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SOCIETY

Agos - Turkey | 19/09/2014

US leaves Mid East Christians in the lurch

US President Barack Obama met last week with Christian patriarchs from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon to discuss the threat the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) poses to Christians. But the latter can hardly expect help from the US, the weekly paper of the Armenian minority Agos complains: "As deep as the divide between Russia and the West may be, the Christians of the Middle East are no closer to the Western world. The first reason is of course confessional: most Christians in the Middle East are Orthodox, while in the West they're Protestant or Catholic. ... Now Obama has met with the patriarchs to save face and have history written in a certain way. Has that brought any advantages? ... Will the US bombing the IS guarantee the security of the Christians?" (19/09/2014)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland | 19/09/2014

Quarantine questionable in fight against Ebola

The government of Sierra Leone imposed a lockdown of at least three days on Thursday in the efforts to contain the Ebola virus. But such quarantine measures are a questionable means of fighting the epidemic, the liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments: "They promote a climate of denunciation and hinder food supplies. Epidemiologists also point out that putting the entire population under house arrest could lead to more rather than fewer infections. But above all: what happens to those who are infected? There are neither enough beds nor enough personnel in the medical facilities to take care of them all. Apart from quarantine in the restricted sense, the countries that are the most affected by Ebola - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea - are also increasingly enduring a sort of economic quarantine. Most airlines no longer fly there, economic projects are being put on ice, planned investments questioned. ...The World Bank has calculated losses running into the billions for the region in the coming years." (19/09/2014)

Hürriyet Daily News - Turkey | 18/09/2014

Turkey forcing religion on children

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that religious education in Turkey is discriminatory because it fails to respect the religious beliefs of minorities. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has responded by saying that the practice in Turkey's schools constitutes prevention against religious radicalism. The liberal Hürriyet Daily News disagrees: "The curriculum in Turkey is nothing like the 'religion and ethics education' its name suggests. It only teaches the Sunni way of practicing religion, and students are required to memorize many surahs, chapters of the Quran, often performing the namaz [ritualistic prayer] in classes to get a pass grade. .. . Forcing a religion or a political view on children is not acceptable even when it is done by parents, but doing this through state institutions is a clear violation of the most basic rights. The government should stop sugarcoating it as a tool to fight radicalism and end the practice immediately." (18/09/2014)

Kathimerini - Greece | 16/09/2014

Stubborn Greeks still support neo-Nazis

Exactly a year after the murder of the Greek hip hop artist and anti-fascist Pavlos Fyssas by a member of the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi party, the latter continues to be the third-strongest political force in the country according to recent surveys. The Greeks learned nothing from the attack, the conservative daily Kathimerini criticises: "This year the theory that the confused voters would soon return to the right path has been disproved. A theory that many found convenient. ... In the European elections in May one in ten voters voted for this party because they identified with it despite being aware of its ideology and its bloody consequences. They stubbornly continue to support it even though there are no more doubts about the crimes of the party leadership, the party's paramilitary structure or the hatred of all that is foreign." (16/09/2014)

Polityka Online - Poland | 18/09/2014

No assisted suicide for Belgian rapist

A Belgian court has ruled that the convicted murderer and rapist Frank Van Den Bleeken may commit medically assisted suicide after he argued that he is "suffering unbearably" in prison and that there is no prospect of his being cured of his mental illness. Fortunately the ruling is meeting with opposition in Belgium, Adam Szostkiewic, the church expert of the left-liberal news portal Polityka Online comments: "In my opinion this is a risky step in euthanasia. Because is this truly a compassionate gesture? And does this criminal deserve it? ... Belgium is basically a country with a Catholic culture. But it currently has one of the most liberal societies in Europe. At least Van Den Bleeken's euthanasia plans are meeting with resistance. The state has been admonished to use all the psychological instruments available before allowing such a step. And people are saying that the ruling on the convicted man's request came too quickly. ... I share these concerns." (18/09/2014)

Ziare - Romania | 18/09/2014

Security over anonymity with phone cards

The Romanian Constitutional Court this week overturned a regulation according to which buyers of prepaid phone cards must present their ID. The court was too focused on concerns about anonymity and has paid too little attention to security issues, the news portal Ziare writes: "Does insisting on strict security checks and effective prevention instruments - to prevent a bloodbath at Bucharest's North Station like the one in Madrid, where the terrorists used prepaid cards [in the attacks of 2004] - mean we live in a police state? No, just a secure state in a world that has gone off the rails. In Denmark, Spain, Italy and Greece prepaid customers cannot remain anonymous. Are these police states? This is not just about terrorism, but also about organised crime, kidnappings and corruption. ... Of course abuse is possible - just as it's possible to violate the privacy of subscribers. But there are penalties for that." (18/09/2014)

Trud - Bulgaria | 17/09/2014

Vote buying out of control in Bulgaria

In the run-up to the parliamentary elections on October 5, Bulgaria's transitional government has declared war on the so-called vote buyers. The police are to crack down on organised gangs that offer voters - above all Roma - money if they vote for a certain party, Interior Minister Jordan Bakalov announced on Saturday. The daily Trud doesn't believe a word: "In the last elections there were 400 suspected cases. Of those, just 22 went to trial and only one ended with a suspended sentence. ... The result? The vote buyers are becoming increasingly brazen. In the past they acquired votes with money. Now they say: 'Either you vote for us or we'll cut your salaries' or 'Vote for us and you won't be fired', or 'Vote for us and we'll leave your business, career and children in peace'. One thing is clear: those who sell their votes can only lose, because they give power to the wrong people. Anyone with enough brains will think twice before going along with this." (17/09/2014)

Expansión - Spain | 17/09/2014

Google algorithm shouldn't be revealed

In an interview published in the Financial Times on Monday, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas called on the US Internet company Google to reveal its search algorithm to determine whether the company is giving its own products preferential treatment. But too much transparency will reduce the quality of the search results, the conservative business daily Expansión warns: "The concerns of the German government are justified. After all Google dominates 90 percent of the search engine market in Europe and is currently negotiating on millions in sanctions with the European Commission because of precisely this kind of abuse. From the point of view of the supervisory authority the demand makes sense. Without knowledge of the way the search functions it can't reach a conclusion on the neutrality of the results. However it could be counterproductive to demand too much transparency. The more public the 'Google formula' becomes, the easier it will be for third parties to manipulate the results, and the worse the quality of the service would become." (17/09/2014)

Ziare - Romania | 17/09/2014

Digital textbooks a crazy idea of Ponta's

As children returned to school in Romania on September 15, the country's Prime Minister Victor Ponta advocated the use of digital textbooks. All children know how to use computers and have smartphones with Internet access nowadays, Ponta said. Such remarks are a slap in the face for many Romanians, the news portal Ziare comments: "How many dilapidated village schools with outhouses and no plugs has the prime minister visited? Not so many, we can assume. He only gives his blessing to well-funded schools. His children no doubt go to private schools where iPhones are the norm. But that's not the real Romania. Does Ponta not know the truth or is he just lying to paint a false picture? Either scenario would be bad. ... Because it doesn't matter whether he doesn't have a clue in what country he's living or whether he's just trying to conceal the truth: Ponta is challenging a large section of the population - and precisely those whom as a true social democrat he should care about most." (17/09/2014)

Cumhuriyet - Turkey | 16/09/2014

Teachers must defy Islamisation

In time for the start of the new school year many secondary schools in Turkey have been converted into religious imam schools where natural science lessons have been partially replaced by lessons in the Koran and Arabic. In the Kemalist daily Cumhuriyet, journalist Can Dündar calls on the teachers to oppose this education policy: "Dear teachers, you know that Turkey has fallen far behind in the area of education. ... With its latest initiative the government wants to have a prayer room set up in every school, but it is failing to ensure that our children are able to become scientists, researchers, inventors, artists or literary scholars according to international standards. Teach them critical thinking before you teach them religion! Don't teach them to obey but to judge. Don't lead them into blind faith but towards rationality. Encourage them to seek and attain the truth!" (16/09/2014)


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