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New Method Converts Greenhouse Gas Into Fuel

New Method Converts Greenhouse Gas Into Fuel

The conversion occurred at room temperature and pressure, which could allow methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to be utilized to make fuel.

The new method converts methane gas into liquid methanol.

A team of researchers has successfully converted methane into methanol using light and scattered transition metals such as copper in a process known as photo-oxidation. The reaction was the best achieved to date for converting methane gas into liquid fuel at ambient temperature and pressure (25 °C and 1 bar, respectively), according to a study published in the journal Chemical Communications.

The term bar as a pressure unit comes from the Greek word meaning weight (baros). One bar equals 100,000 Pascals (100 kPa), close to the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level (101,325 Pa).

The study’s findings are a crucial step toward making natural gas accessible as a source of energy for the production of alternative fuels to gasoline and diesel. Despite the fact that natural gas is a fossil fuel, its conversion into methanol produces less carbon dioxide (CO2) than other liquid fuels in the same category.

The conversion took place under ambient temperature and pressure conditions, which could enable methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to be used to produce fuel. Credit: UFSCAR

Methanol is vital in biodiesel production and the chemical industry in Brazil, where it is used to synthesize a variety of products.

Furthermore, methane collection from the atmosphere is critical for mitigating the negative consequences of climate change since the gas has 25 times the potential to contribute to global warming as CO2, for example.

“There’s a great debate in the scientific community about the size of the planet’s methane reserves. According to some estimates, they may have double the energy potential of all other fossil fuels combined. In the transition to renewables, we’ll have to tap into all this methane at some point,” Marcos da Silva, first author of the article, told Agência FAPESP. Silva is a Ph.D. candidate in the Physics Department of the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar).

The study was supported by FAPESP, the Higher Research Council (CAPES, an agency of the Ministry of Education), and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq, an arm of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation).

According to Ivo Freitas Teixeira, a professor at UFSCar, Silva’s thesis advisor and the last author of the article, the photocatalyst used in the study was a key innovation. “Our group innovated significantly by oxidizing methane in a single stage,” he said. “In the chemical industry, this conversion occurs via the production of hydrogen and CO2 in at least two stages and under very high temperature and pressure conditions. Our success in obtaining methanol under mild conditions, while also expending less energy, is a major step forward.”

According to Teixeira, the results pave the way for future research into the use of solar energy for this conversion process, potentially reducing its environmental impact still further.


In the laboratory, the scientists synthesized crystalline carbon nitride in the form of polyheptazine imide (PHI), using non-noble or earth-abundant transition metals, especially copper, to produce active visible-light photocatalysts.

They then used the photocatalysts in methane oxidation reactions with hydrogen peroxide as an initiator. The copper-PHI catalyst generated a large volume of oxygenated liquid products, especially methanol (2,900 micromoles per gram of material, or µmol.g-1 in four hours).

“We discovered the best catalyst and other conditions essential to the chemical reaction, such as using a large amount of water and only a small amount of hydrogen peroxide, which is an oxidizing agent,” Teixeira said. “The next steps include understanding more about the active copper sites in the material and their role in the reaction. We also plan to use oxygen directly to produce hydrogen peroxide in the reaction itself. If successful, this should make the process even safer and economically viable.”

Another point the group will continue to investigate relates to copper. “We work with dispersed copper. When we wrote the article, we didn’t know whether we were dealing with isolated atoms or clusters. We now know they’re clusters,” he explained.

In the study, the scientists used pure methane, but in the future, they will extract the gas from renewables such as biomass.

According to the United Nations, methane has so far caused about 30% of global warming since the pre-industrial age. Methane emissions from human activity could be reduced by as much as 45% in the decade ahead, avoiding a rise of almost 0.3°C by 2045.

The strategy of converting methane into liquid fuel using a photocatalyst is new and not available commercially, but its potential in the near term is significant. “We began our research over four years ago. We now have far better results than those of Professor Hutchings and his group in 2017, which motivated our own research,” Teixeira said, referring to a study published in the journal Science by researchers affiliated with universities in the United States and the United Kingdom, and led by Graham Hutchings, a professor at Cardiff University in Wales.


“Selective methane photooxidation into methanol under mild conditions promoted by highly dispersed Cu atoms on crystalline carbon nitrides” by Marcos A. R. da Silva, Jéssica C. Gil, Nadezda V. Tarakina, Gelson T. S. T. Silva,  José B. G. Filho, Klaus Krambrock, Markus Antonietti, Caue Ribeiro and Ivo F. Teixeira, 31 May 2022, Chemical Communications.
DOI: 10.1039/D2CC01757A

“Aqueous Au-Pd colloids catalyze selective CH4 oxidation to CH3OH with O2 under mild conditions” by Nishtha Agarwal, Simon J. Freakley, Rebecca U. McVicker, Sultan M. Althahban, Nikolaos Dimitratos, Qian He, David J. Morgan, Robert L. Jenkins, David J. Willock, Stuart H. Taylor, Christopher J. Kiely and Graham J. Hutchings, 7 September 2017, Science.
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan6515

LeBron James VS Michael Jordan: Wealth Comparison and Performance

LeBron James VS Michael Jordan: Wealth Comparison and Performance

As of the 2016-2017 season, the NBA player with the highest salary is LeBron James, who is earning $31 million this year. Other high-earning players include Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony. While some may argue that these players are overpaid, there is no doubt that they are among the best in the game and bring in a lot of revenue for their teams. 

James has been with the Cavaliers since 2010 and is one of the most popular players in the league. He has led the team to four consecutive Finals appearances and won a championship in 2016. In addition to his salary from the Cavs, James also earns millions from endorsements deals with companies like Nike and Coca-Cola.

Bryant is a Los Angeles Lakers legend and is currently in his final season. He has earned over $300 million in salary during his career, making him one of the richest players in NBA history. Durant signed a new contract with the Golden State Warriors this offseason that will pay him $26.5 million per year. Anthony is a 10-time All-Star who recently signed a five-year, $124 million contract with the New York Knicks.

While these players are certainly among the highest-paid in the NBA, there are a few others who are close behind. Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, and Chris Paul all have contracts that will pay them over $20 million per year. And, of course, there is always the possibility that a new player could sign a mega-deal that would dwarf the salaries of these current stars. So, while LeBron James may be the highest-paid player in the NBA right now, that could change in the future.

The Most Famous NBA Players

Some of the most famous NBA players include Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. These players have become global icons and have helped to popularize the sport of basketball around the world. They are all incredibly talented players who have had tremendous success in the NBA.

Michael Jordan is widely considered to be the greatest player of all time . He was an incredible scorer and an outstanding defender. Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championships in the 1990s. He was also named the NBA Finals MVP a record six times.

Kobe Bryant is another player who is considered to be one of the greatest of all time. He spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA Championships. Bryant was an outstanding scorer and a tenacious defender. He was named the NBA Finals MVP twice.

Source: https://www.goldenstateofmind.com/2022/9/14/23353990/these-nba-players-are-earning-big-this-new-season

Russia vetoes Security Council resolution condemning attempted annexation of Ukraine regions

Russia vetoes Security Council resolution condemning attempted annexation of Ukraine regions

Peace and Security – Russia on Friday vetoed a Security Council resolution which described its attempts to unlawfully annex four regions of Ukraine earlier in the day with a formal ceremony in Moscow, as “a threat to international peace and security”, demanding that the decision be immediately and unconditionally reversed.

The draft resolution, circulated by the United States and Albania, was supported by ten of the fifteen members of the Council, with Russia voting against it. Four members abstained, Brazil, China, Gabon and India.

The draft described the so-called referendums held by Russia in the four regions of Ukraine which Moscow now regards as sovereign territory – Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya – as illegal and an attempt to modify Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.

Withdraw now

It called on all States, international organisations, and agencies not to recognize the Russian annexation declaration, and called on Russia to “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces” from Ukrainian territory.

Due to Russia’s veto, following a new procedure adopted in the UN General Assembly in April, the Assembly must now meet automatically within ten days for the 193-member body to scrutinize and comment on the vote. Any use of the veto by any of the Council’s five permanent members triggers a meeting.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the annexation plan as a violation of international law, warning that it marked a “dangerous escalation” in the seven-month war that began with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

“The Charter is clear”, said the UN chief. “Any annexation of a State’s territory by another State resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the Principles of the UN Charter”.

Speaking before the vote, United States Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that the referendums were a “sham”, predetermined in Moscow, “held behind the barrel of Russian guns.”

UN Photo/Laura Jarriel

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the United States addresses the UN Security Council meeting on Maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine.

Defending sacred principles: US

“We all have an interest in defending the sacred principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, in defending peace in our modern world”, she told ambassadors.

“All of us understand the implications for our own borders, our own economies and our own countries, if these principles are tossed aside.

“It’s about our collective security, our collective responsibility to maintain international peace and security…This is what this body is here to do”, she said.

image1170x530cropped 3 - Russia vetoes Security Council resolution condemning attempted annexation of Ukraine regions

UN Photo/Laura Jarriel

Ambassador Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of the Russian Federation addresses the UN Security Council meeting on Maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine.

‘No turning back’: Russia

Responding for Russia, Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya, accused the drafters of the resolution of a “low grade provocation”, to force his country to use its veto.

“Such openly hostile actions on the part of the West, are a refusal to engage and cooperate within the Council, a refusal of practices and experience gained over many years.”

He said there had been “overwhelming” support from residents in the four regions that Russia now claims. “The residents of these regions do not want to return to Ukraine. They have made an informed and free choice, in favour of our country.”

He said that the outcome of the so-called referendums had been recognized by international observers, and now, after being endorsed by the Russian Parliament, and by presidential decrees, “there will be no turning back, as today’s draft resolution would try to impose.”

‘Urgent’ need to address fallout from Nord Stream pipeline leaks

Security Council members stayed in the chamber on Friday afternoon in New York, to discuss this week’s Nord Stream pipeline explosions, which the NATO military alliance and others, believe may be an act of sabotage.

Earlier in the day, President Putin accused the West of being responsible for damaging the Russian-built undersea natural gas pipelines – a charge strongly rejected by the United States and allies.

Briefing ambassadors on the UN’s behalf, the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said that while the causes of the four leaks were being investigated, “it is equally urgent to address the consequences of these leaks.”

DESA’s Navid Hanif, said the UN was in no position to or confirm any of the reported details relating to the leaks detected on Monday. They Nord Steam 1 and 2 pipelines have been at the centre of the European energy supply crisis stemming from Russia’s February invasion, and neither are in operation pumping gas to European nations at this time.

Mr. Hanif said were three main impacts of the leaks, beginning with increased pressure on global energy markets.

“The incident can exacerbate the high price volatility on the energy markets in Europe and around the world”, he said, adding that the potential harm to the environment was another matter of concern.

Methane danger

The discharge of hundred of millions of cubic metres of gas, “would result in hundreds of thousands of tonnes of methane emissions”, he said, a gas which has “80 times the planet-warming potency of carbon dioxide”.

Finally, he said the pipeline explosions also made “manifestly clear” just how vulnerable critical energy infrastructure is, during such times of global crisis.

He said it showed just how important it was to move to a “clean, resilient, sustainable energy system, while ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all.”

Finally, he told the Council that any attack on civilian infrastructure is unacceptable, and the incident must not be allowed to further increase tensions amid an escalating war.

Patriarch Kirill remains silent after Gorbachev’s passing

Gorbachev and Kirill

A year ago, Russian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch Kirill had congratulated Gorbachev for his 90th birthday. But that was before the war. When the last President of the Soviet Union passed away a few days ago, Kirill remained silent, offering no condolences, and issuing no statement. That does not seem to be a mistake.

In fact, the hardliners of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) have a grudge against Gorbachev. That might seem weird, when you know he is the one who put an end to 70 years of repression (with ups and downs) of the Orthodox believers in the Soviet Union. In 1988, Gorbachev had a 90 minute meeting with Patriarch Pimen, where he acknowledged the Soviet Union’s mistakes toward the church and promised a new era of religious freedom. And he fulfilled his promise.

Gorbachev’s meeting with John Paul II

But even before enacting the famous law on religious freedom in 1990, Gorbachev extended the Russian leniency to more than only the Russian Orthodox Church. In December 1989, he met with the Pope John-Paul II (that was a premiere) and promised that the Soviet Union would guarantee freedom of religion at home. “People of many confessions, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and others live in the Soviet Union. All of them have a right to satisfy their spiritual needs,” Gorbachev said that day. The word “others” was definitely an open door for many religious denominations, and a vision that has been the nightmare of Putin’s regime, justifying a part of the hate they vow today to Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gorbachev was an atheist, even if baptized as an Orthodox when he was a kid. But his willingness to allow religious freedom in the Union gave birth to rumors that he was a Catholic. Even the then US President Reagan had speculated that Gorby could have been a “closet believer”. Whilst it could have been a compliment for Reagan, that was not the case in the Soviet Union, where political leaders and members of the party had to be atheists, or else. But for the ROC, being suspected of Catholicism is worse than being an atheist. Finally, in 2008, Gorbachev had to confirm to Interfax that he was an atheist: “”To sum up and avoid any misunderstandings, let me say that I have been and remain an atheist,” he stated.

A new law guarantying freedom of religion

In 1990, he signed the new law guarantying freedom of religion in the Union. This law, the “law on Freedom of religion”, adopted by the Supreme Court of USSR, has created a real breath of fresh air into which numerous religious movements from the West have rushed. That was too much for the ROC. While it allowed the ROC to increase their assets by millions and grow as never before for the last 70 years, they could not bear the arrival of potential competitors, and could not imagine that they would have to stand on an equal footing with all these “false prophets”, whether they were Catholics, evangelicals, Jehovah Witnesses or belonging to any of the thousand “sects” that started expanding in the country.

For these reasons, the Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and his fellow Orthodox apparatchiks fought for a new law that they even drafted, and that Yeltsin passed in 1997. That was the end of religious freedom for all in Russia, and the ROC got all the protection and privileges it wanted at once. Since that date, new laws added to this one, restricting even further the religious liberty in Russia, which now is about to become a serious China’s competitor as regards religious repression.

For the ROC, freedom of religion is Western decadence

You then understand why Gorby did not receive any attention from Patriarch Kirill when he passed away. I guess Gorbachev does not care very much. Nevertheless, now that Kirill has been one of the most forceful defendants of the Russian war in Ukraine, justifying it with metaphysical considerations, he could definitely not be nice to the one who granted freedom to all the Western “cults” that he believes are the forces behind of the Maidan revolution in Ukraine, and that are a threat to the ROC hegemony in the former soviet Union area. Russian Nationalists, or should I say, “Russian world” nationalists, hate the West, so they hate Gorbachev for having opened the door to believers in Western born religions. They praise freedom when it’s granted to them and believe that others do not deserve it.

We believe freedom of religion for all is a universal right. They believe it’s decadence. Or they believe in their own profits, and do not want to share. Whatever reason is behind, Gorby was not the good guy for them. Putin believes he sold the Union. Kirill believes he sold the religious landscape of the Great Russia. In fact, Gorbachev sold nothing. He gave some freedom to his people, and that, whatever will happen during the next years, will stay and even come back further. As people of Russia tasted freedom of religion, and they will forever remember that it is possible, desirable, and finally vital to live a free and plain life.

Six more Jehovah’s Witnesses firmly sentenced to prison in Russia in August

Defendants with families and friends shortly before sentencing (Saransk, August 2022)
Photo credit: Credit: Jehovah's Witnesses Russia - / - Defendants with families and friends shortly before sentencing (Saransk, August 2022)

The persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses is going on unabated. In the last eight months, 26 of them have been sentenced for merely practicing their religion in private and put behind bars. Here is the list of the last six Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced on 25 August 2022 and serving heavy prison terms:

Vladimir Atryakhin, 35 years (6 years)

Georgiy Nikulin, 59 years (4 years and 2 months)

Yelena Nikulina, 54 years (4 years and 2 months)

Aleksandr Shevchuk, 33 years (2 years)

Aleksandr Korolev, 42 years (2 years)

Denis Antonov, 46 years (2 years)

They were all prosecuted under Criminal Code Article 282.2, Part 2 (“Organisation of” or “Participation in the activity of a social or religious association or other organisation in relation to which a court has adopted a decision legally in force on liquidation or ban on the activity in connection with the carrying out of extremist activity”):

Article 282.2, Part 2 – two to six years’ imprisonment, plus a possible ban on holding certain positions and/or carrying out certain activities for up to five years and compulsory restrictions on freedom for up to one year after release; or a 300,000 to 600,000 Rouble fine; or one to four years’ assigned labour, plus a possible ban on holding certain positions and/or carrying out certain activities for up to three years and compulsory restrictions on freedom for up to one year.

Others who were arrested in 2022 are detained and waiting for their trial.

In 2019, several Jehovah’s Witnesses of Saransk, a city located far in Siberia, were prosecuted for gathering to discuss about the Bible. As the movement of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been banned as an extremist organization since 2017, all their collective activities are considered illegal.

Vladimir Atryakhin

Vladimir Atryakhin was born in 1987 in the village of Rozhdestveno (Mordovia). Since his childhood, he has loved sports and has enjoyed playing football, volleyball, hockey…

He is a professional programmer and works as a system administrator for two companies. He also edits a scientific journal at Mordovian State University. He is respected by the neighbors—he heads the house committee in the residential building where he lives.

In 2009, Vladimir got married with Mariya. The couple have two small children who were 7 months and 2 years old at the time of their father’s arrest. More here.

Georgiy Nikulin

Georgiy Nikulin was born in 1963 in the city of Rovenki (Ukraine). After school, he graduated from college with a degree in driver-car mechanic. Subsequently, he mastered several more specialties: graphic designer, satellite communications radio technician, equipment maintenance mechanic, printing, woodcarving. He worked in all these areas.

He often had to move in connection with work – he lived in Zhytomyr (Ukraine), Tolyatti (Samara region) and in Yakutia. Over time, together with his wife Elena, he moved to Saransk, where the family was able to settle in their own house for the first time.

Sudden criminal prosecution and a long stay in a pre-trial detention center undermined his health. More here.

Elena Nikulina

Elena Nikulina was born in 1968 in the village of Monastyrsk (Mordovia). As a child, Elena was fond of cross-country skiing and sewing. 

After school, she studied as a dressmaker and cutter. In search of work, she moved to Saransk and Togliatti. She worked as a seamstress at various enterprises, was engaged in cleaning the premises. In 2016, Elena married Georgiy.

The criminal prosecution affected both spouses: Georgiy spent 147 days behind bars, both lost their jobs and lost their livelihoods. Elena experienced a nervous shock, she became afraid to stay at home alone. More here.

Aleksandr Shevchuk

Aleksandr Shevchuk was born in 1989 in Pyatigorsk (Stavropol Territory). He grew up in a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many of his relatives survived the religious persecution of the Soviet years. His great-grandparents were exiled in 1951 to Siberia where his parents were born.

At school, he was a motivated student. He learnt garden and park construction. When he was called up for military service, he opted for an alternative civilian service which he carried out in Khimki near Moscow. 

Later he moved to Saransk, where he worked in the furniture industry. He loves sports, especially basketball and table tennis. More here.

Aleksandr Korolev

Aleksandr Korolev was born in 1978 in the Zemetchinsky district of the Penza region.

He became a tractor driver and worked on a collective farm as a shepherd and livestock breeder. Recently he has worked as a carpenter-fitter of wooden products.

For some time, he lived in the village of Akim-Sergeevka (Mordovia) and then moved to Saransk where he met his future wife Natalya. At that time, she was raising her son alone. They got married in 2006.

The criminal prosecution has brought anxiety, worry and uncertainty into the life of the family. The parents of Aleksandr and Nataliya worry about their spouses and try to support them. More here.

Denis Antonov

Denis Antonov was born in 1976 in Syktyvkar (Komi Republic). His family moved frequently, as his father worked as an agronomist and helped on collective farms in the north of Siberia.

He entered a technical school in Vorkuta, in the north of Siberia, where he received a degree in mining electromechanics. For about five years he worked at the mine as an underground electrician, then as a janitor, a building maintenance worker, and most recently as a house foreman.

In 2015, Denis married Olga, whom he had known since 1996. She worked as a cook in a coal factory and in a kindergarten. The couple moved from Vorkuta to Saransk to take care of Olga’s elderly mother, who was left alone after her husband’s death. During a search, the authorities took away their workbooks and other documents related to their religion. More here.

List of 20 other Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to prison terms in 2022:

06 June 2022:Vladimir Ermolaev, 34 years (6 ½ years)

                      Alexander Putintsev, 48 years (6 ½ years)

                      Igor Mamalimov, 46 years (6 years in a colony)

31 May 2002: Rustam Seidkuliev, 45 years old (2 years and 4 months)

23 May 2022: Lyudmila Shchekoldina, 46 years ‘4 years and 1 month)

                     Andrey Vlasov, 53 years old (7 years)

                     Lyudmila Shchekoldina, 45 years old (4 years and 1 month in a penal colony)

26 April 2022: Andrey Ledyaikin, 34 years old (2 years and 2 months)

19 April 2022: Konstantin Samsonov, 45 years old (7 years 1/2 years)

18 March 2022: Valeriy Rogozin, 60 years old (6 years and 5 months in a penal colony)

                        Denis Peresunko, 54 years old (6 years and 6 months)

                        Sergey Melnik, 57 years old (6 years in a penal colony)

                        Igor Egozaryan, 57 years old (6 years in a penal colony)

07 February 2022: Yuriy Saveliyev, 68 years old (6 years + 1 year of restricted freedom)

02 February 2022: Anatoliy Gorbunov, 64 years old (6 years)

25 January 2022: Anna Safronova, 57 years old (6 years)

20 January 2022: Yevgeny Korotun, 52 years old (7 years + 2 years of restricted freedom)

                          Andrei Kolesnichenko, 52 years old (4 years + 1 year of restricted freedom)

19 January 2022: Alexei Ershov, 68 years old (3 years)

17 January 2022: Maksim Beltikov, 42 years old (2 years)

Millennials are Taking Over the Internet—And the Economy

photo of three millennials sitting and talking while planning work
Photo by Helena Lopes

If you’re a millennial, chances are you’ve been told you’re entitled, lazy, and selfish. But despite all the negativity, there’s one area where millennials are truly excelling: taking over the internet.

Whether starting their businesses, becoming social media influencers or developing innovative new technologies, millennials are making their mark on the digital world. And as they continue to grow in influence, they’re also significantly impacting the economy. Here is a look at how millennials are taking over the internet—and why it matters for the economy’s future. 

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Via Pixabay

How Millennials are Making Their Mark Online

There’s no doubt that millennials are the most tech-savvy generation. They grew up during a time when the internet was beginning to become mainstream, and as a result, they’re more comfortable with technology than any other generation. This comfort level with technology has translated into several ways millennials are making their mark online. 

For starters, millennials are starting their businesses at an unprecedented rate. In fact, according to Forbes, 44% of millennial entrepreneurs say that technology has made it easier to start a business. Thanks to platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, it’s easier than ever for millennial entrepreneurs to get funding for their businesses. And thanks to social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, it’s easier than ever for them to market their products and services to a broad audience. 

Social Media Influencers

In addition to starting their businesses, millennials are becoming social media influencers. A social media influencer has built up a large following on social media and uses that platform to promote products or services. Instagram is particularly popular among social media influencers; influencers say that Instagram is their favorite platform to use. And given that millennials make up the vast majority of Instagram users, it’s no surprise that more and more of them are using the platform to build their brands and promote everything from fashion brands to fitness programs. 

Millennials Are The Future Of New Technology

Millennials are also developing innovative new technologies. For example, millennials now make up the majority of app developers worldwide. In addition, many successful startups have been founded by millennial entrepreneurs; according to Business Insider, companies like Airbnb and Tumblr were founded by millennials who saw a need in the market and used technology to fill it. 

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Via Pixabay

The Impact of Millennial Influence on The Economy

As millennials continue to increase their influence online, they’re also significantly impacting the economy. Perhaps the most obvious way they’re doing this is by starting their businesses; as we mentioned earlier, millennial entrepreneurs say that technology has made it easier for them to start a business. And given that there are now over 60 million millennial entrepreneurs in the United States alone, that’s having a significant impact on job growth and economic expansion. 

Moreover, social media influencers’ popularity changes how companies do marketing and advertising. In particular, many companies are now working with social media influencers instead of traditional celebrities to reach millennial consumers.

Remote Working

The internet has completely transformed the way we work. No longer are we tied to physical office space; instead, we can work from anywhere in the world, thanks to the power of the internet. This flexibility is especially appealing to millennials, who value work/life balance and freedom over traditional 9-to-5 jobs.

As a result, millennials are increasingly eschewing traditional office jobs in favor of remote work. A recent study found that 42% of millennials would instead work remotely than in an office. And it’s not just freelancers and solopreneurs who are moving to remote work; more and more companies are offering remote positions, and some are even going so far as to ditch their physical office spaces altogether.

What does this shift mean for the economy? For one, it’s opening up opportunities for people who might not otherwise have access to good jobs. No longer is location a barrier to employment; as long as you have a strong internet connection, you can work from anywhere.

This is especially beneficial for people who live in rural areas or small towns, where good jobs can be hard to come by. It’s also great for parents who want to stay home with their kids and people with disabilities or chronic illnesses that make it difficult to leave the house.

Of course, some challenges come with this new way of working. For one, staying motivated cannot be accessible when you’re not in a traditional office setting. And, if you’re not careful, it’s easy to get too comfortable and start slacking off.

But, overall, the benefits of remote work far outweigh the challenges. And as more and more millennials enter the workforce, we can only expect the remote work trend to continue to grow.

The Future Of Online Marketing Is Here

The internet has completely changed the landscape of marketing and advertising. Businesses are no longer limited to traditional marketing methods, such as print ads or television commercials. Now, companies can reach a wider audience through online channels such as social media, email marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO).

And millennials are leading the charge.

As the largest generation in history, millennials are quickly becoming the most powerful consumers in the world. And they are using their spending power to reshape the economy—including how businesses market and sell their products and services.

Education Is Becoming More And More Accessible

The internet has made education more accessible than ever before. As a result, a growing number of people can take advantage of online learning opportunities which were previously unavailable. This is particularly true for millennials, who are often thought to be the most tech-savvy generation.

According to a recent National Center for Education Statistics report, nearly 60% of millennials have taken at least one online course. This is compared to just over 50% of Gen Xers and 40% of baby boomers. Online learning has become so popular that it’s now considered mainstream.

There are several reasons why millennials are drawn to online learning. For many, it’s simply more convenient than traditional classroom-based instruction. With online courses, learners can study at their own pace and schedule. This is ideal for millennials who are often balancing work and other commitments.

In addition, online learning is often more affordable than traditional education. For example, many schools and universities offer discounted rates for online students. And there are several free online learning resources available, such as MOOCs (massive open online courses). And It’s become so easy that you can have a live chat online with your tutor or professor- something that wasn’t possible before! You can learn more about live chat software here.

Millennials significantly impact the economy by making education more accessible and affordable. As more and more people learn online, businesses and organizations are starting to notice. As a result, they’re adapting their products, services, and marketing efforts to appeal to this growing demographic.

Governments And Policy Makers

It’s not just businesses that are affected by the rise of online learning. Governments and policymakers are also taking notice. They’re starting to invest in digital infrastructure and initiatives that will make online learning even more accessible. For example, the European Commission has launched several digital education initiatives, including the EU Schoolnet project, which aims to promote young people’s digital literacy and 21st-century skills.

Virtual Reality And The Future

The way we shop is changing. No longer are we limited to brick-and-mortar stores or even e-commerce sites. With the rise of virtual reality, shoppers can now explore products in a completely immersive environment.

It’s not just retail that VR is disrupting. The travel industry also uses technology to give potential customers a taste of their products. For example, hotels and resorts are creating virtual reality experiences that let users explore different locations and accommodations before they book a stay.

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Via Pixabay

Even real estate is getting in on the action. With VR, homebuyers can take virtual tours of properties before making an offer.

While VR is still in its early stages, it’s clear that technology significantly impacts the economy. And it’s being driven mainly by millennials.

As digital natives, millennials are comfortable with new technologies like VR. They’re also more likely to take risks and embrace change. That makes them perfect early adopters of VR.

As digital natives, millennials are the first generation to grow up with the internet as a part of their everyday lives. This makes them uniquely qualified to take advantage of the opportunities the internet offers. From social media to e-commerce, millennials are leading the charge in creating and consuming content online. And as they enter the workforce, they are bringing their tech-savvy skills.

Millennials are now the largest demographic in the workforce, and they significantly impact the economy. Businesses that don’t adapt to the changing demands of this generation will find themselves struggling to stay relevant. So what does the future hold for millennials and the internet? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: they are poised to change the world as we know it.

Scientology Minister Believes in the Power of Religion to Improve Life

Scientology Minister Believes in the Power of Religion to Improve Life

A newly ordained Scientology minister from Hungary explains how Scientology helped her improve her own life and the lives of others.

BUDAPEST, CENTRAL HUNGARY, HUNGARY, September 5, 2022 /EINPresswire.com/ — Renáta Szommer, a Scientology minister from Hungary, believes in the value of religion in improving many areas of a person’s life.

There are many demands in life, says Szommer: one’s work or career, relationships, marriage, parenthood. “It’s not always easy to get all these aspects of life aligned and going well. And unfortunately, a problem in one area can badly affect the rest.”

A newly ordained Scientology minister, she explains how she was able to improve her own life with the help of Scientology.

“I became a Scientologist more than 20 years ago,” she says. “I was working abroad as a student, and the people I worked for were not the friendliest. In fact, hardly anyone who worked with them before me lasted more than a year.”

Despite the challenges of the job, it was a good one with a nice salary and she wanted to succeed.

Fortunately, just before she began this job, she had taken some introductory Scientology courses. That made all the difference. She noticed that when she applied what she learned from these courses, it worked.

“That’s when I decided that I wanted to know more. I wanted to know exactly what Scientology was,” she says. Although she knew she had only learned a small part of Scientology, it had helped her through the rough spots and enabled her to succeed when so many other people had failed.

“Later, I applied what I learned in raising my son. He is successful in his studies, he is purposeful in his life,” she says.

Szommer is very proud of her son and that while has a great circle of friends who really enjoy being with one another and partying, they don’t get involved in harmful substances.

Before becoming a minister, Szommer was an entrepreneur. She would help people with their businesses, but there was so much more she wanted to be able to share with them.

She decided to sell her business and dedicate herself to helping people.

She realized that by applying Scientology spiritual counseling—called auditing, from the Latin word “audire” meaning “to listen”—it helped those around her do better and put them much more in control of their lives.

As she carried on with her Scientology training, she noticed the difference in her ability to help others.

“People would come to me, ask for advice, and I was able to help them turn their marriages in a positive direction and reconcile with their partners. They became able to take their businesses, human relations and child-rearing in the right direction, and this made me very happy,” she says.

But training as a Scientology minister also broadened her understanding of other beliefs and practices.

“I wanted to learn about other religions and I wanted to find the similarities and differences between them and Scientology,” she says. “I saw how we share the same goals, and how important it is that we all keep moving in the right direction.”

Szommer grew up in a Catholic family. “I would go to church, and I could see that those who really practice the religion are much more loving and helpful,” she says. “The teachings that religion gives people help them live together more easily.”

During her ministers’ training at the Church of Scientology of Budapest, by learning about other religions and philosophies, Renata gained an even greater understanding of Scientology and how much it has in common with other faiths.

“If we look at the history of humanity, religion has emphasized love of one’s fellow man and mutual friendliness and understanding,” she says. She points out there are so many wonderful ministers of all faiths. They have ministries dedicated to helping those in need, helping children. Many schools are run by ministers. Instead of harshness and hostility, religion helps lead people in the direction of love and help.

“My plans are to continue providing spiritual counseling and helping people,” says Szommer. “I can help those around me, and anyone who turns to me, achieve a happier, better life.

“Society turns to religion—whatever religion it may be. Religion helps us all win and live in a better world.”

From its beginnings, the Church of Scientology has recognized that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. In a world where conflicts are often traceable to intolerance of others’ religious beliefs and practices, the Church has, for more than 50 years, made the preservation of religious liberty an overriding concern.

The Church publishes this blog to help create a better understanding of the freedom of religion and belief and provide news on religious freedom and issues affecting this freedom around the world.

The Founder of the Scientology religion is L. Ron Hubbard and Mr. David Miscavige is the religion’s ecclesiastical leader.

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Ukraine: ‘Physical integrity’ of Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant ‘has been violated several times’

Ukraine: ‘Physical integrity’ of Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant ‘has been violated several times’
Ⓒ IAEA - The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

Further damage to the embattled Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine “cannot” be allowed to happen, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said.

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi was speaking on Thursday after he and IAEA experts visited Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which has seen repeated shelling in recent weeks, sparking fears of a catastrophe. 

“It’s obvious that the plant, and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated, several times. [Whether] by chance [or deliberately], we don’t have the elements to assess that. But this is a reality that we have to recognize, and this is something that cannot continue to happen,” he told journalists.  

“Wherever you stay, wherever you stand, whatever you think about this war, this is something that cannot happen, and this is why we’re trying to put in place certain mechanisms and the presence of our people there, to try to be in a better place.” 

The Zaporizhzhia plant houses six of the 15 nuclear reactors in Ukraine. 

It has been occupied by Russian forces since the early weeks of the war in Ukraine, now in its seventh month.  

Both sides have accused the other of shelling the plant. 

Maintaining a presence 

An IAEA expert mission finally arrived there on Thursday, following months of diplomatic negotiations. 

In a video posted on his official Twitter account that day, Mr. Grossi reported that the experts had completed an initial tour of the plant, though there is still more to do.

“My team is staying on,” he said, adding “most importantly, we are establishing a continued presence from the IAEA here.” 

image1170x530cropped - Ukraine: ‘Physical integrity’ of Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant ‘has been violated several times’
© IAEA – IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi (second left) and the IAEA expert mission team arrive at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine.

The 14-member mission deployed from Vienna on Monday in efforts towards ensuring nuclear safety and security at the plant, undertaking vital safeguard activities, and assessing the working conditions of the Ukrainian staff there. 

Renewed shelling last week hit the area of the plant’s two so-called special buildings, located about 100 metres from the reactor buildings, as well as an overpass area. 

WHO donates ambulances to Ukraine

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has delivered 11 first aid ambulances to Ukraine amid ongoing attacks against healthcare in the country, the UN agency reported on Friday.

The vehicles will be handed over to the Emergency Medical Service Department in Lviv, then distributed throughout Ukraine.

The donations were made possible through support from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which ensures that urgently needed humanitarian assistance reaches people caught up in crises.

image1170x530cropped 2 - Ukraine: ‘Physical integrity’ of Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant ‘has been violated several times’
© WHO/Viktor Moskaliuk – Minister of Health of Ukraine, Viktor Liashko (left) receives the keys for eleven ambulances from Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine.

Timely transport saves lives

“These ambulances will save lives and go a step further in ensuring that timely access to emergency care during the war is strengthened and maintained,” said Dr. Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine.

He was speaking at a handover ceremony alongside Ukraine’s Health Minister, Dr. Viktor Liashko, who emphasized that international support is a powerful tool in sustaining the country’s medical system during wartime.

“Emergency healthcare workers are the first ones to arrive at the scene of an accident and do everything they can to save people’s lives,” he said. 

“Thanks to modern ambulances, healthcare workers not only provide timely transport for people who are injured or in critical condition from the accident scene to a medical facility, but also stabilize their condition during transport.”

WHO and partners have donated more than 30 ambulances to Ukraine’s Ministry of Health since the war began on 24 February, with more deliveries expected later in the year.

The agency has also delivered more than 1,300 metric tonnes of life-saving medical supplies to the country, including power generators, oxygen supplies for medical facilities, and medicines to help treat noncommunicable diseases.

Winter support for vulnerable groups

Also on Friday:

A UN Humanitarian Fund has allocated $70 million to kick-start winter assistance and address the needs of people with disabilities, older persons and vulnerable women in Ukraine.

“This is the Fund’s largest single allocation since its creation in 2019. Funding goes directly to local civil society organizations and volunteer groups on the front lines,” said Eri Kaneko, Associate UN Spokesperson, speaking to journalists in New York.

The Fund is managed by the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA.

Some $118 million has been released so far this year to help five million people across Ukraine with food, water, shelter, health interventions and educational support.

Palestine: EU announces €261 million in support of UNRWA’s operations

Palestine: EU announces €261 million
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini address the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs in Brussels, Belgium. © 2022 UNRWA Photo
On 31 August 2022, Commission-General Philippe Lazzarini briefed Members of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs about the deteriorating situation of Palestine refugees in the Middle East, including the impact of the Ukraine crisis and the last escalation in Gaza earlier this month. During the exchange of views in Brussels, the Commissioner-General also addressed the critical financial situation of the Agency and thanked the Members of the European Parliament for playing a key role in the fruitful EU-UNRWA partnership. 

European Commission Brussels, 09 Aug 2022

The European Union confirmed today its role as a long-standing, predictable and reliable partner of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and one of its largest donors.

The European Commission adopted €261 million as the multiannual contribution that will allow to secure predictable financial resources to the Agency for the provision of essential services to Palestine refugees. In line with the EU-UNRWA Joint Declaration 2021-2024, it includes the EU’s three-year funding for UNRWA for a total of €246 million, coupled with an additional €15 million from the Food and Resilience Facility to address food insecurity and mitigate the impact of the Ukraine war.

High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell, said: “The EU as UNRWA’s long-term partner is committed to continue with political and financial support for its activities. UNRWA remains crucial for providing the necessary protection and essential services for Palestine refugees, supporting peace and stability in the region. The EU will continue to support UNRWA in all its fields of operations, including in East Jerusalem. Our support to UNRWA is a key element in our strategy of contributing to the promotion of security, stability and development in the region, which also helps to keep alive the prospects of sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver Várhelyi, said: “We remain a reliable and predictable partner, and a top donor of UNRWA. Others need to step up and join the EU in providing predictable multiannual funding. The Agency plays a stabilising role in the region. It must continue to do so, with a clear focus on its core mandate. We will continue to work with UNRWA to strengthen the Agency’s governance systems and help step up transparency and sound management. We remain also firmly committed to promote quality education for Palestinian children and ensure full compliance with UNESCO standards in all education material.”


Since 1971, the strategic partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has been based on the shared objective of supporting human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestine refugees and of promoting stability in the Middle East.

On 17 November 2021, UNRWA Commissioner General Lazzarini, HR/VP Borrell, and Commissioner Várhelyi signed the EU-UNRWA “Joint Declaration on EU support to UNRWA (2021-2024)”, marking the 50th anniversary of the EU-UNRWA partnership. In the Joint Declaration, the European Union commits to continue supporting UNRWA politically and securing predictable, multi-annual financial resources. UNRWA is experiencing significant challenges in fulfilling its mandate due to recurrent financial shortfalls.

There is an urgent need for UNRWA to reform and to identify innovative ways to maintain the provision of services to refugees. The EU supports UNRWA in taking forward these internal reform efforts to secure a sound and sustainable financial basis, which includes focusing on core services for the most vulnerable.

In addition to that, the EU continues to do its utmost to reach out to existing and potential donors to put the Agency on a sustainable fiscal model and to ensure fairer contribution sharing.

World food prices have fallen for fifth consecutive month

World food prices have fallen for fifth consecutive month
© WFP/Mahmoud Fadel - Wheat flour is distributed to vulnerable families in Abyan, Yemen.
World food prices have fallen for a fifth consecutive month but are still nearly eight per cent higher than a year ago, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported on Friday.

Its latest Food Price Index shows that the prices of five commodities – cereals, vegetable oil, dairy, meat and sugar – were lower in August than in July. 

The Index tracks the monthly international prices of these breadbasket staples. It averaged 138.0 points last month, down nearly two per cent from July, though 7.9 per cent above the value a year before. 

Ukraine exports a factor 

FAO said the decline in cereal prices reflected improved production prospects in North America and Russia, and the resumption of exports from Black Sea ports in Ukraine

A landmark agreement to unblock Ukraine grain exports amid the ongoing war was signed in July by the country, Russia, Türkiye and the UN.  

Rice prices on average held steady during August, while quotations for coarse grains, such as maize, increased marginally.   

Vegetable oil prices decreased by 3.3 per cent, which is slightly below the August 2021 level.  FAO attributed this to increased availability of palm oil from Indonesia, due to lower export taxes, and the resumption of sunflower oil shipments from Ukraine. 

High price for cheese 

Although dairy prices saw a two per cent drop, they remained 23.5 per cent higher than in August 2021.  The price of cheese increased for the tenth consecutive month, though milk prices “eased” following expectations of increased supplies from New Zealand, even amid projections of lower production in Western Europe and the US. 

The price of meat declined by 1.5 per cent but remained just over eight per cent higher than the value last August. 

International quotations for poultry fell amid elevated export availabilities, and bovine meat prices declined due to weak domestic demand in some top exporting countries, while pig meat quotations rose.  

Sugar prices also hit their lowest level since July 2021, largely due to high export caps in India and lower ethanol prices in Brazil. 

Outlook for cereals and wheat 

FAO has also issued its global cereal production forecast for this year, which projects a decline of nearly 40 million tonnes, or 1.4 per cent from the previous year. 

The bulk of this decline mainly concerns coarse grains, with maize yields in Europe expected to drop 16 per cent below their five-year average level due to the exceptional hot and dry weather conditions affecting the continent. 

By contrast, FAO expects there will be a “negligible drop” in worldwide wheat production resulting from expected record harvests in Russia and conducive weather conditions in North America.  

Global rice production is also expected to decline by 2.1 percent from the all-time high reached in 2021.

Pakistan floods: The poor paying the price of unprecedented destruction

Pakistan floods: The poor paying the price of unprecedented destruction - Vatican News

By Salvatore Cernuzio

“There is water everywhere… dams, roads, houses, infrastructure; everything destroyed.”

Cardinal Joseph Coutts speaks of his Pakistan, brought to its knees after two months of raging floods that have so far caused about 1,130 deaths. More than 380 of the victims, according to the latest figures, are children.

A natural catastrophe

Speaking to Vatican News while in Rome for the Pope’s meeting with the world’s cardinals on the Reform of the Curia, Cardinal Coutts reflected on the natural disaster that has befallen his country, where monsoon rains and floods have affected 33 million Pakistanis and damaged more than a million homes. “They are the ones in the villages,” says Coutts with a bitter smile: “As always, it is the poor who pay the price.

From the mountains to the sea

The Cardinal does not point a finger at anyone noting that “Always during the rainy season, it starts to pour in the country. But now it has been raining regularly almost every day for two months without interruption.”

“We have not had so much rain as this in the past 30 years,” Coutts says, going on to say that  “Pakistan is a big country, about 1500-1600 km in length” and that “in the north, there are very high mountains, K2 is the second highest mountain in the world.”

The rain has reached those mountains, he explains, and the water has flooded all the way down to the sea, flowing over some 1,700 kilometers with incredible force and causing “unprecedented destruction.”

Government, army and Caritas on the front lines

Cardinal Coutts recalls the floods of August 2010, which inundated almost a fifth of the entire nation. “France, Italy, Germany, everyone has helped,” he says, “But the situation now is much worse.”

Poor people, he adds, always bear the brunt of the disaster:  “They have houses with weak structures, and the mud and the water destroy everything and are very dangerous.”

The government, the army and Caritas Pakistan immediately sprang into action, the cardinal says, but the emergency is enormous and “material aid such as clothes and food that does not spoil is urgently needed, for example, grain and oil.”

The Pope’s support

Cardinal Coutts describes Pope Francis’ words during the Angelus last Sunday as a consolation:

“I want to assure the people of Pakistan affected by floods of disastrous proportions of my closeness. I pray for the many victims, the injured and the displaced, and that international solidarity may be ready and generous.”

“The Holy Father is informed of everything,” the Cardinal says, “at the meeting in the New Synod Hall, we greeted each other and I said, ‘Pakistan!’ And he said: ‘Ah, Pakistan. How are you doing now?’ When I go back, I will tell everyone that the Pope is close to us.”

Roberta Metsola: “The world needs Europe at its best because Europe is hope”


In Lisbon, Parliament President Roberta Metsola spoke of the importance of Europe rising to meet today’s global challenges. “The world needs Europe at its best. We need that hope.”

“Europe is a choice – a choice countries made because they understood that our best chance is if we are together. We chose Europe.” This was the message of the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola as she addressed the Estoril Conferences 2022 in Lisbon.

Speaking a few days before the State of the Union, President Metsola emphasised that decisions must be taken, and quickly. “Europe has the power to transform, but we have to find the political bravery to take that leap forward and to change the world. We can and we should. Because if we do not write the future, it will be written by those with a very different narrative and have a very different ending.”

On the illegal invasion of sovereign Ukraine, she said: “I am proud of Europe’s response. We have stood with Ukraine, we have given military aid, political and diplomatic support, we have welcomed millions fleeing, we have provided funding on an unprecedented scale. The most significant political move was to grant Ukraine EU candidate status, because Ukraine needs hope. Ukraine is fighting for Europe and we will not turn away.”

Regarding actions to address inflation, she said: “People are worried about their bills, about getting to the end of the month, about the world they’ll leave for their children. Europe must rise to meet that challenge. Whether it is tackling cost of living, electricity prices, climate change, defence, food security. The only way forward is if we are united. There are decisions that we can take now to limit the impact: capping of bills, fixing our pricing systems, or de-coupling the price of electricity from gas – to offset the immediate pressure while we implement long-term strategies. If ever there was a moment for ‘more Europe’, it is here and it is now.”

“Europe will only survive if we fight for it. If we stop taking it for granted. If we understand and explain its benefits. If we push back against those determined to undermine it. If we are able to reform and to reinvent our project”, she underlined.

Following the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe, the next step should be a Convention. ”It is about ensuring that we continue the conversation to leave Europe fit for the next generation. We cannot risk falling behind because our bureaucracy is too cumbersome to challenge, or allow narrow interests to take precedence. The last major reform took place a generation ago. We know that what once worked for EU15 is at its limits for EU27, and will not be able to work for EU32 or EU36. It is time.”

Despite the many changes and hard truths the world is facing, Metsola concluded, “I am optimistic. I am convinced that because of Europe the world ahead will be better than the one we leave behind. I am full of hope. Hope in the future, hope in the next generation. I am confident in the possibilities of our time and when I look at young people across Europe I know the future is bright”.

President Metsola’s speech in full is available here.

The EU remains open to foreign investments, but this openness is not unconditional

EU parliament & flag
© European Union, 2022 - EP

Foreign investment screening and export controls play a critical role in safeguarding European security and public order. This is the result of two reports adopted yesterday by the European Commission: the report on the screening of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), and the report on the Export Controls Regulation.

In 2021, the Commission analysed more than 400 foreign direct investments into the Union to ensure that no such investment threatens EU countries’ security or public order. All but two EU Member States now have screening mechanisms in place or are in the process of establishing them. Meanwhile, under the EU Export Control regime, Member States reviewed during the same year about 40,000 requests for exports of goods with potential military use to non-EU countries worth EUR 38.4 billion, blocking those exports in just over 550 cases.

Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “At a time of mounting security challenges, in particular Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine, it is crucial to have our strategic trade and investment controls instruments up and running. In cooperation with our international partners, the EU deployed export controls to sanction Russia for its devastating war in Ukraine. The EU remains open to foreign investments, but this openness is not unconditional. It must be balanced. We must continue enhancing our capability to ensure this balance.”

FDI Screening

This is the second annual report on FDI screening, and the first one to cover an entire calendar year, as the EU FDI Screening Regulation entered into full application in October 2020. Since the creation of the cooperation mechanism, the Commission has screened over 740 FDI transactions.

The second annual report shows that the use of the mechanism has expanded in 2021. Its key findings highlight that:

  • The vast majority of FDI poses no problem from a security/public order perspective and is approved swiftly (both at Member State level and under the Regulation).
  • The Commission completed the assessment of FDI transactions notified by Member States very quickly: 86% were assessed in just 15 calendar days  
  • The EU mechanism does not hold back the EU’s openness to FDI. With less than 3% of transactions resulting in a Commission opinion, the focus remains on security and public order
  • The report is giving the EU a much better picture of investment patterns. It shows that the top five countries for the ultimate investor notified in 2021 were the US, the UK, China, the Cayman Islands and Canada. Russian FDI accounted for less than 1.5% of the cases and Belarus for 0.2%
  • FDI covers a wide range of sectors, but most cases notified concerned manufacturing (44%) – covering a diverse set of industries including defence, aerospace, energy, health and semiconductor equipment, and Information and Communications Technologies (32%).

Overall, the FDI regulation has worked quickly and efficiently, providing a range of useful information and preventing investments posing security risks, all while not restricting the flow of foreign investment.

Export Controls

This is the second report on export controls under the upgraded Export Controls Regulation that entered into force on 9 September 2021, covering the year 2020.

The report covers dual-use exports i.e., items that may be used for civilian and military purposes. It shows that total authorised exports of such items amounted to about €31 billion in 2020.

The new set of EU rules have strengthened export controls by introducing a novel ‘human security’ dimension, simplifying procedures and making the export control system more agile and transparent. Expert work is being developed under the Regulation on cyber-surveillance and emerging technologies, with a particular focus on enforcement and implementation of controls by Member States. The new rules also allow the EU to work more closely with partner countries to enhance global security and promote a level playing field.

Overall, the Export Controls Regulation has made the export control framework more efficient, flexible and forward-looking, while also facilitating international security cooperation.

Nightbirde: You can’t wait until life isnt hard anymore before you decide to be happy


“You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy…” it is with this statement that Nightbirde gave a striking hit of truth to an audience that is simply expecting to have a joyful time watching American Got’s Talent.

You can watch and enjoy the video below the article.

In 2021, Jane Marczewski, aka Nightbirde, wowed the world with her story and song “It’s OK” on America’s Got Talent, earning Simon Cowell’s coveted golden buzzer. Her performance gave hope to millions around the world and inspired thousands of cancer patients to keep fighting.

She was at the time suffering from cancer, but she did not stop saying “It’s ok”, the name of her song, even if she “left us” or “went home”, as described on the website of the Nightbirde Foundation “to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on February 19, 2022, after a four-year battle with cancer. She most recently resided in San Clemente CA with her brother Andrew”.

The dedicated site explains that she was born December 29, 1990, in Zanesville OH to Mitchell and Sharon Marczewski.

She was a 2009 graduate of Licking County Christian Academy and a 2013 graduate of Liberty University in Lynchburg VA with a marketing degree.

Many remember her as the winner of Simon Cowell’s Golden Buzzer on America’s Got Talent in 2021 with the hit song “It’s OK” which charted No. 1 on iTunes and charted on Billboard. Her other top songs include New Year’s Eve, Girl in a Bubble and Brave.

“Before she became Nightbirde, she dedicated her high school years volunteering with the youth ministry at Cornerstone Church in Licking County OH. She also spent many nights and weekends leading worship at Christian events throughout Ohio. It was during this time when she cultivated her love for music and ministry,” explains the site.

During college she continued her love for music by becoming a prolific songwriter and performer. When she was not writing or singing, she shared Jesus with the unparented youngsters in her neighborhood while providing them snacks after school.

“Those who knew her enjoyed her larger-than-life personality and sense of humor. She had a witty joke for every occasion—even if the joke was on her” continues the website.

The Nightbirde Foundation exists to bring hope and healing to young women with breast cancer.

Thousands of young women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year with limited treatment options; Jane was one of them.

In 2021, Jane Marczewski, aka Nightbirde, wowed the world with her story and song “It’s OK” on America’s Got Talent, earning Simon Cowell’s coveted golden buzzer. Her performance gave hope to millions around the world and inspired thousands of cancer patients to keep fighting.

As reported in the website of the foundation, in 2020, the doctors gave Jane 6 months to live. Faced with limited options in Nashville, TN, Jane moved to California to begin integrative treatments that extended her life by over two years. Travelling to California and getting the treatment she needed wasn’t possible without the generous support of thousands of men and women worldwide. We seek to continue that generosity by helping other “Janes” get the treatment they need.

In 2021, Jane and Mitch, her older brother, were sitting in California dreaming about what do with the generous gifts that thousands of people around the world had donated to her for her treatments. They decided the money should be given to other women in need. It was then that the idea for the Nightbirde Foundation was born.

Jane went home to be with the Lord in 2022, but her memory and legacy lives on in the Nightbirde Foundation. The Nightbirde Foundation helps bring hope and healing to young women with breast cancer. The generosity of others extended Jane’s life much longer than expected and enabled her to inspire millions with her message of hope and healing.

From The European Times, we invite you to partner with this mission with any amount by the button below.

Here is the official video, enjoy it:

Video of AGT’s performance:

Other songs from Nightbirde:

Poland demands from Germany €1.3 trillion in war reparations

Seat of the Law and Justice parliamentary club in the Sejm - by Adrian Grycuk, CC BY-SA 3.0 PL
Adrian Grycuk, CC BY-SA 3.0 PL, via Wikimedia Commons

Representatives of Poland’s ruling party, Law and Justice (PIS), said they would demand about €1.3 trillion in war reparations from Germany on Thursday, the 83rd anniversary of Germany’s attack on Poland.

(Article by Bartosz Sieniawski first published in Euractiv. published under Article 3c of Terms and Conditions)

PiS representatives, including its president Jarosław Kaczyński and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, convened a press conference on Thursday.

Its main element was the publication of a report prepared by a special parliamentary expert committee on the estimated value of the losses suffered by Poland as a result of the Second World War.

Adding up the loss of human capital, the amount of damage to buildings and infrastructure, and reparations for Nazi Germany’s crimes, the politicians put the total losses Poland suffered during the German occupation at PLN 6.2 trillion (€1.3 trillion).

“Such matters (like reparations) must be fought for, sometimes for many years. We do not promise that there will be quick success. We are only saying that it is a Polish duty, to close a certain lack, a certain gap in our activity as a sovereign state that we are finally reporting something that should have been reported long ago,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski said.

Opposition politicians are unhappy with the idea.

“I do not think that our future government, made up of democratic groupings, will return to the issue of war reparations from Germany,” said liberal Civic Platform (PO) MP Grzegorz Schetyna.

“Of course, the war has not been settled and we should talk about it with Germany, but what PiS is doing today is a denial of dialogue; it is exploiting the pain of the victims and tarnishing the memory,” centrist Poland 2050 leader Szymon Holownia assessed. “The anti-German campaign unleashed by the Law and Justice party is disgraceful,” he added.

On 24 August 1953, Poland, then an Eastern Bloc country, renounced war reparations from the German side. At the time, it was considered that the land taken over by Poland from the Germans was sufficient to compensate for six years of brutal occupation.

The situation was addressed by a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry, who briefly stated that “the issue of reparations to Poland is over”.

Russian military intelligence in Bulgaria in 1856-1878


By Oleg Gokov

Russo-Turkish War 1877–1878 was the apogee of the Eastern Crisis of the 1870s. The aspiration of the Balkan peoples to free themselves from Turkish domination was closely intertwined with the desire of each of the great powers to change the situation on the Balkan Peninsula in their favor and prevent the strengthened enemy from entering. The Russian Empire was no exception, striving for a victorious war and the creation of formally independent (but de facto dependent) states on the shores of the Black Sea to ensure control over the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, which opened the way to the Mediterranean Sea. As a result, there was a war of 1877-1878. – one of the most militarily successful wars of Russia in the 19th century. One of the main components of Russia’s victory in this war was military intelligence.

The purpose of this article is to investigate the intelligence activity of the corps of officers of the Russian General Staff (hereinafter – GS) in the period from 1856, i.e. with the end of the Eastern or Crimean War, until the completion of the Berlin Congress in the summer of 1878.

It is necessary to note that the Soviet and Russian military intelligence of this topic is both extensive and small. The main emphasis in the majority of works on this topic is on participation in the reconnaissance of the Bulgarian population, moreover, the vast majority of researchers do not distinguish between army officers and GSH officers [1]. The fact is that there are not so many works dedicated directly to officers of the General Staff, and they appeared mainly in the post-Soviet era. Therefore, there are plenty of works on the history of Russia’s foreign policy of the period under consideration and on the roles of individual personalities in it. At the same time, to be honest, GSH officers (with the exception of N.P. Ignatiev and P.D. Parensova) have a small (if any) place in them. Most often, authors do not mention at all the affiliation of this or that officer to the General Staff, thereby making a gross mistake. You can read more about the history of GS and its functions in the Russian Empire in our dissertation [2]. Here, it is necessary to note that in the considered period, the GS as a separate body existed only for a short period of time (1863-1865), after which it was merged with the inspectorate department at the Main Headquarters. After that, the GSH meant a corps of specially trained officers and the service they carried out.

So, among the scientific literature that touches on this topic, the first volume “Essay on the history of Russian foreign intelligence” [3] is of interest. It has a scientific and popular character. This is not so much a history of intelligence as a story about individual persons engaged in this intelligence. In particular, this is an essay about the activities on the eve of the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878. in Romania and Turkey, the officer GSH P.D. Parensova.

The two-volume work by M. Alekseeva is currently the most comprehensive study on the history of Russian military intelligence [4]. However, despite the large amount of processed material, the author mainly paid attention to the exploration of the European and Far Eastern directions. At the same time, the history of military intelligence in the Balkans in the 19th century is presented fragmentarily, and conclusions about the work of intelligence in the early 20th century are often transferred to the second half of the 19th century, although this is not entirely correct, since differences existed.

When writing this article, the author used published official documents, letters and memoirs of officers of the General Staff of the Russian Army – participants in the 1877-1878 war, as well as documents of the Russian State Military Historical Archive.

Thus, this topic has not found proper reflection in historical literature. However, it is sufficiently well provided with sources that allow the researcher to consider it comprehensively.

First of all, it should be noted that in the period under review, the officers of the GS were officers who graduated from the Nikolaev Academy of GS and were assigned to GS. Then reforms in the mid-1860s. The General Staff was only one of the departments of the General Staff (the central body of military management and planning), whose tasks included the command of the General Staff officers’ service. The latter were used in armies on staff positions, as well as as military representatives of Russia abroad.

At first, foreign intelligence in the Balkan territories of the Ottoman Empire was carried out spontaneously. The Ministry of War and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had their own, often independent sources of information, sometimes interacting, but more often competing with each other. Intelligence was mainly carried out by officers from the Ministry of War. It should be noted that according to the Treaty of Paris in 1856, Russia lost the right to have naval forces on the Black Sea, military arsenals and fortresses on its coast. Neutralization of the Black Sea undermined the positions of empires in the Balkans and the Middle East for a long time, as it lost the right to patronize the Danube states and Serbia [5]. Therefore, simultaneously with diplomatic efforts to reverse the neutralization of the Black Sea, Russia launched an active reconnaissance activity in the Balkans and in Turkey in the event of a possible war. A special role here was assigned to officers of the General Staff, who had to organize a systematic collection of information. Intelligence was carried out in various forms: scientific trips (with the assistance of the Russian Geographical Society), secret sending of spies. GSH officers infiltrated Bulgarian lands under the guise of dervishes, merchants, and monks. Acting legally or illegally, with the help of the Bulgarian population, they collected the necessary information, including for the creation of a military operational map of Turkey [6].

The most prominent person, who largely determined the foreign policy of the Russian Empire in this area, was Major General (since 1865 – Lieutenant General) GSH N.P. Ignatiev. In July 1864 he was appointed ambassador to Constantinople. In my opinion, H.P. Ignatiev represented the “action party” in the Russian government. In the Balkans, the main task of diplomacy is H.P. Ignatiev saw in the restoration of Russia’s positions in this region that it was necessary to get rid of the narrowly understood principle of protecting Orthodoxy and move to support the national liberation aspirations of the Balkan peoples. He considered the solution of the strait problem, the establishment of control over them, to be an important part of Russia’s foreign policy in the Balkans. H.P. Ignatiev believed that the creation of independent Slavic states in the place of European Christian provinces of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans was necessary to put pressure on Turkey [7]. Energy and enterprise of the new Russian ambassador contributed to the fact that he soon took a prominent place in the diplomatic corps of the Turkish capital, winning the sympathy of a number of ministers and Sultan Abdul-Aziza himself.

U.S. Kartsov wrote: “On all the events of that time (1864-1876 – the years of H.P. Ignatieva’s tenure as ambassador – O.G.) his bright and powerful personality was imprinted… In every place H.P. Ignatiev would have been an outstanding figure, – in Constantinople, where every person counts, he soon acquired a predominant importance. He was called le vice-Sultan; yes, he was really theirs: Turkish ministers were afraid of him and were in his hands” [8].

With the help of Constantinople Christians H.P. Ignatiev created a wide network of agencies that provided him with information about the state of the Ottoman Empire and its provinces. He also took on the responsibility of managing the activities of the Russian officers assigned to survey routes and gather information in various parts of the Ottoman Empire. For this purpose H.P. Ignatiev entered into direct contacts with the Caucasian military leadership on matters related to the study of the theater of the future war [9]. In 1866-1867 with the Caucasus, with his participation, some GSH officers were sent, led by captain A.S. Green [10]. One of the main tasks was the compilation of a map of European Turkey, which was started in the Caucasian Military District at the end of 1868 [11]. The general editing of its compilation was entrusted to Major-General Fosha, with the assistance of Major-General GSH N.N. Obruchev, Colonel Shevelev and Lieutenant Colonel Stubendorf. Materials from 1828-1832 were used to create the map, as well as a survey conducted by officers of the General Staff in 1860-1872. [12].

In 1867, in the context of the preparation of the indicated map, Russia proposed to Turkey a joint project to measure the meridian arcs from Izmail south to the island of Candia. G.I. Bobrikov wrote in his memoirs: “In 1867, a party of surveyor officers was sent to the Balkan Peninsula to familiarize themselves with the conditions of the areas in the two extended meridian arcs to the island of Candia. The main scientific thought belonged to Struve – the chief astronomer of the Pulkovo Observatory; resourceful use of it – to our post in Constantinople, the adjutant-general H.P. Ignatiev” [13]. The main goal of the work was to create a map of European Turkey, since the map of the late 1820s. was incomplete and outdated. The Turkish government has given consent to the works. In August 1867, the Russian General Staff equipped an expedition under the general leadership of Captain GSH Kortazzi, which included Captain GSH N.D. Artamonov and Staff Sergeant G.I. Bobrikov. In Turkey, with permission H.P. Ignatieva, they were joined by lieutenant D.A., who was stationed at the embassy. Skalon and Staff-Captain of the Corps of Military Topographers Bykov [14]. Since the degree and other measurements were made in localities known to the Russian military only on the basis of questionable information, officers of the General Staff made several trips to the interior of the country in order to determine the latitude of various points near the Balkans and to connect them along the longitude with points determined on the Danube. As for N.D. Artamonova, then he, in addition to topographical and other works, was assigned the task of forming an intelligence network among the local population [15]. As a result, the total number of certain points amounted to 70 titles. These information laid the basis for creating a map of European Turkey. The main work on its publication was assigned to N.D. Artamonova. In 1869, he, having already been made a lieutenant colonel of the GS, visited Turkey a second time under the guise of a Cossack officer “to present catalogs of astronomical points of the Balkan Peninsula, detailed calculations to him and a printed copy of works on the already produced degree measurement to Izmail and, in addition, to check the geographical situations of some points” [16]. In Turkey N.D. Artamonov traveled from Constantinople through Kazanlyk, Zlatitsa and Sofia to Sistova, geographically determining 37 points [17]. After returning from business trips, in 1870 he was appointed editor of the edition of the tenth map of European Turkey. In 1876, before the Russian-Turkish war, he finished its publication. This map was the most complete of those available to the Russian command.

In addition to the above methods for obtaining information by the Russian Military Ministry about what is happening in Turkey, about its armed forces, means of communication, etc., there was another one – the position of a military agent in Constantinople. It was of an official nature, so the agent was close to the court, had the opportunity to freely attend military maneuvers, reviews, individual provinces of the empire, however, only if he received government permission for this. A military agent enjoyed diplomatic immunity, which allowed him not to fear for his life when performing assignments. However, his intelligence activities had their drawbacks. So, being an official, he was constantly under the supervision of the Turks, so he had to act carefully so as not to incur suspicion and not be expelled from the country. In the 1860s – 1870s. the post of military agent in Constantinople was occupied by officers of the Caucasian Military District – Colonels of the General Staff V.A. Frankini and A.S. Green.

(to be continued)


[1] Bulgarian-Russian socio-political relations. 50 – 70s 19th century – Chisinau, 1986. – 266 p.; Goranov P., Spasov L. The participation of Bulgarian patriots in Russian intelligence during the liberation war // Unforgettable feat. Some Aspects of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 and the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman yoke. – Lvov, 1980. – S. 41-55; Koev G. Ruskoto military investigations in Starozagorsko // Liberation War of 1877–1878. and the role of the Bulgarian militia. – Samara, 1992. – S. 29-32; Kosev K., Doinov S. The Liberation War of 1877–1878 and the Bulgarian National Revolution. – Sofia, 1988. – 390s.; Todorov G.D. Roleta in Bulgarian in Russian found out the prez liberation of the Russian-Turkish war (1877–1878) // Izvestiya na instituta za istorii BAN. – 1960. – T. 9. – S. 3-565; Ulunyan A.A. The Bulgarian people and the Russo-Turkish war of 1877–1878 – M., 1971. – 206 p.

[2] Gokov O.A. The role of officers of the General Staff in the implementation of the foreign policy of the Russian Empire in the Muslim East in the second half of the 19th century: Dissertation for the degree of candidate of historical sciences. – Kharkov, 2004. – S. 45-79.

[3] Essays on the history of Russian foreign intelligence: In 6 volumes / Ch. ed. EAT. Primakov. – M., 1996. – T. 1. – 240 p.

[4] Alekseev M, Military intelligence of Russia: From Rurik to Nicholas II: In 2 books. – M., 1998. – Book. 1. – 398 p.

[5] For more details, see: Narochnitskaya L.I. Russia and the abolition of the neutralization of the Black Sea. 1856-1871 On the history of the Eastern question. – M., 1989. – 224 p.

[6] Koev P. Ruskoto military investigations in Starozagorsko // Liberation War of 1877-1878. and the role of the Bulgarian militia. – Samara, 1992. – S. 29.

[7] Khevrolina V.M. Russian diplomat Count N.P. Ignatiev // Modern and recent history. – 1992. – No. 1. – S. 141-142.

[8] Yu.S. Kartsov. Behind the scenes of diplomacy // Russian antiquity. – 1908. – Prince. 1. – S. 90.

[9] Narochnitskaya L.I. Decree op. – S. 91.

[10] News of the Russian Geographical Society. – 1867. – T. 3. – No. 10. – P. 12

[11] Notes of the Military Topographic Department of the General Staff. – 1870. – Ch. 31. – S. 11.

[12] Historical outline of the activities of the corps of military topographers 1822-72. – St. Petersburg, 1872. – S.584-585.

[13] Bobrikov G.I. [Memories of the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878] // Russian antiquity. – 1913. – Prince. 3. – S. 488.

[14] Notes of the military topographic department of the General Staff. – 1871. – Ch. 32. – S. 5

[15] Starodymov N.A. The brave intelligence officer Nikolai Artamonov formed an intelligence network in Turkey long before the war // Military History Journal. – 2001. – No. 10. – P. 48.

[16] Ibid. – S. 49.

[17] Notes of the military topographic department of the General Staff. – 1871. – Ch. 32. – P. 6.

Source: Drinovsky collection / Drinovsky collection. -2008. – T. 2. – X. – Sofia: Academician vidavnitstvo im. prof. Marina Drinova. – S. 152-160.

Source of the illustration: Bulgarian pathfinders in Gurko’s detachment. Ritz. N., N. Karazin. – Source: Vinogradov V.I. Russo-Turkish War 1877-1878 and liberation of Bulgaria. – M.: Mysl, 1978. – p. 203.

Christianity [2]


By Fr. Alexander Men

When we pass from the Gospel to the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles, we are obliged to stop our attention to the second person of the New Testament. As a French scholar says, the New Testament is composed of two biographies: of Jesus Christ and of His follower Paul Tarsian, the Apostle Paul. Each of you, passing from the Gospel to Paul’s epistles, seems to fall from heaven to earth. Although Paul is in many ways superior to the evangelical writers. He was a man of enormous talent, spiritual power, education. This person has created personal works. His messages are things written in his heart’s blood. In any case, it is difficult to compare them with the Gospels. Because the four gospels reflect not so much the literary gift of the apostles-evangelists, as the Model they saw before them. And if app. Paul stands before us as a man, then Christ is the Revelation of God. However, how is the apostle Paul important to us? Why did the Church place him next to Christ in the New Testament? Why are the majority of the epistles—fourteen—written by him? Why does his biography occupy a central place in the Acts of the Apostles? Because app. Paul apparently never saw the face of Jesus during His earthly life. There are, of course, historical hypotheses that their paths could have crossed in Jerusalem. He himself was born in the first years of the Christian era in Asia Minor, but he studied in Jerusalem, and then he was able to see Jesus. However, it is more credible to consider that he never saw Christ. I think this is precisely what draws the Church to his person. And we ourselves have not seen this Person. However, Christ appeared to Paul with such credibility that it greatly surpassed any external contact. Christ’s appearance was seen by His enemies, the scribes, the Pharisees, and Pilate. But that didn’t save them. Paul was also an enemy, but Christ stopped him on the road to Damascus and called him to become an apostle. This event changed not only his destiny, but also the destiny of the entire early Church, because Paul became one of those who carried the Gospel from Syria and Palestine to the wider world. They called him “apostle to the nations” and “apostle to the Gentiles”.

Brought up in Judaism, he knew very well that it is impossible to merge with God, that the man of the East who thinks that by experiencing ecstasy he merges with the Absolute is delusional. He only touches the divine, because in the bowels of the Godhead boils an eternal fire, dissolving everything in itself.

Between the Creator and the creation lies an abyss, like the abyss between the absolute and the conditional; it cannot be crossed, overcome – neither logically nor existentially. Paul himself discovered that there is a bridge over the chasm, because he saw Christ and was inwardly united with Him; through infinite love he was bound to Him so that it seemed to him as if he bore upon himself the wounds of Christ; that he died with Him on the cross and rose with Him. That is why he said: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” With Him I died, and with Him I come back to life.” If it is impossible to merge with God, then with the God-man it is possible, because He belongs to two worlds at the same time – ours and the other world. The path of Christian mystics from Paul to the present day is built entirely on this. The way to the Father is through the Son. “I am a door,” says Jesus, “I am the gate, the door to heaven.”

By repeating various prayers, the Christian ascetics could be likened to the Eastern, the Indian, who repeat various mantras. One of the main prayers of Christian asceticism is called the “Jesus Prayer”, in which the Name of the one who was born on earth, crucified and resurrected is constantly repeated. And it is precisely this Christ-centeredness of the basic Christian prayer that radically distinguishes it from all other meditations and mantras, because here there is an encounter – not just a concentration of thought, not just a focus, not a simple immersion in the ocean or the abyss of spirituality, but an encounter of the personality with the Face of Jesus Christ, who stands above the world and in the world.

I remember a prose poem written by Turgenev when he was standing in a village church and suddenly felt that Christ was standing next to him. When he turned, he saw an ordinary person behind him. After turning away, however, he again felt that He was there near. This is true because it is true. Christ’s Church exists and develops because He dwells within it.

Note that He has not left us a single written sentence, as Plato left us his “Dialogues.” He has not left us tablets on which the Law was written, like the tablets of Moses. He did not dictate to us, like Muhammad’s Koran. He did not form orders like Gautama-Buddha. But He has told us, “I am with you to the end of time.” When it came time for Him to leave us, He spoke the eternal words: “I will not leave you orphans, but I will come to you.” And this continues and happens today. All the deepest experience of Christianity is built on this, the rest are some superficial layers. In everything else, Christianity prays like all other religions.

Religions in the world are part of culture. They arise together with the urge of the human spirit towards eternity, towards imperishable values. Here the direction is from heaven, and therefore one of the theologians of our century rightly says that “Christianity is not one of the religions, but a crisis (judgment) of all religions.” It rises above all else, as defined by Ap. Paul, “no one is saved by the works of the Law, but only through faith in Jesus Christ.”

In conclusion, I must explain this key phrase to you. What are the works of the Law? I am talking about the system of religious rites and rules. Are they necessary? Yes, they are needed as an educational tool. They are created by people. Sometimes, as a result of great insights, sometimes by virtue of tradition, sometimes – by delusion. Sometimes these laws come by revelation from God, as in the Old Testament. They serve a certain phase in mental and spiritual development.

And what does it mean to save yourself? It means uniting your ephemeral temporal life with immortality and God. This is salvation. Incorporation into the Divine life. The thirst for such inclusion lives in us, in every person. It is hidden, hidden, but it is there in man anyway. Therefore the apostle speaks that the Law is holy. The Old Testament Law is holy and good, and was given by God, but participation in the Divine life is possible only through faith in Jesus Christ.

What does faith in Christ mean? Belief that He lived on earth? This is not faith, but knowledge. His contemporaries remembered that he lived. The evangelists have left us reliable testimonies. Today’s historians will say that he lived, that there was such a person. Attempts by various propagandists to assert that this is a myth have long been debunked. Only in our country, as in some reserve of various miracles, this concept is still preserved. What does it mean to believe in Him? Faith in Jesus Christ? That He existed, then, is not faith? Belief that He came from other worlds? And this is just another theory.

Let us remember this faith that is revealed in the Old Testament: trust in being. Even when Abraham says “yes” to God, he rather does not say, but silently obeys His call – that’s when faith was born. In the ancient Hebrew language, the word “faith” sounds like “emunah” and comes from the word “omen” (faithfulness). “Faith” is a very close term to “faithfulness”. God is faithful to His promise, man is faithful to God; weak, sinful, but nevertheless faithful to God. But whose God? Of treasures, fearful as the universe, too far from man, like the ocean. But Christ reveals another image of God through Himself. He does not call Him by any other name than Father. Jesus Christ almost never uttered the word God. He always calls Him Father. And in His earthly life He used for this that tender and flattering word which children use in the East, addressing their father. Although untranslatable, but it is so. Christ reveals God to us as our heavenly Father and thus creates brothers and sisters, because brothers and sisters exist only with a common father.

The common spiritual Father is God. And an open heart knows Jesus Christ – this is the secret of the Gospel. Everyone knows how confused man is, how weak he is, to the extent that all sorts of complexes and sins have nested in him.

There is a power that Christ left on earth, and it is freely given to us. It is called grace. A good that is freely given. It cannot be earned, it is given. Yes, we are bound to make an effort; yes, we are bound to fight sin; yes, we must strive for self-improvement, not forgetting that we will not succeed in pulling ourselves out by the hair. This in just the preparatory work. Herein lies the fundamental difference between Christianity and Yoga, a teaching which believes that man can reach and enter God, so to speak, of his own volition. Christianity teaches – you can improve yourself, but reaching God is impossible until He Himself comes to you.

Behold, Grace surpasses the Law. The law is the initial stage in religion that begins with the child. This should not be done, this may; rules, norms… Is this necessary? Yes, of course. But then Grace comes – in the way of the inner experience of meeting God. She is a new life. And the apostle Paul said: “Look, people argue with each other. Some are supporters of preserving the ancient rites, the Old Testament. Others, third – against it. And actually, neither one nor the other is important. All that matters is…faith working through love.”

This is true Christianity. Everything else in it is merely a historical shell, a frame, an entourage; that which is related to culture.

I am talking to you about the very essence of the Christian faith. The boundless value of the human person. The victory of light over death and decay. The New Testament that grows like a tree from a small seed. The New Testament leavens history as leaven leavens dough. And even today this Kingdom of God secretly manifests itself among people when you do good, when you love, when you contemplate beauty, when you feel the fullness of life. The kingdom of God has already touched you. It is not only in the distant future, not only in futurological contemplation; it exists here and now. This is what Jesus Christ teaches us. The kingdom will come, but it has already come. The judgment of the world will come, but it has already begun. It began when Christ first proclaimed the gospel.

He also said: “And the judgment is concluded in the fact that the light has come into the world, and people have loved the darkness more.” This judgment began during His preaching in Galilee, in Jerusalem, on Calvary, and the Roman Empire, in medieval Europe and Russia, today, in the 20th century, and in the 21st century, and throughout the history of mankind. The judgment will continue because this is the Christian story – the story through which the world walks with the Son of Man.

And if we once again ask ourselves the question: what is the essence of Christianity? – we must answer: this is God-manhood, the union of limitations and temporary human spirit with the infinite Divine. This is the sanctification of the flesh from the moment when the Son of Man accepted our joys and sufferings, our love, our work – nature, the world. Everything in which He was, in which He was born as a man and God-man, was not rejected, was not destroyed, but was raised to a new level, sanctified. In Christianity we have sanctification of the world, victory over evil, over darkness, over sin. But this victory belongs to God. It began on the night of resurrection and continues as long as the world exists.

Note: A lecture delivered in the Moscow Technical House on September 8, on the eve of the tragic death of Father Alexander Men; published on a tape recording in “Literaturnaya Gazeta”, No. 51 of 19.12.1990, p. 5).

Liechtenstein doesn’t have an army, but it has a historic victory with it


Liechtenstein is a small country left entirely to the locals. In the last year, the number of tourists did not exceed more than 60 thousand people. This is strange, especially since it is said to be one of the largest and most beautiful museums of modern art – yes it is a challenge for most people to understand what the artists are trying to say, but still. It is strange that this country can be visited in only two hours from Zurich, and since its area is not that big, there is room for everyone, and tourists can enjoy a real beauty.

Liechtenstein exists as one of the smallest countries in Europe. It has a length of 24 kilometers from end to end and is about 12 kilometers in width. In practically a day, a person can create a bicycle race for the Tour of Liechtenstein and see everything necessary. The country is located in the valley between Austria and Switzerland. The rulers are Austrian, but the currency is Swiss.

It allowed women to vote in 1984 and was the last country in history to enact this law. Their national stadium can only hold 6,127 people. The curious thing is that people arrive here who are very happy to register their companies. After all, Liechtenstein has more companies than population. The capital has a population of only 5,000 people. However, it has art from all over the world, making it quite an interesting place to explore.

Liechtenstein has another positive – it offers one of the most beautiful views of Austria, as well as several ski resorts. At the outbreak of World War II, Liechtenstein had no army. Prince Franz Joseph II met with Hitler in Berlin and managed to negotiate the country’s neutrality. After the end of the war, about 500 whiteguards will request asylum. Joseph II refused to hand them over to Stalin, despite his insistence. And right here comes one of the funniest moments in Liechtenstein’s fighting history.

The only time this tiny country ever fought was way back in 1866. The Austro-Prussian War was raging and with Liechtenstein on the way, it stands to reason that it would have to defend itself. About 80 soldiers were sent to guard the Tyrolean border. After fulfilling their duty, the soldiers are now 81. They have no losses, and what is even more amusing is that they manage to befriend one person who decides to sign up as a volunteer. That is, the army increases by one more person. It turns out that the army, or rather the humble detachment, managed to avoid all kinds of battles.

Liechtenstein even leaves 20 men in the army reserve. The humble squad reaches the limit and realizes that there’s not much they can do. No one even thought of fighting Lichtenstein, and with morale already high and the beauty of the mountain beckoning, the gentlemen simply decided to drink wine and beer, smoke pipes, and relax. Meanwhile, the Prussians will continue to wage war, but far from it.

The 81st man is believed to be an Austrian officer, but in some other versions he is believed to be Italian. There are also claims that the man in question is a deserter who found the best army in the world. There is no evidence of man’s origins, but despite this, Lichtenstein’s entire military campaign is considered a resounding success.

7 questions and their answers about mammals


Mammals can do amazing things! This list will answer your questions about flying, poisonous, really fast, and smelly.

What is a mammal?

Mammals are a class of animals. They have certain traits that distinguish them from animals in other classes, such as fish, reptiles, and amphibians. All mammals share two characteristics: they all feed their young with milk from mammary glands, and they all have hair. Almost all are warm-blooded, meaning they keep the inside of their body at a constant temperature. They do this by generating their own heat when in a cooler environment and by cooling themselves when in a hotter environment. Unlike reptiles that sit in the sunlight to regulate their body temperature, mammals wake up and are ready to go! In general, mammals spend much more time rearing and training their young than other animals. Some examples of mammals include apes, bats, lions, mice, moose, aardvarks, beavers, elephants, gorillas, pandas, hamsters, dogs, cats, horses, whales, and dolphins. Humans, like primates, are also mammals.

There are three types of mammals: placental mammals, monocots, and marsupials. Placental mammals are those whose young are born alive and at a relatively advanced stage. Before birth, the young are fed through the placenta, which is a specialized embryonic organ that is attached to the mother’s uterus and supplies oxygen and nutrients to the growing young. Most mammals are placental, including cats, dogs, horses, and humans. Monopods are egg-laying mammals. These include the echidna (spiny anteaters) and the platypus. Marsupials give birth to their young in an immature state and most female marsupials have pouches in which to carry and nurse their young. Some marsupials include the koala, kangaroo, and numbat. Some mammals, such as cows, horses and pandas, are herbivores (herbivores). Others, including tigers, lions, and whales, are carnivores (meat eaters). Other mammals, including bears, eat a combination of plants and meat (omnivores).

Which mammals fly?

There is only one mammal that flies: the bat. Most bats are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and are most active at dawn, dusk, or at night. During the day, bats sleep by hanging upside down in groups called roosts. Most bats, called microbats, eat flying insects, such as moths and flies, but others eat small mammals, including mice. Some insectivorous bats may land on the ground and chase insects that inhabit leaf litter or dirt. One of these bats, the pallid bat, feeds on scorpions and large centipedes. Others eat fish or feed on the blood of cattle. The largest bats are the megabats, which feed mainly on fruit.

Which mammal is the fastest?

The cheetah can run at speeds of up to 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour, making it the fastest mammal in the world. Cheetahs accelerate from 0 to 45 miles (72 kilometers) per hour in just two seconds, reaching their top speed of 300 yards (274 meters). Its body parts are built for speed: large nostrils, lungs, liver, heart and adrenal glands give the cheetah the ability to react to its environment and pursue prey. Its long, thin body is flexible and twists like a whip when it needs to make huge bursts of acceleration – usually to chase an antelope or escape the jaws of a pack of hyenas. Special paw pads and non-retractable claws provide traction when sprinting. The cheetah lives in the open savannahs of southwest Asia and Africa, where it has plenty of room to run, roam, and hunt its prey. Mother cheetahs spend a lot of time teaching their cubs how to hunt game. Mothers carry small, live antelopes – such as gazelles or impalas – to the cubs and release them for them to chase and catch. The cheetah usually hunts during the day, preferring early morning or early evening, but is also active on moonlit nights. Cheetahs communicate by purring, hissing, whimpering and growling.

Which mammal is the slowest?

The sloth is the slowest mammal on Earth. It spends most of its time alone, hanging on tree branches, where it eats shoots and leaves, sleeps (up to 15 hours a day!), mates and gives birth. The sloth clings to tree branches with strong, curved claws on each of its four legs. It is a nocturnal creature that moves slowly, sometimes foraging for insects. Sloths have a short, flat head, large eyes, short snout, short tail, long legs, and small ears. They live in Central and South America.

Are there poisonous mammals?

First, let’s be clear that the word poisonous refers to organisms that release toxins when you eat them, while poisonous refers to organisms that inject toxins into you when they bite you, for example. So we’ll assume you’re actually asking about venomous mammals. Venomous mammals produce—you guessed it! — poison, a toxic chemical in its saliva. They use their venom to kill prey or protect themselves from predators. These include the male platypus, several species of earthworms, and solenodon, a nocturnal burrowing animal that resembles a large earthworm. Venomous mammals are rare. (There are many more species of venomous reptiles such as snakes and amphibians.)

Which mammal spends the most time sleeping?

The Western European hedgehog spends most of its life sleeping. It builds a nest of grass and leaves among tree roots or under a bush and spends about 18 hours a day during the summer months. It wakes up at night to feed, sniffing out worms, insects, snails and snakes for its dinner. During the winter months, it hibernates. When sleeping or sensing danger, the hedgehog curls up into a tight spiny ball for protection. Related creatures, including sloths, armadillos and possums, sleep almost as long as hedgehogs – clocking up to 17 hours each day! Other animals that sleep a lot are sleepy cats (about 17 hours), koalas (about 15 hours) and all types of cats, including domestic cats.

Which mammal is the stinkiest?

If you’ve ever been to a zoo, you might think that some of the big animals, like elephants and bears, are the stinkiest. But the title of stinkiest mammal goes to one of the smaller mammals, the striped skunk. This black and white creature sprays a foul-smelling, musky liquid as a defense against predators. Most wild skunks only spray when hurt or attacked as a defense mechanism. Their scent is made up of a chemical that can be released from one or both of their anal glands. They can aim their glands at a target up to 15 feet (4.5 meters) away with great accuracy, but, luckily for us humans, they tend to give a bit of advance warning: to signal that they’re angry or scared, they often snap their front legs, knead the ground like a cat, and hold their tail erect.

Photo by Frans van Heerden: https://www.pexels.com/photo/on-my-way-13366594/

Former Turkish colonel was arrested in Bulgaria for the murder of a writer


Reserve Colonel Levent Göktash is believed to have been a member of what Ankara considers a terrorist organization FETO

Colonel Levent Göktash from the reserve of the Turkish Army was captured in Bulgaria, leading Turkish media reported.

The man was wanted on a red notice by Interpol for the murder of the intellectual writer Necip Hablemitoglu. Göktaş is the main suspect in the death of the writer, who was shot dead in his home in December 2002.

The killing went unsolved for many years, but authorities had come to suspect it was carried out by members of preacher Fethullah Gulen’s FETO group, which Ankara says was also behind the July 2016 coup attempt.

It was after the failed coup that the authorities in Turkey renewed the investigation into the writer’s death. Thus, in 2021, the indictment against Colonel Göktash was filed in the court in Ankara for participating in the assassination plot. A charge of membership in FETO has also been brought against him.

He is also believed to have had ties to alleged mob boss Sedat Peker.

Then the military man managed to escape, but the Turkish authorities submitted to Interpol documents for his search with a red notice.

According to the Turkish media, the Turkish Ministry of Justice has already submitted a request to the Bulgarian authorities for the extradition of Levent Göktash to Turkey, and actions along these lines have already begun.

Necip Hablemitoglu was one of the first intellectuals in Turkey who spoke about the danger of the actions of Fethullah Gülen’s organization as a network that, under the guise of religion, aims to seize positions of power in the state, as well as the expansion of Gülen’s network abroad, mainly in Germany.

Photo: Police of the Republic of Turkey

Turkey will print French and Hungarian passports


Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Söyliu revealed that the country has reached agreements with Hungary and France to print their biometric passports, with 250,000 copies of the document to be printed for Hungary within a year.

Soylu made the revelation during a press conference in the capital Ankara to explain the introduction of Turkey’s new biometric passports, Turkish daily Hürriyet reported.

Turkish passports were previously printed by a European country that could not keep up with demand due to a shortage of chips at some point during the coronavirus pandemic, the publication noted.

During a press conference, the official also showed a sample copy of the new Turkish passports, saying they have 27 security features, small and large embedded chips and design features that highlight the country’s tourism and cultural assets.

“On the middle pages there is a picture of the Hagia Sophia mosque.” There are also pictures of other landmarks of the country, such as Canakkale Bridge, Camluja Mosque, Ishaq Pasha Palace and the famous houses of the Black Sea province of Amasya,” Soylü said.

The minister added that about 1.6 million of the new passports have already been produced. The new production unit recently opened in Turkey has a huge capacity, being able to issue over a million passports in just one day, if needed.

Apart from the passport, Soylu said the government has also made good progress in issuing national ID cards with an embedded chip, delivering about 77 million of them since 2018, including 6.7 million since the beginning of 2022. During this period chip supply challenges have affected the issuance of many digital IDs around the world.

 Photo by Atypeek Dgn: https://www.pexels.com/photo/french-flag-against-blue-sky-5781917/

World Council of Churches: Climate, ecology, and theology: all connected!

1 September 2022, Karslruhe, Germany: Moderator of the WCC central committee Dr Agnes Abuom (left) leads a dialogue session with Julia Rensberg (centre), a delegate of the Church of Sweden, representing the Sámi Council within the Church of Sweden and Rev. Bjorn Warde, a delegate of the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago (right) during the first thematic plenary of the 11th WCC Assembly. The 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches is held in Karlsruhe, Germany from 31 August to 8 September, under the theme "Christ's Love Moves the World to Reconciliation and Unity."

By Martin Hoegger

In 1998, the Orthodox Church, followed by several churches, set aside 1. September as a day dedicated to creation.

With the symbol of water, without which there would be neither physical nor spiritual life (eg. baptism) on earth, the morning prayer introduced the assembly to this theme in a lively and prayerful way. At the heart of the liturgical action were containers of water from every continent, a “gathering of the waters” reflecting the act of creation in the first chapter of Genesis (v. 9)

As the waters intermingled, the assembly affirmed both our dependence on creation and our union with the risen Christ through baptism. Through him, in whom all fullness dwells, God has reconciled everything on earth and in heaven, as the Bible reading for the day from Colossians 1:9 states

“The Green Patriarch

In his address, the “green patriarch” of Constantinople Bartholomew – “green” because of his commitment to the environment – stresses that the resurrection of Christ leads us to change our view of the world: “The heart of the universe is Christ, not ourselves. When we are transformed by the light of his resurrection, we become able to discover the purpose for which God created each person and thing”.

He calls for a radical change, refusing to reduce our spiritual life to our personal interests and questioning our consumption habits in relation to the resources of creation.

Christian unity calls for common ecological action.

In line with Bartholomew, Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon (also of the Patriarchate of Constantinople) is convinced that the search for Christian unity must also lead to a conversion with regard to creation. We are stewards not only of the Church but also of Creation.

Last year, together with Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Bartholomew signed a joint statement calling on the churches to reconcile and commit together to be good stewards of creation. “If we do not become more sober now, we will pay terrible consequences. The current situation calls for common action. Ecology is a consequence of our faith in Christ,” says Bishop Emanuel.

In his report, the Orthodox theologian Ioan Sauca, acting General Secretary of the WCC, also shared his conviction that climate and ecological issues are a theological issue. Through his incarnation, Christ has indeed taken on everything. God’s purpose in Christ also includes reconciliation and the healing of creation. “I will not mince my words: our planet will be uninhabitable in 50 years if we do not change our behaviour.

The voice of youth

The assembly gave the floor to young people from north to south, east to west. Julia Rensberg, a delegate from the Church of Sweden, comes from the Sami people in northern Scandinavia. The indigenous people of the Arctic see global warming much more than elsewhere. Climate justice and respect for indigenous peoples are intimately linked. For her, reconciliation starts with telling the truth. The truth must be told about the colonization of indigenous peoples. Christ loves all creation and wants to heal it through our practice of truth.

Bjorn Warde, a delegate from the Presbyterian Church in Trinidad and Tobago, loves the Caribbean, a beautiful place that he wants to care for, but which is undergoing severe environmental degradation. It’s the result of our thoughtless actions. “We know we have not been good stewards of creation. Cooperation between churches is essential and the voice of young people is not heard enough”.

“It is very important for me to raise awareness about climate change,” said Subin Tamang, a 25-year-old Nepalese. “I see the effects in my country where farmers cannot harvest wheat and rice because of drought.

Along with 25 other young people under 30, he participated in the “Climate Group” during the Youth Assembly preceding the General Assembly. “What struck me most was hearing from people in Fiji, the Philippines and the Pacific region. The high ocean levels have already affected them, and this is an anticipation to what will happen to us. I fear that the Caribbean islands will disappear,” said Tia Phillip, adding: “In 50 years’ time, that’s a lifetime for me and my nieces and nephews”.

In Nepal, Tamang leads a Baptist church youth group on climate change. He is committed to ensuring that churches have a role to play in helping communities adapt to climate change.

Carbon conversations

At the large stand of the Protestant Church of Switzerland, a “Brunnen” (the name of the workshops during the assembly) presents the “Carbon Conversations”, an awareness-raising project to reduce the carbon footprint, supported by the Swiss Protestant Aid Agency and the Catholic Lenten Fund. https://voir-et-agir.ch/pour-les-paroisses/conversations-carbone/ The method originates from England and has become popular in churches as well as in secular organizations

It is based on the observation that knowledge of the facts is not enough to change one’s habits in food, consumption, or mobility. You must meet to talk about it. Groups of 8 to 10 people meet four times for two hours with two facilitators.

This method allows for discussion without conflict or guilt. In an analysis, the University of Bern found that people who participated significantly reduced their footprint

Monasteries as models of integral ecology.

An assembly allows you to meet countless people, known or unknown, near or far. I had the joy of meeting a long-time friend, Sister Anne-Emmanuelle, prioress of the Grandchamp community. She shared with me what is happening there in terms of ecology. Inspired by the work of the Catholic theologian Elena Lasida, she and her sisters believe that monasteries, in their way of life, can be a model of integral ecology, a source of inspiration for all.    

For her, the link between ecology and monastic life is not primarily at the level of “organic” practices; it is at the level of the four relationships: to God, to oneself, to others, to nature.

S. Emmanuelle also refers to the teaching of Pope Francis in “Laudato si” which she summarises as follows: everything is linked, everything is a gift, everything is fragile. Monastic life, in its deepest intention, is a factor of unification of the person and of people among themselves, whereas in today’s world everything is fragmented. In this sense, a monastery is a paradigmatic place of integral ecology, a place where it can be fully incarnated. Monasteries are true ecosystems.

A tree, a walk and a prayer

At the end of the plenary on God’s love in creation, a cedar tree is presented by Agnes Abuom, President of the WCC, to Frank Mentrup, the Mayor of Karlsruhe. It will be planted in the “Garden of Religions”, which was created a few years ago to mark the city’s 300th anniversary. Another cedar as old as the city is already there. This tree has this message: “You can’t live without me”!

After this event, the youth climate group has organized a symbolic march along the exhibition tent area, with a call for solidarity and action on our lifestyle: “Our creation is not for sale. It is time to talk less and act more,” concluded the Indian speaker.

At the end of this rich day, the participants in the Orthodox Vespers for Creation Day said this prayer, with which I conclude this second article:

“Protect the environment, you who love us, for it is thanks to it that we live, that we are animated and that we exist, we who inhabit the earth according to your will, that we may be preserved from destruction and annihilation!

Surround the whole of creation, Christ the Saviour, with the power of your love for humankind and save the earth we inhabit from imminent destruction, for in you we, your servants, have placed our hope!”

Author: Martin Hoegger

Picture: The session on creation during the WCC Assembly / credit to Albin Hillert, WCC.

German president takes Russia to task for ‘war of aggression’ at global church gathering

German president takes Russia to task for 'war of aggression' at global church gathering
Photo: Sean Hawkey / WCC - Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal President of Germany addressed the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, held in Karlsruhe, Germany from 31 August to 8 September 2022.

Germany’s President, Frank Steinmeier, has taken aim at Russia as he stressed that the leadership of the Orthodox Church of Russia justifies and supports ‘war of aggression’ of his country’s political leadership in Ukraine.

Steinmeier attended the first day of the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Karlsruhe on Aug. 31 evoking criticism for his remarks from the Russian church, for interference.

He said he was happy that the first assembly of the World Council of Churches in Europe after 50 years was being held in Germany.

“The heads of the Russian Orthodox Church are currently leading their members and their entire church down a dangerous and indeed blasphemous path that goes against all that they believe,” said the German leader.

The Russian Orthodox Church is the biggest Orthodox church in the WCC.

The WCC represents over 580 million Christians and includes most of the world’s Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, and many United and Independent churches..

Referring to the Russian Orthodox Church Steinmeier said, “They are justifying a war of aggression against Ukraine – against their own and our own brothers and sisters in the faith.”


He noted, “We have to speak out, also here in this room, in this Assembly, against this propaganda targeting the freedom and rights of the citizens of another country, this nationalism, which arbitrarily claims that a dictatorship’s imperial dreams of hegemony are God’s will.”

The German president said, “How many women, men and children have become victims of this hatemongering, hatred, and criminal violence?

“Carpet bombings targeted attacks on civilian buildings, apartment blocks, hospitals, shopping centers, stations, and public spaces. War crimes take place in full view of the world.”

“Here, today, we cannot remain silent. We must call it by its name. We must denounce it. As a Christian community, we must express our commitment to the dignity and the freedom and the security of the people of Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church hit back, however, in a statement from the Department for External Church Relations chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk.

“The President of Germany’s address contained completely unsubstantiated accusations fully ignoring all the humanitarian efforts the Moscow Patriarchate made in the context of the confrontation in Ukraine as well as an outright demand that the WCC Assembly should condemn the Russian Orthodox Church,” said Anthony.

The Russian church leader said he believes Steinmeier’s position “is an example of rude pressure made by a high-ranking representative of state power on the oldest inter-Christian organization.

“It is interference in the internal affairs of the World Council of Churches, an attempt to question the peace-making and politically neutral nature of its work.”

Pope Francis encourages artists to promote beauty and truth

Pope Francis encourages artists to promote beauty and truth - Vatican News

Pope Francis meets with international film, media and music celebrities at the first “Vitae Summit” in the Vatican, and reminds artists that they should use beauty to preach the Gospel.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Thursday marked the final day of a two-day meeting in the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV aimed at promoting a conversation on how to use the arts to foster a culture of hope and unity.

The “Vitae Summit”, organized by the Vitae Global Foundation, was animated by a host of celebrities of the arts, media and entertainment industries gathered to discuss their role in triggering a cultural transformation that promotes the common good, universal values and a culture of encounter.

Preachers of beauty

Pope Francis joined participants at the end of the summit and encouraged them to be “preachers of beauty”, because he said, “Beauty is good for us; beauty heals; beauty helps us go forward on our journey.”

A Holy See Press Office communiqué revealed that during their conversation, the Pope and those present focused on the need to reach out to young people, communicate the message of the Gospel, and share stories of witness and accompaniment that stem from an encounter with God.

The Pope, the statement said, pointed to the need to undertake paths of communication that lead to truth, goodness and, particularly for artists, beauty and the path of contemplation.

“A person on a journey is on a quest,” the Pope said, noting that art can provide inspiration for those who undertake a journey in the awareness that the Lord is awaiting us.

cq5dam.thumbnail.cropped.750.422 - Pope Francis encourages artists to promote beauty and truth
Pope Francis speaks at the Vitae Summit

Ethics of art

The Pope also expressed his hope that “art may open doors, touch hearts and help people to go forward”, and he spoke of the need for an ethical conscience for artists.

Art, he said, must stimulate “respect for people” and encourage them “to go forward rather than to buy.”

“The role of art,” he said, “is to put ‘a thorn in the heart, which moves us to contemplation, and contemplation puts us on a path.”

State of the EU debate 2022: here’s how to follow it

State of the EU debate 2022: here's how to follow it | News | European Parliament

MEPs will scrutinise the work of the European Commission on 14 September to ensure the EU addresses Europeans’ key concerns. Follow the State of the EU debate live.

What is the State of the European Union debate?

Every September, the President of the European Commission comes to the European Parliament to discuss with MEPs what the Commission has done over the past year, what it intends to do in the coming year and its vision for the future. This is known as the State of the European Union debate or SOTEU.

Following the Commission President’s presentation, MEPs, as the elected representatives of EU citizens, hold the Commission to account and scrutinise its work to make sure that the key concerns of Europeans are being addressed.

The State of the EU debate influences the Commission’s work programme for the coming year.

Why is the 2022 State of the EU debate important?

The EU’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, climate change, EU measures to tackle the increasing cost of living, the energy crisis and rule of law are among the most pressing issues facing the EU.

The priorities that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented during last year’s State of the European Union debate are still relevant, including efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences and the digital transformation.

The Parliament, in line with Europeans’ proposals for EU change adopted by the Conference on the Future of Europe, expects the EU to listen to people’s demands and react with ambitious policies, particularly in moments of crisis.

How to follow the State of the EU debate?

The debate will be streamed live on our website on Wednesday 14 September from 9.00 CET. Interpretation will be available in all of the EU’s 24 official languages – simply select the language of your choice.

You can also watch it live on Facebook and join the discussion on our other social media channels, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SOTEU.

You will find photos and videos of the event in Parliament’s multimedia centre.

Follow what MEPs are saying about the State of the European Union debate on social media via the Newshub.


More on the State of the European Union debate 2022 

Protect Yourself Against Heart Attack and Stroke – Train Your Blood Vessels

Protect Yourself Against Heart Attack and Stroke – Train Your Blood Vessels

A heart attack occurs when an artery carrying blood and oxygen to the heart becomes obstructed.

Short, repeated bouts of restricted circulation using a blood pressure cuff may be beneficial to one’s health.

The majority of heart attacks and strokes worldwide are ischemic, meaning that a clot or accumulation of plaque in an artery stops oxygen-rich blood from getting to the cells in the heart or brain. When blocked for too long, tissues die.

But an increasing number of studies suggest that brief, repeated periods of reduced circulation using a blood pressure cuff may help minimize tissue damage and avoid the worst consequences of heart attacks and strokes, similar to how exercising helps muscles adapt to more rigorous workouts. According to the research, the straightforward, noninvasive surgery may improve heart and vascular function, slightly decrease blood pressure, and lessen the workload of the heart.

In a recent review study that was published in the Journal of Physiology, James Lang, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, compiled the results of roughly 100 studies, some of which were his own. He said that “remote ischemic preconditioning” (RIPC) typically comprises five minutes of high pressure on a person’s arm followed by five minutes of relaxation, repeated three to four times.

A study participant sits in James Lang’s lab at Iowa State during a microvascular test. Credit: James Lang/Iowa State University

Numerous studies have demonstrated that a single RIPC session creates a protective window that peaks 48 hours later, but research from Lang’s team and other scientists has shown that preconditioning several days in a row may enhance the protection and support additional health benefits.

“I think there are a lot of possible applications and potential with RIPC: someone preparing for an upcoming surgery; people who have already had a heart attack or stroke, which puts them at higher risk of it happening again; people who can’t exercise, are pre-hypertensive or have sleep apnea,” said Lang.

RIPC could be helpful even for astronauts as well. To prevent cardiac and muscle atrophy brought on by microgravity in space, they often exercise for up to two hours every day, according to Lang. It could be a good idea to include blood pressure cuff sessions into their fitness routines.

Filling the gap

However, Lang noted that much more research is required to ensure that RIPC is effective in different contexts and for various population subgroups. Animal models from the 1980s and 1990s provide the majority of the knowledge on the underlying mechanisms and duration of protective effects.

“Unfortunately, a lot of researchers jumped quickly to large clinical studies in the early 2000s, and their results were inconsistent due to a host of outside influences like the participants’ medications, physical and genetic factors, age, and sex,” said Lang, adding a follow-up study from other researchers found propofol, a common form of anesthesia used in surgeries, suppresses the effects of RIPC, as well.

Since then, researchers like Lang have been working to fill the gap between animal research and big clinical trials.

“In the lab, we can do more controlled studies with human participants, try to figure out what factors influence RIPC and when the best time is to administer RIPC.”

Lang’s lab

In one study, Lang and his research team found a week of RIPC increased participants’ micro-circulatory capacity by as much as 50%. In another, they measured a modest blood pressure drop and a less active “fight or flight” response while the participants were resting.

“Together, it was improving the participants’ blood vessels and potentially reducing the workload of the heart.”

One of the ways Lang tests the effect of RIPC is by measuring how well a study participant’s blood vessels dilate when their skin is warm. Before and after RIPC, Lang attaches a small, nickel-sized device to a participant’s arm. A tiny heater warms up the skin while a doppler bounces a laser light into the micro-vessels below.

Like a weather radar picking up changes in the atmosphere, the doppler Lang uses in his lab measures changes in the flow of red blood cells as the participant’s blood vessel widens in response to the heat.

Lang explained a loss of blood vessel elasticity (i.e., the extent to which arteries can constrict or dilate) increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as dementia.

Currently, Lang is working with a researcher at Des Moines University to study how RIPC could help people with diabetes struggling with slow-healing wounds. High blood glucose levels can damage small blood vessels and nerves, and coat arteries with plaque, making it harder to get white blood cells and nutrients to cuts and sores.

While the side effects from RIPC are very low, Lang says anyone interested in trying it on their own, outside a research study, should talk to their physician first.

Reference: “Remote ischaemic preconditioning – translating cardiovascular benefits to humans” by James A. Lang and Jahyun Kim, 21 May 2022, The Journal of Physiology.
DOI: 10.1113/JP282568

EVENT | Season of Creation 2022. Join the online meeting on the “Fit for 55” Package

EVENT | Season of Creation 2022. Join the online meeting on the “Fit for 55” Package
The European Laudato Si’ Alliance (ELSiA) invites you to participate in the online meeting on the “Fit for 55” Package to implement the Green Deal. The event will take place on Thursday 8 September 2022 with the participation of Dr. Gregor Erbach from the European Parliamentary Research Service. Click here to register

The “Fit for 55” Package is a legislative proposal of 13 interlinked measures aimed to implement the Green Deal allowing the EU to reach climate neutrality by 2050, starting with reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030.

The European Commission presented the package in 2021, you can find more information here. The European Parliament and the Council have adopted their positions on the “Fit for 55” package during the first half of 2022.

All co-legislators are now discussing these measures together to finalize them. The topics discussed include, among others, social and climate funds, effort sharing regulations, land use, and forestry regulations.

To better understand what is at stake, the event will feature the participation of Dr. Gregor Erbach, Head of the Climate Action and Tracking Service of the European Parliamentary Research Service, who will present the Package. The online meeting will be moderated by Stefan Lunte, General Secretary of Justice and Peace Europe. The event is organised in the context of the Season of Creation 2022.

Thursday 8 September 2022
From 15:00 to 16:00 (CET)

What is ELSiA?
ELSiA is a network of Catholic organizations committed to joining forces to adapt the comprehensive approach of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ and related Church teachings to a European context with a special focus on the institutions of the European Union. The alliance is composed by COMECECIDSEDon Bosco InternationalJESCJustice and Peace Europe, Caritas Europaand the Laudato Si’ Movement.

Churches stress the need for reconciliation, unity and peacebuilding in Ukraine

Churches stress the need for reconciliation, unity and peacebuilding in Ukraine

Press Release No:18/22
2 September 2022

War in Ukraine, church dialogue, and humanitarian response were in sharp focus on third day of the World Council of Churches 11th Assembly. Church leaders from Ukraine together with heads of ecumenical organisations emphasised the need for reconciliation, unity, and peacebuilding.

The Europe plenary held on 2 September in Karlsruhe was rooted in the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10, reflecting the context of Christ’s compassionate love.

“For more than three centuries, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union has tried to erase the uniqueness of Ukrainian people,” said Archbishop Yevstratiy of Chernihiv and Nizhyn from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. “But, we are successfully fighting for our freedom, for our independent future.”

Archbishop Yevstratiy appreciated the ecumenical organisations for their strong position about the Russian aggression and their appeals to the Russian Patriarch Kirill. “No one has the right to bless aggression, no one has the right to justify war crimes and acts of genocide,” he said.

Prof. Sergii Bortnyk from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church shared how his church is helping. “Many faithful have become volunteers. Our church receives and distributes different kinds of humanitarian help – especially from the neighbour countries and from our sister churches,” he said.

General secretary of the Conference of European Churches Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen highlighted how “Ukraine is a concern not only for Europe but for the world.”

“Due to our recent European past, war on European soil brings connotations that transcend their actual time and place in history. It evokes long-gone memories. And it challenges a strong European trust that this part of the world has – or had – developed into a post-war continent of lasting peace,” he said.

Sørensen shared how the Conference of European Churches organised a European Pre-assembly in February after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where the programme was set overnight to accommodate the fears, uncertainty and shock that engulfed Europe at the time. “We listened to voices. We analysed. We prayed together,” he said.

Rev. Dr Dagmar Pruin, president of Bread for the World and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe shared how the war in Ukraine has brought immeasurable suffering to the people. “Destruction, displacement, torture and violent deaths are the reality for millions,” she said.

Pruin spoke about significant challenges faced by church agencies in providing aid to the victims of war, especially when there is a great need arising from other catastrophes, including climate change. She stressed that churches’ humanitarian work is, and must continue to be, rooted in the vision of diakonia.

Address of H.E. Archbishop Yevstratiy of Chernihiv and Nizhyn, Orthodox Church of Ukraine

Address of professor Dr Sergii Bortnyk, Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Address of Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen, general secretary of the Conference of European Churches

Rev. Dr Dagmar Pruin: The humanitarian response to war, refugees and migration

Video of the European plenary at the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany

Photos of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany

For more information or an interview, please contact:

Naveen Qayyum
Communication Officer
Conference of European Churches
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Tel. +32 486 75 82 36
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Leonid Sevastianov: The Pope is about the Gospel, not about politics

Leonid Sevastianov speaking

Chairman of the World Union of Old Believers Leonid Sevastianov recently said that Pope Francis intends to visit Moscow – and then Kyiv. We invited Leonid Sevastianov to comment in more detail both on this case and on his relationship with the Pope in general. 

JLB: Your statements about the position of Pope Francis on the war in Ukraine often appear in the media, and in fact, you act as a public mediator of the Pope. We learn more about his position and plans from you than from him. Are you authorized by the Holy Father to make such comments? 

LS: My family has known the Pope for 10 years. Our acquaintance with him took place in the context of organizing a concert for peace in Syria in the Vatican in 2013. My wife Svetlana Kasyan, an opera singer, participated in the concert with a solo program. I myself dealt with organizational issues. Since then, peace, peacemaking is exactly what our relationship with the Pope is based on. In addition, my wife and I have been actively involved in the prolife movement. In 2015, we created the Save Life Together Foundation, which works to protect the dignity and rights of unborn children. For her activities, Svetlana was elevated by Pope Francis to the rank of Dame of the Order of St. Sylvester. My wife and I greatly value our relationship with Pope Francis and even named our newborn son after him. When the war began, the Pope gave me the obedience to work in the cause of peace. I am his goodwill ambassador for the promotion of peace. You know that the Pope is a Jesuit. Jesuits spirituality emphasize the role of the individual, the little man, his autonomy in promoting the Gospel throughout the world. Pope Francis, I think, trusts me, realizing that I do not have any skeletons in the closet, and my motivation for him is clear and obvious. Pope has told me that he was ready for any step so that peace reigned in Europe. For him, a trip to Russia and Ukraine has great symbolism. He is sure that this trip will help Ukraine and Russia to agree on a world that is fair for all. 

JLB: During the protests in Belarus, you unequivocally supported the Belarusian people in the struggle for peace, freedom and justice. Whose side is the truth in Russia’s war in Ukraine now? How justified do you think Russia’s territorial claims are in relation to Ukraine, including in relation to the Crimean Peninsula?

LS: A few years ago, I would have tried to answer your question in the way in which you would like to hear my answer. But my relationship with Pope Francis helped me to understand myself as a Christian, or, if you like, to understand Christianity itself. I will answer you with a question to the question: on which side is the Pope on the issue of the destruction of the Papal States, on the issue of the conquest of Rome by Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel? Or on which side did Jesus Christ and the apostle Peter stand in the matter of the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70? My point is that Christianity as such does not answer the questions of geopolitics. Rather, it is not the competence of Christianity. Viewing Christianity as patriotism is not part of the gospel. I am not saying that a person should not be a patriot, I am only saying that Christianity cannot be drawn into the issue of patriotism and national interests. Christianity operates with questions of eternity – even when the Earth itself and the solar system will not exist. Therefore, many do not understand the Pope, they want to see him as a politician, just as many of His contemporaries saw in Christ. Being disappointed in Him as a politician, some people betray Him, others deny Him, and still others are ready to crucify Him. Let’s look at the Pope as a preacher of the Gospel, not as a politician. 

[Leonid Sevastianov already gave his personal opinion on the war, stating that from a Christian point of view, supporting it is a heresy. And on August 30, 2022, the Vatican issued a statement which contained: “As for the large-scale war in Ukraine initiated by the Russian Federation, Pope Francis’ interventions are clear and unequivocal in condemning it as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, repugnant and sacrilegious.”]

JLB: You regularly give comments to TASS, which is perceived abroad as one of the mouthpieces of the Kremlin propaganda. Why do you cooperate with this particular media?

LS: There are only 3 news agencies in Russia: TASS, RIA Novosti and Interfax. No others. I cannot be responsible for others. I can only answer for myself. Only because there is no political motivation and political propaganda in my words.

JLB: You have known Patriarch Kirill for a long time, ever since he was Metropolitan of Smolensk. What is your relationship with him now? What can you say about the phrase of Pope Francis that he is Putin’s altar boy? What are your relations with Metropolitan Hilarion and the new head of the DECR Vladika Anthony (Sevryuk) now? Do you keep in touch with them?

LS: I have known Patriarch Kirill since 1995. I was sent by Metropolitan Alimpiy Gusev, chairman of the Russian Old Believers Orthodox Church, to study at the Moscow Theological Seminary through Metropolitan Kirill. At the same time, the Patriarch sent me to study in Rome at the Gregorian University, I went there in 1999 through the monastic community in Bose, which is located in northern Italy. I studied in Rome with the money of this very community under the supervision of its leader Enzo Bianchi. Then I continued my studies at Georgetown University in Washington on a scholarship from the American Bradley Foundation. I worked at Georgetown University as a chaplain, as well as at the World Bank. When I returned to Moscow in 2004, I did not want to work for the Department of External Affairs of Moscow Patriarchate (DECR). On this basis, we had a misunderstanding with Metropolitan Kirill, who then headed this structure, which, one might say, persists to this day (the misunderstanding). In 2009, after the election of Metropolitan Kirill as Patriarch and the appointment of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev) as chairman of the DECR, I created and headed the Gregory the Theologian Foundation, which sponsored the activities of the DECR and the creation and restoration of buildings and premises, of the All-Church postgraduate and doctoral studies, as well as its daily activities. Due to the fact that I did not support the rupture of communion with the Greek churches in 2018 and was also indignant at the unworthy attitude of the Moscow Patriarchate towards Old Believers, funding was stopped on our part, and I left the foundation. In 2018, the only World Congress of Old Believers in history took place, at which I presented the concept of the World Union. This concept was approved by the Congress, and in 2019 I created the organization of the World Union of Old Believers. Since then, within the framework of this organization, I have been engaged in the protection and promotion of the world’s Old Believers. I am also very much involved in Russia on promoting religious freedom for all domestically. As regards Vladyka Anthony (Sevryuk), the new head of the DECR, I know him well, from the time when he was still a student. I can’t say anything bad about him. I know him only from the best side. He never did anything bad to me or to anyone I know.

JLB: Why does the Pope intend to visit Moscow first, and not Kyiv? Did you try to discuss with him the possibility of first coming to Kyiv, and only then conveying the position of the Ukrainian authorities to the Kremlin, and not vice versa?

LS: I think that for the Pope the order of the visit is not of fundamental importance: he just wants to connect the visit to the two capitals within the framework of one trip. That is, to go to Ukraine and Russia, and whether he enters Russia from the territory of Ukraine or, conversely, to Ukraine from the territory of Russia, this is not important for him. It is important that the two visits be part of a common trip in order to emphasize the peacekeeping and humanitarian nature of the trip. I think that the Russians will not be offended if he flies to Russia from Ukraine.

JLB: How much does the Pope listen to your opinion? How important is it to him? 

LS: The Pope listens to any opinion. And for him, the smaller the person, the more important his opinion. I have seen this from my own experience. My opinion for him, I am absolutely sure of this, is no more important than the opinion of Ukrainians or those Belarusians with whom he communicates. 

JLB: The Ukrainian flock reacts very painfully to the words and actions of the Pope, believing that he is acting in the wake of the Kremlin’s policy. Does the pope see a threat to lose the Ukrainian flock by his flirting with Moscow? 

LS: Regarding the so-called “flirting” of the Pope, I would like to remind you once again that the Pope is about the Gospel, not about politics. Remember how the disciples came to Christ and told Him that many had moved away from Him because of His politically incorrect words? Then Christ asked them: And you, don’t you also want to leave Me? And it was then that Peter answered that they had nowhere to go, because He is Christ. The Pope speaks of the Gospel. And it is for everyone, both Russians and Ukrainians. Christ hung on the cross, and to the right and to the left of Him were thieves. But one of them said he wanted to be with Christ, and the other said he didn’t. Here is the story about the Pope. The Pope cannot be compared with George Washington, the Maccabee brothers, Prince Vladimir, Monomakh or King Stanislaus. The Pope can only be compared with Christ. And to ask whether His behavior corresponds to Christ or not, to ask the question, what would Christ have done in His place. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. The whole Gospel is about it!

JLB: Do you agree with the Pope’s statement that the deceased Daria Dugina is an innocent victim of the war? Did you know Daria when she was a parishioner of one of the churches of the Russian Orthodox Church? How did it happen that she became one of the propagandists of the war?

LS: You know, I would like to answer the words about Daria with the speech of the Godfather to the undertaker, who came to ask the Godfather to kill the criminals who raped his daughter. The undertaker said that justice would be served. The Godfather asked: is it fair to kill those who have not killed anyone? Even the Old Testament had a tit-for-tat rule. Daria did not kill anyone, she did not participate in the war on the front line. Therefore, her death is unjust. In this sense, she is an innocent victim of war. This is what the Pope said. I didn’t know Daria. Prior to her death, very few people knew her at all. She did not have any significant influence on the ideology in Russia.

South Korea: Conscientious objectors, a legal battle against punitive alternative service

Hye-min Kim, a Jehovah’s Witness and an objector to military service, is the first person known to have refused “alternative service” in South Korea since it was introduced in 2020
Hye-min Kim, a Jehovah’s Witness and an objector to military service, is the first person known to have refused “alternative service” in South Korea since it was introduced in 2020

Conscientious objectors: a legal battle against punitive alternative service

Hye-min Kim, a Jehovah’s Witness and an objector to military service, is the first person known to have refused “alternative service” since it was introduced in 2020. The new system involves working in a jail or other correctional facilities for three years – twice as long as the typical 18-month military service – which makes it the longest alternative civilian service (ACS) in the world.

Under international law, countries with compulsory military service are obliged to provide a truly civilian alternative of comparable length and not be punitive in nature or length, as suggested by the UN Human Rights Committee.

Kim is charged under Article 88 of the Military Service Act, which imprisons those who fail to enlist without justifiable grounds. He believes his objection is based on “justifiable grounds” under the Act, and that the current alternative service includes excessively punitive aspects that do not measure up to international standards.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have filed 58 constitutional complaints regarding the punitive nature of ACS.

Already three major relevant government agencies have weighed in (Ministry of National Defense, Military Manpower Administration, and the Ministry of Justice).

Thirteen Jehovah’s Witnesses have filed petitions with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), with over 30 others being prepared to do so.

The European Times talked with Hye-min Kim, a conscientious objector

The European TimesCan you tell us, Mr Kim, why you refuse military service?

I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and as such, we follow the Bible’s teachings. Matthew 22:39 says we must love our neighbor as ourself and Matthew 5:21 telling us “You must not kill.” And in Isaiah 2:4, it is written “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore.”

So, I couldn’t enlist in the military practicing killing people because I love my neighbors. That is why I am a conscientious objector.

The European Times: So, you refuse to perform military service but what is wrong with the civilian service?

Yes. I thought I would go to prison because I refused military service but the judge acknowledged my claim and acquitted me.

After that, there was an appeal trial by the prosecution, and I was acquitted there as well. Later, the Supreme Court also upheld my innocence.

Since then, an alternative service system has been established, and I am really grateful for that.

Now, instead of going to prison for refusing military service, I am able to fulfil my duty to the country reasonably. However, I found out that the alternative service system has a punitive nature.

I thought that the punitive aspect would improve over time since this was the first time an alternative service was established, but even after quite some time, it hasn’t changed.

The current alternative service requires twice the length of service compared to the military.

The authorities introduced a system similar to the military, even though it wasn’t the military. 

You must stay in a dormitory. You are limited to only working in prisons. 

Even though each situation is different – for example, when you are married and have to take care of your family – all must perform their military service according to the same framework.

As a member of this country, I want to fulfil my national duty, but the current alternative service violates my fundamental rights due to its punitive nature. Moreover, a number of objectors have a family to support, as it is my case, and for three years we will be unable to do it. This is a source of big concern for us, for our wives and our children.

I think all these punitive aspects need improvement.

These are the reasons why I am taking the risk to go to prison and I hope there will be substantial improvements in the legislation. Alternative does not mean punitive.

Human rights diplomacy

A director of the Asia Pacific Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Steven Park, states: 

“The current alternative civilian service (ACS) program does not conform to international standards. The program is limited to in-prison facilities, which consists of what legal and human rights experts are calling ‘alternative punishment.’* As a result, there is a growing number of conscientious objectors filing constitutional complaints and submitting petitions to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. We earnestly hope that the Korean authorities will soon offer them a nonpunitive option.

A spokesman at the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gilles Pichaud, states: 

“We are saddened that some 900 of our fellow believers are being punished as de facto prisoners, for having exercised a fundamental right specifically recognized by the Constitutional Court and all branches of the South Korean government. Jehovah’s Witnesses are actively engaging in diplomatic talks with South Korean officials on a senior level. We are confident that the minister of justice and the presidential office will soon agree to a constructive dialogue. In the meantime, we will continue to inform officials internationally, including human rights bodies. It remains our sincere hope that conscientious objectors in South Korea will have a nonpunitive alternative to military service following the successful pattern in many other lands.”

Background information

For over 65 years prior to the ACS provision in 2018, South Korean courts imprisoned more than 19,000, mostly Jehovah’s Witnesses, who conscientiously objected to the country’s compulsory military service. Typically, they received 18-month jail terms and were saddled with criminal records and faced economic and social disadvantages that lasted far longer.

Some 900 young men are currently performing ACS in 19 different correctional facilities throughout South Korea. The first group of young men who entered the program when it began in 2020 will finish their service in October 2023.

In 2018, the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court recognized the right to conscientious objection in the country and required the government to introduce an alternative service of a civilian nature by the end of 2019.

On 27 December 2019, the legislature enacted amendments to the Military Service Act. However, the legislation still imposes unreasonable and excessive burdens on conscientious objectors. It stipulates a disproportionate length of the alternative service and that it is administered by military authorities.

Since 30 June 2020, conscientious objectors have been able to apply for alternative service. In October 2020, the first batch of alternative service personnel started their 36-month duty, which was limited to working in prisons or other correctional facilities.

Under international human rights law and standards, states with compulsory military service are obliged to provide genuinely civilian alternatives. These should be of a comparable length to military service, with any additional length based on reasonable and objective criteria. The process for evaluating claims to be recognized as conscientious objectors and any subsequent work service must also be under civilian authority.

The Volokolamsk Metropolitan Antony (Sevryuk) reacts to the speech of the German president


Volokolamsk Metropolitan Antony (Sevryuk), who in his capacity as chairman of the Department for External Church Relations represents the Russian Orthodox Church at the WCC Assembly in Karlsruhe, reacted to the speech of German Federal President Steinmeier at the opening of the forum.

In his speech, the president called on the participants to follow their Christian conscience and denounce the injustice that is being done in Ukraine. He openly stated that “the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church are currently leading their believers and their entire church down a terrible, blasphemous path that is downright hostile to the faith.” He drew a parallel with the state of the German churches after the Second World War, which were accepted to participate in the World Council of Churches without avoiding questions about the crimes committed by the Germans during the war. Steinmeier called on the participants to condemn the Russian Church’s support for the war against Ukraine, justifying it with theological arguments. According to him, dialogue cannot be an end in itself and it is only possible if both parties want it and contribute to it. Dialogue without justice is a platform for propaganda, the German president was categorical.

His speech unpleasantly surprised the Russian delegation, for whom the participation in the WCC forum in Germany is the first way out of the international isolation of the Russian Orthodox Church after the start of the war against Ukraine. H. Eminence Antony (Sevryuk), who took over the Foreign Department of the Moscow Patriarchate after Metr. Hilarion (Alfeev), issued a statement in which he expressed hope that the participants would not listen to the words of the German president and would not condemn the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the “opposition in Ukraine”.

Here is the full text of his reaction:

“On August 31, the President of Germany F.-V. During the opening of the Assembly, Steinmeier addressed the participants in the forum and in his speech questioned the validity of the participation of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the WCC assembly.

The speech of the President of Germany contained baseless accusations, completely ignoring all humanitarian efforts of the Moscow Patriarchate in the context of the opposition in Ukraine, as well as a direct request to the WCC Assembly to condemn the Russian Orthodox Church.

I believe that the position of Mr. Steinmeier is an example of gross pressure exerted by a high-ranking representative of the state on the oldest inter-Christian organization, of interference in the internal affairs of the World Council of Churches and of an attempt to question the peace-making and politically neutral nature of his activity.

It is worth noting that before Mr. President, the Acting General Secretary of the WCC, Prot. Ioan Sauka, on the contrary, noted the importance of the presence of representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate at the assembly, as it corresponds to the very essence of the largest inter-Christian organization, which should contribute to the strengthening of dialogue, peace and mutual understanding.

This publicly expressed position of the leadership of the World Council of Churches, the numerous appeals of the delegates of the WCC Assembly from Germany and other countries to the delegation of the Russian Church show that the accusations of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany against the Church do not have the expected support.

I hope that the World Council of Churches will continue to be an independent platform for dialogue, following in its activities not biased political orders from certain countries, but the goal of promoting peace and harmony.”

Photo of the Department for External Church Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Russian delegation

A US court has rejected a Guelph Treasure claim brought by heirs of Jewish merchants


The treasure of the Guelphs is on display in the Berlin Museum of Decorative Arts

A US court has awarded victory to a major German cultural institution in a long-running battle with the heirs of Jewish merchants over a collection of medieval church art, DPA reported, quoted by

A District Court in the District of Columbia ruled that US courts lacked jurisdiction over the ownership of the collection, called the Treasure of the Guelphs.

The plaintiffs, who believe it was sold under Nazi pressure for far less than it was worth, said they were still considering whether to appeal the decision.

The collection, consisting mainly of gold, jewel-encrusted crosses and reliquaries, as well as other works of ecclesiastical art, was originally housed in the German cathedral of Brunswick (Braunschweig).

The works date from the 11th to the 15th century and came into the possession of the royal family of Guelph in 1671. The family decided to sell 82 items in 1929 when they were experiencing financial difficulties.

Forty-four of the items are in the possession of the Prussian Heritage Foundation. It is one of the world’s largest art foundations and operator of the Berlin museums.

The US legal battle, which began in 2015, affects 42 of those relics.

Prussian Heritage Foundation President Hermann Parzinger said the institution strives for fair and honest decisions in all Nazi-era restitution cases, but that this claim is without merit.

“We have already restituted several hundred works of art and over 2,000 books,” Parzinger said in a statement.

In a conversation with The Times of Israel in January 2014, the soft-spoken president of the SPK, archeologist Prof. Hermann Parzinger, says there have been 30 restitution cases at his foundation in the past 10-15 years, and that in more than 95% of them, the claimants have received the property.

“There is agreement that we have a moral responsibility and that things need to be restituted,” he says. “We always try to find a solution because we know very well, unfortunately, what our history was,” said Parzinger.

Photo: Arm reliquary of St. Lawrence from the Guelph Treasure, reliquary; late 12th Century; origin stylistically: Niedersachsen (Hildesheim?); Historical Location: Brunswick, St. Blasius; silver sheet, partially gilt, niello; window frames Silver, cast, bottom plate copper, gold plated, Rhinestone, cedarwood; Collection: Museum of Decorative Arts. Source: Berlin State Museums/ @Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The new fishing season has started in Turkey – a lot expected, but more expensive bonito


For Turkey, which has four seas, fishing is an important pillar of the country’s economy, especially in the Black Sea region of the country, fish is the main livelihood for millions of families

Hundreds of thousands of fishermen in Turkey with their boats went out to sea for the first time today and cast their nets to catch fish.

After the five months in which fishing has been banned /from April 15 to September 1/ by the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to restore fish stocks, the new fishing season began at dawn this morning.

According to official data, there are about 20 thousand registered fishing vessels, but it is assumed that there are many more.

And the species of fish that thrive in the Marmara, Aegean, Black and Mediterranean seas exceed 1,000. Of these, about 100 species have economic value and can be caught.

According to representatives of fishing associations, a rich catch of bonito is expected this year.

Fishermen’s predictions are also confirmed by scientists.

Prof. Dr. Saadet Karakulak of Istanbul University’s Faculty of Aquatic Sciences said their studies also show the presence of large amounts of bonito in marine waters.

“Nevertheless, the fishermen have a difficult season ahead of them. The increase in fuel prices will also affect fish prices. Probably, even with the progress of the season /in previous years in the fall, the fish was quite cheap/ it will still not be as cheap as in previous years”, said the scientist.

“This year we will have as much bonito as we haven’t had in many years. But due to global warming, the catch may slow down. Because due to the heat, the bonito retreats into the deep waters. So it will probably be a while before it appears on the fishing stalls for sale. Overall, we expect it to be more expensive than previous years. Unfortunately, the fact that we will have a lot of bonito does not solve the problems of the fishery. There are no legal regulations, no measures are taken against poaching. Nor preferences for the development of fisheries,” says the chairman of the regional Association of Fishermen’s Cooperatives, Erdogan Kartal.

For Turkey, which has four seas, fishing is an important part of the country’s economy. Especially in the Black Sea region of the country, fish is the main livelihood for millions of families.

The start of the new season is eagerly awaited and marked with celebrations. In many coastal cities such as Istanbul, Samsun, Trabzon, celebrations took place, with fireworks, with wishes “Vira Bismillah” /traditional expression of fishermen when they go out to sea/ on the occasion of the opening of the new fishing season.

The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Prof. Dr. Vahit Kirişci, opened the season in Istanbul’s Sarıyer district, on the shores of the Bosphorus. He promised that the state-owned Ziraat Bank would extend low-interest loans to fishermen.

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu participated in the opening of the fishing season in Tuzla, the fishing area on the coast of the Marmara Sea.

About 200 species of fish thrive in the Sea of ​​Marmara.

The mayor called for strict action against fish poachers.

Photo by Elianne Dipp: https://www.pexels.com/photo/whale-sw

St. John Chrysostom on laughter and jokes


From “Discourses on the Epistle to the Ephesians”, XVII:

And fornication and all impurity or selfishness should not even be mentioned among you, as befits saints, nor shameful and empty words and jokes that do not resemble you, but on the contrary, thanksgiving should be heard… Let no one seduce you with empty words, for because of all this the wrath of God comes upon the sons of unbelief; and therefore do not become their partners (Eph. 5:3-7).

Having spoken about the gross passion – anger, the apostle moves on to the lesser evil. And as there he destroyed shouting, that instrument of wrath, so now he forbids blasphemy and jesting, that instrument of debauchery. Shameful and empty words and jokes are not like you – he says – but, on the contrary, thanksgiving should be heard (Eph. 5:4). Speak neither empty nor shameful words, and do not act on them – and you will extinguish the fire of sin. Even if they are not mentioned – he says – between you. He says the same, writing to the Corinthians: It is heard from everywhere that there is fornication among you (1 Cor. 5:1), that is, be pure, because words lead to deeds. Then, in order not to appear cruel and harsh, and cutting off the tendency to jokes, he adds the reason, saying, They are not like you, but on the contrary, that thanksgiving may be heard.

What’s the use of telling a joke? You will only provoke laughter with her. Tell me: will the shoemaker take up any work that does not belong to his trade? Will he get the wrong tool? No, of course, because the unnecessary is worth nothing to us. Let no idle word be heard between us, because idle talk can easily turn to shame. Now is not a time for rejoicing, but for sorrow and weeping. Are you kidding me? Which wrestler, entering the arena, abandons the fight with the opponent and tells jokes? The devil walks around you, growling to devour you, turning everything against you and bringing it down on your head, plotting how to drive you from your refuge, gnashing his teeth against you, and kindling a fire against your salvation – and you sit and you make jokes, gossip, and talk obscene things? Can you beat him this way?

We are having childish fun, beloved! Do you want to learn how the saints acted? Hear what Paul says: For three years day and night I did not cease to teach each one of you with tears (Acts 20:31). And if he cared so much for the Milesians and Ephesians – he did not tell jokes, but with tears in his eyes he taught the doctrine – then what will you say about the others? Hear what he also wrote to the Corinthians: Out of great sorrow and troubled heart I wrote to you with many tears (2 Cor. 2:4), and also: Who faints, and I do not faint? (11:29). Hear what he says in another place, wishing every day to depart from this world: For we who are in this lodge groan (5:4). And you laugh and have fun? It’s time for war – and you’re doing what the clowns do? Do you not see the men who fight, how harsh they are, how severe they are, how frowning and full of terror their faces are? You will see in them a stern face, a cheerful heart, a brave spirit, quick, restrained, careful and anxious, great order, slenderness and silence in their ranks; not to say that they do not utter an empty word—they say nothing at all. And if they, fighting with physical enemies, and not threatened by words, keep so stern a silence, how can you, who must wage war both for your words and your thoughts, allow this side of yours to remain bare and unprotected? Don’t you know that right here we are under a lot of attack? Are you partying, having fun with friends, eating and drinking, looking for entertainment and pleasures? Is that what you were sent to this world for? We are cast out by sin in this valley of death – what fun is there in that? Do you think you have free time to waste in this life? Don’t you know we are at war? Now is no time for fun at all, because this is no time for peace. Hear what Christ says: The world will rejoice, but you will weep (John 16:20). Christ was crucified for your misdeeds, and you laugh? He endured torment and suffered so much because of your abominations and fall, and you rejoice? Aren’t you angering God with that? In this life the sinner laughs and amuses himself; the righteous mourns and weeps for his sins. No one who gossips is righteous. This is only suitable for clowns on stage; where there is shamelessness, there are jokes; where there is life without the fear of God, there are also empty stories. Hear what the prophet says: Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice before him with trembling (Ps. 2:11). A penchant for jokes makes the soul weak, lazy, lethargic; it often stirs up quarrels and gives rise to wars.

So what? Aren’t you a man? Leave then that which is characteristic of children! You do not like it if your servant wastes his time in street talk; how then do you, calling yourself a servant of God, waste your time in idle talk? It is good if the soul (of your interlocutor) is sober – you cannot get carried away with it; and who wouldn’t drag her away? She will deceive herself and will not need the attacks of the devil. And in order to better understand what it is about, pay attention to the concept itself. A joker (ευτράπελος) is a person who is fickle, ready for anything, frivolous, fickle. But this is not characteristic of people who serve the Stone. Such a person is easily twisted and changed, because he must imitate the facial expression, words and gait of others; at the same time, he must invent witticisms, because that too is necessary for him. But this is not characteristic of a Christian – to play comedies. If this is a good thing, why do they give it to jesters and clowns? You become such a joker, and you have no shame? Do you not thus testify that this is a foolish custom and an indecent act?

Many vices are contained in the joking soul, great distraction and emptiness: order is disturbed, the fear of God and piety disappear. You have been given a tongue, not to mock others, but to give thanks to God. Don’t you see the so-called comedians, clowns, clowns? There, these are the pranksters. Banish, I beseech you, from your souls this foolish pleasure: it is work for vermin, jesters, dancers, and public women. Far be it from the free and noble soul! Anyone who is dishonest and mean loves jokes. There is nothing more shameless than the joker, and therefore his mouth is full, not of sweetness, but of bitterness. Some teach it even the poor. Oh, ridiculousness! They turn people living in the midst of suffering into jesters! I say this to show how ridiculous this shameful custom is, because such talk proceeds from a soul alien to godliness. Therefore, I beseech you, let us banish this shameful custom, and speak that which resembles Christians, and let not holy mouths utter words that belong to dishonorable and shameful mouths. What fellowship is there between righteousness and iniquity? What does light and darkness have in common? (2 Cor. 6:14) A man prone to jokes quickly becomes mocking and slanderous; and the slanderer is capable of innumerable other vices. And so, bridling these two passions of the soul, and subjecting them to reason as docile horses—I mean lust and anger—let us set reason as a charioteer over them, that we may receive a reward in the age to come, with which God grant that we may be worthy all in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Source: S. Joanni Chrysostomi In Epistulam ad Ephesios homiliae 1-24, PG 62. Col. 9-176.

The Gifts of Taoism

The Gifts of Taoism

“Go with the flow.”

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

“By letting go all gets done.”

“All things change.”

“Let it be.”

All of these familiar quotes and cherished ideas originate from a short volume written 2,500 years ago by a reclusive old man who did so only to gain exit from a gatekeeper who wouldn’t let him leave and thus vanish into oblivion without passing on his wisdom.

We are indebted to that gatekeeper who stopped Lao-Tzu. Otherwise, we would have no Tao, the religion which struggles to express and define quite frankly absolutely everything in life and the universe. As Lao-Tzu himself wrote, “There was something undifferentiated and yet complete, which existed before Heaven and Earth. Soundless and formless, it depends on nothing and does not change. It operates everywhere and is free from danger. It may be considered the mother of the universe. I do not know its name; I call it Tao.”

“Tao” (pronounced roughly “Dow”) literally means “The Way” but actually does not name any one tangible definable thing. It is the ultimate essence of life and the universe, impossible to describe and possible only to experience through the process of living.

The gifts of Taoism are the profound influence its concepts have had on thinkers, leaders and artists throughout history—from Art of War author Sun Tzu to Christian writer C.S. Lewis to the Beatles. Confucius, a contemporary of Lao-Tzu, visited the old man and came away stunned, somewhat bewildered, but in awe. “Of birds I know they have wings to fly with,” he told his disciples. “Of fish, that they have fins to swim with, of wild beasts that they have feet to run with. For feet there are traps, for fins there are nets, for wings there are arrows. But who knows how dragons surmount wind and cloud into heaven? This day I have seen Lao-Tzu. Today I have seen a dragon.”

Lao-Tzu and his legacy have also manifested themselves in our own day through the generosity of the nearly 9 million Taoists who make their homes mainly in Asia. The Tao Foundation for Culture and Arts respects the past by preserving the ancient music and culture of the Philippines, and at the same time provides for the future through educational scholarships to deserving youth. Partnering with a dozen major charities Tao Group Hospitality Cares has, in the last year, raised $165,525 for cancer research, nearly $180,000 for COVID relief, has served nearly 70,000 meals to individuals suffering from food insecurity, local homeless shelters, and pediatric cancer children’s hospitals, and has secured 450 vaccine appointments through the vaccine appointment program.

Tao Sangha’s nonprofit organization, Earth Caravan – Global Uni Community, (GUC) undertakes global aid projects. GUC gives direct help and support to local communities by cooperating with them on their particular needs. To date GUC has supported people economically in Afghanistan, India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Haiti, Sri Lanka, the USA, Israel, and Japan.

The gifts of Taoism have influenced our philosophies, our arts, have fed the hungry, helped the sick and have helped our world in ways both subtle and mighty. Not a bad legacy from an old man who simply wanted to leave the town in peace.

China: “serious human rights violations” in Xinjiang says UN

China: “serious human rights violations” in Xinjiang says UN
OHCHR - High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet during her visit to China, in Ürümqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China.

China responsible for “serious human rights violations” in Xinjiang province according to the UN human rights report

long-awaited report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) into what China refers to as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) has concluded that “serious human rights violations” against the Uyghur and “other predominantly Muslim communities” have been committed.

The report published on Wednesday in the wake of the visit by UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet in May, said that “allegations of patterns of torture, or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible, as are allegations of individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence.”

In a strongly-worded assessment at the end of the report, OHCHR said that the extent of arbitrary detentions against Uyghur and others, in context of “restrictions and deprivation more generally of fundamental rights, enjoyed individually and collectively, may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”

‘Rigorous review’

The UN rights office said that Wednesday’s report was “based on a rigorous review of documentary material currently available to the Office, with its credibility assessed in accordance with standard human rights methodology.

“Particular attention was given to the Government’s own laws, policies, data and statements. The Office also requested information and engaged in dialogue and technical exchanges with China throughout the process.”

Published on Ms. Bachelet’s final day of her four-year term in office, the report says that the violations have taken place in the context of the Chinese Government’s assertion that it is targeting terrorists among the Uyghur minority with a counter-extremism strategy that involves the use of so-called Vocational Educational and Training Centres (VETCs), or re-education camps.

‘Interlocking patterns’

OHCHR said that the Government policy in recent years in Xinjiang has “led to interlocking patterns of severe and undue restrictions on a wide range of human rights.”

Even if the VETC system has as China says, “been reduced in scope or wound up”, said OHCHR, “the laws and policies that underpin it remain in place”, leading to an increased use of imprisonment.

The systems of arbitrary detention and related patterns of abuse since 2017, said OHCHR, “come against the backdrop of broader discrimination” against Uyghur and other minorities.

Violations of international law

“This has included far-reaching, arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms, in violation of international laws and standards”, including restrictions on religious freedom and the rights to privacy and movement.

Furthermore, the report said that Chinese Government policies in the region have “transcended borders”, separating families, “severing” contacts, producing “patterns of intimidations and threats” against the wider Uyghur diaspora who have spoken out about conditions at home.

OHCHR said that the Chinese Government “holds the primary duty to ensure that all laws and policies are brought into compliance with international human rights law and to promptly investigate any allegations of human rights violations, to ensure accountability for perpetrators, and to provide redress to victims.”

Report recommendations

Among the recommendations that the UN rights office makes in the report, is for the Government to take “prompt steps” to release all individuals arbitrarily imprisoned in XUAR, whether in camps or any other detention centre.

China should let families know the whereabouts of any individuals who have been detained, providing exact locations, and help to establish “safe channels of communication” and allow families to reunite, said the report.

The report calls on China to undertake a full legal review of its national security and counter-terrorism policies in XUAR, “to ensure their full compliance with binding international human rights law” and repeal any laws that fall short of international standards.

It also calls for a prompt Government investigation into allegations of human rights violations in camps and other detention facilities, “including allegations of torture, sexual violence, ill-treatment, forced medical treatment, as well as forced labour and reports of deaths in custody.”

Chinese rebuttal

In a long and detailed response published along with the hard-hitting report, the Chinese Government said in conclusion, that authorities in the Xinjiang region operate on the principle that everyone is equal before the law, “and the accusation that its policy is ‘based on discrimination’ is groundless.”

China said that its counter-terrorism and “de-radicalization efforts” in the region, had been conducted according to “the rule of law” and by no means add up to “suppression of ethnic minorities.”

On the issue of the camps, Beijing responded that the VETCs are “learning facilities established in accordance with law intended for de-radicalization” and not “concentration camps”.

No ‘massive violation of rights’

“The lawful rights and interests of workers of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are protected and there is no such thing as ‘forced labour’”, China’s statement said, adding that there had been no “massive violation of rights”.

The statement calls on the international community to be “clear-eyed about the truth” of its counter-terrorism campaign in the region, and “see through the clumsy performances and malicious motives of anti-China forces in the US and the West, who attempt to use Xinjiang to contain China.”

It calls instead, for the UN and other international organizations, to investigate “the human rights disasters caused, and numerous crimes committed, by the US and some other Western countries, both at home and abroad.”

Bachelet’s May mission

The human rights chief undertook her mission in May, at the invitation of the Chinese Government and visited XUAR to review the situation there.

During her mission, Ms. Bachelet spoke with a range of government officials, several civil society organisations, academics, and community and religious leaders. In addition, she met several organizations online ahead of the visit, on issues relating to Xinjiang province, Tibet, Hong Kong, and other parts of China. 

At the end of her visit, while expressing concern over issues relating to Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, human rights defenders and labour rights, she praised China’s “tremendous achievements” in alleviating poverty, and eradicating extreme poverty, 10 years ahead of its target date. 

A number of other developments in the country were welcomed by Ms. Bachelet, including legislation that improves protection for women’s rights, and work being done by NGOs to advance the rights of LGBTI people, people with disabilities, and older people.

The UN rights chief underscored the important role that China has to play, at a regional and multilateral level, and noted that everyone she met on her visit, from Government officials, civil society, academics, diplomats and others, demonstrated a sincere willingness to make progress on the promotion and protection of human rights for all. 

Read More:

When China executes prisoners of conscience to fuel organ trafficking

Germany: EIB supports social and affordable housing in Hanover with €60 million

InvestEU in Germany: EIB supports social and affordable housing in Hanover with €60 million
Hannover, Deutschland © Prometheus Design on Unsplash

InvestEU in Germany: EIB supports social and affordable housing in Hanover with €60 million

The European Investment Bank (EIB), backed by the new InvestEU programme, is lending €60 million to the municipal housing provider hanova. The loan will support hanova’s construction programme of social and affordable housing in the city of Hanover, which will also meet the European Union’s high energy efficiency standards.

Hanova has been Hanover’s housing company since 1927 and owns around 15 000 housing units. The company supports the city’s housing policy, in particular in building new social and affordable flats for rent. The project involves the construction of 640 new units, of which 232 are social and 408 are affordable housing units.

This project is the first in Germany to receive a loan by the EIB under the new InvestEU programme. Thanks to the InvestEU guarantee from the EU budget, the EIB will be able to fill a financing gap offering an unsecured loan with a very long maturity.

Hanover, the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony, has a growing economy and attractiveness as an urban centre, with a quickly expanding population and therefore rising demand for housing. As in many urban areas across Germany, rents have risen sharply in recent years. The project will help address the imbalances in the local housing market by providing adequate and affordable housing for local low and medium-income residents. In Lower Saxony, the income threshold for social housing is €23 000 a year for a two-person household.

The hanova project is also energy efficient: 82% of the buildings will achieve an energy performance that will be at least 20% better than the German nearly zero-energy building standard (KfW 55). The rest will target an energy performance of at least 10% better than this standard. The project is also aligned with the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

The project is therefore fully compliant with the EIB’s climate action and environmental sustainability objectives. It will help to reduce CO2 emissions in buildings and support Hanover’s efforts to become climate neutral. It will also contribute to social inclusion and provide people on low and middle incomes with greater housing options to live in the city.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for an Economy that Works for People, said: “This agreement is an excellent example of how InvestEU can contribute to achieving our shared social and green objectives while having a positive and meaningful impact on the lives of our citizens. This is the first project supported by InvestEU in Germany and will make 640 new social and affordable homes available in Hanover that will meet high energy efficiency standards.”

EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle, who oversees activities in Germany, welcomes the project: “Together with hanova, we are demonstrating that even energy-efficient new builds do not always have to mean high rents. We are proud that this project will help to sustain and grow a vibrant city.”

Director of hanova Karsten Klaus agrees: “We are pleased to have found a partner in the EIB who will support hanova in its goal of providing the city of Hanover with affordable, energy-efficient and sustainable new housing.”

Hanova-CEO Karsten Klaus agrees: “We are pleased to have found a partner in the EIB who will support hanova in its goal of providing the city of Hanover with affordable, energy-efficient and sustainable new housing.”

Background information

The InvestEU programme provides the European Union with crucial long-term funding by leveraging substantial private and public funds in support of a sustainable recovery. It also helps mobilise private investments for EU policy priorities, such as the European Green Deal and the digital transition. The InvestEU programme brings together under one roof the multitude of EU financial instruments currently available to support investment in the European Union, making funding for investment projects in Europe simpler, more efficient and more flexible. The programme consists of three components: the InvestEU Fund, the InvestEU Advisory Hub, and the InvestEU Portal. The InvestEU Fund is implemented through financial partners who will invest in projects using the EU budget guarantee of €26.2 billion. The entire budgetary guarantee will back the investment projects of the implementing partners, increase their risk-bearing capacity and thus mobilise at least €372 billion in additional investment.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals. The EIB’s activities focus on the following priority areas: climate and environment, development, innovation and skills, small and medium-sized businesses, infrastructure and cohesion. The EIB works closely with other EU institutions to foster European integration, promote the development of the European Union and support EU policies in over 140 countries around the world.

As a municipal group, hanova is helping to shape the urban development of Hanover in order to make the state capital more lovable and liveable. In doing so, economic success and social responsibility are always balanced. As the largest real estate service provider in Hanover, hanova manages residential and commercial premises, builds schools and kindergartens, creates parking spaces and actively develops the city every day — with Hanover heart and real estate understanding.

Scientists Discover a Simple Trick To Cut Down on Your Drinking

Scientists Discover a Simple Trick To Cut Down on Your Drinking
codeimg jpg - Scientists Discover a Simple Trick To Cut Down on Your Drinking

The study found that people consumed about 6.5% less wine when they drank from smaller glasses.

A new study identifies a simple trick that may help people drink less.

According to recent research that was recently published in the scientific journal Addiction, households in the United Kingdom drank wine at a rate of roughly 6.5% less while using smaller (290 ml) glasses than when using bigger (350 ml) glasses.

In this randomized controlled experiment, 260 UK families were chosen from the general population who drank two or more 75cl bottles of wine each week. In two 14-day intervention periods, families were asked to purchase a predetermined quantity of wine to consume at home in either 75cl or 37.5cl bottles, in random order. Additionally, they were randomly assigned to either smaller (290ml) or bigger (350ml) drinking glasses.

After each 14-day intervention period, the amount of wine drunk was recorded by taking pictures of the bought bottles and weighing them on the supplied scales. Using smaller glasses lowered the quantity of wine consumed by roughly 6.5% (253ml per fortnight), though there is some uncertainty around this effect.  Drinking from smaller bottles lowered the quantity of wine consumed by 3.6% (146ml per fortnight), however, there is greater uncertainty around this effect.

Wine is the most commonly drunk alcoholic beverage in Europe, and most of it is consumed in homes rather than in bars, restaurants, or pubs. It’s already known that using larger glasses increases the volume of wine sold in restaurants and the size of wine glasses, in general, has increased dramatically over the last three decades. If the effects of wine glass size on consumption are proven reliable, with effects sustained over time, reducing the size of wine glasses used in homes could contribute to policies for reducing drinking.

These policies could include pricing glasses according to capacity to increase the demand for smaller glasses, and regulating glass sizes in bars, restaurants, and other licensed premises to help shift social norms for what constitutes an acceptable glass size for use outside as well as within the home.

Reference: “Impact of wine bottle and glass sizes on wine consumption at home: a within- and between- households randomized controlled trial” by Eleni Mantzari, Minna Ventsel, Jennifer Ferrar, Mark A. Pilling, Gareth J. Hollands and Theresa M. Marteau, 18 July 2022, Addiction.
DOI: 10.1111/add.16005

The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust. 

Farm to fork: new rules for faster approval of organic pesticides

Farm to fork: new rules for faster approval of organic pesticides
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The Farm to Fork Strategy is at the heart of the European Green Deal aiming to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly.

Today, in order to support the EU’s transition to sustainable food systems and the reduction of chemical pesticide use under the Farm to Table strategy, the Commission is adopting new rules to increase the availability and access to organic plant protection products for use in Member States’ fields.

The new rules will make it easier to authorize micro-organisms for use as active substances in plant protection products and give EU farmers additional options to replace chemical plant protection products with more sustainable alternatives.

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “The transition to more sustainable food systems means finding alternatives to chemical pesticides that respect our planet and our health. The Commission is committed to facilitating this process by increasing the number of organic and low-risk alternatives on the market – we have already approved 20 low-risk alternatives since the beginning of our mandate. With these new rules, we will ensure that organic alternatives can get to our farmers even faster. The more resources we collectively invest in the evaluation of plant protection products, the more safe alternatives we will have to meet our commitment to reduce chemical pesticide use by 50 percent by 2030.”

The new rules will place the biological and ecological properties of each microorganism at the heart of the scientific risk assessment process, which must demonstrate safety before microorganisms can be approved as active substances in plant protection products. This should speed up the approval of micro-organisms and biological plant protection products containing them.

Already approved by Member States in February 2022, the new rules will apply from November 2022. More information is available in our Q&A.

Syndrome K: Ray Liotta Narrates Stephen Edwards’ Documentary About Three Doctors Whose Manufactured “Fatal Disease” Saved Jewish Lives

Syndrome K: Ray Liotta Narrates Stephen Edwards’ Documentary About Three Doctors Whose Manufactured “Fatal Disease” Saved Jewish Lives

The best voice-over in film history is Ray Liotta’s 16-minute opening to Goodfellas. Understated, earnest, almost reassuring, it entices the viewer into a world of brute force, bloodshed and butchery. 

So it was a no-brainer that Liotta, who passed away earlier this year, would be the first choice as the narrator for Stephen Edwards’ Holocaust documentary about the derring-do of three Italian doctors who saved Jewish lives by hoodwinking the Nazis about a completely made-up highly infectious disease, “Syndrome K.”

Edwards knew Liotta personally through their daughters who attended the same school. He pitched the idea to the actor and “two weeks later he’s in my studio.”

Liotta, pro that he was, navigated with ease through tongue-twisting Italian names and places, finishing the job in three hours. “He walked in, and it’s not an easy gig: It’s Fatebenefratelli Hospital, Adriano Ossicini, Giovanni Borromeo, Vittorio Sacerdoti, all the Roman names, plus all the German names, all this vocabulary,” Edwards said. “And he was such a fun guy to work with, super-funny, top-level pro, profane, lots of F-bombs, we were just laughing, we were having a ball… we were just so sorry to lose the guy.” 

Syndrome K is set in late 1943. After the fall of Mussolini, Nazi troops rushed in to occupy Rome. On October 16, the mass deportation of Roman Jews to concentration camps began. Pope Pius XII—not only the spiritual head of the Catholic Church but also the temporal leader of Vatican City, a sovereign state within the Rome city limits—took no action, lodged no protest, remained silent.

In the shadow of the Vatican, however, Fatebenefratelli Hospital began admitting fleeing Jews as patients. Three doctors—Giovanni Borromeo, Adriano Ossicini and a Jewish doctor working undercover as a Catholic, Vittorio Sacerdoti—concocted an elaborate ruse: a virulent highly contagious and incurable disease, “Syndrome K” (the “K” serving as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Nazi General Army’s Chief for Italy, Kesselring, as well as the SS Colonel of Rome, Kapler). The three put together realistic lab charts, records, case histories and other important and official-looking evidence of this “very aggressive and neurologically degenerative” disease. “Patients” in the K ward were instructed to say nothing but cough loudly when Nazi inspectors arrived. The end result was that, as the doctors described it, SS agents ran in fear while the Nazi doctor summoned to verify the cases was “completely in terror.”

The hospital also served as a radio relay point for vital transmissions to the Allies. With SS officials regularly frequenting the halls and offices and making surprise searches there were a number of close calls, but neither the radio transmitters nor the fake patients were ever found out.

When the Allies arrived nine months later, 80% of the Jewish population of Rome had been saved, not only through the ingenuity and daring of the doctors at Fatebenefratelli, but also through the generosity and courage of the Catholic community of Rome who did not wait for the Pope’s approval to save their fellow human beings. All told 4,500 Roman Jews went into hiding when the Nazis arrived. They hid in convents, churches, monasteries and other Vatican properties, and nearly all of them survived.

Director Stephen Edwards was amazed that the story had never been told and attributes it to the very real possibility that those responsible kept it in an undertone from history as a precaution from any future reprisal.

The last surviving doctor of the three, Dr. Adriano Ossicini, bears witness in the movie, telling his story. “Life is beautiful if you live life with honesty and bravery. Those are fundamental values. Bravery always wins.”

And for Ray Liotta, who did not survive to see his final voice-over make it to the big screen, the opportunity to tell a true story where real-life bloodshed and butchery meet their match in kindness and bravery must have been a delicious closure from the fictionalized brutality he narrated so long ago.

“It Gets Dark” around Kepa Lehtinen

Kepa Lehtinen and his piano
Kepa Lehtinen and his piano

Do you like cinematic trips? Would you like to listen to a track that makes you travel through a story without lyrics, feel you are part of a drama, fly over some old fears that might hide in the dark of your memories, but above all, feel a deep sense of aesthetic that touches your inner senses? Well, that’s only a small part of what “It Gets Dark” has to offer.

Kepa Lehtinen is a well-known Finnish composer who made his name as a film and television composer. His distinctive brand is special: he is a pianist and crafts well-thought melodies and harmonies that brings everything that a classical feeling mixed with a cinematic story can bring to a listener. But man, he also plays theremin! What is theremin, dear reader? It’s nothing less that the first electronic instrument planet Earth ever discovered. It’s so crazy that you don’t even touch it.

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Kepa with his theremin

Invented by a Russian scientist at the beginning of the 20th century, the theremin is a sort of electronic version of the musical saw. It has a very distinctive sound that gives a dramatic and profound feeling to any piece of music that uses it correctly. Leon Theremin invented this weird instrument after the 1917 Revolution, an instrument that reacts to the moves of your two hands as regards the volume and the tone of the produced sound, through 2 small antennas that detects the variations of your moves through their impacts on the frequency of the wavelength produced by the device. Later, after some successful career in the US, Theremin went back to Soviet Union where he had to work for the infamous Beria (chief of the ancestor of KGB) to develop some spying devices that have been used to spy over Western embassies. But that’s a complete other story.

“It Gets Dark”, as most of the art pieces by Kepa Lehtinen, blends piano with theremin and double bass. The bass is played by his brother Ari Lehtinen, and Kepa plays the two other instruments. It’s dark, yes, it’s dark. But it’s also high. You don’t get trapped in that dark feeling, you fly over and through it, with an aerial sensation of being told a story that belongs to you, and only you.

Kepa Lehtinen It gets dark cover small 1024x1024 - "It Gets Dark" around Kepa Lehtinen
“It Gets Dark” single cover

Kepa is not a dark person. Far from it. He is a radiant being (and in addition he is a skateboarder… which is also a complete other story, at least I believe), who brings a full range of emotions to you through an incredible distinctive creative voice made of sonorities that you are familiar with, and sonorities that you are not familiar with. The result is impressive. I have added it to my favorite classical music playlist, while it sincerely does not fit with anything else in it. Because it’s peculiar. It’s modern. It’s beautiful. It’s aerial. And it’s what it is. You love it or you don’t. I do.

Finally, I’ll add that the choice of putting together these three instruments is a very clever one. First, each of them covers its own range of the musical space, and they don’t compete at all to occupy the space but covers it in full, with harmony and completeness. Then, they carry every wavelength your ears and heart need to perceive to feel fulfilled. And last, they reinforce each other in giving you the powerful sensitive and emotional message of the song.

That is why, without any further delay, I encourage you to discover Kepa’s last creation “It Gets Dark”:

Physicists Reveal More Effective and Earth-Friendly Way To Clean Dishes

Physicists Reveal More Effective and Earth-Friendly Way To Clean Dishes

Researchers simulated a superheated steam dishwasher, finding that it killed 99% of bacteria on a plate in just 25 seconds.

Washing dishes with superheated steam is more effective and Earth-friendly.

Simulations show steam kills bacteria on a plate in just 25 seconds — without soap.

Often, conventional dishwashers do not kill all the harmful microorganisms left on plates, bowls, and cutlery. They also require long cycle times that use large amounts of electricity. Additionally, the soap pumped in and out is released into water sources, polluting the environment.

A more effective, environmentally friendly solution could be provided by superheated steam dishwashers. In a study published on August 30, 2022, in

Bacteria concentration on the plate within the dishwasher over time. The superheated steam kills off the bacteria within 25 seconds. Credit: Laila Abu-Farah and Natalie Germann

“Steam comes out of the nozzle at a very high velocity. We can see shocks, and the turbulent flow that is created has eddies and vortices,” said author Natalie Germann, of the Technical University of Dortmund. “We also include heat transfer, which shows how the heat changes in the simulation box and the condensation on the solid surfaces.”

The shock waves, created by the high velocity of the steam, are reflected at surfaces in the dishwasher. In the work, the team focused on bacteria. However, the shocks could be used to effectively remove food debris in the future.

“Our study helps determine the strength of the shocks, the position of the shocks, and the vortices that are created inside the dishwasher,” said author Laila Abu-Farah, of the Technical University of Munich. “These things are very important for arranging the items or objects inside the dishwasher and the placement and orientation of the nozzles.”

While the simulations show quick inactivation of the bacteria, actual applications of the dishwasher would include more than one plate and would therefore require more time. However, the scientists believe it would still be much faster and more effective than conventional technology.

Although the superheated steam dishwasher would initially cost more, it would pay off in the long run with savings on water, electricity, and detergent. It would be ideal for use in places that must meet high hygienic standards, including restaurants, hotels, and hospitals.

“We confirmed that the dishwasher application using superheated steam is promising,” said Germann. “This is the first work combining fluid dynamics and heat transfer with phase change and bacterial inactivation. It thus lays the foundation for future computational research and further technical work.”

Reference: “Simulations of thermal phase changes and bacterial inactivation in a superheated steam dishwasher” by L. Abu-Farah and N. Germann, 30 August 2022, Physics of Fluids.
DOI: 10.1063/5.0090418

COMECE publishes a contribution to the European Education Area

COMECE publishes a contribution to the European Education Area
The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) releases its contribution to the European Education Area on Thursday 1 September 2022, calling on the EU and its Member States to implement integral education in their policies. Fr. Barrios: “We must ensure that learners are respected in their dignity and find their vocation in life”. Read the contribution

Official logo of the European Educational Area. (Credit: European Commission)

Drafted by the COMECE Working Group on Culture and Education, the document addresses the six dimensions of the European Education Area – proposed by the European Commission in 2020 and to be achieved by 2025 – highlighting the perspective of the EU Bishops’ Conferences in the area of education and training.

In order to tackle the challenges that educators and learners of all ages are facing today, the contribution delves into the anthropology of the human person and focuses on the need for integral education, as stressed by Pope Francis in His Global Compact on Education.

As stated by the Pope, we should make human persons in their value and dignity the centre of every educational programme, both formal and informal, in order to foster their distinctiveness, beauty and uniqueness, and their capacity for relationship with others and with the world around them”.

The COMECE contribution addresses the situation of education in the EU, mentioning the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the learning paths of pupils and students, as well as the socio-economic and psychological implications of the health crisis.

The document elaborates on the main challenges in the domains of quality education, inclusion, the green and digital transition, teaching and universities, as well as the role of education in external relations.

Among the recommendations to EU policymakers, the COMECE document includes: reinforcing cooperation between the EU and third countries’ universities in order to foster meaningful dialogue and fraternity; enhancing support for teachers in their mission to accompany learners; promoting innovation in teaching practices with a balanced approach between digital and in-person teaching methods.

COMECE also suggests involving families and communities in educational efforts and supporting Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers in their initiatives to ensure better social inclusion of disadvantaged people.

In this sense, Fr. Manuel Barrios Prieto, General Secretary of COMECE, explains that “only by including entire communities in the educational process will learners be respected in their dignity and find their vocation in life, introducing creative and transformative processes for the Common Good and the future of humanity”.

The COMECE Working Group on Cultural and Education was created in December 2020 and is composed of experts delegated by the EU Bishops’ Conferences.

WWF: 17% of Europe’s population will experience water shortage by 2050


A World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) analysis shows that 17% of people in Europe could face high to extreme risks of water shortage by mid-century.

According to the authors of the study, this scenario could only be prevented if governments and businesses take urgent and decisive action to increase the sustainability of economies through nature-based solutions.

The organization points out that rivers in Europe are falling victim to the heat. “Four of the continent’s most important arteries – the Danube, the Po, the Rhine and the Vistula – are facing record low levels, threatening business, industry, agriculture and even drinking water supplies for local communities.

Using WWF’s water risk assessment tool, the new analysis shows that Europe will be even more vulnerable to droughts and water shortages in the coming years,” the statement said.

“Europe’s droughts should shock no one: water risk maps have long pointed to distinct water shortages across the continent. What should shock us is the fact that European governments, companies and investors continue to turn a blind eye to water risks , as if they will resolve themselves,” said Alexis Morgan, head of the Water Program at WWF International.

“We need urgent action to mitigate these risks, especially by investing in nature-based solutions to improve the condition of Europe’s rivers, lakes and wetlands.”

According to WWF’s analysis, the countries that will face the greatest risks by 2050 are Greece and Spain.

Cities under threat

WWF’s analysis covers the entire continent, but highlights the countries likely to face the greatest risks by 2050. Among them is Greece, 82% of the population and much of its GDP that may come from areas of high or extreme risk. At the same time, ¾ of Spain’s population and GDP could be at high risk, while cities in the Guadalquivir River basin (such as Seville, Murcia, Granada and Córdoba) are expected to be the most affected by water shortages by the middle of the century.

The research shows the most endangered European cities. Even in the most optimistic scenario, there will be at greater risk of water shortages in cities such as Rome, Naples and Toulouse. Dozens of cities are also at serious risk, including Yerevan, Tbilisi, Madrid, Malaga, Valencia, Lisbon, Athens, Thessaloniki, Birmingham, Bucharest, Moscow, Donetsk, Palermo, Bologna, Florence, Bari, Baku, Antwerp and Brussels.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro: https://www.pexels.com/photo/small-shallow-pond-in-sandy-desert-5552873/

Construction of a floating Arctic power unit has begun in China


Russian RITM-200 reactors serve as a base

In China, the construction of the hull of the first floating nuclear power unit based on the Russian RITM-200 reactors has begun.

The length of the barge will be 140 meters, the width – 30 m, and the weight of the hull with equipment – 19,088 tons.

It is planned to be delivered to Russia by the end of 2023 so that the power equipment can be installed there.

This is the first of four floating power units in the arctic version with an installed electrical capacity of 106 megawatts each. They are intended for work in the waters of the CHukotka Autonomous District.

JSC Atomenergomash, ROSATOM’s mechanical engineering division is Russia’s largest power engineering company. The holding supplies reactor island and turbine island equipment to all NPPs of Russian design, manufactures equipment for LNG projects and waste processing industry, develops comprehensive solutions for energy/oil&gas/shipbuilding and other industries.  The company’s technologies and equipment ensure operation of about 15% of NPPs in the world and 40% of TPPs in the Russian Federation and CIS countries. Atomenergomash consolidates the leading research, engineering and production facilities in Russia and abroad.

International tender to be announced to build substructures for two floating power units, reports Portnews.ru.

An international competition will be announced to build substructures for two floating power units (FPU),  Director of the Northern Sea Route Directorate Vyacheslav Ruksha told IAA PortNews on the sidelines of Eastern Economic Forum. He confirmed IAA PortNews’ information about possible involvement of a Chinese shipyard. Taking into consideration the slow-down of the comprehensive plan and other, etc. there is a plan to have the main agreements signed by the end of September: between Atomflot and Baimsky GOK, between Atomflot and Atomenergomash JSC followed by the lower level agreements. The task is to get the first two FPU hulls in the CHaunskaya bay in autumn 2026.

Image source: Atomenergomash

Religious leaders in Russia expressed condolences over the death of Mikhail Gorbachev


Religious leaders in Russia have expressed their condolences on the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, who died on August 30 at the age of 91. They all express their gratitude for his political role in the emergence of religious freedom in the Soviet Union during the so-called “Perestroika” period. Against this background, the silence of the Moscow Patriarch Kirill makes an impression.

“Mikhail Gorbachev, the first president of the USSR, enabled Christians of various faiths in the country to practice their faith freely, and at a later stage of his life he himself became a believer,” Sergei Ryakhovsky, a member of the Public palace of Russia and bishop of the Evangelical Church. “Many of his ideas were desperately needed by society: the desire to have peace, to make the country more open, to solve the problem of the total deficit, and above all, what Christians of all faiths valued him for – he gave people the opportunity to freely believe in God. I knew Mikhail Sergeevich well, I met him more than once. I do not doubt the sincerity of his desire for the best, as well as the fact that at the end of his life he sincerely believed in God,” Ryakhovski said.

Rabbi Alexander Boroda, chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, noted the merits of Mikhail Gorbachev for the protection of the rights of believers, Interfax Religion reported. In his condolence address, Rabbi Boroda noted that under the first president of the USSR, opportunities for freedom of speech and self-expression, freedom of movement and private entrepreneurship appeared in Soviet society. In his address to Gorbachev’s daughter, Irina, he wrote: “Apart from this, I consider it necessary to express my personal gratitude to your father for the revival of religious freedom in our country – thanks to his reforms, a real upsurge and flowering of spiritual life took place.” .

Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, head of the Russian Spiritual Council of Muslims, said in his condolences that Gorbachev’s political activity was marked by the revision of the state’s atheistic policy regarding the country’s religious communities. He recalled how Gorbachev, still as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, allowed Soviet Muslims from Central Asia to perform Hajj in Saudi Arabia in 1989, reports TASS. “May the soul of the deceased rest in peace,” he adds.

The head of the Traditional Buddhist Sangha of Russia XXIV Pandit Khambo Lama Damba Ayusheev expressed his condolences to the relatives and friends of Gorbachev in connection with his death, noting that thanks to Gorbachev, Buddhists in the country received religious freedom.

“I express my deepest condolences to the family, friends and relatives on the occasion of the death of Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev. Thanks to his perestroika, the Buddhists got religious freedom and the opportunity to restore our datsans – monasteries and communities,” the Buddhist spiritual leader told TASS.

Teloh Tulku Rinpoche, honorary representative of the Dalai Lama in Russia, Mongolia and the CIS countries, supreme lama of Kalmykia, recalled that in the late 1980s the restoration of Buddhism began slowly, in particular in Buryatia, Kalmykia and Tuva. According to him, Gorbachev set an example of courage and determination by initiating changes in the USSR to improve the lives of the entire society.

Against this background, the silence of the Russian Orthodox Church, and more specifically of the Moscow Patriarch Kirill, makes a strong impression. Apparently, this has to do with the Kremlin’s subdued reaction to his demise. Mikhail Gorbachev will probably not be buried as a head of state, like the first president of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin. According to propaganda, he was responsible for the collapse of the USSR, which led to the humiliation of Russia, which now has to correct his mistake and restore the Soviet empire.

Gorbachev himself says that he is an atheist. In 2008, he stated to “Notices”: “In general, to avoid misunderstandings, I would like to say: I was and remain an atheist…”. He says more than once that he grew up in a religious environment. For example, in an interview with “Komsomolskaya Pravda” he answers the question “Haven’t you started to believe in God?” like this:

“Our whole family was a believer. I was baptized as a child. Although my father and grandfather were communists, there was an icon and a lamp in the red corner. And next to him on the table were portraits of Lenin and Marx. So in our family there was equality between ideology and faith. I don’t go to church myself. And I think it’s hypocritical for people to stand around with candles for show. In front of the TV cameras. During “perestroika”, however, I once gathered the hierarchs of all religions in the Soviet Union in the hall of the Politburo and we created the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religion. By the way, it still has no analogue in the world.”

Pictured: Meeting of Mikhail Gorbachev with Moscow Patriarch Pimen and hierarchs in 1988.



Fr. Alexander Men

Christianity is a challenge to many philosophical and religious systems. But at the same time, it meets the demands of most of them. And the strongest thing in Christian spirituality is not negation, but affirmation, comprehensiveness and completeness.

If Buddhism is imbued with the passionate longing for deliverance from evil, the longing for salvation; if the Buddha claimed that, like salt in the waters of the sea, his teaching of karma was imbued with the idea of ​​salvation, then this thirst for salvation and the promise of salvation are inherent in Christianity.

If in Islam we find the absolute devotion of man to God, Who is the sovereign ruler of the cosmos and human destinies, we find the same in Christianity.

If in the Chinese worldview the sky – Qian – represents a guide for man in the things of life, even in the smallest and unimportant, in the various shades of tradition, this is available in Christianity.

If Brahmanism, modern Hinduism, reveals to us the manifold manifestations of the Divine, so does Christianity.

If, finally, pantheism affirms that God is in everything, that He, like some mysterious power, permeates every atom of the universe, Christianity also agrees with this, although it does not limit its understanding of God’s influence solely to this pantheistic omnipresence.

We would be mistaken, however, if we consider Christianity to be some kind of eclecticism, which has purely and simply collected in itself the elements of previous beliefs. It shows the colossal power of something new. And this newness is not so much in the teaching as in the penetration of another life into our unenviable life.

The great teachers of mankind – the authors of the “Upanishads”, Lao-tzu, Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, Socrates, Plato and others – perceived the truth as a mountain peak, which they climbed with great effort. And quite rightly so. For truth is not something easily attainable; it really looks like a high mountain, which we climb, breathing heavily, clinging to the ledges, often looking back at the past, feeling the difficult road ahead. I will never forget the words of truth spoken by the ordinary Himalayan mountaineer, Sherpa by nationality, Tensing, who climbed Everest with the Englishman Hillary. He said that mountains should be approached with reverence. In the same way – and to God. Indeed, mountains require a special frame of mind to be penetrated by their majesty and beauty. The truth is hidden from those who set out toward it without reverence, without willingness to press on, despite the dangers and pitfalls. Climbing – this is the history of mankind.

You would easily object to me: how many steps are there leading down? Yes, of course, at first glance, the steps leading down are more. People who have fallen and descended into the abyss are more. But it is more important to us that man still climbed these sky-high peaks. And with this, man is great – with his ability to climb where, in the words of Pushkin, he is in “neighborhood with God” – in the mountains of mental and spiritual contemplation.

A person has two homelands, two fatherlands. One – this is our land. And that point on earth where you were born and grew up. And the second fatherland is the hidden world of the spirit, which is invisible to the eye and imperceptible to the ear, but to which we belong by nature. We are children of the earth and at the same time guests of this world. In his religious pursuits, man realizes infinitely more of his higher nature than when he fights, plows, sows, builds. And termites build and have to fight in their own way – not really as fiercely as humans. And ants sow, there are such species. But none of the living creatures, except man, has ever thought about the meaning of being, has never risen above natural physical needs. No animate being, except man, is capable of going to risk, and even to mortal risk, for the sake of truth, for the sake of that which cannot be touched with the hand. And the thousands of martyrs of all times and nations represent in themselves a unique phenomenon in the history of our entire solar system.

When we turn to the Gospel, we enter another life. Not in this world, which offers us exciting quests in the rush to heaven, but we find ourselves before the mystery of the answer. For twenty-five years Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the future Buddha, spent in ascetic efforts to attain contemplation. Yogis, philosophers, and ascetics put in the same amount of work mentally, spiritually and psychophysically, while Jesus Christ came from an ordinary village, where he led the life of an ordinary man. Everything was already given in Him and He never had to climb anywhere. On the contrary, He condescended to the people. Every great sage has realized his ignorance. Socrates said: “I know that I know nothing.” The greatest saints of all ages and nations considered themselves the greatest sinners to a far greater degree than you and I, because they were nearer to the light, and every stain on their lives and consciences was more conspicuous. , than in our gray life. Christ has no consciousness of something attained by Himself. He comes to men, bringing to them what is in Him originally, by nature.

I must draw your attention to the fact that Jesus Christ did not begin to preach Christianity as a concept. What He announced to people, He called “besora”, in Greek “evangelion”, which translates as “glad tidings”, “joyful news”.

What is this joyful, good news?

A person has the right not to trust the universe. A person has the right to feel himself on earth in a foreign and hostile world. Contemporary writers such as Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and others often speak of the terrible absurdity of existence. We are surrounded by something dangerous, inhuman, senseless, absurd – and it is impossible to trust it. A cold, dead or dying world. Indeed, I would like to insure, – these writers, novelists, dramatists, philosophers proceed from the position of the atheistic worldview – that is, the atheistic existentialism of Sartre and Camus, and somehow they have not seen one thing. When they say that the world is absurd, that is, meaningless, they know this because the opposite concept, the concept of meaning, is embedded in man. He who does not know what sense is, will not understand what is absurd. He will never be outraged by absurdity, he will never rise against it, he will live in it, like a fish in water. It is precisely that one rises against the absurd, against the meaninglessness of existence, that speaks in favor of the existence of meaning.

The ancient biblical narrative assures us that we can make an inner change and say “Yes!” to being, to trust what seems scary and ugly to us. And then through the chaos, through the absurd, right through the monstrosity of life, like the sun through a fog, the eye of God will look at us – the God who has a personal being and the personality reflected in each human person. And contact with Him is possible as a union of close beings. The whole meaning of humanity is its amazing analogy to the One who created the world. Charles Darwin shared that although he himself perceived the world mechanically, as a process, he still thought about its complexity and couldn’t understand: could only blind chance really have given rise to all this, and shouldn’t we look for some kind of reason behind it all? something similar to ours? We may add to the above: not merely analogous, but infinitely superior to our reason.

And in the Old Testament biblical religion, which has already been mentioned, the concept of faith-trust arises. Not faith as a theoretical, philosophical or religious belief, but faith as an act of breaking through dead, absurd reality when one speaks to God: I accept and perceive. Thus arose the ancient covenant between God and man, the ancient union. Naturally, the union between primitive, old man and the Divine could not be final and perfect. This was the upbringing of the human race, the childhood of mankind; adolescence followed, and in the 7th century BC. prophet Jeremiah wrote: “Thus says the Lord. I will make a new covenant with the people, “berit hadasha”, a new union that will not be like the old one, like the previous one. It will be written in hearts.”

And 700 years after the prophet Jeremiah, twelve people gather in a small room and perform a sacrifice. Usually the sacrifice was blood. Blood was a symbol of life. And life belongs to God alone. And the members of the assembled society sprinkled themselves with the blood of the sacrificial animal. Such was the ancient practice among all peoples, even in the most primitive times, in the Paleolithic. And Moses, when he concluded a covenant with God, sprinkled everyone with the blood of the sacrificial lamb. But on the night of which I speak, in the spring of the 30th year of the first century of our era, Jesus of Nazareth, surrounded by the Twelve, performed a rite to commemorate the freedom granted by God. There is no blood here, but a cup of wine and bread. He breaks this bread and distributes it to everyone saying, “This is My Body.” As a sacrificial lamb for the people. And he passed the cup to the disciples, saying: “This is My blood, which I shed for you; The New Testament is in My blood.” In such a way, at this sacred table that we are talking about with you, in every liturgy, God and man are united. Jesus of Nazareth performs this sacrifice. And from that moment, from that holy night, the cup does not stop being raised and the Eucharist is performed. In all branches of Christianity, in all churches and even sects, everywhere this sign is present.

Sometimes they emphasize that Christ heralded a new morality. He said: “A new commandment I give you – love one another as I have loved you.” There was a commandment to love before, and the words “to love your neighbor as yourself” belong to Moses. And Christ gives them a special sound – “as I have loved you”, because because of this love He stays with us on the polluted, bloodied and sinful earth – just to be with us. Thus His love becomes self-giving love, and because of this He also says the following: “Whoever wants to follow Me must first deny himself.” Meaning “from his individuality”, not from his personality, because personality is holy, but from his false self-affirmation. To give one’s self, to take up one’s cross, i.e. his service and suffering with joy and then follow Him.

Christ calls man to the realization of the Divine ideal. Only short-sighted people can imagine that Christianity has passed away, that it took place in the 13th century or the 4th century or whenever. I would say that it has only taken the first tentative steps in the history of the human race. Many of Christ’s words are still incomprehensible to us, because we are Neanderthals in spirit and morality. The gospel arrow is aimed at eternity.

You will say: how so, given that we had such great artists as Andrei Rublev, etc.! Yes, of course, there were also great saints who were forerunners, they walked the earth against the background of the black sea of ​​filth, blood and tears. Obviously, this is the main thing that Tarkovsky wanted (perhaps unintentionally) to show in his film “Andrei Rublev”. Just think on what background the master creates this most tender, enchanting, Divine vision of the Trinity! What is depicted in the film is true. Wars, torture, betrayals, violence, fires, savagery. Against this background, a person not enlightened by God could only create “Capriccios”, such as Goya judged. And Rublev created a divine vision. Therefore, he drew not from the reality around him, but from the spiritual world.

Christianity is not a new ethic, but a new life. A new life that brings man into direct contact with God. This is the new covenant, the New Covenant. What is the secret, how do we understand this? Why is humanity attracted to the person of Jesus Christ like a magnet? So he has shown neither the mystery of the sages, nor the poetic exoticism of Eastern philosophy? What he spoke was so simple, so clear. And even the examples in his parables are taken from everyday life. This is the secret that He reveals in short words, such as we hear in the Gospel according to John. Philip says, “Show us the Father, the Father of all.” He Whom the Greeks called “Arches,” First, where is He? And Jesus answers in a way that no philosopher on earth has answered: “I have been with you so long, and you do not know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

He spoke similar words more than once, and many people turned their backs on Him and left in resentment, for this was always a great challenge. They had to penetrate a special secret. Christ never directly formulated this mystery. He only asked people: “Who do you think I am – a prophet, the resurrected John the Baptist?” – “You are the Anointed One, the King, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” He asks His questions to this day, asking each one of us, because this is what God says through human mouths. Jesus Christ is the human form of the Infinite, the Inscrutable, the Immeasurable, the Unspeakable, the Nameless. And Lao-tzu was right to say that the name we pronounce is the eternal name. He becomes not only nameable, but even named by a human name. He Who bears with us the burdens of life. It is the center and center of Christianity.

Note: A lecture delivered in the Moscow Technical House on September 8, on the eve of the tragic death of Father Alexander Men; published on a tape recording in “Literaturnaya Gazeta”, No. 51 of 19.12.1990, p. 5).

Here‘s what Putin said about Gorbachev


Gorbachev had a huge impact on the course of world history

Russian President Vladimir Putin today sent a telegram expressing his deep condolences to the family and relatives of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who died at the age of 91, TASS reported.

The text of the message was published on the website of the Kremlin.

“Mikhail Gorbachev was a politician and statesman who had a huge impact on the course of world history. He led our country in a period of complex, dramatic changes, large-scale foreign policy, economic and social challenges. He deeply understood the need for reforms and tried to propose his own solutions to pressing problems,” Putin wrote in the telegram. “I would also like to note the great humanitarian, charitable and educational activity that Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev has carried out in recent years,” he adds.

In conclusion, the Russian president said that he once again sends “sincere words of sympathy and support” to Gorbachev’s family and relatives in connection with their loss.

It is not yet clear whether Putin will attend Gorbachev’s funeral on Saturday

The funeral of the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, will take place on Saturday, his daughter announced. The service will be in the famous Hall of Columns in the House of Trade Unions in Moscow – the same place where Joseph Stalin’s body was displayed after his death in 1953.

Pavel Palazchenko, head of media relations at the Gorbachev Foundation, said the ceremony at the Column of Pillars would be organized by the protocol service of the Putin administration. “There is no information whether this is considered a state funeral or not,” he told RIA.

The service will be open to the public, and then Gorbachev will be buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, TASS reported. There is also the grave of Boris Yeltsin, the first president of Russia and Gorbachev’s political rival. Nikita Khrushchev is the only other Soviet leader buried there, and most others rest by the walls of the Kremlin in Red Square.

It is not yet clear whether Vladimir Putin will attend the funeral.

Photo by Mark van Jaarsveld: https://www.pexels.com/photo/city-building-roof-architecture-11285025/

World Council of Churches World Assembly: What to expect?


By Martin Hoegger

What are the expectations of the World Council of Churches and local authorities for the General Assembly in Karlsruhe which opens today, 31 August, and runs until 8 September? Here are the answers of some personalities at the first press conference. Three words seem to me to sum them up: encounter, dialogue and reconciliation.

Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, expects that the Karlsruhe meeting will allow the “celebration of the Creator and of Life”. May people welcome each other by listening to each other and may what will be lived here help her to live better in her church and her country! She emphasised the importance of listening to the people of indigenous peoples. She was indeed marked by the preparatory assembly dedicated to them.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson of the Lutheran Church USA, vice moderator of the same committee, hopes that this assembly will enable us to be more perfect in love and to grow in discipleship. “We want to live an ecumenism of the heart, so that people can say, like the first Christians, ‘look how they love each other’, because there is so much violence in the world”

For Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Nifon, another vice-moderator, an assembly is an opportunity to share the joys and sorrows of the Christian faith. The progress of visible Christian unity is his main expectation, but the sufferings of this world must not be neglected. “To alleviate them we must be united. Human elements may divide the churches, but the churches must work to express the faith that unites them, not just what distinguishes them from one another”.

Orthodox theologian Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the WCC, is convinced that the encounter between Christians is indispensable. “We do not have to wait until we agree on all points of doctrine to act together on today’s burning issues and in the new geopolitical reality. Churches are part of this divided world. They have to bear witness to reconciliation and unity. When the world looks at us, it looks not at our theology, but at what we can do together so that it can believe”.

Asked about the WCC’s relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church, which supported the war in Ukraine, he recalls that the WCC is a platform for dialogue. That is why its central committee, in its meeting last June, decided not to suspend it.  (read my article here: https://www.reformes.ch/blog/martin-hoegger/2022/06/why-did-world-council-churches-refuse-suspend-russian-orthodox-church) He was pleased that young Ukrainians and Russians who participated in the youth assembly were eating together, despite political and social divisions.

To another question about the impossibility of taking the Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist) together, he stressed the importance of having a common Christological and Trinitarian faith – as indicated by the WCC’s theological basis – and criticised theological relativism.

Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD) and chair of the local committee hopes that the message of the assembly will be “God loves life, so he needs us”. She recalls that German churches were invited to participate in the WCC’s first assembly in 1948, in the aftermath of the war provoked by her country. Today, what about the Russian Orthodox Church?

Bishop Heike Springhart of the Protestant Church of Baden calls for dialogue on current issues, not only on the stage, but also in the street. “May we share stories of reconciliation as our parents did after the Second World War”.

The Catholic Archbishop of the region, Stefan Burger, hopes that this assembly will lead to trusting relationships, which are the prerequisite for good ecumenical relations.

Finally, for the mayor of Karlsruhe Frank Mentrup, it is a great honour to host this assembly. “May it be a celebration of the Christian faith in global diversity! May the dialogue that will be lived in this assembly be an example for other religions and the whole of society and may this meeting help us to develop a spiritual understanding of the need for dialogue,” he said.

This first rich day saw the visit of the President of the German Federal Government, as well as remarkable talks by President Abuom and Secretary General Sauca, and interventions by representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities. It ended with a joyful ecumenical celebration. I will come back to this in the next article.

Martin Hoegger – [email protected]

Image: Opening prayer of the Assembly

Onset of northern winter could see spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths

Onset of northern winter could see spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths
Although COVID-19 deaths have decreased across the world, numbers could rise as northern countries head into winter, senior officials from UN health agency WHO have warned. 
Speaking on Wednesday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus again beat the drum for vaccination to reduce spread of the disease. 

He urged people to get the jab or, if they are already vaccinated, to get further boosters. 

Variants still a threat 

“We are now seeing a welcome decline in reported deaths globally. However, with colder weather approaching in the northern hemisphere, it’s reasonable to expect an increase in hospitalizations and deaths in the coming months,” said Tedros, speaking during his regular briefing from Geneva. 

“Subvariants of Omicron are more transmissible than their predecessors, and the risk of even more transmissible and more dangerous variants remains.” 

Vaccination coverage among the most at-risk groups – such as health workers and older persons – also remains too low, he added, especially in poorer countries.  

Don’t pretend it’s over 

Tedros reminded people everywhere to continue to take action to reduce the risk of infection – even if already vaccinated. Steps include avoiding crowds, especially indoors, and wearing a mask. 

“Living with COVID-19 doesn’t mean pretending the pandemic is over. If you go walking in the rain without an umbrella, pretending it’s not raining won’t help you. You’ll still get wet.  Likewise, pretending a deadly virus is not circulating is a huge risk,” he said. 

Worldwide, nearly 600 million cases of COVID-19 have been recorded, some 2.5 years into the pandemic. 

Europe to hit 250-million mark 

Europe is projected to reach 250 million cases in a matter of weeks, said Dr. Hans Kluge, Director of WHO’s Office for the region.  Like Tedros, he also anticipates the winter “surge” in cases. 

“We have made great strides in addressing the pandemic. But the virus is still circulating widely, still putting people in hospital, still causing too many preventable deathssome 3,000 in the past week alone, about a third of the global recorded total,” said Dr. Kluge in a statement on Tuesday. 

© WHO/Khaled Mostafa

A doctor looks at an image of a monkeypox lesion on his computer screen at a sexual health clinic in Lisbon, Portugal.

Monkeypox latest 

Europe is also home to around a third of the global caseload for the continuing Monkeypox outbreak, with 22,000 confirmed cases across 43 countries. 

The Americas account for more than half of all reported cases, with several countries continuing to see a rise in infections. 

WHO noted that some European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, are also seeing a clear decline in infections. 

This development demonstrates the effectiveness of public health interventions and community engagement to track infections and prevent transmission, said the agency.

Ukraine: IAEA experts arrive in Zaporizhzhia ahead of mission to nuclear plant

Ukraine: IAEA experts arrive in Zaporizhzhia ahead of mission to nuclear plant

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday, the latest stage in their efforts to inspect conditions at the embattled nuclear power plant there.

Speaking to reporters, agency chief Rafael Mariano Grossi expressed confidence that they will be able to safely conduct their technical mission, which follows months of consultations amid fears of a potential catastrophe at Europe’s largest nuclear facility. 

Potential for ‘prolonged’ mission 

The mission will take a few days, he said, though adding that it could be “prolonged” if they can establish a continued presence at the site.

The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has been occupied by Russian forces since the early weeks of the conflict and has come under repeated shelling in recent weeks. 

Asked if he believed Russia will allow the agency to see what is really happening there, Mr Grossi responded that his team is made up of very experienced people. 

“I bring here the best and the brightest in safeguards, in safety, in security, and we will have a pretty good idea of what’s going on,” he said.

Political will

Mr Grossi was also asked by a journalist, how they could help avoid a feared meltdown or nuclear incident at the plant. 

“This a matter of political will,” he said. “It’s a matter that has to do with the countries that are in this conflict, in particular the Russian Federation, which is occupying the place.”  

Mr Grossi is leading the 13-member mission from the Vienna-based IAEA, which set out for Ukraine on Monday. He met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the capital, Kyiv, the following day.

The team’s priorities include ensuring nuclear safety and security at the plant, as well as undertaking vital safeguard activities, and assessing the working conditions of the Ukraine personnel working there.

European Union suspends visa facilitation agreement for Russians

European Union suspends visa facilitation agreement for Russians
© Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union

EU foreign ministers agree to suspend visa facilitation agreement for Russians

On 30 and 31 August 2022, Prague hosted an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers known as a Gymnich. The ministers primarily discussed two topics, namely the EU’s relations with Africa and the Russian aggression against Ukraine. The main outcome of the meeting was agreement among the Member States to suspend the visa facilitation agreement.

The main topic of the meeting of foreign ministers was the Russian aggression against Ukraine and its consequences. The ministers agreed that they would remain united in their approach to the hostile behaviour of Russia, and that they would provide Ukraine with the necessary support. Specific parameters of future military assistance to Ukraine were also discussed, with the ministers also addressing possible steps to strengthen the European Peace Facility to better meet the needs of the Ukrainian army.

The discussions also saw an important breakthrough in the visa policy in relation to Russia. The foreign ministers agreed to suspend the visa facilitation agreement that makes it significantly easier for Russian citizens to obtain Schengen visas.

In terms of our relations with Russia, we cannot continue as before. We have made progress at the meeting of foreign ministers and want to fully suspend the agreement that allows the simplified issuing of visas to citizens of the Russian Federation.

Jan LipavskýMinister of Foreign Affairs

According to Minister Lipavský, it is also however necessary to achieve mutual understanding between the Member States. On the one hand, there is the problem of the northern states that directly border Russia and which are seeing the arrival of large numbers of Russians. On the other hand, the individual Member States have differing stances on the issue. What is important now is that the European Commission and EU institutions prepare a proposal that reflects these different aspects.

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell recalled at the press conference that EU Member States already have considerable autonomy when issuing visas for entry into their own territory. “Member States have wide discretion in regulating their visa policies. Every Member State can thus also adopt and implement national measures in connection with the issuing of visas,” he said.

Nor were the European Union’s relations with Africa and the situation in African states in the context of the Russian aggression in Ukraine neglected. According to Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic Jan Lipavský, it is essential to fight against Russian the propaganda narratives that Russia spreads in the region, and to offer African states advantageous cooperation with the European Union, for example in technology. High Representative Josep Borrell said that it is essential to work with the EU’s African partners in a coordinated manner.

As part of an informal lunch with the Associated Trio states, ministers discussed the European perspective of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and how these countries can be helped on their road to the European Union. The future of the Eastern Partnership, an important instrument for cooperation, was also discussed.

The Forum 2000 conference, to focus on assistance to Ukraine, will follow on from the Gymnich meeting. Its topics will be the European perspective of Ukraine, post-war reconstruction, the punishment of war crimes, the resilience of democracy, and security.

Read More:

Due to a shortage of diplomats: Bulgaria has suspended visas for Russians

Gorbachev: “We have to renounce the politics of force”

Gorbachev: “We have to renounce the politics of force” | News | European Parliament

Mikhail Gorbachev made a plea for dialogue and renounced the use of force during a visit to the European Parliament.

The former president of the Soviet Union was at the Parliament in 2008 for the Energy Globe Award where he picked up a lifetime achievement award. To mark the passing on 30 August of the last leader of the Soviet Union, who was praised by many for his role in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end, we are republishing an interview from his visit. He talked about how countries should work together in the era of globalisation and his concerns about the environment.

You initiated momentous changes in the Soviet Union and did much to end the Cold War. What lessons can we draw from that experience when seeking a so called “world perestroika” to end the hot war against nature?

In the mid-80s the leaders of the big states realised that there is an urgent need to do something. Then God made the ways of Gorbachev, Reagan, Bush, Thatcher, Mitterrand and others – and they were wise enough to overcome clichés and prejudices regarding each other and start talking about the nuclear threat. Now the world and our times are different, there is globalisation, countries are more interdependent and countries like Brazil, China and India have come onto the stage.

The most important lesson we can take is that a dialogue has to be developed. Confidence has to be built. We have to renounce the politics of force, they bring nothing good. We have to understand that we all are in the same boat, we all have to paddle, if not, some are paddling, some are pouring water in, others might even be making a hole in it. Nobody will win in this manner in this world.

Look at the US in Iraq, everybody was opposed, even their allies, but they did not listen and what happened? They do not know how to get out of it now. Now we understand that… we are all linked to the US and if it falls apart it would be a real collapse. We have to help them to get out of there. That means that cooperation is needed, a new world order is necessary and global mechanisms to manage it.

After the Cold War everybody was talking of the new world order, even the Pope joined us and said a new world order is necessary, more stable, more fair, more human.

However, when the USSR fell apart – because of internal reasons first of all – the US could not resist the temptation to use the confusion. Political elites changed, those who brought the world out of the Cold War left the stage, the new ones wanted to write their history.

These errors of vision, poor decisions and missteps made the world ungovernable. We live in a world of chaos. New ways of life and new political mechanisms can emerge from the chaos, but the chaos can also lead to disruption, resistance and armed conflict.

Can we really call environmental degradation mankind’s no. 1 problem when so many people are living under the poverty line?

The major problems are poverty, air and water quality, unsanitary conditions, low agricultural productivity, but all of them are about ecology. It is nonsense to say that ecology is a luxury – it is the major priority of our times. The second priority is the fight against poverty because two billion are living on $1-2 a day. The third one is global security, including the nuclear threat and weapons of mass destruction. These are three urgent priorities, but I put ecology in the first place, because it directly touches all of us.

“Towards a New Civilization”
is the motto of the Gorbachev Foundation. What does that New Civilisation look like? Where can the world get the huge resources needed for these fundamental changes?

It is not always about money. If international issues are handled in a disorderly way, you need more money. It is about trust, co-operation, dialogue, mutual help and mutual exchange. Why is Europe growing economically – because of the existence of the EU. This is the path of new opportunities and the EU is a good example.

Of course, not everything is perfect. In my view the EU is already overcharged as a system. It has to have wisdom and know when to stop, absorb, move forward, not just hurry and make hasty headlong jumps.

Common Agricultural Policy 2023-2027: the Commission approves the first CAP strategic plans

Common Agricultural Policy 2023-2027
© European Commission

The new common agricultural policy is key to securing the future of agriculture and forestry, as well as achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal.

Today, the European Commission approved the first package of CAP strategic plans for seven countries: Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. This is an important step for the implementation of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on 1 January 2023. The new CAP is designed to shape the transition to a sustainable, resilient and modern European agricultural sector. Under the reformed policy, funding will be more fairly distributed to small and medium-sized family farms, as well as to young farmers. Moreover, farmers will be supported to take up new innovations, from precision farming to agro-ecological production methods. By supporting concrete actions in these and other areas, the new CAP can be the cornerstone for food security and farming communities in the European Union.

The new CAP incorporates a more efficient and effective way of working. EU countries will implement national CAP Strategic Plans, combining funding for income support, rural development and market measures. In designing their CAP Strategic Plan, each Member State chose from a wide range of interventions at EU level, tailoring and targeting them to address their specific needs and local conditions. The Commission has been assessing whether each Plan builds towards the ten key CAP objectives, which touch upon shared environmental, social and economic challenges. Hence, the Plans will be in line with EU legislation and should contribute to the EU’s climate and environmental goals, including on animal welfare, as set out in the Commission’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies.

The CAP will benefit from €270 billion in funding for the 2023-2027 period. The seven Plans approved today represent a budget of over €120 billion, including over €34 billion dedicated exclusively to environmental and climate objectives and eco-schemes. This amount can be used to promote beneficial practices for soil, and to improve water management and grassland quality, for example. The CAP can also promote afforestation, fire prevention, restoration and adaptation of forests. Farmers participating in eco-schemes may be rewarded, inter alia, for banning or limiting the use of pesticides, and limiting soil erosion. Between 86% and 97% of the national utilised agricultural area will be farmed under good agricultural and environmental conditions. Substantial funding will also support the development of organic production, with most countries aiming to double or even triple their farming area. Areas under natural constraints, such as in mountains or on the coast, will continue to benefit from specific funding to maintain an agricultural activity.

In the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the ongoing commodity surge, the Commission invited Member States to exploit all opportunities in their CAP strategic plans to strengthen the resilience of their agricultural sector in order to promote food security. This includes reducing dependence on synthetic fertilisers and scaling up the production of renewable energy without undermining food production, as well as promoting sustainable production methods.

Generational renewal is one of the main challenges facing European agriculture in the coming years. It is essential for the agricultural sector to stay competitive and to increase the attractiveness of rural areas. Specific support to young farmers features prominently in each approved Plan, with over €3 billion that will directly reach young farmers in the seven countries. Rural development funds will support thousands of jobs and local businesses in rural areas, while improving access to services and infrastructure, like broadband. In line with the long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas, the needs of rural citizens will also be addressed by other EU instruments such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) or the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).

After having approved the first 7 CAP Strategic Plans, the European Commission remains fully committed to a quick approval of the 21 remaining Plans, taking into account the quality and timeliness of reactions following the Commission’s observations.


The European Commission presented its proposal for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform in 2018, introducing a new way of working to modernise and simplify the EU’s policy on agriculture. Following extensive negotiations between the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission, an agreement was reached and the new CAP was formally adopted on 2 December 2021.

The deadline set by co-legislators for Member States to submit their CAP Strategic Plan was 1 January 2022. After receiving the Plans, the Commission sent observation letters to all of the Member States by 25 May 2022. They were published on the Europa website together with the reactions of all Member States, in line with the transparency principle. A structured dialogue between the Commission services and national authorities resumed thereafter to solve remaining issues and finalise the revised CAP Plans. To be approved, each Plan must be complete and compatible with the legislation, and ambitious enough to deliver on the CAP objectives and EU environmental and climate commitments.

Potential Long-Term Treatment for Asthma Discovered

Potential Long-Term Treatment for Asthma Discovered

Asthma is a disease that can cause your airways narrow and swell as well as produce additional mucus.

Rather than merely treating its symptoms, a new strategy targets one of asthma’s causes.

Researchers from Aston University and

Dr. Jill Johnson, Aston University’s School of Biosciences. Credit: Aston University

In the UK, about 1,200 people die from asthma every year, and just under 5.5 million people get treatment for it. Asthma results in symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath because the airways become thickened and constricted.

Current treatments, such as steroids, give temporary relief from these symptoms by relaxing the airways or decreasing inflammation. However, no existing medications target the structural changes that asthma causes in the airway and lungs in order to provide a more long-lasting treatment.

Lead researcher, Dr. Jill Johnson, from Aston University’s School of Biosciences, said: “By targeting the changes in the airway directly, we hope this approach could eventually offer a more permanent and effective treatment than those already available, particularly for severe asthmatics who don’t respond to steroids. However, our work is still at an early stage and further research is needed before we can begin to test this in people.”

The study focused on a kind of stem cell known as a pericyte, which is located primarily in the lining of blood vessels. When asthmatics have an allergic and inflammatory reaction, such as to household dust mites, the pericytes migrate to the airway walls. Once there, the pericytes mature into muscle cells and other cells that thicken and stiffen the airway.

This movement of the pericytes is triggered by a protein known as CXCL12. The researchers used a molecule called LIT-927 to block the signal from this protein, by introducing it into the mice’s nasal passages. Asthmatic mice that were treated with LIT-927 had a reduction in symptoms within one week and their symptoms virtually disappeared within two weeks. The researchers also found that the airway walls in mice treated with LIT-927 were much thinner than those in untreated mice, closer to those of healthy controls.

The team is now applying for further funding to carry out more research into dosage and timing, This would help them to determine when might be the most effective time to administer the treatment during the progress of the disease, how much LIT-927 is needed, and to better understand its impact on lung function. They believe that, should this research be successful, it will still be several years before the treatment could be tested in people.

Reference: “Chemokine CXCL12 drives pericyte accumulation and airway remodeling in allergic airway disease” by Rebecca Bignold, Bushra Shammout, Jessica E. Rowley, Mariaelena Repici, John Simms and Jill R. Johnson, 13 July 2022, Respiratory Medicine.
DOI: 10.1186/s12931-022-02108-4

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council.

Pakistan: WHO warns of significant health risks as floods continue

Pakistan: WHO warns of significant health risks as floods continue
Major health risks are unfolding in Pakistan as unprecedented flooding continues, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Wednesday, warning of the threat of further spread of malaria, dengue fever and other water and vector-borne diseases.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the UN agency has classified the situation as a grade 3 emergency – the highest level of its internal grading system – which means all three levels of the organization are involved in the response: the country and regional offices, as well as its headquarters in Geneva. 

“Floods in Pakistan, drought and famine in the Greater Horn of Africa, and more frequent and intense cyclones in the Pacific and Caribbean all point to the urgent need for action against the existential threat of climate change,” he said, speaking during his regular briefing from WHO headquarters.

Millions affected

More than 33 million people in Pakistan, and three-quarters of all districts, have been affected by the flooding, which was brought on by monsoon rains. 

At least 1,000 people have been killed and 1,500 injured, WHO said, citing national health authorities.  More than 161,000 others are now in camps.

Nearly 900 health facilities across the country have been damaged, of which 180 are completely damaged. Millions have been left without access to health care and medical treatment.

The Government has declared a state of emergency, and the UN has launched a $160 million appeal for the country. Tedros also released $10 million from a WHO emergency fund to support the response.

Delivering life-saving supplies

“WHO has initiated an immediate response to treat the injured, provide life-saving supplies to health facilities, support mobile health teams, and prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” said Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

The UN agency and partners have conducted a preliminary assessment which revealed that the current level of devastation is much more severe than in previous floods, including those that devastated the country in 2010.

Ensuring access to services

The crisis has further aggravated disease outbreaks, including acute watery diarrhoea, dengue fever, malaria, polio, and COVID-19, particularly in camps and where water and sanitation facilities have been damaged.

Pakistan had already recorded 4,531 measles cases this year, and 15 cases of wild poliovirus, even before the heavy rainfall and flooding. A nationwide polio campaign has been disrupted in the affected areas.

“WHO is working with health authorities to respond quickly and effectively on the ground. Our key priorities now are to ensure rapid access to essential health services to the flood-affected population strengthen and expand disease surveillance, outbreak prevention and control, and ensure robust health cluster coordination,” said Dr. Palitha Mahipala, WHO Representative in Pakistan.

Flooding could worsen

With the floods projected to worsen over the coming days, WHO is immediately focused on these priorities.

Pakistan’s Government is leading the national response and is establishing control rooms and medical camps at the provincial and district level.

The authorities also are organizing air evacuation operations, and conducting health awareness sessions on waterborne and vector-borne diseases, as well as other infectious disease such as COVID-19.

WHO is working closing with the health ministry to increase surveillance for acute watery diarrhoea, cholera, and other communicable diseases to avoid further spread. The agency is also providing essential medicines and medical supplies to functional health facilities treating affected communities.

Expanding disease surveillance

Prior to the floods, WHO and partners had undertaken vaccinations against cholera in response to the pre-existing outbreak.

Pakistan is also one of the two remaining polio-endemic countries in the world, and teams in affected areas are expanding surveillance for both polio and other diseases. Furthermore, polio workers are now working closely with the authorities to support relief efforts, particularly in  the worst-hit areas.

WHO has also diverted mobile medical camps to affected districts, delivered more than 1.7 million aqua tabs to ensure people have access to clean water, and provided sample collection kits for early detection of infectious diseases.

In India, youth is key to integrity, peace, health and sustainable development

In India, youth is key to integrity, peace, health and sustainable development

New Delhi (India), 31 August 2022 – Youth, children and adolescents comprise the core of India’s 1.3 billion strong population. Over 27 percent of the country’s population is between the ages of 15-29 years. At 253 million, India is also home to the world’s largest adolescent population (10-19 years). Hence, it is essential to engage this young population with education and activity-based learning, not only on academic, professional and vocational skills, but also on life skills that concern society at large – and on which their actions matter.

In this context, the International Youth Day 2022 in India was marked with a joint consultation meeting convened by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for South Asia and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) with senior officials of 12 key institutions of the Government of India, under the theme ‘Mainstreaming education on integrity, peace, SDGs and health: Empowering Youth, Educators and Families’. This notion is also reflected in India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

India’s massive youth population faces risks, however, including falling into drug use. According to a 2019 survey conducted by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), over 400,000 children and 1.8 million adults need help for inhalant abuse and dependence. Law enforcement agencies and health experts have also raised concerns over the rising drug use among young people.

One of the participants highlighted the need for stronger cooperation and coordination to counter the drug problem, noting that “young people have a right to know what risks, challenges, and vulnerabilities surround them. For this, education must enable them to act as responsible citizens with integrity, empathy and a sense of purpose. Prevention is key when it comes to addressing drugs and crime”.

As a response to the calls for support and engagement, UNODC showcased good practices in immersive activity-based learning, including its initiatives aimed at engaging students, educators and parents through education.

india2 jpg - In India, youth is key to integrity, peace, health and sustainable development
A participant during the Lockdown Learner Series. © UNODC

The UNODC Global Resource for Anti-Corruption Education and Youth Empowerment – i.e., the Global GRACE Initiative – brings to the international community knowledge and experience working with educators, academics, youth, and anti-corruption authorities to foster a culture of rejection of corruption. The Family Skills Programme, meanwhile, targets the whole family and offer skills-building for parents on monitoring and supervision of children’s activities, communication and setting age-appropriate limits. Finally, the Lockdown Learners series, initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic, offers continuous capacity building of educators and students on critical issues such as corruption, cybercrime, discrimination, misinformation, gender inequality, and the environment, among others. At the same time, the series also built capacities of educators and provided mentorship and knowledge support to students to develop initiatives/solutions to address social challenges.

The participants of the event (including officials from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, the Delhi Directorate of Education, NITI Aayog policy think tank, National Council on Educational Research and Training (NCERT), National Council on Vocational Educational Training (NCVET), National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (a system of central government schools), the National Anti-Doping Agency and Sarvodaya Vidyalayas school chain, among others) welcomed the UNODC initiative, emphasizing that engaging young people, families and educators effectively was critical to efforts aimed at building back better from the pandemic.

Recommendations from the event to effectively incorporate integrity, crime prevention, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and health in the school educational framework, in line with INEP 2020, will feed into UNODC’s planned activities for student engagement and educators’ capacity building in India.

This activity contributed to SDG 4 and SDG 16: https://sdg-tracker.org/.

Further information

To learn more about the work of UNODC’s Regional Office for South Asia, click here.

Raging Sons tell you to breathe easy, and you do

Raging Sons - Breathe Easy

They come from Limerick, Ireland, the country where music is maybe drunk more than Guinness (and that’s a lot!) and they have the Irish musical blood in their veins. Not that they sound like trad folk and sing in Gaelic, but you can definitely feel the influence of U2, either in their bass lines, their production or the vocals. But it’s still a song of its kind.  

“Breathe Easy” is very good pop-rock, well produced, and melodious song. I don’t know if it’s my imagination elaborating on their Limerick origin, but listening to it I could not help but having the sensation of flying above the green Irish grooves and clovers.

Besides that, they are four guys making the show: Fint Tynan is the singer, Colum Kelly plays guitar, Damien Ruddy’s got the bass (and sounds like Adam Clayton from U2), and Adam Reeves plays drums. Four young guys full of energy and poetry.

Here they tell you to breathe easy, which might be easy for you, unless you’re a young lady which gets crazy for these 4 folks, as it will surely happen in a very next future. Not that I’m a soothsayer, albeit sometimes I am, but I can predict without any backoff that Raging Sons will soon be one of the greatest rising bands on the European scene. They have everything for this, and above all, they make good music that makes you dream and cool down, even when it’s made of roaring distorted guitars.

Well, you understood, I liked it. Up to you now:

The song comes from their recently released album 20:20

Fint Tynan from Raging Sons 819x1024 - Raging Sons tell you to breathe easy, and you do
Fint Tynan from Raging Sons

Mint and red pepper kill the appetite, lead to weight loss


Which foods and products healthily reduce the desire to eat

A major factor in gaining weight is the enjoyment of food and the desire for more and more. Add mint to your menu and a miracle will happen to your figure – this herb induces a feeling of satiety and suppresses appetite, nutritionists say. According to them, the feeling of pleasure from eating occurs due to the production of endorphins, and mint contains a substance that helps to increase the level of this hormone of happiness.

Endorphins regulate mood and manage feelings of satiety. When consuming mint

menthol is released, which increases the production of the hormone in question

A study cited by the nutrition website Eat this, not that! found that people who smelled peppermint every two hours lost 2.2 kg of weight per month because their appetite decreased. The site advises weight-loss enthusiasts to keep peppermint extract in their purse and snort it often, especially when hungry. The lotion can be prepared at home with the essential oil of the herb. Sugar-free peppermint gum also helps.

And other products have been proven to lie about hunger and with them you can lose weight in a healthy way. Such are the nuts, which, although high in calories, contain appetite-suppressing fibers that are digested slowly and remain in the stomach longer, giving rise to a feeling of satiety. 1/4 cup of almonds, for example, contains 4 grams of such fiber. In addition, nuts are a source of healthy fats that lower cholesterol levels. Oatmeal is also rich in these fibers – there are 5 g of them in half a bowl. Porridge also increases levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone cholecystokinin.

Apples are a proven hunger killer, and they contain a lot of water, which is also satiating. The pectin in them protects against spikes in blood sugar, which increase the desire to eat.

And spices reduce the urge to chow down and increase metabolism. A study shows that people who season their soup with red pepper accumulate 60 fewer calories and burn 10 more calories per day than those who do not add the spice.

Avocados are full of monounsaturated fats, which are satiating. Half of this fruit on a piece of toast in the morning will kill your appetite until lunchtime.

So does edamame green soybeans—a half-cup serving contains only 95 calories, but more than 8 grams of filling protein.

Water-rich leafy vegetables fill the stomach permanently

Try a Brussels sprouts and kale salad for lunch.

The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed also suppress appetite, and a tablespoon of flaxseed contains 2.3 grams of them, as well as satiating fiber. The omega-6 in the seed increases cholecystokinin in the body. Chia seeds have a similar effect.

Eggs are a famous product for diets and the protein in them controls hunger for up to 36 hours. The ayrian protein drink burns excess fat and gives the body energy.

Eating acidic food curbs sweet cravings. In this regard, lemon is indispensable. Make a salad dressing with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, a spoonful of balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of honey, two spoons of chia seeds, and you will satisfy your hunger.

Vinegar also kills appetite because it slows stomach emptying and lowers the glycemic index when consuming carbohydrates such as pasta. Some people drink apple cider vinegar every day because it is rich in vitamins and aids in digestion.

Other appetite-suppressing foods include soup, beans, salmon, fruits and vegetables, and green tea. And to suppress the appetite, a glass of water with a little lemon before a meal is indispensable. At the same time, it hydrates the body, and people sometimes confuse dehydration with hunger.

Photo by Kim van Vuuren: https://www.pexels.com/photo/green-citrus-fruit-on-brown-wooden-surface-1590152/

Ukraine wants UNESCO to protect Odessa


Russian forces have advanced several tens of kilometers from the city

Ukraine’s government will ask the UN cultural watchdog to add the historic port of Odessa to the list of protected world heritage sites as Russia’s invasion continues.

Russian forces have advanced several tens of kilometers from the city, which flourished after Empress Catherine the Great decreed in the late 18th century that it would be Russia’s modern gateway to the Black Sea.

Analysts believe Russian President Vladimir Putin may soon direct a Russian advance on Odessa to completely block Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea, possibly with heavy bombardments like those that destroyed the Mariupol port.

In late July, the commercial port and other areas of the city were hit by missiles just hours after Russia agreed to allow Ukrainian grain to be shipped from it.

“On July 24, 2022, part of the glass canopy and windows of the Museum of Fine Arts, opened in 1899, were destroyed” by the impacts, UNESCO’s cultural agency said after its director Audrey Azoulay met with Ukraine’s culture minister Alexander Tkachenko in Paris.

It said UNESCO experts already on the ground would provide technical assistance so that Odessa could be urgently added to both the World Heritage List and the list of heritage sites in danger.

She will ask the World Heritage Committee to include the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv and the historic center of Lviv, which are already recognized as UNESCO sites, in the list of endangered sites.

The addition of a remarkable site or traditional activity to the UNESCO list aims to mobilize attention to ensure that they are preserved against threats to their existence.

The agency said 175 Ukrainian cultural and historical sites have been damaged since Russia began its invasion in February, including monuments, museums, libraries and religious buildings.

Many have suffered despite being marked with the distinctive “blue shield” that indicates they are protected by the 1954 Hague Convention on Culture in Armed Conflict, to which both Russia and Ukraine are signatories.

“The agency has already mobilized nearly 7 million dollars and provided several aid measures and experts to advise the specialists” working to protect the sites or to move the works of art to safer places, UNESCO said.

In July, Ukraine also won recognition of the beetroot soup, known as borscht, on its list of intangible cultural heritage, which it says is under threat from the Russian invasion.

Photo by Valeriya Kobzar: https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-concrete-statues-near-white-concrete-building-11293052/

The sounds that help us fall asleep like a baby


The average person spends a third of their life on earth sleeping. Although this may seem like a lot of sleep in your life, studies show that 1 in 3 adults still do not get enough sleep, and almost 30% of those people report that their lack of rest is caused by difficulty falling asleep.

These sounds will help you sleep like a baby:

1. Nature

Sounds from nature, such as steady rain, rustling leaves, wind, and a beating heart, are known as pink noise. Pink noise is a classification of sound that can be picked up by the human ear regardless of the frequency of the sound. Studies show that these environmental sounds slow down our brain waves and can help us fall asleep faster and more deeply. Yeah, they’re like that:

Running water

Light but constant rainfall

Fresh wind

Heart palpitations

Soft waves crashing on the shore

2. Balanced and consistent tones

More commonly known as white noise, these sounds have been found to effectively put fussy babies to sleep faster. White noise is spread in equal amplitude frequencies that are picked up by our ears, allowing the brain to maintain focus and concentration. This is helpful for people who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep because these sounds can cancel out other noises and help the brain focus on sleep.

Some forms of white noise you can try listening to in bed include:

Radio or TV static

The whirring sound of an electric fan

 Humming radiator

The quiet hum of an air conditioner

3. Low sounds

Some people find lower frequency sounds more soothing when it comes to falling asleep. These sounds are called brown noise. Compared to white and pink noise, brown is bold, deep and strong, like the rumble of thunder or crashing waves. Although the effectiveness of these deep noises has yet to be scientifically proven, there are a number of claims that brown noise has helped people with their sleep.

Types of brown noise you may hear include:

Ocean currents and powerful waterfalls

Crashing waves

Rumbling thunder

A soft roar or tremor

4. Kitchen noise

There are various noises in the kitchen that can actually help you fall asleep. The sizzling of food cooking in a pan is a form of pink noise, while the constant hum of a stove hood is a form of white noise. Even the motor of a running fridge or freezer can help you or a fussy child fall asleep.

5. Personal playlists

One of the main reasons we can’t sleep is caused by stress, and one way to relieve that tension is through music. Music has been shown to have a powerful effect on stress and emotions. By listening to a set of your favorite tunes before bed, you may be able to let go of your worries and clear your mind for a better night’s sleep.

6. Nothing

Sometimes all you need to fall asleep is some peace and quiet. Black noise or the sound of nothing is the complete silence you may need to get a good night’s sleep.

On virtues and vices


By St. John of Damascus

Therefore, it should be known that man, being dual ¬ composed of soul and body, also possesses dual sensations and accordingly ¬ their virtues; with five being the soul and five the body. And the perceptions of the soul, which the heathen philosophers call possibilities, are the following: reason, thought, opinion, idea, and sensation. The bodily ones are: sight, smell, hearing, taste and sensation. Whence their virtues are double, vices also double. So it is necessary for every man to know clearly how many are the passions of the soul and what are the passions of the body.

Of the virtues of the soul we say that there are four most exalted, which are the following: manliness, prudence, prudence, and justice, and from them arise those virtues of the soul: faith, hope, love, prayer, humility, meekness, longsuffering, endurance of evils , goodness, non-anger, divine knowledge, dispassion, simplicity, equanimity, unpretence, non-vanity, low-mindedness, unenvy, guilelessness, unselfishness, compassion, charity, charity, fearlessness, non-sorrow, contrition, respectability, fearlessness, desire for future good, aspiration for the kingdom God, desire to be adopted and [by God].

The bodily virtues are the following (or rather the means of the virtues), obtained in knowledge and from God, leading man out of all pretense and gratification, into the progress of humility, and to dispassion. And these are: abstinence, fasting, craving, staying awake, standing at night, kneeling unceasingly, not washing, wearing a single garment, eating dry food, eating scanty food, eating fast, drinking water and not wine, lying on one’s bed on the ground, poverty, impoverishment , neglect, non-coquettishness, unselfishness, seclusion, tranquility, sitting at home, scarcity, self-sufficiency, silence, doing work with one’s own hands, and all forbearance of evil, exercise of the body, all of which are precisely the most necessary and useful, in a situation, that the body is healthy even when it is disturbed by carnal passions. And if he is sick and has survived with God’s help from them, they are not so necessary, since holy humility and prayer fill everything.

We are obliged, therefore, to speak of both spiritual and bodily passions. And the passions of the soul are these: forgetfulness, ignorance, from these very passions the eye of the soul, i.e. the mind, darkened, is governed by all passions, such as these: impiety, wrong opinion, i.e. every heresy, blasphemy, anger, wrath, malice, short temper, hatred of man, spitefulness, slander, condemnation, unreasonable despondency, fear, apprehension, quarrelsomeness, jealousy, envy, vanity, pride, pretense, falsehood, unbelief, desire for more, desire for material gain, partiality, attachment to earthly things, indifference, narrow-mindedness, ingratitude, murmuring, vanity, prejudice, haughtiness, boasting, lust for power, people-pleasing, deceit, shamelessness, insensibility, flattery, dissimulation, mockery, duplicity, habituation to the sins of the passionate part [of the soul] and constant preoccupation with them, wandering of thoughts, love of self ¬ parent of all evils; and the root of all evil is covetousness, and malice, and wickedness.

And the passions of the flesh are: gluttony, gluttony, luxury, drinking, eating in secret, every lust for pleasure, fornication, adultery, licentiousness, moral impurity, incest, corruption of children, bestiality, evil desires and all unnatural and shameful passions, theft, robbery of shrines, robbery, murder, bodily indulgence and enjoyment of the pleasures of the flesh (when the body is stronger), divination, sorcery, incantations, bird-divination, gossiping, coquettishness, ear-ringing, idle talk, adornment, massaging the faces, reprehensible idleness, wandering of the mind, gambling, addiction and abuse of worldly pleasures, living for the sake of the body, which fattens the mind and makes it earthly and animal, and never allows it to rise to God and to the perfection of virtue.

Roots of all passions and as some would say ¬ riots ¬ are love of pleasure, love of fame, love of money, from which all evil is born. But a man commits no sin unless, as Mark, the wisest of ascetics, says, he has been overcome and subdued by these mighty giants; namely: forgetfulness, carelessness and ignorance. They give them pleasure and relaxation, this ¬ to love fame among people, anointing. And the primary cause of all these, and in the capacity of the most evil mother, as has already been said, is self-love, or unreasonable love of the body and strong excitement, because the dissipation and release of reason by jokes and shameful thoughts are the hosts of many evils and downfalls, such as recklessness and laughter.

In addition to all this, it must be understood how diverse and diverse the passionate love of pleasures is and that many pleasures deceive the soul when it is not sober according to God, does not behave from the fear of God and from the love of Christ, occupied by work on the virtues. Precisely because a thousand pleasures are brought about, drawing the eyes of the soul to themselves: these are [pleasures] of the body, of money, of luxury, of fame, of carelessness, of anger, of social position, of avarice, of excess. And in the guile they appear with a look of splendor and pleasing; they are apt to attract those who look with reverence on such things, and do not particularly love virtue, and cannot endure its hardness. Any association with anything earthly and attachment to any of the material things causes useless and [even] harmful pleasure and enjoyment of addictions. The passionate libido of the soul in him shows how because of this [he], oppressed by deprivation of what is desired, throws himself into anger, wrath, sadness, and bad memory.

But if by means of predilection, and whatever established habit, it seems that one imperceptibly and incurably drifts to the end of the unreasonable predilection, which prepares the one caught by the hidden pleasure in himself. For, as was said before, the pleasure occasioned by desire is diverse; and it is filled not only with fornication and other bodily pleasures, but also with other passions. Therefore, to be wise is not only to abstain from fornication and subliminal pleasures, but also to be outside of other pleasures. Because of them the lover of money, silver and luxury is insatiable. Just as he loves the body, so this one loves money. But this one is more insatiable, inasmuch as there is no such force of nature to repel it.

So we must clearly understand that the love of pleasures does not consist only in licentiousness and enjoyment of the bodies, but also in every manner and deed of the soul’s personal choice because of predilection. But in order to understand more clearly about the passions according to the trimerium of the soul, we decided to briefly state the following.

On the tripartiteness of the soul

The soul is divided into three: rational, sensual and instinctive. Of the sensible sins are the following: unbelief, heresy, imprudence, slander, ingratitude, and approval of bodily sins, which arise from the passionate portion [of the soul]. The cure for these evils is unshakable faith in God, true and firm and orthodox dogmas of piety, unceasing care for the thoughts of the spirit, pure and unceasing prayer, and communion before God.

For the sensual

On the sensual side, the sins are the following: cowardice, hatred, hard-heartedness, malice, envy and murder, constant concern for such things. The treatment and therapy of these is humanity, love and kindness.

For the drive

On the instinctive part, the sins are the following: gluttony, gluttony, excessive drinking of wine, fornication, adultery, impurity, unrestrainedness, love of money, passion for empty fame, and for gold and wealth, and for carnal pleasures. Their treatment is: fasting, abstinence, longsuffering of evils, non-suffering, distribution of personal means to the poor, striving for those future immortal goods, seeking the kingdom of God, and earnestly desiring to be adopted by God.

We need to write something also about the judgment of the thoughts born of passion, through which every sin is committed.

Eight are all the thoughts that encompass evil: the thought of gluttony, that of fornication, that of avarice, anger, sadness, carelessness, vanity, haughtiness.

Illustration: V. M. Vasnetsov, St. Virgin and Child (Kyiv), fresco, XIX c.

God not being responsible for evil [2]


Author: St. Basil the Great (330-378)

But still evil exists and it is obvious how much it is spread throughout the world. Therefore, they say: “Whence is it, if it is not without beginning and not created?” Investigating this, we will ask where do diseases come from? Where did the bodily harm come from? Disease is not something unborn, but it is not a creature of God either. On the contrary, animals are created with a constitution which resembles them according to their nature, and are introduced into life as perfect organisms; they get sick when they deviate from what is natural for them: either from bad food or from some other disease-causing cause. Therefore, God created the body, not the disease. The soul has become damaged, deviating from what is natural for it. And what was the most important good for her? Abiding with God and being united with Him through love.

Falling away from Him, she began to suffer from various infirmities. Why is she even susceptible to evil? By reason of a free striving, more than anything peculiar to the rational nature. Not being bound by any necessity, given by the Creator a free life as created in the image of God, she understands the good, knows how to enjoy it, is endowed with freedom and strength, residing in the contemplation of the beautiful and in reasonable enjoyment, can observe the natural for her life; but there is also the freedom to deviate from the beautiful at times. And this happens when, satiated by the blissful pleasure and as in a kind of slumber, falling from her exalted state, she enters into communion with the flesh for vile pleasures of voluptuousness.

Adam was once high, not by habitation, but by good will; high was he when, receiving a soul, he saw heaven, admired its beauty, loved the Benefactor, who granted him the enjoyment of eternal life, placed him in the midst of heaven, gave him a rulership in the likeness of the angels, made him similar to the archangels and able to listens to the Divine voice. Despite all this, being under the protection of God and enjoying His benefits, he soon became fed up with everything and, being blinded by spiritual beauty, preferred what appeared pleasant to the carnal eyes and placed the filling of the stomach above the spiritual.

Soon he was out of heaven, out of the blissful life, becoming evil not out of necessity but out of recklessness. Thus he, having sinned by wrong choice, died by sin. God is life, and the deprivation of life is death. Adam himself prepared death by moving away from God according to what is written: “Those who move away from You perish” (Ps. 72:27). God did not prevent our destruction, for reasons explained above, lest he should preserve the defect itself in us as immortal, any more than the potter would put into the fire a vessel of clay which leaks, until he had corrected the defect in question.

But they will say, “Why is not infallibility built into our very constitution, so that we cannot sin even if we would?” Therefore, because you also do not recognize your servants as good as long as you keep them bound, but when you see that they voluntarily perform their duties before you. Therefore, God is pleased not with compulsion, but with virtue. And virtue comes from good will, not necessity. And good will depends on what is in us; and that which is in us is free. Thus, he who reproaches the Creator for not having made us naturally sinless, he actually prefers an unreasonable nature to a rational one, an immovable and desireless nature to a nature endowed with free will and action.

This is said as a necessary deviation, so that a person who has fallen into the abyss of thought, by losing what he desires, may not also lose God. So let’s stop correcting the Wise. Let’s stop looking for something better than what He created. Although the reasons for its private provisions are hidden from us, let us affirm in our souls that no evil proceeds from the Good.

Related to this question about concepts is another – about the devil. “Where is the devil from, if evil is not of God?” What shall we say to that? In such a matter the same reasoning which we have presented concerning the cunning of man is sufficient. Why is a person cunning? Of his own will. Why is the devil evil? For the same reason, because he also had a free life, and he was given the power to dwell with God or to depart from the Good. Gabriel is an angel and is always before God. Satan is an angel who has completely fallen from his rank. Good will preserved the former in the heights, and freedom of will overthrew the latter. But the first was preserved by the insatiable love of God, and the second was made to be denied by moving away from God. That which is alienated from God is evil. A small movement of the eye causes us to either look at the sunny side or to be on the shadow side of our body. And there enlightenment is ready for him who looks straight on, obscuration is necessary for him who turns his gaze to the shadow. So also the devil is cunning, having his cunning according to his will, not that his nature is contrary to good.

“Why is he at enmity with us?” Therefore, becoming the receptacle of every vice, he took in himself the disease of envy and envied our honor. Our happy life in paradise was unbearable for him. Deceiving man with treachery and cunning and using as a means of deception precisely the same desire that man had – to be like God, he showed the tree and promised that by tasting the fruit man would become like God. Because he said: “In the day you taste of them, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Therefore, he was not created as our enemy, but out of envy he was brought to enmity with us. For, seeing that he himself was cast down by the angels, he could not indifferently watch how the earth-born, through success, was elevated to angelic dignity.

And inasmuch as he became an enemy, God preserved our resistance to him, when, referring a threat to himself, he said to the beast that served as his weapon: “I will sow enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed” (Gen. 3:15). It is really harmful to get close to vice, because in those who get close, such a union of friendship arises usually as a result of simulating one another. It has been rightly said: “Do not lie, evil talk corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33). As in countries with an unhealthy climate the air inhaled even for a short time is bound to cause disease, so bad society brings great disturbance to the soul. That is why the enmity with the snake is irreconcilable. If the cannon is worthy of such abhorrence, then should we not be at war even more with the wielder of the cannon?

But they will say, “What was the tree in Paradise for, by means of which the devil could succeed in his malice against us? And if there was not that tempting bait, how could he draw us into death by disobedience?” It was because a commandment was needed to test our obedience. Therefore, it was a plant bearing beautiful fruit, that we, abstaining from what is pleasant, might show the excellence of abstinence, and rightly be honored with crowns of patience. After the tasting followed not only transgression of the commandment, but also knowledge of nakedness. “She ate and gave to her husband, and he also ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked” (Gen. 3:6-7). And it was not necessary to know the nakedness, so that the mind of man would not be distracted, inventing clothes and protection from the nakedness, and in general, with cares for the flesh, to divert his focused attention in pursuit of God.

But why was he not provided with clothes immediately after creation? Because neither natural nor artificial clothes were decent. Natural clothing is characteristic of the speechless: such are feathers, fur, and rough skin capable of protecting against cold and enduring heat. And in this one animal does not have the slightest advantage over another, because in all nature is of equal dignity. And it was proper for a man according to the love of God to receive excellent gifts and goods. Exercises in art would produce a scarcity of time, which was chiefly to be avoided as injurious to man. That is why the Lord, once again calling us to a heavenly life, removes care from our souls, saying: “Do not worry about your soul – what you will eat and drink – nor about your body, what you will wear” (Mat. 6:25) . Therefore, it was not necessary for man to have both natural and artificial coverings. On the contrary, if he had shown his prowess, other coverings would have been prepared for him, which, by the grace of God, would have beautified the man and would have shone upon him in the form of bright garments, similar to those of angels, surpassing the variegated colors, lightness and radiance of the stars. For this reason, garments were immediately given to man, because they were intended for him as a reward for virtue, but the malice of the devil prevented man from receiving them.

And so the devil became our adversary in consequence of the fall to which we were brought by his malice. And according to God’s house-building, we are in a struggle with him in order to defeat him with obedience and triumph over the adversary. Another thing, if he had not become a devil, but resided in the rank in which the Chief had first placed him! But inasmuch as he became an apostate, an enemy of God and an enemy of men, created in the image of God (he is a man-hater for the same reason that he is a God-fighter: he hates us as God’s creations, he hates us also as God’s likeness), then the wise and the benevolent Master of human affairs availed himself of his cunning for the training of our souls, as the physician uses the poison of the echidna in the composition of a salutary medicine.

“Who is the devil? What is his rank? What dignity does he have? And why is he actually called Satan?

– Because it is an opponent of good. Such is the meaning of the Hebrew word, as we know from the book Kingdom. “And the Lord raised up an adversary for Solomon – Adera the Idumean, of the Idumean royal family” (3 Kings 11:14). He is a devil because he is both an instigator and an accuser of our sins, he rejoices in our destruction and makes a mockery of our deeds. And his nature is incorporeal according to the words of the Apostle: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness” (Eph. 6:12). The place of his leadership is in the air, as the same Apostle says: “The prince of the power of the air, that is, of the spirit that now works in the sons of unbelief” (Eph. 2:2). That is why he is called the prince of this world, because his authority is in the heavenly realms. Thus the Lord says: “Now is judgment upon this world; now will the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). And also: “The prince of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (John 14:30). When talking about the host of the devil, that these are “the heavenly spirits of malice” (Eph. 6:12), it should be known that the Scriptures usually call the sky air, for example, “the birds of the air” (Matt. 6:26) – and “ascend unto the heavens” (Ps. 106:26), that is, rise high into the air. That is why the Lord saw “Satan fall from heaven like lightning” (Lk. 10:18), i.e. removed from his power, thrown down below, so that those who trust in the Lord will defeat him. Because He has given His disciples “power to tread on serpents and scorpions and on every power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19).

To the extent that his evil oppression has been defeated and the earth has been purified through the redemptive sufferings of the Peacemaker of “all that is in Heaven and that is on earth” (Col. 1:16), then the Kingdom of God is already preached to us. Thus John spoke: “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mat. 3:2), and the Lord everywhere preaches the “Gospel of the Kingdom” (Mat. 4:23) and from the beginning the angels exclaim: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.” (Luke 2:14), and those rejoicing because of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem exclaim: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38). In all, thousands are the victorious voices testifying to the final overthrow of the enemy; therefore, that there may remain no struggle and no feat in the heights, no one opposes or diverts us from the blessed life, but we may calmly go forward to enjoy the tree of life for ever, to join that which hindered us at first the cunning of the serpent, for “God set a Cherubim and a flaming sword… to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24). By completing this path without hindrance, let us enter into the grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord, to whom be glory and dominion forever!


Source: Works of Basil the Great, Archbishop of Caesarea Cappadocia. Ed. 4, h. 4. Holy Troitskaya Sergieva Lavra, 1901 (in Russian).

The Russian prosecutor’s office requested 24 years in prison for journalist Ivan Safronov


On 30th of August, the Russian Prosecutor’s Office requested 24 years in prison for the journalist and specialist in military affairs Ivan Safronov, who was accused of treason and has been arrested since 2020, reported France Press.

“The prosecutor’s office requested that Safronov be found guilty of treason and sentenced to 24 years in prison,” said the Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office, quoted by TASS. The information was released after a closed court hearing.

Thirty-two-year-old Safronov is a defense expert and was arrested in July 2020, amid increasing pressure on the independent press in Russia.

According to Safronov’s colleagues, the trial against him is revenge for his articles, which described existing gaps in the armed forces and cases that put the army in an embarrassing position.

Since the following April, the hearings in Safronov’s case have been held behind closed doors, since it is about accusations of espionage and treason. When the trial began, the journalist declared his innocence and criticized the “incredible cynicism” of the Russian justice system.

Safronov worked for two Russian dailies – Vedomosti and Kommersant. After he was forced to leave Kommersant in 2019, in May 2020 he became an adviser to the former director of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin.

According to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSS), Safronov is suspected of “handing over state secrets related to Russia’s military-technical cooperation and security to an intelligence service of a NATO country.”

The Kremlin assures that the arrest of Ivan Safronov has nothing to do with his activities as a journalist

A Russian rapper who opposes the war in Ukraine can also be declared an extremist.

The Moscow prosecutor’s office asked a court to declare the work of the rapper Oxxxymiron, one of the most popular musicians in Russia, who publicly opposed the invasion of Ukraine, as “extremist”, reported Reuters.

A spokesman for the Moscow prosecutor’s office said the rapper was being investigated for “justifying violence” because of the content of one of his songs, Interfax reported. According to Russian law, any content declared “extremist” is banned, BTA reported.

Oksimiron, whose real name is Miron Fedorov, became known for his politicized song lyrics, often targeting the Kremlin and its policies. Shortly after the start of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, he canceled a planned tour of Russia, saying: “I can’t entertain you while Russian missiles are falling in Ukraine.” He then left Russia and gave a series of concerts in Istanbul, London and Berlin under the title “Russians against the war”. Proceeds from these events go to Ukrainian refugees.

Photo: Ivan Safronov stands in a defendant’s cell during a court hearing in Moscow on August 30, 2022 / Press Office of the Moscow City Court

Philippoi or Philippopolis, Nicopolis Epirus or Nicopolis ad Nestum


Author: Ivan Dimitrov, Sofia, Bulgaria

In the Biblical science, including New Testament research, assumptions and hypotheses are often expressed, and great efforts are made to defend opinions that differ from traditionally accepted facts about biblical personalities or events. The motives for efforts of this kind could be different, but very often they are related to the desire of certain authors to offer solutions that satisfy their personal ambitions in science (and not just in science). Usually there is a desire to prove something that, according to the authors, will increase the authority of their homeland or their country. But a motive could be not only that, as is the case with the Dr. Heinz Warnecke’s study of the site of the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck on his way to Rome[i].

We see such an example in the aspiration of some ambitious Bulgarian scholars to redraw the path of the preaching activity of the apostle Paul on the Balkan Peninsula. Similar attempts have been made with regard as well to other historical figures outside of biblical history.

And now specifically to the examples. In connection with the story of the Acts of the Apostles about the preaching of the apostle Paul in the city of Philippoi, Macedonia, some Bulgarian scholars have been seduced by the possibility that he went not to the city of Philippoi, but to the city of Philippopolis.[ii]

The reason is that at thе time of apostle Paul’s visit Philippoi was a “small town” inhabited by Roman military colonists – veterans, while Philippopolis was a large city with a developed economic, cultural and religious life, including a synagogue building. The city of Philippopolis is on the banks of the big river Hebros (today called Maritsa), which at that time was navigable.[iii] Dr. Asen Chilingirov from Berlin in his book “Apostle Paul, Philippoi and Philippopolis” and in a number of other related publications tries to refute the traditional perception of the testimony of Acts and the Paul’s epistles, and his position gained considerable popularity, especially among non-specialists. Guided by unscientific criteria, many ask themselves: why should we accept that the apostle was in the city of Philippoi and not in the city with the similar-sounding name of Philippopolis? In addition, Dr. Chilingirov points to a significant number of scientific literature that he has studied and on whose information he relies. But, of course, he interprets the information in his own way and is definitely biased.

Such a statement is confronted above all with the repeated mention of the name of the city of Philippoi outside the story in Acts 16. Here are the examples:

In Acts 20:6 the author notes: “we sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we joined them in Troas” (ἡμεῖς δὲ ἐξεπλεύσαμεν μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας τῶν ἀζύμων ἀπὸ Φιλίππων καὶ ἤλθομεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν Τρῳάδα ἄχρι ἡμερῶν πέντε). Of course, they started from Neapolis, which served as a port for the important city of Philippoi.[iv]

At the beginning of the Epistle to the Philippians (Philippians 1:1), the name of the city of Philippoi is mentioned: „Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi” (Παῦλος καὶ Τιμόθεος δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Φιλίπποις).

At the end of the same epistle (4:15), the apostle called the local Christians by the name of their city, associating them with the province of Macedonia: „You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia…” (οἴδατε δὲ καὶ ὑμεῖς, Φιλιππήσιοι, ὅτι ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, ὅτε ἐξῆλθον ἀπὸ Μακεδονίας…).

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2: 2) speaks of what happened to the apostle in the city of Philippoi: „but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition” (ἀλλὰ προπαθόντες καὶ ὑβρισθέντες, καθὼς οἴδατε, ἐν Φιλίπποις ἐπαρρησιασάμεθα ἐν τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν λαλῆσαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν πολλῷ ἀγῶνι).

Even assuming that an error was made in one of these places and the name Philippoi was recorded instead of Philippopolis, it is difficult to accept that in all places the information about the city of Philippoi is wrong,[v] and it must be understand the other city named after the Macedonian ruler Philip II – Philippopolis. On the other hand, if the apostle Paul intended to go to Philippopolis, which is still in the province of Thrace, and not in the province of Macedonia, then from Troas he would easily cross the Hellespont Strait (now the Dardanelles) and travel north first and then northwest to Philippopolis. It was not necessary to sail to the island of Samothrace, from there to the port of Neapolis (now Kavala), and only then to look for a way on the river Hebros to Philippopolis. A separate issue is that sailing against the current of this river was not easy. In some places the depth is small and was sailed mainly by rafts, which were pulled upstream by horses. In any case, the apostolic route drawn by the author of the Acts through the island of Samothrace and Neapolis naturally leads to the city of Philippoi.

The history of the apostolic work of St. Paul, as can be seen from the description of his missionary journeys, witnesses that his goals were mainly the larger cities on the Mediterranean coast, in which there were also Jewish synagogues, i.e. Jewish communities. The apostle always sought to preach first among them, as he himself points out in his letter to the Roman Christians: „to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι – Rom. 1:16; 2:10). He did this both because of the Jews’ familiarity with the expectation of the Messiah and because of their knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.

It is true, that in Asia Minor the apostle Paul went into the mainland, but because of its geographical proximity to Palestine, there was a Jewish community in every major settlement. Nevertheless, the apostle did not go very deep into the land of the peninsula of Asia Minor. While the problem with Philippopolis is that the city is too far (about 300 km) from the Mediterranean coast, and respectively, from the usual route of the apostle, traveling west or east.

The other ancient city that is claimed to be a biblical site is the town of Nicopolis ad Nestum in the middle reaches of the Mesta River in southern Bulgaria. Strange as it may seem, some researchers claim that this is the city where apostle Paul wished to spend the winter months, as he wrote to his disciple Titus: „When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there” (Ὅταν πέμψω Ἀρτεμᾶν πρὸς σὲ ἢ Τύχικον, σπούδασον ἐλθεῖν πρός με εἰς Νικόπολιν, ἐκεῖ γὰρ κέκρικα παραχειμάσαι (Tit 3:12).

A few kilometers from the current Bulgarian town Gotse Delchev can be seen excavated remains of Nicopolis ad Nestum[vi]. According to archeological finds, the city existed in the second millennium BC. As a Thracian settlement during the Hellenistic era, it was known by the Greek name Alexandropolis, and was called Nicopolis by Emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus in 106, when he conquered Dacia and established it as a Roman province. Trajan gives the name Nicopolis („city of victory”) to two cities in Thrace, located along the rivers Ister (Danube) and Nestos (Mesta).[vii] In any case, this did not happen until the beginning of the second century AD. or about half a century after the apostle Paul’s supposed wintering in a town called Nicopolis.

Titus 3:12 is the only place in the New Testament where the city of Nicopolis is mentioned. The text of the epistle to Titus does not specify exactly where this city was. In fact in ancient times there were many cities wi