Archive for July, 2010

July 30, 2010

Crime author Henning Mankell’s Israeli surprise

HENNING MANKELL IS NOT only Sweden’s most popular crime author, he is also a very stubborn man. On May 31, 2010, he was on board one of the ships taking part in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. When his ship was seized by Israeli forces in international waters and he, along with the other 600 or so participants, was spirited away to Israel, he was forced to leave all his belongings behind. (I already wrote about Mankell’s Gaza adventure here.)

Since returning to Sweden soon afterwards, he has kept up the pressure on the Israeli ambassador in Stockholm to return his property. Finally, on Thursday …

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July 30, 2010

Unbelievable: Actor Johannes Heesters still on stage at 106

WHO COULD HAVE BELIEVED it? Tonight, in the world-renowned Berliner Ensemble on the capital’s Schiffbauerdamm, musical star Jopi Heesters will tread the boards once again in a much-anticipated premiere. Heesters, who reached the truly biblical age of 106 last December (I wrote about it here), is by far the world’s oldest performing actor.  

The musical is entitled The Island Comedy, or Lysistrata and NATO. It is a modern and tongue-in-cheek retelling of the ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes. In the new version, the women on a Greek island go on a sex strike against their husbands and lovers until they prevent the Americans from buying land to build a new NATO base. Heesters will play the role of King. The play’s author is the celebrated German dramatist Rolf Hochhuth (79), who is best known…

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July 28, 2010

Ahmadinejad vs. Paul: Should the West take action?

IRANIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD regards himself as something of an authority on world affairs and twentieth century history. But who would have thought he was also an expert on sea life? 

So far, oceanography hasn’t exactly been Ahmadinejad’s calling card. He is best known for such fatuous (but frequently disputed) statements as: “Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury,” “There is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will wipe off this stigma (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world, … The World without Zionism,” “we don’t accept this claim [of the holocaust],” or for glibly  claiming that…

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July 26, 2010

Find of prehistoric “tool” gets Swedish scientists aroused

WHAT A MONTH THIS has been for archeologists! First, a British team celebrated the discovery of a second vast Neolithic site just 900 meters from Stonehenge. Then, over the weekend, Swedish scientists announced the discovery of what may be one of the world’s very first “boners.” The twelve centimeter long and two centimeter thick phallus carved of antler was found at a Neolithic site near the banks of Sweden’s Göta Canal. Whatever the eventual scientific consequences of the find, one thing is for sure: It has pricked its finders’ imaginations like nothing else they have turned up in recent years.  

As archaeologist Sara Gummesson described the 6,000 year-old discovery on the expedition’s blog, “First I thought it was just a carved horn…

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July 26, 2010

Dance of Death: The cruel demise of the “Love Parade”

THEY COULD JUST AS easily have handed security over to BP’s Tony Hayward and be done with it. He and his team certainly couldn’t have done a worse job. After all, who could ever have imagined that allowing only one entrance and exit to a pop music event with 1.4 million participants could be a good idea? And even in the absolute best-case scenario, who could ever have dreamed up the idea of forcing all those frequently drunk and disoriented young people – including thousands of gate crashers – to walk though a 200 meter long and just 16 meter wide tunnel, and then climb up a narrow ramp, to get to where the action was?…

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July 22, 2010

The summer camp from hell

How an idyllic island retreat became Lord of the Flies redux

IT LOOKS AS IF William Golding of Lord of the Flies fame was an optimist. What happens when you send a group of poorly-supervised teenagers to a North Sea island and let them fend for themselves? A youth club from the German town of Osnabrück found out earlier this month. While the investigation into the ensuing crime will take weeks, the wounds will likely last a lifetime.

It should have been a wonderful experience. This year, the Municipal Sports League of the western German town of Osnabrück…

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July 20, 2010

Why I won’t be buying an “e-reader”

WITH A TITLE LIKE that you’re probably expecting some Luddite screed from a hopeless romantic who somehow managed to mislay his ticket for the high-tech express. But this will be nothing of the sort. Like many, perhaps most contributors to this site, I basically live online. Without computers and the Internet I would not be able to earn a living and inform myself. Nor am I against electronic reading devices per se. In fact, I would be very interested in a device that would facilitate my reading of blogs, online newspaper and magazine articles, Wikipedia, reference works, data banks etc. In other words: I would use it to manage the ephemeral substance of which the Internet is made…

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July 16, 2010

Bishop’s resignation shifts attention to Protestant abuse

AFTER FOLLOWING THE NEWS stories of the past few months, you might have gained the impression that the Catholic Church is in essence a giant pedophile club. But this perception is unfair – not because it is untrue, but because it insinuates that Catholics have a monopoly on systemic child abuse. In fact, hierarchical religions of all kinds attract pedophiles to their ranks, including the Catholics’ main Central European competitor, Protestantism. A high-level resignation today once more casts a sombre light on what increasingly appears to be organized religion’s “original sin.”…

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July 14, 2010

Death of an octopus: When revenge turns squishy

I GUESS IT’S JUST one of those tragedies that was waiting to happen. After all, killing the messenger who brings bad news is a time-honored practice. And what worse news could there be than losing the Soccer World Cup? In this year’s championship, one bearer of much bad news – at least for half the spectators of any given game – has been Paul the Octopus, the showpiece of the Sea Life Center in the German town of Oberhausen and, arguably, the most celebrated octopus of all times. Paul famously predicted the outcome of eight soccer games, including the final between Spain and the Netherlands, by draping his tentacles across a treat-filled glass box bearing the flag of the respective winning national team. No wonder the authorities in Oberhausen have stepped up security…

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