Wexford is a small town on the sea in the south-east of Ireland and an unlikely place to host an opera festival. Yet since 1951 in late October the town has organized what has become for many opera-lovers an essential date in the calendar. The reason why it has remained important is not merely the intimacy of the setting, the general air of welcome and the strange sea-washed beauty of the old town, but the policy since the early 1970s to program three operas that have fallen beneath the radar, that are seldom or never performed.
Some China watchers believe that China’s dramatically rising prosperity will inevitably make the country more open and democratic. President Barack Obama’s highly-scripted trip this week provided little to support that claim. As The Washington Post noted, in contrast to 1998, when Bill Clinton, standing in the Great Hall of the People, criticized the Tiananmen Square crackdown and “traded spirited jibes with President Jiang Zemin,” Obama and Hu Jintao held a “Chinese-style news conference of read statements, stares, and no questions.” Nor did the Chinese government make any concessions on the major issues—the valuation of China’s currency, pressure on Iran, action on climate change—that the White House was hoping to see addressed.
An American archaeologist friend here in Rome, where I’m spending my sabbatical, was working for a time in Salerno, in the south of Italy, and found himself annoyed by the thugs who lounged near the main square and approached him, when he intended to park there, offering, for a small fee, to “protect” the car from anyone who might wish to damage it. It was bad enough when he thought it was only he, a foreigner, who was treated to this shake-down, but, as he idly watched one day, my friend realized that the louts were equal-opportunity predators: they made the same offer to local businessmen, little old ladies, factory workers. And worse still, they went about their business within sight of the uniformed carabinieri who stood chatting with each other in front of the police station. My friend expressed his outrage to a Salernitano acquaintance: the nuisance was not an unfamiliar one in America, he complained, but it seemed unaccountable to have it take place under the gaze of the authorities. Look, the acquaintance said to him, with the resignation of a native, everyone has to make a living.
Questions of human rights abuses in Israel and the charges of war crimes put forward by the UN’s Goldstone report have produced little more than the usual disingenuous accusations of anti-Semitism. Even Moshe Halbertal, an unusually cogent Israeli participant-observer, takes the Goldstone commission to task in The New Republic for trying to link the Gaza campaign to the wider setting of the occupation and Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. “Why,” he asks, “should a committee with a mandate to inquire into the operation in Gaza deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at large?”
It is often argued that cap and trade legislation requires too many compromises with—and give-aways to—polluting corporations to pass the House and Senate, and that consequently it is ineffective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While environmentalists are failing to support cap and trade, those opposing action on climate change are fiercely attacking it. Yet such a system is essential when it comes to getting global action on climate change—not least at the increasingly imperilled climate summit in Copenhagen in December—for it delivers a transparent benchmark by which nations can judge each other’s commitment.
David Park (1911–1960) is one of those artists who isn’t widely known but whose work inspires a special loyalty and warmth of feeling among his admirers. The partisan flavor his very name can arouse is partly dependent, of course, on his not being a household name to begin with. But Park, who was based in Berkeley, California, and was, along with Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff, one of the leading lights of what has been called “Bay Area” painting in the 1950s, makes some of us always eager to see more of his work and learn more about him because his best pictures have a particular tenderness and sense of gravity—a note that sets him apart from near-contemporaries of his such as Alice Neel, Fairfield Porter, or Alex Katz.
Sue Halpern and Nicholas Kristof have been engaged in an exchange about microfinance, following her recent NYR review of his new book (co-authored with Sheryl WuDunn), Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The first part of their conversation can be found here. The next installment appears below.
So what did the House Blue Dogs do on the health care vote last Saturday? They were more supportive than one might think: Of the fifty-two-member coalition, twenty-eight voted yea and twenty-four nay. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, the Blue Dog whom I identified in my piece in The New York Review as being among the most knowledgeable legislators in the House on the issue, told The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein: “This was one of the best votes I ever cast.”
These photographs of albatross chicks, the first of which appeared in a recent New York Review article by Tim Flannery, were made just a few weeks ago on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific that was the site of the Battle of Midway in World War II and is now one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries.
In the November 19 issue of The New York Review, Sue Halpern wrote about Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s new book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Her piece describes the systematic abuse of women documented by Kristof and WuDunn throughout the world, and the considerable success of microfinance programs—pioneered by the Nobel-prize winning economist Muhammad Yunus, whose book is also included in Halpern’s review—in countering this problem by helping poor women gain economic power. Following is an exchange between Halpern and Kristof about the spread of microfinance and some of the criticisms that have emerged about it.