Current Events

Special Report on Russia

Why Russian Brutality

Der Spiegel Online wrote on April 23:

“Andrei Illarionov, 45, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Cato Institute and former chief economic advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, discusses the reasons for the Kremlin’s brutal treatment of the political opposition.”

In his interview with Der Spiegel, Illarionov pointed out:

“Those in power deliberately use violence to intimidate. They want to break the people’s will to resist and act independently, and to do so they are constantly raising the level of aggression. Unlike the mass terror under Hitler, Stalin and Mao, we in Russia are currently experiencing a campaign of terror against individuals and groups…

“Employees of the intelligence agencies… now occupy more than 70 percent of all top positions in the state machinery. The destruction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Yukos oil company, the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the polonium poisoning of former agent Alexander Litvinenko — the goal in each of these cases is to keep society in a state of constant fear. That makes it easier to control the people. This is the only reason the state-controlled media are allowed to report at length on these cases. It contributes to the climate of fear…

“Russia is certainly no longer a free country. We are moving in the direction of Zimbabwe… All our democratic institutions are also being dismantled… This is why Russia is becoming more isolated diplomatically, and why economic growth is slowing. In a comparison with the 15 former Soviet republics, Russia is now third to last when it comes to economic growth.”

“Russia Cannot Be A Strategic Partner for Europe”

In a related article, Der Spiegel Online wrote on April 23:

“Russian authorities cracked down heavily on opposition protests over the weekend, arresting the anti-Putin camp’s leader, Garry Kasparov, and hundreds of other demonstrators in violent clashes. German commentators voice their concern about the oppressive path Russia is taking and ask: What is it that has Putin so scared?…

“Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“‘It’s only explicable in terms of fear, namely the fear that those in power in Moscow have themselves, and the fear that they want to spread. Russia is led by former and current intelligence agents, with the natural consequence that suspicion and the hunger for power hold sway over the state… But the reaction in the West is little more than a brief shudder. Putin’s Russia is needed as an energy supplier and is much in demand as a partner, particularly by Germany. … The demonstrators in Moscow and St. Petersburg are therefore not only a nuisance for Putin, but also for his Western friends. The puzzle is not so hard to solve after all.’

“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“‘[Russia] cannot be a strategic partner for Europe … Europe should keep its dependence (on Russia), particularly in regard to energy security, as low as possible — and not, as is currently the case, keep increasing it.’

“The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

“‘The events (of this weekend) make it clear that people and their rights get — literally — beaten down in Russia. A regime that takes recourse in such repressive measures and persists in discrediting itself is clearly afraid… The opposition needn’t hope for support from outside. “Tell your heads of government that we live in a police state,” Kasparov shouted to foreign journalists. This call too may well trail off, unheard.’

“Conservative Die Welt writes:

“‘In Putin’s worldview, political opponents do not have any right to exist. In Russian politics, it’s not about a competition of ideas — with the possibility of a change of government — but rather about holding on to power. Any means of doing so is correct and justified — the baton, the judicial sentence, or the brochures of the Putin youth movement Nashi, in which the opposition is condemned as enemies of the people and agents of the West — just like in the time of Joseph Stalin. That doesn’t mean that we are about to witness the return of the Great Terror, like in 1937. It does mean that Russia is on a course which is miles away from Western values. …

“‘The West would do well to call a spade a spade. False considerateness — out of fear that the energy supplier might turn off the tap — is out of place. The West owes the dissidents in Putin’s empire open and honest words.'”

These developments are likely to continue. It appears that Russia will become more and more autocratic and dictatorial–so much so that Europe will finally intervene–with disastrous consequences for the entire world. Daniel 11:44 predicts that a future European leader will be greatly troubled by rumors or “news from the east and the north”–Russia and its Far Eastern allies–and he shall go out “with great fury to destroy and annihilate many.”

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin Dies

The Associated Press reported on April 23:

“Former President Boris Yeltsin, who engineered the final collapse of the Soviet Union and pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy, died Monday. He was 76… Yeltsin steadfastly defended freedom of the press, but was a master at manipulating the media. His hand-picked successor, Vladimir Putin, has proven far more popular even as he has tightened Kremlin control over both Russia’s industry and its press…

“Yeltsin… stood atop a tank to resist an attempted coup in August 1991, and spearheaded the peaceful end of the Soviet state on Dec. 25 of that year… But Yeltsin… damaged his democratic credentials by using force to solve political disputes, though he claimed his actions were necessary to keep the country together.

“He sent tanks and troops in October 1993 to flush armed, hard-line supporters out of a hostile Russian parliament after they had sparked violence in the streets of Moscow. And in December 1994, Yeltsin launched a war against separatists in the southern republic of Chechnya. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the Chechnya conflict, and a defeated and humiliated Russian army withdrew at the end of 1996. The war solved nothing–and Russian troops resumed fighting in the breakaway region in fall 1999…

“Yet Yeltsin had made a stunning debut as Russian president. He introduced many basics of democracy, guaranteeing the rights to free speech, private property and multiparty elections, and opening the borders to trade and travel… Yeltsin pushed through free-market reforms, creating a private sector and allowing foreign investment. In foreign policy, he assured independence for Russia’s Soviet-era satellites, oversaw troop and arms reductions, and developed warm relations with Western leaders… Throughout his nearly decade-long leadership, he remained Russia’s strongest bulwark against Communism…

“In the course of the Yeltsin era, per capita income fell about 75 percent, and the nation’s population fell by more than 2 million, due largely to the steep decline in public health… The economy sank into a deep recession in summer 1998, but Yeltsin rarely commented on the troubles and never offered a plan to combat them…

“Yeltsin met about once a month with Putin… He felt certain that the reforms he championed would continue under Putin…’If I had doubts that the reforms might be reversed, I would not have resigned,’ Yeltsin said.”

However, Putin’s power trip has brought Russia back to the times of much-dreaded dictatorship.

Worsening EU-Russia Relations

EUObserver wrote on April 23:

“The European Commission failed to persuade Russia to lift its 16-month old ban on Polish meat imports during high-level talks this weekend, amid worsening EU-Russia relations four weeks before the EU-Russia summit in Samara… ‘Everything remains as before,’ Polish prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in Warsaw on Sunday night… ‘We do not agree to opening discussions with Russia on a new agreement as long as this issue is not settled.’

“Poland last year vetoed launching negotiations on a new EU-Russia treaty, saying the Russian meat ban is a political ploy to sow disunity between old and new EU states and to punish Warsaw for supporting the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine… The deadlock could see Samara turn into the same embarrassing flop as the EU-Russia summit in Helsinki last November, as well as derail EU efforts to conclude the new bilateral treaty before Russian presidential elections in 2008.

“If the Russian-Polish row is solved in time, EU member Lithuania is threatening to veto treaty talks unless Russia resumes oil pipeline supplies to its petrol refinery in Mazeikiu. Vilnius also accuses Moscow of political punishment for not selling the refinery to a Russian bidder…

“On top of this, UK-Russia relations have become strained over London’s refusal to extradite anti-Putin oligarch Boris Berezovsky and an ongoing probe into the notorious murder in England of anti-Kremlin activist Alexander Litvinenko last year…

“From Moscow’s point of view, the EU’s talk of democratic and market economy values is an attempt to weaken Vladimir Putin’s administration and to get its hands on Russian oil and gas assets, in the context of an ever-expanding NATO. EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson last week spoke of ‘a level of misunderstanding or even mistrust we have not seen since the end of the Cold War…each suspects the other of double standards. Both believe the other is using the energy weapon as an instrument of politics.'”

“Most Important” Election in France

The Wall Street Journal wrote on April 23:

“In the first round of French presidential elections, goes an old saw, voters choose with their hearts. Yesterday’s favorites, of 12 candidates on the ballot, were center-right Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Ségolène Royal. In the runoff, held on the second Sunday after the first, the French are said to vote with their heads, coldly eliminating one.

“The two-week campaign that formally started last night between Sarko and Ségo will show which of the candidates the French dislike least. Mr. Sarkozy, an energetic and divisive former minister, must build a majority off his 30% score yesterday. Though the candidate himself has shunned personal attacks on opponents, the Sarkozy camp is bound to portray the first woman to get this far in a French election as an ingenue unfit for the Élysée Palace. The Socialists will seek to seize the momentum from their candidate’s strong 25% showing to make Mr. Sarkozy out to be an authoritarian maverick with a bad temper and dangerous ideas.

“This election is the most important in decades, bringing in a new generation to tackle the country’s deep economic and social problems. So, after flirting with alternatives in centrist François Bayrou and the far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen, voters put aside doubts about both the main contenders and went for a straight left-right fight in an election that saw record turnouts…

“In a change with previous elections, this one saw little discussion of the world beyond France. The country’s domestic problems are challenging enough. But a newly confident French leader will likely seek to reclaim the country’s role at the heart of Europe… Mr. Chirac leaves behind a presidential office weakened by corruption scandals, his own inefficacy and the Fifth Republic’s inherent flaws… The presidency, as Mr. Chirac also says, will be decided in the next 15 days. One can’t envy the winner’s task.”

The French Elections–from Russia’s Point of View

The Russian Pravda wrote on April 24:

“The result of new presidential elections in France will definitely change the political atmosphere in the country. Relations with Russia may radically change as well. Both candidates… have already criticized the Kremlin’s line… The relations with Russia were certainly not a priority issue for the French electorate; however the basic candidates for presidency touched upon it. ‘The evolution of Russia makes me uneasy,’ says Sarkozy. He says that the Russian policy in Chechnya makes him prefer the USA to Russia. Royal in her turn states that France must speak the language of truth with Russia… Judging by the above statements of the candidates who have entered the second round of the presidential election, the relations between Russia and France will grow worse at least at first.

“Let us suppose that Segolene Royal wins the elections, and left-wing forces will be the ruling power. It was always a more serious problem for Moscow to establish relations with France’s leftists than with the right-wing forces. However, the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy may bring even more problems. Unlike Royal who openly criticizes US’s policy, the former interior minister of France [Sarkozy] is open for closer cooperation with Washington… Sarkozy did not support the US campaign in Iraq openly, but he said that democracy united France and the USA, and so he rather preferred Washington to Moscow. The Hungarian origin of Nicolas Sarkozy seems to be a real obstacle to the development of relations between Russia and France as East-European problems may interfere here.

“No matter who of the two candidates wins the presidential election, the personality of any of them is going to be a historical figure. Sarkozy is not a genuine Frenchman. His father came to France from Hungary and got the French citizenship in 1980. The father of Sarkozy’s mother was a Greek. As for Segolene Royal, she may be the first-ever woman president of France if [she] wins the race. So, in any case a new president of France is going to be a type of president not typical of France… Neither Sarkozy nor Royal witnessed the alliance formed between France and Moscow for fighting Nazism. But the political views of both were formed under the influence of the cold war which implies that their attitude to Moscow may be negative.

“A new president who is to come will have rather serious problems to solve during a presidential term. Hundreds of thousands of the French have to work abroad in Switzerland, Belgium and Canada because of the high taxes at home. Much is to be done for regulation of the labor legislation. Arab and African immigrants that are flooding France are getting a more burning problem every year. The problem of the Corsican separatists is not settled yet. Aboriginal minorities – Alsatians, Basques and Bretons – demand official recognition of their national and linguistic rights. They say that Paris must stop converting them into Frenchmen.

“As for France’s foreign policy the country is to take a really crucial decision: either to establish closer relations with the USA or resist ‘the Anglo-Saxon world order’. France is to decide either to keep teaching Russia some good sense and build more visa barriers for Russians, or to see Russia as a partner equal in rights and ease the visa regime for Russian tourists.”

U.S. World Bank President vs. Europe

AFP wrote on April 22:

“The furor surrounding World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz exposes the need for overdue reform of the six-decade-old development lender itself, according to experts… Questions about the World Bank’s relevance are being raised, including whether the post-war settlement under which the bank is led by an American and the IMF by a European is past its sell-by date…

“European governments have been pressing hardest for Wolfowitz to bow out over the controversy surrounding his Libyan-born girlfriend, Shaha Riza, who on his direction was given a generous pay deal and guaranteed promotions when she was reassigned from the bank to the US State Department in 2005…

“But for one expert close to the bank, the Europeans have only themselves to blame, after they swallowed their doubts over the US government’s nomination of the former Pentagon deputy chief to take over the bank two years ago. ‘They stood aside when he was nominated as if somehow he had completely changed,’ the expert said on condition of anonymity. ‘And over the past year all the people I knew (at the bank) were deeply unhappy — they saw the things that were happening, but they didn’t say anything.'”

“Scandal Season in Washington”

Der Spiegel Online published an article on April 24 with the headline, “Scandal Season in Washington.” The magazine pointed out:

“The seats are getting hotter for World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Both still enjoy the support of the US president, but dismissals may be just around the corner…

“Gonzales is in a fix because of false statements on eight fired federal prosecutors. There is much to suggest the prosecutors were handed pink slips for political reasons, and that the White House was involved. Gonzales then went on to lie about his involvement in the matter. On Thursday of last week, he had a last chance to dig himself out of the hole he finds himself in. But his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee — which he had weeks to prepare for — was a disaster. Not even the Republicans on the panel were in the mood to defend the embattled prosecutor, and Gonzales likewise did himself no favors. Not only did he try to avoid almost every question, but he also claimed memory loss no less than 64 times. This astonishing lack of recall went so far that Gonzales couldn’t even remember a decisive meeting in his office that had taken place just a few months earlier.

“The country’s top law-enforcement officer sounded ‘like the sort of person who forgets where he parked his car,’ the Washington Post scoffed. Republican Senator Tom Coburn snarled at Gonzales: ‘The best way to put this behind us is your resignation.’ The Attorney General of the United States has become a laughing stock for both friend and foe…

“The situation Paul Wolfowitz finds himself in is hardly much better… A veritable ‘civil war’ is raging within the World Bank, the Financial Times wrote recently. And Wolfowitz’s opponents in this conflict comprise the overwhelming majority of the World Bank’s 13,000 employees. A regime change seems to be in the offing, and this time it won’t be happening in Baghdad.”

Mere War Propaganda?

AFP reported on April 25:

“A pair of high-profile US army figures accused the military of spreading outright lies and manipulating their stories for a hero-starved public, during testimony before Congress Tuesday.

“One was Kevin Tillman, the brother of a US football star killed by ‘friendly fire’ in Afghanistan three years ago, who said the military lied about the circumstances of his death to avoid a public relations fiasco and to draw attention from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

“The other was Jessica Lynch, a female soldier who decried her inaccurate portrayal as a ‘little girl Rambo,’ firing her weapon down to the last bullet before being captured by Iraqis in early 2003, and then daringly saved by US forces nine days later. ‘It was not true … I’m still confused as to why they choose to lie and try to make me a legend,’ she told the House Government Reform Committee hearing on ‘Misleading Information from the Battlefield.'”

The article continued to quote Kevin Tillman, as follows:

“‘A terrible tragedy that might have further undermined support for the war in Iraq was transformed into an inspirational message that served instead to support the nation’s foreign policy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan… It was utter fiction,’ he said, accusing the military of ‘deliberate and careful misrepresentations.’ In the hours immediately after his brother’s death, ‘crucial evidence was destroyed — including Pat’s uniform, equipment and notebook,’ he said.”

More Terrible Weather Conditions Across the USA

The Associated Press reported on Wednesday, April 25:

“Search teams worked their way through wreckage-strewn neighborhoods in this border town [i.e., Texas-Mexican border] Wednesday after a tornado killed at least 10 people and destroyed two schools and more than 20 homes… Wednesday morning, several mobile homes from the community of about 26,000 residents were missing, officials said. More than 70 people were reported injured in Eagle Pass…

“Severe thunderstorms also battered other parts of Texas with high wind, flooding rain and hail. Streets were flooded and roofs peeled off homes in North Texas as the first thunderstorms moved through Tuesday afternoon, followed by another line of severe storms about six hours later. Television footage showed drivers and residents being rescued from flooded cars and suburban neighborhoods.

“American Airlines canceled about 200 flights in Dallas… The airline also diverted about 80 flights bound for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to other airports, including San Antonio.

“Elsewhere, as much as 3.5 inches of rain fell Tuesday on western and central Iowa, washing out roads, flooding basements and causing at least one landslide that buried part of Interstate 29 in Sioux City in trees and mud… More than 5 inches of rain fell at Holdrege and Kearney, Neb…

“In Colorado, six buses carrying at least 60 children were stranded when the storm dropped more than a foot of snow in about two hours… Crews used Sno-Cats to rescue dozens of motorists from snow-covered roads on the plains east of Colorado Springs… Evergreen, Colo., in the foothills west of Denver, reported 16 inches of snow… A tornado damaged several buildings near the small town of Wild Horse about 110 miles southeast of Denver… Another twister touched down in north-central Oklahoma…”

WHY Doesn’t God Fight Our Battles?

Have you wondered WHY God is not giving victory to our “Christian” armies? There are certainly many reasons for this phenomenon, one of which is without doubt our indifference toward pagan religions and demonic worship. God told ancient Israel that He would not fight for them, if they were to turn their back on Him and follow other gods instead. God has not changed. In this context, notice the following article, describing the state of affairs of our armed forces:

The Washington Times wrote on April 24:

“The Bush administration has agreed to allow Wiccan pentacles in military cemeteries in a court settlement announced yesterday by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“The settlement was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin to settle a suit filed in November against the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of several families of Wiccan soldiers and Circle Sanctuary, a 200-acre Wiccan nature center 30 miles west of Madison, Wis. The sanctuary holds the remains of two soldiers, one who fought in Vietnam and the other in Korea.

“Until now, the U.S. government had refused to issue grave markers, headstones or memorial plaques with the Wiccan symbol to join those of 38 other religions — or those with none. In addition to the Christian cross, the Jewish six-pointed star and the Islamic crescent, atheists, Hindus, humanists, Sikhs and members of the Eckankar, Serbian Orthodox and United Moravian faiths also have symbols.
“The star in Wicca, a nature-based religion, symbolizes earth, wind, fire, spirit and water. Although its followers say it is not related to the occult, they meet in small groups called ‘covens’ that are usually headed by a woman called a ‘high priestess.'”

Although Wiccan followers might disagree and try to put their spin on the facts, it is generally understood and believed that Wiccan worship is connected with witchcraft in one way or another. God has expressly forbidden us to worship other gods and to engage in witchcraft, sorcery and other magical practices, including consulting mediums or horoscopes, or conducting and participating in séances, as it may open us up to contact and fellowship with the demonic world. NO WONDER that God is not fighting our battles for us these days.

“Large-Scale” Terrorist Attacks on Britain?

Times on Line wrote on April 22:

“Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq are planning the first ‘large-scale’ terrorist attacks on Britain and other western targets with the help of supporters in Iran, according to a leaked intelligence report. Spy chiefs warn that one operative had said he was planning an attack on ‘a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki’ in an attempt to ‘shake the Roman throne’, a reference to the West…

“The report, produced earlier this month and seen by The Sunday Times, appears to provide evidence that Al-Qaeda is active in Iran and has ambitions far beyond the improvised attacks it has been waging against British and American soldiers in Iraq… It follows revelations last year that up to 150 Britons had travelled to Iraq to fight as part of Al-Qaeda’s ‘foreign legion’. A number are thought to have returned to the UK, after receiving terrorist training, to form sleeper cells.”

German Wirtschaftswunder 2007

Der Spiegel Online wrote on April 24:

“Experts in the government and academia are astonished over the strength of Germany’s economic recovery. Unemployment is declining more rapidly and the government coffers are filling more quickly than during any other economic recovery in postwar German history… stories of vibrant success can be heard all over Germany, which is experiencing the kind of surge in economic energy it hasn’t seen in a long time…

“The labor market isn’t the only area where improvement is on the horizon. Germans… can find themselves witnessing something akin to a miracle recovery. Tax revenues are growing from month to month… According to the economic research institutes, the federal budget will be balanced by next year. To put that figure into perspective, only two years ago Germany was bumping up against the 3-percent limit for new debt stipulated under the European Union pact that ensures the stability of its common currency, the euro.

“The new German dynamism under Chancellor Angela Merkel is attracting attention abroad, too. The London-based Financial Times, notoriously critical of Germany, writes admiringly of a ‘new economic miracle’ — and even suggests that less dynamic economies, such as France or Italy, might be well-advised to look to Germany as a model.”

Germany and USA at Odds Over Climate Protection

Deutsche Welle reported on April 23:

“In an interview published Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she did not expect Washington to adopt European goals on climate protection at an EU-US summit next week… The EU championed the Kyoto Protocol to reduce harmful emissions after it was abandoned by the United States in March 2001. But the treaty has been almost crippled by the absence of the United States, which alone accounts for about a quarter of all this pollution… Germany helped broker an agreement last month under which the 27 EU member states will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels over the next 13 years.”

Toyota Soon “the World’s Largest Automaker”?

Bloomberg wrote on April 24:

“Toyota Motor Corp. sold more cars and trucks than General Motors Corp. for the first time, helped by demand for fuel-efficient models. Toyota’s global sales rose 9.2 percent to 2.35 million vehicles in the Jan.-March quarter, the company said today. GM’s sales gained 3 percent to 2.26 million vehicles during the same period. The addition of its sixth North American factory in San Antonio last year helped spur Toyota’s sales in the U.S., GM’s home market. Demand for Toyota’s Corolla and Camry sedans has surged as sales of GM’s light trucks and sport-utility vehicles have slumped on higher fuel prices… Toyota, which probably earned more than any other company in Japan last fiscal year, is forecast by some industry analysts to overtake GM to become the world’s largest automaker on an annual basis this year…”

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