Tag Archives: Indo-Pacific region

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!

 

ZIMBABWE NEAR COLLAPSE

A woman waits to buy gas at a service station in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 16, 2019. (Reuters)

There’s so much happening right now, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

Zimbabwe’s economy is, once again, near collapse.  Electricity is available only six hours a day, usually at night, which means that cooking meals and ironing a shirt can only be done in the middle of the night.  Food is once again scarce and prices high.

It’s hard to believe that, forty years ago, everything was in plentiful supply.   In fact, the country exported food, feeding much of Africa. But that was before independence.

Coincidentally, I’m wearing a T-shirt my wife bought me. Emblazened across the front are the words: ‘Rhodesia was super.”   “Rhodesia is super” was the slogan of the Rhodesian tourist industry four decades ago.

It certainly was.

Like all countries, it had its faults.   But what replaced it has been a miserable failure due, primarily, to bad government.

May God speed the day when change, real change, will come!

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RAMPANT INJUSTICE

Boris Johnson promised 20,000 more police to combat Britain’s horrendous crime wave.

This followed the murder of a 28-year-old newly married policeman. He was murdered by a screwdriver and dragged a considerable distance under a car.   Ten 13-30-year-olds were questioned about the murder.   A 20-year-old man has been charged.

There were over 31,000 violent assaults on policemen in the UK last year, up from 26,000 the previous year.

I can still remember when a violent attack on a policeman was a very rare event.   This is clearly not the case any more.   In a country where guns are rare, machetes and knives are often used in violent acts.   The machete is a recent addition, being brought in from Africa by immigrants.

There’s not much hope of a real national discussion on the crime wave.   There’s a definite need for one.   But it would be pointless without freedom of speech.   One factor is the gang warfare that plagues the big cities.   Most of these are ethnic, but you can’t mention that.   The restoration of free speech is a must, for any serious discussion on anything.

Now that the UK is leaving the EU, they will have the freedom to restore the death penalty, banned throughout the European Union.   The murders of policeman and of children are particularly heinous and should receive the maximum possible sentence.  They need to be put on trial and sentenced quickly

“When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.”  (Ecclesiastes 8:11 NIV)

Over fifty years ago, there was compulsory Christian education in schools.   That needs to be restored, too.   All children should be taught the ten commandments.

In the US, in the same week, it was announced that there have been nine police suicides in the NYPD this year, highlighting a serious problem across the nation.

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TLAIB TALKS NONSENSE, AGAIN

“U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib said Monday Israel’s decision to prohibit her and another Muslim member of congress from visiting the West Bank this week had “nothing to do” with their itinerary but with silencing critics of the occupation of Palestine.

“I think the focus is on hiding the truth,” Tlaib, a Democrat from Detroit, said at a news conference in St. Paul with US Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Israel is, and likely will always be, the most liberal, open and pluralistic society in the Middle East.

The 22 members of the Arab League are all dictatorships, of one sort or another.

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AFGHANISTAN @100

Afghanistan celebrated 100 years of independence last week, August 19th.

The country was never a colony but did have a protected status, short of complete self-rule.

After three wars against the Afghans, the British had had enough.   The country has seen off many conquerors over the centuries, giving it the well-earned moniker:  “the graveyard of empires.”   In recent years, the Russians were defeated (1989) and now it’s America’s turn.   When the US withdraws, the most likely outcome is that the Taliban will take over; or even ISIS.

America should be careful withdrawing.   In January 1842, one lone British doctor was the only person left alive after a massacre of 16,000 Anglo-Indian troops in the Khyber Pass.   They left the one man alive to tell others what happened.

America today has 14,000 troops remaining.   Other members of the Coalition have already left.

The set-back in Afghanistan is part of a regional trend of lost influence and reduced power.   From Australia comes the following: “The US is so weakened in the Indo-Pacific region, it could now lose a short, sharp conflict started by Beijing in just “hours,” up-ending the military order in our region.

Furthermore, Australia is no longer able to rely on Washington to come to its defense.

That’s the conclusion of a blunt new report that found years of spending cuts, an “outdated superpower mindset” and ageing equipment mean US military installations in the region are vulnerable to being wiped out by China in a surprise battle.

“The stakes could not be higher,” the analysis by the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre warned.”   (“US so weakened in Indo-Pacific it could now “lose war to China,” news.com,au 8/21)

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NATO STRENGTHENS TIES WITH AUSTRALIA

(Own report) – NATO continues to intensify its cooperation with Australia.   This is the result of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s talks in the Australian capital in the middle of last week.   According to Stoltenberg, the cooperation is aimed particularly at taking a stance in the growing rivalry between the major powers – against Russia, but above all, against China.   For several years, Germany has been accompanying NATO’s cooperation with Canberra, by enhancing its own bilateral military cooperation, explicitly considering Australia to be a “strategic springboard into the Asian-Pacific region.”

Currently tensions are threatening to escalate because Washington would like to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Australia, which could directly hit Chinese territory.   Strategists are increasingly pushing NATO to intensify its activities in the Asian-Pacific.   These could even develop into the warfare alliance’s key task, according to the president of the Federal College for Security Studies in Berlin. (German Foreign Policy, 8/20)

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TRUMP UPSETS DENMARK

President Trump on Monday offered to buy Greenland, an autonomous province of the Kingdom of Denmark.

The Danish prime minister thought the suggestion “absurd”.  So President Trump has canceled his visit to the country.

It’s not the first time that the US has offered money for the Danish island.  It was offered first in 1946.

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GERMANY IN RECESSION

Germany, Europe’s industrial powerhouse and biggest economy, with companies like Volkswagen, Siemens and BASF, may be entering a recession, according to a gloomy report from the country’s central bank Monday — a development that could have repercussions for the rest of the eurozone and the United States.

A technical recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth, and Germany saw a 0.1% drop in the April-to-June period. In its monthly report, the Bundesbank said that with falling industrial production and orders, it appears the slump is continuing during the July-to-September quarter.

“The overall economic performance could decline slightly once again,” it said. “Central to this is the ongoing downturn in industry.”

Deutsche Bank went further Monday, saying “we see Germany in a technical recession” and predicting a 0.25% drop in economic output this quarter.

Germany’s economy is heavily dependent on exports, and the Bundesbank said the trade conflict between the U.S. and China and uncertainty about Britain’s move to leave the European Union have been taking their toll. Both the U.S. and China are among Germany’s top trade partners, with Britain not far behind.    (“Wide implications as Germany teeters toward recession,” A.P., 8/20)

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BAD NEWS FOR GERMANY’S ECONOMY MIGHT BE GOOD NEWS FOR THE FAR RIGHT

BERLIN — Despite Germany’s 10-year economic boom, a far-right party has managed to become Germany’s main opposition in Parliament, enter every state legislature in the country and vie for first place in elections in the former Communist East next month. And now the economy is slowing.

At a moment when populism is riding high in various corners of Europe, often against the backdrop of economic distress and high unemployment, a downturn in the Continent’s richest and most stable liberal democracy could add fuel to the fire and strengthen the nationalist Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, analysts said.

“Economic crises fuel a fear of the future, a sense of decline and the sense that the elite is failing the people,” said Yascha Mounk, an expert on populism and author of “The People Vs. Democracy.” “That’s fertile ground for populists.”  Marcel Fratzscher, a respected German political economist and professor at Humboldt University in Berlin, put it more directly:  “The economic slowdown should rather help the AfD.”

Professor Fratzscher, who also heads the German Institute for Economic Research, pointed to a forthcoming study from his institute, which will show that the AfD is much stronger in economically and structurally weak regions.   “This regional inequality and polarization is a threat to democracy,” he said, adding that “with the economic slowdown, structurally weaker regions will be hit harder, which will increase regional inequalities and accelerate the polarization.”

That is as true for Europe broadly as it is for Germany in particular. Signs that a period of exceptional economic growth may come to an end in Europe’s biggest economy sent shivers through global markets this week.   But beyond the economics, the political implications of the slowdown are just as disconcerting.

A weaker German economy not only threatens to open a broader path for the AfD.   It may also further reduce the influence of Berlin and its lame-duck chancellor, Angela Merkel, precisely at a moment when German leadership is needed to address the European Union’s manifold problems, including Britain’s scheduled departure on Oct. 31, as well as global trade issues.” (Katrin Bennhold, New York Times, 8/16)


MACRON SAYS “NON”

Charles De Gaulle resoundingly said “Non” when Britain applied to join the EU 5o years ago.

Now, his successor, Emmanuel Macron, says “Non” to helping Britain leave on amicable and workable terms.  He is refusing to cooperate with Boris Johnson’s request to remove the Irish backstop, the arrangement that would preclude any hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

What does Ireland have to do with France?  Good question!

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ITALY’S FASCIST PAST REVERBERATES IN ROME

Lovers of fascist architecture never disappeared from Italy’s capital, where Mussolini sought to centralize powers.   He continues to be revered in one of the Roman neighborhoods the dictator built, and elsewhere.

 (Deutsche Welle * 17 Aug 2019)   Fascist buildings can be found all over Italy.   Roberto Canali, the right-wing mayor of Predappio, Mussolini’s birthplace, announced plans last month to reopen the dictator’s crypt to tourists all year around.   At the moment, fascists and neo-fascists can only access the site in central Italy three times a year.   The mayor said that the move would help local business.

I always sell all the copies of the Primato Nazionale,” adds Moreschini, referring to a far-right, nationalistic monthly magazine founded in Milan six years ago.   Even if it is impossible to say whether fascists could make a comeback, it is clear that the current political fragility, coupled with regional emergencies and Italy’s sluggish economy, is increasing the visibility of far-right ideas.   “In the end, fascists never really disappeared,” says Pietro Di Placidi, as he cleans up Sgobbone restaurant after the lunchtime customers have left.   (https://www.dw.com/en/italys-fascist-past-reverberates-in-rome/a-50024325)

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OLD SOUTH AFRICAN FLAG CONSTITUTES “HATE SPEECH”

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 21 (Reuters) – “A South African court on Wednesday ruled that displaying the country’s apartheid-era flag in public constituted hate speech that discriminated against black people and violated equality laws.

The case relates to a 2017 demonstration against attacks and killings of farmers where the so-called ‘Apartheid Flag” was displayed.   The protest was led by predominantly white, Afrikaner nationalist groups.

After public anger at the display of the flag, the Nelson Mandela Foundation applied for an order declaring “gratuitous display” of the flag as hate speech, unfair discrimination and harassment based on race.”   (Mfuneko Toyana, 8/21)

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Pakistani Islamic Scholars Urge Jihad Against India In Kashmir, Say: ‘Kashmiri Muslims Have No Path Other Than Jihad’;  ‘The Muslims’ Neck Is In The Grip Of The Jews’   (MEMRI headline, 8/18)

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BUBONIC PLAGUE IN US

Bubonic plague may seem like a disease that’s been relegated to the history books, but that’s not the case.   The disease that struck terror in people in the Middle Ages is alive and well in the modern world, and it’s most recently appeared in prairie dog towns in the suburbs of Denver.

So how did prairie dogs get a virulent infection that plagued the Byzantine Empire and killed 60 percent of Europeans in the 1300s? During the last half of the 19th century, plague spread across China. When it hit the port of Hong Kong around 1894, the disease-carrying fleas began to spread to port cities around the world, eventually killing about 10 million people.   Ester Inglis-Arkell reports that bubonic plague came to the U.S. via Chinatown in San Francisco around 1900, though local officials refused to acknowledge the disease, worried about driving away tourists.   In 1906, however, when an earthquake leveled large parts of the city, rats carrying plague fleas proliferated in the rubble, leading to an outbreak of the disease.

The bacteria were also transmitted to San Francisco area squirrels, and from there, spread to the small rodent population of the American West.    Now, the disease is endemic, meaning it’s always present at low levels, though researchers don’t completely understand why larger outbreaks occur during certain years.   On average, between one and 17 cases of plague are reported annually in humans, with hotspots located in the high deserts of northern New Mexico and Arizona as well as southern Colorado, according to the CDC.

But it’s not just humans that suffer from Yersinia pestis.   Outbreaks of the plague, which is called sylvatic plague when it infects small mammals, can kill over 90 percent of prairie dogs infected with the disease.   (“Plague infected prairie dogs cause parks to close near Denver.” Smithsonian, 8.22)