Israeli orchestra breaks a cultural taboo

The annual Bayreuth music festival in Germany -- which celebrates the works of German composer Richard Wagner -- kicked off today and for the first time will feature a group of musicians from Israel. Wagner, an avowed anti-Semite and an inspiration for Adolph Hitler, is rarely heard in Israel, where there is an unwritten ban on performing his music. Tomorrow, the Israel Chamber Orchestra will perform Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" for an audience at the festival. The group rehearsed for the first time yesterday after landing in Germany (they said they declined to practice the piece while in Israel).  

The Wagner family has run the festival for the past 100 years -- including during the Nazi era. But the current co-director of the festival, Katharina Wagner, the 32-year-old great-granddaughter of the composer, said she has been trying to reach out to Jewish groups. The festival plans to introduce a Jewish cultural center and Wagner has said she would open the family archives, allowing historians to see the extent of her family's relationship with the Nazis.

The Israeli group's conductor, Roberto Paternostro, explained the decision to play the music. "Wagner's ideology and anti-Semitism was terrible, but he was a great composer," he told Reuters. "The aim in 2011 is to distinguish between the man and his art."


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What does it take to close a fake Apple Store in China?

Last week, when confronted by reporters, a manager of a knock-off Apple store in Kunming, China said, "There is no Chinese law that says I can't decorate my shop the way I want to decorate it."

Technically, he wasn't correct -- Chinese law does prohibit businesses from copying the "look and feel" of other companies, but China is often accused of failing to enforce the law. And, after Chinese officials investigated the store -- and several others in the city -- it is still open. A blogger first wrote about the carbon copy business last week, leading to a flood of terrible publicity. Chinese officials said over the weekend they would investigate "all the city's electronic stores." Today, they announced they were closing two fake Apple Stores (out of at least five in the city). However, the reason had nothing to do with their brazen flouting of copyright laws. The businesses didn't have the proper permits.

"Media should not misunderstand the situation and jump to conclusions. Some overseas media has made it appear the stores sold fake Apple products," Chang Puyun, spokesman of Kunming government's business bureau, told Reuters. "China has taken great steps to enforce intellectual property rights and the stores weren't selling fake products."

According to CNET News, China and Apple have a complicated relationship.

Apple's business is intertwined with China, creating a love-hate relationship. Nearly all of the company's products are born in huge factory complexes in the country's interior, some as large as midsized cities, and Apple has started to move into China's retail market, with four official Apple stores in the sprawling country. But China has also been the source of numerous leaks, cheap knock-offs, piracy and other headaches for Apple. The fake Apple stores have been one of the most impressive such violations to date in their attention to detail.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office says counterfeiting and intellectual property theft in China cost U.S. businesses an estimated $48 billion in 2009.