Kidnapped Nigerian professor found dead

The spokesman for the Edo State Police Command, Chidi Nwabuzor, a Chief Superintendent of Police, did not respond to several calls made to him

Source: Kidnapped Nigerian professor found dead

In America, The Establishment is Changing Tune on Russia?

atrick Lawrence Consortium News

Russophobic rhetoric persists in Washington, but a counter-argument is emerging.

G7 leaders gather for a “family” photo, Aug. 25, 2019, Biarritz, France. (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Are Western democracies, the U.S. and France in the lead, rethinking the hostility toward Russia they conjured out of nothing since Moscow responded to the coup Washington cultivated in Ukraine five years ago? Will Trump eventually succeed in putting ties with Russia on a more productive path — triumphing over the hawks hovering around him? Have the Europeans at last grown weary of following the U.S. lead on Russia even as it is against their interests to do so?

In desultory fashion over the past month or so, we have had indications that the policy cliques in Washington are indeed reconsidering the Cold War II they set in motion during the Obama administration’s final years. And President Donald Trump, persistent in his effort to reconstruct relations with Russia, now finds an unlikely ally in Emmanuel Macron. This suggests a nascent momentum in a new direction.

 “Pushing Russia away from Europe is a profound strategic mistake,” the French president asserted in a stunning series of remarks to European diplomats immediately after the Group of 7 summit in Biarritz late last month.

This alone is a bold if implicit attack on the hawkish Russophobes Trump now battles in Washington. Macron then outdid himself: “We are living the end of Western hegemony,” he told the assembled envoys.

It is difficult to recall when a Western leader last spoke so truthfully and insightfully of our 21stcentury realities, chief among them the inevitable rise of non–Western nations to positions of parity with the Atlantic world. You have nonetheless read no word of this occasion in our corporate media: Macron’s startling observations run entirely counter to the frayed triumphalism and nostalgia that grip Washington as its era of preeminence fades.

President Donald J. Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron in joint press conference in Biarritz, France, site of the G7 Summit, Aug. 26, 2019. (White House/ Andrea Hanks)

There is much to indicate that the West’s aggressively hostile posture toward Russia remains unchanged. The Russophobic rhetoric emanating from Washington and featured daily in our corporate television broadcasts continues unabated. Last month Washington formally abandoned the bilateral treaty limiting deployment of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, signed with Moscow in 1987. As anyone could have predicted, NATO now suggests it will upgrade its missile defense systems in Poland and Romania. This amounts to an engraved invitation to the Russian Federation to begin a new arms race.

But a counter-argument favoring a constructive relationship with Russia is now evident. This is not unlike the abrupt volte-face in Washington’s thinking on North Korea: It is now broadly accepted that the Korean crisis can be resolved only at the negotiating table.

The Times Are Changing

The New York Times seems to be on board with this this sharp turn in foreign policy. It reported the new consensus on North Korea in a news analysis on July 11. Ten days later it published another arguing that it’s time to put down the spear and make amends with Moscow. Here is the astonishing pith of the piece: “China, not Russia, represents by far the greater challenge to American objectives over the long term. That means President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China.”

It is encouraging that the Times has at last discovered the well-elaborated alliance between Moscow and Beijing. It took the one-time newspaper of record long enough. But there is another feature of this article that is important to note: It was published as a lead editorial. This is not insignificant.

It is essential, when reading the Times, to understand the close — not to say corrupt — relations it has maintained with political power in Washington over many generations. This is well-documented in histories of the paper and of institutions such as the CIA. An editorial advancing a policy shift of this magnitude almost certainly reflects the paper’s close consultations, at senior levels of management, with policy-setting officials at the National Security Council, the State Department, or at the Pentagon. The editorial is wholly in keeping with Washington’s pronounced new campaign to designate China as America’s most dangerous threat.

It is impossible to say whether Trump is emboldened by an inchoate shift of opinion on Russia, but he flew his banner high at the Biarritz G–7. Prior to his departure for the summit in southwest France he asserted that Russia should be readmitted to the group when it convenes in the U.S. next year. Russia was excluded in 2014, following its annexation of Crimea in response to the coup in Kiev.

Trump repeated the thought in Biarritz, claiming there was support among other members for the restoration of the G–8. “I think it’s a work in progress,” he said. “We have a number of people that would like to see Russia back.”

Macron is plainly one of those people. It was just after Trump sounded his theme amid Biarritz’s faded grandeur — and what an excellent choice for a convention of the Western powers — that the French president made his own plea for repairing ties with Russia and for Europe to escape its fate as “a theater for strategic struggle between the U.S. and Russia.”

Biarritz from the Pointe Saint-Martin, 1999. (Wikimedia Commons)

“The European continent will never be stable, will never be secure, if we don’t pacify and clarify our relations with Russia,” Macron said in his address to Western diplomats. Then came his flourish on the imminent end of the Atlantic world’s preeminence.

“The world order is being shaken like never before. It’s being shaken because of errors made by the West in certain crises, but also by the choices made by the United States in the past few years— and not just by the current administration.”

Macron is an opportunistic main-chancer in European politics, and it is not at all certain how far he can or will attempt to advance his new vision of either the West or Europe in the Continent’s councils of state. But as evidence of a new current in Western thinking about Russia, the non–West in general, and Europe’s long-nursed desire for greater independence from Washington, the importance of his comments is beyond dispute.

The question now is whether or how soon better ties with Moscow will translate into practical realities. At present, Trump and Macron share a good idea without much substance to it.

Better US-Russia Ties May Be in Pipeline

But Trump may have taken a step in the right direction. Within days of his return from Biarritz, he put a hold on the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a military aid program that was to provide Kiev with $250 million in assistance during the 2019 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 and runs to Sept. 30, 2020. The funds are designated for weaponry, training and intelligence support.

Trump has asked his national security advisers to review the commitment. The delay, coming hard on his proposal to readmit Russia to a reconstituted G–8, cannot possibly be read as a coincidence.

There will be other things to watch for in months to come. High among these is Trump’s policy toward the Nord Stream 2 pipeline linking Russian gas fields to terminals in Western Europe, thereby cutting Ukraine out of the loop. Trump, his desire to improve ties with Moscow notwithstanding, has vigorously opposed this project. The Treasury Department has threatened sanctions against European contractors working on it. If Trump is serious about bringing Russia back into the fold, this policy will have to go. This may mean going up against the energy lobby in Washington and Ukraine’s many advocates on Capitol Hill.

To date, U.S. threats to retaliate against construction of Nord Stream 2 have done nothing but irritate Europeans, who have ignored them, while furthering the Continent’s desire to escape Washington’s suffocating embrace. This is precisely the kind of contradiction Macron addressed when he protested that Europeans need to begin acting in their own interests rather than acquiesce as Washington force-marches them on a never-ending anti–Russia crusade.

Macron may prove a pushover, or a would-be Gaullist who fails to make the grade. Or he may have just announced a long-awaited inflection point in trans–Atlantic ties. Either way, he has put highly significant questions on the table. It will be interesting to see what responses they may elicit, not least from the Trump White House.

Toxic Trinity that Takes Leaders Down

September 6, 2019 The LeadershipFreak

Bill Clinton said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” In organizations, “It’s the leadership, stupid.”

The problem with organizations is toxic leadership.

Look around. If you don’t like what you see, look in the mirror. Maybe you can’t improve the entire organization, but you certainly can improve your team.

The sooner leaders own the dark side of organizational life, the sooner the lights come on. Finger pointing and excuse-making cause organizations to remain dark.

Toxic leadership – the toxic trinity:

#1. Blind leaders can’t see their own incompetence.

There is no hope for those who feel capable when they’re incompetent, until they change their opinion.

Those who are incompetent have little insight into their incompetence. (Dunning-Kruger Effect)

You’re incompetent when you believe your job is more difficult than everyone else’s.

The more competent you feel, the less you know. Those who know the most know they have the most to learn.

Tips for blind leaders:

  1. Believe and act on the feedback you receive.
  2. Learn something and share what you’re learning with others.
  3. Ask questions. Spend a morning just asking questions.

#2. Insecure leaders feel threatened by the success of others.

You feel threatened if:

  1. Bravado, anger, or certainty are tools for shutting people down.
  2. You take credit for other people’s work.
  3. You minimize the success of others.
  4. Defensiveness is your default response to bad news or problems.
  5. You hold your head down when you walk the halls.

Tips for insecure leaders:

  1. Spend a morning praising and thanking.
  2. List your top 5 weaknesses.
  3. Develop a new skill with someone on your team.

#3. Squeaky wheel leaders obsess over problems.

Obsessing over problems makes you the problem.

Success is about seizing opportunities, not solving problems. (Inspired by Peter Drucker)

How To Pray With the Holy Spirit

Fr. Michael Scanlan, T.O.R. September 10, 2019

The best way I can express how I pray today is to quote Pope John Paul II from Crossing the Threshold of Hope: “The pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray.”

I find that the Holy Spirit opens and closes doors to prayer. It is the Holy Spirit who anoints in power certain directions in prayer, and it is the Holy Spirit who blocks other avenues. Although I must start prayer, prayer once started is not my own. As my prayer changes, so does my life. The Holy Spirit reshapes my life through prayer. I don’t always cooperate, but when I do, I also see the results in a life change.

I am reminded of the refrain: “Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.” This is in line with the statement in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “We pray the way we live, and we live the way we pray” (see no. 2725). If we want to change the way we live, we change the way we pray. This is what the Holy Spirit does in us if we yield to Him.

A new sense of prayer comes from the experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, which initially leads to a new in­volvement in praise, an increased desire to pray, and a willingness to pray in the Spirit rather than predominantly in mental prayer.

In my life, this new development meant an increase of prayers of praise followed by quiet prayer of rest in God’s presence. It also meant dwelling more on the words of Scripture and yielding to the power of those words to touch my spirit and change me. In time, I saw an overall approach develop that became a pattern I could teach.

My prayer continued to change within this broad outline, as the Holy Spirit anointed some directions and closed off others with a sense of blockage or being walled off from the Lord. Fre­quently, the areas where I needed to repent, change direction, or give new commitments were the only ones with a sense of anointing or power. After I would respond, change would hap­pen, and then new areas would become anointed. Sometimes this process took many months before there was movement to a new area.

I experienced this process moving me to fervent consecra­tion of life. For a few months, all the power in my prayer and the overwhelming time and effort in my prayer was concentrated on heartfelt consecration of my life. I used the Morning Offer­ing; the De Montfort Consecration to Jesus through Mary; the Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; the daily renewal of my vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; and other prayers of consecration and entrustment.

In a similar way, I experienced months of concentration on intercession, where I prayed extensively in tongues after each petition. Some days I could pray for one hour using the petitions that were listed in the morning prayer of the Divine Office.

There were other times when a simple quiet presence or re­gard toward the Lord would occupy me for an hour at a time. I also recall times when every line of Scripture seemed to come alive and grab my inner being.

It wasn’t all action, however. There was a period of more than a year when dryness and desolation totally dominated. I experienced being broken and humbled before God much as a person would feel if left hanging from a tree, dangling while the weather buffeted him. Prayer moved from an exciting encoun­ter with the living, risen Lord to a reaching in the dark to a far distant and seemingly absent Lord.

While manuals on the spiritual life deal with these various phenomena of prayer, it was the words of Pope John Paul II that gave me the best insights. In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, he gives the context of his own prayer in terms of Romans 8, verses 18 to 31, which are particularly relevant.

Verse 18 expresses the hope that should be in us despite present sufferings: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” He particularly refers to “groaning.” Verses 22 and 23 read, “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved.”

Referring more directly to his personal prayer, the pope di­rects the reader to verses 26 and 27: “In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inex­pressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.”

It is this mixture of sorrow around us and hope within us that leads to the groaning in the Spirit for the full redemption of our lives and our communities, indeed the whole world. The hope that keeps groaning and won’t give up is the hope poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit and the hope expressed in the last verses of Romans 8: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (38–39).

I am certain that prayer is the most important activity in my life. I believe that whatever is worthwhile and lasting in my life’s activity was first conceived in some way in prayer and then given existence in action. It is the necessary foundation of all my apos­tolic activity. I cannot love rightly, serve faithfully, or make deci­sions with wisdom unless these flow from prayer. For these reasons, I always use a journal, writing something from each prayer time. I always read the previous day’s entry during the next day’s prayer. I also make it a daily practice to pray over my schedule for that day. This enables me to come closer to God’s perspective and His priorities regarding all that I will be facing that day.

There is so much more I could write. I pray daily the Prayer before a Crucifix, the Rosary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I open every meeting that I chair with the prayer Come, Holy Spirit. I believe that the Holy Spirit indeed comes and fills our hearts and enkindles the fire of His love when we invite Him into our lives and gatherings. I treasure the daily Mass, which I am privileged to celebrate, and the daily Divine Office. I find that the readings in this daily liturgy always have some special application for my life.

I thank God regularly for the baptism in the Spirit, and I en­deavor to use the charismatic gifts, particularly the gift of tongues, on a daily basis. I schedule myself to go to one special charismatic praise gathering each week. I was encouraged by my expe­rience of being next to Pope John Paul II at his morning Mass; and as he stopped at the intervals for personal prayer in the Mass and groaned in the Spirit, I was able to join in the groaning with prayer in tongues and discover that our prayers were most com­patible, following the same rhythm.

This is how I pray today. It is God’s gift operating as the Holy Spirit permits and changing as God ordains in His merciful love.

How to Spot a Bad Leader

Lolly Daskal

As the old saying goes, sitting in a garage doesn’t make you a car. And sitting in an office with a leadership title on the door doesn’t make you a leader—or at least not a good one.

Most organizations have at least a few bad leaders. Maybe they weren’t prepared to take on a leadership role, or they’re temperamentally unsuited to leadership, Maybe they had bad models to emulate. Or maybe they just don’t care.

Whatever the cause, you don’t have to look too deep or too far to spot them, because there are traits that almost all bad leaders display on a daily basis. If a leader in your organization exhibits any of these traits, be on alert. Bad leadership doesn’t just affect people who are directly on that person’s team; it carries over and eventually can poison an entire organization.

The egotistical leader. If you’ve ever been around a self-centered leader, you already know how skilled they are at making everything about themselves. A leader who doesn’t understand the concept of putting the mission and the team above themselves will never gain the confidence, loyalty and trust of those they lead.

The leader who relies on fear. Many leaders actually pride themselves on leading by creating a culture of fear. They believe that fear will get people to listen to them as a leader—but fear is a sign of weakness, not strength. And the price for being feared is that you’re not respected.

The leader who avoids conflict. Conflict happens in the workplace all the time, and when a leader avoids conflict in hopes that it will disappear on its own, they are making a mistake. A good leader approaches conflict with an open mind and a proactive plan, so people understand there is a solution. Conflict avoidance only breeds more conflict.

The know-it-all leader. The best leaders are keenly aware of how much they don’t know. They have no need to be the smartest person in the room, but they do have a determination to learn from others. A leader who isn’t curious, who doesn’t ask lots of questions, isn’t actually leading.

The leader who isn’t trustworthy. When a leader says one thing and does another, they are not only not accountable but they come across as irresponsible. Real leaders expect to be held to their word.

The leader who steals the credit. It takes a team to do great things. When a leader takes sole credit for an accomplishment, it disempowers others to work as hard. The best leaders empower and motivate their team with recognition and appreciation.

The leader who doesn’t listen. Leaders know a lot and they want to communicate what they know—but if they don’t listen at least as much as they speak, they won’t learn from those they lead. Being a bad listener means being a bad leader.

The leader who thinks they’re always right. An organization where the leader is always right—and everyone who has a different perspective is always wrong—doesn’t leave any room for communication, discussion or sharing thoughts or ideas. All it accomplishes is shutting down productivity and effectiveness.

The micromanaging leader. A micromanager feels they have to do everything themselves, or control they manner and timing of every team member’s work, to make sure it’s done their way. When they do, they discredit their people’s talents and capabilities.

The negative leader. When you have a leader who always focuses on the negative, just moving forward can be extremely difficult. Negativity creates a culture of pessimism and gloom that makes achievement seem impossible.

If any of your leaders display these traits, it’s important to develop a strategy for dealing with them. If you’re working under them, ask yourself if they’re impairing your ability to do your job and possibly harming your career and reputation, and consider asking for a move away from their area—or even leaving for a different organization. If you’re above them in leadership, you’ll need to weigh whether you want to give them a chance to develop better habits, taking into account what’s best for your company, your people, and the success of your brand.

Lead from within: Not everyone in leadership understands what it takes to lead. Most bad leaders believe their way is the right way, and the best strategy is usually to distance yourself as much as possible.