Current Events

Kosovo Declares Independence–But the Problems Are Just Beginning…

Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 18:

“The tortuous break-up of the former Yugoslavia that began in the 1990s produced another country on Sunday. Nine years after NATO troops forced Serbia out of the province, Kosovo has unilaterally declared independence. Many Western countries are now on the verge of recognizing Kosovo as Europe’s latest country [including the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy] but Serbia and its ally Russia [as well as China] regard the declaration as illegal. And many countries with their own separatist groups, from Spain to Sri Lanka, are reluctant to set a precedent by recognizing this new state.

“… at least six [European] member states — Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia, Spain, Bulgaria and Romania — have indicated they will not recognize Kosovo due to misgivings about their own separatist movements or because of close ties with Serbia…”

Addressing the German reaction, the magazine stated:

“Europe is often quick to base foreign policy decisions on rulings made by the United Nations Security Council. Should the EU recognize Kosovo, however, it will be directly countermanding UN Security Council Resolution 1244, adopted in 1999. The resolution explicitly reaffirms ‘the commitment of all member states to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other states of the region.’…

“The financial daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘Given the current situation, Kosovo’s split from Serbia was unavoidable. But it is a further step on a dangerous path to the dissolution of the nation state…'”

The Associated Press reported on February 18:

“The U.S. and the European Union’s biggest powers quickly recognized Kosovo as an independent nation Monday, widening a split with Russia, China and some EU members strongly opposed to letting the territory break away from Serbia… the dispute is likely to worsen already strained relations between the West and Russia, which is a traditional ally of Serbia and seeks to restore its influence in former Soviet bloc states…

“The EU does not recognize nations, leaving that up to its individual members… Despite that divide, the EU foreign ministers issued a joint statement citing ‘the conflict of the 1990s’ in Kosovo as a justification for the independence declaration.”

AFP and Bild Online added on February 18 and 20, respectively, that Serbia recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Germany in protest.

The Associated Press reported on February 21 that “Serb rioters set fire to an office inside the U.S. Embassy Thursday and police clashed with protesters outside other embassy buildings after a large demonstration against Kosovo’s declaration of independence…  For several days, Kosovo’s Serbs have shown their anger by destroying U.N. and NATO property, setting off small bombs and staging noisy rallies. On Thursday, the neighboring Croatian Embassy also was targeted by the same group of protesters at the U.S. Embassy, and smaller groups attacked police posts outside the Turkish and British embassies in another part of the city but were beaten back… Groups also broke into a McDonald’s restaurant and demolished the interior…”

Bild Online added on February 21 that the German Embassy was attacked as well, after Germany had recognized Kosovo as an independent state on Wednesday.

Disunited Europe

Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 19:

“The European Union… is hopelessly divided when it comes to Kosovo. A majority of EU countries… is in favor of Kosovo independence. But a closer look reveals that the majority is far from overwhelming. Some 17 countries of the 27-member total are eager to recognize the new nation… But that leaves a large number of European countries who are either against Kosovo independence, or unsure…

“The European Commission has pledged €1 billion already, with a package of trade deals likely… The EU has agreed to send a mission including some 2,000 police, judiciary experts, and civil service experts to Kosovo to help the country get started… Just what the EU mission will do should violence arise between Kosovo’s ethnically Albanian majority and the Serbian minority hasn’t been mentioned. And what would be the EU’s position should the Serbian enclave north of Mitrovica declare independence and express a wish to be joined with Serbia? It’s hard to know.”

Europe Needs a President

UPI reported on February 13:

“For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the next American president can expect to meet an equal — the first person to occupy the new post of president of the European Union. The new European Treaty, currently being ratified by the 27 member states, creates a president for this agglomeration of 500 million people with a GDP now significantly larger than that of the United States. The EU has 2 million troops under arms, two nuclear powers in France and Britain, two seats on the U.N. Security Council and four members of the G7. ‘The President of the European Council shall, at his level and in that capacity, ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy,’ says the treaty. That means summits with the American and Russian presidents, with the leaders of India and China and others ‘at his level.’

“The president will be the permanent chairman of the EU Council, the body where the heads of all 27 national governments meet four times a year. The treaty says the new president shall ‘drive forward its work” and ‘shall ensure the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council.’ In other words, the new president controls the agenda, the staff and the paper flow. This is real power. The term lasts for two and a half years and can be renewed… once…”

European Elite Defense Force?

The EUObserver wrote on February 15:

“French president Nicolas Sarkozy is spearheading an initiative to create an elite defence force made up of the six EU biggest states – France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy and Poland… It is envisaged that the six countries would adopt common rules for reinforced co-operation, such as spending a minimum of two percent of their GDP on defence, join a common defence equipment market and provide 10,000 troops for an intervention force. Moreover, the elite group would commit to carry out joint security anti-terrorism projects, as well as defence infrastructure programmes, such as missile defence or space and intelligence technology…

“Paris aims to launch the initiative in 2009, after the new EU Lisbon treaty has been ratified in all member states, as it contains a provision for ‘permanent structured co-operation’ which could establish a legal link for the core defence project to be set up. The provision was already included in the old EU constitution that the French and Dutch voters rejected in referendums in 2005…”

Report From the Munich Conference

On February 16, published the following article by Christopher Ruddy:

“Last week I had the honor of joining the U.S. delegation to the Munich Conference on Security Policy, held in Munich, Germany… Today, Europe appears to have a mindset of accommodation and complacency. Appeasement might be too strong of a word, since there is no Hitler-like figure marching through European capitals to acquiesce to. A U.S. official with NATO told our delegation that throughout Europe, our allies are not making the connection between their own security and the alliance’s work to keep the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan…

“Europe has been moving toward a similar accommodational approach to Iran, a nation that has been developing weapons of mass destruction. Though there is little doubt that Iran, unless stopped, will acquire nuclear weapons, NATO is unwilling to aggressively tackle the threat. Iran already has the ballistic missile capability to strike Europe. And its leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called Israel a ‘disgraceful blot’ that should be ‘wiped off the map,’ adding menacingly that the Jewish state is ‘heading toward annihilation.’ Sen. Lieberman told the conference that Iran must be reckoned with ‘before it is too late.’ He pleaded with European and U.N. member states to use their economic leverage over Iran to stop its nuclear weapons plans… ‘Military action to destroy or deter Iran’s nuclear arsenal is not an option we seek, but it is also not an option that we can eliminate,’ he said…

“Russia today is confident and cocky. But it was just over 15 years ago that the U.S. was airlifting food supplies to Russia. The economic situation there has improved dramatically. With skyrocketing oil and gas prices, Russia has developed a remarkable war chest. One U.S. general told me the Pentagon has been suspicious of Russia because no one knows what the nation plans to do with its vast wealth. He also noted that Russia is ‘unquestionably the nuclear superpower of the world,’ noting the vast arsenal it has maintained after the end of the Cold War.

“Russia’s deputy prime minister, Sergey Ivanov, bragged during his speech in Munich that in recent years Russia had acquired $500 billion in gold and cash reserves, with another $150 billion in a national welfare fund. To understand the vastness of these $650 billion in reserves, consider that China has about double this amount. But Russia has less than one-tenth the population of China…  But there’s no reason to worry, Ivanov assured the gathering, since… Russia had no intention of ‘establishing military blocs or engaging in open confrontation with our partners.’ Ivanov’s comments would be reassuring if Russia was truly a democracy and partner of ours. The facts suggest otherwise.”

Iran–Closer Than Expected?

Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 21:

“New simulations carried out by European Union experts come to an alarming conclusion: Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium to build an atomic bomb by the end of this year.”

German Viewpoint on Barack Obama

Der Spiegel Online reported on February 19:

“The rise of democratic frontrunner Barack Obama signifies an alarming victory of style over substance… his campaign promises more than he can deliver. The one thing his voters can count on is that they will ultimately be disappointed…

“Voters are hungry for change and for radical departure from a present they now perceive as mediocre, especially after seven meager years under the current president, George W. Bush. A man like Barack Obama is adept at taking advantage of this yearning. He utters beautiful sentences that massage the soul… Nevertheless, if Obama is elected he will eventually be forced to disappoint his voters…

“The future Obama is promising seems foggy and indistinct. He wants to change the rules of engagement in politics, but he neglects to explain how and in what direction. He wants to write a new page in the history books, but what handwriting does he plan to use to make his entry? He wants to drive out lobbyists, but if he does, who will champion the interests of union members, war veterans and chemical corporations? He wants to negotiate with the world’s dictators, but to what end, exactly?

“In fact, Obama’s most dangerous land mines are hidden in foreign policy. A quick withdrawal from Iraq? Sounds great. But the mistake of having started this war in the first place cannot be corrected by ending it in a mad rush to get out of Iraq. A rapid withdrawal of the US military would most likely be followed by a bloody civil war. Al-Qaida would manage to sink its teeth into Iraq once and for all. Iran would rejoice. And Osama bin Laden and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be the real winners of the 2008 American presidential election.

“On top of all that, Obama, in an effort to show strength, has come up with a new, and in some ways exclusive, theater for the US armed forces. He talks about military operations in the nuclear power Pakistan, operations that he, as commander-in-chief, would order even without the approval of the United Nations. That is ‘the war we need to win,’ he says again and again.

“But in reality a military campaign in Pakistan would be lunacy, even if many in the American media have chosen to studiously ignore Obama’s comments. A comparison with President John F. Kennedy, who was 43 when he was elected, reveals that Kennedy was in fact unenthusiastic about going to war in Vietnam. It was a war the inexperienced President slid into, and if he was a war president, it was by accident and not design.

“But there is no room for thoughtfulness in the turbulent world of Obamania. Hillary Clinton, his rival in the fight for the Democratic nomination, suffers from the same problems as traditional companies in the automotive and engineering industries did when confronted with the hype of the New Economy. She is out of touch with his supporters. She uses language to explain, while Obama uses rhetoric to intoxicate. She tells voters what she is bringing to the table. He tells them what they can become. If Clinton is a solid stock, Obama is an option. If she’s a secure investment, he is speculation.

“When the New Economy reached its conclusion, people suddenly realized that their hopes were dashed and their cravings for quick riches left unfulfilled… If democracy functions only half as well as the market economy, the Obama bubble will burst. The burning question is: When? Will it happen before the Democratic nomination this August — or not until afterwards?”

John McCain Under Attack

Der Spiegel Online called it today “the dirty U.S. election campaign,” adding that the “mud match” has begun.  USA Today reported the following on February 21:

“John McCain on Thursday criticized a New York Times story alleging a questionable relationship with a female telecommunications lobbyist [in 2000], saying it’s ‘not true’ and that he was ‘very disappointed’ the newspaper relied on anonymous sources…  the McCain campaign… calls the story a smear campaign to destroy the Republican nominee-in-waiting.

“Robert Bennett, a Washington attorney representing McCain, told NBC’s Today show that McCain’s staff provided the Times with ‘approximately 12 instances where Senator McCain took positions adverse to this lobbyist’s clients and her public relations firm’s clients,’ but none of the examples were included in the paper’s story. ‘There is no evidence that John McCain ever breached the public trust and that is the issue and the only issue,’ said Bennett, who once represented former President Clinton, on Thursday.”

Fidel Castro Steps Down–But No Improvement Is Expected

The New York Times wrote on February 19:

“Cuban exiles in the United States reacted coolly on Tuesday to the overnight news that Fidel Castro was stepping down as president of Cuba, an island he has ruled with an iron fist for almost 50 years. With Mr. Castro’s younger brother Raúl, who has been running the country for a year and a half, seen as most likely to succeed him, many said they expect the system of communist central control to continue unchanged…

“’Fidel Castro’s stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba,’ Mr. Obama… said… ‘Cuba’s future should be determined by the Cuban people and not by an anti-democratic successor regime. The prompt release of prisoners on conscience wrongly jailed for standing up for the basic freedoms too long denied to the Cuban people would mark an important break with the past.’

“Senator McCain… said that despite Mr. Castro’s action, ‘freedom for Cuba is not yet at hand… We must press the Castro regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to legalize all political parties, labor union and free media, and to schedule internationally monitored elections’…

“Senator Clinton… said in her statement, ‘I would say to the new leadership, the people of the United States are ready to meet you if you move forward toward the path of democracy, with real, substantial reforms.’”

Elections in Pakistan

Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 19:

“Opposition parties seem to have dealt a crushing blow to the ruling party in Pakistan, winning enough seats to threaten the rule of President Pervez Musharraf…

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘This election is not a great leap forward for democracy, but at most a tiny step. Most voters stayed at home out of fears of attacks. The people in Pakistan are not to be envied. They have hardly any democratic alternatives… The parties function like dynasties. A few families have all the say and consider power to be a type of inheritance…’

“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘… “Musharraf must end his dictatorship. This election is a small step on the long path toward achieving this.'”

The Associated Press reported on February 21 that “Pakistan’s two main opposition parties announced Thursday they would form a new government together after their victory over President Pervez Musharraf’s allies in elections this week…. The two party leaders did not make explicit whether they would push for Musharraf’s ouster.”

Has Austria Learned From the Past?

The Jerusalem Post wrote on February 17:

“When Hitler entered Austria in March 1938, he was welcomed by an extraordinarily large number of Austrians who advocated the ‘Anschluss’ with Germany. A disproportionate number of Austrians served the Nazi death machinery to carry out the ‘Final Solution’ to the ‘Jewish Question.’ Despite these facts, for more than 50 years Austria portrayed itself as the first victim of national-socialism. It took a new generation of historians and politicians to acknowledge – 30 years after the Eichmann trial – that Austrians were actually involved in mass murder.

“During the last decade Austria has worked to present itself as a country which has dealt with its past and drawn the appropriate historical lessons. But one has to ask: Which lessons have been learned? Certainly not the most crucial one: defending Israel’s right to exist. In April 2007 Austria’s partially state-owned oil company, OMV, signed an agreement with Iran on a joint natural gas project. The total investment amounts to 22 billion euros over the next 25 years. Experts believe that these revenues will be used to finance the Iranian nuclear weapons program and undermine present international sanctions. OMV is not just any company. It is the biggest oil corporation in central Europe. The state of Austria holds 31.5% of its shares.

“… this deal is backed by all parties represented in the Austrian parliament. Social Democrats, Conservatives, Greens and the far right have closed ranks against demands to cancel the negotiations with Iran. Ironically, Austrian Social Democratic Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer recently made it very clear that human rights have to be subordinated to business interests. His government has no intention of interfering despite the ongoing oppressions of the Iranian terror regime. Recent criticism from German chancellor Angela Merkel, who said that Austria was setting a dangerous precedent in establishing such a deal, was countered by insistence on the private nature of OMV – even though the state is the company’s largest shareholder… As Iranian Chamber of Commerce president Ali Naghi Khamoushi put it in November 2006, ‘Austria is the gate to the European Union for us.’…

“Austria must turn its moral rhetoric into tangible action if it wants to prove that it has learned its lessons. Stopping Iran from going nuclear by canceling the largest oil deal between a European company and the mullahs would set the tone and fill these words with content.”

Navy Scores Direct Hit on Spy Satellite

The Associated Press reported on February 21:

“A U.S. Navy cruiser blasted a disabled spy satellite with a pinpoint missile strike that achieved the main mission of exploding a tank of toxic fuel 130 miles above the Pacific Ocean, defense officials said. Destroying the satellite’s onboard tank of about 1,000 pounds of hydrazine fuel was the primary goal, and a senior defense official close to the mission said Thursday that it appears the tank was destroyed, and the strike with a specially designed missile was a complete success…

“The elaborate intercept may trigger worries from some international leaders, who could see it as a thinly disguised attempt to test an anti-satellite weapon—one that could take out other nation’s orbiting communications and spy spacecraft… While Pentagon officials stressed that the satellite strike was a one- time incident, it certainly will spin off massive amounts of data and research that can be studied by the military as it works to improve its missile defense technologies…

“Because the satellite was orbiting at a relatively low altitude at the time it was hit by the missile, debris will begin to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere immediately, the Pentagon statement said. ‘Nearly all of the debris will burn up on re-entry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days,’ it said.”

Beef Scandal in California

The Associated Press reported on February 18:

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sunday ordered the recall of 143 million pounds of frozen beef from a California slaughterhouse, the subject of an animal-abuse investigation, that provided meat to school lunch programs. Officials said it was the largest beef recall in the United States, surpassing a 1999 ban of 35 million pounds of ready-to-eat meats… The recall will affect beef products dating to Feb. 1, 2006…

“Federal officials suspended operations at Westland/Hallmark after an undercover video from the Humane Society of the United States surfaced showing crippled and sick animals being shoved with forklifts… Authorities said the video showed workers kicking, shocking and otherwise abusing ‘downer’ animals that were apparently too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse… Federal regulations call for keeping downed cattle out of the food supply because they may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease because they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems are often weak…

“Upon learning about the recall, some legislators criticized the USDA, saying the federal agency should conduct more thorough inspections to ensure tainted beef doesn’t get to the public… Advocacy groups also weighed in, noting the problems at Westland wouldn’t have been revealed had it not been for animal right activists.”

How Man Destroys the Oceans…

BBC News reported on February 14:

“Only about 4% of the world’s oceans remain undamaged by human activity, according to the first detailed global map of human impacts on the seas. A study in Science journal says climate change, fishing, pollution and other human factors have exacted a heavy toll on almost half of the marine waters. Only remote icy areas near the poles are relatively pristine, but they face threats as ice sheets melt, it warns… Lead scientist, Dr Benjamin Halpern, of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, US, said humans were having a major impact on the oceans and the marine ecosystems within them…

“Co-author Dr Mark Spalding told BBC News that the map was the first attempt to describe and quantify the combined threats facing the world’s oceans from human factors, ranging from commercial shipping to over-fishing… Andrew Rosenberg, a professor of natural resources at the University of New Hampshire, US, who was not part of the study, said policymakers could no longer focus on fishing or pollution as if they were separate effects. ‘These human impacts overlap in space and time, and in far too many cases the magnitude is frighteningly high,’ he said.”

Magnitude 5 Earthquake at Tyre

The Associated Press reported on February 15:

“An earthquake shook parts of Lebanon and neighboring countries Friday… The U.S. Geological Survey said it was a magnitude 5 quake, which can cause considerable damage. Residents of Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Israel also reported feeling the tremor. The earthquake was centered near the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre… In parts of Beirut, people left their apartments and went into the streets after the jolt at 12:37 p.m., which lasted a few seconds… Lebanese police said four people were slightly injured in the southern port city of Tyre when parts of a balcony fell on them. In the southern city of Sidon, a man was lightly injured when a cupboard in his home fell on him, police said.”

AFP reported on February 21 that “A strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake [others state that the magnitude was 6.3] struck a sparsely-populated region of northern Nevada on Thursday, damaging buildings and rupturing water and gas mains.”

Commercial Pet Cloning

The Guardian reported on February 15:

“The world’s first pet cloning service is to offer animal lovers the chance to recreate their dead companions… South Korean company RNL Bio will work alongside scientists who created the first cloned canine. A company spokeswoman said it was already working on its first order from an American who wanted a clone of her dead pit bull. The client… was very attached to the pet because it had saved her life during an attack by another dog… ear tissue from the dog had been preserved at a US biotech laboratory before its death. DNA from the sample could now be used in an attempt to create a clone… although the chances of success were about 25%. RNL Bio is charging customers $150,000… for the clones, which clients pay only after they receive their new pet… “

Man vs. Machine?

BBC News reported on February 18:

“Humanity is on the brink of advances that will see tiny robots implanted in people’s brains to make them more intelligent, said Ray Kurzweil. The engineer believes machines and humans will eventually merge through devices implanted in the body to boost intelligence and health… Machines were already doing hundreds of things humans used to do, at human levels of intelligence or better, in many different areas, he said. ‘I’ve made the case that we will have both the hardware and the software to achieve human level artificial intelligence… by 2029,’ he said…  Humans and machines would eventually merge, by means of devices embedded in people’s bodies to keep them healthy and improve their intelligence, predicted Mr Kurzweil.
“The nanobots, he said, would ‘make us smarter, remember things better…’ Mr Kurzweil is one of 18 influential thinkers chosen to identify the great technological challenges facing humanity in the 21st century by the US National Academy of Engineering.”

How Superstitious People Can Be Fooled…

AFP reported about interesting episodes involving lunar eclipses in ancient times–but one wonders whether “modern” people could not be equally fooled. The Bible predicts that they will be in the not-too-distant future, calling some of the events to occur “lying wonders.” For more information, please read our free booklets, “Europe in Prophecy” and “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”

AFP wrote on February 18:

“The Moon will turn an eerie shade of red for people in the western hemisphere late Wednesday and early Thursday, recreating the eclipse that saved Christopher Columbus more than five centuries ago. In a lunar eclipse, the Sun, Earth and Moon are directly aligned and the Moon swings into the cone of shadow cast by the Earth…

“Lunar eclipses have long been associated with superstitions and signs of ill omen, especially in battle. The defeat of the Persian king Darius III by Alexander the Great in the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC was foretold by soothsayers when the Moon turned blood-red a few days earlier.

“And an eclipse is credited with saving the life of Christopher Columbus and his crew in 1504. Stranded on the coast of Jamaica, the explorers were running out of food and faced with increasingly hostile local inhabitants who were refusing to provide them with any more supplies. Columbus, looking at an astronomical almanac compiled by a German mathematician, realised that a total eclipse of the Moon would occur on February 29, 1504. He called the native leaders and warned them if they did not cooperate, he would make the Moon disappear from the sky the following night. The warning, of course, came true, prompting the terrified people to beg Columbus to restore the Moon — which he did, in return for as much food as his men needed. He and the crew were rescued on June 29, 1504.”

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