Category : Europe

(NPR) Stanislav Petrov, ‘The Man Who Saved The World,’ Dies At 77

Stanislav Petrov was a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Union’s Air Defense Forces, and his job was to monitor his country’s satellite system, which was looking for any possible nuclear weapons launches by the United States.

He was on the overnight shift in the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 1983, when the computers sounded an alarm, indicating that the U.S. had launched five nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word ‘launch’ on it,” Petrov told the BBC in 2013.

It was already a moment of extreme tension in the Cold War. On Sept. 1 of that year, the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Air Lines plane that had drifted into Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board, including a U.S. congressman. The episode led the U.S. and the Soviets to exchange warnings and threats.

Petrov had to act quickly. U.S. missiles could reach the Soviet Union in just over 20 minutes….

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, History, Russia

Rafael Nadal wins the US Open for his 16th Major title!

Posted in America/U.S.A., Men, Spain, Sports

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Louis of France

O God, who didst call thy servant Louis of France to an earthly throne that he might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give him zeal for thy Church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; 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, France, Spirituality/Prayer

(NYT) How a Shadowy Imam Evaded Scrutiny and Forged the Barcelona Cell

He sometimes wore jeans and dressed like a “hipster,” and had only a short beard. He was unfailingly courteous and studiously discreet. And it seems that he trained the young men he lured into his terrorist cell to behave in much the same way, carrying on double lives that betrayed little of their real intentions.

Abdelbaki Essati, the shadowy imam who the authorities believe was at the center of last week’s terrorist attacks in and near Barcelona, Spain, appears to have been a master of deception. His associations with jihadists reached back more than a decade, but he managed to evade the scrutiny of authorities and the suspicion of many in Ripoll, the small town in northern Catalonia where he showed up last year to offer his services.

Mr. Essati’s technique, according to terrorism experts, was taken right from the playbook of the Al Qaeda jihadi recruiters with whom he had first come into contact at least 11 years ago. It now appears that he used those methods to carefully select and groom young recruits, but for the Islamic State.

“He was really nice, charming, really polite, but he was too polite, too correct,” said Wafa Marsi, 30, who grew up with the older members of the cell the imam forged in the town.

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Posted in Religion & Culture, Spain, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) In Ukraine, Could a Malware Expert Blow the Whistle on Russian Hacking?

The hacker, known only by his online alias “Profexer,” kept a low profile. He wrote computer code alone in an apartment and quietly sold his handiwork on the anonymous portion of the internet known as the dark web. Last winter, he suddenly went dark entirely.

Profexer’s posts, already accessible only to a small band of fellow hackers and cybercriminals looking for software tips, blinked out in January — just days after American intelligence agencies publicly identified a program he had written as one tool used in Russian hacking in the United States. American intelligence agencies have determined Russian hackers were behind the electronic break-in of the Democratic National Committee.

But while Profexer’s online persona vanished, a flesh-and-blood person has emerged: a fearful man who the Ukrainian police said turned himself in early this year, and has now become a witness for the F.B.I.

“I don’t know what will happen,” he wrote in one of his last messages posted on a restricted-access website before going to the police. “It won’t be pleasant. But I’m still alive.”

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Europe, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government, Ukraine

A Church of England Prayer for Barcelona after Yesterday’s Awful Attack

Posted in Spain, Spirituality/Prayer, Terrorism

(Commentary) Sohrab Ahmari–When ‘Freethinkers’ Persecute the Faithful: Soft totalitarianism

The State Department on Tuesday released its annual International Religious Freedom Report, and the grim upshot was that people of faith face persecution around the globe. This year’s report, the first under President Trump, called out usual suspects such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia. It also notably used the “G” word–genocide–to describe Islamic State’s crimes against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.

Authoritarian regimes and jihadists aren’t the only ones who mete out anti-religious repression these days. Nominally free societies, particularly in Europe, are increasingly guilty of it as well. Yet because it is less visible, carried out by governments with impeccable liberal credentials, such persecution receives far less attention, including in the State report.

Consider tiny Belgium, which has been roiling with controversy this month over whether Catholic hospitals can be required to permit euthanasia on their premises. Belgium’s pro-euthanasia lobby and its political and media allies seek to bring to heel the country’s last bastion of opposition, the Roman Church.

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Posted in Belgium, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture

Albert Mohler–Letter from Berlin: The Lessons of History+the Heresy of Racial Superiority

Imagine, then, how the news from Charlottesville, Virginia breaks in Berlin. A demonstration billed as an effort to “Unite the Right” leads to counter protests and violence. Among those who attended the demonstration on Friday night were self-identified neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Photos quickly appeared in Berlin, showing protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia — in the United States of America — offering the raised arm of the Nazi salute.

Germany is all too aware of where claims of racial superiority lead. Just today, in the service of the Kaiser Wilhelm Church, a martyr of the Confessing Church was remembered. Pastor Werner Sylton was a Lutheran pastor, but he was from a Jewish family. He is believed to have saved more than 1,000 Jewish converts to Christianity by helping them escape to other nations. He was arrested by the Gestapo, sent to Dachau, and eventually murdered by gas in 1942.

As Berlin awoke this morning to photos of Hitler salutes in Virginia, there was news of a car driven into a crowd protesting against white supremacy, of one woman killed in the attack, and of two law enforcement officers killed in a helicopter crash. This is America?

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Sunday Afternoon Mental Health Break–The White Moose of Sweden

Posted in Animals, Photos/Photography, Sweden

(WEF) John Broich–Dunkirk survivors’ terror didn’t end when they were rescued

Documenting the reality of those shell-shocked survivors is what London’s Imperial War Museum had in mind when it recorded interviews of scores of veterans in the 1990s and early 2000s. Those interviews show that the horror stayed with many of them long after they were freed from a deathtrap between the German Army, the Luftwaffe and the sea.

As a WWII historian, I’ve found those tapes – many free to stream – substantiate the film’s depictions of anguish. But, even more, they add the dimension of time and the long echoes of that anguish which the film can’t capture.

On his 1999 recording, Will Harvey tells how shrapnel from a German bomb tore through his legs as he waited for his chance to board a ship. In the pain and confusion, he mistakenly thought his legs were gone. “You lost a bit of your senses.”

His voice cracks, but he covers it up with an out-of-place laugh. These are commonplace in the tapes, along with obvious restraint and overall evasion of grim details.

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Posted in England / UK, Germany, Health & Medicine, History, Military / Armed Forces

(CT Pastors) Ryan Hoselton–Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Answer to Political Turmoil: Preach!

Many today remember Bonhoeffer for his radical Christian discipleship and sacrificial involvement in the German resistance movement against Hitler. However, few know him for what he believed was most central to his life and ministry: nourishing the body of Christ through the proclamation of the Word. Bonhoeffer cared deeply for the spiritual life and health of the local church, serving in various pastoral roles in Germany, Spain, England, and America. He even wrote his doctoral thesis—Sanctorum Communio—on the church as a holy community.

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Posted in Anthropology, Christology, Germany, Pastoral Theology, Preaching / Homiletics, Theology, Theology: Salvation (Soteriology), Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Mathhew Hennessey: The Priesthood Is a Heroic Vocation, as the case of St. Maximilian Kolbe reminds us

Catholics around the world will celebrate the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe on Monday. His story is one the church’s finest, though too few people—Christian or not—have heard it.

Kolbe was born to a German father and Polish mother in 1894. He entered the seminary at 13 and was ordained a priest in 1918. With a special devotion to the Virgin Mary and a talent for writing and publishing, the bearded, bespectacled Franciscan founded monasteries and media outlets in Poland and Japan during the 1930s.

When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, German forces arrested Kolbe. Although he refused to sign a document giving him the privileges of German citizenship, he was released after three months. His monastery continued to issue anti-Nazi publications. It was shut down in 1941, and Kolbe was arrested again. Eventually he was taken to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Germany, Poland

(AP via CBS) Euthanasia deaths becoming common in Netherlands

Euthanasia has become a common way to die in the Netherlands, accounting for 4.5 percent of deaths, according to researchers who say requests are increasing from people who aren’t terminally ill.

In 2002, the Netherlands became the first country in the world that made it legal for doctors to help people die. Both euthanasia, where doctors actively kill patients, and assisted suicide, where physicians prescribe patients a lethal dose of drugs, are allowed. People must be “suffering unbearably” with no hope of relief — but their condition does not have to be fatal.

“It looks like patients are now more willing to ask for euthanasia and physicians are more willing to grant it,” said lead author Dr. Agnes Van der Heide of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, The Netherlands, Theology

(Economist) Why exorcisms are on the rise in France: As the church loses interest, private enterprise has taken its place

The exorcist, Philippe Moscato, walks from room to room in a large Paris flat, sprinkling blessed water and offering incantations. “Spirits away!”, he calls out, telling pests their attacks will, from now on, be futile. He informs the homeowner the air will improve after his work is done, with the entire apartment block likely to benefit. For the ritual, which lasts an hour, Mr Moscato pockets €155 ($182). He says he despooks property in Paris a few times each week and roughly once a week conducts an exorcism of a person. He is not alone. Look online and a host of private exorcists, healers, mediums, kabbalists, shamans and energiticians offer similar services, for fees as high as €500 per ceremony. Some offer to help a business out of a bad patch, or to restore love to a failing relationship. Many help with supposed hauntings of properties. One self-declared exorcist near Paris says he earns as much a €12,000 a month (before tax) by working 15-hour days, including consultations by phone. The exorcism business is on the rise in France. Why?

According to the exorcists they thrive because customers get much-needed benefits from the rituals. Mr Moscato, for example, describes an “avalanche” of demand following prominent terrorist attacks in France late in 2015. He suggests three parts of France are particularly vulnerable to “black magic”—Paris, Lyon and the French Riviera, where local mafia are said to be active—and this can be countered by sufficiently strong exorcists. Alessandra Nucci, a writer on Catholic matters who attended a course run by the International Association of Exorcists (IAE) in Rome, argues “absolutely, there are more and more” private operators in Europe who charge for their services. She says they fill a vacuum left by priests reluctant to do the job: the “church has, for too long, neglected exorcisms, despite strong demand from the public”, she says.

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Posted in France, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper) South Carolina historian Joseph McGill wants to observe the 1619 start of slavery in America

They were kidnapped from towns in Ndongo, given Christian names such as Isabella and Anthony, chained onto cramped bunks aboard a Portuguese slave ship for an 8,000-mile trip to Mexico. The ship didn’t make it.

It was plundered at sea by English pirates sailing under a Dutch flag. The pirates brought “20 and odd” of the African captives to the Jamestowne colony, where they were sold as “victualls,” or supplies.

The date was August 1619, and the sale is considered the beginning of slavery as an institution in what would become the United States.

Joseph McGill doesn’t think that should be forgotten.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Africa, America/U.S.A., England / UK, History, Mexico, Portugal, Race/Race Relations