Month: October 2018

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Lack steps back…


The anchor had met with network executives to discuss covering more news and politics.

Megyn Kelly is expected to wind down her 9 a.m. Today show hour by the end of the season, a source close to the situation tells The Hollywood Reporter. 

Sources tell THR that Kelly has met with network executives in recent weeks to discuss the future of the show and expressed a desire to cover more news and politics. It’s unclear what NBC News would put in place of Kelly’s show. But the discussions are at least an acknowledgement that the experiment is not working and that Kelly would prefer to be covering more as she did with the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Kelly met with NBC News chairman Andy Lack well before the controversy over her recent blackface comments erupted. 

Kelly has grappled with hard-news topics, including the #MeToo allegations against a series of powerful men. But her show is in a typically soft daypart, and she has often seemed to chafe at the lighter requirements of the job. Her clumsy comments about blackface on Tuesday’s Megyn Kelly Today — for which she apologized — have only exacerbated the situation. 

At a town hall with NBC News employees on Wednesday, Lack expressed dismay at Kelly’s remarks in which she brushed off the inherent racism of blackface during an on-air discussion about Halloween costumes. The backlash was immediate. And the controversy was covered in a segment on the NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt and also Wednesday morning on the flagship edition of Today. 

“There is no other way to put this, but I condemn those remarks — there is no place on our air or in this workplace for them. Very unfortunate,” Lack said at the town hall. “I think that Nightly covered the story well last night and appropriately so. I think this morning on the Today show, the team did an excellent job covering it properly. I thought Craig [Melvin] and Al [Roker] brought a thoughtfulness and a context to it that was sorely missing, and they really did this company and our audience a real public service. And that is the Today show and Nightly at their very best.”

Added Lack, “As we go forward, my highest priority remains, and as we sort through this with Megyn, let there be no doubt that this is a workplace in which you need to be proud and in which we respect each other in all the ways we know is foundational to who we are.”

Kelly has been under tremendous scrutiny since jumping from Fox News to NBC in early 2017 for a salary reportedly worth close to $20 million annually. Her exit came in the wake of widespread harassment allegations that forced the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes to resign, At Fox News, Kelly had built a reputation as a prosecutorial interviewer who sparred with then-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, earning her admiration and plaudits. But observers also questioned how she would adjust to the fluffier confines of morning TV.



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Minnesota at Crossroads of Divided America…



Minnesota at Crossroads of Divided America...

(Second column, 8th story, link)


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SILVER: 85% DEMS TAKE HOUSE…
Anger may help…
What Could Hold Back Wave?
Senate slipping away…
Could Dem win Kansas gov race?
Tennessee sees rare hope…
Officials prepare for false claims of election interference…
Will ‘all Trump, all the time’ help in midterms?

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APPLE Cook blistering attack on 'data industrial complex'…


Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has joined the chorus of voices warning that data itself is being weaponized again people and societies — arguing that the trade in digital data has exploded into a “data industrial complex”.

Cook did not namecheck the adtech elephants in the room: Google, Facebook and other background data brokers that profit from privacy-hostile business models. But his target was clear.

“Our own information — from the everyday to the deeply personal — is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,” warned Cook. “These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold.

“Taken to the extreme this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is a bunch of algorithms that serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into harm.”

“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance,” he added.

Cook was giving the keynote speech at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC), which is being held in Brussels this year, right inside the European Parliament’s Hemicycle.

“Artificial intelligence is one area I think a lot about,” he told an audience of international data protection experts and policy wonks, which included the inventor of the World Wide Web itself, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, another keynote speaker at the event.

“At its core this technology promises to learn from people individually to benefit us all. But advancing AI by collecting huge personal profiles is laziness, not efficiency,” Cook continued.

“For artificial intelligence to be truly smart it must respect human values — including privacy. If we get this wrong, the dangers are profound. We can achieve both great artificial intelligence and great privacy standards. It is not only a possibility — it is a responsibility.”

That sense of responsibility is why Apple puts human values at the heart of its engineering, Cook said.

In the speech, which we previewed yesterday, he also laid out a positive vision for technology’s “potential for good” — when combined with “good policy and political will”.

“We should celebrate the transformative work of the European institutions tasked with the successful implementation of the GDPR. We also celebrate the new steps taken, not only here in Europe but around the world — in Singapore, Japan, Brazil, New Zealand. In many more nations regulators are asking tough questions — and crafting effective reform.

“It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow your lead.”

Cook said Apple is “in full support of a comprehensive, federal privacy law in the United States” — making the company’s clearest statement yet of support for robust domestic privacy laws, and earning himself a burst of applause from assembled delegates in the process.

Cook argued for a US privacy law to prioritize four things:

  1. data minimization — “the right to have personal data minimized”, saying companies should “challenge themselves” to de-identify customer data or not collect it in the first place
  2. transparency — “the right to knowledge”, saying users should “always know what data is being collected and what it is being collected for, saying it’s the only way to “empower users to decide what collection is legitimate and what isn’t”. “Anything less is a shame,” he added
  3. the right to access — saying companies should recognize that “data belongs to users”, and it should be made easy for users to get a copy of, correct and delete their personal data
  4. the right to security — saying “security is foundational to trust and all other privacy rights”

“We see vividly, painfully how technology can harm, rather than help,” he continued, arguing that platforms can “magnify our worst human tendencies… deepen divisions, incite violence and even undermine our shared sense or what is true or false”.

“This crisis is real. Those of us who believe in technology’s potential for good must not shrink from this moment”, he added, saying the company hopes “to work with you as partners”, and that: “Our missions are closely aligned.”

He also made a sideswipe at tech industry efforts to defang privacy laws — saying that some companies will “endorse reform in public and then resist and undermine it behind closed doors”.

“They may say to you our companies can never achieve technology’s true potential if there were strengthened privacy regulations. But this notion isn’t just wrong it is destructive — technology’s potential is and always must be rooted in the faith people have in it. In the optimism and the creativity that stirs the hearts of individuals. In its promise and capacity to make the world a better place.”

“It’s time to face facts,” Cook added. “We will never achieve technology’s true potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it.”

Opening the conference before the Apple CEO took to the stage, Europe’s data protection supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli argued that digitization is driving a new generational shift in the respect for privacy — saying there is an urgent need for regulators and indeed societies to agree on and establish “a sustainable ethics for a digitised society”.

“The so-called ‘privacy paradox’ is not that people have conflicting desires to hide and to expose. The paradox is that we have not yet learned how to navigate the new possibilities and vulnerabilities opened up by rapid digitization,” Buttarelli argued.

“To cultivate a sustainable digital ethics, we need to look, objectively, at how those technologies have affected people in good ways and bad; We need a critical understanding of the ethics informing decisions by companies, governments and regulators whenever they develop and deploy new technologies.”

The EU’s data protection supervisor told an audience largely made up of data protection regulators and policy wonks that laws that merely set a minimum standard are not enough, including the EU’s freshly painted GDPR.

“We need to ask whether our moral compass been suspended in the drive for scale and innovation,” he said. “At this tipping point for our digital society, it is time to develop a clear and sustainable moral code.”

“We do not have a[n ethical] consensus in Europe, and we certainly do not have one at a global level. But we urgently need one,” he added.

“Not everything that is legally compliant and technically feasible is morally sustainable,” Buttarelli continued, pointing out that “privacy has too easily been reduced to a marketing slogan.

“But ethics cannot be reduced to a slogan.”

“For us as data protection authorities, I believe that ethics is among our most pressing strategic challenges,” he added.

“We have to be able to understand technology, and to articulate a coherent ethical framework. Otherwise how can we perform our mission to safeguard human rights in the digital age?”



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CARAVAN SWELLS TO 14,000…




CARAVAN SWELLS TO 14,000...

(Second column, 1st story, link)


Related stories:
How it became so big and why it continues to grow…
What happens when they arrive?
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Illegal families set record for year…

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Cocaine Deaths Hit Record…


In the 12 months through March, overdose deaths from cocaine rose 22 percent from a year earlier to 14,205, according to data last week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, 46,655 people died from opioid overdoses in the same period, down 2.7 percent from the peak of 47,944 in 2017.



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PET SHOP BOY: 'Where's the art, the poetry in all this?'


On a street in east London lies the Pet Shop Boys’ studio; a pile of rubbish is dumped outside. One room is full of synthesizers; the other has mid-century modern furniture and art by Scott King depicting tower blocks amid Technicolor waves. Here, Neil Tennant is talking about Brexit. “I think everything comes down to social media really, and social media promotes emotional illogicality in all its forms: racism, prejudice and of course nationalism.”

He warms to his theme. “Any multinational empire is going to have an irritating bureaucracy – it’s just a fact. Why is it better for that to be a lot of supposed nation states? When I was at North London Poly in the early 70s, I wrote a defence of the Austro-Hungarian empire. I still think I was right. Stability is very easy to find boring, but afterwards you can appreciate it. I like Joseph Roth, who was a Jewish writer who wrote The Radetzky March, and in his books he sees the Habsburg monarchy as the defenders of all the minorities, including the Jewish minority …”

Listening to this well-read and confidently expressed view, it might seem surprising to think that Tennant has devoted his life to writing not academic papers or newspaper columns but pop songs – but the proof is a slim volume on the table. Titled One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem, the book’s minimal white jacket encases his life’s work: songs about sex and politics, love and despair, a whole panorama of British life. “Really quite often, a publisher says, ‘Let’s get Neil Tennant to write his autobiography’ and it’s quite nice that they do,” its author muses. “I’m not convinced my life’s been interesting enough. This is my autobiography.”

One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem collects the Pet Shop Boys songs Tennant thought looked best written down (so no Heart, Love etc or Shopping), with his introductory essay and commentary. There are the words to huge hits such as It’s a Sin; and obscure b-sides such as The Ghost of Myself, in which Tennant remembers living with a girlfriend in the late 70s, before he came to terms with being gay. He has written songs his whole life, first as a teenage hippy in his native Newcastle, then as a Pet Shop Boy. “I remember as a boy hearing Strawberry Fields Forever and also reading John Lennon’s explanation that he wanted it to be like a conversation, and that had a very powerful impact on me,” he says. “And I remember reading an interview with Frank Sinatra where he said you should phrase lyrics like a conversation. I’ve always tried to do that. Someone who you might not think of as the world’s best lyricist is Madonna, but she always gets the emphasis on the right syllable.”

Neil Tennant (right) and Chris Lowe in 1986, the year before It’s a Sin kicked off the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘imperial period’. Photograph: Mike Prior/Getty Images



Neil Tennant (right) and Chris Lowe in 1986, the year before It’s a Sin kicked off the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘imperial period’. Photograph: Mike Prior/Getty Images

He met Chris Lowe, then an architecture student, in an electrical shop on London’s King’s Road in 1981, a year before he started as news editor on the pop magazine Smash Hits. He and Lowe wanted Pet Shop Boys songs to have the raw excitement of the electro, hi-NRG and hip-hop coming out of New York, a city then as scary as it was inspiring: “Every time you left New York in the early 80s you thought, ‘Wow, survived another trip’.” Their lyrics, however, were distinctly English: sometimes direct, even banal (“I always thought banality was a particular talent”), but more often funny and perceptive, with a far wider perspective than most pop songs.

On one level their first No 1 hit West End Girls was about the seedy glamour of a night out in London, but Tennant also slid in a reference to Edmund Wilson’s To the Finland Station, a history of socialism from the French revolution to Lenin’s arrival in St Petersburg. As if slightly embarrassed by this erudition – the Pet Shop Boys were always militantly pop (modern, glamorous, artificial) as opposed to rock (raw, traditional, authentic) – they never used to print their lyrics on their album sleeves. “We probably had some ideological point about it that we lost interest in,” says Tennant. “I wonder if we thought it was rock or something. You see that whole thing went away … because rock lost.” He hoots with laughter.

Tennant’s sharpest lyrics still resonate today. When the Conservative party conference unveiled its slogan Opportunity last month, wits immediately tweeted: “I’ve got the brains, you’ve got the looks/Let’s make lots of money” – the chorus to their song Opportunities, which satirised the Tory zeal for enterprise. “That was a classic early Thatcherite notion,” Tennant says, adding that it was the puckish Lowe who came up with the line “Let’s make lots of money”.

In 1987, It’s a Sin, a disco blockbuster about Catholic guilt, got to No 1 in 11 countries and kicked off what he famously called Pet Shop Boys’ “imperial period”, the stage where a group can do no wrong. Though Tennant’s commentary in the book makes the subject matter of some songs more explicit, the Pet Shop Boys’ sexuality was somewhat coded at the time – obvious to those in the know (they posed in full leather gear on the cover of Smash Hits) but destined to go over the head of most teen pop fans. So was the sin in question homosexuality? “I think it just meant sex,” says Tennant. “When you’re an adolescent boy at a Catholic school you’re taught that sex, apart from reasons of procreation, is a sin. Going out and getting pissed with your friends is a sin.”

Then there was Rent, recently the subject of a tweeted inquiry by Pet Shop Boys fan Cardi B as to what the words are about. “We were trying to write provocative lyrics,” Tennant says. “You’d hear someone in a gay club say, ‘Oh, he’s rent’. It’s nostalgie de la boue, nostalgia of the gutter. We both like the pathos of streetlife.” Rather than a rent boy however, Tennant imagines the subject of the song to be the mistress of a powerful politician, kept in an apartment on New York’s Upper East Side. “I never know quite what it’s about, really. But I always quite like that in pop songs.”

Pet Shop Boys on stage at the Montreux rock festival in 1986. Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns



Pet Shop Boys on stage at the Montreux rock festival in 1986. Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns

Some of Pet Shop Boys’ most moving songs were Tennant’s response to the Aids crisis. “When I decided I was gay was pretty much when Aids came in, so you were paranoid,” he says. Then, “this friend of mine from Newcastle, my closest friend in some ways, suddenly goes down with HIV. And that was when Suburbia was in the top 10.” Tennant spent a good deal of his imperial period in the Aids ward of St Mary’s Hospital in London, “watching [my] friend waste away”. Christopher Dowell, who died in 1989, is commemorated in three songs including Being Boring, a devastatingly sad memorial to their friendship.

It’s something he thinks about still. “I had a very strong group of friends as an adolescent, many of whom I still know – we’ve got a new song which looks back at that,” Tennant says. “It was a very intense part of my life and it sort of ended with the Aids crisis, with so many friends who died, so I will probably never get over that. I don’t mean in a traumatised way, just that it’s always there in my history. It’s part of who I am.”

Tennant finally came out to Attitude magazine in 1994. Does he wish, like Olly Alexander and Troye Sivan today, he had written unabashedly gay songs filled with male pronouns? “In the 80s and the 90s, for that matter, it was such a big deal, being gay,” he says. (In 1987, a British Social Attitudes poll found that 75% of the general public thought homosexuality was “always” or “mostly” wrong; the following year the Thatcher government brought in section 28, which prevented it being “promoted” in schools.) “You knew your audience had a lot of women or girls in it, so you wanted to include everyone. I still sort of think that when I’m writing, to be honest. Also I don’t write about my life in the direct way that most, if not all, artists do nowadays. Sometimes I think, ‘Where’s the art, where’s the poetry in all of this?’ Lily Allen can write these amazingly and actually quite funny direct slag-offs of people and stuff like that. That’s just not who I am, I’m afraid. It isn’t anything to do with pronouns, it’s to do with poetry really.” He laughs.

It’s also the reason why, for all the Pet Shop Boys songs commenting on society and politics (including three about Tony Blair), they have never written a direct protest song. “I wouldn’t write a song called Second Referendum Now, even though I think there should be one,” Tennant says. “We have written a song called Give Stupidity a Chance which is a satire. It’s close to a protest song, but it’s also funny.” Pop music’s strength, he believes, lies not in making a party political point but in summing up the atmosphere of the time – as the Specials managed with Ghost Town. “When that came out in the middle of the Toxteth riots era, everything about it was a political statement, but it wasn’t putting forward a political programme.”

What about just writing a straightforward love song? Tennant is surprised when I suggest that they have become more infrequent on Pet Shop Boys albums. “Maybe there’s been less to write about, I’m afraid.” He pauses, slightly embarrassed. “Not totally. Actually on das neu album is a major love song.”

Would he ever avoid writing about anything too intimate? “Sex or something? No, one has to think of the person that’s the subject, so you’ve got to bear their feelings in mind.” He says he has the “slightly cold and dispassionate” ability to be having an argument with a lover and realise that an accusation like “You only tell me you love me when you’re drunk” will make a good title for a song.

He has never had writer’s block, never considered stopping writing. The closest Pet Shop Boys have ever come to splitting up was in 1999, when the concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith went bankrupt while they were on tour. “We were playing to half-empty arenas, losing a fortune. It came to a head one night at Sheffield Arena. I said to Chris, ‘Why don’t we just pack it in?’ And Chris didn’t answer. So we started talking about something else.” Their forthcoming album will be their 15th, not counting live and compilation albums, and will include a song inspired by the refugee crisis, and another about Berlin, the city where they go to write and – occasionally on a Sunday afternoon – to dance at Berghain, the legendary techno club.

Tennant became famous at 31; he’s now 64. The single poem in the book contemplates his mortality; three songs were inspired by funerals. “People fall away, you know,” he says. “This year we’ve had quite a few friends, all of them quite a bit younger than me, die.” I ask about the death of George Michael, a pop peer nine years Tennant’s junior. “I felt sad and almost angry because it seemed like such a waste. He was so young and also I think he was on a path it would have been possible to reverse. But he was very stubborn, George.”

He adds that while they didn’t know each other well, their relationship spanned three decades. “I first met him in 1982. I interviewed him and Andrew [Ridgley] for Smash Hits and then the last time we saw him it was exactly 30 year later, at the Olympic closing ceremony. We were in these Portakabin-y dressing rooms and the person next to us is playing music unbelievably loudly. I said to our tour manager: ‘Can you go and ask him to turn that down, please?’ And suddenly the door flings open and George, who we hadn’t seen since he’d been in jail, comes in and says: ‘Did you just tell me to turn my music down?’ I said: ‘Yes, I did.’ And he says: ‘Give me a hug.’ And then he went back to his dressing room, put his stereo on and played West End Girls – loudly.”

The front door opens. It’s Lowe. “You know there’s all this rubbish outside? You’re going to have to phone the council.”

“I’m going to, actually,” says Tennant.

“It’s turning into a public … tip!” says Lowe, aghast.

“Actually, a fire risk!”

“Rats, the whole lot!”

It’s time to go. “He’s good at talking, isn’t he,” says Lowe, “especially about himself! Did you ask him about Brexit?”

One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem by Neil Tennant (Faber, £14.99) is published on 1 November. To order a copy for £12.89, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.



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Test Scores for Class of 2018 Lowest in DECADES…


The creators of the ACT test announced on Wednesday that scores for the class of 2018 are the worst reported in decades. Math scores, in fact, are in freefall among ACT-tested U.S. high school graduates, falling to their lowest mark in 14 years, according to The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2018, the ACT’s annual report.

The report includes ACT test results from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“The percentage of ACT-tested graduates who met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in math—suggesting they are ready to succeed in a first-year college algebra class—fell to its lowest level since 2004,” the report declared, with only 40 percent of 2018 graduates meeting the benchmark, “down from a high of 46% in 2012.”

The average score on the ACT math test dropped to its lowest level in 20 years — 20.5 on a scale of 1 to 36. American students scored 21.1 in 2012 and 20.7 last year.

“The negative trend in math readiness is a red flag for our country, given the growing importance of math and science skills in the increasingly tech-driven US and global job market,” said ACT CEO Marten Roorda. “It is vital that we turn this trend around for the next generation and make sure students are learning the math skills they need for success in college and career.”

But it’s not just math scores that have parents and educators concerned. Scores in other subjects are also falling.



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Thieves steal giant infatable colon from hospital…


The inflatable colon pictured here was stolen from a pickup truck in Kansas City. Authorities are asking the public for help in locating the colon. (Photo Courtesy KU Cancer Center)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSNW) – An inflatable colon has been stolen from the University of Kansas Cancer Center. 

The colon, valued at $4,000, was stolen from a pickup truck that was parked in Brookside, Kansas City.

“Colorectal cancer screening is the most powerful weapon we have against colorectal cancer,” John Ashcraft, DO, surgical oncologist at The University of Kansas Cancer Center said.  Ashcraft is also co-leader of the cancer prevention and survivorship research program.  “Colon cancer is a tough subject for many to talk about and the giant, 150 pound, ten foot long inflatable colon is a great conversation starter.”

The Cancer Coalition owns the inflatable colon. The organization hosts walk and run events for a campaign called “Get Your Rear In Gear.”

The organization ships the inflatable colon across the country for the events. The colon was on its way the a 5K which was scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m. at Swope Park when it was stolen. 

Authorities ask the public to call Kansas City Police with any information regarding the stolen colon. 

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SNAP: LYFT Driver Suffers Mental Breakdown…


WOODLAND (CBS13) — A Woodland woman is speaking out about a Lyft ride that ended with police put her driver in handcuffs. The frightening moments played out as she was on her way to pick up her husband from the hospital.

Christie Gomez had only used Lyft a couple times before that fateful ride, but she instantly knew this ride wasn’t right.

lyft from down under Lyft Driver Has Mental Breakdown On Ride, Placed On Psychiatric Hold By Police

“Honestly it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever went through in my life,” Gomez said. “The real first sign was once we got on the freeway he literally started crying, but it was crying and then laughing at the same time.”

She ordered the ride from her home in Woodland to pick up her husband at the Kaiser Hospital in Sacramento, a 25-mile trip. Her driver began driving erratically and then removed his hands from the wheel, covered his eyes with his hands, and told Gomez to direct him on the road.

READ: Mega Millions Winning Numbers For $1 Billion Announced

“(He was saying) ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t go through like this anymore.’” Gomez said.

Fearing the worst, she reached out to her mom and husband, texting them that she was scared.

Eventually, Gomez convinced the driver to pull over in a Natomas Shopping Center, saying she had to go to the bathroom. As soon as she got out of the car, Gomez ran into a nearby Starbucks.

Sacramento Police arrived and found the driver locked in a gas station bathroom. Officers said he was acting erratically, covering himself in soap and trying to bite him.

ALSO: Sacramento Couple Visits With Woman They Saved From Burning Car

The driver was taken into custody and put on a mental health hold.

Lyft issued a statement Friday saying, “We have deactivated the driver’s account as we collect more details and have been in contact with the passenger affected.”

Gomez said she thought she’d be safe, now she’s saying it was a mistake she won’t make again. She also received a full refund from the ride-share app for her trip.



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Birth of new Ukrainian church brings fears of violence…


KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The rough-looking young men brought clubs and brass knuckles to the Pechersk Monastery in Kiev , one of Orthodox Christianity’s most important pilgrimage sites, apparently seeking to disrupt worship. Police spread-eagled them against a wall decorated in faded centuries-old frescos of solemn saints, then hauled them away.

On the other side of the dispute, at a small church in the center of Kiev, a dozen men organized round-the-clock guard duty, worried that nationalist radicals might make their third attempt in a year to seize the place of worship.

The incidents a week ago underline the tensions in Ukraine as it prepares to establish a full-fledged Orthodox church of its own. The planned religious rupture from the Russian Orthodox Church is a potent — possibly explosive — mix of politics, religious faith and national identity.

The imminent creation of the new Ukrainian church raises deep concerns about what will happen to the approximately 12,000 churches in Ukraine that are now under the Moscow Patriarchate.

“The question of what will happen to the property of the Orthodox churches existing in Ukraine after the emergence of a single local church is key and could be one of the most painful” issues of the Orthodox split, said Volodymyr Fesenko, an analyst at the Ukrainian think-tank Penta.

Since the late 1600s, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine had been a wing of the Russian Orthodox Church rather than ecclesiastically independent — or “autocephalous.” Many Ukrainians chafed at that arrangement, resenting its implication that Ukraine was a vassal state of Russia.

Schismatic churches formed under their own Ukrainian leaders, but they were not recognized as canonical by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the so-called “first among equals” of leaders of the world’s Orthodox Churches.

That is about to change.

The Istanbul-based patriarchate last week removed an anathema against Ukrainian church leaders, a major step toward granting full recognition to a Ukrainian church that does not answer to the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Russian Orthodox Church, furious at the move, announced it would no longer recognize the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch. It also fears it will lose deeply cherished sites including the Pechersk Monastery, the seat of the church’s Ukrainian branch and a major tourist destination renowned for its richly decorated churches and labyrinthine caves holding the relics of holy men.

It’s not exactly clear when the autocephaly will be formally granted. The two schismatic Ukrainian churches must meet to decide who will be the patriarch of the unified church. Once that decision is made, Constantinople is expected to grant the independence order.

In recent years, about 50 churches in Ukraine that were under the Moscow Patriarchate have been forcibly seized and transferred to the Kiev Patriarchate, according to Metropolitan Antony Pakanich of the Moscow-loyal Ukrainian Church.

“People have been forcibly dragged out of our temples, the locks have been sawed off,” he told The Associated Press. “People in camouflage and balaclavas, with insignia of radical organizations, have come and beat our believers and priests.”

Some believers say they will forcefully defend their right to stay.

“The creation of a local church will push for a new round of confrontation … we, who are supporters of canonical Orthodoxy, will defend our interests here,” said Ilya Bogoslovsky, a 28-year-old who came with his wife and daughter for a service at the chapel of the Tithes Monastery, where the guards had been deployed.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has hailed the creation of the full Ukrainian church as “a guarantee of our spiritual freedom,” has pledged that there will be no action taken against parishes that choose to remain under the Moscow Patriarchate.

Similar promises have come from Patriarch Filaret, head of the largest of the schismatic Ukrainian Orthodox churches, who said “creating a single Orthodox Church in Ukraine does not mean that the Russian Orthodox Church does not have the right to exist on our territory.”

But some Ukrainian nationalists appear ready to use force. In September, radical right-wingers broke into a church in western Ukraine, beat up a priest, drove parishioners away and locked the building.

A leader of the ultranationalist C14 group, whose adherents have twice attacked the Tithes church in Kiev, sees the presence of Moscow Patriarchate churches in Ukraine as a form of propaganda by an “aggressor country” since the Russian Orthodox Church has close ties with the Kremlin.

The Tithes church is “the Kremlin’s political tool,” Serhiy Mazur said.

The war between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, which began in 2014 and has killed at least 10,000 people, has also sharply increased the hostility toward the Moscow Patriarchate churches.

Father Sergii Dmitriev, a chaplain in the Ukrainian army, was once part of the Moscow church but switched to the Kiev Patriarchate after the Russia-linked church began to refuse holding funerals for Ukrainian soldiers killed in the war.

“To be in the Moscow Patriarchate is to take part in the murder of Ukrainians,” he told the AP. “Not only those who pull the trigger are responsible, but those who bless the pulling of the trigger.”

With such passions on both sides, the cleric feared that more violence between the two uneasy neighbors lay ahead.

“The birth of a new Ukrainian church is taking place amid throes for which everyone should be prepared,” he warned.



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