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NOTRE DAME, NO ORDINARY FIRE

The fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, which began on Monday night, has had one beneficial effect – it has united France after months of yellow vest demonstrations and riots.   This may only be temporary.

Long term, there may be other long lasting effects.

Prior to the conflagration, just one day earlier, a fascinating article appeared on the Gatestone website:   “European churches: Vandalized, defecated on and torched “every day”.”   In fact, twice a day churches are desecrated, just in France.

  • “In virtually every instance of church attacks, authorities and media obfuscate the identity of the vandals.   In those rare instances when the Muslim (or “migrant”) identity of the destroyers is leaked, the desecraters are then presented as suffering from mental health issues.
  • “Hardly anyone writes and speaks about the increasing attacks on Christian symbols.   There is an eloquent silence in both France and Germany about the scandal of the desecrations and the origin of the perpetrators , , ,   Not a word, not even the slightest hint that could in anyway lead to the suspicion of migrants . . .   It is not the perpetrators who are in danger of being ostracized, but those who dare to associate the desecration of Christian symbols with immigrant imports.   They are accused of hatred, hate speech and racism.” — PI News, March 24, 2019

(Gatestone, April 14th.)

All Christians should be very concerned about these attacks.  Many may not like these ancient churches, full of idols that defy the second commandment (Ex.20:4), but attacks on them reflect a growing intolerance to all forms of Christianity.   While the loss of relics (the crown of thorns worn by Christ at the crucifixion; and a piece of the actual cross on which He died), may not mean anything to non-Catholics, the world’s biggest religion attaches a great deal of importance to them.   David Muir, of ABC News and a Catholic, described these relics as if they are real, beyond question.   This is the way that many feel.

It is not known, yet, whether the fire was started deliberately, but after two attacks on French churches a day it seems quite likely. Also, the timing is indicative of a deliberate attack, coming on the second day of Holy Week, the most sacred week of the year in the Catholic calendar.

We can only speculate on what caused the fire, but what is known is that jihadists, worldwide, celebrated when news of the fire reached them.

“Jihadis celebrated the destruction of large parts of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in a devastating fire on April 15, 2019.   Reactions by jihadis on social media refer to the cathedral as a symbol of Christianity and a major point of origin for the Crusades.   Several describe the fire as punishment for various crimes attributed to France or to Christians in general, such as France’s military intervention in Muslim countries or the mosque massacres in New Zealand.   Some jihadis, including leading figures, view the incident as a good omen heralding calamities for the West and the global order.”   (MEMRI, 4/16)

At the very least, the presence of millions of Muslims in the West is complicating National security.   One day after the fire, Shemima Begum, an ISIS fighter originally from Britain, was granted tax-payer funded legal aid to fight the British government’s ban on her returning.   With so many anti-British “liberals” in England, it is becoming impossible to do anything about these security threats.

It’s likely that Shemima will return to the UK and live off British welfare while espousing her hatred and contempt for all things British!   She remains loyal to ISIS.

COULD THE FIRE REVIVE THE CHURCH?

Rachel Donadio, a Paris based staff writer for the Atlantic, writes:

“Commentators were seeing the fire as a symbol of how the Catholic Church needs to be restored as an institution as much as a building. Like so many of Europe’s great churches and places of pilgrimage, Notre-Dame is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.   This is the Church as mother and protector, an aspect the institution has not excelled at in the years since the sexual-abuse crisis erupted.

“It’s hard to convey just how significant Notre Dame is for France. Listening to the newscasters wrestle with their formulations about the crown of thorns, it became clear that the devastation of the cathedral had laid bare all the paradoxes of the country.   Here is a secular republic, dedicated to the principle of laïcité, or the absence of religion in public life, that has as its national symbol a cathedral. Here is a country that deposed its king in a revolution, yet now sees its embattled president as a new monarch—one that some of its “yellow vest” protesters want to depose again.”  (“France’s Paradoxes, embodied in a cathedral”, 4/16.)

Mr. Macron, France’s president, has pledged to rebuild the cathedral within five years, in time for Paris to host the 2024 Olympics.

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EU-US TRADE WAR

Brussels has warned that US products from hazelnuts to tractors could face punitive tariffs in retaliation for state support to Boeing, as Washington and Brussels gear up for the next stage of their long-running transatlantic dispute over aircraft subsidies.   The European Commission on Wednesday published a draft list of products that could be targeted for additional duties.   The move follows a victory for the EU at the World Trade Organization, which ruled last month that Washington had failed to end an illegal tax break to Boeing.  The list’s publication comes only days after the US announced similar plans to target up to $11bn of EU products in response to WTO rulings against subsidies for Airbus.   (“Brussels sets out 420 billion list of US goods facing tariffs; http://www.ft.com, 4/17)

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PRESIDENTIAL SUICIDE

Former Peruvian president Alan García shot himself dead on Wednesday after police arrived at his house to arrest him as part of a corruption investigation.   The government said that when officers arrived at his home, García withdrew to a closed room to phone his lawyer.   They heard a gunshot minutes later, broke down the door and found the former president with a wound to the head.   They rushed him to hospital where he underwent surgery.   He died a few hours later.   President Martin Vizcarra confirmed the news on Twitter, sending his condolences to García’s family and loved ones. (Financial Times, 4/17)

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GERMANY BRINGS BREXIT TO A CLOSE

Germany’s foreign minister has warned London that there will be no Brexit extension beyond October, sending out the strongest signal yet that Berlin’s patience with the UK’s deadlocked political system is starting to wear out.   “They will have to decide what they want by October,” Heiko Maas told the Financial Times in an interview.  “You cannot drag out Brexit for a decade.”  (Tobias Buck, Financial Times, 4/17)

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PELOSI DICTATES ON BREXIT

LONDON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation to Britain and Ireland this week.   What’s being discussed?    “Brexit, Brexit, Brexit,” she said.

In the old days, bilateral U.S.-U.K. talks would be all about counterterrorism, intelligence sharing, NATO, Russia and China – and the special relationship.

Today, Brexit dominates.    And on one particular point, Pelosi is emphatic:    Don’t mess with the Irish peace accord.

The speaker said Tuesday that she had warned Prime Minister Theresa May, Conservative pro-Brexit hard-liners and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that if the churn of Britain’s messy break with the European Union in any way weakens the Northern Ireland peace pact known as the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, the U.S. Congress will block any trade deals Britain might seek with the United States.

“Don’t even think about that,” Pelosi said she had warned.   “We made it clear to all that if there were any harm to Good Friday accords, no treaty.”

Pelosi did not have to remind her hosts that the Trump administration can negotiate treaties and trade deals.   But she emphasized that Congress has to approve them.    (William Booth, Washington Post, 4/16).

Mrs Pelosi is a Catholic, and is siding with the Irish Republic on this issue.

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WHAT’S THAT NOISE?

Sunday morning, while listening to a CD of Rachmaninov, our seven-year-old grandson looked up from his train and asked:   “What’s that noise?”   He clearly is not a fan.

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FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING

(Photo: John McCall, AP)

After yet another school shooting in the United States, the 19th this year, Pat Buchanan wrote a brilliant analysis.   The following is a quote from his article, posted this morning.

“Another factor helps to explain what happened Wednesday: We are a formerly Christian society in an advanced state of decomposition.

“Nikolas Cruz was a product of broken families.  He was adopted. Both adoptive parents had died.  Where did he get his ideas of right and wrong, good and evil?   Before the Death of God and repeal of the Ten Commandments, in those dark old days, the 1950s, atrocities common now were almost nonexistent.    (“The Motives behind the massacre,” Pat Buchanan, 2/16)

Deuteronomy 28 is the classic Bible chapter that should help us all think.   In summary, what it says is that the more we obey God, the greater our society will be; the more we turn away from God, the worse it will become.   As Mr. Buchanan points out, “before the death of God and repeal of the Ten Commandments, in those dark old days, the 1950s, atrocities common now were almost nonexistent.”

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RIPPLE EFFECT OF SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

It’s not just that US schools are unsafe, it’s clear to the rest of the world that America is a very violent country, with a governmental system that doesn’t work any more.   As one writer put it, the US has an eighteenth century constitution in a twenty first century world.

Most countries already have a bad impression of the current US president.   But, when Mr. Trump spoke following the shootings and talked about mental illness, that impression only worsened.   Mental illness was (and usually is) a major factor, but what differentiates America from other western countries is easy access to weapons. Even the mentally ill can walk into a gun dealer and buy an assault rifle!

Parkland will not be the last school mass shooting.

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ISLAM AND THE WEST

Sheikh “Abu Qusay” delivered a Friday sermon in Jerusalem, in which he said:

“Oh dweller of the White House, let me tell you, from the pulpit of the Prophet Muhammad, that this is the promise of Allah and His Messenger:   Jerusalem is the heart of the land of Islam.   We will storm your White House, stomp on your head, kill your soldiers, and capture your land.   This is the promise of the Prophet Muhammad.” The sermon was posted to the internet on December 22nd.   (MEMRI)

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Nervous Rex?  Tillerson in Turkey

The war in Syria has already tested and destroyed many alliances. Turkey’s relationship with America may be next.   Having launched one army offensive against Kurdish insurgents in north-west Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government says it will soon order another, this time in the north-east.   There, the militants are flanked by American troops, who are supporting them in their fight against Islamic State.   It will be up to America’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who arrives in Turkey today, to calm nerves and prevent the diplomatic row between the two NATO allies from exploding into an armed one.   That will not be easy.   After an American general warned that his forces would retaliate against any attack on their positions inside the Kurdish strongholds, Mr Erdogan said the United States “had clearly never received an Ottoman slap.” Slap or no slap, Mr. Tillerson’s ears will be ringing by the time he gets back to Washington. (Economist, 2/15)

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German government plans massive military expansion in Iraq        By Johannes Stern, 13 February 2018

The new grand coalition in Germany is planning a massive expansion of the German army (Bundeswehr) mission in Iraq. 

This was announced by Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) in the course of her trip to the Middle East last weekend.  Von der Leyen praised Germany’s cooperation with the Peshmerga [Kurdish military forces] during her visit to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in northern Iraq.   The Bundeswehr has been arming and militarily supporting the Kurdish force for three and a half years.   It was “impressive to see the great success of the Peshmerga training mission,” she said, thanking “Bundeswehr soldiers” on the spot.  Von der Leyen then announced that in future the Bundeswehr would be deployed throughout Iraq.

There will be “another mandate,” she said, “a mandate with a new balance … between Baghdad and Erbil on equal terms on both sides.” The defense minister made no concrete statements about the planned operation, but left no doubt she envisaged a long-term military engagement throughout Iraq.   “Both in Kurdistan, as well as in the central government in Baghdad,” there is “a request above all to help in the implementation of reforms, in the construction of ministry structures,” the minister said.   In Erbil, for example, “the construction of an entire sanitary unit is necessary,” but this also involved “of course the entire planning, organisation, recruitment and training.”   There is also “considerable demand” for logistics. Germany wanted to “make its contribution” to provide Iraq with “independent, loyal operational forces for the long term.”

The Socialist Equality Party rejects the coalition pact, which focuses on the return of Germany to an aggressive foreign and great power policy, and calls for the disclosure of all the talks.   Under conditions of escalating warfare in Syria and Iraq, and US preparations for war against North Korea, which threaten to provoke a Third World War, this demand, along with the demand for new elections, is becoming increasingly urgent.

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Special Dispatch No. 7339

Hamas, Palestinian Factions In Response To Israel’s Airstrikes In Syria:   ‘Any Israeli Attack, On Any Front, Will Be Answered With A Comprehensive War On All Fronts’ (MEMRI 2/15)

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Macron Vows to Reform Islam in France
“It is time to bring in a new generation”

by Soeren Kern, February 13, 2018 at 5:00 am

  • The overall objective of President Macron’s plan is to ensure that French law takes precedence over Islamic law for Muslims living in the country.
  • The plan, as currently conceived, is vague and short on details, but appears to involve three broad pillars: determining who will represent Muslims in France; delineating how Islam in France will be financed; and defining how imams in France will be trained.
  • “It is time to bring in a new generation.   We have seen fifteen years of debate to defend the interests of foreign states.” — Hakim el-Karoui, a French-Tunisian expert on Islam who is advising Macron on the reforms. (Gatestone)

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EUROPEAN UNITY

A New Élysée Treaty – Berlin and Paris are seeking a “new Élysée Treaty.”   On the 55th anniversary of the original 1963 Élysée Treaty, in which the Federal Republic of Germany and France committed themselves to hold “consultations” on major political issues, Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron announced the drafting of a new treaty aimed at “deepening” cooperation between the two countries and “strengthening” the EU.   In a declaration, the parliaments of both countries called for harmonizing almost the “complete range of policy issues.”   This would amount to massively enhancing the “German-French axis.”

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US/EU

Transatlantic Rivals

(Own report) – In Washington serious warnings are being raised against an independent German-European military policy aimed at weakening NATO.   The militarization of the EU is being supported as long as “it is complimentary to NATO,” a senior Pentagon official was quoted.   However, Washington would intervene if Berlin and the EU were to pull military resources away from NATO and use them for their own wars.   This statement was made in light of the NATO defense ministers’ meeting that begins today, which will include a decision on the establishment of two new NATO headquarters.   One will be established in the United States, to secure the military supply routes from North America over the Atlantic to Europe.   A second will be established in Germany, to optimize rapid redeployments of West European troops eastwards across the continent.   At the current stage of planning, this will be under German sovereignty and available also for use outside of the NATO framework.

More… https://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/news/detail/7531/

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TRADE WAR

Despite its loss in U.S. trade court against Bombardier, Boeing believes 2018 will be a turning point in its lengthy WTO challenge to Airbus over government subsidies.   The threat of hefty tariffs could redraw the playing field — or trigger a trade war among traditional allies.   (Dominic Gates,The Seattle Times 2/10)

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday rejected the sale of the Chicago Stock Exchange to a group that would have included Chinese investors, capping a two-year battle over a deal that sparked political opposition in Congress, reports the WSJ’s Dave Michaels. (2/16)

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US ECONOMY

Some like it hot:   America’s economy

The White House will announce its infrastructure plan today.   It is expected to call for $200bn more in government spending to encourage private investment, hoping for a total of $1.5trn towards spending on roads, bridges, ports and more.   Were Congress to pass such a plan without cutting spending elsewhere, it would be the third recent salvo of fiscal stimulus.   Last week lawmakers passed a budget that will raise spending by $143bn (0.7% of GDP) this year; in December President Donald Trump signed into law tax cuts worth about $280bn in 2019.   America’s budget deficit will probably reach $1trn (5% of GDP) that year.   All this will stimulate an already hot economy.   Unemployment is just 4.1%, and real-time estimates of GDP growth in the first quarter of 2018 are as high as 4%.   The natural question is:   when will inflation take off?   This strangely timed fiscal experiment will reveal the answer.   (Economist Espresso, 2/12)

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 ASIA

China, Maldives: Beijing’s Boats Send a Message to India — China’s increased military presence in the Indian Ocean gives the country more options to respond to the crisis in the Maldives, in addition to challenging New Delhi’s influence in the region.   (Stratfor, 2/16)

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AFRICA

Finally, Mo Ibrahim has found an African president worthy of the $5 million prize the Sudanese billionaire offered to any leader who would step down after losing an election.   The prize goes to Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.   It’s been eleven years since the prize was established.   “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and its democratic institution,” said the head of the prize committee.

Liberia’s gross domestic product was only $550 million when Mrs. Sirleaf became president in 2005.   At the end of her tenure in office it had increased to $2.1 billion.   (Wall Street Journal, 2/14)

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COMMENT ON OXFAM CHARITY SCANDAL

Can charities be truly bad?   It seems perverse to say that they are, but the Oxfam abuse scandal has revealed a sinister side to international aid — and about time, too.   In our cover package this week, Harriet Sergeant argues that, in Africa and elsewhere, NGOs often do more harm than good.   Mary Wakefield, meanwhile, who wrote about rapist aid workers in the magazine a fortnight ago, well before the Oxfam story broke, asks why polite society prefers to ignore scandals which relate to organisations that people want to believe are good.   (The Spectator, UK, 2/15)

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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils — Berlioz