Daily Archives: October 3, 2008

Opus Dei benefits from Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown’s fictional portrayal of the controversial Catholic group has boosted numbers

Times Online |  Sep 30, 2008

On the eve of the 80th anniversary on Thursday of the founding of the conservative Roman Catholic organisation Opus Dei, a leading Catholic writer has claimed that the prelature has benefited rather than suffered from the controversy over Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

Vittorio Messori, who has collaborated on books with both Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, John Paul II, said that on the verge of its 80th birthday Opus Dei could count on over 85,000 members “in all continents”, 98 per cent of them lay people.

He said that while some considered Saint Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer, the founder of Opus Dei, a “megalomaniac”, others saw his life and testimony as one of humility. Writing in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Mr Messori said that the “tsunami” set off by the book and film of The Da Vinci Code had been thought by many to have caused “irreparable damage” to the image of Opus Dei.

In reality, however, Opus Dei had responded not only with protests but also with its own “information campaign”, which had been so effective that it was now studied in US journalism schools. The result had been not only praise for the prelature’s stance of “elegant understatement” but also a rise in the number of adherents. This had been helped by Mr Brown’s errors, such as making his Opus Dei assassin a monk when Opus Dei is not a monastic order and has no monks, Mr Messori said.

Opus Dei (The Work of God) teaches that everyone is called to sanctity through their daily lives. Founded in Spain on October 2 1928, when Josemaria Escrivá said he experienced a “vision” in which he “saw” Opus Dei, it was approved in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. John Paul II made it into a personal prelature in 1982.

Critics say it is secretive and elitist, with arcane rituals for some members including mortification of the flesh. However Josemaria Escrivá was canonised in 2002 by John Paul II, and in 2005 Pope Benedict blessed a statue of him in an outside niche of St Peter’s Basilica.

NYPD officer kills himself over Taser episode

The suicide marks another tragic turn in a case that has raised questions about the use of Tasers by the nation’s largest police force.

Monterey Herald | Oct 2, 2008

By COLLEEN LONG

NEW YORK—The man was naked, teetering on a building ledge and jabbing at police with an 8-foot-long fluorescent light bulb as a crowd gathered below.

Lt. Michael Pigott responded by ordering an officer to fire a stun gun at the man, who froze and plunged headfirst to his death in a scene captured on amateur video and replayed frequently on the Internet.

The officer was remorseful and distraught. He apologized and sought the family’s forgiveness. Then he went to his unit’s headquarters Thursday morning, his 46th birthday, and fatally shot himself just hours before the family laid the victim to rest.

“The lieutenant was deeply distraught and extremely remorseful over the death of Iman Morales in Brooklyn last week,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “Sadly, his death just compounds the tragedy of the loss of Mr. Morales.”

The suicide marks another tragic turn in a case that has raised questions about the use of Tasers by the nation’s largest police force.

Thousands of police sergeants began carrying Tasers on their belts this year after the NYPD expanded use of the weapons, a trend that has been playing out in police departments across the country in recent years. The pistol-shaped weapons fire barbs up to 35 feet and deliver powerful shocks to immobilize people. Their advocates say they can be safer than hand-to-hand confrontations or the use of real guns.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has acknowledged that the weapon is controversial, and some organizations are strongly opposed to police use of Tasers—fearful that the guns can be abused without clear guidelines.

Police said the use of the stun gun in the death of Morales appeared to violate department guidelines, which explicitly bar their use “in situations where the subject may fall from an elevated surface.”

Pigott learned firsthand the dangers of Tasers after he was called to a Brooklyn apartment building on the night of Sept. 24.

Witnesses and neighbors said Morales grew increasingly agitated and threatened to kill himself, leading his mother to call 911. When police arrived, Morales fled naked out the window of his third-floor apartment to the fire escape. He tried to get into an apartment on the floor above, and then climbed down until he reached a ledge over a shuttered storefront, where he started jabbing at officers with the light bulb.

Pigott had to make a decision about what to do. He ordered Officer Nicholas Marchesona to fire the Taser.

The 5,000-volt shock immobilized the 35-year-old Morales, who then toppled from his perch. He plunged 10 feet to the ground and died. Officers had radioed for an inflatable bag as the incident unfolded, but it had not yet arrived when Morales fell.

Authorities believe the fall killed Morales, but an autopsy was inconclusive.

After the episode, Kelly ordered refresher training for the NYPD’s emergency services unit on how to deal with the mentally ill and appointed a new commander of the unit.

Pigott was stripped of his gun and badge and assigned to a job with the department’s motor vehicle fleet—a huge demotion for a 21-year veteran who was assigned to such an elite team. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office and the police department investigated. Marchesona also was reassigned to desk duty but was not stripped of his gun and badge.

Pigott apologized for what happened, telling the Long Island newspaper Newsday that he was “truly sorry.”

Sometime before 6 a.m. Thursday, the lieutenant went to the locker room at his unit’s headquarters by himself and found a weapon that was not his. The married father of two sons and a daughter shot himself in the head.

He apparently left a note in which he expressed devastation over the notion of his wife and kids seeing him as a criminal in handcuffs, according to media reports.

About four hours after the suicide, the Morales family gathered at a church in Manhattan for their relative’s funeral.

“This is horrible,” said Morales’ aunt, Ann DeJesus Negron. “I mean, for me personally, I know it’s horrible because I would have never wished this on anyone, and we never wanted, of course, this for Iman, and we would never wanted this to happen to the officer at all, or anybody at all.”

The episode also cast the spotlight on the NYPD’s emergency services unit, a team of officers who deal with dozens of hostile scenarios every day, such as hostage situations, suicidal suspects, building collapses and hazardous materials threats.

“These guys are the best of the best, they really are,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “When people need help, they call the police, and when police need help, the call the ESU.”

O’Donnell said that even a mistake caught on camera shouldn’t take away from what the unit and the officers there do on a daily basis.

“You have a guy who made a mistake where there’s no allegation of malice or ill will,” he said. “And what happened after he made a mistake? He was named in the paper, shamed in the paper, suspended, and there was a strong story line that he could be criminal suspect.”

NYPD officers are allowed to use Tasers if they believe emotionally disturbed people are a danger to themselves or to others. The department uses stun guns about 300 times on average. So far this year, stun guns have been used 180 times.

The department has used Tasers since 1984, but policy previously called for sergeants to store the stun guns in their trunks while patrolling.

“It is worth remembering that our police officers are not super men, but rather flesh-and-blood human beings who deal with life-and-death situations that most of us cannot even imagine on a daily basis,” said Thomas Sullivan of Lieutenants Benevolent Association. “They deserve a kind thought and the benefit of the doubt for all the good that they try to do, especially when things do not work out exactly as we would have hoped for.”

Pigott was a licensed pilot and a motor boat operator. He had worked as a lieutenant in ESU since 2002, and previously served as a lieutenant in a Brooklyn precinct and as a sergeant in precincts that covered Queens neighborhoods.

Former Communist dictator says Polish martial law was “unavoidable evil”

Pope John Paul II meets with the dictator of Poland Gen Jaruzelski June 17, 1983 at the height of his totalitarian regime.

Martial Law paved the way for democracy claims Jaruzelski

Reuters | Oct 2, 2008

By Gareth Jones and Gabriela Baczynska

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s last communist leader, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, told a court on Thursday his decision in 1981 to declare martial law was a necessary “evil” that averted disaster and prepared the way for democracy.

At the third hearing in his long-delayed trial, Jaruzelski, 85, also said the case brought against him and seven other communist-era officials was biased and politically motivated.

“I constantly state that martial law saved Poland from looming catastrophe. Martial law was evil, but it was a far lesser evil than what would have happened without it,” Jaruzelski said in his lengthy defense statement.

He and the other defendants are accused of illegally declaring martial law and of major human rights violations.

The general has often argued the 1981 decision spared Poland, a country of 38 million people, the kind of Soviet military intervention that crushed pro-democracy supporters in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Under martial law, which lasted until 1983, dozens of people were killed, hundreds were jailed and the anti-communist Solidarity trade union was banned.

Jaruzelski, who was both prime minister and communist party chief, opened talks with Solidarity leaders after martial law was lifted, starting a process that led to the fall of communism in 1989. He served as president during the transition period, standing down in 1990.

The National Remembrance Institute (IPN), which holds communist-era files, says Jaruzelski’s government was a “criminal group.” Seven other communist-era officials are on trial with Jaruzelski over their role under martial law.

Wearing his trademark dark glasses and speaking in a firm voice interrupted only by occasional coughing fits, Jaruzelski said he regretted Poles’ suffering during martial law.

“I am sorry. I grieve with regard mainly to the social costs of this dramatically difficult decision and those cases where particular people suffered,” he said.

“I don’t pretend I was somebody I wasn’t. I was close to the ideology of socialism, as well as to the growing awareness of the need to change the system… while preserving Poland’s territorial integrity.”

Jaruzelski said Solidarity’s later triumph was made possible by his own “pragmatic” decisions during and after the state of martial law, adding that he hoped his trial would help Poles to overcome disagreements over their recent history.

“It is important that history doesn’t continue to divide Poles for ever… History and the question of who is right are complicated and cannot be seen in terms of black and white.”

It is not clear how long the trial will run and many procedural delays are expected, not least because of the advanced age and health problems of the defendants.

“I don’t know who, if any of us, will witness the end of this trial,” Jaruzelski told the court.

Related

Wojciech Jaruzelski
In 1968, during the Prague Spring, he led the Polish military participation in the invasion of Czechoslovakia. In 1970, he took part in organizing the suppression of striking workers, which led to massacres in the coastal cities of Gdańsk, Gdynia, Elbląg and Szczecin. On December 13, 1981, Jaruzelski imposed martial law in Poland. According to his explanation, this action was intended to prevent a threat of Soviet invasion. Lawyers hold that the circumstances of the martial law were even in violation of the communist constitution. Most former opposition members argue that it was merely an action by the Polish communist regime to retain power and strangle the newly born and developing civil society. On March 31, 2006, the IPN charged him with committing Communist crimes, mainly the creation of a criminal military organisation with the aim of conducting crimes (mostly concerned with the illegal imprisonment of people).

China to continue support for Maoist Peoples’ Liberation Army in Nepal as it has in the past

Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army continues its support of the Maoists PLA in Nepal

TGW | Oct 2, 2008

Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal the former deputy commander of the Maoist Peoples’ Liberation Army in Nepal and the incumbent minister of defense in an exclusive interview granted to the Janadisha Weekly-the Maoists Party mouth piece dated October 2, 2008, has revealed that the “Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army wants to extend its relations with the Maoists PLA in Nepal”.

“The Chinese PLA has supported us in the past and it has pledged to continue its support in the future as well”.

Minister Badal who is also the Maoists’ Military Strategist, only recently visited China leading a three member Nepali Delegation at the invitation of the Chinese Ministry of Defense.

“Upon meeting the Chinese Defense minister, State Counselor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chief of the Chinese Army Staff we also discussed the issue of increasing defense cooperation between the two countries”, said a beaming Badal perhaps indicating that he has received guaranteed assurances from the Chinese authorities.

“They maintained that China was ever committed to preserve Nepal’s Territorial Integrity and we assured them that Nepal was firm on its age old “One China” policy”, Badal told Jandisha Weekly.

“The Maoists policy has been that both Nepal and China can and should contribute in maintaining the regional security as we feel that we can contribute in maintaining peace in the entire globe”, the minister added.

“We have always supported Chinese policies and we believe that China will also support Nepal”. “In one way or the other Nepal’s’ Security policy in the changed political context is similar to that of the Chinese Security Policy”.

“They are also concerned on preserving their territorial integrity as we are also confronting in the same front”.

In saying so, minister Badal hinted the obvious and the ground reality as it stands today.

“Nepal’s international border is open from three sides (East-South-West with India), thus the anti-Nepal elements are entering into our country freely challenging our national Security and threatening our territorial integrity”.

“As we can learn much from the Chinese fast-paced development, equally there is the need to learn from the Chinese National Security Policy”.

“I personally believe that the driving forces for charting new National Security Policy should be in line with the preservation of our National Sovereignty, National Integrity and Territorial Integrity”, the minister concluded.