British Foreign Secretary William Hague visits Syria

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague

Jan 27 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Foreign Secretary William Hague will discuss a range of issues including the political situation in Lebanon, the current state of the Middle East Peace Process and Iran’s nuclear programme during his visit to Syria.

During the visit he will hold talks with President Assad and Foreign Minister Muallem. The Foreign Secretary will hold a roundtable with Elizabeth White, the British Council’s Director and senior Syrian women.

The Foreign Secretary will have dinner with key commercial, civil society and non official Syrian members of society.  (*)

Source : FCO.GOV.UK

Koreas should discuss nukes before six-party talks can reopen: Lee adviser

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak

 

SEOUL, Jan. 27 (KATAKAMI / Yonhap) — North Korea must show its genuine willingness to denuclearize in dialogue with South Korea if the communist state wants to see the restart of six-party talks on its nuclear programs, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s top security adviser said Thursday.

The comments by Chun Yung-woo come as the two Koreas are planning to hold their first military talks in months after the North sharply raised tensions by shelling a South Korean island on Nov. 23.

South Korea proposed earlier this week that the sides hold a preliminary meeting on Feb. 11. The North, which had first proposed high-level defense talks to defuse tension, has yet to respond.

Speaking in a speech in Seoul, Chun said the planned dialogue would serve as a “test bed” for North Korea to show that it has turned around from its pursuit of nuclear arms.

“Six-party talks resumed without the commitment to abandon nuclear programs will merely be talks for the sake of talks and a venue for North Korea to buy time,” Chun told a group of unification activists. “If the sincerity is confirmed, we will then resume the six-party talks and discuss in which order and through which plan (denuclearization) will be achieved.”

Chun’s comments are the strongest affirmation yet that inter-Korean dialogue is the door to the resumption of the multinational denuclearization-for-aid talks that group the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, Japan and China.

In their summit in Washington last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao also called for “sincere and constructive” dialogue between the two Koreas while expressing concern over deepening nuclear development in the North.

Chun said North Korea has incurred an estimated annual economic loss of US$300 million since South Korea suspended cross-border trade over the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

The price of rice in North Korea also doubled in the past three months, he said, describing Pyongyang as “very desperate” for aid that would facilitate its ongoing hereditary power succession.

“North Korea has kicked away its own lifeline” by going ahead with provocative acts, including the deadly Nov. 23 bombardment of a South Korean Yellow Sea island and its nuclear tests, Chun said.

“Denuclearization is possible when (the North) is faced with having to choose between either denuclearizing or not,” he said, calling the latter a choice with “no future.”

Chun, who used to represent South Korea in the six-party talks, said his government is not preoccupied with drawing apologies from the North over the warship sinking and island shelling last year, but that there is “no reason why the North should not apologize.”

“No progress will be made if (North Korea) behaves irrationally” in its military talks with South Korea by seeking rice and fertilizer aid instead of genuine reconciliation, Chun said.

“We’re trying to see whether or not the North is only trying to extract something from inter-Korean talks,” he said. “We have been cheated many times by peace offensives, but we no longer shall be.”

The two Koreas remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty. After a decade of thawing, the relations between the Koreas deteriorated as President Lee, upon taking office in 2008, made denuclearization his top policy priority in dealing with the North.  (*)

 

 

PM Netanyahu's Address to the Knesset Marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day

FILE : Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jan 26 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Translation of PM Netanyahu’s Address :

Have the lessons of the Holocaust been learned ?

For us, The Jewish people, the answer is yes.
For the rest of the world, the answer is no, or at least not yet.

Today, 66 years after the horror, we are here, in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of our nation.  We, the representatives of the Jewish nation, are holding a special ceremony to mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The lesson that we have learned, first of all, is that we are here, in our sovereign country, in our capital city.

We have learned another important lesson, probably the most crucial lesson to be learned from the atrocity, from the chain of atrocities that brought about one much worse; this has continued for hundreds and thousands of years, since we lost our country and our sovereignty, and since we lost our capability to defend ourselves.  The lesson learned was that we had to restore the capacity of the State and the army for self-defense.

This lesson was understood by Herzl even before the great atrocity took place.  He foresaw it, and we implemented it.

But there is one other lesson. At the end of the Holocaust, there were 11 million Jews in the world.  Before it, there were 18 million.

Even at a very slow rate of natural increase of the population, there should have been almost 30 million Jews in the world, but in fact, there are only 13.5 million; much less, half of what there should be.  This did not happen by physical loss; it happened because of assimilation and the loss of identity.

The only place where the Jewish people has grown is here, in Eretz Yisrael, in the State of Israel.  We have continuous substantial and blessed growth.  There is no nation that could live on a demographic pin head.  Therefore, while cultivating our country, we must continue to encourage aliyah, bringing Jewish people to Israel, and to prevent their assimilation abroad.  All the projects that we operate – Birthright, Masa and also Moreshet – are aimed at our young adults and also young Jews abroad. They are essential elements in assuring our future.

Watch the video :  PM Netanyahu’s Address to the Knesset Marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday (Jan 26, 2011)


Have we learned the lesson?  The answer is yes.  Has the world learned the lesson?  Well, I think one thing is clear: the fact that global anti-Semitism is renewing and expanding is obvious.  If anyone thought that Anti-Semitism stopped after World War II and the Holocaust, it is now evident that it was only a hiatus.  The same forces that you mentioned joining together, share a new/old anti-Semitism with the world, and so we must fight it, globally too.  For that, I congratulate my friend Silvan Shalom, who, when serving as Foreign Minister, brought about an important United Nations resolution – marking this day, a resolution which was adopted by the UN.

This resolution is indeed implemented in many countries, which is an important achievement and in many ways also unique, at least in the ability to propose an Israeli draft resolution to this organization, which I am well familiar with, I spent a long time there.  It was a milestone.  But I still ask: does the world that condemns that anti-Semitism also condemn this anti-Semitism?

Every now and then, very feebly – it isn’t just anti-Semitism; it is the regime – a member country of the UN, the regime of ayatollahs – stands up and knowingly and openly calls for the annihilation of at least another six million Jews, without even a hint of pretense.  And nobody says a thing.  Well, that’s not exact. Here and there a comment might be heard, but where is the anger, the outrage?  Where is the outcry?  Where is the “J’accuse?”  I’m not asking about us.  We are here; we’ve learned our lessons.  But where is the global uproar that should have risen from advanced communities around the world in response to explicit declarations of genocide, of exterminating a people, that same people!

We must be honest with each other.  Diplomacy is, first and foremost, identifying the situation as it is.  If we want to change it, we must understand it.  And we have a very disturbing historical phenomenon.  I don’t think that it is only hard for us, but for all civilized people, all civilized peoples, who allow such an affliction, such statements, such savagery, barbarism and primitivism to be uttered and spread.  It is said; it spreads, becomes acceptable, commonplace, and always prepares the ground for the next action and also prevents those actions that will not take place.

I am aware that there are many leaders and good-hearted, conscientious people around the world.  I know that they think what I think.  I know that in their hearts, they tell themselves what I am saying today from this podium.

However, that will not suffice.  Because in the face of this regime, that calls for our annihilation, and arms itself with weapons of mass destruction in order to fulfill its nefarious intentions, there should be a much stronger protest.  This makes me somewhat disheartened, my friend Silvan.

I was in that institution, I served in it as the representative of Israel.  One day I heard that there were rumors about a file about Waldheim, who was then President of Austria. It might have been the Secretary-General of the UN. The Secretary-General said he had a profile about a war criminal in some UN archive.

What was this archive? It turned out that there was a war-criminal archive instituted by Churchill and the Allies during the war to collect material against Nazi criminals and their collaborators.  They gathered the information, and listened and discussed and prepared the files and at the end of the war they took these files, brought them to the UN, and locked them in the basement, where they just lay for decades.

I asked if I could go in there, and they said “no.”  I asked why, and was told that I needed the consent of all the allied countries, 18 or 19 countries, I think, and there was no such approval.  Well, it took me a year until I got the okay and was taken to the archive.

It wasn’t exactly in the basement, it was on the first floor of a UN building somewhere in New York. I walk in and see boxes upon boxes; I go to ‘W,’ pull out the box: Waldheim, Kurt, and various notes.  My hair stood on end (I had more hair then). Horrible things, lying there, hidden for dozens of years.  I look at the next file (I didn’t start taking boxes out, it was the same box): Birkenau 1944, records of exterminations, the death marches, trains, the S.S., it’s all documented.  1944, but I think I also saw files that referred to 1943.

My friends, these 18 countries, perhaps the best statesmen in history, distinguished men, truly great men – they knew.  They knew in real time, and not from this particular testimony that I have just mentioned.  There are plenty of testimonies: terrible things that are very hard to read.  They knew, but they did not act.

Why did they not act? Because they were busy fighting the major battle against the Nazis, which was their main concern.  But how hard would it have been to bomb the railway tracks leading to the death camps?  When you go there, and many of you have been there – I was there with some of you, several times – you see they could have bombed the camps. They were already bombing that awful chemical plant only seconds away.  They would only have needed to tilt the plane a bit and could also have bombed the ramp and two incinerators, and the tracks.  It wouldn’t have made the slightest difference to their war effort.  They knew and they did nothing.

Today they are very aware of it.  They know, they hear, they see, they photograph.  You don’t need special intelligence, you only need to turn on the television, hear the news, read the newspaper.  Will they act?  Will they talk?  Will they really talk?  Will they attack?  Will they condemn?

The Iranians say that it’s against the Zionists, anti-Zionism.  It was Martin Luther King who burst that bubble better than anyone else.  He said, and I quote: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semintism!”

Martin Luther King.  That’s right.  So that’s what the Iranians say.  But this is the truth.  It is not only a threat against us, because it always begins with the Jews but never ends with the Jews.  The hatred of Jews kindles an overall fire, and I expect that on this day, when I applaud the world for marking the most heinous crime in world history and the history of our people which was perpetrated against our people – I hope others will also learn the lesson.  We already have.

I expect the world to learn the lesson and start fighting in words and in deeds against the new anti-Semitism.  That is what I expect and I am certain, my friends, that you expect the same. (*)

Source : Prime Minister’s Office

Russian President calls for further arms reductions

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Jan 27 (KATAKAMI.COM / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he was ready to sign a law on ratification of a new START treaty and urged the United States to continue joint efforts aimed at further strategic arms reduction.

Both houses of the Russian parliament have ratified the new arms reduction deal between Russia and the United States, paving the way for the president to sign the ratification into a law.

“When I come back from Davos, the text of the ratified treaty will be put on my table,” Medvedev said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

The president added that he had already agreed with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama on how to exchange the instruments of ratification.

“However, we must not stop at that and continue our efforts in reduction of strategic offensive weapons and limitations in a related area of missile defense,” Medvedev said.

The new arms reduction pact, replacing START 1, which expired in December 2009, was signed by Medvedev and Obama in Prague in April, 2010. The document slashes the Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals to a maximum of 1,550 nuclear warheads, down from the current ceiling of 2,200.

The U.S. Senate ratified the deal on December 22, 2010, but added several amendments to the resolution on ratification, including a demand to build up U.S. global missile defenses.

Russian lawmakers also added some provisions to the ratification document and issued two supplementary statements to the resolution on ratification of the agreement.  (*)

Nelson Mandela taken to hospital as family visits spark growing fears for his health

FILE : Nelson Mandela'slast public appearance at the World Cup Final in July 2010, when he toured the stadium in a buggy while joined by wife Graça Machel, who visited him in hospital yesterday as he underwent 'routine tests'

Jan 27 ( KATAKAMI.COM / DAILY MAIL.CO.UK) — Nelson Mandela was taken to hospital yesterday amid fears about the failing health of the first South Africa’s first black president.

Spokesmen for the 92-year-old, who has appeared increasingly frail recently, insisted the visit was for ‘routine tests’.

But his arrival at Milpark hospital in Johannesburg by ambulance yesterday afternoon was followed by a stream of family members, including his wife Graça Machel, 65.

Several grandchildren and great-grandchildren also visited him, prompting speculation that his condition was worse than first reported.

Earlier, Archbishop Desmond Tutu weighed into the debate by saying his former comrade in the struggle against white rule appeared ‘frail’ when they met last week.

Mr Mandela has not been seen in public since his brief appearance before the final of the World Cup six months ago when he driven in a buggy, rather than walking, on to the pitch at Soccer City stadium in Soweto, the township where he still has a house.

Last night the Nelson Mandela Foundation said: ‘We can confirm that Nelson Mandela is at Milpark hospital undergoing routine tests. He is in no danger and is in good spirits.’

In the hospital’s car park, a cordon was erected around the family cars, providing them with privacy.

Milpark Hospital last night where Mr Mandela was said to be in good spirits

Earlier this month, a report circulated around the world on social network Twitter that the elder statesman had died.

It was condemned as malicious and insensitive by the ruling African National Congress, of which Mr Mandela was leader.

However, sources close to the family have confirmed privately that his health had deteriorated in recent months.

It is widely reported in South Africa that Mr Mandela suffers from age-related dementia.

Since his released from prison in 1990 after 27 years behind bars, Mr Mandela has been diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer.

Six years ago, he announced his retirement from from public life. His health had been declining, and he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Since then, he has appeared only rarely in public and hardly ever to speak.

Access to the iconic freedom fighter is strictly guarded by his family and staff.

Mr Mandela, who served as president between 1994 and 1999, retired from public life in 2004.

Since then, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation have been set up to continue charity work in his name.

During his brief appearance at the FIFA World Cup last July he cut an extremely frail figure, with a thin frame and white hair.

At the time, Mr Mandela was still mourning the sudden death of his great granddaughter in a car crash and had declined all requests to meet visiting heads of state and celebrities who flocked to South Africa for the month-long tournament.  (*)

IDF Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi to NATO: Stop the Spread of Non-Conventional Weapons

FILE : IDF Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi (L) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R)observe a military exercise at Elyakim military base near the northern city of Haifa May 11, 2010. REUTERS/Eran Yuppy Cohen/Pool

Jan 26 (KATAKAMI.COM ) — IDF Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, spoke on Wednesday at the NATO Conference in Brussels, during a special plenary for the chiefs of staff of the armies of Mediterranean countries.

During his speech Ashkenazi addressed the change in the battlefield as he has seen it during his term as Chief of Staff, which is scheduled to conclude in several weeks.

“Radical regimes and terrorist organizations brought into the battlefield weapons with both high and low technological qualities, cynical use of civilians as human shields, use of global systems of disinformation and more,” said Ashkenazi. “All these have created a significant change on the battlefield.”

Ashkenazi added that “NATO is facing the same challenges in Afghanistan and the Allied Forces are forced to deal with complex strategic, tactical, and logistical issues in different areas.” He noted that he appreciates the work of NATO “which leads more than forty countries in fighting these threats. These joint efforts ensure that the extremists who want to ruin our lives will never be able to do so. If we are to eradicate this phenomenon significantly, we must stand directly against those challenges and overcome the legal, operational and intelligence challenges. We must take advantage of all the means to prevent the spread of non-conventional weapons.”

As this is the last gathering of chiefs of staff that Ashkenazi will participate in, he pointed out that he is “sure that those who come after me will receive a warm welcome from you just like the one I got.” Ashkenazi also said that “I was honored, as I’m sure are those sitting around me, to have lead for many years brave soldiers and officers, and unfortunately, also heroes who fall as they defend our countries.”

Ashkenazi departed on Tuesday for the two day conference of the Chiefs of Defense of NATO member countries, where he is conducting work meetings with his counterparts from around the world. As part of the Conference a ceremonial dinner will be held in the home of the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, where he will bid a farewell to Ashkenazi.  (*)

Source : Israel National News

IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi Delivers a Speech at the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue

FILE : IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi (left) and United States chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen at the Pentagon, November 17, 2010. ( Photo by: Embassy of Israel Press Office )


Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi : “Combined efforts ensure that the extremists who wish to destroy our way of life will never succeed in doing so”


Jan 26 (KATAKAMI.COM ) — “Extremist regimes and terrorist organizations have introduced high and low quality weapons, exploitation of civilian human shields and misinformation to the current battlefield.  All these tactics have altered the battlefield as we know it,” said IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday  at the Mediterranean Dialogue, during the NATO conference of the Chiefs of Defense of member countries.

“NATO currently faces the very same challenges in Afghanistan, and its member countries encounter complex strategic, tactical and logistic issues in different arenas of war.”

Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also noted his deep appreciation of NATO achievements, “under whose command over 40 countries operate united against these terrorist threats. These combined efforts ensure that the extremists who wish to destroy our way of life will never succeed in doing so. If we wish to completely eradicate this phenomenon, we must stand strongly before it, overcome the legal, operational and intelligence obstacles… we must put to use all possible means in order to avoid the dangerous spread of unconventional weapons.”

Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi thanked the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, and his counterparts for their friendship and partnership.

During the conference, Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi is scheduled to hold work meetings with his military counterparts from around the world.

(*)

Source : IDF

St. Joan of Arc's fearless witness invites greater love for Christ, Church, Pope says

Pope Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / CNA/EWTN News).- St. Joan of Arc was united in prayer to Christ even at the end of her short life, when she yelled his name while being burned at the stake, the Pope said, holding her up as a model of strength.

Pope Benedict XVI shared the story of St. Joan of Arc and her heroic sanctity at the general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Jan. 26. More than 3,000 people were gathered in the auditorium for the occasion.

She was just 19 years old when she was sentenced to death, but the French teenager was one of the “strong women” at the end of the Middle Ages, “who fearlessly brought the splendid light of the Gospel into the complex events of history,” said the Pope.

Born to a peasant family in a time of war between England and France, Joan brought herself to the attention of an important nobleman at the time. She was just 17, but hoped to achieve peace by imploring a settlement between the two Christian nations in the name of Jesus.

The nobleman, convinced of her Christian goodwill by local theologians, allowed her to try. When her efforts failed she soon found herself at the head of an army defending the French city of Orleans.

The Pope recalled that she lived among the troops for a year, evangelizing them with her strong witness of faith, until her capture by enemy forces.

She was put on trial by ecclesiastical judges and condemned to death. As Joan’s life was taken on that day in 1431, her last moments were spent invoking the name of Jesus aloud.

“The Name of Jesus invoked by this saint in the last instants of her earthly life was like the continual breath of her soul … the center of her entire life,” said Benedict XVI.

“(She) understood that Love embraces all things of God and man, of heaven and earth, of the Church and the world.”

A picture of St. Joan D'Arc

Joan knew that loving Christ was obeying Him and she lived in constant dialogue with Him, said the Pope.

The saint’s will to liberate her countrymen “was an act of human justice, which Joan performed in charity, for love of Jesus,” said the Pope. This example of sanctity is especially relevant as a “beautiful example” for laity who are involved in politics today, he added.

She saw the reality of the Christ’s Church in heaven and that on earth, said the Pope. Her words that “Our Lord and the Church are one … takes on a truly heroic aspect in the context of the trial, in the face of her judges, men of the Church who persecuted and condemned her.”

“In the Love of Jesus,” recalled the Pope, “Joan finds the strength to love the Church up to the end, even in the moment of condemnation.”

She was exonerated 25 years later by Pope Callixtus III and canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

Pope Benedict XVI noted a close connection between Carmelite St. Therese of Lisieux, France and the medieval saint. St. Therese “felt very close to Joan, living in the heart of the Church and participating in the suffering of Christ for the salvation of the world,” despite her very different circumstances in life as a cloistered nun.

“With her shining witness St. Joan of Arc invites us to the highest degree of Christian life, making prayer the ‘conducting wire’ of our days, having complete trust in fulfilling the will of God whatever it may be, living in charity without favoritism, without limitations and finding in the love of Jesus, as she did, a profound love for the Church.”  (*)

House Speaker John Boehner lends legislative support to Catholic schools



House Speaker John Boehner poses with Catholic school children and Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Washington D.C., Jan 26, 2011 / 06:38 pm (KATAKAMI.COM / CNA).- Speaker of the House John Boehner (R–Ohio) showed his support for Catholic education and school choice on Jan. 26, announcing the introduction of a bill that would restore funding for school vouchers in Washington, D.C.

“There’s only one program in America where the federal government allows parents from lower-income families to choose the schools that are best for their children, and it’s right here in D.C.,” Boehner said in a morning press conference, announcing his plan to restore funding to the program along with Senator Joe Lieberman (I–Conn.).

“The D.C. program provides a model that I believe can work well in other communities around the nation,” the speaker said. “It should be expanded, not ended.”

The D.C. program first received authorization in 2004, and enabled 1,700 children to attend private schools. On average, four families applied for each single scholarship that was given, and just over half of the parents who received the vouchers chose to send their children to Catholic schools. President Obama defunded the program in 2009.

Boehner is placing a high priority on his bipartisan effort to restore vouchers in the nation’s capital. The D.C. voucher restoration proposal is the only bill he plans to sponsor during this session of Congress.

The previous evening, he had indicated his support for Catholic education by inviting several guests from Washington, D.C.’s Catholic schools, along with the district’s Cardinal Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, to share the Speaker’s Box at his first State of the Union address. The school representatives were involved with the Consortium of Catholic Academies, which benefited from D.C.’s school voucher program before its defunding.

The 2011 State of the Union address took place during the Jan. 23-29 National School Choice Week – an event highlighting the potential of school vouchers, charter schools, tax credits, and other educational alternatives.

Following Republicans’ mid-term electoral gains last year, school choice advocates are once again hoping to advance their cause.

Sr. Dale McDonald, Director of Public Policy and Educational Research at the National Catholic Educational Association, told CNA that she and her colleagues  were “particularly encouraged” by Rep. Boehner’s effort to restore D.C.’s “very successful” Opportunity Scholarship initiative.

She noted that Virginia, Indiana, and New Jersey were giving serious consideration to expanding vouchers or scholarship tax credits. A bill in the Colorado state house would also create income tax credits for private education. The first bill introduced into Pennsylvania’s state legislature during its current session is, like the Boehner-Lieberman proposal, a bipartisan effort to fund low-income students’ attendance at private schools.

Sean McAleer, head of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, told CNA on Jan. 25 that the new proposal was receiving unprecedented support from both Democrats and Republicans.

A decade ago, he said, many Pennsylvanians were “somewhat on the fence” on the question of providing educational vouchers and tax credits to low-income families.

“This time, it’s a total change,” McAleer remarked. “The public outcry has been unbelievable. They understand that we have to do better for our kids.”

McAleer recalled that in 2010, both the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor came out in favor of school choice measures, something he said had “never happened” in the past. Likewise, Senate Bill 1 –the act providing for opportunity scholarships and educational tax credits– was introduced in the state legislature on Jan. 25, with 17 bipartisan cosponsors.

McAleer chalked up the growing support for vouchers and tax credits to a growing frustration with many public schools’ failure to improve, even after significant reinvestment.

“What we’ve done in the past is not working,” he explained. “We spent $23 billion on education last year. People are disappointed in the failures that are offered to them, and they’re demanding more choice.”

The National Catholic Educational Association, which is participating in this year’s National School Choice Week, regards the expansion of educational options as a matter of social justice for low-income families. “The gospel mandate to care for the poor and vulnerable among us motivates NCEA and our members to advocate for educational justice,” Sr. McDonald stated.

Schools that accept vouchers, she said, often do so at a financial loss to themselves. “The voucher programs are based on the published tuition of the school,” she explained, “not the per-pupil cost, which is thousands of dollars more than tuition covers.”

Sr. McDonald said that participating schools were willing to make this sacrifice, because of a fundamental conviction. “They believe that social justice requires that all parents, especially those of low and limited income, should not be denied the opportunity to provide their children with a good education.”  (*)

Anger on streets as Egypt protests enter third day

Anti-government demonstrators walk away after teargas was released to disperse them in downtown Cairo January 26, 2011. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

CAIRO, Jan 27  (KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – Activists trying to oust Egyptian President HosniMubarak played cat-and-mouse with police on the streets into the early hours of Thursday, as unprecedented protests against his 30-year rule entered a third day.

At least three protesters and one policeman have died in clashes since they erupted on Tuesday. The protests, inspired by a popular revolt in Tunisia and unprecedented during Mubarak’s strong-handed rule, have seen police fire rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators throwing rocks and petrol bombs.

In central Cairo on Wednesday demonstrators burned tires and hurled stones at police. In Suez, protesters torched a government building.

Demonstrations continued well into the night. By the early hours of Thursday, smaller groups of protesters were still assembling in both cities and being chased off by police.

Prominent reform campaigner Mohamed ElBaradei, who lives in Vienna, will return to Egypt on Thursday, his brother said. Baradei, formerly head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog authority, is a vocal advocate of political change.

Protesters are promising to hold the biggest demonstrations yet on Friday after weekly prayers.

“Egypt’s Muslims and Christians will go out to fight against corruption, unemployment and oppression and absence of freedom,” wrote an activist on a Facebook page.

Protesters say they have seen demonstrators dragged away, beaten and shoved into police vans. The Interior Ministry said on Wednesday that 500 had been arrested. An independent coalition of lawyers said at least 1,200 were detained.

REGROUPING

Sometimes police have scrambled to find the means to respond to the protests. In one spot in central Cairo, angry policemen rammed sticks into pavements to break up pieces of concrete for use as projectiles to hurl at protesters.

Protesters have constantly regrouped, using Facebook and Twitter to galvanize and coordinate the biggest anti-government rallies of Mubarak’s 30 years in power.

Calls for another big protest on Friday gathered 24,000 Facebook supporters within hours of being posted.

Web activists seem to have acted largely independently of more organized opposition movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, widely seen as having Egypt’s biggest grassroots network with its social and charity projects.

“Participation has no religious direction, it is an Egyptian movement,” wrote an activist about Friday’s planned protest.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the Egyptian government to allow peaceful protests and not to block the social networking sites.

Like Tunisians, Egyptians complain about surging prices, a lack of jobs and authoritarian rulers who have relied on heavy-handed security to keep dissenting voices quiet.

After decades in which Mubarak’s rule has never been seriously challenged, Egypt’s large, youthful population has grown increasingly restive and bolder in demanding change.

“The people want the regime to fall,” protesters chanted.

Egypt’s population of some 80 million is growing by 2 percent a year. Two thirds of the population is under 30, and that age group accounts for 90 percent of the jobless. About 40 percent live on less than $2 a day, and a third are illiterate.

Tunisians have offered their own tips to their fellow Arabs. “May God be with you Egyptians,” wrote one activist on Facebook, explaining how to deal with teargas or how best to evade arrest.

The protests in Egypt, one of the closest Middle East allies of the United States, follow the overthrow two weeks ago of another long-serving Arab strongman, Tunisian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in a popular revolt.

Analysts said the United States probably wants to avoid adding to political uncertainty by abandoning Mubarak. Egypt’s peaceful relationship with Israel is a bulwark of stability in the unsettled region.

A presidential election is due in September. Egyptians assume that the 82-year-old Mubarak plans either to remain in control or hand power to his son Gamal, 47. Father and son both deny that Gamal is being groomed for the job.

Egyptians blame Gamal and his cabinet allies for introducing economic liberalization measures that have only helped the rich. Investors see it differently, and have piled into Egypt for a slice of the country’s 6 percent annual growth.

The unrest has rattled markets, sending stock prices tumbling and driving the Egyptian pound to a six-year low against the U.S. dollar. The cost of insuring Egyptian debt against default rose.  (*)

British Foreign Secretary on protests in Egypt

William Hague

Jan 26 (KATAKAMI.COM / FCO.GOV.UK) — Foreign Secretary William Hague urges the Egyptian Government and demonstrators to seek a peaceful way forward.

“We deeply regret the loss of life in the Egyptian protests. All parties should show restraint and avoid violence. It is important that the government listens to the concerns of those demonstrating and respects rights of freedom of assembly and expression. Openness, transparency and political freedom are important tenets of stability. We urge the government and demonstrators to seek a peaceful way forward.

We have updated our travel advice for Egypt to reflect recent developments. This advises people to avoid political gatherings and demonstrations. We will be keeping the advice under constant review.”  (*)

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