Merkel Not to Attend Olympics–At Odds With Brown
The Guardian wrote on March 29:
“The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, yesterday became the first world leader to decide not to attend the Olympics in Beijing. As pressure built for concerted western protests to China over the crackdown in Tibet, EU leaders prepared to discuss the crisis for the first time today, amid a rift over whether to boycott the Olympics. The disclosure that Germany is to stay away from the games’ opening ceremonies in August could encourage President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to join in a gesture of defiance and complicate Gordon Brown’s determination to attend the Olympics.
“Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, became the first EU head of government to announce a boycott on Thursday and he was promptly joined by President Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic, who had previously promised to travel to Beijing… Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, confirmed that Merkel was staying away. He added that neither he nor Wolfgang Schäuble, the interior minister responsible for sport, would attend the opening ceremony.
“Hans-Gert Pöttering, the politician from Merkel’s Christian Democratic party who chairs the European parliament, encouraged talk of an Olympic boycott this week and invited the Dalai Lama to address the chamber in Strasbourg… ‘I cannot imagine German politicians attending the opening or closing ceremonies [if the Tibetan crackdown continued],’ he said. Merkel enraged the Chinese leadership a few months ago by receiving the Dalai Lama in Berlin for private talks. Brown is to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader when he visits Britain in May, but is determined to be in Beijing…”
Germany and USA At Odds
Der Spiegel Online wrote on March 28:
“US President George W. Bush wants to bring more Eastern European countries into the military alliance at the upcoming NATO summit. But Germany is thwarting his plans, because of concerns about Ukraine and Georgia — and in deference to Russia.
“German objections dominate the debate over NATO expansion in the final days leading up the military alliance’s summit meeting in the Romanian capital Bucharest. James Goldgeier, a member of the National Security Council in the administration of former US President Bill Clinton, told SPIEGEL ONLINE: ‘I am amazed at how openly the current differences between Berlin and Washington are being aired. In February it was the German role in Afghanistan. Now it’s about the issue of NATO expansion, in which Germany quite openly orchestrated the resistance to Ukraine and Georgia. This is relatively unusual in advance of this sort of summit.’
“Goldgeier’s words ring especially true when one considers the importance of the issue for the Bush administration. NATO expansion is one of the few strategies it took over almost seamlessly from the Clinton administration. ‘Bush absolutely wanted to get the acceptance process for Georgia and Ukraine underway in Bucharest,’ says Goldgeier…”
Not All Happy at NATO Summit–and Germany Prevails Against the USA
Der Spiegel Online wrote on April 3:
“A disappointed Macedonia warned Thursday that its failure to join NATO could lead to instability in the region. While Ukraine and Georgia were also rejected, the two countries welcomed the pledge that they would one day be part of the alliance.”
The article continued:
“A dejected Macedonian delegation walked out of the NATO summit in Bucharest after Greece succeeded in vetoing Macedonia’s membership bid on Thursday… Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki told reporters that 90 percent of his people supported membership and that he and his officials needed to show their solidarity with their people. ‘Macedonia’s delegation will leave the summit because they see it as necessary to being together with our people today. This is a difficult time for a small nation.’…
“Two other failed bids for NATO membership ended on a happier note on Thursday. Although NATO refused to grant Ukraine and Georgia a so-called Membership Action Plan (MAP), the alliance held out the prospect that the two countries would become members one day in the future and promised to review their progress in December… Germany and France had blocked giving the two countries MAP status now, despite fierce pressure from Washington, arguing that neither met NATO’s criteria. Public support for membership in Ukraine is barely 30 percent, while Georgia is locked in a conflict with separatists in two of its provinces…”
In a related article, Der Spiegel Online commented on April 3 on the German-French successful strategy to defeat President Bush. The magazine stated:
“The first day of the NATO summit saw France and Germany combine forces to thwart the membership ambitions of Ukraine and Georgia. They stood firm in their opposition despite the mounting pressure from US President George W. Bush to admit the two former Soviet republics… US President George W. Bush suffered a first setback when he failed to persuade the alliance to open the door to Ukraine and Georgia for membership. France and Germany stood firm in their opposition…”
More Trouble Between USA and Germany Over Afghanistan
Der Spiegel Online wrote on April 3:
“Earlier this week, it seemed as though US President Bush [was] softening his tone regarding Germany’s presence in Afghanistan. Now, though, it seems that such hopes might have been premature.”
The article continued:
“Often a major thorn in Germany’s side for his demands that Berlin take on a greater combat role in Afghanistan, Bush’s tone in a recent interview with German daily Die Welt had seemed full of comprehension for the political difficulties facing Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the interview, he indicated he would no longer ask Berlin to send combat troops to the more dangerous southern part of Afghanistan. The US President said he recognized that the German people, and by extension the German parliament, would be unable to stomach such a demand…
“But on Wednesday morning the joy about this new tone from Bush was revealed as being premature… The alliance would have to ‘maintain its resolve and finish the fight,’ Bush said. And then he repeated his old line: ‘We expect our NATO allies to shoulder the burden necessary to succeed.’… There he was again, the old Bush, the one who wants more engagement from the Europeans — and from Germany. And more clearly than ever, Bush also demanded that a tough line be taken against Iran and Syria. He was also uncompromising in his insistence that Ukraine and Georgia be promised membership of the NATO club…
“When it comes to Afghanistan, there is no denying the US has a strong argument. The US, Great Britain, Canada and Australia are providing around 60 percent of the 43,000 ISAF soldiers in Afghanistan. And they have suffered a disproportionate number of casualties since the fighting started in 2001. While those countries stationed in the south and east of the country have lost around 650 troops, the other nations, including Germany in the north, have only lost 115…
“It is clear that Berlin’s hopes for an end to the debate were naive. Even if it were true that Bush had grown tired of the discussion with Berlin and had simply given up, all of his potential successors — both Democrats and Republican — have made it clear that when it comes to the demands for more Europeans to go to the frontline in Afghanistan, there will be continuity in Washington… German commanders have dropped their opposition to taking part in operations in the western or eastern parts of the country, should the need arise…
“The position of Supreme Allied Commander Europe… will soon need to be filled. The new man set to take over this extremely important strategic position is the current top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus. That’s not exactly a signal from Washington that it intends to end its aggressive line in Afghanistan.”
NATO Endorses Missile Defense System for Europe
The Associated Press reported on April 3:
“President Bush won NATO’s endorsement Thursday for his plan to build a missile defense system in Europe over Russian objections. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called it a ‘breakthrough agreement’ for the military alliance. ‘Now it is clearly understood in the alliance that the challenges of the 21st century, the threats of the 21st century, make it necessary to have missile defense that can defend the countries of Europe,’ Rice told reporters at the NATO summit. Progress on missile defense represented perhaps the biggest boon to Bush from the NATO summit. Russia has fiercely opposed it.”
AFP added on April 3:
“The United States and the Czech Republic said they reached agreement Thursday on the stationing in the Czech Republic of a US missile defense radar strongly opposed by Russia. ‘This legally-binding agreement calls for the stationing of a US radar in the Czech Republic to track ballistic missiles,’ they said in a joint communique… The US plan calls for deploying 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a targeting radar in the Czech Republic by 2012 in response to what Washington says is a growing ballistic missile threat from Iran… NATO leaders agreed that the proliferation of ballistic missiles [poses] a threat…”
Coming–Worldwide Disaster for Banks
Der Spiegel Online wrote on March 29:
“For months, experts have been wondering just how bad the ongoing finance crisis might turn out to be. Now, Germany’s Federal Financial Services Authority, known as BaFin, thinks it has the answer… an internal BaFin report says that shortfalls at finance institutions worldwide could end up totalling $600 billion (€380 billion). The shortfall comes as a result of ill-advised speculation on the US subprime market and resulting jitters in markets worldwide. BaFin says that its prognosis is merely a worst-case scenario. ‘Given what we know about the current situation on the markets, we presume that a total of $430 billion is more probable,’ the 16-page report says.
“The paper also lists losses that have already been admitted to by various credit institutions: a total of $295 billion. Some 10 percent of those shortfalls are accounted for by German banks. Should that share of the damage remain constant, German banks can expect losses to be as high as $60 billion. BaFin experts fear that the finance crisis will spread to other sectors of the economy. The turbulence could hit ‘other financial institutions outside of the banking sector,’ the paper says. The report lists hedge funds, insurance companies and retirement funds as being at risk.”
“USA 2008: The Great Depression”
The Independent wrote on April 1:
“Startling official statistics show that as a new economic recession stalks the United States, a record number of Americans will shortly be depending on food stamps just to feed themselves and their families. Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s… Emblematic of the downturn until now has been the parades of houses seized in foreclosure all across the country, and myriad families separated from their homes. But now the crisis is starting to hit the country in its gut. Getting food on the table is a challenge many Americans are finding harder to meet…
“Michigan has been in its own mini-recession for years as its collapsing industrial base, particularly in the car industry, has cast more and more out of work. Now, one in eight residents of the state is on food stamps, double the level in 2000… At least six states, including Florida, Arizona and Maryland, have had a 10 per cent increase in the past year. In Rhode Island, the segment of the population on food stamps has risen by 18 per cent in two years.”
“Why Americans Never Vote For What They Really Want”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on April 2:
“American voters are a contradictory bunch: They say they want social welfare, but don’t want to pay for it. They claim they are left-leaning, but vote for center-right candidates. Only candidates who can appeal to both sides stand a chance… America is divided, but not just into North and South, black and white, poor and rich. The two Americas appearing on the pollsters’ radar screens lie close together in the political brain of the individual voter. The findings are clear: the desires of American citizens contradict their fundamental convictions.
“The overwhelming majority of Americans are troubled by the social injustices in their country. They dream of a nation in which bridges do not collapse and with a school system in which drug dealers are not the main authority figures. No one doubts that, politically at least, they want to see these shortcomings corrected… When it comes to putting these ideas into practice, Americans quickly lose their wistful gazes…
“Voters come up with… schizophrenic responses when asked about the Iraq war. The majority believes that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, but that the United States is a safer place today than it was then. The majority of citizens favors withdrawal, but is convinced, or at least considers it likely, that the United States will still win the war first…
“… What a sharp contrast with the European way of thinking. When the government announces new benefits for citizens, the typical European thinks: ‘I’m getting something new.’ But the average American thinks: ‘It’s going to cost me something.’… One would think that voters would eventually have to make a decision, at least by election day. But even that isn’t quite true. Although Americans will elect only one candidate, they will want it to be the one who embodies both personalities. Ideally, the winning candidate will combine idealism and fundamental conviction… This explains why campaign advisors always make sure that their respective presidential candidates are ready to use soft words and reach out to the other side.”
EU Membership Is Costing British Taxpayers £6 Billion
The Daily Mail wrote on March 29:
“The bill to British taxpayers for EU membership is expected to almost double next year to £6.1billion, according to figures buried in the Budget. This year, Britain will pay £4.1billion net to the EU – £800million more than the £3.3billion forecast by the Treasury. The difference would have been enough to pay the salaries this year of nearly 32,000 nurses, 8,000 doctors or 28,800 soldiers, or to cut taxes by £25.31 per taxpayer… This year’s increase has been caused by extra demands for funding by new EU members, including Bulgaria and Romania. But the figures show how Britain’s contribution to the EU budget will continue to shoot up as the Government’s surrender in 2005 of billions of pounds of rebate payments begins to bite. Margaret Thatcher won the rebate in 1984.
“Shadow Europe Minister Mark Francois said: ‘These figures show how Britain is paying more and more to the EU while our taxes are going up and our public finances are in a mess. We can now see just how damaging Gordon Brown’s cave-in was when he gave away £7billion of Britain’s rebate in return for nothing at all. Brown isn’t getting Britain value for money in the EU. He’s ramming through the renamed EU Constitution without the promised referendum. Gordon Brown has failed to stand up for Britain in Europe.'”
“Implementation of Biofuels Plan a Disaster”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on April 3:
“Germany wanted to lead the way in the use of bioethanol on its roads… Germany’s enthusiasm for biofuels is in question this week after estimates were released that well over a million vehicles on German roads would be unable to run on gasoline containing a higher mixture of bioethanol. Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel had planned to introduce a requirement that gasoline sold in Germany contain 10 percent green ethanol made from plants, a mixture known as E-10. But he said in an interview with the Stuttgarter Nachrichten that, should more than 1 million vehicles be unable to run on the higher mixture, the regulation would be abandoned… The German automobile club ADAC on Wednesday responded by claiming that up to three million cars would be unable to run on E-10. The group demanded that Gabriel’s plans be abandoned immediately. Germany’s Association of Automobile Importers on Thursday threw its hat into the ring as well, claiming that over 1 million vehicles would be affected…
“But not everyone is so sure of the new numbers. Until now, Gabriel’s ministry had assumed that the number of cars affected would be closer to 375,000… The plan, championed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, would cut emissions 40 percent by 2020 at a cost of €3.3 billion ($5.2 billion)… German dailies on Thursday take a look at the impending debacle.
“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘What the federal government and special interest groups once thought was a win-win strategy, hasn’t done so well in the court of public opinion recently. After the sweeping euphoria accompanying climate protection last year, this and other recent projects show that the devil is in the details. Voters get angry when they are asked to bear the brunt of additional costs. A year and a half before the next federal election, promoting climate protection at any cost has become too great of a political risk.’… The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes: ‘The idea was a good one, but its implementation was a disaster…'”
Muslims More Numerous Than Catholics
Reuters reported on March 30:
“Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world, the Vatican said on Sunday… Muslims made up 19.2 percent of the world’s population and Catholics 17.4 percent…[The Vatican said] that if all Christian groups were considered, including Orthodox churches, Anglicans and Protestants, then Christians made up 33 percent of the world’s population — or about 2 billion people. The Vatican recently put the number of Catholics in the world at 1.13 billion people. It did not provide a figure for Muslims, generally estimated at around 1.3 billion.”
One Great World Religion Coming?
CNA wrote on March 28:
“A proposal for religious dialogue presented by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has prompted warm reactions from several Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders in what could be a major development in inter-religious relations, the Associated Press reports. ‘The idea is to ask representatives of all monotheistic religions to sit together with their brothers in faith and sincerity to all religions as we all believe in the same God,’ King Abdullah said Monday night…
“King Abdullah said he presented the idea to Pope Benedict XVI when he visited the Vatican in November of last year. Saying the Pope had ‘warmly welcomed’ him in ‘a meeting of a human to a human which I would never forget,’ the king said he aimed ‘to seek the consent of Allah according to what he ordered in the religions: the Torah, Bible and Quran.’… The king said he planned to hold conferences to learn the opinion of Muslims from other parts of the world, after which he would meet with ‘our brothers’ in Christianity and Judaism ‘so we can agree on something that guarantees the preservation of humanity against those who tamper with ethics, family systems and honesty.’
“Specifics of the proposal remained unclear, such as whether Israelis could take part in the initiative and whether restrictions on religious freedom in Saudi Arabia could be relaxed. The kingdom bans non-Muslim worship services and objects of veneration from other religions, including crosses and Bibles. Under Saudi law, the conversion of a Muslim to another religion is punishable by death.”
In a related article, CBS wrote on April 3, under the headline: “Pope To Visit NYC Synagogue For Passover”:
“Pope Benedict XVI will visit a synagogue led by a rabbi who survived the Holocaust during his first papal trip to the United States, the nation’s bishops said Thursday. Benedict’s visit will be just the third visit by any pope to a synagogue in the 2,000 year history of the Roman Catholic Church. It is this second visit to a synagogue as pontiff… Separately, the pope has scheduled a meeting with Jewish leaders and representatives of other faiths for April 17 in Washington… Benedict will address the U.N. the morning of April 18…
“The pope has been reaching out to Jews, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Some tensions arose recently over a Good Friday prayer the pope revived from the old Latin rite that had historically been used as an excuse for violence and discrimination against Jews. Benedict revised the prayer to address Jewish fears, but some Jewish leaders worried that the changes did not go far enough. Benedict is visiting the United States for the first time as pontiff from April 15-20, with stops in just two cities, Washington and New York. He will meet with President Bush at the White House, address the presidents of Roman Catholic colleges and universities, and hold Masses at Nationals Park and Yankee Stadium.”
BBC News reported on April 1:
“Scientists at Newcastle University have created part-human, part-animal hybrid embryos for the first time in the UK, the BBC can reveal. The embryos survived for up to three days and are part of medical research into a range of illnesses… The Catholic Church describes it as ‘monstrous’. But medical bodies and patient groups say such research is vital for our understanding of disease… [The embryos] were created by injecting DNA derived from human skin cells into eggs taken from cows ovaries which have had virtually all their genetic material removed.”
Times On Line added on April 2:
“The admixed embryos created by the Newcastle group are of a kind known as cytoplasmic hybrids, or cybrids, which are made by placing the nucleus from a human cell into an animal egg that has had its nucleus removed… The ultimate aim is to grow these for six days, and then to extract embryonic stem cells for use in research… It is already illegal to culture human-animal embryos for more than 14 days, or to implant them in the womb of a woman or animal, and these prohibitions will remain in the new legislation.”
California Homeschooling Development
The California Catholic Daily reported the following on March 26:
“The following is an announcement from the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association. On March 25, the California Court of Appeal granted a motion for rehearing in the In re Rachel L. case—the controversial decision which purported to ban all homeschooling in that state unless the parents held a teaching license qualifying them to teach in public schools. The automatic effect of granting this motion is that the prior opinion is vacated and is no longer binding on any one, including the parties in the case.”
This is not necessarily correct, as worded. To grant a motion for rehearing just means, without more, that the prior decision may have been STAYED–not vacated–if so decided by the Court, pending the outcome of the new trial.