Current Events

2007–A Year of Failure For the West

Der Spiegel Online wrote on December 28, 2007:

“Ongoing difficulties in Iraq. A Taliban offensive in Afghanistan. And now the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. For the West, 2007 has been a year of failure and missteps… The Thursday assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a huge, shocking and possibly even historic triumph for the enemies of democracy. Even worse, the attack was the gruesome culmination of what has been a successful year for them.

“It is also not reaching too far to say that the shots that fatally wounded Bhutto in Rawalpindi Thursday also killed off any hope that the Islamic world could find peace of its own accord in the foreseeable future.

“The West, too, is more troubled than it has been for a long time. The dismay in the corridors of government is genuine. US President George W. Bush’s statement, which lasted little more than a minute, was eloquent testimony to his speechlessness. This world power has rarely looked so powerless — and Bush has rarely looked so helpless…

“Bush will not be in a position to do much to end this conflict. He is a war president and an unsuccessful one at that. Even if he talks about diplomacy, it sounds like preparation for war. His partners in Berlin, Paris and London will have to act cleverly in this difficult situation. Any belligerence or crowing must be avoided so as to not damage the Western position as a whole. As strange as it might sound, this beleaguered president must be ushered into retirement with dignity and civility… The classic military intervention — Bush’s formula against the danger of terrorism — has not been successful up to now and will not be so in the future. And the situation in nuclear-armed Pakistan is clearly not one where any sort of military operation should be considered…

“But does that mean we should capitulate? Should the West sit on the sidelines sipping tea? Absolutely not.

“The West has to protect itself and its people with everything modern technology has placed at its disposal… And perhaps it is once again time for European diplomacy to open up a new way of seeing things to the Americans. In the altercation with the Soviet Union and the communist bloc, Europe found success. Many in the US were set on a confrontational course while Europeans preferred an easing of tensions. It was the English Prime Minister Winston Churchill, just eight years after World War II ended, who voiced his conviction that, wherever possible, a measured, more patient and less aggressive foreign policy was the way to go.”

Bhutto’s Assassination–the “Coup De Grace” to American Policy

The New York Times wrote on December 31, 2007:

“The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has given the coup de grâce to the botched American attempt to manage a nuclear-armed Islamic state. In recent years, Pakistan has been the home of banks that wired money for the 9/11 plot, been the chief source of illicit nuclear proliferation, offered a tribal-area haven for planners of worldwide terrorism, abetted the reconstitution of the Taliban and educated many a suicide bomber in Islamic religious schools. At the same time, President Pervez Musharraf, in power since a 1999 coup, has received about $10 billion in U.S. aid, much of it to reinforce the Pakistani military in fighting Al Qaeda, the Taliban and global jihadism in South Waziristan and other tribal areas. If a U.S. policy was ever broken, this is it.

“… the United States, out of misplaced deference to Musharraf, failed to secure Bhutto the protection she was demanding. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, visited the United States shortly before her death to plead for help, but was denied the meetings he sought at the top levels of the State Department… Bhutto’s loss is devastating, comparable with Yitzhak Rabin’s. Her Kennedylike family tragedy leaves the fathomless void of what might have been.”

Who Caused Bhutto’s Death?

The Telegraph wrote on December 28, 2007:

“The burial of Benzair Bhutto was today marred by heavy violence across Pakistan as a bitter row broke out over how she died… As hundreds of thousands mourned the murdered opposition leader, the country’s Interior Ministry claimed she had died from hitting her vehicle’s sunroof when she tried to duck after a suicide attack… But the explanation was ridiculed by Farooq Naik, Miss Bhutto’s top lawyer and a senior official in her Pakistan People’s Party. ‘It is baseless. It is a pack of lies,’ he said. ‘Two bullets hit her, one in the abdomen and one in the head. It was a serious security lapse.'”

More Unrest in Pakistan

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 2, 2008:

“The unrest that followed the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has prompted Pakistan’s electoral commission to delay elections until Feb. 18. Opposition parties had demanded the poll go ahead on Jan. 8 and now warn that there could be more riots.

“Opposition parties in Pakistan cried foul on Wednesday after it was announced that parliamentary elections will be postponed until Feb. 18. The official line is that the delay was necessary following the unrest that erupted after opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated last Thursday… The opposition accused the authorities of using delaying tactics to avoid a defeat for the ruling party, which is closely allied to President Pervez Musharraf. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had been hoping to reap a strong sympathy vote in the wake of her murder… “The government had initially blamed the killing on radical Islamists linked to al-Qaida but many Pakistanis suspect the security forces of having had a hand in the assassination. The government insistence that Bhutto died by hitting her head on the lever of the sunroof of her car was widely derided. The PPP insists she died from gunshot wounds.”

Der Spiegel Online added in a related article on January 2:

“Al-Qaida, the secret service or a contract killer sent by President Musharraf? A gun shot, bomb shrapnel or a fatal blow to the head? Wild theories about the death of Benazir Bhutto are making the rounds in Pakistan — and are becoming levers of political power. The news from the United States caused quite a stir: Hillary Clinton, a Democratic candidate for the US presidency, hinted on Sunday that the Pakistani military could be behind last week’s assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Previously, she said in an interview that ‘there was no reason to trust the Pakistani government.'”

China–the World’s New Economic and Military Superpower

The Independent wrote on January 1, 2008:

“Here comes the world’s newest superpower. The rest of the world is gloomily contemplating economic slowdown and even recession. Not in Beijing. China is set to make 2008 the year it asserts its status as a global colossus by flexing frightening economic muscle on international markets, enjoying unprecedented levels of domestic consumption and showcasing itself to a watching world with a glittering £20bn Olympic Games…
“Britain will feel the full power of the new superpower’s confidence. This month, for the first time, China’s state-controlled banks will begin spending some of its $1.33trn (£670bn) in foreign currency reserves on London’s financial markets… But while some may question Beijing’s political motives, there is no doubt that China has arrived as serious power-broker. Last year, it surpassed America as the greatest driver of global economic demand. It is also widely predicted to overtake Germany as the world’s third largest economy this year.”

The Wall Street Journal added on January 2, 2008:

“Beijing’s military has also started to boast about its new weapons and war-fighting capabilities. Peace Mission 2007, cooperative military exercises in Central Asia in August, was China’s first large-scale foreign military deployment, and recent military maneuvers, apparently rehearsals to take Taiwan and disputed islands in the South China Sea, were remarkable in scope and sophistication… China’s military assertiveness has been matched by tougher diplomacy. Last year, a series of high-level meetings showed that Beijing has moved closer to Moscow to cement their ‘friendship for generations’ and confirm their opposition to American initiatives, especially to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

“China’s sustained campaign against German Chancellor Angela Merkel for meeting the Dalai Lama in September is also notably intense. China even threatened military and political responses over economic disputes… at last month’s session of the ‘Strategic Economic Dialogue,’ the high-level talks between the U.S. and China.”

For China’s prophetic role in the near future, please read the Q&A in this Update.

Unrest in Kenya

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 2, 2008:

“The unrest in Kenya following the disputed election victory of President Mwai Kibaki is escalating into a tribal war. On Tuesday more than 40 people, many of them children, burned to death in a church after seeking refuge from machete-wielding members of another tribe. The carnage is starting to remind observers of the Rwandan genocide of 1994… Ever since President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, had himself declared the winner in an election that was obviously manipulated, the tribes of this east African country are at war.

“… the German head of the European Union’s election monitoring mission, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, is about to hold a news conference. Some 150 observers monitored this election debacle. The Kenyans have been eagerly awaiting the Europeans’ verdict on the election for days… Lambsdorff’s assessment is devastating. ‘The elections did not meet international standards of democracy,’ says Lambsdorff. He said EU monitors detected irregularities in two electoral districts where Kibaki won. In each of those two districts, the governing PNU ended up with 20,000 more votes than it received at the first count, said Lambsdorff.  In five electoral districts, members of the EU mission were barred from the vote count, and in some regions the voter turnout was unusually high. ‘We have doubts about these elections,’ Lambsdorff concluded.

“Mwai Kibaki now looks isolated. On Sunday evening… he was hastily sworn in for a second term in a televised ceremony… But the United States, Kenya’s partner in the war on terror, has now distanced itself from him. After the US had initially congratulated Kibaki on his victory, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Washington had serious concerns about the vote count.”

Germany’s Immigration Problems

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 2, 2008:

“An assault by two foreign youths on a German pensioner has triggered conservative calls for a crackdown on ‘criminal young foreigners’ and exposed deeply entrenched xenophobia that casts doubt on this country’s ability ever to fully integrate its 15 million inhabitants with an immigrant background. The 76-year-old pensioner suffered a fractured skull when he was beaten by a 20-year-old Turkish man born in Germany and a 17-year-old immigrant from Greece on December 20 after he asked them to stop smoking on a subway train in Munich, where smoking is forbidden. The pensioner recovered after a spell in hospital and recalls how they spat at him and called him a ‘… German’ before kicking him in the head. Police arrested the attackers shortly afterwards…

“[Hesse state premier Roland Koch stated] that Germany wasn’t a classic country of immigration such as Canada or Australia. ‘In our country we don’t get many cultures meeting to form a new one. Germany has had a Christian-Occidental culture for centuries. Foreigners who don’t stick to our rules don’t belong here.’ His quote ‘We have too many criminal young foreigners’ made a banner front-page headline in Bild on Friday. The paper praised him in an editorial on Wednesday, writing: ‘At last our politicians are quarrelling about the really important issues — the safety of our citizens! Fear of crime and violence by foreign criminals [have] been accompanying us on bus and subway journeys for a long time.’

“Koch’s comments fuelled conservative calls for ‘foreign’ criminals to be expelled from Germany and were echoed by Volker Kauder, head of the conservative parliamentary group in the federal parliament and a close ally of [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel. Kauder told ‘Bild am Sonntag’ that crime by foreigners had ‘been a taboo in Germany’ for too long. ‘We need education camps for hard cases, closed institutions with an overall concept for therapy. Foreigners aren’t our enemies, but criminals are — and we can no longer afford to accept their mocking laughter’…

“Representatives from ethnic minorities say Koch’s comments reveal a key obstacle to integration in Germany. People living here are still widely labelled ‘foreigners’ even if they were born in Germany, even if they have German passports, and especially if they are dark-skinned…

“Criticizing immigration can be a vote-winner in Germany. Koch has successfully tapped the issue before, winning a 1999 state election after he launched a petition against government plans to introduce dual citizenship for foreign citizens living in Germany. The current conservative premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Jürgen Rüttgers, launched a campaign in 2000 against proposed ‘green cards’ for Indian software engineers. The slogan of his campaign to give precedence to homegrown talent over skilled foreign workers was ‘Kinder Statt Inder’ — ‘Children Instead of Indians.’ In many other Western countries, a slogan like that from a mainstream politician would have killed off his career. Yet Rüttgers now runs Germany’s most populous state.

“Merkel herself suggested in a party conference speech last month that mosque minarets should be no higher than church steeples, following local resistance in several German cities to the construction of new mosques.”

Political Crisis Between France and Syria

AFP reported on January 2, 2008:

“Foreign Minister Walid Muallem announced on Wednesday that Syria was breaking off contacts with France on the political crisis in Lebanon, responding to a similar gesture by Paris three days ago. ‘Syria has decided to cease Franco-Syrian cooperation on the Lebanese crisis,’ the minister told a press conference in Damascus. He said Syria had been surprised by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s announcement on Sunday that France was cutting contacts, as it came just two days after Damascus had reached agreement with Paris on a comprehensive deal to end the crisis…

“Sarkozy accused Syria on Sunday of failing to match its words about wanting a settlement to the crisis in Lebanon with deeds on the ground. France ‘will have no more contact with Syria … until we have proof of Syrian willingness to let Lebanon appoint a president by consensus,’ he said. The French foreign ministry reiterated that position on Wednesday.”

Cyprus and Malta Adopt the Euro

The EUObserver wrote on January 1, 2008:

“The European currency is today replacing the national currencies of the two Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus, bringing the number of EU states using the euro to 15 out of the 27 member states… They will add around 1.2 million people to the euro zone – some 800,000 Cypriots and around 400,000 Maltese – bringing the number of those EU citizens using the euro as a national currency to 320 million out of the EU’s total 495-million large population… Of the remaining 12 countries currently not in the euro zone, only the UK and Denmark have chosen not to adopt the European currency for reasons of economic sovereignty [while the other 10 countries have not made yet a final decision on that issue].”

Further Decline of the U.S. Dollar in the Future? wrote on January 1, 2008:

“The dollar may extend a two-year decline against the euro on speculation a slowing economy will make U.S. assets less attractive to investors… The unemployment rate probably increased last month to the highest since July 2006…

“‘The U.S. economy will be pushed close to the recession level,” said Greg Salvaggio, vice president of capital markets in Washington… ‘There will be further dollar weakness in early 2008.” The dollar lost 9.5 percent against the euro in 2007, dropping to $1.4588, following a 10.2 percent drop in 2006…”

In addition, The Financial Times reported that Wall Street had the worst start to a New Year in 25 years. It wrote on January 2, 2008: “US blue-chip stocks on Wednesday suffered the worst start to a new year in 25 years after an index of manufacturing fell sharply, raising fears that the US economy is slowing more than expected.”

“Prosperity Gospel” Under Attack

The Associated Press reported on December 28, 2007:

“The probe by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has brought new scrutiny to the underlying belief that brings in millions of dollars and fills churches from Atlanta to Los Angeles — the ‘Gospel of Prosperity,’ or the notion that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches. All six ministries under investigation preach the prosperity gospel to varying degrees.

“Proponents call it a biblically sound message of hope. Others say it is a distortion that makes evangelists rich and preys on the vulnerable…

“Grassley is asking the ministries for financial records on salaries, spending practices, private jets and other perks. The investigation… has some wondering whether the prosperity gospel is facing a day of reckoning… Prosperity preachers say that it isn’t all about money — that God’s blessings extend to health, relationships and being well-off enough to help others. They have Bible verses at the ready to make their case… Critics acknowledge the idea that God wants to bless his followers has a Biblical basis, but say prosperity preachers take verses out of context…”

Even though we are not going to comment on the accuracy or inaccuracy of the “Prosperity Gospel”–whatever that (unbiblical) term may mean–it cannot be denied that God promises physical blessings to those who obey Him (compare, for example, Malachi 3:8-10). But generally speaking, governmental investigations of any Christian church, which might be conducted because of ulterior motives and/or which might attack or question Biblical truth, should be of great concern to all Christians.

Mary–the Mother of God and of the Church?

VIS wrote on January 2, 2008:

“At the first general audience of 2008… the Pope dedicated his catechesis to the Virgin Mary’s title of Mother of God… [He] recalled that ‘Theotokos’ or ‘Mother of God’ was ‘the title officially attributed to Mary in the fifth century, at the Council of Ephesus of 431’…. Following the Council of Ephesus, ‘Marian devotion underwent an enormous expansion, and many churches dedicated to the Mother of God were built… ‘All the other titles attributed to the Virgin Mary have their foundation in her vocation as Mother of the Redeemer’, he said: the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, and Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church. ‘It was right, then, that on 21 November 1964, during Vatican Council II, Paul VI solemnly attributed to Mary the title of “Mother of the Church.”‘”

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