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Novel based on Jew ‘catcher’ Stella Kübler stirs controversy

It tells the fictionalized true story of a woman who gave up her fellow Jews to the Nazis. Critics have condemned the novel Stella by Takis Würger, published this week in Germany, as "Holocaust kitsch." "We have a new literature debate," wrote Hannah Lühmann of the Die Welt newspaper when reflecting on the bombshell publication of Stella, a novel by journalist, author and war correspondent Takis Würger. Published by the prestigious Hanser Verlag on January 11, Stella fictionalizes the true story of Jewess Stella Kübler (née Goldschlag), who as a so-called "catcher" betrayed other Jews gone underground to the Gestapo. 'Nazi story for dummies?' Würger's second novel was inspired by the award-winning journalist's fascination for the subject. But while it's too early to judge the success of this study of a character who is already a book subject — for example, Peter Wyden's Stella: One Woman's True Tale of Evil, Betrayal, and Survival in Hitler's Germany — the vehement response to the novel by German critics has been striking. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reviewer wrote on January 11 that Stella is "an outrage, an insult and a real offense." Moreover, the work was described as "the symbol of an industry that seems to have lost any ethical or aesthetic scale if it wants to sell such a book as a valuable contribution to the memory of the Shoah." The critic further accused the author of having written the novel "without any awareness of the problem of literature, literacy and history." A reviewer for Die Zeit was equally scathing. "An abomination in children's book style: Takis Würger writes in Stella about a Jewish woman who becomes an accomplice in the Nazi era. It's a novel full of narrative clichés." Public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk described it as "Holocaust kitsch" and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asked: "Why this Nazi story for dummies?" Publishers weigh in Florian Kessler, cultural journalist and editor at Hanser Verlag, deflected the criticism on social media. In a detailed Facebook post, he responded, among other things, to the allegation by the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the novel would instrumentalize the Holocaust. "One can only answer: this discussion … rightly pervades the literature since '45," he wrote of a debate that has raged around so-called Holocaust literature in the postwar period. Kessler noted that Bernhard Schlink's novel The Reader, which became a hit Hollywood film, was also accused in the 1990s of mixing clichés and Holocaust instrumentalization. Shortly thereafter, he read the book at school in class.\ "We also talked about such allegations against it, and through the book's ambivalences and problems, we had very important and formative discussions about the Nazi period in my entire school years," he wrote. Read more: Holocaust satirist Elgar Hilsenrath dies at 92 Let the public decide Hannah Lühman of Die Welt was also surprised by the ferocity of the critical slating. But while she defended the novel as a whole, she added that many questions of course remain regarding, for example, "the choice of historical material; this extreme story of a Jewish woman who has betrayed hundreds of Jews to the Gestapo; what fantasies it may satisfy among non-Jewish Germans reading it." But she refused, according to Lühmann in his Facebook post, "to join in this scandal." It remains to be seen how the reading public will respond to Stella. Interest has been high in Germany, with the book launch and author reading in Hamburg on Monday sold out weeks in advance. And the novel has already garnered international attention: So far, nine foreign licenses have been sold, with the book set to be published in English, French, Spanish and Chinese, among others.

It tells the fictionalized true story of a woman who gave up her fellow Jews to the Nazis. Critics have condemned the novel Stella by Takis Würger, published this week in Germany, as “Holocaust kitsch.” “We have a new literature debate,” wrote Hannah Lühmann of the Die Welt newspaper when reflecting on the bombshell publication of Stella, a novel by ... Read More »

Iconic Italian composer Ennio Morricone at 90

Ennio Morricone wrote the scores for numerous movies, including famous Spaghetti Western films like "Once Upon a Time in the West." The prolific Italian composer celebrates his 90th birthday on November 10. Hollywood tried to lure him to the US countless times. He was even offered a mansion once, entirely for free — but Ennio Morricone declined. He recently admitted he doesn't speak English, and felt that at his age, it was too late to learn. Anyway, he said, he is a Roman at heart. Ennio Morricone was born born on November 10, 1928, in the Italian capital. His father Mario, a trumpet player, realized early on that his son was also musically talented. Ennio started composing music at age six, and was enrolled at the conservatory when he was 12. He first learned to play the trumpet — following his father's advice, who argued that his own talent fed his family well. Ennio later studied composition, graduating in two instead of the usual four years: a natural-born talent. 'A filmmaker must ask me' The young musician played the trumpet in jazz clubs, then landed jobs with theaters and in the record industry. Finally the RAI Televisione TV broadcaster employed him to arrange songs for, among others, Mario Lanza, the tenor whose roles in Hollywood movies made him famous worldwide in the 1950s. Ennio Morricone, strapped for cash, thought writing film music might be a good idea — but he refused to apply for a job in the film industry. "I felt a filmmaker should ask me because he liked what I write," he once said, and that is exactly what happened. Italian-made cowboy movies In 1961, the 33-year-old wrote the soundtrack for an entire film for the first time: Luciano Salce's Il Federale. His international breakthrough followed three years later, with his world-famous soundtrack for Sergio Leone's For a Fistful of Dollars starring Clint Eastwood, still an unknown actor at the time. Leone also asked his old school buddy Morricone to write the music for the 1966 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and two years later, Once Upon a Time in the West. Due in no small part to Morricone's haunting musical themes, the Italian films known as Spaghetti Westerns wrote film history. Ennio Morricone's music had a way of expressing things that no longer needed to be shown, Leone always said. More than one genre Even though Morricone is best known as the man who wrote the music for Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns, he actually composed music for more than 500 films of various genres, including romantic movies, political and action films as well as horror flicks. To those who said he was a western specialist, he argued he wasn't: "I'm a music specialist." In fact, Morricone composed music for Roman Polanski (Frantic), John Carpenter (The Thing) and Brian de Palma (All the President's Men). Films including 1900 by Bernardo Bertolucci, Roland Joffe's drama Mission, Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso and Henri Verneuil'sMafia epos The Sicilian Clan unmistakably bear his musical signature. Morricone wrote for Quentin Tarantino, too: Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained — but it wasn't til The Hateful Eight that Morricone consented to a soundtrack for an entire film because "Tarantino never stopped asking." Convinced by an enthusiastic director, Morricone nevertheless laid down the rules: "I get to see the final version of the film before I can even think about the music, let alone write it." Finally, the coveted Oscar Working with Tarantino proved to be the right decision: in 2016 Morricone finally was awarded the Academy Award for Best Original score, for The Hateful Eight. Over the years, he had been nominated for an Oscar five times, but always went home empty-handed, except for an honorary Oscar in 2007 for his life's work. He always felt he deserved the award, and that everyone knew he deserved it. In 2016, he originally hadn't even planned to come to the award ceremony in LA at all. "In the 1960s, the conservative Academy was completely deaf to innovative sound." Ennio Morricone dedicated both Oscars to his wife Maria, whom he married in 1956, saying that after all, it wasn't at all easy to stay by his side for decades. Farewell tour Composing film scores is no longer on the nonagenarian's agenda, but he still likes to conduct. He is on a farewell tour that starts in Russia in November, and ends in Germany on January 21, with the audience bound to enjoy his famous compositions. He once quipped that didn't compose that much music at all, "Just think how much Bach composed in his lifetime, or what Mozart achieved in just 33 years — you'll see, I'm idle in comparison."

Ennio Morricone wrote the scores for numerous movies, including famous Spaghetti Western films like “Once Upon a Time in the West.” The prolific Italian composer celebrates his 90th birthday on November 10. Hollywood tried to lure him to the US countless times. He was even offered a mansion once, entirely for free — but Ennio Morricone declined. He recently admitted ... Read More »

Silent films that speak volumes: A Weimar cinema retrospective

On the Weimar era centennial, a retrospective of silent movies from a time of great creativity and innovation is featured at the German Historical Museum. Curator Philipp Stiasny told DW why the films remain so modern. The films of the Weimar era remain lodged in popular consciousness a century after this defing period of artistic innovation began. To commerate this year's Weimar centennial, the German Historical Museum will nightly screen classic silent movies from the time at its Zeughaus cinema. Running November 1 through February 2, 2019, the film series, which is titled "Weimar International: Silent movies without borders from Berlin and Babelsberg, 1918-1929," especially focuses on films featuring soundtracks by internationally reknowned film musicians. DW's Jochen Kürten spoke with curator Philipp Stiasny ahead of the series' opening. DW: Everyone seems to be talking about the Weimar Republic today, as many see political parallels with the present. Is that one motivation for this Weimar cinema retrospective? Philipp Stiasny: No, explicit political commentary was not our intention. As to the question of why the retrospective now, there are several reasons. For one, the Weimar Republic will be 100 years old in November. And Weimar cinema is associated with the great era of German cinema – and not only in specialist circles. Shortly after the First World War, the creative potential here exploded and all sorts of people from many countries and industries came to Germany. Millions of people streamed into the movie houses every evening. Nevertheless, when we think of Weimar cinema we don't usually think of very popular pleasure films, but rather of the characters out of a nightmare as in Nosferatu or dystopias like Metropolis. These classics are well-known, from television or from showings in theaters. Metropolis is part of global cultural heritage. At the same time, though, Weimar cinema consisted of so-called "bread and butter" cinema. Many more films that were devoted to life: genre films, crime novels, adventure films and many, many comedies. Just as we do today, the audience went to the cinema to have fun and, above all, to laugh. We would like to place these films on an equal footing with the classics in our series. Were some of the great directors from the era also involved? We sometimes forget that well-known directors like Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch and Georg Wilhelm Pabst should not only be perceived as forerunners of the famous auteur filmmakers of the 1960s and 1970s but as auteur filmmakers who had complete creative control over their product and were able to play around. Lang, Lubitsch and the others also worked in an industry – the film industry. Fritz Lang, for example, was not at all critical of genre cinema. We are showing as part of the retrospective one of his earliest surviving films, the two-part "Die Spinnen" from 1919/20. In the program we wrote that the film is something like an "Indiana Jones avant la letter." Between Fritz Lang at the end of the 1910s and Steven Spielberg in the 1970s, a lot has changed but certain formats didn't change that much. Of course, the complexity of filmmaking has changed as have the technical possibilities but the grammar of the film has remained the same. And just as Fritz Lang is a bit pigeonholed into a pattern of entertaining and fun-filled genre cinema, so too were many other filmmakers who have been forgotten today but who were well known at the time. Above all, these were star-studded movies, featuring especially female stars in comedies, detective stories, thrillers or genres that are still very familiar to us today. Why was Weimar cinema such a powerful, radiant force at the time? A definitive explanation as to why this was the case in Germany is difficult to answer. One reason, however, is that Germany was a country that was very open to the entertainment industry and technology at the time. You can't generalize – that certainly wasn't the case in the German provinces – but it was true of Berlin and Brandenburg. The studios in Babelsberg were the center of the German film industry and people came to Babelsberg and Berlin from abroad. Is there any explanation as to what attracted people to Berlin? We added a subtitle to the series: "Silent films without borders from Berlin and Babelsberg." Of course, there were national borders at that time. But there was no language barrier. You didn't have to hold long dialogues in silent films. Those who wanted to get into the industry and knew something about filmmaking were not held back because, for example, they spoke German with a Hungarian accent or Polish. The business here in Berlin was very international. The film industry was open to people who could do something and had ideas. Can you compare this with the contemporary film industry? It was something completely different than it is today. Of course, there are many filmmakers in Germany and Europe today who travel around and are multilingual. A German language film shown at the Berlinale, for example, doesn't necessarily come from a filmmaker born in Germany. At the time, however, this was the case to a completely different extent. A considerable proportion of the filmmakers who made films in Babelsberg did not come from Berlin. They came to Berlin and though they may not have found a new home, they found a home in the film industry. The newcomer, the outsider, took a chance. Can you give some examples? Ernst Lubitsch is one example. Lubitsch was born in Germany, but his father came from Belarus so he always spoke with an accent yet he succeeded in becoming a top director in Germany. That was true of many others as well. Alexander Korda, who dominated the British film industry almost single-handedly in the 1930s, made films in the Weimar cinema after having previously been in Hungary and Austria and having been thrown out of those countries because of his socialist sympathies. Korda made great films in Germany before he went to England. Germany wasn't just an incubator for many international careers. Many also stayed here because they realized that there was a lot of curiosity here, that there were people here with whom one could really accomplish something. And the legal and economic conditions were ripe. Weimar cinema at the time held a lot of appeal internationally, especially in Hollywood's eyes. And that process began long before 1933... Ernst Lubitsch was wooed away by Hollywood in the early 1920s. No one who went to Hollywood at that time felt they were making an irreversible move. Lubitsch took a contract from Twentieth Century Fox and likely thought he would be back in Germany in three or four years. That wasn't the case, of course, as a result of political developments, as the National Socialists came to power in 1933. But it also had to do with the fact that Hollywood very quickly dominated the cinema market around the world – by a long shot. Germany was the only strong competitor in the cinema sector. What did the filmmakers of Weimar cinema bring to Hollywood? They brought their creativity to Hollywood. Take, for example, Murnau. With films like Nosferatu and Der letzte Mann, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau was absolutely at the top of the list of creative and tech-savvy filmmakers. Murnau was really interested in seeing what you can do with film. He wondered how the medium could be pushed to its limits – up to the point of making films that get by without any language at all. He even went so far as to film without any captions, where everything is developed around light, gestures, movement — including camera movement. This incredibly creative man shaped Hollywood: An entire school at Fox adopted the "Murnau style." But there was also a kind of counter-movement with some filmmakers leaving Hollywood for Babelsberg at that time. That's the other side. Louise Brooks, for example, came to Germany and made two films with Georg Wilhelm Pabst, one of them being, "Pandora's Box." It was a great work of art, which nobody really understood at the time — it was far too political. This mixture of sex and fantasies of submission, of murder and passion. By the way, it was also a very clever analysis of the gender relations of the time: How men form an image of women and how the woman who does not correspond to this image dies miserably. There are other examples. Anna May Wong, an American of Asian descent, came to Germany, as did two or three other US stars. But of course there was greater movement from other European countries, especially from cities in the East like Warsaw or Vienna. And then, when the opportunity arose for these filmmakers, they went on to Hollywood. "Weimar International: Silent movies without borders from Berlin and Babelsberg, 1918-1929" runs November 1 through February 2, 2019.

On the Weimar era centennial, a retrospective of silent movies from a time of great creativity and innovation is featured at the German Historical Museum. Curator Philipp Stiasny told DW why the films remain so modern. The films of the Weimar era remain lodged in popular consciousness a century after this defing period of artistic innovation began. To commerate this ... Read More »

Meghan Markle pregnant as she and Prince Harry arrive in Australia

Kensington Palace has announced that the Duchess of Sussex is expecting a child due in spring 2019. The news comes as she and Prince Harry start a more than two-week Pacific tour in Australia. Meghan Markle began her first overseas multicountry royal tour as she and Prince Harry landed in Sydney, Australia on Monday. The newlyweds will embark on a more than two-week tour of the Pacific that also includes Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand, attending some 76 official events during the trip. Shortly after their arrival in Australia, Kensington Palace announced that the couple are expecting their first child in the spring of 2019. "Their royal highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public," the palace said in a statement. The baby will be seventh in line to the British throne. Koalas and games In Australia, Meghan and Harry will be welcomed on Tuesday by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and his wife, Lynne. A more light-hearted visit will follow, when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visit the Taronga Zoo's koalas. Read more: Dressing for the queen: A royal wedding dress code Their itinerary in Sydney also includes sailing in the harbor and visiting the famous Bondi Beach. The couple is set to attend the Invictus Games and also hold a meeting with the new Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison. The Invictus Games are an international Paralympics-style sport event for military personnel wounded in action, which was founded by Prince Harry. Additionally, the royal couple will visit the drought-stricken outback town of Dubbo and meet indigenous leaders on Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island, in the northeastern state of Queensland. A focus on youth development In a statement about the visit, Kensington Palace said that the couple looked forward to "building an enduring relationship with the people of the region" and that they had asked to meet as many locals from each country as possible. "Their Royal Highnesses' program will focus on youth leadership, and projects being undertaken by young people to address the social, economic, and environmental challenges of the region," the statement read, highlighting Prince Harry's new role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. Read more: The Commonwealth: Still relevant for Africa today? All countries in the royal couple's itinerary are members of the British Commonwealth and were former British colonies. Queen Elizabeth II is currently the head of state of Australia, but her role is largely ceremonial. Meghan and Harry's trip will conclude in New Zealand and will coincide with the commemoration of the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage there. The island nation was the first country to give women the right to vote. Meghan is expected to speak at the suffrage anniversary celebration in Wellington on October 28.

Kensington Palace has announced that the Duchess of Sussex is expecting a child due in spring 2019. The news comes as she and Prince Harry start a more than two-week Pacific tour in Australia. Meghan Markle began her first overseas multicountry royal tour as she and Prince Harry landed in Sydney, Australia on Monday. The newlyweds will embark on a ... Read More »

Egyptian singer jailed for insulting the Nile

An Egyptian pop singer has been sentenced to prison for suggesting that drinking from the Nile leads to a parasitic illness. It's the latest case against artists in the country. A Cairo court on Tuesday sentenced prominent Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab to six months in prison in absentia for offending Egypt. The court accused her spreading of "false news." She can appeal. The offense occurred in the United Arab Emirates in 2016 when the pop singer suggested that drinking water from the Nile would make one sick with a parasitic disease. At a concert a fan asked her to play the song, "Have You Drunk from The Nile?" Abdel-Wahab responded: "No, you'd get Bilharzia. Drink Evian, it's better!" Read more: German archaeologists help uncover ancient cemetery near Egyptian city of Minya Disparaging Egypt A video of her response then hit social media, drawing criticism and a lawsuit from an Egyptian lawyer for disparaging Eygpt and hurting the country's tourism industry. She later apologized for the comment in a Facebook posting. Bilharzia, or Schistosomiasis, is a disease caused by parasitic worms. It can be transmitted by drinking or being exposed to contaminated water. The Egyptian government has developed plans with the World Health Organization to eventually eliminate Bilharzia from its waters, including through medication programs. Tuesday's verdict comes after in December an Egyptian court sentence a female pop singer to two-years in prison for a sexually suggestive music video.

An Egyptian pop singer has been sentenced to prison for suggesting that drinking from the Nile leads to a parasitic illness. It’s the latest case against artists in the country. A Cairo court on Tuesday sentenced prominent Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel-Wahab to six months in prison in absentia for offending Egypt. The court accused her spreading of “false news.” She ... Read More »

Oprah for president? How the idea anchored within a day

It was jokingly suggested during Golden Globes night, then came an electrifying speech by the talk show queen: Within 24 hours, "Oprah Winfrey for president" turned into an actual possibility. Here's how. In a way, "Saturday Night Live" host Seth Meyers pushed Donald Trump to run for president. To compensate, he might have launched Oprah Winfrey's candidacy as well. Hired as a comedian for the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011, Meyers slammed billionaire reality TV star Trump, also present at the event, jokingly implying that he was as qualified to become president as an old rusty bird cage. The merciless jokes at Trump's expense allegedly contributed to his decision to run for president. Hosting the Golden Globes Awards 2018 ceremony on Sunday, Meyers referred to his prescient humor: "Some have said that night convinced him to run. So, if that's true, I just want to say: Oprah, you will never be president! You do not have what it takes. And Hanks! Where's Hanks? You will never be vice president. You are too mean and unrelatable. Now we just wait and see." That night, receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award honorary Golden Globe Award for her lifetime achievement, Oprah Winfrey's powerful speech demonstrated that she had the eloquence it takes to move the public. Even Ivanka Trump was touched by Oprah's "empowering & inspiring speech." The tweet by the president's daughter, however, drew a lot criticism from other Twitter users. A new day on the horizon In any case, Oprah Winfrey's Golden Globes call, "a new day is on the horizon," was readily turned into a campaign slogan. A tweet posted by the NBC network posted a picture of Oprah, stating, "Nothing but respect for OUR future president." The tweet was a reference to a meme that developed following Twitter user Makenna's cleaning of Donald Trump's star: Not everyone found it funny; NBC deleted the controversial tweet after it had already been retweeted and liked by thousands. Meryl Streep also contributed to the hype by telling the Washington Post, "She launched a rocket tonight. I want her to run for president. I don't think she had any intention [of declaring]. But now she doesn't have a choice." Other celebrities, including pop superstar Lady Gaga, contributed to the social media wave. Fame, the only way to a US presidency? If some political observers smirk at the prospect that yet another TV megastar is suddenly seen as the only hope for the US, Winfrey's name is meanwhile spreading in serious political circles as well. Brad Anderson, the Iowa state director for President Barack Obama's re-election, tweeted that Oprah should give him a call: Dan Pfeiffer, former senior adviser to President Obama and CNN contributor wrote that the "Oprah thing isn't that crazy." Pfeiffer added in another tweet that "he didn't know if Oprah would be a good President, but she would definitely be a better President than Trump." Trump's first choice Although Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey share TV stardom, unlike Trump, hers is an actual rags-to-riches story. As a self-made billionaire, Oprah has always used her own story of overcoming abuse to inspire others to seek a better life. As such, she is perceived as an upgrade to the current president, despite her lack of experience in politics. Ironically, in 1999, Donald Trump had suggested himself that he would see Oprah as his first choice for vice president if he were to run for president: "Americans respect and admire Oprah for her intelligence and caring. She has provided inspiration for millions of women to improve their lives, go back to school, learn to read, and take responsibility for themselves," Trump wrote in his book, as pointed out CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski. Although Oprah had always previously denied that a presidential run was an option, "two close friends" told CNN that she was "actively thinking" about it now.

It was jokingly suggested during Golden Globes night, then came an electrifying speech by the talk show queen: Within 24 hours, “Oprah Winfrey for president” turned into an actual possibility. Here’s how. In a way, “Saturday Night Live” host Seth Meyers pushed Donald Trump to run for president. To compensate, he might have launched Oprah Winfrey’s candidacy as well. Hired ... Read More »

Ai Weiwei’s film “Human Flow” makes Oscar shortlist

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei first worked with his smartphone camera until he was joined by a German producer on his powerful refugee documentary. "Human Flow" is now among 15 contenders for Best Documentary at the Oscars. Filmed over a year armed with drones, his iPhone and about 200 crew members, Ai Wei Wei visited more than 40 refugee camps in 23 countries to make his first feature length film, "Human Flow," which he hoped would spur people to help refugees. Now the film has been selected from among 170 documentaries for the 15-strong shortlist for the Oscars. Five films will end up receiving a nomination on January 23, 2018, before the Oscars will be awarded on March 4. Among the other contenders are "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," a 2017 follow-up to the climate documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" (2006) that was honored with an Academy Award in 2007. Another favorite is the documentary "Jane" about gorilla researcher Jane Goodall. Read more: Ai Weiwei's 'Human Flow' and 11 other memorable films on refugees German producer Heine Deckert participated in the production of Weiwei's documentary which travelled to refugee camps in Greece, France, Kenya, Lebanon and Gaza, with some scenes set at the borders between the US and Mexico, as well as Serbia and Hungary. Ai Wei Wei, who was once jailed in China and has lived in Berlin since 2015, said he wanted the film to make people see refugees in a different light as they were victims of man-made problems. In this light, the artist is critical of Britain's decision to leave the European Union, saying at the December release of "Human Flow" in the UK that Brexit is a backward step that will make the country more isolated. Read more: Progress in Brexit talks, but Britain still divided "I think it is backward in terms of opening up globalisation and will not do Britain any good but rather to become more conservative and more exclusive," Ai told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the film's launch on December 5 in London. The documentary has run in German movie theaters since November 16.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei first worked with his smartphone camera until he was joined by a German producer on his powerful refugee documentary. “Human Flow” is now among 15 contenders for Best Documentary at the Oscars. Filmed over a year armed with drones, his iPhone and about 200 crew members, Ai Wei Wei visited more than 40 refugee camps in ... Read More »

U2 frontman Bono named in Paradise Papers tax evasion leak

The megastar is known for using his name to fight for social justice, but the Paradise Papers reveal that he also owns shell companies in tax havens. U2 frontman Bono is one of the richest musicians in the world. At the G8 summit in 2007, he sang against poverty in the world, but that same year, he also invested his money in a letterbox company in the tax haven of Malta, as stated in the so-called Paradise Papers. For almost a year, 400 journalists from 67 countries have evaluated the documents that reveal the tax tricks of companies, politicians, athletes and criminals. Read more: Offshore: The legal and the not so legal Bono, whose real name is Paul David Hewson, is one of the many prominent names that appear in the review of the Paradise Papers. His name is associated with a company called "Nude Estates Malta Limited," which invested in a Lithuanian company that used the money to develop a shopping center in the small Lithuanian town of Utena. Although that is not a crime in itself, it was also stated that the profits of the mall have been incorrectly booked. If that is confirmed to be true, it will also mean that Bono has evaded taxes. 'Gross violation of the tax law' "In my view, this is not a mistake, tax planning or tax avoidance, but a gross violation of the tax law," said a Lithuanian tax expert, Ruta Bilkstyte, after reviewing the Paradise Papers. While the Lithuanian authorities are now investigating the case, tax experts estimate tens of thousands of euros could have been misappropriated. In 2012, Bono's company obtained a new, Guernsey-based parent company, "Nude Estates I," which is said to have bought the mall for 100 pounds (€126, $131). The company has been holding Bono's shares since 2007, too. Another one of the musician's companies, "Nude Estates Limited," was also active in Germany, where it acquired a 10-story office building in Duisburg. Bono's management confirmed the singer's involvement in the company network but rejected the allegations of tax violations. Read more: Paradise Papers — what you need to know Although the musician is very rich, he has been using legal tax credits for years to shield his assets from the tax office. For instance, he moved the tax residence of his band U2 to the Netherlands because, in Ireland, his homeland, tax benefits for musicians and artists were abolished.

The megastar is known for using his name to fight for social justice, but the Paradise Papers reveal that he also owns shell companies in tax havens. U2 frontman Bono is one of the richest musicians in the world. At the G8 summit in 2007, he sang against poverty in the world, but that same year, he also invested his ... Read More »

‘Matilda’ hits cinemas as Russia fears more violence

Russia is on edge as the controversial historical drama premieres. DW's Juri Rescheto in Saint Petersburg explains why attacks have dogged Aleksei Utichel's film and why the response has been too little, too late. "Maltida" is good at playing hide and seek. Nothing points to a premiere: no posters, no trailer, no program brochure. Instead, the calendar of events at St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater announces a guest performance of the Estonian National Ballet. Nothing else. Barely known is the fact that on Monday October 23, the famous theater will host an event of national significance, a premiere that has had the whole country holding its breath for months. In the Mariinksy, on a different stage next to one where the contemporary Estonian troupe will perform, an entirely different ballerina will be dancing, one who is historic, classic and controversial. Her name? Matilda — the main character of the eponymous film by Russian director Aleksei Uchitel. Over 100 years ago, Matilda Kschessinskaya, the picture-perfect dancer of Polish origin, turned the head of Nicolas II, Russia's last czar. The affair almost cost him the throne — almost, because he remained steadfast and returned to his less beautiful wife, the German princess Alix von Hessen-Darmstadt. The monarchy was saved, even if not for long… That's as far as the script for this movie goes. Made in the Hollywood manner of an overly pompous costume drama, the film has been a thorn in the eye of the Russian Orthodox Church for nearly a year and has given militant supporters of the state church a reason for hate and violence. The resulting controversy has become so bad that numerous cinemas are refusing to show the film. The main actor in "Matilda," German Lars Eidinger, even canceled his trip to Russia for the film's premiere due to fear of violent attack. He has been defamed in Russia as a "gay German porno actor." Natalia versus Matilda: a politician fights the film Behind the hate campaign is a delicate blond: Natalia Poklonskaya, one of the glitziest figures in Russian politics. The former public prosecutor of the Crimean peninsula is currently a member of the Russian Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament. About one year ago, she made the fight against "Matilda" her life calling. She accuses the film of portraying the czar in an "unworthy" manner. Nicolas II was murdered by the Bolsheviks as a consequence of the October Revolution of 1917 and was recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church as a martyred saint in 1981. Thus, the film is opposed on the grounds of "insult to religious feeling," which in Russia is punishable by law. Poklonskaya has not seen the film. When I asked her how she reached her judgment, the member of parliament answered that one need not eat a whole bucket of crap in order to know how bad it tastes. Just a spoonful suffices. The "spoonful" is the trailer that she has seen. It has a chaste bedroom scene. That seemed to be enough for her. Uncontrolled violence Poklonskaya pulled out all the stops: she gathered signatures, submitted one claim after another to the state's attorney, worked with group after group of experts. All fruitless. "Matilda" may be screened. After a private viewing, the Duma came to the conclusion that the film was permissible. But it was too late. The authorities had remained silent for too long, and the spirit of religiously motivated hate had already been let out of the bottle. Poklonskaya's threats, and those from the ominous group "Christian State — Holy Rus," had been observed passively for too long. When I met supporters of this group in February in the Russian city of Lipetsk, some 438 kilometers (272 miles) southeast of Moscow, they defended their threats to set fire to cinemas that want to show "Matilda." One wants to fight "for the honor of the holy czar," so they said, and for the honor of "Christian State — Holy Rus," as they called their organization at the time. A troop of numerous, well-trained, bearded young men sat across from me and filmed our team as we filmed them. It was an absurd and unsettling situation. Some half a year later the leader is in jail and the unregistered group has been classified as an extremist organization. Too little, too late But even that came too late, as a series of events reveals. On September 4, just days before the sneak preview in Yekaterinburg, a metropolis of over 1 million lying east of the Ural mountains, a minibus rammed into the cinema where the screening was to take place. The cinema went up in flames. The driver and arsonist's attack was motivated by protest against the film. On September 11, heavily armed security troops were called out to Vladivostok to protect viewers and "Matilda" director Uchitel — who had traveled from Moscow some 9,174 kilometers (5,700 miles) to the far eastern city — from potential attacks. Shortly before, coach buses drove through Vladivostok displaying texts calling for a boycott of the film. Read more: Russia gripped by hoax bomb threats, thousands evacuated And in Moscow on the night of September 11 to the 12, the car belonging to Uchitel's lawyer was burned. Three suspects were arrested, one of whom was a "Holy Rus" religious extremist. A search of the house belonging to one of the arrested individuals turned up stickers bearing the slogan, "To burn for Matilda." Not even director Uchitel's personal appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin can stop the violence. Will the extremists be able to prevent "Matilda's" premiere in the Mariinsky Theater? Probably not. But provocations and attacks have not been ruled out — even though event organizers have banished the film about the czar from their public schedule of events.

Russia is on edge as the controversial historical drama premieres. DW’s Juri Rescheto in Saint Petersburg explains why attacks have dogged Aleksei Utichel’s film and why the response has been too little, too late. “Maltida” is good at playing hide and seek. Nothing points to a premiere: no posters, no trailer, no program brochure. Instead, the calendar of events at ... Read More »

Tom Petty is dead but his legacy lives on

His death was unexpected, but the outpouring of reactions shows that Tom Petty embodied a special place in rock 'n' roll history. Petty's intelligent lyrics and simple melodies moved people around the globe. The premature news saying that he had died caused a massive shockwave. But when hisactual death was confirmed, Tom Petty broke hearts across the world - one last time. There was an outpouring of grief on social media and down the ages of rock. Mick Jagger praised Petty's songwriting on Twitter, saying it felt "sad about Tom Petty, he made some great music." The Strokes' guitarist Albert Hammond Jr also paid homage to the man to whom he clearly owed a lot: "I grew up with your music," he tweeted. "I'm going to miss you." Influenced by some of his greatest contemporaries These tributes are not at all surprising. Tom Petty had a knack of spitting out hits as a solo artist as well as with his band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: "Free Fallin'," "Learning to Fly," "I Won't Back Down," "American Girl" and many more. Born in 1950, Petty was part of the teenage scream that woke up America with the opening chords of "She Loves You" when the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Like millions of others across the US those "yeah yeah yeahs" in the chorus inspired him to pick up a guitar and make his own music. But it wasn't just the fab four who helped him in shaping his rich signature sound. The raw energy of the Rolling Stones and the jangly guitar sound of the Byrds were key strands in the rich melodic tapestry that became his trademark style, as were a number of country music influences. The embodiment of rock 'n' roll Tom Petty's skill was in being able to fashion simple melodic lines, back them up with sharp chords and then infuse the line with lyrics that appealed to both a sense of nostalgia and defiance. "I Won't Back Down" is an anthem written for stubborn youth - or in fact for anyone who might feel a need to rally or rail against the world: "I know what's right/I've got just one life/In a world that keeps on pushing me around/But I stand my ground/I won't back down." This is a true rock 'n' roll sentiment. His songs have a timeless quality too, with a feeling of freshness while appearing as if they have already existed forever all the same. Perhaps that was why they accidentally appeared in other artists' work: "Last Nite" by The Strokes is a dead ringer for "American Girl;" the band did admit that they stole the opening off Petty. Furthermore, the similarity of Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" to "I Won't Back Down" led to Petty getting a share of the royalties and a songwriting credit on Smith's hit. He was pretty sanguine about the theft, if theft it was, saying that he laughed when he heard the Strokes had admitted to borrowing the riff, and also stressed that he cast no blame on Smith for the seeming plagiarism. Perhaps it's because he understood the process of how songs and music come to a musician. A collaborative genius Tom Petty described music as a magical thing that can transform you, whether playing in a band on a stage in front of an audience, or writing a song. He described once how he didn't know how his songs arrived; he would just play his guitar and the shapes would come. He thought it best not to analyze it too deeply. His openness to music and the process of making it also explains why he collaborated with so many people. He opened for Bob Dylan on one of his tour. That connection later brought the two together as songwriters for "Jammin Me," a great example of spat out lyrics punctuated by powerful chords. He also worked with Stevie Nicks, and Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics later produced his music too, co-writing the hit "Don't Come Around Here No More" with Petty. But surely the greatest partnership for him must have been with George Harrison’s troupe, The Traveling Wilburys. The supergroup of Harrison, Petty, ELO's Jeff Lyne and Roy Orbison must have been something of a dream for the boy in the man whose musical talent had once been awoken by the Beatles. Regardless of that, Tom Petty's own unique sound will resonate long after he's gone - and surely inspire many more musicians to come.

His death was unexpected, but the outpouring of reactions shows that Tom Petty embodied a special place in rock ‘n’ roll history. Petty’s intelligent lyrics and simple melodies moved people around the globe. The premature news saying that he had died caused a massive shockwave. But when hisactual death was confirmed, Tom Petty broke hearts across the world – one ... Read More »

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