Wednesday 28 September 2016

No gay pride here, says mayor of romantic Venice

'Doom and gloom predictions of increasing battles around the world over water are a myth - very few disagreements have led to conflicts'

Published 30/08/2015 | 02:30

TROUBLED WATERS: A gondolier rows his gondola next to Rialto Bridge in Venice. The mayor of Venice has said he never wants to see gay pride march in his city. They are the ‘height of kitsch’, he said
TROUBLED WATERS: A gondolier rows his gondola next to Rialto Bridge in Venice. The mayor of Venice has said he never wants to see gay pride march in his city. They are the ‘height of kitsch’, he said

The mayor of Venice, who this month had a public row with British rock star Elton John over family values, has said he never wants to see a gay pride parade take place in the lagoon city while he is in charge.

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Luigi Brugnaro, a businessman who was elected mayor on a centre-right ticket in June, told La Repubblica daily that gay pride marches were the "height of kitsch".

"There will never be a gay pride in my city," he was quoted as saying in Wednesday's paper. "Let them go and do it in Milan, or in front of their own homes," he said.

Italy's rights group Arcigay holds gay pride parades in numerous Italian cities each year, last visiting Venice in 2014. It denounced Brugnaro, accusing him of besmirching Venice's reputation as an open, sophisticated society.

"Venice is not his city. At the moment he is governing it, but he won't last long given the fool he is making of himself," said Arcigay president Flavio Romani.

"He is becoming obsessive about this. Venice does not deserve it," Romani said.

Brugnaro sparked a controversy soon after taking office by banning books featuring same-sex couples from the city schools.

Elton John, who has two children with his partner David Furnish, used his Instagram page this month to condemn the move, calling Brugnaro "boorishly bigoted". The mayor told the singer to keep out of Venice's business.

Brugnaro's comments come at a time when the government is struggling to pass legislation that would finally give legal recognition to same-sex couples in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy.

Italy is the only major western European country that does not recognise either civil partnerships or gay marriage. Despite prodding from the European Court of Human Rights, some centre-right parties are digging in their heels to snarl progress on the long-delayed law.

The doom-and-gloom predictions of increasing battles around the world over water are a myth, with only a handful of disagreements over shared waters leading to armed conflict, an expert said.

Competition over water has often been cited as having a potential for turning into conflicts between countries fighting to secure the limited resource.

While water is fundamental to development and national security and can contribute to hostile situations, "very few" disagreements have led to conflict, said Therese Sjomander Magnusson of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

"It is a myth that water leads to war," Magnusson, SIWI's director of trans boundary water management, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation late on Sunday on the side-lines of a global water conference in Stockholm.

She said that over the last 50 years, there have been more than 1,800 interactions on trans-boundary basins - including both conflict and co-operation.

"Only seven disputes have involved violence," she said. "During the same time, more than 200 agreements and treaties on trans-boundary waters have been signed."

According to a United Nations report published in March, the world faces a 40pc shortfall in water supplies in 15 years due to urbanisation, population growth and increasing demand for water for food production, energy and industry.

Even though population growth and climate change have led to disagreements over water, conflicts were more common on national levels - such as between pastoralists and farmers - than between countries, Magnusson said.

In fact, she said, many governments are looking into dialogue and co-operation when it comes to water, rather than sending armies against each other.

"In an insecure world that we are facing right now, with many unstable situations, what we've seen over and over again is how governments are eager to position themselves as stable countries open to cooperation," she said.

One unlikely example in which water issues have led to cooperation is discussions between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories over the Jordan River, which runs along their borders, she said. "This is the only platform where these countries have met for the past couple of years."

The Vatican on Tuesday asked the Palestinian UN mission to remove all references to it from a draft resolution the Palestinians have prepared for the General Assembly calling for the flags of Palestine and the Holy See to fly at the UN.

The Palestinian draft resolution says that the flags of non-member observer states "shall be raised at the United Nations Headquarters and Offices following the flags of the member states of the United Nations."

The draft resolution specifically refers to both the Vatican and the State of Palestine, both of which are non-member observer states at the UN.

Poland appealed to World War Two buffs and rail enthusiasts on Thursday to stop searching for a Nazi German train believed to have lain undiscovered for 70 years in the southwest of the country and rumoured to carry valuable treasures.

Authorities say they believe they have located the train in the county of Walbrzych, tipped off by a German and a Pole who said through lawyers that they had found it and expected 10pc of the value of the findings as a reward.

The culture ministry said "foragers" had since become active in the area and urged them to stop, saying they risked harming themselves. "I'm certain the train exists, but it might contain dangerous materials from World War Two," said Piotr Zuchowski, the head of national heritage at the ministry.

Local news reports say the train, believed to be military, went missing in 1945, packed with loot from the-then eastern German city of Breslau, now called Wroclaw and part of Poland, as Soviet Red Army forces closed in at the end of World War Two.

The reports said the train was carrying guns, gems and other treasures and, according to local folklore, entered a tunnel in the mountainous Lower Silesian region and never emerged. The tunnel was later closed and its location long forgotten.

Sunday Independent

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