Tag Archives: Singapore

GUAM IN THE HEADLIGHTS

Guam isn’t in the news very often.   But right now it is.   The reason? North Korea has threatened to “nuke” it first.   It seems to have the technology to do it. But will it?   That is the question.

A North Korean attack on the US Pacific island would likely kill most of the 160,000 Americans who live there; but, within minutes, most of North Korea’s population would also be dead in a US retaliatory strike.  That figure would include North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. Even if he has a bunker to retire to through the attack, he would no longer have a kingdom to rule over.   Kim would lose everything in minutes.   The three-generation Kim dynasty would be history!

Logic and common sense say he won’t do it.   But logic and common sense are sadly lacking in North Korea.

The world awaits developments and hopes for a good outcome.

Back to Guam.

The world was much simpler when the US took possession of the island in 1898.   It was one of four territories acquired by the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War.   The others were Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Guam had been a Spanish territory for 230 years, since 1668.

When the USS Charleston arrived in Guam to capture the territory, the ship fired its cannons in the direction of the Spanish fort on the island.   The Spanish garrison took some time to respond.   Eventually, they sent a delegation to apologize to the Americans. They had thought the cannons were a salute and they had no means of reciprocating – they hadn’t realized this was an invasion.   It had been a while since they had received any communication from Spain.

So Guam fell into American hands.

Not without some opposition – at home.   The United States was terribly divided on the issue of foreign adventures.   Pro-interventionists included President McKinley, the future Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, a man of great influence at the time.   All three felt that America needed overseas possessions, like European nations. Against the acquisition of colonies were Mark Twain, Dale Carnegie and William Jennings Bryan.   These two were often referred to as the “pro-imperialists” and the “anti-imperialists.”   Imperialism was very much in vogue at the end of the nineteenth century.

The great debate around the birth of the American Empire is the subject of a new history book, entitled “The True Flag” by Stephen Kinzer, a foreign correspondent who now writes for the Boston Globe.   The Spanish-American War was a major turning point in American history and, indeed, in world history. It launched the US as a global power.

“Various forces united to push McKinley toward his decision to seize the Philippines.   Navy commanders recognized Manila Bay as a magnificent platform from which to project American strategic power into East Asia.   Business leaders saw millions of new customers for American goods, the prospect of rich resources, and a springboard to the potentially immense China market.   Missionaries and religious groups swooned at the prospect of saving millions of lost souls for Christ.   McKinley himself recognized above all the political value of annexation – and the furor he feared would engulf him if he turned away from empire at this crucial moment.” (“The True Flag,” page 87.)

Later, McKinley, a deeply religious man, recounted a vision he had at this time.

“When McKinley emerged from his trance, he found himself believing that the United States could not grant independence to the Philippines because its people were ‘unfit for self-government,’ and that ‘there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.” (ibid.)

The following paragraph adds:  “McKinley was deeply religious, and his account of this vision was no doubt sincere.  Nevertheless he must have recognized the happy coincidence: what God wanted him to do would also be popular with voters.  This time, God sounded remarkably like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge.”

These paragraphs show just how much American thinking has changed in the last century.   America’s track record in international affairs has been mixed, at best.   The Spanish-American War was won by the US.   World Wars One and Two, were also won, with allies, but there were many problems after the fighting was over.   Wars since World War Two have largely not been won and the country is now caught up in never ending conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.   The resultant turmoil has created an unprecedented refugee problem and untold suffering.

Americans are often woefully ignorant of these wars and the mess that is left behind.   President McKinley did not know where the Philippines and Guam were when he ordered US forces to take both.   Somebody once said that “wars are nature’s way of teaching Americans geography” — there is a great deal of truth to that.

History, too.   A review of a new book on President James Buchanan, who was in office immediately before Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, described him as one of the worst ever leaders of the free world.   This remark fails to appreciate that Americans presidents did not lead the Free World until after World War Two.

“The first time the phrase ‘Leader of the free world’ appeared in The New York Times was in a November 1948 essay by the British economist Barbara Ward, which urged Western unity against the communist threat. With its unchallenged economic might, the United States was ‘potentially the political leader of the free world.’“ (‘What does it mean that Trump is “Leader of the Free World,” by Dominic Tierney, The Atlantic, January 2017.)

Dozens of nations have been truly and deeply thankful for the American umbrella, especially the nuclear umbrella, which protected them from communism during the Cold War.   However, the Cold War ended over a quarter of a century ago.   Now, there are other threats and the US is not doing so well.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1961 warned:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

A powerful military-industrial complex will constantly be pushing the country toward war to justify its existence and its cost to the tax-payer.   Each of these wars divides the country as assuredly as the first overseas military adventures in 1898.   The wars in the Islamic world have cost the US billions, in addition to thousands of lives.   The result has been described by historian Geoffrey Wawro (University of North Texas) as “Quicksand,” the title of his 2010 book – the more we struggle to get out, the more we get sucked in!

WILL AMERICAN HEGEMONY BE A CONSTANT?

President Trump has vowed to maintain American hegemony, while at the same time promising to put “America First.”   Ultimately, these two are opposites.   America already suffers from a bad case of “imperial over-reach,” with too many commitments around the globe.  Can the US handle a major conflict on the Korean peninsula, together with unfinished wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan? Can the US afford another major conflict, with a $20 trillion overdraft?   Will American voters support more wars?   President Trump has added another possible military intervention, saying that the US may have to intervene militarily in Venezuela.

History shows that every great power eventually burns out.  Before the US, the British Empire was the world’s number one superpower. After World War Two, the British had to deal with three major international problems all at the same time – in India, Palestine and Greece.   Imperial over-reach led to a withdrawal from Greece and the US was well on the way to replacing the United Kingdom as the world’s policeman.   Americans should not fall into the trap of thinking the same cannot happen to them.   The country has a bad case of imperial hubris, just as Britain did before the US.

History shows the inevitability of America’s demise.

So does the Bible.

Bible scholars have long known that the US plays no role in the final prophesied events, which center on Europe and the Middle East.

This implies that something big is going to happen to America, which returns the country to its pre-1898 status, isolated from the rest of the world.   However, it won’t be the same as pre-1898 – then, the US was secure in its isolation; now, there’s too much bitterness and resentment around the world toward the United States.   Additionally, the United States is more divided now than it was then.

Daniel 2:21 reminds us that God is behind the rise and fall of nations.

“And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

In the sixth century BC, while living in the Babylonian Empire, Daniel had a vision that revealed to him that Babylon would soon fall and be replaced by Persia; in turn, Persia would give way to Greece and Greece to Rome.   This is exactly what happened over the next few centuries.   Each of those superpowers, in turn, thought it was invincible; yet, each one fell.   Both history and the Bible show the inevitability of this continuing.

Already, there are voices declaring the 21st century China’s century, just as the twentieth was America’s and the nineteenth Great Britain’s. Certainly,   China is a rising power.   It’s the main reason North Korea can threaten the US at this time and seemingly get away with it.

But the Bible shows that the final superpower is a power that has not yet formed; that ten nations will come together and threaten the peace and security of the world.

Revelation 17:12-13 says the following:

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.   These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.”

The term “for one hour” means that this superpower will not last very long.   America’s supremacy has lasted 70 years, Britain’s was much longer; the next one will be a lot shorter.

Which brings us back to Guam.

When the USS Charleston took possession of Guam en route to the Philippines, America became a major power in Asia.   A successful attack on Guam from North Korea would signal the end of the American Empire.   It happened once before in 1942 when the Japanese took the island, but the US returned after defeating Japan.     A nuclear attack on the island would mean there’s nothing to return to.

It’s likely that something will be worked out and we will return to peace – this time.   But at some point American hegemony will end and it could end on an island thousands of miles away or somewhere closer to home.   It’s worth remembering that the British Empire suffered two major defeats, in Singapore (1942) and Suez (1956).

Stephen Kinzer, who wrote “The True Flag,” has an accompanying article in the latest issue of American History magazine.   He ends with an observation by Mark Twain, who opposed America’s international expansion.

The last two paragraphs make for sobering reading:  “Despondent, Twain wrote a bitter lament. His observations, trenchant then, sound eerily appropriate today.  (italics mine)

“It was impossible to save the Great Republic,”  Twain wrote.  “She was rotten to the heart.   Lust of conquest had long ago done it’s work.   Trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons.   The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on, the suffrage was become a mere machine, which they used as they chose.   There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket.”

(This blog is a fully independent blog that has no connection to any church or secular organization. It was started to keep people informed on international affairs in light of the scriptures.   Financial support comes from myself and readers who generously donate to help cover costs.)

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS THIS WEEK

Putin and Syria

Here’s an interesting paragraph from German-Foreign-Policy.com, February 15th:

“German military personnel are beginning to consider Russia’s intervention in Syria as having prevented IS/Daesh from taking power in Damascus and carrying out offensives against other countries – including Israel.”

While the western media concentrates on exposing Russian air attacks as potential “war crimes,” it may be that, overall, Russia’s intervention has been a good thing, stopping the spread of ISIS and thwarting a greater threat to Israel.

The key words are “may be.”  We may never know.

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Russia’s intervention in Syria may have, inadvertently, helped Israel.  President Obama’s occupancy of the White House certainly has not.   US unreliability has led Israel to seek alliances elsewhere. Bret Stevens wrote yesterday in the Wall Street Journal:

“On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon publicly shook hands with former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal at the Munich Security Conference. In January, Israeli cabinet member Yuval Steinitz made a trip to Abu Dhabi, where Israel is opening an office at a renewable-energy association. Turkey is patching up ties with Israel. In June, Jerusalem and Riyadh went public with the strategic talks between them. In March, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi told the Washington Post that he speaks to Mr. Netanyahu “a lot.”

“This de facto Sunni-Jewish alliance amounts to what might be called the coalition of the disenchanted; states that have lost faith in America’s promises.  Israel is also reinventing its ties to the aspiring Startup Nations, countries that want to develop their own innovation cultures.” (“Israel looks beyond America, WSJ)”

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February 15th was an important date historically.   On that day, in 1942, the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese.   It was a major turning point for the British Empire. It wasn’t until almost fifteen years later that the world could clearly see the Empire was no longer the major power it had been, but Britain’s defeat at the hands of the Japanese was disastrous.   Note the following from Stratfor:

The Beginning of the End of the British Empire — The humiliating surrender of Singapore on Feb. 15, 1942, was the first sign of decline for the British regional order.

“On Jan. 31, 1942, Allied engineers blew a hole in the causeway linking the island city of Singapore to the Malay Peninsula, hoping to slow the advance of Japanese Imperial troops down the coastline. The blast resounded throughout the city. As the story goes, 19-year-old university student and future prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew was walking across campus at that moment. When his British headmaster, passing by, asked what the sound was, Lee responded, “That is the end of the British Empire.”

Lee Kuan Yew was to lead Singapore for over three decades, presiding over one of the world’s greatest success stories.

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The US election has taken a worrying turn, again.   The two Democratic candidates are busy criticizing the police in order to get the African-American vote. They need to tread carefully.   The police are all that stand between the general population and anarchy. One day, one of these candidates may need a policeman or two to protect them. Undermining the police is not in anybody’s interests.

Christopher Marquez, an Hispanic decorated US Marine, was attacked and left unconscious by a gang of young African-American teenagers at a McDonald’s in Washington, DC, last week.   They had been taunting him along racial lines asking him if “Black Lives Matter,” the popular slogan started last year following the deaths of a number of young black men at the hands of white police.

“I believe this was a hate crime and I was targeted because of my skin color,” Marquez, who is Hispanic, told The Daily Caller. “Too many of these types of attacks have been happening against white people by members of the black community and the majority of the main stream media refuses to report on it.”

Of course black lives matter.  But white ones should, too.   No attention was given to this story of the white Marine until Fox News” put it on its website this morning.  No attention has been given either to the death of a 17-year-old white male a few miles from our home – shot by a white policeman who, some think, over reacted.  “Justice for Devon Guilford” is written on signs all over our neighborhood as investigations continue.   The issue has seriously divided Eaton County.

There is definitely a double standard in the media, where “black lives matter,” but white lives don’t!

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President Obama was shown on television this morning assuring people that Donald Trump will never be president.  Meanwhile, there’s increasing talk that Joe Biden will jump into the race if Hillary Clinton slips any further against fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders.

 

The Establishment clearly does not want outsiders like Trump or Sanders to lead the country!   Whatever happened to democracy?

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It’s not that different overseas.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain’s future in the European Union.   Referenda are easily manipulated.

If the majority votes against Europe, a second question could be asked phrased differently to try to get a ‘yes’ vote.   Even if both votes result in a resounding ‘No,’ other nations in Europe will retaliate making it difficult, if not impossible for Britain to break away. German leaders are already threatening a trade war at a time when global trade is already going through a rough period.

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Mr. Sanders claims that he wants “democratic socialism” and cites Denmark as his model.   He has wisely avoided any mention of Venezuela where socialism has brought the country to near-starvation.  Stratfor reported yesterday that the socialist President Nicolas Maduro may be around for some time:

“Maduro could maintain a political impasse with the legislature for a long time. He could also deal with a slowly mounting economic crisis, as former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did during the latter years of his presidency. But the Venezuelan crisis is rapidly becoming a social crisis. Maduro’s economic adjustments have focused on sharply cutting imports across the board, spurring rampant inflation that effectively places even basic food items out of the poor’s reach.  The situation is potentially explosive. With rapid consumer price increases on the black market, endemic shortages of food in public stores, failing public utilities and an intransigent president, the stage is set for a major wave of social unrest that could rival the 1989 Caracazo riots that killed hundreds of people.”

Margaret Thatcher got it right when she defined socialism as “equal shares of misery for all!”   Government is inherently incompetent.  That will never change.

 

IS THIS HOW DEMOCRACIES PERISH?

us-government-we-need-a-tow

It’s election season in both the United States and the United Kingdom.   People on both sides of the Atlantic are enduring the nightly trauma of electioneering.

The good news is that, in the UK, the election will be over in two weeks.   On the other side of the pond, we have another nineteen months and a few days to go.

Watching both elections on television, I’ve been asking myself:  Is this how democracies perish?

Every politician seems to promise the moon, while at the same time avoiding any issue of substance.

There was a time when government had only two responsibilities – national security, without which there would be no country, and the maintenance of a stable currency, without which there would be financial chaos.

That’s all changed in the last hundred years.   Now governments have their hands in everything – and the electorate responds by holding out their own hands begging for more.

Can we ever turn the clocks back to the big two?   Life would be a lot better all round if government got off our backs and concentrated on nothing but defense and currency stability.

For all its claims to be a “people’s republic” (a communist term), China’s government doesn’t seem to do anything except defend the people and ensure the stability of their currency.   Of course, the role of the military in China involves a great deal of oppression.   But, when it comes to the economy, they have a free enterprise system that is working a lot better than any of ours in the West.

The British government boasts of a growth rate that is less than 3%, while China laments theirs is down to only 7%.   Whose system works best?

The Chinese government is not likely to look to the Bible for inspiration, but they should heed the lessons contained in I Samuel, chapter 8.  In this chapter, the people asked Samuel for a king, like all the other nations.

God was not pleased with this and warned the people of what to expect:

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king.   11 And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you:   He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots.   12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.   13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers.   14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants.   15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.   16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work.   17 He will take a tenth of your sheep.   And you will be his servants.   18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” (vs 8-18)

You get the idea.   This is the first recording of Parkinson’s Law, that government inevitably expands, costing the tax-payer more and more money.   The problem in the US and UK is democracy, with the people wanting more and more.   Inevitably, this leads to government expanding.   It’s a warning to China not to democratize!

We have a special election in Michigan in a few days.   A proposal is being put before the people to raise the sales tax by another 1%.   It may not sound like much, but if you buy a used car for $10,000 right now, the tax will be $600.   After the vote, it would be $700.

The money is to be used to fix our roads, which would be a disgrace even in Africa.

While many will vote “yes” because they are tired of their cars hitting massive potholes, they are failing to look at the bigger picture.   Where has all the money gone that was previously allocated to roads?   If they look closely, they will find that it’s expanded the bureaucracy and given employees higher salaries and greater benefits, in the form of pensions and healthcare.   It has also been revealed that the state department responsible for roads has lost the warranties on roads that were previously fixed by private contractors, meaning that the taxpayer will have to pay again for the same repairs!

Additionally, the state has been wasteful.   Detroit was bailed out to the tune of $191 million.

A new “Welcome Center” is being built at the Capitol, costing an estimated $100 million.   A new State Police headquarters was built for $38 million, when the previous building was quite adequate and rented for $1 per year thanks to a generous donation.   The list goes on and on.   Waste, waste and even more waste.   It’s easy to spend other peoples’ money.

Government is inherently profligate.   The less we have of it the better.   Our ancestors understood that, which is one reason why Great Britain and the United States rose to great wealth and power.

Sadly, their descendants think that more government is the solution to every problem.   As we go down this road, the burdens on the taxpayer will only increase until we collapse under the weight of our own excess.

Perhaps we should all learn a lesson from HSBC, the world’s third biggest bank.   The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation moved its headquarters to London when Hong Kong reverted to China.   They are now thinking of moving back, to either Hong Kong or Singapore, both run by ethnic Chinese.   Taxes are lower and there is far less government regulation in these two city-states.

If they do move, it will be a big blow to London’s status as the world’s primary financial center.

This is one of those major issues the politicians are likely to avoid, as no government will stick its neck out to defend the banks.

How long our democracies last will be determined by how much government the people want.   On that score, things are not looking good on either side of the Atlantic.

1

SINGAPORE LOSES ITS FOUNDING FATHER

Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore is one of the greatest success stories of the modern world.

The modern history of the country started in 1819, just under 200 years ago.  The British were looking for a strategic location to base their growing merchant and naval fleets and to thwart Dutch regional influence.

The then Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolan in Sumatra, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, landed in Singapore after surveying neighboring islands.   A colony was soon founded with a population of only 150. Today, the population is almost 5.5 million.   Singapore’s success was based on free trade, which made it a vibrant commercial center, attracting merchants from all over Asia, the Middle East and the United States, as well as Great Britain, which dominated the globe in the nineteenth century.

The port city saw its greatest period of growth after the British opened the Suez Canal in 1869.   Control of vital sea-gates around the globe contributed to the dominance of the British Empire.   It was possible for British vessels to sail from England to Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus in the Mediterranean, before continuing their journey through the Suez Canal and Aden, then on to points east, including Singapore.   The naval base at Singapore enabled the British to dominate the Far East and Australasia.   Singapore was a vital sea-gate, one of the arteries of empire.   Many believe this fulfilled the prophecy in Genesis 22:17 that Abraham’s descendants would “possess the gates of their enemies.”

Everything went well until the Japanese attacked the city the day after Pearl Harbor.   Once regarded as an impregnable fortress, the city surrendered on 15th March, 1942.   It remained under Japanese occupation for three-and-a-half-years.   Looking back, it was a major turning point in the decline and fall of the British Empire, perhaps the biggest single turning point.   It showed that the seemingly invincible British, a white race that ruled the greatest empire in history, could be defeated by a non-white peoples considered backward and inferior.

After the defeat of Japan, the British returned, but it was impossible to return to the pre-war order.   New political parties were formed that campaigned for independence.

In 1963, the people of Singapore voted to join the new Malaysian Federation, which the British had created six years earlier.   Only two years later, Singapore, an island of mostly Chinese immigrants, had to leave the Moslem dominated federation and go it alone.

In 1965, at the time of independence, the total Gross National Product of Singapore was only $1 billion.   Fifty years later, it’s $300 billion.   Per capita income has grown from less than $500 per year to well over $55,000, second only to Japan in East Asia.   The island state has been transformed in fifty years from a Third World outpost to a thriving city-state that belongs proudly to the First World of wealthy, affluent countries.

This achievement was the work of one man, Lee Kuan Yew, the longest serving prime minister in the world (from 1959 to 1990). Singapore’s former prime minister died at the weekend.   The man who cried when the federation broke up and Singapore had to go it alone, had a clear vision of what was needed – a free enterprise system which would become a regional financial center.   This does not mean that government was not involved.   He was mildly authoritarian, with restrictions on freedom of speech and the press.   He also oversaw massive public housing projects, which contributed to a rising standard of living for the people. The US could learn from its medical system.

He leaves behind a wealthy, efficient and honest administration – one of the modern world’s greatest success stories.   Other developing nations, struggling to survive in the contemporary world, could learn a great deal from Singapore and the man who built its modern economy.

Singapore is also symbolic of Asia’s growing might, accompanied by the decline of its former imperial master Great Britain, and the West in general.

The world has changed a great deal in the fifty years since Singapore became an independent republic.   It’s experience should give many nations pause for thought and reflection.

 

COMMENTARY

Dollar

I want to begin by clarifying something I wrote in yesterday’s post.     I shared a quote from Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group, “The dollar is the indispensable currency,” she said. I added that, on this point, she is correct.

I should have added two words to that comment, “for now.”

The dollar right now is riding high and doing better than other major currencies.  But that does not mean the dollar is really strong. In fact, just yesterday Singapore and China announced the start of direct currency trading, bypassing the US dollar, which has been volatile and is not backed by anything. It’s just paper and is held up by confidence and nothing else. Note the following from Channel News Asia.

“BEIJING:  China will allow direct trading between its currency and the Singapore dollar from Tuesday (Oct 28), making it easier for companies here to do business with their Chinese counterparts.

The Sing dollar will be added to the China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS) platform, which currently offers transactions between the yuan and 10 foreign currencies. The announcement came on Monday (Oct 27), after an agreement at the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) in Suzhou, co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

Previously, companies that wanted to convert a large amount of Sing dollars to renminbi (RMB) or vice versa had to do so via an intermediate currency such as the US dollar.

“This will lower foreign exchange transaction costs and encourage greater use of the two currencies in cross-border trade and investments,” the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in a news release on Monday.

DPM Teo called this is a “major and significant” development which will reduce the cost of doing business and make it more convenient.”

Singapore is a major hub for the internationalization of the Chinese currency.   Some predict China will overtake America as the number one economy next year.   This means China can take on the burden of being a trading currency just as the US dollar has been.

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I’ve been reading a novel by Brad Thor set in Afghanistan. The 2009 book is titled “The Apostle.” The author clearly knows the country well and I’ve learned a lot about Afghanistan from it. Frankly, the book is as close to the country as I want to get!

I would like to share two paragraphs with you. The subject is not Afghanistan. The main character is Harvath.

“Harvath just couldn’t understand the liberal mindset. He was convinced that they believed deeply in what they said and what they did; his only problem was that it so often flew in the face of reality. They continually focused their rage on their protectors rather than their enemy. They denigrated their country, believing it was the source of all evil in the world. The truth was, when it came to Islam, it had been violent since its inception. Its clearly stated goal was worldwide conquest. And while Harvath believed there were peaceful and moderate Muslims, he knew from studying the religion that there was no such thing as peaceful and moderate Islam.

“The entire religion was a mess and needed a complete gut-rehab. And though he had a good feeling his country’s new president would probably not agree with him, he also knew that until the politically correct crowd stopped making excuses for them and undercutting any motivation to reform their religion themselves, the majority of Muslims wouldn’t do anything . . . Islam had been Islam for fourteen hundred years and what it had been was violent.”

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Which reminds me of the three teenage girls, all born in the USA and from the Denver area, who were detained in Frankfurt en route to Syria to fight with ISIS. All three were of Sudanese and Somali descent. It is not necessarily the case any more that second generations born in America become more American. It seems that, when it comes to Islam, assimilation doesn’t work any more.

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This is certainly the case in Tower Hamlets, a rundown poverty stricken area of east London, profiled this morning on PBS’ Focus on Europe. Tower Hamlets has the UK’s highest percentage of Muslims, over 30%. They are mostly from Bangladesh and Somalia.   A recent election there has led to accusations of corruption, including vote rigging. This is unheard of in British elections. Or was, until a significant percentage of Muslims took over an area and introduced their own brand of politics, just like home.

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It may seem a big jump from ISIS to Downton Abbey but it’s appropriate at this point.   The fifth series is already showing in the UK on ITV. It starts in the US on January 4th. Apparently, Lord Grantham is going to lose his dog in this series. The reason is quite simple – the dog is named Isis. Lord Grantham has had his dog for four seasons of the show, while the terrorist group is quite new. But viewers do not want to be reminded of terrorism when watching the series in their living rooms. Besides, Isis joined the family in 1912 and the series is now up to 1924. That’s about it for a Labrador’s lifespan.   Ours only made it to five.