Current Events

Hamas in Power

The Palestinian elections have made one thing very clear: The “democratic process of free elections” in that part of the world has backfired on the USA and Europe and has produced an outcome least desired by the Western World. It has ended any peace talks and might have pushed Israel into the position of having to act unilaterally. The somewhat sugar-coated comments by some Western leaders cannot hide the fact that the outcome of the Palestinian elections is a disaster for the Western World. One is reminded of Dr. Frankenstein who created a monster which turned against his “creator.”

On January 27, 2006, Reuters reported:

“U.S. President George W. Bush has urged the Arab world to embrace democracy, even though free elections might well empower Islamists fiercely opposed to Washington’s policies in the region, including its support for pro-Western Arab governments. Islamist parties have sometimes done well at the polls in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Algeria, but only in Iraq have they taken power — and there only after a U.S.-led invasion toppled the Sunni-dominated rule of Saddam Hussein and organized elections won by factions representing the Shi’ite majority.”

Der Spiegel Online added on the same day:

“The Hamas landslide in Palestinian elections has stunned Israelis, but it may also have brought them a rare moment of clarity: with peace talks off the table, Israel will most likely pursue unilateral actions, drawing its own borders and separating itself from the Palestinians… Israel–whose own elections in two months could be heavily influenced by the Palestinian results–was likely to focus on speeding up construction of the separation barrier, which runs along and through parts of the West Bank.”

In a related article, Der Spiegel Online stated:

“Amidst fears for the future of the Middle East peace process, the foreign ministers of the United States, European Union, Russia and the General Secretary of the United Nations are trying to remain as optimistic as possible about an election result in the Palestinian Authority that most are judging as dismal… In Europe, political leaders are waiting for signals from Hamas about how it will lead the Palestinian Authority… The EU’s Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said the EU will work with any Palestinian government which commits itself to peaceful methods. Britain’s Tony Blair perceives a fork in the road at which Hamas must ‘decide between a path of democracy or a path of violence.’ German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said his country could conceivably work with Hamas, but only under the stipulation that it ‘renounce violence and recognize the right of Israel’s existence.’

“In Berlin, Gerd Weisskirchen, the foreign policy spokesman for the Social Democrats, the junior partner in the coalition government, has threatened to let the Palestinian Authority’s ‘financial springs dry up’ by cutting off EU funding for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Eckart von Klaeden, his colleague in the conservative Christian Democrats concurred, threatening sanctions if Hamas does not show its willingness to play a ‘constructive role,’ beginning with recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the renunciation of militant force…

“Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung is more hopeful that a constructive solution is still possible… Austria’s Standard is not so easily consoled. ‘The election victory of Hamas is a shocking event, a giant step back, and at the same time the result of 20 years of a mismanaged conflict in the Mideast,’ it writes. The paper concludes that the Hamas victory has many fathers. ‘Especially the Palestinian Authority under Arafat, which was both corrupt and lenient towards terror,’ the paper writes. ‘Then the European Commission which pumped money into Gaza and Ramallah without securing the principles of “good governance.” And finally Israeli governments, which already during the first intifada in the eighties repeatedly supported the Islamists in order to weaken the PLO.’

“In Germany, Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung sees the results as part of a broader trend of Islamization in the Middle East… In its editorial, the leftist Die Tageszeitung expresses the belief that success will temper the extremists in Islamist Hamas movement… The paper also prints an interview with Israel’s ex-ambassador to Germany, Avi Primor, in which Primor affirms this view of a very protean Hamas. He believes that the Hamas like the PLO may give up its fundamental opposition to the state of Israel. ‘It is possible, not because they will suddenly love us, but because they will now have different goals and other needs and requirements.'”

On January 30, Der Spiegel Online published this additional report:

“Following her visit to Israel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel travels to the West Bank on Monday to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The German press explores the implications of her decision not to meet the Islamists from Hamas despite their resounding election victory last week… On Sunday, Merkel made clear that unless the Islamists back down from their hard-liner positions, it was ‘unimaginable’ that the Palestinian Authority would continue to be directly funded with EU money. ‘We’ll have to see what the reaction is,’ she said after meeting interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. ‘It’s important that Hamas understands that we have clear principles.’ Merkel set three conditions for European cooperation with Hamas: The group must recognize Israel’s right to exist, it must renounce violence, and the extremists must also accept the steps that the peace process has already achieved. That, of course, is a tall order for Hamas — and it’s likely unfillable in the immediate future.”

In a related article, Der Spiegel Online reported on January 29 that “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged Sunday that the United States had failed to understand the depth of hostility among Palestinians toward their longtime leaders. The hostility led to an election victory by the militant group Hamas that has reduced to tatters crucial assumptions underlying American policies and hopes in the Middle East… Indeed, Hamas’s victory has set off a debate whether the administration was so wedded to its belief in democracy that it could not see the dangers of holding elections in regions where Islamist groups were strong and democratic institutions weak… ‘There is a huge transition going on in the Middle East, as a whole and in its parts,’ [Rice] said. ‘The outcomes that we’re seeing in any number of places, I will be the first to say, have a sense of unpredictability about them.'”

What will Hamas do? Will they accept the European and American demands? What will Europe and the USA do if Hamas does not agree to their demands? Will they stick to their guns, or will they buckle? What will Israel do if they find themselves–again–isolated and unprotected? What will the rest of the Arab World do? Not surprisingly, Iran’s President welcomed the outcome of the Palestinian elections. Will he get involved actively in this current crisis? It is critical that we watch the further developments in this explosive part of the world, which could affect all of us.

Iran and Plutonium

WorldNetDaily reported on January 29: “While the U.S. and E.U. nations are scrambling to convince Iran to abandon its program of uranium enrichment and debating bringing the Islamic Republic before the U.N. Security Council, Tehran may be in the process of directly purchasing the plutonium it needs to make a bomb from North Korea, intelligence sources say… For the first time since the nuclear crisis began in 1994, reports the London Times, North Korea has sufficient fissile material to sell some to its ally while retaining enough for its own purposes… While constructing a weapon from plutonium is more complicated, only 15 to 20 pounds of the material is needed to make each nuclear bomb–a relatively small amount of material to transport between the two countries.”

Russia and Its Missiles

The Associated Press reported on January 31 that “Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted on Tuesday that Russia has missiles capable of penetrating any missile defense system, an apparent allusion to the U.S. defense network, Russian news agencies reported. ‘Russia last year tested missile systems that no one in the world has and won’t have for a long time,’ he was quoted… ‘These missile systems don’t represent a response to a missile defense system, but they are immune to that. They are hypersonic and capable of changing their flight path.’ Putin said he had shown the working principles of the missile systems to French President Jacques Chirac during a visit to a Russian military facility. ‘He knows what I’m talking about,” RIA-Novosti quoted Putin…”

The US Supreme Court and the Catholic Church

The Hamilton Spectator published the following article on January 28, prior to the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court. He was subsequently confirmed and sworn in on January 31:

“[Once Alito is confirmed], the Supreme Court will… have a Catholic majority for the first time in U.S. history. This is a remarkable historical turnaround. The Protestant majority once denounced Catholics as minions of the anti-Christ and servants of a foreign power, marginalized Catholic schools, demonized Catholic pastimes, particularly drinking, and tried to keep them out of high political offices… The Catholic takeover of the court has… coincided with the worst scandal in the Catholic Church’s history in the U.S.: a pedophilia crisis involving abusive priests and cover-ups. So why have the Republicans been so keen to tap Catholics? The most obvious reason is political: the Catholic vote is up for grabs…

“There is more than just vote-counting at work here, however. Conservative Catholics have formed a close alliance with one of the Republican Party’s most powerful constituencies — Protestant evangelicals. Evangelicals were the very heart of Protestant anti-Catholicism. But the two groups united in fury at the Supreme Court’s decision to make abortion a constitutional right in Roe v Wade (1973); and they have now broadened their alliance on issues from school choice to family values… Millions of traditional Catholics manage to ignore the ‘crazy aunt of Catholic dogma’ on matters such as birth control. The court’s Catholic majority is unlikely to vote as a block, even though they were all appointed by Republican presidents. Antonin Scalia (Reagan 1986) opposes the legalization of sodomy, but Anthony Kennedy (Reagan 1988) supports it… Alito’s arrival may be more of a swansong for Catholic America than the beginning of sustained popish hegemony… The Catholic faith is becoming ever less distinctive as conservative Catholics slide into the pews with conservative evangelicals, and liberal Catholics swap ideas with liberal Protestants. Three of Alito’s most bitter critics in the Senate were fellow Catholics — Edward Kennedy, Patrick Leahy and Richard Durbin. Which is surely a triumph for the American way.”

The Catholic Church and Its Expensive Copyright

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on January 27: “Are words of a man of God priceless? Not if they come from the pope. The Vatican has come under heavy criticism for its decision to charge publishers to reprint excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s public statements and written works dating back to his professorial days as… Joseph Ratzinger. According to La Stampa, a Turin newspaper, the Vatican publishing division… recently billed a Milan-based publisher 15,000 euros (about $18,000) for printing a total of 30 lines from speeches Benedict delivered as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The lines were spoken to fellow cardinals immediately before the conclave to choose a new pope and during his subsequent inauguration ceremony. A statement released… said the decision was based on a Vatican decree, in which the Holy See assumed full copyrights to all of Benedict’s past, present and future writings and pronouncements.”

The Catholic Church’s Desire To Unite Europe

Catholic World reported on January 26:

“Christians must work together to restore Europe’s Christian heritage. That was the message of Pope Benedict XVI to participants in a preparatory meeting for the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly… Pope Benedict said that ‘we are called to proclaim and bear witness in today’s Europe.’ The time for a new evangelization is ripe, he said, because since the fall of the Communist empire that divided Europe, ‘the meeting between peoples is easier.’ Still, the Pontiff said, ‘our presence as Christians will prove incisive and enlightening only if we have the courage to continue decisively down the path of reconciliation and unity.’ In the face of ‘the challenges of modernity and secularization,’  the [pope] urged the ecumenical delegates to make their own countries more conscious of the CHRISTIAN HERITAGE THAT UNITED EUROPE. This, he said, would be an ‘invaluable contribution’ TO THE CAUSE OF UNITY IN EUROPE and among Christians.”

Does the Late Pope Heal People?

The Associated Press reported about this interesting development on January 30:

“A nun’s apparently inexplicable recovery in France from Parkinson’s disease, the same affliction suffered by Pope John Paul II, looks very promising as the miracle needed to beatify the late pontiff, a Polish cleric said. But Vatican officials cautioned Monday that any decision about the healing would take time… A miracle is required for beatification, the last formal step before a person is considered for sainthood. A second miracle is needed for someone to be declared a saint.”

What The Associated Press failed to mention in its article is the claim that the nun was allegedly healed AFTER the pope’s death. Austria’s Networld, in quoting the Italian paper, “Il Messaggero,” explained that the nun was allegedly healed in April, and that science is unable to explain this alleged healing.

The Bible makes it very clear that people who have died are unable to do anything, including “healing” someone. The dead are in their graves, unconscious, and awaiting a resurrection from the dead. But the Bible also predicts that many will be deceived by “lying wonders,” erroneously thinking that they are witnessing a real miracle from God.

World Close to World War III?

Russia’s Pravda published an emotionally inflammable and propagandistic piece on January 29. Even though we don’t agree at all with the gist of the article, it is still interesting to note the following startling statement:

“When will Americans realize that at this moment, the world stands one or two decisions away from WWIII, which would likely see the use of nuclear weapons and subsequent genocides and holocausts that may make those of the 20th Century seem pale by comparison?”

What makes this statement so interesting is the fact of who is its author. None other than John Stanton, who is described by the paper as “a Virginia based writer specializing in political and national security affairs. He is the author of America 2004: A Power But Not Super, and co-author of America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II.” The article does not explain why Stanton feels, exactly, that the world is facing World War III, but it is remarkable that he feels that way.

Americans Spend It All

The Associated Press reported on January 30 that “Americans’ personal savings rate dipped into negative territory in 2005, something that hasn’t happened since the Great Depression. Consumers depleted their savings to finance the purchases of cars and other big-ticket items… Americans not only spent all of their after-tax income last year but had to dip into previous savings or increase borrowing… The savings rate has been negative for an entire year only twice before–in 1932 and 1933–two years when the country was struggling to cope with the Great Depression, a time of massive business failures and job layoffs.”

The Demise of the Dollar

Russia’s Pravda stated on January 31 that “Experts of Standard & Poor’s forecast a global economic collapse. The collapse will be caused with the demise of the US dollar rate against the European currency by more than 30 percent. The dollar, specialists say, may lose almost 45 percent of its current value against the euro. However, it is obvious that even a 30 percent reduction will affect the international economy greatly… Standard & Poor’s (SP) ties the possible decline of the American currency with the imminent rise of the European economy and the payment shortage of the USA…

“The European Central Bank has expressed its concerns with the forecast from Standard & Poor’s. European financial specialists say that the demise of the American currency will endanger the global economy on the whole… According to [the President of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude] Trichet, the world will have to pay a huge price for the ongoing increase of the payment deficit in the USA… If the pessimistic forecast from Standard & Poor’s is destined to come true, the declining dollar will affect the world economy entirely and lead to unpredictable consequences. The crisis will obviously strike a serious blow on the Russian economy too.”

The U.S. State of the Union Address

After President Bush gave his fifth State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 31, The Associated Press published the following analysis on February 1:

“The state of the union is fretful. President Bush acknowledged the public’s agitated state Tuesday night when he gave voice to growing concerns about the course of the nation he has led for five years. His credibility no longer the asset it once was, the president begged Americans’ indulgence for another chance to fix things. There is no shortage: the Iraq war, global terrorism, a nuclear Iran, a stingy global economy, skyrocketing health care costs, troubled U.S. schools, rising fuel costs, looming budget deficits and government corruption… Nearly 46 million Americans have no health insurance, up nearly a million in the last year. Health care costs are increasing three or four times the rate of inflation… parents still wonder about the quality of education in their schools. For the first time in generations, American children could face poorer prospects than their parents and grandparents did… Osama bin Laden has not been caught. Weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq. Victory in that war seems elusive, with more than 2,240 American troops killed–and counting. The solutions Bush offered were relatively small-bore and wrapped in familiar language: tax cuts, health savings accounts, alternative energy research and investments in education to help keep America competitive with emerging democracies; and a stay-the-course approach to fighting terrorism… The mood of the nation is unsettled. Nearly 7 of 10 American believes the country is headed in the wrong direction…”

AT&T Sued For Collaborating With NSA reported on February 1:

“A civil liberties organization filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T this week for collaborating with a U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) program to intercept Internet and telephone communications of U.S. citizens without authorization from a court of law. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), based in San Francisco, filed the suit against AT&T for giving the NSA direct access to its databases of communications records, including whom their customers had phoned or sent e-mail to in the past. The suit was filed Tuesday in the United States District Court of the Northern District of California. EFF is suing the former AT&T before it merged with SBC Communications to become AT&T, says Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the EFF. However, the suit also is intended to protect customers of the new AT&T as it continues to merge the operations of the previously separate companies.

“The EFF alleges that this behavior on the part of AT&T violates several federal laws, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), he says. It also violates the first and fourth amendments, which protect U.S. citizens’ right to speak freely and not to be subject to unreasonable searches, Bankston says. The ECPA was enacted in 1986 as an update to a 1968 law against wiretapping phones that set out provisions for gaining access to electronic communications. Among other things, it prohibits the U.S. government from requiring disclosure of electronic communications from a service provider without proper procedure. The EFF is asking the court to award each AT&T customer involved in the suit about $21,000 in damages, Bankston says.”

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