Museum Statement on the 25th Anniversary of the Genocide at Srebrenica — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Twenty five years ago, the world witnessed the largest massacre in Europe since the Holocaust—the genocide at Srebrenica where more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces starting on July 11, 1995. Despite clear warning signs, the international community failed to protect the people of Srebrenica.

John Gruber on Google software:

Google makes a lot of software with terrible user experiences for users who have poor taste. Their iOS software, in particular, has for the most part never suggested that it was designed by people who like — or even use — iOS.

DW reports that the German government has caught an Egyptian spy working in its press office until December, 2019. Germany believes Egypt recruits individuals to spy on opposition groups living in Germany.

World War II - Total Civilian and Military Deaths in Millions

  • Soviet Union: 24
  • China: 20
  • Germany: 6.6 to 8.8
  • Poland: 5.6
  • Japan: 2.6 to 3.1
  • India: 1.5 to 2.5
  • France: 0.6
  • UK: 0.45
  • US: 0.42

Source: The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana

Gold prices ticked past $1,800 an ounce this week, and are now not far from the all-time highs reached in 2011, in the bleak aftermath of the financial crisis. New records could be ahead.

The Wall Street Journal

Millionaires Per Capita (2019)

  1. Switzerland
  2. Hong Kong
  3. United States
  4. Netherlands
  5. Australia
  6. Denmark
  7. New Zealand
  8. Sweden
  9. United Kingdom
  10. Singapore

Switzerland has a big lead. Germany is number 16, which surprised me. Canada is number 11. Sadly, I’m not sure that Hong Kong still qualifies as a country.

Source: Credit Suisse on Wikipedia - Sortable List

Why I Chose Micro.blog

I want to thank @Manton for his steady development of Micro.blog. I’ve debated where to blog and whether to blog.

Where to Blog

I’ve tried various platforms including WordPress, Squarespace, Ghost and others. They all work. WordPress is more bloated than I need. Squarespace looks nice but Markdown is kind of an afterthought. I want Markdown as a main event. I don’t think Ghost is all that different from WordPress but it offers far fewer themes. I have neither the skill nor the inclination to create my own theme on any platform. I want to write and share.

I’ve decided to blog only here because of:

  • The friendly community
  • The lack of tracking
  • The openness of the platform
  • The ability to write in Markdown
  • The speed of hosted Micro.blogs
  • The variety of apps for posting. I love posting longer pieces directly from iA Writer, an app I think is beautiful. In May of 2020, iA Writer added Micropub support. This means I can publish a draft directly to Micro.blog from iA Writer. I just love this. The native Micro.blog iOS app is fast and easy to use. I also like Icro by Martin Hartl (@hartlco) of Berlin because of the beautiful fonts it uses. It’s nice having options.
  • The plugins @Manton added today. I appreciate the ability to add a search box to any theme. And the search is fast — way faster than Squarespace search.

Whether to Blog

In an age of bloated websites filled with advertising, I value independent-minded people who share what they enjoy for the joying sharing on an open platform rather than a closed silo.

I’d like to contribute to a community that has enriched and continues to enrich my life. This is especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic as we rely so much on the internet for communicating.

Reflections on Berlin

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Berlin twice. The first time was in the early 1980s and the second time in 2018. The transformation was dramatic.

Berlin Before the Fall of the Wall

I visited Berlin in the early 1980s. Berlin was then a divided city. I stayed in the Western zone near the Kurfurstendamm, which at the time was the heart of Berlin. I took a one day bus tour to the East. We crossed through Checkpoint Charlie. The bus was thoroughly searched by East German border guards. In contrast, the American military just let us pass freely.

The West was vibrant with shops, restaurants and people everywhere, In contrast, buildings in the East still showed signs of the bombing it received in the war. There were Soviet style memorials throughout East Berlin.

Our East German guide was openly dispirited and seemed to be reciting a script he was told to speak, especially when he spoke of “warm relations” with the then Soviet Union. At the end of the day, I was glad to be back in the West where I felt free and comfortable.

Berlin in 2018

Kurfurstendamm

In 2018, I went back to Berlin to see an undivided, transformed and reinvented Berlin. The German capital is still under construction 73 years after the end of WWII. I stayed near the Kurfurstendamm so I could compare my experience today with the early 1980s. My hotel — Pension Peters — is a small owner-managed hotel, where I felt more like a temporary resident in a nice Berlin neighborhood rather than a tourist.

I saw the transformation of Berlin immediately. The Kurfurstendamm is no longer the center of town. The heart of Berlin today is in the former East, which was a shambles when I was last there. The Kurfurstendamm is now a nice shopping street in lovely Berlin neighborhood called City West but is no longer the heart of the capital.

The Heart of Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie is now nothing more than a tourist attraction with actor guards who, for a few Euros, will pose with you for a nice picture. There’s even a “Checkpoint Charlie” McDonald’s across the street. It certainly no longer inspires fear.

The heart of Berlin is dominated by the Brandenburg Gate and government buildings, including the embassies of the four former occupying powers: the United States, Great Britain, France and Russia.

Berlin is no longer occupied but the former occupiers are nearby as if to say: “We are watching.” Each of the four embassies has a rich history.

The Soviet Union was first of the four major occupiers to move into a post-War embassy in Berlin. The Russian Embassy in Berlin was closed in 1941 when the two countries went to war. Its reconstruction was the first project of the post-war years in the East Berlin. The embassy’s official grand opening was held on the national holiday of the former USSR, on November 7, 1951. It’s Europe’s largest embassy which sends a message all by itself. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, it became the Russian Embassy. (See also Rick Steves Berlin (p. 105). Avalon Publishing. Kindle Edition. )

The United Kingdom (UK) came next. The UK’s impressive new embassy was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on July 18, 2000.

France occupied its new embassy in October 2002. However, France formally opened it on January 23, 2003. That date was chosen as it was the 40th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty between Germany and France, declaring friendship between France and the former West Germany. French President Jacques Chirac presided. Marking the occasion, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and President Chirac issued a declaration affirming Franco-German friendship and their joint determination to “re-found Europe”.

The United States was the last of the four major occupiers to move into a post-War embassy in Berlin. The history of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin is especially complicated. During WWII, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin was severely damaged by Allied bombing. After the war, the embassy ended up just barely inside East Berlin in divided Berlin’s Soviet zone, straddling the demarcation between the Soviet and American sectors.

The Berlin Wall made the site of the former U.S. Embassy, still owned by the U.S. government, an inaccessible vacant lot. It was part of the security zone separating east and west Berliners. In 1967, the East German government demolished the ruins of the US Embassy building. However, the site became accessible after the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989. Even so, it remained a vacant lot until the 2004 groundbreaking for construction of a brand new U.S. Embassy. The newly constructed embassy opened on July 4, 2008.

The Brandenburg Gate is nearby. This is the center of Berlin. Since the 18th Century, the Brandenburg Gate has been a site for major historical events and today is an important symbol of the history of Europe and Germany.

Also nearby — and not to be missed — is Germany’s parliament – the Reichstag – which was opened in 1894 and remained in service until 1933, when it was severely damaged after being set on fire. The Reichstag fire occurred one month after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. After World War II, the building fell into disuse; the parliament of the German Democratic Republic (the Volkskammer) met in the Palast der Republik in East Berlin, while the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany (the Bundestag) met in the Bundeshaus in Bonn.

The building was not properly restored until after German reunification on October 3, 1990. And what a glorious restoration it was. The German government chose British architect Norman Foster to lead the effort. Foster constructed is a large glass dome atop the Reichstag with a 360 degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The debating chamber of the Bundestag, the German parliament, can be seen below. A mirrored cone in the center of the dome directs sunlight into the building, and so that visitors can see the working of the chamber. The dome is open to the public and can be reached by climbing two steel, spiraling ramps that are reminiscent of a double helix. The Dome sends a message that the people are above the government, as was not the case during the Nazi era. After its completion in 1999, it once again became the meeting place of the German parliament: the modern Bundestag. The views are impressive. Entry is free but advance registration is required.

Other Berlin Sites

I also enjoyed visiting:

  • Hitler’s Bunker (Führerbunker), where Adolf Hitler committed suicide at the end of the war. It’s now an ordinary parking lot. Germany doe not want to create a shrine out the place where Hitler perished.

  • Topography of Terror (Nazi Forced Labour Documentation Cantre) has interesting exhibits documenting Nazi crimes. During the Nazi era, the headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS and the Reich Security Main Office were located at the site.

  • The German History Museum for its candid exhibits about Hitler and the Nazis era.

  • Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, the site of the main political prison of the former East German Communist Ministry of State Security, the Stasi. I found the visit informative and chilling. East Germany went from one form of oppression to another form of oppression. It’s sad, terrifying and once again demonstrates what unchecked power 

  • Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial) has almost 3,000 symbolic pillars next to the U.S. Embassy in the heart of Berlin. It was designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman, who is Jewish. It opened in 2005. Eisenman explains that the “project manifests the instability inherent in what seems to be a system, here a rational grid, and its potential for dissolution in time.” The Memorial brings home the magnitude of the Holocaust.

Germany is creatively and thoughtfully reinventing its capital city. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and hope to return to see more of Berlin and how it evolves once I can safely return.

I don’t have any photos of my visit before the Berlin Wall fell. However, my 2018 photos are on Flickr.

Podcast: ‘Airlines Confidential’

The Airlines Confidential podcast is about the airline industry. Its co-hosts are Ben Baldanza, the former CEO of Spirit Airlines and Seth Kaplan, a transportation analyst for the NPR program Here & Now and former publisher of Airline Weekly. It’s interesting to hear the perspective of a former airline CEO on what’s happening in that industry, especially during this challenging time.

Airlines Confidential is a weekly podcast. Each episode lasts a little more than thirty minutes and includes listener questions. For the length of the podcast, there are a lot of advertisements. Even so, the podcast is worth listening to if you want to hear an insider perspective on the airline industry.

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Last updated: July 8, 2020

Quantas Saying Goodbye to the 747

Airline Geeks reports that Quantas, an Australian airline, is retiring its remaining Boeing 747 aircraft in July 2020. This marks the end of an era that lasted almost 50 years:

The Boeing 747 and Qantas have a long-standing history. It had been the flagship aircraft of the airline since 1971 when the first aircraft joined the airline. The 747 allowed Qantas to enhance its global commercial network by strengthening its long-haul fleet. Qantas retired its Boeing 707 fleet in 1979, becoming the only all-Boeing–747 carrier in the world.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner will become the airline’s flagship aircraft.

EPA approves two Lysol products as the first to effectively kill novel coronavirus on surfaces

New Resource for Covid-19 Information

Covid-Explained is a new website with information written in plain English about the virus. The site provides answers to questions such as:

  • Is it safe to go the gym?

  • Is it safe to fly?

  • How can I get take out food safely?

Covid-Explained also provides helpful context about Covid–19 topics reported in the media including asymptomatic spread, whether people who recover from the virus have antibodies and school transmission.

The site is the creation a team of researchers and students led by Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University and Galit Alter, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Oster discusses the new website and her data-centric approach to help people understand the pandemic on the Johns Hopkins podcast entitled ‘Public Health on Call.’

If you’re assessing what to make of all the Covid–19 news or what risks you are comfortable taking, Covid-Explained is worth a look.

www.wsj.com

A WSJ analysis found 35 of the biggest U.S. law firms got at least $169 million in PPP loans, including the firms of David Boies and Marc Kasowitz, a longtime Trump lawyer

Text-Only Websites Are Fast

Sijmen J. Mulder has a wonderful directory of websites composed with simple, marked up, hyperlinked text. These sites load quickly, scroll smoothly and spare your battery if you’re on a mobile device.

For example, the full CNN site uses 13.4 MB of data, makes 426 requests and loads in 3.53 seconds. In contrast, CNN Lite uses 486 kB of data, makes 9 requests and loads in 530 milliseconds.

There are some great light sites on Mulder’s list including Pinboard and the blog of Pinboard’s founder Maciej Cegłowski. Try them. They load lickety-split.

What have we done to the internet?

Discovering European TV

The Euro TV Place is an excellent source of recommendations for great European television. Linda Jew, the founder of the site, regularly publishes detailed reviews.

I especially enjoy French television because it helps me keep up and improve my French. Modern television lets you hear the way people speak in everyday life, which often is different from what is taught in foreign language classes.

I’ve enjoyed some great television I learned about at The Euro TV Place including:

  • Le bureau des légendes, a great spy series (one of the best pieces I’ve ever watched);

  • Call My Agent, a very funny French TV series about a top rung Parisian talent agency (Netflix);

  • No Second Chance which is in French but written by Harlan Coben, a famous American writer (Netflix);

  • Deutschland 83, a funny German spy story; and

  • Engrenages (Spiral in English), a seven season police and legal drama series consisting of 76 wonderful episodes.

If you’re interested in exploring new television, The Euro TV Place is a great resource. The blog discusses many new shows each month.

Film: ‘Möbius’

I’m enjoying the French TV series “The Bureau” (“Le Bureau des Légendes”) created by Éric Rochant. I’ve started exploring Rochant’s other work hoping for similar entertainment.

Rochant wrote and directed a 2013 spy film called “Möbius” starring Jean Dujardin and the stunningly beautiful Belgian actress Cécile de France.

Dujardin portrayed George Valentin in the 2011 award-winning silent movie “The Artist”. Dujardin won numerous awards for that work including the Academy Award for Best Actor. That was the first time a French actor won that award. 

Rochant relies on familiar actors in both “The Bureau” and “Möbius.” Brad Leland portrays a senior CIA official both in both pieces. And the wonderful Ukrainian actor Aleksey Gorbunov, who plays Karlov in seasons 4 and 5 of “The Bureau,” plays a similar role in “Möbius.”

So if you can’t get enough of “The Bureau”, check out Möbius. “Möbius” isn’t in the same league as “The Bureau” but it’s a very enjoyable spy story filled with intrigue and romance.

Music: Lara Fabian

Lara Fabian sings beautifully. Fabian is best known for the dance pop song “I Will Love Again,” which was released in 2000 and peaked at number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Fabian was born in Belgium in 1970 to a Flemish father and an Italian mother. She speaks four languages: French, Spanish, Italian and English. I especially love her French music.

I saw her perform in Washington, DC in 2018 at the Warner Theater. Her voice knocked my socks off.

Fabian’s music is in the same genre as Laura Pausini with whom she has performed. Together they are an exceptional treat.

       

Audiobook: James Taylor Memoir

‘Break Shot: My First 21 Years‘ by James Taylor is an exceptional, very personal audiobook on Audible. Taylor, who was born in 1948, intimately recounts his first 21 years while interspersing his wonderful music.

The audiobook is only 90-minutes long and worth every minute. Here are a couple of highlights that really resonated with me:

  • “Memory is tricky. We remember how it felt, not necessarily how it was. Songs grow out of memories.”

  • “We want to go back and fix something that has already vanished and can never be corrected. But we can correct it in a song … .”

Privacy: Major News Sites Collect Data Too

Timothy Libert, a computer science faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, writing in The New York Times:

The press has performed admirably in reporting on privacy violations by the National Security Agency and major internet companies. But news sites often expose users to the same surveillance programs and data-collection companies they criticize. Even articles that explained how the N.S.A. was using Google cookies to “pinpoint targets for hacking” often included the exact same cookies revealed by Edward Snowden. Likewise, articles about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica often include Facebook tracking code, allowing Facebook to keep tabs on what people read.

Libert points out that surveillance on news sites can reveal some very personal information like political leanings and health interests.

We all need to protect ourselves even when visiting “trusted” sources.

Fortunately, Libert’s site reports no trackers.

Targeted Advertising: What to do?

Dr. Nathalie Maréchal, a senior research fellow at Ranking Digital Rights, wrote in 2018 on Motherboard:

Online tracking is ubiquitous, Tim Libert, of Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab Security and Privacy Institute, told me in an email. “Across the top one million websites you will be tracked on 91 percent of sites. I’ve been doing these types of scans for years and the results are always the same: you can’t browse the web without being tracked, period. Companies track you when you visit medical websites, pornography websites, websites for lawyers, websites for politicians, newspaper websites, and the same goes for apps. There are very few things that people don’t seek out or share using a computer and nearly all of that is tracked, all the time, by the billion dollar giants you see in the news as well as hundreds of companies you’ve never heard of.”

Libert adds that techniques to limit tracking are “like taking aspirin to cure your cancer, it may make you feel a little better for a few hours but you’re still dealing with cancer. The only way to root out the cancer of targeted advertising is regulation.”

I read articles like this all the time and I accept that significant tracking is just about everywhere online. The big question is what if anything to do about it:

  • Some don’t worry about privacy saying they have nothing to hide. I don’t find that a satisfying response. Some things ought to be private.

  • Others, seek to have no digital presence. That’s a lot of effort and, in any event, who wants to be the man in the tin foil hat? The modern internet offers many benefits.

  • In the middle, are people like journalism professor and podcast personality Jeff Jarvis who argue that although Facebook and its ilk have their faults journalists ought “to work with Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, et al because they are running the internet of the day; they are the gateways to the public we serve; and they need our help to do the right thing.”

It’s time to get past describing the challenge and get on with building a better internet.

TV Series: ‘The Honourable Woman’

The Honourable Woman’ is a 2014 British political spy thriller miniseries in eight parts. It was directed and written by Hugo Blick for the BBC and SundanceTV.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is the beautiful, immaculately dressed star of the series. She portrays Nessa Stein, a London heiress whose father was a big-time arms manufacturer and Zionist. Gyllenhaal, an American, does a convincing job of portraying an English woman.

Most of Nessa’s family perished in the Holocaust. She and her older brother, Ephra (Andrew Buchan), are dual citizens of Israel and Britain. On top of this, their mother died in childbirth and their father was murdered in front of their eyes in Jerusalem when they were young children.

The story includes the Holocaust, the Arab-Israeli conflict, kidnapping, rape, chronic trauma and high stakes philanthropy and investment. The New York Times called the series a “smart, moodily complex thriller” and a “lavish homage to John le Carré.”

Gyllenhaal won a Golden Globe Award in 2015 for her performance and the series won a 2014 Peabody Award.

I had to watch the series more than once to follow all the twists and turns and loved every minute. It’s one of those rare series I can enjoy again and again.

Write Short Sentences

Austin photographer Kirk Tuck highly recommended this excellent book about writing:

Writing short sentences will help you write strong, balanced sentences of any length. Strong, lengthy sentences are really just strong, short sentences joined in various ways. You don’t have to write short sentences forever. Only until you find a compelling reason for a long sentence That’s as clear and direct as a short sentence.

Verlyn Klinkenborg, Several Short Sentences About Writing (p. 10). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

From 1997 to 2013, Klinkenborg was a member of the editorial board of The New York Times. The book is also available as an audiobook ably narrated by the author.

George Will: Nothing is unthinkable

George Will writing in 2018 in The Washington Post on the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum:

Nothing — nothing — is unthinkable, and political institutions by themselves provide no permanent safety from barbarism, which permanently lurks beneath civilization’s thin, brittle crust.

This is why the Holocaust is the dark sun into which this democracy should peer.

TV Series: ‘The Bureau’

The Bureau” is a French spy TV series (“Le Bureau des Légendes”) on Canal+ created by Éric Rochant. The series concerns the daily life and missions of spies within the French Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure or DGSE. The DGSE is the French equivalent of the CIA. Its head office is in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.

Variety reports that the creators of the series had the cooperation of the DGSE and that the DGSE liked the series. The series won Best TV Series from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics.

The series begins with the return to Paris of French intelligence officer Guillaume “Malotru” Debailly (Mathieu Kassovitz) after six years as an undercover agent in Syria. Guillaume struggles to reconnect with his former life. But after learning that his lover in Syria (Nadia, played by Zineb Triki), is in Paris, Guillaume breaks agency rules and approaches her as the man he was in Damascus: Paul Lefebvre. As Guillaume begins living a double life, he opens himself up (and the DGSE) to serious dangers.

Henri Duflot (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) portrays the head of the French clandestine service. He’s never himself been an undercover agent and this bothers him because he fears he lacks the respect of his operatives. At the same time, he’s very likable and down-to-earth. He wears garish neckties, which makes him seem more normal.

The beautiful Léa Drucker plays a DGSE psychiatrist with a top secret clearance. Marina Loiseau (Sara Giraudeau) portrays a naïve but determined young undercover operative.

The acting is first-rate and the spying seems realistic. This is among the best espionage stories I have seen on TV or in the cinema.

The series is now in season 5. It’s available on Sundance Now including the Sundance Now channel on Amazon.