Category : Foreign Relations

(NYT) April Nerve Gas Attack in Syria Appears to Be One in a Series

Last month’s chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held Syrian town may have caught the world’s — and President Trump’s — attention, but it was not the only recent suspected use of a nerve agent by Syrian government forces.

On three other occasions in the months leading up to the attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, witnesses, doctors and human rights investigators say, government attacks left scores of people sickened with similar symptoms, like foaming at the mouth, shaking and paralysis — including two attacks in December, little noticed at the time, that killed at least 64 people.

New information about the additional attacks appears in a Human Rights Watch report released Monday, bolstering New York Times reporting on those episodes and placing Khan Sheikhoun in the context of wider evidence that the Syrian government continues to use chemical weapons despite its 2013 agreement to give them up.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Syria, Violence

A Truly Terrifying Piece from the [London] Times about Putin Critic Bill Browder-The West can’t imagine how evil they are in the Kremlin regime

The extraordinary story of Mr Browder’s transformation from hard-nosed capitalist to human rights campaigner, based on his 2015 book Red Notice: How I Became Putin’s Number 1 Enemy is being turned into a film. “There are a couple of things that are so crazy in the story that the Hollywood screenwriter says, ‘No one will believe it. They will just think it’s not true’,” he says. Yet the plot is still unfolding. “The book doesn’t scratch the surface — it finishes in 2012 and crazy stuff has happened since then: assassinations and cover-ups and western enablers.”

The grandson of Earl Browder, the former leader of the American Communist Party, he became a capitalist as an “act of rebellion” and spent more than a decade living as a businessman in Moscow, running Russia’s most successful investment fund. He was deported in 2006 after he started to expose corruption, and was blacklisted by the Russian government as a “threat to national security”. Since then he has been convicted in absentia on what he calls trumped-up charges and sentenced to nine years in jail.

The death in 2009 of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who had uncovered details of a $230 million tax fraud, made him only more determined to get to the truth. “They arrested him, tortured him viciously for 358 days and they killed him at the age of 37,” he says. “To this day it’s a burden I carry on my shoulders that a young man died in my service to protect me. It’s my duty to get justice for him and make sure that the people who killed him don’t get away with it.”

Others who have worked with Mr Browder to expose the links between the Russian mafia and the Kremlin have also mysteriously died or been injured. Only last week Nikolai Gorokhov, a Russian lawyer who is representing the Magnitsky family, fell from the fourth floor of an apartment building near Moscow in suspicious circumstances. “He had come across dramatic and important evidence of collusion and corruption and cover up of the murder by the Russian law enforcement authorities,” Mr Browder says. “He was going to go to court the day after he plunged four storeys. I believe that he was pushed off the balcony.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia

(FT) US and North Korea on collision course, says China

China’s foreign minister has warned the Trump administration that it is on a collision course with North Korea and called on Washington to halt military exercises with Seoul to avoid conflict.

While Wang Yi also called on North Korea to suspend its missile and nuclear programmes, his direct challenge to President Donald Trump — who has warned Pyongyang that its goal of building a nuclear warhead that can reach US soil “won’t happen” — was unusual in its bluntness.

“The two sides are like two accelerating trains coming towards each other with neither side willing to give way. The question is, are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision?” Mr Wang told reporters in Beijing. “Given the situation, our priority now is to flash the red light and apply brakes on both trains.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, North Korea, Politics in General

(FT) Gideon Rachman-The isolation of Angela Merkel’s Germany

Angela Merkel has described the idea that she is now the de facto leader of the western world as “grotesque” and “absurd”. The German chancellor’s angst is understandable. Modern Germany has no desire to lead the west and is not powerful enough to bear that burden. But unrealistic expectations are not the only reason for German anxiety. If Ms Merkel looks out from the glass box of the chancellor’s office in Berlin there is trouble on every horizon. To the east are the ever more authoritarian and Germanophobic governments of Poland and Hungary. And further east a hostile Russia. To the west, is the US of Donald Trump; to the north the UK of Brexit. And to the south lie Italy and Greece, two troubled countries that increasingly blame Germany for their economic woes. Collectively, the situation threatens to revive an old German nightmare: the fear of being a large, isolated power at the centre of Europe. The situation must feel even more grotesque because — unlike in the 20th century — Germany’s current loneliness has very little to do with the country’s own malign behaviour. On the contrary, it is the world around Germany that is changing fast, as populism and nationalism surge across Europe and in the US.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Germany, Politics in General

(ABC Aus) South Sudan famine declared as 100,000 people face starvation

It takes a lot to declare a famine.

If a population can’t find enough food it’s not strictly a famine. Nor is it famine if one third of the population is severely malnourished.

The United Nations’ definition of famine is when three conditions coincide: at least 20 per cent of a population faces extreme food shortages, 30 per cent of people experience acute malnutrition, and at least two people per 10,000 die every day.

This week both the UN and the World Food Program agreed with South Sudan’s decision to declare a state of famine in parts of the country’s south.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --South Sudan, Africa, Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Poverty, Sudan, Theology

Bridget Kendall Ramsey Murray Lecture 2015

Selwyn College Cambridge presents the annual Ramsay Murray Lecture on the subject of modern day Russia [including relations with Ukraine and Europe] under the Presidency of Vladimir Putin and given by the BBC’s Diplomatic Correspondent, Bridget Kendall.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, History, Politics in General, Russia, Theology

(Guardian) Rowan Williams–It remains Britain’s moral duty to help refugee children

Last week’s announcement from government that it will close the route opened for some of the most vulnerable refugee children to Britain by Lord Dubs falls far short of our better selves and the example set by those before us.

The route was opened by Lord Dubs to enable a safe passage to Britain for the most vulnerable refugee children. His amendment last year drew exceptionally wide cross-party and public support. Lord Dubs was himself a survivor of the Kindertransport efforts to save Jewish children fleeing the Nazis on the eve of the Second World War.

Those efforts typified something of the best in us. A steadfast and quiet determination to protect children and the most vulnerable and to do so in time when the threat is urgent.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Rowan Williams, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Children, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Theology

Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban

ore than 500 conservative evangelical pastors and leaders representing all 50 states are urging President Donald Trump to reverse his temporary ban on refugee resettlement and his “dramatic reduction” of the total America will accept this fiscal year.

The open letter, published Wednesday as a full-page ad in The Washington Post with more than 100 of the signatories listed, was notable for two reasons. First, it contained only conservative evangelicals, instead of the mix of progressive names that usually sign such open letters. And second, topping the list were Tim Keller and Max Lucado””two well-known and well-respected pastors and authors who rarely speak out on political matters.

Other key signatories include Kathy Keller, Willow Creek’s Bill and Lynne Hybels, authors Stuart and Jill Briscoe, author Ann Voskamp, Southern Baptist seminary president Daniel Akin, and pastors Joel Hunter and Derwin Gray, among many others [full ad available in the linked article].

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(The Hill) Evangelical leaders buy ad denouncing Trump refugee ban

“As Christians, we have a historic call expressed over two thousand years, to serve the suffering. We cannot abandon this call now.”

The evangelical leaders acknowledge the world is dangerous, adding that they “affirm the crucial role of government in protecting us from harm and in setting in terms on refugee admissions.”

“However, compassion and security can coexist, as they have for decades,” the ad says. “For the persecuted and suffering, every day matters; every delay is a crushing blow to hope.”

“While we are eager to welcome persecuted Christians, we also welcome vulnerable Muslims and people of other faiths or no faith at all,” the ad says.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

The Archbishop of Canterbury's statement on child refugees

“I was saddened and shocked to read in the Ministerial statement released yesterday that only 350 children will be received under the regulations in the Dubs Amendment. Our country has a great history of welcoming those in need, particularly the most vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children.

Refugees, like all people, are treasured human beings made in the image of God who deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. Jesus commands us to care for the most vulnerable among us:

“The King will reply, ”˜Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40).

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Children, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(FT) David Pilling–Nigeria’s president is missing in action

There are signs that Nigerians ”” among the most resilient and adaptive people on the continent ”” are losing patience. This week, there were small, but rowdy, protests in Lagos and Abuja, at which demonstrators complained about their “missing president”.

There is an irony that Mr Buhari, a retired major general, is missing in action. He ran the country as a military ruler in the mid-1980s after seizing power in a coup. In civilian guise, his leadership style has verged on the invisible. After winning power in 2015 on the fourth attempt at the ballot box, he set out at a pace that has marked his presidency: it took him six months to name a cabinet. Hopes that he had surrounded himself with a lean team of capable technocrats empowered to get policy cranking have come to naught. Policymaking ”” such that it is ”” has been crafted instead by a tiny cabal of loyal, less qualified, stalwarts. Mr Buhari has failed to articulate anything approaching a vision.

During his campaign, Nigeria’s soldier-turned-politician promised to train his sight on three main objectives: to improve security, crack down on corruption and diversify the oil-dependent economy. Progress on the first two has been patchy, and on the third dismal.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Africa, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism, Theology

(WaPo) Trump wants to push back against Iran, but Iran is now more powerful than ever

President Trump’s tough talk on Iran is winning him friends in the Arab world, but it also carries a significant risk of conflict with a U.S. rival that is now more powerful than at any point since the creation of the Islamic republic nearly 40 years ago.

With its warning last week that Iran is “on notice,” the Trump administration signaled a sharp departure from the policies of President Barack Obama, whose focus on pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran eclipsed historic U.S. concerns about Iranian expansionism and heralded a rare period of detente between Washington and Tehran.

Many in the region are now predicting a return to the tensions of the George W. Bush era, when U.S. and Iranian operatives fought a shadow war in Iraq, Sunni-Shiite tensions soared across the region and America’s ally Israel fought a brutal war with Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Middle East, Politics in General, Theology

(Economist Erasmus Blog) How the travel crackdown is affecting the N American debate on Islam

As one immediate result, the travel crackdown is forcing the diversion of some academic events from America to the more liberal atmosphere of Canada, which seems not to have been dented by the killings at a mosque in Quebec City. An Ivy League law school is understood to be raising funds to switch a long-planned conference to a Canadian campus.

At least until recently, academia in Anglophone North America was a more-or-less seamless web, with scholars happily dividing their studies and careers between the two places. Certainly the reaction against the shutdown has been a continent-wide phenomenon, according to Mohammad Fadel, an associate law professor at the University of Toronto, whose early life and research were spent in the United States. (He ponders the compatibility of Western political philosophy with Islamic law and thought.) “North American universities have reacted quickly to defend their students and teaching staff who are nationals of the targeted states,” he reports. “Many departments in the United States stand to suffer directly from the exclusion of highly trained graduate students and faculty from those countries, and they will likely discover that their own academic work, such as lectures, workshops and seminars, is impoverished as they are prevented from inviting leading scholars.” Some non-American scholars who are still entitled to travel might boycott the United States, he adds.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Iraq War, Islam, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WaPo) The letter Russell Moore will send President Trump about the refugee order

As a nation, we must seek to resolve the tension created by these two values ”” compassion for the sojourner and the security of our citizens ”” in a way that upholds both values.

While we know refugees are already the most vetted category of immigrants to the United States, the FBI and others raised legitimate questions about the sufficiency of these procedures. It is crucial these questions be resolved. As a result, we are sympathetic to the desire to strengthen our nation’s security processes.

However, we have concerns about the Executive Order’s consequences. We share the concerns of Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.), a Southern Baptist lawmaker, who said, “The language of the order should not apply to legal permanent residents of the United States, and if it is being enforced in any other way, the administration should step in swiftly to clarify.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Baptists, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, History, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT) Christian Leaders Denounce Trump’s Plan to Favor Christian Immigrants

By giving preference to Christians over Muslims, religious leaders have said the executive order pits one faith against another. By barring any refugees from entering the United States for nearly four months, it leaves people to suffer longer in camps, and prevents families from reuniting. Also, many religious leaders have said that putting an indefinite freeze on refugees from Syria, and cutting the total number of refugees admitted this year by 60,000, shuts the door to those most in need.

“We believe in assisting all, regardless of their religious beliefs,” said Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, the chairman of the committee on migration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Jen Smyers, the director of policy and advocacy for the immigration and refugee program of Church World Service, a ministry affiliated with dozens of Christian denominations, called Friday a “shameful day” in America’s history.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Other Churches, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Theology, Theology: Scripture