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Thousands mourn Shanghai's 'underground' bishop

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 05:18 PM PDT

Shanghai (AFP) - Thousands of mourners packed a Shanghai square Saturday to bid farewell to "underground" Catholic Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, whose faith led him to endure decades of suffering at the hands of China's ruling Communist Party, they said.

Fan, who was imprisoned for much of the last two decades and spent his final years under house arrest, died last Sunday at the age of 97 after several days of high fever, according to the US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, a Roman Catholic organisation.

China has a state-controlled Catholic Church, which rejects the Vatican's authority, as well as an "underground" church. Experts estimate that there are as many as 12 million Catholics in China, split roughly evenly between the two churches.

"I came here to bid farewell to our bishop," said a woman in her 60s who gave her name only as Clare and who was among a throng of mourners gathered outside the funeral home where Fan's body was laid out.

"He had kept loyal to the Lord throughout his life and endured great suffering. I have great respect for him," she said of Fan, who was appointed bishop of Shanghai in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

In the square outside the funeral home, a large screen displayed photos of Fan while mourners sang, prayed and listened to a man narrating the bishop's life story.

As the service got underway, it relayed scenes from inside the funeral home: Fan's body was laid out in the centre, flanked by mourners and clergy in red-and-white robes. A large photo of Fan adorned the hall, surrounded by flowers.

Chinese authorities had turned down a request from worshippers to hold Fan's funeral service at Shanghai's main Catholic cathedral, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said.

- 'Forbidden' from pastoral duty -

Fan was ordained a priest in 1951 and spent more than two decades in jail and labour camps. His appointment as bishop of Shanghai in 2000 was rejected by China's state-run church.

"Bishop Fan was forbidden to carry out his pastoral duty as the government put him under house arrest almost immediately -- a sentence that he served until the day he died," Joseph Kung, president of the foundation, wrote in a statement.

China's Communist regime broke ties with the Vatican in 1951, and although relations have improved in recent years as the country's Catholic population has grown, they remain at odds over which side has the authority to ordain priests.

Shanghai is considered an important diocese given the city's historical ties to the Catholic Church -- it was home to Xu Guangqi, one of the most prominent converts secured by 16th-century Italian missionary Matteo Ricci.

The long-serving bishop of Shanghai's state-run Catholic Church, Aloysius Jin Luxian, died last year at age 96.

Father Giuseppe Zhu Yude, a priest from the underground church, led the mass for Fan's funeral on Saturday.

Overseas and underground Chinese Catholics had requested that Jin's successor, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, be allowed to preside.

But that request was apparently rebuffed. According to the Vatican-linked AsiaNews website, Ma -- who was stripped of his title after he dramatically split with China's state-run church at his installation ceremony last July and has since been under house arrest -- remained under close watch by authorities.

Members of both the state-controlled and underground churches were in attendance at Fan's funeral, and some expressed concern about the uncertainty the church in Shanghai now faces.

"Bishop Fan had held onto his faith during the darkest times," said a middle-aged woman named Grace. "I believe as long as we follow his example, the Lord will bless the Shanghai diocese and we will have new leadership."

India's new breed of politicians

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

As India heads towards general elections, candidates with no political background will throw down the most serious challenge yet to the establishment.

IN Indian politics, as is generally the way of the world, old men died and the young filled their places. But the typical politician has not changed beyond recognition over the decades. He is still mostly a he; a relic and beneficiary of village values even when he lives in the heart of a city, who correctly identifies modernity as his archenemy; a practical man of ordinary intellect who is perceived to be corrupt, even dangerous.

Until recently, the young who were heralded as the "new breed" of politicians tended to be merely the progeny of this typical politician. They were not very different from their papas.

They just wore the skin of an easily procured Western education and all its masquerades. It was as if the typical Indian politician were a species so suited to the terrain where it foraged that it did not have to evolve.

But then circumstances forced the voters to evolve and from them have risen the mutants – engineers, activists, corporate executives, journalists, former government officers and at least one actress – who have become politicians out of necessity. Na├»ve and upright, they view politics as a transformational public service. It is not the first time that Indians infected with idealism have entered politics. But now, as the great republic heads toward general elections, they will throw down the most serious challenge yet to the old.

"What has happened is that the pool of hyper-aspirational youth has become very, very large, and they want Indian politics to change," said Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of the software firm Infosys and until recently the bureaucrat at the helm of India's attempt to give every citizen a unique biometric identity.

Nilekani is running for office for the first time, and his declaration of assets to the Election Commission will affirm the known fact that he is a billionaire and the richest candidate in the fray among those whose wealth can be measured.

Most of those who are debuting in electoral politics are drawn to the Aam Aadmi Party, a new outfit born out of public rage against the typical politician.

Nilekani is an anomaly because he has joined the governing Indian National Congress.

The significance of the vast pool of hopeful, educated young people that Nilekani was referring to is that they do not have the means to escape to the West and so are deeply invested in the fate of the nation. The idea of home as the only refuge, which is often expressed as nationalistic awakening, is the fundamental force behind the heightened interest in politics today not only among the young, but also the many layers of the middle class.

In November 2008, after 10 terrorists attacked Mumbai, the urban disquiet over the state of the nation erupted in the form of street processions and passionate television shows that abused the political class so severely that politicians threatened to censor television news in the interest of national security.

Meera Sanyal, a banker whose friend died in the terrorist attack as he was dining in a hotel, was inspired by the public rage against politicians to run in the 2009 general elections as an independent candidate from the high-profile Mumbai South constituency.

She fared very poorly. She is running again now, and this time, she told me, "There is a sea change in the voters."

In 2009, she said: "People thought I was crazy. Friends said politics was dirty business and there was no place in it for someone like me. But now, the idea that a person with no political background should enter politics has become mainstream."

This is a consequence of the extraordinary impact of the Aam Aadmi Party, which she has joined.

"It is a magnet for people with no political background who want to enter politics," she said.

The Aam Aadmi Party believes it is a sudden force of nature that can make the typical Indian politician extinct.

The transformation has begun, and irrespective of the fortunes of the Aam Aadmi Party, the golden age of a dominant species is over. — © 2014 The New York Times

> Manu Joseph is author of the novel 'The Illicit Happiness of Other People'.

Between truth and reality

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Experts trying to solve the MH370 mystery look at the theories floated over the past two weeks.

SINGAPORE: As the mystery of the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) plane deepens, new theories have been floated by pilots and aviation enthusiasts to explain its disappearance. We look at some of these theories and what experts say about them.

1. The plane could have caught fire mid-air

A fire probably broke out onboard MH370 and the pilot was trying to save the plane by making a sharp left turn to land on the Malaysian island of Langkawi, said an experienced Canadian pilot.

The flight crew, however, might have been overcome by smoke and the aircraft continued flying on autopilot until it ran out of fuel, said Chris Goodfellow.

Another possible scenario: the fire could have destroyed the control surfaces and the plane then crashed.

The loss of transponders and communications made sense in a fire, he wrote in an article, adding that it was likely electrical. The pilot's first response would be to shut down and restart the circuits.

Another possible cause of fire was overheating of one of the landing gear tyres, which blew on takeoff and started burning slowly.

"Fire in an aircraft demands one thing: Get the machine on the ground as soon as possible," he said, adding that Langkawi is closer than Kuala Lumpur.

What experts say:

Some said this explanation makes sense. But others quoted reports which said the left turn was achieved using a computer system on the plane. That would involve typing seven or eight keystrokes into the computer.

If the course of the plane was changed during a major emergency, it was more likely done using manual control.

Some also pointed out that the plane is believed to have made a series of turns after the first one. Such vigorous navigating, they said, would have been impossible if the crew were unconscious.

Moreover, the electronic "ping" detected by the Inmarsat satellite at 8.11am on March 8 – the day it went missing – narrowed its location at that moment to one of two arcs – one in Central Asia and the other in the southern Indian Ocean. Both areas are not in the direction of Langkawi.

2. The plane could have "stalked" another aircraft to avoid radar detection

Some believe the missing Boeing 777-200ER could have hidden in the shadow of another plane. With its transponder and lights switched off, MH370 could trail another aircraft undetected, said pilots and aviation enthusiasts.

To a ground radar controller, the planes would appear as one or two "blips" depending on how close they were.

Aviation blogger Keith Ledgerwood believes that MH370 could have trailed the Barcelona-bound Singapore Airlines (SIA) Flight 68, which left Changi Airport at about 1.05am, 25 minutes after MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing.

Both planes were in the same vicinity, he said.

"There are several locations along the flight path of SQ68 where it could have easily broken contact and flown and landed in Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan, or Turkmenistan," he added.

When contacted, a SIA spokesman would only say: "All queries related to MH370 have to be directed to the investigating authorities."

What experts say:

While it sounds feasible on paper, it would be difficult to closely shadow a plane at night without radar help.

Some also pointed out that military radar, which has higher resolution, would still be able to identify that there were two objects.

The two planes would need to be no further than about 1,000m to appear as one on a military radar, radar expert Hugh Griffiths told BBC News.

3. The plane could have used "terrain masking" technique to avoid detection

MH370 could have dropped to an altitude of 5,000ft, or possibly lower, to avoid commercial radar coverage after it turned back from its planned route, Malaysia's New Straits Times reported, quoting officials.

It is also possible that MH370 had hugged the terrain in some areas that are mountainous to avoid radar detection. The technique, called terrain masking, is used by military pilots to fly to their targets stealthily.

What experts say:

Aviation expert Jason Middleton of the New South Wales University told British paper Guardian that avoiding radar was a well-known technique.

"Radar goes in a straight line. If you are in the shadow of a mountain or even the curve of the Earth – if you are under the radar beam – you cannot be seen," Middleton said.

But flying a large aircraft this way is dangerous because it puts tremendous stress on the airframe.

Flying at such low altitude would also require a much higher fuel burn and result in lower speed.

4. The plane could have crashed or exploded mid-air

Some believe that the plane might have crashed. Others said it might have exploded mid-air, which would explain why no debris has been found by search teams so far.

There were also reports of sightings by people in countries from Indonesia to the Maldives.

However, these reports turned out to be false leads.

What experts say:

Austria-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), which has extremely sensitive sensors throughout the world, said it did not detect any explosion or crash – either on land or at sea.

CTBTO stations have detected several plane accidents in the past, including the crash of an aircraft at Narita Airport in Japan in March 2009.

5. Flight had "structural issue"

Stanford computer science student Andrew Aude put forward a theory that the plane had a structural issue.

He cited a Federal Aviation Authority directive, which pointed to the fuselage cracking at a spot where the satellite antennae is located.

That could lead to rapid decompression and damage to the structure of the aircraft.

Aude said that could explain why no alert was raised by those onboard because they could have been rendered unconscious by a slow decompression of the plane.

What experts say:

Boeing has since clarified that the missing Boeing 777-200ER was not subject to a new US safety directive that ordered additional inspections for cracking and corrosion on certain 777 planes.


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