This cartoon from Australia shows the great gulf between government workers (still fully employed) and workers in the private sector (in lifesavers, desperate to be rescued). The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is reminding all those in the water that “we’re all in this together,” with government workers safely on the boat.
UAE / ISRAEL DEAL A ‘WIN WIN’ FOR PEACE
The United Arab Emirates will derive many benefits from closer relationships with the Middle East’s most stable and advanced country. These include economic and technological partnerships, military and intelligence sharing, mutual tourism and better relationships with the US and much of the rest of the world.
The deal also demonstrates how quickly changes occur in this volatile part of the globe. It was only a few decades ago when Israel’s strongest allies were Iran and Turkey, and its most intractable enemies were Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states. Now the reverse is true. The only constant constructive element in the region is a democratic Israel, with its close ties to the United States.
The other constant – but a destructive one – has been the Palestinian leadership. They constantly say no to everything that involves normalization with Israel. This stance goes back to the 1930s when they rejected the Peel Commission recommendation that would have given them a state in the vast majority of the British Mandate. But because it would also have given the Jews a tiny, non-contiguous state, the Palestinians said no. They wanted there not to be a Jewish state more than they wanted there to be a Palestinian state. This naysaying . . . continues today with their refusal even to negotiate over the Trump peace plan. (Alan Dershowitz, Gatestone, 8/16/2020)
IRANIAN OPPOSITION TO DEAL
Iran’s regime has led the charge in opposing bilateral peaceful relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. It has been joined by Turkey, which threatened to sever relations with Abu Dhabi, and a few other voices, such as former deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes, who played a role in the Obama administration.
The paucity of voices opposing the agreement have brought together an increasingly small chorus that is obsessively critical of Israel or which is aligned with the increasing extremism of Ankara and the regime in Tehran.
Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s head of the judiciary, slammed the UAE deal on Saturday. He said US influence in the region was weakening in the face of the power of Iran’s “Islamic system” and that “the UAE has got in touch with the child killers,” a reference to Israel. “We do not consider the link between UAE and Israel as a link with the people of the UAE, only the ignorant rulers of the country.” (Seth Frantzman, Middle East Forum, 8/15/2020)
PALESTINIAN LEADERSHIP ANTI-AGREEMENT
By holding a political protest at the compound of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestinians are not only desecrating the sanctity of the site, but also sending a warning to citizens of UAE not to visit Jerusalem or the mosque, as many apparently hoped to do.
The Joint Statement of the United States, Israel, and the UAE on August 13 points out that according to President Donald J. Trump’s Vision for Peace, “all Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Jerusalem’s other holy sites should remain open for peaceful worshippers of all faiths.”
This warning shows that the Palestinians believe they have exclusive control over Islam’s third-holiest site and are free to decide who can visit the site and who cannot. It is therefore the right time for Arabs and Muslims to step in to demand an end to Palestinian hegemony over the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy sites in Jerusalem.
By declaring war on the UAE, the Palestinian leadership has chosen to align itself with those who seek the elimination of Israel: Iran, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. The Palestinian leadership has again demonstrated its determination to act against the interests of its own people, who could have benefited from the UAE-Israel deal by seeking financial aid from the Arab countries and jobs in the Gulf states. (Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone, 8/18/2020)
RIVLIN INVITES UAE CROWN PRINCE TO JERUSALEM FOR OFFICIAL VISIT In letter to Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president expresses hope diplomatic ties will ‘march region forward’; Netanyahu says direct flights over Saudi Arabia coming.
President Reuven Rivlin on Monday extended an invitation to the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates to visit Israel, after the two countries agreed on normalization. Rivlin’s invitation to the crown prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was sent in Arabic and came days after the announcement of a landmark deal between Israel and the UAE on forging diplomatic ties. The invitation was to visit “Israel and Jerusalem and be our honored guest.” Whereas Israel considers the entire city its capital, the Arab world sees East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state. The president expressed hope that the new peace deal “will help build and strengthen the trust between us and the peoples of the region, a trust that will promote understanding between us all. Rivlin met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day at the President’s Residence and praised the premier for the UAE normalization deal.
Netanyahu thanked him, saying: “I greatly appreciate your support. This is an historic agreement that will benefit not only Israelis and the UAE.”
Rivlin met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day at the President’s Residence and praised the premier for the UAE normalization deal.
Netanyahu said, “I think it brings closer Arab-Israeli peace that will, in the end, advance peace in general.”
BELARUS — WHAT HAPPENS IN MINSK DOESN’T STAY IN MINSK
The political turmoil in Belarus continues. Popular protests against President Alexander Lukashenko are growing, but the longtime strongman refuses to budge, just a week after winning reelection — in a vote that the opposition and most international observers say was rigged. On Monday, Lukashenko grudgingly agreed to go the polls again . . . after a constitutional referendum process that he can draw out as long as he wants (and which will likely be rejected by the protesters).
Beyond its borders, the post-election drama in Belarus is being closely watched by outside players with a keen interest in the outcome of the crisis.
Who are they, and what do they want?
The European Union. Brussels is concerned about real political instability brewing on European borders, but the EU’s response has so far been mixed. While Eastern European member states have been leading the charge for EU sanctions, Europe in general is worried about chaos disrupting Belarus’ role as a transit nation for Russian oil exports. And of course, there’s the risk of tangling again with a Kremlin that has shown — as in 2014 in Ukraine — what it’s willing to do to preserve Russia’s sphere of influence.
As a whole, the EU would probably be delighted to see “Europe’s last dictator” fall but would want Belarus’ next leader to be friendlier towards European values and businesses.
Russia. Minsk is firmly within Moscow’s orbit, and it is (like Ukraine) a major strategic buffer between Russia and NATO. But relations between Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin have soured in recent years over economic issues and Lukashenko’s periodic (and largely fruitless) flirtations with the EU.
Putin is in a bind. He has offered to help restore order in Belarus but is wary of angering the many Belarusians who hate Lukashenko but have no axe to grind with Moscow. The ideal outcome for Russia would be for Lukashenko to be replaced with a more “democratic” yet solidly pro-Russia leader it can groom to keep Minsk on its side. The worst-case scenario is that popular uprising grows and spills over into Russia, threatening Putin’s own 20-year grip on power.
Other players. Belarus borders four NATO countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland) that fear the current instability could trigger a potential Russian incursion similar to the one that in 2014 ended in Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. NATO military planners are closely monitoring the situation, although the odds of Russian “little green men” creeping over the border are quite low.
Belarus doesn’t have a large ethnic Russian minority who wants to be annexed by Moscow, nor does the country hold the same cultural and historical importance for Russia as Ukraine always has. What’s more, Moscow has no territorial grudges there (as it did with Crimea), and Belarus is also not at risk of immediately falling into the “Western camp” as Ukraine was six years ago, when ethnic Ukrainians protesting against the pro-Russia government in Kiev were overwhelmingly in favor of closer ties with Europe and joining the EU.
Finally, the US and China (surprise!) also have a stake. Washington has been moving closer to Minsk in part to explore peeling the country away from Russia’s influence, while Beijing would ideally like Lukashenko to stay in power (even in a weakened state) to secure Chinese business interests. However, neither seems likely to take major action soon. (Carlos Santamaria, Gzero Signal, 8/18/2020)
Everyone thinks Trump will lose – except the stock market The S&P 500 has a remarkable ability to predict the winner of US elections (Matthew Lynn, Telegraph UK, 15 August 2020)
The record shows that if the bull market stays as strong as it has been, Trump will pull off an unexpected victory. People might or might not like that – but there is no point in ignoring it. With the Covid-19 crisis getting worse and worse, with economies plunging into deep recessions, and with a wave of job losses on the horizon, the markets have not focused on November’s presidential election as much as they usually would. There is simply too much other stuff to worry about.
That said, as Nov 3 draws closer investors will start to focus on the contest for the White House and its likely impact on the global economy.
The following article is not complimentary toward the US president. However, it does reflect considerable European opinion, With a Growing rift between Europe and America, it’s important that Americans understand what’s happening. — Editor’s comment
Why Germany would be especially happy to see the back of Trump The competence embodied in Merkel provokes loathing from the US president by John Kampfner @johnkampfner, 15 Aug 2020
In a manner of speaking. Europe’s most important country, potentially America’s most valuable partner, has in the mind of the president become an adversary. Of all Trump’s many foreign policy disasters, this is perhaps his most significant.
From the outset, Trump loathed Merkel. She represents everything he is not. On the international stage, she respects interlocutors who do their preparation and don’t spring surprises. She disdains his visceral vulgarity. The leader who let in a million of the world’s most destitute in 2015 refuses to be cowed by a bigot and bully.
She couldn’t be accused of not trying to get along. In March 2017, two months into his administration, she flew to Washington for their first meeting. She prepped assiduously. She studied a 1990 Playboy interview that had become a set text on Trumpism for policymakers. She read his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal. She even watched episodes of his TV show, The Apprentice.
It started badly. She offered him a handshake in the Oval Office in front of the cameras. He didn’t take it. Her studied lack of emotion and her deeply analytical mind were anathema to him. Her aides say she learned to explain complicated problems to him by reducing them to bite-size chunks. He read this as high-handedness.
Trump has a track record of misogyny and some cite this as the reason for his dislike. Others put it down to a narcissistic resentment of praise conferred on others. When she was chosen as Time magazine’s person of the year in 2015, he said: “They picked the person who is ruining Germany.” What particularly upset him was the magazine calling her chancellor of the free world. “What Merkel did to Germany, it’s a sad, sad shame.”
Yet this same woman, who from a young age dreamed of driving across the American plains and adored Ronald Reagan for freeing the world (and her native GDR) from communism, is by instinct a staunch Atlanticist.
She has found the setbacks hard to take. Arguably the single worst incident came before Trump. It was the revelation in 2013, courtesy of Edward Snowden, that the National Security Agency had been bugging Merkel’s personal mobile phone for years. She was incandescent when told, for once losing her famous impulse control. In an angry phone exchange with President Barack Obama, deliberately shared with the media, she told him: “This is like the Stasi.”
This relationship has always been complicated. Germans remember with fondness the liberation of their country, the airlift that ended the Russians’ blockade of Berlin. They devoured American culture. They fell in love with John F Kennedy, his 1963 trip to divided Berlin indelibly etched in the history books. But the left fought tooth and nail against nuclear deployments under Reagan. George Bush’s Iraq misadventure drove a terrible wedge, not least his attempts to divide the continent into New and Old Europe. Even with the more centrist and amenable Bill Clinton and Obama there were bad moments.
Successive US administrations have expressed frustration. The Nord Stream gas pipeline, chaired by former chancellor Gerhard Schröder, has underlined Germany’s dangerous energy dependency on Russia. It contradicts Merkel’s otherwise consistently tough approach towards Vladimir Putin. She was instrumental in ensuring that the EU imposed sanctions after the annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine. Berlin no longer praises China as the gift that keeps on giving and belatedly sees it as a strategic competitor, but Merkel balks at strong criticism of it. As for defence, the failure of Germany to meet the agreed Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on defence has been a source of irritation.
But nothing comes close to the current situation.
The German foreign policy establishment is clinging to the hope that Trump will be defeated in November. A Biden presidency would not remove all the tensions, but it would signal that the US was moving back towards the diplomatic mainstream. The country that personifies the mainstream would have reason to celebrate.
John Kampfner’s latest book is Why The Germans Do It Better: Notes From a Grown-Up Country.
GUN VIOLENCE UP IN US
While the US coronavirus pandemic is far from over, many American cities are also facing another major threat – a surge in violent crime.
According to new data from the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) think tank, recorded rates of aggravated assault and gun assault have rocketed in recent months. And “from May to June 2020, homicides in 20 major US cities increased by 37%” year-on-year, reports CNN.
Gun crime, in particular, has proved a major scourge across the country: according to NBC New York, shooting incidents in the city over the past four weeks have been nearly three times higher than during the same period last year. (The Week, 8/17/2020)
CHRISTIANS PERSECUTED IN NIGERIA
Earlier this year . . . [Boko Haram] released a video of a masked Muslim child holding a pistol behind a bound and kneeling Christian hostage, a 22-year-old biology student who was earlier abducted while traveling to his university. After chanting in Arabic and launching into an anti-Christian diatribe, the Muslim child shot the Christian several times in the back of the head.
The reason formerly simple Fulani herdsmen have, since 2015, managed to kill nearly twice as many Christians as the “professional” terrorists of Boko Haram . . . is, to quote Nigerian bishop Matthew Ishaya Audu, “because President Buhari is also of the Fulani ethnic group.” (Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone, 8/16/2020)
DISQUIET ABOUT PHILADELPHIA AIRPORT’S “QUIET ROOM”
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) opened a heavily promoted “Quiet Room” in August 2018. Accessible 365/24/7, it’s an excellent addition to a frenetic travel hub. But it also presents a disquieting problem.
The 315-square-foot space with two chambers is located after security controls, between the D and E terminals. A PHL press release touts the room as “a place of silence which all passengers may use regardless of their worldview, culture and religious affiliation,” an area suitable for “those who desire a place for solitude or prayer.” What could be wrong with that?
Well, it’s the same problem that has turned up in schools, hospitals, at airport security, and more broadly: Islam enjoys a favored status. The Quiet Room privileges it in four ways:
First, the room’s name, announced in five languages, presents a problem:
- Quiet Room (English)
- Meditation Room (Spanish)
- Quiet Room (Hebrew)
- Prayer Room (Arabic)
- Quiet Thought (Chinese)
For Arabic readers, ghurfat as-salat, غرفة الصلاة, turns the room from the airport’s ostensible “place of silence” into a place of religion for the Arabic name implies a place exclusively for Muslim prayer; no Christian prays in a room called ghurfat as-salat. The sign dog-whistles Arabophones about an Islamic prayer space at PHL.
Second, the room contains many Islamic artifacts, some with official-looking markings (e.g., prayer rugs marked with “PHL Airport”).
Third, the room contains exclusively built-in Islamic amenities. For starters, the airport announces that “The Quiet Room contains a footbath for those passengers who require cleansing before prayer.” The room’s designers, Roya Taheri and Massoud Mohadjeri of Taheri Architects, explicitly acknowledge that “A Foot Bath is provided mainly for Muslim users to perform ablution prior to prayer.” (Daniel Pipes, 8/17/2020)
NEW ZEALAND CONTRADICTIONS
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, postponed the country’s general election, scheduled for September 19th, by four weeks. Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, is back in lockdown following a mini-resurgence of covid-19 infections. After three months without a new case, 78 have recently been recorded in the country. Ms. Ardern said she does not intend to allow a further postponement. (The Economist 8/17/2020)
COMMENT FROM FACEBOOK, SAME DAY —
“Just heard Jacinda Ardern say, “Covid is the new normal.” Assuming she is speaking about NZ only, what exactly is she saying? Intervention doesn’t work? Intervention does work to some degree, but only partially? Not sure exactly what she meant, but whatever it is, her comment amounts to an admission of the failure of her draconian lockdown measures to “keep everybody safe.” Whatever the benefits may be of her lockdown measures so far, can those measures be justified when you take into account the cost to the economy and mental health of the nation?
“It’s too early to be able to answer these questions with any confidence, but it’s not too early to ask the questions.” (ARM, Tasmania, 8/17/2020)
ANOTHER CHINESE-AMERICAN CHARGED WITH SPYING
The Justice Department charged a former CIA officer with selling top-secret information to the Chinese regime.
Alexander Yuk Chung Ma had worked for the CIA since 1982 but, according to the DOJ, changed his allegiance in 2001 when he met with officers of China’s Ministry of State Security.
Ma allegedly revealed national defense information as well as the identities of CIA officers and other assets. (Epoch Times, 8/18/2020)
KARL MARX, NOT A MAN TO FOLLOW
“In his own personal life, Marx was a total failure. He was a leech who lived off other people: it is doubtful if he ever did an honest day’s work in his life. His marriage resulted in six children. Marx, however, was so busy formulating theories to “uplift the downtrodden” that he never found time to support his own family. Three of his children died of starvation in infancy. Two others committed suicide. Only one lived to maturity. When he died in 1883, six people attended his funeral!” (Missing Dimension in World Affairs, Michael J. Goy, 1976, page 82)
Saturday saw commemorative events around the world for VJ Day, Victory over Japan, exactly 75 years ago. The “Forgotten Army” that fought the Japanese did so in conditions that were far worse than for those who fought in Europe. There were troops from India, Australia, New Zealand and west Africa, fighting as part of Britain’s imperial war forces. India alone contributed 2.5 million, the biggest volunteer army in history. — Editor’s comment.
From the Imperial War Museum, London (edited):
In 1941, Britain was an imperial power with colonies across south and south-east Asia. In December 1941, Japan attacked British territories in Hong Kong, Malaya (now Malaysia), Singapore and Burma (now also known as Myanmar).
Japanese forces invaded Malaya on 8 December 1941. Their commander, General Yamashita, launched an aggressive offensive that quickly demoralized and defeated Malaya’s garrison of British, Indian and Australian troops.
By February 1942, Japanese forces had occupied Malaya. They then launched a new attack against the strategic island of Singapore, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. On 15 February 1942, British forces in Singapore surrendered to the Japanese. Prime Minister Winston Churchill would later call the surrender ‘the worst disaster . . . in British history.’
Japan’s invasion of Burma prompted many from Burma’s Indian, Anglo-Indian and British communities to flee to the safety of India. While some, particularly wealthier people, were able to leave by air or sea, hundreds of thousands were forced to make their way on foot across Burma’s mountainous border with India. Thousands died along the way from disease, exhaustion, malnutrition, or through drowning while trying to cross Burma’s many rivers.
By June 1942 the Japanese had driven British, Indian and Chinese forces out of Burma. In February 1943 3,000 British and Nepalese Gurkha troops mounted a long-distance raid behind Japanese lines. These troops, known as ‘Chindits’, were commanded by the deeply eccentric Brigadier Orde Wingate.
After the surrender of Singapore, thousands of Allied servicemen became prisoners of the Japanese. They were subjected to a brutal regime of violence, callous neglect and forced labour. From 1942 prisoners were forced to build the Burma-Thailand railway, which became known as the ‘Death Railway’ for its high mortality rate, among both prisoners of war and civilian forced laborers.
British troops fighting the Japanese were threatened by deadly and unfamiliar tropical diseases. In 1943, for every soldier evacuated due to battle wounds, 120 soldiers were evacuated due to sickness. Malaria was a key problem, but other diseases included dysentery, skin conditions and typhus.
In spring 1944 Japan launched an invasion of India. It aimed to capture Imphal, a garrison town in the Indian border province of Manipur, and so prevent a British return to Burma. In order to isolate Imphal from a large supply base at Dimapur, Japanese troops attacked the small village of Kohima, which became the scene of ferocious fighting.
The war in Burma drew in troops from across the British Empire. The (West Africa) division recruited from British colonies including Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Gambia, and fought mostly in the coastal Arakan region of southern Burma during 1944 and 1945.
In the days following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and later of Nagasaki, the Japanese government debated whether to surrender. American aircraft could destroy Japanese cities at will, the Soviet Union had invaded Japanese-occupied Manchuria, and the Japanese home islands were also threatened with invasion. On 15 August, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender.
On 2 September 1945, a surrender document was signed aboard an American battleship moored in Tokyo Bay. A series of further surrender ceremonies followed in areas still occupied by the Japanese. This pen (shown) was used by Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, to countersign the Japanese surrender at Singapore on 12 September.
Though the war between Japan and the Allies ended in August 1945, other conflicts in Asia and the Pacific continued. Days after Japan’s surrender, Indonesian nationalists declared independence from the Netherlands. In September, British troops arrived in Java to take the surrender of Japanese forces and to recover prisoners of war and internees. Relations between British and Indonesian forces soon broke down, with a major battle erupting in Surabaya.
WHITE LIVES DON’T MATTER
This section of my blog highlights murders of white people that do not receive much attention, if any, in the American media.
A five-year-old boy was shot dead while riding his bike in Wilson, North Carolina. The shooter was a 25-year-old African-American male neighbor. There was no motive for the killing. The boy’s father had the neighbor over for dinner the night before.
A news item on NPR’s All Things Considered discussed reparations for slavery. There was no mention of the million plus white slaves held at the same time. Nor was any mention made of the 400,000 white Americans who died to free the slaves. NPR is clearly one-sided on this issue, as on many issues.
TO THE POINT
- The Battle of Britain air war known as “The Hardest Day” The Hardest Day is a Second World War air battle fought on 18 August 1940 during the Battle of Britain between the German Luftwaffe and British Royal Air Force (RAF) – On that day, the Luftwaffe made an all-out effort to destroy RAF Fighter Command. Luftwaffe lost approximately 69 aircraft. RAF lost 68 in one of the largest ever air battles.
- NSW One Nation Leader Mark Latham has described Christianity as a punching bag for “sneering bigots” as long-promised religious freedom laws were shelved by the Australian parliament. In response to Canberra’s anti-religion posture, Mr. Latham has introduced similar legislation into the NSW Parliament and is working furiously with MPs across Party lines to ensure it passes. (Politicom 8/18/2020)
- Putin Gung Ho On New Covid-19 Vaccine, His Countrymen Are More Skeptical (MEMRI, 8/18/2020)
- Insurgents affiliated to Islamic State once again took control of the strategic port town of Mocimboa da Praia in northern Mozambique after heavy fighting this week, inflicting heavy casualties and forcing Mozambique government troops to flee the town by boat. (Peter Fabricius, 8/12/2020)
- Presidential candidate Joe Biden promises to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, an increase of over 50%. At the same time, he would reverse President Trump’s decisions on limiting the number of immigrants. Biden would restore immigration to its Obama level — 1.3 million legals plus an unlimited number of illegals. This will inevitably put pressure on wages at the lower end, effectively cancelling out any gains Biden may propose on raising the minimum wage. It’s no surprise that immigration has not been raised during the Democratic convention.
- Former First Lady Michelle Obama was described by one commentator of the convention as “the most popular politician in the country.” Aside from the fact that the ex-First Lady is not a politician, is she being built up for any reason? Joe Biden is kept hidden as much as possible. Rumor has it he’s in the early stages of dementia. Could Michelle be used to fill a gap?
- Thanks to my eight-year-old grandson I’ve taken up railfanning. We regularly visit Durand railway station 46 miles from our home and sit and watch trains. He loves it and has made a lot of friends there. In England this is known as train spotting. I doubt there is anybody who reads this blog who knows as much about trains as Aubren.