Tag Archives: Bundeswehr

PARTS OF EUROPE AVOIDED BIG LOSSES FROM COVID-19

In western and southern Europe, coronavirus has taken a devastating toll, with people dying in their thousands each day, and doctors having to make appalling choices about which lives to save as health systems buckle under the number of cases.   But in central and eastern Europe (CEE), the pandemic has been contained to such an extent that the first glimpses of a post-lockdown world are visible.   Shops, hotels, schools and even shopping centers are reopening.   The transcontinental divide is striking.   So far, Spain has recorded 517 deaths per million people, Italy 453, France 353, and the UK 325.   By contrast, Slovakia has recorded 4, Poland 16, the Czech Republic 21 and Austria 65.   On Tuesday alone, Spain, Italy and the UK all suffered more deaths than the Czech Republic, Hungary, or Slovakia have recorded during the entire crisis.  “We are doing very well,” Igor Matovic, Slovakia’s prime minister, said in a press conference on Wednesday of his country’s battle.  “Perhaps even better than we expected.”  (“How central and eastern Europe contained coronavirus”, James Shotter and Sam Jones, Financial Times, 4/30/2020)

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GERMANY IS THE NEW GLOBAL LEADER

Forget Washington and Beijing.  These Days Global Leadership Comes From Berlin.  People love to hate Germany—but the country is doing far more than most nations  to help its European neighbors fight the coronavirus.  (by Elisabeth Braw, April 28, 2020, Foreign Policy)

At the beginning of April, the university hospital in the central German city of Jena dispatched two doctors, two medical assistants, and assorted medical supplies to Naples, Italy.   A couple of days before, the Bundeswehr, Germany’s military, had airlifted French and Italian patients to German hospitals.   That’s just a tiny part of Germany’s coronavirus assistance to allies.(https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/28/global-leadership-coronavirus-pandemic-germany-united-states-china/)

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GERMAN RELIANCE ON CHINA OVER COVID-19

Germany will most likely have to rely on China to limit the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to estimates by two flagship sectors of German industry – the automotive and mechanical engineering branches.   The Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) expects dramatic losses particularly in Europe and North America while expecting growth of business in China, where the situation “seems to become stabilized.” Representatives of the automotive industry express similar views. VW, for example, is expecting to catch up in the People’s Republic and not lag too far behind its original annual plans, whereas experts are expecting billions in losses on the US automotive market.  “Crises shift forces” business circles predict regarding the uneven development in China and the USA.   Berlin also depends on Beijing for the procurement of medical protective equipment.   The largest supply so far is expected to arrive in Leipzig today – carried out by the German military.   (German Foreign Policy, 4/27/2020)

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CAMEL PEE CURES COVID-19

Muslim advocacy for drinking camel urine is back in the news, this time in connection with the coronavirus, which is especially ironic if not deadly, as will be explained.   An “Islamic medicine specialist” and director of a religious-scientific institution in Iran recently called on his countrymen to drink camel urine as the “best cure” for coronavirus and other ailments.

Mehdi Sabili, who is affiliated with the Iranian regime, uploaded a video on his Instagram account extolling the virtues of dromedary urine on April 19.   The video, which has since gone viral, also depicted him drinking a glass of freshly procured camel urine — which he enthused was best drunk “fresh and warm” — and calling on fellow Iranians to do the same three times a day for three days (i.e., nine full glasses).   (Camel urine – Islam’s best cure for coronavirus, Raymond Ibrahim, MEF, 4/28)

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SAN REMO CONFERENCE MAJOR STEP TOWARD CREATION OF ISRAEL

April 25 marked the 100th anniversary of the San Remo conference, which conferred the Mandate for Palestine on Britain, a decision confirmed two years later by the League of Nations in a resolution recognizing Britain’s promise in the 1917 Balfour Declaration to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

There is probably no more understated event in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict than the San Remo conference of April 1920. Convened for a mere week as part of the post-World War I peace conferences, which created a new international order on the basis of indigenous self-rule and national self-determination, participants appointed Britain as mandatory for Palestine with the specific task of:

putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the British Government [i.e., the Balfour Declaration], and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

This mandate was then ratified on July 24, 1922, by the Council of the League of Nations – the postwar world organization and the United Nation’s predecessor.  (Efraim Karsh, MEF, 4/28)

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STARVATION MAJOR PROBLEM IN ONCE PROSPEROUS SOUTH AFRICA – The biggest lockdown threat:   Hunger, hunger, everywhere

Protests and looting have broken out all over South Africa in recent days in response to one issue:  hunger.   It is now clear that hunger will pose the greatest threat to South African well-being and security during the lockdown – and the difficulties involved with getting food to millions of South Africans in need are tremendous.

The hunger of South Africans during the extended lockdown period is spilling over on to the streets.   This week alone, grocery stores have been looted and protests have broken out on the Cape Flats, Khayelitsha, Alexandra and Chatsworth – to name just a few areas. Cape Flats ward councillor Bongani Ngcani was quoted by News24 as saying:  “A man told me:   ‘I would rather die of Covid-19 than of hunger’ .”   It is clear that all three tiers of government are well aware of the threat posed by hunger.   But the logistical challenges of providing food to potentially millions of South Africans under lockdown are monumental, and may not be able to be resolved through existing systems.  (The Daily Maverick, 17 April 2020, by Rebecca Davis)

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CAN CORONAVIRUS CAUSE A BIBLICAL FAMINE?

On Tuesday, the head of the UN’s food relief agency warned that the coronavirus pandemic could produce “famines of biblical proportions,” as 265 million people across 30 countries face starvation.

And yet, the world right now has an historic abundance of food.  How is this possible?

Even before the arrival of COVID-19, historic locust swarms had left tens of millions in East Africa without enough food.   And some 85 million people across 46 countries already needed emergency food aid in 2019.

But the coronavirus pandemic, and governments’ responses to it, have made matters drastically worse in ways that hurt the neediest countries the most.  (Gzero Signal, 4/24/2020)

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ISLAMIST HATE PREACHER WARNS MUSLIMS TO ARM THEMSELVES

He spins the bitter realities of failing, backward Middle Eastern communities and nations into narratives of victimization that fuel resentment towards the West, Jews and Israel.

One of Chicago’s most notorious anti-Semites has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak in a despicable manner:   by blaming Jews and encouraging Muslims to arm themselves against their neighbors.

During a series of alarmist rants on his YouTube channel, Imam Omar Baloch simultaneously declared that the coronavirus may be a Zionist-American plot to throttle the growth of the Chinese economy, a punishment from Allah and the work of shadowy secret societies.

However, Baloch’s most concerning online lecture occurred on March 22, when he suggested that the coronavirus presents a “very good opportunity” for Muslims to “purchase firearms” ahead of confrontations with their Trump-supporting neighbors.  (Hesham Shehab, Middle East Forum, 4/29/2020)

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AS AMERICA MOVES OUT, CHINA MOVES IN

Both the United Kingdom and the U.S. State Department have complained to China about the free flow of Chinese weapons to Iran, which then wind up with the Taliban.   These include surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, artillery shells, and land mines.

China’s $3 billion copper mine investment… in Afghanistan’s Logar Province remains under the Taliban’s protection.   Other Chinese corporations that have initiated investment projects in Afghanistan include the Zinjin Mining Company, the Jiangxi Copper Corporation, and China National Petroleum Corporation.

The Trump administration has made clear that it wants to end the forward-positioning of U.S. troops on what it regards as a seemingly endless war in Afghanistan, and the Taliban wholeheartedly agrees. China, in the meantime, has continued to profit from its bilateral commerce and investment in the region, and now appears willing to play a future military role in the area.   China has already established a military base in Tajikistan near the Chinese border with Afghanistan….  (Lawrence A. Franklin, Gatestone, 4/29/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • A row between Australia and China over the origins of the new coronavirus escalated.   Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, reiterated his demand for an independent global inquiry into the pandemic; it is widely thought to have started in a wet market in Wuhan.   China accused the Australian government of trying to make “political manoeuvres” and warned that such an inquiry could result in a boycott of Australian education, tourism and agricultural products.    (The Economist, 4/29/2020)
  • US Economy Nosedives With Worst Yet To Come — The United State’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 4.8% in the first quarter of 2020 – three months where the country’s economy was hit hard by lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic.   The figures, however, do not take April into account, and as such do not show the effect of some of the most comprehensive economic shutdowns that have closed businesses and seen 26.5 million citizens file for unemployment benefits.  (The Week, 4/30/2020)
  • Coronavirus-enforced lockdowns in March clobbered American GDP figures for the first quarter. The economy contracted at an annualized rate of 4.8%, the steepest fall since 2008.   The April-June quarter will probably be worse.   Before the pandemic, GDP had been expected to grow by about 2% this year.   The Federal Reserve said it will keep interest rates at near-zero for the foreseeable future.  (The Economist, 4/30/2020)
  • The French and Spanish economies shrank at the fastest rate on record in the first three months of the year as lockdowns to curb the spread of covid-19 were imposed.   France’s GDP fell by 5.8% quarter-on-quarter over the period, while Spain’s dropped 5.2% by the same measure.   Economists forecast even bigger drops in GDP for the second quarter.   (The Economist, 4/30/2020)
  • News reporter caught on air with no trousers – A US TV news reporter appeared live on Good Morning America – without any trousers. Journalist Will Reeve, the son of Superman actor Christopher Reeve, was appearing on ABC News’s Good Morning America from his home during lockdown.  But he failed to realize that his self-framed shot showed that he wasn’t wearing the bottom half of his suit.  (The Week, 4/29/2020)
  • The City of Detroit has had to remind residents of the need to put pants (trousers) on when going out to check their mail.
  • 500,000 RECEIVE FREE MEALS — The city of New York is giving Muslims 500,000 free meals for Ramadan. These people are of the same ideology as those who attacked the city less than twenty years ago.
  • CHURCHILL A WAR CRIMINAL – At least one school in the UK is now teaching that Winston Churchill was a war criminal.  What’s next?  Hitler as a progressive who solved Germany’s unemployment problem!
  • POYGAMY BEGETS VIOLENCE (you don’t say!)    The Economist.  (More next week)

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AFTER THOUGHT

Through the corona crisis I keep going back to my childhood in England.  We did not have a television until Christmas 1959.  I was almost nine years of age.  When we first got one, there were only two channels, both black and white.   Neither came on the air until about 5pm (except on weekends).  There were two television news bulletins a night, both ten minutes long, one for the early birds at about 6pm and the second one in peak time, at about 9.

How would the Covid-19 outbreak have been handled back then?

With only a ten-minute news bulletin, there would have been no opportunity to whip the public into a panic, which is what has happened this time around.   There was no panic, either, during the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918-19, when the death rate was far higher.

Not everyone is panicking, but workers at a local grocery store and employees at our bank have both commented on how fellow employees are not turning up for work.  “They are just too frightened,” a bank employee told me.

Others avoid the daily walk they are allowed because they are too scared to go outside.

A first step to avoiding this over-reaction might be to stop watching the news.

In Matthew 24:42 Jesus Christ told us to “Watch,” to notice what is happening in the world, as we see prophecy unfolding.   Did He mean to “watch” for ten minutes a day, as in 1959, or “watch” the news 24/7 on any one of a dozen TV stations?   Or could we just read the local newspaper for ten minutes?

We can be aware of what’s going on around us in a few minutes a day.   When we expose ourselves too much to endless negativity it’s going to have a depressing effect on us, spiritually, mentally and physically.

I John 4:18 reassures us when it says, “Perfect love casts out fear.”  During this time of confinement we need to strengthen the love that binds us to our family members, people we can still spend time with.  We may not be able to visit grandparents, but we can Skype them or give them a call.

If we focus on that positivity, there will be less room in our lives for the negativity of the coronavirus, of the endless panic that is whipped up in the national hysteria of television.

One morning I got up early and turned on the local news.  It was so depressing, I flicked through the available channels (we don’t have cable) and landed on “I Love Lucy,” an old TV show that was on TV in the 50’s.  It was, surprisingly, refreshing.  It left me with a good feeling.  I certainly didn’t miss anything.  When it was over, there was plenty of time to contemplate the virus.

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”  (Phil 4:8).

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SUPER TUESDAY

States voting on Super TuesdayStates voting on Super Tuesday
ABC NEWS

California Triumph Keeps Sanders In The Running

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

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

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

Michael Bloomberg withdrew from the race later in the day.


TIME TO MOVE ON FROM OBAMA

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

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

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

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CORONAVIRUS – LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE

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

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

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RYANAIR BOSS CONDEMNS ‘HYSTERIA’ OVER CORONAVIRUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GERMAN ARMS SALES BOOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

 

ASSASSINATION OF DONALD TRUMP

The death of Qasem Soleimani has put Trump on an Islamic hit list.

The Iranian Fars News Agency aired a short video on January 10, 2020, titled “Severe Revenge,” dramatizing an Iranian assassination of U.S. President Donald Trump.   In the video, Iranian officials are seen planning their revenge for the killing of Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani.  They study a board with a diagram of possible targets, U.S. President Trump is at the head and Israeli PM Netanyahu, Secretary of State Pompeo, Saudi Crown Prince Bin , and Masoud Rajavi, former leader of Mujahedeen-e-Khalq are at the bottom.  The Iranian officials say they are “going for the big fish,” and one of them says:   “We should target their head.”   In the video, the U.S. Capitol Building is blown up and then the Iranian forces storm the White House, shooting anyone in their sight.   President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo and PM Netanyahu, (among others) lie dead on the White House floor.   The voice of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is heard in the background, saying: “Severe revenge awaits the criminals whose dirty hands are soiled with his blood.”  (MEMRI 1/14)

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EUROPEANS STILL HOPE FOR IRAN DEAL

The decision by France, Germany and the UK to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism in the landmark Iran nuclear deal is a high-risk move driven by a lack of better options.   It underscores the tough spot the Europeans are in as they vie to save an accord that has been under siege ever since the US pulled out of it 20 months ago and slapped harsh sanctions on Tehran.

The launch of the dispute procedure yesterday crystallises the threat of the nuclear agreement’s demise and the reimposition of UN sanctions on Iran, but the so-called “E3” European powers want neither.   Instead, they hope to force Iran to back down from an escalating series of breaches of the accord launched to retaliate against the US “maximum pressure” economic squeeze.   (Michael Peel, Brussels Briefing, Financial Times, 1/15/2020)

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PLANS FOR ISLAMIC SUPERPOWER

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief advisor, retired Turkish general Adnan Tanrıverdi, has been articulating a vision of a unified Islamic superpower through conferences and documents published by his organizations.   This vision is reflected in President Erdoğan’s foreign policy.

The Justice Defenders Strategic Studies Center (ASSAM), of which Tanrıverdi is chairman of the board, has scheduled seven annual “congresses,” of which three have taken place, to work through the technical problems in the formation and governance of an “Islamic union.”   At a recent ASSAM Congress, Tanrıverdi called for the coordination of the joint manufacturing of weapons and military equipment among Islamic countries, saying:   “States cannot stand tall against the countries whose weapons they use.”   ASSAM has also published a 69-page draft of a constitution for a planned shari’a-based confederation of 61 Islamic countries.   This constitution declares that “sovereignty belongs to shariah,” that Istanbul is to be the capital of the confederation, that the Arabic language would be taught in all of its schools, and that its name will be “Asrica,” which is formed from a combination of Asia and Africa.   (MEMRI, 1/14)

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Dutch and German Shipyards to Build Warships for Germany Worth 6 Billion                                                                                                                  by Reuters, 14 Jan 2020, © New York Times Company

BERLINGermany has awarded Dutch shipyard Damen a contract to construct at least four new multi-role warships worth nearly 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in an alliance with its Bremen-based partner Luerssen, the armed forces and budget lawmakers said on Tuesday.   The ship tender is one of Germany’s biggest arms projects, along with a contract for the MEADS missile defense system and the new Franco-German fighter jet (FCAS), underlining Berlin’s efforts to increase its military capabilities.   The first warship is expected to be delivered in 2027, the Bundeswehr armed forces said in a statement, confirming a Reuters report from Monday.   The contract includes an option to build two additional MKS 180 warships.  Lawmakers told Reuters that about two-thirds of the production will take place at Luerssen’s shipyards and other sites in northern Germany.   “The decision for the MKS 180 to be mainly built by the Luerssen Group and thus in Germany is a good decision which strengthens Germany as a marine and shipyard location,” said Eckhardt Rehberg, chief budget lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.   Germany’s new warships will be able to attack targets on land and under water, and provide air cover for other vessels.   Other companies interested in the MKS 180 warship tender were ThyssenKrupp and German Naval Yards.   Damen said in a statement that its alliance also included Hamburg-based Blohm+Voss shipyard and France’s Thales.   It estimated that about 80% of the tender’s net investment would remain in Germany.
(https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/01/14/world/europe/14reuters-germany-warship.html)

Germany to invest €62 billion to modernize rail network .               The German government on Tuesday agreed to pump €62 billion into biggest modernization ever in Germany,” said Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer.

The German government on Tuesday agreed to pump €62 billion into modernizing its rail network system, as part of a wider plan to incite commuters to opt for greener public transport options. “We’ve just signed the most important programme of modernization ever in Germany,” said Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, adding that “this is the decade for railway.”   Besides the massive sum stumped up by the state German rail operator Deutsche Bahn will also plow an additional €24 billion into the renewal programme.   The investments will go towards “replacing obsolete installations,” improving access to disabled passengers as well as renovating rail bridges, said Scheuer.   (The Local Germany )(https://www.thelocal.de/20200114/germany-to-invest-62-bn-euros-by-2030-to-modernise-rail-network)

Germany posts record-breaking budget surplus
Germany ended 2019 with a budget surplus of €13.5 billion.  The government wants to spend on infrastructure and other projects, but critics say the money isn’t getting where it needs to go.  (Deutsche Welle, 13 Jan 2020)       (https://www.dw.com/en/germany-posts-record-breaking-budget-surplus/a-51991140)

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AN AMERICAN VIEW OF BRITISH ROYALS

Long ago the British royals ceded all direct power to Parliament. Precisely in being freed from politics — in leaving its dirty work to politicians — the Queen now serves as a brake on democratic excess, just as democracy acts as a brake on the crown.   In a 2010 article for First Things, David Bentley Hart noted the delicate balance:

“The ideal king,” he wrote, “would be rather like the king in chess:  the most useless piece on the board, which occupies its square simply to prevent any other piece from doing so, but which is somehow still the whole game.”

In this sense Elizabeth has been the perfect constitutional monarch. She keeps above the political fray.   She puts on a good British face to the world, even to foreign representatives she might despise, because that is what her nation needs.   She happily attends local events in the smallest part of her realm.

A woke queen could not do this.   Elizabeth may at times be mocked for her restraint and dowdiness, but those qualities are both reassuring and dignified.   Indeed, even though the British elect their politicians, almost always they seem to feel more affection for their monarch than for their prime minister.   And Elizabeth has done it without interruption since 1952, notwithstanding the private heartache and public embarrassment she has had to endure, including Charles’s disastrous first marriage and Prince Andrew’s association with Jeffrey Epstein.

The Queen’s service might also inform today’s debate about liberal democracy.   Plainly monarchy is not suited for the US, given our history.   But liberalism is not one-size-fits-all.   And against those who argue that modernity has overtaken the monarchy, in Britain the crown is one of those enduring institutions — along with church and family — to which liberalism must look for the social cohesion and cultural capital it needs to thrive but cannot itself create.

As British society fragments and Merry Old England gives way to a far more religiously and racially diverse United Kingdom, the Crown offers something to unify people.   Some defenders of the Duchess of Sussex now suggest that it was British racism that did her in.   The truth is that the diversity Meghan Markle brought the royal family by marrying into it was cheered and celebrated.   (William McGurn, The Australian, 1/14, reproduced from the WSJ)

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A LEFT-WING NATIONALIST PARTY

Swedish Communists Wake Up — Just days ago, Sputnik reported on the fact that almost half of the members of the Communist Party in Malmö, Sweden, are resigning.   They plan to establish a new workers’ party that no longer features multiculturalism, LGBT interests, and climate change as key policy goals.  Nils Littorin, one of the defectors, told a local newspaper that today’s Left has become part of the elite and has come to “dismiss the views of the working class as alien and problematic.”   Littorin suggested that the Left “is going through a prolonged identity crisis” and that his group, instead, intends to stick to the original values, such as class politics.  Littorin adds:   “[The Left] don’t understand why so many workers don’t think that multiculturalism, the LGBT movement and Greta Thunberg are something fantastic, but instead believe we are in the 1930s’ Germany and that workers who vote [right-wing] Sweden Democrats have been infected by some Nazi sickness.”   In a piece of simple insight previously rare on the Left, he argues that the rise in right-wing votes for people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are in fact due to “widespread dissatisfaction with liberal economic migration that leads to low-wage competition and the ghetto-isation of communities, a development that only benefits major companies.”  Rather than being beneficial to working class Whites, Littorin condemns a “chaotic” immigration policy that has led to “cultural clashes, segregation and exclusion due to an uncontrolled influx from parts of the world characterised by honour culture and clan mentalities.”

Littorin continues to talk sense when it comes to the LGBT agenda. He explains that LGBT issues and the climate movement are merely “state ideologies” that are “rammed down people’s throats.”   Littorin adds that phenomena like these happen at the expense of real issues, such as poverty, homelessness, and income equality:  “Pride, for instance, has been reduced to dealing with sexual orientation. We believe that human dignity is primarily about having a job and having pension insurance that means that you are not forced to live on crumbs when you are old.”

On immigration, Galloway argues that there is “nothing left-wing about unlimited mass immigration.   It decapitates the countries from which the immigrants leave, and drives down wages in those where they arrive.   The wealthy benefit from it, as they can afford cheap labor for their companies, or cheap au-pairs, cheap baristas, cheap plumbers.   But the working class suffers.”   (Andrew Joyce, 12/29/19)

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TO THE POINT

  • WORLD’S OLDEST CONTINENT – With its low birth rate and fast-ageing population, Europe is facing a demographic crisis, one that economists fear could hit growth and public finances. While the global population overall is getting older, Europe is an extreme example of this trend, particularly in the continent’s south and east, which have been hit by record-low fertility rates and emigration.   An analysis of the main demographic trends highlights the challenge faced by policymakers.  Europe has had higher longevity and lower fertility rates than the rest of the world over the past few decades.   It is now the region with the world’s oldest population.   The median age in Europe is 43, 12 years older than the rest of the world.    (Valentina Romel, Financial Times, 1/14/2020)
  • ECONOMIST COMMENT ON TRUMP AND IRAN – He may have deterred conventional attacks, but goaded Iran to build a bomb faster.  (Leaders, Jan 9th 2020 edition, Economist)
  • TWO POPES DISAGREE – There’s a dispute between Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict, on, of all issues, celibacy.   There’s no biblical basis for celibacy, but conservatives in the church say that priests cannot serve the church properly if their loyalties are divided.   Pope Francis is more liberal on the issue, wanting to resolve the shortage of priests, particularly in South America.   Pope Benedict takes a conservative view that priests should not be allowed to marry.
  • AMERICAN REVOLUTION — “The conflict that rent the United States in 1861-65 was not America’s first civil war — the American Revolution was.  The fight for independence pitted neighbor against neighbor and family member against family member, exemplified by the split between Founding Father Benjamin Franklin and Tory son William, the final royal governor of New Jersey.   Violence arising from these and countless other pesonal breaks rendered expanses of the former colonies ‘danger land.’  as one historian has called the impact of the internecine warfare that raged between loyalists and patriots. ”  (“That Time General Washington Proposed to Execute  An Innocent Man,” by Peter R. Henriques, American History, February 2020)

 

 

IRAN VS US – IS THIS THE START OF WW3?

Iranian mourners lift a picture of slain military commander Qasem Soleimani during a funeral procession in the capital Tehran on January 6, 2020.    (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Some years ago, an expert on the Middle East was being interviewed on a TV news program.   He expressed the opinion that World War 3 started in 1979 when the Iranian revolution took place and the ayatollahs came to power, overthrowing the pro-western Shah of Iran.   It was a major failure of US foreign policy, under the leadership of President Jimmy Carter.

Of course, WW3 did not begin then, in the full sense of the term.   But the enmity between the US and Iran that soon followed the revolution lay the foundation for what will eventually become WW3.

Is it going to be soon?

This is not looking probable, as Iran clearly is not up to war with the US.   Crippled by US-imposed sanctions, it does not have the technology to ruinously attack US bases in the Middle East.   It will resort to using “proxies and allies” (BBC News).   This period is being compared to the “phony war” at the start of World War II.   They hope that by keeping up the pressure, they can make Donald Trump a one-term president, just as they did Jimmy Carter.

Little realized is that President Trump has talked about how he would like the US to withdraw from the Middle East.   At the same time, Iran wants the US to leave.   What seems most likely at this time is that isolated terror attacks on US (and allied) bases will wear the US down and result in a withdrawal.

Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” scenario between the West and the Islamic world not only fits the Daniel 11 scenario, but seems very likely as the Islamic world increases its strength and the West continues to decline.

Iran has also started to develop nuclear weapons.  The treaty that held them back in their development has now been torn up and they are free to acquire them as soon as possible.   When this happens, in a few years time, it will be time to start talking about World War 3!

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POST-ASSASSINATION CONSEQUENCES

Eight men were killed when American drones struck a convoy in Baghdad’s international airport.   One of the deaths could shape the Middle East for years.  Qassem Suleimani was one of the most powerful figures in the region.   For 20 years he commanded the Quds Force, the foreign legion of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s long arm in the Middle East.   He gave it reach by nurturing, training and mobilising militias from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Palestine.   They shared the Islamic Republic’s ideology and could be used to strike its regional foes, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and their American backers.   In America, Republicans and Democrats agreed that Mr. Suleimani had blood on his hands, but many worried that killing him was a dangerous escalation.   Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has promised “severe revenge.”   Iraq’s prime minister said the assassination would light the fuse of a regional war.   (The Economist,1/3/2020)

Following the USA’s assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and other high-ranking Iraqi and Iranian military personnel, demands are being raised in Baghdad to expel the foreign troops, including the Bundeswehr.   The Anti-IS Coalition troops, stationed in Iraq, must leave the country, the Iraqi parliament ruled yesterday.   The German government insists on keeping German troops in Iraq to be able to maintain its options for gaining influence in that country.   Berlin had earlier already rejected calls to end its deployment for security reasons.   Camp Taji near Baghdad, where 27 German soldiers are currently stationed, had already come under missile fire in June.   The camp could become a possible target for retaliatory strikes by Iran or pro-Iranian militias.   Whereas the German government euphemizes the assassination of Soleimani as “a line of action undertaken by the United States,” the chairman of the SPD parliamentary group officially called it a “violation of international law.”   A government advisor spoke of “state terrorism.” (German Foreign Policy, 1/6)

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“There will be dead Americans:”   former CIA chief issues warning to Trump as Iran crisis deepens                                                                                Tens of thousands have mourned Soleimani in Iran, as US-Iran tensions have spiked.                                                                                                                           by Clark Mindock, New York

A former top CIA official has warned there will be “dead civilian Americans” as a result of the targeted air strike that killed an Iranian general.

Michael Morell, a former acting and deputy CIA director, said the killing of Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani would spark a “harsh retaliation” from the Iranian government, and that US citizens would be targeted.

“Soleimani was an evil genius.  He had a lot of American blood on his hands.   The world is a better place without him.   The problem is that comes at a very high cost,“ Mr. Morell, who served during Barack Obama’s presidency, told CBS.

“Number one, there will be dead Americans, dead civilian Americans, as a result of this.   Possibly over the next few days in any place where Iran has its proxies, Iraq is the most likely place, but also Lebanon, Bahrain, other places in the Middle East.“

In the days after Soleimani’s assassination at a Baghdad airport, American officials have claimed that US citizens are now safer.     (The Independent, 1/5/2020)

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Millions of Zimbabweans pushed into hunger by drought, spiraling economic meltdown                                                                                                        3 Jan 2020

HARARE – Millions of Zimbabweans pushed into hunger by prolonged drought and economic crisis face an increasingly desperate situation unless adequate funding for a major relief operation materializes quickly, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has warned.    With nearly eight million people – half the population – now food insecure, WFP plans to double the number of people it assists – up to 4.1 million – but needs more than US$200 million for its emergency response in the first half of 2020 alone.    “As things stand, we will run out of food by end of February, coinciding with the peak of the hunger season – when needs are at their highest,” said Niels Balzer, WFP’s Deputy Country Director in Zimbabwe.   “Firm pledges are urgently needed as it can take up to three months for funding commitments to become food on people’s tables,” Balzer added.   Years of drought have slashed food production in Zimbabwe, once an African breadbasket.   This year’s maize harvest was down 50 percent on 2018, with overall cereal output less than half the national requirement.   By August of 2019, WFP was forced to launch an emergency lean season assistance program to meet rising needs, months earlier than anticipated.  Since then, food shortages have become ever more pronounced. This month, maize, was only available in half of the markets WFP monitors countrywide.

Zimbabwe has seen drastic price increases – bread now costs 20 times what it cost six months ago, while the price of maize has nearly tripled over the same period.

(https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/international/millions-of-zimbabweans-pushed-into-hunger-by-drought-spiraling-economic-meltdown-39881934)

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IMMIGRANTS FORMING CLANS

“For decades, police turned a blind eye to extended criminal families, in part to avoid being accused of racial discrimination.   This has made the present-day challenge all the more difficult as clan structures have solidified, parallel societies have formed, and the enemy has grown.” — Deutsche Welle, February 3, 2019.

“There are now half a million people across Germany who belong to a clan . . .   Clans behave in their German surroundings as if they were tribes in the desert.   Everything outside the clan is enemy territory and available for plunder.”   (Ralph Ghadban, a Lebanese-German political scientist and a leading expert on clans in Germany, The German Times, October 2019)

(Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 1/4)

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Global Apathy Toward the Fires in Australia Is a Scary Portent for the Future
by David Wallace-Wells, New York magazine

The response to what’s transpired in Australia — again, over a period that has stretched into months — is unfamiliar, to me at least, and not in a good way.   Those California fires transfixed the world’s attention, but while the ones still burning uncontrolled in Australia have gotten some media attention outside the country, in general they have been treated as a scary, but not apocalyptic, local news story.

The global response to the bushfires has suggested, unfortunately, something more like the opposite:   that no bind of tribal alliance or allegiance is strong enough that we won’t discard it, if discarding it allows us to see the suffering of those living elsewhere on the planet as insignificant to our own lives.

(http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/12/new-south-wales-fires-in-australia-the-worlds-response.html)

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HARRY AND MEGHAN QUIT

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced Wednesday that they are to quit as senior royals.   Instead, they will work toward financial independence, splitting their time between the UK and North America.   The announcement came after they had spent six weeks in Canada.  They pledged their loyalty to the Queen, the Commonwealth and their patronages.

Although it’s only a coincidence, last month, Harry’s Uncle, Prince Andrew, was forced to quit his duties within the royal family due to a scandal.

It is known that Prince Charles wants a slimmed down monarchy. These developments will make it easier for him to achieve his goal.

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TO THE POINT

  • Khamenei’s Defense Advisor General Dehghan:   If Trump’s Logic For Killing Suleimani Was Valid, Then The Iraqis Have The Right To Kill One Million Americans (MEMRI, 1/8)
  • Dearborn, MI – Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni Eulogizes Qasem Soleimani:   He Brought Hope To The Marginalized And Fear To The Enemies Of Islam

(MEMRI, 1/8)

PERVERSE LIBERAL THINKING

Flowers are left following Friday’s terror attack on London Bridge in London, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. A man wearing a fake suicide vest was subdued by bystanders as he went on a knife rampage killing two people and wounding others before being shot dead by police on Friday. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)    (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Two young Cambridge University graduates are dead, murdered by a supposedly rehabilitated terrorist, in London last Friday.   The Cambridge University students were part of “Learning Together,” a project that aims to bring rehabilitated terrorists back into mainstream society.   This is liberalism gone mad!

A major weakness of western liberalism is the idea that we’re all the same, whatever culture or background we come from.   We should know better.   ISIS fighters are not going to repent – as they come back to western countries following the defeat of ISIS they will bring their ideology with them, and kill people.   Anybody who thinks otherwise is a misguided fool.

The young male victim had written his dissertation on why minorities account for a disproportionate percentage of people in prison.   The answer is simple – they commit more crimes.

It’s sad as more innocent lives are likely to be lost as we pursue rehab.   Years ago, I remember reading in Psychology Today that 92% of sex offenders are never rehabilitated.   When they leave prison, they commit the same acts again.   Do we really think that terrorists will do better?

As Piers Morgan wrote in the Daily Mail, “Most terrorists don’t change their evil spots so it’s time Britain stopped going soft on hate-filled jihadis to please the PC hand-wringing brigade and does what Americans do – lock them up forever.” (12/2/2019 Daily Mail)

Even this may not work.   Terrorists in prison might encourage fellow terrorists to seize hostages until they are released.

What would be more appropriate (and final) is the death penalty.

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KING OF THE NORTH?

Following the opening, on September 30, 2019, of the Al-Bukamal-Al-Qaim border crossing between Syria and Iraq, which had been closed for five years due to the Syria war, Abu Al-Fazel Salehiniya, a culture advisor at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, published an article in the pro-regime Syrian daily Al-Watan, in which he presented the opening of the crossing as a step towards the realization of Iran’s vision of a new Middle East.   He explained that Iran planned to establish a political, economic and cultural bloc consisting of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, which will impact the power-balance in the region and world, and thwart what he called the American and Western plan to fragment the Middle East into tiny states under Western control.   For many years, he said, the U.S. and Israel have been working in various ways to prevent the creation of this bloc, including by instigating protests in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; however, they have failed thanks to the resistance axis, which is now stronger than ever and has attained impressive achievements.   (MEMRI 12/4)

Editor’s note: The four countries were roughly the borders of the biblical king of the North, in the second century BC.

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GERMAN MILITARY EXPANSION                                                                        by Johannes Stern, 29 Nov 2019, World Socialist Web Site

(Extracts) . . . Kramp-Karrenbauer replied:  “We know we have to do more, but we are on the way.”   In 2031 the German army would “realistically” be able to take over ten percent of NATO’s military capacity.   Until that date at the latest, Germany would also reach the NATO target of two percent of gross domestic product for military spending.   In fact Germany will make substantial steps towards this goal as early as next year, as the pact to form the grand coalition laid out.   According to a report by the German Press Agency, the German government has reported to the military alliance its intention to spend 50.25 billion euros [$US55.3 billion] in 2020.   “We are complying with our international obligations.   The NATO defense rate is 1.42 percent,” boasted Social Democratic Finance Minister Olaf Scholz at yesterday’s presentation of the budget for 2020 in the Bundestag . . .   Five years after the German government announced the end of military restraint at the Munich Security Conference in 2014, the ruling class can no longer hide the fact that it is basing its foreign and great power politics on the militaristic traditions of the German Empire and the Nazis.   In his major lecture on foreign policy at the end of October, the president of the German parliament, Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU), described 1945, i.e. the date of the downfall of the Third Reich and the defeat of Germany in World War II—as a “catastrophe”       (https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/11/29/kram-n29.html)

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GERMANY TO MATCH US CONTRIBUTION TO NATO BUDGET

From 2021, Germany will increase its contribution to the NATO budget to be in line with what the US pays.                                                                  NATO officials hope the move will diffuse tensions surrounding the cost of maintaining the military alliance.             (https://www.dw.com/en/germany-to-match-us-contribution-to-nato-budget/a-51446211)

German army sorry for ‘retro’ post

BERLIN, Germany — The German army on Wednesday apologized for posting a photo on Instagram of a military uniform complete with two Iron Crosses bearing the Nazi swastika and appearing to celebrate it as “retro.”   After media reports sparked outrage, the army removed the picture of the Nazi-era Wehrmacht uniform and explained that it was an “unacceptable mistake.”   The Bundeswehr said it was seeking to do a photo-essay on the influence of military uniforms on fashion through the ages but failed to provide the correct historical context in its captions.   The Bundeswehr has over the years repeatedly come under fire over embarrassing associations with Germany’s militaristic past (https://www.timesofisrael.com/german-army-sorry-for-retro-nazi-uniform-post/)

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Global Survey of 18 Countries Finds Hardcore Anti-Semitic Attitudes Remain Pervasive                                                                                 One in four Europeans polled fall into most anti-Semitic category.

Among the 2019 ADL Global 100 Index’s key findings:  Negative attitudes in Argentina, Brazil, Poland, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine have seen marked increases since the last ADL Global 100 survey.  Anti-Semitic attitudes remain pervasive in Europe. Roughly one out of every four residents of the 14 European countries polled by ADL fall into the most anti-Semitic category, subscribing to a majority of the anti-Semitic stereotypes tested in the index.

Stereotypes about Jewish control of business and the financial markets are among the most pernicious and enduring anti-Semitic beliefs.   These are especially widespread in the Central and Eastern European countries surveyed.   Asked whether they agreed with the statement that “Jews have too much power in the business world,” a staggering 72 percent of Ukrainians agreed, as did 71 percent of Hungarians, 56 percent of Poles, and 50 percent of Russians.

Jewish “disloyalty” is a widespread anti-Semitic stereotype in the Western European countries surveyed. In Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, more than 40 percent of the public believes that Jews are more loyal to the State of Israel than to their own country.   This canard also scored high in Brazil (70 percent), South Africa (60 percent), and relatively high in Canada (25 percent) compared to its overall index score of 8 percent.

“Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust” was a statement supported by large segments of the populations of many of the European countries polled, even in Germany, where 42 percent of the population agreed.   This sentiment was also prevalent in Austria (44 percent), Belgium (40 percent) Italy (38 percent) and Spain (37 percent).(https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-global-survey-of-18-countries-finds-hardcore-anti-semitic-attitudes-remain)

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Zimbabwe ‘on brink of man-made starvation’, UN warns               (BBC, 28 Nov 2019) 

More than 60% of the country’s 14 million people are considered food-insecure, according to the findings.  Hyperinflation, poverty, natural disasters and economic sanctions were among the identified causes.  Women and children were “bearing the brunt of the crisis” with 90% of children aged six months to two years not consuming enough food.  Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, reported her findings following an 11-day visit to the country.  “I cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation in Zimbabwe,” she said, adding that the crisis continues to worsen.   She said many of the people she met could only afford one meal a day and that most of the children she met were stunted and underweight.  “The harrowing stories I heard from resilient grandmothers, mothers or aunts desperately trying to save their children from starvation, in the midst of their daily hardships, will remain with me.”

She also noted Zimbabwe was among the four highest food-insecure nations, alongside conflict-ravaged countries.(https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50586514)

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SOUTHERN BAPTISTS CHANGE ON ABORTION

To Christians, there are few issues more important than fighting against abortion.  The millions of unborn children are made in the image of God, making it personal to Christians.

And millions of American might switch churches after what one denomination said about abortion.

If one were to ask virtually any Southern Baptist churchgoer, they would be strongly against abortion and supportive of the fight to end it.

But as it turns out, the Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t agree with that sentiment.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which is the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, just came out stating that Christians should not preach against abortion from the pulpit, on the street corner, or in bumper stickers or social media posts.

They claim that it is “hurtful to women.”   (Culture wars, 11/19)

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LETTER FROM A UK FRIEND

“Channel 4 hosted a leaders debate on climate change yesterday. Boris Johnson. and Nigel Farage did not appear, and their vacant podiums sported ice sculptures instead.   The problem is that Boris is not good responding to tough questioning.   Boris is being shielded from scrutiny as much as possible, he may feel that he’s ‘Churchill like’ but in reality he’s no orator.   In contrast Jeremy Corbyn is a rabble-rouser and whips an audience up to ‘cheers and chanting.’ Very popular with younger voters too.   The Election is for Boris to lose.   According to the opinion polls his lead is slipping back.   I’m fearing another hung parliament.”

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EU DECLARES “CLIMATE EMERGENCY”

The European Parliament declared a “climate emergency,” by a vote of 429 to 225.   The decision is symbolic but important (the European Union is the world’s largest economy) ahead of the UN climate summit to be held in Madrid next week.  The incoming head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has promised a package of ambitious green measures on December 11th.   (The Economist, 11/29)

Britain’s ruling Conservative Party reacted furiously after Channel 4, a national broadcaster, replaced the prime minister with an ice sculpture during a debate on climate change.   While most other leaders of Britain’s main political parties took part, Boris Johnson refused.  The editor of Channel 4 News accused Mr. Johnson of trying to avoid scrutiny during the election campaign “like Donald Trump.”  (Economist, 11/29)

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Italy busts neo-Nazi ring, ‘Miss Hitler’ pageant winner

Prosecutors in Sicily have announced 19 arrests, exposing a nationwide network of would-be fascist militants.  Police have uncovered weapons, explosives, and extremist propaganda in a series of raids.

Italian police have arrested at least 19 people in connection with a militant neo-Nazi ring, national media reported on Thursday. Although the investigation was based in Sicily, several of the suspects hail from all over the country.   One of the arrested included a 26-year-old Milan resident who had been the winner of an online beauty competition called “Miss Hitler.”   She also spoke at an extreme-right conference in Portugal last August that attempted to unite the so-called “National Socialist movements” of Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France.

During the operation, led by prosecutors in Caltanissetta, Sicily, and dubbed “Black Shadows,” police undercovered troves of weapons, explosives, Nazi memorabilia and texts praising fascist dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, in a series of raids carried out across Italy.
   On top of possible weapons charges, promoting fascism is a crime in Italy.
   The supposed leader of the group is a 50-year-old public employee from the city of Padua, in the northeastern region of Veneto.   She was not known to authorities prior to her detention, police have said, adding that they recovered anti-Semitic material at her home.
   Another suspect is an offender with multiple convictions and ties to the ‘Ndrangheta, the elusive Calabrian mafia, one of the richest organized crime syndicates in the world and by some estimates responsible for 3% of Italy’s GDP.   The man, Italian media said, had turned informant for the police against the mafia but was apparently acting as the chief “trainer” for the violence the neo-Nazi group hoped to carry out.   Specific center-left politicians were named as possible targets.
   The group used a Russian chat app to communicate and try to avoid detection, Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported.   A Russian social media platform called VK was also used to host the “Miss Hitler” competition.(https://www.dw.com/en/italy-busts-neo-nazi-ring-miss-hitler-pageant-winner/a-51458025)

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TO THE POINT

  • CHINA FINANCIAL WARNINGS                                                                    From rural bank runs to surging consumer indebtedness and an unprecedented bond restructuring, mounting signs of financial stress in China are putting the nation’s policy makers to the test. Xi Jinping’s government faces an increasingly difficult balancing act as it tries to support the world’s second-largest economy without encouraging moral hazard and reckless spending.   While authorities have so far been reluctant to rescue troubled borrowers and ramp up stimulus, the costs of maintaining that stance are rising as defaults increase and China’s slowdown deepens.  (China financial warning; Bloomberg, 11/28/2019)
  • HONG KONG IN REVOLT                                                                            “When Mao Zedong’s guerrillas seized power in China in 1949, they did not take over a clearly defined country, much less an entirely willing one.   Hong Kong was ruled by the British, nearby Macau by the Portuguese.   Taiwan was under the control of a Nationalist government Mao had just overthrown.   The mountain terrain of Tibet was under a Buddhist theocracy that chafed at control from Beijing.   Communist troops had yet to enter another immense region in the far west, Xinjiang, where Muslim ethnic groups did not want to be ruled from afar.”  (“Hong Kong in revolt,” The Economist, 11/23/2019).
  • Applying pressure on China is the top priority for the newly elected German EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She announced that, on Sunday – her first day in office – she plans to call Beijing to discuss “human rights.”   The People’s Republic of China is being accused of human rights violations in the context of its “war on terror” against jihadism in Xinjiang province.  The German chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, David McAllister (CDU) announced that the EU Parliament also plans to discuss the situation in Xinjiang, in its upcoming plenary session (December 16 – 19). In Berlin, the transatlantic-oriented opposition plans to call for sanctions to be imposed on either Chinese politicians or Chinese high-tech-companies, already affected by US sanctions. Commentators in the USA, as well as in Germany, are equating China with Nazi Germany. According to a former liberal-oriented German daily, “there can be no long-term peaceful coexistence” with the People’s Republic of China.   (German Foreign Policy, 11/29/2019)
  • ZAMBIAN COUPLE GET 15 YEARS FOR SEXUAL ACT                      A homosexual couple has been given 15 years for a crime “against the natural order,” citing the fact that they are a very religious Christian country.   They also happen to have one of the highest incidents of HIV in the world, reflecting widespread immorality. They should take a look at I Corinthians 6.  Fornication, adultery and sodomy are all condemned equally, a fact that Zambian churches have failed to notice.  In Africa, AIDS is invariably a heterosexual disease.
  •  A video has emerged from the Nato summit in London, which appears to show Boris Johnson,  Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron, Princess Anne and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, laughing about the US president during a reception at Buckingham Palace.   The meeting to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nato alliance began inauspiciously, with tensions on full display between Macron, Trump and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.    It seems that other countries are more likely to ridicule Mr Trump, expecting that he will be impeached next year.
  • PRINCE ANDREW                                                                                                    As a former navy pilot, Prince Andrew would normally be present at a Nato shindig, but the disgraced duke has been stripped of his duties, leaving his mother to host the reception.  Meanwhile, Trump’s claim not to know Andrew is contradicted by extensive photographic evidence.  (Guardian, 12/4)

 

 

 

ISRAEL ATTACKS SYRIAN AND IRANIAN TARGETS

Syria’s state media released images of what they say are destroyed houses near Damascus (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Israel says it has hit dozens of targets in Syria belonging to the government and allied Iranian forces.

The Israeli military says the “wide-scale strikes” responded to rockets fired by an Iranian unit into Israel.   Syria says two civilians died and that Syrian air defenses shot down most of the missiles over Damascus.  Other reports say the death toll was higher.   Local reports said loud explosions were heard in the capital.   Pictures on social media showed a number of fires.

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PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

“It’s easy to go about our lives and forget that in places like Nigeria, Iran and North Korea being a Christian can often lead to death.” — Vernon Brewer, founder and CEO of World Help, Fox News, November 4, 2019

“4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons.  On average, that’s 11 Christians killed every day for their faith.” — Open Doors, World Watch List 2019

More than 245 million Christians around the world are currently suffering from persecution. — Open Doors, World Watch List, 2019 (Gatestone 11/15/2019)

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CHANGES AHEAD IF CORBYN WINS

The United Kingdom has a general election on December 12th.  It is considered the most important election in 80 years.  It will determine the issue of Brexit, the future direction of the British economy and even of the United Kingdom itself.

  • “By far the most likely casualty of a Corbyn government would be the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, where there is a strong likelihood that other member states of the alliance will be deeply reluctant to share highly sensitive material with a British prime minister who has spent his entire political career openly associating with regimes and groups that are utterly hostile to the West and its allies.
  • At the heart of his hard Left approach to foreign policy lies a deep hatred for the US and its role in safeguarding the interests of the Western democracies.
  • Thus Mr. Corbyn’s instinct is to be more sympathetic to the views of Russia, Iran, North Korea and the Assad regime in Syria than Britain’s long-standing allies in Washington and Europe.   (Con Coughlin, Gatestone, 11/16/2019)

JEREMY CORBYN’S BIG NEGATIVE EFFECT ON FOREIGN POLICY

“A Corbyn-led government would quickly lead to the biggest change in Britain’s defense posture since the second world war.   Even if the country stayed in NATO, as is likely, it would be a passive member, reluctant to push back against Russian expansionism and hostile to the idea of a nuclear deterrent.   Given that NATO depends on confidence that it means what it says, this would be a severe blow to its credibility.   Britain’s Middle East policy would be revolutionized, with a more hostile stance toward Israel and the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, and a friendlier one to Iran.   America would almost certainly stop sharing critical intelligence with Downing Street, for fears that such secrets would find their way into Russian or Iranian hands.   Given Britain’s membership of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, that would harm Europe’s ability to combat hostile states and non-state actors.

“Such a revolution would come at a sensitive time.   Mr. Trump is already disrupting established security relations (for all their differences, he and Mr. Corbyn share a common hostility to the multinational institutions that have kept the peace since 1945).   Brexit is straining relations with Britain’s European allies, while gobbling up the political class’s available bandwidth.  The Foreign Office is demoralized by decades of cuts, and the security establishment is still tainted by the weapons-of-mass-destruction fiasco.

All this is taking place at a time when Mr. Putin is on the march and Islamic State is shifting its focus from state-building to global terror. A Dangerous world may be about to become more dangerous.” (“Security questions,” Bagehot, The Economist, 11/9,2019).

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MACRON ON RUSSIA

“. . . consider Mr. Macron’s Russia policy.   He has long argued that rogue powers are more dangerous when isolated.   To this end, he has hosted Vladimir Putin at both Versailles, near Paris, and Bregancon, on the Mediterranean.   But his call for a “rapprochement” with Russia, in order to keep it out of China’s arms, has alarmed Poland and the Baltics.   “My idea is not in the least naïve,” argues Mr. Macron.   He insists that any movement would be conditional on respect for the Minsk peace accords in Ukraine.   He has not called for sanctions to be lifted.   And he sees this as a long-term strategy, that “might take ten years.”   Mr. Macron’s belief is that, eventually, Europe will need to try to find common ground with its near neighbor.   Not doing so would be a “huge mistake”.” (Briefing, The Economist, 11/9/2019)

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WHO WILL PAY FOR ENDLESS WARS?

“Future generations will pay for them:   the wars have been funded by debt.   Most Americans have had little reason to think their country is even at war.    And lucky them because war is hell.   But this disconnect helps explain why the country’s civil-military relations are as distant as they are.   It also helps explain how America came to be locked in such long and largely unproductive conflicts in the first place.   Its voters started to reckon with the rights and wrongs of the Vietnam War – then demand accountability for it – only after they felt its sting.   By contrast Donald Trump, who almost alone among national politicians decries the latest conflicts, has struggled to interest voters in them – or indeed end them.

“Though mostly wrong on the details, the president raises an important question of the long wars.   What have they achieved?” (Lexington, The Economist, 11/9/2019).

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TEMPLE MOUNT NO LONGER

154 UN nations call Temple Mount solely by Muslim name Haram al-Sharif  – EU approves text, but warns it may not do so in the future by Tovah Lazaroff, November 17, 2019

The UN gave its preliminary approval to a resolution that referred to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Haram al-Sharif.

The resolution passed at the UN’s Fourth Committee in New York 154-8, with 14 abstentions and 17 absences.   It was one of eight pro-Palestinian resolutions approved on Friday, out of a slate of more than 15 such texts the committee is expected to approve.   The UN General Assembly will take a final vote on the texts in December.

. . . Acting US Deputy Representative to the United Nations Cherith Norman Chalet told the Fourth Committee it opposed the “annual submission of more than a dozen resolutions biased against Israel.

. . .  “As the United States has repeatedly made clear, this dynamic is unacceptable,” Chalet continued.  “We see resolutions that are quick to condemn all manner of Israeli actions, but say nothing or almost nothing about terrorist attacks against innocent civilians.   And so the United States will once again vote against these one-sided resolutions and encourages other nations to do so.”
(https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/154-UN-nations-call-Temple-Mount-solely-by-Muslim-name-Haram-al-Sharif-608135)

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GERMAN MILITIAS

Right-wing militia groups say they patrol where police turn a blind eye.  But with criminality dropping and more police than ever in Germany,  analysts and politicians say their motives are more sinister.         Deutsche Welle, 18/11/2019 

Sebastian Niedrich is one of about 20 militiamen in Berlin with a “citizen patrol” initiative.   In groups of two or three, the red-vested men patrol neighborhoods in Berlin they claim are areas where petty crime is rife.   Their initiative is called “Establish Protection Zones” (“Schafft Schutzzone”).   It is abbreviated as “SS,” which in Germany immediately brings to mind the notorious Nazi-era “SS” – the paramilitary “Protection Squadron” that persecuted millions and was directly responsible for genocide.   Niedrich rejects any such connection.   Right-wing extremist initiative:   The “Establish Protection Zones” initiative, an offshoot of Germany’s extreme-right National Democratic Party (NPD), says the areas it patrols are often popular tourist areas, as well as those with growing immigrant communities.

The first subheading of the NPD’s party platform in Berlin reads “The Problem of Foreigners” and lays out ways to close Germany’s borders, bar immigrants from receiving jobs and social benefits, and preserve Germany’s national identity.   The party’s website also prominently displays images of its logo-wearing patrols, superimposed with slogans like “Protect Germans!” and “Germans helping Germans!”   Multiple attempts to disband or ban the party entirely have failed in courts.   The extreme-right NPD in western Germany, has made it their task to protest against Islam.   A study on German society’s biggest fears released earlier this year by the Berlin Social Science Center showed that one in three respondents feared “foreign infiltration” on account of too many immigrants. Over half feared criminality.

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GERMANY-TAIPEI LINKS

German politician urges military links with Taipei                             Taipei Times, 19 Nov 2019

Germany and Taiwan should conduct military exchanges, which would be more meaningful than exchanges with China, German lawmaker Ulrich Lechte, a member of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs, said on Sunday.   “The free world should stand together,” the Free Democratic Party lawmaker wrote on Facebook.  The Taipei Representative Office in Germany’s Munich office shared Lechte’s post on its Facebook page, and thanked him for his continuing support of Taiwan.   The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that 62 nations, including China, are to receive training from the Bundeswehr, Germany’s military.

Amnesty International arms and human rights expert Mathias John criticized the plans to train Chinese soldiers, telling the paper that doing so was “incomprehensible” given China’s “human rights situation and the role the Chinese People’s Liberation Army plays” in human rights violations in China.   John also brought up the protests in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong police’s response to them.  Germany should “send a clear message and immediately cease all military cooperation with China,” he said.   A spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defense told the paper that Chinese soldiers regularly participate in educational events organized by the German military, including international officer courses, as well as officer training courses offered at military schools, universities and military leadership academies.   The weekly news magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday reported that the German government is planning to send warships into the South China Sea and through the Taiwan Strait as a way of “refuting Chinese territorial claims” in those areas (http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/11/19/2003726106)

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ADMIRAL HORATIO NELSON and THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR

 214 Years Ago

The Battle of Trafalgar, fought 21 October 1805, was one of the most important and decisive Naval engagements of all time, decisively establishing the supremacy of the Royal Navy on the high seas.   Rather than a conventional engagement between lines of battle with gunnery duels, the English made a bold attack that allowed them to gain local superiority over the enemy and raked their ships with devastating broadsides.   The Franco-Spanish fleet was decisively defeated and British supremacy on the high seas was decisively established for the rest of the 19th century.   Lord Nelson’s defeat of the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar allowed British trade to flourish around the world, laying the foundations for Britain’s emergence as an economic superpower.   It also made possible the Greatest Century of Missions, as Protestant missionaries were able to sail to every corner of the world.   The Royal Navy’s domination of the high seas brought an end to the slave trade in the 19th Century.   (Reformation SA, 2019)

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TO THE POINT

  • The Chinese Ambassador to the UK has accused both the UK and the US of interfering in Chinese domestic affairs.   He is referring to British and American support for student protesters in Hong Kong.   He has a point. Democracy isn’t working too well right now in the US or the UK.   Perhaps we should shut up until things calm down at home!
  • “The escalation of the unrest in Hong Kong coincides with recent mass protests around the world.   These protests – in Bolivia, Iran and elsewhere – are not connected.   However, they are loosely linked thematically in that they concern inequality, political freedoms, corruption and climate change.”  (“Protests catch fire,” USA Today, 11/19/2019)
  • Prince Andrew’s BBC interview in which he denies having had a relationship with a 17- year-old girl, courtesy of Jeffrey Epstein, has failed to convince many.   Members of the royal family rarely give interviews.   It’s difficult to remember one, which was advantageous to the royals.   Perhaps they just haven’t had as much practice at lying as politicians!  (Prince Andrew has since withdrawn from public duties, “for the foreseeable future”.)
  • A 55-year-old man in China’s Inner Mongolia region has been diagnosed with bubonic plague after eating wild rabbit, the third recorded case of the deadly disease in the country.
  • A famous person I’ve never heard of is complaining about the patriotic song “Rule Britannia,” which dates back to the days when the British Royal Navy governed the world.   Is she objecting to the fact that the royal navy did more than any other institution to end the slave trade?   From 1810 to 1860 the West Africa Squadron freed 250,000 slaves. (see article above on Horatio Nelson; last sentence) “Slavery was a fact of life in the sixteenth century.   The African slave trade was already the largest form of commerce in the world.   No one had the least qualms about it, least of all Africa’s own tribal rulers.” (“To Rule the Waves,” page 2, Arthur Herman, 2004)
  • “The global debt ballooned to a record high of more than $250 trillion and shows no sign of slowing down, according to a new report from the Institute of International Finance (IIF).   . . . Extended low interest rates and easy money has facilitated the accumulation of a bone crushing amount of debt over the last decade or so,” Dylan Riddle, a spokesperson for the IIF told ABC News in a statement.   “This debt has helped fuel global growth, however, we must focus on managing the current debt load, and deploying resources for more productive means — like fighting climate change or investing in growth.”  (ABC News)

PARLIAMENT VS THE PEOPLE

After a mass operation to withdraw the whip from Tory Brexit rebels, Boris Johnson is far short of a working majority.’ Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

In 1642, King Charles I closed down parliament.  It was the trigger for a civil war that ended when Charles was beheaded in 1649.

It also effectively ended royal power.

Today, if the current divisions in Britain result in another civil war, it will be parliament vs the people.

Ridiculous, some may say.   Parliament represents the people.

Not any more.

Not since 2016, when a referendum in the UK showed the majority of people wanted to leave the European Union.   However, the majority in parliament (about 70%), don’t want to leave the EU and they have been fighting to keep Britain in at every opportunity.

Britain’s new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is committed to delivering on Brexit, to giving the people want they want. The deadline is October 31st.   He got the Queen’s permission to close parliament from September 9th, an act that enraged members of parliament.

Now parliament has voted to tie his hands behind his back.   He now cannot leave without a deal.   The Europeans may not give him more time, which means he would have to accept the deal they have already offered, a deal which keeps Britain bound to Europe indefinitely.

Normally, an election would have to be held to resolve the issue.   All  Mr. Johnson needs is a simple majority.   But the opposition Labor Party (and others) do not support an election, knowing they would lose.

Mr. Johnson’s hands are tied.

Sensing that this could mean Britain will NEVER leave the EU, financial markets and the British currency were up, a clear indication of where they stand.

A successful Brexit will be a blow to globalization.   Mike Pence, US Vice President, has just visited and expressed his support, including that of President Trump.

A writer for the London Times this morning predicted that in just two weeks Jeremy Corbyn will be PM and then the economy will crash!

This is a dreadful time for the British people.   “But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them:    “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” (Matt 12:25).

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CORBYN’S NEW ECONOMY                                                                                  by Jim Pickard and Robert Shrimsley”

“A Corbyn government promises a genuine revolution in the British economy.   Labour’s leadership intends to pursue not only a fundamental change in ownership and tax but a systemic effort to embed reform in a way that future parties will struggle to unpick. “We have to do what Thatcher did in reverse,” says Jon Lansman, founder of the Corbyn support group Momentum.   “We have to take decisive steps to both achieve a significant redistribution and create a constituency of an awful lot of people with an obvious stake in a continuing Labour government.”   Labour has announced plans to nationalize rail, water, mail and electricity distribution companies, in addition to higher taxes on the rich.   At the heart of everything is one word:   redistribution.    Redistribution of income, assets, ownership and power.   The mission is to shift power from capital to labour, wresting control from shareholders, landlords and other vested interests and putting it in the hands of workers, consumers and tenants.   “We have to rewrite the rules of our economy,” says Mr. McDonnell.   “Change is coming.”     (“Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to rewrite the rules of the UK economy,” Financial Times, 9/5)

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US ECONOMY — SIGNS OF IMPENDING RECESSION

It can be hard to know when isolated announcements become something more.   Since last November General Motors has cut several thousand factory jobs at plants across the Midwest.   In early August US Steel said it would lay off 200 workers in Michigan.   Sales of camper vans dropped by 23% in the 12 months ending in July, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of workers in Indiana, where many are made.   Factory workers are not the only ones on edge.  Lowes, a retailer, recently said it would slash thousands of jobs.   Halliburton, an oil-services firm, is cutting, too.

In any given month, even at the height of a boom, more than 5m Americans leave a job; nearly 2m are laid off.    Most of the time, however, overall employment grows.   But not all the time.   America may or may not be lurching towards a recession now.   For the time being employment and output continue to grow.   But in the corners of the economy where trouble often rears its head earliest, there are disconcerting portents.  (The Economist)

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ISLAMIC VIEW ON TRUMP, JOHNSON AND ISRAEL

Fatah Revolutionary Council member Dr. Hazem Abu Shanab, the former Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan, said in an August 18, 2019 interview on Alhadath Alyoum TV that U.S. President Donald Trump will be re-elected in 2020 because American society has turned to extremism the same way that Israeli society has favored extremist parties for the past 18 years.   He added that the situation is similar with Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom, and the TV host, Sayyed Ali, said:   “We are creating a Hitler worse than Hitler.” (MEMRI #7431, 8/25)

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FIGHTING FOR GERMANY

“Recently a party represented in the German parliament (Bundestag) published its program for the military.   The program is no secret.   The voters going to the polls in 2 German states on September 1 could know this program.   Up to 28 percent of the voters have chosen the party with this program.   It wants to further militarize Germany.

“The 28 percent party is calling for a radical “restoration of the German Bundeswehr (the German armed forces).”   The military draft should be reinstated and the number of troops “be raised to 23,000 soldiers” – as a “first step.”   An additional 50,000 man reserve would be necessary.   The German military, it literally states, “would be authorized to intervene domestically.”

“The “foreign duties” of the Bundeswehr should be exercised “in every corner of the earth.”   In Europe:   it lays “claim to a military commanding role” – because of “Germany’s geographic situation and economic prominence.”  The highest command level will be a German “General Staff.”

“Germany should also be in command of the European NATO.

“And finally, being the commanding nation, Germany must insist on “participation” in NATO’s “nuclear capabilities.”   In other words, Berlin should have a finger on the trigger of France’s, and eventually also the USA’s nuclear weapons and be in a position to wage also NATO’s nuclear wars.”   (German Foreign Policy, 9/3)

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GERMAN ELECTIONS:   AFD SURGE IN SAXONY AND BRANDENBURG – BBC * 2 Sep 2019

Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party surged in elections in two eastern states, but not enough to oust the ruling coalitions there.   The centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel lost votes in Saxony but still came top with 32%, ahead of AfD’s 27.5%.    In Brandenburg, the state surrounding Berlin, the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) won with 26.2%, while AfD got 23.5%.    AfD is shunned by the other parties.   In both states the other parties will now discuss forming new coalitions – perhaps including the Greens – which will exclude AfD.

The SPD – nationally in government with the CDU – plunged dramatically to 7.7% in Saxony.   Support for AfD grew when it campaigned against Mrs. Merkel’s admission of nearly a million non-EU migrants in 2015.   AfD also drew on discontent in the former communist east over Germany’s closure of loss-making businesses, including coal mines.

AfD’s slogan “let’s complete the change” harked back to the 1989 “Wende” (change), which many eastern Germans see as unfinished business.   Despite huge investment from the richer west, for many people the economic restructuring did not transform their lives as they had hoped.

“We’re satisfied in Brandenburg as well as in Saxony,” AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland said, adding that his party had “punished” Mrs. Merkel’s conservatives.   But despite the gains, the result may disappoint AfD as the party had hoped to come top in Brandenburg, the BBC’s Damien McGuinness reports from Berlin.

The CDU state premier of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, said, “I’m very happy with the result,” but added that opposition messages had made an impact on social media.   “The filter bubble on the internet is so powerful, and in 20 months you cannot reach everyone,” he told broadcaster ARD.    The CDU-SPD national coalition is due to last until federal elections in 2021, and a collapse could trigger a snap election or result in a minority government.

Mrs. Merkel herself plans to step down as chancellor in 2021, having already resigned as CDU leader at the end of last year.   (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49544781)

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ISRAEL AND IRAN ARE AT WAR

Israel and Iran are at war.  Israeli strikes this week in southern Syria, western Iraq and eastern Lebanon – and possibly even Beirut – confirm it.

This war is a very 21st-century affair.   For now it involves only small circles among the Israeli and Iranian populations.   Parts of the air force, intelligence services and probably special forces are active on the Israeli side.   The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its expeditionary Quds Force and proxy politico-military organizations in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are engaged on behalf of Iran.

The war marks a hinge point in Middle Eastern geopolitics.   For the past decade and a half, the region has been engaged mainly with internal strife:   civil wars, insurgencies and mass protests.   These are now largely spent, leaving a broken landscape along the northern route from Iran to Israel.   (Jonathan Spyer, Middle East Forum, 8/28)

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ISRAEL FACES SERIOUS ESCALATION IN WAR WITH IRAN

The fact that Israel has found it necessary to attack targets so far from its traditional area of military operations close to its immediate borders is indicative of the alarming escalation that has taken place in recent months in the threat Iran poses to Israeli security.

Earlier this week, in Lebanon, an Israeli drone was reported to have bombed a Palestinian base that is said to be funded by Iran. Israeli warplanes were also reported to have bombed Iranian military bases on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus.

The very idea of Washington sitting down with the Iranians at a time when it is continuing to threaten the security of its closest Middle Eastern ally would be unconscionable.

The reality is that there can be no meaningful dialogue between Washington and Tehran on a future deal so long as Iran remains committed to its long-standing policy of seeking the wholesale destruction of the Jewish state.   (Con Coughlin, Gatestone, 8/29)

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CALL FOR AMERICAN THEOCRACY

The Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA) held its 2019 annual convention on July 5-7 in Philadelphia.   Just as with last year’s conference – also held in the nation’s birthplace — there was no shortage of extremist speakers sharing the podium.   But in contrast to 2018, this time the focus was squarely on the Islamist charge into the political sphere.   Speakers claimed that Islam required believers to gain political power, impose an Islamic doctrine on America, and fundamentally reshape American society.

Ayman Hammous, executive director of the Muslim American Society (MAS, the American affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood), stated that “Islam is needed at the spiritual level, at the social level, at the political level.”   Movita Johnson-Harrell, a state representative from Pennsylvania, called on Muslims to “occupy every space of this world.”   (Martha Lee and Benjamin Baird, Middle East Forum, 8/2)

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GERMANY AND FRANCE TO BOOST MILITARY PRESENCE IN SAHEL

 

(Own report) – Berlin and Paris have announced an initiative to increase the militarization of the Sahel. The initiative is called the “Partnership for Security and Stability in the Sahel,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel explained last Sunday at the G7 summit in Biarritz. According to Merkel, within this framework “troops and police forces” from five regional countries should be “reinforced nationally.”  For this purpose new financial means will be made available, French President Emmanuel Macron explained. This project is the EU’s third attempt to control tensions and conflicts in the Sahel with increased militarization. With much fanfare, the EU had launched the EUTM Mali training mission in 2013 and strengthened the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali MINUSMA with soldiers from Europe. In 2017, Germany and France had promoted the establishment of the “G5 Sahel” intervention force. The conflicts had increased each time and have already spread beyond Mali to other countries, some even involving ethnic massacres.   (German Foreign Policy, 8/28)

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NON-RELIGIOUS MAJOR FORCE IN DNC

The Democratic National Committee passed a resolution Saturday claiming nonreligious people are “the largest religious group” within the party, noting these people “overwhelmingly share the Democratic Party’s values.”

The resolution came forward at the DNC’s summer meeting in San Francisco, and it was pushed through with unanimous consent.   The lobbying group Secular Coalition of America praised its passage as the first time a major American political party has “embraced nonbelievers,” according to Fox News.

The resolution states that nonreligious people make up 25 percent of the national population and 35 percent of people under the age of 30.   Of these, 70 percent voted for  Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections, the document notes.   It continues that these people “have often been subjected to unfair bias and exclusion in American society,” asserting that many religious Americans have sought to infringe on their rights.”  (American Truth Today, 8/30)

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US MILITARY’S MOST OVERWEIGHT MEMBERS ARE IN THE NAVY

Sailors need remedial physical training

That could be one just one of many conclusions drawn by a recent Department of Defense study that found the Navy earned the dubious honor of surpassing all other branches in its rate of obese personnel.   The overall rate of fat service members is also up from recent years, with the percentage of personnel weighing in at obese standards climbing to over 17 percent, according to a Health of the DoD Force study.   That number spiked to over a quarter of service members over the age of 35.   For the Navy, the overall number of obese personnel was a shocking 22 percent.  The other branches reported the following frequency of obesity: Air Force: 18 percent; Army: 17 percent; Marine Corps: 8.3 percent.

While the Marine Corps was the least overweight of the bunch — a characteristic partially attributable to the Corps having the youngest average age of personnel — the Marines reported the highest rate of knee and back injuries.

“The Department of Defense, our nation’s largest employer, spends about $1.5 billion annually in obesity-related health care costs for current and former service members and their families, as well as costs to replace unfit personnel,” a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed.   Overweight and obese active duty military also cost DoD $103 million per year in the form of 658,000 lost workdays, the study found.

A 2018 RAND Report that analyzed rates of both obese and overweight troops painted a grim picture of the military’s physical fitness standards.  The study, featuring roughly 18,000 randomly selected participants across each of the service branches, reported that almost 66 percent of service members are considered to be either overweight or obese, based on the same BMI measurement standard used in the DoD study.    Broken down by service, the 2018 report lists the Army as the branch accounting for the highest percentage of overweight troops, with 69.4 percent of soldiers falling under this category.  The Army was followed by the Coast Guard (67.8 percent), Navy (64.6 percent), Air Force (63.1 percent) and Marine Corps (60.9 percent).

(https://www.militarytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2019/09/03/this-branch-takes-the-cake-as-the-us-militarys-fattest/)

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ALTERNATIVE VIEW

Over thirty years ago, Jeremy Paxman presented an above average in-depth news program on BBC2 called Newsnight. I used to watch it when I got home late from visiting or giving an evening Bible Study. Mr. Paxman, of Jewish descent, lives in England, but has the insightfulness of an outsider.

I’ve recently spent time reading two of his books: “On Royalty” (2006) and “The English” (1998).   I was surprised to see the following in the latter, on page 94. I reproduce it for your interest.

“Nineteenth century missionaries sent out to convert the colonized peoples of the world sincerely believed they were spreading the word from a New Jerusalem in England.   It was only a short step to the crackpot belief propounded by Edward Hine in a lecture in Chelsea in 1879 that Great Britain was Israel, the Americans the lost tribe of Manasseh, the Irish the Canaanites, and that Jacob’s Stone was really in Westminster Abbey.   It was, his followers claimed, the only explanation for the extraordinary success of the English people. According to this theory, the Jews of ancient Israel had been captured by Assyrians led by King Sargon, had migrated across Europe and eventually emerged as the Anglo-Saxons.   As late as the 1960s, an American, Herbert W Armstrong was repeating the “chosen people” theory:

‘Certainly there can be no mistaking the identity!   Take a map of Europe, lay a line due northwest of Jerusalem across the continent of Europe until you come to the sea, and then to the islands in the sea.   This line takes you direct to the British Isles! Proof that our white, English speaking people today – British and American – are actually and truly the Birthright tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh of the ‘lost’ House of Israel.’

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QUOTE

“Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade the sphere of private life,” Lord Melbourne, British prime minister, friend and mentor to Queen Victoria.

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S BIGGEST MISTAKE SO FAR

US considering troop withdrawal from Germany, report says

Lord Ismay, the first Secretary-General of NATO, stated, in 1957, that the organization’s goal was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.”

This is now forgotten.

Last week, the British withdrew almost all of their troops from Germany.   A token force of 185 is remaining, with an additional 60 Ministry of Defense civilians. There were 19,100 troops until recently.

At the weekend, President Trump threatened to withdraw Americans troops from the country.

“The US has threatened to withdraw thousands of troops stationed in Germany amid a dispute with Angela Merkel’s government over defence spending.

“Richard Grenell, the US ambassador in Berlin, warned that his country could pull out some of its forces if Germany continues to fall short of the alliance’s spending target of 2 per cent of GDP.

“It is actually offensive to assume that the US taxpayer must continue to pay to have 50,000-plus Americans in Germany, but the Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programs,” Mr. Grenell told Germany’s DPA news agency.

“The remarks will add to concerns that the NATO alliance is becoming strained by President Trump’s impatience with German military spending.” (Justin Huggler, Daily Telegraph, 8/9)

The British withdrawal from the EU leaves Germany without any challenger in the EU.   The withdrawal of troops makes it more likely that Europe will pursue an independent military policy.

The Bible prophesies the rise of a European military, political and economic power at the end time (Revelation 17:12-14).

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GERMANY TO LEAD EU IN PERSIAN GULF NAVAL OPERATION

(Own report) – German military experts have presented their first concrete plans for an EU naval operation in the Persian Gulf. According to the draft of two well-connected government advisors and a Bundeswehr professor, warships should be cruising at the two entrances to the Strait of Hormuz.   Supplementary warships should escort oil tankers through the strait with armed troops on board to ward off possible attacks – depending on the disposition to escalate. This would necessitate “between 10 and 30 percent of the EU’s naval capacities,” and Berlin should be in command of the deployment to demonstrate its aspiration to shape global policy. Whereas sectors of the SPD and the opposition reject the operation, the chancellor and foreign ministry are promoting the plan also within the EU.   Previously, Foreign Minster Heiko Maas had rejected the US demand for Germany to deploy warships in a US-led naval mission in the Middle East.   Berlin is positioning itself to be an independent power in global politics.   (German Foreign Policy, 8/15)

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PELOSI THREATENS BREXIT

If there is no deal with the EU on Brexit, Nancy Pelosi threatens the proposed trade deal between Britain and the US.

The reason is simple.   Leo Varadkar is against it.  He’s the Irish PM and does not want the British to leave the EU, thereby bringing back the border between Britain and Ireland.

Ms. Pelosi, a Catholic (except on abortion), sympathizes with Ireland on this issue.

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WASHINGTON TO FOLLOW DETROIT

“Washington is headed where Detroit once was” was the headline in the “Think” section of the Detroit News August 1st.   In an article by Alison Acosta Winters and Russell Latino, the authors wrote:   “The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a two-year budget deal that will bust the spending cap by $320 billion and put our country on a fiscal trajectory that the Congressional Budget Office called its “worst case scenario.”

“Worst case,” indeed.

“At a time when the federal debt has surpassed $22 trillion, lawmakers have voted not to address the explosion of debt, but to add to it.   Over the next decade, the latest bipartisan budget deal will increase federal debt by $1.7 trillion beyond the already-baked-in debt of $12.4 trillion.

“Fiscal watchdog groups from across the political spectrum slammed the deal as reckless and irresponsible.   The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the deal “may end up being the worst budget agreement in our nation’s history.”

“This week the 2020 presidential campaign came to Detroit, a city that knows first-hand what a debt crisis looks like.

“In 2013, the Motor City, more than $18 billion in debt, filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, the culmination of decades of poor policy choices and economic decline . . .

“Unlike Detroit, the US government can’t declare bankruptcy to get out from under its mountain of debt growing at more than $1 trillion a year.   But even without bankruptcy, that’s a recipe for an economic catastrophe that would make the 2008 financial collapse pale in comparison.   And when it comes, it will be programs like defence, Medicare and Social Security that take the biggest hits.

“To avoid that outcome, we are going to have to get serious about reining in out-of-control spending.”

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TOP PAY

The chief executives of America’s 350 leading companies took home an average $17.2m last year, 278 times the salary of their average worker.   A new survey by the Economics Policy Institute found the average pay of a top US CEO has grown by 1,007.5% in the past four decades, while a typical worker’s grew by just 11.9%.   The trend is so dramatic even CEOs are sounding the alarm.   Ray Dalio, the founder of the world’s biggest hedge fund, warned this year that the US wealth gap was becoming a “national emergency.”

Byron Auguste says the US labour market is broken, and to fix it we need an “Opportunity Marketplace:” new rules and tools “to empower Americans without college degrees to earn more, in better jobs, and to gain new skills at much lower financial risk.”   (Guardian briefing, 8/14)

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Collateral damage:  Germany’s economy

As the trade war rages between America and China, export-orientated economies are caught in the crossfire.   Figures out today showed that Germany’s economy contracted by 0.1% in the second quarter compared to the first.   Exports appear to have taken some flak.   So has industrial production – particularly car making, which suffered a blow from last year’s changes to emissions-testing rules. German industrial weakness tends to spread eastwards, thanks to tightly-knit manufacturing supply chains:  growth in Slovakia, also out today, was modest (0.4% on the previous quarter), though Hungary’s (1.1%) was stronger.   Despite Germany’s limping manufacturing, household spending has soldiered on.   But how long can consumers hold out?   In the face of slowing demand, BASF, a chemicals maker, is cutting 6,000 jobs.   Some firms are scaling back working hours.   Economists hope that fiscal policy might come to the rescue.   But so far German politicians show little inclination to change their tight-fisted ways to defend growth.   (The Economist Briefing, 8/14)

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LETTER FROM GHANA

“Tolerance now means, if you don’t agree with me you are my enemy.

The NPP Government is ruling like a dictatorship with reckless abandon.   They have mortgaged the Nation to China, borrow more money than all other Governments put together in just three years with absolutely nothing to show for it.

“Those of Us who can feel the rumblings are praying for it to pass us by.   Unfortunately the Nation is been driven into survival mode and behaves abnormally.   Reactionary rather than reasonable response.

“Like all wars in Africa,  it will start as NPP against NDC but quickly degenerate in ethnic wars with  some tribes splitting on the Akans and Ewes.   Ghanaians have nowhere to go but pray.”  (8/13)

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FORGOTTEN ROLES

The movie “Mission of Honor” tells the story of the R.A.F.’s 303 Squadron during World War II’s Battle of Britain.   This was a squadron made up of Polish volunteers.  Poles accounted for 20% of pilots at this critical time for Great Britain.   After the war, most were sent back to Poland and died at the hands of Stalin.

I doubt there will ever be a movie about the Rhodesians who fought in the Battle of Britain, including the “rebel” leader, Ian Smith. Rhodesia was also a training ground for British RAF pilots, thousands of miles away in the safety of the African bush.

Without the Rhodesians and the Poles, it’s doubtful Britain would have won the battle in the skies.   That would have meant a German victory, altering the outcome of the Second World War.   After the war, Britain betrayed both.

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)

FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING

(Photo: John McCall, AP)

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

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

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

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

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RIPPLE EFFECT OF SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

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

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

Parkland will not be the last school mass shooting.

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ISLAM AND THE WEST

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

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

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Nervous Rex?  Tillerson in Turkey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Special Dispatch No. 7339

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

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

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

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

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EUROPEAN UNITY

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

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US/EU

Transatlantic Rivals

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

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

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TRADE WAR

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

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

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US ECONOMY

Some like it hot:   America’s economy

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

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 ASIA

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

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AFRICA

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

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

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COMMENT ON OXFAM CHARITY SCANDAL

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

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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

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