Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chinese Officials Seize Bibles from U.S. Christians

Another embarrassment for China during the Olympic games. This is another case in point that shows China will be no more free after the Beijing Olympics than they were before.

Chinese customs officials confiscated more than 300 Bibles on Sunday from four American Christians who arrived in a southwestern city with plans to distribute them, the group's leader said.

The Bibles were taken from the group's checked luggage after they landed at the airport in the city of Kunming, said Pat Klein, head of Vision Beyond Borders. The group, based in Sheridan, Wyoming, distributes Bibles and Christian teaching materials around the world to "strengthen the persecuted church," according to its Web site.

The group arrived in China on Sunday and had intended to distribute the Bibles to people in the city, Klein told the AP in a telephone interview while still at the airport.

"I heard that there's freedom of religion in China, so why is there a problem for us to bring Bibles?" Klein said. "We had over 300 copies and customs took all of them from us."

The move comes as China hosts the Olympics in Beijing, where false media reports last year claimed Bibles would be banned from the games. The state-run China Daily reported last month that 10,000 bilingual copies of the Bible would be distributed in the Olympic Village, which houses athletes and media.

Bibles are printed under the supervision of the Communist government. The officially atheistic country only allows them to be used in government-sanctioned churches and in some big hotels catering to foreigners.

A woman who was on duty at Kunming airport's customs office confirmed over the telephone that 315 Bibles were found in the passengers' checked baggage.

The officer, who would only give her last name, Xiao, denied confiscating the Bibles. She said authorities were just "taking care" of them and provided no further details. She later said she was not authorized to speak to the media and referred questions to the national customs headquarters in Beijing, which did not answer phones on Sunday.

Transcript: Rice, Ridge on FOX News Sunday (8-17-08)

Condoleeza continues her trash talking on the White House's news channel, FOX News. Also, potential McCain presidential candidate, Tom Ridge. Read the entire transcript.

WALLACE: Clear up some confusion, if you will, for us, Secretary Rice. Under the cease-fire, what will the Russians be allowed to do inside Georgia proper? And will they be allowed to keep peacekeepers in the so-called breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

RICE: Well, let's remember that there were Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia — or in South Ossetia, which is really the zone of conflict that we're talking about here. They were there as — in an agreement that goes all the way back to 1992. Those peacekeepers will be permitted to stay.

The Russians also had talked about some special security measures that their peacekeepers could take in a very limited area outside of the zone of conflict. They will be permitted to do that for a limited period of time in a very proscribed way.

They're not to go into urban centers. They're not to tie up the east-west highway. That's the clarification, Chris, that President Sarkozy gave to President Saakashvili when I went from France to Tbilisi.

But even that Russian activity outside of the zone of conflict is only until there are monitors in, international monitors.

The other thing the Russians said to the French is that they are now prepared to let the monitors from the OSCE enter the zone of conflict. That should be about 100 additional monitors, and that should happen also within days.

WALLACE: Let's turn, if we can, Secretary Rice, to the bigger issue. There's been a lot of tough talk this week from President Bush and other top officials, including yourself, about viewing the whole range of U.S.-Russia relations. Let's take a look at what Secretary Gates, Defense Secretary Gates, had to say this week.


DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT M. GATES: My personal view is that there need to be some consequences for the actions that Russia has taken against a sovereign state.


WALLACE: Secretary Rice, if Russia complies with the cease-fire, do relations go back to normal or, as Secretary Gates says, do there have to be consequences for the action that Russia has already taken in the last 10 days?

RICE: Well, I think there's no doubt there will be further consequences. I would note that there have already been significant consequences for Russia.

You know, any notion that Russia was the kind of responsible state, ready to integrate into international institutions of the political, diplomatic, security, economic kind, that this was a different Russia — a Russia, by the way, that President Medvedev himself described about a month ago — this forward-leaning, modern Russia, well, you know, that reputation's, frankly, in tatters, and so that in itself is a significant consequence.

And also, by the way, if the Russians intended this as intimidation, they have done nothing but harden the attitudes of the small states around them, as witnessed by Ukraine's defiance in going to Georgia, Poland, the fact that we are moving forward on missile defense.

I think the Russians have made a significant mistake here.

WALLACE: Just following up directly on that, does the U.S. still want to see Georgia and Ukraine as part of NATO? And are we prepared, if they become part of NATO, to defend their territorial sovereignty with American troops?

RICE: Well, first of all, the NATO alliance has made clear in the Bucharest Declaration that Georgia and Ukraine will be members of NATO.

What the United States is advocating for right now with others is the Georgians and Ukrainians would become part of something called the Membership Action Plan, which is not membership, but it is an umbrella under which numerous states of Eastern and Central Europe have been able to resolve their differences, have been able to make important domestic reforms, civil-military relations, reform their militaries.

That's what we're advocating. We continue to believe that that would be important for Georgia and Ukraine.

Transcript: Rice, Kaine on Meet The Press (8-17-08)

Condoleezza Rice appeared on the Meet The Press to tell the American people that the administration expects the Russians to do as they say not what they do. Also appearing was Obama's potential VP pick, Governor Tim Kaine. Read the entire transcript.

SEC'Y RICE: Well, I just know that the Russian president said several days ago Russian military operations would stop. They didn't. The Russian president told President Sarkozy that the minute that cease-fire was signed by President Saakashvili, Russian forces would begin to withdraw. They didn't. Now he has said that tomorrow, midday, Russian forces will withdraw and withdraw to their pre-August 6, 7 lines. This time I hope he means it. You know, the, the word of the Russian president needs to be upheld by his forces. People are going to begin to wonder if Russia can be trusted. I, I think it's really very much time for them to do what they say they're going to do.

MR. GREGORY: Well, given that lack of trust, as this was all coming together why didn't you go directly to Russia to look them eye to eye to broker this agreement, rather than simply going to Georgia?

[...]MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about the future of the separatist regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Who will control those regions now?

SEC'Y RICE: David, this has been a zone of conflict for well over a decade now, almost 20 years. And in fact, there has to be an international negotiation to determine the security and political and stability arrangements for these two regions. Those negotiations have gone on sporadically for the last several years. But those negotiations will begin from the premise that the territorial integrity of Georgia must be respected, that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are indeed part of--are, are within the internationally recognized boundaries of Georgia and that we will proceed from the basis of Security Council resolutions that recognize that.

MR. GREGORY: Well...

SEC'Y RICE: But there will have to be a negotiated solution to, to these two regions which have been in dispute for a long time.

MR. GREGORY: Will U.S. troops be part of those peacekeeping troops who will be responsible for ensuring that territorial integrity?

SEC'Y RICE: Well, what is first contemplated is that there will be monitors of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, that will go in now to make sure that the cease-fire is working. And the Russians also told the French that they are prepared to have those monitors come in immediately. So those monitors need to come in immediately. There will then have to be a negotiated solution a part of which will be to get international peacekeeping forces that will have to be neutral peacekeeping forces. And I think the European Union is likely to be one of the lead elements along with others, but that's for future negotiations.

Based on the following answers, it doesn't sound like Kaine will do much to help Obama on his perceived weakness, foreign policy:
MR. GREGORY: Let's get right to it. We both heard Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talking about the situation in Georgia, Governor Kaine. Senator Obama was criticized by the McCain campaign this week, particularly for his comments that there should be restraint on both sides after the invasion. Was he too weak in his initial response?

GOV. KAINE: I think the senator gave a very measured response, which is the tone that we should take. As the secretary made plain, the goal is to use diplomatic means to get Russia to live by the cease-fire. And if diplomacy is the strategy at this point, measured tones is the way to go. And I think that kind of balance is what the situation needs. It is very heartening to hear that there's going to be the--this withdrawal in a day, but we have to check and make sure that Russia lives up to its word.

MR. GREGORY: You don't hear really measured tones out of Secretary Rice. She's pretty tough this morning.

GOV. KAINE: Well, she is, you know, and I think this, this is an issue where there is, there is tough talk. The question is, has there been the kind of action on behalf of the United States over the last years that has been necessary to check Russia's ambitions? My, my significant concern is that we have, through an intensity of focus on Iraq, taken our eye off the ball in other parts of the world like Russia and its bordering states, like Afghanistan. And that is one of Senator Obama's main points, that we need to focus on the significant challenges of the world. And that's why the drawdown in Iraq is so important, so that we can focus and not be stretched so thin.

McCain, Obama at the Saddleback Church Forum (8-16-08)

John McCain and Barack Obama shared the stage briefly at a forum held by the Saddleback Church. It was largely a pro religious-right crowd. This from the NY Times:

  • Asked what their biggest moral failings were, Mr. Obama referred to his “difficult youth” when, he said, he experimented with drugs and drank alcohol. “I trace this to a certain selfishness on my part,” he said. “I couldn’t focus on other people.”

    Mr. McCain pointed to his first marriage, which he almost never does publicly.

  • Mr. Warren asked Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, which of the sitting Supreme Court justices he would not have appointed. Mr. Obama quickly named Justice Clarence Thomas, saying he was not qualified for the top court at the time.

    “I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation, setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretations of the Constitution,” Mr. Obama said.

    Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, named all the liberal judges on the court and noted that there might be several vacancies soon. “This nomination should be based on the criteria on a proven record of strictly adhering to the Constitution and not legislating from the bench,” he said.
  • Asked what was the most significant issue he had changed his mind on in the last 10 years, Mr. Obama cited the 1996 welfare reform bill signed by President Bill Clinton. He said that he initially opposed it because he believed it would have “disastrous results,” denying millions of women economic support, but that he now believed the law had been largely successful.

    Mr. McCain pointed to offshore drilling. “We’ve got to drill now; we’ve got to drill here,” he said, and took a poke at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican of California, who opposes it. “I know there are some here in Cal-eee-fornia that disagree with that position,” he said, mimicking the governor’s accent.

  • Mr. Obama skirted a question about when life begins, saying that determining such a thing was above his pay grade and sending murmurs throughout the audience. Mr. McCain said simply, “At the moment of conception.”
  • Asked to define marriage, Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain gave the same answer: that it is the union between a man and a woman.
  • On abortion, Mr. Obama declared: “I am pro-choice, I believe in Roe vs. Wade, not because I’m pro-abortion but because ultimately I don’t think women make these decisions casually.” He also said, “I am in favor on limits on late-term abortion if there is an exception for the woman’s health.”

    Mr. McCain said he was “pro-life” and would be a “pro-life president.”

This from the Dallas Morning News:
  • Mr. Obama said the biblical injunction to care for the disenfranchised “applies to poverty, it applies to racism and sexism, it applies to not thinking about providing ladders of opportunity for people.”

    Mr. McCain recalled how his religious faith sustained him in the face of torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

    “It took a lot of prayer,” he said.

  • “If I’m president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice,” he said.
  • Asked their most difficult decision, Mr. Obama recalled his vote against the war in Iraq. Mr. McCain cited his decision to refuse early release as a POW.
  • East Texas evangelist Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America Action, said Mr. McCain offered concise, conservative answers that should help win over religious voters.

    He took Mr. Obama to task for not answering when life begins.

    “This brilliant Harvard grad could not say the obvious,” said Mr. Scarborough. “He’s the most radically pro-abortion candidate our country has ever fielded.”

  • Richard Land, who heads the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that although Christian conservatives are lukewarm about Mr. McCain, most will vote for him in November because they find Mr. Obama unacceptable.