Tag Archives: Yemen

BABY HAYDEN UPDATE and WORLD NEWS

Saggital craniosynostenosis, first column normal.
Saggital craniosynostenosis, column a normal.

It’s been a tough week.

Our 8-month-old grandson Hayden had major cranial surgery on Wednesday of last week. The technical name for the condition was saggital craniosynostenosis (see diagram above – Hayden wasn’t quite as pronounced as that).   He was in the operating theater for seven hours and remained in the hospital for seven days.   The surgery was to reshape his head.   Without it, seizures could likely start as his brain could not grow sideways, only forwards and backwards, resulting in a football shaped head.   We were informed that one in every 2,000 babies needs the surgery.   I’d never heard of it until a few weeks after he was born.   The surgery was performed at the University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital, the best in our state.   It’s about 75 miles from our home.

As is often the case with surgery, things did not go entirely as planned.   He lost so much blood he needed a blood transfusion.   In the days following surgery, he could not keep food down.   Additionally, although the surgeon said that he would not feel much pain as there are no nerve sensors in the skull bones, the pediatrician said on the third day that he was clearly in pain.   His face remains swollen and he spends most of the day and night crying.   My wife gave our daughter a break last night and held him in her recliner while he slept.   He cannot lie down in a cot yet.

It’s good to have him home, but it’s going to take a while for him to fully recover.  The swelling must go down.   So must the pain.

We’re very thankful that the surgery is available.   A generation or two ago he may not have survived very long.  It’s marvelous what medical science can do nowadays.

I would like to also thank you all for your prayers and concern during this difficult time.

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Hopefully, medical science will soon find a way to stop “old” people falling.  I fell on the ice this morning while taking Hayden’s two older brothers to school.   As they are both aged four, they naturally wanted to look at the “owie” on my knee.   I refuse to give them the morbid satisfaction of seeing me fall again!

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CNN’S DETERIORATION

After dropping them at school I came home to write this column.   Yesterday, after taking them to school (which I do most days), I went to McDonald’s to wait for Leeson, who is only in school for three hours.  I ordered a hot tea (I’ve got them trained!) and sat down with my laptop to read and write.  CNN was showing on the television, thankfully muted.   Whenever I looked up at the screen, they were “bashing Trump.”

Today, at home, I thought I would try CNN International, which is broadcast from London.  It’s always been a better channel than CNN.  They have an “International Report” at 10am,   that was also devoted to “Trump bashing,” though they did include a brief “Breaking News” item about a serious bomb blast in Baghdad, which killed at least 48 people.

CNN’s audience has been shrinking, with viewers lost to Fox and Fox Business Network.

Critical analysis is needed of this (and every) president, but non-stop, one-sided, often personal attacks on President Trump take away from the network’s credibility, which has been seriously eroded in recent months.   No wonder people are switching to Fox.   No wonder, also, that millions of households have “cut the cord” and no longer have cable, saving an average of $100 a month.

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CHANGING DYNAMICS   (NEWS YOU WILL HAVE MISSED IF YOU WATCH CNN)

From Der Spiegel:

Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government.   That’s difficult enough already for two reasons:   Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure.   The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners — and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU — doesn’t make the situation any easier.

So far, Germany has viewed its leadership role — at least the leadership understanding of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble — as one that is by all means in opposition to the interests of other European countries.   Whether Schäuble’s austerity policies or Merkel’s migration policies, it all happened without much co-coordination and with considerable force.   It is thus somewhat ironical that it is Germany, the country that is politically and economically dominant in Europe, that will now have to fill in many of the gaps created by America’s withdrawal from the old world order, the one referred to by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer as “Pax Americana.”   At the same time, Germany must build an alliance against Donald Trump, because it otherwise won’t take shape.   It is, however, absolutely necessary.

It is literally painful to write this sentence, but the president of the United States is a pathological liar.  The president of the U.S. is a racist (it also hurts to write this).  He is attempting a coup from the top; he wants to establish an illiberal democracy, or worse; he wants to undermine the balance of power.   He fired an acting attorney general who held a differing opinion from his own and accused her of “betrayal.”   This is the vocabulary used by Nero, the emperor and destroyer of Rome.   It is the way tyrants think.

(Klaus Brinkbaumer)

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New German President anti-Trump

German parliamentary assembly has elected Frank-Walter Steinmeier to become the country’s next president by an overwhelming majority.   Mr. Steinmeier, Germany’s former foreign minister, strongly criticised Donald Trump during the US election campaign.
 
(The President of Germany is a figurehead with similar powers to the British monarch.  He is elected by parliament.  His role is largely ceremonial but he has a great deal of influence.)
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German army to be anchor for small Nato partners

By EUOBSERVER

German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen meets Friday in Washington for the first time with her new American counterpart James Mattis ahead of Nato defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels next week.   The longer-term strategy would turn the Bundeswehr into the leading Nato army in Europe, with small countries integrating their military forces into the German command structures, reports German daily FAZ

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CHANGES AHEAD IN EUROPE

  • A growing number of Europeans are rebelling against decades of government-imposed multiculturalism, politically correct speech codes and mass migration from the Muslim world.
  • Europe’s establishment parties, far from addressing the concerns of ordinary voters, have tried to silence dissent by branding naysayers as xenophobes, Islamophobes and neo-Nazis.
  • “This disruption is fruitful.   The taboos of the last few years are now fully on the agenda: illegal immigration, Islam, the nonsense of open borders, the dysfunctional EU, the free movement of people, jobs, law and order.   Trump’s predecessors did not want to talk about it, but the majority of voters did.   This is democracy.” — Roger Köppel, editor-in-chief of Die Weltwoche, Switzerland.

(Gatestone Institute 1/22)

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US DIVISIONS

As with the EU, the cracks in the USA seem far beyond hairline fractures.   Many sense the country could come apart.   It did once before.   And could Southerners and Northerners have detested each other much more than Americans do today?   (“Is the Left playing with fire again?”  Pat Buchanan 2/14)

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BORROWING FOR US GOVT TO BECOME MORE DIFFICULT

In the age of Trump, America’s biggest foreign creditors are suddenly having second thoughts about financing the U.S. government.

In Japan, the largest holder of Treasuries, investors culled their stakes in December by the most in almost four years, the Ministry of Finance’s most recent figures show.   What’s striking is the selling has persisted at a time when going abroad has rarely been so attractive.   And it’s not just the Japanese.   Across the world, foreigners are pulling back from U.S. debt like never before.

From Tokyo to Beijing and London, the consensus is clear:  few overseas investors want to step into the $13.9 trillion U.S. Treasury market right now.  Whether it’s the prospect of bigger deficits and more inflation under President Donald Trump or higher interest rates from the Federal Reserve, the world’s safest debt market seems less of a sure thing — particularly after the upswing in yields since November.   And then there is Trump’s penchant for saber rattling, which has made staying home that much easier.

(Newsmax  2/13/17)

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YEMEN – NEXT US WAR

Yemen shapes up for US-Iran military clash

Eight armies are fighting for dominance in Yemen, a country of 25 million inhabitants:  The Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents, together with a breakaway force, are battling the army loyal to President Abdulrabbuh Mansur Hadi, which is supported by Saudi, Egyptian and UAE military forces and their hired legion of Colombian mercenaries.   Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) elements, most acting as advisers to the Houthi rebels, intervene actively from time to time.   Last October, they conducted missile attacks on US vessels on the Red Sea from shore batteries.   In response, the US Navy on October 9 and 12 knocked out those batteries and the radar stations that were manned by IRGC teams.   Tehran countered by deploying to Yemen long-range Shahed 129 drones carrying Sadid-1 rockets and sowing sea mines around the international Bab Al-Mandeb Straits.   US President Donald Trump’s sharp warning on Friday, Feb. 3, after just two weeks in office, that Iran was “playing with fire” and the fresh round of sanctions he clamped down were galvanized by Iranian aggression in Yemen and the Red Sea as much as by its ballistic missile test.   And indeed, the deployment of the USS Cole destroyer to the strategic Red Sea Straits of Bab Al-Mandeb on the same day turned the compass needle toward the potential arena, should the escalating tension between the US and Yemen explode into a military encounter, such as a US special operations force going into Yemen to strike IRGC targets. (Debka file)

PEACE IN OUR TIME

obama+chamberlain

President Obama’s peace deal with Iran brings to mind Neville Chamberlain’s visit to Munich in 1938.   That was when he met with “Herr Hitler” and came back waving a piece of paper, proudly proclaiming “peace in our time.”   One year later he had to declare war on Hitler.   A broken man, he died a few months after that.

When hearing assurances of peace in our time, I am not only reminded of Neville Chamberlain.  I also remember the words of the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:3.  “For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.   And they shall not escape.”

Whether or not this verse is applicable specifically to the Iran peace treaty remains to be seen.  The Middle East is a very volatile region and the West seems unable to keep its collective nose out of it, so further conflicts are inevitable.

However, involvement by the West is not an essential component of any Mideast conflict.  Regional powers are quite capable of warring amongst themselves.

A root cause of conflict in the region is the Sunni-Shia divide within Islam.  Iran is the leader of the Shi’ite camp, fighting ISIS in Iraq, which is now ruled by Shia Muslims, thanks to western intervention in the country.   Syria’s Assad is another proxy of Iran. Tehran is also supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen against the Saudi backed Sunni Muslims.

The fear of Iran amongst the Sunnis is palpable.   Fear of an Iranian nuclear bomb is inevitably going to lead to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey trying to acquire the same.   Turning to al-Qaeda for help against ISIS is another.  Yes, that’s right – these three countries, allies of the US, are now backing al-Qaeda against the Islamic State! The British  Spectator  magazine has a really good article on this latest development in the current issue.   (“The enemy’s enemy:  how Arab states have turned to al-Qa’eda” by Ahmed Rashid, 18th July).

The other major conflict in the Middle East is the more familiar one between the Jews and the Palestinians.   In modern history this predates Israel’s independence in May, 1948.   The never-ending conflict saw its latest flare up last year when Hamas (supported by Iran) lobbed thousands of missiles at Israeli settlements.   When Israel retaliated to defend itself, world opinion inevitably turned against Israel.

The dispute is not over.  It will flare up again.   As will problems with Lebanese based Hizbollah (also Iranian backed) and the Palestinians on the West Bank.

This can also escalate into a religious dispute.   According to the Israeli Video Network, the Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction, Uri Ariel, called on Friday for the construction of a Third Temple in place of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits on the Temple Mount.

“The first Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, the second Temple in 70 CE, and ever since the Jewish People have been mourning its loss.”

“‘He then went on to say “Al-Aqsa Mosque is currently in place of the temple, despite the temple being much holier than it.   Al-Aqsa Mosque is only the third most holy mosque in Islam.”   “Now that Israel has once again become a Jewish sovereign state, the desire to rebuild the Temple is growing stronger and stronger”, he added.”

Excavations under the Al-Aqsa led to violent demonstrations by Palestinians a few years ago.  Any attempt to replace the Al-Aqsa with a new Temple building would likely provoke World War III!

This does not mean to say that nothing will happen.   As Mr. Ariel said, “the desire to rebuild the Temple is growing stronger and stronger.”

Jerusalem has been fought over more than any other city.   It’s not over yet.   ”When you shall see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that it’s desolation is near” (Luke 21:20).   Jesus said this in response to His disciples asking about future events that would precede His second coming.

These two disputes go back centuries.  Nothing we do today is going to resolve them.   Between them, they daily threaten Mideast peace. If both flare-up at the same time, the whole world could be engulfed in a never-ending conflagration.

A further potential conflict, made more likely by the peace deal with Iran, is a war between Israel and Iran.  Israel’s prime minister has reacted very negatively to the peace treaty.  He is now working on the US Congress to try to get that body to reject the peace treaty.  If that fails, his last option will be to bomb Iran.  An alternative to that is to wait until Iran actually has the bomb and can then attack Israel.

In addition to the three major conflicts that can quickly escalate, there are “minor” conflicts like the civil war in Syria, continuing anarchy in Libya and the possibility of war between Turks and Kurds.

World leaders should be careful proclaiming “peace and safety” (“peace in our time”), lest “sudden destruction “ should come upon them.

RECORD NUMBERS OF REFUGEES REACHING EUROPE

Syrian refugees in London

One of the great ironies of the last fifty years is that the peoples who supposedly rose up against their colonial masters and achieved independence have been moving en masse to the very countries they rebelled against!

This exodus of people from Africa and the Middle East has increased in recent months with increased turbulence in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.   Eritreans are also moving to Europe to get away from that country’s brutal dictatorship.   Many flee by land to Libya, then cross to Italy by sea.   Over 400 died today when their boat capsized, a fairly regular occurrence.

The Europeans, it seems, cannot do enough to help resettle all these refugees.   The United Nations is criticizing, claiming they are not doing enough.   It should be realized that the U.N. is dominated by people from the same areas of the world as the refugees.   As failed states rapidly fall apart, people want to seek refuge in western Europe.

It should be noted that the six countries all mentioned above are Islamic.   The problems these countries face are deeply rooted in the Muslim religion.   People flee from these lands, but when they arrive in their new countries, what do they want to do?   They want their new countries to embrace Islam!   They have clearly learned nothing. At the same time, they want to make everybody else’s lives miserable.

So, what should western countries do?

The first priority of every government is national security.   Who is to say that, amongst all those fleeing Islamic lands, there may be some who want to get to Europe, North America and Australia, in order to stage terrorist acts?   It’s not only possible, it’s actually quite likely.

The perception of increased threats to security is fueling the growth of right-wing political parties in some European countries.   This poses a serious threat to liberal democracy and the cohesion of the western alliance.

At the same time, the sheer numbers of people in transit constitutes the equivalent of an invading army.   If the cultural identity of nations is to be preserved, something must be done to stop the invasion.

But what?   What can be done?

Clearly, European rule of these nations cannot have been so bad, if the native peoples are now moving to the former rulers for “freedom.”

Perhaps a solution is for those same western European nations to seize a small coastal area of the troubled countries, establishing an enclave, or “colony,” which would enable those citizens who want to flee to the West to remain and live under western rule?   This is, after all, what Hong Kong was all about.

Of course, this is not going to happen.   The United Nations would throw a fit, screaming “colonialism.”   As they cannot say anything positive about any of the countries taking in the refugees, perhaps they should open up the United Nations building and all available surrounding land to house them and feed them – at their own expense, of course.

PROXY WAR PITS SAUDIS AGAINST IRAN

Shia-Houthi rebels                                                 Shia-Houthi rebels

The Middle East continues to dominate the headlines.

A proxy war is taking place in strategically located Yemen, between Iran and Saudi Arabia, backed by the US.

The country’s Sunni president was overthrown in January by Shia Houthi rebels from the north.   Supported by Iran, they are moving south, establishing control over a wider area.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of ten Arab countries in an attempt to restore the Sunni led government to power.   The US backs Saudi Arabia, but, as usual, it’s more complicated than that. AQAP (Al Qaeda in Yemen) is also fighting the Houthis.   Even Islamic State, a long way from home, is involved.

It gets messier.

Last week, the 22-nation Arab League met in Sharm el-Sheikh.   In a final communiqué, the 22 nations pledged to form a unified military force to deal with regional security issues.   This primarily means Iran.

The Sunni-Shia conflict is widening and now pits all 22 Arab nations against Iran.

The war in Yemen could also get worse. Most non-Yemenis have flown out of the country, rescued in aircraft sent to the country by their home governments.

Yemen is very important to the Saudis, who neighbor them to the north.   Saudi Arabia is feeling increasingly encircled by Iranian proxies, to the south in Yemen, to the north in Iraq and Syria and also Hezbollah in Lebanon

There is a growing fear that the war could spill over into Saudi Arabia, which has a small Shi’ite population. It could also affect Oman, which has been an oasis of peace under its current leader, Sultan Qaboos.   Bahrain, too, which is the regional naval base for the US Fifth Fleet, could be seriously affected. It’s Sunni king walks a tightrope ruling over a majority Shi’ite population, estimated to be about two thirds of the total number of Bahraini citizens.

Iran has effectively declared war on Sunni Islam. The country is aiding the Iraqi majority Shi’ite government against ISIS.   The US has been helping bomb the rebels, thereby risking accusations of being an Iranian proxy.   But, further south, the US is supporting the Sunnis in Yemen against Iran.

No wonder everybody is confused.   And no wonder our domestic news channels tend to avoid getting into this.   To fully understand the situation, you need a degree in history, another in geography and a third in comparative religion!

Suffice it to say, it’s a real mess.

Interestingly, this week Senator Rand Paul has entered the US presidential campaign.   His isolationist message will inevitably appeal to voters anxious to get out of the Mideast and leave the Sunnis and Shi’ites to fight to the (very) bitter end.  (One opinion poll today shows him leading over Hillary Clinton.)

However, it’s not as simple as that.   The Bible shows us that, out of this quagmire, will come a regional leader who will attack Europe.   A revival of the Roman Empire (the King of the North) will then have to intervene in the region.  You can read about this in the last few verses of Daniel, chapter 11 (verses 40-44).

We can already see the Europeans waking up to the seriousness of the threats coming from the nearby Middle East.   A 25,000 strong rapid reaction force has been established to deal with further Russian aggression.   But it can also be used to deal with problems that arise in the Middle East that may threaten Europe.

The Middle East is not going to calm down.   The problems in the region are only likely to worsen in the future, as we near the time of Christ’s return.

YEMENI CONFLICT WIDENS SHIA-SUNNI DIVIDE

Shia Sunni

Fill up with gas – the price of oil has been “surging overnight”!

That’s the likely international outcome of the latest development in the Middle East.

Early Thursday morning (late Wednesday in the US), a coalition of ten countries, led by Saudi Arabia, started bombing Shi’ite rebels in Yemen, aiming to restore the “legitimate” (Sunni) government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is in hiding somewhere.

The conflict widens the Shia-Sunni conflict, which is the root cause of the never-ending conflicts in Iraq and Syria.   The latest war pits Saudi Arabia and Iran against each other.

Yemen is not a big oil producer.   But it’s strategically located, controlling the 25-mile wide Gulf of Aden, through which a great deal of the world’s oil is shipped.   The British controlled the Gulf from 1839 until 1967.

Illustrative of the volatility in the oil market is the fact that, less than 24 hours ago, hopes were high that a deal between Iran and the western coalition would lead to a glut of oil, driving the price down.   The deal may still happen, but the benefits will likely be more than offset by the Yemeni conflict and the increasing Sunni-Shia struggle throughout the Middle East.

This is the basis for the ongoing battle over Tikrit in Iraq.   Over a week ago, the Iraqi military was claiming victory over ISIS forces controlling the city.   But ISIS, the most militant group within Sunni Islam, is holding its own against a combined force of Shi’ite Iraqi troops, Shia militias and Iranians, who are also Shi’ites.

Interestingly, the US supports the Saudi-led action to restore the President of Yemen, at the same time as supporting the Iraqi and Iranian action to defeat ISIS.   It’s doubtful this difficult balancing act will last.

Another question is what it will take for western intervention in the region.   An article on the widening conflict in the Middle East in the latest issue of Time Magazine ended with the following paragraph.

“It’s impossible to predict when and where the next extremist attack on a Western target may occur.   But it seems all to likely that it would require a mass casualty terrorist strike in a Western country to build the public support needed for the sustained military effort that could actually eliminate these growing threats.”   (The New Caliphates, TIME Magazine, Volume 185, Issue #11).

Certainly, such an attack cannot be far off.   This could certainly fulfill the prophecy in Daniel 11:40, which states:   “At the time of the end the King of the South shall attack him.”   The King of the North then retaliates.

As this global crisis worsens and spreads, another recent development shows ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram “troops” training together in Mauretania, a Moslem country not directly affected by terrorism until now.   With ISIS now operating in Tunisia and Libya and Boko Haram in alliance with ISIS, operating in Nigeria, Niger and Chad, the whole of West Africa is vulnerable.

At the same time, the Taliban, which operate in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, has pledged support to the new Caliphate.

The spreading Caliphate is well on its way to achieving its avowed goal of an Islamic State stretching from the Atlantic through the Middle East and on to Indonesia.   The plan is a five year plan, which means conflicts are set to increase and spread.

Meanwhile, the “mass casualty terrorist strike” Time warned about, may already have happened. It has been disclosed that the pilot was locked out of the cockpit of the “Germanwings” flight that crashed into the Alps two days ago.   When the pilot went to the bathroom, his co-pilot locked the door behind him and then immediately set the controls for a rapid descent and the final, fatal crash.   The Marseille prosecutor has just declared that the “co-pilot was not known as a wanted terrorist.”   The question remains as to why he would deliberately fly the plane into the mountains.   Terrorism was quickly denied but terrorist websites constantly inspire “lone wolf” violent attacks as part of their cause.

Spain and Germany lost the most people in the crash.   Spain is one of the countries that ISIS wants in its Caliphate, having been ruled by Muslims for over 700 years.

It’s too early to tell if this was a factor in the plane crash but a criminal investigation is now underway.   It seems certain the loss of 150 lives was no accident.

 

 

 

 

TERROR GROUPS GLOBAL REACH

Jan. 27, 2015:  In this image made from video posted by a Libyan blogger, the Cortinthia Hotel is seen under attack in Tripoli. (AP)
Jan. 27, 2015:   In this image made from video posted by a Libyan blogger, the Corinthia Hotel is seen under attack in Tripoli. (AP)

ISIS has claimed it was behind the attack on a leading hotel in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, earlier this week.   The hotel was one of the few remaining western hotels, catering to foreign nationals. An American and a Frenchman were amongst the nine who were killed.

The attack shows that ISIS is now operating in Libya, a long way from home.

The three major terror threats right now are ISIS, AQAP and Boko Haram.

ISIS, having established a rudimentary caliphate over parts of Syria and Iraq, now calls itself IS (Islamic State) reflecting its new status as a country.   It is even negotiating with Jordan, a neighboring country, over the fate of a Jordanian prisoner and a Jordanian pilot captured by IS.   There is the possibility of a proposed exchange of prisoners.   They also hold a Japanese journalist and are threatening to behead him at the time of writing.

AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) staged the Paris attacks. Some terror experts say this is the most dangerous group and the biggest threat to the West, including the United States.   The terror group emanates from Yemen, home of Osama bin Laden.   Yemen’s pro-American government has just fallen, replaced by a group loyal to Iran, a Shi’ite theocratic republic.   This strengthens Iran at the expense of the US.   AQAP is Sunni and will likely continue uninterrupted, safe in its own territory in the splintered nation.

Boko Haram may seem disconnected but operates over an increasingly wide area.   It has the same aims as the other two, the downfall of the West and a rejection of all things western.

In addition to the three groups mentioned, there is also the Taliban, which continues to stage terror attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.   A Taliban attack on a school in December killed 148, mostly students.

Smaller groups like the Nusra Front also operate.

The Economist magazine (page 26, January 17th issue) showed there were 17 significant terrorist attacks by these groups in a one-month period (December 15th – January 13th).   The total number of deaths is hard to determine as statistics from some areas, especially Nigeria, are unreliable.   But a low estimate for the period totaled 528. During this one-month period there were terror attacks in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.   They included suicide bombings and gun attacks.

This is a global conflict, which will affect every nation on earth.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS DESK

syriza

Syriza was described on the BBC World Service this morning as a “very left-wing party.”   It looks as if it will come to power in Greece this Sunday, January 25th.

The big issue, as is common in western democracies, is the economy.   In the case of Greece, this means austerity, which, in turn, means the euro.

In May, 2010, faced with imminent national bankruptcy, the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (the so called troika) bailed out the small Mediterranean country, while imposing strict austerity on the Greeks.   Austerity measures were increased in 2011 resulting in very high unemployment, especially amongst the young.   The measures were extremely unpopular.   Much of the blame was given to the euro, Germany and Angela Merkel.

Today, Syriza is threatening to unilaterally halve the debt, to end Greece’s national “humiliation” and if necessary, to leave the euro. Angela Merkel has indicated she is ok with a Grexit, the term being used for a Greek exit.

One concern is that, if one country withdraws, others will follow.   The eurozone could unravel.   Although not a member of the eurozone, Great Britain could pull out of the EU, which, again, might influence others.

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King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died yesterday, automatically succeeded by his half-brother King Salman.   Little change is likely in the kingdom in the immediate future.   The two kings come from a total of 45 brothers and half-brothers.   However, King Salman, aged 79, is likely the last of the present generation.

King Abdullah’s passing is ill-timed.   He has been king since 2005 and before that was de facto monarch for ten years as the previous king had suffered a serious stroke.   So, for twenty years, he has been the most powerful man in Saudi Arabia and a major figure in the Middle East.   His knowledge and experience will be sorely missed.

This is a challenging time for the Arabian peninsula, home of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), perpetrators of the Paris terror attack.   Yemen’s pro-American government resigned this week as rebels seized the capital.   At the same time, another neighbor, Oman, will soon lose its leader, the pro-western Sultan Qaboos, who is now 74 and has been suffering from an undisclosed medical condition, which has resulted in him being rarely seen in public.

King Abdullah has been involved in bringing down the price of oil.   If the king had wanted to, he could have reversed the falling price simply by cutting Saudi production, but he didn’t.

He has also played a major role in supporting western efforts at fighting IS (Islamic State) and supporting Sunni rebels against Syria’s leader, who is allied to Saudi Arabia’s enemy, Shia Iran.   It should be noted here that Iran’s leader will attend a memorial for King Abdullah tomorrow.   Under Islamic custom, the king was buried today.

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Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill. He died on 24th January 1965.

His official biographer is Sir Martin Gilbert.   Sir Martin spends two months every year at conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he lectures on Churchill.   He has willed his extensive Churchill library to the college.

A few years ago, a student invited me to go with him to one of the lectures.

I asked Sir Martin to sign my copy of his one volume book on Churchill, which he gladly did.   I also took the opportunity to ask him a question:   “If Churchill had never lived, what would have happened in World War Two?”   His response was:   “We wouldn’t have gotten very far.”   His lecture that evening illustrated his point.

That evening’s talk was on the sinking of the French fleet after the fall of France.

Churchill ordered that the fleet should be sunk so that it would not fall into the hands of the Germans.   Hundreds of French naval personnel died in the British attack on the fleet.   The incident remains controversial to this day.   Not only did it deny the Germans the use of the fleet, it had the added side benefit of convincing US President Franklin Roosevelt to back Churchill.    He was now convinced that the British war-time leader would stop at nothing to win the war.

The western world desperately needs a Churchill now.