Friday, March 31, 2017

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Riverdance are holding open auditions for the first time in years

Have you ever dreamed of being a part of the legacy that is, Riverdance? Well, now’s your chance. Riverdance are holding open auditions for the first time in four years, 23 years on since they first performed in Dublin. The auditions are for both Riverdance and Heartbeat of Home and will take place from April 12 - 14 at the Red Cow Moran Hotel in Dublin. Dancers hoping to audition, must be over 18 years of age and should apply by filling out a form in advance at the auditions on  After filling out the form, you will be contacted by the team - you cannot just turn up on the day. The auditions are timed to coincide with the World Irish Dance Championships to allow competitors to audition for both Riverdance and Heartbeat of Home. With both shows touring internationally and Riverdance performing in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre for its summer run (from 21 June – 3 Sept), there is strong demand for world class Irish dancers. Irish Examiner

Monday, March 27, 2017

One-million-dollar coin stolen from Berlin museum

Photo Credit: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Mettelsiefen
Deutsche Welle
Through a spectacular heist, a precious and extremely heavy coin has been stolen from Berlin's Bode Museum. A unique coin was stolen from the Bode Museum in Berlin early Monday morning, at around 3:30 a.m., as stated in a tweet by Berlin's police:

The face value of the coin is one million dollars, but its market value is estimated at four million dollars. Called the "Big Maple Leaf," the piece weighs 100 kilograms (220 pounds). Issued by the Royal Canadian Mint in 2007, like all Canadian coins, it features the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. It has a diameter of 53 centimeters (21 inches) and is three centimeters thick. The piece has also entered the Guinness Book of Records for its unsurpassed purity of 999.99/1000 gold. On show at the Bode Museum since 2010, it is part of the Münzkabinett collection, Berlin's most important archive of coinage, which includes more than 540,000 objects altogether. The thieves are believed to have broken into the building located on Berlin's famous Museum Island by setting up a ladder from the adjacent tram tracks. The rail service was interrupted when the ladder was found. Investigators have not revealed how the burglars managed to avoid setting off alarms and leave the museum unnoticed while carrying the heavy piece. eg/kbm (dpa, AFP) DW

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The EU turns 60: anniversary of the Treaty of Rome

Photo Credit: A photo of the Treaty of Rome,
signed in Rome on 25 of March 1957

European Parliament News 
Sixty years ago the leaders of the six founding member states gathered in Rome to put their signatures under the agreements that would create a European common market, but also pave the way for a union of peace and prosperity that has come to encompass most of our continent. Leading MEPs will join the anniversary celebrations in Rome this weekend, while heads of state and government will use the opportunity to deliberate on the next steps for the EU.

The Treaties of Rome were signed on 25 March 1957 by representatives of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In two separate agreements, they agreed to establish a European Economic Community aiming to remove barriers to trade, and to foster cooperation in the use of atomic energy.

Economic integration, based on the removal of customs duties among member states and the promotion of free movement of goods, services, capital and people, proved such a success that more and more countries in Europe expressed their wish to join in the following years. Areas of cooperation broadened over time and this led to the creation of the European Union. The treaty on establishing the European Economic Community went through several updates and is now known as the Treaty on the functioning of the EU.

The EU: past and future

Parliament President Antonio Tajani, leaders of political groups, vice-presidents and quaestors travel to Rome today to hold meetings and take part in the celebrations over the weekend. Tajani will sign a common EU declaration on the anniversary on behalf of Parliament.

In recent weeks MEPs have been actively discussing how the EU should evolve to respond to challenges such as migration, economic imbalances and Brexit. MEPs adopted three reports on the future of Europe during the February plenary. During March's plenary session MEPs also discussed a European Commission strategy paper setting out five scenarios for the EU. EU heads of state willl continue the debate in Rome.

During a ceremony in Brussels earlier this week, Tajani said: “Europe is our freedom, Europe is our future and that is what we should hand on to our children; a future of prosperity, of peace and of freedom.” European Parliament News Photo
REF. : 20170320STO67752

Opinion: EU in crisis as it turns 60 By Alexander Kudascheff

Photo Credit:
It's a birthday party which sees many invitees in no mood to celebrate. In spite of that, the EU is still an incredible success story, and the current crisis provides an opportunity as well, writes Alexander Kudascheff. The EU - the European Union - is in crisis. Is it the biggest time of turmoil since its inception 60 years ago, as of now? Many see it that way, although the 1980s were a decade of crisis as well. At the time, it was referred to as Eurosclerosis, which was overcome by the then-EU Commission president, Jacques Delors. He began to set up the European Single Market. Acting reasonably - or, rather, cunningly - he did so neither via great proclamation, nor by declaring it a historical step, nor by publicly celebrating a rhetorical vision. No, he labeled it a project of 300 steps, which would, in the end, automatically amount to the creation of the Single Market. It is beyond debate that this was - within the then-decidedly smaller European Community (EC) - a policy option invented by Brussels that could actually be implemented. A similar approach would be out of the question today.
Idealistic departure after the war
EEC, EC, EU - those three acronyms signify the development of the European Union, from an economic community to a European community and, eventually, to a union. They signify an idealistic departure of a mere six nations after the devastating Second World War. This fledgling community, then, was slowly enlarged as Great Britain and Ireland were given access, followed by emergent democracies like Spain, Portugal and Greece. After further enlargements in which Eastern European nations gained access, the current union is one of 28. However, it will soon lose Great Britain, whose population has voted for "Brexit." "Brexit" - nothing is a better symbol of the current crisis. A country leaves the Union because this is what its people want. This had been beyond anyone's imagination. Since then - and this shows the seriousness of the crisis - Europeans have been riddled with self-doubt. This is reinforced by rampant right-wing populism which puts EU advocates in a tight spot. In France, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, in various central and eastern European countries right-wingers and extreme right-wingers chime in with calls for the EU to go - Brussels, the bureaucratic monster, has to be scrapped, the Euro has to be rescinded. And these calls are heard - not by majorities, thank God. But there are those who prefer going back to the pseudo-idyllic environment of the nation state. Nonetheless, the EU is - despite its size, which reminds many of an "overstretched empire" - a unique success story. Its has guaranteed peace in Europe. (And in order to appreciate what peace means, you simply have to travel to eastern Ukraine and talk to people there.) The single market and free trade have led to incredible prosperity. Solidarity of the wealthier nations has helped the poorer to catch up, to significantly reduce their lagging behind. People can travel, the younger generation can study everywhere, people can work and take up residence wherever they want. This would have been a total utopia 60 years ago, shortly after the disastrous Second World War - its coming true impossible to imagine for anyone.
Necessary reflection on the future
It's true: the EU of today has too many regulations. It is not sufficiently close to its citizens. It doesn't always succeed in making clear its objects and its significance. Brussels is a spaceship. The euro does not work as its founding fathers (in their idealism) hoped it would. Safeguarding the exterior borders is not perceived to be a common task. There are economic North-South and West-East divides, in part because many countries were granted access prematurely. And often national governments are overwhelmed by the deepening and development of the institutional EU, which leads to a cantankerous "no" and frequent blockades. The Europeans will have to reflect on that. By the same token, they have to realize just how well off they are on the "old continent." Moreover, currently thousands of young people across Europe are getting organized in order to make the "Pulse of Europe" heard, and strengthen it, and - in the process - become a dissenting voice against the right-wingers (and, sometimes, also against anti-globalization leftists). In France, a dedicated European like Emmanuel Macron has the opportunity to become president. Germany has two candidates for chancellorship - Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz - who could not be more different, but they are both dyed-in-the-wool pro-Europeans. In sum, realistic hope remains that the German-French axis can once again develop into the driving force of a Europe that renews itself. The crisis provides an opportunity as well. DW Photo

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Photo Credit: Dunkin' Donuts
It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks since my last 'Notes' posting. Suddenly January's brain fog vanished, replaced by renewed energy for language study, book reading, and blogging. Friends and family are beginning their travels already, early Spring, but I'm staying put for awhile to work on savings and language studies. I read a series of books by Jeffrey J. Fox, motivating but rather simplistic. Good reminders though, especially for our youth starting out in business. Still reading a Bavarian author, and will be venturing into another book. Both foreign language books. I can't say I'm completely fluent, but I definitely can say there is a good amount of comprehension, and there's always going to be new words to learn, if my bilingual dictionaries are 1200 pages each. German radio has been very entertaining. Such a nice mix of music. Occasionally tune-in to internet radio. Making some preliminary plans for my 50th birthday rolling in next year. I plan on a celebration in Germany. Can't say when I'll be back to the States. German politics has suddenly gotten rather quiet, since Aschermittwoch and instead the political focus has been rather Holland's election of the House of Representatives and in April, France's election of President. Still some lengthy discussions about Turkey, which spin round and round; same topics as when I was teaching at University with no resolve, predominantly, "Turkey and the EU". Spring flowers are sprouting in the garden, snowdrops included, and seems as though the weather in Germany will stay Spring with temps in the 50s. Hope everyone is enjoying warmer weather in North America, as I hear Central America seems to have a balmy 80s - everyday. Been fasting for Lent. Have lost a total of 2kg so far. And will fast even more at Passover, eve of April 10 -- no wheat which means no bread, no pasta. And different Jewish groups have their take on Oats, Rice, Beans, Lentils, for example. I think it's important to honor Jewish dietary laws, with moderation. I'm not a fan of extremes. I think people should use their best judgment of their personal situation and level of commitment. "Beauty and the Beast"/2017 is a spectacular movie I recommend. Each character, remarkable. Emma Watson at her best as Belle. Wishing you and yours a lovely holiday, Easter & Passover. Tschüs !!

Trump’s EZ answer to minority and Rust Belt communities By Jerry Gonzalez

Long banned under the U.S. Constitution are federal minority set-aside programs. These laws were once used to target and stimulate minority private sector growth. Changing that law is not likely on the list of to-dos for a new 2017 Republican administration despite its stated interest in embracing support in minority and impoverished political places. However, should the Trump Administration now revisit Empowerment Zones (EZs) to fight economically blighted areas? Could this be the political charge into communities long thought lost to Republicans? What happens if EZs disproportionately help minorities...okay…? Could this become the “doable” Republican agenda item that soundly answers the pre-election demand of “What have you got to lose” to minority and poor communities around the United States, asking them to further support a Republican candidate through an invitation back to an American private sector they were told was beholden to the American one percent and as such, of no use to them? The EZ concept arose out of an effort to encompass a geographic area in which policies are implemented to encourage economic growth and development. This enterprise zone concept was brought to the forefront of the U.S. policy arena in a bipartisan effort by two former New York congressmen, then Congressmen Jack Kemp and Robert Garcia. The early idea generated considerable support among conservatives readily because it was based on free-market principles of private investment, reduced regulation, and no large-scale public spending. However, it was Democratic President Bill Clinton who further advanced this concept by creating Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities for highly distressed urban and rural communities. President Clinton used a combination of grants, tax credits for businesses, bonding authority and other benefits and passed the Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities initiative of August 10, 1993. Then sitting President Clinton also referred to the use of zones as a “reformation of affirmative action.” The final product was indeed a zone of sorts, however it suffered from standard pro-government twists and tape that arguably eliminated any true liberation of the free market in the zones themselves. Since then, EZs have limped forward with extensions of tax credits and have been renewed every so often through piecemeal legislative efforts. One can only wonder what would be the political result of a 2017 private sector Republican President embracing a pro-private sector initiative with…corporate private-sector buy-in and support? Would this be a radical step toward economic healing and growth in often heavily populated minority communities? What affect would President Trump have on companies if he spoke toward better chances at federal contracts and even more favorable taxes for any company doing business in economically blighted communities often a few close miles away from major corporate facilities? Would corporate America step up and step into the zone? Yes and they would publish it particularly if EZs were reworked into a truly pro-free market focus. Economic inclusion, especially under law, is race neutral, and can steer clear of the sticky politics which could derail such efforts. The Center for International Private Enterprise defines Economic Inclusion as follows: Economic inclusion refers to equality of opportunity for all members of society to participate in the economic life of their country as employers, entrepreneurs, consumers, and citizens. EZs can avoid the political problems arising on the right by soundly supporting, advocating, promoting and bragging about neutral EZs that would harness the might of the American private sector to serve the economic least fortunate. Disenfranchised Americans could first-hand recognize the effects of proper deregulation policy, American ingenuity and how they too can participate. EZ’s can be justified and also defined by economic measures including but not limited to factors such as unemployment, income, and percentage of government assistance recipients. See Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U.S. 200 (1995). Federal contracting carrots for businesses willing to enter the zone, set up shop or otherwise work in the zones could radically change the political landscape making the private sector the answer it has always been, not the modern day scapegoat some want it to be. EZs were birthed by a prominent Republican Congressman in a bipartisan effort furthered by a sitting Democratic President, then politically sidelined with attacks on the private sector these past few years.  EZs, if seized and tweaked by this Administration, could potentially redefine the parameters of minority politics for a generation to come.  Perhaps President Bill Clinton was right in saying “No amount of affirmative action can create opportunity where there was none.” Perhaps this time, care needs to be taken to not saddle EZs with an over-reliance on community power brokers who may feel threatened by a rebirthing of private sector independence in their communities? Instead, EZs should be overhauled to give true meaning and freedom to participants to economically heal our communities. This opportunity to lead is ripe and waiting for the Trump Administration.  It is also a glaring political opening into minority and impoverished communities tired of decades of failed promises.  I suppose the question for the Administration now becomes, “what have you got to lose?” The Hill
Gerardo (Jerry) H. Gonzalez is a pro-free market advocate and a board member of Wisconsin based think tank MacIver Institute, which promotes free markets, individual freedom, personal responsibility and limited government. He is managing partner of Gonzalez Law, LLC,  located in Arizona and Wisconsin. Gonzalez Law, LLC

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Apple Cake

Apple Cake via International New York Times Food (modified)

  • 1 cup/125 grams unbleached all-purpose flour, more as needed
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 ounces/57 grams unsalted butter (1/2 stick), softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups diced apples (about 2 Granny Smith apples)
  • ½ cup/57 grams toasted pecans, chopped - Toast 7 min, 180°C/350°F oven, then chop.

  1. Heat oven to 180°C/350°F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  
  2. In a mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the egg and mix until smooth.
  3. With the mixer on low, beat in dry ingredients until smooth (at this point the batter will be quite thick). Fold in the apples and nuts with a spatula by hand.
  4. Spread batter evenly into a greased and floured 9-inch fluted tart or quiche pan with 1-inch sides. (Alternatively you can use a 9-inch cake pan with 1-inch sides.) Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 55 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, March 17, 2017

St Patrick's Day 2017: How to celebrate the Patron Saint of Ireland By Juliet Eysenck

Photo Credit: The Telegraph
Erin go bragh! St Patrick's Day is being celebrated around the world today. But what is the celebration for, and what do we know about the man?

When is St Patrick's Day?

St Patrick's Day is celebrated annually on March 17. The day honours the patron saint of Ireland, but celebrations are held around the world. Since 1961, St Patrick has also been regarded as a patron saint of Nigeria, a country which is home to around 20 million Catholics. While many see St Patrick's Day as an excuse to drink endless pints of Guinness while wearing a green wig, there's a little more to it than that.

So who was St Patrick?

St Patrick was a real man who was born in around 385 AD. He may have been named Maewyn Succat, and changed to Patrick when he later became a bishop. He may be thought of as Irish now, but his exact birthplace is unknown. It was most likely in England, Wales or Scotland. In his teens, he was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland, where he was put to work as a herdsman. After six years, he managed to escape and possibly fled back to his home. He became a Christian priest before returning to Ireland as a missionary in the mid fifth century. He spent the next 30 years establishing schools, churches, and monasteries across the country. Patrick was later appointed as successor to St Palladius, the first bishop of Ireland. He is said to have died on March 17 in the year 461. The flag of St Patrick is a red saltire on a white background. The association with Ireland's patron saint dates back to the 1780s, when the Order of St Patrick adopted it as an emblem. When the 1800 Act of Union (which came into effect from 1 January 1801) joined Great Britain and Ireland, the saltire was added to the British flag to create the Union flag which is still used by the United Kingdom. The Union flag combines the flags of the St George's Cross, St Andrew's Saltire and St Patrick's Saltire.

Doesn't Ireland have another patron saint?

Yes, Ireland is lucky enough to have three patron saints. In addition to St Patrick, St Bridget and St Columba are patron saints of Ireland. St Bridget's feast day is celebrated on February 1, and St Columba is remembered on June 9, but March 17 is all about St Patrick.

When is the St Patrick's Day Parade?

St Patrick's Day parades are held in many cities around the world, drawing thousands of people. Last year was particularly poignant as Ireland marked the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, a key event in the country’s history. This year's London St Patrick's Day Parade will take place on March 19. The The procession will make its way down Piccadilly from 12pm, on a 1.5-mile route, passing some of London’s most iconic landmarks, including The Ritz, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and onto Whitehall. It is followed by a St Patrick's Day Festival in Trafalgar Square where revellers can watch St Patrick’s Day performances by West End stars, Irish acts and community choirs, plus a huge céilí on the stage, hosted by Irish stand-up comedian Jarlath Regan. Festival-goers can then tuck into traditional and modern Irish food from the market, and enjoy special family activities for free. Find out more about the Trafalgar Square St Patrick's Day Festival.

Is St Patrick's Day a public holiday?

March 17 is a national holiday in Ireland, and in Northern Ireland.

Why do people wear green on St Patrick's Day?

Wearing green has now become associated with St Patrick's Day, even though the saint was originally associated with the colour blue. It is thought that the shift happened for several reasons – Ireland's nickname is the 'Emerald Isle', there is green in the Irish flag and the shamrock, Ireland's national symbol, is also green. According to Irish tradition, green is the colour of the Catholics and orange is the colour of the Protestants. On the Irish flag, these colours are separated by white, which is symbolic of peace between the two.

Some other St Patrick's Day celebrations

The White House celebrates St. Patrick's Day each year, dating back to the 1950s and has become an important standing engagement for Ireland, which has strong emotional and ancestral ties to the United States. In Chicago, thousands of people turn out to see the river being turned green, as part of a tradition that dates back to 1962. The colouring process takes five hours and involves a mix of forty pounds of powdered green vegetable dye being tipped overboard a boat. Other countries show their support by turning buildings green for the day, including the London Eye and HMS Belfast in London, Trinity College in Dublin, the Pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt, Sydney Opera House in Australia, Burj Al Arab in Dubai and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. The Telegraph

Happy St. Patrick's Day !!

Photo Credit: Barry Butler Photography
St. Patrick's Day, March 17, is an honored tradition in Chicago, from its green Chicago River to its parade, being that many Irish emigrated from Ireland to live in Chicago with generations of children born thereafter, and two recent Irish Chicago mayors, The Daley Family: Richard J. Daley, 38th Mayor of Chicago, and Richard M. Daley, 43rd Mayor of Chicago, longest serving Chicago Mayor for 22 years. A day of luck and good fortune, we hope, St. Paddy's Day is known as a day of good cheer, either at Chicago Pubs and Restaurants for lunch, with corned beef, cabbage and potatoes, or with families at the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade, which stepped off this year on March 12 at noon from 103rd and proceeded down Western Avenue to 115th Street.
The South Side Irish Parade is a family-friendly event and has a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol along the parade route. It is strictly enforced in accordance with a City of Chicago ordinance which includes fines up to $1000 for open containers in the public way. The annual South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade is a great time to spend with family and friends, both in neighborhood homes and local establishments. We encourage everyone to celebrate responsibly and help keep the annual tradition a safe, family-friendly event. Many of the Western Avenue restaurants and pubs support the parade and we hope you will support them in a responsible manner helping us ensure everyone has a safe, enjoyable parade. Sláinte!

Some top Irish sayings and proverbs:
  • "May the luck of the Irish be with you!" 
  • "It is better to spend money like there's no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there's no money!" 
  • "May you live to be 100 years, with one extra year to repent." 
  • "There are only two kinds of people in the world, the Irish and those who wish they were." 
  • "May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright, happy hours that stay with you all the year long." 
  • "A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures." Barry Butler Photography Photo

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bulgaria is a 'Beautiful Mess' in 2017

Photo Credit: Diliana Florentin/
Virginia Records
Sofia, Bulgaria. After months of intensive work, Bulgaria's national broadcaster BNT has revealed that Kristian Kostov will represent the country in 2017 with Beautiful Mess. Kristian follows in the footsteps of Poli Genova who represented the country with If Love Was A Crime, achieving Bulgaria's best ever placing in the Eurovision Song Contest. Born in Moscow on 15 March 2000, Kristian is the youngest performer in the Eurovision Song Contest this year. The selection of Kristian follows the theme of the contest this year, Celebrate Diversity, since his father is Bulgarian and his mother is from Kazakhstan. In 2014 he was one of the finalists of The Voice Kids in Russia where he reached the final. Eurovision winner Dima Bilan was his mentor in the show. Kristian recalled the experience fondly; "Dima is a great guy and he was the one who inspired me to reach the final and give my best week after week. Without him it would have been impossible for me to do it". The project for Kyiv marks the second year of BNT’s reinvigorated efforts to take the Bulgarian participation at Eurovision to a new level. The composers of the song are Borislav Milanov from Bulgaria, Sebastian Armann from Austria, and Joacim Bo Persson from Sweden, all of whom were part of last year’s successful entry If Love Was A Crime. Eurovision Song Contest

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hamentaschen for Jewish Purim Festival

Martha Stewart Recipe (didn't use an egg wash).
Apricot-Citrus Filling Via Ovenly Hamentaschen
1 cup dried apricots, chopped fine
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Zest of 1/2 orange
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cook ingredients on low heat about 10 minutes
until water is mostly evaporated and apricots soft. Puree. Let cool.
Fill hamentaschen circles with 1 teaspoon filling. Form triangles.
Bake 160°C oven about 20 minutes till golden.

Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto and Stan Getz

The Girl from Ipanema Wikipedia
"The Girl from Ipanema" ("Garota de Ipanema") written in 1962 by Antonio Carlos Jobim with lyrics in Portuguese by Vinicius de Moraes and in English by Norman Gimbel was recorded by Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto and Stan Getz, in March 1963 as part of the album Getz/Gilberto, released March 1964 on the Verve label. An abbreviated single version was released reaching number one on the Pop Standard chart and was named Record of the Year in 1965. The album won the 1965 Grammy Awards for Best Album of the Year, Best Jazz Instrumental Album - Individual or Group and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. The personnel are Stan Getz - tenor saxophone, João Gilberto - guitar, vocals, Astrud Gilberto - vocals, Antonio Carlos Jobim - piano, Sebastião Neto - bass, and Milton Banana - drums. The version presented here is the long one from the album and is, in my opinion, superior to the shortened one which received a great deal of play on the radio during the summer of 1964. The album is available on CD on Verve. This sound recording is administered by UMG. No copyright infringement is intended. The purpose of this upload is for viewer enjoyment and education not for monetary gain.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Merkel backs idea of 'multi-speed Europe' at Versailles meet

Photo Credit: L. Mariano Rajoy, Angela Merkel,
Francois Hollande, Paolo Gentiloni
Reuters/P. Wojazer

The leaders of France, Germany, Spain, and Italy have urged a reform of the EU to allow member states to choose their degree of integration. The EU is searching for a way forward as the UK prepares to trigger its exit. The concept of "multi-speed Europe" would see some EU countries grow more united on economic and defense matters, while allowing other states to catch up later, the leaders of four of EU's biggest economies said at an informal summit on Monday. The meet was hosted by French President Francois Hollande, who welcomed Germany's Angela Merkel, Italy's Paolo Gentiloni, and Spain's Mariano Rajoy in Versailles. "Unity is not uniformity," Hollande said at a joint press conference, urging "new forms of cooperation." One of the priorities, according to the French president, is creation of a European defense force to cooperate with NATO. Also, some EU states could move faster and further in deepening the eurozone and harmonizing their fiscal and social policy. His comments were echoed by Angela Merkel, the leader of Europe's largest economy. "A multi-speed Europe is necessary: otherwise we are blocked," she said. "We must have the courage to accept that some countries can move forward a little more quickly than others." The four leaders presented no detailed proposal after the Monday summit. However, the EU is expected to weigh its option for the future in the run-up to the Rome conference on March 25. The meet, marking 60 years since the EU was founded, would see the 27 remaining countries discuss reform proposals. The UK expected to launch exit negotiations by the end of the month.
Juncker lists options
The idea of varying degrees of unity between EU nations has been endorsed by Spain and Italy, as well as several other rich EU nations. Newer members, particularly Poland and Hungary, signaled their reservations. Last week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker set out five possible directions for the EU, ranging from reducing the EU to a single market, maintaining the status quo, reducing Brussels' influence, go down a more federalist path, or creating the multi-speed EU endorsed by the major players of the bloc. At the time, Juncker said that the Brexit would be painful, but would "not stop the EU as it moves to the future." dj/bw (AP, dpa, AFP) DW

Friday, March 3, 2017

Tokio Hotel gets political in a talk about their new album By Mikko Stübner-Lankuttis (ad)

Photo Credit:
Tokio Hotel, centering around Germany's most famous twins, Bill and Tom Kaulitz, has made a comeback with their fifth album released on March 3. The band talks to DW about "Dream Machine" - and the US election.
DW: Your fifth album is called  "Dream Machine." What does Tokio Hotel dream about in 2017? 
Bill Kaulitz: At the moment, we feel that we're making up our own dream machine by only doing what we're really keen on. We truly enjoyed this production and finished our dream album. And with our tour, we're also creating our own dream world.
This time, you've done almost everything yourselves. Tom is the executive producer. Is he also a sound dictator?
Gustav Schäfer: Well, that's a good way of putting it! Yes, we could call him a sound dictator.
Georg Listing: No, not a sound dictator, but rather a sound guru.
Bill: Nope, that's what he really is, to some degree. Tom is in the studio the entire day; he doesn't really do anything else from morning to evening. And this way, we all have our roles and our tasks. But most of the time, we actually agree with each another.
What was your biggest conflict when it came to finding the right sound?
Bill: The whole thing is a kind of journey. We've given up the idea that a guitar must always and everywhere be readily available just because we're a band. When we play live, for instance, Tom and Georg have this entire UFO-like thing going - complete with instruments, keyboards and pads - that lets them do virtually everything. Nowadays, everyone does everything anyway. We're no longer an old-fashioned rock band equipped with a guitar and an amplifier. Our sound has grown over the years.
Your new album sounds very melancholic. But looking at your video blogs and Instagram pictures, you all seem to be doing pretty well these last few months. Where does the sadness come from?
Bill: (laughing) Well, despite that, I've always had a sense of sadness or melancholy about me. I've always been that way. I also think that I'm a better artist and singer when I'm not doing well.
Tom: It's due to the way we write songs. It's not at all that we don't love life. It's just that, in happy moments, we don't write any songs. When you're really happy, you don't need to process it -  you're just really happy...
A whole generation of your fans jumped into German language courses; they all wanted to learn German. But even on your last album, you pretty much said goodbye to writing lyrics in German. And "Dream Machine" only contains one single German word, and that is "tanzen" (to dance). Why is that?
Bill: Somehow, German just vanished at some point. We already started at an early stage to translate our albums, and at some point, we started to write only in English. It was too strenuous to translate everything into German, and besides, translations don't always work.
Tom: Basically, our general rule now is not to translate anything anymore. We simply say: When we write a song in German, then we'll produce it in German. And when we write a song in English, then we'll produce it in English.
Bill: We were so deeply inspired by Berlin that a single German word comes up in the song "Boy Don't Cry." I just left it like that, because it sounded awesome.
Tom and Bill have lived in Los Angeles for more than six years, whereas Gustav and Georg have moved back to Magdeburg. Didn't that distance pose a problem for the production of the album?
Georg: No. At the beginning of 2016, we spent two months here in a Berlin studio laying the groundwork for the album. Then the guys went back to LA, where they continued to work on it. In the summer, Gustav and I traveled to LA. And then, finally, we finished production in Berlin. We're always in contact with each other exchanging ideas.
Tom and Bill, how does it feel being foreigners in the US right now?
Bill: For us, that's of course difficult, and it's an important issue. But I think that here in Germany, with the AfD [Eds.: far-right Alternative for Germany political party] and so on, things are quite similar. It's more of a global problem. The difference is that in the US, it's already reality. But you should also consider that LA is special, because nobody there voted for Trump. That's why they were all shocked over there.
Tom: We'll return to the US and fight for the independence of California.
Bill: Exactly. But of course, we first have to see whether we'll get a visa. If we don't get one, then we'll be back in Germany (laughing). Well, I don't know how easy all of that will be for us in the future.
Other musicians are clearly expressing their protest. German-Russian electro musician Zedd, who also lives in Los Angeles, has announced a fundraising concert for April 3, similar to what high-profile US artists like Macklemore and Imagine Dragons did in support of the non-profit organization American Civil Liberties Union. Would that interest you as well?
Bill: I believe that it's important to not just shy away from confrontation. For me, there isn't anything there that would force me to leave the country right away. I simply believe that now is the time for expressing one's views. I think such festivals are great. Right after the election, we took to the streets of LA and demonstrated.
Protest songs are once again becoming fashionable in the era of Donald Trump. Would those kinds of songs be fathomable for Tokio Hotel?
Georg: A big political song? I'm not quite sure. But, we still have our opinions on political matters.
Tom: Well, expressing something with our music in such a concrete way - that really isn't our style. But of course we have the feeling that we take a stand for something with our lyrics and our videos as well. Bill felt personally attacked when Trump was elected. He ran around offending people for two weeks.
Bill: Yeah, as an artist, it's a real blow, and it hurts. But I believe that everyone feels that way. When you write songs about things you believe in and that you want to get across, and then, along come some politicians who do precisely the opposite and end up being elected, you're likely to take that personally. I think politics are a personal thing, and everybody has a right to their own opinion. DW Photo

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

German political campaigns ramp up during beer-fueled Ash Wednesday rallies

Photo Credit: L. CSU Horst Seehofer, R. Chancellor Angela Merkel
Reuters/M. Dalder
With Germany's national elections only a few months away, Germany's traditional end-of-Carnival "Political Ash Wednesday" events set the tone for each party's upcoming campaigns. The typical rhetorical restraint used by German politicians is thrown out of the window during the annual, beer-fueled rallies held by Germany's political parties. Instead, prominent German politicians rail against their opponents in cutting speeches rife with colorful insults. Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-left challenger, Martin Schulz, fired up the crowd at the Social Democratic Party's (SPD) rally in the Bavarian town of Vilshofen. A crowd of around 5,000 SPD politicians and supporters waved signs bearing Schulz's name and greeted his speech with chants of: "Martin, Martin, Martin!" Schulz emphasized that the SPD was entering the 2017 election campaign "to become the strongest political force in Germany" and that he intended to unseat Merkel as the next chancellor. The SPD candidate also had some strong words for Merkel's conservative union between her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). He called the union a "forced marriage," saying: "they don't talk to each other, they talk over each other - they've lost their marbles." He also targeted US President Donald Trump, saying that whoever attacks the media, "calls women's rights into question" or "slanders those with impairments, disabilities or minorities" must be criticized.
CSU: 'Bavaria First'
Meanwhile, a few kilometers away in Passau, CSU head Horst Seehofer echoed Trump's policy in his own push to make "Bavaria First" in Germany. "Bavaria has the highest mountain in Germany and the lowest debt. Bavaria is special, Bavaria is a paradise," Seehofer told the beer-drinking crowd of 4,000 people. Although Seehofer renewed his call for a yearly cap on refugees - a position that Merkel strongly opposes - he voiced his support for the German chancellor during his Ash Wednesday speech. "As someone who has always loved to debate and argue and will always do so, I say to you: I know of no one other than Angela Merkel who can lead Germany on these global matters," Seehofer told the crowd. Seehofer also targeted Schulz in his speech, warning the SPD candidate to use accurate statistical figures while campaigning, lest he come to be known as "Schulz the cheater" in Bavaria. Merkel is due to speak later during the CDU's Ash Wednesday rally in her home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Germany's national elections are set to take place on September 24. rs/jm (AP, AFP, dpa) DW Photo