Current Events

What Germany Can Expect from the Next U.S. President

Der Spiegel Online wrote on June 9:

“It’s a dream, nothing but a dream… what if German politicians would exude just a smidgen of the youthfulness and spirit of optimism that Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, seems to have in abundance? In the grey bleakness exuded by Berlin’s grand coalition government, these daydreams thrive like marsh marigolds on a wetland meadow…

“Obamamania has gripped large segments of Germany’s political establishment and population… In an editorial in last Friday’s edition of the influential Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper titled ‘What the conservatives Must Do Now,’ former Bavarian conservative leader Edmund Stoiber gave his party some unsolicited advice. America, the Bavarian politician wrote, is ‘a marvellous example of the power of democracy.’…

“In a head-to-head contest with John McCain, the designated Republican presidential candidate, 67 percent of Germans would vote for Obama… Despite all the enthusiasm for Obama, Germans know little about his foreign policy ideas…

“McCain’s positions, at least, are well known… But the Republican candidate is also known for his temper. His fits of rage are legendary… McCain’s outbursts have long been the subject of ridicule among Americans attending the Munich conference…

“Obama, on the other hand, is as fascinating to German politicians as a mirage. He seems promising from afar, and yet no one knows what he actually stands for. In fact, hardly anyone knows him at all…

“If McCain wins the election, most German foreign policy experts predict trouble ahead for Germany. If Obama wins there will also be friction, but no one knows where and on what fronts.

“Whoever moves into the White House next January will base his decisions on American interests, not on personal preferences… For the Germans, Obama could in fact prove to be the more difficult partner… Analysts in Berlin believe that both Obama and McCain would be more adamant than the current president in calling for the German military, the Bundeswehr, to participate in combat missions in [the south of Afghanistan]…”

“What Is the Post-Bush Era Going to Look Like?”

On June 9, Der Spiegel Online stated the following:

“US President George W. Bush will arrive in Europe this week… But… Europe is more than happy to see him off… Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Europeans have viewed Bush with a great measure of distrust and fully 77 percent now disagree with his international policies…

“Bush himself seems content to play his bad-guy role right to the very end. Just recently, his government presented plans to require Europeans — even those who don’t need visas — to register online at least three days before travelling to the US. Bush himself once again mentioned the possibility of a strike on Iran. And his Republican Party recently blocked a climate protection bill in the Senate.

“Still, Europe is looking beyond Bush. The outgoing president has made it easy for Europe to resist requests for more involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example. But that will change — likely as soon as next year. Should Barack Obama, who is wildly popular in Europe, get elected, it will be even more difficult for Europe to say no. The question then would be a more existential one for trans-Atlantic relations… the question will be whether Europe and the US are natural partners as has so long been assumed. Or whether the rise of other world regions like Asia has done permanent damage to the axis.

“‘The Bush visit,’ says John Glenn of the German Marshall Fund, ‘is a reminder that one of the most interesting periods of all times is about to begin in trans-Atlantic relations: What is the post-Bush era going to look like?'”

President Bush Apologizes for War Rhetoric

The Times wrote on June 11:

“President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a ‘guy really anxious for war’ in Iraq. He said that his aim now was to leave his successor a legacy of international diplomacy for tackling Iran. In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. ‘I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric.’…

“Mr Bush is concerned that the Democratic nominee Barack Obama might open cracks in the West’s united front towards Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. At the EU-US summit in Slovenia, he pressed for tougher sanctions against Iran unless it agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment programme verifiably… The President was keen to bind his successor into a continued military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq… he delivered a thinly veiled warning to Mr Obama that his promises to renegotiate or block international trade deals were already causing alarm in Europe and beyond.”

Practice for Guantanamo Bay Suspects Held Unconstitutional

The Associated Press reported on June 12:

“The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts. In its third rebuke of the Bush administration’s treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court’s liberal justices were in the majority… The court said not only that the detainees have rights under the Constitution, but that the system the administration has put in place to classify them as enemy combatants and review those decisions is inadequate…

“In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts criticized his colleagues for striking down what he called ‘the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants.’ Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also dissented. Scalia said the nation is ‘at war with radical Islamists’ and that the court’s decision ‘will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.’ Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens joined Kennedy to form the majority.”

Lessons that the USA Must Learn

On June 7, USA Today published the following thoughtful and truly remarkable editorial:

“It has long been apparent that the United States rushed to war in Iraq based on false premises. Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, didn’t have ties to the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks and wasn’t an imminent danger.

“But one great unanswered question has festered in Washington: Did President Bush and his top officials knowingly lie when they repeatedly asserted that Saddam was reconstituting a nuclear program and had biological and chemical weapons? Or did they simply get it wrong, cherry-picking flawed intelligence to make their case for action?

“Anyone hoping for the final answer from the long-delayed Senate Intelligence Committee report released Thursday will be disappointed–unless, of course, they cherry-pick it to support their preconceived opinions.

“For the most part, the 171-page report contradicts the simplistic ‘Bush lied, people died’ formulation found on bumper stickers. It concludes that the administration’s prewar statements on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were mostly backed up by available (but flawed) U.S. intelligence, although the statements tended to gloss over internal debate among intelligence agencies about those findings.

“The report does find, however, that assertions by Bush and Vice President Cheney that Saddam was prepared to arm terrorist groups to attack the United States contradicted available intelligence. In fact, that intelligence suggested Saddam was unlikely to do so because he feared an attack would strengthen the U.S. case for war.

“This mixed verdict won’t satisfy partisans on either side. But it doesn’t mean the report — endorsed by the panel’s eight Democrats and two of its seven Republicans — is an exercise in futility, as its GOP critics claimed. It is, in fact, a cautionary tale that provides important lessons, particularly as the nation decides what to do about Iran and its murky nuclear program.

“For Congress, the lesson is that lawmakers need to double-check intelligence themselves, not simply rely on summaries or administration assurances. Pathetically few members of Congress read the complete 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which detailed misgivings of some intelligence agencies, before they cast fateful votes that authorized the Iraq war.

“For this and future administrations, the lesson is that White House officials need to weigh and study all available intelligence, not seize on only what supports their preconceived notions. They mustn’t present ambiguity as certainty. They mustn’t launch pre-emptive attacks without bulletproof evidence. And never again should they treat war as a marketing campaign, like selling a new brand of toothpaste.”

“Many Have Lost Faith in America”

On June 11, 2008, Der Spiegel Online reported about the German view on German-American relationships:

“German newspaper commentators have launched a scathing attack on US President George W. Bush’s record, saying he embodies ‘the arrogance of power’ and has shattered the world’s faith in America. The diplomatic fence-mending between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President George W. Bush over the past two years seems to have done nothing to pacify German editorial writers who have seized on the US president’s farewell trip to Europe to launch a tirade of criticism of his eight years in power.

“The Iraq war, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, CIA renditions and Bush’s record on climate change have tainted not only Bush’s image but also that of America for years to come, write Germany’s leading newspapers… German politicians from Merkel’s ruling coalition have been similarly scathing this week in their assessment of Bush’s record, throwing diplomatic caution to the wind five months ahead of the presidential election.

“Left-wing Berliner Zeitung writes: ‘Rarely has an American president been less popular in this country. And rarely has one embodied the arrogance of power more convincingly than Bush… Many have lost faith in America…’

“Business daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘With this unilateralism Bush damaged America’s reputation…’

“Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘In Germany, America is no longer seen as a country of individual liberty, as a reliable ally and definitely not as a model… in the thoughts and feeling of many Germans [Bush] is leaving behind a mixture of antipathy, ridicule, anger and skepticism towards US policies and towards America in general. Differentiating between the two has become more difficult with every year of his presidency. The memory of Bush will darken America’s image in the world for years to come.’

“Conservative Die Welt writes: ‘… It’s not just George W. Bush who’s unwelcome. Ever since Reagan’s Berlin visit in 1987, American presidents haven’t been especially welcome whenever they embodied the uncomfortable aspect of the Atlantic alliance, which many regard as a burden that should be discarded soon. But the Bush critics are overlooking one thing: Whether Obama or McCain, the coming president of the US will be a difficult partner.'”

Iraq Caught Between the USA and Iran

The Los Angeles Times reported on June 10:

“Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki concluded a three-day visit to Iran after meeting Monday with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who warned that the continued presence of U.S. troops was ‘the main obstacle on the way to progress and prosperity in Iraq.’

“The session with Khamenei, Iran’s top religious and political authority, served to further highlight the delicate position of the Iraqi government — caught between the U.S. and Iran, each seeking to pull Iraq out of the other’s sphere of influence…

“Khamenei and other Iranian politicians have repeatedly urged Maliki’s government not to sign a status of forces agreement being negotiated with the United States. The agreement would provide a legal framework for the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq after the United Nations mandate expires at the end of this year.”

A European Army–Friend or Foe?

The Associated Press wrote on June 8:

“Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has warned Europe against forging closer military ties. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for greater defense cooperation among European nations. But Bolton told a conference in Dublin on Sunday that such a move could undermine NATO.

“Bolton says creating a European Union military capability would be a huge mistake. Sarkozy called in a speech last week for an independent European defense policy. But he insists his plans would complement — not compete — with NATO.”

Bush and Pope Will “See” Statue of “Madonna”

Reuters reported on June 9:

“Pope Benedict will unusually host talks with U.S. President George W. Bush in a restored medieval tower on Friday, to repay him for a warm reception at the White House, the Vatican said… St. John’s Tower is a round structure on a hilltop inside the Vatican gardens that is sometimes used as a residence for important guests. After their private talks, Bush and the pope will stroll in the gardens to see a statue of the Madonna.”

The big question is: Why would a U.S. President who is a Methodist, want to see a statue of the “Madonna”–who is worshipped by Catholics as the Queen of Heaven or the Holy Mother of God?

Please make sure to read the Q&A in this issue, discussing the “image of the beast,” as mentioned in the book of Revelation.

The Dollar and the Euro

The Wall Street Journal wrote on June 9:

“… the value of the U.S. dollar against the euro has fallen drastically in the last few years. In December 2002, one dollar was equal in value to one euro; today, it requires more than half… as many dollars to equal one euro…

“The euro is the official currency used by 320 million Europeans in 15 member states: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. Another three member states – Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom – use their own currencies.”

New York’s Chrysler Building For Sale

The New York Post reported on June 11:

“The latest Big Apple trophy being coveted by oil-rich sovereign wealth funds is the landmark Chrysler Building. Sources say the super-rich Abu Dhabi Investment Council is negotiating an $800 million deal for a 75 percent stake in the Art Deco treasure that has defined the Midtown skyline since 1930. The Chrysler assets would be purchased from TMW – the German arm of an Atlanta-based investment fund that’s been eager to cash out of its Chrysler stake.

“The deal follows last month’s sale of the GM Building and three other Macklowe/Equity Portfolio properties for $3.95 billion to a group of investors including the wealth funds of Kuwait and Qatar and Boston Properties… Tishman Speyer Properties owns the remaining 25 percent stake in the Chrysler Building and operates the landmark at 405 Lexington Ave., along with the Trylons and the newer next door neighbor at 666 Third Ave… Recently Tishman Speyer obtained a 150-year extension of the ground lease.  Sources say the deal would leave Tishman Speyer in charge of the building, with the Abu Dhabi fund essentially acting as a silent partner. Abu Dhabi has also partnered with Tishman Speyer in other deals around the world, sources said.”

Israel Threatens To Attack Iran…

On June 7, 2008, the Guardian stated the following:

“Israel ‘will attack’ Iran if it continues to develop nuclear weapons, one of prime minister Ehud Olmert’s deputies warned yesterday. Shaul Mofaz, a former defence minister and a contender to replace the scandal-battered Olmert, said military action would be ‘unavoidable’ if Tehran proved able to acquire the technology to manufacture atomic bombs…

“Mofaz was born in Iran, giving his remarks extra edge… Mofaz’s remarks came at the end of a week of intense US-Israeli talks on Iran. They were also the most explicit threat yet against the Islamic Republic from a member of the Israeli government, which, like the Bush administration, has preferred to hint at force as a last resort should UN sanctions be deemed to have failed…

“Experts doubt whether Israel could destroy Iran’s extensive and heavily defended nuclear facilities without American help. In 1981 Israel bombed and destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor. Last September its planes bombed a site in Syria that the US said was a nuclear reactor built with North Korean help. Syria denied having any such facility. Israel is believed to have an arsenal of 150-400 nuclear warheads. Unlike Iran, it has never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”

… and Iran Responds in Kind

On June 10, 2008, Reuters reported:

“Iran’s defense minister was quoted on Tuesday as warning Israel of a ‘very painful’ response if it launched a military strike over the Islamic Republic’s disputed nuclear program…  In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday to refrain from discussing sensitive matters publicly, officials said… [Iran’s] Shahab-3 missile, with a range of 2,000 km (1,250 miles), is capable of hitting Israel and U.S. bases in the Gulf, Iranian officials say.”

Grim Prospects for Worldwide Harvests in 2008

The International Herald Tribune wrote on June 10:

“In a year when global harvests need to be excellent to ease the threat of pervasive food shortages, evidence is mounting that they will be average at best. Some farmers are starting to fear disaster. American corn and soybean farmers are suffering from too much rain, while Australian wheat farmers have been plagued by drought…

“At a moment when the country’s corn should be flourishing, one plant in 10 has not even emerged from the ground, the [U.S.] Agriculture Department said Monday. Because corn planted late is more sensitive to heat damage in high summer, every day’s delay practically guarantees a lower yield at harvest…

“Last winter, as the full scope of the global food crisis became clear, commodity prices doubled or tripled, provoking grumbling in America, riots in two dozen countries and the specter of greatly increased malnutrition. As the world clamors for more corn, wheat, soybeans and rice, farmers are trying to meet the challenge. Millions of acres are coming back into production in Europe. In Asia, planting two or three crops in a single year is becoming more common.

“American farmers are planting 324 million acres this year, up 4 million acres from 2007. Too much of the best land is waterlogged, however. Indiana and Illinois have been the worst hit, although Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota were inundated last weekend…

“United States soybean plantings are running 16 percent behind last year. Rice is tardy in Arkansas, which produces nearly half the country’s crop…

“Harvests ebb and flow, of course. But with supplies of most of the key commodities at their lowest levels in decades, there is little room for error this year. American farmers are among the world’s top producers, supplying 60 percent of the corn that moves across international borders in a typical year, as well as a third of the soybeans, a quarter of the wheat and a tenth of the rice…”

Shocking Rulings in Canada Regarding Alleged “Hate Crimes”

WorldNetDaily reported on June 9:

“A Canadian human rights tribunal ordered a Christian pastor to renounce his faith and never again express moral opposition to homosexuality, according to a new report.

“In a decision dated May 30 in the penalty phase of the quasi-judicial proceedings run by the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, evangelical pastor Stephen Boisson was banned from expressing his biblical perspective of homosexuality and ordered to pay $5,000 for ‘damages for pain and suffering’ as well as apologize to the activist who complained of being hurt… Boisson wrote a letter to the editor of his local Red Deer, Alberta, newspaper in 2002 denouncing the advance of homosexual activism as ‘wicked’ and stating: ‘Children as young as five and six years of age are being subjected to psychologically and physiologically damaging pro-homosexual literature and guidance in the public school system; all under the fraudulent guise of equal rights.’…”

Please listen to our recent StandingWatch program, titled, “Beware of Hate Crimes,” which discusses the problematic development of overzealous governmental agencies, prosecutors and courts in their dealing with alleged “hate crime” offenders. The program is posted on  StandingWatch or Google Video or YouTube.

The Word’s Questionable Obsession with “Hate Speech”

The International Herald Tribune wrote on June 11:

“A couple of years ago, a Canadian magazine published an article arguing that the rise of Islam threatened Western values. The article’s tone was mocking and biting, but it said nothing that conservative magazines and blogs in the United States did not say every day without fear of legal reprisal. Things are different here. The magazine is on trial.

“Under Canadian law, there is a serious argument that the article contained hate speech and that its publisher, Maclean’s magazine, the nation’s leading newsweekly, should be forbidden from saying similar things, forced to publish a rebuttal and made to compensate Muslims for injuring their ‘dignity, feelings and self respect.’ The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, which held five days of hearings on those questions in Vancouver last week, will soon rule on whether Maclean’s violated a provincial hate speech law by stirring up animosity toward Muslims…

“In the United States… [under] the First Amendment, newspapers and magazines can say what they like about minority groups and religions – even false, provocative or hateful things – without legal consequence…

“Canada, Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech. Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like swastikas and flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France…

“[In the USA, the] First Amendment is not, of course, absolute. The Supreme Court has said that the government may ban fighting words or threats. Punishments may be enhanced for violent crimes prompted by race hate. And private institutions, including universities and employers, are not subject to the First Amendment, which restricts only government activities. But merely saying hateful things about minority groups, even with the intent to cause their members distress and to generate contempt and loathing, is protected by the First Amendment…

“Many foreign courts have respectfully considered the U.S. approach – and then rejected it. A 1990 decision from the Canadian Supreme Court, for instance, upheld the criminal conviction of James Keegstra for ‘unlawfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group by communicating anti-Semitic statements.’ Keegstra, a teacher, had told his students that Jews are ‘money loving,’ ‘power hungry’ and ‘treacherous.’…

“Steyn, the author of the Maclean’s article, said the court proceeding illustrated some important distinctions… ‘What we’re learning here is really the bedrock difference between the United States and the countries that are in a broad sense its legal cousins… Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world.'”

Did Jesus Visit Britain?

On June 7, 2008, the Daily Express stated the following:

“An astonishing new book claims that a decade before he was crucified, Jesus sailed [to Britain] on a trading ship… William Blake’s Jerusalem is a hymn about the legend that Jesus once came to Britain. In it Blake asks if Jesus ever walked upon England’s ‘mountains green’, words inspired by the myth that a man called Jesus wandered through British vill­ages a decade before He was crucified…

“By collating stories from local legends, architectural evi­dence from two ancient churches and analysing letters from our earliest historians, author Glyn Lewis believes the tale of Jesus’s visit to Britain is true. The key to it all is Jesus’s family. Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus’s uncle, was a metal trader who travelled Europe. He was a trustworthy businessman – in Mark 15:43 he is described as an ‘honourable counsellor’.

“’Joseph of Arima­thea almost certainly came here to buy tin in Cornwall and copper and lead in Somerset,’ says Lewis, author of Did Jesus Come To Britain? ‘In the Bible Joseph of Arimathea approached Pon­tius Pilate for Jesus’s body after the crucifixion. The law then stated that only a close relative could have done this, which shows he and Jesus clearly knew each other well. Pilate also gave Joseph time in a meeting, which showed he wasn’t just “anybody” but a respected member of the community.’…

“Miners’ songs in Corn­wall mention Joseph and Jesus and folk songs from Somerset also tell of the days where He walked among the people of Glastonbury. ‘Britain is one of the very few countries that has songs and hymns about Jesus being here,’ Lewis explains. ‘There are so many that it just seems strange they would all be fictional.’…

“It is, however, difficult to find concrete evidence. ‘We have no written history until about the 6th century when famed histor­ian Gildas started writing but I think he refers to Jesus’s time in this country.’ St Gildas, who lived from AD516 to AD710 wrote that: ‘Christ afforded His light to our island during the height of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.’…

“If Jesus and His uncle landed in Cornwall they would have gone on to Somerset. This was a well-established route for metal traders like Joseph and he would have sailed his ship around the Cornish coast and moored near Burnham or Uphill in Somerset. Lewis writes, they ‘might have called in at the mouth of the Camel estuary in Cornwall’ to replenish supplies of food and water. There remains to this day a well on this harbour which legend has it was where Christ and His uncle stopped…”

The Latest News — Ireland’s EU Treaty Referendum Too Close to Call

AFP reported on June 12:
“Ireland on Thursday held a knife edge vote on the European Union’s new reform treaty, with rejection certain to plunge the 27-nation bloc into a new crisis… Counting starts on Friday morning and official results were expected later in the day… EU leaders are anxiously watching Ireland’s voters after a late surge of opposition… Ireland is the only EU member holding a public vote on the treaty, which replaced a draft EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005…

“The Lisbon Treaty, which aims to make EU decision-making more efficient following the recent expansion to 27 nations, has already been approved through a parliamentary vote by 18 other European nations. The Greek, Finnish and Estonian parliaments all ratified the treaty on Wednesday.

“If it is rejected by Ireland, the EU risks being pitched into a new period institutional crisis like that which followed the demise of the EU constitution three years ago… Ireland has caused upsets in EU referendums before. In 2001, its voters rejected the Nice Treaty, a result overturned in a second poll the following year.”

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