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Myanmar crackdown on protests, widely filmed, sparks outrage

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Footage of a brutal crackdown on protests against a coup in Myanmar unleashed outrage and calls for a stronger international response Thursday, a day after 38 people were killed.

Videos showed security forces shooting a person at point-blank range and chasing down and savagely beating demonstrators.

Despite the shocking violence the day before, protesters returned to the streets Thursday to denounce the military’s Feb. 1 takeover — and were met again with tear gas.

The international response to the coup has so far been fitful, but a flood of videos shared online showing security forces brutally targeting protesters and other civilians led to calls for more action.

The United States called the images appalling, the U.N. human rights chief said it was time to “end the military’s stranglehold over democracy in Myanmar,” and the world body’s independent expert on human rights in the country urged the Security Council to watch the videos before meeting Friday to discuss the crisis.

The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip in recent years, the international community lifted most sanctions and poured in investment

U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, described Wednesday as “the bloodiest day” since the takeover, when the military ousted the elected government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi. More than 50 civilians, mostly peaceful protesters, are confirmed to have been killed by police and soldiers since then, including the 38 she said died Wednesday.

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I saw today very disturbing video clips,” said Schraner Burgener, speaking to reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York via video link from Switzerland. “One was police beating a volunteer medical crew. They were not armed. Another video clip showed a protester was taken away by police and they shot him from very near, maybe only one meter. He didn’t resist to his arrest, and it seems that he died on the street.”

She appeared to be referring to a video shared on social media that begins with a group of security forces following a civilian, who they seem to have pulled out of a building. A shot rings out, and the person falls. After the person briefly raises their head, two of the troops drag the person down the street by the arms.

In other footage, about two dozen security forces, some with their firearms drawn, chase two people wearing the construction helmets donned by many protesters down a street. When they catch up to the people, they repeatedly beat them with rods and kick them. One of the officers is seen filming the scene on his cell phone.

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Police swoop on Manchester street after reports of woman ‘kidnapped’

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Police were called to a street in Rusholme following reports a woman had been ‘kidnapped’.

Officers responded to a report of kidnap on Great Western Street at around 9pm last night (Monday).

At least two police vans were pictured stationed on the street near the junction with Heald Grove.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said the woman was found.

She has now returned home, they added.

Enquiries are ongoing at this stage.

In a statement, the GMP spokesman said: “Police were called to Great Western Street, Rusholme, at around 9pm on Monday 22 March 2021 to reports a woman had been kidnapped.

“The woman was located and returned home.

“Enquiries are ongoing.”

 

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Nigeria ranks second country with most jobless people worldwide

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With an increase in the jobless rate as of the fourth quarter of 2020, Bloomberg has ranked Nigeria as second highest on the global list of the unemployment rate.

Africa’s most populous nation, with over 200 million population, had 27.1 percent employment rate as of Q2 2020 and had a surge to 33.3 percent in Q4, according to a report released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

According to NBS, the underemployment rate saw a decrease from 28.6 per cent to 22.8 per cent, while a combination of both the unemployment and underemployment rate for the Q4 stood at 56.1 per cent.

The statistics released by NBS indicated that Imo State had the highest rate of unemployment in the country with 56.

6 percent, followed by Adamawa with 54.89 percent.

“Combining both unemployment and underemployment, the state that recorded the highest rate was Imo with 82.5% followed by Jigawa with 80%. Ogun and Sokoto states recorded the lowest of the combined rates, 26.2% and 33.7% respectively.”

Figures tracked by Bloomberg showed that with the 33.3 percent unemployment rate, Nigeria surpasses South Africa on a list of 82 countries, while Namibia leads with 33.4 percent.

The unemployment rate in Nigeria is the highest-ever as the country reeled from two recessions in the last five years.

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Gay Community Angry With Catholic Church, And Vatican rebuff of same-sex unions

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The Vatican’s declaration that same-sex unions are a sin the Roman Catholic Church cannot bless was no surprise for LGBTQ Catholics in the United States — yet it stung deeply nonetheless.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said her organization’s membership includes same-sex couples who have been together for decades, persevering in their love for one another in the face of bias and family rejection.

“The fact that our church at its highest levels cannot recognize the grace in that and cannot extend any sort of blessing to these couples is just tragic,” she said.

 

She was responding to a formal statement Monday from the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, saying Roman Catholic clergy may not bless such unions since God “cannot bless sin.

” It was approved by Pope Francis.

“Having sin be explicitly included in this statement kind of brings us back to zero,” said Ross Murray, who oversees religious issues for the LGBTQ rights group GLAAD.

He expressed dismay that “the ability for us to live out our lives fully and freely is still seen as an affront to the church or, worse yet, an affront to God, who created us and knows us and loves us.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for greater LGBTQ acceptance in the church, said that if those priests who have already been blessing same-sex unions now stop doing so, lay Catholics could be moved take their place.

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“If priests and pastoral ministers no longer feel they can perform such a blessing, the Catholic laity will step in and perform their own rituals,” DeBernardo said. “The toothpaste is out of the tube, and it can’t be put back inside.”

The Rev. Bryan Massingale, an openly gay Catholic priest and professor of theology and social ethics at Fordham University, said priests who want to engage in pastoral outreach to the gay and lesbian community “will continue to do so, except that it will be even more under the table … than it was before.”

For Catholics in same-sex relationships, he said, the Vatican’s new message will hurt.

“Every human being is born with this innate desire to love,” he said. “For those who are oriented toward members of the same sex … to have it being described as inherently or innately sinful without any qualification, that is crushing.”

The Rev. James Martin, another priest who advocates for greater LGBTQ inclusion in the Catholic church, said in a post on Twitter that he received dozens of messages from LGBTQ people on Monday saying they were discouraged by the Vatican’s pronouncement. He urged them not to despair.

“Besides, what is the alternative?” he asked. “To live in fear of the future that God has in store for us?… To doubt that Jesus is on the side of those who feel in any way marginalized?”

Vatican doctrine holds that gays and lesbians should be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay sex is “intrinsically disordered” and that same-sex unions are sinful.

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Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, said those teachings, put together, are problematic.

“It boggles the mind that the hierarchy can affirm that LGBTQ+ persons are made in the image of God but that their unions are a sin,” she said via email. “Are they made in God’s image with the exception of their hearts? With the exception of their abilities and inclinations to love?”

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the U.S.-based NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, said she was relieved the Vatican statement wasn’t harsher.

She interpreted it as saying, “You can bless the individuals (in a same-sex union), you just can’t bless the contract.”

“So it’s possible you could have a ritual where the individuals get blessed to be their committed selves.”

The Vatican’s pronouncement was welcomed by some church conservatives, however, such as Bill Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League.

“There will be no recognition of homosexual unions or marriage by the Catholic Church. It is non-negotiable. End of story,” he said.

“Pope Francis has been under considerable pressure by gay activists, in and out of the church, to give the green light to gay marriage,” Donohue added, calling Monday’s statement “the most decisive rejection of those efforts ever written.”

Francis has endorsed providing legal protections for same-sex couples, but that is in the civil sphere and not the church.

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Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean advocate for sex-abuse victims who is gay, reported in 2018 that when he met with Francis, the pope had told him, “God made you like this, and he loves you.”

On Monday, Cruz said the Vatican officials who issued the new statement “are completely in a world of their own, away from people and trying to defend the indefensible.”

He called for a change in the leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, saying it was undermining efforts by Francis to create a more inclusive church.

“If the church and the CDF do not advance with the world … Catholics will continue to flee.” he said.

In Francis’ homeland of Argentina, LGBTQ activist Esteban Paulon said earlier statements by the pontiff conveying empathy and understanding for gays and lesbians were mere gestures, lacking any official weight.

“They were not institutional pronouncements,” said Paulon, executive director of the Institute of Public Policies LGBT+. “Saying that homosexual practice is a sin takes us back 200 years and promotes hate speech that unfortunately in Latin America and Europe is on the rise.”

Chile’s largest LGBTQ rights group, the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, condemned the decree as a “homophobic and anti-Christian action” from the Catholic hierarchy.

Spokesman Oscar Rementería contrasted the Vatican’s stern rhetoric against same-sex marriage with the many documented cases of Catholic leaders covering up child sex abuse committed by clergy.

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Associated Press

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