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This year I’ve realized just how many of my own trips and experiences are almost certainly chosen because of my own sexual preference. Where I’ve traveled to isn’t necessarily anything to do with the fact that I’m gay, I guess, but these are the places that I’ve found that are actually great for other gay travelers like myself–either solo or for gay couples. I never thought I’d be the guy who ended up going to (and actually enjoying!) stereotypically gay destinations, but hey, here I am. Over the past year, I’ve just realized that I like to travel to places where other gay travelers tend to migrate to. I’m all for venturing out to further places, but every now and then, I just need a gay holiday…



Scotland recently legalized gay marriage so I was pretty excited to spend last New Year’s Eve celebrating in Edinburgh, just as the topic had started to make big news in the country. From what I could find, Edinburgh didn’t seem to have much of an established gay scene. I didn’t even go to a single gay bar while there, but the city’s impressive arts and cultural scene sated my interests. And gay-owned companies like Black Kilt Tours offer private tours and itinerary suggestions to make trips just a bit more special.

Where to stay: Stay Central Hotel. It’s affordable and very central. The interior design was stylish without being stuffy. Read my full review for more photos. Room prices from 60€ per night, plus you can save 10% if you stay 2 nights or more!

What to do: Edinburgh is all about culture. There are more bookstores in this city than there are probably people. The city’s museums are both varied and interesting. I particularly enjoyed the National Museum of Scotland, the Scotch Whisky Experience Museum and the Scottish National Gallery. And no trip to Scotland is complete without a visit into the countryside.

Read more: Scotland travel photos and stories




Madrid is absolutely, positively one of my most favorite cities in all of Europe. I went this year during the IGLTA gay travel convention and had the opportunity to experience the city’s legendary gay nightlife. That centers around the Chueca neighborhood in the middle of the city, bordered by the Gran Via–one of Madrid’s premier shopping streets. (The Spanish really know fashion, FYI. Some of the best European retail brands are Spanish!).

Where to stay: Innside Madrid Sueca. I stayed here for more than a few nights and never tired of the hotel. There’s a rooftop bar (and a tiny swimming pool for warmer days) and the location is literally just blocks away from the Chueca neighborhood. Rooms are comfortable but not boring and the staff was incredibly helpful and friendly in making recommendations on what to do and see in Madrid. Room prices from 130€ per night.

What to do: Madrid is a world-class city but it lacks the hassle of other tourist-heavy destinations in Spain (looking at you, Barcelona). The museums are fantastic. The Prado Museum is one of the world’s best (I even prefer it over the Louvre in Paris!) and the Reina Sofia Museum houses what is probably one of the most interesting, emotional and important works of art from this century: Picasso’s Guernica. Besides art, in Madrid it’s all about food and nightlife — thankfully you can catch the best of that in the city’s gayborhood. The Mercado de San Anton is a large market complex open-late with restaurants and bars–an easy (and fun!) way to sample local food specialties. (If you need an introduction to Spanish cuisine, try a Madrid Food Tour–they’re a great value and an excellent way to discover the city.)

For gay nightlife in Madrid, it’s all about Chueca. The Room Mate Oscar Hotel has an incredible rooftop bar that’s not just trendy, it’s also popular with locals for chill evenings out. As for gay bars, try Cazador–a hip, trendy cocktail bar that might remind you of something out of Brooklyn or Kreuzberg. La Kama is another popular bar in Chueca with your typical gay pop music and cute bar staff.

Read more: Madrid travel photos and stories




This year I also went to Thailand for the I-don’t-know-how-many-times time. This was arguably my most gay holiday EVER because I went on a group trip with OUT Adventures — a gay adventure tour operator. We covered a lot of ground on the two-week holiday, but the basic Thailand itinerary of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket is a staple gay-friendly, first-timers itinerary for the country.

Where to stay: Sofitel So Hotel (Bangkok, from 115€ per night), Anantara Resort Spa (Chiang Mai, from 230€ per night), XXX (Phuket, from ). Bangkok’s Sofitel So is probably the most gay hotel. Open Grindr while you’re there and you’ll see for yourself. They’ve got an amazing rooftop pool and monthly gay parties, not to mention their regular nightlife events at their rooftop restaurant and bar. Read my full review of the Sofitel So.

What to do: Eat, eat, eat and eat some more! Food is probably the best way to experience the Thai culture, but if you’re after other things to do, travel agents like OUT Adventures put together incredible itineraries that include everything from cooking classes to treks. I highly recommend sea kayaking in Phuket, visiting an elephant nature park in the north and experiencing the amazing gay nightlife of Bangkok (that’d be at DJ Station or any of the bars in Silom Soi 2).

Read more: Thailand travel photos and stories




It shouldn’t be a surprise to find Stockholm on this list. The country has long been a favorite for gay travelers and the city has so much to offer its tourists. There’s a great mix of art, culture and design, add in some shopping and style, plus some great outdoors and adventure activities all easily accessed on the outskirts of the city. Stockholm really has it all. The city’s gay nightlife is in the downtown district but a lot of the best shopping and trendy restaurants cafés are located further south, on Södermalm–an island easily reached on public transportation from the historic center.

Where to stay: The unofficial “gay” hotel of Stockholm is the Berns Hotel. It’s one of the most beautiful properties in Stockholm and is so much more than just a nice hotel. With trendy restaurants on the ground floor, a basement club and a music/performance venue, there’s really no reason to go anywhere else. But if you must: things elsewhere in Stockholm are all easily reached from the Berns Hotel, whether by walking (gay nightlife, the historic downtown and many of the museums) or public transportation (Södermalm).

What to do: Stockholm’s gay nightlife is easiest experienced in the downtown district. The Friday night “Candy” at Le Bon Palais is a staple of Stockholm’s local gay scene with a variety of dance floors with everything from electronic to pop and even Eurovision-exclusives. The other best gay night out in Stockholm is probably at the nearby Wonk, though to be honest I found Candy more fun. For food, try Chokladkoppen–a cafe in Stortorget Square with great sandwiches (get the shrimp one!)–or Mälarpaviljongen–an excellent restaurant and bar located on three floating docks. The international staff is friendly and the owners also support charity work at home and abroad, specifically for LGBT individuals.

Outside of food and nightlife, Stockholm is all about shopping and the “Fika” culture (ie, coffee and cake every afternoon). The best shopping is done at thrift shops and local Swedish designers have set up shops throughout Södermalm, especially in the SoFo neighborhood (check out this great map, available for free in many SoFo shops). Also worth exploring is Visit Stockholm’s official Gay Lesbian guide which includes additional recommendations on restaurants, nightlife and activities.

Read more: Stockholm travel photos and stories




Amsterdam makes it on a lot of lists as a top spot for travel in Europe, but it’s also a pretty fine gay hotspot as well. The city is so much more than sex, drugs and parties (though there’s a lot of that) and is actually home to some of Europe’s best museums and certainly one of the most beautiful scenic views. Amsterdam’s got something for every type of tourist–whether you’re in town for romance, parties, art or culture.

Where to stay: Avoid staying in the red light district unless you want to be surrounded by flesh-hungry backpackers looking for cheap drugs, beer and sex. It’s great for a visit (maybe even to the sex museum if you need to do some shopping), but otherwise look for a cool hotel in either the beautiful Jordaan neighborhood or the local favorite De Pijp neighborhood. Try AirBNB for some really cool options in both of those areas.

What to do: First off: visit during gay pride! It’s a great time of year to see the city and the whole of Amsterdam seems to be alive in the week leading up to the gay canal parade. Amsterdam’s gay nightlife is pretty well focused on a single street in the city center, Reguliersdwarsstraat, where some of the city’s more popular bars are located. Sex shops and some other gay bars are located in and around the Red Light District, mostly on Warmoesstraat–just look for the rainbow flags. Check out Cafe t’Mandje, though. It’s Amsterdam’s oldest gay bar and has been serving the city’s LGBT community for almost a century! Perhaps Amsterdam’s best-known gay attraction, however, is the city’s Homomonment–a “living monument” to all homosexuals oppressed or persecuted. More info about Amsterdam’s gay history can be found online or at the Pink Point information stand near the Homomonument.

Other things that should make it on any Amsterdam itinerary include the Rijksmuseum, a canal tour and maybe even a tour of the city’s independent, craft breweries. Make sure you eat well while in Amsterdam–there’s some truly great food (especially the Indonesian/Surinamese style).

Read more: Amsterdam travel photos and stories



East London (Shoreditch)

Listen, I don’t want to hear from you that London’s over and done with. London is never boring. End story. Thankfully the East London neighborhood of Shoreditch is also a constantly changing landscape with new shops and trends popping up regularly. That just gives you even more reason to visit yet again. I spent a week in East London this past November and it was hardly enough–I can’t wait to return in 2015!

Where to stay: No question. It’s got to be the ACE Hotel. From the outside, the building just might look like a rather boring affair, but walk in the lobby and the sweet smell of coffee and MacBooks (trust me, that’s a smell) is overpowering. Staff at the hotel is über-hip with their tattoos and perfectly tousled hair. And the rooms. Oh the rooms! Mine came with a guitar, a beautifully blue bathrobe and just enough style that made me feel like I was in my own perfectly imagined home that I wish–oh how I wish!–I could have straight out of Wallpaper magazine.

What to do: With some of London’s historical gay nightlife being forced out of Soho, it’s been popping up in Shoreditch for the past few years (see the Dalston Superstore, specifically). And with East London’s natural tendencies to be quirky, there are fun monthly events popular with gay locals that would make for a great reason to visit. My plan for 2015 is to make it for one of the Naked Boys Reading events. Otherwise, there’s always shopping! Shoreditch has seen a boon in mens lifestyle shops (and barbershops) for almost a decade now, you literally can’t walk down a street more than 50 meters without finding something cool to buy. If you’re not shopping, check out the Whitechapel Gallery which often puts on shows with just enough quirk (and sometimes, nudity) to continue attracting tourists.

Read more: London travel photos and stories




Arguably, it’s Europe’s prettiest city. Prague, the capital of Czech Republic, certainly attracts enough tourists per year. But it’s also a great destination for gay tourists–and not just because of that porn connection. (Though you might be surprised to run into the odd porn star while on the streets of Prague.) What makes Prague great for gay tourists? It’s the scenery, the cafés, the history and, of course, the nightlife.

Where to stay: The funky design hotel, Prague Fusion, is centrally located and has just enough of that new world design to counter-balance Prague’s old world charm. Hotel prices in Prague can sometimes be problematic, so if you want to stay in the city’s newest gayborhood (also just the area that’s obviously Prague’s trendiest/coolest/most-up-and-coming), look for an AirBNB place to rent in the Žižkov neighborhood.

What to do: In Prague, it’s as much about history as it is beauty. For those with more specific interests, there are museums like the ones dedicated to people like Franz Kafka or Czech Art Nouveau artist Alphonso Mucha. Then once you’ve taken in the major tourist sites around the Prague Old Town Square (don’t bother sticking around for the astronomical clock’s chime), head out to the outlying areas like Žižkov. Prague’s best gay nightlife, in my humble opinion, is at the Club Termix–a small, underground bar and club that has cheap drinks, fun music and a great crowd. In the Old Town, the Friends Club is the place to hang out at night, or Café Café during the day.

Read more: Prague travel photos and stories




Do I even have to say anything? Just read this. Gay-friendly cafes and bars can be found throughout the city, though historically the streets around Nollendorfplatz in Schöneberg were the gay-friendly hotspots. Today you’ll find gay bars all over the city, though–even in the places you might least expect. The new gay Berlin has pretty much moved over to Neukölln where you’ll find gay clubs, queer bars and even occasional drag shows.

Where to stay: This year the new 25 Hours Hotel opened up and its rooftop bar has climbed to the top of West Berlin’s “scene.” If you like men in suits and stiff drinks (with a price-tag, mind you), this is the place to bunk up. Rooms come with hammocks, even, so if you’re looking for a bit of romance, this hotel can be a bit of an adventure. Otherwise, the Michelberger Hotel in the east is a local favorite and already attracts a gay crowd. Not least because of the well-designed bar, lobby and rooms (it’s the same designer as the 25 Hours, actually) but the lobby’s often full of gay lesbian couples.

What to do: It’s impossible for me to pick out the best of the best, so seriously–just read my complete Berlin travel guide (it’s totally free!). Top picks for gay tourists, though? Besides all the touristic stuff, make sure you visit the monument to the LGBT victims of the Holocaust and check out the gay nightlife that’s burgeoning in the off-beat and always fun neighborhoods of Krezuberg and Neukölln. Berlin’s gay pride is called CSD (named after that famous Christopher Street) and the city swells up with tourists in the week before and after gay pride, so make sure you book a hotel early!

Read more: Berlin travel photos and stories


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Brian Brooks is a four-year varsity basketball player at Catholic Central.

A 6-foot-1 senior guard, Brooks is averaging 12.0 points per game for the Crusaders (9-4) — ranked No. 21 in the state Class AA poll.

Q: It appears the team is starting to play really well, including in Friday’s 73-52 victory at Schenectady. Is this the kind of play you expect from yourselves?

A: We have been talking about it a lot We really feel we should pick it up this year. The way we had been playing wasn’t the way we (normally) play. We weren’t winning how we are supposed to win. We are now.

Q:This is a big week for the team with road games at Long Island Lutheran (ranked No. 1 in the Class AA state poll) and Spring Valley. How much are you looking forward to a pair of road games against quality opponents?

A: I can’t wait. I love playing against good competition, especially out-of-town competition.

Q: It is hard to believe your high school career is almost over with?

A: Yeah, high school basketball seasons go by pretty quick. Right now, we just want to make sure we keep getting better.

Q: How do you feel personally about the way you are playing right now?

A: I think I am doing pretty well, but you can always do better.

Q:The team posted its second big win against Schenectady. Anthony Mack scored 42 and hit eight 3-pointers. You have seen him do it before, so it wasn’t a surprise, right?

A: When he is on, he is really on. He only missed on a couple of 3-pointers. If he is going to hit 3-pointers like that, we need to keep feeding him the ball. We’re going to do whatever it takes to win.

Q: What about playing next year? Are you set with a college yet?

A: No, it is still up in the air.

Q: How about a major?

A: Engineering or computer graphics.

Q: Going out in the first round of the Class AA sectionals last year I know did not sit well with anyone. How much does the team draw on that experience for inspiration this season?

A: We always think about it. When we have a bad practice, we talk about not letting this season end up like it did last year. The loss (to Niskayuna) fuels our fire.

Q: Your team utilizes an up-tempo, pressing style. How much fun is that style to play?

A: I love doing that. When we get ahead, the other team starts to believe they may not come back, and then we go at them even harder.

Honor roll

A weekly look at this past week’s top performers:

Anthony Mack, Catholic Central boys’ basketball: The junior poured in 42 points Friday, featuring eight 3-pointers, as the Crusaders recorded a 73-52 victory over Schenectady at the Pat Riley Center.

Joel Wincowski, Lake George boys’ basketball: The senior point guard tallied a total of 107 points in three games, including the Warriors’ final 21 Saturday in a 51-50 loss against Hoosick Falls. Wincowski now ranks third all-time in Section II with 2,237 career points.

Mike Mann, Mekeel Christian Academy boys’ basketball: The junior guard buried a school-record 10 3-pointers Tuesday in the Lions’ 91-70 decision over Middleburgh.

John Stewart, Greenwich boys’ basketball: Poured in 30 points Friday, including 26 points and eight of his nine 3-pointers in the second quarter, as the Witches cruised to a 90-36 Wasaren League win over Cambridge.

Carly Boland, Shenendehowa girls’ basketball: The junior tallied 21 points in a 61-44 win Tuesday at Guilderland to surpass 1,000 points in her career, and delivered 23 points Friday in a 72-26 victory Ballston Spa to push her career total to 1,035.

Rylie Smith, Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville girls’ basketball: The senior finished with 27 points, including the 1,000th point of his career, in a 52-24 victory over Fort Plain Tuesday.

Alexis Case, Greenwich girls’ basketball: The senior scored 29 points in a 76-28 triumph over Granville and 31 points in the Witches’ 65-26 victory against Cambridge.

Peter Russo, Shenendehowa boys’ hockey: The senior tallied two goals and four assists in a 6-0 victory against Queensbury and recorded one goal and two assists Saturday in a 7-0 triumph over Niskayuna/Schenectady.

Tate Cretti, Shenendehowa boys’ hockey: Finished with three goals and four assists in two outings as the Plainsmen defeated Queensbury (6-0) and Niskayuna/Schenectady (7-0).

Brandon Gaudin, Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa boys’ hockey: Registered three goals and two assists Saturday in a 12-3 win against Guilderland/Mohonasen/Scotia-Glenville and added one goal and two assists Friday in a 5-3 decision over La Salle.

Chris Goudy, Queensbury wrestling: The senior improved to 25-2 at 195 pounds registered a win by technical fall and two pins to help the Spartans record wins against Amsterdam (46-36), Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George (47-33) and Warrensburg (56-28).

Dylan Dubuque, Columbia wrestling: Posted five victories (182) at the Columbia Duals, including a 10-4 decision over Schenectady’s Colin Derboghossian, to help the Blue Devils improve to 22-0.

Alex Varsanyi, Guilderland boys’ bowling: Delivered a 823 series Thursday, featuring a high game of 290, as the Dutchmen defeated Christian Brothers Academy 22-10.

Rob Mengel, Colonie boys’ bowling: Rolled a 750 triple Thursday, highlighted by a 279 game as the Garnet Raiders beat Columbia 19-13.

Sam Hart, Columbia girls’ bowling: Fired a 697 series Friday in a 29-3 victory over Averill Park.

Coming up

This week’s key events:

Girls’ basketball

Emma Willard at Germantown: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Guilderland at Albany: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Heatly at Emma Willard: 4:30 p.m. Thursday

Averill Park at Colonie: 7 p.m. Friday

Scotia at Amsterdam: 7 p.m. Friday

Schalmont at Watervliet: 7 p.m. Friday

Hoosick Falls at Hoosic Valley: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Boys’ basketball

South Glens Falls at Averill Park: 6 p.m. Monday

CBA at Guilderland: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Broadalbin-Perth at Mekeel Christian Academy: 7 p.m. Tuesday

CCHS at Long Island Lutheran: 7 p.m. Thursday

Germantown at Loudonville Christian: 7 p.m. Friday

Lake George at North Warren: 7 p.m. Friday

Amsterdam at Scotia: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Cohoes at Voorheesville: 1:30 p.m. Saturday

CCHS at Spring Valley: 5 p.m. Saturday


Shenendehowa at Columbia: 7 p.m. Thursday

Queensbury at Hadley-Luzerne/Lake George: 7 p.m. Friday

Ken Baker Classic at Hoosick Falls: 9 a.m. Saturday

Corinth Tournament: 9:30 a.m. Saturday

Alpine skiing

Johnstown Invitational at Royal Mountain: 9:30 a.m. Saturday

Nordic skiing

Scotia Relays at Indian Meadows: 3:30 p.m. Friday

Boys’ hockey

La Salle at Shenendehowa: 8 p.m. Friday

Saratoga at Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa: 7:30 p.m. Saturday 518-454-5062 @TUSidelines



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PG DrinkUp in Amsterdam, sponsored by Invest Utrecht

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Sponsored by

Date Times:

Tuesday, February 3rd 2015
8pm to 11pm
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Expected Size:
250 – 500
Ticket Cost:
Target Audience:
Developers, Indie Developers, Creatives, Recruitment, C-Level, Marketing
Event Type:
Featured Platforms:
iOS, Android, Windows Phone

After the success of previous PG Connects conferences and accompanying Very Big Indie Pitches in London and Helsinki, the Pocket Gamer team is hitting the road once for some top notch networking action. The latest leg of our European events series takes us to the home of clogs, cheese, canals and (ahem) coffee houses and takes place on the eve of Casual Connect Europe’s return to Amsterdam.

As you’d expect we’ll be connecting the cream of the mobile games industry, including a large serving of Amsterdam’s finest, for beers and banter (in the form of fast paced panel discussion and then general networking chat).

Our friends at Invest Utrecht are the patrons for the night who’ll be on hand to discuss video promotion, setting up studios in Holland and advertising opportunities respectively and ensuring that a good time is had by all. Plus of course there’ll be a helping of Pocket Gamers eager to chat to about your upcoming game or exciting new business models.


8.00pm – Doors Open, drinks and networking!!!

As with all our events, we welcome ALL individuals working in the games industry – sign up now to avoid having to queue and don’t forget to bring along your business card to gain entry at the door.




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Invest Utrecht

Invest Utrecht

Invest Utrecht can assist you in every way when initiating or expanding your international game business in Europe, no matter how big or small. We introduce you to potential partners networks, we help you select the best real estate from our prime and centrally located business locations, and we offer advice on incentives, permits, tax legal matters. Our support to help foreign-owned enterprises thrive is on-going. The best part: all our services are free of charge, confidential tailor-made to your needs.

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Crime Netherlands

Paranoia and weapons: new details emerge in sister’s murder

Bart van U. implicated in the January 2015 murder of his sister Lois in Rotterdam

New details emerged about the 38 year old Bart van U., who surrendered to the police in connection with his sister’s murder.

Van U. turned himself in at the police station in Amsterdam. He invoked his right to remain silent, the AD reports. “I guess that he only wants to make a statement in front of the judge”, said his lawyer Noelle Pieterse, who knows him from an earlier case.

Late in 2011 an anonymous tipster raised the alarm because Van U. had a firearm in the house, while being mentally unstable. Upon his arrest, Van U. was wearing a safety vest, according to AD. He had two knives in his pocket and a loaded gun in his waistband. There were more weapons in his house. His firearm license was revoked in 2009, because of his mental state.

At probation Van U. stated that he thinks he is allowed to be armed. Since the attacks on September 11th, 2001, Van U. sees Islamic threats everywhere and is confident that he will be the victim of an attack if he doesn’t do something. He is not confident that the government can protect him. As an example, he told the court that the police failed to catch the thief who stole his bicycle, AD reports.

Because Van U. refused any form of treatment, the court sentenced him to three years in prison, a relatively high penalty for weapon possession. This is because Van U. without treatment would pose a serious threat to society and had to be kept off the streets for as long as possible. “The suspect seems to not stay away from confrontation. These confrontations can, when taking into account the possession of weapons, be fatal for both himself and for potential victims.”

His sister Lois, a top official of the municipalities Barendrecht, Albrandswaard and Ridderkerk, gave Van U. shelter despite his problems. He lived above her in Oudedijk, Rotterdam. According to AD, the few times he visited a cafe in his street, he stood out because of his eccentric behavior. On Saturday morning a friend discovered Lois’ lifeless body at the bottom of the stairs in her home. She seemed to have been stabbed to death.

It is rumored that Van U. was “exhausted” by the events in Paris, AD reports. His lawyer could not confirm this. “In the questioning he would say only his name, he would not answer any questions.” An earlier judgment states that “his life is determined by the way the media thinks and talks about terrorism”.

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Netherlands-based firm i29 recently transformed the interior of a small tower on the roof of Amsterdam’s 19th Century De Bijenkorf department store into a novel studio that will host a series of artists-in-residence. The project is dubbed Room on a Roof and indeed comprises just one room.

The designers cite inspiration from Alice in Wonderland and wanted to create a inspiring fairytale-like studio that plays with scale and space. In an effort to bring this about, i29 divided the room into two parts.

One part is painted in white and features a telescope for the resident artist to gaze out of the window upon Dam Square and the surrounding area, plus a few pieces of furniture. A restored spiral staircase also dominates the room and leads to the tower’s dome

Each section is reached via ladder (Photo: i29)

The other part of the room is the more interesting, and consists of a stacked wooden structure with integrated pantry, desk, storage space, sink, and a bed (for naps only – the artist will go home at the end of their working day). Likened to a livable cabinet by the designers, the different areas of the structure are reached via ladder.

The Room on a Roof project is partnered with the Netherlands’ Rijksmuseum national museum. From January 27, it will host a series of artists, musicians, designers, and architects. Dutch artist Maarten Baas is the first, and the project is set to continue for over two years.

Though the tower is clearly too small to host any sizable events and not open to the public anyway, the plan is for the works created in the space to be shared with the public somehow. Ideas mentioned by i29 thus far include an online live performance, displays in De Bijenkorf’s windows, and an exhibit in the Rijksmuseum.

Source: i29

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Last year saw your first trip outside Brazil; it seems like you didn’t want to stop travelling after that. Where have you been, and where did you like the most?
I’ve been to Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris and Lisbon. My favourite was Barcelona, for sure. I have a lot of friends living there, so it is nice to be with them and I can feel like [I’m at] home. The scene in Barcelona is popular because of the spots, beach, tourist sights and because it offers a rich culture and plenty of options to have fun, there are cultural events, museums and so on.

After a season of hammers in Europe it’s now time to go back to Brazil. How are you feeling after your experience across Europe? What are your plans now?
I feel an accomplishment to have come back to Europe and finished my projects. It was great to film footage, shoot photos and enjoy the European summer, but it’s time to go back home to rest, think about the trip, absorb the best of it and start planning for the next one. Now, I have to finish some projects here in Brazil, stay with my family and plan my trip to the US which is coming soon.

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Grieving Parisians gathered to mourn the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Photo: Screenshot, Vice News.

A panel discussion last Thursday hosted by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) promised to plumb the “the root causes of radicalization” in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices and a kosher market.

It turns out that the problem is not Islamic theology or radical Muslim ideology. It’s all the things the West does wrong. Fix those problems, panelists said, and things will get better.

During the 90-minute program at the National Press Club, no speaker discussed the Quranic verses invoked by terrorists in the Islamic State or al-Qaeda to justify their actions. Instead, speakers emphasized a host of grievances that they say lead young Muslims to believe that peace and democracy will not lead to the changes they desire.

Muslim immigrants must be treated with more dignity and equality, said CSID founder Radwan Masmoudi. “Basically you must end all forms of racism, discrimination and hatred directed against Europeans of Arab descent or of the Islamic faith.” The West also must end the war in Syria and denounce the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood regime by Egypt’s military in July 2013.

Dalia Mogahed, a pollster and former White House adviser, took issue with the public reaction to the attacks. Defending the right to offend people as part of free expression plays into the terrorists’ agenda, she said. There is such a right, but society normally allows “incredibly offensive depiction(s)” of minorities. She wasn’t offended by the Charlie Hebdo cartoons as a Muslim, but she was “disgusted” by them as an American.

“The correct question isn’t, ‘can we?’” she said, “the correct question is ‘should we?’”

This ignores the magazine’s history of satirizing all faiths, generating no violence from Christians or Jews. Last week, 10 people were killed in Niger when protesters angry at the latest Charlie Hebdo cover torched churches.

Mogahed called the attack on Charlie Hebdo “a very strange event” because it came at a time in which there were no protests. “The shooting literally came out of nowhere. It was a calculated act of provocation on the part of terrorist organizations. This was not an organic, or even fanatical, response of just rage and anger against cartoons.”

The assertion is puzzling because, as a pollster, Mogahed has monitored attitudes in the Muslim world for years. As such, she is well aware that the Paris attacks did not happen in a vacuum. In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered on an Amsterdam street by a radical Muslim angered by van Gogh’s film, Submission, which focused on Islam’s treatment of women. In 2010, Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard survived a home invasion attack by an ax-wielding Somali with ties to the Islamist terrorist group Al-Shabaab.

American Colleen LaRose, known as “Jihad Jane,” is serving a 10-year prison sentence in part due to her plotting to travel to Sweden to kill another cartoonist, Lars Vilks. That murder, she wrote in an email obtained by Federal investigators, would be “my goal till i achieve it or die trying.”

There are numerous other examples of plots and attacks targeting people for their depictions of Islam’s prophet.

But the intent behind the attacks, Mogahed said, “was for Europe to respond essentially exactly as it did – to assert the right to offend by reprinting the cartoons.”

That certainly is a point of view. Another is that the terrorists hoped to intimidate others from showing images of Muhammad under any circumstance. Given that major American news outlets, including the New York TimesCNNFox and others have refused to show the Charlie Hebdo images, the attacks succeeded.

The focus on radical Islam and defense of free speech that resulted from the Paris attacks gave the terrorists “the rhetorical victory they desired,” she said. A better response would have been “to reassert the place of French citizens of Muslim faith in the republic.”

Mogahed and others repeatedly expressed resentment that the terrorists’ beliefs were being conflated with the beliefs held by 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide. They provided no examples to show this is what people mean when they talk about Islamic extremism.

Whatever the merits of Mogahed’s argument, it seems to have little connection to the causes of radicalization, which is what the panel was supposed to discuss.

In a podcast Wednesday, atheist writer Sam Harris slammed an emphasis on the West’s flaws in analyzing the Paris terrorist attacks as “completely insane.” After slaughtering the Charlie Hebdo staffers, Harris notes, Cherif and Said Kouachi yelled, “We have avenged the prophet.” They did not lament racism, disenfranchisement or any other grievance.

“That’s what causes someone to grab an AK 47 and murder 12 cartoonists and then scream ‘Allahu Akhbar’ in the streets,” Harris said facetiously. “It is a completely insane analysis. Even if you grant everything that’s wrong with capitalism and the history of colonialism, you should not be able to deny that these religious maniacs are motivated by concerns about blasphemy and the depiction of the prophet Muhammad, and consider their behavior entirely ethical in light of specific religious doctrines. And it’s a kind of masochism and moral cowardice and lack of intelligence, frankly, at this point, that is allowing people to deny this fact.”

Harris argued that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were not racist. But even if they were, emphasizing the offensive nature of the images shows someone “has completely lost the plot here.”

“[P]rotecting this speech becomes important when you have one group of people – ‘radical Muslims’ – who are responding to this offense with credible threats of murder in every country on earth. We can’t give in to this.”

“People have been murdered over cartoons,” he added. “End of moral analysis.”

Not for Nihad Awad, co-founder and executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). His prepared remarks at the radicalization forum focused on the frustration he said Muslim American youth feel for constantly having to condemn the actions of others and for drawing disproportionate law enforcement attention.

“Islam has been blamed for the recent events, not the terrorists themselves,” Awad said. The media’s focus on the religious motivation inspiring terrorists and references to a war of ideas within Islam “is very offensive to me, to implicate the entire Islamic faith and the 1.7 billion people into accusing them of being inherently violent and warring among themselves. I believe this is dishonest discourse.”

Awad’s assertion is contradicted by other Muslims who believe the only way to stem radicalization is by modernizing and reforming Islam, steering away from strict, literalist interpretations. In addition, those most offended by cartoons or commentaries need to learn more peaceful ways to express their frustration.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal on January 11, Muslim reformist Maajid Nawaz called for “an open discussion about interpretations of blasphemy codes within Islam. Islam is an idea: Like all other ideas, it is open to scrutiny and satire. This is how we progress.”

“…We must oppose the notion that Islam, or any narrow interpretation of the faith, is above criticism. If we learn to challenge the ideology of those who have hijacked our faith, we will build the resilience that will allow us to prosper in a modern society. Furthermore, to accuse this view of being Islamophobic takes advantage of those in Western society who are desperate not to be considered offensive. It allows extremists to prosper without the checks and balances of critical thinking, returning us to the Dark Ages.”

Both Awad and Mogahed cited the example of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer who killed 77 people in a bombing and shooting attack in 2011, as an example of the public’s double standard. Breivik’s manifesto made clear he acted out of a concern about the spread of Islam and multi-culturalism, declaring he was “a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe.”

Christian leaders weren’t put on the spot with demands to condemn Breivik’s slaughter, Awad and Mogahed said. Instead, he was dismissed as a lone kook.

In making the argument, the two failed to mention the Kouachi brothers’ apparent connections to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or the video by Amedy Coulibaly, who attacked a kosher supermarket shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attack killing a policewoman and four Jews, in which he expressed allegiance to the Islamic State.

The Paris attacks and the slaughter being carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have nothing to do with Islam, the panelists agreed. Mogahed did say young Muslims “need better religious literacy” to counteract extremist messages they may see on the Internet.

But Awad ended the program with a defense of the word jihad. It’s wrong, he said, to use it to describe terrorists acting in the name of Islam. It is a legitimate concept in the faith and should not apply to wars of aggression. “So to label terrorists as jihadists is no less than doing the public relations work for them. And the media unwittingly, or unintentionally, they have been helping ISIS. Politicians, when they refer to these people as jihadists, they are helping recruit people to ISIS.”

Contrast the defensive rhetoric and general lack of any discussion about a theological role in radicalization with a recent full page newspaper ad signed by a group of Muslim reformists. They don’t blame historic injustices or other grievances. Rather, they look at today’s reality and ask how to make things better:

If Islam is a religion that stands for justice and peaceful coexistence, then the quest for an Islamic state cannot be justified as sanctioned by a just and merciful Creator.

Neither jihadism nor Islamism permit the equality of all humans irrespective of their race or religion and should therefore be rejected. Our denial and our relative silence must stop!

It is the duty of us Muslims to actively and vigorously affirm and promote universal human rights, including gender equality and freedom of conscience.

As our Holy Qu’ran states (4:135):

“Believers! Conduct yourselves with justice, bearing true witness before God, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, or your kin.”

We must engage in and promote reforms where necessary, including an honest and critical reinterpretation of scripture and shariah law used by Islamists to justify violence and oppression.

We must also recognize and loudly proclaim that the quest for any and all “Islamic State(s)” has no place in modern times. Theocracy, particularly, Islamism, is a proven failure. The path to justice and reform is through liberty.

Nothing close to this sentiment was expressed at Thursday’s CSID forum. Masmoudi, the center’s director, instead said the debate needs to focus on the line between free expression and offending religion.

“Every freedom must be respected, but every freedom also has limits,” he said. “You don’t have the right to transgress on others. That’s why we need laws. Laws are to put clear limits on where your freedom ends and where the freedom of other people begins. In terms of freedom of speech I think we are all in favor. But there is a big debate on whether that includes the right to insult others, or the right to insult other religions in particular.”

Just the message to quell radicals, isn’t it?

Steven Emerson is the Executive Director the Investigative Project on Terrorism ( where this article first appeared.

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Bertels, who will program the 40th Sydney Festival next year before returning to Europe, said there was one number he was very proud of: that one third of the programming budget was put into developing new Australian work. “That comes with a high level of artistic risk, but it was great to see the range of work we developed: we had what seemed like a half a year of new Australian work in three weeks.”

It has been widely noted since the program’s announcement last October that Bertels’ third festival lacked a tentpole “event” in the style of 2013′s catwalk-set opera Semele Walk or Sacha Waltz’s divisive opera – with fishtank ballet - Dido and Aeneas from 2014. James Thierree’s Tabac Rouge, with its gargantuan, grimy mirror set and extended run at the Sydney Theatre, was as close as we came to that kind of work this festival, and it impressed: Herald critic Jill Sykes celebrated Thierree’s mesmeric movement, and his embrace of his Chaplinesque legacy, while the show provided a moving collision of art and life as the Paris-based company stood in line holding “Je suis Charlie” signs at curtain just days after the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

A dancer at Mira Calix's iInside There Falls/i at Carriageworks.

A dancer at Mira Calix’s Inside There Falls at Carriageworks. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Yet, as Thierree’s third appearance at the festival, Tabac was never going to be the kind of ‘big get” novel spectacle Bertels had programmed in previous years. The festival too saw its star wattage dimmed weeks before opening when actress Charlotte Rampling withdrew from The Night Dances, for which she was set to read Sylvia Plath as cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton played Britten.

Still, while the highlights were less obvious at a quick glance of the program, it does not mean they weren’t there. The festival was marked by strong connecting themes – death was everywhere, from Tamara Saulwick’s music-theatre hybrid exploration of dying, Endings, to the disintegrating ash Sydney Buddha still standing five metres in Carriageworks – and a dedication to exploring new possibilities in form, structure and narrative. Thus, an overhead projector, a pair of white gloves and a lifetime’s worth of doodled-on pay packets become the compelling storytelling tools of Wot? No Fish!!, Danny Braverman’s touching look at his great-uncle’s marriage. Hands, miniature film sets and high-definition video track a woman’s many relationships in Charleroi Danses’ Kiss and Cry. Gaudy drag becomes the lens through which we explore colonial Australian history (Blak Cabaret); the drumming and singing of Korea’s Pansori tradition becomes the sound of reimagined Brecht (Ukchuk-Ga); cooking – and more drumming – becomes the tool for exploring the challenges of marriage (The Kitchen).

It seemed nothing was played straight, which – if foyer talk is any indication – irked some festivalgoers. With so many hybrids, and so much experiment, there were those who wondered where the traditional “straight” theatre and dance performances were.

Stunning debut: Tom Iansek is #1 Dads.

Stunning debut: Tom Iansek is #1 Dads. Photo: Prudence Upton/Sydney Festival

Form, in every sense, was central to what many have called the festival’s best piece of programming: Force Majeure’s Nothing To Lose. Choreographer Kate Champion’s swan song with the company she founded (conceived in collaboration with “fat activist” Kelli Jean Drinkwater), Nothing To Lose featured full-bodied performers in an exploration of what it is to be a large person moving on a stage, and moving through the world. It was a challenging, inspiring piece of movement-theatre and – in its thrilling finale, with dozens of figures emerging from the dark depths of the stage – full of joy. One imagines other festivals will scoop it up.

Lose was the big moment of a festival that had several contenders: Daniel Johns’ wrenching (if polarising) performance of Smells Like Teen Spirit at Triple J’s 40th birthday festival, Beat The Drum; Big Scary’s Tom Iansek stepping on to the Famous Spiegeltent in a brilliant solo showing as #1 Dads; the Latvian Radio Choir’s 24 fine voices coming together at City Recital Hall; Wau Wau Sister Adrienne Truscott stalking onto the stage, pantsless, to take on rape culture in Asking For It; Tex Perkins greeting the crowd at Parramatta Gaol with a grizzled, “I’m Johnny Cash”.

The festival’s family-friendly outdoor installations fell a touch flat, particularly next to last year’s clever Merchant Store and the crowd-pleasing Sacrilege (Jeremy Deller’s inflatable Stonehenge). Irish street artist Maser’s Higher Ground, touted as an Escher-esque maze emblazoned with graphic stripes, seemed to puzzle festivalgoers. Was it art? Was it just stairs? Was it that thing John and Olivia dance on at the end of Grease? Maser’s previous works – he has taken over closed-down motels and petrol stations, covering them in garish colour – suggest he might have done wonders with an abandoned building rather than developing something from the ground up. (Bertels points out that the Higher Ground resonated with those who did explore its passageways, particularly on social media). 

Camille O'Sullivan.

Camille O’Sullivan. Photo: Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival

In contrast, the lines for British-based artist Mira Calix’s Inside There Falls at Carriageworks were testimony to the wonders inside Bay 17. Invited into a room hung with some 1.5 kilometres of paper all circling a dish filled with cinnamon sitting below a charred, flaky orb, audiences were called on to form their own stories, to listen as music and voices emanated from above and around, and to consider and interact with dancers who slid in and out of the space along the chalked floor. It was an ethereal, ambitious project and a highlight of the festival’s free programming.

Critics’ picks

John Shand, music critic

Anastasia Zaravinos in iNothing To Lose/i.

Anastasia Zaravinos in Nothing To Lose. Photo: Prudence Upton/Sydney Festival

Aptly called The Changeling, Camille O’Sullivan’s new cabaret was unpredictable, sensual and funny, and contained an Amsterdam so raw you could almost smell it. George Xylouris (lute, vocals) and the Dirty Three’s Jim White (drums) amplified the epic qualities of traditional Greek music, while leaving White’s rock fans equally elated.

Julia Cotton, dance critic

Nothing To Lose proved another winner from Kate Champion and Force Majeure: audacious, provocative and inspiring.

Peter McCallum, classical music critic

The Latvian Radio Choir was the undoubted highlight of an otherwise poorly curated classical music program. After centuries of people singing together, this group still manages to create fresh new choral sounds of untapped beauty, through talent, hard work and dedication. 

Elissa Blake, Sun-Herald theatre critic

Of all the circus acts on offer this year, the bushy-bearded Canadians in Timber! really stood out. It was delightful to see a show that didn’t rely on sex appeal or even youth to impress (one of the performers was 67). It promised and delivered belly laughs, big burly men balancing and throwing each other, axe juggling, messy cooking and joyous bluegrass music. The best family show in the festival.

Jason Blake, theatre critic

James Thierree’s Tabac Rouge felt like a fabulously funded indulgence but was remarkable for its staging and the Belgian dance-film hybrid Kiss Cry was delightful. But my favourite show sat at the other end of the production resources scale – Have I No Mouth, from the Dublin company Brokentalkers. It didn’t set out to impress or seduce. It just shared its story in an open, honest and economical way and for me it was the only really affecting performance.

Bernard Zuel, music critic

Disco Dome: To have history and the hysterical – in this case both trippy film and performance art on the up and down escalator – in the one package is reward enough but then to top it with percussion-enhanced gym workout to disco favourites is possibly the best Friday night out ever.

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Crime Netherlands

Paranoia and weapons: new details emerge in sister’s murder


New details emerged about the 38 year old Bart van U., who surrendered to the police in connection with his sister’s murder.

Van U. turned himself in at the police station in Amsterdam. He invoked his right to remain silent, the AD reports. “I guess that he only wants to make a statement in front of the judge”, said his lawyer Noelle Pieterse, who knows him from an earlier case.

Late in 2011 an anonymous tipster raised the alarm because Van U. had a firearm in the house, while being mentally unstable. Upon his arrest, Van U. was wearing a safety vest, according to AD. He had two knives in his pocket and a loaded gun in his waistband. There were more weapons in his house. His firearm license was revoked in 2009, because of his mental state.

At probation Van U. stated that he thinks he is allowed to be armed. Since the attacks on September 11th, 2001, Van U. sees Islamic threats everywhere and is confident that he will be the victim of an attack if he doesn’t do something. He is not confident that the government can protect him. As an example, he told the court that the police failed to catch the thief who stole his bicycle, AD reports.

Because Van U. refused any form of treatment, the court sentenced him to three years in prison, a relatively high penalty for weapon possession. This is because Van U. without treatment would pose a serious threat to society and had to be kept off the streets for as long as possible. “The suspect seems to not stay away from confrontation. These confrontations can, when taking into account the possession of weapons, be fatal for both himself and for potential victims.”

His sister Lois, a top official of the municipalities Barendrecht, Albrandswaard and Ridderkerk, gave Van U. shelter despite his problems. He lived above her in Oudedijk, Rotterdam. According to AD, the few times he visited a cafe in his street, he stood out because of his eccentric behavior. On Saturday morning a friend discovered Lois’ lifeless body at the bottom of the stairs in her home. She seemed to have been stabbed to death.

It is rumored that Van U. was “exhausted” by the events in Paris, AD reports. His lawyer could not confirm this. “In the questioning he would say only his name, he would not answer any questions.” An earlier judgment states that “his life is determined by the way the media thinks and talks about terrorism”.

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