Tag Archives: China

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)

WILL NATO MAKE IT TO 70?

President Emmanuel Macron of France concerned about a “brain dead” NATO.. (Reuters)

NATO leaders are meeting in London December 3rd & 4th to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the organization, which has been credited with maintaining world peace.   President Macron of France has declared the organization “brain dead.”   Could NATO fall apart?

President Emmanuel Macron of France has described Nato as “brain dead,” stressing what he sees as waning commitment to the transatlantic alliance by its main guarantor, the US.

Interviewed by The Economist, he cited the US failure to consult Nato before pulling forces out of northern Syria.  He also questioned whether Nato was still committed to collective defense.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a key ally, said she disagreed with Mr. Macron’s “drastic words.”

Nato, which celebrates 70 years since its founding at a London summit next month, has responded by saying the alliance remains strong.

What else did the French president say?

“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of Nato,” Mr. Macron told the London-based newspaper.

He warned European members that they could no longer rely on the US to defend the alliance, established at the start of the Cold War to bolster Western European and US security.   (BBC News 11/7/2019)

Franco-German disagreements are accompanying French President Emmanuel Macron’s current trip to China, where he is assuming the role of a leading EU representative.   He is promoting a speedy conclusion of an economic treaty between the Union and the People’s Republic.   He is accompanied by the Union’s designated Trade Commissioner, Phil Hogan, and Germany’s Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek.   This is his way of seeking to lay the groundwork for a unified EU policy regarding China – contrary to Germany’s pursuit of its national interests in its relationship to Beijing.   Germany usually seeks a common approach toward the People’s Republic of China, when other EU countries, such as Greece or Italy, begin to closely cooperate with China within the framework of the “New Silk Road” project.   Macron is making an effort to set both confrontational and cooperative EU policies toward Beijing, and thereby position the Union on an equal footing between the USA and China.   (German Foreign Policy, 11/8/2019)

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ENERGY BOOST FOR ISRAEL

Before discovering major natural gas field

, which began with the Noa gas field off the shores of Ashkelon in 1999 and the more significant findings in 2009 of Tamar and Leviathan, it was widely assumed that the country lacked natural resources.   Finding large sources of natural gas has freed Israel from its dependency of energy sources from abroad and transformed the country into an energy supplier, both domestically and abroad.

Israel is pegged to deliver natural gas to Jordan and Egypt, valued at $26 billion.   It is also planning to construct a 2,000-km pipeline to supply Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe.   (United with Israel)

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BRITISH LABOUR PARTY ANTI-SEMITIC                                                  From the Jewish Chronicle, UK, November 8th:

The vast majority of British Jews consider Jeremy Corbyn to be an antisemite.  In the most recent poll, last month, the figure was 87 per cent.

Putting oneself in the shoes of another person, or another group, can be difficult.   But we believe it is important — and urgent — that you do that.   Perhaps the fact that nearly half (47 per cent) of the Jewish community said in that same poll that they would “seriously consider” emigrating if Mr. Corbyn wins on December 12 will give you an indication of what it feels like to be a British Jew at a time when the official opposition is led by a man widely held to be an antisemite.

There is racism on all sides of politics and it must be called out wherever it is found.   History has forced our community to be able to spot extremism as it emerges — and Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015 is one such example.

Throughout his career, he has allied with and supported antisemites such as Paul Eisen, Stephen Sizer and Raed Salah.   He has described organizations like Hamas, whose founding charter commits it to the extermination of every Jew on the planet, as his “friends.”   He has laid a wreath to honor terrorists who have murdered Jews.   He has insulted “Zionists” — the word used by antisemites when they mean “Jew” because they think it allows them to get away with it — as lacking understanding of “English irony.”

Mr. Corbyn should take note of Genesis 12:3. 3 – And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

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AUSTRALIAN DROUGHT RELIEF PACKAGE HITS THE POLITICAL SPOT BUT MISSES THE BIGGER POINT

There are two basic components to the Morrison government’s latest A$1 billion package response to the drought affecting large parts eastern Australia.   One part involves extra subsidies to farmers and farm-related business.   The other involves measures to create or upgrade infrastructure in rural areas.

Unfortunately, most funds will be misdirected and the response is unlikely to secure the long-term prosperity of regional and rural communities.   This is a quick fix to a political problem, appealing to an important constituency.   But it misses the point, again, about the emerging economics of drought.

Hitting the political target

The bulk of the A$1 billion package is allocated to a loan fund.   The terms of the ten-year loans are more generous than what has been offered in the past.   They are now interest-free for two years, with no requirement to start paying back the principal till the sixth year.

Farmers will be able to borrow up to A$2 million.   In addition, loans of up to A$500,000 will also be available to small businesses in drought-affected towns.

Because recipients are not having to pay the full cost, these loans are in practice a form of subsidy.   (The Conversation, 11/6)

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ATTACK BY ISLAMISTS ON CANADIAN COMPANY WORKERS

Gunmen in Burkina Faso have killed nearly 40 civilians in an ambush on a convoy transporting workers for the Canadian goldminer Semafo, regional authorities have said.

The attack on Wednesday underlines the growing instability in the Sahel, where Islamist extremist groups have grown in influence and power over the past decade.

Semafo said in an earlier statement that the attack on a convoy of five buses with a military escort took place on the road to its Boungou mine in the eastern region of Est, about 40km (25 miles) from Boungou, and that there had been several deaths and injuries.   (The Guardian, 11/7)

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OHIO MAN PLOTTED ATTACK

An Ohio man pleaded guilty to planning a Fourth of July bombing in Cleveland.

Demetrius Pitts, 50, also pleaded guilty to threatening the life of U.S. President Donald Trump and the president’s immediate family.   Pitt, who is from Philadelphia, planned to park a van full of explosives in the downtown area and detonate it during the annual fireworks display.   He also wanted to join al-Qaeda.

Pitt, who also went by the names Abdul Raheem Rafeeq and Salah ad-Deen Osama Waleed, became radicalized and began expressing anti-American sentiments in 2015.

He scouted downtown Cleveland on a reconnaissance mission before the attack, looking for a place to park his van for the Fourth of July bombing.   (Clarion Project, 11/7/2019)

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THE THIN VENEER OF CIVILIZATION COLLAPSING IN HONG KONG

The same deterioration in norms is glaringly evident in the actions of the Hong Kong Police Force, which was once considered the finest in Asia, if not the world, and whose slogan is to “serve with pride and care.”   Today, they openly refer to Hong Kong citizens as “cockroaches” and “trash.”   Protesters respond by calling them “dogs.”   This is the language of genocide.

“This willingness to stomach previously unthinkable acts is astonishing in a place ranked seventh by the UN in terms of human development, with some of the healthiest, longest-living, best educated, richest and most worldly citizens on earth.   If this breakdown can happen in Hong Kong it can happen anywhere.   And while a civil society can be torn apart virtually overnight, it almost always takes decades to build it back up.   (“Events in Hong Kong reveal the thin veneer of civilization,” Jamil Anderlini, Financial Times, 11/13).

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ISLAMISTS CROSSING BORDER

Often lost in the discussion of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans pouring over the southern border is that migrants from Muslim-majority countries where Islamist terrorist groups operate arrive among them almost every day.   The corporate media hates talking about this.   But most border-crossers show up without any identification and little vetting, giving rise to U.S. national security efforts to stifle this human traffic for fear of terrorist infiltration, a threat about which I have written extensively.

Every so often, smugglers of migrants from countries of national security concern — known in government parlance as “special interest aliens” — are caught and brought to American justice.   Such was the case last week, when a federal judge in a Del Rio, Texas, courtroom empty of news reporters sentenced a Mexico-based Jordanian smuggler named Moayad Heider Mohammad Aldairi to three years in the federal penitentiary on a guilty plea.   (MEF, 11/8/2019)

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IRAN’S NETWORK OF INFLUENCE IN MIDEAST IS GROWING     by Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent, 7 Nov 2019

Iran is winning the strategic struggle for influence in the Middle East against its rival, Saudi Arabia, according to a study by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).  Iran’s regional rivals have spent billions of dollars on Western weaponry, much of it from the UK.   Yet for a fraction of that cost, sanctions-bound Iran has been able to successfully embed itself across the region into a position of strategic advantage.   It has a major influence – verging on a controlling influence in some cases – over the affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.(https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50324912)

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that US President Donald Trump is the “best US president” so far in his opinion, because he is honest about American intentions to grab Arab oil, Reuters reported on Friday citing Syrian official television.

Assad also said he is skeptical about Trump’s declaration US forces killed ISIS leader al-Baghdadi.   In this perspective, he seems to be in-line with the Russian view as Russia also expressed desire to see further evidence to the claim.  (JPost).(https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Syrian-leader-Bashar-Assad-Donald-Trump-is-the-best-US-President-606534)

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 TO THE POINT

  • “The Scottish government’s statistics show that 60% of Scottish trade goes to the rest of the UK; that Scottish public spending is boosted by $2,530 per person via Westminster’s Barnet formula; and that Scotland’s deficit is over twice as high as the 3% level which would be required if an independent Scotland were to try to join the European Union.”   (Alastair Cameron, Director, Scotland in Union; Letters, The Economist, 11/2/2019)
  • China, with control of 5G, will be in a position to remotely manipulate the world’s devices.   In peacetime, Beijing could have the ability to drive cars off cliffs, unlock front doors, and turn off pacemakers.   In war, Beijing could paralyze critical infrastructure.   (Gatestone, 11/7)
  • After a rocky start to Britain’s general-election campaign for the ruling Conservatives, the main opposition Labour Party also ran into problems.   Tom Watson—often at odds with his chief, Jeremy Corbyn—resigned as the party’s deputy leader and an MP and minister.   And Ian Austin, a former Labour MP, said Mr. Corbyn was “completely unfit” to be prime minister and voters should back the Tories.   (The Economist, 11/7)
  • The National Health Service (NHS), the government-run medical system in the UK, is being discussed a great deal in the election campaign.   Labour accuses the Conservatives of wanting a trade deal with the US that will open up the NHS to American companies, particularly pharmaceutical companies.   This would, they claim, make the price of many drugs too expensive for consumers.   It’s scare mongering, as Mr. Johnson has already said that won’t happen.   But it belies the fact that a serious discussion is needed on the future of the NHS, the biggest employer in Europe and a sacred cow if ever there was one.   The last time I saw figures, the cost of the NHS was rising by 8% a year, while the economy was growing at only 2%.   As viewers of Dr. Finley on British TV will be aware, there was a great deal of opposition to the NHS when it started in 1948.   It may be time to look again at the arguments and see if there isn’t a better way of delivering health care.
  • If you want to see accurate history portrayed on television, try Russian TV.   At least, the programs offered on Amazon Prime.   We’ve just finished watching “Ekaterina,” a ten-part series on the rise of Catherine the Great, the eighteenth century Russian Czar who was actually from Germany.   Earlier this year, we watched “Sophia,” an 8-part series on Ivan III, who was 300 years earlier. Ivan chose to marry the heir to the Byzantine throne after the fall of Constantinople.   Fascinating stuff.   If the Russians keep this up, they could put Mel Gibson out of business (his two movies “Braveheart” and “The Patriot” were notable for their historical inaccuracies!)

 

 

KURDS ‘STABBED IN BACK’ BY US

The SDF was Washington’s main ally in Syria in the fight against ISIL [File: Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]
The US President Donald Trump has announced that an ally of the United States, Turkey, may attack and invade another ally, the Kurds, who fought with the US against ISIS.

Kurds warn Turkish offensive will bring ‘chaos once again’

Several of Donald Trump’s most loyal Republican allies have turned on him over his decision to pull US troops out of north-eastern Syria. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the withdrawal would benefit Russia and Iran, while Senator Lindsey Graham – usually an outspoken defender of the president – warned that abandoning the Kurds in the region to allow a Turkish military offensive would be “a stain on America’s honor.”

War zone — Turkish forces are already massing near the border with north-eastern Syria as US troops withdraw.  A spokesperson for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the area would soon “turn into a war zone.”

Civilian suffering — Trump’s rash decision opens the way for a vicious struggle between the Kurds and Turkey’s military, says Simon Tisdall, who warns of war crimes and fresh civilian suffering ahead.   (The Guardian, 10/8)

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PARIS POLICE KILLED BY ISLAMIST

The knife attacker who killed four of his colleagues at Paris police headquarters this week showed signs of radicalization and appears to have planned his assault, French authorities said on Saturday. France’s anti-terror prosecutor said several witnesses had said the attacker — a 45-year-old IT professional who had been working at the Intelligence Directorate of the Paris Police Headquarters since 2003 — had adhered to “a radical vision of Islam.”   He had converted to the religion about 10 years ago.   On Thursday he killed four of his colleagues in an attack that lasted less than 10 minutes in the centre of Paris near Notre-Dame cathedral before being shot dead by an armed officer.

The anti-terror prosecutor took over the investigation on Friday after police examined the attacker’s mobile phone and questioned his associates, including his wife.   On the morning of the attack, said the prosecutor at a press conference, the perpetrator had exchanged 33 text messages with his wife and all of a religious nature, ending with the phrase “Allahu akbar [God is great]”.   He sent the messages 30 minutes before he bought the knives used in the attack.

The prosecutor said that the attacker had probably had contacts with members of the Salafist movement, a radical form of Islam, adding that the investigations had revealed his “approval for certain atrocities committed in the name of that religion,” including the deadly assault in 2015 against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and that he had changed his manner of dress over the past few months.

According to French media the attacker’s wife has described how he had begun hearing voices the night before the attack.   Over the past four years Paris has been hit by numerous large-scale and deadly attacks, including at the Bataclan theatre in November 2015 when extremists killed 130 people in the deadliest Islamist terror attack to strike France.  (Paris police attacker showed signs of radicalization, David Keohane, Financial Times, 10/5).

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Israel and Gulf states working on ‘historic pact’ to end conflict between them (Times of Israel * 5 Oct 2019)

Israel is reportedly negotiating with several Gulf states on a “non-aggression pact” between them as they face off against an increasingly emboldened Iran.   The deal, which Channel 12 news described as potentially “historic,” aims to put an end to the state of conflict between the Gulf states and Israel, and reportedly provides for friendly relations, cooperation in a variety of fields, and no war or incitement against each other.

Advancing the Israeli initiative, Foreign Minister Israel Katz met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month with several foreign ministers from Arab Gulf states, Channel 12 news reported Saturday night.   There was no immediate comment from the Foreign Ministry..   (https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-and-gulf-states-said-working-on-non-aggression-pact-as-they-face-iran/)

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Former MidEast envoy:   ‘anti-Iran alliance crumbling’
Times of Israel * 5 Oct 2019

Sensing US reluctance to respond forcefully to Iranian aggression in the region, and following the devastating September attack on its oil facilities blamed on Tehran, Saudi Arabia is quietly moving toward possible rapprochement with the Islamic Republic, according to multiple media reports.    The New York Times reported Friday that the Trump administration’s failure to react militarily to the September 14 missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities, which jolted global oil prices and temporarily knocked out nearly 6 percent of the world’s daily crude production, had led Riyadh to recalculate.

“The worst outcome for the Saudis is to move to a confrontation with Iran expecting the US to support them and find out they won’t,” Philip Gordon, a former White House Middle East coordinator, told the Times.   “This administration has shown it’s not really ready to take on Iran.”   . . . Saudi Arabia gave a “positive” response Friday to a truce offer from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and called for its implementation.   Saeed Shariati, a political analyst in Tehran, told the New York Times:   “We have reached the peak of Saudi-Iran tensions and both sides have concluded this balance of fear is detrimental to their interests.” (https://www.timesofisrael.com/saudis-said-moving-toward-detente-with-iran-amid-us-reluctance-to-act-militarily/)

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CHINESE LOANS TO FINANCE NEW ZIMBABWE CAPITAL IN POVERTY STRICKEN NATION

China has sunk her dragon claws deeper into Zimbabwe’s social, political and economic bone marrow by reportedly acquiring vast tracks of land in Mount Hampden, the new capital city of the country, thus effectively buying and owning it for a song, well before construction is even completed, Spotlight Zimbabwe, has been told.

Diplomatic and high level government sources at the ministry of lands, agriculture, and rural resettlement this week said Beijing had also struck a deal to provide the more than US$20 billion needed by government to develop the city, which is expected to house a new reserve bank, parliament building, international airport, government departments, presidential palace, shopping malls, five new opulent residential suburbs, and industrial sites.

Other features of the new city include a university, technology centre, schools, churches, hospitals, and official residences for the speaker of parliament and senate president. (Cynthia Goba, Zimbabwe News, 10/4)

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ISRAELI MAJORITY WANT MORE SECULAR STATE

A new survey by Hiddush, an Israeli organization that supports religious pluralism, shows that 57 percent of the Jewish Israeli electorate does not want the incoming governing coalition to include or depend on parties that are Charedi Orthodox, commonly referred to as ultra-Orthodox in the United States.  That 57 percent majority also wants the coalition to support religious freedom in Israel.

Thirty-four percent of Israeli Jews disagree:   They want the Orthodox parties in the coalition and are happy with current government policy, which gives Orthodox Judaism significant influence over Israeli law.   Charedi parties have been part of the Israeli government since 2015 and have sat in a series of coalitions throughout Israel’s history.

The survey’s finding is significant because some of the harshest rhetoric ahead of the election centered on religious issues.   Secular parties accused Orthodox parties of wanting to establish a theocracy in Israel.   Orthodox parties claimed that secular parties wanted to deprive Israel of its religious character.   The only reason for the election last week — Israel’s second in a year — was an intractable conflict between Orthodox and secular parties after the previous election in April.

Nearly all of those who voted for Blue and White, the centrist party led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid opposing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, want a secular governing coalition.   Most voters for Netanyahu’s Likud Party (56 percent) support a coalition with Orthodox parties, while 44 percent favor a secular coalition. (https://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/israelis-want-a-more-secular-ruling-coalition/)

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IRAN MOVES NEARER TO ISRAEL

Israel is fighting off Iranian expansion across the Middle East, but danger for the Jewish state lurks near its own borders.   Painstaking work by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and their loyal proxies has succeeded in laying the groundwork for a second Iranian front with Israel in the Golan Heights.

The first front is to Israel’s north in South Lebanon.   The Golan, which Israel won from Syria in 1967, lies further east.   Though Israel rules the skies, the Syrian land adjoining Israel’s border appears increasingly to belong to Iran.  (Jonathan Spyer, Wall Street Journal, 10/2)

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THREE MUSLIM LEADERS TO START TV NEWS CHANNEL

A leader of a country that has the death penalty for “blasphemy,” a leader who says he is a proud antisemite and a leader who threatens to invade foreign countries have united to push for a TV channel that will “fight Islamophobia.”   Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan met to propose a “BBC type English language TV Channel” that will “highlight Muslim issues,” Imran Khan said.

Khan tweeted that he met with his two counterparts on September 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.   The three decided to “jointly start an English language channel dedicated to confronting the challenges posed by Islamophobia and setting the record strait on our great religion.”   It’s unclear when he says “our” great religion if he means including other Muslim groups, such as Shi’ites or Ahmadis, both of which are routinely the victims of attacks in Pakistan.   Khan again tweeted about his meeting on September 30, claiming that this channel would be a “BBC type.” (Seth Frantzmann, MEF, 10/1)

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Israeli Security Cabinet to meet for first time in months, amid warnings of Iran threat.                                                                                    Security cabinet to convene Sunday as Liberman urges PM, Gantz to agree on unity, citing ‘national emergency’ and evoking Yom Kippur War; Islamic Jihad holds Gaza rally   (Times of Israel * 5 Oct 2019)

Members of the top forum will meet at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem in the afternoon.   In recent days Hebrew media has on several occasions quoted unnamed security officials as warning of the rising threat of an attack orchestrated by Iran.   The Blue and White party’s Gabi Ashkenazi, newly appointed head of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, also spoke Thursday of “many challenges in the security realm, some known to all and some that are only discussed behind closed doors.” Liberman noted in a Facebook post that the country on Sunday will mark 46 years since the Yom Kippur War, the most traumatic conflict in the nation’s history and one in which the country was caught off guard by its enemies, and said it was imperative to remember its legacy “of leadership and love of country.”

Meanwhile, the Islamic Jihad terror group on Saturday marked 32 years since its establishment, holding a rally in the Gaza Strip in which it showed off what it said was a new type of rocket. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/security-cabinet-to-meet-for-first-time-in-months-amid-warnings-of-iran-threat/)

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CATHOLIC CHURCH TO ORDAIN MARIED PRIESTS?

VATICAN CITY— Pope Francis formally opened a meeting of bishops that will debate whether the Catholic Church should loosen its 1,000-year-old requirement of celibacy for priests.

The potentially momentous debate pits those who say ordaining married men could relieve the church’s clergy shortage against those who warn that doing so would undermine the distinctive character of the priesthood.

In his homily on Sunday, at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope didn’t refer specifically to the celibacy debate, but called generally for innovation in the church’s ministry:   “If everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that ‘this is the way things have always been done,’ then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo.”   (“Pope opens debate on celibacy requirement for Catholic priests,” Francis X. Rocca, Wall Street Journal, 10/6)

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SCANDINAVIAN CRIME BOOSTED BY IMMIGRANTS

  • “Most immigrants are not criminals, but when the immigrant population is overrepresented in almost every crime category, then there is a problem that we must dare to talk about.” — Jon Helgheim, immigration policy spokesman for the Norwegian party Fremskrittspartiet (FrP).
  • “In the more than thirty years that the surveys cover, one tendency is clearer than all others, namely that the proportion of the total amount of crimes committed by persons with a foreign background is steadily increasing….” — Det Goda Samhället (“The Good Society”), Invandring och brottslighet – ett trettioårsperspektiv (“Immigration and crime – a thirty-year perspective”).   All statistics for the report were supplied by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.
  • Unless Scandinavian political leaders begin actively to engage with the facts that these statistics describe, the problems are only going to become more intractable — to the point where they may be entirely unsolvable.   (Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 10/4)

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Why some Albertans want to separate from Canada                              by Robin Levinson-King,  BBC News, Calgary, Alberta, 4 Oct 2019

Today, Albertans’ common concerns can be summarized with three words: representation, equalization and oil.    Peter Downing, “a right-wing political muckraker” is hoping to spin this feeling of economic betrayal into a viable political movement, with the creation of Wexit Alberta.

The group is campaigning for the western province to separate from Canada and form its own nation (possibly alongside another western province).   It’s an old idea that has gained momentum as relations between Alberta and the rest of the country have deteriorated.

Many Albertans blame Mr. Trudeau’s policies for this turn of events, and Mr. Cooper, the Albertan political scientist who is also a separatist, says he is certain that if Mr. Trudeau is re-elected, Albertan separation will soon follow.       (Extracts from:  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49899113)

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TO THE POINT

  • “The China of Xi Jinping boasts land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers that provide a strategic deterrent against the United States.   Beijing’s conventional forces on land, sea, and in air and space rival any on earth.”   (Pat Buchanan, 10/4)
  • Nasr Al-Din Mufreh, Sudan’s Minister of Religious Affairs, said in a September 7, 2019 interview on Al-Arabiya Network (Saudi Arabia) that Sudan is pluralistic in its views, values, cultures, ideologies, Islamic schools of thought, and religions, and he called upon Jewish minorities that may have left Sudan to reclaim their Sudanese citizenship and return to the country, which he pointed out is now ruled by secular law.   On a same-day interview on Sudania 24 TV, Sudanese writer Haidar Al-Mukashafi said that the Jewish presence in Sudan dates back over a century, and he said that this may be evidenced by a rumor in the Sudanese city of Merow that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was born and raised in Sudan.   Al-Mukashafi said that Jews and other minorities may return to Sudan if reforms take place and if there are incentives to do so.   (MEMRI, 9/19)
  • Fatemeh Azad, a 58-year-old Muslim woman who had converted to Christianity against her Muslim husband’s will and fled to Germany, was denied asylum there and deported back to Iran. There she was immediately arrested by authorities waiting for her plane to land . . .   “When Fatemeh made her asylum appeal, her lawyers argued that apostasy (conversion away from Islam) is punishable by the death penalty in Iran.”   This, however, was insufficient for Germany . . . — Persecution.org; July 25, 2019. (Gatestone 9/22)
  • Prince Harry’s decision to take British newspapers to court may backfire on him.   The British Royal family has always maintained a policy of “no comment” on newspaper articles about them. After all, if you deny some, you are, effectively, admitting that others are true.   At the same time, royals have a symbiotic relationship with the press – they can’t live without all the publicity and the press can’t live without the royals, who provide lots of news that people are interested in.   Suing the papers may end that relationship.   If the papers back away from the royals, that could mean no publicity, life-blood of the monarchy.
  • SWEDISH KING KICKS GRANDCHILDREN OUT OF ROYAL HOUSE . . . AND CHARLES WANTS THE SAME (headline in Daily Express, 10/7).   “The five children lose the status of royal highness and are not expected to perform official duties.”  (BBC)
  • The death of a 19-year-old British man, killed on his motorbike by a lady driving on the wrong side of the road, is clear cut.   It was an accident, but some appropriate punishment must be found. However, the motorist, a 42-year-old mother, fled to the US to avoid a court case.   This was made possible by the fact that she has diplomatic immunity.   We understand that there must be laws on diplomatic immunity, but for traffic accidents like this? She will hardly face the death penalty if she goes back for a trial.   And the family needs some sort of closure after losing a son to an American lady who got confused and drove on the right (wrong) side of the road!   (Diplomatic immunity even helps diplomats avoid traffic fines and cost the UK taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.)
  • The deaths of six elephants in Thailand was a tragic accident.   A baby in the herd fell down a waterfall.   The other five died trying to rescue her.   This kind of behavior is typical of elephants who are very caring of each other.
  • I will not be posting a blog next week.

 

 

 

SLAVERY IS BACK, BIG TIME

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

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

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

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

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

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BABY FACTORIES

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

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

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

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GLOBAL ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

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

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

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

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

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IRAN TO WIPE ISRAEL OFF THE MAP

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

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

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

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

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AUSTRALIAN PM GIVES MAJOR SPEECH ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS

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

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

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

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

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

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CANADIAN ELECTION

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

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CHINA’S 70th BIRTHDAY

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

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

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

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SINO-GERMAN RELATIONS

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

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FACEBOOK — END OF FREE SPEECH?

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

 

THE EU IS BUILDING AN EMPIRE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GERMANY’S SEARCH FOR A NEW DIPLOMATIC MAP

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

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

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

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GERMAN “LUST FOR POWER”

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

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GERMAN SUPPORT FOR HK DEMO

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

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

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FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN RETREAT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CANADIAN THREAT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH

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

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THE LOST ART OF AMERICAN DIPLOMACY

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

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

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

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

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SAUDI ARABIA AND IRAN HEADING FOR WAR

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

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

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

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POPE APPOINTS LIBERAL CARDINALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AIM TO END CHINESE ROLE IN DARWIN

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

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

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

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

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

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INTERNATIONAL PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

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

 

ZIMBABWE NEAR COLLAPSE

A woman waits to buy gas at a service station in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 16, 2019. (Reuters)

There’s so much happening right now, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

Zimbabwe’s economy is, once again, near collapse.  Electricity is available only six hours a day, usually at night, which means that cooking meals and ironing a shirt can only be done in the middle of the night.  Food is once again scarce and prices high.

It’s hard to believe that, forty years ago, everything was in plentiful supply.   In fact, the country exported food, feeding much of Africa. But that was before independence.

Coincidentally, I’m wearing a T-shirt my wife bought me. Emblazened across the front are the words: ‘Rhodesia was super.”   “Rhodesia is super” was the slogan of the Rhodesian tourist industry four decades ago.

It certainly was.

Like all countries, it had its faults.   But what replaced it has been a miserable failure due, primarily, to bad government.

May God speed the day when change, real change, will come!

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RAMPANT INJUSTICE

Boris Johnson promised 20,000 more police to combat Britain’s horrendous crime wave.

This followed the murder of a 28-year-old newly married policeman. He was murdered by a screwdriver and dragged a considerable distance under a car.   Ten 13-30-year-olds were questioned about the murder.   A 20-year-old man has been charged.

There were over 31,000 violent assaults on policemen in the UK last year, up from 26,000 the previous year.

I can still remember when a violent attack on a policeman was a very rare event.   This is clearly not the case any more.   In a country where guns are rare, machetes and knives are often used in violent acts.   The machete is a recent addition, being brought in from Africa by immigrants.

There’s not much hope of a real national discussion on the crime wave.   There’s a definite need for one.   But it would be pointless without freedom of speech.   One factor is the gang warfare that plagues the big cities.   Most of these are ethnic, but you can’t mention that.   The restoration of free speech is a must, for any serious discussion on anything.

Now that the UK is leaving the EU, they will have the freedom to restore the death penalty, banned throughout the European Union.   The murders of policeman and of children are particularly heinous and should receive the maximum possible sentence.  They need to be put on trial and sentenced quickly

“When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.”  (Ecclesiastes 8:11 NIV)

Over fifty years ago, there was compulsory Christian education in schools.   That needs to be restored, too.   All children should be taught the ten commandments.

In the US, in the same week, it was announced that there have been nine police suicides in the NYPD this year, highlighting a serious problem across the nation.

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TLAIB TALKS NONSENSE, AGAIN

“U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib said Monday Israel’s decision to prohibit her and another Muslim member of congress from visiting the West Bank this week had “nothing to do” with their itinerary but with silencing critics of the occupation of Palestine.

“I think the focus is on hiding the truth,” Tlaib, a Democrat from Detroit, said at a news conference in St. Paul with US Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Israel is, and likely will always be, the most liberal, open and pluralistic society in the Middle East.

The 22 members of the Arab League are all dictatorships, of one sort or another.

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AFGHANISTAN @100

Afghanistan celebrated 100 years of independence last week, August 19th.

The country was never a colony but did have a protected status, short of complete self-rule.

After three wars against the Afghans, the British had had enough.   The country has seen off many conquerors over the centuries, giving it the well-earned moniker:  “the graveyard of empires.”   In recent years, the Russians were defeated (1989) and now it’s America’s turn.   When the US withdraws, the most likely outcome is that the Taliban will take over; or even ISIS.

America should be careful withdrawing.   In January 1842, one lone British doctor was the only person left alive after a massacre of 16,000 Anglo-Indian troops in the Khyber Pass.   They left the one man alive to tell others what happened.

America today has 14,000 troops remaining.   Other members of the Coalition have already left.

The set-back in Afghanistan is part of a regional trend of lost influence and reduced power.   From Australia comes the following: “The US is so weakened in the Indo-Pacific region, it could now lose a short, sharp conflict started by Beijing in just “hours,” up-ending the military order in our region.

Furthermore, Australia is no longer able to rely on Washington to come to its defense.

That’s the conclusion of a blunt new report that found years of spending cuts, an “outdated superpower mindset” and ageing equipment mean US military installations in the region are vulnerable to being wiped out by China in a surprise battle.

“The stakes could not be higher,” the analysis by the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre warned.”   (“US so weakened in Indo-Pacific it could now “lose war to China,” news.com,au 8/21)

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NATO STRENGTHENS TIES WITH AUSTRALIA

(Own report) – NATO continues to intensify its cooperation with Australia.   This is the result of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s talks in the Australian capital in the middle of last week.   According to Stoltenberg, the cooperation is aimed particularly at taking a stance in the growing rivalry between the major powers – against Russia, but above all, against China.   For several years, Germany has been accompanying NATO’s cooperation with Canberra, by enhancing its own bilateral military cooperation, explicitly considering Australia to be a “strategic springboard into the Asian-Pacific region.”

Currently tensions are threatening to escalate because Washington would like to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Australia, which could directly hit Chinese territory.   Strategists are increasingly pushing NATO to intensify its activities in the Asian-Pacific.   These could even develop into the warfare alliance’s key task, according to the president of the Federal College for Security Studies in Berlin. (German Foreign Policy, 8/20)

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TRUMP UPSETS DENMARK

President Trump on Monday offered to buy Greenland, an autonomous province of the Kingdom of Denmark.

The Danish prime minister thought the suggestion “absurd”.  So President Trump has canceled his visit to the country.

It’s not the first time that the US has offered money for the Danish island.  It was offered first in 1946.

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GERMANY IN RECESSION

Germany, Europe’s industrial powerhouse and biggest economy, with companies like Volkswagen, Siemens and BASF, may be entering a recession, according to a gloomy report from the country’s central bank Monday — a development that could have repercussions for the rest of the eurozone and the United States.

A technical recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth, and Germany saw a 0.1% drop in the April-to-June period. In its monthly report, the Bundesbank said that with falling industrial production and orders, it appears the slump is continuing during the July-to-September quarter.

“The overall economic performance could decline slightly once again,” it said. “Central to this is the ongoing downturn in industry.”

Deutsche Bank went further Monday, saying “we see Germany in a technical recession” and predicting a 0.25% drop in economic output this quarter.

Germany’s economy is heavily dependent on exports, and the Bundesbank said the trade conflict between the U.S. and China and uncertainty about Britain’s move to leave the European Union have been taking their toll. Both the U.S. and China are among Germany’s top trade partners, with Britain not far behind.    (“Wide implications as Germany teeters toward recession,” A.P., 8/20)

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BAD NEWS FOR GERMANY’S ECONOMY MIGHT BE GOOD NEWS FOR THE FAR RIGHT

BERLIN — Despite Germany’s 10-year economic boom, a far-right party has managed to become Germany’s main opposition in Parliament, enter every state legislature in the country and vie for first place in elections in the former Communist East next month. And now the economy is slowing.

At a moment when populism is riding high in various corners of Europe, often against the backdrop of economic distress and high unemployment, a downturn in the Continent’s richest and most stable liberal democracy could add fuel to the fire and strengthen the nationalist Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, analysts said.

“Economic crises fuel a fear of the future, a sense of decline and the sense that the elite is failing the people,” said Yascha Mounk, an expert on populism and author of “The People Vs. Democracy.” “That’s fertile ground for populists.”  Marcel Fratzscher, a respected German political economist and professor at Humboldt University in Berlin, put it more directly:  “The economic slowdown should rather help the AfD.”

Professor Fratzscher, who also heads the German Institute for Economic Research, pointed to a forthcoming study from his institute, which will show that the AfD is much stronger in economically and structurally weak regions.   “This regional inequality and polarization is a threat to democracy,” he said, adding that “with the economic slowdown, structurally weaker regions will be hit harder, which will increase regional inequalities and accelerate the polarization.”

That is as true for Europe broadly as it is for Germany in particular. Signs that a period of exceptional economic growth may come to an end in Europe’s biggest economy sent shivers through global markets this week.   But beyond the economics, the political implications of the slowdown are just as disconcerting.

A weaker German economy not only threatens to open a broader path for the AfD.   It may also further reduce the influence of Berlin and its lame-duck chancellor, Angela Merkel, precisely at a moment when German leadership is needed to address the European Union’s manifold problems, including Britain’s scheduled departure on Oct. 31, as well as global trade issues.” (Katrin Bennhold, New York Times, 8/16)


MACRON SAYS “NON”

Charles De Gaulle resoundingly said “Non” when Britain applied to join the EU 5o years ago.

Now, his successor, Emmanuel Macron, says “Non” to helping Britain leave on amicable and workable terms.  He is refusing to cooperate with Boris Johnson’s request to remove the Irish backstop, the arrangement that would preclude any hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

What does Ireland have to do with France?  Good question!

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ITALY’S FASCIST PAST REVERBERATES IN ROME

Lovers of fascist architecture never disappeared from Italy’s capital, where Mussolini sought to centralize powers.   He continues to be revered in one of the Roman neighborhoods the dictator built, and elsewhere.

 (Deutsche Welle * 17 Aug 2019)   Fascist buildings can be found all over Italy.   Roberto Canali, the right-wing mayor of Predappio, Mussolini’s birthplace, announced plans last month to reopen the dictator’s crypt to tourists all year around.   At the moment, fascists and neo-fascists can only access the site in central Italy three times a year.   The mayor said that the move would help local business.

I always sell all the copies of the Primato Nazionale,” adds Moreschini, referring to a far-right, nationalistic monthly magazine founded in Milan six years ago.   Even if it is impossible to say whether fascists could make a comeback, it is clear that the current political fragility, coupled with regional emergencies and Italy’s sluggish economy, is increasing the visibility of far-right ideas.   “In the end, fascists never really disappeared,” says Pietro Di Placidi, as he cleans up Sgobbone restaurant after the lunchtime customers have left.   (https://www.dw.com/en/italys-fascist-past-reverberates-in-rome/a-50024325)

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OLD SOUTH AFRICAN FLAG CONSTITUTES “HATE SPEECH”

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 21 (Reuters) – “A South African court on Wednesday ruled that displaying the country’s apartheid-era flag in public constituted hate speech that discriminated against black people and violated equality laws.

The case relates to a 2017 demonstration against attacks and killings of farmers where the so-called ‘Apartheid Flag” was displayed.   The protest was led by predominantly white, Afrikaner nationalist groups.

After public anger at the display of the flag, the Nelson Mandela Foundation applied for an order declaring “gratuitous display” of the flag as hate speech, unfair discrimination and harassment based on race.”   (Mfuneko Toyana, 8/21)

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Pakistani Islamic Scholars Urge Jihad Against India In Kashmir, Say: ‘Kashmiri Muslims Have No Path Other Than Jihad’;  ‘The Muslims’ Neck Is In The Grip Of The Jews’   (MEMRI headline, 8/18)

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BUBONIC PLAGUE IN US

Bubonic plague may seem like a disease that’s been relegated to the history books, but that’s not the case.   The disease that struck terror in people in the Middle Ages is alive and well in the modern world, and it’s most recently appeared in prairie dog towns in the suburbs of Denver.

So how did prairie dogs get a virulent infection that plagued the Byzantine Empire and killed 60 percent of Europeans in the 1300s? During the last half of the 19th century, plague spread across China. When it hit the port of Hong Kong around 1894, the disease-carrying fleas began to spread to port cities around the world, eventually killing about 10 million people.   Ester Inglis-Arkell reports that bubonic plague came to the U.S. via Chinatown in San Francisco around 1900, though local officials refused to acknowledge the disease, worried about driving away tourists.   In 1906, however, when an earthquake leveled large parts of the city, rats carrying plague fleas proliferated in the rubble, leading to an outbreak of the disease.

The bacteria were also transmitted to San Francisco area squirrels, and from there, spread to the small rodent population of the American West.    Now, the disease is endemic, meaning it’s always present at low levels, though researchers don’t completely understand why larger outbreaks occur during certain years.   On average, between one and 17 cases of plague are reported annually in humans, with hotspots located in the high deserts of northern New Mexico and Arizona as well as southern Colorado, according to the CDC.

But it’s not just humans that suffer from Yersinia pestis.   Outbreaks of the plague, which is called sylvatic plague when it infects small mammals, can kill over 90 percent of prairie dogs infected with the disease.   (“Plague infected prairie dogs cause parks to close near Denver.” Smithsonian, 8.22)