Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/24/2019

Chinese President Xi Jinping snubbed Pope Francis during his visit to Italy. Despite hints from the Vatican that he should stop by and chew the fat, Mr. Xi met with the Italian president and other Italian officials, visited important monuments, and then left.

In other news, Russian planes that are reportedly carrying military troops have landed in Venezuela.

To see the headlines and the articles, click “Continue reading” below.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Insubria, Reader from Chicago, SS, and all the other tipsters who sent these in.

Notice to tipsters: Please don’t submit extensive excerpts from articles that have been posted behind a subscription firewall, or are otherwise under copyright protection.

Caveat: Articles in the news feed are posted “as is”. Gates of Vienna cannot vouch for the authenticity or accuracy of the contents of any individual item posted here. We check each entry to make sure it is relatively interesting, not patently offensive, and at least superficially plausible. The link to the original is included with each item’s title. Further research and verification are left to the reader.

USA
» Impeachment Odds Implode as Mueller Report Clears Trump of Collusion
» Mueller Does Not Find Trump Campaign Knowingly Conspired With Russia
» Patriots’ Owner Kraft “Truly Sorry” About Rub-and-Tug Massage Parlor Bust
» Trump “Totally Exonerated”, Calls for Investigation Into “Illegal Takedown That Failed”
 
Europe and the EU
» Brexit Will Pave the Way for National Populism in Europe
» China President Xi Jinping Snubs Pope Francis on Italy Visit
» Favour Opening to Others Pope Tells Politicians
» Four in Ten French Say Revolution the Solution to Country’s Problems
» France Should Do What’s Right on Ex-Terrorists — Salvini
» France: 72 Percent of Parisians Think About Leaving Capital
» Italy: Rome Sports Chief Frongia Probed for Stadium Graft
» Italy: Govt Beefs Up Driver Checks After Bus-Hijack Terror
» Italy: 16,700 Fewer Specialist Doctors by 2025 — Report
» Netherlands: Jewish Vendor, Son Stabbed at Iconic Amsterdam Market
» Sweden: Islamic Terrorism Still Number One Threat
» Swedish Journalist Suspended From Facebook for Mentioning Tommy Robinson, And Stating That We Should Accept Others’ Opinions Even if We Don’t Agree With Them
» Switzerland to Deport Terrorists Even if They Face Death Penalty at Home
» Terrorist-Linked Islamists Gathered to Pray Outside Parliament in Copenhagen — Danish Politicians Responded by Burning the Quran
» UK: BBC Chief: Use of Term ‘Mainstream Media’ Is ‘Assault on Freedom’
» UK: Zombie May: Cabinet ‘Palace Coup’ Unravels as Gove and Lidington Bottle it
 
North Africa
» Thousands of Moroccan Teachers Protest Over Pay
 
Middle East
» ISIS Loses Last Final Stronghold in Syria, US Backed Forces Say
» Syria’s Christians, And the Toll of War
 
Russia
» Al Bano to Ask for Damages From Ukraine
 
Far East
» Remove Barriers to Italian Products — Mattarella to Xi
» Wife of Vanished Chinese Interpol Chief Urges Macron to Raise Case With Xi
 
Australia — Pacific
» Man, 27, Is Fighting for His Life After Being Attacked by a Group of Armed African Men as He Stepped Out of His Toyota Sedan
» Teacher at a Sydney Islamic School Has Garbage Tipped on Her Car and Sanitary Pads Stuffed Into Her Door Handles Following Christchurch Mosque Terror Attack
» Up to 40,000 People Gather at a Memorial in Christchurch Honouring the 50 Victims of the Mosque Terror Attack
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» In Africa, China Casts About for Stronger Footholds
» Pope Francis Mourns African Christians Murdered for Their Faith
» Sudanese-Born Miss Australia Finalist, 24, Who Attacked a United Airlines Flight Attendant Faces 21 Years Behind Bars for ‘Drunken’ Assault — But Blames the ‘Ordeal’ On Sleeping Pills
» What the People in Sudan Are Protesting
 
Latin America
» Russian Planes ‘Carrying Troops’ Arrive in Venezuela
 
Immigration
» Exclusive — Rep. Bradley Byrne: Illegal Alien Accused of Killing Sonya Jones Used Catch and Release to Live in U.S.
» Orban: “We Need to Act Now on Migration and Border Protection”
» UK: Asylum Seeker’s Sexual Assault on ‘Vulnerable’ Male Blamed on Newcastle’s ‘Immorality’
 

Impeachment Odds Implode as Mueller Report Clears Trump of Collusion

Shortly after a summary of the Mueller Report was submitted to Congress by Attorney General William Barr clearing President Trump of collusion with Russia, the odds of impeachment plummeted (tab over to 24 hr chart).

After nearly two years, Mueller’s team of approximately 40 FBI agents issued over 2,800 subpoenas, executed “nearly 500 search warrants,” and “obtained over 230 orders for communication records. They also issued 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.

Specifically, “The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 Presidential election.”

And while the Mueller summary leaves the door open for AG Barr to determine whether Trump obstructed justice, Barr sees no obstruction — writing in conjunction with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that they “concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

Trump’s odds of becoming the 2020 Republican nominee spiked as well, and his chances of winning the next election jumped.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Mueller Does Not Find Trump Campaign Knowingly Conspired With Russia

WASHINGTON, March 24 (Reuters) — Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election did not find that any U.S. or Trump campaign officials knowingly conspired with Russia, according to details released on Sunday.

Attorney General William Barr sent a summary of conclusions from the report to congressional leaders and the media on Sunday afternoon. Mueller concluded his investigation on Friday after nearly two years, turning in a report to the top U.S. law enforcement officer.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Patriots’ Owner Kraft “Truly Sorry” About Rub-and-Tug Massage Parlor Bust

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft says he’s “truly sorry” after being charged with soliciting sex acts at a Florida strip mall near his home, according to Bloomberg.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Trump “Totally Exonerated”, Calls for Investigation Into “Illegal Takedown That Failed”

Update 145pmET: President Trump has called for an investigation into the “illegal takedown that failed” — after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found that Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia in the 2016 US election.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Brexit Will Pave the Way for National Populism in Europe

Matthew Goodwin is a British professor and bestselling author who has specialized on the rise of national populism in Europe, particularly with the referendum on Brexit in his home country. His book National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, which was listed as The Sunday Times book of the year, argues that the political shockwaves in the Western world with Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the rise of populism in Europe are just the beginning of a movement which will drastically change Western society. Worries about immigration, ethnic change and economic inequality have weakened the bond between voters and mainstream classical parties. In this interview, I ask Matthew what his views are on the difficulties regarding a Brexit deal and the future of the European Union.

What are your thoughts on the calls for a second referendum on Brexit by EU representatives and liberal pundits, and the claim that the British people have been manipulated and lied to by pro-Brexit politicians and the British tabloid media?

A case for a second referendum is very problematic. Most people in Britain don’t want a second referendum, if you look at the polls, and a lot of people worry a second referendum would undermine the quality of British democracy from below and would erode the social contract between ordinary people and the ruling elites. What I would remind the Italian audience is that a vast majority of Members of Parliament in the House of Commons voted for a referendum on membership in the European Union, and Article 50 to be triggered, and then stood on the manifesto and then committed on the Withdrawal act which committed to leaving the EU. This is the first time in history the British people asked for something which was endorsed by the parliament and that the government had sworn to respect, so I don’t think a second referendum is the best way to respond to that. As for your second question, many on the remain side argue leavers didn’t know what they were voting for, but my research and studies show leavers knew exactly what they were voting for: they wanted greater control over their legislation and their courts, and they wanted lower immigration by ending freedom of movement by EU nationals. I, therefore, don’t find it credible to say that after all of this time, people have changed their minds, when there is no evidence for this, and to the contrary, there is a lot of evidence that the British people who voted to leave knew exactly what they were voting for.

Do you think the 52% of people who voted for Brexit, voted for a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit?

I think we have to look at the implications of what they were asking for — most voters wanted to end freedom of movement, and on that basis, you cannot end freedom of movement in a soft way, as this requires you to leave the single market. Most voters, in my view, voted for what Theresa May called for in the Lancaster house speech in 2016 denouncing “citizens of the world” as being “citizens of nowhere”, which was very well received by voters (conservatives were 20% ahead in opinion polls), where she called for Britain to leave the single market and customs union and negotiate a new trade agreement with the EU. Most leavers did not vote for May’s soft Brexit deal of 2018: only 16% of British voters think the deal respected the referendum result. Leavers want a harder version of Brexit than the one the prime minister currently offered. They think it won’t allow the UK to develop trade deals with other countries in the world and to end freedom of movement.

Do you think there could be risks involved, should the Brexit vote not be respected, resembling a revolt like what is happening today in France with the Yellow Vest Movement?

The implications of Brexit being overturned or if Article 50 is delayed until the end of the year are significant: we will see the emergence of two competing movements. The first will be Nigel Farage organizing a new revolt against Westminster, with the UK Independence Party turning more right-wing with figures like Tommy Robinson, and a Brexit party carving its place in the European parliament. If May’s deal is accepted, it will leave space for a new populist party, and we will see a new campaign for a harder Brexit. I’ve interviewed all the people involved in these movements myself, and I know there is going to be a big push by leavers to register their disillusionment with mainstream parties, and it may be that that will mean greater coordination with national-populist movements across Europe. That populist element will almost certainly look for the League in Italy, the National Front in France, AfD in Germany, etc for a common cause.

In this context, do you believe the European Union, as it is today, has any chance of surviving?

If we happen to leave the EU it will strengthen national populists in Europe, but if Brexit doesn’t happen then that will undermine and weaken national populism in Europe because they will realize it is not possible to leave the EU. Brexit is, therefore, a real and natural experiment for a lot of political movements in Europe. Over the longer term, the EU is almost certainly going to have to change because of two main challenges: the first is the very significant and deep-rooted conflict over values of West and East, liberal and conservative — where you have a fundamental dividing line, the second is the economic dispute over redistribution and solidarity between North and South. These two dimensions to the European conflict will not be resolved in the short term and they will accelerate as demographic pressures continue to have an effect to EU member states. How can you have a both a Hungarian and a French conception of what the European Union should be doing? And with the UK leaving, a lot of those states of central and eastern Europe will have to pay more in the budget, and they will likely not pay a union not respecting their sovereignty and borders.

Do the British people still feel European, even outside of the EU, or do you think there is a historical sentiment among Britons that they are not part of Europe?

I think people here do feel European, and Brits identify with Europe overall. But I think the remainers misunderstood how the British people viewed the European Union: I always argued that leave was likely to win, but during the referendum, a form of group-think took over and people fell into the trap of thinking remain was going to win. If you think about British relations with the EU, Britain reluctantly joined an economic relationship, but never wanted a political and social relationship; it never fully committed to being part of the European Union because we always had a very strong national tradition that has emphasized sovereignty and English law. Since the 1700s, we developed a national culture that has always been very wary about European continental power, and all those things came together and found expression in the referendum of 2016. Many people were surprised, but in my book I emphasized why leave only got 52% of the vote, considering the history of British identity as an island nation that has never been fully committed to Europe.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]
 

China President Xi Jinping Snubs Pope Francis on Italy Visit

Chinese President Xi Jinping ignored overtures by the Vatican, meeting with state leaders but avoiding Pope Francis during his visit to Rome this week.

Mr. Xi met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and even made time to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but requested no meeting with the pope, despite several hints by the Vatican that the doors were open to a meeting. It is unusual for visiting heads of state not to see the pope when visiting Rome.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Favour Opening to Others Pope Tells Politicians

Boost capacity to live together in diversity

(ANSA) — Vatican City, March 22 — Pope Francis on Friday told Czech and Slovak MPs that they should open themselves up to others and foster meetings.

“I hope such a significant spiritual and cultural heritage arouses in all your compatriots the desire for meetings and openings to the other,” he told them on the 1150th anniversary of the death of St Cyril.

“It’s a question of being able to live together in diversity, via dialogue, sharing, building bridges and bringing down the barriers of mistrust and prejudice.

“With these attitudes you become witnesses of solidarity and peacemakers”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Four in Ten French Say Revolution the Solution to Country’s Problems

A newly released survey has claimed that nearly four out of every ten French believe that a full-on revolution is the best way to solve the country’s political problems.

The poll, which was taken by polling firm IFOP, shows that 39 percent of French surveyed said that a revolution was needed to effect real change in the country, a figure much higher than elsewhere in Europe, Atlantico reports.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

France Should Do What’s Right on Ex-Terrorists — Salvini

At least 15 drinking champagne in Paris

(ANSA) — Matera, March 22 — France should do “what is right” on extraditing former terrorists to Italy, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Friday.

“The terrorists issue is closest to my heart: there are at least 15 or so who should be in jail in Italy and instead are drinking champagne in Paris and its environs,” he said.

“I hope that on this France will give us a hand and do what is right.

Salvini was speaking about what he expected after a meeting between Premier Giuseppe Conte and President Emmanuel Macron.

He added that the Turin-Lyon high-speed rail (TAV) line was a “work that is needed”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

France: 72 Percent of Parisians Think About Leaving Capital

A majority of French say they are fed up with their current living environment, according to a new survey, and they would much rather live in a rural village than a big city.

The study, which was taken by L’observatoire société et consommation (L’OBSOCO), revealed that six out of ten French were not happy in their living environment and that the overwhelming majority wanted a quieter life in the countryside, La Vie Immo reports.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Italy: Rome Sports Chief Frongia Probed for Stadium Graft

De Vito declines to speak to prosecutors

(ANSA) — Rome, March 21 — Rome city council sports chief Daniele Frongia is under investigation in a graft probe involving the construction of AS Roma’s new stadium, sources said Thursday.

Former deputy mayor Frongia, considered a right-hand man of Mayor Virginia Raggi of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), has been placed under investigation in the part of the probe that has led to the arrest of the former head of the ACEA municipal power utility Luca Lanzalone and businessman Luca Parnasi.

“I trust the probe will be shelved,” said Frongia, who said he was stepping down from the M5S and handing back his sports brief to Raggi.

Minister for Relations with Parliament Riccardo Fraccaro, an M5s bigwig, said he had “confidence” in Raggi and that the Frongia case was “not serious”.

Marcello De Vito, the former president of the Rome city council assembly, used the right to remain silent in questioning with a preliminary investigations judge on Thursday after he was arrested in the corruption probe on Wednesday, his lawyer said. De Vito was stripped of his role in the city assembly and ejected from the 5-Star Movement (M5S) after his arrest.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Italy: Govt Beefs Up Driver Checks After Bus-Hijack Terror

Man torched bus with 51 pupils on board this week

(ANSA) — Rome, March 22 — The interior ministry has released a circular letter telling police forces to beef up checks on driving licences after this week’s school bus hijacking in northern Italy. Ousseynou Sy, a 47-year-old Italian national originally from Senegal, hijacked a bus at Crema near Cremona on Wednesday and doused it with petrol before torching it after police had helped 51 kids out of the back window at San Donato Milanese near Milan. Sy said he acted out of anger at the Italian government’s migration policy. The circular letter by Interior Ministry Chief of Staff Matteo Piantedosi calls for the scrupulous application of the law concerning the issue and renewal of licences for drivers of vehicles that transport people as well as demanding more checks.

Sy hid the fact that he had had his licence suspended for drink driving by going on sick leave, sources said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Italy: 16,700 Fewer Specialist Doctors by 2025 — Report

Molise asks retired docs to come back into management

(ANSA) — Rome, March 20 — Italy will have 16,700 fewer specialist doctors by 2025, a report from sector group ANAAO said Wednesday.

“New doctors will not be enough to replace those who are going to retire,” it said.

The shortage will be particularly bad in Piedmont and Sicily, it said.

Meanwhile Molise on Wednesday said it was looking for retired doctors to return and take up management positions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Netherlands: Jewish Vendor, Son Stabbed at Iconic Amsterdam Market

A Jewish father and son were stabbed at an iconic street marketplace in Amsterdam by an Egypt-born seller whom they and others said was a radicalized Muslim.

Martin Colmans, the father, and son Sharon sustained light to moderate injuries in the attack Saturday at the Albert Cuyp market, where the Colmans family has been selling furniture for decades. Sharon Colmans, whose mother is from Israel, was injured in his back, chest and arm, and suffered serious blood loss. Both have been released from the hospital.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Sweden: Islamic Terrorism Still Number One Threat

A newly released report from Sweden’s National Center for Terror Threat Assessment (NCT) has warned that despite recent victories over the Islamic State, radical Islamic terror remains the number one threat to Swedish security.

The report, which compiles expertise from the Security Service (Sapo), the Military Intelligence and Security Service, and the Defense Radio Institute, said that the country still remains a legitimate target for supporters of radical Islamic extremism, broadcaster Sveriges Radio reports.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Swedish Journalist Suspended From Facebook for Mentioning Tommy Robinson, And Stating That We Should Accept Others’ Opinions Even if We Don’t Agree With Them

Independent journalist and freedom fighter Katerina Janouch wrote a short introduction for an article in her own online magazine “Katerina Magasin”.

The article, written by another Swedish writer — Madeleine Rönnqvist Lilja, is about the British freedom fighter Tommy Robinson.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Switzerland to Deport Terrorists Even if They Face Death Penalty at Home

The Swiss Council of States agreed earlier this week to allow for the deportation of terrorists to their home countries even if they face the death penalty in them.

The Council of States decided earlier this week that terrorists “must be able to be deported to their country of origin even though they may be tortured or sentenced to death” 22 votes to 18, Swiss broadcaster RTS reports.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Terrorist-Linked Islamists Gathered to Pray Outside Parliament in Copenhagen — Danish Politicians Responded by Burning the Quran

Islamists belonging to the terrorist-linked organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir held mass prayer at Christiansborg in central Copenhagen on Friday. At the same time, the immigration-critical party, Stram Kurs (Strict Course), held a counter-demonstration nearby to criticise the organisation and cook “bacon a la Quran” by burning the Quran on a grill.

Hizb ut-Tahrir’s self-proclaimed goal is to abolish democracy and introduce an Islamist sharia-led society instead.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

UK: BBC Chief: Use of Term ‘Mainstream Media’ Is ‘Assault on Freedom’

The use of terms like “mainstream media” and growing distrust in “the establishment” are an “assault on freedom of expression”, the head of the BBC has claimed.

BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall said the effects of globalisation have fuelled a “progressive erosion of trust in … all those perceived as expert or elite” he complained, warning that journalism was under attack from “a crisis of faith in our traditional institutions”.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

UK: Zombie May: Cabinet ‘Palace Coup’ Unravels as Gove and Lidington Bottle it

Theresa May could survive the palace coup which appeared to be unfolding at breakneck speed on Saturday night, as the Cabinet ministers who were frontrunners to take over as “caretaker” leaders publicly disavow the plot.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Thousands of Moroccan Teachers Protest Over Pay

About 10,000 teachers staged a new protest in the Moroccan capital Rabat on Sunday to demand permanent jobs, hours after police had used water cannon to disperse an overnight demonstration.

The teachers, many of whom had spent the night in the streets of Rabat after the first event, marched from the education ministry to the square in front of parliament where police had intervened after midnight to prevent them from spending the night in the main Mohammed V Avenue.

They want an end to renewable contracts in favour of permanent jobs that offer civil service benefits, including a better retirement pension.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]
 

ISIS Loses Last Final Stronghold in Syria, US Backed Forces Say

All Islamic State-held territory in Syria has been “100 per cent” eliminated, the White House said today.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic forces have said ISIS has lost its last remaining bit of territory in Syria, bringing an end to its “calpiphate”.

The complete fall of the last IS stronghold in Baghouz would the end of the militant group’s self-declared caliphate, which at its height stretched across large parts of Syria and Iraq.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Syria’s Christians, And the Toll of War

(Damascus) Syria, considered by many around the globe to be the cradle of Christianity, is believed to be the only place on earth where Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ is still spoken and taught. The historic small town of Maaloula, located some 65 kilometers to the northeast of the Syrian capital Damascus, and the two nearby villages of Jubb’adin and Bakhah have enjoyed this unique privilege for centuries.

Aramaic which is relayed only through verbal communications amongst the inhabitants of those three small villages at the foot of the Qalamun mountains, 1500 m above sea level, has received special care and subsidies from the Syrian government since 2007. The first institute that teaches both spoken as well as written Neo-Aramaic was opened 12 years ago, with hundreds of local and national students, both Christian and Muslim joining the popular classes.

In 2013, Islamic fanatics including ISIS and Al Nusra terrorist militias invaded the area, and wreaked havoc, inflicting large-scale destruction all over Maaloula. The town’s holy unique monastery and historical church were brutally ravaged. Rare statues, monuments and artifacts were destroyed or stolen by the Jihadi extremists. The town was later liberated by the Syrian Army and its allies after fierce and costly battles with the fanatic invaders. The majority of the edifices that were worst hit have now been restored. Maaloula now boasts the second largest statue of Jesus Christ in the world, straddling a scenic hill-top near this historic cave-riddled Mecca for Christians from all over the world.

Similar to their plight at the hands of Islamic terrorist groups in Iraq in recent years, Syria’s Christians, who make up around 12 % of its 23 million population, had a presence of over 30% prior to 1967 according to some statistics. Christians were a prime target for Islamic fanatics and Kurdish separatist militias, mainly supported by the United States who had a 2000-strong force in the region. Some of the worst affected areas were the northern and northeastern cities of al-Hasakah and Qamishli, where a massive exodus by local Assyrians took place, and numerous churches were reduced to piles of rubble by ISIS terrorists. Over one million Syrian Christians fled the country as extremist Jihadi groups, backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and even Israel, ravaged the hitherto peaceful and prosperous Christian neighbourhoods in the northern and northeastern parts of Syria. ISIS and other Jihadi barbarians killed, kidnapped, ransacked and raped wherever they arrived and were able to rule; Christian areas were no exception. Archbishops Yazji and Bouloss of Aleppo were both kidnapped 5 years ago by pro-Turkish Islamic militias, in the border area between Aleppo and Turkey, on their way back to Aleppo. No word of their fate or whereabouts has ever been confirmed, despite desperate calls and efforts for their unconditional release.

Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee their homes and relocate in other safer places within Syria, and a larger number of Syrian Christians headed mainly for Europe, Scandinavian countries, Australia and the United States.

Oriental Christians have always displayed strong nationalist feeling, unwavering bonds and affiliation to their Eastern roots and heritage. Widely perceived as preservers of the region’s rich history, traditions and even the Aramaic language, with Oriental Christians both home and abroad having been some of the region’s top linguists, poets, writers, artists and politicians particularly in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

The call by Pope Saint John Paul II, who made an historic visit to Syria in 2001, on Christians to remember Syria’s “magnificent contribution” to the history of Christianity, still brings proud memories here.

“We remember that it was in fact in Syria that the Church of Christ discovered her truly catholic character and took on her universal mission,” added Pope John Paul II in Damascus on May 6, 2001.

“At the gates of Damascus, when he met the Risen Christ, Saint Paul learned this truth and made it the content of his preaching. The wonderful reality of the Cross of Christ, upon which the work of the world’s Redemption was wrought, became present before him,” proclaimed the Pope who also praised the great contributions of Syria’s saints throughout history.

Along with its political intractability, the brutality of the Syrian war has taken on dangerous religious and sectarian dimensions that have exposed structural imbalances in Syrian society, and poisoned with a climate of mistrust, anxiety and uncertainty in the lives of several minorities, ethnicities, religions and sectarian segments of the historically cohesive and harmonious Syrian society.

These 8 years of catastrophic war have had a heavy toll on Syrian Christians, and have almost definitely rekindled memories of the humanitarian disasters and massacres suffered by Oriental Christians. Such memories have perhaps made them feel they were targets for annihilation and that migration was their only chance to survive.

Syria is a country considered by Christians as the cradle of Christianity, and the site of many sacred spaces, from churches to monasteries and shrines. Damascus hosts both the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and the Orient, as well as the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem.

As the war in Syria rages on, the trickling departure of individual Christian migrants has developed into a mass exodus. The number of Christians in Syria has dropped from 30% of the population in 1967, to less than 10% according to recent statistics. UN data from 2016 stated that, of the 5.5 million Syrian refugees, 825,000 were Christians.

The plight of Christians in Syria remains and the continued threat on their existence is a hugely important to Syria’s historical identity, heritage and the makeup of its society. The Church as well as the world at large have a moral and human responsibility to prevent the the cradle of Christianity from disappearing all together.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]
 

Al Bano to Ask for Damages From Ukraine

Mulls appeal to ECHR

(ANSA) — Rome, march 18 — Al Bano on Monday said he might sue Ukraine at the European Court of Human Rights after it put him on its black list of threats to national security for allegedly supporting Russia.

The veteran singer also urged the foreign minister to intervene to obtain his immediate cancellation from the black list.

Albano Carrisi also said he would ask for damages from Ukraine, the proceeds of which would be devolved to charity.

“We won’t stop. We’ll go as far as Strasbourg because this could be a dangerous precedent,” said the singer’s lawyer, Cristiano Magaletti.

“Al Bano is a citizen of the world and a friend of all, he must be free to go to Ukraine; we ask our government to intervene immediately because they have unjustly attacked the symbol of Italian music.

Magaletti urged the media not to “treat this affair with superficiality and levity; it must be debated with the anger of a man who has been subjected to a huge injustice”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Remove Barriers to Italian Products — Mattarella to Xi

Italy firms ready but with effective parity of conditions

(ANSA) — Rome, March 22 — President Sergio Mattarella on Friday reiterated to Chinese President Xi Jinping to “try to rebalance the trade balance and remove barriers for Italian products”.

Mattarella said “we are following with attention the economic reforms implemented in China in the sense of opening, and our firms are ready to collaborate”.

He said “effective parity of conditions” should be guaranteed and stressed that competition “is good for everyone and improves the quality of products”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]
 

Wife of Vanished Chinese Interpol Chief Urges Macron to Raise Case With Xi

Lyon (AFP) — The wife of the former Chinese head of Interpol, who has had no news of him for nearly six months since his arrest in China, has asked French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the matter with counterpart Xi Jinping during an official visit to France.

In a letter to the Elysee Palace dated March 21, a copy of which has been seen by AFP, Grace Meng “asks to know where (her husband) is and how he is.”

She has remained in the French city of Lyon, where Interpol is based, since her husband Meng Hongwei disappeared last September during a visit to China. He resigned from the international police agency by letter on October 7 and it was later revealed he had been arrested.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]
 

Man, 27, Is Fighting for His Life After Being Attacked by a Group of Armed African Men as He Stepped Out of His Toyota Sedan

The Melbourne man was hit on the head with a blunt object as he stepped out of the passenger’s seat of a black Toyota sedan at 4.30am on King Street in West Melbourne.

           — Hat tip: SS [Return to headlines]
 

Teacher at a Sydney Islamic School Has Garbage Tipped on Her Car and Sanitary Pads Stuffed Into Her Door Handles Following Christchurch Mosque Terror Attack

An Islamic school teacher working in Sydney’s west was horrified to discover her Audi Q5 luxury SUV covered in garbage after leaving work on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: SS [Return to headlines]
 

Up to 40,000 People Gather at a Memorial in Christchurch Honouring the 50 Victims of the Mosque Terror Attack

The vigil, held in North Hagley Park, began at 5pm local time with prayers led by Muslim and Christian leaders, followed by performances from singers and a kapa haka group.

           — Hat tip: SS [Return to headlines]
 

In Africa, China Casts About for Stronger Footholds

From 2000 to 2016, China had already lent as much as $125 billion to Africa, according to the China Africa Research Initiative. In 2017, the two counterparts’ bilateral exchanges were estimated to have reached the sum of $180 billion, most of which were Chinese exports. Today, China stands as Africa’s primary trade partner and creditor, outpacing the United States since 2009.China’s presence in Africa is of such predominance that over half of major construction sites in the continent are put up by Chinese contractors. Seven out of ten of the world’s biggest construction companies are currently Chinese, and the African continent for its sole part bears more than 10,000 Chinese enterprises specialized mostly in raw materials and infrastructure projects.

The majority of these projects are train lines, highways and seaports, mainly taking place in East Africa, as they draw from the broader context of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the BRI foresees global investments far surpassing current estimates of a trillion dollars.

Sino-African partnerships, however, have been largely heralded throughout Africa, considering the economic growth and infrastructural development these initiatives provide to the continent. In 2015, 63% of Africans were said by Afrobarometer to have a positive view of China’s enterprise in the continent —which is perceived as a contrast to its bitter servitude during the European colonialism era.

“Where the old railway was built by force and violence, against the wishes of those whose land it divided, the new railway is built by consent and partnership,” said Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta when signing an agreement with China in 2014.

In Kenya, China has offered $3.7 billion of loans as of 2017, mostly for railroad constructions. In Ethiopia, it lent $575 million to construct elevated railways in 2015. It had also undertaken projects as important as the railroads linking Benin to the Ivory Coast in West Africa, and others binding Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania in East Africa.

One of the continent’s promising current projects, also shouldered by China, is a seaport in Dar es-Salaam, Tanzania, which is set to run over 12 miles of Bagamoyo’s coast, and is estimated to receive and unload some “20 million containers a year” —making it Africa’s prospective biggest port in a country where 80% of the population lives below poverty level.

However, countries borrowing large sums from China often run the risk of debt and trade dependence. According to the World Bank, 27 African countries showed increasing debt levels in 2017. In Zimbabwe —which is building its new parliament under a Chinese contractor— debt rates, representing 48% of its GDP in 2013, rose to 82% in 2017. Mozambique’s debt levels hopped up to 102% of its GDP in 2017, from 51% in 2013.

Yet besides China’s loans and infrastructure projects — along with Chinese technical expertise and sometimes even a provided workforce — other world economic powers hold but very little interest in Africa, for fear of non-reimbursement. For China, however, not being paid back is less of an issue, as if anything it even bolsters its inductions into the continent.

A “safety clause” is signed prior to the partnership, saying that the bankrupt counterparts would give the difference of what is owed through raw materials or infrastructure built by China. Sri Lanka (Asia) stands as a vivid example for this: in 2015, after it had failed to reimburse China for the construction of its biggest seaport, the two countries reached an agreement in which China would hold control over the harbor for 99 years. In an almost identical maneuver in 2017, Pakistan leased its Gwadar port to China for a period of 40 years as well.

These two Asian countries are key points on China’s “maritime silk road” in the Indian Ocean. Otherwise named the “String of Pearls”, this maritime route stretches from Mainland China to the Port Sudan, which is important to the Suez Canal, as it paves the way to Europe where China has already gained ground too.

Securing its passage through the Red Sea to the Suez Canal, China constructed its first overseas military base in Djibouti alongside the United States, Japan, France and Italy —despite swearing it would never do so, antagonizing U.S. imperialism.

But China’s presence in Africa is not solely economic or military. The African continent bears 54 Confucius Institutes (Chinese cultural centers and Mandarin schools), reaching as high a number as 5 institutes in a single country, such as in South Africa, and 4, such as in Kenya —where Mandarin will become mandatory in elementary schools by 2020, and where China opened its first Confucius center in Africa, as well as its first CCTV African bureau.

The United States, for their part, have long warned Africa about forfeiting its sovereignty at the expense of its exceptional partnership with China —whereas African-U.S. trades did not even exceed $39 billion in 2017.

Today, 90% of African raw materials are exported to China, while the continent’s debts are estimated to have reached $130 billion.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]
 

Pope Francis Mourns African Christians Murdered for Their Faith

Pope Francis prayed publicly for the Christians massacred recently in Nigeria and Mali as the Vatican celebrated a day of remembrance for martyred missionaries Sunday.

After his weekly Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square, the Pope told the thousands of pilgrims that “remembering the modern-day Calvary of our brothers and sisters persecuted or killed for their faith in Jesus is a duty of gratitude for the whole Church.”

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Sudanese-Born Miss Australia Finalist, 24, Who Attacked a United Airlines Flight Attendant Faces 21 Years Behind Bars for ‘Drunken’ Assault — But Blames the ‘Ordeal’ On Sleeping Pills

Adau Akui Atem Mornyang was on a United Airlines flight from her hometown of Victoria to Los Angeles when she became disorderly after she was refused alcohol.

           — Hat tip: SS [Return to headlines]
 

What the People in Sudan Are Protesting

Three months of ongoing anti-government protests in Sudan and still there are no signs of embattled 75-year-old President Omar Al Bashir stepping down.

Triggered by a new round of austerity measures, the current wave of protests began last year on December 19 in the eastern city of Atbara with near daily protests quickly spreading to the capital Khartoum and other cities across the country. It is the most sustained challenge faced by President Al Bashir since he came to power in the 1989 coup d’état…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]
 

Russian Planes ‘Carrying Troops’ Arrive in Venezuela

Two Russian Air Force reportedly planes landed in Venezuela’s main airport on Saturday carrying a Russian defence official and around 100 troops.

One flight tracking website shows two aircraft left a Russian military base for the Venezuelan capital Caracas on Friday, with a further jet leaving on Sunday.

The arrival of the military jets was confirmed by Javier Mayorca, an independent journalist, who said an Antonov-124 cargo plane and a smaller jet touched down late on Saturday.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Exclusive — Rep. Bradley Byrne: Illegal Alien Accused of Killing Sonya Jones Used Catch and Release to Live in U.S.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) says the illegal alien accused of killing school teacher Sonya Jones of Mobile, Alabama, in a head-on, hit-and-run car crash gamed the United States’ asylum system and took advantage of the Catch and Release policy.

As Breitbart News reported, Jones — a 49-year-old mother of two and teacher at Mobile’s Living Word Christian Center Kingdom Academy — was killed by 16-year-old illegal alien Domingo Francisco Marcos, from Guatemala, in a head-on, hit-and-run collision on March 18, police say.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

Orban: “We Need to Act Now on Migration and Border Protection”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, speaking at a conference on migration, called for swift action to be taken on migration and border protection and he also called for European unity.

Addressing the Budapest Migration Conference Orban said, “We need to act now. If European policymakers fail to make decisions immediately, then it will be impossible to stop later what has already begun.”

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

UK: Asylum Seeker’s Sexual Assault on ‘Vulnerable’ Male Blamed on Newcastle’s ‘Immorality’

An asylum seeker who illegally entered Britain on the back of a lorry had his decision to sexually assault a “vulnerable” male in his adopted city of Newcastle blamed on the city’s “immorality”.

Zain Osman, originally a shepherd from Sudan, east Africa, subjected his victim to a 20-minute ordeal in which he was bitten and sent tumbling into a roadside ditch, ChronicleLive reports.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]
 

2 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/24/2019

  1. The Pope is lucky the Chinese tyrant Xi only snubbed him. Read what the Maoists did to Bishop Francis X. Ford in China, not so long ago. This is how commies behave…always badly, always deadly.

  2. ** Armed African savages randomly attacking native Australians on the streets of Melbourne **

    Treasonous Australian politicians swoon with joy at the success of their policies. Oz on the rise!

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