Tag Archives: DENVER

ZIMBABWE NEAR COLLAPSE

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

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

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

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

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

It certainly was.

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

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

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RAMPANT INJUSTICE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TLAIB TALKS NONSENSE, AGAIN

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

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

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

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

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AFGHANISTAN @100

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NATO STRENGTHENS TIES WITH AUSTRALIA

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

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

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TRUMP UPSETS DENMARK

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

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

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

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GERMANY IN RECESSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


MACRON SAYS “NON”

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

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

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

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ITALY’S FASCIST PAST REVERBERATES IN ROME

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

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

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

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OLD SOUTH AFRICAN FLAG CONSTITUTES “HATE SPEECH”

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

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

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

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

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BUBONIC PLAGUE IN US

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

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

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

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

 

ISIS FIGHT GOES INTERNATIONAL

Jake

Jake Bilardi was a white Australian teenager who became a suicide bomber with ISIS.   Jake left Australia for Syria at the age of 16 after he became a “self-radicalized” Muslim, over the internet.   He is one of an estimated ninety Australian citizens fighting with ISIS.

A couple of weeks ago, a great deal of attention was given to three British teenage girls who disappeared, traced eventually to Istanbul and then Syria.   A month or so ago, teenage girls from Denver attempted to join ISIS in Syria.

Meanwhile, the BBC World News tonight showed British veterans in Syria fighting against ISIS.   According to the report, at least two have died in fighting in recent weeks.   All of these men volunteered to go and fight ISIS after hearing of the atrocities committed by the terrorist group.   The report also showed other foreign nationals, including an American veteran.

This means that people with British passports are fighting on two sides in the Syrian conflict.   As there are more than two sides, it is possible that some are fighting with other groups.   The First Lady of Syria is a British born Syrian, married to President Assad, who spent years working in London before returning to Syria to take over as president.

It was also revealed today that South African mercenaries are fighting against Boko Haram in Nigeria.   Boko Haram recently pledged its allegiance to ISIS.   Both groups are fighting for the self-proclaimed Caliphate under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The above facts show the increasing internationalization of the ISIS/anti-ISIS conflict.

A particularly disturbing report, also on the BBC this evening, was from the Iraqi town of Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein.   The city is currently a battleground between ISIS forces and anti-ISIS troops of the Iraqi and Iranian governments and Shi-ite militias.   The report showed that serious atrocities are being committed by these groups, as bad as anything we’ve seen from ISIS members.

These atrocities should be of great concern to Washington, which is sending more arms to help the Iraqi government.   The arms will be accompanied by 3,000 US military personnel who will be giving further training to the Iraqi military.

The presence of Iranian troops is also awkward for the United States.   While America and its allies may be grateful in the short term for help against ISIS, long-term the end result is likely to be a stronger and greater Iran.   A nuclear Iran will only complicate things further.

The growing internationalization of the conflict is clear and is likely to worsen.

COMMENTARY

Dollar

I want to begin by clarifying something I wrote in yesterday’s post.     I shared a quote from Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group, “The dollar is the indispensable currency,” she said. I added that, on this point, she is correct.

I should have added two words to that comment, “for now.”

The dollar right now is riding high and doing better than other major currencies.  But that does not mean the dollar is really strong. In fact, just yesterday Singapore and China announced the start of direct currency trading, bypassing the US dollar, which has been volatile and is not backed by anything. It’s just paper and is held up by confidence and nothing else. Note the following from Channel News Asia.

“BEIJING:  China will allow direct trading between its currency and the Singapore dollar from Tuesday (Oct 28), making it easier for companies here to do business with their Chinese counterparts.

The Sing dollar will be added to the China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS) platform, which currently offers transactions between the yuan and 10 foreign currencies. The announcement came on Monday (Oct 27), after an agreement at the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) in Suzhou, co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

Previously, companies that wanted to convert a large amount of Sing dollars to renminbi (RMB) or vice versa had to do so via an intermediate currency such as the US dollar.

“This will lower foreign exchange transaction costs and encourage greater use of the two currencies in cross-border trade and investments,” the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in a news release on Monday.

DPM Teo called this is a “major and significant” development which will reduce the cost of doing business and make it more convenient.”

Singapore is a major hub for the internationalization of the Chinese currency.   Some predict China will overtake America as the number one economy next year.   This means China can take on the burden of being a trading currency just as the US dollar has been.

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I’ve been reading a novel by Brad Thor set in Afghanistan. The 2009 book is titled “The Apostle.” The author clearly knows the country well and I’ve learned a lot about Afghanistan from it. Frankly, the book is as close to the country as I want to get!

I would like to share two paragraphs with you. The subject is not Afghanistan. The main character is Harvath.

“Harvath just couldn’t understand the liberal mindset. He was convinced that they believed deeply in what they said and what they did; his only problem was that it so often flew in the face of reality. They continually focused their rage on their protectors rather than their enemy. They denigrated their country, believing it was the source of all evil in the world. The truth was, when it came to Islam, it had been violent since its inception. Its clearly stated goal was worldwide conquest. And while Harvath believed there were peaceful and moderate Muslims, he knew from studying the religion that there was no such thing as peaceful and moderate Islam.

“The entire religion was a mess and needed a complete gut-rehab. And though he had a good feeling his country’s new president would probably not agree with him, he also knew that until the politically correct crowd stopped making excuses for them and undercutting any motivation to reform their religion themselves, the majority of Muslims wouldn’t do anything . . . Islam had been Islam for fourteen hundred years and what it had been was violent.”

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Which reminds me of the three teenage girls, all born in the USA and from the Denver area, who were detained in Frankfurt en route to Syria to fight with ISIS. All three were of Sudanese and Somali descent. It is not necessarily the case any more that second generations born in America become more American. It seems that, when it comes to Islam, assimilation doesn’t work any more.

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This is certainly the case in Tower Hamlets, a rundown poverty stricken area of east London, profiled this morning on PBS’ Focus on Europe. Tower Hamlets has the UK’s highest percentage of Muslims, over 30%. They are mostly from Bangladesh and Somalia.   A recent election there has led to accusations of corruption, including vote rigging. This is unheard of in British elections. Or was, until a significant percentage of Muslims took over an area and introduced their own brand of politics, just like home.

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It may seem a big jump from ISIS to Downton Abbey but it’s appropriate at this point.   The fifth series is already showing in the UK on ITV. It starts in the US on January 4th. Apparently, Lord Grantham is going to lose his dog in this series. The reason is quite simple – the dog is named Isis. Lord Grantham has had his dog for four seasons of the show, while the terrorist group is quite new. But viewers do not want to be reminded of terrorism when watching the series in their living rooms. Besides, Isis joined the family in 1912 and the series is now up to 1924. That’s about it for a Labrador’s lifespan.   Ours only made it to five.