Friday, 31 October 2008

a little thing, but forgiveness is forgiveness eh?

Halloween pardon sought for executed British witches

Story Highlights
Petition seeks pardon for UK witches hundreds of years after their deaths
Around 400 people were executed in England for alleged witchcraft
The Witchcraft Act of 1735 put an end to trials of accused witches
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Campaigners in London planned to petition the British government Friday for a posthumous pardon for the hundreds of people executed for witchcraft between the 16th and 18th centuries.

They said Halloween is a good time to highlight the "grave miscarriage of justice" suffered by the men and women falsely accused of being witches.

Their petition asks Justice Minister Jack Straw to recommend that Queen Elizabeth issue a pardon.

"We felt that it was time that the sinister associations held by a minority of people regarding witches and Halloween were tackled head-on," said Emma Angel, head of Angels, a large costume supplier in London.

"We were gobsmacked to discover that though the law was changed hundreds of years ago and society had moved on, the victims were never officially pardoned."

Angels launched a Web site,, to solicit signatures for their petition. They had between 150 and 200 by Friday morning, Angels spokesman Benjamin Webb said, but they hoped Halloween publicity would generate more.

Around 400 people were executed in England for alleged witchcraft, and many more in Scotland, the campaigners said.

The Witchcraft Act of 1735 put an end to trials of accused witches, but many still faced persecution and jail for other crimes such as fraud.

"It shifted from a spiritual thing to more of a criminal thing," Webb said, but "it didn't pardon those people who'd suffered before."

The campaigners worked with witchcraft historian John Callow to detail eight cases they hope will persuade the government to act.

They include the case of Ursula Kemp, a woman who offered cures in Essex, England in the 1500s. The uneven results of her work prompted accusations of witchcraft and she was hanged in 1582.

A century later, Mary Trembles and Susanna Edwards were begging for food in Exeter, England, when a local woman blamed one of them for an illness and they were jailed.

A jail visitor noticed Edwards' shaky hands and suggested she was "tormenting someone." It started a string of rumors that resulted in an accusation of witchcraft, and the women were executed in 1682.

In 1645, clergyman John Lowes was regarded as too attached to Catholicism in a strongly Reformed area. He had already defended himself once against witchcraft when he came to the attention of a notorious zealot named Matthew Hopkins.

Hopkins made Lowes walk for days and nights until he was unable to resist confessing to being a witch. Lowes was hanged in Bury St. Edmunds, England, after conducting his own funeral.

"Today we are well aware that these individuals were neither capable of harmful magic nor in league with the devil," Callow said.

He said the endemic poverty of the 16th to 18th centuries put pressure on leaders and the judiciary to blame someone for society's problems -- so they decided to blame witches.

"A lot of these cases were score-settling in local communities," Webb said, adding many cases of alleged witchcraft weren't even reported.

"The notion that people could suspend their disbelief and believe that women were talking to toads -- just horrible times. Horrible times."

Webb said while few people today may believe those men and women deserved execution, their stories still generate suspicion and stigma.

That extends to modern-day criticism of children dressing as witches at Halloween with the idea that it's evil or connected to the devil, he said.

"Witches were not emissaries of Satan," Webb said. "They were in fact persecuted women and men who deserve a pardon."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice would not comment on the case but said the granting of such a pardon is extremely rare.

"To receive a royal pardon, the test is a high one," the spokesman said. "Evidence must prove conclusively that no offense was committed or that the applicant did not commit the offense. It is not enough that the conviction may be unsafe -- the applicant must be technically and morally innocent."

Go here to sign the petition.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

sometimes humans really disappoint me

The New York Times
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October 31, 2008
China Meeting for Dalai Lama Envoys

BEIJING — Chinese officials and emissaries of the Dalai Lama are expected to resume talks on Friday about the future of Tibet despite low expectations for a breakthrough and growing disillusionment among exiled Tibetans over the halting diplomatic process.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, confirmed that two senior envoys left New Delhi on Thursday for a five-day trip to Beijing. He said the Chinese had not provided a schedule but predicted that talks would begin on Friday.

“They will get down to business,” he said in a telephone interview.

The latest negotiations are the eighth round of talks since 2002 in a process that assumed heightened international significance after violent Tibetan protests erupted last March in Lhasa and then quickly spread elsewhere in western China. Foreign leaders called on China to resume the talks — which had broken off in 2007 — and threatened a possible boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

Chinese leaders had vilified the Dalai Lama and accused him of orchestrating the protests. But they relented and the two sides met secretly in May in the city of Shenzhen, then in July in Beijing. Those discussions resulted in an agreement for this week’s post-Olympic meeting but no tangible progress.

At the same time, Chinese authorities have continued hard-line policies in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas. Officials have ordered Tibetan monks at Buddhist monasteries to submit to patriotic education campaigns and have also continued to block foreign journalists from visiting areas of western Sichuan Province that saw especially violent confrontations between Tibetans and paramilitary forces.

The lack of progress in the negotiations has deepened frustration among Tibetan exile groups in Dharamsala, India, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile. For years, the Dalai Lama has called for autonomy within China, rather than independence, a stance that has been met with deep suspicion by Chinese authorities as well as mounting impatience among many younger, more confrontational Tibetans living outside China.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Dalai Lama expressed concerns about the negotiating process. “I have faith and trust in the Chinese people; however, my faith and trust in the Chinese government is diminishing,” he stated.

The precise agenda for this week’s Beijing meeting is uncertain, though Chinese authorities have said they are only willing to discuss the future of the Dalai Lama himself and possible terms for his return to China. Tibetan envoys believe the talks should be framed around the future of Tibet, greater religious tolerance and other issues. The two sides have long sparred over what would constitute the Dalai Lama’s goal of “genuine autonomy” within China.

“The task at hand is to develop a system that would grant the kind of autonomy required for the Tibetans to be able to survive as a distinct and prosperous people within the People’s Republic of China,” said one of the senior Tibetan envoys in the talks, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, during a speech earlier this month at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

itchy fingers

I have such a story to tell you! BUT I can't tell you until the end of November for reasons you will understand then - but trust me, you are going to love this!

Meanwhile in America...I am trying to get used to hot water whenever I turn on the tap and huge stores full of goods I've not even thought of having! I'm surrounded by conservatives, but then some of the people I love best are conservatives...

I'm going to spend this month getting myself caught up with all of you.

And my favourite holiday is coming up - Samhain! Ghosts and goblins oh my! What are YOU going to be on dress up night?

Friday, 10 October 2008

good bye and hello

After just over two years I said good bye to Morocco today. More on that at a later date. I'm in Paris now. This trip promises to be memorable - details to come. Right now I want a cup of tea and bed. Later lovely readers and thank you for sticking with me during this lean time. I promise to pay more attention to you in the future - and soon.

Friday, 3 October 2008

to take note

Ramadan is over. The coffee shops open, ONLY MEN with their tea fill the tables out front and make me grateful to be a woman born in the West. The young men cross the streets of the Medina taking bread and pastries to the ovens. The directions to another apothecary on the sides on those closed for the holidays provide relief for those in need. Rabat is not Fez in many ways – most noticeable now is the rapidity with which the city reopens its doors after Ramadan.

Please take note of the posting below and go vote. I’m not even asking for money, this time, just the time to click and click with your cursor. Thank you lovely readers.

“I am so excited and wanted to thank you so much for your help! There were more than 87,000 votes cast and thanks to you & everyone who blogged & voted, our project, "Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children," is now in the Top 5 of American Express Members Project. It got pretty close at the end and we only made it by 147 votes. We really couldn't have done it without you!

We are now guaranteed at least $100,000 in funding, but we still need your help. The second round of voting has begun and the project with the most votes will receive $1.5 million. Your vote and the votes of your readers will determine how many lives we can save. I would be so grateful if you could repost to keep the conversation and awareness out there and if you could thank your readers for voting for us too.

Please let me know if you can post and please vote again for "Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children." Voting ends October 13th. Thank you so much.