Germany In Turmoil
It may seem to many Americans that everything in Germany is getting back to normal: The German party delegates of CDU/CSU and SPD overwhelmingly approved the grand coalition pact. Almost 95% of the SPD voted for pacifist East German Matthias Platzeck, a 51-year-old ally of outgoing chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, succeeding Franz Muentefering as SPD party chairman. The confirmation of East German Angela Merkel as new German chancellor–the first female leader in Germany’s history–is virtually assured.
Still, dark clouds can be seen on Germany’s horizon, when one observes carefully what is happening. Most of the U.S. press does not portray, however, an accurate picture of the real dangers. Their reporting is one of cautious optimism–especially in regard to a hoped-for friendlier relationship between the Bush and the Merkel administrations. The German press paints quite a different picture.
AFP somewhat accurately described German sentiments in its article of November 12, 2005:
“There is little optimism at the coalition pact, either from the press or industry leaders. ‘The coalition deal is a declaration of bankruptcy,’ the top-selling Bild newspaper said. An editorial said taxpayers were being made to pay for the mistakes of successive governments. ‘The two big parties which, in doing nothing to tackle the situation in recent decades, have brought the country to the point of bankruptcy, are making us, the people, pay for their mistakes.’ The centre-left Berliner Zeitung newspaper labelled the agreement ‘a big disappointment’ and said it offered few long-term solutions. ‘It is hoped that this coalition pact will only be temporary and that this government realises once it takes office that the agreement cannot last for long,’ it added.”
At present, there is not much hope for such reconsideration. Angela Merkel proclaimed that Germany will have to be governed according to the coalition pact. She said that raising taxes was an “honest” way to deal with Germany’s problems–even though she had promised the German people during her election campaign that she would not raise taxes.
Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 14, 2005:
“After some seven weeks of wrangling, Germany’s two biggest parties finally agreed on a governing coalition last Friday. Nobody seems terribly impressed with the outcome and criticism has come quickly–and loudly. And if the mass-circulation tabloid Bild is any indication, then there is nowhere to go but up in the popularity contest. Already on Saturday, the paper started what looks to be an all-out smear campaign against the new coalition. ‘This Is How Expensive it Will Be for You!’ screamed the weekend headline, referring to the tax hikes and tax-loophole closures agreed to by the SPD and CDU. On Monday, the paper continued with the headline, ‘Grand Coalition Is Telling Everyone to Pay Up: Only the Politicians Are Sacrificing Nothing!’… [The] Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [wrote:] ‘No one can be satisfied with this coalition treaty…'”
Der Spiegel continued: “The conservative daily Die Welt… has no time for patience and slams the new government before it has even taken office. Calling the CDU-SPD coalition the ‘united social democrats,’ the paper calls the agreement ‘devastating.’ ‘More state, higher tax burden, strangling of the economy in the name of “courage and humanity”: that is the core of this government program. It will stimulate the black economy and tax flight and will drive even more companies out of Germany.'”In an accompanying article, Der Spiegel wrote:
“Cowards, liars, short-sighted opportunists, and — well — pimps. Those are the linguistic darts currently being thrown in the direction of Angela Merkel’s coalition government… Financial Times Deutschland says the government’s plans are causing outrage across the country. ‘A handful of politicians are sitting together in Berlin and devastating Germany,’ writes the paper in an editorial next to a cartoon showing an unhappy German left with nothing but his vest and underpants after his empty-pocketed trousers have been taken away from him. Not a single member of the negotiating teams has come up with any proposals that could be termed forward-looking or confidence inspiring, the paper says. ‘What’s happening in Berlin is an attack on democracy.’ Ordinary Germans are losing faith in the parliamentary system, it warns darkly. ‘The makers of the grand coalition are reducing the state to the function of a grand pimp that doesn’t give a hoot about rationality, promises or the future — and which appears to be primarily focused on looking after itself.’… Business daily Handelsblatt says the last few weeks have made clear that Merkel will fail to create the ‘coalition of new possibilities’ she had promised in the wake of the post-election chaos. ‘The state is restructuring its finances — but it’s doing so at the expense of its citizens,’ writes the paper.”
The Economist wrote on November 15: “Almost two months after Germany’s inconclusive election, the proposed ‘grand coalition’, with Angela Merkel as chancellor, has been approved by the country’s three main parties. But their agreed programme of government is an awkward compromise and may do little to revive Europe’s largest economy.”
The Independent added on November 14:
“Germany’s chancellor-designate, Angela Merkel, faced a barrage of criticism over her future government’s economic reforms yesterday, prompting speculation that her grand coalition with the Social Democrats would not last its four-year term.”
On November 15, 2005, Der Spiegel Online wrote the following about Merkel’s anticipated foreign politics:
“… hopes of a big shift in German foreign policy [between USA and Germany] are likely to go unfulfilled. Changes will likely be more in style rather than substance… at present, it’s hard to tell what her foreign policy will look like because she has been forced to share power with Schröder’s Social Democrats to form a government… Merkel’s desire to please Bush is far from limitless. She has already ruled out sending German troops to Iraq because it would cause a public outcry in Germany… Merkel in any case has far too much on her domestic plate to devote a lot of time to foreign policy…”
On November 11, 2005, the EUobserver added this thought: “The new German government plans to use its 2007 presidency of the EU to revive the ratification of the EU constitution… the CDU-SPD government will support the continuing ratification of the treaty by member states, and will strengthen the process more directly when it takes over the helm of the EU in January 2007, the parties proclaimed. ‘We pledge to continue the ratification of the European constitutional treaty after the first half of 2006 and to give new impulses to [the ratification] under the German presidency in the first half of 2007,’ the [grand coalition pact] reads.”
Keep your eyes on the developments in Germany, which is destined, according to Biblical prophecy, to become the most influential European country in the near future.
USA and Human Rights
Der Spiegel Online published the following article this week:
“Inside the Pentagon, officials are arguing with Vice President Dick Cheney about a new set of US Defense Department guidelines for interrogating suspected terrorists. The debate over an anti-torture bill [introduced by McCain] is a sad moment for a country that once stood for human rights…
“How did we get to this point? Because the United States is bound by the Geneva Convention governing prisoners of war, and by the 1987 Convention Against Torture with its prohibitions against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, McCain’s legislation should not even be necessary. But after 9/11, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (at that time White House counsel to the president) and others gave their legal opinion that prohibitions on ‘cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment’ didn’t apply to noncitizens being held by the United States outside the United States. Then, because torture, even outside the United States, remains a crime, they redefined ‘torture’ so narrowly that almost all violent and coercive methods of interrogation were excluded. Then, because of the U.S. criminal statute making violations of the Geneva Conventions a crime, they insisted that the conventions did not apply to anyone they termed a suspected al-Qaida member….
“Human rights activists around the world who live under repressive regimes have long looked to this country for leadership; [the U.S.] government, flawed as it is, has launched crusades against human rights abusers abroad and helped prevent terrible suffering by demanding that torture stop. Now we are facing a new world: one in which the most powerful country on the planet publicly declares itself above the laws that have protected individuals everywhere from disappearance, torture and murder. It is a sad and dark moment…”
Open Letter by ABA
On November 15, 2005, Michael Greco, President of the American Bar Association (ABA), published the following open letter:
“The U.S. Senate last week adopted with no hearings and with little debate Senator Lindsey Graham’s proposal to eliminate habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees, denying them access to federal courts. The American Bar Association urges the senators to reconsider and defeat that enormous change to our fundamental legal system.
“Throughout our nation’s history, starting with the defense by lawyer, later president, John Adams of Massachusetts, of the British soldiers who fired on patriots in the Boston Massacre, it has been our commitment to basic principles of justice, even for the most unpopular among us, that has allowed us to maintain the high moral ground in the world, the most strategically important territory for us to occupy as we struggle with the enemies of freedom.
“Our influence in the world is directly affected by our actions with respect to those we detain. The prisoners in Guantanamo have been held there, largely incommunicado, for four years. That fact alone offends our heritage of due process and fairness. The writ of habeas corpus was developed precisely to prevent the prolonged detention of individuals without charge, by allowing those held to petition the federal courts. To eliminate the right of habeas corpus would be shocking to our nation.
“As Senator Graham himself has stated repeatedly, in the battle against terrorism we cannot allow ourselves to become like the enemy. Adoption of his amendment would undermine the very principles that distinguish us from our enemies.
“Michael S. Greco
From time to time, we refer to articles reporting about futile human attempts to solve their problems. To give another example, NewScientist published a revealing article on November 9, 2005, about tackling the dangers from asteroids: “NASA scientists have come up with a surprisingly simple yet effective way to deflect an Earth-bound asteroid–park a large spacecraft close by and let gravity do the work.”
This proposal was hailed by scientists as the “best idea” that they have seen. Sounds great. Sounds easy. Sounds as good as done. If it were not for some “minor” problems…
The article pointed out:
“For a 200-metre-wide asteroid, the spacecraft would need to weigh about 20 tonnes and lurk 50 metres from its target for about a year to change its velocity enough to knock it off course… The strategy crucially relies on our ability to detect an asteroid threat about 20 years in advance. For larger asteroids this is realistic. But… many smaller asteroids–less than about 500 metres across–may go unnoticed until only a few years before impact.”
Man’s “best idea” is nothing but ridiculous. And if that is all man can come up with…
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town…Again!
Even though the truth about Christmas is easily available, Christmas-loving people just don’t seem to care. Wal-Mart tried to make a difference–and failed. And the fairy tale of Santa Claus and the “Christmas story” continues…
In its article, “What is the real Christmas story?” NBC News pointed out, on November 11, 2005, just a few of the MANY inconsistencies between the traditional “Christmas story” and the Biblical account:
“As to the day we celebrate, December 25th, that had been the birthday Sol Invictus–the sun God, Constantine’s favorite god before he became a Christian… after Jesus is born, three kings bearing gifts follow a star to Bethlehem to find the infant, the new Messiah. But that’s not exactly what it says in the Gospel of Matthew… Matthew’s Greek word is usually translated ‘wise men,’ or ‘maji,’ and he never says how many. But he certainly didn’t imply they were kings… Matthew tells about the strange guiding star, how it stopped over the house–not stable–where Jesus lay with his mother…
“In the years since all this happened, an estimated 30,000 different variants of Christianity have competed–sometimes violently–for people’s hearts. From wars and insurrections to inquisitions and great campaigns for moral rearmament, it all sprang from a rocky place that surrounds the sea of Galilee, where a young woman gave birth to a little boy. And from that one incontestable fact, sprang all manner of interpretations, opinions, beliefs, and faiths…”
And so, Wal-Mart began an experiment to dispense with Christmas decorations, songs and celebrations in their stores. But, their experiment failed miserably. As Bild Online reported on November 14: “Wal-Mart wanted to abolish Christmas.” But the tabloid added the words: “Not With Us.”
The mass-circulation tabloid continued to explain that a customer wrote to the management, complaining about Wal-Mart’s lack of decorations and the playing of Christmas songs in their stores. The management responded by explaining that Christmas was a hotchpotch from different cultures, stating that Santa Claus originated in Russia and the Christmas Tree in the Middle East, and that the Celts had invented the Mistletoe. The customer complained to the highly influential and powerful “Catholic League,” which threatened to call for a boycott of Wal-Mart because of their “discrimination of Christmas.” Wal-Mart quickly issued a public apology for their “inappropriate” and “unsettling” comments, filled their stores with Christmas decorations, and even started a special Christmas page on their Website.
It seems there is still a long way ahead for man to confront and face the facts and the truth–and not only when dealing with Christmas. What is man so afraid of–and why? For more information, please read our free booklet: “Don’t Keep Christmas.”
Thirty and Broke
Business Week Online published an interesting article, on November 11, 2005, on the higher costs of education. When reading this article, it becomes obvious that most students are broke when they are 30, because they are taking out student loans. This is obviously not the way to go, if it can be avoided. It is much better to live modestly now for a short while, than to live in despair for many years to come. The article, titled, “Thirty and Broke,” pointed out:
“[A female student] finished up at the University of Tulsa in 1997 with a business degree and $20,000 in student loans, which makes her, by official reckoning anyway, a typical graduate. She is now paying off her loans, $300 a month; at that rate it will take her until she’s about 50… Many of those 30-year-olds feeling unduly burdened by their financial obligations have had to make compromises on some of life’s vital decisions… A college degree is now the minimum required to find a place in the working world that affords some job satisfaction and material comfort… The cost of higher education, however, has increased so dramatically in the past decade and a half–up by 63 percent at public schools and 47 percent at private–that more students have to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to attend, ensuring that many of them are paying off those loans well into their 40s.
“[Another female student] graduated from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., seven years ago and now has $42,000 in student loans and $7,000 in credit-card debt… [A male student] knows he will have to live frugally for years so that he can pay off the $71,000 he owes in student loans and the $40,000 balance on his credit cards… Fourteen percent of graduates said in 2002 that they had delayed marriage because of their loan obligations, compared with 9 percent in 1987.
“So after [another female student] graduated in May, 1998, with a double major in Latin American studies and economics, it was a scandal that she returned home $21,000 in debt and unemployed. Her fiancé… had graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1997 with about $27,000 in student-loan debt and $3,000 in credit-card debt. When he finishes in May, 2006, they will have accumulated an additional $100,000 in debt.”
Iraq’s New Democracy
Iraq was invaded to bring democracy, freedom and justice to the people. And the former leaders of Iraq were to be brought to justice in a fair trial. But–it’s not that easy.
As The Associated Press reported on November 15, 2005, “In another setback to the Saddam Hussein case, a defense lawyer who was wounded in an ambush that killed one of his colleagues said Tuesday he had fled Iraq and was seeking asylum in the Gulf state of Qatar… Al-Khuzaie was injured in a Nov. 8 ambush in western Baghdad in which another defense lawyer, Adel al-Zubeidi, was killed. Al-Zubeidi was the second defense lawyer involved in the case to be assassinated since the trial opened Oct. 19. Saddam’s personal attorney, Khalil al-Dulaimi, broke off dealings with the Iraqi special court following the killing of lawyer Saadoun al-Janabi, whose body was found two days after the opening session. After the assassination of the second lawyer, al-Dulaimi indicated the defense team would not show up for the Nov. 28 session. About 1,100 Iraqi lawyers involved in the case behind the scenes also announced they were quitting the defense team because of security fears.”
This is not a good testimony for the victory of democracy and legal principles in a country which apparently cannot guarantee some of the most fundamental rights of a democracy–that of a fair trial and the independence of the legal system.
AFP reported on November 15, 2005, that “The French parliament [approved] a bill extending for three months a state of emergency, aimed at quelling a wave of unrest which President Jacques Chirac said revealed a deep identity crisis.” In a televised speech, Chirac “vowed that all rioters would face justice and warned that parents who failed to keep their children under control should face punishment. Chirac also promised to crack down on illegal immigration and called for the rules on family reunification–which allow an estimated 100,000 people to enter the country each year–to be strictly upheld… He also announced plans to improve access to the workplace for black and Arab youths, the children and grandchildren of immigrants from France’s former African colonies, who complain of high unemployment and discrimination.”
Right-winged radical French politicians have called for the deportation of all immigrants and foreigners from France’s former African colonies–regardless of whether they are legally or illegally residing in France. The dark history of Nazi Germany comes to mind when hearing such frightening demands.
Russia’s Fear of the EU
The Russian paper Pravda launched an attack on the European Union in its article, dated November 14, 2005. The paper stated: “The idea to use the opportunity of EU membership as an impetus for democratic reforms in candidate-countries has proved to be wrong… What is the point of the EU’s existence? Even specialists may find themselves at a loss when answering this question. When the idea of European integration appeared, it became clear that European nations launched the unification process to overcome the destructive legacy of WWII. The current existence of the European Union is based on political mythology.”
Questioning whether democratic reforms are actually taking place in certain countries–they mention Bulgaria and Romania as examples–they continue: “In the meantime, Romania and Bulgaria continue to receive money from European tax payers. In 2006, Bulgaria is to receive 545 million euros, whereas Romania will enjoy 1.155 billion. These impressive numbers explain why so many countries have evinced great interest in becoming EU members: the process is much more pleasant than the result.”
Although financial interests are clearly THE main impetus of certain countries to join the EU, Pravda addresses a much more poignant issue: Russia’s fear of the EU. For Pravda to complain about a lack of democratic reforms in certain former East-bloc countries appears highly hypocritical when considering the ongoing human rights violations in Russia and other countries under Russia’s influence and power. BUT–Russia IS afraid of the EU. And even though their current “objections” are somewhat unwarranted and motivated by selfish desires, they might be right–in the long run.
For more information, read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”
The Queen of England’s Anglican Church
On November 16, 2005, The Telegraph reported about Queen Elizabeth’s recent controversial speech about the Christian faith in England. The paper pointed out:
“The Queen opened the Church of England’s General Synod yesterday with a ringing endorsement of the ‘uniqueness’ of the Christian faith. In a speech that reflected her personal beliefs as well as her role as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she contrasted the enduring nature of Christianity with the rapid changes in society… The Queen has come under pressure from liberals to step down as Supreme Governor of the Church… Her position is thought by some to be offensive to people of other faiths such as Jews, Muslims and Hindus and to Christians who are not members of the Anglican Church.”
The article also pointed out that “The Prince of Wales caused controversy in a 1994 television interview when he said that when he became king he would like to be known as Defender of Faith rather than Defender of the Faith to reflect the spectrum of belief in Britain.” The paper concluded: “The Queen’s words will be welcomed by churchgoers who fear that the message of Christianity is in danger of being diluted amid efforts to embrace a multi-faith culture, particularly after the terrorist attacks on London.”
The Independent wrote again about the ongoing war between the USA and most of the rest of the world, pertaining to the Internet.
We addressed this issue in our Update #201. Basically, the US is presently controlling the flow of information. In the likely event of an attack on the USA, the sustaining of the Internet would be an important factor. A perpetrator would have to get control of at least one of the root servers before attacking, or make plans to let the Internet go into a state of disarray for a period of time.
Another big issue is that certain alphabetic characters can be substituted for similar looking characters in English. While it is no problem for a computer to distinguish the differences, the human eye could very well miss it (i.e., “b” and one of the three Cyrillic characters that look like a “B”). This could quickly become a security issue as, for instance, criminals try to obtain eBay names and passwords.
The Independent stated:
“At present, the closest the internet has to a governing body is an obscure American, non-profit corporation called ICANN. This quasi-independent body has, for years, quietly regulated domain names and allocated addresses. But its lease is nearly up. And the world’s rich and powerful will join battle for control of what they see as a gold mine. The Bush administration wants ICANN turned into a private corporation, on US soil and subject to US controls. Much of the rest of the world objects to that but the loudest opponents are countries with a history of censorship and repression, such as China and Iran. The likely balance of power in that struggle rests with the European Union, whose position is not clear.”
The article then published a summary of some of the national laws governing the Internet:
“BURMA–The military junta permits only two service providers, both under direct state control. Of the approximately 25,000 internet users in 2003, virtually all were hand-picked members of the military or government.
“CHINA–China has the world’s most developed internet censorship technology, thanks, ironically, to companies such as Yahoo. The pro-democracy writer Wang Yi’s blog was closed two weeks ago, days after he was nominated for an international award.
“FRANCE–The Law on the Digital Economy (2004) states that service providers are legally responsible for the content their customers post online. Providers must also check the legality of any links they maintain.
“UNITED ARAB EMIRATES–Though one of the best-connected countries in the Gulf, the UAE’s only service provider is state-owned. Medical and scientific sites that show naked parts of the human body, as well as publications about Buddhism, Sufism, religious sects and the US anti-war film-maker Michael Moore, are all blocked. Marriage agencies are allowed, but dating sites are banned.
“GERMANY–Ogrish.com, a website displaying graphic images of violence and mutilation, has recently been blocked by its service provider after a complaint from a watchdog group called Jugendschutz (Youth Protection).
“IRAN–Iranian censorship officially aims to protect the public from immoral, “non-Islamic” sites, but in reality concern centres on the political possibilities of the internet: it is currently easier to access pornographic websites than reformist ones. The authorities recently ordered all privately owned service providers to put themselves under government control, or else shut down.
“TURKEY–The line between criticism in the public interest and insult in online publications is very blurred in the eyes of the courts. Cybercafé owners are obliged to monitor the activity of their users for pornography, gambling, political separatism or any challenge to the state.”