Current Events

America’s Recession Deepens

Reuters reported on November 19:

“Consumer prices fell at a record pace in October and new-home building slumped to fresh lows, according to government reports on Wednesday that suggested the economy likely is already in a recession that may be long and deep.”

The Associated Press added on November 19:

“Consumer prices plunged by the largest amount in the past 61 years in October… With the economy sliding into a recession and mortgage foreclosures continuing to rise to record levels, there was little prospect of a rebound any time soon…”

The New York Times wrote on November 19:

“Shares on Wall Street closed at their lowest levels in five years on Wednesday as hope dimmed in Washington for an emergency bailout of the auto industry. The late-day sell-off came in frenzy amid growing fears of deflation.

“The Dow Jones settled below 8,000 for the first time since 2003…  All corners of the market were down, but the financial, transportation and consumer sectors took the heaviest blows. Financial stocks were down an average of 9 percent over the day, and the banking giant Citigroup dropped 22 percent.

“Auto shares fell as the leaders of the three American automakers reprised their appearance on Capitol Hill to discuss an emergency bailout and the threat of bankruptcy. General Motors was down 10 percent, to $2.78 a share, and the Ford Motor Company was down 24 percent, to $1.27. By late Wednesday, it seemed clear the automakers would leave Washington without the $25 billion in federal aid the companies contend is critical to their long-term survival.”

Reuters reported on November 20:

“The U.S. financial system still needs at least $1 trillion to $1.2 trillion of tangible common equity to restore confidence and improve liquidity in the credit markets, Friedman Billings Ramsey analyst Paul Miller said. Eight financial companies — Citigroup Inc, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Wells Fargo & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co, American International Group Inc, Bank of America Corp and GE Financial — are in greatest need of capital, he said… Currently, the U.S. financial system has $37 trillion of debt outstanding, he noted…”

Obama’s Promises Unrealizable

Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 19:

“By some estimates the total cost of Barack Obama’s campaign promises could come to $2 trillion. The new president will have to disappoint many of his voters — or resign himself to an enormous government deficit…

“During the campaign, he repeated his mantra — ‘Yes, we can’ — several times daily. But now it will be more important for Obama to know when to say ‘no’… Time is running short… The new president can hardly expect any tailwind from the economy. A wave of layoffs has begun to accelerate at an incredible rate, destroying 17,000 jobs in January, 62,000 in June and 240,000 in October. Experts say that America could see next year’s unemployment rate rise to twice the 2007 rate…”

Catholic Cardinal Says, Future with Obama Will Be Catastrophic

Zenit wrote on November 19:

“The decline in respect for human life has had ‘catastrophic effects’ on the unity and integrity of the United States, which are evidenced by the presidential election, says a Vatican official [Baltimore-native Cardinal James Stafford, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary]… “‘On Nov. 4, 2008, America suffered a cultural earthquake,’ continued the cardinal. He pointed out that president-elect Barack Obama campaigned on an ‘extremist anti-life platform,’ and described him as ‘aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic.’

“Now Catholics will experience the Agony of the Garden through the next few years of Obama’s presidency, the cardinal said, and will have to endure the ‘hot, angry tears of betrayal.’ … Cardinal Stafford served as the archbishop of Denver for 10 years before being called to Rome.”

Europe Needs to Get Its House in Order

Deutsche Welle wrote on November 18:

“Congratulations Mr. President … Here is our Agenda… Barack Obama’s election has created a ground swelling of excitement in Europe. In an effort to revitalize transatlantic relations, several issues need to be addressed. First and foremost, Europe needs to get its own house in order if it expects the new President to heed its calls for greater cooperation.

“The global Obamania hype has reached European soil. Expectations are gigantic. But the fate of the transatlantic relationship does not solely depend on Barack Obama. Its fate will rather be decided by the way Europeans react to and interact with the new US President, as well as to what extent they are willing and able to set an agenda and contribute to its implementation.

“The current, rather passive, European approach concerning the future of transatlantic relations is founded on a substantial strategic deficit within most EU member states’ capitals. It limits Europeans to being spectators and passive bystanders instead of being proactive, contributing partners. Consequently, two things need to change if the EU’s role within the transatlantic partnership is to be saved from marginalization.

“First, the US needs to give up its reluctance to accept the reality of a multipolar world order. Second, the EU needs to become a credible partner for Washington, capable of dealing with the major tasks of our time… it is primarily the European Union that holds the key to this development… Military force no longer represents the core element of political power…”

The Failed G-20 Summit

Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 18:

“At the financial summit in Washington, the international community was unduly respectful of the United States, neglecting to probe more deeply into the reasons for the crisis… The closing statements of the meeting, which had already been written before the dinner, absolved the United States of any blame. Suddenly the financial crisis had become nationless, which, given what has happened in the US real estate market, the business practices on Wall Street and the fact that American financial regulators have looked the other way for years, could be counted as a final coup for the Bush administration.”

In a related article, the magazine wrote on November 17:

“In the end, delegates to the financial summit of industrial and emerging economies delivered a closing statement without any concrete decisions. Host Bush has nothing left to say as the world eagerly awaits his successor Obama…

“This time around, it was primarily a meeting of either outgoing or politically weakened statesmen and women. Bush is a lame duck. A number of European leaders had just spent the week announcing that their economies had entered a recession. Russia has lost political influence as a result of plunging oil prices. And none of them saw the crisis coming…”

World Economy Looks Gloomier Than “Expected”

Deutsche Welle reported on November 20:

“A world economic confidence index released Thursday dropped to its lowest level in 20 years amid further news of heavy losses on global markets and an ongoing crisis among the world’s carmakers. The index, drawn up by German institute Ifo, was released as fears of a looming global economic recession grow… ‘Altogether the data points to a global recession,’ the institute said… adding that expectations for the coming six months have worsened further…

“France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen announced it would cut 3,550 jobs, and Britain’s Rolls-Royce, which is also a maker of plane engines, said it would cut up to 2,000 jobs worldwide. While in Japan, Isuzu Motors said it would cut 1,400 jobs… In the US, the chiefs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler warned of a ‘catastrophic collapse’ of the industry if the government did not approve multibillion-dollar loans for the auto giants.”

Gigantic European Bail-Out Plan in the Making?

The EUObserver reported on November 20:

“A massive €130 billion prime-the-pump operation to stimulate the European economy is currently being planned by the European Commission. First revealed by German weekly Der Spiegel’s online edition, the EU executive is constructing a package that would see each of the 27 member states commit one percent of their GDP to fiscal stimulus measures to pull the bloc out of its downturn and stave off the greater threat of deflation…

“The move may run into resistance from some member states, whose public finances have little room to manoeuvre without borrowing the money for such an initiative, particularly at a time when the economic crisis is putting pressure on government revenues. Until now, Germany has strongly resisted pan-European measures, although it has already adopted domestic stimulus measures amounting to €32 billion over two years – equivalent to just over one percent of GDP…

“A stimulus package of such size would be a major turnaround for most European leaders… the downturn has been of so considerable a scale and speed – the eurozone officially entered its first-ever recession last Friday – that liberal hostility to government intervention is crumbling across the board.”

Iran’s Production of Uranium Too Close for Comfort?

Bloomberg reported on November 20:

“Iran has produced the minimum amount of low-enriched uranium needed to make a bomb if it was processed to weapons grade, a scenario that would first require the expulsion of UN inspectors, arms-control experts said. ‘There is definitely cause for concern,’ Andreas Persbo, a senior researcher… said.

“… analysts estimate that it would take Iran at least one year to make enough bomb-grade uranium, if it were to leave the treaty and reconfigure its enrichment facilities. Their comments followed a New York Times report today in which experts were cited as saying that yesterday’s IAEA report shows Iran has enough enriched uranium to make a bomb if the country breaches its treaty obligations and masters the design of a warhead.”

The Jerusalem Post added on November 20:

“One must not forget that the enriched uranium is low grade. For now, it can be used for nuclear power plants. However, it can be further refined into higher grade uranium. To do that, enrichment facilities at Natanz would have to go through major visible reconfigurations. For example, all the piping infrastructure will have to be redone. This would make it very difficult for Iran to hide from the IAEA inspectors.

“Unless, that is, there are secret facilities where the low enriched uranium is purified, away from the eyes and knowledge of the IAEA. And this is very possible… With Russia and China refusing to back further sanctions, all that remains diplomatically is for incoming President Barack Obama to try and use direct negotiations. Unless there is a miracle and the Russians and Chinese join in, there is little else that can be done diplomatically…

“If talks fail, the US could also take unilateral sanctions, the most powerful of which could be sanctions against the Iranian Central Bank (Bank Markazi). With oil prices falling, and reports that Iran will face a $60 billion budget deficit next year, this may force Ayatollah Khamenei to take negotiations seriously. One can not also help but notice that such reports help those who want a military solution. This may not be around the corner; however, it is there. Even when Obama enters office.”

The World’s Fight Against Somalia’s Pirates

Deutsche Welle wrote on November 19:

“Efforts by the European Union and NATO to fight pirates off the coast of Somalia have proven futile. With a limited mandate, their ships cannot keep armed bandits from seizing merchant vessels and taking hostages… Although NATO, European and US vessels are stationed in the region, they are helpless in effectively battling the increasing problem of piracy…

“NATO has four ships on patrol in the waters off Somalia, with two protecting UN food aid convoys to the troubled Horn of Africa country. The mission, NATO’s first-ever against pirates, ends in mid-December when the more extensive European Union operation ‘Atalanta’ begins…

“Given that the pirates in the region are well-armed with grenades, heavy machine guns and rocket-launchers, most foreign navies have steered clear of direct confrontation once ships have been hijacked, for fear of putting hostages at risk. Somalia’s vast coastline is also virtually impossible to monitor completely, even for modern warships.”

The Los Angeles Times wrote on November 19:

“An Indian warship patrolling the treacherous waters off the Horn of Africa destroyed a suspected pirate ship late Tuesday, at least the second time in a week that India’s armed forces have unleashed military force to combat piracy amid a surge in maritime lawlessness… Along with the U.S., Russia and European nations, India is among the naval forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden…

“Concern over piracy surged after audacious bandits Saturday hijacked a gigantic 1,000-foot tanker loaded with at least $100 million worth of crude oil and moored it near a pirate’s haven off the coast of Somalia. The pirates aboard the tanker, the Sirius Star, today demanded money in exchange for the $120-million ship, its crew and cargo…

“The U.S. military said it could take only limited steps to intervene and thwart pirates. Maritime experts say international law on jurisdiction regarding pirates is murky…

“But New Delhi has apparently taken a different approach. Last week, Indian marine commandos on a helicopter swooped in on the scene of a hijacking to fend off pirates assailing an Indian commercial ship. Two suspected pirates were killed in a shootout with British commandos defending a Danish vessel this month…

“More than 90 ships have been hijacked by pirates this year off the Horn of Africa… today’s pirates are tough young criminals armed with AK-47s and dressed in camouflage… modern piracy [is described] as ‘ruthless, high-level organized crime.'”

“Absurdistan Along the Horn of Africa”

Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 20:

“Just a few weeks before the EU anti-pirate mission is set to deploy, German officials are still unsure how much military force they are allowed to use against Somali raiders. Politicians are frustrated by the indecision and, on Thursday, German commentators joined the fray.

“… the EU will begin its own military mission, dubbed ‘Atalanta,’ in early December… the German government claims that it is bound by a treaty it signed in 1994 that strictly defines the scope of military encounters on the high seas. According to the terms of that convention, German ships may have to wait until pirates openly demonstrate aggression before they’re permitted to act in self-defense; and they may be required to cease their attacks as soon as pirates have gained control of another ship…

“The business daily Handelsblatt writes: ‘The pirates on the Horn of Africa are steering attention to another German farce…’

“The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes: ‘Piracy can only be challenged from land. It’s only when Somalia has a fully functioning government that the pirate dens will be cleared out… It’s only when Somali has a competent coast guard that one of Africa’s longest coastal stretches will be brought under control. But instead of that, the world is only talking about defending the attacks from the sea. The West is exclusively defending itself and its economic interests.'”

Prince Charles–The Defender of WHAT Faith?

The Telegraph reported on November 14:

“The Prince of Wales, who is 60 today, is planning a symbolic change when he becomes King by taking the title Defender OF FAITH to reflect Britain’s multicultural society… The Prince caused controversy within the Anglican church when he floated the idea several years ago of becoming Defender of THE FAITHS in an attempt to embrace the other religions in Britain…

“The Monarch has been known by the title Defender of THE FAITH ever since the title was bestowed on Henry VIII by the Pope in 1521 for his early support for Roman Catholicism… Vernon Bogdanor, the constitutionalist who is Professor of Government at Oxford University, said: ‘In 1952, when the Queen came to the throne, it was very much an Anglican society. The Prince of Wales will become head of a nation which is multi-denominational. The Prince has said that he wants to be seen as a defender of all religious faiths and not just the Anglican church but the Coronation is an Anglican ceremony. Any change would require legislation.’

“Professor Bogdanor said that after the Coronation, which will take place at Westminster Abbey, it was plausible that a second service would be held for other denominations and faiths, such as the Muslims and Hindus…”

When Mammoths Walk(ed) the Earth…

The Associated Press reported on November 19:

“Bringing ‘Jurassic Park’ one step closer to reality, scientists have deciphered much of the genetic code of the woolly mammoth, a feat they say could allow them to recreate the shaggy, prehistoric beast in as little as a decade or two. The project marks the first time researchers have spelled out the DNA of an extinct species, and it raised the possibility that other ancient animals such as mastodons and sabertooth tigers might someday walk the Earth again.

“‘It could be done. The question is, just because we might be able to do it one day, should we do it?’ asked Stephan Schuster, a Penn State University biochemist and co-author of the new research. ‘I would be surprised to see if it would take more than 10 or 20 years to do it.'”

For further information, you may want to listen to or view Norbert Link’s two-part series on the “Biblical World of Animals.” Audio and video versions are posted on our Website ( under Audio); additional video versions are posted on Google Video, as follows:

Bible Study–The Biblical World of Animals, Part 1,” October 25, 2008

“Bible Study–The Biblical World of Animals, Part 2,” November 1, 2008

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