Category : Europe

(Crux) Ukraine Catholics warn that priests arrested by Russia could be tortured

After two of its clergy were detained by Russian forces last week, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Exarchate of Donetsk has warned they could be victims of torture and has called for their immediate release.

In a Nov. 30 statement labeled as “urgent,” the exarchate voiced their solidarity with the clerics, who serve in the city of Berdyansk, in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region.

The priests are Father Ivan Levytskyi, who serves as abbot of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos parish, and Father Bohdan Geleta, who assists at the parish.

They were detained several days ago for allegedly housing explosives with the intention to commit “guerilla” activities against the Russian army.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine, Violence

(NYT front page) In Blacked-Out Kyiv, Life Goes On, by Flashlight

Elevators across Ukraine’s capital are stocked with emergency supplies in case the power fails. Banks have sent messages to customers to assure them their money is safe in the event of prolonged blackouts. The National Philharmonic played on Tuesday night on a stage lit by battery-powered lanterns, and doctors last week performed surgeries by flashlight.

This is Kyiv, a modern, thriving European capital of 3.3 million people, and now a war-torn city struggling with shortages of electricity, running water, cellphone service, central heating and the internet.

One popular cafe has created two menus — one featuring heated food like homemade pasta for when it has power, a second offering cold dishes like Greek yogurt with granola and applesauce when it doesn’t. At another restaurant, a chef cooked on a sidewalk grill as two young men warmed their hands over the coals. The sun sets early, before the school day is done, so children hold flashlights while waiting for their parents to arrive in total darkness to pick them up.

Generators of all sizes rattle and roar across the city, where municipal officials estimate that 1.5 million people are still without power for more than 12 hours a day.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) How will America deal with three-way nuclear deterrence?

The cold war, in which America and the Soviet Union menaced each other with tens of thousands of nukes, was scary enough. In the new age America confronts not just Russia but also China. New weapons—among them hypersonic missiles that are hard to detect and shoot down, and space and cyber weapons that threaten command-and-control systems—may unsettle the nuclear balance. Worse, decades of arms-control agreements may end by 2026. A new nuclear-arms race looms. Many think that it has already started.

Admiral Richard last year sounded the alarm that China was staging a “strategic breakout”. This month he warned that America was losing the military contest: “As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking.” President Joe Biden says America faces a “decisive decade” in which to shape the global order. In a flurry of national-security policy documents this autumn his administration classifies Russia as the “acute” threat and China as “the “pacing challenge”.

“By the 2030s the United States will, for the first time in its history, face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors and potential adversaries. This will create new stresses on stability and new challenges for deterrence, assurance, arms control, and risk reduction,” declares the Nuclear Posture Review (npr).

Stratcom says it needs a new generation of theorists.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia

(Washington Post) Ukrainian energy systems on brink of collapse after weeks of Russian bombing

After just six weeks of intense bombing of energy infrastructure, Russia has battered Ukraine to the brink of a humanitarian disaster this winter as millions of people potentially face life-threatening conditions without electricity, heat or running water.

As the scope of damage to Ukraine’s energy systems has come into focus in recent days, Ukrainian and Western officials have begun sounding the alarm but are also realizing they have limited recourse. Ukraine’s Soviet-era power system cannot be fixed quickly or easily. In some of the worst-hit cities, there is little officials can do other than to urge residents to flee — raising the risk of economic collapse in Ukraine and a spillover refugee crisis in neighboring European countries.

“Put simply, this winter will be about survival,” Hans Henri P. Kluge, regional director for the World Health Organization, told reporters on Monday in Kyiv, saying the next months could be “life-threatening for millions of Ukrainians.”

Already, snow has fallen across much of Ukraine and temperatures are dipping below freezing in many parts of the country. Kluge said that 2 million to 3 million Ukrainians were expected to leave their homes “in search of warmth and safety,” though it was unclear how many would remain inside the country.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Martin of Tours

Lord God of hosts, who didst clothe thy servant Martin the soldier with the spirit of sacrifice, and didst set him as a bishop in thy Church to be a defender of the catholic faith: Give us grace to follow in his holy steps, that at the last we may be found clothed with righteousness in the dwellings of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, France, Spirituality/Prayer

(Hedgehog Review) Tara Isabella Burton–On Hope and Holy Fools

What if the truth of our lives lay not in our self-separation from the sheeple but in our embrace of the fact that the life we live with one another is the truest expression of who we really are: that there is as much weight to our kid brother kissing us, gently, in the middle of our existential crisis, as there is in the substance of the crisis itself?

Such a reading of our lives demands humility. It asks that we envision ourselves not as special or distinct but as ordinary human beings, those shepherds and butlers and housemaids, whose ordinary lives are as worthy of attention as those of tragedy’s kings and warriors. It insists, as a moral and philosophical duty, that we take ourselves not more seriously but less, that we learn to laugh at ourselves. It demands that, instead of aestheticizing our foibles—raising our sins to the substance of high art—we see ourselves as, well, a little bit silly, perhaps well intentioned, but constantly getting in our own way: Gilligans failing in every single episode to get off the island. To accept grace—the undeserved happy ending—demands that we see our lives as a comedy (as Dante indeed understood). In order to accept our lives as a comedy, we must accept that none of us are the heroes we imagine ourselves to be.

This is the truth understood by Dostoevsky’s Alyosha and by the wider Russian tradition of the “holy fool”: the innocent whose faith in God causes him to appear stupid, if not mad, in the eyes of the world. To hope is a kind of foolishness. It is, too, a kind of refusal of the aesthetic, at least of the sophisticated aesthetic stance that rejects such populist kitsch as Hollywood happy endings. To hope is, necessarily, to hope for a narratively unsatisfying ending: to hope for an unearned joy that changes the entire genre of our lives, that brings comedy from ruin. It is to refuse the red pill or the black pill, to refuse any narrative of ourselves as uniquely heroic or uniquely brave, because we can withstand the wickedness of the world. It is a quieter kind of bravery: the conviction that, one day, we might not have to. It may not be narrative. But it remains, instead, poetry.

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Posted in Anthropology, Books, Eschatology, Russia, Theology

(Church Times) C of E Pensions Board joins fight to force VW to open its books on climate lobbying

The Church of England Pensions Board has joined five other pension funds to bring legal action against Volkswagen AG (VW), after it refused repeated attempts to reveal crucial information on its corporate climate-lobbying activities.

The funds, four Swedish and one Danish in addition to the C of E board, are all part of the Institutional Investment Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) and the Climate Action’s 100+ initiative. These have asked the company repeatedly to clarify its lobbying position. VW discloses trade association memberships, but does not disclose how the goals of these associations align with its own climate goals.

The boards wanted to table an agenda item at VW’s AGM, seeking publication of a report setting out how the company’s lobbying of policy-makers matched its stated ambition to support the Paris Agreement goals by becoming a net-zero company. VW refused to table the item.

The investors say that they tried over several years to get information before tabling the amendment. The case, supported by the legal charity ClientEarth, will test whether VW has the right to refuse the agenda item.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Pensions, Science & Technology, Stock Market

(TLS) Andrew Preston reviews Max Hastings new “The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 (William Collins)”

Perhaps the book’s most interesting contribution is its reassessment of the key figures, for this really was a historical moment driven by personality, which turned on individual decisions. Of the three key players, only John F. Kennedy comes out with his reputation intact, indeed burnished. Hastings doesn’t hesitate to point out his mistakes, but throughout the American president seems to be the only sane person in the room. By contrast, Nikita Khrushchev is one of the book’s main villains, albeit a very human one: ambitious and impulsive, but also vulnerable and bewilderingly inconsistent. The megalomaniacal Castro, almost suicidally committed to resisting Yankee aggression at any cost, even nuclear war, is subject to stern criticism. Of the supporting cast Hastings praises Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk for encouraging Kennedy’s diplomatic manoeuvres. He saves his harshest words for the Strangeloveian US military, which pushed relentlessly for authorization to bomb and invade Cuba despite – or, for some of the brass, precisely because of – the chance that it would lead to World War Three. The civilian members of the White House’s fabled ExComm who advocated for military intervention also come in for stinging criticism. Hastings is shrewd to zero in at times on the hawkish National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, one of Kennedy’s less famous but most important aides, who was “so smooth and smart that you could have played pool on him”, but whose surface polish concealed some poor judgement.

But while Abyss makes reputations from 1962 come into clearer focus, the lessons for diplomats and politicians today remain frustratingly murky. Hastings shows how, in the face of unimaginable pressure, Kennedy’s patient diplomacy found an incredibly narrow path to a peaceful solution. And from there he draws a line from the warmongering of Kennedy’s adversaries during the missile crisis – in the Pentagon, not the Kremlin – to the subsequent escalation of the war in Vietnam. Some US officials, including Bundy, did in fact push for war in Cuba, then in Vietnam. Yet that line wasn’t always so straight: in 1964-5 the Joint Chiefs were actually reluctant to wage war in Southeast Asia, while McNamara and Rusk, the civilian voices of reason during the missile crisis, applied the crisis-management techniques that were so successful in Cuba to the conflict in Vietnam, this time with disastrous results.

What, then, were the lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis? As Vladimir Putin rattles his nuclear sabre over Ukraine, what can Joe Biden learn from his hero Jack Kennedy? Not much, it seems. “In 1962, the world got lucky”, Hastings concludes. Let’s hope we get lucky again.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Cuba, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, Russia

Church of England Pensions Board begins legal proceedings against German car manufacturer VW

The Church of England Pensions Board, together with Swedish public pension funds AP7, AP2, AP3, AP4 and Danish AkademikerPension, has filed a case against Volkswagen AG, after it refused repeated attempts to reveal crucial information on its corporate climate lobbying activities.

This is the first time investors have started European litigation on a climate-related matter. The case was filed this week.

The case will test whether VW has the right to refuse to include an item on the company AGM agenda proposed by VW’s shareholders at the 2023 AGM having previously refused investors shareholder resolutions. The group of investors are represented by German law firm Hausfeld Rechtsanwälte LLP and supported by legal charity ClientEarth.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, Religion & Culture, Stock Market

(NYT) As Inflation Stalks Europe, Leaders Shudder

The situation is arguably even more dire on continental Europe. The annual inflation rate in the European Union is now at its highest in decades — 10.9 percent in September, up from 3.6 a year earlier.

That is worse even than in the United States or Britain, and it is being driven largely by the bloc’s unique and anguishing withdrawal pains as it tries to punish Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, for his invasion of Ukraine by quitting its long dependence on cheap Russian gas.

As winter approaches, Europe’s united turn away from Russian energy is beginning to bite in households everywhere, eroding living standards and in some countries threatening to chip away at the united front for sanctions against Russia.

Mario Draghi, the departing prime minister of Italy and an architect of the continent’s united line against Russia, warned as much would happen if Europe failed to reach a deal to cap prices on the alternative gas imports.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Europe, Politics in General

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Henry Martyn

O God of the nations, who didst give to thy faithful servant Henry Martyn a brilliant mind, a loving heart, and a gift for languages, that he might translate the Scriptures and other holy writings for the peoples of India and Persia: Inspire in us, we beseech thee, a love like his, eager to commit both life and talents to thee who gavest them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, India, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer, Turkey

(C of E) New £15 million fund to help churches with energy bills announced

The Energy Costs Grant will be distributed to dioceses to enable them to help Parochial Church Councils (PCCs) cover the increased cost of heating and lighting church buildings this winter.

Dioceses will also be able to use some of their fund allocation to make additional targeted hardship payments for clergy and other employed ministers to cover household bills, in particular energy costs.

The new funding comes after £3 million was made available earlier this year by the Church of England for dioceses to distribute to clergy and lay ministers facing particular hardship because of the cost of living crisis.

The Energy Costs Grant is accompanied by information aimed at helping churches to become more energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, Parish Ministry, Russia, Stewardship, Ukraine

(Lawrence Freedman) Retribution and Regime Change–The consequences of Putin’s weakness

Everything that now happens in this war, including the murderous missile attacks on Ukrainian cities, has to be understood in terms of the logic of Putin’s exposed position as a failed war leader. He is desperately trying to demonstrate to his hard-line critics that he is up to the task. The opening salvos of this week, ending yet more innocent lives for no discernible military gain, will not make Ukraine less determined or able to win this war. They will have the opposite effect.

The trigger was the damage inflicted on the Kerch bridge last Saturday. The bridge was built at considerable expense to connect Crimea to the mainland and opened by Putin with great fanfare in 2018. The attack combined a symbolic blow with painful practical consequences. Although some road and rail traffic will still pass through, the loss of so much capacity adds to the headaches for Russian logisticians. This link is vital to keeping Crimea, and, through Crimea, forces in southern Ukraine, supplied. News of the attack left the normal suspects on Russian state media unsure about whether to be angrier with the shoddy security that allowed the attack to happen or the audacity of the Ukrainians in mounting the attack. TV Host Vladimir Solovyov, who has been increasingly despondent of late, demanded to know ‘when will we start fighting?’, adding, channeling his inner Machiavelli, that ‘it’s better to be feared than laughed at’. When on the night of 9 October Putin declared this to be a terrorist act against vital civilian infrastructure (despite its evident military value) it was clear that he shared this sentiment.

Putin’s statement claimed that ‘high-precision weapons’ were used against ‘Ukrainian infrastructure, energy infrastructure, military command and communications’, as both an answer to the ‘crimes of the Kyiv regime’ and a warning against further ‘terrorist attacks on the territory of the Russian Federation.’ Some infrastructure targets were hit but so have, just in Kyiv, a playground, a symbolic glass bridge in a park (which survived), and the German consulate. As Kyiv is Ukraine’s main decision-making centre it is telling that none of these supposedly precise weapons hit anything of political or military significance.

State Media’s Margarita Simonyan, who had called the bridge attack a ‘red line’ for Russia expressed delight at the landing of our ‘little response’. Yet while they might satisfy urges for vengeance their impact will be limited unless they become part of a persistent campaign. Alexander Kots, a war reporter, has expressed his hope that this was not a ‘one-off act of retribution, but a new system for carrying out the conflict’ to be continued until Ukraine ‘loses its ability to function.’ Former President Dmitri Medvedev, who once appeared as a serious figure, has expressed his conviction that the goal of ‘future actions’ (but not current?) must be the ‘complete dismantling of the political regime in Ukraine.’

Such hopes are contradicted by the harsh reality of Russia’s position. Putin’s statement highlighted retribution. Russia lacks the missiles to mount attacks of this sort often, as it is running out of stocks and the Ukrainians are claiming a high success rate in intercepting many of those already used. This is not therefore a new war-winning strategy but a sociopath’s tantrum.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(WSJ) Walter Russell Mead–The Question on Putin’s Mind: Would We Risk New York to Keep Odessa Free?

From Mr. Putin’s point of view, in a war in which almost everything is going wrong, nuclear blackmail is working. Why wouldn’t he double down on the one tactic that works?

The only way to deter any possible use of nuclear weapons is to make Mr. Putin believe that the consequences of such use will be ruinous for Russia as a state and for him as its ruler, and that the West won’t flinch when the time for action comes.

To make his threats credible, Mr. Biden needs, first, to make up his mind that he is prepared to stay the course. “The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways,” the Bible tells us. Facing down Mr. Putin in a nuclear standoff is not a course for a man who lacks conviction.

If Mr. Biden is sure of himself, he must build an ironclad coalition at home and abroad behind those threats. Rather than playing down the danger, he needs to dramatize it. Making a prime-time speech to the country, addressing a joint session of Congress, holding an emergency NATO summit—these can all demonstrate Mr. Biden’s commitment to respond with overwhelming force to Russian nuclear attacks.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(NYT Op-ed) Pinchas Goldschmidt–My First Yom Kippur in Exile

This year, I will divide my time between a few Jerusalem synagogues. Here, and across other cities of Israel, I meet new Jewish émigrés from Russia, the tens of thousands of fellow Jews who have fled since the start of the war. We reminisce about our pasts, and look ahead to our future.

It is strange to feel in exile in Jerusalem, in the Jewish ancestral land — but home is strange like that. Over the centuries, rabbis used to sign their names on documents, not as a “rabbi of” a certain city, but rather “as a temporary dweller” of that city. The role of a religious leader is not only to be a pastoral guide, not only to answer questions and lead services and give sermons, the beautiful and glorious moments that fill one with meaning, a sense of purpose and awe. Those are, so to speak, the easy parts of the rabbinate.

The hardest task of religious leadership is to take moral stances in difficult times, no matter the cost.

And this is perhaps what the shofar, the ram’s horn that Jews blow on the High Holy Days, represents. According to the Bible, the shofar blow is the sound of freedom. It was historically blown at the beginning of the jubilee year — the year that freed all slaves and returned all sold ancestral property. The sound of the shofar blow is meant to remind us of both freedom and equality.

When we blow that shofar this year, let us remember how a peaceful world must rely on the fundamentals of liberty and life, not only for individuals but also among nations.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine

(SCMP) Xi Jinping may ‘recalibrate’ after miscalculation of siding with Russia, Henry Kissinger says

After watching China’s “no limits” partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin fall well short of expectations, the stage is set for President Xi Jinping to tilt at least modestly toward the United States after the 20th party congress, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger said on Monday.

“Xi gave a rather blank check to Putin,” Kissinger said at the Asia Society in New York. “He must have thought the invasion would succeed. He must need to recalibrate.”

A slow easing of US-China tensions could begin as early as next month at the Group of 20 summit of economic nations in Indonesia when Xi and US President Joe Biden are expected to meet.

Xi almost certainly expected Putin to be successful after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine – an offensive that has revealed deep weaknesses in the Russian military – and wants to avoid seeing a wall of Western opposition against China develop in the way it has against Russia, potentially raising questions at home, Kissinger said.

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Posted in China, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Bloomberg) Chief Putin Critic Clinches Key Election Victory in Latvia

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins, a staunch critic of Vladimir Putin, won a decisive victory in general elections as voters punished a party backed by ethnic Russians.

Bolstered by its vocal opposition of the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine, Karins’s New Unity won 19% of the vote, according to a final results released by the central election commission.

Harmony, a group that won the last three elections with support of many Russians who make up about a quarter of Latvia’s 1.9 million population, failed to make it into parliament for the first time since its inception in 2010.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Latvia, Politics in General, Russia

(Bloomberg) Nord Stream Hit Adds to Europe’s Economic Woes in 2009 Echo

The economic damage from the shutdown of Russian gas flows is piling up fast in Europe and risks eventually eclipsing the impact of the global financial crisis.

With a continent-wide recession now seemingly inevitable, a harsh winter is coming for chemical producers, steel plants and car manufacturers starved of essential raw materials who’ve joined households in sounding the alarm over rocketing energy bills. The suspected sabotage of Germany’s main pipeline for gas from Russia underlined that Europe will have to survive without any significant Russian flows.

Building on a model of the European energy market and economy, the Bloomberg Economics base case is now a 1% drop in gross domestic product, with the downturn starting in the fourth quarter. If the coming months turn especially icy and the 27 members of the European Union fail to efficiently share scarce fuel supplies, the contraction could be as much as 5%.

Read it all (registration or subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–Are Overzealous central banks making another horrible mistake, so (we should) batten down the hatches?

The world can kiss goodbye to an economic soft landing. Western central banks are on a misguided mission to restore their damaged credibility, tightening monetary policy violently after the post-pandemic recovery has already wilted and output is nearing contractionary levels.

Britain’s fiscal blitz has the luck of timing. It is a counter-cyclical stimulus, cushioning some of the blow, even if it risks rattling bond vigilantes, and even if it is wasteful in subsidies for the affluent.

Critics say the energy bailout will cap inflation in the short run but stoke more inflation in the long run, to which one can only reply, like Keynes, that in the long run we are all dead. World events are going to wash over such quibbling with a torrential deflationary force.

The central banks are pushing through with triple-barrelled rate rises after the inflation fever has broken; after the commodity boom has deflated; and after key monetary indicators on both sides of the Atlantic have turned negative. They are prisoners of lagging indicators.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, England / UK, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Globalization, The Banking System/Sector

(NYT front page) ‘They Are Watching’: Inside Russia’s Vast Surveillance State

Four days into the war in Ukraine, Russia’s expansive surveillance and censorship apparatus was already hard at work.

Roughly 800 miles east of Moscow, authorities in the Republic of Bashkortostan, one of Russia’s 85 regions, were busy tabulating the mood of comments in social media messages. They marked down YouTube posts that they said criticized the Russian government. They noted the reaction to a local protest.

Then they compiled their findings. One report about the “destabilization of Russian society” pointed to an editorial from a news site deemed “oppositional” to the government that said President Vladimir V. Putin was pursuing his own self-interest by invading Ukraine. A dossier elsewhere on file detailed who owned the site and where they lived.

Another Feb. 28 dispatch, titled “Presence of Protest Moods,” warned that some had expressed support for demonstrators and “spoke about the need to stop the war.”

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Science & Technology, Ukraine

(R U) Giorgia Meloni’s Politics And Faith: Meet The Woman Who Could Be Italy’s Next Leader

Pope Francis has been openly anti-populist, but the Italian people seem open to it now that the situation has gotten more dire economically as a result of COVID-19, rising inflation and an energy crisis triggered by Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The pope has been good about staying away from the morass of Italian politics, leaving it to the Italian bishops to exert influence.

As Vatican observer John Allen Jr. wrote in a recent Crux column: “Italian Catholics also have a commendable capacity to live with contradiction, reflecting a healthy sense of the complexities of things. Small case in point: I recently went to a local pharmacy for a Covid test, and I noticed a poor box to support the hospital founded by Padre Pio atop a shelf. Upon further inspection, it was the same shelf that offered the pharmacy’s collection of jumbo-sized boxes of condoms.”

Meloni is an embodiment of such contradictions. For example, she supports family values and other Catholic doctrines, but has a daughter, named Ginevra, with her boyfriend Andrea Giambruno, a journalist.

Allen said Italy is a place where “the sacred and the secular have been forced by bitter experience to work out a modus vivendi, for the most part respecting the legitimacy and autonomy of the other.”

Despite all these contradictions, Meloni is poised to be prime minister. Her campaign slogan may be “Ready” — but it remains to be seen if she, the majority of her countrymen and the world are ready to see her lead Italy.

Read it all.

Posted in Europe, Italy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(FT top) Vladimir Putin mobilises army reserves to support Ukraine invasion

Vladimir Putin said Russia’s armed forces would call up its reserves immediately to support its invasion of Ukraine and indicated Moscow would probably annex large swaths of the country’s territory.

In an address to his nation that significantly raised the stakes in the war, the Russian president announced “partial mobilisation” ahead of heavily stage-managed votes in four occupied regions of Ukraine to join Russia.

Moscow did not give an official figure for the newly mobilised troops but it is estimated they will significantly bolster the number of Russian forces on the ground in Ukraine, which western officials have in the past estimated to stand at between 150,000 and 190,000.

More than six months since Putin first sent troops into Ukraine in late February, he defined the war as an existential struggle for Russia’s survival against what he described as a hostile west.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Hildegard of Bingen

O God, by whose grace thy servant Hildegard, enkindled with the fire of thy love, became a burning and shining light in thy Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and may ever walk before thee as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Europe, Spirituality/Prayer

(WSJ) Walter Russell Mead–What if Putin Uses a Nuclear Weapon in Ukraine?

For Mr. Putin, the war in Ukraine began as what Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass has called a “war of choice.” Mr. Putin could have left Ukraine undisturbed and gone on to rule Russia for many years to come. But having chosen to start the war, he can’t afford to lose it. Radical Russian nationalists are already blaming him for the military failures in Ukraine. The Kremlin is no place for the weak, and the hard men who run Russia could turn on a politically wounded Mr. Putin in a heartbeat. Regardless of public sentiment across Russia, the people closest to Mr. Putin likely still want him to win the war.

The question is what Mr. Putin does next. If he can stabilize the military front until winter sets in, he has several months to prepare for the spring. He might use that time to organize a general mobilization, building a much larger conscript army for another year of conventional combat. But if the front doesn’t stabilize, or if he feels that public resistance to a general mobilization could endanger the stability of the regime, he might look to more drastic options, such as the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

It is anything but clear how the West would respond. Allowing Mr. Putin to use nuclear blackmail to assert his control over Ukraine would be such a craven act that the moral and political foundations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would be shaken to the core—and nuclear-armed aggressors elsewhere would take note. Yet the obvious countermove, placing Ukraine under an American nuclear umbrella, risks the greatest nuclear crisis since John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev squared off over Cuba in October 1962.

So far, American policy has aimed at avoiding the binary choice between abandoning Ukraine and provoking a nuclear confrontation with Russia….

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(EuroIntelligence) Wolfgang Münchau–Europe maybe at the beginning of an unusually severe recession, one that won’t auto-reverse

Shouting fire in theatre is something not done lightly, unless there actually is a fire in the theatre. For Europe’s economy, I think it is time to shout. What we are about to see this autumn and winter is not your standard recession, but the kind of shock that will shape our memories and narratives for the rest of the century.

Last week, I saw a projection of a 5% GDP shock for Germany, based on energy futures prices. In case of an ongoing stop to gas flows and a cold winter, the recession could be worse. Gazprom already announced an indefinite stop of flows through Nord Stream 1, apparently because of an oil leak.

The main quality of the ongoing recession is not so much its measured impact on GDP – though it will probably be substantial. It is the fact that we have exhausted our policy options. Monetary policy in the last decade went way overboard with large-scale quantitative easing and its subsequent refusal to reverse it. The west reacted to the pandemic with the biggest fiscal stimulus package in history.

Economists keep on telling us that we need fiscal expansion in a recession. I agree with that. But what is different this century from the previous one is that we keep on doubling down with stimulus and monetary easing. And we never grow out of the debt.

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Posted in Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General

(NYT Op-ed) David Wallace-Wells–Europe’s Energy Crisis May Get a Lot Worse

I don’t think many Americans appreciate just how tense and tenuous, how very touch and go the energy situation in Europe is right now.

For months, as news of the Ukraine war receded a bit, it was possible to follow the energy story unfolding across the Atlantic and still assume an uncomfortable but familiar-enough winter in Europe, characterized primarily by high prices.

In recent weeks, the prospects have begun to look darker. In early August the European Union approved a request that member states reduce gas consumption by 15 percent — quite a large request and one that several initially balked at. In Spain, facing record-breaking heat wave after record-breaking heat wave at the height of the country’s tourist season, the government announced restrictions on commercial air-conditioning, which may not be set below 27 degrees Celsius, or about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In France, an Associated Press article said, “urban guerrillas” are taking to the streets, shutting off storefront lights to reduce energy consumption. In the Netherlands a campaign called Flip the Switch is asking residents to limit showers to five minutes and to drop air-conditioning and clothes dryers entirely. Belgium has reversed plans to retire nuclear power plants, and Germany, having ruled out the possibility of such a turnabout in June, is now considering it as well.

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Posted in Energy, Natural Resources, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia

(Telegraph) Rhine close to running dry in German energy nightmare

Germany’s Rhine river will become impassable for barges carrying coal, oil and gas later this week, in a devastating blow to factories upriver.

Levels at Kaub, a key point along the waterway west of Frankfurt, are predicted to fall to below 40cm on Friday, according to the German Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration.

At that chokepoint, the river becomes effectively impassable for many barges, which use the Rhine to move a range of goods including coal, oil and gas.

Water levels will then fall further to 37cm on Saturday, officials warned.

The river runs from Switzerland through France and Germany to the Netherlands, where it joins the North Sea.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Germany, Science & Technology

(BBC) Loire Valley: Intense European heatwave parches France’s ‘garden’

The Loire Valley is known as “the Garden of France”. But the garden is withering.

France’s worst drought since records began has turned lush vegetation into arid fields of brown crops, shrivelling under what is now the fourth heatwave of the year.

In Vincent Favreau’s vegetable farm, where he produces food for a hundred families in the area, the parched earth has stunted the growth of the cabbages. His potato plants are burnt out, producing just half the crop of a normal year.

“Either the vegetables will die of thirst, or they won’t develop enough during this crucial period of growth,” he said, sifting through the dry soil, which he hasn’t been able to water since restrictions came in two weeks ago.

“With this heat and wind, we can’t compensate for what the sun is evaporating. I’ve never seen something like this in my twenty-two years here. If it doesn’t rain within two months, it’ll be a disaster.”

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, France

(Euro news) Europe’s energy crisis: Controversy as Spain bans air conditioning from dropping below 27°C (near 81F)

A debate has been sparked after Spain’s government moved to prevent offices, shops and other venues from setting air conditioning below 27°C in the summer.

It is part of plans to cut the country’s energy consumption and limit dependency on Russian gas.

The decree, published on Tuesday morning, will also stop heating from being raised above 19°C during the winter.

The rules will be mandatory in all public and commercial buildings, including bars, cinemas, theatres, airports and train stations.

It is extended as a recommendation to Spanish households.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Energy, Natural Resources, Europe, Spain

(WSJ) Walter Russell Mead–The Iran Nuclear Deal’s Convulsive Death

If the U.S. is going to develop an effective response to this combination of strategic threats, our political leaders will have to move beyond finger pointing and blame games over the fate of the JCPOA. Republicans can say justly that Mr. Obama’s decision to sign something as consequential and controversial as the Iran nuclear deal without the bipartisan support needed to get a treaty ratified in the Senate was a historic mistake. Democrats can reasonably riposte that Mr. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal made everything worse. Such matters can be left to the historians. The question before us now is not who was right in 2015 or 2018. It is what we do next.

Mr. Biden has repeatedly said that allowing Iran to build nuclear weapons is not an option. If his administration fails to hold that line, the consequences for American power in the Middle East and globally would be profound and perhaps irreversible. If America attacks Iranian nuclear facilities and finds itself stuck in yet another Middle Eastern quagmire, the effects at home and abroad will also be dire. China and Russia would take advantage of America’s Middle East preoccupation to make trouble elsewhere, and U.S. public opinion would be further polarized.

Few presidents have faced policy choices this tough or consequential. It’s understandable if not commendable that the administration postponed the day of reckoning for so long, but as the dead-cat stink intensifies, Mr. Biden is coming closer to the greatest test of his career.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Foreign Relations, Iran, Politics in General, President Joe Biden, Russia