Current Events

Berlusconi’s Comeback in Italy–“Real Danger for Europe”?

Silvio Berlusconi won Italy’s general elections by an unexpectedly wide margin, claiming the prime minister’s office for the third time.

Der Spiegel Online wrote on April 10:

“[Last] weekend’s elections in Italy [marked] billionaire Silvio Berlusconi’s return to power in what [is] his third term in office. But rarely have Italian voters been so weary of their politicians — and rarely has there been so little hope of any real change…

“Europe can start getting used to the idea of a third term for this billionaire politician, who was never able to see a difference between his own interests and the common good. No one outside Italy’s borders is likely to understand this — or, for that matter, anything that happens in politics in this magnificent country [of Italy]. It is a country that is both an esthetic superpower and the site of burning piles of garbage in Naples. And it is a country whose business executives working abroad, for companies like BMW and the German financial giant HypoVereinsbank, celebrate successes, while its most profitable business organization at home is the Mafia…

“In no other European country except the Vatican is the political class so heavily influenced by old people… Berlusconi’s list of senators… includes Giuseppe Ciarrapico, 74, a bankrupt dealmaker with a criminal record — and a man who publicly declared that he has ‘never denied’ his fascist sympathies… There are currently 24 convicted Italian criminals who hold seats in the Italian or European parliaments. Their crimes include tax evasion, perjury, corruption, violating explosives laws and incitement to murder… For those who think that all politicians are liars, Berlusconi would have to be the cream of the crop… Why on earth would anyone want to vote for this man?… Berlusconi may be a joke to the rest of the world, but not in [Italy]. No one here is interested in the litigation still pending against the godfather, in cases involving the bribing of witnesses and tax evasion on a grand scale. And the past charges of financial misstatement, corruption of television staff and senators? No problem, say his supporters…”

After his stunning victory, AFP reported on April 15:

“Praise and criticism began pouring in on Tuesday, with US President George W. Bush saying he was eager to work again [with] Berlusconi who was one of Bush’s strongest European allies, notably in the run-up to the Iraq war… The Italian billionaire will be a precious ally to opponents of a strong euro and of European budgetary discipline, notably for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who vowed to ‘deepen the traditional bond of friendship’ between their two countries. And Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely be the first to congratulate Berlusconi in person, with plans to stop in Italy on Thursday as part of one of the Russian leader’s final trips before he steps down on May 7, the Kremlin said. In Brussels, German euro MP Martin Schultz, head of the Socialists in the EU parliament, warned that Berlusconi’s alliance with the ‘extreme-right, openly xenophobic’ Northern League party, represented a ‘real danger for Italy and for Europe.'”

German Reaction to Berlusconi’s Victory

On April 15, 2008, Der Spiegel Online published excerpts from German newspapers, commenting on Berlusconi’s victory in Italy:

“The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

“‘The only people who can profit from this are Berlusconi and his clique. He lacks the political will to modernize the country — and that’s not only bad for Italy, but also for all of Europe. And it has to matter to the EU that the economy of one of its biggest member states, also a G-8 member, is declining… Growth rates are disastrous, productivity rates are pre-modern, the budget deficit is monstrous and those are all risk factors not just for the domestic market but also the euro zone. Berlusconi will never undertake the difficult reforms necessary to defuse the risks’…

“The business daily Handelsblatt writes:

“‘When Berlusconi takes power, Europe will have one less ally. Nicolas Sarkozy has already clearly shown that he is a skeptical European. And the question with Gordon Brown is how long he will be able to stay prime minister. Indeed, Angela Merkel will soon be getting lonely… Berlusconi… was very open about his true feelings about the EU in the past — indeed, the course his government took damaged Europe. Under the Italian EU presidency in 2003, a poorly prepared Berlusconi allowed the summit on the European constitution to run aground. His government was also fond of attacking the European common currency. When it came to foreign policy, too, Berlusconi had his own ideas. He saw the United States under President George W. Bush as his main ally. And as Berlin and Paris distanced themselves from Washington, Berlusconi joined Bush in the Iraq war and, by doing so, helped to divide the European Union. Besides, he was completely off the mark with his repeated demands to expand the EU to include Russia and Israel. … The outlook is grim for the European Union.’…

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“‘Italians have a weakness for patriarchs and comedians. Berlusconi is both. Scores voted for him almost out of spite — irrespective of their own misgivings and the lack of understanding the decision would be met with abroad. They follow him with the same spirit of self-deception as a circus audience watching a magician. The problem is: This magician’s performance could last five years. Other voters were neither enchanted nor naïve. They were simply pragmatic, voting with their pocket calculators in their heads. The calculator tells then that under a Prime Minister Berlusconi, they will have more money at their disposal than under Veltroni. They know from experience that Berlusconi is populist enough to give the gift of tax cuts to his people without second thought — even if he doesn’t have the budget for it. Of course, that can’t function in the long term, but many voters feel Italy doesn’t have much of a future anyway…'”

Merkel Pleads With Irish Voters to Back EU Constitution

The EUObserver wrote on April 15:

“German chancellor Angela Merkel has called on Irish voters to back the EU treaty… In a state visit to Ireland, the only country to hold a public poll on the treaty, Ms Merkel on Monday (14 April), said ‘To my mind, the Lisbon treaty offers the best preparation for Europe’s future. To the sceptics, I can only say that if everything remains as it is now, your concerns will definitely not be better addressed’…  Ms Merkel also reassured Ireland, as a small country, that it will have an equal seat at the EU table noting that the new majority voting system in the treaty ‘is actually more of a problem for the bigger states.’

“During her visit the Irish government was forced to contend with a story in the Irish Daily Mail which gives details of an email sent by a British official… According to the article, the email says that the Irish government had ruled out having a referendum in October although it would have been better procedurally because they were concerned about ‘unhelpful developments during the French presidency – particularly related to EU defence.’ The email noted that French president Sarkozy was considered ‘completely unpredictable.'”

Deutsche Welle added on April 14:

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Irish voters Monday to allow the European Union to ‘continue to flourish’… ‘What I can say looking back not least on my own life is that unification and the creation of the EU is the best thing that has happened to Europe in its long history,’ Merkel told a forum of politicians and campaigners in Dublin… Ireland is the only one of the 27 EU member states holding a vote on the treaty, and rejection could in theory block it and plunge the union into fresh chaos…

“Merkel’s speech to the National Forum of Europe kicked off a pro-European assault on Ireland this week, with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso visiting on Thursday to rally votes in favor of the treaty… A poll published Monday showed that a vast majority of Irish voters remain undecided on the treaty and less than a third plan to vote at all… Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has said he will [step] down in May to fight allegations of financial irregularities. His likely successor, current Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, has vowed to make securing a ‘Yes’ vote his first priority.”

The current developments in Italy and Ireland are very interesting, as they relate to a United Europe. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy – The Unfolding of End-Time Events

Most Europeans See China As Greatest Threat to World Stability

The EUObserver wrote on April 15:

“China’s image abroad has suffered a blow, with an opinion survey in the five largest EU states showing that most Europeans see Beijing as the greatest threat to world stability… 35 percent of Europeans – coming from Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain – labelled China a bigger threat than any other state… The most recent shift in public opinion is seen as a result of China’s crackdown on Tibetan protesters…

“The results of the… poll suggest that Italians have adopted the most critical stance towards China, with 47 percent singling out the country as the chief threat… The chart continues with France where 36 percent of people rank China as the biggest threat to world stability… Germany (35 percent) and the UK (27 percent) follow… Only the Spaniards continue to see the US as a bigger threat than China, attributing to the two powers 41 percent and 28 percent respectively.”

The Pope Visits the USA

CNN reported on April 14:

“The leader of the world’s 1 billion Roman Catholics has been to the White House only once in history. That changes this week, and President Bush is pulling out all the stops: driving out to a suburban military base to meet Pope Benedict XVI’s plane, bringing a giant audience to the South Lawn and hosting a fancy East Room dinner. These are all firsts. Bush has never before given a visiting leader the honor of picking him up at the airport. In fact, no president has done so at Andrews Air Force Base, the typical landing spot for modern leaders…

“President Carter hosted the first White House [visit] by a pope. Pope John Paul II was greeted at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington by Vice President Walter Mondale… There are more than 64 million reasons for this. Catholics number nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population, making them a desirable constituency for politicians to court… The Vatican — seat of a government as well as a religious headquarters — has an interest, too…”

The Pope “Ashamed” of Sexual Scandals–But Did He Go “Far Enough”?

The Associated Press reported on April 15:

“Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday he was ‘deeply ashamed’ of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and will work to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood, addressing the toughest issue facing the American church as he began his first papal trip to the United States… Benedict said, ‘It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission … to these children’… [In a subsequent article of April 16, The Associated Press reported that the pope “told the nation’s bishops that the scourge of clergy sex abuse had sometimes been ‘very badly handled.'”]

“Abuse victims’ advocates said Benedict’s comments on the scandal did not go far enough. Peter Isely, a board member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said… there should be penalties for church leaders who fail to discipline predatory priests. ‘It’s easy and tempting to continually focus on the pedophile priests themselves,’ Isely said. ‘It’s harder but crucial to focus on the broader problem — complicity in the rest of the church hierarchy.’

“Jason Berry, a New Orleans writer who first drew national attention to clergy sex abuse in the 1980s, said the root of the problem is that the Vatican doesn’t punish bishops who shelter offenders. ‘Until the church creates a genuine system of justice to redress these wrongs the abuse crisis will continue,’ said Berry…

“Although a few bishops accused of molestation have stepped down, no bishop has been disciplined for failing to keep abusive clergy away from children. Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as archbishop of Boston in 2002 after church files were made public showing he and other church leaders had allowed accused clergy to continue in public ministry.”

German Reaction to Pope’s “Apology”

On April 17, 2008, Der Spiegel Online published excerpts from German newspapers, commenting on the pope’s “apology” regarding the sexual scandals within the Catholic Church:

“Even before the airplane carrying Pope Benedict XVI on his first visit to the US as pontiff touched down in Washington, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had addressed the issue which has done untold damage to the Catholic Church in the US. The pope told reporters he was ‘deeply ashamed’ of the child sex abuse scandal that had rocked the US Catholic Church… The child sex abuse scandal in the US Catholic Church first came to light in 2002. Since then the church has paid out $2 billion in compensation settlements to victims…

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes… ‘The pope cannot speak about human rights at the United Nations if the victims of sexual abuse are denied justice. The pope cannot appeal for global social justice, the protection of the family, human and unborn life, if inside his church human rights are being disregarded, the victims overlooked and their stories of suffering ignored. Those who appeal to the world’s conscience have to examine their own consciences first. They must be able to admit their own guilt; they must know they speak as sinners.’

“The left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes that for the 65 million Catholics in the US, the pope’s visit is either a long-awaited chance to heal the wounds of the past or the final rejection of the church… Although Pope Benedict already apologized for the child abuse cases on his flight over to Washington, that will not be enough if he wants to convince and reconcile the faithful. But that is something the Catholic Church desperately needs to do, as it is the only large church in the US to lose members.'”

Bush and Pope Pray Together

Reuters reported on April 16:

“Pope Benedict and U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura prayed together in the White House on Wednesday, the Vatican said… Bush is a Methodist. Both he and the Roman Catholic pope have said that the traditional family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman, is under threat.”

Zenit added on April 15:

“A White House spokeswoman said President George Bush plans to tell Benedict XVI that millions of Americans have been praying for his visit and that their hearts are open to his message… [The spokeswoman] also confirmed that Bush is interested in the Pope’s work to establish interreligious dialogue…”

The Associated Press reported on April 16 that “The German-born pope began his first full day in America with a visit to the White House, where a South Lawn crowd of more than 13,500 sang ‘Happy Birthday’ [the pope turned 81 on April 16] and President Bush said that the first papal White House visit in 29 years was a reminder for Americans to ‘distinguish between simple right and wrong.'” He also referred to the pope repeatedly in his public speech as “Holy Father.”

In regard to that religious title, you might want to read Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:9: “Do not call anyone on earth your father [let alone, “holy father”]; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.”

Pope Warns Americans, Holds Unprecedented Mass and Meets with Non-Christian Leaders

Reuters reported on April 16:

“Pope Benedict tempered his praise for American religious tolerance on Wednesday with a warning that U.S. society can quietly undermine Catholicism by reducing all faiths to a lowest common denominator. Addressing the nation’s Catholic bishops, the German-born pope said the U.S. Church could not drop its guard against relativism just because faith plays a larger part in public life in the United States than it does in more secularized Europe.

“A strong individualist streak in American culture leads some Catholics ‘to pick and choose,’ following Church doctrines they like and ignoring others… While the Church teaches that the Eucharist is clearly the most important of its sacraments, only 25 percent of those polled thought so…”

Even though the term “Eucharist” is a misnomer, please make sure to read the Q&A in this Update, on the correct understanding of Christ’s sayings in Matthew 26:26-28, pertaining to the partaking of bread and wine.

AFP reported on April 17: “Tens of thousands flocked Thursday for the first Mass by Pope Benedict XVI on his US visit, hours after he chided Americans for a moral breakdown which he said fueled the church’s child sex abuse scandal… Benedict angered victim support groups by praising the bishops’ efforts to heal the wounds from the scandal.”

Reuters added on April 17 that the pope will “meet with leaders of five non-Christian religions… The inter-faith meeting… will bring Benedict together with 220 members of the Jewish, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist and Hindu religions.”

Putin Elected Leader of United Russia

Der Spiegel Online wrote on April 15:

“The pro-Kremlin United Russia party has loyally chosen Vladimir Putin as its new leader. But the outgoing president, who has vowed to reform the party, needs to compensate for his impending loss of power — even if it means depending on the party’s criminal elements.”

The article continued:

“After the party congress voted unanimously for Putin to become its party leader, without bothering with any kind of debate, Putin made his way back to the podium and promised he would do everything to ‘reinforce the authority of the party’ and to make Russia the fifth-largest economic power in the world… Putin can now use the party to push any laws through the Duma and to exert influence on the regional elite in the provinces. However, the outgoing president himself has stated that ‘all kinds of rogues’ have seized positions of power in the provinces, without the Moscow leadership doing anything about it.

“…it is the Kremlin’s policy of systematically leasing entire regions to what are virtually criminal gangs. In many places in the northern Caucasus, for example, central authority — as well as the United Russia party — is in the hands of people who are much more conversant with vote rigging and contract killing than they are with the rules of parliamentary democracy. In large swaths of Russia, the United Russia party acts as a bureaucratic and dictatorial party that has no qualms about strong-arming officials during elections and squandering state funds.”

Nightmare Scenario–“Now We Can Clone Children”

The Independent wrote on April 14:

“A new form of cloning has been developed that is easier to carry out than the technique used to create Dolly the sheep, raising fears that it may one day be used on human embryos to produce ‘designer’ babies. Scientists who used the procedure to create baby mice from the skin cells of adult animals have found it to be far more efficient than the Dolly technique, with fewer side effects, which makes it more acceptable for human use…

“The technique involves the genetic reprogramming of skin cells so they revert to an embryonic-like state. Last year, when the breakthrough was used on human skin cells for the first time, it was lauded by the Catholic Church and President George Bush as a morally acceptable way of producing embryonic stem cells without having to create or destroy human embryos. However, the same technique has already been used in another way to reproduce offspring of laboratory mice that are either full clones or genetic ‘chimeras’ of the adult mouse whose skin cells were reprogrammed…

“These offspring are chimeras – a genetic mix of two or more individuals – because some of their cells derive from the embryo and some from the skin cell. Technically, such a child would have three biological parents… Furthermore, studies on mice have shown that it is possible to produce fully cloned offspring that are 100 per cent genetically identical to the adult…

“However, Dr Lanza said that the mouse experiments his company had done demonstrated how easily the technology could be used to produce cloned or chimeric babies… This is not banned in many countries, where legislation has not kept pace with scientific developments… ‘At this point there are no laws or regulations for this kind of thing and the bizarre thing is that the Catholic Church and other traditional stem-cell opponents think this technology is great when in reality it could in the end become one of their biggest nightmares,’ he said. ‘It is quite possible that the real legacy of this whole new programming technology is that it will be introducing the era of designer babies. ‘So for instance if we had a few skin cells from Albert Einstein, or anyone else in the world, you could have a child that is say 10 per cent or 70 per cent Albert Einstein by just injecting a few of their cells into an embryo,’ he said.”

Germany Eases Stem Cell Restrictions

Deutsche Welle reported on April 11:

“After months of political negotiations, German lawmakers agreed to allow broader embryonic stem cell use. ‘The changes give German researchers the chance to stay competitive internationally,’ said Max Planck Institute President Peter Gruss… German scientists had pushed for Germany to reconsider a 2002 law which imposed strict limits on the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research. While the law banned all creation of stem cells in Germany, it did allow cells produced from abroad to be imported, but only if they had been created before Jan. 1, 2002. Scientists also had to show that the project had overwhelming significance and that no other research method could be used… Embryonic stem cells are prized by scientists for their ability to develop into any type of cell. This versatility has led scientists to trump stem cells as offering the potential to cure diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s and heart maladies.

“Yet in Germany, the use of embryonic stem cells makes many people uncomfortable on religious and ethical grounds. Stem cell research carries historic overtones of the Nazis’ genetic experiments linked to the creation of a master race. Traumatized by grisly experiments on humans under the Nazis and influenced by its Christian churches, Germany has agonized for a decade about the ethics of using the cells. Critics argue that a human life is sacrificed when an embryo is torn apart. Religious groups expressed unhappiness with the parliament’s decision.

“‘This is not a good day for the protection of life in Germany,’ said Munich Archbishop Reinhard Marx. Guenther Beckstein, Bavaria’s conservative premier, also said he thought the change would set a dangerous precedent. ‘My worry is that it will now become easier to further undermine the protection of unborn life,’ Beckstein said.”

Unusual Earthquake Activities Off Oregon Coast

The Associated Press reported on April 11:

“Scientists listening to underwater microphones have detected an unusual swarm of earthquakes off the central Oregon Coast. Scientists don’t know what the earthquakes mean, but they could be the result of magma rumbling underneath the Juan de Fuca Plate – away from the recognized earthquake faults off Oregon… There have been more than 600 quakes over the past 10 days in a basin 150 miles southwest of Newport. The biggest was magnitude 5.4 and two others were more than magnitude 5.0… It looks like what happens before a volcanic eruption, except there are no volcanoes in the area…”

Big Earthquake Certain to Occur in Southern California

The Associated Press reported on April 15:

“California faces an almost certain risk of being rocked by a strong earthquake by 2037, scientists said in the first statewide temblor forecast. New calculations reveal there is a 99.7 percent chance a magnitude 6.7 quake or larger will strike in the next 30 years. The odds of such an event are higher in Southern California than Northern California, 97 percent versus 93 percent…

“Scientists still cannot predict exactly where in the state such a quake will occur or when. But they say the analysis should be a wake-up call for residents to prepare for a natural disaster in earthquake country… ‘A big earthquake can happen tomorrow or it can happen 10 years from now,’ said Tom Jordan, director of the earthquake center, which is headquartered at the University of Southern California.”

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