This Week in the News

Emmanuel Macron Wins French Presidency by Wide Margin

Reuters wrote on May 7:

“European leaders hailed the victory of centrist Emmanuel Macron in the French election on Sunday as a vote for European unity and a blow to political forces that had sought to build on last year’s Brexit vote to tear apart the European Union. Macron, a 39-year-old former economy minister who urged the French to embrace the EU and globalization, defeated far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen by a score of roughly 65 percent to 35 percent, early results showed…

“Europe’s political establishment limped into 2017 fearful that the Trump and Brexit votes, fueled by anger over immigration and rising economic inequality, could be replicated on the European continent in a mega-election year in which the Dutch and Germans were also voting. In March, far-right Dutch candidate Geert Wilders came in a distant second to liberal incumbent Mark Rutte, easing the concerns somewhat. But the election in France, the second largest economy in the euro zone after Germany, was always seen as the litmus test for European politics. Had Le Pen won, many European officials acknowledged, it may have been the beginning of the end of the EU, Europe’s 60-year-old experiment in closer integration which delivered peace and prosperity for decades before succumbing to a series of crises over the past decade…”

Macron’s victory is indeed a victory for European unification. As we have stated for many years, Germany, with the help of France, will be the engine running the European project and a core Europe consisting of ten nations or groups of nations. A victory for Le Pen would have seriously jeopardized these developments; hence, she did not win. Note the next article.

Worldwide Reactions

The Telegraph wrote on May 7:

“The US president was quick to congratulate Mr Macron and said he looked forward to working with him. Mr Trump had previously expressed support for Ms Le Pen because she was ‘strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France’…

“In comments released immediately after exit polls showed Mr Macron’s victory, Mrs May said that France is one of Britain’s closest allies and ‘we look forward to working with the new president on a wide range of shared priorities’… Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hailed Mr Macron’s ‘amazing victory’ and added: ‘We look forward to continuing the great partnership between our two nations.’ Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who backed Ms Le Pen’s bid for the Elysee Palace, said: ‘Macron offers five more years of failure, more power to the EU and a continuation of open borders…’

“Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, said the result made him ‘happy that the ideas that you defended of a strong and progressive Europe that protects all its citizens will be those that France will cherish under your presidency’. Donald Tusk, the former Polish prime minister who chairs summits of European leaders, tweeted: ‘Congratulations to French people for choosing Liberty, Equality and Fraternity over tyranny of fake news’…  Guy Verhofstadt, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said: ‘We supported him from the very start. I am relieved by his defeat of demagoguery and populism. I am also proud of his commitment to a social, liberal European project.’

“… Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said: ‘Your victory is a victory for a strong united Europe and for the Franco-German friendship.’ Her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted: ‘vive la France, Vive L’Europe!’ Mrs Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert… said it was ‘a victory for a strong and united Europe’.

“… Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni tweeted: ‘Hurrah Macron President! There is hope for Europe!’ The country’s former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, echoed Mr Gentiloni’s message saying: ‘Macron’s win represents an extraordinary hope for France and Europe!’…

“Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister who won an election in March against opponents including right-wing populist Geert Wilders, has congratulated Mr Macron on his victory. Mr Rutte said in a post on his official Facebook page that in Macron, French voters ‘made a clear progressive and pro-European choice.’… In a tweet Sunday night, Dutch foreign affairs Minister Bert Koenders said that ‘France chooses for reform, for Europe and against xenophobia. We look forward to working together with the new French government.’

“… Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, said that France, with Emmanuel Macron as its new president, will help strengthen the European Union at a key moment for the 28-nation bloc… Mr Rajoy praised Mr Macron for… his ‘firm defense of the European integration process.’ Those principles and his solid backing from French voters, Mr Rajoy said, mean ‘France – a friend, neighbor and strategic partner of Spain – will actively contribute to the advancement and reinforcement of the European Union in a key moment of its history.’

“… Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister, has tweeted his satisfaction over the election result: ‘victory is a fresh breath for France and the whole of Europe. I am certain we will work closely together for Europe…’

“Bohuslav Sobotka, the Czech prime minister, said that Mr Macron’s win is a ‘positive signal for France, the entire European Union and the Czech Republic.’… Andrej Kiska, the Slovak President… says it’s a ‘victory for all who believe in Europe.’

“Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian prime minister, also congratulated Mr Macron on his win: ‘…  We will build even stronger ties between our two great nations.’…

“Macron has promised a France that would stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin…”

Macron’s victory has indeed created renewed momentum for the European project.

Will Macron’s Victory Influence Germany’s Election?

AFP wrote on May 8:

“[Macron] has said he is for setting up a separate budget for the eurozone, the 19 countries that use the common currency, and also proposes giving the eurozone its own parliament and finance minister. ‘In Brussels the hopes are high. But it’s not so easy with the French-German duo. Berlin’s CDU circles (Merkel’s party) are sceptical about, if not deeply opposed to, Macron’s ideas,’ said the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. ‘For such wide-reaching reforms, it would be necessary to change the treaties, which in turn would require a referendum in France that carries with it uncertainties. That alone, in Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble’s view, is unrealistic,’ added the daily.

“… German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a leading SPD figure, seized on Macron’s win to take aim at Merkel’s conservatives who have pushed a hard line on reducing national budget deficits… ‘Emmanuel Macron’s victory carries a task for us in Germany – because Macron must succeed,’ said Gabriel, warning that ‘if he fails, Madam Le Pen will be president in five years’ time and the European project will go to the dogs’. ‘We Germans must now help him…'”

Trump Fires FBI Director James Comey

We are setting forth below numerous articles discussing the reasons behind President Trump’s termination of FBI Director James Comey. President Trump’s allegation that he fired Comey because he treated Hillary Clinton unfairly is believed by just about nobody. This opens wide the floodgates of speculation as to the underlying motives, and the picture which emerges is not flattering for the President and his Team, portraying them as a laughing stock and a government which cannot be trusted. In the articles quoted below, we highlighted some of the most telling statements.

Grotesque Abuse of Power by the President?

CNN wrote on May 9:

“CNN’s Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin… was not buying the idea that Comey was sacked over the Clinton investigation, saying it was ‘absurd.’ Toobin branded the move a ‘grotesque abuse of power by the President of the United States.’ ‘This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies,’ Toobin said, referring to the fact that Comey was dismissed while leading an investigation that ‘reaches near’ the President. ‘We do not fire FBI directors when they are closing in on the White House.’”

A Perilous Moment in the History of the USA… Parallels to Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre?

The Editorial Board of The New York Times wrote on May 9:

The American people — not to mention the credibility of the world’s oldest democracy — require a thorough, impartial investigation into the extent of Russia’s meddling with the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump and, crucially, whether high-ranking members of Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded in that effort. By firing the F.B.I. director, James Comey, late Tuesday afternoon, President Trump has cast grave doubt on the viability of any further investigation into what could be one of the biggest political scandals in the country’s history.

The explanation for this shocking move — that Mr. Comey’s bungling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server violated longstanding Justice Department policy and profoundly damaged public trust in the agency — is impossible to take at face value… certainly, that’s not the reason Mr. Trump fired him.

“Mr. Trump had nothing but praise for Mr. Comey when, in the final days of the presidential campaign, he informed Congress that the bureau was reopening the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails. ‘He brought back his reputation,’ Mr. Trump said at the time. ‘It took a lot of guts.’

“… Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president… So far, the scandal has engulfed Paul Manafort, one of Mr. Trump’s campaign managers; Roger Stone, a longtime confidant; Carter Page, one of the campaign’s early foreign-policy advisers; Michael Flynn, who was forced out as national security adviser; and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself in March from the Russia inquiry after failing to disclose during his confirmation hearings that he had met twice during the campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States…

“This is a tense and uncertain time in the nation’s history. The president of the United States, who is no more above the law than any other citizen, has now decisively crippled the F.B.I.’s ability to carry out an investigation of him and his associates…

“The obvious historical parallel to Mr. Trump’s action was the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in October 1973, when President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of the special prosecutor investigating Watergate, prompting the principled resignations of the attorney general and his deputy. But now, there is no special prosecutor in place to determine whether the public trust has been violated, and whether the presidency was effectively stolen by a hostile foreign power. For that reason, the country has reached an even more perilous moment.”

The Real Reason for Comey’s Termination—Stop the FBI Investigation?

The Week wrote on May 10:

“President Trump’s sudden decision to fire FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday was a genuine bombshell from an administration that seems to produce one on a daily basis… the real reason he was fired should make Americans more than a little nauseous…

“The Trump administration citing Comey’s indefensible interference in the election as the reason for firing him essentially amounts to trolling… Attorney General Jeff Sessions had previously argued that Comey had an ‘absolute duty’ to send the October letter. It’s pretty hard for an action to be an ‘absolute duty’ in October and a reason to fire someone in May. Trump also effusively praised Comey’s decision to send the letter. And, indeed, Trump reportedly told Sessions to start looking for a pretext to fire Comey last week

The real reason is almost certainly Trump’s desire to stop the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the election, possibly in collaboration with members of Trump’s campaign… With the Republican Congress having clearly signaled that it will not conduct meaningful oversight of the Trump administration, this represents a political crisis. Trump has sent a message about what will happen to anyone who threatens to stand up to him. It’s hard to imagine this ending well.”

In a related article, the Week wrote on May 10:

“If the goal in firing Comey was to move on from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia ahead of the 2016 election, that goal was kneecapped as soon as the president released a letter pointedly, directly, and unashamedly linking his own animus towards Comey to the Russia investigation even though the point of the letter was to undercut that very claim. ‘While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation,’ Trump wrote in his termination letter to Comey, ‘I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.’

“What is more unnerving: A president who is this oblivious to his own obliviousness? A staff that cannot convince him to remove such a self-damaging sentence? Or the removal of the director himself? It is hard to say.”

Another Reason for Comey’s Termination?

The Hill wrote on May 10:

“Former FBI Director James Comey reportedly told associates in March that President Trump was ‘crazy’ for suggesting former President Barack Obama had wiretapped him. Comey also called the president ‘outside the realm of normal,’ according to a report from The New York Times on Wednesday. The Times said that, in return, Trump was furious when Comey publicly refused to back his claims that he was wiretapped during the 2016 campaign before the House Intelligence Committee in March. Comey said during the March 20 hearing that the FBI had ‘no information’ supporting Trump’s allegations.

“The Times report highlight lingering tensions between the president and Comey that led Trump to decide to fire the FBI chief on Tuesday, a decision that stunned Washington. Trump reportedly became increasingly angered by Comey’s remarks in the weeks after the March hearing and began discussing his possible firing…

“Comey reportedly, though, told associates that he thought Trump was unlikely to fire him, believing his removal would make people revisit how he handled the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email server – in particular the announcement days before the election that they were reopening the investigation. Comey thought that treating his decisions as wrong would call into question Trump’s election victory.”

Did Comey Ask for More Resources in FBI Investigation against Trump Team?

The Washington Post (as linked by the Drudge Report) reported on May 10:

“Last week, then-FBI Director James B. Comey requested more resources from the Justice Department for his bureau’s investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, according to two officials with knowledge of the discussion. Comey… made the request in a meeting last week with Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Senate Intelligence Committee members were briefed on the request Monday, the officials said.

However, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said reports that Comey had requested more funding or other resources for the Russia investigation are ‘totally false’…”

In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 11, acting FBI Director McCabe said that there was no need for additional resources for the Russian probe.

Fear of a Cover Up

Deutsche Welle wrote on May 9:

“US President Donald Trump has surprisingly fired FBI director James Comey, charged with investigating the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. The move has set off shock waves in Washington amid concerns of a cover up.”

Comey’s Termination Unleashes Bipartisan Firestorm

Deutsche Welle added on May 10:

“Politicians from across the American political spectrum have reacted strongly to Trump’s sudden dismissal of FBI director Comey. The firing jeopardizes an investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia, many said… [It] unleashed a bipartisan firestorm.

“Top Democratic senator Chuck Schumer said he had told Trump it was a ‘big mistake’ to fire Comey during the probe into Russia’s alleged interference in last year’s election. ‘Earlier this afternoon, President Trump called me and informed me he was firing Director Comey. I told the president, “Mr President, with all due respect, you are making a big mistake,”’ Senate Minority Leader Schumer told reporters.

“Schumer and several of his Democratic colleagues are calling for an independent prosecutor or commission to investigate claims of Russian interference, as well as possible collusion between Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials. In a live statement, Schumer also said it was “troubling” that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was involved in the decision to dismiss Comey, having previously recused himself from the Russian investigation…

“Among Republicans, Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative and Republican candidate who ran against Trump in the primaries, warned that Comey’s dismissal could compromise the ongoing probe. Arizona Senator John McCain said he supported calls for a special committee to take over the investigation into Russia’s alleged interference of last year’s election campaign. Republican Senator from Michigan Justin Amash echoed McCain’s sentiments and highlighted a ‘bizarre’ section of Trump’s dismissal letter where the President emphasized he was not under investigation. Jeff Flake, Republican from Arizona, voiced pure perplexity at Comey’s removal.”

Never Before in American History—Ulterior Motives Behind Comey’s Termination?

Deutsche Welle wrote on May 10:

“There has never before in American history been anything like this: The head of the White House has fired the head of the FBI at a time when he is leading investigations which may turn out dangerous to the president. James Comey has been investigating attempts by Russia to influence the US election, the ultimate goal being to pave the way for Donald Trump to enter the White House and to undermine his political opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“In recent weeks, the Trump administration has rejected all allegations that it cooperated with the Kremlin during the election campaign in 2016. Yet FBI investigations were still ongoing. To fire the FBI head before they had been concluded leaves a bitter political aftertaste

“Trump’s decision has shattered the credibility of the political institutions in Washington. The reputation of the political class will reach new low levels, and with it will come an increase in political disenchantment

“Trump’s reason for firing Comey is his conduct regarding the Hillary Clinton email affair. But no one is buying that, not even his own party members. After all, it was none other than Trump himself who praised Comey’s conduct on that matter – after the investigations heavily affected his rival’s election campaign in its final stages. Heaven forbid that there may have been ulterior motives behind firing the head of the FBI now, months later.

“Comey’s forced retirement could cause a political earthquake in Washington…”

Parallels to Watergate?

Bild Online wrote on May 10:

“Trump’s FBI-massacre has parallels to Watergate Scandal. Political suicide?” Bild also questioned the accuracy of the statement that Comey informed Trump three times that there was no investigation against him. The tabloid wrote: ‘Did Comey really assure Trump three times that there was no investigation against him as claimed by Trump in his letter? The FBI-Director? During ongoing investigations?”

In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 11, acting FBI Director McCabe said that it is not usual standard operating procedure to inform anyone that there is an investigation or no investigation against him. In an interview with NBC on May 11, President Trump claimed that Comey had told him during a dinner and two phone conversations that there was no investigation against Trump. Nothing was said about the time of these alleged conversations.

“The President Lies Again!”

Die Welt wrote on May 10:

“‘The President of the United States lies again,’ [quoting from a New York Times article], continuing, “Even Fox News considers Trump’s explanation as ‘extremely untrustworthy.’”

But sadly, this is not true for all of Fox News moderators. Incredibly, Sean Hannity stated in his show on May 10 that “deranged liberal crackpots” invented the idea that Comey’s termination could have anything to do with the Russia investigation.

Did Comey Become a Danger to the President?

Der Stern wrote on May 10:

“Why did Comey have to go? … Several indications point at Moscow,” continuing: “Comey had made it clear that the FBI would try to find out the truth, regardless as to how long it would take. Possibly, Comey had become a danger for the US President.”

“White House Contradictions Continue”

Deutsche Welle wrote on May 11:

“Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe has refuted claims that ousted Director James Comey had lost the confidence of the bureau. He also stressed the probe into Russian election meddling remained ‘highly significant.’ McCabe and other intelligence chiefs were questioned by the committee in a bid to get to the bottom of Comey’s surprise ousting Tuesday.

“The White House had justified the move, stating that the former director had lost the confidence of rank and file within the bureau. However, McCabe contradicted the White House, calling its assertions ‘not accurate.’ ‘Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day. The vast majority of FBI staff enjoyed a deep, positive connection to director Comey.’ …

“McCabe said the Russia investigation remained ‘highly significant’ and that the FBI would not tolerate any White House interference in the matter, adding that he would not update the Trump administration on the status of the investigation…

“That investigation may have deepened Wednesday after Moscow released photos of a closed-door meeting between Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Scheduled to only meet with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lavrov’s ad-hoc meeting with the president compounded the perception among critics that the Kremlin had scored a diplomatic coup — just months after being hit with sanctions by the previous administration under President Barack Obama…

“In an interview with US news network NBC on Thursday, Trump also appeared to contradict the White House’s earlier statement that he had asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy General Secretary Rod Rosenstein for their opinions on Comey and acted on those recommendations. The president stressed that he had decided to fire Comey himself, irrespective of Sessions’ or Rosenstein’s recommendation, because the former FBI Director was a ‘showboat’ who had brought the bureau into ‘turmoil.’…”

We suspect that McCabe will not be the acting FBI Director for long. It is noteworthy that President Trump wrote this in his termination letter to Comey:

“I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.”

Subsequently, the White House and Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly stated that President Trump fired Comey because he took the recommendations of the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General and “had no choice but to fire him”; and that he did so “based on these recommendations.” When confronted with these glaring inconsistencies, the White House spokesperson said on May 11 that she did not have a chance to speak to the President before making her comments.

US Economy Not that Great under Trump

The Week wrote on May 6:

“Campaign promises aside, ‘the U.S. economy was not great again in the first quarter of Donald Trump’s presidency’, said Ben White at Politico. Economic growth slowed to an anemic 0.7 percent in the first three months of 2017, the Commerce Department said, down from 2.1 percent during the final quarter of last year. The disappointing figures, ‘the economy’s worst performance since the first quarter of 2014,’ pose a political dilemma for President Trump. Republicans have already blamed the weak data on the Obama administration, and argue the report demonstrates the need for Trump’s agenda of tax cuts and deregulation. But they also understand that the optics for the White House aren’t good…

“‘First-quarter slowdowns have become such a regular feature of the U.S. economy’ that it’s tempting to ignore this one, said Justin Lahart at The Wall Street Journal. We shouldn’t. There’s a big red flag buried in the data: Consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of the economy, is slowing down. Americans cut back sharply on big-ticket purchases like cars and appliances, causing overall spending to grow at just 0.3 percent, the worst showing since 2009. This slowdown is troubling…

“Likewise, the stock market keeps ticking skyward, with no real evidence that business fundamentals are improving. The disconnect can’t continue forever. If Trump’s economy doesn’t start delivering, ‘this levee is going to break.’”

The economy under President Trump will not become the great success which has been promised in some circles. Rather, the economic bubble will burst soon… the downfall of the USA is inevitable.

The Trumpcare Disaster

The Editorial Board of the New York Times wrote on May 4:

“The House speaker, Paul Ryan, and other Republicans… accused Democrats of rushing the Affordable Care Act through Congress. On Thursday, in a display of breathtaking hypocrisy, House Republicans – without holding any hearings or giving the Congressional Budget Office time to do an analysis – passed a bill that would strip at least 24 million Americans of health insurance.

‘Pushed by President Trump to repeal the A.C.A., or Obamacare, so he could claim a legislative win, Mr. Ryan and his lieutenants browbeat and cajoled members of their caucus to pass the bill. Groups representing doctors, hospitals, nurses, older people and people with illnesses like cancer opposed the bill. Just 17 percent of Americans supported an earlier version of the measure, and Republicans have made the legislation only worse since that poll was conducted. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Ryan seemed bothered by this overwhelming criticism of their Trumpcare bill, the American Health Care Act. They seemed concerned only about appeasing the House Freedom Caucus, the far-right flank of their party…

“The bill would cut $880 billion over 10 years from Medicaid, the program that provides health care to about 74 million poor, disabled and elderly Americans. That’s one-fourth of its budget. As a result, 14 million fewer people would have access to health care by 2026, according to a C.B.O. analysis of the earlier bill, which contained similar Medicaid provisions. The cuts would also hurt special education programs, which receive about $4 billion from Medicaid every year…

“It would provide $300 billion less over 10 years to help people who do not get insurance through employers and have to buy their own policies. This would hurt lower-income and older people the hardest. For example, a 60-year-old living in Phoenix and earning $40,000 would have to pay an additional $12,370 a year to buy a policy, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Many people who find themselves in this situation would have no choice but to forgo insurance…

“An amendment by Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey would allow states to waive the requirement that insurers sell policies to people with prior health problems and not charge them higher rates. The chief executive of Blue Shield of California said the bill ‘could return us to a time when people who were born with a birth defect or who became sick could not purchase or afford insurance.’ Republicans say they will require that states with waivers offer high-risk pools and find other ways to help treat these people. The bill offers $138 billion over 10 years to help states pay for such programs.

“Experts say this is far too little; Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Foundation estimates it would take at least $25 billion a year…

“The bill would also let states waive a requirement under Obamacare that insurers cover a list of essential services. This means people in some places might not have access to maternity care or cancer treatment. This provision could also hurt people who get insurance through work, because federal regulations allow employers to opt into the rules of any state for the purposes of determining annual and lifetime limits on coverage, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution…

“The bill now moves to the Senate, where several centrist Republicans are opposed to it… But Mr. Trump and far-right groups will put tremendous pressure on them to pass this dreadful bill or something similarly terrible. The health of millions of Americans is now in their hands.”

The Washington Post wrote on May 4:

“Trump’s promise to cover everyone more broadly and for less money was always an impossibility, akin to saying that you were going to have your cake, eat your cake — and give everyone in America the same cake, which would feed them forever. But based on the comments he made at the unusual Rose Garden ceremony to celebrate the passage of the House bill, it’s still not clear that he admits that what was passed diverges from what he promised.”

The debacle of Trumpcare may prove to be a great loss for the Republicans in the mid-term elections in 2018.

Trump’s Healthcare Success Might Be Short-Lived

The Associated Press wrote on May 6:

“Senate Republicans wasted no time on Friday showing they have little use for the House bill to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act amid fears among Americans that people already sick won’t be able to get affordable insurance. ‘I’m going to read the House bill, find out what it costs and where I find good ideas there, why we’ll borrow them. But basically we’re writing our own bill,’ Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate health committee, said in an interview.

“‘At this point, there seem to be more questions than answers about its consequences,’ said moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, whose vote may prove one of the hardest to get for President Donald Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said over Twitter: ‘A bill — finalized yesterday, has not been scored, amendments not allowed, and 3 hours final debate — should be viewed with caution.’”

Safe Zones in Syria Not that Safe

Fox News wrote on May 6:

“A State Department official on Friday said that the Russian proposal calling to bar U.S. military aircrafts from flying over designated safe zones cannot ‘limit’ the U.S.’s mission against ISIS in the country in any way. ‘The coalition will continue to strike ISIS targets in Syria,’ the official told The Wall Street Journal… A deal hammered out by Russia, Turkey and Iran to set up ‘de-escalation zones’ in mostly opposition-held parts of Syria went into effect Saturday… The United States is not party to the agreement and the Syrian rivals have not signed on to the deal. The armed opposition, instead, was highly critical of the proposal, saying it lacks legitimacy.

“Russian officials said it will be at least another month until the details are worked out and the safe areas established… A potential complication to implementing the plan is the crowded airspace over Syria. The deal calls for all aircraft to be banned from flying over the safe zones.

“Syrian, Russian, Turkish and U.S.-led coalition aircraft operate in different, sometimes same areas in Syria. It is not yet clear how the new plan would affect flightpaths of U.S.-led coalition warplanes battling Islamic State militants and other radical groups — and whether the American air force would abide by a diminished air space.

“Russia and Iran — two of the plan’s three sponsors — are key allies of President Bashar Assad’s government and both are viewed as foreign occupation forces by his opponents. Rebels fighting to topple Assad are enraged by Iran’s role in the deal and blame the Shiite power for fueling the sectarian nature of Syria’s conflict, now in its seventh year. Turkey, the third sponsor, is a major backer of opposition factions and has also sent troops into northern Syria, drawing the ire of Assad and his government. Yet troops from the three countries are now expected to secure four safe zones. An official with Russia’s military general staff said other countries may eventually have a role in enforcing the de-escalation areas.”

It does not appear that this “deal” will have any chance for success.

Steinmeier and Netanyahu Weathering the Storm?

The Times of Israel wrote on May 7:

“German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday delivered a subtle but harsh rebuke to Prime Minister Netanyahu over the latter’s refusal to hold talks with foreign dignitaries who meet with the controversial Breaking the Silence group… Steinmeier defended his foreign minister’s decision to meet with the group critical of Israel’s West Bank activities despite losing out on a sit-down with Netanyahu…

“Earlier in the day Steinmeier met with Netanyahu and during a joint press conference spoke of ‘weathering’ the diplomatic storm caused by a run-in between the Israeli prime minister and the German foreign minister. Last month, Netanyahu cancelled on short notice a meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel over the latter’s refusal to abort a planned meeting with Breaking the Silence…

“Referring to but not naming the members of Breaking the Silence — which Netanyahu denounced as a group trying to get Israeli soldiers tried for war crimes — Steinmeier said that anyone who expresses criticism is not a traitor, but rather a ‘preserver’ of the nation.

“For that reason, I believe that civil-society organizations that are part of the social debate deserve our respect as democrats, even when they take a critical view of a government – in Germany, but also here in Israel,” he said.

“The German president said that he thought long and hard about the scandal surrounding Netanyahu’s snub of Gabriel, adding that he was urged to postpone or even cancel his trip to Israel as a result… Steinmeier… said it would have been cowardly of him not to come to Israel due to the spat over Breaking the Silence…

“In a lengthy speech about Israeli-German relations and the state of democracy in both countries, Steinmeier also reiterated Berlin’s opposition to ‘illegal settlement activities’ and endorsed the two-state solution as the only way that could secure Israel as a Jewish and democratic state… He also announced the creation of a prize named after Israel’s late ninth president, Shimon Peres…”

The relationship between Israel and Germany (as well as Europe) will deteriorate, as the Bible clearly prophesies. Note the next article.

UNESCO, Brussels and Germany under Attack

The Hill wrote on May 5:

“Forget fake news. UNESCO is promoting an entire fake universe.

“Like so many other UN agencies with an assured anti-Israel majority, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regularly votes to deny some aspect of Israel’s legitimacy. Their diplomatic machinations at UNESCO serves as the backbone of much of the Muslim world’s refusal to recognize the Jewish people’s historic links to Israel, the Holy Land.

“To [legitimize]  their denial of the past and today’s reality of a Jewish state with more than 8 million citizens, history itself must be re-written, holy sites rebranded… UNESCO’s new resolution, timed to coincide with Israel’s 69th Independence Day on Tuesday, May 2, rejects Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, including modern West Jerusalem. The resolution passed with 22 nations supporting the measure, 10 opposing it, 23 countries abstaining, and three absent.

“In its text, Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rivka, Jacob and Leah are buried were repackaged as Muslim mosques… What is particularly galling was the role Germany reportedly played in enabling fellow European Union members to be free to support… this outrage. If the German Foreign Minister or any other European diplomat thinks this cynical maneuver which further fuels dreams of an alternative universe sans Israelis will impact Jews in Israel or around the world, they are dead wrong.

“Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people. Centuries ago, long before anyone heard of Mohammed, Jews understood the importance of the city that King David… made his capital. They built two temples there, which became focal points for their religion and their peoplehood, maintaining that centrality, even in times that it lay in ruins. ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand fail me,’ spoke the prophet…

“Reality and mutual respect, not fantasy, are the first building blocks of trust and treaties. It is a toss-up as to who has done more damage with the latest UN Middle East fiasco — Arab regimes that continue to deny that the Jewish people has risen from the ashes, or dapper European diplomats who think they can still denigrate cowering Jews. Take note Berlin and Brussels. Those days are over.”

Sadly, the days of serious hostility between Israel and Europe are just beginning.

Turkey Attacks Israel

JTA wrote on May 8:

“President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  accused Israel of ‘massacres’ against the Palestinians and chided the international community for its silence. Erdogan made his comments on Monday at the Al-Quds Forum in Istanbul… to discuss the state of Muslim heritage in Jerusalem.

“Speaking of Israel, the Turkish leader was quoted as saying… ‘They feel they are immune to any punishment for their crimes, but the international community needs to stand up against them. It is impossible to establish peace in the region if the international law remains indifferent to massacres and cruelty.’”

Israel Responds to Erdogan’s Inflammatory Comments

Times of Israel wrote on May 9:

“President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday rebuked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his diatribe on the ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem, noting that the city has had a Jewish majority for over 150 years, including under Ottoman rule… Modern Turkey is the successor of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the Holy Land from the late 15th century until 1917…

“At the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem earlier on Tuesday telephoned Turkish Ambassador Kemal Okem for a ‘clarification conversation,’ the ministry said, in the first major confrontation since the two countries re-established ties last year…

“Erdogan’s comments elicited a host of angry responses from Israeli politicians… ‘Erdogan’s grave words of incitement will not change the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people, and the capital of Israel,’ Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely tweeted. The Temple Mount will remain open to all religions but ‘under Israeli sovereignty,’ she added. ‘It is surprising that Erdogan, who leads a state that occupied Jerusalem for 400 years, wants to preach to us about how to manage our city,’ said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

“The Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem is 3,000 years old, Barkat said, adding that Jewish roots can be seen ‘in every corner of the city.'”

The Bible prophesies that the relationship between Turkey and Israel will end up in outright war.

Knesset Preliminarily Approves Bill Defining Israel as a Jewish State

JTA wrote on May 10:

“The Knesset in a preliminary reading approved a bill that would officially define Israel as a Jewish state. The Knesset vote on Wednesday was 48 to 41…

“The so-called Nationality Law is intended to serve as Basic Law, similar to a constitutional law, and would declare Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people. It addresses national symbols, including the flag and the national anthem, the right of return for Jews, holy sites and the Hebrew calendar. It also calls for the government to work to strengthen ties between Israel and Diaspora Jewry… It must pass two more readings to become law, but first has to go to the Justice Ministry, which has 60 days to draft its own version and combine the two before the vote.”

This will be interesting to watch as it could easily result in Arabic aggression.

Conflict Within the German Army

The Local wrote on May 4:

“The bizarre case of a racist soldier allegedly plotting an attack while posing as a Syrian refugee and several abuse scandals have sparked a war of words between Germany’s defence minister and the military.  It is a dangerous political battle for Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman in charge of the armed forces, who is often mentioned as a potential successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“The escalating conflict started with the arrest a week ago of 28-year-old army lieutenant Franco Albrecht, who was stationed at a Franco-German base near Strasbourg. He came to the notice of the authorities after Austrian police caught him with a loaded handgun at the Vienna airport in February. The subsequent investigation found that, amid Germany’s 2015 mass influx of refugees, he had created a fake identity as a Damascus fruit seller called ‘David Benjamin’ Incredibly, the German who speaks no Arabic managed to gain political asylum, a spot in a refugee shelter and monthly state benefits for his fictitious alter ego…

“On Wednesday, von der Leyen — who cancelled a scheduled US trip to deal with the widening scandal — visited Albrecht’s base in France. She angrily denounced the fact that Wehrmacht memorabilia was displayed in a common room there, emphasising that the World War II-era German army ‘has nothing in common’ with today’s Bundeswehr… Her comments offended many soldiers who already feel insufficiently appreciated for missions from Afghanistan to Mali in a country which, with its guilt over the Nazi era, still shows little love for the military…”

At this point, Germany has abandoned the draft in favor of a professional army (“Berufsarmee”). But voices in the media have been heard demanding a return to the draft.

A Divided UK—the Beginning of the End?

The Week wrote on May 6:

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has left the kingdom’s four countries deeply divided. While England and Wales voted for Brexit last June, both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, by majorities of 62 percent and 56 percent, respectively. Now faced with being dragged out of Europe, both are seriously reconsidering their historic position within the U.K. In March, the Scottish Parliament voted for the right to hold a second independence referendum, which could lead to Scotland seceding from the U.K. and rejoining the EU. Irish nationalists are demanding their own border poll on unification with the Republic of Ireland. If the Scots and Irish choose independence, England and Wales will stand alone. Ironically, the vote for Brexit was supposedly a vote for a resurgent Britain — one that would wrest back power and national pride from Brussels. Instead, says Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, it may have triggered ‘the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom.’…

“The British Isles have a complicated history, filled with conquests, rebellions, and reconquests. But the loose origins of the U.K. date back to the early 10th century, when the Anglo-Saxon King Athelstan unified England’s disparate kingdoms and secured the reluctant allegiance of the Scots and the Welsh. But the relationship between England, Scotland, and Wales only became official in 1707, when the Acts of Union formally created ‘One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain.’ That kingdom merged with Ireland in 1801 to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. When most of Ireland seceded in 1922, with just six Ulster counties in the north remaining under British control, that left the U.K. as we know it — stretching from Land’s End in the south to John o’Groat’s at the tip of Scotland…

“Scotland currently receives more than $260 million a year in EU funding, and sends about $16 billion in exports to the Eurozone; in addition, many Scots resent the ruling conservatives in London far more than they do the bureaucrats in Brussels. To hold another plebiscite, though, [Scotland’s First Minister Nicola] Sturgeon needs the permission of British Prime Minister Theresa May, who refuses to give it before Brexit negotiations have been completed in 2019. But momentum for independence is growing…

“While Westminster frets about Scotland, Northern Ireland is quietly undergoing its own constitutional turmoil. Northern Ireland doesn’t want to lose billions in regional development and farming funds from the EU — though it depends on billions in U.K. subsidies too. But Brexit poses another disturbing consequence for the Irish: the prospect of a hard, 300-mile land border between the North and independent South, which remains a member of the EU…

“British politics are too volatile now for anyone to make reliable predictions. But before 2011, nationalists were just a noisy minority in Scotland. Today, they are a powerful force, and are on the cusp of a second historic independence referendum in just three years. Brits seem pessimistic about staying together: More than half think the U.K. will no longer exist in a decade in its current form, according to a BBC poll…

“The breakup of the U.K. would raise some immediate questions for the English. Would the former world power retain its permanent seat — officially held by the U.K. — on the United Nations Security Council, and its influential positions within NATO and the World Bank?… The English would also keep their military capabilities — though they would face troubling questions over their nuclear weapons, which are currently based in Scotland with no viable location to re-house them in England. After all of that, ‘Little England’ would face its own identity crisis. Would people in Manchester or Bristol consider themselves English, or British? Would they continue to sing the U.K. national anthem at England’s football games, or sing the English anthem, ‘Land of Hope and Glory,’ instead? In the post-Brexit era, says British historian Norman Davies, the English ‘are appallingly confused about who they are.’”

However it will play out, it is clear that Britain’s former glory is gone.

Gibraltar Back in the News

The Sun wrote on May 5:

“THE SPANISH government has been accused of ‘completely unacceptable’ behaviour after flying military aircraft into Gibraltar’s airspace today. A British Airways flight on its way to Heathrow was delayed after the Spanish military’s P3 Orion flew within just two miles of Gibraltar’s coastline… Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said the incursion was merely the latest in a string of deliberate incidents.

“However, he went on to describe Friday’s incident as an example of Spain taking the ‘harassment of Gibraltar to new heights’… Picardo continued: ‘It is completely unacceptable that the Spanish military have interfered with the movement of civilian aircraft in this dangerous manner. Gibraltar International Airport is an extremely busy base for civilian passengers who are significant contributors to the tourism economy of the campo area. Delays caused by the politically-motivated manoeuvres of the Spanish military are intolerable but thanks to the swift action of Gibraltar’s Air Traffic Control, delays were the only consequence…”

Gibraltar Between Rock and a Hard Place

Deutsche Welle wrote on May 9:

“Gibraltarians are preparing to face hardships in the wake of Brexit. Their very mixed city, the most EU-enthusiastic in the UK, feels disappointed and betrayed by Brussels. Santiago Saez reports from Gibraltar… Crossing Gibraltar’s border is easy. People trickle into town and wait for the bus to the center or just walk across the airport’s landing strip and past the adjacent Victoria Stadium (the national football team’s home ground) to the Main Street. All they need is a valid piece of ID from an EU country to get in…

“Of all the British territories, Gibraltar was the most EU-enthusiastic at the Brexit referendum. An overwhelming 96 percent of voters voted for the UK to remain. That’s a much larger proportion than Scotland (62 percent), London (60 percent) or Northern Ireland (56 percent). However, as pro-Remain as Gibraltar is, the EU decision to grant Spain veto powers over a special trade deal with The Rock hasn’t been well received… Gibraltarians don’t want to follow Scotland or Northern Ireland into possible independence, and won’t even talk about getting closer to Spain…

“Next month’s general elections in the UK are widely regarded as Prime Minister Theresa May’s bid for more power and legitimacy to negotiate British withdrawal conditions from the EU. However, Gibraltarians don’t get to vote: As an overseas territory, The Rock doesn’t have parliamentary representation in Westminster…”

Express added on May 9:

“The tiny British enclave on Spain’s southern tip, with a population of 30,000, is home to around 15,000 companies and is a major provider of insurance and gambling services. Its low tax rates have been a big bone of contention with Madrid, which ultimately claims sovereignty over the Rock, even though Spain runs similar offshore tax havens in Ceuta and Melilla.

“… people were concerned that its large financial services industry would be affected, but… many companies based on the Rock predominantly serve the British market anyway… about 20 percent of motor vehicles in the UK are underwritten by Gibraltar-based insurance companies, making insurers the largest financial sector in the territory…”

The fight regarding Gibraltar will not go away easily.

Executive Order Protecting Churches Woefully Inadequate?

The Hill wrote on May 7:

“Some conservatives are frustrated by President Trump’s new religious liberty order, saying it is dramatically scaled back from what they were expecting and doesn’t enact the protections he promised during the campaign… Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Ryan Anderson called the order ‘woefully inadequate’… The Christian nonprofit group Alliance Defending Freedom released a statement describing the order as ‘disappointingly vague’…  And writing on the National Review, David French… called the order ‘constitutionally dubious, dangerously misleading, and ultimately harmful to the very cause that it purports to protect’…

“The order essentially directs the Treasury Department to not enforce the relevant element of the tax code… [Some] say the Johnson Amendment requires a legislative or judicial fix. Instructing an agency to ignore it is no different from President Obama telling agencies not to enforce certain immigration laws, conservatives say. Worse, the order could encourage churches to participate in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, only to see a future Democratic president put the Johnson Amendment back in place. ‘The answer to the Johnson Amendment … is to either repeal the statute or overturn it in court,’ French wrote. ‘This order does neither … a later administration can tear up Trump’s order and begin vigorous enforcement based on actions undertaken during the Trump administration … Thinking they were protected, churches would find themselves in the worst of predicaments, with their rights and possibly even existences dependent on the capricious mercies of the federal courts.’”

This is indeed an important warning, as executive orders can be easily revoked.

“U.S. Weighs a Ban on Laptops on Flights from Europe”

The Los Angeles Times wrote on May 11:

“Department of Homeland Security officials met with airline industry representatives Thursday to discuss the possibility of expanding a ban on laptop computers and other large electronic devices as carry-ons on planes flying to the U.S. from Europe… The potential move would expand restrictions imposed in March by the U.S. and Britain on electronic devices larger than a smartphone in passenger cabins of flights from eight Middle Eastern and African countries…

“Earlier in the day, the European Union called for urgent meetings with U.S. officials to discuss any potential expansion… The U.S. ban already in place requires passengers on international flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa to put all laptop computers, electronic tablets and other devices larger than a smartphone into luggage checked into the cargo compartment…”

Will this nonsense ever stop? It seems like the Trump Administration is determined to make it more and more difficult for tourists to visit the USA. This is most certainly not the way to make America great again.

United Methodist Church Far From Being United

The New York Times wrote on April 28:

“The United Methodist Church’s highest court has ruled that the consecration of its first openly gay bishop violated church law, compounding a bitter rift over homosexuality that has brought the 13-million-member denomination to the brink of schism. In a 6-to-3 vote made public on Friday, the church’s Judicial Council found that a married lesbian bishop and those who consecrated her were in violation of their ‘commitment to abide by and uphold the church’s definition of marriage and stance on homosexuality.’…

“The Judicial Council also decided, in separate rulings, that the New York and Illinois regions must ask candidates for the ministry about their sexuality and rule out those who are gay ‘or in any other way violating the church’s standards on marriage and sexuality.’…

“The country’s third-largest religious denomination, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church adopted language in 1972 declaring that ‘self-avowed practicing homosexuals’ may not be ordained because ‘the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.’ Methodists have debated that language every four years at meetings of the church’s top decision-making body, the General Conference…

“Other mainline Protestant denominations, including the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), have decided to allow same-sex marriage and openly gay ministers…”

This is what happens when compromise is allowed—a major US denomination potentially being split apart!

Indonesia’s Persecution of Christians

NBC News wrote on May 9:

“The minority Christian governor of Jakarta was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday for blaspheming the Quran, a jarring ruling that undermines the reputation of the world’s largest Muslim nation for practicing a moderate form of Islam… The accusation of blasphemy engulfed Ahok in September after a video surfaced of him telling voters they were being deceived if they believed a specific verse in the Quran prohibited Muslims from voting for a non-Muslim leader…

“Massive street protests in the past six months against Ahok and Tuesday’s verdict are among the signs of an increasing religious conservatism in Indonesia… Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch described the verdict as ‘a huge setback’ for Indonesia’s record of tolerance and for minorities. He added: ‘If someone like Ahok, the governor of the capital, backed by the country’s largest political party, ally of the president, can be jailed on groundless accusations, what will others do?’…

“The two-year prison sentence was a surprise outcome after prosecutors had recommended two years of probation. The maximum sentence for blasphemy in Indonesia is five years in prison.”

Increased persecution of religious minorities all over the world can be expected. Please view our recent StandingWatch program, “Russia’s persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

 Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

These Current Events are compiled and commented on by Norbert Link. We gratefully acknowledge the many contributions of news articles from our readership. The publication of articles in this section is not to be viewed as an endorsement or approval as to contents or accuracy of the selected articles, but they are published for the purpose of pointing at worldwide developments in the light of biblical end-time prophecy and godly instruction. Our own comments are provided in italics.

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