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Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, fair elections, it employs around 3,460 people in its field operations but in its secretariat in Vienna and its institutions. It has its origins in the 1975 Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe held in Helsinki, Finland; the OSCE is concerned with early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, post-conflict rehabilitation. Its 57 participating countries are located in Europe and central Asia, North America; the participating states cover much of the land area of the Northern Hemisphere. It was created during the Cold War era as an East–West forum; the Organization has its roots in the 1973 Conference on Co-operation in Europe. Talks had been mooted about a European security grouping since the 1950s but the Cold War prevented any substantial progress until the talks at Dipoli in Espoo began in November 1972.

These talks were held at the suggestion of the Soviet Union which wished to use the talks to maintain its control over the communist countries in Eastern Europe, President of Finland Urho Kekkonen hosted them in order to bolster his policy of neutrality. Western Europe, saw these talks as a way to reduce the tension in the region, furthering economic cooperation and obtaining humanitarian improvements for the populations of the Communist bloc; the recommendations of the talks, in the form of "The Blue Book", gave the practical foundations for a three-stage conference called the "Helsinki process". The CSCE opened in Helsinki on 3 July 1973 with 35 states sending representatives. Stage I only took five days to agree to follow the Blue Book. Stage II was the main working phase and was conducted in Geneva from 18 September 1973 until 21 July 1975; the result of Stage II was the Helsinki Final Act, signed by the 35 participating states during Stage III, which took place in Finlandia Hall from 30 July – 1 August 1975.

It was opened by Holy See’s diplomat Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, chairman of the conference. The concepts of improving relations and implementing the act were developed over a series of follow-up meetings, with major gatherings in Belgrade and Vienna; the fall of the Soviet Union required a change of role for the CSCE. The Charter of Paris for a New Europe, signed on 21 November 1990, marked the beginning of this change. With the changes capped by the renaming of the CSCE to the OSCE on 1 January 1995, in accord with the results of the conference held in Budapest, Hungary, in 1994; the OSCE now had a formal secretariat, Senior Council, Parliamentary Assembly, Conflict Prevention Centre, Office for Free Elections. In December 1996, the "Lisbon Declaration on a Common and Comprehensive Security Model for Europe for the Twenty-First Century" affirmed the universal and indivisible nature of security on the European continent. In Istanbul on 19 November 1999, the OSCE ended a two-day summit by calling for a political settlement in Chechnya and adopting a Charter for European Security.

According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov, this summit marked a turning point in Russian perception of the OSCE, from an organization that expressed Europe's collective will, to an organization that serves as a Western tool for "forced democratization". Through its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the OSCE observes and assesses elections in its member states, in order to support fair and transparent democratic processes, in keeping with the mutual standards to which the organization is committed. In 2004, at the invitation of the United States Government, the ODIHR deployed an assessment mission, made up of participants from six OSCE member states, which observed that year's US presidential election and produced a report, it was the first time that a US presidential election was the subject of OSCE monitoring, although the organization had monitored state-level American elections in Florida and California, in 2002 and 2003. The 2004 assessment took place against the backdrop of the controversial recount effort in the 2000 US presidential election, came about through the initiative of 13 Democratic members of the United States House of Representatives.

That group, which included Barbara Lee, of California, Eddie Bernice Johnson, of Texas addressed a request for election observers to the United Nations, in a letter to Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, but the request was declined. Subsequently, the administration of President George W. Bush, through the State Department, headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell, responded to the lawmakers' concerns by inviting the OSCE election-monitoring mission; the six official languages of the OSCE are English, German, Italian and Russian. A unique aspect of the OSCE is the non-binding status of its constitutive charter. Rather than being a formal treaty ratified by national legislatures, the Helsinki Final Act represents a political commitment by the heads of government of all signatories to build security and cooperation in Europe on the basis of its provisions; this allows the OSCE to remain a flexible process for the evolution of improved cooperation, which avoids disputes and/or sanctions over implementation.

By agreeing to these commitments, signatories for the first time

St. Joseph's Basilica, Edmonton

St. Joseph's Cathedral Basilica is a minor basilica in Edmonton, Canada; the basilica, located west of downtown Edmonton is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton and is one of the largest churches in Edmonton. St. Joseph, which seats 1,100 people, is one of the two minor basilicas in Western Canada—the other is in the St. Boniface Archdiocese in Winnipeg. Of architectural note are the 60 stained glass windows depicting the Twelve Apostles, Old Testament characters, scenes from the Bible, from the church's connection to St. Albert, the first diocese in Alberta. Today, St. Joseph's Basilica is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton; as the seat of the archdiocese, it is the church of the archbishop. The history of St. Joseph's began in 1913. At the time the city's main Franco-Albertan church, St. Joachim’s, was no longer able to cope with the booming population of English speaking parishioners. A large basement was excavated and concrete was poured; the church functioned as a crypt church from this time until the building was completed in 1963.

In 1917, St. Joseph's Parish came into being by a separation of the English and the French parishioners of St. Joachim. Construction of the church was halted until 1924 due to World War I. In 1917, St. Joseph's became a separate parish when the English speaking and French speaking parishioners at St. Joachim’s were given their own parishes; the French speakers remained at St. Joachim's; the English speakers moved to St. Joseph's. Construction resumed in 1924, Archbishop Henry O'Leary designated the unfinished St. Joseph's as the cathedral for the diocese. However, construction was again halted during the years of the Great Depression and the Second World War. Planning for a new design began in 1954. Construction of the church was completed and the building opened on May 1, 1963, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. St. Joseph's Cathedral was named a minor basilica shortly before Pope John Paul II visited Edmonton in 1984; this was in part because of the papal visit and part in recognition of the missionaries and pioneers who came to the Edmonton area bringing about growth in people's faith.

For three decades the basilica operated as a "church without locks," as it was open 24 hours. However, in the early 1980s, the church had to close at night; the number of people attending perpetual adoration declined while on the morning of Feb. 28, 1980 an arsonist set the altar and crucifix on fire, causing smoke and water damage to the whole building. To remove soot and smell, all the stones inside the church had to be scrubbed, its prized possession, the Casavant Brothers organ, was sent to Quebec for cleaning and repairs. Cleanup and repair costs reached $250,000, it had its share of fame when parishioners shrugged off the controversy and international publicity surrounding the wedding of hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky to actress Janet Jones, both non-Catholics. About a hundred people objected to the ceremony being held at the basilica on July 16, 1988 but many more applauded the Church's openness. Since its completion and dedication in 1963 it has seen the service and leadership of four archbishops including Archbishop Anthony Jordan, retired Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, Archbishop Thomas Collins, presently, Archbishop Richard William Smith.

Father Len Gartner took over as rector of the basilica in July 2001. The last time he served at St. Joseph's was in the mid-1960s when he was just one year fresh out of the seminary. In its early years, the cathedral parish was an unofficial training ground for the Canadian hierarchy. Three former rectors and an associate pastor became bishops: Msgr. James McGuigan was named archbishop of Regina archbishop of Toronto and Canada's first English-speaking cardinal. C. J. Nelligan became bishop of Pembroke, Ont.. Michael O'Neill, archbishop of Regina, Father Emmett Doyle, bishop of Nelson. Official website

Modern Blues (album)

Modern Blues is the eleventh studio album by The Waterboys, released on the independent label Harlequin and Clown in 2015. It was produced by Mike Scott, with two tracks being co-produced with Paul Brown. Modern Blues reached No. 14 on No. 2 on the UK Independent Albums Chart. Modern Blues was recorded in Nashville. "November Tale" was released as the first single from the album and a music video for the track was directed by Robert Jan Westdijk. The video for "Beautiful Now", the second and final single, debuted on 2 February 2015 on the website of Entertainment Weekly. Upon release, Neil McCormick of The Telegraph commented: "Modern Blues is a rich, aromatic stew of classic rock and beat poetics, with Scott on a quasi-mystical quest to comprehend his own muse and every band member playing out of their skins." Mojo considered the album to be the best Waterboys release since Fisherman's Blues. Hal Horowitz of American Songwriter described Modern Blues as a "rock and roll album" and added: "It's the raw, rocking that keeps you locked on songs that never let their grasp weaken.

Scott sounds rejuvenated here, Modern Blues one of his most compelling releases."Paul Mardles of The Guardian felt the album's material contained a blend of "southern soul fiery blues", but "with mixed results". He stated: "The best tracks are a testament to Scott's storytelling skills, but the singer is still a fan and his songs try too hard to mimic the swagger of the artists Modern Blues namechecks." Tony Clayton-Lea of The Irish Times highlighted songs such as "I Can See Elvis", "November Tale" and "Beautiful Now", but felt that "matters get messy with the longer songs". Ian Abrahams of Record Collector concluded: "...while Modern Blues is far from disagreeable musically, the words will have long-time followers speculating where Scott's at." Dan Lucas of Drowned in Sound felt the album was "pedestrian" and concentrated on "chugging power chords and cheesy guitar riffs". He wrote: "...it's inconceivable that anyone who loves the nuances and the emotional connections forged by the likes of Fisherman's Blues or This Is the Sea could find the same pleasure in something so vapid as Modern Blues."