This Week in the News

Terror Attack in London

The Huffington Post wrote on March 22:

“Chaos engulfed one of London’s most bustling areas after an armed assailant drove into pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge and then stabbed a police officer while trying to storm the city’s Parliament building Wednesday, killing at least three [some reported four] and injuring several more. Police said they are investigating the situation as a terrorist incident. The assailant was fatally shot by police…

“The vehicle plowed into the crowds on the bridge shortly before 3 p.m. and then drove onto the busy sidewalk in front of the gates of Parliament. Witnesses said the assailant then ran out of the car and rushed through the gates wielding a knife. The assailant fatally stabbed one of the police officers protecting Parliament before being taken down.

“Mark Rowley, Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, said that in addition to the police officer and the assailant, two people were killed on Westminster Bridge. At least 20 others [some reported at least 40] were injured in the attack…

“Wednesday’s tragic incident is the deadliest attack on British soil since July 7, 2005, when al Qaeda suicide bombers targeting London’s transportation system killed 52 people and wounded more than 770.

“Although major attacks have hit other European nations, including France, Belgium and Germany, in recent years, Britain has avoided another terrorism event on that scale. But England has not been completely immune to extremism and has reported foiling more than a dozen plots since 2013…”

London Terrorist Identified

BBC News wrote on March 23:

“Police have identified Khalid Masood as the man who carried out the Westminster attack, as the death toll rose to five. Kent-born Masood, who was shot dead by police, had not been the subject of any current police investigations, but had a range of previous convictions. The 52-year-old was believed to have been living in the West Midlands…

“The so-called Islamic State group has said it was behind the attack. Three women and five men were arrested in London and Birmingham on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts following Wednesday’s attack.”

The “Great” Trump-Merkel Meeting

The Local wrote on March 18:

“For most of the 30 minutes in the East Room, Merkel was stony-faced as Trump ripped into Washington’s NATO allies for not paying for their ‘fair share’ for transatlantic defense and demanded ‘fair and reciprocal trade’ deals…

“Although Trump has tempered his criticism of NATO and the personal attacks against European leaders, officials still fret that Trump has too closely embraced the nationalist ideology of key advisor Steve Bannon. Bannon has championed trade protectionism and opposed the European Union and other multilateral institutions that underpin the world order…

“Merkel rejected Trump’s suggestion that individual European countries should negotiate free trade deals with the United States, rather than under existing EU-US negotiations.”

Deutsche Welle wrote on March 17:

“US President Donald Trump claimed that German news agency reporter Kristina Dunz was interested in ‘fake news’ when she asked him about isolationist policies. In her report, Dunz later wrote, ‘It is no longer a custom in the White House that hard, uncomfortable questions receive factual answers.”

The New York Times wrote on March 17:

“Mr. Trump appeared to go further than he has in the past on the need for burden-sharing in NATO. He demanded not just that members increase their military spending as a percentage of gross domestic product, but also that they make reparations for past American contributions. Mr. Trump also said he believed that Germany, like China and other trading partners, had taken advantage of the United States…

“[Mrs.] Merkel offered a vision of what she called ‘open-minded’ globalization. Refugees, she said, needed opportunities to improve their lives, in part to stabilize their countries and prevent them from sliding into civil war. She extolled freedom of movement as one of the great strengths of the European Union. Germany’s success, she said, was inextricably tied to the success of the European Union… Mr. Trump has rooted openly for the dissolution of the European Union. His meeting in January with Prime Minister Theresa May, who is leading Britain’s exit from the union, was considerably warmer than the one with [Mrs.] Merkel, though that came before the diplomatic rupture between the United States and Britain over Mr. Trump’s claims that British intelligence was involved in wiretapping Trump Tower.”

FBI Finds no Evidence for Wiretapping but Investigates Trump

Newsmax reported on March 20:

“FBI Director James Comey confirmed [for the first time] the bureau is probing potential ties [and possible collusion] between President Donald Trump’s associates and Russia during the 2016 campaign [to influence the outcome of the presidential election] and said there’s no evidence to support the president’s allegation that his predecessor ‘wiretapped’ Trump Tower last year.

“’I have no information that supports those tweets [alleging wiretapping] and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,’ Comey told the House Intelligence Committee during a hearing Monday that lasted more than five hours… ‘I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,’ Comey said. ‘And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.'”

Deutsche Welle added on March 20:

“Speaking later at a press briefing, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters there was no evidence Trump’s team colluded with Russia. ‘Investigating it and having proof of it are two different things,’ he said.”

The Hill added on March 20:

“Ahead of the House intelligence panel hearing where Comey confirmed the probe, Trump tweeted the Russia story… ‘is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it! The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign…’

“Comey’s description of the situation, however, is at odds with Trump’s… The inquiry, which he said began last July, will determine whether any crimes were committed.”

Bild Online commented on March 20: “March 20, 2017 could become an historic day, when the US President (completely) lost all credibility… What are the consequences? Not clear. Until recently, no American President would have survived… But according to American standards, which were applied until several months ago, Trump should not have become President in the first place.”

Trump under “Inadvertent” Surveillance?

Politico wrote on March 22:

“House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes declared Wednesday that members of Donald Trump’s transition team, possibly including Trump himself, were under inadvertent surveillance following November’s presidential election. The White House and Trump’s allies immediately seized on the statement as vindication of the president’s much-maligned claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower phones — even though Nunes himself said that’s not what his new information shows. Democrats, meanwhile, cried foul…

“Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, cast doubt on Nunes’ claims in a fiery statement and blasted the chairman for not first sharing the information with him or other committee members. Schiff also slammed Nunes for briefing the White House on Wednesday afternoon given that the Intelligence Committee is in the middle of an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, including possible collusion with the Trump team. ‘The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House, because he cannot do both,’ Schiff said at a news conference Wednesday…

“Nunes set off the firestorm with a news conference earlier in the day in which he described the surveillance of Trump aides through what’s called ‘incidental collection,’ something he noted was routine and legal. Such collection can occur when a person inside the United State communicates with a foreign target of U.S. surveillance. In such cases, the identities of U.S. citizens are supposed to be shielded — but can be ‘unmasked’ by intelligence officials under certain circumstances.”

Bloomberg wrote on March 22:

“The intercepted communications weren’t captured through wiretaps… or through surveillance directed at Trump or his aides, Nunes told reporters at the Capitol… Nunes — who served on Trump’s transition team — said the surveillance that picked up Trump’s associates wasn’t aimed at Russia…”

The New York Times added on March 22:

“… the intelligence collection described by Mr. Nunes… indicates that the targets of American intelligence gathering were foreign officials, not specific members of the Trump transition or Mr. Trump himself. In fact, any American citizen who talks, messages or emails with a foreign official under surveillance would be picked up by intelligence agencies. This would include Obama administration officials and private citizens like journalists and business people.

“It by no means indicates that Mr. Trump himself was under direct surveillance… Mr. Nunes also said he was not sure whether Mr. Trump’s communications were collected… Intelligence agencies are permitted to record calls even if they involve American citizens…”

Inasmuch as all of this is apparently routine and “legal,” and does not include wire-tapping at all, one must ask why this “discovery” was announced in this way by Mr. Nunes.

FBI: Trump Associates May Have Coordinated with Russians to Damage Clinton Campaign

CNN reported on March 23:

“The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN. This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.

“The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing…

“The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place, but the information suggesting collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, the officials said…”

Proposed Healthcare Bill… From One Debacle to the Next

Deutsche Welle reported on March 23:

“Republican lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have announced a delay in the vote on a new healthcare bill. It represents the first setback for President Trump on the seventh anniversary of Obamacare… While the Republicans have a majority in the House, they can only afford to have 22 of their number vote against the bill for it to fail. ‘There are not enough votes as of 1:30 (1730 UTC) today,’ Mark Meadows, head of the conservative Freedom Caucus, told reporters after a meeting with Trump and other lawmakers on Thursday.

“In a television interview on Thursday afternoon, House majority leader Kevin McCarthy said lawmakers would start debating the bill on Friday, admitting the votes were not in place to secure its passage.

“While Republicans have spent seven years opposing the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, there are aspects of the planned replacement AHCA which some of their number refuse to support. President Donald Trump spent hours in phone calls and meetings late into the night on Wednesday trying to gain support from dissenting party members.

“Critics claim the new health care plan is too expensive for the government. Some want to see benefits such as maternity care, emergency room visits, screening and vaccines repealed; others are concerned their constituents would be unable to afford health insurance under the new plan. Millions of Americans could lose their access to health care under the new plan…

Democrats in the House have said they would vote against AHCA as a bloc. As of Thursday, 36 mainly conservative Republicans had announced their opposition to the bill, thus preventing its passage…”

It’s Official–Martin Schulz New SPD Chairman and Chancellor Candidate

Deutsche Welle reported on March 19:

“Martin Schulz has unanimously won the nomination as Social Democratic party chairman and chancellor candidate for this year’s election…

“There has been a lot of media hype surrounding the new SPD chairman, but there is a real basis to the so-called ‘Schulz effect.’ The party says that it has gained 13,000 new members since January, when Gabriel – now Germany’s Foreign Minister – surprisingly agreed to take a backseat to Schulz…”

Euractiv and AFP wrote on March 12:

“Matthias Zeller, a 21-year-old Social Democratic activist, caused a stir in Germany when he enthused on national television that his party’s new leader Martin Schulz was a ‘geile Sau’ – which loosely translates as ‘sexy beast’.

“Zeller, who heads the youth wing of SPD’s Mannheim chapter, told AFP that he let slip the informal expression ‘out of sheer exuberant joy’ over Schulz’s decision to lead the party into battle against Chancellor Angela Merkel in September elections. His popularity reaches close to 50%, compared to the chancellor’s 38%…”

The translation “sexy beast” does not convey the original German. In fact, the German phrase is derogatory and mean, but as so often today, bad terms are used to express something good or admirable. So, when people say, “that is bad,” they may mean, “that is really great.”

Bild Online wrote on March 21:

“The ‘Kissinger of Würselen’… is free to put his fist down as he pleases… The way he hasn’t yet been too clear about where he stands concerning policy makes it even easier for ‘comrads’ of both ends of the political spectrum to follow him into the desert like the last prophet – destination anywhere. And time is on Schulz’s side: All three federal elections to come in the spring (Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia) are likely to go well for the Social Democrats. Over and over, people will recite the ‘Schulz-Effect’ then. Even if the big boss’s name isn’t even on the ballot paper.

“This is exactly what the Christian Democrats are fearing the most. The mood being as sombre as it is, with bad election results likely. In the Saarland, they are bound to lose power completely. And a whisper will get louder and louder: What on earth are we going to do about this Schulz-guy? Ignoring him prominently – the Merkel strategy – won’t work any longer, many Christian Democrats believe. Fight him on actual issues? Hard to do, since Schulz has mainly dodged giving definite answers up to now… ‘Martin cannot make any mistakes’, one of the strategists says…

“Otherwise – and no one knows this better than Schulz himself – it’s a quick passage, much quicker than in other parties, from being the messiah, to becoming a false prophet.”

New French-German Partnership Needed for Europe

Euractiv wrote on March 17:

“France’s only clearly pro-European presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel know each other well. In 2015, they both published their vision for an economic and social union within the EU…  Calls for a new, stronger European narrative are growing louder. Sixty years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, the EU institutions are in need of reform and EU countries need a new form of cooperation in order to address global challenges.

“The question is how and with whom to implement such a reform… Macron took the opportunity to promise that, should he emerge triumphant from the presidential election, he would prioritise a renewal of the old Franco-German alliance. A strong partnership between the two European powers is a precondition for EU reform, the two politicians agreed…

“Emmanuel Macron states that] we must ‘dare to go for a multi-speed Europe’…”

Deutsche Welle wrote on March 20:

“Le Pen is known for her far-right nationalism, anti-immigration policies and opposition to the euro currency, as well as previous pledges to withdraw France from the NATO defensive alliance… [She said] she wanted to stop ‘both legal and illegal immigration’…”

The first round of the presidential election will take place on April 23. The final [run-off] election will take place on May 7. According to opinion polls, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen are currently the frontrunners. Angela Merkel announced that she is willing to work with whomever is elected French President, with the exception of Le Pen. While we felt very strongly that Donald Trump would become US President, we feel it is HIGHLY doubtful that Le Pen will win the French election.

Erdogan’s Fight with Europe Continues

AFP wrote on March 19:

“Turkey and the European Union are locked in an explosive crisis that threatens to jeopardise Ankara’s bid to join the bloc, as tensions rise ahead of an April 16 referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers. The row erupted after authorities in Germany and other EU states refused to allow some Turkish ministers to campaign for a ‘yes’ vote on their soil, provoking a volcanic response from the Turkish strongman who said the spirit of Nazi Germany was rampant in Europe…

“Home to 1.4 million Turkish voters, Germany hosts the world’s largest Turkish diaspora but the partnership between NATO allies Ankara and Berlin has been ripped to shreds by the current crisis. Turkey reacted furiously to a Frankfurt rally on Saturday urging a ‘no’ vote where protesters brandished insignia of outlawed Kurdish rebels… The Turkish foreign ministry accused the German authorities ‘of the worst example of double standards’ for allowing the pro-Kurdish protest while preventing Turkish ministers from campaigning there…

“Ankara also reacted with indignation after Germany’s intelligence chief said he was unconvinced by Turkish assertions that US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen was behind the failed July coup aimed at overthrowing Erdogan… Defence Minister Fikri Isik said the comments raised questions about whether Berlin itself was involved in the putsch…”

When Nuclear War Starts…

On March 19, the Independent wrote the following:

“President Trump has egged on a new arms race. Russia violated weapons treaties to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. North Korea is developing long-range missiles and practising for nuclear war — and the US military is considering preemptive attacks on the isolated nation’s military facilities. Meanwhile, nuclear terrorism and dirty bombs remain a sobering threat…

“You are in a large city that has just been subjected to a single, low-yield nuclear detonation, between 0.1 and 10 kilotons. This is much less powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima — about 15 kilotons. However, it’s not unlikely when looking at weapons like the new B61-12 gravity bomb, which is built by the US, maxes out at 50 kilotons, and can be dialed down to 0.3 kilotons. (Russia and Pakistan are working on similar so-called ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons.)…

“One of your biggest and most immediate goals is to avoid nuclear fallout… Fallout is a mess of bomb material, soil, and debris that is vaporised, made radioactive, and sprinkled as dust and ash across the landscape by prevailing winds… The US government recommends hiding in a nearby building, but not all of them provide much shelter from nuclear fallout… The best shelters are thick brick or concrete and lack windows. Like a bomb shelter. Hiding in the sub-basement of a brick five-story apartment building, for example, should expose you to just 1/200 of the amount of fallout radiation outside. Meanwhile, hanging out in the living room of your one-story, wood-frame house will only cut down the radiation by half, which — if you are next to a nuclear explosion — will not do much to help you…”

Cartoon with Scary Truth

On March 19, the Telegraph published a satirical cartoon, pertaining to Brexit. The cartoon pictures a sailor on a floating submarine, handing another sailor a briefcase, saying: “If the UK is destroyed in a nuclear attack, these are the codes for triggering Article 50.”

One has to wonder why this sudden coverage of a nuclear attack in the British press.

Britain to Formally Announce Brexit on March 29

Deutsche Welle wrote on March 20:

“British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50 at the end of March, her office has announced. The move would then set off two years of formal negotiations on Britain leaving the European Union. Prime Minister May will write a letter to the European Union on March 29 to formally announce Britain’s withdrawal from the soon-to-be 27 member bloc…

“Triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will start the clock on two years of formal negotiations, at the end of which Britain will leave the EU. The British parliament backed May’s Article 50 plan last week after 51.9 percent of participants voted for Brexit in a referendum last June…

“The European Commission said on Monday that it is prepared to begin Brexit negotiations after the British government confirmed the date it will launch the process… Before negotiations with the UK can begin, the other EU member states must meet to confirm the Commission’s negotiating guidelines. Officials say that a summit is likely to be held in early May…

“Monday’s announcement comes just days before the EU celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome which created the bloc. German Chancellor Angela Merkel [said] ‘it makes absolutely no difference whether the notification comes one day earlier, or three or seven days afterward.’…

“May’s preparations for Brexit were hit hard last week by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that she planned to hold a new independence referendum in order to maintain the country’s ties to the EU. On Sunday, Sturgeon said she was prepared to delay the vote to appease the government in London after initially pushing for the vote to take place in late 2018 or early 2019.

“The nationalist party Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, which made major gains in regional elections earlier this month, has also called for a referendum on breaking away from the UK and uniting with the Republic of Ireland. Out of the United Kingdom’s four nations, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU while England and Wales voted to leave.”

Sweden Afraid of Nuclear War

The Daily Mail wrote on March 21:

“Sweden is set to bring hundreds of Cold War-era nuclear bunkers out of mothballs as tensions with Russia in the Baltic are ratcheted up another notch. The news comes as the Swedish parliament held its first war game in 20 years. Fifty MPs – who would have the power to replace parliament in the event of an outright conflict – held the drill yesterday at a secret location…

“More than 60,000 nuclear bunkers were established after 1945 to protect Swedes in the event of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union… Sweden, which is not a NATO member, is also reintroducing military service, which was scrapped in 2010.Sweden is growing increasingly worried about Russia’s military build-up. In the event of a war Sweden’s iron ore resources and its strategic position on the Baltic would be crucial…

“There have also been reports of airspace violations by Russia’s military aircraft in the Baltics and a military buildup in Kaliningrad, which sits across the Baltic Sea from Sweden… Sweden also said it was going to increase military spending by 15 per cent because of Russian aggression.”

Trump Wants Southern Ireland as his Ally 

The Belfast Telegraph wrote on March 18:

“The Donald Trump administration plans to use the Republic of Ireland as an increasingly important ally in Europe as the UK prepares to depart the European Union…

“A senior White House official indicated the warm reception afforded Mr [Enda] Kenny [Irish Prime Minister] is a clear sign the Trump administration wants to work more closely with Ireland. ‘With Brexit, Ireland comes more into play for us in Europe,’ the source told the Irish Independent… Separately, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reiterated the administration’s intention to strengthen its ties with Ireland.”

North Korea Threatens USA

The Daily Star wrote on March 19:

“North Korea has pledged to launch a nuclear strike on the US if a ‘single bullet is fired’… as Washington and South Korea carry out war games in the region…

“North Korea has sparked international fury by launching four missiles into the Sea of Japan, not long after the alleged assassination of Kim’s brother Kim Jong-nam… Tensions have reached an all-time high with North Korea as Kim Jong-un’s diplomat warned of an ‘actual war’ while speaking at the UN.”

Mexicans Focus on Canada rather than USA

Reuters reported on March 17:

“Canada’s border authorities detained more Mexicans in the first 67 days of 2017 than they did annually in any of the three previous years, according to statistics obtained by Reuters. The spike comes immediately after Canada’s federal government lifted its visa requirement for Mexican citizens in December. Many Mexicans looking north have shifted their focus from the United States to Canada as President Donald Trump vows to crack down on America’s undocumented immigrants, about half of whom are Mexican. On Friday, Reuters reported, immigration judges were reassigned to 12 U.S. cities to speed up deportation.

“The Canada Border Services Agency… can detain foreign nationals if it is believed they pose a danger to the public, if their identity is unclear or if they are deemed unlikely to appear for removal or for a proceeding…

“With the visa requirement lifted, all that Mexicans need to come to Canada is an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), obtainable online in a matter of minutes. But they cannot work without a work permit, and the eTA does not guarantee entry. Canada issued 72,450 travel authorizations to Mexican citizens between Dec. 1, 2016, and March 10, 2017 – a significant increase compared with a similar period when visas were required.”

“US Bans Large Electronics on Some Flights from Middle East, Africa”

Deutsche Welle wrote on March 21:

“US President Donald Trump’s administration confirmed on Tuesday that it is imposing new restrictions on travelers coming into the United States from 10 airports located mainly in the Middle East and North Africa. The Department of Homeland Security will now require people flying to the United States from airports in eight countries – Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Morocco and Qatar – to check electronic devices larger than a cell phone such as tablets, laptops, cameras and portable DVD players. The affected airports are located in Amman, Cairo, Kuwait City, Doha, Dubai, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah and Casablanca. All 10 airports are located in Muslim-majority countries.

“Trump administration officials said the airlines will have 96 hours to implement the security order – otherwise, they will be barred from flying to the United States. Mobile phones and medical devices will still be allowed in carry-on items. [A] spokeswoman with the Dubai-based Emirates told Reuters that the restrictions will be in place for seven months and will begin on Saturday… No American airlines are due to be affected by the upcoming ban, as no US-based airlines have non-stop flights from those cities to the US, administration officials said…

“Some analysts expect headaches for people boarding flights. Aerospace science professor Jeffrey Price of Metropolitan State University of Denver said there would be problems for passengers being forced to put their electronics in their checked luggage. He argued that theft of electronics from baggage would increase, pointing to such a trend following a similar ban in Britain in 2006. Price also noted that some laptops are equipped with batteries that can catch fire – but that such events are difficult to detect if laptops are stowed in the cargo hold.”

Africans No Longer Welcome in the USA?

The Telegraph wrote on March 19:

“Each year, delegations from Africa meet with officials and business leaders in the US for the African Global Economic and Development… Summit. This year’s event took place at the University of Southern California… in Los Angeles. But unfortunately, one crucial aspect was missing from the summit – any Africans. None of the invited delegates were able to attend, due to being denied a visa at the very last minute… around 100 guests, from Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and South Africa, were unable to attend… many who had applied for their visas weeks or months in advance were only called for embassy interviews days before they were supposed to travel.

“Prince Kojo Hilton, a graphic artist from Ghana, was due to lead a session on filmmaking, but was denied a visa four days before he was supposed to travel… Diane E. Watson, former member of Congress from California, called the State Department to question the denial of visas for the USC summit delegates. However, she was told that the State Department could not discuss individual visa cases.

“Donald Trump’s ‘travel ban’ only applies to three African countries, Libya, Somalia and Sudan, therefore it’s unclear as to why there has been such an increase in rejected visa applications from the continent.”

Hollywood’s Fight with Conservatives

The Washington Post wrote on March 18:

“[Tim] Allen… has been one of few in Hollywood to speak openly about his right-leaning views. Another 2,500 of his colleagues feel so stigmatized that they have joined a clandestine support group, according to a Los Angeles Times article profiling retribution and secrecy forced upon ‘the vast majority of conservatives who work in entertainment.’ ‘In 30 years of show business, I’ve never seen it like this,’ an unnamed actor told the outlet. ‘If you are even lukewarm to Republicans, you are excommunicated from the church of tolerance.’…

“Allen compared Trump to an amateur performer with ‘very bad comic timing.’ ‘I don’t want to defend the guy,’ he said… ‘What I find odd in Hollywood is they didn’t like Trump because he was a bully… But if you had any kind of inkling that you were for Trump, you got bullied for doing that. It gets a little hypocritical.’…

“The industry has become more toxic to conservatives since Trump took office, the Los Angeles Times reported. Workers complained of political shouting matches on set and the professional shunning of those known to hold right-leaning views…”

IRS Proceeds Quickly to Grant Tax Exemption to Satanic Group

Judicial Watch wrote on March 16:

“Under the Obama administration IRS political appointees illegally targeted conservative groups, either making them wait up to seven years for tax-exempt status or denying their application altogether. Judicial Watch uncovered that scandal and has obtained piles of government records showing how the IRS illegally colluded with another federal agency to single out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status.

“In the meantime,… groups like the Satan club got fast tracked. The principle goal of establishing the Satan clubs in public schools throughout Washington State appears to be to counter existing enterprises operated by a Christian-based group… Records obtained by Judicial Watch from the Treasury Department show that the Satanic cult applied for tax-exempt status on October 21, 2014 and received it on October 31, 2014.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses an Extremist Organization in Russia?

USA Today wrote on March 16:

“Russia’s justice ministry has filed a lawsuit with its supreme court to declare the national headquarters of the country’s Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization… The press office for the Russian branch of the religion says on its website that such a declaration, if successful, would ‘entail disastrous consequences for freedom of religion in Russia’ and directly affect about 175,000 followers at more than 2,000 congregations in the country…

“The Jehovah’s Witnesses first legally registered as a religious group in Russia in 1991 and re-registered in 1999, according to the organization’s international website. For almost two decades, however, Russian prosecutors in various localities have periodically sought to outlaw or curb the group, charging it is a cult that destroys families, fosters hatred and threatens lives…

“Vasily Kalin, chairman of the religious group’s steering committee, said: …  ‘In Stalin’s time, when I was a child, the whole family was deported to Siberia only because we were Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s a shame and sad that my children and grandchildren will be faced with something like that.’

“Jehovah’s Witnesses have come under growing pressure from Russian authorities in recent years, including a ban on distribution of church literature that authorities say violates anti-extremism laws. In February, investigators inspected the headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in St. Petersburg… More than 70,000 pages of documents were confiscated for the General Prosecutor’s Office… which monitors hate crimes and the enforcement of anti-extremist laws… In 2009, the Supreme Court of Russia upheld a lower court ruling that declared 34 pieces of Jehovah’s Witness literature as ‘extremist,’ including their magazine The Watchtower in Russian.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses have been officially banned from the port city of Taganrog since 2009, after a local court ruled the organization guilty of inciting religious hatred by ‘propagating the exclusivity and supremacy’ of their religion… In 2015, a court in Rostov convicted 16 Jehovah’s Witnesses of practicing extremism in Taganrog, handing out jail sentences – later suspended – of more than 5 years for five of the defendants and stiff fines for the others. That same year, the supreme court of Russia banned the religion’s international website as ‘extremist.’”

Russia’s long-standing persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is well-known. To label the Jehovah’s Witnesses as “extremists” is ridiculous and preposterous. But as we recently reported in our StandingWatch program “Russia’s Persecution of Minority Christians” , we can expect that Russia, under autocratic dictator Vladimir Putin, will persecute more and more minority religions and denominations.

Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

Note that information for observance of the 2017 Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day is now posted on our website.

Passover will be observed after sunset on Sunday evening, April 9, 2017; the Night to be Much Observed after sunset on Monday evening, April 10th; Holy Day services for the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread on Tuesday, April 11th; and Holy Day services for the last day of Unleavened Bread on Monday, April 17th.

The Church Conference for 2017 will be conducted in Escondido, California, with arrivals on March 23rd  and ending on March 28th. Our first session will be on Friday, with subsequent meetings on Sunday and Monday.  We will also have Sabbath services in Ramona, California, during this time.

“Germany and the USA… What Next?” is the title of a new StandingWatch program, presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Here is a summary:

The meeting between Angela Merkel and Donald Trump was not great. The two leaders could not have been more contradictory and showed little common ground. They could not disguise the gulf that separates them. What does this mean for the future relationship between the USA and Europe under German leadership? The Bible tells us very clearly what is going to happen… very soon.

“Katholiken und Protestanten… Getrennt oder Vereint? (Teil 1) ,” is the title of this Sabbath’s German sermon. Title in English: “Catholics and Protestants… Divided or United? (Part 1).” Part 2 has also been recorded for the following Sabbath.

“Effects of Entropy,” the sermonette presented last Sabbath by Kalon Mitchell, is now posted. Here is a summary:

Can evolution be correct in stating that from chaos comes order? That life spawned from mutating cells? Can it be proven that we live in a world that is getting stronger? Or do we see just the opposite, everything decaying? Do we see the plausibility that the destruction of earth is for a reason and that there is indeed a God who created and set in motion the need for the laws that govern our world?

“Is Now the Day of Salvation?” the sermon presented last Sabbath by Norbert Link, is now posted. Here is a summary:

We read in 2 Corinthians 6:2 that now is the accepted time and the day of salvation. Does this mean that salvation is offered today to everyone? If so, then most of humanity would be lost. But how can one come to God in a world which is ruled by Satan and his demons? And can the overwhelming majority of mankind even believe in God and His salvation at this time? What does 2 Corinthians 6:2 really mean?

Current Events

We begin with the terror attack in London and the first personal meeting between Angela Merkel and Donald Trump, which was not “great” by any standard (Please read the Editorial in this Update, and view our new StandingWatch program, “Germany and the USA… What Next?”). We continue with explosive “bombshell” announcements by the FBI, totally refuting President Trump’s allegation of having been wiretapped by former President Obama, while revealing that an investigation against Donald Trump and his campaign is being conducted. A subsequent controversial announcement by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes suggests that the Trump team could have been inadvertently surveilled.

We report on Martin Schutz, the official challenger of Angela Merkel in the September election; as well as the candidates for the French Presidency, to be determined in May. We also speak about the ongoing row between Europe and Turkey.

We point out the fear of nuclear war in Britain and in Sweden and the announcement to officially begin Brexit procedures by March 29; as well as the desire of the Trump Administration to make Southern Ireland an increasingly important ally in Europe. We also speak on North Korea’s provocations.

We report that more and more Mexicans are trying to enter Canada, rather than the USA and the US ban of large electronics on some flights from the Middle East and Africa, while pointing out the appalling fact that not one delegate from Africa was given permission to enter the USA to participate in the African Global Economic and Development Summit in Southern California. We also speak on left-liberal Hollywood’s fight against conservative actors; the speedy action of the IRS to grant tax-exempt status to a Satanic group, while delaying or denying such permission to conservative nonprofits; and we conclude with reporting on increasing religious persecution of religious minorities in Russia.

Gaining Help and Strength from Others; Marriage

On March 25, 2017, Brian Gale will present the sermonette, titled, “Gaining Help and Strength from Others,” and Rene Messier will present the sermon, titled, “Marriage.”

The live services are available, over video and audio, at (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time; 8:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time; 9:30 pm Central European Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

Please NOTE: We will not publish an Update for the week of March 31, 2017, due to our Church Conference; also, we will not publish the Update for the weeks of April 14th and 21st as we observe Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Germany and the USA… What Next?

It was not a great meeting… by any stretch of the imagination. The Local wrote on March 18: “Stark differences between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on everything from trade to immigration were in full view during an icy first meeting at the White House Friday. In a frequently awkward joint press conference, Trump and Merkel showed little common ground…”

The New York Times added on March 17: “Worlds apart in style and policy, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Merkel… could not disguise the gulf that separates them…”

The Daily Mail supplied the following interesting comments on March 17:

“The two ‘could hardly be more contradictory’… President Trump defended his chilly summit with Merkel on Twitter Saturday, insisting it was a ‘great meeting’ – and immediately blasting Germany for owing what he said were ‘vast sums of money’ to NATO. He claimed that all reports criticizing their meeting were ‘fake news.'”

The idea that Germany owes money to NATO or the USA was strongly rejected by American and German newspapers alike.

The Washington Post wrote on March 18: “[Former] U.S. ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder wrote that… [the] alliance gave all member states until 2024 to reach that goal, and Germany is on track. ‘Trump’s comments misrepresent the way NATO functions,’ Daalder told us… ‘that’s not how it works.'”

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen simply stated that there ”is no debt account at NATO,” adding however that it was necessary “to have a ‘modern security concept’ that included… a European defense union…'” (Reuters, March 19).

On the other hand, German journalists received much praise from their somewhat intimidated American colleagues, for asking pointed questions during the joint press conference.  As Deutsche Welle reported on March 17, “Politico reporter Tara Palmeri admitted… ‘The German press shamed us.’ Trump was also asked point-blank by one reporter [from Die Welt] why he keeps making statements he knows are not true. It was a question that… ‘shocked’ US reporters… The straightforward line of questioning visibly put off Trump… Rarely has [Trump] appeared so uncomfortable…”

President Trump is not one who can easily forgive and forget, as he has admitted in interviews. His impulsiveness is well-known and reflected by his emotional nightly tweets. To believe that the relationship between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Merkel will substantially improve would be naïve. And IF Mrs. Merkel will be replaced in September by her challenger Martin Schulz, then the relationship between Germany and the USA might deteriorate even further, as Mr. Schulz is known for being very outspoken (not as reserved and at times “stone-faced” as Angela Merkel), and he is an open critic of Donald Trump.

Deutsche Welle wrote on March 19 about Mr. Schulz: “[T]he former president of the European Parliament… vigorously defended his party’s support for the European Union… Schulz also took potshots at US President Donald Trump, saying that an election like that in the United States featuring ‘fake news’ and the ‘denigration of whole groups of the population’ had ‘no place in Germany.’ ‘A German chancellor can take a clear negative position’ toward the US, Schulz added…”

Both Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Schulz are strong supporters of the EU, which Mr. Trump opposes. On almost every issue of international consequence, Germany and the USA are in disagreement. Mr. Trump is extremely disliked by the vast majority of the German people (despite the fact that Mr. Trump is of German heritage). Focus wrote on March 17: “This President is anything else but a natural friend of the Germans. His government will not consider the obligations and needs of their allies.”

Even in the USA, President Trump’s popularity declines (notwithstanding some “reports” by Breitbart and the Hannity Show). But Donald Trump will be the President for at least four more years, enjoying the approval of unwavering core supporters, and he can rule with an iron fist within his realm of authority… no matter how the majority of American citizens might feel. And in times of hostility and danger, patriotic Americans will support their President in his fight against foreign enemies, regardless of what they might think about him.

The relationship between Germany and the USA has always been a difficult one. As we explain on page 17 of our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord,” “German Kaiser Wilhelm II had a plan to attack the United States about 100 years ago… His ultimate goal was to establish and possess colonies in South America and in the Pacific, and to gain control over the Panama Canal. The plan, though 10 years in the making, was not carried out. Instead, Kaiser Wilhelm II led Germany into World War I in 1914.

“In addition to Adolph Hitler’s attack on Great Britain, he also declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941. This was just two days after President Roosevelt announced that Germany was as guilty for attacking Pearl Harbor as was Japan. Hitler then ordered the destruction of all American ships, wherever they could be found. Hitler lost this war, as he fought too many battles at the same time…”

We reveal in our free literature that Germany is the modern descendant of ancient Assyria, while the United States is the modern descendant of one of the two most prominent tribes of the ancient house of Israel. As Assyria defeated and enslaved the house of Israel in ancient times, so it is prophesied that another war between these powers will occur in the last days, with devastating results. The difference will be that this time, Assyria (modern Germany) will not act alone, but it will lead a power bloc of ten European nations or groups of nations (the final revival of the ancient Roman Empire), and the ensuing war will be fought with nuclear weapons, destroying all major cities in the USA and exterminating millions upon millions of Americans. But after God has performed His punishment of the modern house of Israel, calling it an “ungodly nation” (Isaiah 10:6), He will then direct His wrath against Germany and the entire European power bloc, leading to their destruction, because they are not any more righteous than the American nation.

All of this will happen soon, no matter what people may want to believe or reject. God calls this coming time the “great tribulation, such as not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21; compare also Daniel 12:1).

Are you getting spiritually ready for this time? “Sudden destruction” will come upon this world (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). But you could “escape all these things that will come to pass” (Luke 21:36). Our free literature tells you how.

What Does a Christian Need to Do to Prepare for the Passover?

To the majority of the world, the question of what Christians need to do to prepare for the Passover doesn’t make any sense. Why would a Christian need to prepare for a “Jewish” memorial? While the majority of professing Christians today don’t understand it, the Bible clearly instructs that the Passover is to be observed by true Christians today. In addition, it is not enough to observe Passover as a mere memorial, but it also must be observed in the right way – with reverence and honor. To do anything less incurs the penalty of taking the Passover in an unworthy manner (compare 1 Corinthians 11:27).

Acknowledging that it is important for true Christians to observe the Passover and participate in the right way, it is incumbent upon them to prepare diligently. What do Christians need to do to prepare for the Passover so they can fully observe and participate in the annual Passover service?

To begin with, participants in the Passover service must be properly baptized. Baptism is a covenant between man and God, in which a commitment is made by man to live a life that is dedicated to removing sin from one’s life and also to live in the faith of salvation provided by Jesus Christ’s Sacrifice. Passover, in large part, is a reaffirmation of this baptism commitment. In our free booklet, “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days,” the requirement of baptism is explained:

“No male was allowed, in Old Testament times, to partake of the Passover, unless he was circumcised. True Christians are circumcised spiritually, in the heart, by and through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, after proper baptism. Therefore, only properly baptized members of the spiritual body of Christ—the Church—who don’t hold grudges against anyone, and who do not have hate toward others in their hearts, are to partake of the annual symbols of bread and wine. In doing so, they reflect on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. This teaching is supported by the fact that Jesus waited until Judas had left them, before He introduced the New Testament symbols of bread and wine.”

The requirement for baptism applies not only to the participation in the portion of the service for taking the wine and unleavened bread, but also for the footwashing ceremony, which is integral to the observation of the Passover. Please see our Q&A, “Should an Unbaptized Person Participate in Footwashing?” for a complete explanation.

It is of tantamount importance in preparation for the Passover that we, as true Christians, must make sure that we fully comprehend and acknowledge the role of Christ’s Sacrifice in our lives, and what it means for our salvation. The use of red wine and broken bread are very important symbols, and we must make sure that we comprehend what they are about.

First, to understand the symbol of the broken bread, we must discern the body of Christ. What does this mean? What is the purpose of Christ’s physical suffering for our sake? Quoting from our Q&A about discerning the Lord’s body:

“The symbol of the broken bread, pointing to Christ’s wounded, torn body and His stripes, stands for our physical healing.

“When Paul talked about the need that we discern the Lord’s body, he was addressing Christ’s PHYSICAL body which was beaten for our physical healing.”

Since participating in the Passover observance involves partaking of broken, unleavened bread, our preparation must involve our comprehension and acknowledgement of Jesus Christ’s physical Sacrifice. This physical Sacrifice of Christ’s broken body functions as the means of our physical healing, which is elaborated in 1 Peter 2:24, explaining that it was Jesus Christ, “… who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” In our preparation for the Passover we must confirm in our hearts that we can be physically healed by Christ’s physical Sacrifice.

Just as the broken bread must be understood as representing the physical Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the symbol of the red wine in the Passover service must also be fully comprehended and acknowledged in order to prepare for the Passover. Quoting again from “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days,” “Jesus Christ also introduced the New Testament symbol of the wine. The wine which Christ drank, and which He wants His disciples to partake of, was red wine, symbolizing Christ’s blood, which He shed for our sins. The wine represents a reaffirmation of a Christian’s acceptance of the blood of Christ for the remission or forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:27–28; Romans 3:24–25; Hebrews 9:11–14; 1 John 1:7–9; 2:2).”

Without the blood Sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ, we must acknowledge that our sins could not be forgiven. Therefore, when we prepare ourselves for observance of the Passover, we must be cognizant of what it means when we drink the Passover wine. The red wine represents the blood that Jesus shed so that each one of us may be forgiven of our sins. If we fail to accept this fact, we are not fully preparing ourselves. Hebrews 10:29 pronounces a dire warning to those who do not consider the gravity of this symbol, “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” The symbol of red wine is a reminder of the spiritual salvation that we have been offered, and this must be fully acknowledged and accepted in our hearts.

Certainly, a significant component involved in Passover preparation involves learning and fully acknowledging the significance of Jesus Christ’s physical Sacrifice and the effect of forgiveness through that Sacrifice. Developing this understanding alone is not sufficient for a complete preparation, however. The next necessary step involved in Passover preparation is self-examination. As Paul instructs in 1 Corinthians 11:28-31, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” To examine ourselves prior to participating in the Passover service, is clearly of vital importance. If we do not take this measure, there are serious consequences.

Self-examination is a process in which we are to consider our behavior to discover if we have sin that we have not repented of. There is no doubt that we will find sin in our lives, as all people have sinned (compare 1 John 1:8). However, as we discover sin in our lives we must be willing to eradicate it from our behavior, and repent. Only if we confess our sins and become willing to conform our behavior to godly obedience do we become qualified for forgiveness through Christ’s Sacrifice. The purpose of self-examination in preparation before the Passover is not to find ourselves unworthy and disqualify ourselves if we find sin, but rather, the purpose is to find ways of becoming more zealous in our conversion. Quoting from “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days”:

“A Christian needs to EXAMINE himself before taking the Passover, but he is told to “eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:28). So, the examination should establish that he IS on the right track—that Christ DOES live in him. And if, during the examination, a Christian finds that he is lacking in some aspects, he needs to REPENT of that; he needs to ask God for forgiveness; he needs to resolve and make an effort to do better; and, at the same time, he needs to understand that with God’s help, he can, and must, and will do better.

“On the other hand, a Christian CANNOT take the Passover in an unworthy manner, or unworthily. He needs to examine himself before the Passover to make sure that he DOES NOT partake of it in an unworthy manner, but rather, that he takes it in a WORTHY manner. “

The outcome of self-examination therefore must deepen our conversion and increase our love of God as expressed by our desire to obey His commandments (compare 1 John 5:3).

Our preparations for the Passover should also involve reconciliation with our brethren to bring about spiritual healing with God and man. The broken bread of Christ stands for our physical healing. We must also be spiritually reconciled or “healed” with God and with each other (Acts 28:25-27). If we devour each other, we can’t expect to receive physical healing (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

As we read in Matthew 5:23-24, “‘Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.’” From this verse we can see the importance of seeking forgiveness, not only from God, but also from our brethren. Knowing that love for God is also expressed by love towards brethren, when we discover sins that we have committed against others, we are found in violation of the commandment to love our brethren. Therefore, if we want to express our love towards others as we are commanded, it is important to sincerely and earnestly ask for forgiveness. If we want to be reconciled to God, we cannot do so without reconciling any unresolved conflict with others.

Likewise, in preparation for the Passover, if we want to be worthy of forgiveness through the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we must also forgive others. Matthew 6:14-15 clearly states, “‘For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’” In the process of reconciliation, the corollary of seeking forgiveness is to also offer it to those who seek it from us. This act of offering forgiveness is an important element in the process of reconciliation in the way that it is also an expression of love for one another, and therefore an expression of our love towards God.

As we begin to prepare ourselves to observe the Passover, we must make sure that we are fully aware of our responsibilities. We cannot participate in a passive way, but rather, our role must be active. In our examination of ourselves, our love for God and our fellow man must be found thriving. Our love for God becomes manifest by our willingness to turn from sin and live obediently, and our love for our fellow man is demonstrated by our deeds. We also acknowledge that as much as we try to love God and man in the way we live, we continue to sin, and must therefore rely exclusively on the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ to provide us with the physical healing and spiritual salvation that we need. The promise of eternal life awaits those who prepare in these ways.

Lead Writer: Eric Rank

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