Daniel Rubin is Sr. Editor, News Features @ The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News & Philly.com.  This is a collection from his years as a reporter, columnist and correspondent for The Inquirer and Knight Ridder. Before Philly, came The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., and the Virginian Pilot and Ledger Star in Norfolk, Medill and Pomfret School. Sweep for bias and you’ll find unreasonable admiration for the first Bill Evans Trio, the ’71 Stones, the 2004 Red Sox, and for the past few decades, assorted Philly teams with more character than rings. Trust the process.

WWII bombing that killed civilians comes under ‘Fire’

WWII bombing that killed civilians comes under ‘Fire’

swineDecember 19, 2002

BERLIN — When the morning of March 12, 1945, dawned on the German resort city of Swinemuende, Leon Kolberg climbed out of his bunker and found himself in a city of the dead.

“A woman was walking down the street with one hand missing, the other holding a baby,” said Kolberg, then a 14-year-old refugee. “People were stacked on the footpaths, bodies everywhere. The buildings were gone. I got lost.”

The American bombers’ diaries show that their targets that day were ships and rail lines in the city on the Baltic Sea. The Russians, only 12 miles away, had asked their American and British allies to aid their advance.

Some 1,500 German soldiers were identified and buried after the raid, but most of the 23,000 people who were killed in 45 minutes of bombing were German refugees trying to flee the advancing Red Army.

“It is one of the great slaughters of the Second World War,” charges German historian Jorg Friedrich. “Did children deserve to die? Or women?”

Igniting debate, protest

The country that slaughtered millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and Slavs has been hesitant to raise questions about its own peoples’ suffering in a war that its Nazi leaders started. But Friedrich, whose earlier work focused on Nazi atrocities, has ignited a raucous debate with a new book that questions the morality of the Allied bombing of German cities in World War II.

The serialization of Friedrich’s book, “The Fire: Germany Under Bombardment, 1940-1945,” in Bild, Germany’s largest tabloid, has released a torrent of wartime reminiscences in German newspapers and television programs.

It also has unleashed a torrent of protest elsewhere. Journalists in Britain, whose cities were pounded by Hitler’s Luftwaffe and later by German V-1 “buzz bombs”and V-2 missiles, have taken particular umbrage at Friedrich’s account of the deaths of 635,000 German civilians.

“I am not interested in blaming anyone,” Friedrich said. “I am interested in clearing up the facts.” Yet his use of words such as “massacre” and “crematorium” were bound to raise hackles because they suggest that there is some moral equivalence between the Nazis’ genocide and the Allies’ military tactics.

In London’s Daily Mail, military author Correlli Barnett called Friedrich a dangerous revisionist whose “historical travesty” is an attempt to justify Adolf Hitler’s crimes. In the Guardian, columnist Ian Buruma wrote that German right-wingers have long dwelled on their victimhood. “All Friedrich has done is break a left-wing taboo.”

“It has been a topic that professional German historians have stayed away from, in part because they haven’t known what to do with it,” said Tom Childers, a University of Pennsylvania historian. “Do they dare talk of German suffering when Germany was responsible for the suffering of so many millions?”

“The right have claimed this topic for years. And why not the left? Suffering is human suffering, and these are shattering stories.”

Questions raised

Born in 1944, “I am the generation of sons who questioned their parents,” said Friedrich, whose schoolteacher father raised him in the Austrian mountains after their German city of Essen was bombed. “We asked: `What happened in the war? Where were you in 1941 when the first Jews were deported? Who wrote for the Nazi papers?”‘

Friedrich spent most of his career writing about the Nuremberg war crimes trials, Nazi guards, Nazi justice. For years he thought of the Allied bombs “as something that came from the sky that punished the rotten and criminal kingdom of evil.”

Then he read the testimony at Nuremberg of a German general who defended shooting Belarus villagers who were suspected of helping the partisans, saying that was better than bombing indiscriminately.

Although the Nazis also bombed indiscriminately and their efforts to slaughter and starve Russian civilians are well-documented, Friedrich spent a decade pondering the German general’s defense of his conduct as he researched the Allied firebombing of Dresden and Hamburg and the leveling of cities such as Cologne, Kassel and Wurzburg.

“How can we deal with the fact that those massacres took place?” he asked. “Because it was a just cause? But are those just means?”

Friedrich argues that Allied air raids such as the one at Swinemuende, now part of Poland, were unnecessary, and reflect Allied rage at the Germans’ refusal to capitulate.

Shortening the war?

There again he runs into flak. Tami Davis Biddle, a historian at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., said the Allies were desperate to knock out Hitler before he could develop terrifying new weapons, including an atomic bomb.

Intelligence reports predicted a long fight, so in January 1945 the Allies decided to bomb both synthetic oil refineries and eastern German cities to help the Soviet Army finish off the Third Reich faster.

For years, historians have debated whether bombing German cities, particularly as the British did, was an effort to choke the Nazi war machine or to destroy German morale. Some argue that the Americans and British merely tried to do to German civilians what Hitler had first tried to do to the residents of Rotterdam, Warsaw, London and Coventry. In fact, German pilots first practiced the tactic in the Spanish Civil War, killing some 1,600 civilians in a 1937 raid on the Basque village of Guernica that was memorialized in a mural by Pablo Picasso.

Biddle said a series of documents show that when the Allies targeted eastern German cities, they knew their bombs would fall on refugees as well as massing troops.

“Who is going to be in that population? It is going to be women and children. It is a statement of the desperation and the level of fear among the Allies that no one stops and says, `Wait a minute, maybe we should rethink this . . . . ‘”

Kolberg, now 71 and living in Australia, said that for 57 years he has wondered why the Americans would bomb a place full of civilians. While there were some ships in the harbor and German soldiers in port, most of the people in Swinemuende that day were helpless.

British historian Roger A. Freeman, who has chronicled the U.S. 8th Air Force in World War II, notes that American B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers flew about five miles above their targets to avoid anti-aircraft fire. And when smaller, faster fighters dropped through the clouds to strafe trucks and trains, they flew at about 300 m.p.h., making it difficult or impossible to distinguish civilians from soldiers.

“Remember,” said Freeman, “this was total war, and the civilian population was involved as never before.”

What happened that March day six weeks before the Germans surrendered holds lessons for the future, as well, said University of Pennsylvania historian Tom Childers, whose father and uncle flew in the 8th Air Force.

“All of the moral ambiguities of modern war are on display in an air war — and this remains true in Afghanistan and it will be the case should there be war in Iraq,” he said. “With the air war, with the Germans dropping bombs on Rotterdam or Warsaw or London, or the British hitting Darmstadt, you have military forces attacking places where civilians will be hurt.

“It forces you into making the kind of argument that this is a just war and awful things must be done, so traditional notions of morality are among the first casualties.”



Feb. 9, 1999
Israeli Arabs, Jews visit Auschwitz, seeking understanding

Israeli Arabs, Jews visit Auschwitz, seeking understanding

It didn’t take long for the ghosts to work on Hyam Tahhous. She walked along an overgrown rail line and pictured black-and-white scenes of Nazi doctors ordering women and children to one side. She passed the crumbled bricks of a bombed-out crematorium and saw plumes of black smoke.

“I feel so strange,” said Tahhous, one of 120 Muslim and Christian Israeli Arabs who visited the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps yesterday with an equal number of Israeli Jews.

“My head is aching. My shoulders ache. I thought I knew how Jews feel about the Holocaust. “

This was the Rev. Emile Shoufani’s  point when he thought up the unusual pilgrimage. Shoufani, a Greek Catholic pastor from Nazareth, felt the need to lead a group of Arabs and Jews to Auschwitz to understand why so many of his conversations with Jews about the Palestinian intifadah, or uprising, wound up delving into the suffering of 60 years ago.

“We can’t understand our conflict without understanding the history of the Jewish people, the Holocaust, and how it lives today,” he said. “We cannot make peace until we understand the pain. “

And so, after a series of workshops, six tour buses pulled up to the camp yesterday, spilling out Christians, Muslims and Jews who had flown from Israel to Krakow, Poland. They were joined by an equal number of French Jews and Muslims.

A declaration worked out by the group made clear what it did not want: “This visit is not symbolic and will not represent a political, party or religious project. “

They walked in virtual silence, considering their visit to the death camps the beginning of a journey that might heal “the relationship between two wounded peoples. ” They set no more specific goals than that.

Critics have accused the group of naivete, of bad timing, of serving as easy prey for politicians on all sides. Shoufani answered that this trip was not about politics.

“We are going through this circle of death and accusation: ‘Who is more victim? Who can kill more? Who can hurt more?’ ” he said. “Many people said this will be used politically. We don’t wait for any political result. We just go. “

Israel’s 1.2 million Arab citizens make up more than one-sixth of the country’s population. Although they acknowledged that it was important for them to understand the roots of Jews’ suffering, some of those who visited Auschwitz also stressed that Israel must work to improve living conditions for the Palestinians.

“We are not responsible for the Holocaust, but they are responsible for what is going on now in Israel,” said Awwad Nawaf, 57, a teacher who lives in Nazareth.

“I don’t think you can compare the suffering in the Holocaust to the present violence and bloodshed in Israel,” said Ayala Sitbon, a 55-year-old Jewish schoolteacher from Jerusalem, seeing Auschwitz for the first time. But she said yesterday’s visit could be “a start for a change of dialogue” between Jewish and Arab Israelis.

Twice in the first hour, Fatina Hazzan, an Arab Christian, broke down while taking in the Birkenau death camp.

“It’s terrifying,” said Hazzan, who teaches Arabic at a Jewish middle school in Haifa.

“The world hurts for what happened here. I heard about it in school, read about it in books, but I didn’t expect to see such a thing.

“Where was the world? My God, six million people. “

Of her Israeli neighbors she said: “We don’t know each other. This is the problem. We don’t feel each other. We have to learn to eat, drink with each other, celebrate each other’s customs, learn each other’s history. We hear such horrible things about each other on TV. I am here to feel the pain of the Jews. “

Not a day goes by in the Israeli media in which the Nazis’ plan to exterminate European Jewry is not mentioned, said Tom Segev, author of The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust. This, he said by telephone, mystifies many Palestinians, who minimize its significance as if acknowledging the enormity of loss would justify Zionism.

What bothers Segev about the trip is who did not come: Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

None chose to make the widely advertised trip. Just the Israeli Arabs joined the Jews who came.

“This is a start,” said Tahhous, who plans to shut her windows and disconnect the phone when she returns home so she can take in what she saw at Auschwitz – the piles of shorn human hair, the faces of children.

“My hope is that every Arab will know what happened to the Jews here,” she said. “People need to understand what has happened. “

As she spoke, a woman walking next to her broke in.

“My God, my kids are not safe from this danger yet,” said Gina Ross, a Jewish psychotherapist from Jerusalem. “This could happen again and again. And when I hear her [Tahhous] talk, I think, ‘Maybe not. Maybe this won’t happen again if enough people have her courage. ‘ “

The two women embraced, sobbing.

With Cyprus’ border opened, a grassroots healing begins

With Cyprus’ border opened, a grassroots healing begins

POSTED: May 21, 2003

ARDAHAN, Cyprus — A pair of German shepherds barked furiously as the Mercedes pulled up to a limestone house high above Famagusta Bay. Although the visitors arrived unannounced, a woman stood at the gate, as if she had been waiting for them.

She had dreamed of this moment six months before.

In Husniye Gulersoy’s dream, a white-haired man came to her home and said it was his. He had lost it when the Turkish army invaded northern Cyprus in 1974 after a short-lived coup backed by Greece. The Greek Cypriots fled to the southern part of this Mediterranean island, divided ever since by a border, two armies and U.N. peacekeepers.

Take care of my house, the man told Husniye in her vision, and handed her an orange, a peace offering.

Charalampos Orphanides, 86, did not bring an orange when he went to see the home he had built for his bride in 1948, squaring the stone blocks on a windy field in the village of Ardahan, where his family had lived for seven generations.

For 29 years he had been forbidden to visit the other side of his island. Then on April 23, the government in the Turkish north announced that its border was open. Since then, 300,000 Cypriots – a third of the population – have swarmed in both directions. It is a rare moment, when people’s hunger to heal ancient divisions is pushing politicians who have been unable to resolve bitter disputes over seized property, outside interference and missing persons.

The Orphanides family was among the first to cross from south to north that afternoon. When Kika Orphanides, 54, a textile designer, heard the border was open, she called her brother and father.

“We’ll go for lunch,” said her brother, Michael, 56, an architect.

They brought no maps, knowing the land by heart, but the terrain looked strangely unfamiliar. For a territory recognized only by the Turkish government in Ankara and supposedly strangled by trade sanctions, there was a surprising amount of development, Kika recalled. The signs along a new highway were in Turkish. Her father had trouble remembering the Greek names of villages.

An old chapel in a neighboring town had been turned into a museum. They each paid a pound – $1.90 – to view the icons, then hurried back to the car to see how the town they called Ardana had fared.

Their first views were painful. The house of Kika and Michael’s grandmother was gone. The cemetery had been desecrated. The church where their great-grandfather was priest had no doors or windows, and smelled of hay and urine.

It was a Mercedes full of mixed feelings that climbed the hill to their property.

Kika wanted to walk the land and feel the hot breezes she remembered. Michael was busy photographing everything around him; he took nearly 200 pictures. Their father said little.

With the dogs tethered, they approached the woman in the yard. She did not speak Greek or English, but the old man knew some Turkish. He said who they were, but she knew.

“She was afraid because she was on her own,” Michael recalled later. “She didn’t know how we were going to react, whether we’d be aggressive.”

They hungered to see the inside, but the woman showed them an addition her husband, also a builder, had designed.

Then Kika broke down.

She stood sobbing, and the Turkish Cypriot wrapped her arms around Kika, making a gesture that Kika read as saying “it was not in our hands.”

Then Husniye, 56, put on some coffee and showed them around the rest of the place, so changed that Kika realized “it was not my home.”

Husniye’s husband, Sami, would be home by 6. Until then, they made small talk, the Orphanideses asking about Sami: where he was from, what he did, who his people were.

A kiss

He came from the next village, which they knew as Ayios Andronikos. He was 58, the son of Celal Gulersoy.

The old man brightened.

For six years, he and Celal Gulersoy had served together in the British army, one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish Cypriot fighting the Nazis in northern Africa and Italy.

When Sami pulled up in his truck, the old man rose. “I have to kiss the son of my friend,” he said, and planted his lips on both of Sami Gulersoy’s cheeks.

The Gulersoys said it was as if they were part of his family.

Then cognac and stories flowed. Lamb was grilled. For six hours they feasted.

The Gulersoys told how they had come to the house. Sami’s father was killed in 1974, fighting the Greek Cypriots. After the cease-fire, the Turkish Cypriot government offered his mother her pick of houses. She chose the one that Charalampos Orphanides had built. The Gulersoys raised three boys there.

Like schoolboys

They talked about barbarities on both sides, how each had been taught in school that the other was the enemy. An old friend of Charalampos’ was produced from the village and the two men talked like schoolboys.

Neither family is certain what will happen next. There are calls on both sides to resume the talks that ended last month after the northern government rejected a U.N. plan to reunite the island in time for its May 2004 entry into the European Union. Now that Greek and Turkish Cypriots are remembering what they shared – even the bad parts – few think things can return to the way they were a month ago.

Sami Gulersoy said he was renovating the house and wanted the Orphanideses to return for a proper visit. He doesn’t rule out returning the property if he, in turn, is compensated. “If the man wants his house, he can have it.”

Michael Orphanides said he would like that. His sister, who owns no other property, savors being able to walk those fields: “I was just hoping I could be there again in my lifetime.”

And their father, who for three decades yearned to return, bitter at the loss of land and history and memory, now talked of moving on.

“I think it is good to mix together,” he said. “Maybe it is time all this stopped. I went in their house. I want them to come to mine.”


Home Is Springsteen’s Promised Land

Home Is Springsteen’s Promised Land

POSTED: September 12, 1999

The locals look, but there’s a zone of privacy they afford the uncommon man in their midst.

Lillian Africano did a double-take, not because she was surprised to see Bruce Springsteen in the video store, but because of his wheels. As a rule, rock stars don’t drive ratty station wagons.

As usual, no one at Video on the Ritz bothered the Boss – though Africano did note what her famous Rumson, N.J., neighbor was renting. (It was A Night to Remember.)

“He’s laid back,” says Meredith McHeffey, 21, a clerk at the Fairhaven store. “He wears the same baggy pants as my boyfriend, as opposed to Geraldo, who comes in with dark glasses and a hat.”

Maybe their respect is out of gratitude that he’s returned. After a fling with Beverly Hills, Springsteen married the girl from the neighborhood, singer Patti Scialfa of Deal, N.J., and has reunited with his boys, the E Street Band, whom he fired in 1988. Their six sold-out dates at the First Union Center and Spectrum, which begin tomorrow, will be the guys’ first in Philly in 11 years.

These days, when you go searching for Bruce Springsteen, you don’t look for Madame Marie’s booth in Asbury Park (shuttered) or clubs like the Stone Pony (a failed swing joint) and the Student Prince (now a go-go bar).

But you might try the Victory Market in Red Bank, where the proprietor has been known to push frozen Italian bread by saying, “Bruce just bought some.”

And you’d have gotten lucky had you attended Jim and Donna Andreen’s wedding last September. Their guests spotted Springsteen at the American Hotel in his hometown, Freehold – escorting his mother to her high school reunion.

A note was slipped, and soon Springsteen was posing for the photograph now displayed in the Howell, N.J., couple’s living room, the bride between her husband in a tuxedo and Springsteen in black.

“I was thinking of cutting my husband out of the photo and sending it to the National Enquirer,” says Donna, 39, a travel agent. “Bruce’s Mystery Wedding.”

For most of the decade, Springsteen, 49, has called New Jersey home again. Though he still owns what one of his songs calls that “bourgeois home in the Hollywood Hills,” the $14 million mansion from his former marriage to actress Julianne Phillips, he’s rearing a family in Rumson, a town of old money and occasional celebrities such as Geraldo Rivera, Jon Bon Jovi and Heather Locklear. When school’s out, the Springsteens – including their children Evan, 9, Jessica Rae, 7, and Sam, 5 – are on their 378-acre horse farm in nearby Colts Neck.

“What you see and what you hear is real, not a pose, not an image-builder to support the working-man ethic that runs through his songs,” says Robert Santelli, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame official who is writing a book about Springsteen and the Jersey Shore scene.

“The rock-star posturing that others have to enforce and live up to, he’s free of that. As a result, he’s probably a freer man than certainly most rock icons – and he is indeed that, especially in New Jersey.”

It makes you wonder about the burden of celebrity that seems to weigh on other stars.

Anthony DeCurtis, who interviewed Springsteen for Rolling Stone last fall, says it’s all in how artists present themselves.

“If you’re walking around with 20 models trailing after you, that generates a certain kind of energy, and that’s what comes back to you,” DeCurtis says. “If you’re sitting in a restaurant with the wife and kids in a city you’ve grown up with, that also comes back to you. People treat you like you should be there.”

As Springsteen himself said in 1997: “Ninety percent of rock star isolation is invented. . . . To me, I go to the grocery store. It’s not an issue. If somebody on the way there says to me, ‘Hey, I like your music,’ well, if that bothers you, stay home.”

* When Springsteen was growing up at the Shore, “this was the Park Avenue of New Jersey,” says Africano, a travel and romance-novel writer, leading a tour of Springsteen’s neighborhood of meandering stone walls and new construction made to look old. Rumson, half an hour and several tax brackets from Freehold, is a town in which a miniature backhoe picks up garden trimmings on trash day.

Like most properties in the area, Springsteen’s $2.5 million home doesn’t call attention to itself. A half-dozen SUVs are parked in the driveway. Springsteen is off this day, between the Boston and Washington legs of his tour.

A call to the security force on the property doesn’t yield an invitation to chat. “You want me to lose my job?” a guard tells a go-between. The security is necessary because fans have found their way onto the property, emulating Springsteen’s own flight over the Graceland fence in 1975. Elvis’ people put him in a cab.

Africano says that when Springsteen moved in, to discourage unexpected company, he would appear often at a local school, “just so they could look at him.”

He’s managed an almost-normal home life – dressing up to receive Halloween trick-or-treaters, attending functions at the children’s school (the name of which he prefers not to publicize) and driving himself around, such as to the Electric Factory in Center City four years ago, where he backed his old bar-scene buddy Joe Grushecky.

Loyalty and generosity are words heard a lot in Springsteen country.

In April, Springsteen donated a guitar to the Rumson Country Day School auction, and when the bidding wasn’t high enough, he threw in a 30-minute lesson. That brought in $27,000. Since 1995, low-income residents of Monmouth County have received $350,000 for home repairs, unaware that their angel was Springsteen until the Newark Star-Ledger reported on his charity, the Foundation.

The tale that most shows Springsteen’s soul resides with Steve Eitelberg, who owns a clothing store in Deal and who has known the man since he was a shy teenager who couldn’t even make eye contact.

Two and half years ago, Eitelberg’s wife, Lynn, was dying of lung cancer. One morning at the Monmouth County Medical Center, a nurse told him “someone on the phone says he’s Bruce Springsteen.” Springsteen asked if he could visit. He stayed the whole afternoon, telling stories, singing “Secret Garden” – her favorite song – just stroking her arm.

The next afternoon “there he was again in the doorway,” says Eitelberg, 53, over an extra-large cheese pizza in Neptune. Springsteen settled in and started doodling a stick-figure portrait of his family. “This is Bruce, this is me. Let’s put notes here, because I’m Bruce. Let’s put the kids here.”

Lynn motioned. “Oh, you want me to sign it. You want it to be worth 50 cents.”

He returned on a third day, with his guitar, but by then she had sunk into a coma. “He showed up at her funeral and sang ‘Secret Garden’ over her casket for me and my kids,” Eitelberg says.

Since then, on the same day each year, Springsteen has walked into Eitelberg’s shop, and they’ve polished off a few bottles. Last year, Springsteen noticed a set of congas that Eitelberg’s therapist encouraged him to take up after his wife’s death.

“You’re gonna play drums in my band,” Springsteen told him. When he came to pick up clothes for the European leg of the tour in April, he walked into Eitelberg’s office and asked, “You been practicing?”

Eitelberg made his musical debut on Aug. 9 before 20,000 people at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford. Calling “my haberdasher” to the stage, Springsteen had him join the band for “Spirit in the Night,” a song nearly as old as their friendship.

“He’s just what his song says,” Eitelberg adds. “He’s a local hero.”

* News researcher Frank Donahue contributed to this article.

Milosevic on the brink

Milosevic on the brink


By Daniel Rubin, Knight Ridder Newspapers
Posted Oct. 6, 2000 at 12:01 AM

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia — Hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Belgrade yesterday, taking control of the parliament building and state-run news media in a massive uprising that shook the iron rule of President Slobodan Milosevic.

Milosevic stayed out of sight all day, and early today was reported to be holed up in a bunker in southern Serbia, surrounded by troops. It was unclear if he was preparing to yield to the opposition or strike back with military force.

An opposition leader, Zoran Djindjic, warned that Milosevic was preparing “a coup” to regain control, Reuters reported. That would pit Serb against Serb, testing the loyalty of his troops as never before. While many senior commanders of the police force and military are likely to do Milosevic’s bidding, it’s much less certain that lower- ranking officers and troops would go along.

The test came yesterday for many in Yugoslavia’s police force. Again and again, when confronted by protesters, they stepped aside, some even joining the crowd that was demanding Milosevic recognize the Sept. 24 election of Vojislov Kostunica as president.

The demonstrations began quietly, then some protesters started to hurl rocks, set police cars ablaze and storm government buildings. Security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at first, and more than a dozen tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled toward the protesters. Then they stopped.

“Go home. We won’t fight you,” a police officer said outside the burning state television and radio building as he handed his shield, helmet and baton over to the crowd. “We won’t do anything against our people any longer.”

In other areas, elite anti-terrorist police were seen taking off their helmets and mingling with the crowd. Some waved white flags.

Police officers emerged with their hands on their heads from the state television studio, which broadcast pop music programs and old movies during the historic day. nightfall the opposition controlled three television stations. The state-run Tanjug news agency, Milosevic’s longtime mouthpiece, also changed sides and began calling Kostunica the elected president.

At least 20 people were reported hurt, some from gunshots, witness said. Looting was modest and shops appeared to be targeted selectively. A perfume store owned by Milosevic’s son, Marko, was stripped bare.

Kostunica spoke from a balcony outside City Hall in Belgrade.

“Dear liberated Serbia,” he began. He declared himself the new president, called for calm and urged the protesters to go back to work in the morning.

“Serbia is running a victory lap, and along that track, there is no Slobodan Milosevic,” Kostunica said.

In a later televised interview, broadcast and translated by CNN, he said “Normal economic recovery of the country will be like medicine to our souls.”

He also said state television would no longer represent only the ruling party and that all news media would be allowed to report objectively.

Tanks surrounded Milosevic’s residence outside the old central city in the exclusive neighborhood of Dedinje. His political Socialist Party of Serbia vowed to “fight back with all means to secure peaceful life.”

The army did not declare its plans, but BETA, an independent news agency, quoted army sources as saying troops would stay in their barracks.

“Emotions have been unleashed that no one has control of,” said Sonja Biserko, head of Yugoslav chapter of the Helsinki Federation in Belgrade. No one expected such large crowds or such a powerful release of frustration, she said. “It is like a revolution, believe me. This really is the end of the Serbian illusion, which is a century old. Now they are pulling down the leader, the dictator who is the symbol of it. Apparently, he is being brought down by the same people who carried him up.”

At the White House, President Clinton gave the Yugoslav opposition his backing. “The people are trying to get their country back, and we support democracy and the will of the Serbian people,” he said. Kostunica has some strong disagreements with the United States, but “this is not a question of whether he agrees with us. All we want for the Serbian people is what we want for people everywhere, the right to freely choose their own leaders,” Clinton said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the message to Milosevic was clear “Go now, before any more lives are lost, before there is any more destruction.”

Milosevic suffered his first defeat in 13 years in the Sept. 24 election, but his government said the vote was so close that a runoff was needed. Amid allegations of massive vote fraud on behalf of Milosevic, Kostunica declared outright victory and called for nationwide strikes that for the first time in modern Yugoslav history engaged thousands of miners. Thousands of protesters supported the miners Wednesday at Kolubara, the country’s largest fuel source for electrical power.

Across the country, strikers blocked roads, cut rail lines and shut shops. The regime countered by instituting blackouts, which they blamed on the striking miners.

As protesters gathered from across the country, the Milosevic-appointed federal Constitutional Court on Wednesday voided the election. One judge told Radio Free Europe that the process must begin again and that Milosevic was free to serve until his term expired in June.

The maneuver fired up the protesters even more.

Caravans of buses, motorcycles, cars and trucks had to push past police blockades to arrive for yesterday’s Belgrade rally. Accompanied by drummers, members of a group of independent economists marched to the public prosecutor’s office and swore out an arrest warrant for Milosevic, accusing him of election fraud.

Around 130 p.m. a small group of men, most from the opposition strongholds of Kraljevo and Cacak, tried to storm the parliament building, but were forced into retreat by police tear gas. Demonstrators threw rocks at about 150 members of the security forces, but opposition leaders calmed the crowd.

Slavica Popovic, a 27-year-old shop clerk, expressed the long-festering frustration. “My life has had no joy for 10 years,” she said.

At about 4 p.m. the crowd broke through the police cordon and forced its way into the parliament building. Police inside fired tear gas. Protesters rushed the building and threw rocks and kicked out windows. Then they stood on balconies waving Yugoslav flags and tossing ripped books and sheaths of paper to the ground.

Smoke and flames shot out a few of the lower windows of the parliament building, but did not appear to spread.

One of the television stations was also set on fire and flames were visible out the first and second floor windows. Milan Andjelic, 23, a protester, stood outside with a police shield and helmet in hand.

“We are going to win this time. No surrender,” he said.

His friend, a 27-year-old medical student named Nenad Topic, declared yesterday a day for victory. Brandishing his trophy, a police baton, he said, “I have my stick now, whiskey in my pocket and all the time in the world. Who is going to stop me from freeing this country?”

(Knight Ridder correspondent Biljana Vasic contributed to this report from Belgrade.)


Internet cat sensation Nora draws composer to Philly from Europe

Internet cat sensation Nora draws composer to Philly from Europe

By Daniel Rubin, Inquirer Columnist

POSTED August 28, 2012 nora

The Lithuanian composer had traveled six time zones to meet his muse, but Nora the Cat was in no particular mood to play.

She was sitting at the bench in her Center City rowhouse when Mindaugas Piecaitis walked in the door Friday evening. She looked at him with no interest, then returned to her reflection in the shiny black case of the Yamaha grand piano that has earned her such fame.

“I think I’m dreaming,” the composer said, approaching her gently.

Piecaitis sat down at the keyboard next to Nora’s and played three notes with his left hand. No response.

“I will leave her just sitting,” he said.

Another cat approached – Max, who has issues with Nora – and when the composer stroked him, that is when Nora decided she would perform.

She hunched forward and extended her right front paw over the keyboard.

She tapped four notes.

Then she settled back down on the bench, stretching her generous gray tabby frame. Enough playing.

Betsy Alexander and her husband Burnell Yow! are members of Philadelphia Dumpster Divers, artists who do wondrous things with discarded objects. Nora is their most notorious find.

They came upon the stray from the Camden streets at a Cherry Hill shelter in 2004. From the beginning, Nora did not mix with the other felines at the couple’s Naudain Street home.

One night in 2005 they were upstairs when they heard sounds coming from the music room where Alexander teaches piano students.

Says Alexander: “It was the same note over and over, not the sound of a cat walking across the keys, which happens.” Thinking they might have an intruder, they rushed downstairs only to find Nora sitting at the keyboard. She looked at them, then returned to playing.

The cat leaped from novelty to celebrity in 2007 when Yow! posted a two-minute-45-second video on YouTube of Nora’s atonal hammerings.

By the end of the first day 71 people had somehow found the video.

That was more than 32 million hits ago. Today Nora is Philadelphia’s most famous cat, with two books to her name, T-shirts, bumper stickers, a website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter account, calenders and a journal. Alexander and Yow!, who have worked for decades to find audiences for their art, describe themselves as the animal’s personal assistants.

While many felines have won Internet fame – LOLcats, Boozecats, and Bonsai Kitten, as well as Maru, who climbs into boxes; Lenin, who resembles the Soviet leader; or Tulle, who is famous for being fat – no other has inspired a serious piece of music.

A friend sent Piecaitis a copy of Nora’s initial video in Lithuania, where he conducts the Klaipeda Chamber Orchestra.

“I was so amazed,” said the 43-year-old maestro, who now lives in Karlsruhe, Germany. “It had such feeling, such Stimmung.”

His first thought: Children would love the video.

“I kept listening to it over and over,” he said. He had a composer friend in mind who might want to use some of Nora’s playing in a longer piece of orchestral music. Piecaitis wrote to the Philadelphia couple, explaining his intentions, and they sent him all the video of Nora they had.

But Piecaitis couldn’t let go. He had never composed his own music, although he always wanted to. He began rearranging Nora’s notes, which he’d transcribed over six pages, then added instruments: more piano, clarinet, flute, vibraphone and triangle.

He built a four-minute piece around Nora’s playing. In June 2009, he conducted its debut in Klaipeda, with the musicians seated in front of a giant video of Nora at her keyboard.

More than 20 performances have followed – in the Netherlands, England, Canada, and the United States, where Richard Rosenberg has conducted CATcerto four times, most recently in June at the National Music Festival in Chestertown, Md.

“The piece sounds like it could be a joke, and maybe some aspect is,” said Rosenberg, former conductor of the Pennsylvania Ballet. “But the fact is, the tunes that were composed by the cat are really quite beautiful and quite rich in what they allowed Mindaugas Piecaitis to expound upon. He wrote a piece that’s four minutes long that works as well as something by Rachmaninoff or Brubeck.”

Accompanying Nora is demanding, Rosenberg said, because the musicians must play to her recording, which is unyielding. “In many ways,” he said, “it’s like playing with a human soloist, in the way the soloist pretty much ignores the conductor.”

Daniel Rubin:

To view a video of the maestro and the piano-playing cat, go to: www.philly.com/catcerto