Tag Archives: Brexit

BRITAIN AND AMERICA LEAD WITH CORONA VIRUS

Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer has taken draconian steps to stop the spread of the corona virus. The restrictions she has imposed on Michigan are unprecedented. Cartoons like this one illustrate the public’s distrust of government, though most people seem to support the measures she has taken. At the same time, North Korea’s leader was missing, presumed dead.

In the US, there have been over 70,000 corona virus deaths; in the UK over 32,000 (proportionately the UK is worse than the US).   What this could mean remains to be seen.

Two months ago, Britain looked on in horror as deaths from Covid-19 skyrocketed in Italy.   Now, the UK’s own death toll from the disease has eclipsed its continental neighbor to become the worst in Europe.

Yet with the true figure likely to be significantly higher due to missed cases and a lag in reporting, the country is braced for worse news to come.  (The Week, 5/6/2020)

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RATE OF UNEMPLOYMENT

The latest unemployment figures came out this morning (Thursday).  An additional 3.2 million people filed for unemployment benefit last week.   That brings the total number of Americans without a job to 33.5 million.

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RESISTANCE MOUNTS

From Maine to California, Americans are defying government officials and reclaiming their First Amendment rights to assemble and protest.  They are opening up their businesses in open defiance of the authoritarian political leaders.   The resistance is building and thankfully remains (mostly) peaceful.  How long until the dam breaks and the lockdown regime comes crashing down?(https://patriotpowerednews.com/resistance-to-lockdown-builds-coronavirus-tyrants-losing-their-grip/)

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BRITISH ECONOMY HITS ROCK BOTTOM

In recent weeks economic data have forced statisticians to change the scale on their charts by hitting new lows.  This week they showed a record drop in construction activity, and the car industry’s trade body reported that new registrations fell by 97% year-on-year in April.   The good news is that the last month probably represented the bottom for Britain’s economy, with lockdown restrictions likely to ease in coming weeks.   The bad news is that the shape of the recovery remains uncertain.   Today’s Bank of England announcements did not include new policy changes—interest rates are already at record lows, quantitative easing has restarted, and new schemes have been put in place to support business lending — but they did update their forecasts.   The bank’s economists now expect the economy to contract by 14% in 2020, the largest annual fall since the early 1700s, followed by a 15% bounce in 2021.   The worry though is that while the scale of the decline looks pretty clear, the speed of the recovery is subject to much more uncertainty.   (The Economist, 5/7/2020)

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FEARS PANDEMIC MAY HASTEN WEST’S DECLINE 

The corona crisis could accelerate Germany and the western powers’ economic and political decline, according to recent economic projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and analyses by US foreign policy experts.   As the US magazine Foreign Policy writes, Trump’s handling of the crisis has been an “embarrassing debacle” that tarnished the United States’ reputation as a country “that knows how to do things effectively.”  Other states are more willing to orient themselves on countries which are “past the peak of infection,” such as China, concludes the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.   The EU has also failed in the crisis. According to the IMF, China will economically suffer less under the pandemic than western countries: its economic performance will bypass that of the eurozone quicker than expected and will approach that of the United States.   In the West, this emerging shift in power is being accompanied by aggressive anti-Chinese propaganda.  (German Foreign Policy, 4/16/2020)

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TEST OF AMERICAN LEADERSHIP, POST-VIRUS

You can see why china might sniff an opportunity in this crisis. Coronavirus has targeted America’s weaknesses, while making many of its strengths temporarily irrelevant.   The world’s most powerful military machine is not much use against a virus.   But a lack of universal healthcare coverage is suddenly a threat not just to the poor but to the whole of US society.

Question one is:   what currency in the world do you most trust? Question two:   where, outside your home country, would you most like your children to go to university or to work?  For a majority of the global middle-class, the answers to those questions have been, respectively, the dollar and the us.  If that continues to be the case after the pandemic, then American primacy will continue.

(Gideon Rachman, FT, 5/6)

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FEARS GROW BREXIT TALKS COULD COLLAPSE IN JUNE

Brexit talks with the European Union could collapse in June unless Brussels abandons its demands for a common fisheries policy and a level playing field, says a source close to the UK’s negotiating team.

The source told The Guardian that only “limited progress in bridging the gaps between us” had been made at last week’s talks, but there was “confidence that progress can be made quite quickly.”

He added that he was “quite positive” over the chances of a trade deal before the end of the year, when the UK’s transition period ends.  Boris Johnson is expected to take a more active role in trying to help unblock talks if there is no breakthrough in the months ahead.   (The Week, 5/1/2020)

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Britain’s new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth sets sail
30 April 2020, Defense News

LONDON — Britain’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departed its Portsmouth base April 29 for training, but only after its crew was tested for the new coronavirus, the Royal Navy announced.   The 65,000-ton warship is currently in an isolation period at sea ahead of training off the south coast of England.  The ship’s departure from the Portsmouth naval base was delayed by a few days to enable the entire crew of about 800 to be tested for COVID-19.   The warship is expected to be at sea for up to eight weeks conducting the Flag Officer Sea Training assessment required to certify that HMS Queen Elizabeth is competent to join the fleet for operational tasking.  Britain is targeting next year for the ship’s first operational deployment, and the FOST assessment is a key element in achieving that plan.  Training with F-35 fighter jets, simulated battle damage, fires and flood training, and mission rehearsals will be part of the process, the Royal Navy said in a statement.  “This will prepare the ship for further training later in the year with other Royal Navy ships to ensure they are ready to deploy as a task group next year,” the service said.(https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2020/04/30/britains-new-carrier-queen-elizabeth-sets-sail-prepared-to-train-amid-pandemic/)

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EUROZONE ECONOMY SHRINKS AT RECORD RATE

The eurozone economy shrank at its sharpest rate on record in the first quarter of the year, with the continent set to enter a deep recession triggered by the coronavirus lockdown.

Eurostat data published yesterday showed that eurozone GDP shrank by 3.8% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the final quarter of last year.   The contraction is worse than that experienced by the US over the same period and deeper than the financial crisis over a decade ago.   Market Watch says it means “three years of the eurozone’s economic activity have been wiped away, and it is likely going to get worse.”  (The Week, 5/1/2020)

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COULD ISRAEL AND IRAN GO TO WAR?

The undeclared war between Iran and Israel has reached new heights.

Or more specifically, a height of 270 miles, which is the altitude of Iran’s first spy satellite.   It’s more than a nice vantage point for Iran to keep an eye on its arch-enemy Israel.   Lacking advanced reconnaissance aircraft and drones to penetrate Israeli air defenses, a satellite may be the only way for Tehran to gather real-time intelligence on Israel.

Which raises the question: will Israel be tempted to destroy Iran’s eye in the sky?   (Michael Peck, Middle East Forum, 5/5/2020)

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DISENGAGEMENT FROM CHINA

The United States and transatlantic oriented circles in Germany are increasing pressure on Berlin to participate in the West’s “disengagement” from China.   “The alliance question” is “ripe for decision,” declared Mathias Döpfner, CEO of the Axel Springer SE media group.  Germany must cease the “aberration” of economic cooperation with the People’s Republic of China and formally position itself in opposition to Beijing.  This is the result of the global shift in power that is becoming apparent through the Corona crisis. Whereas China has obviously overcome the low-point of this crisis and is already headed back to economic growth, an improvement of the situation in the USA and Europe is not yet on the horizon. Observers are speculating that the western powers’ “influence and significance” will probably “continue to dwindle.”   Whereas Washington is mulling whether to lift China’s sovereign immunity, to permit damage lawsuits, powerful forces in the German economy are seeing their crisis exit in business with China.   (German Foreign Policy, 5/4/2020)

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SCOTTISH COMMENT ON CHINESE BEHAVIOR

“No country with a skerrick of self-respect can allow this behavior to go unpunished.  I have already suggested some punitive measures designed to wound the regime’s pride without harming the Chinese people:   cancel the Huawei deal; pass a Magnitsky-style Act targeting senior CPC figures; champion the Uyghurs at every opportunity (e.g. rename the London street that houses the Chinese embassy after a Uyghur political prisoner); and recognize Taiwan as an independent nation.   All I would add, upon reflection, is this: grant British citizenship to Hong Kongers born before 1 July 1997, their children and grandchildren.” — Scottish political commentator Stephen Daisley.   (Gatestone, 5/7)

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CORONA ECONOMIC GAP

Foreign policy experts in Germany and the EU’s Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell are warning that Brussels’ corona relief measures could widen the EU’s economic gap.   So far, the EU’s reaction to the Corona crisis has led to companies in economically stronger countries receiving more relief assistance than their competitors in more heavily indebted countries, according to a proximate analysis by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).   After the crisis, German companies will probably be in a stronger position than, for example, their Italian competitors.  “The north-south divide that was already in place before the crisis, could become even more pronounced afterwards,” Borrell predicts.   The growing inequality could threaten the EU’s “political project” in the foreseeable future, the DGAP writes.   In the competition within the EU, German companies are benefiting from the fact that, by fostering a bottom-to-top redistribution, national corona relief measures are already to their advantage – a development that exacerbates the crisis.  (German Foreign Policy, 5/6/2020)

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POPE PIUS XII KNEW OF HOLOCAUST                                          Researchers say Vatican archives show Pope Pius XII knew of WWII killing of Jews  

German scholars exploring newly opened trove of documents find letter indicating pope was aware of massacre of Jews in Warsaw and Lviv from own sources, but denied it to Americans.

Researchers studying the newly opened Vatican archives of pope Pius XII have already found evidence that the World War II-era pope knew about the mass killing of Jews from his own sources but kept it from the US government, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing interviews with German scholars.   The archives were opened March 2, but closed soon after due to the coronavirus crisis.   Many of the 200 scholars who had applied for access delayed their trips. However, a German team lead by award-winning religious historian Hubert Wolf from the University of Münster made a start and has already found some damning discoveries.   (Times of Israel, 30 April 2020).

(MORE:  https://www.timesofisrael.com/researchers-say-vatican-archives-show-pope-pius-xii-knew-of-wwii-killing-of-jews/)

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POLYGAMY CAUSE OF CONFLICT IN AFRICA

Polygamy is a major social problem in Africa and other parts of the world.  In Africa, it plays a major role in the wars fought in some areas.   Where men have to provide 30 or more cows as the bride price to buy a wife, cattle raids on neighboring tribes and villages have become a regular occurrence.  As some men have multiple wives, so others have none.  This leads to desperation, to violence and the taking of wives from other tribes.

“Overall, polygamy is in retreat.  However, its supporters are fighting to preserve or even extend it.  Two-fifths of Khazakhstanis want to re-legalize the practice  (it was banned by the Bolsheviks).   In 2008 they were thwarted, at least temporarily, when a female MP amended a pro-polygamy bill to say that polyandry – the taking of multiple husbands – would be allowed as well; Muslim greybeards balked at that.”  (“The Perils of Polygamy,” The Economist, 12/23/17).

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TO THE POINT

  • ISRAEL ALLOWS CHRISTIAN TV CHANNEL – A new evangelical Christian channel whose mission is to “take the message of Yeshua our Messiah to all of Israel 24/7, 365 days a year” began broadcasting in Israel in Hebrew last week, after signing a seven-year contract with Israeli cable provider HOT.   The Shelanu (Hebrew for “Ours”) TV channel is a branch of GOD TV, which broadcasts missionary programming in 200 countries around the world.   The new deal will give the channel access to over 700,000 Israeli households. GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson said in a video announcing the launch that his network had received permission from the Israeli government to “broadcast the gospel of Jesus Christ – Yeshua the Messiah – in Israel on cable TV in the Hebrew language.   Never before, as far as we know in the history of the world, has this ever been done.” (jns. 5/5/2020)
  • The leaders of the European Union and dozens of states and donors pledged €7.4bn ($8.1bn) to fund the fight against covid-19.   Most of the money will go towards developing a vaccine, the rest to finding a cure and better testing.   More cash could be forthcoming.   America declined to take part (or say why).   “A pity,” said Norway’s prime minister.   (The Economist, 5/5/2020)
  • CHINA WARNS OF WAR WITH THE US – An internal report presented to Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top leaders concludes that global anti-China sentiment is at a level not seen since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, and recommends preparing for a worst-case scenario of armed conflict with the United States, according to Reuters, citing people familiar with the content of the document.
  • Eleven European ambassadors to Israel on Thursday warned Jerusalem of severe consequences if it moves ahead with plans to annex parts of the West Bank as part of a government coalition deal.  The envoys from the UK, Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and the EU issued a formal objection to the Foreign Ministry against the move, Channel 13 reported. (Times of Israel, 5/1/2020)
  • Kuwaiti economist Saeed Tawfiqi said in a March 30, 2020 interview on Diwan Al-Mulla Internet TV (Kuwait) that in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. and Europe will enter a sharp decline, and China will become stronger.   He advised people in the Gulf states to start learning Chinese instead of English and using yuans instead of dollars. (MEMRI 7921)

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AFTER THOUGHT

America has held the pre-eminent position in the world for seventy years.  History shows us that it will not always be the case.   Indeed, the corona virus could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The first recorded recognition that the British Empire no longer ranked at number one was in 1948.   But it wasn’t until 1956, with the Suez Canal crisis, that it was fully realized.   Decline (and fall) is not always overnight as in the fall of Babylon – it can be longer and protracted.

The outcome of the virus and the economic reality of its aftermath, remain to be seen.   But the article by Gideon Rachman, of the Financial Times, quoted elsewhere in this blog, gives us a simple test.   After it’s all over, will the US dollar still be the currency of choice for the world’s nations?  And will people around the world still send their children to US colleges?

We should know the answer to the first question soon; the second may take longer.

Over-spending by the US government has always been a problem.  The late President DeGaulle of France dismissively referred to the “Anglo-Saxon debtor countries”, whose economic systems relied on deficit spending.  But that over-spending has been a big factor in ensuring the prosperity of both the British and the Americans for the last 50 years.

That will likely change.    Borrowing for the stimulus will run into the trillions of dollars.   In the UK, we see the same thing happening with massive spending to help the people in a time of trouble.

This must weaken the dollar (and the pound), against other currencies.   We may even have reached the full extent of our capacity to borrow, that no more borrowing is possible.  At the very least, our children and grandchildren will be buried in debt for generations.

Other nations may decide that the two currencies are not reliable, that they will not hold their value.  In which case, they will have to find an alternative (the euro?  The Chinese yuan?  Gold?).   If that’s the case, the US will lose its global leadership position overnight.

Daniel 2:21 says:   “He removes kings and raises up kings” (Daniel 2:21).  God is behind the rise and fall of nations.  Seventy years is about the average for any nation to stay at the top.  It was longer for the British, but not the French or the Spanish, who held the ascendant position earlier.  Seventy years is about the average lifespan, by which time people have forgotten the lessons of the past, which includes the need to balance the books and stabilize the currency.

Whether this is the time for a major global change is not clear yet.   But it soon will be.

Let’s remember God is in charge and not despair.   The same chapter of Daniel assures us of the greatest event in history, the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”  (Daniel 2:44)

The kingdoms (and republics) of this world must end for God to establish His Kingdom.

MR     

VIRUS COULD BREAK UP EU

Demonstration at Capital Building in Lansing, MI.  (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty)

For disobedience to the laws of God, ancient Israelites were told that He would “break the pride of their power” (Leviticus 26:19).   Hebrews 13:8 states that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.”  Disobedience to God’s Laws carries the same penalties it did centuries ago.

The pride of America’s power rests in two areas:  the economy (and, with it, the status of the “Almighty Dollar”) and the military, which is dependent on a vibrant economy.

The economy is going to take a big hit this summer.   (In the UK they are predicting the biggest slump in three centuries!)   Along with the virus itself, this must also have an effect on military preparedness.

Could we see a fulfillment of Lev. 26:19?

MR   

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Anti-Governor Demo in Michigan

It’s not very often Lansing, MI, where we live makes headline news:

Lansing, MI — It’s a wild scene in Lansing today.  Hundreds, if not thousands of demonstrators showed up to the Capitol, protesting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay home order intended to fight the coronavirus pandemic.   Police watched as horns honked and vehicles from around the state jammed the nearby roads.   Crowds even gathered in front of the Capitol, out of their cars, some ignoring social distancing orders.  (Detroit Free Press, 4/15/2020)

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VIRUS COULD BREAK UP EU

BERLIN – The coronavirus pandemic, with its simultaneous health and economic crises, is deepening fault lines within Europe in a way some leaders fear could prove to be a final reckoning.   The cohesion of the European Union had been battered by Brexit, bruised by the political fallout from the 2015 migration surge and the 2008 financial crisis, and challenged by rising autocracy in the east that runs contrary to the professed ideals of the European project.

Now, if Europe’s leaders cannot chart a more united course, the project lies in what one of its architects described this week as “mortal danger.”

In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, the response among European Union member states showed that national interests trump more-altruistic European ideals.   Border restrictions were reimposed haphazardly, and Germany and France threw up export bans on medical equipment such as masks and ventilators, even as Italy clamored for assistance.

Quick to capitalize were the propaganda machines of Russia and China. Moscow and Beijing have swept in with much-trumpeted — if sometimes defective — medical aid, pushing a savior narrative and providing fodder for the region’s Euroskeptics.   (Drudge Report, 4/3/2020)

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GERMANY BLOCKS CORONABONDS

At the euro finance minister’s video conference, the German government blocked the introduction of “coronabonds,” in spite of massive pressure from other EU nations and recently even from within Germany.   Whereas mainly Italy, Spain and France had insisted that this measure be taken, voices are now being raised from within the German establishment warning that the German government should stop blocking its implementation.   The reason, as leading Green Party politicians are explaining, is that should Italy and Spain suffer economic collapse, Germany’s export industry would be seriously damaged by the loss of these important markets, and – should German assistance be refused – both countries could turn to China.  This must be prevented. The “coronabonds” will cost Germany, however, specialists estimated years ago that the costs would be in the lower double-digit billions, while Germany is simultaneously reaping triple-digit billions in profits – annually.   (German Foreign Policy, 4/9/2020)

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GERMANY’S WAY OUT

The German government has announced plans to gradually lift Covid-19 containment measures, beginning with the partial opening of schools from May 4.   Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday said the country had achieved “fragile intermediate success” in managing the pandemic but said that social distancing would remain in place until at least May 3.  (BBC)   Shops smaller than 800 square metres will be permitted to reopen from next week but must comply with strict hygiene rules.  Der Spiegel reports on how an 11-page tentative exit plan was thrashed out between leaders of the federal government and regional prime ministers using a mix of social distancing and videoconferencing for over four hours.

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Berlin lets mask slip on feelings for Trump’s America                           The crisis has convinced Germans that Trump puts other countries at risk.

BERLIN — Late last week in Bangkok, a shipping container holding thousands of masks destined for the German capital was redirected at the last minute.   As far as Berlin’s city elders are concerned, there wasn’t any doubt about who was to blame:   the “Amis.”   And not just any Amis (German slang for Americans, not to be confused with French ami, or friend), but the commander-in-chief variety.   “The actions of the U.S. president do not just betray a lack of solidarity, they are inhumane and irresponsible,” Berlin Mayor Michael Müller, a Social Democrat, thundered on Twitter.   Andreas Geisel, Berlin’s interior minister, went even further, accusing the U.S. of “confiscating” the masks in Thailand.   If Germans didn’t trust President Donald Trump before the coronavirus outbreak, the crisis has convinced them that his unyielding “America First” instinct puts other countries and their citizens at risk.   That such accusations should emanate from Berlin, a city the U.S. saved from Soviet domination during the Berlin Airlift, underscores the depth of distrust for the American president.

(https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/06/germany-trump-america-170905)

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Larry Elliot in The Guardian on where the buck stops post-pandemic

“One of the problems a party faces when it is in power for a long time is that blaming the opposition for the mess it allegedly left behind no longer cuts it.   The Conservatives have been in power for a decade.   They will eventually be held to account over how prepared the UK was for this crisis . . .   For the right, this is the second major economic crisis in little more than a decade.  It’s the second time the state has needed to come to the rescue of an economic system where the gap between rich and poor has widened, corporations pay as little tax as they can get way with, too little attention is paid to the climate emergency, and a large proportion of the workforce is one paycheck from penury.   For the left, it should be an open goal.”   (The Week, 4/3/2020)

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GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY–Establishment voices in Berlin warn that the EU could disintegrate in the corona crisis and call for economic concessions to Italy and Spain.   Both countries would “never forget in a hundred years, if Europe and we, in particular, would forsake them now,” former foreign ministers Joseph Fischer and Sigmar Gabriel wrote in an appeal published yesterday.   This should not happen because it would endanger the EU.   But “our country” is the Union’s “biggest economic and financial winner.”   Studies show, in fact, that with €86 billion annually, Germany profits more from the EU’s single market than any other EU member.    Since its introduction up until 2017, the single currency has provided Germany nearly €1.9 trillion, whereas it has cost France €3.6 and Italy even €4.3 trillion.   Fischer and Gabriel are pushing for an urgent EU aid program to dampen the rapidly growing EU criticism in Rome and Madrid.   According to a recent opinion poll, 67 percent of Italy’s population thinks that the EU harms their interests.  (German Foreign Policy, 4/6/2020)

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Brazilian minister says Covid-19 part of China ‘plan for world domination’

China is furious after a minister in Brazil suggested Covid-19 is part of a plan in Beijing for “world domination.”

Abraham Weintraub, the far-right government’s education minister, wrote on Twitter:   “Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis?    Who in Brazil is allied with this infallible plan for world domination?  (The Week, 4/6/2020)

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COVID WORSENS IN SINGAPORE

As the world shut its doors, Singapore remained open for business. Its measured yet effective approach to containing covid-19, which won praise from the World Health Organization, permitted shops, restaurants and schools to stay open.  No longer.   Confronted with a sudden surge in new cases, almost all of them contracted locally, the government has decided to adopt much more stringent measures to slow the spread of the virus.   On April 7th all but essential businesses closed, with Singaporeans allowed out of their homes only to buy food and medicine, to exercise and get their hair cut.  The “circuit-breaker,” as the government calls it, will remain in place for at least a month.   Those who violate a new law banning public and private gatherings risk a $7,000 fine, a six-month stint in prison or both.   Even Singapore is no longer able to preserve a semblance of normality.  (The Economist, 4/9/2020)

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FOX SLAMMED

Fox News viewers are at particular risk from coronavirus due to their age, yet they have been regularly subjected to misleading recommendations and misinformation downplaying its prevalence, write dozens of journalists led by Prof Todd Gitlin from Columbia Journalism School.

Fox News does not clearly distinguish between the authority that should accrue to trained experts on the one hand, and the authority viewers grant to pundits and politicians for reasons of ideological loyalty.  (The Guardian, 4/10/2020

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TO THE POINT

  • Economic turn-around — Six weeks ago, Trump was boasting, and justifiably so, of having the greatest economy of any president in recent memory.   Now, the possibility exists that he could go into the fall election with the worst economy since Hoover and the Great Depression of 1932.   (Pat Buchanan, 4/10/2020)
  • The Israeli government closed off ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem to stem the spread of covid-19.   Israel has so far reported 11,235 confirmed cases of the disease and 110 deaths.  The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has become the centre of the country’s outbreak.  Meanwhile, talks to establish a new governing coalition were ended, making another election in the summer likely.
  • “If there was ever a time to close the gap between groups of people across New Zealand in different positions, it is now.” Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, announces she will take a 20% pay cut for six months.  (The Week, 4/15/2020)
  • Donald Trump has announced that the US has “passed the peak” of new Covid-19 cases, suggesting the nation is successfully flattening the curve of the outbreak.   But there is another plateau that might be playing on his mind: a new comparison of approval ratings for world leaders shows several lines, including Boris Johnson’s, rising – while Trump’s remains relatively flat.   (The Week, 4/16/2020)
  • Plane fares “to double” after coronavirus crisis – Airlines may be forced to increase passenger fares dramatically once foreign travel is allowed again, experts have warned.   With many countries banning international flights to try to stem the spread of coronavirus, airlines have been hit particularly hard by the crisis.   Many of them have cut staff, reduced fares and cancelled many flights altogether.   As a result, analysts fear that in an effort to recoup some of their losses – and to cancel out lower plane capacity caused by social distancing rules – prices could skyrocket once travel restrictions are lifted.    (The Week, 4/14/2020)

Corona Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will we ever return to normalcy?

MR 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FINANCIAL PROBLEMS STARTED A LONG TIME AGO

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

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Cyril Ramaphosa lists countries on South Africa’s travel ban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AN ALTERNATIVE THOUGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

WE CAN ALL HAVE VACATIONS, EXCEPT FOR SCOTT MORRISON

Australia is facing a massive bill from unprecedented, deadly fires that have burned an area bigger than Belgium. (Getty images)

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, had to abruptly end his Hawaiian family holiday to return to Australia to fight bushfires which are the worst in history.  Millions of dollars’ worth of damage has been done to property in rural New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.  Over 4 million hectares  (almost ten million acres)  have been destroyed.

There was a public outcry against the prime minister, with people calling for an immediate end to his vacation.   All those protesting were showing their ignorance, as fighting bush fires is a state responsibility and not that of the federal government.

They were also ignorant when it comes to climate change.  This is why Mr. Morrison got attacked – he has defended the Australian coal industry and come under a lot of criticism for it.   But as many as 50% of all fires are started deliberately.  Here in Michigan, a billboard proclaims that 9 out of 10 fires are caused by humans.

“Two of the most recent studies say there are between 52,000 and 54,000 bushfires in Australia every year.   Dr. Paul Read, co-director of Australia’s National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson, puts the figure higher, at “62,000 and increasing.”

Of those, 13% are started deliberately, and 37% are suspicious.  That means 31,000 Australian bushfires are either arson, or suspected arson, every year.

That figure does not include recklessness or accidents.  So a bushfire caused by a barbecue, or a spark from a chainsaw, would be classed as “accidental.”    In short, up to 85 bushfires begin every day because someone leaves their house and decides to start one.”   (BBC 11/10)

It may be months before the fires can be brought under control, as the dry season of summer continues.   By the time they are, Australia will have serious economic damage.   There may even be food shortages as so many farms have been ruined.

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AUSTRALIA

‘Right on our doorstep’:    Secret sub reveals China’s chilling plan After years of domination in the South China Sea, Chinese submarines have started popping up somewhere new – and it’s on our doorstep.        by Jamie Seidel, news.com.au, DECEMBER 24, 2019 1:11PM

 The Andaman Sea is fast becoming the latest target of Chinese expansionism.   India says it has seen a surge of Chinese submarine activity in the strategically critical waterway.

And, last month, its navy booted a Chinese spy ship out of its waters. But Indian Navy sources say Chinese submarines have become a regular visitor to the region.   And they’re much harder to deal with.

In September, the Indian navy evicted the Chinese survey ship Shiyan-1 for intruding upon its exclusive economic zone.   It was sailing among the Andaman and Nicobar Islands without permission. And such survey ships map the ocean floor for just two purposes: military or economic.

Seeking oil, gas or other significant resource deposits inside Indian waters would be … cheeky.    Gleaning high-resolution charts of canyons on the sea floor for submarines to hide among would be … offensive.

Exactly why China would be interested in these islands can be inferred by the proximity of Malacca Strait.   The narrow channel is a natural choke-point for most of Asia’s trade and fuel supplies.   In any future conflict, knowledge of the waters surrounding it would be a matter of victory or defeat.

And that fight would be on Australia’s doorstep.

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Russia Is Stepping Up Its Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Jehovah’s Witnesses, a U.S.-based international Christian denomination claiming 8.5 million members, are a common sight in countries around the world, as proselytizing door-to-door is a central tenet of their faith. But in Russia they have been forced underground following imprisonment and allegations of torture; only Islamic fundamentalists are treated more harshly.

Russia’s justice ministry calls the group, which has grown its membership here to 170,000, a threat to public order.  They were banned as “extremist” in Russia in 2017, putting them in the same ranks as neo-Nazis.   A spokesperson for the conservative Russian Orthodox Church, which has grown in influence under Putin, has said Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people’s consciousness and “can not be called Christians.”

Now, the crackdown is escalating. On Dec. 13, Vladimir Alushkin, an entrepreneur from Penza southeast of Moscow, was sentenced to six years for organizing “extremist activities” after a judge ruled that he had preached the ideas of Jehovah’s Witnesses, organized worship services, distributed literature and gathered donations. Five others including his wife Tatyana received two-year suspended sentences and three years of probation.

After the 2017 ban, 395 branches of the church in Russia were shut down and their evangelizing and meetings were forbidden.   The organization says 297 members in Russia are facing criminal charges; 43 are in detention and 22 are under house arrest.   At least 5,000 have fled Russia for Europe and North America.

The brutal repressions have reminded some in the church of when Joseph Stalin sent nearly 10,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses to guarded settlements in Siberia.   (Time, Dec 2019)
(https://time.com/5751224/jehovahs-witness-russia-persecution/)


THE FALL OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE

Singapore’s hidden military secrets
by Emiko Jozuka, 23 Dec 2019, Singapore (CNN)

Inside the dimly lit underground bunker, 12 military commanders are about to trigger the largest capitulation in British military history.   At 9:45 a.m. on February 15, 1942, Lt. Gen. Arthur Percival and 11 other senior officers agreed to surrender the British Empire’s forces, numbering more than 120,000 in Malaysia and Singapore, to the Japanese, whose troops numbered under half that.   They made that decision from within “the Battlebox,” a secret and heavily fortified underground military bunker that’s been turned into a museum at Fort Canning Hill in Singapore.   After 70 days of brutal jungle warfare, Percival’s crew was short on ammunition, food and water.   “The primary defense of the British Empire rested on the defense of Singapore. From there, Britain could span her entire empire in Asia,” explains Battlebox director Jeya Ayadurai.   But surrender soon became the only option. Percival’s decision would not just open the darkest chapter in Singapore’s modern history — it also sparked the unraveling of the British Empire.

. . . “There are a lot of myths regarding the Battle of Singapore, and we felt that [the reasons] why Singapore fell had to be more readily explained and understood.    We wanted to bring focus in terms of modern Singapore looking forward,” he adds.   As Singapore focused on growth, the idea of commemorating the past was overlooked, says Ayadurai.   “We became a first world country in haste, and we were able to do that because we were very focused on the economy, but there was not much focus on remembrance,” he says.
(https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/battlebox-military-bunker-singapore-hnk-intl/index.html)

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Europe’s Age of Humiliation

Sławomir Sierakowski in Project Syndicate writes trenchantly on the EU being “helpless and resigned” in the face of global challenges:

“Today, the EU increasingly resembles nineteenth-century China: a still-rich empire that cannot be occupied by others, but is weak enough to be infiltrated and exploited. China, meanwhile, has assumed Europe’s former role, with its companies and investors increasingly penetrating the European economy and extending their influence.”  (Brussels Briefing, 12/19)

Following the electoral victory of Britain’s Conservatives under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the German government is now urging a continuation of its close cooperation with that country. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressed his hopes that the United Kingdom “remains a close partner.”   Chancellor Angela Merkel is “looking forward to our continued cooperation, for friendship, and a close partnership between our countries.”   Berlin needs Great Britain’s political and military capabilities for implementing Germany’s European global policy projects.   The British armed forces are still considered to be the most powerful in Europe and London still has considerable influence on global policy.   Political and economic examples show that disregarding Britain’s interests can push London into direct rivalry to Berlin.   This factor is now all the more important, because Brexit provides the United Kingdom economic and political alternatives to cooperation with the EU.  (German Foreign Policy, 12/19)

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ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE

  • “Although Jews represent less than one percent of the population, half of the racist acts committed in France are committed against Jews.” — French Member of Parliament Meyer Habib.
  • Anti-Semitism is advancing throughout the continent and often has a Middle” Eastern cast.   Yet, the authorities also talk only about right-wing anti-Semitism.
  • Leftist anti-Semitism is present all over Europe.   Its followers, as in France, do their best to hide and protect Middle Eastern anti-Semitism.
  • The demographic transformation taking place in France is also happening throughout Western Europe, and the growing submission to Islam is being silently accepted by the ruling authorities almost everywhere.    (Gatestone, 12/20)

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FAILING CHRISTIANITY

From the Catholic Chronicle:                                                                               People who have not yet received the Gospel message do not live only in non-Western continents; they live everywhere, particularly in vast urban concentrations that call for a specific pastoral outreach.   In big cities, we need other “maps,” other paradigms, which can help us reposition our ways of thinking and our attitudes. Brothers and sisters, Christendom no longer exists!  Today we are no longer the only ones who create culture, nor are we in the forefront or those most listened to.   We need a change in our pastoral mindset, which does not mean moving towards a relativistic pastoral care.   We are no longer living in a Christian world, because faith – especially in Europe, but also in a large part of the West – is no longer an evident presupposition of social life; indeed, faith is often rejected, derided, marginalized and ridiculed.

… I think of five countries that filled the world with missionaries – I told you which ones they are – and today lack the vocational resources to go forward. That is today’s world.      (Christendom no longer exists, Rocco Palmo, 12/21, Catholic Chronicle)

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A fraction of Peter’s Pence donations actually ends up with charitable causes                                                                                                               A fraction of donations to a special papal fund goes directly to charitable causes with the rest spent on plugging the Holy See’s budget deficit, according to a report in “The Wall Street Journal.”  Around 10 per cent of the monies donated to Peter’s Pence is spent on supporting the poor and suffering out of an annual budget of €50 million (£42 million). 

The fund is technically not for charitable purposes describing itself as serving “the many different needs of the Universal Church and for the relief of those most in need,” and has long been used to help with the Vatican’s running costs.   But the news that such a large portion of the budget is still being used to balance the Vatican’s books shows the deep-seated problems Pope Francis is grappling with in attempting to reform the Vatican’s finances.  Soon after his election, Francis lamented that the monies were being used to plug deficits rather than being spent on the poor.   During his pontificate, the Pope has used the fund to help the destitute, including sending $500,000 (£375,000) in April 2019 to help migrants on the Mexico border.   “Let us make money go to the poor,” the Pope told his financial advisers in 2013, according to a new book on the papacy, “Wounded Shepherd”, by Austen Ivereigh.   The Vatican does not publish a detailed breakdown of how Peter’s Pence money is spent, and what portion goes to covering administration costs, although it does list which projects it has supported on a website, http://www.peterspence.va.   The total value of the fund is thought to be roughly €600 million.

Peter’s Pence has its origins in ninth-century England when King Alfred the Great collected money from landowners to support the Pope.  The practice was revived, and formalised by Pius IX in 1871 and was known as the Obolo di San Pietro (“offerings from the faithful”).
(Copyright © The Tablet Publishing Company 2015 – 2019, all rights reserved)
(https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/12307/one-tenth-of-peter-s-pence-actually-reaches-the-needy)

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US IMAM CLAIMS ALLAH TRANSFORMED JEWS INTO APES AND PIGS

Indonesian-American Imam Mohamad Joban of Masjid Ar-Rahmah in Redmond, WA delivered a lecture focusing on a Quranic story of a town of Jews who were transformed into apes by Allah for having rebelled against Him by setting fishing nets on Friday, before the Sabbath, and collecting the fish on Sunday.   He said that this story was never exposed because the Jews cover up bad stories about themselves and always pretend to be pious.   Laughing, he told how the Jews who had been transformed into apes cried because they couldn’t recognize one another as apes.

Then Imam Joban said that in another verse, the violators were transformed into pigs.   He discussed the question whether the transformed Jews had offspring and said that there are two views about this.   However, he mentioned two cases, from Egypt and Malaysia, where newborns looked like descendants of apes and pigs.   Imam Joban and his congregation chanted from the Quran responsively:   “When [the Jews] rebelled against the commands to refrain, [Allah] said to them, ‘Be despicable apes’…” Imam Joban is a full-time Imam at Masjid Ar-Rahmah, which belongs to the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS). The lecture was uploaded to the MAPS Redmond YouTube channel on December 17, 201 (MEMRI, 12/23)

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REPORT ON ‘NEW PALESTINE’ SHARPLY CONTRADICTS US POSITIONS

Trump plan sees 3-way peace deal between Israel, PLO, Hamas
Lebanese outlet claims deal would see Israel keep settlements, Palestinians get Jerusalem share, Saudis gain Temple Mount role, Egypt give land for Gaza.     (Times of Israel, 17 Dec 2019)

Claiming to have obtained a copy of the Trump administration’s long-awaited peace deal, a Lebanese TV station asserted Monday that the US plan envisions a tripartite agreement providing for Palestinian statehood to be signed by Israel, the West Bank-based Palestine Liberation Organization and the Hamas terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.   The report by the pro-Hezbollah Al-Mayadeen features details that starkly contradict the limited information the administration has released about the plan, and that stand at sharp odds with known US and Israeli positions, casting considerable doubt on the credibility of the report.

The report claimed the United States would end its economic support for Israel if the Jewish state rejects the deal, which reportedly provides for establishing a Palestinian state in Gaza and parts of the West Bank to be called “New Palestine.”  (https://www.timesofisrael.com/report-trump-plan-envisages-three-way-peace-deal-between-israel-plo-and-hamas/)

PLEASE NOTE: THE ABOVE HAS NOT BEEN VERIFIED BY ANY OTHER SOURCE.

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TO THE POINT

  • Lagos, Nigeria:   A slow-motion war is under way in Africa’s most populous country.   It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality.   And the world has hardly noticed.  (WSJ, 12/20)
  • The justice department has unveiled plans for a crackdown on violent crime in seven US cities.   William Barr, the attorney general, outlined Operation Relentless Pursuit at a press conference in Detroit on Thursday, flanked by the leaders of several federal law enforcement agencies.   The plan will increase the federal law enforcement presence in Detroit, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee, which have crime rates higher than the national average.(Guardian, 12/20)
  • Tony Blair criticized the Labor leadership at the recent general election.   The former Labor prime minister argued that if the party does not jettison Jeremy Corbyn’s “quasi-revolutionary socialism” and revert to a more centrist position, then it might become extinct.   He also mocked Labor’s “almost comic indecision” over Brexit;   Mr. Corbyn stayed neutral on the biggest issue of the campaign.   (Economist, 12/19)
  • The evangelical Christian magazine, Christianity Today,  founded by Billy Graham has called for Trump’s removal from office following his impeachment, in a break from the president’s typically staunch evangelical support.  (Guardian, 12/20)
  • Turkish President Erdogan Again Threatens To Push Refugees Into Europe:    ‘All European Countries – Above All, Greece – Will Feel The Pressure Turkey Feels (MEMRI 12/24) (http://memri.convio.net/site/R?i=cBe2CcBx5_Z5jD6a-Mi-Xw)

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.

GERMANY UPS FIGHT AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM

HALLE, Germany (AP) — A heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews tried to force his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, then shot two people to death nearby in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a popular gaming site.

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet passed new measures Wednesday aimed at helping fight far-right extremism and anti-Semitism following an attack on a synagogue earlier this month.

The proposals include tightening gun laws, stepping up prosecution of online hate, and boosting financial support for projects fighting anti-Semitism and far-right extremism.

“The horrible attack on the Jewish community in Halle showed again what the unleashing of hatred online can lead to,” Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said at a news conference in Berlin when she introduced the bundle of measures alongside Germany’s interior and family ministers.

“We will fight far-right terrorism and anti-Semitism with all the power of the law,” Lambrecht added.

Germany is still reeling from the attempted attack on a synagogue by a 27-year-old German in the eastern city of Halle on Oct. 9, who later killed two passers-by before being arrested.   The man posted an anti-Semitic screed before the attack and broadcast the shooting live on a popular video game streaming site.   (Kirsten Grieshaber, US News & World Report, 10/30)

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The Far Right Is Taking On Cultural Institutions

Theaters, museums, and other venues in Germany are facing pressure from the AfD, raising questions about the extent of artistic freedoms.

ELIZA APPERLY, OCT 28, 2019, The Atlantic

BERLIN – Protests against public artworks in Dresden and Kassel.    A ban on political discussions at the city theater in Freiberg.            And a criminal investigation against a performance art collective.

Germany’s far right is fighting a culture war—and at the forefront is the country’s largest opposition party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD).   Founded only six years ago, the group has transitioned from a platform of opposing the euro to far-right nationalism.   Fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric has helped the group gain sizable sway in regional parliaments, with significant victories in three regional elections this fall.

Yet beyond its focus on immigration, the issue for which it is best known, the AfD has another important target – culture.   At both the federal and the regional level, the party devotes significant attention to cultural matters:   Its main manifesto includes more pages on culture, language, and identity than on employment, national security and justice, and foreign policy.   In Dresden, the AfD municipal program extends to suggested background music for a specific tram line.

“Culture is integral to the AfD’s strategy and ideology,” Julian Göpffarth, a researcher on the far right at the London School of Economics, told me.   “The party is using its powers to curb cultural productions and spaces that ‘undermine national pride,’ and to impose instead a dominant German culture that celebrates, rather than critically engages with, German identity.”          (https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/10/germany-far-right-culture-war/598978/)

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FAR RIGHT AFD BEATS MERKEL IN GERMAN ELECTION

Voters in the eastern German state of Thuringia boosted the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in regional elections on Sunday, according to preliminary results, but the Left party will remain the dominant political force in the state.

With all districts reporting, results showed the Left party winning 31% of votes in the state that was once part of the communist former East Germany.   (DW, 10/28)

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GERMAN INTERVENTION IN LIBYA

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is intervening in Libya, calling for an “end to foreign intervention.”   On the occasion of his trip to Turkey and North Africa he arrived last Sunday for a brief visit in the country, to prepare an international conference on Libya, which the German government intends to convene soon.   With this conference the German government seeks to possibly pacify the country and distinguish itself as a “regulatory force” in North Africa. Maas then traveled on to Egypt, which also is involved in the Libyan war.   While the German minister is declaring that the Egyptians should be able “to breathe the air of liberty,” Cairo is continuing its brutal repression.   Since the military coup in July 2013, more than 1,500 people have disappeared from state custody.   While seeking to pacify Libya, Berlin is increasing its “regulatory” activities in an “arch of crisis” extending from North Africa and the Middle East to Central Asia.   However, until now, without success.   (German Foreign Policy, 10/30)

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VISEGRAD COUNTRIES GROWING

“Fifteen years after they joined the EU, the four “Visegrad” states of central Europe (the V4) can be prouder of their economic achievements than of their patchy record on political reform.   The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have increased their levels of GDP per head dramatically, and are converging with their mighty neighbor Germany.   The Czechs are the richest, with a GDP per head that is 73% of Germany’s, followed by Slovakia with 63% and Hungary and Poland with around 57% each – and the gap continues to close, as their growth outpaces that of the behemoth.” (The Economist, 10/26)

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UK BECOMING MORE EUROPEAN

“Before the referendum in 2016 European Union flags were as rare as golden eagles in Britain.   Today they are as common as sparrows.   Parliament Square is permanently festooned with them.   Activist Remainers flaunt flag-themed berets and T-shirts.   On October 19th a million-strong army of People’s Vote supporters marched on Westminster beneath a sea of gold and blue standards . . .

“This is part of a bigger paradox:   the more Britain struggles to leave the EU, the more it embraces European style politics.   Since the dawn of the democratic era Britain has practiced two or two and a bit party politics compared with the continent’s multiparty system.   That is changing, accelerated by Brexit.

The Scottish National Party controls Scotland.   The ruling Conservative Party is 45 MPs short of a majority.   The European Research Group of hard-line Brexiteers acts as a party within the Tory party.   The Liberal Democrats could make big gains in the forthcoming general election, especially if Brexit seems reversible.” (The Economist, 10/26)

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CATHOLIC SYNOD IN ROME RECOGNIZES DIVIDED CHURCH

“The synod represents the biggest step yet towards recognizing something many Catholics in the West, especially church leaders, have been reluctant to acknowledge:   Just as economic and Diplomatic power in the secular world is sleeping away from the North Atlantic region, a similar process is taking place in Catholicism.   In the secular world, the shift is to Asia.   Within the Catholic church it is towards not only Asia, but Africa and Latin America, too.   That is forcing the church to consider how far it is willing to adapt to the practices and beliefs of cultures with their own spiritual traditions.   The synod has added to fears of a new schism within the church.”   (The Economist, 10/26)

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TO THE POINT

  • Warren not a socialist:  “Some Republicans and Wall Street critics claim that Ms. Warren is a socialist. She is not.   She does not support the public ownership of firms or political control of the flow of credit.   Instead she favors regulations that force the private sector to pass her test of what it is to be fair.”   (“A plan for American capitalism,” The Economist, 10/26)
  • Russia in Africa “… over the past decade, and especially after America and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia related to its annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin has viewed Africa as an increasingly important arena.   Since 2015 a dozen African leaders have visited Russia.   From 2006 to 2018 Russia’s total trade with sub-Saharan Africa increased by 336%.   It is the largest arms exporter to the continent, accounting for 39% of deliveries in 2013-17 (many from Russia to Algeria”. (The Economist, 10/26)
  • Farage’s gamble  — EU ministers are taking a breather from Brexit as the action moves firmly back to London, where MPs are preparing for a general election. In a possible game-changer for Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is considering whether to pull out of hundreds of seats.   This would be a major boost to the UK prime minister, given the risks that the Brexit party could split the vote among leavers. (FT)   As James Blitz writes, the prime minister is taking a massive gamble by engineering the vote before the UK is out of the EU.   Farage’s Brexit party poses one possible risk.   Another is that Labour will hammer home the message that a victorious Tory party would use Brexit as an opportunity to pursue a hard-right social and economic agenda.    (Financial Times 10/31)
  • Refreshing view on Israel:   Egyptian Coptic patriarch Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria said in an October 14, 2019 interview on France 24 Arabic TV that he encourages Copts to visit Jerusalem because getting closer to others increases mutual understanding.   He said that Israel is a country like any other country and expressed support for an agreement that would make Jerusalem an international capital, though he said that this is not possible given the current reality.   Pope Tawadros II expressed concern for Christian holy places in Jerusalem and said that many parties are collectively responsible for the complexity of the current realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   He praised efforts to resolve the conflict.   (MEMRI, 10/30)
  • The worst patients in the world:   “Americans are hypochondriacs, yet we skip our checkups.   We demand drugs we don’t need, and fail to take the ones we do.   No wonder the US leads the world in health spending.”   (David H. Freedman, The Atlantic, July 2019).

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHO CAN TRUST TRUMP’S AMERICA?

Gary Newman is a good friend of mine who attends the Milwaukee congregations of the United Church of God. Photography is his hobby, particularly taking pictures of birds in Wisconsin. The above picture is taken from his latest book of wildlife, a collection of his photographs.
Gary struggles with Parkinson’s and would appreciate your prayers.

“The pithiest summary of Donald Trump’s foreign policy comes from the president himself.   Referring to the mayhem he has uncorked in Syria, he tweeted:  “I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”   Mr. Trump imagines he can abandon an ally in a dangerous region without serious consequences for the United States.   He is wrong.   The betrayal of the Kurds will lead friends and foes to doubt Mr. Trump’s America.   That is something both America and the world should lament . . .

“Mr. Trump campaigned on bringing troops home.   He has argued that America must rid itself of ‘endless wars.’   When he says Russia, Iran and Turkey can deal with the mess in Syria, many of his voters will agree.   After almost two decades at war, they have tired of America’s acting as the world’s policeman.   Some Democrats would like to pull troops out of the Middle East, too, including Elizabeth Warren, a leading contender to replace Mr. Trump.”   (“Who can trust Trump’s America?” – The Economist, 10/19)

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TURKEY MAY GO THE WAY OF VENEZUELA

Turkish citizens are wildly optimistic about the invasion of Syria that began Oct. 9.   President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision finds broad support within Turkey, including from all the major opposition parties except the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party.   The incursion is understood domestically not only as a measure to protect the country from the Kurdish forces Mr. Erdoğan calls “terrorists,” but also to affirm Turkey’s status as a power; Ankara no longer must bow to the wishes of Washington, Berlin or Moscow.

Then there’s the pessimistic view, the one I share.   The invasion damages Turkey internationally:    Western and Arab governments have condemned the military operation, as have the Russian, Iranian, Indian and Chinese governments.   Volkswagen paused a planned investment in Turkey, and other companies may follow suit. Congress is weighing economic sanctions.   Italy, France and Germany have suspended arms sales.   Tensions are heightening between Turks and Kurds in Germany, and will likely rise within Turkey as well.   (“Turkey may go the way of Venezuela,” Daniel Pipes from the Wall Sreet Journal, 10/24)

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CANADIAN ELECTION

The Canadian election has been held and leaves Justin Trudeau in charge, albeit with a minority government.   He will now have to negotiate with other parties to keep himself in power.   The following is an item from before the election.

In a Friday, October 11, 2019, sermon that was uploaded to the Muslim Youth Victoria YouTube channel, Canadian Sheikh Younus Kathrada reminded his audience that who they vote for in the upcoming Canadian elections, if they decide to vote, will be recorded by the two angels on their shoulders and that Allah will ask them on Judgment Day why they voted for “filthy non-Muslims” who approve of homosexuality.   Sheikh Kathrada said that all of the candidates are “evil and filthy” people who support the Zionists against Islam and who do not have Muslims’ best interests in mind. He added that this is consistent with the Quranic statement that the Jews and the Christians will never be pleased with the Muslims. (MEMRI 10/16)

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DRAGHI BOWS OUT AT ECB WITH WARNING ON EUROZONE WEAKNESS
Mario Draghi blames slowing global economy, Brexit uncertainty and recession fears in Germany

Speaking in Frankfurt after his final ECB policy meeting before stepping down, Draghi said the ECB was concerned that the economy of the 19-member currency bloc, which has slowed this year along with much of the global economy, faced “protracted weakness” going into 2020.

With consumer and business confidence low and trade with the US hit by Donald Trump’s latest raft of import tariffs, risks were all “to the downside,” said the Italian economist, who will be succeeded on 1 November by former International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde.

German companies were the worst affected, with employment in Europe’s largest economy falling for the first time in six years according to a closely watched business survey.   After 14 months of falling new orders from abroad and a steep drop in sales across the manufacturing sector in October, the German economy’s slide to the brink of recession appeared to be continuing unabated.   (Guardian * 24 Oct 2019)

(https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/24/germany-eurozone-stagnation-economy-output-recession)

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TO THE POINT

  • The search for the perfect impeachable offense against President Trump is reminiscent of overzealous prosecutors who target the defendant first and then search for the crime with which to charge him.   Or to paraphrase the former head of the Soviet secret police to Stalin:   show me the man and I will find you the crime.   (“Impeachers searching for new crimes,” Adam Dershowitz, Gatestone, 10/24)
  • If, according to Hamas, Turkey has the right to protect its border, why does Israel not have the same right?   (“Why Hamas supports Erdogan’s War,” Gatestone, 10/22)
  • With only a few days to go until Brexit, scheduled for October 31st, it seems doubtful it can go ahead.   The British parliament has made it virtually impossible for Boris Johnson to leave.   The EU, however, is clearly growing tired of this and has granted an extension of undetermined length (to be decided next week). Clearly, this is the last extension they will grant.   EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker described the whole Brexit process as “a waste of time and energy.”   What has become clear through the whole Brexit process is that the EU is in charge and Britain plays the subservient role.   This is Britain’s national humiliation.   It is also clear that it is impossible to negotiate a deal with the EU, as the former Greek finance minister warned, as they won’t budge an inch.   Donald Trump should remember this when negotiations begin for a new trade deal with Europe – it’s their way or no way!
  • The deaths of 39 people in a lorry (truck) just outside of London shows that people traffickers are still very active.   The people found inside were Orientals.   Only one has been identified, a young lady from Vietnam who was a human rights activist.   She had texted her mother from inside the truck saying she was finding it hard to breathe.   The Chinese government is blaming the British for this.   In one way, this is correct.   If Britain’s welfare system was not so generous, many people would be less inclined to go there.   An immediate solution that would improve the situation would be to deny welfare and healthcare to immigrants unless they have worked there for five years.     It’s an unlikely solution as neither branch of government (healthcare is government controlled) is set up to manage such a system.   So expect more people smugglers.   And, realize, for every truck found, there’s probably 20 or 30 get through and unload their passengers with no problems.   Revelation 18:13 warned that the end-time economic system would see a great trade in human beings:    “The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thy wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.” (NKJV)
  • Human trafficking is now the world’s biggest trade, and is far more profitable than drugs.   People pay approximately 30,000 pounds ($39,000) to be “smuggled” from China through Belgium to England.   One other thing needs to be said:   these people cross at least a dozen countries to get to England.   Anti-Brexit propaganda says the British economy will collapse when the UK exits the EU.   Obviously, these people have far more confidence in the future of the British economy that the Remainers have!

Had a great time in the Dells.   My wife has a pain in her right leg (which has just been diagnosed as a Baker’s cyst), making it very difficult to walk.   And I’ve had the flu since we got back.

SLAVERY IS BACK, BIG TIME

Many of the victims were chained to car hubcaps. Picture: Nigerian police – Source:Supplied

When the first Europeans arrived in Africa in the late fifteenth century, they found a thriving slave trade along the west African coast.   UNESCO reported some years ago that the slave trade was back, in every single country.   President John Kufour of Ghana apologized for the fact that African leaders had been involved.   Without them, there could have been no slave trade.   Now, it seems that the trade is back.   See the following two reports from Nigeria.   Kaduna is a Muslim city in the north of Nigeria.

Nearly 500 men and boys have been rescued from a building in the northern city of Kaduna, where the detainees were allegedly sexually abused and tortured, Nigerian police said.

Children as young as five were among those in chains at what was thought to be an Islamic school, officers said.   Kaduna police chief Ali Janga told the BBC the building was raided after a tip-off about suspicious activity.   He described it as a “house of torture” and a place of human slavery.

Eight suspects, most of them teachers, were arrested.   The police chief said the detainees – some with injuries and starved of food – were overjoyed to be freed. (BBC 9/27)

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BABY FACTORIES

Police rescued 19 pregnant girls who had been kidnapped and raped from properties in Lagos dubbed “baby factories.”

Most of the women, aged between 15 and 28, were abducted and forcibly impregnated so their babies could later be sold.   The girls had been promised employment as domestic workers in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city.   Instead they were held in the properties and forced into sex slavery.   They were also forced to bear children, which were then sold.   (Independent, 10/1)

It’s likely that these babies were intended for western markets.

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GLOBAL ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

Manhattan apartment prices suffered their worst slide in almost a decade in the third quarter as buyers stayed away from multimillion-dollar purchases while newly-built luxury properties continued to flood the market.  Median prices fell 12 per cent in the quarter from the year earlier, the worst drop since the last three months of 2009, according to Core, a New York City real estate broker.   The median price fell to $999,950, the first time it dipped below $1m in four years, according to Core’s data.

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Vacancies in US shopping malls have hit an eight-year high but new data show that some areas are coping with the retail upheaval far better than others and the gap is widening.   The proportion of units lying empty in some cities, including Indianapolis and Birmingham, Alabama, is about four times higher than the economic hotspot of San Francisco, according to new data from Reis, part of Moody’s Analytics.   The signs of difficulty in local retail property markets come as landlords brace for a wave of store closures following the bankruptcy of Forever 21 this week.   The fast-fashion retailer, which has 32,800 employees globally, has earmarked 178 locations for closure across the US.  (Alistair Gray, Financial Times, 10/3)

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Global stocks fell sharply on Wednesday, with the UK market having its worst day in more than three years, after poor US jobs data compounded weak manufacturing reports and geopolitical fears — a pile-up of risks that sets the stage for a rocky fourth quarter.   The UK’s benchmark FTSE 100 closed 3.2 per cent lower, the largest one day fall since January 2016 and exceeding the decline that followed the UK referendum in June 2016.   The US S&P 500 fell 1.8 per cent, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed down 1.6 per cent.   The sell-off continued in Asia on Thursday morning. Japan’s Topix slid 2.1 per cent, on track for its worst day in almost two months, and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 2.2 per cent, setting up the bourse for worst one-day performance in seven weeks.   Stocks in Hong Kong opened down 0.8%. (Financial Times, 10/3)

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The World Trade Organisation gave America the green light to impose $7.5bn of tariffs on imports from the European Union.   The Trump administration slapped 25% tariffs on a smorgasbord, from Scotch whisky and parmesan to aeroplane parts.  The WTO had already ruled that EU subsidies for Airbus, a plane-maker, amounted to illegal state aid harming Boeing, its American rival.                          (The Economist, 10/3)

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IRAN TO WIPE ISRAEL OFF THE MAP

ISRAEL MUST BE ‘WIPED OFF MAP’ AND IRAN HAS ‘THE CAPACITY’ — Iran Guards chief:   Destroying Israel now not a dream but an ‘achievable goal’

In a claim prominently reported in Iran, Major General Hossein Salami declares Tehran able to annihilate ‘the impostor Zionist regime.   ’Four decades on from Iran’s Islamic revolution, “we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime,” Major General Hossein Salami was quoted saying by the IRGC’s Sepah news site.    “This sinister regime must be wiped off the map,” Salami said.

Salami’s comments Monday came two days after Abbas Nilforoushan, the deputy commander of operations of the IRGC, threatened that if Israel attacks Iran, it will have to collect “bits and pieces” of Tel Aviv from the Mediterranean Sea.

“Iran has encircled Israel from all four sides.   Nothing will be left of Israel,” said Nilforoushan in an interview with the Iranian news agency Tasnim on Saturday.   “Israel is not in a position to threaten Iran,” he said according to a translation published by Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.   (https://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-guards-chief-says-destroying-israel-is-not-a-dream-but-an-achievable-goal/)

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AUSTRALIAN PM GIVES MAJOR SPEECH ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned against “negative globalism” that could restrict his government from acting on its election promises, pushing back against global bodies in areas like climate change and border control.

Mr. Morrison used a major foreign policy speech to reject isolationism but said his government could not accept decisions by an “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy” at odds with the will of the Australian people.

The Prime Minister insisted Australia did not have to choose between its friendships with the United States and China, one week after he took a position on global trade talks that triggered objections in Beijing.

In a key statement about Australian alliances, he praised a “quadrilateral” meeting between the United States, Japan and India last week as an important advance on regional cooperation.

And he announced his intention to visit Japan and India early next year, cementing relations with both countries at a time of public strains with China, which has strongly opposed the “quadrilateral” forum for more than a decade.   (David Crowe, 10/3)

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CANADIAN ELECTION

“. . . parts of the coalition that brought Mr. Trudeau to power are looking shady. In 2015, eight out of the ten constituencies with the highest proportion of immigrants went for his party.   The blackface scandal could put some immigrants voters off, although Mr. Trudeau’s support for high levels of immigration will weigh in his favor.   Just over 321,000 permanent residents were admitted in 2018 (0.9% of Canada’s population) and the target for 2021 is 350,000.” (The Economist, 9/28).

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CHINA’S 70th BIRTHDAY

The Chinese Communist Party celebrated 70 years in power on Tuesday, October 1st.   The “People’s Republic of China” was founded on that day, seventy years ago.

Celebrations were marred by on-going rioting in Hong Kong, where protestors celebrated a “Day of Grief.”   Sources say that the military display Tuesday was the biggest in history, showing that China is a military superpower.

President Xi declared that “no force can shake this great nation.”

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SINO-GERMAN RELATIONS

Since Berlin’s ceremonial reception of a secessionist from Hong Kong, the People’s Republic of China has been reducing its working relations with Germany.   Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi canceled a series of bilateral meetings with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas.   China’s easing customs restrictions for German automobile companies are in jeopardy.   Maas recently met with Joshua Wong, General Secretary of the Demosisto party, which is campaigning for a referendum on Hong Kong’s secession from China. Germany, which is thus blatantly interfering in the People’s Republic of China’s domestic affairs and is strengthening those forces, hostile to the Chinese nation’s continued existence, had already been one of those European powers, which, at the turn of the 19th century, had sought to weaken China, to colonially subjugate regions of the country – including Hong Kong – and to plunder the Middle Kingdom.   From the outset, German colonial troops had committed massacres of countless civilians, to crush the fierce resistance within the population. (German Foreign Policy, 10/2).

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FACEBOOK — END OF FREE SPEECH?

EU courts can demand Facebook actively monitor and delete illegal material such as hate speech, Europe’s top court has ruled.

In a landmark ruling that Facebook has warned threatens freedom of expression, the European Court of Justice on Wednesday said there is nothing in EU current law stopping Facebook from searching and deleting duplicate posts of content that has been declared illegal.   The court said the searches and deletion can be done in the EU but also worldwide should national courts demand it.

The judgment upholds a non-binding opinion from an ECJ adviser in June, which Facebook said “undermines the longstanding principle that one country should not have the right to limit free expression in other countries.”

In its ruling, the ECJ said there is nothing stopping Facebook “from being ordered to remove identical and, in certain circumstances, equivalent comments previously declared to be illegal.”  (Mehreen Kah, Brussels, Financial Times, 10/3)

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TO THE POINT

  • “For three years, the media-deep state axis has sought to overturn the election of 2016 and bring down Trump, starting with Russia-gate.   Now it appears to have tailored and weaponized the impeachment process . . .   This is what the deep state does to outsiders Middle America sends to Washington to challenge or dispossess it.”  (Pat Buchanan, 10/1)
  • SYNAGOGUES IN GERMANY
    Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin:   The Jewish community in Berlin with more than 11,000 members is once again the biggest in Germany.   Its main synagogue is on the Rykestrasse, a red-brick building in a Neo-Romanesque style dating from 1903/04. With seating for over 2,000 it is the second largest synagogue in Europe after the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest.
  • In February 2019 . . . Pope Francis travelled to Abu Dhabi after receiving an invitation from His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.   It was there that on 4 February the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, His Eminence Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, signed a historic Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together. Abrahamic Family House:   Immediately, the newly signed document took on flesh. Just one day later on 5 February, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince announced the construction of the Abrahamic Family House on Saadiyat Island.   The complex will eventually house a Christian church, a mosque and a synagogue as well as an educational centre.   . . . Committee member Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak says that this latest proposal to “bring world cultures together” is rooted in an overall desire on the part of the United Arab Emirates.
  • A village in New Zealand has banned a replica of Captain Cook’s ship from docking there to mark 250 years since the explorer’s arrival after an outcry from the local Māori community.   The vessel is part of a flotilla circumnavigating New Zealand next month for the Tuia 250– a NZ$13.5m (£7m) series of events that “acknowledges the first onshore encounters between Māori and Pākehā in 1769-70.”    It was due to visit Mangonui, in the North Island, but the stop was cancelled by the ministry of culture and heritage after complaints from indigenous figures.   Anahera Herbert-Graves, the head of Northland’s Ngāti Kahu iwi, or tribe, told RNZ:    “He [Cook] was a barbarian.   Wherever he went, like most people of the time of imperial expansion, there were murders, there were abductions, there were rapes, and just a lot of bad outcomes for the indigenous people.   “He didn’t discover anything down here, and we object to Tuia 250 using euphemisms like ‘encounters’ and ‘meetings’ to disguise what were actually invasions.”   In Gisborne, nearly 800km from Mangonui down the east coast and the starting point for the flotilla’s months-long voyage, iwi said they would refuse to hold pōwhiri, or welcoming ceremonies, for those ships linked to colonization. (Graham Russell, The Guardian, 9/17)
  • BORIS JOHNSON’S PLANS FOR BREXIT                                              Boris Johnson on Wednesday finally published the plan he hopes will end Britain’s three-year Brexit agony, winning plaudits from Eurosceptics at home but prompting serious doubts about whether it could unlock a deal with the EU.   Mr. Johnson closed his Conservative party conference with a flourish, despatching to Brussels what he called “fair and reasonable” proposals to address the vexed issue of the Irish border, intended to broker an exit deal by October 31.   The prime minister’s allies said Mr. Johnson would negotiate with Brussels, but if his plan was rejected outright he would break off all talks and start preparing for a no-deal exit.   He could also refuse to attend an EU summit next month and fight any future election blaming Brussels, opposition parties and Remainers for stopping Brexit.  (Financial Times, 10/3)

 

GERMANY BACKS BREAK-UP OF UNITED KINGDOM

BERLIN/LONDON/EDINBURGH – Berlin’s foreign policy is in support of Scottish nationalists, preparing to hold a second referendum to secede from the United Kingdom.   Last week, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of the Scottish regional government and chairperson of the Scottish National Party (SNP), was received in the German capital for confidential talks with representatives of the German foreign policy establishment, including with Michael Roth (SPD), Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.   Officially, the meetings were focused on the Brexit, bitterly opposed by Sturgeon and the Scottish nationalists.   However, Sturgeon was, in fact, also pleading for support for her secessionist project and to bring Scotland, as an independent country into the EU.

About three years ago, German government representatives had already been in support of this plan.

However, a reliable Scottish majority, needed for this project, is nowhere in sight.

A Second Secession Referendum

Scotland’s regional government under First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is relentlessly pursuing its campaign for a second secession referendum.   Prior to the referendum on September 18, 2014, Scottish nationalists, including Sturgeon, had repeatedly that the population’s decision at the ballot box should be valid for one generation.   However, when a clear majority of 55.3 percent voted in favor of remaining in the UK, Sturgeon immediately declared that, by no means, would she content herself with that outcome, and would eventually seek a new vote.   The occasion presented itself with the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016, when a majority of 51.9 percent in the UK voted to leave the EU, while a clear majority of 62 percent in Scotland voted to remain.   This discrepancy was an opportunity for Sturgeon – whose regional government has so far only rudimentarily implemented its election promises concerning the social and health sectors – to not only reiterate her idea of a second referendum, but to directly link the perspective of Scotland’s secession with that of remaining in the EU.

Inducement Applause

Representatives of Germany’s governing parties and ministries took this occasion to openly applaud the Scottish nationalists’ secessionist efforts and thus promote the disintegration of an officially allied country.   Already on June 26, 2016, Gunther Krichbaum (CDU), Chairman of the Bundestag’s Committee for the Affairs of the European Union declared that he expected that a new referendum on Scotland’s secession would be “successful” and that the country would remain within the EU.   (German Foreign Policy, 9/23)

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GERMANY SUPPORTS MORE INTERVENTIONS

The German government seeks to expand civilian-military interventions abroad, to obtain a more favorable position in the global struggle for spheres of influence.   To meet the challenge in the context of the “great-power rivalry between the United States, Russia and China,” the EU military missions must be combined with “civilian assistance,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) declared recently.   This “networked approach” should become “a hub” for EU-policy and lead to the creation of a “crisis prevention center” in Berlin.   The plan is particularly to train police officers and other “rule-of-law experts” to be deployed in countries, where “German interests” appear threatened by “outside influence.” “Legitimate partners,” such as the governments of Mali or Afghanistan or opposition forces, as in Syria, could be “strengthened,” explains the German Foreign Ministry.  (German Foreign Policy, 9/21)

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GERMANY LEADS MULTINATIONAL NAVAL EXERCISE

ROSTOCK/COPENHAGEN – Under German command, numerous NATO member countries and close allies are participating in a naval exercise – that ends on Thursday – for the control of Baltic maritime routes.

The Bundeswehr provides, by far, the largest contingent in this year’s “Northern Coasts” naval exercise (September 3 to 19), taking place in the context of the escalating conflict between western countries and Russia.   Due to this conflict, not only Eastern Europe, but the Baltic Sea, as well, has been gaining strategic importance. This is comparable to the Baltic Sea’s importance during the Cold War.   Germany is participating in NATO’s remilitarization of the Baltic Sea, seeking to assume a regional leadership role and enhance its standing within NATO.   The new Maritime Forces Staff, DEU MARFOR, based in the naval headquarters being set up in Rostock, also serves this purpose. In the future, it will be able to provide command for NATO, as well as EU wars.

Northern Coasts 2019

Around 3,000 troops from 18 nations are currently participating in the “Northern Coasts 2019” naval exercise lasting more than two weeks and extending from the straits connecting the Baltic Sea to the North Sea between the Danish and Swedish coasts up to the Bornholm island.   It, thus, includes the narrowest and shallowest sections of the Baltic Sea’s maritime routes.  It is already a challenge for larger ships to maneuver in the Baltic Sea.   In this environment, the multinational forces are training joint operations with 47 vessels, a submarine, seven aircraft and five helicopters.   With 1,300 troops, the Bundeswehr, alone, accounts for nearly half of the soldiers and thus the largest proportion of personnel in the exercise. German forces provide seven ships, the submarine and one of the seven aircraft.   In addition, mine clearance divers from the Naval Force Protection Battalion in Eckernförde are deployed and play a leading role in mine-warfare.   Ashore, German soldiers are active in the logistics command and provide specialists for electronic warfare operations.    This year, the multinational personnel and equipment are under the command of German Rear Admiral Stephan Haisch.(German Foreign Policy, 9/16)

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BANKING AFTER BREXIT

Brexit will reduce by one third the EU’s share of global capital markets and will shift relations within the EU in France’s favor, as was revealed in a recent study on the impact the UK’s departure will have on the Union’s financial sector.   Brexit will therefore reduce the EU’s share of global capital market activities to 14 percent – around one third the size of the US and roughly the same as China. France will become number one among the EU-27 – a bit ahead of Germany.   The shrinkage can also be attributed to the fact that the EU was unable to induce major banks and other financial institutions, on a large scale, to relocate from London onto the continent. Brussels has tried to use strict regulations, stipulating that financial transactions within the EU may only be conducted by legally independent entities within an EU country. However, the financial sector has limited its relocation onto the continent to only the bare essentials. The anticipated banking boom, for example, in Frankfurt, is not materializing.  (German Foreign Policy, 9/19)

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MIDEAST SLIDING INTO MAJOR WAR

The Middle East appears to be sliding into a war and it may even have already started. It is a new kind of war, a 21st century conflict for which there is no formal declaration of war, no clear fronts and a wide variety of battlefields.   There are attacks the provenance of which may never be known, and while some of the fighting is conventional in nature, much of it is not and involves drones in the air and viruses in cyberspace.

More than anything, it is a confusing war, in which nobody really has control, not even those who are ostensibly leading it .

(https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/usa-saudia-arabia-iran-a-new-conflict-in-the-middle-east-a-1287811.html)

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AMERICA WILL NEVER TOLERATE IRAN’S ANTI-SEMITIC HATE – TRUMP

At UN, Trump calls on Mideast nations to fully normalize ties with Israel.  Addressing world leaders, US president says sanctions against Iran will be tightened, not lifted, until it changes behavior and ends ‘fanatical quest’ for nukes.

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, the US president accused Tehran of trafficking in “monstrous anti-Semitism” and engaging in a “fanatical quest” to obtain nuclear weapons.   Trump said the rogue regime’s aggression had created newfound regional alliances to counter the Iranian threat. “Thankfully, there is a growing recognition in the wider Middle East that the countries of the region share common interest in battling extremism and unleashing economic opportunity,” Trump said.   “That is why it’s so important to have full normalized relations between Israel and its neighbors.”

In a highly anticipated address before the international community — as tensions with Iran intensified after it allegedly attacked two Saudi oil facilities — Trump insisted that he would maintain his “maximum pressure campaign” against Tehran.    . . . Iran, he said, was on a “fanatical quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.”   The world, Trump continued, “must never allow this to happen.”

. . . “For 40 years, the world has listened to Iran’s rulers as they lash out on everyone else for the problems they alone have created,” he said.   (https://www.timesofisrael.com/at-un-trump-calls-on-mideast-nations-to-fully-normalize-ties-with-)

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HOW HAMAS LEADERS FOOL PALESTINIANS

“Frustrated Palestinian youths are committing suicide because of poverty, while the sons of the leaders are holding birthday parties!” — Hussein Qatoush, on Facebook

The problem . . . is when your father is a senior terrorist leader who devotes himself to inciting against Israel and Jews and encouraging other young Palestinians to sacrifice their lives in the war against Israel.   Hamad, like the rest of the Hamas leaders, would never send his own son to attack soldiers at the border with Israel.

It is time for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to revolt against the leaders who are keeping them chained in poverty and sending them to their deaths.

It is also time for the international community to wake up to the fact that it is wealthy Hamas leaders, and not Israel, who are responsible for the humanitarian and economic disaster that is known as the Gaza Strip.   (Bassam Tawil, Gatestone, 9/25)

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THE GREAT WAR OF OUR TIME

“So how did our initial victory in Afghanistan – in only months – turn into the longest war in American history?   It happened because at some point our goal shifted from ensuring that al Qai’da would not again be able to use Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks against the homeland to something else.   The mission changed to trying to permanently alter Afghan politics and society.   It was an impossible task to turn Afghanistan’s tribal society and culture into a liberal democracy.   It was an impossible task to convince the Taliban that it should operate inside the Afghan political system rather than outside of it.   Perhaps we should have walked away from Afghanistan after forcing al-Qa’ida from the country, and we would have told all Afghans, including the Taliban, ‘If you let al-Qa’ida return, so will we.”   (“The Great War of our time”, by Michael Morell, former Deputy CIA Director, 2015, page 74).

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TO THE POINT

  • If you’re tired of the usual entertainment provided by TV and even streaming, check out the continuing saga of Brexit, courtesy of Sky News (on “Watch Free” or on the web).  The parliamentary debates are entertaining, to say the least.
  • Surely, the investigation of Donald Trump over his Ukrainian call should be focused on Joe Biden.   His son is now being paid $50,000 a MONTH by a Ukrainian gas company in a job for which he’s not qualified.   When an investigation began looking into this by a Ukrainian prosecutor Biden brought pressure to bear to stop it, threatening an end to US aid.   Corruption, anyone?   (It’s even worse when you consider that the Democrats are supposed to be the party of the working man.)
  • Former French President Jacques Chirac died today.   He was the French leader who finally admitted French complicity in the Holocaust, that the French themselves put French Jews on trains taking them to concentration camps.
  • New South Wales has become the latest Australian state to liberalize abortion laws.   It doesn’t make any sense.   Australia needs more people.   Refugees and other immigrants threaten the Australian way of life.   Australians need to reproduce more.
  • Somebody has stolen the “Amigo” from our local Aldi.   An amigo is a self-driving vehicle with a shopping cart attached.   They can hardly drive it down the street.   What possible use can the thief have for this?   Meanwhile, customers with disabilities are struggling to get around as best they can.   Apparently, a replacement amigo costs about $2,000.

 

 

THE EU IS BUILDING AN EMPIRE

Farage:   The EU Is ‘Building an Empire. Why Deny It?’

12 “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:12-14)

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has criticized senior Eurocrat Guy Verhofstadt for praising the new “world order” of “empires,” but said it was time to be straight about Brussels’ intentions to build a new European Empire.  The Brexit Party leader condemned the remarks of Verhofstadt, who said during the Liberal Democrat conference on Saturday:   “The world order of tomorrow is not a world order based on nation-states, on countries — it’s a world order that is based on empires.”  “The world of tomorrow is a world of empires, in which we Europeans, and you British, can only defend your interests, your way of life, by doing it together, in a European framework, and in European union,” he added.   The Belgian politician, leader of the left-progressive Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament, had called in May for the European Union to become an empire “capable of defending our interests,” but is not the first EU politician to do so.  In 2007, former President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso had praised the EU “empire,” saying:   “Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organization of empire.   We have the dimension of empire.”

Mr. Farage evoked the former Commission chief’s words while criticizing Verhofstadt on his LBC radio show on Monday, saying an EU empire “is where they are going.”   “That is what they want because Barroso, one of the previous bosses of the European Commission, he said:   ‘We’re building the first ever non-militaristic empire.’   “They’re building an empire.  Why deny it?”  Mr. Farage asked.

To go with this empire, the EU is also building its own military, after the majority of its member states signed the Permanent Structured Cooperation process, or PESCO, in November 2017, which is key to the European Defense Union plans set out by outgoing President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who called for a “fully fledged” EU army by 2025.

And while Verhofstadt had called for an empire “capable of defending our interests,” French President Emmanuel Macron made the extraordinary claim in November 2018 that the bloc needs a “real European army” in order to “protect our interests.”

The French progressive politician’s call for a “real European army” was backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Verhofstadt, and the most powerful of the Brussels bodies, the European Commission.   Two month later, Germany’s then-defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said that “Europe’s army is already taking shape.”

Mr. Farage criticized Mrs. von der Leyen, now President-Elect of the European Commission, in July as a “fanatic for building a European army” and accused her of readying to lead a European Union that seeks to “take control of every single aspect of our lives.”   “She wants to build a centralized, undemocratic, updated form of Communism where nation state parliaments will cease to have any relevance at all,” he warned.   (Breibart, 9/17)

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GERMANY’S SEARCH FOR A NEW DIPLOMATIC MAP

Being in charge of German foreign policy is a tough assignment these days — not just in Warsaw but in countries around the world.

Over the past few years, Berlin has watched with growing despair as friends have turned into foes and old certainties have dissolved into doubt.   A new breed of nationalist leader holds sway in capitals from Budapest and Warsaw to Rome and Washington, sounding a note of hostility and antagonism towards Berlin.   For reasons both economic and political, Germany’s relationships with key powers such as China, Russia and Turkey are marked by growing tensions.

At the same time, the dense web of alliances that has characterized German foreign policy for decades — and that underpinned the country’s postwar success — is under strain as never before:   NATO has descended into bitter recriminations over burden-sharing, leading many Germans to wonder how much longer the US will remain committed to the defense of Europe.   The EU itself, meanwhile, is riven by splits between north and south and east and west, and exhausted from the never-ending struggle over Brexit. The UK no longer counts as a reliable ally, and the relationship with France is going through a phase of barely-concealed irritation.  One by one, the fixed stars that have guided German foreign policy for generations have started to dim.   (Tobias Buck, Financial Times, 23rd April)

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GERMAN “LUST FOR POWER”

The future EU Commission should play a “geopolitical” role and provide the Union with a leading position in global policy, confirmed Commission President Elect Ursula von der Leyen, whose team, according to observers, shows a newfound “lust for power.”   Von der Leyen’s plans for the coming five years are very much in line with Berlin’s plans to position the Union as an independent global power between the USA and China.   French President Emmanuel Macron shares this project and – in view of the escalating conflict between Washington and Beijing – cautions that, if it fails, all influence on global policy would be lost.   Influential German business circles opine that a German-European intermediate position cannot be avoided.   Otherwise they would lose business with China and suffer severe setbacks.   According to transatlantic circles, however, sooner or later, Berlin and Brussels will not be able to avoid siding with Washington.  (German Foreign Policy, 9/17)

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GERMAN SUPPORT FOR HK DEMO

Monday evening, activist Joshua Wong arrived in Berlin from Hong Kong for talks with German politicians, including Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.   Wong represents an opposition party that calls for a referendum, including a vote on Hong Kong’s future secession from China.   Just before his trip to Berlin, demonstrators rallied on Sunday in front of the US consulate in Hong Kong calling on US President Trump to intervene in their favor with the city authorities. Already since March, high-ranking members of Hong Kong’s opposition have repeatedly visited Washington for talks with US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Berlin is now following suit and receiving leaders of the Hong Kong protests for talks with top government officials.   Washington is preparing new legislation for sanctions providing for punitive measures against Chinese officials and putting Hong Kong’s special economic status into question.   Billions in German business transactions are also at risk.   (German Foreign Policy)

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With its professionally choreographed reception of Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, Berlin is presenting itself to the international public as the Chinese opposition’s foreign hub.   Wong was personally welcomed in Berlin by the Foreign Minister, and he demanded at the Federal Press Conference that action be taken against China.   Germany has already granted asylum to two other dissidents from Hong Kong, who had been calling for the city’s secession from China and have been indicted for their participation in riots.   For decades, Uighur separatist associations have had their foreign operational base in the Federal Republic of Germany, including one accused of participating in preparations of the pogrom-like riots, which claimed the lives of nearly 200 people. German politicians are supporting Tibetan separatists as well – seeing them as a point of leverage for weakening the People’s Republic of China.   A Chinese writer, who called China a “pile of garbage,” was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. (German Foreign Policy)

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FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN RETREAT

On June 22nd there was an alleged coup attempt in Ethiopia.   The army chief of staff was murdered, as was the president of Amhara, one of the country’s nine regions.   Ordinary Ethiopians were desperate to find out what was going on.   And then the government shut down the internet.   By midnight some 98% of Ethiopia was offline.

“People were getting distorted news and were getting very confused about what was happening . . . at that very moment there was no information at all,” recalls Gashaw Fentahun, a journalist at the Amhara Mass Media Agency, a state-owned outlet.   He and his colleagues were trying to file a report.   Rather than uploading audio and video files digitally, they had to send them to head office by plane, causing a huge delay.

Last year 25 governments imposed internet blackouts.   Choking off connectivity infuriates people and kneecaps economies.   Yet autocrats think it worthwhile, usually to stop information from circulating during a crisis.

This month the Indian government shut down the internet in disputed Kashmir – for the 51st time this year.   “There is no news, nothing,” says Aadil Ganie, a Kashmiri stuck in Delhi, adding that he does not even know where his family is because phones are blocked, too.   In recent months Sudan shut down social media to prevent protesters from organising; Congo’s regime switched off mobile networks so it could rig an election in the dark; and Chad nobbled social media to silence protests against the president’s plan to stay in power until 2033.

“Free speech is hard won and easily lost. Only a year ago it flowered in Ethiopia, under a supposedly liberal new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed.   All the journalists in jail were released, and hundreds of websites, blogs and satellite TV channels were unblocked.   But now the regime is having second thoughts.   Without a dictatorship to suppress it, ethnic violence has flared.   Bigots have incited ethnic cleansing on newly free social media.   Nearly 3m Ethiopians have been driven from their homes.

Ethiopia faces a genuine emergency, and many Ethiopians think it reasonable for the government to silence those who advocate violence.   But during the alleged coup it did far more than that – in effect it silenced everyone.   As Befekadu Haile, a journalist and activist, put it:   “In the darkness, the government told all the stories.” (The Economist, 8/17)

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CANADIAN THREAT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH

In a three-pronged blow to freedom of speech, Canada’s Trudeau government in May signed the “Christchurch Call to Action” – a government-led drive for more censorship; then launched a “Digital Charter,” much of it dealing with “hate speech and disinformation;” and in June, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights issued recommendations to the government for the fight against “online hatred,” increasing funding for law enforcement, crown attorneys and judges, and to “educate the population.”   (Nina Rosenwald, Gatestone, 8/15)

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THE LOST ART OF AMERICAN DIPLOMACY

The neglect and distortion of American diplomacy is not a purely Trumpian invention.   It has been an episodic feature of the United States’ approach to the world since the end of the Cold War.   The Trump administration, however, has made the problem infinitely worse.   There is never a good time for diplomatic malpractice, but the administration’s unilateral diplomatic disarmament is spectacularly mistimed, unfolding precisely at a moment when American diplomacy matters more than ever to American interests. The United States is no longer the only big kid on the geopolitical block, and no longer able get everything it wants on its own, or by force alone.

Although the era of singular U.S. dominance on the world stage is over, the United States still has a better hand to play than any of its rivals.   The country has a window of opportunity to lock in its role as the world’s pivotal power, the one best placed to shape a changing international landscape before others shape it first.   If the United States is to seize that opportunity and safeguard its interests and values, it will have to rebuild American diplomacy and make it the tool of first resort, backed up by economic and military leverage and the power of example. (William J. Burns, “The lost art of American diplomacy,” Foreign Policy, May-June issue)

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STRAIT OF HORMUZ – STILL WORLD’S MOST IMPORTANT SEA-GATE

The Strait of Hormuz links the majority of the world’s people who live along the shores of Asia and East Africa to the heart of the Middle East.   Long before the discovery of oil, it was the world’s carotid artery.   Cut off the blood supply almost anywhere else and the world would adapt. Here, however, an interruption could be fatal:    90 percent of oil exported from the Gulf, about 20 percent of the world’s supply, passes through Hormuz. Shipping through the strait, which is a mere 21 nautical miles wide at its narrowest point, is concentrated and hazardous.   In Musandam, the Omani exclave on the strait’s southern side, you can hear Persian radio from Iran as often as Arabic.   Along the rocky shorelines, islets and peninsulas thrust precipitously into the sky.   Heat, humidity, and a scorching wind make the climate inhospitable; many mountain ranges and valleys near Hormuz remain sparsely inhabited.   (“Why the Strait if Hormuz is still the world’s most important chokepoint,” Allen James Fromherz, Foreign Affairs, 7/17)

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SAUDI ARABIA AND IRAN HEADING FOR WAR

Less than 24 hours after a major attack by at least 10 drones or cruise missiles on key Saudi oil facilities, the rhetoric in the Middle East is heating up, and the region appears to be on the brink of conflict.

After US President Donald Trump spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was “no evidence” the large attack came from Yemen.

This now means that Saudi Arabia, which is investigating how the attack happened, is positioned to defend itself, but must choose wisely how.

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POPE APPOINTS LIBERAL CARDINALS

Pope Francis’ unexpected announcement this past Sunday that he would appoint 13 new cardinals to the College of Cardinals strengthens his grip on the Catholic Church and solidifies a liberal majority to select the next pope.

Since assuming the seat of St. Peter in 2013, Francis has been assiduously stacking the College of Cardinals with supporters, ones that will not only back his revisions to Church teachings, but choose his successor.

With his Sunday pronouncement, Francis will have picked 67 new members of the College of Cardinals, giving his backers a clear majority for the first time. Of the remaining members, 42 were selected by Benedict and 19 by John Paul II.

Francis’ new majority will also set a new tone, one in keeping with Francis’ desire that the Church move its focus away from tradition to one that is more active in secular politics, advocating such positions as socialist economic policies, environmental responsibility, immigrant rights, and diplomacy toward Islam.

On matters of doctrine, the Pope has sought to move the faith to one that accepts alternative lifestyles, including gays and lesbians, and eases restrictions of Catholics who have been divorced.   (Newsmax, 9/14)

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Pope Francis invites religious, political leaders to sign ‘Global Pact’ for ‘new humanism’

ROME, September 13, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — In a renewed and enthusiastic endorsement of globalism, Pope Francis has announced he is hosting an initiative for a “Global Pact” to create a “new humanism.”    The global event, set to take place at the Vatican on May 14, 2020, is themed Reinventing the Global Educational Alliance.   According to a Vatican statement issued on Thursday, Sept. 12, the Pope is inviting representatives of the main religions, international organizations and various humanitarian institutions, as well as key figures from the world of politics, economics and academia, and prominent athletes, scientists and sociologists to sign a “Global Pact on Education” so as to “hand on to younger generations a united and fraternal common home.”   “A global educational pact is needed to educate us in universal solidarity and a new humanism,” Francis said in a video message to launch the initiative.   In a strikingly secular message containing only one throw-away reference to the Lord, Pope Francis called on people to “capitalize on our best energies” and to be “proactive” in “opening education to a long-term vision unfettered by the status quo.”

Referencing the “Document on Human Fraternity and World Peace for Living Together,” which he signed with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi last February, Francis explained that, in this new global village, “the ground must be cleared of discrimination and fraternity must be allowed to flourish.”   The Abu Dhabi document aroused controversy for stating that the “diversity of religions” is “willed by God.”   (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-global-education-pact)

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AIM TO END CHINESE ROLE IN DARWIN

In 2015, the Northern Territory Government announced Chinese company Landbridge had been awarded a 99-year lease of Darwin port in a $500 million deal.   Concerns over Beijing’s steady military build-up in the Indo-Pacific region have since prompted renewed concerns about the foreign ownership of Australia’s northern-most port.

At top-level talks in Sydney over the weekend, the Australian Government again joined the United States in expressing alarm over reports China is moving to establish a new military base in a Cambodian port.

Mr. Champion, who is the deputy chair of Federal Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, believes the Commonwealth should now consider buying Darwin Port back.

“It’s a very important port because we have significant defence facilities in the Northern Territory and that’s the part of the world I guess we have to pay a great deal of attention to,” he said.

“We should look pretty clearly at making sure that that port is in government hands, and it’s for those reasons I think it should be nationalised.” (Andrew Greene, 8/4, ABC Australian Broadcasting Company)

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INTERNATIONAL PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

“Christian persecution ‘at near genocide levels,'” the title of a May 3 BBC report, cites a lengthy interim study ordered by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and led by Rev. Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro.

According to the BBC report, one in three people around the world suffer from religious persecution, with Christians being “the most persecuted religious group.”   “Religion ‘is at risk of disappearing’ in some parts of the world,” it noted, and “in some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.”

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also quoted on why Western governments have been “asleep” — his word — concerning this growing epidemic:

“I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion [Christianity] that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonisers.   That has perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue – the role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic.”

Whatever the merits of such thinking, the fact is that many of the world’s most persecuted Christians have nothing whatsoever to do with colonialism or missionaries.   Those most faced with the threat of genocide – including Syria’s and Iraq’s Assyrians or Egypt’s Copts – were Christian several centuries before the ancestors of Europe’s colonizers became Christian and went missionizing.

The BBC report highlights “political correctness” as being especially responsible for the West’s indifference, and quotes Hunt again in this regard:   “What we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.” (“Genocide of Christians reaches ‘alarming stage,’” Gatestone)

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TO THE POINT

  • I’m amazed at the patience of the British people in waiting for Brexit. The majority voted for it over three years ago and it still hasn’t happened.   Maybe they should learn a lesson from their former colony of Hong Kong.   Massive demonstrations over the last three months got the HK government (and China) to back down on proposed legislation that would have given China greater control over the judicial process in the former colony.
  • It’s very interesting seeing the demonstrations in Hong Kong.   The demonstrators have been singing “God save the Queen.”   Clearly, being a colony wasn’t all bad.
  • A significant number of doctors and other medical personnel come from overseas, from countries much poorer than ours.   We are, in effect, stealing doctors from poor countries, leaving them with inadequate medical attention.   It’s time for a rethink.
  • ‘Exit polls suggested that Israel’s general election was too close to call, with Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party taking 30-33 of 120 parliamentary seats and the centrist Blue and White Party, led by Benny Gantz, with 32-34.   That could make Avigdor Lieberman, a former defence minister, the kingmaker, with his far-right Yisrael Beitenu crucial to the formation of a coalition.’   (The Economist, 9/19)
  • Condoleeza Rice has called for the restoration of freedom of speech. Pointing out on CBS’s Face the Nation that half the people deny the other half the freedom to express themselves, she added that “as soon as the word ‘racist’ is used, that’s the end of the discussion.”   It’s more sensible to let people have their say.    Let everybody express themselves.   We used to be proud of our tradition of freedom of speech – let’s return to it.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has finally died, age 95.   As a Catholic, Mr Mugabe believes he is now in purgatory.   This is highly appropriate because that’s exactly where he’s put the people of Zimbabwe!