Tag Archives: Frontline

GLOBAL DEBT AT 317% OF GDP

The world’s debt burden stands at a staggering 317 per cent of global gross domestic product, just shy of its all-time high in 2016, according to the Institute of International Finance.   Years of low and negative interest rates have fed the debt habit:   since the 2008 financial crisis, the world has added an extraordinary $70tn in debt, or 25 per cent of GDP, with sovereign debt accounting for nearly 40 per cent of that increase.

“To be clear: responsibly incurred debt can play an important and constructive role in economic development.   Long-term investments that enhance productivity can foster a more prosperous future. Amid subdued growth in many parts of the world and a critical need for infrastructure, there are arguments to be made in support of using debt to foster growth.

“But too much debt is a risk for lenders and borrowers alike, as history has shown time and again.”

(“We need transparency to keep countries out of a debt spiral,” Axel Weber, Financial Times, 6/18)

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CURRENCY WARS

Europe has been warned. Any use of monetary levers to hold down the euro exchange rate will be deemed a provocation by the Trump administration.

Further cuts in interest rates to minus 0.5pc or beyond will be scrutinized for currency manipulation.   A revival of quantitative easing will be considered a devaluation policy in disguise, as indeed it is, since the money leaks out into global securities and depresses the euro.

The Bank for International Settlements says €300bn of Europe’s QE funding reached London alone between 2014 and 2017.

If the ECB copies the Swiss National Bank and starts to amass foreign assets directly to cap currency strength Europe will face certain retaliation.

(“Currency war is the next phase of global conflict and Europe, the chief parasite, is defenceless,” Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph, June 19th)

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BRUSSELS BRIEFING

Donald Trump’s found someone else in Europe he doesn’t like.   The US president launched a Twitter tirade against Mario Draghi after the ECB president said he was ready to inject new stimulus into the eurozone, sending the euro tumbling against the dollar.  (Brussels Briefing, Financial Times, 6/1)

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 TRUMP’S WAR

“President Donald Trump cannot want war with Iran.

   Such a war, no matter how long, would be fought in and around the Persian Gulf, through which a third of the world’s seaborne oil travels.   It could trigger a worldwide recession and imperil Trump’s re-election.

   It would widen the “forever war,” which Trump said he would end, to a nation of 80 million people, three times as large as Iraq.   It would become the defining issue of his presidency, as the Iraq War became the defining issue of George W. Bush’s presidency.

 And if war comes now, it would be known as “Trump’s War.”

In conclusion:

“Who wants a U.S. war with Iran?

   Primarily the same people who goaded us into wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and who oppose every effort of Trump’s to extricate us from those wars.

   Should they succeed in Iran, it is hard to see how we will ever be able to extricate our country from this blood-soaked region that holds no vital strategic interest save oil, and America, thanks to fracking, has become independent of that.”    (“War with Iran would become “Trump’s War,” Pat Buchanan, 6/18)

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Iran shoots down US drone aircraft

Oil prices jump after action by Revolutionary Guard escalates tensions between Tehran and Washington (Financial Times, 6/20)

“Iran shoots down US military drone to send “clear message” to Trump”   (Independent, 6/20)

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GERMAN POLITICIAN ASSASSINATED BY NEO-NAZI

Germany’s federal prosecutors have taken over the investigation into the murder of Walter Lübcke, indicating that the killing of the Kassel district president on June 2 is being treated as a politically motivated terrorist act.

If indeed the murder is shown to have been politically motivated, it would be the first such assassination on a sitting German politician since the 1970s.

Trail included death threats, weapons.

A number of German outlets have reported details of the alleged far-right ties of the suspect arrested in the central city of Kassel in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday that the 45-year-old man, named only as Stephan E., had a long criminal record, had already issued death threats via his YouTube channel, and that weapons were found during the search of his home.

According to the paper, Stephan E. had written a comment on YouTube in 2018 under his alias ‘Game Over’ that read, “Either this government abdicates soon or there will be deaths.”  ( “Walter Lubcke murder raises specter of neo-Nazi terrorism,”   Deutsche Welle news)

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Xenophobia stokes extreme-right activism

Puls has also noticed that neo-Nazis became more and more vocal in the last few years, following the influx of refugees who arrived in Germany in 2015 and 2016, which led to more anti-immigrant sentiment in the mainstream political debate and hate speech on social media.

As a supporter of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy, Walter Lübke himself was on the sharp end of much of this.

“One can certainly say that the propensity for violence has certainly risen following the right-wing debates around immigration,” he said. “The case of Lübcke is certainly very revealing here.   Walter Lübcke faced an enormous amount of hatred in 2015.   That does raise the question:   how much does it take before one person says ‘I’ll reach for a weapon?’   In certain circumstances, not much.”

( “Walter Lubcke murder raises specter of neo-Nazi terrorism,” Deutsche Welle news)

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Stand up to far right, Germany’s Angela Merkel tells Europe

The resignation of Austria’s vice chancellor led German politicians to warn against alliances with populists.   Chancellor Merkel spoke out against right-wing populism as many are now demanding new Austrian elections.   (DW)

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NEO-NAZIS IN AMERICA

The definition of a neo-Nazi is someone who belongs to an organization that is similar to the German Nazi Party of Adolf Hitler.

“Frontline” (PBS) this week showed the growth of neo-Nazis across America.   It showed synagogues that are now doing everything they can to prepare for further mass shootings.

It also interviewed members of neo-Nazi groups and showed a perverse link with the current Administration.    “To make America great again, you would have to make America white again”,  is a direct quote from a leader of the neo-Nazi movement, the Waffen.

“FRONTLINE and ProPublica continue reporting on the resurgence of white supremacist groups in the United States.   “Documenting Hate:   New American Nazis” investigates a violent neo-Nazi group that has actively recruited inside the U.S. military, and examines the group’s terrorist objectives.” (Frontline).

Overlooked here is the major contribution made by liberals, in the growth of Nazism.   The massive influx of immigrants since 1965 has led directly to anti-immigrant feeling.   The 2008 financial crisis contributed greatly to anti-semitism.

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ZUCKERBERG LAUNCHES NEW CURRENCY

“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has [a]the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Rev 13:16-17)

Zuckerberg’s $538 billion social network on Tuesday announced plans to create a new digital currency and financial system that it claims will revolutionize banking. Facebook announced the new currency, called Libra, in a 12-page white paper that promised vast improvements on bitcoin and other volatile digital coins.” (New York Post, 6/18)

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THE DARK SIDE OF ZUCKERBERG’S POWERFUL NEW CRYPTO COIN

“In its quest for world domination, Facebook has already disrupted everything from the media industry to American democracy, drawing scrutiny for things like its pitiful handling of user data, its monopolistic tendencies, and a “digital gangster” mentality along the way.   Now, as regulators in Washington, D.C., bear down on Facebook, co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has acquired a new target: the global financial system.

“On Tuesday, Facebook announced plans to debut Libra, a cryptocurrency it has been developing for more than a year. Described by the company as “a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that can empower billions of people,” Libra will partner Facebook with Mastercard, Visa, Uber, and an array of other high-profile companies in what the New York Times called “the most far-reaching attempt by a mainstream company to jump into the world of cryptocurrencies.”

“David Marcus, who is leading Facebook’s blockchain technology research, is stoked.   “It feels like it is time for a better system,” Marcus told The Times. “This is something that could be a profound change for the entire world.”   Even Zuckerberg, who has spent much of the last two years on a sort of apology tour, sounds like he’s regained his change-the-world mojo.   “Being able to use mobile money can have an important positive impact on people’s lives because you don’t have to always carry cash, which can be insecure, or pay extra fees for transfers,”    Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.   “We aspire to make it easy for everyone to send and receive money just like you use our apps to instantly share messages and photos.”   (Eric Lutz, Vanity Fair, 6/18)

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THREAT TO US FOOD SUPPLY

“US beekeepers lost 40% of colonies over past year” – The Guardian 6/19

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TRUMP AND MAY’S BIGGEST MISTAKE

President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May have just made their biggest mistake.

The American president received Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House last week.   At a press conference, he clearly made the German chancellor uncomfortable when he publicly called for Germany to bring its military budget up to the full 2% of GNP agreed on by NATO.   This would raise military spending from 37 billion euros a year to 60 billion.   It would also restore German military might.

Across the ocean, Mrs. May is seeking closer military ties to Germany at the same time as pursuing Brexit.   The idea is to keep Germany close.   It would also contribute to restoring German military might.

British war time leader Sir Winston Churchill promised at the end of World War II that Germany would never rise again; 45 years later British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opposed German reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Attitudes change.   It’s now over seventy years since the fall of the Third Reich.   Today’s leaders see Germany as a model democracy and think it will always be that way.

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LONDON TERROR

Mrs. May has other things on her mind right now.   A terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge on Wednesday afternoon left 5 dead, including the terrorist and an unarmed policeman; also 29 hospitalised, seven of them critically.   The terrorist was known to the police as a “radical Islamist.”   No surprise, there.

As the terrorist was “British born,” the implication is that somehow it’s Britain’s fault and that more can be done (costing more, of course) to avoid such incidents in the future.

What will not be considered is this – Islam means “submit;” it’s the exact opposite of “freedom” which is what Britain is all about.   Muslim children raised in Britain will inevitably struggle with internal conflict, unable to reconcile the two opposing ideals.

A few weeks ago the BBC interviewed Somalis on the streets of Minneapolis, asking them how they felt about life in America and related issues.   Clearly better off than they were in Somalia, nevertheless every single one of them said they would rather live in a Muslim country and that America would be a better country if it embraced sharia law!

I first heard the news of the terror attack when I was having lunch with a friend.   A man sitting alone at the next table was checking his mail on his phone and suddenly exclaimed “there’s been a terrorist attack in London.”   He had no idea I was from the UK.   When I told him, his first question was “why don’t they arm the police?   How can a policeman defend himself when attacked like this?”

I explained that one third of all the police are now armed and you see a lot of them in London, protecting the main tourist sights.   But Wednesday’s murder shows that every policeman needs to be able to defend himself, even if it’s only with a stun gun.

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BREXIT MOVING AHEAD

Mrs. May has also announced that she will invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome on March 29th.   This will formally begin Britain’s exit from the European Union.   Failure to reach agreement on terms within a two-year period will automatically mean a “hard Brexit,” with Britain simply leaving the EU and signing trade deals around the world with other countries.   There would be no trade deal with the 27 remaining EU countries.

Such a failure would likely impact any military agreement between Germany and the UK.   It would be hard for the two countries to maintain a good friendship when they cannot even reach an agreement on future trade.

The formal triggering of Article 50 will put a dampener on celebrations in Rome, for the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.   All 27 leaders of the EU will be there – Mrs. May will not be attending.   Interestingly, all 27 leaders will also be meeting with the pope.

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SCOTTISH REFERENDUM #2

The Scottish leader, Nicola Sturgeon, continues to mimic a “Rottweiler.”   With her teeth firmly latched onto Mrs. May’s pants, she will not let go of her demand for a second referendum on Scotland’s independence.   (If the vote goes against her, she will ask for a third and a fourth, until she gets what she wants!)

Scotland depends heavily on subsidies from England.   Ms. Sturgeon should concentrate first on improving the nation’s finances, showing that Scotland can go it alone.   Then she could go back to the Scottish electorate and claim an independent Scotland would do better on its own.

But that’s not what’s happening.   Rather, Scotland is hoping Germany will come to its rescue.   Edinburgh has even opened a trade mission in Berlin (whisky for cars?).

Don’t get me wrong.   I’m not trying to make light of a serious situation.   The United Kingdom is better with Scotland.   It would be a real shame if England’s northern neighbor pulled out after more than 300 years of unity within one nation.

It would also present a potentially serous security issue if Germany replaced England as Scotland’s benefactor.   Scotland’s independence would be compromised — the Irish parliament already finds it cannot agree on a budget without Berlin’s agreement.

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1400 YEARS OF SECTARIAN CONFLICT

There’s a big battle going on in Mosul between ISIS and government forces.   Optimism has been expressed on the imminent defeat of the terror organization.

Overlooked is the fact that Shia militias are operating in Iraq, without restraint.   The government is majority Shia.   Many Sunnis identify with ISIS.   If the terrorists are defeated, another organization (perhaps worse than ISIS) will arise to protect the Sunnis from the Shia.

Western countries, led by the US, have been sucked into the ancient Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East.   Whereas the West sees things ideologically, Middle Easterners see the situation from a sectarian viewpoint.   To us, ISIS is bad because it’s a violent terrorist organization; to Sunni Muslims living in a majority Shia country, ISIS is their protector.   To the Sunnis, this is also America’s fault – until the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the country was dominated by Sunnis. They lost out when America came in!

There’s two lessons here for the West – 1) Get out of the Middle East and stay out!   2) Stop importing the region’s sectarian conflicts through immigration policies that do not take into account national security.

In other words, let’s get back to the pre-1914 Middle East, before the war that brought down the Ottoman Empire and led to the fragmentation we now see in the region.   The war led to increased British dominance of the region, and now American domination.   It’s a mess.   It’s time to get out.

On another note – why is the US getting involved in Yemen, another territory witnessing increased fighting between Sunni and Shia?  A US Navy Seal was killed there last month in a raid by American forces.

The Sunni-Shia conflict has gone on since the 7th century, almost seven times as long as the United States has existed as a nation.   Do we really think that our involvement is going to end the conflict between the two major branches of Islam?   Do we really think that moving Shia and Sunni from the Middle East to the US (and Europe) will suddenly make them love each other?   After the London attack on Wednesday, one security expert interviewed mentioned that the UK knows of 850 British passport holders, fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. If they are British raised, why are they still identifying with Sunni Islam and anxious to fight Shia Muslims?   It’s a question that needs to be addressed.

It’s just been announced that the perpetrator of the London attack was Kent-born and raised Khalid Masood, aged 52.   He was the son of immigrants and  a convert to Islam.

It should also be noted that the perpetrator was unusually old for a terrorist.

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If you can find it on pbs.org, this week’s Frontline examined the rise of the Shia militias in Iraq and the (Shia) government’s failure to address the problem.

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ANOTHER BLESSING OF BRITISH RULE

“Among some contemporary Israelis the British Mandate has come to be viewed nostalgically.  Although Palestine did not have the elephants, maharajahs and tigers of the Indian Raj, the same culture of Highland reels, polo and pink gins in the King David Hotel flourished.  So did an incorruptible civil service, possibly a novelty in the region.”  (‘Blood and Rage”, by Michael Burleigh, 2009, page 89)

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THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

A few days ago a friend gave me a copy of the Seventh Day Adventist magazine, “Amazing Facts.”   The cover story was titled:  “The Power of Forgiveness.”   Forgiveness is sadly lacking, even amongst Christians.   Church organizations often find it hard to forgive, so how can they teach their members to forgive others?

Yet our eternal life depends on it.

When the Apostle Peter asked Jesus Christ how often should he forgive his brother, Peter suggested that seven times would be enough; the Messiah’s response was “seventy times seven”, meaning an unlimited number of times (Matthew 18:21-22).

Jesus expounded on one of the points in His model prayer, adding:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”   (Matthew 6:14-15)

If Christians always practiced forgiveness, we would no doubt have more Christians.

Perhaps, given time, even the Muslims would follow and learn to forgive a 1400-year-old schism.

 

 

 

 

 

ISIL OR ISIS? WHAT’S IN A NAME?

ISIL or ISIS

Chuck Todd is the host of America’s longest running television series, “Meet the Press.”   Sometime ago he interviewed the President on his program.

Mr. Todd has an interesting explanation as to why the president insists on calling ISIS, ISIL.   The terrorist group called themselves ISIS until they shortened their name to IS, meaning “Islamic State.”

ISIS stands for “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”   These are the two countries in which the organization has been most successful, now controlling over 50% of Syria and substantial areas of Iraq.

ISIL stands for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”   This is a name the terrorists have never used, though it’s doubtful they will object to it as it actually makes them seem even more important than they already are.

The term “Levant” embraces a wider territory than just Iraq and Syria.   It includes those two countries and, in addition, Lebanon and Jordan.   ISIS has no territory in either country.  It would find Lebanon a very difficult country to conquer as it would come up against another terrorist group, Hezbollah, which is Shia Muslim.

So why does President Obama insist on ISIL?

Chuck Todd believes it has a lot to do with the mistakes the Obama Administration has made in Syria and his reluctance to face up to them.

An alternative theory, put forward on Fox by Harris Faulkner, is that using ISIL instead of ISIS gives the terror group a boost, implying they will soon control those countries, too, as they seek to expand their Islamic State.   This could suggest the president has some sympathy with them and their aims.

However, after watching PBS’s “Frontline” this week, Chuck Todd’s explanation has greater credibility.   (“Obama at War” should still be available at PBS.org and may be shown again on your local PBS station or PBS World.)

The one-hour documentary chronicled the mistakes the Administration made in Syria that led directly to the creation of ISIS (ISIL!).

It was early in 2011, during the euphoria of the Arab Spring, that demonstrations against the Assad regime began.   When President Assad’s forces cracked down on the demonstrators it triggered off the civil war, which has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.

Because the Administration decided not to support the “moderate” rebels, Sunni Muslims (the majority) in Syria needed protection from the ruling Shia.   This provided an opportunity for ISIS.

American weakness soon became obvious when the American president drew a line, making it clear that if Assad used chemical weapons there would be serious consequences.   The world has watched the Syrian government use chemical weapons more than once, witnessing children in their death throes from chlorine bombs and Washington has repeatedly failed to do anything.   This double mindedness has been to America’s shame!

“I would say, Mr. President, that you are going to go down in history if you continue like this, as somebody who has tarnished the reputation of the United States.   You have created many more enemies in the Middle East and you have unwittingly assisted global terrorism,” claimed Murhaf Jouejati, a member of the Syrian opposition to President Assad.

(Presumably, this program was produced prior to the recent summit in Washington DC with no-show Gulf Arab leaders. Even America’s traditional allies in the Middle East no longer trust the US over its dealings with Iran.)

Perhaps it is out of guilt that the Administration has allowed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Syrians to resettle in the US, even though this poses a potential security risk at home.

But it’s no wonder the President of the United States does not want to mention Syria and prefers ISIL to ISIS.

His confused Middle East policy also helps us understand why he will not use the term “Islamic extremists,” thereby showing a link between religion and terrorism.

This would suggest the alternative theory is correct – that he wants to give a boost to ISIS.   The Bible tells us that “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).

Whatever the explanation, the western world is in trouble.   The next twenty months could be very challenging ones for the West, as this double minded foreign policy plays out.   A lot more can happen in the next few months.

RISE OF ISIS

Bin Laden is dead, Long Live al-Baghdadi
Bin Laden is dead, Long Live al-Baghdadi!

Frontline’s “The Rise of ISIS” (PBS), shown on Tuesday, was a very revealing look at the origins of the terrorist organization, which went from nothing twelve months ago to being the world’s most feared terror group today, a group which has the potential to bring down the West. Although it has its origins in al-Qaeda, it is a far bigger threat. It’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is more successful than Osama bin Laden ever was. He spoke recently to the faithful in a mosque in the conquered city of Mosul, something bin-Laden never did.

The birth of ISIS has its origins in the Sunni-Shia conflict, which the US led Coalition failed to understand from Day One of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In fact, the whole debacle in Iraq and Syria is a classic example of a clash of civilizations, with a great deal of bungling on the western side. Two civilizations clashed – the West and Islam. Neither side understood the other.

Prior to the US invasion, Iraq was led by a ruthless dictator called Saddam Hussein.   Saddam was not a religious man and kept the religious extremists under control. Al-Qaeda did not even exist in Iraq under his rule.

The western invasion changed everything – and the consequences are likely to be with us for decades to come.

Saddam was a Sunni, a minority in Iraq, which has a majority Shia population.

The West saw democracy as the solution to everything. I remember an interview with President George W. Bush who, quoting an author, enthusiastically said that the spread of democracy would end all wars. British Prime Minister Tony Blair felt that democracy in Iraq, strategically located in the Middle East, would spread to other countries in the region, ending all the friction that leads to war.

Inevitably, once democracy was imposed on Iraq by the West, the majority Shia came to power, under the leadership of Anwar al-Maliki. This was a major shift in the balance of power in the region, giving Shi’ite Iran much greater influence in the Middle East.

As “Frontline” showed, it was al-Maliki’s paranoia that set the stage for the triumph of ISIS. Only one day after US troops left the country, he turned on leading Sunnis.

Al-Maliki could not embrace the Sunnis in government. Remembering Saddam’s reign of terror, Maliki was fearful of the Sunnis and feared a return to Sunni domination. It soon became clear that he would send Iraq’s army out to crush Sunni opposition, even when peaceful demonstrations were being held.

Al-Qaeda saw an opportunity to get into Iraq and soon had even moderate Sunnis supporting the organization, which was seen as the protector of Sunni Islam in the country. In February this year, ISIS broke away from al-Qaeda, pursuing a more extreme course. ISIS is sustained by the Shi’ite – Sunni conflict in Iraq. It also operates in Syria, where it has a big base.

Many in the West may see ISIS supporters as “mad,” but there is clearly a method in their madness. They have a dream of establishing a Caliphate across the Muslim world. Extremist Islamic terror groups threaten many countries throughout the Middle East and Africa – the dream could be realized. The latest casualty is Egypt. Over thirty Egyptian troops were attacked and killed just a few days ago. The Egyptian president responded by saying that the terrorists threaten the Egyptian state. The border with Gaza is to be more strictly enforced to keep Hamas fighters out of Egypt. The country is the most populous Arab state. If it falls, others will fall, just like dominoes.

Bible prophecy indicates that the entire region will become part of the “king of the south,” mentioned in Daniel 11. “At the time of the end” (v. 40) is the time period for this. The “king of the south” will push (attack?) against the “king of the north” (an alliance of countries to the north of Jerusalem). The king of the north then has to invade the Middle Eastern countries. Egypt is specifically mentioned, suggesting that Egypt will become a part of this extremist caliphate, just as the president warned could happen.

If ISIS is defeated, which seems unlikely at this point in time, the dream of the Caliphate will endure and another group will simply take over, just as ISIS has replaced al-Qaeda as the main threat in the region.