Pacific Piano Performance Posts

Kristine Ming


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  • Trump’s Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan Demands Sudan Stop Demolishing Churches

    (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)Baraka Parish church at Hajj Yusuf, on the outskirts of Khartoum, Sudan, February 10, 2013.

    A high-ranking U.S. State Department official has demanded that the Sudanese government put an end to the systematic confiscation and demolition of churches and mosques.

    Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan reportedly said during a speech last Friday in Sudan’s second largest city that in order for relations between the oppressive nation and the United States to improve, the county must do a better job of protecting free speech and religious expression.

    “The government of Sudan, including the federal states, should also immediately suspend demolition of places of worships, including mosques and churches,” AFP quoted Sullivan as saying in a speech at Al-Koran Al-Karim University in Omdurman.

    As Sudan ranks as the fifth-worst county in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA, its government has gained a reputation for arresting Christians who have refused to give up control of their church properties to the government. A number of the churches in question have been destroyed by the government.

    According to World Watch Monitor, Sullivan explained that the 2017 State Department International Religious Freedom report highlighted “instances of the arrest, detention, and intimidation of religious leaders,” as well as “the denial of permits for the construction of new churches; restrictions on non-Muslim religious groups from entering the country; and the censorship of religious material.”

    Most recently in October, five Christian leaders were arrested because of their refusal to give over control of the church. In August, seven other Christian leaders were detained.

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    (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Jasso)U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan speaks during a news conference on the sidelines of the Organization of American States (OAS) 47th General Assembly in Cancun, Mexico on June 20, 2017.

    Sullivan’s comments occured during his two-day visit in Sudan in which he met with Sudanese officials and called for an improvement to the human rights situation in the predominantly Muslim country.

    Sullivan’s visit comes as the Trump administration formally lifted two-decade old economic sanctions against Sudan last month, a move that was criticized by many. Sullivan is the first member of the Trump administration to visit Sudan since the Sanctions were lifted in October.

    Human rights and religious freedom advocates from around the world have long called out Sudan for its poor human rights record under President Omar al-Bashir. Activists have accused Sudanese authorities of not only detaining pastors and religious leaders but also political dissidents, human rights activists and journalists.

    “The Islamic Republic of Sudan is waging genocidal war against the black, African marginalized people groups in Darfur, Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile State, and in the Nubian areas of North Sudan,” Faith McDonnell, the religious liberty programs director at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Religion Democracy, warned in a statement issued before the sanctions were lifted.

    The New York Times reports that Sullivan said last Thursday that the U.S. is also weighing whether to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Sudan was designated a state sponsor of terror in August of 1993. However, such a move is dependent upon the Sudanese government cooperating with U.S. officials.

    According to The New York Times, Sullivan said the Trump administration’s policies on Sudan are simply a continuation of the strategy carried out by the administration of former President Barack Obama and that the U.S. government will continue to work with Sudan toward the eventual removal of its designation as a state sponsor of terror.

    In her statement, McDonnell warned that “the Obama policy has been one that has cast the regime’s persecutors as morally equivalent with the persecuted and their defenders.”

    In a tweet, McDonnell warned that the U.S. would be foolish to remove Sudan as a state sponsor of terror.

    “And the Islamist Republic of Sudan says it is ‘ending’ its relationship with the DPRK! And we are fools enough to believe them and John Sullivan at State fool enough to talk about taking them off the terror list!” she tweeted.

    According to The New York Times, Sullivan explained that the Sudanese government has taken “positive steps” over the past year-and-a-half.

    “There will need to be substantial progress on those matters, including political freedom, press freedom and religious freedom — those freedoms that are so important to us as Americans,” Sullivan said.

    Sullivan’s trip to Sudan was part of a tour of foreign nations that lasted from Nov. 14–21 in which he was scheduled to visit France, Tunisia and Nigeria.

    Trump Declares North Korea State Sponsor of Terrorism in Effort to ‘Isolate Murderous Regime’

    Sudan’s Christians Carry on Despite Persecution

    Trump State Dept. Misses Key Religious Freedom Deadline; USCIRF Voices Concern

    Christianity ‘Still Alive’ in Sudan Despite Killings, Jailing of Pastors for Sharing the Gospel

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  • Tether crypto-currency operator reports $31m raid

    Tether appImage copyright

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    Tether is pitched as being more stable than Bitcoin or Ethereum

    The company behind the digital currency Tether has said that close to $31m (£23.4m) worth of its tokens have been stolen.

    The Hong Kong-based company said it had taken action to prevent the thieves from redeeming the funds but now required other users to install an update.

    It follows a series of other recent scandals involving crypto-currencies.

    Bitcoin fell on the news but soon recovered most of its lost ground.

    Unlike many digital currencies, which tend to fluctuate wildly against the dollar, Tether is pegged to the US currency.

    This is supposed to protect investors from the volatility that can affect Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin, while allowing them to take advantage of a Blockchain-based asset suitable for fund transfers.

    According to Tether’s operator, $30,950,010 worth of tokens were removed from one of the company’s core “treasury wallets” and sent to an unauthorised Bitcoin address on 19 November.

    “A thorough investigation on the cause of the attack is being undertaken to prevent similar actions in the future,” the company said in a statement published on its site.

    It added that a software update should “prevent any movement of the stolen coins from the attacker’s address” but only if other investors installed it “immediately”.

    “We appreciate the community’s patience, understanding, and support while we work to rectify the situation,” it added.

    The news site Coindesk reported that several crypto-currency exchanges had taken steps to freeze trade in Tether following the announcement.

    Coindesk also reported that Tether had links to Bitfinex – a Hong Kong-based exchange that reported a hack last year blamed for about $65m of losses – although the report added that the “nature of the connection” was unclear.

    The BBC has contacted Tether to seek clarification on the matter.

    Other recent controversies involving digital currencies include:

    • a “code bug” in Ethereum’s digital wallets being blamed earlier this month for freezing more than $150m worth of Ether, preventing investors from being able to cash out
    • a South Korean exchange, Bithumb, saying that one of its employee’s PCs had been hacked in June. Several of its customers reported follow-up scam calls
    • another South Korean exchange, Yapizon, being breached in April. Reports have said North Korean hackers are suspected of stealing about $5m worth of funds
    • an Israeli crypto-currency trading company, CoinDash, reporting that $7m was stolen from investors in July after its website was breached and an initial coin offering’s contact address altered

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  • Tencent chief ‘richer than Google founders’

    Ma HuatengImage copyright
    Getty Images

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    Tencent chief executive Ma Huateng is now worth more than Google’s founders

    The value of China’s biggest social network company – Tencent Holdings – has overtaken that of Facebook.

    The company owns WeChat, an enormously popular messaging app in China, and hit gaming franchises such as League of Legends and Honour of Kings.

    It is the first Asian firm to surpass a market value of $500bn (£377bn).

    Its chief executive, Ma Huateng, is now worth more than the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, according to Forbes.

    The magazine valued him at $48.3bn on Tuesday, making him the world’s ninth richest man according to its ranking.

    Tencent’s share price was lifted by the announcement that it would roll out its WeChat payment services in Malaysia next year.

    The company also has a stake in Snap, the company behind Snapchat, ride-sharing app Lyft and electric-vehicle maker Tesla.

    It is also expected to bring its hugely popular multiplayer game Honour of Kings to the United States.

    The game – sometimes translated as King of Glory – lets players pay to upgrade their characters or costumes. Critics in China accused the game of being “addictive”.

    Analysis by Robin Brant, political correspondent, Shanghai

    Tencent now sits alongside a handful of US companies you are much more likely to have heard of: Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

    Its golden egg is called wei shin, known in English as WeChat. The app is almost ubiquitous in China – nearly a billion people use it every month.

    What started out as a messaging platform now lets you pay for shopping, order a taxi, invest, get a takeaway… the list goes on.

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    WeChat dominates in China

    Tencent is hoping to export this Chinese phenomenon abroad, and Malaysia is first in line for the payment system.

    But it is proving difficult to get people outside China to embrace WeChat.

    The company has long agreed to censor content in China – and abroad – in line with the demands of the Chinese government.

    There are also persistent concerns about security because, unlike those on some other messaging apps, communications on WeChat are not encrypted.

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  • Google to ‘derank’ Russia Today and Sputnik

    Advert from Russia Today

    Image caption

    RT has run a series of ad campaigns on the London Underground

    Google is to “derank” stories from Kremlin-owned publications Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik in response to allegations about election meddling by President Putin’s government.

    Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt said the search giant needed to deal with the spread of misinformation.

    RT has been described by US intelligence agencies as “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine”.

    The publications said the move was a form of censorship.

    Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum, Mr Schmidt said: “We’re well aware of this one, and we’re working on detecting this kind of scenario you’re describing and deranking those kinds of sites.”

    He then named two of Russia’s biggest media outlets: RT, a TV and online news organisation, and Sputnik, an online media network.

    “I am strongly not in favour of censorship. I am very strongly in favour of ranking. It’s what we do,” he added. “It’s a very legitimate question as to how we rank, A or B, right? And we do the best we can in millions and millions of rankings every day,” said Mr Schmidt.

    But he added that it was a constant tug-of-war altering the search giant’s algorithms to detect “weaponised” information because those seeking to manipulate the news agenda “will get better tools too”.

    Foreign agent

    The comments drew an angry response from the two publications, which have always defended themselves as legitimate news organisations.

    “Good to have Google on record as defying all logic and reason: facts aren’t allowed if they come from RT, ‘because Russia’ – even if we have Google on Congressional record saying they’ve found no manipulation of their platform or policy violations by RT,” Sputnik and RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said in a statement published on RT.

    In October, Twitter announced that it would no longer allow advertisements from RT and Sputnik.

    And in November, RT was forced to register itself as a ‘”foreign agent” by the US Department of Justice. The broadcaster is fighting the order in court.

    Russia has repeatedly denied claims that it interfered in the 2016 presidential elections. US intelligence services accuse the country of trying to sway the vote in favour of Donald Trump by spreading fake news and hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) networks in order to undermine Hillary Clinton.

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  • Konohana Kitan’ Episode 8 Spoilers: Yuzu to Meet New Human Friends?

    Tokyo MX Official SiteKey visual art for the Japanese anime series, “Konohana Kitan (Strange Tales of this Flower)” based on the manga series by Sakuya Amano.

    After Yuzu’s first summer festival almost turned into a tragedy of sorts, how will the young fox girl’s experience with an incoming transient guest go on the next episode of the Japanese slice-of-life anime series, “Konohana Kitan”?

    Since Yuzu has never been to a real summer festival, and has only ever heard about it from her guardian, Bikuni, her co-workers at the Konohana-tei decided to take her to the ongoing Yoimiya Festival downtown. However, Kiri could only allow them to go in two separate batches so as to not lose attendants at the hotel.

    Yuzu, Satsuki, and Sakura were first to go, taking in as much of the summer festival as they could and creating summer memories like what Kirit told them to do. Yuzu, for one, had what could well be one of the most memorable incidents of her life when, upon participating in the Bon Odori, she ended up accidentally joining a line of spirits who were on their way back to the afterlife.

    It’s a good thing that the Ghost she has helped in an earlier episode showed her the way back as a return favor for the kindness Yuzu has previously shown her.

    But with such naive propensity for getting herself into trouble, without knowing that she is in fact in trouble until it’s almost too late, is Yuzu about to get in deep water, yet again, when she meets a new friend by the shore on the next episode titled, “The Transient Guest”?

    The preview of the episode shows what looks to be a human girl who has been washed up on the shore. It also seems like Yuzu will be helping her new acquaintance look for her companions. But is this girl really a friend, or will she, in her natural curiosity, end up causing trouble for Yuzu down the line?

    Aside from this girl, Yuzu, with help from Urinosuke, will also chance upon a child crying and seemingly lost in the woods. And since it is in Yuzu’s nature to help this child without second thoughts, is the fox girl about to lead herself to more than one potential trouble in a day, or will her acts of kindness end up giving merit to the Konohana-tei in the most unexpected ways?

    “Konohana Kitan” airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. JST on AT-X and at midnight JST on Tokyo MX. It also airs on Thursdays at midnight JST on BS11 and late night at 2:25 a.m. JST on Kansai TV. Information on other broadcast schedules and online resources can be found on the series’ official site. Episodes are also streamed in selected regions outside Japan via Crunchyroll.

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  • TsukiPro The Animation’ Anime Spoilers: Next Episode to Feature Four-Man Idol Unit, Growth

    Tokyo MX Official SiteKey visual art for the Japanese musical anime series, “TsukiPro The Animation,” featuring the idol groups under the management of the fictional talent agency TsukiPro: SolidS, QUELL, Growth, and Soara.

    The twins from Quell, Issei and Ichiru Kuga were able to triumph over their worries and inhibitions regarding a new project, but how will their fellow idol unit, Growth, fare through theirs on the next episode of the Japanese music-themed anime series, “TsukiPro The Animation”?

    In the previous episode, the twins — Issei and Ichiru — were chosen to be part of the musical play, “Grimm the Stories,” written and directed by award-winning director, Nomoto Shinya. Aside from the fact that this was their first venture into the musical theater, the story they were assigned to brought on concerns over its seeming similarities to their own lives.

    The two of them grew up in an orphanage in Hokkaido, and they have made some wonderful memories there. However, in the play, the part where they were supposed to play Hansel and Gretel showed a stereotypical image of an orphanage as a place of sadness and loss.

    This image was rectified in the end after the director saw the effort that the twins were giving their parts. The Kuga twins may have had a tough time internalizing their scenes, which felt unrealistic to them, but after the final revisions on the script, their story became one of courage and hope, and performing their parts became quite natural for them.

    On the other hand, the next episode titled “Parallel Lineage” will reportedly feature the four-man idol unit, Growth, which is also being managed by Tsukino Talent Production. The group consists of the leader, Koki Eto along with Kensuke Yaegashi, Ryota Sakuraba, and Mamoru Fujimura, who is known for having a deeply unique outlook in life, having been jobless and homeless at one point in time.

    What kind of challenge will these four idols be facing and what will this reveal about their personalities individuals and their dynamics as a group?

    “TsukiPro The Animation” airs on Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. JST on Tokyo MX and at 11 p.m. JST on KBS Kyoto. It also airs on the same day late night at 12:30 a.m. JST on Sun TV and late night at 1:30 a.m. JST on BS 11. AT-X also airs a new episode on Fridays at 8 p.m. JST on AT-X. Information on other broadcast schedule and online resources can be found on the series’ official site. Episodes are also simulcast in selected regions outside Japan via Crunchyroll.

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  • Dynamic Chord’ Anime Spoilers: apple-polisher Vocalist Gets in an Accident; TBS to Air Two New Episodes This Week

    TBS Official SiteKey visual art for the Japanese music-themed anime series, “Dynamic Chord,” featuring the lead vocalists of the bands Kyohso, rêve parfait, Liar-S, and apple-polisher.

    A major catastrophe is about to befall the four-man idol unit apple-polisher on the next episode of the Japanese music-based anime series, “Dynamic Chord.”

    The preview for the upcoming episode, titled “Autumn Breeze,” reveals that apple-polisher’s vocalist, Narumi Amagi, will be getting into an accident on his racing bike. And with an incapacitating accident such as this, the upcoming end-of-the-year concert that would feature the idol groups under the Dynamic Chord agency will also be put in jeopardy.

    And with this possibility hanging over their heads, the other members of the group — Shinobu Kurosawa, Yuuki Aoi, and Yuusei Otoishi — are thrown into turmoil. And their growing worries may also bring them into an argument with Aki Kashii from rêve parfait.

    However, it also seems that the group will be able to come up with a plan to set things straight. But it remains unknown whether this plan will impact the whole agency as well as their own idol group in a good or bad way.

    Could apple-polisher be thinking of withdrawing from the upcoming concert? Or will they decide to push through with rehearsals despite Narumi’s injuries? Whether it’s one or the latter, will their decision eventually fix things or will it end up only making matters worst?

    “Dynamic Chord” episode 7 will reportedly air at a special time on TBS on Wednesday, Nov. 22 late night at 2:37 a.m. JST, while the subsequent episode 8 will air on Thursday, Nov. 23 late night at 2 a.m. JST.

    On the other hand, the series will air at its regular timeslot of Fridays late night at 3:09 a.m. JST on CBC, and Saturdays late night at 1 a.m. JST on BS-TBS.

    Information on other broadcast schedules and online resources can be found on the series’ official TBS page. Episodes are also simulcast in selected regions outside Japan via HIDIVE.

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  • 5 Crazy Things Said in Defense of Judge Roy Moore

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    (Photo: REUTERS/Marvin Gentry)Judge Roy Moore speaks as he participates in the Mid-Alabama Republican Club’s Veterans Day Program in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, U.S., November 11, 2017.

    Once considered the guaranteed winner to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacated U.S. Senate seat, the allegations against Roy Moore have given new hope for Democrat opponent Doug Jones.

    While both supporters and opponents of Moore have brought up valid arguments for and against the claims of the women, some have made over the top arguments in his defense.

    Here are five crazy things said in defense of Moore. They range from awkward biblical comparisons to inaccurate assumptions about people’s backgrounds. (Click arrow above image)

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