Thursday, August 25, 2016

Avocado and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa By Martha Rose Shulman

Photo Credit: Andrew Scrivani/NYT
Looks scrumptious. Oh, how I miss those tortilla chips. I would toast but not char the tomatillos, chili, garlic and onion. Charring might be a disappointing flavor. I know that seems to be the main idea of the recipe, but I simply hesitate. I am also not sure about toasting garlic without peeling first, seems odd, but we could give it a try. I also use a food processor vs. a blender. And add a spritz of lime to the mix for flavor and to prevent browning.


  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked
  • 1 to 2 serrano chiles (to taste), stems removed
  • 1 medium garlic clove, unpeeled
  • 1 slice white or red onion
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro, with stems
  • 1 medium avocado
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat a heavy cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Place tomatillos in pan and toast until charred on 1 side, about 10 minutes for a medium or large tomatillo. The color in the middle should be fading from pale green to olive. Turn tomatillos over and continue to grill until charred on the other side, about 10 minutes, but not for so long that they burst. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  2. Place chile(s), garlic clove and onion slice in skillet and toast, turning often, until chile is lightly charred and garlic is charred in spots and softened. The onion should be lightly colored on both sides but not charred black (that will make it bitter). Remove from heat. Peel the garlic and transfer, with the onion and chiles, to a blender. Add tomatillos and any liquid that may have accumulated in the bowl.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve. International New York Times Cooking

Matisse, Kandinsky works get Dutch debut in Van Gogh Museum exhibit By Janene Pieters

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam just opened an exhibition with special pieces from the famous Merzbacher Collection, which has never been in the Netherlands before. It includes works from artists like Henri Matisse, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Wassily Kandinksy and focuses on how these artists were inspired by Vincent van Gogh. The collection, owned by Werner and Gabrielle Merzbacher, is known as one of the finest and best private art collections in the world. According to the museum, the Fauvists in France and the Expressionists in Germany were inspired by Van Gogh’s “Colorful, dynamic and emotionally charged paintings” in their search for ways to make their art more powerful and evocative. “The personal quality of his work strengthened their desire to express their deepest feelings. These pioneering artists were looking for freedom in form and color. In their search, they went a step beyond Van Gogh.” A total of 14 works are featured in the exhibition, titled Van Gogh Inspires Matisse, Kirchner, Kandinsky. It opened on Wednesday and can be enjoyed in the museum until November 27th. NL Times

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Quake: at least 120 killed, hundreds injured and towns razed

Sant'Agostino, Amatrice
Rieti, Lazio, Italy
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(ANSA) - Rome, August 24 - The provisional death toll from an earthquake that hit central Italy early Wednesday has risen to 120, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told a press conference in Rieti. The toll may rise, he said, adding "now is the time for tears, prayer and emotion" and vowing swift and successful reconstruction. "It will take a long time to handle this emergency", he added, saying cabinet would take the first "immediate" measures Thursday morning. The 6.0-magnitude quake flattened mountain towns between Lazio, Umbria and Marche. Some 64 people are known to have died in the village of Amatrice near Rieti alone. The earthquake, which struck at 03:36 local time and was followed by a second, 5.4 magnitude seism at 04:33 between Umbria and the Marche, was said by civil protection authorities to be "comparable in intensity" to the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake in which over 300 people died. A few hundred were reported injured and an unspecified number of people were still missing as of the early evening on Wednesday. About 200 aftershocks were felt, the strongest of which had a magnitude of 4.9 on the Richer scale. Renzi visited Amatrice where he met with the head of the civil protection agency and the infrastructure and transport minister, Grazinao Delrio. There were reports of "apocalyptic scenes" with many collapsed buildings in the towns and villages affected. Rescuers had difficulty accessing the area due to landslides and damaged infrastructure. Many people were saved by rescue workers who used even their hands to dig out survivors, including an 11-year-old boy whose calls for help from under the ruins of his home and a 43-year-old whose legs were stuck under rubble for hours. United States Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday called Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni to voice condolences to the Italian government and confirmed the US's readiness to respond to any requests for help, echoing a similar offer made to President Sergio Mattarella by President Barack Obama. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his condolences and the pope said he was "greatly affected" after hearing the mountain village of Amatrice was razed to the ground. L'Aquila Mayor Massimo Cialente said 250 temporary homes built after the 2009 earthquake were available for the newly displaced. The Rieti provincial chapter of Italian blood donation charity AVIS has put out a call for people to donate blood for the injured. Mayor Stefano Petrucci said 2,500 people had been displaced from their homes. The national emergency fund has 234 million euros that will be used for immediate aid to earthquake-stricken towns and villages in central Italy, the economy ministry said. life in italy Photo DONATE to Italian Red Cross

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

“I hope the Spanish government lets me stay until I die” By Cristina Vázquez and Heather Galloway

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Post-Brexit, British residents in Spain are uncertain whether to go home or apply for citizenship

It’s 10am and, although Llíber has the third-largest non-Spanish population in Spain, few of them are out and about yet. Almost all of them live in free-standing houses with gardens, scattered around this attractive town of around 1,000 inhabitants, nestling in wooded hills some 15 kilometers inland from Calpe, in Valencia’s Alicante province. Most are pensioners, and on the morning of June 24, the day after the British electorate narrowly voted to leave the European Union, their futures in Spain suddenly became uncertain. For a start, their savings and pensions had dropped in value overnight due to the devaluation of the pound, while their right to vote in local elections was no longer assured. Around 300,000 Brits live in Spain, according to official data, a third of them in Valencia. And most of them are now extremely apprehensive about what the future holds. “Most of them say they’ll leave here in a coffin,” says Dora, who works in the local chemist and helps those with limited Spanish with their prescriptions. Seven hundred of the town’s 1,100 inhabitants are foreign, with the British community making up the majority. At the heart of the Marina Alta district, Llíber is particularly attractive to foreigners, says farmer Toni Morán, who also mans the telephone at the local health center. “It’s not too cold and it’s not too hot,” he says. “It’s also just 20 minutes from the beaches in Calpe, Benidorm, Moraira and Xàbia, and the land isn’t as expensive as down on the coast.” Since the Brexit vote, however, there are more and more signs going up to advertise properties for sale along the coast of Alicante. Of course, some were there before Brexit, and some of those selling are British pensioners aged between 75 and 80 who want to get back to Britain and their families because their partner has died and they don’t want to be alone in their old age. But Suzanne McAllister, who for the last five years has been a member of the town council on behalf of the Popular Party and whose duties mainly involve sorting out paperwork for her fellow British retirees, is not keen to go home. “If necessary, I’ll apply for Spanish nationality,” she says, adding that most who would like to stay are leaning toward the double-nationality solution.

Brexit “lies”

A native of Leicester, McAllister is angry with those who supported Brexit. “In the campaign for the referendum, a lot of lies were told,” she says. “The immediate consequence has been the weakening of the pound and, in spite of everything, they keep telling us it’s temporary and that it will get stronger again in a few months. But we don’t have a crystal ball.” Brits living in Spain will lose their right to vote in local elections when Brexit becomes a reality. “In Valencia, Murcia and Alicante, there are a lot of town councils with British people serving on them,” says McAllister. “Something has to be done.” The process promises to be a long one. David Wicks, a 71-year-old English pensioner, says he is not about to make any drastic changes. He’s one of the few Brits to be drawing a Spanish pension and says he’s not overly concerned about his own situation. “Whatever happens,” he says, “Spain is home. I hope the Spanish government lets me stay until I die.” Wicks says that while Britain has become increasingly xenophobic in the last few years, many of the staff in the health service are foreign, to the extent that he believes it would collapse without them. Lorrie Harkness, 67, says she will apply for Spanish nationality if she needs to, adding she would like the United Kingdom to leave the EU as soon as possible rather than waiting until the end of the two-year withdrawal period, which she says is simply extending the uncertainty. “We can’t just wait and wait,” says Harkness. who is dubious about the UK’s ability to maintain a reciprocal agreement over health and the pensions agreement as it stands. According to Harkness, the UK could have tightened immigration controls years ago and didn’t. Now she thinks it’s too late. “People go to Britain because they get financial support they don’t get elsewhere,” she says. “Everyone wants to live there. Of course they do.” EL PAÍS Photo

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Lasagna With Steamed Spinach and Roasted Zucchini By Martha Rose Shulman

Photo Credit: Andrew Scrivani/NYT
You may think of lasagna as a rich, heavy dish, but it needn’t be. There’s no need to compensate for the absence of a traditional Bolognese sauce by packing these casseroles with pounds of ricotta and grated cheese. Some of each of those elements is welcome, but I cut the usual amounts by half in this recipe, and it was plenty satisfying. You can get ahead on lasagna by making up big batches of marinara sauce and freezing it, or in a pinch use a good commercial brand. The noodles are no-boil, which really makes these lasagnas easy to assemble. They can be made ahead and reheated, or frozen. Featured in: Layers Of Flavor: Lasagna With Roasted Vegetables. Martha Rose Shulman is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.” 


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut in half crosswise, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound bunch spinach, washed and stemmed, or 1/2 pound bagged baby spinach
  • 3 cups marinara sauce, preferably homemade from fresh or canned tomatoes
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 7 to 8 ounces no-boil lasagna
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) freshly grated Parmesan


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the zucchini with the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and top with the slices of zucchini. Place in the oven and roast 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, close the oven door and, using tongs, flip the zucchini slices over. Return to the oven for 5 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender when pierced with a knife and browned in spots. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees.
  2. Steam the spinach for 2 to 3 minutes above an inch of boiling water, just until it wilts. Rinse briefly with cold water, squeeze out excess water and chop coarsely.
  3. Blend the ricotta cheese with the egg, water, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Lightly oil a rectangular baking pan. Spread a small spoonful of tomato sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Top with a layer of lasagna noodles. Top the noodles with a thin layer of ricotta, then a layer of zucchini and spinach, a layer of tomato sauce and a layer of Parmesan. Repeat the layers, ending with a layer of lasagna noodles topped with tomato sauce and Parmesan.
  5. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and place in the oven. Bake 40 minutes, until the noodles are tender and the mixture is bubbling. Uncover and, if you wish, bake another 10 minutes, until the top begins to brown. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

    Nutritional information per serving: 422 calories; 20 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 7 grams monounsaturated fat; 63 milligrams cholesterol; 42 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 419 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 22 grams protein. International New York Times Cooking

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Kremlin Opens to the World as Putin Orders Greater Access By Howard Amos

Photo Credit:
Tourists are to glimpse many areas of Russia's hidden political heart for the first time. For much of the Soviet period, Moscow’s Kremlin was heavily guarded and shrouded in mystery. Few people apart from high-ranking officials or foreign dignitaries ever got the chance to pass through the gates built into the towers along its redbrick walls. The rare visitors that made it inside were struck by its “terrifying emptiness.” Some restrictions were lifted with the fall of the Soviet Union. But a set of eight new decrees signed by President Vladimir Putin earlier this month means previously off-limit areas of the seat of Russian political power are likely be opened to the public in 2017. “The Kremlin has been sacred, closed, secret and locked for most of the last 150 years,” says Catherine Merridale, a British author who has written a history of the buildings and their inhabitants. “Opening up the Kremlin has a huge psychological impact.” The decision by Putin is expected to be popular among ordinary Russians and is likely to fuel an increase in the number of tourists visiting the already busy site, which is the official residence of the Russian president. According to decrees published Aug. 1 there will be an extra tourist route through the Kremlin including access to a new archaeological museum where visitors can see the remains of the Chudov Monastery and Ascension Convent, which were destroyed by the Communists in 1929. Public access points are also slated to be installed in the Spasskaya Tower on Red Square, which houses the famous Kremlin clock, and the Borovitskaya Tower on the complex’s opposite side. An ambitious 2014 plan to rebuild the Chudov Monastery and Ascension Convent — two of Orthodoxy’s most important sites — has apparently been abandoned. UNESCO ranks the Kremlin as a world heritage site, and may have objected to new construction. The remains of the two holy buildings were uncovered earlier this year after the dismantlement of the Presidium building, which was built in the 1930s and formerly housed the Supreme Soviet. “There have been some very valuable archaeological finds ... people assumed that these things had been destroyed forever,” says Konstantin Mikhailov, the founder and head of Archnadzor, an activist organization that helps preserve and safeguard historical monuments. The exact timeframe for the implementation of the changes is unclear, but Putin ordered officials to prepare logistical plans by the end of this year. Apart from two centuries when St. Petersburg was the capital, the Kremlin has been the heart of religious and state power in Russia — and provided the living quarters for Russian leaders. Many of them have sought to leave their mark on the geography of the Kremlin and highlight the more politically expedient aspects of its history. The latest plans are likely to be personally associated with Putin and his 16 years at the top of Russian politics. “There is an interest in history among the leadership of the country and, in particular, the history of the Kremlin,” according to Mikhailov. Soviet leader Josef Stalin ejected most senior officials from the Kremlin after the 1934 assassination of high-ranking Communist party official Sergei Kirov, which ushered in a period of official paranoia and mass killings. Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, opened the complex to the public in 1955 as he pushed back against heavy-handed repression. But restrictions on access were re-introduced under Leonid Brezhnev less than 20 years later. “People remember the Kremlin as terrifying and empty,” says Merridale of the later Soviet period. Before the 20th century public access was much freer, and the Kremlin was traditionally considered something of a thoroughfare; this was lost after the 1917 revolution. “People love the Kremlin in the sense that they love the sight of the golden towers. But at the same time you can’t love it because you can’t have it. Their sense of the Kremlin is more abstract,” Merridale says. [....] Putin’s Monday decrees also contained an order to look into the possibility of conducting extensive archaeological research in the eastern part of the Kremlin in 2017 and 2018. Mikhailov said that if the plans are realized they will be the most significant excavations in the Kremlin since the 1960s. The Moscow Times Photo

Fact or Fiction?: Chocolate Is Good for Your Health By Christine Gorman

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The most hyped science story of the 21st century starts with a cocoa bean. Thousands of popular headlines over the past couple of decades have touted the supposed health benefits of chocolate—particularly dark chocolate (in moderation, of course). But every single one of the major studies on which those claims are based actually failed to prove any such connection. They weren't designed to—they are observational studies, whose main purpose is to identify interesting ideas that warrant closer, more rigorous investigation without wasting too much time and energy. You can blame traffic-hungry journalists (or their editors) for the specious headlines. Really getting to the bottom of whether or not chocolate is good for you requires what's known as a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. This is the most scientifically rigorous type of study researchers ever conduct and it's designed to separate honest-to-goodness real evidence from wishful thinking. As it happens, just such a randomized controlled trial got underway this spring. And no, you can't volunteer for it—unless you already participated in one of two other studies. With 18,000 expected participants, the new study is big. It has to be because no one wants to wait decades for definitive results. Because the participants are older and thus at higher risk of suffering heart attacks and strokes, investigators should be able to collect enough data to determine whether or not the intervention is worthwhile over the course of about four years. Women are being recruited from the Women's Health Initiative and male participants hail from the Vitamin D and OmegaA-3 study. It's expensive. The budget is somewhere between $30 million and $60 million, which helps to explain why it's being sponsored by a trio of partners: the National Institutes of Health, Mars, Inc., and Pfizer. Investigators from the Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are carrying out the actual study. But test subjects will not be getting free samples of chocolate. Indeed, the study pills they'll be taking won't even taste like chocolate. That is because the researchers won't actually be testing chocolate. Instead, they will be studying the health benefits of certain plant-based substances called flavanols, which are found not only in chocolate but also in tea, fruits and vegetables. (There's also a section of the study that will evaluate the health benefits of multivitamins.) Laboratory experiments suggest that the flavanols may help keep the insides of arteries nice and flexible—a characteristic that is known to protect the heart and brain over the course of a lifetime. But the process of fermenting, drying and roasting cocoa beans in order to turn them into chocolate destroys most of their original flavanol content. Still, cocoa contains some unique combinations of flavanols that warrant a closer look, and the compounds in question have already undergone extensive safety testing. So Mars developed a proprietary process that preserves the flavanols, starting with how growers harvest the cocoa beans in the first place, says Hagen Schroeter, who is a nutrition researcher at Mars as well as the University of California, Davis. All this helps to explain why the study, dubbed COSMOS (for Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study), is looking at flavanols derived from cocoa and not tea. In addition to measuring the number of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular ailments of its subjects, COSMOS investigators will look at whether the flavanol extracts help to lower blood sugar level or improve participant's scores on memory tests. The study will be large enough to detect a difference between the control and experimental arms of as little as 10 to 15 percent, says JoAnn Manson, chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women's and one of the COSMOS study leaders. A 25 percent difference, which Manson says is "feasible" to detect, would place flavanol's benefits for heart disease very nearly in line with that of a statin drug. In any event, when the results are published several years from now, you can safely ignore any news items that say anything about chocolate's health benefits. If anything, it will be the flavanols—minus the extra sugar and fat that comes with chocolate—that will prove healthy. In the meantime feel free to eat chocolate (in moderation) because you like it—not because you hope it will make you live longer. Scientific American Photo

Charity duck race for hearing-impaired children to be staged Sept. 10 in Bucharest

Photo Credit: Rotaract Triumph
A charity race for children with hearing impairment or loss, called the "Rotaract Triumph Duck Race", will be staged in Bucharest City on September 10. Organisers say in a press statement released on Tuesday that 5,000 rubber ducks will compete on Dambovita River in a race that will change the lives of children with hearing impairment or loss. In Romania, there are nearly 400 children born each year with hypoacusis, with 15 percent of them suffering from severe hearing loss. Children diagnosed with hypoacusis will hear sounds from the environment very faintly or [not] at all. "Besides its medical effects, hypoacusis has serious consequences on the emotional wellbeing of children in their families — the children do not know the sound of their parents' voices — and in society — as these children become timid and withdrawn, unable to express themselves and display emotions in the most natural way possible, thus being captives in a world of silence. Many of them stand very great chances of recovery, but everything is conditional upon an essential requirement: wearing hearing aids. Even a child with severe hearing loss can learn how to speak if he or she has a hearing aid and is in an environment conducive to recovery," the statement reads. Rotaract Bucharest Triumph, the organiser of the charity race, is inviting people to get involved in the project by sponsorships or donations or by taking part in the race. Racers can register for the run online at, with a 10-lei donation allowing running one duck. There is no limit to the acquirable ducks. AGERPRES (RO — author: Madalina Cerban, editor: Andreea Rotaru; EN — author: Corneliu-Aurelian Colceriu, editor: Simona Klodnischi) Photo credit: Rotaract Triumph

Cristi Puiu's "Sieranevada" - Romania's proposal for Oscar Foreign Language Film nominee

The jury was made up of film critics Dana Duma, Magda Mihailescu, Eugenia Voda, Mihai Fulger, Andra Petrescu, Irina Trocan, Lucian Maior, Florentina Ciuverca. "Sieranevada" is the fourth film directed by Cristi Puiu and features actors Mimi Branescu, Dana Dogaru, Sorin Medeleni, Ana Ciontea, Judith State, Marin Grigore, Rolando Matsangos, Catalina Moga and Ilona Brezoianu. Cristi Puiu's film's director of photography is Barbu Balasoiu, and Jean Paul Bernard, Filip Muresan and Christophe Vintrignier were in charge of the sound, Maria Pitea — costumes, Mojca Gorogranc Petrushevska — makeup. Letitia Stefanescu and Ciprian Cimpoi are the film editors, Cristina Barbu, the set decorator, while Anca Puiu is the film's producer. "Sieranevada" is a Mandragora production, in co-production with Produkcija 2006 Sarajevo (BIH), the Culture Ministry's Studio of Cinematography Creation, Sisters and Brother Mitevski, Spiritus Movens, Alcatraz Films. The film will show in Romanian cinemas starting 9 September. AGERPRES (RO — author: Petronius Craiu, editor: Claudia Stanescu; EN — editor: Adina Panaitescu) AGERPRES

Monday, August 15, 2016

Upset by Brexit, Some British Jews Look to Germany By Kimiko De Fraytas-Tamura

LONDON — Until Britain voted to leave the European Union, Philip Levine never thought deeply about his Jewish heritage. But looking for a way to ensure that he could still work and live in Europe once Britain leaves the bloc, Mr. Levine, 35, who was born in Britain and lives in London, decided to do what some Jews, including his relatives, might consider unthinkable: apply for German citizenship. He did so by employing a provision of German law that has been on the books since 1949 but that has been little used in recent years. It allows anyone whom the Nazis stripped of their German citizenship “on political, racial or religious grounds” from Jan. 30, 1933, to May 8, 1945, and their descendants, to have their citizenship restored. Most of those who lost their citizenship during that period were Jews, though they also included other minorities and political opponents. He is not alone in turning to the German law after Britain’s decision to end its membership in the European Union, also known as Brexit. Since the vote in June, the German embassy in London said it had received at least 400 requests from Britons for information about German citizenship under a legal provision known as Article 116. At least 100 are formal applications by individuals or families, said Knud Noelle, an embassy official. “We expect more in coming weeks,” he said, adding that the embassy normally receives roughly 20 such applications every year. The interest among British Jews is far greater than ever before, said Michael Newman, the chief executive of the Association of Jewish Refugees, who said that he, too, was considering applying for German citizenship. The association is based in London. “I don’t remember hearing of requests before” for German citizenship in the association’s 75-year-old history, he said. “It’s taken Brexit to do this. It was a game-changer.” The development is among the most surprising techniques being used by British and European citizens as they seek a second passport that would allow them to retain their ability to travel, work and live anywhere in the bloc even after Britain’s departure is complete sometime in the next several years. People from the Continent living in Britain, Britons living in Europe and Britons living at home but eager to retain the benefits of European citizenship are investigating their heritage, considering marriage, studying residency requirements and otherwise searching for legal paths to get around the effects of the British vote. “I didn’t realize how simple it is,” Mr. Levine said of the application process for German citizenship, adding that he had done it initially for practical reasons and because his brother brought it up. “It’s literally a back door” into Europe. Britain allows dual citizenship, and Jews interviewed for this article said they planned to keep their British nationality. They said they had no immediate plans to move to Germany, either. Rather, German citizenship would allow them to keep traveling visa-free inside the European Union and maintain other benefits of belonging to Europe. Many British Jews, especially the younger generations, are comfortable with Germany, which they say has done enough to confront its past. International New York Times

Friday, August 12, 2016

Shrimp/Mushroom Béchamel Lasagna

I'm a big fan of homemade lasagna. Didn't have any room in my suitcase for American store-bought lasagna noodles, so I always make 'em homemade. A regular lasagna I layer with a roasted tomato/onion/garlic/oregano sauce mixed with cooked ground beef (bolognese) and a cheesy filling (ricotta/mozzarella/parmesan/egg/parsley). The photo shows a lasagna with a béchamel sauce, I believe with parmesan, and chopped cooked shrimps, sautéed mushrooms. Which isn't Kosher, but we plea for forgiveness of our indulgence. For New Year's, I prepared a fresh salmon/grilled string bean cheesy lasagna. Which is in fact Kosher. And turned out well, 3 layers of noodles. My Le Creuset form doesn't hold much more than that. Some lasagnas are made with 4 layers of noodles. Good luck !!

On International Day, UN says youth can lead global drive for a more sustainable future

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12 August 2016 – The world's young people – who make up the largest generation of youth in history – can lead a global drive to break the patterns of the past and set the world on course to a more sustainable future, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said youth, with their creativity and idealism are the key to delivering the goals of the new UN sustainability agenda. “Young people are directly affected by the tragic contradictions that prevail today: between abject poverty and ostentatious wealth, gnawing hunger and shameful food waste, rich natural resources and polluting industries,” said Mr. Ban in his message on International Youth Day, celebrated annually on 12 August. He said that youth can deliver solutions on such issues, which lie at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, stressing that in the first year of that 15-year plan for a healthier, safer and more just future, the International community is counting on the active engagement of young people to transform the production and consumption of goods and services so they meet the basic needs and aspirations of the world's poorest people without overburdening already strained ecosystems. “Young people are traditionally at the cutting edge, and today's youth have more information than any previous generation. Their dynamism, creativity and idealism can combine to shape attitudes toward demand and help create more sustainable industries,” continued the UN chief, noting that youth are already influencing how the world produces, distributes and consumes while driving green entrepreneurship by designing sustainable products and services. As conscious consumers, young people are at the forefront of a shift toward more fair, equitable and sustainable buying patterns. Youth are strong and effective advocates of recycling, reusing and limiting waste, and they are leading technological innovations to foster a resource-efficient economy. “When we invest in youth, they can contribute to new markets, decent jobs, fair trade, sustainable housing, sustainable transport and tourism, and more opportunities that benefit the planet and people,” he said, adding that he was proud that the UN is actively engaged in supporting young leaders who can carry out the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production patterns. “I encourage all young people to become involved in advancing the SDGs and demanding action by their Governments. My Youth Envoy is eager to connect you to our campaigns, which are being carried out across the entire United Nations system,” he said urging others to join this global push for progress, empowering young people with the resources, backing and space they need to create lasting change in our world. In her message, Irina Bokova, Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that young people are powerful agents of positive change, essential to taking forward the 2030 Agenda. “It is not enough to hope for a better tomorrow – we must act now. Change is under way, and millions of citizens are already transforming the way we produce, consume, behave and communicate,” she said, noting that young people such as #YouthofUNESCO sustainable consumption advocate Lauren Singer, point the way towards a zero-waste lifestyle, fitting all of her refuse produced over the past four years into one small jar. “This is an inspiration for this year's celebration 'The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Production and Consumption.' There are countless initiatives like this, all giving shape to a new humanism, to new forms of solidarity and citizenship to combat poverty, marginalization and despair,” she emphasized. Optimism and confidence do not mean minimizing the challenges ahead. Most young people live today in least developed countries, and shoulder the heaviest burden of conflicts and poverty, stressed Ms. Bokova, adding: “There can be no sustainable development if they remain on the side-lines, and I call upon all Member States and UNESCO partners to support their initiatives, to give them voice, to let them grow, to shape together the future of dignity that we are building today.”

More airline outages seen as carriers grapple with aging technology By Jeffrey Dastin and Jim Finkle


Ballerina Natalia Osipova and the legacy of Amy Winehouse By Mary Brennan

Photo Credit: Nikolai Gulakov
FOR THOUSANDS of ballet fans worldwide, the name Natalia Osipova is linked, indelibly, in their hearts and minds with one talismanic, classic role: Giselle. Choreographer Arthur Pita had another haunted persona in mind, however, when Osipova tasked him with creating a new work for the triple bill of contemporary pieces she’ll be performing as part of the Edinburgh International Festival’s dance programme. His inspiration? “Amy Winehouse – and then, because of her album Back to Black, the 60’s girl group The Shangri-Las.” Pita cites those charismatic singers as the starting point for Run Mary Run, his one-act duet for Osipova and her partner (off-stage as well as on) Sergei Polunin. If this sounds like left-field thinking with a retro hair style, Pita provides persuasive reasons for putting one of the ballet world’s most luminous stars in a garishly red beehive wig and the other, Polunin, in the archetypal “rebel boy” uniform of white t-shirt, blue jeans, black leather jacket. “Natalia wanted a piece with narrative and character,” he explains. “And that is quite a challenge when you only have two people on-stage – there are no other characters for them to react to. So you have to find a structure that is really all about their relationship. And make it interesting for audiences to watch, as well as for them to dance. I decided that maybe we should go backwards – start with the end of their lives, with death, and then travel back, bit by bit, to the moment when they met as teenagers, and it was absolutely love at first sight.” Mutual attraction doesn’t necessarily produce happy endings. Pita had seen a documentary about Amy Winehouse, and had been struck by aspects of her relationship with (her then husband) Blake Fielder-Civil. “I’d always loved her as a singer, I had all her music, I loved her persona,” he says, “but I’d come to feel there was something disturbing about her intensity towards him and about how she’d come off-stage, see him in the wings and just immediately latch onto his arm, as if glued there. And how he would guide her away, take charge almost. I thought that could translate into a choreography tinged with ownership and obsession. Then, thinking about how the Shangri-Las had inspired Amy’s album Back to Black – and listening to their music, and to the lyrics especially – I realised just how dramatic their songs were. People used to refer to them as ‘splatter platters’ because they were full of death and teenage heart-break. It all seemed very Amy...” Would it turn out to be very Natalia? By the time Osipova and Polunin walked into the rehearsal studio, Pita had a scenario in mind – and a sheaf of translations in his hand so that Osipova could understand exactly what the Shangri-Las were describing in the lyrics of Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand) or Dressed in Black or Past, Present and Future, songs he wanted woven into the soundtrack for his choreography. There’s a smile in his voice as recalls how Osipova “completely bought into the rhythms of the music, the dramas in it – and I think, too, that she really connected with the sad voice of Mary Weiss. It was as if she could already feel the character I was looking for. She knows these stories of love, loss, death, the after-life from the great classic roles she has made her own – Giselle, most especially. So give her a story like that, with all the little packages of emotion in it – she will just open them up and devour them, connect with them, then act them so beautifully and with such honesty.” Off-stage there is no pretence whatsoever: Osipova and Polunin are a real-life couple, their romance and relationship a source of fascination and curiosity for press and ballet fans alike. So who played Cupid? You could say Giselle did. In March 2015, Osipova was preparing to dance the role in Milan when, for various reasons, she found herself without an Albrecht. It was her mother, miles away in Moscow, who suggested that Polunin might be a suitable partner – yes, there was his “bad boy” reputation, but his talent as a dancer was never in question. An e-mail exchange later, the pair were behind closed doors, rehearsing the most romantic ballet in the classical repertoire and falling in love themselves – though not going public about their private partnership until later that year. They are now dancing together in two of the three pieces in the EIF hot ticket, Natalia Osipova and Guests – the other guests include the choreographers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Russell Maliphant. Osipova, determined to explore new dance directions, had requested their works to be off-pointe and contemporary in technique and movement vocabulary. For Cherkaoui, this translated into a trio, Qutb (Arabic for axis or pivot) where Osipova is flanked by two male dancers in what often looks like a ritual exploration of stamina, strength and inter-dependent physicality. Sufi chants rise like incense, Osipova’s curving back-bends are breath-taking while the men – James O’Hara and Jason Kittlberger – bring a supportive muscularity to Cherkaoui’s sculptural shapes. Maliphant – unlike Cherkaoui and Pita – had never worked with Osipova before, but in Silent Echo he surely acknowledges the balletic training that informs her body as he sets up crossover points between classical and contemporary lines. Nor can he ignore Polunin’s fabulous, soaring jump. So even as Scanner’s multi-layered, technology-infused soundscape is insisting on modernity, there is still a sense of traditional pas-de-deux structure in the interactions that emerge within the moods and spaces defined by Michael Hulls’s lighting design. Run Mary Run is the end piece that catapults dance-drama into another dimension and yet, as Pita fully intended, the dark twists and quirky absurdities in his girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy story-line allow Osipova and Polunin to break out – be characters who walk, jive, smooch and rock on an 1960’s wild side, regardless of the risks and consequences. “Natalia has done so many Giselles, Swan Lakes, Don Q’s – all the big classic roles – over and over, and now she wants to push towards something new,” says Pita. “When we were talking about her doing contemporary dance, she said she wants to do it while her body can explore it quite freely.” Osipova at 30 is surely in her artistic prime, both technically and in expressive interpretation. Isn’t it too early for her to come off pointe, get grounded in contemporary? “It’s about adding knowledge and experience,” says Pita who has done something similar by working across genres, creating work for children, choreographing abstract contemporary pieces and classical ballet narratives for companies on both sides of the Atlantic. “Natalia wanted new challenges. Run Mary Run asked her to explore a completely different character from the one in Facada, an earlier piece we did together, where she was a vengeful bride who kills her faithless fiancé and dances on his grave. This narrative is about a love that exists even in the grave, but I don’t want to give too much away!” He clearly enjoys working with Osipova, and now Polunin, but admits there are challenges for him too. “You can never forget that these ballet dancers are already stars – and that audiences have come to see them and the moment when Sergei jumps, when Natalia jumps. And to see them expressing romance and tenderness, because the audience knows they are a real-life couple. I don’t think you can ignore that, but at the same time you have to bring your own ideas, your own voice to the choreography.” Not just his voice, but that of the Shangri-Las and the teenage angst they captured on 60’s vinyl. Natalia Osipova and Guests is at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh from today to Sunday. [August 12-14] Herald Scotland Edinburgh International Festival

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tsipras reminds EU partners of Germany’s post-war debt cut By Sarantis Michalopoulos

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
Photo Credit: Bundesregierung

Sixty-three years after the 1953 London Debt Agreement (8 August), Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stressed that Europe should rise to the occasion and grant Athens a debt relief. In a message posted on Facebook, the Greek premier reminded his EU partners of Germany’s debt cut and how this helped the debt-ridden country recover. The 1953 London Agreement on German External Debts was a debt relief treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and creditor nations. It covered money owed before and after WWII and reduced West German debt by 50 percent and stretched the repayment out over 30 years. This enabled Western Germany to quickly recover after the defeat and reemerge as a world economic power. “On this day, in August 8, 1953, a nearly six-month negotiation between Germany and its creditors was concluded, with the signing of the London Debt Agreement. The debt-ridden and war-torn Germany enjoys the ultimate move of solidarity in modern European history by having 60 percent of its foreign debt cancelled, its internal debts restructured and a trade surplus clause,” Tsipras stressed, underlining that the deal was implemented with Greece’s signature. He continued, saying that Syriza, while it was in the opposition but also now in government, has always raised the issue of the Greek debt. Such move has  won significant ground, achieving specific results in the Eurogroup’s decision on 24 May. The Eurogroup agreement in May contains provisions to ease the Greek debt after the expiry of the latest bailout deal in 2018, after the 2017 German elections. The International Monetary Fund has made it clear that it will not provide any financial support if the Europeans do not clearly announce the debt relief measures they intend to take in order to make the country’s debt sustainable. “Europe must rise to the occasion and turn its gaze to the future by signing a new social contract that will guarantee the prosperity of its people,” he added. In an interview with Financial Times, US Treasury secretary Jack Lew said that Greece’s debt issue should be solved so the country can help stabilise the region. “I would hope [the recent regional upheaval] would change the climate in which discussions of debt relief happen, just because it’s the right thing to do on its own, and at a time when Greece is in a position [of] geopolitical significance that’s a good time to reinforce their fiscal future,” Lew said. “You have to fix the foundation to have a strong Greece,” he added. EurActiv

PEN/Nabokov award relaunched to promote 'global voices' in US By Alison Flood

The $50,000 prize will honour a living international author whose work is ‘of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship’. A new $50,000 (£38,500) literary prize for international authors, intended to recognise the “spirit of Vladimir Nabokov” and described as “a welcome counterbalance to rampant xenophobia and increasingly jingoistic provincialism”, is being launched in the US. The PEN/Nabokov award, supported by the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation, replaces another award with the same name but a different remit. It will go to a writer born or residing outside the US, either writing in or translated into English to honour “an outstanding body of work over a sustained career”. PEN America said on Thursday that the prize’s judges would be looking for a writer in the field of nonfiction, poetry, drama or fiction whose body of work “evoke[s] to some measure Nabokov’s brilliant versatility and commitment to literature as a search for the deepest truth and the highest pleasure”. The PEN/Nabokov prize was previously worth $20,000, and took a less international focus, looking for a “living author whose body of work, either written in or translated into English, is of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship”. Its winners included Philip Roth, Mario Vargas Llosa and Cynthia Ozick, but it has not been awarded since 2008. The new version of the award is the first PEN America prize to specifically focus on international writers, said PEN America president Andrew Solomon. “At a time when there is too little dialogue between nations, it will draw attention to outstanding global voices that may be unknown to most US readers,” said Solomon. “It is a welcome counterbalance to rampant xenophobia and increasingly jingoistic provincialism. In renewing our close collaboration with the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation, PEN America pays tribute to the cross-cultural legacy of one of the most revered multinational PEN members, a master of storytelling: Vladimir Nabokov.” Andrew Wylie, the literary agent who heads the Nabokov foundation, said of the prize’s new focus: “We wanted to differentiate the PEN/Nabokov award from other PEN awards, and in doing so fill a need. The international influence of Nabokov’s writings seemed to justify it.” Five international writers will select the winner of the annual prize, with the award not open to public nominations. The first winner will be announced in February next year, at the PEN America literary awards ceremony in New York. The Guardian Encyclopaedia Britannica PEN America

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

France calls on ex-EU chief Barroso to drop Goldman Sachs job

Photo Credit:

The French government called on former European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday to drop plans to take a senior job at U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs, part of a growing outcry against the move.

The bank said last week it had hired Barroso, a conservative Portuguese ex-premier who headed the European Union’s executive arm from 2004-2014, to be an adviser and non-executive chairman of its international business. French European Affairs Minister Harlem Desir said the “scandalous” move raised questions about the EU’s conflict of interest rules and said they needed to be tightened. “It’s a mistake on the part of Mr. Barroso and the worst disservice that a former Commission president could do to the European project at a moment in history when it needs to be supported and strengthened,” Desir said during a question and answer session in the lower house of France’s parliament. Barroso was hired 20 months after stepping down, shortly after an 18-month “cooling off” period when ex-commissioners must seek clearance for new jobs to avoid conflicts of interest. “The European Commission president should be above the pressures of private interest. The restriction on being hired by a private company should be extended,” Desir said. In reaction to news of Barroso’s move, the European Ombudsman called on Tuesday for the EU to tighten rules on commissioners taking appointments on leaving office. EU Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici criticised the appointment as bad for the Commission’s image at a time when it is under attack as Britain prepares to leave the European Union. “When a public person leaves public life and goes to the private sector, he also has to think about the image it projects,” Moscovici said on France’s Europe 1 radio. “I can assure you I won’t go to Goldman Sachs,” he added. Barroso has said he aims to bring his experience in EU affairs to help the bank prepare for Britain’s departure from the bloc. He was president of the Commission, which polices EU countries’ public finances, when it came to light that Goldman had helped Greece in the past to reduce its debt burden with cross currency derivatives, worsening its debt crisis. (REUTERS) France 24 Photo

Young Lions looking for space for reflection and debate

Ljubljana, [Slovenia] 10 August - The 19th Young Lions international festival of performing arts, to be launched on 19 August, will be somewhat different from the previous editions as it provides more space for reflection, debate and research, the organisers announced on Wednesday. Each year, the Young Lions (Mladi levi) international festival brings together performing groups and solo artists whose work is characterised by original approaches to theatre and dance. The festival is part of the Junge Hunde international network, whose mission is to bring together young artists from across Europe, present their work to international audiences, and review innovative practices in European theatre. STA
19th consecutive edition of the Mladi levi international festival of contemporary arts is bringing to Ljubljana leading-edge stage artists from all over the world. An allegorical performance by the French director Philippe Quesne, Night of the Moles, will open the festival, where gigantic magical creatures lead spectators into the cavity of the world in the search for shelter. The festival this year also proudly presents Penny Arcade, the legend of the New York underground scene, and last year’s festival highlight, the Brazilian artist Christiane Jatahy, contemporary Belgian avant-garde Benjamin Verdonck, joining forces with a young Portuguese artist Maria Lucia Cruz Correia to orchestrate poetic surprises across the city and many more. The festival programme is available at its websiteVisit Ljubljana

Spain & Portugal avoid budget fines

The Council of the European Union has decided not to fine Spain and Portugal for failing to reach budget deficit cutting goals and has set “new fiscal paths” for each country.“The EU finance ministers decided to cancel financial fines for Spain and Portugal. They also confirmed the new budgetary adjustment paths for both countries. Effective action by Spain and Portugal will be a necessary condition to lift the suspension of commitments under the European Structural and Investment Funds,” said EU Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis. Economic & Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said that by giving more time to Spain and Portugal to bring their public deficits below the prescribed three percent, the “Council sets new credible fiscal trajectories, which will contribute to strengthening both their economies and the euro area.” “I trust that Spain and Portugal will respond accordingly to the collective decisions by the Commission and the Council,” said Moscovici. Portugal now has to end its excessive deficit by 2016, and Spain by 2018 at the latest. The measures taken by the two countries will be assessed in the coming months. The Council called on Spain to reduce its deficit to 4.6 percent of GDP in 2016, 3.1 percent in 2017, and to 2.2 percent in 2018. Portugal should reduce the deficit to 2.5 percent in 2016. Last month, the eurozone finance ministers decided to start sanctions procedures against Madrid and Lisbon for breaching EU spending rules. This could have included a fine of up to 0.2 percent of a country's GDP and the suspension of commitments or payments from EU structural funds of up to 0.5 percent. According to EU fiscal rules, budget deficits should be no more than three percent of the country’s GDP. The criterion was introduced ahead of the euro launch in 1999 and so far no country has been penalized for breaking them. RT

Monday, August 8, 2016

We grant Irish passports to British citizens at our peril By Ronan McCrea

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Citizenship rules were not designed to cope with a deluge of applications following Brexit 

The rush of UK citizens seeking Irish nationality in the wake of the Brexit referendum has caused concern to many. Writing in this paper, Christopher Kissane and David Kenny note that many may bristle at the use of Irish citizenship as a badge of convenience for those merely wishing to maintain the status of EU citizens. However, they move to dismiss these concerns as a “misunderstanding of the expansive nature and history of Irish nationhood”. Citizenship is fundamental to the collective self-government involved in democracy. The welfare state is also very dependent on the idea of citizenship. Social welfare systems involve taxpayers undertaking to economically support people they do not know. Such an undertaking is impossible without the sense of shared identity and solidarity that citizenship provides. The value and sustainability of this sense of solidarity risks being undermined if citizenship is granted to large numbers of people with little real connection to the State. The limited degree of connection to Ireland required by our citizenship laws has been in place for some time. However, there are many instances where legal rights are granted on the expectation that they would not be widely taken up. EU free movement rights are a good example of a situation where political and legal problems have been caused by large-scale take up of rights that had previously been used on a smaller scale.

Free movement

Relatively few EU citizens took advantage of the right to live in any EU state until the accession of the post-communist countries in 2004. As the UK’s decision to leave the EU shows, the large-scale use by citizens of these states of free movement rights made those more controversial than before. It has also put pressure on the rights that go with free movement. The European Court of Justice has, for example, since late 2014, strengthened restrictions on the ability of EU citizens to access the welfare state in other EU states. Kissane and Kenny argue that voting rights for the Irish abroad must be strengthened. However, the fact that so many people born abroad are entitled to Irish citizenship is one of the key reasons why the voting rights of the Irish abroad have to remain limited. Following the approach of countries that allow all citizens to vote by post from abroad would risk subjecting those living in Ireland to the political decisions of those overseas. The core of Kissane and Kenny’s argument is that extending citizenship to those with limited connection to Ireland would represent a welcome “openness” and “embrace an expansive and inclusive Irish citizenship”. This does not do justice to the reality that, as with most choices between worthy goals, there is a trade-off.


A highly restrictive, closed approach to citizenship would be ungenerous and would cut Ireland off from valuable connections. At the same time, one that is too expansive could devalue a concept that is at the core of our democracy and the solidarity that sustains the welfare state, as well as leading the State into making promises it may struggle to keep. The Constitution’s provisions on citizenship stress a “special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage”, not with anyone who happens to have an Irish grandparent. There are many ways short of citizenship that the State can nurture this “special affinity”. The UK has a programme allowing those with ancestral connections to Britain to live and work in the UK for up to five years with a chance to apply for permanent residency thereafter. Indeed, marrying an Irish person may involve a much more significant connection to the State than having an Irish grandparent but the law as it stands requires the non-Irish spouse to live in Ireland in order to obtain citizenship. A generous citizenship system is a sign of a healthy, welcoming approach to the world. However, Irish citizenship rules were almost certainly designed on the assumption that there would never be a need for large numbers of descendants of Irish emigrants to obtain Irish nationality. It is important to honour and nourish links with those who have a genuine link and commitment to Ireland. Current rules do not achieve this goal. They allow large numbers of people from wealthy countries, who may have very limited links to Ireland, to use Irish citizenship as a flag of convenience. If the law treats citizenship in this cavalier way it becomes more difficult to expect those citizens resident in Ireland to treat citizenship seriously as a source of solidarity and duty to society.
Ronan McCrea is a senior lecturer in law at University College London The Irish Times Photo