Tag Archives: Brussels

DEATH OF QUEEN VICTORIA

No, I’m not late bringing you the news!

Rather, I’ve just read “Last Days of Glory,” by Tony Rennell (published in 2000).

The book answers any questions you might have about the death of Queen Victoria, in January 1901.   To my knowledge, hers was the biggest funeral service in history, befitting a woman who was the “Grandmama of Europe” and the most powerful woman in the world. If she had lived, World War One might have been avoided. The German Kaiser was her grandson and was present at her death and subsequent funeral.   By all accounts, he was on his best behavior and was well received by his Uncle Edward, Victoria’s son and successor, who also died before 1914.

 

She wasn’t England’s greatest monarch (that description belongs to Queen Elizabeth I), but she was by far the most influential, giving her name to an age. The Victorian Era carries connotations to this day.

 

Interestingly, President McKinley ordered the flag atop the White House (then known as the Executive Mansion), to fly at half-staff when he heard the news of her death, the first time this had been done for a foreign leader. He also attended a memorial service for her in Washington DC.

In reading of her life, I was reminded of a scripture in the Book of Proverbs, that “Righteousness exalts a nation” (Prov. 14:34).   Britain was exalted during the Victorian era, above all the other nations on earth.   Her empire was the greatest in history, ruling over one quarter of the peoples on earth.   She had the greatest navy in the world, giving her command of the seas.

Contributory factors were the abolition of slavery (in 1833).   There was a four-year transition period, at the end of which Victoria became Queen.   She was seen as a Liberator throughout her life.   Another contributing factor was her exemplary married life – during her short marriage to Prince Albert, they had nine children and were known to be a very happy couple.   This was in stark contrast to her two predecessors on the throne.

There’s no wonder more cities and towns around the world are named Victoria.   She reigned almost 64 years.   She left behind a country that has, sadly, rejected all the values she held dear.

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BRITISH EMPIRE FACTOID

“On the eve of the Second World War, Britain’s Colonial Empire was made up of 45 territories, 2 million square miles and 50 million inhabitants.   All but 300,000 square miles of the Empire was in tropical Africa, where there were no less than 14 territories, all of them staffed by members of the Colonial Service.” (Introduction, “Tales from the Dark Continent,” edited by Charles Allen, 1979)

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TRUMP’S UPSETTING WORDS

When President Trump told four congresswomen to “go back where you came from” and accused them of having anti-American ideas, he had a point.   First and second generation immigrants bring in alien ideas, which can be upsetting.

When I worked for an African government, my wife and I lived quite comfortably on one salary.   When a native African took over, he could not.   The reason is the extended family.   Whereas I only had to support my wife and I, plus our baby daughter, he had 300 members of his extended family to support – brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles.

No wonder the first generation of African leaders asked for bribes to do their jobs, it was the only way they could support all those people.

In Ghana, my wife had a friend from the UK who had married a Ghanaian man.   She used to get very frustrated and angry at all the hangers on, family members who would turn up at all hours of the day and night to ask for money.   Her husband no doubt had to supplement his income in order to survive.

The extended family system is very much a part of African culture.  It is similar to socialism, whereby the guy at the top distributes largesse to everybody according to his will.   As Mrs. Margaret Thatcher put it so well:   “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples’ money.”   Whether it’s your own money or the tax-payers, eventually the funds will be exhausted.

Far better for each person to take care of himself and his own family. This was the foundation of Anglo-Saxon supremacy,

“If a man doesn’t work, neither should he eat” (II Thess 3:10).   I Timothy 5:8 adds:   “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

But the root of the “squad’s” thinking is the extended family system, correctly described by the president as “an un-American idea.”

With immigration (and even the second and third generation) the idea will grow in numbers, changing America significantly.

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WAR WITHOUT END

“For nation (Greek “ethnos” = ethnic group) shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matthew 24:7)

“When he slipped out of consciousness, Batsi Lokana watched the militiamen who had attacked him slice off his mother’s head.   When he came to, her body was gone.  “Either they ate her, or they threw her into the river,” he surmises from his hospital bed in Bunia, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province.   Given Ituri’s history of gore, it is not a far-fetched conclusion.   The past two decades have seen civil war, mass killings, systematic gang rape and a vile scramble for loot.   For some militias, cannibalism is just another way to terrify one’s enemies.

“Last month saw a reprise of the violence, as Ituri’s cattle-herding Hema and seed-sowing Lendu ethnic groups again turned on each other.   Armed men emptied villages, burned down houses, hacked bits off their occupants and ripped the fetus out of at least one woman.   A mass grave found in the village of Tche contained 161 bodies, babies and small children among them.”   (“Ituri’s injuries,” The Economist, July 13th)

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EUROPE ELECTS FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT

STRASBOURG — The European Parliament on Tuesday elected Ursula von der Leyen as the next president of the European Commission — the first woman to hold the EU’s top executive job.

Von der Leyen, from the center-right European People’s Party, served most recently as German defense minister and is a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel.  She will be the first German to lead the EU in more than a half-century, since Walter Hallstein served from 1958 to 1967.

Von der Leyen won 383 votes in a secret ballot, just slightly above the absolute majority of 374 she required to be elected — and far short of the 422 votes cast in favor of current Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in 2014.   There were 327 votes in opposition, 22 abstentions and one vote declared invalid.  (Politico.eu 7/16)

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“The Fourth Reich:   The Specter of Nazism from World War II to the Present

 Amazon books:

Ever since the collapse of the Third Reich, anxieties have persisted about Nazism’s revival in the form of a Fourth Reich.   Gavriel D. Rosenfeld reveals, for the first time, these postwar nightmares of a future that never happened and explains what they tell us about Western political, intellectual, and cultural life.  He shows how postwar German history might have been very different without the fear of the Fourth Reich as a mobilizing idea to combat the right-wing forces that genuinely threatened the country’s democratic order.   He then explores the universalization of the Fourth Reich by left-wing radicals in the 1960s, its transformation into a source of pop culture entertainment in the 1970s, and its embrace by authoritarian populists and neo-Nazis seeking to attack the European Union since the year 2000.   This is a timely analysis of a concept that is increasingly relevant in an era of surging right-wing politics.

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PLANS FOR THE [German Army] BUNDESWEHR
The relentlessly fighting AfD army
by VON PETER CARSTENS:  Political correspondent in Berlin,          10 July, 2019

The AfD* calls for a “strong military force” with “relentless” soldiers and a leadership role in Europe.    Their plans for the Bundeswehr are reminiscent of old times.  It would create a state in the state.  An analysis.

Some sympathizers of the AFD have come to the party because the Union has failed to take care of traditional conservatives.

They see themselves as patriotic people who love their country, respect the Basic Law and defend it if necessary with the weapon in hand.   This also applies to the Bundeswehr, which was neglected for years.

For a quarter of a century, from the Urals to the Atlantic, central European politics barely saw any territorial threat in the midst of its great peace project, which would have to be met militarily.  There remained peace operations and disaster relief to justify the existence of the Bundeswehr.

But times have changed.   Germany has been investing more in equipment, training and readiness for five years now.   It will, however, take time for the worst deficits to be balanced.   After all, it was possible in the late autumn to bring about 10,000 well-equipped soldiers and their vehicles and everything else for several weeks to Norway for the NATO maneuver “Trident Juncture” [Google machine translation].    (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 10th July)

* The AfD (Alternative for Deutschland) is the right wing opposition party in Germany.)

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COUNTER-MEASURES TO US SANCTIONS

(Own report) – Berlin and Brussels are weighing countermeasures to the Trump administration’s growing number of extraterritorial sanctions.   The US government is seeking to globally enforce its unilaterally imposed sanctions to bind other countries, including allies, to its foreign policy course.   The sanctions against Iran are the most prominent example.   They also made German business with Iran largely impossible.   Washington first implemented extraterritorial sanctions in the mid-1990s, but finally reached agreement with the EU not to enforce them against European companies.   This was changed during the Obama administration, when it amassed billions in fines from banks in the EU.   The Trump administration has expanded the extraterritorial sanctions to include Russia and Cuba.   Following the failure of the INSTEX financial vehicle, German government advisors are proposing that legal action be taken in US courts.   Now, “asymmetric countermeasures” are also being discussed.   (German Foreign Policy, July 11th)

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UNDOING THE PAST

PRUSSIAN MONARCHY HEIRS SEEK RESTITUTION OF ARTIFACTS FROM GERMAN STATE                                            Hohenzollerns want property and artworks lost after two world wars and Soviet occupation                                                                                        Guardian UK, 12 July 2019

Negotiations have been ongoing “for several years” between the Hohenzollern family, the federal government and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg over the aristocrats’ demand for restitution.  “The talks … are aimed at finding a lasting solution for different art and collection objects, which are valued differently by the public institutions on the one hand and the Hohenzollern House on the other hand,” said the culture ministry in a statement.   According to Der Spiegel, the Hohenzollerns are seeking the restitution of tens of thousands of paintings, sculptures, coins, books and furniture.  Further, they want a right to reside at one of several properties, including Cecilienhof Palace, where Allied powers met after second world war to decide on Germany’s future.

The restitution negotiations were spearheaded by Georg Friedrich Ferdinand, the great-great grandchild of Wilhelm II, the last emperor and king of Prussia, who was deposed and went into exile after Germany’s defeat in the first world war.   The Prussian royals were initially stripped of their properties without compensation after the monarchy was overthrown, but a deal on the monarchy’s assets was later brokered between the state and the Hohenzollerns under a 29 October 1926 law.    However, Soviet occupation following the second world war and the subsequent communist rule in half of Berlin and in the state of Brandenburg led to additional expropriations, further complicating things.

“The negotiations are about legal ambiguities in the agreement, but also with legal positions that have changed as a result of the subsequent historical events, in particular the measures of the Soviet occupying power and the government of the German Democratic Republic,” said the culture ministry.

As a first step, a list of concerned objects has been drawn up that concerns less than 0.1% of the collections in the Prussian Castles and Gardens Foundation in Berlin-Brandenburg, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the German Historical Museum.  Nevertheless, a rapid resolution of the talks is unlikely. “At the moment, the positions of the negotiating parties are still very far apart,” said the ministry.

(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/12/prussian-monarchy-heirs-reclaim-historical-artefacts-from-german-state)

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DUTCH ROYAL FAMILY STEP IN TO SAVE FORMER HOME OF KAISER WILHELM II                                                                                                 Huis Doorn in the Netherlands struggles to attract visitors due to controversial legacy of last German emperor                                        Guardian UK 2018

The Kaiser bought Huis Doorn, his home until his death in June 1941 at the age of 82, from Baroness Ella van Heemstra, the mother of Audrey Hepburn.   Between September 1919 and February 1922, five trains pulling 59 carriages arrived at Zeist station filled with his possessions.

Today those possessions remain largely untouched.  On his deathbed lies a small bunch of snowdrops and a note from his mourning son, Adalbert, who was serving in Hitler’s Wehrmacht when his father died.   Wilhelm’s morning gown hangs in his bedroom, above his fur-trimmed slippers.   A framed postcard from his grandmother, Queen Victoria, takes pride of place.   His cigars sit by an ashtray.

(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/18/dutch-royal-family-step-in-to-save-former-home-huis-doorn-kaiser-wilhelm-ii)

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MUSLIMS ADD TO INSECURITY

“The BfV has found that all Islamist organizations active in Germany harbor anti-Semitic ideas and disseminate them in various ways. These ideas represent a considerable challenge for peaceful and tolerant coexistence in Germany.” — Annual report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV), 2019 (Gatestone, 7/17)

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Prominent California Islamists Praise Imam’s Call to Exterminate Jews     by Seth Westrop
Islamist Watch, July 9, 2019

While waiting at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, following a trip to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, California imam Ahmed Billoo (also known as Ahmed Ibn Aslam), wrote on his private Facebook account that he was “feeling annoyed” about his location.   He offered a prayer to deal with the surfeit of Jews in the building: “Oh God, reduce their numbers, exterminate them, and don’t leave a single one alive.”   He added the hashtag “Zionists.”

Billoo seemed palpably relieved to arrive in Istanbul the next day, writing “So good to be in a Muslim country” and “#TiredofSeeingZionists.”

Billoo is a prominent cleric in California, and part of a prominent Islamist family.

He works as the religious director at the Islamic Center of Cypress, serves as a “professor” at California Islamic University, and is a teacher at the Institute of Knowledge, a seminary that offers religious advice to Muslim students and trains the next generation of imams.   Its faculty includes prominent clerics from the hardline Salafi and Deboandi strains of Islam. (Middle East Forum, July 9th)

(https://www.meforum.org/58906/california-islamists-praise-imams-call-to-exterminate-jews)

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BOTSWANA ENDS SEXUAL DISCRIMINATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia has this to say on the break with Rome:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HONG KONG RIOTS

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

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

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

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

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

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CHERNOBYL

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

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

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

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

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PELOSI SORRY FOR THE POOR

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

“It is dangerous to underestimate Nancy Pelosi . . .

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

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

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BREXIT DEVELOPMENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WAR WITH IRAN?

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

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

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

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

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

BRITAIN’S NATIONAL HUMILIATION

Prime Minister Theresa May arrived outside the chancellery earlier than scheduled with the German chancellor nowhere to be seen to welcome her.
Prime Minister Theresa May arrived outside the chancellery earlier than scheduled with the German chancellor nowhere to be seen to welcome her.

As if to emphasize her growing isolation, Mrs. Theresa May stood at the Berlin chancellory alone.   Her flight arrived early and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, was a little late.

She started her week with a visit to Berlin and Paris, to meet German and French leaders.   Her purpose was to ask for a second extension to Brexit, due on Friday, April 12th.    The French president seemed reluctant to support her request, but is now supportive.   Her biggest problem is going to be back home.

It’s not just the Queen who must be frustrated with parliament (see picture above), Mrs. May is presiding over the most divided parliament in living memory.

A friend of mine wrote from the UK:   “What a shambles!  The worst Prime Minister since Chamberlain, the most dysfunctional Parliament since Cromwell, the worst leader of the Labour Party ever, plus a rogue Commons Speaker.   A recipe for a ‘perfect storm’.”

“Britain’s new departure date was set for October 31 in what was the EU’s second approval of an extension in less than a month.   The UK will be able to leave earlier if it is able to ratify the withdrawal agreement reached between Mrs. May and the EU.   The humiliating decision for Mrs. May leaves Britain facing elections within six weeks to the European Parliament.   It will heap pressure on the prime minister from Eurosceptic Conservative MPs furious with her leadership and the postponement of Brexit.”  (“EU leaders agree to six month Brexit delay.” Financial Times, 4.11)

A scripture that comes to mind through all this is:   “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”   (Matthew 12:25).

The country has never been so divided.

It seems as if Britain is incapable of standing up for herself.

The Daily Telegraph reports today that the fixation on a deal is not so much Mrs. May, but senior non-elected advisers in the government, who cannot imagine laving the EU without an agreement that binds the UK to it.   The “deep state” in the UK is just as dangerous as it is in the US.

“Groveling Britain has officially surrendered to a triumphant EU,” wrote Andrew Lilico, in today’s Daily Telegraph (4/11).

“Theresa May will soon learn the terms of her latest Brexit extension, which Emmanuel Macron wants to make as punishing as possible.   Why so?   He’s in deep trouble at home, says Jonathan Miller, and thinks a bit of Brit-bashing will help.”   (Fraser Nelson, The Spectator, 4/11/19).

“Brexit rolls on for another six months.   Just after the stroke of midnight, EU27 leaders gave the UK a new Brexit fright night: October 31 (Halloween).“   (Mehreen Khan, Financial Times 4/11)

President Trump has warned the “brutal” EU that “it will all come back to bite you.”    Mr. Trump has his own problems with the EU and is threatening $11 billion in tariffs on EU products.   He may be surprised at how hard the EU can hit back!

LEGACY OF EU MEMBERSHIP

When Britain entered the EU in January 1973 (at the time it was the EEC – the European Economic Community), there were only six members (Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg). Today there are 28 (27 without Britain).   It is doubtful many of the others would have joined if the UK had not signed up.

Additionally, Britain has been a net contributor, helping new (and poorer) members to grow economically.   Britain has been at the forefront of creating an economic superpower.   She is leaving at a time when the EU is strengthening ties, with the creation of a military union.  In effect, Britain has created a (potentially) European military and political superpower, right on her doorstep.

At the same time, Britain handed over many of her former colonies, who signed up to the ACP Lome Convention. African, Caribbean and Pacific nations, tied themselves to the EU.

It’s difficult to see how Britain can recover from her EU membership, but the sooner she is out, the sooner she can make a start.

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BREXIT’S IMPACT ON GERMANY

(Own report) – Germany’s Minister of the Economy, Peter Altmaier, warns of the consequences a “hard” Brexit would have on Germany, and sees the danger of the loss of “thousands of jobs.”   Brussels and London must absolutely “prevent the big crash at the last moment,” declared Altmaier yesterday.   The Federation of German Industries (BDI) had already warned that a hard Brexit could cost Germany a half-percentage point in growth – €17 billion this year alone.   For months, think tanks have been pointing out that Germany would be the country most affected on the continent, if the United Kingdom makes an unregulated exit.   Germany possibly may have to expect double-digit billions in annual losses.   Most recently, the Bertelsmann Foundation assumed that the losses could be broken down to €115 per inhabitant of Germany.   Those losses are looming at a time, when the German economy is in danger of slipping into a recession.   Berlin and Brussels could prevent a hard Brexit by setting a time limit on the “backstop,” however, they are still hoping for a second referendum – and upping the ante.  (German Foreign Policy, 4/4)

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TRUMP ON THE EU

“Europe’s leaders have never felt more alone.   Across the ocean, President Donald Trump has called the E.U. “a foe” of America, stalled a transatlantic trade deal while repeatedly threatening tariffs on European goods, and lashed out at NATO, the West’s cherished postwar project.”   (Time)

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MIDEAST CONFLICT WIDENS

  • “The Yemeni revolution will not be confined to Yemen alone.   It will extend, following its success, into Saudi territories.” — Iranian Lawmaker Ali Reza Zakani, trusted adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  • “If the Shia rebels gain control of the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, Iran can attain a foothold in this sensitive region giving access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, a cause of concern not only for its sworn rivals Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf states, but also for Israel and European countries along the Mediterranean.” — IDF Lt.-Col. (Ret.) Michael Segall

(“Is Iran winning in Yemen?” – Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, 4/11/19)

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NETANYAHU VICTORY – LONGEST SERVING ISRAEL PM

Prime Minister Benjamin Ntanyahu has won a record fifth term as Israel’s prime minister, in spite of corruption charges laid against him.

Victory for the conservative prime minister is another sign that the “left” in Israel has effectively ceased to exist.   His primary opponent, Benny Gantz, was also conservative and hawkish on defense.   He came in a close second.

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HAGIA SOPHIA TO BE CONVERTED INTO A MOSQUE

Addressing a rally ahead of the March 31 municipal elections in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced plans to convert the Hagia Sophia museum, originally a Byzantine cathedral, into a mosque.

Erdogan repeated this statement the following day during a televised interview.   “Hagia Sophia will no longer be called a museum,” he declared.   “Its status will change.   We will call it a mosque.”   (Gatestone, 4/7)

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THE POPE AND WALLS

“I appeal not to create walls but to build bridges” has long been Pope Francis’s mantra.

Most recently, when asked last Sunday “a question about migration in general and about U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to shut down the southern border with Mexico,” the pope pontificated in platitudes:   “Builders of walls,” he said, “be they made of razor wire or bricks, will end up becoming prisoners of the walls they build . . . With fear, we will not move forward, with walls, we will remain closed within these walls.”

Less than a week earlier, Pope Francis lectured the mayor of Rome about the need to be more welcoming to Muslim migrants.   “Rome,” he declared, “a hospitable city, is called to face this epochal challenge [Muslim migrants demanding entry] in the wake of its noble history; to use its energies to welcome and integrate, to transform tensions and problems into opportunities for meeting and growth.”

“Rome,” he exulted, “city of bridges, never walls!”

The grand irony of all this is that Pope Francis lives in the only state to be surrounded by walls—Vatican City—and most of these bastions were erected to ward off centuries of Islamic invasions.”   (“A lesson for Pope Francis on walls and Muslims,” by Raymond Ibrahim, Middle East Forum, 4/2).

 

 

 

 

RASHIDA TLAIB

Rashida Tlaib was kicked out of a Donald Trump event during the 2016 election. She wasn’t sorry then, and will likely remain a strong anti-Trump voice. (Bustle website, By Joseph D. Lyons, Aug 8 2018)

Rashida Tlaib became the first Muslim woman to enter Congress earlier this month.   From Detroit, the lady has already succeeded in re-writing American history.   She famously described the president using a particularly offensive expletive and made an untrue statement that has not been challenged by anyone.   In talking about the use of the Koran in the swearing in, she said:

“I like that,” the Democrat told CNN. “I like that it’s kind of pushing against the stereotype that somehow we’re new to this country.”

Ahh, but Muslims are new to this country.

There’s no record of any before the US Civil War.   If there were, no doubt there would be Muslims buried in Civil war cemeteries.

It is estimated that between 10-20% of African-American arrivals during the slave trade were Muslim, but they were forced to convert to Christianity upon arrival.   They were also forced to accept Christian names.

So, when did Muslims arrive?   From the 1880’s to 1914, many arrived in America as refugees from the Ottoman Empire.

In 1929 the country’s first ever mosque was built, in Chicago.

It was after 1965, the year that Senator Edward Kennedy introduced his Immigration Reform Bill, that Muslims started to arrive en masse.   Additionally, a high birth rate contributed to rapid growth.

“In 2005, more people from Muslim-majority countries became legal permanent United States residents – nearly 96,000 – than there had been in any other year in the previous two decades.   In 2009, more than 115,000 Muslims became legal residents of the United States.”  (Wikipedia, Islam in America.)

So, the real growth in the numbers of Muslims, is fairly recent.

WAS JEFFERSON A MUSLIM?

Most Americans would have been surprised when she was sworn in as a US Congresswoman on Thomas Jefferson’s Koran.   This news has been received with great enthusiasm by the anti-Christian media, ever desirous of distancing American history from its Christian roots.

Now, owning a Koran does not make you a Muslim.   I have one in my library.

But, in the history of US-Muslim relations, Jefferson’s copy may have had more significance.

The Barbary pirates were America’s first major foreign policy challenge following independence.   Four Muslim nations along the North African coast (Algiers, Tripoli, Tunis and Morocco) were seizing shipping and US sailors in the western Mediterranean.   It is estimated that between 1 million and 1.25 million white slaves were being held by these slave-owning nations at this time.   The only nations that escaped were those who paid a ransom to the Arab countries.   The US did this for a while, giving a full 10% of its annual budget.   Clearly, this could not go one.

Attacks on American shipping began in 1784 and continued for about twenty years.

“In March 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to London to negotiate with Tripoli’s envoy, ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman (or Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja).   When they enquired “concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury,” the ambassador replied:

“It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.   He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy’s ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth; which usually struck such terror into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.””

“Jefferson reported the conversation to Secretary of Foreign Affairs John Jay, who submitted the ambassador’s comments and offer to Congress.   Jefferson argued that paying tribute would encourage more attacks.   Although John Adams agreed with Jefferson, he believed that circumstances forced the U.S. to pay tribute until an adequate navy could be built.   The U.S. had just fought an exhausting war, which put the nation deep in debt.”  (“First Barbary War,” Wikipedia)     (Note:   the word”musselman” is an old term for Muslims.)

Although there is no official record of when Jefferson acquired his copy of the Koran, this seems the most likely.   He was reading it to better inform himself on the actions of the Arab leaders America was threatened by.   Such a course would be advisable today.

The turning point in the war was the Battle of Derma in 1805, when US and mercenary troops, captured the Tripolitan city of Derma. They were then able to use the conquered city as a bargaining chip for the release of US personnel and to impose a peace.

During this twenty-year period the US acted alone, as all the European countries were pre-occupied with fighting Napoleon.

If we do not read more American history, people like Rashida Tlaib will get the better of us, making exaggerated claims by Muslims.

Ms Tlaib should also be mindful of what the Bible says about Jesus Christ.

“Neither is there salvation in any other;  for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

He can even help you clean up your language!

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ISLAMIC PARTY OF ONTARIO

In addition to the four main parties already contesting elections in Ontario, there is now an Islamic party.

“It operates with a mandate to introduce Islamic rule in Ontario and Canada because, according to the fledgling party,   “We understand and believe that Islam is the native DEEN (religion) of Ontario and Canada.”

“The Islamic Party of Ontario is headed by one Jawed Anwar, who operates out of the Toronto neighborhood of Thorncliffe Park.” (Middle East Forum, Tarek Fatah, 1/1/19)

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Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour says the prophet Muhammed was a human rights activist

On December 2, 2018, Palestinian-American political activist Linda Sarsour spoke at the 2018 Salam Annual Banquet, held at the Salam Community Center in Sacramento, CA.   She criticized President Trump for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, saying:   “I declare to all of you here today in Sacramento that Jerusalem is and always will be the capital of Palestine.”   Calling the Trump administration fascist, she encouraged Muslims to become involved in politics even if their mosques usually avoid politics, because, she said, simply being Muslim is a political act. The Prophet Muhammad, she asserted, was a human rights activist, adding that there is no need for workers’ rights movements, environmental justice movements, or Black Lives Matter movements, or anti-racism or feminism, because Islam taught these values long before they were hashtags or movements.   She added:   “I don’t need people in the West, people in Europe, or people in the United States . . . to teach me what feminism is.”   (MEMRI, No. 7878, January 9 2019)

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SAUDI JOURNALIST WRITES:

In his July 8, 2018 column in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, Muhammad Al-Sheikh slams Arab and African Muslim immigrants who choose to live in the West and even risk their lives to reach it, yet express hatred and contempt towards the West and regard it as infidel.   He criticizes in particular the ingratitude of mosque imams in Europe, some of whom are immigrants themselves, who abuse the democracy and free speech in their host countries by inciting against the West.   In light of this, says Aal Al-Sheikh, the European right’s opposition to immigration is justifiable, for it is only natural to oppose the influx of immigrants who are “steeped to the bone in a culture of hostility and hatred.” (MEMRI, 7840. 1/10/19)

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America is heading for an almighty fight over presidential authority  (Leaders * Jan 9th 2019 * The Economist)

THE GOVERNMENT has partially shut down.  Again.   No other advanced democracy has government shutdowns.   In America they have become almost routine.   This is the third since Donald Trump became president and by far the most damaging.   The others were resolved quickly; this is already the second-longest on record. It is not happening because America is in turmoil: the country is not at war, unemployment is as low as it has ever been.   It is happening because that is what the president wants.

What is playing out in Washington is the denouement of a political fight.

Mr. Trump was elected on a promise to build a wall on the southern border, though Mexico was supposed to pay for it.   The new Democratic majority in the House is reluctant to give the president a victory on his best-known policy.   The Senate majority leader, who might be able to end the standoff, is AWOL.

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Stretched Thin

In fact, living paycheck to paycheck – meaning there’s not a cash cushion to cover the bills if the income stops for awhile – is a common condition in America.   In the 12th richest nation in the world by per capita GDP, nearly 8 in 10 U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2017 study by CareerBuilder, a human capital management firm.   And the trend crosses over income groups:   more than half of minimum wage workers said they needed to hold down two jobs to make ends meet, while one in 10 workers earning $100,000 or more yearly say they live paycheck to paycheck.

And if there’s an emergency?   A large number of Americans don’t have an accessible stash of money to cover a substantial health care expense or car repair, studies show.   The Federal Reserve Board in 2017 found that 44 percent of American households surveyed could not cover a $400 emergency expense.   A separate BankRate study last year yielded similar results, finding that while 34 percent of those surveyed had experienced a major unexpected expense in the previous year, just 39 percent of those surveyed said they could tap $1,000 from savings to cover it.   (“Stretched Thin,” US News, Susan Milligan, 1/11/19)

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FROM THE EURO TO BREXIT

The Euro is twenty years old this month.  The Telegraph’s finance writer, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote an article commemorating the anniversary.   Here’s an excerpt.

“While EU leaders quibbled over decimal points and debt repayment in Brussels, youth jobless rates reached 57pc in Greece, 56pc in Spain, and much the same across Italy’s Mezzogiorno.  These were levels once unthinkable in a modern developed democracy.  They have left a wreckage of ‘labour hysteresis’ that will lower economic speed limits for a generation to come.

“Several hundred thousand economic refugees came to work in Britain from the EMU depression belt.   A further wave from Eastern Europe came to the UK instead of going to the eurozone as they would have done in normal times.   The double surge had maximum impact just before the Referendum.

“More subtly, the euro crisis revealed that the pathologies of monetary union cannot be managed by normal democratic means. The elected prime ministers of Greece and Italy were toppled in 2010 and 2011 and replaced by EU functionaries in soft coups organized by Brussels and the pro-EMU vested interests of each country.

“The ECB switched off liquidity support for Greek commercial banks in 2015, knowingly (and illegally?) precipitating a banking collapse that was hard to reconcile with the ECB’s treaty duty to uphold financial stability.   When push come to shove, the reflex was authoritarian.   It spoke to the character of the EU.   That I why I voted for Brexit.”

 

 

 

SYRIAN WITHDRAWAL RISKS ISIS REBOUND

U.S. Soldiers observe Turkish forces in the distance while on patrol outside Manbij, Syria, August 7, 2018.  These independent, coordinated patrols are to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS in the region. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nicole Paese)

Wednesday US President Donald Trump announced that America had beaten ISIS and would soon depart from Syria.   The decision involves 2,200 US military personnel.   The news that ISIS had been beaten came as a surprise to allies and enemies alike.

Later in the day, the following was posted by germanforeignpolicy.com:

(Own report) – “German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ brief visit to Baghdad is accompanied by reports that the IS militia (Islamic State) is regaining strength.   Maas was in the Iraqi capital yesterday for talks with Iraq’s new Prime Minister to emphasize Berlin’s push for obtaining stronger influence in Iraq.   He also promoted a billion-euro deal with Siemens and listened to his Baghdad counterpart’s call for Iraqi refugees to return to their homeland.   According to reports, Iraqi authorities are not only responsible for the slow reconstruction of Sunni regions, but Sunnis are being also detained arbitrarily, tortured or condemned to death without proof of guilt. “This is not just revenge on the IS,” explained a senior intelligence officer, “this is revenge on Sunnis.”   Observers warn that this will refill the ranks of the still existing IS in clandestinity, which has again “taken the offensive.””

“As Christmas and the New Year approach, Islamic State (ISIS) supporters have begun to produce posters threatening terror attacks against Christians and inhabitants of Western countries during the holiday season.   Some of the posters threaten impending attacks, particularly by lone operatives, as retaliation for ongoing airstrikes on the organization’s strongholds in eastern Syria, by the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.   Others warn Westerners not to leave their homes on Christmas, while some posters specifically threaten attacks in New York City and London.”   (MEMRI, 12/20)

President Putin praises move to withdraw from Syria, saying that there is no need for US troops to be in the country.   So, why do Russian troops need to be there?

Two headlines from Thursday’s Wall StreetJournal:

“US Pullout could boost ISIS in Syria.”                                                         “Quick exit would add to struggles of Kurdish-led force fighting militant group.”

Additionally, President Trump is to pull 7,000 troops out of Afghanistan.

TWO FOREIGN GIRLS KILLED BY ISIS IN MOROCCO:   Two Scandinavian tourists, aged 24 and 28, were beheaded in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains by men claiming allegiance to ISIS.

BREAKING NEWS: (Friday AM)

ISIS threatens Drone Attack on New York City 

ISIS has issued a chilling new threat to plague the US and the EU with drone attacks.   It comes after a drone near London’s Gatwick Airport caused travel chaos with hundreds of flights cancelled.  

The extremist group widely used drones bought over the counter when it was defending its so-called Caliphate in Syria and Iraq.   Some were used for spy missions while others were adapted to drop grenades and bombs.

Gun cops deployed at Gatwick are continuing to work with elite Army troops and MI5 spooks as they hunt the drones and last night said shooting them down was a “tactical option.”   The saboteur has been playing cat-and-mouse with cops after shutting down Britain’s second busiest airport by drones over the runway 50 times since Wednesday night.  Sharpshooters are today continuing to try to bring down the device – while MI5 spooks were called in to track down the suspect.   Experts say the skilled drone operator – feared to be a lone-wolf green protester – could be controlling the industrial scale craft from up to five miles away.  (Similar claims are in UK tabloids, The Sun and Daily Mail)

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FOUR-YEAR DROUGHT PLUNGES CENTRAL KAROO FARMERS INTO FINANCIAL DISTRESS

CAPE TOWN – Farmers in the central Karoo say they are in financial distress due to a four-year drought.  Farmer’s organisation, Agri Central Karoo, says it’s the worst and longest drought in living memory.   Producers have been unable to grow crops or feed for their livestock.   Agri Central Karoo manager Dêan Gous says the region has only been receiving light rain of two to three millimetres at a time.   He says downpours of at least 20 millimetres are needed.  Gous says farmers are forced to buy expensive feed, while many are being turned away by banks and the co-op.  “My main concern is the people’s cash flow.  We’re past the stage of banks helping us, so now people must dip into their investment money and pension funds.”  He welcomes the Western Cape government’s intervention and drought relief but warns that production cannot be sustained.  “This is not enough . . .  so the main thing is people are decreasing their numbers on the shelves.”  (https://ewn.co.za/2018/12/21/four-year-drought-plunges-central-karoo-farmers-into-financial-distress)

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30,000 JOBS LOST IN WESTERN CAPE AGRICULTURE SECTOR DUE TO DROUGHT — The Western Cape Economic Opportunities Department says the drought has had a massive impact on the agricultural sector

CAPE TOWN – The Western Cape Economic Opportunities Department says the drought has cost about 30,000 jobs in the agriculture sector.  That is 1.5% of all jobs in the Western Cape. Agri Central Karoo says the area is experiencing the worst and longest drought in living memory.  Farmers say they are finding it impossible to farm due to low rainfall. The Western Cape Economic Opportunities Department says the drought has had a massive impact on the agricultural sector. MEC Beverley Schäfer says it has a large impact on jobs and economic growth in the province:   “We’ve already seen a R5.9 billion drop in gross value add, which is about 25% of the value of agriculture production and a 20% decrease in production in general.”   Agri Central Karoo said on Thursday that due to the drought farmers are unable to grow crops or feed their flocks.   Agri Central Karoo manager Dêan Gous says more assistance is needed from the government. Schäfer says they are doing their best and adds that since November support to the farmers in the Central Karoo has increased.   Schäfer says the government is supporting 563 farmers and is spending R8.1 million per month.  (12/21)

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Russia’s Vladimir Putin warns about growing threat of nuclear war

If the US puts intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Russia will take countermeasures, Putin said at his end-of-year press conference.  He warned the “threshold” for the use of nuclear weapons was getting lower.

An attempt to lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons could potentially result in an all-out nuclear war, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned during his traditional end-of-year press conference on Thursday.  It is the first such event since the beginning of Putin’s new presidential term in May and the fourteenth for him in total.

“There is a tendency to lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons,” he said.  “In the West, there is this idea of using low-yield nuclear weapons.  The use of such weapons could lead to a global disaster,” the Russian leader stressed.

Putin pointed at the US intention to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.   He said that if the US puts intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to take countermeasures.

The Russian leader also warned against developing tactical nuclear warheads and conventional long-range ballistic missiles.   According to him, both are dangerous, because they increase the threat of an incidental nuclear war.

“We are currently observing the collapse of the international system for containing weapons,” he added.

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A global credit ‘heart attack’ is just months away

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

20 December 2018 — 11:36am                                                                   Surging borrowing costs for companies in the US and Europe threaten a recession within months and resemble events leading up to the global credit “heart attack” in August 2007.

Risk spreads on American high-yield debt have jumped since early October.   Credit experts say this is the delayed fallout from months of double-barrelled monetary tightening by the US Federal Reserve.

The US central bank is raising interest rates and at the same time shrinking its balance sheet by $US50 billion  a month, perhaps draining more liquidity from global financial markets than intended.

Simon Ward from Janus Henderson said his leading indicator for the health of US companies – the cash supply available to non-financial business (M1) – has turned starkly negative for the first time since the Lehman crisis.

This points to a sharp slowdown next year. “When this measure of cash contracts it means companies plan to cut back,” he said.

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The deal with the EU will turn us into captives                                 By Boris Johnson 19 Nov 2018 — 11:45 PM

Well, it seems my predictions of last week were, if anything, too optimistic.  If MPs vote for this deal, we are bowing our neck to the yoke.

We are preparing to take colonial rule by foreign powers and courts. We are handing over colossal sums of money for nothing.   We are giving up the hope of new free-trade deals. We are giving up the right to vary our laws.   We are betraying Leavers and Remainers alike: we are poised to abandon any UK influence in Brussels, and yet we are signally failing to take back control.

In fact, we are surrendering control to the EU – and this 585-page fig-leaf does nothing to cover the embarrassment of our total defeat.

Boris Johnson argues that the Brexit deal will turn Britons into captives.

In the protocol on Northern Ireland, there is a note almost of malice, as though the EU is punishing us by the surgical severing of part of the UK.   From one convoluted paragraph to the next, you can follow the plot to amputate Northern Ireland and keep it in the EU – run by the EU, but with no influence in Brussels except via Dublin.

Today, No 10 continues to brief that there can still be a future Canada-style free-trade deal and that one day we can still take back control of our laws and our tariffs. But from the Treasury you hear a very different message: that this is the end-state providing the blessed “certainty” that business has been craving.

They can’t both be right – so which is it?   Is the Government serious about staying in the customs union and single market, or is it serious about democracy, free trade and Brexit?   After two years of this tragedy, I think we all know the answer to that one.

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YELLOW VEST RIOTS SPREAD

  • Across Western Europe, ordinary citizens feel ignored and condescended to by their political, business, academic, and media elites.   Against the will of most of these citizens, their leaders are gradually surrendering their nations’ sovereignty to the EU.
  • Also against these citizens’ will, their nations have been flooded with Muslim immigrants who embody a major cultural challenge, have caused massive social unrest, and represent a devastating economic burden.
  • Although it is increasingly obvious that taxpayer-funded Islamization is leading Western Europe down the wrong path, the EU, which stands foursquare behind this disastrous development, refuses to reverse course.
  • Perhaps the question should not be why Western Europeans are rioting but why they did not start rioting a long time ago.

(By Bruce Bawer, Gatestone, 12/18)

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Australia recognises West Jerusalem as Israeli capital .    Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that his government will recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

BBC * 15 Dec 2018                                                                                              However, he said Australia’s embassy would not move from Tel Aviv, until a peace settlement was achieved.

He added Australia also recognised the aspirations of the Palestinians to a state with a capital in East Jerusalem.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contested issues between Israel and the Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump drew international criticism last year when he reversed decades of American foreign policy by recognising the ancient city as Israel’s capital.   The US embassy was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.

 

SUICIDES UP IN US, DOWN GLOBALLY

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

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

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

LIFE EXPECTANCY DOWN IN US

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

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

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

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

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

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CONTINUING BREXIT CRISIS

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

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

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

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IS THE GLOBAL ECONOMY TAKING A DOWNTURN?

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

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

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

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

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

“NEW YORK 30% OFF”

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

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

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

GM ANNOUNCES 15,000 JOB CUTS   (Monday)

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

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

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

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

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AN ARMY OF THE EUROPEANS

Military Union in the Making

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

Strategic Autonomy

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

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‘THE DAY OF THE DICTATOR IS OVER!”

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

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TWO CHUMMY MURDERERS

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

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HERALDING THE SOCIALIST PARADISE

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

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

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

FAMILY REUNIONS

We had all nine grandchildren in the house last week, Monday through Friday.   Hence, the lack of a blog post a week ago.   Visits to the grocery store were frequent, as was taking them places.   There was no time to write, or even watch the news.

After our mini-family reunion, I really hope they will want to see each other after my wife and I are no longer around to host the gathering.   I’m sure they will!

I was struck (again) by how much louder the five younger ones, all boys, were, than their four older female sisters and cousins.   Noise, noise, noise!   Can’t boys do anything quietly?   Clearly not.

I found myself walking through the daily debris silently reminding myself that “children are a blessing!”  They certainly are and I’m already looking forward to when we can all be together again.

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THEN AND NOW

When everybody was gone, I started reading Boris Johnson’s “The Churchill Factor:   How one man made history.”

You may have heard of Boris Johnson.   He’s sometimes been described as “Britain’s Donald Trump.”   On his recent visit to England, Trump expressed the opinion that Boris would make “a great prime minister.”   A poll earlier this week showed him to be the favorite to succeed Theresa May.   Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have known each other for some time and are good friends.

Boris served two terms as a very successful Mayor of London.   More recently, he was Britain’s Foreign Secretary, the equivalent of Secretary of State.

He resigned a few weeks ago over Brexit.   His objection, supported by many, is that Mrs. May, the Prime Minister, seems to want to compromise with the European Union.   This would not deliver the Brexit (total independence) from the EU that was promised after the referendum over two years ago.   There is still no agreement between the UK and the EU over future trade.   Boris Johnson’s point is that the United Kingdom doesn’t need one – that new trade deals can be signed after breaking away from Brussels.   Have faith – it will all work out.

I must admit to sympathy with his stance.   Get out quick.   Don’t hesitate.

His book on Churchill was written a few years ago and published in 2014.   I’m now reading chapter 17 (there are 23 chapters).   The chapter is titled “The Wooing of America” and details Churchill’s relationship with Franklin Roosevelt.   His single-minded mission was to bring the United States into the war against Hitler.   At their first wartime meeting, the two leaders were concerned that Hitler had recently invaded Russia.   But Churchill knew that after Russia, he would come after Britain; and that if Britain fell and Hitler sank the Royal Navy, America would be next.   The whole world would very quickly descend into the barbarism of fascism.

A lot was at stake when they met in Newfoundland on August 10th, 1941.   This was the handshake that was to change the history of the twentieth century.

“As he stretches out that elegant white hand he knows he is reaching for his only lifeline; and yet there is nothing about him to convey the gloom of his position.   On the contrary, his face is suddenly wreathed in smiles, babyish, irresistible.

“Roosevelt smiles back; they grip hands, for ages, each reluctant to be the first to let go, and for the next two days Churchill maintains his schmoozathon.   We don’t know exactly what they say to each other at the first such Atlantic conference — the direct ancestor of NATO; but we know that Churchill lays it on thick.   His mission is to build up a sense of common destiny; to work with the grain of Roosevelt’s natural instincts, and to turn the USA from distant sympathizers into full-blown allies in bloodshed.” (page 235)

This was a family reunion, only the second time a President of the United States had shaken the hand of a British prime minister in office.   160 years after Yorktown.   160 years after the United States had separated itself from the rest of the English speaking world.   Now the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon world (the two sons of Joseph) were to be united in a common purpose.  They met in Canada, the oldest Dominion of the  British Empire, a nation founded by Loyalists at the end of the Revolutionary War.  The alliance that was forming  has remained the foundation of global peace and order for 77 years.

As I read Johnson’s book, I could see parallels with today.   There’s no fighting this time (not yet, anyway), but once again Britain is trying to free itself from European despotism, as it has so often in history.   There are those, like the current prime minister, who want to compromise; but others, like Boris Johnson, who are in a Churchillian mood, wanting to raise two fingers to the German-dominated EU (the two fingers were “V for Victory” in WWII, but, reversed, they have another meaning in England, which you will have to Google!)

History may repeat itself.

Confidence in Mrs. May is waning.  The Opposition Labour Party is scandalizing Britain with its anti-semitism.   The smaller parties are not credible.   An internal coup in the Conservative Party could replace Mrs. May with Boris Johnson, just as Chamberlain was replaced with Winston Churchill.

There’s another analogy.

Mr. Trump repeated a commitment to Mrs. May that the US will offer a free trade deal to the United Kingdom when Britain leaves the EU.   (EU rules mean that no deal can be signed until D-Day on 29th March next year; D for Departure!)    American farmers, losing markets in the current trade dispute with the EU, will benefit from a new trade deal with the UK; Britain will benefit with plentiful supplies of cheap food.

Once again, the New World may come to the aid of the Old.

Once again, a family reunion could make a big difference in the world.

There’s another lesson from Churchill’s meeting with FDR.   After the historic meeting of president and prime minister, there was a “divine service” on the Sunday morning.   Sailors of the two nations sang hymns together – “chosen by Churchill – that express that single heritage:   two broadly Protestant nations bound together against a vile and above all a pagan regime.”   (pages 235-6)

This was just a few weeks after the National Day of Prayer called by King George VI during Dunkirk.

At such a critical time, today’s leaders should follow the example of their predecessors and ask God for divine help through a very challenging time.

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BEWARE OF CHINESE TIES

Britain is keen for a sweet deal with China after Brexit – but watch out for Beijing’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’, says Michael Auslin.   For decades we’ve heard dire warnings about China’s growing military power, but these doom-mongers have missed the point.   China isn’t on the war path.   Where old empires would start by invading, it starts by trading.   Only when an economy has become dependent on trade does Beijing begin to demand more, with the aim of creating an ever-expanding ‘Greater China’ in its near abroad.   (Freddy Gray, The Spectator, 8/2)

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FARMERS IN CRISIS

There’s increasing talk of land redistribution in South Africa, the wealthiest nation on the African continent.   It’s been almost a quarter of a century since the end of apartheid, a period in which few black South Africans have seen any benefits.   A wealthy elite has been created through corruption at the highest level, but little has been done to help the average person.

Neighboring Zimbabwe confiscated land from white farmers at the turn of this century.   The result was mass starvation, the collapse of the currency and economic chaos.

The European farmers who colonized southern Africa in the nineteenth century brought a great deal of development to the region.   Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) was the ‘breadbasket of Africa;” now, after almost forty years of independence, it’s the “basket case of Africa.”   The white farmers who once dominated Rhodesia were “commercial farmers,” similar to their American and Canadian counter-parts. African farmers are “subsistence” farmers, who just grow enough food for their own families.   This is a major cultural difference the world does not understand.   Confiscating white farmland can only have one consequence – a dramatic drop in food production (Zimbabwe saw a 90% drop, with a consequent famine).

Farmers in South Africa are being murdered at an alarming rate.   Many have chosen to leave the country.   Western Australia is one area that is attracting them.   Other parts of Africa are offering the farmers 99-year leases to boost their own agricultural production. Even Russia is encouraging them to relocate.

Other farmers from Europe moved to North America, Australia and New Zealand in the nineteenth century.   These commercial farmers produce a disproportionate percentage of the world’s food.   Higher tariffs on agricultural produce could affect this, along with changes in the weather and massive fires that seem to be a permanent fixture of our landscape.   All of these threaten today’s farmers.

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AFRICAN ELECTION

Zimbabwe’s woes never seem to end.   The “first free election” held at the weekend, has been followed by riots and violence as the losing party claims to have won.   It’s not possible to determine who really won, but after 38 years, ZANU-PF is still in power.   Most people will not be surprised.

Prior to Zimbabwe, Rhodesia had elections for decades without any violence.   Zimbabwe has not been able to achieve that.   As is the case elsewhere in Africa, tribalism and corruption have led to democracy being compromised.   Zimbabwe’s first leader, Robert Mugabe, was in power for almost 38 years, leading a very corrupt regime.

It’s doubtful there will be any significant change.