Tag Archives: China

MEN MORE LIKELY TO DIE

Medical staff speak with a male patient infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus at Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on March 10, 2020. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

What will be the outcome of the coronavirus?

The virus will pass eventually.   But the economic damage is something that could be with us for many years.   We may never recover.

In the Great Depression of the 1930’s, unemployment reached 25%.   Today, it’s already 32% and growing.  We may even reach the highest figure the US ever experienced, the 1896 Depression when 50% of the people were unemployed, at a time when government did not provide unemployment benefits.  That year saw the biggest turnout ever for an election, 80%.  The population was roughly 75 million.  According to Wikipedia:

“Since the onset of the Panic of 1893, the nation had been mired in a deep economic depression, marked by low prices, low profits, high unemployment, and violent strikes.   Economic issues, especially tariff policy and the question of whether the gold standard should be preserved for the money supply, were central issues.”

I do not have to tell you how devastating this would be.

One thing is for sure, it’s unlikely we can go back to the way things were.

The United States Is not specifically mentioned in biblical end time events.   These take place in the Middle East and Europe.   China is also not mentioned, except (maybe) where an army of 200 million men comes from the East.  (Revelation 9:16)

So, for the US to be out of the picture, it must come down as a nation.   An economic collapse could fit this scenario.  In the last twenty years, the US economy has suffered serious impact three times – 9/11, the Great Recession of 2008 and now the coronavirus pandemic.   It’s as if God is warning us.   We recovered from the first two.  It does not follow that we will recover from the third.

The big problem is the borrowing.  The stimulus, as it’s being called.  It was big news a few years ago when our national debt reached one trillion.  Now, we add trillions without a second thought.  With the national debt now running at $23 trillion, an additional two trillion of stimulus money doesn’t sound like much.  But a second, third and maybe even fourth round might be needed, adding as much as 8 trillion to our debt.

There will come a point when the rest of the world will no longer accept dollars as payment for anything.   There will also come a point when we won’t be able to pay the interest on the debt.  Inflation may also be a major problem, with many items already costing more.   Worst case scenario – the dollar may become worthless!

A second concern should be the military.  I was struck earlier this week by reports that the US has two aircraft carriers in the Pacific, and both were incapacitated by an outbreak of the coronavirus amongst their crews.   It reminded me of the events of December 1941.   At that time, Britain was the greatest naval power and still the #1 nation in the world.   But, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it went on to sink the British battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse, on December 10th.   Nobody realized at the time that this was the end of British naval supremacy, after more than 200 years.

This is how quickly and unexpectedly a nation can fall from preeminence.

EUROPEAN UPHEAVAL

The second development that may come from the coronavirus is significant upheaval in Europe, the second major area of biblical prophecy, after Jerusalem.

Already battered by the refugee problem, Brexit and the rise of populism, Europe has been unable to make a difference with the virus now sweeping the continent.  There is increasing talk of Europe breaking up, with arguments over money being a major cause.

For Europe to make the biblical changes foretold, the EU is most likely to fall apart, leaving some nations to rally around Germany, the continent’s dominant power.

Revelation 17:12-14:   “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.  These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.   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.”

These ten will be led by Germany, the modern descendant of Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-8).

MR     

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Men are proving much more susceptible to the coronavirus than women, dividing opinion as to whether it is linked to behavioral factors such as smoking and drinking – or biology.

While it has been widely reported that the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions are most at risk from Covid-19, emerging data from around the world has revealed that the virus also discriminates by sex.

First seen in China, where one analysis found a fatality rate of 2.8% in men compared with 1.7% in women, a similar pattern has emerged in France, Germany, Iran and South Korea.   (The Week, 3/27/2020)

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CORONAVIRUS ENDS ISRAELI DEADLOCK

In the end, it took the coronavirus to break the year-long deadlock in Israeli politics.   Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu will still face corruption charges, but he has yet another new lease on political life, as he and political rival Benny Gantz cut a deal yesterday:   Bibi will continue as prime minister, with Gantz serving as either defense or foreign minister, until September 2021 at which time Gantz will take over as prime minister.

It’s a full about-face for Gantz, who had previously vowed never to serve under a prime minister facing formal corruption charges.  But Gantz’s inability to form a coalition government of his own, and the need for an “emergency unity government” in the face of the coronavirus crisis, forced his change of heart.

“These are not normal times and they call for unusual decisions,” Gantz explained, much to the anger and dismay of some of his political allies.  The virus outbreak has also delayed the opening of Netanyahu’s trial until May 24.   (Gzero, 3/27/2020)

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ANTI-CHINESE AID

The German government and the EU Commission are taking up positions against Chinese aid, in the combat against the Covid-19 pandemic.   In view of the fact that Italy, for example, is receiving systematic support from Beijing, after the EU’s refusal of aid, “controversial debates on how to deal with China” are pending, according to the German Defense Ministry.   EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell detects a “global battle of narratives.” Beijing is waging a “struggle for influence” with “politics of generosity,” which the EU must counteract.   Since China succeeded in containing Covid-19, it has come to the aid of a growing number of countries around the world.   Western powers, which have traditionally been using their assistance for consolidating their global influence, are unable to control the virus and some are requiring assistance themselves.   For the aftermath of the pandemic, experts are predicting “a changed world order” with the East Asian countries as the “new global health powers.”  (German Foreign Policy, 3/29/2020)

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NEW YORKERS FLEE CITY

Many New Yorkers are fleeing the city as it becomes the global centre of the pandemic, but upstate locals have not been entirely welcoming, writes Adam Gabbatt.   The spread of the virus at the city’s Riker’s Island jail complex is a “public health disaster,” the jail’s top doctor has said.   The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, warned on Wednesday that his state and the US would never “get back to normal” after the crisis, but instead “get to a new normal.”

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California’s Curve

The Golden State was quick to lockdown and appears to have flattened its Covid-19 curve.   But it still lags behind in testing.  (The Guardian, 4/2/2020)

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OFFER OF IRANIAN HELP FOR US

On March 31, 2020, the Iranian news outlet Khabar Online tweeted a video featuring a reporter wearing a face mask standing in front of a shipping truck.   The reporter said:   “This is the aid shipment that the Iranian nation is sending to the oppressed American nation… The Jihadi students will be giving this shipment to the party that is responsible for America’s interests in Iran, which is the Swiss Embassy.”  A sign on the truck read: “Humanitarian Health Aid Produced by Iranian Students to Americans.”    The same source later tweeted that the Swiss embassy refused to accept the shipment.  (MEMRI 4/2/2020)

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SANCTIONS HURT EFFORT TO STOP VIRUS

US sanctions on Iran, to which German enterprises are obliged to conform, are in fact seriously hampering the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, according to UN General Secretary António Guterres, who is campaigning for an immediate suspension of the sanctions. The boycott measures had already caused serious damage to Iran’s health system prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, depriving, for example, cancer patients of desperately needed medicine.   Now they are blocking deliveries of Covid-19 test kits that are inexpensively produced in Germany.   Iran is one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic.   The numbers given in yesterday’s official statistics – around 27,000 infected, a little more than 2,000 deaths – are considered far too low.   Iranian experts fear an increase in deaths into the 6 or 7-digits.   Washington, with absolutely no intention of at least suspending the sanctions to enable the fight against the pandemic, imposed even new punitive measures a few days ago.   Berlin remains inactive and silent.     (German Foreign Policy, 3/27/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • The price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil dipped below $20 a barrel, nearly its lowest point in 18 years.  Demand has slumped amid the coronavirus outbreak and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.   Brent crude, the international benchmark, also fell below $23 a barrel.
  • Kim Kielsen, the prime minister of Greenland, announced a prohibition on the sale of alcohol in Nuuk, the capital of the autonomous Danish territory.   The move was motivated by an attempt to reduce violence against children in their homes now that schools are closed because of covid-19.   Nearly a third of people living in Greenland suffered sexual abuse as a child  (The Economist, 3/30/2020)
  • America’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic rose past 3,000, with a record 540 new cases recorded on Monday.  At that rate it will overtake China’s official count at some point today. The USNS Comfort, an oil tanker converted into a floating hospital, drew cheers from New Yorkers as it docked in midtown Manhattan.   Field hospitals are springing up elsewhere in the city, to cope with the surfeit of covid-19 patients.  (The Economist, 3/31/2020)
  • In his memoirs, Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Union, wrote:   “Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.”   With crisis currently gripping the continent, those multilateral solutions are proving hard to come by.   (Joe Evans, Deputy News Editor, The Week, @TheWeekUK)

Encouraging words for a time like this:  “Be strong.  Take courage. Don’t be intimidated.  Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you.   He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”  (Deuteronomy 31:6)

 

THE DEATH OF FREEDOM

A person does a cartwheel in Oxford Circus during rush hour as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

We have less freedom today than we have had in over 400 years.   And we’ve all consented to this loss of freedom.

Freedom of assembly and the freedom to worship have both suffered.  Even the freedom to go out for a meal or a drink.    Nor can we shake a friend’s hand or give a hug.   Again, with our consent.

As one British paper put it:  “It is no exaggeration to say these are the most extreme powers ever used against citizens in peace time Britain.”

It’s understandable.  We want to live.  We want to survive the coronavirus.

But will we ever get these freedoms back?

Most importantly, what will be the next crisis that makes us so quick to jettison our freedoms?

MR       

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“A heart attack is occurring in the economy”  (Sky News comment, 3/20)

This was a comment about the British economy, but it describes every country right now.   So, let’s take a look at some of the economic consequences of coronavirus.

Argentina’s new government will today publish GDP figures for last year, with economists warning that the covid-19 pandemic could be about to send the country into a deep recession.   GDP is forecast to have contracted by 2.1% in 2019.   But what matters now is the dire situation to come.   One former central banker predicts that the country’s economy could shrink by up to 4% in 2020.   Though weighed down by high inflation and heavy debt, President Alberto Fernández’s government is implementing fiscal stimulus measures worth billions of dollars.   Its treasury minister, Martín Guzmán,  warns that the covid-19 crisis means that it is now impossible to say when, and how, Argentina can return to growth.   That was Mr. Fernández’s primary goal when he took office just four months ago, an aim that looks harder by the day as infections mount in the country.     (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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For years Germany has run the tightest of fiscal ships, frustrating many in the euro zone and beyond.   Then came covid-19.   Today the Bundestag will approve a €156bn ($168bn) supplementary budget for 2020, under which Germany will issue new debt for the first time since 2013.   The borrowing breaks Germany’s “black zero” balanced-budget policy and exploits an emergency rule in the constitutional “debt brake.”   Yet it is just one part of Germany’s response.   The government has expanded Kurzarbeit support (in which the state partly covers the lost wages of workers who have their hours cut), extended various loan guarantees and even earmarked funds for direct investment in companies.   The package amounts to a potential €750bn, and more may follow.   The scale of the response has surprised observers—but at European level less is happening.   Germany, and the euro area’s other hawks, remain implacably opposed to debt mutualization.   (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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Today’s meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee should have been the first with Andrew Bailey in the chair.   But the new governor found himself presiding over an emergency meeting last week, amid what he described as “borderline disorderly” market conditions.   In common with other central banks, the Bank of England is aggressively easing monetary policy to react to a rapid economic slowdown due to the spread of covid-19.   Despite interest-rate cuts, £200bn ($232bn) more quantitative easing (amounting to some 10% of GDP) and more direct support for private-sector lending, the bank is more worried about undershooting its inflation target than overshooting it. Today’s consumer-price statistics show inflation running at 1.7%, below the 2% target.   More monetary easing is likely, but with interest rates already at 0.1%, an all-time low, fiscal policy will have to do most of the heavy lifting.  (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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Coronavirus lockdown measures implemented in the UK may trigger an economic downturn that could kill more people than the virus itself, a new study warns.

Philip Thomas, a professor of risk management at Bristol University, says that a fall in GDP of more than 6.4% could lead to a devastating recession in which “more years of life will be lost . . . than will be saved through beating the virus,” reports The Times.  (The Week, 3/25/2020)

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The worst outbreak of Coronavirus in the Middle East, so far, is in Iran.  Thousands have died and tens of thousands have been exposed to the virus.   An overlooked developing crisis parallel to Iran’s is the situation of the country’s neighbors across the Persian Gulf.

Beyond the civilian element affecting Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE; tens of thousands of American military personnel are also stationed in these countries.   Once facing the Iranian threat and ISIS, they are now involved in combating the invisible enemy:   Covid-19.      (Greg Roman, MEF, 3/20)

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This is an emergency, track everyone:   If there were ever a time to set concerns about privacy aside, this is it.   Giving public health authorities access to everyone’s location data gives them a better chance of tracking down people who have been in contact with confirmed cases – and helps ensure that those who are already sick stay in quarantine.   Right now, governments need all the help they can get.   Give them the data.   Debates about the privacy implications can wait.

China is in this camp. So are other countries in Asia, like South Korea and Taiwan, that have had better success containing the epidemic – although it’s still too early to say whether access to mobile phone location data was the deciding factor.   (Gzero, 3/25/2020)

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A SURPRISING LETTER FROM HOLLYWOOD

Dear Mr. President, @realDonaldTrump

I wanted to thank you for ur recent decorum, sincerity, & care towards us.   You’re taking charge & leading in a manner needed & wanted for this country.   I highly commend you for ur boundless energy & willingness to solve problems.   Thank you!

— Kirstie Alley (@kirstiealley) March 24, 2020

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TO THE POINT

  • LAGOS — A jihadist group ambushed and killed around 70 Nigerian government troops in Borno state, in the north-east of the country.   The guerrillas used rocket-propelled grenades to attack a vehicle full of soldiers; they also took several captive.  The group they belong to split off from Nigeria’s homegrown Boko Haram in 2016, and now considers itself an Islamic State affiliate. (The Economist, 3/25/2020)
  • BERLIN – A court in eastern Germany convicted eight far-right extremists who were accused of planning to violently overthrow the state.   The regional court in Dresden on Tuesday convicted one of the men on a charge of forming a “terrorist organization” and the other seven of being members of the group, called Revolution Chemnitz.   Five of the man were also found guilty of a serious breach, while one was convicted of bodily harm.  The court sentenced the defendants to prison terms that ranged from 27 months to 5 ½ years.  (Lansing State Journal, 3/25/2020)
  • UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations on Tuesday to adopt a “wartime” plan including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars” for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.   He said in a letter to the Group of 20 leaders that they account for 85% of the world’s gross domestic product and have “a direct interest and critical role to play in helping developing countries cope with the crisis.”  (Lansing State Journal, 3/25/2020)
  • LONDON – Prince Charles has coronavirus.  Prince Charles, 71, is displaying mild symptoms “but otherwise remains in good health,” a spokesman said, adding that the Duchess of Cornwall, 72, has been tested but does not have the virus.   Charles and Camilla are now self-isolating at Balmoral.   Buckingham Palace said the Queen last saw her son, the heir to the throne, on 12 March, but was “in good health.”   The palace added that the Duke of Edinburgh was not present at that meeting, and that the Queen was now “following all the appropriate advice with regard to her welfare.”
    A Clarence House statement read:   “In accordance with government and medical advice, the prince and the duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.  “The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire, where they met the criteria required for testing.  “It is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”
  • Germany is the only country in Europe to have currently rejected China’s offer of support in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. According to China’s President Xi Jinping, he informed Chancellor Angela Merkel that the People’s Republic of China “is willing to provide help within our capabilities,” if Germany “is in need.”   Over the past few days, Beijing has sent aid supplies and – in some cases – teams of doctors to provide practical on-site assistance to several European countries including Italy, Spain and France.   Berlin has ignored the offer of support, even though there is, for example, a glaring shortage of respiratory protection masks in Germany.   More than 80 percent of Germany’s registered doctors are complaining that they cannot procure sufficient protective clothing.   Serious accusations for failing to take preventive measures are being raised against the German government, which has been emphasizing that it is “well prepared.”   Leading German media are denouncing China’s aid as a “propaganda campaign” and accuse the country of being “the cause of the pandemic.”  The only thing missing is the use of Trump’s label of a “Chinese virus.” (German Foreign Policy, 3/24/2020)
  • A growing number of businesses and individuals worldwide have stopped using banknotes in fear that physical currency, handled by tens of thousands of people over their useful life, could be a vector for the spreading coronavirus.   Public officials and health experts have said that the risk of transferring the virus person-to-person through the use of banknotes is small.   But that has not stopped businesses in the US from refusing to accept currency and some countries from urging their citizens to stop using banknotes altogether.   (Times of Israel, 3/20/2020)

 

Corona Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will we ever return to normalcy?

MR 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FINANCIAL PROBLEMS STARTED A LONG TIME AGO

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

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Cyril Ramaphosa lists countries on South Africa’s travel ban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AN ALTERNATIVE THOUGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

A GROWING SENSE OF CRISIS

(MGN Image)

There’s a growing sense of crisis all over the world.

The immediate cause is the coronavirus, which gets worse every day.   Worse, by the numbers.   Daily, there are more deaths, more people have it and the virus is spreading, covering a wider area.

Conspiracy theories abound.   In the US, some people are saying that the virus is being spread to undermine Trump and give the Democrats victory in November.   How does that explain it’s a bigger problem in Italy, in the UK, China and elsewhere, countries with no election this year, or any other year, in the case of China.

Nations are reacting to what promises to be a major game changer in the global economy.   Tourism has ground to a halt, flights are empty, delivery of goods suffering major delays, employees are dying, and there’s no end in sight.

In the UK, Rishi Sunak, Britain’s new Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) delivered a very professional budget speech that was over an hour long.  He’s the first Indian to be appointed to the second highest political office in the land, the first Hindu (sworn into office with a Hindu holy book) and at only 39, one of the youngest chancellors in history.  His budget was the first one since Britain left the EU, the first in almost 50 years that Britain has been totally independent.  The budget was scheduled weeks ago, before the virus, but it gave the government the opportunity to tackle it from the financial perspective.  It’s going to cost billions of pounds (dollars or euros), increasing deficits and threatening the international exchange rate of currencies.  The stimulus package promised this morning  in Britain is thirty billion  pounds ($39 billion).

It’s unpredictable – but it’s very real.  It will affect President Trump’s chance of reelection, but it’s not a deliberate attempt to thwart his success.   The medical crisis will inevitably affect the economy, which may affect the election, though its doubtful anybody else could manage the crisis better.   In the UK it is estimated that, at the peak of the crisis, one fifth of all workers will have to stay home.

The virus started in Wuhan, China.   We may never know exactly what caused it, but pigs, bats and pangolins seem the most likely candidates.  But there is also a government laboratory in Wuhan.  The suspicion is also that it might have been a biological warfare experiment gone wrong.

MR       

Putin forever  — Russian president Vladimir Putin is backing sweeping constitutional changes that would allow him to stay at the helm of the country until 2036.  (Financial Times)   If approved, the reforms would give Putin the option to serve another two terms and cement an unbroken run of 24 years as president and 36 years in power.   A “people’s vote” referendum is due next month.   The New York Times notes that 36 years is longer “than Stalin but still short of Peter the Great, who reigned for 43 years.”   (Financial Times Brussels Briefing, 3/10/2020)

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WHY GAS IS CHEAP

For three years, Russia and Saudi Arabia, the world’s two largest oil exporters, had a deal to prop up global crude prices by limiting production.   They calculated that by producing fewer barrels, rising prices would make each barrel worth more.

Over the weekend, that deal collapsed when Russia backed out, allegedly because it decided that higher prices were also providing an unexpectedly large boost for the US oil industry, which has expanded its market share by increasing production by nearly 50 percent since the Russia-Saudi (formally, Russia-OPEC) deal began in late 2016.   A lot of that increase has come from US shale oil.

Saudi Arabia, eager to show Russia that its market power is not to be ignored, slashed the price at which it sells its own oil, and moved to sharply boost production.   The expected flood of new Saudi supply dropped global oil prices by more than 30 percent on Monday, the biggest overnight drop in almost three decades.   Stock markets, already wobbly thanks to coronavirus, took a dive.

Now Moscow and Riyadh appear locked in a price war – a crude game of chicken that could last for weeks or even months.   Oil markets are reeling because this conflict comes just as the coronavirus clobbers demand for oil as factories close, and as international shipping and air travel slow dramatically.   More supply + less demand = price collapse.     (Signal, the Gzero Newsletter, 3/10/2020)

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The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries publishes its latest oil report today, amid turmoil.   OPEC and its allies met on March 5th and 6th to discuss production cuts to boost the oil price. Russia refused a deal, stunning the market.   Saudi Arabia then said it would ramp up production next month and lower its selling price.  On March 9th the price of Brent crude fell by 24%, its biggest one-day drop since 1991.   There is a chance that Russia and Saudi Arabia will compromise, but most analysts think the price war is more likely to continue, as they battle for market share and try to squeeze the shale companies that have made America the world’s biggest oil producer.   Saudi Arabia’s low production costs mean it can fight fiercely, but not without suffering.   The kingdom requires oil to top $80 a barrel to balance its budget.   This year’s average may be less than half that.  (The Economist, 3/10/2020)

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FRANCE SET TO BECOME MUSLIM

Domestically, the past fifty years of steady immigration from Islamic countries into France is “transforming the fabric of French society” from within.   Demographic and sociological surveys indicate that 10-15% of the French population is now of Muslim origin, including 20-30% of French citizens or residents under the age of 25.   Some integrate successfully, but many align with the most radical and militant expression of the religion.   Their rejection of France’s secular constitution is matched by resentment of the French military’s fight against global jihadism in Africa and the Middle East, seen as a “deliberate assault … on Islam.”

Whereas religious zeal is steadily increasing among French Muslims, Gurfinkiel said that “the classic national religion of France, Catholicism,” is declining, citing research found in The French Archipelago (L’archipel français) by French pollster, demographer and sociologist Jérôme Fourquet.   Traditional family and marriage are “unraveling among the native French,” while birthrates drop.  (“A very good chance of Islamists conquering France”, Marilyn Stern, MEF, 3/7.   Interview with Michel Gurfinkiel, of the Paris based Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute.)

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The Western Armament Community (II)                                                              German-Foreign-Policy.com * (10 March 2020)

 Germany, the EU and the western powers altogether have increased their already dominant share of the booming global arms export, according to a report on international arms transfers published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) yesterday.   Germany is the fourth largest arms export nation. With a 26 percent share, the EU is well ahead of Russia (21 percent) and behind the USA (36 percent).   Two thirds of the world’s exports of heavy war machinery are attributed to arms manufacturers in North America and Europe (excluding Russia).   SIPRI’s list of recipient states is a clear indication of current and future hot spots. Six of the top ten global arms importers are located in the Arab world, particularly at the Persian Gulf.   One sixth of all arms exports are being delivered to western allies in the power struggle with China in East and Southeast Asia and in the Pacific realm – with German arms exports being an integral part.    (More…   https://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/news/detail/8213/)

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USA and France dramatically increase major arms exports;             Saudi Arabia is largest arms importer, says SIPRI

 (Stockholm, 9 March 2020) — International transfers of major arms during the five-year period 2015–19 increased by 5.5 per cent compared with 2010–14.   According to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the largest exporters of arms during the past five years were the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China. The new data shows that the flow of arms to the Middle East has increased, with Saudi Arabia clearly being the world’s largest importer.

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Significant increase in arms exports from the United States and France
Between 2010–14 and 2015–19, exports of major arms from the USA grew by 23 per cent, raising its share of total global arms exports to 36 per cent. In 2015–19 total US arms exports were 76 per cent higher than those of the second-largest arms exporter in the world, Russia. Major arms transferred from the USA went to a total of 96 countries.

‘Half of US arms exports in the past five years went to the Middle East, and half of those went to Saudi Arabia,’ says Pieter D. Wezeman, Senior Researcher at SIPRI.   ‘At the same time, demand for the USA’s advanced military aircraft increased, particularly in Europe, Australia, Japan and Taiwan.’

French arms exports reached their highest level for any five-year period since 1990 and accounted for 7.9 per cent of total global arms exports in 2015–19, a 72 per cent increase on 2010–14.  ‘The French arms industry has benefited from the demand for arms in Egypt, Qatar and India,’ says Diego Lopes Da Silva, SIPRI Researcher.

Other notable developments:

  • Germany’s arms exports were 17 per cent higher in 2015–19 than in 2010–14.
  • China was the fifth-largest arms exporter in 2015–19 and significantly increased the number of recipients of its major arms: from 40 in 2010–14 to 53 in 2015–19.
  • South Korea’s arms exports rose by 143 per cent between 2010–14 and 2015–19 and it entered the list of the top 10 largest exporters for the first time.
  • Israeli arms exports increased by 77 per cent between 2010–14 and 2015–19 to their highest-ever level.
  • West and Central European states had outstanding orders at the end of 2019 for imports of 380 new combat aircraft from the USA.
  • Egypt’s arms imports tripled between 2010–14 and 2015–19, making it the world’s third-largest arms importer.
  • Brazil’s arms imports in 2015–19 were the highest in South America, accounting for 31 per cent of the subregion’s arms imports, despite a 37 per cent decrease compared with 2010–14.
  • South Africa, the largest arms importer in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005–2009, imported almost no major arms in 2015–19.

(https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2020/usa-and-france-dramatically-increase-major-arms-exports-saudi-arabia-largest-arms-importer-says)

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Germany ‘should join in French nuclear deterrent’
The former Airbus executive Tom Enders urged Berlin to do the “unthinkable”
by Oliver Moody, Berlin, 6 March 2020, The Times (of London)

Germany has been urged to work with France on a joint nuclear deterrent amid doubts about President Trump’s readiness to stand by Europe in a military crisis.  Tom Enders, the former chief executive of Airbus, called on Berlin to overcome its taboo against atomic weapons and buy a stake in the French force de frappe (strike force), consisting of some 290 warheads.   President Macron recently offered EU leaders a “strategic dialogue” on the role of France’s nuclear arsenal.   The German response has so far been ambivalent.   The country is covered by the US “nuclear umbrella” through its membership of Nato.   It is an open secret that Germany hosts about 20 American warheads at the Büchel airbase, near the Belgian border.   The weapons are under the… [Paywall].
(https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/germany-should-join-in-french-nuclear-deterrent-g7vcz63rf)

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TO THE POINT

  • BIDEN BID – With primary wins in Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho, Joe Biden took a commanding lead over Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.   The two are even neck-and-neck in Washington, expected to go to Mr. Sanders.   Sights are already on Florida, the big prize next Tuesday, where Mr Biden leads in polls.   The race is his to lose.  (The Economist, 3/10/2020)
  • The Bank of England cut interest rates from 0.75% to 0.25% to cushion the economic blow from coronavirus.   It also announced a new scheme to provide cheap funding for banks that increase loans to small and medium-sized firms, and capital buffers were cut to ease credit conditions further.   The bank’s rate-cut follows cuts in America, Canada and Australia.  (The Economist, 3/10/2020)
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo, the biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa, confirmed its first case of covid-19.   Cases have also been recorded in South Africa, Nigeria and Senegal.   The World Health Organization has warned that the greatest concern is that the virus spreads “to countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it”.    (The Economist, 3/10/2020)
  • I took one of my grandsons to see “The Call of the Wild” Monday night.   It’s the third or fourth version of the Jack London classic I’ve seen.  This one was the best.  It was good, family entertainment.  Try to see it before it leaves the big screen.
  • My wife and I have been watching “Beecham House”, a PBS series set in British India in 1795.   Although it has the usual anti-colonial stance, we found it very enjoyable.

I will write again a week from now – unless I succumb to the virus!

SLAVERY NOT A CRIME

Overview of domestic legislation prohibiting human exploitation.  Many of the 193 U.N. member states have not gone on to explicitly criminalise slavery and other exploitation.  Researchers noted that almost all countries had some form of domestic anti-trafficking legislation in place.   Image: Katarina Schwarz and Jean Allain

Slavery is not a crime for almost half the countries in the world.  Although laws allowing slavery have been scrapped worldwide, many of the 193 U.N. member states have not gone on to explicitly criminalise slavery.                                                                                                                                     by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation, 12 Feb 2020

“Slavery is far from being illegal everywhere and we hope our research will move the conversation beyond this popular myth,” said Katarina Schwarz, a researcher at the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, which led work on the slavery database.

“It will surprise many people to learn that in all of these countries there are no criminal laws in place to prosecute, convict and punish people for subjecting people to the most extreme forms of exploitation.”   More than 40 million people are held in modern slavery, which includes forced labor and forced marriage, according to estimates by the International Labour Organization and the anti-slavery group the Walk Free Foundation.

There is no criminal law against slavery in 94 countries – almost half of U.N. states – said researchers at Rights Lab, which reviewed the study’s findings with the Castan Centre for Human Rights at Monash University in Australia.   It found almost two thirds of countries apparently failed to criminalize any of the main four practices associated with slavery – serfdom, debt bondage, forced marriage, and child trafficking – except in the context of human trafficking.

“Slavery in its nature looks to exploit people who fall slightly outside the rule of law,” Jakub Sobik, a spokesman for the charity Anti-Slavery International told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  “There is a need for wide-ranging policies that address the wider context and systemic reasons why people are made vulnerable to being tricked and trapped and controlled by another person.”  (http://news.trust.org/item/20200212132545-vdpzu)

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GM PULLS OUT OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND, THAILAND

General Motors has been in Australia since 1856 when it first sold saddles to Australians.   In the 1960’s and 70’s they produced Holden cars, a popular brand that really caught on.  Now, they are selling up and moving out.   The big benefactor?

China.

It’s symbolic of what’s happening to American capitalism.  The US is losing out to competitors, especially the Chinese.

And it’s not just cars.   In the same week, President Duterte of the Philippines tore up the defense treaty with the US, preferring Beijing over Washington.   One reason may be Duterte’s stance on human rights, which has led to criticism from Americans.   China doesn’t care about human rights.

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CORONAVIRUS “MADE IN CHINA”

The Chinese Communist Party calls it “discourse management.”  It’s more than mere censorship and bigger than propaganda.   And Beijing is pretty good at it.   The party uses it to control its own people, but also to manage foreign governments.

Take the new coronavirus, for instance.   It may be a made-in-China global pandemic, and China might have bungled its handling of it, but that’s somehow irrelevant and China’s government says it’s “unhappy” with Australia.   Come again?

The outbreak is classified by the World Health Organization as a global health emergency.   It was created in China, of course.   The consensus among virologists is that the likely cause was the Chinese authorities’ persistent tolerance of unsafe animal and food handling practices.

After the 2003 outbreak of a novel coronavirus, the SARS epidemic, the Chinese government banned all trade in wild animals.  Once the crisis had passed, the authorities relaxed the ban, announcing 54 types of exemption.   In other words, it was going to happen again one day.   Then, once this outbreak was discovered, the Chinese authorities seriously mismanaged it.   This is now the subject of frenetic blame-shifting inside China.

When the first cases started turning up in the city of Wuhan in mid-December, two weeks before the official disclosure on December 31 that there was a new virus, sick people were turned away from local hospitals and sent home to infect other people and die.  The hospitals were told to report “zero infections.”

Why?   Because an important meeting of provincial and city officials was under way in Wuhan and only good news was permitted.   The cover-ups and delays were “reprehensible” according to an eminent Australian virologist, John Mackenzie.      (Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, 2/18/2020)

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GOG AND MAGOG  — COULD RUSSIA ATTACK ISRAEL?

Russia’s ambassador to Syria this week issued what some saw as a veiled threat should Israel continue bombing Iranian assets in the war-torn country.

On February 6, an aerial attack on a target near Damascus killed 20 Syrian and Iranian military officials.   It also caused Syrian air defenses to inadvertently fire on an airplane carrying 172 passengers.   The plane managed to safely land at a nearby airport.

Israel Defense Minister Naftali Bennett later hinted that the attack was just another in a long series of Israeli strikes against Iranian assets that are admittedly in Syria for the purpose of threatening the Jewish state.

But Russian Ambassador Alexander Yefimov wasn’t interested in Israeli justifications.

In an interview with Sputnik Arabic, Yefimov called the Israeli raids “provocative and very dangerous.”   He further cautioned that “this increases the possibility of conflict over Syria.”

Since Syria is already in conflict, his warning was taken to mean that the ongoing Israeli raids could eventually result in an armed clash between the Jewish state and Russian forces in the region.

Israeli political and military officials have never been shy about referencing the biblical “War of Gog and Magog.”   It’s something they believe is going to happen.  (Israel Today, 2/17)

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GERMAN CRITICISM OF US BREAKING INTERNATIONAL LAW

In reference to the US drone-murder of Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani, German government advisors are warning against a growing number of violations of international law by the United States.   For years, “the foreign policy of the Trump administration has demonstrated that it has been a particular strain on international law,” observes an analysis published by Berlin’s German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).  Suleimani’s murder suggests that Washington is now beginning to extend its “war on terror” tactics, that had already become common-place under President Barack Obama – such as drone-murders – to leading representatives of foreign nations, it considers to be “a threat.”  In the future, “state representatives should fear for their lives, when they travel outside their country,” because “the consequences for international diplomacy are hardly predictable.”  The SWP advises the German government to take a clear stand.  Of course, in its attempts to implement its globalist policies over the past few decades, Berlin, too, has repeatedly violated international law, often as an accomplice of the USA.    (German Foreign Policy, 1/28)

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Watch Israel’s new laser weapon shoot drones out of sky                   by Yaron Steinbuch, 12 Feb 2020

An Israeli drone defense system fit for “Star Wars” has shot down multiple maneuvering targets with a high-powered laser beam, according to reports.   “The system achieved 100 percent success in all test scenarios,” defense technology company Rafael said in a statement about its Drone Dome C-UAS, or Counter-Unmanned Aerial System, the Times of Israel reported.   “The stages of the interception included target detection, identification and interception” with the laser beam, it said in a video of a recent demo of the system.   In the footage, a vehicle-mounted system is shown engaging the targets, including zigzagging drones.   In one test, three drones flying in formation were downed in rapid succession.  “Drone Dome is designed to address threats posed by hostile drones both in military and civilian sites,” Rafael said.

Drone Dome refers to a package that includes a search radar, drone radio command detector, an electro-optical sensor, and command-and-control system, according to Popular Mechanics.  The system can detect objects as small as 0.021 square feet at 2.1 miles.  Once detected, it locks onto the drone, keeping it in its cross hairs as it maneuvers in any direction.   When the laser is blasted, it melts away the drone’s plastic housing and destroys its electronics, sending it to the ground.     (https://nypost.com/2020/02/12/watch-israels-wild-new-laser-weapon-shoot-drones-out-of-sky/)

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 Munich Security Conference:  France’s Macron envisions new era of European strength                                                                                                  The French president projected a vision of a Europe with new military power at the Munich Security Conference.   As the only nuclear power in the EU, he also foresaw greater European sovereignty.

“We cannot always go through the United States, no, we have to think in a European way as well,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on stage at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) on Saturday as he continued a theme of his presidency: projecting bold European sovereignty onto the international stage.

He was referring specifically to Europe’s nuclear assets, pointing out a key difference to the Cold War era when Europe’s nuclear shield was primarily coordinated by the US.   “Now we have to be able to say clearly that if we want a sovereign Europe, if we want to protect our citizens, then we do need to look at that aspect, also with a view to Germany,” he said.   To show his commitment, Macron has already invited Germany to take part in a strategic dialogue over France’s nuclear weapon policy.

The UK’s exit from the European Union has shifted added responsibility onto France.   Though the UK and France are of course still NATO partners, along with the US and Germany, France is now the only nuclear power in the EU, which leaves the Paris government balancing its nuclear defense strategy between, as Macron put it, “the ambitions of NATO and Europe.” (Deutsche Welle, 15 Feb, 2020)  (– Extract from:  (https://www.dw.com/en/munich-security-conference-frances-macron-envisions-new-era-of-european-strength/a-52389586)

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Munich Security Conference:   African leaders absent from Sahel talks
Germany and other world powers meeting in Munich raised concerns about the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel region.  But African heads of state who had been invited were conspicuously absent.

Not a single head of state from the continent attended, despite the growing threat of terrorism and the armed conflicts tearing it apart.

A report by Save the Children, published as world leaders convened in Munich, Germany, said at least 95,000 children had been killed or maimed across the world since 2005.  Tens of thousands were abducted and millions were denied access to education.

Germany makes a case for the Sahel:   In the absence of African leaders, to bring the matter to the table, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer called for an increased effort in the fight against Islamists in Africa.   “The Sahel is a key region for Europe, for example, when it comes to migration or the threat of terrorism,” she said, adding:   “That is why it is so important that Germany remains committed there, militarily as well.”  Kramp-Karrenbauer’s statement was encouraging to the Central African Republic’s defense minister, Marie-Noelle Koyara.   “I take this opportunity to thank the German government for making such a wise decision,” the CAR defense minister told DW.

African children were the worst affected, according to Save the Children.   Some 170 million across Africa and the Middle East are living in war zones.  “You will see that most of the violent conflicts do not feature,” Dan Smith, director of SIPRI, an international think tank dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control, and disarmament, told DW.

Smith is disappointed the international community is not paying attention to the crisis unfolding in Africa.

“They (Africans) are not part of the thinking of the security community that is gathered here,” Smith adds.  “That doesn’t mean that this community’s concerns are irrelevant, but they’re not focused on the Sahel; they are not focused on the Horn of Africa.”(https://www.dw.com/en/munich-security-conference-african-leaders-absent-from-sahel-talks/a-52398078)

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 EU’s Franco-German axis will stutter without the Brits, says Vestager
“I think we will see a new dynamic in the union, but it will take some time before we fully recover,” the EU competition and digital chief said.            by Simon Van Dorpe, Politico.eu, 30 Jan 2020

France and Germany will struggle to drive the EU without the British “energy” that helped Paris and Berlin work together, EU competition and digital chief Margrethe Vestager said today.  “One of the things we will be missing is of course the energy.   Because we have a French-German axis – but part of the energy to make that axis work comes from, came from, the U.K.,” Vestager said when asked what she would miss about Britain.    Vestager said that other member countries, “maybe changing coalitions of member states,” would have to step into that void.  “I think we will see a new dynamic in the union, but it will take some time before we fully recover,” she said. Vestager attended the Brexit vote in the parliament on Wednesday, which she said was “really touching because you see it is real.”  Vestager also said she would miss the sense of humor of the Brits, which she said was similar to the Danish.

“I was very close to [former U.K. Commissioner] Jonathan Hill; I was sitting next to [Hill’s successor] Julian King when he was the Commissioner here and I miss them, because they come with a U.K. culture,” she said.   She told an anecdote of how she struggled to communicate in English at the start of her first mandate and when she asked Hill if he didn’t find it exhausting how the other commissioners treated his language, he said: “Of course not, I’m so honored that you’re all trying.”
(https://www.politico.eu/article/eus-franco-german-axis-will-stutter-without-the-brits-says-vestager/)

Brexit punches 12-bln-euro hole in EU finances
by Agence France-Presse, 30 Jan, 2020

Brussels – When Britain leaves the European Union at midnight on Friday the bloc will lose the second-biggest net contributor to its budget, leaving a 12-billion-euro ($13-billion) hole in its finances.  The United Kingdom will continue making budget contributions this year under an agreed post-Brexit transition period.   But from 2021 Europe will have to look elsewhere.  This further complicates an already fraught debate between the remaining member states over the EU’s 2021-2027 long-term budget, called the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).   The European Commission has had a proposed MFF on the table since May 2018, and its new president Ursula von der Leyen is keen to get it approved soon.   But a so-called “Frugal Five” of wealthy mainly northern countries — Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden — are seeking to limit EU expenditure.   And a rival “Friends of Cohesion” group of 16 eastern and Mediterranean countries wants to defend the budget rules.

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Frustrated by liberal policies, some Oregon residents petitioned to leave the state – by moving the border with Idaho westward.

The movement secured initial approval from two counties and aims to get enough signatures to put the proposal on ballots in November, according to the group called Greater Idaho.  If the group succeeds, voters in southeast Oregon may see a question on whether their county should become part of Idaho by redrawing the border.   “Rural counties have become increasingly outraged by laws coming out of the Oregon Legislature that threaten our livelihoods, our industries, our wallet, our gun rights, and our values,” Mike McCarter, one of the chief petitioners, said in a news release. “We tried voting those legislators out, but rural Oregon is outnumbered and our voices are now ignored.  This is our last resort.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/02/17/oregon-idaho-border-petition-secede/4789936002/)

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TO THE POINT

  • After a five-month delay, Afghanistan’s electoral commission named Ashraf Ghani as the winner of the country’s presidential election.   The result was delayed after supporters of Mr. Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, accused the commission of bias and threatened to form a parallel government.  The victory gives Mr. Ghani a second five-year term as president.  (The Economist 2/19/2020)
  • Three of Britain’s remaining overseas territories are under constant threat from Spain (Gibraltar), Argentina (Falkland Islands) and Mauritius (Diego Garcia, home of a big US naval base in the Indian Ocean).   Vladimir Putin, soon to be proclaimed dictator of Russia, has given his support to Argentina’s claim on the Falklands.   At one time, the three territories would have had nothing to fear as they would have been protected by the Royal Navy.   Not any more – Italy’s navy is now bigger than Britain’s.  Quite a comedown for what was the world’s greatest navy before World War II.   The navy is not even going to be big enough to stop Europeans fishing in British waters, post-Brexit.
  • The British government announced the first details of its post-Brexit plans for immigration policy.  It promised that there would be no more visas for low-skilled workers and no freedom of movement between Britain and the rest of the European Union.  Visa applications will instead be judged on a “points-based” immigration system.  (The Economist 2/19/2020)
  • German man leaves €7 million fortune to far-right AfDAn engineer who died in 2018 has donated his entire estate of gold, property and patents  to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The endowment is one of the largest ever given to a German political party.
  • A locust plague which has now reached coronavirus-struck China may be the “fifth trumpet” prophesied in the Book of Revelation, according to wild claims.  (https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/1243557/locast-swarm-china-coronavirus-book-revelation-seventh-seal-trumpet-jesus-christ-god-)

THE ENEMY WITHIN

Noor Rabah, vice president of Muslim Community Patrol & Services, outside the Police Department’s 72nd Precinct, with a car the group intends to use to patrol neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Credit…James Keivom for The New York Times

Media tends not to link terrorist attacks, seeing each one in isolation.   But to understand what is happening, attacks need to be linked for us to see the complete picture.

Two recent terrorist attacks are clearly linked, even though the media has not brought it out.   London and Pensacola, Florida.

In London, two young people were knifed to death near London Bridge.   Their assailant, Usman Khan, had been freed from prison, less that 50% of the way through his sentence for terrorist activities. In Florida, a few days later, a Saudi Arabian pilot in the US for training suddenly turned on other young people, killing three, one of whom was a fellow Muslim.   In both cases, sadly, young people were brutally murdered.   None of these people was equipped to see the Muslims in their midst as a threat.

But they were.   And I wonder how many others are, too.

In the same week, we saw Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, visit Auschwitz.   There is a connection here, too.   She was there to show the horrors of anti-Semitism, at a time when anti-Semitic acts are on the increase, including a synagogue attack on Yom Kippur, which left two dead.   She wasn’t only highlighting anti-Semitism.   She was also defending her decision to allow into the country more than a million refugees, many of whom were from the Middle East. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are often linked.   They should not be.

There was and is no justification for anti-Semitism.   Islamophobia, on the other hand, is a perfectly rational response to violent acts perpetrated by Muslims (London and Florida being the latest).   The Islamic Conference of 57 Muslims countries recently asked the United Nations to ban Islamophobia.   This could give countries an excuse to favor Muslims over others.

The only way to overcome Islamophobia, a fear of Muslims, is for Muslims to stop committing violent acts.   Unless and until that happens, there will always be Islamophobia.

The latest anti-semitic incident took place on Tuesday in Jersey City, NJ.  Two people, both members of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, entered a kosher store and shot three Jews dead.   In a seven-hour gun battle with police, one policeman was shot dead, a father with five children.  The two perpetrators were also killed.

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NYC MUSLIM PATROLS 

“Bullying” and “gangster-like” tactics have been reported by locals in New York areas where the Muslim Community Patrol & Services operates.   These tactics are beginning to create a backlash against the self-described “civilian patrol organization” among local residents.

The Muslim patrol gained international attention in the fall of 2018 after several of its patrol cars, which look like New York Police Department (NYPD) cars, were spotted in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

The patrol originally said its purpose was to serve as a liaison between Muslims and the NYPD.   But after two consecutive mosque shootings in New Zealand last March, where a gunman live-streamed his murder of 51 Muslims on Facebook, the patrol publicly altered its purpose.

It now describes itself as a law enforcement organization, claiming its goal is to “protect members of the local community from escalating quality-of-life nuisance crimes.”   It’s precisely that “law enforcement” definition that is now landing the Muslim patrol into hot water with New York City residents, particularly those living in the Brooklyn area of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“They are bullying people and getting out of their patrol cars looking like gangsters,” said one resident, who asked to remain anonymous. “The people in Bed-Stuy don’t want them there.”

The Muslim patrol originally had a force of three patrol cars when it first formed in November 2018, but it now has seven cars on the streets of New York with the intention of purchasing 23 more cars in the near future.   The Muslim patrol’s cars are nearly identical to NYPD patrol cars.   Both use Ford Taurus’ and have similar decal schemes, colors and emblems. Though the Muslim patrol cars do not have lights on their hoods, they do have emergency flashing lights in the front and back windshields.

“A lot of people can’t tell them apart,” said the resident.  “In fact, most people think they are NYPD detective cars, especially if they are driving behind you.”

Significantly, some Muslim patrol “officers” have been driving their patrol cars with their emergency lights in continuous flash mode, even when not responding to an emergency.

“They never turn them off and people are seeing these lights and thinking [they are] NYPD,” the resident said.   The cars also have sirens, which another neighborhood resident says is being used to intimidate people.   “They turn on their sirens when they see non-Muslims park next to a mosque during Friday prayer services,” said another resident.   (Clarion Project, 12/9)

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NEED FOR EUROPEAN ARMY TO REPLACE US

An EU Army – Former German finance minister Joschka Fischer calls on the EU to develop defense autonomy before Donald Trump pulls the plug on Europe’s security blanket:  “Macron understands that the rupture in Europe’s defense following a withdrawal of US troops would be far more severe than many seem to expect.   It would unfold not as some gradual, barely noticeable transition, but as a sudden break.

If Europe wants to prevent or at least delay that outcome, it must make substantial investments in its military and expand its own capabilities on a massive scale.   In other words, it must act as if the break has already happened.”   (The Financial Times, 12/5/2019)

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NATO ANNIVERSARY SUMMIT

In spite of fierce internal conflicts, NATO is enhancing its operational readiness, is preparing its next expansion, and is setting its sights on China as a new “challenge.”   These are the main results of the war alliance’s anniversary summit, which ended in London yesterday, with the participation of the heads of states and governments of the member countries.   As early as next year, NATO will be able to deploy 30 army, air force and naval units in a war within a 30-day maximum.   At the London summit, North Macedonia, which is about to join the Alliance, was represented for the first time. In the future, NATO will extensively concern itself with China, however, not exclusively confrontational, as Washington would have wanted.   The conflict with Turkey did not escalate, even though the dissentions between Ankara and various other allied states, by no means, had been resolved.   In fact, the Turkish government has implicitly been given a blank check for its heavily criticized activities in the occupation of Northern Syria.   (German foreign policy, 12/6/2019)

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FRANCE TO FILL VOID LEFT BY US

France laid out a new posture for itself in discussions in the Gulf this week, chiding the Americans for not standing up to Iran’s threats against Saudi Arabia and other countries.   Paris now wants to play a more robust role in maritime security as Washington’s influence declines across the region.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly condemned America for leaving the Iran deal and also condemned Iran at the Manama Dialogue confab in Bahrain over the weekend.   The conference is organized by the International Institute of Strategic Studies and has foreign ministers and leaders from the region, as well as security and defense officials, in attendance.

“We’ve seen deliberate, gradual US disengagement,” she said.   She also slammed former president Barack Obama for leaving the “fighter jets on the tarmac,” according to France24, a reference to the US decision in 2013 not to punish Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria for chemical weapons attacks. (Seth Frantzman, MEF, 11/26/2019; from Jerusalem Post)

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 Crusaders ‘terror plot’:Another man arrested in Cape Town after explosives, devices found
  – 6 Dec 2019, News24 Jenna Etheridge

Hawks arrest ‘Crusaders terrorist movement’ leader, discover suspected explosives factory.   Another suspected member of the National Christian Resistance Movement (NCRM),
also known as the “Crusaders,” has been arrested – this time in Cape Town, the Hawks said on Friday.

A team descended on the man’s business premises in Kuils River on Thursday and arrested him for the illegal possession of a firearm, explosives and explosive devices, said Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.  “The suspect is believed to have links with the other four suspects who have already been arrested and charged for alleged terrorist activities,” he said.  The 46-year-old man was expected to appear in the Blue Downs Magistrate’s Court later on Friday.   Harry Knoesen, the self-professed leader of the NCRM, was arrested at his Mpumalanga home on terrorism-related charges last week.
  Possible explosives factory:   This followed a two-year Hawks investigation into an alleged terrorist plot “apparently co-ordinated by the group to target national key points, shopping malls and informal settlements,” Mulaudzi said.   Knoesen, 60, is a former national defense force member and retired pastor.   He was apprehended and charged for terrorism-related activities in contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorism and Related Activities Act as well as the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.   A search at his other residence in the Eastern Cape, according to the Hawks, uncovered a possible explosives factory, electronic devices and documents as well an unlicensed firearm and ammunition that were seized for further analysis.  His arrest was soon followed by three others, including that of Riana Heymans, in Kliprivier, Johannesburg.  “Various firearms and ammunition, documents and other items were confiscated by the Criminal Record Centre (CRC) for further probing,” Mulaudzi said.

Heyman, 54, together with brothers Eric Abrams, 55, and Errol Abrams, 49, appeared briefly with Knoesen in the Middelburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday.   They will remain in police custody until their next court appearance on January 12, 2020.  Mulaudzi said their investigation continued.

(https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/crusaders-terror-plot-another-man-arrested-in-cape-town-after-explosives-devices-found-20191206
)

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POPE ADVOCATES ONE WORLD RELIGION

Rabbi Daniel Asore, a member of the nascent Sanhedrin, noted that the Pope’s intentions were precisely as presented, with no subterfuge at all.

“The Pope wants to unify all religions and all governments under one world order,” Rabbi Asore said.   “What is the big surprise?   He is not hiding anything.   Just listen to what he says and who he is and his plans are right there for all to see.”

The rabbi noted that Pope Francis was unique in several respects; he is the first pope from the southern hemisphere and, most significantly, he is the first Jesuit to be appointed to the position. Though established by papal order in 1540 to stop the spread of Protestantism and convert the indigenous peoples of Africa and the Americas, the Jesuit order has historically been treated with suspicion by the Catholic Church for being power-hungry.

“Brotherhood is a wonderful thing but one religion is only good if it is worshipping the true God,” Rabbi Asore said.  “The pope’s vision of brotherhood does not prevent him from sitting in front of a gold idol or uniting with Ishmael.   If he wants one religion, we know what God he is not worshipping.”

Pope Francis has come under fire before for connecting the Catholic Church with the children of Ishmael. In 2015, 71 elders of the Sanhedrin tried the Pope in absentia for recognizing a “State of Palestine” with an official treaty.  By doing so, the Sanhedrin claimed, the Pope was denying the covenant as described in the Bible in which God gives the land of Israel to the descendants of Jacob.

Pope Francis has also made displays similar to his sitting barefoot in front of the  Golden idol of Buddha in Bangkok that showed a shocking level of tolerance for idolatry.   In October, a video emerged of what appears to be Pope Francis blessing a Pachama Goddess statue.

Pope Francis has also taken on a policy in which homosexuals are welcomed into the church so much so that the American LGBT magazine The Advocate named Pope Francis their Person of the Year for 2013.

(https://drive.google.com/u/0/settings/storage?hl=en&utm_medium=web&utm_source=gmail&utm_campaign=manage_storage)

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TO THE POINT

  • Palestinian Preacher Yusuf Al-Makharze:   Allah Wants Girls To Be Married Off   When They Start Menstruating;   Our Leaders Have No Right To Prevent This From Happening  (MEMRI, 12/8)
  • “Israel has always embraced this path [of liberty] in a Middle East that has long rejected it.   In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out.   It is different.” – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to the U.S. Senate, 2011.
  • The WorldBank’s board approved a plan to extend up to $1.5bn per year in low-interest loans to China over the next five years, despite American objections.   Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, said it was time the bank stopped giving financial support to China.   For China the amount is piddling; what it values is the World Bank’s advice on policy. (The Economist, 12/6/2019)
  • Germany’s industrial output in October fell 1.7% year-on-year. The figures were worse than expected, affected by uncertainty over the US-China trade war and Brexit, and by problems in the auto industry.   Germany may not technically be in recession, after a third-quarter expansion of 0.1%, but the gloom shows no sign of lifting.   (The Economist, 12/6/2019)
  • “The five English speaking democracies have heaps in common. All are free-talking, free enterprise loving places (though they often fall short of these ideals).   They are attractive places, too. Between them, they draw in two-thirds of the world’s highly skilled immigrants.   By contrast, of the 750 million people who Gallup reports would like to migrate, only 1% want to move to the People’s Republic.   Sydney alone has more foreign-born residents than mainland China.”   (Anglosphere v Sinosphere, The World in 2020, The Economist).
  • Namibia wants to follow Zimbabwe into starvation.  Namibia wants to get rid of its white farmers.   Twenty years ago, Zimbabwe did the same and millions of people have starved since. Recently, there were calls to allow the white farmers to return. South Africa is also forcing white farmers off their land.  Expect the entire region of southern Africa to face endless food shortages in the years to come.   The white farmers are commercial farmers, farming on a big scale.   African farmers are subsistence farmers, producing only enough to feed their own families.
  • Nancy Pelosi, on the defensive, was asked if she hates Donald Trump.   She actually said that, as a Catholic, she does not hate anybody as if no Catholic ever hated anybody.   Perhaps the Inquisition never happened.   At times, the Impeachment hearings have resembled the self-righteous ecclesiastical court.   No hatred?   No inquisition?   No wonder we’re doomed to repeat history!

 

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)