Despite Fears, No Racism Midway Through Russia’s World Cup

Senegalese computer scientist Alioune Ndiaye’s fears that he might face racist abuse at the soccer World Cup in Russia have not materialized. Nor have other foreign fans’ fears.

Midway through the month-long tournament, no major racist incidents have been reported among players and fans despite concerns in the run-up that the World Cup could be tarnished by racism.

International rights groups that sounded the alarm over a series of racist incidents at soccer matches in the months preceding the tournament have said that the World Cup experience in Russia has so far been generally positive.

“What I found in Russia is very different to what they told me before coming here,” Ndiaye, the Senegalese fan, said outside the stadium in the city of Samara, where his country’s side lost 1-0 to Colombia on Thursday.

“When I told people ‘I am going to Russia’ … they said ‘Oh, no, be careful’ and stuff like that. But people in Russia are very welcoming, very kind and I don’t see anything like racism here.”

Russia had pledged to host a safe and secure World Cup in 11 cities, including for visible minorities. But racist incidents at matches between Russian Premier League clubs and at an international friendly earlier this year fueled concern that players and fans could be subjected to abuse.

CSKA Moscow fans chanted racist abuse at Arsenal’s black players several times during a Europa League match in April in Moscow, while FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, fined Russia one month before the World Cup for racist abuse directed at French players during the friendly in March.

But at the World Cup, fans and rights groups say the mood is different.

“We are all together with them,” said Senegalese fan Bigue Thombane of Russian fans as she banged on a drum outside the stadium in Samara. “There is nothing. No racism at all. Truly.”

Piara Powar, the head of the FARE network, an organisation that monitors discrimination in European soccer, said it had not recorded a single significant incident involving Russian far-right hooligans or any racist incidents involving Russian fans.

“There has been nothing on a major scale and nothing from Russians,” Powar said. “That was one of the concerns of course coming into the tournament. So that’s all good news from our point of view.”

The world is watching

Referees at the World Cup have the power to stop, suspend of abandon a match in the event of discriminatory incidents. They have not done this so far in the tournament.

But the absence of major racist incidents does not mean that the group stage of the World Cup has been without problems related to discrimination.

FIFA fined Mexico for homophobic chants by their fans. Denmark was fined for a sexist banner, and some women at the tournament have been targeted by discriminatory behavior. Poland and Serbia were also fined for “political and offensive” banners displayed by their fans.

Powar said that the absence of racist incidents did not come as a major surprise given Russia’s and citizens’ efforts to project a positive image of the country to foreign guests.

“We know that during the World Cup period, the population sort of understand that they are in the spotlight,” Powar said. “The world is watching.”

Alexei Smertin, the Russian Football Union’s anti-discrimination inspector, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With the knockout stage beginning on Saturday, fans from the 16 remaining teams are eager for the tournament to remain racism-free.

“They see us around and they ask whether we need anything,” said Colombian fan Hernan Garcia. “No racism at all so far. It has been an amazing experience.”

Will Trump-Putin Summit Be Chemistry Vs Substance?

Summit meetings can change the world. Back in the 1970s, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt used to say that it was of the highest importance for leaders to “get a smell of each other.” Chemistry between leaders was a useful factor in soothing fractious relations, he thought.

On July 16, U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, will hold their first official summit — in Finland’s capital — just days after the U.S. leader is scheduled to hold meetings with NATO, an alliance that has been in his crosshairs. The timing of the meetings gives Europe the opportunity to shape what the U.S. leader may seek from the summit.

Helsinki is no stranger to encounters between U.S. and Russian heads of state; but, the summit will rank as one of the oddest, say analysts, coming against the backdrop of probes into the actions of the U.S. president’s election advisers amid claims they colluded with Moscow’s interference in the 2016 White House race.

Trump’s domestic foes fault him for shying away from criticizing Putin personally, arguing it gives credence to claims made by a former British spy that the Kremlin holds compromising information on the U.S. president. Trump has angrily dismissed the claims.

The U.S. leader has said in the past that “getting along with Russia [and others] is a good thing, not a bad thing” to explain why he wants to improve relations with Moscow.

Not since the Cold War have relations between the West and Moscow been so fraught with clashes over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its pro-separatist operations in eastern Ukraine, as well as its military intervention in Syria.

NATO, cybersecurity

There also have been disputes over the nuclear arms treaties, NATO policy, and cybersecurity. And in the crowded battlefield of northern Syria, there was blood-drawing when U.S. artillery bombardments and airstrikes killed an estimated 200 Russians, in an assault still shrouded in mystery.

Much hangs on this summit. Arms control and other security issues will figure as the main topics of discussion, according to U.S. and Russian officials, who say Ukraine and Syria will be discussed as well. Both sides are playing down the likelihood of any breakthroughs.

But it apparently is a summit more than most built around the importance of the leaders themselves, and less on a detailed and actionable agenda. It has not been preceded by a long period of behind-the-scenes diplomatic negotiations to flush out the minutiae of a pre-agreed deal.

“The format reflects both leaders’ preference for bold, big-brushstroke meetings,” said a British diplomat, adding it is similar in nature and conception to the summit in Singapore earlier in June with Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “And it may be more art than deal,” he added.

Trump and Putin are not alone in being attracted to high-profile, symbolic encounters.

“Summit meetings are especially alluring to alpha types who relish new challenges,” British academics David Reynolds and Kristina Spohr wrote in a recent article for CAM magazine, a Cambridge University publication. But they also warn parleying at such high-profile encounters is “a high-risk business.”

Can personal chemistry be a substitute for substance when foreign leaders sit down to negotiate disputes? Is there a danger in placing too much hope on the personal ties leaders forge at symbolic summits?

Political precedents

In 1972, President Richard Nixon made a largely symbolic visit to China to talk with Mao Zedong in a bid to kickstart efforts to resolve the sharp differences between two highly antagonistic powers. Little of immediate substance was achieved but few doubt the trip was a success, paving the way for the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing seven years later.

Analysts and former diplomats point to another Nixon trip in 1972 as a better and less risky model for summitry — his trip to then-Soviet Russia, becoming the first U.S. president to enter the Kremlin. That trip saw Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev toasting each other in St. Vladimir’s Hall. It was preceded by painstaking negotiations, led by then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Even before Nixon set foot in Russia, Washington and Moscow had pre-agreed on 10 deals covering strategic arms limitation, trade, technology and cultural relations.

A former British ambassador to Russia, Andrew Wood, says summits “need something concrete to talk about and it is difficult to know what that concrete is — you can’t just talk in the abstract about Ukraine or the damage Russian military activities have done in Syria.”

He notes that in recent years, U.S. and Russian leaders have talked and “there has been wild-eyed optimism about what could happen and it has been disappointing and I see no reason why this meeting should be any different.”

The U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman, cautioned in an exclusive interview with VOA shortly after Putin was re-elected as president in April against thinking in terms of a reset with Russia, saying a sudden breakthrough is unrealistic — advice he clearly has been giving to Trump.

“The resets and the redos of years gone by, both Republicans and Democrats, always end in disaster,” he told VOA. “They heighten expectations to the point of our inability to achieve any of those expectations. Hopes are dashed. Relationships crumble. We’ve seen that over and over again.”

He added it is important to maintain a dialogue and look for “natural openings to build trust in small ways.”

Putin’s agenda

Both the Russian and U.S. governments have differences of opinion among their officials — some are more dovish; others more hawk-like. And in the run-up to the July summit, there will be behind-the-scenes debates galore within both governments about tactics, strategies and goals for the meeting.

Last April, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo, during a hearing on his nomination to be U.S. secretary of state, told a Senate panel that he favored a tough approach toward Russia. In the Kremlin there also are disagreements. A Kremlin insider earlier this year told VOA that many in the Russian government, including Putin, suspect there’s a permanent fracture between Russia and the West, which cannot be repaired. “Some people in the Kremlin hoped it would be different with Donald Trump. But I wasn’t holding my breath,” the insider said.

The question now is, if the insider is right, whether Putin has changed his mind and sees a summit as an opening that could help usher in a general improvement in Russia-West relations.

Some European diplomats say they are skeptical, arguing Putin has a clear game plan to persuade Trump to acknowledge that the annexation of Crimea is now irreversible by easing sanctions. The quid pro quo for that could be a Russian acceptance for the pro-Moscow Donbas region to be reintegrated with the rest of Ukraine.

Others said they believe Putin will be looking to Washington to help Russia cope with post-war Syria, which will need an estimated $250 billion in reconstruction costs. “Either way, by holding a summit with him, Trump is normalizing Putin — and without getting anything up front,” said a British diplomat.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, dismissed the British charge.

“Of all countries, shouldn’t the British want lines of communication open? Wasn’t it Churchill who said, ‘Jaw-jaw is better than war-war?'” The official was referring to the quote popularly attributed to the late British prime minister, Winston Churchill.

No Rule Change Seen After World Cup ‘Non-Games’

After some final World Cup group matches seemed to turn into “non-games” with teams barely playing or seeming unwilling to score, FIFA said on Friday it had no plan to change rules or how the draw is made.

On Thursday, Japan’s 1-0 defeat by Poland turned to farce as the Japanese, level on points, goal difference and goals with Senegal, defended their advantage on FIFA’s fair play criteria by effectively stopping playing — thereby avoiding picking up bookings or red cards that would have jeopardized their second-place finish.

Later, the England v Belgium match was overshadowed by talk that, being both sure of qualifying for the next round, neither wanted to win since the group winners face a potentially tougher route to final than the runners-up. Fans found the tempo sluggish and England seemed less than desperate after Belgium scored.

Had England equalized they would have finished first, as they started with fewer yellow cards, while Belgium had also picked up more bookings during the course of the match.

FIFA’s World Cup chief executive Colin Smith said the fair play criteria for group qualification would be reviewed after its first use at the World Cup but he believed it would not change. And he defended the level of competitive intent seen among the teams involved in the past few days’ matches.

“This is the first World Cup that we’ve brought in this rule,” Smith told reporters of the law that saw Japan advance as Group H runners-up ahead of Senegal because they had the same points, goal difference and goal tally but had picked up fewer yellow cards.

“Obviously what we want to avoid is the drawing of lots. We believe that teams should go forward on their performance. “We will review after this World Cup,” he said. “But as it currently stands we don’t see any need to change the rules we’ve put in place.”

Smith acknowledged that there had been comment about the final minutes of the Japan game.

“But these are isolated cases because they find themselves in a particular scenario after goal difference and the various points that have been met,” he said. “The game of football for the fans is a competitive game of football and the fans who have paid money to come and watch matches expect to see that — and I think we have seen that.”

Asked whether there was a way to avoid teams trying to come second by making a new draw after the group phase, Smith said: “Redoing the draw is obviously very difficult from the whole logistical, organizational point [of view].”

Echoing comments by England coach Gareth Southgate, he said: “If Belgium didn’t want to win then they obviously forgot to tell the goalscorer — because it was a cracker.”

“We believe on our side that every game is a competitive game of football and teams want to win.”

EU, US Extend Sanctions Against Russia

European leaders have agreed to extend their sanctions against Russia for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The EU leaders said in statement Friday the sanctions have been extended for six months.

The decision was made at the leaders’ summit in Brussels after they had a “very short discussion” on Ukraine, an anonymous source told AFP, the French news agency.

The United States, meanwhile, is also holding to sanctions against Russia for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

The U.S. intelligence community also concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Trump win the White House and special counsel Robert Mueller has already indicted Russian individuals and entities in a scheme to influence the vote.

Meanwhile, as the date and venue for President Donald Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin were announced, the U.S. leader continued to dismiss allegations that Moscow interfered with his 2016 election.

Trump has long disparaged the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller into Trump campaign links with Russia as a “witch hunt,” but suggested in a new Twitter comment that he accepts Russian denials that it interfered.

“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump declared.

Trump’s view contrasted with a Wednesday comment by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying that when Trump and Putin meet, Trump is sure to warn the Russian leader that it is “completely unacceptable” to interfere in U.S. elections.

The July 16 talks between the two leaders in Helsinki will be their first full-fledged meeting after previous shorter encounters at international gatherings. They are occurring at a difficult time in Washington-Moscow relations.

But as the summit was announced, Trump railed against Mueller and his 13-month probe in a string of tweets, saying in one of them, “There was no collusion and there was no obstruction of the no collusion.”

The White House said Trump and Putin will discuss “a range of national security issues.” The Kremlin said the two leaders will talk about “the current state and prospects for development of Russian-U.S. relations.”

The Trump-Putin summit will come after the U.S. leader’s attendance at the July 11-12 NATO summit in Brussels and July 13 meetings with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth in London.

Despite the sanctions against Russia, Trump has, even in the face of opposition from Western allies, shown an inclination to foster better with relations with Putin. He suggested earlier this month that Russia should be readmitted to the G-7 conclave of leaders of some of the biggest world economies after Moscow was suspended from the group when it annexed Crimea.

Trump said Wednesday that “getting along with Russia and with China and with everybody is a very good thing.” Trump said he and Putin would discuss Syria, Ukraine and “many other subjects.”


As relations between the two countries have chilled, they have traded cuts in their diplomatic entourages.

Before he left office and Trump assumed power, former U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian recreational retreats in the U.S. in response to the election meddling. In a tit-for-tat action in mid-2017, Russia ordered the U.S. to cut 755 members of its embassy and consulate staffs in Russia.

Three months ago, the U.S. expelled 60 Russian officials from the U.S. and ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in the western city of Seattle in response to the Russian poisoning of former Moscow spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British city of Salisbury.


Brazil Court Allows Prosecution of US Swimmer Ryan Lochte

The prosecution of U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte for filing a false police report during the 2016 Olympics is back on after a Brazilian court decision this week.

During the games in Rio de Janeiro, the 12-time Olympic medalist told NBC that he and fellow swimmers were robbed at gunpoint in a taxi by men with police badges as they returned to the Olympic Village from a party.

But prosecutors said Lochte invented the story to cover up the swimmers’ vandalism of a gas station and an ensuing confrontation with security guards. The confrontation was captured by surveillance cameras at the gas station.

Lochte later acknowledged he was intoxicated at the time and his behavior led to the confrontation. 

The initial claim appeared to confirm widespread fears before the Olympics that the event would be marred by rising crime rates in Rio de Janeiro, which has long struggled with violence.

As Lochte’s version of events began to shift, many Brazilians became annoyed that a false story about crime drew so much attention, when the city had hosted the games without major problems.

The scandal drew international headlines and grew to overshadow the final days of the games. Lochte ended up serving a 10-month suspension from the U.S. national swim team for his behavior.

Last year, a court dismissed the case against Lochte, but the Superior Court of Justice reversed that decision Tuesday. Prosecutor Rodrigo de Almeida Maia said Thursday that the next step is for Lochte’s lawyers to present their defense. Lochte does not have to appear in person to defend himself, de Almeida Maia said.

Steve Lochte, the swimmer’s father, said by telephone that he had no comment and directed questions to his son or his son’s lawyers.

Jeff Ostrow, a lawyer who has represented Lochte in the past, did not immediately respond to an email and a voicemail message seeking comment. It was not clear if he would represent Lochte in this case. 

Praise for Foxconn, Warning to Harley by Trump in Wisconsin    

Hailing “great economic success” during the first 18 months of his administration, U.S. President Donald Trump is calling for more companies to be like Taiwan’s electronics component manufacturer Foxconn and invest in the United States. 

At a groundbreaking event for the foreign company’s latest and largest investment in the upper Midwestern state of Wisconsin, Trump described the planned $10 billion manufacturing facility “as the eighth wonder of the world.” 

That may be a generous exaggeration, but the plant is one of the largest foreign direct investment projects ever in the United States. 

“We are demanding from foreign countries, friend and foe, fair and reciprocal trade,” Trump said, as he defended his confrontational trade policies and hailed further direct investment in the United States by manufacturers from other countries. 

Trump hailed Foxconn’s decision to increase its investment in Wisconsin, while criticizing a plan by an iconic American company in the same state to move some production overseas in response to retaliatory tariffs planned by European companies in response to the president’s punitive import taxes. 

“Harley-Davidson, please build those beautiful motorcycles in the USA,” Trump said. “Don’t get cute with us.” 

The president added: “Your customers won’t be happy if you don’t.”

Trump defended tariffs he has imposed on foreign steel and aluminum, proclaiming that “business is through the roof” in the United States as a result. 

The primary focus of Trump’s remarks on Thursday was Foxconn’s decision to build flat-screen, liquid crystal display panels in Racine County, Wisconsin. 

The maker of components for and assembler of Apple iPhones was offered what is described as the largest financial incentive ever for a foreign company by a U.S. state. 

Wisconsin is giving Foxconn $3 billion in tax credits and other incentives. In exchange, the state expects to see the facility create thousands of jobs. 

Trump spoke in front of a giant video display that said “USA Open for Business” after touring an existing Foxconn facility at the Wisconsin Valley Science and Technology Park. 

Foxconn’s founder and chairman Terry Gou told the audience that during each of his several previous meetings with the president, Trump always emphasized “jobs, jobs, jobs.” 

Added Gou, “He truly cares about improving the lives of the American people.” 

The new plant, which will take two years to build and employ 10,000 construction workers, will include a 1.8 million square meter campus situated on 1,200 hectares. Foxconn has promised that the LCD facility will eventually employ up to 13,000 people. 

Not everyone in the state is overjoyed about what is being billed as a transformational project for Wisconsin’s economy, better known for dairy products than high technology. 

The state’s legislative bureau predicts it will be a quarter of a century before Wisconsin receives enough tax revenue to match its initial investment. And others are raising concern about its environmental impact. 

“Building the Foxconn factory complex on prime farmland in rural Wisconsin constitutes a textbook example of unsustainable development,” said David Petering, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Petering told VOA News the facility will be a “major source of a variety of harmful air pollutants that will put nearby residents at risk and contribute to climate change. In addition, it will need to break the Great Lakes Compact law to get millions of gallons of water from Lake Michigan.” 

Another American Confirmed Hurt by Mystery Attack in Cuba

One more U.S. Embassy employee in Havana has been affected by mysterious health incidents, the State Department said.

State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the second of two Americans recently evacuated from Cuba was “medically confirmed” Thursday to have experienced effects “similar to those reported by other members of the U.S. Havana diplomatic community.”

The other evacuee was confirmed to have experienced similar symptoms a week ago.

The latest case brings to 26 the number of Americans affected by the mystery ailment in Cuba.

The United States has said that the Cuba incidents started in late 2016. The State Department calls them “specific attacks” but has not said what caused them or who was behind them. Cuba has adamantly denied involvement or knowledge.

Initial speculation centered on some type of sonic attack owing to strange sounds heard by those affected, but an interim FBI report in January found no evidence that sound waves could have caused the damage, The Associated Press reported.

The new confirmation comes less than a month after the U.S. renewed demands on Cuba to determine the source of the “attacks” on U.S. diplomats. Cuba responded by once again denying any involvement or knowledge of any such attacks.

A U.S. employee at a consulate in Guangzhou, China, has also reported experiencing similar symptoms recently.

The State Department issued a health warning after the employee in China reported experiencing “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” and was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described it as a “serious medical incident.”

France Charges 10 in Alleged Plot to Attack Muslims

French authorities have charged 10 suspected far-right extremists in connection with an alleged plot to attack Muslims, a judicial source said Thursday.

The nine men and one woman, who ranged in age from 32 to 69, were arrested in raids across France on Saturday. They appeared before a judge on Wednesday evening and were charged with “criminal terrorist conspiracy,” the source said.

Several were also charged with violations of firearms laws and the manufacture or possession of explosive devices.

Police have linked the 10 to a little-known group called Action des Forces Operationnelles (Operational Forces Action), which urges French people to combat Muslims, or what it calls “the enemy within.”

The suspects had an “ill-defined plan to commit a violent act targeting people of the Muslim faith”, a source close to the investigation told AFP on Monday.

Rifles, handguns and homemade grenades were found during the raids in the Paris area, the Mediterranean island of Corsica and the western Charentes-Maritimes region.

Firearms, ammunition seized

Prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday that 36 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition were seized, as well as items in one suspect’s home that could be used in the manufacture of a type of organic peroxide explosive.

The suspects include a retired police officer, identified only as Guy S., who was the alleged leader of the group, according to a source close to the investigation. The group also includes a former soldier.

France remains on high alert following a wave of jihadist attacks that have killed more than 240 people since 2015.

Officials have urged people not to confuse the actions of radicalized individuals with those of France’s estimated 6 million Muslims, but anti-Islamic violence is on the rise.

The Guerre de France (War for France) website of the shadowy Operational Forces Action depicts an apocalyptic battle scene under the Eiffel Tower, and claims to prepare “French citizen-soldiers for combat on national territory.”

France’s TF1 television has said the group planned to target radicalized imams and Islamist prisoners after their release from jail, as well as veiled women in the street chosen at random.

France registered 72 violent anti-Muslim acts last year, up from 67 in 2016.

Pope to 14 New Cardinals: Defend Dignity of Poor

Pope Francis gave the Catholic Church 14 new cardinals Thursday, exhorting them to resist any temptation toward haughtiness and instead embrace “the greatest promotion” they can achieve:  tending to those neglected or cast aside by society.

Among those receiving the cardinals’ biretta — a crimson-red square cap with three ridges — was his point man for helping Rome’s homeless and poor. Polish Monsignor Konrad Krajewski has handed out sleeping bags to those spending cold nights on the Italian capital’s streets and driven vans taking the poor on seaside daytrips arranged by the Vatican.

The choices of many of the new cardinals reflected Francis’ determination that the church be known for tireless attention to those on society’s margins. He also turned his attention to countries located far from the Vatican after centuries of European dominance of the ranks of cardinals, honoring churchmen from Peru, Madagascar and Japan, which has a tiny minority of Catholics.

With Thursday’s ceremony, there are now 226 cardinals worldwide, 74 of them named by Francis during his 5-year-old papacy.

Of that total, 125 cardinals are younger than 80 and can vote in a conclave for the next pope when the current pope dies or resigns: 59 of them appointed by Francis, 47 by Pope Benedict XVI, his predecessor, and 19 named by Pope John Paul II. 

Three of those named Thursday are too old to participate in selecting the next pope.

In his homily, Francis told the new cardinals to avoid the “quest of honors, jealousy, envy, intrigue, accommodation and compromise.”

“What does it gain the world if we are living in a stifling atmosphere of intrigues that dry up our hearts and impede our mission?” the pope asked during the ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica. He lamented the “palace intrigues that take place, even in curial offices.”

“When we forget the mission, when we lose sight of the real faces of our brothers and sisters, our life gets locked up in the pursuit of our own interests and securities,” Francis said. “The church’s authority grows with this ability to defend the dignity of others.”

“This is the highest honor that we can receive, the greatest promotion that can be awarded us: to serve Christ in God’s faithful people,” Francis said, going on to cite the “hungry, neglected, imprisoned, sick, suffering, addicted to drugs, cast aside.”

Other top issues

At a post-ceremony reception, Peru’s new cardinal, Huancayo Archbishop Pedro Barreto Jimeno, a Jesuit like Pope Francis, was asked which pressing questions churchmen should urgently address.

The cardinal told the AP that the “social exclusion” of migrants is an issue “all must address.”

Francis recently has appealed to all nations to be more welcoming to the refugees they can adequately integrate into society.

The Peruvian cardinal also cited the need to fight corruption worldwide. Francis has made battling corruption inside the church also one of his papacy’s priorities.

After the ceremony, the pope and the new cardinals took minivans to the monastery on Vatican City grounds where Benedict XVI, who retired from the papacy in 2013, lives. The cardinals each went up to greet the frail 91-year-old Benedict, who was sitting in a chair, taking his hand and briefly chatting with the emeritus pontiff.

New cardinals

The new cardinals include Iraqi churchman Louis Raphael I Sako, the Baghdad-based patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans.

Sako told Francis that he welcomed the pope’s “special attention” to the “small flock who make up the Christians in the Middle East, in Pakistan and in other countries who are undergoing a difficult period due to the wars and sectarianism and where there are still martyrs.”

A Pakistani prelate, Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi, was another new cardinal.

Addressing his “dear brother cardinals and new cardinals,” the pope said the “only credible form of authority is born of sitting at the feet of others in order to serve Christ.”

In a sign of the pope’s attention to ordinary people’s suffering, Monsignor Giuseppe Petrocchi, the archbishop of L’Aquila, an Italian mountain town devastated by a 2009 earthquake, was among the newest cardinals.

Other new cardinals include:

Monsignor Antonio dos Santos Marto, bishop of Leiria-Fatima, which includes Portugal’s popular shrine town;

Monsignor Desire Tsarahazana, archbishop of Toamasina, Madagascar;

Monsignor Thomas Aquinas Manyo, who was bishop of Hiroshima before Francis made him archbishop of Osaka, Japan;

Monsignor Luis Ladaria, a Spanish theologian who heads the powerful Vatican office in charge of ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy;

Monsignor Giovanni Angelo Becciu, an Italian whose diplomatic career includes serving as ambassador to Cuba;

Monsignor Angelo De Donatis, the Rome vicar general;

The three new prelates too old to vote in a conclave included Sergio Obeso Rivera, Emeritus Archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico; Spanish priest Aquilino Bocos Merino; and Bolivian Monsignor Toribio Ticona Porco.

Russia Cracks Down on Women-Shaming Online During World Cup

Russia’s leading social network is cracking down on chat groups created to shame women during the World cup amid growing complaints of sexist abuse during the tournament.

Social network VKontakte told The Associated Press on Thursday it issued warnings to the administrators of such groups. VKontakte reminded administrators that “offensive behavior is unacceptable” and told them to better moderate their sites, including blocking content.

But sexist comments continued to appear Thursday on at least one of the targeted sites, which was named after an offensive Portuguese phrase for the female anatomy.

The site’s administrators openly criticize what they call inappropriate behavior by Russian women who celebrate with foreign fans during the World Cup.

Several female fans, journalists and others have complained of groping, sexist comments or other misconduct at the World Cup, being hosted in 11 Russian cities.