Watch: The xx share behind-the-scenes video for Park Avenue Armory residency

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The British pop band the xx play on themes of exposure and intimacy in the immensity of the Park Avenue Armory drill hall, inverting almost all of what is expected in rock.
 
For the last week or so, The xx have staged a series of intimate performances at Park Avenue Armory in New York City. Taking place in a custom-built stage within a cube, each show is limited to an audience of 45 and tickets to the sold-out performances are currently fetching thousands from third-party resellers. For the vast majority of us who won’t be able to catch the concerts in person, the band has shared a behind-the-scenes video. Watch it at The New York Times’ website
 
Following the residency, The xx will embark on a brief U.S. tour.

Tight on the Right: Germany’s NPD Maintains Close Ties to Svoboda – By Spiegel Online

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Germany shuns the right-wing extremist party NPD at home. But even though the Ukrainian nationalist party Svoboda maintains tight links to the NPD, it has received indirect support from Berlin.

When Holger Apfel showed up at the Saxony state parliament with a “parliamentary delegation” from Ukraine last May, few had even heard of a party called Svoboda. Apfel, who was head of the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) at the time, proudly showed his guests — Ukrainian parliamentarian Mikhail Golovko and two municipal politicians from the Ukrainian city of Ternopol — around the parliament building in Dresden.

Speaking to other NPD parliamentarians, Apfel called the nationalist Svoboda party “one of the most important European right-wing parties.”

With a view to approaching elections for the European Parliament Apfel added that an “opposing model to the EU dictatorship of Brussels Eurocrats” must be established and said that EU officials were nothing but “willing helpers to international capital.” Svoboda, he exulted following the visit, is part of the “phalanx of patriotic powers” and encouraged the “intensification of cooperation.” Apfel’s Ukrainian guests agreed, saying that collaboration between the NPD and Svoboda should be expanded.

Given such ties, it is astounding that Germany has approached the Ukrainian right-wing extremists in a manner that would be unthinkable with the NPD. On April 29, 2013, for example, Germany’s ambassador in Kiev met with Svoboda’s parliamentary floor leader Oleh Tyahnybok. During the meeting, Berlin has insisted, the ambassador exhorted Tyahnybok to respect the inviolability of human dignity and human rights.

But the Ukrainian right wing has also received instruction financed by German taxpayers. Party members appeared at events hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the German political foundation affiliated with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives. Examples include the conference entitled “Lessons from the 2012 Parliamentary Elections,” the seminar series called “The Higher School of Politics” and a discussion on the 2012 elections.

Honoring the SS
Even the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) has supported the party. GIZ oversaw a project for the “formation of administrative capacities in the public financing sector.” Svoboda parliamentarians took part in two trips to Berlin in 2013 in conjunction with the project.

One prominent party member even gave an interview in early May 2013 to the NPD publication Deutsche Stimme. In an interview conducted by senior NPD member Jens Pühse, Ternopol Mayor Sergei Nadal was asked why Svoboda supports the recognition of descendants of former members of the Ukrainian 14th Division of the Waffen SS as national heroes. “These Ukrainian heroes must be honored irrespective of what has been written about them in the history books of those peoples who were once our enemies,” Nadal answered.

Germany’s Interior Ministry has also taken note of the Svoboda-NPD connection. In response to a parliamentary query from the Left Party, the ministry noted that the NPD had established a department tasked with maintaining contact with right-wing extremist organizations in Eastern Europe. The German government, the ministry said, considers Svoboda to be a “right-wing populist and nationalist party” which represents “in part right-wing extremist positions.” The party, for example, organized a rally to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the 14th Waffen SS Division.

Svoboda, meanwhile, has established chapters in Frankfurt, Cologne and Munich. The Anti-Fascist Information Center in Munich noted recently that in August of last year, some 40 participants gathered in a Catholic parish hall to elect a Munich student of Ukrainian descent as their chairman.

Translated from the German by Charles Hawley

Heroin overdoses pose ‘urgent public health crisis’: U.S. attorney general

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

(Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said his agency was stepping up efforts to stem sharp increases in deadly heroin overdoses, trafficking in the drug and abuse of prescription narcotics at the root of what he called an “urgent public health crisis.”

As part of that campaign, Holder reiterated the Obama administration’s call for more law enforcement agencies to train and equip personnel with an overdose-reversal medication called naloxone.

The director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy issued a similar plea to police and fire departments last month.

Holder said 17 states and the District of Columbia have amended their laws to increase access to naloxone, a blocking agent that can reverse the effects of an overdose and help restore breathing.

He said emergency use of naloxone had resulted in more than 10,000 overdose reversals since 2001.

Still, fatal heroin overdoses have increased 45 percent from 2006 to 2010, with 3,038 such deaths reported that year, and the numbers are believed to still be on the rise, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The rising level of heroin use in recent years stems from a corresponding epidemic in the abuse of prescription opiate-based painkillers, such as oxycodone, DEA officials say. Deaths from overdoses of such drugs numbered more than 16,600 in 2010.

Many individuals who start out abusing oxycodone turn eventually to heroin as they build up a tolerance to the pain pills and find that they can buy heroin far more cheaply than prescription medications on the black market, experts say.

Meanwhile, trafficking in heroin, the bulk of it smuggled into the United States from Mexico, has climbed in conjunction with increasing demand.

“When confronting the problem of substance abuse, it makes sense to focus attention on the most dangerous types of drugs. And right now, few substances are more lethal than prescription opiates and heroin,” Holder said in a video message posted on Monday on the Justice Department’s website.

Holder said the DEA was leading a federal enforcement crackdown, and cited a 320 percent increase in the amount of heroin seized by U.S. authorities along the U.S.-Mexico border between 2008 and 2013.

The federal government also is enlisting the help of physicians, teachers, police and community leaders to boost support for substance abuse education, prevention and treatment, Holder said.

He said the DEA was focusing such efforts in regions experiencing a particularly high incidence of heroin abuse, such as in northern Ohio, where numbers of heroin-related deaths had recently jumped four-fold.

National attention on heroin abuse was riveted by the case of acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was found dead from an accidental drug overdose in his Manhattan apartment last month, a needle still in his arm.

An autopsy determined the performer succumbed to acute intoxication from a mixture of heroin, cocaine and other drugs in his system.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Damon Albarn opens up about drug use

Damon Albarn

Damon Albarn

As Damon Albarn makes the rounds in support of his forthcoming solo debut, Everyday Robots, he’s speaking candidly about his past drug use.

In a new interview with Q magazine (via The Independent), Albarn said that he began using heroin “at the height of Britpop” and found it be “incredibly productive”.

“I hate talking about this because of my daughter, my family. But, for me, it was incredibly creative,” Albarn explained. “A combination of [heroin] and playing really simple, beautiful, repetitive shit in Africa changed me completely as a musician. I found a sense of rhythm. I somehow managed to break out of something with my voice.”

Albarn has been clean for several years and stressed that drugs are ”cruel, cruel thing.” He continued, “[Heroin] does turn you into a very isolated person and ultimately anything that you are truly dependent on is not good.”

Albarn also addresses his drug use on Everyday Robots, specifically in the song “You and Me”. Below, watch footage of him performing the song at this month’s BBC 6 Music Festival.

Fleetwood Mac announce first tour with Christine McVie in 16 years

Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac – Photo Getty

Fleetwood Mac have announced their first tour with Christine McVie in 16 years.

The band will be heading out on a North American tour with McVie, who revealed that she would be rejoining the band at the beginning of the year. The 34 date tour will start in Minneapolis on September 30 and finish in Tampa on December 20.

Fleetwood Mac have also said that they will be recording a brand new album with McVie. Speaking to Maui News, Mick Fleetwood of the band said that McVie had been writing new songs for the group, and they would be recording together this month.

McVie joined the band in 1970 after marrying the group’s bassist, John McVie. She continued on with the group for the next 28 years as main songwriter, vocalist and keyboard player. She’s responsible for some of the band’s biggest hits, including ‘Say You Love Me’, ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘You Make Loving Fun’, ‘Little Lies’ and ‘Everywhere’.

Rumours surfaced last year that McVie was contemplating rejoining Fleetwood Mac, and she appeared on stage when they played London’s O2 last September to perform ‘Don’t Stop’. In an interview with The Guardian after the concerts last year, McVie said she would be “delighted” if the band were to ask her to perform with them again.