New York Times, By Alison Smale, January 8
Berlin — At least 231 children who sang in a boys’ choir led for 30 years by the brother of former Pope Benedict XVI were abused over a period of almost four decades, a lawyer investigating reports of wrongdoing said Friday.
The lawyer, Ulrich Weber, who was commissioned by the choir to look into accusations of beatings, torture or sexual abuse, said he thought that the actual abuse was even more widespread.
At a news conference in Regensburg, Bavaria, where the choir traces its roots to the year 975, Mr. Weber estimated that from 1953 to 1992, every third member of the choir and an attached school suffered some kind of physical abuse.
He attributed the beatings and other mistreatment mostly to Johann Meier, director of a lower school attached to the choir from 1953 until his retirement in 1992. Mr. Meier died suddenly later that year, Mr. Weber said. A 1987 investigation of reported abuse did not prompt the choir’s leaders to remove Mr. Meier or take other action, the lawyer said.
Asked whether Benedict’s brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, who conducted the Regensburg choir from 1964 to 1994, had known of the abuse, Mr. Weber said, “After my research, I must assume so.”
Documents show Cardinal Dolan — top U.S. Catholic official — shielded pedophile priests
Iceland Magazine, December 14
A new opinion poll by Market and Media Research (MMR) shows a very solid support for Iceland’s Pirate Party as the country’s far most popular party. According to the poll the Pirates have the support of 35.3% of the nation making them 12.6 points larger than the party in second place.
MMR has now measured the Pirates as Iceland’s most popular party for nine consecutive months. This big support for the Pirates has been very consistent in all opinion polls published in 2015.
The Pirates received 5.1% of votes in the 2013 elections. Iceland’s next genereal elections are planned in the spring of 2017.
The Intercept, By Martin Untersinger, December 12
JUST HOURS INTO A TERRORIST ATTACK that started on the evening of Nov. 13, and would eventually claim 130 lives, François Hollande announced that France was reestablishing border controls, and used a 1955 law to proclaim a state of emergency.
This 60-year-old law gives French law enforcement wide and sweeping powers, freeing them from much of the normal judicial oversight. The law gives prefects, the French government’s local representatives, the ability to place people under house arrest, based merely on the suspicion of the intelligence service that they pose a threat to national security. They can also order police raids targeting any place where they think information about terrorism may be found, without a warrant.
Initially intended to last 12 days, the state of emergency was extended on November 19 for an additional three months by both chambers of parliament. During the vote in the lower house, only six MPs voted against the extension.
In some instances, the concrete consequences of the state of emergency border on the Kafkaesque. There’s this man, who was challenging the requirement that he report frequently to a police station (one of the other features of the state of emergency law). Because his court hearing to challenge the requirement was late, he showed up 40 minutes past the time he was supposed to be at the police station. He was immediately detained. Then there’s this man, who was placed under house arrest in southwestern France because he was suspected of being a radical Muslim — except he is a devout Catholic. The police also raided a halal restaurant for no apparent reason.
Since last month’s attacks, there have been some 2,500 police raids, and nearly a thousand people have been arrested or detained. French local and national press are now full of reports of questionable police raids. So outrageous were some cases that the French Interior Ministry had to send a letter to all prefects reminding them to “abide by the law.”
Anti-capitalists take over climate protest to rail against ban on marches imposed after terror attacks on city.
The Guardian, By Karl Mathiesen, November 29
A day of celebration and hope in Paris disintegrated into rioting and clashes with police on Sunday, after anti-capitalists and anarchists hijacked a peaceful event organised by climate activists earlier in the day.
About 200 protesters, some wearing masks, fought with police on a street leading to la place de la République, which has become a gathering place for Parisians since the terror attacks on 13 November that killed 130 people. Witnesses said floral and other tributes were trampled in the melee.
About 100 protesters were arrested and the gathering was cleared by police using batons and teargas.
Earlier on Sunday, there had been a carnival atmosphere in the square before the climate summit due to begin on the city’s outskirts on Monday. Thousands of shoes, including a pair belonging to Pope Francis, had been symbolically laid in the square to represent a climate march that was cancelled by authorities after the terror attacks.
The Guardian Live Blog: Global climate march 2015: hundreds of thousands march around the world – as it happened
ABC.au, By Peter Burton, November 17
What impact will the attacks have on the Paris Climate Change Conference scheduled to begin in 12 days?
While already complicated, the talks will now take place within a state of emergency that is threatening to limit public participation.
Events in Paris continue to unfold at a dizzying pace. But in the coming days we will learn a lot by paying attention to how parties use (and abuse) the language of freedom and liberty.
French authorities reportedly asked the company to block certain content.
Mother Jones, By Josh Harkinson, November 17
Over the past three days, Twitter has been preventing its users in France from viewing certain images and keywords related to the Paris attacks. The censorship, first reported today by the French newspaper Le Monde, applies to a keyword used by supporters of the Islamic State, tweets advocating terrorism, and, more controversially, graphic photographs taken inside the Bataclan after the terrorist attacks there left dozens dead.
On Sunday, France’s National Police used its Twitter account to ask social media users not to contribute to “the spread of photos of crime scenes,” out of “respect for victims and their families.” It encouraged Twitter users to send links to photos from the Bataclan massacre to PHAROS, a government website that compiles reports of illegal online activity.
On the same day, French law enforcement officials sent a request directly to Twitter, demanding the removal of certain tweets, according to Lumen, a Harvard University database of government takedown requests. The reasons the authorities gave for the request were a “serious attack on human dignity (images of cadavers)” and “secrecy of the investigation.”
“France has become nothing short of a nightmare when it comes to free speech,” says Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University. “The French government has aggressively rolled back free speech protections for years. I never thought I would see the day when France would become the leader in censorship and the criminalization of speech, however, it has become precisely that.”
AP, November 4
Bucharest, Romania — The latest on the fire in a Romanian nightclub that killed more than 30 people, and the political crisis it has set off. All times local.
More than 10,000 people have gathered for a second day in Bucharest and cities around Romania calling for early elections after Prime Minister Victor Ponta and his government resigned in the wake of a deadly nightclub fire.
Protesters massed late Wednesday in University Square in downtown Bucharest, a traditional site for anti-government rallies, calling for early elections and better governance.
Calling on others to join the protest, they yelled: “Get out of your homes if you care!” And “Don’t be afraid, the country is rising up!”
They marched later toward the Parliament. Protesters also took to the streets in the cities of Cluj, Timisoara and Constanta.
VentureBeat, By Paul Sawers, October 27
The European Parliament has passed controversial net neutrality legislation that could lead to a two-tier Internet.
The new legislation was originally designed to ensure an open and level-playing field to “protect the right of every European to access Internet content, without discrimination.” In effect, the new rules should have prevented Internet companies from blocking or “throttling” content, services, or apps, and charging companies or people more to restore parity. However, there is plenty of wiggle room in the legislation to cause concern.
There are loopholes that separate out “specialized” or “innovative” services, including Internet TV (e.g. video streaming), high-definition (HD) video conferencing, and some health care services. These loopholes are — in theory — designed to support bandwidth-intensive services such as remote telesurgery, but the language contained within the legislation is vague and open to the creation of fast-lanes whereby some companies can pay for faster Internet.
Summit comes after three front-line states threatened to close borders if northern EU countries stop accepting refugees.
Al Jazeera, October 25
European Union and Balkan leaders are holding emergency talks on Europe’s refugee crisis amid threats from three front-line states to close their borders if northern EU countries stop accepting refugees.
The summit on Sunday, called by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, groups the heads of 10 EU nations, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in addition to the leaders of Albania, Serbia and Macedonia.
The meeting came after Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia on Saturday warned they would not allow themselves to become a “buffer zone” for the tens of thousands of arrivals streaming into Europe.
“All three countries … are ready if Germany and Austria and other countries close their borders […], we will be ready to also close our borders at that very same moment,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said after talks between the three Balkan leaders in Sofia.
New York Times, By Rick Lyman, October 25
Warsaw — Poland’s chief right-wing opposition party, out of power for nearly a decade, came roaring back in parliamentary voting Sunday, apparently seizing control of the government with a platform that mixes calls for higher wages with appeals to traditional Catholic values.
Private exit polls, released immediately after voting ended Sunday evening, showed the party, Law and Justice, drawing 39.1 percent of the vote, trouncing Civic Platform, the center-right party that has led Poland since 2007, which got 23.4 percent.
Law and Justice immediately declared victory and Civic Platform conceded defeat, although the final results will not be made official until Tuesday.
“Polish life can be different,” said Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Law and Justice. “We can be proud of it. We will never have to be ashamed of ourselves, as we did many times in the past, through no fault of ours.”
In an especially telling result, highlighting how Poland was joining many regional neighbors in a shift to the right, none of the country’s left-wing or social democratic parties appeared to have qualified for seats in Parliament for the first time in Poland’s post-communist history.
RT, October 24
At least 40 people were injured after a massive rally attended by some 5,000 people ended in disorder near the parliament building in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica. Police fired tear gas as protestors reportedly attempted to break in.
The rally began peacefully, as demonstrators called for an interim government and snap election in the country, which won its independence from Serbia in 2006.
However, tensions began to rise as the crowd reached the parliament building, which had been cordoned off by the police. Some protesters began allegedly throwing firecrackers at the building, after which police demanded that the demonstrators vacate the venue.
A video posted on YouTube shows a group of hooded protesters hurling Molotov cocktails and stones at the police.
Constitutional crisis looms after anti-austerity Left is denied parliamentary prerogative to form a majority government
The Telegraph, By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, October 23
Portugal has entered dangerous political waters. For the first time since the creation of Europe’s monetary union, a member state has taken the explicit step of forbidding eurosceptic parties from taking office on the grounds of national interest.
Anibal Cavaco Silva, Portugal’s constitutional president, has refused to appoint a Left-wing coalition government even though it secured an absolute majority in the Portuguese parliament and won a mandate to smash the austerity regime bequeathed by the EU-IMF Troika.
He deemed it too risky to let the Left Bloc or the Communists come close to power, insisting that conservatives should soldier on as a minority in order to satisfy Brussels and appease foreign financial markets.
Democracy must take second place to the higher imperative of euro rules and membership.
Novara Media: 4 Things You Need to Know About Portugal’s Political Crisis
BBC, September 27
Pro-independence parties in Spain’s Catalonia region have won an absolute majority in regional elections, near complete results show.
With more than 90% of the votes counted, the main separatist alliance and a smaller party won 72 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament.
They said earlier a majority would allow them to declare independence from Spain unilaterally within 18 months.
The central government in Madrid has pledged to block such moves in court.
AFP, September 23
Barcelona – Catalonia’s leader Artur Mas says the region will not need a referendum to break away from Spain if pro-separatist candidates win a majority of votes in Sunday’s regional election.
As tension mounts between the rich northeastern region and the Spanish government, Mas told AFP in an interview how he wants his drive for Catalan independence to play out after the vote.
If pro-separatist candidates win, Catalonia will declare independence in 18 months or two years, he said, warning that Catalonia will not pay its share of Spain’s debt if Madrid does not agree.
He said he did not want to make threats, but felt compelled to defend himself against a “campaign of intimidation” by opponents trying to “influence the vote”.
One of my favorite blogs is Justin Smith. He’s always worth reading but this is particularly good.
One of the memes circling around the French Internet shows the mayor of the town of Roanne telling a huddled group of refugees that they cannot stay, since they are not Christian. “Neither are you,” is the reply.
Yes, some people are so ignorant as to believe that all Syrians are Muslims, but the most relevant clarification is not that some are not, but that that is irrelevant to the refugee crisis.
At the popular level in Europe, there is both dispiriting xenophobia and its opposite, a seemingly unprecedented preparedness to welcome the refugees and to take responsibility for their well-being. State officials have so far tended to play to the interests of the xenophobes, mostly not by expressing outward xenophobia (with plenty of exceptions of course, as with the mayor of Roanne, or with Hungarian president Viktor Orbán), but by classic buck-passing, insisting that the crisis is someone else’s problem. This is particularly the case for the poorer countries of the EU to its south and east, which are of course also the countries that are so placed as to first receive the refugees travelling by land (and, more perilously, by water). The absence of any obvious authority, either at the union-wide level or in each individual member state, reveals, like no other situation has since the EU’s expansion to include former Soviet Bloc states, that transnational body’s utter impotence and irrelevance.
American liberals and progressives love to fawn over the great liberal democracies of northern Europe with their advanced welfare states and their commitment to fair distribution of resources to all citizens. Yet as long as these societies continue to adhere to a sharp political and moral distinction between citizens and outsiders, between those who are in the system and those who are outside of it, what they have accomplished is scarcely any more worthy of praise than the sort of ‘socialism’ we see practiced within major corporations. European social democracies that extend medical care and education to everyone who has theirpapers in order, while expelling irregular migrants in nighttime raids and strong-armed police operations, are not truly egalitarian societies, but protection rackets. The extent that European citizens are today, en masse, resisting this arbitrary distinction between citizen and non-citizen, in order to come to the direct aid of the Syrian refugees, is precisely the extent to which Europe is living up to its claim to be Christian.