World leaders rehearse for a pandemic that will come ‘sooner than we expect’

Lena H. Sun
Washington Post

The government ministers were facing a new infectious disease outbreak. The mysterious virus was sickening and killing people with alarming speed. Some patients had to be placed on ventilators to help them breathe. The new virus seemed resistant to antibiotics and antiviral medicine.

Within a week, officials had closed a major hospital and schools and quarantined thousands of people. Fear and panic spread quickly as people in neighboring countries became infected and died.

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‘Civilize the market’ for common good, care of creation, pope says

Cindy Wooden
CRUX

Pope Francis said on Friday that in societies where profit is allowed to be the only concern, “democracy tends to become a plutocracy, where inequality and the exploitation of the planet grows.” The pontiff said political action “must be placed truly at the service of the human person, the common good and respect for nature.”

Greater inequality and a more rapid destruction of the environment “are not destiny nor even a historic constancy,” the pope told members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. “There have been periods in which, in some countries, inequalities diminished and the environment was better protected.”

Francis addressed academy members Oct. 20 during a three-day meeting devoted to the study of “changing relations among market, state and civil society.” The meeting topic was inspired particularly by retired Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical letter, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), which upheld the right and obligation of governments and groups to intervene with policies to ensure the market economy leads not only to the creation of goods and services, but that it benefits all members of society.

The discussion was particularly timely, Francis said, given “the widespread and systemic increase of inequality and of exploitation of the planet, which is greater than the increase in income and wealth.”

The process is not automatic, the pope said. It depends on individual actions and also on the economic regulations that states impose.

Individuals and governments make all sorts of interventions in the economy through choices about energy, labor policies, the banking system, taxes, social welfare programs and education, he said. “Depending on how these sectors are programmed, there are different consequences in the way income and wealth are distributed among those who helped produce them.”

In societies where profit is allowed to be the only concern, he said, “democracy tends to become a plutocracy, where inequality and the exploitation of the planet grows.

“The development of clean energy to resolve the challenge of climate change” is one area where both workers and the planet would benefit, the pope said. But that cannot happen unless governments “liberate” themselves from lobbies that continue to promote the fossil-fuels industry.

Political action must be placed truly at the service of the human person, the common good and respect for nature,” he said. “Basically, we must aim at civilizing the market, working for an ethic that is friendly toward the person and his environment.”

G7, tech giants agree on plan to block jihadist content online

AFP

Ischia (Italy) (AFP) – G7 countries and tech giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter on Friday agreed to work together to block the dissemination of Islamist extremism over the internet.

“These are the first steps towards a great alliance in the name of freedom,” Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said after a two-day meeting with his Group of Seven counterparts, stressing the role of the internet in extremist “recruitment, training and radicalisation.”

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the goal was to ensure pro-jihadist content “is taken down within two hours of it going online.”

“Our enemies are moving at the speed of a tweet and we need to counter them just as quickly,” acting US Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said. Continue reading

Pope: Market, State, Society Should Cooperate

Zenit

Address to Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences

Pope Francis said there is “a need of great current relevance, such as that of developing new models of cooperation between the market, the State and civil society, in relation to the challenges of our time.”

His comments came October 20, 2017, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, where he received the participants in the meeting organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

The Holy Father focused on two key points:

  • The endemic and systemic increase of inequality and the exploitation of the planet, which is greater than the increase in income and wealth.
  • The other cause of exclusion is work that is not worthy of the human person.

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Cardinal Auza at UN: More Inclusive Economy

Developed Nations Must Lower Protective Tariffs

Zenit

His remarks came at the UN in New York during the Second Committee debates on Agenda Item 17, dedicated to Macroeconomic policy questions and on Agenda Item 18, dedicated to the follow-up and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development.

He also highlighted the importance of increasing official development assistance for LDCs, while expressing concern about debt sustainability for developing countries. He said that increasing debt relief, humanitarian aid, and donor commitments for the growing burden of global refugee costs will help make possible the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

Here is Archbishop Auza’s Statement

 

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Seventy-second Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Second Committee
Agenda Item 17: Macroeconomic policy questions
and Agenda Item 18: Follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development
New York, 5-6 October 2017

Mr. Chair,

My Delegation takes serious note of the Secretary-General’s recent reports on a number of different macroeconomic policy issues, including his report on progress made in implementing the outcomes of the international conference on Financing for Development, held in Addis Ababa in July 2015. Continue reading

Trump at UN to push world leaders to back reform

AFP

United Nations (United States) (AFP) – US President Donald Trump will host a meeting of world leaders at the United Nations this month to push for reform of the global body that he once dismissed as a “club” for people “to have a good time.”

World leaders at the September 18 event will be asked to support a 10-point political declaration that backs UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “in making concrete changes to the United Nations,” according to the document obtained by AFP on Friday.

Attending his first UN gathering of world leaders, Trump is scheduled to address the General Assembly on September 19, on the first day of the six-day debate.

His speech will likely to be the most closely watched as Washington’s allies and foes grapple with the implications of his “America-First” approach to foreign policy.

Trump has described the United Nations as an “underperformer” but stressed that it has “huge potential” to address the long list of world crises that will be at the center of this year’s UN debate.

The United States is the UN’s number one financial contributor, paying 28.5 per cent of the $7.3 billion peacekeeping budget and 22 per cent of the core budget of $5.4 billion. Continue reading

G7 leaders reach impasse on climate, urge cyber crackdown

Andreas Rinke and Steve Holland
Reuters

Leaders from the world’s major industrialised nations failed to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to back a landmark climate deal at a G7 summit in Sicily on Friday after hours of talks that were described by Germany‘s leader as “controversial”.

Meeting days after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a concert in northern England, the leaders did issue a joint statement on fighting terrorism, admonishing internet service providers and social media companies to “substantially increase” their efforts to rein in extremist content.

Host Paolo Gentiloni, the prime minister of Italy, said the group was also inching closer to finding common language on trade, a contentious issue between Trump – elected on an “America First” platform – and the six other leaders.

But on the issue of climate, there was no breakthrough.

“There is one open question, which is the U.S. position on the Paris climate accords,” Gentiloni told reporters, referring to a 2015 deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “All others have confirmed their total agreement on the accord.”

U.S. officials had signalled beforehand that Trump, who dismissed climate change as a “hoax” during his campaign, would not take a decision on the climate deal in Taormina, the cliff-top town overlooking the Mediterranean where G7 leaders met.

But other leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and new French President Emmanuel Macron, had hoped to sway the president at his first major international summit since entering the White House four months ago.

Merkel described the climate debate as “controversial”. There was a “very intensive” exchange of views, she said.

Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn said Trump’s views on climate were “evolving” and that he would ultimately do what was best for the United States.

The summit, held at a luxury hotel that was once a Dominican monastery and base for the Nazi air force during World War Two, took place a day after Trump blasted NATO allies for spending too little on defence and described Germany’s trade surplus as “very bad” in a meeting with EU officials.

His NATO speech shocked allies, who had been expecting him to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to Article 5, the part of the military alliance’s founding treaty which describes an attack on one member as an attack on all.

They were also disappointed that he did not touch on Russia, which was expelled from what was then called the G8 in 2014 because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Accusations from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia intervened in the U.S. election to help Trump, and investigations into his campaign’s contacts with Russian officials, have dogged his presidency and prevented him from delivering on a campaign promise to get close to Moscow.

WAR SHIPS

The summit kicked off with a ceremony at an ancient Greek theatre overlooking the sea, where war ships patrolled the sparkling blue waters.

Nine fighter jets soared into the sky above Taormina, leaving a trail of smoke in the red-white-green colours of the Italian flag.

Italy chose to stage the summit in Sicily to draw attention to Africa, which is 140 miles (225 km) from the island at its closest point across the Mediterranean.

More than half a million migrants, most from sub-Saharan Africa, have reached Italy by boat since 2014, taking advantage of the chaos in Libya to launch their perilous crossings.

The deadly attack in Manchester was carried out by a suspected Islamist militant of Libyan descent who grew up in Britain.

“Today G7 leaders have joined Britain in condemning this barbaric act of violence,” said British Prime Minister Theresa May, who left the summit a day early to deal with the aftermath of the attack.

Speaking about internet companies, she added: “In particular, I want to see them report this vile content to the authorities and block the users who spread it.”

The leaders are expected to issue a final communique on Saturday. Italian officials have suggested it will be shorter than 10 pages, compared to 32 pages at the last G7 summit in Japan.

As the leaders attended a concert and gala dinner, aides continued to work on the final wording.

“On the major theme of global trade, we are still working on the shape of the final communique, but it seems to me the direct discussions today have produced common positions that we can work on,” said Gentiloni.

Melania will be first White House Catholic since Kennedy

Daily Mail

When

Melania Trump recited The Lord’s Prayer before a Melbourne, Florida presidential rally in February, the Internet went hog wild.

Now we know one reason why the first lady began with ‘Let us pray’ and ‘Our Father who art in heaven‘ when she introduced the president that evening: She’s a practicing Roman Catholic.

Her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham confirmed that to DailyMail.com on Wednesday, hours after Pope Francis blessed a rosary for her at the Vatican.

The last Catholics to live in the White House were John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie. Melania and her son Barron will move to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over the summer.

Mrs. Trump did more than just show up for a Papal audience.

She spent time in prayer at the Vatican-affiliated Bambino Gesù (Baby Jesus) Hospital, and laid flowers at the feet of a statue of the Madonna.

She also prayed in the hospital chapel and read to a young Greek boy in need of a donor heart – holding his hand in the Intensive Care Unit while camera shutters snapped.

The almighty may have heard her.

‘Upon landing in Belgium, I learned a young boy and his family who had been waiting for a heart transplant was informed that the hospital has found a donor,’ she said in a statement.

‘I read a book and held hands with this special little one just a few hours ago, and now my own heart is filled with joy over this news.’

The first lady later tweeted about the development with the hashtags ‘#Blessings’ and ‘#Faith.’

In another tweet, she sent ‘blessings to all’ after her Papal audience.

Mrs. Trump told Pope Francis at the Vatican that she was looking forward to going to the hospital ‘for the bambinos.’ She later called the visit ‘very moving.’

‘To spend time speaking to and coloring with children who have such a positive spirit despite illness was an amazing gift,’ she said.

‘The time I spent with the little ones in the Intensive Care Unit is something I will never forget, and I will pray for each of them daily.’

It’s unclear when Mrs. Trump became a Catholic. The president is a life-long Presbyterian, and they were married in a Florida Episcopal church.

Growing up as the daughter of a Communist Party member in rural Slovenia, her family maintained the outward appearances of being atheists, according to people in her childhood village of Sevnica who spoke to DailyMail.com in late 2015.

Accordingly, Melania and her sister were not baptized and did not make their First Holy Communion with other children their age.

It’s still not clear when Mrs. Trump was baptized into the Catholic faith. Grisham did not immediately respond to a question about that detail.

But the Trumps have been in a reflective religious mood since arriving in Saudi Arabia last Saturday. That frame of mind persisted throughout their time in Israel.

The president addressed 55 world leaders from Arab and other Muslim-majority nations in Riyadh, imploring them to be part of ‘a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God.’

In Jerusalem he visited the famed Western Wall, slipping a written prayer between the centuries-old stones as custom permits.

He ‘marveled at the monument to God’s presence and man’s perseverance,’ he said Tuesday in a speech at the Israel Museum.

‘I was humbled to place my hand upon the wall and to pray in that holy space for wisdom from God,’ Trump told an audience of Jewish officials.

‘This city, like no other place in the world, reveals the longing of the human heart – to know and worship God.’

Trump issued a proclamation on Wednesday calling for a national ‘day of prayer for permanent peace’ on May 29, the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.

‘On this ceremonious day, we remember the fallen, we pray for a lasting peace among nations, and we honor these guardians of our inalienable rights,’ he said.

‘I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time when people might unite in prayer. I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance,’ Trump added.

Despite apprehension, Pope Francis and President Trump talked in a “relaxed, sincere way,” sources say

Gerard O’Connell
America Magazine

President Donald J. Trump’s private meeting with Pope Francis “went well,” informed Vatican sources told America after the visit.

The sources, who asked not to be identified, acknowledged that there had been some “apprehension” on the eve of the visit, which was reflected on Francis’ face at the beginning of his first meeting with the U.S. president. But, according to these sources, the atmosphere became more relaxed during their 30-minute face-to-face conversation behind closed doors. A warmer, friendlier and at times humorous atmosphere prevailed during the subsequent presentation of the U.S. delegation and the exchange of gifts.

“Pope Francis was happy because he and the president talked in a relaxed, sincere way on the issues that they each care deeply about. He felt the meeting went well,” one source close to the pontiff told America.

He did not identify what those issues were, but it can be deduced from the statement released by the Vatican afterward that the topics included the promotion of peace in the world, the situation in the Middle East, the persecution of Christians and the dramatic plight of migrants.

Some media have interpreted the downcast look on the pope’s face as he stood beside Mr. Trump for the group photo with the U.S. delegation as an indicator that their private meeting had not gone well or “was cold,” as some Italian press reported. But a Vatican source who was informed of what happened told America this is “a gross misinterpretation.” He attributed the look on the pope’s face to the fact that, in general, Francis does not like having to pose for photos, and his face sometimes reflects this.

Vatican sources also said that the private talks that took place in the Secretariat of State, after the papal audience, between President Trump and members of his delegation and two of Francis’ most senior collaborators, the secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, went “surprisingly well” and “were much better that expected.”

Mr. Trump was accompanied by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, and the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, for the 50-minute conversation behind closed doors that covered a wide range of topics at the national and international levels. According to sources, the president and his “impressive” team engaged freely with the senior Vatican officials and appeared keen to listen and to understand the Holy See’s perspective on the different issues.

The Vatican press communiqué mentioned several topics that were discussed. They included: the “good” state of bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States; “the joint commitment in favor of life, and freedom of worship and conscience”; and the hope for “serene collaboration” between the state and the Catholic Church in the United States “in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education, and assistance to immigrants.”

It said they also exchanged views on “themes relating to international affairs and the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities.” One can safely presume that the crises in Syria and Venezuela were discussed.

The Vatican statement did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but sources believe this was also addressed because before coming to Rome, Mr. Trump held talks with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and has publicly stated his determination to do all he can to reach a lasting solution to this almost 70-year conflict—something his predecessors tried to do but failed. Sources said Vatican officials were pleased that President Trump seems committed to taking this issue into his own hands and not delegating it to others.

The question of combatting terrorism seems to have also been on the agenda following Mr. Trump’s initiatives in Saudi Arabia to get all moderate majority-Muslim states involved.

Although the Vatican statement did not list climate change among the topics discussed during the president’s discussions, Secretary of State Tillerson confirmed on the plane to Brussels that this subject was raised in the meeting at the Secretariat of State and said Cardinal Parolin had urged the United States to remain a party to the Paris climate agreement. He revealed that they had “a good exchange [on] the difficulty of balancing, addressing climate change and ensuring that you still have a thriving economy and you can still offer people jobs so they can feed their families.” He described this as “a difficult balancing act” and said, “we look forward to having further talks with them on climate policy.” A decision on the Paris treaty would be made later, Mr. Tillerson added.

From talking to several sources here, it is clear that the Vatican greatly appreciated having had this first opportunity to meet President Trump so early in his term and to discuss with him and key members of his administration issues of global importance. A “positive relationship” appears to have been started between Francis and Mr. Trump—and between the U.S. president and his advisers and top Vatican officials. Channels of communication now exist to continue the dialogue between the two sides.

 

Trump vows to use presidency for peace after ‘fantastic’ talks with Pope Francis

AFP

US president Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to use his US presidency to promote global peace after meeting Pope Francis for the first time.

The two men sidestepped deep differences over issues ranging from the environment to the plight of migrants and the poor.

“Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis,” a star-struck Mr Trump wrote on Twitter before leaving Rome for Brussels and the next leg of his first overseas trip as US president. Continue reading