Europe’s Half-Hearted Measures Towards Russia
The EUObserver reported on September 2, 2008:
“EU leaders on Monday (1 September) agreed to postpone talks on a new EU-Russia partnership until Russian troops withdraw from Georgia following the insistence of a bloc of member states… Poland – one of the countries pushing for the suspension – hailed the final declaration as a victory and insisted its position was not isolated. ‘We were not alone, we were acting within a group,’ including also the Czech Republic, the Baltic States – Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, the UK and Sweden, Polish President Lech Kaczynski told journalists…
“Additionally, EU states agreed to ‘strongly condemn Russia’s unilateral decision to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia…’ However, as expected, EU leaders… stopped short of imposing formal sanctions on Russia… The EU has also decided to appoint an ‘EU special representative for the crisis in Georgia’ and to send immediately a ‘fact-finding mission’ to gather information on the ground.”
Germany and France Block EU Sanctions Against Russia
Der Spiegel Online wrote on September 2:
“Last week, some European Union members talked of levying sanctions on Moscow. On Monday evening in Brussels, however, German and French-style diplomacy won out… In the five page document, the word ‘sanctions’ doesn’t make a single appearance. It is, of course, a calculated omission…
“‘Postponed [talks],’ but not abandoned — there is a fine line between the two in diplomatic language. If the talks had been abandoned then initiating new ones would have required the approval of the leaders of the EU member states…”
Germany Main Obstacle to Signing of Major EU-Ukraine Treaty?
The EUObserver wrote on August 28:
“Germany’s close relations with Russia are the main obstacle to signing a major EU-Ukraine treaty at the upcoming EU-Ukraine summit in France [in September]…
“‘There are maybe two or three countries who are strong opposers, strong sceptics,’ Ukrainian deputy foreign minister Konstantin Yeliseyev said in Brussels…, commenting on EU reluctance to state clearly that ‘the future of Ukraine lies in the European Union’ in the preamble to the new treaty. ‘In this regard, we count very much on the leadership of Germany, which is the engine of EU integration and a very powerful country, we count very much on their courage,’ he added…
“The statement on EU enlargement is a deal-breaker for Ukraine, which says that if Germany’s preferred wording – that the new treaty ‘does not prejudge future relations’ – is used, it will effectively rule out any Ukraine moves toward EU accession for the next 10 to 15 years, when the pact is due to expire. Ukraine is also pressing for NATO countries to offer it a Membership Action Plan in December, with Germany also leading opposition at NATO-level to such a move.
“Mr Yeliseyev warned that lack of a clear political commitment by the West to Ukraine will be seen by Moscow as a green light to expand influence in the east… ‘If Ukrainian security deteriorated, it would not be a Georgia scenario, it would be a more dangerous scenario,’ he said, with the 50 million-strong, former nuclear power currently controlling most of Russia’s natural gas exports to the EU.”
Highly Irresponsible Article by Der Spiegel on Russia-Georgia Conflict
On September 1, the left-liberal German magazine, Der Spiegel, wrote a highly offensive piece which almost sounded like Russian war propaganda. The article was entitled, “Russia and the West–The Cold Peace.”
In the article, the authors even gave some credence to the ridiculous allegation that U.S. Vice President Dick “Cheney may have sparked the crisis in Georgia as a favor to the Republican presidential candidate. There is a wealth of evidence to support such a theory.” In making this outrageous claim, Der Spiegel became a mouth-piece for Vladimir Putin, who was referred to by The International Herald Tribune, on August 29, as follows:
“[Putin] suggested that the Bush administration may have tried to create a crisis that would influence American voters in the choice of a successor to President George W. Bush… Putin offered scant evidence to support his assertion, and the White House called his comments absurd.”
In addition, Der Spiegel also referred to “indications” that Georgia’s leader “Saakashvili attacked the civilian population [of South Ossetia] while they were asleep in their beds. That could be tantamount to a war crime.”
In spite of these irresponsible allegations, the article included a few worthwhile statements which we would like to quote, for your consideration:
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel loves the Russians… She also loves Russian, and back in the former East Germany, Merkel learned the language so well that she won a Russian contest… She also said that if Russia were to send its military into Estonia, the country would be covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, meaning that an armed attack against one NATO member is considered an attack against them all… War, of course, would be the result… Nobody has a solution to the problems…
“After the EU summit, [Merkel] is due to call US President George W. Bush to pitch the European line on Russia, assuming there will be one. During the Cold War this would have been a call to the leading Western power. But these days the US is in no position to play a leading role… The crisis with Russia comes at a time when US foreign policy is plagued by uncertainty. Bush, the warrior, is powerless to act. He commands the largest military machine in the world, and yet no major breakthrough has been achieved in Iraq or Afghanistan. America has occupied these countries, but failed to pacify them…
“A colonel in the FSB, Russia’s domestic secret service and the successor organization to the KGB, expressed alarm last week. A violent conflict between Americans and Russians ‘on what is currently Ukrainian territory’ is ‘highly probable,’ he said, adding that if followers of Ukraine’s reformist president Viktor Yushchenko continue to insult the Russian inhabitants of the Crimea and defame the Russian Black Sea Fleet then it will be ‘time to come in and help the Russians living there.’ Around 1,500 kilometers to the north of the Crimea, in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, belligerent statements of this kind evoke a distinct sense of fear. In 1939, these Baltic countries were deprived of their independence as a consequence of the Hitler-Stalin Pact.”
Haider Back in the News–with a “New” Image
Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) reported on August 31:
“Rising prices and immigration are emerging as key topics in Austrian general elections due September 28, with right-wing parties expected to win up to 25 per cent of votes. Shortly after Social Democratic Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer stepped down as party chief in June, the conservative People’s Party (OVPe), the junior partner in government, announced the end of the coalition and called for early parliamentary elections… [Joerg] Haider… wants to fight high gasoline costs by opening government-subsidised petrol stations.”
On September 1, 2008, Reuters added the following:
“Right-wing populist Joerg Haider, staging a national comeback, aims to boost his party’s fortunes in Austria’s September 28 snap election but without the firebrand politics that once made waves across Europe. Gone are the xenophobic outbursts and the apologist rhetoric about Hitler’s Third Reich that helped provoke brief European Union sanctions on Austria when his party was part of the federal ruling coalition from 2000 to 2006.
“Haider, whose penchant for controversy once extended to cultivating ties with Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, has cut a notably calmer and conciliatory profile since re-emerging from a three-year retreat as governor of Carinthia province. He says his small party can be part of a ‘responsible alternative’ to dysfunctional coalitions of Austria’s two big parties, arguing his views — still anti-immigration and anti-EU integration — have become mainstream… he said his Alliance for the Future of Austria Party would take 6 to 8 percent, roughly double its showing in 2006… ‘(Our goal) is the biggest possible piece of the 25 percent pie,’ he told Reuters in an interview…
“Once a maverick more comfortable in opposition, Haider has played up a statesman’s image, saying an anti-inflation subsidy plan he applied in Carinthia could work on the national level and that he was open to a Vienna coalition with anyone…
“He said the European Union should forge ‘a privileged partnership or special treaties’ with Turkey to obtain a natural gas pipeline not dependent on Russia… But Haider said Turkey was culturally too different from the EU to qualify for membership — a mainstream view in Austria. He said asylum seekers convicted of crimes should be fitted with electronic tags to ensure they cannot vanish while awaiting deportation…”
McCain’s New Running Mate
The Associated Press reported on August 29:
“McCain’s veep choice is historic and hardly known… She has more experience catching fish than dealing with foreign policy or national affairs… McCain picked an independent figure in his own mold… [Alaska’s Governor Sarah] Palin’s selection was a jaw-dropper, as McCain passed over many other better known prospects, some of whom had been the subject of intense speculation for weeks or months… She brings a strong anti-abortion stance to the ticket and opposes gay marriage — constitutionally banned in Alaska before her time — but exercised a veto that essentially granted benefits to gay state employees and their partners… Democrats seized on the gaping experience gap and said McCain now has no business questioning the seasoning of their nominee…
“Palin’s clean-hands reputation has come into question with an investigation recently launched by a legislative panel into whether she dismissed Alaska’s public safety commissioner because he would not fire her former brother-in-law as a state trooper. Trooper Mike Wooten went through a messy divorce from Palin’s sister. The governor denied orchestrating the dozens of telephone calls made by her husband and members of her administration to Wooten’s bosses…
“Four months into her most recent pregnancy, Palin learned the child would have Down syndrome, and she said she never had any doubts about whether she would have the baby. ‘We understand that every innocent life has wonderful potential,’ Palin told AP earlier this year in describing what she and her husband had confronted…
“During her first year in office, Palin moved away from the powerful old guard of the state Republican Party and has refused to kowtow to the powerful oil industry, instead presiding over a tax increase on oil company profits that now has the state’s treasury swelling. But she is a proponent of petroleum development, in tune with McCain, although the two disagree on drilling in Alaska’s protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She favors drilling there; he opposes it.
“The governor also opposed designating polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, fearing that step would get in the way of a proposed natural gas pipeline tapping the North Slope’s vast reserves.”
The Associated Press reported on August 29:
On August 29, nbc4.com published the following profile on Governor Sarah Palin:
“With the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, Sen. John McCain has extended an olive branch to the far right wing of his party… Below is a list of her stance on several important issues.
“Abortion: Palin is outspokenly pro-life.
“Marriage: Palin opposes same-sex marriage and stated on her campaign web site that she believes ‘marriage should only be between a man and a woman.’
“Climate: Upon being elected governor of Alaska, she created a sub-cabinet on climate change. However, she has been a vocal critic of scientists who suggest that climate change is leading to the decrease in polar bears in Alaska. She has also threatened to sue to have polar bears not listed as a threatened species.
“Immigration: Being that her state only borders Canada and is thousands of miles from the Mexican border, Palin has not often expressed her views publicly on illegal immigration.
“Guns: Palin is a lifetime member of the NRA. On her Web site, she wrote that she supports ‘our Constitutional right to bear arms and am a proponent of gun safety programs for Alaska’s youth.’
“Economy: She supports reducing property taxes and taxes for small businesses to grow the economy.
“Iraq: Palin is generally supportive of America’s presence in Iraq, her 18-year-old son Track Palin is in the Army and is slotted to go to Iraq in September. Palin has also visited members of the Alaska National Guard in Kuwait.
“Health Care: According to her campaign Web site, Palin supports flexibility in government regulations that allow competition in health care. She believes it will drive down health care costs and reduce the need for government subsidies. Palin also feels patients should have access to full medical billing information.”
The Iraq War a Task from God?
The Associated Press reported on September 3, 2008:
“Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church [Wasilla Assembly of God] that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a ‘task that is from God.’ In an address last June, the Republican vice presidential candidate also urged ministry students to pray for a plan to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state, calling it ‘God’s will.’
“Palin asked the students to pray for the troops in Iraq, and noted that her eldest son, Track, was expected to be deployed there. ‘Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God,’ she said. ‘That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God’s plan’…
“Palin attended the evangelical church from the time she was a teenager until 2002… She has continued to attend special conferences and meetings there.”
Palin’s Daughter Is Pregnant…
MSNBC reported on September 1, 2008:
“The 17-year-old daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is pregnant, Palin said Monday in an announcement intended to knock down rumors by liberal bloggers that Palin faked her own pregnancy to cover up for her child.
“Bristol Palin, one of Alaska Gov. Palin’s five children with her husband, Todd, is about five months pregnant and is going to keep the child and marry the father, the Palins said in a statement… ‘We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us,’ the Palins’ statement said. ‘Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support,’ the Palins said…”
A question is being debated on the Internet whether the case involves statutory rape under Alaska law. Much false information has been circulated in this regard. According to the press, at the time of sexual intercourse, the boyfriend was 18 and the teenage girl 17. Based on this statement, no statutory rape would be involved in Alaska for numerous reasons.
However, we may want to consider the issue of proper conduct. In virtually all press releases, nothing was said about sin. Rather, if at all, the word “mistake” was used, or it was emphasized how important it is to use contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies. What ever happened to the Biblical command to “flee fornication”?
We are glad that the decision was made not to abort the child–but rather, to get married. However, this does not justify the sin of fornication. Of course, God forgives sin upon repentance, and so must we. At the same time, our young people must be taught that it IS still sin to live together and engage in sexual activity outside of the sanctity of marriage. To just gloss over such conduct and call it “mistake,” if it leads to unwanted consequences, is NOT the way to proceed.
One point of view, which may come close to what we are addressing, was perhaps expressed in an article published on September 3, 2008, by the New York Daily News. It was titled, “Just Too Young.” We are quoting the following excerpts:
“Whatever its political implications, the out-of-wedlock pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter is emblematic of a truly lamentable social phenomenon. Across America – and especially here in New York City – far too many teenage girls become pregnant every year, well before most are emotionally and financially equipped for parenthood. Ditto for the fathers…
“In 2006, the city was home to 268,000 girls who were 15 to 19 years old. More than 23,000 got pregnant – almost one out of every 11, which was more than double the national rate. These pregnancies added to a national total of roughly 730,000 teen pregnancies, 80% of which were unplanned. They also drove up the number of abortions, with almost 14,000 New York girls ending their pregnancies, as well as the number of single-parent households, with more than 7,500 giving birth out of wedlock…
“Thanks to Palin’s newfound prominence as John McCain’s running mate, Bristol Palin and her partner, Levi Johnston, 18, have been thrown into the spotlight as poster children for what not to do in a relationship at a young age. The responsibility they are said to be taking in planning to marry and raise their child does not eliminate that they are adjusting to the lifetime consequences of irresponsibility… the country would be well served by a frank discussion of the ills that often follow when immature teenagers blunder into pregnancy.”
117 U.S. Banks “Problem Banks”–with the Number Expected to Rise
Bloomberg reported on August 29:
“Integrity Bank of Alpharetta, Georgia, was closed by U.S. regulators today, the 10th bank to collapse this year amid a surge in soured real-estate loans stemming from the worst housing slump since the Great Depression…
“Banks are being closed at the fastest pace in 14 years as financial companies report more than $505 billion in writedowns and credit losses since 2007… The FDIC this week said 117 banks are classified as ‘problem’ in the second quarter, a 30 percent jump from the first quarter. The agency doesn’t identify ‘problem’ lenders. ‘More banks will come on the list as credit problems worsen,’ FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said…
“The credit market turmoil may topple some of the nation’s biggest banks, Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, said in Singapore Aug. 19. ‘Like any shrinking industries, we are going to see the exit of some major players,” Rogoff told Bloomberg, declining to name the banks he expects to fail.”
USA to Strike Iran in Coming Weeks?
On September 1, 2008, the Jerusalem Post published an article with the headline, “US to strike Iran in coming weeks.” In the article, it was pointed out:
“The Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD, has called off an operation aimed at infiltrating and sabotaging Iran’s weapons industry due to an assessment that a US attack on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program is imminent… The report claimed that the Dutch operation had been ‘extremely successful,’ and had been stopped because the US military was planning to hit targets that were ‘connected with the Dutch espionage action.’ The impending air-strike on Iran was to be carried out by unmanned aircraft ‘within weeks,’ the report claimed, quoting ‘well placed’ sources…”
Will Israel Strike Iran?
The Jerusalem Post reported on August 29, 2008:
“Israel will not allow Iran to attain nuclear capability and if time begins to run out, Jerusalem will not hesitate to take whatever means necessary to prevent Iran from achieving its nuclear goals, the government has recently decided in a special discussion… Jerusalem has begun preparing for a separate, independent military strike… Jerusalem has consistently warned in recent years that it will not settle for a ‘wait and see’ approach, merely retaliating to an attack, but will rather use preemption to prevent any risk of being hit in the first place.
“Ephraim Sneh, a veteran Labor MK who has recently left the party, has reportedly sent a document to both US presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama. The eight-point document states that ‘there is no government in Jerusalem that would ever reconcile itself to a nuclear Iran. When it is clear Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, an Israeli military strike to prevent this will be seriously considered.’…
“Sneh also visited Switzerland and Austria last week in an attempt to lobby them against the Iranian threat. Both countries have announced massive long-term investments in Iranian gas and oil fields for the next decade. ‘Talk of the Jewish Holocaust and Israel’s security doesn’t impress these guys,’ Sneh said wryly. Hearing his hosts speak of their future investments, Sneh replied quietly ‘it’s a shame, because Ido will light all this up.’ He was referring to Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, the recently appointed IAF commander and the man most likely to be the one to orchestrate Israel’s attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, should this become a necessity. ‘Investing in Iran in 2008,’ Sneh told his Austrian hosts, ‘is like investing in the Krupp steelworks in 1938, it’s a high risk investment.’ The Austrians, according to Sneh, turned pale.
“In related news, a top official said Friday that Iran had increased the number of operating centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant to 4,000… Meanwhile, the pan-Arabic Al Kuds al Arabi reported Friday that Iran had equipped Hizbullah with longer range missiles than those it possessed before the Second Lebanon War and had also improved the guerrilla group’s targeting capabilities. According to the report, which The Jerusalem Post could not verify independently, Hizbullah was planning a massive rocket onslaught on targets reaching deep into Israel’s civilian underbelly in case Israel launches an attack on Iran.”
Will Conflict with Iran Ignite World War III?
AFP reported on August 29, 2008:
“A senior Iranian military commander has warned that any US or Israeli attack on the Islamic republic would start a new world war… Another top military commander said Iran was prepared to ‘take the enemies off-guard’ and would unveil more weapons in case of an attack… During war games in July which provoked international concern, aides to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that Iran would target US bases and US ships in the Gulf as well as Israel if it was attacked. Iran also test-fired its Shahab-3 missile which it says puts Israel within range.”
AFP added on September 2:
“Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned Tuesday that an attack by Israel on Iran would have catastrophic consequences for the entire world. ‘We think that Israel could try to launch attacks against Iran, even against Lebanon or Syria,’ he said…”
Serious Water Shortage in Israel
The British paper, The Independent, wrote on August 30:
“The 2,000-year-old fishing boat of Galilee in which, the story goes, Jesus may have sailed, is one of the most precious ancient treasures in Israel. The vessel, which draws thousands of tourists to a kibbutz in Ginosar, was discovered by chance in 1986 when the sea level dropped dramatically because of a severe drought.
“‘This year it is actually worse. I have been here 54 years and I have never seen the water so low, the situation so bad,’ said Haim Binstock, an expert on the boat in the museum where it is kept. ‘I don’t think the outside world realises just how dangerous the situation is, not just for Israel but for the whole region.’
“The waters of the Sea of Galilee are now at their lowest on record and, officials say, are set to fall even lower. The crisis is both natural and man-made. Four successive years of droughts, with rainfall less than half the annual average, has combined with a lack of snow on the peaks of Mount Hermon to lead to the shortage. At the same time, Israel’s relentless pumping of water to irrigate farmland and supply homes has been massively worsening the situation.”
“Iraq Signs $3 Billion Oil Deal with China”
CNN reported on August 30:
“Iraq has signed its first major oil deal with a foreign company since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime… It was the first time in more than 35 years that Iraq has allowed foreign oil companies to do business inside its borders. The contract with the China National Petroleum Corporation could be worth up to $3 billion. It would allow the CNPC to develop an oil field in southern Iraq’s Wasit province for about 20 years, Oil Ministry spokesman Assim Jihad said.
“Iraq’s Cabinet must still approve the contract, but Jihad said that would happen soon and work could start within a few months. The Chinese company will provide technical advisers, oil workers and equipment to develop al-Ahdab oil field, providing fuel for al-Zubaidiya power plant in Wasit, southeast of Baghdad, bordering Iran, Jihad said.
“Once development begins, the field is expected to start producing a preliminary amount of 25,000 barrels of oil a day and an estimated constant daily amount of 125,000 barrels after three years, he said. Iraq currently produces about 2.5 million barrels a day, 2 million of which are exported daily, Jihad said. That is close to its status before the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam in 2003, but below its levels prior to the Persian Gulf War in 1991… Iraq has among the largest oil reserves in the world, with an estimated 115 billion barrels, tying Iran for the No. 2 status behind Saudi Arabia’s 264 billion barrels…”
Germany Worried About Afghanistan
Germans are worried and concerned about the situation in Afghanistan. Deutsche Welle reported on September 3:
“With German troops tense about the growing risk of Taliban attacks, German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung traveled to Afghanistan on an unannounced visit. Jung met on Tuesday, Sept. 2, with a tribal leader near Kunduz and conveyed Germany’s condolences over the shooting deaths of an Afghan woman and two children. They were killed last Thursday evening when German troops at a roadblock opened fire on a car when it ignored an order to stop…
“Jung said he assured him the German army was doing everything it could to prevent civilian casualties. German prosecutors have been conducting a routine inquiry into whether the shooting was allowed under German rules of engagement.
“Tension has been high in the German contingent amid an upsurge of both attacks and warnings of attacks, German soldiers say. Last week a German soldier was killed when a remote-controlled bomb went off near an armored vehicle. At a briefing, Jung was told that security had ‘markedly deteriorated’ with a growing risk of attack on the Germans by booby traps, missiles, ambushes and suicide bombers.”