Tag Archives: Damascus

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

Hello everybody,

The election dominates US news.   There are many conflicting reports.

In Michigan, polls show Trump losing to every prominent Democratic candidate.   Yet, at the same time, his rallies (and those for VP Mike Pence) attract audiences too big to be accommodated.

And note the following report from the Munich Security Conference (read article “Munich Security Conference,” further down).  “Europeans widely expect Trump to be re-elected this fall.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic debate held last night in South Carolina, shows the party tearing itself apart.   Amy Klobuchar said it best:   “If we continue to tear each other apart over the next four months, we will see Trump continue to tear the country apart for the next four years.”  Another House Democrat described the seven Democrats on stage as a “circular firing squad.”   They should remember the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 12:25 — “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” words quoted by Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War.  With Trump so universally “hated,” it’s incredible the Democrats can’t come up with a winning candidate!

The second issue that dominates the news is the coronavirus.  Hopefully, this will not have the death toll of the various plagues that hit the world during the Middle Ages.   Justinian’s “flea” (probably bubonic plague) killed a manageable 5,000 a day in the first month; then 10,000 a day.   The population was greatly diminished.   As with the coronavirus, it was spread through trade and international travel.   It was the same in the 14th century, 800 years later, when the plague hit Europe again.  The death toll was a staggering 50% of the people.  Just over a century ago, the Spanish flu infected 500 million people worldwide, about one third of the world’s population.   It killed an estimated 20-50 million, including some 675,000 Americans.

We will get through it, but it may kill millions before it’s over.

One final thought on the election:   At least two of the candidates for the Democratic party claim to be Christians.   Voters, however, should be careful here.   All seven of the people appearing last night support a woman’s right to murder her baby!  (To be fair, so do some Republicans.)

Have a great week.

Melvin   

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Very early this morning, I came across a show on PBS World called “Gzero World”, with Ian Bremmer. Today they were reporting from the Munich Security Conference on world security issues.  The first four items come from their website.

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

The risk of a major technology blow-up between the US and Europe is growing.   A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the European Union wanted to boost its “technological sovereignty” by tightening its oversight of Big Tech and promoting its own alternatives to big US and Chinese firms in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her top digital officials unveiled their first concrete proposals for regulating AI, and pledged to invest billions of euros to turn Europe into a data superpower.    (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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Communal violence in Delhi:   Over the past few days, India’s capital city has seen its deadliest communal violence in decades.  This week’s surge in mob violence began as a standoff between protesters against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India’s Muslims and the law’s Hindu nationalist defenders.   Clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in majority-Muslim neighborhoods in northeast Delhi have killed at least 11 people, both Muslim and Hindu, since Sunday.   We’re watching to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government responds – Delhi’s police force reports to federal, rather than local, officials.(Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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Unlikely jihadist bedfellows:   For years, the jihadists of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have been at odds over territory and ideology. Bloody clashes between offshoots of the two groups have become commonplace in Yemen and Syria, further destabilizing those war-torn countries.   But now, strangely, ISIS and al-Qaeda linked groups appear to have joined forces in West Africa, recruiting locals and divvying up vast swathes of territory in the Sahel – a semi-arid area stretching across the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.  Motivated by mutual practical interests and common foes – Western forces and local governments – they’ve set aside their doctrinal differences and are gaining ground in states with weak central governments like Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the US military recently said.  This all comes as the Trump administration is weighing a sizable drawdown of US troops in West Africa.  (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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US-China tit-for-tat retaliations:   The Trump administration is weighing up retribution against Chinese journalists and state-owned media – as well as Chinese intelligence agencies – after Beijing expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters last week over an opinion column that criticized Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus.  The Chinese Foreign Ministry, incensed by the “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” headline, demanded an apology from the Journal before booting three of its reporters, none of whom had anything to do with the column.   If the US responds in kind, it could lead to a cycle of tit-for-tat retribution and animosity between Washington and Beijing just as a preliminary trade agreement appears to have eased mounting tensions between the world’s two largest economies.   We’re watching to see if the Trump administration follows through on its threat – or if it’s just bluster.  (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE

The annual gathering of the Munich Security Conference provides a useful barometer for the health of the transatlantic relationship. Two years ago, Europeans were reeling from the first year of the Trump administration.   Last year, they were resigned to that reality and determined to press ahead.  This past weekend, everyone was searching for a savior to address critical challenges amid a lack of global leadership.

Europeans widely expect Trump to be re-elected this fall.   After their shock at his 2016 victory, they seem to be bracing for the worst, but remain unprepared for the consequences.   They inquired about Democratic presidential candidates, asking what Bernie Sanders would mean for Europe and whether Michael Bloomberg was a good compromise for moderates.  (Amanda Sloat, Brookings, 2/18/2020)

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TRUMP EMBRACED BY ENTHUSIASTIC INDIANS

“It was the Trumpiest of offers.

“A rally at one of the world’s largest stadiums.   A crowd of millions cheering him on.   A love fest during an election year.”   (Lansing State Journal, 2/24/2020).

The stadium is the world’s biggest cricket stadium.  I wonder if President Trump was aware that cricket was the preferred sport of fellow Republican, Abraham Lincoln?

An incredible welcome from the world’s second most populous nation.  President Trump is hoping for a trade deal with India.

Sadly, it coincided with massive demonstrations against a new Indian immigration bill, which discriminates against Muslims.  At least twenty people have been killed.

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ISRAEL NOW RECOGNIZED BY 161 COUNTRIES

161 countries now have diplomatic relations with Israel, which is the highest number that it has ever been for the Jewish state.  Increasingly, the community of nations cares less about Palestinian objections and more about what Israel has to offer.   (Israel National News, 2/24/2020)

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NEVER ENDING SYRIAN CONFLICT

At a four-way summit with the leaders of Russia, Turkey and France, Angela Merkel will seek to influence the future of the northern Syrian province Idlib.  The summit, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on the weekend is to be held next week.  It will explore options for ending the fighting in the province, where, over the past few weeks, Syrian troops have been advancing on militias.  Usually referred to as “rebels” in the German media, they are, in fact, dominated by an al Qaeda subsidiary.  The combat has deepened dissention between Russia and Turkey on how to go forward in Syria, raising new hopes among western powers for driving a wedge between Ankara and Moscow.   Prior to the summit, however, specialists are pointing out that Berlin hardly has any options for exerting influence in Syria.  The EU sees the overthrow of the government in Damascus as the precondition for granting desperately needed reconstruction aid.    (German Foreign Policy, 2/25/2020)

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MACRON VOWS CRACKDOWN ON POLITICAL ISLAM

“The problem is when, in the name of a religion, some people want to separate themselves from the Republic and therefore not respect its laws.” — French President Emmanuel Macron, February 18, 2020.   (Soeren Kern, Gatestone, 2/21/2020)

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SWEDISH MIGRANT CRISIS

“For the first time now, more crimes – in absolute terms – are committed by persons of foreign background than by persons of Swedish origin . . .   The most crime-prone population subgroup are people born [in Sweden] to two foreign-born parents.” — Report by Det Goda Samhället (“The Good Society”), summer of 2019. (Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 2/26)

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UK GROOMING GANGS TO REMAIN A SECRET

DAILYKENN.com — It’s a state secret.  No one is to know the ethnicity of grooming gang members.  The thugs are responsible for trafficking nearly 19,000 British girls in one year.

Who are these people?  No one knows because  Boris Johnson’s government won’t release statistics that reveal their ethnicity.

The truth is, of course, that the government doesn’t need to release the data because everyone knows the preponderance of the gang members are from non-white Islamic regions of the world.  Nearly all are ethnic Pakistanis.

It’s akin to the n-word.  No one dares say it, but everyone knows what it means.   Authorities said that releasing the data would not be in the public interest.

Survivors accused ministers of making “empty promises,” while a man who prosecuted abusers in Rochdale called for the Home Office to “show some courage and publish” its findings.

It comes after The Independent revealed that almost 19,000 suspected child sexual exploitation victims were identified by local authorities in just one year, sparking renewed calls for prevention efforts.   (Daily Kenn, 2/25/2020)

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GAY CONVERSION THERAPY BANNED IN MORE COUNTRIES

Global momentum is growing to ban so-called gay “conversion therapy,” with bills drawn up in nine countries, a rights group said on Wednesday.

The United States, Canada, Chile, Mexico and Germany are among countries seeking to outlaw the treatment, which includes practices from electric shocks to “praying away the gay” and is based on the belief that being gay or transgender is a mental illness that can be “cured,” Ilga, an LGBT+ advocacy group, said.

Worldwide, only Brazil, Ecuador and Malta have national bans on conversion therapy, condemned as ineffective and harmful to mental health by more than 60 associations of doctors, psychologists or counsellors globally, the Ilga study said.

“The main driving force [for reform] is survivors with their testimonies coming forwards,” Lucas Ramon Mendos, author of the Ilga report, which said 2020 could be a turning point in the fight against “therapies” that have ruined many lives.

“A lot of awareness is being created through their testimony,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.   (Rachel Savage, Independent, 2/26/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • A headline in our local newspaper, the Lansing State Journal, appeared Monday.   It read: ‘White supremacy seeps into public, experts warn.”   It added:   “Incidents show startling jump over the past year.”   The article went on to show that violence emanating from “white supremacist groups” is increasing and is expected to grow further in the years ahead.   There is no excuse for violence.  But surely this is a reaction to the massive immigration of recent years and the constant emphasis on multiculturalism.   Until both change, there will be a constant threat from the political “right.”  It’s a reaction to the “extreme left.”
  • There’s a plan in Michigan to expand the options offered on payday loans.  These “short term, high cost financial products,” have trapped millions of families into a never ending “costly and potentially catastrophic cycle of debt.”  (David Snodgrass,  Lansing State Journal, 2/20/2020).   The bill “would allow lenders to charge a monthly service fee of 11% on the principal of a loan, equivalent to an APR of around 132%.   In practical terms, this means a borrower would end up paying more than $7,000 to pay off a $2,500 two-year loan.”   Heed the following biblical advice:  “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.  Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.” (Lev. 25:35-36)
  • I went to a concert on Monday evening.   The Academy of St Martin in the Fields played Brahms Symphony Number 4, along with a violin concerto by Paganini and a short piece by Mozart.  It was a delightful and relaxing evening with good friends.
  • Also relaxing (and gripping) is my latest “read:”   “The Race to save the Romanovs” by Helen Rappaport was published in 2018.  After the Russian revolution in 1917 the Romanov family were under house arrest.   When the communists came to power later in the year, their situation deteriorated fast.   Many people wanted to save them and their five young children, but no attempt got very far; eventually, they were all brutally murdered.   The Bolsheviks were, if nothing else, thorough – killing all their opponents for over seventy years!   The deaths of the children were particularly reprehensible.   Today’s Russians have tried to make amends by canonizing each member of the Imperial Family.  28% of Russians polled said they would like to see the monarchy restored.   But how do you restore it when you killed everybody off?    (Interestingly, 28% is roughly the support US presidents get; when you consider that only 54.9% bothered to vote in the last election.)    Maurice Paleologue was the French Ambassador to Russia at the time of the revolution.   He said the only man who could have saved them was Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.   The Russians had been fighting the Germans, along with the British and the French.  The Kaiser helped Lenin get to Russia and, when he assumed power, entered into a peace deal with him, so that Russia could leave the war.    The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of 1918 could have (should have) included a clause freeing the Czar and his family.   Wilhelm was related to the Russian Imperial Family.  He particularly loved the children.   Why didn’t he save them?

SLAVERY NOT A CRIME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GM PULLS OUT OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND, THAILAND

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

China.

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

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

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CORONAVIRUS “MADE IN CHINA”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GOG AND MAGOG  — COULD RUSSIA ATTACK ISRAEL?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GERMAN CRITICISM OF US BREAKING INTERNATIONAL LAW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

PERVERSE LIBERAL THINKING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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KING OF THE NORTH?

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

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

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

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

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GERMANY TO MATCH US CONTRIBUTION TO NATO BUDGET

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

German army sorry for ‘retro’ post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SOUTHERN BAPTISTS CHANGE ON ABORTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LETTER FROM A UK FRIEND

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

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EU DECLARES “CLIMATE EMERGENCY”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

 

 

 

ISRAEL ATTACKS SYRIAN AND IRANIAN TARGETS

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

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

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

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PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

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

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

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

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CHANGES AHEAD IF CORBYN WINS

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

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

JEREMY CORBYN’S BIG NEGATIVE EFFECT ON FOREIGN POLICY

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

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

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

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MACRON ON RUSSIA

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

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WHO WILL PAY FOR ENDLESS WARS?

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

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

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TEMPLE MOUNT NO LONGER

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

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

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

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

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

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GERMAN MILITIAS

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

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

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

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GERMANY-TAIPEI LINKS

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

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

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

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ADMIRAL HORATIO NELSON and THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR

 214 Years Ago

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

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TO THE POINT

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

PARLIAMENT VS THE PEOPLE

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

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

It also effectively ended royal power.

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

Ridiculous, some may say.   Parliament represents the people.

Not any more.

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

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

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

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

Mr. Johnson’s hands are tied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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US ECONOMY — SIGNS OF IMPENDING RECESSION

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

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

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ISLAMIC VIEW ON TRUMP, JOHNSON AND ISRAEL

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

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FIGHTING FOR GERMANY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ISRAEL AND IRAN ARE AT WAR

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

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

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

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ISRAEL FACES SERIOUS ESCALATION IN WAR WITH IRAN

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

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

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

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

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CALL FOR AMERICAN THEOCRACY

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

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

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GERMANY AND FRANCE TO BOOST MILITARY PRESENCE IN SAHEL

 

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

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NON-RELIGIOUS MAJOR FORCE IN DNC

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

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

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

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US MILITARY’S MOST OVERWEIGHT MEMBERS ARE IN THE NAVY

Sailors need remedial physical training

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

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

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

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

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

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ALTERNATIVE VIEW

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

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

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

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

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QUOTE

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

IMMINENT MISSILE ATTACK ON SYRIA

“Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. (Isaiah 17:1) 

By an amazing coincidence, I have been reading a book on “Munich” while the current crisis in Syria has been building up.

At Munich in 1938, Hitler and Chamberlain met to discuss Hitler’s claims on German Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.   Chamberlain famously gave in to his demands. The former British PM described Nazi Germany’s annexation of the area of German-speaking Czechoslovakia in 1938 as “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of which we know nothing.”

Similar words could be spoken today about Syria.

At the time of writing this article, President Trump is deciding on how to react to Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. If the US does nothing, nobody else will.   In 1938 Neville Chamberlain, as British Prime Minister, was the leader of the western world; today it’s President Trump.   Less than a year after Chamberlain’s famous appeasement toward Hitler, Britain and Germany were at war.   It had become all too clear, even to Chamberlain, that Hitler was intent on global conquest.

There’s been plenty of evidence that Russia has similar territorial designs.   The Russians took control of part of Georgia a few years ago; this was followed by the conquest of Crimea and of eastern Ukraine.   Domination of Syria makes them the most powerful voice in the Middle East.  This role is growing – last month, Putin met with the leaders of Iran and Turkey in Ankara.  These three are now in a de facto alliance while Turkey remains officially in NATO.

Geoffrey Wawro, a professor at the University of North Texas, wrote a book called “Quicksand” (2010), on “America’s pursuit of power in the Middle East.”   Reviewer Rick Atkinson sums the book up well, writing that Wawro reveals “how an extraordinary tale of idealism, politics, force and miscalculation began and unfolded over the last century.”

The more the US got involved, the more the US was sucked in; hence the title “Quicksand.”   Why should we expect any other outcome following action in Syria?   Could US intervention lead to war with Russia?

“There was no reason for war in 1914, beyond the murder of an archduke in Bosnia.   As AJP Taylor said of 1914:   “Nowhere was there a conscious determination to provoke a war.   Statesmen miscalculated [and] became prisoners of their own weapons.   The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight.”   I wonder what Taylor would have said of Trump’s “Get ready, Russia” tweet.” (“Look at Syria and you can see all the elements that have led to world wars,” Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, April 12th.)

A miscalculation now could be fatal for the US, Russia and Syria.

SYRIAN COMPLEXITIES

Syria is a perfect illustration of the complexity of modern warfare and the geopolitics that complicate everything.

Syria was established after World War One and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.   After “the war to end all wars,” the Treaty of Paris carved out a number of new countries from the ruins of the Turkish ruled empire.   The treaty was aptly described as “the peace to end all peace” by a British general who saw a future of never-ending conflict in the region.   A century later nothing has improved.

Before World War One, Mesopotamia was a sleepy backwater of no interest to anyone.   The same could be said of Syria.   Bible students know that this had to change to fulfill apocalyptic prophecies about Israel (the Jews) and its neighbors.   The prophesied Jewish national homeland was established exactly seventy years ago, in May 1948.

Syria was a Mandated territory of the League of Nations.   France was given the mandate; Britain was given Iraq and Jordan to administer, again under a Mandate from the League.   Palestine was also a League of Nations mandated territory, given to the British.

After World War Two, the French left Syria.   It soon fell under the Soviet sphere of influence.   From 1970 Syria has been the home of a Russian naval base, the only one Russia has on the Mediterranean. The Russians are not going to give it up.   And they will support President Assad as long as it is in their interest to do so.

The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 helped Russia to gain further influence in the region.   By removing Saddam Hussein from power and arranging an election in Iraq, the majority Shi’ites came to power, altering the balance of religious and political power in the Middle East.   Iran is the leading nation of Shia Islam.   An arc of Shia Islam now exists, from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, roughly the same territory of the ancient biblical King of the North. Russia is heavily involved with the Iranians and Syria.   Turkey is now also with them, wanting to stop its Kurdish minority from breaking away.   The Turks are not Arabs, so this does not present a conflict for them.

Syria is not majority Shia.   Assad’s support comes mostly from his Alawite clan, a branch of Shia Islam, which amounts to only 11% of the population.   The Sunnis do not want to be ruled by Assad. Neither do the Sunnis in Iraq want a Shia government over them.  This is why ISIS formed, to “protect” Sunnis from Shi’ites.

It’s all very complicated.

No wonder the president is taking his time.

If he does nothing, he will be seen as weak against Syria and the Russians.  If he does something, innocent lives will be lost, but Assad will remain in power and Russia will continue as its benefactor.

A further complication came today when the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that Moscow has “evidence” the video of the gas attack was performed by actors.   How does the West prove the film was real?

It seems like a no-win situation for the United States.

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European Immigration:   Nuns Out, Terrorists In                                                          by Douglas Murray, April 13, 2018 (Gatestone Institute)

  • When the same Home Office that forbade Sister Ban even to enter the country discovered that the young male Iraqi was in Britain, he explained clearly that he had been trained by ISIS.  He told the Home Office officials that the group had trained him to kill.   The Home Office promptly found him a place to live and study, and treated him as the minor he said he was but most likely was not.   He subsequently told a teacher that he had “a duty to hate Britain.”
  • Last year the Institute of St. Anselm (a Catholic training institute for priests and nuns, based in Kent) closed its doors because of problems it had getting the Home Office to grant visa applications for foreign students.   One nun last year was apparently denied entry to the UK because she did not have a personal bank account.
  • So, those who flee ISIS are turned away, while those who are trained by ISIS are welcome.

 

 

UNCERTAIN DEALS

Map for deals

Two current international “deals” may yet amount to nothing.

The European Union’s latest deal with Greece, the third bailout of the country in the last five years, may yet fail.

The Greek government may not be able to get the agreement through parliament as it is only going to make austerity harder for the Greek people.

Four bills need to be passed in the next twenty-four hours.   Pensions must be cut; taxes increased; the defense budget slashed and steps taken toward privatizing ports and other government owned enterprises, which it is hoped will cut corruption and make things more efficient.   As the ruling party, Syriza, is very left-wing, there’s a good possibility the parliament will not approve everything.   The Greek population voted against further austerity less than a month ago.

There is concern, too, beyond Greece’s borders.   European creditor countries are fully aware that, even if the Greek parliament approves the agreement, they may not keep their word.   It’s happened before.   This would mean that, in a few months, Greece will be back, asking for a further bailout.

A further set-back occurred this morning when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that Greece’s debt was “unsustainable” and that the country needs a much greater infusion of cash from the EU.   The EU bailout deal has, at least, united all concerned in the conviction that it won’t work!    The Greek problem is not about to go away.

Then there’s the deal between six western powers and Iran.

The British Guardian Weekly wasn’t sure which deal to put on its front page, Greece or Iran.   Right up to the last minute, Greece was going to be the leader, but then the deal with Iran came through.  The paper decided that the Iranian deal was the more important one, with far reaching implications.   But both deals could have both short-term and long-term negative consequences.

On Iran, the headline on the Fox News website was: “Win for Putin?” Putin has been supportive of Iran, Syria’s Assad and Shi’ites in general.

It’s certainly a win for Iran, which can look forward to the lifting of international sanctions.

The best the West can hope for is that this will buy time, that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons for at least the next ten years, by which time, democracies being as they are, none of those signing the agreement today, will still be in power.   They can, as with so many things, kick the can down the road.

However, even if this presupposes Iran will keep its side of the deal.   That’s no more likely than Greece abiding by the terms of the EU bailout deal.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter what the West thinks about the Iranian deal.

Israel’s prime minister has described the deal as “a mistake of historic proportions,” that it endangers his country.   He added:  “the more you read it, the worse it gets.”   Iran has been screaming “Death to Israel.  Death to America,” for over 35 years.   A recent demonstration in Tehran showed mobs screaming the same again. Perhaps nobody in Washington has been watching!

But, even Israel is not the country most concerned about the agreement.   The Sunni Arab states are.   Almost certainly, they will see through this agreement and their fears of Shia Iran acquiring nuclear weapons will lead them to acquire the same.   It may take a few years, but they will be driven by a great sense of urgency.   Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt are the three countries most likely to pursue their own bomb, with immediate help from Pakistan, which already has the bomb.   Saudi Arabia certainly has the money for this.

The greatest threat to world peace remains the Sunni-Shia conflict, a struggle that has continued for over thirteen centuries.   Although an Obama Administration spokesman expressed the hope that the Iran deal would help bring a resolution to the ancient conflict, this is at best naïve.   Nothing will end the conflict until the Messiah comes and sorts out the religious mess that is today’s world. Meanwhile, the US will be seen as siding with the Shi’ites against the Sunnis.   Tehran and Damascus must be celebrating at this development.

The Iranian deal brings to mind I Thessalonians 5:3 :  “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes upon them, as travail Upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (KJV).

Thankfully, Jesus Christ is returning to end the spiritual confusion. “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”  (Matthew 24:22).