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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

BabyName:Facebook;Gaddafi"martyr",Castro&NATO;Pirates kill 4;Syria gas;Hague:KLA case;Prayer:Controlling Thoughts

Johnny Cash sang about a Boy Named Sue, but a couple in Egypt have chosen to call their first born "Facebook". The baby girl was named after Facebook in tribute to the part it played in the Egyptian revolution where Mubarak was eventually toppled. Egyptians used the website to organise protests in Tahrir Square, which contributed to the eventual departure of president Hosni Mubarak. They also turned to the internet, especially Facebook and Twitter, to authentically air outrage and connect protestors. An army of bloggers also helped lobby for their rights.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said on Tuesday he does not hold a post he could resign from and said he would die a martyr in his home country. "Muammar Gaddafi has no post to resign from. He is not a president, he is the revolution leader and will die here as a martyr," the Libyan leader said in his televised address to the nation. Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya since 1969, is speaking from his residence in the country's capital, Tripoli. According to international organizations, up to 500 people have been killed by government forces since protests against Gaddafi's regime began on February 15. However, Gaddafi denied the use of force against Libyan protesters. "We haven't used force so far but we can do it under Libyan and international laws," he said urging all Libyans to join his supporters and defend stability in the country. "There is no war in Libya. Drugged youth gangs attack military barracks and police stations and steal weapons," he said. Gaddafi accused "certain forces" of instigating the riots and supplying protesters with money and weapons.

The United States will soon order NATO to invade protest-wracked Libya to take control of its rich oil fields, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro predicted in a column published on Tuesday in Cuban state-run media. "What is for me absolutely evident is that the government of the United States is not worried at all about peace in Libya and will not hesitate to give NATO the order to invade that rich country, maybe in a matter of hours or very few days," the 84-year-old Castro wrote. He did not fully explain why he felt a NATO invasion of the North African nation was imminent, but said oil had been the basis for much of the United States' power. Libya has been rocked for days by anti-government protests that witnesses and rights groups say have left hundreds dead at the hands of security forces. Castro withheld judgment on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for the violence, saying it would take time to know what was true from the many media reports about Libya's uprising. He also said he did not think Gaddafi had left the country, as had been rumored in recent days, because he could not imagine him "eluding" responsibility for his reported actions. Castro and Gaddafi have been allies for years, sharing a history of revolution and animosity for the United States. Castro bashes the United States often in the columns he has written regularly since leaving power following intestinal surgery in 2006. Last summer, he predicted the World Cup would not be finished because the United States and Israel would lead the world into nuclear war over sanctions against Iran for its nuclear activities.

Pirates shot dead four American hostages on a yacht they had seized in the Arabian Sea, and a firefight left two pirates dead and 13 captured, the U.S. military said on Tuesday. The sequence of events was not immediately clear, but the U.S. military's Central Command said the dead hostages were only discovered after U.S. forces responded to gunfire and boarded the pirated yacht, known as the Quest. "As they responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors," the U.S. military's Central Command said in a statement. "Despite immediate steps to provide life-saving care, all four hostages ultimately died of their wounds." The military, which said the incident took place at about 1 a.m. EST, had been monitoring the Quest since discovering it had been taken over by pirates for about three days. It said negotiations to secure the release of the Americans had been under way when the gunfire broke out. The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi on Saturday said a yacht with four Americans on board was hijacked in the Arabian Sea, and was heading toward Somalia. Two Somali pirates spoke with Reuters by telephone on Tuesday. "Our colleagues called us this morning, that they were being attacked by a U.S. warship," a pirate who identified himself as Mohamud told Reuters. "The U.S. warship shot in the head two of my comrades who were on the deck of the yacht by the time they alerted us," Mohamud said. "This is the time we ordered the other comrades inside yacht to react -- kill the four Americans because there was no other alternative -- then our line got cut." "The killing of those four Americans and our comrades is a fair game that has started. Everybody will react if his life is in danger. We should not agree to be killed and let the hostages be freed," a pirate called Hussein told Reuters from Hobyo, another Somali coastal pirate haven. Neither could say how many of their colleagues were killed. Pirate gangs preying on shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean typically target large merchant ships, with oil tankers and the prize catch, but the snatching of foreigners can also yield high ransoms.

Syria wants its share of oil and gas discoveries in the Levant Basin in the Eastern Mediterranean. Following Israel, Cyprus, and Lebanon, Syria will publish tenders for four marine oil and gas exploration licenses, reports "Dow Jones Newswires". The report is based on comments by Syria's Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources. Syria will also grant eight onshore oil and gas exploration licenses during 2011. The marine tenders are scheduled to be closed within a month, after the original deadline was pushed back from September 15, 2010 to February 8, 2011. The onshore licenses cover 74,000 square kilometers in eastern and northern Syria. Like Cyprus, Syria's oil and gas exploration regime is based on production sharing contracts (PSCs) between the state and the licensee. The licenses are not based on royalties, as in Israel.

The Hague Tribunal will hold a status conference in the case against Ramus Haradinaj. One of the leaders of the ethnic Albanian KLA is undergoing a partial retrial, accused of committing war crimes in Kosovo, in 1998. The previous status conference was held October 26, 2010. The Hague Appeals Chamber overturned July 21 the verdict of not guilty that Haradinaj received in the previous trial, stating that the process was characterized by witness intimidation. The chamber decided to retry Haradinaj on six counts of his indictment. In April 2008, Haradinaj was found not guilty on all 37 counts of the indictment. The trial will be repeated for two more indictees as well, former KLA members Idriz Balaj, who was also released, and Ljah Brahimaj, who was sentenced to 6 years in prison. The three are accused of crimes against prisoners in a KLA camp in Jablanica, near the western Kosovo town of Dečani, between March and September 1998. The victims were Serbs, Romas, and ethnic Albanians.

One of the most common questions asked about prayer is about how to control distracting thoughts. When we get serious about our prayer life we assume that all we have to do is to make the time and commit to doing it. We quickly find that we have very active minds and there are forces that try to disrupt our prayer time. We desire to concentrate on God but we are continually brought back to concerns of this world through thoughts that continually interrupt our prayer. If you find this tendency disturbing, this is a good sign of your sincerity. Prayer is not a time for daydreaming, relaxation, or problem solving. It is a time to lift ourselves above our worldly minds, above the control of our brain and senses to God. Concern about our ability to focus and concentrate is essential for developing a meaningful prayer life. Saint Theophan tells us: Steadfastness and continuity of labor over oneself is an essential condition for success in the spiritual life. Lasting pacification of thoughts is a gift from God, but this gift is not given without intensifying one's personal labors. God is all loving but He will not give us something unless we put our full effort into it. Saint Macarius the Great says: It is necessary to force oneself even in prayer, if one does not have spiritual prayer... God seeing that a man is calling with effort and restraining himself (that is, his thoughts) against the will of the heart, grants him true prayer. True prayer is a prayer that is not distracted by any thoughts, where one is absorbed in prayer, where the mind stands before God. In this state it does not want to leave this place with God. The dangerous condition is where we voluntarily allow our thoughts to wander. Here is some advice from Saint Theophan when we are faced with involuntary thoughts during prayer. He says: When your thoughts stray involuntarily, you must immediately turn them back, reproaching yourself, regretting and grieving over your weakness. Saint Theophan also suggests that it is helpful to memorize your prayers. Even better is to go to a church and pray. But where we mostly pray, at home, we need a place where we will have minimal distraction, the comfort of icons, a cross, and candle lamp. Saint Theophan also suggests that we prepare ourselves for prayer. Make some preparations for prayer, trying to collect your thoughts ahead of time and direct them toward standing worthily toward God. Rouse within yourself the need for prayer at this particular time, because there may not be another time. Do not forget to renew the consciousness of your spiritual needs and for the most immediate real need of all––the settling of your thoughts in prayer with the desire of finding satisfaction for them, namely in God. When there is is this consciousness and the feeling for such needs in the heart, the heart itself will not allow your thoughts to wander off to something else, but will feel more keenly your complete helplessness; without God, you are completely lost... Go into it with a feeling of total misfortune and the consciousness that there no one who can deliver you from it except the One God.