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If someone asked me what this week’s festival was about, my answer would be fairly simple: “it was a celebration of the arts for social change.” Kronos Quartet: celebrating music as a way to connect across borders, as a way to define oneself and one’s nation, as a way to express oneself when words are censored. Tony Kushner, Politics as Story: celebrating theatre’s ability to transform peoples’ thoughts, beliefs and actions. Salman Rushdie, Freedom to Write: celebrating our (relative) freedom of expression, and rallying for those who are without. All of these events recognized and celebrated the arts as activism.  

As he was talking about the power of theatre, Tony Kushner explained that theatre could impact the audience in a way that a well-written novel, or essay, could not. Theatre has the ability to change the world—slowly—it is not a tidal wave; it changes people’s thoughts through their feelings and emotions, to help them understand the world they live in. As he put it: “any true representation is going to show that justice is a desirable thing, that injustice is a terrible thing, that inequality is a problematic thing,” and so on.

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We believe that the decision to resume arms shipments to the government of Bahrain without tangible evidence of progress in restoring and protecting human rights sends the wrong message to the Bahraini people and the international community—namely that the U.S. will privilege national security over documented human rights violations. That is surely not the message the administration wishes to project in the region.
PEN American Center, in our letter to Secretary of State Clinton on the resumption of arms shipments to Bahrain
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Poetry infiltrates all levels of Afghani society. When the mullahs want to make a statement but cannot back it by reason, they back it with a poem and end the discussion. In the recent years, lords and warlords have competed to have the best poets onside, much like the courts of the past kings. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of one of the terrorist groups – one of the most wanted in America – is a professional poet. Ahmad Shah Massoud, the legendary commander and rival to Hekmatyar was also a poet. Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the leader of the opposition and Gilani, head of a Sufi popular group also share the passion for poetry. This common thread can at times bring all the leaders and commanders together under one roof.

Reza Mohammedi, on the rich history of poetry in modern Afghanistan

Afghanistan has poetry in its soul | Reza Mohammadi | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

(via fictionthatmatters)

While law enforcement sometimes argues that making members of the public aware that cell phone companies can track them will make it more difficult to catch criminals, it is too late in the day for that argument now that cell phone tracking is a staple of television police procedurals… Why aren’t these policies available on the companies’ websites? With such information, consumers could vote with their wallets and punish those companies that don’t protect privacy. Keeping their customers in the dark about surveillance is better for business, it seems.

Catherine Crump, ACLU on surveillance and business.

Are the police tracking your calls? - CNN.com

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Ludmila Ulitskaya in Conversation

Recipient of the 2002 Russian Booker Prize, Ludmila Ulitskaya is considered the heir to Chekhov and among the most important writers in Russia today. In 2008, Ulitskaya began secretly corresponding with Amnesty International “prisoner of conscience” Mikhail Khordorkovsky, the anti-Putin Russian oligarch serving 14 years in a Siberian camp. Speaking through interpreter Jennifer Wolfson, the author read excerpts from that correspondence and discussed the current political, cultural, and social situation in Russia, with special attention to the ongoing anti-Putin protests and the recent presidential election.

This event took place as part of the 2012 PEN World Voices Festival.

Co-sponsored by The Cooper Union and The Renova Group of Companies.

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On this weekend’s Moyers & Company (check local listings), PEN American Center’s Larry Siems, author of The Torture Report, and director Doug Liman, whose credits include The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Fair Game, join Bill Moyers to talk about U.S. torture tactics and Reckoning with Torture, their collaborative multimedia effort. You can watch a preview of the showhere. 
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship explain why it’s important to face the truth about U.S. torture tactics as we honor Americans in uniform in a new On Democracy essay. The essay was published by Moyers & Company and first appeared on BillMoyers.com.
(via PEN.org » Blog Archive On Memorial Day Weekend, America Reckons with Torture - PEN.org)

On this weekend’s Moyers & Company (check local listings), PEN American Center’s Larry Siems, author of The Torture Report, and director Doug Liman, whose credits include The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Fair Game, join Bill Moyers to talk about U.S. torture tactics and Reckoning with Torture, their collaborative multimedia effort. You can watch a preview of the showhere

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship explain why it’s important to face the truth about U.S. torture tactics as we honor Americans in uniform in a new On Democracy essay. The essay was published by Moyers & Company and first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

(via PEN.org » Blog Archive On Memorial Day Weekend, America Reckons with Torture - PEN.org)