Thursday, August 31, 2006

On How The Rosy Periwinkle Of Madagascar Provided The Alkaloids That Cure Most Cases Of Hodgkin's Disease And Acute Childhood Leukemia

..."With all the troubles that humanity faces, why should we care about the condition of living nature? Homo sapiens is a species confined to an extremely small niche. True, our minds soar out to the edges of the universe and contract inward to subatomic particles--the two extremes encompassing 30 powers of ten in space. In this respect, our intellects are godlike. But, let's face it, our bodies stay trapped inside a proportionately microscopic envelope of physical constraints. Earth provides a self-regulating bubble that sustains us indefinitely without any thought or contrivance of our own. This protective shield is the biosphere, the totality of life, creator of all air, cleanser of all water, manager of all soil--but is itself a fragile membrane that barely clings to the face of the planet. We depend upon its razor-thin health for every moment of our lives. We belong in the biosphere, we were born here as species, we are closely suited to its exacting conditions--and not all conditions, either, but just those in a few of the climatic regimes that exist upon some of the land. Environmental damage can be defined as any change that alters our surroundings in a direction contrary to humanity's inborn physical and emotional needs. We must be careful with the environment upon which our lives ultimately depend.

In destroying the biosphere, we are destroying unimaginably vast sources of scientific information and biological wealth. Opportunity costs, which will be better understood by our descendants than by ourselves, will be staggering. Gone forever will be undiscovered medicines, crops, timber, fibers, soil-restoring vegetation, petroleum substitutes, and other products and amenities. Critics of environmentalism forget, if they ever knew, how the rosy periwinkle of Madagascar provided the alkaloids that cure most cases of Hodgkin's disease and acute childhood leukemia; how a substance from an obscure Norwegian fungus made possible the organ transplant industry; how a chemical from the saliva of leeches yielded a solvent that prevents blood clots during and after surgery; and so on through the pharmacopoeia that has stretched from the herbal medicines of Stone Age shamans to the magic-bullet cures of present-day biomedical science.

These are just a few examples of what could be lost if Homo sapiens pursue our current course of environmental destruction. Earth is a laboratory wherein nature--God, if you prefer, pastor--has laid before us the results of countless experiments. We damage her at our own peril." ...

Edward O. Wilson "A scientist's plea for Christian environmentalism: Apocalypse Now" The New Republic. Post date 08.28.06 Issue date 09.04.06

On Music, Mathematics, And The Sublime

From On An Overgrown Path's essay and London Proms summer listening suggestions -- an essay entitled "The BBC Proms, Music, and Mathematics":

Thursday 31 August

Bruckner Symphony No 9 conductor Jiří Bělohlávek


Thursday 31 August 10.00pm

Kurtag Songs of Despair and Sorrow

Schumann Four Songs for double chorus

Feldman Rothko Chapel

BBC Singers, Nash Ensemble conducted by Martyn Brabbins and Stephen Cleobury.


Friday September 1

Hanspeter Kyburz Noesis, Berlin Philharmonic conductor Simon Rattle


All the concerts are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and as web casts. All Proms should be available for seven days after broadcast on the BBC listen again service, but check BBC listings for confirmation. Concert start times are 07.30pm British Summer Time unless otherwise stated.

Caspar David Friedrich: Einsamer Baum, Öl auf Leinwand, 1822, 55x71 cm, Galerie der Romantik, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Image credit: Copyright 1999 Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany. With thanks.

They're Back!! And The Scream and Madonna Are In Better Shape Than Ever!!

Munch paintings recovered

"Both of the paintings by famed Norwegian artist Edvard Munch that were stolen two years ago have been found and are now in the possession of the police in Oslo.

Both The Scream [1893] and Madonna [1895] were found Thursday afternoon in what police described as a "successful action" by the Oslo Police District.

Police wouldn't say where the famed artworks were found, but said they think the paintings have been in Norway all along.

The paintings are, according to police, in much better shape than they had feared. ...

"The Scream" has been valued at NOK 500 million (USD 81 million) and "Madonna" at NOK 100 million, but [all three] artworks were also considered priceless in many ways and difficult if not impossible to sell.

The paintings Madonna and The Scream were torn off their walls at the Munch Museum on a quiet Sunday morning in August 2004. The armed robbery shocked the art world and the country, and meant the loss of two national treasures.

City and museum officials were jubilant that the [artworks] are back in safe hands." ...

Aftenposten: News from Norway "They're back! Munch paintings recovered" August 31, 2006

Photo credits: SCANPIX, with thanks; All rights reserved.

Gaza [Part Of Future State of Palestine] Hospitals Face Severe Crisis Due To Western And Israeli Economic Boycott

"Gaza [Future State of Palestine] hospitals are facing a crisis because of a western and Israeli economic boycott, and an Israeli military offensive. The United Nations has warned of an increasingly desperate humanitarian situation.

“The siege and closure imposed by Israel have hindered medical aid from Jordan, Qatar, the Red Cross and the EU from reaching us,” said Dr Ma'awiya Hasanein, general manager of the emergency section in the Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza is a Palestinian-administered strip of land bordering Israel and Egypt. It was fully occupied by Israel from 1967 until mid-2005, when it was handed over to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

The Israeli military re-entered Gaza and began an offensive there soon after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier at the Karem Shalom crossing, which is Israeli territory, on 25 June.

Efforts by Egyptian mediators to negotiate the soldier’s release have not succeeded. More than 200 Palestinians, many civilians, have been killed in air raids and ground assaults since then.

In contrast to Lebanon, where humanitarian aid needs are generally being met, Gaza has been virtually cut off. With a crippled infrastructure and low and unreliable power and water supplies, its 1.4 million citizens face a daily struggle to survive.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that an increasing number of Palestinians are facing impoverishment.

“WFP food assistance is acting as a band aid in an attempt to prevent a further decline of livelihoods and nutrition among the poorest,” said Arnold Vercken, WFP country director in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT)." ... UN humanitarian news and information service "OPT: Gaza siege causing major health crisis" August 29, 2006

Gaza's hospitals, in the Future State of Palestine, require modernization and international aid.

Photo credit: HUMANSERVE International, Society for Relief and Development, Alberta, Canada. With thanks.

'Green'-Aspiring California, World's Eighth Largest Economy, Embraces Sustainable Future; Shuns Washington Environmental Leadership

California catapulted to the forefront of U.S. efforts to fight global warming on Wednesday with an accord that will give the state the toughest laws in the nation on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and possibly spur a reluctant Washington to take similar action.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has accused fellow Republican President George W. Bush of failing to demonstrate leadership on climate change, said he reached a “historic agreement” with Democrats to make California a world leader in reducing carbon emissions.

“The success of our system will be an example for other states and nations to follow as the fight against climate change continues,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement after weeks of tense negotiations.

The bill now seems certain to win approval this week in a vote in the state Senate and Assembly, where Democrats hold majorities. Thursday is the last day of the legislative session ahead of November elections.

Despite opposition from within his own party, Schwarzenegger was expected to support the bill since he has made much of his environmental record in his reelection bid.

Green policies are popular among voters in environment-savvy California, the world’s eighth-largest economy and 12th largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. California’s Global Warming Solutions Act aims to cut emissions to 1990 levels, or around 25 percent, by 2020 with an enforceable cap and mandatory reporting for top polluters like energy companies." ...

Reuters "California agrees on global warming bill" via Financial Times August 31, 2006


West Coast Green Conference and Expo San Francisco, September 28-30, 2006

The Audubon Center at Debs Park, Los Angeles, California, North America

An urban environmental education center that brings nature to East Los Angeles children, the Audubon Center at Debs Park is the first U.S. project to achieve a Green Building Council LEED 2.0™ Platinum rating. Its level of sustainability shines in nearly every aspect of design, including restoration of the native landscape, passive energy-conservation strategies, materials selection, 100 percent off-the-grid solar power, onsite stormwater detention, and onsite wastewater treatment and dispersal systems. The jury declared this “the greenest project in California” and commended its well-scaled, understated building forms.

The Audubon Center is easily accessible from the Southwest Museum Gold Line Metro stop.

Photo credit: © Cesar Rubio Photography via With thanks.

Modernism's Revenge: Creating Sustainable Architecture And Urban Civilization Under Conditions Of Managed-Capitalist 'Creative Destruction'

"The giant disused brick and concrete building, some 220 metres long and almost 24 metres high, on the eastern edge of Frankfurt could make an outlandish set for an action film. Instead, the former Grossmarkthalle, or fruit and vegetable wholesale market [a 1926-28 modernist architectural masterpiece by Martin von Elsässer], is the site of a new headquarters building for the European Central Bank.

Agreement is expected with the city’s planning department in the next few weeks on a design intended to achieve two goals. The first is to rehouse a young monetary authority that has outgrown its current headquarters and, in so doing, create a landmark for the European Union – which, unlike its member countries [and the EU's eastern, non-EU European neighbours], is not rich in architectural highlights." ...

Ralph Atkins and Mark Schieritz "An extravagant home for cautious souls" Financial Times August 31, 2006


European Central Bank press release on the architectural competition for the redesign of its New Headquarters Building.


design:e2 (the economies of being environmentally conscious) is an original six-part television series that explores the vitality of the environment through eco-friendly architecture. Narrated by Brad Pitt and masterfully shot in high-definition, the series introduces us to the inventive leaders and technologies driving sustainable practices worldwide in the design of buildings where we live, work, and play.

The first episode, "The Green Apple," demonstrates how the ubiquitous skyscraper can surprisingly be a model of environmental responsibility. In the second episode, architect and activist Sergio Palleroni continues his mission to provide design solutions to humanitarian crisis regions. The third episode, “The Green Machine” follows Mayor Richard M. Daley as he strives to make Chicago “the greenest city in America.”...

Three lives of Frankfurt, Germany, Europe's Grossmarkthalle.

Photo credits:;; and With thanks.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In Memorium, Naguib Mahfouz, 'The Egyptian Balzac'

... "Mr. Mahfouz’s city was teeming Cairo, and his characters were its most ordinary people: civil servants and bureaucrats, grocers, shopkeepers, poor retirees, petty thieves and prostitutes, peasants and women brutalized by tradition, a people caught in the upheavals of a nation struggling through the 20th century.

Around their tangled lives, Mr. Mahfouz chronicled the development of modern Egypt, and over five decades wrote 33 novels, 13 anthologies of short stories, several plays and 30 screenplays. It was a body of work hailed by the Swedish Academy of Letters as “an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind.”

Mr. Mahfouz, a slender, modest, shy man who once described himself as “a fourth- or fifth-class writer,” was often called the Egyptian Balzac for his vivid frescoes of Cairenes and their social, political and religious dilemmas. Critics compared his richly detailed Cairo with the London of Charles Dickens, the Paris of Émile Zola and the St. Petersburg of Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

He was the first Arab writer to receive the Nobel Prize, and while many of his works had been translated into French, Swedish and German, he was largely unknown in the United States and Europe in 1988. Only about a dozen Mahfouz books had been rendered into English, and many were out of print.

Since then, his best-known novels have been published in the United States and other English-speaking countries by Doubleday and sister companies. They include “The Cairo Trilogy,” widely regarded as his masterwork.

While Arabic has a rich tradition in poetry, the novel was not a strong art form in that language until Mr. Mahfouz made it accessible. For English-language translators and readers, Arabic presents special difficulties: the dialogue sounds overwrought, the descriptions stilted. As Brad Kessler wrote in a 1990 article for The New York Times Magazine: “Mahfouz writes in the florid classical Arabic, which is roughly the equivalent of Shakespearean English.”

Peter Theroux, the American translator of several major Arab novelists, wrote about completing a new version of “Children of the Alley” in 1996: “Readers of Mahfouz in any language are in thrall to his magic. The warmth of Mahfouz’s characters, the velocity of his storytelling, his gift for fluent dialogue and telling details are unique in modern Arabic literature.” ...

Robert D. McFadden "Naguib Mahfouz, First Writer in Arabic to Win Nobel Prize, Dies at 94" New York Times, August 30, 2006

Photo credit: (c) Norbert Schiller for the New York Times. With thanks.


"Curiously, Balzac continued to worry about money and status even after he was rich and respected, and believed he could branch out into politics or into the theatre without letting up on his novels. His letters and memoranda reveal that ambition was not only ingrained in his character, but acted on him like a drug — every success leading him on to enlarge his plans still further — and ahead of time, around 1847, his strength began to fail. A polarity can be found in his cast of characters between the profligates who expend their life-force and the misers who live long but become dried-up and withdrawn. His contemporary Victor Hugo exiled himself to Guernsey in disgust at French politics, but lived on to write poems about being a grandfather decades after Balzac's death. Balzac himself could not, by temperament, draw back or curtail his vision.

In 1849, as his health was failing, Balzac travelled to Poland [today, Ukraine] to visit Eveline Hanska, a wealthy Polish lady, with whom he had corresponded for more than 15 years. They married in Berdyczów [today, Ukrainian town south of Zhytomyr, Ukraine] in 1850 , and three months later, Balzac died.

He lies buried in the cemetery of Père Lachaise, overlooking Paris, and is commemorated by a monumental statue commissioned from Auguste Rodin, standing near the intersection of Boulevard Raspail and Boulevard Montparnasse. "Henceforth" said Victor Hugo at his funeral "men's eyes will be turned towards the faces not of those who are the rulers but of those who are the thinkers."

Source: Balzac. Wikipedia. With thanks.

European Union Announces 2006 Prize Competition For Preservation Of Architectural Heritage, Landscapes, Works Of Art, And Archeological Sites

CALL FOR ENTRIES 2006 : European Union (Europa Nostra) Prize for Outstanding Cultural Heritage Achievements

Sep 1, 2006 - Sep 15, 2006

Closing date for applications:

Category 2: 1 September 2006
Categories 1 & 3: 15 September 2006

Outstanding heritage achievements will be awarded six monetary "Prizes" of € 10,000 each, in addition to "Medals" and "Diplomas in the following categories:

1. Conservation of:

A) Architectural heritage
B) Landscapes
C) Works of art
D) Archaeological sites

2. Study in the field of cultural heritage conservation

3. Dedicated Service to heritage conservation by individuals or groups

Former information is available at this link from the Council of Europe's and European Union's Cultural Heritage liaison office, Europa Nostra.


Lviv History Museum, the National Art Museum Of Ukraine [Kyiv, Kiev], and the Lviv Art Gallery: three of Ukraine's -- and Greater Europe's -- most outstanding and rewarding Museums.

Stare Selo Castle near Lviv, Ukraine.

Stare Selo is one of about a dozen former Mountain Fortresses, Castles, and Palaces in Western Ukraine awaiting your visit (and further restoration). These historical sites range from 10th Century CE Carpathian Mountain Wooden Castle-Fortresses to grand former Lithuanian and Polish Palaces used as political prisons and sanataria under the Nazis and the Soviets.

Photo credit: (c) Vladyslav "Slav" Tsarynnyk and Lviv Ecotour. With thanks.


Lviv, Ukraine, the 'unofficial' 2006 Cultural Capital of [an Undivided] Europe celebrates its 750th Anniversary in September 2006!

One half hour northwest of Lviv is the planned Renaissance town of Zhovka.

Monday, August 21, 2006

World Civilization Rallies To Begin Long Repair Of Fragile Middle East Civilization

"Relief teams in Lebanon hope many of the heavily damaged buildings can be salvaged and are requesting the United Nations send more supplies for temporary repairs and to restore electricity and water services, officials said Monday.

In Aita al-Shaab, a village just north of the Israeli border, for example, only 100 of the 1,300 houses remain, said Jack Redden, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

''The rest were either totally destroyed or damaged to the extent that no one could live in them,'' Redden said.

UNHCR is providing plastic and metal sheeting and other items ''so that people can get their houses back to at least the stage where they can live in them while they continue to repair them,'' Redden said.

A convoy of trucks loaded with tents was traveling Monday from Damascus to Beirut, he added.

A U.N. team found in the southern villages of Markaba and Houla that people didn't have water and power and the roads, fuel stations, health facilities were heavily damaged, said Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

''In Markaba, the damage was very extensive with 50 percent of buildings destroyed,'' said Byrs, noting that ''while most of the damage appears reparable, the most urgent need is the provision of water, food and shelter support.''

A U.N. convoy of seven trucks brought relief supplies from Tyre to Aita al Shaab on Sunday, and another convoy went from Beirut to Houla, said Byrs.

An assessment mission to Nabatiyeh reported that about half of the houses were destroyed and that many bombs and other unexploded ordnance were scattered on the ground, said Byrs.

U.N. aid workers said the Baalbek-Hermel area, a Hezbollah stronghold heavily hit by Israeli airstrikes, suffered the most severe damage in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, said Byrs.

The destruction of factories has left workers unemployed, she said, adding that there were reports of drug shortages, particularly to treat chronic diseases.

In the meantime, aid groups held their first general coordination meeting Sunday in Tyre, she said, adding that Monday's meeting focused on shelter, water and sanitation.

Byrs said more aid is coming in by sea and land. On Sunday, there were two Lebanese tankers unloading fuel in the ports of Beirut and Tripoli, while an Italian and a Turkish ship brought relief goods to Beirut. On Monday, the vessel Anamcara left Beirut for Limasol, Cyprus, she said.

Redden said two planes were landing in Beirut on Monday with supplies including seven huge warehouse tents that will be set up around Tyre to store relief goods before they are distributed.

UNHCR spokesman Redden said more than 140,000 of the 180,000 Lebanese who had sought refuge in Syria during the fighting had returned through official border crossings by Sunday.

With many others having gone back through other border crossing points, only 2,500 to 5,000 Lebanese are estimated to remain in Syria, Redden said.

''These are presumably all people who are quite vulnerable and can't go back immediately. So, we've got teams going to check on their condition and see what the problem is that is preventing them from returning,'' he said.

The World Food Program reports that it has delivered some 2,000 tons of food to more than 400,000 people since July 24, Byrs said.

The World Health Organization said it has mobilized more than 54 volunteers to assess public health facilities in southern Lebanon and the southern part of Beirut, she said."

"Workers Hope to Fix Lebanon Buildings" Associated Press via New York Times August 21, 2006

American and British-backed Israeli bombing campaigns in southern Beirut have made it much harder to get around.

Photo credit: Wael Hamzeh and European Pressphoto Agency via New York Times. With thanks.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

In Lieu Of Blood-Sport: Where Jews, Muslims, And Christians Once Lived In Peaceful Harmony, Young Classical Musicians Now Court Peace

"IT was an immensely appealing experiment, both in its idealism and in its simplicity: Let young Israeli and Arab musicians play together in an orchestra to show that communication and cooperation were possible between peoples who had long fought each other.

The two men behind the idea had themselves made something of the same journey. The Argentine-born Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said met in 1993 and, though they were not always in agreement, they forged a deep friendship.

It undoubtedly helped that both lived outside the Middle East. Mr. Barenboim’s bases then were Chicago and Berlin, while Mr. Said taught at Columbia University in New York. And it certainly helped that Mr. Barenboim had been outspoken in his criticism of Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank since 1967. But most crucial, both believed in the futility of violence, and in the power of music to move the human spirit.

So in August 1999, six months after Mr. Barenboim had given his first piano recital in the West Bank, he and Mr. Said invited 78 Israeli and Arab musicians from 18 to 25 years old to Weimar, Germany. There, for three weeks, Mr. Barenboim, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and other teachers gave master classes and individual lessons. And in the evenings Mr. Said led debates about politics as well as music.

By the end of the workshop Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese and Egyptians had learned to play together and live together, and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was born. (It took its name from a collection of poems by Goethe, inspired by the 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz.) Since then, the orchestra has studied and toured under Mr. Barenboim’s guidance and baton every summer." ...

Alan Riding "Music: Harmony Across a Divide" New York Times August 20, 2006

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra opened its 2006 tour earlier this month with the first classical concert ever to be performed at the bullring in Seville, Spain.

Photo and caption credit: Tom Fecht via The New York Times, August 20, 2006. With thanks.

Which College or University Is Best For An Aspiring Renaissance Artist, Scientist, or Humanist?

"You think the average college applicant has to jete through hoops? Consider the student who wants to pursue the arts. In addition to worrying about grades, standardized tests, and essays, an applicant for a selective program must often act, sing, or dance before judgmental faculty members. Or submit a portfolio of drawings or fiction.

That's a lot of stress for a college career that could lead to a life of waiting tables.

Nonetheless, the number of students who want to study the arts seems to be increasing. Philadelphia's University of the Arts, for example, received 2,771 applications this year, up from 2,081 in 2001. Potential applicants need to ask themselves a few questions. Do you want to prepare for a career right after college? Then you might consider arts conservatories or professional art schools, which usually offer a B.F.A. degree. If you aren't sure about your commitment or have other academic interests, a B.A. or B.S. program at a liberal arts or public university may be a wiser option.

Arts students also need to ask the right questions to size up a college program.

For all disciplines. Is an audition or artistic or creative writing portfolio required? (If so, the program is clearly competitive. Are you up for the challenge?)

Are courses you want to take offered on a regular basis and at several levels (beginning, intermediate, advanced)?

Is there a minor in your discipline? (In case you decide not to major in the field.)

Can you double major?

Can you take classes in a department or perform/exhibit/publish without declaring a major?

How many performance/exhibition/publishing opportunities are offered a year? (Obviously, the more the better.)

Can you perform/exhibit/publish as a freshman or must you wait till you are an upperclassman?

If you're interested in the practical side of the arts, are there courses or a minor in arts administration?" ...

Is there a musical theater program?

Do you yourself have industry contacts--casting directors, theaters, film production companies--to help with internships or post-college gigs?

For artists. Does the program require a freshman "foundation year" of required art courses? (In other words, you have to take Drawing 101 before, say, computer animation.)

Do faculty exhibit (and win awards) in local or national shows?

For dancers. Which technique is emphasized: ballet, modern, jazz, or a combination?

How many class and rehearsal dancing hours will you log each week? (Ten is a decent number to maintain and improve technique.)

Do guest artists regularly teach and choreograph? Do they create original choreography for undergrads?

For musicians. Can you take a private lesson with a faculty member before making your admissions decision?

How many faculty members specialize in your instrument? (At least two gives you different teaching perspectives.)

Does faculty perform professionally?

Is there a music ed certification program for a potential teaching career?

For writers. Is there a creative writing-only major or a degree in the English department emphasizing creative writing? (The former usually offers more opportunities for writing.)

How many lit courses must you take besides creative writing courses? (Just fyi.)

Do writers-in-residence teach undergrads? If so, how often?

Do you have to submit a portfolio to take classes in creative writing? (It can be a headache but also means a more selective program.)...

Elaina Loveland "How to Be Artsy Smartsy [if not a Renaissance Artist]" U.S. News and World Report America's Best Colleges 2007 August 19, 2006


200 college programs are profiled in Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians, and Writers by Elaina Loveland.

Creative Colleges Web-site.

"Truly creative people don't always need a college to do their work for them".

Russian and Ukrainian art and humanities students studying Slavonic architecture, art, and culture in the outlying areas of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union.

Photo credit: Justyna Mielnikiewicz via The New York Times, August 20, 2006. With thanks.

Beyond Suicide Dolphins: It Takes 75 Litres Of 'Embedded Water' To Create One Computer Chip

"We live in a world in which 2.6bn people consume water from unsafe and polluted sources, according to United Nations figures. Against this, it takes up to 100,000 litres to produce 1kg of beef, 75 litres to make one computer chip and 780 litres to create one litre of fruit juice, says Waterwise, a UK non-governmental organisation – an idea known as “embedded water”.

These realities are now colliding, with serious consequences for business. “Everyone understands that water is essential to life. But many are just beginning to grasp how essential it is to everything in life – food, energy, transportation, nature, leisure, identity, culture and virtually all products used on a daily basis,” says Lloyd Timberlake of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a business think-tank, which next week launches a report on the subject." ...

Mike A Scott "Declining water supply brings a deluge of ideas" Financial Times August 17, 2006

World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Former secret Soviet Union nuclear submarine base carved into underwater caves in the historic port city of Balaclava, close to Sebastopol, Crimean Autonomous Republic of Ukraine. The underwater cave complex was also used during the NATO-Warsaw Pact (Soviet Pact) Era [ca. 1945 to 1991] as training grounds for suicide dolphins. The Balaclava Underwater Submarine Base is now open for tourism and is slowly being transformed into a museum, while the suicide dolphins retrained themselves and now reside at the State Oceanarium of Ukraine, Sebastopol.

Dolphin Assisted Therapy Essentials

Images of the Sebastopol Dolphinarium, part of the Oceanarium of Ukraine.

Photo credit: With thanks.

Cease-Fire '06: Youssef Srour Prays On The Grounds Of What Was A Mosque In Aita Ech Chaab, Lebanon

Photo credit: Spencer Platt and Getty Images via Washington Post August 20, 2006. With thanks.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Can A Television Series Impact The Way Chinese And Americans Think About Economics, Civilization, Ecology, And Sustainability?

"Sensible people now agree that climate change creates major risks and that the world should be taking significant steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But there is a neglected obstacle to achieving such reductions, and it is the biggest source of the stalemate in international negotiations.

The obstacle stems from the unusual incentives of the United States and China. As the world's leading contributors to climate change, these are the two countries that would have to bear the lion's share of the cost of greenhouse gas reductions. At the same time, they are both expected to suffer less than many other nations from climate change -- and thus are less motivated to do something about it. And while the international spotlight has rightly been on the behavior of the United States, China will soon present the more serious problem.

In recent years the United States has accounted for about 21 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. China comes in second at about 15 percent. While many countries have stabilized their greenhouse gas levels, emissions from both nations, but especially China, are growing rapidly. Current projections suggest that by 2025 total emissions from the United States will increase by about one-third.

By that year, China's emissions are expected roughly to double, making China the planet's leading source of such gases. (Emissions from the United States will, of course, continue to be far higher on a per-capita basis.) Within 20 years China will account for nearly one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. It follows that if an international agreement requires reductions, China and the United States will have to bear the brunt of the expense.

By contrast, the biggest losers from greenhouse gas pollution are likely to be India and Africa. Some of the most detailed, careful and influential projections have been made by Yale University's William Nordhaus and Joseph Boyer. Nordhaus and Boyer show that in terms of human health and agricultural loss, India and Africa are by far the most vulnerable regions on Earth. Because of an anticipated increase in malaria, Africa will probably be hit especially hard, and India is expected to suffer a large increase in premature deaths as well.

If climate change occurs at the rate expected by many scientists, it will have a much less serious effect on the United States, and even less than that on China. In the United States, agricultural production is expected to suffer relatively little. In China, agriculture is actually projected to benefit from a warmer climate.

Both nations are expected to suffer some losses in terms of human health, but compared with projections for other countries those losses will be disproportionately small. A key reason is that the United States and China are not expected to be highly vulnerable to increases in malaria and other climate-related diseases.

In terms of percentage reductions in gross domestic product, India and Africa together are expected to lose about 10 times more from climate change than the United States -- and about 20 times more than China....

But the troubling fact remains: The two nations now most responsible for the problem have comparatively little incentive to do anything about it. That is why, if the nations of the world really mean to take substantial steps to reduce greenhouse gases, they have two options.

First, they might find a way to convince the United States and China that they have a moral obligation to protect the planet's most vulnerable people. The United States has long benefited from technologies that, while promoting its economic growth, are imposing serious risks on disadvantaged people in India, Africa and elsewhere.

Second, the world's nations might try to convince these two countries that emissions reductions are less expensive, and more beneficial for their own citizens, than the recent projections suggest. Environmentally friendly innovations have often turned out to be far less costly than anticipated. (And if persuasive evidence is found that indicates greater losses for both nations from global warming, there will be a stronger incentive to try to innovate.)

It is only with such an incentive, or a sense of moral duty, that the United States and China are likely to participate in serious international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. And without the participation of the two countries, no such efforts are likely to have a substantial effect on the problem."

Cass R. Sunstein "Limiting Climate Change: The Neglected Obstacle" Washington Post August 21, 2006


design:e2 (the economies of being environmentally conscious) is an original six-part series that explores the vitality of the environment through eco-friendly architecture. Narrated by Brad Pitt and masterfully shot in high-definition, the series introduces us to the inventive leaders and technologies driving sustainable practices worldwide in the design of buildings where we live, work, and play.

The first episode, "The Green Apple," demonstrates how the ubiquitous skyscraper can surprisingly be a model of environmental responsibility. In the second episode, architect and activist Sergio Palleroni continues his mission to provide design solutions to humanitarian crisis regions. “The Green Machine” follows Mayor Richard M. Daley as he strives to make Chicago “the greenest city in America.” The fourth episode takes the notion of the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) to grand proportions by turning Boston’s “Big Dig” waste into spectacular residential design. “China: from Red to Green?” depicts a country at its tipping point and finds a sustainable solution in Steven Holl’s Beijing project. The final episode, “Deeper Shades of Green,” presents some of the most remarkable visionaries who are changing the face of architecture and environmentalism: Ken Yeang, Werner Sobek and William McDonough. Check your local listings to find out when these episodes will air on your PBS station.

design-e2 challenges us to live smarter, live greener and live with the future in mind.

Chinese smog, as seen from space.

Photo credit:

Thursday, August 17, 2006

'We Have No Problem With A Sovereign Palestinian State Over All Our Lands Within The 1967 Borders, Living In Calm'

"WHATEVER the endgame between Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas, one thing is certain: Israel’s hopes of ensuring its security by walling itself off from resentful neighbors are dead. One lesson from Israel’s assault on Lebanon and its military operation in Gaza is that the missiles blow back.

We can hope that multinational cooperation will help to secure Israel’s border with Lebanon. But what about the Palestinian issue, which has been seemingly pushed to the back burner by the war in Lebanon?

A bold gesture now by Israel would surprise its adversaries, convey strength, and even catch domestic political opposition off guard. And as strange as it may seem, were the United States able to help Israel help Hamas, it might turn the rising tide of global Muslim resentment.

Recent discussions I’ve had with Hamas leaders and their supporters around the globe indicate that Israel might just find a reasonable and influential bargaining partner.

Hamas’s top elected official, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, now accepts that to stop his people’s suffering, his government must forsake its all-or-nothing call for Israel’s destruction. “We have no problem with a sovereign Palestinian state over all our lands within the 1967 borders, living in calm,” Mr. Haniya told me in his Gaza City office in late June, shortly before an Israeli missile destroyed it. “But we need the West as a partner to help us through.”

Mr. Haniya’s government had just agreed to a historic compromise with Fatah and its leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, forming a national coalition that implicitly accepts the coexistence alongside Israel." ...

Scott Atran "Is Hamas Ready to Deal?" Op-Ed New York Times August 17, 2006

Over the past four years, the Israeli military has demolished over 2,500 Palestinian houses in the Gaza Strip [of the Future State of Palestine]. Nearly two-thirds of these homes were in Rafah, a densely populated refugee camp and city at the southern end of the Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt. Sixteen thousand people — more than ten percent of Rafah’s population — have lost their homes, most of them refugees, many of whom were dispossessed for a second or third time.

As satellite images in this report show, most of the destruction in Rafah occurred along the Israeli-controlled border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. During regular nighttime raids and with little or no warning, Israeli forces used armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozers to raze blocks of homes at the edge of the camp, incrementally expanding a “buffer zone” that is currently up to three hundred meters wide. The pattern of destruction strongly suggests that Israeli forces demolished homes wholesale, regardless of whether they posed a specific threat, in violation of international law. In most of the cases Human Rights Watch found the destruction was carried out in the absence of military necessity.

Text and satellite photo credit: Human Rights Watch. With thanks.

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive's New Building Project: A Cultural Learning Lab For The 21st Century

The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is boldly creating the preeminent university art museum for the twenty-first century. When a 1997 campus-wide analysis found that BAM/PFA’s existing facility did not meet current seismic codes, a critical opportunity arose to build a new home for its acclaimed art and film programs and collections—both challenging and enabling BAM/PFA trustees and staff to expand the institution’s vision and offerings.

Centrally located between downtown Berkeley’s BART station and the University’s western entrance, the new museum will become a physical and metaphorical gateway connecting the campus and community to great works of art and film spanning eras and cultures. As a cultural learning laboratory, it will inspire artistic experimentation and initiate dialogue among those new to the visual arts and those with a lifelong passion, helping us all develop novel ways of understanding and seeing critically. A model for university art museums, this magnetic destination will bring together artists, the University and Bay Area communities, and art and film enthusiasts from around the globe.

In fall 2005, the University’s executive vice chancellor and provost appointed a screening committee to review architects recommended by BAM/PFA trustees, professional colleagues, and others. Approximately 220 firms from around the world were invited to submit their qualifications, and 141 firms responded. A separate architect selection committee conducted several reviews and chose the five firms noted below for consideration. This spring, the committee visited these architects’ key projects. A short-list will be proposed to BAM/PFA’s Board of Trustees, who will, in turn, make recommendations to UC Berkeley’s chancellor. The architect is expected to be announced in fall 2006.

Text and photo credit: BAM/PFA Board of Trustees. With thanks.

Uplifting Music and Arts Movements Combining Contemporary Technology And Elements Of Mesoamerican Spirituality Come To San Francisco Fine Arts Museum

18 August 2006

In the Koret Auditorium
Fine Arts Museums Of San Francisco -- de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park
6:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Earplay Ensemble and Maiz

Post-colonial Discontinuum, a new commissioned work by Guillermo Galindo was written for the entire Earplay ensemble and incorporates the Maiz, an instrument created by Mr. Galindo from discarded technology artifacts such as computer parts. Post-colonial Discontinuum combines contemporary technology and music techniques with elements of Mesoamerican spirituality and fragments of Mexican folkloric and traditional music. 15 min. This instrumental piece also has a video component. There will be a 15-minute lecture/demo following each performance.


In the Piazzoni Murals Room
Fine Arts Museums Of San Francisco -- de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park
6:30–8:30 p.m.

DJ music by Adriana Bo and Veronica Blanco

Santa Milonga, an uplifting music and arts movement
"DJ Dulce de Leche" - Everything Latin, from Traditional to Reggaeton.
Visual projections by Veronica Blanco.

Friday evening events and very limited gallery admission $5

Fine Arts Museums Of San Francisco

de Young Museum of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Photo credit: FAMSF

Mumbai, India's Cultural World Superpower, Bollywood, Will Increasingly Share Stage With Western And World Classical And New Music

Mumbai (formerly, Bombay, India) ..."The Symphony Orchestra of India comes as a godsend for thousands of amateur lovers and connoisseurs of the western classical music who spent late nights feverishly waiting for an hour’s broadcast on [All-India Radio] and hanging on to every note in fleeting moments of bliss.

Funded completely by the [National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai], [violin virtuoso Marat Bisengaliev] has been given a carte blanche to create an orchestra of truly world-class standard in a few months’ time. But the Herculean task has not fazed the Kazakh maestro and he has removed every shred of doubt with his pyrotechnic display on Thursday.

Marat gave his first performance at the age of nine. He was tutored by "demi-gods" Belinki and Klimov at the Tchaikovsky Conservatoire [in Moscow, the Russian Federation]. He won laurels at the International Bach Competition in Leipzig [Germany] and received the near impossible Special Virtuoso Prize at the International Nicanor Zabaleta Competition in Spain. Stunning the musical world with these feats of genius, Marat was honoured with the Independent Platinum Tarlan Award and the Medal of Honour in Kazakhstan.

Add to this, he founded the prestigious West Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra -- a task that has truly transformed him into a music director of legendary proportions with wide contacts in the music world. "India is an emerging superpower and the forces of globalisation have made the people increasingly aware of classical music. I think the time is ripe for Western classical music to make inroads into India," said the maestro. "India has the potential to become a major hub for Western classical music like Singapore, South Korea, and China," he added, adding to a debate spurred on by the geographical shift of supremacy in Western classical music from Europe to Asia, especially China, does India have the potential to equal China as the centre of the classical music world in Asia?

Optimism rises to the brim in Marat’s intense yet calm visage, as he emphatically retorts, "India definitely has the capability, and is no lesser than China. What is essential is that quality music has to be provided to Indian listeners, to children especially. And this will remain the raison d’etre of the Symphony Orchestra of India."

Talking about plans for the months ahead, he mentions the full-scale production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker on September 23 and 24, and his duet with British pianist Benjamin Frith on September 27. This brief season is to end with two major concerts conducted by invitee Alexander Anissimov and contributions by Marat, Frith, and soprano Irina Krikunova. The concerts have been scheduled for September 30 and October 2. Lighting a beacon of hope for aspiring and professional musicians working in Bollywood due to a lack of scope for classical music, Khushroo said Marat emphatically stated that any musician could apply to the NCPA be part of the orchestra. On clearing a stringent audition, he/she would then be trained under the watchful eye of the music director, play along with international musicians and sent for specialised training at an institute under a scholarship programme.

The musician would be suitably remunerated and would be groomed for a career in classical music.

The evening ended on a note of hope and promise. A new chapter in the history of western classical music in India had been opened, but what remains to be seen is whether the venture will achieve all that has set for itself."

Neelalohith Chitrapu "Mumbai gets own symphony orchestra" The Asian Age August 16, 2006

Marat Bisengaliev, the conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of India, which performs at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, India.

Photo credits: and With thanks.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

International Symposium "Revival Of Delphi's Ideals" To Present Greek Composer Vangelis With "The Golden Lyre Of Apollo"

"Noted composer Vangelis will be presented with the "The Golden Lyre of Apollo" award within in the context of the first-ever international symposium, entitled "Revival of Delphi's Ideals", to be held from Aug. 17-20 at the eponymous archaeological site.

The presentation will jointly be made by Delphi Mayor P. Kaltsis and Hellenic American National Council (H.A.N.C.) president Th. Spyropoulos.

The renowned composer will be honoured for his contribution, through his work and public expression, in promoting global values." ...

Athens News Agency/Macedonian Press Agency "Delphi to honour noted composer Vangelis" August 16, 2006

Vangelis (b. 1943, Greece).

Photo credit: MUSEO NACIONAL DE ARTES VISUALES, Parque Rodó - Montevideo - Uruguay. With thanks.

International Economists and Historians Debate Accelerated Economic Integration And Political And Humanist Disintegration

"Since 2001 the world economy has expanded more than 20 percent. For the United States, the gain is almost 15 percent; for developing countries, more than 30 percent. World trade -- exports and imports -- has risen by more than 30 percent. Outstanding international debt securities have jumped almost 90 percent, to $13.6 trillion (through the third quarter of 2005).

We ought to ask why the economic fallout has been so muted -- and whether that could change. Could the backlash so feared five years ago unfold in the future?

One obvious explanation is that in the United States, there has been no second or third Sept. 11. Beyond that, economic resilience partly reflects human nature. People and businesses try to get back to normal. It's what they know best. For sheer physical damage, acts of nature often overshadow acts of terrorism. Michael Mussa of the Institute for International Economics notes that Hurricane Katrina hurt the economy more than Sept. 11.

Even when huge, terrorism's costs can get lost in a $13 trillion economy. At last count, Congress had committed $432 billion to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- a far cry from informal estimates of $50 billion to $200 billion before the Iraq war. The Congressional Budget Office now projects that those costs could easily exceed $800 billion by 2016. A study by Linda Bilmes of Harvard and Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia puts the war's ultimate budget costs even higher, at a minimum of $1.1 trillion in present value. Still, this spending is a tiny share of all federal spending, estimated at $47 trillion from 2001 to 2016.

Similarly, skillful crisis management after Sept. 11 blunted terrorism's long-term effect on economic confidence. Some big banks lost their computer and communications systems; planes carrying checks were grounded. People might not have been able to cash checks; banks might have hoarded funds because they weren't receiving payments from other banks. But the Federal Reserve lent liberally to banks needing money ($46 billion on Sept. 12) and temporarily authorized checks to be credited before being cleared. Thus was averted a wider economic breakdown and a bigger blow to consumer psychology.

The result is that -- so far -- terrorism has been an economic blank. People regard attacks around the world (in London, Madrid, Bali) as isolated tragedies and not a cause to alter their buying habits. But that is not entirely reassuring. Even if consumer confidence remains unshaken, terrorism might threaten the world economy in other ways.

Every successful economic system requires a supporting political structure: rules, standards of behavior, ways of resolving conflicts. For years, the United States and its allies were bound together by political and economic alliances. But as Princeton historian Harold James notes, the war on terrorism -- mainly the war in Iraq -- has created divisions on political issues that make agreement on economic matters harder. Protectionism could depress economic growth if increasingly nationalistic countries retreat from global markets. The recent deadlock of the Doha round of trade talks is a suggestive example.

The larger threat involves the great disconnect: Countries are moving closer economically, depending on each other more for trade, raw materials (especially oil) and finance, but they're moving farther apart politically, disagreeing over goals, tactics and values. Historian Niall Ferguson of Harvard has pointed to a similar disconnect, before World War I, when European powers were highly integrated economically and increasingly hostile politically. But there was a chilling disregard for the contradiction. It's a grim analogy that suggests little cause for complacency."

Robert J.Samuelson "The Economics of Fear" Washington Post August 16, 2006

Lviv Polytechnic National University, Lviv, Ukraine, Europe.

History of Lviv (Lemberg) Polytechnic National University, founded in the Austrian Empire, 1844.

On September 13, 1880 Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz-Jozeph visited Lviv's (Lemberg's) Polytechnical University. During that visit he ordered the great Polish neo-Renaissance painter Jan Matejko to depict the technical progress of mankind in eleven pictures. Now these pictures decorate the Lviv Polytechnic National University's Assembly Hall.

Photo credit: International Federation of Surveyors. With thanks.


Lviv, Ukraine, Europe -- a UNESCO World Heritage Site -- will celebrate its 750th Anniversary in September 2006!

Franz Xavier Mozart, W.A. and Constanze Mozart's younger son lived, taught music, and performed and conducted in Lviv (Lemberg). "Sons should not follow their father's profession in which the father excels". After the death of W.A. Mozart, memorial services, with performances of W.A. Mozart's Requiem Mass were held in his memory in Salzburg, Vienna, and Lviv [Lemberg, in 1826].

We're Number Nine! We're Number Nine! ... United States Ranks Ninth Among 'Advanced' Industrialized Nations In Higher-Education Attainment

"Today the United States ranks ninth among industrialized nations in higher-education attainment, in large measure because only 53 percent of students who enter college emerge with a bachelor’s degree, according to census data. And those who don’t finish pay an enormous price. For every $1 earned by a college graduate, someone leaving before obtaining a four-year degree earns only 67 cents.

Last week, in a report to the Education Department, a group called the Commission on the Future of Higher Education bluntly pointed out the economic [and humanist?] dangers of these trends. “What we have learned over the last year makes clear that American higher education has become what, in the business world, would be called a mature enterprise: increasingly risk-averse, at times self-satisfied, and unduly expensive,” it said. “To meet the challenges of the 21st century, higher education must change from a system primarily based on reputation to one based on performance.”

The report comes with a handful of recommendations — simplify financial aid, give more of it to low-income students, control university costs — but says they all depend on universities becoming more accountable. Tellingly, only one of the commission’s 19 members, who included executives from Boeing, I.B.M. and Microsoft and former university presidents, refused to sign the report: David Ward, president of the nation’s largest association of colleges and universities, the American Council on Education. But that’s to be expected. Many students don’t enjoy being graded, either. The task of grading colleges will fall to the federal government, which gives enough money to universities to demand accountability, and to private groups outside higher education.

“The degree of defensiveness that colleges have is unreasonable,” said Michael S. McPherson, a former president of Macalester College in Minnesota who now runs the Spencer Foundation in Chicago. “It’s just the usual resistance to having someone interfere with their own marketing efforts.”

The commission urged the Education Department to create an easily navigable Web site that allows comparisons of colleges based on their actual cost (not just list price), admissions data and meaningful graduation rates. (Right now, the statistics don’t distinguish between students who transfer and true dropouts.) Eventually, it said, the site should include data on “learning outcomes.”

Measuring how well students learn is incredibly difficult, but there are some worthy efforts being made. Researchers at Indiana University ask students around the country how they spend their time and how engaged they are in their education, while another group is measuring whether students become better writers and problem solvers during their college years.

As Mr. McPherson points out, all the yardsticks for universities have their drawbacks. Yet parents and students are clearly desperate for information. Without it, they turn to U.S. News, causing applications to jump at colleges that move up the ranking, even though some colleges that are highly ranked may not actually excel at making students smarter than they were upon arrival. To take one small example that’s highlighted in the current issue of Washington Monthly, Emory has an unimpressive graduation rate given the affluence and S.A.T. scores of its incoming freshmen." ...

David Leonhardt "Rank Colleges, but Rank Them Right" New York Times August 16, 2006

National University of "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy", Kyiv, Ukraine, Europe.

National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, NaUKMA (Ukrainian: Національний університет «Києво-Могилянська академія», Natsional'nyi universytet "Kyyevo-Mohylians'ka akademiya", НаУКМА), located in Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine is one of the country's leading national schools of higher education.

NaUKMA in its current form was established in 1992 shortly after Ukraine gained its independence upon the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union.

However, the historic predecessor of the NaUKMA, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (Kiev-Mogila Academy), was one of the oldest and the most distinguished academic and theological schools in Eastern Europe. It was established in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1632 by Petro Mohyla (Peter Mogila), a Metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia. It played an important role in transmitting Renaissance ideals from Western Europe through Poland to Ukraine and Russia.

The present-day university occupies the historical compound of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in the Podil neighborhood [similar to Georgetown, Washington, D.C.], which contains some 17th century buildings.


History of National University of "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

National University of "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Department of Foreign Cooperation

Text and photo credit: Wikipedia. With thanks.

Life On Earth: Missing Markets Versus Missing Reason And Humanity

"Al Gore has been busy returning global warming to centre stage with terrifying warnings of disaster with his bestselling book, An Inconvenient Truth, and the popular companion documentary. Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, has joined – even led – the renewed focus on global warming, charging Sir Nicholas Stern, the economist, with solving the problem. Alongside his successful initiative on Africa, this is to be his sure-fire international legacy as he ends his last term in office.

Getting global warming on the radar screen is only half the game, however. The other half has to be the design of policies to address it effectively. The centrepiece of world action has been the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change. But while it embodied national obligations on carbon dioxide emission reductions and has now been ratified and approved by more than 160 countries, the US has not done so. So, the Kyoto protocol is dead in the water: you cannot stage Hamlet without the Prince. ... [However], a global warming fund could succeed where Kyoto failed. It is hard to imagine the US objecting to making nations pay for their total pollution. Such a tax is only a way of creating a missing market." ...

Jagdish Bhagwati "Global warming fund could succeed where Kyoto failed" Financial Times, August 15, 2006 via Financial Times August 16, 2006.

A long-becked Echidna found in Indonesia's Papua province last year. There were no traces of human activity in the remote ecosystem and many of the creatures appeared unafraid of people.

Photo credit: Associated Press via BBC News. With thanks.

Young Classical World Musicians To Damascus, Syria! -- Humanist And Pacifist Musicians Not Fearing To Tread Where Western Politicians Fear To Tread

Istanbul, Turkey. "Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim said Tuesday he was aiming to set up a performance of his West-Eastern Divan orchestra, comprised of Israelis and Arabs, in Damascus [Syria]. Barenboim, currently in Istanbul where the orchestra is to hold a concert on Wednesday, told journalist that talks on the matter had already been held with the Syrian government.

The conductor said that there could be no military solution in the
Middle East.

He said the Divan orchestra, founded in 1999, aims to promote

About half the 100 members are Israelis, while the other half are
from the Middle East and North Africa.

Barenboim noted that the complete orchestra would not be performing in Istanbul. Some members from Syria and Lebanon had not come to Istanbul in protest against the conflict "and for various other reasons," he said.

The West-Eastern Divan orchestra is set for concerts later this year in Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Weimar, and Milan."

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur August 15, 2006 via

The Ummayyad Mosque in Old Damascus, Syria, dates from the 8th Century C.E.

Damascus is said to be the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city. A center of life from as early as 5000 BC [BCE]. It was a meeting place of many different caravan routes, one of the great market places of history. It was mentioned in many cuniform tablets dating back to 3rd millennium BC. found in Mari and Ebla archives. Amorite (Semitic) settlement began around late 3rd millenium. It came into Egyptian sphere of influence and was mentioned in the Amarna archives 14C. BC. It went under Arameans, Assyrians, and Persians control before Alexander the Great compain in 333 BC. from the Greek rule till 7C AP. Damascus went under wave of western influence marked by the Greeks, Romans and the Byzantines. It became Islam’s first great capital under the Ummayyad Caliphs during 7-8C.

Old Damascus is surrounded by a wall and towers, in addition to eight gates, six of which are attributed to Roman times while the other two are Islamic.

Important sites in Damasus include:

The Ummayyad Mosque, one of the best preserved mosques in the world from 8C., famous for its golden mosaics and the head of John the Baptist.

Saint Ananias Church, and St. Paul Church where St. Paul was descended in a basket from the wall and left Damascus to Europe to preach Christianity.

There are many Damascene old houses, Hammams, Khans and historical schools dating back to the successive Islamic periods, worth visiting are the National Museum and Arabic Science and Medical Museum.

For travelers, Damascus offers countless opportunities for shopping in the souks and strolling the tree-lined streets of this fascinating old city.

Text and photo credit: Maan Al-Sabbagh and With thanks.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Congregation Of Turkish Jews Changes Course And Allows Daniel Barenboim And His West-Eastern Divan Orchestra To Perform In Istanbul, Turkey

"An Istanbul performance by conductor Daniel Barenboim and his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, scheduled for tomorrow, was reported yesterday as cancelled by its sponsors but will now go ahead as planned.

According to the Turkish online newspaper, the concert was initially cancelled because a group of Istanbul Jewish businessmen who were providing financial support for the performance withdrew their funding because of comments by Barenboim criticizing Israel's human rights record. (Exactly which comments drew the funders' anger isn't made clear in the article, though Barenboim, who is himself Israeli, has publicly criticized the Israeli government's practices in the occupied West Bank more than once.)

In response, Zaman reports, Barenboim offered to waive his own fee if the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), the concert's presenter, would cover the orchestra's travel expenses, estimated at $100,000.

Ultimately, the funding group, called the Congregation of Turkish Jews, changed its mind and decided to support the concert. Zaman says that, according to reports in the Turkish press, the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon eased the concerns of the Congregation over the concert.

The European Jewish Press says that Barenboim does not believe that there will be a military solution to the war in Lebanon. "If we do not find a way to live together side-by-side then we will destroy each other ... The destiny of both peoples is indivisible. For hundreds of years, the only chapter of Jewish history was the moral chapter. Now, for the most part, that is gone," the paper quotes him as telling the Berliner Morgenpost." ...

Vivien Schweitzer "Istanbul Presenters Cancel, Then Restore, Concert by Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra" August 15, 2006

Saint Irene Cathedral, Aya Irini, Istanbul, Turkey.

Twenty-first century World Civilization awaits its defining culture.

Photo credit: With thanks.

The Present Need For European Leadership In Brokering Peace In The Middle East And Furthering The Birth Of The State Of Palestine

"Over the past month, the Bush administration gambled on Israel and lost. At the United Nations last week, America's growing weakness was effectively exposed by the French who forced through significant concessions on the wording of a ceasefire resolution. The growing US predicament in the Middle East poses a new challenge for Europe – a challenge that it has so far signally failed to meet. Throughout the crisis, the European Union as a whole has been left on the sidelines. Moreover, as Dora Bakoyannis, Greece's foreign minister, reminded the Security Council last Friday, while the world has focused on Lebanon, it is the Palestinian issue that remains at the heart of the conflict in the Middle East. Here Europe has traditionally focused on "soft" humanitarian aid while letting America set the rhythm on the political front. But what was warranted with previous US administrations, which worked hard to broker peace, does not hold true with this one. On the contrary, with America worse placed than it has ever been to lead as mediator between Israel and the Arabs, Europe needs to raise its game considerably.

Europe, after all, is at least as closely engaged with the Middle East as is the US. It bears the greater share of historical responsibility for the current impasse, for the region's map is largely of its creation while Zionism itself emerged as a belated form of European nationalism in direct response to the Continent's anti-semitism. EU states are hosting refugees from Lebanon and may soon feel the environmental consequences of the war as well. As for the beefed up UN force destined for southern Lebanon, this will probably be under European leadership. There are concerns that Turkey's entry to the EU – if and when it happens – would eventually pull Europe into the problems of the Middle East; but the EU is there already." ...

Mark Mazower "Europe should use its leverage to lean on Israel" Financial Times August 15, 2006

Professor Mazower is the program director of the Center for International History at Columbia University. The Center's continuing central theme for 2006-2007, as it was for 2004-06, is Occupation.



The current theme of Occupation will be analysed from a variety of methodological and disciplinary perspectives. We will explore policies of occupation in their political, military, legal, economic and cultural dimensions, the behaviour of armies towards civilians and the relationship between military guidelines and actual practice. We will also look at occupation: as a social experience with a profound impact on public and private institutions, family life, values and political formations; in terms of its economic implications and policies - from scorched earth policies and looting at one extreme, to investment at the other; through the persistence of prevailing codes of law and belief under new rulers; as one form of establishing political control through conquest along a continuum of constitutional possibilities which raise the very question of sovereignty and its definition. The program of workshops and seminars aims at a multi-disciplinary and global approach, ranging from forms of colonial governance in Africa, the Middle East and India to contemporary events in Iraq and East Asia. Workshops meet on Fridays, 10am-12noon, in 513 Fayerweather Hall. All are welcome to attend.

Empires, occupied lands, regional geo-politics, and "real people":

Lebanese citizens walk on the Israeli-American-British bombed Beirut-Damascus highway near Sofar, Lebanon, 27 kilometers from Beirut, Lebanon. [Click on image to enlarge.]

Sofar is known for its many beautiful old houses and its "corniche" overlooking the Metn River valley and mount Kneiseh. When the railroad linking Beirut with Damascus was built in 1892-95, Sofar took on a new life. The train (no longer operating) made it easy for residents of Beirut to summer here.

Photo credit: (c) Agence France Presse. With thanks.

Monday, August 14, 2006

'Out Of The Clear Blue Of The Western [Eastern] Sky Comes ... Sky King [American Opera]!'

"July was New American Opera Month in the purple hills of upstate New York and western Massachusetts. You could hardly drive your Smart car from the lesbian bed-and-breakfast to the organic farm stand without running over an adaptation of a literary property. Stephen Hartke’s “The Greater Good” made its début at the Glimmerglass Opera, in Cooperstown. The Lake George Opera, in Saratoga Springs, presented Ned Rorem’s “Our Town,” which had its première in Indiana earlier this year. Elliott Carter’s opera “What Next?” (1999) belatedly had its first American staging, at Tanglewood. Back in New York, Elliot Goldenthal’s “Grendel” was the centerpiece of the Lincoln Center Festival, in a Julie Taymor extravaganza. These performances, all well attended, came at the end of a musical season that brought John Adams’s “Doctor Atomic” to the San Francisco Opera, Tobias Picker’s “An American Tragedy” to the Met, and Lowell Liebermann’s “Miss Lonelyhearts” to Juilliard.

Are any of these new operas towering masterworks that will alter the course of music history while winning the hearts of millions? People have been asking that loaded question of American opera for a hundred years, and the way they phrase it almost demands a negative answer. Better to ask whether a new work is strong enough to hold the stage. If it does, it has a future, and the masterpiece-sorting can be done by later generations. “The Greater Good,” “Our Town,” and “Grendel” passed this test: lustily, wistfully, and by a hair." ...

Alex Ross "WHAT NEXT? A trio of new American operas" The New Yorker from issue of August 21, 2006.

July was not 'Opera Month' in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, nor the Future State of Palestine; nor in several other struggling-to-develop regions of 21st Century C.E. World Civilization, such as Darfur, Africa.

On Sunday, at Bint Jbail, which is east of the ancient Lebanese port city of Tyre [and not 'East of Eden'], a woman [and not a diva] waited to be evacuated out of the Israeli free-fire zone.

Earlier, Israeli war planes had dropped leaflets over one-half of Southern Lebanon, as well as large parts of the capital city of Beirut, demanding that Lebanese citizens -- young and old, healthy and infirm, rich and poor -- abandon their homes and homelands.

Photo credit: Zohra Bensemra and Reuters via New York Times, August 14, 2006. With thanks.

Missing In Action: One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap For Mankind

Photo credit: Hussein Malla and the Associated Press via New York Times August 14, 2006. With thanks.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Multifaith Classical Youth Orchestra Calls For Peace In The Middle East During Massive Outdoor Concert In Madrid, Spain

"Acclaimed conductor Daniel Barenboim and his multifaith youth orchestra called for peace in the Middle East during a massive concert in Madrid Thursday night.

Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra played Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 and dedicated the evening to the victims of the current conflict between Israel and the militant group Hezbollah.

Thousands of classical music-lovers gathered in Madrid's Plaza Mayor for the event, dubbed Music Against Violence.

Guests included Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon and Mariam Said, the widow of late Palestinian activist, writer and scholar Edward Said.

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will continue on its annual tour through Sept. 1, with stops including Istanbul, Brussels, Paris, Berlin and Milan.

In the 1990s, Said and Barenboim, born in Buenos Aires to parents of Russian Jewish descent, co-founded a foundation to promote music education for and co-operation between young Jewish and Arab musicians.

In 2002, Barenboim and Said jointly received Spain's Prince of Asturias Concord Award for creating the youth orchestra and musical workshops.

Though Said died in 2003, Barenboim has continued to hold annual workshops for and tour with their orchestra, which is made up of young musicians from countries such as Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt." ...

CBC Arts "Barenboim's youth orchestra urges peace with Madrid concert" August 11, 2006

Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain, site of multifaith classical youth orchestra appeal for peace in the Middle East and in World Civilization. Madrid, Spain was the site of the March 11, 2004 terrorist attacks killing 192 people and wounding 2,050.

Photo credit: (c) Madridman Media. With thanks.

Memories Of Overdevelopment: Israel Flexes Its U.S. And British Backed Military Might Against Its Developing World Neighbors

"A [Israeli unmanned] drone fired a missile at a motorbike on the southern coastal highway between Sidon and Tyre [Lebanon], killing its driver, security officials said."

Associated Press "Israel Prepares Wider Ground Offensive" August 11, 2006 via New York Times.


"Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a radio tower in downtown Beirut on Thursday [August 10] and dropped leaflets warning residents of the Lebanese capital that more extensive bombing, whose "painful and severe results will not be limited" to Hezbollah fighters, is on the way."

Edward Cody and Molly Moore "Israel Hits Tower In Beirut, Warns Of More Bombing" Washington Post August 11, 2006

Photo credit: With thanks.

Israel Turning To America And Britain For Expediated Shipments Of Civilian Killing And Maiming Cluster Munitions And 'Bunker Busters'

"Israel has asked the Bush administration to speed delivery of short-range antipersonnel rockets armed with cluster munitions, which it could use to strike Hezbollah missile sites in Lebanon, two American officials said Thursday.

The request for M-26 artillery rockets, which are fired in barrages and carry hundreds of grenade-like bomblets that scatter and explode over a broad area, is likely to be approved shortly, along with other arms, a senior official said.

But some State Department officials have sought to delay the approval because of concerns over the likelihood of civilian casualties, and the diplomatic repercussions. The rockets, while they would be very effective against hidden missile launchers, officials say, are fired by the dozen and could be expected to cause civilian casualties if used against targets in populated areas.

Israel is asking for the rockets now because it has been unable to suppress Hezbollah’s Katyusha rocket attacks in the month-old conflict by using bombs dropped from aircraft and other types of artillery, the officials said. The Katyusha rockets have killed dozens of civilians in Israel [and the same time Israeli airstrikes have killed over 500 Lebanese civilians -- many women and children].

The United States had approved the sale of M-26’s to Israel some time ago, but the weapons had not yet been delivered when the crisis in Lebanon erupted. If the shipment is approved, Israel may be told that it must be especially careful about firing the rockets into populated areas, the senior official said.

Israel has long told American officials that it wanted M-26 rockets for use against conventional armies in case Israel was invaded, one of the American officials said. But after being pressed in recent days on what they intended to use the weapons for, Israeli officials disclosed that they planned to use them against rocket sites in Lebanon. It was this prospect that raised the intense concerns over civilian casualties.

During much of the 1980’s, the United States maintained a moratorium on selling cluster munitions to Israel, following disclosures that civilians in Lebanon had been killed with the weapons during the 1982 Israeli invasion. But the moratorium was lifted late in the Reagan administration, and since then, the United States has sold Israel some types of cluster munitions, the senior official said.

Officials would discuss the issue only on the condition of anonymity, as the debate over what to do is not resolved and is freighted with implications for the difficult diplomacy that is under way.

State Department officials “are discussing whether or not there needs to be a block on this sale because of the past history and because of the current circumstances,” said the senior official, adding that it was likely that Israel will get the rockets, but will be told to be “be careful.”

David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, declined to comment on Israel’s request. He said, though, that “as a rule, we obviously don’t fire into populated areas, with the exception of the use of precision-guided munitions against terrorist targets.” In such cases, Israel has dropped leaflets warning of impending attacks to avoid civilian casualties, he said.

In the case of cluster munitions, including the Multiple Launch Rocket System, which fires the M-26, the Israeli military only fires into open terrain where rocket launchers or other military targets are found, to avoid killing civilians, an Israeli official said.

The debate over whether to ship Israel the missiles, which include the cluster munitions and use launchers that Israel has already received, comes as the Bush administration has been trying to win support for a draft United Nations resolution that calls for immediate cessation of “all attacks” by Hezbollah and of “offensive military operations” by Israel.

Arab governments, under pressure to halt the rising number of civilian casualties in Lebanon, have criticized the measure for not calling for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon.

While Bush administration officials have criticized Israeli strikes that have caused civilian casualties, they have also backed the offensive against Hezbollah by rushing arms shipments to the region. Last month the administration approved a shipment of precision-guided munitions, which one senior official said this week included at least 25 of the 5,000-pound “bunker-buster” bombs.

Israel has recently asked for another shipment of precision-guided munitions, which is likely to be approved, the senior official said." ...

David S. Cloud "Weapons Israel Asks U.S. to Ship Rockets With Wide Blast" New York Times August 11, 2006

Further information on Guided Bombs Unit-28 (GBU-28), developed by Raytheon and shipped to Israel via the United Kingdom.

Israeli warplanes have fired thousands of missiles on Lebanon killing over 500 civilians -- including many women and children -- and maiming many thousands. The advanced munitions carried on Israeli warplanes over Lebanon are developed in Texas, the United States, and shipped to Israel by Jumbo jets via the United Kingdom.

Israel has recently requested stepped up munitions shipments including more advanced wide-area cluster munitions which threaten to kill thousands of additional Lebanese civilians. Conscientious U.S. State Department officials are worried about the humanitarian and world-wide diplomatic impacts of Israel's request for expediated, and more advanced, weapons shipments, especially the wide-area multiple-blast cluster bombs.

Photo credit: With thanks.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ukrainian Crimeans Recall How 2,000 Citizens Peacefully Turned Back NATO Attempt To Further Militarize North Shore Of Black Sea

"The anti-NATO demonstrations across Ukraine's southern autonomous region of Crimea in May and June were the first such protests of any kind in this sleepy port city [of Feodosia] on the Black Sea. Still, they lasted nearly one month and brought well over 2,000 people into the streets. There, they burned American flags and chanted "USA go home."

Opponents of President Viktor Yushchenko have been energized by his party's humiliating, third-place finish in March parliamentary elections, and the difficulty of the country's various parties to put together a governing coalition. Mr. Yushchenko has made NATO membership a top priority and has been pushing for potential partners to commit to that goal.

One opponent, Anatoly Sitkov, first secretary of Feodosia's Communist party, says Ukraine's recent pro-Western moves under President Yushchenko are not to be taken lightly, especially when it comes to the question of Ukraine joining NATO.

Sitkov says Crimea has no ill will toward the West, America in particular, but he says, all the same, Crimea does not want to host all these foreign troops.

He says there are only two real powers in the world today, the United States and Russia and, in his view, these exercises risk breaking that delicate balance as Russia remains firmly opposed to NATO. He says he also opposed the NATO bombing campaign in former Yugoslavia years back and would not like to see Crimea drawn into similar situations in the future.

At the same time, Sitkov says, he takes some comfort in the fact that the recent unity agreement, signed by President Yushchenko and returning Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, establishes that a national referendum must be held before any decision is made on Ukraine's bid for membership in NATO.

Sitkov says his party will participate in a referendum, if and when it is held. But he says the West should still expect more protests in Crimea.

Viktor Buleyko, a war veteran, tells [Voice of America] that there is no practical reason for NATO troops to come to Crimea.

"The only reason they would need to do so," he says, "is as a first step to 'occupy' the Black Sea. After that it will then be possible for NATO to attack Russia."

"What help can we expect to get from these troops," Buleyko cries, visibly disturbed. "Crimea is not Iraq, not Iran, not Israel. It is Ukraine," he says, "and standing with us is Russia."

Alexander Evanovsky, a soldier with Crimea's border guard service, too, expresses support for the recent protests.

"Wherever NATO goes, there is war," the soldier says. "But our people are for peace. We do not need foreign troops here."

Evanovsky also rejects the notion that NATO might be a good thing for Crimea if, for example, it shared updated training and equipment. "I have all that I need," he replies tersely.

Pensioner Valentina Leontyevna remembers the night the U.S. ship came into Feodosia's port. She says people protested in the streets for nearly 30 days, sleeping in tents they pitched in a park adjacent to the port. The protests forced the cancellation of at least six scheduled exercises.

Valentina says the people of her town cautiously welcome the confirmation of pro-Russia Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

"We need to wait and see what he does," she says, and then wishes aloud that he had not signed the national unity pact with Ukraine's president. It calls for allowing foreign troops to hold training exercises in Ukraine, such as those the people of Feodosia managed to halt through protests." ...

Lisa McAdams "Crimea Cautiously Welcomes New Ukraine Government" Voice of America News August 9, 2006

NATO, America, and its 'preventive war-making' are unwelcome in the sleepy port and resort city Feodosia, on the southeast coast of the Crimean Autonomous Republic of Ukraine.

Photo credit: With thanks.

Summer Oratorio: Composer Alexander Knaifel Commemorates The Nazi 900 Day Siege Of Leningrad As Seen Through The Eyes Of A Surviving Child

ALEXANDER KNAIFEL (b. 1943, in Tashkent, Soviet Uzbekistan, as an evacuatee of the Blokada (the Siege) of Leningrad, the Soviet Union.)


"Man – somewhere at some time – happened to be on the edge of perishing.

His deathly calm, terror, and pain – his suffers surpassed any imaginable horizon.

Then Man died.

But does all the anguish he lived through disappear?

Do not the suffers of all people perishing or have perished somewhere in the past accumulate in our world?

Do not these suffers, continuously accumulating, determine some parameters of the world we live in?

Do not these accumulated suffers determine something essential in the soul of each of us?

For the world is one, and all of us – no matter how many of us there might be on Earth – are the links of one chain.

These questions arise when we are concentrating on the text created by a child who witnessed how all her relatives passed away one after another in besieged Leningrad."

Sergei Vakulenko, November 1987
On the Occasion of the First Performance of “Agnus Dei”


ZHENJA DIED Dec 28 at 12 30 o’clock in the morning 1941 / GRANNY DIED Jan 25 3 h in the afternoon 1942 / LJOKA DIED March 17 at 5 o’clock in the mor. 1942 /UNCLE VASJA DIED at Apr 13 2 h night 1942 / UNCLE LJOSHA [DIED] May 10 at 4 h in the afternoon 1942 / MAMA [DIED] at May 13 [at] 7.30 o’clock in the morning 1942 / THE SAVICHEVS DIED / DIED ALL / LEFT ONE TANYA






… to discern the extraordinary in the ordinary…
… can this problem be the subject of art, anyway?…
… “Agnus Dei” may have been created as repentance for my nonexistent fault of being born outside Leningrad…
… inability to physically pronounce this verbal text…
… the Saviour’s descent into Hell…
… through the prism of the irrevocable and eternal beauty of the created world…
… endlessness and oneness in the manifistations of the Sound-Word mystery…
… the whole score consists of the touchings – renewing all the time, the “unique” soundings of the air…
… approaching the fullness of the Life – Moment – Vertical, Time-dissolving…
… and only quite recently have I learnt that during the first winter of the siege my grandpa Joseph Knaifel
shared in the unprecedented sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands of Leningrad citizens through his
death by starvation on January 15, 1942…

Recording Data


CD 1 49:12
CD 2 71:08


LOUISON RENAULT: percussion, electronics
JEAN-PHILIPPE COLLARD: keyboards, percussion, electronics
SERGE BERTOCCHI: saxophones, keyboards, electronics, percussion
JEAN-PAUL DESSY: double bass, percussion, keyboards, electronics

MEGADISC CLASSICS (Belgium) #7808-07
Price € 35.00

75 Second Audio Sample available at above link.

Soviet Army deployment of small dirigibles -- in front of Saint Isaacs Cathedral --to thwart Nazi aerial bombardment of Leningrad, the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler, each year for three years, planned to hold his grand New Year's Victory Over The Soviet Union Celebration in the grand Astoria Hotel across Saint Isaac's Square from the Cathedral.

Text credit: (c) Copyright Tanya Savichev, Sergei Vakulenko, and Alexander Knaifel via Megadisc Classics, Belgium. All rights reserved. With thanks.

Photo credit: Soviet archival image With thanks.