Tag Archives: Prince Charles

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)

 

ASSASSINATION OF DONALD TRUMP

The death of Qasem Soleimani has put Trump on an Islamic hit list.

The Iranian Fars News Agency aired a short video on January 10, 2020, titled “Severe Revenge,” dramatizing an Iranian assassination of U.S. President Donald Trump.   In the video, Iranian officials are seen planning their revenge for the killing of Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani.  They study a board with a diagram of possible targets, U.S. President Trump is at the head and Israeli PM Netanyahu, Secretary of State Pompeo, Saudi Crown Prince Bin , and Masoud Rajavi, former leader of Mujahedeen-e-Khalq are at the bottom.  The Iranian officials say they are “going for the big fish,” and one of them says:   “We should target their head.”   In the video, the U.S. Capitol Building is blown up and then the Iranian forces storm the White House, shooting anyone in their sight.   President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo and PM Netanyahu, (among others) lie dead on the White House floor.   The voice of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is heard in the background, saying: “Severe revenge awaits the criminals whose dirty hands are soiled with his blood.”  (MEMRI 1/14)

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EUROPEANS STILL HOPE FOR IRAN DEAL

The decision by France, Germany and the UK to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism in the landmark Iran nuclear deal is a high-risk move driven by a lack of better options.   It underscores the tough spot the Europeans are in as they vie to save an accord that has been under siege ever since the US pulled out of it 20 months ago and slapped harsh sanctions on Tehran.

The launch of the dispute procedure yesterday crystallises the threat of the nuclear agreement’s demise and the reimposition of UN sanctions on Iran, but the so-called “E3” European powers want neither.   Instead, they hope to force Iran to back down from an escalating series of breaches of the accord launched to retaliate against the US “maximum pressure” economic squeeze.   (Michael Peel, Brussels Briefing, Financial Times, 1/15/2020)

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PLANS FOR ISLAMIC SUPERPOWER

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief advisor, retired Turkish general Adnan Tanrıverdi, has been articulating a vision of a unified Islamic superpower through conferences and documents published by his organizations.   This vision is reflected in President Erdoğan’s foreign policy.

The Justice Defenders Strategic Studies Center (ASSAM), of which Tanrıverdi is chairman of the board, has scheduled seven annual “congresses,” of which three have taken place, to work through the technical problems in the formation and governance of an “Islamic union.”   At a recent ASSAM Congress, Tanrıverdi called for the coordination of the joint manufacturing of weapons and military equipment among Islamic countries, saying:   “States cannot stand tall against the countries whose weapons they use.”   ASSAM has also published a 69-page draft of a constitution for a planned shari’a-based confederation of 61 Islamic countries.   This constitution declares that “sovereignty belongs to shariah,” that Istanbul is to be the capital of the confederation, that the Arabic language would be taught in all of its schools, and that its name will be “Asrica,” which is formed from a combination of Asia and Africa.   (MEMRI, 1/14)

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Dutch and German Shipyards to Build Warships for Germany Worth 6 Billion                                                                                                                  by Reuters, 14 Jan 2020, © New York Times Company

BERLINGermany has awarded Dutch shipyard Damen a contract to construct at least four new multi-role warships worth nearly 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in an alliance with its Bremen-based partner Luerssen, the armed forces and budget lawmakers said on Tuesday.   The ship tender is one of Germany’s biggest arms projects, along with a contract for the MEADS missile defense system and the new Franco-German fighter jet (FCAS), underlining Berlin’s efforts to increase its military capabilities.   The first warship is expected to be delivered in 2027, the Bundeswehr armed forces said in a statement, confirming a Reuters report from Monday.   The contract includes an option to build two additional MKS 180 warships.  Lawmakers told Reuters that about two-thirds of the production will take place at Luerssen’s shipyards and other sites in northern Germany.   “The decision for the MKS 180 to be mainly built by the Luerssen Group and thus in Germany is a good decision which strengthens Germany as a marine and shipyard location,” said Eckhardt Rehberg, chief budget lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.   Germany’s new warships will be able to attack targets on land and under water, and provide air cover for other vessels.   Other companies interested in the MKS 180 warship tender were ThyssenKrupp and German Naval Yards.   Damen said in a statement that its alliance also included Hamburg-based Blohm+Voss shipyard and France’s Thales.   It estimated that about 80% of the tender’s net investment would remain in Germany.
(https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/01/14/world/europe/14reuters-germany-warship.html)

Germany to invest €62 billion to modernize rail network .               The German government on Tuesday agreed to pump €62 billion into biggest modernization ever in Germany,” said Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer.

The German government on Tuesday agreed to pump €62 billion into modernizing its rail network system, as part of a wider plan to incite commuters to opt for greener public transport options. “We’ve just signed the most important programme of modernization ever in Germany,” said Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, adding that “this is the decade for railway.”   Besides the massive sum stumped up by the state German rail operator Deutsche Bahn will also plow an additional €24 billion into the renewal programme.   The investments will go towards “replacing obsolete installations,” improving access to disabled passengers as well as renovating rail bridges, said Scheuer.   (The Local Germany )(https://www.thelocal.de/20200114/germany-to-invest-62-bn-euros-by-2030-to-modernise-rail-network)

Germany posts record-breaking budget surplus
Germany ended 2019 with a budget surplus of €13.5 billion.  The government wants to spend on infrastructure and other projects, but critics say the money isn’t getting where it needs to go.  (Deutsche Welle, 13 Jan 2020)       (https://www.dw.com/en/germany-posts-record-breaking-budget-surplus/a-51991140)

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AN AMERICAN VIEW OF BRITISH ROYALS

Long ago the British royals ceded all direct power to Parliament. Precisely in being freed from politics — in leaving its dirty work to politicians — the Queen now serves as a brake on democratic excess, just as democracy acts as a brake on the crown.   In a 2010 article for First Things, David Bentley Hart noted the delicate balance:

“The ideal king,” he wrote, “would be rather like the king in chess:  the most useless piece on the board, which occupies its square simply to prevent any other piece from doing so, but which is somehow still the whole game.”

In this sense Elizabeth has been the perfect constitutional monarch. She keeps above the political fray.   She puts on a good British face to the world, even to foreign representatives she might despise, because that is what her nation needs.   She happily attends local events in the smallest part of her realm.

A woke queen could not do this.   Elizabeth may at times be mocked for her restraint and dowdiness, but those qualities are both reassuring and dignified.   Indeed, even though the British elect their politicians, almost always they seem to feel more affection for their monarch than for their prime minister.   And Elizabeth has done it without interruption since 1952, notwithstanding the private heartache and public embarrassment she has had to endure, including Charles’s disastrous first marriage and Prince Andrew’s association with Jeffrey Epstein.

The Queen’s service might also inform today’s debate about liberal democracy.   Plainly monarchy is not suited for the US, given our history.   But liberalism is not one-size-fits-all.   And against those who argue that modernity has overtaken the monarchy, in Britain the crown is one of those enduring institutions — along with church and family — to which liberalism must look for the social cohesion and cultural capital it needs to thrive but cannot itself create.

As British society fragments and Merry Old England gives way to a far more religiously and racially diverse United Kingdom, the Crown offers something to unify people.   Some defenders of the Duchess of Sussex now suggest that it was British racism that did her in.   The truth is that the diversity Meghan Markle brought the royal family by marrying into it was cheered and celebrated.   (William McGurn, The Australian, 1/14, reproduced from the WSJ)

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A LEFT-WING NATIONALIST PARTY

Swedish Communists Wake Up — Just days ago, Sputnik reported on the fact that almost half of the members of the Communist Party in Malmö, Sweden, are resigning.   They plan to establish a new workers’ party that no longer features multiculturalism, LGBT interests, and climate change as key policy goals.  Nils Littorin, one of the defectors, told a local newspaper that today’s Left has become part of the elite and has come to “dismiss the views of the working class as alien and problematic.”   Littorin suggested that the Left “is going through a prolonged identity crisis” and that his group, instead, intends to stick to the original values, such as class politics.  Littorin adds:   “[The Left] don’t understand why so many workers don’t think that multiculturalism, the LGBT movement and Greta Thunberg are something fantastic, but instead believe we are in the 1930s’ Germany and that workers who vote [right-wing] Sweden Democrats have been infected by some Nazi sickness.”   In a piece of simple insight previously rare on the Left, he argues that the rise in right-wing votes for people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are in fact due to “widespread dissatisfaction with liberal economic migration that leads to low-wage competition and the ghetto-isation of communities, a development that only benefits major companies.”  Rather than being beneficial to working class Whites, Littorin condemns a “chaotic” immigration policy that has led to “cultural clashes, segregation and exclusion due to an uncontrolled influx from parts of the world characterised by honour culture and clan mentalities.”

Littorin continues to talk sense when it comes to the LGBT agenda. He explains that LGBT issues and the climate movement are merely “state ideologies” that are “rammed down people’s throats.”   Littorin adds that phenomena like these happen at the expense of real issues, such as poverty, homelessness, and income equality:  “Pride, for instance, has been reduced to dealing with sexual orientation. We believe that human dignity is primarily about having a job and having pension insurance that means that you are not forced to live on crumbs when you are old.”

On immigration, Galloway argues that there is “nothing left-wing about unlimited mass immigration.   It decapitates the countries from which the immigrants leave, and drives down wages in those where they arrive.   The wealthy benefit from it, as they can afford cheap labor for their companies, or cheap au-pairs, cheap baristas, cheap plumbers.   But the working class suffers.”   (Andrew Joyce, 12/29/19)

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TO THE POINT

  • WORLD’S OLDEST CONTINENT – With its low birth rate and fast-ageing population, Europe is facing a demographic crisis, one that economists fear could hit growth and public finances. While the global population overall is getting older, Europe is an extreme example of this trend, particularly in the continent’s south and east, which have been hit by record-low fertility rates and emigration.   An analysis of the main demographic trends highlights the challenge faced by policymakers.  Europe has had higher longevity and lower fertility rates than the rest of the world over the past few decades.   It is now the region with the world’s oldest population.   The median age in Europe is 43, 12 years older than the rest of the world.    (Valentina Romel, Financial Times, 1/14/2020)
  • ECONOMIST COMMENT ON TRUMP AND IRAN – He may have deterred conventional attacks, but goaded Iran to build a bomb faster.  (Leaders, Jan 9th 2020 edition, Economist)
  • TWO POPES DISAGREE – There’s a dispute between Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict, on, of all issues, celibacy.   There’s no biblical basis for celibacy, but conservatives in the church say that priests cannot serve the church properly if their loyalties are divided.   Pope Francis is more liberal on the issue, wanting to resolve the shortage of priests, particularly in South America.   Pope Benedict takes a conservative view that priests should not be allowed to marry.
  • AMERICAN REVOLUTION — “The conflict that rent the United States in 1861-65 was not America’s first civil war — the American Revolution was.  The fight for independence pitted neighbor against neighbor and family member against family member, exemplified by the split between Founding Father Benjamin Franklin and Tory son William, the final royal governor of New Jersey.   Violence arising from these and countless other pesonal breaks rendered expanses of the former colonies ‘danger land.’  as one historian has called the impact of the internecine warfare that raged between loyalists and patriots. ”  (“That Time General Washington Proposed to Execute  An Innocent Man,” by Peter R. Henriques, American History, February 2020)

 

 

IRAN VS US – IS THIS THE START OF WW3?

Iranian mourners lift a picture of slain military commander Qasem Soleimani during a funeral procession in the capital Tehran on January 6, 2020.    (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Some years ago, an expert on the Middle East was being interviewed on a TV news program.   He expressed the opinion that World War 3 started in 1979 when the Iranian revolution took place and the ayatollahs came to power, overthrowing the pro-western Shah of Iran.   It was a major failure of US foreign policy, under the leadership of President Jimmy Carter.

Of course, WW3 did not begin then, in the full sense of the term.   But the enmity between the US and Iran that soon followed the revolution lay the foundation for what will eventually become WW3.

Is it going to be soon?

This is not looking probable, as Iran clearly is not up to war with the US.   Crippled by US-imposed sanctions, it does not have the technology to ruinously attack US bases in the Middle East.   It will resort to using “proxies and allies” (BBC News).   This period is being compared to the “phony war” at the start of World War II.   They hope that by keeping up the pressure, they can make Donald Trump a one-term president, just as they did Jimmy Carter.

Little realized is that President Trump has talked about how he would like the US to withdraw from the Middle East.   At the same time, Iran wants the US to leave.   What seems most likely at this time is that isolated terror attacks on US (and allied) bases will wear the US down and result in a withdrawal.

Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” scenario between the West and the Islamic world not only fits the Daniel 11 scenario, but seems very likely as the Islamic world increases its strength and the West continues to decline.

Iran has also started to develop nuclear weapons.  The treaty that held them back in their development has now been torn up and they are free to acquire them as soon as possible.   When this happens, in a few years time, it will be time to start talking about World War 3!

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POST-ASSASSINATION CONSEQUENCES

Eight men were killed when American drones struck a convoy in Baghdad’s international airport.   One of the deaths could shape the Middle East for years.  Qassem Suleimani was one of the most powerful figures in the region.   For 20 years he commanded the Quds Force, the foreign legion of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s long arm in the Middle East.   He gave it reach by nurturing, training and mobilising militias from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Palestine.   They shared the Islamic Republic’s ideology and could be used to strike its regional foes, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and their American backers.   In America, Republicans and Democrats agreed that Mr. Suleimani had blood on his hands, but many worried that killing him was a dangerous escalation.   Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has promised “severe revenge.”   Iraq’s prime minister said the assassination would light the fuse of a regional war.   (The Economist,1/3/2020)

Following the USA’s assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and other high-ranking Iraqi and Iranian military personnel, demands are being raised in Baghdad to expel the foreign troops, including the Bundeswehr.   The Anti-IS Coalition troops, stationed in Iraq, must leave the country, the Iraqi parliament ruled yesterday.   The German government insists on keeping German troops in Iraq to be able to maintain its options for gaining influence in that country.   Berlin had earlier already rejected calls to end its deployment for security reasons.   Camp Taji near Baghdad, where 27 German soldiers are currently stationed, had already come under missile fire in June.   The camp could become a possible target for retaliatory strikes by Iran or pro-Iranian militias.   Whereas the German government euphemizes the assassination of Soleimani as “a line of action undertaken by the United States,” the chairman of the SPD parliamentary group officially called it a “violation of international law.”   A government advisor spoke of “state terrorism.” (German Foreign Policy, 1/6)

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“There will be dead Americans:”   former CIA chief issues warning to Trump as Iran crisis deepens                                                                                Tens of thousands have mourned Soleimani in Iran, as US-Iran tensions have spiked.                                                                                                                           by Clark Mindock, New York

A former top CIA official has warned there will be “dead civilian Americans” as a result of the targeted air strike that killed an Iranian general.

Michael Morell, a former acting and deputy CIA director, said the killing of Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani would spark a “harsh retaliation” from the Iranian government, and that US citizens would be targeted.

“Soleimani was an evil genius.  He had a lot of American blood on his hands.   The world is a better place without him.   The problem is that comes at a very high cost,“ Mr. Morell, who served during Barack Obama’s presidency, told CBS.

“Number one, there will be dead Americans, dead civilian Americans, as a result of this.   Possibly over the next few days in any place where Iran has its proxies, Iraq is the most likely place, but also Lebanon, Bahrain, other places in the Middle East.“

In the days after Soleimani’s assassination at a Baghdad airport, American officials have claimed that US citizens are now safer.     (The Independent, 1/5/2020)

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Millions of Zimbabweans pushed into hunger by drought, spiraling economic meltdown                                                                                                        3 Jan 2020

HARARE – Millions of Zimbabweans pushed into hunger by prolonged drought and economic crisis face an increasingly desperate situation unless adequate funding for a major relief operation materializes quickly, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has warned.    With nearly eight million people – half the population – now food insecure, WFP plans to double the number of people it assists – up to 4.1 million – but needs more than US$200 million for its emergency response in the first half of 2020 alone.    “As things stand, we will run out of food by end of February, coinciding with the peak of the hunger season – when needs are at their highest,” said Niels Balzer, WFP’s Deputy Country Director in Zimbabwe.   “Firm pledges are urgently needed as it can take up to three months for funding commitments to become food on people’s tables,” Balzer added.   Years of drought have slashed food production in Zimbabwe, once an African breadbasket.   This year’s maize harvest was down 50 percent on 2018, with overall cereal output less than half the national requirement.   By August of 2019, WFP was forced to launch an emergency lean season assistance program to meet rising needs, months earlier than anticipated.  Since then, food shortages have become ever more pronounced. This month, maize, was only available in half of the markets WFP monitors countrywide.

Zimbabwe has seen drastic price increases – bread now costs 20 times what it cost six months ago, while the price of maize has nearly tripled over the same period.

(https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/international/millions-of-zimbabweans-pushed-into-hunger-by-drought-spiraling-economic-meltdown-39881934)

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IMMIGRANTS FORMING CLANS

“For decades, police turned a blind eye to extended criminal families, in part to avoid being accused of racial discrimination.   This has made the present-day challenge all the more difficult as clan structures have solidified, parallel societies have formed, and the enemy has grown.” — Deutsche Welle, February 3, 2019.

“There are now half a million people across Germany who belong to a clan . . .   Clans behave in their German surroundings as if they were tribes in the desert.   Everything outside the clan is enemy territory and available for plunder.”   (Ralph Ghadban, a Lebanese-German political scientist and a leading expert on clans in Germany, The German Times, October 2019)

(Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 1/4)

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Global Apathy Toward the Fires in Australia Is a Scary Portent for the Future
by David Wallace-Wells, New York magazine

The response to what’s transpired in Australia — again, over a period that has stretched into months — is unfamiliar, to me at least, and not in a good way.   Those California fires transfixed the world’s attention, but while the ones still burning uncontrolled in Australia have gotten some media attention outside the country, in general they have been treated as a scary, but not apocalyptic, local news story.

The global response to the bushfires has suggested, unfortunately, something more like the opposite:   that no bind of tribal alliance or allegiance is strong enough that we won’t discard it, if discarding it allows us to see the suffering of those living elsewhere on the planet as insignificant to our own lives.

(http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/12/new-south-wales-fires-in-australia-the-worlds-response.html)

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HARRY AND MEGHAN QUIT

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced Wednesday that they are to quit as senior royals.   Instead, they will work toward financial independence, splitting their time between the UK and North America.   The announcement came after they had spent six weeks in Canada.  They pledged their loyalty to the Queen, the Commonwealth and their patronages.

Although it’s only a coincidence, last month, Harry’s Uncle, Prince Andrew, was forced to quit his duties within the royal family due to a scandal.

It is known that Prince Charles wants a slimmed down monarchy. These developments will make it easier for him to achieve his goal.

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TO THE POINT

  • Khamenei’s Defense Advisor General Dehghan:   If Trump’s Logic For Killing Suleimani Was Valid, Then The Iraqis Have The Right To Kill One Million Americans (MEMRI, 1/8)
  • Dearborn, MI – Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni Eulogizes Qasem Soleimani:   He Brought Hope To The Marginalized And Fear To The Enemies Of Islam

(MEMRI, 1/8)

KURDS ‘STABBED IN BACK’ BY US

The SDF was Washington’s main ally in Syria in the fight against ISIL [File: Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]
The US President Donald Trump has announced that an ally of the United States, Turkey, may attack and invade another ally, the Kurds, who fought with the US against ISIS.

Kurds warn Turkish offensive will bring ‘chaos once again’

Several of Donald Trump’s most loyal Republican allies have turned on him over his decision to pull US troops out of north-eastern Syria. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said the withdrawal would benefit Russia and Iran, while Senator Lindsey Graham – usually an outspoken defender of the president – warned that abandoning the Kurds in the region to allow a Turkish military offensive would be “a stain on America’s honor.”

War zone — Turkish forces are already massing near the border with north-eastern Syria as US troops withdraw.  A spokesperson for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the area would soon “turn into a war zone.”

Civilian suffering — Trump’s rash decision opens the way for a vicious struggle between the Kurds and Turkey’s military, says Simon Tisdall, who warns of war crimes and fresh civilian suffering ahead.   (The Guardian, 10/8)

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PARIS POLICE KILLED BY ISLAMIST

The knife attacker who killed four of his colleagues at Paris police headquarters this week showed signs of radicalization and appears to have planned his assault, French authorities said on Saturday. France’s anti-terror prosecutor said several witnesses had said the attacker — a 45-year-old IT professional who had been working at the Intelligence Directorate of the Paris Police Headquarters since 2003 — had adhered to “a radical vision of Islam.”   He had converted to the religion about 10 years ago.   On Thursday he killed four of his colleagues in an attack that lasted less than 10 minutes in the centre of Paris near Notre-Dame cathedral before being shot dead by an armed officer.

The anti-terror prosecutor took over the investigation on Friday after police examined the attacker’s mobile phone and questioned his associates, including his wife.   On the morning of the attack, said the prosecutor at a press conference, the perpetrator had exchanged 33 text messages with his wife and all of a religious nature, ending with the phrase “Allahu akbar [God is great]”.   He sent the messages 30 minutes before he bought the knives used in the attack.

The prosecutor said that the attacker had probably had contacts with members of the Salafist movement, a radical form of Islam, adding that the investigations had revealed his “approval for certain atrocities committed in the name of that religion,” including the deadly assault in 2015 against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and that he had changed his manner of dress over the past few months.

According to French media the attacker’s wife has described how he had begun hearing voices the night before the attack.   Over the past four years Paris has been hit by numerous large-scale and deadly attacks, including at the Bataclan theatre in November 2015 when extremists killed 130 people in the deadliest Islamist terror attack to strike France.  (Paris police attacker showed signs of radicalization, David Keohane, Financial Times, 10/5).

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Israel and Gulf states working on ‘historic pact’ to end conflict between them (Times of Israel * 5 Oct 2019)

Israel is reportedly negotiating with several Gulf states on a “non-aggression pact” between them as they face off against an increasingly emboldened Iran.   The deal, which Channel 12 news described as potentially “historic,” aims to put an end to the state of conflict between the Gulf states and Israel, and reportedly provides for friendly relations, cooperation in a variety of fields, and no war or incitement against each other.

Advancing the Israeli initiative, Foreign Minister Israel Katz met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month with several foreign ministers from Arab Gulf states, Channel 12 news reported Saturday night.   There was no immediate comment from the Foreign Ministry..   (https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-and-gulf-states-said-working-on-non-aggression-pact-as-they-face-iran/)

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Former MidEast envoy:   ‘anti-Iran alliance crumbling’
Times of Israel * 5 Oct 2019

Sensing US reluctance to respond forcefully to Iranian aggression in the region, and following the devastating September attack on its oil facilities blamed on Tehran, Saudi Arabia is quietly moving toward possible rapprochement with the Islamic Republic, according to multiple media reports.    The New York Times reported Friday that the Trump administration’s failure to react militarily to the September 14 missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities, which jolted global oil prices and temporarily knocked out nearly 6 percent of the world’s daily crude production, had led Riyadh to recalculate.

“The worst outcome for the Saudis is to move to a confrontation with Iran expecting the US to support them and find out they won’t,” Philip Gordon, a former White House Middle East coordinator, told the Times.   “This administration has shown it’s not really ready to take on Iran.”   . . . Saudi Arabia gave a “positive” response Friday to a truce offer from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and called for its implementation.   Saeed Shariati, a political analyst in Tehran, told the New York Times:   “We have reached the peak of Saudi-Iran tensions and both sides have concluded this balance of fear is detrimental to their interests.” (https://www.timesofisrael.com/saudis-said-moving-toward-detente-with-iran-amid-us-reluctance-to-act-militarily/)

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CHINESE LOANS TO FINANCE NEW ZIMBABWE CAPITAL IN POVERTY STRICKEN NATION

China has sunk her dragon claws deeper into Zimbabwe’s social, political and economic bone marrow by reportedly acquiring vast tracks of land in Mount Hampden, the new capital city of the country, thus effectively buying and owning it for a song, well before construction is even completed, Spotlight Zimbabwe, has been told.

Diplomatic and high level government sources at the ministry of lands, agriculture, and rural resettlement this week said Beijing had also struck a deal to provide the more than US$20 billion needed by government to develop the city, which is expected to house a new reserve bank, parliament building, international airport, government departments, presidential palace, shopping malls, five new opulent residential suburbs, and industrial sites.

Other features of the new city include a university, technology centre, schools, churches, hospitals, and official residences for the speaker of parliament and senate president. (Cynthia Goba, Zimbabwe News, 10/4)

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ISRAELI MAJORITY WANT MORE SECULAR STATE

A new survey by Hiddush, an Israeli organization that supports religious pluralism, shows that 57 percent of the Jewish Israeli electorate does not want the incoming governing coalition to include or depend on parties that are Charedi Orthodox, commonly referred to as ultra-Orthodox in the United States.  That 57 percent majority also wants the coalition to support religious freedom in Israel.

Thirty-four percent of Israeli Jews disagree:   They want the Orthodox parties in the coalition and are happy with current government policy, which gives Orthodox Judaism significant influence over Israeli law.   Charedi parties have been part of the Israeli government since 2015 and have sat in a series of coalitions throughout Israel’s history.

The survey’s finding is significant because some of the harshest rhetoric ahead of the election centered on religious issues.   Secular parties accused Orthodox parties of wanting to establish a theocracy in Israel.   Orthodox parties claimed that secular parties wanted to deprive Israel of its religious character.   The only reason for the election last week — Israel’s second in a year — was an intractable conflict between Orthodox and secular parties after the previous election in April.

Nearly all of those who voted for Blue and White, the centrist party led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid opposing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, want a secular governing coalition.   Most voters for Netanyahu’s Likud Party (56 percent) support a coalition with Orthodox parties, while 44 percent favor a secular coalition. (https://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/israelis-want-a-more-secular-ruling-coalition/)

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IRAN MOVES NEARER TO ISRAEL

Israel is fighting off Iranian expansion across the Middle East, but danger for the Jewish state lurks near its own borders.   Painstaking work by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and their loyal proxies has succeeded in laying the groundwork for a second Iranian front with Israel in the Golan Heights.

The first front is to Israel’s north in South Lebanon.   The Golan, which Israel won from Syria in 1967, lies further east.   Though Israel rules the skies, the Syrian land adjoining Israel’s border appears increasingly to belong to Iran.  (Jonathan Spyer, Wall Street Journal, 10/2)

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THREE MUSLIM LEADERS TO START TV NEWS CHANNEL

A leader of a country that has the death penalty for “blasphemy,” a leader who says he is a proud antisemite and a leader who threatens to invade foreign countries have united to push for a TV channel that will “fight Islamophobia.”   Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan met to propose a “BBC type English language TV Channel” that will “highlight Muslim issues,” Imran Khan said.

Khan tweeted that he met with his two counterparts on September 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.   The three decided to “jointly start an English language channel dedicated to confronting the challenges posed by Islamophobia and setting the record strait on our great religion.”   It’s unclear when he says “our” great religion if he means including other Muslim groups, such as Shi’ites or Ahmadis, both of which are routinely the victims of attacks in Pakistan.   Khan again tweeted about his meeting on September 30, claiming that this channel would be a “BBC type.” (Seth Frantzmann, MEF, 10/1)

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Israeli Security Cabinet to meet for first time in months, amid warnings of Iran threat.                                                                                    Security cabinet to convene Sunday as Liberman urges PM, Gantz to agree on unity, citing ‘national emergency’ and evoking Yom Kippur War; Islamic Jihad holds Gaza rally   (Times of Israel * 5 Oct 2019)

Members of the top forum will meet at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem in the afternoon.   In recent days Hebrew media has on several occasions quoted unnamed security officials as warning of the rising threat of an attack orchestrated by Iran.   The Blue and White party’s Gabi Ashkenazi, newly appointed head of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, also spoke Thursday of “many challenges in the security realm, some known to all and some that are only discussed behind closed doors.” Liberman noted in a Facebook post that the country on Sunday will mark 46 years since the Yom Kippur War, the most traumatic conflict in the nation’s history and one in which the country was caught off guard by its enemies, and said it was imperative to remember its legacy “of leadership and love of country.”

Meanwhile, the Islamic Jihad terror group on Saturday marked 32 years since its establishment, holding a rally in the Gaza Strip in which it showed off what it said was a new type of rocket. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/security-cabinet-to-meet-for-first-time-in-months-amid-warnings-of-iran-threat/)

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CATHOLIC CHURCH TO ORDAIN MARIED PRIESTS?

VATICAN CITY— Pope Francis formally opened a meeting of bishops that will debate whether the Catholic Church should loosen its 1,000-year-old requirement of celibacy for priests.

The potentially momentous debate pits those who say ordaining married men could relieve the church’s clergy shortage against those who warn that doing so would undermine the distinctive character of the priesthood.

In his homily on Sunday, at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope didn’t refer specifically to the celibacy debate, but called generally for innovation in the church’s ministry:   “If everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that ‘this is the way things have always been done,’ then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo.”   (“Pope opens debate on celibacy requirement for Catholic priests,” Francis X. Rocca, Wall Street Journal, 10/6)

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SCANDINAVIAN CRIME BOOSTED BY IMMIGRANTS

  • “Most immigrants are not criminals, but when the immigrant population is overrepresented in almost every crime category, then there is a problem that we must dare to talk about.” — Jon Helgheim, immigration policy spokesman for the Norwegian party Fremskrittspartiet (FrP).
  • “In the more than thirty years that the surveys cover, one tendency is clearer than all others, namely that the proportion of the total amount of crimes committed by persons with a foreign background is steadily increasing….” — Det Goda Samhället (“The Good Society”), Invandring och brottslighet – ett trettioårsperspektiv (“Immigration and crime – a thirty-year perspective”).   All statistics for the report were supplied by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention.
  • Unless Scandinavian political leaders begin actively to engage with the facts that these statistics describe, the problems are only going to become more intractable — to the point where they may be entirely unsolvable.   (Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 10/4)

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Why some Albertans want to separate from Canada                              by Robin Levinson-King,  BBC News, Calgary, Alberta, 4 Oct 2019

Today, Albertans’ common concerns can be summarized with three words: representation, equalization and oil.    Peter Downing, “a right-wing political muckraker” is hoping to spin this feeling of economic betrayal into a viable political movement, with the creation of Wexit Alberta.

The group is campaigning for the western province to separate from Canada and form its own nation (possibly alongside another western province).   It’s an old idea that has gained momentum as relations between Alberta and the rest of the country have deteriorated.

Many Albertans blame Mr. Trudeau’s policies for this turn of events, and Mr. Cooper, the Albertan political scientist who is also a separatist, says he is certain that if Mr. Trudeau is re-elected, Albertan separation will soon follow.       (Extracts from:  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49899113)

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TO THE POINT

  • “The China of Xi Jinping boasts land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers that provide a strategic deterrent against the United States.   Beijing’s conventional forces on land, sea, and in air and space rival any on earth.”   (Pat Buchanan, 10/4)
  • Nasr Al-Din Mufreh, Sudan’s Minister of Religious Affairs, said in a September 7, 2019 interview on Al-Arabiya Network (Saudi Arabia) that Sudan is pluralistic in its views, values, cultures, ideologies, Islamic schools of thought, and religions, and he called upon Jewish minorities that may have left Sudan to reclaim their Sudanese citizenship and return to the country, which he pointed out is now ruled by secular law.   On a same-day interview on Sudania 24 TV, Sudanese writer Haidar Al-Mukashafi said that the Jewish presence in Sudan dates back over a century, and he said that this may be evidenced by a rumor in the Sudanese city of Merow that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was born and raised in Sudan.   Al-Mukashafi said that Jews and other minorities may return to Sudan if reforms take place and if there are incentives to do so.   (MEMRI, 9/19)
  • Fatemeh Azad, a 58-year-old Muslim woman who had converted to Christianity against her Muslim husband’s will and fled to Germany, was denied asylum there and deported back to Iran. There she was immediately arrested by authorities waiting for her plane to land . . .   “When Fatemeh made her asylum appeal, her lawyers argued that apostasy (conversion away from Islam) is punishable by the death penalty in Iran.”   This, however, was insufficient for Germany . . . — Persecution.org; July 25, 2019. (Gatestone 9/22)
  • Prince Harry’s decision to take British newspapers to court may backfire on him.   The British Royal family has always maintained a policy of “no comment” on newspaper articles about them. After all, if you deny some, you are, effectively, admitting that others are true.   At the same time, royals have a symbiotic relationship with the press – they can’t live without all the publicity and the press can’t live without the royals, who provide lots of news that people are interested in.   Suing the papers may end that relationship.   If the papers back away from the royals, that could mean no publicity, life-blood of the monarchy.
  • SWEDISH KING KICKS GRANDCHILDREN OUT OF ROYAL HOUSE . . . AND CHARLES WANTS THE SAME (headline in Daily Express, 10/7).   “The five children lose the status of royal highness and are not expected to perform official duties.”  (BBC)
  • The death of a 19-year-old British man, killed on his motorbike by a lady driving on the wrong side of the road, is clear cut.   It was an accident, but some appropriate punishment must be found. However, the motorist, a 42-year-old mother, fled to the US to avoid a court case.   This was made possible by the fact that she has diplomatic immunity.   We understand that there must be laws on diplomatic immunity, but for traffic accidents like this? She will hardly face the death penalty if she goes back for a trial.   And the family needs some sort of closure after losing a son to an American lady who got confused and drove on the right (wrong) side of the road!   (Diplomatic immunity even helps diplomats avoid traffic fines and cost the UK taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.)
  • The deaths of six elephants in Thailand was a tragic accident.   A baby in the herd fell down a waterfall.   The other five died trying to rescue her.   This kind of behavior is typical of elephants who are very caring of each other.
  • I will not be posting a blog next week.

 

 

 

NATO SUMMIT COULD BE DECISIVE

The new NATO Headquarters on Boulevard Leopold III, 1110 Brussels.

A few weeks ago, I said I gave up on television news when my grandson, aged 5, made a remark about how nasty everybody is.  Today, I’m back to watching while I write this blog.   There are two reasons for this – Sky News (from the UK) and the young soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand.   As we no longer have cable, Sky is a real treat – a free 24/7 news channel with no sensationalism, no shouting and few commercials. It has more international content than US TV channels, though not as much as the BBC, which has more foreign correspondents than any other source.   I recommend it to those of you who have also “cut the cord.”

There’s a great deal going on in the world right now.   The implications are quite profound for almost all countries.

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NATO SUMMIT

Next week, President Trump will be attending the NATO summit in Brussels.   The 70th anniversary of the alliance is coming up.   After seven decades of working together to maintain the peace of the western world, the 29-nation military grouping is facing its biggest challenge yet:   President Trump.

The US president is adamant that European countries need to contribute more, a justifiable demand on the part of the US Administration.   But, perhaps a greater challenge is growing indifference to the alliance in the US as increasing numbers of people turn isolationist.   Americans are focused primarily on their own problems.

Today’s Economist led with the following words:   “The Western alliance is breaking apart.”

The collapse of NATO will quickly lead to radical change and realignments in Europe; ultimately leading to the fulfillment of Revelation 17.

President Trump will be visiting the UK after the NATO summit.  His “working” visit will include meetings with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth.

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EU SECURITY TIES

No country can replace the US in the short term, but European countries are certainly moving in the direction of closer security ties. NATO was formed to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down!   Russia is no longer the greatest threat to European security.   Note the following comment:

‘Europe today is not afraid of Vladimir Putin reaching the Rhine. Europe is afraid of Africa and the Middle East reaching the Danube.”  (“The Never-Trumpers are never coming back,” Pat Buchanan, 7/6).

Attitudes are certainly changing on the continent:   “In Italy, rising popular sentiment against immigration has found a forceful spokesman and leader in (Deputy PM Matteo) Salvini, who has refused entry to Italian ports to migrant rescue ships, saying NGO rescue ships will only see Italy on postcards.”   

Nations are increasingly working together to keep the Muslims out.   Others are still letting them in.

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TRADE WAR BEGINS

“The U.S. and China slapped levies on $34 billion of each other’s exports, the first tangible shots in a trade battle that both sides are bracing to fight for months – if not years.” (WSJ  7/6).

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NHS @ 70

The British are proud of their National Health Service (NHS). Everybody in the country, at least in theory, has equal access to free health care, which costs 9.8% of GDP.   Conservatives, Liberals and Socialists in the UK all support the NHS, competing with each other to promise increased funding.

“In 2014, Britain spent 9.8 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, compared to the average for the EU . . . of 9.7 per cent.”  (ft.com).

In contrast, the US spent 17.9 % of its GDP on healthcare last year, almost twice as much per person and with no better results.

Over the last 70 years, the NHS has provided free health care for all British citizens.   But it has some serious problems:

  • A shortfall of 100,000 doctors and nurses, who can often earn more in other countries.
  • After 70 years of the NHS, people were asked in a recent poll if they thought it would last another 70 years.  Over two-thirds said “No.”
  • “The NHS is drowning in bureaucracy”, a report noted in 2015.
  • Rising costs are due to: recent medical developments that are very costly;  an increasing number of elderly.   55% of all the money allocated to the NHS is spent on people over 85;  foreign nationals taking advantage of the system.   Can no way be found to make them pay up BEFORE receiving treatment?   They can’t buy petrol at the pump without paying in advance – perhaps the petrol companies can help the NHS here?

Each year, the cost of the NHS increases by 8%; but the economy only grows at a 2%  rate.   This means that the NHS is unsustainable.

Mrs. May is promising the medical service an additional 20 billion pounds ($26.6 billion), out of the savings the country will make as a result of Brexit.

This will not solve the problem long-term.

  • REALITY CHECK:   The same government that introduced the NHS started dismantling the British Empire and reducing the UK’s military power.   There IS a connection.   Military cuts have combined with increased medical bills over the last 70 years.  If the country cannot defend itself, there will be no NHS!

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BREXIT

As I write, Theresa May, UK Prime Minister, is trying to keep her Cabinet together as she draws up Britain’s final Brexit offer.   They are all meeting at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country home not far from London.   The country is due to leave the European Union in March of next year.   Many members of the Cabinet are concerned she will give too much away and tie Britain to the EU for decades to come.   The worst-case scenario is that Britain will become a European vassal state, constantly having to follow orders from Berlin.   Can’t the country find another Winston Churchill?

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CANADA:    “Canada’s Supreme Court has banned Christian schools and colleges from teaching Biblical values because the Bible does not support the Trudeau government’s vision of “diversity” and is therefore “harmful” to LGBT and Muslim students.

“Instead, Canada’s schools have been encouraged to adopt Common Core values such as ordering children as young as six to question their sexual orientation and gender identity, while teaching them how to use a range of vegetables as sex toys, and promoting anal sex as “normal.”

“Christian colleges and universities will be stripped of their accreditation if they continue to promote Biblical standards and values.   In other words, the highest Canadian court has ruled that Christianity and education are incompatible. ”  (“Canada Bans Christianity from the classroom”, Ray Pennings, 6/15, National Post)

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ROYALS

Rumors have long persisted that Queen Elizabeth was not as involved as she perhaps should have been in her children’s lives, especially when they were young.

In his controversial 1994 authorized biography of Prince Charles, Jonathan Dimbleby quotes the Prince of Wales saying it was “inevitably the nursery staff” who taught him to play, witnessed his first steps, and punished and rewarded him, as they are who took care of him.

But Princess Anne has publicly refuted any claim that her mother was an absent parent.   “I simply don’t believe there is any evidence whatsoever to suggest that she wasn’t caring.   It just beggars belief,” the Princess Royal said.

Indeed, Elizabeth II, who has four children, eight grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren (including newborns Lena Tindall and little Prince Louis) once described motherhood as “the only job which matters.”   (The Royal News from Town and Country, 7/6).

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GAY CONVERSION THERAPY TO BE BANNED IN  UK

“Gay conversion “therapies” are based on the premise that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is a mental illness that can be “cured.”   But there is no evidence that they work, and the techniques are largely discredited.   Members of UK professional bodies for counseling and psychotherapy are prohibited from using such techniques.” (CNN)   The government believes that the therapies are harmful and have driven some to suicide.

THREE SUMMITS COULD LEAD TO SIGNIFICANT CHANGES

The G7 met today in Quebec; on Tuesday Mr. Trump meets with the North Korean leader; a month from now, the NATO summit will be held in Brussels.   Lots of frequent flyer miles and hotel rewards points for members of the Trump Administration.   But significant changes could also result from all three.   The following are thoughts on each of the summits.

It’s only a month until the next NATO summit in Brussels. President Trump will be there along with Canadian and European leaders.   Mr. Trump has fired the first shots in a trade war with American allies. It’s going to be a big test for the alliance, which turns 70 next year.

Many Americans feel that the US has not had a fair deal on trade.   They also feel that European countries have sponged off America by letting the US pick up the tab for the defense of Europe.

What is often not appreciated is that it is the alliances with 53 countries around the globe that makes the US the world’s number one superpower.   If all the countries the US is allied to suddenly ended their alliance, the United States would be greatly diminished as a global power.   The escalating trade war could easily take the world in this direction.   It’s also forgotten that NATO members came to America’s aid after 9-11, the only time Clause IV of the NATO treaty has been invoked.   The US needs Europe just as much as Europe needs America.

If Mr. Trump goes to NATO headquarters lecturing the Europeans, the alliance could suffer irreparable damage.

It’s true that not every European country contributes the required 2% of GNP to defense costs.   It is also true that some countries have huge trade imbalances with the US.   These need to be dealt with, but for the US to remain the #1 superpower at the head of alliances with 53 nations, disputes need to be handled carefully.

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QUEBEC SUMMIT

While the US is focused on Tuesday’s summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader, both the NATO summit and today’s G7 summit in Quebec, are of potentially greater significance.

For 44 years, this annual meeting of the seven most powerful democracies in the world, has helped keep the planet on an even keel.   Clearly, President Trump doesn’t have much time for the group, both literally (he’s leaving early) and figuratively.   The US leader will not be present for the discussion on trade.

The US has made it clear it wants Russia back in the group, though its economy does not warrant it and it’s hardly a democracy; also, it’s still occupying parts of the Ukraine, the reason it was thrown out of the G8 a few years ago.

Coming up, in a month, is the NATO summit in Brussels.   The trade dispute could affect the future of the 70-year-old alliance, which has arguably kept the peace for the western world since 1949.

If NATO should fall apart, a major realignment of nations will take place.   The end result could see the United States greatly diminished as a global power.

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SINGAPORE SUMMIT — THE MOUSE THAT ROARED

One month before the NATO summit, there’s another summit in Singapore, between the US and North Korea.

North Korea is not a major player on the world stage.   It’s economy is infinitesimally small.

The only reason to take any notice of the country is that it may have nuclear weapons.

A secondary reason is that the US has 28,000 troops based in South Korea.   An end to hostilities with the North could free up most of these troops to return home or be sent elsewhere.

The whole scenario reminds me of an old Peter Sellers movie, “The Mouse that roared,”   The movie is 60 years old, but well worth watching it if you get the opportunity.

It tells the fictional story of the fictional Duchy of Grand Fenwick. The “country” is broke, but the prime minister comes up with a solution to their financial problems.   Declare war on the United States!   Every country that has done so in recent times ends up receiving a great deal of US financial aid and private investment, solving all its financial problems.

Things did not go according to plan.  Grand Fenwick’s soldiers captured a nuclear device, forcing the US to surrender to avoid its own destruction.

I wonder if the North Korean dictator saw the movie recently on TCM?

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UK CUT OFF FROM EUROPEAN DEFENSE

“BRITAIN may have saved Europe from herself in two world wars in the 20th century but today Brussels politicians effectively said the UK had no place in the future defense of the continent and prepared to KICK OUT key military staff. EU chiefs have told UK military staff that they will not have their secondments to Brussels automatically renewed after Brexit – effectively sticking two fingers up to British overtures towards a common and collaborative military and defense solution for Europe.”   So began an article in today’s British Daily Express.

With Britain leaving the European Union a few months from now, it’s becoming clear that other countries in the 27- member Union do not want Britain involved in European defense.   The British had hoped that defense ties would continue, and that the UK would play an important role in the new European Defense Force.

We can see clearly the possibility that the two main Anglo-Saxon powers (the US and the UK) could soon be separated from the rest of the western world. 

It’s also the case that, right now, they are not getting along very well with each other.   Mrs. May is dismayed that President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal; and also at Trump’s tariff’s on the Europeans.

It’s also the case that the separation of the Anglo-Saxon nations fits very well into prophesied end-time events.

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From Deutsche Welle

Opinion:   The US is fueling European divisions

The new US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, has jumped directly into European politics and ignited a scandal. Outrage at this unprecedented behavior is the wrong answer, writes Deutsche Welle Editor-in-Chief, Ines Pohl. / 4 June 2018

Germany is outraged.   Only hours after right-wing media outlet Breitbart released an interview with the new US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, some are calling for his expulsion.   In it, the Donald Trump appointee expressed his desire to empower conservative, anti-establishment movements in Europe.   Many of his talking points would have roused applause from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party:   the passages referencing a silent majority, the welfare of the average worker, as well as those criticizing Germany’s current refugee policies and describing an out of touch political elite.   It isn’t the first time that Grenell has so explicitly waded into internal German affairs.   Shortly following his appointment, he demanded that German businesses halt trade with Tehran in reaction to the trans-Atlantic dispute over the Iran nuclear deal.

. . . Grenell, like his boss, is exploiting fears to advance his agenda.  He is putting pressure on the weaknesses of the European system to advance a new order — one that weakens European unity primarily to benefit the United States.

It is unheard of that an ambassador would so explicitly interfere with the internal affairs of his host country . . . 

(http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-the-us-is-fueling-european-divisions/a-44071929)

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IS ISLAM INHERENTLY VIOLENT?

Does Islam’s canon foment jihadi violence?   Yes.   Islam is premised on (1) the superiority of Islam, (2) the need to spread its message, and (3) the legitimacy of force to do so.   These fundamentals of faith have been apparent from Muhammad’s time to the present, though not everywhere and not at all times.

(Islamism’s war on the West, Daniel Pipes interview, 6/5) (Mr. Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum, an historian, writer and commentator.)

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ROYAL WEDDING PROMPTS QUESTION

The following comment was posted on my blog after the recent royal wedding.

“I keep waiting for some minister to condemn Prince Harry’s wedding as adultery. Isn’t that what Jesus would call it, based on Matthew 5:32?”

“whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. … and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” 

My response: In 1936 King Edward VIII chose to give up the throne so that he could marry an American divorcee. He could not marry her and remain as King.  Over eighty years later, Prince Harry was allowed to marry Meghan Markle.   The reason for the different decision is that the Church of England, of which the Queen is titular head, changed its position on divorce 15 years ago.   The change also enabled Prince Charles to marry Camilla Parker-Bowles, who was a divorcee.   The position of the Church of England is not dissimilar to the CoGs’ – basically, you can repent of (almost) anything, including a bad marriage.

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Ethiopia–5 June 2018

Crocodile kills pastor as he baptizes followers on lake in Ethiopia

Reptile reportedly leapt from the water and grabbed Pastor Docho Eshete as he moved on to the second person in a mass baptism of 80 followers.

“He baptized the first person and he passed on to another one,” local resident Ketema Kairo told the BBC.

“All of a sudden, a crocodile jumped out of the lake and grabbed the pastor.”

The crocodile is understood to have escaped.  Lake Abaya, Ethiopia’s second largest lake, is said to be beautiful, but the Lonely Planet travel guide warns:   “It has a large population of crocodiles, which are said to be aggressive towards people and animals because the lake has few fish, their preferred food.”

It is likely that the reptile that killed Pastor Docho was a Nile crocodile.  Some Nile crocodiles can grow to be up to six meters (20ft) long while weighing as much as 1,000kg (1 ton), and some estimates suggest the species is responsible for more than 300 attacks on humans in Africa every year.

(https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/crocodile-kills-pastor-ethiopia-baptism-lake-abaya-docho-eshete-arba-minch-fatal-croc-attack-nile-a8384531.html)

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Please note: Recently, a comment posted on my blog questioned the president’s mental state, by using a derogatory and offensive term.

Please remember this is a Christian blog.   Intelligent comments and debate are always welcome, but we should keep in mind the following scriptures:

I Peter 2:17 “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

Additionally, II Peter 2:10 speaks of those who “despise government” and “are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries.”  

ROYAL WEDDING EUPHORIA HIDES GRIM REALITY

Prince Harry’s wedding to actress Meghan Markle, was a great success, watched by approximately one billion people around the world.   Everything to do with the wedding went smoothly, as we have come to expect from royal events in Britain.

Various estimates were given as to the cost of the wedding. Fox News said it was $34 million.   A British source said 32 million pounds (one pound = $1.34).   The cost was higher than seven years ago, when Prince William got married.   According to Fox, security alone was more than $30 million, considerably higher than at William’s.   Harry had a greater need for security, a sign of the times, together with terrorist threats made against him for his military role in Afghanistan.

The Queen paid for the wedding; the tax-payer covers security.   When President Trump visits London in a few weeks, security will also be expensive.     At least with the royal wedding, the financial outlay will be more than covered by increased tourism, television rights, sales of merchandise made for the occasion, and all those celebratory drinks and meals.

The cost of the monarchy is covered by entrance fees to the royal palaces.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Economist’s first editor, Walter Bagehot (pronounced “Badge It”), wrote a classic book on the English Constitution, in which he explained the function of the two branches of government.   The monarchy, he said, represented the “dignified” branch of government; while parliament was the “efficient” branch.

The Economist has a weekly column on British politics, called “Bagehot,” in memory of its founder, who edited the publication from 1860-77.    “A royal wedding is as good a time as any to conduct an audit of the British constitution,” is the opening line of this week’s offering.

In the past, the weekly newsmagazine has called for the abolition of the monarchy.   “An Idea whose time has gone,” was one such cover story about twenty years ago.

But this week’s publication points out that the monarchy and parliament have changed roles – “The efficient branch is in its worst state since the 1970s.   The two main parties have been captured by their extremes.   The prime minister lacks authority.   Westminster has been rocked by scandals about sexual harassment and bullying. The Home Office is in turmoil.   The government is preparing for Brexit, its most complicated task since the second world war, without a majority in the Commons or a consensus in its own ranks.” (“Something old, something new”, Economist, 5/19).

Most Members of Parliament do not support Brexit, but the people did in a referendum two years ago.   “The efficient branch now has an agonizing choice: implement a policy that it believes to be foolish, or frustrate the “will of the people.”

“The dignified branch (the Crown), by contrast, is thriving.   The Queen represents stability in an unstable world, as well as unity in a polarized one.   She has spent 66 of her 92 years on the throne and has survived twelve prime ministers and innumerable political crises.”   Last week’s wedding has boosted the popularity of the monarchy around the world; Prince Charles was chosen last month as the new Head of the 53-nation Commonwealth, to succeed his mother; Prince Harry was appointed as an Ambassador to Commonwealth youth; Zimbabwe has asked to return to the organization after leaving fifteen years ago over human rights abuses and failure to uphold the rule of law and democratic norms.

It remains the case, however, that twenty years ago, the monarchy wasn’t doing so well; a reality that could return at any time.

This is the age of populism and no politician is more popular than Queen Elizabeth II, whose approval rating in Britain is always above 70%, more than double the highest rated politician.   Even in her overseas dominions, her popularity surpasses the politicians, so much so that many of them would like to say goodbye to her and the institution of constitutional monarchy. It is the ordinary people who feel differently and from whom she gets her greatest support.

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GERMANY TO REPLACE US AS HONEST BROKER IN MIDEAST Handelsblatt Global, 18 May 2018

“Iran, Gaza, Jerusalem: If ever the time was right for EU countries to unite in their foreign policy as in their trade policy, it is now . . .    May 2018 could one day enter history books as the moment when the EU countries including Germany at last embarked on a common foreign policy.   The catalyst, as long expected, will have been an external power.   Not, however, a common foe, but an ostensible ally: America’s Donald Trump.

“. . . the US and Europe can no longer pretend to be aligned.   The US has forfeited its role of honest broker [in the Middle East] . . .   If there is today an honest broker, it may ironically be Germany…

“Angela Merkel and her EU peers have certainly grasped the urgency of the moment . . .   For Germany to play a diplomatic role . . .   it would need to boost military spending far beyond its paltry 1.2% of GDP…”

(Handelsblatt is an influential German business paper; the German equivalent of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.)

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EUROPEAN NEWS

Macron to Silicon Valley: Embrace Europe’s Regulations:   French President Emmanuel Macron ratcheted up tensions with U.S. tech giants Thursday calling on them to embrace Europe’s regulation of topics ranging from taxation to privacy to artificial intelligence, because Washington is failing to do so.

Europe Seeks Russia’s Help on Saving Iran Deal, Despite Chill:  U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran has added fresh impetus to a European outreach to Russia—although European officials say existing tensions make it far from a thaw.

Britain Takes Stab at Wrangling Dirty Money:   The publication this week of a U.K. parliamentary report calling for tougher action to stop the flow of dirty Russian money into Britain is a landmark moment for the City of London, writes Simon Nixon.

ECB Warns Against Trade Spats, Urges Patience in Easing:   European Central Bank officials warned at their April rate-setting meeting that international trade conflicts could hurt the eurozone economy and called for patience in phasing out the bank’s easy-money policies.                                                                                                        (Brexit and Beyond, WSJ, 5/23

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IN FACE OF A GLOBAL TRADE WAR

The EU announced its first defensive measures against US plans to penalize European companies’ business engagements with Iran, by reactivating the 1996 “Blocking Statute.” That law prohibits companies from terminating their business engagements with Iran, to avoid severe penalties in the United States.   Some companies from Germany and other EU countries have already announced that they will cancel their contracts with Tehran to avoid endangering their business ventures in the US. German companies, involved in profitable ventures with Russia, could be facing a similar situation.   Washington threatens to demand that businesses from Germany and the EU comply also with the April 6 sanctions announced by US President Donald Trump, against some Russian oligarchs and their companies.   According to government advisors, German Russia-oriented businesses are “virtually panicking” because of the escalation of a global trade war.
(https://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/news/detail/7612/)

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Newsletter – How to Become a World Power

Berlin is seeking to use Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal to increase its pressure on Tehran. In their joint statement published Wednesday, the governments of Germany, France and the United Kingdom declared their continued commitment to the agreement, while demanding that the Iranian government limit its ballistic missile program and its efforts to obtain influence in the region.   The reintroduction of US sanctions offers Berlin a chance to disguise its continued pressure on Tehran as a war preventive measure.   At the same time, US sanctions against Iran continue to fuel the power struggle between the EU and the USA.   The Airbus Company alone could lose €16 billion in commercial deals due to the sanctions imposed by the US government.   Commentators recommend resistance:   “You don’t become a world power in a conference room.”   At the same time, Israel is exacerbating the escalating tensions with its aggressions against Syria.

more…
(https://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/news/detail/7606/)

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Der Spiegel comment on EU / US relations

“With his decision to blow up the Iran deal, U.S. President Donald Trump has thrown Europe into uncertainty and anxiety — and raised the specter of a new war in the Middle East. One thing is certain: the
trans-Atlantic relationship has been seriously damaged.”

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Zimbabwe Formally Applies to Re-Join Commonwealth

To re-join, Zimbabwe must demonstrate that it complies with the fundamental values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, including democracy and rule of law plus protection of human rights such as freedom of expression.   The membership process requires an informal assessment to be undertaken by representatives of the Secretary-General, followed by consultations with other Commonwealth countries.   Zimbabwe has also invited the Commonwealth to observe its forthcoming elections in July.

Zimbabwe was suspended in 2002 for breaching the Harare Declaration.  In 2003, when the Commonwealth refused to lift the suspension, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth.   Since then, the Commonwealth has played a major part in trying to end the political impasse and return Zimbabwe to a state of normality.(http://allafrica.com/stories/201805210678.html)

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ISLAM INCOMPATIBLE WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

  • The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) itself has become a prime motivator and enforcer of the rejection of human rights.
  • The other charters of human rights are to be found exclusively in the Muslim world.   Anything that falls within Islamic shari’a law is a human right; anything that does not fall within shari’a is not a human right.
  • “For us the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is nothing but a collection of mumbo-jumbo by disciples of Satan”. — ‘Ali Khamene’i, Iran’s current Supreme Leader.
  • “The underlying thesis in all the Islamic human rights schemes is that the rights afforded in international law are too generous and only become acceptable when they are subjected to Islamic restrictions.” — Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics.