Tuesday, July 31, 2012
I'm going to attend a Swiss National Day party at the Swiss Consul General's home tomorrow, and I wondered what are the origins of this famous national day. I did a little research and this is what I found:
August 1st is to the Swiss what July 4th is to Americans or July 14th to the French. Swiss National day is only just over a century old, and it was only in 1993 that the hardworking Swiss agreed that they could all take the day off, but the event it commemorates took place 700 years ago and at the heart of the celebrations is a custom which doubtless goes back into the mists of time.
The day was chosen because August 1st, 1291 was the date on which three Alpine cantons swore the oath of confederation, an act which later came to be regarded as the foundation of Switzerland. The reps of Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri met on the Rutli field, high above Lake Lucerne, to swear a bond of brotherhood, and agree to act jointly if their freedoms were threatened by outside aggressors.
For most people, August 1st means bonfires and fireworks and barbecues in the garden or brunch on the farm. Long before the Swiss government decided in 1891 to declare the day a national day, people had celebrated summer by lighting bonfires. The custom of lighting a fire on June 24th, St. John's Day is known all over Europe. But for the Swiss, bonfires had an extra significance. For centuries they had built beacons on mountains tops which they lit when danger approached.
One legend told of both Lake Geneva and Lake Biel relates how hordes of invading barbarians intent on conquering the ancient Swiss tribes turned back when they saw the lights reflected in the lake water, thinking they had come to the edge of the earth and were about to ride off into the sky.
Whether in remembrance of this event, or just because it's fun, every Swiss commune now lights its own bonfire and sets off fireworks, and children parade through the streets with paper lanterns--often decorated with the Swiss cross or the symbols of the cantons--and people light candles in their windows.
And since no celebration is complete without a feast, many people mark this festival of fire by cooking sausages over a barbecue and enjoying them with friends.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
London--Saudi Arabia's first female Olympic athletes made their appearance at the opening ceremony to the London Games on Friday, dressed in traditional hijabs, or Islamic headscarfs.
Saudi Arabia was one of three countries, alongside Brunei and Qatar, never to have sent female athletes to the Olympics but the latter two confirmed earlier this year that their delegations would include women.
Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shakerkani and Sarah Attar are due to compete in the 78kg catergory in judo and 800 meters respectively after Saudi Arabia broke with its practice of sending male-only teams to the world's biggest multi-sports event.
On Thursday, International Judo Federation president Marius Vizer said Shaherkani would have to fight without a hijab-- a decision that is likely to cause controversy in Saudi Arabia, where female participation in sports has long been a controversial issue.
Powerful clerics denounce women for exercising, saying it goes against their natural role.
Friday, July 27, 2012
Israel's Ambassador to the United Kingdom Daniel Taub said the murder of the Israeli team members during the Munich Olympics (1972) was the "darkest moment of Olympic history," calling it "a tragedy for Israel and for the Jewish people."
"Less than three decades after the Shoah, we witnessed the murder of Jews, as Jews, on German soil. It's a tragedy we have to remember, particularly in a week when we saw terrorism against Israel strike again as we saw in Bulgaria," said Taub.
Ambassador Taub called the Munich attack a strike on Olympic values and said commemoration was vital to show the world that those values were still relevant.
Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat stood silently in the VIP area during the address by IOC president Jaques Rogge at Friday night's Olympc 2012 opening ceremony in London. She was commemorating the 11 Israeli Olympic team members who were killed by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Munich Games and protesting the IOC's refusal to hold a moment of silence during the ceremony.
Livnat, seated in a special dignitaries box, took the decision to stage the silent act after Rogge made clear in a press conference that the IOC was sticking to its position against holding a minute of silence during the ceremony. The image of her standing was not broadcast on the official Olympic TV feed. It was shown on Israel television only after the ceremony concluded.
Sports news site Sport5 reported today that the Foreign Ministry was attempting to convince ministers from other countries to join Livnat in her act of protest. Israel, the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany and numerous other countries urged the IOC to commemorate the victims of the 1972 Munich massacre at the Games' opening ceremony, but were rebuffed by Rogge.
Others had also been asked to stand in silence during Rogge's speech, with advocacy efforts made in recent weeks by widows of the murdered Israeli athletes and coaches.
"If you believe that the 11 murdered athletes must be mentioned, stand for a spontaneous minute when the IOC president begins to speak," Ilan Romano, wife of Yossef Romano, a weightlifter who was murdered in the 1972 attack, had urged.
The media, she said, should follow the lead of NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who has pledged to hold his own on-air minute of silence. "Silence your microphones for a minute in memory of our loved ones and to condemn terrorism," she said.
Israel TV silenced its own commentary for 30 seconds when the Israeli athletes entered the stadium and showed a photo composite of the 11 Munich victims.
More than 20,000 people in various venues in London attended the British Zionist Federation's "Minute for Munich" program, promoted via social media, earlier today. About 200 people marked the Minute for Munich in Trafalgar Square, reciting memorial prayers and lighting memorial candles. Afterwards, they waved British flags in front of media who attended the event.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
My father's long-time patient and dear friend, actor Chad Everett has died. Everett, the blue-eyed star of the 1970s TV series "Medical Center" who went on to appear in such films and TV shows as "Mulholland Drive" and "Melrose Place" was 76.
Everett's daughter, Katherine Throp, said he died yesterday at his home in Los Angeles after a year-and-a-half long battle with lung cancer.
Everett played sensitive doctor Joe Gannon for seven years on "Medical Center." The role earned him two Golden Globes and an Emmy nomination.
"He was a wonderful man," Dr. Rubinson said. "He's been my patient for over 30 years."
With a career spanning more than 40 years, Everett guest starred on such TV series as "The Love Boat," "Murder She Wrote" and "Without a Trace." Everett most recently appeared in the TV series "Castle."
Chas was born in South Bend, Ind., and graduated from Wayne State University before moving to Los Angeles and becoming a contract player with MGM.
In perhaps his most memorable recent film role, Everett played a lothario who engages in a steamy audition with a young ingenue portrayed by Naomi Watts in director David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive."
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Diplomatic Circles Report
Saudi King Abdullah issued a royal decree for appointing former Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar as the head of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, succeeding Prince Meqren bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi state TV reported.
Prince Bandar, who I had the opportunity of interviewing several years ago, is a very affable man and quite popular among the U.S. media. He is a member of the House of Saud and was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005.
Bandar was born officially on March 2, 1949 in Taif. His actual date of birth is reportedly later according to himself and Western think tanks. He faked his birthday to enter the Royal Saudi Air Force.
He is a trained pilot and has flown numerous fighter aircraft. Bandar's military career ended in 1977 after he crash-landed his jet and suffered a severe back injury. Afterward he received a master's degree in International Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University.
In 1972, Bandar married Haifa bint Faisal, who has born him eight children: four sons and four daughters. The youngest three (Fahad, Hussa and Azus) attended Potomac School in McLean, Virginia while living in the town from 2001-2005. His daughter Princess Reema bint Bandar who was formerly married to Prince Faisal bin Turki organized the world's largest pink ribbon event in Saudi Arabia to raise awareness for breast cancer. His son Khalid is married to Lucy Cuthbert, niece of Ralph Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland.
His diplomatic career began in 1978. As the king's personal envoy, he successfully lobbied the United States Congress to approve the sale of F-15s to Saudi Arabia. At the Oval Office, Carter told him to win the support of California governor Ronald Reagan. He did and in exchange helped Carter win the support of Senator James Abourezk to support the Panama Canal treaty.
In 1982, King Fahd made him the military attache at the Saudi Embassy, a move which could have ended his diplomatic career. However in 1983, Fahd appointed Bandar as Saudi Ambassador to the United States.
Bandar formed close relationships with several American presidents, notably George H.S. Bush, and George W. Bush, the latter giving him the affectionate and controversial nickname "Bandar Bush." He advocated Saddam Hussein's overthrow in Iraq and encouraged military action against Iraq and supported Dick Cheney's "The New Middle East" agenda. His children attended school with Cheney's grandchildren.
Known for his cigar smoking, he usually wears European clothes and he likes American slang and American history. In Washington, he earned a reputation for partying and drinking. He may have recently abandoned alcohol after a death scare in the family. In mid-1990s, he suffered his first bout of depression.
A few months after 9/11, Bandar went to Aspen where he has a 32 room mansion. The palatial vacation home, called Hala Ranch, is larger than the White House, is perched on a mountaintop of 95 acres and includes 15 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms, featuring 24-karat gold fixtures. While serving as the Saudi ambassador to US, the family lived on a large estate in McLean near the Potomac River.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Cowbells are just as much a part of Alpine culture as yodeling and Lederhosen, but the constant clanging can be annoying. An Austrian court has ordered a farmer to remove the bells after residents complained they couldn't get any sleep.
Next they'll be banning yodeling. In a ringing blow to Alpine tradition, an Austrian court on Tuesday banned cowbells from a field after residents complained they weren't getting any sleep at night because of the endless clanging.
The owner of the cows had refused to remove the bells from his herd, arguing that they were traditional and had a generally calming effect.
But judge Erich Kundergraber visited the field near Stallhofen, a small town in the southeastern foothills of the Alps and ruled in favor of the farmer's neighbors.
"They couldn't sleep anymore. They were at the end of their tether," he said, according to Austrian newspapers. Kundegraber could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The cows were free to roam the field at night and noise was reportedly made worse by the scraping of their bells against a metal trough.
The court decided there was no need to give cows bells if they were in a fenced field, easily visible and not located in a mountain pasture. It added that cowbells weren't a traditional feature of rural residential areas. The farmer will face a fine if he doesn't comply with the ruling.
Cowbells were originally used to help trace errant animals and to make it easier for the cows to stay close to each other in mountain pastures. It remains unclear to what extent the ruling sets a precedent that could lead to the widespread removal of bells from cows across Austria.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
In a disturbing sign that the violence in Syria may be spreading beyond its borders, police in Almaty are investigating an attack that seriously damaged the Arab Republic's Consulate offices.
The upper floors of the building sustained heavy damage in the attack, which Syrian diplomats believe was intentionally targeted, according to the KTK television station.
"The second and third floors of this country's one and only diplomatic mission in Kazakhstan were completely destroyed," according to the station. "Diplomats believe the arsonists targeted the third floor intentionally."
The Consulate's third floor housed the offices of the Syrian honorary consul, together with important documents. The fire also damaged guest rooms and a meeting hall.
"Consulate employees believe Molotov Cocktails were thrown at the building," according to the report. "However valuable items inside of the Consulate were not damaged."
Police are now investigating the incident, the station said.
Meanwhile, Syrian diplomats are blaming the attack on "radical religious organizations" and individuals who could potentially "resort to anything."
Syria's Honorary Consul to Kazakstan Samir al-Dara explained in an interview with KTK the level of violence that has hit the Syrian community in Kazakhstan.
"They set fire to a house today and they could kill someone tomorrow," he said. "I have no idea. I cannot live here any longer."
A Jewish rights group has hunted down a 97-year-old alleged Nazi war criminal living in Budapest, apparently right under the eye of Hungarian authorities, CNN reports. Reps from the Simon Wiesenthal Center knocked on the door of Ladislaus Csizslk-Csatary's 2-bedroom apartment and had the door slammed in their face, according to two Sun journalists who joined in. "He looked shocked and stammered, 'No,no. Go away." they reported.
Csatary allegedly ran a ghetto in Hungarian-run Slovakia, where he deported more than 15,000 Jews to Auschwitz in 1944. After the war, he moved to Canada and stayed there until authorities caught up with him in 1997. The Wiesenthal Center eventually found him and alerted Hungarian authorities, who started an investigation. "Hungarian authorities knew that he was back," said a Wiesenthal official. He said the group has "eyewitnesses on three different continents" who can testify to Csatary's cruelty.
He's had Manhattan, "Midnight in Paris" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," and now Israeli officials are trying to convince legendary filmmaker Woody Allen to set a movie in the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Both President Shimon Peres and Jersualem Mayor Nir Barkat are part of the effort, their offices said, with Barkat even holding a pow-wow with Allen and his one-time muse Diane Keaton earlier this year.
"President Peres always encourages producers and directors to come and make films in Israel," an official told reporters yesterday.
"When President Peres met with Woody in New York in March this year, the issue was raised and he encouraged Woody to come and make a film here," he added.
"He invited him to come to Israel, but also told Woody that we would love for him to entertain the possibility of filming in Jersusalem and would do everything possible to facilitate him coming here," he said.
Cohen said the bid to lure Allen came in the context of a larger project to convince directors and producers to consider filming in Jerusalem.
"Not only is it important to show Jerusalem for all its beauty and normalcy around the world, but also there's a well-documented history of films creating name recognition for places around the world," he said. He also added that tax incentives and the availability of equipment and facilities could draw Allen nonetheless and that Barkat planned to follow up with the filmmaker in the United States.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Danielle Arbid, a Lebanese filmmaker who recently moved to France, joined a growing number of artists, businessmen and investors who left Lebanon fearing the rise in extremisim.
Arbid's film "Beirut Hotel" was banned on the grounds of national security for mentioning former premiere Rafiq Hairir's assassination while ignoring the explicit sex scenes in the film.
"Nothing works in this country except the censorship bureau," Arbid told the New York TImes.
Lebanese liberals are overshadowed and challenged by extremism with Shiite Islamists, Salafi mullahs and Al Qeda in Tripoli. Other victims of censorship include the movie "The DaVince Code" and the American TV series "The West Wing.:
Friday, July 13, 2012
"The Intouchables" is a feel-good dramatic comedy that has become a cultural phenomenon in France. It is based on the book "You Changed My Life" by Abdel Sellou.
The movie relates the development of the improbable friendship between Philippe, a wealthy wheel-chair bound invalid and Driss, a young and poor man from the ghettos, who is hired as his live-in caretaker. The story of the two men is told mostly in flashback which occupies most of the film.
The plot of the film is inspired by a true story discovered by the directors in a 2004 documentary film. With $20 million tickets sold outside of France as of May 20th, 2012, it is, for the moment, the second most successful French movie shot in French since 1994, behind "Amelie."
In Germany it is the most successful French movie shot in any language since 1968.
In Italy, it is the most successful French movie shot in French since 1997.
In South Korea, it is the most successful French movie shot in French since 1994.
In Austria, it is the most successful French movie shot in any language since 1994.
In Israel, it is the most successful French movie shot in French since 2002
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The internationally renowned Egyptian actor Omar Sharif expressed his resentment at recent rumors that he converted to Judaism which he described as absolutely groundless.
Omar Sharif did not embrace Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism, as has been recently rumored, said the actor's official spokesperson Inas Bakr.
"I have been hearing these rumors for a while and I have no idea what their source is, but they are not true and he is not thinking of converting at all," she told reporters.
Bakr added that two things are next to impossible when it comes to Sharif's values: changing his religion and changing his nationality.
"He has always sworn never to think of changing those two and he has never taken back a word he said."
The French magazine Elle had recently published a report on celebrities who embraced Kabbalah and listed Sharif as one of them together with Madonna, Jim Carrey and Raquel Welch.
According to the magazine, Sharif met with several Jewish figures and converted to that Jewish school of though that sees Judaism as "the origin of everything."
Saturday, July 7, 2012
Ambassador Francois Delattre was appointed Ambassador of France to the United States in February 2011 after serving as Ambassador of France to Canada (2008-2011), Consul General in New York (2004-2008) and Press and Communications Director at the French Embassy in Washington DC (1998-2002).
A member of President Jacques Chirac's foreign policy team (1995-1998), Delattre was responsible for European and trans-Atlantic defense and security matters and managing the Bosnian crisis. He also served as Deputy Director of the French Foreign Minister's Office and was a member of Foreign Minister Alain Juppe's cabinet, following two years with the Strategic Security and Disarmament Department of the French Foreign Ministry from 1991-1993.
He was posted in Bonn at the French Embassy in Germany (1989-1991), where he was in charge of matters pertaining to the economic impact of Germany's unification and environment.
"French-American relations have never been closer than today. On the diplomatic and security front, our two countries are fighting together in the skies of Libya and the mountains of Afghanistan. France and the U.S. are each other's closest allies in the fight against terrorism. Our two countries have taken the lead to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapons state. They are in the forefront of international efforts to support the democratic movements in the Arab World as was illustrated by the G8 summit that took place in Deauville France at the end of May.
On the economic front France is one of the top 5 largest investors in the United States where 4,000 French companies support more than 650,000 jobs. Conversely France is one of the top 5 leading destinations worldwide for direct foreign investment.
The U.S. is the number one foreign investor in France and American investment in my country increased by more than 30% last year. Innovation goes hand in hand with booming entreprenuership in France. Over the last year, we started in my country 650,000 new businesses. This is a spectacular increase compared to previous years and this is a record high in France and in Europe. It says a lot about the vitality of the French economy and it reminds us that after all "entrepreneur" is a French word!"
Thursday, July 5, 2012
This performance reaches deep into the mind and soul of the renowned Austrian writer and dramatist, famous for his frank treatment of sex and psyche. Based on his journals, his correspondence and his dreams, the drama exposes Schnitzler's often conflicted feelings about being a Jew in the heady milieu of turn-of-the-century Vienna.
The performance will be followed by a roundtable discussion with a panel of distinguished scholars and a reception at the USC Forum, Thursday September 13 at 4p.m.
Arthur Schnitzler, son of a prominent Hungarian Jewish laryngologist Johann Schnitzler (1835-1893) and Luise Markbreiter (1838-1911), a daughter of the Viennese doctor Philipp Markbriter, was born in Praterstrasse 16, Leopoldstadt, Vienna in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He began studying medicine at the University of Vienna in 1879 and received his doctorate of medicine in 1885 and worked at Vienna's General Hospital, but ultimately abandoned medicine in favor of writing.
His works were often controversial, both for their frank description of sexuality and for their strong stand against anti-Semitism, represented by works such as his play "Professor Bernhardi" and the novel "Der Weg ins Freie." However, though Schnitzler was himself Jewish, Professor Bernhardi and Frau Else are among the few clearly indentified Jewish protagonists in his work.
Schnitzler was branded as a pornographer after the release of his play "Reigen," in which ten pairs of characters are shown before and after the sexual act, leading and ending with a prostitute. The furor after this play was couched in the strongest anti-Semitic terms.
In response to an interviewer who asked Schnitzler what he though about the critical view that his works all seemed to treat the same subjects, he replied, "I write of love and death. What other subjects are there?"
A member of the avant-garde group "Young Vienna," Schnitzler toyed with formal as well as social conventions. In addition to his plays and fiction, Schnitzler meticulously kept a diary from the age of 17 until two days before his death. The manuscript which runs to almost 8,000 pages is most notable for Schnitzler's casual descriptions of sexual conquests--he was often in relationships with several women at once and for a period of some years he kept a record of every orgasm.
Schnitzler's works were called "Jewish Filth" by Adolf Hitler and were banned by the Nazis in Austria and Germany. In 1933, when Joseph Goebbels organized book burnings in Berlin and other cities, Schnitzler's works were thrown into flames along with those of other Jews, including Einstein, Marx, Kafka, Freud and Stefan Zweig.
On August 26, 1903, Schnitzler married 21-year-old aspiring actress and singer Olga Gussmann who came from a Jewish middle class family. They had a son together, Heinrich (1902-1982) and a daughter Lili who committed suicide. The Schnitzler's separated in 1921. Schnitzler died in 1931 in Vienna of a brain hemorrhage. Heinrich went to the U.S. in 1938, following the Anschluss and did not return to Austria until 1959.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
"I hail from Warsaw, just like the family of my Mother, whose Father, and my Grandfather, worked for Mayor Starynski. As a student of Spanish language and literature, I actively participated in the student movement of the 1980s, first as a member of the strike committee and then as a student rep in the University Senate. It was then that I met my future husband, Marcin, head of the student self-government at the university. At the time of martial law, Marcin was interned and later fired from work at the Mathematics Department of Warsaw University. He then received an invitation from one of the French universities. We left together and enrolled at post-graduate studies in Paris and continued our work within the International Movement of Catholic Students at which we created a section for the cooperation with Poland and the countries of Central Europe. At the time Poland forbade all "non-communist" student organizations, this allowed many Polish students to establish various interesting international contacts. In France, I received a post-graduate diploma in history of Latin America through research and publications in Europe, Mexico, Guatemala and Peru.
My work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs marked an important and extremely difficult period, as Poles traveling throughout the world had to experience not only the benefits but also the dangers of globalizations. I initiated the assistance program for the new economic migration within the European Union and coordinated the evacuation of our compatriots from Iraq, Georgia and Gaza. I have assisted thousands of Polish tourists trapped abroad as a result of the bankruptcy of two big tourist bureaus. I surpervised the rescue effort for the Polish engineer kidnapped in Pakistan, regrettably tragically ended, the cases of Polish sailors on ships kidnapped by Somalian pirates, Poles imprisoned in Ecuador for drug smuggling and hundreds of random incidents happening to our compatriots all over the world. Consular existence is a legal right guaranteed by the Polish Constitution, and hundreds of Consuls offer daily their help and commitment to Polish citizens in trouble. It was a much demanding task but at the same time a great privilege to cooperate with Polish consular missions helping people where needed."
Poland abroad is perceived mainly through the evaluation of Poles residing there and the opinions of foreign Friends who happened to gain knowledge about it through life vicissitudes. Relations with the Polish American community are coordinated by Consul Malgorzata Cup, also from Warsaw and a graduate of the Warsaw School of Economics. Malgorzata also deals with cultural and academic exchange as well as press relations. Nearly a dozen people work in the Polish Consulate in Los Angeles and all of them are young (including the Consul General), with varied and comprehensive life and professional experiences.
Monday, July 2, 2012
"I arrived on October 8, 2011 to begin my position as Consul General. This is my first assignment to the United States and I am looking forward to learning more about American culture and fostering the Japan-U.S. relationship in the context of this jurisdiction.
As the official representative of the Government of Japan here, my primary duties include the protection of Japanese nationals as well as further strengthening the already close bonds of friendship enjoyed by Japanese and Americans in Southern California and Arizona. I work closely with my staff and partner with the community to promote Japanese business and support Japanese and Japan-related cultural organizations and activities.
"Like my predecessor, Mr. Ihara, I started working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1979. This was just after graduating from the University of Tokyo's Faculty of Law. My previous international assignments were to England, Kenya, France, Iran, Russia and Thailand. In addition to this being my first post to the U.S. it is also my first time to be a consul general. Even though I have been a career diplomat I still have a lot to learn. But I look forward to it, in fact, I have already started to study. So far I have learned that there are about 1,200 Japanese businesses and nearly 95,000 Japanese nationals living in Southern California and Arizona. The Japanese American community has a population of roughly 270,000 and comprises up to six generations. Those are some of the highest numbers in the United States and it means that there is alot of common ground between Japanese and Americans here.
Southern California and Arizona comprises a very significant and meaningful jurisdiction in which to continue growing Japan-US relations. Not only that, but Los Angeles is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the world, which will allow us to foster good friendships with people of many countries. I am eager to meet as many people as possible and continue the important work of this office."
To further strengthen the bond between Japan and the US, the consulate is planning various community events to promote Japanese culture, especially now (2012) which is the centennial anniversary of the gift of cherry blossom trees to Washington DC from Tokyo. To commemorate the centennial, many events will be held all over the country, and the Los Angeles consulate is preparing for cherry blossom plantings in Los Angeles and San Diego.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Set in Algeria in the 1920s, a rabbi's pet cat learns how to speak after swallowing the family parrot and expresses his desire to convert to Judaism. A delightful comic romp in French animation.
The Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, or simply DA is a postgraduate professional school based in Vienna, Austria, with focused training for students and professionals in the areas of international affairs, political science, law, languages, history and economics.
The school confers Master's degrees and postgraduate diplomas upon it's graduates. It is the only member of the Assocation of Professional Schools of International Affairs in Austria.
The academy was originally commissioned for establishment by Empress Maria Theresa in 1754 as "The Oriental Academy" for the purposes of training young diplomats to represent the Hapsburg Empire abroad. The school was renamed multiple times and reorganized over the centuries and it eventually gained independent public institution status in 1996. Given it's roots, DA claims to be the oldest school of its kind, one that is dedicated to professional foreign affairs training.
DA's current director is Dr. Hans Winkler, former Austrian ambassador and State Secretary in the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs.
Several prominent figures in politics, economics and law have associations with DA:
1. Celso Amorim-current Braziliam Minister of Defense, former Brazilian Foreign Minister and ambassador to the United Kingdom.
2. Jiri Grusa- Czech poet and former Czech ambassador to Austria.
3. Heinz Schaden- Austrian Social Democratic Party politician and current mayor Salzburg.
4. Kurt Waldheim-former President of Austria and Secretary-General of the United Nations. Graduated from the academy (then known as the Vienna Consular Academy) in 1939.
Yitzhak Shamir, the former Israeli prime minster who expanded settlements and promoted a forceful brand of Zionism, died today at age 96. He reportedly suffered from Alzheimer's disease. The survivor of a Polish family killed in the Holocaust, Shamir made his mark in Israel's pre-state militia in the 1940s, the New York Times reports. After serving time in Eritrea for a hotel bombing, he returned to Israel in 1948, joined the Mossad, spent years in business and entered Menachem Begin's Herut Party in 1970.
He rose from speaker to foreign minister and eventually succeeded Begin as prime minister in 1983. Serving second-longest among all Israeli PMs, Shamir encouraged settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. He won favor with Washington for not attacking Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, but was criticized for failing to act when, during Israel's war in Lebanon, Lebenese militiamen massacred Palestinians in camps guarded by Israelis. Perhaps it reflected Shamir's understated personality. "With our long, bitter experience," he once said, "we have to think twice before we do something."
Received a fun surprise in the mail today from Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel to New York...a DVD called "Music Voyager Israel Edition" which provides an intimate look at the imagination and energy of the Israeli music scene.
Regardless of genre, each musician collaborates with those who are different from themselves, uniting Arab and Jew, liberal and conservative, Jerusalemite and Tel Avivian, a true bridge between East and West. Exploring Israel's shuks, nightclubs, wineries and restaurants, Music Voyager showcases the spirit of Israel as it breathes life into new cultural endeavors with each episode. As unique as each musician's style and genre is, together they unite in composing the soundtrack of Israel's life.
To learn more about PBS' Music Voyager Israel Edition, log onto the website: www.israelfm.org and clicking on the Music Voyager link.
(This book was written by the late, great Israeli statesman Abba Eban).
Israel's great leader and statesman--author of "My People", the best-selling book that told the history of the Jews and of "My country," the story of Israel--now recounts his own life story. His book is at once the moving personal history of one of the foremost men of our century and a behind-the-scenes, amazingly frank diplomatic history of contemporary international affairs. It is, in fact, the story of Eban the statesman and Eban the man.
Born in South Africa, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, Eban spent his childhood in London. His grandfather, a man of great learning, had a profound influence on the boy and saw to it that his education included a thorough background in Hebrew studies--in the language, history and laws of the Jews. Later when he met Chaim Weizmann and other early, inspiring leaders of Zionism, Eban became infused with their passion and commitment;his destiny as a leader of his people was set.
"Somebody in the embassy figured out that during my decade I had visted 42 of the 48 states, had traveled two million miles and had fulfilled more than a thousand engagements at radio and television stations, luncheons, banquets and rallies as well as hundreds of meeting of the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly. In one of my farewell speeches I said that I had found it easier to live my decade in the United States than to celebrate it.
There is a conventional envy of diplomats for the intensity of their experience and the amenities by which they are surrounded. There would be less jealousy if more account were taken of the sacrifice inherent in the constant rootlessness. It is a nomadic destiny with countless reunions and partings and abrupt sunderings of relationships that stretch deep into the habit and the affections. I have known many foreign service officers in Israel and other countries who have never managed to restore emotional stability when, after being in "orbit" through so many different planets of experience, they suddenly return to the hard earth of normality. Their wives and children suffer even more intensely without the compensation that comes from the work itself."
We watch Eban turning himself over to the Zionist movement, performing vitally important missions for the Zionist cause at a very young age, and after Israeli statehood was achieved, beginning a long, distinguished career of public service for his government--as Ambassador to the United States, Delegate to the United Nations, Minister of Education and Culture, and Deputy Prime Minister. As Eban takes us through the Suez crisis, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War and Israel's continuing battle for survival, we see his penetrating insights into diplomatic maneuvering as well as startlingly candid observations and portraits of Israeli statesmen from Bem Gurion to Yitzhak Rabin and of world leaders from Truman to Nasser to Henry Kissinger.
This is a stirring and inspiring memoir of an outstanding man of our time and of the world events, he helped to shape.