‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

A student who had taken refuge at the Church of the Divine Mercy amid a barrage of armed attacks is embraced by a relative on Saturday after he was transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

Nicaragua saw another weekend of deadly violence, as forces in support of President Daniel Ortega besieged student protesters in a church and attempted to assert control over several areas outside the capital.

Students have been at the center of anti-government demonstrations since they began April 18. What started as a “protest against now-rescinded changes in public pensions” became “a full-fledged call to end the authoritarian rule,” reporter Maria Martin tells NPR. The government has responded with brutal force.

Overnight Friday, protests at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in the capital took a dramatic turn, ultimately leaving at least two people dead and several others injured.

For two months, students at the university in Managua have set up barricades during protests that have drawn the wrath of pro-government forces. On Friday, about 200 students on the sprawling campus were pinned down by police and paramilitaries into a nearby Catholic church that they had been using as a field hospital.

The Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow, reporting on the protests, was trapped in the Church of the Divine Mercy along with the students. He described what he saw:

“Not long after 6 p.m., with several high-pitched cracks, the mood took a dark turn. The faraway shooting was suddenly nearby. The paramilitaries had appeared, cutting off the only exit from Divine Mercy and firing at the remaining barricade just outside the church.

“It became clear that everyone inside — dozens of students, at least two priests and two doctors, neighbors, volunteers and journalists, including me — would not be going anywhere.

“Most of the students accepted this realization with stoicism and remarkable calm. Many had been taking sporadic fire on and off for the past two months, and they seemed accustomed to it. They carried the wounded into the Rev. Raul Zamora’s rectory and put them on chairs or on the blood-spattered tile floor. Outside, at the barricade, other students shouted and fired their mortars against the unseen ­assailants.

“Over the next hours, the fighting ebbed and flowed. A flurry of gunfire would force everyone indoors, then people would drift into the courtyard. At times, they chanted ‘Viva, Nicaragua,’ shot their mortars in the air and vowed to never leave their posts. Around sunset, dozens of them knelt in a circle, held each other and prayed.”

The siege stretched on for some 15 hours, ending when members of the clergy negotiated for the students to be allowed to leave. They were transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral, according to the Post.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said two students were killed during the confrontation, according to The Associated Press.

Mourners attend the wake of Nicaraguan university student Gerald Vasquez who was killed over the weekend when police forced students out of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

“It was a really hard night. They discharged their entire heavy arsenal against stones and mortars,” a sobbing young man who was afraid to given his name told the AP. “They wanted to kill us all.”

Sunday saw more violence, just outside Managua, Reuters reported. The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights said at least 10 people were killed when security forces and paramilitary groups loyal to Ortega attacked people in the city of Masaya and communities of Monimbo.

In Masaya, pro-government forces were trying to take down barricades and reassert control over the area in what the government was calling “Operation Clean-up,” according to the BBC. The government says the “blockades are harming businesses and disrupting the lives of Nicaraguans,” the broadcaster reports.

The weekend violence is part of a brutal crackdown that human rights groups say has resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 people.

Human rights groups have criticized the Nicaraguan government for its tactics. For example, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has accused the government of “excessive and arbitrary use of police force,” as well as using paramilitary groups called “shock groups” to put down protests. It has called for the groups to be dismantled.

The BBC described “hooded and masked men opening fire on protesters” during recent protests, and says that “the government says the protesters are trying to stage a coup d’etat against Mr Ortega.”

Philippines: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of This Great People

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Philippines

Introduction The Philippine Islands became a Spanish colony during the 16th century; they were ceded to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. In 1935 the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. Manuel QUEZON was elected president and was tasked with preparing the country for independence after a 10-year transition. In 1942 the islands fell under Japanese occupation during World War II, and US forces and Filipinos fought together during 1944-45 to regain control. On 4 July 1946 the Republic of the Philippines attained its independence. The 20-year rule of Ferdinand MARCOS ended in 1986, when a “people power” movement in Manila (“EDSA 1”) forced him into exile and installed Corazon AQUINO as president. Her presidency was hampered by several coup attempts, which prevented a return to full political stability and economic development. Fidel RAMOS was elected president in 1992 and his administration was marked by greater stability and progress on economic reforms. In 1992, the US closed its last military bases on the islands. Joseph ESTRADA was elected president in 1998, but was succeeded by his vice-president, Gloria MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, in January 2001 after ESTRADA’s stormy impeachment trial on corruption charges broke down and another “people power” movement (“EDSA 2”) demanded his resignation. MACAPAGAL-ARROYO was elected to a six-year term as president in May 2004. The Philippine Government faces threats from three terrorist groups on the US Government’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list, but in 2006 and 2007 scored some major successes in capturing or killing key wanted terrorists. Decades of Muslim insurgency in the southern Philippines have led to a peace accord with one group and an ongoing cease-fire and peace talks with another.
History Archaeological and paleontological discoveries show that Homo sapiens existed in Palawan circa 50,000 BC. The aboriginal people of the Philippines, the Negritos, are an Australo-Melanesian people, which arrived in the Philippines at least 30,000 years ago. The Austronesian’s, who originated from populations of Taiwanese aboriginals that migrated from mainland Asia approximately 6000 years ago, colonized the Philippine islands and eventually migrated to Indonesia, Malaysia and, soon after, to the Polynesian islands and Madagascar.

The Philippines had cultural ties with Malaysia, Indonesia, India in ancient times, and trade relations with China and Japan as early as the 9th century.

Islam was brought to the Philippines by traders and proselytizers from Malaysia and Indonesia. The Islamization of the Philippines is due to the strength of then-Muslim India.[13] By the 13th century, Islam was established in the Sulu Archipelago and spread from there to Mindanao; it had reached the Manila area by 1565. Muslim converts established Islamic communities and states ruled by rajas or sultans. However, no Islamic state exercised sovereignty over much of the archipelago, and the indigenous maritime and agricultural societies ruled by datus or apos remained autonomous. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the majority of the estimated 500,000 people in the islands lived in independent settlements called ‘barangay’ or networks of settlements.

In the service of Spain, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his crew started their voyage on September 20, 1519. Magellan sighted Samar on March 17, 1521, on the next day, they reached Homonhon. They reached the island of Mazaua on March 28, 1521 where the first mass in the Philippines was celebrated on March 31, 1521.[11] Magellan arrived at Cebu on April 7, 1521, befriending Rajah Humabon and converting his family and 700 other Cebuanos to Christianity.[11] However, Magellan would later be killed in the Battle of Mactan by indigenous warriors led by Lapu-Lapu, a fierce rival of Humabon.

The beginnings of colonization started to take form when Philip II of Spain ordered successive expeditions. Miguel López de Legazpi arrived from Mexico in 1565 and formed the first Spanish settlements in Cebu. In 1571 he established Manila as the capital of the new Spanish colony.

Spanish rule brought political unification to the archipelago of previously independent islands and communities, and introduced elements of western civilization such as the code of law, printing and the Gregorian calendar[15]. The Philippines was ruled as a territory of New Spain from 1565 to 1821, but after Mexican independence it was administered directly from Madrid. During that time numerous towns were founded, infrastructures built, new crops and livestock introduced, and trade flourished. The Manila Galleon which linked Manila to Acapulco once or twice a year beginning in the late 16th century, carried silk, spices, ivory and porcelain to America and silver on the return trip to the Philippines. The Spanish military fought off various indigenous revolts and several external threats, especially from the British, Chinese pirates, Dutch, and Portuguese. Roman Catholic missionaries converted most of the inhabitants to Christianity, and founded numerous schools, universities and hospitals. In 1863 a Spanish decree introduced public education, creating free public schooling in Spanish .

The Propaganda Movement, which included Philippine nationalist José Rizal, then a student studying in Spain, soon developed on the Spanish mainland. This was done in order to inform the government of the injustices of the administration in the Philippines as well as the abuses of the friars. In the 1880s and the 1890s, the propagandists clamored for political and social reforms, which included demands for greater representation in Spain. Unable to gain the reforms, Rizal returned to the country, and pushed for the reforms locally. Rizal was subsequently arrested, tried, and executed for treason on December 30, 1896. Earlier that year, the Katipunan, led by Andrés Bonifacio, had already started a revolution, which was eventually continued by Emilio Aguinaldo, who established a revolutionary government, although the Spanish governor general Fernando Primo de Rivera proclaimed the revolution over in May 17, 1897.

The Spanish-American War began in Cuba in 1898 and soon reached the Philippines when Commodore George Dewey defeated the Spanish squadron at the Manila Bay. Aguinaldo declared the independence of the Philippines on June 12, 1898, and was proclaimed head of state. As a result of its defeat, Spain was forced to officially cede the Philippines, together with Cuba (which was made an independent country, albeit with the US in charge of foreign affairs), Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States. In 1899 the First Philippine Republic was proclaimed in Malolos, Bulacan but was later dissolved by the US forces, leading to the Philippine-American War between the United States and the Philippine revolutionaries, which continued the violence of the previous years. The US proclaimed the war ended when Aguinaldo was captured by American troops on March 23, 1901, but the struggle continued until 1913 claiming the lives of over a million Filipinos[19] [20]. The country’s status as a territory changed when it became the Commonwealth of the Philippines in 1935, which provided for more self-governance. Plans for increasing independence over the next decade were interrupted during World War II when Japan invaded and occupied the islands. After the Japanese were defeated in 1945 and control returned to the Filipino and American forces in the Liberation of the Philippines from 1944 to 1945, the Philippines was granted independence from the United States on July 4, 1946.

Since 1946, the newly independent Philippine state has faced political instability. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw economic development that was second in Asia, next to Japan. Ferdinand Marcos was, then, the elected president. Barred from seeking a third term, Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, under the guise of increased political instability and resurgent Communist and Muslim insurgencies, and ruled the country by decree.

Upon returning from exile in the United States, opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. or “Ninoy”, was assassinated on August 21, 1983. In January 1986, Marcos allowed for a snap election, after large protests. The election was believed to be fraudulent, and resulted in a standoff between military mutineers and the military loyalists. Protesters supported the mutineers, and were accompanied by resignations of prominent cabinet officials. Corazon Aquino, the widow of Ninoy, was the recognized winner of the snap election. She took over the government, and called for a constitutional convention to draft a new constitution, after the People Power Revolution. Marcos, his family and some of his allies fled to Hawaii.

The return of democracy and government reforms after the events of 1986 were hampered by massive national debt, government corruption, coup attempts, a communist insurgency, and a Muslim separatist movement. The economy improved during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos, who was elected in 1992.[22] However, the economic improvements were negated at the onset of the East Asian financial crisis in 1997. The 2001 EDSA Revolution led to the downfall of the following president, Joseph Estrada. The current administration of president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been hounded by allegations of corruption and election rigging.

Geography Location: Southeastern Asia, archipelago between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates: 13 00 N, 122 00 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 300,000 sq km
land: 298,170 sq km
water: 1,830 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Arizona
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 36,289 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: irregular polygon extending up to 100 nm from coastline as defined by 1898 treaty; since late 1970s has also claimed polygonal-shaped area in South China Sea up to 285 nm in breadth
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
Climate: tropical marine; northeast monsoon (November to April); southwest monsoon (May to October)
Terrain: mostly mountains with narrow to extensive coastal lowlands
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Philippine Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Apo 2,954 m
Natural resources: timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, salt, copper
Land use: arable land: 19%
permanent crops: 16.67%
other: 64.33% (2005)
Irrigated land: 15,500 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 479 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 28.52 cu km/yr (17%/9%/74%)
per capita: 343 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: astride typhoon belt, usually affected by 15 and struck by five to six cyclonic storms per year; landslides; active volcanoes; destructive earthquakes; tsunamis
Environment – current issues: uncontrolled deforestation especially in watershed areas; soil erosion; air and water pollution in major urban centers; coral reef degradation; increasing pollution of coastal mangrove swamps that are important fish breeding grounds
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants
Geography – note: the Philippine archipelago is made up of 7,107 islands; favorably located in relation to many of Southeast Asia’s main water bodies: the South China Sea, Philippine Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, and Luzon Strait
Politics The Philippines has a presidential, unitary form of government (with some modification; there is one autonomous region largely free from the national government), where the President functions as both head of state and head of government, and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is elected by popular vote to a single six-year term, during which time she or he appoints and presides over the cabinet.[2]

The bicameral Congress is composed of a Senate, serving as the upper house whose members are elected nationally to a six-year term, and a House of Representatives serving as the lower house whose members are elected to a three-year term and are elected from both legislative districts and through sectoral representation.

The judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court, composed of a Chief Justice as its presiding officer and fourteen associate justices, all appointed by the President from nominations submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council.

Attempts to amend the constitution to either a federal, unicameral or parliamentary form of government have repeatedly failed since the Ramos administration.

The Philippines is a founding and active member of the United Nations since its inception on October 24, 1945 and is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Philippines is also a member of the East Asia Summit (EAS), an active player in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Latin Union, and a member of the Group of 24. The country is a major non-NATO ally of the U.S. but also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement.

People Population: 96,061,680 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 35.5% (male 17,392,780/female 16,708,255)
15-64 years: 60.4% (male 28,986,232/female 29,076,329)
65 years and over: 4.1% (male 1,682,485/female 2,215,602) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 22.3 years
male: 21.8 years
female: 22.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.991% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 26.42 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 5.15 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.36 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 21.2 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 23.86 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 18.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.8 years
male: 67.89 years
female: 73.85 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.32 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 9,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria (2008)
Nationality: noun: Filipino(s)
adjective: Philippine
Ethnic groups: Tagalog 28.1%, Cebuano 13.1%, Ilocano 9%, Bisaya/Binisaya 7.6%, Hiligaynon Ilonggo 7.5%, Bikol 6%, Waray 3.4%, other 25.3% (2000 census)
Religions: Roman Catholic 80.9%, Muslim 5%, Evangelical 2.8%, Iglesia ni Kristo 2.3%, Aglipayan 2%, other Christian 4.5%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.6%, none 0.1% (2000 census)
Languages: Filipino (official; based on Tagalog) and English (official); eight major dialects – Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinan
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 92.6%
male: 92.5%
female: 92.7% (2000 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 12 years
male: 11 years
female: 12 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 2.5% of GDP (2005)

Ireland votes resoundingly to repeal abortion ban

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Ireland votes resoundingly to repeal abortion ban

Dublin, Ireland (CNN)Ireland has voted an emphatic “Yes” to amend the country’s constitution to enable legislation that would allow women to have an abortion in a historic and emotionally charged referendum.

With a high turnout of 64.13%, 1,429,98, or 66.4%, voted for the amendment Friday and 723,632, or 33.6%, against, according to the country’s Referendum Commission. The results that were announced Saturday defied earlier projections that it would be a tight race.
Only one county voted no — the rural and religiously conservative Donegal in northwest Ireland.
The vote signifies a resounding victory for the government of Leo Varadkar, the Prime Minister, or Taoiseach as the office is called in Ireland.
“Today is a historic day for Ireland,” Varadkar said at a press conference. “A quiet revolution has taken place, and today is a great act of democracy.”
“A hundred years since women gained the right to vote, today we as a people have spoken,” he said. “And we say that we trust women and respect women to make their own decisions and their own choices.”
He noted that people in “almost every county, almost every constituency, men and women, all social classes and almost all age groups” voted to repeal the amendment. “We are not a divided country,” he said.
Chants of “Yes we did” rose from the crowd as the Referendum Commission’s Returning Officer Barry Ryan announced the final results.

"Yes" supporters wait for the final results Saturday at Dublin Castle.

It was a scene of jubilation as some supporters burst into tears. Others began laughing as they hugged one another and asked each other, “Can you believe we did this?”
Emma Gallagher, 22, began crying as she heard the final results.
“I feel safe now, I feel comfortable,” she told CNN. “It felt for a long time women didn’t matter. … Now we know that we matter.”
Rene Wogan, 66, held Gallagher’s hand and told her, “It was all for justice. You’re forwarding the flag on for women.”
Thousands of people packed the square in front of Dublin Castle as abortion rights politicians, including Varadkar, also joined the celebration.
He told Sky TV he expected legislation to be voted through by the end of the year.
“I feel enormous relief and great pride in the people of Ireland who didn’t maybe know what they thought until they were finally asked the questions,” Ailbhe Smyth, a longtime women’s rights activist, told CNN.
“It has been a long and very hard road, but we never lost sight of this because it’s so central to the existence, and the selfhood and personhood of women to have that control of our own bodies.”

A woman from the "Yes" campaign reacts after final results were announced Saturday at Dublin Castle.

The Eighth Amendment, which was added to the constitution following a referendum in 1983, banned abortion in Ireland unless there was a “real and substantial risk” to the mother’s life.
Repeal of the amendment has completed a circle of sweeping social reforms in the European Union nation that fly in the face of the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church, from contraception to divorce, and most recently same-sex marriage.
Roscommon, in the rural interior, the only county to say no to same-sex marriage, also voted yes in the abortion referendum.
Thousands of Irish working abroad returned to Ireland to cast their vote.
Those opposed to abortion vowed Saturday to take their fight now to the Irish Parliament, where lawmakers will have to bring about legislation allowing for terminations in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy — and later in cases where there is a risk to the mother’s life or the fetus is not expected to survive.
Dr. Ruth Cullen, spokeswoman for the anti-abortion LoveBoth campaign, conceded defeat Saturday before the count had finished.
“We will hold the Taoiseach to his promise that repeal would only lead to abortion in very restrictive circumstances. He gave his word on this, now he must deliver on it. No doubt many people voted for repeal based on the Taoiseach’s promises in this regard,” Cullen said at a press conference Saturday.
The death of an Indian dentist ignited the abortion rights campaign in Ireland. Savita Halappanavar, 31, died in 2012 because of complications from a natural miscarriage after abortion was denied to her.

Repeal supporters leave notes at a mural of Savita Halappanavar, whose death sparked the campaign.

Voters over 65 were the only age group overall not supporting the repeal of the amendment.
Ireland’s vote will likely put pressure on Northern Ireland to change its abortion laws, too. Despite Northern Ireland being part of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act legalizing abortions never applied there, and even victims of rape and incest are forced to travel to mainland Britain if they want a termination.

Spain: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of The Great Nation Of Spain

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Spain

Introduction Spain’s powerful world empire of the 16th and 17th centuries ultimately yielded command of the seas to England. Subsequent failure to embrace the mercantile and industrial revolutions caused the country to fall behind Britain, France, and Germany in economic and political power. Spain remained neutral in World Wars I and II but suffered through a devastating civil war (1936-39). A peaceful transition to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco FRANCO in 1975, and rapid economic modernization (Spain joined the EU in 1986) have given Spain one of the most dynamic economies in Europe and made it a global champion of freedom. Continuing challenges include Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) terrorism, illegal immigration, and slowing economic growth.
History After a long and hard conquest, the Iberian Peninsula became a region of the Roman Empire known as Hispania. During the early Middle Ages it came under Germanic rule. Later it was conquered by Muslim invaders. Through a very long and fitful process, the Christian kingdoms in the north gradually rolled back Muslim rule, finally extinguishing its last remnant in Granada in 1492, the same year Columbus reached the Americas. A global empire began. Spain became the strongest kingdom in Europe and the leading world power during the 16th century and first half of the 17th century; but continued wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. The French invasion of Spain in the early 19th century led to chaos; triggering independence movements that tore apart most of the empire and left the country politically unstable. In the 20th century it suffered a devastating civil war and came under the rule of an authoritarian government, leading to years of stagnation, but finishing in an impressive economic surge. Democracy was restored in 1978 in the form of a parliamentry constitutional monarchy. In 1986, Spain joined the European Union; experiencing a cultural renaissance and steady economic growth.

Prehistory and pre-Roman peoples

Archeological research at Atapuerca indicates the Iberian Peninsula was peopled 1.2 million years ago. Modern humans in the form of Cro-Magnons began arriving in the Iberian Peninsula through the Pyrenees some 35,000 years ago. The best known artifacts of these prehistoric human settlements are the famous paintings in the Altamira cave of Cantabria in northern Spain, which were created about 15,000 BCE.

The two main historical peoples of the peninsula were the Iberians and the Celts, the former inhabiting the Mediterranean side from the northeast to the southwest, the latter inhabiting the Atlantic side, in the north and northwest part of the peninsula. In the inner part of the peninsula, where both groups were in contact, a mixed, distinctive culture—known as Celtiberian—was present. In addition, Basques occupied the western area of the Pyrenees mountains. Other ethnic groups existed along the southern coastal areas of present day Andalusia. Among these southern groups there grew the earliest urban culture in the Iberian Peninsula, that of the semi-mythical southern city of Tartessos (perhaps pre-1100 BC) near the location of present-day Cádiz. The flourishing trade in gold and silver between the people of Tartessos and Phoenicians and Greeks is documented in the history of Strabo and in the biblical book of king Solomon. Between about 500 BC and 300 BC, the seafaring Phoenicians and Greeks founded trading colonies all along the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Carthaginians briefly took control of much of the Mediterranean coast in the course of the Punic Wars, until they were eventually defeated and replaced by the Romans.

Roman Empire and Germanic invasions

During the Second Punic War, an expanding Roman Empire captured Carthaginian trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast from roughly 210 BC to 205 BC, leading to eventual Roman control of nearly the entire Iberian Peninsula; this lasted over 500 years, bound together by law, language, and the Roman road.

The base Celt and Iberian population remained in various stages of Romanisation, and local leaders were admitted into the Roman aristocratic class.[note 8][5] Hispania served as a granary for the Roman market, and its harbors exported gold, wool, olive oil, and wine. Agricultural production increased with the introduction of irrigation projects, some of which remain in use. Emperors Trajan, Theodosius I, and the philosopher Seneca were born in Hispania.Christianity was introduced into Hispania in the 1st century CE and it became popular in the cities in the 2nd century CE. Most of Spain’s present languages and religion, and the basis of its laws, originate from this period. Rome’s loss of jurisdiction in Hispania began in 409, when the Germanic Suevi and Vandals, together with the Sarmatian Alans crossed the Rhine and ravaged Gaul until the Visigoths drove them into Iberia that same year. The Suevi established a kingdom in what is today modern Galicia and northern Portugal. The Alans’ allies, the Hasdingi Vandals, established a kingdom in Gallaecia, too, occupying largely the same region but extending further south to the Duero river. The Silingi Vandals occupied the region that still bears a form of their name – Vandalusia, modern Andalusia, in Spain.

Muslim Iberia

In the 8th century, several areas of the Iberian Peninsula were conquered (711-718) by mainly Muslims (see Moors) from North Africa. These conquests were part of the expansion of the Umayyad Islamic Empire.[note 10] Only a number of areas in the north of the Iberian Peninsula managed to resist the initial invasion, occupying areas roughly corresponding to modern Asturias, Navarre and northern Aragon.

Under Islam, Christians and Jews were recognised as “peoples of the book”, and were free to practice their religion, but faced a number of mandatory discriminations and penalties as dhimmis. Conversion to Islam proceeded at a steadily increasing pace. Following the mass conversions in the 10th and 11th centuries it is believed that Muslims came to outnumber Christians in the remaining Muslim controlled areas.

The Muslim community in the Iberian peninsula was itself diverse and beset by social tensions. The Berber people of North Africa, who had provided the bulk of the invading armies, clashed with the Arab leadership from the Middle East. Over time, large Moorish populations became established, especially in the Guadalquivir River valley, the coastal plain of Valencia, and (towards the end of this period) in the mountainous region of Granada.

Córdoba, the capital of the caliphate, was the largest, richest and most sophisticated city of medieval western Europe. Mediterranean trade and cultural exchange flourished. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim and Jewish scholars played a great part in reviving and expanding classical Greek learning in Western Europe. The Romanized cultures of the Iberian peninsula interacted with Muslim and Jewish cultures in complex ways, thus giving the region a distinctive culture. Outside the cities, where the vast majority lived, the land ownership system from Roman times remained largely intact as Muslim leaders rarely dispossessed landowners, and the introduction of new crops and techniques led to a remarkable expansion of agriculture.

However, by the 11th century, Muslim holdings had fractured into rival Taifa kingdoms, allowing the small Christian states the opportunity to greatly enlarge their territories and consolidate their positions. The arrival of the North African Muslim ruling sects of the Almoravids and the Almohads restored unity upon Muslim holdings, with a stricter, less tolerant application of Islam, but ultimately, after some successes in invading the north, proved unable to resist the increasing military strength of the Christian states.

Fall of Muslim rule and unification

Given the honored title by the Pope, Catholic MonarchsFerdinand and Isabella, were probably one of the most powerful and accomplished couples in history; they reinforced the Reconquista, founded the Spanish Inquisition, and sponsered Christopher Columbus during the discovery of the New World.

The Reconquista (“Reconquest”) is the centuries-long period of expansion of Spain’s Christian kingdoms; Reconquista is viewed as beginning with the battle of Covadonga in 722 and being concurrent with the period of Muslim rule on the Iberian peninsula. The Christian army’s victory over the Muslim forces led to the creation of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias along the northern coastal mountains. Muslim armies had also moved north of the Pyrenees, but they were defeated at the Battle of Poitiers in France. Subsequently, they retreated to more secure positions south of the Pyrenees with a frontier marked by the Ebro and Duero rivers in Spain. As early as 739 Muslim forces were driven from Galicia, which was to host one of medieval Europe’s holiest sites, Santiago de Compostela. A little later Frankish forces established Christian counties south of the Pyrenees; these areas were to grow into kingdoms, in the north-east and the western part of the Pyrenees. These territories included Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia.

The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing Taifa kingdoms helped the expanding Christian kingdoms. The capture of the central city of Toledo in 1085 largely completed the reconquest of the northern half of Spain. After a Muslim resurgence in the 12th century, the great Moorish strongholds in the south fell to Christian Spain in the 13th century—Córdoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248—leaving only the Muslim enclave of Granada as a tributary state in the south. Marinid invasions from north Africa in the 13th and 14th centuries failed to re-establish Muslim rule. Also in the 13th century, the kingdom of Aragon, formed by Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia expanded its reach across the Mediterranean to Sicily. Around this time the universities of Palencia (1212/1263) and Salamanca (1218/1254) were established; among the earliest in Europe. The Black Death of 1348 and 1349 devastated Spain.

In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were united by the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand. In 1478 began the final stage of the conquest of Canary Islands and in 1492, these united kingdoms captured Granada, ending the last remnant of a 781-year presence of Islamic rule in Iberia. The Treaty of Granada guaranteed religious tolerance toward Muslims. The year 1492 also marked the arrival in the New World of Christopher Columbus, during a voyage funded by Isabella. That same year, Spain’s Jews were ordered to convert to Catholicism or face expulsion from Spanish territories during the Spanish Inquisition. Not long after, Muslims were also expelled under the same conditions.

As Renaissance New Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand centralized royal power at the expense of local nobility, and the word España – whose root is the ancient name Hispania – began to be used commonly to designate the whole of the two kingdoms. With their wide-ranging political, legal, religious and military reforms, Spain emerged as the first world power.

Spanish Empire

The unification of the kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, León, and Navarre laid the basis for modern Spain and the Spanish Empire. Spain was Europe’s leading power throughout the 16th century and most of the 17th century, a position reinforced by trade and wealth from colonial possessions. Spain reached its apogee during the reigns of the first two Spanish Habsburgs – Charles I (1516–1556) and Philip II (1556–1598). This period also saw the Italian Wars, the Protestant Reformation, the Dutch revolt, the Morisco revolt, clashes with the Ottomans, the Anglo-Spanish war and wars with France.

Philip II of Spain

The Spanish Empire expanded to include most parts of South and Central America, Mexico, southern and western portions of today’s United States, the Philippines, Guam and the Mariana Islands in Eastern Asia, parts of northern Italy, southern Italy, Sicily, cities in Northern Africa, as well as parts of France, modern Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It was the first empire about which it was said that the sun never set. This was an age of discovery, with daring explorations by sea and by land, the opening-up of new trade routes across oceans, conquests and the beginnings of European colonialism. Along with the arrival of precious metals, spices, luxuries, and new agricultural plants, Spanish and other explorers brought back knowledge from the New World, playing a leading part in transforming Europeans understanding of the globe. The cultural efflorescence witnessed is now referred to as the Spanish Golden Age.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Spain was confronted by unrelenting challenges from all sides. Barbary pirates under the aegis of the rapidly growing Ottoman empire, disrupted life in many coastal areas through their slave raids and renewed the threat of an Islamic invasion.[note 15] This at a time when Spain was often at war with France in Italy and elsewhere. Later the Protestant Reformation schism from the Catholic Church dragged the kingdom ever more deeply into the mire of religiously charged wars. The result was a country forced into ever expanding military efforts across Europe and in the Mediterranean. The rise of humanism, the Protestant Reformation and new geographical discoveries raised issues addressed by an intellectual movement known as the School of Salamanca.

By the middle decades of a war and plague ridden 17th century Europe, the effects of the strain began to show. The Spanish Habsburgs had enmeshed the country in the continent wide religious-political conflicts. These conflicts drained it of resources and undermined the European economy generally. Spain managed to hold on to most of the scattered Habsburg empire, and help the imperial forces of the Holy Roman Empire reverse a large part of the advances made by Protestant forces, but it was finally forced to recognise the separation of Portugal (with whom it had been united in a personal union of the crowns from 1580 to 1640) and the Netherlands, and eventually suffered some serious military reverses to France in the latter stages of the immensely destructive, Europe-wide Thirty Years War.

In the latter half of the 17th century, Spain went into a gradual relative decline, during which it surrendered a number of small territories to France. However Spain maintained and enlarged its vast overseas empire, which remained intact until the beginning of the 19th century.

The decline culminated in a controversy over succession to the throne which consumed the first years of the 18th century. The War of Spanish Succession, a wide ranging international conflict combined with a civil war, cost Spain its European possessions and its position as one of the leading powers on the Continent.

During this war, a new dynasty—the French Bourbons—was installed. Long united only by the Crown, a true Spanish state was established when the first Bourbon king Philip V of Spain united Castile and Aragon into a single state, abolishing many of the regional privileges (fueros).

The 18th century saw a gradual recovery and an increase in prosperity through much of the empire. The new Bourbon monarchy drew on the French system of modernising the administration and the economy. Enlightenment ideas began to gain ground among some of the kingdom’s elite and monarchy. Towards the end of the century trade finally began growing strongly. Military assistance for the rebellious British colonies in the American War of Independence improved Spain’s international standing.

Napoleonic rule and its consequences

In 1793, Spain went to war against the new French Republic, which had overthrown and executed its Bourbon king, Louis XVI. The war polarised the country in an apparent reaction against the gallicised elites. Defeated in the field, Spain made peace with France in 1795 and effectively became a client state of that country; the following year, it declared war against Britain and Portugal. A disastrous economic situation, along with other factors, led to the abdication of the Spanish king in favour of Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte.

This foreign puppet monarch was widely regarded with scorn. On 2 May 1808, the people of Madrid began a nationalist uprising against the French army, one of many across the country, marking the beginning of what is known to the Spanish as the War of Independence, and to the English as the Peninsular War. Napoleon was forced to intervene personally, defeating several badly coordinated Spanish armies and forcing a British Army to retreat to Corunna. However, further military action by Spanish guerrillas and Wellington’s Anglo-Portuguese army, combined with Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia, led to the ousting of the French from Spain in 1814, and the return of King Ferdinand VII.

The French invasion proved disastrous for Spain’s economy, and left a deeply divided country that was prone to political instability for more than a century. The power struggles of the early 19th century led to the loss of all of Spain’s colonies in Latin America, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Spanish-American War

Amid the instability and economic crisis that afflicted Spain in the 19th century there arose nationalist movements in the Philippines and Cuba. Wars of independence ensued in those colonies and eventually the United States became involved. Despite the commitment and ability shown by some military units, they were so mismanaged by the highest levels of command that the Spanish-American war of 1898 was soon over. “El Desastre” (The Disaster), as the war became known in Spain, helped give impetus to the Generation of 98 who were already conducting much critical analysis concerning the country. It also weakened the stability that had been established during Alfonso XII’s reign.

20th century

The 20th century brought little peace; Spain played a minor part in the scramble for Africa, with the colonisation of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea. The heavy losses suffered during the Rif war in Morocco helped to undermine the monarchy. A period of authoritarian rule under General Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923-1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. The Republic offered political autonomy to the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia and gave voting rights to women.

The bitterly fought Spanish Civil War (1936-39) ensued. Three years later the Nationalist forces, led by General Francisco Franco, emerged victorious with the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Republican side was supported by the Soviet Union and Mexico and international brigades , most famously the american ‘Abraham Lincon Brigade’, but it was not supported officially by the Western powers due to the British-led policy of Non-Intervention. The Spanish Civil War has been called the first battle of the Second World War; under Franco, Spain was neutral in the Second World War though sympathetic to the Axis.

The only legal party under Franco’s regime was the Falange española tradicionalista y de las JONS, formed in 1937; the party emphasised anti-Communism, Catholicism and nationalism. Nonetheless, since Franco’s anti-democratic ideology was opposed to the idea of political parties, the new party was renamed officially a National Movement (Movimiento Nacional) in 1949.

After World War II, Spain was politically and economically isolated, and was kept out of the United Nations until 1955, when due to the Cold War it became strategically important for the U.S. to create a military presence on the Iberian peninsula, next to the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar, in order to protect southern Europe. In the 1960s, Spain registered an unprecedented economic growth in what was called the Spanish miracle, which rapidly resumed the long interrupted transition towards a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector and a high degree of human development.

Upon the death of General Franco in November 1975, Prince Juan Carlos assumed the position of king and head of state. With the approval of the new Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the arrival of democracy, the State devolved autonomy to the regions and created an internal organization based on autonomous communities. In the Basque Country, moderate Basque nationalism coexisted with a radical nationalism supportive of the separatist group ETA.

On 23 February 1981, rebel elements among the security forces seized the Cortes and tried to impose a military-backed government. However, the great majority of the military forces remained loyal to King Juan Carlos, who used his personal authority and addressed the usurpers via national TV as commander in chief to put down the bloodless coup attempt.

On 30 May 1982, NATO gained a new member when, following a referendum, the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance. Also in 1982, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) came to power, representing the return of a left-wing government after 43 years. In 1986, Spain joined the European Community – what has now become the European Union. The PSOE was replaced in government by the Partido Popular (PP) after the latter won the 1996 General Elections; at that point the PSOE had served almost 14 consecutive years in office.

The Government of Spain has been involved in a long-running campaign against the separatist and terrorist organization ETA (“Basque Homeland and Freedom”), founded in 1959 in opposition to Franco and dedicated to promoting Basque independence through violent means. They consider themselves a guerrilla organization while they are listed as a terrorist organization by both the European Union and the United States on their respective watchlists. The current nationalist-led Basque Autonomous government does not endorse ETA’s nationalist violence, which has caused over 800 deaths in the past 40 years.

21st century

On 1 January 2002, Spain terminated its peseta currency and replaced it with the euro, which it shares with 14 other countries in the Eurozone. Spain has also seen strong economic growth, well above the EU average, but concerns are growing that the extraordinary property boom and high foreign trade deficits of recent years may bring this to an end.

A series of bombs exploded in commuter trains in Madrid, Spain on 11 March 2004. After a five month trial in 2007 it was concluded the bombings were perpetrated by a local Islamist militant group inspired by al-Qaeda. The bombings killed 191 people and wounded more than 1800, and the intention of the perpetrators may have been to influence the outcome of the Spanish general election, held three days later. Though initial suspicions focused on the Basque group ETA, evidence soon emerged indicating possible Islamist involvement. Because of the proximity of the election, the issue of responsibility quickly became a political controversy, with the main competing parties PP and PSOE exchanging accusations over the handling of the aftermath. At the 14 March elections, PSOE, led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, obtained a relative majority, enough to form a new cabinet with Rodríguez Zapatero as the new Presidente del Gobierno or prime minister of Spain, thus succeeding the former PP administration.

Geography Location: Southwestern Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and Pyrenees Mountains, southwest of France
Geographic coordinates: 40 00 N, 4 00 W
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 504,782 sq km
land: 499,542 sq km
water: 5,240 sq km
note: there are two autonomous cities – Ceuta and Melilla – and 17 autonomous communities including Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, and three small Spanish possessions off the coast of Morocco – Islas Chafarinas, Penon de Alhucemas, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera
Area – comparative: slightly more than twice the size of Oregon
Land boundaries: total: 1,917.8 km
border countries: Andorra 63.7 km, France 623 km, Gibraltar 1.2 km, Portugal 1,214 km, Morocco (Ceuta) 6.3 km, Morocco (Melilla) 9.6 km
Coastline: 4,964 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm (applies only to the Atlantic Ocean)
Climate: temperate; clear, hot summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy and cool along coast
Terrain: large, flat to dissected plateau surrounded by rugged hills; Pyrenees in north
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pico de Teide (Tenerife) on Canary Islands 3,718 m
Natural resources: coal, lignite, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, uranium, tungsten, mercury, pyrites, magnesite, fluorspar, gypsum, sepiolite, kaolin, potash, hydropower, arable land
Land use: arable land: 27.18%
permanent crops: 9.85%
other: 62.97% (2005)
Irrigated land: 37,800 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 111.1 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 37.22 cu km/yr (13%/19%/68%)
per capita: 864 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts
Environment – current issues: pollution of the Mediterranean Sea from raw sewage and effluents from the offshore production of oil and gas; water quality and quantity nationwide; air pollution; deforestation; desertification
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants
Geography – note: strategic location along approaches to Strait of Gibraltar
Politics Constitution

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 is the culmination of the Spanish transition to democracy.

The constitutional history of Spain dates back to the constitution of 1812. After the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, a general election in 1977 convened the Constituent Cortes (the Spanish Parliament, in its capacity as a constitutional assembly) for the purpose of drafting and approving the constitution of 1978.

As a result, Spain is now composed of 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities with varying degrees of autonomy thanks to its Constitution, which nevertheless explicitly states the indivisible unity of the Spanish nation as well as that Spain has today no official religion but all are free to practice and believe as they wish.

Government

Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes Generales. The executive branch consists of a Council of Ministers presided over by the President of Government (comparable to a prime minister), proposed by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative elections.

The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) with 350 members, elected by popular vote on block lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms, and a Senate (Senado) with 259 seats of which 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures to also serve four-year terms.

The Spanish nation is organizationally composed in the form of called Estado de las Autonomías (“State of Autonomies”); it is one of the most decentralized countries in Europe, along with Switzerland, Germany and Belgium;[30] for example, all Autonomous Communities have their own elected parliaments, governments, public administrations, budgets, and resources; therefore, health and education systems among others are managed regionally, besides, the Basque Country and Navarre also manage their own public finances based on foral provisions. In Catalonia and the Basque Country, a full fledged autonomous police corps replaces some of the State police functions (see Mossos d’Esquadra and Ertzaintza).

People Population: 40,491,052 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.4% (male 3,011,815/female 2,832,788)
15-64 years: 67.6% (male 13,741,493/female 13,641,914)
65 years and over: 17.9% (male 3,031,597/female 4,231,444) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 40.7 years
male: 39.3 years
female: 42.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.096% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 9.87 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 9.9 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.99 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.26 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.65 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.85 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.92 years
male: 76.6 years
female: 83.45 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.3 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.7% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 140,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 1,000 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Spaniard(s)
adjective: Spanish
Ethnic groups: composite of Mediterranean and Nordic types
Religions: Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%
Languages: Castilian Spanish (official) 74%, Catalan 17%, Galician 7%, Basque 2%, are official regionally
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.9%
male: 98.7%
female: 97.2% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 17 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 4.2% of GDP (2005)

At least 9 killed in 3 church explosions in Indonesia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

At least 9 killed in 3 church explosions in Indonesia

Indonesian bomb squade examine the site following a suicide bomb outside a church in Surabaya early Sunday.

(CNN)Suspected suicide bombers struck three different churches in Indonesia on Sunday morning, killing at least nine people and injuring scores more, police say.

Forty people — including two police officers — were taken to hospital with injuries following the attacks in Surabaya, a port city on the east coast of Java Island, East Java Police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said.
Police officers near the scene of hte blast at Santa Maria church in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia.

The explosions targeted the Santa Maria Catholic Church, the Indonesian Christian Church and the Pentecost Central Church. The St. Maria explosion killed four people and two people were killed at each of the other two churches, the spokesman said. Another person later died at a hospital.
St. Maria was the site of the first blast, which occurred at 7.30 a.m. local time Sunday (8.30 p.m. Saturday ET), before blasts at 7.35 a.m. and 8 a.m., state-run news agency Antara quoted him as saying.
“Right now there are only three locations. Do not believe in misleading information that (the bomb) exploded in five locations or any others,” the police spokesman added.
“We suspect it is a suicide bomb attempt. We have identified one victim,” he said.
The police spokesman declined to give more details on the victims.
Police have closed off all three locations as they work to identify the victims.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi tweeted her condolences to the bombing victims with the hashtags #UnitedAgainstTerrorism and #WeAreNotAfraid.
Police have not identified the attackers.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country. In recent years it has been fighting against radical extremism as ISIS attempts to recruit members within the country.

Cardinal Pell to face trial on criminal charges in Australia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Cardinal Pell to face trial on criminal charges in Australia

Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Magistrates Court in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Pell, the most senior Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis, arrived surrounded by police and media to learn whether he must stand trial on charges that he sexually abused multiple victims decades ago. (Joe Castro/AAP Image via AP) (Associated Press)
 April 30 at 10:27 PM
MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis, must stand trial on charges alleging he sexually abused multiple victims decades ago, a magistrate ruled Tuesday.
Magistrate Belinda Wallington dismissed around half the charges that had been heard in the four-week preliminary hearing in Melbourne but decided the prosecution’s case was strong enough for the remainder to warrant a trial by jury. The number of charges has not been made public
When she asked Pell how he pleaded, the cardinal said in a firm voice: “Not guilty.” Wallington gave him permission not to stand, which is customary.
When the magistrate left the room at the end the hearing, many people in the packed public gallery broke into applause.
Lawyers for Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic had argued all the accusations were untrue, could not be proved and should be dismissed.
Pell, Pope Francis’ former finance minister, was charged last June with sexually abusing multiple people in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the 76-year-old have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as “historical” sexual assault offenses — meaning the crimes allegedly occurred decades ago.
His alleged victims testified in the first two weeks of the preliminary hearing via a video link from a remote location to a room closed to the media and public.
His lawyer Robert Richter told Wallington in his final submissions two weeks ago that the complainants might have testified against one of the church’s most powerful men to punish him for failing to act against abuse by clerics.
But prosecutor Mark Gibson told the magistrate there was no evidence to back Richter’s theory that Pell had been targeted over the church’s failings.
Since Pell returned to Australia from the Vatican in July, he has lived in Sydney and flown to Melbourne for his court hearings. His circumstances are far removed from the years he spent as the high-profile and polarizing archbishop of Melbourne and later Sydney before his promotion to Rome in 2014.
The case places both the cardinal and the pope in potentially perilous territory. For Pell, the charges are a threat to his freedom, his reputation and his career. For Francis, they are a threat to his credibility, given he famously promised a “zero tolerance” policy for sex abuse in the church.
Advocates for abuse victims have long railed against Francis’ decision to appoint Pell to the high-ranking position in the first place. At the time of his promotion, Pell was already facing allegations that he had mishandled cases of clergy abuse during his time leading the church in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia’s largest cities.
So far, Francis has withheld judgment of Pell, saying he wants to wait for justice to run its course. And he did not force the cardinal to resign, though Pell took an immediate leave of absence so he could return to Australia to fight the charges. Pell said he intends to continue his work as a prefect of the church’s economy ministry once the case is resolved.
In recent years, Pell’s actions as archbishop came under particular scrutiny by a government-authorized investigation into how the Catholic Church and other institutions have responded to the sexual abuse of children.
Australia’s Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse — the nation’s highest form of inquiry — revealed last year that 7 percent of Catholic priests were accused of sexually abusing children in Australia over the past several decades.
In testimony to the commission in 2016, Pell conceded that he had made mistakes by often believing priests over people who said they had been abused. And he vowed to help end a rash of suicides that has plagued abuse victims in his hometown of Ballarat.
Pell testified to the inquiry in a video link from the Vatican about his time as a priest and bishop in Australia. He did not attend in person because of a heart condition and other medical problems.
Police said at the preliminary hearing that they had planned to arrest Pell for questioning had he returned to Australia in early 2016 to testify.
His lawyers argued in court that Pell was targeted for “special treatment” by detectives from a police task force that investigated historical sex abuse. Police witnesses denied that accusation.
The investigation of Pell began in 2013 before any complainant had come forward to police, whom Richter accused of running “a get Pell operation.”
Pell’s lawyers told the court in February that the first complainant approached police in 2015, 40 years after the alleged crimes, in response to media reports about the royal commission.
Pell was charged by summons in Rome and agreed to return to Australia to face the allegations.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

39 Nigerian Christians Massacred, Houses Burned Down in Violent Rampage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Some 39 Nigerian Christians Massacred, Houses Burned Down in Violent Rampage

(PHOTO: REUTERS/AFOLABI SOTUNDE)People react as a truck carries the coffins of people killed by the Fulani herdsmen, in Makurdi, Nigeria January 11, 2018.

Christians in Nigeria suffered a second mass-scale slaughter in the space of a few days, according to reports, after Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked villages in Benue state this week, leading to the deaths of at least 39 people.

Morning Star News reported of several attacks throughout the state that targeted Christian communities, including one on Tuesday night on the predominantly Christian Tse-Umenge, Mbakpase and Tse-Ali villages, where 160 houses were burned down.

Mbakpase resident Alice Terwase explained that the attackers wore army camouflage and carried AK-47 weapons.

“The herdsmen destroyed more than 60 houses in our village, and three members of my community were also killed during the attack,” Terwase told the news service.

“At Tse-Ali village, more than 70 houses were set ablaze and 21 Christians killed. All affected victims are members of NKST [Universal Reformed Christian Church, or Nongu u Kristu u i Ser u sha Tar] church, and the Roman Catholic Church in the affected communities.”

John Umenge of Tse-Umenge village said that the radicals burned down 50 houses in his community.

“More than 15 Christians were killed and 50 houses destroyed by the herdsmen,” Umenge revealed. “The attacks began around 11 p.m. on Tuesday night and lasted to the early hours of today (Wednesday).”

Richard Nyajo, council chairman of Logo Local Government Area, told of another attack on Wednesday where seven displaced Christians were taking refuge at a church.

“The attack carried out by the herdsmen in the church premises of the African Church in Mbamondo took place at about 12:20 a.m.,” Nyajo said. “Seven Christian villagers who were displaced in previous attacks and were taking refuge in the church premises were killed.”

The radicals set houses on fire during that raid as well. Morning Star News pointed out that the total number of Christians killed in the assaults has not yet been confirmed.

The killings follow yet another shocking attack on Tuesday morning in Mbalom, when 19 Christians, including two Roman Catholic priests, were killed during morning mass when radicals with guns stormed in.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari called Tuesday’s church attack “particularly despicable.”

“Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshipers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting,” he said.

Buhari faces growing unrest as Christians are outraged that the Fulani attacks are continuing in full-force, despite government pledges of action.

The Christian Association of Nigeria has called for the “National and International Sunday of Christian Protest” on April 29.

“Government should be called upon to perform its constitutional responsibility of protecting citizens now. No excuse should be given for this wicked act again and perpetrators must be brought to book now,” said the Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, president of CAN, in a statement.

“Similarly, the peaceful protest must demand for the release of Leah Sharibu, the captive of faith and the remaining Chibok girls. All people in captivity must be released without delay,” he added, speaking of a kidnapping by Boko Haram, another major terror group in Nigeria.

“We are already at a breaking point and a state of anomie is almost here.”

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

Saudi King Receives President of Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi King Receives President of Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue

Wednesday, 18 April, 2018 – 11:00
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman receives president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. (SPA)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz received in Riyadh on Wednesday President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, reported the Saudi Press Agency.

Discussions focused on the role religion and culture can play in deterring violence, extremism and terrorism and achieving security and stability in the world.

The meeting was attended by Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Secretary General of the Muslim World League Dr. Mohammed Abdulkarim al-Issa.

Pope Francis, Donald Trump, And Faith

Pope Francis, Donald Trump, And Faith

Back in February of 2016 when the Pope was in Mexico as an answer to a question about Mr. Trump and his being a Christian the Pope said that “Donald Trump is not a Christian”. The next day in response Mr. Trump said it was “disgusting” that the Pope would say such a thing as that. Folks think about what just happened for a moment, how would you feel if the Pope himself verbally said that about your faith to the media? I am not a Catholic, never have been, but I am a Christian. When I thought this question to myself the first thing I did was to let out a little chuckle, then the first word I thought of was ‘really’. After thinking about it for a few moments I concluded that if the Pope or any other famous person called me out like that concerning my faith I would demand (I know that wouldn’t mean anything to anyone) a face to face meeting. I looked in the index of my KJV Bible for the word faith and there were many many examples. My eyes wandered down the page to the word faithfulness which had the inscription “making faith a reality in one’s life”. So to be more up to date I checked into the dictionary to check to see what their version of the word faith/faithfulness is. It read under the word faith: Confidence or trust in a person or thing and, belief that is not based on proof. Under faithfulness it read: Strict or thorough in the performance of duty. True to ones word, promises, vows, etc…

So, is Donald Trump a Christian? Is the Pope a Christian? Gods representative on Earth? Does Mr. Trump live a God led life? Does any of us? Judging degrees of other people’s faith or lack there of is a slippery slope that I try to turn over to the one true Judge because I am personally not interested in being a Judge of anyone. When my old mind in my dreams remembers sins committed, long forgotten, buried deep in our minds, how many still remain? I am not worthy to judge, are you? Is Mr. Trump or the Pope? This post like in most of my post I am just trying to get folks to think a little bit about these issues. So, what do you personally think about this flap between the Pope and Mr. Trump? Personally, if I did give my opinion of if Mr. Trump had a clue about being a Christian or of my opinion of the Catholic Church it would only get a lot of folks up set so I will leave those thoughts for another article.

You know what, the heck with it, after all, these are only my opinions, it is not like I am handing down some final judgement on these issues or persons. I am actually quite happy not to be in some final judgement seat handing down edicts toward anyone, there is no way I would want such a responsibility toward anyone.

  1. For what little it is worth. No I don’t believe there is anything ‘Christian’ about Donald Trump! 2) I believe that Rome is the Babylon spoken of several times in the Book of Revelation. 3) I believe that the Catholic Church is the ‘Great Harlot’ of the Book of Revelation. On that note I bid you all a good night.

You Are Not A Human Being

You Are Not A Human Being

 

Did I really say that? Yep, I did. Please lend me your ear for a moment and I will explain myself to you as to why I said such an ignorant arrogant thing.

What are you worth as a human being? I don’t mean how much money your banker says you are worth. What I do mean is, are you a human being at all, is your very hide, your life, worth anything? It should be easy for you to say to me, how dare you, and I agree with you on that. How dare I or anyone to say such a thing about anyone, and mean it! Have you ever wondered how on earth that people can treat each other so inhumanly as to premeditated the taking of another persons life? Not just con, shuck, jive, beg, borrow or steal every material thing a person has on earth. But to feel no remorse about planning to murder someone or about the actual execution there of? Why is it okay for me or anyone else to do such things to our fellow human beings? I have learned that it is much easier to commit murder if you believe that the person or persons aren’t really humans but are something subhuman, just another animal with no Soul. Hate always helps, if you think a person or persons are doing evil things you can demonize them convincing yourself that ‘they deserve it’ for their evil actions.

 

During the last third of the 19th century the western third of what is now the lower 48 States of America was taken over by a lot of us poor white folks and a few rich ones from those “blood thirsty savages” (Indians). Hum, we wanted the land these people lived on and we didn’t want to have to pay anything for it so let’s just unleash a genocide on them. If I can convince myself that these ‘savages’ don’t even have a Soul it makes it easier to just ‘wipe them out’. If I am a ‘Slaver’ of people of another color than my own, it is much easier if you believe that they aren’t equals to ourselves, that they are sub-human, at best. This time frame was not gentile toward other nationalities of people either the Hispanic, Orientals, Jews, Arabs, Catholics, or Blacks, the list goes on and on it seems. It does seem that we can learn to hate anyone, for any reason, even if we have to make one up. Hate doesn’t have to be race related either it can be something as simple as the rich hating the poor and the poor hating the rich.

 

I did just bring up a religion note in that last paragraph on purpose, you didn’t think I could let that one not be included in this critique of the human race did you? I will start first with picking on us people who say that we ‘believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the one and only Living God’ for their spilling of blood of other Christians. Then there is the issue of ‘Christians (and) Catholics’. Do they (Protestant Christians) and the people who call themselves Catholic both believe in the Deity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God the Father? Then how ‘in the name of all that is good and Holy’ does one do violence to the other and believe that Jesus will think that is a good thing? If people would just open up their dusty Bibles and actually read of God’s love for “all people”, then of all people, why the violence one toward another? There is nothing ‘Godly” about this hate and violence! Why do we think that we should condemn, when that is God’s job to do, not ours? Only God is to judge who is correct and who is wrong, it is not our call, we are not to condemn or commit violence toward anyone. If a person is a Christian at heart and Soul then we should be praying for the Souls of those who hate us, and who believe other than what we do. By my belief’s all people who do not come to worship/serve/love Jesus before they die, will end up spending forever in Hell and I do not want that for anyone that I have ever known. Who is a Christian to kill an unbeliever, thus condemning that person to Hell? So, as a Christian I hope that everyone will see the love of Jesus for everyone and turn away from all offensiveness. I do know that not all people are nonviolent who call themselves Christians, and I do know that God will judge us all in the end. Do not mistake my soft heart, I do totally believe that if someone is trying to cause physical harm to your family or your physical being then you have the obligation to protect by any means necessary. It is just that no one has the ‘right’ to be an aggressor, no aggressor, then no is defense needed. God is love, He is not hate, if our heart is filled with hate then we have nothing to do with God. Satan is a ‘god’ of hate, if our hearts and minds are filled with hate it is not ‘God’ whom we are then serving.

 

If we are racist toward another person simply because of the color of their skin, are we not saying that they are not equal humans to us? If I consider you to be less of a person because you are from another whole nationality group, or even a different gender, have I not then demonized/lowered your value as an equal? Christians need to realize that Jesus was a Jew, who was sent to the house of Israel knowing that He would be rejected out of their ignorance of the Scriptures. If the Jewish people had not done exactly as they did toward Jesus then there would never have been such a thing as Christianity. Christians should come to know the Jewish people and the Jewish Nation of Israel as even in Revelation Jesus Himself says salvation is given to the Jew first then to the Gentiles (all the rest of us). Personally I am going to try to convince our Jewish brothers of the human race to see and understand the reality that Jesus is the Christ just as I prefer to try to convince the ‘non-people of the Book’ of their errors so that they do not die in a lost condition.

 

There will not be a lasting peace for the people of our planet because there is an abundance of hate toward everyone from someone somewhere. If I’m not hated because I’m white, straight, Christian, American, old, bald, fat, or ugly I’m sure a person can find something else if they so choose in which to hate me for. I know that there are religions/cultures where I could never be accepted as an equal human being because of some of these very reasons. Wrong color, wrong faith, from wrong country etc..  Are you a human being? Do you look at anyone else on the globe and say in your heart that they aren’t really human, that they don’t have a Soul like I do? If the heart of a man is filled with hate then it is the Devil that owns them, by no means are they a servant of the one and only ‘real God’. What they are doing is kissing the flames off the rump of a Devil when they speak and perform hateful acts upon another. Folks, we are all human beings, equally, of one family, one race, the human race, the only race.

 

 

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