greece    9 October 2012

Eurozone finance ministers have given Greece ten days to implement their pending budget cuts or lose the €31.5 billion in bailout money that the Greeks had been scheduled to receive in June.  Their announcement comes as the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is to begin her visit to Athens.  The announcement is likely to heighten the anger Greeks have about the conditions for the bailout and intensify the demonstrations they have planned during Merkel's visit. Read more at http://euobserver.com/economic/117787.

Recent Events in Europe    8 October 2012

Below are several links for news items relating to Europe in the past week.

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.

Ukraine and Serbia’s Anti-Gay Measures    8 October 2012

Both Ukraine and Serbia recently have taken actions against their gay citizens, raising concerns Western Europe.

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.

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.

EU Integration Difficulties, Including the Western Balkans    8 October 2012

The European Commission has released a 22-page internal report for the European Parliament and the Council titled “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges, 2012-2013.”  In its introduction, the report states:

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.

PLUS Loans Create Difficulties for Families    10 October 2012

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education highlights the difficulties of many families struggling to pay expensive PLUS loans they have taken out to help their children pay for college.  Nearly a million families have such loans, which are easy to obtain, but the government does not check if the family has the means to repay the loan.  As a result, many families are defaulting and ruining their credit.  Read more at http://chronicle.com/article/The-Parent-Loan-Trap/134844/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en.

Contested Election in Georgia    1 October 2012    UPDATE: 2 October 2012

UPDATE: On 2 October, President Saakashvili announced defeat and stated that the opposition has the right to form a new government.  See the AP feed at http://news.yahoo.com/georgias-president-concedes-election-defeat-103851469.html.

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.

Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012) and Eugene Genovese (1930-2012)  1 October 2012

Two eminent historians have died, Eric Hobsbawm and Eugene Genovese.  Hobsbawm, a British academic, specialized in nineteenth-century history and wrote several major works, including The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, and The Age of Empire.  He was a long-time member of the Communist party in Britain, even though he no longer considered himself bound by the party after the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary.  He remained politically active on the left and wrote a number of works that outlined the abuses of capitalism.  In 1993, Hobsbawm gave a remarkably perceptive lecture at the Central European University about the uses of history that appeared as “Purple Patch: History and Nationalism” in The Daily Times (Pakistan) on 9 October 2007 and is available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C10%5C09%5Cstory_9-10-2007_pg3_4.

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.