Current Events

USA–Is the “Last Best Hope on Earth” Gone?

The British paper, The Daily Mail, wrote on November 8:

“The swooning frenzy over the choice of Barack Obama as President of the United States must be one of the most absurd waves of self-deception and swirling fantasy ever to sweep through an advanced civilisation… This is a cult like the one which grew up around Princess Diana, bereft of reason and hostile to facts…

“Proper books, recording his sordid associates, his cowardly voting record, his astonishingly militant commitment to unrestricted abortion and his blundering trip to Africa, are little-read and hard to find… one of his alarmingly close associates, a state-subsidised slum landlord called Tony Rezko, has been convicted on fraud and corruption charges.

“… the US is just as segregated as it was before Martin Luther King – in schools, streets, neighbourhoods, holidays… Mr Obama, thanks mainly to the now-departed grandmother he alternately praised as a saint and denounced as a racial bigot, has the huge advantages of an expensive private education. He did not have to grow up in the badlands of useless schools, shattered families and gangs which are the lot of so many young black men of his generation.

“If the nonsensical claims made for this election were true, then every positive discrimination programme aimed at helping black people into jobs they otherwise wouldn’t get should be abandoned forthwith. Nothing of the kind will happen. On the contrary, there will probably be more of them. And if those who voted for Obama were all proving their anti-racist nobility, that presumably means that those many millions who didn’t vote for him were proving themselves to be hopeless bigots. This is obviously untrue…

“The United States, having for the most part a deeply conservative people, had until now just about stood out against many of the mistakes which have ruined so much of the rest of the world. Suspicious of welfare addiction, feeble justice and high taxes, totally committed to preserving its own national sovereignty, unabashedly Christian in a world part secular and part Muslim, suspicious of the Great Global Warming panic, it was unique.

“These strengths had been fading for some time, mainly due to poorly controlled mass immigration and to the march of political correctness. They had also been weakened by the failure of America’s conservative party – the Republicans – to fight on the cultural and moral fronts. They preferred to posture on the world stage. Scared of confronting Left-wing teachers and sexual revolutionaries at home, they could order soldiers to be brave on their behalf in far-off deserts. And now the US, like Britain before it, has begun the long slow descent into the Third World. How sad. Where now is our last best hope on Earth?”

“Will the Real Barack Obama Now Finally Stand Up?”

The British paper, The Independent, wrote on November 10:

“What is a strong way of saying ‘ecstatic enthusiasm’? No President has ever had such a hyperbolic welcome. The Second Coming would have been greeted in more measured terms. Then again, much of the reportage assumed that this was a secular Second Coming: a rebirth of America. Thus far, it has been impossible to fault Mr Obama. He has certainly displayed magnanimity in victory.

“… [at] some stage, the hard work will have to begin, the hard decisions will force their way on to the agenda. The Russians have already made it plain that they do not share in the global euphoria. While everyone else expresses hope, they exploit weakness. Nor is it likely that Iran, North Korea, al-Qa’ida and the Taliban will be asking for tickets to the inauguration. Then there is the little matter of the economy. No president since Abraham Lincoln has taken office in such troubled circumstances – and even Lincoln only had one enormous problem…

“His victory has at least two fascinating aspects. First, he will be much the least experienced occupier of the White House in the era of the imperial presidency. Second, no one knows what he believes. In every previous presidential campaign, there were moments of political nakedness, when the voters were able to see the candidate as he really was. Mr Obama kept his clothes on.

“We know that he had one of the most left-wing voting records in the Senate… His speeches are absolutely no guide. Mr Obama is an orator, but thus far, he has used that gift to create a cloud of exaltation. There are hardly any arguments…

“The most alarming aspect of the current economic crisis is that none of the experts seem to understand it. So how can anyone tell when it is going to end?…

“Mr Obama was right to insist that Wall Street cannot prosper if Main Street is suffering. But a healthy financial sector is vital… Many Congressional Democrats are economic ignoramuses with all the wrong instincts. If they had their way, there would be a forest of new regulations… But the world needs a strong Wall St. It is to be hoped that President Obama understands this. A president who tells blacks that the Civil Rights era belongs to history while reassuring American bankers: that is not how most of Mr Obama’s followers expect him to behave. But greatness is not to be found by pandering to followers’ illusions…

“Thus far – the cliché is inescapable – the Obama story has been stranger than fiction. Yet the real drama has still to begin.”

Will Guantanamo Bay Prison Be Shut… and Then What?

The Independent wrote on November 10:

“Mr Obama has a long-standing commitment to shut down Guantanamo, which has become a symbol of injustice for human rights campaigners, and a lightning rod for anti-US criticism since it opened eight years ago. Closing the prison, which is on a part of Cuba leased to the US, will bring to an end one of the most poisonous legacies of the Bush administration while sending a signal that the ‘war on terror’ is under more enlightened management.

“During his election campaign, Mr Obama described Guantanamo and the CIA’s secret prisons around the world as a ‘sad chapter in American history’. Other aspects of Mr Bush’s ‘war on terror’ will also demand Mr Obama’s urgent attention such as yesterday’s revelation by the New York Times that the US military has, during the past four years, conducted up to a dozen secret raids in Pakistan and other countries not at war with the US. Mr Obama has previously said he would approve such raids against enemies such as Osama bin Laden if… no other option was available.

“Mr Obama’s plans for Guantanamo inmates should see most detainees, against whom there is little or no evidence, being released to their home countries after years in legal limbo. Others will face prosecution in US criminal courts. One problem… those courts will face is deciding whether evidence from anonymous intelligence sources or obtained without any legal process can be taken into account. Some Guantanamo inmates suffered torture or other abusive treatment at the hands of CIA interrogators either at the prison or after they were picked up in security sweeps in Afghanistan or Pakistan. A few have been through the controversial military commissions process, from which even prosecutors have resigned. The US Supreme Court has several times rebuked the Bush administration for its handling of the detainees…

“Republicans will strongly oppose bringing terrorism suspects to the US. Many Democrats oppose the creation of a new court system on US soil that will have fewer rights for suspects than at present.

“Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor who is acting as a legal adviser to the Obama team, said at the weekend that ‘theoretical’ plans for Guantanamo would now become more focused because closing the prison is a top priority. But he also predicted that transferring suspected terrorists to US soil will be a cause of controversy. ‘I think the answer is going to be, they can be as securely guarded on US soil as anywhere else,’ Mr Tribe said. ‘We can’t put people in a dungeon forever without processing whether they deserve to be there.’…

“Lawyers representing clients at Guantanamo Bay such as Marc Falkoff point out that only a dozen or so detainees are known to be avowed terrorists… ‘Most of the detainees are goat herders, or Arabs who volunteered to help the Taliban, but they are not hardcore terrorists. The real problem is getting their home countries to accept them back.'”

How American Muslims View Barack Obama

USA Today reported on November 7:

“After months of balancing their support for the presidential candidate with concerns that their allegiance could do more harm than good, millions of relieved American Muslims cheered the election of the son of a Muslim immigrant whose middle name is Hussein.

“Record numbers of U.S. Muslims had cast their votes, boosted by registration drives held by the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, which targeted swing-state residents. MAS Freedom estimates that about 70,000 Muslims voted in Virginia, a state that had not backed a Democratic president in more than 40 years, and which Barack Obama won by fewer than 160,000 votes…

“The Muslim community has mobilized greatly since 2000, when most of its voters — with the exception of African American Muslims — had supported George W. Bush. Ultimately dismayed by the president’s post-9/11 policies, they began swinging Democratic in 2004… Early estimates indicate that between 70 and 90% of Muslim voters supported Obama this year…

“Throughout the party primaries and the general election, Muslims had to temper their political activism against a smear campaign calling Obama a ‘secret Muslim,’ based on his father’s Kenyan roots. These efforts ultimately backfired; Jen’nan Read, a Duke University sociology professor, said the rumors helped galvanize Muslims and other offended Americans to fight back.

“But some Muslims were more frustrated that Obama’s campaign, which responded to the accusations by highlighting the candidate’s Christian faith, did not also state that there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim American — an anti-Islamophobia point finally made in Gen. Colin Powell’s mid-October endorsement. They also complained when Obama volunteers moved two headscarf-wearing Muslim women out of a background shot at a Detroit rally last summer, prompting the campaign to apologize.

“‘They were disappointed,’ Read said. ‘But they were also disappointed by the past eight years of George Bush, and more disappointed in that than in (Obama’s) campaign strategy.’ Rumors of Obama’s Muslim ties, and the possible implications for U.S.-Israel relations, also fueled an unusually tough battle for the Jewish vote. But ultimately, about 78% of Jews supported Obama — slightly higher than their 2004 votes for John Kerry, although the Republican Jewish Coalition noted that this did not reach their support for either Bill Clinton or Al Gore…

“In terms of immediate goals for the next White House resident, the Muslim community now wants to see Obama fulfill his promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, and to take a more balanced approach when dealing with turmoil in Pakistan and the Middle East…”

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Position on Same-Sex Marriage “Evolving”

The Los Angeles Times reported on November 10:

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday expressed hope that the California Supreme Court would overturn Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage. He also predicted that the 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who have already wed would not see their marriages nullified by the initiative. ‘It’s unfortunate, obviously, but it’s not the end,’ Schwarzenegger said…

“With his favorable comments toward gay marriage, the governor’s thinking appears to have evolved on the issue. In past statements, he has said he believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman and has rejected legislation authorizing same-sex marriage. Yet he has also said he would not care if same-sex marriages were legal, saying he believed that such an important societal issue should be determined by the voters or the courts. Schwarzenegger publicly opposed Proposition 8, which amends the state Constitution to declare that ‘only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.’

“On Sunday, he urged backers of gay marriage to follow the lesson he learned as a bodybuilder trying to lift weights that were too heavy for him at first. ‘I learned that you should never ever give up. . . . They should never give up. They should be on it and on it until they get it done’…

“Schwarzenegger’s comments came as protesters took to the streets for a fifth day in a row, sometimes marching to [and protesting against] Catholic and Mormon churches that supported passage of the ballot measure…

“Some churches… assailed Proposition 8 as discriminatory. ‘We will continue to bless same-sex unions here until we can legally celebrate same-sex unions again,’… [Pastor] Ed Bacon told 1,000 congregants during Sunday services at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, which has blessed same-sex unions for 16 years… [He said:] “In the eyes of God, these people are married.”

The Associated Press added on November 10:

“Speaking on CNN’s ‘Late Edition’ Sunday, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed disappointment at Proposition 8’s passage. ‘It is unfortunate,’ Schwarzenegger said. ‘But it is not the end because I think this will go back into the courts. … It’s the same as in the 1948 case when blacks and whites were not allowed to marry. This falls into the same category.'”

Circuit City Files for Bankruptcy

The Associated Press reported on November 10:

“Circuit City Stores Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday heading into the busy holiday season as analysts question whether the nation’s second-biggest electronics retailer will be able to survive… The company also said it cut 700 more jobs at its headquarters, after announcing a week ago that it would close 20 percent of its stores and lay off thousands of workers.

“Circuit City filed for Chapter 11 protection, which will allow it to hold off creditors and continue operations while it develops a reorganization plan. Its Canadian operations also filed for similar protection.”

AIG’s Bailout Keeps Climbing…

Bloomberg reported on November 10:

“American International Group Inc. got a $150 billion government rescue package, almost doubling the initial bailout of less than two months ago… The move extends the government’s reach into the financial system amid the worst economic crisis in 75 years…”

Troubled Banks Continue to Lobby

USA Today wrote on November 7:

“Nineteen banks taking taxpayer money from the Treasury Department have spent $32.4 million lobbying the federal government during the first nine months of this year, their lobbying disclosure reports show. Combined, the Treasury is investing in the banks $159 billion from the $700 billion financial rescue package approved by Congress last month. None of the banks has indicated it plans to stop lobbying.”

In an accompanying article, the newspaper listed some of the larger banks in question, including Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Capital One.

70 Years Ago–Germany’s Kristallnacht

AFP reported on November 9:

“Germany marked Sunday [November 9] the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht [“the Night of Broken Glass”] pogrom, a prelude to the Holocaust, with solemn ceremonies throughout the country and celebrations of the rebirth of Jewish life here. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Jewish leaders gathered at Germany’s biggest synagogue to pay tribute to the victims of Kristallnacht on November 9-10, 1938, and to the revival of a Jewish community against all odds…

“The pogrom… saw Nazi thugs plunder Jewish businesses throughout Germany, torch some 300 synagogues and round up some 30,000 Jewish men for deportation to concentration camps. Some 90 Jews were killed in the orgy of violence, whose pretext was the murder of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris by a student, Herschel Grynspan, who sought revenge for the expulsion of his family from Germany with about 15,000 other Polish Jews…

“Historians say the Nazis tested the German public’s reaction to the spasm of anti-Semitic violence and the lack of public outcry led them to press on, culminating in the extermination campaign launched three years later…

“After national unification in 1990, Germany began accepting Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet states and the country now has one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in the world with some 110,000 members… Because it shares the same date [November 9], the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was also marked Sunday at low-key events ahead of the 20th anniversary next year.”

Welt-On-Line added on November 9:

“German-born Pope Benedict voiced on Sunday his lingering pain over the night 70 years ago when the Nazis whipped up anti-Jewish riots in a pogrom known as the ‘Kristallnacht’, a harbinger of the Holocaust… ‘Still today I feel pain over what happened in those tragic events, whose memory must serve to ensure such horrors are never repeated and that we strive, on every level, against all forms of anti-Semitism and discrimination … ,’ said the pope. ‘I invite people to pray for the victims of that night and to join me in expressing profound solidarity with the Jewish world,’ the pontiff told crowds at the Vatican…

“Pope Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria in 1927, was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a teenager, though both his parents opposed the Nazis. Earlier this year the pontiff spoke in New York about his teenage years being ‘marred by a sinister regime’…”

Holocaust Survivors Ask Vatican to Freeze Sainthood Procedure for Pope Pius XII

Reuters wrote on November 10:

“One of the most influential groups of Holocaust survivors accused Nazi-era Pope Pius XII on Monday of keeping ‘silent in the face of absolute evil’ and asked the Vatican to freeze his sainthood process…

“Elan Steinberg, the group’s vice president [and director emeritus of the World Jewish Congress], said in a statement: ‘There were many individuals and representatives of the Church whose shining heroism during the terrible years of the Holocaust should be recognized, but Pope Pius was not among them… ‘

“Some Jews have accused Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust. The Vatican says he worked silently behind the scenes and helped save many Jews… Pius was guilty of ‘public silence in the face of absolute evil,’ Steinberg said.

“‘During World War II, despite pleas and reports from other Church leaders and the Allies, Pope Pius failed to even once publicly and explicitly denounce the Nazi crimes against the Jews,’ he said. Differences over Pius’s role haunted Catholic-Jewish relations. Some Catholics recently pushed for the Pope to speed up his sainthood process and some Jews want it put on hold until Vatican archives are opened in about seven years…

“Steinberg said the Vatican should instead look to Pope John XXIII (1958-1963), who helped save Jews and who reported to the Vatican on Nazi plans to exterminate the Jews when he was a bishop and the Vatican’s wartime representative in Turkey.”

Billy Graham No Longer Pastor to President

USA Today and The Associated Press reported on November 7:

“Billy Graham’s work as a pastor to presidents is coming to an end, but he is praying for Barack Obama as the next U.S. leader begins his work, Graham’s son said Friday on the ailing evangelist’s 90th birthday… Graham’s views of the world are still respected in White House circles. Republican presidential candidate John McCain visited Graham at his mountainside home during the campaign, and Obama tried to meet Graham but wasn’t able to do so because of the preacher’s poor health.

“Though never partisan in his preaching, Billy Graham is a registered Democrat. His son expressed concern about Obama’s views on abortion and gay marriage — an issue Franklin Graham raised in a meeting with the Illinois senator — saying that he and his father are conservatives who believe the Bible speaks clearly on those issues.

“‘President-elect Obama heard our position,’ Franklin Graham said. ‘And I told him that this was very difficult for us and hard for us. It’s a moral issue that we just can’t back down on. But he’s our president-elect, and those positions that he holds that are contrary to Biblical teaching, I hope that God will change his heart…’ Obama favors abortion rights, and does not support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage…

“His days at 90 are a stark contrast to Graham’s days as a globe-trotting evangelist — a ministry that put him behind the pulpit to speak with 215 million people in more than 185 countries and placed him in the confidence of some of the world’s most powerful people.”

Robert Schuller Ousts His Son–Does Not Want to Preach What Is Sin

The Los Angeles Times reported on October 27:

“The schism between… Robert H. Schuller and his son at Orange County’s Crystal Cathedral arose over a disagreement about broadening the church’s long-running television show, ‘Hour of Power,’ beyond a single personality — a move opposed by the younger Schuller, pastors involved in the matter said Sunday. The elder Schuller announced Saturday that he was removing his son… Robert A. Schuller, as the show’s only preacher three years after turning the program over to him. The show will now be hosted by different pastors, and even businessmen, from around the country and Latin America…

“Schuller built his worldwide ministry over a half century on the psychology of positive thinking and appealing to people turned off by the formality of traditional faiths. In contrast, his son’s sermons have been full of direct references to the Bible. ‘I was called to start a mission, not a church,’ Schuller told his audience Sunday. ‘There is a difference. . . . You don’t try to preach . . . what is sin and what isn’t sin. A mission is a place where you ask nonbelievers to come and find faith and hope and feel love. We’re a mission first, a church second.’… ‘I love my son and am proud of my son,’ he said, adding that the younger Schuller will continue to work as a Crystal Cathedral senior pastor.”

Pope Condemns Trade in Human Organs

Reuters reported on November 7:

“Pope Benedict condemned the trade in human organs as an abomination Friday and urged caution in removing organs for transplant from dying donors who might not actually yet be dead… Buying and selling of human organs is a lucrative business for suppliers and countries that allow foreign ‘transplant tourists’ to have operations they cannot get at home. Organs are often bought from poor peasants and sometimes harvested from condemned prisoners…

“A recent article in the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano challenged the medical consensus that brain death marks the death of a person. Since the brain can die before other organs, this allows doctors to harvest organs for transplant… The Vatican has long accepted the brain death criterion. Rejecting it now could force Catholic hospitals to revert to the cardiac death rule, leaving many fewer organs for transplant.”

Life Begins at Defined Moment of Conception

On November 7, 2008, Zenit published an interview with scientist Maureen Condic who holds that human life begins at a defined moment of conception. Condic is an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She received her doctorate in neurobiology from the University of California, Berkely. Her teaching focuses primarily on embryonic development, and she directs the University of Utah School of Medicine’s course in human embryology.

In the interview, Condic stated the following:

“… resolving when human life begins has important implications for a number of controversial political topics, including abortion and human embryonic stem cell research… The central question of ‘when does human life begin’ can be stated in a somewhat different way: When do sperm and egg cease to be, and what kind of thing takes their place once they cease to be?…

“[My] conclusion [is] that a new human organism comes into existence at the moment of sperm-egg fusion… a scientific analysis of the best available data does not support the conclusion that fertilization is a ‘process’; it supports the conclusion that fertilization is an event that takes less than a second to complete. The events of the first 24 hours following sperm-egg fusion are clearly unique, but they are also clearly acts of a human organism, not acts of a mere human cell.”

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