Tag Archives: NATO

MEMORIES OF WATERGATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Germany could make big EU impact in 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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Germany ponders bigger troop mandate in Africa’s Sahel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UK SEX GROOMING GANGS VICTIMIZE 19,000 CHILDREN IN 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

CONSERVATIVES WIN LANDSLIDE IN UK

Johnson, pictured on the final day of campaigning, ran a campaign dominated by the promise to take the UK out of the EU (Reuters)

Once again, pollsters were wrong.   And once again, conservatives benefitted.

The vote was supposed to be close.   There was a lot of talk of a “hung” parliament, where there’s not enough seats to give any party a majority.   This would have been the worst outcome.   As it was, the Conservatives won, as they did in Australia earlier in the year; and in the 2016 US election when every prediction was that Hillary Clinton would be president.

It seems that people do not answer pollsters truthfully.   Perhaps it’s because people are embarrassed to say they are Conservative, but vote with their wallets on election day.   Margaret Thatcher won every time and that was the explanation.   Well, whatever the reason, Boris Johnson won a landslide, the biggest vote for the Conservatives since Mrs. Thatcher in the 80s.

My home town of Grimsby, in the North of England, returned a Conservative MP for the first time in my lifetime.   Others did the same.   Partly, this was disillusionment with the Labor Party (socialists), who have promised much over the years, but delivered little.   This time, according to analysis on Sky News, they promised 28 times as much as the Conservatives, an amount of money that would have been impossible to deliver.

But the main issue was Brexit.  The Conservatives had a definite plan to get out of the European Union by January 31st.   Labour’s plan was more negotiations with the EU, then a second referendum.   There was a referendum in 2016 and those wanting to leave won.   The experience of the last few years has been that many politicians refused to honor the referendum result.  None of them were returned in last week’s election.

It’s the same with Scotland.   A referendum there in 2014 showed the majority of Scots wanting to remain in the United Kingdom.   But Mrs. Nicola Sturgeon refuses to accept that result and wants a second referendum.   If successful, would she allow a third referendum seven years later when disillusionment with the reality of independence sets in?   Doubtful.   The Scottish people are subsidized by the English taxpayer to the tune of almost 2,000 pounds a year per person.   Independence must mean a drop in living standards.   Her hope is that Germany will help.   But Germany is going to have to bail out everybody in Europe now that Britain is leaving.

However, the issue of Scottish independence is not going away.  Boris Johnson has pledged to preserve the union, but even he is going to find that hard.

It’s not just Scotland, either.   Northern Ireland presents another problem.   For the first time ever, there are more Republican MPs from that region.   The Unionists lost out for the first time.   The Irish Republicans (who favor a united socialist Ireland) will be demanding independence at the same time as the Scots.   If either breaks away, British security will be compromised.   The UK’s nuclear base is in Clyde on the Scottish west coast.  There’s also a big military presence in Northern Ireland.

But Brexit is first.   Mr. Johnson has promised to deliver by the end of next month.   There is no impediment in his way.   There will follow eleven months of negotiations with the EU on a trade deal.   The Europeans say that is impossible, it will take at least two years.   With the election, power has shifted.   The Europeans will have to deliver a trade deal by the end of 2020 if they want to keep British trade, and they will want to.   The German car industry relies on Britain for 20% of its sales.   They are not going to throw that away for the sake of teaching Britain a lesson.

The election result should benefit the US, too.   Mr. Johnson has a personal friendship with Mr. Trump.   Both were born in New York City.   Both are known for their hair.   And both are against globalism, preferring to put their country first.

The trend against pollsters may prove the same in 2020, when Donald Trump faces who knows who for the Democrats.   In spite of impeachment (which isn’t going anywhere and seems solely to benefit hundreds of lawyers, all billing the taxpayer) and opinion polls that will show him losing to Elizabeth Buttagieg, or Bernie Biden, Donald Trump is most likely to win.   The longer the impeachment process continues, the more support he has.

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Could Scotland leave the UK . . . and stay in the EU?                                   by Philip Sim, BBC Scotland political reporter, “Would Scots vote for independence?”  18 Dec 2019

This is the big question – after all Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t just want to hold  a referendum, she wants to win one.

Polling data collected by What Scotland Thinks suggests an increase in support for independence – but it generally remains just short of a majority.   Excluding “don’t knows,” the average of polls this year has been 51% No to 49% Yes.   The average for 2018 was 55% to 45% – the same as the 2014 referendum.

Would an independent Scotland stay in the EU?   In practice, Scotland would not become independent the day after a Yes vote – there would have to be a period of transition.    In 2014, the pro-independence side said it would take 18 months to set up an independent Scottish state.   Even if a referendum was held tomorrow, the transition would therefore run beyond the end of 2020 – when the UK is due to complete its exit from the EU.   This means Scotland would leave the EU with the rest of the UK, and would need to apply to join again.

Scotland would have to jump through the same hoops as any state seeking to join the EU, although it would have the advantage of having recently been a member.

Sturgeon’s own party’s prospectus for independence suggests this could take several years, whereas she wants to rejoin the EU as quickly as possible.   The first minister also wants to avoid a hard border between Scotland and England.

(https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-50813510)

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TRUMP AND NATO

The Senate foreign relations committee has voted unanimously in favor of a bipartisan bill that would prevent Trump from unilaterally withdrawing the US from Nato.   The isolationist-inclined president is a noted sceptic of the transatlantic military alliance, and last week left the Nato summit in London early after the emergence of a hot mic video in which other world leaders appeared to be mocking him. The bill will now await a slot for a full vote in the Senate.   (The Guardian, 12/12)

The largest arms producers in the USA and Western Europe, including German companies, have further increased their already predominant share of global arms production, as can be seen in the analysis published yesterday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute SIPRI.   SIPRI analyzed the sales of the world’s Top 100 arms-producers and concluded that 83 percent of their output comes from 70 companies headquartered in countries of the self-proclaimed community of western values.   Whereas the combined sales of the Top 100 arms companies have increased by 4.6 percent, compared to the preceding year, those of the US and West European companies have increased by around 5.2 percent.

Currently the production of military hardware is also massively expanding in Germany.   The armaments division of the Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall Group was able to boost its sales by 11.8 percent in the first nine months of this year.   The increase of defense budget is promising business in the billions.   German arms exports are also rising dramatically.   (German Foreign Policy, 12/11)

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A 5,000-Year-Old Plan to Erase Debts Is Now a Hot Topic in America                                                                                                                                  In ancient Babylon, a newly enthroned king would declare a jubilee, wiping out the population’s debts.  In modern America, a faint echo of that idea call it jubilee-lite, is catching on.  (Bloomberg, 10 Dec 2019)

Support for write-offs has been driven by Democratic presidential candidates.   Elizabeth Warren says she’d cancel most of the $1.6 trillion in U.S. student loans.   Bernie Sanders would go further -– erasing the whole lot, as well as $81 billion in medical debt.   But it’s coming from other directions too.   In October, one of the Trump administration’s senior student-loan officials resigned, calling for wholesale write-offs and describing the American way of paying for higher education as “nuts.’’    Real-estate firm Zillow cites medical and college liabilities as major hurdles for would-be renters and home buyers.

Moody’s Investors Service listed the headwinds from student debt -– less consumption and investment, more inequality — and said forgiveness would boost the economy like a tax cut.   While the current debate centers on college costs, long-run numbers show how debt has spread through the economy.   The U.S. relies on consumer spending for growth -– but it hasn’t been delivering significantly higher wages.   Household borrowing has filled the gap, with low interest rates making it affordable.   And that’s not unique to America.   Steadily growing debts of one kind or another are weighing on economies all over the world.

The idea that debt can grow faster than the ability to repay, until it unbalances a society, was well understood thousands of years ago, according to Michael Hudson, an economist and historian.   Last year Hudson published “And Forgive Them Their Debts,’’ a study of the ancient Near East where the tradition known as a “jubilee” — wiping the debt-slate clean — has its roots.   He describes how the practice spread through civilizations including Sumer and Babylon, and came to play an important role in the Bible and Jewish law.   Rulers weren’t motivated by charity, Hudson says.   They were being pragmatic — trying to make sure that citizens could meet their own needs and contribute to public projects, instead of just laboring to pay creditors.   And it worked, he says. “Societies that canceled the debts enjoyed stable growth for thousands of years.’’

Forgiveness was good for the economy, would be a modern way of putting it. In an October paper, Moody’s examined how that might apply if America writes off its student debts. (12/10/2019 (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/5-000-old-plan-erase-100000406.html)

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NIGERIAN MONKEYPOX IN ENGLAND                        

A rare viral infection known as monkeypox has been diagnosed in England.   The virus likely was contracted by a person in Nigeria.

Monkeypox could replace smallpox as a most dreaded disease.   The related smallpox virus was eradicated in 1980, thanks to Western technology.   (White people are often condemned for spreading smallpox, but seldom credited with destroying the virus worldwide.)

Open borders allow infected individuals from African nations to invade Western nations.  (Daily Kenn, 12/14/2019)

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A UNITED AFRICA

We Want A United States Of Africa — says Julius Malema
by SG Editor, 16 Dec 2019, iAfrica.com

JOHANNESBURG – Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema on Sunday spelled out the party’s ambitious vision to lead the entire African continent to economic freedom.   Speaking at the party’s second national people’s assembly in Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, Malema explained that it was only natural that economic freedom came from the south.  The gathering was expected to come to an end on Monday.

Governing South Africa may have appeared to be a tall order for the EFF, but this was just one dream that formed part of even bolder ambitions.   Malema wants the six-year-old organisation to have a presence everywhere on the continent.   “Our vision is not these small-minded things you’re thinking about; we want to lead Africa. We want a United States of Africa with one currency, economy, and judiciary,” Malema said.

The party’s vision appeared to be inspired by late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who dreamt of a United States of Africa.   This plan could well be underway with formations from Liberia, Malawi, and Namibia who were among the guests attending the second people’s assembly in Nasrec.
(https://www.iafrica.com/we-want-a-united-states-of-africa-malema/)

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TO THE POINT

  • Authorities in Australia warned that a “mega-blaze” was threatening the north-western suburbs of Sydney.   Covering about 400,000 hectares, the bushfire has already destroyed over 20 homes and is moving into the Blue Mountains area, a popular tourist destination.   A heatwave is not helping; the Bureau of Meteorology advised that the record for the highest-ever temperature could be broken this week.  (The Economist, 12/17)
  • America’s defence secretary said he needs to speak with his Turkish counterpart about remarks made by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.   On Sunday Mr. Erdogan issued a new threat:   that it may shut down America’s Incirlik air base in eastern Anatolia.   A worsening chill between the two NATO allies has made America jittery about the nuclear warheads it stores there.   (The Economist, 12/17)
  • Chief Advisor To Turkish President Erdoğan:   ‘The Islamic World Should Prepare An Army For Palestine From Outside Palestine’ (MEMRI 12/2)
  • A special court in Pakistan has sentenced former military leader Pervez Musharraf to death on charges of treason and subversion of the constitution.   Mr. Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and ruled until 2008.   The sentence was largely seen as symbolic, as the former leader is currently in exile in Dubai.   (The Economist, 12/17)
  • Protests in India, against a citizenship law designed to exclude Muslims from naturalisation, escalated in their fifth day.   In Delhi police clashed with protesters around a Muslim university; at least 100 were injured and buses were set on fire.   Other campuses around the country erupted in anger. In India’s north-east, where immigration is generally opposed, six people have been killed.   (The Economist, 12/16)
  • Chief Advisor To Turkish President Erdoğan:   ‘The Islamic World Should Prepare An Army For Palestine From Outside Palestine’ (MEMRI 12/2)
  • 65 of Britain’s MPs returned to the House of Commons last week are minorities.   That’s 10%.   Take away the 59 Scots, and the percentage will increase to almost 20%.   There were none a little over twenty years ago.  This reflects Britain’s changing demographics, the result of massive immigration from the underdeveloped world since World War II.
  • I watched the British election on Sky News, a British 24/7 news channel available on “Watch Free”, a US streaming service.   A day or two later, I was surprised to read that only 46, 000 people watched the election on Sky.  The news company spent a small fortune on John Bercow, controversial former Speaker of the House of Commons, a commentator for the evening, who seemed to spend most of his time justifying his performance as Speaker.

THE ENEMY WITHIN

Noor Rabah, vice president of Muslim Community Patrol & Services, outside the Police Department’s 72nd Precinct, with a car the group intends to use to patrol neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Credit…James Keivom for The New York Times

Media tends not to link terrorist attacks, seeing each one in isolation.   But to understand what is happening, attacks need to be linked for us to see the complete picture.

Two recent terrorist attacks are clearly linked, even though the media has not brought it out.   London and Pensacola, Florida.

In London, two young people were knifed to death near London Bridge.   Their assailant, Usman Khan, had been freed from prison, less that 50% of the way through his sentence for terrorist activities. In Florida, a few days later, a Saudi Arabian pilot in the US for training suddenly turned on other young people, killing three, one of whom was a fellow Muslim.   In both cases, sadly, young people were brutally murdered.   None of these people was equipped to see the Muslims in their midst as a threat.

But they were.   And I wonder how many others are, too.

In the same week, we saw Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, visit Auschwitz.   There is a connection here, too.   She was there to show the horrors of anti-Semitism, at a time when anti-Semitic acts are on the increase, including a synagogue attack on Yom Kippur, which left two dead.   She wasn’t only highlighting anti-Semitism.   She was also defending her decision to allow into the country more than a million refugees, many of whom were from the Middle East. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are often linked.   They should not be.

There was and is no justification for anti-Semitism.   Islamophobia, on the other hand, is a perfectly rational response to violent acts perpetrated by Muslims (London and Florida being the latest).   The Islamic Conference of 57 Muslims countries recently asked the United Nations to ban Islamophobia.   This could give countries an excuse to favor Muslims over others.

The only way to overcome Islamophobia, a fear of Muslims, is for Muslims to stop committing violent acts.   Unless and until that happens, there will always be Islamophobia.

The latest anti-semitic incident took place on Tuesday in Jersey City, NJ.  Two people, both members of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, entered a kosher store and shot three Jews dead.   In a seven-hour gun battle with police, one policeman was shot dead, a father with five children.  The two perpetrators were also killed.

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NYC MUSLIM PATROLS 

“Bullying” and “gangster-like” tactics have been reported by locals in New York areas where the Muslim Community Patrol & Services operates.   These tactics are beginning to create a backlash against the self-described “civilian patrol organization” among local residents.

The Muslim patrol gained international attention in the fall of 2018 after several of its patrol cars, which look like New York Police Department (NYPD) cars, were spotted in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

The patrol originally said its purpose was to serve as a liaison between Muslims and the NYPD.   But after two consecutive mosque shootings in New Zealand last March, where a gunman live-streamed his murder of 51 Muslims on Facebook, the patrol publicly altered its purpose.

It now describes itself as a law enforcement organization, claiming its goal is to “protect members of the local community from escalating quality-of-life nuisance crimes.”   It’s precisely that “law enforcement” definition that is now landing the Muslim patrol into hot water with New York City residents, particularly those living in the Brooklyn area of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“They are bullying people and getting out of their patrol cars looking like gangsters,” said one resident, who asked to remain anonymous. “The people in Bed-Stuy don’t want them there.”

The Muslim patrol originally had a force of three patrol cars when it first formed in November 2018, but it now has seven cars on the streets of New York with the intention of purchasing 23 more cars in the near future.   The Muslim patrol’s cars are nearly identical to NYPD patrol cars.   Both use Ford Taurus’ and have similar decal schemes, colors and emblems. Though the Muslim patrol cars do not have lights on their hoods, they do have emergency flashing lights in the front and back windshields.

“A lot of people can’t tell them apart,” said the resident.  “In fact, most people think they are NYPD detective cars, especially if they are driving behind you.”

Significantly, some Muslim patrol “officers” have been driving their patrol cars with their emergency lights in continuous flash mode, even when not responding to an emergency.

“They never turn them off and people are seeing these lights and thinking [they are] NYPD,” the resident said.   The cars also have sirens, which another neighborhood resident says is being used to intimidate people.   “They turn on their sirens when they see non-Muslims park next to a mosque during Friday prayer services,” said another resident.   (Clarion Project, 12/9)

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NEED FOR EUROPEAN ARMY TO REPLACE US

An EU Army – Former German finance minister Joschka Fischer calls on the EU to develop defense autonomy before Donald Trump pulls the plug on Europe’s security blanket:  “Macron understands that the rupture in Europe’s defense following a withdrawal of US troops would be far more severe than many seem to expect.   It would unfold not as some gradual, barely noticeable transition, but as a sudden break.

If Europe wants to prevent or at least delay that outcome, it must make substantial investments in its military and expand its own capabilities on a massive scale.   In other words, it must act as if the break has already happened.”   (The Financial Times, 12/5/2019)

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NATO ANNIVERSARY SUMMIT

In spite of fierce internal conflicts, NATO is enhancing its operational readiness, is preparing its next expansion, and is setting its sights on China as a new “challenge.”   These are the main results of the war alliance’s anniversary summit, which ended in London yesterday, with the participation of the heads of states and governments of the member countries.   As early as next year, NATO will be able to deploy 30 army, air force and naval units in a war within a 30-day maximum.   At the London summit, North Macedonia, which is about to join the Alliance, was represented for the first time. In the future, NATO will extensively concern itself with China, however, not exclusively confrontational, as Washington would have wanted.   The conflict with Turkey did not escalate, even though the dissentions between Ankara and various other allied states, by no means, had been resolved.   In fact, the Turkish government has implicitly been given a blank check for its heavily criticized activities in the occupation of Northern Syria.   (German foreign policy, 12/6/2019)

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FRANCE TO FILL VOID LEFT BY US

France laid out a new posture for itself in discussions in the Gulf this week, chiding the Americans for not standing up to Iran’s threats against Saudi Arabia and other countries.   Paris now wants to play a more robust role in maritime security as Washington’s influence declines across the region.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly condemned America for leaving the Iran deal and also condemned Iran at the Manama Dialogue confab in Bahrain over the weekend.   The conference is organized by the International Institute of Strategic Studies and has foreign ministers and leaders from the region, as well as security and defense officials, in attendance.

“We’ve seen deliberate, gradual US disengagement,” she said.   She also slammed former president Barack Obama for leaving the “fighter jets on the tarmac,” according to France24, a reference to the US decision in 2013 not to punish Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria for chemical weapons attacks. (Seth Frantzman, MEF, 11/26/2019; from Jerusalem Post)

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 Crusaders ‘terror plot’:Another man arrested in Cape Town after explosives, devices found
  – 6 Dec 2019, News24 Jenna Etheridge

Hawks arrest ‘Crusaders terrorist movement’ leader, discover suspected explosives factory.   Another suspected member of the National Christian Resistance Movement (NCRM),
also known as the “Crusaders,” has been arrested – this time in Cape Town, the Hawks said on Friday.

A team descended on the man’s business premises in Kuils River on Thursday and arrested him for the illegal possession of a firearm, explosives and explosive devices, said Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.  “The suspect is believed to have links with the other four suspects who have already been arrested and charged for alleged terrorist activities,” he said.  The 46-year-old man was expected to appear in the Blue Downs Magistrate’s Court later on Friday.   Harry Knoesen, the self-professed leader of the NCRM, was arrested at his Mpumalanga home on terrorism-related charges last week.
  Possible explosives factory:   This followed a two-year Hawks investigation into an alleged terrorist plot “apparently co-ordinated by the group to target national key points, shopping malls and informal settlements,” Mulaudzi said.   Knoesen, 60, is a former national defense force member and retired pastor.   He was apprehended and charged for terrorism-related activities in contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorism and Related Activities Act as well as the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.   A search at his other residence in the Eastern Cape, according to the Hawks, uncovered a possible explosives factory, electronic devices and documents as well an unlicensed firearm and ammunition that were seized for further analysis.  His arrest was soon followed by three others, including that of Riana Heymans, in Kliprivier, Johannesburg.  “Various firearms and ammunition, documents and other items were confiscated by the Criminal Record Centre (CRC) for further probing,” Mulaudzi said.

Heyman, 54, together with brothers Eric Abrams, 55, and Errol Abrams, 49, appeared briefly with Knoesen in the Middelburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday.   They will remain in police custody until their next court appearance on January 12, 2020.  Mulaudzi said their investigation continued.

(https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/crusaders-terror-plot-another-man-arrested-in-cape-town-after-explosives-devices-found-20191206
)

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POPE ADVOCATES ONE WORLD RELIGION

Rabbi Daniel Asore, a member of the nascent Sanhedrin, noted that the Pope’s intentions were precisely as presented, with no subterfuge at all.

“The Pope wants to unify all religions and all governments under one world order,” Rabbi Asore said.   “What is the big surprise?   He is not hiding anything.   Just listen to what he says and who he is and his plans are right there for all to see.”

The rabbi noted that Pope Francis was unique in several respects; he is the first pope from the southern hemisphere and, most significantly, he is the first Jesuit to be appointed to the position. Though established by papal order in 1540 to stop the spread of Protestantism and convert the indigenous peoples of Africa and the Americas, the Jesuit order has historically been treated with suspicion by the Catholic Church for being power-hungry.

“Brotherhood is a wonderful thing but one religion is only good if it is worshipping the true God,” Rabbi Asore said.  “The pope’s vision of brotherhood does not prevent him from sitting in front of a gold idol or uniting with Ishmael.   If he wants one religion, we know what God he is not worshipping.”

Pope Francis has come under fire before for connecting the Catholic Church with the children of Ishmael. In 2015, 71 elders of the Sanhedrin tried the Pope in absentia for recognizing a “State of Palestine” with an official treaty.  By doing so, the Sanhedrin claimed, the Pope was denying the covenant as described in the Bible in which God gives the land of Israel to the descendants of Jacob.

Pope Francis has also made displays similar to his sitting barefoot in front of the  Golden idol of Buddha in Bangkok that showed a shocking level of tolerance for idolatry.   In October, a video emerged of what appears to be Pope Francis blessing a Pachama Goddess statue.

Pope Francis has also taken on a policy in which homosexuals are welcomed into the church so much so that the American LGBT magazine The Advocate named Pope Francis their Person of the Year for 2013.

(https://drive.google.com/u/0/settings/storage?hl=en&utm_medium=web&utm_source=gmail&utm_campaign=manage_storage)

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TO THE POINT

  • Palestinian Preacher Yusuf Al-Makharze:   Allah Wants Girls To Be Married Off   When They Start Menstruating;   Our Leaders Have No Right To Prevent This From Happening  (MEMRI, 12/8)
  • “Israel has always embraced this path [of liberty] in a Middle East that has long rejected it.   In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out.   It is different.” – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to the U.S. Senate, 2011.
  • The WorldBank’s board approved a plan to extend up to $1.5bn per year in low-interest loans to China over the next five years, despite American objections.   Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, said it was time the bank stopped giving financial support to China.   For China the amount is piddling; what it values is the World Bank’s advice on policy. (The Economist, 12/6/2019)
  • Germany’s industrial output in October fell 1.7% year-on-year. The figures were worse than expected, affected by uncertainty over the US-China trade war and Brexit, and by problems in the auto industry.   Germany may not technically be in recession, after a third-quarter expansion of 0.1%, but the gloom shows no sign of lifting.   (The Economist, 12/6/2019)
  • “The five English speaking democracies have heaps in common. All are free-talking, free enterprise loving places (though they often fall short of these ideals).   They are attractive places, too. Between them, they draw in two-thirds of the world’s highly skilled immigrants.   By contrast, of the 750 million people who Gallup reports would like to migrate, only 1% want to move to the People’s Republic.   Sydney alone has more foreign-born residents than mainland China.”   (Anglosphere v Sinosphere, The World in 2020, The Economist).
  • Namibia wants to follow Zimbabwe into starvation.  Namibia wants to get rid of its white farmers.   Twenty years ago, Zimbabwe did the same and millions of people have starved since. Recently, there were calls to allow the white farmers to return. South Africa is also forcing white farmers off their land.  Expect the entire region of southern Africa to face endless food shortages in the years to come.   The white farmers are commercial farmers, farming on a big scale.   African farmers are subsistence farmers, producing only enough to feed their own families.
  • Nancy Pelosi, on the defensive, was asked if she hates Donald Trump.   She actually said that, as a Catholic, she does not hate anybody as if no Catholic ever hated anybody.   Perhaps the Inquisition never happened.   At times, the Impeachment hearings have resembled the self-righteous ecclesiastical court.   No hatred?   No inquisition?   No wonder we’re doomed to repeat history!

 

PERVERSE LIBERAL THINKING

Flowers are left following Friday’s terror attack on London Bridge in London, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. A man wearing a fake suicide vest was subdued by bystanders as he went on a knife rampage killing two people and wounding others before being shot dead by police on Friday. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)    (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Two young Cambridge University graduates are dead, murdered by a supposedly rehabilitated terrorist, in London last Friday.   The Cambridge University students were part of “Learning Together,” a project that aims to bring rehabilitated terrorists back into mainstream society.   This is liberalism gone mad!

A major weakness of western liberalism is the idea that we’re all the same, whatever culture or background we come from.   We should know better.   ISIS fighters are not going to repent – as they come back to western countries following the defeat of ISIS they will bring their ideology with them, and kill people.   Anybody who thinks otherwise is a misguided fool.

The young male victim had written his dissertation on why minorities account for a disproportionate percentage of people in prison.   The answer is simple – they commit more crimes.

It’s sad as more innocent lives are likely to be lost as we pursue rehab.   Years ago, I remember reading in Psychology Today that 92% of sex offenders are never rehabilitated.   When they leave prison, they commit the same acts again.   Do we really think that terrorists will do better?

As Piers Morgan wrote in the Daily Mail, “Most terrorists don’t change their evil spots so it’s time Britain stopped going soft on hate-filled jihadis to please the PC hand-wringing brigade and does what Americans do – lock them up forever.” (12/2/2019 Daily Mail)

Even this may not work.   Terrorists in prison might encourage fellow terrorists to seize hostages until they are released.

What would be more appropriate (and final) is the death penalty.

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KING OF THE NORTH?

Following the opening, on September 30, 2019, of the Al-Bukamal-Al-Qaim border crossing between Syria and Iraq, which had been closed for five years due to the Syria war, Abu Al-Fazel Salehiniya, a culture advisor at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, published an article in the pro-regime Syrian daily Al-Watan, in which he presented the opening of the crossing as a step towards the realization of Iran’s vision of a new Middle East.   He explained that Iran planned to establish a political, economic and cultural bloc consisting of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, which will impact the power-balance in the region and world, and thwart what he called the American and Western plan to fragment the Middle East into tiny states under Western control.   For many years, he said, the U.S. and Israel have been working in various ways to prevent the creation of this bloc, including by instigating protests in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; however, they have failed thanks to the resistance axis, which is now stronger than ever and has attained impressive achievements.   (MEMRI 12/4)

Editor’s note: The four countries were roughly the borders of the biblical king of the North, in the second century BC.

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GERMAN MILITARY EXPANSION                                                                        by Johannes Stern, 29 Nov 2019, World Socialist Web Site

(Extracts) . . . Kramp-Karrenbauer replied:  “We know we have to do more, but we are on the way.”   In 2031 the German army would “realistically” be able to take over ten percent of NATO’s military capacity.   Until that date at the latest, Germany would also reach the NATO target of two percent of gross domestic product for military spending.   In fact Germany will make substantial steps towards this goal as early as next year, as the pact to form the grand coalition laid out.   According to a report by the German Press Agency, the German government has reported to the military alliance its intention to spend 50.25 billion euros [$US55.3 billion] in 2020.   “We are complying with our international obligations.   The NATO defense rate is 1.42 percent,” boasted Social Democratic Finance Minister Olaf Scholz at yesterday’s presentation of the budget for 2020 in the Bundestag . . .   Five years after the German government announced the end of military restraint at the Munich Security Conference in 2014, the ruling class can no longer hide the fact that it is basing its foreign and great power politics on the militaristic traditions of the German Empire and the Nazis.   In his major lecture on foreign policy at the end of October, the president of the German parliament, Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU), described 1945, i.e. the date of the downfall of the Third Reich and the defeat of Germany in World War II—as a “catastrophe”       (https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/11/29/kram-n29.html)

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GERMANY TO MATCH US CONTRIBUTION TO NATO BUDGET

From 2021, Germany will increase its contribution to the NATO budget to be in line with what the US pays.                                                                  NATO officials hope the move will diffuse tensions surrounding the cost of maintaining the military alliance.             (https://www.dw.com/en/germany-to-match-us-contribution-to-nato-budget/a-51446211)

German army sorry for ‘retro’ post

BERLIN, Germany — The German army on Wednesday apologized for posting a photo on Instagram of a military uniform complete with two Iron Crosses bearing the Nazi swastika and appearing to celebrate it as “retro.”   After media reports sparked outrage, the army removed the picture of the Nazi-era Wehrmacht uniform and explained that it was an “unacceptable mistake.”   The Bundeswehr said it was seeking to do a photo-essay on the influence of military uniforms on fashion through the ages but failed to provide the correct historical context in its captions.   The Bundeswehr has over the years repeatedly come under fire over embarrassing associations with Germany’s militaristic past (https://www.timesofisrael.com/german-army-sorry-for-retro-nazi-uniform-post/)

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Global Survey of 18 Countries Finds Hardcore Anti-Semitic Attitudes Remain Pervasive                                                                                 One in four Europeans polled fall into most anti-Semitic category.

Among the 2019 ADL Global 100 Index’s key findings:  Negative attitudes in Argentina, Brazil, Poland, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine have seen marked increases since the last ADL Global 100 survey.  Anti-Semitic attitudes remain pervasive in Europe. Roughly one out of every four residents of the 14 European countries polled by ADL fall into the most anti-Semitic category, subscribing to a majority of the anti-Semitic stereotypes tested in the index.

Stereotypes about Jewish control of business and the financial markets are among the most pernicious and enduring anti-Semitic beliefs.   These are especially widespread in the Central and Eastern European countries surveyed.   Asked whether they agreed with the statement that “Jews have too much power in the business world,” a staggering 72 percent of Ukrainians agreed, as did 71 percent of Hungarians, 56 percent of Poles, and 50 percent of Russians.

Jewish “disloyalty” is a widespread anti-Semitic stereotype in the Western European countries surveyed. In Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, more than 40 percent of the public believes that Jews are more loyal to the State of Israel than to their own country.   This canard also scored high in Brazil (70 percent), South Africa (60 percent), and relatively high in Canada (25 percent) compared to its overall index score of 8 percent.

“Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust” was a statement supported by large segments of the populations of many of the European countries polled, even in Germany, where 42 percent of the population agreed.   This sentiment was also prevalent in Austria (44 percent), Belgium (40 percent) Italy (38 percent) and Spain (37 percent).(https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-global-survey-of-18-countries-finds-hardcore-anti-semitic-attitudes-remain)

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Zimbabwe ‘on brink of man-made starvation’, UN warns               (BBC, 28 Nov 2019) 

More than 60% of the country’s 14 million people are considered food-insecure, according to the findings.  Hyperinflation, poverty, natural disasters and economic sanctions were among the identified causes.  Women and children were “bearing the brunt of the crisis” with 90% of children aged six months to two years not consuming enough food.  Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, reported her findings following an 11-day visit to the country.  “I cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation in Zimbabwe,” she said, adding that the crisis continues to worsen.   She said many of the people she met could only afford one meal a day and that most of the children she met were stunted and underweight.  “The harrowing stories I heard from resilient grandmothers, mothers or aunts desperately trying to save their children from starvation, in the midst of their daily hardships, will remain with me.”

She also noted Zimbabwe was among the four highest food-insecure nations, alongside conflict-ravaged countries.(https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50586514)

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SOUTHERN BAPTISTS CHANGE ON ABORTION

To Christians, there are few issues more important than fighting against abortion.  The millions of unborn children are made in the image of God, making it personal to Christians.

And millions of American might switch churches after what one denomination said about abortion.

If one were to ask virtually any Southern Baptist churchgoer, they would be strongly against abortion and supportive of the fight to end it.

But as it turns out, the Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t agree with that sentiment.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which is the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, just came out stating that Christians should not preach against abortion from the pulpit, on the street corner, or in bumper stickers or social media posts.

They claim that it is “hurtful to women.”   (Culture wars, 11/19)

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LETTER FROM A UK FRIEND

“Channel 4 hosted a leaders debate on climate change yesterday. Boris Johnson. and Nigel Farage did not appear, and their vacant podiums sported ice sculptures instead.   The problem is that Boris is not good responding to tough questioning.   Boris is being shielded from scrutiny as much as possible, he may feel that he’s ‘Churchill like’ but in reality he’s no orator.   In contrast Jeremy Corbyn is a rabble-rouser and whips an audience up to ‘cheers and chanting.’ Very popular with younger voters too.   The Election is for Boris to lose.   According to the opinion polls his lead is slipping back.   I’m fearing another hung parliament.”

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EU DECLARES “CLIMATE EMERGENCY”

The European Parliament declared a “climate emergency,” by a vote of 429 to 225.   The decision is symbolic but important (the European Union is the world’s largest economy) ahead of the UN climate summit to be held in Madrid next week.  The incoming head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has promised a package of ambitious green measures on December 11th.   (The Economist, 11/29)

Britain’s ruling Conservative Party reacted furiously after Channel 4, a national broadcaster, replaced the prime minister with an ice sculpture during a debate on climate change.   While most other leaders of Britain’s main political parties took part, Boris Johnson refused.  The editor of Channel 4 News accused Mr. Johnson of trying to avoid scrutiny during the election campaign “like Donald Trump.”  (Economist, 11/29)

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Italy busts neo-Nazi ring, ‘Miss Hitler’ pageant winner

Prosecutors in Sicily have announced 19 arrests, exposing a nationwide network of would-be fascist militants.  Police have uncovered weapons, explosives, and extremist propaganda in a series of raids.

Italian police have arrested at least 19 people in connection with a militant neo-Nazi ring, national media reported on Thursday. Although the investigation was based in Sicily, several of the suspects hail from all over the country.   One of the arrested included a 26-year-old Milan resident who had been the winner of an online beauty competition called “Miss Hitler.”   She also spoke at an extreme-right conference in Portugal last August that attempted to unite the so-called “National Socialist movements” of Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France.

During the operation, led by prosecutors in Caltanissetta, Sicily, and dubbed “Black Shadows,” police undercovered troves of weapons, explosives, Nazi memorabilia and texts praising fascist dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, in a series of raids carried out across Italy.
   On top of possible weapons charges, promoting fascism is a crime in Italy.
   The supposed leader of the group is a 50-year-old public employee from the city of Padua, in the northeastern region of Veneto.   She was not known to authorities prior to her detention, police have said, adding that they recovered anti-Semitic material at her home.
   Another suspect is an offender with multiple convictions and ties to the ‘Ndrangheta, the elusive Calabrian mafia, one of the richest organized crime syndicates in the world and by some estimates responsible for 3% of Italy’s GDP.   The man, Italian media said, had turned informant for the police against the mafia but was apparently acting as the chief “trainer” for the violence the neo-Nazi group hoped to carry out.   Specific center-left politicians were named as possible targets.
   The group used a Russian chat app to communicate and try to avoid detection, Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported.   A Russian social media platform called VK was also used to host the “Miss Hitler” competition.(https://www.dw.com/en/italy-busts-neo-nazi-ring-miss-hitler-pageant-winner/a-51458025)

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TO THE POINT

  • CHINA FINANCIAL WARNINGS                                                                    From rural bank runs to surging consumer indebtedness and an unprecedented bond restructuring, mounting signs of financial stress in China are putting the nation’s policy makers to the test. Xi Jinping’s government faces an increasingly difficult balancing act as it tries to support the world’s second-largest economy without encouraging moral hazard and reckless spending.   While authorities have so far been reluctant to rescue troubled borrowers and ramp up stimulus, the costs of maintaining that stance are rising as defaults increase and China’s slowdown deepens.  (China financial warning; Bloomberg, 11/28/2019)
  • HONG KONG IN REVOLT                                                                            “When Mao Zedong’s guerrillas seized power in China in 1949, they did not take over a clearly defined country, much less an entirely willing one.   Hong Kong was ruled by the British, nearby Macau by the Portuguese.   Taiwan was under the control of a Nationalist government Mao had just overthrown.   The mountain terrain of Tibet was under a Buddhist theocracy that chafed at control from Beijing.   Communist troops had yet to enter another immense region in the far west, Xinjiang, where Muslim ethnic groups did not want to be ruled from afar.”  (“Hong Kong in revolt,” The Economist, 11/23/2019).
  • Applying pressure on China is the top priority for the newly elected German EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She announced that, on Sunday – her first day in office – she plans to call Beijing to discuss “human rights.”   The People’s Republic of China is being accused of human rights violations in the context of its “war on terror” against jihadism in Xinjiang province.  The German chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, David McAllister (CDU) announced that the EU Parliament also plans to discuss the situation in Xinjiang, in its upcoming plenary session (December 16 – 19). In Berlin, the transatlantic-oriented opposition plans to call for sanctions to be imposed on either Chinese politicians or Chinese high-tech-companies, already affected by US sanctions. Commentators in the USA, as well as in Germany, are equating China with Nazi Germany. According to a former liberal-oriented German daily, “there can be no long-term peaceful coexistence” with the People’s Republic of China.   (German Foreign Policy, 11/29/2019)
  • ZAMBIAN COUPLE GET 15 YEARS FOR SEXUAL ACT                      A homosexual couple has been given 15 years for a crime “against the natural order,” citing the fact that they are a very religious Christian country.   They also happen to have one of the highest incidents of HIV in the world, reflecting widespread immorality. They should take a look at I Corinthians 6.  Fornication, adultery and sodomy are all condemned equally, a fact that Zambian churches have failed to notice.  In Africa, AIDS is invariably a heterosexual disease.
  •  A video has emerged from the Nato summit in London, which appears to show Boris Johnson,  Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron, Princess Anne and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, laughing about the US president during a reception at Buckingham Palace.   The meeting to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nato alliance began inauspiciously, with tensions on full display between Macron, Trump and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.    It seems that other countries are more likely to ridicule Mr Trump, expecting that he will be impeached next year.
  • PRINCE ANDREW                                                                                                    As a former navy pilot, Prince Andrew would normally be present at a Nato shindig, but the disgraced duke has been stripped of his duties, leaving his mother to host the reception.  Meanwhile, Trump’s claim not to know Andrew is contradicted by extensive photographic evidence.  (Guardian, 12/4)

 

 

 

ISRAEL ATTACKS SYRIAN AND IRANIAN TARGETS

Syria’s state media released images of what they say are destroyed houses near Damascus (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Israel says it has hit dozens of targets in Syria belonging to the government and allied Iranian forces.

The Israeli military says the “wide-scale strikes” responded to rockets fired by an Iranian unit into Israel.   Syria says two civilians died and that Syrian air defenses shot down most of the missiles over Damascus.  Other reports say the death toll was higher.   Local reports said loud explosions were heard in the capital.   Pictures on social media showed a number of fires.

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PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

“It’s easy to go about our lives and forget that in places like Nigeria, Iran and North Korea being a Christian can often lead to death.” — Vernon Brewer, founder and CEO of World Help, Fox News, November 4, 2019

“4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons.  On average, that’s 11 Christians killed every day for their faith.” — Open Doors, World Watch List 2019

More than 245 million Christians around the world are currently suffering from persecution. — Open Doors, World Watch List, 2019 (Gatestone 11/15/2019)

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CHANGES AHEAD IF CORBYN WINS

The United Kingdom has a general election on December 12th.  It is considered the most important election in 80 years.  It will determine the issue of Brexit, the future direction of the British economy and even of the United Kingdom itself.

  • “By far the most likely casualty of a Corbyn government would be the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, where there is a strong likelihood that other member states of the alliance will be deeply reluctant to share highly sensitive material with a British prime minister who has spent his entire political career openly associating with regimes and groups that are utterly hostile to the West and its allies.
  • At the heart of his hard Left approach to foreign policy lies a deep hatred for the US and its role in safeguarding the interests of the Western democracies.
  • Thus Mr. Corbyn’s instinct is to be more sympathetic to the views of Russia, Iran, North Korea and the Assad regime in Syria than Britain’s long-standing allies in Washington and Europe.   (Con Coughlin, Gatestone, 11/16/2019)

JEREMY CORBYN’S BIG NEGATIVE EFFECT ON FOREIGN POLICY

“A Corbyn-led government would quickly lead to the biggest change in Britain’s defense posture since the second world war.   Even if the country stayed in NATO, as is likely, it would be a passive member, reluctant to push back against Russian expansionism and hostile to the idea of a nuclear deterrent.   Given that NATO depends on confidence that it means what it says, this would be a severe blow to its credibility.   Britain’s Middle East policy would be revolutionized, with a more hostile stance toward Israel and the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, and a friendlier one to Iran.   America would almost certainly stop sharing critical intelligence with Downing Street, for fears that such secrets would find their way into Russian or Iranian hands.   Given Britain’s membership of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, that would harm Europe’s ability to combat hostile states and non-state actors.

“Such a revolution would come at a sensitive time.   Mr. Trump is already disrupting established security relations (for all their differences, he and Mr. Corbyn share a common hostility to the multinational institutions that have kept the peace since 1945).   Brexit is straining relations with Britain’s European allies, while gobbling up the political class’s available bandwidth.  The Foreign Office is demoralized by decades of cuts, and the security establishment is still tainted by the weapons-of-mass-destruction fiasco.

All this is taking place at a time when Mr. Putin is on the march and Islamic State is shifting its focus from state-building to global terror. A Dangerous world may be about to become more dangerous.” (“Security questions,” Bagehot, The Economist, 11/9,2019).

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MACRON ON RUSSIA

“. . . consider Mr. Macron’s Russia policy.   He has long argued that rogue powers are more dangerous when isolated.   To this end, he has hosted Vladimir Putin at both Versailles, near Paris, and Bregancon, on the Mediterranean.   But his call for a “rapprochement” with Russia, in order to keep it out of China’s arms, has alarmed Poland and the Baltics.   “My idea is not in the least naïve,” argues Mr. Macron.   He insists that any movement would be conditional on respect for the Minsk peace accords in Ukraine.   He has not called for sanctions to be lifted.   And he sees this as a long-term strategy, that “might take ten years.”   Mr. Macron’s belief is that, eventually, Europe will need to try to find common ground with its near neighbor.   Not doing so would be a “huge mistake”.” (Briefing, The Economist, 11/9/2019)

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WHO WILL PAY FOR ENDLESS WARS?

“Future generations will pay for them:   the wars have been funded by debt.   Most Americans have had little reason to think their country is even at war.    And lucky them because war is hell.   But this disconnect helps explain why the country’s civil-military relations are as distant as they are.   It also helps explain how America came to be locked in such long and largely unproductive conflicts in the first place.   Its voters started to reckon with the rights and wrongs of the Vietnam War – then demand accountability for it – only after they felt its sting.   By contrast Donald Trump, who almost alone among national politicians decries the latest conflicts, has struggled to interest voters in them – or indeed end them.

“Though mostly wrong on the details, the president raises an important question of the long wars.   What have they achieved?” (Lexington, The Economist, 11/9/2019).

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TEMPLE MOUNT NO LONGER

154 UN nations call Temple Mount solely by Muslim name Haram al-Sharif  – EU approves text, but warns it may not do so in the future by Tovah Lazaroff, November 17, 2019

The UN gave its preliminary approval to a resolution that referred to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Haram al-Sharif.

The resolution passed at the UN’s Fourth Committee in New York 154-8, with 14 abstentions and 17 absences.   It was one of eight pro-Palestinian resolutions approved on Friday, out of a slate of more than 15 such texts the committee is expected to approve.   The UN General Assembly will take a final vote on the texts in December.

. . . Acting US Deputy Representative to the United Nations Cherith Norman Chalet told the Fourth Committee it opposed the “annual submission of more than a dozen resolutions biased against Israel.

. . .  “As the United States has repeatedly made clear, this dynamic is unacceptable,” Chalet continued.  “We see resolutions that are quick to condemn all manner of Israeli actions, but say nothing or almost nothing about terrorist attacks against innocent civilians.   And so the United States will once again vote against these one-sided resolutions and encourages other nations to do so.”
(https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/154-UN-nations-call-Temple-Mount-solely-by-Muslim-name-Haram-al-Sharif-608135)

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GERMAN MILITIAS

Right-wing militia groups say they patrol where police turn a blind eye.  But with criminality dropping and more police than ever in Germany,  analysts and politicians say their motives are more sinister.         Deutsche Welle, 18/11/2019 

Sebastian Niedrich is one of about 20 militiamen in Berlin with a “citizen patrol” initiative.   In groups of two or three, the red-vested men patrol neighborhoods in Berlin they claim are areas where petty crime is rife.   Their initiative is called “Establish Protection Zones” (“Schafft Schutzzone”).   It is abbreviated as “SS,” which in Germany immediately brings to mind the notorious Nazi-era “SS” – the paramilitary “Protection Squadron” that persecuted millions and was directly responsible for genocide.   Niedrich rejects any such connection.   Right-wing extremist initiative:   The “Establish Protection Zones” initiative, an offshoot of Germany’s extreme-right National Democratic Party (NPD), says the areas it patrols are often popular tourist areas, as well as those with growing immigrant communities.

The first subheading of the NPD’s party platform in Berlin reads “The Problem of Foreigners” and lays out ways to close Germany’s borders, bar immigrants from receiving jobs and social benefits, and preserve Germany’s national identity.   The party’s website also prominently displays images of its logo-wearing patrols, superimposed with slogans like “Protect Germans!” and “Germans helping Germans!”   Multiple attempts to disband or ban the party entirely have failed in courts.   The extreme-right NPD in western Germany, has made it their task to protest against Islam.   A study on German society’s biggest fears released earlier this year by the Berlin Social Science Center showed that one in three respondents feared “foreign infiltration” on account of too many immigrants. Over half feared criminality.

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GERMANY-TAIPEI LINKS

German politician urges military links with Taipei                             Taipei Times, 19 Nov 2019

Germany and Taiwan should conduct military exchanges, which would be more meaningful than exchanges with China, German lawmaker Ulrich Lechte, a member of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs, said on Sunday.   “The free world should stand together,” the Free Democratic Party lawmaker wrote on Facebook.  The Taipei Representative Office in Germany’s Munich office shared Lechte’s post on its Facebook page, and thanked him for his continuing support of Taiwan.   The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that 62 nations, including China, are to receive training from the Bundeswehr, Germany’s military.

Amnesty International arms and human rights expert Mathias John criticized the plans to train Chinese soldiers, telling the paper that doing so was “incomprehensible” given China’s “human rights situation and the role the Chinese People’s Liberation Army plays” in human rights violations in China.   John also brought up the protests in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong police’s response to them.  Germany should “send a clear message and immediately cease all military cooperation with China,” he said.   A spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defense told the paper that Chinese soldiers regularly participate in educational events organized by the German military, including international officer courses, as well as officer training courses offered at military schools, universities and military leadership academies.   The weekly news magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday reported that the German government is planning to send warships into the South China Sea and through the Taiwan Strait as a way of “refuting Chinese territorial claims” in those areas (http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/11/19/2003726106)

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ADMIRAL HORATIO NELSON and THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR

 214 Years Ago

The Battle of Trafalgar, fought 21 October 1805, was one of the most important and decisive Naval engagements of all time, decisively establishing the supremacy of the Royal Navy on the high seas.   Rather than a conventional engagement between lines of battle with gunnery duels, the English made a bold attack that allowed them to gain local superiority over the enemy and raked their ships with devastating broadsides.   The Franco-Spanish fleet was decisively defeated and British supremacy on the high seas was decisively established for the rest of the 19th century.   Lord Nelson’s defeat of the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar allowed British trade to flourish around the world, laying the foundations for Britain’s emergence as an economic superpower.   It also made possible the Greatest Century of Missions, as Protestant missionaries were able to sail to every corner of the world.   The Royal Navy’s domination of the high seas brought an end to the slave trade in the 19th Century.   (Reformation SA, 2019)

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TO THE POINT

  • The Chinese Ambassador to the UK has accused both the UK and the US of interfering in Chinese domestic affairs.   He is referring to British and American support for student protesters in Hong Kong.   He has a point. Democracy isn’t working too well right now in the US or the UK.   Perhaps we should shut up until things calm down at home!
  • “The escalation of the unrest in Hong Kong coincides with recent mass protests around the world.   These protests – in Bolivia, Iran and elsewhere – are not connected.   However, they are loosely linked thematically in that they concern inequality, political freedoms, corruption and climate change.”  (“Protests catch fire,” USA Today, 11/19/2019)
  • Prince Andrew’s BBC interview in which he denies having had a relationship with a 17- year-old girl, courtesy of Jeffrey Epstein, has failed to convince many.   Members of the royal family rarely give interviews.   It’s difficult to remember one, which was advantageous to the royals.   Perhaps they just haven’t had as much practice at lying as politicians!  (Prince Andrew has since withdrawn from public duties, “for the foreseeable future”.)
  • A 55-year-old man in China’s Inner Mongolia region has been diagnosed with bubonic plague after eating wild rabbit, the third recorded case of the deadly disease in the country.
  • A famous person I’ve never heard of is complaining about the patriotic song “Rule Britannia,” which dates back to the days when the British Royal Navy governed the world.   Is she objecting to the fact that the royal navy did more than any other institution to end the slave trade?   From 1810 to 1860 the West Africa Squadron freed 250,000 slaves. (see article above on Horatio Nelson; last sentence) “Slavery was a fact of life in the sixteenth century.   The African slave trade was already the largest form of commerce in the world.   No one had the least qualms about it, least of all Africa’s own tribal rulers.” (“To Rule the Waves,” page 2, Arthur Herman, 2004)
  • “The global debt ballooned to a record high of more than $250 trillion and shows no sign of slowing down, according to a new report from the Institute of International Finance (IIF).   . . . Extended low interest rates and easy money has facilitated the accumulation of a bone crushing amount of debt over the last decade or so,” Dylan Riddle, a spokesperson for the IIF told ABC News in a statement.   “This debt has helped fuel global growth, however, we must focus on managing the current debt load, and deploying resources for more productive means — like fighting climate change or investing in growth.”  (ABC News)

WILL NATO MAKE IT TO 70?

President Emmanuel Macron of France concerned about a “brain dead” NATO.. (Reuters)

NATO leaders are meeting in London December 3rd & 4th to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the organization, which has been credited with maintaining world peace.   President Macron of France has declared the organization “brain dead.”   Could NATO fall apart?

President Emmanuel Macron of France has described Nato as “brain dead,” stressing what he sees as waning commitment to the transatlantic alliance by its main guarantor, the US.

Interviewed by The Economist, he cited the US failure to consult Nato before pulling forces out of northern Syria.  He also questioned whether Nato was still committed to collective defense.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a key ally, said she disagreed with Mr. Macron’s “drastic words.”

Nato, which celebrates 70 years since its founding at a London summit next month, has responded by saying the alliance remains strong.

What else did the French president say?

“What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of Nato,” Mr. Macron told the London-based newspaper.

He warned European members that they could no longer rely on the US to defend the alliance, established at the start of the Cold War to bolster Western European and US security.   (BBC News 11/7/2019)

Franco-German disagreements are accompanying French President Emmanuel Macron’s current trip to China, where he is assuming the role of a leading EU representative.   He is promoting a speedy conclusion of an economic treaty between the Union and the People’s Republic.   He is accompanied by the Union’s designated Trade Commissioner, Phil Hogan, and Germany’s Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek.   This is his way of seeking to lay the groundwork for a unified EU policy regarding China – contrary to Germany’s pursuit of its national interests in its relationship to Beijing.   Germany usually seeks a common approach toward the People’s Republic of China, when other EU countries, such as Greece or Italy, begin to closely cooperate with China within the framework of the “New Silk Road” project.   Macron is making an effort to set both confrontational and cooperative EU policies toward Beijing, and thereby position the Union on an equal footing between the USA and China.   (German Foreign Policy, 11/8/2019)

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ENERGY BOOST FOR ISRAEL

Before discovering major natural gas field

, which began with the Noa gas field off the shores of Ashkelon in 1999 and the more significant findings in 2009 of Tamar and Leviathan, it was widely assumed that the country lacked natural resources.   Finding large sources of natural gas has freed Israel from its dependency of energy sources from abroad and transformed the country into an energy supplier, both domestically and abroad.

Israel is pegged to deliver natural gas to Jordan and Egypt, valued at $26 billion.   It is also planning to construct a 2,000-km pipeline to supply Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe.   (United with Israel)

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BRITISH LABOUR PARTY ANTI-SEMITIC                                                  From the Jewish Chronicle, UK, November 8th:

The vast majority of British Jews consider Jeremy Corbyn to be an antisemite.  In the most recent poll, last month, the figure was 87 per cent.

Putting oneself in the shoes of another person, or another group, can be difficult.   But we believe it is important — and urgent — that you do that.   Perhaps the fact that nearly half (47 per cent) of the Jewish community said in that same poll that they would “seriously consider” emigrating if Mr. Corbyn wins on December 12 will give you an indication of what it feels like to be a British Jew at a time when the official opposition is led by a man widely held to be an antisemite.

There is racism on all sides of politics and it must be called out wherever it is found.   History has forced our community to be able to spot extremism as it emerges — and Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015 is one such example.

Throughout his career, he has allied with and supported antisemites such as Paul Eisen, Stephen Sizer and Raed Salah.   He has described organizations like Hamas, whose founding charter commits it to the extermination of every Jew on the planet, as his “friends.”   He has laid a wreath to honor terrorists who have murdered Jews.   He has insulted “Zionists” — the word used by antisemites when they mean “Jew” because they think it allows them to get away with it — as lacking understanding of “English irony.”

Mr. Corbyn should take note of Genesis 12:3. 3 – And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

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AUSTRALIAN DROUGHT RELIEF PACKAGE HITS THE POLITICAL SPOT BUT MISSES THE BIGGER POINT

There are two basic components to the Morrison government’s latest A$1 billion package response to the drought affecting large parts eastern Australia.   One part involves extra subsidies to farmers and farm-related business.   The other involves measures to create or upgrade infrastructure in rural areas.

Unfortunately, most funds will be misdirected and the response is unlikely to secure the long-term prosperity of regional and rural communities.   This is a quick fix to a political problem, appealing to an important constituency.   But it misses the point, again, about the emerging economics of drought.

Hitting the political target

The bulk of the A$1 billion package is allocated to a loan fund.   The terms of the ten-year loans are more generous than what has been offered in the past.   They are now interest-free for two years, with no requirement to start paying back the principal till the sixth year.

Farmers will be able to borrow up to A$2 million.   In addition, loans of up to A$500,000 will also be available to small businesses in drought-affected towns.

Because recipients are not having to pay the full cost, these loans are in practice a form of subsidy.   (The Conversation, 11/6)

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ATTACK BY ISLAMISTS ON CANADIAN COMPANY WORKERS

Gunmen in Burkina Faso have killed nearly 40 civilians in an ambush on a convoy transporting workers for the Canadian goldminer Semafo, regional authorities have said.

The attack on Wednesday underlines the growing instability in the Sahel, where Islamist extremist groups have grown in influence and power over the past decade.

Semafo said in an earlier statement that the attack on a convoy of five buses with a military escort took place on the road to its Boungou mine in the eastern region of Est, about 40km (25 miles) from Boungou, and that there had been several deaths and injuries.   (The Guardian, 11/7)

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OHIO MAN PLOTTED ATTACK

An Ohio man pleaded guilty to planning a Fourth of July bombing in Cleveland.

Demetrius Pitts, 50, also pleaded guilty to threatening the life of U.S. President Donald Trump and the president’s immediate family.   Pitt, who is from Philadelphia, planned to park a van full of explosives in the downtown area and detonate it during the annual fireworks display.   He also wanted to join al-Qaeda.

Pitt, who also went by the names Abdul Raheem Rafeeq and Salah ad-Deen Osama Waleed, became radicalized and began expressing anti-American sentiments in 2015.

He scouted downtown Cleveland on a reconnaissance mission before the attack, looking for a place to park his van for the Fourth of July bombing.   (Clarion Project, 11/7/2019)

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THE THIN VENEER OF CIVILIZATION COLLAPSING IN HONG KONG

The same deterioration in norms is glaringly evident in the actions of the Hong Kong Police Force, which was once considered the finest in Asia, if not the world, and whose slogan is to “serve with pride and care.”   Today, they openly refer to Hong Kong citizens as “cockroaches” and “trash.”   Protesters respond by calling them “dogs.”   This is the language of genocide.

“This willingness to stomach previously unthinkable acts is astonishing in a place ranked seventh by the UN in terms of human development, with some of the healthiest, longest-living, best educated, richest and most worldly citizens on earth.   If this breakdown can happen in Hong Kong it can happen anywhere.   And while a civil society can be torn apart virtually overnight, it almost always takes decades to build it back up.   (“Events in Hong Kong reveal the thin veneer of civilization,” Jamil Anderlini, Financial Times, 11/13).

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ISLAMISTS CROSSING BORDER

Often lost in the discussion of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans pouring over the southern border is that migrants from Muslim-majority countries where Islamist terrorist groups operate arrive among them almost every day.   The corporate media hates talking about this.   But most border-crossers show up without any identification and little vetting, giving rise to U.S. national security efforts to stifle this human traffic for fear of terrorist infiltration, a threat about which I have written extensively.

Every so often, smugglers of migrants from countries of national security concern — known in government parlance as “special interest aliens” — are caught and brought to American justice.   Such was the case last week, when a federal judge in a Del Rio, Texas, courtroom empty of news reporters sentenced a Mexico-based Jordanian smuggler named Moayad Heider Mohammad Aldairi to three years in the federal penitentiary on a guilty plea.   (MEF, 11/8/2019)

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IRAN’S NETWORK OF INFLUENCE IN MIDEAST IS GROWING     by Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent, 7 Nov 2019

Iran is winning the strategic struggle for influence in the Middle East against its rival, Saudi Arabia, according to a study by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).  Iran’s regional rivals have spent billions of dollars on Western weaponry, much of it from the UK.   Yet for a fraction of that cost, sanctions-bound Iran has been able to successfully embed itself across the region into a position of strategic advantage.   It has a major influence – verging on a controlling influence in some cases – over the affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.(https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50324912)

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that US President Donald Trump is the “best US president” so far in his opinion, because he is honest about American intentions to grab Arab oil, Reuters reported on Friday citing Syrian official television.

Assad also said he is skeptical about Trump’s declaration US forces killed ISIS leader al-Baghdadi.   In this perspective, he seems to be in-line with the Russian view as Russia also expressed desire to see further evidence to the claim.  (JPost).(https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Syrian-leader-Bashar-Assad-Donald-Trump-is-the-best-US-President-606534)

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 TO THE POINT

  • “The Scottish government’s statistics show that 60% of Scottish trade goes to the rest of the UK; that Scottish public spending is boosted by $2,530 per person via Westminster’s Barnet formula; and that Scotland’s deficit is over twice as high as the 3% level which would be required if an independent Scotland were to try to join the European Union.”   (Alastair Cameron, Director, Scotland in Union; Letters, The Economist, 11/2/2019)
  • China, with control of 5G, will be in a position to remotely manipulate the world’s devices.   In peacetime, Beijing could have the ability to drive cars off cliffs, unlock front doors, and turn off pacemakers.   In war, Beijing could paralyze critical infrastructure.   (Gatestone, 11/7)
  • After a rocky start to Britain’s general-election campaign for the ruling Conservatives, the main opposition Labour Party also ran into problems.   Tom Watson—often at odds with his chief, Jeremy Corbyn—resigned as the party’s deputy leader and an MP and minister.   And Ian Austin, a former Labour MP, said Mr. Corbyn was “completely unfit” to be prime minister and voters should back the Tories.   (The Economist, 11/7)
  • The National Health Service (NHS), the government-run medical system in the UK, is being discussed a great deal in the election campaign.   Labour accuses the Conservatives of wanting a trade deal with the US that will open up the NHS to American companies, particularly pharmaceutical companies.   This would, they claim, make the price of many drugs too expensive for consumers.   It’s scare mongering, as Mr. Johnson has already said that won’t happen.   But it belies the fact that a serious discussion is needed on the future of the NHS, the biggest employer in Europe and a sacred cow if ever there was one.   The last time I saw figures, the cost of the NHS was rising by 8% a year, while the economy was growing at only 2%.   As viewers of Dr. Finley on British TV will be aware, there was a great deal of opposition to the NHS when it started in 1948.   It may be time to look again at the arguments and see if there isn’t a better way of delivering health care.
  • If you want to see accurate history portrayed on television, try Russian TV.   At least, the programs offered on Amazon Prime.   We’ve just finished watching “Ekaterina,” a ten-part series on the rise of Catherine the Great, the eighteenth century Russian Czar who was actually from Germany.   Earlier this year, we watched “Sophia,” an 8-part series on Ivan III, who was 300 years earlier. Ivan chose to marry the heir to the Byzantine throne after the fall of Constantinople.   Fascinating stuff.   If the Russians keep this up, they could put Mel Gibson out of business (his two movies “Braveheart” and “The Patriot” were notable for their historical inaccuracies!)

 

 

ZIMBABWE NEAR COLLAPSE

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

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

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

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

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

It certainly was.

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

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

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RAMPANT INJUSTICE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TLAIB TALKS NONSENSE, AGAIN

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

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

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

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

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AFGHANISTAN @100

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NATO STRENGTHENS TIES WITH AUSTRALIA

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

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

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TRUMP UPSETS DENMARK

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

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

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

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GERMANY IN RECESSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


MACRON SAYS “NON”

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

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

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

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ITALY’S FASCIST PAST REVERBERATES IN ROME

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

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

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

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OLD SOUTH AFRICAN FLAG CONSTITUTES “HATE SPEECH”

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

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

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

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

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BUBONIC PLAGUE IN US

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

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

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

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