Tag Archives: berlin

Trump: U.S. must ‘greatly strengthen’ nuclear capability

President-elect Donald Trump this week abruptly called for the United States to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” until the rest of the world “comes to its senses” regarding nuclear weapons.

The statement was made on Trump’s Twitter account and did not expand on the actions he wants the United States to take or on the issues he sees around the world.

The comments came one day after meeting with incoming White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump’s transition website says he “recognizes the uniquely catastrophic threats posed by nuclear weapons and cyberattacks,” adding that he will modernize the nuclear arsenal “to ensure it continues to be an effective deterrent.”

Beyond that, he has offered few specifics, either as a candidate or during the transition.

During the campaign, Hillary Clinton repeatedly cast the Republican as too erratic and unpredictable to have control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

Ten former nuclear missile launch operators also wrote that Trump lacks the temperament, judgment and diplomatic skill to avoid nuclear war.

Trump was at his private estate in South Florida, where he was meeting with advisers and interviewing potential Cabinet nominees.

He is also building out his White House staff, announcing that campaign manager Kellyanne Conway would join him in the West Wing as a counselor.

Conway, a longtime Republican pollster, is widely credited with helping guide Trump to his electoral college victory. She also is a frequent guest on television “news” programs.

The president-elect had spent part of the week discussing national security issues, including the deadly attack on a Christmas market in Germany. He called the violence an “attack on humanity” and appeared to suggest a willingness to move ahead with his campaign pledge to temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from coming to the United States.

Trump proposed the Muslim ban during the GOP primary campaign, drawing sharp criticism from both parties.

During the general election, he shifted his rhetoric to focus on temporarily halting immigration from an unspecified list of countries with ties to terrorism, though he did not disavow the Muslim ban, which is still prominently displayed on his campaign website.

The president-elect, when asked this week if the attack in Berlin would cause him to evaluate the proposed ban or a possible registry of Muslims in the United States, said, “You know my plans. All along, I’ve been proven to be right, 100 percent correct.”

A transition spokesman said later that Trump’s plans “might upset those with their heads stuck in the politically correct sand.”

“President-elect Trump has been clear that we will suspend admission of those from countries with high terrorism rates and apply a strict vetting procedure for those seeking entry in order to protect American lives,” spokesman Jason Miller said.

But transition officials did not comment on whether Trump could also push for the overarching ban on Muslims.

Trump, who addressed journalists Wednesday for less than two minutes outside his palatial South Florida estate, said he had not spoken to President Barack Obama since the attack.

Trump’s ‘America First’ echoes old isolationist rallying cry

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump boils down his foreign policy agenda to two words: “America First.”

For students of U.S. history, that slogan harkens back to the tumultuous presidential election of 1940, when hundreds of thousands of Americans joined the anti-war America First Committee.

That isolationist group’s primary goal was to keep the United States from joining Britain in the fight against Nazi Germany, which by then had overrun nearly all of Europe. But the committee is also remembered for the unvarnished anti-Semitism of some of its most prominent members and praise for the economic policies of Adolf Hitler.

‘AMERICA FIRST’ FORMED

The America First Committee was founded in spring 1940 at Yale University by students that included future U.S. president Gerald Ford and future Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart. Future President John F. Kennedy contributed $100. Within months, France had capitulated to the Germans and England appeared on the verge of collapse. The committee was soon the largest anti-war organization in U.S. history, with more than 800,000 dues-paying members.

As the committee grew, it attracted celebrities, politicians and business leaders opposed President Franklin Roosevelt’s lend-lease aid to the British. Among them was the admired aviator Charles Lindbergh, who was the first man to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean more than a decade earlier.

FRIENDS IN BERLIN

Lindbergh, whose family was of Germanic heritage, made multiple high-profile visits to the Fatherland, including to the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin as a special guest of Field Marshal Hermann Goering, head of the German air force. Lindbergh grew to admire Hitler’s revitalization of the German economy at a time the United States was still mired in the Great Depression. He also marveled at the advanced fighters and bombers of the Luftwaffe.

Upon his return to the United States, Lindbergh spoke favorably of the Nazis and published widely read opinion pieces saying the German military conquest of Europe was inevitable and that America should stay out of the war. He joined the executive committee of America First and became the public face of the group, traveling the country to speak at massive anti-war rallies.

ISOLATIONISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM

America First championed the belief that two vast oceans would insulate the United States from foreign invasion. The group also opposed the acceptance of shiploads of Jewish refugees then-fleeing Nazi persecution. In addition to Lindbergh, the executive committee of America First included the automaker Henry Ford, who had paid to publish a series of anti-Semitic pamphlets called The International Jew, and Avery Brundage, the former U.S. Olympic Committee chairman who had barred two American Jewish runners from competing at the Berlin Olympics.

Lindbergh espoused anti-Semitic views in his speeches, including a September 1941 America First rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

“The British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war,” he said. “Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.”

Within days of the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the United States. America First quickly disbanded.

TRUMP’S ‘AMERICA FIRST’

During his first major foreign policy speech in April, Trump said “America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.”

He has repeatedly used the slogan on the campaign trail, including in a speech this week.

“We are going to put America First, and we are going to Make America Great Again,” Trump said last week in another speech. “We need to reform our economic system so that, once again, we can all succeed together, and America can become rich again. That’s what we mean by America First.”

Trump has proposed building a “big, beautiful wall” along the U.S. border with Mexico to keep out Latino immigrants and opposes the admittance of Muslim war refugees from Syria. He has also called for “tearing up” international trade deals.

ECHOES OF THE PAST

Historians told The Associated Press there are some ideological parallels between Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail and the positions taken 75 years ago by members of the American First Committee. Then as now, an economic downturn fanned popular resentment toward immigration, especially by those who were not perceived as traditional Americans.

“Building a wall is about the illusion that there can be a physical safeguard to prevent intrusion from alien forces,” said Bruce Miroff, a professor who teaches on American politics and the presidency at the State University of New York at Albany. “America First was tapping into suspicion of an ominous other who threatened the American way of life. At that time, it was about Jews. With Trump, it’s Muslims and fear of terrorism.”

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not respond to messages this week seeking comment about the America First slogan.

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, sent Trump a letter two months ago urging him to refrain from using “America First.” The group also took $56,000 that Trump and his family foundation had donated to it over the years and redirected the money to new anti-bias and anti-bullying education programs.

“For many Americans, the term ‘America First’ will always be associated with and tainted by this history,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the group’s chief executive. “In a political season that already has prompted a national conversation about civility and tolerance, choosing a call to action historically associated with incivility and intolerance seems ill-advised.”

The group received no response to its letter, but Trump has continued to use the slogan.

Lesbian-only cemetery being inaugurated in Berlin

A new burial area for lesbians only recently was inaugurated in a two-century-old cemetery in the German capital of Berlin.

A 400-square-meter area of the Lutheran Georgen Parochial cemetery, established in 1814 in central Berlin, will be reserved as a graveyard for up to 80 lesbians, said Usah Zachau, a spokeswoman for the Safia association, a national group primarily for elderly lesbians.

The association said it had created a burial area as a space “where life and death connect, distinctive forms of cemetery culture can develop and where the lesbian community can live together in the afterlife.”

The group was given use of the cemetery area for 30 years in exchange for cleaning up and landscaping the area, and promising to be responsible for its upkeep. In Germany, it is customary to have long-term, renewable leases on burial plots rather than buy them outright.

“We don’t have to pay any rent, but we had to invest a lot of money to turn that part of the cemetery into a usable burial ground again,” Zachau said.

The group commissioned a landscaping company to build winding sand paths and has reserved spaces for cremated ashes in urns and for the burial of bodies. The area is framed by oak, birch and yew trees.

Neighboring parts of the Lutheran cemetery, which is located near Alexanderplatz square, are currently not being used. Old, toppled tombstones are overgrown by weeds.

A spokesman for the Berlin Lutheran church said the agreement with the women’s group comes as part of the church’s efforts to “revitalize its cemetery grounds by cooperating with other groups.”

“We are also in an ongoing discussion with Muslim groups to see whether they can have their own plots on our cemeteries,” said Volker Jastrzembski.

The Lesbian and Gay Association of Berlin welcomed the creation of the cemetery.

“It increases the diversity of opportunities and is a nice opportunity for those lesbian women who want to be buried among other lesbians,” said spokesman Joerg Steinert.

Jewish group demands return of all Nazi-looted art

Germany must make a stronger effort to identify and return thousands of looted art pieces the Nazis took from Jews, the president of the World Jewish Congress said this week as he met with top government officials in Berlin to push his case.

Ronald Lauder told The Associated Press that Nazi-looted art still hangs in German museums, government offices and private collections. He said the country’s legislation needs to be changed in order to facilitate its return.

The art pieces stolen from the Jews “are the last prisoners of World War II,” Lauder said. “They should be returned to the victims of the Holocaust and their heirs.”

The topic became the focus of attention in Germany and abroad after the 2012 discovery of more than 1,400 artworks in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer.

Some of the paintings, drawings and prints are claimed by the heirs of former owners persecuted by the Nazis. The affair prompted fresh scrutiny of how Germany handles disputes over Nazi-looted art.

Lauder, who was to hold closed-door meetings with Germany’s justice and foreign ministers to push for new solutions, called on Germany to eliminate its 30-year statute of limitations on stolen property cases, a major stumbling block in many restitution cases since World War II ended almost 70 years ago.

He also called for the establishment of an international commission that would research and help return the artworks to families of the original owners. Such a body “should have real power, so that museums that have avoided transparency up until now, will be required to do the research under its auspices in accordance with international standards,” he said.

Already on Wednesday, Monica Gruetters, the government’s top cultural affairs official, said Germany wants to double state funding for the hunt for Nazi-looted art, which since 2008 has amounted to (euro) 14.5 million ($19.7 million).

Gruetters told lawmakers it was “unbearable that there is still Nazi-looted art in German museums.”

She pledged to create a central point of contact for claimants to avoid the impression that German officials were trying to duck responsibility.

The German government also in 2003 created a commission can be called on if the ownership of a piece of art stolen or sold during the Nazi period is disputed. While the Limbach Commission’s recommendations are non-binding, they are almost always adopted. The government also installed a task force to look into the origins of the paintings and drawings recently found in Gurlitt’s Munich apartment.

President Barack Obama’s ‘Hello, Berlin!’ speech. Transcript

In his June 19 speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, President Barack Obama called for reducing nuclear arsenals, action against climate change and a continued effort to battle injustice and promote peace.

He said, “I’d suggest that peace with justice begins with the example we set here at home, for we know from our own histories that intolerance breeds injustice.  Whether it’s based on race, or religion, gender or sexual orientation, we are stronger when all our people — no matter who they are or what they look like — are granted opportunity, and when our wives and our daughters have the same opportunities as our husbands and our sons.”

The transcript:

Hello, Berlin!  (Applause.)  Thank you, Chancellor Merkel, for your leadership, your friendship, and the example of your life — from a child of the East to the leader of a free and united Germany.

As I’ve said, Angela and I don’t exactly look like previous German and American leaders.  But the fact that we can stand here today, along the fault line where a city was divided, speaks to an eternal truth:  No wall can stand against the yearning of justice, the yearnings for freedom, the yearnings for peace that burns in the human heart.  (Applause.) 

Mayor Wowereit, distinguished guests, and especially the people of Berlin and of Germany — thank you for this extraordinarily warm welcome.  In fact, it’s so warm and I feel so good that I’m actually going to take off my jacket, and anybody else who wants to, feel free to.  (Applause.)  We can be a little more informal among friends.  (Applause.) 

As your Chancellor mentioned, five years ago I had the privilege to address this city as senator.  Today, I’m proud to return as President of the United States.  (Applause.)  And I bring with me the enduring friendship of the American people, as well as my wife, Michelle, and Malia and Sasha.  (Applause.)  You may notice that they’re not here.  The last thing they want to do is to listen to another speech from me.  (Laughter.)  So they’re out experiencing the beauty and the history of Berlin.  And this history speaks to us today.

Here, for thousands of years, the people of this land have journeyed from tribe to principality to nation-state; through Reformation and Enlightenment, renowned as a “land of poets and thinkers,” among them Immanuel Kant, who taught us that freedom is the “unoriginated birthright of man, and it belongs to him by force of his humanity.”

Here, for two centuries, this gate stood tall as the world around it convulsed — through the rise and fall of empires; through revolutions and republics; art and music and science that reflected the height of human endeavor, but also war and carnage that exposed the depths of man’s cruelty to man.

It was here that Berliners carved out an island of democracy against the greatest of odds.  As has already been mentioned, they were supported by an airlift of hope, and we are so honored to be joined by Colonel Halvorsen, 92 years old — the original “candy bomber.”  We could not be prouder of him.  (Applause.)  I hope I look that good, by the way, when I’m 92.  (Laughter.) 

During that time, a Marshall Plan seeded a miracle, and a North Atlantic Alliance protected our people.  And those in the neighborhoods and nations to the East drew strength from the knowledge that freedom was possible here, in Berlin — that the waves of crackdowns and suppressions might therefore someday be overcome. 

Today, 60 years after they rose up against oppression, we remember the East German heroes of June 17th.  When the wall finally came down, it was their dreams that were fulfilled.  Their strength and their passion, their enduring example remind us that for all the power of militaries, for all the authority of governments, it is citizens who choose whether to be defined by a wall, or whether to tear it down.  (Applause.)

And we’re now surrounded by the symbols of a Germany reborn.  A rebuilt Reichstag and its glistening glass dome.  An American embassy back at its historic home on Pariser Platz.  (Applause.)  And this square itself, once a desolate no man’s land, is now open to all.  So while I am not the first American President to come to this gate, I am proud to stand on its Eastern side to pay tribute to the past.  (Applause.)

For throughout all this history, the fate of this city came down to a simple question:  Will we live free or in chains?  Under governments that uphold our universal rights, or regimes that suppress them?  In open societies that respect the sanctity of the individual and our free will, or in closed societies that suffocate the soul?

As free peoples, we stated our convictions long ago. As Americans, we believe that “all men are created equal” with the right to life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And as Germans, you declared in your Basic Law that “the dignity of man is inviolable.”  (Applause.)  Around the world, nations have pledged themselves to a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the inherent dignity and rights of all members of our human family.

And this is what was at stake here in Berlin all those years.  And because courageous crowds climbed atop that wall, because corrupt dictatorships gave way to new democracies, because millions across this continent now breathe the fresh air of freedom, we can say, here in Berlin, here in Europe — our values won.  Openness won.  Tolerance won.  And freedom won here in Berlin.  (Applause.)

And yet, more than two decades after that triumph, we must acknowledge that there can, at times, be a complacency among our Western democracies.  Today, people often come together in places like this to remember history — not to make it.  After all, we face no concrete walls, no barbed wire.  There are no tanks poised across a border.  There are no visits to fallout shelters.  And so sometimes there can be a sense that the great challenges have somehow passed.  And that brings with it a temptation to turn inward — to think of our own pursuits, and not the sweep of history; to believe that we’ve settled history’s accounts, that we can simply enjoy the fruits won by our forebears.

But I come here today, Berlin, to say complacency is not the character of great nations.  Today’s threats are not as stark as they were half a century ago, but the struggle for freedom and security and human dignity — that struggle goes on.  And I’ve come here, to this city of hope, because the tests of our time demand the same fighting spirit that defined Berlin a half-century ago.

Chancellor Merkel mentioned that we mark the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s stirring defense of freedom, embodied in the people of this great city.  His pledge of solidarity — “Ich bin ein Berliner” — (applause) — echoes through the ages.  But that’s not all that he said that day.  Less remembered is the challenge that he issued to the crowd before him:  “Let me ask you,” he said to those Berliners, “let me ask you to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today” and “beyond the freedom of merely this city.”  Look, he said, “to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.”

President Kennedy was taken from us less than six months after he spoke those words.  And like so many who died in those decades of division, he did not live to see Berlin united and free.  Instead, he lives forever as a young man in our memory.  But his words are timeless because they call upon us to care more about things than just our own self-comfort, about our own city, about our own country.  They demand that we embrace the common endeavor of all humanity.

And if we lift our eyes, as President Kennedy called us to do, then we’ll recognize that our work is not yet done.  For we are not only citizens of America or Germany — we are also citizens of the world.  And our fates and fortunes are linked like never before.

We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.  (Applause.)  We may strike blows against terrorist networks, but if we ignore the instability and intolerance that fuels extremism, our own freedom will eventually be endangered.  We may enjoy a standard of living that is the envy of the world, but so long as hundreds of millions endure the agony of an empty stomach or the anguish of unemployment, we’re not truly prosperous.  (Applause.)

I say all this here, in the heart of Europe, because our shared past shows that none of these challenges can be met unless we see ourselves as part of something bigger than our own experience.  Our alliance is the foundation of global security.  Our trade and our commerce is the engine of our global economy.  Our values call upon us to care about the lives of people we will never meet.  When Europe and America lead with our hopes instead of our fears, we do things that no other nations can do, no other nations will do.  So we have to lift up our eyes today and consider the day of peace with justice that our generation wants for this world. 

I’d suggest that peace with justice begins with the example we set here at home, for we know from our own histories that intolerance breeds injustice.  Whether it’s based on race, or religion, gender or sexual orientation, we are stronger when all our people — no matter who they are or what they look like — are granted opportunity, and when our wives and our daughters have the same opportunities as our husbands and our sons.  (Applause.) 

When we respect the faiths practiced in our churches and synagogues, our mosques and our temples, we’re more secure.  When we welcome the immigrant with his talents or her dreams, we are renewed.  (Applause.)  When we stand up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and treat their love and their rights equally under the law, we defend our own liberty as well.  We are more free when all people can pursue their own happiness.  (Applause.)  And as long as walls exist in our hearts to separate us from those who don’t look like us, or think like us, or worship as we do, then we’re going to have to work harder, together, to bring those walls of division down. 

Peace with justice means free enterprise that unleashes the talents and creativity that reside in each of us; in other models, direct economic growth from the top down or relies solely on the resources extracted from the earth.  But we believe that real prosperity comes from our most precious resource — our people.  And that’s why we choose to invest in education, and science and research.  (Applause.) 

And now, as we emerge from recession, we must not avert our eyes from the insult of widening inequality, or the pain of youth who are unemployed.  We have to build new ladders of opportunity in our own societies that — even as we pursue new trade and investment that fuels growth across the Atlantic. 

America will stand with Europe as you strengthen your union.  And we want to work with you to make sure that every person can enjoy the dignity that comes from work — whether they live in Chicago or Cleveland or Belfast or Berlin, in Athens or Madrid, everybody deserves opportunity.  We have to have economies that are working for all people, not just those at the very top.  (Applause.)

Peace with justice means extending a hand to those who reach for freedom, wherever they live.  Different peoples and cultures will follow their own path, but we must reject the lie that those who live in distant places don’t yearn for freedom and self-determination just like we do; that they don’t somehow yearn for dignity and rule of law just like we do.  We cannot dictate the pace of change in places like the Arab world, but we must reject the excuse that we can do nothing to support it.  (Applause.) 

We cannot shrink from our role of advancing the values we believe in — whether it’s supporting Afghans as they take responsibility for their future, or working for an Israeli-Palestinian peace — (applause) — or engaging as we’ve done in Burma to help create space for brave people to emerge from decades of dictatorship.  In this century, these are the citizens who long to join the free world.  They are who you were.  They deserve our support, for they too, in their own way, are citizens of Berlin.  And we have to help them every day.  (Applause.) 

Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons — no matter how distant that dream may be.  And so, as President, I’ve strengthened our efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and reduced the number and role of America’s nuclear weapons.  Because of the New START Treaty, we’re on track to cut American and Russian deployed nuclear warheads to their lowest levels since the 1950s.  (Applause.)

But we have more work to do.  So today, I’m announcing additional steps forward.  After a comprehensive review, I’ve determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third.  And I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.  (Applause.)

At the same time, we’ll work with our NATO allies to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe.  And we can forge a new international framework for peaceful nuclear power, and reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking. 

America will host a summit in 2016 to continue our efforts to secure nuclear materials around the world, and we will work to build support in the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and call on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.  These are steps we can take to create a world of peace with justice.  (Applause.)  

Peace with justice means refusing to condemn our children to a harsher, less hospitable planet.  The effort to slow climate change requires bold action.  And on this, Germany and Europe have led. 

In the United States, we have recently doubled our renewable energy from clean sources like wind and solar power.  We’re doubling fuel efficiency on our cars.  Our dangerous carbon emissions have come down.  But we know we have to do more — and we will do more.  (Applause.)

With a global middle class consuming more energy every day, this must now be an effort of all nations, not just some.  For the grim alternative affects all nations — more severe storms, more famine and floods, new waves of refugees, coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise.  This is the future we must avert.  This is the global threat of our time.  And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late.  That is our job.  That is our task.  We have to get to work.  (Applause.)

Peace with justice means meeting our moral obligations.  And we have a moral obligation and a profound interest in helping lift the impoverished corners of the world.  By promoting growth so we spare a child born today a lifetime of extreme poverty.  By investing in agriculture, so we aren’t just sending food, but also teaching farmers to grow food.  By strengthening public health, so we’re not just sending medicine, but training doctors and nurses who will help end the outrage of children dying from preventable diseases.  Making sure that we do everything we can to realize the promise — an achievable promise — of the first AIDS-free generation.  That is something that is possible if we feel a sufficient sense of urgency.  (Applause.)  

Our efforts have to be about more than just charity.  They’re about new models of empowering people — to build institutions; to abandon the rot of corruption; to create ties of trade, not just aid, both with the West and among the nations they’re seeking to rise and increase their capacity.  Because when they succeed, we will be more successful as well.  Our fates are linked, and we cannot ignore those who are yearning not only for freedom but also prosperity.

And finally, let’s remember that peace with justice depends on our ability to sustain both the security of our societies and the openness that defines them.  Threats to freedom don’t merely come from the outside.  They can emerge from within — from our own fears, from the disengagement of our citizens. 

For over a decade, America has been at war.  Yet much has now changed over the five years since I last spoke here in Berlin.  The Iraq war is now over.  The Afghan war is coming to an end.  Osama bin Laden is no more.  Our efforts against al Qaeda are evolving.

And given these changes, last month, I spoke about America’s efforts against terrorism.  And I drew inspiration from one of our founding fathers, James Madison, who wrote, “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”  James Madison is right — which is why, even as we remain vigilant about the threat of terrorism, we must move beyond a mindset of perpetual war.  And in America, that means redoubling our efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo.  (Applause.)  It means tightly controlling our use of new technologies like drones.  It means balancing the pursuit of security with the protection of privacy. (Applause.)

And I’m confident that that balance can be struck.  I’m confident of that, and I’m confident that working with Germany, we can keep each other safe while at the same time maintaining those essential values for which we fought for. 

Our current programs are bound by the rule of law, and they’re focused on threats to our security — not the communications of ordinary persons.  They help confront real dangers, and they keep people safe here in the United States and here in Europe.  But we must accept the challenge that all of us in democratic governments face:  to listen to the voices who disagree with us; to have an open debate about how we use our powers and how we must constrain them; and to always remember that government exists to serve the power of the individual, and not the other way around.  That’s what makes us who we are, and that’s what makes us different from those on the other side of the wall.  (Applause.) 

That is how we’ll stay true to our better history while reaching for the day of peace and justice that is to come.  These are the beliefs that guide us, the values that inspire us, the principles that bind us together as free peoples who still believe the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  (Applause.) 

And we should ask, should anyone ask if our generation has the courage to meet these tests?  If anybody asks if President Kennedy’s words ring true today, let them come to Berlin, for here they will find the people who emerged from the ruins of war to reap the blessings of peace; from the pain of division to the joy of reunification.  And here, they will recall how people trapped behind a wall braved bullets, and jumped barbed wire, and dashed across minefields, and dug through tunnels, and leapt from buildings, and swam across the Spree to claim their most basic right of freedom.  (Applause.) 

The wall belongs to history.  But we have history to make as well.  And the heroes that came before us now call to us to live up to those highest ideals — to care for the young people who can’t find a job in our own countries, and the girls who aren’t allowed to go to school overseas; to be vigilant in safeguarding our own freedoms, but also to extend a hand to those who are reaching for freedom abroad.

This is the lesson of the ages.  This is the spirit of Berlin.  And the greatest tribute that we can pay to those who came before us is by carrying on their work to pursue peace and justice not only in our countries but for all mankind. 

Vielen Dank.  (Applause.)  God bless you.  God bless the peoples of Germany.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

PHOTO: 

President Barack Obama and other world leaders walk away after participating in a group photo at the G8 Summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, June 18, 2013. Pictured, from left are: Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council; Prime Minister Enrico Letta of Italy; Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada; President François Hollande of France; President Obama: Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom; President Vladimir Putin of Russia; Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany; José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission; and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Feminist protest at opening of Barbie’s ‘Dreamhouse Experience’

Feminist protesters disrupted the opening of the Barbie “Dreamhouse Experience” in Belin, saying that it objectifies women.

The giant pink dollhouse promoting the doll made by Mattel Inc. allows paying visitors to try on Barbie’s clothes, cook in her kitchen and play her pink piano.

Protesting in front of the house, a topless woman with the protest group Femen set fire to a Barbie doll tied to a crucifix.  Across her chest, the slogan “Life in plastic is not fantastic,” was scrawled across her chest in Sharpie.

“There’s too much emphasis on becoming more beautiful and on being pretty and that puts an awful lot of pressure on girls as well as wasting capacities which they could use to simply be happy or for school,” said Stevie Meriel Schmiedel, a founding member of the “Pink Stinks” protest group.

“We’re protesting because Barbie would not be able to survive with her figure and yet she is an idol for many girls and that’s not healthy,” she said.

A male protester in a wig, pink shirt and shimmering skirt held a poster reading: “Do you like me now?”

Global activists gear up for Pussy Riot rallies

The global campaign to free Pussy Riot is gaining speed. Supporters of the punk provocateur band mobilize this week in at least two dozen cities worldwide to hold simultaneous demonstrations an hour before a Russian court rules on whether its members will be sent to prison.

The rallies set for Aug. 17 will ride a wave of support for the three women who have been in jail for more than five months because of an anti-Putin prank in Moscow’s main cathedral. Calls for them to be freed have come from a long list of celebrities such as Madonna and Bjork. Protests have been held in a number of Western capitals, including Berlin, where last week about 400 people joined Canadian electro-pop performance artist Peaches to support the band.

In one of the most extravagant displays, Reykjavik Mayor Jon Gnarr rode through the streets of the Icelandic capital in a Gay Pride parade dressed like a band member – wearing a bright pink dress and matching balaclava – while lip-synching to one of Pussy Riot’s songs.

Amnesty International has called the women prisoners of conscience and begun collecting signatures by text message for a petition to be sent to the Russian government, while the U.S. State Department has repeatedly expressed its concern.

Although the band members and their lawyers are convinced that the verdict depends entirely on the will of President Vladimir Putin, and prosecutors have asked for a three-year sentence, activists hope their pressure will ease punishment or even free the women.

Putin has said the women should not be judged too harshly, but he risks appearing weak if they walk free.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were little known before their brief impromptu performance in Christ the Savior Cathedral in February. Dancing and high-kicking, they shouted the words of a “punk prayer” asking the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from Putin, who was set to win a third term in a March presidential election. 

They were arrested on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years. Since then, they have been vilified by the state media – while winning over hearts abroad.

Madonna donned a balaclava during a concert in Moscow last week and had “Pussy Riot” written on her bare back. Yoko Ono sent a personal message to Samutsevich, saying that “the power of your every word is now growing in us.”

A group of leading British musicians, including Pete Townshend of the Who and members of the Pet Shop Boys, published  a letter in the Times of London ahead of Putin’s visit during the Olympics to urge him to give the Pussy Riot members a fair hearing.

On Friday, activists in more than a dozen cities, from Moscow to Toronto, are expected to take to the streets at 2 p.m. Moscow time (1000 GMT), an hour before the judge is to issue the verdict. The protests are being coordinated by the defense lawyers.

Venues vary from the square outside the ornate Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona to the yard outside the Russian Embassy in London.

In Paris, the protest will be held on Stravinsky Square and led by 29-year-old Alexey Prokopyev from Russie-LibertΘs, a Paris-based organization formed in December to bring together Russians studying or working in France.

“Most people go to these rallies in Paris because we cannot be in Russia at the moment for various reasons – because of jobs, classes,” said Prokopyev, who was born in the Soviet Union and has spent most of the past 17 years in France. “We all wish we were in Moscow now, but since we can’t we do it in Paris.”

Russie-LibertΘs also is helping to organize rallies in Marseille, Nice, Lyons and Montpellier.

Wearing balaclavas, activists protested earlier this month on the iconic Alexander III bridge, named after the Russian czar who was France’s ally in the 1890s.

Prokopyev said that he and his peers “want Russia to be a normal country” and be able to elect a president “who doesn’t make the country where we were born a laughingstock.”

In New York, Friday’s protest will take place outside the Russian Consulate and later on Times Square. 

“It’s absurd that this case is being treated as criminal, while in any other civilized country that would be merely an administrative offense,” said Xenia Grubstein, a 31-year-old journalist helping to organize the New York protest.

She said the hope was that the louder people speak out against the Pussy Riot case, the greater the chance that the verdict will be fair.

A protest is also planned in Washington, where last month punk rockers and arts activists rallied outside the Russian Embassy.

The U.S. State Department has expressed concern about what it called the “politically motivated prosecution of the Russian opposition and pressure on those who express dissenting views.”

In France, Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti last week issued a statement expressing concern that artistic freedom was on trial.

A German cross-party group of lawmakers sent a letter to the Russian ambassador calling the five months the band members have spent in custody and the possible prison terms “draconian and disproportionate” punishment.

“In a secular and pluralistic state, peaceful artistic activities – even if they may be seen as a provocation – should not lead to accusations of a serious crime and long prison sentences,” the lawmakers said in the letter, which more than 100 members of parliament signed.

The international press has been full of critical reports from the trial. One of Germany’s most influential magazines, Der Spiegel, featured the band on its cover: a picture of Tolokonnikova behind bars and the headline “Putin’s Russia.”