Tag Archives: Syria

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

Hello everybody,

The election dominates US news.   There are many conflicting reports.

In Michigan, polls show Trump losing to every prominent Democratic candidate.   Yet, at the same time, his rallies (and those for VP Mike Pence) attract audiences too big to be accommodated.

And note the following report from the Munich Security Conference (read article “Munich Security Conference,” further down).  “Europeans widely expect Trump to be re-elected this fall.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic debate held last night in South Carolina, shows the party tearing itself apart.   Amy Klobuchar said it best:   “If we continue to tear each other apart over the next four months, we will see Trump continue to tear the country apart for the next four years.”  Another House Democrat described the seven Democrats on stage as a “circular firing squad.”   They should remember the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 12:25 — “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” words quoted by Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War.  With Trump so universally “hated,” it’s incredible the Democrats can’t come up with a winning candidate!

The second issue that dominates the news is the coronavirus.  Hopefully, this will not have the death toll of the various plagues that hit the world during the Middle Ages.   Justinian’s “flea” (probably bubonic plague) killed a manageable 5,000 a day in the first month; then 10,000 a day.   The population was greatly diminished.   As with the coronavirus, it was spread through trade and international travel.   It was the same in the 14th century, 800 years later, when the plague hit Europe again.  The death toll was a staggering 50% of the people.  Just over a century ago, the Spanish flu infected 500 million people worldwide, about one third of the world’s population.   It killed an estimated 20-50 million, including some 675,000 Americans.

We will get through it, but it may kill millions before it’s over.

One final thought on the election:   At least two of the candidates for the Democratic party claim to be Christians.   Voters, however, should be careful here.   All seven of the people appearing last night support a woman’s right to murder her baby!  (To be fair, so do some Republicans.)

Have a great week.

Melvin   

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Very early this morning, I came across a show on PBS World called “Gzero World”, with Ian Bremmer. Today they were reporting from the Munich Security Conference on world security issues.  The first four items come from their website.

US-EU RIFT GETS WORSE

The risk of a major technology blow-up between the US and Europe is growing.   A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the European Union wanted to boost its “technological sovereignty” by tightening its oversight of Big Tech and promoting its own alternatives to big US and Chinese firms in areas like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her top digital officials unveiled their first concrete proposals for regulating AI, and pledged to invest billions of euros to turn Europe into a data superpower.    (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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Communal violence in Delhi:   Over the past few days, India’s capital city has seen its deadliest communal violence in decades.  This week’s surge in mob violence began as a standoff between protesters against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against India’s Muslims and the law’s Hindu nationalist defenders.   Clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in majority-Muslim neighborhoods in northeast Delhi have killed at least 11 people, both Muslim and Hindu, since Sunday.   We’re watching to see how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government responds – Delhi’s police force reports to federal, rather than local, officials.(Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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Unlikely jihadist bedfellows:   For years, the jihadists of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have been at odds over territory and ideology. Bloody clashes between offshoots of the two groups have become commonplace in Yemen and Syria, further destabilizing those war-torn countries.   But now, strangely, ISIS and al-Qaeda linked groups appear to have joined forces in West Africa, recruiting locals and divvying up vast swathes of territory in the Sahel – a semi-arid area stretching across the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.  Motivated by mutual practical interests and common foes – Western forces and local governments – they’ve set aside their doctrinal differences and are gaining ground in states with weak central governments like Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the US military recently said.  This all comes as the Trump administration is weighing a sizable drawdown of US troops in West Africa.  (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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US-China tit-for-tat retaliations:   The Trump administration is weighing up retribution against Chinese journalists and state-owned media – as well as Chinese intelligence agencies – after Beijing expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters last week over an opinion column that criticized Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus.  The Chinese Foreign Ministry, incensed by the “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” headline, demanded an apology from the Journal before booting three of its reporters, none of whom had anything to do with the column.   If the US responds in kind, it could lead to a cycle of tit-for-tat retribution and animosity between Washington and Beijing just as a preliminary trade agreement appears to have eased mounting tensions between the world’s two largest economies.   We’re watching to see if the Trump administration follows through on its threat – or if it’s just bluster.  (Gzero World, 2/25/2020)

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MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE

The annual gathering of the Munich Security Conference provides a useful barometer for the health of the transatlantic relationship. Two years ago, Europeans were reeling from the first year of the Trump administration.   Last year, they were resigned to that reality and determined to press ahead.  This past weekend, everyone was searching for a savior to address critical challenges amid a lack of global leadership.

Europeans widely expect Trump to be re-elected this fall.   After their shock at his 2016 victory, they seem to be bracing for the worst, but remain unprepared for the consequences.   They inquired about Democratic presidential candidates, asking what Bernie Sanders would mean for Europe and whether Michael Bloomberg was a good compromise for moderates.  (Amanda Sloat, Brookings, 2/18/2020)

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TRUMP EMBRACED BY ENTHUSIASTIC INDIANS

“It was the Trumpiest of offers.

“A rally at one of the world’s largest stadiums.   A crowd of millions cheering him on.   A love fest during an election year.”   (Lansing State Journal, 2/24/2020).

The stadium is the world’s biggest cricket stadium.  I wonder if President Trump was aware that cricket was the preferred sport of fellow Republican, Abraham Lincoln?

An incredible welcome from the world’s second most populous nation.  President Trump is hoping for a trade deal with India.

Sadly, it coincided with massive demonstrations against a new Indian immigration bill, which discriminates against Muslims.  At least twenty people have been killed.

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ISRAEL NOW RECOGNIZED BY 161 COUNTRIES

161 countries now have diplomatic relations with Israel, which is the highest number that it has ever been for the Jewish state.  Increasingly, the community of nations cares less about Palestinian objections and more about what Israel has to offer.   (Israel National News, 2/24/2020)

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NEVER ENDING SYRIAN CONFLICT

At a four-way summit with the leaders of Russia, Turkey and France, Angela Merkel will seek to influence the future of the northern Syrian province Idlib.  The summit, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on the weekend is to be held next week.  It will explore options for ending the fighting in the province, where, over the past few weeks, Syrian troops have been advancing on militias.  Usually referred to as “rebels” in the German media, they are, in fact, dominated by an al Qaeda subsidiary.  The combat has deepened dissention between Russia and Turkey on how to go forward in Syria, raising new hopes among western powers for driving a wedge between Ankara and Moscow.   Prior to the summit, however, specialists are pointing out that Berlin hardly has any options for exerting influence in Syria.  The EU sees the overthrow of the government in Damascus as the precondition for granting desperately needed reconstruction aid.    (German Foreign Policy, 2/25/2020)

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MACRON VOWS CRACKDOWN ON POLITICAL ISLAM

“The problem is when, in the name of a religion, some people want to separate themselves from the Republic and therefore not respect its laws.” — French President Emmanuel Macron, February 18, 2020.   (Soeren Kern, Gatestone, 2/21/2020)

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SWEDISH MIGRANT CRISIS

“For the first time now, more crimes – in absolute terms – are committed by persons of foreign background than by persons of Swedish origin . . .   The most crime-prone population subgroup are people born [in Sweden] to two foreign-born parents.” — Report by Det Goda Samhället (“The Good Society”), summer of 2019. (Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 2/26)

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UK GROOMING GANGS TO REMAIN A SECRET

DAILYKENN.com — It’s a state secret.  No one is to know the ethnicity of grooming gang members.  The thugs are responsible for trafficking nearly 19,000 British girls in one year.

Who are these people?  No one knows because  Boris Johnson’s government won’t release statistics that reveal their ethnicity.

The truth is, of course, that the government doesn’t need to release the data because everyone knows the preponderance of the gang members are from non-white Islamic regions of the world.  Nearly all are ethnic Pakistanis.

It’s akin to the n-word.  No one dares say it, but everyone knows what it means.   Authorities said that releasing the data would not be in the public interest.

Survivors accused ministers of making “empty promises,” while a man who prosecuted abusers in Rochdale called for the Home Office to “show some courage and publish” its findings.

It comes after The Independent revealed that almost 19,000 suspected child sexual exploitation victims were identified by local authorities in just one year, sparking renewed calls for prevention efforts.   (Daily Kenn, 2/25/2020)

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GAY CONVERSION THERAPY BANNED IN MORE COUNTRIES

Global momentum is growing to ban so-called gay “conversion therapy,” with bills drawn up in nine countries, a rights group said on Wednesday.

The United States, Canada, Chile, Mexico and Germany are among countries seeking to outlaw the treatment, which includes practices from electric shocks to “praying away the gay” and is based on the belief that being gay or transgender is a mental illness that can be “cured,” Ilga, an LGBT+ advocacy group, said.

Worldwide, only Brazil, Ecuador and Malta have national bans on conversion therapy, condemned as ineffective and harmful to mental health by more than 60 associations of doctors, psychologists or counsellors globally, the Ilga study said.

“The main driving force [for reform] is survivors with their testimonies coming forwards,” Lucas Ramon Mendos, author of the Ilga report, which said 2020 could be a turning point in the fight against “therapies” that have ruined many lives.

“A lot of awareness is being created through their testimony,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.   (Rachel Savage, Independent, 2/26/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • A headline in our local newspaper, the Lansing State Journal, appeared Monday.   It read: ‘White supremacy seeps into public, experts warn.”   It added:   “Incidents show startling jump over the past year.”   The article went on to show that violence emanating from “white supremacist groups” is increasing and is expected to grow further in the years ahead.   There is no excuse for violence.  But surely this is a reaction to the massive immigration of recent years and the constant emphasis on multiculturalism.   Until both change, there will be a constant threat from the political “right.”  It’s a reaction to the “extreme left.”
  • There’s a plan in Michigan to expand the options offered on payday loans.  These “short term, high cost financial products,” have trapped millions of families into a never ending “costly and potentially catastrophic cycle of debt.”  (David Snodgrass,  Lansing State Journal, 2/20/2020).   The bill “would allow lenders to charge a monthly service fee of 11% on the principal of a loan, equivalent to an APR of around 132%.   In practical terms, this means a borrower would end up paying more than $7,000 to pay off a $2,500 two-year loan.”   Heed the following biblical advice:  “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.  Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.” (Lev. 25:35-36)
  • I went to a concert on Monday evening.   The Academy of St Martin in the Fields played Brahms Symphony Number 4, along with a violin concerto by Paganini and a short piece by Mozart.  It was a delightful and relaxing evening with good friends.
  • Also relaxing (and gripping) is my latest “read:”   “The Race to save the Romanovs” by Helen Rappaport was published in 2018.  After the Russian revolution in 1917 the Romanov family were under house arrest.   When the communists came to power later in the year, their situation deteriorated fast.   Many people wanted to save them and their five young children, but no attempt got very far; eventually, they were all brutally murdered.   The Bolsheviks were, if nothing else, thorough – killing all their opponents for over seventy years!   The deaths of the children were particularly reprehensible.   Today’s Russians have tried to make amends by canonizing each member of the Imperial Family.  28% of Russians polled said they would like to see the monarchy restored.   But how do you restore it when you killed everybody off?    (Interestingly, 28% is roughly the support US presidents get; when you consider that only 54.9% bothered to vote in the last election.)    Maurice Paleologue was the French Ambassador to Russia at the time of the revolution.   He said the only man who could have saved them was Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.   The Russians had been fighting the Germans, along with the British and the French.  The Kaiser helped Lenin get to Russia and, when he assumed power, entered into a peace deal with him, so that Russia could leave the war.    The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of 1918 could have (should have) included a clause freeing the Czar and his family.   Wilhelm was related to the Russian Imperial Family.  He particularly loved the children.   Why didn’t he save them?

SLAVERY NOT A CRIME

Overview of domestic legislation prohibiting human exploitation.  Many of the 193 U.N. member states have not gone on to explicitly criminalise slavery and other exploitation.  Researchers noted that almost all countries had some form of domestic anti-trafficking legislation in place.   Image: Katarina Schwarz and Jean Allain

Slavery is not a crime for almost half the countries in the world.  Although laws allowing slavery have been scrapped worldwide, many of the 193 U.N. member states have not gone on to explicitly criminalise slavery.                                                                                                                                     by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation, 12 Feb 2020

“Slavery is far from being illegal everywhere and we hope our research will move the conversation beyond this popular myth,” said Katarina Schwarz, a researcher at the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, which led work on the slavery database.

“It will surprise many people to learn that in all of these countries there are no criminal laws in place to prosecute, convict and punish people for subjecting people to the most extreme forms of exploitation.”   More than 40 million people are held in modern slavery, which includes forced labor and forced marriage, according to estimates by the International Labour Organization and the anti-slavery group the Walk Free Foundation.

There is no criminal law against slavery in 94 countries – almost half of U.N. states – said researchers at Rights Lab, which reviewed the study’s findings with the Castan Centre for Human Rights at Monash University in Australia.   It found almost two thirds of countries apparently failed to criminalize any of the main four practices associated with slavery – serfdom, debt bondage, forced marriage, and child trafficking – except in the context of human trafficking.

“Slavery in its nature looks to exploit people who fall slightly outside the rule of law,” Jakub Sobik, a spokesman for the charity Anti-Slavery International told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.  “There is a need for wide-ranging policies that address the wider context and systemic reasons why people are made vulnerable to being tricked and trapped and controlled by another person.”  (http://news.trust.org/item/20200212132545-vdpzu)

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GM PULLS OUT OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND, THAILAND

General Motors has been in Australia since 1856 when it first sold saddles to Australians.   In the 1960’s and 70’s they produced Holden cars, a popular brand that really caught on.  Now, they are selling up and moving out.   The big benefactor?

China.

It’s symbolic of what’s happening to American capitalism.  The US is losing out to competitors, especially the Chinese.

And it’s not just cars.   In the same week, President Duterte of the Philippines tore up the defense treaty with the US, preferring Beijing over Washington.   One reason may be Duterte’s stance on human rights, which has led to criticism from Americans.   China doesn’t care about human rights.

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CORONAVIRUS “MADE IN CHINA”

The Chinese Communist Party calls it “discourse management.”  It’s more than mere censorship and bigger than propaganda.   And Beijing is pretty good at it.   The party uses it to control its own people, but also to manage foreign governments.

Take the new coronavirus, for instance.   It may be a made-in-China global pandemic, and China might have bungled its handling of it, but that’s somehow irrelevant and China’s government says it’s “unhappy” with Australia.   Come again?

The outbreak is classified by the World Health Organization as a global health emergency.   It was created in China, of course.   The consensus among virologists is that the likely cause was the Chinese authorities’ persistent tolerance of unsafe animal and food handling practices.

After the 2003 outbreak of a novel coronavirus, the SARS epidemic, the Chinese government banned all trade in wild animals.  Once the crisis had passed, the authorities relaxed the ban, announcing 54 types of exemption.   In other words, it was going to happen again one day.   Then, once this outbreak was discovered, the Chinese authorities seriously mismanaged it.   This is now the subject of frenetic blame-shifting inside China.

When the first cases started turning up in the city of Wuhan in mid-December, two weeks before the official disclosure on December 31 that there was a new virus, sick people were turned away from local hospitals and sent home to infect other people and die.  The hospitals were told to report “zero infections.”

Why?   Because an important meeting of provincial and city officials was under way in Wuhan and only good news was permitted.   The cover-ups and delays were “reprehensible” according to an eminent Australian virologist, John Mackenzie.      (Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, 2/18/2020)

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GOG AND MAGOG  — COULD RUSSIA ATTACK ISRAEL?

Russia’s ambassador to Syria this week issued what some saw as a veiled threat should Israel continue bombing Iranian assets in the war-torn country.

On February 6, an aerial attack on a target near Damascus killed 20 Syrian and Iranian military officials.   It also caused Syrian air defenses to inadvertently fire on an airplane carrying 172 passengers.   The plane managed to safely land at a nearby airport.

Israel Defense Minister Naftali Bennett later hinted that the attack was just another in a long series of Israeli strikes against Iranian assets that are admittedly in Syria for the purpose of threatening the Jewish state.

But Russian Ambassador Alexander Yefimov wasn’t interested in Israeli justifications.

In an interview with Sputnik Arabic, Yefimov called the Israeli raids “provocative and very dangerous.”   He further cautioned that “this increases the possibility of conflict over Syria.”

Since Syria is already in conflict, his warning was taken to mean that the ongoing Israeli raids could eventually result in an armed clash between the Jewish state and Russian forces in the region.

Israeli political and military officials have never been shy about referencing the biblical “War of Gog and Magog.”   It’s something they believe is going to happen.  (Israel Today, 2/17)

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GERMAN CRITICISM OF US BREAKING INTERNATIONAL LAW

In reference to the US drone-murder of Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani, German government advisors are warning against a growing number of violations of international law by the United States.   For years, “the foreign policy of the Trump administration has demonstrated that it has been a particular strain on international law,” observes an analysis published by Berlin’s German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).  Suleimani’s murder suggests that Washington is now beginning to extend its “war on terror” tactics, that had already become common-place under President Barack Obama – such as drone-murders – to leading representatives of foreign nations, it considers to be “a threat.”  In the future, “state representatives should fear for their lives, when they travel outside their country,” because “the consequences for international diplomacy are hardly predictable.”  The SWP advises the German government to take a clear stand.  Of course, in its attempts to implement its globalist policies over the past few decades, Berlin, too, has repeatedly violated international law, often as an accomplice of the USA.    (German Foreign Policy, 1/28)

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Watch Israel’s new laser weapon shoot drones out of sky                   by Yaron Steinbuch, 12 Feb 2020

An Israeli drone defense system fit for “Star Wars” has shot down multiple maneuvering targets with a high-powered laser beam, according to reports.   “The system achieved 100 percent success in all test scenarios,” defense technology company Rafael said in a statement about its Drone Dome C-UAS, or Counter-Unmanned Aerial System, the Times of Israel reported.   “The stages of the interception included target detection, identification and interception” with the laser beam, it said in a video of a recent demo of the system.   In the footage, a vehicle-mounted system is shown engaging the targets, including zigzagging drones.   In one test, three drones flying in formation were downed in rapid succession.  “Drone Dome is designed to address threats posed by hostile drones both in military and civilian sites,” Rafael said.

Drone Dome refers to a package that includes a search radar, drone radio command detector, an electro-optical sensor, and command-and-control system, according to Popular Mechanics.  The system can detect objects as small as 0.021 square feet at 2.1 miles.  Once detected, it locks onto the drone, keeping it in its cross hairs as it maneuvers in any direction.   When the laser is blasted, it melts away the drone’s plastic housing and destroys its electronics, sending it to the ground.     (https://nypost.com/2020/02/12/watch-israels-wild-new-laser-weapon-shoot-drones-out-of-sky/)

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 Munich Security Conference:  France’s Macron envisions new era of European strength                                                                                                  The French president projected a vision of a Europe with new military power at the Munich Security Conference.   As the only nuclear power in the EU, he also foresaw greater European sovereignty.

“We cannot always go through the United States, no, we have to think in a European way as well,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on stage at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) on Saturday as he continued a theme of his presidency: projecting bold European sovereignty onto the international stage.

He was referring specifically to Europe’s nuclear assets, pointing out a key difference to the Cold War era when Europe’s nuclear shield was primarily coordinated by the US.   “Now we have to be able to say clearly that if we want a sovereign Europe, if we want to protect our citizens, then we do need to look at that aspect, also with a view to Germany,” he said.   To show his commitment, Macron has already invited Germany to take part in a strategic dialogue over France’s nuclear weapon policy.

The UK’s exit from the European Union has shifted added responsibility onto France.   Though the UK and France are of course still NATO partners, along with the US and Germany, France is now the only nuclear power in the EU, which leaves the Paris government balancing its nuclear defense strategy between, as Macron put it, “the ambitions of NATO and Europe.” (Deutsche Welle, 15 Feb, 2020)  (– Extract from:  (https://www.dw.com/en/munich-security-conference-frances-macron-envisions-new-era-of-european-strength/a-52389586)

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Munich Security Conference:   African leaders absent from Sahel talks
Germany and other world powers meeting in Munich raised concerns about the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel region.  But African heads of state who had been invited were conspicuously absent.

Not a single head of state from the continent attended, despite the growing threat of terrorism and the armed conflicts tearing it apart.

A report by Save the Children, published as world leaders convened in Munich, Germany, said at least 95,000 children had been killed or maimed across the world since 2005.  Tens of thousands were abducted and millions were denied access to education.

Germany makes a case for the Sahel:   In the absence of African leaders, to bring the matter to the table, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer called for an increased effort in the fight against Islamists in Africa.   “The Sahel is a key region for Europe, for example, when it comes to migration or the threat of terrorism,” she said, adding:   “That is why it is so important that Germany remains committed there, militarily as well.”  Kramp-Karrenbauer’s statement was encouraging to the Central African Republic’s defense minister, Marie-Noelle Koyara.   “I take this opportunity to thank the German government for making such a wise decision,” the CAR defense minister told DW.

African children were the worst affected, according to Save the Children.   Some 170 million across Africa and the Middle East are living in war zones.  “You will see that most of the violent conflicts do not feature,” Dan Smith, director of SIPRI, an international think tank dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control, and disarmament, told DW.

Smith is disappointed the international community is not paying attention to the crisis unfolding in Africa.

“They (Africans) are not part of the thinking of the security community that is gathered here,” Smith adds.  “That doesn’t mean that this community’s concerns are irrelevant, but they’re not focused on the Sahel; they are not focused on the Horn of Africa.”(https://www.dw.com/en/munich-security-conference-african-leaders-absent-from-sahel-talks/a-52398078)

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 EU’s Franco-German axis will stutter without the Brits, says Vestager
“I think we will see a new dynamic in the union, but it will take some time before we fully recover,” the EU competition and digital chief said.            by Simon Van Dorpe, Politico.eu, 30 Jan 2020

France and Germany will struggle to drive the EU without the British “energy” that helped Paris and Berlin work together, EU competition and digital chief Margrethe Vestager said today.  “One of the things we will be missing is of course the energy.   Because we have a French-German axis – but part of the energy to make that axis work comes from, came from, the U.K.,” Vestager said when asked what she would miss about Britain.    Vestager said that other member countries, “maybe changing coalitions of member states,” would have to step into that void.  “I think we will see a new dynamic in the union, but it will take some time before we fully recover,” she said. Vestager attended the Brexit vote in the parliament on Wednesday, which she said was “really touching because you see it is real.”  Vestager also said she would miss the sense of humor of the Brits, which she said was similar to the Danish.

“I was very close to [former U.K. Commissioner] Jonathan Hill; I was sitting next to [Hill’s successor] Julian King when he was the Commissioner here and I miss them, because they come with a U.K. culture,” she said.   She told an anecdote of how she struggled to communicate in English at the start of her first mandate and when she asked Hill if he didn’t find it exhausting how the other commissioners treated his language, he said: “Of course not, I’m so honored that you’re all trying.”
(https://www.politico.eu/article/eus-franco-german-axis-will-stutter-without-the-brits-says-vestager/)

Brexit punches 12-bln-euro hole in EU finances
by Agence France-Presse, 30 Jan, 2020

Brussels – When Britain leaves the European Union at midnight on Friday the bloc will lose the second-biggest net contributor to its budget, leaving a 12-billion-euro ($13-billion) hole in its finances.  The United Kingdom will continue making budget contributions this year under an agreed post-Brexit transition period.   But from 2021 Europe will have to look elsewhere.  This further complicates an already fraught debate between the remaining member states over the EU’s 2021-2027 long-term budget, called the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).   The European Commission has had a proposed MFF on the table since May 2018, and its new president Ursula von der Leyen is keen to get it approved soon.   But a so-called “Frugal Five” of wealthy mainly northern countries — Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden — are seeking to limit EU expenditure.   And a rival “Friends of Cohesion” group of 16 eastern and Mediterranean countries wants to defend the budget rules.

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Frustrated by liberal policies, some Oregon residents petitioned to leave the state – by moving the border with Idaho westward.

The movement secured initial approval from two counties and aims to get enough signatures to put the proposal on ballots in November, according to the group called Greater Idaho.  If the group succeeds, voters in southeast Oregon may see a question on whether their county should become part of Idaho by redrawing the border.   “Rural counties have become increasingly outraged by laws coming out of the Oregon Legislature that threaten our livelihoods, our industries, our wallet, our gun rights, and our values,” Mike McCarter, one of the chief petitioners, said in a news release. “We tried voting those legislators out, but rural Oregon is outnumbered and our voices are now ignored.  This is our last resort.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/02/17/oregon-idaho-border-petition-secede/4789936002/)

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TO THE POINT

  • After a five-month delay, Afghanistan’s electoral commission named Ashraf Ghani as the winner of the country’s presidential election.   The result was delayed after supporters of Mr. Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, accused the commission of bias and threatened to form a parallel government.  The victory gives Mr. Ghani a second five-year term as president.  (The Economist 2/19/2020)
  • Three of Britain’s remaining overseas territories are under constant threat from Spain (Gibraltar), Argentina (Falkland Islands) and Mauritius (Diego Garcia, home of a big US naval base in the Indian Ocean).   Vladimir Putin, soon to be proclaimed dictator of Russia, has given his support to Argentina’s claim on the Falklands.   At one time, the three territories would have had nothing to fear as they would have been protected by the Royal Navy.   Not any more – Italy’s navy is now bigger than Britain’s.  Quite a comedown for what was the world’s greatest navy before World War II.   The navy is not even going to be big enough to stop Europeans fishing in British waters, post-Brexit.
  • The British government announced the first details of its post-Brexit plans for immigration policy.  It promised that there would be no more visas for low-skilled workers and no freedom of movement between Britain and the rest of the European Union.  Visa applications will instead be judged on a “points-based” immigration system.  (The Economist 2/19/2020)
  • German man leaves €7 million fortune to far-right AfDAn engineer who died in 2018 has donated his entire estate of gold, property and patents  to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The endowment is one of the largest ever given to a German political party.
  • A locust plague which has now reached coronavirus-struck China may be the “fifth trumpet” prophesied in the Book of Revelation, according to wild claims.  (https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/1243557/locast-swarm-china-coronavirus-book-revelation-seventh-seal-trumpet-jesus-christ-god-)

CALL MOSCOW, NOT WASHINGTON

Bijan Djir-Sarai, FDP foreign policy parliamentarian

The German government can no longer implement important foreign policy projects in the Arab world without Russia’s support, as the results of Saturday’s negotiations between Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin demonstrate.  Moscow will, in principle, support the “Berlin Process,” with which the German government would like to take on the role of an influential mediator in the Libyan war.   Without Moscow, Berlin did not succeed in holding the International Libya Conference, which was designed to become the first highlight in the “Berlin Process.”   In the run-up to Merkel’s Moscow visit, German foreign policy experts lavished unhabitual praise on the influence Russia has gained over the past few years.   If you wanted to achieve anything in Syria, “you had to call Washington;” according to Bijan Djir-Sarai, FDP foreign policy parliamentarian, “today you have to call Moscow.”   Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, member of the Bundestag (FDP) calls German/Russian relations “a treasure.” (German Foreign Policy, 1/15)

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Mayor’s resignation highlights threat to German leaders
Arnd Focke, the Social Democratic mayor of a town in Lower Saxony, was regularly threatened by nationalists.  Now he has resigned.  Regional officials have repeatedly faced threats across Germany.

The mainstreaming of nationalist politics, most visible in the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, has become a means of spreading ideas once considered taboo, Focke said.   But, he said, it would be too simple to blame the AfD for the threat to centrist regional German politicians.   “The problem is right at the heart of our society,” Focke said.   “We no longer stand up for each other or against extremism.   People are able once again to say things they weren’t even allowed to think five years ago.”   “We failed to educate,” Focke said.   “Children and young people must be taught that we in Germany have a past that cannot be allowed to repeat itself.   And there are many people who are discontented and are too easily manipulated to this end.”    Focke is now trusting federal investigators to look into the swastikas and the threatening notes. He believes that other politicians have also resigned because of threats — they just don’t say so publicly.  (Deutsche Welle , 12 Jan 2020)

(https://www.dw.com/en/mayors-resignation-highlights-threat-to-german-leaders/a-51974296)

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PEOPLE TRAFFICKING

Illegal immigration throughout Europe continues unabated.  In France, for instance, nearly 20,000 migrants have been arrested so far in 2019, according to the police website France Bleu, which also reported that 189 people smugglers have been arrested since January 1.

In Britain, The Telegraph newspaper reported that Albanian people smugglers were posting advertisements on social media platforms, including Facebook, promoting their ability to get people into Europe.   The ads are accompanied by TripAdvisor-style feedback comments from “satisfied” customers…. people smuggling gangs generate profits of up to £6 billion (€7 billion; $8 billion) a year…

“Europe under siege from people-smuggling gangs,” Soeren Kern, Gatestone, 1/7)

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SUEZ CANAL ALTERED ECOLOGY

Experts say Mediterranean Sea altered by Suez Canal’s invasive species.  Red Sea invaders have driven native marine life toward extinction and changed the delicate ecosystem with potentially devastating consequences, marine biologists warn                                         by Aron Heller and Isabel Debre (16 Jan 2020, Times of Israel)

AP — As Egypt marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Suez Canal, marine biologists are bemoaning one of the famed waterway’s lesser known legacies — the invasion of hundreds of non-native species, including toxic jellyfish and aggressive lionfish.

The canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, revolutionized maritime travel by creating a direct shipping route between the East and the West.   But over the years, the invasive species have driven native marine life toward extinction and altered the delicate Mediterranean ecosystem with potentially devastating consequences, scientists say.

The influx has increased significantly since Egypt doubled its capacity in 2015 with the opening of the “The New Suez Canal,” raising alarm in Europe and sparking criticism from various countries along the Mediterranean basin.  The sharpest criticism comes from neighboring Israel, which once battled Egypt in war alongside the 193-kilometer (120-mile)-long canal.

(https://www.timesofisrael.com/experts-say-mediterranean-sea-altered-by-suez-canals-invasive-species/)

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LIBYAN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

Libya pledge:  Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and other foreign powers have promised to end all interference in the armed conflict in Libya, as part of a German-brokered effort to halt rising violence and chaos in the north African country and prepare the ground for a UN-sponsored peace process.  The promise was contained in a document agreed by world leaders at a conference in Berlin yesterday.  However, there were already signs of fresh military escalation in the civil war-wracked state. (FT 1/20)

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ALPINE AUSTERITY:   As the World Economic Forum prepares to kick off its 50th annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos on Tuesday, the Financial Times reports on the elite gathering’s efforts to appear more environmentally-friendly.  Among other things, it is encouraging participants to take trains instead of private jets, and is providing shoe grips to cajole attendees to “walk the snowy promenade between meetings rather than take cars.”

The effort to be sustainable extends to advising caterers not to serve luxuries such as foie gras and caviar, and one day of the meeting has been set aside for “vegetarian menus and the discovery of alternative protein sources.”   This year’s events — including the launch of an initiative to plant 1 trillion trees in the next decade — will take place in rooms decorated with seaweed-based paint and carpets made from “end-of life fishing nets.”   The scores of companies hosting their own events have been asked to consider offering local wines and “mountain herbal infusions” instead of imported drinks.

(Brussels Briefing, Financial Times, 1/20/2020)

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RELIGIOUS TENSIONS IN INDIA

Whether it is France or Nigeria, Italy or Myanmar, the presence of militant Muslims is a serious cause of concern to all — most of all to Muslims who want freedom from Islamists, be they inspired by Iran, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

If one were to watch India through the lens of its social media and the statements made by its upper middle-class urban elites of the Left, the country is facing chaos and is in a downward spiral towards a catastrophe.

At the centre of this storm in a teacup is a new law passed by both houses of the Indian Parliament that provides for a fast track towards citizenship for refugees in India who fled religious persecution in three of India’s neighbors — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before 2015 and who now live in difficult conditions as stateless persons.

Since most of the people who fled India’s three Islamic neighbors were non-Muslim, the new Indian law known as the Citizenship Amendment Act is applicable to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians.   (Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, MEF, 1/20/2020)

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IRANIAN WOMEN DEFY MULLAHS — WHY DON’T WESTERN FEMINISTS SUPPORT THEM?

Before 1979, Iranian women had freedom.   They want it back.

If Iranian feminists who refuse to wear the hijab are brave, their Western counterparts, who wear pink hats, have wretchedly abandoned them.   Why is Iranian barbarism so easily condoned in the West?

Thirty years ago, the Berlin Wall was torn down by ordinary citizens who wanted to reclaim their freedom of movement.  Today, the wall of the Iranian regime could be torn down by these ordinary women who want to reclaim the freedom to wear what they like.  They are bravely refusing to walk on flags of Israel and the U.S. — and enjoying the wind in their hair again.   (Giulio Meotti, Gatestone, 1/19/2020)

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TO THE POINT·

  • Yemeni Journalist Ahmed Al-Musaibily:   Israel Is Our Number One Enemy But At Least It Does Not Try To Convert Muslims To Judaism The Same Way That Iran Converts Sunnis To Shi’a Islam (MEMRI 1/20) – Iraqi security forces reportedly killed two protesters in Baghdad. Demonstrators, frustrated at the slow pace of the government’s reforms, are demanding new elections, an independent prime minister and prosecution of corrupt officials.   Security forces responded with live rounds and tear-gas.   The UN envoy in the country called for protests to remain peaceful and for politicians to address people’s concerns. (Economist, 1/22)
  • EUROPE’S NIGERIAN MAFIA — Italian intelligence has named the Nigerian mafia “the most structured and dynamic” of any foreign crime entity operating in Italy, according to the Washington Post….   What distinguishes the Nigerian crime networks is their severe brutality.   Black Axe has also spread to Canada, where a 2015 report by the  Globe and Mail described it as a “death cult”… linked to “decades of  murders and rapes….        In the US, the FBI recently linked a series of financial frauds to        Black Axe.                                                                                                              (Judith Bergman, Gatestone, 1/8/2020)
  • FRENCH ANTI-SEMITISM — “In France, perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks claim insanity to elude justice.   The mental illness defense has become more prevalent when it comes to hate crimes in France.   And it seems to be working.” — Shirli Sitbon, Haaretz.
  • Muslim anti-Semitism has long been ignored in France.
  • “The situation is not under control.” — Celine Pina, Le Figaro.    (Guy Milliere, Gatestone, 1/22)
  • PIERS MORGAN:  “Spare me your ‘patriotic’ crocodile tears, Harry – you DIDN’T have to quit.   You chose to ditch the Queen, the monarchy, your military comrades and your country… to become a royal Kardashian and keep Meghan happy. ” (Daily Mail, 1/20/2020)

PERVERSE LIBERAL THINKING

Flowers are left following Friday’s terror attack on London Bridge in London, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. A man wearing a fake suicide vest was subdued by bystanders as he went on a knife rampage killing two people and wounding others before being shot dead by police on Friday. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)    (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Two young Cambridge University graduates are dead, murdered by a supposedly rehabilitated terrorist, in London last Friday.   The Cambridge University students were part of “Learning Together,” a project that aims to bring rehabilitated terrorists back into mainstream society.   This is liberalism gone mad!

A major weakness of western liberalism is the idea that we’re all the same, whatever culture or background we come from.   We should know better.   ISIS fighters are not going to repent – as they come back to western countries following the defeat of ISIS they will bring their ideology with them, and kill people.   Anybody who thinks otherwise is a misguided fool.

The young male victim had written his dissertation on why minorities account for a disproportionate percentage of people in prison.   The answer is simple – they commit more crimes.

It’s sad as more innocent lives are likely to be lost as we pursue rehab.   Years ago, I remember reading in Psychology Today that 92% of sex offenders are never rehabilitated.   When they leave prison, they commit the same acts again.   Do we really think that terrorists will do better?

As Piers Morgan wrote in the Daily Mail, “Most terrorists don’t change their evil spots so it’s time Britain stopped going soft on hate-filled jihadis to please the PC hand-wringing brigade and does what Americans do – lock them up forever.” (12/2/2019 Daily Mail)

Even this may not work.   Terrorists in prison might encourage fellow terrorists to seize hostages until they are released.

What would be more appropriate (and final) is the death penalty.

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KING OF THE NORTH?

Following the opening, on September 30, 2019, of the Al-Bukamal-Al-Qaim border crossing between Syria and Iraq, which had been closed for five years due to the Syria war, Abu Al-Fazel Salehiniya, a culture advisor at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, published an article in the pro-regime Syrian daily Al-Watan, in which he presented the opening of the crossing as a step towards the realization of Iran’s vision of a new Middle East.   He explained that Iran planned to establish a political, economic and cultural bloc consisting of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, which will impact the power-balance in the region and world, and thwart what he called the American and Western plan to fragment the Middle East into tiny states under Western control.   For many years, he said, the U.S. and Israel have been working in various ways to prevent the creation of this bloc, including by instigating protests in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; however, they have failed thanks to the resistance axis, which is now stronger than ever and has attained impressive achievements.   (MEMRI 12/4)

Editor’s note: The four countries were roughly the borders of the biblical king of the North, in the second century BC.

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GERMAN MILITARY EXPANSION                                                                        by Johannes Stern, 29 Nov 2019, World Socialist Web Site

(Extracts) . . . Kramp-Karrenbauer replied:  “We know we have to do more, but we are on the way.”   In 2031 the German army would “realistically” be able to take over ten percent of NATO’s military capacity.   Until that date at the latest, Germany would also reach the NATO target of two percent of gross domestic product for military spending.   In fact Germany will make substantial steps towards this goal as early as next year, as the pact to form the grand coalition laid out.   According to a report by the German Press Agency, the German government has reported to the military alliance its intention to spend 50.25 billion euros [$US55.3 billion] in 2020.   “We are complying with our international obligations.   The NATO defense rate is 1.42 percent,” boasted Social Democratic Finance Minister Olaf Scholz at yesterday’s presentation of the budget for 2020 in the Bundestag . . .   Five years after the German government announced the end of military restraint at the Munich Security Conference in 2014, the ruling class can no longer hide the fact that it is basing its foreign and great power politics on the militaristic traditions of the German Empire and the Nazis.   In his major lecture on foreign policy at the end of October, the president of the German parliament, Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU), described 1945, i.e. the date of the downfall of the Third Reich and the defeat of Germany in World War II—as a “catastrophe”       (https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/11/29/kram-n29.html)

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GERMANY TO MATCH US CONTRIBUTION TO NATO BUDGET

From 2021, Germany will increase its contribution to the NATO budget to be in line with what the US pays.                                                                  NATO officials hope the move will diffuse tensions surrounding the cost of maintaining the military alliance.             (https://www.dw.com/en/germany-to-match-us-contribution-to-nato-budget/a-51446211)

German army sorry for ‘retro’ post

BERLIN, Germany — The German army on Wednesday apologized for posting a photo on Instagram of a military uniform complete with two Iron Crosses bearing the Nazi swastika and appearing to celebrate it as “retro.”   After media reports sparked outrage, the army removed the picture of the Nazi-era Wehrmacht uniform and explained that it was an “unacceptable mistake.”   The Bundeswehr said it was seeking to do a photo-essay on the influence of military uniforms on fashion through the ages but failed to provide the correct historical context in its captions.   The Bundeswehr has over the years repeatedly come under fire over embarrassing associations with Germany’s militaristic past (https://www.timesofisrael.com/german-army-sorry-for-retro-nazi-uniform-post/)

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Global Survey of 18 Countries Finds Hardcore Anti-Semitic Attitudes Remain Pervasive                                                                                 One in four Europeans polled fall into most anti-Semitic category.

Among the 2019 ADL Global 100 Index’s key findings:  Negative attitudes in Argentina, Brazil, Poland, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine have seen marked increases since the last ADL Global 100 survey.  Anti-Semitic attitudes remain pervasive in Europe. Roughly one out of every four residents of the 14 European countries polled by ADL fall into the most anti-Semitic category, subscribing to a majority of the anti-Semitic stereotypes tested in the index.

Stereotypes about Jewish control of business and the financial markets are among the most pernicious and enduring anti-Semitic beliefs.   These are especially widespread in the Central and Eastern European countries surveyed.   Asked whether they agreed with the statement that “Jews have too much power in the business world,” a staggering 72 percent of Ukrainians agreed, as did 71 percent of Hungarians, 56 percent of Poles, and 50 percent of Russians.

Jewish “disloyalty” is a widespread anti-Semitic stereotype in the Western European countries surveyed. In Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, more than 40 percent of the public believes that Jews are more loyal to the State of Israel than to their own country.   This canard also scored high in Brazil (70 percent), South Africa (60 percent), and relatively high in Canada (25 percent) compared to its overall index score of 8 percent.

“Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust” was a statement supported by large segments of the populations of many of the European countries polled, even in Germany, where 42 percent of the population agreed.   This sentiment was also prevalent in Austria (44 percent), Belgium (40 percent) Italy (38 percent) and Spain (37 percent).(https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-global-survey-of-18-countries-finds-hardcore-anti-semitic-attitudes-remain)

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Zimbabwe ‘on brink of man-made starvation’, UN warns               (BBC, 28 Nov 2019) 

More than 60% of the country’s 14 million people are considered food-insecure, according to the findings.  Hyperinflation, poverty, natural disasters and economic sanctions were among the identified causes.  Women and children were “bearing the brunt of the crisis” with 90% of children aged six months to two years not consuming enough food.  Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, reported her findings following an 11-day visit to the country.  “I cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation in Zimbabwe,” she said, adding that the crisis continues to worsen.   She said many of the people she met could only afford one meal a day and that most of the children she met were stunted and underweight.  “The harrowing stories I heard from resilient grandmothers, mothers or aunts desperately trying to save their children from starvation, in the midst of their daily hardships, will remain with me.”

She also noted Zimbabwe was among the four highest food-insecure nations, alongside conflict-ravaged countries.(https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50586514)

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SOUTHERN BAPTISTS CHANGE ON ABORTION

To Christians, there are few issues more important than fighting against abortion.  The millions of unborn children are made in the image of God, making it personal to Christians.

And millions of American might switch churches after what one denomination said about abortion.

If one were to ask virtually any Southern Baptist churchgoer, they would be strongly against abortion and supportive of the fight to end it.

But as it turns out, the Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t agree with that sentiment.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which is the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, just came out stating that Christians should not preach against abortion from the pulpit, on the street corner, or in bumper stickers or social media posts.

They claim that it is “hurtful to women.”   (Culture wars, 11/19)

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LETTER FROM A UK FRIEND

“Channel 4 hosted a leaders debate on climate change yesterday. Boris Johnson. and Nigel Farage did not appear, and their vacant podiums sported ice sculptures instead.   The problem is that Boris is not good responding to tough questioning.   Boris is being shielded from scrutiny as much as possible, he may feel that he’s ‘Churchill like’ but in reality he’s no orator.   In contrast Jeremy Corbyn is a rabble-rouser and whips an audience up to ‘cheers and chanting.’ Very popular with younger voters too.   The Election is for Boris to lose.   According to the opinion polls his lead is slipping back.   I’m fearing another hung parliament.”

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EU DECLARES “CLIMATE EMERGENCY”

The European Parliament declared a “climate emergency,” by a vote of 429 to 225.   The decision is symbolic but important (the European Union is the world’s largest economy) ahead of the UN climate summit to be held in Madrid next week.  The incoming head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has promised a package of ambitious green measures on December 11th.   (The Economist, 11/29)

Britain’s ruling Conservative Party reacted furiously after Channel 4, a national broadcaster, replaced the prime minister with an ice sculpture during a debate on climate change.   While most other leaders of Britain’s main political parties took part, Boris Johnson refused.  The editor of Channel 4 News accused Mr. Johnson of trying to avoid scrutiny during the election campaign “like Donald Trump.”  (Economist, 11/29)

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Italy busts neo-Nazi ring, ‘Miss Hitler’ pageant winner

Prosecutors in Sicily have announced 19 arrests, exposing a nationwide network of would-be fascist militants.  Police have uncovered weapons, explosives, and extremist propaganda in a series of raids.

Italian police have arrested at least 19 people in connection with a militant neo-Nazi ring, national media reported on Thursday. Although the investigation was based in Sicily, several of the suspects hail from all over the country.   One of the arrested included a 26-year-old Milan resident who had been the winner of an online beauty competition called “Miss Hitler.”   She also spoke at an extreme-right conference in Portugal last August that attempted to unite the so-called “National Socialist movements” of Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France.

During the operation, led by prosecutors in Caltanissetta, Sicily, and dubbed “Black Shadows,” police undercovered troves of weapons, explosives, Nazi memorabilia and texts praising fascist dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, in a series of raids carried out across Italy.
   On top of possible weapons charges, promoting fascism is a crime in Italy.
   The supposed leader of the group is a 50-year-old public employee from the city of Padua, in the northeastern region of Veneto.   She was not known to authorities prior to her detention, police have said, adding that they recovered anti-Semitic material at her home.
   Another suspect is an offender with multiple convictions and ties to the ‘Ndrangheta, the elusive Calabrian mafia, one of the richest organized crime syndicates in the world and by some estimates responsible for 3% of Italy’s GDP.   The man, Italian media said, had turned informant for the police against the mafia but was apparently acting as the chief “trainer” for the violence the neo-Nazi group hoped to carry out.   Specific center-left politicians were named as possible targets.
   The group used a Russian chat app to communicate and try to avoid detection, Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported.   A Russian social media platform called VK was also used to host the “Miss Hitler” competition.(https://www.dw.com/en/italy-busts-neo-nazi-ring-miss-hitler-pageant-winner/a-51458025)

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TO THE POINT

  • CHINA FINANCIAL WARNINGS                                                                    From rural bank runs to surging consumer indebtedness and an unprecedented bond restructuring, mounting signs of financial stress in China are putting the nation’s policy makers to the test. Xi Jinping’s government faces an increasingly difficult balancing act as it tries to support the world’s second-largest economy without encouraging moral hazard and reckless spending.   While authorities have so far been reluctant to rescue troubled borrowers and ramp up stimulus, the costs of maintaining that stance are rising as defaults increase and China’s slowdown deepens.  (China financial warning; Bloomberg, 11/28/2019)
  • HONG KONG IN REVOLT                                                                            “When Mao Zedong’s guerrillas seized power in China in 1949, they did not take over a clearly defined country, much less an entirely willing one.   Hong Kong was ruled by the British, nearby Macau by the Portuguese.   Taiwan was under the control of a Nationalist government Mao had just overthrown.   The mountain terrain of Tibet was under a Buddhist theocracy that chafed at control from Beijing.   Communist troops had yet to enter another immense region in the far west, Xinjiang, where Muslim ethnic groups did not want to be ruled from afar.”  (“Hong Kong in revolt,” The Economist, 11/23/2019).
  • Applying pressure on China is the top priority for the newly elected German EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She announced that, on Sunday – her first day in office – she plans to call Beijing to discuss “human rights.”   The People’s Republic of China is being accused of human rights violations in the context of its “war on terror” against jihadism in Xinjiang province.  The German chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, David McAllister (CDU) announced that the EU Parliament also plans to discuss the situation in Xinjiang, in its upcoming plenary session (December 16 – 19). In Berlin, the transatlantic-oriented opposition plans to call for sanctions to be imposed on either Chinese politicians or Chinese high-tech-companies, already affected by US sanctions. Commentators in the USA, as well as in Germany, are equating China with Nazi Germany. According to a former liberal-oriented German daily, “there can be no long-term peaceful coexistence” with the People’s Republic of China.   (German Foreign Policy, 11/29/2019)
  • ZAMBIAN COUPLE GET 15 YEARS FOR SEXUAL ACT                      A homosexual couple has been given 15 years for a crime “against the natural order,” citing the fact that they are a very religious Christian country.   They also happen to have one of the highest incidents of HIV in the world, reflecting widespread immorality. They should take a look at I Corinthians 6.  Fornication, adultery and sodomy are all condemned equally, a fact that Zambian churches have failed to notice.  In Africa, AIDS is invariably a heterosexual disease.
  •  A video has emerged from the Nato summit in London, which appears to show Boris Johnson,  Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron, Princess Anne and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, laughing about the US president during a reception at Buckingham Palace.   The meeting to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nato alliance began inauspiciously, with tensions on full display between Macron, Trump and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.    It seems that other countries are more likely to ridicule Mr Trump, expecting that he will be impeached next year.
  • PRINCE ANDREW                                                                                                    As a former navy pilot, Prince Andrew would normally be present at a Nato shindig, but the disgraced duke has been stripped of his duties, leaving his mother to host the reception.  Meanwhile, Trump’s claim not to know Andrew is contradicted by extensive photographic evidence.  (Guardian, 12/4)

 

 

 

IRAN USING ISLAMIC JIHAD TO STRIKE ISRAEL

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

Pompeo:   Iran uses Islamic Jihad to strike Israel

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

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LEGACY OF FASCISM IN CROATIA

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

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TOTAL COST OF WARS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ISLAM AND THE LGBT

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

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

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

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GERMAN SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA

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

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The Militarization of the North Sea

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

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TO THE POINT

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

ISRAEL ATTACKS SYRIAN AND IRANIAN TARGETS

Syria’s state media released images of what they say are destroyed houses near Damascus (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Israel says it has hit dozens of targets in Syria belonging to the government and allied Iranian forces.

The Israeli military says the “wide-scale strikes” responded to rockets fired by an Iranian unit into Israel.   Syria says two civilians died and that Syrian air defenses shot down most of the missiles over Damascus.  Other reports say the death toll was higher.   Local reports said loud explosions were heard in the capital.   Pictures on social media showed a number of fires.

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PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

“It’s easy to go about our lives and forget that in places like Nigeria, Iran and North Korea being a Christian can often lead to death.” — Vernon Brewer, founder and CEO of World Help, Fox News, November 4, 2019

“4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons.  On average, that’s 11 Christians killed every day for their faith.” — Open Doors, World Watch List 2019

More than 245 million Christians around the world are currently suffering from persecution. — Open Doors, World Watch List, 2019 (Gatestone 11/15/2019)

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CHANGES AHEAD IF CORBYN WINS

The United Kingdom has a general election on December 12th.  It is considered the most important election in 80 years.  It will determine the issue of Brexit, the future direction of the British economy and even of the United Kingdom itself.

  • “By far the most likely casualty of a Corbyn government would be the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, where there is a strong likelihood that other member states of the alliance will be deeply reluctant to share highly sensitive material with a British prime minister who has spent his entire political career openly associating with regimes and groups that are utterly hostile to the West and its allies.
  • At the heart of his hard Left approach to foreign policy lies a deep hatred for the US and its role in safeguarding the interests of the Western democracies.
  • Thus Mr. Corbyn’s instinct is to be more sympathetic to the views of Russia, Iran, North Korea and the Assad regime in Syria than Britain’s long-standing allies in Washington and Europe.   (Con Coughlin, Gatestone, 11/16/2019)

JEREMY CORBYN’S BIG NEGATIVE EFFECT ON FOREIGN POLICY

“A Corbyn-led government would quickly lead to the biggest change in Britain’s defense posture since the second world war.   Even if the country stayed in NATO, as is likely, it would be a passive member, reluctant to push back against Russian expansionism and hostile to the idea of a nuclear deterrent.   Given that NATO depends on confidence that it means what it says, this would be a severe blow to its credibility.   Britain’s Middle East policy would be revolutionized, with a more hostile stance toward Israel and the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, and a friendlier one to Iran.   America would almost certainly stop sharing critical intelligence with Downing Street, for fears that such secrets would find their way into Russian or Iranian hands.   Given Britain’s membership of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, that would harm Europe’s ability to combat hostile states and non-state actors.

“Such a revolution would come at a sensitive time.   Mr. Trump is already disrupting established security relations (for all their differences, he and Mr. Corbyn share a common hostility to the multinational institutions that have kept the peace since 1945).   Brexit is straining relations with Britain’s European allies, while gobbling up the political class’s available bandwidth.  The Foreign Office is demoralized by decades of cuts, and the security establishment is still tainted by the weapons-of-mass-destruction fiasco.

All this is taking place at a time when Mr. Putin is on the march and Islamic State is shifting its focus from state-building to global terror. A Dangerous world may be about to become more dangerous.” (“Security questions,” Bagehot, The Economist, 11/9,2019).

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MACRON ON RUSSIA

“. . . consider Mr. Macron’s Russia policy.   He has long argued that rogue powers are more dangerous when isolated.   To this end, he has hosted Vladimir Putin at both Versailles, near Paris, and Bregancon, on the Mediterranean.   But his call for a “rapprochement” with Russia, in order to keep it out of China’s arms, has alarmed Poland and the Baltics.   “My idea is not in the least naïve,” argues Mr. Macron.   He insists that any movement would be conditional on respect for the Minsk peace accords in Ukraine.   He has not called for sanctions to be lifted.   And he sees this as a long-term strategy, that “might take ten years.”   Mr. Macron’s belief is that, eventually, Europe will need to try to find common ground with its near neighbor.   Not doing so would be a “huge mistake”.” (Briefing, The Economist, 11/9/2019)

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WHO WILL PAY FOR ENDLESS WARS?

“Future generations will pay for them:   the wars have been funded by debt.   Most Americans have had little reason to think their country is even at war.    And lucky them because war is hell.   But this disconnect helps explain why the country’s civil-military relations are as distant as they are.   It also helps explain how America came to be locked in such long and largely unproductive conflicts in the first place.   Its voters started to reckon with the rights and wrongs of the Vietnam War – then demand accountability for it – only after they felt its sting.   By contrast Donald Trump, who almost alone among national politicians decries the latest conflicts, has struggled to interest voters in them – or indeed end them.

“Though mostly wrong on the details, the president raises an important question of the long wars.   What have they achieved?” (Lexington, The Economist, 11/9/2019).

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TEMPLE MOUNT NO LONGER

154 UN nations call Temple Mount solely by Muslim name Haram al-Sharif  – EU approves text, but warns it may not do so in the future by Tovah Lazaroff, November 17, 2019

The UN gave its preliminary approval to a resolution that referred to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Haram al-Sharif.

The resolution passed at the UN’s Fourth Committee in New York 154-8, with 14 abstentions and 17 absences.   It was one of eight pro-Palestinian resolutions approved on Friday, out of a slate of more than 15 such texts the committee is expected to approve.   The UN General Assembly will take a final vote on the texts in December.

. . . Acting US Deputy Representative to the United Nations Cherith Norman Chalet told the Fourth Committee it opposed the “annual submission of more than a dozen resolutions biased against Israel.

. . .  “As the United States has repeatedly made clear, this dynamic is unacceptable,” Chalet continued.  “We see resolutions that are quick to condemn all manner of Israeli actions, but say nothing or almost nothing about terrorist attacks against innocent civilians.   And so the United States will once again vote against these one-sided resolutions and encourages other nations to do so.”
(https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/154-UN-nations-call-Temple-Mount-solely-by-Muslim-name-Haram-al-Sharif-608135)

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GERMAN MILITIAS

Right-wing militia groups say they patrol where police turn a blind eye.  But with criminality dropping and more police than ever in Germany,  analysts and politicians say their motives are more sinister.         Deutsche Welle, 18/11/2019 

Sebastian Niedrich is one of about 20 militiamen in Berlin with a “citizen patrol” initiative.   In groups of two or three, the red-vested men patrol neighborhoods in Berlin they claim are areas where petty crime is rife.   Their initiative is called “Establish Protection Zones” (“Schafft Schutzzone”).   It is abbreviated as “SS,” which in Germany immediately brings to mind the notorious Nazi-era “SS” – the paramilitary “Protection Squadron” that persecuted millions and was directly responsible for genocide.   Niedrich rejects any such connection.   Right-wing extremist initiative:   The “Establish Protection Zones” initiative, an offshoot of Germany’s extreme-right National Democratic Party (NPD), says the areas it patrols are often popular tourist areas, as well as those with growing immigrant communities.

The first subheading of the NPD’s party platform in Berlin reads “The Problem of Foreigners” and lays out ways to close Germany’s borders, bar immigrants from receiving jobs and social benefits, and preserve Germany’s national identity.   The party’s website also prominently displays images of its logo-wearing patrols, superimposed with slogans like “Protect Germans!” and “Germans helping Germans!”   Multiple attempts to disband or ban the party entirely have failed in courts.   The extreme-right NPD in western Germany, has made it their task to protest against Islam.   A study on German society’s biggest fears released earlier this year by the Berlin Social Science Center showed that one in three respondents feared “foreign infiltration” on account of too many immigrants. Over half feared criminality.

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GERMANY-TAIPEI LINKS

German politician urges military links with Taipei                             Taipei Times, 19 Nov 2019

Germany and Taiwan should conduct military exchanges, which would be more meaningful than exchanges with China, German lawmaker Ulrich Lechte, a member of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs, said on Sunday.   “The free world should stand together,” the Free Democratic Party lawmaker wrote on Facebook.  The Taipei Representative Office in Germany’s Munich office shared Lechte’s post on its Facebook page, and thanked him for his continuing support of Taiwan.   The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that 62 nations, including China, are to receive training from the Bundeswehr, Germany’s military.

Amnesty International arms and human rights expert Mathias John criticized the plans to train Chinese soldiers, telling the paper that doing so was “incomprehensible” given China’s “human rights situation and the role the Chinese People’s Liberation Army plays” in human rights violations in China.   John also brought up the protests in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong police’s response to them.  Germany should “send a clear message and immediately cease all military cooperation with China,” he said.   A spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defense told the paper that Chinese soldiers regularly participate in educational events organized by the German military, including international officer courses, as well as officer training courses offered at military schools, universities and military leadership academies.   The weekly news magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday reported that the German government is planning to send warships into the South China Sea and through the Taiwan Strait as a way of “refuting Chinese territorial claims” in those areas (http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/11/19/2003726106)

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ADMIRAL HORATIO NELSON and THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR

 214 Years Ago

The Battle of Trafalgar, fought 21 October 1805, was one of the most important and decisive Naval engagements of all time, decisively establishing the supremacy of the Royal Navy on the high seas.   Rather than a conventional engagement between lines of battle with gunnery duels, the English made a bold attack that allowed them to gain local superiority over the enemy and raked their ships with devastating broadsides.   The Franco-Spanish fleet was decisively defeated and British supremacy on the high seas was decisively established for the rest of the 19th century.   Lord Nelson’s defeat of the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar allowed British trade to flourish around the world, laying the foundations for Britain’s emergence as an economic superpower.   It also made possible the Greatest Century of Missions, as Protestant missionaries were able to sail to every corner of the world.   The Royal Navy’s domination of the high seas brought an end to the slave trade in the 19th Century.   (Reformation SA, 2019)

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TO THE POINT

  • The Chinese Ambassador to the UK has accused both the UK and the US of interfering in Chinese domestic affairs.   He is referring to British and American support for student protesters in Hong Kong.   He has a point. Democracy isn’t working too well right now in the US or the UK.   Perhaps we should shut up until things calm down at home!
  • “The escalation of the unrest in Hong Kong coincides with recent mass protests around the world.   These protests – in Bolivia, Iran and elsewhere – are not connected.   However, they are loosely linked thematically in that they concern inequality, political freedoms, corruption and climate change.”  (“Protests catch fire,” USA Today, 11/19/2019)
  • Prince Andrew’s BBC interview in which he denies having had a relationship with a 17- year-old girl, courtesy of Jeffrey Epstein, has failed to convince many.   Members of the royal family rarely give interviews.   It’s difficult to remember one, which was advantageous to the royals.   Perhaps they just haven’t had as much practice at lying as politicians!  (Prince Andrew has since withdrawn from public duties, “for the foreseeable future”.)
  • A 55-year-old man in China’s Inner Mongolia region has been diagnosed with bubonic plague after eating wild rabbit, the third recorded case of the deadly disease in the country.
  • A famous person I’ve never heard of is complaining about the patriotic song “Rule Britannia,” which dates back to the days when the British Royal Navy governed the world.   Is she objecting to the fact that the royal navy did more than any other institution to end the slave trade?   From 1810 to 1860 the West Africa Squadron freed 250,000 slaves. (see article above on Horatio Nelson; last sentence) “Slavery was a fact of life in the sixteenth century.   The African slave trade was already the largest form of commerce in the world.   No one had the least qualms about it, least of all Africa’s own tribal rulers.” (“To Rule the Waves,” page 2, Arthur Herman, 2004)
  • “The global debt ballooned to a record high of more than $250 trillion and shows no sign of slowing down, according to a new report from the Institute of International Finance (IIF).   . . . Extended low interest rates and easy money has facilitated the accumulation of a bone crushing amount of debt over the last decade or so,” Dylan Riddle, a spokesperson for the IIF told ABC News in a statement.   “This debt has helped fuel global growth, however, we must focus on managing the current debt load, and deploying resources for more productive means — like fighting climate change or investing in growth.”  (ABC News)

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!)

 

 

WHO CAN TRUST TRUMP’S AMERICA?

Gary Newman is a good friend of mine who attends the Milwaukee congregations of the United Church of God. Photography is his hobby, particularly taking pictures of birds in Wisconsin. The above picture is taken from his latest book of wildlife, a collection of his photographs.
Gary struggles with Parkinson’s and would appreciate your prayers.

“The pithiest summary of Donald Trump’s foreign policy comes from the president himself.   Referring to the mayhem he has uncorked in Syria, he tweeted:  “I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”   Mr. Trump imagines he can abandon an ally in a dangerous region without serious consequences for the United States.   He is wrong.   The betrayal of the Kurds will lead friends and foes to doubt Mr. Trump’s America.   That is something both America and the world should lament . . .

“Mr. Trump campaigned on bringing troops home.   He has argued that America must rid itself of ‘endless wars.’   When he says Russia, Iran and Turkey can deal with the mess in Syria, many of his voters will agree.   After almost two decades at war, they have tired of America’s acting as the world’s policeman.   Some Democrats would like to pull troops out of the Middle East, too, including Elizabeth Warren, a leading contender to replace Mr. Trump.”   (“Who can trust Trump’s America?” – The Economist, 10/19)

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TURKEY MAY GO THE WAY OF VENEZUELA

Turkish citizens are wildly optimistic about the invasion of Syria that began Oct. 9.   President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision finds broad support within Turkey, including from all the major opposition parties except the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party.   The incursion is understood domestically not only as a measure to protect the country from the Kurdish forces Mr. Erdoğan calls “terrorists,” but also to affirm Turkey’s status as a power; Ankara no longer must bow to the wishes of Washington, Berlin or Moscow.

Then there’s the pessimistic view, the one I share.   The invasion damages Turkey internationally:    Western and Arab governments have condemned the military operation, as have the Russian, Iranian, Indian and Chinese governments.   Volkswagen paused a planned investment in Turkey, and other companies may follow suit. Congress is weighing economic sanctions.   Italy, France and Germany have suspended arms sales.   Tensions are heightening between Turks and Kurds in Germany, and will likely rise within Turkey as well.   (“Turkey may go the way of Venezuela,” Daniel Pipes from the Wall Sreet Journal, 10/24)

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CANADIAN ELECTION

The Canadian election has been held and leaves Justin Trudeau in charge, albeit with a minority government.   He will now have to negotiate with other parties to keep himself in power.   The following is an item from before the election.

In a Friday, October 11, 2019, sermon that was uploaded to the Muslim Youth Victoria YouTube channel, Canadian Sheikh Younus Kathrada reminded his audience that who they vote for in the upcoming Canadian elections, if they decide to vote, will be recorded by the two angels on their shoulders and that Allah will ask them on Judgment Day why they voted for “filthy non-Muslims” who approve of homosexuality.   Sheikh Kathrada said that all of the candidates are “evil and filthy” people who support the Zionists against Islam and who do not have Muslims’ best interests in mind. He added that this is consistent with the Quranic statement that the Jews and the Christians will never be pleased with the Muslims. (MEMRI 10/16)

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DRAGHI BOWS OUT AT ECB WITH WARNING ON EUROZONE WEAKNESS
Mario Draghi blames slowing global economy, Brexit uncertainty and recession fears in Germany

Speaking in Frankfurt after his final ECB policy meeting before stepping down, Draghi said the ECB was concerned that the economy of the 19-member currency bloc, which has slowed this year along with much of the global economy, faced “protracted weakness” going into 2020.

With consumer and business confidence low and trade with the US hit by Donald Trump’s latest raft of import tariffs, risks were all “to the downside,” said the Italian economist, who will be succeeded on 1 November by former International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde.

German companies were the worst affected, with employment in Europe’s largest economy falling for the first time in six years according to a closely watched business survey.   After 14 months of falling new orders from abroad and a steep drop in sales across the manufacturing sector in October, the German economy’s slide to the brink of recession appeared to be continuing unabated.   (Guardian * 24 Oct 2019)

(https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/24/germany-eurozone-stagnation-economy-output-recession)

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TO THE POINT

  • The search for the perfect impeachable offense against President Trump is reminiscent of overzealous prosecutors who target the defendant first and then search for the crime with which to charge him.   Or to paraphrase the former head of the Soviet secret police to Stalin:   show me the man and I will find you the crime.   (“Impeachers searching for new crimes,” Adam Dershowitz, Gatestone, 10/24)
  • If, according to Hamas, Turkey has the right to protect its border, why does Israel not have the same right?   (“Why Hamas supports Erdogan’s War,” Gatestone, 10/22)
  • With only a few days to go until Brexit, scheduled for October 31st, it seems doubtful it can go ahead.   The British parliament has made it virtually impossible for Boris Johnson to leave.   The EU, however, is clearly growing tired of this and has granted an extension of undetermined length (to be decided next week). Clearly, this is the last extension they will grant.   EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker described the whole Brexit process as “a waste of time and energy.”   What has become clear through the whole Brexit process is that the EU is in charge and Britain plays the subservient role.   This is Britain’s national humiliation.   It is also clear that it is impossible to negotiate a deal with the EU, as the former Greek finance minister warned, as they won’t budge an inch.   Donald Trump should remember this when negotiations begin for a new trade deal with Europe – it’s their way or no way!
  • The deaths of 39 people in a lorry (truck) just outside of London shows that people traffickers are still very active.   The people found inside were Orientals.   Only one has been identified, a young lady from Vietnam who was a human rights activist.   She had texted her mother from inside the truck saying she was finding it hard to breathe.   The Chinese government is blaming the British for this.   In one way, this is correct.   If Britain’s welfare system was not so generous, many people would be less inclined to go there.   An immediate solution that would improve the situation would be to deny welfare and healthcare to immigrants unless they have worked there for five years.     It’s an unlikely solution as neither branch of government (healthcare is government controlled) is set up to manage such a system.   So expect more people smugglers.   And, realize, for every truck found, there’s probably 20 or 30 get through and unload their passengers with no problems.   Revelation 18:13 warned that the end-time economic system would see a great trade in human beings:    “The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thy wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.” (NKJV)
  • Human trafficking is now the world’s biggest trade, and is far more profitable than drugs.   People pay approximately 30,000 pounds ($39,000) to be “smuggled” from China through Belgium to England.   One other thing needs to be said:   these people cross at least a dozen countries to get to England.   Anti-Brexit propaganda says the British economy will collapse when the UK exits the EU.   Obviously, these people have far more confidence in the future of the British economy that the Remainers have!

Had a great time in the Dells.   My wife has a pain in her right leg (which has just been diagnosed as a Baker’s cyst), making it very difficult to walk.   And I’ve had the flu since we got back.

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.

 

 

 

GERMANY BACKS BREAK-UP OF UNITED KINGDOM

BERLIN/LONDON/EDINBURGH – Berlin’s foreign policy is in support of Scottish nationalists, preparing to hold a second referendum to secede from the United Kingdom.   Last week, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of the Scottish regional government and chairperson of the Scottish National Party (SNP), was received in the German capital for confidential talks with representatives of the German foreign policy establishment, including with Michael Roth (SPD), Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.   Officially, the meetings were focused on the Brexit, bitterly opposed by Sturgeon and the Scottish nationalists.   However, Sturgeon was, in fact, also pleading for support for her secessionist project and to bring Scotland, as an independent country into the EU.

About three years ago, German government representatives had already been in support of this plan.

However, a reliable Scottish majority, needed for this project, is nowhere in sight.

A Second Secession Referendum

Scotland’s regional government under First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is relentlessly pursuing its campaign for a second secession referendum.   Prior to the referendum on September 18, 2014, Scottish nationalists, including Sturgeon, had repeatedly that the population’s decision at the ballot box should be valid for one generation.   However, when a clear majority of 55.3 percent voted in favor of remaining in the UK, Sturgeon immediately declared that, by no means, would she content herself with that outcome, and would eventually seek a new vote.   The occasion presented itself with the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016, when a majority of 51.9 percent in the UK voted to leave the EU, while a clear majority of 62 percent in Scotland voted to remain.   This discrepancy was an opportunity for Sturgeon – whose regional government has so far only rudimentarily implemented its election promises concerning the social and health sectors – to not only reiterate her idea of a second referendum, but to directly link the perspective of Scotland’s secession with that of remaining in the EU.

Inducement Applause

Representatives of Germany’s governing parties and ministries took this occasion to openly applaud the Scottish nationalists’ secessionist efforts and thus promote the disintegration of an officially allied country.   Already on June 26, 2016, Gunther Krichbaum (CDU), Chairman of the Bundestag’s Committee for the Affairs of the European Union declared that he expected that a new referendum on Scotland’s secession would be “successful” and that the country would remain within the EU.   (German Foreign Policy, 9/23)

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GERMANY SUPPORTS MORE INTERVENTIONS

The German government seeks to expand civilian-military interventions abroad, to obtain a more favorable position in the global struggle for spheres of influence.   To meet the challenge in the context of the “great-power rivalry between the United States, Russia and China,” the EU military missions must be combined with “civilian assistance,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) declared recently.   This “networked approach” should become “a hub” for EU-policy and lead to the creation of a “crisis prevention center” in Berlin.   The plan is particularly to train police officers and other “rule-of-law experts” to be deployed in countries, where “German interests” appear threatened by “outside influence.” “Legitimate partners,” such as the governments of Mali or Afghanistan or opposition forces, as in Syria, could be “strengthened,” explains the German Foreign Ministry.  (German Foreign Policy, 9/21)

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GERMANY LEADS MULTINATIONAL NAVAL EXERCISE

ROSTOCK/COPENHAGEN – Under German command, numerous NATO member countries and close allies are participating in a naval exercise – that ends on Thursday – for the control of Baltic maritime routes.

The Bundeswehr provides, by far, the largest contingent in this year’s “Northern Coasts” naval exercise (September 3 to 19), taking place in the context of the escalating conflict between western countries and Russia.   Due to this conflict, not only Eastern Europe, but the Baltic Sea, as well, has been gaining strategic importance. This is comparable to the Baltic Sea’s importance during the Cold War.   Germany is participating in NATO’s remilitarization of the Baltic Sea, seeking to assume a regional leadership role and enhance its standing within NATO.   The new Maritime Forces Staff, DEU MARFOR, based in the naval headquarters being set up in Rostock, also serves this purpose. In the future, it will be able to provide command for NATO, as well as EU wars.

Northern Coasts 2019

Around 3,000 troops from 18 nations are currently participating in the “Northern Coasts 2019” naval exercise lasting more than two weeks and extending from the straits connecting the Baltic Sea to the North Sea between the Danish and Swedish coasts up to the Bornholm island.   It, thus, includes the narrowest and shallowest sections of the Baltic Sea’s maritime routes.  It is already a challenge for larger ships to maneuver in the Baltic Sea.   In this environment, the multinational forces are training joint operations with 47 vessels, a submarine, seven aircraft and five helicopters.   With 1,300 troops, the Bundeswehr, alone, accounts for nearly half of the soldiers and thus the largest proportion of personnel in the exercise. German forces provide seven ships, the submarine and one of the seven aircraft.   In addition, mine clearance divers from the Naval Force Protection Battalion in Eckernförde are deployed and play a leading role in mine-warfare.   Ashore, German soldiers are active in the logistics command and provide specialists for electronic warfare operations.    This year, the multinational personnel and equipment are under the command of German Rear Admiral Stephan Haisch.(German Foreign Policy, 9/16)

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BANKING AFTER BREXIT

Brexit will reduce by one third the EU’s share of global capital markets and will shift relations within the EU in France’s favor, as was revealed in a recent study on the impact the UK’s departure will have on the Union’s financial sector.   Brexit will therefore reduce the EU’s share of global capital market activities to 14 percent – around one third the size of the US and roughly the same as China. France will become number one among the EU-27 – a bit ahead of Germany.   The shrinkage can also be attributed to the fact that the EU was unable to induce major banks and other financial institutions, on a large scale, to relocate from London onto the continent. Brussels has tried to use strict regulations, stipulating that financial transactions within the EU may only be conducted by legally independent entities within an EU country. However, the financial sector has limited its relocation onto the continent to only the bare essentials. The anticipated banking boom, for example, in Frankfurt, is not materializing.  (German Foreign Policy, 9/19)

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MIDEAST SLIDING INTO MAJOR WAR

The Middle East appears to be sliding into a war and it may even have already started. It is a new kind of war, a 21st century conflict for which there is no formal declaration of war, no clear fronts and a wide variety of battlefields.   There are attacks the provenance of which may never be known, and while some of the fighting is conventional in nature, much of it is not and involves drones in the air and viruses in cyberspace.

More than anything, it is a confusing war, in which nobody really has control, not even those who are ostensibly leading it .

(https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/usa-saudia-arabia-iran-a-new-conflict-in-the-middle-east-a-1287811.html)

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AMERICA WILL NEVER TOLERATE IRAN’S ANTI-SEMITIC HATE – TRUMP

At UN, Trump calls on Mideast nations to fully normalize ties with Israel.  Addressing world leaders, US president says sanctions against Iran will be tightened, not lifted, until it changes behavior and ends ‘fanatical quest’ for nukes.

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, the US president accused Tehran of trafficking in “monstrous anti-Semitism” and engaging in a “fanatical quest” to obtain nuclear weapons.   Trump said the rogue regime’s aggression had created newfound regional alliances to counter the Iranian threat. “Thankfully, there is a growing recognition in the wider Middle East that the countries of the region share common interest in battling extremism and unleashing economic opportunity,” Trump said.   “That is why it’s so important to have full normalized relations between Israel and its neighbors.”

In a highly anticipated address before the international community — as tensions with Iran intensified after it allegedly attacked two Saudi oil facilities — Trump insisted that he would maintain his “maximum pressure campaign” against Tehran.    . . . Iran, he said, was on a “fanatical quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.”   The world, Trump continued, “must never allow this to happen.”

. . . “For 40 years, the world has listened to Iran’s rulers as they lash out on everyone else for the problems they alone have created,” he said.   (https://www.timesofisrael.com/at-un-trump-calls-on-mideast-nations-to-fully-normalize-ties-with-)

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HOW HAMAS LEADERS FOOL PALESTINIANS

“Frustrated Palestinian youths are committing suicide because of poverty, while the sons of the leaders are holding birthday parties!” — Hussein Qatoush, on Facebook

The problem . . . is when your father is a senior terrorist leader who devotes himself to inciting against Israel and Jews and encouraging other young Palestinians to sacrifice their lives in the war against Israel.   Hamad, like the rest of the Hamas leaders, would never send his own son to attack soldiers at the border with Israel.

It is time for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to revolt against the leaders who are keeping them chained in poverty and sending them to their deaths.

It is also time for the international community to wake up to the fact that it is wealthy Hamas leaders, and not Israel, who are responsible for the humanitarian and economic disaster that is known as the Gaza Strip.   (Bassam Tawil, Gatestone, 9/25)

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THE GREAT WAR OF OUR TIME

“So how did our initial victory in Afghanistan – in only months – turn into the longest war in American history?   It happened because at some point our goal shifted from ensuring that al Qai’da would not again be able to use Afghanistan as a launching pad for attacks against the homeland to something else.   The mission changed to trying to permanently alter Afghan politics and society.   It was an impossible task to turn Afghanistan’s tribal society and culture into a liberal democracy.   It was an impossible task to convince the Taliban that it should operate inside the Afghan political system rather than outside of it.   Perhaps we should have walked away from Afghanistan after forcing al-Qa’ida from the country, and we would have told all Afghans, including the Taliban, ‘If you let al-Qa’ida return, so will we.”   (“The Great War of our time”, by Michael Morell, former Deputy CIA Director, 2015, page 74).

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TO THE POINT

  • If you’re tired of the usual entertainment provided by TV and even streaming, check out the continuing saga of Brexit, courtesy of Sky News (on “Watch Free” or on the web).  The parliamentary debates are entertaining, to say the least.
  • Surely, the investigation of Donald Trump over his Ukrainian call should be focused on Joe Biden.   His son is now being paid $50,000 a MONTH by a Ukrainian gas company in a job for which he’s not qualified.   When an investigation began looking into this by a Ukrainian prosecutor Biden brought pressure to bear to stop it, threatening an end to US aid.   Corruption, anyone?   (It’s even worse when you consider that the Democrats are supposed to be the party of the working man.)
  • Former French President Jacques Chirac died today.   He was the French leader who finally admitted French complicity in the Holocaust, that the French themselves put French Jews on trains taking them to concentration camps.
  • New South Wales has become the latest Australian state to liberalize abortion laws.   It doesn’t make any sense.   Australia needs more people.   Refugees and other immigrants threaten the Australian way of life.   Australians need to reproduce more.
  • Somebody has stolen the “Amigo” from our local Aldi.   An amigo is a self-driving vehicle with a shopping cart attached.   They can hardly drive it down the street.   What possible use can the thief have for this?   Meanwhile, customers with disabilities are struggling to get around as best they can.   Apparently, a replacement amigo costs about $2,000.