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Pomp, politics & prayers as world leaders offer their Christmas wisdom – Euronews

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World leaders and other public figures have joined Queen Elizabeth II in putting out their messages of goodwill this Christmas Day.

While the British monarch’s words of wisdom were broadcast by the BBC, others published directly to social media.

The Queen said the last year had been “bumpy”, hinting at her country’s divisions and parliamentary deadlock over Brexit.

Spain’s King Felipe VI, in just his fifth Christmas broadcast [in Spanish], spoke about “the deterioration of citizens’ trust in institutions”.

He spoke of “times of great uncertainty, of deep and rapid changes” causing “concern and restlessness” inside and outside of Spain. Nevertheless, he only used the word Catalonia once in his speech.

Elsewhere, ex-president Evo Morales made his Christmas message after vowing to return to Bolivia by this time next year.

Morales resigned after riots broke out over a disputed presidential election in October.

“From Argentina, we are coordinating with social movements to recover democracy in our beloved Bolivia,” he tweeted.

In Israel, people are not only celebrating Christmas but also the festival of Hanukkah. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will face one of his biggest political challenges on Thursday when his party vote to decide who will lead it in the next election.

“The state of Israel would have not come into being if it weren’t for the avid support of Christians in the 19th century and the 20th century as well,” Netanyahu said in his Christmas message. “We know that we have no better friends around the world than our Christian friends.”

Under-pressure Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, wished citizens a “safe, happy and peaceful Christmas” despite ongoing anti-government protests in the semi-autonomous territory.

“Christmas is a time for everyone to celebrate. I wish everyone in HK to have a safe, happy and peaceful Christmas,” she said in a message posted on Facebook.

Pope Francisspoke out against violence, war and conflict in a speech at the Vatican.

“There is darkness in human hearts but the light of Christ is greater… there is darkness in economic, geopolitical and ecological conflicts, but greater still is the light of Christ,” Francis said.

In an allusion that had been widely interpreted as referring to church scandals — in particular, related to sexual abuse — the Pope said that God loves “even the worst of us”.

He said that people should not wait for the “Church to be perfect” to “love her”.

In a funny message posted to Twitter recalling the film Love Actually, MEP Terry Reintke wrote a message of hope for “UK friends”.

“By next year (as it looks now) you will have left us… but for now let me say without hope or agenda, just because it’s Christmas (and on Christmas, you tell the truth), I still love you.”

Back in the UK, it wasn’t just Queen Elizabeth II who was putting Christmas messages out.

Newly elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent a Christmas message making clear that his administration will “defend your right to practice your faith”.

Meanwhile, a Christmas card from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are in Canada for December 25 — was shared on Twitter featuring their son Archie in the foreground.

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Putnam: The character of our politics – SC Times

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When I first considered running for office, many of the people I care about offered their own version of “Why would you want to do something like that?” But my daughter Eliza, who was 13 at the time, said it best: “But Dad, then you’ll have to talk to people, and people suck.” 

She meant politicians. 

Eliza and my friends clearly thought politics was a place for questionable characters. Countering Eliza’s cynicism was a big part of why I ran for office that first time. After being involved in local politics for a couple years, it pains me, but low expectations for politicians are sometimes justified.      

We’ve all heard people lament how our politics have gotten too personal. In some ways I agree, but in others I think we haven’t gotten personal enough. 

I believe politics are about character — but not just expecting a politician not to indulge conflicts of interest or demanding that they keep their word, although clearly we should expect as much. It’s also more than personality. While many folks consider who they’d like to have a beer with before they vote, that’s not the only issue that matters. Character is bigger than professional ethics or likeability.

I believe character is about who we are and who we want to be. Character isn’t about a moment, an individual decision; it’s about the patterns of behavior that define us as individuals or as groups. 

You know my character from how I behave when you’ve been around me. We know our character when we recognize it in our neighbors. Some patterns of choices are better than others. Some are aspirational. Sometimes we make choices that reflect concern for the best of us, the best for us, the best from us.  Character is not about one day, but is reflected in the choices we make every day. 

Recently, questions about the character of our politics and the characters in our politics have taken on a new urgency. Rep. John Thompson was stopped for not having a license plate on the front of his car. According to reports, during the traffic stop, Thompson first made sure to mention that he was an elected official, and then he provided the officer a Wisconsin driver’s license that had been renewed the same month that he was elected to the Minnesota legislature. 

In the aftermath of this traffic stop, as reporters tried to ascertain his legal residence, they discovered repeated allegations that Thompson had committed domestic violence.    

I don’t know Thompson personally, and I haven’t really worked with him in the legislature. He’s in the House, I’m in the Senate. That doesn’t really matter, though. I still find his pattern of alleged behavior to be abhorrent. It’s not good enough for an elected official. He does not deserve to serve.     

This issue is not about a particular ideology or politics. It’s about an individual accused of repeated moments of unacceptable behavior, habits that come together to demonstrate character that simply isn’t good enough. We need to expect more from our politics.

This doesn’t mean that we should expect our politicians to be exactly like us, to have exactly the same values we have on every issue or never to make mistakes. But I do believe we need to hold them to a higher standard. Public service is about service. That’s the foundation, and it should be assumed that those who run for elected office have hearts of servants and habits of them too.

Next time you write to an elected official, don’t be surprised when they write you back. Demand it. If they answer you with talking points, tell them that’s not good enough and they need to think for themselves just like you do. If you have high expectations and they fail to meet them, well, then it’s your turn. Run for office.  

Of course voting is important too. I’m not a big fan of participation trophies, in sports or in politics. Voting for or against someone just because of their party identification is setting the bar way too low. Our character is constituted in the decisions we make. We need to have higher expectations when we make those decisions. It’s not good enough to say someone else doesn’t do this work well. We all need to do it better.

Politicians needn’t be role models. Parents are best at that job. But we do need people in office who can be trusted, who show up and put work into listening, who finish what they start, who recognize the dignity of all people not just because that’s what’s useful, but because that’s who we want to be.

— Sen. Aric Putnam, a Democrat, represents Minnesota Senate District 14. His column is published monthly. 

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Germans divided over restrictions for the unvaccinated – Associated Press

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BERLIN (AP) — German politicians were deeply divided Sunday over a warning by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff that restrictions for unvaccinated people may be necessary if COVID-19 infection numbers reach new heights in the coming months.

Chief of staff Helge Braun told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that he doesn’t expect another coronavirus-related lockdown in Germany. But Braun said that unvaccinated people may be barred from entering venues like restaurants, movie theaters or sports stadiums “because the residual risk is too high.”

Braun said getting vaccinated is important to protect against severe disease and because “vaccinated people will definitely have more freedoms than unvaccinated people.” He said such policies would be legal because “the state has the responsibility to protect the health of its citizens.”

His comments fueled a debate in German politics about potential vaccination requirements. The issue has proven divisive, even within Merkel’s own Christian Democrats party. Its candidate to replace Merkel as Germany’s leader, Armin Laschet, said he opposes any formal or informal vaccine requirements for the time being.

“I don’t believe in compulsory vaccinations and I don’t believe we should put indirect pressure on people to get vaccinated,” he told the German broadcaster ZDF on Sunday. “In a free country there are rights to freedom, not just for specific groups.”

If Germany’s vaccination rates remain too low this fall, other options could be considered, Laschet said, adding “but not now.”

With the highly transmissible delta variant spreading in Germany, politicians have debated the possibility of compulsory vaccinations for specific professions, including medical workers. No such requirements have been implemented yet.

Germany’s vaccine efforts have slowed in recent weeks and that has led to discussions about how to encourage those who haven’t yet received a vaccine to do so. More than 60% of the German population has received at least one dose while over 49% are fully vaccinated.

During a recent visit to the Robert Koch Institute, the government run disease control agency, Merkel ruled out new vaccine requirements “at the moment,” but added, “I’m not ruling out that this might be talked about differently in a few months either.”

Other elected officials have struck a similar tone. Baden-Württemberg governor Winfried Kretschmann, a member of the Greens, noted Sunday that the delta variant and others that may emerge could make vaccine requirements more attractive down the line.

While there are no current plans to require people to get vaccinated, he told the German news agency dpa that “I can’t rule out compulsory vaccinations for all time.”

Karl Lauterbach, a health expert from the center-left Social Democrats, spoke in favor of possible restrictions. He told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that soon one of the only remaining options to fight new variants will be “to restrict access to spaces where many people come together” to those who have either been vaccinated or recovered from the virus.

Others immediately pushed back against Braun’s comments on Sunday. Some expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of such restrictions, while others warned against having rights based on one’s vaccination status.

“Of course, we need incentives to reach the highest possible vaccination rate,” Marco Buschmann, parliamentary group leader for the pro-business Free Democrats, told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland newspaper group.

Still, he said, if unvaccinated people who have been tested or recovered from the virus pose no greater danger than vaccinated people, to impose such restrictions on the unvaccinated “would be a violation of their basic rights.”

Rolf Mützenich, head of the Social Democrats’ parliamentary group, said politicians should be focusing more on getting willing citizens vaccinated than penalizing the unvaccinated.

“We’re not going to sustainably change the vaccination behavior of individuals with threats,” he told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.

___

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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Caballeros are right to stay out of politics – Santa Fe New Mexican

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My compliments and support for the recent decision of the Caballeros de Vargas to abstain from local politics.

I am an Anglo and not a Roman Catholic, but consider Santa Fe my home, my community. It is where I feel a connection with the Earth, with fellow human beings, with life itself. Compassion, respect, coexistence, hospitality to the stranger; these are all values that I see as a part of the history of the Santa Fe community. I see these values being reflected in how the Caballeros honor La Conquistadora, Our Lady of Peace, the Virgin Mary statue so central to the city’s history.

I used to feel that one did not need to be a Hispanic Catholic of Santa Fe heritage to be a contributing member of the community, as long as you recognized and supported these values. Unfortunately, the last several years I have seen communications by, and received from, members of the community that made me feel that not being of “Spanish” heritage in New Mexico, I was not welcomed in the community. I thought there was a rich, historic heritage of different opinions being welcomed here, to be civilly debated, as long as the focus was on what was best for the community, the people, the land. One’s history and experiences give each of us a different perspective. It is that blend of views and ideas that can generate healthy change, while preserving these historic values of the community.

The history of La Conquistadora and of Don Diego de Vargas should not be forgotten. But history is messy and complicated, a reflection of human life. Mistakes, errors in judgment, happen. New knowledge of the past is learned. But, if the focus is on reverence of life and support of the community, no matter if community is defined locally or worldwide, then one’s actions should be respected.

Fiesta de Santa Fe, and the role of Los Caballeros in it, is a time to celebrate the rich and diverse history of Santa Fe. All of the history, good and bad. A time to give thanks for life, for harvest, for family, for my fellow citizens, my fellow human beings. Making it exclusive to only certain people does not reflect the values being celebrated.

La Conquistadora, Our Lady of Peace, may not be part of my personal faith or cultural heritage. But her values have captured my heart. I will always honor her and those who reflect the community values I feel she represents. I am glad the Caballeros will continue to honor and reflect those values and have chosen to not become part of the current visceral and vindictive local politics.

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