Lady Gaga: ‘People think I’m finished’

Back in 2008, when Lady Gaga mania began, it often felt like you couldn’t avoid her. There were the hit records, of course – Poker Face, Telephone and Bad Romance to name just three. But in the space of a few years there were also the meat dresses, the Grammy performances in giant eggs and an almost regular stream of controversy. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the popstar, born Stefani Germanotta, was constantly thrusting herself into the public eye – but the reality, she says, was quite different.

“I hid in my house,” she explains matter-of-factly when I meet her before the opening night of the iTunes festival at the Roundhouse in north London. “I hid a lot … to preserve my image as a superstar to my fans. I don’t mean I am a superstar, I mean that they only ever see me at my best. And it really drove me crazy. So I’ve really had to make more of an effort to go out more. I mean, can you imagine what it’s like not to feel real wind? Honestly, I hadn’t felt real wind for years!”

Gaga prides herself on putting her fans first, and in this instance it seems she didn’t want her fans to ever see her as a normal human being. “I would be indoors all day and then I’d get in a car in a garage and then drive to another garage and get out and rehearse and then do it again, from country to country, and never walk outside. I remember some of the longest walks I had were from the car to the aeroplane on the tarmac.”

During this performance Gaga will perform the title track from her forthcoming album ARTPOP and utter a line that sums up everything her fans love about her and her critics detest: “My art-pop could mean anything,” she coos over a lilting electronic throb. To her detractors – of which there seem to be a growing number – she’s the perfect example of the dichotomy of the globe-straddling megastar spouting empty signifiers with the meaning crowbarred in afterwards. To her hardcore fans (or “Little Monsters”), she’s not only the greatest pop star on the planet, but a sort of cult leader whose mantra of self-love, implemented on her last album Born This Way, acts as their Bible.

Perhaps aware of her Marmite appeal, today Gaga is immediately on the charm offensive, giving me a kiss on arrival and complementing me on my shoes (at one point she bends down to stroke the material). Her PR and manager, both lurking near the door, are instructed to sit down and “stay quiet”. Shuffled back on an armchair so that her giant heels swing off the ground, she has the mannerisms of a well-behaved toddler. But there’s also an ever-present strain of determination that underlines everything she says. You sense she’s aware that while 2011’s Born This Way album sold 6m copies worldwide, many saw it as a the end of her imperial phase, with the album’s last single Marry the Night becoming her first to miss the US top 10. With only one single released so far – the 80s electropop of Applause – there’s a palpable feeling that the ARTPOP campaign is already stalling, with the single yet to reach the top three in either America or the UK.

A few weeks ago, Gaga tweeted a Michael Jackson quote that read: “The bigger the star, the bigger the target”. Does she feel persecuted? “Yeah, for sure I do,” she replies without hesitation, her skintight jumpsuit parping with her every movement. “Yes! I certainly feel that at this time it’s almost as if people are surprised they haven’t already destroyed me.”

She puts a straw to her mouth and takes a dramatic slurp. “It gives them a sense of pleasure when they believe that they’ve destroyed me or taken me down. It’s almost entertainment for people to poke fun at Lady Gaga, but at the very same time they have no idea the album I’ve made. They have no idea what I put into this, they have no idea the work that I’ve put behind my performances and what I do. In fact, people have no idea what it really took for me to get here. So it doesn’t bother me, it’s just an interesting observation of where we are as a society.”

Before being asked about it, she brings up the success or otherwise of Applause: “It’s literally not even been two weeks since my first single came out and it’s all, ‘She’s over’, or because I’m not No 1 yet, ‘She’s finished’. People focus less on the music and focus more on how the music’s doing; how it’s faring from a numbers perspective, from a financial perspective. If you think I give a damn about money then you don’t know me as an artist at all.” She adds: “I think that once you’ve had a few No 1s in your career that you’ve kind of proven yourself and I don’t feel the need to prove anything anymore.”

For some, Applause’s failure to connect in the way her previous singles have done is down to the fact that it appears to be solely about Gaga and for Gaga. Written after she had to cancel her Born This Way Ball Tour at the beginning of the year, the result of a severe hip injury that required an operation and left her in a wheelchair, the song is about the need she has as a pop star to experience adulation from a crowd.

Gaga says she would have tried to keep the hip operation a secret – to shield her fans once more – if she had managed to make it to the end of her tour, but it wasn’t possible. “I was wheelchair-bound two weeks before that even happened,” she says. “That I did hide from them because I didn’t want to stop the show. I know everyone was thinking I was trying to be a bit silly with my gold wheelchair but I was really trying to keep a bit of strength for my fans because it really upset them and scared them.”

Gaga disputes the idea that Applause is a song for herself. Rather, she says, it is as universal as any love song. “It’s so interesting for people to say that the lyrics are all about me the performer,” she says, somewhat disingenuously. “I want you to feel that way about yourself, that’s why I wrote the song. I want you to wake up in the morning and say: ‘I live for your applause, look at me today, I’m having a great day, I’m going to work and I’m going to have a fantastic lunch with my friends.’ But it’s not to be taken quite as seriously and as literally as people make it to be, which is why in the verses I’m sort of making fun of what people think about fame.”

It is this sense of humour that Gaga’s critics tend to forget, or have been more likely to forget since Born This Way’s heavy-handed “we are all equal” didacticism. Like Michael Jackson before her, it often felt like the Biggest Pop Star on Earth was creating music not for the everyday pop fan who might buy an album, but for the first 20 rows of dressed up, banner-waving, camped-out-since-4am apostles. When you talk about your fans, who do you mean? “I mean everybody. I mean anyone that’s watching.”

Gaga concedes that it can be “uncomfortable” to fall in love with a pop star that has more to her under the surface than was bargained for. “Suddenly the pop star takes off her sheep’s clothing and you see the kind of dingy, underground, metal-loving girl from New York who wants to talk about equal rights and go on and on and on about loving yourself. I made a choice to show people that,” she says. “I made a choice to do that because I wanted them to know that for the rest of my career, underneath every outfit that I have on, that girl is always underneath. With ARTPOP I’m veering in a new direction in terms of my messaging, but Born This Way was all about that particular message.”

Did you anticipate that this would lose you fans? “I was comfortable with just speaking to the ones that really needed to hear the message and confident that I had enough great songs on the album that the general public would latch on to,” she says. “People can say whatever they want about whether or not I enforced change [in her fans’ lives] or if it’s all fake, but the truth of it is I travelled the entire length of the world with the tour.”

At this point she rattles off audience attendance figures at various venues, checking facts with her manager, before, seemingly apropos of nothing, adding: “I know people said I wasn’t selling out in America but that was entirely untrue, we sold out all over the world and every night I looked out into the fans and those front rows that you’re talking about, the tears, the honesty, the inability to not be completely overjoyed because they felt accepted. That’s sometimes more powerful than making a pop song and it just was at that time.”

We talk briefly about the recent MTV VMA awards, which she opened with a dazzling, Botticelli-influenced performance of Applause. Even that, however, was overshadowed by Miley Cyrus and her semi-naked grinding of Robin Thicke’s groin area. “For me, my performance was not about taking clothes off, if that makes sense. I wanted it to be strong and beautiful and powerful and full of confidence. It doesn’t bother me, though, that there was a lot of attention paid to any other performances, it’s not a competition. I do what I do and they do what they do. Isn’t it nice that it all happened and that it’s all been recorded and we can watch it all – it’s not like the good things stay and everything else gets erased.”

It’s rare for a pop star of Lady Gaga’s stature to acknowledge failure and she seems, on the surface at least, happy to concede that some of the novelty of what she does has worn off slightly. In fact, she is open about the fact that things needed to change following Born This Way.

“I had really tried to hide a lot of my pain from my past in the last few years,” she says towards the end of the interview, whereas at the Roundhouse a new song, Swine, is introduced with, “My heart, my skin and my pussy felt like trash.” It seems to hint at domestic abuse. Does this hint at Gaga’s future direction? That she’s ready to come out of hiding, to reveal herself?

“For ARTPOP, I, in the most metaphorical explanation, stood in front of a mirror and I took off the wig and I took off the makeup and I unzipped the outfit and I put a black cap on my head and I covered my body in a black catsuit and I looked in the mirror and I said: ‘OK, now you need to show them you can be brilliant without that.’ And that’s what ARTPOP is all about. Because I knew that if I wanted to grow, if I really wanted to innovate from the inside, I had to do something that was almost impossible for me.”

The Guardian,


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Mali: Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta investi à la présidence à Bamako

A 68 ans, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta devient le nouveau président du Mali. Il a été élu avec 77,6% des suffrages le 11 août dernier. IBK a commencé sa carrière politique au début des années 90. Tour à tour ambassadeur, ministre, Premier ministre, président de l’Assemblée nationale, président du parti ADEMA, il a connu des heures de gloire et des traversées de désert. Cette investiture est l’occasion de mieux cerner le nouveau maître du Mali.

A la question «à quel animal peut-on associer Ibrahim Boubacar Keita ?» deux espèces reviennent le plus souvent : le caméléon (habile et opportuniste) et le félin comme le propose le politologue malien Mamadou Sanaké. «Le félin n’agit que par nécessité, il peut aller au bout de la fermeté mais en temps normal c’est un animal docile» explique-t-il.

Un homme à poigne

IBK a cependant une réputation d’un homme à poigne qui lui vient de la période où il était le Premier ministre d’Alpha Oumar Konaré. Nous sommes en 1994. Le nouveau pouvoir est confronté à une crise politique et estudiantine et IBK, alors Premier ministre, n’hésite pas à utiliser la méthode forte pour mater les manifestants dans la rue. Mahamane Mariko était à l’époque un leader lycéen. Vingt ans plus tard, Mahamane Mariko estime que pour réussir dans le contexte actuel IBK va devoir changer de méthode : «Il hérite d’un pays affaibli qui aura besoin de mesure donc IBK ne doit pas penser qu’il peut gérer le pays aujourd’hui avec le bâton, je pense qu’il a pris de la maturité».

Une maturité liée également à sa traversée du désert entre 2000 et 2002, puis après 2007. Une maturité qui lui a permis de rebondir, tel un félin, pour revenir plus fort et être élu le 11 août dernier avec près de 78 % des suffrages

L’homme de la situation

IBK est perçu par beaucoup de Maliens comme l’homme de la situation : il incarne une certaine idée de l’honneur et de la dignité malienne. En 2012 il n’était pas le favori des sondages, et selon le politologue, Mamadou Sanaké, «n’eût été le coup d’Etat, il n’aurait pas été élu président».

Mais IBK est un homme habile et un tacticien. Il a su capter la confiance de l’armée et le soutien des leaders religieux ainsi que celui d’une partie de l’électorat du Nord y compris certains leaders du MNLA. Son premier défi sera d’ailleurs de réussir la réconciliation entre les Maliens. Assarid Ag Inberkaouane, député Adema de Gao, a été un proche collaborateur d’IBK lorsque celui-ci occupait le perchoir à l’Assemblée nationale entre 2002 et 2007. «C’est un homme qui a une très grande personnalité ; quand les problèmes sont posés le débat a lieu mais il tranche très rapidement et il amène les gens à prendre une décision. C’est un homme d’Etat » assure le député de Gao qui voit en lui un véritable chef.

IBK et Alpha

Ceux qui l’ont connu dans les années 80 confirment qu’il aimait les bons vins, et les cigares, mais l’homme a, semble-t-il, changé depuis.

Ces amis maliens louent sa générosité et sa courtoisie sous couvert d’autorité naturelle.
Il reste une interrogation : ses relations avec l’ancien président Konaré dont il a été le ministre et Premier ministre de 1992 à 2000 ? A Bamako, la question est taboue. Personne n’ose en parler ouvertement. Les deux hommes ne se parlent plus depuis longtemps. A l”origine de cette brouille il ya une affaire de confiance trahie. Dans le camp Konaré on estime qu’IBK est un usurpateur qui doit tout à l’ancien président. IBK accuse Konaré d’avoir cherché à l’écarter de la présidence en 2002.

Qu’à cela ne tienne : IBK aura participé à trois présidentielles et la troisième aura été la bonne.

Radio France Internationale,


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Alicia Alonso: “Aún acaricio las zapatillas de puntas”

Leyenda viva de la danza, Alicia Alonso (La Habana, 1920) aterriza nuevamente en España para una gira del Ballet Nacional de Cuba que arranca el viernes en Barcelona y que llevará, pocos días después, a Madrid una de sus piezas más históricas y menos representadas en España, Coppélia. La bailarina, invidente desde hace años, apela al conocimiento, la intuición y la fantasía para explicar su inalterable papel al frente de la institución cultural. Sigue componiendo coreografías: las dicta. La última, anuncia, está dedicada a su compatriota la cantante Esther Borja: “Se titula En la luz de tus cancionesy celebra su 100 cumpleaños”.

Es inevitable un eufemismo a la hora de preguntarle a Alonso por su salud. ¿De verdad le apetecía esta gira? ¿No está ya muy cansada? Como era de esperar, la simple duda ofende. “Yo soy la directora, la responsable. Para lo bueno y para lo malo”, zanja.

Acompañada de Pedro Simón, su atento esposo, director del Museo Nacional de la Danza, Alonso celebrará en España, en noviembre, el 70º aniversario de su Giselle, estrenada en Nueva York en 1943. La historia, ya legendaria, roza el folletín: la primera bailarina del Metropolitan Opera House enfermó y Alonso la sustituyó. La joven cubana aprovechó su oportunidad y Antón Dolin, su pareja en aquella Giselle, enloqueció con su nueva partenaire. Había nacido, no hace falta decirlo, una estrella.

“Yo hacía maldades en el escenario, cosas imprevistas. Cuando bailaba era algo que me encantaba”, explica al referirse al humor que según ella esconde, por ejemplo, Coppélia, coreografía que hoy mantiene las esencias clásicas que ella aprendió de sus maestros rusos. “Si mis bailarinas hacen maldades yo las regaño, porque hay que tener mucha disciplina y jamás perder el estilo. Pero a mí me costaba mucho tomarme todo en serio y siempre, siempre, me divertía por dentro”.

Es recomendable no perder de vista ese sentido del humor al contemplar a Alicia Alonso. Arreglada y maquillada como una gloria del pasado pero capaz de darle sentido con sus movimientos gatunos a la dispar colección de anillos que adornan sus enormes y elegantes manos. Delicada pero temible, Alonso juega con su personaje y con su ceguera con tanta coquetería que cuesta imaginar lo que debía de ser esta mujer en plenas facultades físicas.

Muy joven, los médicos le advirtieron que tenía que elegir entre el ballet y sus ojos. Y ella escogió. “Yo ya no bailo físicamente en escena pero sigo bailando en mi cabeza. Todavía acaricio las zapatillas de punta. Me las pongo, para susto de todos, y las acaricio…”, asegura abriendo y cerrando los dedos como un abanico que apunta a sus pies.

Curiosamente esta historia de amor loco nació en el sur de España, en Jerez, durante un viaje con sus padres, cuando tenía 9 años. Volver a Andalucía, como pretende en esta nueva gira del Ballet Nacional de Cuba, es para ella un sueño. “Lo primero que aprendí fue la danza española. Castañuelas y sevillanas. Precioso, pero no para mí. El ballet me ha tenido demasiado ocupada toda mi vida”.

Disciplina militar (le venía de sangre) y una ambición sin caretas: Alonso se jacta de haber desterrado el prejuicio de que los “latinos” son solo buenos bailarines de folclore: “Yo le he sacado el complejo a Latinoamérica”.

Sobre el secreto de su innegable fortaleza quizá basta un consejo final, dedicado a los gobernantes que no aprecian las propiedades de la cultura: “Una lástima, porque el ser humano la necesita para vivir y para soñar. El ser humano se alimenta de fantasía: ballet, música, pintura… no hay mejor estímulo para la vida. Ese es mi modo de ver y sentir”.

El País


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WMDs, ‘unconventional’ weapons and the language of war

Obama’s use of the phrase ‘unconventional weapons’ offers a nuance that to use them is sneaky and underhand

For a modern American culture that runs on a religion of incessant disruption and innovation, it’s odd that “unconventional weapons” are anathema. In the field of things designed to kill people, it seems that original thinking is bad. And so dark wielding of the phrase “unconventional weapons” has lately been one of the rhetorical leitmotifs of the argument that western powers should attack Syria. If we don’t, Barack Obama was reported as saying, we will “allow President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to get away with murdering children with unconventional weapons”.

To speak this way is useful from a bellicose perspective since it implies that there might be more in the Syrian leader’s eldritch arsenal than just the “chemical weapons”, allegedly deployed by government forces, that killed 1,400 people near Damascus. The phrase “chemical weapons” sounds particularly terrifying in an evil scientist way. But ordinary explosive bombs, of the kind you’ll find in the warhead of a cruise missile or the belly of an aircraft, and with which you can kill an awful lot more people, are made of chemicals, too. (The International Crisis Group wondered mildly why any use of “chemical weapons” now necessitated an attack, given that “Syrians have suffered from far deadlier mass atrocities during the course of the conflict without this prompting much collective action”.) It’s high time some enterprising arms manufacturer developed a range of hypoallergenic and eco-friendly “organic” weapons.

Since the 2003 Iraq invasion, western leaders agitating for war can no longer really use the phrase “weapons of mass destruction”, that being the slogan around which official “regime change” progaganda was organised “for bureaucratic reasons”, as Paul Wolfowitz nonchalantly revealed afterwards. (A curious reverse echo of Iraq rhetoric appeared recently in the New York Times, which in a news report commented sardonically that Assad “routinely refers to armed insurgents and rebels as ‘terrorists'”. Where could he have learned that trick? Subsequently, an “updated” version of the article removed this comment.)

Compared with the now-unusable phrase “weapons of mass destruction”, Obama’s “unconventional weapons” lacks the old rhetorical amplification of death but offers a different nuance instead: to use them, it seems, is sneaky and underhand. It’s just not cricket. (One magazine story from the late 19th century described “a rusty knuckle-duster”, “a cruel-looking gimlet knife”, and a “roughly wrought bowie” as “unconventional weapons”, too: not the sort of thing a gentleman fighter would use.)

But just as by far the most destructive kind of WMD are nuclear weapons, huge arsenals of which the righteous invaders of Iraq inconveniently owned themselves, so “unconventional weapons” have long been understood to include the nuclear type. To be “unconventional”, then, is OK for us but not for them. A sceptical observer of American rhetoric might even suggest that death-dealing flying robots, of the kind that routinely kill people (including children) in US drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, are pretty “unconventional weapons” too by historical standards.

To describe a leader and his weapons as uniquely iniquitous is one pillar of a pro-war Unspeak propaganda strategy. Another is to characterise one’s own proposed actions in terms of justice and cleanliness. Sadly for admirers of its creatively antiseptic death-as-medicine metaphor, the idea of a “surgical strike” seems also too tarnished from its Iraq-era use to be resurrected for the Syrian case. Instead the proposed attack, it is said, will be a “limited strike” to “degrade” the government’s “delivery systems” (they do not mean targeting post offices).

It will also, we are told, be a “punitive” strike. Presumably, Assad or the commanders who supposedly ordered the Damascus attack will be safe in palaces and bunkers. So the punishment for their alleged actions will instead fall on random members of the Syrian military, who apparently deserve to die just for staying in their jobs. So goes the brutal collective-punishment ethos of the geopolitical correctional officer.

It has even been reported that perhaps the main purpose of the attack on Syria will be to send a message to another actor entirely: Iran. This doesn’t mean actually writing messages on the bombs, which would obviously be pointless because the messages would be illegible after the bombs exploded. It means bombing Syria as a way of warning Iran that the US won’t tolerate its pursuit of “unconventional weapons” either. This sounds clever. It’s just a shame that bombing one set of people to impress another is more or less the definition of terrorism.

After meeting with Obama, John McCain reported with satisfaction that he understood any strike on Syria would be “very serious” and not “cosmetic”. Even doubters can surely agree that it’s good that any such attack will at least be “serious”. To kill people frivolously, after all, would just add insult to injury.

The Guardian,


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Les petits soldats de la guerre médiatique montent au front syrien

Pour justifier par avance les bombardements de Damas, la presse a lancé le pilonnage médiatique. Les rumeurs sur l’utilisation des armes chimiques par le régime syrien sont devenues une vérité révélée.

En Grande-Bretagne, la presse britannique somme David Cameron de bien réfléchir avant de jouer au Tony Blair conservateur en fonçant tête baissée sur la Syrie. En Italie, tout le monde prend l’affaire des attaques chimiques avec des pincettes. En Allemagne, la prudence est de mise, au gouvernement comme dans les médias.  
Aux Etats-Unis, nonobstant les déclarations d’un Obama que l’on a connu plus inspiré (c’était il y a longtemps, c’est vrai), certains éditorialistes, à l’image de l’opinion américaine, sont très sceptiques sur le soudain virage de la Maison Blanche. D’aucun vont même jusqu’à regretter qu’Obama se soit ligoté les mains en déclarant que l’usage des armes chimiques constituait « une ligne rouge. »   
En France, rien de tel. A de très rares exceptions, la presse et les éditocrates se sont rangés derrière la version officielle comme des soldats derrière leur lieutenant. Chacun, à sa manière, reprend un discours répété en boucle. La fameuse « ligne rouge » a été franchie avec l’utilisation d’armes chimiques par Bachar Al-Assad. Il faut donc le « punir » – élément de langage conçu dans les agences de com de la Maison Blanche et repris tel quel par un François Hollande transformé en petit messager. 
Vous avez aimé les faux charniers de Timisoara (Roumanie) ? Les bébés assassinés dans leurs couveuses du Koweït par Saddam Hussein ? Les massacres arrangés de Racak (Kosovo) ? Les fioles exhibées par Colin Powell à l’ONU comme preuves de l’existence des armes de destruction massive de l’Irak ? Vous adorerez l’utilisation d’armes chimiques.  
D’ailleurs, la confirmation de leur usage est imminente. Elle ne viendra pas de Damas où l’ONU a envoyé ses experts, mais de Washington, où la Maison Blanche a les siennes. Enquêter dans les rues de la capitale américaine, c’est quand même plus sûr que dans les quartiers de la capitale syrienne. Colin Powell aurait-il repris du service à l’insu de son plein gré ?   
Que la Syrie possède des armes chimiques, nul n’en doute. Qu’elle puisse les utiliser, c’est possible. Bachar Al-Assad est capable de tout, surtout du pire. Son passé comme son présent sont là pour en témoigner. Mais pour l’heure, sur ce sujet explosif – au sens plein du terme –  nul ne sait rien.   
Le régime peut avoir utilisé ces armes prohibées par le droit international. Mais une partie des rebelles peut en avoir fait autant. Un dépôt où étaient entreposées ces bombes toxiques peut aussi avoir été touché involontairement. Aucune de ces hypothèses n’est à exclure. Mais aucune preuve formelle n’a pu être apportée. Et, dans tous les cas, l’important est de se demander si une éventuelle intervention étrangère servirait ou non à servir la cause de la paix.     
Or, pour les va-t-en guerre du cirque médiatique, la cause est entendue. BHL s’est aussitôt exhibé sur les écrans pour dire tout le bien qu’il pensait d’une opération inspirée de celle qui a permis de tuer Kadhafi mais aussi de livrer la Libye au chaos. Bernard Kouchner a expliqué qu’il aurait fallu lancer l’assaut depuis longtemps. 
Laurent Joffrin, du Nouvel Obs, ex-soutien enthousiaste de la guerre du Kosovo, a appelé à la mobilisation générale. Il a même expliqué dans un éditorial que « Saddam Hussein mis à part, aucun pays n’a fait l’usage de l’arme chimique au combat depuis près d’un siècle ». On en déduira donc que l’agent orange déversé par les Etats-Unis sur le Vietnam avait vocation à permettre l’embellie printanière de la flore locale, ou que l’aide apportée par la CIA à l’Irak de Saddam Hussein pour gazer les Iraniens lors de la guerre entre les deux pays relevait de l’intoxication au gaz de la désinformation.  
Comme l’a écrit Nathalie Nougayrède dans un éditorial du Monde digne de passer à la postérité :« Le crime de trop appelle une riposte ».  
Passons sur le « crime de trop », comme si 100.000 morts depuis mars 2011, ce n’était pas assez.  Selon la directrice du Monde, l’emploi d’armes chimiques « ne fait guère de doute ». C’est donc qu’il y a doute. Mais tout le reste du propos consiste à expliquer qu’il n’y en a pas, qu’un « tabou »a été levé, que « le crime chimique d’ampleur change la donne », qu’il s’agit d’un « Srebrenica syrien » (sic), et qu’il faut agir au plus vie puisque de toute façon « le régime syrien s’est employé à détruire, depuis le 21 août, les éléments de preuve ». 
En quelques lignes, on est passé du doute à la certitude, du conditionnel au présent. En fonction de quoi ? Des seuls éléments fournis par la faction intégriste des « rebelles » syriens contre qui l’Occident a mené la guerre en Afghanistan ou au Mali en expliquant qu’elle représentait le Mal absolu. Et aujourd’hui, par la grâce de Jésus et de Mahomet réunis, ils deviennent soudain fiables, crédibles,  honnêtes ?  
Comprenne qui pourra. En vérité, les adeptes de l’intervention humanitaire à géométrie variable sont retombées dans le schéma binaire qu’ils adorent par-dessus tout : les Bons contre les Méchants, le Bien contre le Mal.  
Si l’on est contre Bachar Al-Assad (et il n’y a aucune raison d’être pour) il faut soutenir ceux qui le combattent, même s’il y a parmi eux de futurs Bachar Al-Assad en puissance. Toute approche circonstanciée est à bannir. Toute interrogation sur les conséquences d’un engrenage incontrôlable dans la région est hors de saison. Il faut in-ter-ve-nir, comme si la seule forme d’action possible était le bombardement, avec sa cohorte de morts civils. 
On a pourtant entendu des voix fort diverses mettre en garde contre les dangers de l’intervention, de Jean-Luc Mélenchon au Pape François en passant par François Bayrou, Pierre Lellouche, François Longuet, Pierre Laurent, ou l’évêque catholique d’Alep. Des analystes ont resitué le conflit dans son contexte régional et son héritage historique, rappelant qu’en Syrie, la France et la Grande-Bretagne, les deux anciennes puissances coloniales, pouvaient vite susciter un phénomène de rejet.  
Un homme comme Zbigniew Brzezinski, ancien conseiller de Jimmy Carter, a relevé non sans raison que l’occident mobilisait son armada au moment même où Damas semblait prendre le dessus face à ses adversaires. Enfin, l’opposition laïque à Bachar Al-Assad a rappelé qu’elle s’opposait fermement à toute intervention étrangère.  

Dans les médias, ces commentaires et ces réactions ont été balayés comme poussière après l’explosion de la bombe. Ne reste que la voix des adeptes de la guerre rajoutée à la guerre. « Ce n’est pas le doute qui rend fou, c’est la certitude », disait Nietzsche. Certains sont fous de leur certitude.



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Little Richard anuncia su retirada a los 80 años

Richard Wayne Penniman, conocido como Little Richard, se retira de la música. Pionero del rock n’ roll, nacido en Georgia el 5 de diciembre de 1932, infatigable músico y animal escénico, anuncia ahora, a punto de cumplir 81 años, que abandona la que ha sido la principal pasión y el motor de su intensa vida. En una entrevista con la edición estadounidense de Rolling Stone, admite que se siente “acabado”. Estas palabras llegan un tiempo después de una actuación en el Howard Theatre de Washington, donde pronunció la siguiente frase para pasmo de la concurrencia: “Jesús, ayúdame. Casi ni puedo respirar, es horrible”.

Richard, sin duda uno de los nombres sagrados del género de las guitarras eléctricas, ha asegurado a Rolling Stone que su importancia para la historia reside en que el rock n’ roll comenzó cuando él publicó el clásico Tutti Frutti. Ahora, lejos quedan ya aquellos incendiarios años, y Richard tiene que utilizar con demasiada frecuencia una silla de ruedas. Por eso toma esta dolorosa decisión, admitiendo sentirse “acabado y sin ganas de hacer nada más” en el siempre fatigoso mundo de la música.

Aquejado de ciática y graves problemas en la cadera lleva mucho tiempo lejos de sus estándares de calidad musical. Según Rolling Stone, ahora pasa el tiempo diseñando ropa y rezando. Y al parecer, también meditando acerca del impacto los bombazos que lanzó con singles comoTutti Frutti y Long tall Sally: “Creo que mi legado debe ser exactamente ese, cuando empecé en el show bussines no existía nada parecido al rock n’ roll. Cuando lancé Tutti Frutti es cuando el rock empezó a golpear”.

Siempre se sintió maltratado por ser negro y por su condición sexual. Richard, vivió con la certidumbre de que Jerry Lee Lewis se llevó en realidad la fama que le correspondía. De hecho, se retiró de la música una larga temporada.

Little Richard conquistó a los jóvenes de la década de los cincuenta junto a Jerry Lee Lewis y tantos otros que rompieron reglas y allanaron el camino a mitos como Elvis Presley, los Beatles o los Rolling Stones. Para el recuerdo quedan multitud de canciones y su famoso grito de guerra: “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom”

El País,


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White South Africans’ move to black township draws praise and accusations

April Matlala, who lost most of his home to a fire three years ago, got a big surprise when he saw who was moving into the shack next door. The new residents of Mamelodi, an impoverished township near Pretoria in South Africa, were young, middle-class and white.

“They wanted to experience a different culture from where they’re living,” reasoned Matlala, 44, pressing the neck of a beer bottle to his lips. “InSouth Africa we have about 11 cultures. If you don’t experience all of them, you’re not a real South African.”

Julian and Ena Hewitt, both 34, and their daughters Julia, four, and Jessica, two, left their four-bedroom house, livestock and swimming pool in a gated community to move just seven miles (12km) down the road into a 3m x 3m (10ft x 10ft) shack with no electricity, a communal water tap and a pit toilet. They stayed there a month, living on 3,000 rand (£189), the average income of a black family, and blogged the experience.

Their August sojourn in a “new country”, as they put it, has been lauded as a brave attempt to cross racial divides and draw attention to the savage juxtaposition of rich and poor in South Africa. But it has also led to accusations of self-serving “poverty tourism” that could offer only superficial insights into black township life.

The Hewitts, who are well-travelled and used to roughing it, got the idea from India where two young professionals spent a month living in poverty on the premise that “empathy is crucial to democracy”. Ena, an estate agent, said: “If you can’t have empathy and understanding of how your fellow man lives then it’s impossible for this country to move forward. We want our girls to grow up here, not in the UK, so we want them to know and understand the realities of this country.”

Nearly two decades after racial apartheid bit the dust, its legacy persists in spatial segregation between affluent suburbs and neglected townships, with millions of black people still commuting from the latter at great expense of time and money.

“It’s just so easy to live in a bubble in South Africa and especially for the middle- to upper-class to build higher walls rather than building bridges,” Ena continued. “This is a way to create empathy, a way to build bridges and a way to see how the majority of this country lives. It really is very easy to be oblivious of it.

“What’s caught us off-guard is the media attention this thing has generated. It shows the serious disconnect that’s still there. There are probably more tourists who’ve been in townships than white South Africans. Hopefully this is something that other people can look at and say, ‘Well, if they stayed there for a month, we can at least go visit and see where our domestic worker lives.'”

The Hewitts chose Mamelodi to be close to their own domestic worker, 50-year-old Leah Nkambule. One afternoon a small group gathered on plastic chairs outside her home tending a cooking pot above a wood fire. Nearby was another shack structure containing the Hewitts, two other tenants and their landlord, who rises at 4am each day and walks more than two miles to catch a train to work. Beyond them was Matlala’s single-room shack, then one taken over by drug dealers.

The Hewitts’ spartan home (rental of 170 rand (£10.70) a month) was made of a corrugated roof with metal sheets on the sides. Among the contents were mattresses on the floor, a plastic basket of clothes, children’s shoes, a roll of toilet paper, a kettle on a paraffin stove and an iPhone devoid of battery life. Outside was a small lawn fenced from a dirt track by barbed wire held up by posts fashioned from branches. Children played merrily with Julia and Jessica then helped Julian hoist a piece of wire on which he hung up washing to dry.

The family moved in during the dog days of the South African winter and came down with flu after a week. Julian and Ena effectively went on a vegan diet and each lost 5kg. They had to get used to a “smelly” long-drop toilet, the attention of rats and the absence of mod cons. “I really miss a shower,” she said. “Bucket baths just don’t do it for me: one kettle of water and having to wash your head upside down in a bucket is not much fun, then use the same bucket for your dishes and laundry. It takes about an hour and a half to heat it with paraffin.”

But the Hewitts, who do not own a TV anyway, enjoyed extra family time, catching up on sleep and sitting around a fire each evening talking to their neighbours. Family and close friends had warned that they were being “reckless and irresponsible” by exposing their daughters to a township but the community proved caring and protective.

Ena continued: “We go for a walk every afternoon and can’t go 50 metres without getting stopped, greeted, chatted to. They can’t believe it when we say we’re living here but they’re very friendly.

“I have to wonder if it was the other way around, and in an exclusively white suburb a bunch of black people walked in, whether people would be as welcoming.”

While most of the feedback on the Hewitts’ blog and Facebook page was positive, there were dissenting voices who called the exercise exploitative and voyeuristic. One Twitter user wrote: “Mamelodi people must burn them in that shack.”

Julian, a social entrepreneur who commuted from Mamelodi to his office in Johannesburg once a week, reflected: “There is a very interesting undercurrent that we’ve been exposed to. There are your young, black professionals who still feel angry about that fact the status quo hasn’t really changed. There is the sense that we’re mocking poverty and all these things and that’s OK, because they don’t know us.

“But what’s very interesting with those people we’ve found is that they’re a lot more comfortable with the notion of a British tourist coming and living here for a month, because in that case it’s an ‘adventure’ and this person’s just trying to get to understand African culture better. But as white South Africans we basically are part of the problem and it opens up a whole lot of questions that might have been covered up otherwise and brings out a lot of tensions that would not be there if we are foreign tourists.”

The couple were not trying to build schools or set up an NGO, he added, but simply being here was the point. “What’s great is that people get what we’re trying to do. The fact that we’re able to interact with them as people, rather than as white people, breaks down massive boundaries reinforced in people’s minds for three and a half centuries here.

“We popped into a shebeen the other day on one of our afternoon walks. A big football match was on TV and there was almost dead silence when they turned and saw two blonde girls and us and a friend. Two guys came up to us and one said, ‘Wow, you make me believe God is alive today.’ The other guy started quoting Nelson Mandela’s Rivonia trial speech where he said: ‘This is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’ He said that ideal that Mandela is prepared to die for is bringing you into a place like this.”

Residents of Mamelodi appeared intrigued and impressed by the guests. They praised the family for helping their children with homework and making an effort to learn their languages. Many also expressed hope that the media coverage would move politicians to action. Nkambule’s niece, Velly, 27, said: “I was very glad they came to see how we are suffering here and how much we spend on taxis and paraffin. The community is very happy and we wish they could stay forever.”

The Guardian,


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