Monthly Archives: January 2017

Today’s Holiday:Up-Helly-Aa

Today’s Holiday:

This ancient fire festival is observed by people of Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. In pre-Christian times, their Norse ancestors welcomed the return of the sun god with Yule, a 24-day period of feasting, storytelling, and bonfires. The last night of the festival was called Up-Helly-Aa, or “End of the Holy Days.” Today, a group known as the Guizers builds a 31-foot model of a Viking longship in honor of the Viking invaders who remained in Scotland. On the night of Up-Helly-Aa, the Guizers dress in Norse costumes and carry the boat to an open field. There, they throw lit torches into the ship and burn it.:

Today’s Birthday:Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson (1919)

Today’s Birthday:
Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson (1919)

Robinson, a vocal member of the Civil Rights movement, was the first African-American baseball player in the modern major leagues and the first African American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1949, he led the National League in both stolen bases and batting average and was named its most valuable player. In recognition of his accomplishments both on and off the field, Major League Baseball retired Robinson’s number in 1997. How many times did he “steal home” during his career?:

Quote of the Day:Edgar Rice Burroughs

This Day in History:
United States Launches Explorer I (1958)

Explorer I was the first American satellite. It was launched four months after the first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, was put into orbit by the Soviet Union, beginning the so-called space race. Although it carried a number of instruments, Explorer I was relatively small, weighing just 30 lbs (13 kg). It stopped transmission of data later in 1958, when its batteries died, but remained in orbit for more than 12 years. Where did it make its fiery reentry?:

Quote of the Day:Edgar Rice Burroughs

Quote of the Day:
Edgar Rice Burroughs

They say that none of us exists, except in the imagination of his fellows, other than as an intangible, invisible mentality.:

Article of the Day:Tessellations

Article of the Day:

Tessellations are patterns of carefully juxtaposed, non-overlapping shapes—like the multicolored tiles of a mosaic—that fill a given surface. They have been used throughout history, from ancient architecture to modern art, and are frequently found in the works of M.C. Escher. Regular tessellations, which are highly symmetrical and made up of congruent, regular polygons, can only be formed using equilateral triangles, squares, or hexagons. Where can tessellations be observed in the natural world?:

Word of the Day:shoestring

Word of the Day:

Definition: (noun) Marked by or consisting of a small amount of money.
Synonyms: shoe string
Usage: The manager was expected to run the department on a shoestring budget, so to save money, he fired a few a few of the salesmen and accountants.:

Chiesa della Martorana, Palermo

Chiesa della Martorana, Palermo


Fetiță cu bonetă albă – Nicolae Tonitza / 1886, Bârlad – 1940, Bucureşti- ulei pe placaj, 50 × 38 cm, realizat 1924-1925.

Pantheon, Roma

Pantheon, Roma

Big cat

Big Cat

Adorable Picture of the Year

Adorable Picture of the Year

,,O singură frontieră merită cucerită: cea a cunoaşterii. Din păcate, sunt puţini agresori.”

,,O singură frontieră merită cucerită: cea a cunoaşterii.

 Din păcate, sunt puţini agresori.”

The Sibiu Crucifixion:Artist Antonello da Messina ( 1454-1455)Location Brukenthal National MuseuSibiu, Romania

The Sibiu Crucifixion 

Artist Antonello da Messina

Year 1454-1455

Type Oil on wood

Dimensions 39 cm × 23.5 cm (15 in × 9.3 in)

Location Brukenthal National Museum

Sibiu, Romania 

An early work appearing to be influenced by the Flemish school, the Sibiu Crucifixion was formerly attributed to an unknown 14th century German painter. A symbolic view of Messina is depicted in the background, probably an allusion to Jerusalem as requested by the unknown client, in a typical fashion of the time.

France 24 : Iraq asks US to ‘reconsider’ travel ban

Iraq asks US to ‘reconsider’ travel ban

Iraq has asked the United States to reconsider the travel ban on its citizens, the foreign ministry said on Monday, taking a more diplomatic line than the Iraqi parliament, which had demanded the government “retaliate”.

“It is necessary that the new Americanadministration reconsider this wrong decision,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Noting their cooperation in fighting the Islamic State group, the statement added: “We affirm Iraq’s desire to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries.”

The ministry issued the statement following a parliamentary vote Monday calling on the Iraqi government to “respond in kind to the American decision in the event that the American side does not withdraw its decision”, a parliamentary official who was present for the vote told AFP.

By executive order on Friday, President Donald Trump banned US entry for people from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – and temporarily halted the admission of refugees.

Trump said the ban was needed to make America safe from “radical Islamic terrorists”.

The travel restrictions, which come on the heels of repeated assertions by Trump that the US should have stolen Iraq’s oil before leaving in 2011, risk alienating the citizens and government of a country fighting against militants the president has cast as a major threat to America.

Trump’s decision led to the detention of incoming refugees at US airports, sparking protests, legal challenges and widespread condemnation from rights groups.

And it has led to a growing backlash inside Iraq that could undermine relations between Baghdad and the US amid the battle for Mosul, the largest military operation yet in the war against the Islamic State group.

Security impacted

The parliamentary vote came a day after its foreign affairs committee made a similar call for Iraq to respond in kind to the US measure.

Hassan Shwairid, the deputy head of the committee, said that the call did not apply to the thousands of American military personnel in the country as part of the US-led coalition against IS.

But US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said Trump’s ban would impact on military cooperation and security in other ways.

“This executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies,” the two lawmakers said in a joint statement.

“Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism,” they said.

The Hashed al-Shaabi, a powerful paramilitary umbrella organisation that includes Iran-backed Shiite militias that fought against American forces in past years, called Sunday for US citizens to be banned from the country.

Both units from the Hashed and American troops are deployed in the Mosul area as part of the operation to retake the city from IS, and heightened anti-US sentiment among militiamen could increase the danger to Washington’s forces.

Trump’s travel restrictions also drew condemnation from populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, America’s bete noir for much of its 2003-2011 war in Iraq.

“Get your nationals out before removing expatriates,” said Sadr, scion of a powerful clerical family who rose to widespread fame due to his condemnation of and violent resistance to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.


BBC News: Trump: Executive order on small business regulations

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Trump: Executive order on small business regulations –

France 24 : France charges suspected Brussels bomber over Paris attacks

France charges suspected Brussels bomber over Paris attacks

Mohamed Abrini, the “man in the hat” bombing suspect from the Brussels airport attack, has been charged in France over the November 2015 Paris assaults, his lawyers said Monday.

Belgium has handed over Abrini to France for questioning about the 2015 Paris attacks, federal prosecutors said earlier.

Abrini was captured in Brussels in April over his suspected involvement in the March 22 Brussels attacks and the Paris killings, both of which were claimed by the Islamic State group.

“In the framework of the investigation related to the attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015, Mohamed Abrini was surrendered to the French judicial authorities for a period of one day,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman, told AFP that the decision is based on “mutual agreements” between the two countries.

“It’s not uncommon that suspects in different cases are surrendered for one day or a few days,” Van Der Sypt said.

Belgian investigators have said the Brussels airport and metro bombers who killed a total of 32 people were part of the same Brussels-based cell that orchestrated the November 2015 Paris attacks that left 130 dead.

Abrini, dubbed the “man in the hat” from images caught on security cameras, fled the airport without detonating his suitcase bomb after his accomplices Najim Laachraoui and Ibrahim El Bakraoui set off theirs, killing 16 people and themselves.

Several sources close to the Belgian-led investigation have told AFP that the three bombers targeted passengers travelling to the United States and also Jewish and perhaps Russian targets at the airport.

“That understanding has held up with later investigations, including with Abrini’s alleged confession,” a US law enforcement source told AFP.

US sources said they are confident the airline check-in counters for flights to the United States, Israel and Russia were targeted.

Abrini had a record as a long-time petty criminal who grew up in the troubled Molenbeek area of Brussels with Salah Abdeslam, the only survivor of the group that carried out the Paris attacks.


Nicknamed “Brioche” after his days working in a bakery, Abrini is thought to have given up training as a welder at the age of 18 before eventually gravitating towards extremism.

The Belgian of Moroccan origin was seen at a petrol station north of Paris two days before the November 13 attacks with prime suspect Abdeslam, who drove one of the vehicles used in the attacks.

Belgian authorities have charged Abrini with “participation in the activities of a terrorist group and terrorist murders” over the massacres in the French capital.

Identified as a radical Islamist by Belgian investigators, Abrini is believed to have briefly visited Syria last year and his younger brother Suleiman, 20, died there.

He was known to security services for belonging to the same cell as Abdelhamid Abaaoud, one of the organisers of the Paris attacks who opened fire on bars, restaurants and a concert hall before he died in a police shootout shortly afterwards.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

France 24 : Benoît Hamon: Brave new Socialism in an age of mass extinction

Benoît Hamon: Brave new Socialism in an age of mass extinction

The Socialist nominee’s bold platform for the presidency “isn’t unrealistic, it’s unthinkable”. The question is, can he get enough French voters to change the way they think?

“What would Benoît Hamon be without the Socialist Party?” pondered President François Hollande in March 2015, during one of hisnotoriously candid exchanges at the Élysée Palace with Le Monde journalists Gérard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme. Hamon, a former education minister who quit Hollande’s government in protest at its right-ward lurch, had recently joined the growing ranks of the “Frondeurs” – the party’s dissident leftist faction. His was the first recognisable name in a festering rebellion that would ultimately prove fatal to Hollande. But, at the time, the French president dismissed the threat, answering his own rhetorical question with a laconic: “Nothing much.”

Two years on, Hamon has supplanted Hollande as the Socialist nominee for the presidency,trouncing his rivals in a two-round primary contest – with the incumbent too unpopular to even take part. On Sunday, the 49-year-old Breton, who wants to legalise cannabis, tax robots and give everyone in France a €750 living wage, picked up around 59 percent of votes cast in the run-off, defeating Manuel Valls, a pro-business former prime minister and the primary’s nominal favourite. In the process, he breathed new life into a battered ruling party that is struggling to stay alive in the shifting sands of French politics.

The victory caps a remarkable run by the Socialist “nothing much”, who was long seen as a side-kick for leftists with greater panache. It mirrors trends seen across the West, “where the mainstream left has been mauled by a decade of crisis, rising unemployment and surging inequality”, said Bruno Cautrès, a political scientist at CEVIPOF in Paris. Pointing to parallels with Britain’s Labour Party underJeremy Corbyn, Spain’s anti-establishment Podemos, and leftist firebrand Bernie Sanders– all of whom Hamon has singled out as sources of inspiration – Cautrès added, “Many Socialists dream of a return to the left’s core values.”

Out of the ‘fringe’

When Hamon announced his candidacy for the presidency last summer, few took his bid seriously. A Socialist “apparatchik”, Hamon enjoyed little recognition beyond the party’s confines. His first cabinet post, as junior minister for the “social economy”, was hardly a headline-grabber. The subsequent upgrade, to education minister, lasted just 147 days. He was elected to the European Parliament once, in 2004, and the French National Assembly a decade later, but suffered as many defeats.

Of the four Socialists vying for the party’s nomination, Hamon was – on paper – the least formidable. “Little Benoît” lacked both Valls’s notoriety and the flourish of Arnaud Montebourg, the fiery former economy minister. Nor did he enjoy the intellectual aura associated with the fourth candidate, Vincent Peillon, who preceded him at the education ministry. Though all four were part of the same generation of former Socialist ‘Young Turks’, alternately allies and rivals, Hamon was very much the junior member – in age, fame and deed.

Hamon’s “lightweight” team reflected his junior status. When it came to picking a candidate, cabinet ministers rallied behind their former boss Valls, a boxer in his spare time; most of the “Frondeurs” supported Montebourg; and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo threw her lot behind Peillon. None of the Socialist heavyweights backed Hamon – not even his friend Christiane Taubira, a former justice minister, nor his patron and one-time party chief, Martine Aubry, who waited until the second round to back him. The dearth of prominent endorsements comforted the notion that Hamon was a radical outsider lost on the party’s hard-left fringe – in the manner of Labour’s Corbyn.

“In fact Hamon is far less of a radical within the party than is commonly assumed,” argued Michel Wieviorka, a prominent sociologist who is close to the Socialists. He added: “Hamon has strong ties with Aubry and others social democrats on the centre-left, and continues to cultivate a loyal following among members of the party’s youth wing, which he once led.”

Not a man of providence

With his working-class family background, impeccable left-wing credentials and understated coolness, Hamon was a perfect fit for the Mouvement des Jeunes Socialistes (MJS), whose leadership he took over back in 1992. Ironically, it was Valls, five years his senior, who helped the young Breton into the youth wing. To this day, Hamon is known as the man who secured the MJS’s autonomy within the party, turning a docile, obedient club into a formidable force, capable of mobilising large crowds and challenging the top brass.

Like Valls, Hamon spent the following 25 years working the party apparatus, securing jobs and patronage, and nurturing ties with a broad network of associations, including feminist and anti-racist groups, that gravitate around the Socialists. Crucially, he never drifted away from the party, even at the height of the “Fronde” – when others, like Montebourg and Peillon, opted for a brief exile in the hope of later reemerging as the Socialists’ saviour.

“I don’t believe in Heaven-sent men,” Hamon repeated throughout the primary campaign, opposing his platform of direct democracy and “collective intelligence” to the personality cult he associates with his rivals. The strategy appears to have paid off, turning his lack of notoriety and experience into an asset, and placing his ideas – rather than his person – at the heart of the debate.


The first to throw his hat in the ring last summer, Hamon cast himself as a moderniser firmly rooted in the left, with a more inventive edge than Labour’s Corbyn. He dominated the primary campaign and televised debates with a slew of bold proposals that include a costly universal basic income – a fashionable idea that involves giving all citizens a basic wage, regardless of personal wealth.

Hamon has argued that the digital age calls for a new social model in which wealth and the shrinking workload are spread out more evenly across society, people get more leisure time, and robots pay taxes on the wealth they create. He says work-related “burnout” should be recognised as an illness. And while critics say France’s 35-hour work week is too short, he wants to cut it further.

During the four primary debates, Hamon’s rivals lampooned his proposals as ruinous and unrealistic. Montebourg – whose more traditional leftist pitch was undercut by Hamon – claimed the latter’s costly flagship reform would lead to “fiscal caning” for French taxpayers, and “confine the Socialist Party to the dustbin of history”. But even as they blasted the former education minister, Hamon’s opponents gave him and his policies unprecedented publicity, helping to shape the national profile that had so far eluded him.


Analysing the factors that propelled Hamon to victory, Wieviorka highlighted “his vision, his platform, or, one might say, his utopia”. He pointed to “traces of [Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras, Podemos, Corbyn and Sanders”, though hinting at a form of pragmatism not typically associated with the radical left. Hamon, he cautioned, “has the capacity not to corner himself in a form of radicalism that leads to a dead-end”.

Another of Hamon’s assets is his broad appeal among Green Party voters, whose candidate for the presidency, Yannick Jadot, is struggling to build momentum around his campaign. Ahead of Sunday’s run-off, some in Jadot’s camp were rumoured to be mulling an alliance with the Socialists in the event of a Hamon win. Prominent green activist Nicolas Hulot, a man whose endorsement presidential candidates have been coveting for the past decade, expressed his admiration for the Socialists’ rising star in a widely quoted interview.

“Hamon’s ecological convictions are seen as genuine, and not merely dictated by political convenience,” said Florence Faucher, an expert in environmental politics at Sciences-Po Paris. “He is at ease discussing important but technical issues that are rarely part of the mainstream political discourse, such as banning endocrine disruptors,” she added, referring to chemicals that have been proven to interfere with hormone systems – an issue that the Socialist candidate routinely addresses, alongside more traditional topics such as welfare and taxation.

Quiet strength

A third factor in Hamon’s rise was voters’ hostility towards his main rival in the primary. A divisive figure on the left, Valls was burdened with the legacy of his deeply unpopular government, which he led until December. Wary of carrying the favourite’s tag in a time of electoral upsets, the Spanish-born former premier endured a wretched campaign, marked by spectacular policy U-turns as well as a flour-bombing and a face-slapping in broad daylight. His crushing defeat capped the great overhaul of French politics that has seen virtually every old-timer, from Hollande to Nicolas Sarkozy, swatted aside.

In between the primary’s two rounds, Valls stepped up his attacks on Hamon in an increasingly desperate bid to close the gap, targeting his opponent’s supposed “ambiguity” and “appeasement” in dealing with radical Islam. But many on the left were uncomfortable with the former premier’s hardline stance on French secularism, including his support for a notorious ban on full-body “burkini” swimsuits. Critics warned that his rigid interpretation of secular rules threatened to antagonise the country’s large Muslim population, parts of which already feel discriminated against.

“Valls’s attempts to appear authoritative bordered on the authoritarian,” said political analyst Thomas Guénolé, opposing the former prime minister’s martial rhetoric to the “natural authority” projected by his rival during the debates. In contrast to Valls, he added, “Hamon turned out to be remarkably confident, calm and gentle, developing the charisma of a man with quiet strength”. The nerve with which he embraced the derogatory sobriquet “Bilal Hamon” – coined by Islamophobes to discredit him – is evidence of this aplomb.

A new paradigm

Hamon’s praise for the current leader of the UK’s Labour Party gave Valls – an admirer of the New Labour-style politics abhorred by Corbyn – a stronger line of attack. When Hamon reiterated his support for the veteran British leftist, as well as Sanders and Podemos, an angry Valls was quick to hit back. Corbyn “has chosen to remain in the opposition” rather than aim for government, Valls fumed, opposing his own “credible, responsible” brand of left-wing politics to Hamon’s “unworkable and unfundable promises”.

The Socialists’ new nominee has been astonishingly unmoved by claims his universal basic income will double France’s already sizeable debt burden. When challenged on the subject during the last debate, he pointedly ignored the question, arguing instead that the planet’s “ecological debt” is a far greater threat to society.

Guénolé described Hamon’s flagship welfare reform as “the logical consequence of a new paradigm”, one already espoused by climate scientists. “The premise is that we are in an age of mass extinction and therefore have to change our social model,” said the writer and analyst. “If we stop pursuing unsustainable growth and the mirage of full employment, then a new form of redistribution of wealth is necessary,” he added. “Hence the universal income, financed through an overhaul of the tax system.”

In the short term, Hamon’s priority will be to avert the Socialist Party’s extinction. Bruised and fractured by five gruelling years in power, France’s ruling party now enters the 2017 race in earnest, well aware that opinion polls have condemned it to a humiliating defeat. In picking the boldest programme, Socialist voters have certainly made a big gamble at a delicate time, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen poised to feature in the May 7 presidential run-off. “Hamon’s platform is not unrealistic, it’s unthinkable,” said Guénolé. The challenge, now, is to get enough voters to change their way of thinking. Judging by the primary, some already have.

An earlier version of this article was published on January 25, 2017.

BBC News: Trump executive order: White House stands firm over travel ban

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Trump executive order: White House stands firm over travel ban –

Christians have been slaughtered by allahists: yet Saudi Arabia will not take refugees…why should the USA?

Christians have been slaughtered by allahists: yet Saudi Arabia will not take refugees…why should the USA?

Schitul Breaza

Schitul Breaza

France 24 : Growing global backlash against Trump’s immigration ban

Growing global backlash against Trump’s immigration ban

A global backlash against U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration curbs gathered pace on Sunday as several countries including long-standing American allies criticised the measures as discriminatory and divisive.

Governments from London and Berlin to Jakarta and Tehran spoke out against Trump’s order to put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily ban travellers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, which he said would help protect Americans from terrorism.

In Germany – which has taken in large numbers of people fleeing the Syrian civil war – Chancellor Angela Merkel said the global fight against terrorism was no excuse for the measures and “does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion”, her spokesman said.

She expressed her concerns to Trump during a phone call and reminded him that the Geneva Conventions require the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds, the spokesman added.

Merkel’s sentiments were echoed in Paris and London.

“Terrorism knows no nationality. Discrimination is no response,” said French Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, while his British counterpart Boris Johnson tweeted: “Divisive and wrong to stigmatise because of nationality.”

Along with Syria, the U.S. ban affects travellers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Trump said his order, which indefinitely bans refugees from Syria, was “not a Muslim ban”, though he added he would seek to prioritise Christian refugees fleeing the war-torn country.

Washington’s Arab allies, including the Gulf states and Egypt, were mostly silent.

The government in Iraq, which is allied with Washington in the battle against ultra-hardline Islamist group Islamic State and hosts over 5,000 U.S. troops, also did not comment on the executive order.

But some members of the parliament said Iraq should retaliate with similar measures against the United States.

In Baghdad, influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said American nationals should leave Iraq, in retaliation for the travel curbs.

“It would be arrogance for you to enter freely Iraq and other countries while barring to them the entrance to your country … and therefore you should get your nationals out,” he said on his website.

There was no immediate reaction to the curbs from Islamic State, although in the past it has used U.S. monitoring of Muslim foreigners to stoke Muslim anger against Washington.

Iran vows to respond

Trump’s executive order on Friday took effect immediately, wreaking havoc and confusion for would-be travellers with passports from the seven countries and plunging America’s immigration system into chaos. U.S. civil rights and faith groups, activists and Democratic politicians vowed to fight the order.

The Tehran government vowed to respond in kind to the U.S. ban on visitors from Iran, but on Sunday Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that Americans who already hold Iranian visas can enter the country.

“Unlike the U.S., our decision is not retroactive. All with valid Iranian visa will be gladly welcomed,” Zarif said.

Trump, a businessman who successfully tapped into American fears about militant attacks during his campaign, had promised what he called “extreme vetting” of immigrants and refugees from areas the White House said the U.S. Congress deemed high risk.

He said on Saturday of his order: “It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over.”

The travel curbs, however, also drew criticism from several other countries around the globe.

In Jakarta, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the Muslim-majority nation deeply regretted Trump’s plans for “extreme vetting” of people from some Muslim countries.

The Danish, Swedish and Norwegian governments all registered their opposition, with Danish foreign minister Anders Samuelsen tweeting: “The U.S. decision not to allow entry of people from certain countries is NOT fair.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country welcomed those fleeing war and persecution, even as Canadian airlines said they would turn back U.S.-bound passengers to comply with an immigration ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” he tweeted.


BBC News: Yemen al-Qaeda: US commandos raid stronghold

I saw this on the BBC and thought you should see it:

Yemen al-Qaeda: US commandos raid stronghold –

Giovanni Battista Barbarini, Cappella della Passione (Cremona, Sant’Agostino) – 1666.

Giovanni Battista Barbarini, Cappella della Passione (Cremona, Sant’Agostino) – 1666.

Ștefan Luchian Vas cu garoafe

Ștefan Luchian Vas cu garoafe


L’unica cosa importante quando ce ne andremo, saranno le tracce d’amore che avremo lasciato.A. Schweitzer

My Chakra today 

My Duck today no.2

My Duck today no.2

My Duck today no.2

My Duck today no.2

My Duck today no.1 

My Duck today no.1

My Duck today no.1 


” Portrait of a Lady ” C.1550Artist : Pieter de Kempeneer ( Flemish )Period : Northern Renaissance Location: Städel Museum , Frankfurt, Germany

Santa Maria del Fiore ( the virgin of the Flowers ) in 1412, a clear illusion to the Lily , the symbol of the city of Florence.

Santa Maria del Fiore ( the virgin of the Flowers ) in 1412, a clear illusion to the Lily , the symbol of the city of Florence.

” Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore ” ( Duomo )

Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio , considered as the third largest Church in the world ( after St. Peter in Rome and St. Paul in London ) and was the largest church in Europe when it was completed in the 15th century . it is 153 meters long, 90 Meters wide at the crossing , and 90 metres high from the floor to the bottom of the lantern. It was dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore ( the virgin of the Flowers ) in 1412, a clear illusion to the Lily , the symbol of the city of Florence.

France 24 : Girls as young as six see men as more capable, intelligent

Girls as young as six see men as more capable, intelligent

Girls as young as six can be led to believe that men are inherently more intelligent and talented than women, according to a study published this week in the journal “Science”.

“As a society, we associate a high level of intellectual ability with males more than females, and our research suggests that this association is picked up by children as young 6 and 7,” said Andrei Cimpian, associate professor in the psychology department at New York University. Cimpian co-authored the study, which looked at 400 children aged between five and seven.

In the first part of the study, girls and boys were told a story about a person who is “really, really smart” and then asked to identify that person among the photos of two women and two men.

The people in the photos were dressed professionally, looked the same age and appeared equally happy.

At the age of five, both boys and girls tended to associate brilliance with their own gender, meaning that most girls chose women and most boys chose men.

But as they became older and began attending school, the children studied started to endorse gender stereotypes.

At six and seven years old, girls were “significantly less likely” to pick women. The results were similar when the youngsters were shown photos of children.

Interestingly, when asked to select children who look like they do well in school overall, as opposed to simply being clever, girls tended to pick girls, which means that their perceptions of success are not based purely on academic performance.

“These stereotypes float free of any objective markers of achievement and intelligence,” Cimpian said.

Differences in aspirations

In the second part of the study, children were introduced to two new board games, one described as an activity “for children who are really, really smart” and the other one “for children who try really, really hard.”

Five-year-old girls and boys were equally likely to want to play the game for smart kids, but at age 6 and 7, boys still wanted to play that game, while girls opted for the other activity.

“There isn’t anything about the game itself that becomes less interesting for girls, but rather it’s the description of it as being for kids that are really, really smart,” the study said.

As a result, believing that they are not as gifted as boys, girls tend to shy away from demanding university degrees, leading to big differences in aspirations and career choices between men and women.

“These stereotypes discourage women’s pursuit of many prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance,” the authors wrote.

It is still unclear where the stereotypes come from. Parents, teachers, peers and the media are the usual suspects, Cimpian said.

Achieving intellectual potential

But it is evident that action must be taken so that these biases don’t curtail girls’ professional aspirations.

“Instill the idea that success in any line of work is not an innate ability, whatever it is, but rather putting your head down, being passionate about what you are doing,” Cimpian said, adding that exposure to successful women who can serve as role models also helps.

Toy companies like Mattel, maker of the Barbie doll, have taken steps to try to reduce gender stereotypes.

Mattel’s “You can be anything” Barbie campaign tells girls that they can be paleontologists, veterinarians or professors, among other careers. The campaign also holds out the possibility that a girl can imagine herself to be a fairy princess.

Rebecca S. Bigler, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, described Cimpian’s study “as exceptionally nice work”.

She suggested that the stereotypes develop in early elementary school when students are exposed to famous scientists, composers and writers, the “geniuses” of history, who are overwhelmingly men. Bigler said it is important to combine that knowledge with information on gender discrimination.

“We need to explain to children that laws were created specifically to prevent women from becoming great scientists, artists, composers, writers, explorers, and leaders,” Bigler added. “Children will then be … more likely to believe in their own intellectual potential and contribute to social justice and equally by pursuing these careers themselves.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

France 24 : Veteran British actor John Hurt dies at 77

Veteran British actor John Hurt dies at 77

Veteran British actor Sir John Hurt, Oscar-nominated for his star turn in “The Elephant Man” and his supporting role in “Midnight Express”, has died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, a representative said on Saturday. He was 77.

Hurt, who had starred in more than 200 films and television series over a career spanning six decades, revealed in 2015 that he was suffering from the early stages of pancreatic cancer and that he was receiving treatment.

His death was confirmed to Reuters via email by Charles McDonald, a British-based representative for the actor’s Los Angeles talent manager, John Crosby. The BBC, citing the actor’s agent, also reported that Hurt had died. Further details of the circumstances of his death were not immediately available.

Hurt said at the time of his cancer diagnosis that he intended to continue working. He most recently starred in the Sundance TV crime series “The Last Panthers” and in the Oscar-nominated film “Jackie”, playing a priest who consoled the newly widowed wife of slain U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Hurt, a native of Derbyshire in England, garnered his first Academy Award nomination for his supporting role as Max, an inmate who befriends the imprisoned drug smuggler Billy inside a Turkish jail in the gripping 1978 drama “Midnight Express”.

He earned greater acclaim, and an Oscar nomination as best lead actor, for his memorable portrayal of John Merrick, a grossly disfigured Victorian-era man struggling to project his humanity while enduring the indignities of life as a side-show freak. With his face obscured behind the character’s deformity, Hurt’s performance rested largely on the expression of the actor’s signature raspy voice.

His roles in both “The Elephant Man” and “Midnight Express” won him Britain’s top film award, the BAFTA. He was bestowed an honorary BAFTA in 2012 for his outstanding contribution to cinema.

Hurt also played a key role in the original 1979 sci-fi thriller “Alien”. His character, Kane, became the first member of a space merchant vessel crew to fall victim to a fearsome life form, encountered on a distant moon, when a deadly parasitic creature burst from his chest.

Other notable credits include supporting parts as a village doctor in Greece whose daughter falls in love with an Italian military officer during World War Two in the 2001 film “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, and as the eccentric wand-maker Mr. Ollivander in the “Harry Potter” movie franchise.


France 24 : ‘Not the time to build walls’, Iran’s Rouhani tells Trump

‘Not the time to build walls’, Iran’s Rouhani tells Trump

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticised his US counterpart Donald Trump on Saturday, saying now was “not the time to build walls between nations”.

“They have forgotten that the Berlin Wall collapsed many years ago. Even if there are walls between nations, they must be removed,”Rouhani said at a tourism convention in Tehran.

His remarks came after Trump ordered construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border and imposed tough new controls on travellers from seven Muslim countries, among them Iran.

Rouhani did not comment directly on the visa ban, but said Iran had “opened its doors” to foreign tourists since the signing of a nuclear agreement with world powers in 2015.

With more than a million Iranians living in the United States, many families are deeply concerned about the implications of Trump’s visa ban, which also affects citizens from Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

On Thursday, one of Iran’s most popular actresses said she would boycott next month’s Academy Awards in protest at the ban.

“Trump’s visa ban for Iranians is racist. Whether this will include a cultural event or not, I won’t attend the #AcademyAwards 2017,” tweeted Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in the Oscar-nominated “The Salesman”.

No visas will be issued for migrants or visitors from the seven countries for at least 90 days, a restriction which can be extended if the countries in question do not provide extensive information on individuals seeking to enter the United States.

Quizzed on the street, many Iranians said they were baffled by the move.

“Americans themselves are mostly immigrants. To pick out a few countries and call them terrorist is not logical,” said Mohsen Najari, a 33-year-old resident of the Iranian capital.

Tehran and Washington have not had diplomatic ties since students stormed the US embassy in 1980 following an Islamic revolution that toppled the US-backed shah.

“It’s got nothing to do with terrorism. Iran and the US just don’t have good ties. The US has good relations with Saudi Arabia so it doesn’t matter how many terrorists come from Saudi Arabia,” said Sima, a 27-year-old.


France 24: Trump suspends US refugee programme, bans Syrians

Trump suspends US refugee programme, bans Syrians

President Donald Trump on Friday put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred visitors from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, saying the moves help protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

The order limiting entry on visitors from Syriaand six other Muslim-majority countries is for 90 days. The six other countries are: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the White House said.

“I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. Don’t want them here,”Trump said earlier on Friday at the Pentagon.

“We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people,” he said.

Civil rights groups condemned the measures as discriminatory, and said they would strand refugees in dangerous places and would tarnish the reputation of the United States as a land welcoming of immigrants.

The details of the order – which had been rumored for days – were not available until Friday evening, leaving people affected scrambling to figure out what it meant.

The impact was immediate, causing “chaos” for Arab-Americans who had family members already en route for a visit, said Abed A. Ayoub, legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Ayoub said the order could affect traveling green card holders, students, people coming to the United States for medical care and others.

The order is already affecting refugees and their families, said Jen Smyers of the Church World Service, a Protestant faith-based group that works with migrants.

Smyers said she spoke to an Iraqi mother whose twin daughters remain in Iraq due to processing delays. “Those two 18-year-old daughters won’t be able to join their mother in the U.S.,” she said.

Syrian refugees

Trump had promised the measures – called “extreme vetting” – during last year’s election campaign, saying they would prevent militants from entering the United States from abroad.

The rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, which fueled a flood of migrants into Europe, combined with a series of attacks in France and Belgium heightened concerns in the United States about taking in refugees from Syria.

Trump’s order suspends the Syrian refugee program until further notice, and will eventually give priority to minority religious groups fleeing persecution. Trump said in an interview with a Christian news outlet the exception would help Syrian Christians fleeing the civil war there.

Stephen Legomsky, a former chief counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Obama administration, said prioritizing Christians could be unconstitutional.

“If they are thinking about an exception for Christians, in almost any other legal context discriminating in favor of one religion and against another religion could violate the constitution,” he said.

But Peter Spiro, a professor at Temple University Beasley School of Law, said Trump’s action would likely be constitutional because the president and Congress are allowed considerable deference when it comes to asylum decisions.

“It’s a completely plausible prioritization, to the extent this group is actually being persecuted,” Spiro said.

Trump’s order had been expected to include a directive about setting up “safe zones” for Syrian refugees inside the country, but no such language was included.

“President Trump has cloaked what is a discriminatory ban against nationals of Muslim countries under the banner of national security,” said Greg Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.


France 24 : France and Germany united in criticism of Trump’s refugee ban

France and Germany united in criticism of Trump’s refugee ban

France and Germany voiced disquiet on Saturday over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to limit immigration and refugees from some Muslim countries, and they reaffirmed a firm line on Russian sanctions.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Paris with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said many of Trump’s decisions worried the two U.S. allies, including new immigration restrictions.

Trump on Friday signed an executive order that will curb immigration and refugees from some Muslim-majority countries and he separately said he wanted the United States to give priority to Syrian Christians fleeing the civil war there.

“This can only worry us, but there are many subjects that worry us,” Ayrault said, adding that he would soon invite his future American counterpart Rex Tillerson to Paris to explain Europe’s interests, values and vision of the world.

“Welcoming refugees who flee war and oppression is part of our duty,” Ayrault said.
Germany has taken in more than one millionrefugees and migrants, mainly from the Middle East, since 2015.

Although traditionally open to asylum seekers, France has taken in far fewer refugees than Germany since the migrant crisis erupted. Some in the French government, mostly ex-premier Manuel Valls, criticising Berlin’s open-door policy, as has Trump.

“The United States is a country where Christian traditions have an important meaning. Loving your neighbour is a major Christian value, and that includes helping people,” said Germany’s Gabriel, who was on his first trip abroad since his nomination as foreign minister.

“I think that is what unites us in the West, and I think that is what we want to make clear to the Americans.”

The two countries also reiterated their position on Russian sanctions, saying they could only be lifted if progress was made in the peace process for eastern Ukraine, where a pro-Russian separatist insurgency began in 2014.

They joined British Prime Minister Theresa Mayin cautioning Trump against premature moves on the issue.

“Let’s not forget there was a war, that Russia sought to take over parts of Ukraine,” Ayrault said.

Trump said on Friday he was only in the early stages of considering whether to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia, but insisted he wanted to follow through on his campaign pledge to pursue better relations with Russia.

The French and German ministers also said the United Nations remained the best framework to lead peace talks about Syria in the aftermath of Russian-led efforts in the Kazakh capital Astana that some diplomats say might undermine the UN process.

Separately, Germany and France are also continuing to work on creating a joint tactical airlift pool of Lockheed Martin Corp C-130J military transport planes, a spokesman for the German defence ministry said on Saturday.

He could not confirm a report in Der Spiegel newsmagazine that the two countries expected to complete work on the deal and present it to U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels next month.

The magazine said German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen hoped to present the joint airlift as evidence of Germany’s willingness to contribute more to NATO.

Trump has criticised many European countries for not meeting a NATO target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defence.


BBC News: Lancaster, Pennsylvania: America’s refugee capital

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Lancaster, Pennsylvania: America’s refugee capital –

BBC News: Trump’s refugee and travel suspension: World reacts

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Trump’s refugee and travel suspension: World reacts –

BBC News: Trump executive order prompts Google to recall staff

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Trump executive order prompts Google to recall staff –

France 24 : Trump and May underscore US-UK ‘special relationship’

Trump and May underscore US-UK ‘special relationship’

US President Donald Trump on Friday pledged America’s “lasting support” with Britain after he emerged from his first meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, a leader hoping to nudge the populist president toward the political mainstream.

May, who said the meeting gave the two a chance to build a relationship, announced thatTrump had accepted an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II for a state visit later this year with his wife, First Lady Melania Trump.

“I am honoured to have the prime minister here for our first official visit from a foreign leader,” Trump said, standing alongside May in the ornate White House East Room. “This is our first visit so, great honour.”

He added that the United States and the United Kingdom have “one of the great bonds.”

“We pledge our lasting support to this most special relationship,” Trump said during brief opening remarks. “Together, America and the United Kingdom are a beacon for prosperity and the rule of law.”

May congratulated Trump on what she called his “decisive victory” and thanked the president for inviting her to visit so soon after his inauguration last Friday, saying their meeting was an indication of the strength and the importance of maintaining good relations between the trans-Atlantic allies.

She said there was “much on which we agree,” adding that Trump had given strong backing to NATO, an alliance that the US president has previously called obsolete, raising fears that the US might not come to the aid of countries that don’t meet targets for their own defense spending. May’s comments were meant to put those concerns to rest.

“Today’s talks, I think, are a significant moment for President Trump and I [sic] to build our relationship,” May said.

Different positions on Russia sanctions?

While May took a tough stance when asked about sanctions on Russia, insisting they won’t be lifted until the Minsk ceasefire agreement has been fully implemented in Ukraine, Trump did not go as far, saying it is still “very early to be talking about that”.

The new American leader, who is due to speak with his Russian counterpart in a telephone call on Saturday, said he hoped to forge a “fantastic relationship” with Vladimir Putin. “We’ll see what happens,” he added.

May’s meeting with the president is being hailed by the British government as a sign that the trans-Atlantic “special relationship” is valued by the new administration.

Her visit, so soon after Trump’s inauguration, has been criticised by her political opponents, and risks being overshadowed by the flood of announcements, plans and proposals coming out of the White House.

Trump is something of a mystery to world leaders, many of whom expected Democrat Hillary Clinton to win the election. They also don’t know his administration’s main interlocutors with foreign governments, including son-in-law Jared Kushner and senior adviser Steve Bannon, a conservative media executive.

So May is a bit of a scouting party – or guinea pig – among global politicians.

She has strong reasons for wanting the relationship to work. Britain is set to leave the European Union and its 500 million-person single market. A trade deal with the US, Britain’s biggest export market, is a major prize.

Trump has drawn parallels between Britain’s choice to leave the EU and his own success, using the Brexit vote to bolster his derision of the 28-nation bloc and his preference for striking bilateral agreements.

That puts May in an awkward spot. She wants a good relationship with Trump, but does not share his disdain for the EU, saying it’s in Britain’s interests that it succeed.

During the press conference, Trump called Brexit a “fantastic thing” for the UK, concluding, “I think when it irons out, you’re going to have your own identity, and you’re going to have the people that you want in your country.”

Trump ‘going with leaders’ on torture

Pressed about his stance on torture, Trump – who, since taking office, has signaled a renewed embrace of the practice in the fight against Islamic extremism – said he would defer to the views of his defense secretary, James Mattis, who has questioned the effectiveness of waterboarding, which simulates drowning.

“He has stated publicly that he does not necessarily believe in torture or waterboarding, or however you want to define it — enhanced interrogation I guess would be a word that a lot of … words that a lot of people would like to use. I don’t necessarily agree. But I would tell you that he will override because I’m giving him that power. He’s an expert,” Trump said. He called Mattis a “general’s general,” whom he would rely upon.

“I happen to feel that it does work. I’ve been open about that for a long period of time. But I am going with our leaders. And we’re going to win with or without. But I do disagree.”


Perseus with the head of Medusa, 1545, By Benvenuto Cellini. Florence.

Perseus with the head of Medusa, 1545, By Benvenuto Cellini. Florence.


” Portrait of Philip II in Armor ” 1550Artist : Titian Museo del Prado , Madrid, Spain

BBC News: Trump’s looming ‘extreme vetting’ order sows seeds of panic

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Trump’s looming ‘extreme vetting’ order sows seeds of panic –

BBC News: The lure of New Zealand for jaded Americans

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The lure of New Zealand for jaded Americans –

BBC News: Trump announces ‘vetting for terrorists’

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Trump announces ‘vetting for terrorists’ –

Watch “Mexico’s president cancels meeting with Trump” on YouTube

Watch “Theresa May Republican retreat speech #Breaking #Trump #Maga” on YouTube

Watch “Johann Strauss I – Loreley-Rhein-Klänge – Walzer, Op. 154” on YouTube

BBC News: Remembering the Holocaust’s forgotten victims

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Remembering the Holocaust’s forgotten victims –

France 24 : Trump clashes with Mexico over import tax to fund wall

Trump clashes with Mexico over import tax to fund wall

Determined to wall off America’s border with Mexico, President Donald Trump triggered a diplomatic clash Thursday as the White House proposed a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto scrapped his U.S. trip.

The swift fallout signaled a remarkable souring of relations between Washington and one of its most important international partners just days into the new administration. The U.S. andMexico conduct some $1.6 billion a day in cross-border trade, and cooperate on everything from migration to anti-drug enforcement to major environmental issues.

At the heart of the dispute is Trump‘s insistence that Mexico will pay for construction of the massive wall he has promised along the southern U.S. border. Trump on Wednesday formally ordered construction of the wall.

The plan was a centerpiece of Trump’s election campaign, though he never specified how Mexico would fund the project or how he would compel payments if Pena Nieto‘s government refused.

The two leaders had been scheduled to discuss the matter at the White House next week. But Pena Nieto took to Twitter Thursday to say he had informed the White House he would not be coming.

In a speech in Philadelphia later Thursday, Trump cast the cancellation as a mutual decision. He said that “unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless, and I want to go a different route. We have no choice.”

On the flight back to Washington, Trump’s spokesman told reporters the president was considering the 20 percent import tax to foot the bill, the most specific proposal Trump has ever floated for how to cover a project estimated to cost between $12 billion and $15 billion.

“By doing that, we can do $10 billion a year and easily pay for the wall just through that mechanism alone,” Spicer said. “This is something that we’ve been in close contact with both houses in moving forward and creating a plan.”

Spicer said Trump was looking at taxing imports on all countries the U.S. has trade deficits with, but he added, “Right now we are focused on Mexico.”

But the announcement sparked immediate confusion across Washington, and the White House tried to backtrack. During a hastily arranged briefing in the West Wing, chief of staff Reince Priebus said a 20 percent import tax was one idea in “a buffet of options” to pay for the border wall.

A 20 percent tariff would represent a huge tax increase on imports to the U.S., raising the likelihood of costs being passed on to consumers. Half of all non-agricultural goods enter the U.S. duty free, according to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The other half face import tariffs averaging 2 percent.

Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray said Thursday, “A tax on Mexican imports to the United States is not a way to make Mexico pay for the wall, but a way to make the North American consumer pay for it through more expensive avocados, washing machines, televisions.”

Mexico is one of America’s biggest trade partners, and the U.S. is the No. 1 buyer from that country, accounting for about 80 percent of Mexican exports. A complete rupture in ties could be damaging to the U.S. economy and disastrous for Mexico’s. And major harm to Mexico’s economy would surely spur more people to risk deportation, jail or even death to somehow cross the border to the U.S. – undercutting Trump’s major goal of stopping illegal immigration.

House GOP lawmakers and aides interpreted Spicer’s comments on a 20 percent border tax as an endorsement of a key plank of their own tax plan, which Speaker Paul Ryan has been working to sell to the president. The House GOP “border adjustability” approach would tax imports and exempt exports as a way of trying to help U.S. exporters and raise revenue.

Earlier this month, Trump called that concept confusing. And during the White House’s clean-up efforts Thursday, Spicer wouldn’t say whether Trump agreed with the border adjustment tax being considered by the House GOP.

The new president has previously raised the prospect of slapping tariffs on imports, but had not suggested it as a way to pay for the border wall.

There’s also disagreement within his new administration over the effectiveness of tariffs in general. Wilbur Ross, Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary, dismissed tariffs for trade negotiations during his confirmation hearing, saying the 1930 Tariff Act “didn’t work very well then and it very likely wouldn’t work now.”

Pena Nieto has faced intense pressure at home over his response to Trump’s aggressive stance toward his country. Until this week, Mexico had tried its traditional approach of quiet, cautious diplomacy combined with back-room discussions, sending Cabinet officials for talks with the Trump administration.

But that changed when Trump decided to announce his border wall on Wednesday – the same day that two senior Mexican Cabinet ministers arrived in Washington for preliminary talks ahead of what was to be a presidential tete-a-tete. Many Mexicans were affronted by the timing, and Pena Nieto faced a firestorm of criticism at home.

The diplomatic row recalls the rocky days of U.S.-Mexico relations in the 1980s, prior to the North American Free Trade Agreement, a pact that Trump has vigorously criticized.

“There is a change in the understanding that had been in operation over the last 22 years, when Mexico was considered a strategic ally,” said Isidro Morales, a political scientist at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education. “Trump has unilaterally broken with this way of doing things.”


France 24 : Video: Meet the US abortion foes in the heart of Trump country

Video: Meet the US abortion foes in the heart of Trump country

Anti-abortion activists in the United States are set to stage a major annual march on Washington Friday, six days after women’s marches across the United States and around the world drew millions.

Vice President Mike Pence and top Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway are scheduled to speak at the 44th annual March For Life, marking the first time a vice president has ever spoken at the event, say organisers, reflecting the presence of a new ally for pro-life, or anti-abortion, crowd in the White House.

FRANCE 24 met some of the Americans who will make the trip to Washington in Wisconsin, in the heart of rural, industrial and religious America.

“[Former President Barack Obama] professes to be a Christian, but he is pro-choice. The two are not compatible,” John Wogerman, a parishioner at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, and father of 13, tells FRANCE 24. “I don’t believe that you can be a Christian and follow Jesus Christ and kill babies in mothers’ wombs.”

Gallagher Fenwick and Philip Crowther report.

To watch the video in full, click on the player above.