Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The archbishop of Buenos Aires reportedly got the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 papal election, and he has long specialized in the kind of pastoral work that some say is an essential skill for the next pope.
In a lifetime of teaching and leading priests in Latin America, which has the largest share of the world's Catholics, Bergoglio has shown a keen political sensibility as well as the kind of self-effacing humility that fellow cardinals value highly. Bergoglio is known for modernizing an Argentine church that had been among the most conservative in Latin America.
Although I'm not Catholic, I pray that any and all religions and philosophies extend love and compassion to all beings.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Planning a vacation?
1. VENICE -- Among those who've seen it in person, the conclusion is unanimous: Venice is the most beautiful city in the world, and the only one that can truly be described as unique. Each building is a work of art, with their beauty enhanced when reflected on the canals that cross the city. Its magical scenery is fascinating and breathtaking at first sight, evoking the feeling of entering the setting of a real-life fairy tale. It's perhaps even unfair to all other cities to call Venice a city, as it is a place unlike any other, that no other can compare to, or ever be like.
2. PARIS -- The Seine and the bridges that cross it, the grand boulevards, the monumental squares, the magnificent monuments, the charming streets of Montmartre -- these images of Paris confirm that it is indeed the most elegant and sophisticated of all cities. It has inspired practically every major world capital, with every city claiming its own Champs-Elysèes, and Place des Vosges becoming the prototype of residential squares throughout Europe. Sit at an outdoor café table or go on a boat tour of the Seine and see it all romantically flash before your eyes.
3. PRAGUE -- It is known as the city of the thousand spires because of its profusion of grand, beautifully-preserved historical monuments dating from practically every period in history. Those spires are best admired from the bridges that cross the Vltava River, especially from the magnificent Charles Bridge, or standing in the stunningly beautiful Old Town Square. Add the atmospheric alleyways and cobbled streets that lead to it, and you know that few other cities delight the senses as much as Prague.
4. LISBON -- Magnificently sited on a series of hills running down to the grand Tagus River, Lisbon is one of the world's most scenic cities. Beautiful unexpected views are found at every turn down its colorful, picturesque streets, and especially from strategically-placed viewpoints or terraces at the top of each hill. The city has an unpolished, seductive appearance; an effortless beauty with captivating details such as cobbled designs, tiled façades, and pastel-colored buildings blending together to give it a singular atmosphere now lost in so many other cities. In such a stunning place, it's no wonder that many of the world's great explorers questioned what other beauties lied beyond the horizon when they departed from here in the 15th century.
5. RIO DE JANEIRO -- There are those who say God created the world in six days and devoted a seventh to Rio. The city is indeed blessed with one of the most stunning settings in the world, making it the most naturally beautiful city in the world. Even if it was deserted of buildings and population, anyone standing at the top of the famous Sugarloaf Mountain or by the Corcovado statue would see one of the world's most beautiful landscapes. Green, tropical luxuriance mixes with the blue of the ocean and the brightness of the sand at the beaches, proving that this is indeed "the marvelous city" as locals call it.
6. AMSTERDAM -- Each of the thousands of buildings that line Amsterdam's main canals can be classified as a monument, beautifully kept as apartments, offices, cafés, restaurants, and even brothels. All together they form an aesthetic uniformity that make the city one of the most charming in the world, a stunning place of bridges and bikes crossing canals, picturesque cobbled streets, and strikingly elegant architecture.
7. FLORENCE -- Florence is synonymous with the Italian Renaissance, known for the artistic heritage in its palaces and museum collections. Yet with all the beauty both inside and outside its palazzi's walls, it is the city as a whole that impresses the most. See it from Piazzale Michelangelo, a 19th century terrace overlooking the entire city, and you'll be looking at one of the most storybook-perfect cityscapes. You'll see its unspoiled skyline, the towers and domes of the heart of the city, its bridges, the hills in the distance, and the magnificent Duomo standing in the middle of it all. Few other places in the world will leave you as awestruck.
8. ROME -- The city standing on seven hills by the Tiber River is a treasure-trove of monuments among some of the most beautiful squares and classical architecture in the world. Because everyone visits Rome for its landmarks, its picturesque streets are often overlooked, such as those of the Trastevere district, filled with charming lanes, faded palazzi, and lovely homes decorated with flower boxes. It is on streets like those that Rome proves itself to really be eternal.
9. BUDAPEST -- Split in two by the Danube River, Budapest is the result of the merging of three cities. Buda is the hill with the royal palace and an old town filled with baroque and gothic monuments looking over the mostly-19th century Pest, crossed by broad avenues lined with elegant neo-renaissance buildings. Admire its setting and remarkable architecture (including the stunning Parliament Building) from the monumental Chain Bridge, and step into the old town for some of the most romantic lanes you'll ever stroll through.
10. BRUGES -- It's a small city, in a small country, hardly a metropolis, but huge on beauty. It's one of the world's best preserved medieval cities, filled with gothic and baroque monuments surrounded by an oval canal and extraordinarily romantic cobbled lanes. It's no wonder that it is one of Europe's most visited cities, helped by its location in the very center of the continent. It's an unmissable destination when in Brussels, and easily accessible from anywhere in central Europe. Its combination of gorgeous architecture and pretty, peaceful spots crisscrossed by canals make it one of the most magical sites to be experienced in the world.
Friday, March 8, 2013
BEIJING — The prime minister of Thailand pledged Sunday to end the nation’s ivory trade, responding to growing calls from international wildlife groups desperate to stop the slaughter of African elephants.
In a speech at the opening of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species conference in Bangkok, the prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, promised to amend the kingdom’s laws, which critics say include loopholes that have allowed smugglers to ferry African tusks to Thai markets and onward, often to China, the world’s top destination for illegal ivory.
Thailand is believed to be the second-biggest market for illicit elephant tusks. “We will work towards amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end to ivory trade and to be in line with international norms,” Ms. Yingluck said. “This will help protect all forms of elephants, including Thailand’s wild and domestic elephants and those from Africa.”
The announcement, which pleased environmentalists, places additional pressure on China to halt its legal ivory trade, a thriving industry that experts say has helped fuel the highest rate of African elephant poaching in decades. Since the beginning of 2012, conservationists say, more than 32,000 elephants have been killed by poachers. Although some of the ivory ends up in Thailand, much of it is smuggled to China, where it is carved into the figurines, chopsticks and other trinkets coveted by that country’s newly affluent consumers.
Animal rights groups have accused the Chinese government of failing to stem the surge in illegal ivory, a charge that Beijing denies. Changing Thai law, which currently violates international rules set by the convention, would also remove the threat of trade sanctions against Thailand that have been sought by conservation groups. Ms. Yingluck did not give a timeline for amending the legislation, a point of concern for conservationists, who note that Thailand has been promising to change its laws for several years, to little effect. “I’m not opening the Champagne yet,” said Mary Rice, executive director of the independent Environmental Investigation Agency. Ms. Rice, who is attending the conference, also criticized the ambiguity of Ms. Yingluck’s promise, which did little to clarify whether the proposed ban would halt both international trade and domestic sales.
Thai law currently allows for the sale of ivory from domesticated local elephants, one of the loopholes that critics say has given smugglers ample legal cover for laundering poached African ivory into Thailand and beyond. Before the conference, conservation groups, including the World Wildlife Fund and the trade monitoring agency Traffic, urged the convention to punish Thailand, along with Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, for not doing enough to stem illegal ivory trading. But other groups cited the absence of China from this list as proof that politics had contaminated efforts to save Africa’s herds. “The whole issue of what’s happening in China is the elephant in the room,” Ms. Rice said.