Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hundreds of Americans Have ISIS Associations, Key U.S. Lawmakers Warn

September 1, 2014

.

RTX187U2

Chairman U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), center, listens to testimony at the House Intelligence Committee on “Worldwide Threats”, in Washington on Feb. 4, 2014. Gary Cameron/Reuters

President Barack Obama should take stronger action against the threat from Islamist militants and U.S. foreign policy is falling apart over a raft of global conflicts, U.S. lawmakers said on Sunday.

Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and head of the House Intelligence Committee, said President Obama’s foreign policy is “in an absolute free-fall” as Islamic State (IS), the group formerly known as ISIS, continues to gain territory and power across Iraq and Syria.

Speaking on NBC’S “Meet the Press,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, echoed Rogers and said Obama is a “too cautious” in his approach to IS.

Newsweek Magazine is Back In Print

Citizens from the U.S., Britain and U.K. who return home after training with IS represent a “very serious threat” to the U.S., Rogers said on “Fox News Sunday.” Rogers said the U.S. should look to prosecute American citizens who train overseas to deter others from going.

Rogers believes hundreds of U.S. citizens have trained with IS at some point. “I’m very concerned because we don’t know every single person who has gone and trained and learned how to fight,” he said.

Attorney General Eric Holder said “dozens” of Americans are among around 7,000 foreign fighters, Reuters reports.

On Friday, the United Kingdom raised its international terrorism threat to “severe” in response to the threat from IS. While there is no evidence of an imminent attack on Britain, a change in the threat level means that an attack is still “highly likely,” Home Secretary Theresa May said.

Concerns over the link between the U.S. and IS have increased after two Americans, including 33-year-old Douglas McArthur McCain, died in Syria after fighting alongside ISIS.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat, said in an interview with CNN’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that there isn’t enough intelligence to determine whether an attack on the U.S. is “imminent,” but, “If we need to protect ourselves from ISIS, we will.”

“You don’t tell an enemy you’re coming in to attack them. I think you will see action within the next week or so,” Ruppersberger said.

http://www.newsweek.com/hundreds-americans-have-isis-associations-says-rep-mike-rogers-267800

Ukraine crisis: US senators urge arms ‘to fight Russia’

September 1, 2014

From the BBC

Some people in Mariupol are already leaving because they fear an attack by pro-Russian separatists, as Richard Galpin reports from the city

Leading American senators have called for the US to send weapons to help Ukraine fight what they say is “a Russian invasion”.

The head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Russia must face a cost for its “aggression”.

Earlier, Russian leader Vladimir Putin called for talks to discuss the issue of “statehood” for eastern Ukraine.

Some 2,600 people have died since fighting erupted between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops in April.

“Start Quote

He (Putin) is an old KGB colonel that wants to restore the Russian empire”

End Quote John McCain Republican US senator

The conflict broke out after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula in March.

The separatists have been gaining ground on Ukrainian forces in recent days, in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and further south around the port of Mariupol.

Last week’s first direct talks between Mr Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Minsk did not lead to any major breakthrough.

A meeting of the so-called Contact Group on Ukraine is expected to start later on Monday in Minsk, Belarus.

Representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe will attend the talks. The participation of pro-Russian rebels from eastern Ukraine remains unclear.

‘On the table’

Robert Mendez, a Democrat who runs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told CNN: “We should provide the Ukrainians with the type of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon Putin for further aggression.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29007631

A pro-Russian rebel near Donetsk airport. Photo: 31 August 2014Pro-Russian rebels have been gaining ground in recent days
Residents of Mariupol form a human chain to protest against Russia's actions, 30 Aug
Residents of Mariupol form a human chain in protest against Russia’s actions
.
John McCain, 21 Aug
John McCain called for “strong sanctions” on Russia

“This is no longer the question of some rebel separatists, this is a direct invasion by Russia. We must recognise it as that.”

He said the issue “may very well be on the table right now” for President Barack Obama.

Senator John McCain told CBS’s Face the Nation that Mr Putin was “an old KGB colonel that wants to restore the Russian empire”.

Mr McCain called for “strong sanctions”, before adding that Ukraine must be supplied with weapons: “Give them the weapons they need. Give them the wherewithal they need. Give them the ability to fight.”

Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News: “If we don’t provide ‘small and effective’ now, you’re going to get very big and very ugly later.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29007631

Vladimir Putin in Siberia, 31 AugVladimir Putin visits Siberia. He called for discussions on east Ukrainian “statehood”

In Ukraine, there were reports of a first naval encounter in the conflict.

Grey line

At the scene: BBC’s Richard Galpin, Mariupol

As we drove south from Dnipropetrovsk to the strategic port city of Mariupol, we soon saw how the Ukrainian army is now building up its forces to protect the south-eastern city from the assault threatened by pro-Russian rebels.

A train carrying about 20 Grad multiple rocket-launchers as well as armoured vehicles, ammunition and troops, was heading in the same direction as us.

Further down the road we came across smaller groups of armoured vehicles with heavily-armed troops sitting on top. Like those on board the train, they were reluctant to talk about their mission.

But Mariupol is preparing for the worst with soldiers digging trenches and using huge concrete tank-traps to block roads.

It’s not clear if or when the separatist rebels – and quite possibly Russian troops – will launch an attack on this port city of almost half-a-million people which lies on the coast of the Azov Sea.

But already the authorities in Mariupol say two coastguard ships came under attack on Sunday leaving six sailors injured.

Grey line

Pro-Russian separatists fired artillery shells at a Ukrainian patrol vessel in the Azov Sea, with the Ukrainian military saying a rescue operation was under way.

The rebels have gained ground in the far south-east, pushing towards Mariupol, where Ukrainian troops and local residents are strengthening defences.

But many have fled the city of 500,000 people.

Ukraine and the West blame Russian military support for the recent rebel gains, saying armoured columns have crossed the border. Russia denies military involvement.

Earlier, Mr Putin said the issue of “statehood” for eastern Ukraine needed to be discussed to ensure the interests of local people were “definitely upheld”.

“Russia cannot stand aside when people are being shot at almost at point blank,” he said, describing the rebels’ actions as “the natural reaction of people who are defending their rights”.

The West, Mr Putin said, should have foreseen Russia’s reaction to the situation, adding it was impossible to predict how the crisis would end.

Grey line

War in eastern Ukraine: The human cost

  • At least 2,593 people killed since mid-April (not including 298 passengers and crew of Malaysian Airlines MH17, shot down in the area) – UN report on 29 August
  • 951 civilians killed in Donetsk region alone, official regional authorities said – 20 August
  • In some particularly dangerous places, such as Luhansk region, victims are said to have been buried informally, making accurate counts difficult
  • Rebels (and some military sources) accuse the government of concealing true numbers
  • 155,800 people have fled elsewhere in Ukraine while at least 188,000 have gone to Russia
Grey line

Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later said the president’s remarks on “statehood” should not be taken to mean an actual separate entity, and that the Ukrainian crisis was a “domestic” one.

Mr Putin’s comments came after the EU gave Russia a one-week ultimatum to reverse course in Ukraine or face more sanctions.

Mr Putin dismissed the EU threat, accusing it of “backing a coup d’etat” in Ukraine.

The EU and US have already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on many senior Russian officials and separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said: “I think that we are very close to the point of no return. Point of no return is full-scale war.”

Ukraine map

Iraqi Army Victory at Amerli — Dramatic Photos

September 1, 2014
  • It is biggest offensive success for the Iraqi government since the jihadist group overran five provinces in June 
  • Breakthrough came as America carried out limited strikes outside north Iraq for the first time in their military campaign
  • Aircraft delivered over 100 bundles of emergency supplies while more aid was dropped from British and French planes
  • Warplanes hit three vehicles, a tank and an armed vehicle while Amerli was completely surrounded

By Leon Watson for MailOnline

Published: 02:20 EST, 31 August 2014 | Updated: 12:06 EST, 31 August 2014

Iraqi forces broke through to the jihadist-besieged Shiite town of Amerli today where thousands of people have been trapped for more than two months with dwindling food and water supplies.

It is the biggest offensive success for the Iraqi government since militants led by the Sunni Islamic State jihadist group overran large areas of five provinces in June, sweeping security forces aside.

The breakthrough came as America carried out limited strikes outside north Iraq for the first time since its air campaign against the militants began more than three weeks ago, and aircraft from several countries dropped humanitarian aid to Amerli.

Scroll down for video

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire a rifle towards Islamic State position during the clashes which are part of the biggest offensive by the Iraqi government since June

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire a rifle towards Islamic State position during the clashes which are part of the biggest offensive by the Iraqi government since June

An Iraqi militia fighter from Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigade), fires a mortar during the heavy clashes

An Iraqi militia fighter from Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigade), fires a mortar during the heavy clashes

Two soldiers bend down and cover their ears as a cannon is fired in Duz-Khurmatu during the biggest offensive by the Iraqi government since June 

Two soldiers bend down and cover their ears as a cannon is fired in Duz-Khurmatu during the biggest offensive by the Iraqi government since June

A militiaman wears a balaclava with a skeleton  design as he poses for a photo with other armed comrades 

A militiaman wears a balaclava with a skeleton  design as he poses for a photo with other armed comrades

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2738896/US-carries-air-strikes-against-Islamic-State-fighters-near-besieged-town-Amerli-airdrops-aid-Turkmen-population.html#ixzz3C2qov4rK
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

 

The mainly Shiite Turkmen residents of the town in Salaheddin province were running desperately short of food and water, and were in danger both because of their Shiite faith, which jihadists consider heresy, and their resistance to the militants, which has drawn harsh retribution elsewhere.

‘Our forces entered Amerli and broke the siege,’ Iraqi security spokesman Lieutenant General Qassem Atta said, an account confirmed by a local official and a fighter from the town.

‘It is a very important success,’ Atta later said on state television, adding that there was still fighting in the area.

 

More…

The operation was launched on Saturday after days of preparations in which Iraqi security forces, Shiite militiamen and Kurdish fighters deployed for the assault and Iraqi aircraft carried out strikes against militants.

The U.S. had carried out air strikes against Islamic State fighters near the town in northern Iraq and airdropped humanitarian aid to civilians trapped there, the Pentagon said.

President Barack Obama authorised the new military action, broadening U.S. operations in Iraq amid an international outcry over the threat to Amerli’s mostly ethnic Turkmen population.

A man loads a bullet into a recoilless rifle before. The breakthrough by the Iraqi government came as America carried out limited strikes outside north Iraq for the first time since its air campaign against militants began more than three weeks ago

A man loads a bullet into a recoilless rifle before. The breakthrough by the Iraqi government came as America carried out limited strikes outside north Iraq for the first time since its air campaign against militants began more than three weeks ago

A soldier wearing ear defenders fires a machine gun at  IS positions. Residents in the area have been trapped for more than two months 

A soldier wearing ear defenders fires a machine gun at  IS positions. Residents in the area have been trapped for more than two months

Peshmerga fighters prepare bullets for a machine gun during heavy clashes with Islamic State militants in Duz-Khurmatu, Iraq

Peshmerga fighters prepare bullets for a machine gun during heavy clashes with Islamic State militants in Duz-Khurmatu, Iraq

An Iraqi militia fighter from Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigade), stands up next to a rocket launcher holding a flag and a rifle

An Iraqi militia fighter from Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigade), stands up next to a rocket launcher holding a flag and a rifle

A plume of smoke hovers after Kurdish troops fire a recoilless rifle during the clashes around 88 kilometres (54 miles) south of Kirkuk 

A plume of smoke hovers after Kurdish troops fire a recoilless rifle during the clashes around 88 kilometres (54 miles) south of Kirkuk

An Al-Sadr militia fighter fires a mortar towards Islamic State positions while his comrade watches and puts his hands over his ears 

An Al-Sadr militia fighter fires a mortar towards Islamic State positions while his comrade watches and puts his hands over his ears

A soldier turns away after a firing a mortar towards IS positions in Salaheddin province. The clashes have been welcomed by residents who have been running out of vital supplies including food and water 

A soldier turns away after a firing a mortar towards IS positions in Salaheddin province. The clashes have been welcomed by residents who have been running out of vital supplies including food and water

A woman and children react in a military helicopter after being evacuated by Iraqi forces from Amerli, north of Baghdad
Evacuation: A home to around 180,000 people, mostly Turkmen Shi'ites, the small town of Amerli, north of Baghdad is still holding out against repeated attacks by Islamic State fighters

Evacuation: A home to around 180,000 people, mostly Turkmen Shi’ites, the small town of Amerli, north of Baghdad is still holding out against repeated attacks by Islamic State fighters

Women and children are evacuated in a military helicopter by Iraqi forces from Amerli, north of Baghdad

Women and children are evacuated in a military helicopter by Iraqi forces from Amerli, north of Baghdad

Iraqi security forces and Turkmen Shiite fighters, who volunteered to join the government forces, hold a position on August 4 in Amerli, some 100 miles north of Baghdad

Iraqi security forces and Turkmen Shiite fighters, who volunteered to join the government forces, hold a position on August 4 in Amerli, some 100 miles north of Baghdad

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2738896/US-carries-air-strikes-against-Islamic-State-fighters-near-besieged-town-Amerli-airdrops-aid-Turkmen-population.html#ixzz3C2rHkgGO
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Iraqi security forces and Turkmen Shiite fighters, who volunteered to join the government forces, hold a position on August 4 in Amerli, some 100 miles north of Baghdad

U.S. aircraft delivered over a hundred bundles of emergency supplies and more aid was dropped from British, French and Australian planes, officials said, signaling headway in Obama’s efforts to draw allies into the fight against Islamic State.

Iraqi army and Kurdish forces closed in on Islamic State fighters in a push to break the Sunni militants’ siege of Amerli, which has been surrounded by the militants for more than two months.

Armed residents of Amerli have managed to fend off attacks by Islamic State fighters, who regard the town’s majority Shi’ite Turkmen population as apostates. More than 15,000 people remain trapped inside.

At the request of the government of Iraq, the United States military today airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amerli

‘At the request of the government of Iraq, the United States military today airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amerli, home to thousands of Shia Turkmen who have been cut off from receiving food, water, and medical supplies for two months by ISIL,’ Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said, using an alternative name for Islamic State.

‘In conjunction with this airdrop, U.S. aircraft conducted coordinated air strikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support this humanitarian assistance operation,’ he said, adding that a key objective was to prevent a militant attack on civilians in the town.

He said the operations would be ‘limited in their scope and duration’ in order to protect Amerli’s population.

Warplanes hit three Humvee patrol vehicles, a tank and an armed vehicle held by militants in addition to a checkpoint controlled by the group, according to the military’s Central Command, which runs U.S. operations in the Middle East. ‘All aircraft safely exited the area,’ it said in a statement.

When Obama ordered the first air strikes and air drops in Iraq earlier this month, he justified the military operation in part to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe for thousands of ethnic Yazidis trapped by Islamic State militants on Sinjar mountain in northern Iraq.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2738896/US-carries-air-strikes-against-Islamic-State-fighters-near-besieged-town-Amerli-airdrops-aid-Turkmen-population.html#ixzz3C2qP6GRv Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

 

Islamic State militants overran most of Sunni Arab areas of Iraq after seizing the northern city of Mosul on June 10

Islamic State militants overran most of Sunni Arab areas of Iraq after seizing the northern city of Mosul on June 10

The town of Amerli is around 100 miles north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad

The town of Amerli is around 100 miles north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad

This is the area, straddling Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State group claimed to have control of

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2738896/US-carries-air-strikes-against-Islamic-State-fighters-near-besieged-town-Amerli-airdrops-aid-Turkmen-population.html#ixzz3C2saZn9W
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

India’s PM Modi in Japan — “Strengthening Strategic Ties”

September 1, 2014

.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is welcomed as he visits Taimei Elementary School in Tokyo, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is welcomed as he visits Taimei Elementary School in Tokyo, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara) The Associated Press

NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi will look to cement strategic and defence cooperation with Japan when he meets his counterpart Shinzo Abe on Monday for crucial summit talks. In a move not likely to go unnoticed in Beijing, India is all set to ink an agreement for supply of rare earth metals to Japan and another MoU for defence exchanges.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today said he was looking forward to a summit meeting with his counterpart Narendra Modi here tomorrow.

Japan, which depends on China for most of its supply of rare earth metals, has been looking to diversify its supply sources. It sought cooperation from India over rare earths in 2012 after a fracas with China over Senkaku/Diaoyu islands which saw Beijing temporarily halting rare earth exports to Japan.

The two countries are expected to announce a joint partnership for infrastructure development in India with a major contribution from Japan. They are also likely to upgrade their 2+2 dialogue over overlapping security and defence issues to the ministerial level. India will also look to announce some progress in its negotiations with Japan for nuclear cooperation.

Modi arrived in Tokyo on Sunday evening after a Kyoto heritage tour. Modi’s visit is already being hailed as an outstanding success after Abe’s gesture of flying to Kyoto to receive him there on Saturday. Modi on Sunday visited two ancient Buddhist temples in Kyoto in Abe’s company.

 

Dressed in an all-white kurta pyjama, sleeveless jacket and white sandals, Modi offered prayers at the two prominent Buddhist temples in Kyoto — Toji and Kinkakuji. Official sources said Modi wearing white was a statement about peace and tranquility associated with Buddhism, an Indian “connect” to Japan.

He first went to Toji temple, which is inspired, as Modi told Abe, by the trinity of Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Modi was at the temple complex for about half-an-hour during which he enquired about the history of the eighth-century Buddhist pagoda.

While leaving the complex, Modi thanked Abe for accompanying him to the temple and spending time with him. Abe, on his part, told Modi that this was only the second time that he had visited Toji temple, the last being during his student days.

In Kinkakuji, Modi mingled with tourists and visitors, shook hands, pulled the ears of a child and posed for photographs with groups of people.

 

Abe lauds deep India-Japan historical ties

Lauding Japan’s deep historical ties with India, Abe said he was looking forward to the summit meeting with Modi after they spent time together visiting Buddhist temples. “Looking forward to seeing PM Modi again in Tokyo tomorrow,” the Japanese PM tweeted.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Abe spoke about his nation’s “deep historical ties” with India. “I am very glad that PM Modi enjoyed the cultural heritage of Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto,” Abe tweeted.

Shinzo Abe tweets:

安倍晋三         @AbeShinzo

今朝はモディ首相と東寺を訪れました。 仏像を眺めながら、改めて、日本とインドの深い歴史的つながりを感じました。 モディ首相に、日本の古の都、京都の魅力を堪能していただいたようで、私も大変嬉しく思います。…

“With PM Modi, I visited Toji temple this morning. Looking at statutes of Buddha, we were reminded of the deep historical ties between Japan and India,” Abe said, adding that his dinner meeting with Modi was “very enjoyable”.

安倍晋三         @AbeShinzo

インドのモディ首相を京都の迎賓館でお迎えしました。古都京都は、インドで興った仏教が深く浸透しているまちです。 日本とインドの歴史ある交流の絆をさらに深めたいと思います。 http://fb.me/1FrK5V1Pd

Modi also sought Japan’s help to fight the deadly sickle cell anemia commonly found among tribals in India during his visit to Stem Cell Research Facility at Kyoto University and got a positive response.

Lotus amuses Modi, tells Abe it is BJP party symbol

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Toji temple on Sunday morning, a lotus attached to a statue of Lord Buddha stood out, much to his amusement.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, who was accompanying Modi during the tour of the ancient temple, wanted to explain the significance of the lotus.

He started detailing the significance and was midway when an amused Modi pointed out that he knows about it. “I know its significance. It is the symbol of my party (BJP),” he told Abe and both had a laugh.

Modi did not elaborate but during the campaign for Lok Sabha polls, he left no stone unturned in advertising the symbol. In the end, BJP got a landslide victory in the elections.

Includes video:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/In-Japan-Narendra-Modi-and-Shinzo-Abe-bond-over-temple-tour-will-hold-talks-today/articleshow/41384262.cms

**************************

TOKYO: Lauding Japan’s deep historical ties with India, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today said he was looking forward to a summit meeting with his counterpart Narendra Modi here tomorrow, after the two leaders spent time together in ancient Kyoto city visiting Buddhist temples.

“Looking forward to seeing PM Modi again in Tokyo tomorrow,” the Japanese Prime Minister tweeted.

In a series of tweets today, Abe spoke about his nation’s “deep historical ties” with India.

“I am very glad that PM Modi enjoyed the cultural heritage of Japan’s ancient capital, Kyoto,” Abe tweeted after praying at a Buddhist temple along with Modi in Kyoto.

“With PM Modi, I visited Toji temple this morning. Looking at statutes of Buddha, we were reminded of the deep historical ties between Japan and India,” Abe said, adding that his dinner meeting with Modi was “very enjoyable”.

Modi praised the cultural heritage of Kyoto city. Kyoto, with around 2000 temples and shrines, has been at the crossroads of history since the end of the Nara Period (794 A.D.). It was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years till the Emperor moved to Tokyo.

Modi, who represents Varanasi constituency in the Lok Sabha, wants to develop the sacred Indian city into a ‘smart city’ by using the experience of Kyoto.

“My warmest welcome to Prime Minister Modi for his visit to Japan.  ..

************************************

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese government and business leaders are pledging support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s effort to modernize his country’s economy.

Modi and a delegation of more than a dozen Indian tycoons are visiting Japan, seeking to take ties between the countries to a “new level.”

The Indian leader was to meet later Monday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two leaders, who appear to have very cordial relations, dined together in Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto during the weekend.

India is keen to gain more support for ambitious construction and energy projects. In a speech to Japanese business leaders Modi promised to set up a team to facilitate such efforts.

The two sides are also beefing up cooperation on security, with an eye toward China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, front left, and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, front right, stroll at Toji Temple in ...

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, front left, and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, front right, stroll at Toji Temple in Kyoto, western Japan Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Japan Pool via Kyodo News)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and iPS cell researcher and Nobel Prize laureate, Shinya Yamanaka, chat during Modi's visit ...

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and iPS cell researcher and Nobel Prize laureate, Shinya Yamanaka, chat during Modi’s visit at Kyoto Universaity in Kyoto, western Japan Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Related:

China’s never ending hatred: China publishes World War II Japanese war crimes ‘confessions’ – again

September 1, 2014

.

Accused Japanese war criminals Sadaichi, Nakamura, Shoxo, Jinichiro, Majoto, Tamotsu, Mesami, Ken, Ryuichi, and Tadasu on trial at the Supreme Court of Singapore, 21 Jan 1946

Accused Japanese war criminals on trial at the Supreme Court of Singapore, 21 Jan 1946

BEIJING —After releasing daily confessions of 45 Japanese war criminals, China has published them in a 6,000-page, 11-volume series of books, state media said—at least the second such set.

The books are Beijing’s latest bid to highlight the Asian rivals’ bloody history, with relations between them at their worst in years.

The “confessions”—of 45 war criminals who were tried and convicted by military courts in China after the war—have been released online by the State Archives Administration (SAA) on a daily basis since early July.

The new books will compile scans of the men’s original hand-written accounts, along with translations.

They are being published as “authorities continue their drive to raise awareness on China’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression”, Xinhua said.

It did not disclose how much the set would cost, but a previous collection of 10 books containing confessions from the same soldiers was published in 2005, priced at 3,120 yuan (now just over $500).

In the first “confession”, dated 1954 and 38 pages long, Keiku Suzuki, described as a lieutenant general and commander of Japan’s 117th Division, admitted ordering a Colonel Taisuke to “burn down the houses of about 800 households and slaughter 1,000 Chinese peasants in a mop-up operation” in the Tangshan area, according to the official translation.

Among a litany of other crimes with a total toll in the thousands, he also confessed that he “cruelly killed 235 Chinese peasants seeking refuge in a village near Lujiayu (cutting open the bellies of pregnant women among them)”.

In another, Hideo Sakakibara of the notorious biological warfare Unit 731 confessed to taking part in a “killing experiment” in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, in which “pottery bombs” filled with anthrax bacteria were dropped on Chinese captives tied to poles buried in the ground.

China regularly accuses Japan of failing to face up to its history of aggression in Asia, criticism that has intensified since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was elected in December 2012 and has advocated a more muscular defense and foreign policy stance.

Chinese researchers say that more than 20 million people died as a result of Japan’s invasion and occupation.

But Beijing is far less willing to recognise the role of the ruling Communist Party in domestic disasters such as Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and the ensuing famine that killed tens of millions of people.

The publications of the confessions come as Tokyo and Beijing are embroiled in a territorial row in the East China Sea over tiny islets known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

***************************************

The confessions of Japanese war criminal Suzuki Keiku (saac.gov.cn)Updated: 2014-07-05 20:32

 
<!–enpproperty 2014-07-05 20:32:17.0The confessions of Japanese war criminal Suzuki Keiku[1]- Chinadaily.com.cnThe confessions of Japanese war criminal Suzuki Keiku11020262Politics2@webnews/enpproperty–>

The confessions of Japanese war criminal Suzuki Keiku

The original text of confession written by Suzuki Keiku. [Photo/saac.gov.cn]

According to testimony written by Suzuki Keiku in July 1954, he was born in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan in 1890 and joined the Japanese War of Aggression against China in northeast China in 1934, serving as assistant commander of the 28th Infantry Regiment. In Apr 1945, he became lieutenant general and commander of the 117th Division. He was captured in Jilin on Aug 31, 1945.

The confessions of Japanese war criminal Suzuki Keiku
Suzuki Keiku [Photo/saac.gov.cn]

Major crimes:

Around June 1934: “Killed two Chinese peasants” in Jinzhou.

Around early March 1935: Assisted Colonel Takagi to “burn down two villages with a total of 300 households near Shangban City and kill many Chinese people”.

Sept 1940: “Used poisonous gas to brutally kill all” of about 50 anti-Japanese soldiers hidden indoors in a battle in Xuancheng, Anhui province.

1941: Set up a comfort women station in Chaoxian County, Anhui province and abducted 20 “Chinese and Korean women as comfort women”.

Nov 1941: In an attack on the Eighth Route Army in Zaoqiang, Hebei province, “killed 10 soldiers, burned down two villages with around 600 households, and also slaughtered 100 Chinese peasants”.

Dec 1941: “Forced inhabitants” “in the area within 2 kilometers of the Great Wall” “to relocate and made the area a depopulated zone”.

The confessions of Japanese war criminal Suzuki Keiku
Confessions of other criminals

Jan 1942: Ordered Taisuke, the Colonel, to “burn down the houses of about 800 households and slaughter 1,000 Chinese peasants in a mop-up operation” in Tangshan.

Apr 1942: In Tianguanying, Fengrun, Hebei province, “brutally killed soldiers of the Eighty Route Army and used poisonous gas in an attack to murder about 100 cadres and soldiers of the Eighth Route Army in the caves in Lujiayu”, “cruelly killed 235 Chinese peasants seeking refuge in a village near Lujiayu (cutting open the bellies of pregnant women among them), burned down houses of about 800 households, killed 5 captives to be delivered to Yutian, and raped as many as 100 women”.

July 1942: In Fengrun, “burned down civilian houses of around 500 households and brutally killed about 100 Chinese peasants”.

Sept to Dec 1942: In order to “create depopulated zones, i.e. to force all residents to move out” of regions including Qian’an and Zunhua, “burned down the houses of over 10,000 households in those regions, forced tens of thousands of people to relocate and also massacred many people”.

Oct 1942: “Murdered 1,280 peasants in Panjiadaizhuang village, Luanxian county in such cruel ways like shooting, bayoneting, slashing and burying alive and burned down the houses of all 800 households in the village”.

1942: Ordered “to set up comfort women stations” in all regions where Japanese troops were stationed and “to lure about 60 Chinese women to serve as comfort women”.

May 1944: In Xinxiang, Henan province, “attacked anti-Japanese guerrilla forces and killed about 10 of their soldiers, burned down about 300 houses in villages close to the battlefield and killed about 100 Chinese peasants”.

July 1944: In Fengqiu, Henan province, “killed about 40 soldiers of the anti-Japanese guerrilla forces, burned down a neighboring village of about 400 households, and killed about 100 Chinese peasants”.

Aug 1944: “Attacked and killed about 10 soldiers” of the anti-Japanese troops in Huaiqing, Henan province, “burned down farmhouses of about 400 households, and brutally killed about 30 Chinese people”.

Nov 1944: “I ordered the infantry to invade the southern part of Linxian county. When the troops were pulling out of the region, I ordered the Epidemic Prevention and Water Supply Squad to spread cholera virus in three or four villages. Afterwards, I received a report saying that ‘more than 100 Chinese people in Linxian were infected with cholera, and the death toll was also high'”. After this, in a village in Changlu county “I burned down the houses of about 300 households and killed 660 Chinese peasants of the village in extremely brutal ways like shooting, bayoneting and burning”. “Also during this attack, 30 captives were killed by soldiers under my command”.

“In order to test the method of killing people with air injection, I ordered in spring of 1945 the division field hospital in Huaiqing to ‘conduct an experiment, which is to test it on a hospitalized Chinese soldier of the Puppet County Guards with an extremely high price'”.

Spring 1945: “Killed about 500 peasants and burned down houses of all the 600 households” in a village in Huaiqing;

Around spring 1945: “Burned down the houses of about 400 households in villages” near Jiaozuo, and “brutally killed about 100 Chinese peasants”.

1945: “Ordered to set up comfort women stations in the regions occupied by Japanese troops, and lured about 60 Chinese and Korean women to serve as comfort women”.

Mid-July 1945: “Invaded Liquan, and slaughtered about 40 Chinese people”.

“During the war of aggression against China”, and “based on my own memory, 5,470 Chinese people were killed, and houses of 18,229 Chinese households were burned down or damaged. The actual number (may) be much higher.”

Philippines seeking defence ties with India after China’s moves

September 1, 2014

Manila watching with heightened concern China’s moves at reclamation work on four reefs in the Spratly Islands

IANS

Published: August 31, 2014

Manila: Worried over increasingly aggressive moves of China to stake claim on disputed reefs in the South China Sea, the Philippines is looking at establishing defence cooperation with allies, including India, a top official said here.

The Philippines is watching with heightened concern China’s moves at reclamation work on four reefs in the Spratly Islands that Manila says fall in its exclusive territorial waters. China has transformed one of the reefs, called Mabini Reef, in the South China Sea into a fully equipped naval base, complete with refuelling and weapons loading facility, and with a suspected air strip, officials said here.

Philippines Foreign Ministry spokesperson Charles C. Jose said that Manila had lodged a protest with Beijing over the reclamation work, “but China rejected it and said it is their territory”. He said from the size of the structures that China was building on Mabini Reef, “we can surmise they are building military structures”.

The Philippine Star this week came out with a front-page news item along with satellite images of China’s construction activities on the reefs in the South China Sea.

Full-scale reclamation projects

Besides Mabini, which is also called Johnson South Reef, China has begun full-scale reclamation projects on three other nearby reefs — on Burgos, Kennan and Calderon reefs. These fall in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the Spratlys Islands.

China is a signatory to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea with the 10 Asean countries, according to which the countries are to resolve their territorial disputes through peaceful means and also refrain from inhabiting the uninhabited islets and reefs in the disputed waters. However, the document is non-binding in nature.

A military base on Mabini Reef, located 600km from the Chinese mainland where it has a military base on Hainan Island, would give China a naval-air force base strategically located in the middle of the sea.

China began its moves to occupy reefs in the disputed sea right from 1995 when it built structures on Mischief Reef, which is 230km from Palawan in the Philippines, while in 2012 it occupied Scarborough Shoal, a coral reef off the coast of Zambales in Luzon province, said the official.

These reefs and islets are part of Philippines “territorial entitlement”, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982, to which China too is a signatory.

Manila has filed an arbitration petition before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) over China’s violation of the UNCLOS provisions, said Jose.

The Philippines is seeking to establish defence cooperation with allies, and it would be holding joint defence commission meetings later this year with India, he said. “Defence issues would be discussed, including exchange of training,” he said.

He said the Philippines “welcomes the intervention by third parties who can help to bring stability to the region”.

He said the Philippines was keen to schedule a visit by President Pranab Mukherjee to the island nation this year, but last-minute “scheduling problems” caused the visit to be put off for next year.

Jose said the Philippines is also full of praise for the way in which India and Bangladesh settled their maritime boundary dispute, with a UN tribunal in July this year announcing its verdict.

Related:

In this Feb. 25, 2014, file photo taken by surveillance planes and released May 15 by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, a Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippine Air Force monitors 10 to 12 Chinese Coast Guard vessels in the West Philippine Sea on maritime patrol missions, prompting Manila to seek an expeditious ruling by a United Nations tribunal on its challenge to Beijing’s expansive claim over the South

Obama and Cameron to tell Nato allies to increase defence spending

August 31, 2014

Leaders are backed by former senior military commanders who say allies must shoulder their share of the military burden and stop relying on others to prop them up

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama Photo: AP

Barack Obama and David Cameron will tell their Nato allies to increase defence spending in a showdown at this week’s summit in Wales.

They are backed by British military chiefs who accused underspending members of freeloading.

The US president and the Prime Minister will call on European leaders to do more to defend the continent from its growing threats by meeting commitments to spend at least two per cent of GDP on defence.

Nato members at the two-day meeting in Newport will debate how to cope with crises in Ukraine and Iraq.

The White House said military spending was a “top priority”. But diplomats believe that the plea will be rejected by countries who complain they are still emerging from recession and refuse to be held to an “arbitrary” spending target.

Currently only four Nato members reach the two per cent target, including Britain and America. Britain, however, has refused to commit to the target after this parliament and defence chiefs fear the military budget could dip below the two per cent mark soon.

Former senior military commanders said last night that Nato allies must shoulder their share of the military burden and stop relying on others to prop them up.

Lord West, a former head of the Navy, said: “People in a number of countries have been willing to get a free ride and are not spending. If you look at Europe, it’s only France and the UK who meet the target.

“Nato has to realise that it’s no good having a broken force.

“Putin and other countries think they are talking the talk but they are not walking the walk. It’s just bluff.

“It does mean that he thinks they are not really serious about holding their own on the world stage.”

Lord Dannatt, a former head of the Army, said Europe’s failure to fund its forces led many Americans to question “why Europe cannot stand on its own security feet”.

He said: “The sad fact is that with the exception of a small number of European Nato member states — which include the UK and France principally — the vast majority of the armed forces of other European states lack real usable capability and their governments often lack the political will to fund their armed forces properly.”

Diplomatic sources said there was little hope of major European powers pledging big spending increases.

Any summit agreement will fall back on vague language of “aiming to” meet the two per cent target.

In pointed remarks last week, Mr Obama said the summit had to “make sure every country is contributing”.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, said earlier this year increasing defence spending from 1.3 per cent could create misunderstandings with Russia. The Canadian government has also baulked at the rise from its current level of one per cent.

Robert Menendez, the hawkish Democrat chair of the US Senate foreign relations committee, urged Mr Obama and the West to provide Ukraine with “defensive weapons”.

“Thousands of Russian troops are here with tanks, missiles, heavy artillery,” he told the US broadcasters CNN in Ukraine. Mr Putin had “sized up the West” and determined that tough sanctions and military aid would not be forthcoming.

However, Mr Obama and European leaders have ruled out any “military solution” to the crisis in Ukraine.

Meanwhile fighting continued in Ukraine with separatists firing on a border patrol ship in the Azov Sea.

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, September 1, 2014 — Your faith rests not on human wisdom but on the power of God

August 31, 2014

Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 431

Reading 1 1 cor 2:1-5

.

When I came to you, brothers and sisters,
proclaiming the mystery of God,
I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling,
and my message and my proclamation
were not with persuasive words of wisdom,
but with a demonstration of spirit and power,
so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom
but on the power of God.
.

Responsorial Psalm ps 119:97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102

.

R. (97) Lord, I love your commands.
How I love your law, O LORD!
It is my meditation all the day.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Your command has made me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
I have more understanding than all my teachers
when your decrees are my meditation.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
I have more discernment than the elders,
because I observe your precepts.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
From every evil way I withhold my feet,
that I may keep your words.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
From your ordinances I turn not away,
for you have instructed me.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
.

Gospel lk 4:16-30

.

Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll,
he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Is this not the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said,
“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.
They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.
But he passed through the midst of them and went away.
.
********************************
.
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
.
Reflection
.
• Today we begin the meditation on the Gospel of Luke, which will extend three months until the end of the liturgical year. Today’s Gospel speaks about Jesus’ visit to Nazareth and the presentation of his program to the people of the Synagogue. In the first moment the people were admired. But, immediately, when they become aware that Jesus wants to accept all, without excluding anyone, people rebel and want to kill him.
.
• Luke 4, 16-19: The proposal of Jesus. Urged by the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned to Galilee (Lk 4, 14) and begins to announce the Good News of the Kingdom of God. He goes to the community, teaches in the Synagogue and arrives to Nazareth, where he had grown. He was returning to the community, in which he had participated since he was small, and during thirty years. The following Saturday, as it was the custom, Jesus went to the Synagogue to participate in the celebration and he stands up to read. He chooses the text of Isaiah which speaks about the poor, of the prisoners, of the blind and the oppressed (Is 61, 1-2). This text is an image of the situation of the people of Galilee at the time of Jesus. The experience which Jesus had of God, the Father of Love, gave him a new look to evaluate the reality. In the name of God, Jesus takes a stand to defend the life of his people and, with the words of Isaiah, he defines his mission: (1) to announce the Good News to the poor, (2) to proclaim liberty to captives, (3) to give sight to the blind; (4) to release the oppressed, and taking the ancient tradition of the prophets, (5) to proclaim “a year of grace from the Lord”. He proclaims the Jubilee Year!
.
• In the Bible, the “Jubilee Year” was an important Law. Every seven years, at the beginning (Dt 15, 1; Lv 25, 3) it was necessary to restore the land to the clan of origin. All had to be able to return to their own property; and this way they prevented the formation of large estates and families were guaranteed their livelihood. It was also necessary to forgive their debts and to redeem the persons who were slaves. (Dt 15, 1-18). It was not easy to have the Jubilee Year every seven years (cf. Jr 34, 8-16). After the exile, it was decided to have it every fifty years (Lv 25, 8-12). The objective of the Jubilee was and continues to be: to re-establish the rights of the poor, to accept the excluded and to re-integrate them into the society to live together with others. The Jubilee was a legal instrument to return to the original sense of the Law of God. This was an occasion offered by God to make a revision of the path being followed, to discover and to correct the errors and to start again from the beginning. Jesus begins his preaching proclaiming a Jubilee “A year of grace from the Lord”.
.
• Luke 4, 20-22: To unite the Bible and Life. Having finished the reading, Jesus updates the text of Isaiah and says: “This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening!” Taking the words of Isaiah as his own, Jesus gives them a full and definitive sense and he declares himself Messiah who comes to fulfil the prophecy. This way of updating the text provokes a reaction of discredit on the part of those who were in the Synagogue. They were scandalized and do not want to know anything about him. They do not accept that Jesus is the Messiah announced by Isaiah. They said: “Is he not the son of Joseph?” They were scandalized because Jesus speaks about accepting the poor, the blind and the oppressed. The people do not accept Jesus’ proposal. And, thus when he presents the project of accepting the excluded, he himself is excluded.
.
• Luke 4, 23-30: To overcome the limits of race. In order to help the community to overcome the scandal and to help them understand that his proposal formed part of tradition. Jesus tells two stories known in the Bible, the story of Elijah and the one of Elisha. Both stories criticise the mental closeness of the people of Nazareth. Elijah was sent to the widow of Zarephath (1 K 17, 7-16). Elisha was sent to take care of the foreigner of Syria (2 K 5, 14). Here arises the concern of Luke who wants to show that openness already comes from Jesus. Jesus had the same difficulty which the communities at the time of Luke were having. But the call of Jesus did not calm down people, all the contrary! The stories of Elijah and Elisha produced even greater anger. The community of Nazareth reaches the point of wanting to kill Jesus. But he keeps calm. The anger of others does not succeed in drawing him away from his own path. Luke tells us that it is difficult to overcome the mentality of privilege and of mental closeness.
.
• It is important to notice the details used in the Old Testament. Jesus quotes the text of Isaiah up to the point where it says: “to proclaim a year of grace from the Lord”. He does not quote the rest of the phrase which says: and a “day of vengeance from our God”. The people of Nazareth throw stones at Jesus because he pretends to be the Messiah, because he wants to accept the excluded and because he has omitted to read the phrase about vengeance. They wanted the day of Yahweh to be a day of vengeance against the oppressors of the people. In this case, the coming of the Kingdom would not have been a true change or conversion of the system. Jesus does not accept this way of thinking; he does not accept vengeance (cf. Mt 5, 44-48) His new experience of God Father/Mother helped him to understand better the sense of the prophecies.
Personal questions
.
• The program of Jesus is to accept the excluded. Do we accept everybody or do we exclude some? Which are the reasons which lead us to exclude certain persons?
• Is the program of Jesus truly our program, my program? Who are the excluded whom we should accept better in our community? Who or what thing gives us the strength to carry out the mission which is entrusted to us by Jesus?
Concluding Prayer
.
How I love your Law, Lord!
I ponder it all day long.
You make me wiser than my enemies
by your commandment which is mine for ever. (Ps 119,97-78)
.
Jesus disputes with the Pharisees and is rejected, from the Bowyer Bible, 19th century
.
*************************************
.
Matt 21:42-43 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: `The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
.
***********************************
.
His Platform is One of Social Concern (Luke 4:16-21)
From The Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese
香港天主教正義和平委員會. 實踐社會正義是信仰中不能或缺的幅度,要實現這使命和在社會中作見證,必須維護人性尊嚴,改善人民的福祉,讓人有空間發揮其潛能
.
According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus read a passage from the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth at the very beginning of his public ministry. This passage contains the theme of his work –itunveiledhismessiahship,long awaited by the Israelites, and demonstrated the universality of salvation. In addition, it was also rich in its consciousness of social concern (1). For example, verse 18 mentions the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed – people who were discriminated against and unfairly treated. These titles bear much social character (2). Jesus’ salvation was to proclaim to these people good news, release, recovery of sight, and freedom. Not only was this a spiritual redemption but it also bore social and political dimensions, especially towards the poor, the oppressed, and the weak in society (3). This article will look into this description, which we call it the policy of Jesus’ ministry, to consider its social character.

Luke 4:16-21

        After arriving at the synagogue, Jesus read from the Scripture as required by custom. In accordance with synagogue practice, someone would explain the meaning of the passage that had been read. This was similar to the homily following the Scripture reading in today’s liturgies. This practice was very popular at the time.

        Jesus chose the verses from Isaiah 61:1-2 to read. Luke does not include all of these two verses. For instance, “heal the wounded” is missing whereas “open the eyes of the blind” has been added (Is. 42:7). Whatever the reason for Jesus’ omission in reading or Luke’s in recording might be, we can still see from Luke 4:18 that Jesus came to bring salvation to the poor the captives, the blind, the oppressed. In general, they are the lower classes and the weak.

From Luke 4:18, we can see:

“Preach good news to the poor”: According to the understanding of the Church, poverty arises not from personal laziness or deficiency but from social factors such as unequal distribution of power, denial of opportunities, unfair distribution of resources, etc.

“Proclaim liberty to captives”: The word “captive” was a political term, the characteristic for captives was loss of freedom. The release of captives was to release them from situations of no freedom.

“Proclaim recovery of sight to the blind”: the blind or the handicapped were discriminated against everywhere, today as well as yesterday. To recover their sight was to stop them from being further discriminated against (5).

“Let the oppressed go free”: Although Jesus had not defined who the oppressed were, we can reasonably assume that the oppressed not only include those being spiritually oppressed but also those unfairly treated by the systematic structures in the society.

“Proclaim God’s Year of Mercy (Jubilee Year)”: some scholars have pointed out that the Prophet Isaiah may be pointing to a particular incident, or, a vision held by the Israelites before or after their defeat by Babylon (6). The Year of Mercy finds it origins in Leviticus 25:1-17. According to the Bible, Jews took every seven years as a cycle. In the first six years, sowing, pruning the vineyard and harvesting were allowed. The seventh year was the Sabbath Year when cultivation, pruning of the vineyard or harvesting was forbidden and the land rested completely. The year following seven Sabbath Years, i.e. the fiftieth year, was a Jubilee Year. In addition to forbidding of sowing and harvesting, only wild produce could be eaten, all debts were cancelled, all pawned properties were returned, sold land was given back to the original owner, slaves regained their freedom and returned home, etc. (7).

        In view of this, the content for the Jubilee Year established some concrete and social characteristics, the aim of which was the re-distribution of resources. Resources of the Earth were for the use of all after recycling. This matches with the spirit of environmental protection. The debtors or the slaves, who had experienced the oppression from unfair systems, could start again from the beginning and get a fairer chance in competition with others.

        Of course, this does not mean that Jesus demands blind observance of these guidelines, for instance, that we should stop all work upon the arrival of a Jubilee. On the contrary, we have to understand the social and political meaning of the Jubilee Year (8). This involves the re-distribution of resources, the emphasis on fairness, the pursuit of structural change for meeting the demands of social justice.

Building heaven on earth for the poor and the oppressed.

 

        As mentioned above, poverty is a social phenomenon. In understanding the phrase, “preach the good news to the poor”, the poor are not just those spiritually poor. The poor here also refer to those suffering from economical or material deficiency whereas the spiritually poor are, of course, the targets for Jesus’ salvation (9).

        Jesus’ policy is not only to build a spiritual Heaven but also to include the appeal for a just human society. Establishing the Reign of God will not be confine to the level of the human heart but include the premise of political or social reality (10).

        Genuine concern for the poor and the oppressed needs to be consistent in words and deeds. As the Body of Christ, the Church needs to set an example. To really help these people is to oppose or work to eliminate those cultural or social policies which make people poor or oppressed. Otherwise, we participate in the roll of reinforcing these policies and making people suffer further (11). In other words, if the Gospel of the Lord is to bring to all salvation and an end to suffering, it will involve something more than prayer, mass, spreading the Gospel, services, etc. Christians also need to participate in transforming unjust social and cultural policies. In other words, a holistic, integrated faith will include a life of prayer, fraternal interpersonal relationships, taking part in liturgies, serving others… and taking part in transforming unjust social and cultural policies.

        If theological reflection is not based on the earth and does not look closely at the social and political reality, it is incomprehensive because we overlook the real needs of people (12). In declaring his policies and in his sayings, teachings and behavior, Jesus demonstrated that he was in solidarity with the poor, the sick, the handicapped, the victims of discriminated and granted them salvation. Today, do we, Christians who follow Christ, need to learn from him this spirit of social concern?

http://www.hkjp.org/reflection.php?id=2

.

**********************************

.
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.

PROCLAMATION OF CHRIST CRUCIFIED AS THE GOOD NEWS IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  1 COR 2:1-5; LK 4:16-30
http://www.universalis.com/20140901/mass.htm

Today, we begin the reading of the gospel taken from St Luke the evangelist.  It begins with the inauguration of the ministry of Jesus, which is spelt out in terms of bringing the Good News to the poor and in terms of liberation.  He is called to give hope to the marginalized and the poor; and to set the captives free from all that prevents them from living the fullness of life.

As followers of Christ, how are we to continue this mission that Jesus has begun?  Very often, many good believers make the sincere mistake of either reducing the proclamation of the gospel to the salvation of souls, or reducing it merely to a programme for liberation movements.  The truth is that Jesus has come to bring real liberation to everyone, not simply political, spiritual or social liberation but total liberation.  The gospel must permeate every area of human life, whether it is spiritual, social, political or economic.

How then is this proclamation to be realized?  In today’s second reading, St Paul says he came to proclaim the Crucified Christ.  He said, “Brothers, when I came to you, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed.  During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ.”

Why did he not speak about liberation like Jesus did? For St Paul, social justice and reaching out to the poor presupposes faith in Christ crucified.  This is true also in terms of spiritual liberation from sin.  For this reason, Pope Benedict in his first encyclical, “God is love”, underscores that unconditional love for others presupposes a prior experience of God’s unconditional and total love.

Consequently, St Paul makes the kergyma his preaching.  The proclamation of Christ crucified speaks on the self-emptying love of the Father and the Son in the mutual kenosis.  The Father delivered His only Son to sinners to be put to death and the Son surrendered Himself to the Father’s will for the love of the world.

Of course, to the Jews who were looking for a glorious and triumphant saviour, a crucified messiah was a scandal to them.  Yet, they failed to see that such is the wisdom of God, not the wisdom of man.  For real power is not the wealth and worldly power that the wisdom of the world proclaims; it is not even knowledge!  Rather, real power is the power of love.  Only love can conquer the hearts of men, not worldly powers nor intellectual power.

What would have made St Paul, himself a great scholar of scriptures, to take this unconventional approach?  It was his personal experience of the love of God in Jesus.  Indeed, it was his conversion experience at Damascus that changed his whole mindset.  This is implied in the statement, “During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ.”  Before that, he relied only on his knowledge and will-power to know God and obey the laws.  He was self-righteous and judgmental.  But after the encounter with Jesus and hearing him say, “Why are you persecuting me?” he came to realize the love and mercy of Christ crucified.  Furthermore, when he recognized that Christ had chosen him to be an apostle of the gospel, in spite of his past, he was certainly, even more humbled by that experience.

As he said earlier, “…at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.” (1 Cor 1:26-31).  Truly, he came to realize that the gospel has power only because it is not the work of man but the work of God.

What does this mean for us all?  Firstly, it means that in proclaiming the gospel today, proclaiming Christ crucified means that we need to teach a life of renunciation and poverty as Christ commanded us.

The gospel has lost its power today because we are depending too much on worldly wisdom and power, focusing more on branding, marketing, techniques, arguments and planning, rather than on the power that comes from God.  This is not to say that such planning or employment of the modern means of communication is not necessary in proclaiming the gospel.  What needs to be underscored is our reliance on the Lord above all.

At the same time, we are no longer living lives of contradiction.  Our lifestyle is no different from those of non-Christians.  We must once again recover the secret of the proclamation of the gospel which is to live our life in the shadow of the cross.  Jesus refused to play according to the rules of His people, who wanted Him to prove His worth through power and glory.  Instead, He came for the poor and lived among the poor.  Concretely, this means that we cannot carry out our Christian ministry without the cross.  We must be ready to suffer for the truth which we are called to proclaim.  We must be ready to be ridiculed, slandered and misunderstood in trying to proclaim the gospel.  It is said that no one throws stones at barren trees!   Hence, we must carry the cross because we are invited to live a life of integrity, compassion, charity and love.

Like Jesus who refused to bow to pressure to perform miracles in order to prove Himself, we too must pray for courage to be different.  We must remind ourselves that we are called to proclaim God’s love and mercy and not to boost our ego or to bask in our glory.  Indeed, how many of us dare to challenge the complacency of the faith and love of our fellow Christians?  We must avoid the unconscious desire for popularity, fame, glory and power, especially at the workplace, and in the social circles we move in.

For this to be possible, we need to follow the same path as Jesus and Paul did, which is to exercise our Christian mission in the power of the Spirit.  Jesus prefaced His call by declaring, “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.”  St Paul too said, “Far from relying on any power of my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the Spirit.  And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.”  Being in touch with the Spirit of God therefore is the key to power in our proclamation of the gospel in our lives.

Accordingly, we need to pray for this encounter with the Spirit by meditating on the Word of God, like the Psalmist who said, “How I love your law, O Lord!  It is my meditation all the day.  Your command has made me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers when your decrees are my meditation.”  Yes, when the word of God abides in us, then the Father and his Son will dwell in us through the Holy Spirit.  Only then can we proclaim his Word, the Good News of liberation with the power of the Spirit.

- See more at: http://www.csctr.net/01-september-2014-monday-22nd-week-in-ordinary-time/#sthash.oFzQQYJc.dpuf

Police, protesters clash in Pakistani capital

August 31, 2014

.

Pakistani protesters wash their eyes after being hit by tear gas outside the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. Thousands of anti-government protesters tried to raid the official residence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, sparking clashes with police that killed a few people and wounded hundreds amid cries for the premier to step down, officials said Sunday. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Anti-government protesters armed with slingshots and hammers clashed repeatedly with police Sunday in the Pakistani capital as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with top advisers seeking a way out of the crisis that has triggered the biggest challenge yet to his authority.

At least three people were killed and nearly 400 admitted to local hospitals, officials said, in violence that started Saturday night and continued to boil over Sunday.

The violence has raised the stakes in the two-week sit-in led by opposition politician Imran Khan and fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri. They want the prime minister to step down over their allegations of massive voting fraud in the election that brought him into office last year in the country’s first democratic transfer of power.

Sharif’s party was elected in a landslide in which observers found no evidence of widespread fraud. The prime minister has refused to step down, and negotiators have tried to convince Qadri and Khan to end their protests.

The demonstrations were mostly peaceful until late Saturday, when protesters headed toward the prime minister’s residence. When the crowd started removing shipping containers used as barricades, police fired salvos of tear gas that forced protesters back.

Authorities have said they had no choice but to use force on the demonstrators, some of whom wore gas masks.

Pakistani protesters wait for food to be distributed near the parliament building and the president house in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. Thousands of anti-government protesters tried to raid the official residence of Pakistan’s prime minister, sparking clashes with police that killed many people and wounded nearly hundreds amid cries for the premier to step down, officials said. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

Hundreds of people were arrested, said Islamabad Police Chief Khalid Khattak. There were scattered clashes Sunday morning, and protesters appeared to regroup later in the afternoon.

By evening, large groups of protesters were located in pockets around the parliament and some had spread into other parts of the city, said police official Amir Paracha. He said they had taken shields from police and were wielding iron rods, batons, stones and bricks.

The injured included women, children, journalists and police officers who had been hurt by tear gas shells, batons and rubber bullets, said Dr. Javed Akram, who heads the capital’s main hospital.

Railways Minister Saad Rafiq said the government would investigate the conduct of officers who beat up some journalists.

Pakistani protesters chase a troop of riot police officers during a protest near prime minister’s home in Islamabad, Pakistan on Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. Pakistani police clashed with scattered pockets of anti-government protesters trying to advance on the prime minister’s residence after a night of violence that saw hundreds wounded and the first death in more than two weeks of demonstrations. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

The prime minister met Sunday with top advisers at his residence. In a news release, Sharif said he would convene a joint session of parliament on Tuesday to address the crisis.

His government “condemned the attack on symbols of the state by two political parties,” saying the violence was “undemocratic and unconstitutional.”

“The steps taken by police and security forces to defend and defeat such acts were appreciated,” the statement said.

The government blamed the protesters, saying officials had tried to negotiate. The statement called on Khan and Qadri to come back to the negotiating table, but they showed no inclination to do so.

Both Khan and Qadri, who spent most of the day inside the shipping containers that they have been living in for days, addressed their supporters in impassioned speeches.

“Now, it is death or freedom,” Khan said. “We will not leave from here without Nawaz Sharif’s resignation.”

Both Khan and Qadri called on more people to come into the streets to support them.

But there were some apparent cracks in Khan’s party. Javed Hashmi, president of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, said at a news conference that the party had earlier decided not to push toward the premier’s house and warned that the country was close to martial law.

The protests began with a march from the eastern city of Lahore on Pakistan’s Independence Day, Aug. 14.

The demonstrations signify the starkest threat to Sharif’s third term as prime minister. His previous term ended in 1999 with a military coup and his eventual exile. This turn in office has seen equally contentious relations with the country’s powerful army. He’s clashed with the military over the prosecution of the former army chief for treason, accusations the country’s powerful spy agency was behind the attempted killing of a top TV anchor and a military operation in the tribal areas.

Top military leaders met late Sunday and said in a statement that the situation should be resolved politically “without wasting any time and without recourse to violent means.”

The statement did not mention anyone by name, but by saying further force would only aggravate the situation, the military appeared to be putting more pressure on the beleaguered government.

Sharif vowed Saturday that he would not step down, but if the violence continues, it could severely undermine his authority.

“The biggest question: Can Nawaz Sharif survive? The answer, in these frantic hours, must surely be a miserable, despondent no,” read an editorial in Dawn, one of the country’s leading English-language newspapers.

Associated Press Writer Anjum Naveed contributed to this report.

Obama Urged To Get Tougher on Foreign Policy

August 31, 2014

Republicans and Democrats call on president to take harder approach on Russian intervention in Ukraine and Isis in Syria

Obama on his way to a Democratic fundraiser in Newport on Friday.

Obama on his way to a Democratic fundraiser in Newport on Friday. Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP

Barack Obama was on Sunday urged to take a tougher approach towards Russia and Syria, as Republicans and Democrats returned from their summer vacations in confrontational mood.

After a week in which the president was criticised for failing to develop military plans for tackling Islamic State militants inside Syria and taking a relatively cautious approach to Russian incursions in Ukraine, senior figures in Congress took turns to demand greater US intervention.

Senator Robert Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the foreign relations committee and an administration loyalist, called for the US to arm the Ukrainian military with advanced weapons, that it might defend itself against Russia.

“This is a watershed moment,” said Menendez, speaking from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, where he is on the latest of a series of congressional fact-finding visits. “Thousands of Russian troops are here and are directly engaged in what is clearly an invasion.

“We should be providing the Ukrainians with the types of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon [Russian president Vladimir] Putin for further aggression.”

The New Jersey senator dismissed fears that such a step would provoke further aggression from Moscow, and called on European allies to agree significantly tougher economic sanctions, targeting entire industrial sectors such as energy, defence and financial services.

“Weakness is a greater provocation for Putin than strength,” said Menendez, in an interview with CNN.

Asked if he thought the White House was considering such a move, Menendez said: “I think that may very well be on the table right now. These are changed circumstances.”

A similar mood was on display over Syria, with Senate Democrats accusing Obama of failing to take the “extraordinarily dangerous” threat from Isis seriously enough.

On Thursday, asked about possible plans to combat Isis in Syria as well as northern Iraq, Obama told a White House press conference: “We don’t have a strategy yet.”

On Saturday, secretary of state John Kerry used a New York Times op-ed column to call for “a global coalition using political, humanitarian, economic, law enforcement and intelligence tools to support military force” against Isis.

Kerry also said he and defence secretary Chuck Hagel would use next week’s Nato summit in Wales to seek to marshal such international support.

In northern Iraq on Saturday night, air strikes and aid drops brought the total of such US strikes since 8 August to 118.

The drops and strikes were carried out “at the request of the Iraqi government”, according to a statement from US Central Command, with planes from Australia, France and Britain also dropping food, water and supplies.

Central Command said its forces dropped “109 bundles of much-needed humanitarian aid to the people of Amirli, including the Shia Turkomen minority ethnic group”, and “also conducted three airstrikes in coordination with the isolated Iraqi security forces responsible for protecting Amirli”.

The statement added: “Fighter aircraft struck and destroyed three Isis Humvees, one Isis armed vehicle, one Isis checkpoint and one Isis tank near Amirli.”

On Sunday, Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate intelligence committee, told NBC: “I think I’ve learned one thing about this president, and that is he’s very cautious. Maybe in this instance, too cautious.”

Feinstein also questioned whether economic sanctions were enough to deter Russian intervention in Ukraine, calling for Kerry to lead direct talks with Putin.

“I think this is deeply personal with him,” she said of Putin. “And I think he’s calling the shots himself. And he’s enjoying intensely high favorability in his country. People say: ‘Well, just wait till the sanctions bite and the economy slips.’ I don’t think so.”

Feinstein added: “The Russians are very brave and very long-suffering. And they will tough out any economic difficulty.”

The Sunday talk shows did give some glimpses of support for Obama’s summer foreign policy decisions, as several influential Democratic figures suggested the White House would soon toughen its stance toward Isis and Russia.

“I do know that the military, I know that the State Department, I know that others have been putting plans together,” said Feinstein. “And so hopefully, those plans will coalesce into a strategy.”

Iraq aid drop
Military personnel push a container delivery system bundle of water on to a C-17 Globemaster III plane, for dropping over northern Iraq. Photograph: Staff Sergeant Shawn Nickel/AFP/Getty Images

On CNN, Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives intelligence committee, predicted imminent and far-reaching US intervention in Syria.

“I think we will see action within the next week or so,” he said. “If we are going to go in, we are not just going to drop some bombs, we are going to go in on a long-term basis.”

Several Republicans were even more gung-ho about the need to confront Isis. Speaking at an Americans for Prosperity conference in Dallas that was organised by influential party funders the Koch brothers, presidential hopeful and Texas senator Ted Cruz said: “We ought to bomb them back to the Stone Age”.

On CBS on Sunday the Arizona senator John McCain, a persistent critic of Obama’s foreign policy, said of the situation in Ukraine: “For God’s sake, can’t we help these people defend themselves?”


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 851 other followers