Friday, January 21, 2022

Crypto Crash

The latest (as of posting time) in the seemingly endless chain of crashes, punctuated by suckers rallies in the crypto markets. Bitcoin down -14%, Etherium -18%, Ripple -15%, Litecoin -17% since midnight.  

Friday, January 14, 2022

Russia reportedly preparing false flag operations in Ukraine

The US has information that indicates Russia has prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine, a US official told CNN on Friday, in an attempt to create a pretext for an invasion.

The official said the US has evidence that the operatives are trained in urban warfare and in using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia's own proxy forces.

The allegation echoes a statement released by Ukraine's Ministry of Defense on Friday, which said that Russian special services are preparing provocations against Russian forces in an attempt to frame Ukraine. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan hinted at the intelligence during a briefing with reporters on Thursday.

"Our intelligence community has developed information, which has now been downgraded, that Russia is laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating the pretext for an invasion," Sullivan said on Thursday. "We saw this playbook in 2014. They are preparing this playbook again and we will have, the administration will have, further details on what we see as this potential laying of the pretext to share with the press over the course of the next 24 hours."

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Friday that "the military units of the aggressor country and its satellites receive orders to prepare for such provocations."

The US intelligence finding comes after a week's worth of diplomatic meetings between Russian and Western officials over Russia's amassing of tens of thousands of troops along Ukraine's border. But the talks failed to achieve any breakthroughs, as Russia would not commit to de-escalating and American and NATO officials said Moscow's demands -- including that NATO never admit Ukraine into the alliance -- were non-starters.

A number of Ukraine's governmental websites were hit by a cyberattack on Friday, a development European officials warned would ratchet up tensions over Ukraine even further.

The US official said that the Biden administration believes Russia could be preparing for an invasion into Ukraine "that may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes should diplomacy fail to meet their objectives."

"The Russian military plans to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February," the official said. "We saw this playbook in 2014 with Crimea."

Read the rest here.

See also this related story analyzing possible military scenarios if Russia invades Ukraine. (Paywalled)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Prince Andrew is stripped of military honours and patronages

HM The Queen has stripped Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, of all his honorary military titles and royal patronages. Additionally, he is no longer permitted to use his HRH, according to an announcement from the Palace. The announcement stated that the Duke will defend himself in his current court case as a private citizen. 

I have up to now refrained from commenting on this sordid business, but I think this worth noting. My only response is that this is as welcome as it is overdue. 


Thursday, January 06, 2022

Manhattan's new DA will seek jail sentences only for 'most serious crimes'

Manhattan’s new district attorney began this week to adopt the lenient policies he campaigned on, setting the stage for potential conflict inside and outside his office as he tries to change the way criminal justice is administered in the borough.

The district attorney, Alvin Bragg, told prosecutors in his office in a memo that they should ask judges for jail or prison time only for the most serious offenses — including murder, sexual assault and economic crimes involving vast sums of money — unless the law requires them to do otherwise.

The crimes he instructed prosecutors to avoid seeking jail time for include certain robberies and assaults, as well as gun possession. He also directed that they no longer request prison sentences of more than 20 years absent “exceptional circumstances.”

Mr. Bragg’s goal is to reduce the harm the criminal justice system does to defendants, an aim he seeks to balance with the need to keep the public safe.

Although the new policies had long been expected — Mr. Bragg released a draft version during the campaign — their immediate adoption caused some confusion within his office. About 500 prosecutors must now decipher a complicated legal memo and figure out how to apply it to their active cases. Adding to the confusion is the fact that much of the office is working remotely.

The policies, which prompted an immediate backlash among conservative critics and in some law enforcement circles, may prove difficult to champion politically with New York City continuing to experience a sharp increase in murders and shootings.

In a statement, the Detective’s Endowment Association, which represents 5,000 active police detectives in the city, said the changes would “undermine the ability of the police to make arrests that lead to reduction of crime.”

James McGuire, who worked as a prosecutor in Manhattan and was chief counsel to Gov. George E. Pataki, a three-term Republican, said Mr. Bragg’s policies might bring him into conflict with other elected leaders, including Mayor Eric Adams, who ran, in part, on a law-and-order platform.

“These policies may be a challenge to the mayor and what he’s campaigned on,” Mr. McGuire said.

Asked about the district attorney on Wednesday in an interview with CBS, Mr. Adams said he knew and respected him, calling him “a great prosecutor.”

Mr. Bragg defended his plan in a Twitter thread on Wednesday.

“These policy changes not only will, in and of themselves, make us safer; they also will free up prosecutorial resources to focus on violent crime and bigger cases that make us safer,” he wrote.

In an interview before he took office, he said he had used the transition period since the election to “stress-test” the policies.

“There will be gaps and gray areas and people who don’t agree,” he said, adding that he was happy to discuss the new guidelines with members of his staff but that he would be less tolerant of “recalcitrance” on the part of prosecutors who are not interested in adhering to the underlying principles.

Mr. Bragg has also said he does not plan to prosecute some misdemeanors, including prostitution and fare evasion, that his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., had already stopped charging as crimes.

But he is adding several misdemeanors to the list, including the stand-alone charge for resisting arrest. Those who resist arrest by attacking police officers will still be charged.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Happy New Year

So; happy new year everybody. If the blog looks a little off, or it looked really weird earlier, it's because I had a massive brain fade this morning. While tinkering a bit with the layout in preparation for adding a few links, I accidentally deleted a large chunk of the side bar. If you think you faintly heard someone from the far side of the country screaming words and phrases typically associated with angry and or drunken sailors, it was probably me. I have since discovered that blogspot does NOT cache or save earlier versions of your blog. So, I spent a good deal of my day going through the waybackmachine that, thank G-- does preserve, and manually rebuilding my sidebar one link at a time. 

Here's hoping this is not an omen for how 2022 is going to go. 

Thursday, December 30, 2021


Russian Church forms "Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa"

Woodrow Wilson

Part I

Part II

If you're a fan of Mr. Wilson, I suggest you skip this. Or, take a valium before watching. FTR I don't rank him as the worst president. But he is definitely in the bottom tier. I think he did a lot more harm than his much maligned successor, Warren Harding.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Russian court orders closure of country’s oldest human rights group

Russia’s supreme court has ordered the closure of Memorial International, the country’s oldest human rights group, in a watershed moment in Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on independent thought.

The court ruled Memorial must be closed under Russia’s controversial “foreign agent” legislation, which has targeted dozens of NGOs and media outlets seen as critical of the government.

Memorial was founded in the late 1980s to document political repressions carried out under the Soviet Union, building a database of victims of the Great Terror and gulag camps. The Memorial Human Rights Centre, a sister organisation that campaigns for the rights of political prisoners and other causes, is also facing liquidation for “justifying terrorism and extremism”.

Memorial International’s closure marks an inflection point in Russia’s modern history, as efforts to publicise crimes under Soviet leaders such as Joseph Stalin have become taboo 30 years after the secret government archives were opened after the end of the Soviet Union. While not quite seeking a return to the Soviet past, Putin has become deeply sensitive to any criticism of it by groups including Memorial.

Genri Reznik, a lawyer who represented Memorial on Tuesday, called the decision to close it “political”, adding that the hearing reminded him of the Soviet show trials of the 1930s.

The decision also follows a sustained assault on Russian civil society this year that has led to opposition leaders such as Alexei Navalny being imprisoned, prominent activists and journalists fleeing the country, and NGOs and media outlets hit with fines and closures under Russia’s “foreign agents” and “undesirable” laws.

The judge, Alla Nazarova, ordered the organisation closed for “repeated” and “gross” violations of Russia’s foreign agent laws, a designation Memorial has called politically motivated but nonetheless claimed to have followed.

Read the rest here.

Quebec prepares strict law promoting French over English

Quebec is poised to introduce a strict new French language law restricting the use of English in public services in what critics have dubbed a "culture war" on its anglophone residents.

The province's ruling nationalist party, Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), say the tough measures are “urgently required” for the survival of the French language given the dominance of English in global popular culture.

“It’s nothing against the English Quebecers,” said Quebec's premier, Francois Legault. "It’s about protecting French."

But the province's anglophone residents say Bill 96, which is expected to come into force in the next year/2022, discriminates against bilinguals and denies them basic freedoms.

The legislation seeks to unilaterally change the Canadian Constitution to affirm Quebec as a nation and French its official language, using a mechanism designed to shield it from constitutional challenges.

The radical bill proposes more than 200 amendments to the province's landmark 1977 French-language charter, including stricter requirements for businesses to operate in French and tight limits on the number of francophones who can attend English-language colleges.  

Among the most controversial proposals are the extra powers handed to government language inspectors to raid offices and access the computers and phones of any businesses - including media organisations - suspected of violating the new law.

The draconian measures have inflamed the rhetoric around the debate, with prominent Canadian lawyer Anne-France Goldwater comparing the new snooping powers to the "Gestapo".

Simon Jolin-Barrette, the Quebec minister responsible for the French language, tabled the bill in response to studies by Quebec's French-language office that indicate the number of people who solely use French at home and work is on the decline.

“The time has come to take strong action,” Mr Jolin-Barrette said during recent legislative hearings on the bill.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Arrests, Beatings and Secret Prayers: Inside the Persecution of India’s Christians

INDORE, India — The Christians were mid-hymn when the mob kicked in the door.

A swarm of men dressed in saffron poured inside. They jumped onstage and shouted Hindu supremacist slogans. They punched pastors in the head. They threw women to the ground, sending terrified children scuttling under their chairs.

“They kept beating us, pulling out hair,” said Manish David, one of the pastors who was assaulted. “They yelled: ‘What are you doing here? What songs are you singing? What are you trying to do?’”

The attack unfolded on the morning of Jan. 26 at the Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra Christian center in the city of Indore. The police soon arrived, but the officers did not touch the aggressors. Instead, they arrested and jailed the pastors and other church elders, who were still dizzy from getting punched in the head. The Christians were charged with breaking a newly enforced law that targets religious conversions, one that mirrors at least a dozen other measures across the country that have prompted a surge in mob violence against Indian Christians.

Pastor David was not converting anyone, he said. But the organized assault against his church was propelled by a growing anti-Christian hysteria that is spreading across this vast nation, home to one of Asia’s oldest and largest Christian communities, with more than 30 million adherents.

Anti-Christian vigilantes are sweeping through villages, storming churches, burning Christian literature, attacking schools and assaulting worshipers. In many cases, the police and members of India’s governing party are helping them, government documents and dozens of interviews revealed. In church after church, the very act of worship has become dangerous despite constitutional protections for freedom of religion.

To many Hindu extremists, the attacks are justified — a means of preventing religious conversions. To them, the possibility that some Indians, even a relatively small number, would reject Hinduism for Christianity is a threat to their dream of turning India into a pure Hindu nation. Many Christians have become so frightened that they try to pass as Hindu to protect themselves.

“I just don’t get it,” said Abhishek Ninama, a Christian farmer, who stared dejectedly at a rural church stomped apart this year. “What is it that we do that makes them hate us so much?”

The pressure is greatest in central and northern India, where the governing party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is firmly in control, and where evangelical Christian groups are making inroads among lower-caste Hindus, albeit quietly. Pastors hold clandestine ceremonies at night. They conduct secret baptisms. They pass out audio Bibles that look like little transistor radios so that illiterate farmers can surreptitiously listen to the scripture as they plow their fields.

Read the rest here

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Pope Francis' new attack on Catholic traditionalists

As predicted in a recent post, the pope has launched the next phase of his war on Catholic traditionalists. Among the new rules are draconian restrictions on the traditional rites for baptism, confession, marriage, and holy unction. The traditional rites for confirmation and ordination to holy orders are now prohibited entirely. Cleary Francis wants to drive these people out of the Catholic Church. This is a man without charity and who believes that he is the absolute master of the liturgy and the rites of his church. That is a dangerous combination. 

How could anyone who is Orthodox contemplate entering into any kind of communion with a church that holds such beliefs and wages war on its own faithful? 



Thursday, December 16, 2021

Archbishop Makarios: The Orthodox Church cannot exist without the Ecumenical Patriarchate

“We Orthodox have a history of two thousand years. If during these two thousand years, the Orthodox Church did not have an Ecumenical Patriarchate, it should have created it. Because she would not have been able to proceed otherwise. I can not imagine the Orthodox Church without the Ecumenical Patriarchate. She cannot exist! Despite what is said and heard; despite the voices, the cold and icy voices from the north; the strange voices; the voices of secularisation, there can be no Orthodox Church without the first of Orthodoxy, who is the Ecumenical Patriarch.”

Read the rest here.

Honestly, he should just go off and join the Roman Catholics. He is clearly 3/4 of the way there already.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Russian Church throws cold water on union with Rome

Russia’s Orthodox Church dismissed talk of union between Orthodox and Catholic Churches but it confirmed earlier in the week that a meeting between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Pope Francis is possible.

Bishop Hilarion, the Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, said that the schism between Orthodoxy and Catholicism has existed for centuries and there are fundamental dogmatic differences between the two churches.

“No one talks about the union of the two Churches because the divisions have existed for a long time, many contradictions have accumulated, they have been living independently for almost ten centuries,” he said, adding “There is no talk of union, but there can be discussions to finally end the state of rivalry, of competition, of hostility, which has existed for many centuries.”

Hilarion, who is in effect the diplomatic envoy of the Russian Orthodox Church, said that he would meet Pope Francis in late December.

“I expect to congratulate him on his 85th birthday on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, as well as to discuss with him a broad range of issues regarding bilateral relations between our churches,” he noted.

“Among these issues is a possible meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. Neither the venue nor the date of this meeting has been determined for now,” Hilarion added.

Pope Francis told a news conference onboard a plane as he was returning from a mission trip to Greece and Cyprus that he might meet with Patriarch Kirill in the near future.

Read the rest here.