Tag Archives: Donald Trump

CCP BIGGEST VIRUS OF ALL

(Mike Thompson copyright 2020, USA Today)

“The Chinese Communist Party “is the biggest and most serious virus of all . . .   The CCP represses and manipulates information to strengthen its hold on power.  It is time to recognize the threat the Chinese Communist Party poses to all humanity.” — Chen Guangcheng, blind Chinese dissident, now a refugee in the US.  (Asia news April 27, 2020)

Bloomberg News is said to censor articles that might anger China and expose Xi’s personal wealth. And the European Union just softened criticism of China in a report on disinformation about the pandemic… It looks as though free thought is more valued among China’s daring dissidents than in many corners of the West.

To paraphrase Leon Trotsky: You may not be interested in China, but China is interested in you.    (Gatestone, 5/17/2020)

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EU UNHAPPY WITH CHINA

The Western Balkan states, including Serbia, should publicly acknowledge the EU’s support in combating the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU demands in the final declaration at its Zagreb Western Balkan Summit last Wednesday. The summit had been preceded by harsh criticism of Chinese aid deliveries to Serbia, which have aroused strong resentment in Berlin and Brussels.    EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell accused Beijing of waging “a struggle for influence” with its “politics of generosity.”   For years, Germany and the EU have been trying to counter the growing influence of other powers in the Southeastern European non-EU countries.   This pertains to the Turkish, Russian and Chinese cultural and military policies and their economic activities.   The EU dominance over the Western Balkan countries’ economy has only drained these countries of billions of euros and rendered their recovery impossible.   This is why they are turning also to China.  (German Foreign Policy 5/18/2020)

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UK:   Sunak warns of ‘severe recession’ and ‘more hardship’

Rishi Sunak (Britain’s Finance Minister) has forecast that Britain is facing a “severe recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen” and warned that it is “not obvious there will be an immediate bounceback.”   Following a sharp rise in unemployment benefit claims, the chancellor told a Lords committee that there is “no doubt there will be more hardship to come.”  (The Economist, 5/20/2020)

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WHO INVESTIGATION

Member-states of the World Health Organization unanimously agreed to set up an independent inquiry into the covid-19 pandemic. The “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” will look at the WHO’s own role in the crisis.   America, in particular, has been critical of the inter-governmental organization.   Its boss, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the inquiry would start “at the earliest opportunity.”

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OPPOSITION TO LOCKDOWNS GATHERS PACE

(Direct quote from The Economist)  ” IN MORE THAN 30 of America’s 50 state capitals angry crowds have been gathering to protest against stay-at-home orders.  Buoyed by tweets from President Donald Trump encouraging them to “liberate” their states, some even compare their elected officials to the Nazis.   A few among them toting assault weapons are dressed incongruously in Hawaiian shirts.  They might seem almost comical were it not for the fact that, in the fetid corners of the internet, such beachwear is recognized as the uniform of the extreme right.

“The spreading of conspiracy theories is central to the extreme right’s activities.   Some claim the virus is a hoax.  Others blame the Chinese, the Jews or even Bill Gates.  Some claim that the federal government is using the virus as a pretext to confiscate weapons and enforce “medical martial law.”   Extremists also spread more familiar conspiracy theories, decrying 5G networks and vaccinations, which help introduce the uninitiated to their ideology.

“A closer look at the far right’s beliefs helps explain why extremists have been energized by America’s new reality.

“The most familiar of these is white supremacy.  Its adherents exploit the virus’s geographical origins to drum up racial antipathy towards Chinese people.  Anti-semites have been accusing Jews of deliberately spreading plagues ever since the Black Death, and covid-19 gives them a chance to reuse the template.  The supremacists thus use fears about “white genocide” to argue for closed borders and eventually a white ethno-state.  “Open borders is the virus,” declares one protest sticker placed on road signs.”  (The Economist, 5/20/2020)

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DURBAN: CORRUPTION IN FOOD DISTRIBUTION

Hunger and starvation in Durban                                                       Allegations are flying thick and fast as some desperate eThekwini residents wait for the delivery of food parcels, one of the brutal consequences of government’s draconian and extended Covid-19 lockdown.  (by Des Erasmus, 12 May 2020, Daily Maverick ) 

eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality is a metropolitan municipality created in 2000, that includes the city of Durban, South Africa and surrounding towns. eThekwini is one of the 11 districts of KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa.  The majority of its 3,442,361 people speak Zulu.  It was formed from seven formerly independent local councils and tribal land. ]

Hunger — and more particularly the very real fear of starvation — has roused already elevated suspicions in some of the province’s rural areas, where peering through a curtain at midnight and seeing “food being delivered at that time” has led to allegations of theft and mismanagement of the parcels by councillors.  What the lockdown has revealed is that it is ordinary citizens who are stepping up to place food on the plates of the province’s distressed.   And allegations about councillors who milk the lockdown to ensure they are able to “buy support” for next year’s local government elections in order to keep their seats.   But just how deep and real this problem is, is difficult to uncover.   Even the South African Police Services couldn’t provide clarity.

Nevertheless, perceived or real, over the course of the weekend and into Monday, Daily Maverick received several calls from eThekwini residents accusing councillors of distributing food to friends and family.   One such call involved the “peering through the window” scenario in Ward 94 of eThekwini Metro, which includes the areas of KwaMakhutha and Ensimbini, just west of the seaside suburb of Amanzimtoti.   “The councillor was seen handing out food parcels at about midnight on Saturday to people who were her friends and family.   One lady went to collect parcels and was turned away,” a resident, who asked not to be named for fear of repercussions, told Daily Maverick.

(https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-05-12-hunger-and-starvation-in-durban/)

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CONTROVERSY IN GERMANY OVER HUAWEI

In the wake of the most recent US devastating blow launched at Huawei, demands are again being raised in Berlin to exclude the Chinese company from setting up Germany’s 5G networks.  Huawei should not have an opportunity in Germany, insists Norbert Röttgen, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German Bundestag.  The government’s current draft for a revised version of the IT security law, in principle, does not exclude the participation of Chinese companies but includes an ambiguous clause (“trustworthiness test”) that could be applied against them.  While the discussion is continuing in Berlin, the Trump administration announced that, in the future, chip manufacturers anywhere in the world, using specialized US equipment must obtain a special US government license to supply Huawei.  Experts estimate that should this directive be implemented – which would subjugate key sectors of the world’s economy to US control – nearly 90 percent of Huawei sales would be threatened.   Subsequently, German companies would also suffer damages.   (German Foreign Policy, 5/19/2020)

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WIFE BEATING ADVICE FROM QATARI OFFICIAL

Dr. Ahmad Al-Farjabi, a shari’a expert from the Qatari Ministry of Religious Endowments, said in a May 6, 2020 interview on Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) that Muslims are not the only people who beat their wives and that when a man suspects his wife might turn out to be rebellious, he should take the measures prescribed by the Quran, the third of which is beating his wife.   Dr. Al-Farjabi added that even Western psychologists have said that wife-beating is “inevitable” for women who had been beaten while they were growing up and for women who have no respect for their husbands.  He said that these kinds of women must be “subdued by muscles,” and that some kinds of women “may be reformed by beating.”   Al-Farjabi also said that he has even heard from women at his lectures that it is preferable to beat one’s wife than to allow her to ruin the home and lose her children.  (MEMRI 5/18/2020)

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NUREMBERG CODE FORBIDS VACCINES WITHOUT CONSENT

The Nuremberg Code  (1947) is a set of research ethics and principles for human experimentation created as a result of the Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War, when the notorious doctor’s experiments where supposed to have come to an end.

It established a set of guiding principles for the Right of the patient to be informed of their medical treatment options and to give their consent before any medical treatment could be performed.

It feels now more than ever that the mass experimentation on humanity is under way once more with enforced vaccines looking an inevitable thing for anyone that wants to do anything.   But know your rights and be better prepared.

The Nuremberg Code is one of the most influential documents in the history of clinical research

Code 6 also states:   The risks should never exceed the benefits.  According to Article 6 of the Unesco 2005 statement on Bioethics and Human Rights.

Article 6, section 1:   Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical interventions is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information.   The consent should, where appropriate, be expressed and may be withdrawn by the person concerned  at any time and for any reason WITHOUT DISADVANTAGE or prejudice. (caps mine)

Alan Dershowitz:  State has right to ‘plunge a needle into your arm’
Contends Constitution grants government power to forcibly vaccinate individuals.

Harvard Law School emeritus professor Alan Dershowitz claimed in an interview that the government has a constitutional right under the 10th Amendment to forcibly vaccinate a citizen to curb the spread of a contagious disease.   “Let me put it very clearly, you have no constitutional right to endanger the public and spread the disease, even if you disagree.   You have no right not to be vaccinated, you have no right not to wear a mask, you have no right to open up your business,” he said.   The interviewer, Jason Goodman, interjected, asking if the famed constitutional scholar was saying that if the government decides “you have to be vaccinated, we have to be vaccinated.”   “Absolutely,”  Dershowitz replied. “And if you refuse to be vaccinated, the state has the power to literally take you to a doctor’s office and plunge a needle into your arm.”

>>MORE:  (https://www.wnd.com/2020/05/alan-dershowitz-state-right-plunge-needle-arm/)

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BEHIND THE SCENES OF FRANCO-GERMAN RECOVERY FUND
by Katya Adler, BBC Europe editor, 19 May 2020

After a shambolic, acrimonious display at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU’s main players are now on a mission to demonstrate that the European dream is not dead or dying.  To prove that solidarity, common values and a unity of purpose are, in fact, the order of the day.

The German and French leaders were notably absent: the relationship between them tetchy – with France pushing for the EU’s richer countries (including Germany and excluding itself) to take on and share the coronavirus-related debt of the countries of the south.  But what did we see on Monday?   Hey presto: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron jointly proposing a recovery fund to help the weakest EU economies get out of a post-covid slump to the tune of €500bn ($545bn; £448bn).  In EU political terms this is huge. Chancellor Merkel has conceded a lot.   She openly agreed with the French that any money from this fund, allocated to a needy EU country should be a grant, not a loan.   Importantly this means not increasing the debts of economies already weak before the pandemic and financially excruciating lockdown, such as those in southern but also central and eastern Europe.  President Macron gave ground too.   He’d wanted a huge fund of a trillion or more euros.   But a trillion euros of grants was probably too much for Mrs. Merkel to swallow on behalf of fellow German taxpayers.  The resulting compromise:    win-win for the two leaders.  They hope.    . . . I’d say the battle over the EU recovery fund is only just beginning.

 >>MORE:  (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52717232)

Crisis in Europe:   von der Leyen’s audacious bid for new powers
Commission president must bridge bitter divides over EU plan to rebuild the economy
by Sam Fleming, Jim Brunsden and Michael Peel in Brussels
(Financial Times, 18 May 2020)

Ursula von der Leyen delivered a stark message to the EU’s commissioners on Thursday evening at their first in-person meeting for many weeks.   She told her socially distanced colleagues that they had an opportunity to forge a viable reconstruction plan for a European economy ravaged by the coronavirus crisis.   But they had precious little time at their disposal and only one shot to get it right. One important detail was tellingly absent from the commission president’s private presentation in a windowless room in Brussels’ Berlaymont building:   the hugely divisive question of the size of the recovery fund which she will shortly propose.

Ms. von der Leyen is planning an audacious bid for new powers as she seeks to put her institution at the centre of efforts to revive the European economy, asking member states for unprecedented latitude to raise funds in the markets.   But the former German defense minister faces the central test of her short presidency as she seeks to bridge bitter splits within the EU over the plan.

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FRANCE:   MACRON LOSES MAJORITY

Seven Members leave the La République en Marche group. The French President Macron’s party thus has 288 seats – one less than the majority.(May 19, 2020, Der Spiegel)  

The party of French President Emmanuel Macron loses its majority in parliament.   Seven MEPs from La République en Marche (LREM) left the group and joined the Ecologie Démocratie Solidarité (Ecology, Democracy, Solidarity) group that was founded on Tuesday.

Macron’s party LREM now has only 288 votes in the people’s representation.   A majority require 289 seats.   When Macron took office in 2017, LREM had 314 MPs.   There’s Dissatisfaction with Macron’s business-friendly policies.

(https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/frankreich-emmanuel-macron-verliert-die-mehrheit-im-parlament-a-ad851480-9158-4c2a-9d45-b059b71da91f)

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DANGER TO FUTURE FOOD SUPPLY

BEE POPULATIONS ARE IN DECLINE ALL OVER THE WORLD =  To bee or not to bee:  International Bee Day highlights plight of pollinators
90% of world’s wild flowering plant species depend, entirely, or at least partly, on animal pollination, along with over 75% of world’s food crops, 35% of agricultural land.

Bees have gotten a bad press — the truth is that they rarely sting.  What they do do is sustainably pollinate a third of the plants needed for a stable, healthy, human diet.   There is no alternative to bees and no logic to seeking an alternative.

In the US, beekeepers lost an estimated 40.7% of their managed honey bee colonies between April 2018 and April 2019, according to the most recent loss and management report issued by the Bee Informed Partnership: https://beeinformed.org/

<Main Article> https://www.timesofisrael.com/to-bee-or-not-to-bee-international-bee-day-highlights-plight-of-pollinators/

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1927 BOMB REMAINS WORST SCHOOL ATTACK IN US HISTORY

May 18th, 1927, 45 people including 38 children were killed in Bath Township, during the deadliest school attack in U.S. History.

“He asked himself I don’t know why I lived.” said Wendy Marrison, granddaughter of a survivor.    Wendy Marrison’s Grandpa, Dean was a student at Bath Consolidated School and was only 11 years old when it happened.

93 years ago, Andrew Keyhoe was a school board member at the time.   Police say he hid nearly 500 pounds of dynamite throughout the school, something he planned for months.

“It was the last day before summer break and as the kids were going into school Mr. Keyhoe was there greeting him.   He actually said to the kids this is your last day, my Grandpa thought that’s a nice greeting, later on, he realized that was a warning.” said Wendy Marrison.

At 8:45 A.M., hours before their summer vacation was set to begin.

The explosion happened.

“He was on the first floor and he got buried under all this rubble.  He was the very last one to be pulled out.   When they pulled him they couldn’t find a pulse, so in his words “I was put in the dead pile.”   One of his neighbors saw his toe move and they all started yelling he’s alive he’s alive!” Marrison added.

Dean did survive the attack and went on to live a good life.  He passed away in 2006 at the age of 92.   Wendy wasn’t alive when it all happened, but she wants to make sure that people never forget.

“We need to honor the ones who survived and the ones who didn’t.” Marrison said.    (WLNS 6, Bath Township, Lansing, Michigan)

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Danish Bible that removed Israel ‘not antisemitic’ argues columnist The Danish Bible society took too many liberties with the translation but, Mosaic Magazine’s Philologos argued, was not antisemitic in its motives.

Far from being antisemitic, a new Christian Bible translation which omits or replaces the word “Israel” in many places within the text affirms the link between Israel and the Jewish people, a columnist for Mosaic Magazine has argued.

The translation, titled Bible 2020, released earlier this year by the Danish Bible Society, came under scrutiny toward the end of April when readers noted that numerous references to “Israel” had been replaced or removed. In some places the word had been replaced with “the Jews,” “the Jewish people,” or even “the people,” whereas in others the translation was made more universal, such as the re-rendering of Psalm 121:4 from “He who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps,” to “He who takes care of us will not fall asleep, no he is not sleeping.”

According to analysis by the Bible Society in Israel, the word “Israel” appears only twice in the Bible 2020 version of New Testament rather than the more than 60 times it appears in the Greek from which it was originally translated.   The Old Testament has been less altered, but while the word appears 2,521 times in the Greek, it has been rendered as such 2,316 times in the Danish translation, a reduction of around 9%.

Defending their translation, the Danish Bible society said in a statement:   “In The New Testament the word ‘Israel’ has been translated into ‘the Jewish people,’ ‘the Jews,’ or ‘the people’ because when the Greek text uses the word ‘Israel’ it is referring to a people with whom God has a special relationship – Jacob’s descendants.   However, for the secular reader, who does not know the Bible well, ‘Israel’ could be referring only to a country.  Therefore the word ‘Israel’ in the Greek text has been translated in other ways, so that the reader understands it is referring to the Jewish people.”

However, many were unconvinced.

The Jerusalem Post columnist Liat Collins wrote of the translation: “Instead of making sure that readers understand the connection between Israel, the Jews and the Land of Israel of the Bible, they preferred to make an artificial separation.

“Taking a charitable approach, it’s possible to say that the Danish Bible translators did not see their changes as a political act, more an act of political correctness – trying to include all.   But clearly something was lost in translation, as is evident to someone who reads the Bible in the original Hebrew.   As B’nai Brith International tweeted: “… this surreal revision causes confusion and worse: whitewashing of history, identity, and sacred scripture.””

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TO THE POINT

  • Dozens of companies around the world are working on vaccines.  Experts say the world will need more than one, because demand will outstrip the production capacity of any single manufacturer.  Official remarks:  President Trump said he had been taking hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that experts have warned could cause dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities in coronavirus patients, as a preventive measure.   He said he had no symptoms of Covid-19.  (NY Times).
  • Aussies subservient to Chinese — AUSTRALIA lacks courage to appropriately deal with China in the wake of the Coronavirus “cover-up” warns Liberal Party senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.   Addressing parliament this week the NSW-based senator said it was critical for Australia to plan for reparations and to “decouple” from China.  (Politico, 5/20/2020)
  • It is understood that due to his own experience with the coronavirus, the British PM believes ending obesity will help Britain in its fight against Covid-19 – a battle that will require blood, toil, tears and sweat.  And also, knowing Johnson, bicycles.  (The Week, 5/15/2020) Boris Johnson is an impassioned fan of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill.   But his own war, as it turns out, will not be waged against Nazis but against fat.
  • “Even without laptops and swimming pools, and on a fraction of what government schools spend today, Americans were a surprisingly learned people in our first hundred years.”  (“The Myth that Americans were poorly educated before mass government schooling,” Lawrence W. Reed, The Epoch Times, 5/14/2020).
  • Headline in Lansing State Journal:   “Mid-Michigan’s catastrophic flooding adds to state’s pandemic woes” (5/21/2020).   Michigan is the third worst hit state from the coronavirus.
  • CAR BUMPER STICKER:   My car gets three weeks to the gallon!

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AFTER THOUGHT

There have been more articles warning about a “second” civil war.

By my calculations, it would be the third civil war.   The Revolutionary War was also a civil war.   As John Adams wrote, the country was divided three ways, those Loyal to the Crown, those rebelling and those who couldn’t spell Crown!

Not counting this as a civil war overlooks a reality in American history, which is still pertinent today, in the time of corona.

The country is divided.

A Canadian Member of Parliament summed it up quite well a few years ago.  In explaining the difference between the US & Canada, he said, in Canada they have four different parties who all have a different approach to any problem.   The Canadians discuss the problem until consensus is reached.  In the US, the two parties take opposing positions and head for the barricades.

Perhaps it’s something in the DNA of Americans.  Or something in our breakfast cereals.

The fact is that we are divided again – on a virus of all things!  There are those who believe everything the government tells us; and those who reject everything.

In this sense, it resembles the first civil war (1775-83).   Then, on the one side you had people who were against authority and on the other those who upheld authority.

Then as now.

It would be ridiculous to have a civil war over a virus, but it’s just one more issue that continues to divide the country.

As Abraham Lincoln said prior to the War Between the States,  “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”   He was quoting from Mark 3:25.

MR   

MORE ON CORONA

AMERICA AHEAD

Good morning.   “The US has more confirmed cases of the coronavirus than any other nation on Earth.  Yet Donald Trump has fallen back on his favorite solution to any problem, announcing an executive order that would temporarily suspend all immigration from other countries.   Democrats slammed the move, with one congressman calling it no more than “xenophobic scapegoating.”

Meanwhile, epidemiologists have warned that the greater threat is from within, saying recent anti-lockdown rallies across the country could lead to a surge in new infections.   In Georgia, governor Brian Kemp announced businesses including gyms, cinemas and restaurants would reopen in the state over the coming days, despite the objections of public heath experts.   (Tim Walker, The Guardian, 4/21/2020)

This is a typical Guardian piece from across the water.   It seems to me that the president made a very sensible decision, to halt immigration to help save American jobs.  It’s only for two months.  When things get back to normal, if unemployment persists, there should be no going back to open borders.

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CHINA’S ECONOMY DOWN

 That the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic will be immense is obvious.  Just how bad?  And when can countries start to heal?  China offered a preliminary answer today when it announced that its first-quarter GDP fell by 6.8%, compared with last year.  The last time China’s economy shrank was 1976, the year the Cultural Revolution ended.  It was a foregone conclusion that growth had suffered after lockdowns were imposed nationwide in late January. More notable therefore were indicators for March.   Encouragingly, industrial production fell just 1% year-on-year, a reflection of progress made in restarting factories.   Discouragingly, retail sales were down 16% over the same period, with stores and restaurants open but few visiting them.   Having drastically reduced new infections, China’s economy is creaking back to life.   But people remain anxious and movement is restricted.   In such an inhospitable environment, familiar now around the world, the recovery is likely to be tepid at best.  (The Economist, 4/17/2020)

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GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY

The German government is joining the US campaign of allegations against China regarding the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.  Last weekend, US President Donald Trump warned the People’s Republic that it should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the spread of the pandemic.  Washington is simultaneously spreading deliberate rumors that the virus could have originated in a Chinese laboratory.   Whereas, scientists vehemently refute the allegations, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared, he “does not want to exclude” that the WHO will have to deal with these issues.   On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Beijing to show “transparency” on the issue.   Senior German military officials have recently been demanding that the EU adopt “a joint political-strategic response” to China’s growing strength, because in the Corona crisis, Beijing is gaining considerable influence.   According to a recent poll, more than half of the Italian population sees China as a “friend,” while nearly half see Germany as an “enemy.”  (German Foreign Policy, 4/21)

ANTI-CHINESE FEELING HIGH IN GERMANY

In view of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the German media are stepping up their blame on China by moving to openly ask for compensation.  The People’s Republic “has caused the pandemic,” this is what the mainstream media repeatedly say.   And the Springer press insists on “compensation” by headlining “What China already owes us.”   The agitation began when it became apparent that the People’s Republic of China was able to overcome the crisis more lightly than the Western powers and their global rise are likely to continue, while the transatlantic states are in danger of being thrown back by their totally inadequate preparation for the pandemic.   The claims are accompanied by a massive anti-Chinese sentiment; just to make an example, it is currently stated that Peking follows a “strategy of unrestricted warfare, already formulated by the Chinese military a good two decades ago.   The statement is not correct, but it is similar to claims based on lies used against Russia for years.   (German Foreign Policy, 4/17/2020)

BERLIN – The editor-in-chief of Germany’s largest paper Bild on Thursday launched a full frontal attack on China’s communist President Xi Jinping for his regime’s failure to come clean about the coronavirus outbreak and the massive human rights violations carried out by the Communist Party.   Julian Reichelt, the prominent editor-in-chief of the Bild, wrote to Jinping that  “Your embassy in Berlin has addressed me in an open letter because we asked in our newspaper Bild whether China should pay for the massive economic damage the coronavirus is inflicting worldwide.”

He wrote that, “You [Jinping], your government and your scientists had to know long ago that coronavirus is highly infectious, but you left the world in the dark about it.  Your top experts didn’t respond when Western researchers asked to know what was going on in Wuhan.   You were too proud and too nationalistic to tell the truth, which you felt was a national disgrace.”

Reichelt said that, “You rule by surveillance.  You wouldn’t be president without surveillance.  You monitor everything, every citizen, but you refuse to monitor the diseased wet markets in your country.  You shut down every newspaper and website that is critical of your rule, but not the stalls where bat soup is sold.   You are not only monitoring your people, you are endangering them – and with them, the rest of the world.”

He continued with his bill of particulars, noting that “surveillance is a denial of freedom.   And a nation that is not free, is not creative.   A nation that is not innovative, does not invent anything.   This is why you have made your country the world champion in intellectual property theft.

“China enriches itself with the inventions of others, instead of inventing on its own,” Reichelt wrote.   “The reason China does not innovate and invent is that you don’t let the young people in your country think freely.   China’s greatest export hit (that nobody wanted to have, but which has nevertheless gone around the world) is coronavirus.”

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ISRAEL FINALLY GETS A NEW GOVERNMENT

Israel will soon have a new coalition government after an agreement was signed on Monday evening between Likud and Blue and White, putting an end to a 17-month political stalemate that resulted in three elections.

As part of the deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has served as caretaker prime minister since December 2018, will remain prime minister for another 18 months and then will be replaced in October 2021 by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who will serve as vice prime minister in the meantime.   Netanyahu will be vice prime minister under Gantz after that, but if Netanyahu leaves the Prime Minister’s Office sooner, Gantz would already take over

“I promised the State of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save lives and livelihoods of Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said.   Gantz expressed his relief that an election that would have been held on August 4 if a deal was not reached by May 7 had been averted.   “We prevented a fourth election,” Gantz said. “We will protect our democracy and fight against the coronavirus.”

US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, including its clauses enabling Israel to apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, will be able to be implemented in July, when maps are set to be finalized.   In a controversial clause, both Netanyahu and Gantz will have the right to an official residence fully funded by the state.   In another, the so-called Norwegian law will be changed to allow ministers to quit and new MKs to enter the Knesset, including in Blue and White, skipping over MKs from the Yesh Atid and Telem parties that will remain in the opposition.

The Movement for Quality Government and other watchdog groups petitioned the High Court of Justice late Monday, demanding that the court prevent Netanyahu from forming a government, due to his criminal indictments.

(MORE:  https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/a-joint-meeting-between-netanyahu-and-gantz-to-start-soon-625241)

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South Africa deploys over 70,000 troops to enforce lockdown

More than 70,000 extra troops will be deployed in South Africa to help enforce a lockdown intended to stop the spread of coronavirus, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.  South Africa has had 3,465 confirmed coronavirus cases – second only to Egypt in Africa – and 58 deaths.  The country has some of the most stringent coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the world.  But security forces have struggled to enforce them.  Since 27 March only essential service providers, such as health workers, financial services providers, journalists and retail workers, are allowed to continue going to work.  Businesses that provide essential services have been applying for a special permit from the government that allows their members of staff to go outside.  The restrictions include no jogging outside, no sales of alcohol or cigarettes, no dog-walking, no leaving home except for essential trips and prison or heavy fines for law-breaking.

President Ramaphosa said he had decided to deploy an extra 73,180 soldiers in a letter addressed to parliament on Tuesday.

The lockdown restrictions currently apply until Thursday 30 April.

Economic relief package:   He also announced an economic relief package worth $26bn (£21bn) intended to protect companies and three million workers during the coronavirus pandemic. I  n a televised address, he said the assistance amounted to 10% of South Africa’s entire GDP.    Mr. Ramaphosa said the measures included tax relief, wage support through the unemployment insurance fund and funding to small businesses. (4/22/2020)   (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-52387962  

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AUSTRALIA’S REPUBLICANS AT IT AGAIN

The Australian Republican movement bears no resemblance to Republicans in the United States.  They are not a conservative force at all.   Their sole aim is to end Australia’s constitutional monarchy, which has helped the country achieve unparalleled stability and prosperity.  They have now stooped to attacking Queen Elizabeth’s faith, claiming it discriminates against other religions.  The fact is the Queen’s Protestantism and that of her ancestors laid a foundation of religious tolerance for the country.   The Queen, who turned 94 on Tuesday, is highly respected by most Australians.

PRO-republicans are engaged in a heartless waiting game as they plot to overturn Australia’s constitutional monarchy.

Realizing a vast majority of Australians retain a deep admiration for their 93-year-old Queen, republicans are counting down her demise before launching an emotion-charged assault on Australia’s constitution.

By taking this tack they hope to muddy the debate around the nation’s most important foundational document.

Their aim is to shift the conversation from one of constitutional protections and reason into an emotion-charged hysteria about the “un-likability” of Queen Elizabeth’s heirs.

If you think the Queen is nice, their argument goes, then we should remain a constitutional monarchy. But if her successor doesn’t do it for you, then we must change.

They believe time is on their side.   (Sean Burke, Politicom, 3/13/2020)

Politicom is a conservative Australian newsletter.

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US DEFEAT IN AFGHANISTAN

On February 29, 2020 – after 18 months of talks sponsored by Qatar in Doha – the U.S. and the jihadi group Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization) signed an agreement in the Qatari capital on the future of Afghanistan.  The democratically elected government of Afghanistan, headed by Ashraf Ghani, was excluded from the talks and from the agreement, and, despite the fact that the Taliban rejected any ceasefire as a precondition for the talks, the U.S. capitulated and agreed to a one-week “Reduction In Violence” on the part of the Taliban.

The agreement was hailed as victory and as an American surrender by Al-Qaeda and by the Taliban leaders at celebratory events across Afghanistan.   The agreement was titled “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan Between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Which is Not Recognized by the United States as a State And is Known as the Taliban, And the United States of America,” but the Islamic Emirate issued a statement in which it dubbed the pact the “Termination of Occupation Agreement Between the Islamic Emirate and U.S.”

A month after the Doha agreement, the democratically elected government of President Ashraf Ghani is being badgered by both the U.S. and the Taliban to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners.   (MEMRI,  4/21/2020)

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DOES EUROPE HAVE ANY CONSERVATIVES?

Does Europe have any conservatives?   That is, believers in individual responsibility, national independence, free markets, a single law for all, the traditional family, and maximum freedom of speech and religion.

Seemingly not. Politicians called conservative – such as Angela Merkel of Germany Jacques Chirac of France, and Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden – are often in reality mild leftists, as are their parties.  One might conclude that conservatism is defunct in its homeland.

One would be wrong.   A substantial conservative movement exists and is growing in Europe.  It is hiding in plain sight, obscured by being tarred as populists, nationalists, extreme-right, or even Neo‑Nazis.   I call this group by another name:   civilizationists, acknowledging that (1) they focus on preserving Western civilization and (2) they forward some distinctly un-conservative policies (such as increased welfare and pension payments).

Civilizationists’ top concern is not battling climate change, building the European Union, nor staving off Russian and Chinese aggression; rather, they focus on preserving Europe’s historic civilization of the past two millennia.  They worry about Europe becoming an extension of the Middle East or Africa.   Already, indigenous Europeans complain of feeling like strangers in their hometowns, of pensioners too scared to leave their houses, and of a school’s few Christian and Jewish students beat up by immigrant bullies.   Imagine how things will look as the proportions change.

The civilizationists’ anxiety contains four main elements: demography, immigration, multiculturalism, and Islamization (or DIMI, recalling the Arabic word dhimmi, the status of Jews and Christians who submit to the rule of Muslims).   (“Finding Europe’s hidden conservatives,” Daniel Pipes, 4/21/2020)

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AFRICAN LEADERS ENJOY FIRST CLASS MEDICAL CARE WHILE THEIR PEOPLE GO WITHOUT

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected president of Nigeria in 2015 — amid a wave of disgust towards the corruption that plagues his giant nation — he promised to put a stop to politicians flying abroad for medical treatment.   It was a popular pledge, especially after revelations that the state spent $1bn a year on health tourism for rich elites while offering dire services for almost everyone else.   He underlined his stance soon after taking office, telling a doctors’ conference he did not want “hard-earned resources” frittered away on officials seeking care abroad when it could be delivered at home.

Such fine and righteous words.   So there was fury the following year when this leader in his seventies flew to London for treatment of an ear infection.   This was “a tragic blot” on Nigeria’s image, thundered Dr. Osahon Enabulele, a former head of its medical association.  The new president, he added, should have used his minor ailment to focus people on the urgent need for domestic health reform.

But Buhari was not listening.   He went off on several more trips and, by the end of his first term last year, had spent at least 170 days in Britain on health grounds.

Buhari is far from the only African leader to display such lack of faith in his own nation.  Robert Mugabe died last year aged 95 in a Singaporean hospital, having so wrecked Zimbabwe and its medical system that life expectancy plummeted by 26 years at one point. “It is very symbolic the former president who presided over the system for three decades can’t trust the health system,” said one doctor after his death.  Other physicians complained of carrying out surgery without even putting on protective gloves.

Meles Zenawi ruled Ethiopia for 21 years, suckering Western admirers who overlooked his savage repression as they fell for his talk of development — yet this wily despot died in a Belgian hospital. Omar Bongo ran Gabon for 42 years, then died in Barcelona having plundered his country’s wealth obscenely while leaving his tiny 2.2m population trapped in poverty.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled and ripped off Angola for almost as long, travelled to the same Catalan city for treatment. Algeria’s former president went to a Swiss hospital after running his nation for 20 years, then suffering a stroke.   Benin’s president went to France for surgery.   Two Zambian leaders died abroad while receiving medical attention.   (“Covid-19 will expose Africa’s tyrants”, Ian Birrell, Unherd, 4/20/2020)

Due to the pandemic,  Africa’s leaders can no longer travel abroad for medical treatment.

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IRAN’S DRONES CAN HIT ISRAEL

Iran’s Defense Ministry unveiled a mass of new drones [unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs] over the weekend for the Islamic Republic’s army and air force.   According to Tehran the drones have new capabilities, and can fly more than 1,000 km, which means they could reach Israel from Iran.

Iran has been producing drones since the 1980s and is an innovator in drone warfare.   It used 25 drones and cruise missiles to attack Saudi Arabia last September, and has flown drones into Israeli airspace.

Iran’s Defense Minister Brig.-Gen. Amir Hatami showed off the drones on Saturday.   He said that one jet-powered UAV could fly at speeds of 900 km per hour at an altitude of 12,000 meters.  This would rival the best drones that the US and other countries are now using.   These drones have a range of up to 1,500 km, he said, and can fly for several hours.   It is a message to Israel, the US and their allies: We can reach you.  (Iran’s drones can reach Israel, Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, 4/19/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • A UNIQUE RAMADAN BEGINS – The Islamic holy month of Ramadan will begin worldwide around April 23.   Because the month typically involves daily social gatherings and communal prayer in mosques, it will present yet more security and economic challenges to local and national governments in Muslim-majority countries already struggling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.   With some countries like Egypt shutting down traditional Ramadan charity tents for fear of the virus spreading within them, the month could see an exacerbation of existing socioeconomic strain, and with it some disruption to stability over time.   In Indonesia, the annual Mudik pilgrimage could see an estimated 1.3 million people leave the Jakarta area for rural destinations across the archipelago — a potential vector to spread COVID-19 outside its current epicenter in the nation, and one the government has hesitated to crack down on.  (Stratfor, 4/18/2020)
  • With half the world in lockdown, with little else to do but Netflix-and-try-to-chill, the streaming giant unsurprisingly unveiled a bumper set of first-quarter results.   Netflix said it had added nearly 16m new subscribers in the quarter, 23% more than during the same period last year.   Net income, meanwhile, more than doubled to $709m over the same period.   (The Economist, 4/22/2020)
  • 24NYT, a Danish news service, reported on Sunday that the Danish Bible Society just published a revised translation of the New Testament.   The new edition has many surprises, including a new name:   the New Agreement.   But even more shocking is that the “New Agreement has all but removed any references to Israel, whether it describes the land or the people”.
  • Washington:   A day after laying out a roadmap for reviving economic activity, US President Donald Trump has urged his supporters to “liberate” three Democrat-led states, effectively calling for protests against stay-at-home orders aimed at containing the coronavirus.   In a series of tweets, the President urged people in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia to rise up and “liberate” themselves from restrictions.  He also hit out at New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo for criticising the federal response.  Cuomo “should spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining,”‘ he said, adding: “Less talk and more action!”  (AP, 4/18/2020)
  • Corona and the Rise of the German Police State by Thomas Klikauer (author), Jeffrey St. Clair, Editor of Counterpunch (California).       The current crisis is used to prevent protests and to impose measures in a highly authoritarian way.  Currently, there is not much resistance against police measures.   Currently, signs are that Germany is moving [toward] more restrictions issued every day.  There might not be a fully developed police state in Germany but democracy is suffering in Germany and elsewhere.   https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/04/17/corona-and-the-rise-of-the-german-police-state/)

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AFTER THOUGHT

Scientists (including medical experts) are highly respected right now.

It hasn’t always been that way.  There was a time when science had to bow to religion.  All new theories had to fit with the teachings of the established church.

The theory of evolution in 1859 changed all that.

A lot of good has been achieved, but it should also be remembered that there’s been a negative side to science:  abortion, euthanasia, nuclear weapons to name just three.

We must be careful not to elevate scientists and health care professionals, which we are in danger of doing right now.   Scientists likely caused the corona virus through experiments in Wuhan.

We must also be concerned that a victory over corona does not extend to a carte blanche on all things to do with the environment.   A highly respected profession may take us in a direction that could cause all kinds of problems.

All Christians should remember to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt 6:33).   A British news program said earlier this week that:  “the NHS is the closest thing Britain has to a national religion.”   Comments like this one are disturbing.

Worshipping science or the health services would be unwise.  That way, we set ourselves up for a fall.

MR     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VIRUS COULD BREAK UP EU

Demonstration at Capital Building in Lansing, MI.  (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty)

For disobedience to the laws of God, ancient Israelites were told that He would “break the pride of their power” (Leviticus 26:19).   Hebrews 13:8 states that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.”  Disobedience to God’s Laws carries the same penalties it did centuries ago.

The pride of America’s power rests in two areas:  the economy (and, with it, the status of the “Almighty Dollar”) and the military, which is dependent on a vibrant economy.

The economy is going to take a big hit this summer.   (In the UK they are predicting the biggest slump in three centuries!)   Along with the virus itself, this must also have an effect on military preparedness.

Could we see a fulfillment of Lev. 26:19?

MR   

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Anti-Governor Demo in Michigan

It’s not very often Lansing, MI, where we live makes headline news:

Lansing, MI — It’s a wild scene in Lansing today.  Hundreds, if not thousands of demonstrators showed up to the Capitol, protesting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay home order intended to fight the coronavirus pandemic.   Police watched as horns honked and vehicles from around the state jammed the nearby roads.   Crowds even gathered in front of the Capitol, out of their cars, some ignoring social distancing orders.  (Detroit Free Press, 4/15/2020)

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VIRUS COULD BREAK UP EU

BERLIN – The coronavirus pandemic, with its simultaneous health and economic crises, is deepening fault lines within Europe in a way some leaders fear could prove to be a final reckoning.   The cohesion of the European Union had been battered by Brexit, bruised by the political fallout from the 2015 migration surge and the 2008 financial crisis, and challenged by rising autocracy in the east that runs contrary to the professed ideals of the European project.

Now, if Europe’s leaders cannot chart a more united course, the project lies in what one of its architects described this week as “mortal danger.”

In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, the response among European Union member states showed that national interests trump more-altruistic European ideals.   Border restrictions were reimposed haphazardly, and Germany and France threw up export bans on medical equipment such as masks and ventilators, even as Italy clamored for assistance.

Quick to capitalize were the propaganda machines of Russia and China. Moscow and Beijing have swept in with much-trumpeted — if sometimes defective — medical aid, pushing a savior narrative and providing fodder for the region’s Euroskeptics.   (Drudge Report, 4/3/2020)

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GERMANY BLOCKS CORONABONDS

At the euro finance minister’s video conference, the German government blocked the introduction of “coronabonds,” in spite of massive pressure from other EU nations and recently even from within Germany.   Whereas mainly Italy, Spain and France had insisted that this measure be taken, voices are now being raised from within the German establishment warning that the German government should stop blocking its implementation.   The reason, as leading Green Party politicians are explaining, is that should Italy and Spain suffer economic collapse, Germany’s export industry would be seriously damaged by the loss of these important markets, and – should German assistance be refused – both countries could turn to China.  This must be prevented. The “coronabonds” will cost Germany, however, specialists estimated years ago that the costs would be in the lower double-digit billions, while Germany is simultaneously reaping triple-digit billions in profits – annually.   (German Foreign Policy, 4/9/2020)

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GERMANY’S WAY OUT

The German government has announced plans to gradually lift Covid-19 containment measures, beginning with the partial opening of schools from May 4.   Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday said the country had achieved “fragile intermediate success” in managing the pandemic but said that social distancing would remain in place until at least May 3.  (BBC)   Shops smaller than 800 square metres will be permitted to reopen from next week but must comply with strict hygiene rules.  Der Spiegel reports on how an 11-page tentative exit plan was thrashed out between leaders of the federal government and regional prime ministers using a mix of social distancing and videoconferencing for over four hours.

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Berlin lets mask slip on feelings for Trump’s America                           The crisis has convinced Germans that Trump puts other countries at risk.

BERLIN — Late last week in Bangkok, a shipping container holding thousands of masks destined for the German capital was redirected at the last minute.   As far as Berlin’s city elders are concerned, there wasn’t any doubt about who was to blame:   the “Amis.”   And not just any Amis (German slang for Americans, not to be confused with French ami, or friend), but the commander-in-chief variety.   “The actions of the U.S. president do not just betray a lack of solidarity, they are inhumane and irresponsible,” Berlin Mayor Michael Müller, a Social Democrat, thundered on Twitter.   Andreas Geisel, Berlin’s interior minister, went even further, accusing the U.S. of “confiscating” the masks in Thailand.   If Germans didn’t trust President Donald Trump before the coronavirus outbreak, the crisis has convinced them that his unyielding “America First” instinct puts other countries and their citizens at risk.   That such accusations should emanate from Berlin, a city the U.S. saved from Soviet domination during the Berlin Airlift, underscores the depth of distrust for the American president.

(https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/06/germany-trump-america-170905)

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Larry Elliot in The Guardian on where the buck stops post-pandemic

“One of the problems a party faces when it is in power for a long time is that blaming the opposition for the mess it allegedly left behind no longer cuts it.   The Conservatives have been in power for a decade.   They will eventually be held to account over how prepared the UK was for this crisis . . .   For the right, this is the second major economic crisis in little more than a decade.  It’s the second time the state has needed to come to the rescue of an economic system where the gap between rich and poor has widened, corporations pay as little tax as they can get way with, too little attention is paid to the climate emergency, and a large proportion of the workforce is one paycheck from penury.   For the left, it should be an open goal.”   (The Week, 4/3/2020)

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GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY–Establishment voices in Berlin warn that the EU could disintegrate in the corona crisis and call for economic concessions to Italy and Spain.   Both countries would “never forget in a hundred years, if Europe and we, in particular, would forsake them now,” former foreign ministers Joseph Fischer and Sigmar Gabriel wrote in an appeal published yesterday.   This should not happen because it would endanger the EU.   But “our country” is the Union’s “biggest economic and financial winner.”   Studies show, in fact, that with €86 billion annually, Germany profits more from the EU’s single market than any other EU member.    Since its introduction up until 2017, the single currency has provided Germany nearly €1.9 trillion, whereas it has cost France €3.6 and Italy even €4.3 trillion.   Fischer and Gabriel are pushing for an urgent EU aid program to dampen the rapidly growing EU criticism in Rome and Madrid.   According to a recent opinion poll, 67 percent of Italy’s population thinks that the EU harms their interests.  (German Foreign Policy, 4/6/2020)

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Brazilian minister says Covid-19 part of China ‘plan for world domination’

China is furious after a minister in Brazil suggested Covid-19 is part of a plan in Beijing for “world domination.”

Abraham Weintraub, the far-right government’s education minister, wrote on Twitter:   “Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis?    Who in Brazil is allied with this infallible plan for world domination?  (The Week, 4/6/2020)

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COVID WORSENS IN SINGAPORE

As the world shut its doors, Singapore remained open for business. Its measured yet effective approach to containing covid-19, which won praise from the World Health Organization, permitted shops, restaurants and schools to stay open.  No longer.   Confronted with a sudden surge in new cases, almost all of them contracted locally, the government has decided to adopt much more stringent measures to slow the spread of the virus.   On April 7th all but essential businesses closed, with Singaporeans allowed out of their homes only to buy food and medicine, to exercise and get their hair cut.  The “circuit-breaker,” as the government calls it, will remain in place for at least a month.   Those who violate a new law banning public and private gatherings risk a $7,000 fine, a six-month stint in prison or both.   Even Singapore is no longer able to preserve a semblance of normality.  (The Economist, 4/9/2020)

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FOX SLAMMED

Fox News viewers are at particular risk from coronavirus due to their age, yet they have been regularly subjected to misleading recommendations and misinformation downplaying its prevalence, write dozens of journalists led by Prof Todd Gitlin from Columbia Journalism School.

Fox News does not clearly distinguish between the authority that should accrue to trained experts on the one hand, and the authority viewers grant to pundits and politicians for reasons of ideological loyalty.  (The Guardian, 4/10/2020

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TO THE POINT

  • Economic turn-around — Six weeks ago, Trump was boasting, and justifiably so, of having the greatest economy of any president in recent memory.   Now, the possibility exists that he could go into the fall election with the worst economy since Hoover and the Great Depression of 1932.   (Pat Buchanan, 4/10/2020)
  • The Israeli government closed off ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem to stem the spread of covid-19.   Israel has so far reported 11,235 confirmed cases of the disease and 110 deaths.  The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community has become the centre of the country’s outbreak.  Meanwhile, talks to establish a new governing coalition were ended, making another election in the summer likely.
  • “If there was ever a time to close the gap between groups of people across New Zealand in different positions, it is now.” Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, announces she will take a 20% pay cut for six months.  (The Week, 4/15/2020)
  • Donald Trump has announced that the US has “passed the peak” of new Covid-19 cases, suggesting the nation is successfully flattening the curve of the outbreak.   But there is another plateau that might be playing on his mind: a new comparison of approval ratings for world leaders shows several lines, including Boris Johnson’s, rising – while Trump’s remains relatively flat.   (The Week, 4/16/2020)
  • Plane fares “to double” after coronavirus crisis – Airlines may be forced to increase passenger fares dramatically once foreign travel is allowed again, experts have warned.   With many countries banning international flights to try to stem the spread of coronavirus, airlines have been hit particularly hard by the crisis.   Many of them have cut staff, reduced fares and cancelled many flights altogether.   As a result, analysts fear that in an effort to recoup some of their losses – and to cancel out lower plane capacity caused by social distancing rules – prices could skyrocket once travel restrictions are lifted.    (The Week, 4/14/2020)

THE DEATH OF FREEDOM

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

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

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

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

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

But will we ever get these freedoms back?

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

MR       

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A SURPRISING LETTER FROM HOLLYWOOD

Dear Mr. President, @realDonaldTrump

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

— Kirstie Alley (@kirstiealley) March 24, 2020

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TO THE POINT

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

 

Corona Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will we ever return to normalcy?

MR 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FINANCIAL PROBLEMS STARTED A LONG TIME AGO

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

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Cyril Ramaphosa lists countries on South Africa’s travel ban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AN ALTERNATIVE THOUGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

A GROWING SENSE OF CRISIS

(MGN Image)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MR       

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

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WHY GAS IS CHEAP

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

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

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

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

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

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FRANCE SET TO BECOME MUSLIM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other notable developments:

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

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

SUPER TUESDAY

States voting on Super TuesdayStates voting on Super Tuesday
ABC NEWS

California Triumph Keeps Sanders In The Running

Is Joe Biden the new Democratic frontrunner? It certainly seems that way, after the former vice president took a delegate lead over Bernie Sanders with a triumphant sweep of the southern Super Tuesday states, capped by a win in Texas.   Yet Sanders kept some of his momentum with victory in California, setting up what will likely be a long, drawn-out battle between the two wings of the party and their septuagenarian standard-bearers.

Elizabeth Warren – the Massachusetts Senator lost even her home state on Tuesday night, but remains in the race as of Wednesday morning – perhaps with a contested convention in mind.

Michael Bloomberg – the billionaire former New York mayor had planned to make a splash as he at last entered the race on Tuesday, on the back of a $500m ad spend. Instead he claimed just one small victory, in American Samoa.  (The Guardian, 3/4/2020)

Michael Bloomberg withdrew from the race later in the day.


TIME TO MOVE ON FROM OBAMA

He won them two presidential elections, but Democrats are increasingly ready to put President Barack Obama in their rear view, according to exit polls from the Super Tuesday slate of primaries, which showed a startling number of party faithful saying it’s time to move on.

Mr. Obama remains popular in the Deep South, where black voters play an outsized role in Democratic politics, but from Maine to Minnesota, voters said they are no longer thrilled with the man who brought them the first universal health care plan and flexed his executive pen to grant a deportation amnesty to “Dreamers,” to ink a deal with Iran and to commit the U.S. to curbing greenhouse gases.

Instead, the party’s heart now belongs to Sen. Bernard Sanders, the democratic socialist who won’t even call himself a Democrat but who has completely rewritten the party’s agenda.  (Washington Times, 3/4/2020)

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CORONAVIRUS – LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE

Fragile supply chains:    Decades of fine-tuning global manufacturing have given billions of people access to quality consumer goods at affordable prices.  That’s the upside of globalization.  But the same trend has concentrated production of important items in certain countries, creating new vulnerabilities.   For example, regions of China and broader Asia that produce most of the world’s smartphones have been forced to idle or cut manufacturing because of the outbreak.   The decline in Chinese factory activity has been so pronounced, it’s actually visible from space.   And US officials recently warned of drug shortages due to the shuttering of factories in China that make essential ingredients for some important medicines.

Fragile safety nets:    Well before the new virus emerged in China, an annual report by the World Health Organization warned that the chances of a global outbreak were rising and that the world was “not prepared for a fast-moving, virulent respiratory pathogen pandemic.”   It cited the usual problems – a lack of funding for public health monitoring and prevention, bureaucratic hurdles, and weak medical infrastructure, especially in poor and middle-income countries.   But it also warned of “a breakdown in public trust…exacerbated by misinformation that can hinder disease control communicated quickly and widely via social media.”   In the US, the safety net is further weakened by a lack of mandatory paid sick leave, which some people fear will compel sick people to show up at work, where they can infect colleagues and customers.   (Gzero World, 3/4/2020)

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RYANAIR BOSS CONDEMNS ‘HYSTERIA’ OVER CORONAVIRUS

The boss of Ryanair has condemned what he called “lunacy on social media” and “hysteria” in coverage of the coronavirus.

Speaking to Sky News, Michael O’Leary appealed for a calm and measured approach to the coronavirus outbreak and said “Let’s not have irrational panic measures.”  (The Week, 3/4/2020)

FlyBe became the first airline casualty of the virus, filing for bankruptcy on Wednesday.  FlyBe is a UK domestic airline.

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HOW THE EU RULES THE WORLD                                                                  The Brussels Effect:    How the European Union Rules the World

For many observers, the European Union is mired in a deep crisis. Between sluggish growth; political turmoil following a decade of austerity politics, Brexit, and the rise of Asian influence, the EU is seen as a declining power on the world stage.  Columbia Law professor Anu Bradford argues the opposite in her important new book The Brussels Effect:   the EU remains an influential superpower that shapes the world in its image.  By promulgating regulations that shape the international business environment, elevating standards worldwide, and leading to a notable Europeanization of many important aspects of global commerce, the EU has managed to shape policy in areas such as data privacy, consumer health and safety, environmental protection, antitrust, and online hate speech. And in contrast to how superpowers wield their global influence, the Brussels Effect – a phrase first coined by Bradford in 2012 – absolves the EU from playing a direct role in imposing standards, as market forces alone are often sufficient as multinational companies voluntarily extend the EU rule to govern their global operations.  The Brussels Effect shows how the EU has acquired such power, why multinational companies use EU standards as global standards, and why the EU’s role as the world’s regulator is likely to outlive its gradual economic decline, extending the EU’s influence long into the future.

(https://www.amazon.com/Brussels-Effect-European-Union-Rules-ebook/dp/B0822VCYFY)

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GERMAN ARMS SALES BOOM

Düsseldorf’s Rheinmetall arms manufacturer is enjoying a sumptuous upswing in sales for its arms sector and a record-breaking number of contracts.   Whereas the company’s automotive sector is marking a downswing in sales, in comparison to last year, due to 2019’s signs of weakness in the overall auto industry, the current boom in armaments is more than compensating.   The shareholders are “delighted,” boasts stock exchange reports.   At Rheinmetall, there is talk of a “‘super cycle’ in the company’s military sector.”   Western governments – the company’s current and potential customers – are engaged in a massive arms buildup. Whereas this year’s military budget for the Bundeswehr will be increased to €45.1 billion – nearly 40 percent more than it was in 2014 – the military budgets of the European countries together will be more than €300 billion.   The US military budget is more than US $700 billion.   Rheinmetall is benefiting also from the Arab countries’ arms buildups against Iran, but above all, from the buildup of the western world against Russia and China.    (German Foreign Policy, 3/3/2020)

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DRONES REVOLUTIONIZING WARFARE                                          Turkish Drones Revolutionize Warfare in Syria, Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)

Footage of numerous Turkish drone strikes in Idlib reveal their groundbreaking and effective use against Syrian regime defenses and armored vehicle formations.   Turkey can’t fly its air force in Idlib due to an apparent ban by Russia and the Syrian regime.   But Turkish drones can fly.
  Video feeds show drones striking columns of infantry and armored vehicles near Idlib.
   Turkey’s widespread use of drones in Idlib may be one of the largest concentrations of drones ever used in this manner.   (Jerusalem Post, 3/3/2020)

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SDA’S AND ROME WORKING TOGETHER                                      Seventh-day Adventists, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals Sign a Historic ‘Ecumenical Charter’ that Affirms Faith in ‘One, Holy, Catholic Apostolic Church’

The document that was signed is a pledge of commitment to each other. Adventists pledged a commitment to Rome, and Rome reciprocated that commitment.   Make no mistake.   The churches that signed this document promised to uphold the principles of the Ecumenical Charter which includes affirming an allegiance to each other.

The Ecumenical Charter declares that the church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” and therefore the “inescapable ecumenical task consists in making visible this unity.”

The Ecumenical Charter declares that the churches are “called together in the unity of faith.”

The Ecumenical Charter calls for the “visible unity of the Church of Jesus Christ in the one faith and in witness and in common service.”

The Ecumenical Charter says that “the most important task of the Churches is to proclaim the Gospel together through word and action, for the salvation of all human beings.”  (AdventMessenger, 3/4/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • America’s ​Federal Reserve lowered its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point, the largest single cut since the financial crisis.   The move came after a pledge by finance ministers and central bankers from the G7, a group of the world’s biggest rich countries, to “use all appropriate policy tools” to combat the economic downturn caused by the spread of covid-19.   President Donald Trump recently repeated his complaint that Fed rates were too high.   (The Economist, 3/4/2020)
  • The World Bank pledged up to $12bn to help developing countries respond to the growing threat of covid-19.   The announcement came just after the World Health Organisation said the disease’s global mortality rate is 3.4%.   The World Bank’s aid will include a mix of grants, loans and other technical assistance, with priority given to the world’s poorest countries. (The Economist, 3/4/2020)
  • SUPPORT FOR ANTI-EU PARTIES ‘DOUBLES IN 20 YEARS’ – The vote share for anti-EU parties has more than doubled in two decades, according to research conducted by academic experts in populism.   The study found that since 1992, the first year in which there were free and fair elections in every country currently a member of the bloc, combined support for European far-right, far-left and other Eurosceptic parties has surged from 15% to almost 35%.   (The Week, 3/4/2020)
  • Lebanese Preacher:   The Muslims Will Kill The Jews, Who Will Hide Behind Rocks And Trees, The Jews Are The Most Cowardly Of Allah’s Creations; Jerusalem Friday Sermon: It Is The Religious Obligation Of Muslims To Bear Animosity Against The Jews  (MEMRI, 3/4/2020)
  • Indian migrants are driving a surge in citizenship as a record 211,723 people won the right to call Australia home in 2019.  (The Australian, 2/20/2020)
  • Last week, I reviewed the book “The Race to save the Romanovs.” In my review I mentioned that support for the restoration of the monarchy in Russia is at 28%.  That’s roughly the same percentage of votes any American president gets.   54.9% voted in 2016, which gave each candidate roughly 27%.  Bill Clinton was voted into office with a mere 22% of the vote.
  • With 36 seats, Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party will be the largest in Israel’s next Knesset.   Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White alliance won 32.   But with Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition still two seats shy of a majority, and his trial on charges of bribery and fraud due to begin on March 17th, his troubles are not over yet.   (The Economist, 3/4/2020)