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Former US vice-president Walter Mondale dies aged 93

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Walter Mondale, a leading liberal Democratic voice of the late 20th century who was US vice-president under Jimmy Carter and lost in a landslide to Ronald Reagan in the 1984 presidential election, died on Monday at age 93, his family said.

“Well my time has come. I am eager to rejoin Joan and Eleanor,” Mr Mondale said in a statement to his staff and released to the public after his death, referring to his late wife Joan, who died in 2014, and daughter Eleanor, who died in 2011 at age 51. “Before I go I wanted to let you know how much you mean to me.”

Mr Mondale, the first major US party presidential nominee to pick a woman running mate, believed in an activist government and worked for civil rights, school integration, consumer protection and farm and labour interests as a US senator and vice-president during Mr Carter’s troubled one-term presidency from 1977 to 1981.

He also served as US ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1996 under Bill Clinton.

Mr Mondale had spoken in recent days with Mr Carter, Mr Clinton, US president Joe Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris, a family spokesperson said.

“It’s with great sadness that Jill and I learned of the passing of vice-president Walter Mondale, but great gratitude that we were able to call one of our nation’s most dedicated patriots and public servants a dear friend and mentor,” Mr Biden and first lady Jill Biden said in a statement.

Walter Mondale pictured in 2002 at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photograph: Bill Alkofer/AFP via Getty Images
Walter Mondale pictured in 2002 at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photograph: Bill Alkofer/AFP via Getty Images

“Walter Mondale was the first presidential nominee of either party to select a woman as his running mate, and I know how pleased he was to be able to see Kamala Harris become vice-president,” Mr Biden’s statement added.

“Today I mourn the passing of my dear friend Walter Mondale, who I consider the best vice-president in our country’s history,” Mr Carter (96) said in a statement that also praised Mr Mondale’s political skill and integrity.

“He was an invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States, and the world.”

Widely known as “Fritz,” Mr Mondale was the Democratic nominee in 1984 against Reagan, a popular incumbent Republican who had beaten Mr Carter four years earlier, and selected New York Democratic US congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his vice-presidential running mate. Ferraro died in 2011 at age 75.

Despite the historic selection of a woman, Mr Mondale suffered one of the worst defeats ever in a US presidential election, losing in 49 of the 50 states and carrying only his native Minnesota as well as Washington, DC.

It was the first of two times that Mr Mondale was sent into political retirement by a crushing defeat.

Candidacy

Eighteen years later, grieving Minnesota Democrats beseeched Mr Mondale, then 74, to run for the Senate after senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash 11 days before the 2002 election. Mr Mondale lost narrowly to Republican Norm Coleman, who depicted him as the greying representative of a bygone era.

During his race against Reagan, Mr Mondale promised Americans he would raise their taxes, a vow that did little to help his candidacy.

“I mean business. By the end of my first term, I will reduce the Reagan budget deficit by two-thirds,” Mr Mondale said during his speech in San Francisco accepting the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination. “Let’s tell the truth. It must be done, it must be done. Mr Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.”

The remark helped sink his campaign. Even years later, he expressed no regrets. “I’m really glad I did it,” he told PBS in 2004. “It’s something that I felt good about, and I thought I told the truth.”

Earlier that year, Mr Mondale made a memorable political quip when, during a primary debate, he tried to depict Gary Hart, a rival for his party’s presidential nomination, as all style and no substance by asking: “Where’s the beef?”

The line, borrowed from a humorous hamburger commercial popular at the time, hurt Hart’s campaign.

Mr Mondale was a protégé of fellow Minnesota liberal Hubert Humphrey, also a senator and vice-president, who lost the 1968 presidential election to Republican Richard Nixon.

Mr Mondale served in the US Senate from 1964 until he was elected as vice-president in Carter’s 1976 victory over incumbent Republican Gerald Ford, who had become president after Nixon resigned in 1974 due to the Watergate corruption scandal.

Mr Mondale became a more engaged vice-president than many who preceded him. He played a key role in buttressing the sometimes frayed relationship between Mr Carter’s White House and the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Born in Ceylon, Minnesota, on January 5th, 1928, Walter Frederick Mondale was the sixth of seven children. His father was a Methodist minister, his mother a music teacher. After serving in the US army, he earned a law degree at the University of Minnesota.

Mr Mondale married wife Joan in 1955. She died in 2014. They had three children, Eleanor and sons Theodore and William.

Plans for memorials will be announced later for both Minnesota and Washington DC, the Mondale family said. – Reuters

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Shocking news, Irish people may be sanest in Europe

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Ireland is running low on loopers. If we don’t watch out, we could emerge from the pandemic with our reputation for wildness completely shredded. We are in danger of being exposed as the sanest people in Europe.

Vaccines go into the arm, but also into the brain. They are a kind of probe sent into the national consciousness. In Ireland’s case, the probe has discovered exciting evidence of intelligent life.

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Vienna school under fire for sex ed class using doll for children as young as six

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According to Austria’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper, a teacher used a doll to explain “how sex works” to the children, while also encouraging them to use their hands and fingers on the doll. 

She said she wanted to “enlighten” the children about aspects of sex education. The children in the class were between the ages of six and ten. 

The teacher also explained to the children that “condoms should be used if you don’t want to have babies”, the newspaper reports. 

One boy was told to remove the clothes of the doll but refused before being told that he had to do so. 

The boys parents removed him from the school, saying that he was “overwhelmed” after the class and had started touching his sister inappropriately. 

“We have never seen our son like this before, he was completely overwhelmed” the parents said anonymously, “we are taking him out of the school.”

“We can already see the consequences. 

“A few days after these disturbing lessons, a classmate came to us to play. Like many times before, the boy also played with our ten-year-old daughter. This time he suddenly wanted to pull her pants down.

Peter Stippl, President of the Association for Psychotherapy, said that while sex education was crucially important, it needed to be age appropriate in order to be effective. 

“(This type of sexual education) scares the children! They get a wrong approach to the topic and their natural limit of shame is violated,” he said. 

“Sex education must always be age-appropriate and development-appropriate. Many children are six, seven or eight years old – or even older – not interested in sexual intercourse.

“We should never explain sexuality in schools in isolation from love and relationships. It makes you feel insecure and afraid. It harms the development of children.”

The Austrian Ministry of Education will now set up a commission to determine who will be allowed to teach sex ed in schools. 

The city of Vienna is also investigating the specific incident. 



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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture

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Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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