* Foreign

U.S. President cancels a planned visit to Copenhagen after his idea to buy Greenland was rebuffed

In shock: Denmark's PM Mette Frederiksen speaking to reporters in Copenhagen on Wednesday.APMads Claus Rasmussen

Danes voiced shock and disbelief on Wednesday at U.S. President Donald Trump’s cancellation of a visit to Denmark after his idea to buy Greenland was rebuffed, although Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she believed relations would not be affected.

Mr. Trump’s proposal at first elicited incredulity and humour from politicians in Denmark, a NATO ally of the U.S., with former Premier Lars Lokke Rasmussen saying: “It must be an April Fool’s Day joke.”

But the mood turned to bewilderment when Mr. Trump called off the September 2-3 visit after Ms. Frederiksen called his idea of the U.S. purchasing Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory rich in natural resources, “absurd”.

Ms. Frederiksen, a centre-left Social Democrat, said she learned of Mr. Trump’s decision “with regret and surprise”, given Denmark’s strong relations with Washington, but repeated her opposition to any Greenland transaction.

She stressed that Greenland’s Premier Kim Kielsen had ruled out selling off the territory and “I obviously agree with him”.

But Ms. Frederiksen said the U.S. remained one of Denmark’s closest allies. “I don't think the cancelling of this state visit should affect any decisions we make...”

Mr. Trump’s decision elicited condemnation, outrage and mockery alike among Danish opposition leaders and the public.

“So (Trump) has cancelled his visit to Denmark because there was no interest in discussing selling Greenland. Is this some sort of joke? Deeply insulting to the people of Greenland and Denmark,” tweeted former Premier Helle Thorning Schmidt.

“Total chaos with @realDonaldTrump and cancellation of state visit to Denmark. It has gone from a big opportunity for strengthened dialogue between allies to a diplomatic crisis,” said ex-Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen of the Liberal Party.

‘Not for sale’

Greenland, which is gaining attention from world powers, including China, Russia and the U.S., due to its strategic location and mineral wealth, is self-governing but underdeveloped and relies on Denmark for economic support.

“Everyone should know Greenland is not for sale,” Mr. Jensen said of the world’s largest island, where the U.S. has a military presence at the Thule Air Base under a U.S.-Danish treaty dating to 1951.

“(Trump's cancellation) is very, very shocking, when it is about a very close ally and a good friend,” said Soren Espersen of the hard right Danish People’s Party.

He said Mr. Trump had effectively snubbed Queen Margrethe, Denmark’s head of state. Mr. Trump and U.S. First Lady Melania Trump were formally invited to Denmark by Queen Margrethe in July. “It shows why we now more than ever should consider (fellow) European Union countries as our closest allies. The man is unpredictable,” said Morten Ostergaard, leader of the Danish Social Liberal Party. “Reality surpasses imagination.”

Mr. Trump, whose “America First” policies have resulted in strained relations with the EU over trade and other issues, said on Sunday a U.S. purchase of Greenland would be “a large real estate deal”.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan will lead the government

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan-

Sudan took further steps in its transition towards civilian rule on Wednesday with the swearing in of a new sovereign council, to be followed by the appointment of a Prime Minister.

The body replaces the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took charge after months of deadly street protests brought down longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April. As a result of Wednesday’s move, it was the first time that Sudan was not under full military rule since Bashir’s coup d’etat in 1989.

The first steps of the transition after the mass celebrations that marked the August 17 adoption of a transitional Constitution proved difficult.

The names of the joint civilian-military sovereign council’s 11 members were eventually announced late on Tuesday after differences within the opposition camp held up the process for two days. General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who already headed the TMC, was sworn in as the chairman of the new sovereign council.

Wearing his usual green beret and camouflage uniform, Gen. Burhan took the oath in a short ceremony, one hand on the Koran and the other holding a military baton under his arm.

He will be Sudan’s head of state for the first 21 months of the 39-month transition period, until a civilian takes over for the remainder.

New Prime Minister

The council’s 10 other members were sworn shortly afterwards and Abdalla Hamdok, who was chosen by the opposition last week to be Prime Minister, was to be formally appointed later on Wednesday. The council includes two women, including a member of Sudan’s Christian minority, and it will oversee the formation of a government and of a legislative body.

The inauguration of the civilian-dominated ruling council, which held its first meeting in the afternoon, was widely welcomed but some Khartoum residents warned they would keep their new rulers in check.

Congresswomen Omar, Tlaib had called for a ‘boycott of Israel’

Donald Trump Alex Brandon

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats display “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” sparking accusations that he is promoting and politicizing anti-Semitism.

His comments, which drew fierce rebuke from Jewish groups, came amid his ongoing dispute with Democratic Muslim Congresswomen Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, both of whom support a boycott of the Jewish state for its treatment of the Palestinians.

“Five years ago, the concept of even talking about this — even three years ago — of cutting off aid to Israel because of two people that hate Israel and hate Jewish people — I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation. Where has the Democratic party gone?” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Israel last week barred Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib from entry on the grounds that they support the boycott against the country, and after Mr. Trump urged the Jewish state to block the two.

Mr. Trump’s comments prompted condemnation from Jewish groups, which charged him with anti-Semitism for questioning their loyalty.

It slams ‘interference in our affairs’

China on Wednesday blasted a huge planned U.S. arms shipment to self-ruled Taiwan and threatened to sanction firms involved in the sale of F-16 fighter jets.

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday approved the transfer of 66 Lockheed Martin-built F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan in a $8 billion deal, following another huge military hardware sale agreed just last month.

The deals come as ties between Washington and Beijing are already strained by a punitive multi-billion dollar trade war.

“China will take all necessary measures to safeguard our interests including imposing sanctions on the U.S. companies participating in this arms sale to Taiwan,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news briefing.

The sale “is a serious interference in our internal affairs and undermines our sovereignty and security interests”, he said.

China views Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Tuesday that President Donald Trump had approved the proposed sale after Congress was notified last week.

Krishna’s message to the Gopis conveyed through Uddhava is significant as the most valuable instruction on the essence of true devotion, pointed out Sri Dushyanth Sridhar in a discourse. It shows that the Lord is a Jagadguru who reaches out to His devotees to impart the highest jnana, whatever may be their level of spiritual attainment. Such is His penchant for His bhaktas that an inexplicable bond is established with them who are dear to Him at all times.

Devotion is something that gradually attains transcendental proportions when the jivatma is steeped in the Paramatma alone. Generally bhakti as practised by many is for personal betterment. It is no doubt important as the starting point for beginners. Krishna classifies the bhaktas who seek Him on the basis of what they expect from Him. There is the ‘aarthi,’ who seeks relief from worldly stress and strain; then there is the ‘arthaarthi,’ who wishes to gain wealth; the jignyasu is the devotee who enquires into esoteric matter; but the jnani represents the essence of true devotion for he seeks God for His sake alone. Such devotion is rare to come by, says Krishna. This stage of attaining oneness with the Lord to the exclusion of all other distractions is the ideal to be attained. The Gopis are unlettered and know no Vedanta; they are not aware of the paths of jnana and vairagya that are crucial to realise Him. But they are very strong in their one pointed love towards Krishna. By His grace, they are also led to renounce the ego sense that is a great hurdle to God realisation. They attain a commendable level in bhakti, one that is not easily attained even by sages engaged in austere penance. In His message, Krishna gradually leads them towards Brahma Jnana, a still greater state of realisation, when they are taught to experience Him even in His absence.

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