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Attacked for daring to write

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On 1 May this year Belgian journalist Roland Delacore wrote a personal opinion piece about the Church of Almighty God, which was published in EU Reporter. As a result, Roland Delacore received great criticism in other media by several NGOs. In particular, he was accused of being a “Chinese Government agent” and “one of Beijing’s useful idiots” for his pro-China, anti-cult viewpoint. In response, Delacore has penned a follow up article which he has requested we publish. This article is the personal opinion of the author only, and is not endorsed by EU Reporter. EU Reporter does however support freedom of opinion and speech, and freedom and independence of the press. EU Reporter has decided therefore to publish Delacore’s article unedited.

"Attacked for daring to write" by Roland Delacourt

Recently, I was attacked by the Italian religious research magazine Bitter Winter for publishing an interview exposing the cult nature of Eastern Lightning (Church of Almighty God) in EU Reporter and was even described by its allies as a Communist Party of China agent, writes Roland Delacourt.  

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At the same time, they are also trying to deny a report on Eastern Lightning (Church of Almighty God) and its allies (18 pages) that I submitted to CIAOSN in Belgium through various private channels. However, it must be pointed out that this report will be an overwhelming blow to the Eastern Lightning. This report is not very detailed. It is a compilation of complaints. All these complaints come from the Christian circle. Including the Vatican and other denominations inspired by Christianity.

Eastern Lightning was founded by Zhao Weishan in 1989. He currently lives in the United States and continues to serve as a church leader. This is a Chinese heretical religious movement based on Christianity, which believes that Jesus was reincarnated as a woman in China. According to unofficial sources, the woman is Yang Xiangbin, born in 1973. It is this fact that makes me feel uneasy. If I slightly suspect that this report was fabricated or written by a pro-communist organization, I would never pass on such a report. A sect worships a woman who claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus. In our land, which Christian would agree with the eschatology of this sect?

Do you know Bitter Winter? According to the founder, this is an electronic magazine, launched by the New Religious Research Centre CESNUR in May 2018, to discuss religious freedom and human rights issues in China. The organization is headquartered in Turin, Italy.

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According to reports from the German Katolische magazine and the Italian L'Espresso weekly magazine, Bitter Winter is very close to the position of the US government on the China issue. One of its primary purposes is to disrupt the agreement between the Holy See and China.

Massimo Introvigne is the founder of the magazine and the current editor in chief. He calls himself a "sociologist" and is one of the "world’s top experts on new religious movements", but in fact, he is a patent attorney.

Antovigne is also the founder of CESNUR, which has launched the new religious movement magazine The Journal of CESNUR, and the original online magazine Bitter Winter specifically concerning Chinese religious issues. Starting from 1 December, 2020, Bitterwinter.com has added an international column covering religious freedom around the world.

CESNUR is actually regarded as "the most famous controversial religious dissemination and lobbying group". CESNUR scholars defended many religious denominations, such as the Unification Church (Moonies), Scientology, Chinese Almighty Church (accused in connection with the 2014 Zhaoyuan intentional homicide case in Shandong), and the Sun Temple (caused 74 deaths) The chief culprit in mass suicides), Aum Shinrikyo (the perpetrator of the sarin gas attack in Tokyo in 1995), and the Shincheonji Jesuits (which contributed to the spread of the new crown epidemic in South Korea).

In fact, Massimo Antovigne did not manage the magazine as a religious expert or sociologist but worked according to his status as a lawyer. Antovigne always wears a lawyer's suit when introducing sects or sects on the Internet. In this media, you can only read positive information about religion.

Regarding the Sun Temple and the large-scale suicides in Switzerland, France, and Quebec from 1994 to 1997, Antovigne pointed out and condemned certain European countries for passing laws against "cults." On January 20, 2012, he wrote in Bitter Winter: These laws cannot prevent such a tragedy from happening again. This religious group is basically unknown to the media and the police, but these established criminal facts can easily be distracted. The welcoming minority has been discriminated against and labelled a "cult" by their opponents. On September 20, 2018, Antovigne published an article on Bitter.com, questioning the authenticity of the 2014 death of a woman by the Cult of Almighty God in a McDonald’s restaurant in Zhaoyuan, Shandong. He wrote: The Chinese government accused Almighty God Cult of multiple crimes, including the blatant murder of women in Zhaoyuan, Shandong in 2014. However, some academic studies have shown that the crime is another new religious movement with a similar name. Strictly speaking, it has nothing to do with Almighty Sect. For the academic research in his mouth, Antovigne did not give any details. Which university is it? Which experts did it?

In recent years, Bitter Winter and its allies have been defenders of harmful cults and have done their best to resist the actions of organizations such as CIAOSN in Belgium, FECRIS in Europe, and Miviludes in France.

CIAOSN is an information and consultation centre for harmful cults established by a law of June 2, 1998. It is an independent centre under the Federal Judicial Public Service of Belgium.

FECRIS, the Federation of European Sectarian Research and Information Centres, is a federation of European NGOs whose goal is to protect people from sectarian tendencies through its network.

MIVILUDES, an inter-ministerial mission to monitor and combat sectarian tendencies, is a French government agency established in 2002. Its task is to observe and analyse the phenomenon of sectarian tendencies, inform the public of the dangers it poses, and coordinate public authorities to carry out preventive and repressive actions.

Whether it is inter-institutional work or mass work, these organizations have performed well, but this cannot avoid Bitter Winter "voicing" criticism: Belgium, especially its French-speaking area, has a long and deep connection with France. In 1998, Belgium established CIAOSN, the Information and Consultation Centre for Harmful Cult Organizations. Although less powerful, it is very similar to Miviludes and its predecessors. CIAOSN does not directly participate in the "fighting against cults," but it provides advice and suggestions to the government and other departments.

There is no doubt that CIAOSN is deeply influenced by Miviludes, and Fenech himself brags about the influence of this French institution in Belgium. For example, in 2018, CIAOSN had a report with the subject "the response of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to cases of sexual abuse among its members". In addition to the error of only narrating but not commenting on the specific issue of sexual abuse, the report made a general criticism of the Jehovah's Witnesses at the beginning, which was obviously inspired by the propaganda of Miviludes.

As long as these cult fanatics attack me, I know that I am on the right path. The fact that they attacked the "messenger" rather than the message itself proved the uneasy position. All attacks on serious and official institutions by these cult protectors are doomed to failure, because the sectarian tendencies that these people promote or deny will not receive sympathy in Europe or the United States.

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EU Cohesion policy: Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy receive €373 million to support health and social services, SMEs and social inclusion

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The Commission has granted €373 million to five European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) operational programmes (OPs) in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy to help the countries with coronavirus emergency response and repair in the framework of REACT-EU. In Belgium, the modification of the Wallonia OP will make available an additional €64.8m for the acquisition of medical equipment for health services and innovation.

The funds will support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in developing e-commerce, cybersecurity, websites and online stores, as well as the regional green economy through energy efficiency, protection of the environment, development of smart cities and low-carbon public infrastructures. In Germany, in the Federal State of Hessen, €55.4m will support health-related research infrastructure, diagnostic capacity and innovation in universities and other research institutions as well as research, development and innovation investments in the fields of climate and sustainable development. This amendment will also provide support to SMEs and funds for start-ups through an investment fund.

In Sachsen-Anhalt, €75.7m will facilitate cooperation of SMEs and institutions in research, development and innovation, and provide investments and working capital for micro-enterprises affected by the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, the funds will allow investments in the energy efficiency of enterprises, support digital innovation in SMEs and acquiring digital equipment for schools and cultural institutions. In Italy, the national OP ‘Social Inclusion' will receive €90m to promote the social integration of people experiencing severe material deprivation, homelessness or extreme marginalisation, through ‘Housing First' services that combine the provision of immediate housing with enabling social and employment services.

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In Spain, €87m will be added to the ESF OP for Castilla y León to support the self-employed and workers who had their contracts suspended or reduced due to the crisis. The money will also help hard-hit companies avoid layoffs, especially in the tourism sector. Finally, the funds are needed to allow essential social services to continue in a safe way and to ensure educational continuity throughout the pandemic by hiring additional staff.

REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6bn additional funding (in current prices) to Cohesion policy programmes over the course of 2021 and 2022. Measures focus on supporting labour market resilience, jobs, SMEs and low-income families, as well as setting future-proof foundations for the green and digital transitions and a sustainable socio-economic recovery.

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Belgium

Climate change made deadly floods in Western Europe at least 20% more likely - study

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A house hit by a landslide is seen after heavy rain caused flooding in towns surrounding Lake Como in northern Italy, in Laglio, Italy. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Climate change has made extreme rainfall events of the kind that sent lethal torrents of water hurtling through parts of Germany and Belgium last month at least 20% more likely to happen in the region, scientists said Tuesday, writes Isla Binnie, Reuters.

The downpour was likely made heavier by climate change as well. A day of rainfall can now be up to 19% more intense in the region than it would have been had global atmospheric temperatures not risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.16 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures, according to research published by the World Weather Attribution (WWA) scientific consortium.

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"We will definitely get more of this in a warming climate," said the group's co-leader Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford.

"Extreme weather is deadly," said Otto, recalling that she urgently contacted family members who live in the affected areas to make sure they were safe when the floods hit. "For me it was very close to home."

With extreme weather events dominating news headlines in recent years, scientists have been under increasing pressure to determine exactly how much climate change is to blame.

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During the last year alone, scientists found that U.S. drought, a deadly Canadian heat wave and wildfires across the Siberian Arctic have been worsened by a warming atmosphere.

The July 12-15 rainfall over Europe triggered flooding that swept away houses and power lines, and left more than 200 people dead, mostly in Germany. Dozens died in Belgium and thousands were also forced to flee their homes in the Netherlands. Read more.

"The fact that people are losing their lives in one of the richest countries in the world -- that is truly shocking," said climate scientist Ralf Toumi at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study. "Nowhere is safe."

Although the deluge was unprecedented, the 39 WWA scientists found that local rainfall patterns are highly variable.

So they conducted their analysis over a wider area spanning parts of France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. They used local weather records and computer simulations to compare the July flooding event with what might have been expected in a world unaffected by climate change.

Because warmer air holds more moisture, summer downpours in this region are now 3-19% heavier than they would be without global warming, the scientists found.

And the event itself was anywhere from 1.2 to 9 times -- or 20% to 800% -- more likely to have occurred.

That broad range of uncertainty was partly explained by a lack of historical records, WWA explained, and worsened by the floods destroying equipment that monitored river conditions. Read more.

Still, the "study confirms that global heating has played a big part in the flooding disaster," said Stefan Rahmstorf, a scientist and oceanographer at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who was not involved in the study.

"This is in line with the finding of the recent IPCC report, which found that extreme rainfall events have increased worldwide," he added, referring to a U.N. climate panel's findings. Read more.

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Belgium

Seven residents of Belgian nursing home die after outbreak of B.1.621 lineage of COVID-19

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Seven residents of a nursing home in Belgium have died after being infected with a lineage of the coronavirus first detected in Colombia despite being fully vaccinated, the virology team that conducted tests said on Friday (6 August), writes Sabine Siebold, Reuters.

The virology team said the residents had been infected with the B.1.621 lineage of COVID-19 that originated in Colombia and has been detected in recent weeks in the United States but cases in Europe have been rare.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has listed the B1.621 lineage as part of the Kappa variant of the coronavirus, but not as a variant itself.

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The seven people who died at the nursing home in the Belgian town of Zaventem, near Brussels, were all in their 80s or 90s, and some of them were already in a poor physical condition, said Marc Van Ranst, a virologist at the University of Leuven which conducted tests on the virus found at the nursing home.

"It is worrisome," Van Ranst said, commenting on the fact that the residents died despite being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

So far, scientists do not know if the B.1.621 lineage is more transmissible than other lineages or variants of the coronavirus, he said.

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In Belgium, B.1.621 currently accounts for less than 1% of known cases of COVID-19, he said, compared to 2% of cases in the United States and more than that in Florida.

At the nursing home in Zaventem, 21 residents were infected with the variant along with several members of staff, Van Ranst told Reuters. The infected staff experienced only mild symptoms.

Van Ranst said the dominant coronavirus variant in Belgium with around 95% of infections is the Delta, first discovered in India, followed by the Alpha that was previously dominant in Britain.

Additional tests will be run on Friday to rule out any possibility that the nursing home residents died from a different variant of the virus or a different respiratory disease, Van Ranst said.

"It is unlikely but not impossible," he said.

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