Italian helps his buddy run for mayor — gets elected instead!

The new mayor of a mountain town in northern Italy has been voted in almost completely by accident.

Fabio Borsatti, 50, stood in Cimolais as a last-minute favour to the only candidate, worried not enough people would vote if he stood unopposed. But, despite even Mr Borsatti’s own family voting for his rival, the unlikely candidate won the poll.

He only realised he had become mayor when people telephoned him, as he was watching football, to congratulate him…

“I wanted Gino [Bertolo] to win. Even my relatives voted for him…My daughter, my sister, my father and my mother – they all voted for him.”

But in the poll, Mr Borsatti obtained 160 votes – securing almost 58% of the vote – compared with just 117 votes for his good friend, Mr Bertolo.

Mr Borsatti has said he has no plans to resign and intends to carry out his duties for the 507 people who make up the population of Cimolais, in Friuli Venezia-Giulia.

Is there some way we might reverse the process here in the States. We always seem to have an abundance of candidates – most of whom would damage society beyond repair if elected.

Swiss village votes to turns its back on $1.2 billion goldmine

Half a lovely hillside

Villagers almost anywhere in the world would be celebrating if more than a billion dollars of gold was found under them. But not in Switzerland.

It was not a question many villagers will ever have to face – and theirs was an answer that even fewer would probably give. But when residents of a remote Alpine valley were offered a share of a fortune that would have brought them tens of millions of pounds, they said “No”…

After months of anguished debate, the villagers of Curaglia voted in a referendum last week to stop a Canadian mining company prospecting for the estimated $1.2 billion worth of gold ore believed to be lie in seams beneath the surrounding snow-capped mountains.

It would have been Switzerland’s first gold mine and one of only a handful in Europe but locals ran scared of the prospect of turning their valley into a miniature version of the Klondike.

In doing so they rejected a windfall of around 40 million Swiss francs over the next 10 years – a veritable bonanza for the 450 inhabitants of the picturesque valley…

The referendum result was unambiguous – while 90 people were in favour of allowing gold exploration to go ahead, 180 were implacably opposed.

Many people feared that the valley, with its crystal-clear streams, coniferous forests and timber barns, would have been irrevocably scarred by the mine, from which around five million ton of rock would have been dug…

But Thomas Boehm, 41, who works in the Hotel Vallastscha, which has the only bar and restaurant in the valley, said the mine would have reversed the valley’s long-term demographic decline. Ninety of its inhabitants are over the age of 75 and young people leave as soon as they can because of the lack of work…

Such arguments failed to sway the majority of the valley’s inhabitants. The conservatism for which the Swiss have been renowned for centuries ultimately snubbed out calls for change.

The money would have been nice,” said 17-year-old Nicole Venzin, sitting on a bench on Curaglia’s main street as elderly women entered the tiny supermarket with shopping bags. “But what sort of future would we have if we ruined the environment?”

That illustrates the actual contradiction confronting the villagers. Money vs. environmental degradation.

Please, don’t waste too much time on agitprop from the mining company. I’ve seen gold mines all over the Rockies. The scarring, the lengths mining companies will go to avoiding responsible cleanup are legion in this part of the GOUSA.

It’s why I supported the community and our elected officials who opposed the same kind of offer, the same line of bull, offered by the last gold miners who tried to come into Santa Fe County to suck gold out of the rocks and mountains around here. You can stand on the south side of town and look at the Ortiz Mountains 20 miles away and see the decades-old scars, acres of spoil left from cyanide-extraction of the gold. No thanks. We’d rather have happy tourists and citizens who can enjoy clean air and a comparatively unspoiled landscape.

Pakistan upholds rape acquittals – continues to avoid 21st Century

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed an appeal by gang rape victim Mukhtar Mai against the acquittal of five men she accused of attacking her…

Mai, now 40, was gang raped in June 2002 on the orders of a village council in Meerwala town of Punjab province as punishment after her younger brother was wrongly accused of having illicit relations with a woman from a rival clan.

The boy was 12-years-old at the time.

A local anti-terrorism court (ATC) had sentenced the six accused men to death, but the Lahore High Court acquitted five of the men in March 2005, and commuted the sentence for the main accused, Abdul Khaliq, to life imprisonment.

A four-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday “dismissed” all appeals and ordered the release of those arrested, according to a copy of the court order received by AFP. It however upheld the life sentence for Khaliq…

Mai, whose case garnered much attention in the West as an example of oppression suffered by Pakistan’s women, expressed her disappointment over the Supreme Court verdict while human rights groups also voiced discontent…

Mai, who now helps protect women facing threats at the hands of influential men, said she would not file any appeal against Thursday’s judgement…

“This is a setback for Mukhtar Mai,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement urging the government to “ensure her safety.”

Pakistan’s government refuses to ensure honesty. Why should you expect safety?

Almost a thousand women were raped in Pakistan during 2010 while more than 2,000 were abducted and almost 1,500 murdered, according to the Aurat Foundation, an organisation working for the protection of women in the country.

A further 500 were the victims of “honour killings”, a custom under which relatives and other fellow tribesmen kill a woman if they believe she had an affair.

There are many nations devoting every opportunity afforded to bring the lives of their families, their neighbors, their nation to a healthier, better life. I’d be hard pressed to qualify Pakistan as one of those progressive nations.

Swiss win the Gruyère war

It was nicknamed the Gruyère War: a bitter three-year battle between French and Swiss cheesemakers over who made the real celebrated cheese.

In the end, the conflict was over before it began after the Swiss – backed by European Union experts – emerged victorious.

Makers of French Gruyère and Swiss Gruyère, which have a different taste and appearance, had both claimed the prestigious mark of quality the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in their respective countries. AOCs are an official mark of quality awarded to regional products with specific characteristics and taste produced with traditional methods.

But the French got greedy and sought to have their gruyère recognised more widely with a prestigious Appellation d’Origine Protegée (AOP) handed out by the EU as a mark of international recognition. The Swiss complained, arguing the very name Gruyère comes from one of their towns nestling in the Alpine foothills, and that they had been making the celebrated cheese for centuries…

The EU was called in to adjudicate and found the French argument had a few holes of its own, namely that it was matured outside of the area it was produced in – mostly near France’s border with Switzerland – and so did not appear to qualify for an AOP. Having digested the official report, which said the French case was “weak”, Gallic Gruyère makers threw in the towel.

Swiss Gruyère rules.

You needn’t be a Packers’ fan to be a proper cheesehead.

Boss of British Telecom has the only broadband home in town

35 miles from London!

British Telecom (BT) has admitted its chairman is the only person in a village on the Oxfordshire-Buckinghamshire border with broadband. Other people in Hambleden were told they could not have broadband because of the distance to the exchange…

In a statement, BT wrote: “Trials of new technologies are often conducted among a company’s own staff so there is nothing unusual in this situation.

“BT has learnt a lot through the trial the chairman participated in and hopefully those lessons will benefit the residents of Hambleden in due course…

Gary Ashworth, who lives in Hambleden, said: “If I was a BT shareholder I’d be upset… I think one can live with it, if it’s a level playing field it’s not a problem.

It’s this preferential treatment that Sir Michael Rake has had that’s upset most of the villagers…”

The government has promised to provide all homes in the UK with speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2012.

Part of rural life is delayed access to modern technology. We went with DirecTV and satellite television the 3rd month they were in business -back in 1994 – because they simply were the only access possible for “cable” channels.

After three different cable providers sold themselves to higher bidders – and fibre to the home finally reached our community we now have a choice of Comcast – or Comcast – for high-speed internet access. 2½ miles from the city limits.

Folks in Hambledon have my sympathy.

Russian Navy – fires on Russian village – WTF?

30mm AK630 cannon is the type used in the attack

A Russian naval ship has accidentally fired on a village near the city of St Petersburg during military exercises, officials have confirmed.

No one was killed or injured in the incident, which occured in the Vyborg region on Thursday evening, but some damage was reported.

Locals at a farm where the shots were fired said people took cover in basements to shield themselves from the shelling, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported.

This is, of course, a disgrace, people could have died. This is the height of the planting season and there are a lot of people at the farm,” Tatyana Kostaryova, a spokeswoman for the local administration, told the agency.

Yury Mikhailov, the head of the farm, said most of the shrapnel fell on rooftops and greenhouses…

Russian naval forces said a small anti-submarine vessel from the Baltic Fleet made the mistake during exercises in the Gulf of Finland.

Igor Lebedev, a regional military prosecutor, said the ship was conducting target practice and that some shells or rounds fell on houses near the village.

So, uh, what were they trying to hit? And did they ever hit it?

Singapore’s last rural village is about to disappear

It is Singapore’s secret Eden, a miniature village hidden in trees among the massed apartment blocks, where a fresh breeze rustles the coconut palms and tropical birds whoop and whistle.

With just 28 houses in an area the size of three football fields, it is Singapore’s last rural hamlet, a forgotten straggler in the rush to modernize this high-rise, high-tech city-state.

But apparently not for much longer. The village, called Kampong Buangkok, is slated by the government for demolition and redevelopment, possibly in the near future. When it is gone, one of the world’s most extreme national makeovers will be complete.

Kampong is a local word for village, and also defines a traditional rural way of life that Singapore has left behind.

The big overhaul began in the early 1960s. As the decades passed, a clamorous tropical settlement reinvented itself as a spic-and-span outpost of the developed world. Now 90 percent of the population has been moved into government housing, and many people have moved at least once again as the city continues to change.

“Everything is up for redevelopment,” de Koninck said. “Even downtown, things that were developed in the 1960s and 1970s are already being torn down.”

Continue reading

Some of China’s new professionals opt out of urban life

Xinhua Photo

It was in December 1978 that former leader Deng Xiaoping declared the country would not just tolerate private enterprise but encourage it.

Since then, of course, much of the country has been transformed. Millions of people have moved from the countryside to the cities in search of a better life. And after three decades of extraordinary economic growth, there are growing numbers of middle class Chinese with good jobs who are well-off relative to the rest of the population.

Now some of those who moved to cities like Shanghai for good wages in white collar jobs are starting to tire of the rat race, and in a reversal of past patterns of movement are abandoning the urban sprawl for a quieter life in the country.

Gao Hong and Yang Xiaoling, two advertising executives in their mid-thirties, decided a year ago to give up their lucrative careers to move to a quiet house in the country, eight hours drive from Shanghai in Jiangsi province.

“We have lived here for more than a year, and never for a moment have we thought, this is too bad, we have got to get back to Shanghai,” Gao Hong laughed. Leaving the front door wide open, the couple go for a stroll around the village. Facilities are very basic. Some of their neighbours are washing their clothes in the stream by hand. It is like going back 50 or 60 years.

But the couple are happy. “The dogs don’t bark at us now,” they said. “They always bark at strangers, so we know we belong.”

Deng Xiaoping’s economic redirection is working better than anyone might have hoped. Expanding middle-class incomes can be counted upon to produce better educations, a return to meditative ways formerly limited to a tiny niche of scholars and wealthy.

When you can afford to reflect upon your life and society, some will still enter the doorway leading to care and change for their fellow citizens. It’s not a prerequisite; but, it surely does help.

RTFA. Interesting read.

Internet dream becomes a Nepal reality

A Nepali teacher has finally turned his dream into reality by connecting his remote mountain community to the internet.

In 2001 Mahabir Pun wrote to the BBC World Service’s technology programme, then known as ‘Go Dig’. He wanted to connect his village to the internet after the local high school received four used computers as a gift from students in Australia. However, the lack of a phone line in the village made an internet connection almost impossible.

The only viable option was a satellite connection but the cost of this was beyond his means.

Several people also came forward to offer their help voluntarily and suggested wireless networking.

The idea was successfully tested between two villages in Nepal and as a result, Mr Pun was able to turn his vision of a networked Nepal into reality.

“We had to actually smuggle all the wireless equipment from America and Europe and build the network illegally.” There is now a telemedicine project, Voice over IP (VoIP) phone calls, internet terminals and places where people can trade goods from live yaks to handicrafts. “We are using the wireless network for health, providing telemedicine services to the remote villages,” said Mr Pun.

A delightful tale. And I recognize the antenna from the system we had to use to receive anything more than terrestrial TV when my wife and I first settled into La Cieneguilla. It worked well.

Israeli police probing ‘pogrom’ attack upon Palestinian village

Israeli police are investigating a rampage by settlers in a Palestinian village in the West Bank on Saturday which PM Ehud Olmert called a “pogrom”. Mr Olmert, who is about to step down, called the attack by about 100 settlers on Asira al-Qabaliya “intolerable”.

It was filmed by human rights groups and came after an intruder stabbed and wounded a child at Yitzhar settlement. But police have not arrested any of the settlers who were filmed. Four people suffered gunshot wounds in the attack…

In the footage, Israeli soldiers are present at the scene but do not take any action to prevent the violence and destruction of Palestinian property.

About 450,000 Jews live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in settlements considered illegal under international law.

The history of Israel’s expansionism in the Middle East is the constant rationale for imperial American politics. It is as unjust and egregious as any Crusade.