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Illustration by © Simon Prades

by Bono, New York Times

I'VE recently returned from the Middle East and East Africa, where I visited a number of refugee camps -- car parks of humanity. I went as an activist and as a European. Because Europeans have come to realize -- quite painfully in the past year or two -- that the mass exodus from collapsed countries like Syria is not just a Middle Eastern or African problem, it's a European problem. It's an American one, too. It affects us all.

My countryman Peter Sutherland, a senior United Nations official for international migration, has made clear that we're living through the worst crisis of forced displacement since World War II. In 2010, some 10,000 people worldwide fled their homes every day, on average. Which sounds like a lot -- until you consider that four years later, that number had quadrupled. And when people are driven out of their homes by violence, poverty and instability, they take themselves and their despair elsewhere. And "elsewhere" can be anywhere.

But with their despair some of them also have hope. It seems insane or naïve to speak of hope in this context, and I may be both of these things. But in most of the places where refugees live, hope has not left the building: hope to go home someday, hope to find work and a better life. I left Kenya, Jordan and Turkey feeling a little hopeful myself. For as hard as it is to truly imagine what life as a refugee is like, we have a chance to reimagine that reality -- and reinvent our relationship with the people and countries consumed now by conflict, or hosting those who have fled it.

U2: Waiting for God to walk through the room

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Five years of standing in a room with three other men to try and make a more emotional album than your last one can be hurtful and brutal, U2 tell Brendan O'Connor. But when you dig back deep into grief and adolescence, God walks through the room and brings the opera.

by Brendan O'Connor, Independent.ie

We are talking about Bono's late mother, who died when he was fourteen and set him on the path to becoming an artist, because after grief, he says, comes rage, and rage led him to punk which led to U2. We are talking about her, because she, and grief, pop up a bit in U2's brilliant new album Songs of Innocence, along with friendship, mortality and love.

We are talking about her because one of U2's mentors, Jimmy Iovine, told Bono some time in the difficult five year gestation of Songs of Innocence that he needed to go back to the roots of why he started doing this in the first place. And so Bono looked at first journeys, and made an album about the forces that shaped him 40 years ago. A 54-year-old man, having a crisis of the relevance of the greatest rock and roll band in the world, made a teenage angst album, an album about home. A friend joked to him in an email recently that it took U2 all this time to make their first album.

One of the strongest tracks on the album, Iris, an instant U2 classic, is about Bono's mother. She also appears in another song. I wonder if Bono thinks his mother knows what happened to him, how his life turned out.

The Dream Of Ridiculous Men

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by Ann Powers, NPR

The last short story Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote is about being seriously ridiculous. In "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man," an intellectual prone to existentialist despair is saved from suicide when, in a vision, he discovers a parallel planet where humanity has never sinned. "It was like being in love with each other, but an all-embracing, universal feeling," he tells the reader. This contact with Eden reinvigorates him, but then, during a playful moment, he teaches the planet's innocents how to deceive each other -- and this leads to a catastrophic, Biblical fall. By the time the man awakens, his Eden has become just like Earth, full of violence, crime and war. It's the world he once thought was meaningless. And still, the man finds himself redeemed. He stands on a corner, preaching the essential goodness of humanity, despite his knowledge of the equally omnipresent potential for corruption. He's a rube for being optimistic, and he knows it. But he declares at the story's end, "I shall go on and on!"

The serious ridiculousness expressed in that conclusion differs from the unthinking kind that entangles people every day. Ordinary ridiculousness comes from not being aware -- from either simply not thinking about bad or excessive choices, or from embracing blind faith in the self, a God or a system. A seriously ridiculous person is clear-eyed. She knows that idealism is a fool's game to begin with, and that every conviction carries the risk of closed-mindedness. But she takes on belief as a practice, a way of being around others that seeks common ground. The ridiculous man or woman has found a way to connect things within life's inevitably broken landscape. It's an act of reaching out that can never be fully fulfilled, but which changes things in the moment, which is all we really have.

'Remember Us?'

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A letter from Bono, on the arrival 'of our new baby' - Songs of Innocence.

by U2.com

'Hello, bonjour, ciao, hola, hallo, zdravo, dobar dan, Dia duit, hæ, hej,hei, cześć, olá, ćao, namaste, sawatdee, jambo, pozdravi, Γεια σου, привіт, שלום, مرحبا, こんにちは, , سلام, 你好, Привет....

Remember us? Pleased to announce myself, Edge, Adam and Larry have finally given birth to our new baby... Songs of Innocence. It's been a while. We wanted to get it right for you/us. We just finished it last week and thanks to Apple and iTunes it's with you today. That's already amazing to me as it normally takes a few months to turn this stuff around.

Part of the DNA of this band has always been the desire to get our music to as many people as possible. In the next 24 hours, over a half a billion people are going to have Songs of Innocence... should they choose to check it out. That is so exciting. People who haven't heard our music, or weren't remotely interested, might play us for the first time because we're in their library. Country fans, hip hop afficionados from east LA, electro poppers from Seoul, Bhangra fans from New Delhi, Highlifers in Accra... might JUST be tempted to check us out, even for a moment. What a mind blowing, head scratching, 21st century situation. Over 500 million people... that's a billion ears. And for the people out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way... the blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail.

How to save the music industry

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By Paul McGuinness, GQ Magazine

Even after three decades managing the world's biggest rock band, I have a lifetime hero as far from the world of U2 as you could ever get. He was a feisty 19th-century composer of light orchestral music. His name was Ernest Bourget.

It was Bourget who in 1847, while enjoying a meal in a Paris restaurant, suddenly heard the orchestra playing one of his own compositions. He was startled - of course he had not been paid or asked permission for this. So he resolved the problem himself: he walked out of the restaurant without paying his bill.

Bourget's action was a milestone in the history of copyright law. The legal wrangling that followed led to the establishment of the first revenue-collection system for composers and musicians. The modern music industry has a lot to thank him for.

In Ireland, Tuesday's Grace

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By Bono, New York Times Op-ed Guest Columnist

Dublin

ONE of the most extraordinary days in the mottled history of the island of Ireland was witnessed on both sides of the border last Tuesday.

The much-anticipated and costly Saville report ... the 12-years-in-the-making inquiry into "Bloody Sunday," a day never to be forgotten in Irish politics ... was finally published.

On that day, Jan. 30, 1972, British soldiers fired on a civil rights march in the majority Catholic area of the Bogside in Derry, killing 14 protesters.

It was a day that caused the conflict between the two communities in Northern Ireland -- Catholic nationalist and Protestant unionist -- to spiral into another dimension: every Irish person conscious on that day has a mental picture of Edward Daly, later the bishop of Derry, holding a blood-stained handkerchief aloft as he valiantly tended to the wounded and the dying.

Profile: Bono - With or without him?

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By Claire Prentice, Scotsman.com

IT'S NO fun growing old when you are a rock god. It's a young man's game jumping from platforms, punching the air, and belting out your songs of rebellion and hope.

Until this week, Bono seemed to be holding back the years pretty well. The lead singer of U2 and global ambassador for good causes has kept his weight in check and the wrinkles at bay, even if his hair does look suspiciously black.

But last week, the 50-year-old global superstar was rushed into hospital in Munich for emergency spinal surgery, after suffering severe compression of the sciatic nerve while preparing for the next leg of U2's tour. Hospital spokesman Dr Muller Wohlfahrt said Bono's prospects for a full recovery were "excellent".

Though the prognosis is good, it's too late to save the tour. Sixteen US dates have been cancelled, and Damon Albarn's band Gorillaz have stepped in to replace U2, who were scheduled to headline at Glastonbury. Bono, who must recuperate for two months, said he was "heartbroken".

Africa Reboots

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By BONO, NY Times Op-Ed Guest Columnist

I SPENT March with a delegation of activists, entrepreneurs and policy wonks roaming western, southern and eastern Africa trying very hard to listen -- always hard for a big-mouthed Irishman. With duct tape over my gob, I was able to pick up some interesting melody lines everywhere from palace to pavement ...

Despite the almost deafening roar of excitement about Africa's hosting of soccer's World Cup this summer, we managed to hear a surprising thing. Harmony ... flowing from two sides that in the past have often been discordant: Africa's emerging entrepreneurial class and its civil-society activists.

It's no secret that lefty campaigners can be cranky about business elites. And the suspicion is mutual. Worldwide. Civil society as a rule sees business as, well, a little uncivil. Business tends to see activists as, well, a little too active. But in Africa, at least from what I've just seen, this is starting to change. The energy of these opposing forces coming together is filling offices, boardrooms and bars. The reason is that both these groups -- the private sector and civil society -- see poor governance as the biggest obstacle they face. So they are working together on redefining the rules of the African game.

Ten for the Next Ten

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By Bono, New York Times Op-Ed Guest Columnist

Dublin

IF we have overindulged in anything these past several days, it is neither holiday ham nor American football; it is Top 10 lists. We have been stuffed full of them. Even in these self-restrained pages, it has been impossible to avoid the end-of-the-decade accountings of the 10 best such-and-suches and the 10 worst fill-in-the-blanks.

And so, in the spirit of rock star excess, I offer yet another.

The main difference, if it matters, is that this list looks forward, not backward. So here, then, are 10 ideas that might make the next 10 years more interesting, healthy or civil. Some are trivial, some fundamental. They have little in common with one another except that I am seized by each, and moved by its potential to change our world.

Rebranding Africa

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Graphic by Patrick Thomas

By Bono, New York Times Contributing Columnist

DATELINE: Imminent. About now, actually.

Soon, Air Force One will touch down in Accra, Ghana; Africans will be welcoming the first African-American president. Press coverage on the continent is placing equal weight on both sides of the hyphen.

And we thought it was big when President Kennedy visited Ireland in 1963. (It was big, though I was small. Where I come from, J.F.K. is remembered as a local boy made very, very good.)

But President Obama's African-ness is only part (a thrilling part) of the story today. Cable news may think it's all about him -- but my guess is that he doesn't. If he was in it for a sentimental journey he'd have gone to Kenya, chased down some of those dreams from his father.

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