Friday, June 29, 2007

Football fuss

So much for hoping that "the beautiful game" could unite the world...and/or proof that Franklin Foer's thesis in "How Soccer Explains the World" is accurate. In that the game reflects politics and globalization in a microcosm.

Armenian-Azerbaijani Soccer Matches Canceled

BAKU/YEREVAN, June 26, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has ruled that the qualifying matches between Armenia and Azerbaijan for the Euro 2008 soccer championship will not take place.

Europe's soccer governing body said in a June 23 statement that it had decided to cancel the two matches "as no suitable compromise can be found." As a result, both teams will receive zero points.

The two matches were to be played in September. But the soccer associations from both countries couldn't agree on where.

Relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been sour since the early 1990s when they fought a war over the predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia did not object to the matches taking place in Armenia and Azerbaijan. But Azerbaijan wanted the games held on neutral territory. Baku said it would be difficult to guarantee the safety of the Armenian players on Azerbaijani territory.

(full article)

To be sure, OSCE is not the only one criticizing.

OSCE Criticizes Planned Armenian Media Restrictions June 28, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A top media freedom advocate has criticized proposed amendments to Armenia's legal code that would
severely restrict foreign broadcast media.

Miklos Haraszti, the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe's media freedom representative, called on Armenian
lawmakers not to adopt
the amendments, saying they
were incompatible with OSCE commitments to media freedoms.

Under the draft amendments, Armenian broadcasters
would have to pay a sharply increased fee for each aired program made by a
foreign media organization.

The legislation would also ban Armenian Public
Television and Radio (HHHR) from retransmitting programs of foreign

RFE/RL's Armenian Service primarily relies on HHHR's
radio frequencies to air its daily news programs across Armenia.

Haraszti said that as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
is currently the only foreign media outlet using the HHHR frequency, the
adoption of the amendments "would amount to a ban on their programs in

Armenia: Government Moves Against Foreign Broadcast Media June 28, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Armenia's National Assembly is due today to debate government draft amendments that could end Armenian-language broadcasts of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Among the amendments is a proposal to ban, or put a heavy fine on, retransmission of foreign-broadcast programs.

The two draft amendments sent to the parliament late on June 26 were swiftly condemned by local media rights groups and top opposition leaders.


Friday, June 22, 2007

La Fête de la Musique en Arménie!

Held around the world in 130 countries and 400 cities, and this year for the first time in Yerevan, the Fête de la Musique is my new favorite obsession! Concerts held all over the streets, in the open air. As the French have told me "it is the night when no one can tell you to be quiet!" Perfect weather, music resonating off old buildings, diverse bands and musicians playing just meters away from one another...a mass celebration of music all over the world, on the longest days of the year- the summer solstice.

In Yerevan, the philharmonic orchestra played a free concert, children's singing groups performed by Komitas' statue, but later in the evening it was lovely Abovian street whose scene was not to be missed. Reggae-band Reincarnation brought smiles to everyone crowded around Square One, The Beautified Project and of course Bambir brought their unstopable energy out to Charles Aznavour square...and the Fête ended with a finale of a remarkable new jazz band The Zoo playing at the French Terrace (how apropos), under cafe umbrellas while the warm summer rain started to drizzle in, with the smell of wine and strawberry hookah floating in the air...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Yes. Thank you. Finally.

Kindergarten through 4th-graders at Mid-Prairie Elementary School in Kalona, Iowa (Iowa!) will have the chance to learn Arabic after receiving a federal three-year grant for a language program (full article).

Cary and his classmates are in one of the classes of kindergarten through fifth-grade students who have started to receive lessons in the language this past month. While studies show the benefits of learning a second language at a young age, why Arabic?

Because of the Middle East, increasingly important in world affairs and where Arabic predominantly is spoken, said Susie Swartzendruber, Kalona Elementary's Arabic program coordinator.

“I just feel like this is our way to help our students start looking at that part of the world in a different way,” Swartzendruber said. “I think this is a great way to build understanding.”

Saturday, June 16, 2007

art imitates life

Two nights ago I finished watching a documentary called Gaza Strip, which was recommended to me by a friend. The doc was filmed during the second intifada in 2001, and the camera mostly follows children in east Gaza, where many were wounded and killed by Israeli soldiers- making the devastation of the conflict all the more difficult to swallow. The film particularly follows one 13 year old, Mohammed Hajezi, and his friends, who are a part of "a new generation of Palestian boys who risk their lives hurling stones over barbed wire fences at Israeli tanks, in symblic gesture of resistance to the occupation."

Upon turning off the DVD player and flipping back to tv mode- which is permanently set to CNN- imagine my suprise to see images of the very same streets in Gaza with headlines about the anarchy resulting in a dissolved Palestinian unity government. It hurts me to think that perhaps some of the bemasked faces I was seeing on the live-feed, today, in 2007, could be the very same young teenage boys I had just watched immortalized in Longley's film 6 years ago, now grown into men with unresolved frustrations ceaslessly fueled by the realities of the life they dealt with in childhood. When will children be able to live as children...