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Wed, 22 Mar 2023
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Ukraine holding religious freedom hostage - Moscow

© AFP/Sergei Chuzavkov
A Ukraine SBU member during a raid on the Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery
Religious freedom is being held hostage by the Ukrainian authorities, Russia's Foreign Ministry insisted on Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was commenting on attempts to evict monks of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC) from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery, which is considered the most important Orthodox Christian site in the country.

When asked the previous day about the planned eviction, Ukrainian Minister of Culture Aleksandr Tkachenko said senior clergy and church administrators should be the first to leave, as they had carried out "illegal construction" at the Lavra. "We'll be able to talk about the rest after that," he added.

The UOC monks at the Lavra, who are refusing to vacate the monastery and describe the eviction order as illegal, "always have a choice," Tkachenko continued. Their stance may "change drastically" once the leadership of the Moscow-linked church is out of the monastery, he suggested.

Comment: Pope Francis calls out the religious crackdown:
Pope Francis has voiced concern over the situation in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra following attempts by the Ukrainian authorities to expel monks from the country's iconic Orthodox Christian site.

Speaking at the end of a general audience on Wednesday, the pontiff said:
"I was thinking about the Orthodox monks in the Kiev Lavra. I ask warring parties to respect religious places. The clergy of any denomination are the support of the people of God."
His comments came after Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, last week issued an appeal to Christian leaders of various denominations and international organizations over what he described as "a sharp increase in state pressure on Orthodox Christians in Ukraine."

Referring to Kiev Pechersk Lavra, Kirill called for "every possible effort to prevent the forced closure of the monastery, which would lead to a violation of the rights of millions" of faithful.

For years, Ukraine has experienced religious tensions, predominantly between Kiev-backed non-canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which proclaimed independence from Moscow after Russia launched its military operation in the neighboring country in February 2022.

This, however, did not spare it from accusations that it covertly supports Russia, and raids have been carried out on numerous Orthodox monasteries across Ukraine, including the Lavra itself.
The internal destruction of Ukraine is nearly complete.

See also:

Arrow Down

Sudan discusses ditching dollar in trade with Russia

ditch dollar
© Rouzes/Getty Images
Khartoum is eager to expand trade ties with Moscow, the Sudanese ambassador to Russia has said...

Sudan and Russia are mulling ways to switch to national currencies in mutual settlements, Sudanese ambassador to Russia, Hassan Mohammed Elghazali Eltijani Sirraj, has told RIA Novosti news agency.

According to the diplomat, the countries' central banks are currently discussing the possibility. Sirraj explained:
"Russia has suggested to Sudan to use a system of financial transactions, in which we would use national currencies. This issue is being discussed by the central banks of both countries; we will see if this is possible. This is largely a technical issue. The central banks will study this issue, see how it actually works, and in the near future we should see the result."
Russia has been actively moving away from the US dollar and euro in foreign trade for months, after Western sanctions against the country made the currencies unreliable. Instead, it has been expanding its circle of trade partners with whom settlements are made in national currencies.

Eye 1

Oregon high school teacher makes students write essays on their 'sexual fantasies'

An Oregon high school is facing severe backlash from parents after a health teacher allegedly assigned students to write a short story about a sexual fantasy.

Kirk Miller, health teacher and football coach at Churchill High school in Eugene, allegedly wrote that the essays should not "involve penetration of any kind or oral sex," but that they should reference at least three items from a list of suggestions including "romantic music, candles, massage oil, feathers, a feather boa and flavored syrup," reports Oregon Live.


BBC gets £20 million boost from UK government

BBC building
© Getty Images / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Vuk Valcic
The one-time payment will be used to "counter disinformation" and support English-language broadcasting.

The British government has announced an unexpected one-off payment to state broadcaster the BBC. The £20 million ($24.13 million) tranche will be transferred to the broadcaster over the next two years, the UK Foreign Office said on Monday.

The package comes as part of an Integrated Review program document advocating for a 'Global Britain' originally adopted under former PM Boris Johnson.


Court pauses attempt to arrest Pakistan ex-PM Imran Khan after fresh clashes

khan rally

Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan chant slogans as they protest his possible arrest, on March 14 in Karachi, Pakistan.
A Pakistani court has ordered police to halt an operation to arrest Imran Khan after fresh clashes between supporters of the former prime minister and security forces trying to detain him at his residence in the northeastern city of Lahore caused dozens of injuries.

Local media reported that more than 60 people -- as many as 50 of them police officers -- were injured in the clashes that extended overnight and into March 15, with dozens of people being admitted to hospital for treatment.

Comment: "Video images released by PTI showed police hitting Khan supporters with batons and lobbing tear-gas canisters, some of which landed on the lawn of Khan's house, while Khan's supporters hurled rocks and bricks at the officers."

Following the incidents, the Lahore High Court ruled that the police operation be paused until March 16 at 10 a.m. local time.

The clashes started on March 14, when followers of Khan's political party, Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI), gathered outside Khan's residence in Lahore after police arrived to arrest Khan in a case involving state gifts.

Comment: Two days ago Khan led a rally of thousands of his supporters after news of the arrest warrant:
Khan's supporters threw rose petals at a convoy carrying him to the Lahore rally, which swelled to more than 5,000. Security was ramped up and hundreds of police were deployed to the city for Monday's rally, which authorities permitted.

Later, Khan from his bullet-proof vehicle addressed supporters, saying he will hold an election rally in the city's spacious public park on Sunday. He denounced Wednesday's police crackdown against his planned rally in Lahore, saying he will never forget the killing of one of his supporters who died in police custody after being arrested. However, police deny the claim, saying Zillay Shah died on the road.
Khan claims the plan is to assassinate him:
Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan says the "real intent" of police is to "abduct and assassinate" him after security forces attempted to detain him on Wednesday despite resistance from hundreds of the politician's supporters in the eastern city of Lahore.
"Clearly 'arrest' claim was mere drama because real intent is to abduct & assassinate," he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. "From tear gas & water cannons, they have now resorted to live firing."

He added: "There is no doubt of their mala fide intent."

... Khan has maintained that the plot to arrest him is "not because I broke any law" but rather to ensure he "cannot contest elections."


James O'Keefe launches O'Keefe Media Group after ouster from Project Veritas

charlie kirk james o'keefe
James O'Keefe appeared on the Charlie Kirk Show to promote his newest project since being ousted from Project Veritas, the O'Keefe Media Group, or OMG.

O'Keefe launched the website on Wednesday and urged viewers to sign up, as did Kirk.

Comment: See also:


Vermont Christian school barred from future tournaments after forfeiting game against team with trans student

Mid Vermont Christian School girls basketball
© Mid Vermont Christian School / Facebook
The Mid Vermont Christian School girls basketball team is in action against Poultney High School in December.
The Vermont school sparked a firestorm last month in high school sports.

A Vermont Christian school that forfeited a game in the girls state basketball playoffs because its opponent had a transgender student on the team's roster will be prohibited from participating in future tournaments, the sports governing association in the state said Monday.

The Vermont Principals' Association (VPA) ruled that Mid Vermont Christian School had violated policies and is ineligible to participate in future tournaments that it sanctions. The move applies to all sports.

"The VPA again reiterates its ongoing support of transgender student-athletes as not only a part of building an inclusive community for each student to grow and thrive, but also as a clear expectation by Vermont state law(s) in the Agency of Education Best Practices, and in VPA Policy regarding transgender student athletes," the governing body said in a statement.

Comment: See also:


Local farmers spearhead soil testing after train derailment

PA farmer soil
© Keith Srakocic/AP Photo
A farmer moves his tractor after turning over the soil in a field on a farm in Prospect, Pa. on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014.
Wallace partnered with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the EPA and its contractors to collect 15 soil samples from farms across the region for more testing.

Farmers in western Pennsylvania began offering their soil samples for collection in recent weeks after contamination concerns about the train derailment in nearby East Palestine, Ohio went unaddressed.

Cliff Wallace, president of the Beaver-Lawrence Farm Bureau, told The Center Square on Tuesday he's spoken with property owners seven miles out from the burn site who say they saw plumes of smoke drifting over their land in the aftermath of the crash.

Comment: See also:


The media ignore Democrats in Congress stepping on freedom of speech

Matt Taibbi 1
© AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Journalists Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger testifying before the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government on March 9, 2023.
Last week, Congress and the federal government stomped on press freedom and the press said nothing.

Four watershed events lead to the inescapable conclusion that the entire Democratic Party and parts of the GOP have become the enemy of free speech and, astonishingly, they are aided and abetted by the most prestigious brands in news media, that have become tools of oppression, rather than defenders of the First Amendment.

1. Democrats in Congress tried to force a journalist to reveal his sources.

Nowhere more sickening was the Democratic Party's lockstep defense of censorship than in Thursday's hearing of the House "Weaponization of Government" subcommittee.

Independent liberal journalists Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger were asked to testify about the censorship regime imposed by the federal government, academia, NGOs and Twitter, as revealed in the Twitter Files.

For their trouble they were slimed and threatened by Democrats.

Comment: See also:

Stock Down

First Republic shares rise more than 20% in volatile trading as regional bank stocks try to rebound

First Republic Bank
© Jeenah Moon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A First Republic Bank branch in New York, US, on Friday, March 10, 2023.
Shares of First Republic rose sharply on Tuesday as regional banks attempted to rebound from a deep sell-off, but some of the stocks struggled to hold their ground as the day progressed.

First Republic ended the day with a 27.8% gain after climbing more than 60% earlier in the session. PacWest was up nearly 34% after following a similar trajectory, and Charles Schwab added about 9%.

However, the SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF (KRE) rose just 2% as other regional banks struggled to hold onto their gains. The volatility was evident in Zions Bancorp. and Western Alliance, which each turned negative briefly in afternoon trading after rising earlier in the session. The banks then finished the day with gains of 4% and 14%, respectively.

Those moves come after regional banks fell sharply Monday, even though U.S. regulators took extraordinary measures to backstop all depositors in the now-failed Silicon Valley Bank. The KRE suffered its biggest one-day loss since March 2020, tumbling 12.3%.

First Republic led the way lower on Monday, falling 61.8%. Executive Chairman Jim Herbert told CNBC's Jim Cramer that the bank was not seeing big outflows and was operating as usual. The bank also announced Sunday it received additional liquidity from JPMorgan and the Federal Reserve.

After Tuesday's move, First Republic's stock is still down more than 50% for the week.

Comment: The effects are spreading to the Asian market as well:
Asia's leading stock index erased all of its gains for the year on Tuesday as bank stocks continued declines triggered by the collapse of a growing number of US financial establishments.

The MSCI Asia Pacific index fell 2.3%, with Japanese banks among the biggest drags on the market. The index is down more than 9% from this year's high recorded in January, wiping out its gains for the year. The MSCI entered a bull market during the second trading week of the year, reflecting optimism from China's reopening.

The Tokyo Stock Price Index (Topix) fell almost 3%, representing the biggest daily decline in more than five months, while the MSCI ASEAN Index slumped 9.8% from a January high.

Meanwhile, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 1.47%, also reaching new lows for the year.

Asian stocks are reacting "to growing risks of a US recession happening earlier than previously expected," head of Asia equity strategy at Societe Generale Frank Benzimra said, adding that "cyclical markets such as Korea, Japan, and cyclical sectors and small caps tend to be more impacted in this context."