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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Pope Benedict alienates Israel over Pius

December 22nd, 2009
12:59 PM ET

The recent decision of Pope Benedict XVI to recognize the “heroic virtues” of Pope Pius XII – the 260th head of the Catholic Church – has been provoked an angry reaction from Jewish leaders.

Pope Pius XII was criticized for not helping Jews in Nazi Germany.

Pope Pius XII was criticized for not helping Jews in Nazi Germany.

The head of Germany's Central Jewish Council, Stephan Kramer told AFP this week that the Vatican's stance on Pius XII was “a clear hijacking of historical facts concerning the Nazi era.”

Pius XII, who served as pontiff from 1939 to 1958, has long been accused of failing to do enough to help the Jews during World War II.

But the Vatican has insisted that Pius didn’t ignore the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany.

They argue that he chose to pursue a quieter, more diplomatic course of action because he thought any public denunciations he made would only produce more deaths.

This stance has failed to convince the World Jewish Congress (WJC) who believe the beatification process of Pius should be at the very least deferred until the facts of his actions can be established.

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said in a statement: “As long as the archives of Pope Pius about the crucial period 1939 to 1945 remain closed, and until a consensus on his actions – or inaction – concerning the persecution of millions of Jews in the Holocaust is established, a beatification is inopportune and premature.”

But the Vatican maintain that the archives on the Pius era will not be opened to public historians until 2014.

The row over Pius XII's path to canonization comes on top of an ongoing ownership dispute between the Vatican and Israel over a number of holy sites including the “Last Supper room.”

Both spats are threatening to put Pope Benedict’s scheduled visit to Rome’s synagogue next month in jeopardy.

We would like to hear your views on the ongoing disputes between Israel and the Vatican.

Are Jewish leaders right to argue that the canonization of Pope Pius XII shouldn't go ahead while the full extent of the former pope's views aren’t known?

Post your comments below.


Filed under:  General

Connector of the Day: Jon Morter

December 21st, 2009
05:55 PM ET

So the predictable procession towards the coronation of the latest Simon Cowell product has been halted. And all thanks to a couple from the county of Essex in the southeast of England.

Rage Against The Machine have triumphed over Simon Cowell thanks to a couple from Essex.

Rage Against The Machine have triumphed over Simon Cowell thanks to a couple from Essex.

The talent show “The X Factor” has become a huge ratings hit on UK TV over the past five years and every winner has so far been guaranteed the number-one slot at Christmas on the back of the support the show receives.

But not this time. 35-year-old Jon Morter and his wife Tracey mobilized a campaign on the social networking Web site Facebook which successfully stopped this year's “X Factor” winner Joe McElderry winning the race to the coveted Christmas number-one in the singles chart.

Morter started his campaign to oust what he described as “Simon Cowell’s latest karaoke act” barely two weeks ago, but it clearly resonated with music fans around the world.

The choice of U.S. rock group Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name” was the antithesis of the carefully groomed, over-produced release of the “X Factor” winner.

“No one’s got a divine right to be Christmas number-one and I think we’ve proved that,” Morter told UK tabloid newspaper “The Sun.”

Despite losing out to Morter, Cowell was gracious in defeat congratulating the Essex couple for making it “a very exciting race.”

Morter, a part-time DJ, is a massive fan of Rage Against The Machine. He tried a similar "X Factor" spoiler stunt last year by trying to get Rick Astley to the Christmas top spot but ultimately lost out to 2008 “X Factor” winner Alexandra Burke.

Jon Morter is Monday’s Connector of the Day. Send your questions to him now and we’ll put a selection of the best to Cowell’s conqueror on tonight’s show.

Talent show contestant sparks Chinese race row

December 21st, 2009
01:52 PM ET

Just as one talent show debate comes to an end so another rumbles on in China. The themes couldn’t be further apart.

Lou Jing has focused the attentions of Chinese people on their attitudes to race.

Lou Jing has focused the attentions of Chinese people on their attitudes to race.

While everyone in the UK has been consumed by the race to the Christmas number-one slot, the Chinese have been embroiled in a controversy over race itself.

Lou Jing, a contestant on an “American Idol”-style show, “Let’s Go! Oriental Angel”, has been subjected to a merry-go-round of opinion centered on the color of her skin – her father, whom she has never met, is of African-American descent.

Far from being judged for the quality of her voice, the 20-year-old had to contend with a barrage of criticism about her appearance posted on blogs and discussion forums. “Never should have been born” some posts suggested. Others told her to “get out of China.”

Understandably, she was extremely upset by the reaction her appearance on TV triggered.

“I am Chinese," Lou told AFP recently. "But when I read the comments, I started to question myself. I never questioned myself before. This time I started to think about how I am different from others.”

The outpouring of vitriol has sparked a heated debate in a nation where more than 90 percent of the population is of Han Chinese descent.

The girl affectionately referred to by the talent show’s presenters as the “chocolate girl” and the “black pearl” was eventually voted off before the finals.

But Lou refuses to be cowed by the criticisms of her race and hopes one day to become a diplomat, “to bring people together” she says.

With the Chinese economy increasingly reaching out to new markets all around the world including Africa, China is, perhaps, inviting a greater racial and cultural diversity than at any time in its history.

What are your thoughts on Chinese attitudes to race? Do the experiences of Lou Jing show that China is a racist nation? Or are the Chinese more tolerant of cultural diversity than this episode suggests? What have been your experiences of visiting China?

We would like to hear from you. Post your comments below.


Filed under:  General

Disarray wins out at 'Brokenhagen' climate talks

December 20th, 2009
11:05 AM ET

Copenhagen, Denmark - They came. They talked ... long into the night.

Activists deliver their verdict on the climate change summit in Copenhagen.

Activists deliver their verdict on the climate change summit in Copenhagen.

But in the end global leaders left the Danish capital practically empty handed.

After years of negotiation and two weeks of concentrated effort, the world agreed on a deal on climate change.

Whether it is a “meaningful” one, as U.S. President Barack Obama suggests, is up for debate.

The president’s flying visit did help salvage some success from the disorder ... but in the end a slow hand clap as he made his way to the stage mid-morning showed the depth of divisions that still exist between the haves and the have-nots.

Let's be clear: an agreement was brokered in what one commentator described as a "frenzied game of climate poker among the leaders of the United states, China, India, Brazil and South Africa and major European countries." They’d been chosen by the conference chair Denmark as the summit looked set to end in chaos.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon admitted the agreement had failed to win global consensus and would disappoint many who demanded stronger action against climate change. But, he said, at least it had not been strangled at birth. "Many will say that it lacks ambition," Ban said. "Nonetheless, you have achieved much."

China’s resistance to monitoring carbon emissions was a key sticking-point for the West. It’s still not clear whether that issue is fully resolved.

Late on Friday night, Greenpeace international executive director Kumi Naidoo spoke for many when he said the deal’s loopholes were big enough to fly Air Force One through. "The city of Copenhagen is a climate crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport."

So, while global leaders stood shoulder to shoulder smiling for the inevitable class photo, they effectively left shaking hands on nothing more than a commitment to agree to agree to something more substantive in the future.

It was by anyone’s standards a valiant effort by the Danish hosts. But it was the disorganisation and disarray both inside and outside these halls that eventually won out.

What had been billed "Hopenhagen" as delegates and activists arrived here just two weeks ago will perhaps be best remembered as "Brokenhagen" by many.

For more information go to cnn.com/environment

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Filed under:  General

Have world leaders failed again on climate legislation?

December 18th, 2009
01:42 PM ET

“There is no time to waste. Now I believe it's the time for the nations and the people of the world to come behind a common purpose. We are ready to get this done today, but there has to be movement on all sides." 

Can President Obama’s arrival in Copenhagen save the day?

Can President Obama’s arrival in Copenhagen save the day?

President Obama's speech after arriving on the final day of the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen might have raised the mood of delegates, but expectations that world leaders will agree a meaningful deal to put the world on the path towards a less polluting future remain muted.

His talk of a "common purpose" is already looking shaky to say the least. Speaking Friday afternoon, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Obama was like "an emperor who arrives in the middle of the night" before adding: "If the climate was a bank it would have been saved already."

One cannot help concluding that another climate conference will pass up the opportunity to reach a global consensus.

But whatever comes of today, the final frantic day of negotiation, how should we feel? Disappointed at another failure? Or should we be reflecting more positively on the progress that has been made – it is widely predicted that a deal to protect the rainforests – through the U.N.-REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) – will be agreed. Small steps maybe, but important nonetheless.

Does the lack of agreement mirror the mood of the wider world. Everyone knows that they should be more environmentally conscious but how many people are really prepared to change their lifestyle?

Citizens elect political leaders to lead. Has Copenhagen shown the signs that they are, at last, doing just that? Or will they be remembered for missing one of the last opportunities to act decisively on climate change? Let us know what you think.


Filed under:  General
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