Current Events

Germany Uses Stasi Practices

The Associated Press reported on May 22:

“German authorities are using scent tracking to keep tabs on possibly violent protesters against next month’s Group of Eight summit–a tactic that is drawing comparisons with the methods of former East Germany’s secret police… The use of scent samples was widely known to be practiced in Germany by the East German secret police, the Stasi, who used the technique to track dissidents. “Petra Pau, a senior lawmaker with the opposition Left Party, a group that includes ex-communists, criticized the practice as ‘another step away from a democratic state of law toward a preventive security state. A state that adopts the methods of the East German Stasi, robs itself of every … legitimacy,’ she said in a statement…

“Earlier this month, police raided 40 offices and apartments used by left-wing protesters in Berlin, Hamburg and elsewhere, which provoked protests. Prosecutors at the time said they were investigating more than 18 people suspected of organizing what they called a terrorist group that planned to carry out firebombings and other violent attacks aimed at hindering or stopping the world leaders from holding the summit… A $17 million fence has been built around Heiligendamm in an attempt to keep protesters away. Security officials also have… announced tighter border controls.”

Attack on German Soldiers in Afghanistan

Der Spiegel Online wrote on May 22:

“The death of three German soldiers in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on Saturday has led to calls in Germany for a rethink of NATO’s entire strategy in Afghanistan… A suicide bomber blew himself up next to the soldiers as they were buying fridges in a busy market in the center of Kunduz. Five other German servicemen were wounded, two of them so seriously that they had to be put into an artificial coma for the flight back in a hospital jet… Seven Afghan civilians were also killed and 13 wounded. It was the deadliest attack on German troops in Afghanistan since 2003 when four were killed in a suicide car bombing in Kabul…

“The German government quickly declared that it remained committed to the Afghan mission. Chancellor Angela Merkel called the attack ‘perfidious murder that fills us all with disgust and horror. The international community is determined to continue helping the people of Afghanistan to build a good future for their country,’ she said in a statement… Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said German troops wouldn’t be confining themselves to barracks despite Saturday’s attacks.”

In a related article, the magazine wrote that “most [German] newspaper commentators say bringing the boys home would hand the Taliban a triumph.”

Italy Demands Ethiopian Withdrawal

AFP wrote on May 19:

“The Italian government on Saturday pressed Ethiopian troops to pull out from lawless Somalia…  ‘I expressed the position of my government that Ethiopian troops must withdraw,’ [Italy’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Patrizia Sentinelli] told a press conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, after visiting Rome’s former colony…

“Ethiopian forces were deployed last year and helped Somali troops expel the Islamists movement from southern and central Somalia at the start of the year.

“But the insurgents continued with attacks that culminated in two offensives by Ethiopia-Somali forces in March and April that killed at least 1,400 people… Apart from the face-to-face fighting, dozens of people — including peacekeepers — have been killed and scores wounded in separate attacks since then, mainly by homemade bombs and grenades… At least 1,500 African Union peacekeepers from Uganda, who are currently in Mogadishu, are due to take over from Ethiopian forces.”

United Europe Full Steam Ahead?

The EUObserver wrote on May 22:

“In the run up to the decisive EU summit on finding a way out of the constitutional impasse, the pro-European camp has started to sound the drum, with Italy’s prime minister [Prodi] calling to ‘preserve as much as possible’ of the draft EU treaty. ‘In the last two years, almost only eurosceptic views have been listened to. It is time to listen to those who ratified the 2004 treaty,’ [Prodi said].

“Mr Prodi – claiming to speak on behalf of 18 EU states which have largely ratified the original text – rejected ‘radical changes’ to the foreseen institutional reforms. He listed the EU foreign minister, a lengthier presidency, the extension of qualified majority voting, the union’s legal personality and the abolition of its three-pillar structure as elements which ‘must be preserved.’

“‘If the compromise does not convince us, we will not sign it,’ he warned, clearly stating that a multi-speed Europe could bring about the long-sought breakthrough on the controversial issue.  ‘At this point, a vanguard of countries could…be the best way to proceed towards a more integrated union, on condition that door remains always open to those countries willing to join later,’ he said.”

EU vs. Russia

The Wall Street Journal wrote on May 18:

“Relations between Moscow and the U.S., as well as the EU, are at their worst since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Moscow on Tuesday… both sides… refused to budge on key disputes, from the placement of a U.S. missile-defense shield in Europe to proposals at the United Nations to make the Serbian province of Kosovo independent…

“Russians increasingly perceive their nation as distinct from Europe, according to opinion polls. More than half of respondents in a February survey by the EU-Russia Center said they viewed the EU as a potential threat to Russia, while 71% said they didn’t regard themselves as Europeans.

“In the U.S. and Europe, Moscow’s assertiveness is viewed with growing concern, particularly because it has been accompanied by a steady rollback of democratic institutions inside Russia and growing use of economic leverage and other means to pressure its neighbors.”

The German daily tabloid, Bild, reported on May 19 that there is “Eiszeit” (Ice Age) between Merkel and Putin.

The Herald Tribune stated on May 19:

“At a summit meeting overshadowed by discord on trade, security and energy issues, Russian and European Union leaders ended two days of talks Friday with a tense exchange over human rights but without an agreement on how to negotiate closer economic links, or even a joint statement… In her ninth meeting with Putin since becoming chancellor in 2005, Merkel was blunt about the lack of cooperation between the EU and Russia. ‘Our talks today showed that we are not cooperating very intensively,’ she said.

“The chancellor, who has consistently challenged Putin about the lack of press freedom and his country’s poor human rights record, criticized the Russian authorities for preventing Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion turned opposition leader, and his supporters from traveling to the summit meeting. They were stopped at the Moscow airport, where the police confiscated their passports and tickets and detained them for five hours.

“‘I say it completely openly that it is my wish that those who wish to demonstrate can do so in Samara,’ said Merkel, who grew up in Communist East Germany, where Putin once served as a KGB officer…

“Putin, who is expected to leave office in March 2008 after serving two terms, said his priority was to defend Russia’s interests. ‘We need each other,’ he said, referring to the EU, Russia’s largest trading partner. ‘We are open for an honest dialogue between Russia and the EU. But we must defend our interests in the same professional way as our partners do that.'”

The Moscow added on May 21:

“Top EU officials accused a visibly annoyed President Vladimir Putin on Friday of meddling in other countries’ affairs, turning a blind eye to the killings of Kremlin opponents, and muffling voices of criticism.

“No major deals were reached during the one-day Russia-EU summit at this Volga River resort, as expected. While the two sides spoke of a willingness to cooperate, they disagreed over almost everything, including the freedom of assembly, Polish meat and the removal of a Soviet monument in Estonia.”

Poland Is Happy

The EuObserver wrote on May 21:

“Polish politicians and analysts are celebrating EU solidarity after Berlin and Brussels took Warsaw’s line at the EU-Russia summit on Friday. But the meeting irked Russian president Vladimir Putin, damaging further the prospects of a new EU-Russia treaty.

“‘This is a great success for Polish diplomacy, in terms of Russian relations we got what we wanted,’ the chairman of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, Marek Kuchcinski, said… ‘Our critics should finally admit this.’

“Analyst Andrzej Maciejewski of the Sobieski Institute in Warsaw said the EU ‘taught [Russia] a lesson.’ Rafal Trzaskowski of the European school in Natolin said the EU showed ‘it can speak with one voice, that solidarity is not an empty word.’

“The reactions – yet to be matched at top Polish government level – come after Germany’s Angela Merkel and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso gave backing to Polish, Estonian and Lithuanian concerns at last week’s meeting in Samara.”

A New Low in Anglo-Russia Relationship

AFP wrote on May 22:

“British prosecutors demanded Tuesday that Russia extradite an ex-KGB agent  [Lugovoi] to face murder charges over the death of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, plunging chilly ties with Moscow to a new low… Moscow has angrily denied having a hand in the killing, and on Tuesday the Russian foreign ministry said extraditing Lugovoi to Britain would contradict the Russian constitution… But Russia’s ambassador Yuri Fedotov was hauled in by the Foreign Office to be told London expects ‘full cooperation’ in bringing Lugovoi to face justice.

“Anglo-Russia ties have hit a post-Cold War low with Litvinenko’s murder and London-based exile Boris Berezovsky’s calls to overthrow Putin. British courts have refused to allow the tycoon to be extradited…

“White House spokesman Tony Snow said the United States was ‘not taking sides’ with either Britain or Russia.”

Michael Moore’s Attack on US HealthCare System

The conservative news agency, Fox News, reported on May 20:

“Filmmaker Michael Moore’s brilliant and uplifting new documentary, ‘Sicko,’ deals with the failings of the U.S. healthcare system, both real and perceived. But this time around, the controversial documentarian seems to be letting the subject matter do the talking, and in the process shows a new maturity…

“‘Sicko’ works because in this one there are no confrontations. Moore smartly lets very articulate average Americans tell their personal horror stories at the hands of insurance companies… Moore criticizes both Democrats and Republicans for their inaction and in some cases their willingness to be bribed by pharmaceutical companies and insurance carriers.

“In a key moment in the film, Moore takes a group of patients by boat to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba because of its outstanding medical care. When they can’t get into the U.S. naval base, Moore proceeds onto Havana where the patients are treated well and cheaply. This has caused a great deal of controversy, with the federal government launching an investigation into the trip, which officials say was in violation of the trade and commerce embargo against the Communist country… Moore said he made a second master copy of ‘Sicko’ and had it shipped it to France immediately just in case of potential government issues.”

Reuters added on May 20:

“In ‘SiCKO’ he turns his attention to health, asking why 50 million Americans, 9 million of them children, live without cover, while those that are insured are often driven to poverty by spiraling costs or wrongly refused treatment at all.

“But the movie, which has taken Cannes by storm, goes further by portraying a country where the government is more interested in personal profit and protecting big business than caring for its citizens, many of whom cannot afford health insurance…

“One section of the film explains how a U.S. man severed the tip of two fingers in an accident and was told he would have to pay $12,000 to re-attach the end of his ring finger, and $60,000 to re-attach that of his index finger. ‘Being a hopeless romantic, Rick chose his ring finger,’ Moore quipped in a typically sardonic voiceover.

“It also follows a woman whose young daughter falls seriously ill but who said she was refused admission to a general hospital and instructed to go to a private one instead. By the time she got to the second hospital, it was too late to save the girl.

“One of the most controversial passages of the film, due to be released in the United States on June 29, compares health care in the United States to that which Islamic militant suspects receive at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. ‘I think when Americans see this they are not going to focus on Cuba or Fidel Castro,’ Moore said, referring to the controversy surrounding his trip to Cuba, which has prompted a U.S. government investigation.

“‘They are going to say to themselves, “You’re telling me that the al Qaeda detainees are receiving better health care, the people that helped participate in the attacks of 9/11 are receiving better health care from us than those who went down to rescue those who suffered and died on 9/11?”‘”

The International Herald Tribune added on May 23:

“Few of them may become Michael Moore fans. But some insurance industry officials and health policy experts have acknowledged that the film documentary ‘Sicko,’ Moore’s indictment of health care in the United States, taps into widespread public concern that the system does not work for millions of Americans. The movie, which had its first showing at the Cannes Film Festival in France last week and received many favorable reviews, presents a series of heart-rending anecdotes meant to illustrate systemic failures and foul-ups in the U.S. insurance industry – even if many of the major pieces of evidence are ones that have been widely reported elsewhere and in some cases date back 20 years…

“The film, scheduled for release in the United States on June 29 and in Asian countries later this year, is arriving as health care has become a leading policy concern in many polls in the United States, second only to the Iraq war…

“Perhaps not coincidentally, on Sunday, ’60 Minutes,’ the television news-magazine show, took up a scandal that is part of Moore’s film – and has been well chronicled in The Los Angeles Times – about the abandonment by Los Angeles hospitals of homeless patients after they have received medical treatment. Last week, Kaiser Permanente, the largest nonprofit health insurer in the United States, settled criminal and civil lawsuits, agreeing to establish new rules for discharging such patients, and to pay $55,000 in fines and to cover the city attorney’s investigative costs. Kaiser will also contribute $500,000 to a fund to help homeless people with follow-up care and other services.”

Will Gordon Brown End Special Relationship with George Bush?

The Telegraph wrote on May 20:

“Gordon Brown is prepared to risk the future of the ‘special relationship’ with the United States by reversing Tony Blair’s support for the Iraq war, President George W Bush has been warned. He has been briefed by White House officials to expect an announcement on British troop withdrawals from Mr Brown during his first 100 days in power. It would be designed to boost the new prime minister’s popularity in the opinion polls.

“The President recently discussed with a senior White House adviser how to handle the fallout from the expected loss of Washington’s main ally in Iraq [Tony Blair]… senior figures in the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department in Washington have expressed fears about Mr Brown. They believe that cordial relations between the two leaders will be ‘at an end’… President Bush’s aides fear that Mr Brown will boost Democrats’ demands for a timetable for a US pullout from Iraq and encourage wavering Republicans to defect – leaving the President more isolated.”

The Pope Angers Indians in Latin America

Reuters reported on May 19:

“Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez demanded Pope Benedict apologize to Indians in Latin America for saying this month in Brazil that the Roman Catholic Church purified them. Chavez, who regularly clashes with the Catholic Church in Venezuela but had not directly criticized the Pope before, accused the Pontiff on Friday of ignoring the ‘holocaust’ that followed Christopher Columbus’s 1492 landing in the Americas.

“‘With all due respect your Holiness, apologize because there was a real genocide here and, if we were to deny it, we would be denying our very selves,’ Chavez said at an event on freedom of expression.

“In a speech to Latin American and Caribbean bishops at the end of a visit to Venezuela’s neighbor Brazil, the Pope said the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Indian leaders in the region were outraged by the comments. Millions of tribal Indians are believed to have died as a result of European colonization backed by the Church, through slaughter, disease or enslavement.”

Human-Animal Hybrids?

BBC News reported on May 17:

“Ministers [in Great Britain] have bowed to pressure to allow the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for research… The draft bill allows the creation of human embryos that have been physically mixed with one or more animal cells. However, true human-animal hybrids, made by the fusion of sperm and eggs, remain outlawed.  And in all cases it would be illegal to allow embryos to grow for more than 14 days or be implanted into a womb.”

USA Least Desirable Tourist Attraction

Bild reported on May 19, 2007, that the USA has become the LEAST desirable country to visit IN THE WORLD–topping the list even ahead of the Middle East–mainly due to perceived inappropriate conduct of American immigration officials at US airports, as well as American tourist restrictions. The American tourist association TIA reportedly complained that due to American misconduct, many international tourists decline to travel to the USA. At the same time, Europe is perceived to be a very friendly country for tourists, with the exception of France.

Heavy Fighting in Lebanon

Der Spiegel Online wrote on May 22:

“The United Nations is warning of a humanitarian crisis as fighting raged for the third straight day at a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon… the Lebanese army stopped six relief trucks from entering the camp, saying it was too dangerous to enter. The army has been bombarding the camp since Sunday in a bid to destroy the Palestinian extremist group Fatah Islam, which is holed up inside Nahr el-Bared. Lebanese troops are not allowed to enter the camp, home to 31,000 people… Some 215,000 of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon are housed in overcrowded camps, with many extremist groups likewise finding refuge there.”

The Associated Press added on May 22:

“People flooded out of a besieged Palestinian refugee camp Tuesday night, waving white flags and telling of bodies lying in the streets and inside wrecked houses after three days of fighting between Lebanese troops and Islamic militants.

“Twenty-nine soldiers and at least 20 militants had been killed since the battle began Sunday in the heaviest internal fighting in Lebanon since the 1975-90 civil war. But the number of civilian casualties remained unknown because relief workers were not able to get inside the camp…

“The military’s attack at the camp also has raised fears the fighting could destabilize Lebanon’s uneasy balance among its many religious sects and factions. Saniora’s Western-backed government already faces a domestic political crisis, with the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah militant group campaigning for its removal…

“The Bush administration repeated its support for Saniora, a close U.S. ally. It also hinted that it suspected a Syrian role in the turmoil. White House press secretary Tony Snow said the militants wanted to distract international attention from an effort at the United Nations to establish a special tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He said the U.S. ‘will not tolerate attempts by Syria, terrorist groups or any others to delay or derail Lebanon’s efforts to solidify its sovereignty or seek justice in the Hariri case.’

“Lebanese security officials accuse Syria of using Fatah Islam to destabilize Lebanon, a charge Damascus denies. Syria controlled Lebanon for decades until growing street demonstrations by Lebanese and international pressure forced it to withdraw its troops after Hariri’s assassination.”

U.S. Democrats Lose Fight for Withdrawing Troops

The New York Times wrote on May 22:

“Congressional Democrats relented today on their insistence that a war spending measure sought by President Bush also set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq. The decision to back down… was a wrenching reversal for some Democrats, who saw their election triumph as a call to force an end to the war. A Democratic effort to include timelines prompted Mr. Bush’s veto of the original bill last month, producing a political impasse… “The Democratic leaders’ concession infuriated one of their own, Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, who failed last week in his attempt to win passage of a measure that would have cut off money for the war next spring.

“’I cannot support a bill that contains nothing more than toothless benchmarks and that allows the president to continue what may be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our nation’s history,’ he said. ‘There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action. Congress should have stood strong, acknowledged the will of the American people, and insisted on a bill requiring a real change of course in Iraq.’”

U.S. War Games at Iran’s Doorsteps

Reuters reported on May 24:

“The U.S. navy began war games on Iran’s doorstep on Thursday, navy officials said, a day after a large flotilla of U.S. ships entered the Gulf in a dramatic daytime show of military muscle.

“The group includes two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, whose presence adds to the pressure on the Islamic Republic to abandon its own nuclear ambitions, which the West says are an attempt to develop atomic weapons… Asked if any of the American ships carried atomic weapons, a U.S. navy spokesman said the United States routinely did not comment on whether its warships were equipped with nuclear arms.

“On the same day the U.S. ships entered the Gulf, skirting Iran’s coast as they passed the Gulf’s narrowest point, the U.N.’s atomic agency released a report saying Iran was continuing to defy world demands to stop enriching uranium….Oil prices have continued to rise, hitting a nine-month high above $71 on Thursday.

“The ships, carrying about 17,000 personnel and 140 aircraft will take part in war drills over the next two weeks, the group’s leader Rear Admiral Kevin Quinn said on Wednesday, adding that the drills would include exercises to defend against air, surface and submarine threats… The passage of the U.S. ships through the Straits of Hormuz, a narrow channel in the Gulf and major oil shipping lane, was the largest such move in daylight hours since the 2003 Iraq war.”

AFP added on May 24:

“The United States threatened new UN sanctions to punish Iran’s nuclear drive as it ratcheted up tensions with the biggest display of naval power in the Gulf in years.

“Hours after a bristling US armada led by two aircraft carriers steamed into waters near Iran for exercises Wednesday, Iran defied the threats and pledged that its controversial atomic program was expanding.”

©2024 Church of the Eternal God