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  • Writer's pictureWatch and Pray

Weekly round-up of news: 25 April

Churches and pastors are facing fines relating to the lockdown over Coronavirus:

Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi, California, just south of the state’s capital, is suing California governor Gavin Newsom, as well as other state and local government officials, for criminalizing religious gatherings until further notice.

The US Department of Justice has weighed in on a case involving a Mississippi church that sued the city of Greenville after local officials fined residents for attending its drive-in religious services on Easter Sunday. In a Statement of Interest filed on Tuesday, the federal department sided with Mississippi church and suggested the city’s actions were effectively targeting forms of religious conduct during the coronavirus pandemic.

A livestream of the service at The River at Tampa Bay Church on ... as Mayor de Blasio warns people may be fined $500 for not staying home.

Spain coronavirus police raid church & evict worshippers – risking a £500k fine. Police have raided a church and evicted the congregation after ...

A Canadian street preacher known for feeding the homeless is vowing to fight a 'social distancing' health fine he received for conducting an outdoor ministry.

According to the Rebel News report, police were allegedly tipped off by neighbors that Rose was holding an event at his home…. Rose said there were five adults in total in attendance at his home for the seder night.

It is no revelation that central banks are actively engaged in both the research and piloting of central bank digital currencies. But the mechanics of how they are conducting their programmes is not as widely recognised. This is largely because the information is buried within the pages of mundane reports, speeches and discussion papers. A few headlines might be glossed over in the financial press, but the technical aspects are usually not considered.

The US is convinced, and it is not wrong, that the Saudis have deliberately crashed oil prices to destroy the American shale industry. When the US became the world’s largest energy producer, it spelt ruin for the leg-shackle the kingdom had on it for decades prior. There was less and less reason for the US to remain mired in the violent politics and terrorism of the Middle East; instead, it could pivot its energies to an aggressive and expansionist China. This might be that year……

LTRP Note: The following article is from Roger Oakland’s booklet A Christian Perspective on the Environment: How the Catholic Pope and Other Leaders Are Uniting the World’s Religions Through Environmentalism. You may also wish to read Carl Teichrib’s article/booklet, Earth Day and a Total Transformation for a Post-Christian World…. This idea that “Mother Earth” is sick is strangely familiar in light of the Bible and also history. Throughout biblical history, mankind has always leaned toward this direction of worshipping the creation and not the Creator.

The ordination included indigenous songs, dances, bead necklaces, and traditional headwear, as well as the use of animals’ teeth, shells and snails, and bracelets made of vegetable fibres…… The event received international attention when the Holy See’s official news service, Vatican News, published a short report on Monday under the title: “First ever ordination of an indigenous deacon in a diocese in western Brazil.”

Humanity has 'sinned against the earth,' said Pope Francis…. Pope Francis has insisted once again that natural disasters, like the Wuhan coronavirus, are the unforgiving earth’s revenge for sins against the environment. The pontiff made his remarks as part of yesterday’s weekly general audience, one dedicated to celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Liz Truss has promised to uphold single-sex spaces and to protect gender non-conforming children. The moments I want to hug a politician are rare, particularly in these times of social distancing. But Liz Truss’s announcement this week left me a bit gooey. Setting out her priorities as minister for women and equalities, Truss confirmed that the protection of single-sex spaces would be maintained. She added that adults who identify as transgender will be protected from discrimination but with ‘checks and balances’ to prevent abuse of the system. She also indicated that children who identify as trans will be protected from making ‘irreversible’ decisions about their bodies.

SpaceX has banned use of Zoom for remote operations. So have Google, Apple, NASA, and New York City schools. Earlier this week, the FBI warned about Zoom teleconferences and live classrooms being hacked by trolls; security experts warn that holes in the technology make user data vulnerable to exploitation…… But we are missing a larger question as we grapple with these security flaws. Zoom today is a publicly-traded American company listed on NASDAQ, but the company’s mainline app is developed by China-based subsidiaries. Its servers in China also appear to have transmitted the company’s AES-128 encryption keys earlier this year,….. Beijing’s intelligence laws obligate Zoom and other companies with nexus in China to share data held on the mainland with Chinese government authorities upon request.

Senior party figures including Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat and former Cabinet minister Damian Green last night launched a new “China Research Group” to “promote fresh thinking and debate” about international relations with the communist regime. The organisation is understood to have been inspired by the European Research Group which has been hugely influential in driving Tory policy towards the EU….. China Research Group secretary Neil O’Brien said: “Beijing is acting in a highly strategic way to dominate the industries of the future. “Our businesses are being asked to compete unfairly with state-backed Chinese firms. 'Secretive' Chinese Communist Party let COVID-19 get 'out of ... ……THE FORMER Governor of Hong Kong, Lord Patten, furiously lashed out at the Chinese Communist Party for "deliberate lies" during the ...

To avoid opportunistic takeovers during the coronavirus outbreak, India said this week that all foreign direct investment from countries sharing a land border would require prior government clearance, meaning they can’t go through a so-called automatic route. Advisers to Chinese firms have said they are concerned the process could take several weeks and hit deals and investment timelines. Auto firms such as SAIC’s (600104.SS) MG Motor and Great Wall (601633.SS), and investors Alibaba (BABA.N) and Tencent (0700.HK) have placed major bets on India.

European governments, which have sought to be global standard-bearers in their commitment to privacy protections, are having to tread more cautiously than South Korea, Israel and China, where digital surveillance is being used aggressively to follow citizens’ movements and identify those who may have been exposed to the virus. ....Germany, France, the Netherlands and Britain are among those exploring apps that work along the same lines: opt-in rather than mandatory, with data kept anonymous, and no GPS information going to governments or telecom companies. The approach could appeal in the United States, where many citizens are likewise distrustful of government snooping. Google and Apple announced this past week that they would collaborate to build a similar system that could work on iPhones and Android phones.

THURSDAY marked 150 years since the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, the communist revolutionary and political theorist who served as head of the Soviet government from 1917 to his death in 1924. Just another day for most of us but for London Young Labour (LYL), a Labour-affiliated group with more than 15,000 members aged 14-26, it was a cause for celebration. Accompanied by a striking image of Marx and Lenin on a British National Union of Mineworkers flag, the group tweeted that Lenin’s ‘legacy and the legacy of the Russian revolution still inspires millions around the world to fight. For peace and socialism!’ …… At the time of writing the tweet had received almost 2,000 likes and has even been defended by former coalition Business Minister Sir Vince Cable.

Their exploitation of the pandemic for their own political ends is shameful.

Every tragedy is an opportunity in disguise. At least, that’s how those most vehemently opposed to Britain leaving the EU seem to view coronavirus. To them, the global pandemic is just one more opportunity to battle against Brexit…… From the moment news of coronavirus emerged from China, the pandemic has been used to argue for extending the UK’s transition period for negotiating full withdrawal from the EU.

He had been called a ‘disgrace to his country’ for asking the British state to fund a £500 million bailout – despite reportedly not paying income tax for 14 years. Sir Richard also came under fire for asking Virgin Atlantic staff to take eight weeks unpaid leave. Mr O’Leary went on: ‘It’s not like he’s short of money. You know his Virgin Galatic investment is worth about £1.3 billion today. ‘So sitting in the Virgin Islands as a tax exile, asking the British government to bail you out, when you have more than sufficient resources to bail out Virgin Atlantic yourself is not something I believe that should be considered.’

Dr Emily Cousens, a lecturer at Oxford and LSE, has today stolen the OpEd spotlight today with a piece in the Huffington Post, which prays that Oxford does not win the race to develop a vaccine for her fear that “it will be used as it has been in the past, to fulfil its political, patriotic function as proof of British excellence.” Cousens is studying for a PhD in gender studies sat Oxford Brookes, so she knows what she’s talking about…Emily is so wedded to her hatred of seeing Britain succeed she won’t let her dogma “overshadow” being able to see her dad again soon, who she mentions is “increasingly worried he won’t be able to return to his usual ways for years – until such a vaccine is developed”.

Late yesterday afternoon was mired in political farce when the FCO boss Simon McDonald suggested that Britain’s decision not to take part in the EU’s PPE procurement scheme was a “political” one, in direct contradiction to the Government’s given explanation of an email communications failure. Hancock immediately denied the claim by McDonald and hours later the top mandarin issued a correction stating he was wrong and it was, after all, not a political decision. The writers of Yes Minister would have rejected such a scenario… Regardless of the merits of UK non-participation…. the EU scheme has not delivered a single piece of PPE equipment to a single member state.

Insiders at the UK's biggest selling Sunday title say relations with Downing Street have broken down after a series of investigations focusing on the prime minister…… But in those first hundred days it was Rupert Murdoch’s flagship Sunday broadsheet — the paper that leads the weekly agenda in Westminster more often than any rival — that rained down three heavy blows on Johnson….. The Sunday Times is changing too, as several senior staff members depart and it moves closer to a merger with the daily Times operation under a new editor with a vision to modernise, attract a younger audience and, according to sources on the paper, transform it into a premium, politically liberal brand like the New York Times.

Yes, the lockdown is doing terrible damage to the economy and if it goes on for much longer some of that damage at least may well be irreparable. But any exit out of lockdown, particularly in the absence of mass testing, tracing and isolation – a strategy of which there is still zero sign, unless the farcical “Dad’s Army” proposal for thousands of volunteers to trace virus carriers is taken as anything other than a sign of utter desperation – will mean that more people will die from the virus or become seriously ill.

An EU report about Chinese and Russian disinformation on coronavirus was watered down after pressure from Beijing. Three people confirmed to POLITICO that Chinese diplomats exerted pressure on the EU to change the wording of the report, details of which were first reported in Brussels Playbook on Tuesday. The report — on "narratives and disinformation" around the coronavirus pandemic — was finally published on Friday with heavily toned-down language on China. Most strikingly, references to China running a "global disinformation" campaign and Chinese criticism of France's reaction to the pandemic were erased.

As part of the deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has served as caretaker prime minister since December 2018, will remain prime minister for another 18 months and then will be replaced in October 2021 by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who will serve as vice prime minister in the meantime. Netanyahu will be vice prime minister under Gantz after that, but if Netanyahu leaves the Prime Minister's Office sooner, Gantz would already take over…… US President Donald Trump's peace plan, including its clauses enabling Israel to apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, will be able to be implemented in July, when maps are set to be finalized

Senior officials in the European Union and United Nations on Thursday warned Israel not to annex parts of the West Bank, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz signed a coalition agreement saying the move could potentially go ahead as early as July. The European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, issued a stark warning against the intention to annex parts of the West Bank, saying that such a move “would constitute a serious violation of international law.” Tough on Israel, fond of Iran: Jerusalem wary of incoming EU foreign policy czar - Mogherini successor Josep Borrell last year denounced Netanyahu’s ‘warlike arrogance’ and advocated for unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood

Why doesn’t the EU make aid to the Palestinians conditional on their stopping the most vulgar forms of anti-Semitism? It’s easy to see how the Coronavirus pandemic has sparked anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. They are a part of the classical paradigm, and the Jews have again become what the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni called “the plague spreaders of 1630.” This has happened every time there has been a plague, as, for example, the Black Death which swept through the Middle East and Europe in the years 1346-1353. Then the Jews were blamed – as they are today for Covid-19 – for these outbreaks, but it could have been syphilis, tuberculosis or parasites.

France threatened to change the nature of its ties with Israel, should the nascent government annex parts of the West Bank, in Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Rivière’s remarks to the Security Council on Thursday……. “The EU’s position on the status of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 remains unchanged,” the statement reads. “The EU does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank. The EU reiterates that any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law.”

WHO's frequently issued coronavirus situation reports – the most recent dated April 23 – do not list Israel as a country in the Eastern Mediterranean Region – although it does list its neighbors, including Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon….. Instead, in all the reports, the state of Israel is listed as being in the "European Region" alongside the likes of Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. The "Occupied Palestinian Territory" is given its own category under "territories." WHO did not immediately respond to a request for comment or clarification.

The dominant antagonism between globalist and insular nationalist politicians has certainly been exacerbated. For instance, President Donald Trump’s suspension of financing for the World Health Organisation (WHO), a United Nations agency, followed his long-running attacks on other forms of globalist multilateralism, from NATO to the G20…… And the attacks on Trump during the Covid-19 crisis from other Western governments have been similarly consistent with their pre-existing globalist playbook. The European Union and other globalist-leaning leaders condemned Trump’s move against the WHO as an act of destructive ‘economic nationalism’. And they did so even though the WHO has been widely criticised for its performance by others far beyond the White House.

China was appointed on Wednesday to a United Nations Human Rights Council panel where it will play a key role in picking the world body’s human rights investigators — including global monitors on freedom of speech, health, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detention — in a move that has sparked protest by international human rights activists. “Allowing China’s oppressive and inhumane regime to choose the world investigators on freedom of speech, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization based in Geneva that closely monitors the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, and a leader in speaking out at the UN for victims in China.

A media research group on Friday released the transcript of a China-produced Arabic-language news report to show how Beijings propaganda machine is blaming the coronavirus on America. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors TV and social media in the Arab world, focused on a March 17 broadcast of “China View” on Beijing’s Global Television Network Arabic (CGTN), which overall has 14 million viewers. The Middle East is an increasingly ripe target for China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative to build ports, highways and even cities to gain inroads into the oil-rich region and to compete with the U.S.

Five months later, the wisdom of exporting millions of American manufacturing jobs and large parts of critical supply chains for everything from medication to ventilators to a hostile overseas power is looking ever more questionable, as a novel pathogen of Chinese origin has wreaked havoc on the American economy and locked the entire country indoors…… The links between leading American politicians and companies and the Chinese leadership are now likely to come under increased scrutiny.

Since last fall, protests in Iran have become bold. Rather than "Death to America!," the chants in Tehran increasingly are "Death to the Dictator!" and "We don't want the Ayatollahs!" If Ali Khamenei loses control because of his regime's inept response to Iran's COVID-19 deaths, it might be the only good thing to come out of the pandemic. That is, unless the Democrats have their way….. The gullible Democrats seem ignorant of the well-documented fact that when relief money flows into Iran, it disappears. Pompeo revealed on March 23 that more than 1 billion euros designated for Iran's fight against the coronavirus reportedly have gone missing, and personal protection equipment donated to Iranian hospitals has wound up for sale on the black market. Pompeo tweeted a video on March 28 showing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani acknowledging a "concerted effort to influence public opinion ... aimed at bringing back our money seized in other countries." Pompeo says Rouhani's "concerted effort to lift U.S. sanctions isn't about fighting the pandemic. It's about cash for the regime's leaders."

Reports of strokes in the young and middle-aged – not just at Mount Sinai but in many other hospitals in hard-hit communities – are the latest twist in our evolving understanding of the mysteries of covid-19. Even as the virus has infected nearly 2.8 million people worldwide and killed 195,000 as of Friday, its origins, biological mechanisms and weaknesses continue to elude top scientific minds. Once thought to be a pathogen that primarily attacks the lungs, it has turned out to be a much more formidable foe – affecting nearly every major organ system in the body.

The United States has assessed that Iran successfully launched a military satellite into orbit for the first time on Wednesday, according to two US Defense Department officials. The move is seen as a significant step because the country's space program utilizes the same technology that would be needed to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile, which would increase Tehran's capability to strike enemy targets. US Space Command is tracking two objects in orbit that were launched from within Iran, according to one of the officials. One is a rocket body and the other is assessed to be the satellite. The rocket body may still be in orbit because the Iranian program is not sophisticated enough to have perfected re-entry into the atmosphere.

Riots erupted across France for the fourth night in a row, spreading to cities and towns with cars set on fire and mobs of locals attacking police and firefighters despite the Wuhan coronavirus lockdown measures. The riots began on Sunday following an incident between a local on a motorcycle and police in the Paris suburb of Villeneuve-la-Garenne. They have spread to even more areas with violence continuing to increase.

Another merciless battle Italy fought with the EU was for protective face-masks. France adopted a policy of requisitioning them; Germany banned their export. Those unilateral decisions undermined a much-touted EU principle: the free movement of goods in the single market. As L'Express exposed, France seized four million masks belonging to a Swedish company and that had been intended, in part, for Italy and Spain. I don’t the EU project is dead, rather I think it will be become a two-tier Europe, those who want full union and others as members without the banking union. Fast forward to two-speed Europe, How France's Emmanuel Macron wants to reform the EU, Macron’s European plans: Old and new ideas to start EU campaign

The coronavirus crisis is rattling 19 highly indebted European nations and exposing a potentially fatal lack of communitarian spirit within the EU. European countries have applied a me-first response, imposed export bans on vital medical equipment, and put up border controls that have left European citizens stranded. In a particularly shameful abdication of responsibility, EU members failed to give desperately needed medical assistance and supplies to Italy during the outbreak. The UN, meanwhile, has performed no genuinely helpful service whatsoever during the global crisis.

The pandemic has widened Europe’s economic divide. Once plagued by the strength of the Deutsche mark, Germany benefited from the euro’s lower exchange rate, which made its goods more competitive abroad. That was particularly true within the eurozone itself, which accounts for about 40 percent of Germany’s exports. For decades, exporters from Southern Europe could undercut their German competitors on price. No more. That wouldn’t be such a problem if Germans reciprocated by buying their neighbors’ exports with equal vigor…. Instead of acting as the great equalizer, as the fathers of the euro promised, the euro has exacerbated Europe’s economic divisions and, arguably left some countries worse off.

Foreign minister urges bloc to give grants rather than loans to combat impact of coronavirus.Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González has warned fellow EU members that forcing countries to take on more debt to tackle the impact of the coronavirus will only deepen the economic damage.

Unless something unexpected happens, next week the leadership of the Conference of Presidents, one of the most important organizations in the American Jewish community, will be transferred to a woman who opposes the values shared by 95% of American Jews. That means that this crucial organization could end up being paralyzed.

One hundred years ago this Sunday, the four principal allied powers involved in World War I signed a resolution at San Remo. Next week, Israel celebrates Yom Ha’atzmaut, the 72nd anniversary of the state’s declaration of independence. Typically, the world thinks that the key step towards the establishment of the State of Israel was the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the statement in which the British government committed itself to work for the establishment of a Jewish home in what was then called Palestine.

Amid conflicting reports about Kim's health, Japanese weekly magazine Shukan Gendai reported on Friday that a Chinese medical team member on the mission to North Korea briefly explained the situation to its senior writer, Kondm Daisuke…… China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on him, according to four people familiar with the situation.

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