Current Events

Will the US Fall for Russia’s Blackmail Attempts?

Deutsche Welle reported on November 24:

“Russia is prepared to make plans to deploy missiles in its Kaliningrad exclave ‘disappear’ if the US drops plans to base part of its missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia’s prime minister says.

“If the new administration of US president-elect Barack Obama drops deployment plans for a missile shield in what Russia considers to be within its sphere of influence, then ‘questions of our retaliatory measures will disappear by themselves,’ Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told journalists at a forum in St Petersburg on Monday, Nov. 24. Putin is considered by many to have the last say on Russian foreign policy.”

The Russian Bear Is Marching Again…

AFP reported on November 24:

“Russian warships approached Venezuela Monday for upcoming joint maneuvers — Moscow’s first military presence in the region since the Cold War — as Washington closely monitored the situation. Venezuelan defense officials said the ships, including the nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great and destroyer Admiral Chabankenko, would arrive on Tuesday. The joint exercises were to coincide with a two-day visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Venezuela, the strongest US critic in the region. Medvedev was due to arrive Wednesday and meet fiercely anti-liberal President Hugo Chavez on Thursday, before heading to communist Cuba.

“Analysts see Medvedev as bringing a defiant message to Washington’s doorstep, in the wake of Russian outrage at US plans to install a strategic missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, and support for the brief Georgia war in August. The maneuvers will start on Wednesday in port and take place at sea on December 1…”

… While U.S. Influence in the Region Declines…

The Associated Press reported on November 27:

“Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to help start a nuclear energy program in Venezuela and said Moscow is willing to participate in a socialist trade bloc in Latin America led by President Hugo Chavez.

“Medvedev used his visit to Venezuela—the first by a Russian president—to extend Moscow’s reach into Latin America and deepen trade and military ties. Chavez denied trying to provoke the United States, but he welcomed Russia’s growing presence in Latin America as a reflection of declining U.S. influence.”

Americans and British Targeted in India’s Terror Attack

The Los Angeles Times wrote on November 27:

“The sophistication of Wednesday’s assault in Mumbai and the targeting of U.S. and British citizens are the hallmarks of groups affiliated with Al Qaeda, but an array of other organizations have launched attacks in India and may also have played a role, officials and counter-terrorism experts said.

“Experts cautioned that it was too early to fix responsibility for the coordinated attacks that killed [hundreds] of people [and injured more than 300] at a pair of luxury hotels, two hospitals, a train station and an upscale restaurant. They said the group that claimed responsibility, the Deccan Mujahedin, was unknown…

“Instead of the bombings that are the trademark of Al Qaeda, the attackers Wednesday appeared to use mostly automatic weapons and grenades, and they reportedly took hostages. But they showed sophistication and ambition by storming five-star hotels during the peak of the tourist season in a clear attempt to target Westerners… The choice of India for such an assault could reflect the fact that increased security has made Western countries more difficult to hit, while India’s increasingly close alliance with the U.S. makes it a more desirable target… The attackers reportedly inquired specifically about the whereabouts of British and American citizens…

“Al Qaeda has urged its followers to launch attacks in India in recent years, especially as the government established closer ties with the United States. And Washington has accused some members of Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, of playing a role in this year’s attack on the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan, where India is increasingly active.”

US Prepared to “Lend” More Than $7.4 TRILLION

Bloomberg reported on November 24:

“The U.S. government is prepared to lend more than $7.4 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers, or half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, to rescue the financial system since the credit markets seized up 15 months ago. The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $2.8 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since [President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s  New Deal of the 1930s, when almost 10,000 banks failed and there was no mechanism to bolster them with cash]…

“The worst financial crisis in two generations has erased $23 trillion, or 38 percent, of the value of the world’s companies and brought down three of the biggest Wall Street firms… The money that’s been pledged is equivalent to $24,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. It’s nine times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…”

Citigroup “Rescue” for $326 Billion–and People Don’t Like It

AFP wrote on November 24:

“The US government vowed Monday to safeguard the ailing economy, after stepping in to guarantee over 300 billion dollars in potential losses at Citigroup and pump 20 billion more into the financial giant…

“Citigroup, which last month reported a third-quarter loss of 2.8 billion dollars its fourth straight quarter in the red, will issue seven billion dollars in preferred stock to the US Treasury and the FDIC as payment for the 306 billion dollar guarantee.”

Reuters reported on November 26:

“The bailout of Citigroup has made people in New York angrier than they were about any of the other government rescues of financial institutions this year…

“‘They were bailed out before, this is the second bailout, so what’s going on? Are they going to ask for another bailout soon?’ asked Cheril Nichols, a 50-year-old nurse from New Jersey. ‘It is wasteful, very wasteful,’ said retiree William Dwyer, 70… ‘This is not the right thing to do. They (the U.S. government) should help the people, not the big companies,’ said Renu Malconi, 38, from New Jersey… ‘It’s ridiculous. If I did as poorly as they did in my job, I would be out of the job, so why are they not accountable?’ said Mike Delibero, an IT salesman.

“The frustration on the streets of New York was echoed by two of New York’s major daily newspapers, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post, which slammed the board of Citigroup on Tuesday with calls for all or many of its directors to quit or be removed. The Post on Wednesday ran a series of letters from readers, all of them harshly criticizing the bailout and Citigroup’s former and current executives and board members.

“High salaries, seven-figure bonuses and an agreement for the bank to pay $400 million to name the New York Mets baseball team’s new stadium Citi Field haven’t helped sentiment.”

… And Another $800 Billion for Bad Mortgage and Securities Purchases…

AFP reported on November 25:

“US authorities launched fresh efforts Tuesday to unfreeze credit and limit the economic downturn with programs to buy up to 800 billion dollars in mortgage- and asset-backed securities. The initiatives call for up to 600 billion dollars in Federal Reserve purchases of mortgage securities, and a separate 200 billion dollars for asset-backed securities to help get credit to consumers…

“The US central bank said it would launch purchases of up to 100 billion dollars of obligations of housing-related government-sponsored enterprises including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the next week, and buy another 500 billion dollars in a process started by the end of this year. Separately, the Fed said it would launch a program to buy up to 200 billion dollars in asset-backed securities — backed by student loans, auto loans, credit card loans, and other loans — in a further effort to unclog frozen credit markets.”

Still Not Enough!… Recovery Package for Another $700 Billion in the Making…

The Associated Press reported on November 25:

“President-elect Barack Obama wants to project fiscal restraint even as his economic team assembles a massive recovery package… Economists from across the political spectrum… have put the size of an economic recovery package as high as $700 billion over two years… Obama is already starting in the red. The federal government reported a record deficit of $237.2 billion in October, which reflected only a portion of the $700 billion Congress approved last month to rescue the financial markets.”

Is the US Heading for Collapse?

The Drudge Report stated on November 25:

“A leading Russian political analyst has said the economic turmoil in the United States has confirmed his long-held view that the country is heading for collapse… Professor Igor Panarin said… ‘The dollar is not secured by anything. The country’s foreign debt has grown like an avalanche, even though in the early 1980s there was no debt. By 1998… it had exceeded $2 trillion. Now it is more than 11 trillion. This is a pyramid that can only collapse’…

“When asked when the U.S. economy would collapse, Panarin said: ‘It is already collapsing. Due to the financial crisis, three of the largest and oldest five banks on Wall Street have already ceased to exist, and two are barely surviving. Their losses are the biggest in history. Now what we will see is a change in the regulatory system on a global financial scale: America will no longer be the world’s financial regulator’…”

Chief Rabbis Call for Mass Prayer Because of Financial Crisis

The Jerusalem Post reported on November 25:

“The country’s chief rabbis are calling for a mass prayer rally Thursday [Thursday will be celebrated in the USA as Thanksgiving Day] in the hope that heavenly intervention will stem the global financial crisis. With Jewish philanthropists reeling and Israeli businesses preparing to make major layoffs, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar have decided that this Thursday, the first day of the Jewish month of Kislev, will be a special day of prayer.

“‘Education and Torah institutions are failing to make ends meet, and many are in danger of closure,’ wrote the two rabbis in a statement. ‘Factories and businesses are firing workers, and many household heads are no longer able to support their families. Therefore, we call on the public to pray one hour before mincha [the afternoon prayer] on Thursday in synagogues across the nation.’

“Religious institutions have been among the hardest hit by the economic downturn. Many are totally dependent on foreign donations. In recent weeks, the heads of some of the largest kollels have complained that they have returned empty-handed from fundraising campaigns in the US and Europe, saying philanthropists hurt by the financial crisis are no longer willing to make contributions.”

Grim Economic Outlook for Europe in 2009

Deutsche Welle reported on November 23:

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of a grim 2009 economic outlook as Europe’s largest economy slips into recession. Merkel said in the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that her grand coalition government was divided over the right medicine for the country.

“Merkel rejected calls by business leaders to slash taxes, saying they would remain off the table until after the September 2009 general election. But Merkel’s economics minister, Michael Glos, said a stimulus package put together earlier this month was only the beginning, if Germany wished to protect itself against global financial turmoil.”

“Merkel Criticises US Over Crisis”

The Financial Times wrote on November 26:

“Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, turned the tables on her international critics on Wednesday by accusing the US and other governments of making ‘cheap money’ a central tool of their economic management, thus planting the seeds of a similar crisis in five years.

“’Excessively cheap money in the US was a driver of today’s crisis,’ she told the German parliament. ‘I am deeply concerned about whether we are now reinforcing this trend through measures being adopted in the US and elsewhere and whether we could find ourselves in five years facing the exact same crisis.’

“There have been calls from outside Germany for it to beef up fiscal support, but Ms Merkel has been wary of raising public borrowing to stimulate demand, fearing that the extra income could boost Germans’ savings rate, which is already high.”

“As Financial Crisis Grows, EU Emerges Stronger”

Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 27:

“The global financial crisis creates new losers each day. So far, though, the EU is looking like a winner. For many countries along the continent’s northern edge, euro-skepticism is a luxury they can no longer afford. Will 2008 be remembered as the year that killed the euro-skeptics?…  Now, from Iceland to the Czech Republic, previously wary populations are warming to the EU, heaping praise on the very Brussels-based behemoth they had spent so many years deriding…

“The most obvious way the financial crisis has strengthened the image of the EU among the less-than-faithful is by making the euro look like a safehaven. Denmark, one of the few countries that deliberately opted out of the euro, may now be regretting its decision…

“Of all the countries on Europe’s periphery, perhaps none has experienced as pronounced a shift in EU sentiment as Iceland, a nation which, not coincidentally, also serves as Ground Zero for the financial crisis. Since January, Iceland’s currency has lost nearly half its value against the euro, plunging the country’s economy into chaos… the surge in EU support suggests that Icelanders have lost faith in their own government…

“By rejecting the Lisbon treaty in a referendum in June, the people of Ireland brought the EU to its knees. Now, after a bruising ride on the financial crisis roller coaster, they might be the ones that get the EU back on its feet…

“The EU might not be out of the woods yet, but it is in a considerably stronger position heading into 2009 than many feared would be the case six months ago… Europe’s dream of ever-closer union might be happen sooner than we think.”

“Is Britain Going Bankrupt?”

The British paper, The Telegraph, wrote on November 24:

“There is now a palpable fear that global investors may start to shun British debt as the budget deficit rockets to £118bn… The cost of insuring against the bankruptcy of the British state has broken out – upwards – over the last month…

“Alistair Darling has had to admit that the British economy faces the most sudden economic collapse since World War Two, and the worst budget deficit of any major country in the world… Should we be worried? Yes… Britain will have to borrow £450bn over the next five years. This is an utter fiasco…”

How Much Longer Will Britain Stay in the EU?

On November 20, The Daily Mail reported the following:

“The European Union is costing Britain a staggering £106,000 a minute, a think-tank has revealed. As the UK teeters on the brink of what experts predict will be the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Government has surrendered £55.8 billion to Brussels this year. That is equivalent to paying a whopping £900 for every man, woman and child in the country.”

Controversial Leader Next European President

The New York Times wrote on November 25:

“Mr. Klaus, the 67-year-old president of the Czech Republic… blamed what he calls the misguided fight against global warming for contributing to the international financial crisis, branded Al Gore an ‘apostle of arrogance’ for his role in that fight, and accused the European Union of acting like a Communist state. Now the Czech Republic is about to assume the rotating presidency of the European Union…

“To supporters, Mr. Klaus is a brave, lone crusader, a defender of liberty, the only European leader in the mold of the formidable Margaret Thatcher… To his many critics, he is a cynical populist, a hardheaded pragmatist… As a former finance minister and prime minister, he is credited with presiding over the peaceful 1993 split of Czechoslovakia into two states and helping to transform the Czech Republic into one of the former Soviet bloc’s most successful economies…

“While even many of the world’s most ardent free marketeers acknowledged the need for the recent coordinated bailout of European banks, Mr. Klaus lambasted it as irresponsible protectionism… A fervent critic of the environmental movement, he has called global warming a dangerous ‘myth’… he is a vocal opponent of the Lisbon Treaty, which aims to help Europe become more of an international player, but which he argues will strip countries of sovereignty…

“And while other European leaders have criticized a newly assertive Russia, Mr. Klaus has forged close ties with Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin and recently distanced himself from the Czech government’s criticism of Russia over the war with Georgia in August.”

Major Earthquake Expected in Southern and Midwestern US

Reuters reported on November 20:

“People in a vast seismic zone in the southern and midwestern United States would face catastrophic damage if a major earthquake struck there… The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)… predicted a large earthquake would cause ‘widespread and catastrophic physical damage’ across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee — home to some 44 million people. Tennessee is likely to be hardest hit… In Tennessee alone, it forecast hundreds of collapsed bridges, tens of thousands of severely damaged buildings and a half a million households without water…

“The zone, named for the town of New Madrid in Missouri’s southeast corner, is subject to frequent mild earthquakes. Experts have long tried to predict the likelihood of a major quake like those that struck in 1811 and 1812. These shifted the course of the Mississippi River and rang church bells on the East Coast but caused few deaths amid a sparse population. ‘People who live in these areas and the people who build in these areas certainly need to take into better account that at some time there is … expected to be a catastrophic earthquake in that area, and they’d better be prepared for it,’ said FEMA spokesperson Mary Margaret Walker.”

The Commercialism of Christmas

The Daily Mail wrote on November 24:

“Now the Church of England has joined the chorus of those who want to revolutionise Christmas with a call for people to send fewer cards… [It] launched a campaign for people to celebrate the season this year by cutting up their credit cards…

“Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams is among the leading clerics who – while they are strongly in favour of preserving the importance of Christmas as a Christian festival – are deeply anxious at the commercialism and high spending that goes with the holiday…

“In a new book, Do Nothing: Christmas is Coming, Dr Cottrell said: ‘It might be the season of goodwill, but it feels like the last straw on an already over-burdened camel’… The bishop also suggested that families should give up the ‘monstrous burden’ of giving presents they cannot afford.”

Reuters reported on November 24:

“Germans are trying to shut out the financial crisis by taking comfort in traditional festivities, and there is an acute shortage of Santas to entertain children at shopping centers, Christmas markets and private parties.

“‘Being Santa is not an easy job,’ Jens Wittenberger, in charge of Santa Claus recruitment at the Jobcafe Munich, told Reuters Monday. ‘To be honest, not many people have what it takes to be a good Father Christmas… You can’t have your Santa drive up in a car,’ said Wittenberger. ‘Every child knows that Santa travels in a sleigh pulled by reindeer so we don’t want to disappoint anybody.’ Santas are told to park their car a few streets away and walk… ‘Santas can make up to 60 euros ($75) an hour,’ he said.”

Yoga Blasphemous?

Die Welt Online reported on November 22:

“A top Islamic council in mostly Muslim Malaysia told Muslims on Saturday to avoid yoga because it uses Hindu prayers and encourages a union with God that is blasphemous. ‘There are other ways to get exercise and a peace of mind,’ council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin told reporters… ‘You can go cycling, swimming and eat less fatty food.’

“‘For us, yoga can destroy a Muslim’s faith. But this is not a matter for the non-Muslims to be concerned about because it’s not imposed on them. We are looking out for the Muslim community,’ he said, noting Egypt and Singapore had issued similar rulings.”

Increased Belief in Paranormal Concepts reported on November 24:

“More people believe in aliens and ghosts than in God, a new survey finds, according to a British newspaper. The survey, however, was done by a marketing firm in conjunction with the release of an X-Files DVD, and details of how the poll was conducted were not reported in the Daily Mail. Survey questions, depending on how they are written, can greatly skew results, along with how subjects are sampled.

“That said, the poll of 3,000 people found that 58 percent believe in the supernatural, including paranormal encounters, while 54 percent believe God exists. Women were more likely than men to believe in the supernatural and were also more likely to visit a medium…

“A survey of U.S. college students done in 2006 found 23 percent of freshmen had a general belief in paranormal concepts – from astrology to communicating with the dead. Interestingly, the number jumped to 31 percent among seniors and 34 percent among graduate students.”

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