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Pope's Christmas wish: hope for a better world

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis offered a Christmas wish Wednesday for a better world, praying for protection for Christians under attack, battered women and trafficked children, peace in the Middle East and Africa, and dignity for refugees fleeing misery and conflict around the globe.

Francis delivered the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" (Latin for "to the city and to the world") speech from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to 70,000 cheering tourists, pilgrims and Romans in the square below. He said he was joining all those hoping "for a better world."

In his first Christmas message since being elected pontiff in March, he asked for all to share in the song of Christmas angels, "for every man or woman ... who hopes for a better world, who cares for others," humbly.

Among places ravaged by conflict, Francis singled out Syria, which saw its third Christmas during civil war; South Sudan; the Central African Republic; Nigeria; and Iraq.

In Iraq on Wednesday, militants targeted Christians in two attacks, including a bomb that exploded near a church during Christmas Mass in Baghdad. The separate bombings killed dozens of people.

The Vatican has been trying to raise concern in the world for persecution and attacks on Christians in parts of the Middle East and Africa.

"Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted in your name," Francis said.

The pope also prayed that God "bless the land where you chose to come into the world and grant a favorable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians."

Francis then explained his concept of peace.

"True peace is not a balancing of opposing forces. It's not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions," the pope said. "Peace calls for daily commitment," Francis said, reading the pages of his speech as they were ruffled by a chilly wind.

Francis also spoke about the lives of everyday people, especially those struggling for a better life.

Recalling the hundreds of migrants who have drowned this year while trying to reach European shores, including many close to the Italian island of Lampedusa, Francis prayed that refugees receive hope, consolation and assistance.

He added that "our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think, too, of the elderly, of battered women" and others.


Never Again War

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Asking for peace in Syria, Pope Francis on Sunday called upon peacemakers around the world to fast and

gather for prayer on Saturday, September 7, "for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world."


The pope said prayer services will be conducted in St. Peter's Square beginning at 7pm Rome time and will last to midnight.


"Never Again War," Francis said. "We want a peaceful world. We want to be men and women of peace."

Francis also issued a forceful condemnation of the use of chemical weapons: "There is the judgment of God, and 

also the judgment of history, upon our actions," he said, "[judgment] from which there is no escaping."


He called on all parties to conflicts to pursue negotiations and urged the international community to take concrete steps

to end conflicts, especially the war in Syria.


-Vatican Radio


North Korea Showcases Its Military Might at a Mass Rally

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea observed the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War by showing off its military 
might to the outside world in a parade through the center of the capital, Pyongyang, that featured columns of rocket tubes, 
goose-stepping paratroopers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, or at least mock-ups of the weapons.

Jason Lee/Reuters
The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, presided over the parade with the visiting vice president of China, Li Yuanchao.
When Kim Jong-un, the young leader, sauntered onto the reviewing stand in his trademark Mao suit, a sea of spectators cheered 
and waved flags and paper flowers as they filled a square named after the North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, his grandfather. 
As fighter jets screamed overhead, Mr. Kim clapped and chatted with Li Yuanchao, the visiting vice president of China, 
North Korea’s wartime ally.

The North Korean military has traditionally used large parades to swear its loyalty to the Kim family. But the spectacles
have also been closely monitored by regional analysts and policy makers for clues about the state of the Kim dynasty’s arsenal.

Mr. Kim appeared to be eager to feed that hunger and display his country’s latest military hardware just months after a serious 
flare in tensions on the divided peninsula that included threats to stage nuclear attacks. As with other celebrations in the police state, 
this one was highly choreographed, and North Korea invited some international journalists to cover the events.

Mobile launchers rumbled before Mr. Kim and a crowd of journalists and other foreign visitors carrying the KN-08, widely 
believed to have been designed as the North’s first intercontinental ballistic missile. Some analysts suspect that the KN-08, 
unveiled during a military parade in Pyongyang last year, is still being developed and that the missiles displayed might be mock-ups.

The North would need such missiles to be able to strike the United States with nuclear weapons, but it remains unclear if 
the country has been able to miniaturize bombs so they could fit on a long-range missile. The North says its missiles are a deterrent 
against American hostilities.

The Saturday parade also featured truckloads of baleful-looking soldiers hugging packs with radioactive warning symbols. 
With such a display, North Korea appeared to suggest that it may have created radioactive “dirty bombs,” said Shin In-kyun, a 
military expert who runs Korea Defense Network, a civic group specializing in military affairs.

“North Korea is exaggerating and showing off its nuclear and missile threats,” Mr. Shin said.

Fears of North Korea’s missile and nuclear capabilities have increased since it successfully launched a three-stage rocket in December 
which the West considers a test of its missile technology — and claimed to have “smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means”
after a nuclear test in February, its third.

Also on display on Saturday were Musudan mobile missiles, believed to have a range of 2,500 miles, enough to reach the United States 
territory of Guam.

North Korea has never flight-tested the Musudan. Still, when North Korea showed signs that it might launch a couple of them this spring, 
Washington announced plans to speed up the deployment of an advanced antimissile system to Guam.

Although the Korean War was suspended in 1953 with a truce, North Korea celebrates the armistice anniversary as Victory Day.

During the months of increased tensions this year, North Korea said it was scrapping the armistice, leading to fears of armed clashes 
along the Korean border, but recently Mr. Kim has appeared more conciliatory.

In a speech on Saturday, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, director of the army’s General Political Department, called for a strong 
military to support North Korea’s “urgent task of building the economy and improving the living standards of the people.” 
Mr. Kim did not speak.

Also on Saturday, South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, warned that her government would never tolerate North Korean provocations. 
And President Obama said American veterans should have been celebrated more than they were for service in a grueling war.

“Here, today, we can say with confidence that war was no tie,” Mr. Obama said in Washington. “Korea was a victory.”

Korean divide lives on 60 years after end of war

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PANMUNJOM, North Korea (AP) — Some Americans call it the "Forgotten War," a 1950s conflict fought in a far-off country and so painful that even survivors have tried to erase their memories of it.


The North Koreans, however, have not forgotten. Sixty years after the end of the Korean War, the country is marking the milestone anniversary with a massive celebration Saturday for a holiday it calls "Victory Day" — even though the two sides only signed a truce, and have yet to negotiate a peace treaty.


Signs and banners reading "Victory" line the streets of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. The events are expected to culminate with a huge military parade and fireworks, one of the biggest extravaganzas in this impoverished country since leader Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011.


Here at the border in Panmunjom, the war never ended. Both sides of the Demilitarized Zone are heavily guarded, making it the world's most fortified border, and dividing countless families with sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, on the other side. The North Koreans consider the presence of 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea a continued occupation.


In some ways, war today is being waged outside the confines of the now-outdated armistice signed 60 years ago.


View gallery."In this photo taken Tuesday, May 14, 2013, a North …

In this photo taken Tuesday, May 14, 2013, a North Korean soldier, left, looks at the southern side  …

The disputed maritime border off the west coast of the Koreas is a hot spot for clashes. In 2010, a South Korean warship exploded, killing 46 sailors; Seoul blamed a North Korean torpedo. Later that year, a North Korean artillery attack on a front-line South Korean island killed four people, two of them civilians.


Earlier this year, Kim Jong Un enshrined the pursuit of nuclear weapons as a national goal, calling it a defensive measure against the U.S. military threat. In recent months, the warfare has extended into cyberspace, with both Koreas accusing the other of mounting crippling hacking attacks that have taken down government websites in the North and paralyzed online commerce in the South.


Sixty years on, as both Koreas and the United States mark the anniversary Saturday, there is still no peace on the Korean Peninsula.


___


The two sides don't even agree on who started the war.


View gallery."In this photo taken Tuesday, May 14, 2013, South Korean …

In this photo taken Tuesday, May 14, 2013, South Korean soldiers stand guard at the border village o …

Outside the North, historians say it was North Korean troops who charged across the border at the 38th parallel and launched an assault at 4 a.m. on June 25, 1950.


North Korea agrees that war broke out at 4 a.m. — but says U.S. troops attacked first. A photo offered as proof at a Pyongyang war museum shows U.S. soldiers advancing, rifles cocked, as they run past the 38th parallel.


"The real history is that the U.S. started the war on June 25, 1950," Ri Su Jong, a 21-year-old guide at a flower show in Pyongyang, said Tuesday. "They first attacked our country, and we quickly counterattacked."


Ri, whose grandfathers both fought in the war, said she was taught that the North Koreans marched into Seoul three days later, "liberating" South Korea from U.S. forces. A panoramic diorama at the war museum shows soldiers hoisting the North Korean flag in a sea of fire and destruction.


As North Korean troops advanced further south, the U.S. retaliated with bombing campaigns that left both Seoul and Pyongyang in rubble.


View gallery."In this photo taken Tuesday, May 14, 2013, a cap with …

In this photo taken Tuesday, May 14, 2013, a cap with flags of, clockwise from bottom left, North Ko …

"The U.S enemy engineered the war, boasting of the advantage of their air power, flying normally 500 or 700 flights, sometimes up to 1,000 flights a day, both on the front and in the rear," said North Korean Maj. Gen. Kim Sung Un, a war veteran who is now 84. "All the factories and workplaces ... were reduced to ashes."


Then came the counterattack.


Dick Bonelli was a 19-year-old from the Bronx, a self-professed troublemaker, who was shipped off with the U.S. Marines to fight in a country he never knew existed. He arrived in September 1950 with the amphibious assault known in as the "Inchon Landing," the surprise attack that helped the U.S.-led U.N. forces push the North Koreans back.


Bonelli later took part in one of the most costly fights of the Korean War: the 17-day winter campaign in the mountainous region of the North then known by its Japanese name, the Chosin Reservoir. Several thousand were killed in combat, and thousands more died of frostbite.


"I tried for 30 to 40 years to forget it all," Bonelli said in Pyongyang on Thursday, an American flag pinned to his blazer. "Who wants to remember that? It's war. It was terrible."


View gallery."In this photo taken Monday, July 22, 2013, North Korean …

In this photo taken Monday, July 22, 2013, North Korean soldiers stand guard the truce village of Pa …

In all, the fighting took more than 1.2 million lives. More than 500,000 North Korean troops died, along with 183,000 Chinese who fought alongside them. On the other side, 138,000 South Koreans were killed, and 40,670 more from the U.N.-led force, including 36,900 Americans. Civilian deaths totaled almost 374,000 in South Korea and are unknown in the North.


Bonelli is back in North Korea for the first time since 1950. His hope is to revisit Fox Hill, the remote spot that he guarded that first cold winter of the war. Tears in his eyes, he called it an emotional journey to a place that he tried for decades to forget.


___


How the main players in the war will mark Saturday's anniversary is a telling indication of how each country considers the conflict.


North Korea is treating it as a celebration, an occasion to rally support for the country's leader and draw attention to the division of the Korean Peninsula.


View gallery."In this Monday, July 22, 2013 photo, a North Korean …

In this Monday, July 22, 2013 photo, a North Korean soldier is silhouetted in the background while t …

In South Korea, it's a day of remembrance. For the government, it's a day of thanks to the 16 U.N. nations that came to South Korea's defense during the 1950-53 war. For many, it's also a day of sorrow as they remember family members left behind in the North, forever divided from their loved ones.


Park Jong-seon doesn't know what happened to his older brother and sister, lost in the tumult of war. "To this day, I still have not heard from them," he said, eyes glistening. "I wonder where they are, and whether they're still alive."


In Washington, President Barack Obama on Thursday declared July 27 National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day. He paid tribute in his proclamation to the veterans who fought to "defend a country they never knew and a people they never met." He is to speak Saturday at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.


___


Back in 1953, the architects of the armistice that took two years to negotiate were so sure the truce would be temporary that they cobbled together corrugated sheds to serve as conference halls in just a handful of days.


View gallery."In this photo taken Monday, July 22, 2013, a North …

In this photo taken Monday, July 22, 2013, a North Korean soldier walks by a group of tourists passi …

Sixty years later, those once-temporary buildings are still standing. On the North Korean side, the drafty building that served as the venue for armistice talks is now the "peace pagoda," a popular stop on a fledgling tourist trail from Pyongyang. A tattered version of the armistice agreement and the U.N. flag are displayed.


The sheds straddling the border where the two sides sometimes meet are still called T1, T2 and T3: the "T'' stands for "temporary."


Peace is up to Washington, North Korean Lt. Col. Nam Dong Ho told The Associated Press recently.


"The division of the Korean Peninsula is less an issue between the North and South and more of an issue between North Korea and the U.S," he said. "Last time, we negotiated an armistice agreement. But next time, we will bring the U.S. to its knees to sign a letter of surrender."


Ri, the flower show guide, also blames the U.S.: "Of course we want peace. ... But the American imperialists keep provoking us with their hostile policy."


View gallery."In this photo taken Monday, July 22, 2013, the armistice …

In this photo taken Monday, July 22, 2013, the armistice agreement between North and South Korea is  …

The visiting U.S. veteran, Bonelli, says simply that a peace treaty is long overdue.


"It's ridiculous to have an armistice this long and not to sit down, break bread and make peace," he said. "The future is about the children. Let's stop it."


North Korea says could resume nuclear talks if U.S. ends Hostility

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(Reuters) - North Korea said on Wednesday that it would not give up its nuclear deterrent until the United States ends its "hostile policy" towards Pyongyang, but that it was ready to revive international talks on its nuclear program frozen since 2008.

The United States and its allies believe North Korea violated a 2005 aid-for-denuclearization deal by conducting a nuclear test the following year and pursuing uranium enrichment that would give it a second path to a nuclear weapon in addition to its plutonium-based atomic program.

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So Se Pyong, the North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, warned that a joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise planned for August would raise tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula.

He also reiterated his country's call for dismantling the U.S.-led U.N. Command in South Korea, which dates from the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean war without a peace treaty. The 60th anniversary of the armistice falls on July 27.

"The DPRK (North Korea) will never give up its nuclear deterrent unless the U.S. fundamentally and irreversibly abandons its hostile policy and nuclear threat towards my country...and dissolves the U.N. Command, a mechanism which is an aggressive military tool against the DPRK," So said.

He was speaking at a rare news conference held in North Korea's mission in Geneva. His counterpart at the United Nations in New York, Ambassador Sin Son-ho, made a similar appeal for dissolution of the U.N. Command on June 21.

North and South Korea agreed on Sunday to take steps to reopen a jointly run industrial park, including facilities inspections, after the two rivals staged a marathon meeting lasting more than 16 hours to arrange details.

FRAGILE THAW

So, speaking in English, said the situation was approaching detente and an "atmosphere of dialogue is in progress", but added: "The U.S. will stage another joint military exercise in August with South Korea. In this case, the whole Korean Peninsula will fall into the same critical wartime situation."

North Korea test-fired a missile in December, fanning perceptions of a regional threat posed by the impoverished, isolated state. In February Pyongyang conducted a third nuclear test, moving it closer to developing long-range nuclear missiles.

So, asked about returning to nuclear negotiations, said: "For six-party talks, we are now ready to have any kind of talks to ease the tension on the Korean Peninsula and to solve any kind of issues, mostly the security issues, because all the problems are security concerned (related)."

A Russian statement last week after a visit by North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-Gwan seemed to echo U.S. statements that any talks must involve action by the North to show it is moving toward disarmament.

So, asked about the impact of sanctions, said that economic development was a priority under Kim Jong-un, the third generation leader who succeeded Kim Jong-il in December 2011.

"Under the leadership of my new leader, His Excellency Kim Jong-un, we are now concentrating more and more on economic development and to increase the people's livelihood, even the quality of life for the people," he said.

"We built many such as water parks, and (despite being in) the difficult position, we built water parks for people and rollercoasters for children."

80 Years Ago A Marine Major General Explained The Ugliest Truth About War

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Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler would be 132 years old today, were he still alive.


He was twice awarded the Medal of Honor, for his heroism during several combat tours in Central America. 

He took part in World War I, the Banana Wars, and the Boxer rebellion in China.


Consequently he became quite the anti-war activist in his older age. He even put a stop to a real-life potential 

military coup against F.D.R. If Butler were around today, engagements like Iraq would have him simply astounded.

The country is arguably in its worst security situation in 25 years. The police force just sits back and watches 

sectarian fighting in the streets. Cafes, liquor stores, and mosques are bombed regularly.


Outfits like Al Qaeda flourish.


Not only is it more violent than it's been since the American invasion, but it's also grown to become 

the second-leading nation for oil production in OPEC (first would be Saudi Arabia).


The irony would not be lost on Butler, who toured the U.S. in 1933 giving a speech he called "War is a racket."


Eventually he turned the speech into a book.


Here's an excerpt:


War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. 

Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.


I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble 

with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. 

Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.


I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. 

There are only two things we should fight for. 

One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.


There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, 

its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.  


It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and 

four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all 

commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high 

class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.


I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, 

I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I 

obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.


I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the 

National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of 

Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers 

in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. 

In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.  


During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given 

Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.



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