2011/3 "What's New? How Is the World Treating You?"
Table of Contents for the Third Quarter of 2011
View the broadcast and a transcript at http://www.democracynow.org/2011/9/30/american_teacher_new_film_rebuts_vilification. A trailer for the film is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzvD9v7CbEE. The review in the New York Times is at http://movies.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/movies/vanessa-roths-american-teacher-review.html.
The announcement came in an article in Die Zeit (in German): http://www.zeit.de/2011/39/Quandt-Studie/seite-1. An English summary is available at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2042405/Family-dynasty-BMW-admits-using-50-000-slave-labourers-Nazi-era.html.
Cole’s blog is available at: http://www.juancole.com/2011/09/visiting-liberty-square-occupy-wall-street.html. The Occupy Wall Street web site is http://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/occupywallstreet.
For an AP report on the vote in Germany, see http://news.yahoo.com/germany-keeps-alive-hopes-euros-future-151707718.html.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/26/us-frankenstein-astronomer-texas-idUSTRE78P69220110926. More information about Donald Olson’s work that links astronomy with history and literature is at http://uweb.txstate.edu/~do01/.
Read a Deutsche Welle report at http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15418366,00.html and the AP report at http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-help-greece-restore-confidence-105704270.html.
The zoo’s web site, which has wonderful animal calls in the background and a brief chronology of the zoo, is at http://www.zoopraha.cz/en. Gaston's picture, courtesy of AP, is from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2204853.stm. The picture of the Przewalski horse, courtesy of ČTK, is from http://www.radio.cz/en/section/panorama/bringing-the-mongolian-wild-horse-back-from-extinction. The Forbes list of the best zoos in 2007 is at http://www.lifeistravel.org/content/256.
Above: Gaston resting after his swim to Dresden
Right: Przewalski Horse
There is little question about Putin’s ability to succeed at the polls. Despite Russia’s difficulties, the United Party remains strong in Russia’s Duma, and Putin’s personal popularity is high. Putin likely will retain his popularity, even in the face of his proposed increases in real estate and consumption taxes that largely affect Russia’s wealthy citizens. In 2001, Russia introduced a flat tax of 13 percent that has been quite successful, according to most accounts, such as the one at http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/941. Analysts who look deeper into the reforms challenge that notion, suggesting that other changes inaugurated with the flat tax improved Russia’s fiscal position. For that view, see the Brookings Institution report at http://www.brookings.edu/articles/2005/0314russia_gaddy.aspx. Opposition parties have little hope for success and claim that they have been subjected to official and unofficial intimidation.
The AP report on Putin’s candidacy is at http://news.yahoo.com/putin-run-russian-presidency-2012-113657360.html. Information from the Voice of Russia on the United Party congress is at http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/09/24/56668329.html.
Kraus: I think you’re eight times married.
King: (Pause) Seven.
Kraus: (Pause) So, seven only?
King: Are you disappointed?
Kraus then proceeded to probe into the events of King’s past that contributed to his great ability as an interviewer. To lighten the conversation again, Kraus noted the unique beauty of Slovak women, which he claimed can prove dangerous because he can not marry as fast as King. After more chuckles, the conversation progressed. King spoke about his personal life, including his grown children and his two young boys, age 11 and 12. He noted that he is a better father in his older years than when he was younger and constantly working.
Kraus began his film career in the 1960s and has been in 60 films, but his most recent work has been as the moderator of a popular evening television show in the Czech Republic that has similarities to late-night shows in America. Jan Kraus’s one brother, Michael Kraus (born 1949), is a professor of political science at Middlebury College in Vermont. His other brother, Ivan Kraus (born 1939) is an author; his sister, Eliška Krausová-Chavez (born 1946), teaches at the National Pedagogic University of Bogotá; and his sister, Kateřina Krausová (1956-1990) worked in the library system at Princeton University. Jan Kraus has four children. During the interview, Kraus and King agreed that Kraus is about half way toward meeting King’s record regarding marriages.
The conversation, with Kraus speaking in Czech and King speaking through a Slovak interpreter, is available at: http://www.ta3.com/clanok/448/larry-king-25-rokov-spovedal-svojich-hosti-teraz-odpovedal-na-otazky-jana-krausa.html. The interview is also on YouTube with a Czech interpreter at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puDRgOTwiCU&feature=relmfu. Note that when speaking to Kraus, who is Czech, King often referred to Slovakia as “your country.” In reality, both Kraus and King were visiting Slovakia.
Below is a report from the Slovak Spectator about the interview:
Larry King Addresses Future of Media in Discussion with Jan Kraus
23 September 2011 Flash News
US broadcasting legend Larry King was in Slovakia on Thursday, September 22, at the invitation of a local TV station. During his visit he set out what he sees as the role of a journalist: to every day bring the kind of information that helps people know more than they did the day before.
King, 77, said that Nelson Mandela, seven American presidents, political leaders and people who are helping others have been among the most memorable guests he has interviewed during his 53-year broadcasting career.
On this occasion he was the interviewee and Jan Kraus, who hosts a Czech talk show, was doing the interviewing. They were both invited as part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Slovak TV news channel TA3. When asked if he recalled any Slovak guests who had appeared on his talk show, King, whose parents came from Austria, mentioned the former president of Czechoslovakia Václav Havel and legendary Czech hockey player Jaromír Jágr, adding that it is impossible to remember all of his 50,000 guests. In fact, neither Havel nor Jágr are Slovak. King did once interview Slovakia's then prime minister Mikuláš Dzurinda.
Turning to the future of the public-service media, King thinks that its existence is necessary because it fulfils a specific public role. However, it should always maintain objectivity and present various standpoints, he added. When reacting to a statement that most Slovak journalists are young, he said that this was not bad, but added what was bad was that many considered journalism only a half-way house from which they could get to another career, e.g. in politics. King became famous primarily because of his eponymous talk show on the global TV news network CNN. His first show aired in 1985 and the last of more than 6,000 programmes appeared on screens 25 years later.
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
The text is available at: http://spectator.sme.sk/articles/view/43971/10/larry_king_addresses_future_of_media_in_discussion_with_jan_kraus.html.
On 21 September, a total of 51 opposition votes in a 90-seat National Assembly brought down the minority center-left government of Borut Pahor (born 1963), the head of the Social Democrats party. Pahor became prime minister in 2008, leading his Social Democrats party in a coalition with the Liberal Democratic party and Zares [translation: Really], both with traditional liberal leanings, and the Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia. In May 2011, the Pensioners’ party left the government; in June, Zares followed. In both cases, top politicians in the departing parties were linked with corruption scandals. The Pahor government could not rebuild the coalition, and it encountered difficulties in the past few days when it could not advance bills through the legislature to reform pensions and the labor market.
The no-confidence vote today has not resulted in a new government since Pahor’s cabinet will remain in place as a caretaker government. Pahor will attempt to usher through the National Assembly a vote next week on the next installment of a loan to Greece, which all 17 members of the Eurozone must approve unanimously. The vote likely will be close.
Slovenia’s president, Danilo Türk (born 1952) has urged the parties to reach a compromise, but he can name a new candidate as prime minister, and that individual will have 30 days to form a new government that would gain the confidence of the National Assembly. Were that effort to fail, Slovenia would have early elections, perhaps before the end of the year. Should elections take place, the likely winner will be the Slovenian Democratic party of Janez Janša (born 1958), who opposes any bail-out of Greece and other countries that, unlike Slovenia, have not been fiscally responsible. Janša was prime minister between 2004 and 2008, when he led a mixed government of politicians from the Slovenian Democrats, New Slovenians, and Pensioners, and experts.
While EU bail-out money for Greece might be available in the short term, if Pahor is able to muster the support needed for a vote next week, additional bail-out funding may be in jeopardy should the Slovenian Democratic party come to power.
The political theory of consociationalism provides another analysis of the Slovenian political crisis. Although without significant ethnic minorities, Slovenia, like other countries that emerged from the Habsburg Monarchy, displays consociational tendencies that are apparent, in part, through deep ideological divisions. Majoritarian politics are not a feature of Slovenian politics, so parties do not gain enough votes to rule without forming coalitions. Some researchers have demonstrated that minority governments and caretaker governments also play a role in consociational politics. While consociationalism may help observers sort through the current political crisis in Slovenia, it also may aid them in understanding future events. Should no candidate for the prime minister’s position be successful in bringing together a coalition based on the 2008 election results and new elections take place, it is doubtful that any one party will gain more than 50 percent of the votes. The Slovenian Democratic party, by its own admission, enjoys at most the support of somewhere between 28 and 44 percent of the voters, according to public opinion polls. A future election most likely will indicate that another coalition will be necessary. As a result, even if the Slovenian Democratic party is victorious, its coalition partners may force it to soften its opposition to bail-out schemes for fiscally strapped EU members.
For reports on the situation in Slovenia, see: http://news.yahoo.com/slovenias-government-faces-confidence-vote-100434259.html; http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-20/slovenia-lawmakers-topple-government-in-vote-that-may-delay-eu-rescue-plan.html; http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/09/21/bloomberg_articlesLRVC7L6JTSE9.DTL; and http://eng.sds.si/news/35218.
The initiative for recreating the statue comes from the American Friends of the Czech Republic (AFoCR), an association of civic leaders, businesses, and private citizens with its headquarters in Washington, DC. The original statue, dedicated on 4 July 1928, was the work of Albín Polášek (1879-1965), a Czech sculptor who in 1901 had emigrated to the United States. A plaster model of the upper portion of Polášek’s statue was in the Lapidarium of the National Museum in Prague, and the AFoCR held a competition in 2009 to use the model as a basis for a new statue. The award went to the sculptors Michal Blažek (born 1955), Václav Frýdecký (born 1931), and Daniel Talavera (born 1969).
Wilson Railway Station reopened in April 2011 after extensive renovations. The architect Josef Fanta (1856-1954) designed the station, which was constructed between 1901 and 1909. The current restoration was the work of Grandi Stazioni S.p.A., an Italian company that specializes in railway stations. As part of the agreement to restore Wilson Railway Station, Grandi Stazioni has leased retail space in the station until 2033. There is a projected date of 2013 for the final restoration of the structure.
News about the dedication is at: http://cornwallfreenews.com/2011/09/us-president-woodrow-wilson-monument-in-prague-rebuilt-70-years-after-nazi-destruction-september-14-2011/. Information about the work of the AFoCR to reconstruct the statue is at http://www.afocr.org/wilson_project.pdf. Finally, the web site of AFoCR is http://www.afocr.org/.
Public universities seeking greater autonomy have cited the need for greater “flexibility.” But the combination of union-busting and the semi-privatization of “entrepreneurial” public universities creates the probability of creating institutions with little academic integrity.
Furthermore, there is little evidence that this flexibility is designed to benefit students or the citizens of the states who have for many decades invested their tax dollars in public universities with the promise that they will benefit from universities’ activities in teaching, research, and service.
Read this crucial article of interest to students, parents, and educators at http://hnn.us/articles/141766.html.
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15391524,00.html and http://www.theatlanticwire.com/business/2011/09/greece-will-raise-taxes-avoid-default/42332/.
As with the Christmas tree, each year certain institutions find their usual places on the branches. Harvard goes at the top, Princeton a little lower and to the left, and Yale to the right of Princeton. The next year, Princeton and Yale may switch places. Other institutions fill voids on the branches, some receiving a more prominent place than others, with the cheapest finding their place at the bottom of the tree or in the back toward the wall. When admiring the institutions of higher learning, everybody comments on the prominent ones, forgetting about the others that complete the fabric of the scholastic tree. Nobody realizes that the same cullet that forms the raw material for the expensive and inexpensive ornaments just as the professors and students at Ivy League schools and those at state schools share so much in common.
The reputation that one group of colleges has over another is partly tradition, which is why Harvard always lands on the top of the heap, but it also is based in such quantifiable things as funding, volumes in libraries, and numbers of professors and students. These help prospective students distinguish one university from another, and they play a role in the formula that USNews and World Report uses to establish the rankings. Students and their families look at the list and factor in things like funding, proximity to home, and loyalty to a football team. Americans are fortunate that USNews and World Report takes so much of the guesswork out of selecting a college or university. How convenient it is, and how shortsighted.
Ideally, high school students should be considering other crucial things when selecting a university, like whether the school has the program that interests the prospective student, how that program compares to others in terms of the number and reputation of professors, and what university resources the program has at its disposal. Potential students also should weigh what alternative programs universities have to complement their intended major or programs that are totally unrelated should a student decide to change their major.
Do not disregard college rankings, but put them into perspective. Certainly, students never should select an institution based merely on rankings because even those at the top can not offer stellar programs in all fields. Nothing can substitute for critical investigation when it comes to determining which college or university to attend.
Finally, it is the student who makes the program work for them, not the university that shapes the student. When students realize that they have to take responsibility for their own education, they will excel academically and the work place whether they attend one of the top-ranked institutions in the country or an institution that does not even get on the list.
For the USNews and World Report rankings, check the following links:
For the perspective of a professor on selecting a college or university, follow the link below:
http://www.democracynow.org/2011/9/7/discovered_files_show_us_britain_had. Separate reports on Beljah’s case of extraordinary rendition are at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2034114/Libyan-rebel-leader-Abdel-Hakim-Belhadj-line-1m-payout.html and http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/envoy/libya-rebel-commander-contends-tortured-rendered-cia-153037850.html.
http://news.yahoo.com/unique-roman-gladiator-school-unveiled-austria-142027740.html. The web site for Carnuntum is http://www.noe-landesausstellung.at/noel-en?set_language=en.
On 16 June 2011, Timothy Garton Ash, the historian at Oxford University and the conservative Hoover Institution, published an article in the Los Angeles Times that put the EU in extremely negative light. Aside from the debt crisis, he noted the disorders in Greece and the discontent in Ireland, Portugal, and Spain as evidence of anger against the EU. In reality the protests focused more on the failings of politicians in each state and the frustrations with the financial institutions for their role in producing the economic crisis. Thousands of illegal immigrants from North Africa were entering the EU through Italy and threatening the Schengen Agreement, Ash concluded, but ultimately the French, who were most concerned about the immigrants coming to their country, clarified with the Italians the conditions of the residency permits the Italians had issued the immigrants. The EU response to the Arab Spring, in particular Libya, was slow, Ash claimed, but journalists and world leaders recently have hailed the collapse of the old regime in Libya as a victory of EU policy. Ash also dismissed the EU as having outlived its usefulness:
Those powerful driving forces [for European integration] included searing personal experiences of war, occupation, holocaust, fascist and communist dictatorships; the Soviet threat, catalyzing west European solidarity; generous, energetic American support for European unification; and a West Germany that was the mighty engine of European integration, with France on top as the driver. All these are now gone, or very much diminished.
Ash failed to take into account that the integration of the EU beginning in the 1980s had less to do with the cold war and more to do with the desire for economic prosperity as well as the social and cultural advantages that came with increased unity. The former Warsaw Pact states and the newly-resurrected Baltic states joined the EU in part because they valued it along with NATO as a defense against Russia, but they also sought to benefit from the very same features of integration that long had been so appealing to the EU member states. Were the opinions of Ash in June correct, the EU would have been experiencing more unrest in September, and the financial and economic experts at the Ambrosetti Forum would not be considering further integration as a solution for the problems in the EU. Ash’s article is at http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-gartonash-european-crisis-20110616,0,581779.story.
Ash never took into account the determination of the EU leadership. Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany whom Forbes just named the most powerful woman in the world, is committed to strengthening the EU and solving the debt problem. She yet may lead European heads of state to a solution regarding financial solvency in the EU just as she overcame the crisis regarding the failed EU constitution through the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon. Merkel could not have achieved that compromise without the determination of other European leaders, and she is not alone in looking to solve the European debt crisis. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has worked closely with Merkel in attempting to advance a solution. It is obvious to both as it is to the leaders of other member states that the benefits of European financial unity far outweigh the commitment it will take to protect the solvency of Greece and other struggling EU member states.
The Eurosceptics will remain, and Ash may have given them further inspiration, but it is crucial that they not discourage those who are attempting to build something positive. The Greek prime minister, Georgios A. Papandreou, is a good example of the constraint the EU needs. On 27 August, during an interview with the newspaper Právo, Václav Klaus, the Czech president, Eurosceptic, and outspoken opponent of global warming, had this to say about Greece:
Every country should decide whether it wants to live at full speed, quarter speed, or on full speed given its capability. It should say: we will sit more hours in the shade of cypress trees and drink ouzo or work more. If Greece decides that it will devote more hours to ouzo or cypress trees, then that’s fine. At the same time, it can not enter into a monetary union with Germany.
Papandreou reacted with restraint, stating that he was sad to hear the “populist anti-Europeanism” of Klaus. If Europeans do not overcome such opinions, Papandreou warned, they “are headed toward the breaking apart of Europe. Then we will lose the gains not of the last decade but of the last 50, 60 years after the Second World War.” Klaus defended his comments, claiming that everyone can interpret them on their own and that “in no case did he criticize Greece.” Nevertheless, he added the Czech equivalent of the saying “if the shoe fits, wear it.” The sources for the Klaus Papandreou exchange are in Czech: Právo, 2 September 2011, http://pravo.novinky.cz/minule/p206a01d.php, and Radio Prague, http://www.radio.cz/cz/rubrika/zpravy/zpravy-2011-09-01#1.
The EU is facing a crisis, although Ash overstated the situation in his headline that claims “European Union: Everywhere You Look, a Crisis. Every Single Major Project of the European Union is Faltering.” Europe has faced crises before, and there is every indication that European leaders will remain united to overcome the EU’s current difficulties as they have to tackle problems in the past.
21 November 1989 – http://wikileaks.org/cable/1989/11/89PRAGUE8144.html
This report explained the circumstances surrounding the massive 20 November 1989 antigovernment demonstration, the regime’s reaction, and the coverage of events in the press.
28 November 1989 – http://wikileaks.org/cable/1989/11/89PRAGUE8311.html
The deputy chief of mission (DCM) of the American embassy in Prague, Black, reported that his Soviet counterpart, Marat Kuznetsov, indicated that the Soviet Union viewed the events in Czechoslovakia as an internal matter and that he was convinced that “no more batons” would be used on the demonstrators. He indicated that it was “in the Soviet Union’s interest to keep Czechoslovakia socialist and to avoid anti-Soviet and anti-Communist sentiments.” According to the American DCM, Kuznetsov:
first characterized the situation as reflecting “tension” (napeti), but quickly agreed that “difficult” or “complex” might be better terms and that there was no “tension” in the sense of possible use of violence or force. He emphasized that the positive aspect of developments here involved a more “human” approach to socialism. However, he emphasized that the Soviet position is that they will not interfere in the internal affairs of other states.
During the Candlelight Revolutions of 1989-1991, Soviet president Mikhail S. Gorbachev often stated that his country would not interfere in the internal affairs of its neighbors, the most famous instance being his reference to events in the German Democratic Republic. Kuznetsov’s comments provide further evidence of the widespread acceptance of Gorbachev’s viewpoint among those in the Soviet elite.
29 November 1989 – http://wikileaks.org/cable/1989/11/89PRAGUE8343.html
The author of this report noted the divisions within Civic Forum, the efforts of the Communist party to continue to play a role in politics, and the fear that there would be a delay in free elections.http://hnn.us/articles/8-29-11/how-the-nazis-fled-europe.html.
http://www.nmusafvirtualtour.com/full/tour-pkg.html. Click on the MAP in the upper right-hand corner for the various sections of the museum (later, you can close the MAP so that it does not obstruct your view). Click on a dot on the MAP to view a particular point in the museum. Use the arrows at the bottom of the screen to pivot and zoom the camera. To advance to another point, click on the blue arrow that appears on the pavement. The museum, which is the largest aviation museum in the world, is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, OH. It includes not only American aircraft but certain items from foreign countries, including British, German, and Japanese aircraft from the Second World War and Soviet aircraft from the cold war.
During the last six weeks, I remained in the United States and took several trips. One was to Port Charlotte, FL, which was business related. My friend from Prague, her son, my two youngest children, and I drove to Washington, DC, New York City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Mammoth Caves before returning to Pensacola. The highlight of the ten-day trip for me was seeing my grandson, Emerson James, in Pittsburgh. Another brief trip took me and my Czech visitors to New Orleans, LA.
Fortunately, there was not a large amount of news from Central Europe during the past six weeks. Nevertheless, over time I will post some commentary and links for a few crucial events.