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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda was a strong supporter of the final bill there. He was among the religious leaders who recommended changes in 2010 to make it less harsh by removing the death penalty, reducing the sentencing guidelines and deleting a clause on reporting homosexual behavior.
On Wednesday (March 5), Ntagali denied reports that the province was considering breaking away from the Anglican Communion. According to the primate, the fabric of the Anglican Communion was torn in 2003 when the Episcopal Church in the United States consecrated Gene Robinson as bishop in New Hampshire.
“Not only was this against the Bible, but it went against the agreed position of the Anglican Communion,” Ntagali said.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Immigration Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa America/U.S.A. Canada England / UK Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
What with the impending centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, it's understandable that commentators should reach back to the European crisis of 1914 for possible parallels to the European crisis of 2014.
But watching the "debate" in the upper house of the Russian parliament on 1 March, as the solons "considered" President Vladimir Putin's "request" for "authorization" to deploy Russian armed forces in Ukraine, the thought occurred that the proper analogy to all this is not Sarajevo 1914, but Berlin 1935, when the German Reichstag approved the notoriously anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws. The same dynamics were in play: blatant racism and xenophobia, a crude and violent nationalism impervious to moral scrutiny, the multiplication of lies by ranting lawmakers. Amid the polymorphous moral confusions of postmodernity, Nazism is perhaps the one available icon of unambiguous and unadulterated evil; that iconography should not be marred by inappropriate analogizing for the sake of rhetorical effect. But the utter abandonment of reason, decency, and honesty in Moscow 2014 did seem eerily familiar.
That those Russian parliamentarians, and the Putinesque "managed democracy" they embody, will not face serious internal opposition from Russian leaders who might be expected to challenge xenophobic nationalism in the name of higher truths was made painfully clear a day later. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the leader of Russian Orthodoxy, shares a KGB background with President Putin and leads a Church that, as a senior Catholic official once put it to me, "only knows how to be chaplain to the czar - whoever he is." For years now, Kirill and his "foreign minister," the youthful Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, have been engaged in a massive campaign of seduction aimed at the Vatican, American Evangelicals and other vibrant and influential Christian forces in the West - a campaign putatively in aid of forging a united front against decadent secularism and materialism.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia Ukraine * Theology
As the political situation in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula heats up and Ukrainians are still reeling from three months of determined occupation protests in Kiev that culminated in dozens of deaths and injuries, churches and religious officials have taken an active role.
“Our own Church stayed with the people as the struggle widened from a political one over integration with Europe into a larger one for basic human rights and dignity,” said Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, from Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church, which combines the Eastern Rite with loyalty to Rome. “It supported the people’s just aspirations throughout, while our priests led prayers and administered sacraments. It’s important we now look at things in a Christian way — seeking justice without revenge.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia Ukraine * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Tsarist power is long gone, and the Soviet regime that succeeded it had no time for mystical visions. Yet, as that Soviet idea perished in its turn, Russians have turned once more to the religious roots of national ideology. Post-Soviet regimes have worked intimately with the Orthodox Church, which has been happy to support strong government and to consecrate national occasions. In return, the state has helped the church rebuild Orthodox cathedrals and monasteries aplenty. For 20 years now, both state and church have even labored to reconstruct the once potent Russian presence in the holy places themselves, now of course under Israeli political control.
Why are we surprised to see this new holy Russia extend its protecting arm over the Christian-backed Ba'athist regime in Syria? Russian regimes have been staking a claim to guard that region's Christians for 250 years.
It would be pleasant to think that the U.S. and Europe are taking these religious factors into full account as they calculate their response to the present crisis in Crimea and Ukraine. Pleasant, but unlikely.
Read it all.
"Confess your faults one to another" (Jas. 5:16). He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. This pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. so we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!
But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone. "My son, give me thine heart" (Prov. 23:26). God has come to you to save the sinner. Be glad! This message is liberation through truth. You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but He hates sin.
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Read and look through it all.
Filed under: * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia Ukraine * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Russia has told the United Nations Security Council that it has occupied Crimea at the request of the ousted Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, in order to protect civilians from armed extremists....
The American ambassador, Samantha Power, dismissed the Russian position. “Listening to the representative of Russia, one might think that Moscow had just become the rapid response arm of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,” she said. “So many of the assertions made this afternoon by the Russian Federation are without basis in reality.
“It is a fact that Russian military forces have taken over Ukrainian border posts. It is a fact that Russia has taken over the ferry terminal in Kerch. It is a fact that Russian ships are moving in and around Sevastapol. It is a fact that Russian forces are blocking mobile telephone services in some areas. It is a fact that Russia has surrounded or taken over practically all Ukrainian military facilities in Crimea. It is a fact that today Russian jets entered Ukrainian airspace.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Europe Russia Ukraine
Whatever course the Russian intervention may take, it is not an attempt to stop a fascist coup, since nothing of the kind has taken place. What has taken place is a popular revolution, with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails. The young leaders of the Maidan, some of them radical leftists, have risked their lives to oppose a regime that represented, at an extreme, the inequalities that we criticize at home. They have an experience of revolution that we do not. Part of that experience, unfortunately, is that Westerners are provincial, gullible, and reactionary.
Thus far the new Ukrainian authorities have reacted with remarkable calm. It is entirely possible that a Russian attack on Ukraine will provoke a strong nationalist reaction: indeed, it would be rather surprising if it did not, since invasions have a way of bringing out the worst in people. If this is what does happen, we should see events for what they are: an entirely unprovoked attack by one nation upon the sovereign territory of another.
Insofar as we have accepted the presentation of the revolution as a fascist coup, we have delayed policies that might have stopped the killing earlier, and helped prepare the way for war. Insofar as we wish for peace and democracy, we are going to have to begin by getting the story right.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Media Psychology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia Ukraine * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The U.S. and its European allies can take steps to isolate Russia diplomatically, which would undermine Putin's claim that his country is again ascendant as a world leader. They can also take steps that would pinch the Russian elite, which relishes its access to Western Europe.
Some of the moves would sting. But none is likely to greatly change the behavior of Putin, experts say.
"Putin is prepared for this kind of international backlash," said Eugene Rumer of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who was the U.S. national intelligence officer for Russia until December. "In his mind, this won't be paying too much of a price."
Read it all.
At the moment, Putin is doing very well in Ukraine. Clueless arrogance by both US and EU policymakers gave Putin a heaven-sent opportunity to block a worst-case scenario for Russia in Ukraine last fall. Then-President Yanukovych, a man of the east long associated with Russia, was moving toward signing an Association Agreement with the EU that offered a historic opportunity for a united Ukraine to move firmly west. But both Washington and the EU underestimated Putin’s determination to block that outcome and failed to ensure that Yanukovych went all the way. Putin seized the opportunity and with a combination of official and perhaps unofficial, more personal incentives, was able to keep Yanukovych from finalizing the deal.
Yanukovych’s obvious yielding to Moscow’s blandishments touched off the unrest that would ultimately bring him down and set the current crisis afoot. When pro-European street protesters overthrew Yanukovych, there were plenty of Western analysts (some, unfortunately, working for governments) who drew the comforting but deeply false conclusion that these events represented a triumph of the West. Instead, the revolution (Kiev’s third since 1990), unleashed the chaos that gave Putin his chance for his Crimean gambit. Now Putin seems to be seizing the most important military assets Russia holds in the country and can reasonably hope to increase Russia’s influence throughout the country as a weak government struggles with intractable problems.
Read it all.
Ukraine's interior minister has accused Russian naval forces of occupying Sevastopol airport in the autonomous region of Crimea.
Arsen Avakov called their presence an "armed invasion".
But Russia's Black Sea Fleet has denied that Russian servicemen are taking part.
The other main Crimean airport, Simferopol, has also been occupied by armed men. The men are thought to be pro-Russia militia.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia Ukraine * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Russia has stepped up its rhetoric against Ukraine's new Western-leaning leadership as tensions rise over the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev said interim authorities in Kiev had conducted an "armed mutiny".
And the Russian foreign ministry said dissenters in mainly Russian-speaking regions faced suppression.
Read it all.
Jiří Unger, president of the European Evangelical Alliance and general secretary of the Czech Evangelical Alliance, said: "Church-planting initiatives across Europe – particularly in the last two decades – have become major sources of innovation in a lifestyle of mission. It has also helped people identify new and effective ways of reaching neighbours with the gospel.
"In UK, Germany, France, Ukraine, Baltic states and in many other countries church-planting has been instrumental in bringing back denominational vitality, in recruiting new leaders and making churches more visionary.
"There is a long way to go but we can be encouraged that it's possible. We can reinvent ourselves and get a better understanding of how to relate to the people and communities around us in a fresh and authentic way."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
Ukraine's new interim President Oleksandr Turchynov has said the country will focus on closer integration with the EU.
Mr Turchynov was appointed following the dismissal of President Viktor Yanukovych by MPs on Saturday.
Mr Yanukovych's rejection of an EU-Ukraine trade pact triggered the protests that toppled him.
The interim president also said he was "ready for dialogue" with Russia, which has backed Mr Yanukovych.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia Ukraine * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Last year, one of the worst songs in the entire Eurovision contest was the entry from Belgium. It was called "Love Kills." The refrain of the song was:
Waiting for the bitter pill
Give me something I can feel
'Cause love kills over and over
Love kills over and over
Whatever this means exactly, it's a radical inversion of the normal juxtaposition of love with life and generativity. Other countries offered the usual assortment of Eurovision styles - some heavy metal, some punk, a few soft ballads - but the Belgian entry stood out as something very dark and creepy, a culture of death pop song.
Poor King Philippe is now in a position of having to decide what to do about the fact that his government has voted in favour of euthanasia for children. Many hope that he will follow the precedent of his saintly uncle, King Baudouin, who in 1990 abdicated for a day rather than have his name on pro-abortion legislation. At the time, King Baudouin rhetorically asked: Is it right that I am the only Belgian citizen to be forced to act against his conscience in such a crucial area? Is the freedom of conscience sacred for everyone except for the king?
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine History Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Belgium * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
The escalation in violence in Kiev...poses a huge challenge to the EU. What, exactly, can it do here to prevent continuing civil disorder on its doorstep?
As ever when it comes to EU foreign policy, the first hurdle is to actually secure an agreement among 28 member states which is difficult in itself. As we've said on a number of occasions, Catherine Ashton's European External Action Service cannot magically replace 28 foreign policy positions - this has been proved time and again over Israel/Palestine, Libya, Syria etc. When it comes to the Ukraine, these differences have been apparent in how to deal with Russia in the first place, how hard it was to push for the EU-Ukraine trade agreement, then over how to deal with the anti-government protests, and now it looks likely they will appear in whether to impose sanctions
Read it all.
Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday and called on him to "pull back government forces" and "exercise maximum restraint" following deadly clashes in Kiev between police and protesters.
Biden "made clear" the United States condemns violence "by any side," but "that the government bears special responsibility to deescalate the situation," according to a summary of the telephone conversation released by the White House.
Read it all and join me in praying for the situation in the Ukraine.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Ukraine * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Russia has been showing the world glistening scenes of the Winter Olympics. It's a rare opportunity to brighten a national image that often skates on the thin ice of corruption. One authority estimates that 20 percent of the Russian economy is skimmed by graft and a lot of that by government officials. It may be that no one knows more about this than American-born businessman Bill Browder.
Browder tells a story of thievery, vengeance and death worthy of a Russian novel. He's a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin and he has torn a rift between Moscow and Washington. When you hear what he has to say about Russia you'll know why Russia thinks of Bill Browder as an enemy of the state.
Bill Browder: The Russian regime is a criminal regime. We're dealing with a nuclear country run by a bunch of Mafia crooks. And we have to know that.
Read (or better watch) it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Uncertainty remained Sunday, February 16, over the future of one of Hungary's main evangelical denominations after it lost its church status and the government rejected an expert opinion about its "religious legitimacy."
The Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship (HEF), known for outreach to Gypsies, or Roma, and aid programs among homeless and elderly, was among hundreds of groups losing recognition under controversial religious legislation imposed by the center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
In January, the Ministry of Human Resources warned students attending HEF's John Wesley Theological College that they would no longer receive state scholarships, despite reports that Minister Zoltan Balog was a former faculty member.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Hungary * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
Belgian nurse Sonja Develter, who has cared for 200 children in the final stages of their lives since 1992, said she opposed the law.
"In my experience as a nurse, I never had a child asking to end their life," Ms Develter said before the vote.
But requests for euthanasia did often come from parents who were emotionally exhausted after seeing their children fight for their lives for so long, she added.
Read it all.
Alum Rock, a neighborhood of Birmingham, looks the way Pakistan might, if Pakistan were under gray northern skies and British rule.
The streets are lively but orderly, with shops that provide the largely South Asian population with most of its needs. The huge Pak Supermarket, with its 10-kilogram bags of spices and rices, is matched by the nearby Pak Pharmacy. Nearly every face is South Asian, and people wear a vibrant mixture of clothing, from Western styles to head scarves, knitted caps and full-face veils, or niqabs.
But the Muslims of Alum Rock, Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, who make up most of the more than 21 percent of Birmingham’s population who declare Islam as their religion, are newly uneasy, they say. The backlash from the killing of a white soldier, Lee Rigby, in London in May by two fanatical young British Muslims, combined with anxieties about the flow of jihadis between Britain and Syria and the sometimes harshly anti-immigrant tone of leading British politicians have combined to create a new wariness among British Muslims.
Read it all.
Read it all. Also an AP story is now there it begins this way:
Belgian lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to extend the country's euthanasia law to children under 18.
The 86-44 vote Thursday in the House of Representatives, with 12 abstentions, followed approval by the Senate last December.
The law empowers children with terminal ailments who are in great pain to request to be put to death if their parents agree and a psychiatrist or psychologist find they are conscious of what their choice signifies. The law was opposed by some Belgian pediatricians and the country's leading Roman Catholic cleric.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics * International News & Commentary Europe Belgium * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
To help money flow more evenly across the currency area, Coeure said the idea of cutting into negative territory the rate the ECB pays banks to hold their deposits overnight was "a very possible option".
"That is something we are considering very seriously. But you should not expect too much of it," he said of a negative deposit rate.
The ECB left policy on hold last week but President Mario Draghi put markets on alert for possible action in March, saying the Governing Council would have more information at its disposal by then, including new forecasts from the bank's staff that will extend into 2016 for the first time.
Read it all from Reuters.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Euro European Central Bank Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market The Banking System/Sector * International News & Commentary Europe --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010 * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
,,,after the Russian Revolution, when the Communists decreed that religion was the opium of the people, priests all over the nation were tortured and killed or sent to the Gulag. Many churches were destroyed or, like this one, turned into warehouses. Christians were banned from the Communist Party.
A generation was frightened away from worship and subsequent generations were coerced. Children were born and grew old and were buried without ever hearing the ancient divine liturgy of St. John the Chrysostom sung in the churches of their grandfathers.
Many churches of Russia fell into ruin, but with the fall of communism, they are making a comeback, one of these being St. Michael the Archangel, perfectly restored in recent years. The Russian Orthodox comeback is difficult, with cultural clashes and terrible incidents such as the shooting Sunday that killed a nun and a worshipper in far eastern Russia.
But faith has survived in Russia.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
for all that has remained the same, much has changed in Russia—and so, too, have its Christians. Under communism, Russian Orthodox Churches were allowed to hold services, but no one under the age of 18 was allowed to attend, and any expression of faith outside the church walls—like Ogorodniknov’s Christian discussion group—was punished.
When communism fell in 1991, there was a rush of religious fervor in Russia known as bogoiskatelstvo, or “searching for God.” In a phone interview, Wally Kulakoff, vice president of ministries and church relations for Russian Ministries, said, “All of a sudden, the things that were taboo became very interesting to society. To have a Bible, to have a New Testament was very popular. To carry a cross was very popular.” Even non-Christians, he said, kept Bibles on their bookshelves as lucky charms.
Today, the Russian Orthodox Church is mainstream. In fact, it’s the unofficial official church of Russia. Putin often appears in the pews and, in 2012, Patriarch Kirill famously called Putin’s rule a “miracle of God.” The seemingly cozy relationship between the church and an administration accused of murdering its critics has not gone without criticism of its own, but Father Gregory Joyce, priest at St. Vladimir Orthodox Church in Ann Arbor, Mich., says what people fail to understand is the utter novelty of the Russian situation.
Read it all.
Never question the power of a bobsled push athlete -- especially U.S. bobsledder Johnny Quinn.
Trapped in his hotel bathroom in Sochi on Saturday, Quinn evidently turned to his training to launch his escape:
Read it all and make sure to see that picture!
It's as dependable as the Olympic Flame. Every two years the world's best athletes convene in a single city to compete for the honor of their countries, their families, and, for some, their God.
The games stay the same—give or take your Ski Halfpipe, Women's Ski Jumping, or Team Figure Skating, all making their debuts in Sochi—but every Olympic season we welcome a new set of athletes into our homes via Bob Costas and his personality pieces engineered to invest us more deeply in their pursuit of gold. For two weeks these athletes become household names, securing a few more weeks if they win gold, and their stories become the backdrop of our lives until the last lights go out in the Olympic Village.
It's nice to find fellow Christians among the 230 men and women who make up the 2014 Team USA delegation to Sochi, Russia. We don't root for them because they're on "Team Jesus," but all the same it's nice to see people at the peak of their field, on the world's biggest athletic stage, turn the credit back to the One who gave us bodies to run and jump and spin on ice and imaginations to push the limits of those bodies to run faster, jump higher, and spin faster than we ever thought possible.
Read it all.
An American family was able to live out their Olympic dream thanks to the generosity of their community.
Watch it all--heartwarming stuff.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Children Globalization Marriage & Family Rural/Town Life Sports * International News & Commentary Europe Russia
It was the 1980s, the Cold War was at its height, the Russians were the enemy, and even today Nick cannot talk about the work he did during his four years at Government Communication Headquarters, except to say that it involved his skills as a Russian linguist.
Move forward three decades and that very same Nick Baines is now in a different job. He is in fact the Right Reverend Nicholas Baines, who this week has been announced as the new Bishop of Leeds and put in charge of the newest and biggest diocese in the whole of England. You have to admit, it’s quite the change.
As to how it happened, well that’s a big question.
Bishop Nick, as he is now known, was an active church member but it was his experience of GCHQ that made him question the world more deeply.
Read it all.
Skilled computer hackers, combined with weak law enforcement and a strong criminal underworld, creates a big problem in Russia.
Watch two reports from Richard Engel here and there.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Science & Technology Sports * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
It was 700 years ago, many scholars believe—in the 12th year of Dante’s exile from Florence—that the Inferno first saw the light of day. Thirteen fourteen: the year has a sprightly sound, hinting at upcoming sequels, and the Italian l’anno mille trecento quattordici has just the right number of syllables (11) to form the first line of a Dantean tercet. I imagine a second year following and a third year rhyming until, year by year, carried along by Dante’s ingenious interlocking terza rima, we are brought to the present moment, duemila quattordici, still marveling at a poem that from link to link makes paradise rhyme with hell.
But does paradise rhyme with hell? Setting aside the cliché about the Inferno being more interesting than the Paradiso, any serious reader will find a deep unity of theme running throughout the hundred-canto trilogy, from Dante’s promise “to treat of the good that I found there” (Inferno 1:8) to the final canto, which T. S. Eliot deemed “the highest point that poetry has ever reached or ever can reach.” Eliot has yet to be proven wrong; the poem deserves its canonical status on a shelf below the Bible and above the ranks of merely literary classics. To borrow a word from Dante, the Divine Comedy, if we are willing to read it whole, imparadises the mind.
Though the poem has a deep unity, the tradition of its interpretation does not; and to read the Divine Comedy in English—ideally with the Italian close at hand—is to step into a stream roiled by rival literary and religious movements.
Read it all.
If I asked you to describe the state of Christianity in Europe, you’d probably answer “not good.” And there’d be ample reason to do so. Most of us are familiar with the depressing statistics regarding church attendance in Western Europe and Scandinavia.
But there is more to Europe than Britain, France, and Sweden. And in Central and Eastern Europe, a different story is being written.
This story was the subject of a recent First Things article by Filip Mazurczak. In it, Mazurczak reveals to readers what is going on in former communist societies such as Hungary and Croatia. For instance, while the European Union notoriously omitted any mention of Europe’s Christian heritage in the preamble to its constitution, Hungary’s new constitution “ties Christianity to Hungarian nationhood.”
Read it all.
On Tuesday (Jan. 28), the European Court of Human Rights found the government was liable in a case in which a principal sexually abused a student, then 9 years old, when she attended a state-funded Catholic school in the 1970s. An Irish court had rejected her claims on the grounds that the school wasn’t public, but the European court decided the government had failed in its duty to protect children.
The ruling touched on an issue that has taken on greater urgency in recent years as sexual abuse scandals have rocked the church and more nonreligious people have immigrated to the staunchly Catholic country: Who should run Ireland’s schools?
The Catholic Church runs 90 percent of primary schools in Ireland. The rest are mainly Protestant, and about 4 percent are managed by the nonprofit Educate Together, which is nonsectarian.
The arrangement is unsettling to some parents who have little choice in where to send their children.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Ireland Europe * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Ukraine’s political crisis deepened over the weekend as President Viktor Yanukovych’s offer to share power with the opposition failed to end anti-government unrest, raising the stakes for a special parliament session tomorrow.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Vitali Klitschko and Oleh Tyahnybok on Jan. 25 urged demonstrators to keep pushing for Yanukovych’s resignation and snap elections after the president offered to hand over top cabinet jobs. Lawmakers will interrupt their winter break to vote on a no-confidence motion in the government and a bid to repeal anti-protest laws passed this month.
The country of 45 million, a key route for Russian energy toward Europe, is enduring the first deadly political crisis in its 22 years of independence. Yanukovych, struggling to tame demonstrations claimed the first lives last week as anti-protest laws triggered riots, offered his biggest concessions yet on Jan. 25. Clashes in Kiev resumed that night, while attempts to seize regional government offices widened.
Read it all.
God may well be an equal opportunity deity, but that’s never stopped political leaders and clergy from claiming the Creator favors their side over the other in armed conflicts. Indeed, the use and abuse of God and religion were never more evident than during the “War to End All Wars,” World War I, which began 100 years ago in 1914.
In his 2010 book “Faith in the Fight: Religion and the American Soldier in the Great War,” University of Illinois professor Jonathan Ebel examines American soldiers’ many attempts to find religious meaning in the midst of a perplexing and catastrophic war.
America didn’t enter the fighting until 1917, but when Woodrow Wilson, the son of a Presbyterian minister, urged Congress to declare war on Germany, the president used traditional religious language: “The day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness … God helping her, she can do no other.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Military / Armed Forces Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
"Many people ask me, several times a week... if I ever contemplate (assisted suicide). It makes one feel like I should be contemplating it for the sake of the health service, for my family watching what I'm going through. I'm afraid that it will extend into the social conscience that people will almost expect assisted dying.... a (new) law will pressurise people."
Read it all.
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Two protesters have been killed in clashes with police in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
Prosecutors confirmed they had died from bullet wounds. They are the first fatalities since anti-government protests began in November.
Wednesday's clashes began after police moved in to dismantle a protest camp.
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There is nothing new about French presidents having lovers, nor about the media storm that ensues when their liaisons are exposed. What has changed in France, however, are basic notions about family values and what constitutes the norm in personal relationships....
Hollande is living proof of this shift in attitudes: He took office as the first president not to be married to his partner, who moved into the Elysee with him. He has four children from a previous partner, Segolene Royal, to whom he wasn’t married, either. His current partner, Valerie Trierweiler, has three children from her second marriage. Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, has two sons from his first wife, another son from the second, whom he divorced shortly after taking office in 2007. He also has a young daughter with his current wife, Carla Bruni, whom he married in 2008.
Unlike in the U.S., such nontraditional arrangements enjoy wide acceptance in France. In a poll taken before the latest revelations about Hollande, 91 percent of French voters said they simply don’t care about the family lives or sexual preferences of their politicians.
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The Netherlands nudged past France and Switzerland as the country with the most nutritious, plentiful and healthy food, while the United States and Japan failed to make it into the top 20, a new ranking released by Oxfam showed.
Chad came in last on the list of 125 nations, behind Ethiopia and Angola, in the food index released on Tuesday by the international development organisation.
"The Netherlands have created a good market that enables people to get enough to eat. Prices are relatively low and stable and the type of food people are eating is balanced," said Deborah Hardoon, a senior researcher at Oxfam who compiled the results.
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Diaries from British soldiers describing life on the frontline during World War One are being published online by the National Archives.
Events from the outbreak of war in 1914 to the departure of troops from Flanders and France were recorded in official diaries of each military unit.
About 1.5 million diary pages are held by the National Archives and a fifth have been digitised so far.
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The last time Cristiano Ronaldo won the Ballon D'Or, back in December 2008, it was a rather sedate affair. For starters, the prize came to him; the golden trophy was dispatched to his house in Manchester, where he posed with it and gave a long interview to the competition organizers from France Football magazine.
Back then, he had scored 42 goals and helped Manchester United win the Premier League, the Champions League and the Club World Cup. He had studied the history of the Ballon D'Or, voted on by journalists from 52 European countries, and told France Football at the time: "I've now made a place in history and that's not something everyone can do. But it does not mean I have reached the top. I want more. I'm going back to square one. I'm starting my career again now."
Six years, five trophies and 283 goals later, at a glittering ceremony Monday in Zurich, broadcast live to 180 countries, a tearful, emotional Ronaldo reacquainted himself with the Ballon D'Or. The player was no longer the callow 23-year-old of 2008, but a global star; the award, too, had changed. This Ballon D'Or is not just a France Football production, but since 2010 has been called the FIFA Ballon D'Or, combining FIFA's former World Player of the Year award with the Ballon D'Or. So as well as the journalists' vote, FIFA also collects the votes of international coaches and captains.
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The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class has cameras that can read road signs and sensors to judge distance to the car in front, but is not yet able to make full use of the hardware.
What may sound like a shortcoming is in fact a deliberate strategy by manufacturer Daimler, and a sign of things to come for the global luxury car industry.
Owners of the upscale Mercedes compact will be able to add new functions such as predictive cruise control – which lets the car drive itself in some situations – by updating the car’s operating system when the technology becomes available.
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On 20 April 2012, Tom Mortier, a chemistry lecturer, got a message to call a Brussels hospital. His mother was dead. Godelieva De Troyer was 64 and had been suffering from depression. She had sent her son an email three months before she died telling him she had asked for euthanasia, but he did not think doctors would allow it.
He is enraged. He does not accept the argument that his mother had a "right to die".
"From my perspective this is not a law for patients, it's a law for doctors so they won't be prosecuted," Mortier says. "Performing euthanasia is unethical. It's killing your patients, and now they're promoting it as the ultimate form of love. What have we become here in Belgium? I don't understand it…"
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Among the people of Geel, the term ‘mentally ill’ is never heard: even words such as ‘psychiatric’ and ‘patient’ are carefully hedged with finger-waggling and scare quotes. The family care system, as it’s known, is resolutely non-medical. When boarders meet their new families, they do so, as they always have, without a backstory or clinical diagnosis. If a word is needed to describe them, it’s often a positive one such as ‘special’, or at worst, ‘different’. This might in fact be more accurate than ‘mentally ill’, since the boarders have always included some who would today be diagnosed with learning difficulties or special needs. But the most common collective term is simply ‘boarders’, which defines them at the most pragmatic level by their social, not mental, condition. These are people who, whatever their diagnosis, have come here because they’re unable to cope on their own, and because they have no family or friends who can look after them.
The origins of the Geel story lie in the 13th century, in the martyrdom of Saint Dymphna, a legendary seventh-century Irish princess whose pagan father went mad with grief after the death of his Christian wife and demanded that Dymphna marry him. To escape the king’s incestuous passion, Dymphna fled to Europe and holed up in the marshy flatlands of Flanders. Her father finally tracked her down in Geel, and when she refused him once more, he beheaded her. Over time, she became revered as a saint with powers of intercession for the mentally afflicted, and her shrine attracted pilgrims and tales of miraculous cures.
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For the first time, German public schools are offering classes in Islam to primary school students using state-trained teachers and specially written textbooks, as officials try to better integrate the nation’s large Muslim minority and counter the growing influence of radical religious thinking.
The classes offered in Hesse State are part of a growing consensus that Germany, after decades of neglect, should do more to acknowledge and serve its Muslim population if it is to foster social harmony, overcome its aging demographics and head off a potential domestic security threat.
The need, many here say, is ever more urgent. According to German security officials and widespread reports in the German news media, this past semester at least two young Germans in Hesse — one thought to be just 16 — were killed in Syria after heeding the call for jihad and apparently being recruited by hard-line Salafist preachers in Frankfurt.
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Dioceses across Italy, as well as in countries such as Spain, are increasing the number of priests schooled in administering the rite of exorcism, fabled to rid people of possession by the Devil.
The rise in demonic cases is a result of more people dabbling in practices such as black magic, paganism, Satanic rites and Ouija boards, often exploring the dark arts with the help of information readily found on the internet, the Church said.
The increase in the number of priests being trained to tackle the phenomenon is also an effort by the Church to sideline unauthorised, self-proclaimed exorcists, and its tacit recognition that belief in Satan, once regarded by Catholic progressives as an embarrassment, is still very much alive.
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We end this hour with a remembrance of a daring World War II flight that lifted the spirits of the French people and of the humble man who flew it. In 1944, American fighter pilot William Overstreet of the 357th Fighter Group was on a mission in Nazi-occupied territory. Flying his P-51 Mustang, Overstreet was escorting American bombers through France when a dogfight broke out. Overstreet broke away to pursue an enemy German plane.
PASTOR JEFF CLEMMONS: It started at 30,000 feet....This was a half-hour dogfight which would end up going through the streets of Paris and conclude itself through a pursuit through the Eiffel Tower where Bill shot down the German pilot.
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A Berliner and longtime member of St. Mary's church choir, Christian Beier attempts to explain the mystique and tradition behind this piece of music....
"It makes Christmas Christmas," he adds with a chuckle.
But as gorgeous as the music is for Beier, the core of this yearly event is something deeper.
"It is getting into some dialogue with God. It is being moved by whatever is around us," he says.
Read or listen to it all (audio for this highly encouraged).
Rahma and Ugbad Sadiq packed their school bags as they did every morning, and left the family home in Kolsås, Norway, where their parents immigrated in 1996 to escape war in their native Somalia.
But by 5 p.m. that day, Oct. 17, the teenage sisters hadn't returned to help prepare dinner. An email was waiting for the parents in their inbox.
"Papa, we're on our way to Syria. It isn't enough to stay in Norway while Muslim people are in huge trouble. We have to deal with them in their daily life to help them," it said.
Their mother fainted, hitting the floor, her husband, Juma Sadiq, recounted....
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The 18-year-old Belgian-born player was on the fringes of the first-team squad last term but an impressive pre-season led new United boss David Moyes to consider him as a starter.
He scored twice in his first start at Sunderland in October but since then has largely had to bide his time until Saturday's well-taken 36th minute goal after evading the offside trap.
"Adnan Januzaj is doing really well. We are always hard on him, we always want more but he is doing remarkably well. He can score goals, he is a real talent," Moyes told the BBC.
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This is must--not--miss fantastic! Watch it all (Hat tip: AH)
Belgium’s Catholic bishops have criticised a parliamentary vote paving the way for sick children and dementia patients to choose euthanasia.
“The voices of religious leaders have plainly not been listened to,” said Jesuit Father Tommy Scholtes, bishops’ conference spokesman.
“While everyone wants a gentle death, public opinion appears unaware that euthanasia is a technical act that ends life abruptly. This is why we reject it and believe palliative care offers a better solution,” he told the Catholic News Service.
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“There is not and never will be a ‘definitive’ interpretation of the coming of war: each writer can only offer a personal view”, Hastings contends. The three under review describe in ever more detail what it was like, but only consider in the most broad terms what the war was about and why Europe’s people engaged so wholeheartedly in it. After reading them, one despairs of ever being able to break the distorting lens of the Second World War that prevents our understanding the First. Churchill’s legacy in particular, both as Britain’s successful later war leader and as a contentious popular historian of the war in which he did conspicuously less well, remains pernicious.
The war’s course and outcomes were rooted in the events of 1914 – the French victory on the Marne, Serbia’s repulse of Austria’s invasion, Russia’s defeat at Tannenberg, the Royal Navy’s hold on the North Sea and the decision to expand the British army. There is much more to be said, although it remains to be seen what impact extensive historical revisionism on popular motivation and the military conduct of the war, which has been developing for several decades, will have on the history wars. It does not seem to be riding the crest of the first wave, and perhaps it will not be until the centenaries have passed that a more nuanced understanding of the war will be established. Should Great War historians despair? Boredom may set in, and publishers may feel they have done enough by 1918. Until then, the revisionist view will certainly vie for credibility and acceptance with the over-familiar story vividly retold here. Hastings and Mallinson both acknowledge its existence and dabble with it, but there is an obvious reluctance to waver from familiar paths.
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On Sunday 1 December, St George's Anglican Church in Berlin celebrated the 10th anniversary of the restoration of regular services in central Berlin (Mitte).
The first St George’s in the city was built in 1885 under the patronage of the Crown Princess of Germany, Victoria (eldest daughter of Queen Victoria) who was married to the future Kaiser Friedrich III. It was the only Anglican Church in Germany to remain open during World War I, as the Kaiser was the Church’s Patron. It was closed in the Second World War and hit by allied bombing 24 Nov 1943 and the remains were pulled down by the East Berlin authorities. After World War II, new St George's, a garrison Church, was built in the British sector. In 1994 the new St George’s became a civilian congregation of the Diocese.
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On June 28 this year, Italian police arrested a silver-haired priest, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, in Rome. The cleric, nicknamed Monsignor Cinquecento after the €500 bills he habitually carried around with him, was charged with fraud and corruption, together with a former secret service agent and a financial broker. All three were suspected of attempting to smuggle €20m by private plane across the border from Switzerland.
Prosecutors alleged that the priest, a former banker, was using the Institute for Religious Works – the formal name for the Vatican’s bank – to move money for businessmen based in the Naples region, widely regarded in Italy as a haven of organised crime. Worse still, Scarano (who, together with the other men, has denied any wrongdoing) had until only a month earlier been head of the accounting department at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, the treasury of the Vatican.
The arrest, and the headlines that screamed across the Italian press, was the latest shock for the Holy See....
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Some of the rarest and most fragile religious texts in the Vatican and Bodleian libraries, including ancient bibles and some of the oldest Hebrew manuscript and printed books, are being placed online in a joint project by the two great libraries, which will eventually create an online archive of 1.5m pages.
The website launched on Tuesday with funding from the Polonsky Foundation includes the first results of the four-year project, including the Bodleian's 1455 Gutenberg Bible, one of only 50 surviving copies of the first major book printed in the west with metal type.
The site will also host a growing collection of scholarly essays, and interviews with the Oxford and Vatican librarians, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said the digitisation was of huge international significance.
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British novelist and essayist Francis Spufford’s spirited defense of the Christian religion is in some ways like eavesdropping on a missionary conversation with the pagans of antiquity.
“Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense” — is the latest attempt at an ancient literary form, the Christian apology, and it makes its appearance in the United States more than a year after it was published in England.
Spufford’s defense of Christianity is aimed primarily at what he calls “godless Europeans,” the post-Enlightenment elites who tend to regard religion with bemusement as a silly fairy tale, if not with open hostility as a dangerous superstition.
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One day near the middle of the last century a minister in a prison camp in Germany conducted a service for the other prisoners. One of those prisoners, an English officer who survived, wrote these words:
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer always seemed to me to spread an atmosphere of happiness and joy over the least incident, and profound gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive… He was one of the very few persons I have ever met for whom God was real and always near… On Sunday, April 8, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer conducted a little service of worship and spoke to us in a way that went to the heart of all of us. He found just the right words to express the spirit of our imprisonment, and the thoughts and resolutions it had brought us. He had hardly ended his last prayer when the door opened and two civilians entered. They said, “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us.” That had only one meaning for all prisoners–the gallows. We said good-bye to him. He took me aside: “This is the end; but for me it is the beginning of life.” The next day he was hanged in Flossenburg.”I read it every year on this day and every year it (still) brings me to tears--KSH.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * International News & Commentary Europe Germany * Theology Eschatology Pastoral Theology
Lyrics:Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers' arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us still in grace,
and guide us when perplexed;
and free us from all ills,
in this world and the next.
All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given;
the Son, and him who reigns
with them in highest heaven;
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.
Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny", urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.
The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.
In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the "idolatry of money" and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare".
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Sir Nicholas Winton organized the rescue and passage to Britain of about 669 mostly Jewish Czechoslovakian children destined for the Nazi death camps before World War II in an operation known as the Czech Kindertransport.
After the war, Nicholas Winton didn’t tell anyone, not even his wife Grete about his wartime rescue efforts. In 1988, a half century later, Grete found a scrapbook from 1939 in their attic, with all the children’s photos, a complete list of names, a few letters from parents of the children to Winton and other documents. She finally learned the whole story.
In the video [at the link] the survivors gathered to give him a wonderful surprise. Watch it all (Hat tip DR).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children History Military / Armed Forces Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe Czech Republic Germany * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Judaism
Iran and six major powers agreed early Sunday on a historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions.
The agreement, sealed at a 3 a.m. signing ceremony in Geneva’s Palace of Nations, requires Iran to halt or scale back parts of its nuclear infrastructure, the first such pause in more than a decade.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hailed the deal, which was reached after four days of hard bargaining, including an eleventh-hour intervention by Secretary of State John F. Kerry and foreign ministers from Europe, Russia and China.
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Almighty God, by whose grace thy servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
‘I’m very optimistic about the future of cinema,” says Serge Toubiana, the director of the Cinematheque Francaise, sitting in the library at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.
Toubiana was in Israel last week, a guest of the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, currently celebrating its 40th anniversary.
While Toubiana’s formal title certainly sounds impressive enough to the casual observer, the fact is that Toubiana could be called the King of Cinema.
The Cinematheque Francaise is the mecca for film lovers worldwide.
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Granada was of course, in 1492, the last Moorish city to surrender to the “Catholic Kings”. The return of Islam today has loud historical resonances. The Grand Mosque of Granada, as it calls itself, is now celebrating the 10th anniversary of its controversial opening.
It is the brainchild of Abdalqadir as-Sufi, born in Scotland in 1930 and christened Ian Dallas. He became a Muslim in 1967 and spent years seeking permission from the city council of Granada to build a mosque here.
What I had not realised, until I read a fascinating chapter in In the Light of Medieval Spain (Palgrave, £61), is that, down the hill, a mosque had long been functioning in Granada that is more open to the mainstream of Islam than the cliquish Albaicín mosque. Near the Plaza Nueva, next to the Oasis Backpackers’ Hostel, stands the al-Taqua mosque. It has been there since the 1980s.
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Shady dealing in militaria is nothing new, but the internet – in particular, special interest forums and the lawless so-called "darknet" – have opened up what used to be a tiny pursuit to a worldwide market, increasing demand.
In particular, with the centenary of the First World War coming up, its relics are rapidly rising in value. If you know where to look, you can find posts on websites hawking some of the most dangerous pieces – everything from poison gas canisters to live hand grenades – which the dealers handle with incredibly blasé contempt.
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Standard and Poor's (S&P) has cut France's credit rating to AA from AA+.
The moves comes almost two years after the country lost its top-rated AAA status....
S&P said in its statement: "We believe the French government's reforms to taxation, as well as to product, services and labour markets, will not substantially raise France's medium-term growth prospects and that ongoing high unemployment is weakening support for further significant fiscal and structural policy measures."
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Some 500 years after England's King Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican is vowing to defeat the Church of England — not in the pews, but on the cricket pitch.
The Vatican has launched its own cricket club — a move aimed at forging ties with teams of other faiths.
Rome's Capannelle Cricket Club is hosting training matches that will lead to the creation of the Vatican team, the St. Peter's Cricket Club.
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The return of the liberal arts to Europe is especially interesting. One story that has never been fully told about British higher education is the narrowing of its degrees. When I was a student, many universities would require students to take three subjects in the first year, two in the second, and one in the third. When and why this disappeared in so many places, I am not quite sure. Meanwhile, a few brave experiments with much broader university curricula, often modeled on American lines, went the way of all flesh, again for reasons that are not all obvious to me.
Even small specialist British institutions like the London School of Economics and Political Science, which specializes in the social sciences and might have been able to offer more in the way of interdisciplinary content, seem to have succumbed to the onslaught of single-discipline degrees.
That narrowing of university curricula is regrettable, and it cannot be patched up by just a few interdisciplinary modules, important as those undoubtedly are. Therefore, the move toward what might be thought of as an American liberal-arts model in Europe and Asia is surely to be welcomed. But it will still be limited in scope, I suspect. The pull of single-discipline degrees remains great.
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So what can we do about this? One idea would be to look for – and then exploit – shale gas in Europe. We may have quite a lot of it – for instance in France, Germany and the UK. But to produce it we need a public consensus – and there is still a lot of opposition in western Europe. Of course, the opposition is understandable – fracking is loud and invasive, and the continent is densely populated. But if Europe is serious about creating wealth and jobs, it is an option worth exploring.
The country that is furthest along the road to consensus-building is the UK, which can count on political will, tax incentives and even a blessing from the Archbishop of Canterbury. If it does manage to create a healthy shale gas industry, it could pave the way for continental Europe to follow.
Other potential components of the solution for Europe are nuclear power, energy efficiency, better use of conventional hydrocarbons – in short, anything that can make energy cheaper and more readily available.
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George Horner, 90, is the oldest musician to make his debut in Boston’s Symphony Hall. During the Holocaust, he played music to lift the spirits of other prisoners, and shared some of those arrangements during a concert organized by the Terezin Music Foundation. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.
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My father, who died earlier this year at the ripe old age of 90, had a life that was as varied as it was long.
He served in the Italian campaign in the Second World War, then became an Anglican clergyman, a fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, and subsequently dean of St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong. For 21 years he was principal of Morley College, an institute of adult education, in London, and finally director of a large charitable foundation. In his retirement he returned to his first love, church history, completing a project on Restoration church courts that he had put aside 30 years previously and ending his career with seven entries on Restoration Anglican divines for the Dictionary of National Biography, which was published in his 81st year. (“Not my period” he would always declare stoutly when asked a question about a historical event that fell outside the late 17th century, although in fact he wrote what is still a standard history of the movement for Christian unity.)
At the age of 85 he was awarded the rare degree of doctor of divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a ceremony at Lambeth Palace at which Rowan Williams preached a fire-breathing sermon on the threat of secularism, little knowing that my father had long ceased to be a believer.
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...those leading the battle to protect ritual slaughter don't believe their opponents are driven by anti-Jewish bigotry. "This has more to do with ignorance," said Jonathan Ornstein, a former New Yorker who heads the Jewish Community Center in Krakow.
Mr. Ornstein and Rabbi Schudrich both described a relentless campaign by animal-rights activists, inundating members of parliament with dozens of emails and phone calls each day. The protestors regularly make false claims, including that kosher slaughter is outlawed in the U.S. This pressure, along with support from a rebel faction of the ruling Civic Platform party, caused the defeat of the government's pro-ritual slaughter bill in July.
With the High Court ruling on the horizon—Rabbi Schudrich expects it to be delivered by the end of this year—advocates for ritual slaughter want to ensure that the decision goes their way. To avoid reducing the controversy to one about anti-Semitism, Messrs. Schudrich and Ornstein are emphasizing the idea that ritual slaughter is predicated on the importance of animals suffering as little as possible. The message is buttressed by the fact that both men are vegetarians.
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The United States is a great place. From New York to Los Angeles and covering everything in between, the U.S. boasts unprecedented diversity, natural wonder and opportunity. Americans love freedom so much, they have hot dog-eating contests on Independence Day to prove it. And good luck finding something better than a cronut.
Despite that general awesomeness, though, the U.S. isn't the best at everything. That's not dinging the land of the free and the home of the brave for no reason, but rather, to say that Europe just does some things better.
Here are a few arenas where the U.S. could learn a thing or two from the old country.
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there are 15 slides in all--check them out (and note there is an autoplay slideshow option).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * General Interest Animals * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe
One of the myths about this Diocese in Europe that is very frustrating to put to rest is that we are a basically a religious club for English people living abroad.
While many of our over 300 congregations have many, or even in some cases mostly English members, particularly in areas of the Diocese where a number of British people have retired, it is simply not accurate to describe our Diocese as the "Brits Abroad". We are a home for all who wish to worship with us, and that includes not just the English (and certainly not just Church of England folk) but English-speakers from a host of countries around the world. There are also some of our congregations which worship in languages other than English....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe
Pope Francis cranked up his charm offensive on the world outside the Vatican on Tuesday, saying in the second widely shared media interview in two weeks that each person “must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them” and calling efforts to convert people to Christianity “solemn nonsense....”
Some conservative Catholics were also taken aback by the interview.
“My e-mail is filled with notes from people who need to be talked off the ledge,” wrote the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, author of one of the more popular blogs for Catholic conservatives.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Media Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Italy * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology
Pope Francis told me: "The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don't even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing."
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Ever since 9/11, the struggle against terrorists has focused too much on killing them rather than their message. That may change with a new public-private effort to counter the appeal of jihadists with a grass-roots campaign aimed at young and vulnerable Muslims....
[Last] Friday, Turkey and the United States announced plans to raise more than $200 million for a global fund to counter the “local drivers of radicalization to violence.” Much like campaigns against illiteracy or the child sex trade, this one has dozens of countries behind it. A coalition called the Global Counterterrorism Forum will build on the expertise of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Indonesia that have successfully “deradicalized” captured terrorists.
Lessons from those rehab programs can be applied by civic groups and governments to prevent radicalization of Muslims. At the heart of these efforts will be moderate Muslims, such as Islamic scholars or former terrorists, who can effectively deliver the message that Islam does not justify the purposeful killing of innocents.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Young Adults * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Europe Turkey * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Christian de Chergé was a Trappist monk who, with six of his monastic brothers, was killed in Algeria in 1996. The exact circumstances of their deaths remain disputed. They were abducted by a band of radical Islamists, in the midst of a horrendously violent period of civil-religious strife. Only their severed heads were subsequently recovered. To what degree did the Algerian army play a role in their deaths, and with what assistance from French security advisers, wittingly or unwittingly?
Rather, de Chergé gave his life as a reconciling gift thrown into the midst of the hostility and violence associated with antagonistic diversities. His was a witness made quintessentially within our late modern culture of fragmented “globalized” hopelessness....
Christian Salenson’s Christian de Chergé: A Theology of Hope (a translation of the 2009 French original) follows in step with the temper of the times, and takes up the [interest in the] Christian-Muslim... [angle of his thought]. Although this approach has its limitations, the volume, in all of its austere precision and accessibility, is of the highest quality, and deserves to be read as a necessary introduction to de Chergé’s thought. SRead it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Books * International News & Commentary Africa Algeria Europe France * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Eschatology
The president of Croatia told a Yale University audience Monday that his country’s social and economic future depend, in part, on the religious tolerance of its people.
Ivo Josipovic, himself an avowed agnostic, has made religious dialogue a hallmark of reform efforts in Croatia. It is central to his international dealings, as well.
“The nature of religion is always trying to push us to do something good. That’s very important to me,” Josipovic said during a speech at Yale Divinity School. “I always think that religion can be (a) bridge between different people and different states.”
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It is not every day that a publication of America's foreign-policy establishment, which generally reflects the liberal sensibilities of think-tanks, law practices and college faculties, publishes a sort of defence of the public role of Russian Orthodoxy. Yet that, with a big qualification, is the position taken by Nadieszda Kizenko, a history professor at the State University of New York, in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations. The qualification? She is referring not to the church's top hierarchs, but to a broader community of people, including scholars and public intellectuals.
When the church is in the news, she acknowledges, "the image that comes to mind is of an army of archbishops and abbots...operating in conspiracy with the country's authoritarian rulers in the Kremlin." But that is far from the full story because "devout Orthodox Christian journalists, academics and political scientists" were becoming "increasingly assertive as alternative spokespeople for the faith." Ms Kizenko (who is American-born but of Slavic descent) notes that "women now dominate the rapidly growing field of religious media, which ranges from glossy mass-market magazines to religious bookstores and publishing houses, blogs and social networks, as well as television and movie production studios." A "burgeoning Orthodox intelligentsia" is challenging both the church hierarchy and by extension the Putin regime, in her view.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
France has now joined a global struggle against the sexualization of women, especially girls, in public. On Wednesday [last week], the French upper house of Parliament voted to end beauty pageants for girls younger than 16.
The bill, which must still be approved by the lower house, was introduced to fend off a growing popularity of such pageants but also in response to public outrage over a French Vogue photo spread showing child models in tight dresses, lipstick, and high heels. Many in France were also upset that the company Jours Après Lunes came out with a line of “loungerie” – a mix of loungewear and lingerie – for girls as young as 4.
“Let us not allow our girls to think from a young age that their worth is judged only by their appearance,” said Sen. Chantal Jouanno, a champion of the pageant ban.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Media Teens / Youth Women * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary Europe France * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Angela Merkel won a landslide personal victory in Germany's general election on Sunday, but her conservatives appeared just short of the votes needed to rule on their own and may have to convince leftist rivals to join a coalition government.
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Filed under: * Economics, Politics Economy Credit Markets Currency Markets Euro European Central Bank The Banking System/Sector The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010 Germany * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
When the Russian Orthodox Church is in the news, which has been quite often of late, the image that comes to mind is of an army of archbishops and abbots, commanded by Patriarch Kirill I, operating in conspiracy with the country’s authoritarian rulers in the Kremlin. This is not without reason. The church’s conservative clerics have, in fact, given their support to the government’s most polarizing recent laws, including the jailing of three members of ##### Riot for offending believers’ religious sensibilities, legislation proscribing “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” and the institution of a limit of three legal marriages per Russian, to discourage divorce.
But to conclude that the Russian Orthodox Church is nothing more than a bastion of extreme conservatives is to miss the many ways that change is being forced upon it. In some sense, the church’s ultraconservatism is on the wane -- for confirmation, one need only look to what’s happening among the laity, rather than to the very top of the church’s hierarchy. Devout Orthodox Christian journalists, academics, and political scientists -- as well as free-thinking priests -- are becoming increasingly assertive as alternative spokespeople for their faith. This burgeoning Orthodox intelligentsia is already posing a challenge to the conservative church hierarchy and, by extension, to Vladimir Putin’s regime.
This is not the first time that the church has produced prominent dissident intellectuals....
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Orthodox Church
This past August, while contemplating the beauties of the Ottawa River from the deck of my family’s cottage on Allumette Island, Father Raymond de Souza, the Canadian commentator and a former-student-become-friend-and-colleague, offered an interesting take on World Youth Day 2016, which will be held in Cracow. When you think about it, he said, “the 20th century happened in Cracow.”
I think I know what Father de Souza meant. Cracow and its people suffered terribly under both Nazi and communist occupation; the murders at Auschwitz took place a few dozen kilometers away; the city-without-God, Nowa Huta, was built outside Cracow, as payback for the city’s failure to vote correctly in a bogus communist election. Yet the bad news was not all the news there was, in Cracow. For in this same city, the divine answer to the unprecedented human wickedness of the 20th century was given, in the visions of the divine mercy that seized the religious imagination of an obscure Polish nun, Sister Faustina Kowalska. And it was from Cracow that there came a man who brought Sister Faustina’s message of divine mercy to the world.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Poland * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic
Ever since the euro crisis broke in late 2009 this newspaper has criticised the world’s most powerful woman. We disagreed with Angela Merkel’s needlessly austere medicine: the continent’s recession has been unnecessarily long and brutal as a result. We wanted the chancellor to shrug off her cautious incrementalism and the mantle of her country’s history—and to lead Europe more forcefully. She is largely to blame for the failure to create a full banking union for the euro zone, the first of many institutional changes it still needs. She has refused to lead public opinion, never spelling out to her voters how much Germany is to blame for the euro mess (nor how much its banks have been rescued by its bail-outs). We also worry that she has not done enough at home: in recent years no country in the European Union has made fewer structural reforms, and her energy policies have landed Germany with high subsidies for renewables and high electricity prices.
And yet we believe Mrs Merkel is the right person to lead her country and thus Europe. That is partly because of what she is: the world’s most politically gifted democrat and a far safer bet than her leftist opponents. It is also partly because of what we believe she could still become—the great leader Germany and Europe so desperately needs.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Economy Credit Markets Currency Markets Euro European Central Bank The Banking System/Sector The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe --European Sovereign Debt Crisis of 2010 Germany
The United States and Russia agreed Saturday on an outline for the identification and seizure of Syrian chemical weapons and said Syria must turn over an accounting of its arsenal within a week.
The agreement will be backed by a U.N. Security Council resolution that could allow for sanctions or other consequences if Syria fails to comply, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said.
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The day after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the headline in Paris' Le Monde newspaper read "We are all Americans". Liane Hansen speaks with Jean-Marie Colombani, who wrote the article that ran beneath that headline about his reflections on that time.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Europe France
In a surprising turnabout on Monday, Syria welcomed a Russian plan to turn its chemical weapons over to the international community for destruction. The US said it would take a hard look at the idea, first floated by Secretary of State John Kerry in an offhand comment.
The swift moves raised the possibility that the Syria crisis could be resolved via diplomacy. But the international situation was fluid and it remained possible the nascent plan could fall apart.
The US would look at the proposal with “serious skepticism,” said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, because Syria had consistently refused to destroy its chemical weapons in the past.
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Leading a crowd in prayer for peace in Syria, Pope Francis said that war is ultimately caused by selfishness, which can be overcome only though expressions of fraternity and never with violence.
"Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation," the pope said Sept. 7 before an estimated 100,000 people in St. Peter's Square.
The pope had called the prayer vigil less than a week earlier, as the central event of a worldwide day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East and the world.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Europe Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Syria’s bioweapons program, which U.S. officials believe has been largely dormant since the 1980s, is likely to possess the key ingredients for a weapon....This latent capability has begun to worry some of Syria’s neighbors, especially after allegations that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad used internationally banned chemical weapons against civilians in an Aug. 21 attack.
Top intelligence officials in two Middle East countries said they have examined the potential for bioweapons use by Syria, perhaps as retaliation for Western military strikes on Damascus. Although dwarfed by the country’s larger and better-known chemical weapons program, Syria’s bioweapons capability could offer the Assad regime a way to retaliate because the weapons are designed to spread easily and leave few clues about their origins, the officials said.
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he Vatican is ramping up its opposition to threatened military strikes against Syria as it draws attention to Pope Francis' plans to host a day of fasting and prayer for peace this weekend.
The Vatican has invited all ambassadors accredited to the Holy See to attend a briefing Thursday on the pope's agenda for the four-hour vigil Saturday night in St. Peter's Square, and bishops' conferences from around the world have announced plans to host local versions of the vigil as well.
Even the Vatican's often dysfunctional bureaucracy seems to be on message with the initiative, Francis' first major foray into international diplomacy since being elected in March.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Europe Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The United States' competitiveness among global economies is rising again after four years of decline, though northern European countries continue to dominate the rankings published annually by the World Economic Forum.
In its latest survey, released Wednesday, the Forum ranked the U.S. — the world's largest economy — in fifth place for overall competitiveness, up from seventh last year. The U.S. turnaround reflects "a perceived improvement in the country's financial market as well as greater confidence in its public institutions," the report concluded....
Six European countries dominated the top 10: Switzerland, Finland, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The remaining three slots were Asian: Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.
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Pope Francis attempted to set a new tone for a Vatican beset by scandals on Saturday by naming a veteran diplomat as secretary of state, a role often called the "deputy pope".
Archbishop Pietro Parolin's appointment ends the era of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was widely blamed for failing to prevent ethical and financial scandals that marked the eight-year reign of former Pope Benedict, who resigned in February.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Italy * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic Pope Francis * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Canon Meurig Williams writes:- “Bishop Geoffrey visited Armenia from Friday August 23rd until Tuesday 27th. This was a farewell visit to Catholicos Karekin II and the Armenian Apostolic Church before Bishop Geoffrey retires in November. In his role as Anglican co-chair of the theological dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches of which the Armenian Church is one, Bishop Geoffrey has a long standing relationship going back many years. He has accompanied both Archbishops George Carey and Rowan Williams on their official visits to the Armenian Church and was present also at the 1700th anniversary of Armenian Christianity.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * International News & Commentary Europe Armenia * Religion News & Commentary Ecumenical Relations Other Churches Orthodox Church
The US, Great Britain, France, Germany, Turkey, Jordan, Canada, Australia, the Arab League and Israel have all determined that a massive chemical attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21 was conducted by Assad's armed forces. Over one thousand died in the attack, and thousands more were wounded.
But the White House and 10 Downing both faced an onslaught of questions laced with references to the botched intelligence assessments that led to the allied invasion of Iraq in 2003.
President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron both acknowledged those concerns, but rejected the comparison as fundamentally flawed.
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