Archive for March, 2018

Gaza Carnage Is a Victory for Hamas – and a Propaganda Nightmare for Israel — Hamas Outsmarts Israel this time…

March 31, 2018

Haaretz

Trump’s unqualified support bolsters Netanyahu but could also spark international backlash from critics of both

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Medical staff help an injured Palestinian man during clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration near the border with Israel,March 31, 2018.
Medical staff help an injured Palestinian man during clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration near the border with Israel,March 31, 2018.SAID KHATIB/AFP

For the first time in a long while, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict took a central place over the weekend in international media news reports. Israeli spokespersons did supply evidence of Hamas militants trying to breach the border fence in Gaza under the guise of a supposedly popular protest, but Western opinion makers preferred the viral video of a Palestinian teen getting shot in the back and an overarching narrative of despondent Gazans protesting their oppression and blockade. Fifteen Palestinians were killed, hundreds were injured and the fence remained intact, but in the battlefield of propaganda, Hamas scored a victory.

Future developments are also in the hands of the Islamic organization. The more Hamas persists with the “March of the Million,” as it has been dubbed, and the more it succeeds in separating the protests from acts of violence and terror, the more it will succeed in defying and embarrassing Israel as well as Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. If commanders of the Israel Defense Forces don’t find a way to repel efforts to breach the fence without causing so many casualties, Israel’s predicament will grow exponentially. Friday’s day of bloodshed may be quickly forgotten if it remains a solitary event, but if the bloodshed recurs over and over during the six-week campaign that is slated to culminate on the Palestinian Nakba Day in mid-May, the international community will be forced to refocus its attentions on the conflict. Criticism of, and pressure on, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has virtually evaporated in recent months, could return with a vengeance.

The working assumption on the Israeli side is that terror and violence are an inherent part of Hamas’ self-identity; the Islamist group is supposedly incapable of suspending its “armed struggle,” even temporarily. If this is the case, Israel’s distress will soon pass and Hamas will squander the advantages it gained in the mass skirmishes near the fence. If the Israeli conception turns out to be wrong, however, and Hamas proves itself capable of tactical discipline and restraint, it could manufacture what has always been Israel’s hasbara nightmare: Mass, nonviolent Palestinian protests that compel the IDF to kill and maim unarmed civilians. Analogies to Mahatma Gandhi, apartheid South Africa and even the struggle for civil rights in America, superficial and preposterous as they may be, will frame the next stage of the Palestinian struggle.

>> Forget rockets and tunnels – Hamas found a more effective way to agitate Israel | Analysis ■ Gaza’s refugees have always haunted Israel. Now they’re on the march | Opinion >>

The immediate support of the Trump administration, expressed in a Passover-eve tweet by special envoy Jason Greenblatt, who lambasted Hamas incitement and its “hostile march,” is ostensibly a positive development from Israel’s point of view. Contrary to Trump, Barack Obama would have been quick to criticize what is being widely described as Israel’s excessive use of force, and might have conferred with Western European countries on a proper diplomatic response. Israel welcomes and Netanyahu often extols its unparalleled coordination with the Trump administration, but it could also turn out to be a double-edged sword, which will only make things worse.

.Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh at a protest along the Israeli border with Gaza, March 30, 2018.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh at a protest along the Israeli border with Gaza, March 30, 2018.\ MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS

Trump, after all, is one of the most despised U.S. presidents in modern history, in Western public opinion in general and among American liberals in particular. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to move the U.S. Embassy there are widely perceived as contributing to Palestinians frustration and sense of isolation. As long as Israel maintains a low profile and doesn’t star in negative news headlines, its intimate relations with Trump cause only marginal damage; in times of crisis, however, the damage can be substantial. The criticism that would have been leveled at Israel in the wake of “Bloody Friday” in any case is fueled by widespread resentment of Trump and his policies – and by a wish to punish his favorites. The more the U.S. administration defends Israel’s unpopular actions, the more its critics, including American liberals, will treat Trump and Netanyahu as one unsavory package.

The unqualified U.S. support strengthens the resolve of Netanyahu and his ministers to stick with their do-nothing polices toward both Gaza and the peace process. Most Israelis view Hamas purely as a terror organization, and their gut reaction is that Israel can’t and shouldn’t be perceived as caving in to terror and violence. At a time when early elections seem just beyond the horizon, the last thing Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition wants to do is deviate from its established policies, which would be tantamount to admitting the error of its ways. Calls from the left to review the IDF’s conduct in Gaza and reassess Netanyahu’s policies toward the Palestinians overall could bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back to the center of public discourse after an extended absence, but will also provide the prime minister with an excuse – as if he needs one – to divert attention away from the crisis in Gaza to backstabbing internal enemies from within.

The Book of Hosea, however, taught us “He who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind.” Israel’s ongoing diplomatic paralysis on the Palestinian issue and its misguided belief that the status quo can be maintained indefinitely provided the opening for Hamas’ propaganda coup: The Islamist group can suddenly see light at the end of the tunnels that the IDF is systematically destroying. Hamas may shed crocodile tears over the dead and injured, but even if their numbers are doubled and tripled over the next few days, it is a small price to pay for resuscitating its prominence and for pushing both Netanyahu and Abbas into a corner. The fact that Jerusalem maneuvered itself into a position in which a proven terrorist group that still dreams of destroying “the Zionist entity” can outmaneuver Israel in the court of public opinion and cast it as malevolent occupier with an itchy trigger finger is a monumental failure, one that can only get worse as long as Netanyahu and his government prefer to entrench themselves in their obtuse self-righteousness.

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Trump targets Amazon again in new tweets

March 31, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | This combination of pictures shows Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (L), who also owns The Washington Post, and US President Donald Trump
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump on Saturday resumed his attacks against online retailing giant Amazon and accused The Washington Post, owned by Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, of lobbying for the company.His latest comments, two days after a similar swipe against Amazon, coincided with a report in Saturday’s Post about three different legal efforts “trying to pry open” the books of the president’s umbrella company, the Trump Organization.

On Twitter, Trump claimed the US Postal Service loses “billions of dollars” delivering packages for Amazon.

“This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!”, he wrote.

For the first quarter of the 2018 financial year the US Postal Service reported “strong package growth,” with revenue in the segment up 9.3 percent from the same period last year to $505 million.

That did not offset the fall of $557 million in first-class and marketing mail revenue, the post office said.

Trump further alleged Saturday that Amazon’s lobbying staff “does not include the Fake Washington Post,” and said the Post should register as an official lobbyist.

The Post report on Saturday referred to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s reported subpoena of Trump Organization documents related to Russia.

Mueller is probing whether there was collusion between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Moscow, as well as possible obstruction of justice.

The newspaper also reported that a lawsuit filed by porn actress Stormy Daniels over an alleged a sexual encounter with Trump has brought additional scrutiny to the Trump Organization.

Finally, it mentioned the District of Columbia and State of Maryland’s suing of Trump over allegations that his “financial entanglements” violate the Constitution.

Trump is spending Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. He sent his latest tweets while in a motorcade on the way to his Trump International Golf Club.

On Thursday the president tweeted that Amazon uses the post office as its “delivery boy” and alleged that the firm pays “little or no taxes” to state and local governments.

The comments renewed concerns that Amazon could face scrutiny by antitrust regulators.

A day earlier, a report on the Axios news site said Trump’s wealthy friends complain that Amazon is killing shopping malls and brick-and-mortar retailers, and had asked about the possibility of going after the firm using antitrust laws.

Philippines says it still abides by rule of law

March 31, 2018

 

United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, who has been labeled a terrorist by the Duterte administration, recently urged Italians to help stop what she described as “fascism” in the Philippines. AFP/File

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) – April 1, 2018 – 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday disputed the claim of United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz that the Philippine government has become authoritarian, saying the rule of law still prevails in the country.

Corpuz, who has been labeled a terrorist by the Duterte administration, recently urged Italians to help stop what she described as “fascism” in the Philippines.

Speaking to delegates of the Human Rights Festival in Milan last March 25, Corpuz said the “authoritarian” government in the Philippines is controlling Congress and is going against institutions formed to balance the executive branch.

Corpuz cited the impeachment petition filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the arrest and detention of Sen. Leila de Lima, a vocal critic of President Duterte, on charges related to illegal drugs.

Those who want Sereno removed alleged that she failed to meet the 10-year requirement for the filing of statements of assets, liabilities and networth and misusing public funds, among other allegations.

In refuting Corpuz’s claims, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said her statements show “how detached she is with the realities happening in the Philippines.”

He insisted that the executive department does not interfere with the affairs of its co-equal branches – the judiciary and the legislature.

“Democracy in the Philippines is vibrant and strong. All the branches of the government are functioning and the rule of law thrives. The executive branch respects the separation of powers and the independence of the other co-equal branches and doesn’t meddle with their affairs,” Medialdea said in a statement.

Corpuz and about 600 other persons were tagged as terrorists by the government after President Duterte scrapped the peace negotiations with communist rebels, although the Department of Justice (DOJ) is still waiting for the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 to declare them, as required by the Human Security Act of 2007, terrorists.

Under the law, the DOJ should file a petition asking the court to declare a person or a group as terrorist.

Also in the list were Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Rafael Baylosis, former peace panel chief Luis Jalandoni and former Bayan Muna party-list representative Satur Ocampo.

Waging war

Corpuz, in a commentary published in Financial Times last week, claimed that the Duterte administration is waging a war against messengers who report about human rights violations in the country, as she reiterated her criticism over her inclusion in the list of individuals that the government wants to tag as terrorists.

“I am the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. My mandate is to report when communities anywhere in the world are forced to relocate, their lands uprooted, their leaders either deemed criminals or killed. Not everyone wants to hear it, but the message needs to be spread. In the Philippines, they are shooting the messengers,” she wrote.

Corpuz, who repeatedly denied allegations of having links with the Communist Party of the Philippine and New Peoples’ Army, said her inclusion in the list made her fear for her safety.

“In lumping its critics together with criminals, the government seeks to make us all guilty by association and thus the next targets of the vigilantes and rogue police officers who have led President Duterte’s bloody war against drugs. Now, he has started a new war – with new targets,” she added.

A member of the Kankanaey Igorot tribe, Corpuz vowed to continue fighting for indigenous peoples’ rights in the Philippines and other parts of the world.

“I have spent my life peacefully advocating for the rights of my people and other indigenous peoples around the world. I am sad to see the Philippines once again slipping towards the fascism that too many other nations have embraced, but I am not ready to give up now, either,” she said.

Her next report to the UN, she added, would focus on the topic of indigenous criminalization in different parts of the world.

“As the government continues to press its case, I will have to include my own experience, even though it pales in comparison to what others have faced. If I am arrested, or personally attacked, this next UN report might be delayed, but I am only one of many messengers speaking out against the many violations of human rights,” she said.

“You can keep shooting the messenger, but you will run out of bullets before we run out of messengers and, at the end of the day, the message will be heard,” added the UN rapporteur. – Janvic Mateo

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/04/01/1801666/rule-law-still-prevails-philippines-palace#qv7X4Gh777xW69p0.99

Related:

 (Includes FT Op-Ed)

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.
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Above: Location of seven Chinese military bases in international waters or Philippine territorial waters — all near the Philippines.
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 (USS Mustin passage — Freedom of Navigation)

  (Xi Jinping’s first public address as “Ruler for Life”)

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All this makes one wonder: does the Philippines know what it is doing with China? In the South China Sea?  Benham Rise? Is Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the ICC, and is Agnes Callamard  (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions at the UN) correct in saying the Philippines is guilty of gross illegalities under international law? Is the Philippine government being run by people who don’t understand the law? Is the move for a “Federal form of Government” based upon any good thinking?

Prayer and Meditation for Easter, April 1, 2018 — Faith in the resurrection of our Lord means that we no longer have to live in our tombs — No fears and unbeliefs…

March 31, 2018

Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord – The Mass of Easter Day
Lectionary: 42

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John & Peter Running to the Tomb, by Eugene Burnand.

Reading 1  ACTS 10:34A, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23.

R. (24) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.”
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2  COL 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.Or

I COR 5:6B-8

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Sequence Victimae Paschali Laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.

AlleluiaCF. 1 COR 5:7B-8A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed;
let us then feast with joy in the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel  JN 20:1-9

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
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They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.Or
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Gospel  MK 16:1-7

When the sabbath was over,
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.
They were saying to one another,
“Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.
On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, “Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter,
‘He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him, as he told you.'”

Or

Gospel  LK 24:13-35

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:

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they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Christ is risen!  Incredible!  Christ died for us, but Christ is risen and now lives for us!  The followers of Jesus were devastated by His death because they had believed that He was the Messiah.  They saw Him die such a humiliating and painful death and most could no longer believe in Him because His death seemed to deny all that they had believed.

His Resurrection changed everything.  It was as if they were now able to understand more of what He had said and preached.  His mysterious words now seemed prophetic and made sense.  Christ is risen!  That statement changed the whole reality of faith for His followers.

The first reading today is from the Acts of the Apostles, the witness of Saint Luke.  This witness explains how the followers felt, how they seemed to lose all hope and only with the Resurrection were they able to understand to some extent the wonderful works of God.  The Resurrection transformed this band of followers into a group of people totally committed to proclaiming that Jesus is the Lord, even if everyone else doubted them or even made fun of them.  They could now understand the Law and the Prophets and the Wisdom literature of their ancestors in the faith and see that all of that pointed to Jesus as Lord.  Alleluia!

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Colossians.  This is the witness of Saint Paul.  We must die with Christ so that we too can be raised with Christ.  This whole life now, for us as followers of Jesus, is the process of dying to ourselves and living more and more in Jesus.  We are invited to proclaim Jesus as Lord by our own dying to self and living in Him.  Alleluia!

The Gospel today is from Saint John.  This is the witness of Saint John.  The men who were followers of Jesus were totally undone by His death and sort of stuck together, bemoaning the death of Jesus, but not doing much more.  Instead, the women went to the tomb and found it empty.  The women then return and tell the men, who run to the tomb—believing that the body of Jesus had been stolen.  They did not yet believe in the Resurrection.

John gets to the tomb first but does not go in.  Instead he waits for Peter to go in.  They both see the same thing:  “the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.”  Peter does not yet believe but John believes.  John tells us in this Gospel:  “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”

Slowly, ever so slowly, the followers begin to receive reports that Jesus is alive and speaking with various followers and that these followers begin to believe that it is really Jesus, now risen from the dead.  Alleluia!

And you?  And me?  Do we believe?  Alleluia!  Christ is risen from the dead!  He tramples down death by death!  He gives life to those in the tomb!  He speaks to His followers!  He eats with them!  Alleluia.  Let us rejoice in the Lord!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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01 APRIL, 2018, Easter Sunday

A RESURRECTED CHURCH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 10:34.37-43COL 3:1-4 OR 1 COR 5:6-8JN 20:1-9 ]

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen!  This is the Good News that the Church proclaims to all of humanity.  The resurrection is the foundation of Christian joy and Christian hope.  With the resurrection of Jesus, we know that He is truly Lord and savior of the world.  With the resurrection, He shows us that the way to life is through love and service unto death.  Most of all, the resurrection frees us from the fear of death as the end of everything in life.  Christian hope in fullness of life after death takes away the sting of death.

Consequently, faith in the resurrection of our Lord means that we no longer have to live in our tombs.  There are many who are living in shame, in fear and self-condemnation of their past and their mistakes, like the apostles who were hiding in the upper room.  There are those of us who are discouraged in life because of failure and disillusionment, like the disciples at Emmaus when they felt their hopes dashed with the death of their master.  There are those who have lost their loved ones and unable to let go, as in the case of Mary Magdalene.  Then there are those who live in wonder or bewilderment, as Peter did even when he saw the empty tomb, unable to make sense of it.  And there are those who doubt the reality of the Risen Lord, like St Thomas who said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  (Jn 20:25)

However, for those of us who have encountered the Risen Lord, we no longer need to take refuge in our tombs of unbelief and fears.  Instead, we manifest joy, optimism, courage, and hope for the future even when it appears gloomy.  This was what happened to the disciples of Jesus when they met the Risen Lord.  Their whole direction in life changed from hopelessness and discouragement to one of confidence and joy for the future.  Whether it was Mary Magdalene, the disciples at Emmaus, the apostles, or even St Paul, their encounter with the Risen Lord set them free from all fears about the future.  From being cowards, fearful of their enemies, especially the Jewish authorities, they proclaimed the Good News with boldness even when under persecution and at the risk of their lives.

Indeed, they could not contain the joy of knowing that Jesus was their Lord and Savior.  They were now capable of living for God and for others.  They were no longer protecting their lives or hoarding their wealth for themselves. The early Church grew as a community through their sharing of a common faith, love and resources.  They were all supportive of each other and the work of the apostles.  Together as a Christian community, they pooled all their resources together for the spread of the gospel.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, the community used the gifts they had received for the building of the Church.

Once we have encountered the Risen Lord, then it will be our turn to announce Him to the world.  A clear sign that we have truly encountered the Lord and can sing Alleluia from our hearts, not just from our lips, is when we cannot but be like the disciples who ran to announce the resurrection to others.  We cannot contain such incredible news to ourselves.  We would want to share with the whole world.  The lack of the desire to announce that He is risen means that our faith in the Risen Lord is just a cerebral faith, not a personal conviction.

As a resurrected Church, like the apostles, we must go out and proclaim the Good News.  The instruction of the Risen Lord to the disciples was, “Do not be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers.”  (cf Mt 28:10)  We do this by recovering our personal relationship with the Lord.  We need to rekindle the faith of our Catholics.  Then we need to reach out to those who are searching for God in their lives or desire a personal relationship with Him.  But faith is not just about worship and doctrines; we need to express them concretely as there are many who are seeking for signs of love and welcome, a sense of identity and belonging.

There are many Catholics who lack passion and enthusiasm in the faith.  They might go for church services but their hearts are far from God. They do not have any real relationship with Him.  The practice of faith is reduced to fulfilling obligations.   Some have stopped coming to church because they have been wounded by fellow Catholics, especially Church leaders.   Where are they?  The young and the rationalists are not able to connect with the Church.  Many cannot feel the presence of God in their lives because of a secularist culture where God is absent.  Many are overwhelmed with the current ideologies of relativism, materialism and individualism.  But deep in their hearts, they feel empty, even if they have all the pleasures of this life.

To change this, we must be a resurrected Church. Firstly, Christ is risen but is He risen in our hearts?  This is what St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians in today’s second reading is asking us.  (1 Cor 5:6-8; cf Col 3:1-4)  Their lives were radically changed.  From fear to courage, from slavery to freedom, from ambition to service, from death to life.   The apostles, like St Paul, were so changed by the Lord that they began to live holy lives in imitation of the Lord.   So are we risen in faith and in love?  Has our faith in the Lord increased and strengthened?  Is our relationship with the Lord real, intimate and personal?  Are we joyful and hopeful people in the way we look at life and even when we suffer, either because of the trials of life or even because of injustices? Are we a community of love among ourselves and welcoming of others into our family, reaching out to the poor, non-believers and even nominal Catholics or those who have left the Church?  Or are we exclusive, parochial-minded and protectionist of our turf, reducing us to mere enclaves?

Secondly, all of us must be renewed in our faith and our love for Christ and His Church.  We need to be formed in our faith and be empowered through spiritual renewal and growth.   What about a deepening growth in doctrinal and moral faith?  Have our Catholics become better informed in their theological faith so that they can defend and explain their faith to the world?   Are our Catholics journeying alone in faith or do they have a community to pray with, sharing the Word of God intimately and be strengthened in their faith?

Thirdly, we must be partners of the archdiocesan vision and mission to build a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church.  Has our parish community grown in number and in strength?  Are there more ministries and services, not just serving the parish but also going out of the parish to serve the larger community, especially the neighbourhood?  How many are evangelistic- minded and witnessing to Christ in their lives? So too in every parish, your pastoral care is not just for Catholics but every one, believer or not, who reside within your parish and even beyond.    Do we see the number of adult baptism growing each year?  We have about 1,000 adult baptisms a year, which is just 0.25 percent of the 383,000 Catholics in Singapore.  It clearly means that our Catholics are not living up to their obligation of bringing Christ to those around them.

The more tangible signs that we are truly an anointed Church and a resurrected Church is the fruit of more adult baptisms, priestly and religious vocations and young people.  How can we call ourselves a Church that is alive with the Spirit when we do not find young people who have fallen in love so much with Jesus that they want to give their lives entirely to His service in the Church and for the community?   How can we call ourselves a local Church if we are still so dependent on migrant priests and increasingly so?  Indeed, we are grateful to them but they cannot be a replacement for local vocations.  The MEP fathers handed over their ministry to the local Church in the 1970’s, but ironically, we are handing it back to migrant priests.   If the Church is local, then vocations must come from within the Church.

Finally, the sign of a resurrected Church is when we see more and more young people in church, leading in ministries and activities.  It means the Church is growing and is vibrant and not stagnating.   We are beginning to see this in the work of the Office of Young People.  However, in our parishes, how many young people do we retain in the service of the Church after confirmation?  How many of them are still active or fervent in their faith, or has the Sacrament of Confirmation become a sacrament of farewell?  The moment we see only elderly in our churches, then it means the Church is slowly dying.  There is a future for the Church only when we see young children and especially young people active in church.

So let us not remain in our tombs.  Let us find strength and hope from the Risen Lord as we move forward in building a Church that is vibrant, evangelistic and missionary.  Let us have faith and live out the resurrection in our lives.  In Christ who was crucified and now risen, we come to realize the victory of love over hatred, life over death.  Unless we show ourselves alive in Christ, no one would believe that the Lord is Risen from the dead.  The Good News of Easter can only be announced by those who have seen the Lord.  Only then will the announcement be passionate, enthusiastic and courageous.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

Saturday Gaza Protest: Israel Wounds 13 Palestinians

March 31, 2018

A general strike was being honoured in the occupied West Bank; limited protests in Gaza on the day after Israel killed 15 unarmed Palestinians and injured hundreds

AFP , Ahram Online , Reuters , Saturday 31 Mar 2018
GAZA

Palestinians gather during a protest near the Gaza Strip border with Israel, in eastern Gaza City, Saturday, March 31, 2018. (Photo: AP)

Israeli troops fired warning shots towards Palestinian youths gathered at the Gaza-Israel border on Saturday, wounding 13 people, health officials said.Tension remained high in the area a day after deadly violence broke out in one of the biggest Palestinian demonstrations there in years.

An Israeli military spokesman said he was checking the details of Saturday’s unrest.

Palestinians held limited protests near the Gaza border a day after a major demonstration led to clashes that saw Israeli forces kill 15 people and injure hundreds in the bloodiest day since a 2014 war.

Protesters began returning to a tent city erected near the border with Israel to resume the demonstration planned to last six weeks in the blockaded enclave.

Thousands were attending funerals for those killed, with mourners holding Palestinian flags and some chanting “revenge.”

A general strike was being held in both the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas had declared Saturday a day of national mourning and in a speech said he held Israel fully responsible for the deaths.

“The large number of martyrs and people wounded in peaceful popular demonstrations shows that the international community must intervene to provide protection to our Palestinian people,” he said.

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A man passes closed shops as Palestinians call for a general strike, in Al-Khalil (Hebron), in the occupied West Bank March 31, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)

Israel defended its soldiers’ actions on Friday, when troops opened fire on Palestinians who strayed from the main tent city protest — attended by tens of thousands — and approached the heavily fortified fence cutting off the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military says it opened fire only when necessary against those throwing stones and firebombs or rolling tyres at soldiers.

It also said there were attempts to damage the fence and infiltrate Israel, while alleging there was an attempted shooting attack against soldiers along the border that caused no casualties.

But Palestinians accused Israel of using disproportionate force, while human rights groups questioned Israel’s use of live fire.

UN chief Antonio Guterres called for an “independent and transparent investigation.”

In addition to the 16 killed, more than 1,400 were wounded, 758 of them by live fire, with the remainder hurt by rubber bullets and tear gas inhalation, according to the Gazan health ministry.

No casualties were reported among Israelis.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas declaredMahmud Abbas and in a speech said he held Israel fully responsible for the deaths.

“The large number of martyrs and people wounded in peaceful popular demonstrations shows that the international community must intervene to provide protection to our Palestinian people,” he said.

Gaza

Palestinian women mourn the victims of Israeli killings on 2018 Land Day (Reuters)

An Israeli military spokesman said Friday’s events were “not a protest demonstration” but “organised terrorist activity.”

He accused Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the besieged Gaza Strip and which has fought three wars against Israel since 2008, of being behind it and threatened wider military action if it continued.

“If it continues, we shall have no choice but to respond inside the Gaza Strip against terrorist targets which we understand to be behind these events,” Brigadier General Ronen Manelis told journalists.

The six-week protest is in support of Palestinian refugees and the timetable holds significance for a range of reasons that have added to tensions.

It began on Land Day when Palestinians commemorate the killing of six unarmed Arab protesters in Israel in 1976, and as Jewish Israelis readied to observe the Passover holiday, which started at sundown on Friday.

Protests will continue until the United States opens its new Jerusalem embassy around May 14, a move that has provoked deep anger among the Palestinians, who see the city’s annexed eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

May 14 will also mark 70 years since the creation of Israel, while Palestinians will commemorate what they call the Nakba, or “catastrophe” of 1948 the following day.

Nakba commemorates the more than 700,000 Palestinians who either fled or were expelled by Zioniust gangs from their homes in the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.

2.5 million Palestinians in Gaza have been living under a devastating 10-year old land-air-sea siege by the occupation.

US President Donald Trump has harshly criticised the Palestinians in the past, but the State Department said only that it was “deeply saddened” by the loss of life and urged steps to lower tensions.

Human Rights Watch criticised Israel’s actions.

“Israeli allegations of violence by some protesters do not change the fact that using lethal force is banned by international law except to meet an imminent threat to life,” the New York-based group said, calling the number of killed and wounded “shocking.”

Israel had deployed troop reinforcements along the border, including more than 100 special forces snipers, saying it would prevent attempts to break through the fence.

Protests along the border are common, often culminating in young Palestinian men throwing stones at Israeli soldiers who respond with tear gas along with rubber and live bullets.

But the peaceful “March of Return” protest that began on Friday is larger scale and is intended to involve families with Palestinian women and children camping in tent cities near the border for weeks.

Palestinians at tent near Israel Border to demand Right of Return before Israel occupation opens fire killing 16 and wounding hundreds (AFP)
AFP

Four teen girl suicide bombers launch deadly attack in Nigeria

March 31, 2018

AFP

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© BOKO HARAM/AFP/File / by Aminu ABUBAKAR with Stephanie FINDLAY in Lagos | Abubakar Shekau, whose Boko Haram faction is notorious for suicide bombings killing civilians in Nigeria
KANO (NIGERIA) (AFP) – Four teenage girl suicide bombers have killed two people in multiple attacks in northeast Nigeria, residents said Saturday, in the latest assault since the government announced it was in ceasefire talks with Boko Haram.The suspected Boko Haram attack took place late Friday in the northeast Borno state capital of Maiduguri, the epicentre of the group’s Islamist insurgency.

The girls, estimated to be between the ages of 13 and 18, attacked the Zawuya settlement on the outskirts of Maiduguri, killing two people, residents told AFP.

“We lost two people, a woman and a boy, in two of the four suicide explosions,” Zawuya resident Musa Haruna Isa said.

One of the bombers blew up while trying to scale a low mud wall outside a house that starting crumbling and detonated her explosive belt, killing the boy, Isa said.

“One of them exploded near an open-air mosque, injuring one person,” he said, adding that another bomber “panicked from the explosions from her colleagues and squeezed the trigger in the open, killing only herself.”

However, police said that just one person died in the attack.

“They (bombers) detonated the explosives killing themselves and one other person… 13 persons were injured and were taken to a hospital where they are responding to treatment,” Maiduguri police said in a statement.

The attack highlighted the challenge the government faces in reaching a ceasefire agreement with the fractionalised Boko Haram.

Last week, when more than 100 schoolgirls were returned to Dapchi after being kidnapped by the jihadist group, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said his government was offering amnesty to “repentant” jihadists.

But senior security officials cautioned that reaching any agreement with the group will be difficult, as it is split into competing factions with different goals.

The Islamic State-affiliated faction reportedly in talks with the government is led by Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi and is known for attacks on military targets, while another faction led by Abubakar Shekau is notorious for suicide bombings killing civilians.

Zawuya, a settlement of people displaced by Boko Haram mostly from Rann, a town on the remote northeast border with Cameroon, lies close to the Muna Garage area, home to some 40,000 internally displaced people.

Both camps have been repeatedly targeted by Boko Haram attacks.

by Aminu ABUBAKAR with Stephanie FINDLAY in Lagos

South Korea deploys warship to pursue pirates after fishing boat hijacked off Ghana

March 31, 2018

Reuters

South Korea has deployed a naval vessel from its regional anti-piracy unit to help with search efforts after a fishing boat was hijacked by pirates off Ghana, South Korea’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.

The ministry said the fishing boat had about 40 crew- mostly from Ghana but including three South Koreans. It said the pirates used a speedboat to take away the South Koreans.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent South Korea’s anti-piracy Cheonghae unit to the area to try to secure the South Koreans’ release, the ministry said.

The South Korean government has been working to tackle piracy with a number of African countries, as well as the United States and the European Union.

Image result for Cheonghae, south korea, warship, photos

China can succeed with petro-yuan where Gaddafi failed — Killing the US dollar in oil trade

March 31, 2018

From Russia Today (RT)

Image may contain: one or more people and hat

Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi attends a celebration of the 40th anniversary of his coming to power at the Green Square in Tripoli September 1, 2009. © Zohra Bensemra / Reuters

Published time: 31 Mar, 2018 06:05


Muammar Gaddafi wanted to shatter the dominance of the greenback in the Middle East by introducing gold-backed dinar, but failed. China has a chance to finish what he started, one industry expert has told RT.

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“Ideas related to oil trade in currencies other than the dollar arose more than once. Some of them were severely suppressed by the United States, one example is Muammar Gaddafi, who proposed the introduction of a regional currency gold dinar and trading oil in the Middle East in this currency,” Aleksandr Egorov, foreign exchange strategist at TeleTrade, told RT.

Image may contain: 2 people

 

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However, this time, an attempt to oust the dollar could be successful. China has launched oil futures backed by yuan, and Beijing has what Gaddafi didn’t, according to the expert.

“Along with the Chinese role in the global economy and the growing interest in the renminbi, China is also protected by a nuclear shield. It can afford to try to shatter the monopoly in oil trade. This will give even more weight to the Chinese yuan. In addition, China’s economy is the world’s largest consumer of oil, and consequently, all world producers of raw materials will have to reckon with the strategy of the Chinese authorities,” Egorov said.

According to the analyst, the timing for the launch of the petro-yuan is perfect. Key oil producers Russia, Iran and Venezuela are under pressure from US sanctions, and it is a good moment for them to ditch the dollar in oil trade and substitute it with the yuan.

Mikhail Mashchenko, an analyst at social network for investors eToro, agrees. “From the point of view of Russia’s geopolitics, it is certainly beneficial to reduce the role of the dollar in foreign trade. And it has been done, let’s recall the record growth of the country’s gold reserves. The other states that are constantly under the threat of new sanctions, like Iran and Venezuela, can profit, too. The contracts in RMB will allow to trade oil without US approval,” he told RT.

READ MORE: Why petro-yuan may become biggest game-changer of all time in capital markets

Both analysts agree that it will take time before the petro-yuan can become a real threat to the dollar. China needs to win the support of the world’s largest oil producers Russia and Saudi Arabia, or the initiative is doomed, says Mashchenko. He added that the yuan is fully controlled by Beijing, which could also spook potential investors.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

https://www.rt.com/business/422838-petro-yuan-dollar-gaddafi/

Funerals begin for Palestinians killed by Israel army on Land Day

March 31, 2018

Al Jazeera

Palestinians mourn 17 killed by Israeli forces in Gaza during Land Day march calling for return of Palestinian refugees.

Israeli soldiers shot tear gas across the border with Gaza on Friday as Palestinians gathered for demonstrations expected to last six weeks. CreditJack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Funerals have begun for the 17 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces as thousands marched near Gaza’s border with Israel to mark the 42nd anniversary of Land Day.

Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip held the funeral for 30-year-old Sari Abu Odeh late on Friday.

He was shot dead earlier in the day after Israeli forces fired live ammunition at protesters and used tear gas to push them back from a heavily fortified fence as they began a planned six-week demonstration demanding the right of return for refugees.

Protesters carrying a wounded man near the Gaza Strip border with Israel on Friday. CreditKhalil Hamra/Associated Press

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 1,400 others were wounded at the demonstration which commemorated Land Day, which stems from March 30, 1976, when six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces during protests against the Israeli government’s decision to expropriate massive tracts of Palestinian-owned land.

Mohammed Najjar, 25, was shot in the stomach during a clash east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, while Mahmoud Muammar, 38, and Mohammed Abu Omar, 22, were both shot dead in Rafah.

Among the other victims were Ahmed Odeh, 19, Jihad Freneh, 33, Mahmoud Saadi Rahmi, 33, Abdelfattah Abdelnabi, 22, Ibrahim Abu Shaar, 20, Abdelqader al-Hawajiri, Hamdan Abu Amsheh, Jihad Abu Jamous, Bader al-Sabbagh and Naji Abu Hjair, whose ages remain unknown.

OPINION

Palestine Land Day: A day to resist and remember

Yara Hawari
by Yara Hawari

Earlier on Friday, Omar Waheed Abu Samour, a farmer from Gaza, was also killed by Israeli artillery fire while standing in his land near Khan Younis, just hours before the demonstrations.

Funerals for the rest of those killed are set to take place throughout the day on Saturday.

In honour of those killed, the Palestinian Authority declared Saturday a day of “national mourning”.

“Schools, universities, as well as all government institutions, across the country will be off on Saturday, as per President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to declare a day of national mourning for the souls of the martyrs,” a statement issued on Friday said.

Adalah, a legal centre for Palestinian rights in Israel, condemned the Israeli army’s use of force, calling it a “brutal violation” of international law.

“Live gunfire on unarmed civilians constitutes a brutal violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants,” the group said in a statement.

It also said that it would launch an investigation to “demand that those found responsible for the killings be brought to justice”.

Yara Mahamid, a student from Gaza told Al Jazeera, that Israeli aggression wouldn’t deter Palestinians from protesting.

“We came to commemorate Land Day because we have to confront the [Israeli] state.

“We came out to remember our martyrs and to reclaim ownership of our land. We will resist until our last breath. We shouldn’t negotiate anymore. We shouldn’t give up our rights,” she said.

This year’s Land Day comes on the heels of months of anger over US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem.

It is widely expected the US will be transferring its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the run-up to the Nakba, “day of catastrophe”, on May 15, when Israel was officially declared a state and more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes.

International reaction

At Kuwait’s request, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting late on Friday, but failed to agree on a joint statement.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an “independent and transparent investigation” and reaffirmed “the readiness” of the world body to revitalise peace efforts.

READ MORE

The Nakba did not start or end in 1948

However, Mansour al-Otaibi, Kuwait’s Ambassador to the UN, issued a statement criticising the Security Council’s for failing to take action against Israel.

“People in occupied Palestine are disappointed that the Security Council met, but did not take action yet to stop this massacre and to hold those responsible to account.”

The Jordanian government also issued a statement laying responsibility on Israel for the deaths of the Palestinian protesters.

Mohammad al-Momani, spokesperson for the Jordanian government, said: “As an occupying power, Israel bears responsibility for what happened in Gaza today, as a result of the Israeli violation of the Palestinian right to protest peacefully and the use of excessive force against them”.

The Turkish and Qatari governments released similar statements, condemning Israel’s use of force.

Phyllis Bennis, a fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies and author of the book, Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, told Al Jazeera that there needed to be more than just condemnation of Israel’s actions.

“Friday was only the first day of what is anticipated to be a six-week non-violent protest. Camps and tents had been set-up, playing fields for children had been erected, but days earlier, the Israelis decided to send 100 snipers there and who were prepared to use force against anyone who approaches the fence.

“Given the size of the Gaza Strip, and that the fence encircles all of it, the notion of approaching it, just means living inside Gaza,” she said.

“So asking for a strong statement from the US and others isn’t enough. And issuing strong statements simply doesn’t go far enough.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/funerals-palestinians-killed-israel-army-land-day-180331064526623.html

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Russian navy ‘fooling around’ with U.S. and Western Undersea Cables? It’s been done before…

March 31, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony for Russia’s Navy Day in Saint Petersburg. Washington is worried about the presence of the Russian navy around key undersea cable sites. (AFP )
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WASHINGTON: Russian ships are prowling around underwater communications cables, causing the US and its allies to worry that the Kremlin might be taking information warfare to new depths.
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Is Moscow interested in cutting or tapping the cables? Does it want the West to worry it might? Is there a more innocent explanation? Unsurprisingly, Russia isn’t saying.
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But whatever Moscow’s intentions, US and Western officials are increasingly troubled by their rival’s interest in the 400 fiber-optic cables that carry most of world’s calls, emails and texts, as well as $10 trillion worth of daily financial transactions.
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“We’ve seen activity in the Russian navy, and particularly undersea in their submarine activity, that we haven’t seen since the 1980s,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the US European Command, told Congress this month.
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Without undersea cables, a bank in Asian countries couldn’t send money to Saudi Arabia to pay for oil. US military leaders would struggle to communicate with troops fighting extremists in Afghanistan and the Middle East. A student in Europe wouldn’t be able to Skype his parents in the US.
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All this information is transmitted along tiny glass fibers encased in undersea cables that, in some cases, are little bigger than a garden hose. All told, there are 620,000 miles of fiber-optic cable running under the sea, enough to loop around the earth nearly 25 times.
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Most lines are owned by private telecommunications companies, including giants such as Google and Microsoft. Their locations are easily identified on public maps, with swirling lines that look like spaghetti.
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While cutting one cable might have limited impact, severing several simultaneously or at choke points could cause a major outage.
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The Russians “are doing their homework and in the event of a crisis or conflict with them, they might do rotten things to us,” said Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at nonprofit research group CNA Corp. It is not Moscow’s warships and submarines that are making NATO and US officials uneasy but Russia’s Main Directorate of Deep Sea Research, whose specialized surface ships, submarines, underwater drones and mini-subs conduct reconnaissance, underwater salvage and other work.
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One ship run by the directorate is the Yantar, a modest, 354-foot oceanographic vessel that holds a crew of about 60. Most recently the ship was off South America’s coast helping Argentina search for a lost submarine.
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Parlamentskaya Gazeta, the Russian parliament’s publication, said last October the Yantar has equipment “designed for deep-sea tracking” and “connecting to top-secret communication cables.”
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The publication said that in September 2015, the Yantar was near Kings Bay, Georgia, home to a US submarine base, “collecting information about the equipment on American submarines, including underwater sensors and the unified (US military) information network.” Rossiya, a Russian state TV network, has said the Yantar can not only connect to top-secret cables, but could cut them and “jam underwater sensors with a special system.”
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Russia’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment. There is no hard evidence that the ship is engaged in nefarious activity, said Steffan Watkins, an information technology security consultant in Canada tracking the ship. But he wonders what the ship is doing when it is stopped over critical cables or when its Automatic Identification System tracking transponder isn’t on.
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Of the Yantar’s crew, he said: “I don’t think these are the actual guys who are doing any sabotage. I think they’re laying the groundwork for future operations.” Members of Congress are wondering, too. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat on a House subcommittee on sea power, said of the Russians: “The mere fact that they are clearly tracking the cables and prowling around the cables shows that they are doing something.”
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Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, an Armed Services Committee member, said Moscow’s goal appears to be to “disrupt the normal channels of communication and create an environment of misinformation and distrust.”
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The Yantar’s movements have previously raised eyebrows. On Oct. 18, 2016, a Syrian telecom company ordered emergency maintenance to repair a cable in the Mediterranean that provides Internet connectivity to several countries, including Syria, Libya and Lebanon. The Yantar arrived in the area the day before the four-day maintenance began. It left two days before the maintenance ended. It is unknown what work it did while there.
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Watkins described another episode on Nov. 5, 2016, when a submarine cable linking Arabian Gulf nations experienced outages in Iran. Hours later, the Yantar left Oman and headed to an area about 60 miles west of the Iranian port city of Bushehr, where the cable runs ashore. Connectivity was restored just hours before the Yantar arrived on Nov. 9.
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The boat stayed stationary over the site for several more days. Undersea cables have been targets before.
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At the beginning of World War I, Britain cut a handful of German underwater communications cables and tapped the rerouted traffic for intelligence. In the Cold War, the US Navy sent American divers deep into the Sea of Okhotsk off the Russian coast to install a device to record Soviet communications, hoping to learn more about the USSR’s submarine-launched nuclear capability.
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More recently, British and American intelligence agencies have eavesdropped on fiber-optic cables, according to documents released by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor.
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In 2007, Vietnamese authorities confiscated ships carrying miles of fiber-optic cable that thieves salvaged from the sea for profit. The heist disrupted service for several months. And in 2013, Egyptian officials arrested three scuba divers off Alexandria for attempting to cut a cable stretching from France to Singapore. Five years later, questions remain about the attack on a cable responsible for about a third of all Internet traffic between Egypt and Europe. Despite the relatively few publicly known incidents of sabotage, most outages are due to accidents. About 200 cable-related outages take place each year. Most occur when ship anchors snap cables or commercial fishing equipment snags the lines. Others break during tsunamis, earthquakes and other natural disasters. But even accidental cuts can harm US military operations.
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In 2008 in Iraq, unmanned US surveillance flights almost came to a halt one day at Balad Air Base not because of enemy mortar attacks or dusty winds but because an anchor had snagged a cable hundreds of miles away from the base, situated in the “Sunni Triangle” northwest of Baghdad. The severed cable had linked controllers based in the US with unmanned aircraft flying intelligence, surveillance and recognizance missions for coalition forces in the skies over Iraq, said Ret. Air Force Col. Dave Lujan, of Hampton, Virginia.
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“Say you’re operating a remote-controlled car and, all of a sudden, you can’t control it,” said Lujan, who was deputy commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group at the base when the little-publicized outage lasted for two to three days. “That’s a big impact,” he said, describing how US pilots had to fly the missions instead.