Current Events

Incredible SCANDAL–How Bailed-Out Banks Pilfer Taxpayers’ Money

The Associated Press reported on December 21:

“Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year… The AP compiled total compensation based on annual reports that the banks file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 116 banks have so far received $188 billion in taxpayer help. Among the findings:

“–The average paid to each of the banks’ top executives was $2.6 million in salary, bonuses and benefits.

“–Lloyd Blankfein, president and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, took home nearly $54 million in compensation last year. The company’s top five executives received a total of $242 million.

“–This year, Goldman will forgo cash and stock bonuses for its seven top-paid executives. They will work for their base salaries of $600,000, the company said… It received $10 billion in taxpayer money on Oct. 28.

“– Even where banks cut back on pay, some executives were left with seven- or eight-figure compensation that most people can only dream about. Richard D. Fairbank, the chairman of Capital One Financial Corp… took a $1 million hit in compensation after his company had a disappointing year, but still got $17 million in stock options. The McLean, Va.-based company received $3.56 billion in bailout money on Nov. 14.

“–John A. Thain, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $83 million in earnings last year… Like Goldman, Merrill got $10 billion from taxpayers on Oct. 28…”

Incredible SCANDAL–“Where’d the Bailout Money Go? Shhhh, It’s a Secret…”

The Associated Press reported on December 22:

“… after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation’s largest banks say they can’t track exactly how they’re spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it. The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what’s the plan for the rest? None of the banks provided specific answers…

“There has been no accounting of how banks spend that money. Lawmakers summoned bank executives to Capitol Hill last month and implored them to lend the money… But there is no process in place to make sure that’s happening and there are no consequences for banks who don’t comply… Congress attached nearly no strings on the $700 billion bailout in October. And the Treasury Department, which doles out the money, never asked banks how it would be spent.”

Where Are Today’s Political Leaders with Convictions?

Welt On Line, a conservative German paper with friendly support of Germany’s conservative party, the CDU, published a remarkable article about former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt who is a member of the center-left SPD party. The article is especially remarkable, as it contrasts Schmidt’s strong convictions–which were and are not always popular–with the faltering temporary political “preferences” of many present-day political leaders. We are quoting the following excerpts:

“Helmut Schmidt, a chain-smoking former German chancellor, celebrates his 90th birthday on Tuesday amid an improbable revival in popularity for a prickly man with no-nonsense views that contrast sharply to many current leaders. Schmidt may not have scaled the heights of popularity while Chancellor of West Germany for eight turbulent years. ‘Schmidt is the star of German politics, its icon. No one is admired as much as he is,’ Der Spiegel wrote…

“According to a survey by the Forsa polling institute, Schmidt ranks as the ‘coolest guy in Germany’ and he tops several other polls as the country’s most popular leader… Schmidt, married to his high school sweetheart for 66 years, made his mark as a local crisis manager in 1962 Hamburg floods. That reputation he burnished as chancellor with his handling of economic crises and his mastery of a 1970s leftwing urban guerrilla campaign of bombing and assassination — a test of fire for a still relatively young German democracy…

“ZDF television commented: ‘Schmidt is a completely different leader compared to this generation that knows firm convictions today will lead to certain electoral defeat tomorrow.’

“The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper marvelled at Schmidt’s popularity, saying his tenacity and crisis management makes current Chancellor Angela Merkel pale by comparison. ‘We’ve now got a chancellor whose greatest achievement is that she is Germany’s first woman chancellor,’ the paper wrote. ‘It seems this grumpy gentleman with the cane fulfills a deep yearning for strong and confident political leadership… None of today’s professional politicians accomplished anything in their lives, except perhaps graduating from university.’“

“Worst Financial Crisis Since Great Depression”

AFP reported on December 21:

“The governor of the Bank of Spain on Sunday issued a bleak assessment of the economic crisis, warning that the world faced a ‘total’ financial meltdown unseen since the Great Depression. ‘The lack of confidence is total,’ Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez said…

“‘The inter-bank (lending) market is not functioning and this is generating vicious cycles: consumers are not consuming, businessmen are not taking on workers, investors are not investing and the banks are not lending. There is an almost total paralysis from which no-one is escaping,’ he said, adding that any recovery — pencilled in by optimists for the end of 2009 and the start of 2010 — could be delayed if confidence is not restored… ‘This is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression’ of 1929, he added.”

Reuters reported on December 24 that “The United States fell deeper into recession, data showed on Wednesday, as the number of people filing for jobless benefits hit a 26-year high last week and consumers cut spending for the fifth consecutive month… Nearly 2 million U.S. workers have lost jobs this year, driving the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent…”

The article continued:

“Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said, ‘Japan cannot avoid the tsunami of the world recession… The world economy is in a once-in-a-hundred-years recession. We need extraordinary measures to deal with an extraordinary situation,’ he said.”

AFP added on December 24:

“Russia and China issued stark warnings on Wednesday about the impact of the crisis on their recently booming economies in 2009, with Moscow saying the downturn could spark unrest in the streets. Japan also approved a record-high budget aimed at avoiding the worst effects of the crisis and Germany prepared to pump [40] billions of euros into the economy in a new rescue plan in a holiday season marred by a slew of economic bad news…

“Economists have warned that the global downturn could mean that China will end 2008 with its weakest economic growth for nearly two decades. China has not posted annual growth of less than 7.6 percent since 1991.”

Germany–“The Calm Before the Storm”

On December 18, 2008, Der Spiegel Online wrote the following:

“As the year draws to a close, and as the world faces recession, a credit crunch and job worries, the economic outlook is the bleakest it has been in postwar history. The next year is expected be a test of strength for the German economy…
“Economists are predicting new alarming scenarios for 2009 almost every day…

“Despite the crisis, the coalition government in Berlin has not shown much leadership strength. Officially, Chancellor Angela Merkel of the conservative Christian Democrats continues to oppose additional large-scale government bailout programs. Merkel’s finance minister, Peer Steinbrück of the center-left Social Democrats, seems to prefer quarreling with the British and French who, he insists, are frittering away their money with their bailout packages. In doing so, he has also angered many…

“As Bavaria’s new governor, Seehofer is trying to demonstrate his strength in the run-up to next September’s federal election. Party politics, it seems, has distorted much of the government’s response to the crisis. In November, the chancellor warned the public to be prepared for ‘a year of bad news.’ Never in the 60-year history of the Federal Republic of Germany have citizens been this anxious as they enter a new year, plagued by worries of how much worse things can get and, most of all, how safe their jobs are…

“What is most astonishing is the incredible speed with which the crisis is spreading from one company to the next… The Americans, deeply in debt, can no longer afford products made in Germany…

“Over the course of the year, well-known German companies like retailer Hertie, watchmaker Junghans and fashion house Wehmeyer have become insolvent, and another wave of bankruptcies could follow in 2009… the government cannot set everything straight. In fact, it is probably far less capable of doing so than politicians believe.”

Germany’s Schizophrenic Role in the Iraq War

Der Spiegel Online reported on December 19:

“German lawmakers have been probing the schizophrenic role of the Schröder administration in resisting America’s invasion of Iraq. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was in the hot seat this week, and German commentators don’t believe everything he’s said. The grilling received on Thursday by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister and a candidate for chancellor in 2009, was intense. He was answering to a parliamentary committee investigating whether German intelligence provided meaningful assistance to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 [as has been claimed by former US military leaders, including Generals Tommy Franks and James Marks]. And his credibility is on the line…

“Steinmeier is under the gun because Berlin was so emphatic about being against the US-led invasion. His boss at the time, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, ran for re-election in 2002 on an anti-war platform. Were it proven that German agents had provided valuable intelligence that helped that invasion, it would cast a shadow on those who were part of that government, including Steinmeier, who at the time was Schröder’s chief of staff, and Joschka Fischer, who was Schröder’s foreign minister. Such a revelation certainly would do nothing to help Steinmeier’s 2009 campaign for the Chancellery as the Social Democratic candidate.

“Fischer also testified on Thursday, but the media spotlight was trained firmly on Steinmeier. And he stuck to his guns, calling the comments from the US military leaders ‘outlandish’ and ‘ludicrous.’…”

But–the question is: WHOSE comments are ludicrous and outlandish?

War Against Somali Pirates

The International Herald Tribune wrote on December 23:

“Germany called Tuesday for an international court to be set up to prosecute Somali pirates who have attacked scores of vessels this year, threatening global trade in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes… German lawmakers agreed last week to send up to 1,400 soldiers and a frigate… to the Gulf of Aden as part of the EU mission.

“Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung of Germany… said the German soldiers, who will provide protection to ships delivering food aid to Somalia would have a ‘robust’ mandate. ‘Obviously there will be combat situations,’ he said.”

In a related article, the paper stated on December 23:

“Chinese warships on a mission to protect their country’s vessels and crews from pirate attacks off Somalia will depart Friday, armed with special forces, helicopters and plans to share information with other countries working in the area.

“The operation, China’s first major naval mission abroad, will include the destroyers Haikou and Wuhan as well as a large supply ship… On board will be two helicopters and traditional weapons like missiles and cannons… China announced it was sending warships to the area after the United Nations Security Council authorized nations to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases.”

Belgium Again In Political and MORAL Crisis

Deutsche Welle reported on December 22:

“Belgium’s King Albert II accepted Leterme’s resignation following a Belgian Supreme Court report on allegations that his aides had sought to influence a court ruling connected with the break-up of Belgian bank Fortis. The collapse of the government was the country’s third political crisis in under a year, and leaves five coalition parties to fight over who should pick up where Leterme left off.

“The political crisis leaves Belgium facing a period of deep uncertainty at the worst possible time, with the economy sliding into recession and investors’ confidence at a low as a result of the global financial crisis.”

Russia Threatens the West

Mail-on-Line reported on December 23:

“Vladimir Putin has unveiled a triple whammy of threats and provocation for Britain and the West… In moves certain to further undermine diplomatic ties with London and Washington, Mr Putin… [w]arned that Britain faced winter gas shortages if supplies from Russia were disrupted because of his bitter dispute with Ukraine; [t]hreatened to supply surface-to-air missiles to Iran, despite Western concerns over its nuclear ambitions; and [l]ined himself up to be appointed president for a third term after Moscow’s parliament rubber stamped constitutional changes overturning a law that only allowed two four-year periods as leader…

“Russia also said last night it plans a massive increase in armaments. It will spend £100billion from 2009 to 2011 on 400 new types of weapons, including 300 tanks, 14 warships and almost 50 planes… Russia will continue to rely on its huge arsenal of nuclear weapons, commissioning 70 strategic nuclear missiles over the next three years.”

Anti-Semitic Internet Statements Against Madoff and Jewish Community

AFP reported on December 19, 2008:

“Anti-Jewish commentary is flooding the Internet in the wake of Bernard Madoff’s arrest on charges of masterminding one of the biggest Wall Street frauds in history… Madoff, 70, is Jewish and a prominent member of the powerful US Jewish community. He is alleged to have defrauded investors, including a number of Jewish-related charities, of some 50 billion dollars.
“‘Site users have posted comments ranging from deeply offensive stereotypical statements about Jews and money — with some suggesting that only Jews could perpetrate a fraud on such a scale — to conspiracy theories about Jews stealing money to benefit Israel,’ the [Anti-Defamation League] said in a statement.”

Worldwide Internet Services Not THAT Reliable

Deutsche Welle reported on December 20:

“Internet and phone connections between Europe, the Middle East and Asia have been severely disrupted after three underwater cables were severed and it may take until Dec 31 before normal service is re-established… It is thought that 65 percent of traffic to India was down, while services to Singapore, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Taiwan and Pakistan have also been severely affected…

“An afternoon toll [sic] released by France Telecom said that 100 percent of traffic was lost in the Maldives Indian Ocean islands, with the Gulf state of Qatar and Djibouti, on the Gulf of Aden, also losing over 70 percent of their traffic.

“The submarine cables are jointly owned by several dozen different countries… ‘If there was just one cable down we could have used the other two,’ said France Telecom spokesman Louis-Michel Aymard. ‘But all three are down so this puts us in a very difficult situation. This is a very rare situation,’ he said.”

The Pope Speaks Out Against Homosexual Conduct

The Herald International Tribune wrote on December 22:

“Pope Benedict said Monday that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour was just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction…

“The Catholic Church teaches that… homosexual acts are [sinful]. It opposes gay marriage… The pope said humanity needed to ‘listen to the language of creation’ to understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations as ‘a destruction of God’s work.’

“He also defended the Church’s right to ‘speak of human nature as man and woman, and ask that this order of creation be respected.'”

The reaction of Europe’s gay community to the Pope’s speech was predictable and swift.

Der Spiegel Online reported on December 24:

“In Germany, Volker Beck, an out gay man with the Green Party, described the pope’s statements as ‘agitating words.’ And Uta Ranke-Heinemann, a prominent German critic of the pope, described Benedict’s words as ‘a threatening message to homosexuals.’ She said his views could not be left unchallenged, adding that the history of homosexuals in Christianity has been a ‘bitter one.’

“‘As soon as the Christians came to power, they immediately sought to eradicate homosexuals,’ the theologian told SPIEGEL ONLINE. Ranke-Heinemann was the world’s first woman to be given a professorship as a Catholic theologian. For one and a half millennia, she said, Christians ‘burned homosexuals on the pope’s orders.’

“Meanwhile, Rev. Sharon Ferguson of Britain’s Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement described his statements as ‘totally irresponsible.’ The head of the Inclusive Church in England, accused the pope of ‘spreading fear that gay people somehow threaten the planet.’ That, he said, ‘is just absurd.’

“Aurelio Mancuso, the head of the Italian gay rights organization Arcigay… said he was deeply disturbed by such church-directed discrimination. ‘Last year was a bad enough year for homosexuals in Italy, and we are very concerned.’ The number of violent attacks in the country against gays and their organizations has risen dramatically in Italy in the past year. ‘All signs are pointing towards a confrontation,’ said Mancuso. ‘People are really scared.'”

Frightening Greek Christmas Myths–“Twelve Days of Christmas or Hell”?

On December 19, Der Spiegel Online reported the following:

“Who says Santa Claus is the only one trying to come down your chimney during the festive season? According to Greek mythology, a gaggle of goblin-like spirits are trying to slide into homes — and instead of presents they are intent on leaving a trail of destruction.

“As the Greeks tell it, it wouldn’t be hard to confuse the Twelve Days of Christmas with the Twelve Days of Hell. That is if you believe in the Kallikantzaroi. These mythical, goblin-like spirits are said to pop up between Christ’s birthday and Epiphany on Jan. 6, days they devote to wreaking their unique brand of havoc…

“Opinions differ on what they look like… [Some] say the Kallikantzaroi resemble humans with dark complexions, ugly, very tall beings that sport iron clogs. Others say they’re short and swarthy, with red eyes, cleft hooves, monkeys’ arms, and hair-covered bodies…

“For most of the year the Kallikantzaroi live in the bowels of the earth, but they creep out during the Twelve Days of Christmas, venturing out under the cover of night…

“In recent years, the Christmas tree has grown in popularity throughout Greece. But some Greeks prefer the old ways, opting instead for a sprig of basil suspended over a water-filled bowl. Once a day someone in the home, usually the mother of the family, uses the sprig to sprinkle water throughout the house to ward off the creatures.

“The only reliable cure-all, however, is when village priests bless the waters on the eve of Epiphany, which marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas. They have been known to visit homes to sprinkle holy water fragranced with sweet basil to chase away the evil spirits for another year. On the eve of Epiphany in Cyprus, villagers scatter pancakes on the roof to give the Kallikantzaroi something sweet to eat as they prepare to head out of town, perhaps to show there are no hard feelings.”

Samuele Bacchiocchi Died at Age 70

On December 21, 2008, WorldNetDaily wrote:

“Biblical scholar [and theology professor] Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, best known for his teachings on how Sabbath observance shifted toward Sunday worship in much of Christendom, died yesterday [Saturday, December 20] at his Michigan home at the age of 70 after a two-year battle with fourth-stage liver cancer…

“Bacchiocchi earned his doctorate in Church History at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and was awarded a gold medal by Pope Paul VI for his summa cum laude class work and dissertation, ‘From Sabbath to Sunday: A Historical Investigation of the Rise of Sunday Observance in Early Christianity.’ A Seventh-Day Adventist, Bacchiocchi believed there was no Scriptural mandate to change or eliminate Sabbath-keeping, and he singled out the Catholic Church for its role in changing the day.

“‘The Church of the capital of the empire, whose authority was already felt far and wide in the second century, appears to be the most likely birthplace of Sunday observance,’ he wrote. Bacchiocchi previously told WND: ‘Anti-Judaism caused the abandonment of the Sabbath, and pagan sun worship influenced the adoption of Sunday.’… Bacchiocchi also explained the influence of pagan sun worship provides a ‘plausible explanation for the Christian choice of Sunday’ over the day of Saturn. Its effect wasn’t just limited to Sunday. It apparently led to the placement of Jesus’ birth in late December.

“‘The adoption of the 25th of December for the celebration of Christmas is perhaps the most explicit example of sun worship’s influence on the Christian liturgical calendar,’ Bacchiocchi wrote. ‘It is a known fact that the pagan feast of the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti – the birthday of the Invincible Sun, was held on that date.'”

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