CRITICA MUSICAL / MUSICAL CRITIC

Um blog de Álvaro Sílvio Teixeira

2008/11/28

Olivier Messiaen - Turangalîla Symphonie (5th Movt)
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Cynthia Millar, Andrew Davis and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, play Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphonie, 5th Movt "Joy of the Blood of the Stars", at the 2001 Proms.

O banqueiro pedagogo

Estão a ver quem é João Rendeiro? O presidente do Banco Privado Português, aquele banco que tem 3000 clientes e que gere apenas grandes fortunas? O tal banco que está em processo de quase falência e que o Governo de Sócrates se prepara para salvar? Pois o banqueiro, para além de afirmar que vota habitualmente no PS, é ainda funcionário do Ministério da Economia, em licença sem vencimento. Não é que o banqueiro anda a ensinar às escolas públicas as técnicas de gestão que levaram o BPP ao estado que todos conhecemos? É verdade! Criou e dirige uma organização (EPIS), com o apoio do ME e de grandes empresas públicas e privadas que dá formação aos PCEs e conselhos executivos sobre as técnicas e formas de gestão e de organização "modernaças". Custa a acreditar, não é verdade?

2008/11/27

Big Bailouts, Bigger Bucks

Whenever I discussed the current bailout situation with people, I find they have a hard time comprehending the actual numbers involved. That became a problem while doing the research for the Bailout Nation book. I needed some way to put this into proper historical perspective.

If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars. People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let’s give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.

Jim Bianco of Bianco Research crunched the inflation adjusted numbers. The bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

(data courtesy of Bianco Research)

That is $686 billion less than the cost of the credit crisis thus far.

The only single American event in history that even comes close to matching the cost of the credit crisis is World War II: Original Cost: $288 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $3.6 trillion
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Bloomberg calculates the total amount the taxpayer is on the hook for is $7.76 trillion, or $24,000 for every man woman and child in the country.

By Barry Ritholtz

Insanity

Traditionally, insanity or madness is the behaviour whereby a person flouts societal norms and may become a danger to themself and others. Greek tragedies and Shakespeare often refer to madness in this sense. Psychologically, it is a general, popular and legal term defining behaviour influenced by mental instability. In modern usage, it is most commonly encountered as an informal, unscientific term, or in the narrow legal context of the insanity defense. In the medical profession the term is now avoided in favour of more specific diagnoses of mental illness such as schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. When discussing mental illness in general terms, "psychopathology" is also considered a preferred descriptor.

Casa Pia: festa de São João

23 de Novembro de 2007

Três anos após o início do maior julgamento de sempre em Portugal, no Departamento de Investigação e Acção Penal (DIAP) de Lisboa está já em curso um novo processo de inquérito, na sequência da existência de novos índicios de abusos sexuais, denunciados por jovens de pelo menos um dos lares de acolhimento da Casa Pia.

Porém, o caso não está a merecer qualquer tratamento especial, revela hoje o Público.

Numa polémica entrevista ao semanário Sol, a ex-Provedora da instituição, Catalina Pestana, afirmava existir uma rede interna de angariadores de crianças na Casa Pia. Suspeitas que, dias depois, acabaram por ser corroboradas pelo advogado ex-casapiano, Pedro Namora.

Fortes indícios de abusos sexuais recaem sobre um educador do lar Cruz Filipe, Paulo R., que acabou suspenso por “violação grave dos deveres gerais e do especial dever de protecção das crianças”.

Vários jovens acusam-no de transportar habitualmente alunos a casas particulares, em Lisboa, onde alegadamente decorrem os abusos.

Um deles, actualmente com 14 anos, garante ter sido abusado sexualmente em Julho, numa festa de São João, que habitualmente é organizada no ateliê do escultor Carlos Amador, em Belém. Na casa terão estado figuras conhecidas e artistas (ver caixa). *

Várias pessoas já foram ouvidas no âmbito do novo inquérito, incluindo a actual presidente da instituição, Joaquina Madeira. No passado dia 15, numa entrevista à RTP, a responsável admitiu que, face à recente suspensão do educador, existiam indícios de abusos sexuais envolvendo alunos da instituição, mas referia que nada se passou dentro da instituição.

Certo é que o novo escândalo suscitou a reacção do ministro do Trabalho e da Solidariedade Social, José Vieira da Silva, que acabou por garantir que todas as medidas administrativas tinham sido tomadas para que a situação fosse esclarecida.

* Quem estava na festa?

Rui Vieira Nery esteve na festa de São João onde jovens casapianos dizem ter sido abusados sexualmente, noticia o CM.

"Não vi nada. Nem sabia que lá estavam alunos da Casa Pia. O que vi foi um ateliê apinhado de gente. Com muitos amigos da casa, a maioria pessoas de muita idade e muita gente do bairro de diferentes gerações. Desde crianças de colo até aos avós".

O procurador-geral da República, Pinto Monteiro, deverá ainda hoje anunciar a criação de uma equipa multidisciplinar dedicada à investigação dos abusos sexuais. O CM adianta que a equipa poderá ter uma estrutura idêntica à do Apito Dourado.

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2008/11/26

Casa Pia: ex-secretária de Estado viu fotografias

11.01.2007 - 14h43 Lusa

A ex-secretária de Estado da Família Teresa Costa Macedo reafirmou hoje, em tribunal, que viu algumas fotografias que comprovavam a existência de abuso sexual de menores na Casa Pia, apreendidas em 1982 em casa do embaixador Jorge Ritto, em Cascais, mas não identificou nenhum adulto ou menor.

Teresa Costa Macedo disse que recebeu uma caixa amarela com fotografias, apreendida em casa de Jorge Ritto, onde foram encontrados três menores que tinham desaparecido da instituição em 1982.

A ex-governante contou que só viu a primeira e a segunda fotografia porque ficou "chocada" com o seu conteúdo.

Numa dessas fotografias, Teresa Costa Macedo disse que viu um adulto do sexo masculino em práticas sexuais com uma criança, mas não identificou os protagonistas.

Apercebendo-se de que as restantes fotografias "eram do mesmo género", e confessando-se "chocada com a situação", referiu ter enviado no mesmo dia a caixa para a Polícia Judiciária, que já estava a investigar outras denúncias e queixas apresentadas sobre alegados abusos sexuais.

Jaime Gama questionou "perseguição" a Jorge Ritto

Ainda sobre Jorge Ritto, a ex-secretária de Estado relatou que no início de 1984 — já no Governo do Bloco Central (PS/CDS) — recebeu um telefonema do então ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros, Jaime Gama, actual presidente da Assembleia da República, que a questionou sobre a razão de estar "a perseguir o diplomata Jorge Ritto".

Terá sido nessa ocasião — em que o Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros preparava a candidatura de Teresa Costa Macedo a um cargo directivo na União Internacional dos Organismos da Família — que Jaime Gama terá trocado impressões sobre o que se estava a passar na Casa Pia.

Macedo disse ter ficado com o pressentimento de que Jaime Gama lhe tinha falado de Jorge Ritto porque o diplomata se teria queixado de si numa altura em que decorriam as investigações da PJ sobre os menores encontrados na sua casa de Cascais.

Abusos eram conhecidos por todos

A ex-governante disse também que quando assumiu funções, em 1980, era do conhecimento geral da instituição (provedoria, directores, educadores e outros funcionários) que havia alunos da Casa Pia que se prostituíam no jardins de Belém.

A antiga secretária de Estado disse que quando tomou posse foi confrontada com uma carta enviada para o gabinete do então ministro Morais Leitão a dar conta das situações em que alunos mais velhos abusavam dos mais novos.

Tais factos chegaram a ser relatados à actual testemunha e ao antigo Presidente da República Ramalho Eanes aquando das comemorações dos 200 anos da instituição, quando quatro jovens da Casa Pia comunicaram uma série de abusos, carências e indisciplina.

A antiga governante explicou ainda as razões que levaram à exoneração do então provedor da Casa Pia Peixeiro Simões e à sua substituição por Batista Comprido, alegando que o primeiro "não tinha força e não estava a cumprir as suas orientações".

Papel de Carlos Silvino é conhecido desde a década de 80

Durante o seu depoimento, Teresa Costa Macedo, referiu ainda que no início da década de 80 era do conhecimento geral na instituição que um dos funcionários que aliciava os menores para práticas sexuais era Carlos Silvino ("Bibi"), que é hoje, passados mais de 20 anos, o principal arguido deste julgamento.

Confrontada com o teor das notícias no jornal semanário "Expresso", em Novembro de 2002, quando o escândalo rebentou, Teresa Costa Macedo disse que foram os provedores da instituição, nomeadamente Batista Comprido, que lhe falaram do envolvimento de personalidades da vida pública portuguesa no abuso de menores, mas sem revelar as suas identidades.

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2008/11/25

Casa Pia acusada de ignorar abusos sexuais durante décadas

No segundo dia das alegações finais do processo de pedofilia, o procurador João Aibéo leu dezenas de excertos da prova testemunhal prestada em julgamento por alunos, educadores e dirigentes da instituição que atestam uma «falta de controlo total» do paradeiro das crianças quando saíam da Casa Pia de Lisboa.

Relativamente a relatos de abusos feitos por alunos, João Aibéo referiu que eram desvalorizados pelos responsáveis, ou pior: «Batiam-lhes, diziam-lhes para se calar e que eram mentirosos. Foi isso que aconteceu durante décadas».
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Catalina Pestana terá dito que havia «uma Casa Pia até às seis da tarde e outra depois das seis da tarde, bem como uma Casa Pia ao dia de semana e outra aos fins-de-semana». in diariodigital.sapo.pt (25 de Novembro de 2008, 14:18)

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The Casa Pia child sexual abuse scandal

The Casa Pia child sexual abuse scandal refers to child abuses involving a number of children and employees at Casa Pia, a Portuguese state-run institution for the education and support of poor children and under-age orphans. Portuguese Judiciary Police (Polícia Judiciária) officials estimate that more than 100 boys and girls of the 4,600 pupils enrolled in Casa Pia at the time, including some deaf and mute, may have been sexually abused.
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The scandal of alleged sexual abuse at the state-run Casa Pia orphanages resurfaced when several former orphanage children came forward with accusations of abuse. The accusations linked some politicians, diplomats, and media celebrities — all of whom were alleged to have conspired in a pedophilia ring that had operated for decades. The scandal broke in September 2002 when the mother of one alleged victim, known as Joel, complained of abuse by staff at a Casa Pia house.

Former Casa Pia children came forward to publicly accuse several personalities of sexual abuse. The weekly magazine Visão reported that a Portuguese diplomat, Jorge Ritto, was removed from his post as consul in Stuttgart (1969-1971) after German authorities complained to Lisbon about his involvement with an under-age boy in a public park.

Accused were diplomat Jorge Ritto, Carlos Cruz (a famous Portuguese television presenter), Carlos Silvino (a.k.a. Bibi, an employee of Casa Pia and a former pupil in the institution) Ferreira Diniz (a physician from Lisbon), Hugo Marçal (a lawyer who was a defendant of Carlos Silvino in the early stages of the process) ...

Secretary of State for Labor and Training from 1999 to 2001, Paulo Pedroso, who was responsible for the Casa Pia homes, which care for some 4,600 children at 10 centers around Portugal, was suspected of 15 cases of sexual violence against minors, which allegedly took place between 1999 and 2000. His case was also subsequently dropped. In September 2008, a Portuguese court ordered the state to pay 100,000 euros ($140,000) to the ex-minister Paulo Pedroso, on the grounds that he was wrongly detained on paedophilia charges.

The Socialist Party leader at the time, Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, who was a close personal friend of Paulo Pedroso, offered to undergo police questioning after “he had learned of plans to implicate him in the [Casa Pia] scandal”. The weekly paper Expresso published a report on May 25, 2003 from four children who said they saw Ferro Rodrigues at locations where sexual abuse was taking place. The paper said there was no evidence he was personally involved and the Attorney General José Souto de Moura insisted he was not a suspect. Ferro Rodrigues took legal action against those who said they saw him at locations where sexual abuse was taking place. Rodrigues has said, “I want it to be clear: our fight will be serene but determined and it is and will only be directed at those who are responsible for this defamation, whatever their objective is.”

The Prime Minister at the time, José Manuel Durão Barroso, whose Social Democratic Party ousted the Socialists in March 2002, promised to bring life and honor back into the Casa Pia child's homes and allow new director Catalina Pestana to reform the institution. As a result, several senior staff of Casa Pia were fired after the 2002 revelations. However, Pestana, told parliament and the media, as late as 2007, that there may still be pedophiles in the Casa Pia system. She also criticised the legal changes made after the start of the trial, which she claims were made in order to help those who were present to court.

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2008/11/21

Luigi Nono - "... sofferte onde serene ..."
Markus Hinterhäuser performing Luigi Nono's ... sofferte onde serene ... for piano and tape (1976), recorded live at the Stadtkino in Salzburg in 1991

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2008/11/19

União Ibérica

Escritor Arturo Pérez-Reverte defende união de Portugal e Espanha

O escritor espanhol Arturo Pérez-Reverte defendeu a existência de uma Ibéria, um país único, sem fronteiras que separem Espanha e Portugal, porque é "um absurdo" que os dois países vivam "tão desconhecidos um do outro".

"Há uma Ibéria indiscutível que está entre os Pirinéus e o estreito de Gibraltar, com comida, raça, costumes, história em comum e as fronteiras são completamente artificiais", disse o escritor à agência Lusa, de passagem por Portugal a propósito do lançamento do romance "Um dia de cólera". in jn.sapo.pt (19 Novembro, 11h53m)

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2008/11/18

Freeport Case

Some of the relevant information in the Freeport investigation was obtained in England through administrative wiretaps, that is, allegedly made without the authorizations of a judge or of the British Secret Service.

This will be one of the issues addressed in tomorrow's meeting in Haia, the headquarters for Eurojust (EU Judiciary Cooperation), between the British and Portuguese police delegations and between British and Portuguese magistrates.

In Portugal, administrative wiretaps are not authorized. From Portugal, the attendees will be Cândida Almeida, from the Public Ministry, and Pedro Carmo and Moreira da Silva, both from PJ. The meeting was promoted by Eurojust after the English found money from the business in offshore companies based in that country.

The objective now is to formally exchange the available information, in order to understand if there was, or not, a payoff - estimated at €4 million - for the construction license for Freeport, in Alcochete, approved by the prior Council of Ministers for António Guterres when José Sócrates (current PM) was the secretary of state of the Environment. 16 November 2008 in the3arguidos.net


Now, police authorities in London have requested that a team be set up to investigate the case. However, the Procurator-General, Pinto Monteiro, has already refuted this idea, according to TSF radio.

So far, the British investigation into Freeport has detected accounts in British offshore banks as well as securities held by companies which have either been traced back to, or have links with, Portugal.

As a consequence, financial information has been collected that points to high sums of money being sent to a Lisbon lawyers office destined to various Portuguese personalities acting as business intermediaries. 09 October 2008 in portugalresident.com

Bottom of the pile

Europe's finance ministers have been put through their paces - not just by economic turmoil but also in this latest Financial Times guide to the guardians of the continent's public purses.
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There was, however, one last man standing: Finland's Jyrki Katainen emerges as winner. Finland is a sudden rarity in Europe - stable financially and still expected next year to run a healthy budget surplus.

Mr Katainen is not (yet) a household name much beyond Helsinki but, aged just 37, cuts a slick figure. In October last year - before concerted action to save the world was all the rage - he called at the International Monetary Fund for the world to demonstrate that multilateral institutions and cooperation were "indeed relevant in an increasingly integrated global economy". He was also not afraid to take on Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, criticising him last month for consulting initially just with leaders of other big European countries. "We're all in the same boat," Mr Katainen insisted.

Chance probably played a role. "Maybe Finland has been lucky in not being in the middle of all these problems," says Robert Bergqvist, chief economist at SEB in Stockholm and a member of the judging panel. As a eurozone member, Finland was not at risk of a local foreign exchange crisis. Like other Nordic countries, Finns were seared by a banking crisis in the 1990s, an episode few want repeated.

Those who fared less well might also complain about the rules of our competition, which extends this year to some non-eurozone economies, including the UK and Sweden, covering 19 of the European Union's 28 member states. Economic performance, for example, is judged over five-year periods - longer than many ministers survive. There is an emphasis on reducing deficits and cutting taxes - not always best for economic stability. Then again, past prudence creates more scope for fiscal stimulus packages now. Countries that started off in a strong position also had a harder time showing improvements.

Yet the guide - though not to be taken completely seriously - does show how the job of a finance minister has become more exacting, demanding a broader range of skills. "There are people like Steinbrück and some others who are instinctively conservative fiscally, so they had their houses in order," observes Erik Nielsen, European economist at Goldman Sachs and another jury member. "But when the depth of the crisis became apparent, they remained rather conservative.

"On the other hand, those who came out swinging in terms of policy response had been rather looser on the fiscal side during the good times." Maybe, Mr Nielsen concludes, "nobody has the complete wisdom".

Still, there was room for others besides Mr Katainen to excel. Sweden's Anders Borg has earned respect across Europe for his grasp of economics and the lessons his country offered from its 1990s experiences. Wouter Bos of the Netherlands proved adept at crisis management and the Dutch economy is not faring too badly either.

Elsewhere, Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs meetings of eurozone finance ministers, won praise for his commitment to European economic integration - but fell below the radar when it came last month to co-ordinating the continent's bank rescue plans, allowing the French and the British to steal the political show.

Others have disappointed more deeply. Spain's Pedro Solbes, a former EU monetary affairs commissioner, has left the European stage largely to others, at a time when Spain's fortunes are fast deteriorating. Ireland's Brian Lenihan was rated for his lucidity in the crisis - but a unilateral pledge in September to guarantee the debts and deposits of the largest Irish lenders raised hackles across the continent.

Bottom of the pile came Portugal's Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, dragged down by a poor national economic performance and his low European profile. in ft.com

2008/11/11

György Sándor Ligeti - Lux Aeterna

Lux Aeterna for 16 solo voices


Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tui in aeternum quia pius es.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.


Chor des Norddeutschen Rundfunks Hamburg, Dir. Helmut Franz, Recording: 1968 in youtube.com/user/musicaergosum

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Ligeti - Lux Aeterna
György Sándor Ligeti (May 28, 1923 - June 12, 2006) was a Romanian born 20th century composer. Born to a Hungarian-speaking Jewish family, he briefly lived in Hungary before later becoming an Austrian citizen. Kammerchor Stuttgart, Dir. Frieder Bernius in youtube.com/user/gppkoq

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120.000

Tens of thousands of teachers took to the streets of Lisbon Saturday to protest against education reforms implemented by the Socialist government, among them a new system for assessing their competence.

Unions said that the demonstration, backed by both left wing and right wing opposition parties, drew 120,000 people, or about 80 percent of the teaching profession, according to local press estimates.

A protest in Lisbon in March was attended by 100,000 people.

The teachers were demonstrating against reforms that took effect with the current school year, in particular new procedures for assessments required for promotion.

These take into account results obtained by teachers' pupils and according to the teachers increase their workload.

They are also unhappy about new timetables. Unions say there will be protests in regional capitals at the end of the month and a national day-long strike in January. in france24.com/en (Saturday, November 8, 2008 - 23:00)


LISBON (Reuters) - More than 100,000 teachers from all over Portugal marched in Lisbon Saturday in one of the country's biggest rallies in a decade to protest against the government's attempts to measure their performance.

Portugal has some of the lowest school achievement levels in western Europe and the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Socrates has made boosting education a priority. That includes performance evaluation for teachers.

Protesters, carrying banners reading "Respect for Teaching," demanded that the government cancel the program. They say the appraisals and excessive bureaucracy involved in the process all but paralysed schools, causing stress and lack of motivation among teachers and students.

Unions said as many as 120,000 people took part in the demonstration that clogged Lisbon's main Liberdade avenue and the vast Palace Square facing the Tagus river.

Police officials could not confirm the number, saying it was difficult to calculate "given the size of the protest," but witnesses said the crowd was in excess of 100,000 people.

Some of the banners called for the resignation of Education Minister Maria de Lurdes Rodrigues.

The minister said the evaluation model would continue despite the promise of further protests and a nationwide teachers' strike on January 19.

"We have to guarantee to the country the quality of schooling, which will allow us to distinguish and reward those who are better teachers," Lusa news agency quoted Rodrigues as saying. "Giving up is not a solution ... The improvement of teaching is absolutely essential." in uk.reuters.com (Sat Nov 8, 2008 9:14pm GMT)


Portugal’s teachers have descended on Lisbon en masse. More than 100,000 staff from all over the country gathered for a rally in the centre of the Portuguese capital.

They are furious at the socialist government’s education policies in general, and a new method of assessing teachers’ performance in particular – introduced for the first time this year.

Although they do not question the need for evaluation, they argue that the system as it stands is too bureaucratic, and difficult to operate fairly. But that is not the only issue which sparked such a huge turnout.

They are also unhappy with their work timetable, the way jobs are distributed, and the status of teachers in Portugal. in euronews.net (08/11/08, 19:22 CET)

2008/11/07

Olivier Messiaen - Liturgie de cristal
First part of Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time". Recorded 30 November 1991. in youtube.com/user/JanPB

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An unimaginable situation

An estimated 5.4 million people dead since 1998

Around 1 million people made homeless

Rape used as a systematic weapon of war

Until recently, a fragile peace had seen some people begin to return to their homes, though many more continued to remain in camps.

But renewed violence has forced some 200,000 people to flee their homes since August 2008. Reports indicate that another 20,000 men, women and children have been displaced in recent weeks (October 2008).

The five-year conflict

The 1998-2003 conflict in the DR Congo saw huge loss of life. Four million people died, some as a direct result of the violence, but many more from starvation and disease.

The war was between government forces, backed by Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, and rebel factions, supported by Rwanda and Uganda.

Fighting was fuelled by the DR Congo’s vast mineral resources and by the flow of small arms into the country.

Continued instability

Despite the signing of a peace deal in 2002, and democratic elections in 2006, there is still instability in the east of the country.

Since the end of August 2008, intense fighting has resumed between government forces (FARDC) and the rebel CNDP, leaving the peace process that began in Goma in January 2008 in tatters. This fresh wave of violence, culminating in an armed standoff outside the town on 29 October, has forced hundreds of thousands more people from their homes in a region where over a million were already displaced, and has hampered access to very many of those affected. in oxfam.org.uk

2008/11/05

2008/11/04

The longest presidential campaign in US history ended this morning with long voting queues developing before breakfast in a precursor of what officials expect to be record turnout.

Barack Obama made his final appeal last night to a Virginia crowd estimated at 90,000, while John McCain ended his election-eve sprint in his home state of Arizona at 3am. Conscious of likely polling delays, voters in several US states began queuing up to make their choice before the sun rose. Voters in some areas of Virginia were forming lines from 4am, two hours before the polls opened.
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Most national and state polls show the Democrat poised for a decisive victory in the race to capture 270 of the 538 electoral votes required to take the White House.
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Officials are prepared for a record voter turnout, expecting as many as 140 million Americans to come out for Obama and McCain. The previous turnout high was 121 million voters, reached four years ago. in guardian.co.uk (November 04 2008 14.01 GMT)

Might Afghanistan be the point at which Europe calls an end to fighting wars declared in Washington? Do we risk defeat in Afghanistan only because the terrain is tough, or because Nato, without the cold war enemy, is unsustainable? This question, lurking since the collapse of communism, will be posed with some urgency, whether Europe finds itself dealing with Obamaland or McCainia. The paradox is that a more congenial and communicative partner could foster straighter talking – and with it mutual recognition that it may be time for our two destinies to move apart. Mary Dejevsky in independent.co.uk, 4 November 2008 (Photo: REUTERS/JASON REED. Obama speaks during his final campaign rally before the US presidential election in Manassas, Virginia, 3 November / November 5 photo's from independent.co.uk )

2008/11/03

Stoned to Death

KISMAYU, Somalia - Somali Islamists have stoned to death a woman accused of adultery in the first such public killing by the militants for about two years, witnesses said.

The 23-year-old woman was placed in a hole up to her neck for the execution late on Monday in front of hundreds of people in a square of the southern port of Kismayu, which the Islamist insurgents captured in August.

Stones were hurled at her head, and she was brought out of the hole three times to see if she had died.

When a relative and others surged forward, guards opened fire, killing a child, the witnesses said.

"A woman in green veil and black mask was brought in a car as we waited to watch the merciless act of stoning," one local resident, Abdullahi Aden, told Reuters.

"We were told she submitted herself to be punished, yet we could see her screaming as she was forcefully bound, legs and hands. A relative of hers ran towards her, but the Islamists opened fire and killed a child." in uk.reuters.com (Oct 28, 2008 10:49am GMT)

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2008/11/01

Zuerst die Füsse (Feet First)

Ban

Corinne Diserens, the Swiss head of the Museion museum of contemporary art at Bolzano in the Italian Alps, was “released from her duties with immediate effect” by the new provincial government in Alto Adige after local elections.

The decision was a result of “the difficult financial situation” caused in part by “unauthorised spending”, officials said. Reports indicated that the museum was running a budget deficit of €500,000 (£390,000).

Supporters of Ms Diserens, including Hans Heiss, the head of the local Green Party, said that the real reason was “the row over the frog”.

The wooden sculpture by the late German artist Martin Kippenberger depicts a 4ft frog wearing a green loin cloth. It is nailed to a brown cross with a beer mug in one outstretched hand and an egg in the other. Its tongue hangs out of its mouth. in Times Online


It's sad to see the Catholic church lose the appetite for modern art that has served it so well since it commissioned a young, untried painter to create that masterpiece of wilful self-expression and rampant nudity, the Sistine ceiling.

The Pope's call for an Italian museum to take German artist Martin Kippenberger's crucified frog off display is not just stupid - how can Catholicism really be menaced by one work of art? And are Italians really to be denied free thought? - but a betrayal of the Vatican's excellent record of appreciating modernism.

Unlike Protestantism, which began as an attack on "idolatrous" images, Catholicism believes in and trusts the power of the image. Its own traditions are experimental. Caravaggio created his great art of the street and the body as propaganda for the counter-reformation: since the sixteenth century, the church has always been ready to dare to portray the Christian narrative in more outrageous ways to keep it vital. In the twentieth century, it bought paintings by Francis Bacon and Salvador Dalí for the Vatican museum and got Matisse and Le Corbusier to design Catholic chapels.

A few days ago I stood astounded by bizarre popular art in churches in Sicily that included an altar decorated with human shin bones. When Damien Hirst makes religious art in the same vein, he's simply paying homage to existing, everyday Catholic images.

So what's so shocking about a frog? Perhaps the German Pope has a secret Lutheran impulse. But, in fact, Kippenberger is a totally subversive artist who believed in nothing, insulted everything. Most modern art that takes on religious subject matter - even Bacon's paintings, though he was an atheist - has a respect for its human seriousness.

The church can appropriate any modern art that has the least hint of gravitas. What it can't deal with so easily is blatant irreverence. No one is going to be drawn to the faith by a crucified frog. (Photograph: Museion Museum/Reuters) in JJ's blog

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