Tag Archives: Islamic State

THE DEATH OF FREEDOM

A person does a cartwheel in Oxford Circus during rush hour as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

We have less freedom today than we have had in over 400 years.   And we’ve all consented to this loss of freedom.

Freedom of assembly and the freedom to worship have both suffered.  Even the freedom to go out for a meal or a drink.    Nor can we shake a friend’s hand or give a hug.   Again, with our consent.

As one British paper put it:  “It is no exaggeration to say these are the most extreme powers ever used against citizens in peace time Britain.”

It’s understandable.  We want to live.  We want to survive the coronavirus.

But will we ever get these freedoms back?

Most importantly, what will be the next crisis that makes us so quick to jettison our freedoms?

MR       

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“A heart attack is occurring in the economy”  (Sky News comment, 3/20)

This was a comment about the British economy, but it describes every country right now.   So, let’s take a look at some of the economic consequences of coronavirus.

Argentina’s new government will today publish GDP figures for last year, with economists warning that the covid-19 pandemic could be about to send the country into a deep recession.   GDP is forecast to have contracted by 2.1% in 2019.   But what matters now is the dire situation to come.   One former central banker predicts that the country’s economy could shrink by up to 4% in 2020.   Though weighed down by high inflation and heavy debt, President Alberto Fernández’s government is implementing fiscal stimulus measures worth billions of dollars.   Its treasury minister, Martín Guzmán,  warns that the covid-19 crisis means that it is now impossible to say when, and how, Argentina can return to growth.   That was Mr. Fernández’s primary goal when he took office just four months ago, an aim that looks harder by the day as infections mount in the country.     (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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For years Germany has run the tightest of fiscal ships, frustrating many in the euro zone and beyond.   Then came covid-19.   Today the Bundestag will approve a €156bn ($168bn) supplementary budget for 2020, under which Germany will issue new debt for the first time since 2013.   The borrowing breaks Germany’s “black zero” balanced-budget policy and exploits an emergency rule in the constitutional “debt brake.”   Yet it is just one part of Germany’s response.   The government has expanded Kurzarbeit support (in which the state partly covers the lost wages of workers who have their hours cut), extended various loan guarantees and even earmarked funds for direct investment in companies.   The package amounts to a potential €750bn, and more may follow.   The scale of the response has surprised observers—but at European level less is happening.   Germany, and the euro area’s other hawks, remain implacably opposed to debt mutualization.   (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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Today’s meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee should have been the first with Andrew Bailey in the chair.   But the new governor found himself presiding over an emergency meeting last week, amid what he described as “borderline disorderly” market conditions.   In common with other central banks, the Bank of England is aggressively easing monetary policy to react to a rapid economic slowdown due to the spread of covid-19.   Despite interest-rate cuts, £200bn ($232bn) more quantitative easing (amounting to some 10% of GDP) and more direct support for private-sector lending, the bank is more worried about undershooting its inflation target than overshooting it. Today’s consumer-price statistics show inflation running at 1.7%, below the 2% target.   More monetary easing is likely, but with interest rates already at 0.1%, an all-time low, fiscal policy will have to do most of the heavy lifting.  (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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Coronavirus lockdown measures implemented in the UK may trigger an economic downturn that could kill more people than the virus itself, a new study warns.

Philip Thomas, a professor of risk management at Bristol University, says that a fall in GDP of more than 6.4% could lead to a devastating recession in which “more years of life will be lost . . . than will be saved through beating the virus,” reports The Times.  (The Week, 3/25/2020)

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The worst outbreak of Coronavirus in the Middle East, so far, is in Iran.  Thousands have died and tens of thousands have been exposed to the virus.   An overlooked developing crisis parallel to Iran’s is the situation of the country’s neighbors across the Persian Gulf.

Beyond the civilian element affecting Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE; tens of thousands of American military personnel are also stationed in these countries.   Once facing the Iranian threat and ISIS, they are now involved in combating the invisible enemy:   Covid-19.      (Greg Roman, MEF, 3/20)

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This is an emergency, track everyone:   If there were ever a time to set concerns about privacy aside, this is it.   Giving public health authorities access to everyone’s location data gives them a better chance of tracking down people who have been in contact with confirmed cases – and helps ensure that those who are already sick stay in quarantine.   Right now, governments need all the help they can get.   Give them the data.   Debates about the privacy implications can wait.

China is in this camp. So are other countries in Asia, like South Korea and Taiwan, that have had better success containing the epidemic – although it’s still too early to say whether access to mobile phone location data was the deciding factor.   (Gzero, 3/25/2020)

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A SURPRISING LETTER FROM HOLLYWOOD

Dear Mr. President, @realDonaldTrump

I wanted to thank you for ur recent decorum, sincerity, & care towards us.   You’re taking charge & leading in a manner needed & wanted for this country.   I highly commend you for ur boundless energy & willingness to solve problems.   Thank you!

— Kirstie Alley (@kirstiealley) March 24, 2020

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TO THE POINT

  • LAGOS — A jihadist group ambushed and killed around 70 Nigerian government troops in Borno state, in the north-east of the country.   The guerrillas used rocket-propelled grenades to attack a vehicle full of soldiers; they also took several captive.  The group they belong to split off from Nigeria’s homegrown Boko Haram in 2016, and now considers itself an Islamic State affiliate. (The Economist, 3/25/2020)
  • BERLIN – A court in eastern Germany convicted eight far-right extremists who were accused of planning to violently overthrow the state.   The regional court in Dresden on Tuesday convicted one of the men on a charge of forming a “terrorist organization” and the other seven of being members of the group, called Revolution Chemnitz.   Five of the man were also found guilty of a serious breach, while one was convicted of bodily harm.  The court sentenced the defendants to prison terms that ranged from 27 months to 5 ½ years.  (Lansing State Journal, 3/25/2020)
  • UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations on Tuesday to adopt a “wartime” plan including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars” for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.   He said in a letter to the Group of 20 leaders that they account for 85% of the world’s gross domestic product and have “a direct interest and critical role to play in helping developing countries cope with the crisis.”  (Lansing State Journal, 3/25/2020)
  • LONDON – Prince Charles has coronavirus.  Prince Charles, 71, is displaying mild symptoms “but otherwise remains in good health,” a spokesman said, adding that the Duchess of Cornwall, 72, has been tested but does not have the virus.   Charles and Camilla are now self-isolating at Balmoral.   Buckingham Palace said the Queen last saw her son, the heir to the throne, on 12 March, but was “in good health.”   The palace added that the Duke of Edinburgh was not present at that meeting, and that the Queen was now “following all the appropriate advice with regard to her welfare.”
    A Clarence House statement read:   “In accordance with government and medical advice, the prince and the duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.  “The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire, where they met the criteria required for testing.  “It is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”
  • Germany is the only country in Europe to have currently rejected China’s offer of support in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. According to China’s President Xi Jinping, he informed Chancellor Angela Merkel that the People’s Republic of China “is willing to provide help within our capabilities,” if Germany “is in need.”   Over the past few days, Beijing has sent aid supplies and – in some cases – teams of doctors to provide practical on-site assistance to several European countries including Italy, Spain and France.   Berlin has ignored the offer of support, even though there is, for example, a glaring shortage of respiratory protection masks in Germany.   More than 80 percent of Germany’s registered doctors are complaining that they cannot procure sufficient protective clothing.   Serious accusations for failing to take preventive measures are being raised against the German government, which has been emphasizing that it is “well prepared.”   Leading German media are denouncing China’s aid as a “propaganda campaign” and accuse the country of being “the cause of the pandemic.”  The only thing missing is the use of Trump’s label of a “Chinese virus.” (German Foreign Policy, 3/24/2020)
  • A growing number of businesses and individuals worldwide have stopped using banknotes in fear that physical currency, handled by tens of thousands of people over their useful life, could be a vector for the spreading coronavirus.   Public officials and health experts have said that the risk of transferring the virus person-to-person through the use of banknotes is small.   But that has not stopped businesses in the US from refusing to accept currency and some countries from urging their citizens to stop using banknotes altogether.   (Times of Israel, 3/20/2020)

 

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

Hello everybody,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week.

Melvin   

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

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

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

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

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

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

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

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MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE

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

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

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TRUMP EMBRACED BY ENTHUSIASTIC INDIANS

“It was the Trumpiest of offers.

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

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

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

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

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ISRAEL NOW RECOGNIZED BY 161 COUNTRIES

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

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NEVER ENDING SYRIAN CONFLICT

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

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MACRON VOWS CRACKDOWN ON POLITICAL ISLAM

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

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SWEDISH MIGRANT CRISIS

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

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UK GROOMING GANGS TO REMAIN A SECRET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GAY CONVERSION THERAPY BANNED IN MORE COUNTRIES

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

SYRIAN WITHDRAWAL RISKS ISIS REBOUND

U.S. Soldiers observe Turkish forces in the distance while on patrol outside Manbij, Syria, August 7, 2018.  These independent, coordinated patrols are to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS in the region. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nicole Paese)

Wednesday US President Donald Trump announced that America had beaten ISIS and would soon depart from Syria.   The decision involves 2,200 US military personnel.   The news that ISIS had been beaten came as a surprise to allies and enemies alike.

Later in the day, the following was posted by germanforeignpolicy.com:

(Own report) – “German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ brief visit to Baghdad is accompanied by reports that the IS militia (Islamic State) is regaining strength.   Maas was in the Iraqi capital yesterday for talks with Iraq’s new Prime Minister to emphasize Berlin’s push for obtaining stronger influence in Iraq.   He also promoted a billion-euro deal with Siemens and listened to his Baghdad counterpart’s call for Iraqi refugees to return to their homeland.   According to reports, Iraqi authorities are not only responsible for the slow reconstruction of Sunni regions, but Sunnis are being also detained arbitrarily, tortured or condemned to death without proof of guilt. “This is not just revenge on the IS,” explained a senior intelligence officer, “this is revenge on Sunnis.”   Observers warn that this will refill the ranks of the still existing IS in clandestinity, which has again “taken the offensive.””

“As Christmas and the New Year approach, Islamic State (ISIS) supporters have begun to produce posters threatening terror attacks against Christians and inhabitants of Western countries during the holiday season.   Some of the posters threaten impending attacks, particularly by lone operatives, as retaliation for ongoing airstrikes on the organization’s strongholds in eastern Syria, by the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.   Others warn Westerners not to leave their homes on Christmas, while some posters specifically threaten attacks in New York City and London.”   (MEMRI, 12/20)

President Putin praises move to withdraw from Syria, saying that there is no need for US troops to be in the country.   So, why do Russian troops need to be there?

Two headlines from Thursday’s Wall StreetJournal:

“US Pullout could boost ISIS in Syria.”                                                         “Quick exit would add to struggles of Kurdish-led force fighting militant group.”

Additionally, President Trump is to pull 7,000 troops out of Afghanistan.

TWO FOREIGN GIRLS KILLED BY ISIS IN MOROCCO:   Two Scandinavian tourists, aged 24 and 28, were beheaded in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains by men claiming allegiance to ISIS.

BREAKING NEWS: (Friday AM)

ISIS threatens Drone Attack on New York City 

ISIS has issued a chilling new threat to plague the US and the EU with drone attacks.   It comes after a drone near London’s Gatwick Airport caused travel chaos with hundreds of flights cancelled.  

The extremist group widely used drones bought over the counter when it was defending its so-called Caliphate in Syria and Iraq.   Some were used for spy missions while others were adapted to drop grenades and bombs.

Gun cops deployed at Gatwick are continuing to work with elite Army troops and MI5 spooks as they hunt the drones and last night said shooting them down was a “tactical option.”   The saboteur has been playing cat-and-mouse with cops after shutting down Britain’s second busiest airport by drones over the runway 50 times since Wednesday night.  Sharpshooters are today continuing to try to bring down the device – while MI5 spooks were called in to track down the suspect.   Experts say the skilled drone operator – feared to be a lone-wolf green protester – could be controlling the industrial scale craft from up to five miles away.  (Similar claims are in UK tabloids, The Sun and Daily Mail)

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FOUR-YEAR DROUGHT PLUNGES CENTRAL KAROO FARMERS INTO FINANCIAL DISTRESS

CAPE TOWN – Farmers in the central Karoo say they are in financial distress due to a four-year drought.  Farmer’s organisation, Agri Central Karoo, says it’s the worst and longest drought in living memory.   Producers have been unable to grow crops or feed for their livestock.   Agri Central Karoo manager Dêan Gous says the region has only been receiving light rain of two to three millimetres at a time.   He says downpours of at least 20 millimetres are needed.  Gous says farmers are forced to buy expensive feed, while many are being turned away by banks and the co-op.  “My main concern is the people’s cash flow.  We’re past the stage of banks helping us, so now people must dip into their investment money and pension funds.”  He welcomes the Western Cape government’s intervention and drought relief but warns that production cannot be sustained.  “This is not enough . . .  so the main thing is people are decreasing their numbers on the shelves.”  (https://ewn.co.za/2018/12/21/four-year-drought-plunges-central-karoo-farmers-into-financial-distress)

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30,000 JOBS LOST IN WESTERN CAPE AGRICULTURE SECTOR DUE TO DROUGHT — The Western Cape Economic Opportunities Department says the drought has had a massive impact on the agricultural sector

CAPE TOWN – The Western Cape Economic Opportunities Department says the drought has cost about 30,000 jobs in the agriculture sector.  That is 1.5% of all jobs in the Western Cape. Agri Central Karoo says the area is experiencing the worst and longest drought in living memory.  Farmers say they are finding it impossible to farm due to low rainfall. The Western Cape Economic Opportunities Department says the drought has had a massive impact on the agricultural sector. MEC Beverley Schäfer says it has a large impact on jobs and economic growth in the province:   “We’ve already seen a R5.9 billion drop in gross value add, which is about 25% of the value of agriculture production and a 20% decrease in production in general.”   Agri Central Karoo said on Thursday that due to the drought farmers are unable to grow crops or feed their flocks.   Agri Central Karoo manager Dêan Gous says more assistance is needed from the government. Schäfer says they are doing their best and adds that since November support to the farmers in the Central Karoo has increased.   Schäfer says the government is supporting 563 farmers and is spending R8.1 million per month.  (12/21)

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Russia’s Vladimir Putin warns about growing threat of nuclear war

If the US puts intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Russia will take countermeasures, Putin said at his end-of-year press conference.  He warned the “threshold” for the use of nuclear weapons was getting lower.

An attempt to lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons could potentially result in an all-out nuclear war, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned during his traditional end-of-year press conference on Thursday.  It is the first such event since the beginning of Putin’s new presidential term in May and the fourteenth for him in total.

“There is a tendency to lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons,” he said.  “In the West, there is this idea of using low-yield nuclear weapons.  The use of such weapons could lead to a global disaster,” the Russian leader stressed.

Putin pointed at the US intention to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.   He said that if the US puts intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to take countermeasures.

The Russian leader also warned against developing tactical nuclear warheads and conventional long-range ballistic missiles.   According to him, both are dangerous, because they increase the threat of an incidental nuclear war.

“We are currently observing the collapse of the international system for containing weapons,” he added.

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A global credit ‘heart attack’ is just months away

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

20 December 2018 — 11:36am                                                                   Surging borrowing costs for companies in the US and Europe threaten a recession within months and resemble events leading up to the global credit “heart attack” in August 2007.

Risk spreads on American high-yield debt have jumped since early October.   Credit experts say this is the delayed fallout from months of double-barrelled monetary tightening by the US Federal Reserve.

The US central bank is raising interest rates and at the same time shrinking its balance sheet by $US50 billion  a month, perhaps draining more liquidity from global financial markets than intended.

Simon Ward from Janus Henderson said his leading indicator for the health of US companies – the cash supply available to non-financial business (M1) – has turned starkly negative for the first time since the Lehman crisis.

This points to a sharp slowdown next year. “When this measure of cash contracts it means companies plan to cut back,” he said.

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The deal with the EU will turn us into captives                                 By Boris Johnson 19 Nov 2018 — 11:45 PM

Well, it seems my predictions of last week were, if anything, too optimistic.  If MPs vote for this deal, we are bowing our neck to the yoke.

We are preparing to take colonial rule by foreign powers and courts. We are handing over colossal sums of money for nothing.   We are giving up the hope of new free-trade deals. We are giving up the right to vary our laws.   We are betraying Leavers and Remainers alike: we are poised to abandon any UK influence in Brussels, and yet we are signally failing to take back control.

In fact, we are surrendering control to the EU – and this 585-page fig-leaf does nothing to cover the embarrassment of our total defeat.

Boris Johnson argues that the Brexit deal will turn Britons into captives.

In the protocol on Northern Ireland, there is a note almost of malice, as though the EU is punishing us by the surgical severing of part of the UK.   From one convoluted paragraph to the next, you can follow the plot to amputate Northern Ireland and keep it in the EU – run by the EU, but with no influence in Brussels except via Dublin.

Today, No 10 continues to brief that there can still be a future Canada-style free-trade deal and that one day we can still take back control of our laws and our tariffs. But from the Treasury you hear a very different message: that this is the end-state providing the blessed “certainty” that business has been craving.

They can’t both be right – so which is it?   Is the Government serious about staying in the customs union and single market, or is it serious about democracy, free trade and Brexit?   After two years of this tragedy, I think we all know the answer to that one.

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YELLOW VEST RIOTS SPREAD

  • Across Western Europe, ordinary citizens feel ignored and condescended to by their political, business, academic, and media elites.   Against the will of most of these citizens, their leaders are gradually surrendering their nations’ sovereignty to the EU.
  • Also against these citizens’ will, their nations have been flooded with Muslim immigrants who embody a major cultural challenge, have caused massive social unrest, and represent a devastating economic burden.
  • Although it is increasingly obvious that taxpayer-funded Islamization is leading Western Europe down the wrong path, the EU, which stands foursquare behind this disastrous development, refuses to reverse course.
  • Perhaps the question should not be why Western Europeans are rioting but why they did not start rioting a long time ago.

(By Bruce Bawer, Gatestone, 12/18)

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Australia recognises West Jerusalem as Israeli capital .    Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that his government will recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

BBC * 15 Dec 2018                                                                                              However, he said Australia’s embassy would not move from Tel Aviv, until a peace settlement was achieved.

He added Australia also recognised the aspirations of the Palestinians to a state with a capital in East Jerusalem.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most contested issues between Israel and the Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump drew international criticism last year when he reversed decades of American foreign policy by recognising the ancient city as Israel’s capital.   The US embassy was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.

 

FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING

(Photo: John McCall, AP)

After yet another school shooting in the United States, the 19th this year, Pat Buchanan wrote a brilliant analysis.   The following is a quote from his article, posted this morning.

“Another factor helps to explain what happened Wednesday: We are a formerly Christian society in an advanced state of decomposition.

“Nikolas Cruz was a product of broken families.  He was adopted. Both adoptive parents had died.  Where did he get his ideas of right and wrong, good and evil?   Before the Death of God and repeal of the Ten Commandments, in those dark old days, the 1950s, atrocities common now were almost nonexistent.    (“The Motives behind the massacre,” Pat Buchanan, 2/16)

Deuteronomy 28 is the classic Bible chapter that should help us all think.   In summary, what it says is that the more we obey God, the greater our society will be; the more we turn away from God, the worse it will become.   As Mr. Buchanan points out, “before the death of God and repeal of the Ten Commandments, in those dark old days, the 1950s, atrocities common now were almost nonexistent.”

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RIPPLE EFFECT OF SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

It’s not just that US schools are unsafe, it’s clear to the rest of the world that America is a very violent country, with a governmental system that doesn’t work any more.   As one writer put it, the US has an eighteenth century constitution in a twenty first century world.

Most countries already have a bad impression of the current US president.   But, when Mr. Trump spoke following the shootings and talked about mental illness, that impression only worsened.   Mental illness was (and usually is) a major factor, but what differentiates America from other western countries is easy access to weapons. Even the mentally ill can walk into a gun dealer and buy an assault rifle!

Parkland will not be the last school mass shooting.

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ISLAM AND THE WEST

Sheikh “Abu Qusay” delivered a Friday sermon in Jerusalem, in which he said:

“Oh dweller of the White House, let me tell you, from the pulpit of the Prophet Muhammad, that this is the promise of Allah and His Messenger:   Jerusalem is the heart of the land of Islam.   We will storm your White House, stomp on your head, kill your soldiers, and capture your land.   This is the promise of the Prophet Muhammad.” The sermon was posted to the internet on December 22nd.   (MEMRI)

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Nervous Rex?  Tillerson in Turkey

The war in Syria has already tested and destroyed many alliances. Turkey’s relationship with America may be next.   Having launched one army offensive against Kurdish insurgents in north-west Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government says it will soon order another, this time in the north-east.   There, the militants are flanked by American troops, who are supporting them in their fight against Islamic State.   It will be up to America’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who arrives in Turkey today, to calm nerves and prevent the diplomatic row between the two NATO allies from exploding into an armed one.   That will not be easy.   After an American general warned that his forces would retaliate against any attack on their positions inside the Kurdish strongholds, Mr Erdogan said the United States “had clearly never received an Ottoman slap.” Slap or no slap, Mr. Tillerson’s ears will be ringing by the time he gets back to Washington. (Economist, 2/15)

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German government plans massive military expansion in Iraq        By Johannes Stern, 13 February 2018

The new grand coalition in Germany is planning a massive expansion of the German army (Bundeswehr) mission in Iraq. 

This was announced by Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) in the course of her trip to the Middle East last weekend.  Von der Leyen praised Germany’s cooperation with the Peshmerga [Kurdish military forces] during her visit to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in northern Iraq.   The Bundeswehr has been arming and militarily supporting the Kurdish force for three and a half years.   It was “impressive to see the great success of the Peshmerga training mission,” she said, thanking “Bundeswehr soldiers” on the spot.  Von der Leyen then announced that in future the Bundeswehr would be deployed throughout Iraq.

There will be “another mandate,” she said, “a mandate with a new balance … between Baghdad and Erbil on equal terms on both sides.” The defense minister made no concrete statements about the planned operation, but left no doubt she envisaged a long-term military engagement throughout Iraq.   “Both in Kurdistan, as well as in the central government in Baghdad,” there is “a request above all to help in the implementation of reforms, in the construction of ministry structures,” the minister said.   In Erbil, for example, “the construction of an entire sanitary unit is necessary,” but this also involved “of course the entire planning, organisation, recruitment and training.”   There is also “considerable demand” for logistics. Germany wanted to “make its contribution” to provide Iraq with “independent, loyal operational forces for the long term.”

The Socialist Equality Party rejects the coalition pact, which focuses on the return of Germany to an aggressive foreign and great power policy, and calls for the disclosure of all the talks.   Under conditions of escalating warfare in Syria and Iraq, and US preparations for war against North Korea, which threaten to provoke a Third World War, this demand, along with the demand for new elections, is becoming increasingly urgent.

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Special Dispatch No. 7339

Hamas, Palestinian Factions In Response To Israel’s Airstrikes In Syria:   ‘Any Israeli Attack, On Any Front, Will Be Answered With A Comprehensive War On All Fronts’ (MEMRI 2/15)

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Macron Vows to Reform Islam in France
“It is time to bring in a new generation”

by Soeren Kern, February 13, 2018 at 5:00 am

  • The overall objective of President Macron’s plan is to ensure that French law takes precedence over Islamic law for Muslims living in the country.
  • The plan, as currently conceived, is vague and short on details, but appears to involve three broad pillars: determining who will represent Muslims in France; delineating how Islam in France will be financed; and defining how imams in France will be trained.
  • “It is time to bring in a new generation.   We have seen fifteen years of debate to defend the interests of foreign states.” — Hakim el-Karoui, a French-Tunisian expert on Islam who is advising Macron on the reforms. (Gatestone)

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EUROPEAN UNITY

A New Élysée Treaty – Berlin and Paris are seeking a “new Élysée Treaty.”   On the 55th anniversary of the original 1963 Élysée Treaty, in which the Federal Republic of Germany and France committed themselves to hold “consultations” on major political issues, Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron announced the drafting of a new treaty aimed at “deepening” cooperation between the two countries and “strengthening” the EU.   In a declaration, the parliaments of both countries called for harmonizing almost the “complete range of policy issues.”   This would amount to massively enhancing the “German-French axis.”

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US/EU

Transatlantic Rivals

(Own report) – In Washington serious warnings are being raised against an independent German-European military policy aimed at weakening NATO.   The militarization of the EU is being supported as long as “it is complimentary to NATO,” a senior Pentagon official was quoted.   However, Washington would intervene if Berlin and the EU were to pull military resources away from NATO and use them for their own wars.   This statement was made in light of the NATO defense ministers’ meeting that begins today, which will include a decision on the establishment of two new NATO headquarters.   One will be established in the United States, to secure the military supply routes from North America over the Atlantic to Europe.   A second will be established in Germany, to optimize rapid redeployments of West European troops eastwards across the continent.   At the current stage of planning, this will be under German sovereignty and available also for use outside of the NATO framework.

More… https://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/news/detail/7531/

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TRADE WAR

Despite its loss in U.S. trade court against Bombardier, Boeing believes 2018 will be a turning point in its lengthy WTO challenge to Airbus over government subsidies.   The threat of hefty tariffs could redraw the playing field — or trigger a trade war among traditional allies.   (Dominic Gates,The Seattle Times 2/10)

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday rejected the sale of the Chicago Stock Exchange to a group that would have included Chinese investors, capping a two-year battle over a deal that sparked political opposition in Congress, reports the WSJ’s Dave Michaels. (2/16)

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US ECONOMY

Some like it hot:   America’s economy

The White House will announce its infrastructure plan today.   It is expected to call for $200bn more in government spending to encourage private investment, hoping for a total of $1.5trn towards spending on roads, bridges, ports and more.   Were Congress to pass such a plan without cutting spending elsewhere, it would be the third recent salvo of fiscal stimulus.   Last week lawmakers passed a budget that will raise spending by $143bn (0.7% of GDP) this year; in December President Donald Trump signed into law tax cuts worth about $280bn in 2019.   America’s budget deficit will probably reach $1trn (5% of GDP) that year.   All this will stimulate an already hot economy.   Unemployment is just 4.1%, and real-time estimates of GDP growth in the first quarter of 2018 are as high as 4%.   The natural question is:   when will inflation take off?   This strangely timed fiscal experiment will reveal the answer.   (Economist Espresso, 2/12)

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 ASIA

China, Maldives: Beijing’s Boats Send a Message to India — China’s increased military presence in the Indian Ocean gives the country more options to respond to the crisis in the Maldives, in addition to challenging New Delhi’s influence in the region.   (Stratfor, 2/16)

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AFRICA

Finally, Mo Ibrahim has found an African president worthy of the $5 million prize the Sudanese billionaire offered to any leader who would step down after losing an election.   The prize goes to Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.   It’s been eleven years since the prize was established.   “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and its democratic institution,” said the head of the prize committee.

Liberia’s gross domestic product was only $550 million when Mrs. Sirleaf became president in 2005.   At the end of her tenure in office it had increased to $2.1 billion.   (Wall Street Journal, 2/14)

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COMMENT ON OXFAM CHARITY SCANDAL

Can charities be truly bad?   It seems perverse to say that they are, but the Oxfam abuse scandal has revealed a sinister side to international aid — and about time, too.   In our cover package this week, Harriet Sergeant argues that, in Africa and elsewhere, NGOs often do more harm than good.   Mary Wakefield, meanwhile, who wrote about rapist aid workers in the magazine a fortnight ago, well before the Oxfam story broke, asks why polite society prefers to ignore scandals which relate to organisations that people want to believe are good.   (The Spectator, UK, 2/15)

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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils — Berlioz

THANKSGIVING AND BEYOND

Seated:  Brooklyn, Aubren, Elena and Hayden.  Standing:  Alyssa with Evan, Paris with Leeson, and Ethan.

We just survived four days of Thanksgiving with nine grandchildren!!!

Actually that’s not quite true.   All nine were only with us from Wednesday evening at 6pm until Thursday at 8pm.   The other seven were in our home for 97 hours and 38 minutes, to be exact.   But, who’s counting?  Delightful chaos!

It was fun – most of the time.   Except when the boys, all 5 except for our son who is 38 going on 5, were playing nerf wars; running around the house with toy guns shooting light plastic/foam bullets at each other.

Until Sunday afternoon, when the oldest “5” year old got hit in the eye and ended up in ER.  Twice.   After spending 2 hours and 30 minutes at the first ER, he had to go to the second ER because they didn’t have the necessary equipment to examine the eye at the first. Both hospitals are owned by the same company, so you would think that the second hospital would let him go to the front of the line.   No way.   He had to wait another 5 or 6 hours to get any attention.  It was eight hours before he arrived back at our home.   8 hours and a few hundred dollars, plus whatever his insurance company paid out on his behalf.

Waiting with him at the second hospital, I was observing what was going on.  I usually take something to read when I have to wait at doctors’ offices or hospitals, but I thought this visit would be brief. Not so.   After about three hours, our son wanted something to eat and walked into the main part of the hospital, which has a “Starbucks” – add another $20 to the cost of his eye injury.  (And another $10 for parking!)   He returned from the Starbucks exclaiming that it cost more than any Starbucks he had been to in any airport.   Hospitals are clearly big business!

It looks as if his eye will be ok, but he has to go see the eye doctor every day this week to see how it’s doing.

His nephews had a lot of fun, but we may just be playing “Snakes and Ladders” next time they visit.   No, I doubt it.   If there’s anything they all have, it’s plenty of energy.

It’s now Tuesday and they have all been gone for almost 48 hours. However, Diane and I are both still exhausted.  Even the house seems to be breathing a sigh of relief although three of the little delights live here.   Only the cat had any sense – he stayed away almost all the time our visitors were here.  For some reason, he’s taken to sleeping on my pillow, so if I want to take a nap, I have to fight him for the space.   I could always get my own back by eating his cat food!  Maybe not – it has turkey as one of the ingredients.   I don’t think I could consume any more turkey for at least a year.

Our youngest grandson, Hayden, 18 months old, enjoyed all the attention from his cousins, aunts and uncles.   He has a new tee-shirt with these words on it:   “If Mom says No, go ask Grandpa”!   I think he already knew that.

It was a great Thanksgiving and we have a lot to be thankful for, starting with the nine grandchildren (pictured above).   If I had to live my life all over again, I think I would go with grandchildren before children – they are so much easier.

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AVOID THIS COMPANY

One thing we are not thankful for is roof repair companies.  Or, at least one, the one we used in February to put a new roof over our bedroom.   The company we used was Hanson’s, who offered us the best deal, or so we thought.

A few weeks after their work, we saw a dark shadow over our ceiling in one corner.   And, some days later, the ceiling started caving in.   We then saw the mold that had developed in the attic since their work on the roof.   The mold had to be treated and the ceiling repaired.  The water leak also ruined the heating coils in our ceiling so that source of heat had to be terminated, therefore installation of an electric heater near the floor was necessary.

After sending their foreman to examine it, and him denying it had anything to do with their roof job, they blamed it on evidence of a former leak, which happened apparently before we bought the place.   Funny, it wasn’t wet up there before they gave us a new roof.  And that “evidence” was on the chimney, not the roof – it would be leaking down the chimney if it were leaking at all.  And it wasn’t.  I had called them in because there was what looked like a small leak in a totally different part of the room.

Well, their foreman and his supervisor came back and did a “water test” and said it didn’t leak until they lifted the hose up to the former repair job on the chimney.  Then they left saying it wasn’t their roof that was at fault.  Well, we redid the water test ourselves when they left because we didn’t believe it.   And when we just laid the hosepipe on the roof, water only going on their roof, it POURED in the ceiling.   We called them and when we told them what we did – they immediately offered to give us a new roof – no apparent intent to come back and see again for themselves.   So they “seemed” to accept their responsibility in this matter and I told them there were ceiling repairs and they said they would submit a claim to their insurance company.   We had that hole in our ceiling for almost 6 weeks.  No insurance adjuster was ever sent to see it.   So I got it repaired and sent them the bill.

We could have saved on postage.  They are now saying they will not pay.  Of course, the ceiling is fixed now so nobody else can come out and confirm that it was their fault.  They lied and that’s that.  They said we called them originally because of a leak in the spot that caved in.  Unbelievable!   And because we did not start out this business with Hanson’s assuming they were dishonest shysters and did not document things as we should have, we now have to come up with the $7,348 to repair the shoddy work that originally cost marginally less than that.  In effect, we will have to pay twice for the same work. No wonder America, with only 4% of the world’s population, has over 50% of all the world’s lawyers (which most can’t afford)!

This spoiled our Thanksgiving – their letter of refusal arrived on the Monday of Thanksgiving Week.

It led to the following thoughts.

I remember thirty years ago, when we lived in England, I needed a chiropractor and the nearest one was about 30 miles away, across meandering country roads.   Beautiful scenery, but a long drive.

I was surprised to find the chiropractor was an American.  I asked him why he was living in the UK.   His response was that business in America was crooked.  I came to America’s defense, pointing out that there were crooks in England, too.  “Yes,” he replied, “there are some crooked companies in England, but in America they are all crooked.”

A more authoritative comment comes from a PBS documentary shown about twenty years ago.  The program compared German business practices with American to see what made Germany such a successful exporting country.

.The conclusion was interesting.  When a German company makes a sale, they consider it the start of a beautiful relationship with the customer; in the US, the sale is the end of the relationship.  That’s certainly true of Hanson’s and of some others we have experienced over the years.

When we lived in Ghana, a local businessman there made a similar observation. He bought his veterinary products from Germany because every few months they would send somebody down to make sure everything was going right.   American companies, he said, won’t do that – once the sale is made, they just want to go home.

When PM Margaret Thatcher was once asked to stop foreign nations from selling their cars in the UK; her response was to encourage the foreign car companies, until British companies learned from them how to do better.

It’s all rather sobering, but I would not be doing Hanson’s, or their future clients, any favors by covering up their shoddy work and blatant lying!

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TOTAL MADNESS FROM BRITAIN AND AMERICA

Don’t call female pupils girls or ladies because it reminds them of their gender, head teachers are told

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5104579/Heads-warned-not-use-gendered-terms-schools.html

New York phases out ‘ladies and gentlemen’ greetings on the subway in favor of politically correct gender-neutral terms including ‘passengers’ and ‘riders’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5070439/New-York-phases-ladies-gentlemen.html

Reminder:  “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”  (Genesis 1:27)

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Poland’s Christian [Catholic] Government Votes to Phase Out Sunday Shopping So Families Can Spend More Time Together        28 Nov 2017 * Breitbart

Poland’s parliament has voted to slowly begin the process of abolishing Sunday shopping to allow workers to spend more time with their families.

The law has been passed by the sejm — equivalent to the British House of Commons or the U.S. House of Representatives — but must be approved by the Senate and the president, both of which could veto the decision.   Although the major change — which reverses decades of movement on turning Sunday from a holy day of rest into an ordinary day of shopping and work — has been criticised as putting jobs at risk, the government hopes it will improve quality of life for ordinary Poles.

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TEHRAN IS WINNING THE WAR FOR CONTROL OF THE MIDDLE EASTJonathan Spyer, Middle East Forum 11/21

The confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran is taking place across a swath of the Middle East in which, over the last decade, states have partially ceased to function — Iraq and Lebanon — or collapsed completely, as in the case of Syria and Yemen.   A war over the ruins has taken place in each country, with Riyadh and Tehran arrayed on opposing sides in all of them.

Throughout the region, the advantage is very clearly with the Iranians.

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IRAN COMPLETES ITS LAND BRIDGE TO THE GOLAN         Jonathan Spyer, Middle East Forum, 11/18

In the east of Syria, the so-called race to Abu Kamal between the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces and the forces of Iran, the Assad regime and Russia appears to be close to conclusion – in the latter’s favor.   Regime forces moved into the town last Thursday. They were then expelled by an unexpected Islamic State counterattack this week, and have now retreated to positions about two kilometers outside of Abu Kamal.

The Islamic State move, however, has the flavor of a last roll of the dice.   Clearly, the Sunni jihadis will lose the strategic border town in the days ahead.

The US-supported SDF fighters are covering ground rapidly to the north.   But the forward units of the mainly Kurdish force remain about 25 kilometers north of Abu Kamal, in the area of the Kishma oil field.

Hezbollah can now be reinforced by Iran’s other regional clients in a future conflict with Israel. 

Iran is a regional super-power in the Middle East.  Saudi Arabia is engaged in resisting Iran’s hegemony on a number of fronts.   Iran now dominates an arc of Shia Islam which includes Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – an arc that covers the same territories as the biblical King of the North in Daniel 11.   This would not have been possible without US intervention in Iraq 14 years ago.   Note:  these nations have Russian support.   ISIS, a violent and reactionary force within Sunni Islam, is largely defeated, making the forces of Shia Islam even more powerful.   This poses a serious threat to Israel. MR

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Headline in the Times of Israel:  IRAN VOWS TO PUT EUROPE IN MISSILE RANGE IF THREATENED    (Times of Israel 11/26)

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FRANCE SUBMITS TO TERRORISM, MUSLIM ANTI-SEMITISM  Guy Milliere, Gatestone Institute, 11/28

  • In France, since 2012, more than 250 people were killed by Islamic terrorism -more than in all other European countries combined.
  • No other country in Europe has experienced so many attacks against Jews.   France is a country where Jews are murdered because they are Jews.
  • “Muslim believers know very well what is happening.   Only a minority is violent.   But as a whole, they do not ignore that their birthrate is such that one day, everything here will be theirs.” — Luc Ravel, Archbishop of Strasbourg

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TIME TO DRAIN THE SWAMP – ALSO IN EUROPE                            Geert Wilders, Dutch nationalist politician, 11/26

  • Our democracies in the Western half of Europe have been subverted.  Their goal is no longer to do what the people want.  On the contrary, our political elites often do exactly the opposite. Our parliaments promote open-door policies that the majority of the people reject.  Our governments sell out sovereignty to the EU against the will of the people.  Our rulers welcome ever more Islam, although the majority of the people oppose it.
  • Our democracies have become fake democracies.  They are multi-party dictatorships, ruled by groups of establishment parties…. The establishment parties control everything, not just the politicians in their pay, but also the top brass of the civil service, the mainstream media, even the courts…. They call us “populists” because we stand for what the people want.   They even drag us to court.
  • We need to show that Europe’s streets are our streets, that we want to stay who and what we are, and do not want to be colonized by Islam. Europe belongs to us!

“Next month, I will be visiting Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.  I have been invited to speak to a group of Czech patriots. The Czechs are a freedom loving people.   In 2011, on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan, they named a street in Prague after this great American president and freedom fighter.

“This fact reminded me of a shameful event in my home town of The Hague, the seat of the Dutch Parliament and the government of the Netherlands.   Look for a Ronald Reagan Street in The Hague and you will find none.   A proposal in 2011 to name a street in The Hague after Reagan ran into fierce political opposition.   Leftist parties, such as Labor, the Greens and the liberal D66 party, argued that naming a street in honor of Reagan would “do the image of the city no good.”   The whole affair ended in a disgraceful political compromise.   Last year, a short stretch of a local bicycle path was named the “Reagan and Gorbachev Lane.”

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UNBELIEVABLE                                                                                                            BBC

Zimbabwe has officially declared 21 February to be Robert Gabriel Mugabe National Youth Day, thereby making the former president’s birthday a public holiday, the Herald newspaper reports.

Mr. Mugabe was the President of Zimbabwe for over 37 years.  Under his period of rule, the country, once one of the most successful economies in Africa, collapsed economically.   The army forced him out of office last week.  Major change, badly needed, does not look likely.   MR

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TIMES HAVE CHANGED

In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated, choosing the American woman he loved over the throne of what was then the British Empire.  The parliaments of the UK and the Commonwealth Dominions, did not want Edward to marry a woman who still had two living former husbands.   The King, titular Head of the Church of England, could not marry a divorcee.

In 1955, the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret was not allowed to marry Group Captain Townsend, a divorced equerry in the royal household.

Sixty years later, Prince Harry is to marry another divorced American woman, Meghan Markle.   Nobody is ruffled at all by this.  She is also biracial and could, as Ebony magazine pointed out, give birth to a black baby.

Times have certainly changed.   Of course, Britain itself has changed, with one in ten cohabiting couples living with a member of a different ethnic group.

Divorce has become more common and more acceptable, even in the royal family.  Princess Margaret divorced her husband over forty years ago; Princess Anne followed.   Charles and Diana divorced more than twenty years ago.   He went on to marry a divorced woman, Camilla Parker-Bowles, though the wedding was a civil ceremony in a Registry Office.

Having said all the above, the new royal couple seem well suited and very happy.   Ms. Markle, who has been living in Toronto, seemed to understand the importance of the 53-nation Commonwealth and the royal family’s constitutional role within the organization.   This came out during a televised interview with the couple.

She will not carry the title “Princess” as she is not of royal blood.   As Prince William and his wife are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, so Harry and Meghan will have a similar title.   The wedding is scheduled for May.  It will no doubt lift everybody’s spirits as they go through the challenging process of Brexit.

The latest news on that is the divorce bill.   55 billion euros is being offered by London, but is said to be too little by Brussels.   As the UK has been subsidizing the EU for decades, they shouldn’t have to pay one penny.   But the British government of Theresa May does not have the confidence to stand up to the Bullies of Brussels!

Fortunately, the wedding will not cost the tax-payer anything (except for police security) and should help boost the country’s income through tourism.

 

 

RUSSIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

putin

While US media has been focussed on alleged Russian hacking of the US electoral process, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has strengthened its role in the Middle East.

The morning that America suffered a major setback in the Middle East, American news networks led on two deaths – those of actresses Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.   Tragic though these deaths were, developments in the Middle East put America where Great Britain was exactly six decades ago.

Before World War Two, the British Empire was the dominant power in the region.   Britain withdrew from Israel in May of 1948. Immediately, the Jewish nation was invaded by five neighboring Arab nations.   Miraculously, Israel survived. In those early days, it was not helped by the United States.

In 1952, as a direct consequence of defeat against Israel, Egypt’s King Farouk was overthrown by the military.   The new leaders soon seized the Anglo-French Suez Canal.   Together with Israel, these countries invaded Egypt but were soon stopped by US President Eisenhower.   This single event led directly to the dismantling of the British Empire.   In 1958 the pro-British King of Iraq was overthrown.   Britain was losing its remaining influence in the area. The country fought a war against rebels in Aden, withdrawing from the protectorate in 1967.

It was a gradual decline, with one setback after another.   Now, the UK does not play any major role in the Middle East.

Since Britain, America has been the dominant power in the region. During the time of the Soviet Union, the US and the USSR were rivals in the area, with Moscow backing Egypt and Syria.   Later, Egypt switched sides and allied itself with the United States, but Moscow retained its influence in Syria.   Iran was in the US sphere of influence until the Shah was overthrown in 1979.

The region has seen never-ending turmoil since the fall of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire after World War One.   That turmoil shows no sign of ending.

The recent war in Iraq has left a big mess in the region.   At its root is the almost 1,400 year sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Until the US invasion of Iraq, the country was dominated by Sunni Muslims, even though the majority of people were Shia Muslims (the reverse is the case in Syria).   Following the US backed election in Iraq, the majority Shia now rule the country. This development has altered the religious balance in the region and is causing repercussions everywhere.   ISIS was formed to protect Sunni Muslims from the now dominant Shia.

In Syria, Sunnis have been trying to overthrow the Alawite (Shia) minority regime of President Assad for five years.   Enter Moscow. Russia’s backing of the Syrian president has enabled Assad to win. The US showed a great deal of weakness, refusing to get involved even when the Syrian government crossed the line and used chemical weapons on its own citizens.   Now, after months of fighting in Aleppo, the biggest city of the country, Assad is firmly in power and Russia is sponsoring “peace talks” with the rebel factions in the country.   The US is not invited to the peace talks. Russia now controls Syria.   To accomplish this, the country needs Turkey’s help. The two are pushing for peace in the country. Turkey, the second most powerful military power in NATO, is now working with the Russians to bring peace to the Middle East.

That’s two set-backs for Washington in just a few days.

A third set-back is in Israel.   The outgoing administration in Washington did not veto the latest UN vote against Israel, condemning the country for building new settlements for Jewish settlers in the West Bank.   Friction between the US and the only western style democracy in the region is unsettling, to say the least. This set-back may only be temporary as a new President takes over in the US in just three weeks, but that gives a few days for further negative developments.   Even the British have criticized America’s condemnation of Israel.   The State Department seems set on causing rifts with US allies in the final days of the current Administration.

Keep in mind, too, that Syria borders Israel on the Golan Heights.   What happens in Syria may affect Israel.   Perhaps that’s why Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Moscow in June, the fourth time in a year that he sat down with President Putin to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

The tables have been turned once again in the region.   Over sixty years ago, the UK was the dominant power in the region; since then, it’s been the US.   But now Russia is arguably the dominant power in the area.   The Russians are in alliance with the Shi-ite Muslims in Iran and Syria; they are also working with Sunni Turkey, which ruled the whole area prior to 1919.   At the same time, it seems that Israel’s prime minister is more comfortable with Putin than with Obama, with whom he’s had a serious exchange of heated words in recent days.

There’s even a fourth development that puts Russia ahead. Following the hacking scandal, President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the US; President Putin made it clear that he will not expel any Americans. This is a triumph for Putin in the propaganda war with America.

What lies ahead?   Remember that the Middle East is the primary focus of Bible prophecy with Jerusalem at the epicenter.

In the nineteenth century, there was no indication that the Jews were about to become an independent nation again.  Their period of self-rule ended with the Romans before the time of Christ.  Their rebellion against the Romans in the first century AD led to the Diaspora, a dispersion that scattered the Jewish people throughout the Roman Empire and left them scattered until fairly recently.   Bible prophecy showed that the Jewish nation would be restored and that happened in 1948.

Exactly a century ago, British and Australian forces entered Jerusalem in the continuing war with the Ottoman Turks.   At this point in time, a Jewish nation became possible.   The British were given a mandate to administer Palestine by the League of Nations.   This was an impossible task as Palestinians and Jews clashed repeatedly.   Eventually, the League’s successor, the United Nations, divided the territory up between Jews and Palestinians, the latter never accepting their loss of land.

 

 

RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE – IT’S ALL ABOUT RACE!

Anti-refugee demonstrations in Cologne, Germany.
Anti-refugee demonstrations in Cologne, Germany.

An anti-police riot, Islamic terror attacks and a massive increase in the numbers of immigrants all add to America’s growing racial strains.  In spite of all this, the Establishment continues its rapid push for a dramatic increase in the numbers of non-whites and the end of conservative white America.

The terror attacks at the weekend did not result in any fatalities but were an unpleasant experience for people in three states.   More will certainly come.   The result will likely be a swing to the right politically.

Bret Stephens, a former editor of the Jerusalem Post, who now writes a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal, observed this week that “as terrorist attacks become more common, tolerance for liberal pieties will wane.”

England was the first country to react with the anti-foreigner Brexit vote; Germany has voted in three regional elections in the last few weeks, each time rejecting the liberal immigration policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel; now the US is set to vote.   It will be a close election, but Donald Trump has the advantage when it comes to security.   Neither Mrs. Clinton nor President Obama can utter the words “radical Islam” and, following three terror attacks at the weekend, both are calling for more Muslim immigration.

In Germany, the AfD (Alternative for Deutschland Party), with an anti-immigrant program, gained the most in regional elections.   Some are saying that this is reminiscent of the 1930’s, that the AfD is composed of neo-Nazis.   Note the following from the London Daily Mail:

“Are the anti-immigration AfD exactly the same as the Nazis?   No, of course not.   And it would be a mistake to write off all their voters as racists or extremists.

Many of them are ordinary, working-class Germans, alarmed by the influx of so many newcomers and by the reports of sexual assaults in cities such as Munich and Cologne.   In that respect, they are not so different from the 3.8 million people who voted for UKIP in our last general election.

Well, up to a point.  For what’s truly disturbing is that AfD officials tried to book a rally in Munich’s Hofbräukeller, the beer hall where Hitler gave his first speech as a member of the Nazi Party in October 1919.

And they have also tried to revive the word ‘volkisch’ — conjuring up folksy images of the country’s home-grown culture — which the Nazis used to set Germans apart from their supposed racial inferiors.”  (Dominic Sandbrook).

Clearly, the current invasion is having a dramatic effect on domestic politics.

In the Muslim world, most people believe the West is at war with Islam.   Long memories of the Crusades, when western Christendom was at war with Islam for two centuries, continue to drive national direction – Israel is “the crusader state,” the modern equivalent of the medieval Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem established by the Crusaders in the eleventh century.

The Muslims are not the only ones driven by history.   Central Europeans are mostly against taking in refugees.   They remember that Islamists got to the gates of Vienna as recently as 1683.   The Siege of Vienna took place on September 11th of that year, resulting in the defeat of the Muslims by the next day.   It was the end of another push for the destruction of Christianity by Islam.   It’s interesting to note that the re-emergence of extremist Sunni Islam appeared on the same date, September 11th, 2001.   A message was clearly being sent:  “we’re back – and this time we will defeat you.” Their goal is the destruction of the West.

And how does the West react?   With compromise.  “Let’s bring them all to America and they will change!!!”  The naivety is sometimes astounding, but it shows just how deeply entrenched is the ideal of multiculturalism.   Here’s a few lines from Bloomberg News in an editorial from today’s Lansing State Journal:  “Refugees go to the considerable strain of moving to the US because they seek opportunities to work hard and improve their lives.   Thus, they can be a boon to their new communities – creating jobs, stabilizing shrinking school districts, revitalizing blighted neighborhoods, and helping communities thrive”.   Think about the stabilization of shrinking school districts – with a higher birthrate, Islam would soon be the dominant religion in many of our schools.

These statements are at variance with former Muslim writer, Salman Rushdie who addressed an audience in New York on C-Span.   He pointed out that when a Muslim moves from the Middle East to Detroit, he is NOT looking to better himself and take advantage of the American way of life.   Rather, he sees himself as part of the advance guard to spread Islam to America.”   On a television news program yesterday, Muslims in the Minneapolis area (mostly Somalis) were stopped and asked if they liked the US or would prefer to live in a Muslim country.   Every single one said they would prefer to live in a Muslim country.

The Bloomberg article ended with this message of compromise:  “On the other hand, consider the costs of denying entry to any more Syrian refugees.  It would feed Islamic State’s narrative that the US is anti-Muslim, and weaken America’s global leadership.”

In other words, we must just lie down and play dead.   Let the invasion continue!

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There are enough racial problems at home, without inviting more into the country.   A few nights of rioting in Charlotte, North Carolina, started with the death of another African-American male at the hands of the police.   Hardly mentioned by the liberal US media was the fact that the shooter was a black police office.   The BBC, to its shame, did not mention it, for over 24 hours.

High rates of unemployment amongst African-Americans deserve a mention in the context of the ratcheted up rate of immigration by refugees – the Syrians will be helped to find jobs by government agencies, at the expense of mostly black Americans and Hispanics. Clearly, Democrats feel secure with their non-white base, even as they make life harder for them!

President Obama has also shown his “racist” side by badgering blacks to vote for Hillary, claiming he will feel personally insulted if they vote for Trump.   This reminds me of one of the he worst aspects of African politics, when a tribal chief tells everybody in the tribe who to vote for – it makes democracy impossible.

The race to end white America, traditional America, is speeding up. Soon whites will be a minority, which is what Senator Edward Kennedy had in mind back in 1965 when he sponsored a new Immigration bill.   At the time he promised that it would not change the demographics in the country.

Today, Friday, it has been revealed that the Obama Administration has instructed the FBI to rush through approval for citizenship for those entering the country from sensitive (i.e. Middle Eastern) areas. This will give the Democrats more votes and is a clear sign that politics comes before what’s best for the country.   A further 110,000 refugees from the Middle east will start arriving October 1st.    Already 85,000 have arrived this fiscal year (USA Today 9/15).

Perhaps Mr. Obama is feeling guilty.   Having badly let down Syria, he now wants to give a home to many Syrians as possible, even though some are likely to be terrorists.  ISIS has said more than once that it is sending its soldiers to Europe and America alongside the refugees.

There is clearly no true security in this world when our leaders make some irrational decisions.

It’s not surprising that I’ve received an invitation from the local police to attend a “Safety and Security” seminar for area churches. With an influx of people from the Middle East where attacks on churches have been routine, plus the additional factor of homegrown terrorists, churches need to boost security.

Christians should not lose heart faced with these growing threats. Rather, we should be encouraged by the words of the Apostle Paul:

and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7).