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.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Pope John Ireland? (updated)

Pope Francis is now more or less openly at war with the conservative wing of the Catholic Church and is known to hold so called traditionalists, those favoring the pre-Vatican II liturgical and sacramental rites, in particular contempt. In his recent, and perversely named motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis effectively revoked the decree of his predecessor granting broad permission for the use of the ancient rites of the Roman Church. The new rules are far more restrictive and appear to be a preparatory step towards the full suppression of the Tridentine Mass. 

I have already noted the ecumenical consequences of this hostility towards the liturgical patrimony of his church and his belief that he has the power to arbitrarily dictate all aspects of its liturgical life. Any such claimed authority is a non-starter with the Orthodox and a further, very serious, impediment to any talk of restoration of communion. If he believes he can wave his hand and outlaw the ancient rites of the West, why would he, or any of his successors, think they could not do the same to the rites of the Christian East? Indeed, many of the uniate churches have already been subjected to varying degrees of imposed "liturgical renewal" since Vatican II and even well before that. But his hostility to Catholic traditionalists appears to be of a nature where he is not interested in building bridges, so much as burning them. It is widely suspected on both sides of the cultural/theological divide that Francis' ultimate objective is the complete suppression of the old rites which he sees as a rallying point for resistance to the "spirit of Vatican II." There are now rumors circulating that he is preparing to forbid the ordination of priests using the old ritual. This would have the direct effect of crippling the religious orders whose formation and spiritual lives are centered around the old mass and the other sacraments served according to the rites in existence before 1962. It must be a source of continued irritation to liberals to see how these orders thrive, while so many others struggle to find vocations. 

One is left to wonder if Francis is not secretly hoping to drive these faithful Catholics out of his church, in much the way Bishop John Ireland was reportedly none too sad to see large numbers of Catholics whose manner of worship he did not agree with, depart for Orthodoxy. 

Update: Since this was originally posted further confirmation of my above concerns has surfaced. Vatican to implement sweeping worldwide ban on traditional sacraments in accordance with Traditionis Custodes.

HT: Dr. Tighe

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Friday, December 10, 2021


I just noticed several comments that landed in my spam folder and they have now been published. Sorry for the delay.

Inflation is near 40 year high

Inflation jumped to the highest level in nearly 40 years, fresh data released on Friday showed, as supply chain disruptions, rapid consumer demand and rising housing costs combined to fuel the strongest inflationary burst in a generation.

The rising costs spell trouble for officials at the Federal Reserve and the White House, who are trying to calibrate policy at a moment when the labor market has yet to completely heal from the pandemic, but the risk that price increases could become more lasting is increasing.

The Consumer Price Index climbed by 6.8 percent in the year through November, the data showed, the fastest pace since 1982. After stripping out food and fuel, which can move around a lot from month to month, inflation climbed by 4.9 percent.

Prices were up 0.8 percent from October, according to the report. That’s slightly slower than the prior monthly increase, but still an unusually rapid pace.

The question is what happens next. Fed officials have become increasingly concerned about rising price — both because the uptick has lasted longer than expected and because it shows signs of broadening to areas less affected by the pandemic.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

China Faces Massive Corporate Default

HONG KONG — For weeks, global markets have been watching the struggles of China Evergrande, a teetering real estate giant weighed down by $300 billion or more in obligations that just barely seemed able to make its required payments to global investors.

On Thursday, three days after a deadline passed leaving bondholders with nothing but silence from the company, a major credit ratings firm declared that Evergrande was in default. Instead of resolving questions about the fate of the Chinese behemoth, the announcement only deepened them.

The firm, Fitch Ratings, said in its statement that it had placed the Chinese property developer in its “restricted default” category. The designation means Evergrande had formally defaulted but had not yet entered into any kind of bankruptcy filing, liquidation or other process that would stop its operations.

It’s the nature of that next step — bankruptcy, a fire sale or business as usual — that remains unknown. In the United States and many other places, bondholders could push an unwilling company into some form of reorganization, usually in court, and divvy up the pieces.

That may still happen. But Evergrande is faltering in China, where the Communist Party keeps a firm hand on corporate meltdowns to keep them from spreading out of control. With Evergrande, the risk is high: A sudden unwinding of the company could hit the country’s financial system or, potentially, the many homeowners in China who have already paid for Evergrande apartments that are yet to be built.

The company’s largely resigned investors are now waiting to see what Evergrande, under the advice of a group of financial types tied to the state, will do next.

“We all expected that Evergrande was not going to be able to pull a rabbit out of their hat,” said Michel Löwy, chief executive of SC Lowy, an investment firm that has a small position in Evergrande bonds.

“Now, the ball is in their court to come up with some form of restructuring proposal,” he said.

Evergrande did not respond to a request for comment. Fitch said the company had not responded to its own request for confirmation about whether it had met or missed an $82 million payment to bondholders due on Monday, which prompted the ratings firm’s Thursday move.

Fitch on Thursday also put Kaisa, another large and distressed developer, into its “restricted default” category after the company failed to pay bondholders $400 million earlier this week.

Read the rest here.

For more background information, see this

New Zealand Embraces Prohibition

New Zealand on Thursday announced plans to prevent young people from ever being able to buy cigarettes as part of an initiative to make the country entirely smoke-free by 2025.

The measures will mean that anyone born after 2008 will not be able to purchase cigarettes or tobacco products in their lifetime, while the level of nicotine in cigarettes available to older people will be reduced.

The number of retailers able to sell cigarettes could also be cut substantially, officials said. The legislation is expected to be enacted next year.

Health officials and campaign groups have welcomed the move, recognizing the proposed reforms as one of the world’s toughest crackdowns on the tobacco industry.

New Zealand already requires plain packaging and has high taxes on cigarettes, but the health ministry says more action is required if it is to reach the goal of making the country smoke-free.

“This is a historic day for the health of our people,” Dr. Ayesha Verrall, associate health minister, said in a statement.

“We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offense to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth. People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.”

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 06, 2021

China is secretly preparing a military base in the Atlantic

BATA, Equatorial Guinea—Classified American intelligence reports suggest China intends to establish its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean in the tiny Central African country of Equatorial Guinea, according to U.S. officials.

The officials declined to describe details of the secret intelligence findings. But they said the reports raise the prospect that Chinese warships would be able to rearm and refit opposite the East Coast of the U.S.—a threat that is setting off alarm bells at the White House and Pentagon.

Principal deputy U.S. national security adviser Jon Finer visited Equatorial Guinea in October on a mission to persuade President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his son and heir apparent, Vice President Teodoro “Teodorin” Nguema Obiang Mangue, to reject China’s overtures.

“As part of our diplomacy to address maritime-security issues, we have made clear to Equatorial Guinea that certain potential steps involving [Chinese] activity there would raise national-security concerns,” said a senior Biden administration official.

The great-power skirmishing over a country that rarely draws outside attention reflects the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. The two countries are sparring over the status of Taiwan, China’s testing of a hypersonic missile, the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and other issues.

World-wide, the U.S. finds itself maneuvering to try to block China from projecting its military power from new overseas bases, from Cambodia to the United Arab Emirates.

In Equatorial Guinea, the Chinese likely have an eye on Bata, according to a U.S. official. Bata already has a Chinese-built deep-water commercial port on the Gulf of Guinea, and excellent highways link the city to Gabon and the interior of Central Africa.

Read the rest here.

University alumni are withholding donations, demanding free speech reforms

Two years ago Cornell University asked a California real-estate developer and longtime donor for a seven-figure contribution.

Carl Neuss didn’t write the check immediately, saying he was worried about what he saw as liberal indoctrination on campus and declining tolerance toward competing viewpoints.

To allay Mr. Neuss’s concerns, the development office introduced him to some politically moderate professors, he said. The attempt backfired. The professors, he said, told him they felt humiliated by the diversity training they were required to attend and perpetually afraid they would say something factual—but impolitic.

“If you say the wrong words, you could lose your position or be shunned,” said Mr. Neuss.

Joel Malina, Cornell’s vice president for university relations, said “robust debate and a discussion of all views remain hallmarks of the Cornell experience both in and out of the classroom.”

Mr. Neuss, who graduated from Cornell in 1976, withheld his donation and then helped start the Cornell Free Speech Alliance. It is one of about 20 such dissident alumni organizations that have taken root on college campuses over the last couple of years—including several this fall.

Many of the groups are driven by politically moderate or conservative men who graduated from college in the late 1960s and 1970s, according to interviews with several of the group leaders. They believe progressive groupthink has taken over college campuses, and are urging schools to protect free speech and encourage a diverse set of views. In some cases, alumni are withholding donations to pressure schools to take them seriously.

“This is a battle for our culture and, in many ways, for Western civilization,” said John Craig, who heads a similar organization at Davidson College in North Carolina called Davidsonians for Freedom of Thought and Discourse. “Open and free expression is what makes our country great, and if we lose this, our country is in deep trouble.”

Some faculty and students say campus politics are more complicated now than it was when many of these baby-boomer alumni were in school because student bodies are much more diverse.

Students carefully calibrate their remarks because people from so many more backgrounds and beliefs are listening, said Carol Quillen, president at Davidson.

“A little intellectual humility is not a bad thing,” she said

Read the rest here.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Bitcoin Plunges (Again)

Crypto craziness was on display again with the latest huge sell off in Bitcoin, which dropped around 17% over the last 24 hrs. Yet its proponents continue to tout it as a "safe haven" for currency volatility. Meanwhile in Turkey; the lira continues its rapid decline with inflation now running around 20%. Turks are rushing to convert their money... into dollars and gold.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Roe v Wade is on life support

Arguments today before the Supreme Court strongly suggest a majority (probably 5) of the justices are ready to reverse Roe. Chief Justice Roberts hinted at the possibility of severely curbing Roe while in theory leaving some part of it intact. He was probably thinking about limiting abortion rights to the first trimester. But it didn't sound like the other five conservative justices were interested. Seeing the writing on the wall, the three progressive justices were basically left to mourn the imminent demise of murder on demand as a judicially invented constitutional right.