SLAVERY NOT A CRIME

Overview of domestic legislation prohibiting human exploitation.  Many of the 193 U.N. member states have not gone on to explicitly criminalise slavery and other exploitation.  Researchers noted that almost all countries had some form of domestic anti-trafficking legislation in place.   Image: Katarina Schwarz and Jean Allain

Slavery is not a crime for almost half the countries in the world.  Although laws allowing slavery have been scrapped worldwide, many of the 193 U.N. member states have not gone on to explicitly criminalise slavery.                                                                                                                                     by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation, 12 Feb 2020

“Slavery is far from being illegal everywhere and we hope our research will move the conversation beyond this popular myth,” said Katarina Schwarz, a researcher at the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, which led work on the slavery database.

“It will surprise many people to learn that in all of these countries there are no criminal laws in place to prosecute, convict and punish people for subjecting people to the most extreme forms of exploitation.”   More than 40 million people are held in modern slavery, which includes forced labor and forced marriage, according to estimates by the International Labour Organization and the anti-slavery group the Walk Free Foundation.

There is no criminal law against slavery in 94 countries – almost half of U.N. states – said researchers at Rights Lab, which reviewed the study’s findings with the Castan Centre for Human Rights at Monash University in Australia.   It found almost two thirds of countries apparently failed to criminalize any of the main four practices associated with slavery – serfdom, debt bondage, forced marriage, and child trafficking – except in the context of human trafficking.

“Slavery in its nature looks to exploit people who fall slightly outside the rule of law,” Jakub Sobik, a spokesman for the charity Anti-Slavery International told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  “There is a need for wide-ranging policies that address the wider context and systemic reasons why people are made vulnerable to being tricked and trapped and controlled by another person.”  (http://news.trust.org/item/20200212132545-vdpzu)

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GM PULLS OUT OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND, THAILAND

General Motors has been in Australia since 1856 when it first sold saddles to Australians.   In the 1960’s and 70’s they produced Holden cars, a popular brand that really caught on.  Now, they are selling up and moving out.   The big benefactor?

China.

It’s symbolic of what’s happening to American capitalism.  The US is losing out to competitors, especially the Chinese.

And it’s not just cars.   In the same week, President Duterte of the Philippines tore up the defense treaty with the US, preferring Beijing over Washington.   One reason may be Duterte’s stance on human rights, which has led to criticism from Americans.   China doesn’t care about human rights.

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CORONAVIRUS “MADE IN CHINA”

The Chinese Communist Party calls it “discourse management.”  It’s more than mere censorship and bigger than propaganda.   And Beijing is pretty good at it.   The party uses it to control its own people, but also to manage foreign governments.

Take the new coronavirus, for instance.   It may be a made-in-China global pandemic, and China might have bungled its handling of it, but that’s somehow irrelevant and China’s government says it’s “unhappy” with Australia.   Come again?

The outbreak is classified by the World Health Organization as a global health emergency.   It was created in China, of course.   The consensus among virologists is that the likely cause was the Chinese authorities’ persistent tolerance of unsafe animal and food handling practices.

After the 2003 outbreak of a novel coronavirus, the SARS epidemic, the Chinese government banned all trade in wild animals.  Once the crisis had passed, the authorities relaxed the ban, announcing 54 types of exemption.   In other words, it was going to happen again one day.   Then, once this outbreak was discovered, the Chinese authorities seriously mismanaged it.   This is now the subject of frenetic blame-shifting inside China.

When the first cases started turning up in the city of Wuhan in mid-December, two weeks before the official disclosure on December 31 that there was a new virus, sick people were turned away from local hospitals and sent home to infect other people and die.  The hospitals were told to report “zero infections.”

Why?   Because an important meeting of provincial and city officials was under way in Wuhan and only good news was permitted.   The cover-ups and delays were “reprehensible” according to an eminent Australian virologist, John Mackenzie.      (Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, 2/18/2020)

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GOG AND MAGOG  — COULD RUSSIA ATTACK ISRAEL?

Russia’s ambassador to Syria this week issued what some saw as a veiled threat should Israel continue bombing Iranian assets in the war-torn country.

On February 6, an aerial attack on a target near Damascus killed 20 Syrian and Iranian military officials.   It also caused Syrian air defenses to inadvertently fire on an airplane carrying 172 passengers.   The plane managed to safely land at a nearby airport.

Israel Defense Minister Naftali Bennett later hinted that the attack was just another in a long series of Israeli strikes against Iranian assets that are admittedly in Syria for the purpose of threatening the Jewish state.

But Russian Ambassador Alexander Yefimov wasn’t interested in Israeli justifications.

In an interview with Sputnik Arabic, Yefimov called the Israeli raids “provocative and very dangerous.”   He further cautioned that “this increases the possibility of conflict over Syria.”

Since Syria is already in conflict, his warning was taken to mean that the ongoing Israeli raids could eventually result in an armed clash between the Jewish state and Russian forces in the region.

Israeli political and military officials have never been shy about referencing the biblical “War of Gog and Magog.”   It’s something they believe is going to happen.  (Israel Today, 2/17)

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GERMAN CRITICISM OF US BREAKING INTERNATIONAL LAW

In reference to the US drone-murder of Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani, German government advisors are warning against a growing number of violations of international law by the United States.   For years, “the foreign policy of the Trump administration has demonstrated that it has been a particular strain on international law,” observes an analysis published by Berlin’s German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).  Suleimani’s murder suggests that Washington is now beginning to extend its “war on terror” tactics, that had already become common-place under President Barack Obama – such as drone-murders – to leading representatives of foreign nations, it considers to be “a threat.”  In the future, “state representatives should fear for their lives, when they travel outside their country,” because “the consequences for international diplomacy are hardly predictable.”  The SWP advises the German government to take a clear stand.  Of course, in its attempts to implement its globalist policies over the past few decades, Berlin, too, has repeatedly violated international law, often as an accomplice of the USA.    (German Foreign Policy, 1/28)

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Watch Israel’s new laser weapon shoot drones out of sky                   by Yaron Steinbuch, 12 Feb 2020

An Israeli drone defense system fit for “Star Wars” has shot down multiple maneuvering targets with a high-powered laser beam, according to reports.   “The system achieved 100 percent success in all test scenarios,” defense technology company Rafael said in a statement about its Drone Dome C-UAS, or Counter-Unmanned Aerial System, the Times of Israel reported.   “The stages of the interception included target detection, identification and interception” with the laser beam, it said in a video of a recent demo of the system.   In the footage, a vehicle-mounted system is shown engaging the targets, including zigzagging drones.   In one test, three drones flying in formation were downed in rapid succession.  “Drone Dome is designed to address threats posed by hostile drones both in military and civilian sites,” Rafael said.

Drone Dome refers to a package that includes a search radar, drone radio command detector, an electro-optical sensor, and command-and-control system, according to Popular Mechanics.  The system can detect objects as small as 0.021 square feet at 2.1 miles.  Once detected, it locks onto the drone, keeping it in its cross hairs as it maneuvers in any direction.   When the laser is blasted, it melts away the drone’s plastic housing and destroys its electronics, sending it to the ground.     (https://nypost.com/2020/02/12/watch-israels-wild-new-laser-weapon-shoot-drones-out-of-sky/)

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 Munich Security Conference:  France’s Macron envisions new era of European strength                                                                                                  The French president projected a vision of a Europe with new military power at the Munich Security Conference.   As the only nuclear power in the EU, he also foresaw greater European sovereignty.

“We cannot always go through the United States, no, we have to think in a European way as well,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on stage at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) on Saturday as he continued a theme of his presidency: projecting bold European sovereignty onto the international stage.

He was referring specifically to Europe’s nuclear assets, pointing out a key difference to the Cold War era when Europe’s nuclear shield was primarily coordinated by the US.   “Now we have to be able to say clearly that if we want a sovereign Europe, if we want to protect our citizens, then we do need to look at that aspect, also with a view to Germany,” he said.   To show his commitment, Macron has already invited Germany to take part in a strategic dialogue over France’s nuclear weapon policy.

The UK’s exit from the European Union has shifted added responsibility onto France.   Though the UK and France are of course still NATO partners, along with the US and Germany, France is now the only nuclear power in the EU, which leaves the Paris government balancing its nuclear defense strategy between, as Macron put it, “the ambitions of NATO and Europe.” (Deutsche Welle, 15 Feb, 2020)  (– Extract from:  (https://www.dw.com/en/munich-security-conference-frances-macron-envisions-new-era-of-european-strength/a-52389586)

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Munich Security Conference:   African leaders absent from Sahel talks
Germany and other world powers meeting in Munich raised concerns about the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel region.  But African heads of state who had been invited were conspicuously absent.

Not a single head of state from the continent attended, despite the growing threat of terrorism and the armed conflicts tearing it apart.

A report by Save the Children, published as world leaders convened in Munich, Germany, said at least 95,000 children had been killed or maimed across the world since 2005.  Tens of thousands were abducted and millions were denied access to education.

Germany makes a case for the Sahel:   In the absence of African leaders, to bring the matter to the table, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer called for an increased effort in the fight against Islamists in Africa.   “The Sahel is a key region for Europe, for example, when it comes to migration or the threat of terrorism,” she said, adding:   “That is why it is so important that Germany remains committed there, militarily as well.”  Kramp-Karrenbauer’s statement was encouraging to the Central African Republic’s defense minister, Marie-Noelle Koyara.   “I take this opportunity to thank the German government for making such a wise decision,” the CAR defense minister told DW.

African children were the worst affected, according to Save the Children.   Some 170 million across Africa and the Middle East are living in war zones.  “You will see that most of the violent conflicts do not feature,” Dan Smith, director of SIPRI, an international think tank dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control, and disarmament, told DW.

Smith is disappointed the international community is not paying attention to the crisis unfolding in Africa.

“They (Africans) are not part of the thinking of the security community that is gathered here,” Smith adds.  “That doesn’t mean that this community’s concerns are irrelevant, but they’re not focused on the Sahel; they are not focused on the Horn of Africa.”(https://www.dw.com/en/munich-security-conference-african-leaders-absent-from-sahel-talks/a-52398078)

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 EU’s Franco-German axis will stutter without the Brits, says Vestager
“I think we will see a new dynamic in the union, but it will take some time before we fully recover,” the EU competition and digital chief said.            by Simon Van Dorpe, Politico.eu, 30 Jan 2020

France and Germany will struggle to drive the EU without the British “energy” that helped Paris and Berlin work together, EU competition and digital chief Margrethe Vestager said today.  “One of the things we will be missing is of course the energy.   Because we have a French-German axis – but part of the energy to make that axis work comes from, came from, the U.K.,” Vestager said when asked what she would miss about Britain.    Vestager said that other member countries, “maybe changing coalitions of member states,” would have to step into that void.  “I think we will see a new dynamic in the union, but it will take some time before we fully recover,” she said. Vestager attended the Brexit vote in the parliament on Wednesday, which she said was “really touching because you see it is real.”  Vestager also said she would miss the sense of humor of the Brits, which she said was similar to the Danish.

“I was very close to [former U.K. Commissioner] Jonathan Hill; I was sitting next to [Hill’s successor] Julian King when he was the Commissioner here and I miss them, because they come with a U.K. culture,” she said.   She told an anecdote of how she struggled to communicate in English at the start of her first mandate and when she asked Hill if he didn’t find it exhausting how the other commissioners treated his language, he said: “Of course not, I’m so honored that you’re all trying.”
(https://www.politico.eu/article/eus-franco-german-axis-will-stutter-without-the-brits-says-vestager/)

Brexit punches 12-bln-euro hole in EU finances
by Agence France-Presse, 30 Jan, 2020

Brussels – When Britain leaves the European Union at midnight on Friday the bloc will lose the second-biggest net contributor to its budget, leaving a 12-billion-euro ($13-billion) hole in its finances.  The United Kingdom will continue making budget contributions this year under an agreed post-Brexit transition period.   But from 2021 Europe will have to look elsewhere.  This further complicates an already fraught debate between the remaining member states over the EU’s 2021-2027 long-term budget, called the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).   The European Commission has had a proposed MFF on the table since May 2018, and its new president Ursula von der Leyen is keen to get it approved soon.   But a so-called “Frugal Five” of wealthy mainly northern countries — Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden — are seeking to limit EU expenditure.   And a rival “Friends of Cohesion” group of 16 eastern and Mediterranean countries wants to defend the budget rules.

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Frustrated by liberal policies, some Oregon residents petitioned to leave the state – by moving the border with Idaho westward.

The movement secured initial approval from two counties and aims to get enough signatures to put the proposal on ballots in November, according to the group called Greater Idaho.  If the group succeeds, voters in southeast Oregon may see a question on whether their county should become part of Idaho by redrawing the border.   “Rural counties have become increasingly outraged by laws coming out of the Oregon Legislature that threaten our livelihoods, our industries, our wallet, our gun rights, and our values,” Mike McCarter, one of the chief petitioners, said in a news release. “We tried voting those legislators out, but rural Oregon is outnumbered and our voices are now ignored.  This is our last resort.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/02/17/oregon-idaho-border-petition-secede/4789936002/)

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TO THE POINT

  • After a five-month delay, Afghanistan’s electoral commission named Ashraf Ghani as the winner of the country’s presidential election.   The result was delayed after supporters of Mr. Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, accused the commission of bias and threatened to form a parallel government.  The victory gives Mr. Ghani a second five-year term as president.  (The Economist 2/19/2020)
  • Three of Britain’s remaining overseas territories are under constant threat from Spain (Gibraltar), Argentina (Falkland Islands) and Mauritius (Diego Garcia, home of a big US naval base in the Indian Ocean).   Vladimir Putin, soon to be proclaimed dictator of Russia, has given his support to Argentina’s claim on the Falklands.   At one time, the three territories would have had nothing to fear as they would have been protected by the Royal Navy.   Not any more – Italy’s navy is now bigger than Britain’s.  Quite a comedown for what was the world’s greatest navy before World War II.   The navy is not even going to be big enough to stop Europeans fishing in British waters, post-Brexit.
  • The British government announced the first details of its post-Brexit plans for immigration policy.  It promised that there would be no more visas for low-skilled workers and no freedom of movement between Britain and the rest of the European Union.  Visa applications will instead be judged on a “points-based” immigration system.  (The Economist 2/19/2020)
  • German man leaves €7 million fortune to far-right AfDAn engineer who died in 2018 has donated his entire estate of gold, property and patents  to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The endowment is one of the largest ever given to a German political party.
  • A locust plague which has now reached coronavirus-struck China may be the “fifth trumpet” prophesied in the Book of Revelation, according to wild claims.  (https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/1243557/locast-swarm-china-coronavirus-book-revelation-seventh-seal-trumpet-jesus-christ-god-)

ELECTORAL EARTHQUAKE IN GERMANY

‘The CDU cannot participate in a government under the elected minister-president,’ says chancellor Merkel. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

An electoral earthquake in the German state of Thuringia is reverberating across the country and its aftershocks are being felt in Brussels.

Berlin’s political establishment has been rocked by an electoral pact between the conservative Christian Democrats, liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) that has propelled a local FDP candidate to power in the eastern state of Thuringia.   By co-operating with the AfD and ousting the sitting leftwing prime minister of the region Germany’s mainstream parties have “torn up” a post-war consensus to ostracise the extreme right, writes Guy Chazan.

Stinging condemnation has rung out from all corners — including the highest ranks of the CDU.   Before yesterday, the liberals and conservatives had vowed never to work with the AfD.   Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, CDU defence minister, lashed out at the Thuringian branch of her party for explicitly disobeying Berlin’s orders.   Elected FDP candidate Thomas Kemmerich is under immense pressure to resign and hold new elections.   Around 1,000 noisy protesters gathered outside the FDP’s HQ in Berlin last night accusing the party of getting into bed with “Nazis.”                      (Maureen Kahn, ft Brussels Briefing, 2/6)

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DAM BURST  — Germany shaken as far-right plays regional kingmaker

It has been a tenet of German politics since the Second World War that mainstream political parties do not legitimize far right movements by siding with them on any issue – but that taboo was shattered on Wednesday, eliciting nationwide outrage.

In the eastern German state of Thuringia, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) both used the parliamentary support of nationalist party Alternative fur Deutschland to bring their choice of leader to power.                    (The Week, 2/6)

The parliament in Thuringia, in eastern Germany, elected Thomas Kemmerich from the Free Democrats as state premier.   Mr. Kemmerich’s shocking victory was made possible only with votes from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).   No state government has previously been elected with AfD support.  Politicians across the spectrum expressed dismay at the result.  (Economist 2/6)

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GERMANY’S FUTURE IN DOUBT

Germany was plunged into political uncertainty after the leader of the governing Christian Democratic Union resigned.   A protégée of Angela Merkel, the chancellor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was seen as a shoo-in to succeed her.   Then last week the local leader of a small party was elected premier of the eastern state of Thuringia, with votes from the CDU – and the far-right Alternative for Germany – to widespread outrage.   Ms. Kramp-Karrenbauer bungled the response. Previous gaffes had left her vulnerable.      (The Economist, 02/11/2020)

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TRUMP WINNING

With his personal approval ratings at an all-time high, the impeachment process behind him and the US economy booming, Donald Trump’s odds of winning a second term now stand at nearly 60% according to betting aggregator Oddschecker.com.

Add to this a Democratic party in near total disarray and the US president may be on the cusp of fulfilling his 2016 campaign promise to supporters that “We gonna win so much you may even get tired of winning and you’ll say please, please Mr. President, it’s too much winning, we can’t take it anymore.”  (The Week, 2/7)

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HOUSING COSTS

While the past several decades of globalization and technological development have lowered the price of most goods and services in the US, there’s been inflation in all the things that make people middle class: healthcare, education and, most important, housing.  Over the past decade, the cost of shelter has risen sharply compared with everything else — housing prices contributed a record 81 per cent to core inflation in summer 2017 and remain responsible for “the lion’s share” of all inflation in the US, according to a recent Cornell University study.   (Financial Times, 2/10/2020)

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The Observer:    UK child abuse inquiry – ‘We were abused every day.’     Decades on, children’s homes victims wait for justice.  This week an all-party report will demand a reckoning for the epidemic  of institutional child abuse in the 1970s and 1980s.                              by Yvonne Roberts, The Guardian UK, 8 Feb, 2020

As police admitted for the first time last week that there was an “epidemic” of  institutional child sexual abuse in church institutions, children’s homes, borstals, schools and foster families in the 1970s and 80s, chief constable Simon Bailey, the national lead for child protection and abuse investigations, said:   “We do not understand the true scale of it … untold damage has been done to victims and survivors.”   On 11 February a damning report by the all-party parliamentary group on Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse will be highly critical of the support and resources available to these children, now in their 50s, 60s and older, many of whom have spent a lifetime with their experiences not believed and redress unobtainable.  The report is titled Can Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Access Justice and Support? and the conclusion is an emphatic “no.”   Based on two years’ work, it finds all the major services, including police, health, crown prosecution and courts, are failing to address a potential national crisis, with support services struggling to meet demand.   The Office for National Statistics estimates that 3.1 million people aged 18-74 were sexually abused in childhood.  However, only one in seven callers to the helpline of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood had previously disclosed abuse.                      (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/fe)

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IRA BIG WINNER IN IRISH ELECTION                                                        (Sinn Fein has long been considered the political wing of the terrorist organization)

Dublin deadlock Sinn Féin has demanded a role in Ireland’s new government after surging to the highest vote share in the general election.  With counting still under way, the nationalist party, led by Mary Lou McDonald, took 24.5 per cent of the vote after pushing prime minister Leo Varadkar’s centre-right Fine Gael into third place with 20.9 per cent.   The centrist opposition Fianna Fáil, led by Micheál Martin, came second with 22.2 per cent but is likely to be the largest party in parliament because Sinn Féin did not run enough candidates to be able to take the most seats.                                  (Financial Times, 2/10/2020)

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MOHIUSSUNNATH CHOWDHURY                                                      Madame Tussauds Terror Plot Revealed

A 28-year-old man from Luton has been found guilty of planning a terror attack on tourist hotspots in London, two years after being arrested with a samurai sword outside Buckingham Palace.

Mohiussunnath Chowdhury, known as Musa, was convicted of terrorism offences at Woolwich Crown Court yesterday.                  (The Week, 2/11/2020)

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Next East Africa locust swarms airborne in 3 to 4 weeks, UN warns Baby desert locusts in Somalia will become East Africa’s next plague wave, UN agronomy experts have warned.   Climate change-driven rain has triggered “unprecedented” breeding, says UN chief Antonio Guterres.(Deutsche Welle, 9 Feb 2020)

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned Sunday that nymph (baby) desert locusts maturing in Somalia’s rebel-held backcountry, where aerial spraying is next to unrealizable, will develop wings in the “next three or four weeks” and threaten millions of people already short of food.   Once in flight and hungry, the swarm could be the “most devastating plague of locusts in any of our living memories if we don’t reduce the problem faster than we are doing at the moment,” said UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock.

The locusts were now “very hungry teenagers,” but once mature, their progeny would hatch, generating “about a 20-fold increase” in numbers, warned Keith Cressman, FAO locust forecasting officer. “Mother Nature” alone would not solve the crisis, said Dominique Burgeon, resilience director of the FAO, which has urged international donors to give $76 million (€69.4 million) immediately.  Swarms, which left damage across parts of Ethiopia and Kenya in December, could also put Uganda, South Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti at risk, making it the worst such situation in 25 years, the FAO said.  East Africa already has 19 million people facing acute food insecurity, according to the regional inter-agency Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG).                  (https://www.dw.com/en/next-east-africa-locust-swarms-airborne-in-3-to-4-weeks-un-warns/a-52312510)

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DECLINE OF THE WEST

The Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, is focusing the debate of the coming weekend’s conference on the insipient decline of the West.   Whereas, in the post-Cold War era western powers enjoyed “almost uncontested freedom of military movement,” this is no longer the case today, according to this year’s “Munich Security Report,” which Ischinger presented to the public yesterday.   Even the “nearly unrivaled global superiority in military technology” NATO had enjoyed for decades, is now endangered.   The report quotes French President Emmanuel Macron’s comment:   “We were used to an international order that had been based on Western hegemony since the 18th century. Things change.”   To prevent the West’s further decline, Ischinger is calling for resolute offensives in global policy.   Sectors of the elites in several western countries are now turning to an ultra-right policy. In Berlin, this debate had contributed to the demise of the CDU chairwoman yesterday.      (German Foreign Policy, 2/11/2020)

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US-FILIPINO MILITARY ALLIANCE TO END

The Philippines told the U.S. it would scrap an agreement considered a cornerstone of the two countries’ military alliance, a move the U.S. State Department said would have serious implications for the relationship.            (Wall Street Journal, 2/12/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • We went to see the movie “1917” last week.  It was very good and quite intense.  It’s a good reminder of what it was like in the trenches.  Almost one million British men died in combat in what was historically the worst conflict in history.
  • I’m reading “Lost to the West” by Lars Brownworth (2009).   He’s a former American high school history teacher who has written one of the best books ever on the Byzantine Empire.   It’s so gripping I did not want to put it down.   There are so many lessons for the US now.   It was the divisions within the governing elite that enabled the Muslims to get control of what had been the world’s greatest “Christian” Empire for over a thousand years.  It was truly a great loss to the west!
  • Muslims have not stopped their advance into the West.   They now have quite a foothold in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and other nations.   We bend over backwards to accommodate their religion.  Our new Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, in her State of the State speech, proudly proclaimed that the Executive Mansion hosted a Diwali (Hindu) evening and a night of Ramadan festivities (Islam) last year, both at tax payer expense.
  • Check out Sky News, a British TV channel that’s now available throughout the US.   I watch it on “Watch Free,” a free streaming service.  They have a good balance of British and world news.   Some of their correspondents are outstanding.

TRUMP TRIUMPHANT

Photo credit: Getty Images

President Donald Trump had reason to feel upbeat as he delivered his annual State of the Union speech yesterday.   His impeachment trial will probably end today with an acquittal.   A new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal shows the share of voters who “strongly approve” of his performance hitting its highest mark ever, and his approval rating among independents reaching its highest since last summer.

Democrats, meanwhile, appear deeply divided as they cast their first votes to determine their presidential nominee.    Mr. Trump used his speech to make his case for re-election, highlighting America’s strong economy and his achievements in the past three years, including trade deals and judicial appointments.  Though he ran four years ago as a heterodox candidate, his policies have been (with some exceptions) those of an orthodox conservative, and he used last night’s speech to rally his base.  (Economist, tense changed 2/4/2020)

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UNCLEAN ANIMALS BEHIND DEADLY VIRUS*                                      This article was posted January 22nd

World Health:   China Coronavirus scare:   112 ‘non-kosher’ animals & products on sale as food.

The food market where China’s deadly virus surfaced was a smorgasbord of exotic wildlife ranging from wolf pups to species linked to previous pandemics such as civets, according to vendor information and a Chinese media report.   The Huanan Seafood Market in the central city of Wuhan came under greater scrutiny on Wednesday as Chinese officials said that the virus which has so far killed nine people and infected hundreds may have originated in a wild animal sold at the food emporium.   Past deadly epidemics have been blamed on wild animals — Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was linked to Chinese consumption of civet meat — setting Chinese authorities up for potential embarrassment if lax supervision of wildlife trafficking is found at fault in the latest outbreak.

A price list circulating on China’s internet for a business at the Wuhan market lists a menagerie of animals or animal-based products including live foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, camel meat and other game — 112 items in all.   “Freshly slaughtered, frozen and delivered to your door,” said the price list for the vendor, “Wild Game Animal Husbandry for the Masses.”  (AFP , 22 Jan 2020).

(https://www.yahoo.com/news/menu-china-virus-market-rats-live-wolf-pups-111650959.html)

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Berlin:   On Armed Alert

 German “global policy” shines on the open stage as an altruistic force in global crises, while military forces await their cue offstage – as in the Berlin Libya Conference in January, which logistically was about Africa, but, more than anything else, about Germany’s rise into the upper third of military competitors.  German Chancellor Merkel:   “Ladies and Gentlemen, you have followed events.  This afternoon, here in Berlin, we have had very intensive and serious negotiations, thus contributing to making a fresh political start, giving a fresh political incentive to efforts to generate hope for the people and hope for peace in the Libyan conflict . . .”   “Hope” and “peace” in the Libyan conflict were being negotiated by Germany and its military competitors, while Libya’s emissaries were waiting outside the doors of the Berlin Conference – not very different from back then, when Berlin had imposed itself as the mediator to insure its colonial interests in Africa.   (German Foreign Policy, 2/4)

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leader Khaled Al-Batsh Calls Upon Muslims To Besiege U.S. And ‘Zionist’ Embassies Worldwide (MEMRI, 2/4)

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260 MILLION CHRISTIANS FACE PERSECUTION

  • Dictatorial paranoia continues to make North Korea (#1) the worst nation.  “If North Korean Christians are discovered, they are deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot.” — World Watch List 2020, Open Doors.
  • Otherwise, as has been the case in all statistics and reports on the global persecution of Christians, not only does “Islamic oppression” remain the chief “source of persecution” faced by Christians in seven of the absolute ten worst nations, but 38 of the 50 nations composing the list are either Muslim majority or have a sizeable Muslim population.
  • The targeting of Christians around the world has become more widespread than ever.   Part of this is because “persecution against Christians has taken a technological turn.”    . . . in India — where “Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences” — “the government plans to introduce a national facial recognition system.   Similarly, China (#23)….” — World Watch List 2020, Open Doors.
  • Perhaps the most disturbing trend is that the number of persecuted Christians continues to grow year after year . . .
  • Will this trend ever stop and reverse, or will it continue to get worse — and possibly even spill into those nations that, for now, enjoy religious freedom and equality?                                            (Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone, 2/2/2020)

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LONDON TERROR ATTACK, AGAIN

DAILYKENN.com —  A man suspected of being a member of the world’s largest, oldest, and deadliest hate group — Islam — was shot dead in London. 

  Reports say the man attacked several people and was strapped with a fake explosive.

   The alleged attacker began stabbing people in a shop, then stabbed a woman outside the shop, reports say.    The woman was pushing a baby in a stroller and was accompanied by another young child.    The attacker had been released from prison at the end of January after serving half of a three-year sentence.   (2/3/2020)

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THE REAL REASON ISRAELI ARABS REJECT LIVING IN PALESTINE

Why are the 250,000 Arab Israelis living in the Triangle area strongly opposed to the idea of becoming part of a Palestinian state?

Many Arab citizens of Israel see how Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip are subject to human rights violations on a daily basis.

What the Arab citizens of Israel need now is to elect new leaders who will promote coexistence between Arabs and Jews in Israel, and not engage in anti-Israel rhetoric and actions.   (Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone, 2/4/2020)

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Anxious South African Jews Are Planting One Foot, or Two, in Israel                                                                                                                                 Some choose to immigrate, others invest in real estate.   Either way, the falling value of the rand is giving them less money to play with.
             Adi Cohen, Haaretz, Jan 31, 2020 

When we left South Africa for Israel in January 2016, it was when we had reached the point where we stopped feeling safe in our home, says Steven.   He asked to be identified by his first name only.

(https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/asia-and-australia/.premium-anxious-south-african-jews-are-planting-one-foot-or-two-in-israel-1.8473427)

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FALL OF CONSTANTINOPLE

My son-in-law recommended “Ottoman,” a six-part series that shows the rise of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, with the fall of Constantinople as its central theme.   I often think that Constantinople was the US of its day – the world’s greatest military power that seemed impregnable.   But, after an eight-week siege by the Ottoman Turks, it fell to the Muslims.   Not mentioned in the Turkish produced series is how badly the “Christians” suffered when defeated – many were sold into slavery, others were killed.   It was the end of a civilization that went back to the Roman Empire.  Constantinople was founded by the Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century.

“Behind the cold military logic of Mehmed’s victory lay a demographic catastrophe of colossal proportions.  At a stroke an entire society had been overwhelmed and destroyed, with terrible consequences for everyone in the city.    . . . The immediate fate of those who were not killed and who did not escape in the ships was to be captivity and slavery.   In the long term, the human flotsam and jetsam was to be scattered over the Christian and Muslim worlds for decades to come.”   (The End of Byzantium, Jonathan Harris, 2010, pages 219-220).

Constantinople was renamed Istanbul in 1930.

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TO THE POINT

  • At our local public library with my grandson this week I met a man who, like me, had an accent.  Turned out he was from Germany, born the same month and year that I was born.  He was with his one grandchild, a 4-year-old girl.   I asked him if he hoped for more.   He said there wouldn’t be any more.  His eldest two, both boys, don’t want any; and the third, a girl, says one is enough.   This is happening to so many grandparents across the western world.   White people, in particular, are not having children.  Since 2013, the majority of children born across the US are non-white.  This will radically alter the United States and other western nations.
  • Americans have trouble understanding monarchy.  Frequently, you hear comments like the one I heard this morning (Monday) on CBS.   It was in a conversation about impeachment.  The suggestion was made that the president was acting like a king, rather than somebody who has to abide by the constitution.  This is deeply offensive to those who have been brought up in a constitutional monarchy.   Queen Elizabeth II has been queen for almost 68 years and has never acted outside of the constitution, the British, Canadian, Australian or New Zealand constitutions.  Only presidents ever do that!
  • The London Daily Express revealed Saturday that there’s a plan to bring Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand closer together. Apparently, this is led by the Conservative leader of Canada, who isn’t even in power yet.   The hope is that within two years the “four eyes” will establish closer political ties.   The “five eyes” include the United States, all five nations sharing intelligence.   The four are all constitutional monarchies.
  • There’s been another terrorist attack in London.   The police are claiming the man was “mentally ill,” which obscures his religious faith.   He was shot dead but not before at least two people were stabbed.  Again, the individual had been released from prison early.  His mother now claims he was “radicalized” in prison.  How do you stop this?  There is little understanding of Islam in the UK, the US or any other western country.   The religion has always been violent and intolerant of other beliefs.  The only solution is an end to immigration from Muslim countries and to start encouraging those already in the West to return to their ancestral homeland.
  • I was sent some money from England recently.   It was actually sent over two months ago and is lost somewhere between here and the UK.   Two banks are trying to find it.  If there’s going to be a free trade deal between the US and the UK, they need to improve the banking relationship between both.

Apologies – NO BLOG POST THIS WEEK

My entire family has been hit with a rather vicious bug.  Mercifully, we seem to be taking turns – only 3 down at a time and at least one adult able to tend bodies.  I don’t know what this is but it hits like a ton of bricks, gives you one day and night of abject misery and a few days where the symptoms wane.  I am on day 2.  I’ve got about 2 more to go for the waning.  Daughter just got over it, and 2 grandchildren.  Diane did not get the full wrath of it and two grandchildren are yet to get it.  We visited my other daughter, Alix, and family and so very generously shared it.  She and Evan are down so far.  Kurt and girls are wisely avoiding us like the plague.

Hopefully I will post next week!

CALL MOSCOW, NOT WASHINGTON

Bijan Djir-Sarai, FDP foreign policy parliamentarian

The German government can no longer implement important foreign policy projects in the Arab world without Russia’s support, as the results of Saturday’s negotiations between Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin demonstrate.  Moscow will, in principle, support the “Berlin Process,” with which the German government would like to take on the role of an influential mediator in the Libyan war.   Without Moscow, Berlin did not succeed in holding the International Libya Conference, which was designed to become the first highlight in the “Berlin Process.”   In the run-up to Merkel’s Moscow visit, German foreign policy experts lavished unhabitual praise on the influence Russia has gained over the past few years.   If you wanted to achieve anything in Syria, “you had to call Washington;” according to Bijan Djir-Sarai, FDP foreign policy parliamentarian, “today you have to call Moscow.”   Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, member of the Bundestag (FDP) calls German/Russian relations “a treasure.” (German Foreign Policy, 1/15)

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Mayor’s resignation highlights threat to German leaders
Arnd Focke, the Social Democratic mayor of a town in Lower Saxony, was regularly threatened by nationalists.  Now he has resigned.  Regional officials have repeatedly faced threats across Germany.

The mainstreaming of nationalist politics, most visible in the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, has become a means of spreading ideas once considered taboo, Focke said.   But, he said, it would be too simple to blame the AfD for the threat to centrist regional German politicians.   “The problem is right at the heart of our society,” Focke said.   “We no longer stand up for each other or against extremism.   People are able once again to say things they weren’t even allowed to think five years ago.”   “We failed to educate,” Focke said.   “Children and young people must be taught that we in Germany have a past that cannot be allowed to repeat itself.   And there are many people who are discontented and are too easily manipulated to this end.”    Focke is now trusting federal investigators to look into the swastikas and the threatening notes. He believes that other politicians have also resigned because of threats — they just don’t say so publicly.  (Deutsche Welle , 12 Jan 2020)

(https://www.dw.com/en/mayors-resignation-highlights-threat-to-german-leaders/a-51974296)

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PEOPLE TRAFFICKING

Illegal immigration throughout Europe continues unabated.  In France, for instance, nearly 20,000 migrants have been arrested so far in 2019, according to the police website France Bleu, which also reported that 189 people smugglers have been arrested since January 1.

In Britain, The Telegraph newspaper reported that Albanian people smugglers were posting advertisements on social media platforms, including Facebook, promoting their ability to get people into Europe.   The ads are accompanied by TripAdvisor-style feedback comments from “satisfied” customers…. people smuggling gangs generate profits of up to £6 billion (€7 billion; $8 billion) a year…

“Europe under siege from people-smuggling gangs,” Soeren Kern, Gatestone, 1/7)

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SUEZ CANAL ALTERED ECOLOGY

Experts say Mediterranean Sea altered by Suez Canal’s invasive species.  Red Sea invaders have driven native marine life toward extinction and changed the delicate ecosystem with potentially devastating consequences, marine biologists warn                                         by Aron Heller and Isabel Debre (16 Jan 2020, Times of Israel)

AP — As Egypt marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Suez Canal, marine biologists are bemoaning one of the famed waterway’s lesser known legacies — the invasion of hundreds of non-native species, including toxic jellyfish and aggressive lionfish.

The canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, revolutionized maritime travel by creating a direct shipping route between the East and the West.   But over the years, the invasive species have driven native marine life toward extinction and altered the delicate Mediterranean ecosystem with potentially devastating consequences, scientists say.

The influx has increased significantly since Egypt doubled its capacity in 2015 with the opening of the “The New Suez Canal,” raising alarm in Europe and sparking criticism from various countries along the Mediterranean basin.  The sharpest criticism comes from neighboring Israel, which once battled Egypt in war alongside the 193-kilometer (120-mile)-long canal.

(https://www.timesofisrael.com/experts-say-mediterranean-sea-altered-by-suez-canals-invasive-species/)

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LIBYAN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

Libya pledge:  Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and other foreign powers have promised to end all interference in the armed conflict in Libya, as part of a German-brokered effort to halt rising violence and chaos in the north African country and prepare the ground for a UN-sponsored peace process.  The promise was contained in a document agreed by world leaders at a conference in Berlin yesterday.  However, there were already signs of fresh military escalation in the civil war-wracked state. (FT 1/20)

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ALPINE AUSTERITY:   As the World Economic Forum prepares to kick off its 50th annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos on Tuesday, the Financial Times reports on the elite gathering’s efforts to appear more environmentally-friendly.  Among other things, it is encouraging participants to take trains instead of private jets, and is providing shoe grips to cajole attendees to “walk the snowy promenade between meetings rather than take cars.”

The effort to be sustainable extends to advising caterers not to serve luxuries such as foie gras and caviar, and one day of the meeting has been set aside for “vegetarian menus and the discovery of alternative protein sources.”   This year’s events — including the launch of an initiative to plant 1 trillion trees in the next decade — will take place in rooms decorated with seaweed-based paint and carpets made from “end-of life fishing nets.”   The scores of companies hosting their own events have been asked to consider offering local wines and “mountain herbal infusions” instead of imported drinks.

(Brussels Briefing, Financial Times, 1/20/2020)

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RELIGIOUS TENSIONS IN INDIA

Whether it is France or Nigeria, Italy or Myanmar, the presence of militant Muslims is a serious cause of concern to all — most of all to Muslims who want freedom from Islamists, be they inspired by Iran, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

If one were to watch India through the lens of its social media and the statements made by its upper middle-class urban elites of the Left, the country is facing chaos and is in a downward spiral towards a catastrophe.

At the centre of this storm in a teacup is a new law passed by both houses of the Indian Parliament that provides for a fast track towards citizenship for refugees in India who fled religious persecution in three of India’s neighbors — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before 2015 and who now live in difficult conditions as stateless persons.

Since most of the people who fled India’s three Islamic neighbors were non-Muslim, the new Indian law known as the Citizenship Amendment Act is applicable to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians.   (Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, MEF, 1/20/2020)

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IRANIAN WOMEN DEFY MULLAHS — WHY DON’T WESTERN FEMINISTS SUPPORT THEM?

Before 1979, Iranian women had freedom.   They want it back.

If Iranian feminists who refuse to wear the hijab are brave, their Western counterparts, who wear pink hats, have wretchedly abandoned them.   Why is Iranian barbarism so easily condoned in the West?

Thirty years ago, the Berlin Wall was torn down by ordinary citizens who wanted to reclaim their freedom of movement.  Today, the wall of the Iranian regime could be torn down by these ordinary women who want to reclaim the freedom to wear what they like.  They are bravely refusing to walk on flags of Israel and the U.S. — and enjoying the wind in their hair again.   (Giulio Meotti, Gatestone, 1/19/2020)

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TO THE POINT·

  • Yemeni Journalist Ahmed Al-Musaibily:   Israel Is Our Number One Enemy But At Least It Does Not Try To Convert Muslims To Judaism The Same Way That Iran Converts Sunnis To Shi’a Islam (MEMRI 1/20) – Iraqi security forces reportedly killed two protesters in Baghdad. Demonstrators, frustrated at the slow pace of the government’s reforms, are demanding new elections, an independent prime minister and prosecution of corrupt officials.   Security forces responded with live rounds and tear-gas.   The UN envoy in the country called for protests to remain peaceful and for politicians to address people’s concerns. (Economist, 1/22)
  • EUROPE’S NIGERIAN MAFIA — Italian intelligence has named the Nigerian mafia “the most structured and dynamic” of any foreign crime entity operating in Italy, according to the Washington Post….   What distinguishes the Nigerian crime networks is their severe brutality.   Black Axe has also spread to Canada, where a 2015 report by the  Globe and Mail described it as a “death cult”… linked to “decades of  murders and rapes….        In the US, the FBI recently linked a series of financial frauds to        Black Axe.                                                                                                              (Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 1/8/2020)
  • FRENCH ANTI-SEMITISM — “In France, perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks claim insanity to elude justice.   The mental illness defense has become more prevalent when it comes to hate crimes in France.   And it seems to be working.” — Shirli Sitbon, Haaretz.
  • Muslim anti-Semitism has long been ignored in France.
  • “The situation is not under control.” — Celine Pina, Le Figaro.    (Guy Milliere, Gatestone, 1/22)
  • PIERS MORGAN:  “Spare me your ‘patriotic’ crocodile tears, Harry – you DIDN’T have to quit.   You chose to ditch the Queen, the monarchy, your military comrades and your country… to become a royal Kardashian and keep Meghan happy. ” (Daily Mail, 1/20/2020)

ASSASSINATION OF DONALD TRUMP

The death of Qasem Soleimani has put Trump on an Islamic hit list.

The Iranian Fars News Agency aired a short video on January 10, 2020, titled “Severe Revenge,” dramatizing an Iranian assassination of U.S. President Donald Trump.   In the video, Iranian officials are seen planning their revenge for the killing of Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani.  They study a board with a diagram of possible targets, U.S. President Trump is at the head and Israeli PM Netanyahu, Secretary of State Pompeo, Saudi Crown Prince Bin , and Masoud Rajavi, former leader of Mujahedeen-e-Khalq are at the bottom.  The Iranian officials say they are “going for the big fish,” and one of them says:   “We should target their head.”   In the video, the U.S. Capitol Building is blown up and then the Iranian forces storm the White House, shooting anyone in their sight.   President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo and PM Netanyahu, (among others) lie dead on the White House floor.   The voice of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is heard in the background, saying: “Severe revenge awaits the criminals whose dirty hands are soiled with his blood.”  (MEMRI 1/14)

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EUROPEANS STILL HOPE FOR IRAN DEAL

The decision by France, Germany and the UK to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism in the landmark Iran nuclear deal is a high-risk move driven by a lack of better options.   It underscores the tough spot the Europeans are in as they vie to save an accord that has been under siege ever since the US pulled out of it 20 months ago and slapped harsh sanctions on Tehran.

The launch of the dispute procedure yesterday crystallises the threat of the nuclear agreement’s demise and the reimposition of UN sanctions on Iran, but the so-called “E3” European powers want neither.   Instead, they hope to force Iran to back down from an escalating series of breaches of the accord launched to retaliate against the US “maximum pressure” economic squeeze.   (Michael Peel, Brussels Briefing, Financial Times, 1/15/2020)

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PLANS FOR ISLAMIC SUPERPOWER

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief advisor, retired Turkish general Adnan Tanrıverdi, has been articulating a vision of a unified Islamic superpower through conferences and documents published by his organizations.   This vision is reflected in President Erdoğan’s foreign policy.

The Justice Defenders Strategic Studies Center (ASSAM), of which Tanrıverdi is chairman of the board, has scheduled seven annual “congresses,” of which three have taken place, to work through the technical problems in the formation and governance of an “Islamic union.”   At a recent ASSAM Congress, Tanrıverdi called for the coordination of the joint manufacturing of weapons and military equipment among Islamic countries, saying:   “States cannot stand tall against the countries whose weapons they use.”   ASSAM has also published a 69-page draft of a constitution for a planned shari’a-based confederation of 61 Islamic countries.   This constitution declares that “sovereignty belongs to shariah,” that Istanbul is to be the capital of the confederation, that the Arabic language would be taught in all of its schools, and that its name will be “Asrica,” which is formed from a combination of Asia and Africa.   (MEMRI, 1/14)

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Dutch and German Shipyards to Build Warships for Germany Worth 6 Billion                                                                                                                  by Reuters, 14 Jan 2020, © New York Times Company

BERLINGermany has awarded Dutch shipyard Damen a contract to construct at least four new multi-role warships worth nearly 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in an alliance with its Bremen-based partner Luerssen, the armed forces and budget lawmakers said on Tuesday.   The ship tender is one of Germany’s biggest arms projects, along with a contract for the MEADS missile defense system and the new Franco-German fighter jet (FCAS), underlining Berlin’s efforts to increase its military capabilities.   The first warship is expected to be delivered in 2027, the Bundeswehr armed forces said in a statement, confirming a Reuters report from Monday.   The contract includes an option to build two additional MKS 180 warships.  Lawmakers told Reuters that about two-thirds of the production will take place at Luerssen’s shipyards and other sites in northern Germany.   “The decision for the MKS 180 to be mainly built by the Luerssen Group and thus in Germany is a good decision which strengthens Germany as a marine and shipyard location,” said Eckhardt Rehberg, chief budget lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.   Germany’s new warships will be able to attack targets on land and under water, and provide air cover for other vessels.   Other companies interested in the MKS 180 warship tender were ThyssenKrupp and German Naval Yards.   Damen said in a statement that its alliance also included Hamburg-based Blohm+Voss shipyard and France’s Thales.   It estimated that about 80% of the tender’s net investment would remain in Germany.
(https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/01/14/world/europe/14reuters-germany-warship.html)

Germany to invest €62 billion to modernize rail network .               The German government on Tuesday agreed to pump €62 billion into biggest modernization ever in Germany,” said Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer.

The German government on Tuesday agreed to pump €62 billion into modernizing its rail network system, as part of a wider plan to incite commuters to opt for greener public transport options. “We’ve just signed the most important programme of modernization ever in Germany,” said Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, adding that “this is the decade for railway.”   Besides the massive sum stumped up by the state German rail operator Deutsche Bahn will also plow an additional €24 billion into the renewal programme.   The investments will go towards “replacing obsolete installations,” improving access to disabled passengers as well as renovating rail bridges, said Scheuer.   (The Local Germany )(https://www.thelocal.de/20200114/germany-to-invest-62-bn-euros-by-2030-to-modernise-rail-network)

Germany posts record-breaking budget surplus
Germany ended 2019 with a budget surplus of €13.5 billion.  The government wants to spend on infrastructure and other projects, but critics say the money isn’t getting where it needs to go.  (Deutsche Welle, 13 Jan 2020)       (https://www.dw.com/en/germany-posts-record-breaking-budget-surplus/a-51991140)

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AN AMERICAN VIEW OF BRITISH ROYALS

Long ago the British royals ceded all direct power to Parliament. Precisely in being freed from politics — in leaving its dirty work to politicians — the Queen now serves as a brake on democratic excess, just as democracy acts as a brake on the crown.   In a 2010 article for First Things, David Bentley Hart noted the delicate balance:

“The ideal king,” he wrote, “would be rather like the king in chess:  the most useless piece on the board, which occupies its square simply to prevent any other piece from doing so, but which is somehow still the whole game.”

In this sense Elizabeth has been the perfect constitutional monarch. She keeps above the political fray.   She puts on a good British face to the world, even to foreign representatives she might despise, because that is what her nation needs.   She happily attends local events in the smallest part of her realm.

A woke queen could not do this.   Elizabeth may at times be mocked for her restraint and dowdiness, but those qualities are both reassuring and dignified.   Indeed, even though the British elect their politicians, almost always they seem to feel more affection for their monarch than for their prime minister.   And Elizabeth has done it without interruption since 1952, notwithstanding the private heartache and public embarrassment she has had to endure, including Charles’s disastrous first marriage and Prince Andrew’s association with Jeffrey Epstein.

The Queen’s service might also inform today’s debate about liberal democracy.   Plainly monarchy is not suited for the US, given our history.   But liberalism is not one-size-fits-all.   And against those who argue that modernity has overtaken the monarchy, in Britain the crown is one of those enduring institutions — along with church and family — to which liberalism must look for the social cohesion and cultural capital it needs to thrive but cannot itself create.

As British society fragments and Merry Old England gives way to a far more religiously and racially diverse United Kingdom, the Crown offers something to unify people.   Some defenders of the Duchess of Sussex now suggest that it was British racism that did her in.   The truth is that the diversity Meghan Markle brought the royal family by marrying into it was cheered and celebrated.   (William McGurn, The Australian, 1/14, reproduced from the WSJ)

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A LEFT-WING NATIONALIST PARTY

Swedish Communists Wake Up — Just days ago, Sputnik reported on the fact that almost half of the members of the Communist Party in Malmö, Sweden, are resigning.   They plan to establish a new workers’ party that no longer features multiculturalism, LGBT interests, and climate change as key policy goals.  Nils Littorin, one of the defectors, told a local newspaper that today’s Left has become part of the elite and has come to “dismiss the views of the working class as alien and problematic.”   Littorin suggested that the Left “is going through a prolonged identity crisis” and that his group, instead, intends to stick to the original values, such as class politics.  Littorin adds:   “[The Left] don’t understand why so many workers don’t think that multiculturalism, the LGBT movement and Greta Thunberg are something fantastic, but instead believe we are in the 1930s’ Germany and that workers who vote [right-wing] Sweden Democrats have been infected by some Nazi sickness.”   In a piece of simple insight previously rare on the Left, he argues that the rise in right-wing votes for people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are in fact due to “widespread dissatisfaction with liberal economic migration that leads to low-wage competition and the ghetto-isation of communities, a development that only benefits major companies.”  Rather than being beneficial to working class Whites, Littorin condemns a “chaotic” immigration policy that has led to “cultural clashes, segregation and exclusion due to an uncontrolled influx from parts of the world characterised by honour culture and clan mentalities.”

Littorin continues to talk sense when it comes to the LGBT agenda. He explains that LGBT issues and the climate movement are merely “state ideologies” that are “rammed down people’s throats.”   Littorin adds that phenomena like these happen at the expense of real issues, such as poverty, homelessness, and income equality:  “Pride, for instance, has been reduced to dealing with sexual orientation. We believe that human dignity is primarily about having a job and having pension insurance that means that you are not forced to live on crumbs when you are old.”

On immigration, Galloway argues that there is “nothing left-wing about unlimited mass immigration.   It decapitates the countries from which the immigrants leave, and drives down wages in those where they arrive.   The wealthy benefit from it, as they can afford cheap labor for their companies, or cheap au-pairs, cheap baristas, cheap plumbers.   But the working class suffers.”   (Andrew Joyce, 12/29/19)

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TO THE POINT

  • WORLD’S OLDEST CONTINENT – With its low birth rate and fast-ageing population, Europe is facing a demographic crisis, one that economists fear could hit growth and public finances. While the global population overall is getting older, Europe is an extreme example of this trend, particularly in the continent’s south and east, which have been hit by record-low fertility rates and emigration.   An analysis of the main demographic trends highlights the challenge faced by policymakers.  Europe has had higher longevity and lower fertility rates than the rest of the world over the past few decades.   It is now the region with the world’s oldest population.   The median age in Europe is 43, 12 years older than the rest of the world.    (Valentina Romel, Financial Times, 1/14/2020)
  • ECONOMIST COMMENT ON TRUMP AND IRAN – He may have deterred conventional attacks, but goaded Iran to build a bomb faster.  (Leaders, Jan 9th 2020 edition, Economist)
  • TWO POPES DISAGREE – There’s a dispute between Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict, on, of all issues, celibacy.   There’s no biblical basis for celibacy, but conservatives in the church say that priests cannot serve the church properly if their loyalties are divided.   Pope Francis is more liberal on the issue, wanting to resolve the shortage of priests, particularly in South America.   Pope Benedict takes a conservative view that priests should not be allowed to marry.
  • AMERICAN REVOLUTION — “The conflict that rent the United States in 1861-65 was not America’s first civil war — the American Revolution was.  The fight for independence pitted neighbor against neighbor and family member against family member, exemplified by the split between Founding Father Benjamin Franklin and Tory son William, the final royal governor of New Jersey.   Violence arising from these and countless other pesonal breaks rendered expanses of the former colonies ‘danger land.’  as one historian has called the impact of the internecine warfare that raged between loyalists and patriots. ”  (“That Time General Washington Proposed to Execute  An Innocent Man,” by Peter R. Henriques, American History, February 2020)

 

 

IRAN VS US – IS THIS THE START OF WW3?

Iranian mourners lift a picture of slain military commander Qasem Soleimani during a funeral procession in the capital Tehran on January 6, 2020.    (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Some years ago, an expert on the Middle East was being interviewed on a TV news program.   He expressed the opinion that World War 3 started in 1979 when the Iranian revolution took place and the ayatollahs came to power, overthrowing the pro-western Shah of Iran.   It was a major failure of US foreign policy, under the leadership of President Jimmy Carter.

Of course, WW3 did not begin then, in the full sense of the term.   But the enmity between the US and Iran that soon followed the revolution lay the foundation for what will eventually become WW3.

Is it going to be soon?

This is not looking probable, as Iran clearly is not up to war with the US.   Crippled by US-imposed sanctions, it does not have the technology to ruinously attack US bases in the Middle East.   It will resort to using “proxies and allies” (BBC News).   This period is being compared to the “phony war” at the start of World War II.   They hope that by keeping up the pressure, they can make Donald Trump a one-term president, just as they did Jimmy Carter.

Little realized is that President Trump has talked about how he would like the US to withdraw from the Middle East.   At the same time, Iran wants the US to leave.   What seems most likely at this time is that isolated terror attacks on US (and allied) bases will wear the US down and result in a withdrawal.

Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” scenario between the West and the Islamic world not only fits the Daniel 11 scenario, but seems very likely as the Islamic world increases its strength and the West continues to decline.

Iran has also started to develop nuclear weapons.  The treaty that held them back in their development has now been torn up and they are free to acquire them as soon as possible.   When this happens, in a few years time, it will be time to start talking about World War 3!

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POST-ASSASSINATION CONSEQUENCES

Eight men were killed when American drones struck a convoy in Baghdad’s international airport.   One of the deaths could shape the Middle East for years.  Qassem Suleimani was one of the most powerful figures in the region.   For 20 years he commanded the Quds Force, the foreign legion of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s long arm in the Middle East.   He gave it reach by nurturing, training and mobilising militias from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Palestine.   They shared the Islamic Republic’s ideology and could be used to strike its regional foes, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and their American backers.   In America, Republicans and Democrats agreed that Mr. Suleimani had blood on his hands, but many worried that killing him was a dangerous escalation.   Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has promised “severe revenge.”   Iraq’s prime minister said the assassination would light the fuse of a regional war.   (The Economist,1/3/2020)

Following the USA’s assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and other high-ranking Iraqi and Iranian military personnel, demands are being raised in Baghdad to expel the foreign troops, including the Bundeswehr.   The Anti-IS Coalition troops, stationed in Iraq, must leave the country, the Iraqi parliament ruled yesterday.   The German government insists on keeping German troops in Iraq to be able to maintain its options for gaining influence in that country.   Berlin had earlier already rejected calls to end its deployment for security reasons.   Camp Taji near Baghdad, where 27 German soldiers are currently stationed, had already come under missile fire in June.   The camp could become a possible target for retaliatory strikes by Iran or pro-Iranian militias.   Whereas the German government euphemizes the assassination of Soleimani as “a line of action undertaken by the United States,” the chairman of the SPD parliamentary group officially called it a “violation of international law.”   A government advisor spoke of “state terrorism.” (German Foreign Policy, 1/6)

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“There will be dead Americans:”   former CIA chief issues warning to Trump as Iran crisis deepens                                                                                Tens of thousands have mourned Soleimani in Iran, as US-Iran tensions have spiked.                                                                                                                           by Clark Mindock, New York

A former top CIA official has warned there will be “dead civilian Americans” as a result of the targeted air strike that killed an Iranian general.

Michael Morell, a former acting and deputy CIA director, said the killing of Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani would spark a “harsh retaliation” from the Iranian government, and that US citizens would be targeted.

“Soleimani was an evil genius.  He had a lot of American blood on his hands.   The world is a better place without him.   The problem is that comes at a very high cost,“ Mr. Morell, who served during Barack Obama’s presidency, told CBS.

“Number one, there will be dead Americans, dead civilian Americans, as a result of this.   Possibly over the next few days in any place where Iran has its proxies, Iraq is the most likely place, but also Lebanon, Bahrain, other places in the Middle East.“

In the days after Soleimani’s assassination at a Baghdad airport, American officials have claimed that US citizens are now safer.     (The Independent, 1/5/2020)

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Millions of Zimbabweans pushed into hunger by drought, spiraling economic meltdown                                                                                                        3 Jan 2020

HARARE – Millions of Zimbabweans pushed into hunger by prolonged drought and economic crisis face an increasingly desperate situation unless adequate funding for a major relief operation materializes quickly, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has warned.    With nearly eight million people – half the population – now food insecure, WFP plans to double the number of people it assists – up to 4.1 million – but needs more than US$200 million for its emergency response in the first half of 2020 alone.    “As things stand, we will run out of food by end of February, coinciding with the peak of the hunger season – when needs are at their highest,” said Niels Balzer, WFP’s Deputy Country Director in Zimbabwe.   “Firm pledges are urgently needed as it can take up to three months for funding commitments to become food on people’s tables,” Balzer added.   Years of drought have slashed food production in Zimbabwe, once an African breadbasket.   This year’s maize harvest was down 50 percent on 2018, with overall cereal output less than half the national requirement.   By August of 2019, WFP was forced to launch an emergency lean season assistance program to meet rising needs, months earlier than anticipated.  Since then, food shortages have become ever more pronounced. This month, maize, was only available in half of the markets WFP monitors countrywide.

Zimbabwe has seen drastic price increases – bread now costs 20 times what it cost six months ago, while the price of maize has nearly tripled over the same period.

(https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/international/millions-of-zimbabweans-pushed-into-hunger-by-drought-spiraling-economic-meltdown-39881934)

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IMMIGRANTS FORMING CLANS

“For decades, police turned a blind eye to extended criminal families, in part to avoid being accused of racial discrimination.   This has made the present-day challenge all the more difficult as clan structures have solidified, parallel societies have formed, and the enemy has grown.” — Deutsche Welle, February 3, 2019.

“There are now half a million people across Germany who belong to a clan . . .   Clans behave in their German surroundings as if they were tribes in the desert.   Everything outside the clan is enemy territory and available for plunder.”   (Ralph Ghadban, a Lebanese-German political scientist and a leading expert on clans in Germany, The German Times, October 2019)

(Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 1/4)

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Global Apathy Toward the Fires in Australia Is a Scary Portent for the Future
by David Wallace-Wells, New York magazine

The response to what’s transpired in Australia — again, over a period that has stretched into months — is unfamiliar, to me at least, and not in a good way.   Those California fires transfixed the world’s attention, but while the ones still burning uncontrolled in Australia have gotten some media attention outside the country, in general they have been treated as a scary, but not apocalyptic, local news story.

The global response to the bushfires has suggested, unfortunately, something more like the opposite:   that no bind of tribal alliance or allegiance is strong enough that we won’t discard it, if discarding it allows us to see the suffering of those living elsewhere on the planet as insignificant to our own lives.

(http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/12/new-south-wales-fires-in-australia-the-worlds-response.html)

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HARRY AND MEGHAN QUIT

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced Wednesday that they are to quit as senior royals.   Instead, they will work toward financial independence, splitting their time between the UK and North America.   The announcement came after they had spent six weeks in Canada.  They pledged their loyalty to the Queen, the Commonwealth and their patronages.

Although it’s only a coincidence, last month, Harry’s Uncle, Prince Andrew, was forced to quit his duties within the royal family due to a scandal.

It is known that Prince Charles wants a slimmed down monarchy. These developments will make it easier for him to achieve his goal.

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TO THE POINT

  • Khamenei’s Defense Advisor General Dehghan:   If Trump’s Logic For Killing Suleimani Was Valid, Then The Iraqis Have The Right To Kill One Million Americans (MEMRI, 1/8)
  • Dearborn, MI – Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni Eulogizes Qasem Soleimani:   He Brought Hope To The Marginalized And Fear To The Enemies Of Islam

(MEMRI, 1/8)

"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened." — Sir Winston Churchill