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Vatican under scrutiny after UN report

2019年8月17日 | 苏州美甲 | Permalink

The UN’s damning report on the Vatican’s handling of child sex abuse cases has turned up the pressure on the Church to convince a sceptical international community it has adopted a zero-tolerance approach.


“The Vatican has taken some steps forward, but they have been largely symbolic: energetic words rather than actions. The UN is right to have spoken out so strongly,” said Vatican commentator Paolo Flores D’Arcais.

The Church was denounced by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on Wednesday for failing to stamp out predatory priests, and urged to hand over known and suspected abusers for prosecution.

The UN committee’s recommendations are non-binding but have held up a fresh mirror to highly damaging Vatican failures.

The report was a bolt from the blue for an institution revelling in the popularity of its new pope, Francis, who has spoken little of the abuse and who appeared to hope the Church had left the crisis behind it.

Some Vatican watchers believe much has been done to set an important moral example for wayward clergy.

But the Vatican’s lack of transparency – insisting on dealing with the scandal behind closed doors – has disappointed victims.

For more than a decade, the Church has been rocked by a cascade of scandals around the world, with victims describing the trauma of abuse at the hands of people charged with their care.

The Vatican says it continues to receive around 600 claims against abusive priests every year, many dating back to the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Former pope Benedict apologised in 2010 for the “sinful and criminal” acts committed by members of the clergy, saying he was “truly sorry” and going on to defrock 400 offenders between 2011 and 2012.

His successor Pope Francis has said Catholics should feel “shame” for abuse and has presided over the creation of a commission to investigate sex crimes, enforce prevention and care for victims – though it has yet to begin work.

While several bishops have stepped down over scandals in their dioceses, victims and support groups demand someone be held legally accountable.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) dismissed as inadequate the Vatican’s tense response that it had “taken note” of the UN report and would submit it to “a thorough study and examination”.

“Bishops don’t move predators, shun victims, rebuff prosecutors, shred evidence, intimidate witnesses, discredit whistleblowers, dodge responsibility, fabricate alibis… because of inadequate ‘study’,” SNAP said.

“The quickest way to prevent child sexual violence by Catholic clerics is for Pope Francis to publicly remove all offenders from ministry…. But like his predecessors, he has refused to take even tiny steps in this direction,” it said.

The Vatican’s secretary of state Pietro Parolin spoke of the Church’s “desire to adhere to the commission’s needs”.

But frustration over the Vatican’s handling of the matter was expressed even by some Catholic groups.

“If the pope is serious about turning the page on this scandal, he should immediately dismiss any bishop who oversaw a diocese in which a priest who abused children was shielded from the civil authorities,” said Jon O’Brien, head of the US lobby group Catholics for Choice.

“There can be no place in our Church for bishops or priests who put children at risk. From now on, there must be zero tolerance for bishops who shield child abusers,” he said.

Retail figures show price pressure

2019年8月17日 | 苏州美甲 | Permalink

New figures show a run of strong monthly gains in retail turnover are largely the result of price rises.


The value of retail trade rose by 0.5 per cent in December, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.

It was the fifth in a run of solid monthly gains and lifted annual growth to 5.7 per cent, the fastest through-the-year growth recorded since November 2009.

That run followed a flat spot in the middle of 2013 which left the value of retail turnover lower in June than in February.

This recent pickup has led some economists to expect a brighter performance for the economy than the dull effort of 2013.

But the figures on Thursday suggest that’s only partly because consumers are keen to buy more.

It’s also because what they want to buy is costing more.

The value of retail turnover in the December quarter was 2.0 per cent higher than in the preceding quarter.

It was the biggest quarterly rise since the March quarter of 2009.

But the picture changes after allowing for price changes.

In real terms – or chain-volume terms, the way the ABS prefers to put it – turnover rose by 0.9 per cent in the December quarter.

That was a solid rise, but only 0.2 stronger than average of the past decade, which included the global financial crisis and a world recession.

And whether that growth rate is sustained, or was just a one-off bounce back from the pause earlier in the year, remains to be seen.

Stagnating employment growth and weak wages growth suggest it won’t, at least not until the housing price surge is translated into a pickup in building activity.

The rest of the December quarter increase the value of turnover was the result of price rises.

The ABS said price rises added 1.1 per cent to the value of turnover in the quarter.

The only bigger quarterly rise in retail prices in the past decade was in the March quarter of 2009, when prices rose by 1.4 per cent.

And there’s a reason why the previous big price rise was in the March quarter of 2009.

Just like the latest price jump, it followed hot on the heels of a big drop in the value of the Australian dollar.

The exchange rate slumped in late 2008 as investors reacted with alarm to the global financial crisis in late 2008.

In the December quarter of last year the Aussie dollar was trading around 10 per cent below its 2011-2012 average.

That followed a mid-2013 slide in a response to weaker export commodity prices and the prospect of higher interest rates in the US.

So, yes, retail trade has picked up, but a lot of the pickup has been the price effects of the lower exchange rate and the recovery in retailing is not quite as strong as it seems.

Sport, Sochi and the rising challenge of the activist athlete

2019年8月17日 | 苏州美甲 | Permalink

By David Rowe, University of Western Sydney

What happens off the field stays off the track and the dais but plays OK at the press conference – that is the rather convoluted message from International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach in the face of potential political protests at the Sochi Winter Olympics.


Bach is trying to narrow the scope available to dissenting Olympic athletes. They face punishment if they make their move when medals are being contested or dispensed. The local Games organisers want to go further by confining shows of activism to a “Speakers’ Corner” somewhere in Sochi city.

Such is the complexity of life for the activist athlete at the “Prolympics”. And Sochi and Russia have certainly given the politically aware athlete plenty to work with. Last year, Russia passed laws making it an offence to discuss homosexuality with minors.

To avoid any awkward ambiguity, Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhamov recently fouled the welcome mat of his Olympic city when he stated that:

[homosexuality] is not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live. We do not have them in our city.

Much has changed since the days when officials could rule their young athletic charges with a rod of iron. This does not mean that the balance of power has shifted entirely. But today’s “blazerati” are required to negotiate with athletes who can create a storm of controversy with a brief gesture on live television or a single tweet.

Athletes harness their fame

In recent decades sportspeople have joined the likes of film and pop stars in the global celebrity ranks. It is hardly surprising that some have emulated activist actors and “protest” singers in using their fame to advance social causes, such as those in support of the Principle 6 campaign against Russia’s anti-gay laws.

At one time film studios would discourage such activities for fear of damage at the box office. Record company executives would worry about alienating apolitical music fans. But screen and music celebrities became bigger than the companies that housed them, and greater political autonomy for artists followed.

Sport, with its rigid hierarchies and myths of transcending the lives of mere mortals, has been a harder nut to crack for activist athletes. They are still vulnerable to being labelled troublemakers and malcontents.


Bobsleigh teammates Jana Pittman and Astrid Radjenovic support the Principle 6 campaign. AAP/Chris James


Big-name sportspeople, though, wield their own power. They commonly run their own charitable foundations as a way of “giving something back”. It would be overly cynical to dismiss this in all cases as a calculated extension of image manufacture and tax minimisation, but it is unlikely to provoke debate or conflict.

Taking a strong political stance is a more hazardous extra-curricular activity. It will certainly engage those with conflicting points of view. It is also likely to make sports’ governing bodies nervous about their relationships with corporate sponsors and governments.

Olympians and other sportspeople are now more likely to use conventional and social media to present views. Even if sport officials can ban athletes from engaging in social media at certain times (such as a ski jumper standing at the top of the hill), they cannot continually patrol digital communication. Doing so opens them up to charges of unwarranted interference and censorship.

Hence the concentration on the times when the “whole world is watching”, the live competition and ritual.

Seizing the moment

It is hard to discuss this issue without conjuring up images of the black power salutes by American 200-metre runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medals podium at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. Australian Peter Norman wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge in solidarity with Smith and Carlos, who were expelled from the Games.

Norman was ostracised by Australian Olympic officialdom. His treatment led to a belated parliamentary apology in 2012, six years after his death.


The black power salutes at the 1968 Olympics were a transformative moment, which included Australian Peter Norman and inspired this Sydney street art. AAP/Mick Tsikas


The IOC would be most unhappy if, for example, victorious Sochi Olympians wore rainbow-coloured gloves in solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people as their countries’ flags were raised. But there is much more to athlete activism than visual podium polemic.

It might involve joining an Amnesty International campaign, as Australian rugby player David Pocock has done, to end discrimination against Russia’s LGBTI community. Or a soccer player like Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand speaking in support of Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion campaign founded by the Professional Footballers’ Association.

But what counts as athlete activism may be much more unstructured and unpredictable than dedicated sport-related campaigns. Few are as strange as the unilateral diplomacy pursued by retired basketballer Dennis Rodman in North Korea.

The activism may also not be progressive. There is a history of loaded on-field gestures such as the Fascist-linked “Roman salute” by Italian footballer and manager Paolo di Canio to Lazio supporters in 2005 and the “quenelle” – said to be an inverted Nazi salute – that England-based French footballer Nicolas Anelka performed late last year.

Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was expelled just before the London 2012 Olympics for posting tweets that mocked African immigrants and supported the far-right Golden Dawn Party.

The relationship between politics and sportspeople is many-sided. It ranges from carefully planned strategic interventions to seemingly unpremeditated signals and utterances.

Images of the Olympic black power protest or of AFL player Nicky Winmar lifting his jumper in 1993 to display his black skin in proud defiance of sustained racial abuse from Collingwood supporters are lasting reminders of sport’s power to crystallise a burning issue such as racism.

Each mega sport event offers a fresh opportunity for athlete activists to run the gauntlet of official disapproval in pursuit of unparalleled visibility for their cause. The Sochi Winter Games may be remembered less for gold-medal winning performances than for a media blizzard of activist athlete-generated politics.

David Rowe is currently receiving Australian Research Council Discovery Project funding for A Nation of ‘Good Sports’? Cultural Citizenship and Sport in Contemporary Australia (DP130104502).

Social media users take on neknominate and Coca-Cola

2019年8月17日 | 苏州美甲 | Permalink

When the Neknominate online dare craze allegedly claimed the life of a 19-year-old man, Twitter and Facebook users weren’t afraid to speak out for and against the phenomenon.


  The death also reignited the debate of how much or how little Facebook and other networking sites can and should interfere with controversial content.

Twitter was the venue for highly polarised reactions to a Coca-Cola commercial that aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday. The commercial featured people of diverse ethnicities and sexual orientations singing the patriotic song “America the Beautiful” in different languages. Some tweeters called the multi-lingual ad anti-American, some called for a Coke boycott and others went as far as saying the company was promoting terrorism.

Social media commentator and digital strategist Kate Carruthers weighed in on the ways the two stories have impacted people on and offline.

NekNominate and its pay-it-forward counterpart

Facebook responded to requests to take down pages that promote NekNominate from the website by saying – if it doesn’t cause direct harm, we don’t take it down – but Ms Carruthers says Facebook is just sticking to their guns and acting in accordance with their guidelines.

“Facebook very much takes the view that it operates within the law. [Neknominate] is not an illegal activity and why should it intervene. Yes, it’s foolhardy activity but there’s lots of foolhardy activity online. Why should a company like them be responsible for that?”

COMMENT: #neknomination. Internet has changed the drinking game

Ms Carruthers says the kind of behaviour that can be seen in NekNominate videos has been happening for years – the culture of binge drinking is nothing new – it just hasn’t been posted and shared online. Although Neknominate may have dangerous consequences for some, Ms Carruthers says there are limits to what people can do to stop it.   

“Yes we can warn them of the dangers, but being young people, they will typically ignore us older folks. But we can and ought to provide alternative information.”

The focus in the last day or so has shifted from videos of people binge drinking to a movement started by a South African man who dares others to do some good. Brent Lindeque posted a YouTube video of himself donating food to impoverished South Africans and nominating his friends to do similar acts of kindness.  Ms Carruthers says this is a much more profitable response to Neknominate.

“Suddenly we’re amplifying the good instead of stupidity. That’s a much more effective strategy than just preaching at people saying ‘this is dumb, you shouldn’t do it.'”

“[Social media] is a force multiplier for both good and evil. It takes just that one person to start shifting the trend away from the negative behaviour towards positive behaviour,” Ms Carruthers says.

Coca-Cola divides America

Social media has become a crucial platform for people to share polarised views. One of the most poignant examples of this in the past few weeks has been the reaction toward Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl commercial.

People took to Twitter to compliment the ad on its heartfelt representation of America’s diversity while others thought the multilingualism was offensive to English speaking Americans.

There are over 300 indigenous languages in the US alone. English isn’t one of them. #coke

— Khaetlyn Grindell (@Khaetlyn) February 3, 2014

#BoycottCoke everything in that @CocaCola commercial was un-American.

— Steven McVeigh (@SMcVeigh_) February 3, 2014

“Twitter is not a good representation of public opinion because it’s not a broad swathe of public opinion, it tends to represent extreme views very often and they take very extreme opposing positions quite quickly,” says Carruthers. “There are very few moderates when you see something like this on Twitter.”

Tweets may not reflect the true American society, but it can serve as a big influencer that can make or break brands. In this case, however, Ms Carruthers says she doesn’t expect a widespread Coca-Cola boycott to take place.

“The number of people who will actually take action on that will probably be very small. So the impact of coke as a brand from their sales would be negligible would be my suspicion.”

It’s easy to forget that regardless of the effect Coca-Cola’s ad may have had on people, the company’s bottom line is to sell their product. What’s important for them and for those who Neknominate, for that matter,  is that they’ve gotten people talking – and that’s really all that matters.

Abbott agenda faces first electoral test

2019年8月17日 | 苏州美甲 | Permalink

The entrance to Tony Abbott’s office has become something of a revolving door.


But as he and Treasurer Joe Hockey seek to balance the budget, pay off Labor’s debt and explain the government’s philosophy, most are leaving the PM’s Parliament House suite empty-handed.

Whether this new frugality – seen most recently in knocking back SPC Ardmona’s request for $25 million to shore up thousands of fruit grower and processing plant jobs – is resonating with voters will be tested this weekend.

Labor candidate Terri Butler appears on track to win Saturday’s by-election in former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s Brisbane seat of Griffith.

The Liberal candidate, Bill Glasson, is up against history.

No government has won a seat held by the opposition at a federal by-election since 1920.

As well, the coalition has been trailing Labor in national opinion polls since late last year and pundits believe the gap is wider in Queensland.

Rudd’s early retirement, while treated with scepticism by some, is unlikely to be much of a factor as his personal vote had been trending down since the high-water mark of 2010 when he had 58.5 per cent of the two-party vote.

With federal parliament returning from the summer break on Tuesday, a retained seat will put a spring in the step of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and his caucus.

A big win might even give the government pause for thought.

Abbott, having declared Australia as “open for business”, will be forced to defend how jobs can be created by knocking back industry assistance, calling on big business to reduce working conditions, cutting the public service and urging the Fair Work Commission to take a fresh look at penalty rates.

The joint coalition party room meeting on Tuesday is expected to be feisty, with The Nationals seeking a better deal for drought-stricken farmers in Queensland and NSW, and Victorian Liberal MP Sharman Stone having accused the PM of “lying” over SPC Ardmona worker pay and conditions.

There’s also potential for state-based rifts, with Tasmanian coalition MPs – whose state colleagues face a winnable election on March 15 – thrilled with the government’s support for a grant to chocolate giant Cadbury’s but those in SA and Victoria wondering why Holden and SPC got short shrift.

In Abbott’s corner will be Treasurer Joe Hockey, who has embarked on a campaign to explain the government’s strategy to a doubting public.

The public release of an initial report by the commission of audit, which is expected to be handed to the government in the coming week, is one of the keys to any explanation.

Hockey initially indicated the commission’s final report – due in March – would not be released until very close to the May budget, as Labor did with the Henry tax review.

Now the treasurer has signalled an early release to help public understanding of the scale of the government’s task in winding back debt and returning to a budget surplus within a decade.

“You’re not using money that belongs to some oblique body called the government,” Hockey says.

“You’re actually using someone else’s hard-earned money when you use taxpayers’ money. You have to be very careful and prudent with it.”

Shorten has found fertile ground in the Griffith by-election by pointing to Queensland premier Campbell Newman’s own commission of audit which inflicted “pain and hardship” on the state.

Hockey, he says, has deliberately delayed the release of the interim audit report until after the by-election “to make sure any cuts stay hidden” until after the polls close.

Abbott is expected to use parliament to remind voters his government is getting on with core election promises.

The boats are stopping and laws to abolish the carbon and mining taxes have been introduced but are being held up in the Senate by Labor and the Greens.

He will also seek to shift public focus onto indigenous disadvantage with the his first annual Closing the Gap statement, which is likely to be heavy on the need for Aborigines to help themselves get ahead.

Abbott and Hockey’s message of individuals and businesses needing to take responsibility for their own destinies has both political dangers and merits for the coalition.

If voters are not convinced, the government itself might be the next one going out the revolving door.