Tag Archives: France

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)

 

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

Hello everybody,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week.

Melvin   

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

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

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

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

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

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

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

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MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE

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

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

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TRUMP EMBRACED BY ENTHUSIASTIC INDIANS

“It was the Trumpiest of offers.

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

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

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

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

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ISRAEL NOW RECOGNIZED BY 161 COUNTRIES

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

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NEVER ENDING SYRIAN CONFLICT

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

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MACRON VOWS CRACKDOWN ON POLITICAL ISLAM

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

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SWEDISH MIGRANT CRISIS

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

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UK GROOMING GANGS TO REMAIN A SECRET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GAY CONVERSION THERAPY BANNED IN MORE COUNTRIES

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

CALL MOSCOW, NOT WASHINGTON

Bijan Djir-Sarai, FDP foreign policy parliamentarian

The German government can no longer implement important foreign policy projects in the Arab world without Russia’s support, as the results of Saturday’s negotiations between Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin demonstrate.  Moscow will, in principle, support the “Berlin Process,” with which the German government would like to take on the role of an influential mediator in the Libyan war.   Without Moscow, Berlin did not succeed in holding the International Libya Conference, which was designed to become the first highlight in the “Berlin Process.”   In the run-up to Merkel’s Moscow visit, German foreign policy experts lavished unhabitual praise on the influence Russia has gained over the past few years.   If you wanted to achieve anything in Syria, “you had to call Washington;” according to Bijan Djir-Sarai, FDP foreign policy parliamentarian, “today you have to call Moscow.”   Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, member of the Bundestag (FDP) calls German/Russian relations “a treasure.” (German Foreign Policy, 1/15)

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Mayor’s resignation highlights threat to German leaders
Arnd Focke, the Social Democratic mayor of a town in Lower Saxony, was regularly threatened by nationalists.  Now he has resigned.  Regional officials have repeatedly faced threats across Germany.

The mainstreaming of nationalist politics, most visible in the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, has become a means of spreading ideas once considered taboo, Focke said.   But, he said, it would be too simple to blame the AfD for the threat to centrist regional German politicians.   “The problem is right at the heart of our society,” Focke said.   “We no longer stand up for each other or against extremism.   People are able once again to say things they weren’t even allowed to think five years ago.”   “We failed to educate,” Focke said.   “Children and young people must be taught that we in Germany have a past that cannot be allowed to repeat itself.   And there are many people who are discontented and are too easily manipulated to this end.”    Focke is now trusting federal investigators to look into the swastikas and the threatening notes. He believes that other politicians have also resigned because of threats — they just don’t say so publicly.  (Deutsche Welle , 12 Jan 2020)

(https://www.dw.com/en/mayors-resignation-highlights-threat-to-german-leaders/a-51974296)

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PEOPLE TRAFFICKING

Illegal immigration throughout Europe continues unabated.  In France, for instance, nearly 20,000 migrants have been arrested so far in 2019, according to the police website France Bleu, which also reported that 189 people smugglers have been arrested since January 1.

In Britain, The Telegraph newspaper reported that Albanian people smugglers were posting advertisements on social media platforms, including Facebook, promoting their ability to get people into Europe.   The ads are accompanied by TripAdvisor-style feedback comments from “satisfied” customers…. people smuggling gangs generate profits of up to £6 billion (€7 billion; $8 billion) a year…

“Europe under siege from people-smuggling gangs,” Soeren Kern, Gatestone, 1/7)

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SUEZ CANAL ALTERED ECOLOGY

Experts say Mediterranean Sea altered by Suez Canal’s invasive species.  Red Sea invaders have driven native marine life toward extinction and changed the delicate ecosystem with potentially devastating consequences, marine biologists warn                                         by Aron Heller and Isabel Debre (16 Jan 2020, Times of Israel)

AP — As Egypt marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Suez Canal, marine biologists are bemoaning one of the famed waterway’s lesser known legacies — the invasion of hundreds of non-native species, including toxic jellyfish and aggressive lionfish.

The canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, revolutionized maritime travel by creating a direct shipping route between the East and the West.   But over the years, the invasive species have driven native marine life toward extinction and altered the delicate Mediterranean ecosystem with potentially devastating consequences, scientists say.

The influx has increased significantly since Egypt doubled its capacity in 2015 with the opening of the “The New Suez Canal,” raising alarm in Europe and sparking criticism from various countries along the Mediterranean basin.  The sharpest criticism comes from neighboring Israel, which once battled Egypt in war alongside the 193-kilometer (120-mile)-long canal.

(https://www.timesofisrael.com/experts-say-mediterranean-sea-altered-by-suez-canals-invasive-species/)

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LIBYAN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

Libya pledge:  Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and other foreign powers have promised to end all interference in the armed conflict in Libya, as part of a German-brokered effort to halt rising violence and chaos in the north African country and prepare the ground for a UN-sponsored peace process.  The promise was contained in a document agreed by world leaders at a conference in Berlin yesterday.  However, there were already signs of fresh military escalation in the civil war-wracked state. (FT 1/20)

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ALPINE AUSTERITY:   As the World Economic Forum prepares to kick off its 50th annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos on Tuesday, the Financial Times reports on the elite gathering’s efforts to appear more environmentally-friendly.  Among other things, it is encouraging participants to take trains instead of private jets, and is providing shoe grips to cajole attendees to “walk the snowy promenade between meetings rather than take cars.”

The effort to be sustainable extends to advising caterers not to serve luxuries such as foie gras and caviar, and one day of the meeting has been set aside for “vegetarian menus and the discovery of alternative protein sources.”   This year’s events — including the launch of an initiative to plant 1 trillion trees in the next decade — will take place in rooms decorated with seaweed-based paint and carpets made from “end-of life fishing nets.”   The scores of companies hosting their own events have been asked to consider offering local wines and “mountain herbal infusions” instead of imported drinks.

(Brussels Briefing, Financial Times, 1/20/2020)

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RELIGIOUS TENSIONS IN INDIA

Whether it is France or Nigeria, Italy or Myanmar, the presence of militant Muslims is a serious cause of concern to all — most of all to Muslims who want freedom from Islamists, be they inspired by Iran, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

If one were to watch India through the lens of its social media and the statements made by its upper middle-class urban elites of the Left, the country is facing chaos and is in a downward spiral towards a catastrophe.

At the centre of this storm in a teacup is a new law passed by both houses of the Indian Parliament that provides for a fast track towards citizenship for refugees in India who fled religious persecution in three of India’s neighbors — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before 2015 and who now live in difficult conditions as stateless persons.

Since most of the people who fled India’s three Islamic neighbors were non-Muslim, the new Indian law known as the Citizenship Amendment Act is applicable to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians.   (Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, MEF, 1/20/2020)

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IRANIAN WOMEN DEFY MULLAHS — WHY DON’T WESTERN FEMINISTS SUPPORT THEM?

Before 1979, Iranian women had freedom.   They want it back.

If Iranian feminists who refuse to wear the hijab are brave, their Western counterparts, who wear pink hats, have wretchedly abandoned them.   Why is Iranian barbarism so easily condoned in the West?

Thirty years ago, the Berlin Wall was torn down by ordinary citizens who wanted to reclaim their freedom of movement.  Today, the wall of the Iranian regime could be torn down by these ordinary women who want to reclaim the freedom to wear what they like.  They are bravely refusing to walk on flags of Israel and the U.S. — and enjoying the wind in their hair again.   (Giulio Meotti, Gatestone, 1/19/2020)

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TO THE POINT·

  • Yemeni Journalist Ahmed Al-Musaibily:   Israel Is Our Number One Enemy But At Least It Does Not Try To Convert Muslims To Judaism The Same Way That Iran Converts Sunnis To Shi’a Islam (MEMRI 1/20) – Iraqi security forces reportedly killed two protesters in Baghdad. Demonstrators, frustrated at the slow pace of the government’s reforms, are demanding new elections, an independent prime minister and prosecution of corrupt officials.   Security forces responded with live rounds and tear-gas.   The UN envoy in the country called for protests to remain peaceful and for politicians to address people’s concerns. (Economist, 1/22)
  • EUROPE’S NIGERIAN MAFIA — Italian intelligence has named the Nigerian mafia “the most structured and dynamic” of any foreign crime entity operating in Italy, according to the Washington Post….   What distinguishes the Nigerian crime networks is their severe brutality.   Black Axe has also spread to Canada, where a 2015 report by the  Globe and Mail described it as a “death cult”… linked to “decades of  murders and rapes….        In the US, the FBI recently linked a series of financial frauds to        Black Axe.                                                                                                              (Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 1/8/2020)
  • FRENCH ANTI-SEMITISM — “In France, perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks claim insanity to elude justice.   The mental illness defense has become more prevalent when it comes to hate crimes in France.   And it seems to be working.” — Shirli Sitbon, Haaretz.
  • Muslim anti-Semitism has long been ignored in France.
  • “The situation is not under control.” — Celine Pina, Le Figaro.    (Guy Milliere, Gatestone, 1/22)
  • PIERS MORGAN:  “Spare me your ‘patriotic’ crocodile tears, Harry – you DIDN’T have to quit.   You chose to ditch the Queen, the monarchy, your military comrades and your country… to become a royal Kardashian and keep Meghan happy. ” (Daily Mail, 1/20/2020)

CITY DECLARES NAZI EMERGENCY

The anti-immigration AfD party won 28 percent votes in the regional elections in September [File: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters]
A city in eastern Germany has declared a “Nazi emergency,” saying it has a serious problem with the far-right.

Dresden, the capital of Saxony, has long been viewed as a bastion of the far-right and is the birthplace of the anti-Islam Pegida movement.

Councillors in the city – a contender for the 2025 European Capital of Culture – have now approved a resolution saying more needs to be done to tackle the issue.

But opponents say it goes too far.

What is a ‘Nazi emergency’?

“‘Nazinotstand’ means – similar to the climate emergency – that we have a serious problem.  The open democratic society is threatened,” local councillor Max Aschenbach, who tabled the motion, told the BBC.

Mr. Aschenbach, from left-leaning satirical political party Die Partei, said he believed it was necessary to take action because politicians were not doing enough to “position themselves clearly” against the far-right.   (BBC News 11/2)

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OUTRAGE AS AFD OBJECTS TO MIXED RACE CHILD

The mayor of Nuremberg in Germany has attacked a far-right party for “openly racist” comments about a teenage girl picked to be a Christmas gift-bringer.

A member of Alternative for Germany (AfD) attacked Benigna Munsi, who will open the city’s Christmas market.   The teen was born in Nuremberg to an Indian father and a German mother.  “You would laugh about it if you didn’t know these guys are serious, but you could cry about this level of hostility,” Mayor Ulrich Maly said.

He said there had been “idiotic comments” about previous children chosen for the traditional role of “Christkind” (Christ Child), but this attack had an “openly racist connotation.”

A now-deleted Facebook post by an AfD district branch said that German people were being eradicated like Native Americans.

“Nuremberg has a new Christ Child.   One day, we’re going to go the way of the Indians,” it read.   Another AfD member meanwhile provoked further criticism for writing online that the teenager’s “foreign” nose was a “slap in the face to friends of tradition.”   (BBC, 11/4)

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MEXICAN CARTEL KILLS 9 AMERICANS

“Breaking news coming out of Mexico detailed the horrific cartel killings of an American family, which, astonishingly, The New York Times tried to pin on (get ready for it) fundamentalist religion. Specifically, the Mormon faith.

An American family living in Mexico was ambushed and massacred by a cartel, with three women and six children murdered.   The scene as described by surviving family members is horrific:

“They described a terrifying scene in which one child was gunned down while running away, while others were trapped inside a burning car.   Two of the children killed were less than a year old, the family members said.   The car they were in with their mother was set ablaze.”

In one article, the family is described as being part of a “fundamentalist Mormon community,” while in another the spotlight is on the victims’ faith.

In fact, a quick Google search of the NY Times coverage of the tragedy yielded the following headlines on articles put up at various times during the day by the Times:

“9 Members of Mormon Family in Mexico Are Killed in Ambush,”      “A Storied Mormon Family Reels After Mexico Murders,”              “What We Know About the Killing of 9 Mormon Family”    and        “US Victims in Mexico Attack From Mormon Offshoot Community.”

In between these headlines, another mainstream media source, NBC, chimed in with its own coverage:   “Slain U.S. citizens were part of Mormon offshoot with sordid history,” which detailed, well, the “sordid history” of the group which they called a “cult.”   (Clarion 11/6)

COMMENT ON TWITTER — “Thanks @nytimes.   For a second there, I thought it was the murderous cartel’s fault that six children were burned alive while their mothers were raped, then shot rather than Mormonism.   Silly me.” (https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/1191822530727829506)

Six children were murdered and this is how The New York Times chooses to cover it.  Pathetic.

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NON-MEXICAN ILLEGALS INCREASING IN NUMBER

Border Patrol agents in San Diego arrested a historic number of non-Mexican migrants crossing illegally into the U.S. during the 2019 fiscal year.

“San Diego sector realized its highest number of apprehensions from countries other than Mexico in the history of tracking statistics for this population with a total of 27,255 arrests,” said Kathleen Scudder, acting deputy chief patrol agent for the San Diego sector.

To put that number in perspective, Border Patrol agents arrested 11,509 non-Mexicans during the 2018 fiscal year.   Between 2009 and 2015, the average number of non-Mexican border apprehensions were 1,500, records show.

The majority of non-Mexican nationals apprehended came from Central American countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, she added.    (San DiegoTribune)

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HOW MALAYSIAN AIRLINES 370 DISAPPEARED

“They didn’t follow protocol.  They didn’t follow procedure.   More could have been done.   As a result of the inaction of the air force – of all of the parties involved in the first hour who didn’t follow protocol – we are stuck like this now.   Every one of them breached protocol one time, multiple times.   Every single person who had some form of responsibility at the time did not do what he was supposed to do.   To varying degrees of severity.   Maybe in isolation some might not seem so bad, but when you look at it as a whole, every one of them contributed 100 percent to the fact that the airplane has not been found.”

“And every one of them was a government employee.”   (“Vanished:   how Malaysia airlines flight 370 disappeared,” William Langewiesche, The Atlantic, July 2019)

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SOUTH AFRICAN VICTORY OVER ENGLAND IN RUGBY WORLD CUP

The Rugby World Cup victory by the Springboks on Saturday is inevitably being seen as a moment of national reconciliation, with people focusing on what it means for a black South African captain to hold aloft a trophy after leading a team that was once a potent symbol of apartheid.

For some, it is a holiday from the problems that plague us.   Still, the events of the weekend have also exposed how some benefit from fanning divisions in society.   For them, the sight of a team of people from different parts of our society beating the best in the world as a united team is bad news.   And so they have to do everything they can to distract us and kill the moment.

The victory by the national rugby team on Saturday could not have been scripted better.   Led by Siya Kolisi, a man from an incredibly poor background, a team involving players from most of our communities was able to comprehensively take apart a team many considered to be better than them.   The scrums showed what happens when everyone pushes together.   The moment when Makazole Mapimpi scored South Africa’s first try in a World Cup Final was full of genius and symbolism.   As was Cheslin Kolbe’s logic-defying try just a few minutes later.   (By Stephen Grootes, Daily Maverick, 11/4)

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SOUTH AFRICAN WATER CRISIS

As the Eastern Cape treasury last week made R120m available in drought relief for the province, several towns were running out of drinking water as more dams dried up and the province’s total remaining water dropped to 50% of capacity.

On Saturday a strict warning was sent to residents in eight towns in the Eastern Cape – Aliwal North, Mount Fletcher, Lady Grey, Ugie, Barkley East, Burgersdorp and Maclear – not to drink the water supplied by the municipality without boiling it first.

In an official notice, the municipal manager for the Joe Gqabi Municipality, Zolile Williams, added that residents must add a teaspoon of bleach to every 25 litres of drinking water to make it safe.

“We can no longer guarantee the quality of the drinking water supplied by the municipality,” the notice reads.   (Estelle Ellis, Daily Maverick, 11/4)

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IRAN ANNOUNCES FRESH VIOLATIONS OF NUCLEAR DEAL WITH EXTRA, ADVANCED CENTRIFUGES                                       Tehran’s nuclear chief says domestically made centrifuge in development is 50 times faster than those allowed under 2015 accord

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Monday broke further away from its collapsing 2015 nuclear deal with world powers by announcing it’s doubling the number of advanced centrifuges it operates, calling the decision a direct result of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement.

The announcement — which also included Iran saying it now has a prototype centrifuge that works 50 times faster than those allowed under the deal — came as demonstrators across the country marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 US Embassy takeover that started a 444-day hostage crisis.

By starting up these advanced centrifuges, Iran further cuts into the one year that experts estimate Tehran would need to have enough material for building a nuclear weapon — if it chose to pursue one. Iran long has insisted its program is for peaceful purposes, though Western fears about its work led to the 2015 agreement that saw Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.   (The Times of Israel, 11/4)

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WHY SO MANY ARE DEMONSTRATING                                                Blame economics, demography, a sense of powerlessness . . . and social media

For anyone trying to follow protest movements around the world it is hard to keep up.   Large anti-government demonstrations, some peaceful and some not, have taken place in recent weeks in places on every continent:   Algeria, Bolivia, Britain, Catalonia, Chile, Ecuador, France, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and more.    On November 1st Pakistan joined the ever-lengthening roll as tens of thousands of protesters converged on the capital, Islamabad, to demand that the prime minister, Imran Khan, stand down within 48 hours.

Probably not since the wave of “people power” movements swept Asian and east European countries in the late 1980s and early 1990s has the world experienced such a simultaneous outpouring of popular anger on the streets.   Before that, only the global unrest of the late 1960s bears comparison in terms of the number of countries swept up and the number of people mobilized.   (Economist, 11/4)

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IMPACT OF GAY PRESIDENT IN MIDEAST

In an October 7, 2019 article on the website of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Egyptian journalist and Muslim Brotherhood (MB) member Amer Shamakh wrote about the growing support for the LGBTQ community and same-sex marriage in the West, and in the U.S. in particular.   Calling them “perversion” that is contrary to human nature and the monotheistic religions, he warned that if potential Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg became president, this would lead to a campaign of pressure on Arab countries to accept the LGBTQ community as normal, as it is perceived today in the West.   Expressing concern that Arab leaders would capitulate to such pressure, he underlined that Islam views homosexuality as “one of the most loathsome deeds,” that “Islamic law instructs that those who carry it out be killed by burning, being thrown from a high place, or stoning,” and that the Prophet Muhammad himself even ordered that this be done.   (MEMRI, 1/5)

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TO THE POINT

  • We are not witnessing a legitimate impeachment process, and certainly not any form of justice recognizable in America since the Massachusetts Spring of 1693.   (Chris Farrell, Gatestone, 11/5)
  • The Deutsche Bank is supporting the imminent IPO (initial public offering) of the world’s largest oil company Saudi Aramco thus helping to consolidate power in the hands of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.   On Sunday, the competent Saudi authorities gave the green light for the IPO, which will be executed in the first half of December and will flush double-digit billions into the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.   The PIF will play a central role in financing strategic domestic investments and buying strategic shares in foreign companies and will de facto be controlled by the Crown Prince personally.   Experts agree that bin Salman is directly responsible for the murder of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul.   Already years ago, the Deutsche Bank had financed deliveries of arms to Saudi Arabia, which were used in the war on Yemen.   Along with other German companies, the bank participated in last week’s investor conference in Riyadh.  (German Foreign Policy, 11/5)
  • Iran and its terror proxy Hezbollah are financing Mexican drug cartels, smuggling people into America and recruiting them (for pay) as sleeper jihadist cells.   The recruits are mainly immigrants to Mexico from the Middle East, mostly from Lebanon where Hezbollah is based.   The coordinated operation is part of Iran’s war on America.   (Clarion Project, 11/5)
  • “As widespread protests plunge Lebanon into political crisis mode once again, we are reminded that multi-ethnic democracies in the Middle East aren’t exactly a model of good governance.   Those looking for solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should take note, and this should give pause to advocates of the one-state solution.”   (The Delusional One-State solution, MEF, 11/4).
  • There are reports on the Gatestone website (11/3) that Turkey is sending arms to Boko Haram, the terrorist group that operates in Nigeria and other west African nations.   The terror group targets Christians.   Observers have wondered how Boko Haram obtains sophisticated weapons.   The Turkish connection answers the question.

KURDS ‘STABBED IN BACK’ BY US

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

Kurds warn Turkish offensive will bring ‘chaos once again’

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

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

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

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PARIS POLICE KILLED BY ISLAMIST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CHINESE LOANS TO FINANCE NEW ZIMBABWE CAPITAL IN POVERTY STRICKEN NATION

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

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

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

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ISRAELI MAJORITY WANT MORE SECULAR STATE

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

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

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

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

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IRAN MOVES NEARER TO ISRAEL

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

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

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THREE MUSLIM LEADERS TO START TV NEWS CHANNEL

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

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

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

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

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

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CATHOLIC CHURCH TO ORDAIN MARIED PRIESTS?

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

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

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

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SCANDINAVIAN CRIME BOOSTED BY IMMIGRANTS

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

 

 

 

NOTRE DAME, NO ORDINARY FIRE

The fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, which began on Monday night, has had one beneficial effect – it has united France after months of yellow vest demonstrations and riots.   This may only be temporary.

Long term, there may be other long lasting effects.

Prior to the conflagration, just one day earlier, a fascinating article appeared on the Gatestone website:   “European churches: Vandalized, defecated on and torched “every day”.”   In fact, twice a day churches are desecrated, just in France.

  • “In virtually every instance of church attacks, authorities and media obfuscate the identity of the vandals.   In those rare instances when the Muslim (or “migrant”) identity of the destroyers is leaked, the desecraters are then presented as suffering from mental health issues.
  • “Hardly anyone writes and speaks about the increasing attacks on Christian symbols.   There is an eloquent silence in both France and Germany about the scandal of the desecrations and the origin of the perpetrators , , ,   Not a word, not even the slightest hint that could in anyway lead to the suspicion of migrants . . .   It is not the perpetrators who are in danger of being ostracized, but those who dare to associate the desecration of Christian symbols with immigrant imports.   They are accused of hatred, hate speech and racism.” — PI News, March 24, 2019

(Gatestone, April 14th.)

All Christians should be very concerned about these attacks.  Many may not like these ancient churches, full of idols that defy the second commandment (Ex.20:4), but attacks on them reflect a growing intolerance to all forms of Christianity.   While the loss of relics (the crown of thorns worn by Christ at the crucifixion; and a piece of the actual cross on which He died), may not mean anything to non-Catholics, the world’s biggest religion attaches a great deal of importance to them.   David Muir, of ABC News and a Catholic, described these relics as if they are real, beyond question.   This is the way that many feel.

It is not known, yet, whether the fire was started deliberately, but after two attacks on French churches a day it seems quite likely. Also, the timing is indicative of a deliberate attack, coming on the second day of Holy Week, the most sacred week of the year in the Catholic calendar.

We can only speculate on what caused the fire, but what is known is that jihadists, worldwide, celebrated when news of the fire reached them.

“Jihadis celebrated the destruction of large parts of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in a devastating fire on April 15, 2019.   Reactions by jihadis on social media refer to the cathedral as a symbol of Christianity and a major point of origin for the Crusades.   Several describe the fire as punishment for various crimes attributed to France or to Christians in general, such as France’s military intervention in Muslim countries or the mosque massacres in New Zealand.   Some jihadis, including leading figures, view the incident as a good omen heralding calamities for the West and the global order.”   (MEMRI, 4/16)

At the very least, the presence of millions of Muslims in the West is complicating National security.   One day after the fire, Shemima Begum, an ISIS fighter originally from Britain, was granted tax-payer funded legal aid to fight the British government’s ban on her returning.   With so many anti-British “liberals” in England, it is becoming impossible to do anything about these security threats.

It’s likely that Shemima will return to the UK and live off British welfare while espousing her hatred and contempt for all things British!   She remains loyal to ISIS.

COULD THE FIRE REVIVE THE CHURCH?

Rachel Donadio, a Paris based staff writer for the Atlantic, writes:

“Commentators were seeing the fire as a symbol of how the Catholic Church needs to be restored as an institution as much as a building. Like so many of Europe’s great churches and places of pilgrimage, Notre-Dame is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.   This is the Church as mother and protector, an aspect the institution has not excelled at in the years since the sexual-abuse crisis erupted.

“It’s hard to convey just how significant Notre Dame is for France. Listening to the newscasters wrestle with their formulations about the crown of thorns, it became clear that the devastation of the cathedral had laid bare all the paradoxes of the country.   Here is a secular republic, dedicated to the principle of laïcité, or the absence of religion in public life, that has as its national symbol a cathedral. Here is a country that deposed its king in a revolution, yet now sees its embattled president as a new monarch—one that some of its “yellow vest” protesters want to depose again.”  (“France’s Paradoxes, embodied in a cathedral”, 4/16.)

Mr. Macron, France’s president, has pledged to rebuild the cathedral within five years, in time for Paris to host the 2024 Olympics.

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EU-US TRADE WAR

Brussels has warned that US products from hazelnuts to tractors could face punitive tariffs in retaliation for state support to Boeing, as Washington and Brussels gear up for the next stage of their long-running transatlantic dispute over aircraft subsidies.   The European Commission on Wednesday published a draft list of products that could be targeted for additional duties.   The move follows a victory for the EU at the World Trade Organization, which ruled last month that Washington had failed to end an illegal tax break to Boeing.  The list’s publication comes only days after the US announced similar plans to target up to $11bn of EU products in response to WTO rulings against subsidies for Airbus.   (“Brussels sets out 420 billion list of US goods facing tariffs; http://www.ft.com, 4/17)

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PRESIDENTIAL SUICIDE

Former Peruvian president Alan García shot himself dead on Wednesday after police arrived at his house to arrest him as part of a corruption investigation.   The government said that when officers arrived at his home, García withdrew to a closed room to phone his lawyer.   They heard a gunshot minutes later, broke down the door and found the former president with a wound to the head.   They rushed him to hospital where he underwent surgery.   He died a few hours later.   President Martin Vizcarra confirmed the news on Twitter, sending his condolences to García’s family and loved ones. (Financial Times, 4/17)

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GERMANY BRINGS BREXIT TO A CLOSE

Germany’s foreign minister has warned London that there will be no Brexit extension beyond October, sending out the strongest signal yet that Berlin’s patience with the UK’s deadlocked political system is starting to wear out.   “They will have to decide what they want by October,” Heiko Maas told the Financial Times in an interview.  “You cannot drag out Brexit for a decade.”  (Tobias Buck, Financial Times, 4/17)

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PELOSI DICTATES ON BREXIT

LONDON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation to Britain and Ireland this week.   What’s being discussed?    “Brexit, Brexit, Brexit,” she said.

In the old days, bilateral U.S.-U.K. talks would be all about counterterrorism, intelligence sharing, NATO, Russia and China – and the special relationship.

Today, Brexit dominates.    And on one particular point, Pelosi is emphatic:    Don’t mess with the Irish peace accord.

The speaker said Tuesday that she had warned Prime Minister Theresa May, Conservative pro-Brexit hard-liners and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that if the churn of Britain’s messy break with the European Union in any way weakens the Northern Ireland peace pact known as the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, the U.S. Congress will block any trade deals Britain might seek with the United States.

“Don’t even think about that,” Pelosi said she had warned.   “We made it clear to all that if there were any harm to Good Friday accords, no treaty.”

Pelosi did not have to remind her hosts that the Trump administration can negotiate treaties and trade deals.   But she emphasized that Congress has to approve them.    (William Booth, Washington Post, 4/16).

Mrs Pelosi is a Catholic, and is siding with the Irish Republic on this issue.

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WHAT’S THAT NOISE?

Sunday morning, while listening to a CD of Rachmaninov, our seven-year-old grandson looked up from his train and asked:   “What’s that noise?”   He clearly is not a fan.

REPEATING THE 1930’s

Chamberlain (right) shakes hands with Mussolini after signing the Munich Agreement while Hitler and other European leaders look on, 30 September 1938. Photograph: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

It’s DEJA VU all over again!

The world is starting to resemble the 1930’s, which ended in WWII.

1) ITALY may not seem important.  But In 1922 the fascists came to power and Mussolini proclaimed a revival of the Roman Empire.   That was the beginning of World War II in Europe.   Fascism was a major force in a number of European countries in the thirties.

The country had an election last Sunday.  The result stunned Europe — two populist parties got most of the votes.   The two parties are widely seen as the equivalent of the fascist party that ruled Italy up to and during WWII.

This follows an election a few months ago that had a similar outcome in Germany.  The AfD there is now the main opposition party.   These parties in Germany, Italy and elsewhere in Europe are often labeled “far-right.”   They are all “populist” parties that have gained support at the expense of mainstream political parties.   They are anti-EU and anti-immigrant, as well as very nationalistic.

2)  There is increasing talk of a TRADE WAR on both sides of the Atlantic.   What started out as retaliation against unfair Chinese trade policies is spreading into a full-scale trade war between the US and the EU.   The Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 followed the stock market crash and put high tariffs on US imports.   It is considered a major development on the road to the GREAT DEPRESSION, which led in turn to WW2.  It is difficult to see how the western alliance can hold together with increasing conflict over trade.

Historically, trade wars increase unemployment;   while unemployment leads voters to turn to the right, becoming more nationalistic.   A trade war will strengthen populist parties everywhere.

3) GERMANY REARMING  — President Trump has been pushing  for this to force Germany to contribute more to western defense.   Germany now has a military presence in the Sahel,  Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and Baghdad.  Germany is also at the forefront of calling for a united European military force.

4)  UK & GERMANY AT LOGGERHEADS — In 1938 the British government was seeking to appease Germany; it still is, though this time there’s no talk of war. Just TALK, TALK, TALK over trade following Brexit. It does not look good for Britain as I write.

5)   GROWING ANTI-SEMITISM.    There have been a number of attacks on Jews in France, so many, in fact, that French Jews are leaving in record numbers for Israel; the Polish parliament has passed a law that forbids people from claiming Polish involvement in the Holocaust, even though it’s known that 200,000 Poles helped the Nazis round up Jews during World War II and assisted in the extermination camps; thirdly, Iceland has just banned male circumcision, while other countries are considering it.   This action will affect Muslims as well as Jews.

6)  RUSSIA IS MAKING THREATENING NOISES UNDER PUTIN, just as it did under Stalin.   Could Russia and Germany repeat the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact?    Both China and Russia now have dictators for life.   A prominent spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church is calling for the restoration of the monarchy in Russia.  He seems to have Putin in mind as Czar.  Whatever happens domestically in each country, the US will likely be in confrontation with both in the future.  In the 1930’s Stalin’s threats were ideological;  now the threats are just plain old-fashioned nationalism.

7)  AMERICA FIRST – in the 1930’s it was AMERICAN ISOLATIONISM, now it’s called AMERICA FIRST. And it’s not just Trump – America is focused on itself.   There is little foreign news on TV and most people just aren’t interested in what’s happening overseas.  It took Pearl Harbor to wake Americans up.   What will it take this time?

CONCLUSION

History repeats itself.  But it does not repeat itself exactly.   It remains to be seen how future events play out.  But the similarities with the 1930’s are definitely there.

There are, however, two big differences.

During the 1930’s the world’s only superpower was the British Empire.    This no longer exists.   There is also no Winston Churchill warning of the dangers ahead.   Without a warning message it is doubtful nations will make the changes needed to change course and avoid the mistakes of eight decades ago.

The above is a speech I’ve prepared for Men’s Speech Club  tomorrow.   I decided to post it to my blog.