Friday, February 27, 2015

Vatican Slams Leaking of Info on Power Struggle; Cardinals Felt Head of Ec. Reforms Too Powerful

The Vatican today (February 27, 2015) condemned the leaking of documents that show a power struggle in the Holy See over economic reforms and excessive expenses by the cardinal charged with carrying them out, according to the Reuters website.

L'Espresso magazine said it had seen minutes of meetings and emails showing mostly Italian cardinals felt that Cardinal George Pell had accumulated too much power.

Pell is an outsider brought by the pope to Rome from Australia to oversee the Vatican's often muddled finances after decades of scandalous control by Italians.

"Leaking confidential documents to the media in order to stir up polemics and fuel arguments is nothing new, but is always something to be condemned and is illegal," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

US Parades Troops, Tanks Along Russian Border; Could Deter Russian Attack, Could Spark WWIII

On February 25, the US Army did something that was dangerously provocative: It paraded soldiers and armored vehicles in the Estonian town of Narva, just 900 feet from Russia's border, the Vox website reports exclusively today (February 27, 2015).

Michael Burnbaum of the Washington Post explains, "Narva is a vulnerable border city separated by a river from Russia. It has often been cited as a potential target for the Kremlin if it wanted to escalate its conflict with the West onto NATO territory."

There is logic to this demonstration that is meant to show Russia that the US is sincerely committed to the defense of Estonia, which is a member of NATO. In other words, it is meant to deter Russia from starting a Ukraine-style conflict in Estonia, which could well spiral into World War III.

At the same time, such a demonstration is also dangerous, as it risks being misinterpreted by a furious Moscow as an act of aggression, thus making a war more likely.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

UGCC Head Urges the Pope to Denounce Russia; Says Ukraine Combat Due to Russian Aggression

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) has urged a tougher line on Russian aggression in his country from Pope Francis, the Ecumenical News website reports today (February 26, 2015).

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said on February 23 that a February 4 statement from Francis -- in which he called the conflict between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists "fractricidal" -- was "particularly painful for all the people in Ukraine."

The Greek Catholic leader from the conflict-wracked country said the Pope's line had rankled Ukrainians who see the violence on the Crimean peninsula not as a civil conflict, but an act of foreign aggression by Russia.

Shevchuk expressed regret that Francis did not specifically point a finger at Russia in his February 20 remarks to a group of visiting Ukrainian bishops, instead referring only to a "situation of grave conflict."

New Austrian Law Bans Foreign Funding of Islam; Law Aims to Foster "Islam of European Character"

Austria's parliament passed a new law yesterday that bans foreign sources of financing to Muslim organizations and requires imams to be able to speak German, in a move closely watched by several other European nations facing growing problems with radical Islam, the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website reports today (February 26, 2015).

The new law aims to promote what conservative Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz calls an "Islam of European character" by muting the influence of foreign Muslim nations, organizations, and funding at a time when concerns are rising about the spread of extremist Islam in Europe.

The legislation also offers Austrian Muslims a mix of increased rights and obligations in practicing their faith in the central European country.

However, some Austrian Muslim groups view the new law as "discrimination" that imposes restrictions on Islam, but not on other religions.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lithuania to Restore the Draft It Ended in 2008; Due to Bordering Russia's Aggression in Ukraine

Fearing a likely attack from colonial-driven Russia to take control of its nearby territory, Lithuania has decided to prepare for such aggression by bringing back military conscription, the Euro News website reports today (February 25, 2015).

The draft in Lithuania ended in 2008, but the authorities said its renewal was necessary due to Russia's "growing aggression in Ukraine."

Lithuania shares a border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, and has reported airspace violations by Russia on several occasions in recent months. Lithuania also became a satellite of Soviet Russia after World War II, and remained under its control until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

"Today's geopolitical environment requires us to strengthen the army, and do it as fast as possible. This needs to be done in the nearest few years. That is why the State Defense Council decided we must temporarily renew conscription for the next five years. Conscripts will be drafted every year for nine months, about 3500 of Lithuania's citizens will be conscripted," announced Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

Three Men in Brooklyn Charged with Ensuring IS; All from Uzbekistan, One Nabbed at JFK Airport

Three men living in Brooklyn, New York were arrested and charged today (February 25, 2015) with providing material support to the Islamic State (IS) -- a fanatic Muslim terrorist organization that has seized large regions of Iraq and Syria and has been actively recruiting Westerners to its fight  -- the NY Times website reports.

One of the men was arrested early this morning at Kennedy International Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, and then planned to travel to Syria, according to authorities.

The men were identified as Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, Akhror Saidakhmetov, and Abror Habibov -- all citizens of Uzbekistan who were living in Brooklyn.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, the authorities first became suspicious about the men last August, and are concerned that more individuals might have been involved.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

IS Abducts 90 Greek Orth. Christians in Syria; Over 600 Families Flee Area, Others Trapped

A human rights group has confirmed that IS (Islamic State) jihadists abducted at least 90 Christian men, women, and children from villages in northeastern Syria yesterday, the Catholic News website reports today (February 24, 2015).

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the Assyrian Orthodox Christians were kidnapped in dawn raids near the town of Tal Tamr.

They were taken from the villages of Tal Shamiram and Tal Hurmoz in a predominantly Kurdish region of Syria that lies between Turkey and Iraq.

More than 600 families have fled, a local cleric told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) -- around 400 to Hassakeh city and another 200 to the city of Qamishli. Others are reportedly trapped in their villages.