Tag Archives: Reuters

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!)

 

 

CONTINUING UNCERTAINTY IN EUROPE

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned from office December 7, 2016 (AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro)
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned from office December 7, 2016                                     (AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro)

Italy has become the latest country to witness a rejection of the Establishment.   Prime Minister Mateo Renzi’s referendum to simplify government and, at the same time, make it stronger, was turned down by the electorate.   Many interpret this as a vote against Renzi himself.

However, the more interesting vote was in Austria on the same day, Sunday.   A second presidential election was held as the first, earlier this year, was too close to call.   Although the post of president is largely ceremonial, there was a great deal of interest in the vote.   The choice was between a left-of center Green Party candidate and a neo-Nazi.   The latter lost, but got over 46% of the vote.   This will now send shockwaves across the European continent – other countries are also likely to see a resurgence of Nazism (fascism); and it won’t be long before an extreme right-wing party wins at the polls.

Why is this happening, over seventy years after World War II and the defeat of the Nazis?

In an interview with Reuters after Donald Trump’s win, the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party’s candidate, Norbert Hofer made the following comment:

“Wherever the elites distance themselves from voters, those elites will be voted out of office.”  (November 16th)

What started with Brexit and continued in the US presidential election, continues now in Europe – a rejection of the Establishment, the elites that have governed since World War II.   This embraces a rejection of multiculturalism and political correctness.

Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, interviewed on PBS’ Newshour Monday (December 5h), could not understand the return of nationalism in western democracies, at times sounding totally bewildered.   He expressed particular incredulity and disbelief that Norbert Hofer, “a man with Nazi roots,” received over 46% of the vote.   Establishment politicians are clearly concerned about this.

Frankly, we should all be concerned.   The reaction against liberalism is understandable, but a return to the extremism of the 1930’s should also be of great concern.

Europe is important.   The EU is the world’s biggest single economy (see chart below, showing 2014 stats).   If (a BIG if) the 27 (28 minus the UK) countries of the EU unite militarily, the world will have a new super-power, at exactly the time the US seems to be pulling back, with its emphasis on “America First.”

cotd-eu-us-china-india-gdp-ppp

The Italian referendum has also, once again, highlighted Germany’s role as European leader, even dictating policy to other countries. Note the following from Germanforeignpolicy.com:

Newsletter 2016/12/06 – A Time Bomb

ROME/BERLIN (Own report) – Following Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi’s defeat in Sunday’s referendum, Berlin is urging Rome to quickly form a “capable government” and resume its adjustment to the German model of austerity.   “The economic problems have to be tackled at the roots,” said Jens Weidmann, head of Germany’s central bank, yesterday.   German financial experts are floating the idea of a cabinet of technocrats, modeled on the Mario Monti government.   Monti ruled for a year and a half beginning in November 2011, without having been democratically elected . . .   It cannot be ruled out that its bank crisis could soon spread to other Italian credit institutions and to German banks.”

It’s not just the government in Berlin that likes to dictate to others. The following shows that Germans themselves have taken a decidedly anti-British turn after the Brexit vote:

“Germans want Merkel to take tough line with UK over Brexit, Körber Foundation poll finds –  (The Guardian, Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic Editor) 

Tuesday 29 November 2016 

“According to the survey, 58% of the public think Berlin should not be open to compromise with Britain over its EU departure and instead think Merkel should take a firm negotiating position, the Körber Foundation poll found.

“There was particular backing for Germany to take a hardline approach with the UK among supporters of Merkel’s own CDU party.”(https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/29/germans-want-merkel-to-take-tough-line-with-uk-over-brexit-poll-finds)

There is growing concern about Germany’s increasing power.

“German militarism is assuming ever more openly aggressive forms. Following the German parliament’s (Bundestag) decision on Friday to massively increase the military budget, a discussion has now been launched about providing the German army (Bundeswehr) with nuclear weapons.”  (World Socialist website, 11/30).

Germany is also likely to turn further to the right politically when a general election is held next year.   The following may seem like a minor concern, but it’s the kind of news that makes voters want somebody else in power:

“A Syrian refugee who claims social benefits in Germany with his four wives and 22 children has sparked debates on social media.”   (RT news)

Concerned about growing anti-Islamic feeling, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced yesterday a ban on the burqa in public places.

If Mrs. Merkel fails to deal with the growing Islamic immigration crisis, voters will turn to other parties.

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IT’S NEVER TOO LATE

Even historian Niall Ferguson has seen the light when it comes to the European Union.   Prior to the Brexit vote, he supported the “Remain” campaign, but has now apologized and said he is supportive of Brexit.  It takes a humble man to say he’s wrong, especially one as well-known as Mr. Ferguson, a Scot who now lives in the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TWO SIGNIFICANT ELECTIONS

Candidates

I thought readers might appreciate the following from a friend in Australia:

“Your presidential race is fascinating yet depressing.  Away from America, nobody, and I mean just about no one, can believe that Americans would support such a demagogue as Trump and all he stands for.   To say they like him because he speaks his mind and refuses to be PC is just inane.  Look at the type of person he is.  I would really fear for America, and more so the world, with a clown like him in charge.   It is positively sickening.

Bernie Sanders sounds like maybe a nice guy but a bit out of touch. I don’t think America could work his way. So Hilary . . .  there are skeletons in the closet so to speak but at least she has experience and did quite a reasonable job of it.  I think much of America still lives in the Teddy Roosevelt era in outlook . . . with little knowledge of the outside world and sort of contempt for it.”

Similar comments are also being made in newspapers in other parts of the world.

It’s difficult to imagine the Atlantic alliance holding together if Trump wins the election; having said that, the Democrats have not done any better.   Bret Stephens in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal wrote an article titled:   “Barack Obama checks out.”   With 311 days left until he hands over to his successor, the president seems to be insulting America’s friends while embracing her enemies (visits to Vietnam and Cuba are going to follow last year’s treaty with Iran).

Mr. Stephens’ article follows on from one in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg.   Mr. Goldberg interviewed President Obama, who seemed to forget he is still president and spent quite some time criticizing US allies, including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and former President Sarkozy of France who may be re-elected. He even made it clear that if Russia invades Moldova, the US will do nothing, giving the Russian president the go-ahead to annex another neighbor.   Even Israel is set to suffer another blow from the US president, who is treating Saudi Arabia equally in arms sales.

Historian Niall Ferguson also commented on the Goldberg article in today’s Boston Globe:

“At the top of the list of scapegoats are America’s traditional allies: not only Britain and France (Libya’s descent in chaos was all their fault) but also Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.   Then comes the Washington “foreign policy establishment” and the US military, who are always trying to “jam” him into going to war.   Next in line are the members of his own cabinet — among them former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who urged him to intervene in Syria in 2012.

“The president says he is “very proud” of his decision in 2013 not to follow through on his earlier threat to take military action if the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria.   He seems not to understand that by asking President Putin to “force Assad to get rid of the chemical weapons,” he opened the door to Russian intervention in the Middle East, a region the Kremlin was effectively shut out of by Henry Kissinger in the early 1970s.   Wondering why the death toll in Syria has leapt upwards in recent months?   Step forward President Putin, whose air campaign against every anti-Assad force except ISIS has been a horror show.

“The Mosul dam symbolizes the critical state of an entire region. Like a huge wall of water, barely held in check by a crumbling dam, the combined forces of Islamic extremism, vicious sectarianism, networked terrorism, and Arab-Iranian rivalry have yet to wreak all the havoc of which they are capable.  But why worry?  The president has stuck to his foreign policy doctrine:   “Don’t do stupid sh–.”   As for ISIS, according to Goldberg, the president likens them to the Joker in the Batman movies.” (“A Catastrophe of Epic Proportions,” Niall Ferguson, Boston Globe).

As a President, Hillary Clinton seems likely to continue Mr. Obama’s policies and Europe is apprehensive of a Trump presidency, the Atlantic alliance could have some serious problems a few months from now.

Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once observed: “it is true that, in America, any boy can grow up to become president.   This is something we are going to have to learn to live with!”   That was said over sixty years ago.   The problem has since doubled as every girl can now also aspire to be president.

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The United States isn’t the only country experiencing an interesting and potentially nation-changing election.   Germany had one, too. Last Sunday three of Germany’s states voted.  The result was significant gains for the AfD, the Alternative for Germany, an anti-immigrant party.   Trump is not the only western politician who wants to do something about immigration.

As Reuters put it:   “Voters punished Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in three German regional elections on Sunday, giving a thumbs-down to her open-door refugee policy and turning in droves to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“The result is a big setback for Merkel, who has led Europe’s biggest economy for a decade, and could narrow her room for manoeuvre as she tries to convince her European Union partners to seal a deal with Turkey to stem the tide of migrants.

“Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) lost ground in all three states – Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west and Saxony-Anhalt in the east – which were together widely seen as offering a verdict on Merkel’s liberal migrant policy.”

Following the election we see this report from the New York Times today:

BERLIN — German authorities banned a neo-Nazi group known as the White Wolves Terror Crew after the police conducted early morning raids on Wednesday in 10 of the country’s 16 states, confiscating weapons but making no arrests, the Interior Ministry said.

Far-right parties have gained strength as Germany struggles to integrate more than one million migrants, and the ban is intended to demonstrate that the authorities will not tolerate agitation against foreigners and migrants “and certainly no violence,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said.

“This group is an association of neo-Nazis who openly and aggressively agitate against our state, against our society, against people who think differently, against migrants and against the police,” he said.

Mr. de Maizière said that the group wanted to build a dictatorship, and that its aim “is supposed to be realized with all means available,” including violence. He added that the core of the group was made up of approximately 25 people, with the leaders coming from Hamburg.

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Staying in Europe, the Prime Minister of Iceland, a European country that is not a member of the EU, has warned the United Kingdom to recognize a European reality.   The Daily Telegraph carried the following headline on March 9th:

“Britain warned it wields no power in German dominated EU.”

It’s even losing control of its own stock market. Deutsche Bourse and the London Stock Exchange are to merge, with Deutsche Bourse holding a 54.4% stake in the London Stock Exchange, giving it effective control of one of the most important stock markets in the world.

Whether the British vote to leave the EU or remain a member on June 23rd may not make much difference. They will still be under the dominance of Berlin, whatever the outcome.

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Another March 9th headline from the UK’s Daily Mail:

London is more Islamic than most cities in Muslim countries, says Pakistan-born Islamic scholar.”