Pope Francis Visits Africa

Pope Francis arrived in Kenya today to begin his first-ever visit to Africa, where he will visit several different countries, including the Central African Republic where religious turmoil is strong. Francis was met by the president of Nairobi, Uhuru Kenyatta, and governor Evans Kidero at the Nairobi airport. Francis’ stay in Africa will see 19 major speeches around the continent.

Pope Francis has not been deterred by concerns for his safety and pledges to venture into war-torn countries all the same. When asked if he had worries about security, Francis answered, “I’m more afraid of the mosquitoes.”

The pope’s visit to Africa is meant to remind the African churches that they do matter, and to remind the peoples of its countries that they matter, too. Francis is expected to visit a slum in Nairobi to encourage young Christians there in the wake of 150 people killed at a college by Islamic extremists in April.

Francis is expected to speak about a number of the issues of interest to him in is campaign, primarily peace between Christians and other faiths, particularly Islam. He will advocate for religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence. Francis will also discuss poverty in the nations, using the simplicity with which he leads his own life as an example for those living in poverty—or not.

He will also address climate change and the environment, topics which have been a staple of his papacy. Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si,” was published earlier this year, and the work is likely to come up in his speeches.

Additionally, Francis will discuss homosexuality, family matters, and contraception, which could be uncomfortable, as the Catholic Church opposes the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS, a prevalent illness in African countries.

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5 Black Lives Matter Protestors Shot in Minneapolis

Police stand in front of a police car and "do not cross" tape.

Image: Minneapolis police cordon off the area of the shooting | NPR

Five Black Lives Matter protestors were shot near Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct early Monday. Officers are currently searching for “three white male suspects” who fled the scene. None of the protestors shot sustained life-threatening injuries. Activists intend to return to the precinct to continue demonstrations.

The protestors had been outside of the precinct since the November 15th shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark. Police responded to reports of gunshots from the area and moved in. A local resident who was present at the shooting, Henry Habu, says he saw three men and a woman in ski masks recording the protestors; other witnesses saw three men in ski masks. When asked about their identities and purpose, the masked people would not answer.

“Tonight, white supremacists attacked the #4thPrecinctShutDown in an act of domestic terrorism,” Black Lives Matter Minneapolis said on their Facebook page. “We won’t be intimidated.”

Some members of the community tried to remove tension from the situation. Carrie Brown, who was also present for the shooting, said, “One of the white protestors who had been with us since the beginning said, ‘Be careful, those guys are white supremacists…One of our young men reached out and touched one of them and said, ‘Oh, he has a vest on, like a bulletproof vest.’”

Eddie Sutton, Jamar Clark’s brother, issued a statement regarding the shootings: “Thank you to the community for the incredible support you have shown for our family in this difficult time. We appreciate Black Lives Matter for holding it down and keeping the protests peaceful. But in light of tonight’s shootings, the family feels out of imminent concern for the safety of the occupiers, we must get the occupation of the 4th precinct ended and onto the next step.”

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US China Relations Impact Asia Pacific Economic Summit

The flags of many countries blow in the wind.

Image: Shutterstock

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit is taking place in Manila this week and will be attended by 21 member countries. Over 7,000 attendees comprised of government officials, CEOs, and high-ranking executives, and others will be attendance. Leading figures in the world of finance like Bill E Ford, CEO of General Atlantic, who serves on the Board of Directors of the National Committee on United States-China Relations pay particular attention to these events.

Validimir Putin will not be attending the summit due to the recent plane crash in Egypt of a Russian passenger jet, now labeled a terrorist attack. President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping will be in attendance, however, in what is expected to be an atmosphere charged by issues related to economics, trade, and terrorism.

The summit has already received its share of protests by Philippine activists protesting territory disagreements with China in the South China Sea and displaying banners reading “Boycott All China Products.” The rancor was so pronounced that a Chinese diplomat visited Manila prior to the summit to request that these demonstrations and anti-China comments be controlled during the summit.

Others active within this region have also expressed disappointment with APEC since it’s a non-binding group and can’t really enforce its decisions or guidelines. A not-so-kind joke interprets the summit’s acronym as “A Perfect Excuse to Chat.”

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have added additional complexities to negotiating relationships between APEC member nations and super powers operating in the region. A need for communication and better understanding is required.

Understanding is achieved through ongoing thoughtful dialog, analysis, education, and conversation. The National Committee On United States–China Relations is committed to improving the dialog between these two nations, a mission of even greater importance as terrorist attacks increase around the globe.

A highlight in this dialog is the Barnet-Oksenberg Lecture on Sino-American Relations. This year David M. Lampton, Hyman Professor and Director of SAIS-China and China Studies at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies will deliver it. He’s the author of many books include The Three Faces of Chinese Power: Might, Money, and Minds. His lecture will explore issues related to politics and security, governance, civil society, and economics.

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Syrian Militants Using Caged Hostages to Deter Attacks

As the situation in Syria continues to degrade, some armed groups have begun placing people in cages in order to deter indiscriminate attacks against settlements or specific sections thereof. The people in the cages are suspected to be captured fighters and local civilians taken hostage by the armed groups. Both are considered protected people, and by using them in such a way, the groups are committing war crimes.

Caging people is here considered an outrage upon personal dignity, as defined by the Geneva Conventions and the statue of the International Criminal Court. This is perhaps the least offensive aspect of this new ploy though. Using captives in this way also constitutes as both hostage taking and human shielding, which are similarly outlawed.

Hostage taking is defined as taking captives and subsequently threatening them in order to get something out of a third party, or getting them to perform a specified action. Demanding a ransom is the common example known from media, but in this case it is to prevent the Syrian government and its allies, or other militant groups, from attacking certain points.

That crime doubles in this case as human shielding, which is defined as placing protected peoples, such as civilians or captured fighters, in harms way in order to make certain areas immune to military operations. As stated by locals in favor of the practice and the groups using this tactic, the cages have been positioned specifically to prevent attacks on certain areas. According to a video posted to the Shaam News Network, an opposition outlet, there are so far 100 cages in Ghouta, with plans to make 1,000 more to distribute to different parts of that region.

When the Syrian conflict finally comes to an end, provided leadership from the armed groups responsible for these actions can be apprehended, they will no doubt face trials or war crimes on numerous counts.

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New Evidence Might Show Where Our Universe Bounced off Another

A scientific-looking illustration of what multiverse theory could look like.

Image: Shutterstock

The idea that the universe we in habit is just one of many has been floating around scientific circles for years now. The idea, called a multiverse, posits that there are multiple universes out there, likely with different laws of physics. So another universe could look much like our own, or be totally different. Some might be stable, while others may not.

It is also thought that, if these universes touch each other, there would be some kind of evidence left over and, likely, they only evidence we’re likely to find. That’s because, if multiple universes exist, they must be so far apart in space that light traveling between the would carry very little useful information.

But according to Caltech cosmologist Ranga-Ram Chary, we might have traces of one such collision between our universe and a neighbor. The European Space Agency’s Planck telescope inadvertently uncovered a patch of bright light that seems out of place.

The thinking goes that this patch of light is from another universe colliding with ours shortly after the Big Bang, something like a few hundred thousand years after, which is quite short by cosmological standards. That light we’re seeing, which is part of the Planck’s map of the cosmic microwave background, would be left over from that other universe. The brightness may be explained by the other universe having more protons and electrons, per capita so to speak, than does our universe. This might explain why this patch of light is 4,500 times brighter than it should be.

More evidence won’t be easy to gather though, and there isn’t a lot to go on with this one paper. But NASA is working on a new project that might help. The Primordial Inflation Explorer, or PIXIE, is being designed by scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center. PIXIE needs funding, which is unlikely to come along before the end of 2016, but it will contain instruments capable of more accurately observing the light Chary found.

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