Current Events

Recovery? What Recovery?

The Associated Press reported on January 25:

“Sales of previously occupied homes took the largest monthly drop in more than 40 years last month, sinking more dramatically than expected after lawmakers gave buyers additional time to use a tax credit.

“The report reflects a sharp drop in demand after buyers stopped scrambling to qualify for a tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time homeowners. It had been due to expire on Nov. 30. But Congress extended the deadline until April 30 and expanded it with a new $6,500 credit for existing homeowners who move…

“December’s sales fell 16.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.45 million… Sales had been expected to fall by about 10 percent… The report ‘places a large question mark over whether the recovery can be sustained when the extended tax credit expires,’ wrote Paul Dales, U.S. economist with Capital Economics… The Federal Reserve’s $1.25 trillion program to push down mortgage rates is scheduled to expire at the end of March…

“Many experts project home prices, which started to rise last summer, will fall again over the winter. That’s because foreclosures make up a larger proportion of sales during the winter months, when fewer sellers choose to put their homes on the market…”

This development will have further devastating consequences for the US economy. Many big banks are holding on to “their” money–especially in light of proposed “fees” requiring them to pay back “bail-out” money received from the government. They are unwilling to provide reasonable and affordable loans and mortgages, while many of the smaller banks are being shut down by the Federal Government. 

“The U.S. Is Broke…”

USA Today wrote on January 27:

“Trouble is, the deficit is only a symptom of a chronic disease that strikes at the very heart of democratic government… Thanks to decades of promises for ever-higher benefits and low taxes for the indefinite future, there’s now less give in future budgets than at any point in American history. At least profligate Congresses in the past confined their excesses and temporarily large deficits to the current year. Until recently, they didn’t box in the future…

“For the first time in U.S. history, in 2009 every single dollar of revenue was committed before Congress voted on any spending program. Meanwhile, most of government’s basic functions — from justice to education to turning on the lights in the Capitol — are paid for out of swelling, unsustainable deficits. Blame the recession for some of this dip. But even a recovery only temporarily restores a bit of financial freedom, not enough to reverse the downward trend.”

Hillary Clinton Deeply Resents International Criticism of USA

AFP wrote on January 26:

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she ‘deeply resents’ foreign criticism of the US response to the earthquake in Haiti, saying the United States was doing as much as it could. ‘I deeply resent those who attack our country, the generosity of our people and the leadership of our president in trying to respond to historically disastrous conditions after the earthquake,’ Clinton told State Department employees…

“Clinton did not single out critics but said that ‘some of the international press either misunderstood or deliberately misconstrued’ the US decision to send troops along with civilians to Haiti. A senior Italian official on Sunday criticized the lack of a coordinated international aid effort in Haiti, saying that the United States had ‘too many officers’ there and could not find a capable leader.”

All justification for anger about such criticism aside, the fact that the US IS encountering these kinds of verbal attacks shows the lack of trust and confidence many nations have in US leadership.

“Warfare” Between US and German Armies Over Afghanistan

Bild Online wrote on January 21:

“In a BILD interview US General Stanley McChrystal yesterday challenged the Germans to also take more risks in the fight against the Taliban. But German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg held a press conference in which he hit back at McChrystal’s criticism and gave his full support to the German army: ‘Our soldiers are being exposed to high risks every day.’ Asked by a reporter whether the German soldiers are cowards, Guttenberg said: ‘That interpretation is nonsense! General McChrystal made it clear how much he values the engagement of the Germans.’

“Guttenberg told BILD: ‘McChrystal describes the high risks that all ISAF soldiers are exposed to in Afghanistan. Our German soldiers also risk their lives there every day. For this they deserve thanks and recognition from all of us.’ A German general told news agency ‘ddp’ that the comments of the US General were ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unfounded.’

“It is true that other countries in Afghanistan are indeed exposed to much higher risks. The main reason for this is that they are fighting in the South whereas the German army has been assigned, at least in recent years, to the noticeably quieter North. It could also explain why the British, for example, have deployed around double the number of troops in Afghanistan but have had seven times the number of deaths (249)…

“The German army is even often left out of important operations in the North. Yesterday special forces invaded a farmstead in Kunduz to dismantle a weapon store – an operation headed by the Americans and Afghans. The German soldiers were not with them…”

The Bible clearly shows that the relationship between the USA and Germany–and united continental Europe–will deteriorate. The next article shows the degree of German frustration with the USA.

Afghanistan–Another Nail in the Coffin of American-German Friendship…

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 25:

“The German government hopes to discuss a new approach to Afghanistan at Thursday’s conference in London. But the Americans see the strategy as already fixed. If Berlin adopts the new counterinsurgency methods, more German troops are likely to die — making the operation even more unpopular back home…

“The weeks leading up to the London conference were also deeply humiliating for the Germans, and not just because of the arrogance of someone like Richard Holbrooke [the US government’s special envoy for Afghanistan]. The Americans decided to deploy an initial contingent of 2,500 soldiers to northern Afghanistan, and perhaps to even double that number in the future. It was a vote of no confidence in the Germans, who are responsible for the north, and the message was clear: You can’t get it done, so move aside and let us take over…

“Germany has acquired the reputation of a discredited nation, a nation incapable of waging war, a cowardly nation. It is an accusation that has been around for a long time. It was apparent when the Germans refused to take part in the first and second Iraq wars. It was apparent when the Germans requested a region that was guaranteed to be safe during the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Somalia. And it was apparent when the Germans took responsibility for what was then the relatively safe northern part of Afghanistan. Now the north is no longer safe, and the Germans are seen as too cowardly to take on the Taliban.

“It is largely an unfair accusation. After the horrors of World War II, the Germans had to take an extremely cautious approach to the subject of war. For the Germans, unlike their current allies, military traditions are severely tainted by historical events. But now, almost 65 years after the end of the war, Germans are grappling with the question of how and when a democratic Germany should wage war.

“Until now, the Germans had expected Afghanistan to be a clean mission in support of a worthy cause, with no bloodshed involved. Germany can now forget about that idea, after Colonel Georg Klein used fabricated information to order an air strike on two tanker trucks which killed up to 142 people, including civilians, on Sept. 4, 2009. It is no longer possible to separate the worthy cause from bloodshed…”

The time will come when Germany WILL wage war again. It is a great paradox and a tragedy that countries like the USA will be highly responsible for this development, since they are encouraging and demanding German military engagement in other countries, including Afghanistan.

Germany’s Incoherent Government

On January 26, Berlin announced it will send an extra 500 troops to Afghanistan, plus an additional 350 soldiers as a “flexible reserve.” It was also stated that Berlin will contribute €50 million towards a program to reintegrate Taliban fighters. At the same time, German Foreign Minister Guide Westerwelle stated on Tuesday that he will begin withdrawing German troops by 2011. This inconsistent approach is puzzling to many. The German government is in disarray.

Openly gay Westerwelle’s decision to have his partner accompany him to official visits with Arab leaders did not help in building foreign confidence in effective German leadership. According to a report of The Local and DDP, dated January 27, a “new poll on Wednesday showed public support for the pro-business Free Democrats, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partners, had dropped by a third just four months after national elections.”

Angela Merkel’s position on Afghanistan has been met with strong criticism. It might actually lead to her political downfall.

The German press wrote in overwhelmingly negative terms about Germany’s future engagement in Afghanistan. Der Spiegel Online reported on January 26.

“German commentators on Tuesday take a closer look at the cash-for-Taliban idea, with most of them pointing out the massive potential for corruption in the proposed ex-Taliban money pool. But others wonder why, after eight years, Afghanistan’s state institutions are so weak.

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘…There will be no more “presence” without more soldiers. And working closer to the Afghan people will mean more danger for German troops… A defense minister who wants to send soldiers into Afghan villages in anything besides up-armored vehicles is proposing more risk.’

“The left-wing Berliner Zeitung argues: ‘… Under the new plan German taxpayers could… be subsidizing human-rights violators.’

“The business daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘… Presence in Afghanistan, for German soldiers, means taking far greater risks. If they follow newly-trained Afghan soldiers into new regions, they will come in range of insurgents… The German government hopefully understands that a public debate over mounting casualties will be the result.'”

However, it seems that the German government does not understand this, or that it does not want to. This will have terrible consequences for its survival.

Growing Tensions Between Germany and Iran

The Local and AFP reported on January 27:

“Iran said Wednesday it arrested two German diplomats for allegedly having a hand in deadly anti-government protests which erupted on a Shiite Muslim holy day last month… The agencies did not specify whether the diplomats were still detained, but German officials dismissed the reports. ‘No German diplomats were arrested on December 27 last year,’ German Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke told a press conference in Berlin. ‘If the accusations turn out to have been made, we reject them categorically’…

“Meanwhile, German industrial giant Siemens said on Wednesday it would stop signing new business deals in Iran from mid-2010 amid growing tensions between Berlin and Tehran… Germany is one of the world’s leading exporters to Iran, although pressure to roll back dealings with the regime in Tehran has grown as the international community mulls sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme.

“Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that German-Iranian trade had ‘declined considerably’ while acknowledging that the two countries had a ‘long tradition of economic cooperation.’ In 2008, German exports to Iran, mainly machine tools and industrial equipment, rose by nearly nine percent despite international condemnation of the regime in Tehran.

“For her part, Merkel warned that time was running out before the international community considers sanctions, adding that February would be the ‘crucial month’ in the UN Security Council. Sanctions on Iran would only work if applied ‘over the broadest possible basis,’ Merkel added, following talks with Israel’s President Shimon Peres.”

US Court Recognizes Religious Persecution in Germany

The Local wrote on January 27:

“A US court has granted asylum to an evangelical Christian family who fled Germany because they were not allowed to homeschool their children. An immigration judge in Nashville, Tennessee ruled that parents Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, and their five children, are free to stay in the US, where they have been since 2008… The parents, who came from the state of Baden-Württemberg, allege they were persecuted for their faith and defiance of Germany’s compulsory school attendance since those who do not comply face fines and jail time.

“According to Uwe Romeike, his family was fined the equivalent of some $10,000 over two years, but could not afford to make payments after their court appeals failed. ‘I think it’s important for parents to have the freedom to choose the way their children can be taught,’ Romeike told AP, later adding that German curriculum was increasingly ‘against Christian values.’

“In October 2006, police forcefully took the family’s children to school in their home town of Bietigheim-Bissingen when they refused to do so themselves. One year later, the country’s high court ruled that in some similar cases the state could take children from their parents…

“’This decision finally recognises that German homeschoolers are a specific social group that is being persecuted by a Western democracy,’ Mike Donnelly, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association, said in a statement. ‘It is embarrassing for Germany, since a Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children,’ he said. ‘We hope this decision will cause Germany to stop persecuting homeschoolers’… In November 2009, another Christian couple was fined by a Kassel court for refusing to send their children to school.”

The importance of this decision, even though not yet final, cannot be over-emphasized.

As Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 28, “Fundamentalist Christians in the United States have been critical of German mandatory school attendance laws for years… It is illegal to keep children out of school for any reason. The outcomes of several cases in the past indicate that parents opposed to mandatory school attendance have little chance of success…

“In late May 2006, the German Constitutional Court ruled that parents are not entitled to keep their children from attending school because of their religious views. In November 2007, the Federal Supreme Court ruled that parents can even be deprived of the custody of their children… In September 2006, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Germany’s mandatory school attendance policy, along with the corresponding ban on homeschooling, is compatible with both European law and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

As a consequence, according to Der Spiegel, the court in Memphis held that Germany’s mandatory school law violates the basic human rights of German citizens. The magazine wrote:

“Announcing his verdict in a court in Memphis, Tennessee, Judge Lawrence Burman ruled that the Romeikes’ were entitled to political asylum… Burman argued that he believed the Romeike family’s basic human rights were being violated in Germany… Burman also defined so-called homeschoolers… as ‘a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress.’ The family, Burman argued, has ‘a well-founded fear of persecution’ and, as a result, the right to political asylum in the United States.

“HSLDA attorney Mike Donnelly [said:] ‘This is simply about the German state trying to coerce ideological uniformity in a way that is frighteningly reminiscent of past history.'”

State of the Union Address

The Telegraph wrote on January 28:

“As expected, Barack Obama’s 70 minute State of the Union address focused heavily on the economy and the domestic political agenda. This was hardly surprising in the aftermath of last week’s catastrophic defeat for his party in the Massachusetts special Senate election, where the Republicans scored an historic victory. American voters are turning strongly against the president’s health care reform package as well as his big government vision for the economy, which has contributed to spiraling public debt and mounting unemployment, now standing at over 10 percent.

“But the scant attention paid in the State of the Union speech to US leadership was pitiful and frankly rather pathetic. The war in Afghanistan, which will soon involve a hundred thousand American troops, merited barely a paragraph. There was no mention of victory over the enemy, just a reiteration of the president’s pledge to begin a withdrawal in July 2011. Needless to say there was nothing in the speech about the importance of international alliances, and no recognition whatsoever of the sacrifices made by Great Britain and other NATO allies alongside the United States on the battlefields of Afghanistan. For Barack Obama the Special Relationship means nothing, and tonight’s address further confirmed this.

“Significantly, the global war against al-Qaeda was hardly mentioned, and there were no measures outlined to enhance US security at a time of mounting threats from Islamist terrorists. Terrorism is a top issue for American voters, but President Obama displayed what can only be described as a stunning indifference towards the defence of the homeland.

“The Iranian nuclear threat, likely to be the biggest foreign policy issue of 2010, was given just two lines in the speech, with a half-hearted warning of ‘growing consequences’ for Tehran, with no details given at all. There were no words of support for Iranian protestors who have been murdered, tortured and beaten in large numbers by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s thuggish security forces, and no sign at all that the president cared about their plight. Nor was there any condemnation of the brutality of the Iranian regime, as well as its blatant sponsorship of terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“As the example of Iran showed, the advance of freedom and liberty across the world in the face of tyranny was not even a footnote in the president’s speech. I cannot think of a US president in modern times who has attached less importance to human rights issues. For the hundreds of millions of people across the world, from Burma to Sudan to Zimbabwe, clamouring to be free of oppression, there was not a shred of hope offered in Barack Obama’s address.

“Obama’s world leadership in his first year in office has been weak-kneed and little short of disastrous. He has sacrificed the projection of American power upon the altar of political vanity, with empty speeches and groveling apologies across the world, from Strasbourg to Cairo. He has appeased some of America’s worst enemies, and has extended the hand of friendship to many of the most odious regimes on the face of the earth. Judging by the State of the Union address tonight, we can expect more of the same from an American president who seems determined to lead the world’s greatest power along a path of decline.”

Just Blame Others…

The New York Post added on January 28:

“Obama’s response last night was to recommit himself to the agenda that has gotten him in so much trouble… Obama, in his supreme arrogance, didn’t really seem to care… there was an innumerate, inaccurate and distinctly unpresidential whine — blaming George W. Bush for nearly all of his problems (leaving out, among other things, that the Democrats have been controlling Congress and crafting budgets since 2006).

“… the president promised more jobs bills, more ‘investments’ in schools, roads, trains and factories. He even reaffirmed his support for his carbon-tax legislation — which would send far more jobs overseas than it would create here at home.

“But Obama has a bigger problem: Aside from a few throwaway lines of self-deprecation, whenever he grew passionate, it was to blame others. His predecessor topped his list, of course. But also everyone else who disagrees with him. Obama insists that Americans need to muster the courage to agree with him, to sign on to his agenda…

“He decried the politicians who are in ‘permanent campaign’ mode — the same week he brought into the White House his campaign manager. Other politicians are vain, cowardly and insubstantial. They need the courage to change. Meanwhile, Obama is great the way he is. That is the attitude that has gotten the president in so much trouble. And last night’s State of the Union speech showed us that change really isn’t easy, particularly for the president.”

No Specifics Given…

Times On Line wrote on January 28:

“In a gesture to his liberal base, the President said that he would seek the repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy instituted by President Clinton on gays in the military. He also admitted that he and his team had made mistakes in their first year. Most were unspecified but he owned up to a failure to communicate his aims for health reform more clearly.

“No detailed strategy was expected for saving the healthcare Bill that dominated Mr Obama’s first year in office, and none was offered. Mr Obama restricted himself to a plea ‘to come together and finish the job for the American people’. Earlier, Senator Harry Reid, who led round-the-clock negotiations on the Bill until the Democrats lost their Senate supermajority last week, said that there was ‘no rush’ to get it passed.

“… polls published yesterday showed that three quarters of Americans believe that their federal government is not working and 58 per cent feel that their country is heading in the wrong direction.”

… But What ARE the Facts?

In analyzing President Obama’s State of the Union address, The Associated Press wrote on January 28:

“The anticipated savings from this proposal [to freeze government spending for three years, beginning in 2011] would amount to less than 1 percent of the deficit – and that’s if the president can persuade Congress to go along. Obama is a convert to the cause of broad spending freezes. In the presidential campaign, he criticized Republican opponent John McCain for suggesting one. ‘The problem with a spending freeze is you’re using a hatchet where you need a scalpel,’ he said a month before the election. Now, Obama wants domestic spending held steady in most areas where the government can control year-to-year costs. The proposal is similar to McCain’s…

“OBAMA [said:]: ‘I’ve called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans.’

“THE FACTS: Any commission that Obama creates would be a weak substitute for what he really wanted – a commission created by Congress that could force lawmakers to consider unpopular remedies to reduce the debt, including curbing politically sensitive entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. That idea crashed in the Senate this week, defeated by equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. Any commission set up by Obama alone would lack authority to force its recommendations before Congress, and would stand almost no chance of success…

“OBAMA [said:] ‘Because of the steps we took, there are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. … And we are on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year.’

“THE FACTS: The success of the Obama-pushed economic stimulus that Congress approved early last year has been an ongoing point of contention. In December, the administration reported that recipients of direct assistance from the government created or saved about 650,000 jobs. The number was based on self-reporting by recipients and some of the calculations were shown to be in error.

“The Congressional Budget Office has been much more guarded than Obama in characterizing the success of the stimulus plan. In November, it reported that the stimulus increased the number of people employed by between 600,000 and 1.6 million ‘compared with what those values would have been otherwise.’ It said the ranges ‘reflect the uncertainty of such estimates.’ And it added, ‘It is impossible to determine how many of the reported jobs would have existed in the absence of the stimulus package.’

“OBAMA… called for action by the White House and Congress ‘to do our work openly, and to give our people the government they deserve.’

“THE FACTS: Obama skipped past a broken promise from his campaign – to have the negotiations for health care legislation broadcast on C-SPAN ‘so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.’ Instead, Democrats in the White House and Congress have conducted the usual private negotiations, making multibillion-dollar deals with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders behind closed doors. Nor has Obama lived up consistently to his pledge to ensure that legislation is posted online for five days before it’s acted upon.”

Obama’s Fiercest Opponent?

Conservative German tabloid Bild Online wrote on January 22:

“A man who once stripped off for the nude centrefold of ‘Cosmopolitan’ magazine has become US President Barack Obama’s (48) fiercest opponent. Scott P. Brown (50) is an ultra conservative Republican who recently stunned America by conquering Massachussetts, the stronghold of the Democrats and the Kennedy clan. In doing so, Obama lost his majority in the Senate, giving the Republicans back the power to block his major projects such as health reform.

“So just who is Scott P. Brown, the hunk who stripped naked for a photo shoot in ‘Cosmopotitan’ in 1982? He’s a lawyer, lieutenant colonel in reserve and ‘Aerosmith’ fan. He’s a child of divorced parents who had constantly changing stepfathers, who were in part violent. And he’s a fitness freak – he gets up at 5 am every morning and jogs for 10 km. ‘I was the small boy who was woken at night by his mother screaming and believed that he had to save her…'”

The disappointment of many Americans with President Obama and his government, as well as with former President Bush and his administration, will induce especially independent voters or disenfranchised and disillusioned Democrats and Republicans to look for leaders in different places, such as the growing “Tea party” movement, which can be classified as a development of protest. However, that search for alternatives will likewise be met with disappointment. The only security would lie in a return to God and His laws–but neither the American people as a whole nor any other nation today, is simply willing to do so.

The Sickness of Self-Flagellation

CNN wrote on January 27:

“Pope John Paul II used to beat himself with a belt and sleep naked on the floor to bring himself closer to Christ, a book published Wednesday says. The late pope had a particular belt for self-flagellation and brought it with him to his summer residence, according to the book, ‘Why he is a Saint: The True story of John Paul II.’

“‘As some members of his own entourage were able to hear with their own ears, both in Poland and in the Vatican, Karol Wojtyla flagellated himself,’ the book says, using the name the pope was given at birth. ‘In the closet, among the cloaks, a particular pant-belt hung from a hook, which he utilized as a whip and one which he always had brought to Castel Gandolfo,’ the book says.

“The book was written by a Vatican insider, Slawomir Oder, with Italian journalist Saverio Gaeta of the Catholic weekly Christian Family. Oder is head of the Vatican committee investigating whether John Paul II should be declared a saint. John Paul died in 2005…

“Mother Teresa is among famous Catholics who self-flagellated in some way…

“Catholics are not alone in choosing to inflict pain on themselves for religion reasons. Some Shiite Muslims lash themselves until they bleed when marking the mourning period of Ashura…

“David Gibson [is] a journalist who worked for Vatican Radio when John Paul II was pope… ‘John Paul was a product of a very Old World Polish Catholicism,’ said Gibson… The authors of the new book clearly approve of any whipping the pope did of himself, he added. ‘Even though it’s going to weird people out, it’s obviously seen by his postulators as a sign of his holiness,’ he said…

“The authors of the book based it on interviews with 114 “witnesses” and access to unedited documents in the Vatican’s archives… The book is available only in Italian, but the publisher is having it translated into Polish and other languages.”

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