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The Divine Comedy – (Around the world)

Dante - The Divine Comedy

Halfway along our life’s path. Lost in a dark wood.
Unable to find the right way….



“Yeti mystery resolved with DNA testing!” Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford University, set out to collect and test “yeti” hair samples of two unknown animals, one found in the Western Himalayan region of Ladakh and the other from Bhutan, 800 miles apart, to find out which species they came from. After the more advanced DNA tests available these days Professor Sykes found he had a 100% match with a sample from an ancient polar bear jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, that dates back at least 40,000 years. Professor Sykes believes the animals could be a cross between a polar bear and a brown bear, both species known to interbreed where their territories overlap.

Yetis, also known as the “Abominable Snowman” or “Bigfoot”, have been recorded for centuries in the Himalayas, with local people and mountaineers claiming to have come face-to-face with hairy, ape-like creatures. Legendary Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who became the first man to climb Mount Everest without oxygen, has studied yetis since he had a terrifying encounter with a mysterious creature in Tibet in 1986. Professor Sykes said, “This is a completely unexpected result but more work needs to be done on interpreting the findings.” His book detailing his research “The Yeti Enigma: A DNA Detective Story” is to be published next spring and his investigations have been featured in the UK in a new threepart Channel 4 documentary series “Bigfoot Files”.


Bogota. Colombia. The prison beauty contest for the title of ‘Reina Madre’ (Queen Mother) – the prison “Buen Pastor”, in the Colombian capital that houses more than 2000 women has been organising events like this for the past 18 years with TV and music celebrities as the invited competition judges. The beauty contest is held every year on the feast of the Virgin of Mercy, patron saint of prisoners. Most of the detainees have been found guilty of drug trafficking and are waiting to be sentenced. The competition this year required the contestants to parade first in traditional folk dress and then in elegant evening wear. And it seems that age is not an issue as Maria Cristina Villareal, 56 year-old mother of three with nine grandchildren, was one of the six contestants vying for the title in the final.“Even if they’re in prison it doesn’t mean they’ve lost their femininity” said Maria Virginia Camacho, the organiser of this year’s event.

We could not agree more…


The Yemen. It could be renamed “Singles go on strike!”. This is the demonstration organised in the Taiz district, 250 km south of Sanaa, by young males looking for a bride to demand a reduction in the symbolic “gift” that each aspiring son-inlaws has to give to the family of his proposed future wife. The Yemen is not immune to the economic downturn so unemployment has risen dramatically, and the young husbands-to-be, if not in possession of a substantial bank account, can’t afford the increased demands from future in-laws that vary from US$500 up to $40.000 for the hand of any girl of marriageable age. The girls have no say in the choice of their future husband and often end up marrying old men as they are the only ones who can afford the required amount. For this reason many young men from Al-Jarf in the Taiz asked the patriarchs to sign an agreement capping the price to 200.000 Yemen rials (equal to US$1000 ) per daughter; otherwise all the girls could find themselves left on the shelf. And there is no worse nightmare for a Yemeni family than to have one of their daughters pass the age of 25 because then she is considered a spinster.



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While pope Francis was on a recent visit to Assisi, he declared worldliness and vanity are a great danger to society and added how everybody, from nuns and priests to the bishops and cardinals, must stop dealing with the not so disinterested courtesans surrounding the church and go back to being part of the community. He then attacked the capitalism that impoverishes the world and does not care if there are children dying of starvation, if many families have nothing to eat and cannot afford the dignity of bringing home their daily bread. All these good words would be better if the Church practises what it preaches as, according to ANCI (the Italian Association of Local Government), it owes the equivalent of 4 billion euros of unpaid council tax going as far back as 2006 when the bill lifting the exemption for religious buildings was introduced. The Church is still challenging this but, as the Bergolio resident said in another of his speeches while visiting a refugee centre in Rome,“convents should be turned into places to help the poor not into luxury hotels”. There are poor Italians too, who have to come up with 1% increase in VAT, making it now 22%, in order to pay for the 1 billion euros needed to stay within budget and on target for this year as part of the stability package imposed by the EU . This is on top of 14 billion euros Italy has to pay as the third largest contributor to the Eurozone rescue fund. It is true the world was not created in a single day and there have been signs of improvements with the recent suspension of German bishop Franz-Peter Tebart van Elst, for his over-lavish refurbishment of his diocesan residence in Limburg Germany but hiding behind the inefficiency of Italian bureaucracy does not make things better for Italian families already suffering so much. Dear Francis, this is behaving just like any other capitalist corporation, plain and simple.[/tab]

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Belgium. The death by euthanasia of a female transgender person is creating contoroversy in Belgium where the law allowing euthanasia has been in force since 2002. Nathan had been suffering since he was born a girl Nancy in a Flemish family of four. He told a Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws before he died that in his family he had been the girl that nobody wanted despite being born after three boys. The discovery of feeling more at ease as a man came in her teens when he also felt attracted to girls; the decision to become a man was the next step. In 2009 he began hormone therapy and in 2012 had a mastectomy and genital reassignment surgery. But when he looked at himself in the mirror, as he told the newspaper, “I felt trapped in a body that I detested“. That’s why he wanted to die. The clinic doctor who followed him in this process and his friends, all said he passed away serenely and peacefully. Jacqueline Herremans, head of the federal commission for the control of euthanasia, confirmed the legality of the procedure. “In the case of Nathan” his clinic doctor said, “we can clearly see he went through unbearable psychological suffering”[/tab]

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While the rest of world is debating if a gay person, whether living or not in a traditional family can eat Barilla pasta, a six-year-old ‘boy’ from the province of Buenos Aires in Argentina has been officially recognised as transgender and been registered as ‘female’ under gender on his ID card. Gabriela, the mother of the twin brothers born in July 2007, said that ‘Lulu’ (not her real name) wanted to live as a girl from the age of two and regularly went dressed as a girl to a local kindergarten where they respected her identity. Following the gender equality law passed by the Argentinian government in 2012, Lulu’s mother started the procedure to change the gender on her son’s ID card to avoid any discrimination. As Gabriela said, “it is humiliating for Lulu each time she has to show her papers to have a boy’s name when she feels like a girl.” While we do not want to dispute the good intentions of a mother to protect her child , I am sure lots of paediatricians will have something to say about the timing of this…[/tab][/tabgroup]


[tab title=»CANTO I»]

La Quebrada, San Lui en Ca.ete district, 140 km south of Lima. Peru. No more cats in the pan. A judge has ruled in favour of the feline that lost the yearly competition “La carrera dos gatos” This cat race is part of the festivities in celebration of Santa Iphigenia, the only black virgin celebrated in an African-Peruvian cult that has its roots in Ethiopia. The tradition of eating cats remains a mystery but different scholars believe it comes from the need to include some animal protein in the diet of the African slaves working in the local sugar cane plantations. “An event based on an act of cruelty to animals, incites violence, and creates a public health hazard “ ruled the judge, Mar.a Luyo S.nchez. The complaint was lodged with the police by various Animals Rights Associations in Lima. However, the judge’s ruling has caused rioting in some parts of country. Even more to think about for a government considering a nation-wide ban on the consumption of catmeat.[/tab]

[tab title=»CANTO II»]

GM Child. A California-based company decided to launch a new product, a do-it-yourself version of the genetic testing that made it famous. The biotechnology company, which offered the first complete reading of the genome at only $ 99, undercutting the competition by ten times, registered last September a new patent that promises to select the donor’s gametes based on genetic calculations so a couple could potentially know in advance the characteristics of any future child. That goes from the colour of the hair, eyes, up to the any food intolerance and illness predisposition but it is obvious the company’s aim is to guarantee any new child has certain characteristics. What is the margin of error, though? Can we sue if parents’ expectations are not met because we don’t want to be stuck with something we don’t want for the rest of our lives, right? I guess it is just business after all.[/tab]

[tab title=»CANTO III»]

It’s official: pollution can cause cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) based in Lyon, France, which. on behalf of the World Health Organisation, studies the effect that toxins released into the air by traffic exhaust and other types of polluting industrial combustion have, has concluded that they should be classed as group 1 toxins, namely ‘almost certain to provoke cancer’, on exactly the same level as other carcinogens like benzene and asbestos. Christopher Wild, the director of the agency, declared at the conference that classifying outdoor pollution as carcinogenic was an important step towards recognising that it was time to act and governments could not delay any further. Measures need to be taken to stop this silent killer which causes, according to W.H.O’s statistics, the death of more than three million people world-wide each year. So whoever thought smog an irritant that you just lived with will now need to have a major rethink. Well, we can but hope so!.[/tab]



To what other terraces of doom and pain, dear Virgil, will you accompany me… next time….





This post is also available in: Inglés Italiano


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