Archive for the ‘General’ Category
From the BBC: Mass Paris rally against gay marriage in France
Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Paris over plans to give gay couples in France the right to marry and adopt children.
Three big marches converged on the Champs de Mars, a large park next to the Eiffel Tower.
France’s Socialist government is planning to change the law this year.
But the demonstrators, backed by the Catholic Church and the right-wing opposition, argue it would undermine an essential building block of society.
The organisers put the number of marchers at 800,000, with demonstrators pouring into Paris by train and bus, carrying placards that read, “We don’t want your law, Francois” and “Don’t touch my civil code”.
Police said the figure was closer to 340,000 and one government minister said the turnout was lower than the organisers had predicted. A similar march in November attracted around 100,000 people.
The “Demo for all” event was being led by a charismatic comedian known as Frigide Barjot, who tweeted that the “crowd is immense” and told French TV that gay marriage “makes no sense” because a child should be born to a man and woman.
Having traveled to Central African Republic, and having made many friends there, I am gladdened by news that rebels have signed a formal ceasefire agreement with the government.
(Reuters) – The French dubbed it the neglected “Cinderella” of their African colonial empire; modern observers have called it a “phantom state”.
Landlocked, isolated and poverty stricken despite reserves of gold, timber, uranium and gemstone quality diamonds, Central African Republic has been racked by rural rebellions for more than a decade.
In the latest flare-up, loosely-allied insurgents, demanding an end to years of exclusion from government, closed in on the capital Bangui over Christmas and the New Year, forcing President Francois Bozize to agree to talks about his future.
These negotiations under the auspices of the Central African regional grouping ECCAS are to open in Libreville, Gabon this week. They have the backing of the U.N. Security Council, which says CAR’s crisis cannot be resolved militarily.
While lacking the strategic attention gained by other African hotspots such as Somalia, Mali or eastern Congo, Central African Republic nonetheless remains a festering sore of instability at the heart of an economically buoyant continent.
Some of the root causes of this lie in its history as a colonial backwater. This was compounded after independence in 1960 by a history of coups and bloody mutinies, French military meddling, and an interlude of rule by one of the world’s most bizarre and extravagant modern-day emperors, Bokassa I.
Bozize, who served as general in Bokassa’s 1976-79 “Empire” and then seized power in a 2003 coup before winning a 2005 election, opened a so-called Inclusive Political Dialogue with his rebel foes in 2008.
But his failure to deliver genuine power sharing, followed by his re-election in 2011 polls which the opposition boycotted over alleged fraud, has led directly to the December offensive by the Seleka, or Alliance, of five armed rebel groups.
“There is a frustration that has grown and grown with Bozize’s way of governing, which has been very uninclusive,” said Louisa Lombard, a post-doctoral fellow in the University of California, Berkley’s Geography Department who has studied the Central African insurgencies.
As Seleka fighters swept to within 75 km (45 miles) of Bangui in December, capturing a string of major towns from retreating government forces, Bozize said he was willing to share power, and would not stand for a third term in 2016.
But he says he intends to finish his current mandate, rejecting a rebel demand he quit immediately.
“NEW GAME IN AFRICA”
Experts point to the absence of economic development and government control in Central African Republic’s bush interior as a major driver of discontent and revolt in a nation slightly larger than France, but with a population of only 4.5 million.
This is seen as an inheritance of colonial times, when the territory, named Oubangui-Chari after two prominent local rivers, was an isolated and neglected outpost between better developed French possession in Chad and Congo Brazzaville.
In recent years, CAR’s extensive borders have been porous and unprotected, with armed intruders from Chad, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo crossing at will to raid villages and poach wildlife, joining local bandits known as “zaraguinas”.
A 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable from Bangui bluntly calls Central African Republic “a country defined by its borders on the map and not by effective state control of its territory”.
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group termed it “a phantom state” in a 2007 report.
Update, Jan. 1, 2013 — According to NBC News, a $100 million lawsuit against the state of Connecticut over the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has been withdrawn (link). The attorney, Irving Pinsky, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of a six-year-old student, said he is reviewing new evidence and that a new suit might be filed in the future.
According to the article,
State Attorney General George Jepsen on Monday called the claim misguided and said a public policy response by the U.S. Congress and the Connecticut state legislature would be more appropriate than legal action, according to a spokeswoman.
“Our hearts go out to this family, and to all the children and families affected by the Newtown shootings,” Jepsen said in a statement. “They deserve a thoughtful and deliberate examination of the causes of this tragedy and of the appropriate public policy responses.”
In a litigious society such as ours, the National Rifle Associations’s suggestion that schools be staffed by armed guards is actually quite practical and hardly outrageous as is sometimes alleged. According to NBC News, the parents of a six-year-old survivor of the Newtown school shooting are suing the state of Connecticut for $100 million. It is not clear from the article whether the child was in one of the classroom’s where the shootings took place, but, given that hundreds of students were present at Sandy Hook Elementary School the day of the shooting, the state could be faced with billions of dollars in lawsuits. That would pay for a lot of armed guards and other security.
Certainly schools are responsible for children’s safety, but there are reasonable limits that should be acknowledged. At Sandy Hook measures were in place, including that guests had to be buzzed in. Nevertheless, according to news reports, the shooter broke in and within minutes murdered 20 children and six adults. The quick presence of police apparently hastened the shooter’s decision to kill himself.
Could the school or police have done more? That is a legitimate question. We do not yet know the full extent of measures taken at the school. It may be that the school was grossly negligent (in one sense, that’s why people do have to file lawsuits), but let us guard against overreacting, or we may find ourselves living in a prison-like society.
Consider every other place that might have to be protected: playgrounds, movie theaters, malls, supermarkets, parks, community centers, etc. Granted, police often patrol these areas, but consider also that most public places in America are not protected by armed guards. Do we really want every public place to be like an airport?
A billboard in New York City.
This holiday campaign by American Atheists, a secular organization, is frightfully hateful. It’s one thing to disagree about religion, but it’s another to want to offend. And there is something perverse about the campaign, on the level of the Westboro Baptist Church funeral protests, as if American Atheists is saying, “Look at what naughty thing we can do!” Oh, the glee.
I’m certain the group believes there is no better time to push their message; after all, think of the media attention it will draw (see here and here), but the campaign comes across as a pathetic attempt to start controversy… and no one is interested. Simply put, it’s the ultimate holiday buzzkill, nothing more.
Now, in the spirit of the times, I think I’ll find a five year old and tell her about Santa.