A slice of Thirties elegance to welcome the New Year, with piano, three double basses, and tap dancer Billy Burt (courtesy of Weirdo Videos):
Islamic extremists threw acid on a church leader on Christmas Eve shortly after a seven-day revival at his church, leaving him with severe burns that have blinded one eye and threaten sight in the other.
Bishop Umar Mulinde, 37, a sheikh before his conversion to Christianity, was attacked on Saturday night outside his Gospel Life Church International building in Namasuba, about 10 kilometers outside of Kampala. From his hospital bed in Kampala, he told Compass that he was on his way back to the site for a party with the entire congregation and hundreds of new converts to Christianity when a man who claimed to be a Christian approached him.
“I heard him say in a loud voice, ‘Pastor, pastor,’ and as I made a turn and looked at him, he poured the liquid onto my face as others poured more liquid on my back and then fled away shouting, ‘Allahu akbar [God is great],’” Mulinde said, still visibly traumatized two days after the assault.
It's not just the apostasy. Mulinde also argued against the introduction of Sharia courts:
Mulinde said Muslim extremists opposed to his conversion from Islam and his outspoken opposition of sharia (Islamic law) courts in Uganda, known in East Africa as Kadhi courts, attacked him. On Oct. 15, area Muslim leaders declared a fatwa against him demanding his death.
“I have been receiving several threats for a long time, and this last one is the worst of all,” Mulinde said...
Mulinde is known for debates locally and internationally in which he often challenges Muslims regarding their religion. His extensive knowledge and quotation of the Quran in his preaching has won him enemies and friends. Often criticizing Islam, he has relied on police protection during revival campaigns throughout Uganda.
And now the Islamists have answered his criticism, in their own inimitable way.
What can the people of North Korea expect from their new Supreme Commander? A number of commentators have suggested that he may go down the Chinese road and set about introducing reforms. On the other hand:
Unexpectedly harsh crackdowns and extreme treatment of defection cases since the death of Kim Jong Il are leading to fears that life will be even more repressive under Kim Jong Eun in 2012 than it was under his father.
Before the North Korean authorities announced the death of Kim, border security staff were given new orders to ‘eliminate’ suspected defectors and their families. Barricades have been set three or four deep in parts of border areas to keep people from escaping, while movement is being restricted in other cities as well by the People’s Safety Agency, the army and recently formed 'riot squads'.
According to internal sources, the National Security Agency (NSA) has told local People’s Units to pass on the fact that defection will be met with unconditional punishment for three generations of the family.
Travel to border areas has been stopped for anyone not actually living there. Any travel, even for personal reasons, is banned, with the authorities simply refusing to issue travel passes to border towns. People in those towns have reportedly been told that they risk being shot if they are on the streets without just cause.
A broker from Changbai, China who helps defectors escape from North Korea told Daily NK that it has become extremely difficult to get out of the country at all, saying, “Most people wouldn’t even dream of it now.” Naturally, the increased security controls at the border have doubled the price of crossing the river.
Orders have been handed down to shoot anyone trying to escape via the East or West Seas, too. When an unauthorized boat leaves port, the coastguard issues a warning before giving chase. However, during the mourning period, orders were to treat any unauthorized ship leaving the shore as an attempted defection and to shoot on sight.
Even if the young Kim's personal inclination was to go down the path of reform - which I very much doubt - the logic of his current position dictates that his only choice at present is more, and worse, of the same. He may be Supreme Commander, but his figurehead authority rests on a behind-the-scenes power structure whose interests are firmly fixed on maintaining the status quo. And the manner of his rise to power - not through any particular personal qualities, but solely through an accident of birth - would very much suggest that a radical policy shift led from above, in the style of Deng Xiaoping after Mao, is not something we're likely to see.
The Korean spring? On indefinite hold...
The blue sheathed towers of Holy Trinity church:
It's in a bad way:
A leading heritage organisation has issued a warning over the state of repair of two of Islington’s most beautiful churches – the Union Chapel in Compton and Holy Trinity in Cloudesley Square.
A report by SAVE London’s Heritage, dealing with churches at risk throughout London, says that although the Union Chapel – James Cubbitt’s gothic revival building which faced demolition in 1982 – is on the one hand a great success story, much repair work still needs to be done....
Holy Trinity, in Barnsbury, also Grade II-listed, is in a much worse condition. It was built in 1829 and was designed by Sir Charles Barry, the architect responsible for the Palace of Westminster.
The report, entitled London’s Churches are Fighting Back, says it’s reminiscent of East Anglia’s “great Perpendicular churches”....
SAVE’s report looks again at churches it first identified as in danger of demolition 30 years ago. While many, including the Union Chapel, are no longer under such severe risk, they still need large amounts of money to maintain them.
And although some churches, like Holy Trinity, have found smaller denominations to use them, it is still an uphill struggle for them to raise the necessary funds, the Victorian Society’s Edmund Harris, who wrote the report, said....
“Holy Trinity was deemed redundant in the 1970s and is now used by the Celestial Church of Christ, many of whose members are from outside the area."
Many of whose members? I'd be surprised in any of the congregation live locally. The Celestial Church of Christ is an African church - and this is in the heart of leafy upmarket Barnsbury.
The building is now weather tight, but the work done has really only dealt with the most pressing concerns and there is no sense of an overall strategy to deal with the building properly.
“The turrets of the west facade are still in a poor state and clad in blue netting to catch falling masonry.
Internally, the damage caused by the water ingress is all too visible and throughout the interior paint peels and plater crumbles.
Green netting has been stretched underneath the nave of the roof to catch debris falling from decayed roof trusses.
Fontella Bass, looking very Sixties, with "the greatest record Aretha never made":
"Rescue Me" gave Chess their first big hit since the golden days of the Fifties but, despite being a co-writer of the song, Bass wasn't credited:
"I had the first million seller for Chess since Chuck Berry about 10 years before. Things were riding high for them, but when it came time to collect my first royalty check, I looked at it, saw how little it was, tore it up and threw it back across the desk."
Not your usual pop star, then. She got a reputation as a trouble maker, left the mainstream music business, and, with husband Lester Bowie of the avant-garde jazz group The Art Ensemble of Chicago, left for Paris. Here's one of their better known efforts from that period, Theme de Yoyo, from the soundtrack of the film "Stance a Sophie". It's fair to say that the music has survived a lot better than the film.
And this duet with Lyle Lovett is fun: from Night Moves, late Eighties.
From North Korea Mourns Kim Jong Il, a photo gallery at In Focus:
Plenty of pictures showing distraught North Koreans, like these children in a photo issued by the official KCNA; and a few of the funeral itself.
Don't miss #16, of workers at Kim Jong Tae electric locomotive association complex: straight Soviet iconography.
The rally bears the title: "Jerusalem, We Are Coming." Indeed, we are coming. Everything that the enemy is doing in Jerusalem – Judacizing it, establishing settlements in it, destroying the Mughrabi Bridge, closing the Mughrabi Gate, expelling the Palestinian MPs and ministers from Jerusalem, and the excavations [under] the Al-Aqsa Mosque… All these things are futile, and cannot change a thing. Jerusalem belongs to us, not to the oppressors. Jerusalem is Palestinian, Arab, and Islamic. I don't mean only East Jerusalem. Jerusalem in its entirety is the capital of the state of Palestine, Allah willing.
Therefore, in an effort to strengthen the bond of the Islamic nation and the capitals of the Arab revolution to Jerusalem and to Al-Aqsa, we issue a call from this place, from the heart of glorious Gaza, from Jerusalem and its environs to establish the "Army of Jerusalem" in the Arab capitals and the capitals of the revolution, in order to take action to liberate Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, Allah willing. […]
The principles [of Hamas] are definitive and non-negotiable: Palestine means Palestine in its entirety, from the River to the Sea. There will be no concession of a single inch of the land of Palestine. The fact that Hamas, at one stage or another, accepts the goal of gradual liberation – of Gaza, of the West Bank, or of Jerusalem – is not at the expense of our strategic vision with regard to the land of Palestine. We will work with our people with regard to the things upon which we agree politically, and we will exert all our efforts and our power of resistance to achieve this common goal. However, we maintain two conditions – as I am sure do many of our people, as well as the factions of the mujahideen and the resistance: first, that we will not concede a single inch of the land of Palestine, and second, that we will not recognize Israel.
Clear enough, I think.
One of Israel's less inspiring political positions has been its refusal, to date, to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. It's understandable of course, since Turkey until recently has been Israel's best if not only friend in the region, and it must have seemed a small price to pay to avoid antagonising the Turks on a point on which they've shown themselves to be particularly sensitive. On the other hand this genocide denial will have seemed to many Jews a cynical betrayal of their own history.
Now that may be changing. Relations with Turkey's Islamist government have deteriorated. On Monday the Israeli Parliament held its first public debate on whether to commemorate the Turkish genocide of Armenians. The arguments were familiar: principle against pragmatism...
“As a people and as a country we stand and face the whole world with the highest moral demand that Holocaust denial is something human history cannot accept,” Reuven Rivlin, the speaker of the Parliament, who has favored official recognition of the genocide, said in his testimony. “Therefore we cannot deny the tragedy of others.”...
Otniel Schneller, a legislator from the opposition Kadima Party, spoke against the commemoration, saying the region was growing more hostile to Israel in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings and that Israel had to be pragmatic.
“This is the time when we must rehabilitate our relations with Turkey because this is an existential issue for us,” he said. “Sometimes our desire to be right and moral overcomes our desire to exist, which is in the interest of the entire country.”
No decision was reached, but the subject has now been aired publicly. The Turks will not be pleased.
Claire Berlinski, meanwhile, in a one-woman protest against both the recent French decision to make denial of the Armenian genocide illegal, and Turkey's long-standing laws making affirmation of the genocide illegal, has both denied the genocide in France, and affirmed it in Turkey.
In the latter post she suggests that the Turks' adamant refusal to label as genocide what they acknowledge as slaughter may be because they assume that genocide means "just like the Nazis", and, quite rightly, see differences between the Holocaust and what happened to the Armenians - despite the fact that by the internationally agreed definition of genocide, what happened to the Armenians was indeed genocide. She also suggests, in a comment, that the Islamist government may in fact end up pushing for recognition of the genocide, as a stick with which to beat their secular predecessors - by labelling them genocide deniers. It's possible, perhaps, but surely one factor which is ignored in all this is that, beyond the question of nationalism and perceived insults to Turkishness, there's the religious dimension. One of the most powerful stories that Islamists tell themselves is that Muslims are persecuted, and have always been persecuted, by other forces: Christians, Jews, the West. It would be a most unwelcome break with that illusion to go ahead and acknowledge that, just one hundred years ago, the first modern genocide was instigated by Muslims, against Christians.