Tag Archives: Bernie Sanders

A GROWING SENSE OF CRISIS

(MGN Image)

There’s a growing sense of crisis all over the world.

The immediate cause is the coronavirus, which gets worse every day.   Worse, by the numbers.   Daily, there are more deaths, more people have it and the virus is spreading, covering a wider area.

Conspiracy theories abound.   In the US, some people are saying that the virus is being spread to undermine Trump and give the Democrats victory in November.   How does that explain it’s a bigger problem in Italy, in the UK, China and elsewhere, countries with no election this year, or any other year, in the case of China.

Nations are reacting to what promises to be a major game changer in the global economy.   Tourism has ground to a halt, flights are empty, delivery of goods suffering major delays, employees are dying, and there’s no end in sight.

In the UK, Rishi Sunak, Britain’s new Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) delivered a very professional budget speech that was over an hour long.  He’s the first Indian to be appointed to the second highest political office in the land, the first Hindu (sworn into office with a Hindu holy book) and at only 39, one of the youngest chancellors in history.  His budget was the first one since Britain left the EU, the first in almost 50 years that Britain has been totally independent.  The budget was scheduled weeks ago, before the virus, but it gave the government the opportunity to tackle it from the financial perspective.  It’s going to cost billions of pounds (dollars or euros), increasing deficits and threatening the international exchange rate of currencies.  The stimulus package promised this morning  in Britain is thirty billion  pounds ($39 billion).

It’s unpredictable – but it’s very real.  It will affect President Trump’s chance of reelection, but it’s not a deliberate attempt to thwart his success.   The medical crisis will inevitably affect the economy, which may affect the election, though its doubtful anybody else could manage the crisis better.   In the UK it is estimated that, at the peak of the crisis, one fifth of all workers will have to stay home.

The virus started in Wuhan, China.   We may never know exactly what caused it, but pigs, bats and pangolins seem the most likely candidates.  But there is also a government laboratory in Wuhan.  The suspicion is also that it might have been a biological warfare experiment gone wrong.

MR       

Putin forever  — Russian president Vladimir Putin is backing sweeping constitutional changes that would allow him to stay at the helm of the country until 2036.  (Financial Times)   If approved, the reforms would give Putin the option to serve another two terms and cement an unbroken run of 24 years as president and 36 years in power.   A “people’s vote” referendum is due next month.   The New York Times notes that 36 years is longer “than Stalin but still short of Peter the Great, who reigned for 43 years.”   (Financial Times Brussels Briefing, 3/10/2020)

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WHY GAS IS CHEAP

For three years, Russia and Saudi Arabia, the world’s two largest oil exporters, had a deal to prop up global crude prices by limiting production.   They calculated that by producing fewer barrels, rising prices would make each barrel worth more.

Over the weekend, that deal collapsed when Russia backed out, allegedly because it decided that higher prices were also providing an unexpectedly large boost for the US oil industry, which has expanded its market share by increasing production by nearly 50 percent since the Russia-Saudi (formally, Russia-OPEC) deal began in late 2016.   A lot of that increase has come from US shale oil.

Saudi Arabia, eager to show Russia that its market power is not to be ignored, slashed the price at which it sells its own oil, and moved to sharply boost production.   The expected flood of new Saudi supply dropped global oil prices by more than 30 percent on Monday, the biggest overnight drop in almost three decades.   Stock markets, already wobbly thanks to coronavirus, took a dive.

Now Moscow and Riyadh appear locked in a price war – a crude game of chicken that could last for weeks or even months.   Oil markets are reeling because this conflict comes just as the coronavirus clobbers demand for oil as factories close, and as international shipping and air travel slow dramatically.   More supply + less demand = price collapse.     (Signal, the Gzero Newsletter, 3/10/2020)

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The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries publishes its latest oil report today, amid turmoil.   OPEC and its allies met on March 5th and 6th to discuss production cuts to boost the oil price. Russia refused a deal, stunning the market.   Saudi Arabia then said it would ramp up production next month and lower its selling price.  On March 9th the price of Brent crude fell by 24%, its biggest one-day drop since 1991.   There is a chance that Russia and Saudi Arabia will compromise, but most analysts think the price war is more likely to continue, as they battle for market share and try to squeeze the shale companies that have made America the world’s biggest oil producer.   Saudi Arabia’s low production costs mean it can fight fiercely, but not without suffering.   The kingdom requires oil to top $80 a barrel to balance its budget.   This year’s average may be less than half that.  (The Economist, 3/10/2020)

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FRANCE SET TO BECOME MUSLIM

Domestically, the past fifty years of steady immigration from Islamic countries into France is “transforming the fabric of French society” from within.   Demographic and sociological surveys indicate that 10-15% of the French population is now of Muslim origin, including 20-30% of French citizens or residents under the age of 25.   Some integrate successfully, but many align with the most radical and militant expression of the religion.   Their rejection of France’s secular constitution is matched by resentment of the French military’s fight against global jihadism in Africa and the Middle East, seen as a “deliberate assault … on Islam.”

Whereas religious zeal is steadily increasing among French Muslims, Gurfinkiel said that “the classic national religion of France, Catholicism,” is declining, citing research found in The French Archipelago (L’archipel français) by French pollster, demographer and sociologist Jérôme Fourquet.   Traditional family and marriage are “unraveling among the native French,” while birthrates drop.  (“A very good chance of Islamists conquering France”, Marilyn Stern, MEF, 3/7.   Interview with Michel Gurfinkiel, of the Paris based Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute.)

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The Western Armament Community (II)                                                              German-Foreign-Policy.com * (10 March 2020)

 Germany, the EU and the western powers altogether have increased their already dominant share of the booming global arms export, according to a report on international arms transfers published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) yesterday.   Germany is the fourth largest arms export nation. With a 26 percent share, the EU is well ahead of Russia (21 percent) and behind the USA (36 percent).   Two thirds of the world’s exports of heavy war machinery are attributed to arms manufacturers in North America and Europe (excluding Russia).   SIPRI’s list of recipient states is a clear indication of current and future hot spots. Six of the top ten global arms importers are located in the Arab world, particularly at the Persian Gulf.   One sixth of all arms exports are being delivered to western allies in the power struggle with China in East and Southeast Asia and in the Pacific realm – with German arms exports being an integral part.    (More…   https://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/news/detail/8213/)

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USA and France dramatically increase major arms exports;             Saudi Arabia is largest arms importer, says SIPRI

 (Stockholm, 9 March 2020) — International transfers of major arms during the five-year period 2015–19 increased by 5.5 per cent compared with 2010–14.   According to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the largest exporters of arms during the past five years were the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China. The new data shows that the flow of arms to the Middle East has increased, with Saudi Arabia clearly being the world’s largest importer.

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Significant increase in arms exports from the United States and France
Between 2010–14 and 2015–19, exports of major arms from the USA grew by 23 per cent, raising its share of total global arms exports to 36 per cent. In 2015–19 total US arms exports were 76 per cent higher than those of the second-largest arms exporter in the world, Russia. Major arms transferred from the USA went to a total of 96 countries.

‘Half of US arms exports in the past five years went to the Middle East, and half of those went to Saudi Arabia,’ says Pieter D. Wezeman, Senior Researcher at SIPRI.   ‘At the same time, demand for the USA’s advanced military aircraft increased, particularly in Europe, Australia, Japan and Taiwan.’

French arms exports reached their highest level for any five-year period since 1990 and accounted for 7.9 per cent of total global arms exports in 2015–19, a 72 per cent increase on 2010–14.  ‘The French arms industry has benefited from the demand for arms in Egypt, Qatar and India,’ says Diego Lopes Da Silva, SIPRI Researcher.

Other notable developments:

  • Germany’s arms exports were 17 per cent higher in 2015–19 than in 2010–14.
  • China was the fifth-largest arms exporter in 2015–19 and significantly increased the number of recipients of its major arms: from 40 in 2010–14 to 53 in 2015–19.
  • South Korea’s arms exports rose by 143 per cent between 2010–14 and 2015–19 and it entered the list of the top 10 largest exporters for the first time.
  • Israeli arms exports increased by 77 per cent between 2010–14 and 2015–19 to their highest-ever level.
  • West and Central European states had outstanding orders at the end of 2019 for imports of 380 new combat aircraft from the USA.
  • Egypt’s arms imports tripled between 2010–14 and 2015–19, making it the world’s third-largest arms importer.
  • Brazil’s arms imports in 2015–19 were the highest in South America, accounting for 31 per cent of the subregion’s arms imports, despite a 37 per cent decrease compared with 2010–14.
  • South Africa, the largest arms importer in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005–2009, imported almost no major arms in 2015–19.

(https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2020/usa-and-france-dramatically-increase-major-arms-exports-saudi-arabia-largest-arms-importer-says)

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Germany ‘should join in French nuclear deterrent’
The former Airbus executive Tom Enders urged Berlin to do the “unthinkable”
by Oliver Moody, Berlin, 6 March 2020, The Times (of London)

Germany has been urged to work with France on a joint nuclear deterrent amid doubts about President Trump’s readiness to stand by Europe in a military crisis.  Tom Enders, the former chief executive of Airbus, called on Berlin to overcome its taboo against atomic weapons and buy a stake in the French force de frappe (strike force), consisting of some 290 warheads.   President Macron recently offered EU leaders a “strategic dialogue” on the role of France’s nuclear arsenal.   The German response has so far been ambivalent.   The country is covered by the US “nuclear umbrella” through its membership of Nato.   It is an open secret that Germany hosts about 20 American warheads at the Büchel airbase, near the Belgian border.   The weapons are under the… [Paywall].
(https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/germany-should-join-in-french-nuclear-deterrent-g7vcz63rf)

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TO THE POINT

  • BIDEN BID – With primary wins in Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho, Joe Biden took a commanding lead over Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.   The two are even neck-and-neck in Washington, expected to go to Mr. Sanders.   Sights are already on Florida, the big prize next Tuesday, where Mr Biden leads in polls.   The race is his to lose.  (The Economist, 3/10/2020)
  • The Bank of England cut interest rates from 0.75% to 0.25% to cushion the economic blow from coronavirus.   It also announced a new scheme to provide cheap funding for banks that increase loans to small and medium-sized firms, and capital buffers were cut to ease credit conditions further.   The bank’s rate-cut follows cuts in America, Canada and Australia.  (The Economist, 3/10/2020)
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo, the biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa, confirmed its first case of covid-19.   Cases have also been recorded in South Africa, Nigeria and Senegal.   The World Health Organization has warned that the greatest concern is that the virus spreads “to countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it”.    (The Economist, 3/10/2020)
  • I took one of my grandsons to see “The Call of the Wild” Monday night.   It’s the third or fourth version of the Jack London classic I’ve seen.  This one was the best.  It was good, family entertainment.  Try to see it before it leaves the big screen.
  • My wife and I have been watching “Beecham House”, a PBS series set in British India in 1795.   Although it has the usual anti-colonial stance, we found it very enjoyable.

I will write again a week from now – unless I succumb to the virus!

SUPER TUESDAY

States voting on Super TuesdayStates voting on Super Tuesday
ABC NEWS

California Triumph Keeps Sanders In The Running

Is Joe Biden the new Democratic frontrunner? It certainly seems that way, after the former vice president took a delegate lead over Bernie Sanders with a triumphant sweep of the southern Super Tuesday states, capped by a win in Texas.   Yet Sanders kept some of his momentum with victory in California, setting up what will likely be a long, drawn-out battle between the two wings of the party and their septuagenarian standard-bearers.

Elizabeth Warren – the Massachusetts Senator lost even her home state on Tuesday night, but remains in the race as of Wednesday morning – perhaps with a contested convention in mind.

Michael Bloomberg – the billionaire former New York mayor had planned to make a splash as he at last entered the race on Tuesday, on the back of a $500m ad spend. Instead he claimed just one small victory, in American Samoa.  (The Guardian, 3/4/2020)

Michael Bloomberg withdrew from the race later in the day.


TIME TO MOVE ON FROM OBAMA

He won them two presidential elections, but Democrats are increasingly ready to put President Barack Obama in their rear view, according to exit polls from the Super Tuesday slate of primaries, which showed a startling number of party faithful saying it’s time to move on.

Mr. Obama remains popular in the Deep South, where black voters play an outsized role in Democratic politics, but from Maine to Minnesota, voters said they are no longer thrilled with the man who brought them the first universal health care plan and flexed his executive pen to grant a deportation amnesty to “Dreamers,” to ink a deal with Iran and to commit the U.S. to curbing greenhouse gases.

Instead, the party’s heart now belongs to Sen. Bernard Sanders, the democratic socialist who won’t even call himself a Democrat but who has completely rewritten the party’s agenda.  (Washington Times, 3/4/2020)

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CORONAVIRUS – LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE

Fragile supply chains:    Decades of fine-tuning global manufacturing have given billions of people access to quality consumer goods at affordable prices.  That’s the upside of globalization.  But the same trend has concentrated production of important items in certain countries, creating new vulnerabilities.   For example, regions of China and broader Asia that produce most of the world’s smartphones have been forced to idle or cut manufacturing because of the outbreak.   The decline in Chinese factory activity has been so pronounced, it’s actually visible from space.   And US officials recently warned of drug shortages due to the shuttering of factories in China that make essential ingredients for some important medicines.

Fragile safety nets:    Well before the new virus emerged in China, an annual report by the World Health Organization warned that the chances of a global outbreak were rising and that the world was “not prepared for a fast-moving, virulent respiratory pathogen pandemic.”   It cited the usual problems – a lack of funding for public health monitoring and prevention, bureaucratic hurdles, and weak medical infrastructure, especially in poor and middle-income countries.   But it also warned of “a breakdown in public trust…exacerbated by misinformation that can hinder disease control communicated quickly and widely via social media.”   In the US, the safety net is further weakened by a lack of mandatory paid sick leave, which some people fear will compel sick people to show up at work, where they can infect colleagues and customers.   (Gzero World, 3/4/2020)

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RYANAIR BOSS CONDEMNS ‘HYSTERIA’ OVER CORONAVIRUS

The boss of Ryanair has condemned what he called “lunacy on social media” and “hysteria” in coverage of the coronavirus.

Speaking to Sky News, Michael O’Leary appealed for a calm and measured approach to the coronavirus outbreak and said “Let’s not have irrational panic measures.”  (The Week, 3/4/2020)

FlyBe became the first airline casualty of the virus, filing for bankruptcy on Wednesday.  FlyBe is a UK domestic airline.

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HOW THE EU RULES THE WORLD                                                                  The Brussels Effect:    How the European Union Rules the World

For many observers, the European Union is mired in a deep crisis. Between sluggish growth; political turmoil following a decade of austerity politics, Brexit, and the rise of Asian influence, the EU is seen as a declining power on the world stage.  Columbia Law professor Anu Bradford argues the opposite in her important new book The Brussels Effect:   the EU remains an influential superpower that shapes the world in its image.  By promulgating regulations that shape the international business environment, elevating standards worldwide, and leading to a notable Europeanization of many important aspects of global commerce, the EU has managed to shape policy in areas such as data privacy, consumer health and safety, environmental protection, antitrust, and online hate speech. And in contrast to how superpowers wield their global influence, the Brussels Effect – a phrase first coined by Bradford in 2012 – absolves the EU from playing a direct role in imposing standards, as market forces alone are often sufficient as multinational companies voluntarily extend the EU rule to govern their global operations.  The Brussels Effect shows how the EU has acquired such power, why multinational companies use EU standards as global standards, and why the EU’s role as the world’s regulator is likely to outlive its gradual economic decline, extending the EU’s influence long into the future.

(https://www.amazon.com/Brussels-Effect-European-Union-Rules-ebook/dp/B0822VCYFY)

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GERMAN ARMS SALES BOOM

Düsseldorf’s Rheinmetall arms manufacturer is enjoying a sumptuous upswing in sales for its arms sector and a record-breaking number of contracts.   Whereas the company’s automotive sector is marking a downswing in sales, in comparison to last year, due to 2019’s signs of weakness in the overall auto industry, the current boom in armaments is more than compensating.   The shareholders are “delighted,” boasts stock exchange reports.   At Rheinmetall, there is talk of a “‘super cycle’ in the company’s military sector.”   Western governments – the company’s current and potential customers – are engaged in a massive arms buildup. Whereas this year’s military budget for the Bundeswehr will be increased to €45.1 billion – nearly 40 percent more than it was in 2014 – the military budgets of the European countries together will be more than €300 billion.   The US military budget is more than US $700 billion.   Rheinmetall is benefiting also from the Arab countries’ arms buildups against Iran, but above all, from the buildup of the western world against Russia and China.    (German Foreign Policy, 3/3/2020)

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DRONES REVOLUTIONIZING WARFARE                                          Turkish Drones Revolutionize Warfare in Syria, Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)

Footage of numerous Turkish drone strikes in Idlib reveal their groundbreaking and effective use against Syrian regime defenses and armored vehicle formations.   Turkey can’t fly its air force in Idlib due to an apparent ban by Russia and the Syrian regime.   But Turkish drones can fly.
  Video feeds show drones striking columns of infantry and armored vehicles near Idlib.
   Turkey’s widespread use of drones in Idlib may be one of the largest concentrations of drones ever used in this manner.   (Jerusalem Post, 3/3/2020)

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SDA’S AND ROME WORKING TOGETHER                                      Seventh-day Adventists, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals Sign a Historic ‘Ecumenical Charter’ that Affirms Faith in ‘One, Holy, Catholic Apostolic Church’

The document that was signed is a pledge of commitment to each other. Adventists pledged a commitment to Rome, and Rome reciprocated that commitment.   Make no mistake.   The churches that signed this document promised to uphold the principles of the Ecumenical Charter which includes affirming an allegiance to each other.

The Ecumenical Charter declares that the church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” and therefore the “inescapable ecumenical task consists in making visible this unity.”

The Ecumenical Charter declares that the churches are “called together in the unity of faith.”

The Ecumenical Charter calls for the “visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ in the one faith and in witness and in common service.”

The Ecumenical Charter says that “the most important task of the Churches is to proclaim the Gospel together through word and action, for the salvation of all human beings.”  (AdventMessenger, 3/4/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • America’s ​Federal Reserve lowered its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point, the largest single cut since the financial crisis.   The move came after a pledge by finance ministers and central bankers from the G7, a group of the world’s biggest rich countries, to “use all appropriate policy tools” to combat the economic downturn caused by the spread of covid-19.   President Donald Trump recently repeated his complaint that Fed rates were too high.   (The Economist, 3/4/2020)
  • The World Bank pledged up to $12bn to help developing countries respond to the growing threat of covid-19.   The announcement came just after the World Health Organisation said the disease’s global mortality rate is 3.4%.   The World Bank’s aid will include a mix of grants, loans and other technical assistance, with priority given to the world’s poorest countries. (The Economist, 3/4/2020)
  • SUPPORT FOR ANTI-EU PARTIES ‘DOUBLES IN 20 YEARS’ – The vote share for anti-EU parties has more than doubled in two decades, according to research conducted by academic experts in populism.   The study found that since 1992, the first year in which there were free and fair elections in every country currently a member of the bloc, combined support for European far-right, far-left and other Eurosceptic parties has surged from 15% to almost 35%.   (The Week, 3/4/2020)
  • Lebanese Preacher:   The Muslims Will Kill The Jews, Who Will Hide Behind Rocks And Trees, The Jews Are The Most Cowardly Of Allah’s Creations; Jerusalem Friday Sermon: It Is The Religious Obligation Of Muslims To Bear Animosity Against The Jews  (MEMRI, 3/4/2020)
  • Indian migrants are driving a surge in citizenship as a record 211,723 people won the right to call Australia home in 2019.  (The Australian, 2/20/2020)
  • Last week, I reviewed the book “The Race to save the Romanovs.” In my review I mentioned that support for the restoration of the monarchy in Russia is at 28%.  That’s roughly the same percentage of votes any American president gets.   54.9% voted in 2016, which gave each candidate roughly 27%.  Bill Clinton was voted into office with a mere 22% of the vote.
  • With 36 seats, Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party will be the largest in Israel’s next Knesset.   Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White alliance won 32.   But with Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition still two seats shy of a majority, and his trial on charges of bribery and fraud due to begin on March 17th, his troubles are not over yet.   (The Economist, 3/4/2020)

 

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?

CONSERVATIVES WIN LANDSLIDE IN UK

Johnson, pictured on the final day of campaigning, ran a campaign dominated by the promise to take the UK out of the EU (Reuters)

Once again, pollsters were wrong.   And once again, conservatives benefitted.

The vote was supposed to be close.   There was a lot of talk of a “hung” parliament, where there’s not enough seats to give any party a majority.   This would have been the worst outcome.   As it was, the Conservatives won, as they did in Australia earlier in the year; and in the 2016 US election when every prediction was that Hillary Clinton would be president.

It seems that people do not answer pollsters truthfully.   Perhaps it’s because people are embarrassed to say they are Conservative, but vote with their wallets on election day.   Margaret Thatcher won every time and that was the explanation.   Well, whatever the reason, Boris Johnson won a landslide, the biggest vote for the Conservatives since Mrs. Thatcher in the 80s.

My home town of Grimsby, in the North of England, returned a Conservative MP for the first time in my lifetime.   Others did the same.   Partly, this was disillusionment with the Labor Party (socialists), who have promised much over the years, but delivered little.   This time, according to analysis on Sky News, they promised 28 times as much as the Conservatives, an amount of money that would have been impossible to deliver.

But the main issue was Brexit.  The Conservatives had a definite plan to get out of the European Union by January 31st.   Labour’s plan was more negotiations with the EU, then a second referendum.   There was a referendum in 2016 and those wanting to leave won.   The experience of the last few years has been that many politicians refused to honor the referendum result.  None of them were returned in last week’s election.

It’s the same with Scotland.   A referendum there in 2014 showed the majority of Scots wanting to remain in the United Kingdom.   But Mrs. Nicola Sturgeon refuses to accept that result and wants a second referendum.   If successful, would she allow a third referendum seven years later when disillusionment with the reality of independence sets in?   Doubtful.   The Scottish people are subsidized by the English taxpayer to the tune of almost 2,000 pounds a year per person.   Independence must mean a drop in living standards.   Her hope is that Germany will help.   But Germany is going to have to bail out everybody in Europe now that Britain is leaving.

However, the issue of Scottish independence is not going away.  Boris Johnson has pledged to preserve the union, but even he is going to find that hard.

It’s not just Scotland, either.   Northern Ireland presents another problem.   For the first time ever, there are more Republican MPs from that region.   The Unionists lost out for the first time.   The Irish Republicans (who favor a united socialist Ireland) will be demanding independence at the same time as the Scots.   If either breaks away, British security will be compromised.   The UK’s nuclear base is in Clyde on the Scottish west coast.  There’s also a big military presence in Northern Ireland.

But Brexit is first.   Mr. Johnson has promised to deliver by the end of next month.   There is no impediment in his way.   There will follow eleven months of negotiations with the EU on a trade deal.   The Europeans say that is impossible, it will take at least two years.   With the election, power has shifted.   The Europeans will have to deliver a trade deal by the end of 2020 if they want to keep British trade, and they will want to.   The German car industry relies on Britain for 20% of its sales.   They are not going to throw that away for the sake of teaching Britain a lesson.

The election result should benefit the US, too.   Mr. Johnson has a personal friendship with Mr. Trump.   Both were born in New York City.   Both are known for their hair.   And both are against globalism, preferring to put their country first.

The trend against pollsters may prove the same in 2020, when Donald Trump faces who knows who for the Democrats.   In spite of impeachment (which isn’t going anywhere and seems solely to benefit hundreds of lawyers, all billing the taxpayer) and opinion polls that will show him losing to Elizabeth Buttagieg, or Bernie Biden, Donald Trump is most likely to win.   The longer the impeachment process continues, the more support he has.

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Could Scotland leave the UK . . . and stay in the EU?                                   by Philip Sim, BBC Scotland political reporter, “Would Scots vote for independence?”  18 Dec 2019

This is the big question – after all Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t just want to hold  a referendum, she wants to win one.

Polling data collected by What Scotland Thinks suggests an increase in support for independence – but it generally remains just short of a majority.   Excluding “don’t knows,” the average of polls this year has been 51% No to 49% Yes.   The average for 2018 was 55% to 45% – the same as the 2014 referendum.

Would an independent Scotland stay in the EU?   In practice, Scotland would not become independent the day after a Yes vote – there would have to be a period of transition.    In 2014, the pro-independence side said it would take 18 months to set up an independent Scottish state.   Even if a referendum was held tomorrow, the transition would therefore run beyond the end of 2020 – when the UK is due to complete its exit from the EU.   This means Scotland would leave the EU with the rest of the UK, and would need to apply to join again.

Scotland would have to jump through the same hoops as any state seeking to join the EU, although it would have the advantage of having recently been a member.

Sturgeon’s own party’s prospectus for independence suggests this could take several years, whereas she wants to rejoin the EU as quickly as possible.   The first minister also wants to avoid a hard border between Scotland and England.

(https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-50813510)

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TRUMP AND NATO

The Senate foreign relations committee has voted unanimously in favor of a bipartisan bill that would prevent Trump from unilaterally withdrawing the US from Nato.   The isolationist-inclined president is a noted sceptic of the transatlantic military alliance, and last week left the Nato summit in London early after the emergence of a hot mic video in which other world leaders appeared to be mocking him. The bill will now await a slot for a full vote in the Senate.   (The Guardian, 12/12)

The largest arms producers in the USA and Western Europe, including German companies, have further increased their already predominant share of global arms production, as can be seen in the analysis published yesterday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute SIPRI.   SIPRI analyzed the sales of the world’s Top 100 arms-producers and concluded that 83 percent of their output comes from 70 companies headquartered in countries of the self-proclaimed community of western values.   Whereas the combined sales of the Top 100 arms companies have increased by 4.6 percent, compared to the preceding year, those of the US and West European companies have increased by around 5.2 percent.

Currently the production of military hardware is also massively expanding in Germany.   The armaments division of the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall Group was able to boost its sales by 11.8 percent in the first nine months of this year.   The increase of defense budget is promising business in the billions.   German arms exports are also rising dramatically.   (German Foreign Policy, 12/11)

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A 5,000-Year-Old Plan to Erase Debts Is Now a Hot Topic in America                                                                                                                                  In ancient Babylon, a newly enthroned king would declare a jubilee, wiping out the population’s debts.  In modern America, a faint echo of that idea call it jubilee-lite, is catching on.  (Bloomberg, 10 Dec 2019)

Support for write-offs has been driven by Democratic presidential candidates.   Elizabeth Warren says she’d cancel most of the $1.6 trillion in U.S. student loans.   Bernie Sanders would go further -– erasing the whole lot, as well as $81 billion in medical debt.   But it’s coming from other directions too.   In October, one of the Trump administration’s senior student-loan officials resigned, calling for wholesale write-offs and describing the American way of paying for higher education as “nuts.’’    Real-estate firm Zillow cites medical and college liabilities as major hurdles for would-be renters and home buyers.

Moody’s Investors Service listed the headwinds from student debt -– less consumption and investment, more inequality — and said forgiveness would boost the economy like a tax cut.   While the current debate centers on college costs, long-run numbers show how debt has spread through the economy.   The U.S. relies on consumer spending for growth -– but it hasn’t been delivering significantly higher wages.   Household borrowing has filled the gap, with low interest rates making it affordable.   And that’s not unique to America.   Steadily growing debts of one kind or another are weighing on economies all over the world.

The idea that debt can grow faster than the ability to repay, until it unbalances a society, was well understood thousands of years ago, according to Michael Hudson, an economist and historian.   Last year Hudson published “And Forgive Them Their Debts,’’ a study of the ancient Near East where the tradition known as a “jubilee” — wiping the debt-slate clean — has its roots.   He describes how the practice spread through civilizations including Sumer and Babylon, and came to play an important role in the Bible and Jewish law.   Rulers weren’t motivated by charity, Hudson says.   They were being pragmatic — trying to make sure that citizens could meet their own needs and contribute to public projects, instead of just laboring to pay creditors.   And it worked, he says. “Societies that canceled the debts enjoyed stable growth for thousands of years.’’

Forgiveness was good for the economy, would be a modern way of putting it. In an October paper, Moody’s examined how that might apply if America writes off its student debts. (12/10/2019 (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/5-000-old-plan-erase-100000406.html)

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NIGERIAN MONKEYPOX IN ENGLAND                        

A rare viral infection known as monkeypox has been diagnosed in England.   The virus likely was contracted by a person in Nigeria.

Monkeypox could replace smallpox as a most dreaded disease.   The related smallpox virus was eradicated in 1980, thanks to Western technology.   (White people are often condemned for spreading smallpox, but seldom credited with destroying the virus worldwide.)

Open borders allow infected individuals from African nations to invade Western nations.  (Daily Kenn, 12/14/2019)

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A UNITED AFRICA

We Want A United States Of Africa — says Julius Malema
by SG Editor, 16 Dec 2019, iAfrica.com

JOHANNESBURG – Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema on Sunday spelled out the party’s ambitious vision to lead the entire African continent to economic freedom.   Speaking at the party’s second national people’s assembly in Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, Malema explained that it was only natural that economic freedom came from the south.  The gathering was expected to come to an end on Monday.

Governing South Africa may have appeared to be a tall order for the EFF, but this was just one dream that formed part of even bolder ambitions.   Malema wants the six-year-old organisation to have a presence everywhere on the continent.   “Our vision is not these small-minded things you’re thinking about; we want to lead Africa. We want a United States of Africa with one currency, economy, and judiciary,” Malema said.

The party’s vision appeared to be inspired by late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who dreamt of a United States of Africa.   This plan could well be underway with formations from Liberia, Malawi, and Namibia who were among the guests attending the second people’s assembly in Nasrec.
(https://www.iafrica.com/we-want-a-united-states-of-africa-malema/)

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TO THE POINT

  • Authorities in Australia warned that a “mega-blaze” was threatening the north-western suburbs of Sydney.   Covering about 400,000 hectares, the bushfire has already destroyed over 20 homes and is moving into the Blue Mountains area, a popular tourist destination.   A heatwave is not helping; the Bureau of Meteorology advised that the record for the highest-ever temperature could be broken this week.  (The Economist, 12/17)
  • America’s defence secretary said he needs to speak with his Turkish counterpart about remarks made by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.   On Sunday Mr. Erdogan issued a new threat:   that it may shut down America’s Incirlik air base in eastern Anatolia.   A worsening chill between the two NATO allies has made America jittery about the nuclear warheads it stores there.   (The Economist, 12/17)
  • Chief Advisor To Turkish President Erdoğan:   ‘The Islamic World Should Prepare An Army For Palestine From Outside Palestine’ (MEMRI 12/2)
  • A special court in Pakistan has sentenced former military leader Pervez Musharraf to death on charges of treason and subversion of the constitution.   Mr. Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and ruled until 2008.   The sentence was largely seen as symbolic, as the former leader is currently in exile in Dubai.   (The Economist, 12/17)
  • Protests in India, against a citizenship law designed to exclude Muslims from naturalisation, escalated in their fifth day.   In Delhi police clashed with protesters around a Muslim university; at least 100 were injured and buses were set on fire.   Other campuses around the country erupted in anger. In India’s north-east, where immigration is generally opposed, six people have been killed.   (The Economist, 12/16)
  • Chief Advisor To Turkish President Erdoğan:   ‘The Islamic World Should Prepare An Army For Palestine From Outside Palestine’ (MEMRI 12/2)
  • 65 of Britain’s MPs returned to the House of Commons last week are minorities.   That’s 10%.   Take away the 59 Scots, and the percentage will increase to almost 20%.   There were none a little over twenty years ago.  This reflects Britain’s changing demographics, the result of massive immigration from the underdeveloped world since World War II.
  • I watched the British election on Sky News, a British 24/7 news channel available on “Watch Free”, a US streaming service.   A day or two later, I was surprised to read that only 46, 000 people watched the election on Sky.  The news company spent a small fortune on John Bercow, controversial former Speaker of the House of Commons, a commentator for the evening, who seemed to spend most of his time justifying his performance as Speaker.

QUESTION TIME

I’m now able to watch BBC Question Time on a regular basis.  This is courtesy of Britbox, a streaming service.  The one-hour program is shown on British television on Thursday evening and I can see it Friday morning. We’ve come a long way in the last few years.

The program is not one I can say I enjoy.  It raises my blood pressure alarmingly!  But it’s a clear reminder of how far the British people have gone astray.  As it says in the Book of Hosea:   My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).   There isn’t even a basic grasp of Biblical knowledge.

Typically, there are five panelists and a supposedly random audience, made up of members of the public.   Members of the public put questions to the panel, who then answer them.   Only two of the panelists gave reasonable answers.   One was a Ghanaian member of the British parliament, the other the head of Witherspoons’, the country’s biggest pub chain. In the audience, only one supported Brexit, whereas 51.7% did in the country as a whole.

One panelist was a raving leftist loonie.   She was the most vocal.

Fortunately, the panelists differ from week to week, but it’s doubtful they will ever have one made up of five conservatives.

Which brings me to the Democratic Party’s ten contenders last night and ten tonight.

Age is obviously a hindrance for me.  I can remember when the Democrats were simply a left of center party claiming to fight for better pay and conditions for working men.   That was 50 years ago. Now, they are the main party advocating infanticide, excessive spending that would wreck the economy, an alien invasion and a total transformation of the social lives of the people, replacing the norm with LGBTQ adherents.

I can’t help feeling that a backlash is coming, one way or the other. Perhaps it will come after national bankruptcy.   It’s not just that the party lacks ideological sense;  it also lacks common sense.

>>Mark Steyn, 6/27:   “Bernie comes up with an action plan for American student debt: PRINT MORE MONEY”.

>> A report in today’s USA Today shows that young people are turning against the LGBTQ community.   It’s another sign that liberalism has gone too far.

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LONDON KILLINGS

One question that came up on “Question Time” was the issue of London’s outbreak of stabbings.   All kinds of theories were brought up to explain why they have seen an increasing number of stabbings in recent years.

One theory that was not mentioned seems the most likely.  That’s the fact that London is the most multicultural city in the world.  With people from every country, and with 50% of the population made up of immigrants, many people have formed gangs along ethnic lines. These gangs are very territorial and constantly fight each other. Over drugs, too.

For generations, when the British had colonies all over the world, they kept hostile tribes apart.  Now they have to do the same at home.  They seem to be failing.

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FOUR MORE MONTHS = 40

The number 40 is of Biblical significance, separating one epoch from another. It can show God’s intervention in human affairs.

At the end of October, it will be forty months since the vote on Brexit.   October 31st is the day by which the UK is set to leave the European Union.

Knowing what is to come in Europe, this may be God’s way of delivering the modern Israelites from the prophesied European Beast power, which is to come.

This most likely means that Boris Johnson will be the next prime minister.   He has promised Brexit by the due date.

Alternatively, if it’s Jeremy Hunt, the Europeans will have to kick Britain out.   They have already made if clear there can be no more negotiations, so why bother?

>>Carrie Symonds, Boris’ girlfriend, turns out to be a feminist and an environmentalist.  No wonder they had a blowup last week!   Meanwhile, the liberal leftist neighbours who reported on this to The Guardian, are in hiding, after having received death threats. Brexit is nasty.

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REPARATIONS FOR SLAVERY

It’s not surprising that the Democrats are in favor of reparations for slavery.   As the party of slavery, they have a lot to atone for.

Of course, slavery was a long time ago.   But, even in my lifetime, the Democrats were instrumental in depriving African-Americans in the south of the vote and, therefore, their civil rights.

True to form, the welfare reforms brought in by LBJ, have destroyed the African-American family.

What will they do next to make life harder for the country’s second biggest minority?

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A WORLD WITHOUT THE US

“If one wanted to see what a world without US influence looks like, you could have been an observer at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek on Friday, and then gone to Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe the next day for the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

Together, these summits include more than 30 member and observer states and provided a forum for an emerging alliance of Russia, China, Turkey and Iran to discuss regional and global issues without Western powers present.   This is important because all of these countries, for different reasons, have faced challenges from Washington in recent years.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jingping met on Friday with leaders of Central Asian states, as well as India and Pakistan, to discuss regional and global issues.   They adopted the Bishkek Declaration that sought to emphasize the need to fight “three forces of evil,” including separatism, terrorism and extremism. Russia’s Tass News Agency felt this was important to note. In addition, the countries are working to challenge “cross-border crime” and “build a multi-polar world order.”

(“Two central Asia summits challenge the United States,” Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, 6/15 Middle East Forum).  (Original title: “The Central Asia summits that show Washington is losing its grip.”)

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G20 SET TO DISCUSS TRADE

President Trump and world leaders are meeting in Osaka, Japan.   World trade is certain to be discussed.   On Saturday, Mr. Trump meets with China’s President Xi.   Hopefully, they can resolve their trade dispute.   If they fail, the world seems headed for a full-scale trade war.

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A SIGN OF THE TIMES

“A lie can travel around the world quicker than the truth gets out of bed.” (Tony Dokoupil, CBS This Morning)

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EU DIVISIONS OVER ARMAMENTS

In the arms industry, tensions between Berlin and Paris are growing as new steps are made to develop the next-generation of EU aerial combat systems.   The signing of new agreements concerning the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) on Monday in Paris was overshadowed by warnings from the German Bundestag that companies from Germany must be granted at least 50 percent of the contracts for the development and construction of the FCAS.

At the same time, Berlin is seeking to shift the balance of forces involved in the development and construction of a new Franco-German battle tank to Germany’s advantage.   The battle tank is conceived to be part of the future Main Ground Combat Systems (MGCS), which – like the FCAS – should operate in close conjunction with other weapons including unmanned systems.   While the German government is aiming to establish the Franco-German combat systems as a standard within the EU, to channel as much profit as possible to Germany, Great Britain, excluded from the German – French project, is developing its own rival combat aircraft.   (German Foreign Policy, 6/20)

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ANGELA MERKEL’S HEALTH

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was seen trembling once again during a ceremony in Berlin on Thursday, eight days after a similar incident.

Video showed Mrs. Merkel, 64, gripping her arms as her body was shaking on Thursday.   After about two minutes, she looked steadier and shook hands with the new justice minister.

She was offered a glass of water, but did not drink it.   Mrs. Merkel had blamed the previous incident on dehydration.

She later set off for the G20 summit in Japan as planned at lunchtime.

“All is going ahead as planned.   The federal chancellor is fine,” spokesman Steffen Seibert said.   (BBC 6/27)

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SARCASM GETS POINT ACROSS ON TRUMP AND HITLER

Trump Derangement Syndrome:   Hitler Hitler Hitler!   Trump could be Hitler except he has a Jewish daughter, son-in-law and Jewish grandchildren.   He could totally be Hitler except for moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem.   And he could certainly be Hitler except for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Worst anti-Semite ever.   (Mark Steyn, 6/27)

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I’m writing this while seated in a Tim Horton’s coffee and donut shop (I only had a drink!). On TV, Dr Phil’s subject of the day is “My husband’s face is used for catfish bait”!   TV doesn’t get any better. 

Fortunately, I can’t hear it.

BOTSWANA ENDS SEXUAL DISCRIMINATION

Activists pose with a rainbow flag as they celebrate outside Botswana High Court in Gaborone on June 11, 2019. Tshekiso Tebalo/AFP/Getty Images

Botswana has become the latest nation to legalize sexual relations between members of the same sex.   This puts them at odds with most African nations, but brings them into line with neighboring South Africa, which enshrined anti-discrimination in their new post-apartheid constitution.

African nations have long persecuted homosexuals, believing that sexual preference is simply a choice.

Botswana used to benefit immensely during the apartheid era from white men crossing the border to have relations outside of marriage with African women. Inter-racial sex was banned under apartheid.

Now same-sex relations are on a par with adultery.   They are both legal.  As is fornication.   I Corinthians 6, written by the Apostle Paul, lists all three as sins that will keep a person out of the kingdom of God.   If you study the Greek, you will find that all three involve penetration.

“ Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?   Do not be deceived.   Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

A female lawyer in Botswana explained on DW.news that the previous law went back to 1533.   Botswana only goes back to 1966.  But before that, it was a British colony and inherited many British laws.

Before 1533, ecclesiastical courts used to deal with all of these sins.   In 1533 England passed the anti-buggery laws.

It was the country’s first civil sodomy law, such offenses having previously been dealt with by the ecclesiastical courts.   The Act defined buggery as an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man. ”  (wikipedia)

Adultery and fornication were not mentioned, as King Henry VIII was a serial adulterer.   They were also passed at this time because Henry was breaking away from the Church of Rome (1532-34) and the ecclesiastical courts ceased to exist.

Wikipedia has this to say on the break with Rome:

“The break with Rome was effected by a series of acts of Parliament passed between 1532 and 1534, among them the 1534 Act of Supremacy, which declared that Henry was the “Supreme Head on earth of the Church of England.”

These anti-sodomy laws were later “exported” to British colonies. Over half the countries in the world that still outlaw this particular sin are former British colonies.   Britain, through its Commonwealth ties, has been encouraging nations to change but many still strictly enforce the laws.

This is hypocritical, to say the least.   Many African nations come down hard on same-sex relationships, while their leaders commit serial adultery.   In African culture, the “big man” syndrome encourages men in public office to have plenty of relationships with women.   Churches don’t help, often turning a blind eye to adultery and fornication, while condemning homosexuality.

Of course, in an ideal world, fornication, adultery and sodomy would not exist.  We will have to wait for the Kingdom of God to see that happen.  But persecuting a minority in today’s world is not going to stop anything.

The Enduring Word Commentary has this to say on I Corinthians 6:

“Paul did not write in or of a “homophobic” culture.   Homosexuality was rampant in the ancient world; 14 out of the first 15 Roman emperors were bisexual or homosexual.   At the very time Paul wrote, Nero was emperor.   Nero castrated a boy named Sporus and then married him (with a full ceremony), brought him to the palace with a great procession, and made the boy his “wife.”   Later, the emperor lived with another man, and Nero was declared to be the other man’s “wife.”   In this list of sins, homosexuality (not some “special” version of homosexuality) is described, but it is described right along with other sins.  Some who so strongly denounce homosexuals are guilty of other sins on this list.   Can fornicators or adulterers or the covetous or drunkards rightly condemn homosexuals?   Of course not.

“Christians err when they excuse homosexuality, and deny that it is sin, but they also err just as badly when they single it out as a sin God is uniquely angry with.”   (Enduring Word Commentary)

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HONG KONG RIOTS

Talking of the legacy of the British Empire, Hong Kong is a territory in upheaval, with hundreds of thousands of people (all Chinese) rebelling against the Extradition Bill, that could have them all sent to mainland China for prosecution.

Hong Kong was British for over 150 years. During that time, the people were acquainted with freedom. The law was separate from the government.   China has no such tradition.

Although all the people are Chinese, many obviously still want the British tradition.   According to the Basic Law, they were guaranteed that for fifty years after Beijing took control of the former colony they could keep their laws and traditions.   Less than halfway into the fifty years, China has clearly changed its mind.

That makes it less likely that Taiwan will ever consent to being taken over by China.

China, we must never forget, is a one party state with all that that implies.   China will win this one.

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CHERNOBYL

The nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, which exploded in 1986, is now the subject of a five part television series, produced by HBO and Sky. We found it excellent, compelling viewing.  (Warning:   it contains a scene showing nudity – but not involving sex.)

Again, it shows the absurdity of socialist thinking, that everything (even a disaster) has to be directed by the party.   Mikhail Gorbachev wrote that Chernobyl was the biggest single factor in the fall of the Soviet Union.

The official death toll was 31.   The actual death toll is closer to 31,000!

It should be compulsory viewing for Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and AOC – and all those inclined to vote for them.

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PELOSI SORRY FOR THE POOR

From the Financial Times (3rd June) comes the following on Nancy Pelosi:

“It is dangerous to underestimate Nancy Pelosi . . .

“It is interesting, however, that Ms. Pelosi says:   “What took me from the kitchen to Congress was knowing that one in five children in America lives in poverty.   I just can’t stand that.”   (Anne Marie Slaughter, FT)

(COMMENT:   In which case, why is she in favor of allowing in so many refugees?   They depress wages at the bottom, making it harder for Americans.)

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BREXIT DEVELOPMENTS

The Conservative Party has ten people vying for the leadership.  One of them is Boris Johnson, a maverick who has been likened to Donald Trump, who is a personal friend.   Mr. Johnson was born in the US, so could actually also run for president.

Although Boris says he would prefer a deal with the EU, he is promising to leave the EU by October 31st, with or without a deal.   In an attempt to thwart this, and stop Britain leaving without a deal, a parliamentary vote this week was narrowly lost, meaning that the country can leave without a deal.

If the vote had gone the other way, Britain would have been in the position of not being able to get a deal and not being able to leave without one.   The country would have, effectively, been a prisoner of the EU indefinitely.

It should be clear to everyone that the biggest obstacle to leaving remains parliament.   Supposedly the house of the people,   it has become the house that denies the voice of the people.   At the next election, people should remember this and vote the incumbents out of office.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has visited Brussels once again.  The leader of Scotland seems determined to keep Scotland in the EU. The only way this is possible is if Scotland breaks away from England.

“Ms. Sturgeon said that because of Brexit “there is now a deeper understanding” in EU capitals “of why Scotland might want to be independent” compared to in 2014, when the Scottish referendum took place.   “The vibe here compared to 2014 about this question is like night and day,” she said.”  (Brussels Briefing, FT, June 12th).

Scotland would need a great deal of financial help if she left the United Kingdom.   Only one country could give her what she needs – Germany.   What would England do if Scotland broke away and formed a de facto alliance with Germany?

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WAR WITH IRAN?

The latest attack on oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz raises the stakes in the Persian Gulf.   Undoubtedly, Iran was responsible.

Although war with the US is not likely, another regional war could start over this.   The United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia, both Sunni Muslim nations, could be provoked into a conflict with their arch enemy, Iran.   If that happens, it’s difficult to see how the United States could remain uninvolved.

Many Bible students are fond of identifying Iran with the King of the South, the ancient prophecy in Daniel 11.   It’s difficult to see how Iran can be the king of the South now when it was a part of the King of the North in biblical times!

Don’t look for rationale in this.   Iran’s theology embraces an apocalyptic vision of the future, which might encourage them to go to war.

Iran has three times the military power Iraq did.   If there is a conflict, it could tie down the US for years.

ANTI-SEMITISM ON THE INCREASE IN GERMANY AND FRANCE

The premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, says anti-Semitism in his country is increasing from two directions: the far right and Muslim migrants. Police clash with right-wing protesters in Chemnitz, Germany. Credit: AFP

DW news (German news) highlighted the fact that anti-semitic acts in the Federal Republic increased by over 60% last year.   They added that France was worse, with a 70% increase.

At the same time, right-wing parties are expected to make significant gains in the election for the European Parliament, set for May.   It should be emphasized that most people in these parties are simply concerned about immigration.   But this could change.

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A FRENCH VIEW ON AMERICA’S RETREAT FROM THE WORLD

“BHL (Bernard Henri Levy) … is a philosopher given to interpreting the world’s maladies.   He is in New York for the publication on Feb 12 of his latest book, elegantly provocative, “The Empire and the Five Kings.”   It describes “the new geopolitical order which is designing itself before our eyes” as a result of “America’s abdication” of global leadership.

“You have America going back,” he says, “retreating and lowering its flag, both on military and ideological terms.”   In Mr. Levy’s thesis,“ five former empires which we all thought to be dead and buried, are waking up again – Russia, China, Turkey, Sunni radical Islamism and Persia  (Iran).   We thought they were pure ghosts but no, they are moving again; they are dancing again on the floor of the world.”  They are rushing unchecked, he says, into the voids left everywhere by the retreat of the West, most notably under Donald Trump.”   (“The French philosopher who loves America,” by Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, 2/9)

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INCREDIBLE SHRINKING EUROPE

“Last week offered fresh evidence that the most consequential historical shift of the last 100 years continues:   the decline of Europe as a force in world affairs.   As Deutsche Bank warned of a German recession, the European Commission cut the 2019 eurozone growth forecast from an already anaemic 1.9 % to1.3 %.   Economic output in the eurozone was lower in 2017 than it was in 2009; over that same period, gross domestic product grew 139% in China, 96% in India, and 34% in the US, according to the World Bank.”   (“Incredible Shrinking Europe”, by Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, 12th February).

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DEJA VU – socialism (again)

“If you’re not a socialist by age 20, you’ve got no heart; if you’re still a socialist by age 40, you’ve got no head.”   So said Winston Churchill.   It explains Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at 29, very well.   But how do you explain Elizabeth Warren, aged 69?   Or Bernie Sanders, who’s 8 years older!

50 years ago, it was all the rage.   Students across the world wanted socialism, government control of the means of production (and everything else).   It didn’t work.   It made a much bigger mess of the world.   Thirty years later, people realized that instead of government solving the problem, the reality was that government IS the problem!

But now, thanks to young voters, we’re back to socialism being the solution to everything.

This year, a number of socialists are in the US Congress.   And they all have expensive ideas.   Medicare for all; the Green New Deal; a guaranteed job for all; a new system for corporate control; vastly higher taxes.   These are all part of the program.   The cost to the tax-payer would be horrendous.     A guaranteed job for all would make government even more inefficient.

That isn’t to say it won’t happen.

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Democracy in Africa?  What democracy in Africa?

Note from The Editor:   Branko Brkic, Daily Maverick, 20 January 2019

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Constitutional Court in the early hours of 20 January upheld the victory of Felix Tshisekedi by rejecting appeals by his rival, Martin Fayulu.   Fayulu has rejected the court ruling and called on his supporters to organize non-violent protests.

It is becoming increasingly clear for everyone to see:   Democracy in Africa is an idea to which almost nobody is subscribing.   Once more, another country’s clear majority chose its president, only for the land that was once Mandela’s to accept the clearly fake presidential and parliamentary results, people’s will be damned.   This time, it’s Congo’s turn.   So, why have elections at all?   The polls in Congo have come and gone, another one in the wall of denying the people’s true will.   The “results,” if they could be even considered that, have clearly been cooked.   (Daily Maverick, South Africa, January 2019)

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FIGHTING FOR THE KING IN AMERICA’S FIRST CIVIL WAR

Recently, I’ve read four books on the American Revolution.   All four books were written by Americans — and all four describe the Revolutionary War as “America’s first civil war.”   Indeed it was.

Most of the battles did not involve any British troops.   And for two years after the British defeat at Yorktown, fighting continued between Americans.   The conflict was between American Tories (Loyalists) and American Patriots (Rebels).   In some areas (notably South Carolina) 80% of the citizenry supported the Crown.   In fact, at one point the Patriots were ready to give up on the South as they were solidly loyal.

One thing is clear – the more conservative you are now, the more likely you are to have been a Loyalist!

Out of the war came three nations, the United States, Canada and Sierra Leone.   (The latter was established for slaves freed by the British Army.)   The war was not between America and England. Note the last three paragraphs of “Tories:   Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War,” by Thomas B Allen:

“Within a year after the war ended, about 100,000 Americans left their homes.   Most of them went to Canada.   The rest chose England, Scotland or British possessions in the West Indies.   Within a generation the new Canadians had spread across the vast British dominion, taking with them the virtues and the visions that they and their ancestors had had as American colonists.   Granted large tracts of land, they transformed a wilderness into a vibrant nation.   Many became prosperous farmers or started mercantile dynasties. “Seldom had a people done so well by losing a war,” a Canadian historian wrote.

“Today, four to six million Canadians – about one fifth of the population – claim a Tory ancestor.   Many Canadians believe that their nation’s traditional devotion to law and civility, the very essence of being a Canadian, traces back to being loyal, as in Loyalist.

“Below the border live the people who started another country, built by Rebels.

Within a generation, those Rebels would begin to forgive – and forget – the Tories.   They would call the Revolution a war between Americans and the British, losing from their collective memory the fact that much of the fighting had been between Americans and Americans.”   (“Tories,” Thomas B. Allen, page 333).

This obscures the fact that the war saw brother fight brother, that neighbors fought each other.   We have seen this twice in our history.  Now, we are dividing again.  Could history repeat itself?

(The other three books are “Redcoats and Partisans,” by Walter Edgar; “Frontier Rebels,” by Patrick Spero; and “Scars of Independence,” by Holger Hoock.)

SUICIDES UP IN US, DOWN GLOBALLY

“The suicide rate in America is up by 18% since 2000.  This is not merely a tragedy; it matters politically, too.   The rise is largely among white, middle-aged, poorly educated men in areas that were left behind by booms and crushed by busts.   Their deaths are a symptom of troubles to which some see President Trump as the answer. Those troubles should not be ignored.”   (“Staying alive,” The Economist,11/24)

Suicide is declining pretty much all over the world, thanks to greater freedom and some helpful policies.” (“Defeating despair,” The Economist, 11/24).

“Globally, the rate has fallen by 38% from its peak in 1994.”

LIFE EXPECTANCY DOWN IN US

“Suicide and drug overdose rates continued to rise in 2017, helping drive the number of U.S. deaths to the highest level in more than 100 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a series of reports on mortality released Thursday.

“Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.  “These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable.”

“Life expectancy in 2017 fell to an average of 78.6 years for the total population, down from 78.7 years in 2016.

“Overall, more than 2.8 million Americans died in 2017, about 70,000 more than in 2016.”

(“Suicides, overdoses rise in US,” John Bacon, USA Today, 11/30)

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CONTINUING BREXIT CRISIS

“The only rule of British politics for the coming weeks is that nobody knows anything.   The prime minister doesn’t know who will resign next.   The factions don’t know their relative strengths.   Nobody knows what is bluff and what is in deadly earnest.

“But one thing that is increasingly clear in the fog of Brexit is that this is the most serious domestic crisis Britain has faced in the modern democratic era.   In the statement that accompanied his resignation as transport minister earlier this month, Jo Johnson accused his own government of “a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis.”   Others have compared the current debacle to the IMF’s bail-out of Britain in 1976 or the gold-standard crisis of 1931.   In fact it is worse than anything else Britain has endured in peacetime. The political system is all but paralysed, the country is divided into warring ideological tribes, the civil service in overwhelmed and, in the event of no deal, Britain would be staring into the abyss.” (“Crisis? What crisis?”  Bagehot, The Economist, 11/24).

The Economist has a new layout, that prompted an anti-Brexit  reader to suggest they move the British news section to the end of the magazine, after the Obituary column!   

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IS THE GLOBAL ECONOMY TAKING A DOWNTURN?

The stock market has been rather jumpy lately.   At the same time, gas has been going down (except in France, where an increase in fuel taxes has resulted in three consecutive weekends of riots); of course, a fall in gas prices may not be such a good thing, as it’s often the harbinger of a slowing economy.

Here’s some other indicators the economy may be headed south:

  • The Federal Reserve has been ratcheting up interest rates.
  • Corporations have loaded up on debt.
  • Unemployment is so low that employers are finally raising wages.
  • The housing market shows signs of softening.

. . . But there are plenty of upbeat signs today, too.

Auto sales are still running strong, if not quite at the peak levels of a couple of years ago.   Then, too, the labor markets still have some slack . . .”    (“Warning signs of recession abound,” John Gallagher, Lansing State Journal, 11/26).

“NEW YORK 30% OFF”

“Some homeowners are selling at bargain-basement prices from what they paid, as the city faces an end to a decade-long boom. Oversupply, rising interest rates and tax-code changes are only partly to blame.” (WSJ, Mansion, 11/30).

“Real estate, oil and employment figures are sending similar messages, and that is that economic activity is starting to slow significantly, just like in 2007 before the Great Recession wiped out trillions of dollars from the markets.

And, according to a blog on The Economic Collapse, those in charge don’t want to admit the reality of what is happening, just like in 2008.” (“Money and markets,” JT Crowe, 11/30)

GM ANNOUNCES 15,000 JOB CUTS   (Monday)

‘In the wake of massive layoffs announced by U.S. carmaker General Motors, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lashed out at President Donald Trump’s recent steel and aluminum tariffs.

At Friday’s ceremony to sign a new version of NAFTA, the free trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, Trudeau urged Trump to reassess levies imposed on Canadian imports in June.

“Donald, it’s all the more reason why we need to keep working to remove the tariffs on steel and aluminum between our countries,” Trudeau said Friday, The Hill reported.   According to a tweet from Toronto Star journalist Daniel Dale, the prime minister was referring to the GM cuts, which Trudeau called a “heavy blow.”

(Justin Trudeau blasts Donald Trump’s trade tariffs to his face after General Motors announced huge lay-offs,” Katherine Hignett, Newsweek, 11/30)

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AN ARMY OF THE EUROPEANS

Military Union in the Making

“At this year’s Berlin Security Conference, which ended yesterday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen promoted new steps toward creating an “army of the Europeans.”  According to von der Leyen, “the question is no longer if, but how to reach strategic autonomy” of the EU with its own armed forces. “The European defense union is in the making. “[1] Delicate questions will be raised in the near future, such as that of establishing “independent command capabilities,” alongside those of NATO, for future EU missions and streamlining decision-making structures. German parliamentary reservations should not be abolished, but rather reframed.   Brussels could establish a “committee of legislators from national parliaments specializing in defense,” which could rapidly prepare decisions – in questions of war and peace.   In addition, compulsory EU consensus in foreign policy should be abandoned. “European foreign policy decisions on the basis of large majority support must be made possible.”   This would mean that individual member countries could be compelled to support a foreign policy against  their interests.

Strategic Autonomy

The German foreign policy establishment is already discussing the outline for the further development of the “army of the Europeans.” To actually achieve “strategic autonomy, Europe, more than ever must provide for its own security – perhaps even completely,” according to Jan Techau, Director of the European Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States  .[2] This would mean that, not only conventional, but “nuclear deterrence,” as well, must be “independently organized in Europe.”   [3] This, in turn, must be accompanied “by a significantly enhanced independent intelligence competence and activity.”   Furthermore, with the “shift of acts of aggression to the sector of information technology (IT), and the hybrid warfare in the sectors of media and public opinion influence,” the guarantee of European security will be extended to fields, where Europe … is not among the world leaders,” concluded Techau.   In the future, “the Europeans, and above all, Germany, must accomplish in these fields things that, by far, surpass what the United States has been able to achieve until now.”   The “scope of the task” also demands that in the future “strategy be taught at German universities . . . and strategic education be required as a career-obligation for all civil servants from the B-6 salary level upwards.” And ultimately, “a federal security council” should “be the hub connecting the various strands of ministerial activities on all central questions” so that “the chancellor may have access to thorough strategic advice.” “German foreign policy, 11/29

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‘THE DAY OF THE DICTATOR IS OVER!”

Those were the words of President George H.W. Bush, who has now died, aged 94.   They were spoken at a time of great optimism, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the US intervention against President Noriega of Panama.   Almost thirty years later, democracy isn’t doing so good.  A report last week showed that, in Africa, nations are becoming more dictatorial as leaders refuse to hold elections, amending their constitutions to enable them to stay in power indefinitely.

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TWO CHUMMY MURDERERS

Without any sense of shame or embarrassment, President Vladimir Putin and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, greeted each other warmly at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.   Both men think nothing of ordering the murders of people who disagree with them.   Unfortunately, western nations still have to do business with them!

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HERALDING THE SOCIALIST PARADISE

“Senator Bernie Sanders knows what he wants.  In a Washington Post op-ed last week, the democratic socialist from Vermont laid out a legislative agenda for the 116th Congress’s first 100 days.  Among the dizzying array of proposals Mr. Sanders pushed were his “Medicare for All” bill, tuition-free college, student-debt relief, tax increases requiring “wealthy people and large corporations to begin paying their fair share” and a $15 minimum wage indexed to “median wage growth,” not inflation.

“Others in the Democratic Party’s increasingly influential democratic-socialist wing are pressing for their own major legislation to pass the House, even if it will get nowhere in the Republican Senate.   Rep.-elect Alexandria Occasion-Cortez, for example, wants a “Green New Deal.”   Sounding too much like a Maoist functionary, she describes it as a “national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” to make America carbon neutral.”   (“Stopping the Socialist Resurgence,” Karl Rove, WSJ, November 29th)

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“Then Moses went up into the mountain and a cloud covered
 the mountain. — and the cloud covered it six days.
And on the seventh day He (the LORD) called to Moses out of
the midst of the cloud.”  (Ex 24: 15-16)

INDIANA’S CRUCIAL VOTE

Mike Pence, Indiana Governor, endorses Cruz
Mike Pence, Indiana Governor, endorses Cruz

Our eldest daughter, husband and children live in Indianapolis, about a 4-hour drive away from us.   We go down there as often as we can to see them, but we always wish we could see more of them.

Diane, my wife, is down there now to help look after the four children while our daughter recuperates from routine surgery.  I stayed behind as our youngest daughter is about to have her third child.

That will make a total of nine grandchildren.  Two of them live with us.  Soon that will be three.   All boys.   All full of life, with lots of energy.   They can be a lot of fun.   I often wish we’d had grandchildren first!

Our frequent visits to Indiana have impressed us.   The state is more conservative than Michigan.   It has a positive, upbeat feel about it, while Michigan can sometimes be a bit depressing – the economy has struggled for as long as we’ve been here and the weather doesn’t help!

Tuesday will be a big day in Indiana, which is holding a crucial primary.

Friends in Indiana have been saying that Ted Cruz will win the Republican primary as he’s the most conservative candidate and, besides, Donald Trump is crazy and unpredictable.  The popular Governor of the state came out and endorsed Cruz last week, even though he has a lot of respect for Trump.

But the latest opinion poll shows that Trump is winning the Republican primary in the state.   He’s winning by 15%.   Mrs. Clinton is winning the Democratic primary, but only by 4%.   Donald Trump is confounding everybody.   Why is he so popular?   Although he does hold some conservative views, Ted Cruz is definitely more conservative, so why does Trump appeal to so many Republicans?

It seems to come down to two issues and an additional third factor.

The first issue is the economy.   Although there are pockets around the country that are doing well, many Americans do not feel that it is.  They blame trade deals with other countries for taking away the good paying jobs; they also blame government.   The federal government seems to take more and more of the national pie, paying employees well and giving them annual increases.   This is not the reality for people in the private sector, who are paying for it all.

Donald Trump has become the national spokesman for blue-collar workers, many of them going under in this economy.   A cover story in the latest Atlantic Monthly magazine is about America’s secret shame, that almost 50% of families cannot put $400 together in an emergency.   That means they cannot fix the car or get urgent medical treatment for one of their children.

It’s ironic but the Republican Party of Donald Trump is the party of the working-class; whereas the Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton is the party of the intellectual elite.

Whereas Bernie Sanders received donations that averaged $27, Mrs. Clinton held fundraisers where those in attendance had to donate a minimum of $33,000.

The political system has been turned upside down.

If the party conventions nominate Trump and Clinton, polls suggest the latter will win by 10% and become the first woman in the White House.

That brings us to the second issue – immigration.   Tied in with that is terrorism.   The two are often linked in people’s minds.

Donald Trump said what many think, questioning further immigration from the Muslim world until we see clearly what’s going on.

He’s also proposing a wall to keep Mexicans out.

Mrs. Clinton takes the opposite view on immigration.   That overlooks the fact that poorer people, blue-collar workers, have to compete for jobs with many of the immigrants.   It’s an example of how out of touch many politicians are.

Which brings us to the third factor.   Trump is not a professional politician like his opponents, in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

People don’t trust professional politicians.  They have been seeing a progressive decline in their standard of living and no longer feel secure thanks to five decades of myopic immigration law.

They have had enough.

Tuesday’s vote in Indiana will be a good indicator of what the future will bring.

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The same can be said for Thursday’s mayoral election in London, 4000 miles away.

A Muslim is expected to win.

This will make London the first major western capital to be led by a Muslim.

Again, it’s an indicator of what the future is going to bring!

TWO SIGNIFICANT ELECTIONS

Candidates

I thought readers might appreciate the following from a friend in Australia:

“Your presidential race is fascinating yet depressing.  Away from America, nobody, and I mean just about no one, can believe that Americans would support such a demagogue as Trump and all he stands for.   To say they like him because he speaks his mind and refuses to be PC is just inane.  Look at the type of person he is.  I would really fear for America, and more so the world, with a clown like him in charge.   It is positively sickening.

Bernie Sanders sounds like maybe a nice guy but a bit out of touch. I don’t think America could work his way. So Hilary . . .  there are skeletons in the closet so to speak but at least she has experience and did quite a reasonable job of it.  I think much of America still lives in the Teddy Roosevelt era in outlook . . . with little knowledge of the outside world and sort of contempt for it.”

Similar comments are also being made in newspapers in other parts of the world.

It’s difficult to imagine the Atlantic alliance holding together if Trump wins the election; having said that, the Democrats have not done any better.   Bret Stephens in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal wrote an article titled:   “Barack Obama checks out.”   With 311 days left until he hands over to his successor, the president seems to be insulting America’s friends while embracing her enemies (visits to Vietnam and Cuba are going to follow last year’s treaty with Iran).

Mr. Stephens’ article follows on from one in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg.   Mr. Goldberg interviewed President Obama, who seemed to forget he is still president and spent quite some time criticizing US allies, including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and former President Sarkozy of France who may be re-elected. He even made it clear that if Russia invades Moldova, the US will do nothing, giving the Russian president the go-ahead to annex another neighbor.   Even Israel is set to suffer another blow from the US president, who is treating Saudi Arabia equally in arms sales.

Historian Niall Ferguson also commented on the Goldberg article in today’s Boston Globe:

“At the top of the list of scapegoats are America’s traditional allies: not only Britain and France (Libya’s descent in chaos was all their fault) but also Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.   Then comes the Washington “foreign policy establishment” and the US military, who are always trying to “jam” him into going to war.   Next in line are the members of his own cabinet — among them former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who urged him to intervene in Syria in 2012.

“The president says he is “very proud” of his decision in 2013 not to follow through on his earlier threat to take military action if the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria.   He seems not to understand that by asking President Putin to “force Assad to get rid of the chemical weapons,” he opened the door to Russian intervention in the Middle East, a region the Kremlin was effectively shut out of by Henry Kissinger in the early 1970s.   Wondering why the death toll in Syria has leapt upwards in recent months?   Step forward President Putin, whose air campaign against every anti-Assad force except ISIS has been a horror show.

“The Mosul dam symbolizes the critical state of an entire region. Like a huge wall of water, barely held in check by a crumbling dam, the combined forces of Islamic extremism, vicious sectarianism, networked terrorism, and Arab-Iranian rivalry have yet to wreak all the havoc of which they are capable.  But why worry?  The president has stuck to his foreign policy doctrine:   “Don’t do stupid sh–.”   As for ISIS, according to Goldberg, the president likens them to the Joker in the Batman movies.” (“A Catastrophe of Epic Proportions,” Niall Ferguson, Boston Globe).

As a President, Hillary Clinton seems likely to continue Mr. Obama’s policies and Europe is apprehensive of a Trump presidency, the Atlantic alliance could have some serious problems a few months from now.

Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once observed: “it is true that, in America, any boy can grow up to become president.   This is something we are going to have to learn to live with!”   That was said over sixty years ago.   The problem has since doubled as every girl can now also aspire to be president.

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The United States isn’t the only country experiencing an interesting and potentially nation-changing election.   Germany had one, too. Last Sunday three of Germany’s states voted.  The result was significant gains for the AfD, the Alternative for Germany, an anti-immigrant party.   Trump is not the only western politician who wants to do something about immigration.

As Reuters put it:   “Voters punished Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in three German regional elections on Sunday, giving a thumbs-down to her open-door refugee policy and turning in droves to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“The result is a big setback for Merkel, who has led Europe’s biggest economy for a decade, and could narrow her room for manoeuvre as she tries to convince her European Union partners to seal a deal with Turkey to stem the tide of migrants.

“Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) lost ground in all three states – Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west and Saxony-Anhalt in the east – which were together widely seen as offering a verdict on Merkel’s liberal migrant policy.”

Following the election we see this report from the New York Times today:

BERLIN — German authorities banned a neo-Nazi group known as the White Wolves Terror Crew after the police conducted early morning raids on Wednesday in 10 of the country’s 16 states, confiscating weapons but making no arrests, the Interior Ministry said.

Far-right parties have gained strength as Germany struggles to integrate more than one million migrants, and the ban is intended to demonstrate that the authorities will not tolerate agitation against foreigners and migrants “and certainly no violence,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said.

“This group is an association of neo-Nazis who openly and aggressively agitate against our state, against our society, against people who think differently, against migrants and against the police,” he said.

Mr. de Maizière said that the group wanted to build a dictatorship, and that its aim “is supposed to be realized with all means available,” including violence. He added that the core of the group was made up of approximately 25 people, with the leaders coming from Hamburg.

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Staying in Europe, the Prime Minister of Iceland, a European country that is not a member of the EU, has warned the United Kingdom to recognize a European reality.   The Daily Telegraph carried the following headline on March 9th:

“Britain warned it wields no power in German dominated EU.”

It’s even losing control of its own stock market. Deutsche Bourse and the London Stock Exchange are to merge, with Deutsche Bourse holding a 54.4% stake in the London Stock Exchange, giving it effective control of one of the most important stock markets in the world.

Whether the British vote to leave the EU or remain a member on June 23rd may not make much difference. They will still be under the dominance of Berlin, whatever the outcome.

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Another March 9th headline from the UK’s Daily Mail:

London is more Islamic than most cities in Muslim countries, says Pakistan-born Islamic scholar.”