2011/3  "What's New?  How Is the World Treating You?"

Table of Contents for the Third Quarter of 2011


  1. 1 What’s behind the Film American Teacher    30 September 2011
  2. 2 Family Owning BMW Admits to Using Jewish Slave Labor    30 September 2011
  3. 3 Juan Cole on Liberty Square–Occupy Wall Street   30 September 2011
  4. 4 Merkel’s Success Helps Guarantee Europe’s Future    29 September 2011
  5. 5 Is There a Looming Turkish Threat?    28 September 2011
  6. 6 Oscar Handlin (1915-2011)    28 September 2011
  7. 7 West Germany’s BND Employed a Wanted Nazi   28 September 2011
  8. 8 Frankenstein Born by the Light of the Silvery Moon    27 September 2011
  9. 9 Merkel and Papandreou Try to Inspire Confidence    27 September 2011
  10. 10 Did Hitler Really Have Just One?    26 September 2011
  11. 11 Elephant Dung Available to Visitors at the Prague Zoo    25 September 2011
  12. 12 Playing Musical Chairs in Russia   24 September 2011
  13. 13 Jan Kraus Interviewed Larry King on Slovak Television    23 September 2011
  14. 14 Dissecting Slovenia’s No-Confidence Vote    21 September 2011
  15. 15 European Court on Russia’s Yukos    20 September 2011
  16. 16 Woodrow Wilson Statue Returns to Prague    16 September 2011
  17. 17 Further Steps in the Destruction of American Higher Education  16 September 2011
  18. 18 Delay on Providing Loan to Greece    16 September 2011
  19. 19 USNews and World Report Releases College Rankings    14 September 2011
  20. 20 Libyan Documents Regarding Extraordinary Renditions    7 September 2011
  21. 21 Archaeologists Discover Gladiator School near Vienna    6 September 2011
  22. 22 Whither–or Wither–the European Union?    4 September 2011
  23. 23 Historian Weisberger on Steven Ambrose    3 September 2011
  24. 24 Wikileaks Documents on Prague’s Velvet Revolution    2 September 2011
  25. 25 How Nazis and Fascists Escaped from Europe    29 August 2011
  26. 26 When Economists Fail, Consult an Economic Historian    29 August 2011
  27. 27 National Museum of the US Air Force Virtual Tour    24 August 2011
  28. 28 Back from Vacation    12 August 2011
  29. 29 Montenegro and Germany Agree on World War II Cemetery    12 August 2011

What’s behind the Film American Teacher    30 September 2011

Democracy Now! has interviewed film director Vanessa Roth and Jamie Fidler, a Brooklyn first-grade teacher in the public schools, about the new film American Teacher.  The director countered the charge that the corporate sponsors influenced the film.  For example, in addressing the charge that teachers’ unions were not once mentioned in the film, Roth explained that the intent of the film was to consider the lives of teachers, not the educational system.  A reviewer for the New York Times criticized the film for focusing too much on teachers’ salaries as a cure-all for education.  Significantly increasing teachers’ salaries is not the only solution for the profession, but logic would have it that salaries in education commensurate with other professions, including medicine, would help encourage good teachers to remain in the profession and stem the brain drain from the nation’s schools.

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.

Family Owning BMW Admits to Using Jewish Slave Labor    30 September 2011

Gabriele Quandt, the granddaughter of the industrialist Günther Quandt (1881-1954) has condemned her family’s use of 50,000 Jewish slave laborers during the war and the family’s acquisition of Jewish businesses through the process of Aryanization.  Günther Quandt’s second wife, Magda Reitschel (1901-1945), divorced him in 1929 and married the Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels (1897-1945).  Fifteen years after the war, the family bought into BMW and still holds a majority interest in the firm.

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.

Juan Cole on Liberty Square–Occupy Wall Street   30 September 2011

Juan Cole, America’s most noted specialist on the Middle East and historian at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, recently visited the Occupy Wall Street protest while in New York.  His report on the Internet site Informed Comment contains segments of interviews with protesters, a collection of photographs, and some biting analysis.  Just as compelling are the comments from his readers.  In the past year, Cole has observed events in the Middle East and has speculated on what they will accomplish.  His insight has been remarkable.  Cole now turns his attention to America, where the Arab Spring has inspired some citizens to confront directly the misdeeds of Wall Street and politicians.  Cole’s piece reveals much about the Liberty Square movement that the mainstream American media hesitates to cover.  After just two weeks of protesting, Occupy Wall Street not only has maintained a momentum in New York but has spread to nine other cities in the US: Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Madison, WI; San Francisco; and Washington, DC.  Similar movements have emerged in Algeria, Australia, Canada, Israel, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.

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.

Merkel’s Success Helps Guarantee Europe’s Future    29 September 2011

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel managed to gain her coalition’s backing for expanding the ability of the European Financial Stability Facility to save the economies of countries in financial distress, including Greece.  Three more states need to pass the measure: Slovakia, Austria, and Netherlands.  The only difficulty appears to be Slovakia, where one of the coalition members, the Freedom and Solidarity party, which generally opposes further EU integration, regulations on businesses, and Greek bailout.  Reports that European markets are far more stable in reaction to the vote in Germany suggest that the business and finance sector generally favors the course the EU is pursuing with respect to Greece.  The situation in Slovakia suggests those allied with the Eurosceptics are many of those who oppose assistance to Greece.  Some in that camp want to further destroy the successes of integration by proposing that Greece withdraw temporarily or permanently from the eurozone.

For an AP report on the vote in Germany, see http://news.yahoo.com/germany-keeps-alive-hopes-euros-future-151707718.html.

Is There a Looming Turkish Threat?    28 September 2011

Daniel Pipes of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University sees Turkey as becoming increasingly dangerous.  At the helm of the state is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (born 1954), who heads the Justice and Development party (AK), which he established, and since 2003 he has been prime minister.  According to Pipes, the AK is advancing Islamic fundamentalism and has destroyed the spirit of the republic that Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) established.  It has become increasingly belligerent toward Israel and has threatened Cyprus regarding that country’s plans to drill for oil in the Mediterranean.  These are only a few of the reasons for alarm that Pipes gives in his History News Network article at http://hnn.us/articles/9-27-11/is-turkey-going-rogue.html.

Oscar Handlin (1915-2011)    28 September 2011

The noted historian of immigration to America, Oscar Handlin, died on 27 September, in Cambridge, MA.  He taught history at Harvard for several decades and was the author of the popular work The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People (1951), which won a Pulitzer Prize.  He also was the author of 13 other books.  His obituary in the New York Times is at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/24/us/oscar-handlin-historian-who-chronicled-united-states-immigration-dies-at-95.html?_r=1.

West Germany’s BND Employed a Wanted Nazi   28 September 2011

A historian at the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s intelligence agency, reported that the West German BND had employed a wanted Nazi, Walther Rauff (1906-1984), who had invented the mobile gas van to execute Jews, the disabled, and political prisoners.  The BND employed Rauff between 1958 and 1962 while he lived in exile in Chile.  The agency brought him secretly on two occasions to Germany, and it paid for his defense to resist extradition to Germany and Israel.  The historian who made the discovery, Bodo Hechelhammer, termed the BND’s actions with respect to Rauff “politically and morally incomprehensible.”  The BBC story is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15069333.

Frankenstein Born by the Light of the Silvery Moon    27 September 2011

For those interested in the Romantic movement and how humans can find mysticism in nature, it is reassuring to know that an astronomer at Texas State University in San Marcos, Donald W. Olson, has verified that Mary Shelley truly did see the moon shining into her bedroom the night she devised the plot for Frankenstein.  The time was between 2.00 and 3.00 in the morning on 16 June 1816, and the location was the Villa Diodati overlooking Lake Geneva in Switzerland.  There now appears to be no doubt that Shelly did not invent her remembrances of that night in the preface to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein simply to appeal to the dark side of her readers.  For the full story, see the October edition of Sky and Telescope and read the Reuters press release at 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/.

Merkel and Papandreou Try to Inspire Confidence    27 September 2011

At the German Federation of Industry, with the Greek Prime Minister Papandreou in attendance, Angela Merkel stated that Greece is “on the right path” and demonstrated her support for further loans to save off bankruptcy in Greece.  Papandreou also had reassuring words to the German industrialists. The German Reichstag will vote on Thursday whether to provide further financing to the eurozone bailout fund for Greece.  Merkel has more at stake than Greece because members of her own party are beginning to be skeptical about rescuing Greece, reflecting the growing mood of German voters.  In separate news, the Greek finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, expressed his confidence that, by the middle of October, Greece will receive the loan from the EU it needs to avoid bankruptcy, as long as the country continues to implement its planned austerity measures.

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.

Did Hitler Really Have Just One?    26 September 2011

The staff at History News Network has compiled a summary of the doubtful evidence that Hitler had only one testicle.  Despite no hard facts that Der Führer was anything but anatomically whole, the myth about him persists.  See http://hnn.us/questions/did-hitler-really-have-one-ball.html.

Elephant Dung Available to Visitors at the Prague Zoo    25 September 2011

This year, as it celebrates its eightieth anniversary, the Prague Zoo began selling elephant dung to visitors as a souvenir they can use to fertilize their gardens.  About three pounds cost 70 Kč, approximately 3.80 USD.  It is another first for the zoo, located on the Vltava River near the baroque Troja Palace.  After a half century of planning, the Prague Zoo opened on the important Czech holiday of 28 September 1931, the commemoration of the murder of the country’s patron saint, Václav (c. 907-935).  Within a few years, curators populated the zoo with many basic attractions, including the lions Ctirad and Šárka, names from the Czech mythological War of the Maidens.  Additional species arrived in the following decades.  The zoo had a number of accomplishments in its early years of existence: it bred in captivity the first Andean vulture (1938) and the first polar bear cub (1942).  After the Second World War, the zoos in Prague and Munich were the only ones in the world with Przewalski’s horses (often called tarpans), named after Nikolai Przewalski (sometimes spelled Przhevalsky, 1839-1888), a Russian colonel of Polish origin who in 1881 identified the horses.  Przewalski horses are unique because they are the only surviving distant relatives of today’s domesticated horse.  They first came to Prague in 1923 and in 1932 arrived at the zoo.  In 1960 the Prague Zoo began to keep the international studbook of Przewalski’s horses.  The last of these wild horses died out China in the 1960s, and in 1992, the Prague Zoo introduced a small herd into the wild in Mongolia, where they originated.  In 2001, the Prague Zoo was the first to succeeded in artificially breeding a Przewalski horse.  The flood of August 2002 devastated the zoo, and many animals died.  The brown fur seal, Gaston, swam the flooded Vltava (German: Moldau), past its confluence with the Elbe, and into Germany, where it was rescued near Dresden.  Unfortunately, after its ordeal of 120 km, it died from exhaustion at the age of twelve years.  He had several pups, two of which were born posthumously and survive in the Prague Zoo: Meloun (born 2002) and Abeba (born 2003).  Gaston’s death saddened the entire nation.  The zoo rebounded from the flood, and in 2007 Forbes listed it as one of the best eight zoos in the world.  The zoo will have special celebrations on 28 September, when it is encouraging visitors to wear 1930s dress.

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

Playing Musical Chairs in Russia   24 September 2011

Delegates attending a congress of Russia’s ruling United Party broke into wild applause on 24 September when Vladimir Putin (born 1952) accepted their endorsement for the presidency of Russia.  Putin, currently Russia’s prime minister, served two terms as president between 2000 and 2008 after President Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007) hand-picked Putin, whom he had appointed earlier as prime minister, as his successor when on 31 December 1999 Yeltsin announced his resignation.  At the United Party congress, Putin nominated Russia’s current president, Dmitry Medvedev (born 1965) to run as prime minister, and Medvedev returned the favor, nominating Putin for the presidency.  Because of a constitutional change that extended the president’s term from four to six years, Putin, if elected, conceivably will be at the helm of Russia for a total of 12 years.  Parliamentary elections will take place on 4 December, and in March 1212, presidential elections will take place.

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.

Jan Kraus Interviewed Larry King on Slovak Television    23 September 2011

On 22 September 2011, the Czech actor and television interviewer, Jan Kraus (born 1953), spoke with Larry King (born 1933) during the tenth anniversary celebration of the Slovak news channel TA3.  The interview started of in a rather formal way until Kraus, with his characteristic charm that disarms his guests, asked King about his marriages:

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.

Source: TA3

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.

Dissecting Slovenia’s No-Confidence Vote    21 September 2011

The small European Union country of Slovenia is experiencing a parliamentary crisis.  Everything is peaceful, and there is no danger of turmoil, but the crisis is significant, given the larger difficulties of the EU.  The country is one of a few that are demanding collateral in return for a loan to Greece, and the political crisis places the country’s support for a bail-out of Greece is in jeopardy.

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.

European Court on Russia’s Yukos    20 September 2011

The European Court of Human Rights decided that the Russian government had violated the rights of the energy giant Yukos between 2003 and 2006 when it accused the firm of tax evasion and dismantled the company.  The court found that the authorities did not give the Yukos enough time to prepare a defense and that the Russian court’s punishments were unjustified.  The European Court, however, did not find that the action was politically motivated.  Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky (born 1963), who established Yukos, was arrested and until 2019 will remain in prison.  Khodorkovsky and a co-defendant, Platon L. Lebedev (born 1956), claimed that the charges were politically motivated because they had used their wealth to oppose Russia’s president at the time, Vladimir V. Putin (born 1952).  Khodorkovsky was critical of Putin’s regime, and he financed opposition parties.  The court gave both sides three months to reach an agreement before it would impose damages.  The AP report on the case is available at http://news.yahoo.com/europe-court-russia-violated-rights-yukos-091659241.html.

Woodrow Wilson Statue Returns to Prague    16 September 2011

After the First World War, Nádraží Františka Josefa I. [Franz Joseph I. Railway Station], became Praha Wilsonovo nádraží [Prague, Wilson Railway Station].  Opposite the art nouveau structure stood a statue of Woodrow Wilson, who had an important role in the creation of Czechoslovakia.  In 1939, the Germans incorporated the western portion of Czechoslovakia, which became the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.  Under the Germans, Wilson Station became the Prague Main Railway Station.  When in 1941 the United States entered the Second World War, the Germans destroyed the statue of Wilson.  After the war, a plaque took its place, but the Communist regime removed that as well.  Prague Main Railway Station in 1990 again became Wilson Station after the collapse of the Communist regime.  On 8 October 2011, there will be a dedication for a new statue of Wilson in Vrchlického sady [Vrchlický Park] near the now renamed Wilson Station and not far from the site of the original statue, which now is a parking lot.

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/.

Further Steps in the Destruction of American Higher Education  16 September 2011

John T. McNay, a history professor at the University of Cincinnati at Blue Ash, has published an article at History News Network that summarizes the various attacks on the university systems in several states.  At question are academic freedom and shared governance.  McNay concludes with the following:

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.

Delay on Providing Loan to Greece    16 September 2011

EU leaders have decided to delay another installment on a loan to Greece from the end of September until October.  They provided no specific reason for the decision, but two explanations seem logical.  First, negotiations still are underway with Finland a group of states that demand collateral for the loan.  Second, in the last few days, Greece raised property taxes to gain another $2.7 billion over the next two years, but this and certain austerity measures are unpopular with Greek voters.  Withholding the installment will prompt the Greek public to accept the tax increase.  For additional information on the Greek crisis, see: 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/.

USNews and World Report Releases College Rankings    14 September 2011

USNews and World Report announced its rankings for colleges and universities in America, and high school students across the country will be studying the lists to determine which institution they will attend.  This process has become an American tradition, one which seems to have worked for decades.

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:

Libyan Documents Regarding Extraordinary Renditions    7 September 2011

Human Rights Watch found hundreds of documents in the Libyan Foreign Ministry that outline the assistance the Gaddafi government gave the CIA and Britain’s MI6 with extraordinary renditions after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States.  Among the prisoners was Abdelhakim Belhaj, who now is leading the Libyan rebels but in 2004 was with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was linked to al-Qaeda (Beljah claims that he was not associated with al-Qaeda). The report is at 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.

Archaeologists Discover Gladiator School near Vienna    6 September 2011

When my youngest son was merely five years old in 2000, I drove from Prague with him, his friend, and his parents to Vienna to see the city and the Museum of Natural History.  On the return trip, we decided to go through Bratislava, Slovakia, which is not that far from Vienna.  About half way between the two cities, we visited the ancient Roman city of Carnuntum.  Since the children were little, I had them wait in the amphitheater while I, as a lion, came from under the bleachers.  They dutifully slayed the lion and became gladiator heroes.  I believe neither boy remembers the experience, but I was reminded of it when news broke today that archaeologists using radar discovered a large gladiator school in the city.  For the story, see the AP release at 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.

Whither–or Wither–the European Union?    4 September 2011

European financial officials and experts are meeting at the Ambrosetti Forum at the Villa d'Este hotel in Cernobbioin, Italy, to discuss the economic difficulties of the European Union.  To overcome the crisis in Spain, Greece, and elsewhere, many are urging stronger EU institutions.  The greatest attention is on increasing central control over budgets.  Although member nations pledge to follow certain guidelines, they frequently exceed their limits.  EU policy makers understand the need to achieve a greater degree of fiscal unity, but they also are aware that doing so is unpopular with voters, who are hesitant about surrendering too much of their fiscal sovereignty to the EU.  Another difficulty is the loan to Greece, something that EU member states have discussed all summer.  With Finland in the lead, several states are demanding collateral before they commit to bail-out money for Greece.  Other topics of discussion are the elimination of various expenses for member states in light of EU integration, such as embassies, and the further integration of certain services, energy, and information technology infrastructure.  For an AP report on the meeting at Ambrosetti, see http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_UNITING_EUROPE?SITE=SCFLO&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT.

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.

Historian Weisberger on Steven Ambrose    3 September 2011

Bernard A. Weisberger, a former professor of history at the University of Chicago and the University of Rochester and a contributing editor of American Heritage challenges the sense of duty to democracy and the heroic nationalism of military personnel that characterize the works of Steven Ambrose in a short piece for the History News Network.  The article, which is part of the introduction to his unpublished memoir, is available at http://hnn.us/articles/8-8-11/stephenambrosewwii.html.

Wikileaks Documents on Prague’s Velvet Revolution    2 September 2011

On 30 August 2011, Wikileaks released additional correspondence from United States embassies, bringing the total number of documents to 251,287.  Reports from Slovakia and the Czech Republic cover largely the period from 2004-2010 and number approximately 1200 for each country.  There are three documents, however, that deal with the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Prague:

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.

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.

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.

How Nazis and Fascists Escaped from Europe    29 August 2011

History News Network has posted an interview with Gerald Steinacher, an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, that focuses on Steinacher’s most recent book, Nazis on the Run: How Hitler’s Henchmen Fled Justice (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).  Steinacher not only debunks the ODESSA myth, but he shows how Nazis and Fascists managed to leave Europe, quite frequently through Italy, with the assistance of United States officials, the Red Cross, and certain individuals in the Vatican.  The interview is at http://hnn.us/articles/8-29-11/how-the-nazis-fled-europe.html.

When Economists Fail, Consult an Economic Historian    29 August 2011

Judith Stein at the City University of New York is a specialist in the economic history of the United States.  Her works include Running Steel, Running America: Race, Economic Policy, and the Decline of Liberalism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998) and Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010).  Recently, Stein published a critique of the economic fixes and plans for additional changes that politicians have touted as the medicine the American economy needs to recover.  With a perspective on how America came to its current dilemma, Stein offers three alternative solutions: 1) improve the U.S. trade balance by creating a market for American-produced products; 2) create an infrastructure bank that would leverage private investment by tapping private capital markets for public infrastructure investments; and 3) match the aid to American firms in the field of solar energy that the Chinese provide to their firms while in the short run turn to domestically-produced natural gas.  To see the rationale behind her recommendations, click on http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online.php?id=526.

National Museum of the US Air Force Virtual Tour    24 August 2011

Various museums offer incredible web pages with attractive photographs and documents, but one of the most amazing is the virtual tour available for the United States Air Force Museum, which is available at  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.

Back from Vacation    12 August 2011

Although hardly world news, I have resumed posting news items after a six-week summer hiatus.  In the second quarter of 2011, several hundred readers throughout the United States and many other countries visited this site for news and other information.  Whether you are a returning reader or a new visitor, welcome.

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.

Montenegro and Germany Agree on World War II Cemetery    12 August 2011

Montenegro and Germany recently signed an agreement to create a cemetery in Montenegro for more than 400 bodies of German soldiers from the Second World War that building contractors excavated in 2007 in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital.  About 2,000 German soldiers were killed in Montenegro during the war and still are officially missing in action.  For the BBC news report on the agreement, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14479805.