Saturday, September 26, 2015

Graphic Syria: An interview with Riad Sattouf By Nadja Vancauwenberghe

Riad Sattouf's two tomes (The Arab of the Future I and II) were huge successes in France and undeniably the big hype at this year's Graphic Novel Day at the Literature Festival. Following many bestselling comics (like Handbook for a Virgin) and strips in French media including in Charlie Hebdo (The Secret Life of Young People), the cartoonist and filmmaker finally risked straight autobiography and revisited his childhood in Gaddafi's Libya and (Hafez) Assad's Syria in the 1980s. The son of a French-Breton mother and Syrian father, Sattouf was born in Paris but lived until age 11 (except for two years in Libya) in Ter Maaleh, a small village near Homs. The Arab follows Riad, an adorable little boy with delicate French manners and flowing blond locks, to the brutal, archaic world of his dad's native Syria – a remote village rife with violence against dogs, women and children, and where anti-Semitism is just another facet of the surrounding superstitious ignorance. Told without any political subtext but with humorous simplicity, The Arab displays Sattouf's trademark genius in expressing volumes through the sharp observation of the most mundane reality. Appearing in English next month (it's already been translated into 15 languages, including German), this must-read transcends political passions and refreshingly brings a Syrian chronicle down to eye-level – that of a small boy with a healthy cat's curiosity and an elephant's memory.
After Jeremie (No Sex in New York ), Pascal (Pascal Brutal) and even Esther (Esther's Notebooks), Riad is finally the hero of your books. Why now? It was something I had in mind for many years now. But the trigger was when I found myself helping part of my Syrian family come to France. It was a difficult process – and my idea was to describe what we had to go through with immigration authorities, etc. But then I thought it would make sense to tell the whole story – from the beginning.
Despite all his shortcomings, are you thankful to your dad for something?
Yes! See, in principle given his education level we should have been sent to a big city – Damascus or Aleppo – but he absolutely wanted to go back to the village where he grew up. So it was bizarre, almost surreal. We were put in a position to see and experience things we shouldn't have normally seen or experienced. I shouldn't have lived with farmers and gone to such a school. In Damascus I would have been sent to the International French School and hung out with the Syrian bourgeoisie. So I'm grateful he got me to see all that, to meet the people I met in that school, people who will never be given the chance to talk about their lives – and I'm glad I could do that in my book. It was great luck that I could witness that life, and... that I could get out of it! EXBERLINER Photo

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dieses beklemmende Bild eines Flüchtlingskinds zeigt, warum Syrer ihre Heimat verlassen müssen

A picture created by a young Syrian in Passau, the picture on the left of his/her country Syria and its devastation and horror, and the picture on the right of his/her arrival in Germany. He/She writes "Polizi" which is Polizei meaning Police. The Police are managing the arrival of the Migrants at the train station and some are staying in Passau and others are being shuttled via Police Buses to other nearby cities for accomodations and care. Focus

Peter Cornelius

Du entschuldige I kenn' di Photo

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Germany Works to Get Migrants Jobs By Liz Alderman

PASSAU, Germany — As Germany struggles with a surge of migrants and has at least temporarily clamped down on new arrivals, Nematullah Jasor may serve as a symbol of the way forward. One afternoon last week, Mr. Jasor, 22, walked with a light step around the cavernous factory floor of ZF Friedrichshafen, a large German industrial company that recently hired him as an apprentice in this small town on the border with Austria that has become a major landing point for migrants. Just a few years earlier, Mr. Jasor faced threats on his life back home in Afghanistan, where Taliban insurgents had threatened to kill him if he did not join the group and stop his computer science studies at the local university. After learning German quickly and proving to be a skilled employee, Mr. Jasor is on track for a permanent job once he completes his apprenticeship in making machine and auto parts. More than any other European country now contending with an influx of migrants and refugees, Germany — with Europe’s biggest economy, an aging population and more than a half-million unfilled jobs — sees the migration wave as not only a challenge but an opportunity. “Germany will benefit from people like Nematullah,” said Roland Biebl, Mr. Jasor’s supervisor. “It’s in everyone’s interest to integrate them.” Although Germany has temporarily placed tight controls on the border across the country’s south to stem the tide of people seeking asylum, the government is intent on assimilating those it lets in. With at least 800,000 migrants expected this year alone, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the nation’s biggest businesses have been mounting a vocal campaign to get migrants into jobs as a way of quickly integrating them into German society. Rather than risk letting the migrants become wards of the state, the idea is to help as many as possible start contributing to the economy. Advocates of fast-tracking employment say that Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has enough jobs to accommodate the flood of new arrivals — and in fact is facing the threat of a labor shortage and a growing bill for pensions and health care, as more and more of the country’s aging population reaches retirement. Refugees like Mr. Jasor, as well as many asylum-seekers who have arrived from Syria, are educated and bring employable skills that could help ease the labor squeeze. Last week, big employers including Deutsche Post and the automaker Daimler called for an overhaul of German labor laws to let asylum-seekers get to work quickly. Ms. Merkel, who met with industry leaders, announced that Germany would accelerate the asylum process and make it easier for those allowed to stay to enter the work force. An additional 2 billion euros, or nearly $2.3 billion, will be spent to help people learn German, which is essential for any job. International New York Times Photo

Friday, September 18, 2015

Why we need evolution, not revolution By Ewald Nowotny

People are not ready to reinvent Europe. The more promising path is to develop the European Union within the existing framework of the EU Treaties.
It is sad, but true: Sir Karl Popper, the brilliant, down-to-earth philosopher who decisively influenced political discourse in the 1970s and 1980s – especially in Germany – seems to have gone out of style. This unfortunately also applies to the concept of piecemeal social engineering he advocated, i.e. the notion that the ills of society should be confronted through a succession of cautious, incremental steps rather than through rapid, large-scale reform or revolution. After all, small steps can be reversed should they later prove as missteps. The disregard for Popper’s approach is clearly evident in today’s debate about the future of European integration and, in particular, Europe’s monetary policy. Thankfully, the Five Presidents’ Report shows that our continent’s leading minds in the realm of European integration policy wisely distinguish between reforms that are feasible under existing European law and those that require fundamental changes in the European Treaties. Disturbingly, however, the discourse on the future of the EU, and monetary union in particular, has recently been dominated by a growing number of alarmist voices. The adopted tone ranges from dramatic outburst – as recently evidenced by the EU perspective drawn by the French economy minister in this newspaper (“rebirth or death”) – to more moderate, bureaucratic calls for an “economic government” or a “European finance minister.” Obviously, monetary union is bound to be more stable and more efficient if it is the final milestone of integration, following achievement of a political union and a common fiscal policy in particular. This was already argued by the proponents of the so-called “coronation theory” when the blueprint for European Economic and Monetary Union was first discussed, drawing from the experience of German unification in the 19th century. That said, it is equally true that a European single market needs to be complemented and stabilized by a single currency that is shared by a large number of market participants. Also true: as a “second-best” yet feasible solution, the single monetary policy is supported by clear fiscal policy rules as laid down by the Stability and Growth Pact. In the early stages of monetary union, missteps did indeed occur. In particular, the lower interest rate levels of a few southern European Member States led to excessive private and/or public debt. Though there were warning signs, i.e. massive current account and budget deficits, national and European economic policymakers reacted too late. Exacerbated by the global financial crisis from 2007, this led to dramatic developments in some countries that continue to affect policymaking in the euro area today. It should not be overlooked, however, that this crisis situation has also brought forth a series of instruments at the European level which represent significant progress in terms of crisis prevention and intervention. If these new instruments are applied in a consistent and macroeconomically responsible manner, and maybe combined with a strengthened role for market-based sanction mechanisms, the outlook for European monetary union is quite sound, actually. Calls for a fundamental restructuring of the EU’s institutional framework may well have their place in a discussion of long-term developments, but as a contribution to current political debate the “rebirth or death” approach is extremely dangerous, in my opinion.
The chances of a “big bang” reform are slim – unfortunately
Following this approach would at some point or another require far-reaching changes to the European Treaties. Granted, treaties can be changed, and instigating an informed public debate in due time it is part of the job of politicians. Claiming that the people are ready for a “re-founding of Europe,” a big bang as Minister Macron suggested in his commentary in this paper, is an interesting intellectual hypothesis, but its validity has not been substantiated by empirical analysis. In times like these when we do not know which countries will be part of the EU in two years’ time and each individual Member State has the power to block Treaty changes, the probability that fundamental changes to the existing Treaties will be adopted in the not-too-distant future is – unfortunately – very small. Against this background and in light of the sheer impossibility of fundamental Treaty changes, arguing the case for a “rebirth or death” approach means, in fact, risking the danger of conjuring up “death” – the slow dissolution of the EU and monetary union. Proposals founded on unrealistic conditions do not represent a useful contribution to the future development of Europe; on the contrary, they may even adversely affect political and economic expectations. Apart from the political and psychological risk of advocating “rebirth or death,” such an approach is not factually justifiable. Despite its much debated weaknesses, Economic and Monetary Union has proved its worth more than once in the first 16 years of its existence: Without EMU, Europe would have seen far more dramatic repercussions of the global economic crisis that started in 2007; this is true both for the members of EMU and for the EU countries outside monetary union, which, to some extent, benefited as “free riders.” As money and capital markets were breaking down and volatility was high, and swift and major action was of the essence, no national central bank – not even that of a big country – would have been able to readily provide the massive amounts of additional liquidity with which the ECB stepped in. A large central bank by global standards, the ECB must fear potential liquidity outflows much less than other central banks and was able to participate in the swap network of the leading central banks, which has the power to prevent potentially disastrous liquidity shortages in individual currencies.
Instead of invoking apocalyptic scenarios we should adopt a policy of small steps
Given the establishment of the ESM and its predecessor institutions at the EU level, we have instruments in place to tackle crises in a spirit of solidarity; this is substantial progress. The application of these instruments may be controversial. However, as the case of Spain demonstrates, we are also making progress here: Recent economic developments in the country are considered to be the success of a policy of austerity that did not coerce the government into slashing its fiscal deficit of 4.5% within too short a period of time. The substantial strengthening of economic governance in the EU over the past few years (e.g. through the introduction of the European Semester, the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact) as well as the establishment of the Single Supervisory Mechanism for the euro area marked important progress toward a more complete economic and financial market union. Hence, instead of invoking apocalyptic scenarios it seems more useful and effective to contribute to a step-by-step enhancement of economic governance under the given legal framework and to push ahead with the thorough implementation of decisions that have already been made, such as the Juncker plan for investment in Europe. There is no doubt that like any other institution, the EU must develop long-term political and economic visions. However, especially for a comparatively young organization like the EU, building a great narrative that creates an emotional connection is of vital importance. Many European countries have come to reach a form of emotional cohesion through the great narrative of the catastrophes they have gone through together or through wars waged against a common enemy. Let’s hope that emotional cohesion in Europe will be built through positive rather than negative events. It seems all the more important to me that long-term change is achieved on the basis of an evolutionary and democratic concept of gradual progress rather than by launching technocratic plans as a matter of life and death.
Ewald Nowotny is governor of the National Bank of Austria and member of the the governing council of the European Central BankInternational Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hubbard Street Dance gets $500,000 grant By Doug George

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will receive $500,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, it was announced Monday. The grant money will go toward the Chicago dance company's long-term goals and operations. Hubbard Street was one of 18 organizations to receive grants through a new initiative, the Leadership Grants Program for Dance (and was one of only nine to be awarded a half-million dollars). According to the foundation, "grantees distinguished themselves by the quality of their choreography, the impact of their touring on communities across the country, and the successful expansion of their own initiatives and educational programming." The money must go toward operations, versus building projects or other "brick-and-mortar" plans. The other recipients are Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Alonzo King LINES Ballet; AXIS Dance Company; Ballet Hispanico; the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Danspace Project, Inc.; Jacob’s Pillow Dance; the Joyce Theater; Margaret Jenkins Dance Company; Mark Morris Dance Group; ODC Dance/San Francisco; Stephen Petronio Company; Ragamala Dance; STREB; Paul Taylor Dance Company; Urban Bush Women; and White Bird. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is named after the late philanthropist and gives money to support work in medicine, environmentalism and the arts. Chicago Tribune Photo 
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is an American dance company based in Chicago. Hubbard Street performs in downtown Chicago at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance and at the Edlis Neeson Theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Hubbard Street also tours nationally and internationally throughout the year. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago grew out of the Lou Conte Dance Studio, when in 1977 several aspiring young artists approached dance teacher/choreographer Lou Conte to teach tap classes. At the time, the studio was located at the corner of LaSalle Street and Hubbard Street, which is how the company acquired its name. Conte served as director for 23 years, during which he developed relationships with choreographers including Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Margo Sappington, Daniel Ezralow, Nacho Duato, Jirí Kylián and Twyla Tharp, all of whom helped shape Hubbard Street’s repertoire. Wikipedia

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Stromae

Formidable Photo Wikipedia To all the people born on September 15, have a great birthday, but be careful of the partying. Paul Van Haver (born 12 March 1985), better known by his stage name Stromae [stʁɔmaj], is a Belgian singer, rapper and songwriter. He is originally from Laeken, in Brussels. He has established himself in both the hip hop and electronic music genres. Stromae came to wide public attention in 2009 with his song "Alors on danse", which became a number one in several European countries. In 2013, his sophomore album Racine Carrée was a commercial success.