Russian Train Bearing Soviet Symbols Halted in Lithuania

Russian Train Bearing Soviet Symbols Halted in Lithuania


Border guards at Lithuania’s Kybartai railway checkpoint stopped a train from Kaliningrad, Russia, from entering their nation on Monday because it was adorned with Soviet symbols.

Windows in the chartered train were plastered with posters of Soviet symbols, which are illegal in Lithuania. They’re illegal because Lithuania—like the nation of Ukraine—was part of the Soviet Union for decades, and suffered under ussr oppression.

“It was a terrible 50 years for us in Lithuania,” Sara Linkevičiūtė, a resident of Vilnius, told on May 14. “Citizens were deported to Siberia for genocide,” she said, explaining that she and her compatriots would do whatever is necessary to prevent Lithuania from returning to its dark Soviet chapter.

Ukraine is currently being destabilized primarily by a Russian desire to rebuild its old Soviet Empire. And some are worried that Lithuania and other former-Soviet nations of Eastern Europe could be next. This is why the Lithuanian border guards viewed the Soviet symbols on the Russian train warily. After officials removed the posters, the train and over 200 Russian passengers were permitted to leave the Kybartai checkpoint.

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has Europeans on edge in Lithuania and beyond. The Crimean crisis truly is a global game changer. To understand more about this geopolitical sea change, and what it means for the Lithuanians and other Europeans, check out our exclusive interview from last week with Lithuania’s vice foreign minister.

China Signs Standard Gauge Railway Deal With East Africa

China Signs Standard Gauge Railway Deal With East Africa

POOL/AFP/Getty Images

China clinched a $3.8 billion-deal with East African leaders, allowing the Chinese to fund and build a major railway in Kenya, and eventually to Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.

The Standard Gauge Railway agreement was signed on May 11 in Nairobi, Kenya, by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. It was witnessed by presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and Salva Kiir of South Sudan, as well as representatives from Burundi, Tanzania and the African Development Bank.

China, via Exim Bank of China, will finance 90 percent of the project, and Kenya will pay for the remaining 10 percent. A Chinese firm will construct the railway line.

Construction of the 379 mile standard gauge railway from Kenya’s port city of Mombasa to the capital, Nairobi, will begin in October and is expected to last 3½ years. Thereafter, the rail line will be expanded to link Kampala, Kigali, Bujumbura and Juba, drawing unmistakable similarities—howbeit less ambitious—to Cecil John Rhodes’s intended Cape to Cairo Railway. Kenyatta said that the railway project will “eventually unify all of East Africa.”

Proposed route of the Standard Gauge Railway

The new railway will replace old tracks built over a century ago by the British. The old, narrow-gauge railway line is a diminishing vestige of British colonialism and influence, even as President Kenyatta implied. But that influence is rapidly giving way to Chinese neo-colonialism.

China is using its economic clout as the second-largest economy in the world to get what it wants without too many strings attached. Kenyatta lauded China as an “honorable,” newfound partner in trade and cooperation. Uganda’s Museveni gave even stronger adulation: “We are happy to see that China is concentrating on the real issues of development,” he said. “They don’t give lectures on how to run local governments and other issues I don’t want to mention,” alluding to the West’s criticism of Uganda’s anti-homosexual legislation. China seemingly has no moral qualms in signing deals even with South Sudan’s Salva Kiir, in spite of the world’s newest nation’s devastating civil war, supported in part by over 9,000 child soldiers.

It is through projects like railway construction that China is making inroads into Africa’s largely untapped natural resources and trade opportunities. China needs these to power its $9 trillion economy and feed its 1.3 billion people.

The scramble for Africa is going to intensify into a resource war. Read our article “The Battleground” to see how Africa will inevitably be a theater of an explosive war for resources.

The State Must Redistribute Wealth, Pope Tells UN

The State Must Redistribute Wealth, Pope Tells UN


The state should redistribute economic benefits, Pope Francis told a meeting of senior United Nations’ leaders, including Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, on May 9.

UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (ceb) is the UN’s most senior coordination forum and includes the heads of all UN programs and agencies. It includes UN organizations like the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (unesco) and the UN Development Programme (undp), as well as the International Monetary Fund (imf) the World Trade Organization (wto) and World Bank, among many others.

The board meets twice a year, usually in the United States or Switzerland, but every 10 years or so it meets at the headquarters of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Food Program in Rome. The last time it met in Rome, in 2000, Pope John Paul ii addressed the board.

The pope apparently received a sympathetic reception during the private meeting, despite the church’s recent clashes with UN organizations over its handling of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, and its stance on abortion, homosexuality and contraception.

A contribution to this equitable development will also be made … by the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State.
Pope Francis, May 9, 2014
According to text released by the Vatican, the pope devoted most of his speech to the economy. He focused on Christ’s encounter with the wealthy tax collector Zacchaeus, detailed in Luke 19:1-10. After his encounter with Christ, Zacchaeus announced he would give half his goods to the poor and make amends with anyone he had defrauded.

The pope used this example to encourage an awareness of and sensitivity to the needs of the poor. But in doing so, he went far beyond what is promoted in this passage in the Bible. Rather than encouraging individuals to have compassion on those less well off than themselves, he called for “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State.”

This is a completely different kettle of fish and requires a big government with a large welfare state and a heavy tax burden. But it is also consistent with the pope’s other pronouncements on the economy. These kinds of statements have led to the pope being labeled a Marxist by some on the right.

But the pope’s economic philosophy, most heavily detailed in last year’s Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) exhortation is rooted in Catholic social doctrine. In essence it is this: Marxism fails because it concentrates too much power with the national leaders. It gives them the capacity to do great evil and there is nothing to stop them. The pope believes capitalism avoids this, however, it is intrinsically selfish and fails to look after the poor. His solution is a strong, almost Marxist state with the wealth and power to take care of the poor. To prevent the national leaders from wielding their considerable power unjustly, the Catholic Church would also have major power. This way, the “good” of the Catholic Church prevents the national leaders from abusing their power. These benevolent rulers then make sure everyone is treated fairly.

Read More: “Much More Than an Economic Plan”

This is the economic system the church has long promoted (for what it looks like in practice, see our recent article “Church + State”). The pope is using the global economic crisis as an opportunity to give this old Catholic idea new life.

In a time of rising unemployment and inequality, it is an attractive vision. Capitalism and free market may have proved the most effective economic system for lifting poorer nations out of poverty man has ever invented, but it hasn’t fixed poverty, starvation and illiteracy. No wonder many are looking for an alternative.

Watch for the pope’s ideas to become increasingly influential. For more on exactly what the pope wants for the world economies, read the cover article from March’s print edition of the TrumpetMuch More Than an Economic Plan.”

The Teenage Administrators

“And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.”

Antibiotic Resistance Threatens Global Plague

Antibiotic Resistance Threatens Global Plague


The World Health Organization issues alarming report.

Diseases that were once treatable are becoming killers again, the World Health Organization warned on April 30. The organization said the over-prescription of antibiotics has enabled the rise of untreatable superbugs.

“For organism after organism, we’re seeing this steady increase in resistance rates,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Reuters. “We don’t have new drugs about to come out of the pipeline. If and when we get new drugs, unless we do a better job of protecting them, we’ll lose those also.”

The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.
Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director-general for health security
In its most comprehensive report to date, the who said that several strains of infectious bacteria were able to resist even the strongest antibiotics. The world’s last line of defense against some bugs is failing. Even “last resort” drugs are losing their potency, the who reported.

The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” said Keiji Fukuda, the who’s assistant director-general for health security.

Among the report’s key findings was the global spread of drug-resistant gonorrhea, which could soon become a deadly killer again. Extremely resistant forms of the disease have been identified in Australia, the UK and several European countries. The cdc said in February that another tough strain of drug-resistant gonorrhea was on the rise, especially among homosexual men living in the western U.S.

More than 2 million Americans who develop serious bacterial infections show antibiotic resistance, the cdc reported, and at least 23,000 die from the infections—more than the number of aids deaths in the U.S. each year.

Startlingly, hospitals are a major source of these deadly infections. The who noted an alarming rate of resistance to carbapenem antibiotics, which is the strongest weapon against life-threatening infections caused by Klebsiella pneumonia (a major culprit of hospital-acquired infections like pneumonia and blood infections).

Additionally, the cdc reported in the past that widespread use of antibiotics in food production to promote animal growth has also caused many resistant strains of bacteria.

The article “Gonorrhea Apocalypse” makes the case that the world may be heading toward a time when deaths from cuts and scrapes are once again reality. It is worth the read.

Egyptian Spies Captured While Gathering Intelligence on Ethiopian Dams

Egyptian Spies Captured While Gathering Intelligence on Ethiopian Dams

William Lloyd-George/AFP/Getty Images

Spying allegations expose mounting tensions over construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The recent arrest of three Egyptian spies by Ethiopian security forces is the latest escalation in tensions over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (gerd).

Captured on May 5 in separate locations across the nation, the three Egyptian men stand accused of gathering intelligence on Ethiopia’s dam system. One man was arrested at the Abobo Dam, while the other two were arrested as they attempted to travel to the gerd. It is the latter of the two dams that is of greater significance.

Map: Grand Renaissance Dam Project, Ethiopia

The gerd is a massive hydroelectric dam being constructed on the headwaters of the Nile River in Ethiopia. It will be the largest dam in Africa, coming in at over 5,900 feet (1,800 meters) long, and it will have a capacity of over 2.6 billion gallons of water. More important than its size, this dam’s geopolitical significance is immense.

Egypt sees this dam as a direct threat to its own national stability. Almost 100 percent of Egypt’s 83 million inhabitants live on the banks of the north-flowing Nile. Egyptians see the gerd as the equivalent of a giant spigot that Ethiopia is capable of turning on and off at will.

With Egypt so dependent on the Nile, any threat to those life-giving waters is seen as a threat to the nation itself. While Ethiopia claims the dam won’t affect the water flow to the north, it hasn’t been enough to convince the Egyptians.

Negotiations have been rough, with Egypt threatening to bomb the dam should its construction be finished. Egypt has a vast army and works closely with South Sudan, which recently established a military pact with Egypt. These factors lend credibility to the Egyptian threats.

Read More: War Over The Nile River

Egypt is currently embroiled in enough strife at home with elections and terrorists running wild in the Sinai Peninsula. It doesn’t need a conflict with Ethiopia on top of that. But, should the Nile River suddenly become the Nile Creek, Egypt would be forced into action.

The arrest of the three spies shows that despite its domestic struggles, Egypt is still wary of the Ethiopian threat to the south. Once Egypt regains its domestic footing, prepare for it to focus more attention on defending its Achilles heel/lifeline: the Nile River.

This particular African crisis is only a degree or two away from boiling over. Do you want to know more about how Egypt may respond to the gerd threat? If you do, follow this link to the analysis written by columnist Robert Morley, “War Over the Nile River.”