Tag Archives: artificial intelligence

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?

ROYAL WEDDING EUPHORIA HIDES GRIM REALITY

Prince Harry’s wedding to actress Meghan Markle, was a great success, watched by approximately one billion people around the world.   Everything to do with the wedding went smoothly, as we have come to expect from royal events in Britain.

Various estimates were given as to the cost of the wedding. Fox News said it was $34 million.   A British source said 32 million pounds (one pound = $1.34).   The cost was higher than seven years ago, when Prince William got married.   According to Fox, security alone was more than $30 million, considerably higher than at William’s.   Harry had a greater need for security, a sign of the times, together with terrorist threats made against him for his military role in Afghanistan.

The Queen paid for the wedding; the tax-payer covers security.   When President Trump visits London in a few weeks, security will also be expensive.     At least with the royal wedding, the financial outlay will be more than covered by increased tourism, television rights, sales of merchandise made for the occasion, and all those celebratory drinks and meals.

The cost of the monarchy is covered by entrance fees to the royal palaces.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Economist’s first editor, Walter Bagehot (pronounced “Badge It”), wrote a classic book on the English Constitution, in which he explained the function of the two branches of government.   The monarchy, he said, represented the “dignified” branch of government; while parliament was the “efficient” branch.

The Economist has a weekly column on British politics, called “Bagehot,” in memory of its founder, who edited the publication from 1860-77.    “A royal wedding is as good a time as any to conduct an audit of the British constitution,” is the opening line of this week’s offering.

In the past, the weekly newsmagazine has called for the abolition of the monarchy.   “An Idea whose time has gone,” was one such cover story about twenty years ago.

But this week’s publication points out that the monarchy and parliament have changed roles – “The efficient branch is in its worst state since the 1970s.   The two main parties have been captured by their extremes.   The prime minister lacks authority.   Westminster has been rocked by scandals about sexual harassment and bullying. The Home Office is in turmoil.   The government is preparing for Brexit, its most complicated task since the second world war, without a majority in the Commons or a consensus in its own ranks.” (“Something old, something new”, Economist, 5/19).

Most Members of Parliament do not support Brexit, but the people did in a referendum two years ago.   “The efficient branch now has an agonizing choice: implement a policy that it believes to be foolish, or frustrate the “will of the people.”

“The dignified branch (the Crown), by contrast, is thriving.   The Queen represents stability in an unstable world, as well as unity in a polarized one.   She has spent 66 of her 92 years on the throne and has survived twelve prime ministers and innumerable political crises.”   Last week’s wedding has boosted the popularity of the monarchy around the world; Prince Charles was chosen last month as the new Head of the 53-nation Commonwealth, to succeed his mother; Prince Harry was appointed as an Ambassador to Commonwealth youth; Zimbabwe has asked to return to the organization after leaving fifteen years ago over human rights abuses and failure to uphold the rule of law and democratic norms.

It remains the case, however, that twenty years ago, the monarchy wasn’t doing so well; a reality that could return at any time.

This is the age of populism and no politician is more popular than Queen Elizabeth II, whose approval rating in Britain is always above 70%, more than double the highest rated politician.   Even in her overseas dominions, her popularity surpasses the politicians, so much so that many of them would like to say goodbye to her and the institution of constitutional monarchy. It is the ordinary people who feel differently and from whom she gets her greatest support.

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GERMANY TO REPLACE US AS HONEST BROKER IN MIDEAST Handelsblatt Global, 18 May 2018

“Iran, Gaza, Jerusalem: If ever the time was right for EU countries to unite in their foreign policy as in their trade policy, it is now . . .    May 2018 could one day enter history books as the moment when the EU countries including Germany at last embarked on a common foreign policy.   The catalyst, as long expected, will have been an external power.   Not, however, a common foe, but an ostensible ally: America’s Donald Trump.

“. . . the US and Europe can no longer pretend to be aligned.   The US has forfeited its role of honest broker [in the Middle East] . . .   If there is today an honest broker, it may ironically be Germany…

“Angela Merkel and her EU peers have certainly grasped the urgency of the moment . . .   For Germany to play a diplomatic role . . .   it would need to boost military spending far beyond its paltry 1.2% of GDP…”

(Handelsblatt is an influential German business paper; the German equivalent of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.)

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EUROPEAN NEWS

Macron to Silicon Valley: Embrace Europe’s Regulations:   French President Emmanuel Macron ratcheted up tensions with U.S. tech giants Thursday calling on them to embrace Europe’s regulation of topics ranging from taxation to privacy to artificial intelligence, because Washington is failing to do so.

Europe Seeks Russia’s Help on Saving Iran Deal, Despite Chill:  U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran has added fresh impetus to a European outreach to Russia—although European officials say existing tensions make it far from a thaw.

Britain Takes Stab at Wrangling Dirty Money:   The publication this week of a U.K. parliamentary report calling for tougher action to stop the flow of dirty Russian money into Britain is a landmark moment for the City of London, writes Simon Nixon.

ECB Warns Against Trade Spats, Urges Patience in Easing:   European Central Bank officials warned at their April rate-setting meeting that international trade conflicts could hurt the eurozone economy and called for patience in phasing out the bank’s easy-money policies.                                                                                                        (Brexit and Beyond, WSJ, 5/23

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IN FACE OF A GLOBAL TRADE WAR

The EU announced its first defensive measures against US plans to penalize European companies’ business engagements with Iran, by reactivating the 1996 “Blocking Statute.” That law prohibits companies from terminating their business engagements with Iran, to avoid severe penalties in the United States.   Some companies from Germany and other EU countries have already announced that they will cancel their contracts with Tehran to avoid endangering their business ventures in the US. German companies, involved in profitable ventures with Russia, could be facing a similar situation.   Washington threatens to demand that businesses from Germany and the EU comply also with the April 6 sanctions announced by US President Donald Trump, against some Russian oligarchs and their companies.   According to government advisors, German Russia-oriented businesses are “virtually panicking” because of the escalation of a global trade war.
(https://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/news/detail/7612/)

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Newsletter – How to Become a World Power

Berlin is seeking to use Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal to increase its pressure on Tehran. In their joint statement published Wednesday, the governments of Germany, France and the United Kingdom declared their continued commitment to the agreement, while demanding that the Iranian government limit its ballistic missile program and its efforts to obtain influence in the region.   The reintroduction of US sanctions offers Berlin a chance to disguise its continued pressure on Tehran as a war preventive measure.   At the same time, US sanctions against Iran continue to fuel the power struggle between the EU and the USA.   The Airbus Company alone could lose €16 billion in commercial deals due to the sanctions imposed by the US government.   Commentators recommend resistance:   “You don’t become a world power in a conference room.”   At the same time, Israel is exacerbating the escalating tensions with its aggressions against Syria.

more…
(https://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/news/detail/7606/)

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Der Spiegel comment on EU / US relations

“With his decision to blow up the Iran deal, U.S. President Donald Trump has thrown Europe into uncertainty and anxiety — and raised the specter of a new war in the Middle East. One thing is certain: the
trans-Atlantic relationship has been seriously damaged.”

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Zimbabwe Formally Applies to Re-Join Commonwealth

To re-join, Zimbabwe must demonstrate that it complies with the fundamental values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, including democracy and rule of law plus protection of human rights such as freedom of expression.   The membership process requires an informal assessment to be undertaken by representatives of the Secretary-General, followed by consultations with other Commonwealth countries.   Zimbabwe has also invited the Commonwealth to observe its forthcoming elections in July.

Zimbabwe was suspended in 2002 for breaching the Harare Declaration.  In 2003, when the Commonwealth refused to lift the suspension, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth.   Since then, the Commonwealth has played a major part in trying to end the political impasse and return Zimbabwe to a state of normality.(http://allafrica.com/stories/201805210678.html)

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ISLAM INCOMPATIBLE WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

  • The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) itself has become a prime motivator and enforcer of the rejection of human rights.
  • The other charters of human rights are to be found exclusively in the Muslim world.   Anything that falls within Islamic shari’a law is a human right; anything that does not fall within shari’a is not a human right.
  • “For us the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is nothing but a collection of mumbo-jumbo by disciples of Satan”. — ‘Ali Khamene’i, Iran’s current Supreme Leader.
  • “The underlying thesis in all the Islamic human rights schemes is that the rights afforded in international law are too generous and only become acceptable when they are subjected to Islamic restrictions.” — Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics.