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The OIC is the Muslim world’s voice. Christian countries should have one too

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) bills itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world.”

Jim Jatras

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(Strategic Culture) Founded in 1972 as the “Organisation of the Islamic Conference” and adopting its current name in 2011, the OIC joins 57 Member States in what is billed as the second-biggest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations. The OIC’s declared mission is —

‘… to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world…. The Organization has the singular honor to galvanize the Ummah [i.e., all Muslims as a community] into a unified body and have actively represented the Muslims by espousing all causes close to the hearts of over 1.5 billion Muslims of the world.

The Organization has consultative and cooperative relations with the UN and other intergovernmental organizations to protect the vital interests of the Muslims and to work for the settlement of conflicts and disputes involving Member States. In safeguarding the true values of Islam and the Muslims, the organization has taken various steps to remove misperceptions and has strongly advocated elimination of discrimination against Muslims in all forms and manifestations.’

Despite intra-Islamic conflicts – notably the Sunni-Shiite divide led by Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively – the OIC is vocal in promoting a unified Muslim perspective on issues where there is a broad consensus. For example, the OIC recently issued a strong statement denouncing U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration that the United States considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. The OIC’s information chief also took a position on the internal affairs of traditionally Christian European countries, to the effect that mass Muslim migration – what Srdja Trifkovic has called the Third Muslim Invasion – is really doing Europe a big favor. No, it’s no bother at all – we’ll just help ourselves!

Whatever one thinks of the OIC’s activities and perspectives on various issues, one should nonetheless commend Muslim countries for their activism. Keep in mind, the OIC is an official organization of governments in the Islamic world, not of religious, academic, or NGO activists, though the latter contribute to the OIC’s mission. Again, give credit where credit is due.

But where is the comparable activism by the governments of Christian countries? There is certainly an ample empirical basis for a Christian version of the OIC. Consider:

  • There are almost two and half billion Christians in the world. The number of Muslims is about 1.8 billion. Granted, the reality behind such numbers largely reflects formal identification rather than active belief and worship, but the social importance of even pro forma self-description or communal tradition should not be dismissed.
  • Approximately 120 sovereign states have a Christian majority. This compares to about 50 countries with a Muslim majority.
  • There are four countries formally called Islamic republics (Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, and Pakistan), plus approximately 20 others where Islam’s leading status is defined in law. For example, Article 2 of the Constitution of Oman states that “The religion of the State is Islam and Islamic Sharia is the basis for legislation”; Article 1 of the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia states that the kingdom “is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion,” with the Sunni Wahhabist sect in practice given preeminence over the minority Shia. By contrast, because of Christianity’s inherent distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Caesar, it would be hard to envision comparable “Christian states,” though the Holy See (the Vatican) is a Christian theocracy. Nor is there a Christian counterpart to Sharia as a religious basis for civil law. Nonetheless there are approximately 30 states where Christianity, or a particular Christian church, is singled out for a unique legal status or described as the traditional or leading faith. These include the Church of England, the Lutheran churches in Scandinavia, the Orthodox churches of Greece and Georgia, and the Roman Catholic Church in Argentina (Constitution, Article 2: “The Federal Government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion.”), Costa Rica, Panama, Malta, Monaco, Liechtenstein, and others. For example, the Lateran Treaties regulating relations with the Vatican are affirmed in the Italian Constitution (Article 7). The Constitution of Georgia states (Article 9(1)) that “State shall recognise the outstanding role of the Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Georgia in the history of Georgia and its independence from the State.” Several other states grant de facto primacy to a church without formal legal sanction, with the primacy accorded the Russian Orthodox Church a notable example. Finally there are many secular countries where Christian morality and heritage are central to national identity and state policy. Even the United States once prided itself on calling itself a Christian nation, in substance if not in law, in the words of many prominent statesmen well into the 20th century.
  • The flags of about 20 countries include specifically Islamic symbols, either the crescent moon or the shahada statement of faith (notably on the flag of Saudi Arabia). About 30 national flags carry a depiction of the Christian cross, with an additional dozen or so if naval ensigns are counted (for example the Saint Andrew’s cross on the flags of the Russian and Belgian fleets, and the Saint George’s cross on the ensigns of India, South Africa, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Trinidad and Tobago, and others whose civil flags do not display a cross).

What would be the purpose of a Christian version of the OIC? (For purposes of discussion, let’s call it the “Organisation of Christian Cooperation,” or the OCC.) Let’s take a leaf from the OIC and paraphrase: the mission of the OCC would be to –

“… protect the vital interests of Christians and to work for the settlement of conflicts and disputes involving Member States. In safeguarding the true values of Christianity and Christians, the OCC will take various steps to remove misperceptions and strongly advocate elimination of discrimination against Christians in all forms and manifestations.”

That would be a pretty good start, wouldn’t it? We could perhaps begin inside some of the nominally Christian countries, like the United Kingdom, where a spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Theresa May recently refused to confirm that publicly affirming the divinity of Jesus Christ could not land a person in jail for “hate speech.” The notion that simple expression of Christian belief and adherence to Christian moral principles, notably in the area of sexuality, constitutes hate has become a global phenomenon. No other religion’s believers are routinely defamed in this way.

Of course, as with the OIC a prospective OCC could and should be vocal on international issues. Starting in the 1990s, it began to be apparent even in polite, secular company that persecution of Christians was rampant in some countries, and that indeed more Christians died for their faith in the 20th century alone than in all the 19 centuries preceding it.

To come to grips with anti-Christian persecution, the U.S. Congress enacted the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, which in implementation unfortunately soon veered towards promoting generic “religious liberty” and away from countering actual persecution – chiefly of Christians at the hands of communist regimes (mainly in the past) and Muslim militants (now).

Perhaps Christian persecution would be a good topic for an Organisation of Christian Cooperation to raise with the OIC, asking it as an intergovernmental organization to take forceful action to “remove misperceptions” that Islam is intolerant by insisting that all persecution of and discrimination against Christians by Muslims cease!

After all, even the Administration of President Barack Obama, who proudly declared that the U.S. was no longer “just” a Christian nation, was eventually shamed into declaring that the Islamic State was committing genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria (though Secretary of State John Kerry took care to put Yazidis first, and then added Shia Muslims and others to avoid any appearance of caring about Christians in particular). In “safeguarding the true values of Islam and the Muslims” the OIC rarely has taken note of maltreatment of Christians. If an OCC comes into being, it must vigorously champion persecuted Christians.

Another example where Member States of a future OCC could make a positive contribution is help with postwar reconstruction in Syria, including the rebuilding of churches. The Russian government has pledged its assistance with the participation of the Orthodox Church and religious organizations. Why shouldn’t other Christian countries pitch in – not just in generic reconstruction aid but specifically to help maintain Christians in the region where Christianity was born? This kind of effort would be relevant not only in Syria but across the Middle East.

Which countries might be candidates to join a hypothetical Organisation of Christian Cooperation? Again, let’s look at the OIC, the membership of which mainly consists of countries with a Muslim majority but also includes eight countries where Muslims are a minority: Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guyana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Suriname, Togo, and Uganda. Russia and Thailand, which are majority Christian and Buddhist respectively but have significant Muslim minorities, are OIC Observers. Thus a future OCC should not only welcome all majority Christian countries – including some that may also belong to the OIC – but others where Christians are numerically or socially significant.

For example, while South Korea is only about one-third Christian, Christians form a solid majority of that country’s citizens participating in organized religious activities. About thirty countries in sub-Saharan Africa would be obvious OCC Member State candidates, as would virtually all of Latin America. China and India, where Christian minorities outnumber the total populations of many majority-Christian countries, should certainly be welcomed as Members or Observers. Paradoxically, the main reluctance is likely to be found among such historically Christian countries as Britain, France, Germany, the Low Countries, Scandinavia, and – alas! – the U.S. and Canada, where the forces of militant secularism have become increasingly intolerant of any indication of Christian public identity among officialdom.

That leaves the question of which states might take the initiative in forming an Organisation of Christian Cooperation. The Vatican would be an obvious key player but might not want to take the lead to avoid perceptions that the OCC might become a mechanism for Roman Catholic influence. The same could be said for Russia, whose leadership could be taken to be a front for Russia’s narrow state interests. But it should be noted that both the Holy See and the Kremlin have indicated their willingness to partner in defense of Europe’s historic Christian identity and social mores. What is notable is that this is state-to-state discourse, not just religious dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches.

Perhaps the most promising current trend is the revival of national traditions that incorporate Christian consciousness in Central Europe. For example, Poland’s new Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has declared: “My dream is to make [Europe] Christian again, since unfortunately, in many places, people no longer sing Christmas carols, the churches are empty and are turning into museums, and this is very sad.” Likewise, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (a Protestant in a majority Roman Catholic country) has spoken out boldly and eloquently in defense of the Christian character of his own country but of Europe as a whole, as well as of Christians persecuted in the Middle East:

‘A great many times over the course of our history we Hungarians have had to fight to remain Christian and Hungarian. For centuries we fought on our homeland’s southern borders, defending the whole of Christian Europe, while in the twentieth century we were the victims of the communist dictatorship’s persecution of Christians. … For us, therefore, it is today a cruel, absurd joke of fate for us to be once again living our lives as members of a community under siege. For wherever we may live around the world – whether we’re Roman Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians or Copts – we are members of a common body, and of a single, diverse and large community.

Our mission is to preserve and protect this community. … Today it is a fact that Christianity is the world’s most persecuted religion. It is a fact that 215 million Christians in 108 countries around the world are suffering some form of persecution. It is a fact that four out of every five people oppressed due to their religion are Christians. It is a fact that in Iraq in 2015 a Christian was killed every five minutes because of their religious belief. It is a fact that we see little coverage of these events in the international press, and it is also a fact that one needs a magnifying glass to find political statements condemning the persecution of Christians.

But the world’s attention needs to be drawn to the crimes that have been committed against Christians in recent years. The world should understand that in fact today’s persecutions of Christians foreshadow global processes. The world should understand that the forced expulsion of Christian communities and the tragedies of families and children living in some parts of the Middle East and Africa have a wider significance: in fact they threaten our European values. The world should understand that what is at stake today is nothing less than the future of the European way of life, and of our identity.’

As the neo-liberal international order (symbolized by twin EU and NATO bureaucratic centers in Brussels) continue their decline, a revival of the national – and dare we hope, Christian? – spirit may be possible even in Europe. Such a revival could be an important impetus to creating an Organisation of Christian Cooperation, and in turn an OCC could help encourage that revival. This is not to minimize historic animosities even among Christians. The Polish-Russian and Croatian-Serbian enmities come readily to mind.

But if Iranians and Saudis can come together when the practical needs of Muslims per se require it, can Christians do any less? Does Christianity’s Founder, Who commanded His followers to love one another, expect any less from us? Perhaps an OCC could itself become a catalyst for reconciliation among Christians as much as a voice within the global community.

We can maybe even dare to hope that the United States is not quite lost. After all, Barack Hussein Obama is out, Donald John Trump is in. He’s even told Americans it’s alright to say “Merry Christmas!” again. If an Organisation of Christian Cooperation were to be formed, Melania Trump would make a great honorary patroness!

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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