Tag Archives: Xi Jinping

BRITAIN AND AMERICA LEAD WITH CORONA VIRUS

Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer has taken draconian steps to stop the spread of the corona virus. The restrictions she has imposed on Michigan are unprecedented. Cartoons like this one illustrate the public’s distrust of government, though most people seem to support the measures she has taken. At the same time, North Korea’s leader was missing, presumed dead.

In the US, there have been over 70,000 corona virus deaths; in the UK over 32,000 (proportionately the UK is worse than the US).   What this could mean remains to be seen.

Two months ago, Britain looked on in horror as deaths from Covid-19 skyrocketed in Italy.   Now, the UK’s own death toll from the disease has eclipsed its continental neighbor to become the worst in Europe.

Yet with the true figure likely to be significantly higher due to missed cases and a lag in reporting, the country is braced for worse news to come.  (The Week, 5/6/2020)

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RATE OF UNEMPLOYMENT

The latest unemployment figures came out this morning (Thursday).  An additional 3.2 million people filed for unemployment benefit last week.   That brings the total number of Americans without a job to 33.5 million.

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RESISTANCE MOUNTS

From Maine to California, Americans are defying government officials and reclaiming their First Amendment rights to assemble and protest.  They are opening up their businesses in open defiance of the authoritarian political leaders.   The resistance is building and thankfully remains (mostly) peaceful.  How long until the dam breaks and the lockdown regime comes crashing down?(https://patriotpowerednews.com/resistance-to-lockdown-builds-coronavirus-tyrants-losing-their-grip/)

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BRITISH ECONOMY HITS ROCK BOTTOM

In recent weeks economic data have forced statisticians to change the scale on their charts by hitting new lows.  This week they showed a record drop in construction activity, and the car industry’s trade body reported that new registrations fell by 97% year-on-year in April.   The good news is that the last month probably represented the bottom for Britain’s economy, with lockdown restrictions likely to ease in coming weeks.   The bad news is that the shape of the recovery remains uncertain.   Today’s Bank of England announcements did not include new policy changes—interest rates are already at record lows, quantitative easing has restarted, and new schemes have been put in place to support business lending — but they did update their forecasts.   The bank’s economists now expect the economy to contract by 14% in 2020, the largest annual fall since the early 1700s, followed by a 15% bounce in 2021.   The worry though is that while the scale of the decline looks pretty clear, the speed of the recovery is subject to much more uncertainty.   (The Economist, 5/7/2020)

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FEARS PANDEMIC MAY HASTEN WEST’S DECLINE 

The corona crisis could accelerate Germany and the western powers’ economic and political decline, according to recent economic projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and analyses by US foreign policy experts.   As the US magazine Foreign Policy writes, Trump’s handling of the crisis has been an “embarrassing debacle” that tarnished the United States’ reputation as a country “that knows how to do things effectively.”  Other states are more willing to orient themselves on countries which are “past the peak of infection,” such as China, concludes the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.   The EU has also failed in the crisis. According to the IMF, China will economically suffer less under the pandemic than western countries: its economic performance will bypass that of the eurozone quicker than expected and will approach that of the United States.   In the West, this emerging shift in power is being accompanied by aggressive anti-Chinese propaganda.  (German Foreign Policy, 4/16/2020)

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TEST OF AMERICAN LEADERSHIP, POST-VIRUS

You can see why china might sniff an opportunity in this crisis. Coronavirus has targeted America’s weaknesses, while making many of its strengths temporarily irrelevant.   The world’s most powerful military machine is not much use against a virus.   But a lack of universal healthcare coverage is suddenly a threat not just to the poor but to the whole of US society.

Question one is:   what currency in the world do you most trust? Question two:   where, outside your home country, would you most like your children to go to university or to work?  For a majority of the global middle-class, the answers to those questions have been, respectively, the dollar and the us.  If that continues to be the case after the pandemic, then American primacy will continue.

(Gideon Rachman, FT, 5/6)

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FEARS GROW BREXIT TALKS COULD COLLAPSE IN JUNE

Brexit talks with the European Union could collapse in June unless Brussels abandons its demands for a common fisheries policy and a level playing field, says a source close to the UK’s negotiating team.

The source told The Guardian that only “limited progress in bridging the gaps between us” had been made at last week’s talks, but there was “confidence that progress can be made quite quickly.”

He added that he was “quite positive” over the chances of a trade deal before the end of the year, when the UK’s transition period ends.  Boris Johnson is expected to take a more active role in trying to help unblock talks if there is no breakthrough in the months ahead.   (The Week, 5/1/2020)

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Britain’s new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth sets sail
30 April 2020, Defense News

LONDON — Britain’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departed its Portsmouth base April 29 for training, but only after its crew was tested for the new coronavirus, the Royal Navy announced.   The 65,000-ton warship is currently in an isolation period at sea ahead of training off the south coast of England.  The ship’s departure from the Portsmouth naval base was delayed by a few days to enable the entire crew of about 800 to be tested for COVID-19.   The warship is expected to be at sea for up to eight weeks conducting the Flag Officer Sea Training assessment required to certify that HMS Queen Elizabeth is competent to join the fleet for operational tasking.  Britain is targeting next year for the ship’s first operational deployment, and the FOST assessment is a key element in achieving that plan.  Training with F-35 fighter jets, simulated battle damage, fires and flood training, and mission rehearsals will be part of the process, the Royal Navy said in a statement.  “This will prepare the ship for further training later in the year with other Royal Navy ships to ensure they are ready to deploy as a task group next year,” the service said.(https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2020/04/30/britains-new-carrier-queen-elizabeth-sets-sail-prepared-to-train-amid-pandemic/)

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EUROZONE ECONOMY SHRINKS AT RECORD RATE

The eurozone economy shrank at its sharpest rate on record in the first quarter of the year, with the continent set to enter a deep recession triggered by the coronavirus lockdown.

Eurostat data published yesterday showed that eurozone GDP shrank by 3.8% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the final quarter of last year.   The contraction is worse than that experienced by the US over the same period and deeper than the financial crisis over a decade ago.   Market Watch says it means “three years of the eurozone’s economic activity have been wiped away, and it is likely going to get worse.”  (The Week, 5/1/2020)

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COULD ISRAEL AND IRAN GO TO WAR?

The undeclared war between Iran and Israel has reached new heights.

Or more specifically, a height of 270 miles, which is the altitude of Iran’s first spy satellite.   It’s more than a nice vantage point for Iran to keep an eye on its arch-enemy Israel.   Lacking advanced reconnaissance aircraft and drones to penetrate Israeli air defenses, a satellite may be the only way for Tehran to gather real-time intelligence on Israel.

Which raises the question: will Israel be tempted to destroy Iran’s eye in the sky?   (Michael Peck, Middle East Forum, 5/5/2020)

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DISENGAGEMENT FROM CHINA

The United States and transatlantic oriented circles in Germany are increasing pressure on Berlin to participate in the West’s “disengagement” from China.   “The alliance question” is “ripe for decision,” declared Mathias Döpfner, CEO of the Axel Springer SE media group.  Germany must cease the “aberration” of economic cooperation with the People’s Republic of China and formally position itself in opposition to Beijing.  This is the result of the global shift in power that is becoming apparent through the Corona crisis. Whereas China has obviously overcome the low-point of this crisis and is already headed back to economic growth, an improvement of the situation in the USA and Europe is not yet on the horizon. Observers are speculating that the western powers’ “influence and significance” will probably “continue to dwindle.”   Whereas Washington is mulling whether to lift China’s sovereign immunity, to permit damage lawsuits, powerful forces in the German economy are seeing their crisis exit in business with China.   (German Foreign Policy, 5/4/2020)

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SCOTTISH COMMENT ON CHINESE BEHAVIOR

“No country with a skerrick of self-respect can allow this behavior to go unpunished.  I have already suggested some punitive measures designed to wound the regime’s pride without harming the Chinese people:   cancel the Huawei deal; pass a Magnitsky-style Act targeting senior CPC figures; champion the Uyghurs at every opportunity (e.g. rename the London street that houses the Chinese embassy after a Uyghur political prisoner); and recognize Taiwan as an independent nation.   All I would add, upon reflection, is this: grant British citizenship to Hong Kongers born before 1 July 1997, their children and grandchildren.” — Scottish political commentator Stephen Daisley.   (Gatestone, 5/7)

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CORONA ECONOMIC GAP

Foreign policy experts in Germany and the EU’s Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell are warning that Brussels’ corona relief measures could widen the EU’s economic gap.   So far, the EU’s reaction to the Corona crisis has led to companies in economically stronger countries receiving more relief assistance than their competitors in more heavily indebted countries, according to a proximate analysis by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).   After the crisis, German companies will probably be in a stronger position than, for example, their Italian competitors.  “The north-south divide that was already in place before the crisis, could become even more pronounced afterwards,” Borrell predicts.   The growing inequality could threaten the EU’s “political project” in the foreseeable future, the DGAP writes.   In the competition within the EU, German companies are benefiting from the fact that, by fostering a bottom-to-top redistribution, national corona relief measures are already to their advantage – a development that exacerbates the crisis.  (German Foreign Policy, 5/6/2020)

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POPE PIUS XII KNEW OF HOLOCAUST                                          Researchers say Vatican archives show Pope Pius XII knew of WWII killing of Jews  

German scholars exploring newly opened trove of documents find letter indicating pope was aware of massacre of Jews in Warsaw and Lviv from own sources, but denied it to Americans.

Researchers studying the newly opened Vatican archives of pope Pius XII have already found evidence that the World War II-era pope knew about the mass killing of Jews from his own sources but kept it from the US government, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing interviews with German scholars.   The archives were opened March 2, but closed soon after due to the coronavirus crisis.   Many of the 200 scholars who had applied for access delayed their trips. However, a German team lead by award-winning religious historian Hubert Wolf from the University of Münster made a start and has already found some damning discoveries.   (Times of Israel, 30 April 2020).

(MORE:  https://www.timesofisrael.com/researchers-say-vatican-archives-show-pope-pius-xii-knew-of-wwii-killing-of-jews/)

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POLYGAMY CAUSE OF CONFLICT IN AFRICA

Polygamy is a major social problem in Africa and other parts of the world.  In Africa, it plays a major role in the wars fought in some areas.   Where men have to provide 30 or more cows as the bride price to buy a wife, cattle raids on neighboring tribes and villages have become a regular occurrence.  As some men have multiple wives, so others have none.  This leads to desperation, to violence and the taking of wives from other tribes.

“Overall, polygamy is in retreat.  However, its supporters are fighting to preserve or even extend it.  Two-fifths of Khazakhstanis want to re-legalize the practice  (it was banned by the Bolsheviks).   In 2008 they were thwarted, at least temporarily, when a female MP amended a pro-polygamy bill to say that polyandry – the taking of multiple husbands – would be allowed as well; Muslim greybeards balked at that.”  (“The Perils of Polygamy,” The Economist, 12/23/17).

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TO THE POINT

  • ISRAEL ALLOWS CHRISTIAN TV CHANNEL – A new evangelical Christian channel whose mission is to “take the message of Yeshua our Messiah to all of Israel 24/7, 365 days a year” began broadcasting in Israel in Hebrew last week, after signing a seven-year contract with Israeli cable provider HOT.   The Shelanu (Hebrew for “Ours”) TV channel is a branch of GOD TV, which broadcasts missionary programming in 200 countries around the world.   The new deal will give the channel access to over 700,000 Israeli households. GOD TV CEO Ward Simpson said in a video announcing the launch that his network had received permission from the Israeli government to “broadcast the gospel of Jesus Christ – Yeshua the Messiah – in Israel on cable TV in the Hebrew language.   Never before, as far as we know in the history of the world, has this ever been done.” (jns. 5/5/2020)
  • The leaders of the European Union and dozens of states and donors pledged €7.4bn ($8.1bn) to fund the fight against covid-19.   Most of the money will go towards developing a vaccine, the rest to finding a cure and better testing.   More cash could be forthcoming.   America declined to take part (or say why).   “A pity,” said Norway’s prime minister.   (The Economist, 5/5/2020)
  • CHINA WARNS OF WAR WITH THE US – An internal report presented to Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top leaders concludes that global anti-China sentiment is at a level not seen since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, and recommends preparing for a worst-case scenario of armed conflict with the United States, according to Reuters, citing people familiar with the content of the document.
  • Eleven European ambassadors to Israel on Thursday warned Jerusalem of severe consequences if it moves ahead with plans to annex parts of the West Bank as part of a government coalition deal.  The envoys from the UK, Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and the EU issued a formal objection to the Foreign Ministry against the move, Channel 13 reported. (Times of Israel, 5/1/2020)
  • Kuwaiti economist Saeed Tawfiqi said in a March 30, 2020 interview on Diwan Al-Mulla Internet TV (Kuwait) that in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. and Europe will enter a sharp decline, and China will become stronger.   He advised people in the Gulf states to start learning Chinese instead of English and using yuans instead of dollars. (MEMRI 7921)

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AFTER THOUGHT

America has held the pre-eminent position in the world for seventy years.  History shows us that it will not always be the case.   Indeed, the corona virus could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The first recorded recognition that the British Empire no longer ranked at number one was in 1948.   But it wasn’t until 1956, with the Suez Canal crisis, that it was fully realized.   Decline (and fall) is not always overnight as in the fall of Babylon – it can be longer and protracted.

The outcome of the virus and the economic reality of its aftermath, remain to be seen.   But the article by Gideon Rachman, of the Financial Times, quoted elsewhere in this blog, gives us a simple test.   After it’s all over, will the US dollar still be the currency of choice for the world’s nations?  And will people around the world still send their children to US colleges?

We should know the answer to the first question soon; the second may take longer.

Over-spending by the US government has always been a problem.  The late President DeGaulle of France dismissively referred to the “Anglo-Saxon debtor countries”, whose economic systems relied on deficit spending.  But that over-spending has been a big factor in ensuring the prosperity of both the British and the Americans for the last 50 years.

That will likely change.    Borrowing for the stimulus will run into the trillions of dollars.   In the UK, we see the same thing happening with massive spending to help the people in a time of trouble.

This must weaken the dollar (and the pound), against other currencies.   We may even have reached the full extent of our capacity to borrow, that no more borrowing is possible.  At the very least, our children and grandchildren will be buried in debt for generations.

Other nations may decide that the two currencies are not reliable, that they will not hold their value.  In which case, they will have to find an alternative (the euro?  The Chinese yuan?  Gold?).   If that’s the case, the US will lose its global leadership position overnight.

Daniel 2:21 says:   “He removes kings and raises up kings” (Daniel 2:21).  God is behind the rise and fall of nations.  Seventy years is about the average for any nation to stay at the top.  It was longer for the British, but not the French or the Spanish, who held the ascendant position earlier.  Seventy years is about the average lifespan, by which time people have forgotten the lessons of the past, which includes the need to balance the books and stabilize the currency.

Whether this is the time for a major global change is not clear yet.   But it soon will be.

Let’s remember God is in charge and not despair.   The same chapter of Daniel assures us of the greatest event in history, the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”  (Daniel 2:44)

The kingdoms (and republics) of this world must end for God to establish His Kingdom.

MR     

MORE ON CORONA

AMERICA AHEAD

Good morning.   “The US has more confirmed cases of the coronavirus than any other nation on Earth.  Yet Donald Trump has fallen back on his favorite solution to any problem, announcing an executive order that would temporarily suspend all immigration from other countries.   Democrats slammed the move, with one congressman calling it no more than “xenophobic scapegoating.”

Meanwhile, epidemiologists have warned that the greater threat is from within, saying recent anti-lockdown rallies across the country could lead to a surge in new infections.   In Georgia, governor Brian Kemp announced businesses including gyms, cinemas and restaurants would reopen in the state over the coming days, despite the objections of public heath experts.   (Tim Walker, The Guardian, 4/21/2020)

This is a typical Guardian piece from across the water.   It seems to me that the president made a very sensible decision, to halt immigration to help save American jobs.  It’s only for two months.  When things get back to normal, if unemployment persists, there should be no going back to open borders.

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CHINA’S ECONOMY DOWN

 That the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic will be immense is obvious.  Just how bad?  And when can countries start to heal?  China offered a preliminary answer today when it announced that its first-quarter GDP fell by 6.8%, compared with last year.  The last time China’s economy shrank was 1976, the year the Cultural Revolution ended.  It was a foregone conclusion that growth had suffered after lockdowns were imposed nationwide in late January. More notable therefore were indicators for March.   Encouragingly, industrial production fell just 1% year-on-year, a reflection of progress made in restarting factories.   Discouragingly, retail sales were down 16% over the same period, with stores and restaurants open but few visiting them.   Having drastically reduced new infections, China’s economy is creaking back to life.   But people remain anxious and movement is restricted.   In such an inhospitable environment, familiar now around the world, the recovery is likely to be tepid at best.  (The Economist, 4/17/2020)

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GERMAN FOREIGN POLICY

The German government is joining the US campaign of allegations against China regarding the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.  Last weekend, US President Donald Trump warned the People’s Republic that it should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the spread of the pandemic.  Washington is simultaneously spreading deliberate rumors that the virus could have originated in a Chinese laboratory.   Whereas, scientists vehemently refute the allegations, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared, he “does not want to exclude” that the WHO will have to deal with these issues.   On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Beijing to show “transparency” on the issue.   Senior German military officials have recently been demanding that the EU adopt “a joint political-strategic response” to China’s growing strength, because in the Corona crisis, Beijing is gaining considerable influence.   According to a recent poll, more than half of the Italian population sees China as a “friend,” while nearly half see Germany as an “enemy.”  (German Foreign Policy, 4/21)

ANTI-CHINESE FEELING HIGH IN GERMANY

In view of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the German media are stepping up their blame on China by moving to openly ask for compensation.  The People’s Republic “has caused the pandemic,” this is what the mainstream media repeatedly say.   And the Springer press insists on “compensation” by headlining “What China already owes us.”   The agitation began when it became apparent that the People’s Republic of China was able to overcome the crisis more lightly than the Western powers and their global rise are likely to continue, while the transatlantic states are in danger of being thrown back by their totally inadequate preparation for the pandemic.   The claims are accompanied by a massive anti-Chinese sentiment; just to make an example, it is currently stated that Peking follows a “strategy of unrestricted warfare, already formulated by the Chinese military a good two decades ago.   The statement is not correct, but it is similar to claims based on lies used against Russia for years.   (German Foreign Policy, 4/17/2020)

BERLIN – The editor-in-chief of Germany’s largest paper Bild on Thursday launched a full frontal attack on China’s communist President Xi Jinping for his regime’s failure to come clean about the coronavirus outbreak and the massive human rights violations carried out by the Communist Party.   Julian Reichelt, the prominent editor-in-chief of the Bild, wrote to Jinping that  “Your embassy in Berlin has addressed me in an open letter because we asked in our newspaper Bild whether China should pay for the massive economic damage the coronavirus is inflicting worldwide.”

He wrote that, “You [Jinping], your government and your scientists had to know long ago that coronavirus is highly infectious, but you left the world in the dark about it.  Your top experts didn’t respond when Western researchers asked to know what was going on in Wuhan.   You were too proud and too nationalistic to tell the truth, which you felt was a national disgrace.”

Reichelt said that, “You rule by surveillance.  You wouldn’t be president without surveillance.  You monitor everything, every citizen, but you refuse to monitor the diseased wet markets in your country.  You shut down every newspaper and website that is critical of your rule, but not the stalls where bat soup is sold.   You are not only monitoring your people, you are endangering them – and with them, the rest of the world.”

He continued with his bill of particulars, noting that “surveillance is a denial of freedom.   And a nation that is not free, is not creative.   A nation that is not innovative, does not invent anything.   This is why you have made your country the world champion in intellectual property theft.

“China enriches itself with the inventions of others, instead of inventing on its own,” Reichelt wrote.   “The reason China does not innovate and invent is that you don’t let the young people in your country think freely.   China’s greatest export hit (that nobody wanted to have, but which has nevertheless gone around the world) is coronavirus.”

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ISRAEL FINALLY GETS A NEW GOVERNMENT

Israel will soon have a new coalition government after an agreement was signed on Monday evening between Likud and Blue and White, putting an end to a 17-month political stalemate that resulted in three elections.

As part of the deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has served as caretaker prime minister since December 2018, will remain prime minister for another 18 months and then will be replaced in October 2021 by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who will serve as vice prime minister in the meantime.   Netanyahu will be vice prime minister under Gantz after that, but if Netanyahu leaves the Prime Minister’s Office sooner, Gantz would already take over

“I promised the State of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save lives and livelihoods of Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said.   Gantz expressed his relief that an election that would have been held on August 4 if a deal was not reached by May 7 had been averted.   “We prevented a fourth election,” Gantz said. “We will protect our democracy and fight against the coronavirus.”

US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, including its clauses enabling Israel to apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, will be able to be implemented in July, when maps are set to be finalized.   In a controversial clause, both Netanyahu and Gantz will have the right to an official residence fully funded by the state.   In another, the so-called Norwegian law will be changed to allow ministers to quit and new MKs to enter the Knesset, including in Blue and White, skipping over MKs from the Yesh Atid and Telem parties that will remain in the opposition.

The Movement for Quality Government and other watchdog groups petitioned the High Court of Justice late Monday, demanding that the court prevent Netanyahu from forming a government, due to his criminal indictments.

(MORE:  https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/a-joint-meeting-between-netanyahu-and-gantz-to-start-soon-625241)

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South Africa deploys over 70,000 troops to enforce lockdown

More than 70,000 extra troops will be deployed in South Africa to help enforce a lockdown intended to stop the spread of coronavirus, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.  South Africa has had 3,465 confirmed coronavirus cases – second only to Egypt in Africa – and 58 deaths.  The country has some of the most stringent coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the world.  But security forces have struggled to enforce them.  Since 27 March only essential service providers, such as health workers, financial services providers, journalists and retail workers, are allowed to continue going to work.  Businesses that provide essential services have been applying for a special permit from the government that allows their members of staff to go outside.  The restrictions include no jogging outside, no sales of alcohol or cigarettes, no dog-walking, no leaving home except for essential trips and prison or heavy fines for law-breaking.

President Ramaphosa said he had decided to deploy an extra 73,180 soldiers in a letter addressed to parliament on Tuesday.

The lockdown restrictions currently apply until Thursday 30 April.

Economic relief package:   He also announced an economic relief package worth $26bn (£21bn) intended to protect companies and three million workers during the coronavirus pandemic. I  n a televised address, he said the assistance amounted to 10% of South Africa’s entire GDP.    Mr. Ramaphosa said the measures included tax relief, wage support through the unemployment insurance fund and funding to small businesses. (4/22/2020)   (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-52387962  

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AUSTRALIA’S REPUBLICANS AT IT AGAIN

The Australian Republican movement bears no resemblance to Republicans in the United States.  They are not a conservative force at all.   Their sole aim is to end Australia’s constitutional monarchy, which has helped the country achieve unparalleled stability and prosperity.  They have now stooped to attacking Queen Elizabeth’s faith, claiming it discriminates against other religions.  The fact is the Queen’s Protestantism and that of her ancestors laid a foundation of religious tolerance for the country.   The Queen, who turned 94 on Tuesday, is highly respected by most Australians.

PRO-republicans are engaged in a heartless waiting game as they plot to overturn Australia’s constitutional monarchy.

Realizing a vast majority of Australians retain a deep admiration for their 93-year-old Queen, republicans are counting down her demise before launching an emotion-charged assault on Australia’s constitution.

By taking this tack they hope to muddy the debate around the nation’s most important foundational document.

Their aim is to shift the conversation from one of constitutional protections and reason into an emotion-charged hysteria about the “un-likability” of Queen Elizabeth’s heirs.

If you think the Queen is nice, their argument goes, then we should remain a constitutional monarchy. But if her successor doesn’t do it for you, then we must change.

They believe time is on their side.   (Sean Burke, Politicom, 3/13/2020)

Politicom is a conservative Australian newsletter.

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US DEFEAT IN AFGHANISTAN

On February 29, 2020 – after 18 months of talks sponsored by Qatar in Doha – the U.S. and the jihadi group Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban organization) signed an agreement in the Qatari capital on the future of Afghanistan.  The democratically elected government of Afghanistan, headed by Ashraf Ghani, was excluded from the talks and from the agreement, and, despite the fact that the Taliban rejected any ceasefire as a precondition for the talks, the U.S. capitulated and agreed to a one-week “Reduction In Violence” on the part of the Taliban.

The agreement was hailed as victory and as an American surrender by Al-Qaeda and by the Taliban leaders at celebratory events across Afghanistan.   The agreement was titled “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan Between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Which is Not Recognized by the United States as a State And is Known as the Taliban, And the United States of America,” but the Islamic Emirate issued a statement in which it dubbed the pact the “Termination of Occupation Agreement Between the Islamic Emirate and U.S.”

A month after the Doha agreement, the democratically elected government of President Ashraf Ghani is being badgered by both the U.S. and the Taliban to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners.   (MEMRI,  4/21/2020)

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DOES EUROPE HAVE ANY CONSERVATIVES?

Does Europe have any conservatives?   That is, believers in individual responsibility, national independence, free markets, a single law for all, the traditional family, and maximum freedom of speech and religion.

Seemingly not. Politicians called conservative – such as Angela Merkel of Germany Jacques Chirac of France, and Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden – are often in reality mild leftists, as are their parties.  One might conclude that conservatism is defunct in its homeland.

One would be wrong.   A substantial conservative movement exists and is growing in Europe.  It is hiding in plain sight, obscured by being tarred as populists, nationalists, extreme-right, or even Neo‑Nazis.   I call this group by another name:   civilizationists, acknowledging that (1) they focus on preserving Western civilization and (2) they forward some distinctly un-conservative policies (such as increased welfare and pension payments).

Civilizationists’ top concern is not battling climate change, building the European Union, nor staving off Russian and Chinese aggression; rather, they focus on preserving Europe’s historic civilization of the past two millennia.  They worry about Europe becoming an extension of the Middle East or Africa.   Already, indigenous Europeans complain of feeling like strangers in their hometowns, of pensioners too scared to leave their houses, and of a school’s few Christian and Jewish students beat up by immigrant bullies.   Imagine how things will look as the proportions change.

The civilizationists’ anxiety contains four main elements: demography, immigration, multiculturalism, and Islamization (or DIMI, recalling the Arabic word dhimmi, the status of Jews and Christians who submit to the rule of Muslims).   (“Finding Europe’s hidden conservatives,” Daniel Pipes, 4/21/2020)

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AFRICAN LEADERS ENJOY FIRST CLASS MEDICAL CARE WHILE THEIR PEOPLE GO WITHOUT

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected president of Nigeria in 2015 — amid a wave of disgust towards the corruption that plagues his giant nation — he promised to put a stop to politicians flying abroad for medical treatment.   It was a popular pledge, especially after revelations that the state spent $1bn a year on health tourism for rich elites while offering dire services for almost everyone else.   He underlined his stance soon after taking office, telling a doctors’ conference he did not want “hard-earned resources” frittered away on officials seeking care abroad when it could be delivered at home.

Such fine and righteous words.   So there was fury the following year when this leader in his seventies flew to London for treatment of an ear infection.   This was “a tragic blot” on Nigeria’s image, thundered Dr. Osahon Enabulele, a former head of its medical association.  The new president, he added, should have used his minor ailment to focus people on the urgent need for domestic health reform.

But Buhari was not listening.   He went off on several more trips and, by the end of his first term last year, had spent at least 170 days in Britain on health grounds.

Buhari is far from the only African leader to display such lack of faith in his own nation.  Robert Mugabe died last year aged 95 in a Singaporean hospital, having so wrecked Zimbabwe and its medical system that life expectancy plummeted by 26 years at one point. “It is very symbolic the former president who presided over the system for three decades can’t trust the health system,” said one doctor after his death.  Other physicians complained of carrying out surgery without even putting on protective gloves.

Meles Zenawi ruled Ethiopia for 21 years, suckering Western admirers who overlooked his savage repression as they fell for his talk of development — yet this wily despot died in a Belgian hospital. Omar Bongo ran Gabon for 42 years, then died in Barcelona having plundered his country’s wealth obscenely while leaving his tiny 2.2m population trapped in poverty.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled and ripped off Angola for almost as long, travelled to the same Catalan city for treatment. Algeria’s former president went to a Swiss hospital after running his nation for 20 years, then suffering a stroke.   Benin’s president went to France for surgery.   Two Zambian leaders died abroad while receiving medical attention.   (“Covid-19 will expose Africa’s tyrants”, Ian Birrell, Unherd, 4/20/2020)

Due to the pandemic,  Africa’s leaders can no longer travel abroad for medical treatment.

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IRAN’S DRONES CAN HIT ISRAEL

Iran’s Defense Ministry unveiled a mass of new drones [unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs] over the weekend for the Islamic Republic’s army and air force.   According to Tehran the drones have new capabilities, and can fly more than 1,000 km, which means they could reach Israel from Iran.

Iran has been producing drones since the 1980s and is an innovator in drone warfare.   It used 25 drones and cruise missiles to attack Saudi Arabia last September, and has flown drones into Israeli airspace.

Iran’s Defense Minister Brig.-Gen. Amir Hatami showed off the drones on Saturday.   He said that one jet-powered UAV could fly at speeds of 900 km per hour at an altitude of 12,000 meters.  This would rival the best drones that the US and other countries are now using.   These drones have a range of up to 1,500 km, he said, and can fly for several hours.   It is a message to Israel, the US and their allies: We can reach you.  (Iran’s drones can reach Israel, Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, 4/19/2020)

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TO THE POINT

  • A UNIQUE RAMADAN BEGINS – The Islamic holy month of Ramadan will begin worldwide around April 23.   Because the month typically involves daily social gatherings and communal prayer in mosques, it will present yet more security and economic challenges to local and national governments in Muslim-majority countries already struggling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.   With some countries like Egypt shutting down traditional Ramadan charity tents for fear of the virus spreading within them, the month could see an exacerbation of existing socioeconomic strain, and with it some disruption to stability over time.   In Indonesia, the annual Mudik pilgrimage could see an estimated 1.3 million people leave the Jakarta area for rural destinations across the archipelago — a potential vector to spread COVID-19 outside its current epicenter in the nation, and one the government has hesitated to crack down on.  (Stratfor, 4/18/2020)
  • With half the world in lockdown, with little else to do but Netflix-and-try-to-chill, the streaming giant unsurprisingly unveiled a bumper set of first-quarter results.   Netflix said it had added nearly 16m new subscribers in the quarter, 23% more than during the same period last year.   Net income, meanwhile, more than doubled to $709m over the same period.   (The Economist, 4/22/2020)
  • 24NYT, a Danish news service, reported on Sunday that the Danish Bible Society just published a revised translation of the New Testament.   The new edition has many surprises, including a new name:   the New Agreement.   But even more shocking is that the “New Agreement has all but removed any references to Israel, whether it describes the land or the people”.
  • Washington:   A day after laying out a roadmap for reviving economic activity, US President Donald Trump has urged his supporters to “liberate” three Democrat-led states, effectively calling for protests against stay-at-home orders aimed at containing the coronavirus.   In a series of tweets, the President urged people in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia to rise up and “liberate” themselves from restrictions.  He also hit out at New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo for criticising the federal response.  Cuomo “should spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining,”‘ he said, adding: “Less talk and more action!”  (AP, 4/18/2020)
  • Corona and the Rise of the German Police State by Thomas Klikauer (author), Jeffrey St. Clair, Editor of Counterpunch (California).       The current crisis is used to prevent protests and to impose measures in a highly authoritarian way.  Currently, there is not much resistance against police measures.   Currently, signs are that Germany is moving [toward] more restrictions issued every day.  There might not be a fully developed police state in Germany but democracy is suffering in Germany and elsewhere.   https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/04/17/corona-and-the-rise-of-the-german-police-state/)

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AFTER THOUGHT

Scientists (including medical experts) are highly respected right now.

It hasn’t always been that way.  There was a time when science had to bow to religion.  All new theories had to fit with the teachings of the established church.

The theory of evolution in 1859 changed all that.

A lot of good has been achieved, but it should also be remembered that there’s been a negative side to science:  abortion, euthanasia, nuclear weapons to name just three.

We must be careful not to elevate scientists and health care professionals, which we are in danger of doing right now.   Scientists likely caused the corona virus through experiments in Wuhan.

We must also be concerned that a victory over corona does not extend to a carte blanche on all things to do with the environment.   A highly respected profession may take us in a direction that could cause all kinds of problems.

All Christians should remember to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt 6:33).   A British news program said earlier this week that:  “the NHS is the closest thing Britain has to a national religion.”   Comments like this one are disturbing.

Worshipping science or the health services would be unwise.  That way, we set ourselves up for a fall.

MR     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DEATH OF FREEDOM

A person does a cartwheel in Oxford Circus during rush hour as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

We have less freedom today than we have had in over 400 years.   And we’ve all consented to this loss of freedom.

Freedom of assembly and the freedom to worship have both suffered.  Even the freedom to go out for a meal or a drink.    Nor can we shake a friend’s hand or give a hug.   Again, with our consent.

As one British paper put it:  “It is no exaggeration to say these are the most extreme powers ever used against citizens in peace time Britain.”

It’s understandable.  We want to live.  We want to survive the coronavirus.

But will we ever get these freedoms back?

Most importantly, what will be the next crisis that makes us so quick to jettison our freedoms?

MR       

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“A heart attack is occurring in the economy”  (Sky News comment, 3/20)

This was a comment about the British economy, but it describes every country right now.   So, let’s take a look at some of the economic consequences of coronavirus.

Argentina’s new government will today publish GDP figures for last year, with economists warning that the covid-19 pandemic could be about to send the country into a deep recession.   GDP is forecast to have contracted by 2.1% in 2019.   But what matters now is the dire situation to come.   One former central banker predicts that the country’s economy could shrink by up to 4% in 2020.   Though weighed down by high inflation and heavy debt, President Alberto Fernández’s government is implementing fiscal stimulus measures worth billions of dollars.   Its treasury minister, Martín Guzmán,  warns that the covid-19 crisis means that it is now impossible to say when, and how, Argentina can return to growth.   That was Mr. Fernández’s primary goal when he took office just four months ago, an aim that looks harder by the day as infections mount in the country.     (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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For years Germany has run the tightest of fiscal ships, frustrating many in the euro zone and beyond.   Then came covid-19.   Today the Bundestag will approve a €156bn ($168bn) supplementary budget for 2020, under which Germany will issue new debt for the first time since 2013.   The borrowing breaks Germany’s “black zero” balanced-budget policy and exploits an emergency rule in the constitutional “debt brake.”   Yet it is just one part of Germany’s response.   The government has expanded Kurzarbeit support (in which the state partly covers the lost wages of workers who have their hours cut), extended various loan guarantees and even earmarked funds for direct investment in companies.   The package amounts to a potential €750bn, and more may follow.   The scale of the response has surprised observers—but at European level less is happening.   Germany, and the euro area’s other hawks, remain implacably opposed to debt mutualization.   (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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Today’s meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee should have been the first with Andrew Bailey in the chair.   But the new governor found himself presiding over an emergency meeting last week, amid what he described as “borderline disorderly” market conditions.   In common with other central banks, the Bank of England is aggressively easing monetary policy to react to a rapid economic slowdown due to the spread of covid-19.   Despite interest-rate cuts, £200bn ($232bn) more quantitative easing (amounting to some 10% of GDP) and more direct support for private-sector lending, the bank is more worried about undershooting its inflation target than overshooting it. Today’s consumer-price statistics show inflation running at 1.7%, below the 2% target.   More monetary easing is likely, but with interest rates already at 0.1%, an all-time low, fiscal policy will have to do most of the heavy lifting.  (The Economist, 3/25/2020)

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Coronavirus lockdown measures implemented in the UK may trigger an economic downturn that could kill more people than the virus itself, a new study warns.

Philip Thomas, a professor of risk management at Bristol University, says that a fall in GDP of more than 6.4% could lead to a devastating recession in which “more years of life will be lost . . . than will be saved through beating the virus,” reports The Times.  (The Week, 3/25/2020)

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The worst outbreak of Coronavirus in the Middle East, so far, is in Iran.  Thousands have died and tens of thousands have been exposed to the virus.   An overlooked developing crisis parallel to Iran’s is the situation of the country’s neighbors across the Persian Gulf.

Beyond the civilian element affecting Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE; tens of thousands of American military personnel are also stationed in these countries.   Once facing the Iranian threat and ISIS, they are now involved in combating the invisible enemy:   Covid-19.      (Greg Roman, MEF, 3/20)

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This is an emergency, track everyone:   If there were ever a time to set concerns about privacy aside, this is it.   Giving public health authorities access to everyone’s location data gives them a better chance of tracking down people who have been in contact with confirmed cases – and helps ensure that those who are already sick stay in quarantine.   Right now, governments need all the help they can get.   Give them the data.   Debates about the privacy implications can wait.

China is in this camp. So are other countries in Asia, like South Korea and Taiwan, that have had better success containing the epidemic – although it’s still too early to say whether access to mobile phone location data was the deciding factor.   (Gzero, 3/25/2020)

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A SURPRISING LETTER FROM HOLLYWOOD

Dear Mr. President, @realDonaldTrump

I wanted to thank you for ur recent decorum, sincerity, & care towards us.   You’re taking charge & leading in a manner needed & wanted for this country.   I highly commend you for ur boundless energy & willingness to solve problems.   Thank you!

— Kirstie Alley (@kirstiealley) March 24, 2020

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TO THE POINT

  • LAGOS — A jihadist group ambushed and killed around 70 Nigerian government troops in Borno state, in the north-east of the country.   The guerrillas used rocket-propelled grenades to attack a vehicle full of soldiers; they also took several captive.  The group they belong to split off from Nigeria’s homegrown Boko Haram in 2016, and now considers itself an Islamic State affiliate. (The Economist, 3/25/2020)
  • BERLIN – A court in eastern Germany convicted eight far-right extremists who were accused of planning to violently overthrow the state.   The regional court in Dresden on Tuesday convicted one of the men on a charge of forming a “terrorist organization” and the other seven of being members of the group, called Revolution Chemnitz.   Five of the man were also found guilty of a serious breach, while one was convicted of bodily harm.  The court sentenced the defendants to prison terms that ranged from 27 months to 5 ½ years.  (Lansing State Journal, 3/25/2020)
  • UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations on Tuesday to adopt a “wartime” plan including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars” for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.   He said in a letter to the Group of 20 leaders that they account for 85% of the world’s gross domestic product and have “a direct interest and critical role to play in helping developing countries cope with the crisis.”  (Lansing State Journal, 3/25/2020)
  • LONDON – Prince Charles has coronavirus.  Prince Charles, 71, is displaying mild symptoms “but otherwise remains in good health,” a spokesman said, adding that the Duchess of Cornwall, 72, has been tested but does not have the virus.   Charles and Camilla are now self-isolating at Balmoral.   Buckingham Palace said the Queen last saw her son, the heir to the throne, on 12 March, but was “in good health.”   The palace added that the Duke of Edinburgh was not present at that meeting, and that the Queen was now “following all the appropriate advice with regard to her welfare.”
    A Clarence House statement read:   “In accordance with government and medical advice, the prince and the duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland.  “The tests were carried out by the NHS in Aberdeenshire, where they met the criteria required for testing.  “It is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.”
  • Germany is the only country in Europe to have currently rejected China’s offer of support in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. According to China’s President Xi Jinping, he informed Chancellor Angela Merkel that the People’s Republic of China “is willing to provide help within our capabilities,” if Germany “is in need.”   Over the past few days, Beijing has sent aid supplies and – in some cases – teams of doctors to provide practical on-site assistance to several European countries including Italy, Spain and France.   Berlin has ignored the offer of support, even though there is, for example, a glaring shortage of respiratory protection masks in Germany.   More than 80 percent of Germany’s registered doctors are complaining that they cannot procure sufficient protective clothing.   Serious accusations for failing to take preventive measures are being raised against the German government, which has been emphasizing that it is “well prepared.”   Leading German media are denouncing China’s aid as a “propaganda campaign” and accuse the country of being “the cause of the pandemic.”  The only thing missing is the use of Trump’s label of a “Chinese virus.” (German Foreign Policy, 3/24/2020)
  • A growing number of businesses and individuals worldwide have stopped using banknotes in fear that physical currency, handled by tens of thousands of people over their useful life, could be a vector for the spreading coronavirus.   Public officials and health experts have said that the risk of transferring the virus person-to-person through the use of banknotes is small.   But that has not stopped businesses in the US from refusing to accept currency and some countries from urging their citizens to stop using banknotes altogether.   (Times of Israel, 3/20/2020)

 

MEMORIES OF WATERGATE

President Richard M. Nixon gives an emotional farewell address to his staff prior to his leaving the White House, Aug. 9, 1974. His situation is being compared to Donald Trump’s. (AP Photo)

In 1973 or ’74, I was living in England where I was the Student Editor of The Portfolio, a Student newspaper. I remember then writing an editorial on Watergate and how the continual, never-ending saga of America’s domestic issues, was damaging America’s international relations.   The article was censored and was not published.

In ’73-’74 America suffered a number  of international set-backs.   The biggest challenge was the October War, when three Arab nations tried to destroy Israel.   At the same time, the oil producing nations of OPEC raised the price of oil by 400%, causing a major international recession.

I now have a sense of Déjà vu, all over again!

New Year’s saw crowds try to seize control of the US Embassy in Iraq.   A country Americans like to think they helped restore democracy has now turned against us.   In Afghanistan, where the US desperately wants peace as a prelude to withdrawal, the Taliban has made it clear that all American troops must leave before they will sit down and talk.

Iraq and Afghanistan – two recent wars that we have lost!

In addition, North Korea is making strong and possibly serious threats of action against the US.

German leaders will no doubt now go ahead with a deal with Russia, making the country more dependent on Russia for energy and giving Russia a major financial boost for further defense spending.

The rest of the world does not understand impeachment (do Americans?).   Their sense is that the US president is greatly weakened and will soon be out of office.   This will not end until the election, ten months away.   By that time, the world could very well be a very different place!

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Germany could make big EU impact in 2020

So far, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has not been particularly ambitious with regard to EU affairs.  But next year provides ample opportunity to make real progress.

 2020 will be a big year for Germany when it comes to European affairs.   Berlin will take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union in July, but even before then German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has come out to push for a “strong and sovereign Europe.”

To make Europe a bigger player on the world stage, Maas called for a European Security Council to tackle foreign affairs and security issues — such a council could even include the post-Brexit United Kingdom.

*During Germany’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, it will host an EU-Africa summit.   It will be about bringing both continents closer together.   According to Krichbaum, the bloc for many decades woefully neglected its ties with Africa.

(https://www.dw.com/en/germany-could-make-big-eu-impact-in-2020/a-51774449)

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Germany ponders bigger troop mandate in Africa’s Sahel

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said she supports sending more troops to Africa’s Sahel.   Although France already has a strong deployment, they’ve asked for support and Germany cannot “duck away” from the region, she said.

The Sahel spans numerous countries, including parts of Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Mauritania.  Kramp-Karrenbauer noted that the Sahel region has become a “major hub for terrorism, organized crime, migration and human trafficking.”

Germany cannot allow itself to “duck away” from responsibility in the region”, she said.   “In the end, we would have to put up walls and barbed wire all around Europe.”

(https://www.dw.com/en/germany-ponders-bigger-troop-mandate-in-africas-sahel/a-51828723  Map attached)

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Merkel’s ‘grand coalition’ faces array of new challenges                         A poll has found that one-third of Germans want new elections.  Right-wing populists are most eager to clear the decks, and the new SPD leadership has fueled concern about the stability of Germany’s grand coalition.

Divisive issue of speed:  The topic of speed limits is to Germans what gun rights are to many in the US.   Overall, the poll found that 34% of voters want to be rid of the current coalition government, as opposed to 39% who say it should continue to serve until regular elections are held in the fall of 2021.

(https://www.dw.com/en/germany-merkels-grand-coalition-faces-array-of-new-challenges/a-51827518)

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Germans think Trump is more dangerous than Kim Jong Un and Putin
When asked who posed the greatest threat to world peace, Germans in a recent poll overwhelmingly pointed to one person — Donald Trump.  

The US president beat out the leaders of North Korea, Russia, China and Iran   (Deutsche Welle * 26 Dec, 2019)

Although Washington is one of Germany’s closest allies, public trust in the US has significantly eroded under President Donald Trump, a new YouGov survey showed.   Germans were asked who was more dangerous:   North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Russian President Vladimir Putin or US President Donald Trump.   Some 41% of Germans said they thought Trump was the most dangerous out of the five world leaders.  In second place was Kim with 17%, followed by Putin and Khamenei with 8%.   Coming in last was China’s Xi Jinping with 7%.   Over 2,000 people in Germany took part in the survey, which was commissioned by news agency dpa.   A similar YouGov poll was carried out in July last year, in which 48% of Germans surveyed said Trump was more dangerous than Kim and Putin.  That poll, however, did not include the leaders of Iran or China.

(MORE:  https://www.dw.com/en/germans-think-trump-is-more-dangerous-than-kim-jong-un-and-putin/a-51802332)

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GERMANS UNWILLING TO DEFEND US                                              Germans are more unwilling than willing to defend NATO ally the United States should she be attacked by Russia, according to a YouGov survey.

The poll was conducted amongst key members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the defence bloc which was formed during the Cold War to protect allies from Soviet aggression.

Out of the U.S. France, the UK, and Germany, Americans showed the most willingness to “use military force if Russia attacks” NATO allies and partner countries.

Britons were almost equal in the urge to protect as Americans, but opinion was an “even split” on whether to defend Turkey, while the French were more willing to defend the U.S. and others apart from the Ukraine, Turkey, and Romania.

…. “It is very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes and pays out billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.   We’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries,” President Trump said.

Currently, only the United States, Greece, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Romania, Poland, and Latvia are meeting their NATO spending obligations, which require members to spend at least two per cent of GDP on defense spending.

Germany is only spending 1.36 per cent of its GDP on defense, well below its NATO obligations, despite having the largest economy in Europe.

Germany was the only country out of these major powers to say they were more unwilling than willing to defend the U.S., 43 per cent to 32 per cent; by contrast, 54 per cent of Americans think they should defend Germany should she find herself attacked by Russia (Breitbart, 12/29/19)

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Expect a tumultuous 2020 in the Middle East                                              by Marc Lynch, The Washington Post, Wednesday, January 1, 2020

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that the Middle East’s 2020 will be tumultuous.   Libya’s civil war has taken a dangerous turn, with Russian mercenaries and Turkish forces joining the fray as Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s forces push into the capital.   Yemen’s still ravaged by economic blockade and war, despite recent efforts on all sides to de-escalate the conflict.   Syria’s civil war continues to metastasize, with a massive new wave of refugees fleeing violence in Idlib.   Large-scale popular protests are challenging Iraq’s government, which is bracing for fallout from the growing confrontation between the United States and Iran.   Israel and the Palestinian territories could dramatically change their relationship, as the prospects of a two-state solution dissolve.   And protest movements throughout the region could shake up half a dozen regimes.

Here are three trends to watch in the Middle East over the coming year.   Expect these three trends to bring numerous crises during this U.S. election year, shaping the challenges that will await the next administration.

  1. Every government is on edge about the U.S. 2020 election: Usually, when the U.S. government changes hands, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East remains steady and consistent.  No more.
  2. Conflicts in the gulf region are getting harder to control:   The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran has inflicted economic pain while accomplishing few or none of its strategic objectives.
  3. Protests and more protests.   2019’s wave of protests across the Middle East rivaled those of the Arab Spring in 2011 – and in some ways were more impressive.   Protests challenged regimes in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon; forced political change in Algeria; and overthrew the Sudanese regime.   More will come.
    (https://www.thehour.com/news/article/Expect-a-tumultuous-2020-in-the-Middle-East-14943308.php)

(Marc Lynch is a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Project on Middle East Political Science.  He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Program and the co-director of the Blogs and Bullets project at the United States Institute of Peace.  Lynch is the editor of “The Arab Uprisings Explained:   New Contentious Politics in the Middle East” and the author of “The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East.

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UK SEX GROOMING GANGS VICTIMIZE 19,000 CHILDREN IN 2019

Despite the publicity given to UK’s Pakistani sex grooming gangs since 2012, close to 19,000 children have been victimized by UK sex grooming gangs in 2019.   The number represents a 3,300 increase from five years ago.

In a report by the Independent, activists say the true number is much higher, as many of these crimes go unreported.   After underage girls are groomed using drugs and alcohol, many are reluctant to go to the authorities as their groomers convince them that due to the illegality of the substances, the victims themselves will be punished.

The exploitation has been widely known to local government officials, social workers and law enforcement officials for over a decade.   However, for fear of being called racists, authorities took no steps to prevent the horrific abuse of young, white British girls.

Sarah Champion is a Labor MP from Rotherham where the story broke in 2012 and a tireless campaigner for the victims of these gangs.   In 2017, Champion was forced to resign from her position as shadow (opposition) secretary for women and equalities after writing an article in The Sun telling the facts about the sex grooming gangs:

Frustrated that years after recommendations were made to endless government commissions with no measures taken to support victims and prevent such abuse in the future, Champion wrote, “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls … There. I said it.  Does that make me a racist?  Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?”

Champion continued:   “The irony of all of this is that, by not dealing with the ethnicity of the abusers as a fact, political correctness has actually made the situation about race.”

“The perpetrators are criminals and we need to deal with them as such, not shy away from doing the right thing by fearing being called a racist.”

In a scathing talk in which he excoriated authorities for not protecting Britain’s young girls, Muslim activist Majid Nawaz said, “They were men like me from my community and in all but three, the victims were white teenage girls.   That is the truth, and what I’m saying is so uncomfortable that we’ve been ignoring it for years.   As a result of ignoring it, this problem has been growing and growing to a point where it now has led to racial tensions.” (Clarion Project, 12/31/2019)

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TO THE POINT

  • French president Emmanuel Macron awarded Britain the Legion of Honor, in recognition of the fact that Britain gave Charles de Gaulle and the “Free French” army refuge during World War II.   Many Frenchmen were opposed, claiming that Britain is France’s traditional enemy.
  • EUROPE:  ANTI-CHRISTIAN ATTACKS REACH ALL TIME HIGH.  The issue of anti-Christian vandalism was rarely reported by the European media until February 2019, when vandals attacked nine churches within the space of two weeks.   The issue made headlines again in April 2019, when a suspicious fire gutted the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.   Since then, however, the European media are once again shrouding facts in silence. (Soeren Kern, Gatestone, 1/1/2020)
  • “Statistics on homelessness are patchy, but dispiriting.   In 2010-18 the French government doubled the spaces in emergency accommodation to 146,000, yet cannot meet demand.   In Spain the number in shelters rose by 2-.5% between 2014 and 2016.   In the Netherlands homelessness has doubled in the past decade.  In Ireland, the number in shelters has tripled.   The German government estimates homelessness rose by 4% in 2018, to a record 678,000, most of them migrants.   All this has thrown a spanner into government’s plans.  For years, they have been trying to shift from providing beds for the night to housing first strategies like Finland’s.   Instead they are struggling to keep people off the streets.”   (“Oh give me a home,  Europe,” The Economist, 12/21/2019).
  • Political instability in Germany, coupled with ongoing economic uncertainty, could mean that the disruption seen in the U.K. during its Brexit crisis could shift across the continent to Europe’s largest economy, according to economists and market watchers. (CNBC 12/30/2019)
  • On December 24, Vladimir Putin took part in the Defense Ministry Board meeting held at the National Defense Control Centre.   During the Defense Ministry Board meeting, Putin discussed the role of European countries in contributing to the outbreak of WWII.   Commenting on Poland, Putin used strong words to criticize the Polish ambassador to Nazi Germany, Josef Lipski, who backed Hitler in 1938.   “That bastard! That antisemitic pig – I have no other words,” Putin said referring to Lipski.   This video aired on Rossiya-24 TV (Russia) and was translated into English by Vesti. (MEMRI 12/30)
  • Biblical Archaeology Report listed a finding at the biblical site of Shiloh as the second-most important biblical archeological discovery during 2019 out of a total of ten discoveries.
    What was the number one find in biblical archaeology? A bulla (clay stamp) found in the ancient City of David, with the inscription “[belonging] to nathan-melech, servant of the king,” not far from the Jewish Temple.   First-century artifacts and a Byzantine church in Bethsaida, evidence of Jerusalem’s destruction in the Babylonian period and a monumental staircase at Hazor, also made the cut.
    (https://www.israelhayom.com/2020/01/01/the-most-important-biblical-discovery-of-2019-not-what-you-think/)
  • Please remember to pray for Australia, which is experiencing the most horrendous fires in its history.  Watching them and the skies over New Zealand made me think of the prophecy in Deut. 28:23:   “And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron.”

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.

 

 

 

TRUDEAU, NETANYAHU ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION

Two of the most prominent prime ministers of the western world are being accused of corruption.   The removal of one could make a big difference in regional security.

According to the Guardian yesterday:

“Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is facing the biggest political scandal of his administration.   The affair centers around allegations that his former attorney general, Jody-Wilson Raybould, was improperly pressured by some of his closest advisers to prevent the prosecution of a large Canadian engineering firm over accusations of fraud and bribery.   Thus far, the scandal has been politically costly; Gerald Butts, a longtime friend of Trudeau’s, and his closest adviser, resigned two weeks ago.   Wilson-Raybould has resigned, too.   A handful of polls are showing the scandal is politically unpopular for the governing Liberals – which is worrying for them, given there is a federal election in October.”

And, in Israel:

Israel’s attorney general intends to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges.

Mr. Netanyahu faces possible charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in connection with three cases.   The prime minister is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favors to try to get more positive press coverage.

Mr. Netanyahu, who faces an election, said in a TV address that the case would “collapse like a house of cards.”   In a defiant broadcast, he repeated his assertion that he is the victim of a left-wing “witch-hunt” intended to topple him ahead of the closely contested election on 9th April.   (BBC, 3/1)

Mr Netanyahu has made Israel a lot stronger in recent years.  His departure could weaken the country

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FRANCE

“A nasty brew — anti-semitic, anti-black, anti-elite – is bubbling in France”.

“A climate of hate is emerging in France.   The targets are varied, apparently unconnected and shifting: Jews, journalists, the rich, policemen, members of parliament, the president.

“When the yellow vest movement emerged last November, it was broadly a social protest and fiscal revolt.   But the infiltration of ultra-left and extreme right agitators, and the determination of a radical core to seek the overthrow of Mr. Macron, has hardened the movement’s edge.  Weekly scenes of violent clashes with riot police fill French television screens and plumes of tear gas fill the air on the streets of Paris and other cities.  This relentless backdrop seems to have legitimized a form of violent hate.  What was once confined to the unhinged ramblings of social media groups has erupted into public.”   (‘Spreading like poison,” The Economist, February 23rd.)

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CHINA/SAUDI ARABIA GET CLOSER

“It is, in its way, the most shocking spectacle in world politics since the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union:   Even as Beijing is stepping up its persecution of Muslim Uighurs, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia cozied up to Chinese President Xi Jinping on his trip to China last week.

“More than a million Uighur Muslims are said to be held in Chinese concentration  and “reeducation” camps, where beatings and mass rapes are reliably reported to be perpetrated against detainees.   Yet the Crown Prince of the leading Sunni Islamic state signed almost $30 billion in trade agreements with China, hailed the long problem-free relationship between the two countries, pledged support for the Belt and Road initiative, and announced that Saudi Arabia respected China’s need to protect its domestic security in its own way.

“Saudi Arabia is not the only Muslim power kowtowing to China. Pakistan has also fallen strangely silent when it comes to the concentration camps now dotting the landscape in Xinjiang.   A country that regularly whips itself into fits of murderous rage over the supposed plight of Muslims in Indian-controlled Kashmir remains rigorously calm about the massive religious repression by its more powerful neighbor.

“Another sign of the strange new brotherhood between Islam and its persecutors:   Saudi Arabia has pledged $10 billion to help build a refinery in the Pakistani port of Gwadar to speed Gulf oil across Eurasia.   Among other things, the refinery will make it easier for China to fuel the vehicles transporting Muslim detainees to concentration camps.”   (“The Saudis hedge their American bets,” WSJ, 2/26).

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PAKISTANI JIHADISTS KILL 40 INDIANS

A terror attack by a Pakistani jihadist group could lead to war between India and Pakistan, two nuclear powers, after the Pakistani group attacked and killed 40 Indian troops in Kashmir.

The responsible party was Jaish-e-Mohammed (Army of Mohammed).

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US WANTS TO ARREST BIN LADEN’S SON

“A son of Osama bin Laden is emerging as a leader in al Qaeda, the US State Department says, and it’s willing to pay up to $1 million for information on his whereabouts.   Hamza bin Laden, whose father was killed by US Navy Seals in Pakistan in 2011, is taking the reins of the terror group, the State Department said late Thursday.

“The State Department wants information on Hamza bin Laden.

“Hamza bin Laden . . . is emerging as a leader” in the al Qaeda franchise, the department said in a statement.   “He has released audio and video messages on the Internet, calling on his followers to launch attacks against the United States and its Western allies, and he has threatened attacks against the United States in revenge for the May 2011 killing of his father by US military forces.”  (CNN, 3/1)

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QT ANGER OVER BREXIT

The BBC’s Question Time is one of the most popular programs on British television.   It gives a live audience (supposedly representing all viewpoints) the opportunity to express themselves on important topics.   Last Night’s QT was no exception.   The subject of Brexit was being discussed.

With only four weeks to go until the date of Britain’s departure from the EU, one member of the audience accused Britain’s three main political parties of betraying the British people.

“A furious Question Time audience member ripped into MPs on the BBC panel insisting all parties had “betrayed” Britons’ Brexit vote. The audience member pointed out Theresa May’s commitment to leaving the EU on March 29, amid fears of a delay, and Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto pledge to deliver Brexit, with the party moving towards backing People’s Vote (a second referendum).  The audience member said:   “I actually think all three parties have betrayed every single one of us.

“Theresa May, 52 times, said we will leave on March 29, she is now extending.   Well, probably will.

“Corbyn said we won’t have a second referendum, now he is going to entertain that.

“Liberals, Nick Clegg ,said there won’t be a European army.”

There’s been a lot of lying over Brexit.   Could this be the end of British democracy, as we have known it?

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EU BACKS SPANISH CLAIM TO GIBRALTAR

The British government has complained about language in EU contingency plans over a no-deal Brexit.   Under the legislation, direct flights between the EU and the UK will continue for nine months in the event of a no-deal Brexit.   But Gibraltar International Airport isn’t included in Brussels’ plan, which refers to Spain’s claim on the 800-metre section of land.