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FBI Joins Possible Terror Probe for Missing Malaysia Jet.

Vietnamese authorities searching waters for the missing Boeing 777 jetliner spotted an object Sunday that they suspected was one of the plane’s doors, as international intelligence agencies joined the investigation into two passengers who boarded the aircraft with stolen passports.

More than a day and half after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing, no confirmed debris from the plane had been found, and the final minutes before it disappeared remained a mystery. The plane, which was carrying 239 people, lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam after leaving Kuala Lumpur early Saturday morning for Beijing.

The state-run Thanh Nien newspaper cited Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnam’s army, as saying searchers in a low-flying plane had spotted an object suspected of being a door from the missing jet. It was found in waters about 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of Tho Chu island, in the same area where oil slicks were spotted Saturday.

“From this object, hopefully (we) will find the missing plane,” Tuan said. Thanh Nien said two ships from the maritime police were heading to the site.

The missing plane apparently fell from the sky at cruising altitude in fine weather, and the pilots were either unable or had no time to send a distress signal — unusual circumstances under which a modern jetliner operated by a professional airline would crash.

Malaysia’s air force chief, Rodzali Daud, said radar indicated that the plane may have turned back, but did not give further details on which direction it went or how far it veered off course.

“We are trying to make sense of this,” Daud said at a news conference. “The military radar indicated that the aircraft may have made a turn back, and in some parts this was corroborated by civilian radar.”

Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said pilots are supposed to inform the airline and traffic control authorities if the plane does a U-turn. “From what we have, there was no such distress signal or distress call per se, so we are equally puzzled,” he said.

Authorities were checking on the identities of the two passengers who boarded the plane with stolen passports. On Saturday, the foreign ministries in Italy and Austria said the names of two citizens listed on the flight’s manifest matched the names on two passports reported stolen in Thailand.

“I can confirm that we have the visuals of these two people on CCTV,” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference late Sunday, adding that the footage was being examined. “We have intelligence agencies, both local and international, on board.”

Hishammuddin declined to give further details, saying it may jeopardize the investigation.

“Our focus now is to find the aircraft,” he said, adding that finding the plane would make it easier for authorities to investigate any possible foul play.

Interpol confirmed that at least two stolen passports used by passengers on the plane were registered in its databases. It said no one had checked the databases, but added that most airlines and countries do not usually check for stolen passports.

Hishammuddin said only two passengers had used stolen passports, and that earlier reports that the identities of two others were under investigation were not true.

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said the U.S. was looking into the stolen passports, but that investigators had reached no conclusions.

In addition to the plane’s sudden disappearance, which experts say is consistent with a possible onboard explosion, the stolen passports have strengthened concerns about terrorism as a possible cause. Al-Qaida militants have used similar tactics to try and disguise their identities.

Still, other possible causes would seem just as likely at this stage, including a catastrophic failure of the plane’s engines, extreme turbulence, or pilot error or even suicide. Establishing what happened with any certainty will need data from flight recorders and a detailed examination of any debris, something that will take months if not years.

European authorities on Saturday confirmed the names and nationalities of the two stolen passports: One was an Italian-issued document bearing the name Luigi Maraldi, the other Austrian under the name Christian Kozel. Police in Thailand said Maraldi’s passport was stolen on the island of Phuket last July.

A telephone operator on a China-based KLM hotline on Sunday confirmed that “Maraldi” and “Kozel” were both booked to leave Beijing on a KLM flight to Amsterdam on March 8. Maraldi was then to fly to Copenhagen, Denmark, on KLM on March 8, and Kozel to Frankfurt, Germany, on March 8.

She said since the pair booked the tickets through China Southern Airlines, she had no information on where they bought them.

Having onward reservations to Europe from Beijing would have meant the pair, as holders of EU passports, would not have needed visas for China.

Meanwhile, the multinational search for the missing plane was continuing. A total of 34 aircraft and 40 ships have been deployed to the area by Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, China and the United States, in addition to Vietnam’s fleet.

Vietnamese air force jets spotted two large oil slicks Saturday, but it was unclear whether they were linked to the missing plane.

Two-thirds of the jet’s passengers were Chinese. The rest were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.

After more than 30 hours without contact with the aircraft, Malaysia Airlines told family members they should “prepare themselves for the worst,” Hugh Dunleavy, the commercial director for the airline, told reporters.

Finding traces of an aircraft that disappears over sea can take days or longer, even with a sustained search effort. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, wreckage can be scattered over many square kilometers (miles). If the plane enters the water before breaking up, there can be relatively little debris.

A team of American experts was en route to Asia to be ready to assist in the investigation into the crash. The team includes accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as technical experts from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, the safety board said in a statement.

Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record, as does the 777, which had not had a fatal crash in its 19-year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed last July in San Francisco, killing three passengers, all Chinese teenagers.

© AFP 2014

Nigeria’s New “MINTed” Hope By Okey Ndibe.



Okey Ndibe

During a brief trip to London last week, I was intrigued to realize that part of the news buzz pertained to Nigeria’s inclusion in a list of countries with prospects of becoming four of the world’s biggest emergent economies. The so-called MINT countries are Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. Jim O’Neill, an economist at the international investment firm, Goldman Sachs, popularized the acronym. He earlier coined the term BRICS countries, denoting Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which he rated a few years ago as some of the globe’s emerging economic giants.
On Thursday, Peter Okwoche of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) ended a short interview on my new novel, Foreign Gods, Inc., by asking what I thought about Mr. O’Neill’s rosy prediction for Nigeria.

Lacking the time to offer a detailed and nuanced response, I stated that Nigeria is endowed with extremely bright people, that the country is full of energetic and industrious men and women. By contrast, I added, the country has never been lucky in the department of leadership. To sum up, I invoked Chinua Achebe’s dire—but hardly contestable—conclusion that Nigeria has an amazing facility for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Nigeria’s economic policy makers are understandably giddy about Mr. O’Neill’s flattering prognosis. I’d caution the infusion of a high dose of chastening realism into the premature celebration. A sense of history demands nothing less than a sober—and sobering—confrontation of the facts. Achebe was no economist, but the central fact of Nigeria’s journey, as far as economic development is concerned, bears out the late writer’s dim take on his country. In a sense, we could say that Achebe was the sounder economist and Mr. O’Neill, in inflating Nigeria’s odds, the fiction-maker.

This is not the first time Nigeria has been mentioned enthusiastically in prognoses of dramatic economic growth. Again and again, experts, foreign and homebred, had foretold that Nigeria was on the cusp of becoming a stupendous economic miracle. Each new prediction or declaration would trigger its own surge of elation. Nigeria’s policy makers and their sometimes over-pampered partners in the private sector would go into a spree of premature celebration, as if the word potential was interchangeable with reality, as if promise were the equal of performance. Each time, in the end, the outcome was embarrassing. Rather than rise to its potential, Nigeria always somehow found a way to stay stuck in the mud of failure and mediocrity, continuing to romance its worst nightmares.

Nigerians are all-too aware of their country’s missed opportunities. Many years have been lost to wasteful, visionless squander mania. Rampant, unchecked corruption has smothered many a promising grand idea. For many discerning people, Nigeria has become a huge graveyard: a cemetery littered with betrayed dreams, dashed hopes, and asphyxiated aspirations. We’re all too familiar with many dud promissory notes that came with such flamboyant names or phrases as “Green Revolution,” “Consolidating the Gains of SAP,” “Vision 2020-10,” “NEEDS,” “Dividends of Democracy,” and “Transformational Leadership.”

Read Nigerian newspapers or watch any Nigerian television station and you’re bound to realize that there’s zero discussion of the things that matter. It’s all about one empty-headed politician decamping from one political party to another; one squabble or another between two politicians or two political parties; one hireling or another warning that presidential power must stay where it is, or must be transferred to a person from a different geo-ethnic sector, or it’s hell-in-Nigeria; some pastor or imam declaiming that God whispered into his/her ears that Nigerians must fast and pray more (even though most of the populace is already on poverty-enforced fasting). Much of Nigeria’s public discourse is taken up by a tizzy of political rants and faux piety.

Greatness never comes by accident, nor is it imposed by divinity on an unwilling people. A country, like a person, must prepare—be prepared—for greatness. It starts with dreaming greatness, imagining it, contemplating what it must take, and deciding that the venture is worth the risk, that we’re willing to invest the time, intellect and material resources to translate the dreamed into reality.

Do Nigerians dream big? In words, they do, but not in deed. In the 1960s through the 1980s, Nigerian “leaders” used to speak of “this great nation of ours.” But even they have abandoned that species of bad joke! Now, they speak of “moving the nation forward” or “delivering the dividends of democracy.” But the rickety molue they claim to be moving forward is in reverse gear, headed, any moment, for a jagged gorge. Ask any Nigerian official what “dividends” they have delivered and you’re bound to hear such fatuous lines as, “I purchased 100 tractors to mechanize agriculture,” “I don’t owe civil servants any arrears of salaries,” “I bought chalks for all elementary schools in my state,” “I have commissioned 500 water boreholes,” etc, etc.

It’s the 21st century, but very little of the language of those who run (that is, ruin) Nigeria suggests that they are aware of what time it is. They’re conscious of the world, of course, but only in a slavish, opportunistic way. They, their relatives and cronies are at their best when they travel in style to the world’s most dazzling cities: New York, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Beijing, etc. Once in these cities, they unleash their rank consumerist impulse, eager to bask in the most garish of each city’s sensual offerings. But it never occurs to them that the goods that make them swoon, the services they lust after are products of other thinking people’s imagination and work.

Meanwhile, back home, the masses are steeped in grim lives, trapped by ignorance and disease. Last week in London, a friend showed me a Youtube video of a brackish lake in Nigeria swarmed by thousands of sick, desperate Nigerians who believe that the stagnant body of water has healing powers. I was incensed by the spectacle, the hysteria of ignorance. Then it dawned on me: this is what can happen—what happens—in a country bereft of any healthcare system.

I’d like to hear Mr. O’Neill stipulate a recipe for Nigeria’s emergence into economic greatness. Nigeria has a high supply of thinkers, of experts in every field, including economic policy. But the hordes of unthinking, grub-obsessed politicians who dominate the political sphere are consistently threatened by expertise.

I don’t know of any country that rose to economic powers via fasting and prayers. And yet that’s the formula most treasured by Nigerian politicians who exhort their victims to fast and pray. Luck can only carry a person or a nation so far. And Nigeria has long exhausted its stock of luck, even if it somehow keeps borrowing some more.

The “N” in Mr. O’Neill’s MINT will become yet another mirage unless Nigerians find a way to reverse the toxic culture that validates corruption and venerates mediocrity.

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe



Abraham Kuyper, Statesman-Theologian.

Abraham Kuyper, Statesman-TheologianThe entire nation of The Netherlands celebrated the seventieth birthday of Abraham Kuyper on this day, October 29, 1907. By proclamation the nation recognized that the history of the Netherlands, in Church, in State, in Society, in Press, in School, and in the Sciences the last forty years, could not be written without the mention of his name on almost every page, for during this period the biography of Dr. Abraham Kuyper was to a considerable extent the history of the Netherlands.Who was this man who had such a deep impact on his nation? Abraham Kuyper was born on this day, October 29, 1837. At first his teachers thought he was dull, but at the early age of twelve he entered the Gymnasium (roughly equivalent to an american senior high school). Later he graduated with highest honors from Leyden University. He went on to receive his doctorate in sacred theology and was a minister at Breesd and Utrecht before going to Amsterdam in 1870.

In Kuyper’s earlier years, the religious life of the nation was almost dead. The church was largely cold and formal. There was no Bible in the schools and it had minimal influence in the life of the nation. Kuyper did much to change this by his involvement in the Anti-Revolutionary Party.

The Anti-Revolutionary Party derived its name from its opposition to the ideas of the French Revolution; the party was basically the Protestant contingent of the Dutch nation. In 1872 Abraham became Editor-in-chief of De Standard, the daily newspaper and official organ of the Anti-Revolutionary Party. Soon after taking the helm of De Standard, Kuyper also became editor of De Heraut, a weekly Christian newspaper. He continued as editor of both newspapers for over forty-five years.

In 1874 Kuyper was elected to the lower house of Parliament, and he served there until 1877. Three years later he founded the Free University of Amsterdam, which took the Bible as the foundation of every area of knowledge.

As leader of the Anti-Revolutionary Party, Abraham was summoned by Queen Wilhelmena to form a cabinet and become Prime Minister of the nation. He was Prime Minister until 1905. Some party members were dissatisfied with their leader, however, because he would not keep his church and political activities separate. To him, they were identical interests since he saw Christ as king in every department of human life. Abraham believed that Christ rules not merely by the tradition of what He once was, spoke, did and endured, but by a living power which even now, seated as He is at the right hand of God, He exercises over lands, nations, generations, families, and individuals.

Abraham Kuyper had a tremendous aversion to wasting time when there was so much to do. A man of tremendous versatility, he was a noted linguist, theologian, university professor, politician, statesman, philosopher, scientist, and philanthropist. In spite of his many accomplishments and his tremendous urgency to redeem the time, Abraham was also a man of the people. Like the Savior whom he served, he always had time for people and never turned any away who needed his counsel.

In 1897, at the 25th anniversary of his editorship of De Standaard, Abraham described the ruling passion of his life:

That in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school, and in the State for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.

Abraham had the rare combination of being both a great theologian and a great, warm Christian. Every week he wrote a devotional meditation– over 2000 in his lifetime. Some of these were collected into his book To Be Near Unto God. In it he wrote,

The fellowship of being near unto God must become reality, in the full and vigorous prosecution of our life. It must permeate and give color to our feeling, our perception, our sensations, our thinking, our imagining, our willing, our acting, our speaking. It must not stand as a foreign factor in our life, but it must be the passion that breathes throughout our whole existence.


  1. Adapted from an earlier Christian History Institute story.
  2. Gordon, ErnestA Book of Protestant Saints. Chicago: Moody Press, 1946.
  3. Kuyper, Abraham. To Be Near Unto God. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979.
  4. McGoldrick, James E. Abraham Kuyper; God’s Renaissance man. Auburn MA: Evangelical Press, 2000.

Last updated July, 2007.

The Spirit of Tolerance, Post-Christian America and the Laodicean Church.

Larry Tomczak says it’s time for a fresh stirring of hearts and minds so we are aware of the times and know what to do from a biblical point of view. (Luis Palau Association)

This month, the youth-oriented Relevant magazine, published by Cameron Strang, ran an article on the topic of post-Christian America. Quoting a Barna Group study, the article cited that in America, seven of 10 people describe themselves as Christian. Yet consider the following statistics cited:

  • 57 percent have not read the Bible in the last week
  • 41 percent agree that Jesus committed sins
  • 29 percent disagree that the Bible is accurate
If the best is yet to come for us as Christians, then isn’t it time for a fresh stirring of hearts and minds so we are aware of the times and know what to do from a biblical point of view? And yes, sometimes we need to jolt people out of their complacency by sharing what can happen if we don’t get in the game.

We Need a Wake-Up Call
A while back, I was going to the airport in a van when a 20-something young man seated behind me related the following account of his pregnant wife’s recent death: “While driving home, I simply dozed for a few seconds. Rebounding, I found myself drifting into the next lane and then it was too late. The truck hit her side, and I lost the love of my life … and our first child.”

Tragedies happen. Some can be prevented; others can’t. Wisdom dictates vigilance. In pivotal times, it’s imperative we don’t let our guard down, especially as it relates to the direction of our country.

Are we all aware of both the gravity and the opportunity of the current situation? After Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, 9/11 terrorized America and the recent Supreme Court ruling legitimized gay marriage, I pray we have had our collective wake-up call and will not push the snooze alarm, returning to sleep.

Not long ago, I returned from Amsterdam, where I had a distinct wake-up call and a preview of where America is headed if we don’t awaken and reclaim our nation from encroaching secularism, narcissism and relativism. For Americans who cherish our nation’s founding values of faith and freedom, I echo an urgent message: “If we snooze, we can lose!”

Amsterdam, Holland, was the launch pad for our nation. Remember where our first settlers came from? The Dutch explorer Henry Hudson first came to New York, officially called “New Netherlands.” New York City was called “New Amsterdam.” Brooklyn, Harlem, the Hudson—all derive their names from our ancestors. And what was Holland known for then, which continues today? Tolerance.

Tolerance historically meant “respect for others’ beliefs.” Today it’s come to mean “respect for others’ conduct.” In other words, there’s no absolute standard of morality. “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 17:6, KJV).

Where can this approach lead? In Amsterdam, the following is now legal:

  • Abortion on demand
  • Euthanasia (otherwise known as mercy killings)
  • Forms of infanticide
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Drugs (hundreds of coffee shops sell hashish alongside mochas)
  • Sex shows and open, explicit pornography on the streets
  • Prostitution (27,000 “registered” ladies sit in sidewalk display windows)
  • Public nudity
  • Explicit LGBTQ activity
  • Sex-change operations (called “gender reassignments” and subsidized by tax dollars)

Furthermore, the age of consent is now 12, and burnout—where people drop out and take “leave” from work—is rampant and financed by tax dollars. (Most citizens get their full salary and can renew in five-year cycles.)

Is this America’s future? Secularists say, “Why not?”

Gay entrepreneur Tim Gill gives $15 million of his money to support gay marriage in America and says of us, “They won’t know what hit them!” while billionaire George Soros invests countless millions in causes to fund this type of “progressive” vision for the United States of America.

The Time for Boldness Is Now
The first-century church prayed like this: “Grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word” (Acts 4:29). I hope my example and this column will do likewise in the hearts of Christians nationwide. We really don’t have the luxury of submitting to a spirit of fear anymore. It’s D-Day! It’s time to stand up and speak out charitably and convincingly in every sphere of our society.

A few days ago, I had the privilege of spending some time in the home of Christian strategist Ralph Reed. He told me he is writing a new book entitled Awakening and is convinced that is the need of the hour. As people of faith begin to awaken across this land to the urgency of the hour and the tremendous opportunity we have to bring the light of God’s truth into the darkness, multitudes will become emboldened, and we’ll experience the mighty revival for which we all long.

Will you be catalytic to help bring it to pass? It’ll be contagious.

This morning I walked into an abortion clinic. In the waiting room were four young men and a young lady who was obviously filling out some forms prior to her potential abortion. I stood in the center of the room, smiling, and slowly swiveled to be seen by them all. Then I turned and squarely faced the young lady, who looked me straight in the eyes. Speaking in a warm, soft-spoken manner, I put my hands in front of my chest as if I was praying and asked her, “Is it OK to ask someone not to take the life of their pre-born baby in here?”

I lingered about five more seconds as the soft explosion filled the silent room, and then I exited, praying silently under my breath. What did God do in their conscience at that moment?

Out on the sidewalk were two faithful pro-life sidewalk counselors who asked me what happened. When I related what God led me to do, one of them, a college coed, looked at me and said, “Boy, that was bold!” I sensed my actions had inspired them immensely and awakened greater courage.

Years ago, in a college auditorium filled with students, I stood in the midst of a rally being held by a false Indian spiritual guru who was misleading the masses with his spiritual gobbledygook and deceptive statements about a mush god. Point blank, I asked him about Jesus Christ and His being the only true God. When the man repeatedly tried to evade the issue, I raised my voice and challenged those college students who believed Jesus Christ to be the only Son of God to get up and get out of the auditorium immediately. Dozens did.

One of the young men who exited later told me he had been compromising and “on the fence” for a long time but that when he witnessed what I did, he said in his heart, “I want to be like that guy—an authentic Christian!” Today he is a full-time pastor in a megachurch in the D.C. area. All he needed was for someone to stand up and speak out charitably and boldly. His heart was awakened. How many others are out there like him today?

Let’s put an end to the Laodicean spirit that has infiltrated much of Christ’s church today. Jesus tells the Laodicean church, “I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16). But “the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). Lets awaken to righteousness and become Satan’s worst nightmare in these climactic days before Christ’s return!



Larry Tomczak is a best-selling author and cultural commentator with over 40 years of trusted ministry experience. His passion is to bring perspective, analysis and insight from a biblical worldview. He loves people and loves awakening them to today’s cultural realities and the responses needed for the bride of Christ—His church—to become influential in all spheres of life once again.

Beatrix Hands Over Dutch Throne to Eldest Son Amid Celebrations.

AMSTERDAM — Beatrix formally abdicated as queen of the Netherlands Tuesday and handed the throne to her eldest son, Willem-Alexander, who became the country’s first king since 1890, amid celebrations in Amsterdam.

The 75-year-old monarch signed the instrument of abdication after 33 years on the throne in the Royal Palace on the city’s Dam Square, which was filled with thousands of people wearing orange, the Dutch national color. Willem-Alexander, 46, became king immediately.

The city authorities say they expected at least 800,000 visitors for Tuesday’s events. The celebrations on Queen’s Day, a national holiday, were mirrored across the country with concerts and fairs. Dutch television is broadcasting 14 hours of live programming.

“Since I announced my intention to relinquish the throne, I have been overwhelmed by expressions of warmth and kindness, accompanied by a profound understanding of my wish to hand over my task,” Beatrix said in a national television address Monday night.

King Willem-Alexander will accept the imperative that is essential to the office: to act without regard to personal preference, and to stand above the interest of party or group. In fulfilling his task, he will ask for the support and trust of the Dutch people,” she said.

Economic Woes

For the Dutch, the day provides a chance to set aside concerns about the economy amid a third recession since 2009 and after unemployment almost doubled to 8.1 percent over the past four years.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has postponed 4.3 billion euros ($5.6 billion) in budget cuts for next year and urged consumers to stop being gloomy and start spending. Even so, the austerity measures may be reinstated if the economy doesn’t grow strongly enough in the coming months.

“Everybody is gearing up for this, and many citizens have reacted very positively the past few months to the new king and queen,” Paul Schnabel, director of the Netherlands Institute for Social Research in The Hague, said in an interview. “People will enjoy this but after today this is all over, and the little extra spending won’t help the economy.”

Beatrix announced her intention to abdicate in January, following the example of her mother, Queen Juliana, who stepped down from the throne early in 1980. Willem-Alexander’s Argentinian-born wife, Princess Maxima, 41, became queen today. The couple have three daughters.

He is the first monarch to bear the name Willem-Alexander and the first male monarch since Willem III died in 1890. Juliana’s mother, Wilhelmina, who succeeded Willem III, also gave up the throne in 1948.

Nieuwe Kerk

After the abdication ceremony, the royals will cross the street in the afternoon to the Nieuwe Kerk, the 600-year-old gothic church where Dutch monarchs are traditionally sworn in. A total of 2,045 guests are invited to attend, including the entire Rutte Cabinet and all members of parliament. Also attending will be Britain’s Prince Charles and members of the royal families of Spain, Japan and Norway, among others.

In contrast to a British coronation ceremony, the Dutch monarch is never actually crowned, so the state regalia are simply displayed on a table during the ceremony in the Nieuwe Kerk.

The inauguration is costing the government 5 million euros, excluding security measures, Rutte said last month.

The city of Amsterdam is spending another 7 million euros on the event, Mayor Eberhard van der Laan announced two weeks ago. Police will deploy 10,000 officers, with reinforcements brought in from all over the country.

The mayor has declined to comment on specific security measures following the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this month.

Past Protests

There’s been trouble at Dutch royal events in the past. In 1966, Beatrix’s wedding to Claus von Amsberg, a former German diplomat who served in that nation’s army during World War II, drew protests that deteriorated into rioting, with smoke bombs thrown at police.

Prince Claus died in 2002, at age 76. There were more riots at Beatrix’s inauguration in 1980, when anti- establishment groups joined squatters demonstrating amid a housing crisis in Amsterdam and difficult economic conditions.

Willem-Alexander becomes king at a time when the role of the Dutch monarch in politics has been reduced. The sovereign previously played a key part in the formation of governments. Parliament decided early last year, though, that it should oversee the process of agreeing on new coalitions without the involvement of the monarch, and the Liberal and Labor parties formed a government under the new rules after elections in September.

‘No Problems’

The king has indicated he has no problems with a more ceremonial role.

“I will accept everything if legislation is changed democratically and according to the rules of the constitution. I have no problems with that,” he said in a televised interview he gave with his wife that was broadcast April 17. “If it needs my signature, I will sign.”

Willem-Alexander, who has so far been formally known as the Prince of Orange, studied history at Leiden University and served in the Royal Netherlands Navy. He became chairman of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation in 2006.

He resigned his membership of the International Olympic Committee after his mother announced her abdication and is also giving up his U.N. role.

The king said in his TV interview that he won’t be a “protocol fetishist,” and his wife said that everyone would be free to continue calling her just Maxima.

Absent Father

The family of the new queen, a former investment banker, won’t attend the ceremony to avoid any controversy related to her father, Jorge Zorreguieta, an agriculture minister in the military junta that ruled Argentina in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He didn’t attend her wedding in 2002 for the same reason.

“It was clear that if my father couldn’t come for the wedding, then it was also very clear for this constitutional celebration,” she said in the TV interview. “My father doesn’t belong there.”

The outgoing queen, who will now be known as Princess Beatrix, is abdicating after a personal tragedy last year when Friso, her second son, suffered massive brain damage in a skiing accident in Austria.

He may never regain consciousness. His situation remains unchanged, Willem-Alexander said in the April 17 interview.

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Saplings from Anne Frank’s Tree Take Root in US.

Saplings from the chestnut tree that stood as a symbol of hope for Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis for two years in Amsterdam are being distributed to 11 locations in the United States as part of a project that aims to preserve her legacy and promote tolerance.

The tree, one of the Jewish teenager’s only connections to nature while she hid with her family in a Secret Annex in her father’s company building, was diseased and rotted through the trunk when wind and heavy rain toppled it in August 2010. But saplings grown from its seeds will be planted starting in April, when the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis will put the first one in the ground.

‘Financial War’ Could Wipe Out 50% of Your Wealth’

The 11 U.S. locations, which also include a park memorializing victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York City, an Arkansas high school that was the heart of the desegregation battle and Holocaust centers in Michigan and Washington state, were chosen by The Anne Frank Center USA from 34 applicants.

Winners were selected based on their commitment to equality, demonstration of the consequences of intolerance or historical significance to civil rights and social justice in the U.S., according to a news release from the center.

“The heart of our mission is tolerance. … Tolerance is really essential for being able to bring better welfare to everybody,” said center spokesman Mike Clary.

The tree is referenced several times in the diary that Anne Frank kept during the 25 months she remained indoors until her family was arrested in August 1944.

“Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs,” she wrote on Feb. 23, 1944. “From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind.”

Her father, Otto Frank, was the only member of the family to survive the concentration camps, and upon his return to Amsterdam, he was presented the diary, which had been saved by a family friend who had helped hide the Franks. The diary was first published in 1947 and would be translated into many languages and adapted for the stage and screen.

A global campaign to save the chestnut was launched in 2007 after city officials deemed it a safety hazard and ordered it taken down. The tree was granted a last-minute reprieve after a battle in court, but age and nature ultimately brought it down.

Jeffrey Patchen, president and chief executive officer of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, said the sapling planted in the museum’s Peace Park will stand next to a limestone carving of a podium with Anne’s diary on it. A mock chestnut tree looms over the entrance to the museum’s permanent Anne Frank exhibit, which features live performances in a space that teaches visitors about life in the Secret Annex where the Franks hid.

“We’re taking the lead in producing the educational materials that will go along with the tree,” Patchen said. “We’re producing this unit of study … that focuses heavily on the humanities and presents the tree through selections of her diary and … as a symbol of renewal.”

Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas plans to plant its sapling in September, on the 56th anniversary of the previously segregated high school’s integration. A group of black students called the Little Rock Nine, who braved angry mobs in the fall of 1957 to integrate the school, became a symbol of the civil rights movement.

“Both (Anne Frank and the Little Rock Nine) dealt with hatred from ignorant people,” said Nancy Rousseau, the school’s principal. “All of them displayed great bravery and courage, which wasn’t necessarily seen then or now, also, in adults. They were all children.”

Other states that have sites receiving saplings are Massachusetts, Idaho and California.

The Anne Frank Center wants the sapling project to go beyond the initial planting of the trees. The center is launching an education initiative called Confronting Intolerance Today that will encompass a “teaching and discovery” website to create dialogue and show how the sites are using the sapling project to advance tolerance, a distinguished speaker series and temporary exhibits from the center that will show the history of Anne Frank.

“We know that the tree was a sign of hope of Anne Frank who was unable to leave her living quarters,” said Yvonne Simons, executive director of The Anne Frank Center USA. “She wrote about it in a diary. For us, the tree portrays a symbolism of hope and growth and renewal.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The Christ Child.

An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. – Luke 1:11

How wonderful this was! We must remember who it was that was thus born. The birth of another child in this world was nothing strange, for thousands of children are born every day. But this was the Lord of glory. This was not the beginning of His life. He had lived from all eternity in heaven.

His hands made the universe. All glory was His. All the crowns of power flashed upon His brow. All mighty angels called Him Lord. We must remember this if we would understand how great was His condescension.

Every schoolboy has read that Peter the Great left his throne, and in lowly disguise apprenticed himself at Zaandam and Amsterdam as a shipwright. Among the common labourers he wrought, dressed in their working-garb, living in a hut, preparing his own food, making his own bed.

Yet in doing so he never for a moment ceased to be the autocrat of Russia. His royal splendour was laid aside for a time; his regal power and majesty were temporarily veiled beneath the disguise he wore; but there was never an hour when he was not an emperor.

So Christ’s glory was folded away under robes of human flesh. He never ceased to be the Son of God; and yet He assumed all the conditions of humanity. He veiled His power, and became a helpless infant, unable to walk, to speak, to think, lying feeble and dependent in His mother’s bosom.

He veiled His knowledge, and learned as other children do. He laid aside His sovereignty, His majesty. What condescension! And it was all for our sake, that He might lift us up to glory. It was as a Savior that He came into this world.

He became Son of man that He might make us sons of God. He came down to earth and lived among men, entering into their experiences of humiliation, that He might lift them up to glory to share His exaltation.

By Vine.

Bible In A Year: January 24th…

By Book Old Testament New Testament Proverbs & Psalms
Exodus 22-24 Genesis 47:13-48:22 Matthew 16:21-17:13 Proverbs 3:1-10

Dutch minister approves transfer of bomb suspect to U.S.

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Netherlands‘ justice minister has approved the transfer of a Dutch citizen to the United States to face charges of plotting suicide attacks against American troops in Afghanistan, a spokeswoman said on Friday.

She could not say when the suspect, known as Sabir K, will be transferred to the United States where a warrant for his arrest on terrorism charges was issued in June 2011.

In April, the Netherlands’ highest court upheld an appeals court decision and approved the extradition of Sabir K to the United States.

Defense attorneys had argued the extradition violated European human rights laws because, they alleged, U.S. officials had tortured Sabir K. during his detention in Pakistan.

Sabir K., 24, said he was tortured, subjected to mock executions and detained in unhygienic and cold prison cells before being put on a plane to the Netherlands where Dutch authorities arrested him at Amsterdam‘s Schiphol Airport in April, 2011.

Dutch ANP news agency said Sabir K was brought up in the Netherlands and later had lived six years in Pakistan where he was arrested in 2010.

(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Jon Hemming)



Steve Jobs’s Family Forgot to Pay for His 80-Foot Yacht.



That Steve Jobs never got to enjoy his superyacht was disappointing enough, but now it doesn’t look like anyone can. The late Apple CEO commissioned designer Philippe Starck to create the Venus, but the boat was impounded in Amsterdam this week because the Jobs estate allegedly stiffed Starck out of some €3 million ($3,960,300 US). Starck’s lawyer told Reuters Friday that he received €6 million out of a €9 million commission he was owed. “The project has been going since 2007 and there had been a lot of detailed talk between Jobs and Starck,” said the attorney. “These guys trusted each other, so there wasn’t a very detailed contract.” And €3 million between rich friends is a lot different than €3 million between estate lawyers.

RELATED: Mark Zuckerberg Pays Tribute to Steve Jobs the Best He Can

Starck had designed the ship’s interiors, with production on the yacht completed this fall, a little over a year after Jobs died. And we could see where it all went — the Venus is awesome, and there’s video. As our Adam Clark Estes reported late last month:

The front of the ship is equipped with a uniquely large sun deck with a jacuzzi built in. Behind that comes an all glass cabin that’s topped with a bridge equipped with seven 27-inch iMacs that handle the ship’s navigation and controls. When you take a step back, squint a little and turn your head to the left, it sort of looks like an iPhone 4 with the strip of windows around the middle and the clean lines.

Dealing with the rest of this mess now are the benefactors of the Jobs estate — his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, and his children, Reed, Erin, and Eve. According to the designer’s attorney, Jobs’s family argued that Starck should be paid a percentage of the overall cost of the five-year project instead of the fixed $9 million Starck says was agreed upon.


By Alexander Abad-Santos | The Atlantic Wire

Uruguayan way: legal abortion and marijuana sales.

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP)Uruguayans used to call their country the Switzerland of Latin America, but its faded grey capital seems a bit more like Amsterdam now that its congress has legalized abortion and is drawing up plans to sell government-grown marijuana.

Both measures would be unthinkable in many other countries. Cuba is the only other nation in the region that makes first-trimester abortions accessible to all women, and no country in the world produces and sells pot for drug users to enjoy.

But President Jose “Pepe” Mujica, a flower-farming former leftist guerrilla, vowed to sign whatever bill congress could settle on that can minimize the 30,000 illegal abortions his government says Uruguayan women suffer annually.

And while lawmakers have yet to debate pot sales, Mujica’s ruling Broad Front coalition staked its ground in August by openly declaring that the drug war has failed. Smoking pot — if not growing and selling it — is already legal in Uruguay, and supplying the weed is a $30 million business, the government said.

This is democracy “a la Uruguaya” — the Uruguayan way — a phrase that reflects both the pride and the unmet promises of a society where finding common ground is a highly shared value, in stark contrast to many other countries where voters are divided by us-and-them politics.

Such outsized respect for the democratic process has enabled the country of 3.4 million people wedged between Argentina and Brazil to reach consensus on many issues that have stymied bigger and richer nations, from reforming health care to providing free university educations, to setting ambitious renewable energy goals. By embracing compromises, Uruguay has managed to hold onto its middle class through repeated economic crises, and pass laws that have consistently improved its citizens’ quality of life.

But Uruguayans are increasingly concluding that Mujica has been too conciliatory — too aloof — and what they need now is more hands-on management. They love his crotchedy homespun humor and his man-of-the-people image, but they say Uruguay could benefit from a bit more decisiveness, historian Gerardo Caetano said.

Mujica, who entered politics after spending 14 years in prison during Uruguay’s dictatorship, is an unusual leader by any standard.

He gives away 90 percent of his salary, doesn’t have a bank account, drives a 41-year-old Volkswagen and never wears a tie. Now 77 and nearing the end of his five-year term, he has been talking a lot lately about stepping back and finding the joy in simple things, reflecting a personal style that goes to extremes of austerity.

“Mujica is a very strange, singular figure and yet he expresses this singular desire that Uruguayans in general have,” Caetano said during an interview in his Montevideo apartment, where thousands of books spilled off the shelves. “Uruguayans like having unusual politicians, but they don’t like authoritarians. They don’t want leaders who are remote or confrontational.”

“In Argentina, government is whatever the president says it is. Here, no president defines his performance without negotiation, and especially not Mujica. He really doesn’t like to give orders. He doesn’t want to be the chief,” Caetano said. “In Uruguay, imposing things just doesn’t work.”

Creating a police state to take on drug traffickers would be anathema to Uruguayans, who have long been among the most secular, socially liberal and highly educated people in Latin America. Instead, the government hopes to drive traffickers out of business by providing a better service to drug users.

And in another reflection of Uruguay’s national character, both the abortion and marijuana initiatives are intended to exclude foreigners. Only Uruguayans will benefit from these moves.

Still, many Uruguayans aren’t exactly happy about either measure.

The activists who won the abortion battle last week applauded just briefly and then left the senate gallery complaining about the concessions they made.

“This is a solution very much ‘a la Uruguaya,'” said Romina Napilote, a 27-year-old sociologist with the Pro-Derechos group who worries that the 10 pages of fine print added to win over a few reluctant lawmakers will end up forcing more women into risky clandestine abortions.

“We are very conciliating, always addressing what the conservatives want and trying for the middle ground,” she said. “It’s an issue in our political culture … Living in a society with so much tolerance for the opinions of others also holds us back.”

For filmmaker Pablo Stoll, whose movies have captured the essence of everyday life in Montevideo, “the Uruguayan way” satisfies no one.

“It means getting halfway there and not taking responsibility for the other 50 percent,” he said while sipping coffee in La Florida, a corner bar full of stalwarts from the local communist party chapter.

“I grew up with the conviction that there would be utopias, and we haven’t gotten there yet,” he said, dismissing both the marijuana and abortion measures as likely to fail or be overturned. “At some point you have to take a stand — you can’t always be with one foot on each side of the line.”

That feeling is reflected in Mujica’s polling numbers. He enjoyed 66 percent popularity ratings when he was elected with 51 percent of the vote in 2009, but his numbers have plunged, to 43 percent last month. And when asked about his performance, Uruguayans are even more critical: only 36 percent approve, compared to 42 percent disapprove. The CIFRA tracking poll of 802 voters had an error margin of 3.4 percent.

But Mujica is very much a product of his society, one where a series of reforms in the early 1900s established Montevideo as a socially liberal bastion in a region where the Roman Catholic Church still has huge influence. The reforms separated Church and State, removed religion from public schools and legalized divorce long before other countries did.

They were so committed to the idea of the collective good that they banned colorful paint on the facades of buildings, all of which had to remain the same color as their original materials. This is why so many of Montevideo’s concrete buildings remain grey even today, Caetano said.

“No one more than anyone else” was a common lecture to immigrants arriving in the port of Montevideo in those days, reflecting a disdain for people who tried to stand above or apart from the rest.

“Mujica loves this phrase — he repeats it all the time,” Caetano said. “It means the rich are less rich and the poor are less poor. It also means avoiding conflicts, trying to soften clashes with your opponents and looking to make deals instead.”

He bought the sky-blue Beetle, his only declared asset, before becoming president in 2010, replacing a Vespa scooter that he and his wife, Sen. Lucia Topolansky, used to ride together to Congress from their farm in the working-class “Rincon del Cerro,” or “corner of the hill” neighborhood in Montevideo’s gritty outskirts.

“They say I’m the world’s poorest president. Let me tell you that I’m not poor! Poor are those who need too much,” he said Thursday while getting an honorary degree at Argentina’s Universidad de La Plata, the day after the final abortion vote.

“I discovered the keys to this in the jail cells, when I couldn’t read. If I hadn’t spent those years there, I wouldn’t be who I am, because one learns more from pain than from bounty,” he said. “That’s why, the night when I had a mattress, I felt happy. How is it possible, therefore, that we spend our lives poisoned with desperation to buy a new car every two years? If I could, I would live much more simply.”


By MICHAEL WARREN | Associated Press

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