Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Johnny Depp ordered to stay away from wife over abuse claim

May 27, 2016

© AFP/File | US actor Johnny Depp (L) jokes with then fiancee US actress and model Amber Heard (R) as they arrive for the UK premiere of the film ‘Mortdecai’ in London on January 19, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Johnny Depp was hit with a restraining order on Friday after his wife appeared in court with a black eye, accusing the Oscar-nominated star of assaulting her, an official told AFP.

“The judge issued a restraining order against Depp,” the official told AFP adding that Amber Heard showed up at the hearing with bruises to her face.


The Daily Mail

  • Amber Heard, 30, was granted a temporary restraining order against her estranged husband Johnny Depp in a California court
  • The actress submitted a photo of a large bruise around her eye as evidence in her claim that was reportedly taken on Saturday after Depp hit her
  • Heard claims Depp offered to buy her silence but she instead made the decision to file for divorce two days later, on Monday morning  
  • Depp did not appear in court on Friday as he was in Portugal preparing to perform with his band Hollywood Vampires at a music festival 
  • His lawyer Laura Wasser represented him in court on Friday and in his response to Heard’s request for a restraining order he said that she was filing the papers in hopes of getting a ‘premature financial resolution’
  •  A source close to the couple said of the alleged abuse after the court filing; ‘This was only the latest incident’ 

Amber Heard has been granted a temporary restraining order after accusing her estranged husband Johnny Depp of domestic abuse in a court filing. 

Heard and her lawyer Samantha Spector appeared at the Superior Court of California County of Los Angeles on Friday where the 30-year-old actress filed for a domestic violence restraining order.

Heard brought with her photos of her alleged injuries, including one that appears to show her with a large bruise around her eye.

That photo was reportedly taken on Saturday after Heard alleges that Depp hit her in the face with his iPhone and then fled when police arrived on the scene according to TMZ.

Heard was ultimately granted a temporary order by the judge, who ruled that Depp must remain at least 100 yards away from Heard until their next hearing, which is scheduled for late June.

She was also granted the right to live in the family home, but failed in her bid for sole custody of one of the couple’s dogs.

The judge ruled against Heard however in her attempt to collect spousal support from Depp and have him cover her attorney fees.

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Amber Heard broke down in tears after leaving a Los Angeles courtroom and getting into her car on Friday

Amber Heard broke down in tears after leaving a Los Angeles courtroom and getting into her car on Friday

Amber Heard, 30, was granted a temporary restraining order against her estranged husband Johnny Depp in a California court (above on Friday)

Amber Heard, 30, was granted a temporary restraining order against her estranged husband Johnny Depp in a California court (above on Friday)

Amber Heard bruises

Amber Heard bruises

The actress covered her eyes after the judge's ruling and granting of the restraining order she requested from the court

The actress covered her eyes after the judge’s ruling and granting of the restraining order she requested from the court

Heard was joined in the car by a friend as she drove off from the courtroom on Friday

Heard was joined in the car by a friend as she drove off from the courtroom on Friday

The actress submitted a photo of a large bruise around her eye as evidence (above) in her claim that was reportedly taken on Saturday after Depp hit her 

Heard was granted the right to live in the family home, but failed in her bid for sole custody of one of the couple's dogs(couple above in February)

Heard was granted the right to live in the family home, but failed in her bid for sole custody of one of the couple’s dogs(couple above in February)

Heard looked stoic as she left the courthouse on Friday, dressed down in a black dress and wearing no make-up.

The bruise that she alleges was the result of Depp’s attack could still be seen on her face.

She did not stop to speak with reporters or members of the public and instead rushed into her waiting car.

Her lawyer briefly stopped to tell the crowd that her client was ‘being very brave.’

Once she got into the car however cameras captured her as she broke down in tears and began to sob in the backseat of the vehicle.

Heard claims that Depp, 52, offered her money to keep the incident that occurred on Saturday quiet, but she instead made the decision to file for divorce that Monday. 

That was not an ‘isolated event’ either according to a source close to the couple, who told People; ‘This was only the latest incident.’ 

She also has a video that allegedly shows Depp beating her according to TMZ.

Depp was not present in court on Friday as he is off promoting his new film Alice Through the Looking Glass and preparing for a performance with his band Hollywood Vampires at the Rock in Rio Lisboa concert in Portugal.

He was represented during the proceedings on Friday by his attorney Laura Wasser.

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Russia Flight Tests Anti-Satellite Missile

May 27, 2016

Launch took place as Air Force held space war game

By Bill Gertz
The Washington Free Beacon

May 27, 2016 4:57 am

Russia conducted a successful flight test of a developmental anti-satellite missile on Wednesday that is capable of destroying satellites in orbit, American defense officials said.

The Nudol direct ascent anti-satellite missile was launched from the Plesetsk test launch facility, located 500 miles north of Moscow, said officials familiar with the situation.

The missile was monitored by U.S. intelligence satellites and the test appeared to be successful.

The launch marks another major milestone for Moscow’s efforts to develop weapons capable of destroying U.S. navigation, communications, and intelligence satellites, a key strategic advantage.

No additional details were available, and it could not be learned if the Nudol missile was fired against a satellite or was test launched in a suborbital trajectory without hitting a target.

It was the second successful test of the Nudol, following a Nov. 18 launch, and shows Russia is advancing its anti-satellite weaponry.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza declined to comment.

Under Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is modernizing its entire strategic arsenal and developing new weapons like anti-satellite missiles.

Air Force Lt. Gen. David J. Buck, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, told a House hearing in March that the Russians are developing space weapons, known as “counter-space capabilities.”

“Russia views U.S. dependency on space as an exploitable vulnerability, and they are taking deliberate actions to strengthen their counter-space capabilities,” Buck told the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee.

Gen. John Hyten, the commander of Air Force Space Command, also has said both Russia and China are building space weapons. “They are developing capabilities that concern us,” Hyten has said in press reports.

Russia’s Nudol program has been couched in secrecy, but it appears linked to Moscow’s missile defense systems. State-run press reports in the past have mentioned the Nudol experimental development project as a “a new Russian long-range missile defense and space defense intercept complex.”

Former Pentagon official Mark Schneider said senior U.S. military leaders have been warning about Russian anti-satellite threats for years and regard it as serious.

“GPS guidance has been widely adopted for many of our weapons because it was cheap, all weather, and works well in low and medium intensity conventional conflict,” he said. “The loss of GPS guidance due to [anti-satellite] attack would take out a substantial part of our precision weapons delivery capability and essentially all of our standoff capability.”

Geneva-based Russian military analyst Pavel Podvig speculated whether Russia may have conducted a simulated intercept in the latest test.

How the Nudol program fits within Russia’s military doctrine is difficult to assess, he said.

“My take is that it is not necessarily part of a well thought out strategic plan,” Podvig said.

Soviet-era and current Russian weapons developments were often developed without a clear idea on how they would be employed.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the [Nudol] system is being developed just because it can be developed—they will think about its role later, assuming that it works,” he noted.

Podvig said the apparent missile manufacturer, Almaz-Antey, “is making an argument that an [anti-satellite] system might be useful to hold U.S. [low-earth orbit] assets at risk.”

“But if it gets to a real conflict scenario it is very difficult to see how this capability might be militarily useful,” he added.

A Defense Intelligence Agency report to Congress in February 2015 warned that, “Russia’s military doctrine emphasizes space defense as a vital component of its national defense. Russian leaders openly assert that the Russian armed forces have anti-satellite weapons and conduct anti-satellite research.”

Schneider said the threat to U.S. satellites is compounded by a lack of kinetic U.S. counter-space capabilities that could hold Russian Glonass satellites at risk.

China also is developing anti-satellite missiles and in 2007 conducted a test of a missile that destroyed a weather satellite, resulting in tens of thousands of pieces of dangerous orbiting debris.

The blog, which monitors space launches, lists three earlier Nudol tests, including an April 22, 2015, test that failed. The two other tests were the  successful launch on Nov. 18 and an Aug. 12, 2014 launch.

The blog identified the Russian designation for the Nudol missile as “14Ts033.”

Coincidentally, the Nudol test took place a day before the Air Force Space Command concluded a major annual war game involving a notional Russian adversary armed with both direct ascent anti-satellite missiles and orbiting anti-satellite robots, command officials told reporters.

Air Force Col. Mike Angle, Space Command’s chief of training, weapons, and tactics, said the exercise involved European allies and U.S. forces facing off against a “peer competitor” in 2026 that appeared to be Russia.

The annual exercise is called Schriever Wargame 2016 and was held this year at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Ala.

The exercise included simulated activities by missiles, cyber attacks, and orbiting satellite-killing robots. Scenarios also included cyber attacks against GPS satellites that provided false data to military GPS receivers that are widely used for navigating precision-guided weapons.

“We’ve got to, and we feel we need to, prepare for a crisis or conflict that might extend in the space domain,” Angle said.

Jason Altchek, a Space Command official who directed the war game, would not say if the notional adversary was Russia. “I can tell you it was a global scenario that focused on the European Command,” he said, noting that the scenarios were split evenly among space and cyber crisis and conflict simulations and responses.

Pressed on whether Russia was the adversary, Altchek said such details remain classified. “But I can tell you that the Schriever Wargame has gone from looking at a near-peer competitor, to a peer competitor,” he said.

The seven allied nations that took part in the war games were not immediately identified by the Air Force. However, Angle said one lesson was that “were not all on the same sheet of music” in dealing with space and cyber threats.

Past Air Force exercises had been limited to mainly launching and controlling satellites in a relatively peaceful space domain. “We had never trained to perform in the face of a thinking adversary,” Angle said.

In recent years and including the recent war game, the military has begun training to deal with space threats such as “what happens when you have a direct ascent [missile] launched against a satellite,” Angle said.

Missiles are easier to identify than unidentified, small maneuvering satellites that might either be a killer anti-satellite robot or a benign maintenance satellite.

The goal of the exercise was to simulate coalition warfare that extends into space and cyber space.

The scenarios took place in the European Command area and included “a full spectrum of threats across diverse operating environments to challenge civilian and military leaders, planners and space system operators, as well as the capabilities they employ.”

About 200 military personnel and civilians from 27 commands and agencies took part.

Hillary Clinton’s Blackberry Could Have Given Foreign Government Access To All Her Data — Blackberry Forbidden in Secretary of State Suite But Hillary Used It Anyway — “She’s careless with national security information and way too stupid to the president”

May 27, 2016
Former State Department Official: I Saw Hillary Use Non-Secure Blackberry on Foreign Trips
 Hillary Using Blackberry AP

Veteran Foreign Service officer Lewis Alan Lukens served as deputy executive secretary at the State Department for the majority of Clinton’s term. Lukens testified recently in the civil case filed by the transparency group Judicial Watch, which has been fighting for information on Clinton’s private email scandal.

Lukens said that he saw Clinton using her Blackberry abroad and also outside her office in the hallway. This testimony supports the case that Clinton could have violated the Espionage Act of 1913 by allowing national defense information to be “lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed” through “gross negligence.”

Former State Department official and current member of Clinton’s Democratic Party platform committee Wendy Sherman said in 2011 that Clinton used her Blackberry to exchange information that “would never be on an unclassified system.” Sherman said:

Now we have Blackberries, and it has changed the way diplomacy is done. Things appear on your Blackberries that would never be on an unclassified system, but you’re out traveling, you’re trying to negotiate something. And so they sat there, as they were having the meeting, with their Blackberries, transferring language back and forth between them and between their aides to multitask in quite a new fashion, to have the meeting and at the same time be working on the quartet statement.

As Breitbart News reported, Clinton knew as early as February 2009 that her Blackberry was not secure enough to use in her “Mahogany Row” office at the State Department. Clinton was warned by a State Department official in March 2009 to stop using her BlackBerry because her device suffered a security “vulnerability” when she visited China and other Asian countries on her official State Department trip.

Campaigning in Buena Park, Calif., May 25.
Campaigning in Buena Park, Calif., May 25. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS

Here are some passages from Lukens’ testimony that detail his observations about Clinton’s Blackberry use:

He acknowledges that she was using her Blackberry to check her email.

ATTORNEY: I guess she was using her BlackBerry as equipment to check her e-mail.


ATTORNEY: Did you know what her e-mail account was?


ATTORNEY: Did you at this point believe that she was using a e-mail account?

LUKENS: I do not believe that.

Clinton took her Blackberry overseas

ATTORNEY: You traveled with Mrs. Clinton on all of her foreign travel, or — while you were there?


ATTORNEY: Did you ever see Mrs. Clinton send an e-mail?


ATTORNEY: Did you ever see Mrs. Clinton use her BlackBerry?

LUKENS: I saw her holding her BlackBerry.

ATTORNEY: Okay. How often did you see Mrs. Clinton holding her BlackBerry?

LUKENS: Infrequently during trips. I couldn’t put a number on it…

…ATTORNEY: And you — your travel with her was both domestic and international, or just international?

LUKENS: Just international.

ATTORNEY: Okay. So while you were traveling internationally, you just saw her holding or have possession of a BlackBerry a few times a month?

LUKENS: Correct…

…I don’t believe it was a State Department BlackBerry.

Clinton could not use her Blackberry in her office

LUKENS: I don’t remember if we talked about issuing her a State Department BlackBerry. We did talk about how she could access her BlackBerry.

ATTORNEY: So while you were having those conversations about whether or not she could go to the counselor’s office to use a BlackBerry, your assumption was that it was her personal BlackBerry she wanted to use?


ATTORNEY: If it was a State Department BlackBerry, would she have been able to use it in her office?


Clinton stood in the hallway outside her office to use her Blackberry

LUKENS: No. Can I just go back? Because I did on occasion see Secretary Clinton in the hallway outside the SCIF [Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility] standing there looking at her BlackBerry.

ATTORNEY: Okay. Did you — do you know what she was doing on her BlackBerry at that time?


ATTORNEY: Did you think she was sending personal e-mail or reading personal e-mail at that time?

LUKENS: I had no idea what she was doing.

ATTORNEY: Do you know — you don’t know if she was conducting official government business or not during that time?

LUKENS: I don’t know what she was doing.


Here’s Everything We Know So Far About Hillary’s Shady BlackBerry Use
By Chuck Ross
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Much of the focus on Hillary Clinton’s email use as secretary of state has focused on the mystery that is the private email server that was set up in the basement of her New York home. But Clinton’s BlackBerry — which was not issued by the State Department — is also a crucial piece of the puzzle.

State Department emails published last week add to records that have been released over the past few months to paint a better picture of just how Clinton came to solely use that personal BlackBerry. Some of the emails show that State Department officials strongly urged Clinton and her aides against using non-secure devices. And others suggest that Clinton threw caution to the wind and used her BlackBerry in countries like Russia and China, a move which cyber security experts say put her at great risk of being hacked.

The State Department has declined commenting specifically on the issue, saying that: “There are reviews and inquiries looking into this matter generally.”

The initial request
Days after Clinton took office in Jan. 2009, her aides began pushing for a souped-up BlackBerry like the one that the National Security Agency (NSA) designed for President Obama, emails obtained by Judicial Watch show.

In a Jan. 23, 2009 email Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills asked Lewis Lukens, the executive director of the State Department’s executive secretariat, about obtaining a special BlackBerry.

Lukens responded the next day to say that he had started checking into the NSA-developed device. He also agreed with a suggestion made by Mills to set up an office across the hall from Clinton’s suite that would allow her to check email on her BlackBerry.

“Will set up the office across the hall as requested,” Lukens wrote. “Also think we should go ahead (but will await your green light) and set up a stand alone PC in the Secretary’s office, connected to the internet (but not through our system) to enable her to check her emails from her desk.”
The idea for Clinton to access her emails through a desktop system appears to have fizzled out, however, because Clinton was unable — or unwilling — to use a computer.

“She says problem is hrc does not know how to use a computer to do email — only bb,” Lukens wrote, referring to the BlackBerry.

Clinton had hoped that she and her top aides could use BlackBerries at the State Department’s executive offices, known as Mahogany Row. But the offices also function as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). Wireless communications devices, including those that can function as recording and picture-taking devices, are prohibited from such areas.

‘On the off chance’

A set of emails exchanged just a week later show that the State Department official in charge of diplomatic security did not expect Clinton and her team to continue pushing the issue of obtaining super-charged BlackBerries.

“On the off chance that S staff continues to push for [Secret] and [Top Secret]-capable PDAs [redacted],” wrote Eric Boswell, then-assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, to Donald Reid, security coordinator for security infrastructure at the bureau for diplomatic security, and Patrick Donovan, deputy assistant secretary for countermeasures, on Feb. 2.

NSA denies Clinton’s request

Emails published last week, also by Judicial Watch, show that on Feb. 13, 2009 Reid sent an email stating that the bureau of diplomatic security had started “examining options for [Clinton] with respect to secure ‘Blackberry-like’ communications.”

“The current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State and is very expensive,” Reid continued, adding that “each time we asked the question ‘What was the solution for POTUS?’ we were politely told to shut up and color.”

During a Feb. 17 meeting between Mills, State Department officials and NSA officials, Mills said that the desire for the super-secure BlackBerries was “chiefly driven” by Clinton who “does not use standard computer equipment but relies exclusively on her Blackberry for e-mailing and remaining in contact on her schedule, etc.”

“The issue here is one of personal comfort,” Reid wrote of Clinton’s preference for a BlackBerry in an email the next day.

He also appears to have questioned that personal choice.

“[Clinton] does not use a personal computer so our view of someone wedded to their email (why doesn’t she use her desktop when in SCIF?) doesn’t fit this scenario,” he wrote.

The rationale for blocking Clinton’s request is not made clear in the emails.

Richard “Dickie” George, who helped design Obama’s BlackBerry as technical director for the NSA’s information assurance directorate, told The Daily Caller that he was never informed of Clinton’s request for an Obama-like BlackBerry. He speculated that NSA did not want to open up a can of worms by granting a Cabinet-level official and her aides the tweaked BlackBerries.

Official cautions against BlackBerry use

Boswell, the diplomatic security chief, was clearly not keen on the idea of Clinton using a BlackBerry on Mahogany Row, records obtained last year by the Competitive Enterprise Institute shows.

In a March 2 memo to Mills, Boswell wrote that the bureau of diplomatic security had conducted a review and reaffirmed its belief that “vulnerabilities and risks associated with the use of Blackberries in the Mahogany Row [redacted] significantly outweigh the convenience their use can add to staff that have access to the unclassified OpenNet system on their desktops.”

Boswell also appeared to suggest that Clinton could sync her BlackBerry with OpenNet, the State Department’s unclassified email network.

“Those Blackberries can be synchronized with your OpenNet Microsoft Outlook accounts, provide full cellular, e-mail, and internet functionality, and provide unclassified mobile technology when you are away from Mahogany Row.”

Clinton never did use an OpenNet system, however. She opted instead for an email system that utilized an email server maintained in her personal residence.

Boswell also laid out the risks associated with using an unclassified BlackBerry.

“I cannot stress too strongly, however, that any unclassified Blackberry is highly vulnerable in any setting to remotely and covertly monitoring conversations, retrieving e-mails, and exploiting calendars,” he wrote, also attaching a report from Department of State’s office of computer security’s cyber threat & analysis division.

As a recent Daily Caller investigation revealed, Clinton’s emails show that she sent and received dozens of messages during several trips to Russia and China, two nations which have robust spy agencies and capabilities. (RELATED: INVESTIGATION: Hillary Sent Dozens Of Emails On Her BlackBerry From Russia And China)

Boswell seemed to concede that Clinton and her staff could, if they wished, continue to utilize BlackBerries in the executive offices.

“If, after considering the vulnerabilities that I describe above and the alternatives that I propose, the Secretary determines that she wants a limited number of staff to use Blackberries in the Mahogany Row [redacted],” he wrote.

Clinton ‘gets it’

Emails obtained by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and published by the Washington Free Beacon in November also show that Clinton was told of the vulnerabilities and risks associated with the use of BlackBerries on Mahogany Row.

“After this mornings ‘management meeting’ with the A/Secys, Secretary Clinton approached Ambassador Boswell and mentioned that she had read the IM and that she ‘gets it,’” Boswell’s executive assistant wrote in a March 11 email to Reid and Donovan.

“Her attention was drawn to the sentence that indicates we [Diplomatic Security] have intelligence concerning this vulnerability during her recent trip to Asia.”

Clinton had traveled to Japan, Indonesia, Korea and China the previous month.

No mention was made in any of the emails about the use of personal BlackBerries on Mahogany Row or anywhere else. It is also not clear whether Clinton used her BlackBerry in a SCIF.

First emails on a new system

Clinton began using her private email system a week later. She received her first email to — and to her personal BlackBerry — on March 18.

Aide loses personal BlackBerry

Just over a year later, Mills lost her personal BlackBerry. Emails obtained by TheDC show that on March 20, 2010 she emailed Bryan Pagliano to ask for help in transferring her contact list.

Pagliano was the State Department IT specialist who managed Clinton’s private email system.

Mills appears to have used a Gmail account which was synced up to her BlackBerry. The trove of Clinton emails released by the State Department show that Mills received two now-classified emails on that personal account.

Clinton aides reject Department-issued BlackBerry

Other emails show that Clinton was provided an opportunity to begin using a Department-issued BlackBerry and a email account in the summer of 2011.

But Clinton’s chief of staff, Huma Abedin, nixed the idea. She told Mull in an Aug. 31, 2011 email that providing Clinton with a government-issued BlackBerry “doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Mills had written to Abedin, Cheryl Mills and under secretary for management Patrick Kennedy that his office was “working to provide the Secretary per her request a Department issued Blackberry to replace her personal unit which is malfunctioning.” (RELATED: Emails: Clinton Aides Resisted State Department Suggestion That Clinton Use Account)

He asserted that the BlackBerry was malfunctioning “possibly because of [sic] her personal email server is down.”

Mull then offered to provide Clinton with a second Department-issued BlackBerry that would operate a State Department email account.

The new email account “would mask her identity” but it “would also be subject to FOIA requests,” he wrote.

Clinton was never issued the government BlackBerry.

A surprise admission

Separate and apart from Clinton’s use of a BlackBerry is her claim that she did not send or receive classified information while in office.

But video emerged in January showing Wendy Sherman, who served as under secretary for political affairs in the Clinton State Department, openly admitting that agency officials often used their BlackBerries to view information that “would never be on an unclassified system.”

“Things appear on your Blackberries that would never be on an unclassified system, but you’re out traveling, you’re trying to negotiate something,” Sherman said during a 2013 conference for the American Foreign Service Association.
“Every time I went to countries like China or Russia we couldn’t take our computers, we couldn’t take our personal devices, we couldn’t take anything off the plane because they’re so good,” she said.

Clinton has not yet been asked about the discrepancy between that claim and her emails suggesting she used her BlackBerry while in China and Russia.

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Peace and Freedom asked a man at the National Security Agency about Hillary Clinton’s email. He said, “She’s careless with national security information and way too stupid to the president.”

Bank hackers linked to wider campaign

May 27, 2016


© AFP/File | Hackers behind the $81 million heist from the Bangladesh central bank have likely been involved in a series of attacks on the financial system, a US security firm has concluded

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The hackers behind the $81 million heist from the Bangladesh central bank have likely been involved in a series of attacks on the financial system, a US security firm has concluded.

Researchers at the security firm Symantec also found that the malware used in the bank hacks shares code with that used in the massive 2014 cyberattack against Sony Pictures.

Symantec said a bank in the Philippines has been attacked by the group that hit the Bangladesh central bank and attempted a heist from the Tien Phong Bank in Vietnam.

“Malware used by the group was also deployed in targeted attacks against a bank in the Philippines. In addition to this, some of the tools used share code similarities with malware used in historic attacks linked to a threat group known as Lazarus,” Symantec researchers said in a blog post Thursday.

“The attacks can be traced back as far as October 2015, two months prior to the discovery of the failed attack in Vietnam, which was hitherto the earliest known incident.”

News of the Bangladesh incident sparked a warning from the global financial interbank platform SWIFT, which earlier this month warned of a wide-ranging campaign.

SWIFT said this month that hackers exploited vulnerabilities at two unnamed banks to gain access to their fund transfer systems, which then give instructions to the SWIFT network.

Symantec said the malware found has been tied to the group known as Lazarus, blamed for the Sony attack which according to US officials had been ordered by North Korea.

“The discovery of more attacks provides further evidence that the group involved is conducting a wide campaign against financial targets in the region,” Symantec said.

“While awareness of the threat posed by the group has now been raised, its initial success may prompt other attack groups to launch similar attacks. Banks and other financial institutions should remain vigilant.”


Egypt Says Search for Crashed EgyptAir Plane Narrows

May 27, 2016



CAIRO — May 27, 2016, 12:41 PM ET

The search for the EgyptAir plane which crashed last week killing all 66 people on board has narrowed to a 5-kilometer-wide area in the Mediterranean Sea, based on signals from the craft’s emergency beacon, Egypt’s chief investigator said.

The chief investigator, Ayman al-Moqadem, said late Thursday that Airbus had given Egyptian authorities information on the Emergency Locator Transmitter, or ELT, from the doomed aircraft.

An official from the Egyptian investigation team on Friday clarified that the beacon information was from the day of the crash, May 19, and that no new signal had been found. An Airbus official said he was unaware of any ELT received or given to the Egyptians.

Both officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

The ELT’s signal is too weak to transmit information from underwater, unlike the locator pings emitted by the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, known as the black box. Al-Moqadem stressed that the black boxes have not been found, which he said requires highly sophisticated technology. But he said the search was now being conducted in a 5-kilometer (3-miles) area. He did not clarify how long the search has been narrowed to that area.

French Ocean Research Vessel “La Place”

A French naval oceanographic research ship, La Place, carrying a long-range acoustic system able to detect signals from the black box is headed to the crash site, France’s air accident investigation agency, the BEA, said in a statement. The ship left Corsica on Thursday and was due to reach the crash area on Monday or Sunday, it said.

Earlier, Egyptian officials had said the ship had already arrived at the site.

Eight days after the plane crashed off Egypt’s northern coast on a Paris to Cairo flight, the cause of the tragedy still has not been determined. Ships and planes from Egypt, Greece, France, the United States and other nations have been searching the Mediterranean north of the Egyptian port of Alexandria for the jet’s voice and flight data recorders, as well as more bodies and parts of the aircraft.

Small pieces of the wreckage and human remains have been recovered while the bulk of the plane and the bodies of the passengers are believed to be deep under the sea. A Cairo forensic team has received the human remains and is carrying DNA tests to identify the victims.

Egypt’s civil aviation minister Sherif Fathi has said he believes terrorism is a more likely explanation than equipment failure or some other catastrophic event. But no hard evidence has emerged on the cause, and no militant group has claimed to have downed the jet. Earlier, leaked flight data indicated a sensor detected smoke in a lavatory and a fault in two of the plane’s cockpit windows in the final moments of the flight.

The French vessel, Laplace, is carrying three detectors made by the Alseamar company designed to detect and localize signals from the flight recorders, believed about 3,000 meters (3,280 yards) underwater. The torpedo-shaped detectors can be lowered about 1 kilometer (half mile) into the water to listen for signals up to 4 kilometers away.

France may also send an unmanned submarine and deep-sea retrieval equipment, the statement said. The BEA is involved in the search because the crashed plane was an Airbus, manufactured in France.

Because of the difficulties in finding the black boxes, Egypt has contracted two foreign companies, Alseamar and Deep Ocean Research, to help locate the flight data recorders of the plane.

Also, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said earlier that a submarine would join the search for the plane’s data recorders.

However, al-Moqadem told reporters that the submarine is not equipped to detect signals from the black boxes.


Associated Press writer Raphael Satter contributed to this report.

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Defiant French strikers build perfect industrial storm that threatens to cripple country and wreck Euro 2016

May 27, 2016


French riot police officers clash with protesters during a demonstration in Paris on Thursday Credit Francois Mori, AP
Amid the acrid smell of riot police tear gas, a Skoda car showroom’s front window smashes into a thousand pieces as the “casseurs”, or “breakers”, take aim, their faces hidden under hoods and ghoulish face masks.

Yards away and unperturbed, banner-waving workers from France’s hardline CGT union march on from Paris’ Place de la Bastille, birthplace of the French Revolution, chanting: “No discussion, no compromise, scrap the bosses’ law.”

Behind them, someone has scrawled on the wall along boulevard Diderot in pink the words: “Hollande equals Thatcher”. It was not, presumably, meant as a compliment.

Another spring another strike; since 1968, the ritual of Gallic “workers” and students taking to the streets along this very route to oppose the latest timid attempt to reform France is as familiar as the darling buds of May.

Equally predictable are dark mutterings of a summer of discontent. Plus ça change, one is tempted to say.

Francois Hollande accused of being like Margaret Thatcher  Credit: Henry Samuel/The Telegraph

Yet there is evidence that France is, for the first time in two decades, heading for a perfect storm of social unrest fuelled by a Leftist union leader apparently bent on rekindling class warfare and a president so unpopular he cannot afford to climb down without losing his final fig leaf of credibility before elections next year.

In the past few days, the CGT has gone further than any union since 1995 to bring France to a total standstill. Between a third and half of the country’s petrol pumps are running dry, output from nuclear power stations has been cut raising the prospect of electricity shortages; and perhaps even more ominously, a series of “unlimited” public transport strikes are to begin next week just days before the Euro 2016 football tournament kicks off.

Britons hoping to cross to France in cars have been warned they may not find fuel. P&O ferries issued a hasty statement insisting that it was running a normal service despite the blockages while police have “liberated” all fuel depots. But French civil aviation on Friday advised airline companies to fill their planes’ fuel tanks up abroad due to shortages.

British family heading to France despite fuel shortages British family heading to France despite fuel shortages Play! 01:40

Meanwhile, hotel operators warned that the union’s “scorched earth tactics” have seen occupancy rates fall by 50 per cent to their lowest since the immediate aftermath of the November Paris terror attacks, as French and foreign tourists fear travel chaos or worse.

Workers are particularly incensed that a Socialist government has “betrayed” them with a law they see as taking the employers’ side. Indeed, these are the first nationwide general strikes against a Left-wing government since 1948.

Workers on strike are evacuated by riot policemen as they block the access to an oil depot near the Total refinery of Donges, western France Credit: JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images

Certainly, the sense of anger is palpable at the Place de la Nation, where hundreds of demonstrators hurl rocks at police, light flares and even push a flaming supermarket trolley into their ranks.

On the fringes, CRS officers ensnare one individual, carrying him aloft to a waiting van – one of dozens of arrests made on Thursday afternoon.

Back in the nearby cortège, Laurent Gaston Carrère, CGT leader at the Grandpuits oil refinery southeast of Paris, is no mood for compromise.

“No petrol, no diesel, not a drop is coming out of that refinery,” he confirms.

“We’ve proved to the government with this protest that we’re not losing steam. The blockages will continue until the law is scrapped and another one discussed.”

French riot police use tear gas against a demonstrator during a protest against the government's labour market reforms, at Place de la Nation

French riot police use tear gas during a protest against the government’s labour market reforms, at Place de la Nation Credit: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

Others at the protest take aim at the “Anglo-Saxon” model of “ultra-liberalism” in Britain.

“England is not a model to follow,” says Hélène Cillières, 35, senatorial assistant and municipal councillor in Bagneux, a Communist-run town outside Paris.

“I’m very opposed to the liberal model that claims that you can fight unemployment by giving more rights to employers and less to workers.”

“People always hold up England and Germany as economic models we should emulate. But the word that springs to mind is job insecurity. Panama papers is just a drop in the ocean, there are billions and billions of dollars held by a few in this planet and it must be shared out better.”

Violent clashes between police and protestors in France Violent clashes between police and protestors in France Play! 01:12

Benoît Cerceau, 36, a rail worker in Châtillon who repairs TGVs, the high-speed trains that are the pride of France, said: “I have friends who live in England and come to France for medical treatment as it is less expensive. So yes, there’s more freedom for work but at what price?”

They are dead against an attempt by François Hollande’s government to slay one of France’s most sacred cows: its rigid employment law.

With its some would argue preposterous levels of protection for the lucky few with staff contracts, the law has created, the government argues, a “barrier to the labour market” largely responsible for France’s massive levels of unemployment – 3,500,000 people or 10 per cent out of work.

French riot policemen stand during the evacuation of workers on strike blocking the access to an oil depot near the Total refinery of Donges, western France

French riot policemen stand during the evacuation of workers on strike blocking the access to an oil depot near the Total refinery of Donges, western France Credit: JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images 

The new labour reform bill- already watered down from its original version – would make “permanent” employment contracts more flexible and make it easier for businesses to lay off workers when they run into economic difficulties. It would allow employees to vote workplace-by-workplace for flexibility in the application of France’s 35-hour working week.

That would dilute unions’ veto rights over labour negotiations at company level – a minor revolution that reverses rules in place since 1936, even if these were already slightly tweaked eight years ago.

Striking workers block access to an oil depot in Donges

Striking workers block access to an oil depot in Donges Credit: Rex

The bill was rushed through parliament without a vote, but will now pass through the Senate and then back for a second reading in the National Assembly in July.

Mr Hollande’s nemesis and the man behind the mayhem is Philippe Martinez, the gruff CGT leader with the handlebar moustache of a brooding Asterix and rhetoric that makes Arthur Scargill look like a shrinking progressive.

Earlier this week, Mr Martinez posed for the cameras throwing tyres onto a bonfire outside one blocked oil refinery in northern France.

A youth throws a printer into a bank during a demonstration to protest the government's proposed labour law reforms in Nantes, France, May 26

A youth throws a printer into a bank during a demonstration to protest the government’s proposed labour law reforms in Nantes, France, May 26 Credit: STEPHANE MAHE/Reuters

When France’s national newspapers refused to publish a tract on his position for free this week, the CGT arm of the printers’ union blocked their publication, letting just one daily through: l’Humanité, the Communist organ. Even Laurent Joffrin, editor of the left-wing Libération, criticised the move as “shameful and stupid”.

Since the 1990s, the CGT has been increasingly open to compromise, but Martinez is now returning the union to its confrontational roots, said Stéphane Siriot, a historian of French strike action.

Protestors face riot police officers during a demonstration held as part of nationwide labor actions in Paris, Thursday, May 26

Protestors face riot police officers during a demonstration held as part of nationwide labor actions in Paris, Thursday, May 26 Credit: Thibault Camus/AP Photo

“For the past two decades, the union movement was more conciliatory and refused to call open-ended strikes and blockages. Since 1995, when the Chirac administration dropped social security reforms after three weeks of total paralysis, the unions have put pressure via mass protests,” he said.

The reversion to all-out, unending blockages is throwing France 20 years backwards, he said.

The reason? “The CGT is in difficulty and risks for the first time losing its rank as France’s top union to the more moderate CFDT (which backs the bill). This conflict is Martinez’ attempt to demonstrate that old-style unionism is more effective.”

Resolving the standoff would be “very tricky”, he said given the animosity between the government and CGT, but also because Mr Hollande has the European Commission breathing down his neck.

Labor Protesters Met by Riot Police in Paris Labor Protesters Met by Riot Police in Paris Play! 05:26

“This is the same type of reform as in Italy and Spain. If the French row back, they can expect far less indulgence from Europe over the pace of cutting the debt and deficit,” he said.

With the next nationwide day of protests due on June 14, there is a very real possibility of chaos during the Euro 2016, a prospect that would “catastrophic” for France’s image abroad, the sports minister conceded on Friday.

The strike comes just as French growth appears to be gaining traction and it has seen unemployment fall for the second straight month.

A man with a mask is pictured as workers on strike are evacuated by riot policemen as they block the access to an oil depot near the Total refinery of Donges, western france

A man with a mask is pictured as workers on strike are evacuated by riot policemen as they block the access to an oil depot near the Total refinery of Donges, western france Credit: JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP / Getty Images

“This is not the time to put the French economy in difficulty,” Mr Hollande warned on Friday. “I will stay the course because this is a good reform and we must go all the way to adoption.

The CGT, and other militant unions including Sud and FO, take comfort from the fact that 69 per cent of the French want the law scrapped to “avoid the country being blocked”, a poll found. However, another suggested some 52 per cent are against these crippling types of protest.

French police evacuates an oil depot near the refinery of Donges Western France

French police evacuates an oil depot near the refinery of Donges Western France Credit: Rex

Mr Sirot put this paradox down to the fact that the French “are all for change, but for other people”.

Still, this time, however, real change could be afoot, because if the unions lose the standoff, they will not be able to mobilize anytime soon, leaving a boulevard for root and branch reforms to whoever wins power in next year’s presidential elections.

As polls currently stand, the winners are likely to be the centre-Right, whose candidates for presidential primaries are falling over themselves with ambitious liberal reform proposals.

If, however, the blockages and unrest persist, that could play into the hands of the far-Right Front National, whose leader Marine Le Pen has called for more workers’ rights on top of an anti-immigration line. The FN has discreetly backed the protests.

“This is a dangerous time,” said Mr Sirot.

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China’s debt is growing faster than its economy: China plans rise in government debt to prune corporate red ink

May 27, 2016

China’s total debt ratio was on track to hit 300 per cent of GDP by 2020

Government debt ratio only 41.5 per cent of GDP, a fraction of other countries’ such as the US, Japan, France, Germany and Brazil

By Zhou Xin
South China Morning Post

Saturday, May 28, 2016, 1:00am

China will boost government borrowing to lower debt in the corporate sector, the Ministry of Finance has announced.

The government has the capacity to do so because its debt levels are still low compared with other major economies, the ministry said on Thursday. The government debt ratio – including direct and contingent debt – was just 41.5 per cent of gross domestic product at the end of last year.

This was much lower than Japan’s 200 per cent, France and the United States’ 120 per cent, Brazil’s 100 per cent and Germany’s 80 per cent, it said.

China lacks urgency about its debt problem, IMF says from Hong Kong

The debt ratio of local Chinese governments was 89.2 per cent at the end of 2015 – up from 86 per cent the year before.

“The government can increase its leverage ratio to support a gradual reduction in the corporate sector’s leverage ratio … China’s local government debt risks are generally under control,” the ministry said.

A worker walks past a pile of iron ore at a port in Tianjin. Beijing has been swapping corporate obligations into government debt. Photo: Reuters

The ministry’s statement comes amid concerns about the mainland’s debts, especially over its rising corporate leverage ratio.

Combined debt in government, corporate and household sectors has been estimated by analysts to be between 250 and 280 per cent. Corporate sector debt is believed to be around 120 to 160 per cent of GDP.

China, Hong Kong and other debt-laden economies risk a major financial crisis

Beijing’s approach has been to swap corporate obligations into government debt.

For instance, China changed 3.2 trillion yuan (HK$3.8 trillion) of debt incurred by local government financing vehicles into government bonds last year.


“There’s still room for the Chinese government to increase borrowing,” the ministry said.

It said local government debts “form a great number of high-quality assets” and that China’s government debt “is different from those countries facing debt crises”.

Beijing has already started the process of raising government debt. This year, it budgeted a fiscal deficit at 3 per cent of GDP – the highest level ever.

How to get out of the debt trap – without printing more money

And government debt is only part of the deleveraging plans.

“While deleveraging is high on the government’s agenda, China’s debt-to-GDP ratio is unlikely to fall in the next few years,” Ding Shuang, chief China economist at Standard Chartered, wrote in a research note this week. The country’s total debt ratio was on track to hit 300 per cent of GDP by 2020 from its present level of an estimated 250 per cent, Ding said.

China’s debt is growing faster than its economy and analysts said there’s no quick fix

Ratings agency Moody’s said this month that while China’s government debt appeared to be “moderate relative to similarly rated peers”, total debt across all sectors was sizeable at around 280 per cent of GDP.

Debt owned by government-backed or government-related entities also posed “contingent liabilities to the sovereign”, the agency said.



Philippine President Aquino: China Did Not Live Up To Its Agreement on Scarborough Shoal

May 27, 2016
Aquino issued the statement amid criticism that the country lost Panatag to the Chinese under his watch. photo

MANILA, Philippines – China reneged on a United States-brokered agreement to resolve the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal standoff in 2012, President Aquino bared on Thursday.

Aquino issued the statement amid criticism that the country lost Panatag to the Chinese under his watch.

He maintained that despite Chinese activities at Panatag, the Philippines stood on high moral ground to avoid armed conflict and exhausted all means to fight for the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The standoff started when the Philippine Navy flagship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, was sent to the eastern coast to monitor North Korea’s missile launch.

“On the way there, approaching Scarborough or Bajo de Masinloc, they noticed eight fishing vessels, and as part of our anti-poaching activities within our 200-mile economic zone, our ship accosted these eight ships and found that two of them were engaged in fishing in our waters and they were fishing… (for) species that are covered by another treaty called CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). These are corals, baby sharks, giant clams,” Aquino said.

“So a standoff occurred. We replaced the Navy ship with a vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to protect our interest and our rights,” he said.

“How was the standoff resolved? America brokered and there was an agreement for all parties to depart the shoal and finish (the standoff). There was this concept of ‘saving face’ by everybody,” Aquino told reporters after the launching of the Balog-Balog Multi-Purpose Project at the National Irrigation Administration-Camp Facilities Site in Barangay Sula, San Jose, Tarlac.

The President did not elaborate on the agreement, but sources said at the time that Chinese and Philippine vessels, with the help of the US, would simultaneously leave the shoal and continue to resolve the dispute through diplomatic and peaceful means.

China, however, did not fulfill its commitment.

“Now, their continued presence is something that we have continuously objected to, especially after we filed (the arbitration case against China),” Aquino said.

He noted that since the Philippines and China are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), it would be easy to point out the difference between their behavior in disputed and non-disputed areas.

“We are religiously adhering to the DOC, which is the only agreement entered into that is supposed to be principles but binding on all of the signatories,” the President added.

Aquino also maintained that the Philippines did not lose Panatag Shoal after the incident and he would like to see what treason charges some people were talking about with regard to his actions.

“What should we have done there? Engage in hostilities? If we engage in hostilities there, can we win? Obviously not. But even in that aspect, are we endangering lives unnecessarily?” he added.

Aquino also noted the Philippines demonstrated complete adherence to international law and all the agreements that the country entered into.

“We have been scrupulously observing the same. And maybe it underpins that we all believe that the great equalizer among nations, big and small, are these international laws that should be binding on everybody,” he said.

Aquino noted that the DOC stated that “the parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, including among others refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.”

“I think this particular section speaks for itself, actions of the Philippines versus the actions of China, especially at the uninhabited islands and the reclamation. It’s our opinion, both in the spirit and the letter of this agreement, that all countries adopted freely… We want to really highlight the contrast between China’s actions and our own,” he added.

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, May 28, 2016

May 27, 2016

Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 352

Art: The Pharisees Question Jesus (Les pharisiens questionnent Jésus) by James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum

Reading 1 JUDE 17, 20B-25

Beloved, remember the words spoken beforehand
by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit.
Keep yourselves in the love of God
and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ
that leads to eternal life.
On those who waver, have mercy;
save others by snatching them out of the fire;
on others have mercy with fear,
abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh.To the one who is able to keep you from stumbling
and to present you unblemished and exultant,
in the presence of his glory,
to the only God, our savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord
be glory, majesty, power, and authority
from ages past, now, and for ages to come. Amen.

Responsorial Psalm PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (2b) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

AlleluiaSEE COL 3:16A, 17C

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly;
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples returned once more to Jerusalem.
As he was walking in the temple area,
the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders
approached him and said to him,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
Or who gave you this authority to do them?”
Jesus said to them, “I shall ask you one question.
Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”
They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”–
they feared the crowd,
for they all thought John really was a prophet.
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
Then Jesus said to them,
“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Who were the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, chief priests, and elders?

“By what authority are you doing these things?” (Mark 11:27-28). With this and similar questions the gospels relentlessly portray Jesus’ opponents—the chief priests, scribes, elders, Pharisees, and Sadducees—as bad guys who resisted Jesus at almost every turn and conspired to have him killed.

The gospel accounts, however, tend to lump these folks together and offer very little information about who they were. Understanding them better helps us to grasp why the New Testament depicts them as such villains.

The Pharisees criticized Jesus and his disciples for not keeping the law and consorting with sinners. Jesus in reply called them hypocrites and accused them of leading people astray, of corruption, betraying the heritage of the Jewish prophets, and generally having their religious priorities mixed up.

There was another side to the Pharisees. By bringing Jewish religious life out of the Temple and into homes, synagogues, and the lives of everyday people, as well as advocating the continuing interpretation of the Torah, they helped preserve Jewish tradition after the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. But they had a big problem with Jesus’ taking on the authority of God-healing people, setting himself up as the interpreter of the law, and forgiving sins.

As did the Sadducees. They saw their role as upholding traditional practices and beliefs, and they resolutely defended worship at the Jerusalem Temple as the action that maintained the covenant between God and Israel. Though they differed with the Pharisees over belief in resurrection, like the Pharisees they vied for influence with the royal court and the Roman rulers and opposed this person Jesus, who challenged just about every religious authority he encountered.

We see more members of the Israelite power elite in the elders, chief priests, and scribes. The elders acted as community leaders and judges. The chief priests were members of the high priestly families or those acting with the authority of the high priest, while the scribes with whom Jesus argued were probably lawyers and judges. While the scribes interpreted Jewish law, they did not make it, hence their conflicts with Jesus, who claimed authority over the law.

Jesus’ proclamation of a kingdom in which the unclean is clean and the unlawful is lawful turned inside out just about everything Jews of his time believed, giving a new way of living to many but making much of the leadership hostile—a conflict that led eventually to Jesus’ death.

This article appeared in the March 2009 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 74, No. 3, page 41).

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Homily Ideas for Mark 11: 27-33 “By What Authority”?
Don’t forget, Jesus was an outcast and “the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.” (Matthew 27: 41)

In Mark’s account in Chapter 11, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Jesus over the issue of authority. They had every right to do so. They were the duly appointed leaders of the nation of Israel. But even though they had this authority, they did not understand that the authority of Jesus was much greater than theirs. They wanted to question Jesus‘ authority for teaching the people things which were contrary to what they were teaching them, and for doing miracles on the Sabbath day, which they thought ought not to be done on that day. They believed that Jesus was a false prophet. They did not understand, spiritually, how it is God who raises up men to have and to exercise true spiritual authority among the assembled people of God. They did not understand that this man who was standing in front of them was the Lord of Glory; their Master, their Messiah, and their King; the One through whom the world was made. They just saw Him as a man who was a troublemaker; a man who needed to be brought into line with their own false teaching and authority.

This passage is very important to all believers in Jesus Christ, or all who are considering believing in Him. For it teaches us that we have a very reasonable faith which is based on the authority of God Himself. These verses teach us that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, have no responsibility to submit to the authority of men who would put us into spiritual bondage to themselves.

Any pastor or spiritual leader in the visible Church of Jesus Christ who cannot recognize the difference between an appointment to an office that men appoint other men to; and the particular graces and gifts which God alone gives to establish good spiritual authority in the lives of God‘s people, may come to make great mistakes in the exercise of their authority. There is an authority which God gives and conveys, that enables a man to be raised up to do God‘s good work in promoting the gospel and Christ‘s kingdom; and there is an authority which men give to men, or which men take to themselves, which shuts other men up to themselves rather than to God. Men who are spiritually blind in this regard, may find themselves attempting to put other people around them under their own spiritual authority, rather than establishing the people who attend their church under God‘s true authority. They may actually find themselves trying to take away the true spiritual freedom which God has called all believers to, by attempting to do these things. Indeed, they may actually find themselves opposing the true work of God. So, this afternoon I would like to set before you the Lord Jesus‘ response to the question, ―By what authority are you doing these things?‖ His response was 1st of all – To ask His own question of them. (Verses 27-30) It was 2ndly – To know their reasonings. (Verses 31 and 32) And then 3rdly – It was to refuse to give them the answer to their question. (Verse 33).

From Pastor Paul Rendall

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
28 MAY 2016, Saturday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jude 17:20-25; Ps 62:2-6; Mk 11:27-33  ]

In this age of secularization, the gospel has to be brought to the market place where the people are.  We cannot expect people to come to our churches to look for Christ.  A few might come out of desperation.  But the world seems to be more appealing and attractive.  They speak louder and there are more choices.  Our young people are out there, seduced by the world of music, entertainment, arts, pleasure, fun and excitement.  They are glued to their mobile devices, always on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  So if we want to capture them for Jesus, the Church, as the Holy Father, Pope Francis says, must go out to the frontlines of the battle where the sick and wounded people are, not stay in the comfort of our offices, waiting for them to come and seek us out for help.

Yet, there is so much danger when we try to bring the gospel to the market place.  In a world that is so secularized, in order to befriend them, we have to become in many instances, like them, and sometimes unfortunately even one of them.  This gradual process of desacralization has taken place since Vatican II.  Priests and religious tend to become more secularized in their dressing and lifestyle.   No longer do we try to be different from the rest of the world in dressing and sometimes we even adopt the lifestyles of the world.  At times, we wonder what it means to be “holy” today when the original meaning of being holy is to be set apart and to be different.   The question is:  can the world tell that we are different from others, not necessarily in dressing but in values and lifestyle?   Perhaps, for this reason also there is a great fall in the number of priestly and religious vocations as our life does not seem to be much different from that of the laity.  And why give up so much to be a priest or a religious when as a lay person one can spread the gospel anyway.

At the heart of it all is the loss of urgency in the work of evangelization.  With the doctrine that explicit faith in Christ and baptism is no longer necessary for salvation, many Catholics do not see why we should bother to bring people to Christ since they can be saved by and in their own faith tradition.  Unlike in the 15th and 16th Centuries where missionaries came from Europe with the conviction of saving souls for Christ, there is this implicit belief among many Catholics today that we should let those who already have their religion remain as they are.  As for those without religion, so long as they live a good life, it is sufficient. Indeed, today, faith in Christ has weakened tremendously that missionary zeal has been lost to a great extent, not just among the laity but even priests and religious.  Even for those who have become priests and religious, many joined not so much because they are passionate about spreading the gospel message but simply because it is a good life, with comfortable living, a life of bachelorhood, and opportunities to engage in some good works now and then.

Surely, most of us would not think that those who are not baptized would be condemned to hell but that God in His own way would save them.  As the Constitution of the Church in the Modern Word says, “Pressing upon the Christian to be sure, are the need and the duty to battle against evil through manifold tribulations and even to suffer death. But, linked with the paschal mystery and patterned on the dying Christ, he will hasten forward to resurrection in the strength which comes from hope.  All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.” (GS 22)  The Constitution of the Church reiterates this teaching when it says, “Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.” (LG 16)

In the light of such challenges, how do we defend the need for the spread of the gospel and how do we continue to witness to Christ in a very secularized, multicultural and multi-religious world?  Once again, we need to find the authority to do what we are doing.  This was the question posed to the Lord in the gospel when the Jewish religious leaders asked, “What authority have you for acting like this?  Or who gave you the authority to do these things?”  The truth is that the Jewish leaders were not interested to know the answer.   They were simply trying to disprove Jesus, to discredit Him so that their authority would be not eroded from the eyes of the people.  They were both envious and intimidated by Jesus, whom they saw as someone who was a threat to their status quo and the institution.  Instead, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy by countering their question with another question of authority.  Indeed, they were not sincere in seeking for the truth but were afraid of the truth.

Similarly, in the work of evangelization, we ourselves need to be clear about our own conviction of Jesus if we were to present Him as the Saviour of the world.  Is our faith found in Him alone? As St Jude says, “Glory be to him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to his glorious presence, innocent and happy.  To God, the only God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord, be the glory, majesty, authority and power, which he had before time began, now and for ever.  Amen.” Otherwise, the situation is precarious when we try to witness to Christ in the world.  Instead of changing the world, the world changes us instead.  This was the situation of the Christian community during the time of St Jude.  They were faced with the danger of religious leaders teaching heresies and apostasy as many drifted away from the faith and turned away from the Lord.  This was because of the weak foundation of their faith; the bad examples and lifestyles of the Christians and faith in the life that was to come.  Like them, many of our Catholics today are so secularized that they live only for this world.  Many of our Catholic parents are so weak in the knowledge of their faith and are such poor examples of Christian life, so much so we should not expect their children and children’s children to be fervent in their faith except for the grace and mercy of Christ.

It is for this reason that St Jude gave us guidelines to remain firm in our witness even whilst we witness in the market place.  He wrote, “Remember, my dear friends, what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you to expect. You must use your holy faith as your foundation and build on that, praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life.”  As Catholics, we need to strengthen the foundation of our faith through the ongoing study of doctrines and the Sacred Scriptures.  Unfortunately, many of us not only do not update ourselves in the teachings of the Church but we do not read the Word of God regularly, and be nourished by the Word of life.  When we do not build up our faith, we are potential victims for the Evil One, as the world would confuse us and we will eventually lose the faith.

Secondly, St Jude urges us to pray in the Holy Spirit.  We must never forget the importance of prayer and a personal relationship with the Lord, which is made possible when we pray in the Holy Spirit and live and walk in the Spirit.  With the psalmist, we must thirst for Him, the living water, to quench our spiritual thirst.  “So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.  For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”   Only in the Holy Spirit, can we witness with faith and love.

Thirdly, St Jude reminds us of the hope of the Lord’s return.  We do not live only for this life but for eternal life.  This life is short and in the blink of an eye, we will be no more.  So let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that we will not join our forefathers.  Our time will come and therefore we must live fully in this life with a view of fullness of life eternal after death with Jesus Christ forever.

Only when we are rooted in the truth, filled with the Holy Spirit and living in the ambience of God’s love, are we ready to witness to Christ by strengthening our fellow Catholics who are weak in their faith, as St Jude says, “when there are some who have doubts, reassure them; when there are some to be saved from the fire, pull them out.”   To those outside the faith, we must be watchful that in trying to reach out to them, we do not lose our identity and our values and faith in Christ.  He said, “but there are others to whom you must be kind with great caution, keeping your distance even from outside clothing which is contaminated by vice.”  Let us not betray Christ by our conduct, life, words and deeds.


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


Malaysia’s Probe Into 1MDB Fund Was Flawed — Six Nations Investigating But Malaysia PM Has Not Been Questioned by Investigators

May 27, 2016

Political pressure and a lack of transparency undermined process, documents and interviews show

Prime Minister Najib Razak recently in Sarawak, Malaysia.
Prime Minister Najib Razak recently in Sarawak, Malaysia. PHOTO: FAZRY ISMAIL/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
The Wall Street Journal
May 26, 2016 4:49 p.m. ET
Investigations ordered by Malaysia’s leader into graft allegations at a state-development fund have been undermined by political pressure and a lack of transparency, according to documents and interviews with people involved.

Evidence possibly central to the probes was placed off limits or ignored, The Wall Street Journal found. Potentially crucial clues weren’t scrutinized. And at least one key figure, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak himself, wasn’t interviewed by investigators.

The promise of a thorough and transparent accounting of what happened at the fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, has helped Mr. Najib fend off domestic criticism. Now, though, with six foreign countries investigating allegations of corruption at 1MDB, pressure is rising at home for greater transparency.

Mr. Najib in March 2015 pledged an independent probe into 1MDB, which he founded to spur economic development. He ordered the auditor general, an investigative agency whose findings are typically public, to compile a report on the fund’s activities. And he ordered the contents to be reviewed and debated by the Public Accounts Committee, a parliamentary body.

But the auditor general’s report into 1MDB, completed in March, was classified under Malaysia’s Officials Secrets Act, shielding it from public view.

The auditor general separately provided some information in a presentation to the Public Accounts Committee, said people who were present. Tony Pua, an opposition lawmaker who sits on the committee, said in a statement this month that the auditor general “has specifically confirmed that US$7 billion of 1MDB assets and transactions overseas cannot be verified or traced.”


The committee, however, made no mention of the $7 billion estimate when it published its report on 1MDB in April and said only that an unspecified amount of money was unaccounted for.

“The issues are of such public importance that there cannot be any excuse for making the auditor general’s report an official secret,” said Razaleigh Hamzah, a senior politician with the United Malays National Organization, Mr. Najib’s ruling party.


Hasan Arifin, a ruling-party politician who heads the committee, didn’t call Mr. Najib to testify even though Mr. Najib was chairman of 1MDB’s board of advisers and also is Malaysia’s finance minister, giving him ultimate oversight over the fund. Other participants in the inquiry repeatedly asked him to seek Mr. Najib’s testimony, said Mr. Pua and two current and former ruling-party politicians on the committee.

The auditor general didn’t respond to requests to comment.

When asked by Malaysian journalists why Mr. Najib hadn’t been called as a witness, Mr. Hasan said, “I have to earn a living.” He later said the remark was a joke. Mr. Hasan didn’t respond to requests to comment for this article.

Mr. Hasan also didn’t inform the parliamentary committee of evidence from a senior central bank official—transmitted in an April 6 letter to Mr. Hasan—that $1 billion in 1MDB funds had been transferred to an offshore company owned by a close associate of Mr. Najib, said Mr. Pua and the current ruling-party member. They said Mr. Hasan never shared with the committee any of the contents of the letter, a copy of which was reviewed by the Journal.

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak is in the spotlight since investigators traced $700 million linked to the government fund 1MDB to his personal bank accounts. His personal history is intertwined with Malaysia’s unique political system. Originally published Dec. 28, 2015. Photo: Olivia Harris/Reuters

Investigators and other people familiar with the matter say that Mr. Najib and his family used hundreds of millions of dollars originating with the 1MDB fund to bolster an election campaign, buy real estate, indulge in foreign clothing- and jewelry-shopping spreesand to help finance a Hollywood film.

Mr. Najib didn’t respond to requests to comment but has denied those allegations and said he has done nothing wrong in regard to 1MDB. He has said he cooperated with probes into the fund.

“There is no proof in the [Public Accounts Committee] report that shows wrongdoing by the prime minister in the administration of 1MDB,” Mr. Najib told Parliament this week. 1MDB denies wrongdoing and says it is cooperating with probes at home and abroad.

The investigation Mr. Najib ordered began after opposition politicians began to question the fund’s management. “If any wrongdoing is proven, the law will be enforced without exception,” Mr. Najib said last year.

But from the outset, important elements of the 1MDB scandal were off limits during the inquiries.

The 1MDB fund’s managers failed to provide bank-account information to investigators, including financial statements for its overseas accounts in the British Virgin Islands, that might have helped show where the fund’s money flowed. 1MDB management told the committee the only copies were taken in a police raid, according to transcripts of the parliamentary proceedings.

The Public Accounts Committee report named members of 1MDB’s senior management that it said should face a criminal investigation. It didn’t name Mr. Najib. A police spokesman declined to comment because 1MDB is under investigation. No one has been charged in Malaysia in connection with 1MDB.

Mr. Najib had set the Malaysian probe in motion before The Wall Street Journal reported last summer that $681 million linked to the fund had landed in his personal bank accounts in 2013.

Soon after those articles were published, political pressure mounted on the probe, committee members said. Mr. Najib “wanted to shut all discussions down,” said Mr. Pua, the opposition politician. The prime minister removed the committee’s head without explanation and promoted him into his cabinet, stalling the work for months.

Malaysia’s attorney general, Mohamed Apandi Ali, cleared Mr. Najib of wrongdoing in January, saying that the funds in his account were a legal political donation from Saudi Arabia and that most had been returned. He gave no details.

The Journal, citing people familiar with investigations in two countries and bank-transfer documents, has reported that the money entered Mr. Najib’s accounts via a complex web of transactions involving offshore companies that trace back to the fund.

The Public Accounts Committee’s report doesn’t mention any of those transactions.

After the parliamentary committee’s report was released, Mr. Najib said in a statement that it showed large amounts of money were “not missing” and that 1MDB’s management said its funds “have been fully accounted for.”

Last summer, Malaysia’s then-attorney general, Abdul Gani Patail, was about to file criminal charges against Mr. Najib related to 1MDB, according to a person familiar with the matter.

But the government suddenly announced he would be replaced before his term was up due to health reasons. Mr. Abdul Gani couldn’t be reached to comment and hasn’t spoken publicly about the situation.

The new attorney general, Mr. Apandi, found no charges were warranted, and shut down a separate investigation into 1MDB headed by Malaysia’s anticorruption agency, which had earlier called for Mr. Najib’s arrest. Neither Mr. Apandi nor the anticorruption agency returned calls seeking comment.

A separate probe by Bank Negara Malaysia, the country’s central bank, ended after it asked Mr. Apandi to file criminal charges against 1MDB’s management on allegations of illegally moving money out of the country. He refused, saying there was insufficient evidence of a criminal act.

The central bank also had provided the parliamentary committee with details about the $1 billion of 1MDB funds that was sent offshore. The money was meant for a joint venture with a Saudi company, PetroSaudi International Ltd., the bank said in the April 6 letter.

But instead, the letter said, the money went into an account named Good Star controlled by Jho Low, a 34-year-old Malaysian financier whose formal name is Low Taek Jho. He helped run 1MDB from behind the scenes and managed Mr. Najib’s bank accounts, the Journal reported in April.

A deputy governor of Bank Negara, Nor Shamsiah Yunus, last month wrote Mr. Hasan, the head of the parliamentary committee, with this information about Mr. Low. Ms. Nor wrote the details of Good Star’s ownership had come from two foreign authorities, which she didn’t name.

Mr. Low wasn’t named in the parliamentary report into the fund. Attempts to reach Ms. Nor weren’t successful.

The information appears to contradict a letter sent by PetroSaudi to 1MDB—a copy of which was made available to the parliamentary committee—that named PetroSaudi as the owner of Good Star. The former chief executive of 1MDB, Shahrol Halmi, also told the committee during proceedings that Good Star was a unit of PetroSaudi.

A lawyer for PetroSaudi said the company sticks by the contents of its letter to 1MDB about the ownership of Good Star.

Write to Tom Wright at and Bradley Hope at


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