Tag Archives: Heiko Maas

THE AFRICAN SOLUTION

Marcus Garvey

Right now, the United States has the feel of South Africa about it.   Before 1994, South Africa was under the domination of one ethnic group; after 1994 it came under a different ethnic group.   Everything changed.

Clearly, the US has a lot of ethnic problems.   Perhaps Africa offers a solution.

There are over 50 African countries, each with its own president (or king), its own flag and national anthem.   They each have their own laws, but many laws are broadly the same.

For example, the Republic of Liberia specifically says that citizenship may only be given to black people.   Nearby Ghana recently extended Ghanaian citizenship to 100 African-Americans, but white people are not granted citizenship.  Not even those who are married to Ghanaians – they are given a one-year residence visa, which must be renewed every year.  You might think from this that they have really bad racial tensions, but quite the opposite is the case.   Ghana is at peace.  White people are welcome on short-term visas; if they offer skills that Ghana needs.

There is no diversity.

In the West, our emphasis is different.  In 1971, Canada was the first country to officially adopt multiculturalism.  Other nations in the western world quickly followed.   Diversity became all the rage.  In spite of the fact that it obviously doesn’t work, whenever there are riots or tensions between ethnic groups, leaders respond by saying that we need more diversity, not less.  It’s also impossible to achieve full equality between ethnic groups.

People clearly want to live with people of their own culture.

It’s only natural.

Discrimination is not right.  As the Bible says:  “God is no respecter of persons.”  (Acts 10:34)   But living separately in different countries is perfectly acceptable. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”  (Acts 17:26  NIV)

Enforcing diversity is only going to backfire.   Separation is perfectly acceptable.

Africans have long been saying “Africa for the Africans.”     So why not “Europe for the Europeans”?   And America for the . . . ?  (That’s a question for the Supreme Court!)

Over 200 years ago, the Back to Africa movement in the US was started by men who wanted to provide a home for freed slaves.   White liberals also supported the movement. It led to the founding of Liberia with its capital Monrovia, named after US president Monroe.

One hundred years later, Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican political activist, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator, advocated a separation of the races, calling for “Africa for the Africans.”

“Failing to attract a following in Jamaica, Garvey went to the United States (1916) and soon established branches of the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association) in Harlem and the other principal ghettos of the North. By 1919 the rising “Black Moses” claimed a following of about 2,000,000, though the exact number of association members was never clear.  From the platform of the Association’s Liberty Hall in Harlem, he spoke of a “new Negro,” proud of being black. His newspaper, Negro World, told of the exploits of heroes of the race and of the splendors of African culture.  He taught that blacks would be respected only when they were economically strong, and he preached an independent black economy within the framework of white capitalism.  To forward these ends, he established the Negro Factories Corporation and the Black Star Line (1919), as well as a chain of restaurants and grocery stores, laundries, a hotel, and a printing press.”   (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Now, we’ve moved on another century.   With the granting of citizenship in Ghana to 100 African-Americans, are the ideas of Marcus Garvey and others returning?

Separation of the races is likely to be considered “racist” in today’s western World.   But can it be racist when African governments themselves are embracing the idea?

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The Decline of the American World                                                                      It is hard to escape the feeling that this is a uniquely humiliating moment for America.   (The Atlantic (extracts), by Tom McTague)

 As citizens of the world the United States created, we are accustomed to listening to those who loathe America, admire America, and fear America (sometimes all at the same time).  But feeling pity for America?  That one is new, even if the schadenfreude is painfully myopic.  If it’s the aesthetic that matters, the U.S. today simply doesn’t look like the country that the rest of us should aspire to, envy, or replicate.

Even in previous moments of American vulnerability, Washington reigned supreme.  Whatever moral or strategic challenge it faced, there was a sense that its political vibrancy matched its economic and military might, that its system and democratic culture were so deeply rooted that it could always regenerate itself.   It was as if the very idea of America mattered, an engine driving it on whatever other glitches existed under the hood.   Now, something appears to be changing.  America seems mired, its very ability to rebound in question.  A new power has emerged on the world stage to challenge American supremacy – China – with a weapon the Soviet Union never possessed:   mutually assured economic destruction.

. . . To understand how this moment in U.S. history is being seen in the rest of the world, I spoke to more than a dozen senior diplomats, government officials, politicians, and academics from five major European countries, including advisers to two of its most powerful leaders, as well as to the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. From these conversations, most of which took place on the condition of anonymity to speak freely, a picture emerged in which America’s closest allies are looking on with a kind of stunned incomprehension, unsure of what will happen, what it means, and what they should do, largely bound together with angst and a shared sense, as one influential adviser told me, that America and the West are approaching something of a fin de siècle.  “The moment is pregnant,” this adviser said. “We just don’t know what with.”

. . . America’s problem is that the rest of the world can see when it has fallen below its achievements.

. . . Dickens, like le Carré, captured America’s unique hold on the world and the fundamental reality that it can never live up to people’s imagination of what it is, good or bad.  As it watches today, it recoils but cannot stop looking. In the United States, the world sees itself, but in an extreme form: more violent and free, rich and repressed, beautiful and ugly.  Like Dickens, the world expects more of America.  But as le Carré observed, it is also, largely, an aesthetic thing – we don’t like what we see when we look hard, because we see ourselves.

(https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/06/america-image-power-trump/613228/)

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‘Faces of the conquerors’:   Trump trip to Rushmore draws fire    South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said in 2018 that he had once told her straight-faced it was his dream to have his face carved into the monument.  

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) 25 June 2020 — President Donald Trump’s plans to kick off Independence Day with a showy display at Mount Rushmore are drawing sharp criticism from Native Americans who view the monument as a desecration of land violently stolen from them and used to pay homage to leaders hostile to native people.  Several groups led by Native American activists are planning protests for Trump’s July 3 visit, part of Trump’s “comeback” campaign for a nation reeling from sickness, unemployment and, recently, social unrest.  The event is slated to include fighter jets thundering over the 79-year-old stone monument in South Dakota’s Black Hills and the first fireworks display at the site since 2009.  But it comes amid a national reckoning over racism and a reconsideration of the symbolism of monuments around the globe. Many Native American activists say the Rushmore memorial is as reprehensible as the many Confederate monuments being toppled around the nation.  “Mount Rushmore is a symbol of white supremacy, of structural racism that’s still alive and well in society today,” said Nick Tilsen, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and the president of a local activist organization called NDN Collective.  “It’s an injustice to actively steal indigenous people’s land then carve the white faces of the conquerors who committed genocide.”  More:  (https://apnews.com/50f6bdb9e2fd2349bb39b99c1250b093)

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America’s top general warns that ‘divisiveness leads to defeat’ as Pentagon concerns over politicization grow                                        America’s most senior general warned that “divisiveness leads to defeat” in a speech to Naval War College graduates on Wednesday.                         24 June 2020, CNN

America’s most senior general warned that “divisiveness leads to defeat” in a speech to Naval War College graduates on Wednesday. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley counseled the audience to “eliminate anything that divides us.”   While he also spoke of the traditional need to keep an eye on adversaries “during periods when we are weary from conflict or otherwise preoccupied,” and did not mention President Donald Trump by name, his comments appeared to address the broader backdrop of racial divisiveness in the country and concerns within the Pentagon about the military becoming politicized.  Milley told the students, “We who wear the cloth of our nation must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our Republic.”  (https://edition.cnn.co)

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Going home — Donald Trump’s baffling proposal to withdraw troops from Germany    It makes little sense, and may never happen (The Economist (Europe), June 27, 2020 edition)

“It’s like having a stroke, and then a second one in the ambulance,” sighs Stefan Weiler, economic-development chief for Kaiserslautern, in south-west Germany.   The city was already battling high debt and the effects of covid-19.   Then came Donald Trump’s announcement that America would withdraw 9,500 of its 34,500 troops stationed in Germany.   Some 50,000 American soldiers, civil staff and family members live in and around Kaiserslautern.  The bases employ 2,700 locals and tens of thousands indirectly, from hotel-owners to parts suppliers.  “They’re our neighbors, they rent our houses, our kids play football together,” says Ralf Hechner, mayor of nearby Ramstein-Miesenbach, which adjoins a vast American air base.

This local warmth found a national echo.  Over decades dozens of American military bases – concentrated in Germany’s south, the area of post-war American occupation  – have cemented the bond between the NATO allies.  “I used to get a visit almost every year from the [premier] of Bavaria,” says Jim Townsend, the Pentagon’s former top official for Europe.  “We were important to him, and he was important to us.”

Mr. Trump and surrogates like Richard Grenell, his boorish former ambassador in Berlin, have long threatened to prune America’s military presence in Germany.  This time it looks credible.  At a rally in Oklahoma on June 20th Mr. Trump justified his proposal with a familiar charge-sheet: a “delinquent” Germany free-rides on American protection, spending nugatory sums on defense while backing a Russian gas pipeline.   “On top of it they treat us very badly on trade,” the president huffed.  A day later Robert O’Brien, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, attempted to retrofit a strategic rationale onto his boss’s decision.   The cold-war practice of massive army garrisons with families was “obsolete”, he wrote in the Wall Street Journal, because “modern warfare is increasingly expeditionary.”   Troops were needed in Asia to counter China, he added.

This account “would not pass muster” at any military college, says Ben Hodges, who commanded American army forces in Europe until 2017.   Although the reduction would represent just 15% of its troops in Europe, Germany is a crucial cog in America’s global military machine.  The Pentagon’s European and African commands, which control every soldier, tank, warplane and warship in their domains, are based in Stuttgart.   The army’s European headquarters are in Wiesbaden, and Germany hosts five of its seven European garrisons, including Grafenwöhr, its largest base outside America. Ramstein is a hub for directing drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen (to some German consternation).  The Landstuhl military hospital has treated 95,000 American soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.   “The amount of time and lives that that has saved is just incredible,” says Rachel Ellehuus, a former Pentagon official now at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank.  A vast $990m replacement, nicknamed the “UFO” by locals, is being built nearby.   At least 40% of American activity in Germany supports operations elsewhere, estimates Ms. Ellehuus.

A drawdown would follow a decades-long thinning of America’s presence.  Over 10m of its troops were cycled through Germany from 1950 to 2000, with 250,000 deployed for much of that time. That had dwindled to under 70,000 by the turn of the millennium, and fell by half again between 2006 and 2018.   Between 2005 and 2020 America’s overall footprint in Europe shrank by over a third.  That leaves little fat to trim.  American capabilities in Europe are spread so thinly across various functions that cutting any one of them by 30% would, in effect, eliminate it, warns General Hodges.  American generals in Germany are said to be baffled by the proposal.

Yet as Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, has warned, the Atlantic is clearly widening.  Tiffs over energy, trade, security and China are now threaded through the entire transatlantic relationship.  Pro-American Germans say the sabre-rattling of Mr. Trump and Mr. Grenell makes it harder for them to make their case to a sceptical public.  A recent Pew poll found that Germans now value their relations with China as strongly as those with the United States.  Still, at least in Kaiserslautern, Americaphilia reigns supreme.  “We don’t want the troops to leave,” says Mr. Weiler.  “It’s an honor to have them here.”

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “Going home,” Copyright © The Economist Newspaper Limited 2020. All rights reserved.

(https://www.economist.com/europe/2020/06/27/donald-trumps-baffling-proposal-to-withdraw-troops-from-germany)

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Map of U.S. Military installations in Germany in 2020 Army & Air Force

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GERMANY ASSUMES EU LEADERSHIP

Goal: economic and political independence from China and the USA.  1 July 2020, German Foreign Policy

With its EU-Council Presidency, which begins today, the German government seeks “to set in motion unprecedented changes” in the European Union, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced. Not only should the EU countries’ economies – which are experiencing an unprecedented slump, due to the Covid-19 pandemic – be reinvigorated, it is also crucial “to consolidate the union permanently,” Maas declared.   Berlin is thus reacting to the fact that single-handed national initiatives to combat the pandemic – particularly those of Germany – have severely damaged the EU’s reputation within the populations.   According to a recent survey, 50 percent of respondents in Spain declared that their view of the EU had deteriorated, in Italy, it was even 58 percent.   The German government is also pushing to strengthen the EU’s “sovereignty” and to reduce its dependency not only on China, but also on the USA:   In the global great power rivalry, Europe must position itself as a “united entity,” Maas demands.    (German Foreign Policy, 7/1/2020)

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America’s Mood Turns Grim:  Just 17% say they are ‘proud’ when thinking about state of the U.S.   (PEW Research, 30 June 2020)

With less than five months until the 2020 elections, Americans are deeply unhappy with the state of the nation.   As the United States simultaneously struggles with a pandemic, an economic recession and protests about police violence and racial justice, the share of the public saying they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country has plummeted from 31% in April, during the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, to just 12% today.  Anger and fear are widespread.   Majorities of Democrats and Republicans say they feel both sentiments when thinking about the country, though these feelings are more prevalent among Democrats.   And just 17% of Americans – including 25% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and 10% of Democrats and Democratic leaners – say they feel proud when thinking about the state of the country.  However, nearly half of adults (46%) say they feel hopeful about the state of the country, although a 53% majority says they are not hopeful.  In the presidential contest, Donald Trump faces a 10-percentage-point deficit in his race against Joe Biden:  54% of registered voters say if the election were held today, they would support Biden or lean toward voting for him, while 44% support Trump or lean toward supporting him.

. . . While white Americans’ opinion on this question is little changed overall, the views of white Democrats and white Republicans have moved in opposite directions.   The share of white Democrats who say life will be better for future generations doubled from 12% in September to 24%.   The share of white Republicans saying life will be better has decreased from 30% to 21%.

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HONG KONGERS OFFERED UK CITIZENSHIP

Britain outlined a path to citizenship for almost 3m eligible Hong Kong residents and their families in response to China’s imposition of a national-security law.  Britain’s foreign secretary described the new regime as a “clear and serious violation” of the agreement under which Britain handed the territory back in 1997—although he admitted Britain could do little if China blocks any emigrants, as it has since promised to do.   Meanwhile, America’s House of Representatives passed sanctions that penalise banks doing business with Chinese officials.  (The Economist, 7/1/2020)

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IRANIAN LEADER SAYS US WILL COLLAPSE

Iranian Ayatollah Lotfollah Dezhkam, Supreme Leader Khamene’s Representative in the Fars province, said in a Friday, June 19, 2020 sermon that aired on Fars TV (Iran): “America cannot be the main decision-maker when it comes to strategic matters in the world . . . The sound of America being shattered, and of its collapse, is being heard all over the world.  The shout of the Iranian nation [is] being heard from the mouths of the Americans themselves:   Death to America!”   The audience responded by chanting:   “Death to America!”  (MEMRI 6/25/2020)

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PANDEMIC TO AFFECT ELECTION DAY

The fear mongering of democrats.com laid bare:   “In the midst of a deadly pandemic, no one should be forced to risk their life to exercise their Constitutional right to vote.”

The question should be how does votedem.org know that “the deadly pandemic” will still be among us on Nov. 3, 2020?

Could it be that devious Democrats intend to steal the election through pandemic fear mongering as a means to get the MAIL-IN VOTE, spearheaded by Michelle Obama’s ”non-partisan” ‘When We All Vote’ is the law of the land?   (Canada Free Press, 6/28/2020)

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EUROPEAN ATTITUDES TO US DETERIORATING

A survey of opinion across nine EU countries has found Europeans’ perception of the US deteriorating because of the pandemic.  More than 60% of respondents in Germany, France, Spain, Denmark and Portugal said they had lost trust in American leadership.   According to the authors of a report accompanying the survey:

Many have been appalled by the [US’s] chaotic response to Covid-19; the lack of solidarity it showed with Europeans in the 12 March closure of its border to members of the Schengen area; and its lack of leadership in tackling the coronavirus crisis at the global level – or even engagement with the issue (beyond a war of words with the World Health Organization).  (The Guardian 6/29/2020)

The EU has since banned American visitors from Europe because of Covid-19.

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PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS CONTINUES IN NIGERIA, GREECE

  • “The atrocities against Christians have gone unchecked and risen to alarming apogee with the country’s security forces and concerned political actors looking the other way or colluding with the Jihadists.” — The Nigerian Voice, May 14, 2020
  • Earlier this year, Christian Solidarity International issued a “Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria.”
  • “This [using a church as a personal toilet] is only the latest incident … [I]t has become extremely common for Greek Orthodox Churches to be vandalised and attacked by illegal immigrants on Lesvos . . .   As a deeply religious society, these attacks on churches are shocking to the Greek people and calls to question whether these illegal immigrants seeking a new life in Europe are willing to integrate and conform to the norms and values of their new countries.” — Greek City Times, May 16, 2020.(Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone, 6/28/2020)

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GROWING INTOLERANCE AS RELIGIOUS STATUES UNDER THREAT   “Historical churches are being defaced as some call for statues of Jesus to be torn down.

“’Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down.  They are a form of white supremacy,” wrote political activist Shaun King, who is an open supporter of Black Lives Matter.

“In the Bible, when the family of Jesus wanted to hide, and blend in, guess where they went?   EGYPT!  Not Denmark,” King continued in a June 22 Twitter post.  “Tear them down.”

“In Washington, vandals defaced the historical St. John’s Episcopal Church located just one block away from the White House.”   (The Epoch Times, 6/2/2020).

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BIDEN TAKES RADICAL STANCE ON ABORTION

Planned Parenthood recently endorsed Joe Biden for president, saying this election was a matter of life and death.  Ironic words from a group that makes millions off the deaths of America’s children.  But it appears their endorsement of the Democrat was well-founded.  Since becoming the party’s de facto nominee, Joe Biden has lurched further to the left— a move unusual in a general election.

Biden is increasingly alienating moderate voters even in his own party.  Now, he promises a radical approach to abortion—if he enters the White House.

In a statement praising the Supreme Court for striking down a Louisiana law requiring doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced his support for abortion “under any circumstance,” staking out an extreme position on the issue.  (National Insiders, 7/1/2020)

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BLM Protest in Colonial Williamsburg

On Tuesday morning, June 30, we were visiting Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Va. We were inside the Governor’s Palace when we spotted 6 police cruisers and heavy police presence, including the park’s security. I found it odd since the park has only been opened for a week and there were few visitors with only about ten percent of the buildings open for historical tours.

The atmosphere was hardly cheerful as everyone was wearing masks and visitors were required to wear masks inside and in outdoor exhibits such as the armory, the gardens, the weaver’s outdoor shop, the blacksmith, and the barrel maker. The temperatures in the 90s yesterday made wearing the masks quite unbearable.  (Canada Free Press, 7/1/2020)

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TEN TAKE-AWAYS

  1.   Boris Johnson promises ‘new deal’ for Britain                                        Boris Johnson will promise to “build back better” as he announces that he wants to use the coronavirus crisis “to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges,” with a “new deal” bringing forward £5bn of spending on infrastructure projects.  However, critics have scoffed at the plan, saying Johnson cannot be compared to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who created the approach of a “new deal.”  (The Week, 6/30/2020) .   “FDR’s Folly” by Jim Powell shows that FDR prolonged the Great Depression.  Also: “The Forgotten Man” by Amity Schlaes.

2.   China passes contentious national security law for Hong Kong
China has passed a controversial national security law for Hong Kong.  The new legislation was passed unanimously by the Chinese parliament’s top decision-making body.  Critics fear the move will crush political freedoms and pave the way for Beijing to cement its control over the semi-autonomous territory, says The Guardian.   (The Week, 6/30/2020)

3.   Trump ‘bullied May’ and called Merkel ‘stupid’
President Donald Trump’s private calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin resemble conversations between “two guys in a steam bath,” according to an insider account.  “Some of the things he said to Angela Merkel are just unbelievable:  he called her ‘stupid,’” added the source, while Trump’s conversations with former prime minister Theresa May were described as “humiliating and bullying.”  (The Week, 6/30/2020)

4.   Revised data from Britain’s Office for National Statistics showed the greatest quarterly fall in the country’s GDP since 1979.   Output dropped by 2.2% in the first quarter compared to the previous three months, revised down from a previous estimate of a 2% fall.   The revision was driven by a decline in household consumption, which dropped 2.9% in the first quarter.  (The Economist, 6/30/2020)

5.   Police in Hong Kong fired water-cannon and pepper spray at pro-democracy protesters and made 30 arrests, the first under a new national-security law (see main stories). Britain, the EU and NATO expressed dismay after China’s parliament passed the law. Adopted by the territory’s government last night, it gives the government in Beijing and its security agencies the right to designate and prosecute political crimes in Hong Kong.   Activists may face life imprisonment.   One of the first people to be arrested under the new law had unfurled a banner proclaiming “Hong Kong Independence.”   (The Economist, 7/1/2020)

6.    The EU’s 27 member states agreed on 14 “safe” countries from which non-essential travel will be permitted, including Australia, Canada and Japan.  China will also be included, as long as travelers from the EU are allowed to go to China in return.   America, Brazil and Russia, which are suffering big surges of infections, are not on the list.  (The Economist, 7/1/2020)

7.   US snaps up global supply of Covid-19 drug remdesivir                      The US has bought up virtually all the world’s stocks of remdesivir, one of the two drugs proven to work against Covid-19.  “They’ve got access to most of the drug supply [of remdesivir], so there’s nothing for Europe,” said Dr Andrew Hill, senior visiting research fellow at Liverpool University.  Experts now fear what the US would do if a vaccine became available.

8.   Nearly 50% of black UK households live in poverty
Nearly half of black UK households are living in poverty, an independent study has revealed.   Black and minority ethnic households in the UK are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as their white counterparts, leaving them disproportionately exposed to job losses and pay cuts caused by the coronavirus pandemic, says the Social Metrics Commission.

9.   VATICAN RAID – Vatican police on Tuesday raided the office that manages St. Peter’s Basilica, seizing documents and electronic equipment as part of an investigation into possible corruption in procurement practices.  The extraordinary raid comes a month after the Vatican published new procurement rules intended to prevent corruption and cut costs.  The Holy See Press Office said Tuesday that police had acted under orders from Vatican prosecutors in response to a report by the city state’s auditor general.   (WSJ, 6/30/2020)

10.   The Cameroonian waging war against a French war hero’s statue  by Dickens Olewe, BBC News, 1 July 2020

Cameroonian activist Andre Blaise Essama has been on a decades-long mission to purge his country of colonial-era symbols, long before the issue came to international prominence in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.  His main target has been French World War Two hero Gen Philippe Leclerc in the country’s biggest city, Douala.  “I have decapitated Leclerc’s head seven times and toppled the statue at least 20 times,” Mr. Essama told the BBC.  “I use my bare hands … but I make an incantation to the ancestors first,” he said.  (BBC 7/1/2020)              (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-53148608)

MORE ON CORONA

AMERICA AHEAD

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

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

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

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CHINA’S ECONOMY DOWN

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

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GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY

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

ANTI-CHINESE FEELING HIGH IN GERMANY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ISRAEL FINALLY GETS A NEW GOVERNMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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South Africa deploys over 70,000 troops to enforce lockdown

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

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

The lockdown restrictions currently apply until Thursday 30 April.

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

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AUSTRALIA’S REPUBLICANS AT IT AGAIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politicom is a conservative Australian newsletter.

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US DEFEAT IN AFGHANISTAN

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

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

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

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DOES EUROPE HAVE ANY CONSERVATIVES?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IRAN’S DRONES CAN HIT ISRAEL

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

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AFTER THOUGHT

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

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

The theory of evolution in 1859 changed all that.

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

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

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

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

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

MR     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEMORIES OF WATERGATE

President Richard M. Nixon gives an emotional farewell address to his staff prior to his leaving the White House, Aug. 9, 1974. His situation is being compared to Donald Trump’s. (AP Photo)

In 1973 or ’74, I was living in England where I was the Student Editor of The Portfolio, a Student newspaper. I remember then writing an editorial on Watergate and how the continual, never-ending saga of America’s domestic issues, was damaging America’s international relations.   The article was censored and was not published.

In ’73-’74 America suffered a number  of international set-backs.   The biggest challenge was the October War, when three Arab nations tried to destroy Israel.   At the same time, the oil producing nations of OPEC raised the price of oil by 400%, causing a major international recession.

I now have a sense of Déjà vu, all over again!

New Year’s saw crowds try to seize control of the US Embassy in Iraq.   A country Americans like to think they helped restore democracy has now turned against us.   In Afghanistan, where the US desperately wants peace as a prelude to withdrawal, the Taliban has made it clear that all American troops must leave before they will sit down and talk.

Iraq and Afghanistan – two recent wars that we have lost!

In addition, North Korea is making strong and possibly serious threats of action against the US.

German leaders will no doubt now go ahead with a deal with Russia, making the country more dependent on Russia for energy and giving Russia a major financial boost for further defense spending.

The rest of the world does not understand impeachment (do Americans?).   Their sense is that the US president is greatly weakened and will soon be out of office.   This will not end until the election, ten months away.   By that time, the world could very well be a very different place!

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Germany could make big EU impact in 2020

So far, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has not been particularly ambitious with regard to EU affairs.  But next year provides ample opportunity to make real progress.

 2020 will be a big year for Germany when it comes to European affairs.   Berlin will take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union in July, but even before then German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has come out to push for a “strong and sovereign Europe.”

To make Europe a bigger player on the world stage, Maas called for a European Security Council to tackle foreign affairs and security issues — such a council could even include the post-Brexit United Kingdom.

*During Germany’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, it will host an EU-Africa summit.   It will be about bringing both continents closer together.   According to Krichbaum, the bloc for many decades woefully neglected its ties with Africa.

(https://www.dw.com/en/germany-could-make-big-eu-impact-in-2020/a-51774449)

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Germany ponders bigger troop mandate in Africa’s Sahel

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said she supports sending more troops to Africa’s Sahel.   Although France already has a strong deployment, they’ve asked for support and Germany cannot “duck away” from the region, she said.

The Sahel spans numerous countries, including parts of Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Mauritania.  Kramp-Karrenbauer noted that the Sahel region has become a “major hub for terrorism, organized crime, migration and human trafficking.”

Germany cannot allow itself to “duck away” from responsibility in the region”, she said.   “In the end, we would have to put up walls and barbed wire all around Europe.”

(https://www.dw.com/en/germany-ponders-bigger-troop-mandate-in-africas-sahel/a-51828723  Map attached)

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Merkel’s ‘grand coalition’ faces array of new challenges                         A poll has found that one-third of Germans want new elections.  Right-wing populists are most eager to clear the decks, and the new SPD leadership has fueled concern about the stability of Germany’s grand coalition.

Divisive issue of speed:  The topic of speed limits is to Germans what gun rights are to many in the US.   Overall, the poll found that 34% of voters want to be rid of the current coalition government, as opposed to 39% who say it should continue to serve until regular elections are held in the fall of 2021.

(https://www.dw.com/en/germany-merkels-grand-coalition-faces-array-of-new-challenges/a-51827518)

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Germans think Trump is more dangerous than Kim Jong Un and Putin
When asked who posed the greatest threat to world peace, Germans in a recent poll overwhelmingly pointed to one person — Donald Trump.  

The US president beat out the leaders of North Korea, Russia, China and Iran   (Deutsche Welle * 26 Dec, 2019)

Although Washington is one of Germany’s closest allies, public trust in the US has significantly eroded under President Donald Trump, a new YouGov survey showed.   Germans were asked who was more dangerous:   North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Russian President Vladimir Putin or US President Donald Trump.   Some 41% of Germans said they thought Trump was the most dangerous out of the five world leaders.  In second place was Kim with 17%, followed by Putin and Khamenei with 8%.   Coming in last was China’s Xi Jinping with 7%.   Over 2,000 people in Germany took part in the survey, which was commissioned by news agency dpa.   A similar YouGov poll was carried out in July last year, in which 48% of Germans surveyed said Trump was more dangerous than Kim and Putin.  That poll, however, did not include the leaders of Iran or China.

(MORE:  https://www.dw.com/en/germans-think-trump-is-more-dangerous-than-kim-jong-un-and-putin/a-51802332)

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GERMANS UNWILLING TO DEFEND US                                              Germans are more unwilling than willing to defend NATO ally the United States should she be attacked by Russia, according to a YouGov survey.

The poll was conducted amongst key members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the defence bloc which was formed during the Cold War to protect allies from Soviet aggression.

Out of the U.S. France, the UK, and Germany, Americans showed the most willingness to “use military force if Russia attacks” NATO allies and partner countries.

Britons were almost equal in the urge to protect as Americans, but opinion was an “even split” on whether to defend Turkey, while the French were more willing to defend the U.S. and others apart from the Ukraine, Turkey, and Romania.

…. “It is very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes and pays out billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.   We’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries,” President Trump said.

Currently, only the United States, Greece, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Romania, Poland, and Latvia are meeting their NATO spending obligations, which require members to spend at least two per cent of GDP on defense spending.

Germany is only spending 1.36 per cent of its GDP on defense, well below its NATO obligations, despite having the largest economy in Europe.

Germany was the only country out of these major powers to say they were more unwilling than willing to defend the U.S., 43 per cent to 32 per cent; by contrast, 54 per cent of Americans think they should defend Germany should she find herself attacked by Russia (Breitbart, 12/29/19)

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Expect a tumultuous 2020 in the Middle East                                              by Marc Lynch, The Washington Post, Wednesday, January 1, 2020

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that the Middle East’s 2020 will be tumultuous.   Libya’s civil war has taken a dangerous turn, with Russian mercenaries and Turkish forces joining the fray as Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s forces push into the capital.   Yemen’s still ravaged by economic blockade and war, despite recent efforts on all sides to de-escalate the conflict.   Syria’s civil war continues to metastasize, with a massive new wave of refugees fleeing violence in Idlib.   Large-scale popular protests are challenging Iraq’s government, which is bracing for fallout from the growing confrontation between the United States and Iran.   Israel and the Palestinian territories could dramatically change their relationship, as the prospects of a two-state solution dissolve.   And protest movements throughout the region could shake up half a dozen regimes.

Here are three trends to watch in the Middle East over the coming year.   Expect these three trends to bring numerous crises during this U.S. election year, shaping the challenges that will await the next administration.

  1. Every government is on edge about the U.S. 2020 election: Usually, when the U.S. government changes hands, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East remains steady and consistent.  No more.
  2. Conflicts in the gulf region are getting harder to control:   The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran has inflicted economic pain while accomplishing few or none of its strategic objectives.
  3. Protests and more protests.   2019’s wave of protests across the Middle East rivaled those of the Arab Spring in 2011 – and in some ways were more impressive.   Protests challenged regimes in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon; forced political change in Algeria; and overthrew the Sudanese regime.   More will come.
    (https://www.thehour.com/news/article/Expect-a-tumultuous-2020-in-the-Middle-East-14943308.php)

(Marc Lynch is a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Project on Middle East Political Science.  He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Program and the co-director of the Blogs and Bullets project at the United States Institute of Peace.  Lynch is the editor of “The Arab Uprisings Explained:   New Contentious Politics in the Middle East” and the author of “The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East.

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UK SEX GROOMING GANGS VICTIMIZE 19,000 CHILDREN IN 2019

Despite the publicity given to UK’s Pakistani sex grooming gangs since 2012, close to 19,000 children have been victimized by UK sex grooming gangs in 2019.   The number represents a 3,300 increase from five years ago.

In a report by the Independent, activists say the true number is much higher, as many of these crimes go unreported.   After underage girls are groomed using drugs and alcohol, many are reluctant to go to the authorities as their groomers convince them that due to the illegality of the substances, the victims themselves will be punished.

The exploitation has been widely known to local government officials, social workers and law enforcement officials for over a decade.   However, for fear of being called racists, authorities took no steps to prevent the horrific abuse of young, white British girls.

Sarah Champion is a Labor MP from Rotherham where the story broke in 2012 and a tireless campaigner for the victims of these gangs.   In 2017, Champion was forced to resign from her position as shadow (opposition) secretary for women and equalities after writing an article in The Sun telling the facts about the sex grooming gangs:

Frustrated that years after recommendations were made to endless government commissions with no measures taken to support victims and prevent such abuse in the future, Champion wrote, “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls … There. I said it.  Does that make me a racist?  Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?”

Champion continued:   “The irony of all of this is that, by not dealing with the ethnicity of the abusers as a fact, political correctness has actually made the situation about race.”

“The perpetrators are criminals and we need to deal with them as such, not shy away from doing the right thing by fearing being called a racist.”

In a scathing talk in which he excoriated authorities for not protecting Britain’s young girls, Muslim activist Majid Nawaz said, “They were men like me from my community and in all but three, the victims were white teenage girls.   That is the truth, and what I’m saying is so uncomfortable that we’ve been ignoring it for years.   As a result of ignoring it, this problem has been growing and growing to a point where it now has led to racial tensions.” (Clarion Project, 12/31/2019)

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TO THE POINT

  • French president Emmanuel Macron awarded Britain the Legion of Honor, in recognition of the fact that Britain gave Charles de Gaulle and the “Free French” army refuge during World War II.   Many Frenchmen were opposed, claiming that Britain is France’s traditional enemy.
  • EUROPE:  ANTI-CHRISTIAN ATTACKS REACH ALL TIME HIGH.  The issue of anti-Christian vandalism was rarely reported by the European media until February 2019, when vandals attacked nine churches within the space of two weeks.   The issue made headlines again in April 2019, when a suspicious fire gutted the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.   Since then, however, the European media are once again shrouding facts in silence. (Soeren Kern, Gatestone, 1/1/2020)
  • “Statistics on homelessness are patchy, but dispiriting.   In 2010-18 the French government doubled the spaces in emergency accommodation to 146,000, yet cannot meet demand.   In Spain the number in shelters rose by 2-.5% between 2014 and 2016.   In the Netherlands homelessness has doubled in the past decade.  In Ireland, the number in shelters has tripled.   The German government estimates homelessness rose by 4% in 2018, to a record 678,000, most of them migrants.   All this has thrown a spanner into government’s plans.  For years, they have been trying to shift from providing beds for the night to housing first strategies like Finland’s.   Instead they are struggling to keep people off the streets.”   (“Oh give me a home,  Europe,” The Economist, 12/21/2019).
  • Political instability in Germany, coupled with ongoing economic uncertainty, could mean that the disruption seen in the U.K. during its Brexit crisis could shift across the continent to Europe’s largest economy, according to economists and market watchers. (CNBC 12/30/2019)
  • On December 24, Vladimir Putin took part in the Defense Ministry Board meeting held at the National Defense Control Centre.   During the Defense Ministry Board meeting, Putin discussed the role of European countries in contributing to the outbreak of WWII.   Commenting on Poland, Putin used strong words to criticize the Polish ambassador to Nazi Germany, Josef Lipski, who backed Hitler in 1938.   “That bastard! That antisemitic pig – I have no other words,” Putin said referring to Lipski.   This video aired on Rossiya-24 TV (Russia) and was translated into English by Vesti. (MEMRI 12/30)
  • Biblical Archaeology Report listed a finding at the biblical site of Shiloh as the second-most important biblical archeological discovery during 2019 out of a total of ten discoveries.
    What was the number one find in biblical archaeology? A bulla (clay stamp) found in the ancient City of David, with the inscription “[belonging] to nathan-melech, servant of the king,” not far from the Jewish Temple.   First-century artifacts and a Byzantine church in Bethsaida, evidence of Jerusalem’s destruction in the Babylonian period and a monumental staircase at Hazor, also made the cut.
    (https://www.israelhayom.com/2020/01/01/the-most-important-biblical-discovery-of-2019-not-what-you-think/)
  • Please remember to pray for Australia, which is experiencing the most horrendous fires in its history.  Watching them and the skies over New Zealand made me think of the prophecy in Deut. 28:23:   “And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron.”

WE CAN ALL HAVE VACATIONS, EXCEPT FOR SCOTT MORRISON

Australia is facing a massive bill from unprecedented, deadly fires that have burned an area bigger than Belgium. (Getty images)

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, had to abruptly end his Hawaiian family holiday to return to Australia to fight bushfires which are the worst in history.  Millions of dollars’ worth of damage has been done to property in rural New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.  Over 4 million hectares  (almost ten million acres)  have been destroyed.

There was a public outcry against the prime minister, with people calling for an immediate end to his vacation.   All those protesting were showing their ignorance, as fighting bush fires is a state responsibility and not that of the federal government.

They were also ignorant when it comes to climate change.  This is why Mr. Morrison got attacked – he has defended the Australian coal industry and come under a lot of criticism for it.   But as many as 50% of all fires are started deliberately.  Here in Michigan, a billboard proclaims that 9 out of 10 fires are caused by humans.

“Two of the most recent studies say there are between 52,000 and 54,000 bushfires in Australia every year.   Dr. Paul Read, co-director of Australia’s National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson, puts the figure higher, at “62,000 and increasing.”

Of those, 13% are started deliberately, and 37% are suspicious.  That means 31,000 Australian bushfires are either arson, or suspected arson, every year.

That figure does not include recklessness or accidents.  So a bushfire caused by a barbecue, or a spark from a chainsaw, would be classed as “accidental.”    In short, up to 85 bushfires begin every day because someone leaves their house and decides to start one.”   (BBC 11/10)

It may be months before the fires can be brought under control, as the dry season of summer continues.   By the time they are, Australia will have serious economic damage.   There may even be food shortages as so many farms have been ruined.

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AUSTRALIA

‘Right on our doorstep’:    Secret sub reveals China’s chilling plan After years of domination in the South China Sea, Chinese submarines have started popping up somewhere new – and it’s on our doorstep.        by Jamie Seidel, news.com.au, DECEMBER 24, 2019 1:11PM

 The Andaman Sea is fast becoming the latest target of Chinese expansionism.   India says it has seen a surge of Chinese submarine activity in the strategically critical waterway.

And, last month, its navy booted a Chinese spy ship out of its waters. But Indian Navy sources say Chinese submarines have become a regular visitor to the region.   And they’re much harder to deal with.

In September, the Indian navy evicted the Chinese survey ship Shiyan-1 for intruding upon its exclusive economic zone.   It was sailing among the Andaman and Nicobar Islands without permission. And such survey ships map the ocean floor for just two purposes: military or economic.

Seeking oil, gas or other significant resource deposits inside Indian waters would be … cheeky.    Gleaning high-resolution charts of canyons on the sea floor for submarines to hide among would be … offensive.

Exactly why China would be interested in these islands can be inferred by the proximity of Malacca Strait.   The narrow channel is a natural choke-point for most of Asia’s trade and fuel supplies.   In any future conflict, knowledge of the waters surrounding it would be a matter of victory or defeat.

And that fight would be on Australia’s doorstep.

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Russia Is Stepping Up Its Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Jehovah’s Witnesses, a U.S.-based international Christian denomination claiming 8.5 million members, are a common sight in countries around the world, as proselytizing door-to-door is a central tenet of their faith. But in Russia they have been forced underground following imprisonment and allegations of torture; only Islamic fundamentalists are treated more harshly.

Russia’s justice ministry calls the group, which has grown its membership here to 170,000, a threat to public order.  They were banned as “extremist” in Russia in 2017, putting them in the same ranks as neo-Nazis.   A spokesperson for the conservative Russian Orthodox Church, which has grown in influence under Putin, has said Jehovah’s Witnesses manipulate people’s consciousness and “can not be called Christians.”

Now, the crackdown is escalating. On Dec. 13, Vladimir Alushkin, an entrepreneur from Penza southeast of Moscow, was sentenced to six years for organizing “extremist activities” after a judge ruled that he had preached the ideas of Jehovah’s Witnesses, organized worship services, distributed literature and gathered donations. Five others including his wife Tatyana received two-year suspended sentences and three years of probation.

After the 2017 ban, 395 branches of the church in Russia were shut down and their evangelizing and meetings were forbidden.   The organization says 297 members in Russia are facing criminal charges; 43 are in detention and 22 are under house arrest.   At least 5,000 have fled Russia for Europe and North America.

The brutal repressions have reminded some in the church of when Joseph Stalin sent nearly 10,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses to guarded settlements in Siberia.   (Time, Dec 2019)
(https://time.com/5751224/jehovahs-witness-russia-persecution/)


THE FALL OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE

Singapore’s hidden military secrets
by Emiko Jozuka, 23 Dec 2019, Singapore (CNN)

Inside the dimly lit underground bunker, 12 military commanders are about to trigger the largest capitulation in British military history.   At 9:45 a.m. on February 15, 1942, Lt. Gen. Arthur Percival and 11 other senior officers agreed to surrender the British Empire’s forces, numbering more than 120,000 in Malaysia and Singapore, to the Japanese, whose troops numbered under half that.   They made that decision from within “the Battlebox,” a secret and heavily fortified underground military bunker that’s been turned into a museum at Fort Canning Hill in Singapore.   After 70 days of brutal jungle warfare, Percival’s crew was short on ammunition, food and water.   “The primary defense of the British Empire rested on the defense of Singapore. From there, Britain could span her entire empire in Asia,” explains Battlebox director Jeya Ayadurai.   But surrender soon became the only option. Percival’s decision would not just open the darkest chapter in Singapore’s modern history — it also sparked the unraveling of the British Empire.

. . . “There are a lot of myths regarding the Battle of Singapore, and we felt that [the reasons] why Singapore fell had to be more readily explained and understood.    We wanted to bring focus in terms of modern Singapore looking forward,” he adds.   As Singapore focused on growth, the idea of commemorating the past was overlooked, says Ayadurai.   “We became a first world country in haste, and we were able to do that because we were very focused on the economy, but there was not much focus on remembrance,” he says.
(https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/battlebox-military-bunker-singapore-hnk-intl/index.html)

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Europe’s Age of Humiliation

Sławomir Sierakowski in Project Syndicate writes trenchantly on the EU being “helpless and resigned” in the face of global challenges:

“Today, the EU increasingly resembles nineteenth-century China: a still-rich empire that cannot be occupied by others, but is weak enough to be infiltrated and exploited. China, meanwhile, has assumed Europe’s former role, with its companies and investors increasingly penetrating the European economy and extending their influence.”  (Brussels Briefing, 12/19)

Following the electoral victory of Britain’s Conservatives under Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the German government is now urging a continuation of its close cooperation with that country. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressed his hopes that the United Kingdom “remains a close partner.”   Chancellor Angela Merkel is “looking forward to our continued cooperation, for friendship, and a close partnership between our countries.”   Berlin needs Great Britain’s political and military capabilities for implementing Germany’s European global policy projects.   The British armed forces are still considered to be the most powerful in Europe and London still has considerable influence on global policy.   Political and economic examples show that disregarding Britain’s interests can push London into direct rivalry to Berlin.   This factor is now all the more important, because Brexit provides the United Kingdom economic and political alternatives to cooperation with the EU.  (German Foreign Policy, 12/19)

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ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE

  • “Although Jews represent less than one percent of the population, half of the racist acts committed in France are committed against Jews.” — French Member of Parliament Meyer Habib.
  • Anti-Semitism is advancing throughout the continent and often has a Middle” Eastern cast.   Yet, the authorities also talk only about right-wing anti-Semitism.
  • Leftist anti-Semitism is present all over Europe.   Its followers, as in France, do their best to hide and protect Middle Eastern anti-Semitism.
  • The demographic transformation taking place in France is also happening throughout Western Europe, and the growing submission to Islam is being silently accepted by the ruling authorities almost everywhere.    (Gatestone, 12/20)

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FAILING CHRISTIANITY

From the Catholic Chronicle:                                                                               People who have not yet received the Gospel message do not live only in non-Western continents; they live everywhere, particularly in vast urban concentrations that call for a specific pastoral outreach.   In big cities, we need other “maps,” other paradigms, which can help us reposition our ways of thinking and our attitudes. Brothers and sisters, Christendom no longer exists!  Today we are no longer the only ones who create culture, nor are we in the forefront or those most listened to.   We need a change in our pastoral mindset, which does not mean moving towards a relativistic pastoral care.   We are no longer living in a Christian world, because faith – especially in Europe, but also in a large part of the West – is no longer an evident presupposition of social life; indeed, faith is often rejected, derided, marginalized and ridiculed.

… I think of five countries that filled the world with missionaries – I told you which ones they are – and today lack the vocational resources to go forward. That is today’s world.      (Christendom no longer exists, Rocco Palmo, 12/21, Catholic Chronicle)

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A fraction of Peter’s Pence donations actually ends up with charitable causes                                                                                                               A fraction of donations to a special papal fund goes directly to charitable causes with the rest spent on plugging the Holy See’s budget deficit, according to a report in “The Wall Street Journal.”  Around 10 per cent of the monies donated to Peter’s Pence is spent on supporting the poor and suffering out of an annual budget of €50 million (£42 million). 

The fund is technically not for charitable purposes describing itself as serving “the many different needs of the Universal Church and for the relief of those most in need,” and has long been used to help with the Vatican’s running costs.   But the news that such a large portion of the budget is still being used to balance the Vatican’s books shows the deep-seated problems Pope Francis is grappling with in attempting to reform the Vatican’s finances.  Soon after his election, Francis lamented that the monies were being used to plug deficits rather than being spent on the poor.   During his pontificate, the Pope has used the fund to help the destitute, including sending $500,000 (£375,000) in April 2019 to help migrants on the Mexico border.   “Let us make money go to the poor,” the Pope told his financial advisers in 2013, according to a new book on the papacy, “Wounded Shepherd”, by Austen Ivereigh.   The Vatican does not publish a detailed breakdown of how Peter’s Pence money is spent, and what portion goes to covering administration costs, although it does list which projects it has supported on a website, http://www.peterspence.va.   The total value of the fund is thought to be roughly €600 million.

Peter’s Pence has its origins in ninth-century England when King Alfred the Great collected money from landowners to support the Pope.  The practice was revived, and formalised by Pius IX in 1871 and was known as the Obolo di San Pietro (“offerings from the faithful”).
(Copyright © The Tablet Publishing Company 2015 – 2019, all rights reserved)
(https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/12307/one-tenth-of-peter-s-pence-actually-reaches-the-needy)

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US IMAM CLAIMS ALLAH TRANSFORMED JEWS INTO APES AND PIGS

Indonesian-American Imam Mohamad Joban of Masjid Ar-Rahmah in Redmond, WA delivered a lecture focusing on a Quranic story of a town of Jews who were transformed into apes by Allah for having rebelled against Him by setting fishing nets on Friday, before the Sabbath, and collecting the fish on Sunday.   He said that this story was never exposed because the Jews cover up bad stories about themselves and always pretend to be pious.   Laughing, he told how the Jews who had been transformed into apes cried because they couldn’t recognize one another as apes.

Then Imam Joban said that in another verse, the violators were transformed into pigs.   He discussed the question whether the transformed Jews had offspring and said that there are two views about this.   However, he mentioned two cases, from Egypt and Malaysia, where newborns looked like descendants of apes and pigs.   Imam Joban and his congregation chanted from the Quran responsively:   “When [the Jews] rebelled against the commands to refrain, [Allah] said to them, ‘Be despicable apes’…” Imam Joban is a full-time Imam at Masjid Ar-Rahmah, which belongs to the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS). The lecture was uploaded to the MAPS Redmond YouTube channel on December 17, 201 (MEMRI, 12/23)

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REPORT ON ‘NEW PALESTINE’ SHARPLY CONTRADICTS US POSITIONS

Trump plan sees 3-way peace deal between Israel, PLO, Hamas
Lebanese outlet claims deal would see Israel keep settlements, Palestinians get Jerusalem share, Saudis gain Temple Mount role, Egypt give land for Gaza.     (Times of Israel, 17 Dec 2019)

Claiming to have obtained a copy of the Trump administration’s long-awaited peace deal, a Lebanese TV station asserted Monday that the US plan envisions a tripartite agreement providing for Palestinian statehood to be signed by Israel, the West Bank-based Palestine Liberation Organization and the Hamas terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.   The report by the pro-Hezbollah Al-Mayadeen features details that starkly contradict the limited information the administration has released about the plan, and that stand at sharp odds with known US and Israeli positions, casting considerable doubt on the credibility of the report.

The report claimed the United States would end its economic support for Israel if the Jewish state rejects the deal, which reportedly provides for establishing a Palestinian state in Gaza and parts of the West Bank to be called “New Palestine.”  (https://www.timesofisrael.com/report-trump-plan-envisages-three-way-peace-deal-between-israel-plo-and-hamas/)

PLEASE NOTE: THE ABOVE HAS NOT BEEN VERIFIED BY ANY OTHER SOURCE.

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TO THE POINT

  • Lagos, Nigeria:   A slow-motion war is under way in Africa’s most populous country.   It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality.   And the world has hardly noticed.  (WSJ, 12/20)
  • The justice department has unveiled plans for a crackdown on violent crime in seven US cities.   William Barr, the attorney general, outlined Operation Relentless Pursuit at a press conference in Detroit on Thursday, flanked by the leaders of several federal law enforcement agencies.   The plan will increase the federal law enforcement presence in Detroit, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee, which have crime rates higher than the national average.(Guardian, 12/20)
  • Tony Blair criticized the Labor leadership at the recent general election.   The former Labor prime minister argued that if the party does not jettison Jeremy Corbyn’s “quasi-revolutionary socialism” and revert to a more centrist position, then it might become extinct.   He also mocked Labor’s “almost comic indecision” over Brexit;   Mr. Corbyn stayed neutral on the biggest issue of the campaign.   (Economist, 12/19)
  • The evangelical Christian magazine, Christianity Today,  founded by Billy Graham has called for Trump’s removal from office following his impeachment, in a break from the president’s typically staunch evangelical support.  (Guardian, 12/20)
  • Turkish President Erdogan Again Threatens To Push Refugees Into Europe:    ‘All European Countries – Above All, Greece – Will Feel The Pressure Turkey Feels (MEMRI 12/24) (http://memri.convio.net/site/R?i=cBe2CcBx5_Z5jD6a-Mi-Xw)

GERMANY UPS FIGHT AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM

HALLE, Germany (AP) — A heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews tried to force his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, then shot two people to death nearby in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a popular gaming site.

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet passed new measures Wednesday aimed at helping fight far-right extremism and anti-Semitism following an attack on a synagogue earlier this month.

The proposals include tightening gun laws, stepping up prosecution of online hate, and boosting financial support for projects fighting anti-Semitism and far-right extremism.

“The horrible attack on the Jewish community in Halle showed again what the unleashing of hatred online can lead to,” Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said at a news conference in Berlin when she introduced the bundle of measures alongside Germany’s interior and family ministers.

“We will fight far-right terrorism and anti-Semitism with all the power of the law,” Lambrecht added.

Germany is still reeling from the attempted attack on a synagogue by a 27-year-old German in the eastern city of Halle on Oct. 9, who later killed two passers-by before being arrested.   The man posted an anti-Semitic screed before the attack and broadcast the shooting live on a popular video game streaming site.   (Kirsten Grieshaber, US News & World Report, 10/30)

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The Far Right Is Taking On Cultural Institutions

Theaters, museums, and other venues in Germany are facing pressure from the AfD, raising questions about the extent of artistic freedoms.

ELIZA APPERLY, OCT 28, 2019, The Atlantic

BERLIN – Protests against public artworks in Dresden and Kassel.    A ban on political discussions at the city theater in Freiberg.            And a criminal investigation against a performance art collective.

Germany’s far right is fighting a culture war—and at the forefront is the country’s largest opposition party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD).   Founded only six years ago, the group has transitioned from a platform of opposing the euro to far-right nationalism.   Fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric has helped the group gain sizable sway in regional parliaments, with significant victories in three regional elections this fall.

Yet beyond its focus on immigration, the issue for which it is best known, the AfD has another important target – culture.   At both the federal and the regional level, the party devotes significant attention to cultural matters:   Its main manifesto includes more pages on culture, language, and identity than on employment, national security and justice, and foreign policy.   In Dresden, the AfD municipal program extends to suggested background music for a specific tram line.

“Culture is integral to the AfD’s strategy and ideology,” Julian Göpffarth, a researcher on the far right at the London School of Economics, told me.   “The party is using its powers to curb cultural productions and spaces that ‘undermine national pride,’ and to impose instead a dominant German culture that celebrates, rather than critically engages with, German identity.”          (https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/10/germany-far-right-culture-war/598978/)

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FAR RIGHT AFD BEATS MERKEL IN GERMAN ELECTION

Voters in the eastern German state of Thuringia boosted the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in regional elections on Sunday, according to preliminary results, but the Left party will remain the dominant political force in the state.

With all districts reporting, results showed the Left party winning 31% of votes in the state that was once part of the communist former East Germany.   (DW, 10/28)

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GERMAN INTERVENTION IN LIBYA

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is intervening in Libya, calling for an “end to foreign intervention.”   On the occasion of his trip to Turkey and North Africa he arrived last Sunday for a brief visit in the country, to prepare an international conference on Libya, which the German government intends to convene soon.   With this conference the German government seeks to possibly pacify the country and distinguish itself as a “regulatory force” in North Africa. Maas then traveled on to Egypt, which also is involved in the Libyan war.   While the German minister is declaring that the Egyptians should be able “to breathe the air of liberty,” Cairo is continuing its brutal repression.   Since the military coup in July 2013, more than 1,500 people have disappeared from state custody.   While seeking to pacify Libya, Berlin is increasing its “regulatory” activities in an “arch of crisis” extending from North Africa and the Middle East to Central Asia.   However, until now, without success.   (German Foreign Policy, 10/30)

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VISEGRAD COUNTRIES GROWING

“Fifteen years after they joined the EU, the four “Visegrad” states of central Europe (the V4) can be prouder of their economic achievements than of their patchy record on political reform.   The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have increased their levels of GDP per head dramatically, and are converging with their mighty neighbor Germany.   The Czechs are the richest, with a GDP per head that is 73% of Germany’s, followed by Slovakia with 63% and Hungary and Poland with around 57% each – and the gap continues to close, as their growth outpaces that of the behemoth.” (The Economist, 10/26)

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UK BECOMING MORE EUROPEAN

“Before the referendum in 2016 European Union flags were as rare as golden eagles in Britain.   Today they are as common as sparrows.   Parliament Square is permanently festooned with them.   Activist Remainers flaunt flag-themed berets and T-shirts.   On October 19th a million-strong army of People’s Vote supporters marched on Westminster beneath a sea of gold and blue standards . . .

“This is part of a bigger paradox:   the more Britain struggles to leave the EU, the more it embraces European style politics.   Since the dawn of the democratic era Britain has practiced two or two and a bit party politics compared with the continent’s multiparty system.   That is changing, accelerated by Brexit.

The Scottish National Party controls Scotland.   The ruling Conservative Party is 45 MPs short of a majority.   The European Research Group of hard-line Brexiteers acts as a party within the Tory party.   The Liberal Democrats could make big gains in the forthcoming general election, especially if Brexit seems reversible.” (The Economist, 10/26)

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CATHOLIC SYNOD IN ROME RECOGNIZES DIVIDED CHURCH

“The synod represents the biggest step yet towards recognizing something many Catholics in the West, especially church leaders, have been reluctant to acknowledge:   Just as economic and Diplomatic power in the secular world is sleeping away from the North Atlantic region, a similar process is taking place in Catholicism.   In the secular world, the shift is to Asia.   Within the Catholic church it is towards not only Asia, but Africa and Latin America, too.   That is forcing the church to consider how far it is willing to adapt to the practices and beliefs of cultures with their own spiritual traditions.   The synod has added to fears of a new schism within the church.”   (The Economist, 10/26)

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TO THE POINT

  • Warren not a socialist:  “Some Republicans and Wall Street critics claim that Ms. Warren is a socialist. She is not.   She does not support the public ownership of firms or political control of the flow of credit.   Instead she favors regulations that force the private sector to pass her test of what it is to be fair.”   (“A plan for American capitalism,” The Economist, 10/26)
  • Russia in Africa “… over the past decade, and especially after America and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia related to its annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin has viewed Africa as an increasingly important arena.   Since 2015 a dozen African leaders have visited Russia.   From 2006 to 2018 Russia’s total trade with sub-Saharan Africa increased by 336%.   It is the largest arms exporter to the continent, accounting for 39% of deliveries in 2013-17 (many from Russia to Algeria”. (The Economist, 10/26)
  • Farage’s gamble  — EU ministers are taking a breather from Brexit as the action moves firmly back to London, where MPs are preparing for a general election. In a possible game-changer for Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is considering whether to pull out of hundreds of seats.   This would be a major boost to the UK prime minister, given the risks that the Brexit party could split the vote among leavers. (FT)   As James Blitz writes, the prime minister is taking a massive gamble by engineering the vote before the UK is out of the EU.   Farage’s Brexit party poses one possible risk.   Another is that Labour will hammer home the message that a victorious Tory party would use Brexit as an opportunity to pursue a hard-right social and economic agenda.    (Financial Times 10/31)
  • Refreshing view on Israel:   Egyptian Coptic patriarch Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria said in an October 14, 2019 interview on France 24 Arabic TV that he encourages Copts to visit Jerusalem because getting closer to others increases mutual understanding.   He said that Israel is a country like any other country and expressed support for an agreement that would make Jerusalem an international capital, though he said that this is not possible given the current reality.   Pope Tawadros II expressed concern for Christian holy places in Jerusalem and said that many parties are collectively responsible for the complexity of the current realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   He praised efforts to resolve the conflict.   (MEMRI, 10/30)
  • The worst patients in the world:   “Americans are hypochondriacs, yet we skip our checkups.   We demand drugs we don’t need, and fail to take the ones we do.   No wonder the US leads the world in health spending.”   (David H. Freedman, The Atlantic, July 2019).

 

 

 

 

 

 

SLAVERY IS BACK, BIG TIME

Many of the victims were chained to car hubcaps. Picture: Nigerian police – Source:Supplied

When the first Europeans arrived in Africa in the late fifteenth century, they found a thriving slave trade along the west African coast.   UNESCO reported some years ago that the slave trade was back, in every single country.   President John Kufour of Ghana apologized for the fact that African leaders had been involved.   Without them, there could have been no slave trade.   Now, it seems that the trade is back.   See the following two reports from Nigeria.   Kaduna is a Muslim city in the north of Nigeria.

Nearly 500 men and boys have been rescued from a building in the northern city of Kaduna, where the detainees were allegedly sexually abused and tortured, Nigerian police said.

Children as young as five were among those in chains at what was thought to be an Islamic school, officers said.   Kaduna police chief Ali Janga told the BBC the building was raided after a tip-off about suspicious activity.   He described it as a “house of torture” and a place of human slavery.

Eight suspects, most of them teachers, were arrested.   The police chief said the detainees – some with injuries and starved of food – were overjoyed to be freed. (BBC 9/27)

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BABY FACTORIES

Police rescued 19 pregnant girls who had been kidnapped and raped from properties in Lagos dubbed “baby factories.”

Most of the women, aged between 15 and 28, were abducted and forcibly impregnated so their babies could later be sold.   The girls had been promised employment as domestic workers in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city.   Instead they were held in the properties and forced into sex slavery.   They were also forced to bear children, which were then sold.   (Independent, 10/1)

It’s likely that these babies were intended for western markets.

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GLOBAL ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

Manhattan apartment prices suffered their worst slide in almost a decade in the third quarter as buyers stayed away from multimillion-dollar purchases while newly-built luxury properties continued to flood the market.  Median prices fell 12 per cent in the quarter from the year earlier, the worst drop since the last three months of 2009, according to Core, a New York City real estate broker.   The median price fell to $999,950, the first time it dipped below $1m in four years, according to Core’s data.

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Vacancies in US shopping malls have hit an eight-year high but new data show that some areas are coping with the retail upheaval far better than others and the gap is widening.   The proportion of units lying empty in some cities, including Indianapolis and Birmingham, Alabama, is about four times higher than the economic hotspot of San Francisco, according to new data from Reis, part of Moody’s Analytics.   The signs of difficulty in local retail property markets come as landlords brace for a wave of store closures following the bankruptcy of Forever 21 this week.   The fast-fashion retailer, which has 32,800 employees globally, has earmarked 178 locations for closure across the US.  (Alistair Gray, Financial Times, 10/3)

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Global stocks fell sharply on Wednesday, with the UK market having its worst day in more than three years, after poor US jobs data compounded weak manufacturing reports and geopolitical fears — a pile-up of risks that sets the stage for a rocky fourth quarter.   The UK’s benchmark FTSE 100 closed 3.2 per cent lower, the largest one day fall since January 2016 and exceeding the decline that followed the UK referendum in June 2016.   The US S&P 500 fell 1.8 per cent, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed down 1.6 per cent.   The sell-off continued in Asia on Thursday morning. Japan’s Topix slid 2.1 per cent, on track for its worst day in almost two months, and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 2.2 per cent, setting up the bourse for worst one-day performance in seven weeks.   Stocks in Hong Kong opened down 0.8%. (Financial Times, 10/3)

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The World Trade Organisation gave America the green light to impose $7.5bn of tariffs on imports from the European Union.   The Trump administration slapped 25% tariffs on a smorgasbord, from Scotch whisky and parmesan to aeroplane parts.  The WTO had already ruled that EU subsidies for Airbus, a plane-maker, amounted to illegal state aid harming Boeing, its American rival.                          (The Economist, 10/3)

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IRAN TO WIPE ISRAEL OFF THE MAP

ISRAEL MUST BE ‘WIPED OFF MAP’ AND IRAN HAS ‘THE CAPACITY’ — Iran Guards chief:   Destroying Israel now not a dream but an ‘achievable goal’

In a claim prominently reported in Iran, Major General Hossein Salami declares Tehran able to annihilate ‘the impostor Zionist regime.   ’Four decades on from Iran’s Islamic revolution, “we have managed to obtain the capacity to destroy the impostor Zionist regime,” Major General Hossein Salami was quoted saying by the IRGC’s Sepah news site.    “This sinister regime must be wiped off the map,” Salami said.

Salami’s comments Monday came two days after Abbas Nilforoushan, the deputy commander of operations of the IRGC, threatened that if Israel attacks Iran, it will have to collect “bits and pieces” of Tel Aviv from the Mediterranean Sea.

“Iran has encircled Israel from all four sides.   Nothing will be left of Israel,” said Nilforoushan in an interview with the Iranian news agency Tasnim on Saturday.   “Israel is not in a position to threaten Iran,” he said according to a translation published by Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.   (https://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-guards-chief-says-destroying-israel-is-not-a-dream-but-an-achievable-goal/)

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AUSTRALIAN PM GIVES MAJOR SPEECH ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned against “negative globalism” that could restrict his government from acting on its election promises, pushing back against global bodies in areas like climate change and border control.

Mr. Morrison used a major foreign policy speech to reject isolationism but said his government could not accept decisions by an “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy” at odds with the will of the Australian people.

The Prime Minister insisted Australia did not have to choose between its friendships with the United States and China, one week after he took a position on global trade talks that triggered objections in Beijing.

In a key statement about Australian alliances, he praised a “quadrilateral” meeting between the United States, Japan and India last week as an important advance on regional cooperation.

And he announced his intention to visit Japan and India early next year, cementing relations with both countries at a time of public strains with China, which has strongly opposed the “quadrilateral” forum for more than a decade.   (David Crowe, 10/3)

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CANADIAN ELECTION

“. . . parts of the coalition that brought Mr. Trudeau to power are looking shady. In 2015, eight out of the ten constituencies with the highest proportion of immigrants went for his party.   The blackface scandal could put some immigrants voters off, although Mr. Trudeau’s support for high levels of immigration will weigh in his favor.   Just over 321,000 permanent residents were admitted in 2018 (0.9% of Canada’s population) and the target for 2021 is 350,000.” (The Economist, 9/28).

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CHINA’S 70th BIRTHDAY

The Chinese Communist Party celebrated 70 years in power on Tuesday, October 1st.   The “People’s Republic of China” was founded on that day, seventy years ago.

Celebrations were marred by on-going rioting in Hong Kong, where protestors celebrated a “Day of Grief.”   Sources say that the military display Tuesday was the biggest in history, showing that China is a military superpower.

President Xi declared that “no force can shake this great nation.”

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SINO-GERMAN RELATIONS

Since Berlin’s ceremonial reception of a secessionist from Hong Kong, the People’s Republic of China has been reducing its working relations with Germany.   Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi canceled a series of bilateral meetings with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas.   China’s easing customs restrictions for German automobile companies are in jeopardy.   Maas recently met with Joshua Wong, General Secretary of the Demosisto party, which is campaigning for a referendum on Hong Kong’s secession from China. Germany, which is thus blatantly interfering in the People’s Republic of China’s domestic affairs and is strengthening those forces, hostile to the Chinese nation’s continued existence, had already been one of those European powers, which, at the turn of the 19th century, had sought to weaken China, to colonially subjugate regions of the country – including Hong Kong – and to plunder the Middle Kingdom.   From the outset, German colonial troops had committed massacres of countless civilians, to crush the fierce resistance within the population. (German Foreign Policy, 10/2).

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FACEBOOK — END OF FREE SPEECH?

EU courts can demand Facebook actively monitor and delete illegal material such as hate speech, Europe’s top court has ruled.

In a landmark ruling that Facebook has warned threatens freedom of expression, the European Court of Justice on Wednesday said there is nothing in EU current law stopping Facebook from searching and deleting duplicate posts of content that has been declared illegal.   The court said the searches and deletion can be done in the EU but also worldwide should national courts demand it.

The judgment upholds a non-binding opinion from an ECJ adviser in June, which Facebook said “undermines the longstanding principle that one country should not have the right to limit free expression in other countries.”

In its ruling, the ECJ said there is nothing stopping Facebook “from being ordered to remove identical and, in certain circumstances, equivalent comments previously declared to be illegal.”  (Mehreen Kah, Brussels, Financial Times, 10/3)

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TO THE POINT

  • “For three years, the media-deep state axis has sought to overturn the election of 2016 and bring down Trump, starting with Russia-gate.   Now it appears to have tailored and weaponized the impeachment process . . .   This is what the deep state does to outsiders Middle America sends to Washington to challenge or dispossess it.”  (Pat Buchanan, 10/1)
  • SYNAGOGUES IN GERMANY
    Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin:   The Jewish community in Berlin with more than 11,000 members is once again the biggest in Germany.   Its main synagogue is on the Rykestrasse, a red-brick building in a Neo-Romanesque style dating from 1903/04. With seating for over 2,000 it is the second largest synagogue in Europe after the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest.
  • In February 2019 . . . Pope Francis travelled to Abu Dhabi after receiving an invitation from His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.   It was there that on 4 February the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, His Eminence Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, signed a historic Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together. Abrahamic Family House:   Immediately, the newly signed document took on flesh. Just one day later on 5 February, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince announced the construction of the Abrahamic Family House on Saadiyat Island.   The complex will eventually house a Christian church, a mosque and a synagogue as well as an educational centre.   . . . Committee member Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak says that this latest proposal to “bring world cultures together” is rooted in an overall desire on the part of the United Arab Emirates.
  • A village in New Zealand has banned a replica of Captain Cook’s ship from docking there to mark 250 years since the explorer’s arrival after an outcry from the local Māori community.   The vessel is part of a flotilla circumnavigating New Zealand next month for the Tuia 250– a NZ$13.5m (£7m) series of events that “acknowledges the first onshore encounters between Māori and Pākehā in 1769-70.”    It was due to visit Mangonui, in the North Island, but the stop was cancelled by the ministry of culture and heritage after complaints from indigenous figures.   Anahera Herbert-Graves, the head of Northland’s Ngāti Kahu iwi, or tribe, told RNZ:    “He [Cook] was a barbarian.   Wherever he went, like most people of the time of imperial expansion, there were murders, there were abductions, there were rapes, and just a lot of bad outcomes for the indigenous people.   “He didn’t discover anything down here, and we object to Tuia 250 using euphemisms like ‘encounters’ and ‘meetings’ to disguise what were actually invasions.”   In Gisborne, nearly 800km from Mangonui down the east coast and the starting point for the flotilla’s months-long voyage, iwi said they would refuse to hold pōwhiri, or welcoming ceremonies, for those ships linked to colonization. (Graham Russell, The Guardian, 9/17)
  • BORIS JOHNSON’S PLANS FOR BREXIT                                              Boris Johnson on Wednesday finally published the plan he hopes will end Britain’s three-year Brexit agony, winning plaudits from Eurosceptics at home but prompting serious doubts about whether it could unlock a deal with the EU.   Mr. Johnson closed his Conservative party conference with a flourish, despatching to Brussels what he called “fair and reasonable” proposals to address the vexed issue of the Irish border, intended to broker an exit deal by October 31.   The prime minister’s allies said Mr. Johnson would negotiate with Brussels, but if his plan was rejected outright he would break off all talks and start preparing for a no-deal exit.   He could also refuse to attend an EU summit next month and fight any future election blaming Brussels, opposition parties and Remainers for stopping Brexit.  (Financial Times, 10/3)

 

GERMANY BACKS BREAK-UP OF UNITED KINGDOM

BERLIN/LONDON/EDINBURGH – Berlin’s foreign policy is in support of Scottish nationalists, preparing to hold a second referendum to secede from the United Kingdom.   Last week, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of the Scottish regional government and chairperson of the Scottish National Party (SNP), was received in the German capital for confidential talks with representatives of the German foreign policy establishment, including with Michael Roth (SPD), Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.   Officially, the meetings were focused on the Brexit, bitterly opposed by Sturgeon and the Scottish nationalists.   However, Sturgeon was, in fact, also pleading for support for her secessionist project and to bring Scotland, as an independent country into the EU.

About three years ago, German government representatives had already been in support of this plan.

However, a reliable Scottish majority, needed for this project, is nowhere in sight.

A Second Secession Referendum

Scotland’s regional government under First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is relentlessly pursuing its campaign for a second secession referendum.   Prior to the referendum on September 18, 2014, Scottish nationalists, including Sturgeon, had repeatedly that the population’s decision at the ballot box should be valid for one generation.   However, when a clear majority of 55.3 percent voted in favor of remaining in the UK, Sturgeon immediately declared that, by no means, would she content herself with that outcome, and would eventually seek a new vote.   The occasion presented itself with the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016, when a majority of 51.9 percent in the UK voted to leave the EU, while a clear majority of 62 percent in Scotland voted to remain.   This discrepancy was an opportunity for Sturgeon – whose regional government has so far only rudimentarily implemented its election promises concerning the social and health sectors – to not only reiterate her idea of a second referendum, but to directly link the perspective of Scotland’s secession with that of remaining in the EU.

Inducement Applause

Representatives of Germany’s governing parties and ministries took this occasion to openly applaud the Scottish nationalists’ secessionist efforts and thus promote the disintegration of an officially allied country.   Already on June 26, 2016, Gunther Krichbaum (CDU), Chairman of the Bundestag’s Committee for the Affairs of the European Union declared that he expected that a new referendum on Scotland’s secession would be “successful” and that the country would remain within the EU.   (German Foreign Policy, 9/23)

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GERMANY SUPPORTS MORE INTERVENTIONS

The German government seeks to expand civilian-military interventions abroad, to obtain a more favorable position in the global struggle for spheres of influence.   To meet the challenge in the context of the “great-power rivalry between the United States, Russia and China,” the EU military missions must be combined with “civilian assistance,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) declared recently.   This “networked approach” should become “a hub” for EU-policy and lead to the creation of a “crisis prevention center” in Berlin.   The plan is particularly to train police officers and other “rule-of-law experts” to be deployed in countries, where “German interests” appear threatened by “outside influence.” “Legitimate partners,” such as the governments of Mali or Afghanistan or opposition forces, as in Syria, could be “strengthened,” explains the German Foreign Ministry.  (German Foreign Policy, 9/21)

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GERMANY LEADS MULTINATIONAL NAVAL EXERCISE

ROSTOCK/COPENHAGEN – Under German command, numerous NATO member countries and close allies are participating in a naval exercise – that ends on Thursday – for the control of Baltic maritime routes.

The Bundeswehr provides, by far, the largest contingent in this year’s “Northern Coasts” naval exercise (September 3 to 19), taking place in the context of the escalating conflict between western countries and Russia.   Due to this conflict, not only Eastern Europe, but the Baltic Sea, as well, has been gaining strategic importance. This is comparable to the Baltic Sea’s importance during the Cold War.   Germany is participating in NATO’s remilitarization of the Baltic Sea, seeking to assume a regional leadership role and enhance its standing within NATO.   The new Maritime Forces Staff, DEU MARFOR, based in the naval headquarters being set up in Rostock, also serves this purpose. In the future, it will be able to provide command for NATO, as well as EU wars.

Northern Coasts 2019

Around 3,000 troops from 18 nations are currently participating in the “Northern Coasts 2019” naval exercise lasting more than two weeks and extending from the straits connecting the Baltic Sea to the North Sea between the Danish and Swedish coasts up to the Bornholm island.   It, thus, includes the narrowest and shallowest sections of the Baltic Sea’s maritime routes.  It is already a challenge for larger ships to maneuver in the Baltic Sea.   In this environment, the multinational forces are training joint operations with 47 vessels, a submarine, seven aircraft and five helicopters.   With 1,300 troops, the Bundeswehr, alone, accounts for nearly half of the soldiers and thus the largest proportion of personnel in the exercise. German forces provide seven ships, the submarine and one of the seven aircraft.   In addition, mine clearance divers from the Naval Force Protection Battalion in Eckernförde are deployed and play a leading role in mine-warfare.   Ashore, German soldiers are active in the logistics command and provide specialists for electronic warfare operations.    This year, the multinational personnel and equipment are under the command of German Rear Admiral Stephan Haisch.(German Foreign Policy, 9/16)

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BANKING AFTER BREXIT

Brexit will reduce by one third the EU’s share of global capital markets and will shift relations within the EU in France’s favor, as was revealed in a recent study on the impact the UK’s departure will have on the Union’s financial sector.   Brexit will therefore reduce the EU’s share of global capital market activities to 14 percent – around one third the size of the US and roughly the same as China. France will become number one among the EU-27 – a bit ahead of Germany.   The shrinkage can also be attributed to the fact that the EU was unable to induce major banks and other financial institutions, on a large scale, to relocate from London onto the continent. Brussels has tried to use strict regulations, stipulating that financial transactions within the EU may only be conducted by legally independent entities within an EU country. However, the financial sector has limited its relocation onto the continent to only the bare essentials. The anticipated banking boom, for example, in Frankfurt, is not materializing.  (German Foreign Policy, 9/19)

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MIDEAST SLIDING INTO MAJOR WAR

The Middle East appears to be sliding into a war and it may even have already started. It is a new kind of war, a 21st century conflict for which there is no formal declaration of war, no clear fronts and a wide variety of battlefields.   There are attacks the provenance of which may never be known, and while some of the fighting is conventional in nature, much of it is not and involves drones in the air and viruses in cyberspace.

More than anything, it is a confusing war, in which nobody really has control, not even those who are ostensibly leading it .

(https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/usa-saudia-arabia-iran-a-new-conflict-in-the-middle-east-a-1287811.html)

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AMERICA WILL NEVER TOLERATE IRAN’S ANTI-SEMITIC HATE – TRUMP

At UN, Trump calls on Mideast nations to fully normalize ties with Israel.  Addressing world leaders, US president says sanctions against Iran will be tightened, not lifted, until it changes behavior and ends ‘fanatical quest’ for nukes.

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, the US president accused Tehran of trafficking in “monstrous anti-Semitism” and engaging in a “fanatical quest” to obtain nuclear weapons.   Trump said the rogue regime’s aggression had created newfound regional alliances to counter the Iranian threat. “Thankfully, there is a growing recognition in the wider Middle East that the countries of the region share common interest in battling extremism and unleashing economic opportunity,” Trump said.   “That is why it’s so important to have full normalized relations between Israel and its neighbors.”

In a highly anticipated address before the international community — as tensions with Iran intensified after it allegedly attacked two Saudi oil facilities — Trump insisted that he would maintain his “maximum pressure campaign” against Tehran.    . . . Iran, he said, was on a “fanatical quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.”   The world, Trump continued, “must never allow this to happen.”

. . . “For 40 years, the world has listened to Iran’s rulers as they lash out on everyone else for the problems they alone have created,” he said.   (https://www.timesofisrael.com/at-un-trump-calls-on-mideast-nations-to-fully-normalize-ties-with-)

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HOW HAMAS LEADERS FOOL PALESTINIANS

“Frustrated Palestinian youths are committing suicide because of poverty, while the sons of the leaders are holding birthday parties!” — Hussein Qatoush, on Facebook

The problem . . . is when your father is a senior terrorist leader who devotes himself to inciting against Israel and Jews and encouraging other young Palestinians to sacrifice their lives in the war against Israel.   Hamad, like the rest of the Hamas leaders, would never send his own son to attack soldiers at the border with Israel.

It is time for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to revolt against the leaders who are keeping them chained in poverty and sending them to their deaths.

It is also time for the international community to wake up to the fact that it is wealthy Hamas leaders, and not Israel, who are responsible for the humanitarian and economic disaster that is known as the Gaza Strip.   (Bassam Tawil, Gatestone, 9/25)

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THE GREAT WAR OF OUR TIME

“So how did our initial victory in Afghanistan – in only months – turn into the longest war in American history?   It happened because at some point our goal shifted from ensuring that al Qai’da would not again be able to use Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks against the homeland to something else.   The mission changed to trying to permanently alter Afghan politics and society.   It was an impossible task to turn Afghanistan’s tribal society and culture into a liberal democracy.   It was an impossible task to convince the Taliban that it should operate inside the Afghan political system rather than outside of it.   Perhaps we should have walked away from Afghanistan after forcing al-Qa’ida from the country, and we would have told all Afghans, including the Taliban, ‘If you let al-Qa’ida return, so will we.”   (“The Great War of our time”, by Michael Morell, former Deputy CIA Director, 2015, page 74).

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TO THE POINT

  • If you’re tired of the usual entertainment provided by TV and even streaming, check out the continuing saga of Brexit, courtesy of Sky News (on “Watch Free” or on the web).  The parliamentary debates are entertaining, to say the least.
  • Surely, the investigation of Donald Trump over his Ukrainian call should be focused on Joe Biden.   His son is now being paid $50,000 a MONTH by a Ukrainian gas company in a job for which he’s not qualified.   When an investigation began looking into this by a Ukrainian prosecutor Biden brought pressure to bear to stop it, threatening an end to US aid.   Corruption, anyone?   (It’s even worse when you consider that the Democrats are supposed to be the party of the working man.)
  • Former French President Jacques Chirac died today.   He was the French leader who finally admitted French complicity in the Holocaust, that the French themselves put French Jews on trains taking them to concentration camps.
  • New South Wales has become the latest Australian state to liberalize abortion laws.   It doesn’t make any sense.   Australia needs more people.   Refugees and other immigrants threaten the Australian way of life.   Australians need to reproduce more.
  • Somebody has stolen the “Amigo” from our local Aldi.   An amigo is a self-driving vehicle with a shopping cart attached.   They can hardly drive it down the street.   What possible use can the thief have for this?   Meanwhile, customers with disabilities are struggling to get around as best they can.   Apparently, a replacement amigo costs about $2,000.

 

 

THE EU IS BUILDING AN EMPIRE

Farage:   The EU Is ‘Building an Empire. Why Deny It?’

12 “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:12-14)

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has criticized senior Eurocrat Guy Verhofstadt for praising the new “world order” of “empires,” but said it was time to be straight about Brussels’ intentions to build a new European Empire.  The Brexit Party leader condemned the remarks of Verhofstadt, who said during the Liberal Democrat conference on Saturday:   “The world order of tomorrow is not a world order based on nation-states, on countries — it’s a world order that is based on empires.”  “The world of tomorrow is a world of empires, in which we Europeans, and you British, can only defend your interests, your way of life, by doing it together, in a European framework, and in European union,” he added.   The Belgian politician, leader of the left-progressive Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament, had called in May for the European Union to become an empire “capable of defending our interests,” but is not the first EU politician to do so.  In 2007, former President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso had praised the EU “empire,” saying:   “Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organization of empire.   We have the dimension of empire.”

Mr. Farage evoked the former Commission chief’s words while criticizing Verhofstadt on his LBC radio show on Monday, saying an EU empire “is where they are going.”   “That is what they want because Barroso, one of the previous bosses of the European Commission, he said:   ‘We’re building the first ever non-militaristic empire.’   “They’re building an empire.  Why deny it?”  Mr. Farage asked.

To go with this empire, the EU is also building its own military, after the majority of its member states signed the Permanent Structured Cooperation process, or PESCO, in November 2017, which is key to the European Defense Union plans set out by outgoing President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who called for a “fully fledged” EU army by 2025.

And while Verhofstadt had called for an empire “capable of defending our interests,” French President Emmanuel Macron made the extraordinary claim in November 2018 that the bloc needs a “real European army” in order to “protect our interests.”

The French progressive politician’s call for a “real European army” was backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Verhofstadt, and the most powerful of the Brussels bodies, the European Commission.   Two month later, Germany’s then-defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said that “Europe’s army is already taking shape.”

Mr. Farage criticized Mrs. von der Leyen, now President-Elect of the European Commission, in July as a “fanatic for building a European army” and accused her of readying to lead a European Union that seeks to “take control of every single aspect of our lives.”   “She wants to build a centralized, undemocratic, updated form of Communism where nation state parliaments will cease to have any relevance at all,” he warned.   (Breibart, 9/17)

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GERMANY’S SEARCH FOR A NEW DIPLOMATIC MAP

Being in charge of German foreign policy is a tough assignment these days — not just in Warsaw but in countries around the world.

Over the past few years, Berlin has watched with growing despair as friends have turned into foes and old certainties have dissolved into doubt.   A new breed of nationalist leader holds sway in capitals from Budapest and Warsaw to Rome and Washington, sounding a note of hostility and antagonism towards Berlin.   For reasons both economic and political, Germany’s relationships with key powers such as China, Russia and Turkey are marked by growing tensions.

At the same time, the dense web of alliances that has characterized German foreign policy for decades — and that underpinned the country’s postwar success — is under strain as never before:   NATO has descended into bitter recriminations over burden-sharing, leading many Germans to wonder how much longer the US will remain committed to the defense of Europe.   The EU itself, meanwhile, is riven by splits between north and south and east and west, and exhausted from the never-ending struggle over Brexit. The UK no longer counts as a reliable ally, and the relationship with France is going through a phase of barely-concealed irritation.  One by one, the fixed stars that have guided German foreign policy for generations have started to dim.   (Tobias Buck, Financial Times, 23rd April)

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GERMAN “LUST FOR POWER”

The future EU Commission should play a “geopolitical” role and provide the Union with a leading position in global policy, confirmed Commission President Elect Ursula von der Leyen, whose team, according to observers, shows a newfound “lust for power.”   Von der Leyen’s plans for the coming five years are very much in line with Berlin’s plans to position the Union as an independent global power between the USA and China.   French President Emmanuel Macron shares this project and – in view of the escalating conflict between Washington and Beijing – cautions that, if it fails, all influence on global policy would be lost.   Influential German business circles opine that a German-European intermediate position cannot be avoided.   Otherwise they would lose business with China and suffer severe setbacks.   According to transatlantic circles, however, sooner or later, Berlin and Brussels will not be able to avoid siding with Washington.  (German Foreign Policy, 9/17)

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GERMAN SUPPORT FOR HK DEMO

Monday evening, activist Joshua Wong arrived in Berlin from Hong Kong for talks with German politicians, including Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.   Wong represents an opposition party that calls for a referendum, including a vote on Hong Kong’s future secession from China.   Just before his trip to Berlin, demonstrators rallied on Sunday in front of the US consulate in Hong Kong calling on US President Trump to intervene in their favor with the city authorities. Already since March, high-ranking members of Hong Kong’s opposition have repeatedly visited Washington for talks with US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Berlin is now following suit and receiving leaders of the Hong Kong protests for talks with top government officials.   Washington is preparing new legislation for sanctions providing for punitive measures against Chinese officials and putting Hong Kong’s special economic status into question.   Billions in German business transactions are also at risk.   (German Foreign Policy)

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With its professionally choreographed reception of Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, Berlin is presenting itself to the international public as the Chinese opposition’s foreign hub.   Wong was personally welcomed in Berlin by the Foreign Minister, and he demanded at the Federal Press Conference that action be taken against China.   Germany has already granted asylum to two other dissidents from Hong Kong, who had been calling for the city’s secession from China and have been indicted for their participation in riots.   For decades, Uighur separatist associations have had their foreign operational base in the Federal Republic of Germany, including one accused of participating in preparations of the pogrom-like riots, which claimed the lives of nearly 200 people. German politicians are supporting Tibetan separatists as well – seeing them as a point of leverage for weakening the People’s Republic of China.   A Chinese writer, who called China a “pile of garbage,” was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. (German Foreign Policy)

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FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN RETREAT

On June 22nd there was an alleged coup attempt in Ethiopia.   The army chief of staff was murdered, as was the president of Amhara, one of the country’s nine regions.   Ordinary Ethiopians were desperate to find out what was going on.   And then the government shut down the internet.   By midnight some 98% of Ethiopia was offline.

“People were getting distorted news and were getting very confused about what was happening . . . at that very moment there was no information at all,” recalls Gashaw Fentahun, a journalist at the Amhara Mass Media Agency, a state-owned outlet.   He and his colleagues were trying to file a report.   Rather than uploading audio and video files digitally, they had to send them to head office by plane, causing a huge delay.

Last year 25 governments imposed internet blackouts.   Choking off connectivity infuriates people and kneecaps economies.   Yet autocrats think it worthwhile, usually to stop information from circulating during a crisis.

This month the Indian government shut down the internet in disputed Kashmir – for the 51st time this year.   “There is no news, nothing,” says Aadil Ganie, a Kashmiri stuck in Delhi, adding that he does not even know where his family is because phones are blocked, too.   In recent months Sudan shut down social media to prevent protesters from organising; Congo’s regime switched off mobile networks so it could rig an election in the dark; and Chad nobbled social media to silence protests against the president’s plan to stay in power until 2033.

“Free speech is hard won and easily lost. Only a year ago it flowered in Ethiopia, under a supposedly liberal new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed.   All the journalists in jail were released, and hundreds of websites, blogs and satellite TV channels were unblocked.   But now the regime is having second thoughts.   Without a dictatorship to suppress it, ethnic violence has flared.   Bigots have incited ethnic cleansing on newly free social media.   Nearly 3m Ethiopians have been driven from their homes.

Ethiopia faces a genuine emergency, and many Ethiopians think it reasonable for the government to silence those who advocate violence.   But during the alleged coup it did far more than that – in effect it silenced everyone.   As Befekadu Haile, a journalist and activist, put it:   “In the darkness, the government told all the stories.” (The Economist, 8/17)

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CANADIAN THREAT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH

In a three-pronged blow to freedom of speech, Canada’s Trudeau government in May signed the “Christchurch Call to Action” – a government-led drive for more censorship; then launched a “Digital Charter,” much of it dealing with “hate speech and disinformation;” and in June, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights issued recommendations to the government for the fight against “online hatred,” increasing funding for law enforcement, crown attorneys and judges, and to “educate the population.”   (Nina Rosenwald, Gatestone, 8/15)

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THE LOST ART OF AMERICAN DIPLOMACY

The neglect and distortion of American diplomacy is not a purely Trumpian invention.   It has been an episodic feature of the United States’ approach to the world since the end of the Cold War.   The Trump administration, however, has made the problem infinitely worse.   There is never a good time for diplomatic malpractice, but the administration’s unilateral diplomatic disarmament is spectacularly mistimed, unfolding precisely at a moment when American diplomacy matters more than ever to American interests. The United States is no longer the only big kid on the geopolitical block, and no longer able get everything it wants on its own, or by force alone.

Although the era of singular U.S. dominance on the world stage is over, the United States still has a better hand to play than any of its rivals.   The country has a window of opportunity to lock in its role as the world’s pivotal power, the one best placed to shape a changing international landscape before others shape it first.   If the United States is to seize that opportunity and safeguard its interests and values, it will have to rebuild American diplomacy and make it the tool of first resort, backed up by economic and military leverage and the power of example. (William J. Burns, “The lost art of American diplomacy,” Foreign Policy, May-June issue)

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STRAIT OF HORMUZ – STILL WORLD’S MOST IMPORTANT SEA-GATE

The Strait of Hormuz links the majority of the world’s people who live along the shores of Asia and East Africa to the heart of the Middle East.   Long before the discovery of oil, it was the world’s carotid artery.   Cut off the blood supply almost anywhere else and the world would adapt. Here, however, an interruption could be fatal:    90 percent of oil exported from the Gulf, about 20 percent of the world’s supply, passes through Hormuz. Shipping through the strait, which is a mere 21 nautical miles wide at its narrowest point, is concentrated and hazardous.   In Musandam, the Omani exclave on the strait’s southern side, you can hear Persian radio from Iran as often as Arabic.   Along the rocky shorelines, islets and peninsulas thrust precipitously into the sky.   Heat, humidity, and a scorching wind make the climate inhospitable; many mountain ranges and valleys near Hormuz remain sparsely inhabited.   (“Why the Strait if Hormuz is still the world’s most important chokepoint,” Allen James Fromherz, Foreign Affairs, 7/17)

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SAUDI ARABIA AND IRAN HEADING FOR WAR

Less than 24 hours after a major attack by at least 10 drones or cruise missiles on key Saudi oil facilities, the rhetoric in the Middle East is heating up, and the region appears to be on the brink of conflict.

After US President Donald Trump spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was “no evidence” the large attack came from Yemen.

This now means that Saudi Arabia, which is investigating how the attack happened, is positioned to defend itself, but must choose wisely how.

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POPE APPOINTS LIBERAL CARDINALS

Pope Francis’ unexpected announcement this past Sunday that he would appoint 13 new cardinals to the College of Cardinals strengthens his grip on the Catholic Church and solidifies a liberal majority to select the next pope.

Since assuming the seat of St. Peter in 2013, Francis has been assiduously stacking the College of Cardinals with supporters, ones that will not only back his revisions to Church teachings, but choose his successor.

With his Sunday pronouncement, Francis will have picked 67 new members of the College of Cardinals, giving his backers a clear majority for the first time. Of the remaining members, 42 were selected by Benedict and 19 by John Paul II.

Francis’ new majority will also set a new tone, one in keeping with Francis’ desire that the Church move its focus away from tradition to one that is more active in secular politics, advocating such positions as socialist economic policies, environmental responsibility, immigrant rights, and diplomacy toward Islam.

On matters of doctrine, the Pope has sought to move the faith to one that accepts alternative lifestyles, including gays and lesbians, and eases restrictions of Catholics who have been divorced.   (Newsmax, 9/14)

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Pope Francis invites religious, political leaders to sign ‘Global Pact’ for ‘new humanism’

ROME, September 13, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — In a renewed and enthusiastic endorsement of globalism, Pope Francis has announced he is hosting an initiative for a “Global Pact” to create a “new humanism.”    The global event, set to take place at the Vatican on May 14, 2020, is themed Reinventing the Global Educational Alliance.   According to a Vatican statement issued on Thursday, Sept. 12, the Pope is inviting representatives of the main religions, international organizations and various humanitarian institutions, as well as key figures from the world of politics, economics and academia, and prominent athletes, scientists and sociologists to sign a “Global Pact on Education” so as to “hand on to younger generations a united and fraternal common home.”   “A global educational pact is needed to educate us in universal solidarity and a new humanism,” Francis said in a video message to launch the initiative.   In a strikingly secular message containing only one throw-away reference to the Lord, Pope Francis called on people to “capitalize on our best energies” and to be “proactive” in “opening education to a long-term vision unfettered by the status quo.”

Referencing the “Document on Human Fraternity and World Peace for Living Together,” which he signed with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi last February, Francis explained that, in this new global village, “the ground must be cleared of discrimination and fraternity must be allowed to flourish.”   The Abu Dhabi document aroused controversy for stating that the “diversity of religions” is “willed by God.”   (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-francis-global-education-pact)

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AIM TO END CHINESE ROLE IN DARWIN

In 2015, the Northern Territory Government announced Chinese company Landbridge had been awarded a 99-year lease of Darwin port in a $500 million deal.   Concerns over Beijing’s steady military build-up in the Indo-Pacific region have since prompted renewed concerns about the foreign ownership of Australia’s northern-most port.

At top-level talks in Sydney over the weekend, the Australian Government again joined the United States in expressing alarm over reports China is moving to establish a new military base in a Cambodian port.

Mr. Champion, who is the deputy chair of Federal Parliament’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, believes the Commonwealth should now consider buying Darwin Port back.

“It’s a very important port because we have significant defence facilities in the Northern Territory and that’s the part of the world I guess we have to pay a great deal of attention to,” he said.

“We should look pretty clearly at making sure that that port is in government hands, and it’s for those reasons I think it should be nationalised.” (Andrew Greene, 8/4, ABC Australian Broadcasting Company)

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INTERNATIONAL PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

“Christian persecution ‘at near genocide levels,'” the title of a May 3 BBC report, cites a lengthy interim study ordered by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and led by Rev. Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro.

According to the BBC report, one in three people around the world suffer from religious persecution, with Christians being “the most persecuted religious group.”   “Religion ‘is at risk of disappearing’ in some parts of the world,” it noted, and “in some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.”

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also quoted on why Western governments have been “asleep” — his word — concerning this growing epidemic:

“I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion [Christianity] that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonisers.   That has perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue – the role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic.”

Whatever the merits of such thinking, the fact is that many of the world’s most persecuted Christians have nothing whatsoever to do with colonialism or missionaries.   Those most faced with the threat of genocide – including Syria’s and Iraq’s Assyrians or Egypt’s Copts – were Christian several centuries before the ancestors of Europe’s colonizers became Christian and went missionizing.

The BBC report highlights “political correctness” as being especially responsible for the West’s indifference, and quotes Hunt again in this regard:   “What we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.” (“Genocide of Christians reaches ‘alarming stage,’” Gatestone)

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TO THE POINT

  • I’m amazed at the patience of the British people in waiting for Brexit. The majority voted for it over three years ago and it still hasn’t happened.   Maybe they should learn a lesson from their former colony of Hong Kong.   Massive demonstrations over the last three months got the HK government (and China) to back down on proposed legislation that would have given China greater control over the judicial process in the former colony.
  • It’s very interesting seeing the demonstrations in Hong Kong.   The demonstrators have been singing “God save the Queen.”   Clearly, being a colony wasn’t all bad.
  • A significant number of doctors and other medical personnel come from overseas, from countries much poorer than ours.   We are, in effect, stealing doctors from poor countries, leaving them with inadequate medical attention.   It’s time for a rethink.
  • ‘Exit polls suggested that Israel’s general election was too close to call, with Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party taking 30-33 of 120 parliamentary seats and the centrist Blue and White Party, led by Benny Gantz, with 32-34.   That could make Avigdor Lieberman, a former defence minister, the kingmaker, with his far-right Yisrael Beitenu crucial to the formation of a coalition.’   (The Economist, 9/19)
  • Condoleeza Rice has called for the restoration of freedom of speech. Pointing out on CBS’s Face the Nation that half the people deny the other half the freedom to express themselves, she added that “as soon as the word ‘racist’ is used, that’s the end of the discussion.”   It’s more sensible to let people have their say.    Let everybody express themselves.   We used to be proud of our tradition of freedom of speech – let’s return to it.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has finally died, age 95.   As a Catholic, Mr Mugabe believes he is now in purgatory.   This is highly appropriate because that’s exactly where he’s put the people of Zimbabwe!

 

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S BIGGEST MISTAKE SO FAR

US considering troop withdrawal from Germany, report says

Lord Ismay, the first Secretary-General of NATO, stated, in 1957, that the organization’s goal was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.”

This is now forgotten.

Last week, the British withdrew almost all of their troops from Germany.   A token force of 185 is remaining, with an additional 60 Ministry of Defense civilians. There were 19,100 troops until recently.

At the weekend, President Trump threatened to withdraw Americans troops from the country.

“The US has threatened to withdraw thousands of troops stationed in Germany amid a dispute with Angela Merkel’s government over defence spending.

“Richard Grenell, the US ambassador in Berlin, warned that his country could pull out some of its forces if Germany continues to fall short of the alliance’s spending target of 2 per cent of GDP.

“It is actually offensive to assume that the US taxpayer must continue to pay to have 50,000-plus Americans in Germany, but the Germans get to spend their surplus on domestic programs,” Mr. Grenell told Germany’s DPA news agency.

“The remarks will add to concerns that the NATO alliance is becoming strained by President Trump’s impatience with German military spending.” (Justin Huggler, Daily Telegraph, 8/9)

The British withdrawal from the EU leaves Germany without any challenger in the EU.   The withdrawal of troops makes it more likely that Europe will pursue an independent military policy.

The Bible prophesies the rise of a European military, political and economic power at the end time (Revelation 17:12-14).

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GERMANY TO LEAD EU IN PERSIAN GULF NAVAL OPERATION

(Own report) – German military experts have presented their first concrete plans for an EU naval operation in the Persian Gulf. According to the draft of two well-connected government advisors and a Bundeswehr professor, warships should be cruising at the two entrances to the Strait of Hormuz.   Supplementary warships should escort oil tankers through the strait with armed troops on board to ward off possible attacks – depending on the disposition to escalate. This would necessitate “between 10 and 30 percent of the EU’s naval capacities,” and Berlin should be in command of the deployment to demonstrate its aspiration to shape global policy. Whereas sectors of the SPD and the opposition reject the operation, the chancellor and foreign ministry are promoting the plan also within the EU.   Previously, Foreign Minster Heiko Maas had rejected the US demand for Germany to deploy warships in a US-led naval mission in the Middle East.   Berlin is positioning itself to be an independent power in global politics.   (German Foreign Policy, 8/15)

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PELOSI THREATENS BREXIT

If there is no deal with the EU on Brexit, Nancy Pelosi threatens the proposed trade deal between Britain and the US.

The reason is simple.   Leo Varadkar is against it.  He’s the Irish PM and does not want the British to leave the EU, thereby bringing back the border between Britain and Ireland.

Ms. Pelosi, a Catholic (except on abortion), sympathizes with Ireland on this issue.

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WASHINGTON TO FOLLOW DETROIT

“Washington is headed where Detroit once was” was the headline in the “Think” section of the Detroit News August 1st.   In an article by Alison Acosta Winters and Russell Latino, the authors wrote:   “The U.S. House of Representatives just passed a two-year budget deal that will bust the spending cap by $320 billion and put our country on a fiscal trajectory that the Congressional Budget Office called its “worst case scenario.”

“Worst case,” indeed.

“At a time when the federal debt has surpassed $22 trillion, lawmakers have voted not to address the explosion of debt, but to add to it.   Over the next decade, the latest bipartisan budget deal will increase federal debt by $1.7 trillion beyond the already-baked-in debt of $12.4 trillion.

“Fiscal watchdog groups from across the political spectrum slammed the deal as reckless and irresponsible.   The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the deal “may end up being the worst budget agreement in our nation’s history.”

“This week the 2020 presidential campaign came to Detroit, a city that knows first-hand what a debt crisis looks like.

“In 2013, the Motor City, more than $18 billion in debt, filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, the culmination of decades of poor policy choices and economic decline . . .

“Unlike Detroit, the US government can’t declare bankruptcy to get out from under its mountain of debt growing at more than $1 trillion a year.   But even without bankruptcy, that’s a recipe for an economic catastrophe that would make the 2008 financial collapse pale in comparison.   And when it comes, it will be programs like defence, Medicare and Social Security that take the biggest hits.

“To avoid that outcome, we are going to have to get serious about reining in out-of-control spending.”

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TOP PAY

The chief executives of America’s 350 leading companies took home an average $17.2m last year, 278 times the salary of their average worker.   A new survey by the Economics Policy Institute found the average pay of a top US CEO has grown by 1,007.5% in the past four decades, while a typical worker’s grew by just 11.9%.   The trend is so dramatic even CEOs are sounding the alarm.   Ray Dalio, the founder of the world’s biggest hedge fund, warned this year that the US wealth gap was becoming a “national emergency.”

Byron Auguste says the US labour market is broken, and to fix it we need an “Opportunity Marketplace:” new rules and tools “to empower Americans without college degrees to earn more, in better jobs, and to gain new skills at much lower financial risk.”   (Guardian briefing, 8/14)

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Collateral damage:  Germany’s economy

As the trade war rages between America and China, export-orientated economies are caught in the crossfire.   Figures out today showed that Germany’s economy contracted by 0.1% in the second quarter compared to the first.   Exports appear to have taken some flak.   So has industrial production – particularly car making, which suffered a blow from last year’s changes to emissions-testing rules. German industrial weakness tends to spread eastwards, thanks to tightly-knit manufacturing supply chains:  growth in Slovakia, also out today, was modest (0.4% on the previous quarter), though Hungary’s (1.1%) was stronger.   Despite Germany’s limping manufacturing, household spending has soldiered on.   But how long can consumers hold out?   In the face of slowing demand, BASF, a chemicals maker, is cutting 6,000 jobs.   Some firms are scaling back working hours.   Economists hope that fiscal policy might come to the rescue.   But so far German politicians show little inclination to change their tight-fisted ways to defend growth.   (The Economist Briefing, 8/14)

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LETTER FROM GHANA

“Tolerance now means, if you don’t agree with me you are my enemy.

The NPP Government is ruling like a dictatorship with reckless abandon.   They have mortgaged the Nation to China, borrow more money than all other Governments put together in just three years with absolutely nothing to show for it.

“Those of Us who can feel the rumblings are praying for it to pass us by.   Unfortunately the Nation is been driven into survival mode and behaves abnormally.   Reactionary rather than reasonable response.

“Like all wars in Africa,  it will start as NPP against NDC but quickly degenerate in ethnic wars with  some tribes splitting on the Akans and Ewes.   Ghanaians have nowhere to go but pray.”  (8/13)

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FORGOTTEN ROLES

The movie “Mission of Honor” tells the story of the R.A.F.’s 303 Squadron during World War II’s Battle of Britain.   This was a squadron made up of Polish volunteers.  Poles accounted for 20% of pilots at this critical time for Great Britain.   After the war, most were sent back to Poland and died at the hands of Stalin.

I doubt there will ever be a movie about the Rhodesians who fought in the Battle of Britain, including the “rebel” leader, Ian Smith. Rhodesia was also a training ground for British RAF pilots, thousands of miles away in the safety of the African bush.

Without the Rhodesians and the Poles, it’s doubtful Britain would have won the battle in the skies.   That would have meant a German victory, altering the outcome of the Second World War.   After the war, Britain betrayed both.

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.