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January 20 2014

European Citizens Call for the Protection of Media Pluralism

For updates follow @MediaECI on Twitter and 'like' the Facebook page European Initiative for Media Pluralism.

Website: For updates follow @MediaECI on Twitter and ‘like’ the Facebook page European Initiative for Media Pluralism.

“European institutions should safeguard the right to free, independent and pluralistic information”. The quote, from the Media Initiative website, summarizes the main idea behind a pan-European campaign that aims at urging the European Commission to draft a Directive to protect Media Pluralism and Press Freedom.

The Media Initiative is running a European Citizens’ Initiative - a tool of participatory democracy “which allows civil society coalitions to collect online and offline one million signatures in at least 7 EU member states to present directly to the European Commission a proposal forming the base of an EU Directive, initiating a legislative process”. The petition is available in 15 languages and can be signed online:

Protecting media pluralism through partial harmonization of national rules on media ownership and transparency, conflicts of interest with political office and independence of media supervisory bodies.

A short video presents the campaign:

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

November 22 2013

Racism, the United Nations, and the Dutch Saint Nicholas Tradition

Dibujo infantil que representa a San Nicolás y Zwarte Pete. Imagen de Vera de Kok en Wikimedia Commons con licencia CC by SA 3.0

A child's painting representing Saint Nicholas and Black Pete. Image by Vera de Kok on Wikimedia Commons with license CC by SA 3.0 

The children of Belgium, The Netherlands, and other European countries wait with impatience for the arrival of Saint Nicholas on December 6 because in those countries he is responsible – like Santa Claus or the Three Wise Men – for bringing them gifts if they have behaved well. But this year, the shadow of racism hangs over this beautiful tradition.

Saint Nicholas, according to an old song, arrives from Spain in a boat, and during the entire night he runs from one house to another on his donkey accompanied by his helper, Zwarter Piet (Black Pete, in Dutch) or Père Fouettard (Father lasher, in French). This character is a young black man, represented by white people with painted black faces, wigs, and clothing like the ones used in the 16th century. Zwarte Piet is the “bad guy” that hands out coal to the children who haven't been good. However, as Alix Guillard says on her blog Me in Amsterdam [FR],

Aux Pays-Bas, alors que la sévérité envers les enfants n'est plus de mise, on n'a pas abandonné ce personnage. Mais il s'est transformé en joyeux drille sympatique qui amuse les enfants, beaucoup plus que ce vieil évèque un peu trop rigide.

In The Netherlands, although severity with children is no longer admissible, they have not abandoned the character. But he has transformed into a nice, good natured urchin who amuses the children much more than that old Bishop that is perhaps too rigid.

Diverse groups have protested for years against the way in which the tradition treats Zwarte Piet, calling it racist. The black face of Zwarte Piet, doesn't have a clear origin: there are those who say he is a Moor that arrived from Spain with Saint Nicholas, others maintain that the black face is because he enters houses through the chimney, or that it also could be a reminder of slavery in the colonies, or even the Devil himself.

This year the Dutch government received a letter from the United Nations Working Group on People of African Descent. In the letter, the group requested that the Dutch government respond to accusations of racism.

A member of the group, Verene Shepherd, a Jamaican, actually suggested in a radio interview a radical change for Saint Nicholas, as stated in Le Monde [FR]:

Verene Shepherd, componente del grupo que inició la polémica. Foto del blog de Arjen Wilbers

Verene Shepherd, member of the group that started the polemic. Photo from the blog of Arjen Wilbers. 

si j'habitais aux Pays-Bas, je m'opposerais à la Saint-Nicolas (…) Cela ne devrait pas exister au 21e siècle. C'est offensant et scandaleux. Après tout, quel est le problème avec le père Noël ? Pourquoi devriez-vous avoir deux ‘Santa Claus’ ?”

If I lived in The Netherlands, I would oppose the Saint Nicholas celebration. It should not exist in the 21st century. It is offensive and scandalous. After all, what is the problem with Father Christmas? Why do they have to have two “Santa Claus”?

In Belgium and Holland, these comments were interpreted as an illustration of complete ignorance of the Saint Nicholas tradition, considered the precursor to Santa Claus and a severe lack of respect to a very beloved tradition in those countries. Shepherd's weds provoked an authentic alluvium of reactions across the internet with messages like that of jicé on [FR]:

Bravo Madame Verene Shepherd !!! . . Grace à une idiote comme vous, Marine Le Pen vient encore de prende 10 pts dans les sondages !!!

Bravo, Ms. Verene Shepherd! Thanks to an idiot like yourself, Marine Le Pen ends up winning 10 more points in the polls!

[Marine Le Pen is the french candidate of the Front National political part of the extreme right]

On Facebook, the page Pietitie [Dutch], launched on October 22, 2013 to defend the Zwarte Piet tradition, has about 2,200,000 “likes.” Peter Udo left the following comment [Dutch] on the page:

Berichtje voor de VN: Is er niet ergens een oorlog, hongersnood of genocide gaande waar jullie je beter druk om kunnen maken??

Note to the UN: Isn't there a war, famine, or genocide anywhere where your work is needed more?

San Nicolás, rodeado de sus ayudantes Zwarte Piet, saluda desde el barco que lo trae de España. Foto de 12Danny12 en Wikimedia Commons con licencia copyleft.

Saint Nicholas, surrounded by his helpers Zwarte Piete, waves from the boat that brought him from Spain. Photo by 12Danny12 on Wikimedia Commons with copyleft license. 

The debate runs the risk of dividing society and accuses the groups on the extreme left of taking political advantage. However, others have preferred to downplay the issue, and look for judicious reasons to maintain the tradition without offending anyone. The actor Erik van Muiswinkel, who has played the character for years, wrote in [Dutch]:

Zwarte Piet is een vrolijk relikwie uit racistische tijden, dat staat wel vast. (…)Ik vond het altijd wel mooi dat zo’n apert politiek incorrecte traditie, witte mensen die zich zwart schminken (…), in Nederland juist wel kon. (…) hij hoort bij Sint als Sancho Panza bij Don Quichot.

Zwarte Piete is a happy relic of racist times, certainly. (…) I always thought that it was fine that a tradition that is so politically incorrect as a white person with a face painted black (…) was possible in The Netherlands. (…) [Zwarte Piet] is with Saint Nicholas as Sancho Panza was with Don Quijote.

Barbara Woestenburg-Buijnsters left this comment [Dutch] on the Pietitie on Facebook:

Zwarte Piet is een schoorsteenveger en Sinterklaas is een Turk en ze wonen in Spanje en dat vieren wij in Nederland – het is gewoon het beste integratie feestje aller tijden!

Zwarte Piet is a chimney sweeper and San Nicolas is a Turk, living together in Spain, and that is what we celebrate in the Netherlands: The best celebration of integration that exists!

Meanwhile, the UN has settled the debate firmly disavowing the working group that created the controversy. Thus the Belgian representative to UNESCO, Marc Jacobs, expressed:

[Verene Shepherd] is nothing more than a consultant who has abused the UN name for her personal objectives in the media (…). The four signatories of the letter do not belong to a competent body of the UNESCO, they only used the letterhead, namely the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

November 06 2013

Non, Jean-Claude Juncker ne gouvernera pas le Luxembourg, malgré la victoire de son parti aux…

Non, Jean-Claude Juncker ne gouvernera pas le #Luxembourg, malgré la victoire de son parti aux élections législatives !

Historique. C’est une véritable révolution politique qui a eu lieu au Luxembourg le 25 octobre dernier. Après dix-neuf ans au pouvoir, Jean-Claude Juncker, ancien Premier ministre et président de l’Eurogroupe du 1er janvier 2005 au 21 janvier 2013, s’est vu évincé du sommet de l’État, après la formation d’une coalition entre les socialistes, les libéraux et les verts, alors même que son parti était arrivé en tête des élections. Les élections législatives du 20 octobre, initialement prévues pour avoir (...)

#Elections_européennes #Européennes_2014 #Elections_nationales

September 08 2013

Les saisies d'argent liquide aux frontières en hausse de 500 %

Les saisies d’argent liquide aux frontières en hausse de 500 %

Avec plus de 103 millions d’euros saisis au premier trimestre, les saisies aux frontières d’argent liquide non déclaré ont bondi de 518,6 % par rapport au premier trimestre 2012, selon une note confidentielle de la direction nationale du renseignement et des enquêtes douanières évoquée par Le Parisien/Aujourd’hui en France dimanche 8 septembre.
D’après Le Parisien, la forte hausse était déjà perceptible au dernier trimestre 2012 avec 102 millions d’euros saisis aux frontières. Interrogée par le journal, la direction des douanes n’a pas souhaité faire de commentaire. Selon des douaniers cités anonymement, les raisons avancées par les personnes en possession de l’argent saisi sont « majoritairement » d’ordre fiscal. « Les [sommes issues du trafic de] stupéfiants ne représentent que 10 % du volume », selon un enquêteur.


D’après les statistiques des douanes mentionnées par le quotidien, la Suisse et le Luxembourg sont les premières destinations de ces flux d’argent liquide. Le code des douanes stipule que tout transfert international en liquide, à l’intérieur de l’Union européenne, doit faire l’objet d’une déclaration, sauf pour les sommes inférieures à 10 000 euros.

Il y a quelques jours, le site Mediapart révélait que Boris Boillon, l’ex-conseiller de Nicolas Sarkozy à l’Elysée et ancien ambassadeur de France en Tunisie avait été interpellé le 31 juillet par la douane à la gare du Nord avec 350 000 euros et 40 000 dollars en espèces.

#Saisies (aux frontières,"majoritairement" d’ordre fiscal)

January 24 2013

Parallels Between Religious and Copyright Wars

Rick Falkvinge, the founder of Pirate Party, reinterprets the wars of religion that devastated Western Europe in the XVI and XVII centuries in terms of the current struggle to control information through overbearing legislation related to copyright and freedom of expression:

The religious wars were never about religion as such. They were about who held the power of interpretation, about who controlled the knowledge and culture available to the masses. It was a war of gatekeepers of information.

March 15 2012

Macedonia: Fuel Prices Continue to Rise

Continuous increase of fuel prices is a cause of much concern for citizens of Macedonia, and some vent the tension through humor. The prices are set by a regulatory body, and more and more social media users object to the fact that the lion's share of the revenue in fact goes to the government, stymieing the growth of the business sector.

On his blog, Zoriv published comparisons of the prices of oil derivatives in Macedonia, the USA and the EU [mk], and also calculated how much fuel one can buy on an average salary in various countries [mk]. (Both posts are in Macedonian, but the tables with country comparisons are in English and easily comprehensible.)

So, according to Zoriv, Latvia has the lowest price of gasoline in Europe (EUR 1.20), while Norway has the highest (EUR 1.94). Consumers in Macedonia have to pay EUR 1.4. While the official explanation for rising fuel prices is always the change of price of crude oil, Zoriv points out that a major factor in forming the end price are the excise taxes that go directly to the state budgets in countries with the highest prices (Norway, Holland, Italy, the UK, and Greece). He adds:

In Macedonia, for instance, the total taxation together with the profit margin for the merchants form around 70% of the price (Official Gazette of Republic of Macedonia, no. 138/09 and 52/11). The difference between Macedonia and the EU countries, alongside the salary levels which are incomparable, is the tragic fact that even the slightest increase of oil derivative prices affects the personal material existence of every citizen of Macedonia. The latest data show that fuel consumption has decreased by 30% [mk]. The increase of fuel prices leads to a spiral of the increase of all other living expenses, while family budgets drastically decrease.

The Macedonian government temporarily abolished the excise before the June 2011 elections, but returned it later, raising the prices [mk] in August.

By calculating how much fuel a citizen can buy with an average salary, Zoriv tried to shed light on income disparities: in the United States, one can buy 4,296 liters of gasoline on an average monthly salary. In Europe, the top spots go to Switzerland (3,441 l), Luxemburg (3,439 l), and Germany (3.075 l). The lowest on the list are Macedonia (243 l) and Albania (194 l), with a “disastrous ratio of 1:14″ compared to the leading “rich” countries.

According to the 2010 edition of the annual publication 200 Largest Companies in Macedonia, prepared and published by the Euro Business Center – Skopje, the two largest companies in the country are: the sole oil refinery OKTA (owned by the Greek interests, privatized while the current PM Gruevski served as the Minister of Finance) and the biggest oil derivatives distributor Makpetrol, with the total revenues of EUR 512 million and EUR 350 million, respectively.

The prospects for the future seem bleak. According to the UNDP report “Assessing the Economic Impact of Climate Change,” Macedonia also faces numerous other challenges in the energy sector.

Social media users shared various kinds of data related to the fuel price increase, such as the table [mk] showing the elements that form the prices of fuel:

Elements of fuel prices in Macedonian Denars.

They also posted various reactions to ongoing developments with the fuel prices, and the most shared were the humorous responses, such as this joke: “Would you like to take your girlfriend someplace expensive? - Take her to a gas station!” The latest chuckle is a demotivation-style meme featuring the late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito and a supposed laconic quote in Croatian:

Tito advises on gasoline

Photo of Tito and a supposed quote: You say the gasoline got more expensive? Well, why don't you make a deal with the Non-Aligned countries?

During the Cold War, Tito was famous for striking a balance between Eastern and Western blocs, with Yugoslavia serving as a kind of a buffer, to the commercial benefit of its people. In 1961, he co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement, which included many oil-producing nations, resulting in favorable trade relations. A famous political-economic quote attributed to him (in the Lexicon of Yugoslav Mythology) is this: “The grain that we received from the Americans is much superior in quality to the grain the Soviets did not deliver.”

March 14 2012

Europe: Will ACTA Treaty Pass After Protests?

[All links forward to French articles unless stated otherwise.]

As of the end of the month of February 2012, the mobilization efforts of Internet users against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) [en] were still going strong. In fact, they may have begun to bear fruit.

By including infringements against the author's rights in its scope, this international treaty, which addresses intellectual property rights, also affects Internet content.

The ratification debates which were placed on the European Parliament's agenda on February 29, were put on hold in expectation of the opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The issue of the treaty's conformity with European Community law was brought before the court on 22 February by the European Commission.

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo by Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo by Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

Taurillon, the “magazine of young Europeans -France” describes “Europe's about-face on ACTA“:

Si l’avis est négatif, l’ACTA n’a plus aucune chance en Europe. Mais en cas d’avis positif, le recours à la CJUE représente le double avantage de redonner au traité une certaine crédibilité, et de repousser son adoption à une époque suffisamment lointaine pour que la polémique se soit tassée et que l’opinion publique regarde ailleurs.

If the opinion is negative, ACTA no longer stands a chance in Europe. However, if there is a positive opinion, appealing to the ECJ would mean a double advantage by giving the treaty a certain credibility, and also pushing back implementation to a time that is far enough away when public debate has settled down and the public's attention is focused elsewhere.

Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson for la Quadrature du Net urges on the European deputies:

Les eurodéputés doivent résister à la stratégie de la Commission européenne, qui cherche à gagner du temps et à transformer le débat en une simple discussion juridique, et pour cela continuer à travailler au rejet d’ACTA. ACTA vise à imposer une tendance pour une politique globale du droit d’auteur qui est toxique pour l’Internet libre et pour les libertés. Le Parlement européen est le dernier rempart : il doit agir et adopter une position claire et forte, faute de quoi il laissera le champ libre à la Commission pour imposer une répression inacceptable.

The Eurodeputies must resist the European Commission's strategy of attempting to gain time and turning the debate into a simple legal discussion, thereby continuing to work towards ACTA's rejection. ACTA aims to impose a tendency for a global policy of author's rights that is toxic for the free Internet and for freedom. The European Parliament is the last line of defense: it must act and adopt a firm and clear position, otherwise it will leave the field wide open for the commission to impose an unacceptable repression.

For trucbuntu, there is no question of remaining passive while waiting for the Court to adjudicate:

Les citoyens de toute l’Europe peuvent contacter leurs représentants dans les commissions Commerce International (INTA) et Industrie (ITRE), qui se réunissent cette semaine pour discuter d’ACTA, et leur demander de continuer à travailler au sein de leur commission pour le rejet d’ACTA.

Citizens of all of Europe were able to contact their representatives in the International Trade (INTA) and Industry (ITRE) Committees, who met on February 29 to discuss ACTA. Many citizens requested their representatives to reject the proposal.

The website of the European Parliament explains the procedure and the issues of the treaty [en] that are under scrutiny, and has published ‘What you should know about ACTA‘ [en], a page of questions and answers. The ACTA workshop of the European Parliament has been the object of a storify [en] made by the Parliamentary services (link via Global Voices contributor Asteris Masouras [en]).

The organization AVAAZ submitted a petition to the European Parliament on 29 February with 2.4 million signatures against ACTA. The petition is still open:

Nous sommes vraiment proches de la victoire — notre pétition forte de 2,4 millions de signatures a ébranlé les responsables politiques partout en Europe et stoppé les censeurs. La Commission européenne est à présent en position de faiblesse et espère que la Cour de justice donnera son feu vert au traité ACTA en lui soumettant une question juridique très limitée qui recevra certainement une réponse positive.Mais si nous faisons résonner nos voix aujourd'hui, nous pouvons faire en sorte que la Cour examine tous les impacts légaux du traité ACTA et publie un avis qui fera toute la lumière sur cette attaque contre nos droits qu'est ACTA.

We are really close to victory — our petition, with 2.4 million signatures has shaken up those politicians in charge throughout Europe and stopped their censors. The European Commission is currently in a position of weakness and is hoping the Court of justice will green light the ACTA treaty by bringing before the court a very limited legal question, that will without doubt receive a positive response. But if we make our voices heard today, we will be able to get the court to examine all the legal implications of ACTA and publish an opinion that will bring to light the real attack against our rights that is ACTA.
No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

No ACTA - Strasbourg. Photo Christophe Kaiser on Flickr, CC-license-BY

Anti-ACTA parties continue to  strengthen their resources. New protests were set for 10 March, and torrentnews gives a list, with this appeal:

La liste n’est pas exhaustive, n’hésitez pas à nous contacter pour la compléter ;)

si certains se sentent l’âme d’un reporter- photographe en herbe, nous recherchons également des personnes pour faire un petit article photo du déroulement de la manif, rien de bien compliqué, comme fait ici pour Nice, Marseille,Bordeaux et Strasbourg.

The list is not exhaustive, do not hesitate to contact us to complete it ;)

If any individuals see themselves as budding photojournalists we are also looking for people to do a small photo story on how the protest unfolds, nothing too complicated, as it happens in Nice, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Strasbourg.

For details on the elements of the debate, see also these linked articles from the Tribune on February 29, and Myeurop, on March 3. On Global Voices, see the laws SOPA/PIPA that set a precedent in the USA, here [en] and here [en]. Since the beginning of the protests, ACTA seems to have lost a lot of political momentum.

The title of this post is inspired by the end of the article “La liberté sur Internet : le filtrage de la discorde” which was published by the Institute of Research and Legal and Information studies and Communication (I.R.E.D.I.C.). It puts into perspective Internet blocking and debates the adoption of ACTA.

The original article in French was published on March 4. For background on the ACTA proposal, more articles can be found here [en].

February 22 2012

Conrad Shawcross: The Nervous Systems (Inverted). Installation at Mudam Luxembourg

The artwork that the London-based artist Conrad Shawcross has installed in the Grand Hall of the Mudam in Luxembourg is basically a giant machine that produces rope. Visitors are able to climb the hexagonal structure via two staircases and watch how the spinning machine slowly builds the rope. In this video, we have a closer look at Conrad Shawcross’ kinetic artwork.

The exhibition, curated by Marie-Noëlle Farcy and Clément Minighetti runs until May 6, 2012.

Conrad Shawcross: The Nervous Systems (Inverted). Installation at Musée d’art moderne Grand-Duc Jean (Mudam) Luxembourg.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.
> On YouTube:

Photo gallery:

Press release:

“I’m fascinated by issues to do with certainty and scientific imaginings such as the shape of the universe and movements such as string theory. I see Science as an absolutely rational empirical structure which builds upon itself. Yet as it grows it is actually fundamentally unstable, like a big tower or building that is built on precarious stilts.” Conrad Shawcross

The interests of Conrad Shawcross are mainly focused on scientific and philosophical questions in areas such as mathematics and epistemology. These disciplines combine in his artistic work to create pictures which, like the experimental mathematical models in a science museum, make complicated connections or fundamental theoretical concepts visible so that people can experience them, but without explicitly naming them. The frequent use of wood and the sheer size of the kinetic sculptures by Conrad Shawcross also create an anachronistic effect: like gigantic machines from the early days of industrialisation they jolt and vibrate, go round and round and produce things with a direct usefulness which seems completely intangible – rather like basic scientific research.

The Nervous Systems (Inverted), an installation designed specifically for the Grand Hall of the Mudam, is similar to a number of other machines created since 2003 by Conrad Shawcross, an enthusiastic sailor, which produce rope, which then usually is separated into its individual strands again.

The impressive towering form of this metaphorical machine is reminiscent of both the large-scale technological installations of modern nuclear physics and the spinning jenny, the first automatic spinning machine of the industrial age. Its hexagonal structure, the double helix of the spiral staircase and the threads which converge like rays on a single point create visual associations with the latest insights and theories of science, from the analysis of the genetic sequence to string theory in hypothetical physics. The slowness of the movements also clearly articulates the theme of time, which is present in both of its possible basic forms, i.e. in the cyclical repetition of the 162 bobbins and the linear progression of the rope which is produced.

Conrad Shawcross’ The Nervous Systems (Inverted) thus provides an artistic statement on subjects which are on the boundary between physics and metaphysics. His mysterious machine remains enigmatic, paradoxical and fascinating.

Conrad Shawcross was born in 1977 in London, where he lives and works.

The exhibition is organised with the support of Kurt Salmon and in collaboration with the Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

February 17 2012

Børre Sæthre: Untitled (Wardenclyffe Tower). Installation at Mudam Luxembourg

The Norwegian artist Børre Sæthre is known for his art installations that remind the viewer of the settings of science-fiction films. His latest installation that has just opened at Mudam Luxembourg is called Untitled (Wardenclyffe Tower). The title is derived from the eponymous tower by the famous inventor Nikola Tesla. With the Wardenclyffe Tower, Tesla wanted to test the transmission of information and energy without connection cables. Tesla wasn’t able to complete his project because of financial problems and the tower was destroyed in 1917.

The installation at the Mudam is a black space that is dominated by a mirror dome and wall that reflect a stroboscobic light and an intense sound. The setting is completed by a head-like sculpture hanging from a rope and a table with monitor that shows a man hurling bolts.

The exhibition, curated by Clément Minighetti runs from February 11 to May 6, 2012.

Børre Sæthre: Untitled (Wardenclyffe Tower) (2012). Installation at Mudam Luxembourg. Opening reception, January 10, 2012.

PS: See also: Børre Sæthre at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center / MoMA, New York.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.
> On YouTube:

Photo gallery:

Press release:

“It is something you experience through and with all your senses, and it’s an experience that draws you in and surrounds you. In more common terms, the environments that Børre Sæthre builds could perhaps be described as a set design for a film – the difference is that you yourself, as a visitor, play the leading role, and there is no other storyboard for the narrative than the one that takes place in your own brain within the milieu Børre Sæthre provides using props that rapidly push the narrative in different directions… The narrative isn’t simply given, it doesn’t unfold before you like in the movies; it is a narrative based on you. Maybe that is the scariest sort of narrative.” Power Ekroth

The Norwegian artist Børre Sæthre mostly uses large-scale presentations to create atmospheres that shift between the technological ambience of science-fiction films, the luxurious and artificial aesthetic of showrooms and the uncanny realm of the subconscious. He combines quotes and subtle allusions with mental images and evocative sounds in order to form environments in which art, interior architecture and sound composition join together in fantastic, sometimes dreamlike ensembles. In his works, he draws not only on film history, but also on images from his Nordic homeland and his very personal childhood memories. Sometimes, defamiliarised stuffed animals such as a white unicorn or crows with glowing eyes give his works an air of fairytale enchantment.

For his exhibition at Mudam, Børre Sæthre has turned an entire room into a metaphorical inner world. The title Untitled (Wardenclyffe Tower) was inspired by the eponymous tower by Nikola Tesla, the inventor of the Tesla coil, among other things. In 1901 Tesla undertook the construction of a revolutionary radio broadcasting tower in Long Island (New York) in the hope of creating a worldwide system for transmitting information. The tower could also generate electrical energy without connection cables. Let down by his financiers who found this idea too generous, Tesla was unable to complete his project and the tower was destroyed in 1917.

The dominant blackness is counterpointed by a stroboscopic light, which, together with a sound backdrop, creates an intense atmosphere. A mirrored geodesic dome, like the famous monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, emanates a silent presence. The short video in which a young man hurls lightning bolts, like the young Zeus (or Marty McFly), also seems to lead us “back to the future”. “I’m not interested in constructing a narrative”, the artist says. “My aim is rather to evoke an uncanny feeling in the viewers – in such a way that they then, of course, make their own narrative, but one which is not mine.”

Børre Sæthre was born in 1967 in Oslo, Norway. He lives and works in New York and Oslo.

April 01 2010

Qatar: Expats outraged by plans to scrap visa-on-arrival policy

Starting May 1, visitors from dozens of countries must apply for visas before traveling to Qatar instead of obtaining them at the airport

Starting May 1, visitors from dozens of countries must apply for visas before traveling to Qatar instead of obtaining them at the airport (Photo by Jamie Sanford)

Rumors are swirling following a local news report that Qatar has made plans to scrap its visa-on-arrival policy for dozens of nations.

According to the Gulf Times, the change, to take effect May 1, will require nationals of 33 European, Western and Asian countries to obtain visas before arriving in Qatar by contacting the Qatari embassies in their home countries.

The United States, British and French embassies in Doha have confirmed that their nations are among those affected by the change, but officials from other countries said they are still making inquiries.

The news was greeted with dismay by many Doha residents on Twitter.

Some bloggers here said they suspected that the change was spurred on by “reciprocity” - a tit for tat response to countries that require Qatari nationals to apply for visas before arrival.

Marjorie in Qatar said:

This is part of Qatar's new “reciprocity” kick. A few months ago they switched to a reciprocity system for driver's licenses: American licenses can't be automatically converted to Qatari ones, because the US doesn't automatically convert Qatari licenses.

Others mused that it was Qatar's way of securing its borders following the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in January. He is suspected to have been killed by men holding falsified European and British passports. Dubai blames Israel's national intelligence agency Mossad for the slaying.

On Twitter, ibnkakfa said:

Linked to Mossad's Dubai murder?

On the popular online forum Qatar Living, where a post about the policy change generated more than 100 comments,Bleu said:

Seriously, this could be a temporary measure after what happened in Dubai… It could be anything.

genesis added:

i agree with bleu in this being a national security measure. Again, Qatar is frequently visited by Iranian, syrian & Hamas officials.

canarybird theorized a profit motive:

I don't think that this is an issue of how many expatriates live and work here, but it will certainly affect the whole economy and many expat wives who don't have visas make short term visa runs, and many on short business trips to. It will certainly make a whole in the money making business of visa runs.

Whatever the reason, most agree that the additional paperwork required to visit Qatar and the lack of Qatari embassies in many nations are likely to hurt the country's efforts to boost tourism.

QL commentator fubar said:

The Tourism Authority must be overjoyed by this news.
If you were a multinational company arranging a conference for 1000 high spending delegates from Western countries, like the recent CITES conference, or a similar UN conference, would you come to Qatar, where almost everyone will need to apply for a visa before travelling, or go to Dubai?

Others said they thought the move brought fairness to the system.

UkEngQatar said:

Qatari Nationals have to have a visa beforehand before visiting Britain. So if that is the case then what Qatar has done is fair. We Brits and other European and US nationals will just have to get used to it.

ace.auteur said:

Fair deal! Getting a US/UK visa is a nightmare for many. Why should it be easy for the “33″? By any means it is still going to be a whole lot simpler than standard US/UK visa processes. Reciprocity is not just fair but the right thing to do.

Still, those living far from family and friends worry that the change will make it even more difficult to keep in touch.

Mandilulur said:

I know half a dozen Brits who are working for international companies here in the Gulf (based in Qatar) with business visas. Their wives make visa runs to Bahrain monthly. Evidently no more. They will leave. Are these the kinds of ex-pats you want to see gone? The really talented ex-pats will be able to find a job anywhere! … Sometimes I feel like a lobster in a pot - when will the discomfort of decisions such as these outweigh my love for Qatar? I can tell you one thing - it certainly affects what I tell prospective professionals thinking of coming to Doha.

Visitors from dozens of nations must now apply for visas before traveling to Qatar
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