Current Events

Nothing Ruled Out

BBC News wrote on November 28:

“David Cameron has urged other EU leaders to support his ‘reasonable’ proposals for far-reaching curbs on welfare benefits for migrants… Under his plans, migrants would have to wait four years for certain benefits…

“Mr Cameron said he was confident he could change the basis of EU migration into the UK and therefore campaign for the UK to stay in the EU in a future referendum planned for 2017. But he warned that if the UK’s demands fell on ‘deaf ears’ he would ‘rule nothing out’ – the strongest hint to date he could countenance the UK leaving the EU.”

The Guardian wrote on November 28:

“David Cameron has stepped back from a radical plan to cap directly the number of EU migrants entering Britain after an intervention from the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who warned him she would not tolerate such an incursion into the principle of the free movement of workers… In a speech that repeatedly emphasised the benefits of UK membership of the EU, Cameron nevertheless tried also to emphasise his determination to secure his negotiating goal saying: ‘I don’t want to fail, I don’t believe I am going to fail. But to put it beyond doubt I am saying today that if I do fail, I rule absolutely nothing out, and I mean nothing’.

“The German news magazine Der Spiegel called Cameron’s speech blackmail.”

Slavery in Great Britain

The Telegraph wrote on November 29:

“As many as 13,000 people in Britain are being held in conditions of slavery… They include women forced into prostitution, domestic staff and workers in fields, factories and fishing boats… Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said the scale of abuse was ‘shocking’.”

The USA Is Fighting the Wrong Battle

The New York Times wrote on November 27:

“Wissam Tarif, a Lebanese activist who aids Syrian civic groups, said that airstrikes against extremists were useless without a war of ideas. ‘You kill 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 — they will recruit more and more,’ he said. ‘The U.S. is fighting the wrong battle. It needs to fight to win the hearts of the Syrian people. They need to feel that there is someone out there who is a superpower who really cares.’…

“Many Syrians are stuck in the middle. Umm Firas, who lost two sons working to depose Mr. Assad, now fears losing another to army bombardments and insurgent infighting that the United States air attacks have done nothing to stop. She fears the Islamic State will soon penetrate her district on the outskirts of Damascus.”

Newsmax wrote on November 28:

“Syria’s foreign minister said U.S.-led air strikes had failed to weaken Islamic State…”

New York City – Another Ferguson?

The Huffington Post wrote on December 3:

“Judge Andrew Napolitano, the senior judicial analyst for Fox News, said Wednesday that he was shocked by a grand jury’s decision not to indict a New York City police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, describing Garner’s death as ‘criminally negligent homicide.’… ‘This is not Ferguson, Missouri,’ Napolitano continued. ‘This is not somebody wrestling for your gun, this is not where you shoot or be shot at. This is choking to death a mentally impaired, grossly obese person whose only crime was selling cigarettes without collecting taxes on them. This does not call for deadly force by any stretch of the imagination.’…

“Napolitano said he was taken aback by the grand jury’s decision, which was made public on Wednesday. Garner, 43, died July 17 in Staten Island, New York while he was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes. A bystander’s video of the arrest shows New York City police Officer Daniel Pantaleo appearing to put Garner in a chokehold, a move that is prohibited under NYPD policy. In the video, Garner screams ‘I can’t breathe!’ multiple times before his body goes limp. A medical examiner later ruled his death a homicide.

“This is the second recent high-profile case in which a grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the killing of an unarmed black civilian, following last week’s decision in the case of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

“A nationwide series of protests erupted immediately following the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot an unarmed Brown on Aug. 9. New York officials braced for similar protests on Wednesday. While the reaction to the Ferguson grand jury decision largely broke down along party lines, with many conservatives agreeing that Wilson should not have faced trial, Napolitano, a libertarian, is one of a number of conservatives who have expressed outrage at the grand jury’s decision in the Garner case…”

Subsequently, charges were published by the Daily News on December 4 that the grand jury was “rigged.” Ramsey Orta who video-recorded the killing of Garner and who testified before the grand jury, was quoted as saying: “When I went to the grand jury to speak on my behalf, nobody in the grand jury was even paying attention to what I had to say… People were on their phones, people were talking… people were having side conversations…”

Another sad day for the perception of American “justice.”

The USA—More Divided Than Ever

Der Spiegel Online wrote on December 3:

“In March 2008, when Barack Obama, then a candidate for president, gave his big speech on racism, he sounded like the one who could unite the country. But in November of this year, Obama is — contrary to his intentions — the president of a country that is more divided than ever before. And one of the deepest divisions runs between blacks and whites… When Obama delivered a statement last Monday evening at the White House about the grand jury decision, he seemed more helpless than at almost any other time during his presidency. Even as he called on blacks in Ferguson to remain calm and peaceful, the first shops were being looted and set on fire. His comments seemed strangely uninspired and apprehensive — as though he had already succumbed to resignation…

“Making matters worse is the discrimination practiced by state institutions such as law enforcement. The chances that a young black man will be shot dead by the police, for example, is 21 times greater than it is for young white males. The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown is far from abnormal. Just 10 days ago, a 12-year-old boy was shot and killed by a police officer in Cleveland because he was playing with a toy pistol at a playground…

“Six years after Obama’s race speech, more than a quarter of blacks in American live below the poverty line. Among whites, that figure is 12.8 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, the median annual income of a white household was about $27,000 higher than that of a black household in 2011…

“Almost half of all murder victims and about 40 percent of the US prison population are black, even though the African-American share of the population is just 12.6 percent… it is also true that Obama has never really presented himself as an advocate of African-Americans during his time in office…

“Equal opportunity was the subject of Obama’s State of the Union address in January and, in it, he cited two examples. The first was Misty DeMars, a white woman from a Chicago suburb who counts among the long-term unemployed. The second was Estiven Rodriguez, a 17-year-old student from New York who immigrated to the US as a nine-year-old from the Dominican Republican without speaking a word of English. DeMars was meant to represent the difficulty women face in advancing their careers. And Rodriguez served as an example of how immigrants can succeed when given the chance. He didn’t mention a single black person in his speech.”

Pope Francis Seeks Dialogue with Muslims

The Associated Press reported on November 29:

“Pope Francis on Saturday stood in two minutes of silent prayer facing east inside one of Istanbul’s most important religious sites [known as the Blue Mosque]… Francis prayed alongside the Grand Mufti of Istanbul, Rahmi Yaran, who had his palms turned toward the sky in a Muslim prayer, inside the 17th-century Sultan Ahmet mosque… The Vatican added the stop at the Blue Mosque at the last minute to show Benedict’s respect for Muslims.

“Francis then visited the nearby Haghia Sofia, which was the main Byzantine church in Constantinople — present-day Istanbul — before being turned into a mosque following the Muslim [Ottoman Turks’] conquest of the city in 1453… A few dozen well-wishers outside Haghia Sophia waved a combination of the Turkish and the flag of the Holy See. One carried a banner that read: ‘You are Peter.’”

Deutsche Welle added on November 29:

“In a gesture of harmony between religions, Pope Francis stood alongside a senior Islamic cleric for a moment of contemplation at Istanbul’s most famous mosque… Pope Francis removed his shoes as he entered the Sultan Ahmet mosque, widely known as the Blue Mosque, on Saturday… [The Pope] was taken through the mosque by Istanbul’s Grand Mufti Rahmi Yaran. The two paused for two minutes facing Mecca alongside each other, the pope closing his eyes, bowing his head and clasping his hands in front of the cross he wore on his chest, the cleric performing an Islamic prayer…

“The three-day papal visit to Turkey is seen as a test of Francis’ ability to build bridges, as he had to establish and strengthen ties with Muslim leaders…”

Reuters wrote on November 30:

“Pope Francis said on Sunday that equating Islam with violence was wrong… Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, caused storms of protest throughout the Islamic world in 2006, when he made a speech that suggested to many Muslims that he believed Islam espoused violence… [Pope Francis said:] ‘You just can’t say that, just as you can’t say that all Christians are fundamentalists. We have our share of them (fundamentalists). All religions have these little groups,’ he said. ‘They (Muslims) say: … “the Koran is a book of peace, it is a prophetic book of peace”’”.

The Pope’s comments are ridiculous. We have proven time and again in our Updates, through direct quotes from the Koran, that those believing and following these teachings cannot be described as peaceful, or that Islam teaches pacifism. Also, the Pope’s inflammatory comments about “fundamentalist” Christians should tell everyone how he views those who live by their belief in the literal inspiration of the Bible.

Pope Francis Seeks Unification with Greek Orthodox Christians

The Associated Press wrote on November 30:

“Pope Francis and the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians demanded an end to the persecution of religious minorities in Syria and Iraq on Sunday and called for dialogue with Muslims, capping Francis’ three-day visit to Turkey with a strong show of Christian unity. Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I issued a joint declaration urging leaders in the region to intensify help to victims of the Islamic State group, and especially to allow Christians who have had a presence in the region for 2,000 years to remain on their native lands…

“Francis, who represents the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church, and Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, called for ‘constructive dialogue’ with Islam ‘based on mutual respect and friendship.’

“The Catholic and Orthodox churches split in 1054 over differences on the primacy of the papacy, and there was a time when patriarchs had to kiss popes’ feet. At the end of a joint prayer service Saturday evening, Francis bowed to Bartholomew and asked for his blessing ‘for me and the Church of Rome,’ a remarkable display of papal deference to an Orthodox patriarch that underscored Francis’ hope to end the schism.

“In his remarks Sunday, Francis assured the Orthodox faithful gathered in St. George’s that unity wouldn’t mean sacrificing their rich liturgical or cultural patrimony or ‘signify the submission of one to the other, or assimilation. I want to assure each one of you gathered here that, to reach the desired goal of full unity, the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith,’ he said.

“The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, acknowledged the novelty in Francis’ message. While experts from both churches continue to debate theological divisions between them, Francis and Bartholomew are ‘pushing with incredible strength toward union’ through their frequent and warm personal contacts, Lombardi said.”

Zenit added on November 30:

“‘We are already on the way towards full communion,” Pope Francis is affirming in regard to the Orthodox… Patriarch Bartholomew said that… while the process of reunification can be sometimes ‘rugged,’… it’s ‘nonetheless irreversible,’ and is needed… Both the Pope and the Patriarch agreed that for various reasons, the upheaval in the Middle East and persecution of Christians makes union all the more urgent…

“the Pope and Patriarch signed a joint declaration… ‘We express our sincere and firm resolution, in obedience to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to intensify our efforts to promote the full unity of all Christians, and above all between Catholics and Orthodox,’ it stated. The declaration also called for Catholic and Orthodox faithful to ‘join us in praying “that all may be one.”’

As long as the daughter churches [but excluding “fundamentalists” and other “minorities, see above] will return to the “mother church,” the Pope is willing to compromise…

Pope Francis’ Contradictory Messages

ABC News wrote on November 28:

“Pope Francis urged Muslim leaders to condemn the ‘barbaric violence’ being committed in Islam’s name against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria as he arrived in neighboring Turkey Friday… He reaffirmed that military force was justified to halt the Islamic State group’s advance… ‘As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights… As such, any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the omnipotent is the God of life and peace.’”

On the one hand, Pope Francis says that military force (i.e., “violence”) against religious fanatics is justified. With the same breath, he states that “any violence” seeking religious justification must be condemned. So what is it?

Donald Tusk—The New President of the EU Council

Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 26:

“With the appointment of Donald Tusk as president of the powerful EU Council, a politician from Eastern Europe will be placed in one of Brussels’ most important positions for the first time… Tusk wanted to prove that his country was a responsible EU member — and he succeeded. Another reason for his successful foreign policy is Poland’s good relationship with Germany…”

We have felt for a long time that Catholic Poland will play an important role in Europe.

Meet Angela Merkel’s Germany and Europe

The New Yorker wrote on December 1, 2014:

“Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany… is the world’s most powerful woman… On a continent where the fear of Germany is hardly dead, Merkel’s air of ordinariness makes a resurgent Germany seem less threatening… The ongoing monetary crisis of the euro zone has turned Germany, Europe’s largest creditor nation, into a regional superpower—one of Merkel’s biographers calls her ‘the Chancellor of Europe.’… American politics is so polarized that Congress has virtually stopped functioning; the consensus in Germany is so stable that new laws pour forth from parliament while meaningful debate has almost disappeared…

“Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who was Germany’s defense minister between 2009 and 2011, said that Merkel took a ‘Machiavellian’ approach to the [euro zone] crisis. She had the stamina to keep her options open as long as possible, and then veiled her decisions behind ‘the cloud of complexity.’ Guttenberg said, ‘This made it easier for her to change her mind several times rather dramatically, but at the time no one noticed at all.’… Merkel realized that she could not allow the euro-zone crisis to capsize the project of European unity. ‘If the euro falls, then Europe falls,’ she declared…

“Merkel’s commitment to a united Europe is not that of an idealist. Rather, it comes from her sense of German interest—a soft form of nationalism that reflects the country’s growing confidence and strength. The historic German problem, which Henry Kissinger described as being ‘too big for Europe, too small for the world,’ can be overcome only by keeping Europe together… She needs Europe because… Europe makes Germany bigger…

“When the Wall fell, Putin was a K.G.B. major stationed in Dresden. He used his fluent German and a pistol to keep a crowd of East Germans from storming the K.G.B. bureau and looting secret files, which he then destroyed. Twelve years later, a far more conciliatory Putin, by then Russia’s President, addressed the Bundestag ‘in the language of Goethe, Schiller, and Kant,’ declaring that ‘Russia is a friendly-minded European country’ whose ‘main goal is a stable peace on this continent.’ Putin praised democracy and denounced totalitarianism, receiving an ovation from an audience that included Merkel… As a Russian speaker who hitchhiked through the Soviet republics in her youth, Merkel has a feel for Russia’s aspirations and resentments which Western politicians lack. In her office, there’s a framed portrait of Catherine the Great, the Prussian-born empress who led Russia during a golden age in the eighteenth century. But, as a former East German, Merkel has few illusions about Putin. After Putin’s speech at the Bundestag, Merkel told a colleague, ‘This is typical K.G.B. talk. Never trust this guy.’…

“In early 2008, when President George W. Bush sought to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, Merkel blocked the move out of concern for Russia’s reaction and because it could cause destabilization along Europe’s eastern edge. Later that year, after Russia invaded two regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Merkel changed her position and expressed openness to Georgia’s joining NATO. She remained careful to balance European unity, the alliance with America, German business interests, and continued engagement with Russia…

“When, this past March, Russia annexed Crimea and incited a separatist war in eastern Ukraine, it fell to Merkel to succeed where earlier German leaders had catastrophically failed. The Russian aggression in Ukraine stunned the history-haunted, rule-upholding Germans. ‘Putin surprised everyone,’ including Merkel, her senior aide told me. ‘The swiftness, the brutality, the coldheartedness. It’s just so twentieth century—the tanks, the propaganda, the agents provocateurs.’…

“Merkel ruled out military options, yet declared that Russia’s actions were unacceptable—territorial integrity was an inviolable part of Europe’s postwar order—and required a serious Western response. For the first time in her Chancellorship, she didn’t have the public with her. In early polls, a plurality of Germans wanted Merkel to take a middle position between the West and Russia. A substantial minority—especially in the former East—sympathized with Russia’s claim that NATO expansion had pushed Putin to act defensively, and that Ukrainian leaders in Kiev were Fascist thugs. Helmut Schmidt, the Social Democratic former Chancellor, expressed some of these views, as did Gerhard Schröder—who had become a paid lobbyist for a company controlled by the Russian state oil-and-gas giant Gazprom, and who celebrated his seventieth birthday with Putin, in St. Petersburg, a month after Russia annexed Crimea. The attitude of Schmidt and Schröder deeply embarrassed the Social Democrats.

“A gap opened up between élite and popular opinion: newspapers editorializing for a hard line against Russia were inundated with critical letters. Merkel, true to form, did nothing to try to close the divide…

“Merkel takes a characteristically unsentimental view of Russia. Alexander Lambsdorff, a German member of the European Parliament, said, ‘She thinks of Russia as a traditional hegemonic power that was subdued for a while and now has reëmerged.’ Ukraine forced Merkel into a juggling act worthy of Bismarck, and she began spending two or three hours daily on the crisis. Publicly, she said little, waiting for Russian misbehavior to bring the German public around. She needed to keep her coalition in the Bundestag on board, including the more pro-Russian Social Democrats. And she had to hold Europe together, which meant staying in close touch with twenty-seven other leaders and understanding each one’s constraints: how sanctions on Russia would affect London’s financial markets; whether the French would agree to suspend delivery of amphibious assault ships already sold to the Russians; whether Poland and the Baltic states felt assured of NATO’s support; the influence of Russian propaganda in Greece; Bulgaria’s dependence on Russian gas. For sanctions to bite, Europe had to remain united…

“Germans told me that anti-Americanism in Germany is more potent now than at any time since the cruise-missile controversy of the early eighties… In a sense, German anti-Americanism is always waiting to be tapped…

“Earlier this year, President Joachim Gauck made headlines when he called on Germany to take its global responsibilities more seriously, including its role in military affairs. It was the kind of speech that Merkel (who had no comment) would never give, especially after a poll commissioned by the foreign ministry in May showed that sixty per cent of the public was skeptical of greater German involvement in the world. German journalists find Merkel nearly impossible to cover… The private Merkel they admire and enjoy but are forbidden to quote disappears in public. Any aide or friend who betrays the smallest confidence is cast out…”

Putin Tells the World

The Associated Press reported on December 4:

Russian President Vladimir Putin in his annual speech on Thursday defended the Kremlin’s aggressive foreign policy, saying the actions are necessary for his country’s survival. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March and was later accused of supplying pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine with ammunition and manpower…. ‘No one will succeed in defeating Russia militarily,’ he said. ‘They would have been delighted to let us go the way of Yugoslavia and the dismemberment of the Russian peoples, with all the tragic consequences. But it did not happen. We did not allow it to happen.’”

In a related article, the Associated Press wrote on December 4:

“Putin… described [Crimea] as Russia’s spiritual ground, ‘our Temple Mount,’ and added that national pride and sovereignty are ‘a necessary condition for survival’ of Russia.”

Mubarak Acquitted

Deutsche Welle reported on November 29:

“An Egyptian court on Saturday rejected a case against former President Hosni Mubarak for alleged involvement in the killing of protesters during a 2011 uprising against his 30-year rule. Mubarak, along with his sons Alaa and Gamal, was also cleared on a separate corruption charge related to gas exports to Israel, but will remain in prison on other charges of embezzlement. The court also acquitted former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six of his aides on charges of ordering the killings.

“Mubarak had been charged with having failed to prevent the killing of hundreds of protesters during the revolt, which ultimately led to his ouster. Eight-hundred Egyptians died during the protests. Saturday’s rulings can be appealed… In June 2012, a court sentenced Mubarak to life imprisonment on the charges, but this ruling was overturned in early 2013, and a retrial ordered. He is the first-ever Egyptian ruler to be tried and sent to prison. He is already also serving a three-year sentence on separate embezzlement charges in a case that saw his two sons put behind bars for four years.

“The 86-year-old Mubarak has been staying at an army hospital in southern Cairo on grounds of poor health. He was flown by helicopter to the Cairo Criminal Court to hear his verdict and sentencing, state media said… His successor as president, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, is also on trial after being removed from power in July 2013 by then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who has since himself been elected to the post. Morsi stands accused of having committed acts of violence both during the revolt against Mubarak and during later protests against his own rule that led to his own downfall.

“Since Morsi’s removal, Egyptian police have waged a crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood followers in which at least 1,400 people have died.”

BBC News added on November 29:

“The verdict means no-one has been held responsible for the killing of more than 800 protesters during the 2011 revolution. It is as if the dead committed mass suicide, said one Egyptian journalist on Twitter. Relatives of those killed in 2011 had awaited Saturday’s verdict with trepidation. Mahmoud Ibrahim Ali, whose wife was killed, had little faith in the judiciary, believing it simply did the government’s bidding. ‘The regime is the same,’ he told AP news agency. ‘Names have changed but everything is the same.’’’

It seems, nothing ever changes in Egypt.

Early Elections in Israel?

TSA wrote on December 2:

“For the second time in about two years, Israel appears to be headed toward elections. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a news conference Tuesday that he will support a bill to dissolve the Knesset, leading to elections next spring. Ahead of the announcement, Netanyahu fired two key Cabinet ministers, Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni, after they publicly criticized his performance as prime minister…

“The collapse heralds an acrimonious end to a coalition of rivals ranging from the nationalist-right to the center-left… Should Netanyahu win another term, he has indicated that he will revert to a more stable coalition of right-wing parties — including the haredi Orthodox factions…

“The Knesset is likely to approve new elections in the coming days, leading to a national vote in March or April…”

Rise of the Occult

The Daily Mail wrote on November 30:

“Ouija boards are flying off the shelves. Not in the super- natural sense — but the commercial one. The device, said to be a method of contacting the spirit world, is experiencing an unexpected renaissance. Google reports that sales of the board are up 300 per cent, and it is threatening to become a Christmas ‘must buy’.

“The culprit is Hollywood, and a new horror film titled Ouija. Low-budget, lowbrow, it tells a familiar story — of kids dabbling with the ‘other side’ and coming off second best. The critics hammered it, but cinema-going teens, looking for something scary in the Halloween season, loved it… Cue big box office takings and huge demand for Ouija boards, many manufactured by the American toys giant Hasbro. Being a canny company, Hasbro even helped finance the making of the film Ouija, which has put new life into the business of talking to the dead…

“‘It’s like opening a shutter in one’s soul and letting in the supernatural,’ says Peter Irwin-Clark, a Church of England vicar who has witnessed the dark side of Ouija. ‘There are spiritual realities out there and they can be very negative.’

“The board itself is a simple thing, combining the letters of the alphabet and the numbers 0 to 9 with the words Yes, No and Good-Bye. With it comes a planchette or pointer. Players are told to sit around the board, each place two fingers ‘lightly’ on the pointer, and concentrate — before starting to ask questions in turn. ‘Ask your questions slowly and clearly,’ read the instructions. ‘And wait to see what the planchette spells out for you.’ The planchette then ‘moves of its own volition’ towards specific letters and numbers, according to Christina Oakley Harrington, proprietor of Treadwell’s, a London bookshop specialising in the esoteric and the occult. ‘You feel it pulling away from the fingers. I’m not dim — I have a PhD — but it’s not being pushed. It’s mysterious.’…

“The year 1973 saw the release of hit film The Exorcist, in which a young girl takes to communicating with an unseen being by means of such a board. The being is a demon that goes on to possess her… William Peter Blatty, author of the novel on which it was based, was inspired by a tale from the Forties, about Roland Doe. The teenager was said to have become possessed after playing with a Ouija board for long spells, his spiritual infestation manifested by scratches, levitation and poltergeist activity…”

These demonic activities must be avoided by all means.

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