The refugee crisis isn’t about refugees. It’s about us | Ai Weiwei

10 hours ago

I was a child refugee. I know how it feels to live in a camp, rob of my humanity, says the artist and activist Ai Weiwei

A guidebook to Trump-speak: think ‘bloke talking aloud in the pub’

3 days ago

From overly defensive Sigmar Gabriel to delusional Michael Gove, politicians are misreading the president-elects utterances

Taken literally, Donald Trumps latest believes about the world, as retailed to the British politician Michael Gove, are frightening for Europe, the EU and Nato. But considered dispassionately, his comments are the most recent example of Trump-speak, a loose, untutored language form that politicians and envoys must now quickly learn to decipher.

As has by now been well established, Trump-speak should be taken seriously, but not literally. Large pinches of salt, interspersed with reality checks and deep breaths, are involved. The hasty, too defensive reaction on Monday of Germanys deputy chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, to Trumps suggestion the EU could disintegrate is not the way to run. Trump could and probably will say the exact opposite tomorrow.

Trump-speak is typically off the cuff, unconsidered, contradictory, strongly conveyed and essentially transitory. It mixes long-held beliefs and prejudices with barely grasped facts and dawning realities. Its like a bloke talking aloud in the pub who only read this stuff in the paper.

So, for example, Trump revealed to Gove that he has discovered matters were not going well in Afghanistan. I have just looked at something, he said. Oh, I should not show you it at all, because its secret but I have just taken a look at Afghanistan … And you ask yourself, Whats going on there? Well, yes actually, you do.

Trump-speak is a thought-stream , not a logical or rational process. It blithely blunders into sensitive issues. It wings it, blurts and stumbles. It induces stuff up as it goes along. And it typically absence solid conclusions, leading interlocutors nowhere. The crucial thing about Trump-speak is that it is rarely his last word.

Weighing Trump-speak for subtle diplomatic subtleties, calculated hints and cloaked policy switchings is a mugs game. Thus Goves gleeful declaration that Trump had bolstered Theresa May by promising a fast-track, post-Brexit trade deal with the US looks like delusional over-interpretation.

This is the same Trump who has failed so far to fix a date to meet Britains prime minister but who found time for Gove, sacked by May, and Ukips Nigel Farage. Trump says hes a big fan of the UK. But his Scottish golf course aside, Britains interests barely register on his radar.

The Chinese have a similar interpreting problem. They find Trump-speak on Taiwan to be deeply troubling. State media are talking angrily about nuclear war. On Monday, Beijing said it would take the gloves off if Trump persisted with his heretical ideas.

But the Chinese are misreading the subject. To the extent that Trump has considered the matter at all, he appears to position Taiwan in the context of unfair US-China trade. Despite asserting his right to do so, he did not gratify Taiwans president when she transited the US last week. He could be plotting recognition of an independent Taiwan. But probably not.

Likewise on Iran, Trump says Barack Obama cut a terrible nuclear deal in 2015. His statements have provoked intense speculation in Tehran about malign US aims and defiant, pre-emptive warnings by Iranian leaders. Their misstep is to take him at his Twitter word. What seems to concern Trump most is not Israels future security. Its the money the US repaid to Tehran as part of the deal.

In Trump-speak, Nato is both obsolete and important. US and Russian nuclear arsenals must be reduced substantially, although he has previously demanded a large US expansion. Angela Merkel, Germanys chancellor, is simultaneously fantastic and catastrophic.

Trump told Gove he was undecided about who he would support in Germanys September federal election raising the scandalising possibility that he might publicly take sides. And if in Germany, why not in France? Was Marine Le Pen, the Front Nationals presidential nominee, simply taking coffee at Trump Tower last week? Or was Trump conspiring with her? In the equivocal world of Trump-speak, anything is possible , nothing is certain.

Trump-speak says, repeatedly, that the US embassy in Israel will definitely move to Jerusalem until, suddenly this week, it is not up for discussion. It says the future prospects of North Korean nuclear missiles threatening the US mainland is not going to happen. Kim Jong-un, North Koreas paranoid dictator, thinks it will. So what next? Trump-speak is silent.

On Iraq, Trump is consistent but clueless. The 2003 invasion was the worst ever decision in history. US policy, he said, was akin to hurling boulders into a beehive. On Syria, Trump-speak is all over the place. The president-elect must have had a briefing, because he now favours security zones presumably, the safe havens plan favoured by Hillary Clinton.

It was terrible to shoot old ladies in Aleppo, Trump said on that, all can agree. But Trump says he trusts the shooter, Vladimir Putin, and looking ahead to doing great things with Russia. What this may mean is anybodys guess, although the Russian president likely has his own notions. A Nato pullback in eastern Europe for starters.

Trump-speak is whatever Trump believes US policy should be at any given moment. This is not inevitably how policy is or how it will be. Trump-speak is the exact opposite of George Orwells newspeak, which was all about thought control and limiting alternative ideas and choices. It is thus essentially chaotic.

Trump-speak is more akin to doublespeak. Working out what the next US president actually thinks, when he often appears not to know himself, is going to be a full-time job.

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Donald Trump says US could re-enter Paris climate deal

6 days ago

In ITV interview US president also says he would take tougher stand on Brexit than Theresa May

Martin Scorsese film recalls martyrdom of Japan’s hidden Christians

One week ago

Ban on Christianity in early 1600 s, the focus of movie called Silence, forced converts to practise in secret, leading to a localised sort of the religion still practised by a few dozen people today

At low tide, Shigetsugu Kawakami can just about make out the prohibited stone from his home overlooking the beach in Neshiko, a tiny village on Hirado island in southern Japan.

According to verbal testimony, at least 70 villagers were taken there and beheaded in the early 17 th century. Their crime had been to convert to Christianity. When we were children, the adults told us that if we climbed on to the rock the village would be cursed, said Kawakami.

Today, ascension rock is a permanent reminder of the atrocities of almost four centuries ago. But the martyrdom of Japans concealed Christians is in danger of being forgotten.

Tens of thousands of Japanese Christians were executed, tortured and persecuted after the Tokugawa shogunate banned the religion in the early 1600 s. With a wary eye on Spanish rule in the Philippines, the authorities dreaded Japan could be the next country targeted by European powers that used Christian teaches as a catalyst for colonial rule.

The ban left Japans 750,000 converts with a selection: renounce their religion or continue to practise their religion in secret, in the knowledge that discovery would almost certainly mean death.

Discussion of Japans Christian heritage has largely been absent from public life since the mid-1 960 s, when Shusaku Endo explored the martyrdom of early converts in his critically acclaimed novel Silence.

Now, Martin Scorsese hopes to ensure their narrative will not be forgotten with a cinema based on Endos novel that is due for release next year.

Starring Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield, the cinema also called Silence follows two Portuguese Jesuit missionaries who are sent to Japan in the early 1600 s to investigate reports that their mentor has committed apostasy. They arrive to find Japanese converts in the midst of a brutal crackdown by the Tokugawa shogunate.

While no official records are kept of the number of modern-day kakure kirishitan ( hidden Christians ), local experts say perhaps merely a few dozen people still consider themselves believers.

Once its saviour, clandestine adore has contributed to a sharp decline in the number of believers. Blended with dwindling, ageing populations on the islands where it once prospered, disciples fear their crypto-Christian tradition is at risk of dying out.

Kawakami, 64, is one of the few concealed Christians who is happy to talk publicly about his faith. We dont practise our faith in public because we are effectively still in hiding, he said. We usually remain quiet and never out ourselves as Christians by appearing on Tv or giving interviews. We dont hold special ceremonies or pray in public. In fact, we dont do anything that would risk dedicating ourselves away.

Remote southern islands such as Hirado demonstrated fertile ground for Catholicism after St Francis Xavier and other missionaries introduced it to Japan in 1549. After a nationwide prohibit was enforced in the early 1600 s, converts devised ingenious ways to keep their religion alive.

They gathered in private homes to conduct religion ceremonies, and figurines of the Virgin mary were altered to resemble the Buddha or Japanese dolls. To the uneducated ear, their prayers voiced like Buddhist sutras, even though they contained a mix of Latin, Portuguese and obscure Japanese dialects. Scripture was passed on orally, since keeping bibles was considered too great a risk. None wore traverses or other religion accoutrements.

The need for secrecy during the course of its 250 years that Christianity was banned meant the version of the religion observed by Kawakamis ancestors little resemblance to its mainstream Catholic origins. Instead, early Japanese Christians incorporated elements of Buddhism and Shinto into their faith until it became a polytheistic creed of its own.

In many styles it was a very Japanese version of Christianity, said Shigeo Nakazono, curator of the Shima no Yakata museum on Ikitsuki, an island near Hirado.

But even this localised sort of Christianity met with fierce opposition from the Shogunate authorities, who devised a singularly cruel exam of loyalty to uncover converts. Suspects were ordered to prove they were not Christians by trampling on fumie images of Christ or the Virgin Mary engraved from stone or wood or face being hanged upside down over a cavity and slowly bled to death.

When the Meiji government lifted the prohibition in 1873, an estimated 30,000 secret Christians came out of hide. Now, Christians of all denominations make up less than 1% of Japans population of 128 million.

Japan was coming under the influence of European industry and technology, and that meant that old objections to Christianity weakened, Nakazono said.

Nakazono wondered whether Scorseses film would bide true to Endos novel, which some have criticised for being preoccupied with martyrdom. If all hidden Christians had been martyrs, there would have been none left, he said. But there were enough people willing to stamp on the fumie , denounce Christianity and then pray God for forgiveness.

At Neshiko beach, ascension stone physical proof that there were those who refused to abandon their faith is half submerged by the incoming tide. Even today, centuries after the last executing, locals remove their shoes before defining foot on the beachs fine white sand as a sign of respect.

Like the rites of the kakure kirishitan , the memories of the executed converts have been preserved by word of mouth a tradition that devotes Kawakami hope that their courage, and faiths, will not be forgotten.

We feel we have a duty to pass it on to future generations, he said. This is something our ancestors risked their lives to tell us.

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Atheists who bring logic to the Easter story are missing the point | Julian Baggini

15 days ago

Having faith is a complex business. To assume that religious people are either crazy or stupid is lazy, says philosopher Julian Baggini

Many years ago, I had to recount the life of Jesus to a young Taiwanese student who knew nothing about Christianity. As I told him about the virgin birth, the miracles, crucifixion and resurrection, he responded with incredulous laughter.

Most nonbelievers in traditionally Christian cultures would prove a bit more respect. But inside, our reaction is often pretty much the same: how can people actually believe this stuff? Rising from the grave isn’t even the most preposterous part of the Easter tale. Far more bizarre is the claim that God had to send his son to die for our sins. And if God genuinely wanted the whole of humanity to heed his message, why did the resurrected Christ merely reveals himself to a few select people before ascending to heaven?

Vociferous atheists don’t shy away from revealing their mock bemusement at all this. Those of us who induce decided efforts to understand and debate with religious believers might be too polite to acknowledge it, but we often feel just as baffled.

The laziest route to try to cross this credulity gap is to shrug our shoulders and accept that people are often crazy, stupid or both. Yes, there are plenty of people celebrating the resurrection who are sane, intelligent and well-educated, but the objective is statistical anomalies in a world where higher levels of education are strongly correlated with a lack of religious belief.

Smart people can have blind spots, but this quick and easy justification does not do justice to the complexities of religious belief. If we genuinely accept that a disciple in the resurrection can be intelligent, but also think that any intelligent person would find the idea of the resurrection preposterous, the most charitable explain is that intelligent believers are as well informed the implausibility of their beliefs as anyone else. This is indeed what you tend to find if you bother to talk to a Christian. They don’t use the word “miracle” for nothing- they know their religion eludes laws of logic and nature.

Some believe the unbelievable because they have had religious experiences so strong that they are literally unable to doubt their veracity of. It’s hard for those of us who haven’t had such an experience to appreciate how powerful it is feasible to. But once you accept the existence of a divine inventor who has a personal relationship with you, almost anything else is possible. It is not crazy but logical to conclude that what such a God says or does will sometimes be beyond our comprehension. It follows that there is nothing irrational in accepting a narrative that we are unable to make sense of rationally.

What atheists often forget is that many- perhaps most- religion believers are less than completely convinced anyway. Many of them are fully aware of the dissonance between what their faith and their rational intellect tell them. Religion offers many tools to help manage this. It tells people that faith is superior to belief based on evidence.” Because thou hast find me, thou hast believed ,” Jesus told” doubting Thomas”, adding:” Blessed are they that have not insured, and yet have believed .” Religion also tells believers that doubt is to be expected, even welcomed, as part of the journey of faith, all the time reassuring them that God is beyond our understanding. The Easter story thus aims up instead like quantum theory: if you find it easy to believe, you haven’t is understandable. Illogicality is a design feature , not a design flaw.

Anyone astonished that people manage to sustain this dissonance all their lives hasn’t been paying enough attention to what psychology has taught us about our capacities to assert contradictions. What we call our “selves” are far less unified and coherent than common sense suggests. When we say ” a part of me” believes one thing and another part something else, we are being more literal than we suppose. Rejecting disciples as simply deluded could therefore itself has become a way for us atheists to deal with our own dissonance between the belief that Easter is palpable nonsense, and the awareness that apparently intelligent people believe in it. If we really do find implausible beliefs offensive, we ought at the least to have more plausible explanations for why others have them.

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Incarcerated for calling Ugandan president a ‘pair of buttocks’, activist pledges to fight on | Alon Mwesigwa

16 days ago

A Facebook post criticising Yoweri Museveni landed academic Stella Nyanzi in jail, but she vows to continue her fight against oppression and poverty in Uganda

A few minutes into our interview at one of Kampalas hotels, Stella Nyanzis lawyer tells us the place is no longer safe for her and she needs to leave. She is constantly monitored by security agents these days, she tells, which is perhaps not surprising as the academic and activist is one of the fiercest critics of the Ugandan government. But she is not about to back down.

Not even the 33 days she spent in the countrys maximum security Luzira womens prison for describing the president, Yoweri Museveni, as a pair of buttockscould change her stance.

My language will grow sharper if the governmental forces continues to oppress us, tells Nyanzi, who was suspended from her undertaking at Makerere University for abusing the first lady and education pastor, Janet Museveni. Nyanzi called her a big-thighed cow with an empty brain.

On top of that, she has accused the Musevenis of raping the country and leaving millions of Ugandans in poverty during their three-decade rule.

I am a critic of government and I prefer the words to use[ carefully ], she told the Guardian while out on bail.

If you are going to stand with the powerless against the oppression[ by] the powerful, someone will not like it. That person is usually the powerful.

Nyanzi, who usually turns to Facebook to ventilate her fury, was arrested in April and charged with cyber harassment for her criticism of the president. Her arrest followed an event for her campaign Pads4girlsUG, which is raising fund to buy sanitary towels for girls who cant afford them. She started it after the first lady told parliament earlier this year that the governmental forces did not have money to fulfil her husbands electoral campaign pledge to provide free sanitary pads to schoolgirls.

At least 30% of teenage girls in Uganda miss school when they start having their periods.

The campaign has proved a success, with donations pouring in. Nyanzi wrote on Facebook that Pads4girls was her most powerful achievement of the past year.

Her arrest elicited widespread condemnation, with Human Rights Watch describing it as the most flagrant attack on free expression in many years and a vengeful utilize of Ugandas justice system to stillness a government critic. She is currently barred from travelling out of the country.

A developed journalist turned researcher, Nyanzi describes herself as a lyricist, poetess, creative novelist and analyst on a quest for good governance. Shes unflinching in her criticism of government and is unafraid to tackle taboo around sexuality and gender and stand up for LGBT rights.

Language is a tool and I refuse to be shut by anybody; we are capable of listen to the rhetoric but also topic, says Nyanzi, whose PhD research at the University of London focused on youth sexualities and sexual and reproductive health in the Gambia, a culturally conservative country like many other African states.

Her candid use of sex innuendos and talk of sex has angered moralists but earned her the support of young people who view old belief as having no place in todays world.

Openly use terms like penis or vagina is seen as immoral. Nyanzi is violating those cultural faiths, in a country where women are expected to be humble.

She stripped down to her lingerie in protest when her boss at Makerere tried to evict her from the building. She told journalists then that stripping was the only remaining option for her grievances to be heard.

Stella Nyanzi at a school in Masaka, western Uganda, as part of her Pads4girls campaign. Photograph: Frederic Noy

She likes to be called nalongo ( a mother of twins which she is, along with an older daughter ), which locally symbolises strength.

She told people feign that sex is a taboo, but what do humen discuss all the time? It is sex. So do the women when they are together, she says.

I stand with queer people and I may not necessarily has become a lesbian but I know what it means to be marginalised because of my sexuality. It could be because I dont have sex, or it could be because I am a single mum, or because I just sleep around with so many humen, she adds.

Yet such bold statements have led to accusations that she has mental health problems. The nation tried to force-out her to be tested while in prison but she resisted. The country has furthermore asked the court to obligate her to be tested under the 1938 Mental Treatment Act. She filed a case against the governmental forces, opposing the testing.

They wanted to subject me to involuntary[ mental] testing; I told them I have to volunteer myself. They cant merely pick me and exam, she says. What happens after testing you is that they detain you on the pretext that you are mentally ill. That means they want to kill whatever questioning power I have.

Although her arrest and detention seem designed to break her, she tells the things they do to women in prison would not stop her.

Like telling us to undress before other[ captives ]; I giggled about it, she says.

Telling me to undress I undressed with pride and then turned the torment strategy into one of pleasure for other women.

She wrote last month that her prison experience strengthened my resolve to resist the Musevenis 31 -year dictatorship.

Oh yes,[ prison] purified my passionate abhorrence for the failed corrupt regime of[ Museveni] when I was a prisoner, my brain was sharpened for the long struggle ahead. In prison, I lost all fear of the systems and organs that uphold the gun-based system of patronage that entrench this reign of terror and family rule, she told.

But when she was released on bail she looked frail and there were concerns about her health. I had malaria. Mosquito nets are not allowed into the prison rooms because of fear that women can strangle themselves.

I got a urinary tract infection because the lavatories are bad. But also our pit latrine was full the first 2 week I was there. It took a uprising for it to be emptied, she says.

Nyanzi is due back in tribunal on Tuesday. There have been calls for the charges to be fallen. But whether they are or not, or whether shes returned to jail, it is unlikely the academic will ever willingly give up the fight.

As she wrote on Facebook to mark her 43 rd birthday last week: As I start another year of my life, I am looking forward to the prospects there are for me. I am grabbing this apple of my life, taking huge tasty bites out of it.

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Ashley Olsen’s family defend murdered artist’s character from ‘offensive’ media

21 days ago

Parents say the depiction of the 35 -year-old Florida native who was killed in her adopted city of Florence was contrary to Ashleys morals, beliefs and personality

The parents of Ashley Olsen, the American woman who was murdered in Florence last month, have denounced the offensive media coverage of her example, saying that the depiction of their daughter as a party girl who had made a fatal mistake by bringing the wrong human home is in violation of Ashleys morals, beliefs and personality as we know her.

Several articles about Olsens death have claimed that the 35 -year-old native of Florida, who was find strangled in her apartment and suffered fatal blows to her head, had consensual sex with her alleged killer, Tidiane Cheik Diaw, in the hours before she was murdered.

Some of those reports including in the Guardian have quoted the attorney representing Diaw, who has claimed that her demise was an accident, and examiners in the case who said they had consensual sexuality. Others have referred to Olsens habits and sexual preferences.

But Olsens family have staunchly disputed those claims in a letter released to media outlets on Tuesday. They say that the sex must not have been consensual, based on the fact that Olsen allegedly had sought therapy for a serious bladder infection days before she died, a condition that was so bad that she was taking antibiotics.

She never would have consented to any sexual activity with anyone during this timeframe, and in light of her medical condition, it simply would not make sense, her parents said in the statement.

If it is true, as the authorities concerned declared during a press conference, that Ashley was under the influence of alcohol or other substances, then any type of sexual activity that she might have had that night was not consensual. She was not the kind of daughter who would have consented, willingly, they said.

Olsen was well-known in the citys artist community, and was described by friends as a vibrant girl who was fulfilling her dreaming by living in the Renaissance city.

Olsens mothers, Walter and Paula Olsen, and Gabrielle Olsen Bogart, pointed out that Diaw a Senegalese national who entered Italy illegally just a few months earlier was not an acquaintance of their daughter. In fact, most media outlets reported that the two had gratified that night in a nightclub.

The fact that she spent her last hours in a club is not a sin nor should it be used to magistrate her character or her lifestyle. It is therefore unacceptable, offensive and deeply wrong to think as has been insinuated that she deserved what afterward happened to her simply because she allowed a stranger in a public place to talk to her, her mothers said.

They also pointed to the fact that two mobile phones had been taken from the Americans studio apartment, along with other missing personal belongings.

It is unfortunate that Ashley is not here to speak about what happened that night, only the person who was with her genuinely knows. The Italian authorities have some idea, but we have not been given much information, the statement said.

While, we cannot bring Ashley back, we can help keep her legacy as a beautiful, kind-hearted girl alive, the said.

An attorney for Diaw said the defendant had punched Olsen in the neck and pushed her to the ground, where she reached her head. He also alleged that Diaw never strangled Olsen and had not intended to kill her.

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Germany attempts to ban neo-Nazi party amid fears over rising racist attacks

24 days ago

Read more: https :// irl/ thingspeoplehavesaidaboutmymentalillness-twitter-hashtag-mental-health /

Constitiutional court to hear debates from five nation premiers that far-right NPD should become the third party to be banned since the war

Germanys highest court will hear a landmark petition on Tuesday to ban a neo-Nazi fringe party, more than a decade after a first try failed.

The case before the Federal Constitutional Court will argue that the far-right and anti-immigrant National Democratic Party( NPD) is a threat to the countrys democratic order.

Chancellor Angela Merkels government supports the case, although it has not formally joined the legal gamble launched by the upper home of the members of parliament that represents Germanys 16 states.

Merkels spokesman Steffen Seibert has repeatedly labelled the NPD an anti-democratic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-constitutional party.

Critics charge the proceedings will give the NPD, a party with only about 5,200 members, a national stage and that a prohibition could turn its members into martyrs for their racist cause.

The party, founded in 1964 as a successor to the neo-fascist German Reich Party, scored merely 1.3% in 2013 national elections and has never intersected the 5% hurdle for entry into the national parliament.

However, it is represented in the country assembly of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the former socialist East and in many township councils in the region.

It also has one seat in the European parliament elections, held by former party chief Udo Voigt who once, in a newspaper interview, labelled Adolf Hitler a great statesman.

The case goes at a time when a record influx of refugees and migrants has polarised German society, and as the number of racist hate crimes has spiked.

While NPD activists have sought to exploit rising xenophobia, they have failed to induce gains at the ballot box.

The more moderate right-wing populist Alternative for Germany( AfD) has meanwhile entered five country parliaments and is polling nationally around 10%.

NPD chief Franz Frank last week sent letters to police and army troops, reminding them that in the former East Germany security forces resisted against the state and stood by the people a letter find by some as exhorting a coup detat.

Five state premiers are expected in the courtroom, along with interior ministers and the chiefs of federal and nation security services and police forces.

The legal bar to prohibit any political party in Germany is high. Merely two parties have been banned since World War II an heir of the Nazi party, the SPR, in 1952 and the German Communist Party four years later.

To make their case, the states must convince judges that the NPD is unconstitutional, represents an active threat to the democratic order and holds an aggressive and combative attitude.

They will also seek to prove the NPD is creating a climate of fear in Germany and shares essential characteristics with the Nazis.

They will likely point to the fact that a former NPD senior member, Ralf Wohlleben, is on trial for supporting the far-right activist group National Socialist Underground which murdered 10 people, most of Turkish origin, between 2000 and 2006.

A previous attempt to ban the NPD failed in 2003 because the presence of undercover country informants within party ranks was seen as muddying the evidence.

Police and the domestic intelligence service say they have now deactivated all undercover sources within the NPD.

But the party is likely to base its defence on claims that informants and agents provocateur are still hiding within its ranks, and that the state has snooped on their legal strategy, its lawyer Peter Richter has suggested to German media.

Initial hearings have been scheduled for 1, 2 and 3 March in the court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe.

Many have criticised the lawsuit, including Timo Reinfrank, of the anti-racist Amadeu Antonio Foundation.

Right now, there are so many other things to do rather than focus on a prohibit of the NPD, which is only part of the problem, he said. The urgent priority is to prevent right-wing assaults against refugee shelters.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas also cautioned that even if the NPD is banned, that regrettably doesnt mean there is no more right-wing extremism in Germany.

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Pope Francis to call International Space Station

29 days ago

Pope Francis will become the second pontiff to speak to astronauts orbiting the earth with live streamed video call

The voice of Pope Francis will be heard on the International Space Stationwhen he makes a call to its astronauts.

The pope is due to speak to the crew at 1400 BST, including 60 -year-old Italian Paolo Nespoli, who is on his third space mission. The video call is likely to be streamed online on Nasa TV and the Vatican’s YouTube channel.

The ISS, which has been continuously occupied since 2000, is currently crewed by six cosmonauts. Alongside Nespoli there are three Americans and two Russians orbiting the Earth.

Francis is not the first pontiff to reaching for the stars. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, “ve called the” ISS in 2011, when Nespoli was also part of the crew.

Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli will take his second bellow from a Pope while in space Photograph: European Space Agency via AP

Francis has been an outspoken critic of humans’ consequence on the environment, writing in a 2015 encyclical:” The Ground, our home, is beginning to look like an immense piling of filth.

” The human environment and the natural environment degenerate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet .”

He is expected to return to the topic on Thursday.

Pope Benedict XVI speaks to astronauts on the ISS in 2011

In his 2011 bellow, which lasted about 20 minutes and can still be viewed online, Pope Benedict asked the ISS crew and visiting Space Shuttle astronauts how their unique standpoint on the Earth affected their beliefs.

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Merkel defends migration policy after Seehofer showdown

1 month, 2 days ago

Beleaguered chancellor dedicates first speech to parliament since meeting with interior minister

Angela Merkel has sought to defend her government’s migration policy in her first speech to parliament since a showdown with the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, over the policing of Germany’s borders.

The German chancellor spoke up for the compromise agreement the Christian Democratic Union( CDU) struck with its smaller partner, the Christian Social Union( CSU ), to erect transit zones along the southern German perimeter to speed up the expulsion of ineligible asylum seekers, insisting migration had to be better regulated.

” We must have more regulation regarding every type of migration, so that people have the impression that law and order are being enforced ,” Merkel told a packed Bundestag, in a speech intended to show she is still in control after intense speculation that her 13 -year chancellorship was about toend.

Stressing that migration was a” global problem requiring a global solution” and countries could not go it alone, she said the EU’s future was dependent on a solution being found.

” How we deal with the migrant question will decide whether Europe continues to exist in the future ,” she told, referring to her fraught attempts to secure deals with other EU members to accept the return of refugees who had registered in their countries.

At the same time, she underlined the necessity of protecting Europe’s outer borders more effectively as well as concurring the partnership agreement with African countries to tackle illegal migration and lessen the incentives for economic migration.

But the chancellor, appearing tired and pale after weeks of late-night negotiations in Brussels and Berlin, came under flame from almost all parties, in particular the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, whose parliamentary leader, Alice Weidel, demanded her immediate resignation.

” Under your regime, Germany has changed from being a motor and stability guarantor to a driver of chaos ,” she said. She referred to the battle within Merkel and Seehofer’s conservative confederation as” undignified theatrics”, and Germany as” a madhouse, the headquarters of which is the chancellery”, before urging Merkel to” put an end to this misfortune- please resign at last “.

While Weidel spoke, Merkel had her head down, concentrating on the finishing touch to a speech on the nation’s budget.

Christian Lindner, the head of the pro-business Free Democrats, accused Merkel of having failed to find a satisfactory solution to the government’s refugee policy since the late summertime of 2015, when virtually 1 million refugees arrived in Germany.

He accused Merkel of failing to consult her junior coalition partner, the Social Democratic party( SPD ), which crucially has yet to give its go-ahead to the transit zones. The party is in a quandary over whether to accept the zones, which many members have compared to prisons and even concentration camps, or hazard the collapse of the coalition.

The SPD was quick to attack Seehofer, who had offered his abdication as pastor and CDU leader on Sunday, blaming him for bringing the government to the brink of breakdown with his so-called migration masterplan, over certain details of which he and Merkel have been at loggerheads.

Andrea Nahles, the SPD leader, said:” We don’t need masterplans, we need good craftsmanship .”

Other SPD members stressed that the transit zones were a fudge , not least because on average, merely five asylum seekers a day is now attempting to enter Germany via the south.

Among the fiercest critics of Seehofer was Dietmar Bartsch, the parliamentary leader of the far-left Die Linke. That Seehofer was sitting in the Bundestag on his 69 th birthday, he said, should be viewed as a one-off birthday treat.” You will not be sitting here as interior minister on your 70 th birthday ,” he said. Bartsch accused the CSU of a ruthless attitude towards refugees, insisting the “C” in CDU and CSU no longer stood for ” Christian ” but for ” chaos “.

To resounding laughter across the chamber, he told:” I believe you would have smilingly deported Jesus .” Seehofer sat in contemplative stillnes, his chin in his hand , not once make contributions to the debate.

Merkel’s next hurdle will be to secure the support of the SPD, which has been holding emergency meetings round the clock to discuss whether it is ready to approve the transit zones, but has yet to reach a unified stance, with most distrusts coming from the left wing of the party.

Neighbouring Austria’s position also remains open. Its government, which on Tuesday carried its scepticism about the transit zones, has yet to agree to back them , not least because this would require Vienna to agree to take back refugees who had registered in Austria.

Seehofer is due to travel to Austria on Thursday in an attempt to hammer out a deal with the Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.

In an interview with German television, Merkel gave a little more detail about the style the transit centres would work, insisting it was wrong to view them like prisons and adding that people would be kept in them for a maximum of two days.

The centres work on the basis that they would house those asylum seekers who had registered in other EU countries before being returned to those countries.

Asked by German television whether the new policy marked a toughening of her migration posture, and whether the once “open door” Merkel had turned into the “closing off” chancellor, she responded:” No, a clear no .”

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