Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cuban-Americans Devastated By Pope Francis' Role In Negotiations With Castro








The key role Pope Francis played encouraging talks between Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro left fractures among his flock in South Florida, where many older Roman Catholics equate the Castro brothers with the devil.
Many Catholics worldwide have expressed pride in seeing Francis stirring hopes of progress in communist Cuba, but some Cuban-Americans say their spiritual leader betrayed them.
“I’m still Catholic till the day I die,” said Efrain Rivas, a 53-year-old maintenance man in Miami who was a political prisoner in Cuba for 16 years. “But I am a Catholic without a pope.”
Rivas said he cried when Obama surprisingly announced a reversal of a half-century’s efforts to isolate Cuba. Then, when he learned of Francis’ role, he got angry.

And Francis, the first Latin American pope, has advocated for an end to the U.S. embargo since participating in John Paul’s visit to Cuba as the soon-to-be-named Cardinal of Buenos Aires.



Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who is close to Francis, set up the papal visits and has been decisive in improving ties between the church and the officially atheist state since becoming Havana archbishop in 1981. This frustrates some older Catholics who wanted the church to use its unique position inside Cuba to take a harder line.
“The church is contaminated,” said Miguel Saavedra, a 57-year-old Miami mechanic who leads an anti-Castro group and wears a gold cross as a sign of his Catholic faith.
Exiles incensed by the diplomacy openly wonder: Was Francis strong-armed by President Barack Obama? Does he understand how terrible the Castro brothers are? Was he perhaps making a foolhardy bid to cement his change-making image?
“I don’t know what the pope was thinking,” said Jose Sanchez-Gronlier, a 53-year-old lawyer who said he was persecuted for his faith until leaving Cuba as a teenager, and will never forget watching the government seize a convent near his childhood home. “I see a certain naivete in the pope,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American from Florida who has led the Republicans’ criticism of Obama’s executive actions on Cuba, also took a swipe at the pope, telling reporters in Washington that he would “ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy.”


Arturo Suarez-Ramos, a 50-year-old Miami waiter who was a political prisoner in Cuba for 27 years, said Francis is reaching for more headlines after insisting that homosexuals and divorced people are welcome in church.







Is U.S.-NATO Preparing To Wage War On Russia?





Is U.S.-NATO Preparing To Wage War On Russia?






Is US-NATO Preparing to Wage War on Russia? The Wales NATO  Summit in September has set the stage.
Several military initiatives directed against the Russian Federation have been launched in the last few months including the conduct of war games in Eastern Europe, military training and the deployment of special forces in Ukraine. 
These military initiatives are led in coordination with media propaganda and a program of “economic terrorism” consisting of disruptive economic sanctions, the freeze of monetary and trade transactions,  the fraudulent manipulation of the oil and currency markets, etc.  The media campaign consists in presenting war as a humanitarian undertaking. 
The endgame is to weaken the Russian Federation, undermine its institutions, impoverish its population.
Meanwhile, the US Congress has passed enabling legislation which provides a de facto green light to president Obama to declare war on Russia.
Reports have also confirmed that Washington is contemplating “regime change” in the Russian Federation with a view to installing a more compliant government in the Kremlin. According to President Vladimir Putin: 


“We see the tragic consequences of the so-called color revolutions and ordeals survived by the peoples of the states that faced these irresponsible experiments of covert and sometimes even… overt interference into their lives…
This is a lesson and warning for us and we will do everything possible to prevent this from happening in Russia.” (quoted in Sputnik, November 20 2014)

Military threat combined with “economic warfare” are intended to create social and economic instability in the Russian Federation. Cyber warfare is also an instrument of intervention directed against an enemy’s communications systems.
The US-NATO military exercises conducted in recent months in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States were explicitly directed against Russia. According to Moscow, they consisted in “increasing operation readiness” as well the transfer of NATO “military infrastructure to the Russian borders”.
In mid-December, General James Stavridis, former commander of Nato in Europe called upon the Atlantic Alliance to”send arms and military advisers to Ukraine to help it fight Moscow-backed separatists.”

 “I think we should provide significant military assistance to the Ukrainian military. I don’t think we should limit ourselves to, non-lethal aid. I think we should provide ammunition, fuel, logistics. I think cyber-assistance would be very significant and helpful, as well as advice and potentially advisers.
“I don’t think there needs to be huge numbers of Nato troops on the ground. The Ukrainian military can resist what’s happening, but they need some assistance in order to do that.” (quoted in the Guardian, December 14, 2014)

And on December 18th, President Barack Obama signed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act which allocates up to $350 million in military aid to Ukraine in support of its military campaign in Donbass.
In addition to the granting of military aid, the US military is directly involved in the process of military planning in close coordination with Ukraine’s Ministry Defense.
While US involvement is officially limited to training, the sending in of special forces and support to Ukraine’s National Guard, mercenaries and private security operatives on contract the Pentagon and NATO have also been deployed within the ranks of the Ukraine military and National Guard in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.


In late November, the US State Department confirmed that it “will continue to send special teams to Ukraine to provide security assistance”, namely advising and military training.
As part of this program of security assistance, Brig. Gen. John Hort, chief of operations, U.S. Army Europe was dispatched to Kiev together with “his staff and members of the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation, located at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv”, Ukraine,

participated in a Global Security Contingency Fund — Ukraine planning requirements meeting with Ukrainian National Guard officials, here, Dec. 8-9, 2014.
The purpose of the requirements meeting was to identify Ukraine’s National Guard Unit organization, training readiness and unit end state conditions after training completion.  U.S. Army Europe, Ukraine defense officials share lessons learned

Brig. Gen. John Hort (at easel), with his staff and members of the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation, Training Session at US embassy with representatives of the Ukraine Military and National Guard. Source US Army
The Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC): Subsidiary of the Pentagon at the US Embassy in Kiev

US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, in liaison with Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, plays a key role in coordinating the activities of ODC-Ukraine. Defense officials at the US Embassy are in turn in liaison with the Pentagon.  The activities of the ODC broadly defined consist in:
  1. The deployment of US military personnel inside Ukraine;
  2. Military training and advisory functions;
  3. The sale and procurement of US weapons systems;
  4. Support to Ukraine’s National Guard through a protocal agreement with California’s National Guard







On Friday, December 12, a Russian military jet has allegedly been involved in a near-mid-air- collision with a civilian airliner in Swedish airspace. Scandinavian and Russian officials have since been engaged in a barrage of claims and counterclaims. Some Scandinavian media provide detailed and sensationalized reports. Calls to Copenhagen Airport and the Danish and Swedish air traffic controllers led to the conclusion that these reports, in the absence of evidence, must be considered as being fabricated. Are some Scandinavian journalists and media complicit in a NATO propaganda campaign aimed at implementing a no fly zone for Russian military planes over the Baltic to further encircle Russia?


The Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hulquist responded to the alleged near-mid-air-collision on Swedish television. Hulquist accused the Russian Air Force for an alleged near-mid-air collision with a civilian airliner that had entered Swedish airspace immediately after takeoff from Kastrup airport, located near the Danish capital Copenhagen. Finland’s Transportation Minister Paula Risikko told Finland’s news agency STT on Sunday, that there was a need to discuss the Russian military planes and air safety over the Baltic. Hulquist would add that the Swedish Air Force has identified the Russian jet

The Swedish daily Aftonbladed would quote the Swedish flight-leader and press spokesman Roland Sandelin as saying that the Russian plane was near invisible because it had turned off its transponder and that this suggested “secretiveness”. Denmark’s television channel TV-2 would quote Swedish Air Force Chief Micael Bydén as saying that the two planes would have come pretty close to each other had one of them not changed course. TV-2 would publish a sensationalized report on the TV-channel’s website, claiming that there were no more than 90 meters separation between a Scandinavian Airlines SAS jet and the Russian military jet.

The spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov refuted the allegations. The Russian Tass news agency quoted Konashenkov as saying: “No prerequisites existed for an accident related to the flight of a Russian war-plane in the international airspace over the Baltic Sea on Friday, December 12. .. The flight was strictly in compliance with international air space rules, not violating borders of other countries and at a safe distance from traffic routes of civilian aircraft. … Flights of NATO war-planes which have become more than threefold more intensive in the last few months are always made with switched-off transponder.” Later Russian reports would add that a NATO surveillance aircraft had flown between the civilian airliner and the Russian military jet.

It is noteworthy that the alleged near-mid-air collision incident comes against the backdrop of NATO’s increased presence in Poland, the Baltic and the Scandinavian countries as well as NATO’s eastwards expansion in Ukraine. Earlier this year NATO decided to increase its patrol flights over the Baltic. Considering the strategic vulnerability of Russia’s port and naval base in Kaliningrad, Russia has, much to the discomfort of the Scandinavian countries and NATO, increased its air patrols too. The political tensions and the strategic posturing does, indeed, pose an increased risk to civilian air-traffic in the region. Sensationalized reports about “invisible planes” and “no more than 90 meters separation” appear to be fabricated propaganda aimed at creating the political context for the implementation of a no fly zone for Russian military planes over the Baltic in violation of international law









German companies doing business with Russia are suffering from the weak ruble, as one in three companies will have to fire employees or cancel its projects, the managing director of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce warned.
“The crisis of the Russian economy leaves behind an even deeper brake track in Russia-based ventures of German businessmen,” Volker Treier said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
The managing director of International Economic Affairs at the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) revealed that “one in eight companies is considering withdrawing from Russia. So the breach in so many business relations is imminent.”


According to Treier, the weak Russian currency is hurting German businesses. Ten percent of German companies have said that their long-term Russian partners are turning away from Europe toward Asian markets.
“Thirty-six percent of companies assume that they have to cancel their projects,” he cited the results of the poll, recently carried out by the German Chamber of Commerce in Russia among almost 300 German companies.

This data was backed up by Eckhard Cordes, chairman of Germany’s Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations. “At the moment, I expect a 20 percent fall of German exports to Russia by the end of 2014,” he told Handelsblatt newspaper Friday.
Cordes added that things are unlikely to improve next year. "I generally cautioned against Schadenfreude,” he said, referring to the notion of taking pleasure at someone else’s misfortune.

In neighboring Austria, views on the current economic situation are quite similar – and there is little support for the further tightening of sanctions against Russia.
“I cannot agree with the euphoria of many in the EU about the success of sanctions against Russia,”Österreich newspaper cited Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann as saying Sunday. “I see no reason for celebration. I do not know why we should be glad when the Russian economy collapses.”
“The weakening Russian economy is going to hurt primarily Europe, which trades quite heavily with Russia and it’s going to hurt smaller manufacturers and farmers - … the common person,” Gerald Celente, publisher of The Trends Journal and economic analyst told RT. “And who’s slowing down the most? It’s Europe. They have negative interest rates in Europe. That’s how bad it is.”




Also see:


















Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christian Aid Mission: Why Muslims Are Converting To Christ In The Face Of ISIS Atrocities





[This one is worth reading in full - entire article is posted below]




A Christian prays with a Muslim refugee in the Middle East who arrived at an undisclosed country with his children – and nothing else.
Atrocities by the Islamic State (ISIS) are softening the hearts of Muslims to Christianity, and evangelistic techniques and technologies are proving effective, but locally-based missionaries say the main reason for the spike in conversions in the Middle East is simply that former Muslims are finding God is real.
In war-torn areas of Syria and Iraq where ISIS is fighting to establish a caliphate, Muslim refugees to neighboring countries, Internally Displaced People and people remaining at home are learning about Christ from native aid workers, podcasts and broadcasts. Tent churches among refugees are sprouting like mushrooms. For people who have suffered such deep loss, seeing that they can pray to a personal God whom they can call Father has been the critical factor.
“You can see the tears in their eyes when we pray – that God would care,” said the director of one ministry working in the region. “It’s the connection that makes a huge difference.”
Muslims who were previously taught to pray by rote to Allah, who by Koranic definition was unknowable, can feel the difference of having a relationship with God through Christ.
“They see that God can give you strength, can heal you,” said the director. “They say that things have changed, that they have a peaceful attitude towards those ‘who have done this to my kids, wife, or husband - I can pray about it and give it to God.’”
Former Muslims, who once prayed five times a day as a duty, say they don’t quite know how to describe the difference.
"They say, 'Now with our relationship with God, we see a huge difference; something has changed in our life,'” he said. "You can see it on their faces. They say, 'Every time we pray, there’s a difference.'”
The soul-crushing loss of loved ones, home and country that people have suffered at the hands of ISIS has helped open Muslims to the gospel. Another ministry director said Syrian and Iraqi refugees are more open to the gospel than at any time in history because of atrocities by ISIS.
“Absolutely,” he said, “because ISIS is saying that the things they are doing come from the Koran.”
Tailoring evangelism to the Muslim worldview has also played a part, and one way of contextualizing the gospel for Muslims, ironically, involves the Hebrew Scripture. Middle Eastern Muslims are familiar with the blood sacrifice and prophets of the Old Testament, and Christian workers build bridges with those references. They talk about why Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, animal sacrifice, and the meaning of blood in ancient times, Moses and the saving blood smeared on doorposts in Egypt, and then Jesus’ shed blood.
“So we go from the Old Testament to the blood of Jesus that saves us; 99 percent of the people I know will use this method,” the ministry director said.
The deity of Jesus and the Trinity, by contrast, are the most problematic issues for Muslims. Imparting these doctrines takes time, and although the director and his teams teach the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, he said earthly teachers have little success.
“How do you convince them?” he said. “We were never able to convince them. Only when they read the Bible does it come, and then suddenly they say, 'Now I understand, I get it.'”
Many of those reached are illiterate and receive the Bible and message of salvation by radio – FM, medium wave, shortwave, satellite and internet radio stations – and by digitally stored media on MP3 players. The cost of one MP3 player distributed by the ministry that is assisted by Christian Aid Mission is $30, and they are solar powered, eliminating the need for electricity or batteries.
Arriving in Turkey after an Islamic State offensive drove them from Syria, families in search of food and shelter are more open to an encounter with Christ.
The gospel is best presented one-on-one rather than in large groups, in order to head off security problems, though witnessing Christ to families of three to five members is also effective. Security, of course, is a huge issue. Last month a ministry director lost one of his team leaders in Syria, a convert from Islam who is survived by his wife and three children. He was beheaded by other relatives.
In Iraq another of his team members was beheaded after ISIS found out a member of a church had visited him. He left a wife and four children. Yet another Christian in Mosul, Iraq, was killed after ISIS learned that a U.S. photographer had visited him.
Christian Aid Mission’s Middle East director said the ministry directors and their workers are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances who need prayers for safety and endurance, both emotionally and physically. The ministry director who lost team members last month spoke of their human frailty, even as they exercise immense faith.
“There are still workers there [in Iraq],” the director said. “They seem down. They are asking why is this happening to them when they’re doing what God is asking them to do? They seem depressed. The same in Syria. The main leader in Syria was crying on the phone. He could not speak. ‘I don’t know how people can do this,’ he said.”
One reason they’re killing is that they wish to stop the rapid spread of Christianity. There has never been a time when a greater percentage of Syrian Muslims, in-country and refugees, have believed in Christ than in the past three years of civil war.
“We all agree that it’s the greatest awakening happening since the beginning of Islam,” he said.
The ministries also distribute food, medicine and clothing, among other items – tangible evidence of the God of love. The gospel message of love is the greatest evangelistic tool that Christian workers have, the director said, concurring that the love of Christ compared with the hatred of Muhammad in the Koran is shocking to Muslims.
"When a Muslim reads about the unconditional love of Christ in the gospel and how He forgave the adulteress, compared with the stoning of an adulteress by Muhammad, for example, the Muslim sees that God is not vengeful, but a loving God," one of the directors said.
The first ministry leader added that the New Testament is about love, God giving Himself, and God wanting to be with you.
"That’s not something that makes sense in Islam, he said. "They’re shocked that God can be that good. They say it cannot be that God is so loving, so caring. It’s the love message that hits them the most."