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THE AGE OF IGNORANCE

The Royal Choral Society has performed Handel’s Messiah on Good Friday at the Royal Albert Hall every year since 1876.

The British-German composer George Friderich Handel wrote “The Messiah” almost three hundred years ago.   It’s amazing how much scripture is found in the famous oratorio.  It illustrates an impressive familiarity with the scriptures

The most well-known chorus in the 2½ hour masterpiece is the Hallelujah Chorus.

The Messiah was first performed at the Musick Hall in Dublin (then under British rule) on April 13th, 1742, to commemorate Easter.  Eleven months later, it had its London premiere, attended by King George II.   According to tradition, at the playing of the Hallelujah Chorus, the King rose from his feet, a tradition that continues, somewhat, to this day.   (Secularists do not stand.  Of course, there were no secularists in 1743!)

The entire 260-page oratorio was written by Handel in just 24 days.

“Handel composed Messiah without getting much sleep or even eating much food.   When his assistants brought him his meals, they were often left uneaten.   His servants would often find him in tears as he composed.   When he completed “Hallelujah,” he reportedly told his servant, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself seated on His throne, with His company of Angels.” (The Tabernacle Choir)

Not only did Handel know his scriptures.  So did the King.   And this goes part of the way in explaining why the King stood for the chorus.

“The answer as to why the King stood there and then is rooted, I believe, in the political implications of the very specific lyrics of the chorus, particularly the words from Revelation 19, highlighted in bold, and their immediate context:

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!                                                                                Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!

“King George was a Christian king, head of the English Church, and would have been knowledgeable of the Scriptures.   He knew, from the moment the choir began singing that passage, that it was referring to his Lord, to a King greater than himself.   The King of kings is the King of England’s superior.   The King of England is a subject of the Greater King, the Creator and Sovereign of Heaven and Earth.   As a Christian King who believed in the Divine Right of Kings, he would have acknowledged even at his own coronation that he rules England only by the grace of the Great King and no other.

“So when Handel’s music for this passage began, I believe King George made a political statement about divine and royal authority and honor in the political economy of England itself: the Christian King (or Queen) of England is a ruler under authority and must pay honor and show respect to his (her) Supreme Lord, the King of Kings, just as the people must pay honor and show respect to their English Lord.”    (“Why the King stood for the Hallelujah Chorus,” by Dr. Roy Atwood)

Theirs was an age of faith.

Today, we live in what can best be described as the age of ignorance.

Whatever the issues of the day, Black Lives Matter, slavery, and abortion, to name but three, a great deal of ignorance abounds.  Gone is the grounding people once had in the Christian scriptures.   Now, people spout their opinions, whatever they may be, exposing their ignorance on all topics.

The secularists may still appreciate the Hallelujah Chorus, for the inspiring music, but gone is the faith of their ancestors.  It has been replaced solely by ignorance.

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 LETTER FROM VICTORIA — from a friend

A state of disaster giving police stronger powers to enforce government-imposed lockdowns has been declared in Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state after New South Wales. Stage Four restrictions have been imposed on the capital, Melbourne, the southern city for many years rated as the world’s most liveable city.   Close to five million people have been told to stay home except to shop for food (within a five-kilometre [three-mile] radius), go to essential work such as health care personnel, or for medical reasons.   An 8pm to 5am curfew has been imposed, schools and childcare closed, funeral numbers restricted and weddings banned until at least September 13.

Victoria, like the rest of Australia, was doing well with very few infections or deaths from COVID-19 until recent weeks when an escape of the virus from lax quarantine measures of returning travelers started a new wave. In recent days, the total death toll for Victoria (population 6.5 million) has risen from a total 61 on July 26 to 123 on August 2.   Most have been elderly but there have also been deaths of people in their 50s and 60s and some very young children including babies have caught the disease, though thankfully recovered.

Country Victoria had Stage Three restrictions reimposed, meaning pubs and restaurants can only serve takeaway food, sport has been cancelled, and visitors to homes banned.   All Victorians are now required to wear a face mask when in public.

Most Victorians have accepted the restrictions as a vital step in keeping a lid on the spread of the virus, which has the potential to kill thousands more if it gets further out of control.   Masks in towns and supermarkets are now a common sight with general acceptance. Saving lives is understood by most to be a common goal worth the minor inconvenience of mask wearing, but the damage to the state economy from the massive shutdown will have dire ramifications for years to come.  (GBH, Victoria, Australia, 8/3/2020)

(Victoria’s border remains closed.  Queensland announced earlier this week that it is closing its border with New South Wales.)

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US economy in historic contraction as joblessness rises

The US economy shrank by an annual rate of 32.9% between April and June, government data has revealed.   It was its sharpest contraction since the Second World War.   In more bad news for the US economy, another 1.43 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, a second week of rises after a four-month decline.   (The Week, 7/31/2020)

America’s GDP shrank at an annualised rate of 32.9% in the three months to the end of June.   It is the worst GDP growth figure since the second world war.   New unemployment benefit claims also rose to 1.43m last week.   Yesterday Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said a surge in new covid-19 cases is beginning to weigh on economic activity again.  (The Economist, 7/31/2020)

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GERMANY “STEALING” MEDICAL PERSONNEL

Germany is among those countries, which are benefiting most from the influx of highly qualified workers from poorer European regions, according to a recent study of the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (WIIW).   The number of professionals coming from Eastern and Southeastern Europe is rapidly increasing, particularly in the health sector.   This brain drain is creating huge problems in their countries of origins – also in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.   For example, in Poland, the ratio of medical doctors and nurses per 100,000 inhabitants is about half as high as that in Germany, in Albania it is even lower.   The German government, denying that this is having a negative impact on the countries of origin, speaks of an alleged win-win situation.   However, resistance is growing at the European level against the drain of professionals. The countries of origin usually had to invest large sums for their training – investments from which the wealthy western and northern EU countries, particularly Germany, are profiting.   (German Foreign Policy, 7/31/2020)

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PRESSURE ON US OVER GIBRALTAR

A US congressional resolution backing British control of Gibraltar unleashed a “belligerent” Spanish campaign of diplomacy, insiders are claiming.

Seven current or former members of the US House of Representatives told The Telegraph that “the Spanish Embassy in Washington D.C. pushed back after they signed a resolution backing Gibraltar’s British status or visited the territory.”

According to the newspaper, Spain’s “secret lobbying drive” was intended to whip up support for “a plan to strip Britain of sole sovereignty over Gibraltar.”

The colony “has been a continuing source of friction between Madrid and London”, particularly since Britain voted to leave the EU, says Madrid-based newspaper El Pais.

From 1 January, both the UK and Gibraltar will be outside the bloc, along with its single market and customs union.  “While London is facing the prospect with relative calm, alarm bells are going off in the British Overseas Territory,” the paper adds.

Some Spanish politicians had sought to use the prospect of a Brexit deal as leverage to extract concessions from the UK government.

“The centre-right People’s Party had called for Spain’s government to ‘take advantage of the historic opportunity of Brexit’ to snatch back the overseas territory from Britain,” the Daily Express reported last month.

“But Pedro Sanchez, the country’s left-wing prime minister, has convinced his allies to drop the claim due to the importance of striking a trade deal with the UK.”

According to The Telegraph, Spain’s efforts to lobby US politicians were unusually energetic.

“Some congressmen said while diplomats should be allowed to argue their case the attitude of Spanish officials was perceived at times as ‘belligerent’, ‘forceful,’ ‘aggressive’ and ‘over the line’,” the paper reports.

“One commented:   ‘The Spaniards went nuts.’”  (The Week, 8/3/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • Spain lobbies the US for Gibraltar sovereignty – Spain has pursued a secret lobbying campaign to push US congressmen into supporting a plan to strip Britain of sole sovereignty over Gibraltar, The Daily Telegraph seven current and former members of the House of Representatives say the Spanish Embassy in the US protested after Washington signed a resolution backing Gibraltar’s British status.  One congressman said:  “The Spaniards went nuts.” (The Week, 8/3/2020)
  • Could Britain afford a second lockdown? — Boris Johnson has likened it to a “nuclear deterrent” while businesses have warned that the resulting cost could be unendurable – but few in government are willing to rule out another national lockdown. Although Britain’s Covid-19 infection rate is currently low, new cases have been on the rise in recent weeks. The average number of positive tests per day, which dipped to 546 in the week ending 5 July, now stands at 726 – triggering alarm at Downing Street.  (The Week, 7/30/2020)
  • Lifestyle changes could delay or prevent dementiaChanges in lifestyle could delay or even prevent dementia, according to a new report.   Experts say that excessive drinking, exposure to air pollution and head injuries all increase a person’s risk of dementia, adding that up to 40% of dementia cases could be delayed or prevented by addressing 12 lifestyle practices. “Dementia is potentially preventable,” said Gill Livingston, professor of psychiatry of older people at University College London. (The Week, 7/31/2020)
  • Israel’s army said it struck military targets in Syria, including anti-aircraft batteries and command-and-control facilities.  The attack, using fighter planes and helicopters, was described as retaliation for an attempt to plant explosives in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.  Tensions have been running especially high since Israel killed a member of Hizbullah, a Lebanese militia backed by Iran, in Syria last month. (8/4/2020)

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When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.   (C.S. Lewis)

 

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)

 

SUICIDES UP IN US, DOWN GLOBALLY

“The suicide rate in America is up by 18% since 2000.  This is not merely a tragedy; it matters politically, too.   The rise is largely among white, middle-aged, poorly educated men in areas that were left behind by booms and crushed by busts.   Their deaths are a symptom of troubles to which some see President Trump as the answer. Those troubles should not be ignored.”   (“Staying alive,” The Economist,11/24)

Suicide is declining pretty much all over the world, thanks to greater freedom and some helpful policies.” (“Defeating despair,” The Economist, 11/24).

“Globally, the rate has fallen by 38% from its peak in 1994.”

LIFE EXPECTANCY DOWN IN US

“Suicide and drug overdose rates continued to rise in 2017, helping drive the number of U.S. deaths to the highest level in more than 100 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a series of reports on mortality released Thursday.

“Tragically, this troubling trend is largely driven by deaths from drug overdose and suicide,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.  “These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable.”

“Life expectancy in 2017 fell to an average of 78.6 years for the total population, down from 78.7 years in 2016.

“Overall, more than 2.8 million Americans died in 2017, about 70,000 more than in 2016.”

(“Suicides, overdoses rise in US,” John Bacon, USA Today, 11/30)

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CONTINUING BREXIT CRISIS

“The only rule of British politics for the coming weeks is that nobody knows anything.   The prime minister doesn’t know who will resign next.   The factions don’t know their relative strengths.   Nobody knows what is bluff and what is in deadly earnest.

“But one thing that is increasingly clear in the fog of Brexit is that this is the most serious domestic crisis Britain has faced in the modern democratic era.   In the statement that accompanied his resignation as transport minister earlier this month, Jo Johnson accused his own government of “a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis.”   Others have compared the current debacle to the IMF’s bail-out of Britain in 1976 or the gold-standard crisis of 1931.   In fact it is worse than anything else Britain has endured in peacetime. The political system is all but paralysed, the country is divided into warring ideological tribes, the civil service in overwhelmed and, in the event of no deal, Britain would be staring into the abyss.” (“Crisis? What crisis?”  Bagehot, The Economist, 11/24).

The Economist has a new layout, that prompted an anti-Brexit  reader to suggest they move the British news section to the end of the magazine, after the Obituary column!   

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IS THE GLOBAL ECONOMY TAKING A DOWNTURN?

The stock market has been rather jumpy lately.   At the same time, gas has been going down (except in France, where an increase in fuel taxes has resulted in three consecutive weekends of riots); of course, a fall in gas prices may not be such a good thing, as it’s often the harbinger of a slowing economy.

Here’s some other indicators the economy may be headed south:

  • The Federal Reserve has been ratcheting up interest rates.
  • Corporations have loaded up on debt.
  • Unemployment is so low that employers are finally raising wages.
  • The housing market shows signs of softening.

. . . But there are plenty of upbeat signs today, too.

Auto sales are still running strong, if not quite at the peak levels of a couple of years ago.   Then, too, the labor markets still have some slack . . .”    (“Warning signs of recession abound,” John Gallagher, Lansing State Journal, 11/26).

“NEW YORK 30% OFF”

“Some homeowners are selling at bargain-basement prices from what they paid, as the city faces an end to a decade-long boom. Oversupply, rising interest rates and tax-code changes are only partly to blame.” (WSJ, Mansion, 11/30).

“Real estate, oil and employment figures are sending similar messages, and that is that economic activity is starting to slow significantly, just like in 2007 before the Great Recession wiped out trillions of dollars from the markets.

And, according to a blog on The Economic Collapse, those in charge don’t want to admit the reality of what is happening, just like in 2008.” (“Money and markets,” JT Crowe, 11/30)

GM ANNOUNCES 15,000 JOB CUTS   (Monday)

‘In the wake of massive layoffs announced by U.S. carmaker General Motors, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lashed out at President Donald Trump’s recent steel and aluminum tariffs.

At Friday’s ceremony to sign a new version of NAFTA, the free trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, Trudeau urged Trump to reassess levies imposed on Canadian imports in June.

“Donald, it’s all the more reason why we need to keep working to remove the tariffs on steel and aluminum between our countries,” Trudeau said Friday, The Hill reported.   According to a tweet from Toronto Star journalist Daniel Dale, the prime minister was referring to the GM cuts, which Trudeau called a “heavy blow.”

(Justin Trudeau blasts Donald Trump’s trade tariffs to his face after General Motors announced huge lay-offs,” Katherine Hignett, Newsweek, 11/30)

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AN ARMY OF THE EUROPEANS

Military Union in the Making

“At this year’s Berlin Security Conference, which ended yesterday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen promoted new steps toward creating an “army of the Europeans.”  According to von der Leyen, “the question is no longer if, but how to reach strategic autonomy” of the EU with its own armed forces. “The European defense union is in the making. “[1] Delicate questions will be raised in the near future, such as that of establishing “independent command capabilities,” alongside those of NATO, for future EU missions and streamlining decision-making structures. German parliamentary reservations should not be abolished, but rather reframed.   Brussels could establish a “committee of legislators from national parliaments specializing in defense,” which could rapidly prepare decisions – in questions of war and peace.   In addition, compulsory EU consensus in foreign policy should be abandoned. “European foreign policy decisions on the basis of large majority support must be made possible.”   This would mean that individual member countries could be compelled to support a foreign policy against  their interests.

Strategic Autonomy

The German foreign policy establishment is already discussing the outline for the further development of the “army of the Europeans.” To actually achieve “strategic autonomy, Europe, more than ever must provide for its own security – perhaps even completely,” according to Jan Techau, Director of the European Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States  .[2] This would mean that, not only conventional, but “nuclear deterrence,” as well, must be “independently organized in Europe.”   [3] This, in turn, must be accompanied “by a significantly enhanced independent intelligence competence and activity.”   Furthermore, with the “shift of acts of aggression to the sector of information technology (IT), and the hybrid warfare in the sectors of media and public opinion influence,” the guarantee of European security will be extended to fields, where Europe … is not among the world leaders,” concluded Techau.   In the future, “the Europeans, and above all, Germany, must accomplish in these fields things that, by far, surpass what the United States has been able to achieve until now.”   The “scope of the task” also demands that in the future “strategy be taught at German universities . . . and strategic education be required as a career-obligation for all civil servants from the B-6 salary level upwards.” And ultimately, “a federal security council” should “be the hub connecting the various strands of ministerial activities on all central questions” so that “the chancellor may have access to thorough strategic advice.” “German foreign policy, 11/29

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‘THE DAY OF THE DICTATOR IS OVER!”

Those were the words of President George H.W. Bush, who has now died, aged 94.   They were spoken at a time of great optimism, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the US intervention against President Noriega of Panama.   Almost thirty years later, democracy isn’t doing so good.  A report last week showed that, in Africa, nations are becoming more dictatorial as leaders refuse to hold elections, amending their constitutions to enable them to stay in power indefinitely.

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TWO CHUMMY MURDERERS

Without any sense of shame or embarrassment, President Vladimir Putin and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, greeted each other warmly at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.   Both men think nothing of ordering the murders of people who disagree with them.   Unfortunately, western nations still have to do business with them!

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HERALDING THE SOCIALIST PARADISE

“Senator Bernie Sanders knows what he wants.  In a Washington Post op-ed last week, the democratic socialist from Vermont laid out a legislative agenda for the 116th Congress’s first 100 days.  Among the dizzying array of proposals Mr. Sanders pushed were his “Medicare for All” bill, tuition-free college, student-debt relief, tax increases requiring “wealthy people and large corporations to begin paying their fair share” and a $15 minimum wage indexed to “median wage growth,” not inflation.

“Others in the Democratic Party’s increasingly influential democratic-socialist wing are pressing for their own major legislation to pass the House, even if it will get nowhere in the Republican Senate.   Rep.-elect Alexandria Occasion-Cortez, for example, wants a “Green New Deal.”   Sounding too much like a Maoist functionary, she describes it as a “national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” to make America carbon neutral.”   (“Stopping the Socialist Resurgence,” Karl Rove, WSJ, November 29th)

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“Then Moses went up into the mountain and a cloud covered
 the mountain. — and the cloud covered it six days.
And on the seventh day He (the LORD) called to Moses out of
the midst of the cloud.”  (Ex 24: 15-16)

BABY HAYDEN UPDATE and WORLD NEWS

Saggital craniosynostenosis, first column normal.
Saggital craniosynostenosis, column a normal.

It’s been a tough week.

Our 8-month-old grandson Hayden had major cranial surgery on Wednesday of last week. The technical name for the condition was saggital craniosynostenosis (see diagram above – Hayden wasn’t quite as pronounced as that).   He was in the operating theater for seven hours and remained in the hospital for seven days.   The surgery was to reshape his head.   Without it, seizures could likely start as his brain could not grow sideways, only forwards and backwards, resulting in a football shaped head.   We were informed that one in every 2,000 babies needs the surgery.   I’d never heard of it until a few weeks after he was born.   The surgery was performed at the University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital, the best in our state.   It’s about 75 miles from our home.

As is often the case with surgery, things did not go entirely as planned.   He lost so much blood he needed a blood transfusion.   In the days following surgery, he could not keep food down.   Additionally, although the surgeon said that he would not feel much pain as there are no nerve sensors in the skull bones, the pediatrician said on the third day that he was clearly in pain.   His face remains swollen and he spends most of the day and night crying.   My wife gave our daughter a break last night and held him in her recliner while he slept.   He cannot lie down in a cot yet.

It’s good to have him home, but it’s going to take a while for him to fully recover.  The swelling must go down.   So must the pain.

We’re very thankful that the surgery is available.   A generation or two ago he may not have survived very long.  It’s marvelous what medical science can do nowadays.

I would like to also thank you all for your prayers and concern during this difficult time.

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Hopefully, medical science will soon find a way to stop “old” people falling.  I fell on the ice this morning while taking Hayden’s two older brothers to school.   As they are both aged four, they naturally wanted to look at the “owie” on my knee.   I refuse to give them the morbid satisfaction of seeing me fall again!

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CNN’S DETERIORATION

After dropping them at school I came home to write this column.   Yesterday, after taking them to school (which I do most days), I went to McDonald’s to wait for Leeson, who is only in school for three hours.  I ordered a hot tea (I’ve got them trained!) and sat down with my laptop to read and write.  CNN was showing on the television, thankfully muted.   Whenever I looked up at the screen, they were “bashing Trump.”

Today, at home, I thought I would try CNN International, which is broadcast from London.  It’s always been a better channel than CNN.  They have an “International Report” at 10am,   that was also devoted to “Trump bashing,” though they did include a brief “Breaking News” item about a serious bomb blast in Baghdad, which killed at least 48 people.

CNN’s audience has been shrinking, with viewers lost to Fox and Fox Business Network.

Critical analysis is needed of this (and every) president, but non-stop, one-sided, often personal attacks on President Trump take away from the network’s credibility, which has been seriously eroded in recent months.   No wonder people are switching to Fox.   No wonder, also, that millions of households have “cut the cord” and no longer have cable, saving an average of $100 a month.

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CHANGING DYNAMICS   (NEWS YOU WILL HAVE MISSED IF YOU WATCH CNN)

From Der Spiegel:

Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government.   That’s difficult enough already for two reasons:   Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure.   The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners — and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU — doesn’t make the situation any easier.

So far, Germany has viewed its leadership role — at least the leadership understanding of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble — as one that is by all means in opposition to the interests of other European countries.   Whether Schäuble’s austerity policies or Merkel’s migration policies, it all happened without much co-coordination and with considerable force.   It is thus somewhat ironical that it is Germany, the country that is politically and economically dominant in Europe, that will now have to fill in many of the gaps created by America’s withdrawal from the old world order, the one referred to by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer as “Pax Americana.”   At the same time, Germany must build an alliance against Donald Trump, because it otherwise won’t take shape.   It is, however, absolutely necessary.

It is literally painful to write this sentence, but the president of the United States is a pathological liar.  The president of the U.S. is a racist (it also hurts to write this).  He is attempting a coup from the top; he wants to establish an illiberal democracy, or worse; he wants to undermine the balance of power.   He fired an acting attorney general who held a differing opinion from his own and accused her of “betrayal.”   This is the vocabulary used by Nero, the emperor and destroyer of Rome.   It is the way tyrants think.

(Klaus Brinkbaumer)

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New German President anti-Trump

German parliamentary assembly has elected Frank-Walter Steinmeier to become the country’s next president by an overwhelming majority.   Mr. Steinmeier, Germany’s former foreign minister, strongly criticised Donald Trump during the US election campaign.
 
(The President of Germany is a figurehead with similar powers to the British monarch.  He is elected by parliament.  His role is largely ceremonial but he has a great deal of influence.)
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German army to be anchor for small Nato partners

By EUOBSERVER

German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen meets Friday in Washington for the first time with her new American counterpart James Mattis ahead of Nato defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels next week.   The longer-term strategy would turn the Bundeswehr into the leading Nato army in Europe, with small countries integrating their military forces into the German command structures, reports German daily FAZ

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CHANGES AHEAD IN EUROPE

  • A growing number of Europeans are rebelling against decades of government-imposed multiculturalism, politically correct speech codes and mass migration from the Muslim world.
  • Europe’s establishment parties, far from addressing the concerns of ordinary voters, have tried to silence dissent by branding naysayers as xenophobes, Islamophobes and neo-Nazis.
  • “This disruption is fruitful.   The taboos of the last few years are now fully on the agenda: illegal immigration, Islam, the nonsense of open borders, the dysfunctional EU, the free movement of people, jobs, law and order.   Trump’s predecessors did not want to talk about it, but the majority of voters did.   This is democracy.” — Roger Köppel, editor-in-chief of Die Weltwoche, Switzerland.

(Gatestone Institute 1/22)

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US DIVISIONS

As with the EU, the cracks in the USA seem far beyond hairline fractures.   Many sense the country could come apart.   It did once before.   And could Southerners and Northerners have detested each other much more than Americans do today?   (“Is the Left playing with fire again?”  Pat Buchanan 2/14)

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BORROWING FOR US GOVT TO BECOME MORE DIFFICULT

In the age of Trump, America’s biggest foreign creditors are suddenly having second thoughts about financing the U.S. government.

In Japan, the largest holder of Treasuries, investors culled their stakes in December by the most in almost four years, the Ministry of Finance’s most recent figures show.   What’s striking is the selling has persisted at a time when going abroad has rarely been so attractive.   And it’s not just the Japanese.   Across the world, foreigners are pulling back from U.S. debt like never before.

From Tokyo to Beijing and London, the consensus is clear:  few overseas investors want to step into the $13.9 trillion U.S. Treasury market right now.  Whether it’s the prospect of bigger deficits and more inflation under President Donald Trump or higher interest rates from the Federal Reserve, the world’s safest debt market seems less of a sure thing — particularly after the upswing in yields since November.   And then there is Trump’s penchant for saber rattling, which has made staying home that much easier.

(Newsmax  2/13/17)

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YEMEN – NEXT US WAR

Yemen shapes up for US-Iran military clash

Eight armies are fighting for dominance in Yemen, a country of 25 million inhabitants:  The Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents, together with a breakaway force, are battling the army loyal to President Abdulrabbuh Mansur Hadi, which is supported by Saudi, Egyptian and UAE military forces and their hired legion of Colombian mercenaries.   Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) elements, most acting as advisers to the Houthi rebels, intervene actively from time to time.   Last October, they conducted missile attacks on US vessels on the Red Sea from shore batteries.   In response, the US Navy on October 9 and 12 knocked out those batteries and the radar stations that were manned by IRGC teams.   Tehran countered by deploying to Yemen long-range Shahed 129 drones carrying Sadid-1 rockets and sowing sea mines around the international Bab Al-Mandeb Straits.   US President Donald Trump’s sharp warning on Friday, Feb. 3, after just two weeks in office, that Iran was “playing with fire” and the fresh round of sanctions he clamped down were galvanized by Iranian aggression in Yemen and the Red Sea as much as by its ballistic missile test.   And indeed, the deployment of the USS Cole destroyer to the strategic Red Sea Straits of Bab Al-Mandeb on the same day turned the compass needle toward the potential arena, should the escalating tension between the US and Yemen explode into a military encounter, such as a US special operations force going into Yemen to strike IRGC targets. (Debka file)

SPREADING PROBLEMS

stock-market-down

So much is happening across the globe right now, it’s difficult to know where to start.

It’s Monday morning and the world news is dominated by further falls on stock markets across Asia and Europe.   China’s economy is heading south fast and is dragging other countries down with it.   As the country is the second biggest single economy in the world, it’s not surprising.

It’s not that long ago that China was a third world backwater.   Then, the communist dictatorship allowed free market reforms that led to an incredibly fast growth rate.   Too fast.   And suspiciously fast – could the numbers be trusted?   Now, we know the truth – the reality is not what we thought it was.   Millions of Chinese people are losing their life savings and are naturally angry about it.   If this continues, the Chinese people may conclude the ruling Communist party has “lost the mandate of heaven,” a precursor to significant change.

But change could also come elsewhere as a result of what’s going on.

The average American lost 6% of his retirement fund towards the end of last week.   6% isn’t too bad.   But if this fall continues, people will get more angry and frustrated.   It can only help Donald Trump’s presidential hopes.

Note the following from today’s The Daily Skimm:

“Last week, after some bad economic data from China, global stock markets completely freaked out.   US markets ended up with their worst losses in four years.    And today isn’t looking any better. China’s markets opened even weaker than yesterday, which has triggered a global domino effect.   Think:   Asian and European markets taking tumbles and oil prices way down.

“Right now, the ups and downs of global markets are hinging on two of the least transparent things ever:   the Chinese government and the Federal Reserve.”

It’s time to worry!

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It’s 8.20 AM Eastern time. I just received a news alert from the Wall Street Journal. The headline is: GLOBAL MARKET ROUT CONTINUES.   Stock markets continue to fall around the world.

It’s a good reminder that we should not put our faith in this world and particularly in this world’s money, which is, frankly, worthless paper.

In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus Christ said the following:

19:  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20:  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

 

Our retirement funds are certainly set to take a big hit, though how big remains to be seen.   Christians should take encouragement from Christ’s words and not worry as we go through this market “correction.”

It’s now 9.45, the New York Stock Exchange opened a few minutes ago, and we seem to be witnessing a big crash.   The stock exchange is down over 1,000 points, heading rapidly toward a “correction,” usually defined as a drop of 10% or more.   The dollar is also falling against other currencies.   Commentators are saying that this crash started with China, but blame should also go to the high taxes and anti-business policies of the current US Administration.   One lady said:  “They’ve killed the economy!”   Meanwhile, China is using the state pension fund to buy stocks in a hope of keeping up prices, an unwise move that could wipe out pensions for decades.

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It’s really inspiring to hear that three young Americans on vacation in Europe helped save a train full of passengers from an imminent terrorist attack.   Today’s news shows them receiving the “Legion d’Honneur” from France’s President Hollande.

But, you will notice there’s another guy standing with them, an older man who was also part of the rescue.   The much-praised trio was actually a quartet.  The other man was from England.   It would be nice if just one American network would acknowledge his role along with the three Americans.   All four were very courageous and may have saved dozens of lives!

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In this age of mass murders, it’s interesting to note that America, with less than 5% of the world’s people, accounts for almost one third of all mass murders, defined as incidents where four or more people are killed.