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from Photographers' Blog:

Growing up in the European Parliament

Strasbourg, France

By Vincent Kessler

To be totally honest I didn't see Vittoria at first glance when I took pictures of her and her mother, Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli, for the first time on September 22, 2010.

The European Parliament plenary room is a giant hemicycle for the 766 MEP’s elected from the twenty-eight Member States of the enlarged European Union. It's not easy to see in detail what's going on with each lawmaker especially when seated in the back rows, and when your shooting position is on a 10-meter-high balcony.

But thanks to a telephone call from my friend and Reuters journalist Gilbert Reilhac, who was following the voting session on the internal TV service of the parliament, and thanks to a 400mm lens and converters, I spotted her for the first time. I did not know it at the time but she was then only a few weeks old. The pictures were widely used by newspapers and online sites.

I learned two years later after a phone call from Licia Ronzulli’s assistant, asking if I could send her pictures for her private use, that the child was called Vittoria and was then two years old. It was the sixth time that she accompanied her mother to voting sessions at the parliament and was already known as “the baby of the parliament” by the papers.

from Photographers' Blog:

Gay and out in China

By Aly Song

As society in China modernizes, its gay community is less mysterious and increasingly part of the country’s fabric, pursuing dreams and happiness like other citizens.

Before setting out to document this story, I had a somewhat stereotypical image of gay Chinese – that they lived colorful and comfortable lives, with prominent members often active in the fashion and entertainment industries, that they wore exquisite clothes and were in top physical shape. I imagined two men sitting in a bar smoking cigars and drinking wine, possibly discussing fashion trends or gossiping about showbiz stars.

from Photographers' Blog:

Born free

By Adnan Abidi

The joy of being born in a free country is a gift I received from those who sweat and bled in the struggle for Indian Independence. I accept the fact that I do very little to appreciate that gift. The most I do is fly a kite on August 15th, like many others. Quite a few of my fellow 'post-independence born' countrymen have little clue about the struggles our martyrs undertook to achieve what, today, we enjoy with much ingratitude. Freedom has been taken for granted.

The first struggle of Indian Independence was unknown to me, the second, as popular support named it, was the one I witnessed. It was when a 74-year-old Gandhinian, Anna, mobilized a crowd of over a million to crusade against corruption they say has infiltrated to the very roots of the Indian administration.

from FaithWorld:

Q+A: Women’s rights in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban

(Afghan men and women teachers attend their graduation ceremony in Kabul March 30, 2011/Omar Sobhani)

Women have won hard-fought rights in Afghanistan since the austere rule of the Taliban was ended by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001. But gains made in areas such as education, work and even dress code look shaky as the government plans peace talks that include negotiating with the Taliban.

from FaithWorld:

How will Afghan women fare if Kabul and the Taliban reconcile?

(Schoolgirls listen to a speech by Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a ceremony marking the start of the school year at Amani High School in Kabul March 23, 2011/Omar Sobhani)

The gaggles of giggling schoolgirls in their black uniforms and flowing white hijabs seen across Afghanistan's cities have become symbolic of how far women's rights have come since the austere rule of the Taliban was toppled a decade ago. While women have gained back basic rights in education, voting and work, considered un-Islamic by the Taliban, their plight remains severe and future uncertain as Afghan leaders seek to negotiate with the Taliban as part of their peace talks.

from FaithWorld:

Egyptian Christians to end two-week sit-in protest

(Coptic Christian women protest after clashes between Christians and Muslims in downtown Cairo May 8, 2011/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

Egyptian Christians holding a sit-in in downtown Cairo agreed to end nearly two weeks of protests on Friday, state television reported, after authorities promised to meet some of their demands. Witnesses said some of the protestors had begun preparing to go home after one main protest leader, Father Metyas Nasr, an Orthodox priest, agreed to a government offer to free five young men detained on Thursday following clashes outside a church in the eastern Cairo suburb of Ain Shams.

from FaithWorld:

British Christian couple loses foster ruling over gays stance

london court

(The Royal Courts of Justice, 18 April 2003/Michael Reeve)

A British Christian couple opposed to homosexuality because of their faith lost a court battle in London on Monday over the right to become foster carers. The couple, who are Pentecostal Christians, had gone to court after a social worker expressed concerns about them becoming respite carers after they said they could not tell a child that a "homosexual lifestyle" was acceptable.

Eunice and Owen Johns, both in their 60s and from Derbyshire in the English midlands, asked judges to rule that their faith should not be a bar to them becoming carers, and that the law should protect their Christian values.

from Mario Di Simine:

Should the obese pay more for seats?

obeseIt can't get more uncomfortable than this: Asking people to pay more because of their size.  But most people, it seems, are just fine with that.

A poll by travel website Skyscanner found that 76 percent of people believe airlines should charge what amounts to a "fat tax" to overweight folks needing an extra seat. Only 22 percent of the 550 people questioned disapproved of a surcharge.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

All and nothing for U.S soccer fans

This weekend soccer fans in the United States will, as usual, be able to take their pick from scores of games, from all over the world, broadcast on television. The country has two soccer-only television channels - Fox Soccer Channel and Gol TV, as well as soccer providing sports networks such as ESPN and Setanta (still alive in North America) and of course Spanish language broadcasters keep the Hispanic communities well supplied with soccer from south of the border.So, from Saturday's World Cup qualifying games, the U.S. based fan with cable or satellite could pick from Bahrain v New Zealand, Russia v Germany, Portugal v Hungary, Mexico v El Salvador, Greece v Latvia etc etc. Add in pay-per-view internet providers such as Omnisport and you can catch plenty more games from Europe and South America.There is one game you won't be able to watch in America though -- the United States' penultimate World Cup qualifier away to Honduras on Saturday. If the U.S win they qualify for South Africa but amazingly the game is not available on television or (legally at least) on the internet.The bizarre situation has come about due to the decision of the holders of the rights to Honduras' home games to sell the U.S rights to a provider of closed circuit television. The result is that if you want to watch the game you will have to find a bar or a club that has paid the rights fee and has the closed circuit feed. (A list of those venues is here)"We are certainly disappointed for our fans," said U.S coach Bob Bradley, "We’re very fortunate that whenever we go anywhere there are passionate U.S. supporters wearing colors. Certainly the idea that this match is not on regular TV is disappointing for all of them, and we understand and feel badly about that."The players at training camp this week have been careful not to speak out too strongly about the situation -- rightly or wrongly the affair doesn't look good for the U.S Soccer Federation even though they don't have control of the rights to away games. But the players must be hugely disappointed to be battling for qualification against a talented Honduran team knowing that just a tiny fraction of their fan base is able to watch them.Some England fans have been up in arms about their team's game in Ukraine only being available (for less than the price of two pints of flat London beer) on the internet. England have, of course, already qualified for the World Cup but can you imagine the outcry if that game was decisive and was not even viewable on the web?Of course, if soccer had a stronger standing in the U.S, the television networks would have fought for the rights to the game and outbid the closed circuit operator and the problem wouldn't have arisen.While it is harsh to blame anyone in U.S soccer for an affair that is out of their control, the farcical situation is a reminder that for all the progress the sport has made in the country in the past decade there is still a long way to go before the game is truly mass market.But is there not a question for FIFA here? Should the sports' global governing body not have a ruling that World Cup games at least be available on easily accessible television?  The only winners in this situation are a little known closed circuit tv provider - it can't be good for the game.In the meantime, for this reporter in Miami, a re-run of Burnley v Birmingham City is about to start on Setanta and I'll have to find out if that Honduran social club, 30 minutes drive away, is definitely going to be showing the U.S game....

from Rosalba O'Brien:

Should we copy Argentina and broadcast football for free?

Argentina's cash-strapped government has just laid out a wad of crisp pesos (600 million a year - about US$155 million - to be precise) to pay for the rights to broadcast Argentine league games for nada on TV .

It's a move that is bound to go down well in the soccer mad nation, but has been roundly criticised for being populist and a waste of state funds.

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