Tag Archives: People’s Republic of China

BRITAIN AND AMERICA LEAD WITH CORONA VIRUS

Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer has taken draconian steps to stop the spread of the corona virus. The restrictions she has imposed on Michigan are unprecedented. Cartoons like this one illustrate the public’s distrust of government, though most people seem to support the measures she has taken. At the same time, North Korea’s leader was missing, presumed dead.

In the US, there have been over 70,000 corona virus deaths; in the UK over 32,000 (proportionately the UK is worse than the US).   What this could mean remains to be seen.

Two months ago, Britain looked on in horror as deaths from Covid-19 skyrocketed in Italy.   Now, the UK’s own death toll from the disease has eclipsed its continental neighbor to become the worst in Europe.

Yet with the true figure likely to be significantly higher due to missed cases and a lag in reporting, the country is braced for worse news to come.  (The Week, 5/6/2020)

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RATE OF UNEMPLOYMENT

The latest unemployment figures came out this morning (Thursday).  An additional 3.2 million people filed for unemployment benefit last week.   That brings the total number of Americans without a job to 33.5 million.

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RESISTANCE MOUNTS

From Maine to California, Americans are defying government officials and reclaiming their First Amendment rights to assemble and protest.  They are opening up their businesses in open defiance of the authoritarian political leaders.   The resistance is building and thankfully remains (mostly) peaceful.  How long until the dam breaks and the lockdown regime comes crashing down?(https://patriotpowerednews.com/resistance-to-lockdown-builds-coronavirus-tyrants-losing-their-grip/)

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BRITISH ECONOMY HITS ROCK BOTTOM

In recent weeks economic data have forced statisticians to change the scale on their charts by hitting new lows.  This week they showed a record drop in construction activity, and the car industry’s trade body reported that new registrations fell by 97% year-on-year in April.   The good news is that the last month probably represented the bottom for Britain’s economy, with lockdown restrictions likely to ease in coming weeks.   The bad news is that the shape of the recovery remains uncertain.   Today’s Bank of England announcements did not include new policy changes—interest rates are already at record lows, quantitative easing has restarted, and new schemes have been put in place to support business lending — but they did update their forecasts.   The bank’s economists now expect the economy to contract by 14% in 2020, the largest annual fall since the early 1700s, followed by a 15% bounce in 2021.   The worry though is that while the scale of the decline looks pretty clear, the speed of the recovery is subject to much more uncertainty.   (The Economist, 5/7/2020)

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FEARS PANDEMIC MAY HASTEN WEST’S DECLINE 

The corona crisis could accelerate Germany and the western powers’ economic and political decline, according to recent economic projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and analyses by US foreign policy experts.   As the US magazine Foreign Policy writes, Trump’s handling of the crisis has been an “embarrassing debacle” that tarnished the United States’ reputation as a country “that knows how to do things effectively.”  Other states are more willing to orient themselves on countries which are “past the peak of infection,” such as China, concludes the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.   The EU has also failed in the crisis. According to the IMF, China will economically suffer less under the pandemic than western countries: its economic performance will bypass that of the eurozone quicker than expected and will approach that of the United States.   In the West, this emerging shift in power is being accompanied by aggressive anti-Chinese propaganda.  (German Foreign Policy, 4/16/2020)

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TEST OF AMERICAN LEADERSHIP, POST-VIRUS

You can see why china might sniff an opportunity in this crisis. Coronavirus has targeted America’s weaknesses, while making many of its strengths temporarily irrelevant.   The world’s most powerful military machine is not much use against a virus.   But a lack of universal healthcare coverage is suddenly a threat not just to the poor but to the whole of US society.

Question one is:   what currency in the world do you most trust? Question two:   where, outside your home country, would you most like your children to go to university or to work?  For a majority of the global middle-class, the answers to those questions have been, respectively, the dollar and the us.  If that continues to be the case after the pandemic, then American primacy will continue.

(Gideon Rachman, FT, 5/6)

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FEARS GROW BREXIT TALKS COULD COLLAPSE IN JUNE

Brexit talks with the European Union could collapse in June unless Brussels abandons its demands for a common fisheries policy and a level playing field, says a source close to the UK’s negotiating team.

The source told The Guardian that only “limited progress in bridging the gaps between us” had been made at last week’s talks, but there was “confidence that progress can be made quite quickly.”

He added that he was “quite positive” over the chances of a trade deal before the end of the year, when the UK’s transition period ends.  Boris Johnson is expected to take a more active role in trying to help unblock talks if there is no breakthrough in the months ahead.   (The Week, 5/1/2020)

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Britain’s new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth sets sail
30 April 2020, Defense News

LONDON — Britain’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departed its Portsmouth base April 29 for training, but only after its crew was tested for the new coronavirus, the Royal Navy announced.   The 65,000-ton warship is currently in an isolation period at sea ahead of training off the south coast of England.  The ship’s departure from the Portsmouth naval base was delayed by a few days to enable the entire crew of about 800 to be tested for COVID-19.   The warship is expected to be at sea for up to eight weeks conducting the Flag Officer Sea Training assessment required to certify that HMS Queen Elizabeth is competent to join the fleet for operational tasking.  Britain is targeting next year for the ship’s first operational deployment, and the FOST assessment is a key element in achieving that plan.  Training with F-35 fighter jets, simulated battle damage, fires and flood training, and mission rehearsals will be part of the process, the Royal Navy said in a statement.  “This will prepare the ship for further training later in the year with other Royal Navy ships to ensure they are ready to deploy as a task group next year,” the service said.(https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2020/04/30/britains-new-carrier-queen-elizabeth-sets-sail-prepared-to-train-amid-pandemic/)

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EUROZONE ECONOMY SHRINKS AT RECORD RATE

The eurozone economy shrank at its sharpest rate on record in the first quarter of the year, with the continent set to enter a deep recession triggered by the coronavirus lockdown.

Eurostat data published yesterday showed that eurozone GDP shrank by 3.8% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the final quarter of last year.   The contraction is worse than that experienced by the US over the same period and deeper than the financial crisis over a decade ago.   Market Watch says it means “three years of the eurozone’s economic activity have been wiped away, and it is likely going to get worse.”  (The Week, 5/1/2020)

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COULD ISRAEL AND IRAN GO TO WAR?

The undeclared war between Iran and Israel has reached new heights.

Or more specifically, a height of 270 miles, which is the altitude of Iran’s first spy satellite.   It’s more than a nice vantage point for Iran to keep an eye on its arch-enemy Israel.   Lacking advanced reconnaissance aircraft and drones to penetrate Israeli air defenses, a satellite may be the only way for Tehran to gather real-time intelligence on Israel.

Which raises the question: will Israel be tempted to destroy Iran’s eye in the sky?   (Michael Peck, Middle East Forum, 5/5/2020)

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DISENGAGEMENT FROM CHINA

The United States and transatlantic oriented circles in Germany are increasing pressure on Berlin to participate in the West’s “disengagement” from China.   “The alliance question” is “ripe for decision,” declared Mathias Döpfner, CEO of the Axel Springer SE media group.  Germany must cease the “aberration” of economic cooperation with the People’s Republic of China and formally position itself in opposition to Beijing.  This is the result of the global shift in power that is becoming apparent through the Corona crisis. Whereas China has obviously overcome the low-point of this crisis and is already headed back to economic growth, an improvement of the situation in the USA and Europe is not yet on the horizon. Observers are speculating that the western powers’ “influence and significance” will probably “continue to dwindle.”   Whereas Washington is mulling whether to lift China’s sovereign immunity, to permit damage lawsuits, powerful forces in the German economy are seeing their crisis exit in business with China.   (German Foreign Policy, 5/4/2020)

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SCOTTISH COMMENT ON CHINESE BEHAVIOR

“No country with a skerrick of self-respect can allow this behavior to go unpunished.  I have already suggested some punitive measures designed to wound the regime’s pride without harming the Chinese people:   cancel the Huawei deal; pass a Magnitsky-style Act targeting senior CPC figures; champion the Uyghurs at every opportunity (e.g. rename the London street that houses the Chinese embassy after a Uyghur political prisoner); and recognize Taiwan as an independent nation.   All I would add, upon reflection, is this: grant British citizenship to Hong Kongers born before 1 July 1997, their children and grandchildren.” — Scottish political commentator Stephen Daisley.   (Gatestone, 5/7)

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CORONA ECONOMIC GAP

Foreign policy experts in Germany and the EU’s Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell are warning that Brussels’ corona relief measures could widen the EU’s economic gap.   So far, the EU’s reaction to the Corona crisis has led to companies in economically stronger countries receiving more relief assistance than their competitors in more heavily indebted countries, according to a proximate analysis by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).   After the crisis, German companies will probably be in a stronger position than, for example, their Italian competitors.  “The north-south divide that was already in place before the crisis, could become even more pronounced afterwards,” Borrell predicts.   The growing inequality could threaten the EU’s “political project” in the foreseeable future, the DGAP writes.   In the competition within the EU, German companies are benefiting from the fact that, by fostering a bottom-to-top redistribution, national corona relief measures are already to their advantage – a development that exacerbates the crisis.  (German Foreign Policy, 5/6/2020)

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POPE PIUS XII KNEW OF HOLOCAUST                                          Researchers say Vatican archives show Pope Pius XII knew of WWII killing of Jews  

German scholars exploring newly opened trove of documents find letter indicating pope was aware of massacre of Jews in Warsaw and Lviv from own sources, but denied it to Americans.

Researchers studying the newly opened Vatican archives of pope Pius XII have already found evidence that the World War II-era pope knew about the mass killing of Jews from his own sources but kept it from the US government, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing interviews with German scholars.   The archives were opened March 2, but closed soon after due to the coronavirus crisis.   Many of the 200 scholars who had applied for access delayed their trips. However, a German team lead by award-winning religious historian Hubert Wolf from the University of Münster made a start and has already found some damning discoveries.   (Times of Israel, 30 April 2020).

(MORE:  https://www.timesofisrael.com/researchers-say-vatican-archives-show-pope-pius-xii-knew-of-wwii-killing-of-jews/)

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POLYGAMY CAUSE OF CONFLICT IN AFRICA

Polygamy is a major social problem in Africa and other parts of the world.  In Africa, it plays a major role in the wars fought in some areas.   Where men have to provide 30 or more cows as the bride price to buy a wife, cattle raids on neighboring tribes and villages have become a regular occurrence.  As some men have multiple wives, so others have none.  This leads to desperation, to violence and the taking of wives from other tribes.

“Overall, polygamy is in retreat.  However, its supporters are fighting to preserve or even extend it.  Two-fifths of Khazakhstanis want to re-legalize the practice  (it was banned by the Bolsheviks).   In 2008 they were thwarted, at least temporarily, when a female MP amended a pro-polygamy bill to say that polyandry – the taking of multiple husbands – would be allowed as well; Muslim greybeards balked at that.”  (“The Perils of Polygamy,” The Economist, 12/23/17).

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TO THE POINT

  • ISRAEL ALLOWS CHRISTIAN TV CHANNEL – A new evangelical Christian channel whose mission is to “take the message of Yeshua our Messiah to all of Israel 24/7, 365 days a year” began broadcasting in Israel in Hebrew last week, after signing a seven-year contract with Israeli cable provider HOT.   The Shelanu (Hebrew for “Ours”) TV channel is a branch of GOD TV, which broadcasts missionary programming in 200 countries around the world.   The new deal will give the channel access to over 700,000 Israeli households. GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson said in a video announcing the launch that his network had received permission from the Israeli government to “broadcast the gospel of Jesus Christ – Yeshua the Messiah – in Israel on cable TV in the Hebrew language.   Never before, as far as we know in the history of the world, has this ever been done.” (jns. 5/5/2020)
  • The leaders of the European Union and dozens of states and donors pledged €7.4bn ($8.1bn) to fund the fight against covid-19.   Most of the money will go towards developing a vaccine, the rest to finding a cure and better testing.   More cash could be forthcoming.   America declined to take part (or say why).   “A pity,” said Norway’s prime minister.   (The Economist, 5/5/2020)
  • CHINA WARNS OF WAR WITH THE US – An internal report presented to Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top leaders concludes that global anti-China sentiment is at a level not seen since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, and recommends preparing for a worst-case scenario of armed conflict with the United States, according to Reuters, citing people familiar with the content of the document.
  • Eleven European ambassadors to Israel on Thursday warned Jerusalem of severe consequences if it moves ahead with plans to annex parts of the West Bank as part of a government coalition deal.  The envoys from the UK, Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and the EU issued a formal objection to the Foreign Ministry against the move, Channel 13 reported. (Times of Israel, 5/1/2020)
  • Kuwaiti economist Saeed Tawfiqi said in a March 30, 2020 interview on Diwan Al-Mulla Internet TV (Kuwait) that in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. and Europe will enter a sharp decline, and China will become stronger.   He advised people in the Gulf states to start learning Chinese instead of English and using yuans instead of dollars. (MEMRI 7921)

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AFTER THOUGHT

America has held the pre-eminent position in the world for seventy years.  History shows us that it will not always be the case.   Indeed, the corona virus could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The first recorded recognition that the British Empire no longer ranked at number one was in 1948.   But it wasn’t until 1956, with the Suez Canal crisis, that it was fully realized.   Decline (and fall) is not always overnight as in the fall of Babylon – it can be longer and protracted.

The outcome of the virus and the economic reality of its aftermath, remain to be seen.   But the article by Gideon Rachman, of the Financial Times, quoted elsewhere in this blog, gives us a simple test.   After it’s all over, will the US dollar still be the currency of choice for the world’s nations?  And will people around the world still send their children to US colleges?

We should know the answer to the first question soon; the second may take longer.

Over-spending by the US government has always been a problem.  The late President DeGaulle of France dismissively referred to the “Anglo-Saxon debtor countries”, whose economic systems relied on deficit spending.  But that over-spending has been a big factor in ensuring the prosperity of both the British and the Americans for the last 50 years.

That will likely change.    Borrowing for the stimulus will run into the trillions of dollars.   In the UK, we see the same thing happening with massive spending to help the people in a time of trouble.

This must weaken the dollar (and the pound), against other currencies.   We may even have reached the full extent of our capacity to borrow, that no more borrowing is possible.  At the very least, our children and grandchildren will be buried in debt for generations.

Other nations may decide that the two currencies are not reliable, that they will not hold their value.  In which case, they will have to find an alternative (the euro?  The Chinese yuan?  Gold?).   If that’s the case, the US will lose its global leadership position overnight.

Daniel 2:21 says:   “He removes kings and raises up kings” (Daniel 2:21).  God is behind the rise and fall of nations.  Seventy years is about the average for any nation to stay at the top.  It was longer for the British, but not the French or the Spanish, who held the ascendant position earlier.  Seventy years is about the average lifespan, by which time people have forgotten the lessons of the past, which includes the need to balance the books and stabilize the currency.

Whether this is the time for a major global change is not clear yet.   But it soon will be.

Let’s remember God is in charge and not despair.   The same chapter of Daniel assures us of the greatest event in history, the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”  (Daniel 2:44)

The kingdoms (and republics) of this world must end for God to establish His Kingdom.

MR     

PARTS OF EUROPE AVOIDED BIG LOSSES FROM COVID-19

In western and southern Europe, coronavirus has taken a devastating toll, with people dying in their thousands each day, and doctors having to make appalling choices about which lives to save as health systems buckle under the number of cases.   But in central and eastern Europe (CEE), the pandemic has been contained to such an extent that the first glimpses of a post-lockdown world are visible.   Shops, hotels, schools and even shopping centers are reopening.   The transcontinental divide is striking.   So far, Spain has recorded 517 deaths per million people, Italy 453, France 353, and the UK 325.   By contrast, Slovakia has recorded 4, Poland 16, the Czech Republic 21 and Austria 65.   On Tuesday alone, Spain, Italy and the UK all suffered more deaths than the Czech Republic, Hungary, or Slovakia have recorded during the entire crisis.  “We are doing very well,” Igor Matovic, Slovakia’s prime minister, said in a press conference on Wednesday of his country’s battle.  “Perhaps even better than we expected.”  (“How central and eastern Europe contained coronavirus”, James Shotter and Sam Jones, Financial Times, 4/30/2020)

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GERMANY IS THE NEW GLOBAL LEADER

Forget Washington and Beijing.  These Days Global Leadership Comes From Berlin.  People love to hate Germany—but the country is doing far more than most nations  to help its European neighbors fight the coronavirus.  (by Elisabeth Braw, April 28, 2020, Foreign Policy)

At the beginning of April, the university hospital in the central German city of Jena dispatched two doctors, two medical assistants, and assorted medical supplies to Naples, Italy.   A couple of days before, the Bundeswehr, Germany’s military, had airlifted French and Italian patients to German hospitals.   That’s just a tiny part of Germany’s coronavirus assistance to allies.(https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/28/global-leadership-coronavirus-pandemic-germany-united-states-china/)

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GERMAN RELIANCE ON CHINA OVER COVID-19

Germany will most likely have to rely on China to limit the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to estimates by two flagship sectors of German industry – the automotive and mechanical engineering branches.   The Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) expects dramatic losses particularly in Europe and North America while expecting growth of business in China, where the situation “seems to become stabilized.” Representatives of the automotive industry express similar views. VW, for example, is expecting to catch up in the People’s Republic and not lag too far behind its original annual plans, whereas experts are expecting billions in losses on the US automotive market.  “Crises shift forces” business circles predict regarding the uneven development in China and the USA.   Berlin also depends on Beijing for the procurement of medical protective equipment.   The largest supply so far is expected to arrive in Leipzig today – carried out by the German military.   (German Foreign Policy, 4/27/2020)

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CAMEL PEE CURES COVID-19

Muslim advocacy for drinking camel urine is back in the news, this time in connection with the coronavirus, which is especially ironic if not deadly, as will be explained.   An “Islamic medicine specialist” and director of a religious-scientific institution in Iran recently called on his countrymen to drink camel urine as the “best cure” for coronavirus and other ailments.

Mehdi Sabili, who is affiliated with the Iranian regime, uploaded a video on his Instagram account extolling the virtues of dromedary urine on April 19.   The video, which has since gone viral, also depicted him drinking a glass of freshly procured camel urine — which he enthused was best drunk “fresh and warm” — and calling on fellow Iranians to do the same three times a day for three days (i.e., nine full glasses).   (Camel urine – Islam’s best cure for coronavirus, Raymond Ibrahim, MEF, 4/28)

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SAN REMO CONFERENCE MAJOR STEP TOWARD CREATION OF ISRAEL

April 25 marked the 100th anniversary of the San Remo conference, which conferred the Mandate for Palestine on Britain, a decision confirmed two years later by the League of Nations in a resolution recognizing Britain’s promise in the 1917 Balfour Declaration to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

There is probably no more understated event in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict than the San Remo conference of April 1920. Convened for a mere week as part of the post-World War I peace conferences, which created a new international order on the basis of indigenous self-rule and national self-determination, participants appointed Britain as mandatory for Palestine with the specific task of:

putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the British Government [i.e., the Balfour Declaration], and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

This mandate was then ratified on July 24, 1922, by the Council of the League of Nations – the postwar world organization and the United Nation’s predecessor.  (Efraim Karsh, MEF, 4/28)

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STARVATION MAJOR PROBLEM IN ONCE PROSPEROUS SOUTH AFRICA – The biggest lockdown threat:   Hunger, hunger, everywhere

Protests and looting have broken out all over South Africa in recent days in response to one issue:  hunger.   It is now clear that hunger will pose the greatest threat to South African well-being and security during the lockdown – and the difficulties involved with getting food to millions of South Africans in need are tremendous.

The hunger of South Africans during the extended lockdown period is spilling over on to the streets.   This week alone, grocery stores have been looted and protests have broken out on the Cape Flats, Khayelitsha, Alexandra and Chatsworth – to name just a few areas. Cape Flats ward councillor Bongani Ngcani was quoted by News24 as saying:  “A man told me:   ‘I would rather die of Covid-19 than of hunger’ .”   It is clear that all three tiers of government are well aware of the threat posed by hunger.   But the logistical challenges of providing food to potentially millions of South Africans under lockdown are monumental, and may not be able to be resolved through existing systems.  (The Daily Maverick, 17 April 2020, by Rebecca Davis)

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CAN CORONAVIRUS CAUSE A BIBLICAL FAMINE?

On Tuesday, the head of the UN’s food relief agency warned that the coronavirus pandemic could produce “famines of biblical proportions,” as 265 million people across 30 countries face starvation.

And yet, the world right now has an historic abundance of food.  How is this possible?

Even before the arrival of COVID-19, historic locust swarms had left tens of millions in East Africa without enough food.   And some 85 million people across 46 countries already needed emergency food aid in 2019.

But the coronavirus pandemic, and governments’ responses to it, have made matters drastically worse in ways that hurt the neediest countries the most.  (Gzero Signal, 4/24/2020)

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ISLAMIST HATE PREACHER WARNS MUSLIMS TO ARM THEMSELVES

He spins the bitter realities of failing, backward Middle Eastern communities and nations into narratives of victimization that fuel resentment towards the West, Jews and Israel.

One of Chicago’s most notorious anti-Semites has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak in a despicable manner:   by blaming Jews and encouraging Muslims to arm themselves against their neighbors.

During a series of alarmist rants on his YouTube channel, Imam Omar Baloch simultaneously declared that the coronavirus may be a Zionist-American plot to throttle the growth of the Chinese economy, a punishment from Allah and the work of shadowy secret societies.

However, Baloch’s most concerning online lecture occurred on March 22, when he suggested that the coronavirus presents a “very good opportunity” for Muslims to “purchase firearms” ahead of confrontations with their Trump-supporting neighbors.  (Hesham Shehab, Middle East Forum, 4/29/2020)

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AS AMERICA MOVES OUT, CHINA MOVES IN

Both the United Kingdom and the U.S. State Department have complained to China about the free flow of Chinese weapons to Iran, which then wind up with the Taliban.   These include surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, artillery shells, and land mines.

China’s $3 billion copper mine investment… in Afghanistan’s Logar Province remains under the Taliban’s protection.   Other Chinese corporations that have initiated investment projects in Afghanistan include the Zinjin Mining Company, the Jiangxi Copper Corporation, and China National Petroleum Corporation.

The Trump administration has made clear that it wants to end the forward-positioning of U.S. troops on what it regards as a seemingly endless war in Afghanistan, and the Taliban wholeheartedly agrees. China, in the meantime, has continued to profit from its bilateral commerce and investment in the region, and now appears willing to play a future military role in the area.   China has already established a military base in Tajikistan near the Chinese border with Afghanistan….  (Lawrence A. Franklin, Gatestone, 4/29/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • A row between Australia and China over the origins of the new coronavirus escalated.   Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, reiterated his demand for an independent global inquiry into the pandemic; it is widely thought to have started in a wet market in Wuhan.   China accused the Australian government of trying to make “political manoeuvres” and warned that such an inquiry could result in a boycott of Australian education, tourism and agricultural products.    (The Economist, 4/29/2020)
  • US Economy Nosedives With Worst Yet To Come — The United State’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 4.8% in the first quarter of 2020 – three months where the country’s economy was hit hard by lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic.   The figures, however, do not take April into account, and as such do not show the effect of some of the most comprehensive economic shutdowns that have closed businesses and seen 26.5 million citizens file for unemployment benefits.  (The Week, 4/30/2020)
  • Coronavirus-enforced lockdowns in March clobbered American GDP figures for the first quarter. The economy contracted at an annualized rate of 4.8%, the steepest fall since 2008.   The April-June quarter will probably be worse.   Before the pandemic, GDP had been expected to grow by about 2% this year.   The Federal Reserve said it will keep interest rates at near-zero for the foreseeable future.  (The Economist, 4/30/2020)
  • The French and Spanish economies shrank at the fastest rate on record in the first three months of the year as lockdowns to curb the spread of covid-19 were imposed.   France’s GDP fell by 5.8% quarter-on-quarter over the period, while Spain’s dropped 5.2% by the same measure.   Economists forecast even bigger drops in GDP for the second quarter.   (The Economist, 4/30/2020)
  • News reporter caught on air with no trousers – A US TV news reporter appeared live on Good Morning America – without any trousers. Journalist Will Reeve, the son of Superman actor Christopher Reeve, was appearing on ABC News’s Good Morning America from his home during lockdown.  But he failed to realize that his self-framed shot showed that he wasn’t wearing the bottom half of his suit.  (The Week, 4/29/2020)
  • The City of Detroit has had to remind residents of the need to put pants (trousers) on when going out to check their mail.
  • 500,000 RECEIVE FREE MEALS — The city of New York is giving Muslims 500,000 free meals for Ramadan. These people are of the same ideology as those who attacked the city less than twenty years ago.
  • CHURCHILL A WAR CRIMINAL – At least one school in the UK is now teaching that Winston Churchill was a war criminal.  What’s next?  Hitler as a progressive who solved Germany’s unemployment problem!
  • POYGAMY BEGETS VIOLENCE (you don’t say!)    The Economist.  (More next week)

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AFTER THOUGHT

Through the corona crisis I keep going back to my childhood in England.  We did not have a television until Christmas 1959.  I was almost nine years of age.  When we first got one, there were only two channels, both black and white.   Neither came on the air until about 5pm (except on weekends).  There were two television news bulletins a night, both ten minutes long, one for the early birds at about 6pm and the second one in peak time, at about 9.

How would the Covid-19 outbreak have been handled back then?

With only a ten-minute news bulletin, there would have been no opportunity to whip the public into a panic, which is what has happened this time around.   There was no panic, either, during the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918-19, when the death rate was far higher.

Not everyone is panicking, but workers at a local grocery store and employees at our bank have both commented on how fellow employees are not turning up for work.  “They are just too frightened,” a bank employee told me.

Others avoid the daily walk they are allowed because they are too scared to go outside.

A first step to avoiding this over-reaction might be to stop watching the news.

In Matthew 24:42 Jesus Christ told us to “Watch,” to notice what is happening in the world, as we see prophecy unfolding.   Did He mean to “watch” for ten minutes a day, as in 1959, or “watch” the news 24/7 on any one of a dozen TV stations?   Or could we just read the local newspaper for ten minutes?

We can be aware of what’s going on around us in a few minutes a day.   When we expose ourselves too much to endless negativity it’s going to have a depressing effect on us, spiritually, mentally and physically.

I John 4:18 reassures us when it says, “Perfect love casts out fear.”  During this time of confinement we need to strengthen the love that binds us to our family members, people we can still spend time with.  We may not be able to visit grandparents, but we can Skype them or give them a call.

If we focus on that positivity, there will be less room in our lives for the negativity of the coronavirus, of the endless panic that is whipped up in the national hysteria of television.

One morning I got up early and turned on the local news.  It was so depressing, I flicked through the available channels (we don’t have cable) and landed on “I Love Lucy,” an old TV show that was on TV in the 50’s.  It was, surprisingly, refreshing.  It left me with a good feeling.  I certainly didn’t miss anything.  When it was over, there was plenty of time to contemplate the virus.

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”  (Phil 4:8).

MR         

Something funny to end on . . .

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THE DEATH OF FREEDOM

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

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

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

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

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

But will we ever get these freedoms back?

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

MR       

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A SURPRISING LETTER FROM HOLLYWOOD

Dear Mr. President, @realDonaldTrump

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

— Kirstie Alley (@kirstiealley) March 24, 2020

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TO THE POINT

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

 

IRAN USING ISLAMIC JIHAD TO STRIKE ISRAEL

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced strong support for protesters again and called on Iran’s leaders to stop their crackdown. (ABC News)

Pompeo:   Iran uses Islamic Jihad to strike Israel

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday accused Iran of using its terrorist proxy Palestinian Islamic Jihad to strike our great ally Israel.   In two tweets, Pompeo also wrote:   “Iran does not want peace in the region.  It does not want the Palestinian people to prosper.   It wants more conflict. Until we address Iran’s threats, the cycle of violence will continue.”   Pompeo went on to say:   “The way forward is clear:  continued pressure until Iran negotiates a comprehensive agreement that includes halting its support to terror groups like PIJ.   Nations around the world can no longer claim to want peace in the region yet allow Iran’s threats to go unchallenged.” (Debka 11/16/2019)

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LEGACY OF FASCISM IN CROATIA

Serious accusations are being made concerning racist attacks, official commemorations honoring Nazi collaborators and excessive police brutality against refugees, are accompanying Croatia’s preparations for taking over the Presidency of the EU Council on January 1, 2020. Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Zagreb, yesterday, for consultations with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković about the duties he must assume in the context of Croatia’s council presidency.   The Croat government will also seek to ward off refugees more efficiently.   For years, Croatia’s border police have been using brute force to deport large numbers of refugees to Bosnia Herzegovina, in violation of international law.   In addition, the Council of Europe has certified that the country is experiencing an increase in racism and glorification of the fascist Ustaša regime. One of the popular commemoration ceremonies honoring Croat Nazi collaborators is celebrated under the “patronage” of Croatia’s parliament in Zagreb.   (German Foreign Policy, 11/22/2019)

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TOTAL COST OF WARS

Since terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center and killed thousands upon thousands of innocent American citizens, U.S. taxpayers have spent $6.4 trillion on wars and military action in the Middle East and Asia, according to a new report by the Watson Institute at Brown University.

. . . The study also shows that as a result of the fighting, 801,000 people have died, including 335,000 civilians, and another 21 million people have been displaced to get away from the violence. (https://moneyandmarkets.com/war-on-terror-cost-us-6-4-trillion/)

. . . The report notes that after 9/11, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria have grown to include more than 80 countries, making it “a truly global war on terror.”

And the longer the war on terror drags on, the more service members will lose their lives while others will ultimately claim benefits and disability payments.

“Even if the United States withdraws completely from the major war zones by the end of FY2020 and halts its other Global War on Terror operations, in the Philippines and Africa for example, the total budgetary burden of the post-9/11 wars will continue to rise as the U.S. pays the on-going costs of veterans’ care and for interest on borrowing to pay for the wars,” the study notes.

The Pentagon said in March that wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost each U.S. taxpayer $7,623 through fiscal 2018.

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“Britain is in a dangerous mess” says former Prime Minister Tony Blair                                                                                                                                      Blair said on Monday that  neither his own Labor Party nor Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives deserved to win a Dec. 12 election.
by Guy Faulconbridge & William James, Reuters, 25 Nov 2019

“We’re a mess,” Blair said at a Reuters Newsmaker event.  “The buoyancy of the world economy has kept us going up to now, but should that falter, we will be in deep trouble.”   Blair, the only Labour leader to win three elections, said his party was now controlled by its “Marxist-Leninist wing” and that its leader Jeremy Corbyn was promising a revolution.

“The problem with revolutions is never how they begin but how they end,” said Blair.   “The problem with revolutions is that they always end badly.”   “The truth is:  the public aren’t convinced either main party deserves to win this election outright.”   The Dec. 12 vote presents a stark choice between a socialist-run state under Labour, which is offering a second referendum on leaving the EU, and the free-market Conservatives, who want to “get Brexit done” by the end of January.

Johnson has pledged to take Britain out of the EU by Jan. 31 if he wins a parliamentary majority and then to negotiate a comprehensive deal with the bloc covering trade and future relations during a transition period due to end next December.  Blair cast doubt on that timetable and said there was still a risk that Britain could exit the EU in a year’s time without having struck a deal with its biggest trading partner.   “No-deal Brexit is not off the table,” Blair said. “This negotiation (on the future relationship) has no chance of being concluded in that transition period.”  Blair said he did not know whether Labour, which has tacked sharply to the left under Corbyn, would ever return to the center ground of British politics, but added:   “We must set about the urgent task of reconstructing the sensible mainstream of British politics.”

“Otherwise, this laboratory experiment in populism running riot, will end very badly for our nation.”
(http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/topNews/~3/70roENoQAOI/britain-is-a-dangerous-mess-former-pm-blair-says-idUSKBN1XZ0WT)

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ISLAM AND THE LGBT

British Sheikh Asrar Rashid said in a class that was uploaded to the Internet on August 3, 2019, that the LGBT movement is one of the signs of the end of days because it is a manifestation of people forgetting basic principles, like male-female relations.   During the lecture, which took place against the backdrop of protests by the U.K.’s Muslim community against public school curricula that teach about same-sex relationships, Sheikh Rashid criticized the LGBT movement for having “concocted” over 70 different genders, and he said that Islam’s prohibition of homosexual acts is not tantamount to hatred of homosexuals.   Sheikh Rashid said that children who are confronted with education about LGBT issues in schools should vocally question what they are taught and that such questions should not be “blotted out in classrooms or treated in an Orwellian fashion.”   He said that the “Chinese-communist-Mao-Zedong-style brainwashing program” taught in schools should also teach children about the harms that can be caused by homosexual lifestyles in order to discourage such behaviors.

Sheikh Rashid said, for example, that the schools should teach that men who engage in homosexual acts sometimes have to use “male Tampax” diapers at night to prevent their bowels from leaking.   He also said that children should be taught about STDs.   Sheikh Asrar Rashid, who is based in the Birmingham area, was born in the U.K. in 1983 and has reportedly studied in Syria and India.   The video, which was titled “The New Age of Jahiliyah,” was uploaded to the Ahl-us-Sunnah Wal Jama’ah YouTube channel.   For more from Sheikh Asrar Rashid, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 6370.                    (MEMRI, 11/26)

From September next year, “relationships” are to be taught in British primary (elementary) schools, including same-sex relationships.   This has led to protests outside schools.   Most protestors appear to be Muslims.  Muslim opposition to anything LGBTQ is leading to a clash between the two groups.

—————————————————-

GERMAN SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA

With today’s Africa Conference in Berlin, the German government is seeking to induce German companies to make investments on the African continent.   The conference is taking place within the framework of the “Compact with Africa” project, launched more than two years ago during the G20 Summit in Hamburg.   Hailed as a breakthrough for Africa’s economic development at the time, the heralded expansion of investments has, so far, fallen short of expectations, according to experts.   Berlin’s efforts must be seen in the context of the growing global competition for a share in the African market that is no longer limited to China.   Whereas the People’s Republic of China is already Africa’s leading trading partner and is catching up on investments, India has also been expanding its activities on the continent and has surpassed Germany.   Meanwhile, Russia has also succeeded in reinforcing its influence in Africa.   Like the other western powers, Germany is steadily losing ground.   (German Foreign Policy, 11/19/2019)

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The Militarization of the North Sea

Alongside the militarization of the Baltic Sea region, NATO is beginning to reestablish military structures around the English Channel and the North Sea.   At the annual meeting within the framework of the NATO Channel Committee (CHANCOM) recently held in Hamburg, the five riparian states signed a declaration on the further enhancement of their naval cooperation.   According to the German Navy, which participated at the meeting, the establishment of a regional NATO command for the North Sea region, analogous to the war alliance’s Baltic Maritime Component Command (BMCC) in Rostock, was also in discussion.   The maritime route from the Atlantic through the English Channel to the Baltic Sea, via the North Sea is the main route for US troops coming to Europe.   This is why the region has regained strategic importance, since NATO has intensified its confrontation against Russia.   Civilian ports along the transatlantic route are also to be integrated, including Hamburg and Bremerhaven.    (German Foreign Policy, 11/26/2019)

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TO THE POINT

  • The three conservative leaders of three prominent western democracies are all under intense pressure now.   The US, UK and Israel are the three nations threatened.   There is no such pressure upon liberal-socialist leaders. Is this just a coincidence?
  • “Following the 2016 coup attempt, (Turkey’s) Erdogan has purged scores of thousands from his army and regime, jailed more journalists than any other authoritarian, purchased Vladimir Putin’s S-400 missile system as Turkey’s air defense, and ordered the U.S. forces out of his way as he invaded northern Syria, killing Kurdish fighters who did the bleeding and dying in the U.S.-led campaign to crush the ISIS caliphate.” (Pat Buchanan, 11/22/2019)
  • Italian former prime minister and MEP Silvio Berlusconi said on Thursday that Europe needs to become a global military power “to have a seat at the table where decision are made” with America and China.   “We also need military capacity to defend ourselves in case of a massive invasion phenomenon,” Berlusconi added, saying his party will return to government soon as the current Italian government is “unprepared, unqualified and inexperienced.”   (EU Observer, 11/21)
  • A report on TV earlier this week highlighted the fact that Italy has a very low birthrate, with some communities seeing no babies for years.   A proposed solution is immigrants from Africa.   But if the Italian peninsular was full of Africans, would it still be Italy?
  • It has been suggested that Britain’s Prince Andrew should visit the US to be interviewed by the FBI.   A month ago, an American woman was asked to return to the UK to stand trial for the death of a motorcyclist, something she admits.   But she won’t return and claims diplomatic immunity, which she does not qualify for. The US cannot have it both ways.   Perhaps Prince Andrew can be interviewed about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein on British soil?
  • “Corbyn refuses to say sorry” for anti-semitism in the Labor Party (headline in a British newspaper November 27th)
  • “A passionate cohort of campaigners, including former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Anthony Albanese have renewed their push for Australia to become an independent republic more than 20 years since the failed referendum.”   (Sky News, 11/27/2019)
  • As with the referendum on Scottish independence, or Brexit, groups refuse to accept a “No” verdict and simply ask for a second referendum.

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!)

 

 

SLAVERY IS BACK, BIG TIME

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

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

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

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

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

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BABY FACTORIES

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

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

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

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GLOBAL ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

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

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

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

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

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IRAN TO WIPE ISRAEL OFF THE MAP

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

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

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

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

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AUSTRALIAN PM GIVES MAJOR SPEECH ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS

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

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

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

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

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

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CANADIAN ELECTION

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

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CHINA’S 70th BIRTHDAY

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

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

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

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SINO-GERMAN RELATIONS

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

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FACEBOOK — END OF FREE SPEECH?

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

 

THE EU IS BUILDING AN EMPIRE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GERMANY’S SEARCH FOR A NEW DIPLOMATIC MAP

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

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

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

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GERMAN “LUST FOR POWER”

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

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GERMAN SUPPORT FOR HK DEMO

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

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

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FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN RETREAT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CANADIAN THREAT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH

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

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THE LOST ART OF AMERICAN DIPLOMACY

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

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

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

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

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SAUDI ARABIA AND IRAN HEADING FOR WAR

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

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

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

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POPE APPOINTS LIBERAL CARDINALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AIM TO END CHINESE ROLE IN DARWIN

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

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

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

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

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

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INTERNATIONAL PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TO THE POINT

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

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