Tag Archives: Caribbean

A PERFECT STORM   

This handout photograph provided courtesy of the Dutch Department of Defense on September 7, 2017 shows houses and cars damaged after the passage of Hurricane Irma on the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten.
Hurricane Irma, rampaging across the Caribbean, has produced sustained winds at 295 kilometres per hour (183 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded, France’s weather service said on September 7. / AFP PHOTO / DUTCH DEFENSE MINISTRY / GERBEN VAN ES / Netherlands OUT

A PERFECT STORM

Stuart Varney on Fox Business News remarked this morning, that “it rattles the nerves.   First, Hurricane Harvey, then Irma, now the earthquake in Mexico.”   His companion added:   ‘Will we see a plague of locusts next?”

Jennifer Lawrence had her own interpretation, blaming it all, perhaps predictably, on Donald Trump.   What’s happening, she claimed, is that these disasters are “nature’s wrath on Americans for voting for Trump.”   Clearly, it’s not her intellect that has made her the world’s best-paid actress!

According to the Conservative Tribune, actress Alyssa Milano (“Who’s the Boss?” “Melrose Place”) joined the ranks of liberals mocking Trump’s response to Harvey in a tweet that mocked the President’s call for a National Day of Prayer on Sunday.

One thing is certain – these disasters are going to cost the United States, and other countries affected, billions of dollars.   The Caribbean island of Barbuda has seen 95% of its buildings destroyed.   The actor, Robert DeNiro, has promised to rebuild the island, describing the devastation as “literally rubble.”   Mr. DeNiro has a major property investment on the island.   The Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, describes the island as “barely habitable.”

This morning it became clear that FEMA, the government agency that oversees disaster relief, does not have the funds to help Florida after the second hurricane hits this weekend; it was only yesterday that Congress voted aid for Texas after Hurricane Harvey.   Meanwhile, Islamic Relief Worldwide has been given over $700, 000 by Congress and is expected to receive more.   There’s also the 800,000 young people who entered the US illegally during the last administration – the cost of housing, schooling, and feeding them, in addition to providing them with free healthcare, must be astronomical.   Add to all of this the cost of the ongoing wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.   And, following the devastating earthquake south of the border this morning, Mexico is not going to be contributing one peso to the cost of building that wall.

The fact is that the US is broke.   It has been for as long as anybody can remember.   The national debt is over $20 trillion.   One TV news report today warned that flood insurance may not pay out for a while, if at all.

Scott Shellady (FBN) warned this morning that with “bonds going up in price, and interest rates” low, the economy is in trouble.   He added that:   “Something is fundamentally wrong” and something has to give.   Stuart Varney added that something may give by Monday morning!  The price of gold is also going up again while the dollar is falling, two more signs of worries in financial markets.

The three hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and Jose, now forming) have certainly made financial markets jittery, although companies like Lowe’s and Home Depot are expected to do well in the recovery. There’s even a fourth hurricane, Hurricane Katia, forming over Mexico.

Meanwhile, the BBC’s website reports that the Netherlands is sending more troops to St. Martin to deal with serious post-hurricane looting and a total breakdown in law and order.

Although the death toll could be high this weekend, the greater long-term threat is to the economies of the countries concerned. Many smaller businesses are not likely to reopen and millions of people may move out of the affected areas, as they did in the aftermath of Katrina twelve years ago.

Interestingly, Monday is the 16th anniversary of 9-11, arguably the biggest disaster of all.   The country is on high alert for another possible terror attack (there have been many in Europe in recent months).   A serious attack equaling 9-11 would have a further negative effect on the economy and on the morale of the people.

Another historical anniversary is today – it’s exactly 117 years since the worst hurricane in American history made landfall in Galveston, killing 12,000 people.

America and its neighbors need time to recuperate from the current disasters.

The National Day of Prayer may help, but Americans are not inclined to repent, a prerequisite for answered prayer.

if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)

The country needs to think about this passage this weekend as it observes the National Day of Prayer.

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European Court Orders EU Countries to Take Migrants
“Politics has raped European law and values.”                                       by Soeren Kern  •  September 7, 2017 at 5:00 am

  • The September 6 ruling, which has been hailed as a victory for European federalism, highlights the degree to which the European Union has usurped decision-making powers from its 28 member states.   The ruling also showcases how the EU’s organs of jurisprudence have become politicized.
  • Many so-called asylum seekers have refused to relocate to Central and Eastern Europe because the financial benefits there are not as generous as in France, Germany or Scandinavia.
  • “Let us not forget that those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims.   This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity.  Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian?   If we lose sight of this, the idea of Europe could become a minority interest in its own continent.” — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

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Germany Heading for Four More Years of Pro-EU, Open-Door Migration Policies                                                                                              by Soeren Kern  •  September 8, 2017 at 5:00 am

  • The policy positions of Merkel and Schulz on key issues are virtually identical:   Both candidates are committed to strengthening the European Union, maintaining open-door immigration policies, pursuing multiculturalism and quashing dissent from the so-called far right.
  • Merkel and Schulz both agree that there should be no upper limit on the number of migrants entering Germany.
  • Merkel’s grand coalition backed a law that would penalize social media giants, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, with fines of €50 million ($60 million) if they fail to remove offending content from their platforms within 24 hours.   Observers say the law is aimed at silencing critics of Merkel’s open-door migration policy.  (Gatestone Institute)
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BRITAIN DISARMING, GERMANY REARMING: SOUND FAMILIAR?

David Cameron and Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister address a press conference in Berlin on 7 June 2012.  Photograph: Carsten Koall/AFP/Getty Images
David Cameron and Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister address a press conference in Berlin on 7 June 2012. Photograph: Carsten Koall/AFP/Getty Images

Two hundred years ago, on June 18th, 1815, the British won the war against Napoleon.

Or so you thought.   As is generally the case with Europe, it’s not quite that simple.

British troops were only 36% of the allied troops that gained the victory.  Take away the Irishmen fighting in the British army, and the percentage of British troops was well below a third of those on the victorious side.

Other troops that fought in this allied cause, all wanting to end Napoleon’s domination of Europe, came from Prussia (eastern Germany) and what are today Belgium and the Netherlands. The battle took place on Belgian soil.

This is not to diminish the British contribution.   One result of the battle was that the United Kingdom became a global superpower and was unrivaled in Europe for almost one hundred years.

But it’s a classic example of how British relations with Europe are never that simple.   Also, of how the Brits can misread Europe, seeing their country as far more important than it really is.

Which brings us to the promised referendum on British relations with the EU, to take place in 2017.

There are 28 countries in the European Union, with more on the sidelines wanting to join the club. Britain is the third biggest economy in the Union.   It is, right now, the most successful economy, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to its shores every year.  These are mostly from Europe and, it is thought, attracted primarily by Britain’s generous social support system.   People from Eastern Europe can work in the UK and receive benefits for their progeny back home in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.   These benefits enable them to provide quite comfortably for their families, even if they earn a very small income in London or whatever other city they reside in.

British people get angry at this as they are the ones paying for it in their taxes.   But, as a member of the EU, the British government can do nothing about it.  The EU guarantees the free movement of people within member nations.

London wants to change this.  Most of the other members do not. The Polish leader made it clear to British Prime Minister David Cameron this is something he cannot change.  And that is correct. If the UK stays in Europe, it won’t change.  Mr. Cameron may hope it does, but it won’t – unless Germany is willing to change it, and that’s not likely.

Many (maybe most) British people are fed up with the EU, which they also heavily subsidize in other ways.  They want to withdraw from the organization and go back to the way they were 50 years ago.

What they don’t realize is that they cannot go back to the 1960’s, to the pre-EU days.

It’s not an option.

Prior to entering the European Common Market (as the EU was then called), Britain had an extensive system of trade with nations farther afield.   “Imperial preferences” left over from the days of the Empire, ensured close trade ties with the dominions of the Commonwealth: Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.   These trade agreements were torn up by Britain when they joined Europe. It is unlikely that they can restore them more than 40 years later.

At the same time, in the 60’s, the British still had close trade ties with all their former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific, the ACP countries.  These gave Britain cheap food, while the British were able to sell manufactured products to these countries without the hindrance of tariffs.

After Britain joined the European Community, it was a matter of urgency to help these less developed nations. The Lome Convention was signed in 1975, taking effect in April 1976.   It gave preferential access to Europe for member countries’ food and mineral exports.   This treaty, agreed to in the capital of the former French colony of Togo, effectively embraced all former British, French and Dutch colonies.   As this agreement was to help less developed countries, it did not extend to the British dominions, who were on their own.

Effectively, Great Britain, thirty years after World War II, handed over its former Empire to the European Union, now dominated by Germany.  What a supreme irony of history!

There is no turning back.

This is not to say that Britain will be entirely on its own if it separates from the EU.   Norway and Switzerland are two European countries that are not members of the EU.  Both have a per capita income that is higher than the EU average.

But it won’t be easy for Britain, certainly not as easy as the anti-Europeans are making it out to be.

The Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957 by the original six members of the European Community, pledged member countries to form “an ever closer union.”   The EU today is very different from the old European Common Market. It is far more intrusive and controlling than it was at the beginning.   And it is already talking about greater cooperation, with an EU Army not too far ahead.

Bible prophecy shows that another superpower is set to arise, a European power that will be a revival of the Roman Empire.   You can read about this new power in Revelation chapters 13 and 17.   Note the following words from chapter 17:

12 “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.  13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.  14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Rev 17:12-14)   Clearly, this is not talking about the Roman Empire of two thousand years ago, as this superpower will be in existence when Christ returns.  The good news is that this “beast” power will not last long and will lead directly into the prophesied Kingdom of God.

Is Britain prepared for isolation, facing a German dominated European super-power on its doorstep, without any say in its composition and its purpose?

Interestingly, just four days ago, British defense chiefs warned that the country’s defenses had been so greatly diminished that the nation was now “feeble” on the world stage.   As Britain no longer has a deployable aircraft carrier, only one ship, HMS Ocean, is equipped to host US Marines and their MV 22 Osprey vertical take off aircraft, in the event of military action by Russia.   As Russia is rapidly increasing its military potential, warnings of a coming conflict between the West and Moscow are growing. The UK’s response is to go down the road of disarmament. The similarities with the 1930’s are quite blatant – Britain is once again disarming while Germany is rearming.

Berlin is spending an additional 8 billion euros (US 9 billion) on the new MEADS air defense system and the multi role combat ship 180.  3.9 billion euros ($4.37 billion) has also been set aside for four new battleships.

Germany is also working toward an EU Army, which will add to its military capacity.

Outside of the EU, Britain will have to fend for itself, something it seems ill-prepared for at this time.   Even a Conservative government is clearly more inclined to cut defense over higher health care costs, at a time of growing international tensions.

Individual Britons need to think carefully before the vote in the referendum.   There may be sound reasons to reject the EU, but there could also be serious consequences.   Britain’s relationship with Europe can be compared to a marriage.   It was certainly a mistake to marry in the first place, but divorce is not an easy option and needs to be considered carefully.

DOWNTON ABBEY AND THE CLASS SYSTEM

Downton Abbey

The latest series of Downton Abbey is currently showing on PBS in the United States.   The hit series is set in an English stately home. It started four years ago with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.   We have gone through World War One with the Grantham family and are now witnessing events in 1924, when the first Labour government came to power.   Hopefully, the series can get us through to World War Two and its aftermath, before falling ratings finish it off.

As I come from England, I’m often asked if the class system so accurately portrayed on the program still exists.

The answer to that can be found at Highclere Castle, which is the real name of the fictional Downton Abbey.

Whereas Downton is supposed to be in the county of Yorkshire in the North of England, it is actually filmed at Highclere Castle, which is west of London.   It is the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.

A documentary on Highclere Castle was shown some time ago on PBS.  It showed the Earl and his wife are very normal people who are dedicated to preserving their ancestral home and its estate.   High taxes were a major factor in the decline of the aristocracy, starting with the 1906 Liberal government.   After World War II taxes on inherited wealth were so high that many aristocrats were forced to abandon their homes and property.  The Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, owners of Blenheim Palace, Churchill’s birthplace, now live in the Caribbean; visitors can tour their home, ensuring its financial upkeep and giving the Marlboroughs enough to live on.

What about all those servants?   Downton’s plot lines involve those employed downstairs as much as Lord Grantham and his family.   Sadly, all those butlers, footmen, ladies’ maids and cleaning staff are no longer likely to be there. Some may see this as progress. However, before World War One there were three million domestic servants in Britain – not so long ago, that number was down to 68,000, with three million unemployed!

The documentary on the real Downton Abbey showed the present-day residents have just one butler, a really old gentleman who probably can’t handle all the hard physical work some of the younger staff did decades ago.   What was apparent is that the three of them, both aristocrats and their servant, work together as a team to preserve the historic house and ensure its continuity for members of the public who wish to visit it.   And for any television company that wants to hire it.

So, does England still have a class system?   Great Britain still has titles, but a title does not equate to wealth.   That was true in the latter half of the nineteenth century when Britain was the wealthiest country in the world.  Due to rapid industrialization and cheap food imports from its colonies, many aristocrats fell on hard times.   At the same time, the US had created many multi-millionaires in the aftermath of the Civil War.   Those millionaires often sent their daughters to England to find a titled aristocrat to marry.   The American heiress gained a title and the English husband was solvent again!   Winston Churchill was the product of the most famous marriage between a wealthy American and an aristocratic Englishman.

The question asked – if England still has a class system – belies a simple reality.   That reality is that all nations have an aristocracy. The difference in Great Britain is that British aristocrats tend to have titles. Not all do.   The wealthiest people in Britain today are not likely to be aristocrats, so much as oil sheikhs from the Middle East, Russian businessmen hiding from Vladimir Putin, rock stars, football players and, leading them all, J.K. Rowling, the wealthiest woman in the country, once a struggling single mother who could not buy more than one coffee at the local equivalent of Starbucks, until, that is, Harry Potter came along.   For years, Madonna came in at number two.   The Queen is not even in the top 500 wealthiest people in the country.

Today’s aristocracy is just as likely to be found in the United States as in Britain.

The Economist cover story on January 24th highlighted “America’s new aristocracy.”   An accompanying article showed that education is behind today’s inheritance of privilege.   Educated couples typically earn the most.   They then ensure their children get the best education so they, in turn, are at the top of society.   So an inherited, but untitled, aristocracy continues from generation to generation.   They may not have all the servants the Granthams had in Downton Abbey, but then nobody does today.

Although I’m sure there are good servants still around, I doubt there are many left like Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes and even the old gentleman at Highclere Castle.   Being “in service” is no longer considered a calling – the great-grandchildren of the Granthams’ servants are far more likely to be enjoying life on the dole!

Progress indeed!