Tag Archives: Angela Merkel

THE DEATH OF FREEDOM

A person does a cartwheel in Oxford Circus during rush hour as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

We have less freedom today than we have had in over 400 years.   And we’ve all consented to this loss of freedom.

Freedom of assembly and the freedom to worship have both suffered.  Even the freedom to go out for a meal or a drink.    Nor can we shake a friend’s hand or give a hug.   Again, with our consent.

As one British paper put it:  “It is no exaggeration to say these are the most extreme powers ever used against citizens in peace time Britain.”

It’s understandable.  We want to live.  We want to survive the coronavirus.

But will we ever get these freedoms back?

Most importantly, what will be the next crisis that makes us so quick to jettison our freedoms?

MR       

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“A heart attack is occurring in the economy”  (Sky News comment, 3/20)

This was a comment about the British economy, but it describes every country right now.   So, let’s take a look at some of the economic consequences of coronavirus.

Argentina’s new government will today publish GDP figures for last year, with economists warning that the covid-19 pandemic could be about to send the country into a deep recession.   GDP is forecast to have contracted by 2.1% in 2019.   But what matters now is the dire situation to come.   One former central banker predicts that the country’s economy could shrink by up to 4% in 2020.   Though weighed down by high inflation and heavy debt, President Alberto Fernández’s government is implementing fiscal stimulus measures worth billions of dollars.   Its treasury minister, Martín Guzmán,  warns that the covid-19 crisis means that it is now impossible to say when, and how, Argentina can return to growth.   That was Mr. Fernández’s primary goal when he took office just four months ago, an aim that looks harder by the day as infections mount in the country.     (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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For years Germany has run the tightest of fiscal ships, frustrating many in the euro zone and beyond.   Then came covid-19.   Today the Bundestag will approve a €156bn ($168bn) supplementary budget for 2020, under which Germany will issue new debt for the first time since 2013.   The borrowing breaks Germany’s “black zero” balanced-budget policy and exploits an emergency rule in the constitutional “debt brake.”   Yet it is just one part of Germany’s response.   The government has expanded Kurzarbeit support (in which the state partly covers the lost wages of workers who have their hours cut), extended various loan guarantees and even earmarked funds for direct investment in companies.   The package amounts to a potential €750bn, and more may follow.   The scale of the response has surprised observers—but at European level less is happening.   Germany, and the euro area’s other hawks, remain implacably opposed to debt mutualization.   (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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Today’s meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee should have been the first with Andrew Bailey in the chair.   But the new governor found himself presiding over an emergency meeting last week, amid what he described as “borderline disorderly” market conditions.   In common with other central banks, the Bank of England is aggressively easing monetary policy to react to a rapid economic slowdown due to the spread of covid-19.   Despite interest-rate cuts, £200bn ($232bn) more quantitative easing (amounting to some 10% of GDP) and more direct support for private-sector lending, the bank is more worried about undershooting its inflation target than overshooting it. Today’s consumer-price statistics show inflation running at 1.7%, below the 2% target.   More monetary easing is likely, but with interest rates already at 0.1%, an all-time low, fiscal policy will have to do most of the heavy lifting.  (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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Coronavirus lockdown measures implemented in the UK may trigger an economic downturn that could kill more people than the virus itself, a new study warns.

Philip Thomas, a professor of risk management at Bristol University, says that a fall in GDP of more than 6.4% could lead to a devastating recession in which “more years of life will be lost . . . than will be saved through beating the virus,” reports The Times.  (The Week, 3/25/2020)

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The worst outbreak of Coronavirus in the Middle East, so far, is in Iran.  Thousands have died and tens of thousands have been exposed to the virus.   An overlooked developing crisis parallel to Iran’s is the situation of the country’s neighbors across the Persian Gulf.

Beyond the civilian element affecting Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE; tens of thousands of American military personnel are also stationed in these countries.   Once facing the Iranian threat and ISIS, they are now involved in combating the invisible enemy:   Covid-19.      (Greg Roman, MEF, 3/20)

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This is an emergency, track everyone:   If there were ever a time to set concerns about privacy aside, this is it.   Giving public health authorities access to everyone’s location data gives them a better chance of tracking down people who have been in contact with confirmed cases – and helps ensure that those who are already sick stay in quarantine.   Right now, governments need all the help they can get.   Give them the data.   Debates about the privacy implications can wait.

China is in this camp. So are other countries in Asia, like South Korea and Taiwan, that have had better success containing the epidemic – although it’s still too early to say whether access to mobile phone location data was the deciding factor.   (Gzero, 3/25/2020)

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A SURPRISING LETTER FROM HOLLYWOOD

Dear Mr. President, @realDonaldTrump

I wanted to thank you for ur recent decorum, sincerity, & care towards us.   You’re taking charge & leading in a manner needed & wanted for this country.   I highly commend you for ur boundless energy & willingness to solve problems.   Thank you!

— Kirstie Alley (@kirstiealley) March 24, 2020

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TO THE POINT

  • LAGOS — A jihadist group ambushed and killed around 70 Nigerian government troops in Borno state, in the north-east of the country.   The guerrillas used rocket-propelled grenades to attack a vehicle full of soldiers; they also took several captive.  The group they belong to split off from Nigeria’s homegrown Boko Haram in 2016, and now considers itself an Islamic State affiliate. (The Economist, 3/25/2020)
  • BERLIN – A court in eastern Germany convicted eight far-right extremists who were accused of planning to violently overthrow the state.   The regional court in Dresden on Tuesday convicted one of the men on a charge of forming a “terrorist organization” and the other seven of being members of the group, called Revolution Chemnitz.   Five of the man were also found guilty of a serious breach, while one was convicted of bodily harm.  The court sentenced the defendants to prison terms that ranged from 27 months to 5 ½ years.  (Lansing State Journal, 3/25/2020)
  • UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations on Tuesday to adopt a “wartime” plan including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars” for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.   He said in a letter to the Group of 20 leaders that they account for 85% of the world’s gross domestic product and have “a direct interest and critical role to play in helping developing countries cope with the crisis.”  (Lansing State Journal, 3/25/2020)
  • LONDON – Prince Charles has coronavirus.  Prince Charles, 71, is displaying mild symptoms “but otherwise remains in good health,” a spokesman said, adding that the Duchess of Cornwall, 72, has been tested but does not have the virus.   Charles and Camilla are now self-isolating at Balmoral.   Buckingham Palace said the Queen last saw her son, the heir to the throne, on 12 March, but was “in good health.”   The palace added that the Duke of Edinburgh was not present at that meeting, and that the Queen was now “following all the appropriate advice with regard to her welfare.”
    A Clarence House statement read:   “In accordance with government and medical advice, the prince and the duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.  “The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire, where they met the criteria required for testing.  “It is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”
  • Germany is the only country in Europe to have currently rejected China’s offer of support in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. According to China’s President Xi Jinping, he informed Chancellor Angela Merkel that the People’s Republic of China “is willing to provide help within our capabilities,” if Germany “is in need.”   Over the past few days, Beijing has sent aid supplies and – in some cases – teams of doctors to provide practical on-site assistance to several European countries including Italy, Spain and France.   Berlin has ignored the offer of support, even though there is, for example, a glaring shortage of respiratory protection masks in Germany.   More than 80 percent of Germany’s registered doctors are complaining that they cannot procure sufficient protective clothing.   Serious accusations for failing to take preventive measures are being raised against the German government, which has been emphasizing that it is “well prepared.”   Leading German media are denouncing China’s aid as a “propaganda campaign” and accuse the country of being “the cause of the pandemic.”  The only thing missing is the use of Trump’s label of a “Chinese virus.” (German Foreign Policy, 3/24/2020)
  • A growing number of businesses and individuals worldwide have stopped using banknotes in fear that physical currency, handled by tens of thousands of people over their useful life, could be a vector for the spreading coronavirus.   Public officials and health experts have said that the risk of transferring the virus person-to-person through the use of banknotes is small.   But that has not stopped businesses in the US from refusing to accept currency and some countries from urging their citizens to stop using banknotes altogether.   (Times of Israel, 3/20/2020)

 

Corona Crisis

An almost empty Piazza del Duomo on Tuesday in Milan, Italy.  The Italian government imposed restrictions on movement across the entire country as cases of the virus soared.  (Credit:  Alessandro Grassani for The New York Times)

A cartoon in last week’s Spectator (British) showed a couple in front of their TV set listening to endless news on the coronavirus.   The husband turned to his wife and said, “I sure miss Brexit.”   British readers will remember that the news was dominated by Brexit for 3 ½ years!

When we first got a television set in the late 1950’s, TV news lasted ten minutes in the evening.   That’s all.  If the coronavirus had been around then, we would have avoided all the panic and negativity that surrounds it now.   With an uncountable number of 24/7 news channels, we are daily saturated with news of the virus.  It’s overwhelming us and affecting people mentally as well as physically.

There is no toilet paper available anywhere in the Lansing area (at least I haven’t found any).   No drinking water, either.   For some inexplicable reason, stores have also run out of vegetarian beans.  Entire rows of shelving are empty.  From Monday afternoon at 3pm, all restaurants and bars in Michigan will have to close.   They will only be allowed to sell take-out food.  Schools closed from Monday for at least three weeks.  We are all encouraged to stay home.  In England, if one person in the family gets sick, then everybody should self-isolate for 14 days to allow the virus to run its course.

It’s affecting international relations, with flights between Europe and America suspended for a month.

The virus is changing the world.   The gradual advancement of globalization over the last 75 years is under severe strain, with nations increasingly looking after themselves.   Some European countries have closed their borders to their neighbors and are not following the lead of the EU in their national affairs.  It’s a case of every country for itself.

Will we ever return to normalcy?

MR 

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Covid-19 virus has “swept away” the last remaining “illusions” about the EU      German-Foreign-Policy, 18 March, 2020

Newsletter – EU Solidarity (II) – Experts expect the Corona crisis to have a serious impact on the EU and speculate a possible disintegration of the Union.   According to an expert in the USA, the heavy human toll that the pandemic will exact and the feeling “that the European institutions are not helping,” could give rise to centrifugal tendencies, particularly in those countries hardest hit, such as Italy and Spain, which are also the countries deeply indebted.   Tensions between Germany, on the one hand, and France and Italy on the other, have been already increasing since Berlin unilaterally closed Germany’s borders, thereby annulling the Schengen Agreements.   Whereas the Élysée Palace has angrily complained about “the unilateral measures at the borders,” the pro-EU Italian daily La Repubblica, notes that Berlin, rather than a detailed coordination “with the partners,” in one of the worst crises the Union has faced, it pursues “a national logic.”  Therefore, the Covid-19 virus has “swept away” the last remaining “illusions” about the EU.   (https://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/news/detail/8222/)

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“Stay home” is not a sufficient plan
by James Hamlin, March 11, 2020, The Atlantic  

This coronavirus is unknown to our species.   Once it breaks into one of our cells, the extent of its spread through the body seems to vary significantly.   The experience can slowly progress from the familiar— cough, congestion, fever — to a life-threatening inflammatory response as the virus spreads down into the lungs, filling the airways with fluid.   Survivors can have permanent scarring in the lungs.   The virus can also spread into other organs, causing liver damage or gastrointestinal disease.   These effects can play out over longer periods than in the flu, sometimes waxing and waning.   Some patients have begun to feel better, then fallen critically ill.   The disease can be fatal despite receiving optimal medical care.

(https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/)

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In retrospect, was it wise to have relied on China to produce essential parts for the supply chains of goods vital to our national security?   Does it appear wise to have moved the production of pharmaceuticals and lifesaving drugs for heart disease, strokes and diabetes to China?   Does it appear wise to have allowed China to develop a virtual monopoly on rare earth minerals crucial to the development of weapons for our defense?    (Pat Buchanan, 3/13/2020)

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In the corona crisis, the German government has initiated measures aiding the German economy, but refuses urgently recommended measures by the WHO for protecting the population.  Berlin is doing “everything” to prevent the coronavirus COVID-19 from “affecting the economy throughout Germany,” German Minster of the Economy, Peter Altmaier, was quoted saying early this month.  The measures are reinforcing positions of German businesses vis à vis their global rivals.  The following steps will be discussed tomorrow, Friday.  At the same time, the government is opposing the closure of schools and kindergartens, as WHO and leading experts are recommending, because children transmit the virus for a longer period than adults, according to initial studies.  Germany’s Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, on the other hand, declared that closing schools should be avoided, so that parents are still available as workers for the enterprises.  This, however, would eliminate any possibility of containment of the virus, as several Asian countries have been able to do.   According to Chancellor Angela Merkel, “60 to 70 percent” of the population could be infected – throughout Germany.     (German Foreign Policy, 3/12/2020)

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New Zealand’s PM has said nearly everyone entering the country from midnight on Sunday must self-isolate to contain the spread of the coronavirus.  Jacinda Ardern said the new measure also included returning New Zealanders.  The only exemption is for small Pacific islands with no confirmed virus cases.  “I make no apologies.  This is an unprecedented time,” Ms. Ardern said, describing the new rules as the strictest in the world.   New Zealand has six confirmed cases.   (BBC, 3/14/2020)

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FINANCIAL PROBLEMS STARTED A LONG TIME AGO

A decade of aggressive risk-taking, nurtured in part by central banks, has ended in traumatic fashion.   This week marked the biggest one-day falls for Wall Street and UK equities since the great crash of 1987 while European bourses recorded all-time daily slumps.   In the space of just a few weeks, record equity peaks and elevated credit valuations have succumbed to a long-feared moment of reckoning.   Government bond markets had been warning for a while that 2020 was going to be make-or-break for global economic growth.   Meanwhile, the leaderboard in stock markets had been dominated by defensive, high-quality companies — another signal that cast doubt on the widely held view that corporate earnings would rebound strongly this year.   But such signs were mostly ignored.   Money poured into corporate bonds, emerging markets and already crowded equity sectors such as US technology shares, pushing valuations toward extreme levels.   Until last month, that is. When questioned about the risk-versus-reward dynamic of buying assets at these prices in recent months, the response from professional investors pretty much boiled down to a need to “put money to work”, accompanied by a wink suggesting that central banks had their backs.   This week’s rout in markets is of giant proportions, triggered by an oil price war on top of an escalating health crisis across Europe and North America.   An abrupt US travel ban on Europeans for 30 days triggered Thursday’s sharp sell-off across markets.   The adverse sentiment also acknowledged the limited monetary ammunition central banks have, leaving investors wondering whether the fiscal response in Europe and the US can offset the economic damage currently being wrought.  (This market was in trouble long before the virus hit.   (Michael MacKenzie, Financial Times, 3/14/2020)

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Cyril Ramaphosa lists countries on South Africa’s travel ban

“We will limit contact between persons who may be infected.  We’re imposing a travel  ban on foreign nationals from Italy, Iran, South Korea, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China. We have cancelled visas from those countries.  We advise against all travel to the EU, the United States, China, Iran, the UK and South Korea – this is effective immediately.

“Any foreign national who has visited these countries in the past 20 days, will be denied a visa.   Anyone returning to South Africa from these high-risk countries will be quarantined for 14 days.  All travelers who entered SA from these nations since mid-February, are asked to get themselves tested.”    (15 March, 2020)

(MORE:  https://www.thesouthafrican.com/news/world-news/ramaphosa-coronavirus-updates-south-africa-travel-ban-which-)

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Netanyahu’s trial delayed by over 2 months as court activity limited over virus
As country slows down with introduction of fresh far-reaching rules in attempt to stop pandemic, May 24 date announced just two days before scheduled hearing

The opening of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial in three corruption cases has been pushed off by more than two months due to new restrictions on Israel’s courts as part of the new measures to combat the coronavirus, the Jerusalem District Court announced Sunday morning.   The move comes just two days before the scheduled March 17 hearing, which according to the Courts Administration of Israel has now been postponed until May 24.  “In light of developments regarding the spread of the coronavirus, and taking into account the latest guidelines given and the declaration of a state of emergency in the courts, we have decided to cancel the scheduled hearing,” the three judges presiding over the case wrote in their announcement.   On Saturday night, Justice Minister Amir Ohana declared a 24-hour “state of emergency” in Israel’s court system, “as part of the national effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

(https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahus-trial-delayed-by-over-2-months-as-court-activity-limited-over-virus/)

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Zimbabwe Govt Minister blames USA+EU for coronavirus:  President corrects
The Herald, Zimbabwe, 16 March 2020

[Zimbabwe] – Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri . . . at the weekend insinuated that COVID-19 was God’s response to countries that imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe.  Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri was speaking at a Zimbabwe National Liberation War Collaborators Association meeting in Chinhoyi on Saturday.   She said in Shona:   “This coronavirus that has come are sanctions against the countries that have imposed sanctions on us.  God is now punishing them  and they are staying indoors now, while their economy is screaming like what they did to ours by imposing sanctions on us.  “Trump should know that he is not God.  They must face the consequences of coronavirus, so that they also feel the pain.”  . . . President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe stands by the international community in fighting the Covid-19, and that it was time to look after each other, especially the weak and vulnerable.

(https://www.herald.co.zw/dont-blame-anyone-for-coronavirus-president/)

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AN ALTERNATIVE THOUGHT

DAILYKENN.com – God is punishing the USA and other Western nations for its sanctions on Zimbabwe, the African nation’s defense minister said.

Oppah Muchinguri said the coronavirus is God’s punishment for “sanctions against the countries that have imposed sanctions on us,” according to reports.

Zimbabwe has suffered a decades-long downward spiral after ousting the Rhodesian government.   White settlers rescued the region from a millennia of indescribable misery, replacing it with a wonderland of amazing technological advancement.  Those advancements included modern health care that has saved the lives of countless millions of black Africans.

Could it be that God has blessed Western nations for colonizing African regions and introducing them to advanced technologies?   (dailykenn, 3/17/2020)

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Now it’s time to lose the two most famous phrases of the moment.
One is “Don’t panic!”   The other is “an abundance of caution.”

“Don’t panic” is what nervous, defensive people say when someone warns of coming trouble.   They don’t want to hear it, so their message is “Don’t worry like a coward, be blithely unconcerned like a brave person.”   One way or another we’ve heard it a lot from administration people.

This is how I’ve experienced it:   “Captain, that appears to be an iceberg.”   “Don’t panic, officer, full steam ahead.”

“Admiral, concentrating our entire fleet in one port seems tempting fate.” “We don’t need your alarmist fantasies, ensign.”

“We’re picking up increased chatter about an al Qaeda action.” “Your hand-wringing is duly noted.”

“Don’t panic,” in the current atmosphere, is a way of shutting up people who are using their imaginations as a protective tool.   It’s an implication of cowardice by cowards.  As for “abundance of caution,” at this point, in a world-wide crisis, the cautions we must take aren’t abundant, they’re reasonable and realistic.
(Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal opinion (extract), March 12, 2020)

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Spain welcomes post-Brexit chance for Gibraltar talks with UK
Madrid interested in pragmatic accords with territory, says foreign minister

Spain’s foreign minister has welcomed post-Brexit talks with the UK as an “incredible opportunity” for the countries to address the status of Gibraltar after centuries of dispute.   Arancha González reacted warmly to calls by Gibraltar’s government for a free-movement area with Spain and suggested that traditional concepts of sovereignty were less important than a series of recent accords on issues such as tax and fighting contraband.

Spain has sought to regain sovereignty over Gibraltar since Britain took control of the Mediterranean territory through the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.   Madrid has at times instigated delays at its border with Gibraltar, hitting the territory’s economy.

However, Ms, González, who took office last month after a career focusing on international trade, argued that Spain needed to focus on “21st century sovereignty” and practical issues that would strengthen ties with the territory.   “We have an incredible opportunity to fix a number of things that we have not been able to fix in the last 300 years,” she told the Financial Times. “At the end of the day, whatever agreement we find . . . will have to work for them [for Gibraltar] and it will have to work for us; that’s the only red line in reality.”  . . . She added:   “The Gibraltar population needs the Spaniards to function and the Spaniards need the Gibraltarians in order to enhance their prosperity . . .  What matters in the 21st century is managing interdependence.”   Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s chief minister, has called for a special deal in which Gibraltar would become part of Europe’s Schengen free-movement area, adding that under such an arrangement, the number of Spaniards working in the territory could increase dramatically.   (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020.   All rights reserved)

(https://www.ft.com/content/11b4dfdc-4da8-11ea-95a0-43d18ec715f5)

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Bombshell letters expose Belgian trawlers fishing off Britain’s Brighton Pier                                                                                                            BREXIT means the UK can finally take back control of its fishing waters, but there are fears that foreign vessels may continue to use them illegally – and documents unearthed by Express.co.uk have revealed a row over claims Belgian trawlers were spotted fishing off Brighton Pier in the Seventies.

Under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which came into effect in 1983, EU countries have full access to each other’s fishing waters. National quotas were divided up using historical data, which many British fishermen feel the UK got a raw deal out of.   Currently, around 68 percent of the fish caught in UK waters are caught by foreign vessels.   Outside the EU, the UK would be entitled to its own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which stretches up to 200 miles away from its shores or up to the median point between it and its neighbor (e.g. halfway across the Irish Sea or English Channel). However, before the CFP, boats from other European countries used to flout the UK’s fishing limits.   For example, the UK had general fishing limits of 12 miles, but France and Belgium were entitled to fish in the 6-12 miles – and, even then, Belgian vessels were accused of fishing even closer to Britain’s shoreline.   According to documents unearthed by Express.co.uk in the National Archives, there were accusations of persistent breaches of the six mile limit by Belgian trawlers off Brighton and the Sussex coast in the early Seventies.

(https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1253526/brexit-fishing-eu-news-belgium-trawler-common-fisheries-policy-brighton-)

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Germany plans to send a warship to the Indian Ocean                        The German Navy plans to send its frigate Hamburg to the Indian Ocean in June to conduct port visits and partake in a regional, naval powwow on the French island of Réunion, the service announced March 12  Cologne, Germany, Defense News, 12 March 2020

The planned Hamburg deployment comes as Germany’s defense leaders test the waters for new engagements far from home.   The sea service especially is seen by some as a potential harbinger for the type of out-of-area missions that the homeland defense-focused German military wants to expand to underwrite its geopolitical ambitions.   “German Navy Chief Vice Adm. Andreas Krause has for years argued that Germany needs a presence in the Indian Ocean.” . . . Bruns said the Navy has been operating in the Indian Ocean’s environs for some time, with mine clearing in the Arabian Gulf, counterterrorism missions under the banner of Operation Enduring Freedom and the European Union’s counter-piracy operation, Atalanta, off the coast of Somalia.   “The Indian Ocean is a vibrant and strategically important maritime theater,” he said.   “German sea lines of communication run through the area, and the great powers are wrestling for influence.”

Krause . . . outlined the country’s maritime spheres of interest in a Defense News op-ed last December.   “They range from the northern flank, i.e., the north Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, down to the Mediterranean, and extend into the wider Indian Ocean region.”

(https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2020/03/12/germany-plans-to-send-a-warship-to-the-indian-ocean/)

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The political rise of southern Africa’s machete gangs
Zimbabwe News, 16 March 2020

A dangerous cocktail of unemployment, social exclusion, poverty, corruption and gold smuggling has led to the rise of violent machete gangs, which are offering their services to local power brokers and criminal gangs fighting for power in both Mozambique and Zimbabwe.   International media reports have shown that Islamist militants have carried out a number of brutal attacks and killings in Mozambique that have left hundreds dead and displaced more than 65,000 people, according to estimates by humanitarian agencies including Human Rights Watch.   A wave of violence perpetrated by a criminal gang in Cabo Delgado, 2,000 kilometres north of Maputo, in the far north of Mozambique near the border with Tanzania, came to public attention after shocking armed attacks on police stations in October 2017.   The group deploys thugs to attack and decapitate people, apparently indiscriminately, with machetes and firearms, and burn down houses and villages as part of its campaign of terror aimed at forcing the Mozambican state to adopt extreme Islamist practices.   A study found the group wants the full adoption of Sharia law, along with an Islamic education system.   Its membership is drawn from among unemployed and marginalized youth, particularly speakers of the Kimwani language, the study said.

The gangs, operating under code names “MaShurugwi” or “Mabhemba,” have been linked to senior officials, right up to the top of the government.   This may explain their boldness — they appear to operate with impunity; few arrests are ever made; they have even, on several occasions, invaded hospitals to finish off their victims; and are not averse to raiding police stations to free fellow gang members.
(http://www.thezimbabwenewslive.com/the-political-rise-of-southern-africas-machete-gangs/)

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Coronavirus:   Hundreds gather to pray at Wailing Wall        Posted: 17 Mar 2020 03:16 AM PDT

DAILYKENN.com — Thousands were expected to show up at the Wailing Wall to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds showed up.

Worshipers recited prayers and Psalms, sang and even danced in a circle, asking God to help in the finding of a cure for the disease, in a ceremony promoted by Chief Rabbi of Safed and president of the Rabbinical Community Association Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu in partnership with the Israeli branch of the US Orthodox Union.

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TO THE POINT

  • A newspaper in Darwin, Australia, included a few blank pages last Saturday.   It was their way of helping readers get through the shortage of toilet paper!   I well remember my mother talking about the Depression and how her family had to use newspaper, at a time when the print often came off onto your skin.  It led to some humorous comments.   Toilet paper was not invented until 1857.  Now we can’t imagine life without it.
  • Beijing has, according to President Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro, already nationalized one American factory making medical masks.   Moreover, Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo on air repeatedly said the Chinese forced at least one ship carrying masks, gloves, and other protective gear to the United States to return to China.   (Gordon C. Chang, Gatestone, 3/17/2020)
  • Dailykenn.com – If you don’t like diversity, get out of the country. That is the message of Tunahan Kuzu, the leader of a Muslim political party in The Netherlands, to native Dutch.   DENK is a relatively new political party, having been formed in 2015.  It is largely comprised of Turkish Muslims.  (3/11/2020)
  • Good sleep hygiene is the new wellness goal.  Try telling that to an eight-month-old baby.   (Hadley Freeman, the Guardian, 3/14/2020)
  • The call for a National Day of Prayer on Sunday should have included a call to repentance.   The US continues to kill 1.3 million babies a year, is the world’s leading producer of pornography and peoples’ morals are sadly lacking.   We need to change a great deal before we can expect God to listen to us.
  • One of the first casualties of the coronavirus is “Playboy” magazine which is to cease publication with the Spring issue.

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

Hello everybody,

The election dominates US news.   There are many conflicting reports.

In Michigan, polls show Trump losing to every prominent Democratic candidate.   Yet, at the same time, his rallies (and those for VP Mike Pence) attract audiences too big to be accommodated.

And note the following report from the Munich Security Conference (read article “Munich Security Conference,” further down).  “Europeans widely expect Trump to be re-elected this fall.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic debate held last night in South Carolina, shows the party tearing itself apart.   Amy Klobuchar said it best:   “If we continue to tear each other apart over the next four months, we will see Trump continue to tear the country apart for the next four years.”  Another House Democrat described the seven Democrats on stage as a “circular firing squad.”   They should remember the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 12:25 — “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” words quoted by Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War.  With Trump so universally “hated,” it’s incredible the Democrats can’t come up with a winning candidate!

The second issue that dominates the news is the coronavirus.  Hopefully, this will not have the death toll of the various plagues that hit the world during the Middle Ages.   Justinian’s “flea” (probably bubonic plague) killed a manageable 5,000 a day in the first month; then 10,000 a day.   The population was greatly diminished.   As with the coronavirus, it was spread through trade and international travel.   It was the same in the 14th century, 800 years later, when the plague hit Europe again.  The death toll was a staggering 50% of the people.  Just over a century ago, the Spanish flu infected 500 million people worldwide, about one third of the world’s population.   It killed an estimated 20-50 million, including some 675,000 Americans.

We will get through it, but it may kill millions before it’s over.

One final thought on the election:   At least two of the candidates for the Democratic party claim to be Christians.   Voters, however, should be careful here.   All seven of the people appearing last night support a woman’s right to murder her baby!  (To be fair, so do some Republicans.)

Have a great week.

Melvin   

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Very early this morning, I came across a show on PBS World called “Gzero World”, with Ian Bremmer. Today they were reporting from the Munich Security Conference on world security issues.  The first four items come from their website.

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

The risk of a major technology blow-up between the US and Europe is growing.   A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the European Union wanted to boost its “technological sovereignty” by tightening its oversight of Big Tech and promoting its own alternatives to big US and Chinese firms in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her top digital officials unveiled their first concrete proposals for regulating AI, and pledged to invest billions of euros to turn Europe into a data superpower.    (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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Communal violence in Delhi:   Over the past few days, India’s capital city has seen its deadliest communal violence in decades.  This week’s surge in mob violence began as a standoff between protesters against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India’s Muslims and the law’s Hindu nationalist defenders.   Clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in majority-Muslim neighborhoods in northeast Delhi have killed at least 11 people, both Muslim and Hindu, since Sunday.   We’re watching to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government responds – Delhi’s police force reports to federal, rather than local, officials.(Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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Unlikely jihadist bedfellows:   For years, the jihadists of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have been at odds over territory and ideology. Bloody clashes between offshoots of the two groups have become commonplace in Yemen and Syria, further destabilizing those war-torn countries.   But now, strangely, ISIS and al-Qaeda linked groups appear to have joined forces in West Africa, recruiting locals and divvying up vast swathes of territory in the Sahel – a semi-arid area stretching across the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.  Motivated by mutual practical interests and common foes – Western forces and local governments – they’ve set aside their doctrinal differences and are gaining ground in states with weak central governments like Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the US military recently said.  This all comes as the Trump administration is weighing a sizable drawdown of US troops in West Africa.  (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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US-China tit-for-tat retaliations:   The Trump administration is weighing up retribution against Chinese journalists and state-owned media – as well as Chinese intelligence agencies – after Beijing expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters last week over an opinion column that criticized Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus.  The Chinese Foreign Ministry, incensed by the “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” headline, demanded an apology from the Journal before booting three of its reporters, none of whom had anything to do with the column.   If the US responds in kind, it could lead to a cycle of tit-for-tat retribution and animosity between Washington and Beijing just as a preliminary trade agreement appears to have eased mounting tensions between the world’s two largest economies.   We’re watching to see if the Trump administration follows through on its threat – or if it’s just bluster.  (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE

The annual gathering of the Munich Security Conference provides a useful barometer for the health of the transatlantic relationship. Two years ago, Europeans were reeling from the first year of the Trump administration.   Last year, they were resigned to that reality and determined to press ahead.  This past weekend, everyone was searching for a savior to address critical challenges amid a lack of global leadership.

Europeans widely expect Trump to be re-elected this fall.   After their shock at his 2016 victory, they seem to be bracing for the worst, but remain unprepared for the consequences.   They inquired about Democratic presidential candidates, asking what Bernie Sanders would mean for Europe and whether Michael Bloomberg was a good compromise for moderates.  (Amanda Sloat, Brookings, 2/18/2020)

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TRUMP EMBRACED BY ENTHUSIASTIC INDIANS

“It was the Trumpiest of offers.

“A rally at one of the world’s largest stadiums.   A crowd of millions cheering him on.   A love fest during an election year.”   (Lansing State Journal, 2/24/2020).

The stadium is the world’s biggest cricket stadium.  I wonder if President Trump was aware that cricket was the preferred sport of fellow Republican, Abraham Lincoln?

An incredible welcome from the world’s second most populous nation.  President Trump is hoping for a trade deal with India.

Sadly, it coincided with massive demonstrations against a new Indian immigration bill, which discriminates against Muslims.  At least twenty people have been killed.

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ISRAEL NOW RECOGNIZED BY 161 COUNTRIES

161 countries now have diplomatic relations with Israel, which is the highest number that it has ever been for the Jewish state.  Increasingly, the community of nations cares less about Palestinian objections and more about what Israel has to offer.   (Israel National News, 2/24/2020)

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NEVER ENDING SYRIAN CONFLICT

At a four-way summit with the leaders of Russia, Turkey and France, Angela Merkel will seek to influence the future of the northern Syrian province Idlib.  The summit, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on the weekend is to be held next week.  It will explore options for ending the fighting in the province, where, over the past few weeks, Syrian troops have been advancing on militias.  Usually referred to as “rebels” in the German media, they are, in fact, dominated by an al Qaeda subsidiary.  The combat has deepened dissention between Russia and Turkey on how to go forward in Syria, raising new hopes among western powers for driving a wedge between Ankara and Moscow.   Prior to the summit, however, specialists are pointing out that Berlin hardly has any options for exerting influence in Syria.  The EU sees the overthrow of the government in Damascus as the precondition for granting desperately needed reconstruction aid.    (German Foreign Policy, 2/25/2020)

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MACRON VOWS CRACKDOWN ON POLITICAL ISLAM

“The problem is when, in the name of a religion, some people want to separate themselves from the Republic and therefore not respect its laws.” — French President Emmanuel Macron, February 18, 2020.   (Soeren Kern, Gatestone, 2/21/2020)

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SWEDISH MIGRANT CRISIS

“For the first time now, more crimes – in absolute terms – are committed by persons of foreign background than by persons of Swedish origin . . .   The most crime-prone population subgroup are people born [in Sweden] to two foreign-born parents.” — Report by Det Goda Samhället (“The Good Society”), summer of 2019. (Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 2/26)

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UK GROOMING GANGS TO REMAIN A SECRET

DAILYKENN.com — It’s a state secret.  No one is to know the ethnicity of grooming gang members.  The thugs are responsible for trafficking nearly 19,000 British girls in one year.

Who are these people?  No one knows because  Boris Johnson’s government won’t release statistics that reveal their ethnicity.

The truth is, of course, that the government doesn’t need to release the data because everyone knows the preponderance of the gang members are from non-white Islamic regions of the world.  Nearly all are ethnic Pakistanis.

It’s akin to the n-word.  No one dares say it, but everyone knows what it means.   Authorities said that releasing the data would not be in the public interest.

Survivors accused ministers of making “empty promises,” while a man who prosecuted abusers in Rochdale called for the Home Office to “show some courage and publish” its findings.

It comes after The Independent revealed that almost 19,000 suspected child sexual exploitation victims were identified by local authorities in just one year, sparking renewed calls for prevention efforts.   (Daily Kenn, 2/25/2020)

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GAY CONVERSION THERAPY BANNED IN MORE COUNTRIES

Global momentum is growing to ban so-called gay “conversion therapy,” with bills drawn up in nine countries, a rights group said on Wednesday.

The United States, Canada, Chile, Mexico and Germany are among countries seeking to outlaw the treatment, which includes practices from electric shocks to “praying away the gay” and is based on the belief that being gay or transgender is a mental illness that can be “cured,” Ilga, an LGBT+ advocacy group, said.

Worldwide, only Brazil, Ecuador and Malta have national bans on conversion therapy, condemned as ineffective and harmful to mental health by more than 60 associations of doctors, psychologists or counsellors globally, the Ilga study said.

“The main driving force [for reform] is survivors with their testimonies coming forwards,” Lucas Ramon Mendos, author of the Ilga report, which said 2020 could be a turning point in the fight against “therapies” that have ruined many lives.

“A lot of awareness is being created through their testimony,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.   (Rachel Savage, Independent, 2/26/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • A headline in our local newspaper, the Lansing State Journal, appeared Monday.   It read: ‘White supremacy seeps into public, experts warn.”   It added:   “Incidents show startling jump over the past year.”   The article went on to show that violence emanating from “white supremacist groups” is increasing and is expected to grow further in the years ahead.   There is no excuse for violence.  But surely this is a reaction to the massive immigration of recent years and the constant emphasis on multiculturalism.   Until both change, there will be a constant threat from the political “right.”  It’s a reaction to the “extreme left.”
  • There’s a plan in Michigan to expand the options offered on payday loans.  These “short term, high cost financial products,” have trapped millions of families into a never ending “costly and potentially catastrophic cycle of debt.”  (David Snodgrass,  Lansing State Journal, 2/20/2020).   The bill “would allow lenders to charge a monthly service fee of 11% on the principal of a loan, equivalent to an APR of around 132%.   In practical terms, this means a borrower would end up paying more than $7,000 to pay off a $2,500 two-year loan.”   Heed the following biblical advice:  “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.  Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.” (Lev. 25:35-36)
  • I went to a concert on Monday evening.   The Academy of St Martin in the Fields played Brahms Symphony Number 4, along with a violin concerto by Paganini and a short piece by Mozart.  It was a delightful and relaxing evening with good friends.
  • Also relaxing (and gripping) is my latest “read:”   “The Race to save the Romanovs” by Helen Rappaport was published in 2018.  After the Russian revolution in 1917 the Romanov family were under house arrest.   When the communists came to power later in the year, their situation deteriorated fast.   Many people wanted to save them and their five young children, but no attempt got very far; eventually, they were all brutally murdered.   The Bolsheviks were, if nothing else, thorough – killing all their opponents for over seventy years!   The deaths of the children were particularly reprehensible.   Today’s Russians have tried to make amends by canonizing each member of the Imperial Family.  28% of Russians polled said they would like to see the monarchy restored.   But how do you restore it when you killed everybody off?    (Interestingly, 28% is roughly the support US presidents get; when you consider that only 54.9% bothered to vote in the last election.)    Maurice Paleologue was the French Ambassador to Russia at the time of the revolution.   He said the only man who could have saved them was Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.   The Russians had been fighting the Germans, along with the British and the French.  The Kaiser helped Lenin get to Russia and, when he assumed power, entered into a peace deal with him, so that Russia could leave the war.    The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of 1918 could have (should have) included a clause freeing the Czar and his family.   Wilhelm was related to the Russian Imperial Family.  He particularly loved the children.   Why didn’t he save them?

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.

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)