Tag Archives: Lagos

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)

 

WE CAN ALL HAVE VACATIONS, EXCEPT FOR SCOTT MORRISON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AUSTRALIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that fight would be on Australia’s doorstep.

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

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

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

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

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


THE FALL OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE

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

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

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

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Europe’s Age of Humiliation

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

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

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

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ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE

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

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FAILING CHRISTIANITY

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

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

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

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

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

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US IMAM CLAIMS ALLAH TRANSFORMED JEWS INTO APES AND PIGS

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

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

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REPORT ON ‘NEW PALESTINE’ SHARPLY CONTRADICTS US POSITIONS

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

SLAVERY IS BACK, BIG TIME

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

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

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

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

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

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BABY FACTORIES

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

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

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

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GLOBAL ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

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

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

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

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

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IRAN TO WIPE ISRAEL OFF THE MAP

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

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

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

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

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AUSTRALIAN PM GIVES MAJOR SPEECH ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS

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

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

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

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

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

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CANADIAN ELECTION

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

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CHINA’S 70th BIRTHDAY

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

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

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

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SINO-GERMAN RELATIONS

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

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FACEBOOK — END OF FREE SPEECH?

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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